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Title: Hillsboro People
Author: Fisher, Dorothy Canfield, 1879-1958
Language: English
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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 "Hillsboro People" ***

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HILLSBORO
PEOPLE

BY
DOROTHY CANFIELD

AUTHOR OF
THE BENT TWIG, THE SQUIRREL CAGE, ETC.

WITH OCCASIONAL VERMONT VERSES
BY
SARAH N. CLEGHORN

1915



CONTENTS

VERMONT (Poem)
HEMLOCK MOUNTAIN (Poem)
AT THE FOOT OF HEMLOCK MOUNTAIN
PETUNIAS--THAT'S FOR REMEMBRANCE
THE HEYDAY OF THE BLOOD
AS A BIRD OUT OF THE SNARE
THE BEDQUILT
PORTRAIT OF A PHILOSOPHER
FLINT AND FIRE
A SAINT'S HOURS (Poem)
IN MEMORY OF L.H.W.
IN NEW NEW ENGLAND
THE DELIVERER
NOCTES AMBROSIANAE (Poem)
HILLSBORO'S GOOD LUCK
SALEM HILLS TO ELLIS ISLAND (Poem)
AVUNCULUS
BY ABANA AND PHARPAR (Poem)
FINIS
A VILLAGE MUNCHAUSEN
THE ARTIST
WHO ELSE HEARD IT? (Poem)
A DROP IN THE BUCKET
THE GOLDEN TONGUE OF IRELAND (Poem)
PIPER TIM
ADESTE FIDELES!
VERMONT

  Wide and shallow in the cowslip marshes
      Floods the freshet of the April snow.
  Late drifts linger in the hemlock gorges,
      Through the brakes and mosses trickling slow
          Where the Mayflower,
      Where the painted trillium, leaf and blow.

      Foliaged deep, the cool midsummer maples
      Shade the porches of the long white street;
  Trailing wide, Olympian elms lean over
      Tiny churches where the highroads meet.
          Fields of fireflies
      Wheel all night like stars among the wheat.

      Blaze the mountains in the windless autumn
      Frost-clear, blue-nooned, apple-ripening days;
  Faintly fragrant in the farther valleys
      Smoke of many bonfires swells the haze;
          Fair-bound cattle
      Plod with lowing up the meadowy ways.

      Roaring snows down-sweeping from the uplands
      Bury the still valleys, drift them deep.
  Low along the mountain, lake-blue shadows,
      Sea-blue shadows in the hollows sleep.
          High above them
      Blinding crystal is the sunlit steep.



HEMLOCK MOUNTAIN


  By orange grove and palm-tree, we walked the southern shore,
  Each day more still and golden than was the day before.
  That calm and languid sunshine! How faint it made us grow
  To look on Hemlock Mountain when the storm hangs low!

      To see its rocky pastures, its sparse but hardy corn,
  The mist roll off its forehead before a harvest morn;
  To hear the pine-trees crashing across its gulfs of snow
  Upon a roaring midnight when the whirlwinds blow.

      Tell not of lost Atlantis, or fabled Avalon;
  The olive, or the vineyard, no winter breathes upon;
  Away from Hemlock Mountain we could not well forego,
  For all the summer islands where the gulf tides flow.



AT THE FOOT OF HEMLOCK MOUNTAIN


"In connection with this phase of the problem of transportation it must be
remembered that the rush of population to the great cities was no temporary
movement. It is caused by a final revolt against that malignant relic of
the dark ages, the country village and by a healthy craving for the deep,
full life of the metropolis, for contact with the vitalizing stream of
humanity."--Pritchell's "Handbook of Economics," page 247.

Sometimes people from Hillsboro leave our forgotten valley, high among the
Green Mountains, and "go down to the city," as the phrase runs, They always
come back exclaiming that they should think New Yorkers would just die of
lonesomeness, and crying out in an ecstasy of relief that it does seem so
good to get back where there are some folks. After the desolate isolation
of city streets, empty of humanity, filled only with hurrying ghosts, the
vestibule of our church after morning service fills one with an exalted
realization of the great numbers of the human race. It is like coming into
a warmed and lighted room, full of friendly faces, after wandering long
by night in a forest peopled only with flitting shadows. In the
phantasmagoric pantomime of the city, we forget that there are so many real
people in all the world, so diverse, so unfathomably human as those who
meet us in the little post-office on the night of our return to Hillsboro.

Like any other of those gifts of life which gratify insatiable cravings of
humanity, living in a country village conveys a satisfaction which is
incommunicable. A great many authors have written about it, just as a great
many authors have written about the satisfaction of being in love, but in
the one, as in the other case, the essence of the thing escapes. People
rejoice in sweethearts because all humanity craves love, and they thrive in
country villages because they crave human life. Now the living spirit of
neither of these things can be caught in a net of words. All the foolish,
fond doings of lovers may be set down on paper by whatever eavesdropper
cares to take the trouble, but no one can realize from that record
anything of the glory in the hearts of the unconscious two. All the queer
grammar and insignificant surface eccentricities of village character may
be ruthlessly reproduced in every variety of dialect, but no one can guess
from that record the abounding flood of richly human life which pours along
the village street.

This tormenting inequality between the thing felt and the impression
conveyed had vexed us unceasingly until one day Simple Martin, the town
fool, who always says our wise things, said one of his wisest. He was
lounging by the watering-trough one sunny day in June, when a carriage-load
of "summer folk" from Windfield over the mountain stopped to water their
horses. They asked him, as they always, always ask all of us, "For mercy's
sake, what do you people _do_ all the time, away off here, so far from
everything."

Simple Martin was not irritated, or perplexed, or rendered helplessly
inarticulate by this question, as the rest of us had always been. He
looked around him at the lovely, sloping lines of Hemlock Mountain, at the
Necronett River singing in the sunlight, at the familiar, friendly faces
of the people in the street, and he answered in astonishment at the
ignorance of his questioners, "_Do_? Why, we jes' _live_!"

We felt that he had explained us once and for all. We had known that, of
course, but we hadn't before, in our own phrase, "sensed it." We just
live. And sometimes it seems to us that we are the only people in America
engaged in that most wonderful occupation. We know, of course, that we
must be wrong in thinking this, and that there must be countless other
Hillsboros scattered everywhere, rejoicing as we do in an existence which
does not necessarily make us care-free or happy, which does not in the
least absolve us from the necessity of working hard (for Hillsboro is
unbelievably poor in money), but which does keep us alive in every fiber
of our sympathy and thrilling with the consciousness of the life of others.

A common and picturesque expression for a common experience runs, "It's so
noisy I can't hear myself think." After a visit to New York we feel that
its inhabitants are so deafened by the constant blare of confusion that
they can't feel themselves live. The steady sufferers from this complaint
do not realize their condition. They find it on the whole less trouble
_not_ to feel themselves live, and they are most uneasy when chance forces
them to spend a few days (on shipboard, for instance) where they are not
protected by ceaseless and aimless activity from the consciousness that
they are themselves. They cannot even conceive the bitter-sweet, vital
taste of that consciousness as we villagers have it, and they cannot
understand how arid their existence seems to us without this unhurried,
penetrating realization of their own existence and of the meaning of their
acts. We do not blame city dwellers for not having it; we ourselves lose
it when we venture into their maelstrom. Like them, we become dwarfed by
overwhelming numbers, and shriveled by the incapacity to "sense" the
humanity of the countless human simulacra about us. But we do not stay
where we cannot feel ourselves live. We hurry back to the shadow of
Hemlock Mountain, feeling that to love life one does not need to be what
Is usually called happy, one needs only to live.

It cannot be, of course, that we are the only community to discover this
patent fact; but we know no more of the others than they of us. All that
we hear from that part of America which is not Hillsboro is the wild yell
of excitement going up from the great cities, where people seem to be
doing everything that was ever done or thought of except just living. City
dwellers make money, make reputations (good and bad), make museums and
subways, make charitable institutions, make with a hysteric rapidity, like
excited spiders, more and yet more complications in the mazy labyrinths of
their lives, but they never make each others' acquaintances ... and that
is all that is worth doing in the world.

We who live in Hillsboro know that they are to be pitied, not blamed, for
this fatal omission. We realize that only in Hillsboro and places like it
can one have "deep, full life and contact with the vitalizing stream of
humanity." We know that in the very nature of humanity the city is a small
and narrow world, the village a great and wide one, and that the utmost
efforts of city dwellers will not avail to break the bars of the prison
where they are shut in, each with his own kind. They may look out from the
windows upon a great and varied throng, as the beggar munching a crust may
look in at a banqueting hall, but the people they are forced to live with
are exactly like themselves; and that way lies not only monomania but an
ennui that makes the blessing of life savorless.

If this does not seem the plainest possible statement of fact take a
concrete instance. Can a banker in the city by any possibility come to
know what kind of an individual is the remote impersonal creature who
waits on him in a department store? Most bankers recognize with a
misguided joy this natural wall between themselves and people who are not
bankers, and add to it as many stones of their own quarrying as possible;
but they are not shut off from all the quickening diversity of life any
more effectually than the college-settlement, boys' Sunday-school, brand
of banker. The latter may try as hard as he pleases, he simply cannot
achieve real acquaintanceship with a "storekeeper," as we call them, any
more than the clerk can achieve real acquaintanceship with him.

Lack of any elements of common life form as impassable a barrier as lack
of a common language, whereas with us in Hillsboro all the life we have is
common. Everyone is needed to live it.

There can be no city dweller of experience who does not know the result of
this herding together of the same kind of people, this intellectual and
moral inbreeding. To the accountant who knows only accounts, the world
comes to seem like one great ledger, and account-keeping the only vital
pursuit in life. To the banker who knows only bankers, the world seems one
great bank filled with money, accompanied by people. The prison doors of
uniformity are closed inexorably upon them.

And then what happens? Why, when anything goes wrong with their trumpery
account books, or their trashy money, these poor folk are like blind men
who have lost their staves. With all the world before them they dare not
continue to go forward. We in Hillsboro are sorry for the account-keepers
who disappear forever, fleeing from all who know them because their
accounts have come out crooked, we pity the banker who blows out his
brains when something has upset his bank; but we can't help feeling with
this compassion an admixture of the exasperated impatience we have for
those Prussian school boys who jump out of third-story windows because
they did not reach a certain grade in their Latin examinations. Life is
not accounts, or banks, or even Latin examinations, and it is a sign of
inexperience to think it so. The trouble with the despairing banker is
that he has never had a chance to become aware of the comforting vastness
of the force which animates him in common with all the rest of humanity,
to which force a bank failure is no apocalyptic end of Creation, but a
mere incident or trial of strength like a fall in a slippery road.
Absorbed in his solitary progress, the banker has forgotten that his
business in life is not so much to keep from falling as to get up again
and go forward.

If the man to whom the world was a bank had not been so inexorably shut
away from the bracing, tonic shock of knowing men utterly diverse, to whom
the world was just as certainly only a grocery store, or a cobbler's bench,
he might have come to believe in a world that is none of these things and
is big enough to take them all in; and he might have been alive this
minute, a credit to himself, useful to the world, and doubtless very much
more agreeable to his family than in the days of his blind arrogance.

The pathetic feature of this universal inexperience among city dwellers of
real life and real people is that it is really entirely enforced and
involuntary. At heart they crave knowledge of real life and sympathy with
their fellow-men as starving men do food. In Hillsboro we explain to
ourselves the enormous amount of novel-reading and play-going in the great
cities as due to a perverted form of this natural hunger for human life.
If people are so situated they can't get it fresh, they will take it
canned, which is undoubtedly good for those in the canning business; but
we feel that we who have better food ought not to be expected to treat
their boughten canned goods very seriously. We can't help smiling at the
life-and-death discussions of literary people about their preferences in
style and plot and treatment ... their favorite brand on the can, so to
speak.

To tell the truth, all novels seem to us badly written, they are so faint
and faded in comparison to the brilliant colors of the life which
palpitates up and down our village street, called by strangers, "so quaint
and sleepy-looking." What does the author of a novel do for you, after
all, even the best author? He presents to you people not nearly so
interesting as your next-door neighbors, makes them do things not nearly
so exciting as what happened to your grandfather, and doles out to you in
meager paragraphs snatches of that comprehending and consolatory
philosophy of life, which long ago you should have learned to manufacture
for yourself out of every incident in your daily routine. Of course, if
you don't know your next-door neighbors, and have never had time to listen
to what happened to your grandfather and are too busy catching trains to
philosophize on those subjects if you did know them, no more remains to be
said. By all means patronize the next shop you see which displays in its
show windows canned romances, adventures, tragedies, farces, and the like
line of goods. Live vicariously, if you can't at first hand; but don't be
annoyed at our pity for your method of passing blindfold through life.

And don't expect to find such a shop in our village. To open one there
would be like trying to crowd out the great trees on Hemlock Mountain by
planting a Noah's Ark garden among them. Romances, adventures, tragedies,
and farces ... why, we are the characters of those plots. Every child who
runs past the house starts a new story, every old man whom we leave
sleeping in the burying-ground by the Necronsett River is the ending of
another ... or perhaps the beginning of a sequel. Do you say that in the
city a hundred more children run past the windows of your apartment than
along our solitary street, and that funeral processions cross your every
walk abroad? True, but they are stories written in a tongue
incomprehensible to you. You look at the covers you may even flutter the
leaves and look at the pictures but you cannot tell what they are all
about. You are like people bored and yawning at a performance of a tragedy
by Sophocles, because the actors speak in Greek. So dreadful and moving a
thing as a man's sudden death may happen before your eyes, but you do not
know enough of what it means to be moved by it. For you it is not really a
man who dies. It is the abstract idea of a man, leaving behind him
abstract possibilities of a wife and children. You knew nothing of him,
you know nothing of them, you shudder, look the other way, and hurry
along, your heart a little more blunted to the sorrows of others, a little
more remote from your fellows even than before.

All Hillsboro is more stirred than that, both to sympathy and active help,
by the news that Mrs. Brownell has broken her leg. It means something
unescapably definite to us, about which we not only can, but must take
action. It means that her sickly oldest daughter will not get the care she
needs if somebody doesn't go to help out; it means that if we do not do
something that bright boy of hers will have to leave school, just when he
is in the way of winning a scholarship in college; it means, in short, a
crisis in several human lives, which by the mere fact of being known calls
forth sympathy as irresistibly as sunshine in May opens the leaf buds.

Just as it is only one lover in a million who can continue to love his
mistress during a lifetime of absolute separation from her, so it is one
man in a million who can continue his sympathy and interest in his
fellow-men without continual close contact with them. The divine feeling
of responsibility for the well-being of others is diluted and washed away
in great cities by the overwhelming impersonal flood of vast numbers; in
villages it is strengthened by the sight, apparent to the dullest eyes,
of immediate personal and visible application. In other words, we are not
only the characters of our unwritten stories, but also part authors.
Something of the final outcome depends upon us, something of the creative
instinct of the artist is stirred to life within every one of
us ... however unconscious of it in our countrified simplicity we may be.
The sympathy we feel for a distressed neighbor has none of the impotent
sterility of a reader's sympathy for a distressed character in a book.
There is always a chance to try to help, and if that fail, to try again
and yet again. Death writes the only _Finis_ to our stories, and since a
chance to start over again has been so unfailingly granted us here, we
cannot but feel that Death may mean only turning over another page.

I suppose we do not appreciate the seriousness of fiction-writing, nor its
importance to those who cannot get any nearer to real life. And yet it is
not that we are unprogressive. Our young people, returning from college,
or from visits to the city, freshen and bring up to date our ideas on
literature as rigorously as they do our sleeves and hats; but after a
short stay in Hillsboro even these conscientious young missionaries of
culture turn away from the feeble plots of Ibsen and the tame inventions
of Bernard Shaw to the really exciting, perplexing, and stimulating events
in the life of the village grocer.

In "Ghosts," Ibsen preaches a terrible sermon on the responsibility of one
generation for the next, but not all his relentless logic can move you to
the sharp throb of horrified sympathy you feel as you see Nelse
Pettingrew's poor mother run down the street, her shawl flung hastily over
her head, framing a face of despairing resolve, such as can never look at
you out of the pages of a book. Somebody has told her that Nelse has been
drinking again and "is beginning to get ugly." For Hillsboro is no model
village, but the world entire, with hateful forces of evil lying in wait
for weakness. Who will not lay down "Ghosts" to watch, with a painfully
beating heart, the progress of this living "Mrs. Alving" past the house,
pleading, persuading, coaxing the burly weakling, who will be saved from a
week's debauch if she can only get him safely home now, and keep him quiet
till "the fit goes by."

At the sight everybody in Hillsboro realizes that Nelse "got it from his
father," with a penetrating sense of the tragedy of heredity, quite as
stimulating to self-control in the future as Ibsen is able to make us feel
in "Ghosts." But we know something better than Ibsen, for Mrs. Pettingrew
is no "Mrs. Alving." She is a plain, hard-featured woman who takes in
sewing for a living, and she is quite unlettered, but she is a general in
the army of spiritual forces. She does not despair, she does not give up
like the half-hearted mother in "Ghosts," she does not waste her strength
in concealments; she stands up to her enemy and fights. She fought the
wild beast in Nelse's father, hand to hand, all his life, and he died a
better man than when she married him. Undaunted, she fought it in Nelse as
a boy, and now as a man; and in the flowering of his physical forces when
the wind of his youth blows most wildly through the hateful thicket of
inherited weaknesses she generally wins the battle.

And this she has done with none of the hard, consistent strength and
intelligence of your make-believe heroine in a book, so disheartening an
example to our faltering impulses for good. She has been infinitely human
and pathetically fallible; she has cried out and hesitated and complained
and done the wrong thing and wept and failed and still fought on, till to
think of her is, for the weakest of us, like a bugle call to high
endeavor. Nelse is now a better man than his father, and we shut up
"Ghosts" with impatience that Ibsen should have selected that story to
tell out of all the tales there must have been in the village where _he_
lived.

Now imagine if you can ... for I cannot even faintly indicate to
you ... our excitement when Nelse begins to look about him for a wife. In
the first place, we are saved by our enforced closeness to real people
from wasting our energies in the profitless outcry of economists that
people like Nelse should be prohibited from having children. It occurs to
us that perhaps the handsome fellow's immense good-humor and generosity
are as good inheritance as the selfishness and cold avarice of priggish
young Horace Gallatin, who never drinks a drop. Perhaps at some future
date all people who are not perfectly worthy to have children will be kept
from it by law. In Hillsboro, we think, that after such a decree the human
race would last just one generation; but that is not the point now. The
question is, will Nelse find a wife who will carry on his mother's work,
or will he not?

If you think you are excited over a serial story because you can't guess
if "Lady Eleanor" really stole the diamonds or not, it is only because you
have no idea of what excitement is. You are in a condition of stagnant
lethargy compared to that of Hillsboro over the question whether Nelse
will marry Ellen Brownell, "our Ellen," or Flossie Merton, the ex-factory
girl, who came up from Albany to wait at the tavern, and who is said to
have a taste for drink herself.

Old Mrs. Perkins, whom everybody had thought sunk in embittered discontent
about the poverty and isolation of her last days, roused herself not long
ago and gave Ellen her cherished tortoise-shell back-comb, and her pretty
white silk shawl to wear to village parties; and racked with rheumatism,
as the old woman is, she says she sits up at night to watch the young
people go back from choir rehearsal so that she can see which girl Nelse
is "beauing home." Could the most artfully contrived piece of fiction more
blessedly sweep the self-centered complainings of old age into generous
and vitalizing interest in the lives of others?

As for the "pity and terror," the purifying effects of which are so
vaunted in Greek tragedies, could Aeschylus himself have plunged us into a
more awful desolation of pity than the day we saw old Squire Marvin being
taken along the street on his way to the insane asylum? All the self-made
miseries of his long life were in our minds, the wife he had loved and
killed with the harsh violence of a nature he had never learned to
control, the children he had adored unreasonably and spoiled and turned
against, and they on him with a violence like his own, the people he had
tried to benefit with so much egotistic pride mixed in his kindness that
his favors made him hated, his vanity, his generosity, his despairing
outcries against the hostility he had so well earned ... at the sight of
the end of all this there was no heart in Hillsboro that was not wrung
with a pity and terror more penetrating and purifying even than
Shakespeare has made the centuries feel for Lear.

Ah, at the foot of Hemlock Mountain we do not need books to help us feel
the meaning of life!

Nor do we need them to help us feel the meaning of death. You, in the
cities, living with a feverish haste in the present only, and clutching at
it as a starving man does at his last crust, you cannot understand the
comforting sense we have of belonging almost as much to the past and
future as to the present. Our own youth is not dead to us as yours is,
from the lack of anything to recall it to you, and people we love do not
slip quickly into that bitter oblivion to which the dead are consigned by
those too hurried to remember. They are not remembered perfunctorily for
their "good qualities" which are carved on their tombstones, but all the
quaint and dear absurdities which make up personality are embalmed in the
leisurely, peaceable talk of the village, still enriched by all that they
brought to it. We are not afraid of the event which men call death,
because we know that, in so far as we have deserved it, the same homely
immortality awaits us.

Every spring, at the sight of the first cowslip, our old people laugh and
say to each other, "Will you _ever_ forget how Aunt Dorcas used to take us
children out cowslipping, and how she never thought it 'proper' to lift
her skirt to cross the log by the mill, and always fell in the brook?" The
log has moldered away a generation ago, the mill is only a heap of
blackened timbers, but as they speak, they are not only children again,
but Aunt Dorcas lives again for them and for us who never saw
her ... dear, silly, kind old Aunt Dorcas, past-mistress in the lovely art
of spoiling children. Just so the children we have spoiled, the people we
have lived with, will continue to keep us living with them. We shall have
time to grow quite used to whatever awaits us after the tangled rosebushes
of Hillsboro burying-ground bloom over our heads, before we shall have
gradually faded painlessly away from the life of men and women. We
sometimes feel that, almost alone in the harassed and weary modern world,
we love that life, and yet we are the least afraid to leave it.

It is usually dark when the shabby little narrow-gauge train brings us
home to Hillsboro from wanderings in the great world, and the big pond by
the station is full of stars. Up on the hill the lights of the village
twinkle against the blurred mass of Hemlock Mountain, and above them the
stars again. It is very quiet, the station is black and deserted, the road
winding up to the village glimmers uncertainly in the starlight, and dark
forms hover vaguely about. Strangers say that it is a very depressing
station at which to arrive, but we know better. There is no feeling in the
world like that with which one starts up the white road, stars below him
in the quiet pool, stars above him in the quiet sky, friendly lights
showing the end of his journey is at hand, and the soft twilight full of
voices all familiar, all welcoming.

Poor old Uncle Abner Rhodes, returning from an attempt to do business in
the city, where he had lost his money, his health, and his hopes, said he
didn't see how going up to Heaven could be so very different from walking
up the hill from the station with Hemlock Mountain in front of you. He
said it didn't seem to him as though even in heaven you could feel more
than then that you had got back where there are some folks, that you had
got back home.

Sometimes when the stars hang very bright over Hemlock Mountain and the
Necronsett River sings loud in the dusk, we remember the old man's speech,
and, though we smile at his simplicity, we think, too, that the best which
awaits us can only be very much better but not so very different from what
we have known here.



PETUNIAS--THAT'S FOR REMEMBRANCE


It was a place to which, as a dreamy, fanciful child escaping from
nursemaid and governess, Virginia had liked to climb on hot summer
afternoons. She had spent many hours, lying on the grass in the shade of
the dismantled house, looking through the gaunt, uncovered rafters of the
barn at the white clouds, like stepping-stones in the broad blue river of
sky flowing between the mountain walls.

Older people of the summer colony called it forlorn and desolate--the
deserted farm, lying high on the slope of Hemlock Mountain--but to the
child there was a charm about the unbroken silence which brooded over the
little clearing. The sun shone down warmly on the house's battered shell
and through the stark skeleton of the barn. The white birches, strange
sylvan denizens of door and barnyard, stood shaking their delicate leaves
as if announcing sweetly that the kind forest would cover all the wounds
of human neglect, and soon everything would be as though man had not
lived. And everywhere grew the thick, strong, glistening grass, covering
even the threshold with a cushion on which the child's foot fell as
noiselessly as a shadow. It used to seem to her that nothing could ever
have happened in this breathless spot.

Now she was a grown woman, she told herself, twenty-three years old and
had had, she often thought, as full a life as any one of her age could
have. Her college course had been varied with vacations in Europe; she had
had one season in society; she was just back from a trip around the world.
Her busy, absorbing life had given her no time to revisit the narrow green
Valley where she had spent so many of her childhood's holidays But now a
whim for self-analysis, a desire to learn if the old glamour about the
lovely enchanted region still existed for her weary, sophisticated
maturity, had made her break exacting social engagements and sent her back
alone, from the city, to see how the old valley looked in the spring.

Her disappointment was acute. The first impression and the one which
remained with her, coloring painfully all the vistas of dim woodland
aisles and sunlit brooks, was of the meagerness and meanness of the
desolate lives lived in this paradise. This was a fact she had not noticed
as a child, accepting the country people as she did all other
incomprehensible elders. They had not seemed to her to differ noticeably
from her delicate, esthetic mother, lying in lavender silk negligées on
wicker couches, reading the latest book of Mallarmé, or from her
competent, rustling aunt, guiding the course of the summer colony's social
life with firm hands. There was as yet no summer colony, this week in May.
Even the big hotel was not open. Virginia was lodged in the house of one
of the farmers. There was no element to distract her mind from the narrow,
unlovely lives of the owners of that valley of beauty.

They were grinding away at their stupefying monotonous tasks as though the
miracle of spring were not taking place before their eyes. They were
absorbed in their barnyards and kitchen sinks and bad cooking and worse
dressmaking. The very children, grimy little utilitarians like their
parents, only went abroad in the flood of golden sunshine, in order to
rifle the hill pastures of their wild strawberries. Virginia was no longer
a child to ignore all this. It was an embittering, imprisoning thought
from which she could not escape even in the most radiant vision of May
woods. She was a woman now, with a trained mind which took in the
saddening significance of these lives, not so much melancholy or tragic as
utterly neutral, featureless, dun-colored. They weighed on her heart as
she walked and drove about the lovely country they spoiled for her.

What a heavenly country it was! She compared it to similar valleys in
Switzerland, in Norway, in Japan, and her own shone out pre-eminent with a
thousand beauties of bold skyline, of harmoniously "composed" distances,
of exquisitely fairy-like detail of foreground. But oh! the wooden
packing-boxes of houses and the dreary lives they sheltered!

The Pritchard family, her temporary hosts, summed up for her the human
life of the valley. There were two children, inarticulate, vacant-faced
country children of eight and ten, out from morning till night in the
sunny, upland pastures, but who could think of nothing but how many quarts
of berries they had picked and what price could be exacted for them. There
was Gran'ther Pritchard, a doddering, toothless man of seventy-odd, and
his wife, a tall, lean, lame old woman with a crutch who sat all through
the mealtimes speechlessly staring at the stranger, with faded gray eyes.
There was Mr. Pritchard and his son Joel, gaunt Yankees, toiling with
fierce concentration to "get the crops in" after a late spring. Finally
there was Mrs. Pritchard, worn and pale, passing those rose-colored spring
days grubbing in her vegetable garden. And all of them silent, silent as
the cattle they resembled. There had been during the first few days of her
week's stay some vague attempts at conversation, but Virginia was soon
aware that they had not the slightest rudiments of a common speech.

A blight was on even those faint manifestations of the esthetic spirit
which they had not killed out of their bare natures. The pictures in the
house were bad beyond belief, and the only flowers were some petunias,
growing in a pot, carefully tended by Grandma Pritchard. They bore a mass
of blossoms of a terrible magenta, like a blow in the face to anyone
sensitive to color. It usually stood on the dining-table, which was
covered with a red cloth. "Crimson! Magenta! It is no wonder they are lost
souls!" cried the girl to herself.

On the last day of her week, even as she was trying to force down some
food at the table thus decorated, she bethought herself of her old haunt
of desolate peace on the mountainside. She pushed away from the table with
an eager, murmured excuse, and fairly ran out into the gold and green of
the forest, a paradise lying hard by the pitiable little purgatory of the
farmhouse. As she fled along through the clean-growing maple-groves,
through stretches of sunlit pastures, azure with bluets, through dark
pines, red-carpeted by last year's needles, through the flickering,
shadowy-patterned birches, she cried out to all this beauty to set her
right with the world of her fellows, to ease her heart of its burden of
disdainful pity.

But there was no answer.

She reached the deserted clearing breathless, and paused to savor its
slow, penetrating peace. The white birches now almost shut the house from
view; the barn had wholly disappeared. From the finely proportioned old
doorway of the house protruded a long, grayed, weather-beaten tuft of hay.
The last utilitarian dishonor had befallen it. It had not even its old
dignity of vacant desolation. She went closer and peered inside. Yes, hay,
the scant cutting from the adjacent old meadows, had been piled high in
the room which had been the gathering-place of the forgotten family life.
She stepped in and sank down on it, struck by the far-reaching view from
the window. As she lay looking out, the silence was as insistent as a
heavy odor in the air.

The big white clouds lay like stepping-stones in the sky's blue river,
just as when she was a child. Their silver-gleaming brightness blinded
her ... "_Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh ... warte nur ... balde ... ruhest
... du ..." she began to murmur, and stopped, awed by the immensity of
the hush about her. She closed her eyes, pillowed her head on her
upthrown arms, and sank into a wide, bright reverie, which grew
dimmer and vaguer as the slow changeless hours filed by.

She did not know if it were from a doze, or but from this dreamy haze that
she was wakened by the sound of voices outside the house, under the window
by which she lay. There were the tones of a stranger and those of old Mrs.
Pritchard, but now flowing on briskly with a volubility unrecognizable.
Virginia sat up, hesitating Were they only passing by, or stopping? Should
She show herself or let them go on? In an instant the question was settled
for her. It was too late. She would only shame them if they knew her
there. She had caught her own name. They were talking of her.

"Well, you needn't," said the voice of Mrs. Pritchard "You can just save
your breath to cool your porridge You can't get nothin' out'n her."

"But she's traveled 'round so much, seems's though ..." began the other
woman's voice.

"_Don't_ it?" struck in old Mrs. Pritchard assentingly, "But 'tain't so!"

The other was at a loss. "Do you mean she's stuck-up and won't answer
you?" Mrs. Pritchard burst into a laugh, the great, resonant good-nature
of which amazed Virginia. She had not dreamed that one of these sour,
silent people could laugh like that. "No, _land_ no, Abby! She's as
soft-spoken as anybody could be, poor thing! She ain't got nothin' to say.
That's all. Why, I can git more out'n any pack-peddler that's only been
from here to Rutland and back than out'n her ... and she's traveled all
summer long for five years, she was tellin' us, and last year went around
the world."

"Good land! Think of it!" cried the other, awestruck. "China! An' Afriky!
An' London!"

"That's the way we felt! That's the reason we let her come. There ain't no
profit in one boarder, and we never take boarders, anyhow. But I thought
'twould be a chance for the young ones to learn something about how
foreign folks lived." She broke again into her epic laugh. "Why, Abby,
'twould ha' made you die to see us the first few days she was there,
tryin' to get somethin' out'n her. Italy, now ... had she been there? 'Oh,
yes, she _adored_ Italy!'" Virginia flushed at the echo of her own
exaggerated accent. "Well, we'd like to know somethin' about Italy. What
did they raise there? Honest, Abby, you'd ha' thought we'd hit her side
th' head. She thought and she _thought_, and all she could say was
'olives,' Nothing else? 'Well, she'd never noticed anything else ... oh,
yes, lemons.' Well, that seemed kind o' queer vittles, but you can't never
tell how foreigners git along, so we thought maybe they just lived off'n
olives and lemons; and Joel he asked her how they raised 'em, and if they
manured heavy or trusted to phosphate, and how long the trees took before
they began to bear, and if they pruned much, and if they had the same
trouble we do, come harvest time, to hire hands enough to git in th'
crop."

She paused. The other woman asked, "Well, what did she say?"

The echoes rang again to the old woman's great laugh. "We might as well
ha' asked her 'bout the back side of th' moon! So we gave up on olives and
lemons! Then Eben he asked her 'bout taxes there. Were they on land mostly
and were they high and who 'sessed 'em and how 'bout school tax. Did the
state pay part o' that? You see town meetin' being so all tore up every
year 'bout taxes, Eben he thought 'twould be a chance to hear how other
folks did, and maybe learn somethin'. Good land, Abby, I've set there and
'most died, trying to keep from yellin' right out with laugh to see our
folks tryin' to learn somethin' 'bout foreign parts from that woman that's
traveled in 'em steady for five years. I bet she was blind-folded and
gagged and had cotton in her ears the hull time she was there!"

"Didn't she tell you anythin' 'bout taxes?"

"Taxes? You'd ha' thought 'twas bumble-bees' hind legs we was askin'
'bout! She ackshilly seemed s'prised to be asked. Land! What had she ever
thought 'bout such triflin' things as taxes. She didn't know how they was
taxed in Italy, or _if_ they was ... nor anywhere else. That what it come
down to, every time. She didn't know! She didn't know what kind of schools
they had, nor what the roads was made of, nor who made 'em. She couldn't
tell you what hired men got, nor _any_ wages, nor what girls that didn't
get married did for a living, nor what rent they paid, nor how they 'mused
themselves, nor how much land was worth, nor if they had factories, nor if
there was any lumberin' done, nor how they managed to keep milk in such
awful hot weather without ice. Honest, Abby, she couldn't even say if the
houses had cellars or not. Why, it come out she never was _in_ a real
house that anybody lived in ... only hotels. She hadn't got to know a
single real person that b'longed there. Of course she never found out
anything 'bout how they lived. Her mother was there, she said, and her
aunt, and that Bilson family that comes to th' village summers, an' the
Goodriches an' the Phippses an' the ... oh, sakes alive, you know that
same old crowd that rides 'roun' here summers and thinks to be sociable by
sayin' how nice an' yellow your oats is blossomin'! You could go ten times
'roun' the world with them and know less 'bout what folks is like than
when you started. When I heard 'bout them being there, I called Eben and
Joel and Em'ly off and I says, 'Now, don't pester that poor do-less
critter with questions any more. How much do the summer folks down to th'
village know 'bout the way we live?' Well, they burst out laughin', of
course. Well, then,' I says, ''tis plain to be seen that all they do in
winter is to go off to some foreign part and do the same as here,' so I
says to them, same's I said to you, Abby, a while back, that they'd better
save their breath to cool their porridge. But it's awful solemn eatin'
now, without a word spoke."

The other woman laughed. "Why, you don't have to talk 'bout foreign parts
or else keep still, do ye?"

"Oh, it's just so 'bout everythin'. We heard she'd been in Washington last
winter, so Eben he brisked up and tried her on politics. Well, she'd never
heard of direct primaries, they're raisin' such a holler 'bout in York
State; she didn't know what th' 'nsurgent senators are up to near as much
as we did, and to judge by the way she looked, she'd only just barely
heard of th' tariff." The word was pronounced with true New England
reverence. "Then we tried bringin' up children, and lumberin' an' roads,
an' cookin', an' crops, an' stock, an' wages, an' schools, an' gardenin',
but we couldn't touch bottom nowhere. Never a word to be had out'n her. So
we give up and now we just sit like stotin' bottles, an' eat--an' do our
visitin' with each other odd minutes afterward."

"Why, she don't look to be half-witted," said the other.

"She ain't!" cried Mrs. Pritchard with emphasis. "She's got as good a
headpiece, natchilly, as anybody. I remember her when she was a young one.
It's the fool way they're brung up! Everythin' that's any fun or intrust,
they hire somebody else to do it for 'em. Here she is a great strappin'
woman of twenty-two or three, with nothing in the world to do but to
traipse off 'cross the fields from mornin' to night--an' nobody to need
her there nor here, nor anywhere. No wonder she looks peaked. Sometimes
when I see her set and stare off, so sort o' dull and hopeless, I'm so
sorry for her I could cry! Good land! I'd as lief hire somebody to chew my
vittles for me and give me the dry cud to live off of, as do the way those
kind of folks do."

The distant call of a steam-whistle, silvered by the great distance into a
flute-like note, interrupted her. "That's the milk-train, whistling for
the Millbrook cross in'," she said. "We must be thinkin' of goin' home
before long. Where be those young ones?" She raised her voice in a call as
unexpectedly strong and vibrant as her laugh. "_Susie! Eddie_! Did they
answer? I'm gittin' that hard o' hearin' 'tis hard for me to make out."

"Yes, they hollered back," said the other. "An' I see 'em comin' through
the pasture yonder. I guess they got their pails full by the way they
carry 'em."

"That's good," said Mrs. Pritchard with satisfaction. "They can get
twenty-five cents a quart hulled, off'n summer folks. They're savin' up to
help Joel go to Middletown College in the fall."

"They think a lot o' Joel, don't they?" commented the other.

"Oh, the Pritchards has always been a family that knew how to set store by
their own folks," said the old woman proudly, "and Joel he'll pay 'em back
as soon as he gets ahead a little."

The children had evidently now come up, for Virginia heard congratulations
over the berries and exclamations over their sun-flushed cheeks. "Why,
Susie, you look like a pickled beet in your face. Set down, child, an'
cool off. Grandma called you an' Eddie down to tell you an old-timey
story."

There was an outbreak of delighted cries from the children and Mrs.
Pritchard said deprecatingly, "You know, Abby, there never was children
yet that wasn't crazy 'bout old-timey stories. I remember how I used to
hang onto Aunt Debby's skirts and beg her to tell me some more.

"The story I'm goin' to tell you is about this Great-aunt Debby," she
announced formally to her auditors, "when she was 'bout fourteen years old
and lived up here in this very house, pretty soon after th' Rev'lution.
There was only just a field or two cleared off 'round it then, and all
over th' mounting the woods were as black as any cellar with pines and
spruce. Great-aunt Debby was the oldest one of five children and my
grandfather--your great-great-grandfather--was the youngest. In them days
there wa'n't but a few families in the valley and they lived far apart, so
when Great-aunt Debby's father got awful sick a few days after he'd been
away to get some grist ground, Aunt Debby's mother had to send her 'bout
six miles through th' woods to the nearest house--it stood where the old
Perkins barn is now. The man come back with Debby, but as soon as he saw
great-grandfather he give one yell--'smallpox!'--and lit out for home.
Folks was tur'ble afraid of it then an' he had seven children of his own
an' nobody for 'em to look to if he died, so you couldn't blame him none.
They was all like that then, every fam'ly just barely holdin' on, an'
scratchin' for dear life.

"Well, he spread the news, and the next day, while Debby was helpin' her
mother nurse her father the best she could, somebody called her over
toward th' woods. They made her stand still 'bout three rods from 'em and
shouted to her that the best they could do was to see that the fam'ly had
vittles enough. The neighbors would cook up a lot and leave it every day
in the fence corner and Debbie could come and git it.

"That was the way they fixed it. Aunt Debby said they was awful faithful
and good 'bout it and never failed, rain or shine, to leave a lot of the
best stuff they could git in them days. But before long she left some of
it there, to show they didn't need so much, because they wasn't so many to
eat.

"First, Aunt Debby's father died. Her mother an she dug the grave in
th' corner of th' clearin', down there where I'm pointin'. Aunt Debby said
she couldn't never forget how her mother looked as she said a prayer
before they shoveled the dirt back in. Then the two of 'em took care of
the cow and tried to get in a few garden seeds while they nursed one of
the children--the boy that was next to Debby. That turned out to be
smallpox, of course, and he died and they buried him alongside his father.
Then the two youngest girls, twins they was, took sick, and before they
died Aunt Debby's mother fell over in a faint while she was tryin' to
spade up the garden. Aunt Debby got her into the house and put her to bed.
She never said another thing, but just died without so much as knowin'
Debby. She and the twins went the same day, and Debby buried 'em in one
grave.

"It took her all day to dig it, she said. They was afraid of wolves in
them days and had to have their graves deep. The baby, the one that was to
be my grandfather, played 'round while she was diggin', and she had to
stop to milk the cow and git his meals for him. She got the bodies over to
the grave, one at a time, draggin' 'em on the wood-sled. When she was
ready to shovel the dirt back in, 'twas gettin' to be twilight, and she
said the thrushes were beginnin' to sing--she made the baby kneel down and
she got on her knees beside him and took hold of his hand to say a prayer.
She was just about wore out, as you can think, and scared to death, and
she'd never known any prayer, anyhow. All she could think to say was
'Lord--Lord--Lord!' And she made the baby say it, over and over. I guess
'twas a good enough prayer too. When I married and come up here to live,
seems as though I never heard the thrushes begin to sing in the evening
without I looked down there and could almost see them two on their knees.

"Well, there she was, fourteen years old, with a two-year-old baby to look
out for, and all the rest of the family gone as though she'd dreamed 'em.
She was sure she and little Eddie--you're named for him, Eddie, and don't
you never forget it--would die, of course, like the others, but she wa'n't
any hand to give up till she had to, and she wanted to die last, so to
look out for the baby. So when she took sick she fought the smallpox just
like a wolf, she used to tell us. She had to live, to take care of Eddie.
She gritted her teeth and _wouldn't_ die, though, as she always said,
'twould ha' been enough sight more comfortable than to live through what
she did.

"Some folks nowadays say it couldn't ha' been smallpox she had, or she
couldn't ha' managed. I don't know 'bout that. I guess 'twas plenty bad
enough, anyhow. She was out of her head a good share of th' time, but she
never forgot to milk the cow and give Eddie his meals. She used to fight
up on her knees (there was a week when she couldn't stand without fallin'
over in faint) and then crawl out to the cow-shed and sit down flat on
the ground and reach up to milk. One day the fever was so bad she was
clear crazy and she thought angels in silver shoes come right out there,
in the manure an' all, and milked for her and held the cup to
Eddie's mouth.

"An' one night she thought somebody, with a big black cape on, come and
stood over her with a knife. She riz up in bed and told him to '_git out_!
She'd _have_ to stay to take care of the baby!' And she hit at the knife
so fierce she knocked it right out'n his hand. Then she fainted away agin.
She didn't come to till mornin', and when she woke up she knew she was
goin' to live. She always said her hand was all bloody that morning from a
big cut in it, and she used to show us the scar--a big one 'twas, too. But
I guess most likely that come from something else. Folks was awful
superstitious in them days, and Aunt Debby was always kind o' queer.

"Well, an' so she did live and got well, though she never grew a mite from
that time. A little wizened-up thing she was, always; but I tell you folks
'round here thought a nawful lot of Aunt Debby! And Eddie, if you'll
believe it, never took the sickness at all. They say, sometimes, babies
don't.

"They got a fam'ly to come and work the farm for 'em, and Debby she took
care of her little brother, same as she always had. And he grew up and got
married and come to live in this house and Aunt Debby lived with him.
They did set great store by each other! Grandmother used to laugh and say
grandfather and Aunt Debby didn't need no words to talk together. I was
eight, goin' on nine--why, Susie, just your age--when Aunt Debby died. I
remember as well the last thing she said. Somebody asked her if she was
afraid. She looked down over the covers--I can see her now, like a old
baby she looked, so little and so light on the big feather-bed, and she
said, 'Is a grain o' wheat scared when you drop it in the ground?' I
always thought that wa'n't such a bad thing for a child to hear said.

"She'd wanted to be buried there beside the others and grandfather did it
so. While he was alive he took care of the graves and kept 'em in good
order; and after I married and come here to live I did. But I'm gettin' on
now, and I want you young folks should know 'bout it and do it after I'm
gone.

"Now, here, Susie, take this pot of petunias and set it out on the head of
the grave that's got a stone over it. And if you're ever inclined to think
you have a hard time, just you remember Aunt Debby and shut your teeth and
_hang on_! If you tip the pot bottom-side up, and knock on it with a
stone, it'll all slip out easy. Now go along with you. We've got to be
starting for home soon."

There was a brief pause and then the cheerful voice went on: "If there's
any flower I do despise, it's petunias! But 'twas Aunt Debby's 'special
favorite, so I always start a pot real early and have it in blossom when
her birthday comes 'round."

By the sound she was struggling heavily to her feet. "Yes, do, for
goodness' sakes, haul me up, will ye? I'm as stiff as an old horse.
I don't know what makes me so rheumaticky. My folks ain't, as a
general thing."

There was so long a silence that the girl inside the house wondered if
they were gone, when Mrs. Pritchard's voice began again: "I do like to
come up here! It 'minds me of him an' me livin' here when we was young. We
had a good time of it!"

"I never could see," commented the other, "how you managed when he went
away t' th' war."

"Oh, I did the way you do when you _have_ to! I'd felt he ought to go, you
know, as much as he did, so I was willin' to put in my best licks. An' I
was young too--twenty-three--and only two of the children born then--and I
was as strong as a ox. I never minded the work any. 'Twas the days after
battles, when we couldn't get no news, that was the bad part. Why, I could
go to the very spot, over there where the butternut tree stands--'twas
our garden then--where I heard he was killed at Gettysburg."

"What did you do?" asked the other.

"I went on hoein' my beans. There was the two children to be looked out
for, you know. But I ain't mindin' tellin' you that I can't look at a
bean-row since without gettin' sick to my stomach and feelin' the
goose-pimples start all over me."

"How did you hear 'twan't so?"

"Why, I was gettin' in the hay--up there where the oaks stand was our
hay-field. I remember how sick the smell of the hay made me, and when the
sweat run down into my eyes I was glad to feel 'em smart and sting--well,
Abby, you just wait till you hear your Nathan'l is shot through the head
and you'll know how it was--well, all of a sudden--somebody took the fork
out'n my hand an'--an' said--'here, you drive an' I'll pitch '--and
there--'twas--'twas----"

"Why, Grandma Pritchard! You're----"

"No, I ain't, either; I ain't such a fool, I hope! Why, see me cry like a
old numskull! Ain't it ridic'lous how you can talk 'bout deaths and
buryin's all right, and can't tell of how somebody come back from the
grave without--where in th' nation is my handkerchief! Why, Abby, things
ain't never looked the same to me from that minute on. I tell you--I tell
you--_I was real glad to see him_!

"Good land, what time o' day do you suppose it can be? Susie! Eddie! Come,
git your berries and start home!"

The two voices began to sound more faintly as the old woman's crutch rang
on the stones. "Well, Abby, when I come up here and remember how I farmed
it alone for four years, I say to myself that 'twan't only th' men that
set the slaves free. Them that stayed to home was allowed to have their
share in the good----" The syllables blurred into an indistinguishable hum
and there fell again upon the house its old mantle of silence.

As if aroused by this from an hypnotic spell, the girl on the hay sat up
suddenly, pressing her hands over her eyes; but she did not shut out a
thousand thronging visions. There was not a sound but the loud throbbing
of the pulses at her temples; but never again could there be silence for
her in that spot. The air was thick with murmurs which beat against her
ears. She was trembling as she slipped down from the hay and, walking
unsteadily to the door, stood looking half-wildly out into the haunted
twilight.

The faint sound of the brook rose liquid in the quiet evening air.

There, where the butternut tree stood, had been the garden!

The white birches answered with a rustling stir in all their lightly
poised leaves.

Up there, where the oaks were, had been the hay-field!

The twilight darkened. Through the forest, black on the crest of the
overhanging mountain, shone suddenly the evening star.

There, before the door, had stood the waiting wood-sled!

The girl caught through the gathering dusk a gleam of magenta from the
corner of the clearing.



Two hermit thrushes, distant in the forest, began to send up their
poignant antiphonal evening chant.



THE HEYDAY OF THE BLOOD


The older professor looked up at the assistant, fumbling fretfully with a
pile of papers. "Farrar, what's the _matter_ with you lately?" he said
sharply.

The younger man started, "Why...why..." the brusqueness of the other's
manner shocked him suddenly into confession. "I've lost my nerve,
Professor Mallory, that's what the matter with me. I'm frightened to
death," he said melodramatically.

"What _of_?" asked Mallory, with a little challenge in his tone.

The flood-gates were open. The younger man burst out in exclamations,
waving his thin, nervous, knotted fingers, his face twitching as he spoke.
"Of myself...no, not myself, but my body! I'm not well...I'm getting worse
all the time. The doctors don't make out what is the matter...I don't
sleep ... I worry...I forget things, I take no interest in life...the
doctors intimate a nervous breakdown ahead of me...and yet I rest ... I
rest...more than I can afford to! I never go out. Every evening I'm in bed
by nine o'clock. I take no part in college life beyond my work, for fear
of the nervous strain. I've refused to take charge of that summer-school
in New York, you know, that would be such an opportunity for me ... if I
could only sleep! But though I never do anything exciting in the
evening ... heavens! what nights I have. Black hours of seeing myself in a
sanitarium, dependent on my brother! I never ... why, I'm in
hell ... that's what the matter with me, a perfect hell of ignoble
terror!"

He sat silent, his drawn face turned to the window. The older man looked
at him speculatively. When he spoke it was with a cheerful, casual quality
in his voice which made the other look up at him surprised.

"You don't suppose those great friends of yours, the nerve specialists,
would object to my telling you a story, do you? It's very quiet and
unexciting. You're not too busy?"

"Busy! I've forgotten the meaning of the word! I don't dare to be!"

"Very well, then; I mean to carry you back to the stony little farm in the
Green Mountains, where I had the extreme good luck to be born and raised.
You've heard me speak of Hillsboro; and the story is all about my
great-grandfather, who came to live with us when I was a little boy."

"Your great-grandfather?" said the other incredulously. "People don't
remember their great-grandfathers!"

"Oh, yes, they do, in Vermont. There was my father on one farm, and my
grandfather on another, without a thought that he was no longer young, and
there was 'gran'ther' as we called him, eighty-eight years old and just
persuaded to settle back, let his descendants take care of him, and
consent to be an old man. He had been in the War of 1812--think of that,
you mushroom!--and had lost an arm and a good deal of his health there. He
had lately begun to get a pension of twelve dollars a month, so that for
an old man he was quite independent financially, as poor Vermont farmers
look at things; and he was a most extraordinary character, so that his
arrival in our family was quite an event.

"He took precedence at once of the oldest man in the township, who was
only eighty-four and not very bright. I can remember bragging at school
about Gran'ther Pendleton, who'd be eighty-nine come next Woodchuck day,
and could see to read without glasses. He had been ailing all his life,
ever since the fever he took in the war. He used to remark triumphantly
that he had now outlived six doctors who had each given him but a year to
live; 'and the seventh is going downhill fast, so I hear!' This last was
his never-failing answer to the attempts of my conscientious mother and
anxious, dutiful father to check the old man's reckless indifference to
any of the rules of hygiene.

"They were good disciplinarians with their children, and this naughty old
man, who would give his weak stomach frightful attacks of indigestion by
stealing out to the pantry and devouring a whole mince pie because he had
been refused two pieces at the table--this rebellious, unreasonable,
whimsical old madcap was an electric element in our quiet, orderly life.
He insisted on going to every picnic and church sociable, where he ate
recklessly of all the indigestible dainties he could lay his hands on,
stood in drafts, tired himself to the verge of fainting away by playing
games with the children, and returned home, exhausted, animated, and quite
ready to pay the price of a day in bed, groaning and screaming out with
pain as heartily and unaffectedly as he had laughed with the pretty girls
the evening before.

"The climax came, however, in the middle of August, when he announced his
desire to go to the county fair, held some fourteen miles down the valley
from our farm. Father never dared let gran'ther go anywhere without
himself accompanying the old man, but he was perfectly sincere in saying
that it was not because he could not spare a day from the haying that he
refused pointblank to consider it. The doctor who had been taking care of
gran'ther since he came to live with us said that it would be crazy to
think of such a thing. He added that the wonder was that gran'ther lived
at all, for his heart was all wrong, his asthma was enough to kill a
young man, and he had no digestion; in short, if father wished to kill his
old grandfather, there was no surer way than to drive fourteen miles in
the heat of August to the noisy excitement of a county fair.

"So father for once said 'No,' in the tone that we children had come to
recognize as final. Gran'ther grimly tied a knot in his empty sleeve--a
curious, enigmatic mode of his to express strong emotion--put his one hand
on his cane, and his chin on his hand, and withdrew himself into that
incalculable distance from the life about him where very old people spend
so many hours.

"He did not emerge from this until one morning toward the middle of
fair-week, when all the rest of the family were away--father and the
bigger boys on the far-off upland meadows haying, and mother and the girls
off blackberrying. I was too little to be of any help, so I had been left
to wait on gran'ther, and to set out our lunch of bread and milk and
huckleberries. We had not been alone half an hour when gran'ther sent me
to extract, from under the mattress of his bed, the wallet in which he
kept his pension money. There was six dollars and forty-three cents--he
counted it over carefully, sticking out his tongue like a schoolboy doing
a sum, and when he had finished he began to laugh and snap his fingers and
sing out in his high, cracked old voice:

"'We're goin' to go a skylarkin'! Little Jo Mallory is going to the county
fair with his Granther Pendleton, an' he's goin' to have more fun than
ever was in the world, and he--'

"'But, gran'ther, father said we mustn't!' I protested, horrified.

"'But I say we _shall_! I was your gre't-gran'ther long before he was your
feyther, and anyway I'm here and he's not--so, _march_! Out to the barn!'

"He took me by the collar, and, executing a shuffling fandango of triumph,
he pushed me ahead of him to the stable, where old white Peggy, the only
horse left at home, looked at us amazed.

"'But it'll be twenty-eight miles, and Peg's never driven over eight!' I
cried, my old-established world of rules and orders reeling before my
eyes.

"'Eight--and--twenty-eight! But I--am--_eighty-eight_!'

"Gran'ther improvised a sort of whooping chant of scorn as he pulled the
harness from the peg. 'It'll do her good to drink some pink lemonade--old
Peggy! An' if she gits tired comin' home, I'll git out and carry her part
way myself!'

"His adventurous spirit was irresistible. I made no further objection, and
we hitched up together, I standing on a chair to fix the check-rein, and
gran'ther doing wonders with his one hand. Then, just as we
were--gran'ther in a hickory shirt, and with an old hat flapping over his
wizened face, I bare-legged, in ragged old clothes--so we drove out of the
grassy yard, down the steep, stony hill that led to the main valley road,
and along the hot, white turnpike, deep with the dust which had been
stirred up by the teams on their way to the fair. Gran'ther sniffed the
air jubilantly, and exchanged hilarious greetings with the people who
constantly overtook old Peg's jogging trot. Between times he regaled me
with spicy stories of the hundreds of thousands--they seemed no less
numerous to me then--of county fairs he had attended in his youth. He was
horrified to find that I had never been even to one.

"'Why, Joey, how old be ye? 'Most eight, ain't it? When I was your age I
had run away and been to two fairs an' a hangin'.' "'But didn't they lick
you when you got home?' I asked shudderingly.

"'You _bet_ they did!' cried gran'ther with gusto.

"I felt the world changing into an infinitely larger place with every word
he said.

"'Now, this is somethin' _like_!' he exclaimed, as we drew near to
Granville and fell into a procession of wagons all filled with country
people in their best clothes, who looked with friendly curiosity at the
little, shriveled cripple, his face shining with perspiring animation, and
at the little boy beside him, his bare feet dangling high above the floor
of the battered buckboard, overcome with the responsibility of driving a
horse for the first time in his life, and filled with such a flood of new
emotions and ideas that he must have been quite pale."

Professor Mallory leaned back and laughed aloud at the vision he had been
evoking--laughed with so joyous a relish in his reminiscences that the
drawn, impatient face of his listener relaxed a little. He drew a long
breath, he even smiled a little absently.

"Oh, that was a day!" went on the professor, still laughing and wiping his
eyes. "Never will I have such another! At the entrance to the grounds
gran'ther stopped me while he solemnly untied the knot in his empty
sleeve. I don't know what kind of hairbrained vow he had tied up in it,
but with the little ceremony disappeared every trace of restraint, and we
plunged head over ears into the saturnalia of delights that was an
old-time county fair.

"People had little cash in those days, and gran'ther's six dollars and
forty-three cents lasted like the widow's cruse of oil. We went to see the
fat lady, who, if she was really as big as she looked to me then, must
have weighed at least a ton. My admiration for gran'ther's daredevil
qualities rose to infinity when he entered into free-and-easy talk with
her, about how much she ate, and could she raise her arms enough to do up
her own hair, and how many yards of velvet it took to make her gorgeous,
gold-trimmed robe. She laughed a great deal at us, but she was evidently
touched by his human interest, for she confided to him that it was not
velvet at all, but furniture covering; and when we went away she pressed
on us a bag of peanuts. She said she had more peanuts than she could
eat--a state of unbridled opulence which fitted in for me with all the
other superlatives of that day.

"We saw the dog-faced boy, whom we did not like at all; gran'ther
expressing, with a candidly outspoken cynicism, his belief that 'them
whiskers was glued to him.' We wandered about the stock exhibit, gazing at
the monstrous oxen, and hanging over the railings where the prize pigs
lived to scratch their backs. In order to miss nothing, we even
conscientiously passed through the Woman's Building, where we were very
much bored by the serried ranks of preserve jars.

"'Sufferin' Hezekiah!' cried gran'ther irritably 'Who cares how gooseberry
jel _looks_. If they'd give a felly a taste, now--'

"This reminded him that we were hungry, and we went to a restaurant under
a tent, where, after taking stock of the wealth that yet remained of
gran'ther's hoard, he ordered the most expensive things on the bill of
fare."

Professor Mallory suddenly laughed out again. "Perhaps in heaven, but
certainly not until then, shall I ever taste anything so ambrosial as that
fried chicken and coffee ice-cream! I have not lived in vain that I have
such a memory back of me!"

This time the younger man laughed with the narrator, settling back in his
chair as the professor went on:

"After lunch we rode on the merry-go-round, both of us, gran'ther clinging
desperately with his one hand to his red camel's wooden hump, and crying
out shrilly to me to be sure and not lose his cane. The merry-go-round had
just come in at that time, and gran'ther had never experienced it before.
After the first giddy flight we retired to a lemonade-stand to exchange
impressions, and finding that we both alike had fallen completely under
the spell of the new sensation, gran'ther said that we 'sh'd keep on
a-ridin' till we'd had enough! King Solomon couldn't tell when we'd ever
git a chance again!' So we returned to the charge, and rode and rode and
rode, through blinding clouds of happy excitement, so it seems to me now,
such as I was never to know again. The sweat was pouring off from us, and
we had tried all the different animals on the machine before we could tear
ourselves away to follow the crowd to the race-track.

"We took reserved seats, which cost a quarter apiece, instead of the
unshaded ten-cent benches, and gran'ther began at once to pour out to me a
flood of horse-talk and knowing race-track aphorisms, which finally made a
young fellow sitting next to us laugh superciliously. Gran'ther turned on
him heatedly.

"'I bet-che fifty cents I pick the winner in the next race!' he said
sportily, "'Done!' said the other, still laughing.

"Gran'ther picked a big black mare, who came in almost last, but he did
not flinch. As he paid over the half-dollar he said: 'Everybody's likely
to make mistakes about _some_ things; King Solomon was a fool in the head
about women-folks! I bet-che a dollar I pick the winner in _this_ race!'
and 'Done!' said the disagreeable young man, still laughing. I gasped, for
I knew we had only eighty-seven cents left, but gran'ther shot me a
command to silence out of the corner of his eyes, and announced that he
bet on the sorrel gelding.

"If I live to be a hundred and break the bank at Monte Carlo three times a
week," said Mallory, shaking his head reminiscently, "I could not know a
tenth part of the frantic excitement of that race or of the mad triumph
when our horse won. Gran'ther cast his hat upon the ground, screaming like
a steam-calliope with exultation as the sorrel swept past the judges'
stand ahead of all the others, and I jumped up and down in an agony of
delight which was almost more than my little body could hold.

"After that we went away, feeling that the world could hold nothing more
glorious. It was five o'clock and we decided to start back. We paid for
Peggy's dinner out of the dollar we had won on the race--I say 'we,' for
by that time we were welded into one organism--and we still had a dollar
and a quarter left. 'While ye're about it, always go the whole hog!' said
gran'ther and we spent twenty minutes in laying out that money in trinkets
for all the folks at home. Then, dusty, penniless, laden with bundles, we
bestowed our exhausted bodies and our uplifted hearts in the old
buckboard, and turned Peg's head toward the mountains. We did not talk
much during that drive, and though I thought at the time only of the
carnival of joy we had left, I can now recall every detail of the
trip--how the sun sank behind Indian Mountain, a peak I had known before
only through distant views; then, as we journeyed on, how the stars came
out above Hemlock Mountain--our own home mountain behind our house, and
later, how the fireflies filled the darkening meadows along the river
below us, so that we seemed to be floating between the steady stars of
heaven and their dancing, twinkling reflection in the valley.

"Gran'ther's dauntless spirit still surrounded me. I put out of mind
doubts of our reception at home, and lost myself in delightful ruminatings
on the splendors of the day. At first, every once in a while, gran'ther
made a brief remark, such as, ''Twas the hind-quarters of the sorrel I bet
on. He was the only one in the hull kit and bilin' of 'em that his
quarters didn't fall away'; or, 'You needn't tell _me_ that them Siamese
twins ain't unpinned every night as separate as you and me!' But later on,
as the damp evening air began to bring on his asthma, he subsided into
silence, only broken by great gasping coughs.

"These were heard by the anxious, heart-sick watchers at home, and, as old
Peg stumbled wearily up the hill, father came running down to meet us.
'Where you be'n?' he demanded, his face pale and stern in the light of his
lantern. 'We be'n to the county fair!' croaked gran'ther with a last flare
of triumph, and fell over sideways against me. Old Peg stopped short,
hanging her head as if she, too, were at the limit of her strength. I was
frightfully tired myself, and frozen with terror of what father would say.
Gran'ther's collapse was the last straw. I began to cry loudly, but father
ignored my distress with an indifference which cut me to the heart. He
lifted gran'ther out of the buckboard, carrying the unconscious little old
body into the house without a glance backward at me. But when I crawled
down to the ground, sobbing and digging my fists into my eyes, I felt
mother's arms close around me.

"'Oh, poor, naughty little Joey!' she said. 'Mother's bad, dear little
boy!'"

Professor Mallory stopped short.

"Perhaps that's something else I'll know again in heaven," he said
soberly, and waited a moment before he went on: "Well, that was the end of
our day. I was so worn out that I fell asleep over my supper, in spite of
the excitement in the house about sending for a doctor for gran'ther, who
was, so one of my awe-struck sisters told me, having some kind of 'fits,'
Mother must have put me to bed, for the next thing I remember, she was
shaking me by the shoulder and saying, 'Wake up, Joey Your
great-grandfather wants to speak to you. He's been suffering terribly all
night, and the doctor think's he's dying.'

"I followed her into gran'ther's room, where the family was assembled
about the bed. Gran'ther lay drawn up in a ball, groaning so dreadfully
that I felt a chill like cold water at the roots of my hair; but a moment
or two after I came in, all at once he gave a great sigh and relaxed,
stretching out his legs and laying his arms down on the coverlid. He
looked at me and attempted a smile.

"Well, it was wuth it, warn't it, Joey?" he said gallantly, and closed his
eyes peacefully to sleep.

"Did he die?" asked the younger professor, leaning forward eagerly.

"Die? Gran'ther Pendleton? Not much! He came tottering down to breakfast
the next morning, as white as an old ghost, with no voice left, his legs
trembling under him, but he kept the whole family an hour and a half at
the table, telling them in a loud whisper all about the fair, until father
said really he would have to take us to the one next year. Afterward he
sat out on the porch watching old Peg graze around the yard. I thought he
was in one of his absent-minded fits, but when I came out, he called me to
him, and, setting his lips to my ear, he whispered:

"'An' the seventh is a-goin' down-hill fast, so I hear!' He chuckled to
himself over this for some time, wagging his head feebly, and then he
said: 'I tell ye, Joey, I've lived a long time, and I've larned a lot
about the way folks is made. The trouble with most of 'em is, they're
fraid-cats! As Jeroboam Warner used to say--he was in the same rigiment
with me in 1812--the only way to manage this business of livin' is to give
a whoop and let her rip! If ye just about half-live, ye just the same as
half-die; and if ye spend yer time half-dyin', some day ye turn in and die
all over, without rightly meanin' to at all--just a kind o' bad habit
ye've got yerself inter.' Gran'ther fell into a meditative silence for a
moment. 'Jeroboam, he said that the evenin' before the battle of Lundy's
Lane, and he got killed the next day. Some live, and some die; but folks
that live all over die happy, anyhow! Now I tell you what's my motto, an'
what I've lived to be eighty-eight on--'"

Professor Mallory stood up and, towering over the younger man, struck one
hand into the other as he cried: "This was the motto he told me: 'Live
while you live, and then die and be done with it!'"



AS A BIRD OUT OF THE SNARE


After the bargain was completed and the timber merchant had gone away,
Jehiel Hawthorn walked stiffly to the pine-tree and put his horny old fist
against it, looking up to its spreading top with an expression of hostile
exultation in his face. The neighbor who had been called to witness the
transfer of Jehiel's woodland looked at him curiously.

"That was quite a sight of money to come in without your expectin', wa'n't
it?" he said, fumbling awkwardly for an opening to the question he burned
to ask.

Jehiel did not answer. The two old men stood silent, looking down the
valley, lying like a crevasse in a glacier between the towering white
mountains. The sinuous course of the frozen river was almost black under
the slaty sky of March.

"Seems kind o' providential, havin' so much money come to you just now,
when your sister-in-law's jest died, and left you the first time in your
life without anybody you got to stay and see to, don't it?" commented the
neighbor persistently.

Jehiel made a vague sign with his head.

"I s'pose likely you'll be startin' aout to travel and see foreign parts,
same's you've always planned, won't you--or maybe you cal'late you be too
old now?"

Jehiel gave no indication that he had heard. His faded old blue eyes were
fixed steadily on the single crack in the rampart of mountains, through
which the afternoon train was just now leaving the valley. Its whistle
echoed back hollowly, as it fled away from the prison walls into the great
world.

The neighbor stiffened in offended pride. "I bid you good-night, Mr.
Hawthorn," he said severely, and stumped down the steep, narrow road
leading to the highway in the valley.

After he had disappeared Jehiel turned to the tree and leaned his forehead
against it. He was so still he seemed a part of the great pine. He stood
so till the piercing chill of evening chilled him through, and when he
looked again about him it was after he had lived his life all through in a
brief and bitter review.

It began with the tree and it ended with the tree, and in spite of the
fever of unrest in his heart it was as stationary as any rooted creature
of the woods. When he was eleven and his father went away to the Civil
War, he had watched him out of sight with no sorrow, only a burning envy
of the wanderings that lay before the soldier. A little later, when it was
decided that he should go to stay with his married sister, since she was
left alone by her husband's departure to the war, he turned his back on
his home with none of a child's usual reluctance, but with an eager
delight in the day-long drive to the other end of the valley. That was the
longest journey he had ever taken, the man of almost three-score thought,
with an aching resentment against Fate.

Still, those years with his sister, filled with labor beyond his age as
they were, had been the happiest of his life. In an almost complete
isolation the two had toiled together five years, the most impressionable
of his life; and all his affection centered on the silent, loving, always
comprehending sister. His own father and mother grew to seem far away and
alien, and his sister came to be like a part of himself. To her alone of
all living souls had he spoken freely of his passion for adventuring far
from home, which devoured, his boy-soul. He was six-teen when her husband
finally came back from the war, and he had no secrets from the young
matron of twenty-six, who listened with such wide tender eyes of sympathy
to his half-frantic outpourings of longing to escape from the dark, narrow
valley where his fathers had lived their dark, narrow lives.

The day before he went back to his own home, now so strange to him, he was
out with her, searching for some lost turkey-chicks, and found one with
its foot caught in a tangle of rusty wire. The little creature had beaten
itself almost to death in its struggle to get away. Kneeling in the grass,
and feeling the wild palpitations of its heart under his rescuing hand, he
had called to his sister, "Oh, look! Poor thing! It's 'most dead, and yet
it ain't really hurt a mite, only desperate, over bein' held fast." His
voice broke in a sudden wave of sympathy: "Oh, ain't it _terrible_ to feel
so!"

For a moment the young mother put her little son aside and looked at her
brother with brooding eyes. A little later she said with apparent
irrelevance, "Jehiel, as soon as you're a man grown, I'll help you to get
off. You shall be a sailor, if you like, and go around the world, and
bring back coral to baby and me."

A chilling premonition fell on the lad. "I don't believe it!" he said,
with tears in his eyes. "I just believe I've got to stay here in this hole
all my life."

His sister looked off at the tops of the trees. Finally, "Surely He shall
deliver thee from the snare of the fowler," she quoted dreamily.

When she came to see him and their parents a few months later, she brought
him a little square of crimson silk, on which she had worked in tiny
stitches, "Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler." She
explained to her father and mother that it was a "text-ornament" for
Jehiel to hang up over his desk; but she drew the boy aside and showed him
that the silk was only lightly caught down to the foundation.

"Underneath is another text," she said, "and when your day of freedom
comes I want you should promise me to cut the stitches, turn back the
silk, and take the second text for your motto, so you'll remember to be
properly grateful. This is the second text." She put her hands on his
shoulders and said in a loud, exultant voice, "My soul is escaped as a
bird out of the snare of the fowler. The snare is broken and I am
escaped."

For answer the boy pulled her eagerly to the window and pointed to a young
pine-tree that stood near the house.

"Sister, that tree's just as old as I be. I've prayed to God, and I've
promised myself that before it's as tall, as the ridge-pole of the house,
I'll be on my way."

As this scene came before his eyes, the white-haired man, leaning against
the great pine, looked up at the lofty crown of green wreathing the
giant's head and shook his fist at it. He hated every inch of its height,
for every inch meant an enforced renunciation that had brought him
bitterness and a sense of failure.

His sister had died the year after she had given him the double text, and
his father the year after that. He was left thus, the sole support of his
ailing mother, who transferred to the silent, sullen boy the irresistible
rule of complaining weakness with which she had governed his father. It
was thought she could not live long, and the boy stood in terror of a
sudden death brought on by displeasure at some act of his. In the end,
however, she died quietly in her bed, an old woman of seventy-three,
nursed by her daughter-in-law, the widow of Jehiel's only brother. Her
place in the house was taken by Jehiel's sister-in-law, a sickly, helpless
woman, alone in the would except for Jehiel, and all the neighbors
congratulated him on having a housekeeper ready to his hand. He said
nothing.

By that time, indeed, he had sunk into a harsh silence on all topics. He
went through the exhausting routine of farming with an iron-like
endurance, watched with set lips the morning and afternoon trains leave
the valley, and noted the growth of the pine-tree with a burning heart.
His only recreation was collecting time-tables, prospectuses of steamship
companies, and what few books of travel he could afford. The only society
he did not shun was that of itinerant peddlers or tramps, and occasionally
a returned missionary on a lecture tour.

And always the pine-tree had grown, insolent in the pride of a creature
set in the right surroundings. The imprisoned man had felt himself dwarfed
by its height. But now, he looked up at it again, and laughed aloud. It
had come late, but it had come. He was fifty-seven years old, almost
three-score, but all his life was still to be lived. He said to himself
that some folks lived their lives while they did their work, but he had
done all his tasks first, and now he could live. The unexpected arrival of
the timber merchant and the sale of that piece of land he'd never thought
would bring him a cent--was not that an evident sign that Providence was
with him. He was too old and broken now to work his way about as he had
planned at first, but here had come this six hundred dollars like rain
from the sky. He would start as soon as he could sell his stock.

The thought reminded him of his evening chores, and he set off for the
barn with a fierce jubilation that it was almost the last time he would
need to milk. How far he wondered, could he go on that money? He hurried
through his work and into the house to his old desk. The faded
text-ornament stood on the top shelf, but he did not see it, as he hastily
tumbled out all the time tables and sailing-lists. The habit of looking at
them with the yearning bitterness of unreconciled deprivation was still so
strong on him that even as he handled them eagerly, he hated them for the
associations of years of misery they brought back to him.

Where should he go? He was dazed by the unlimited possibilities before
him. To Boston first, as the nearest seaport. He had taken the trip in his
mind so many times that he knew the exact minute when the train would
cross the State line and he would be really escaped from the net which had
bound him all his life. From Boston to Jamaica as the nearest place that
was quite quite different from Vermont. He had no desire to see Europe or
England. Life there was too much like what he had known. He wanted to be
in a country where nothing should remind him of his past. From Jamaica
where? His stiff old fingers painfully traced out a steamship line to the
Isthmus and thence to Colombia. He knew nothing about that country. All
the better. It would be the more foreign. Only this he knew, that nobody
in that tropical country "farmed it," and that was where he wanted to go.
From Colombia around the Cape to Argentina. He was aghast at the cost, but
instantly decided that he would go steerage. There would be more real
foreigners to be seen that way, and his money would go twice as far.

To Buenos Ayres, then. He did not even attempt to pronounce this name,
though its strange, inexplicable look on the page was a joy to him. From
there by muleback and afoot over the Andes to Chile. He knew something
about that trip. A woman who had taught in the Methodist missionary school
in Santiago de Chile had taken that journey, and he had heard her give a
lecture on it. He was the sexton of the church and heard all the lectures
free. At Santiago de Chile (he pronounced it with a strange distortion of
the school-teacher's bad accent) he would stay for a while and just live
and decide what to do next. His head swam with dreams and visions, and his
heart thumped heavily against his old ribs. The clock striking ten brought
him back to reality. He stood up with a gesture of exultation almost
fierce. "That's just the time when the train crosses the State line!" he
said.

He slept hardly at all that night, waking with great starts, and imagining
himself in strange foreign places, and then recognizing with a scornful
familiarity the worn old pieces of furniture in his room. He noticed at
these times that it was very cold, and lifelong habit made him reflect
that he would better go early to the church because it would be hard to
get up steam enough to warm the building before time for service. After he
had finished his morning chores and was about to start he noticed that the
thermometer stood at four above zero.

That was certainly winter temperature; the snow lay like a heavy shroud on
all the dead valley, but the strange blind instinct of a man who has lived
close to the earth stirred within him. He looked at the sky and the
mountains and held up his bare palm. "I shouldn't be surprised if the
spring break-up was near," he said. "I guess this is about the last winter
day we'll get."

The church was icy cold, and he toiled in the cellar, stuffing wood into
the flaming maw of the steam-heater, till it was time to ring the bell. As
he gave the last stroke, Deacon Bradley approached him. "Jehiel, I've got
a little job of repairing I want you should do at my store," he said in
the loud, slow speech of a man important in the community. "Come to the
store to-morrow morning and see about it." He passed on into his pew,
which was at the back of the church near a steam radiator, so that he was
warm, no matter what the weather was.

Jehiel Hawthorn went out and stood on the front steps in the winter
sunshine and his heart swelled exultingly as he looked across at the
deacon's store. "I wish I'd had time to tell him I'd do no repairs for him
to-morrow, nor any time---that I'm going to travel and see the world."

The last comers disappeared in the church and the sound of singing came
faintly to Jehiel's ears. Although he was the sexton he rarely was in
church for the service, using his duties as an excuse for absence. He felt
that it was not for him to take part in prayer and thanksgiving. As a boy
he had prayed for the one thing he wanted, and what had it come to?

A penetrating cold wind swept around the corner and he turned to go inside
to see about the steam-pipes. In the outer hall he noticed that the
service had progressed to the responsive readings. As he opened the door
of the church the minister read rapidly, "Praised be the Lord who hath not
given us over for a prey unto their teeth."

The congregation responded in a timid inarticulate gabble, above which
rose Deacon Bradley's loud voice,--"Our soul is escaped even as a bird out
of the snare of the fowler. The snare is broken and we are escaped." He
read the responses in a slow, booming roar, at least half a sentence
behind the rest, but the minister always waited for him. As he finished,
he saw the sexton standing in the open door. "A little more steam,
Jehiel," he added commandingly, running the words on to the end of the
text.

Jehiel turned away silently, but as he stumbled through the dark,
unfinished part of the cellar he thought to himself, "Well, that's the
last time he'll give me an order for _one_ while!"

Then the words of the text he had heard came back to his mind with a
half-superstitious shock at the coincidence. He had forgotten all about
that hidden part of the text-ornament. Why, now that had come true! He
ought to have cut the stitches and torn off the old text last night. He
would, as soon as he went home. He wished his sister were alive to know,
and suddenly, there in the dark, he wondered if perhaps she did know.

As he passed the door to the rooms of the Ladies' Auxiliary Society he
noticed that it was ajar, and saw through the crack that there was a
sleeping figure on the floor near the stove--a boy about sixteen. When
Jehiel stepped softly in and looked at him, the likeness to his own sister
struck him even before he recognized the lad as his great-nephew, the son
of the child he had helped his sister to care for all those years ago.

"Why, what's Nathaniel doin' here?" he asked himself, in surprise. He had
not known that the boy was even in town, for he had been on the point of
leaving to enlist in the navy. Family matters could not have detained him,
for he was quite alone in the world since both his father and his mother
were dead and his stepmother had married again. Under his great-uncle's
gaze the lad opened his eyes with a start and sat up confused.

"What's the matter with you, Nat?" asked the older man not ungently. He
was thinking that probably he had looked like that at sixteen. The boy
stared at him a moment, and then, leaning his head on a chair, he began to
cry. Sitting thus, crouched together, he looked like a child.

"Why, Natty, what's the trouble?" asked his uncle alarmed.

"I came off here because I couldn't hold in at home any longer," answered
the other between sobs. "You see I can't go away. Her husband treats her
so bad she can't stay with him. I don't blame her, she says she just
_can't!_ So she's come back and she ain't well, and she's goin' to have a
baby, and I've got to stay and support her. Mr. Bradley's offered me a
place in his store and I've got to give up goin' to the navy." He suddenly
realized the unmanliness of his attitude, rose to his feet, closing his
lips tightly, and faced the older man with a resolute expression of
despair in his young eyes.

"Uncle Jehiel, it does seem to me I _can't_ have it so! All my life I've
looked forward to bein' a sailor and goin' around the world, and all. I
just hate the valley and the mountains! But I guess I got to stay. She's
only my stepmother, I know, but she was always awful good to me, and she
hasn't got anybody else to look after her."

His voice broke, and he put his arm up in a crook over his face. "But it's
awful hard! I feel like a bird that's got caught in a snare."

His uncle had grown very pale during this speech, and at the last words he
recoiled with an exclamation of horror. There was a silence in which he
looked at his nephew with the wide eyes of a man who sees a specter. Then
he turned away into the furnace-room, and picking up his lunch-box brought
it back. "Here, you," he said roughly, "part of what's troublin' you is
that you ain't had any breakfast. You eat this and you'll feel better.
I'll be back in a minute."

He went away blindly into the darkest part of the cellar. It was very
black there, but his eyes stared wide before him. It was very cold, but
drops of sweat stood on his forehead as if he were in the hay-field. He
was alone, but his lips moved from time to time, and once he called out in
some loud, stifled exclamation which resounded hollowly in the vault-like
place. He was there a long time.

When he went back into the furnace cellar, he found Nathaniel sitting
before the fire. The food and warmth had brought a little color into his
pale face, but it was still set in a mask of tragic desolation.

As his uncle came in, he exclaimed, "Why, Uncle Jehiel, you look awful
bad. Are you sick?"

"Yes, I be," said the other harshly, "but 'tain't nothin'. It'll pass
after a while. Nathaniel, I've thought of a way you can manage. You know
your uncle's wife died this last week and that leaves me without any house
keeper. What if your stepmother sh'd come and take care of me and I'll
take care of her. I've just sold a piece of timber land I never thought to
get a cent out of and that'll ease things up so we can hire help if she
ain't strong enough to do the work."

Nathaniel's face flushed in a relief which died quickly down to a somber
hopelessness. He faced his uncle doggedly. "Not _much_, Uncle Jehiel!" he
said heavily, "I ain't a-goin' to hear to such a thing. I know all about
your wantin' to get away from the valley--you take that money and go
yourself and I'll---"

Hopelessness and resolution were alike struck out of his face by the fury
of benevolence with which the old man cut him short. "Don't you dare to
speak a word against it, boy!" cried Jehiel in a labored anguish. "Good
Lord! I'm only doin' it for you because I _have_ to! I've been through
what you're layin' out for yourself an' stood it, somehow, an' now I'm
'most done with it all. But 'twould be like beginnin' it all again to see
you startin' in."

The boy tried to speak, but he raised his voice. "No, I couldn't stand it
all over again. 'Twould cut in to the places where I've got calloused."
Seeing through the other's stupor the beginnings of an irresolute
opposition, he flung himself upon him in a strange and incredible appeal,
crying out, "Oh, you must! You _got_ to go!" commanding and imploring in
the same incoherent sentence, struggling for speech, and then hanging on
Nathaniel's answer in a sudden wild silence. It was as though his next
breath depended on the boy's decision.

It was very still in the twilight where they stood. The faint murmur of a
prayer came down from above, and while it lasted both were as though held
motionless by its mesmeric monotony. Then, at the boom of the organ, the
lad's last shred of self-control vanished. He burst again into muffled
weary sobs, the light from the furnace glistening redly on his streaming
cheeks. "It ain't right, Uncle Jehiel. I feel as though I was murderin'
somethin'! But I can't help it. I'll go, I'll do as you say, but----"

His uncle's agitation went out like a wind-blown flame. He, too, drooped
in an utter fatigue. "Never mind, Natty," he said tremulously, "it'll all
come out right somehow. Just you do as Uncle Jehiel says."

A trampling upstairs told him that the service was over. "You run home now
and tell her I'll be over this afternoon to fix things up."

He hurried up the stairs to open the front doors, but Deacon Bradley was
before him. "You're late, Jehiel," he said severely, "and the church was
cold."

"I know, Deacon," said the sexton humbly, "but it won't happen again. And
I'll be around the first thing in the morning to do that job for you." His
voice sounded dull and lifeless.

"What's the matter?" asked the deacon. "Be you sick?"

"Yes, I be, but 'tain't nothin'. 'Twill pass after a while."

That evening, as he walked home after service, he told himself that he had
never known so long a day. It seemed longer than all the rest of his life.
Indeed he felt that some strange and racking change had come upon him
since the morning, as though he were not the same person, as though he had
been away on a long journey, and saw all things with changed eyes. "I feel
as though I'd died," he thought with surprise, "and was dead and buried."

This brought back to his mind the only bitter word he had spoken
throughout the endless day. Nathaniel had said, as an excuse for his haste
(Jehiel insisted on his leaving that night), "You see, mother, it's really
a service to Uncle Jehiel, since he's got nobody to keep house for him."
He had added, in the transparent self-justification of selfish youth, "And
I'll pay it back to him every cent." At this Jehiel had said shortly, "By
the time you can pay it back what I'll need most will be a tombstone. Git
a big one so's to keep me down there quiet."

But now, walking home under the frosty stars, he felt very quiet already,
as though he needed no weight to lie heavy on his restless heart. It did
not seem restless now, but very still, as though it too were dead. He
noticed that the air was milder, and as he crossed the bridge below his
house he stopped and listened. Yes, the fine ear of his experience caught
a faint grinding sound. By tomorrow the river would begin to break up. It
was the end of winter. He surprised himself by his pleasure in thinking of
the spring.

Before he went into the house after his evening chores were done, he
stopped for a moment and looked back at the cleft in the mountain wall
through which the railroad left the valley. He had been looking longingly
toward that door of escape all his life, and now he said goodby to it.
"Ah, well, 'twan't to be," he said, with an accent of weary finality; but
then, suddenly out of the chill which oppressed his heart there sprang a
last searing blast of astonished anguish. It was as if he realized for the
first time all that had befallen him since the morning. He was racked by a
horrified desolation that made his sturdy old body stagger as if under an
unexpected blow. As he reeled he flung his arm about the pine-tree and so
stood for a time, shaking in a paroxysm which left him breathless when it
passed. For it passed as suddenly as it came. He lifted his head and
looked again at the great cleft in the mountains, with new eyes. Somehow,
insensibly, his heart had been emptied of its fiery draught by more than
mere exhaustion. The old bitter pain was gone, but there was no mere void
in its place. He felt the sweet, weak light-headedness of a man in his
first lucid period after a fever, tears stinging his eyelids in confused
thanksgiving for an unrecognized respite from pain.

He looked up at the lofty crown of the pine-tree, through which shone one
or two of the brightest stars, and felt a new comradeship with it. It was
a great tree, he thought, and they had grown up together. He laid his
hardened palm on it, and fancied that he caught a throb of the silent
vitality under the bark. How many kinds of life there were! Under its
white shroud, how all the valley lived. The tree stretching up its head to
the stars, the river preparing to throw off the icy armor which compressed
its heart--they were all awakening in their own way. The river had been
restless, like himself, the tree had been tranquil, but they passed
together through the resurrection into quiet life.

When he went into the house, he found that he was almost fainting with
fatigue. He sat down by the desk, and his head fell forward on the pile of
pamphlets he had left there. For the first time in his life he thought of
them without a sore heart. "I suppose Natty'll go to every one of them
places," he murmured as he dropped to sleep.

He dreamed strange, troubled dreams that melted away before he could seize
on them, and finally he thought his sister stood before him and called.
The impression was so vivid that he started up, staring at the empty room.
For an instant he still thought he heard a voice, and then he knew it was
the old clock striking the hour. It was ten o'clock.

"Natty's just a-crossin' the State line," he said aloud The text-ornament
caught his eye. Still half asleep, with his sister's long-forgotten voice
ringing in his ears, he remembered vaguely that he had meant to bring the
second text to light. For a moment he hesitated, and then, "Well, it's
come true for Natty, anyhow," he thought.

And clumsily using his heavy jackknife, he began to cut the tiny stitches
which had so long hidden from his eyes the joyous exultation of the
escaped prisoner.



THE BEDQUILT


Of all the Elwell family Aunt Mehetabel was certainly the most unimportant
member. It was in the New England days, when an unmarried woman was an old
maid at twenty, at forty was everyone's servant, and at sixty had gone
through so much discipline that she could need no more in the next world.
Aunt Mehetabel was sixty-eight.

She had never for a moment known the pleasure of being important to
anyone. Not that she was useless in her Brother's family; she was
expected, as a matter of course, to take upon herself the most tedious and
uninteresting part of the household labors. On Mondays she accepted as her
share the washing of the men's shirts, heavy with sweat and stiff with
dirt from the fields and from their own hard-working bodies. Tuesdays she
never dreamed of being allowed to iron anything pretty or even
interesting, like the baby's white dresses or the fancy aprons of her
young lady nieces. She stood all day pressing out a tiresome monotonous
succession of dish-cloths and towels and sheets.

In preserving-time she was allowed to have none of the pleasant
responsibility of deciding when the fruit had cooked long enough, nor did
she share in the little excitement of pouring the sweet-smelling stuff
into the stone jars. She sat in a corner with the children and stoned
cherries incessantly, or hulled strawberries until her fingers were dyed
red to the bone.

The Elwells were not consciously unkind to their aunt, they were even in a
vague way fond of her; but she was so utterly insignificant a figure in
their lives that they bestowed no thought whatever on her. Aunt Mehetabel
did not resent this treatment; she took it quite as unconsciously as they
gave it. It was to be expected when one was an old-maid dependent in a
busy family. She gathered what crumbs of comfort she could from their
occasional careless kindnesses and tried to hide the hurt which even yet
pierced her at her brother's rough joking. In the winter when they all sat
before the big hearth, roasted apples, drank mulled cider, and teased the
girls about their beaux and the boys about their sweethearts, she shrank
into a dusky corner with her knitting, happy if the evening passed without
her brother saying, with a crude sarcasm, "Ask your Aunt Mehetabel about
the beaux that used to come a-sparkin' her!" or, "Mehetabel, how was't
when you was in love with Abel Cummings." As a matter of fact, she had
been the same at twenty as at sixty, a quiet, mouse-like little creature,
too timid and shy for anyone to notice, or to raise her eyes for a moment
and wish for a life of her own.

Her sister-in-law, a big hearty housewife, who ruled indoors with as
autocratic a sway as did her husband on the farm, was rather kind in an
absent, offhand way to the shrunken little old woman, and it was through
her that Mehetabel was able to enjoy the one pleasure of her life. Even as
a girl she had been clever with her needle in the way of patching
bedquilts. More than that she could never learn to do. The garments which
she made for herself were the most lamentable affairs, and she was humbly
grateful for any help in the bewildering business of putting them
together. But in patchwork she enjoyed a tepid importance. She could
really do that as well as anyone else. During years of devotion to this
one art she had accumulated a considerable store of quilting patterns.
Sometimes the neighbors would send over and ask "Miss Mehetabel" for such
and such a design. It was with an agreeable flutter at being able to help
someone that she went to the dresser, in her bare little room under the
eaves, and extracted from her crowded portfolio the pattern desired.

She never knew how her great idea came to her. Sometimes she thought she
must have dreamed it, sometimes she even wondered reverently, in the
phraseology of the weekly prayer-meeting, if it had not been "sent" to
her. She never admitted to herself that she could have thought of it
without other help; it was too great, too ambitious, too lofty a project
for her humble mind to have conceived. Even when she finished drawing the
design with her own fingers, she gazed at it incredulously, not daring to
believe that it could indeed be her handiwork. At first it seemed to her
only like a lovely but quite unreal dream. She did not think of putting it
into execution--so elaborate, so complicated, so beautifully difficult a
pattern could be only for the angels in heaven to quilt. But so curiously
does familiarity accustom us even to very wonderful things, that as she
lived with this astonishing creation of her mind, the longing grew
stronger and stronger to give it material life with her nimble old
fingers.

She gasped at her daring when this idea first swept over her and put it
away as one does a sinfully selfish notion, but she kept coming back to it
again and again. Finally she said compromisingly to herself that she would
make one "square," just one part of her design, to see how it would look.
Accustomed to the most complete dependence on her brother and his wife,
she dared not do even this without asking Sophia's permission. With a
heart full of hope and fear thumping furiously against her old ribs, she
approached the mistress of the house on churning-day, knowing with the
innocent guile of a child that the country woman was apt to be in a good
temper while working over the fragrant butter in the cool cellar.

Sophia listened absently to her sister-in-law's halting, hesitating
petition. "Why, yes, Mehetabel," she said, leaning far down into the huge
churn for the last golden morsels--"why, yes, start another quilt if you
want to. I've got a lot of pieces from the spring sewing that will work in
real good." Mehetabel tried honestly to make her see that this would be no
common quilt, but her limited vocabulary and her emotion stood between her
and expression. At last Sophia said, with a kindly impatience: "Oh, there!
Don't bother me. I never could keep track of your quiltin' patterns,
anyhow. I don't care what pattern you go by."

With this overwhelmingly, although unconsciously, generous permission
Mehetabel rushed back up the steep attic stairs to her room, and in a
joyful agitation began preparations for the work of her life. It was even
better than she hoped. By some heaven-sent inspiration she had invented a
pattern beyond which no patchwork quilt could go.

She had but little time from her incessant round of household drudgery for
this new and absorbing occupation, and she did not dare sit up late at
night lest she burn too much candle. It was weeks before the little square
began to take on a finished look, to show the pattern. Then Mehetabel was
in a fever of impatience to bring it to completion. She was too
conscientious to shirk even the smallest part of her share of the work of
the house, but she rushed through it with a speed which left her panting
as she climbed to the little room. This seemed like a radiant spot to her
as she bent over the innumerable scraps of cloth which already in her
imagination ranged themselves in the infinitely diverse pattern of her
masterpiece. Finally she could wait no longer, and one evening ventured to
bring her work down beside the fire where the family sat, hoping that some
good fortune would give her a place near the tallow candles on the
mantelpiece. She was on the last corner of the square, and her needle flew
in and out with inconceivable rapidity. No one noticed her, a fact which
filled her with relief, and by bedtime she had but a few more stitches to
add.

As she stood up with the others, the square fluttered out of her trembling
old hands and fell on the table. Sophia glanced at it carelessly. "Is that
the new quilt you're beginning on?" she asked with a yawn. "It looks like
a real pretty pattern. Let's see it." Up to that moment Mehetabel had
labored in the purest spirit of disinterested devotion to an ideal, but as
Sophia held her work toward the candle to examine it, and exclaimed in
amazement and admiration, she felt an astonished joy to know that her
creation would stand the test of publicity.

"Land sakes!" ejaculated her sister-in-law, looking at the many-colored
square. "Why, Mehetabel Elwell, where'd you git that pattern?"

"I made it up," said Mehetabel quietly, but with unutterable pride.

"No!" exclaimed Sophia incredulously. "_Did_ you! Why, I never see such a
pattern in my life. Girls, come here and see what your Aunt Mehetabel is
doing."

The three tall daughters turned back reluctantly from the stairs. "I don't
seem to take much interest in patchwork," said one listlessly.

"No, nor I neither!" answered Sophia; "but a stone image would take an
interest in this pattern. Honest, Mehetabel, did you think of it yourself?
And how under the sun and stars did you ever git your courage up to start
in a-making it? Land! Look at all those tiny squinchy little seams! Why
the wrong side ain't a thing _but_ seams!"

The girls echoed their mother's exclamations, and Mr. Elwell himself came
over to see what they were discussing. "Well, I declare!" he said, looking
at his sister with eyes more approving than she could ever remember. "That
beats old Mis' Wightman's quilt that got the blue ribbon so many times at
the county fair."

Mehetabel's heart swelled within her, and tears of joy moistened her old
eyes as she lay that night in her narrow, hard bed, too proud and excited
to sleep. The next day her sister-in-law amazed her by taking the huge pan
of potatoes out of her lap and setting one of the younger children to
peeling them. "Don't you want to go on with that quiltin' pattern?" she
said; "I'd kind o' like to see how you're goin' to make the grape-vine
design come out on the corner."

By the end of the summer the family interest had risen so high that
Mehetabel was given a little stand in the sitting-room where she could
keep her pieces, and work in odd minutes. She almost wept over such
kindness, and resolved firmly not to take advantage of it by neglecting
her work, which she performed with a fierce thoroughness. But the whole
atmosphere of her world was changed. Things had a meaning now. Through the
longest task of washing milk-pans there rose the rainbow of promise of her
variegated work. She took her place by the little table and put the
thimble on her knotted, hard finger with the solemnity of a priestess
performing a sacred rite.

She was even able to bear with some degree of dignity the extreme honor of
having the minister and the minister's wife comment admiringly on her
great project. The family felt quite proud of Aunt Mehetabel as Minister
Bowman had said it was work as fine as any he had ever seen, "and he
didn't know but finer!" The remark was repeated verbatim to the neighbors
in the following weeks when they dropped in and examined in a perverse
silence some astonishingly difficult _tour de force_ which Mehetabel had
just finished.

The family especially plumed themselves on the slow progress of the quilt.
"Mehetabel has been to work on that corner for six weeks, come Tuesday,
and she ain't half done yet," they explained to visitors. They fell out of
the way of always expecting her to be the one to run on errands, even for
the children. "Don't bother your Aunt Mehetabel," Sophia would call.
"Can't you see she's got to a ticklish place on the quilt?"

The old woman sat up straighter and looked the world in the face. She was
a part of it at last. She joined in the conversation and her remarks were
listened to. The children were even told to mind her when she asked them
to do some service for her, although this she did but seldom, the habit of
self-effacement being too strong.

One day some strangers from the next town drove up and asked if they could
inspect the wonderful quilt which they had heard of, even down in their end
of the valley. After that such visitations were not uncommon, making the
Elwells' house a notable object. Mehetabel's quilt came to be one of the
town sights, and no one was allowed to leave the town without having paid
tribute to its worth. The Elwells saw to it that their aunt was better
dressed than she had ever been before, and one of the girls made her a
pretty little cap to wear on her thin white hair.


A year went by and a quarter of the quilt was finished, a second year
passed and half was done. The third year Mehetabel had pneumonia and lay
ill for weeks and weeks, overcome with terror lest she die before her work
was completed. A fourth year and one could really see the grandeur of the
whole design; and in September of the fifth year, the entire family
watching her with eager and admiring eyes, Mehetabel quilted the last
stitches in her creation. The girls held it up by the four corners, and
they all looked at it in a solemn silence. Then Mr. Elwell smote one horny
hand within the other and exclaimed: "By ginger! That's goin' to the
county fair!"

Mehetabel blushed a deep red at this. It was a thought which had occurred
to her in a bold moment, but she had not dared to entertain it. The family
acclaimed the idea, and one of the boys was forthwith dispatched to the
house of the neighbor who was chairman of the committee for their village.
He returned with radiant face, "Of course he'll take it. Like's not it may
git a prize, so he says; but he's got to have it right off, because all
the things are goin' to-morrow morning."

Even in her swelling pride Mehetabel felt a pang of separation as the
bulky package was carried out of the house. As the days went on she felt
absolutely lost without her work. For years it had been her one
preoccupation, and she could not bear even to look at the little stand,
now quite bare of the litter of scraps which had lain on it so long. One
of the neighbors, who took the long journey to the fair, reported that the
quilt was hung in a place of honor in a glass case in "Agricultural Hall."
But that meant little to Mehetabel's utter ignorance of all that lay
outside of her brother's home. The family noticed the old woman's
depression, and one day Sophia said kindly, "You feel sort o' lost without
the quilt, don't you, Mehetabel?"

"They took it away so quick!" she said wistfully; "I hadn't hardly had one
real good look at it myself."

Mr. Elwell made no comment, but a day or two later he asked his sister how
early she could get up in the morning.

"I dun'no'. Why?" she asked.

"Well, Thomas Ralston has got to drive clear to West Oldton to see a
lawyer there, and that is four miles beyond the fair. He says if you can
git up so's to leave here at four in the morning he'll drive you over to
the fair, leave you there for the day, and bring you back again at night."

Mehetabel looked at him with incredulity. It was as though someone had
offered her a ride in a golden chariot up to the gates of heaven. "Why,
you can't _mean_ it!" she cried, paling with the intensity of her emotion.
Her brother laughed a little uneasily. Even to his careless indifference
this joy was a revelation of the narrowness of her life in his home. "Oh,
'tain't so much to go to the fair. Yes, I mean it. Go git your things
ready, for he wants to start to-morrow morning."

All that night a trembling, excited old woman lay and stared at the
rafters. She, who had never been more than six miles from home in her
life, was going to drive thirty miles away--it was like going to another
world. She who had never seen anything more exciting than church supper
was to see the county fair. To Mehetabel it was like making the tour of
the world. She had never dreamed of doing it. She could not at all imagine
what would be like.

Nor did the exhortations of the family, as they bade good-by to her, throw
any light on her confusion. They had all been at least once to the scene
of gayety she was to visit, and as she tried to eat her breakfast they
called out conflicting advice to her till her head whirled. Sophie told
her to be sure and see the display of preserves. Her brother said not to
miss inspecting the stock, her niece said the fancywork was the only thing
worth looking at and her nephews said she must bring them home an account
of the races. The buggy drove up to the door, she was helped in, and her
wraps tucked about her. They all stood together and waved good-by to her
as she drove out of the yard. She waved back, but she scarcely saw them.
On her return home that evening she was very pale, and so tired and stiff
that her brother had to lift her out bodily, but her lips were set in a
blissful smile. They crowded around her with thronging questions, until
Sophia pushed them all aside, telling them Aunt Mehetabel was too tired to
speak until she had had her supper. This was eaten in an enforced silence
on the part of the children, and then the old woman was helped into an
easy-chair before the fire. They gathered about her, eager for news of the
great world, and Sophia said, "Now, come, Mehetabel, tell us all about
it!"

Mehetabel drew a long breath. "It was just perfect!" she said; "finer even
than I thought. They've got it hanging up in the very middle of a sort o'
closet made of glass, and one of the lower corners is ripped and turned
back so's to show the seams on the wrong side."

"What?" asked Sophia, a little blankly.

"Why, the quilt!" said Mehetabel in surprise. "There are a whole lot of
other ones in that room, but not one that can hold a candle to it, if I do
say it who shouldn't. I heard lots of people say the same thing. You ought
to have heard what the women said about that corner, Sophia. They
said--well, I'd be ashamed to _tell_ you what they said. I declare if I
wouldn't!"

Mr. Elwell asked, "What did you think of that big ox we've heard so much
about?"

"I didn't look at the stock," returned his sister indifferently. "That set
of pieces you gave me, Maria, from your red waist, come out just lovely!"
she assured one of her nieces. "I heard one woman say you could 'most
smell the red silk roses."

"Did any of the horses in our town race?" asked young Thomas.

"I didn't see the races."

"How about the preserves?" asked Sophia.

"I didn't see the preserves," said Mehetabel calmly.

"You see, I went right to the room where the quilt was and then I didn't
want to leave it. It had been so long since I'd seen it. I had to look at
it first real good myself and then I looked at the others to see if there
was any that could come up to it. And then the people begin comin' in and
I got so interested in hearin' what they had to say I couldn't think of
goin' anywheres else. I ate my lunch right there too, and I'm as glad as
can be I did, too; for what do you think?"--she gazed about her with
kindling eyes--"while I stood there with a sandwich in one hand didn't
the head of the hull concern come in and open the glass door and pin
'First Prize' right in the middle of the quilt!"

There was a stir of congratulation and proud exclamation. Then Sophia
returned again to the attack, "Didn't you go to see anything else?" she
queried.

"Why, no," said Mehetabel. "Only the quilt. Why should I?"

She fell into a reverie where she saw again the glorious creation of her
hand and brain hanging before all the world with the mark of highest
approval on it. She longed to make her listeners see the splendid vision
with her. She struggled for words; she reached blindly after unknown
superlatives. "I tell you it looked like----" she said, and paused,
hesitating. Vague recollections of hymn-book phraseology came into her
mind, the only form of literary expression she knew; but they were
dismissed as being sacrilegious, and also not sufficiently forcible.
Finally, "I tell you it looked real _well!_" she assured them, and sat
staring into the fire, on her tired old face the supreme content of an
artist who has realized his ideal.



PORTRAIT OF A PHILOSOPHER

I


The news of Professor Gridley's death filled Middletown College with
consternation. Its one claim to distinction was gone, for in spite of the
excessive quiet of his private life, he had always cast about the obscure
little college the shimmering aura of greatness. There had been no
fondness possible for the austere old thinker, but Middletown village, as
well as the college, had been touched by his fidelity to the very moderate
attractions of his birthplace. When, as often happened, some famous figure
was seen on the streets, people used to say first, "Here to see old Grid,
I suppose," and then, "Funny how he sticks here. They say he was offered
seven thousand at the University of California." In the absence of any
known motive for this steadfastness, the village legend-making instinct
had evolved a theory that he did not wish to move away from a State of
which his father had been Governor, and where the name of Gridley was like
a patent of nobility.

And now he was gone, the last of the race. His disappearance caused the
usual amount of reminiscent talk among his neighbors. The older people
recalled the bygone scandals connected with his notorious and popular
father and intimated with knowing nods that there were plenty of other
descendants of the old Governor who were not entitled legally to bear the
name; but the younger ones, who had known only the severely ascetic life
and cold personality of the celebrated scholar, found it difficult to
connect him with such a father. In their talk they brought to mind the man
himself, his quiet shabby clothes, his big stooping frame, his sad black
eyes absent almost to vacancy as though always fixed on high and distant
thoughts; and those who had lived near him told laughing stories about the
crude and countrified simplicity of his old aunt's housekeeping--it was
said that the president of Harvard had been invited to join them once in a
Sunday evening meal of crackers and milk--but the general tenor of feeling
was, as it had been during his life, of pride in his great fame and in the
celebrated people who had come to see him.

This pride warmed into something like affection when the day after his
death, came the tidings that he had bequeathed to his college the Gino
Sprague Fallères portrait of himself. Of course, at that time, no one in
Middletown had seen the picture, for the philosopher's sudden death had
occurred, very dramatically, actually during the last sitting. He had, in
fact, had barely one glimpse of it himself, as, according to Fallères's
invariable rule no one, not even the subject of the portrait, had been
allowed to examine an unfinished piece of work. But though Middletown had
no first-hand knowledge of the picture, there could be no doubt about the
value of the canvas. As soon as it was put on exhibition in London, from
every art-critic in the three nations who claimed Fallères for their own
there rose a wail that this masterpiece was to be buried in an unknown
college in an obscure village in barbarous America. It was confidently
stated that it would be saved from such an unfitting resting-place by
strong action on the part of an International Committee of Artists; but
Middletown, though startled by its own good fortune, clung with Yankee
tenacity to its rights. Raphael Collin, of Paris, commenting on this in
the _Revue des Deux Mondes_, cried out whimsically upon the woes of an
art-critic's life, "as if there were not already enough wearisome
pilgrimages necessary to remote and uncomfortable places with jaw-breaking
names, which must nevertheless be visited for the sake of a single
picture!" And a burlesque resolution to carry off the picture by force was
adopted at the dinner in London given in honor of Fallères the evening
before he set off for America to attend the dedicatory exercises with
which Middletown planned to install its new treasure.

For the little rustic college rose to its one great occasion. Bold in
their confidence in their dead colleague's name, the college authorities
sent out invitations to all the great ones of the country. Those to whom
Gridley was no more than a name on volumes one never read came because
the portrait was by Fallères, and those who had no interest in the world
of art came to honor the moralist whose noble clear-thinking had
simplified the intimate problems of modern life. There was the usual
residuum of those who came because the others did, and, also as usual,
they were among the most brilliant figures in the procession which filed
along, one October morning, under the old maples of Middletown campus.

It was a notable celebration. A bishop opened the exercises with prayer, a
United States senator delivered the eulogy of the dead philosopher, the
veil uncovering the portrait was drawn away by the mayor of one of
America's largest cities, himself an ardent Gridleyite, and among those
who spoke afterward were the presidents of three great universities. The
professor's family was represented but scantily. He had had one brother,
who had disappeared many years ago under a black cloud of ill report, and
one sister who had married and gone West to live. Her two sons,
middle-aged merchants from Ohio, gave the only personal note to the
occasion by their somewhat tongue-tied and embarrassed presence, for
Gridley's aunt was too aged and infirm to walk with the procession from
the Gymnasium, where it formed, to the Library building, where the
portrait was installed.

After the inevitable photographers had made their records of the memorable
gathering, the procession began to wind its many-colored way back to the
Assembly Hall, where it was to lunch. Everyone was feeling relieved that
the unveiling had gone off so smoothly, and cheerful at the prospect of
food. The undergraduates began lustily to shout their college song, which
was caught up by the holiday mood of the older ones. This cheerful
tumult gradually died away in the distance, leaving the room of the
portrait deserted in an echoing silence. A janitor began to remove the
rows of folding chairs. The celebration was over.

Into the empty room there now limped forward a small, shabby old woman
with a crutch. "I'm his aunt, that lived with him," she explained
apologetically, "and I want to see the picture."

She advanced, peering nearsightedly at the canvas. The janitor continued
stacking up chairs until he was stopped by a cry from the newcomer. She
was a great deal paler than when she came in. She was staring hard at the
portrait and now beckoned him wildly to do the same. "Look at it! Look at
it!"

Surprised, he followed the direction of her shaking hand. "Sure, it's
Professor Grid to the life!" he said admiringly.

"Look at it! Look at it!" She seemed not to be able to find any other
words.

After a prolonged scrutiny he turned to her with a puzzled line between
his eyebrows. "Since you've spoken of it, ma'am, I will say that there's a
something about the expression of the eyes ... and mouth, maybe ... that
ain't just the professor. He was more absent-like. It reminds me of
somebody else ... of some face I've seen ..."

She hung on his answer, her mild, timid old face drawn like a mask of
tragedy. "Who? Who?" she prompted him.

For a time he could not remember, staring at the new portrait and
scratching his head. Then it came to him suddenly: "Why, sure, I ought to
ha' known without thinkin', seeing the other picture as often as every
time I've swep' out the president's office. And Professor Grid always
looked like him some, anyhow."

The old woman leaned against the wall, her crutch trembling in her hand.
Her eyes questioned him mutely.

"Why, ma'am, who but his own father, to be sure ... the old Governor."



II


While they had been duly sensible of the luster reflected upon them by the
celebration in honor of their distinguished uncle, Professor Gridley's two
nephews could scarcely have said truthfully that they enjoyed the
occasion. As one of them did say to the other, the whole show was rather
out of their line. Their line was wholesale hardware and, being eager to
return to it, it was with a distinct feeling of relief that they waited
for the train at the station. They were therefore as much displeased as
surprised by the sudden appearance to them of their great-aunt, very
haggard, her usual extreme timidity swept away by overmastering emotion.
She clutched at the two merchants with a great sob of relief: "Stephen!
Eli! Come back to the house," she cried, and before they could stop her
was hobbling away. They hurried after her, divided between the fear of
losing their train and the hope that some inheritance from their uncle had
been found. They were not mercenary men, but they felt a not unnatural
disappointment that Professor Gridley had left not a penny, not even to
his aunt, his one intimate.

They overtook her, scuttling along like some frightened and wounded little
animal. "What's the matter, Aunt Amelia?" they asked shortly. "We've got
to catch this train."

She faced them. "You can't go now. You've got to make them take that
picture away."

"Away!" Their blankness was stupefaction.

She raged at them, the timid, harmless little thing, like a creature
distraught. "Didn't you see it? Didn't you _see_ it?"

Stephen answered: "Well, no, not to have a good square look at it. The man
in front of me kept getting in the way."

Eli admitted: "If you mean you don't see anything in it to make all this
hurrah about, I'm with you. It don't look half finished. I don't like that
slap-dash style."

She was in a frenzy at their denseness. "Who did it look like?" she
challenged them.

"Why, like Uncle Grid, of course. Who else?"

"Yes, yes," she cried; "who else? Who else?"

They looked at each other, afraid that she was crazed, and spoke more
gently: "Why, I don't know, I'm sure, who else. Like Grandfather Gridley,
of course; but then Uncle Grid always did look like his father."

At this she quite definitely put it out of their power to leave her by
fainting away.

They carried her home and laid her on her own bed, where one of them
stayed to attend her while the other went back to rescue their deserted
baggage. As the door closed behind him the old woman came to herself. "Oh,
Stephen," she moaned, "I wish it had killed me, the way it did your
uncle."

"What _is_ the matter?" asked her great-nephew wonderingly. "What do you
think killed him?"

"That awful, awful picture! I know it now as plain as if I'd been there.
He hadn't seen it all the time he was sitting for it, though he'd already
put in his will that he wanted the college to have it, and when he did see
it--" she turned on the merchant with a sudden fury: "How _dare_ you say
those are your uncle's eyes!"

He put his hand soothingly on hers. "Now, now, Aunt 'Melia, maybe the
expression isn't just right, but the color is _fine_... just that
jet-black his were ... and  the artist has got in exact that funny stiff
way uncle's hair stood up over his forehead."

The old woman fixed outraged eyes upon him. "Color!" she said. "And hair!
Oh, Lord, help me!"

She sat up on the bed, clutching her nephew's hand, and began to talk
rapidly. When, a half-hour later, the other brother returned, neither of
them heard him enter the house. It was only when he called at the foot of
the stairs that they both started and Stephen ran down to join him.

"You'll see the president ... you'll fix it?" the old woman cried after
him.

"I'll see, Aunt 'Melia," he answered pacifyingly, as he drew his brother
out of doors. He looked quite pale and moved, and drew a long breath
before he could begin.



"Aunt Amelia's been telling me a lot of things I never knew, Eli. It seems
that ... say, did you ever hear that Grandfather Gridley, the Governor,
was such a bad lot?"

"Why, mother never said much about her father one way or the other, but I
always sort of guessed he wasn't all he might have been from her never
bringing us on to visit here until after he died. She used to look queer,
too, when folks congratulated her on having such a famous man for father.
All the big politicians of his day thought a lot of him. He _was_ as smart
as chain-lightning!"

"He was a disreputable old scalawag!" cried his other grandson. "Some of
the things Aunt Amelia has been telling me make me never want to come back
to this part of the country again. Do you know why Uncle Grid lived so
poor and scrimped and yet left no money? He'd been taking care of a whole
family grandfather had beside ours; and paying back some people
grandfather did out of a lot of money on a timber deal fifty years ago;
and making it up to a little village in the backwoods that grandfather
persuaded to bond itself for a railroad that he knew wouldn't go near it."

The two men stared at each other an instant, reviewing in a new light the
life that had just closed. "That's why he never married," said Eli
finally.

"No, that's what I said, but Aunt Amelia just went wild when I did. She
said ... gee!" he passed his hand over his eyes with a gesture of mental
confusion. "Ain't it strange what can go on under your eyes and you never
know it? Why, she says Uncle Grid was just like his father."

The words were not out of his mouth before the other's face of horror made
him aware of his mistake. "No! No! Not that! Heavens, no! I mean ... made
like him ... _wanted_ to be that kind, 'specially drink ..." His tongue,
unused to phrasing abstractions, stumbled and tripped in his haste to
correct the other's impression. "You know how much Uncle Grid used to look
like grandfather ... the same black hair and broad face and thick red lips
and a kind of knob on the end of his nose? Well, it seems he had his
father's insides, too ... _but his mother's conscience!_ I guess, from
what Aunt Amelia says, that the combination made life about as near Tophet
for him ...! She's the only one to know anything about it, because she's
lived with him always, you know, took him when grandmother died and he was
a child. She says when he was younger he was like a man fighting a wild
beast ... he didn't dare let up or rest. Some days he wouldn't stop
working at his desk all day long, not even to eat, and then he'd grab up a
piece of bread and go off for a long tearing tramp that'd last 'most all
night. You know what a tremendous physique all the Gridley men have had.
Well, Uncle Grid turned into work all the energy the rest of them spent in
deviltry. Aunt Amelia said he'd go on like that day after day for a month,
and then he'd bring out one of those essays folks are so crazy about. She
said she never could bear to _look_ at his books ... seemed to her they
were written in his blood. She told him so once and he said it was the
only thing to do with blood like his."

He was silent, while his listener made a clucking noise of astonishment.
"My! My! I'd have said that there never was anybody more different from
grandfather than uncle. Why, as he got on in years he didn't even look
like him any more."

This reference gave Stephen a start. "Oh, yes, that's what all this came
out for. Aunt Amelia is just wild about this portrait. It's just a notion
of hers, of course, but after what she told me I could see, easy, how the
idea would come to her. It looks this way, she says, as though Uncle Grid
inherited his father's physical make-up complete, and spent all his life
fighting it ... and won out! And here's this picture making him look the
way he would if he'd been the worst old ... as if he'd been like the
Governor. She says she feels as though she was the only one to defend
uncle ... as if it could make any difference to him! I guess the poor old
lady is a little touched. Likely it's harder for her, losing uncle, than
we realized. She just about worshiped him. Queer business, anyhow, wasn't
it? Who'd ha' thought he was like that?"

He had talked his unwonted emotion quite out, and now looked at his
brother with his usual matter-of-fact eye. "Did you tell the station agent
to hold the trunk?"

The other, who was the younger, looked a little abashed. "Well, no; I
found the train was so late I thought maybe we could ... you know there's
that business to-morrow ...!"

His senior relieved him of embarrassment. "That's a good idea. Sure we
can. There's nothing we could do if we stayed. It's just a notion of Aunt
'Melia's, anyhow. I agree with her that it don't look so awfully like
Uncle Grid, but, then, oil-portraits are never any good. Give me a
photograph!"

"It's out of our line, anyhow," agreed the younger, looking at his watch.



III


The president of Middletown College had been as much relieved as pleased
by the success of the rather pretentious celebration he had planned. His
annoyance was correspondingly keen at the disturbing appearance, in the
afternoon reception before the new portrait, of the late professor's aunt,
"an entirely insignificant old country woman," he hastily assured M.
Fallères after she had been half forced, half persuaded to retire, "whose
criticisms were as negligible as her personality."

The tall, Jove-like artist concealed a smile by stroking his great brown
beard. When it came to insignificant country people, he told himself, it
was hard to draw lines in his present company. He was wondering whether he
might not escape by an earlier train.

To the president's remark he answered that no portrait-painter escaped
unreasonable relatives of his sitters. "It is an axiom with our guild," he
went on, not, perhaps, averse to giving his provincial hosts a new
sensation, "that the family is never satisfied, and also that the family
has no rights. A sitter is a subject only, like a slice of fish. The only
question is how it's done. What difference does it make a century from
now, if the likeness is good? It's a work of art or it's nothing." He
announced this principle with a regal absence of explanation and turned
away; but his thesis was taken up by another guest, a New York art-critic.

"By Jove, it's inconceivable, the ignorance of art in America!" he told
the little group before the portrait. "You find everyone so incurably
personal in his point of view ... always objecting to a masterpiece
because the watch-chain isn't the kind usually worn by the dear departed."

Someone else chimed in. "Yes, it's incredible that anyone, even an old
village granny, should be able to look at that canvas and not be struck
speechless by its quality."

The critic was in Middletown to report on the portrait and he now began
marshaling his adjectives for that purpose. "I never saw such use of
pigment in my life ... it makes the Whistler 'Carlyle' look like burnt-out
ashes ... the luminous richness of the blacks in the academic gown, the
masterly generalization in the treatment of the hair, the placing of those
great talons of hands on the canvas carrying out the vigorous lines of the
composition, and the unforgettable felicity of those brutally red lips as
the one ringing note of color. As for life-likeness, what's the old dame
talking about! I never saw such eyes! Not a hint of meretricious emphasis
on their luster and yet they fairly flame."

The conversation spread to a less technical discussion as the group was
joined by the professor of rhetoric, an ambitious young man with an
insatiable craving for sophistication, who felt himself for once entirely
in his element in the crowd of celebrities. "It's incredibly good luck
that our little two-for-a-cent college should have so fine a thing," he
said knowingly. "I've been wondering how such an old skinflint as Gridley
ever got the money loose to have his portrait done by--"

A laugh went around the group at the idea. "It was Mackintosh, the sugar
king, who put up for it. He's a great Gridleyite, and persuaded him to
sit."

"_Persuade_ a man to sit to Fallères!" The rhetoric professor was outraged
at the idea.

"Yes, so they say. The professor was dead against it from the first.
Fallères himself had to beg him to sit. Fallères said he felt a real
inspiration at the sight of the old fellow ... knew he could make a good
thing out of him. He _was_ a good subject!"

The little group turned and stared appraisingly at the portrait hanging so
close to them that it seemed another living being in their midst. The
rhetoric professor was asked what kind of a man the philosopher had been
personally, and answered briskly: "Oh, nobody knew him personally ... the
silent old codger. He was a dry-as-dust, bloodless, secular monk--"

He was interrupted by a laugh from the art-critic, whose eyes were still
on the portrait.

"Excuse me for my cynical mirth," he said, "but I must say he doesn't look
it. I was prepared for any characterization but that. He looks like a
powerful son of the Renaissance, who might have lived in that one little
vacation of the soul after medievalism stopped hag-riding us, and before
the modern conscience got its claws on us. And you say he was a blue-nosed
Puritan!"

The professor of rhetoric looked an uneasy fear that he was being
ridiculed. "I only repeated the village notion of him," he said airily.
"He may have been anything. All I know is that he was as secretive as a
clam, and about as interesting personally."

"Look at the picture," said the critic, still laughing; "you'll know all
about him!"

The professor of rhetoric nodded. "You're right, he doesn't look much like
my character of him. I never seem to have had a good, square look at him
before. I've heard several people say the same thing, that they seemed to
understand him better from the portrait than from his living face. There
was something about his eyes that kept you from thinking of anything but
what he was saying."

The critic agreed. "The eyes are wonderful ... ruthless in their
power ... fires of hell." He laughed a deprecating apology for his
overemphatic metaphor and suggested: "It's possible that there was more to
the professorial life than met the eye. Had he a wife?"

"No; it was always a joke in the village that he would never look at a
woman."

The critic glanced up at the smoldering eyes of the portrait and smiled.
"I've heard of that kind of a man before," he said. "Never known to drink,
either, I suppose?"

"Cold-water teetotaler," laughed the professor, catching the spirit of the
occasion.

"Look at the color in that nose!" said the critic. "I fancy that the
ascetic moralist--"

A very young man, an undergraduate who had been introduced as the junior
usher, nodded his head. "Yep, a lot of us fellows always thought old Grid
a little too good to be true."

An older man with the flexible mouth of a politician now ventured a
contribution to a conversation no longer bafflingly esthetic: "His father,
old Governor Gridley, wasn't he ... Well, I guess you're right about the
son. No halos were handed down in _that_ family!"

The laugh which followed this speech was stopped by the approach of
Fallères, his commanding presence dwarfing the president beside him. He
was listening with a good-natured contempt to the apparently rather
anxious murmurs of the latter.

"Of course I know, Mr. Fallères, it is a great deal to ask, but she is so
insistent ... she won't go away and continues to make the most distressing
spectacle of herself ... and several people, since she has said so much
about it, are saying that the expression is not that of the late
professor. Much against my will I promised to speak to you--"

His mortified uneasiness was so great that the artist gave him a rescuing
hand. "Well, Mr. President, what can I do in the matter? The man is dead.
I cannot paint him over again, and if I could I would only do again as I
did this time, choose that aspect which my judgment told me would make the
best portrait. If his habitual vacant expression was not so interesting as
another not so permanent a habit of his face ... why, the poor artist must
be allowed some choice. I did not know I was to please his grandmother,
and not posterity."

"His aunt," corrected the president automatically.

The portrait-painter accepted the correction with his tolerant smile. "His
aunt," he repeated. "The difference is considerable. May I ask what it was
you promised her?"

The president summoned his courage. It was easy to gather from his
infinitely reluctant insistence how painful and compelling had been the
scene which forced him to action. "She wants you to change it ... to make
the expression of the--"

For the first time the artist's equanimity was shaken. He took a step
backward. "Change it!" he said, and although his voice was low the casual
chat all over the room stopped short as though a pistol had been fired.

"It's not _my_ idea!" The president confounded himself in
self-exoneration. "I merely promised, to pacify her, to ask you if you
could not do some little thing that would--"

The critic assumed the role of conciliator. "My dear sir, I don't believe
you quite understand what you are asking. It's as though you asked a
priest to make just a little change in the church service and leave out
the 'not' in the Commandments."

"I only wish to know Mr. Fallères's attitude," said the president stiffly,
a little nettled by the other's note of condescension. "I presume he will
be willing to take the responsibility of it himself and explain to the
professor's aunt that _I_ have done--"

The artist had recovered from his lapse from Olympian to calm and now
nodded, smiling: "Dear me, yes, Mr. President, I'm used to irate
relatives."

The president hastened away and the knots of talkers in other parts of the
room, who had been looking with expectant curiosity at the group before
the portrait, resumed their loud-toned chatter. When their attention was
next drawn in the same direction, it was by a shaky old treble, breaking,
quavering with weakness. A small, shabby old woman, leaning on a crutch,
stood looking up imploringly at the tall painter.

"My dear madam," he broke in on her with a kindly impatience, "all that
you say about Professor Gridley is much to his credit, but what has it to
do with me?"

"You painted his portrait," she said with a simplicity that was like
stupidity. "And I am his aunt. You made a picture of a bad man. I know he
was a good man."

"I painted what I saw," sighed the artist wearily. He looked furtively at
his watch.

The old woman seemed dazed by the extremity of her emotion. She looked
about her silently, keeping her eyes averted from the portrait that stood
so vividly like a living man beside her. "I don't know what to do!" she
murmured with a little moan. "I can't _bear_ it to have it stay
here--people forget so. Everybody'll think that Gridley looked like
_that_! And there isn't anybody but me. He never had anybody but me."

The critic tried to clear the air by a roundly declaratory statement of
principles. "You'll pardon my bluntness, madam; but you must remember that
none but the members of Professor Gridley's family are concerned in the
exact details of his appearance. Fifty years from now nobody will remember
how he looked, one way or the other. The world is only concerned with
portraits as works of art."

She followed his reasoning with a strained and docile attention and now
spoke eagerly as though struck by an unexpected hope: "If that's all, why
put his name to it? Just hang it up, and call it anything."

She shrank together timidly and her eyes reddened at the laughter which
greeted this naïve suggestion.

Fallères looked annoyed and called his
defender off. "Oh, never mind explaining me," he said, snapping his watch
shut. "You'll never get the rights of it through anybody's head who hasn't
himself sweat blood over a composition only to be told that the other side
of the sitter's profile is usually considered the prettier. After all, we
have the last word, since the sitter dies and the portrait lives."

The old woman started and looked at him attentively.

"Yes," said the critic, laughing, "immortality's not a bad balm for
pin-pricks."

The old woman turned very pale and for the first time looked again at the
portrait. An electric thrill seemed to pass through her as her eyes
encountered the bold, evil ones fixed on her. She stood erect with a rigid
face, and "Immortality!" she said, under her breath.

Fallères moved away to make his adieux to the president, and the little
group of his satellites straggled after him to the other end of the room.
For a moment there no one near the old woman to see the crutch furiously
upraised, hammer-like, or to stop her sudden passionate rush upon the
picture.

At the sound of cracking cloth, they turned back, horrified. They saw her,
with an insane violence, thrust her hands into the gaping hole that had
been the portrait's face and, tearing the canvas from end to end, fall
upon the shreds with teeth and talon.

All but Fallères flung themselves toward her, dragging her away. With a
movement as instinctive he rushed for the picture, and it was to him, as
he stood aghast before the ruined canvas, that the old woman's shrill
treble was directed, above the loud shocked voices of those about her:
"There ain't anything immortal but souls!" she cried.



FLINT AND FIRE


My husband's cousin had come up from the city, slightly more fagged and
sardonic than usual, and as he stretched himself out in the big
porch-chair he was even more caustic than was his wont about the bareness
and emotional sterility of the lives of our country people.

"Perhaps they had, a couple of centuries ago, when the Puritan
hallucination was still strong, a certain fierce savor of religious
intolerance; but now that that has died out, and no material prosperity
has come to let them share in the larger life of their century, there is a
flatness, a mean absence of warmth or color, a deadness to all emotions
but the pettiest sorts--"

I pushed the pitcher nearer him, clinking the ice invitingly, and directed
his attention to our iris-bed as a more cheerful object of contemplation
than the degeneracy of the inhabitants of Vermont. The flowers burned on
their tall stalks like yellow tongues of flame. The strong, sword-like
green leaves thrust themselves boldly up into the spring air like a
challenge. The plants vibrated with vigorous life.

In the field beyond them, as vigorous as they, strode Adoniram Purdon
behind his team, the reins tied together behind his muscular neck, his
hands grasping the plow with the masterful sureness of the successful
practitioner of an art. The hot, sweet spring sunshine shone down on
'Niram's head with its thick crest of brown hair, the ineffable odor of
newly turned earth steamed up about him like incense, the mountain stream
beyond him leaped and shouted. His powerful body answered every call made
on it with the precision of a splendid machine. But there was no elation
in the grimly set face as 'Niram wrenched the plow around a big stone, or
as, in a more favorable furrow, the gleaming share sped steadily along
before the plowman, turning over a long, unbroken brown ribbon of earth.

My cousin-in-law waved a nervous hand toward the sternly silent figure as
it stepped doggedly behind the straining team, the head bent forward, the
eyes fixed on the horses' heels.

"There!" he said. "There is an example of what I mean. Is there another
race on earth which could produce a man in such a situation who would not
on such a day sing, or whistle, or at least hold up his head and look at
all the earthly glories about him?"

I was silent, but not for lack of material for speech. 'Niram's reasons
for austere self-control were not such as I cared to discuss with a man of
my cousin's mental attitude. As we sat looking at him the noon whistle
from the village blew and the wise old horses stopped in the middle of a
furrow. 'Niram unharnessed them, led them to the shade of a tree, and put
on their nose-bags. Then he turned and came toward the house.

"Don't I seem to remember," murmured my cousin under his breath, "that,
even though he is a New-Eng-lander, he has been known to make up errands
to your kitchen to see your pretty Ev'leen Ann?"

I looked at him hard; but he was only gazing down, rather cross-eyed, on
his grizzled mustache, with an obvious petulant interest in the increase
of white hairs in it. Evidently his had been but a chance shot. 'Niram
stepped up on the grass at the edge of the porch. He was so tall that he
overtopped the railing easily, and, reaching a long arm over to where I
sat, he handed me a small package done up in yellowish tissue-paper.
Without hat-raisings, or good-mornings, or any other of the greetings
usual in a more effusive civilization, he explained briefly:

"My stepmother wanted I should give you this. She said to thank you for
the grape-juice." As he spoke he looked at me gravely out of deep-set blue
eyes, and when he had delivered his message he held his peace.

I expressed myself with the babbling volubility of one whose manners have
been corrupted by occasional sojourns in the city. "Oh, 'Niram!" I cried
protestingly, as I opened the package and took out an exquisitely
wrought old-fashioned collar. "Oh, 'Niram! How _could_ your stepmother
give such a thing away? Why, it must be one of her precious old relics. I
don't _want_ her to give me something every time I do some little thing
for her. Can't a neighbor send her in a few bottles of grape-juice without
her thinking she must pay it back somehow? It's not kind of her. She has
never yet let me do the least thing for her without repaying me with
something that is worth ever so much more than my trifling services."

When I had finished my prattling, 'Niram repeated, with an accent of
finality, "She wanted I should give it to you."

The older man stirred in his chair. Without looking at him I knew that his
gaze on the young rustic was quizzical and that he was recording on the
tablets of his merciless memory the ungraceful abruptness of the other's
action and manner.

"How is your stepmother feeling to-day, 'Niram?" I asked.

"Worse."

'Niram came to a full stop with the word. My cousin covered his satirical
mouth with his hand.

"Can't the doctor do anything to relieve her?" I asked.

'Niram moved at last from his Indian-like immobility. He looked up under
the brim of his felt hat at the skyline of the mountain, shimmering
iridescent above us. "He says maybe 'lectricity would help her some. I'm
goin' to git her the batteries and things soon's I git the rubber bandages
paid for."

There was a long silence. My cousin stood up, yawning, and sauntered away
toward the door. "Shall I send Ev'leen Ann out to get the pitcher and
glasses?" he asked in an accent which he evidently thought very humorously
significant.

The strong face under the felt hat turned white, the jaw muscles set hard,
but for all this show of strength there was an instant when the man's eyes
looked out with the sick, helpless revelation of pain they might have had
when 'Niram was a little boy of ten, a third of his present age, and less
than half his present stature. Occasionally it is horrifying to see how a
chance shot rings the bell.

"No, no! Never mind!" I said hastily. "I'll take the tray in when I go."

Without salutation or farewell 'Niram Purdon turned and went back to his
work.

The porch was an enchanted place, walled around with starlit darkness,
visited by wisps of breezes shaking down from their wings the breath of
lilac and syringa, flowering wild grapes, and plowed fields. Down at the
foot of our sloping lawn the little river, still swollen by the melted
snow from the mountains, plunged between its stony banks and shouted its
brave song to the stars.

We three middle-aged people--Paul, his cousin, and I--had disposed our
uncomely, useful, middle-aged bodies in the big wicker chairs and left
them there while our young souls wandered abroad in the sweet, dark glory
of the night. At least Paul and I were doing this, as we sat, hand in
hand, thinking of a May night twenty years before. One never knows what
Horace is thinking of, but apparently he was not in his usual captious
vein, for after a long pause he remarked, "It is a night almost
indecorously inviting to the making of love."

My answer seemed grotesquely out of key with this, but its sequence was
clear in my mind. I got up, saying: "Oh, that reminds me--I must go and
see Ev'leen Ann. I'd forgotten to plan to-morrow's dinner."

"Oh, everlastingly Ev'leen Ann!" mocked Horace from his corner. "Can't you
think of anything but Ev'leen Ann and her affairs?"

I felt my way through the darkness of the house, toward the kitchen, both
doors of which were tightly closed. When I stepped into the hot, close
room, smelling of food and fire, I saw Ev'leen Ann sitting on the straight
kitchen chair, the yellow light of the bracket-lamp beating down on her
heavy braids and bringing out the exquisitely subtle modeling of her
smooth young face. Her hands were folded in her lap. She was staring at
the blank wall, and the expression of her eyes so startle and shocked me
that I stopped short and would have retreated if it had not been too late.
She had seen me, roused herself, and said quietly, as though continuing
conversation interrupted the moment before:

"I had been thinking that there was enough left of the roast to make
hash-balls for dinner"--"hash-balls" is Ev'leen Ann's decent Anglo-Saxon
name for croquette--"and maybe you'd like a rhubarb pie."

I knew well enough she had been thinking of no such thing, but I could as
easily have slapped a reigning sovereign on the back as broken in on the
regal reserve of Ev'leen Ann in her clean gingham.

"Well, yes, Ev'leen Ann," I answered in her own tone of reasonable
consideration of the matter; "that would be nice, and your pie-crust is so
flaky that even Mr. Horace will have to be pleased."

"Mr. Horace" is our title for the sardonic cousin whose carping ways are
half a joke, and half a menace in our family.

Ev'leen Ann could not manage the smile which should have greeted this
sally. She looked down soberly at the white-pine top of the kitchen table
and said, "I guess there is enough sparrow-grass up in the garden for a
mess, too, if you'd like that."

"That would taste very good," I agreed, my heart aching for her.

"And creamed potatoes," she finished bravely, thrusting my unspoken pity
from her.

"You know I like creamed potatoes better than any other kind," I
concurred.

There was a silence. It seemed inhuman to go and leave the stricken young
thing to fight her trouble alone in the ugly prison, her work-place,
though I thought I could guess why Ev'leen Ann had shut the doors so
tightly. I hung near her, searching my head for something to say, but she
helped me by no casual remark. Niram is not the only one of our people who
possesses so the full the supreme gift of silence. Finally I mentioned the
report of a case of measles in the village, and Ev'leen Ann responded in
kind with the news that her Aunt Emma had bought a potato-planter. Ev'leen
Ann is an orphan, brought up by a well-to-do spinster aunt, who is
strong-minded and runs her own farm. After a time we glided by way of
similar transitions to the mention of his name.

"'Niram Purdon tells me his stepmother is no better," I said. "Isn't it
too bad?" I thought it well for Ev'leen Ann to be dragged out of her black
cave of silence once in a while, even if it could be done only by force.
As she made no answer, I went on. "Everybody who knows Niram thinks it
splendid of him to do so much for his stepmother."

Ev'leen Ann responded with a detached air, as though speaking of a matter
in China: "Well, it ain't any more than what he should. She was awful good
to him when he was little and his father got so sick. I guess 'Niram
wouldn't ha' had much to eat if she hadn't ha' gone out sewing to earn it
for him and Mr. Purdon." She added firmly, after a moment's pause, "No,
ma'am, I don't guess it's any more than what 'Niram had ought to do."

"But it's very hard on a young man to feel that he's not able to marry," I
continued. Once in a great while we came so near the matter as this.
Ev'leen Ann made no answer. Her face took on a pinched look of sickness.
She set her lips as though she would never speak again. But I knew that a
criticism of 'Niram would always rouse her, and said: "And really, I think
'Niram makes a great mistake to act as he does. A wife would be a help to
him. She could take care of Mrs. Purdon and keep the house."

Ev'leen Ann rose to the bait, speaking quickly with some heat: "I guess
'Niram knows what's right for him to do! He can't afford to marry when he
can't even keep up with the doctor's bills and all. He keeps the house
himself, nights and mornings, and Mrs. Purdon is awful handy about taking
care of herself, for all she's bedridden. That's her way, you know. She
can't bear to have folks do for her. She'd die before she'd let anybody do
anything for her that she could anyways do for herself!"

I sighed acquiescingly. Mrs. Purdon's fierce independence was a rock on
which every attempt at sympathy or help shattered itself to atoms. There
seemed to be no other emotion left in her poor old work-worn shell of a
body. As I looked at Ev'leen Ann it seemed rather a hateful
characteristic, and I remarked, "It seems to me it's asking a good deal of
'Niram to spoil his life in order that his stepmother can go on pretending
she's independent."

Ev'leen Ann explained hastily: "Oh, 'Niram doesn't tell her anything
about--She doesn't know he would like to--he don't want she should be
worried--and, anyhow, as 'tis, he can't earn enough to keep ahead of all
the: doctors cost."

"But the right kind of a wife--a good, competent girl--could help out by
earning something, too."

Ev'leen Ann looked at me forlornly, with no surprise. The idea was
evidently not new to her. "Yes, ma'am, he could. But 'Niram says he ain't
the kind of man to let his wife go out working." Even while she drooped
under the killing verdict of his pride she was loyal to his standards
and uttered no complaint. She went on, 'Niram wants Aunt Em'line to have
things the way she wants 'em, as near as he can give 'em to her--and it's
right she should."

"Aunt Emeline?" I repeated, surprised at her absence of mind. "You mean
Mrs. Purdon, don't you?"

Ev'leen Ann looked vexed at her slip, but she scorned to attempt any
concealment. She explained dryly, with the shy, stiff embarrassment our
country people have in speaking of private affairs: "Well, she _is_ my
Aunt Em'line, Mrs. Purdon is, though I don't hardly ever call her that.
You see, Aunt Emma brought me up, and she and Aunt Em'line don't have
anything to do with each other. They were twins, and when they were girls
they got edgeways over 'Niram's father, when 'Niram was a baby and his
father was a young widower and come courting. Then Aunt Em'line married
him, and Aunt Emma never spoke to her afterward."

Occasionally, in walking unsuspectingly along one of our leafy lanes, some
such fiery geyser of ancient heat uprears itself in a boiling column. I
never get used to it, and started back now.

"Why, I never heard of that before, and I've known your Aunt Emma and Mrs.
Purdon for years!"

"Well, they're pretty old now," said Ev'leen Ann listlessly, with the
natural indifference of self-centered youth to the bygone tragedies of the
preceding generation.

"It happened quite some time ago. And both of them were so touchy, if
anybody seemed to speak about it, that folks got in the way of letting it
alone. First Aunt Emma wouldn't speak to her sister because she'd married
the man she'd wanted, and then when Aunt Emma made out so well farmin' and
got so well off, why, then Mrs. Purdon wouldn't try to make it up because
she was so poor. That was after Mr. Purdon had had his stroke of paralysis
and they'd lost their farm and she'd taken to goin' out sewin'--not but
what she was always perfectly satisfied with her bargain. She always acted
as though she'd rather have her husband's old shirt stuffed with straw
than any other man's whole body. He was a real nice man, I guess, Mr.
Purdon was."

There I had it--the curt, unexpanded chronicle of two passionate lives.
And there I had also the key to Mrs. Purdon's fury of independence. It was
the only way in which she could defend her husband against the charge, so
damning in her world, of not having provided for his wife. It was the only
monument she could rear to her husband's memory. And her husband had been
all there was in life for her!

I stood looking at her young kinswoman's face, noting the granite under
the velvet softness of its youth, and divining the flame underlying the
granite. I longed to break through her wall and to put my arms about her,
and on the impulse of the moment I cast aside the pretense of casualness
in our talk.

"Oh, my dear!" I said. "Are you and 'Niram always to go on like this?
Can't anybody help you?"

Ev'leen Ann looked at me, her face suddenly old and gray. "No, ma'am; we
ain't going to go on this way. We've decided, 'Niram and I have, that it
ain't no use. We've decided that we'd better not go places together any
more or see each other. It's too--If 'Niram thinks we can't"--she flamed
so that I knew she was burning from head to foot--"it's better for us
not--" She ended in a muffled voice, hiding her face in the crook of
her arm.

Ah, yes; now I knew why Ev'leen Ann had shut out the passionate breath of
the spring night!

I stood near her, a lump in my throat, but I divined the anguish of her
shame at her involuntary self-revelation, and respected it. I dared do no
more than to touch her shoulder gently.

The door behind us rattled. Ev'leen Ann sprang up and turned her face
toward the wall. Paul's cousin came in, shuffling a little, blinking his
eyes in the light of the unshaded lamp, and looking very cross and tired.
He glanced at us without comment as he went over to the sink. "Nobody
offered me anything good to drink," he complained, "so I came in to get
some water from the faucet for my nightcap."

When he had drunk with ostentation from the tin dipper he went to the
outside door and flung it open.

"Don't you people know how hot and smelly it is in here?" he said, with
his usual unceremonious abruptness.

The night wind burst in, eddying, and puffed out the lamp with a breath.
In an instant the room was filled with coolness and perfumes and the
rushing sound of the river. Out of the darkness came Ev'leen Ann's young
voice. "It seems to me," she said, as though speaking to herself, "that I
never heard the Mill Brook sound loud as it has this spring."

I woke up that night with the start one has at a sudden call. But there
had been no call. A profound silence spread itself through the sleeping
house. Outdoors the wind had died down. Only the loud brawl of the river
broke the stillness under the stars. But all through the silence and this
vibrant song there rang a soundless menace which brought me out of bed and
to my feet before I was awake. I heard Paul say, "What's the matter?" in a
sleepy voice, and "Nothing," I answered, reaching for my dressing-gown and
slippers. I listened for a moment, my head ringing with all the
frightening tales of the morbid vein of violence which runs through the
character of our reticent people. There was still no sound. I went along
the hall and up the stairs to Ev'leen Ann room, and I opened the door
without knocking. The room was empty.

Then how I ran! Calling loudly for Paul to join me, I ran down the two
flights of stairs, out of the open door and along the hedged path which
leads down to the little river. The starlight was clear. I could see
everything as plainly as though in early dawn. I saw the river, and
saw--Ev'leen Ann!

There was a dreadful moment of horror, which I shall never remember very
clearly, and then Ev'leen Ann and I--both very wet--stood on the bank,
shuddering in each other's arms.

Into our hysteria there dropped, like a pungent caustic the arid voice of
Horace, remarking, "Well, are you two people crazy, or are you walking in
your sleep?" I could feel Ev'leen Ann stiffen in my arms, and I nearly
stepped back from her in astonished admiration as I heard her snatch at
the straw thus offered, and still shuddering horribly from head to foot,
force herself to say quite connectedly: "Why--yes--of course--I've always
heard about my grandfather Parkman's walking in his sleep. Folks _said_
'twould come out in the family some time."

Paul was close behind Horace--I wondered a little at his not being
first--and with many astonished and inane ejaculations, such as people
always make on startling occasions, we made our way back into the house to
hot blankets and toddies. But I slept no more that night. Some time after
dawn, however, I did fall into a troubled unconsciousness full of bad
dreams, and only awoke when the sun was quite high. I opened my eyes
to see Ev'leen Ann about to close the door. "Oh, did I wake you up?" she
said. "I didn't mean to. That little Harris boy is here with a letter for
you."

She spoke with a slightly defiant tone of self-possession. I tried to play
up to her interpretation of her role. "The little Harris boy?" I said,
sitting up in bed. "What in the world is he bringing me a letter for?"
Ev'leen Ann, with her usual clear perception of the superfluous in
conversation, vouchsafed no opinion on a matter where she had no
information, but went downstairs and brought back the note. It was of four
lines, and--surprisingly enough--from old Mrs. Purdon, who asked me
abruptly if I would have my husband take me to see her. She specified, and
underlined the specification, that I was to come "right off, and in the
automobile." Wondering extremely at this mysterious bidding I sought out
Paul, who obediently cranked up our small car and carried me off. There
was no sign of Horace about the house, but some distance on the other side
of the village we saw his tall, stooping figure swinging along the road.
He carried a cane and was characteristically occupied in violently
switching off the heads from the wayside weeds as he walked. He refused
our offer to take him in, alleging that he was out for exercise and to
reduce his flesh--an ancient jibe at his bony frame which made him for an
instant show a leathery smile.

There was, of course, no one at Mrs. Purdon's to let us into the tiny,
three-roomed house, since the bedridden invalid spent her days there alone
while 'Niram worked his team on other people's fields. Not knowing what we
might find, Paul stayed outside in the car, while I stepped inside in
answer to Mrs. Purdon's "Come _in_, why don't you!" which sounded quite as
dry as usual. But when I saw her I knew that things were not as usual.

She lay flat on her back, the little emaciated wisp of humanity, hardly
raising the piecework quilt enough to make the bed seem occupied, and to
account for the thin, worn old face on the pillow. But as I entered the
room her eyes seized on mine, and I was aware of nothing but them and some
fury of determination behind them. With a fierce heat of impatience at my
first natural but quickly repressed exclamation of surprise she explained
briefly that she wanted Paul to lift her into the automobile and take her
into the next township to the Hulett farm. "I'm so shrunk away to nothin',
I know I can lay on the back seat if I crook myself up," she said, with a
cool accent but a rather shaky voice. Seeming to realize that even her
intense desire to strike the matter-of-fact note could not take the place
of any and all explanation of her extraordinary request, she added,
holding my eyes steady with her own: "Emma Hulett's my twin sister. I
guess it ain't so queer, my wanting to see her."

I thought, of course, we
were to be used as the medium for some strange, sudden family
reconciliation, and went out to ask Paul if he thought he could carry the
old invalid to the car. He replied that, so far as that went, he could
carry so thin an old body ten times around the town, but that he refused
absolutely to take such a risk without authorization from her doctor. I
remembered the burning eyes of resolution I had left inside, and sent him
to present his objections to Mrs. Purdon herself.

In a few moments I saw
him emerge from the house with the old woman in his arms. He had evidently
taken her up just as she lay. The piecework quilt hung down in long folds,
flashing its brilliant reds and greens in the sunshine, which shone so
strangely upon the pallid old countenance, facing the open sky for the
first time in years.

We drove in silence through the green and gold lyric of the spring day,
an elderly company sadly out of key with the triumphant note of eternal
youth which rang through all the visible world. Mrs. Purdon looked at
nothing, said nothing, seemed to be aware of nothing but the purpose in
her heart, whatever that might be. Paul and I, taking a leaf from our
neighbors' book, held, with a courage like theirs, to their excellent
habit of saying nothing when there is nothing to say. We arrived at the
fine old Hulett place without the exchange of a single word.

"Now carry me in," said Mrs. Purdon briefly, evidently hoarding her
strength.

"Wouldn't I better go and see if Miss Hulett is at home?" I asked.

Mrs. Purdon shook her head impatiently and turned her compelling eyes on
my husband, I went up the path before them to knock at the door, wondering
what the people in the house would possibly be thinking of us There was no
answer to my knock. "Open the door and go in," commanded Mrs. Purdon from
out her quilt.

There was no one in the spacious, white-paneled hall and no sound in all
the big, many-roomed house.

"Emma's out feeding the hens," conjectured Mrs. Purdon, not, I fancied,
without a faint hint of relief in her voice. "Now carry me up-stairs to
the first room on the right."

Half hidden by his burden, Paul rolled wildly inquiring eyes at me; but he
obediently staggered up the broad old staircase, and, waiting till I had
opened the first door to the right, stepped into the big bedroom.

"Put me down on the bed, and open them shutters," Mrs. Purdon commanded.

She still marshaled her forces with no lack of decision, but with a
fainting voice which made me run over to her quickly as Paul laid her down
on the four-poster. Her eyes were still indomitable, but her mouth hung
open slackly and her color was startling. "Oh, Paul, quick! quick! Haven't
you your flask with you?"

Mrs. Purdon informed me in a barely audible whisper, "In the corner
cupboard at the head of the stairs," and I flew down the hallway. I
returned with a bottle, evidently of great age. There was only a little
brandy in the bottom, but it whipped up a faint color into the sick
woman's lips.

As I was bending over her and Paul was thrusting open the shutters,
letting in a flood of sunshine and flecky leaf-shadows, a firm, rapid step
came down the hall, and a vigorous woman, with a tanned face and a clean,
faded gingham dress, stopped short in the doorway with an expression of
stupefaction.

Mrs. Purdon put me on one side, and although she was physically incapable
of moving her body by a hair's breadth, she gave the effect of having
risen to meet the newcomer. "Well, Emma, here I am," she said in a queer
voice, with involuntary quavers in it. As she went on she had it more
under control, although in the course of her extraordinarily succinct
speech it broke and failed her occasionally. When it did, she drew in her
breath with an audible, painful effort, struggling forward steadily in
what she had to say. "You see, Emma, it's this way: My 'Niram and your
Ev'leen Ann have been keeping company--ever since they went to school
together--you know that's well as I do, for all we let on we didn't, only
I didn't know till just now how hard they took it. They can't get married
because 'Niram can't keep even, let alone get ahead any, because I cost so
much bein' sick, and the doctor says I may live for years this way, same's
Aunt Hettie did. An' 'Niram is thirty-one, an' Ev'leen Ann is
twenty-eight, an' they've had 'bout's much waitin' as is good for folks
that set such store by each other. I've thought of every way out of
it--and there ain't any. The Lord knows I don't enjoy livin' any, not so's
to notice the enjoyment, and I'd thought of cutting my throat like Uncle
Lish, but that'd make 'Niram and Ev'leen Ann feel so--to think why I'd
done it; they'd never take the comfort they'd ought in bein' married; so
that won't do. There's only one thing to do. I guess you'll have to take
care of me till the Lord calls me. Maybe I won't last so long as the
doctor thinks."

When she finished, I felt my ears ringing in the silence. She had walked
to the sacrificial altar with so steady a step, and laid upon it her
precious all with so gallant a front of quiet resolution, that for an
instant I failed to take in the sublimity of her self-immolation. Mrs.
Purdon asking for charity! And asking the one woman who had most reason to
refuse it to her.

Paul looked at me miserably, the craven desire to escape a scene written
all over him. "Wouldn't we better be going, Mrs. Purdon?" I said uneasily.
I had not ventured to look at the woman in the doorway.

Mrs. Purdon motioned me to remain, with an imperious gesture whose
fierceness showed the tumult underlying her brave front. "No; I want you
should stay. I want you should hear what I say, so's you can tell folks,
if you have to. Now, look here, Emma," she went on to the other, still
obstinately silent; "you must look at it the way 'tis. We're neither of us
any good to anybody, the way we are--and I'm dreadfully in the way of the
only two folks we care a pin about--either of us. You've got plenty to do
with, and nothing to spend it on. I can't get myself out of their way by
dying without going against what's Scripture and proper, but--" Her steely
calm broke. She burst out in a screaming, hysterical voice: "You've just
_got_ to, Emma Hulett! You've just _got_ to! If you don't, I won't never
go back to 'Niram's house! I'll lie in the ditch by the roadside till the
poor-master comes to git me--and I'll tell everybody that it's because my
own twin sister, with a house and a farm and money in the bank, turned me
out to starve--" A fearful spasm cut her short. She lay twisted and limp,
the whites of her eyes showing between the lids.

"Good God, she's gone!" cried Paul, running to the bed.

I was aware that the woman in the doorway had relaxed her frozen
immobility and was between Paul and me as we rubbed the thin, icy hands
and forced brandy between the flaccid lips. We all three thought her dead
or dying, and labored over her with the frightened thankfulness for one
another's living presence which always marks that dreadful moment. But
even as we fanned and rubbed, and cried out to one another to open the
windows and to bring water, the blue lips moved to a ghostly whisper: "Em,
listen--" The old woman went back to the nickname of their common youth.
"Em--your Ev'leen Ann--tried to drown herself--in the Mill Brook last
night ... That's what decided me--to--" And then we were plunged into
another desperate struggle with Death for the possession of the battered
old habitation of the dauntless soul before us.

"Isn't there any hot water in the house?" cried Paul, and "Yes, yes; a
tea-kettle on the stove!" answered the woman who labored with us. Paul,
divining that she meant the kitchen, fled down-stairs. I stole a look at
Emma Hulett's face as she bent over the sister she had not seen in thirty
years, and I knew that Mrs. Purdon's battle was won. It even seemed that
she had won another skirmish in her never-ending war with death, for a
little warmth began to come back into her hands.

When Paul returned with the tea-kettle, and a hot-water bottle had been
filled, the owner of the house straightened herself, assumed her rightful
position as mistress of the situation, and began to issue commands. "You
git right in the automobile, and go git the doctor," she told Paul.
"That'll be the quickest. She's better now, and your wife and I can keep
her goin' till the doctor gits here."

As Paul left the room she snatched something white from a bureau-drawer,
stripped the worn, patched old cotton nightgown from the skeleton-like
body, and, handling the invalid with a strong, sure touch, slipped on a
soft, woolly outing-flannel wrapper with a curious trimming of zigzag
braid down the front. Mrs. Purdon opened her eyes very slightly, but shut
them again at her sister's quick command, "You lay still, Em'line, and
drink some of this brandy." She obeyed without comment, but after a pause
she opened her eyes again and looked down at the new garment which clad
her. She had that moment turned back from the door of death, but her first
breath was used to set the scene for a return to a decent decorum.

"You're still a great hand for rick-rack work, Em, I see," she murmured in
a faint whisper. "Do you remember how surprised Aunt Su was when you made
up a pattern?"

"Well, I hadn't thought of it for quite some time," returned Miss Hulett,
in exactly the same tone of everyday remark. As she spoke she slipped her
arm under the other's head and poked the pillow up to a more comfortable
shape. "Now you lay perfectly still," she commanded in the hectoring tone
of the born nurse; "I'm goin' to run down and make you up a good hot cup
of sassafras tea."

I followed her down into the kitchen and was met by the same refusal to
be melodramatic which I had encountered in Ev'leen Ann. I was most anxious
to know what version of my extraordinary morning I was to give out to the
world, but hung silent, positively abashed by the cool casualness of the
other woman as she mixed her brew. Finally, "Shall I tell 'Niram--What
shall I say to Ev'leen Ann? If anybody asks me--" I brought out with
clumsy hesitation.

At the realization that her reserve and family pride were wholly at the
mercy of any report I might choose to give, even my iron hostess faltered.
She stopped short in the middle of the floor, looked at me silently,
piteously, and found no word.

I hastened to assure her that I would attempt no hateful picturesqueness
of narration. "Suppose I just say that you were rather lonely here, now
that Ev'leen Ann has left you, and that you thought it would be nice to
have your sister come to stay with you, so that 'Niram and Ev'leen Ann can
be married?"

Emma Hulett breathed again. She walked toward the stairs with the steaming
cup in her hand. Over her shoulder she remarked, "Well, yes, ma'am; that
would be as good a way to put it as any, I guess."

'Niram and Ev'leen Ann were standing up to be married. They looked very
stiff and self-conscious, and Ev'leen Ann was very pale. 'Niram's big
hands, bent in the crook of a man who handles tools, hung down by his new
black trousers. Ev'leen Ann's strong fingers stood out stiffly from one
another. They looked hard at the minister and repeated after him in low
and meaningless tones the solemn and touching words of the marriage
service. Back of them stood the wedding company, in freshly washed and
ironed white dresses, new straw hats, and black suits smelling of camphor.
In the background, among the other elders, stood Paul and Horace and I--my
husband and I hand in hand; Horace twiddling the black ribbon which holds
his watch, and looking bored. Through the open windows into the stuffiness
of the best room came an echo of the deep organ note of midsummer.

"Whom God hath joined together--" said the minister, and the epitome of
humanity which filled the room held its breath--the old with a wonder upon
their life-scarred faces, the young half frightened to feel the stir of
the great wings soaring so near them.

Then it was all over. 'Niram and Ev'leen Ann were married, and the rest of
us were bustling about to serve the hot biscuit and coffee and chicken
salad, and to dish up the ice-cream. Afterward there were no citified
refinements of cramming rice down the necks of the departing pair or tying
placards to the carriage in which they went away. Some of the men went out
to the barn and hitched up for 'Niram, and we all went down to the gate to
see them drive off. They might have been going for one of their Sunday
afternoon "buggy-rides" except for the wet eyes of the foolish women and
girls who stood waving their hands in answer to the flutter of Ev'leen
Ann's handkerchief as the carriage went down the hill.

We had nothing to say to one another after they left, and began soberly to
disperse to our respective vehicles. But as I was getting into our car a
new thought suddenly struck me.

"Why," I cried, "I never thought of it before! However in the world did
old Mrs. Purdon know about Ev'leen Ann--that night?"

Horace was pulling at the door, which was badly adjusted and shut hard. He
closed it with a vicious slam. "_I_ told her," he said crossly.



A SAINT'S HOURS


             In the still cold before the sun
  HER LAUDS  Her brothers and her sisters small
             She woke, and washed and dressed each one.

                 And through the morning hours all,
  PRIME      Singing above her broom, she stood
             And swept the house from hall to hall.

                 At noon she ran with tidings good
  TERCE      Across the field and down the lane
             To share them with the neighborhood.

                 Four miles she walked and home again,
  SEXT       To sit through half the afternoon
             And hear a feeble crone complain;

                 But when she saw the frosty moon
  NONES      And lakes of shadow on the hill
             Her maiden dreams grew bright as noon.

                 She threw her pitying apron frill
  VESPERS    Over a little trembling mouse
             When the sleek cat yawned on the sill,

                 In the late hours and drowsy house.
  COMPLINE   At last, too tired, beside her bed
             She fell asleep ... her prayers half said.



IN MEMORY OF L.H.W.


He began life characteristically, depreciated and disparaged. When he was
a white, thin, big-headed baby, his mother, stripping the suds from her
lean arms, used to inveigh to her neighbors against his existence. "Wa'n't
it just like that _do_-less Lem Warren, not even to leave me foot-free
when he died, but a baby coming!"

"_Do_-less," in the language of our valley, means a combination of
shiftless and impractical, particularly to be scorned.

Later, as he began to have some resemblance to the appearance he was to
wear throughout life, her resentment at her marriage, which she considered
the one mistake of her life, kept pace with his growth. "Look at him!" she
cried to anyone who would listen. "Ain't that Warren, all over? Did any of
_my_ folks ever look so like a born fool? Shut your mouth, for the Lord's
sake, Lem, and maybe you won't scare folks quite so much."

Lem had a foolish, apologetic grin with which he always used to respond to
these personalities, hanging his head to one side and opening and shutting
his big hands nervously.

The tumble-down, two-roomed house in which the Warrens lived was across
the road from the schoolhouse, and Mrs. Warren's voice was penetrating.
Lem was accepted throughout his school-life at the home estimate. The
ugly, overgrown boy, clad in cast-off, misfit clothing was allowed to play
with the other children only on condition that he perform all the hard,
uninteresting parts of any game. Inside the schoolroom it was the same.

He never learned to shut his mouth, and his speech was always halting and
indistinct, so that he not only did not recite well in class, but was
never in one of the school entertainments. He chopped the wood and brought
it in, swept the floor and made the fires, and then listened in grinning,
silent admiration while the others, arrayed in their best, spoke pieces
and sang songs.

He was not "smart at his books" and indeed did not learn even to read very
fluently. This may have been partly because the only books he ever saw
were old school books, the use of which was given him free on account of
his mother's poverty. He was not allowed, of course to take them from the
schoolroom. But if he was not good at book-learning he was not without
accomplishments. He early grew large for his age, and strong from much
chopping of wood and drawing of water for his mother's washings, and he
was the best swimmer of all those who bathed in the cold, swift mountain
stream which rushes near the schoolhouse. The chief consequence of this
expertness was that in the summer he was forced to teach each succeeding
generation of little boys to swim and dive. They tyrannized over him
unmercifully--as, in fact, everyone did.

Nothing made his mother more furious than such an exhibition of what she
called "Lem's meachin'ness." "Ain't you got no stand-up _in_ ye?" she was
wont to exhort him angrily. "If you don't look out for yourself in this
world, you needn't think anybody else is gunto!"

The instructions in ethics he received at her hands were the only ones he
ever knew, for, up to his fourteenth year, he never had clothes
respectable enough to wear to church, and after that he had other things
to think of. Fourteen years is what we call in our State "over school
age." It was a date to which Mrs. Warren had looked forward with
eagerness. After that, the long, unprofitable months of enforced schooling
would be over, Lem would be earning steady wages, and she could sit back
and "live decent."

It seemed to her more than she could bear, that, almost upon her son's
birthday, she was stricken down with paralysis. It was the first calamity
for which she could not hold her marriage responsible, and her bitterness
thereupon extended itself to fate in general. She cannot have been a
cheerful house-mate during the next ten years, when Lem was growing
silently to manhood.

He was in demand as "help" on the farms about him, on account of his great
strength and faithfulness, although the farmers found him exasperatingly
slow and, when it was a question of animals, not always sure to obey
orders. He could be trusted to be kind to horses, unlike most hired men we
get nowadays, but he never learned "how to get the work out of their
hide." It was his way, on a steep hill with a heavy load, to lay down the
whip, get out, and put his own powerful shoulder to the wheel. If this
failed, he unloaded part of the logs and made two trips of it. The
uncertainty of his progress can be imagined. The busy and impatient farmer
and sawyer at the opposite ends of his route were driven to exhaust their
entire vocabulary of objurgation on him. He was, they used to inform him
in conclusion, "the most _do_-less critter the Lord ever made!"

He was better with cows and sheep--"feller-feelin," his mother said
scornfully, watching him feed a sick ewe--and he had here, even in
comparison with his fellow-men, a fair degree of success. It was indeed
the foundation of what material prosperity he ever enjoyed. A farmer,
short of cash, paid him one year with three or four ewes and a ram. He
worked for another farmer to pay for the rent of a pasture and had, that
first year, as everybody admitted, almighty good luck with them. There
were several twin lambs born that spring and everyone lived. Lem used to
make frequent night visits during lambing-time to the pasture to make sure
that all was well.

I remember as a little girl starting back from some village festivity late
one spring night and seeing a lantern twinkle far up on the mountainside.
"Lem Warren out fussin' with his sheep," some one of my elders remarked.
Later, as we were almost home, we saw the lantern on the road ahead of us
and stopped the horses, country-fashion, for an interchange of salutation.
Looking out from under the shawl in which I was wrapped, I saw his tall
figure stooping over something held under his coat. The lantern lighted
his weather-beaten face and the expression of his eyes as he looked down
at the little white head against his breast.

 "You're foolish, Lem," said
my uncle. "The ewe won't own it if you take it away so long the first
night."

"I--I--know," stuttered Lem, bringing out the words with his usual
difficulty; "but it's mortal cold up on the mounting for little fellers!
I'll bring him up as a cosset."

The incident reminded me vaguely of something I had read about, and it has
remained in my memory.

After we drove on I remember that there were laughing speculations about
what language old Ma'am Warren would use at having another cosset brought
to the house. Not that it could make any more work for her, since Lem did
all that was done about the housekeeping. Chained to her chair by her
paralyzed legs, as she was, she could accomplish nothing more than to sit
and cavil at the management of the universe all day, until Lem came home,
gave her her supper, and put her to bed.

Badly run as she thought the world, for a time it was more favorable to
her material prosperity than she had ever known it. Lem's flock of sheep
grew and thrived. For years nobody in our valley has tried to do much with
sheep because of dogs, and all Lem's neighbors told him that some fine
morning he would find his flock torn and dismembered. They even pointed
out the particular big collie dog who would most likely go "sheep-mad."
Lena's heavy face drew into anxious, grotesque wrinkles at this kind of
talk, and he visited the uplying pasture more and more frequently.

One morning, just before dawn, he came, pale and shamefaced, to the house
of the owner of the collie. The family, roused from bed by his knocking,
made out from his speech, more incoherent than usual, that he was begging
their pardon for having killed their dog. "I saw wh-where he'd bit th-the
throats out of two ewes that w-was due to lamb in a few days and I guess
I--I--I must ha' gone kind o' crazy. They was ones I liked special. I'd
brought 'em up myself. They--they was all over blood, you know."

They peered at him in the gray light, half-afraid of the tall apparition.
"How _could_ you kill a great big dog like Jack?" They asked wonderingly.

In answer he held out his great hands and his huge corded arms, red with
blood up to the elbow. "I heard him worrying another sheep and I--I
just--killed him."

One of the children now cried out: "But I shut Jackie up in the woodshed
last night!"

Someone ran to open the door and the collie bounded out. Lem turned white
in thankfulness, "I'm _mortal_ glad," he stammered. "I felt awful
bad--afterward. I knew your young ones thought a sight of Jack."

"But what dog did you kill?" they asked.

Some of the men went back up on the mountain with him and found, torn in
pieces and scattered wide in bloody fragments, as if destroyed by some
great revenging beast of prey, the body of a big gray wolf. Once in a
while one wanders over the line from the Canada forests and comes down
into our woods, following the deer.

The hard-headed farmers who looked on that savage scene drew back from the
shambling man beside them in the only impulse of respect they ever felt
for him. It was the one act of his life to secure the admiration of his
fellow-men; it was an action of which he himself always spoke in horror
and shame.

Certainly his marriage aroused no admiration. It was universally regarded
as a most addle-pated, imbecile affair from beginning to end. One of the
girls who worked at the hotel in the village "got into trouble," as our
vernacular runs, and as she came originally from our district and had gone
to school there, everyone knew her and was talking about the scandal. Old
Ma'am Warren was of the opinion, spiritedly expressed, that "Lottie was a
fool not to make that drummer marry her. She could have, if she'd gone the
right way to work." But the drummer remained persistently absent.

One evening Lem, starting for his sheep-pasture for his last look for the
night, heard someone crying down by the river and then, as he paused to
listen, heard it no more. He jumped from the bridge without stopping to
set down his lantern, knowing well the swiftness of the water, and caught
the poor cowardly thing as she came, struggling and gasping, down with the
current. He took her home and gave her dry clothes of his mother's. Then
leaving the scared and repentant child by his hearth, he set out on foot
for the minister's house and dragged him back over the rough country
roads.

When Ma'am Warren awoke the next morning, Lem did not instantly answer her
imperious call, as he had done for so many years. Instead, a red-eyed girl
in one of Mrs. Warren's own nightgowns came to the door and said
shrinkingly: "Lem slept in the barn last night. He give his bed to me; but
he'll be in soon. I see him fussin' around with the cow."

Ma'am Warren stared, transfixed with a premonition of irremediable evil.
"What you doin' here?" she demanded, her voice devoid of expression
through stupefaction.

The girl held down her head. "Lem and I were married last night," she
said.

Then Mrs. Warren found her voice.

When Lem came in it was to a scene of the furious wrangling which was
henceforth to fill his house.

"... to saddle himself with such trash as you!" his mother was saying
ragingly.

His wife answered in kind, her vanity stung beyond endurance. "Well, you
can be sure he'd never have got him a wife any other way! Nobody but a
girl hard put to it would take up with a drivel-headed fool like Lem
Warren!"

And then the bridegroom appeared at the door and both women turned their
attention to him.

When the baby was born, Lottie was very sick. Lem took care of his mother,
his wife, and the new baby for weeks and weeks. It was at lambing-time,
and his flock suffered from lack of attention, although as much as he
dared he left his sick women and tended his ewes. He ran in debt, too, to
the grocery-stores, for he could work very little and earned almost
nothing. Of course the neighbors helped out, but it was no cheerful
morning's work to care for the vitriolic old woman, and Lottie was too
sick for anyone but Lem to handle. We did pass the baby around from house
to house during the worst of his siege, to keep her off Lem's hands; but
when Lottie began to get better it was haying-time; everybody was more
than busy, and the baby was sent back.

Lottie lingered in semi-invalidism for about a year and then died, Lem
holding her hand in his. She tried to say something to him that last
night, so the neighbors who were there reported, but her breath failed her
and she could only lie staring at him from eyes that seemed already to
look from the other side of the grave.

He was heavily in debt when he was thus left with a year-old child not his
own, but he gave Lottie a decent funeral and put up over her grave a stone
stating that she was "Charlotte, loved wife of Lemuel Warren," and that
she died in the eighteenth year of her life. He used to take the little
girl and put flowers on the grave, I remember.

Then he went to work again. His sandy hair was already streaked with gray,
though he was but thirty. The doctor said the reason for this phenomenon
was the great strain of his year of nursing; and indeed throughout that
period of his life no one knew when he slept, if ever. He was always up
and dressed when anyone else was, and late at night we could look across
and see his light still burning and know that he was rubbing Lottie's back
or feeding little Susie.

All that was changed now, of course. Susie was a strong, healthy child
who slept all through the night in her little crib by her stepfather's
corded bed, and in the daytime went everywhere he did. Wherever he "worked
out" he used to give her her nap wrapped in a horse blanket on the hay in
the barn; and he carried her in a sling of his own contrivance up to his
sheep-pasture. Old Ma'am Warren disliked the pretty, laughing child so
bitterly that he was loath to leave her at home; but when he was there
with her, for the first time he asserted himself against his mother,
bidding her, when she began to berate the child's parentage, to "be
still!" with so strange and unexpected an accent of authority that she was
quite frightened.

Susie was very fond of her stepfather at first, but when she came of
school age, mixed more with the other children, and heard laughing,
contemptuous remarks about him, the frank and devouring egotism of
childhood made her ashamed of her affection, ashamed of him with his
uncouth gait, his mouth always sagging open, his stammering, ignorant
speech, which the other children amused themselves by mocking. Though he
was prospering again with his sheep, owned the pasture and his house now,
and had even built on another room as well as repairing the older part, he
spent little on his own adornment. It all went for pretty clothes for
Susie, for better food, for books and pictures, for tickets for Susie to
go to the circus and the county fair. Susie knew this and loved him by
stealth for it, but the intolerably sensitive vanity of her twelve years
made her wretched to be seen in public with him.

Divining this, he ceased going with her to school-picnics and
Sunday-school parties, where he had been a most useful pack-animal, and,
dressing her in her best with his big calloused hands, watched her from
the window join a group of the other children. His mother predicted
savagely that his "spoilin' on that bad-blooded young one would bring her
to no good end," and when, at fifteen, Susie began to grow very pretty and
saucy and willful and to have beaux come to see her, the old woman exulted
openly over Lem's helpless anxiety.

He was quite gray now, although not yet forty-five, and so stooped that he
passed for an old man. He owned a little farm, his flock of sheep was the
largest in the township, and Susie was expected to make a good marriage in
spite of her antecedents.

And then Frank Gridley's oldest son, Ed, came back from business college
with store clothes and city hats and polished tan shoes, and began idling
about, calling on the girls. From the first, he and Susie ran together
like two drops of water. Bronson Perkins, a cousin of mine, a big, silent,
ruminative lad who had long hung about Susie, stood no show at all. One
night in county-fair week, Susie, who had gone to the fair with a crowd of
girl friends, was not at home at ten o'clock. Lem, sitting in his doorway
and watching the clock, heard the approach of the laughing, singing
straw-ride in which she had gone, with a long breath of relief; but the
big hay-wagon did not stop at his gate.

He called after it in a harsh voice and was told that "Ed Gridley and she
went off to the hotel to get supper. He said he'd bring her home later."

Lem went out to the barn, hitched up the faster of his two heavy
plow-horses and drove from his house to Woodville, eight miles and
up-hill, in forty-five minutes. When he went into the hotel, the clerk
told him that the two he sought had had supper served in a private room.
Lem ascertained which room and broke the door in with one heave of his
shoulders. Susie sprang up from the disordered supper-table and ran to him
like a frightened child, clinging to him desperately and crying out that
Ed scared her so!

"It's all right now, Susie," he said gently, not looking at the man.
"Poppa's come to take you home."

The man felt his dignity wounded. He began to protest boisterously and to
declare that he was ready to marry the girl--"_now_, this instant, if you
choose!"

Lem put one arm about Susie. "I didn't come to make you marry her. I come
to keep you from doin' it," he said, speaking clearly for once in his
life. "Susie shan't marry a hound that'd do this." And as the other
advanced threateningly on him, he struck him a great blow across the mouth
that sent him unconscious to the ground.

Then Lem went out, paid for the broken lock, and drove home with Susie
behind the foundered plow-horse.

The next spring her engagement to Bronson Perkins was announced, though
everybody said they didn't see what use it was for folks to get engaged
that couldn't ever get married. Mr. Perkins, Bronson's father, was daft,
not enough to send him to the asylum, but so that he had to be watched all
the time to keep him from doing himself a hurt. He had a horrid way, I
remember, of lighting matches and holding them up to his bared arm until
the smell of burning flesh went sickeningly through the house and sent
someone in a rush to him. Of course it was out of the question to bring a
young bride to such a home. Apparently there were years of waiting before
them, and Susie was made of no stuff to endure a long engagement.

As a matter of fact, they were married that fall, as soon as Susie could
get her things ready. Lem took old Mr. Perkins into the room Susie left
vacant. "'Twon't be much more trouble taking care of two old people than
one," he explained briefly.

Ma'am Warren's comments on this action have been embalmed forever in the
delighted memories of our people. We have a taste for picturesque and
forceful speech.

From that time we always saw the lunatic and the bent
shepherd together. The older man grew quieter under Lem's care than he had
been for years, and if he felt one of his insane impulses overtaking him,
ran totteringly to grasp his protector's arm until, quaking and shivering,
he was himself again. Lem used to take him up to the sheep-pasture for the
day sometimes. He liked it up there himself, he said, and maybe 'twould be
good for Uncle Hi. He often reported with pride that the old man talked as
sensible as anybody, "get him off where it's quiet." Indeed, when Mr.
Perkins died, six years later, we had forgotten that he was anything but
a little queer, and he had known many happy, lucid hours with his
grandchildren.

Susie and Bronson had two boys--sturdy, hearty children, in whom Lem took
the deepest, shyest pride. He loved to take them off into the woods with
him and exulted in their quick intelligence and strong little bodies.
Susie got into the way of letting him take a good deal of the care of
them.

It was Lem who first took alarm about the fall that little Frank had, down
the cellar stairs. He hurt his spine somehow--our local doctor could not
tell exactly how--and as the injury only made him limp a little, nobody
thought much about it, until he began to have difficulty in walking. Then
Lem sent for a doctor from Rutland who, as soon as he examined the child,
stuck out his lower lip and rubbed his chin ominously. He pronounced the
trouble something with a long name which none of us had ever heard, and
said that Frank would be a hopeless cripple if it, were not cured soon.
There was, he said, a celebrated doctor from Europe now traveling in this
country who had a wonderful new treatment for this condition. But under
the circumstances--he looked about the plain farm sitting-room--he
supposed that was out of the question.

"What did the doctor from foreign parts ask?" queried Bronson, and, being
informed of some of the customary prices for major operations, fell back
hopeless. Susie, her pretty, childish face drawn and blanched into a wan
beauty, put her arms about her sick little son and looked at her
stepfather. He had never failed her.

He did not fail her now. He sold the land he had accumulated field by
field; he sold the great flock of sheep, every one of which he could call
by name; he mortgaged the house over the protesting head of his now
bedridden mother; he sold the horse and cow, and the very sticks of
furniture from the room where Susie had grown up and where the crazy
grandfather of Susie's children had known a peaceful old age and death.
Little Frank was taken to New York to the hospital to have the great
surgeon operate on him--he is there yet, almost completely recovered and
nearly ready to come home.

Back in Hillsboro, Lem now began life all over again, hiring out humbly to
his neighbors and only stipulating that he should have enough free time to
take care of his mother. Three weeks ago she had her last stroke of
paralysis and, after lying speechless for a few days, passed away, grim to
the last, by the expression in her fierce old eyes.

The day after her funeral Lem did not come to work as he was expected. We
went over to his house and found, to our consternation, that he was not
out of bed.

"Be ye sick, Lem?" asked my uncle.

He looked at us over the bedclothes with his old foolish, apologetic
smile. "Kind o' lazy, I guess," he whispered, closing his eyes.

The doctor was put out by the irregularity of the case.

"I can't make out anything _really_ the trouble!" he said. "Only the
wheels don't go round as fast as they ought. Call it failing heart action
if you want a label."

The wheels ran more and more slowly until it was apparent to all of us
that before long they would stop altogether. Susie and Bronson were in New
York with little Frank, so that Lem's care during his last days devolved
on the haphazard services of the neighbors. He was out of his head most of
the time, though never violent, and all through the long nights lay flat
on his back, looking at the ceiling with bright, blank eyes, driving his
ox-team, skidding logs, plowing in stony ground and remembering to favor
the off-horse whose wind wasn't good, planting, hoeing, tending his sheep,
and teaching obstinate lambs to drink. He used quaint, coaxing names for
these, such as a mother uses for her baby. He was up in the
mountain-pasture a good deal, we gathered, and at night, from his constant
mention of how bright the stars shone. And sometimes, when he was in
evident pain, his delusion took the form that Susie, or the little boys,
had gone up with him, and got lost in the woods.

I was on duty the night he died. We thought a change was near, because he
had lain silent all day, and we hoped he would come to himself when he
awoke from this stupor. Near midnight he began to talk again, and I could
not make out at first whether he was still wandering or not. "Hold on
hard, Uncle Hi," I heard him whisper.

A spoon fell out of my hand and clattered against a plate. He gave a great
start and tried to sit up. "Yes, mother--coming!" he called hoarsely, and
then looked at me with his own eyes. "I must ha' forgot about mother's
bein' gone," he apologized sheepishly.

I took advantage of this lucid interval to try to give him some medicine
the doctor had left. "Take a swallow of this," I said, holding the glass
to his lips.

"What's it for?" he asked.

"It's a heart stimulant," I explained. "The doctor
said if we could get you through to-night you have a
good chance."

His face drew together in grotesque lines of anxiety. "Little Frank
worse?"

"Oh, no, he's doing finely."

"Susie all right?"

"Why, yes," I said wonderingly.

"Nothing the matter with her other boy?"

"Why, no, no," I told him. "Everybody's all right Here, just take this
down."

He turned away his head on the pillow and murmured something I did not
catch. When I asked him what he said, he smiled feebly as in deprecation
of his well-known ridiculous ways. "I'm just as much obliged to you," he
said, "but if everybody's all right, I guess I won't have any medicine."
He looked at me earnestly. "I'm--I'm real tired," he said.

It came out in one great breath--apparently his last, for he did not move
after that, and his ugly, slack-mouthed face was at once quite still. Its
expression made me think of the time I had seen it as a child, by
lantern-light, as he looked down at the new-born lamb on his breast.



IN NEW NEW ENGLAND

I.


This is a true story, for I have heard it ever so many times from my
grandmother. She heard it from her grandmother, who told it about her own
mother; and it began and ended right here in our village of Hillsboro,
Vermont, in 1762.

Probably you think at once of the particular New England old town you
know, and imagine Hillsboro of that date as an elm-shaded, well-kept
street, with big, white, green-shuttered houses, full of shining mahogany
furniture and quaint old silver. But my grandmother gives an entirely
different picture of old times in this corner of Vermont. Conditions here,
at that time, were more as they had been in Connecticut and Massachusetts
a hundred and forty years before. Indeed, the Pilgrim Fathers endured no
more hardships as pioneers in a wild, new country than did the first
Vermonters.

Hillsboro had been settled only about fifteen years before this story
begins, and the people had had to make for themselves whatever they
possessed, since there was no way to reach our dark, narrow valley except
by horseback over the ridge of the Green Mountains. There were no fine
houses, because there was no sawmill. There were little, low log cabins of
two rooms each, and the furniture, such as it was, was rough-hewn out of
native woods. Our great-grandfathers were too busy clearing the forest and
planting their crops to spend much time designing or polishing table-legs.

And the number of things they did not have! No stoves, no matches, no
 books, no lamps, and very few candles; no doctors, no schools, no clocks,
and so nearly no money that what they had is not worth mentioning But the
fact that there were no schools did not mean that life was one long
vacation for the children.

"No, indeedy!" as grandmother always says emphatically.

In the urgent bustle of pioneer life, the children could not be spared
from work for long school-hours. They picked up what they could from the
elders of their families, and worked, as grandmother puts it, "as tight as
they could leg it" from morning to night. Everybody else worked that same
way, so the children did not know that they were being abused. Indeed,
grandmother seemed to doubt if they were.

At any rate, they all ran about as fast as ants in an ant-hill, and the
busiest of all was sixteen-year-old Hannah Sherwin. Since she was my
grandmother's grand mother's mother, at last the story is really begun.

Hannah had been a baby of eighteen months when the Sherwins came over the
mountains from the old home in Connecticut, so she knew nothing about any
other way of living than what she saw in rough little Hillsboro. But her
elder sister, Ann Mary, who was a tall girl of nineteen, remembered--or
thought she remembered--big houses that were made all over of sawn planks,
and chairs that were so shiny you could see your face in them or else
stuffed and cushioned in brocade as soft--"as soft as a feather tick!"
she told Hannah.

Her listener, having no idea of what brocade might be, and taking the
feather-tick simile literally, must have imagined a very queer kind of
chair.

Hannah was a short, fair, rosy-cheeked child, who passed for good-looking
enough; but Ann Mary was slender and dark and a real beauty, although
Hillsboro people did not realize it. She looked fragile, as if she could
not do much hard work and that is always a serious blemish in feminine
beauty to the eyes of pioneers.

So far in her life she had not been forced to do any hard work, because
Hannah had done it all for her. Their mother had died when they were both
little girls, and their father was so busy outdoors, every minute he was
awake, that, for all his affection for them, he did not know or care which
of his daughters cooked and washed, and swept and spun, so long as these
things were done. And Hannah delighted to do them, because she adored Ann
Mary, and could not bear to have her sister troubled with any of the
coarse tasks which made up her own happy, busy day.

Now, all that grandmother ever tells me about the beginning of this story
is that when the lovely Ann Mary was nineteen years old she "fell into a
decline," as they called it. She grew pale and thin, never smiled, could
not eat or sleep, and lay listlessly on the bed all day, looking sadly at
Hannah as she bustled about.

A great many girls in those days fell into declines and died. Of course,
nobody knows the reason for most of the cases, but it seems as plain as
the nose on my face that Ann Mary's sickness was entirely Hannah's fault
for not letting her sister do her share of the household work. There she
was--pretty and ignorant and idle--with nothing to interest her, and
nothing to look forward to, for in those days marriage was the only thing
a girl could look forward to, and in the workaday little world of pioneer
Hillsboro nobody would dare to think of marrying a girl who looked like a
tea-rose and did not know how to make soft soap. No wonder she lost her
appetite!

It might not have gone any further, however, if Hannah, distracted with
anxiety, had not run to all the old women in town about her sick sister.
Every one of them had had a niece, or a daughter--or at least a
granddaughter--who had died in a decline; so, of course, they knew just
what to do for Ann Mary, and they came and did it.

Then poor Ann Mary was sick, indeed, I promise you! They shut her up in
the inner room of the little log house, although it was the end of May,
and the weather was fit for the angels. They darkened the one window, and
kept the door closed, and put the sick girl to bed between two mountains
of feathers. They gave her "sut" (soot) tea and "herb-drink" and steeped
butternut bark, and goodness knows what else; and they tiptoed in and out,
and stared at her mournfully, and shook their heads and pursed up their
lips, until it is a wonder to me that Ann Mary did not die at once.



II.


Very likely she would have died, if one day in June there had not come
through Hillsboro a trader on his way from "over the mountain" up to
Canada, looking for furs. That morning, when Hannah got up, she found the
fire in their big fireplace completely extinguished. She snatched up the
warming-pan--not a polished brass one with a smooth, turned handle, like
those you see in Colonial museums, but a common iron pan, fastened to a
hickory sapling; and she went as fast as she could, without running--for
girls never ran "before folks" in those days--over to the nearest
neighbor, to "borrow a handful of fire."

The neighbors were just getting up, and their fire was too low to spare
any, so Hannah had to wait until some hardwood sticks got well to burning.
While she waited, the trader, who was staying overnight in that house,
went on with a long story about an Indian herb-doctor, of whose cures he
had heard marvelous tales, three days' journey back. It seemed that the
Indian's specialty was curing girls who had gone into a decline, and that
he had never failed in a single case he had undertaken.

You can imagine how Hannah's loving, anxious heart leaped up, and how
eagerly she questioned the trader about the road to the settlement where
the Indian lived. It was in a place called Heath Falls, on the Connecticut
River, the trader told her; but he could not find words strong enough to
advise her against trying the trip.

The trail lay through thick woods, filled with all the terrors of early
New Englanders--bears and wolves and catamounts. And when she got to Heath
Falls, she would find it a very different place from Hillsboro, where
people took you in gladly for the sake of the news you brought from the
outside world. No, the folks in Heath Falls were very grand. They traveled
themselves, and saw more strangers than a little. You had to pay good
money for shelter and food, and, of course, the doctor did not cure for
nothing. He was a kind man, the trader, and he did his best to keep Hannah
from a wildly foolish enterprise.

But his best was not good enough. She went home and looked at her poor Ann
Mary, as white as a snowdrift, her big dark eyes ringed with black
circles, and Hannah knew only two things in the world--that there was a
doctor who could cure her sister, and that she must get her to him. She
was only a child herself; she had no money, no horses, no experience; but
nothing made any difference to her. Ann Mary should go to the doctor, if
Hannah had to carry her every step!

A spirit like that knows no obstacles. Although Hillsboro held up hands
of horror, and implored John Sherwin to assert his parental authority and
forbid his girl such a rash, unmaidenly, bold undertaking, the end of it
was that Hannah got her father's permission. He loved his daughters
dearly, did John Sherwin, and, although he could not see how the thing was
to be managed, he told Hannah she might go if she could.

Now it happened that the wife of one of their neighbors had long coveted
the two great feather-beds between which Ann Mary lay sweltering. Hannah
went to her, and said that she could have them if she would loan her son,
a sturdy boy of fourteen, and two horses, for the trip to Heath Falls. The
neighbor-woman hesitated; but when Hannah threw in the two pewter
candlesticks, which came from her mother's family, she could resist no
longer. In her own family they had only spike-iron candlesticks, and it
was her one chance of acquiring a pair of fine ones. So she wheedled her
husband into agreeing to the bargain; and there was Hannah with her
transportation provided.

As soon as it was definitely settled that she was to make the long
journey, people began to; take rather a proud interest in her grit. As
everybody liked her, they gave what they could toward helping her get
ready--all but the old women, who were furious that Ann Mary was to be
taken away from their care.

There was in town a saddle with a pillion back of it, and this was loaned
for Remember Williams, the neighbor's boy, to ride and carry Ann Mary
behind him. Hannah folded a blanket across her horse's back, and sat on
sideways as best she could. Behind her was a big bundle of extra clothing,
and food, and an iron pot--or, as she called it, a "kittle"--for cooking
their noonday meals. Her father brought out all the money he had--one
large four-shilling piece--and Hannah was sure that so much wealth as that
would buy anything in the world. The old women had prophesied that Ann
Mary would not be strong enough to sit upon a horse, even clinging to
Remember Williams's thick waist; but, judging from what grandmother says,
I surmise that Ann Mary, without being really aware of it, was a little
sick of being sick. At any rate, she took a great interest in the
preparations. She asked over and over again about the girls the
herb-doctor had cured; and when the day for their departure came she was
quite pleased and excited, and walked out through the crowd of sympathetic
neighbors. To be sure, she leaned weakly on her father, but there was a
little faint color in her cheeks.

"A very bad sign!" the old women whispered. "She'll never live the journey
out. If only Hannah were not so headstrong and obstinate! But then you
can't blame the child for it--all the Sherwins are that way!"

As for Ann Mary, she sat up quite straight and looked as pretty as
possible when the little company rode off. After all, she had been
"declining" only about a month, and people had vigorous constitutions in
those days.

You may think it odd that she was not afraid to make the long journey, but
there are advantages in being of a dependent nature. Hannah had always
done everything for her, and had kept her safe from harm. Hannah was with
her now, so there was nothing to fear. She left all that to Hannah, who
did it, poor child, with the greatest thoroughness!

Now that the excitement of overcoming Hillsboro opposition was passed; now
that they were really started, with herself as sole leader and guide,
responsibility fell like a black cloud upon her young heart. There was
nothing she did _not_ fear--for Ann Mary, of course--from wolves and
Indians to fatigue or thunderstorms.

A dozen times that day, as they paced slowly over the rough trail, she
asked her sister anxiously if she were not too hot or too cold, or too
tired or too faint, imitating as best she could the matter and manner of
the doctoring old women. However, Ann Mary surprised herself, as well as
Hannah, by being none of the uncomfortable things that her sister kept
suggesting to her she might very well be. It was perfect June weather,
they were going over some of the loveliest country in the world, and Ann
Mary was out of doors for the first time in four weeks or more.

She "kept up" wonderfully well, and they made good time, reaching by dusk,
as they had hoped to do, a farmer's house on the downward dip of the
mountain to the east. Here, their story being told, they were hospitably
received, and Ann Mary was clapped into the airless inner room and fed
with gruel and dipped toast. But she had had fresh air and exercise all
day, and a hearty meal of cold venison and corn bread at their noonday
rest, so she slept soundly.

The next day they went across a wide, hilly valley, up another range of
low mountains, and down on the other side. The country was quite strange
to them, and somehow, before they knew it, they were not on the road
recommended to them by their hosts of the night before. Night overtook
them when they were still, as the phrase has come down in our family, "in
a miserable, dismal place of wood."

Hannah's teeth chattered for very terror as she saw their plight; but she
spoke cheerfully to Ann Mary and the boy, who looked to her for courage,
and told them that they were to have the fun of sleeping under the stars.

Boys were the same then as now, and Remember Williams was partly shivering
with dread of bears and Indians and things, and partly glowing with
anticipatory glory of telling the Hillsboro boys all about the adventure.
Hannah soothed the first and inflamed the second emotion until she had
Remember strutting about gathering firewood, as brave as a lion.

Very probably Ann Mary would have been frightened to death, if she had not
been so sleepy from her long day out of doors that she could not keep her
eyes open. And then, of course, everything must be all right, because
there was Hannah!

This forlorn terrified little captain wrapped the invalid in all the extra
clothing, managed to get a fire started, and cooked a supper of hot
cornmeal mush in her big iron "kittle." Ann Mary ate a great deal of this,
sweetened as it was with maple sugar crumbled from the big lump Hannah Had
brought along and immediately afterward she fell sound asleep.

Soon the soft night air of June was too strong a soporific for Remember's
desire to keep awake and hear the catamounts scream, as he had heard they
did in those woods. Hannah was left quite alone to keep watch and to tend
the fire, her heart in her mouth, jumping and starting at every shadow
cast by the flames.

She knew that wild beasts would not come near them if a big fire burned
briskly; and all that night she piled on the wood, scraped away the ashes,
and watched Ann Mary to see that she did not grow chilly. Hannah does not
seem to have been much inclined to talk about her own feelings, and there
is no record of what she suffered that night; but I think we may be sure
that it seemed a long time to her before the sky began to whiten in the
east.

As soon as she could see plainly, she cooked a hearty breakfast of broiled
bacon and fried mush, and wakened her two charges to eat it. They made a
very early start, and there is nothing more to tell about their journey
except that at about seven o'clock that evening the two tired
horses crept into the main street of Heath Falls, and a very much excited
girl asked the first passer-by where the Indian herb-doctor lived.

They found him in a little old house of logs--the only one that looked
natural to them in the prosperous settlement. When Hannah knocked at the
door, he opened it himself. He was a small, very old, dark-brown, and
prodigiously wrinkled individual, who held up a candle and looked at
Hannah with the most impassive eyes she had ever seen--like little pools
of black water unstirred by any wind.

Hannah's breath came fast.


"Is this the Indian herb-doctor?" she asked.

"Aye," he answered.

When you remember that Hannah was only a little girl, and that she thought
she had come to the end of a nightmare of responsibility, it will not
surprise you to learn that she now began to cry a little, out of
agitation.

"I have brought Ann Mary," she said, "my sister, to be cured. She is in a
decline. Will you cure her?"

The herb-doctor showed no surprise. He set the candle down on the shelf,
and went out in the bright starlight to where Ann Mary clung to Remember
Williams's waist. When he put up his brown old hands to her, she slid down
into them and upon the ground. He still held one wrist, and this he
continued to do for some moments, looking at the white, drooping girl
without moving a muscle of his solemn old face. Then he turned to Hannah,
who had stopped crying and was holding her breath in suspense.

"Aye," he said.

At this Hannah caught her sister around the neck, sobbing joyfully:

"He will cure you, Ann Mary; he will cure you!" Then she asked the doctor:
"And how long will it take? We can stay but a few days, for the boy and
the horses must get back soon."

The herb-doctor considered for a moment.

"It is now the end of June month. By the end of September month she will
be cured--not before."

I think I know that that was a black moment for Hannah. She said nothing
at all, but the sick girl fell to weeping.

"But, Master Doctor, we cannot stay--we cannot! And now, after all, I
shall not be cured!"

Hannah could not bear to see her sweet Ann Mary in tears, and she cried
out stoutly:

"Yes, you shall, too! Remember can take the horses back without us, and
tell our father. Somehow--I can earn--oh, we _must_!" Then a new fear
sprang into her heart. "Oh, sir," she cried to the doctor, "is it dear,
your cure? Must one have much silver for it?"

The stolid little old gnome did not look toward her or change his position
as he said:

"It costs time--no silver," He moved toward the house. "Go to the
minister's to-night," he called from his doorstep. "It is the house of
brick." Just before he closed his door he added: "Come here to-morrow
morning."

When they reached the great brick house, the other two hung back, afraid
of so much grandeur; but three days of travel through the dangers of a
primitive forest had hardened Hannah to the lesser fear of strange people.
To the old minister and his wife she told their story very briefly, with a
desperate kind of self-possession, so concerned about poor Ann Mary, tired
and hungry, waiting out in the night air, that she did not remember to be
afraid of the minister's fine linen and smooth, white hands, or of the
laces and dark silk of his handsome, white-haired wife, or of the gold
braid and red coat of a dark young man with a quick eye who sat in the
corner.

The young man said nothing until after the old people had gone out to
bring in the wanderers. Then:

"You must be fond, indeed, of your sister, my little lass," he said
kindly.

"Sir," said Hannah, "you should _see_ my sister!"

And just then he did see her. Ann Mary came into the brightly lighted
room, her eyes wide and dark from the dusk outside, her long black hair,
shaken loose from its fastenings, curling up beautifully with the dew, and
making a frame for the pearl-like oval of her face. I have seen a
miniature of Ann Mary in her youth, and I can guess how she must have
looked to the young officer that evening.

The minister's wife gave them all a hot supper, and hurried them off to
bed with motherly authority. For the first time in her life, Hannah found
herself between linen sheets. She tried to call her sister's attention to
this astonishing magnificence, but fell asleep in the middle of the
sentence, and did not wake until late the next morning. Ann Mary had been
awake for some time, but did not dare get up, so overcome was she by
shyness and reverence for the grandeur of the room and of her hosts.

"Oh, Hannah! Would it not be like heaven to live always in such a place?"
she said.

Hannah could not stop to be shy, or to think about how she would like
mahogany beds all the time. She had too much on her mind. They must go at
once to the herb-doctor's--they should have been there before--and they
must hurry through their breakfast. It is, perhaps, worthy of note that
both girls came down the stairs backward, ladders having been, up to that
time, their only means of reaching elevations.

During their breakfast, the dark young man, who turned out to be a cousin
of the minister's, sat in a corner, playing with his dog's ears, and
looking at Ann Mary until she was quite abashed, although the younger
girl, at whom he glanced smilingly from time to time, thought he looked
very good-natured. After this, Hannah sent Remember Williams home with the
horses, giving him fresh and elaborate directions about the right road to
take. Then she marched Ann Mary to the herb-doctor's.

"Here, Master Necronsett," she said, "here is Ann Mary to be cured!"



III.


When the doctor told them about his system, Hannah did not like the sound
of it at all. Not a drop of "sut tea" or herb-drink was mentioned, but the
invalid was to eat all the hearty food Hannah could earn for her. Then, so
far from sleeping in a decently tight room, their bed was to stand in a
little old shed, set up against Master Necronsett's house. One side of the
shed was gone entirely, so that the wind and the sun would come right in
on poor, delicate Ann Mary, and there was only an awning of woven
bark-withes to let down when it rained.

But even that was not the worst. Hannah listened with growing suspicion
while Master Necronsett explained the rest of it. All his magic consisted
in the use of a "witch plant," the whole virtue of which depended on one
thing. The sick person must be the only one to handle or care for it, from
the seed up to the mature plant.

He took them up to his garret, where row after row of dried plants hung,
heavy with seed-pods, and with the most careful precautions to avoid
touching them himself, or having Hannah do so, he directed Ann Mary to fill
a two-quart basin with the seed.

"That will plant a piece of ground about six paces square," he said. "That
will raise enough seed for you."

"But who is to dig the ground, and plant, and weed, and water, and all?"
asked Hannah. "If I am to be earning all day, when--"

"The sick person must do all," said the herb-doctor.

Hannah could not believe her senses. Her Ann Mary, who could not even
brush her own hair without fatigue, she to take a spade in her--

"Oh, Master Doctor," she cried, "can I not do it for her?"

The old Indian turned his opaque black eyes upon her.

"Nay," he said dryly, "you cannot."

And with that he showed them where the witch garden was to be, close
before their little sleeping-hut. That was why, he explained, the patient
must spend all her time there, so that by night, as well as by day, she
could absorb the magical virtues of the growing plant Hannah thought those
were the first sensible words she had heard him say.

She had promised the minister's wife to be back at a certain hour to see
about employment, so she dared not stay longer, though it was with a
sinking heart that she left her sister to that grim old savage, with his
brusque lack of sympathy. However, the minister's wife reassured her with
stories of all the other girls from far and near whom he had cured by that
same foolish, silly method; so Hannah turned all her energies upon the
spinning which a neighbor-woman had set her to do.

Hired workers have been the same from the days of the Psalmist down to our
own, and Hannah, putting her whole heart into her work, accomplished, so
her surprised employer told her, twice as much spinning as any
serving-girl she had ever hired.

"And excellent good thread, too!" she said, examining it.

If Hannah kept up to _that_, she added, she could have all the work she
had time for. She gave the little girl two pennies--two real pennies, the
first money Hannah had ever earned. With a head spinning with triumph, she
calculated that at that rate she could earn fourpence a day!

She spent a farthing for some fish a little boy brought up from the river,
and a halfpenny for some fresh-baked bread, and a part of her precious
four-shilling piece for an iron fry-pan, or "spider." Laden with these,
she hurried back to see how Ann Mary had endured the old doctor's
roughness. She found her sister very tired, but, proudly anxious to show a
little spot, perhaps six feet; square, which she had spaded up with
intervals of rest.

"The herb-doctor says that I have done well, and that I will finish the
spading in a week, or perhaps even less," she said: "and I _like_ Master
Necronsett! He is a good old man, and I know that he will cure me. He
makes me feel very rested when he comes near."

Hannah felt a little pang to think that her sister should not miss her own
brooding care, but when Ann Mary cried out joyfully at the sight of the
food, "Oh, how hungry I am!" everything but pleasure was immediately
swept away from the little sister's loyal heart.

They cooked their supper--Hannah still had some of the cornmeal and the
flitch of bacon their Hillsboro friends had given them--and went to bed
directly on the queer, hard bed, with a straw tick and no feathers, which
Dr. Necronsett had prescribed, warmly wrapped up in the pair of heavy
Indian blankets he had loaned them. They were so close to the house that
they heard the old doctor moving around inside, and they could see the
light of his candle, so they were not afraid.

Indeed, the two sisters were so sleepy that even if they had been timorous
it could scarcely have kept them from the deep slumber into which they
fell at once, and which lasted until the sun shone in on them the next
morning.



IV.


That was the first day of that wonderful summer, and most of the days
which followed were like it. Every morning Hannah rose early, made a
little open fire, cooked their breakfast, and was off to her spinning.
Just as her first employer had said, there was no lack of work for a
spinner who worked as fast and yet as carefully as if it were for herself.
In Hannah's thread there were never any thin places which broke as soon as
the weaver stretched it on the loom, nor yet any thick lumps where the
wool had insisted, in grandmother's phrase, "on going all kim-kam."

At first, she went about to people's houses; but, seeing her so neat and
careful, the minister's wife loaned her one of her own wheels, and the
minister had an old granary cleared out for her workroom. Here, day after
day, the wheel whirred unceasingly, like a great bee, and Hannah stepped
back and forth, back and forth, on her tireless young feet, only glancing
out through the big door at the bright glories of the summer weather, and
never once regretting her imprisonment.

Indeed, she said, all her life afterward, that she was so happy, that
summer, it seemed heaven itself could hold no greater joy for her. Of
course, first always in her thoughts was Ann Mary, pulling weeds and
tending her witch garden, and growing plump and rosy, and so strong that
she laughed and ran about and sang as never in her life before.

Hannah put very little faith in the agricultural part of the cure. She
thought that very probably it was nothing more than a blind, and that
Master Necronsett came out at night and said charms and things over Ann
Mary as she slept. However that might be, she could have kissed his funny,
splay feet every time she looked at her sister's bright eyes and red lips;
and when she thought of the joy it would be to her father, she could have
kissed his ugly, wrinkled old face.

But, besides her joy over her sister's health, the summer was for Hannah
herself a continual feast of delight Captain Winthrop, the minister's
young cousin, was staying in Heath Falls to recover from an arrow-wound
got in a skirmish with the Indians in Canada. He was very idle, and very
much bored by the dullness of the little town, which seemed such a
metropolis to the two girls from Hillsboro. One day, attracted by Hannah's
shining face of content, he lounged over to the step of her granary, and
began to talk to her through the open doorway.

It happened to come out that the little spinner, while she knew her
letters from having worked them into a sampler, and could make shift to
write her name, could not read or write, and had never had the slightest
instruction in any sort of book-learning. Thereupon the young officer
good-naturedly proposed to be her teacher, if Hannah would like.

Would she _like_! She turned to him a look of such utter ecstasy that he
was quite touched, and went off at: once to get an old "A-B, ab" book.

That was the beginning of a new world to Hannah. She took her young
instructor's breath away by the avidity with which she devoured the
lessons he set her. By the rapt air of exultation with which Hannah
recited them, stepping back and forth by her wheel, you would have
thought that "c-a-t, cat; r-a-t, rat," was the finest poetry ever written.
And in no time at all it was no longer "c-a-t, cat," but "parallel,"
and "phthisis," and such orthographical atrocities, on which the eager
scholar was feeding; for, Hannah's mind was as fresh as her round, rosy
face, and as vigorous as her stout little body.

Captain Winthrop had several reasons for being interested in Hannah; and
when he found her so quick at her spelling, he said he was willing to
occupy some of his enforced leisure in giving her instruction in other
branches. Hannah fell to at this feast of knowledge like a young bear in a
bee-tree.

But there were some difficulties. Like the spelling, arithmetic was all
very well, since she could do that in her head while she spun; but reading
and writing were different. She would not stop her work for them, and so
Captain Winthrop fell into the habit of going over to Master Necronsett's
house in the afternoon with his books, and being there, all ready for a
lesson, when Hannah came hurrying back after she had finished her day's
"stint." As long as there was light to see, she pored over her writing and
reading, while the young officer sat by, ready to help, and talking in a
low tone to Ann Mary.

After a time there grew up a regular routine for Captain Winthrop. In the
mornings he went out to the granary and read aloud to Hannah from a book
called "The Universal Preceptor; being a General Grammar of Art, Science,
and Useful Knowledge." Out of this he taught her about "mechanical powers"
and "animated nature" and astronomy and history and geography--almost
anything that came to his hand.

Up in our garret we have the very book he used, and modern research and
science have proved that there is scarcely a true word in it. But don't
waste any pity on Hannah for having such a mistaken teacher, for it is
likely enough, don't you think, that research and science a hundred years
from now will have proved that there is scarcely a word of truth in our
school-books of to-day? It really doesn't seem to matter much.

At any rate, those were the things of which Captain Winthrop talked to
Hannah in the mornings. In the afternoon, he went over to an apple-tree by
the edge of the witch garden, and there he found Ann Mary; and what he
talked to her about nobody knew but herself, although Master Necronsett
passed back and forth so often in his herb-gathering that it is likely he
may have caught something. It seems not improbable, from what happened
afterward, that the young man was telling the young girl things which did
not come out of a book, and which are consequently safe from science and
research, for they are certainly as true to-day as they were then.

Once, in her anxiety to have everything exactly right for her sister,
Hannah asked Master Necronsett about Captain Winthrop's being there so
much.

"Master Doctor, will not Captain Winthrop absorb, perchance, some of the
great virtue of the plant away from Ann Mary? Will he not hurt her cure?"

Grandmother never says so, but I have always imagined that even that
carven image of an old aborigine must, have smiled a little as he told
her:

"Nay, the young man will not hurt your sister's cure."

At the end of September, something tremendously exciting happened to
Hannah. She had been so busy learning the contents of that old calf-bound
book that she had never noticed how a light seemed to shine right through
Ann Mary's lovely face every time Captain Winthrop looked at her. The
little student was the most surprised girl in the world when the young
soldier told her, one morning in the granary, that he wanted her sister
to marry him, and that Ann Mary wanted it, too, if Hannah would allow it.

He laughed a little as he said this last, but he looked anxiously at her,
for Ann Mary, who was as sweet as she was pretty and useless, had felt it
to be a poor return for Hannah's devotion, now after all, just to go off
and desert her. She had said that, if Hannah thought she ought to, she
would go back to Hillsboro, and they would have to wait ever so long. So
now Captain Winthrop looked very nervously at Ann Mary's little sister.

But he did not know Hannah. She gave a little cry, as if someone had
stabbed her, turned very pale, and, leaving her wheel still whirling, she
ran like the wind toward Dr. Necronsett's. She wanted to see her sister;
she wanted to _see_ if this----

Close to the minister's house she met Ann Mary, who could not wait any
longer, and was coming to meet her. After one glimpse of that beautiful,
radiant face, Hannah fell a weeping for very joy that her dear Ann Mary
was so happy, and was to marry the grand and learned and goodly Captain
Winthrop.

There was not a thought in Hannah's mind, then or later, that she must
lose Ann Mary herself. Grandmother explains here that the truth is that a
heart like Hannah's cannot lose anything good; and perhaps that is so.

Thus, hand in hand, laughing and crying together, the two girls came back
to the granary, where Ann Mary's lover took her in his arms and kissed her
many times out of light-heartedness that Hannah would put no obstacle in
the way. This made little Hannah blush and feel very queer. She looked
away, and there was her wheel still languidly stirring a little. Dear me!
How many, many times have I heard the next detail in the story told!

"And, without really, so to speak, sensing what she was doing, didn't she
put her hand to the rim and start it up again? And when the other two
looked around at her, there she was, spinning and smiling, with the tears
in her eyes. It had all happened in less time than it takes a spin-wheel
to run down."

After that day things happened fast. Captain Winthrop rode off over the
mountains to Hillsboro, to ask John Sherwin if he might marry his
daughter; and when he came back, there was John Sherwin himself riding
along beside him, like an old friend. And when he saw his two dear
daughters--Ann Mary, who had gone away like a lily, now blooming like a
rose, and Hannah, stout little Hannah, with her honest blue eyes
shining--when he saw his two daughters, I say--well, I'm sure I have no
idea what happened, for at this point grandmother always takes off her
glasses, and sniffs hard, and wipes her eyes before she can go on.

So there was a wedding at the minister's house, and everybody in Heath
Falls was invited, because Hannah said they had been so good to her.
Everybody came, too, except old Master Necronsett, and that was nothing,
because he never went anywhere except to the woods.

I know just what the bride and Hannah wore, for we have pieces of the
material in our oldest cedar chest; but, of course, as they weren't your
own great-great-great-grandmother and aunt, perhaps you wouldn't care to
have me tell you all about their costumes. It was a grand occasion,
however--that you can take from me; and the family tradition is that Ann
Mary looked like a wonderful combination of an angel and a star.

And then Captain and Mrs. Winthrop rode off in one direction, and Hannah
and her father in another, and there were a great many tears shed, for all
everybody; was so happy.



VI.


Hannah went home with her head full of new ideas, and with four books in
her saddle-bags--which, for those days, was a large library. These were
the Bible, the "Universal Preceptor," a volume of the Shakespeare
comedies, and Plutarch's "Lives." Armed with these weapons, how she did
stir things up in Hillsboro! She got the children together into a school,
and taught them everything she had learned in Heath Falls; and that was
so much--what with the studying which she always kept up by herself--that
from our little scrap of a village three students went down to the college
at William's Town, in Massachusetts, the first year it was started, and
there has been a regular procession of them ever since.

After a time she married Giles Wheeler, and began to teach her own
children--she had nine--and very well instructed they were. She was too
busy, then, to go into the schoolroom to teach; but never, then or later,
even when she was an old, old woman, did she take her vigilant eyes and
her managing hand off the schools of our county.

It was due to her that Hillsboro could boast for so long that its
percentage of illiterates was zero. If, by chance, anyone grew up without
knowing how to read, Aunt Hannah pounced on him and made him learn,
whether he would or not. She loaned about, to anyone who would read them,
the books she brought from Heath Falls; and in time she started a little
library. Remembering the days when Captain Winthrop had read aloud to her
in the granary, she had her children go about to read aloud to sick
people, and to busy seamstresses or spinners who had no time for books.

And the number of girls in declines she cured by Master Necronsett's
system! You would not believe it, if I told you. And she had our river
named after that wise old heathen, and we think it the prettiest name
possible for a river.

All this time, Ann Mary's position was getting grander and grander, for
Captain Winthrop was on the American side when the Revolution came, and
grew to be a very important man. Ann Mary dressed in brocade every day and
all day, and went to Philadelphia, where she met General and Mrs.
Washington, and ever so many more famous people.

Wherever she went, she was admired and loved for her beauty and
gentleness; but she did not forget Hannah. Nearly every traveler from the
South brought a message or a present from Madam Winthrop to Mistress
Wheeler, and once she and General Winthrop came and made a long visit in
Hillsboro.

Grandmother's grandmother was old enough, by that time, to remember the
visit very clearly; and it was from talk between the two sisters that she
learned all about this story. She said she never saw a more beautiful
woman than Madam Winthrop, nor heard a sweeter voice. But how Hannah had
to hush the unmannerly surprise of her brood of quick-witted youngsters
when they found out that elegant Aunt Ann Mary did not know her letters,
and had never heard of Julius Caesar or Oliver Cromwell! For marriage did
not change Ann Mary very much; but as her husband was perfectly satisfied
with her, I dare say it was just as well.

However, when the Winthrop cousins begin to put on airs, and to talk about
autograph letters from Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson addressed to their
great-great-great-grandmother, and to show beautiful carved fans and
lace handkerchiefs which she carried at State balls in Philadelphia and
New York, I have to bite my tongue to keep from reminding them that they
have no autograph letters of _hers_!

Then I go up into our garret, and look at Hannah's shabby old books, and I
ride over to the place on the road where she tended the fire that night,
and I think of the number of Hillsboro boys and girls to whom she opened
the great world of books, and--somehow, I am just as well pleased that it
was not the lovely Ann Mary who came back to our town and became my
great-great-great-grandmother.



THE DELIVERER


"I shall not die, but live; and declare the works of the Lord."

The great lady pointed with a sigh of pleasure to the canvas hung between
a Greuze and a Watteau! "Ah, is there anyone like LeMaury! Alone in the
eighteenth century he had eyes for the world of wood and stream.
You poets and critics, why do you never write of him? Is it true that no
one knows anything of his life?"

The young writer hesitated. "I do not think I exaggerate, madame, when I
say that I alone in Paris know his history. He was a compatriot of mine."

"Oh, come, Mr. Everett, LeMaury an American! With that name!"

"He called himself LeMaury after his protector, the man who brought him
to France. His real name was Everett, like my own. He was cousin to one of
my great-grandfathers."

"Ah, an old family story. That is the best kind. You must tell it to me."

"I will write it for you, madame."



I


At the foot of Hemlock Mountain spring came late that year, now a century
and a half gone by, as it comes late still to the remote back valley,
lying high among the Green Mountains; but when it came it had a savor of
enchantment unknown to milder regions. The first day of spring was no
uncertain date in Hillsboro, then as now. One morning generally about the
middle of May, people woke up with the sun shining in their eyes, and the
feeling in their hearts that something had happened in the night. The
first one of the family dressed, who threw open the house-door, felt the
odor of stirring life go to his head, was the Reverend Mr. Everett
himself. In the little community of Puritans, whose isolation had
preserved intact the rigidity of faith which had begun to soften somewhat
in other parts of New England, there was no one who openly saluted the
miracle of resurrection by more than the brief remark, "Warm weather's
come"; but sometimes the younger men went back and kissed their wives. It
was an event, the first day of spring, in old-time Hillsboro.

In the year of our Lord 1756 this event fell upon a Sabbath, a fact which
the Reverend Mr. Everett commemorated by a grim look out at the budding
trees, and by taking from his store of sermons a different one from that
he had intended to preach. It was his duty to scourge natural man out of
the flock committed to his charge by an angry and a jealous God, and he
had felt deep within him a damnable stirring of sensual pleasure as the
perfumed breath of the new season had blown across his face. If the
anointed of the Lord had thus yielded to the insidious wiles of
unregenerate nature what greater dangers lay in wait for the weaklings
under his care! The face of his son Nathaniel, as he came back from the
brook, his slender body leaning sideways from the weight of the dripping
bucket, told the shepherd of souls that he must be on his guard against
the snares of the flesh.

The boy's thin, dark face, so astonishingly like his father's, was lifted
toward the sky as he came stumbling up the path, but his eyes were
everywhere at once. Just before he reached the door, he set the bucket
down with a cry of ecstasy and darted to the edge of the garden, where the
peas were just thrusting green bowed heads through the crumbling earth. He
knelt above them breathless, he looked up to the maple-twigs, over which a
faint reddish bloom had been cast in the night, beyond to the lower slopes
of the mountain, delicately patterned with innumerable white stems of
young birch-trees, and clasped his hands to see that a shimmer of green
hung in their tops like a mist. His lips quivered, he laid his hand upon a
tuft of grass with glossy, lance-like blades, and stroked it.

His father came to the door and called him. "Nathaniel!"

He sprang up with guilty haste and went toward the house. A shriveling
change of expression came over him.

The minister began, "A wise son heareth his father's instructions; but a
scorner heareth not rebuke."

"I hear you, father."

"Why did you linger in the garden and forget your duty?"

"I--I cannot tell you, father."

"Do you mean you do not know why?"

"I cannot say I do not know."

"Then answer me."

Nathaniel broke out desperately, "I _cannot_, father--I know no words--I
was--it is so warm--the sun shines--the birches are out--I was glad----"

The minister bowed his head sadly. "Aye, even as I thought. Sinful lust of
the eye draggeth you down to destruction. You whose salvation even now
hangs in the balance, for whose soul I wrestle every night in prayer that
you may be brought to the conviction of sin, 'you were glad.' Remember the
words, 'If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy, may my tongue cleave
to the roof of my mouth.'"

Nathaniel made no reply. He caught at the door, looking up wretchedly at
his father. When the minister turned away without speaking again, he drew
a long breath of relief.

Breakfast was always a silent meal in the Everett house, but on Sabbath
mornings the silence had a heavy significance. The preacher was beginning
then to work himself up to the pitch of storming fervor which made his
sermons so notable, and his wife and son cowered under the unspoken
emanations of the passion which later poured so terribly from the pulpit.
The Reverend Mr. Everett always ate very heartily on Sabbath mornings, but
Nathaniel usually pushed his plate away.

As a rule he walked to church between his father and his mother, like a
little child, although he was now a tall lad of sixteen, but to-day he was
sent back for a psalm-book, forgotten in the hurry of their early start.
When he set out again the rest of the village folk were all in the
meeting-house. The sight of the deserted street, walled in by the forest,
lying drowsily in the spring sunshine, was like balm to him. He loitered
along, free from observation, his eyes shining. A fat, old negro woman
sat on a doorstep in the sun, the only other person not in meeting. She
was a worn-out slave, from a Connecticut seaport, who had been thrown in
for good measure in a sharp bargain driven by the leading man of
Hillsboro. A red turban-like cloth was bound above her black face, she
rested her puffy black arms across her knees and crooned a monotonous
refrain. Although the villagers regarded her as imbecile, they thought her
harmless, and Nathaniel nodded to her as he passed. She gave him a rich
laugh and a "Good morrow, Marse Natty, _good_ morrow!"

A hen clucking to her chicks went across the road before him. The little
yellow balls ran briskly forward on their wiry legs, darting at invisible
insects, turning their shiny black eyes about alertly and filling the air
with their sweet, thin pipings. Nathaniel stopped to watch them, and as he
noticed the pompously important air with which one of the tiny creatures
scratched the ground with his ineffectual little feet, cocking his eye
upon the spot afterward as if to estimate the amount of progress made, the
boy laughed out loud. He started at the sound and glanced around him
hurriedly, moving on to the meeting-house from which there now burst forth
a harshly intoned psalm. He lingered for a moment at the door, gazing back
at the translucent greens of the distant birches gleaming against the
black pines. A gust of air perfumed with shad-blossom blew past him, and
with this in his nostrils he entered the whitewashed interior and made his
way on tiptoe up the bare boards of the aisle.



II


After meeting the women and children walked home to set out the cold
viands for the Sabbath dinner, while the men stood in a group on the green
before the door for a few minutes' conversation.

"Verily, Master Everett, the breath of the Almighty was in your words this
day as never before," said one of them. "One more such visitation of the
anger of God and your son will be saved."

"How looked he when they bore him out?" asked the minister faintly. His
face was very white.

The other continued, "Truly, reverend sir, your setting forth of the devil
lying in wait for the thoughtless, and the lake burning with brimstone,
did almost affright me who for many years now have known myself to be of
the elect. I could not wonder that terrors melted the soul of your son."

"How looked he when they bore him out?" repeated the minister impatiently.

The other answered encouragingly, "More like death than life, so the women
say." The minister waved the men aside and went swiftly down the street.
The hen and chickens fled with shrill cries at his approach, and the old
negress stopped her song. After he had passed she chuckled slowly to
herself, thrust her head up sideways to get the sun in a new place, and
began her crooning chant afresh.

"How is the boy?" asked the minister of his wife as he stepped inside the
door. "Not still screaming out and----"

Mistress Everett shook her head reassuringly. "Nay, he is quiet now, up in
his room."

Nathaniel lay on his trundle bed, his eyes fixed on the rafters, his pale
lips drawn back. At the sight his father sat down heavily on the edge of
the bed. The boy sprang upon him with a cry, "Oh, father, I see fire
always there--last winter when I burned my finger--oh, always such pain!"

The minister's voice broke as he said, "Oh, Nathaniel, the blessed ease
when all this travail is gone by and thou knowest thyself to be of the
elect."

Nathaniel screamed out at this, a fleck of froth showing on his lips.
"That is the horrible thing--I know I am not one of the saved. My heart is
all full of carnal pleasures and desires. To look at the sun on the
hillside--why I love it so that I forget my soul--hell--God--"

His father gave a deep shocked groan and put his hand over the quivering
lips. "Be not a bitterness to him that begot you. Hush!"

The fever of excitement left the boy and he fell down with his face in the
pillow to lie there motionless until his parents went out for second
meeting, leaving him alone in the house. "Confidence must be rooted out of
his tabernacle," said his father sternly. "The spirit of God is surely
working in his heart in which I see many of my own besetting sins."

Nathaniel sprang up, when he heard the door shut, with a distracted idea
of escape, now that his jailers were away, and felt an icy stirring in the
roots of his hair at the realization that his misery lay within, that the
walls of his own flesh and blood shut it inexorably into his heart
forever. He threw open the window and leaned out.

The old negress came out of the woods at the other end of the street, her
turban gleaming red. She moved in a cautious silence past the
meeting-house, but when she came opposite the minister's house, thinking
herself alone, she burst into a gay, rapid song, the words of which she so
mutilated in her barbarous accent that only a final "Oh, Molly-oh!" could
be distinguished. She carried an herb-basket on her arm now, into which,
from time to time, she looked with great satisfaction.

Nathaniel ran down the stairs and out of the door calling. She paused,
startled. "How can you sing and laugh and walk so lightly?" he cried out.

She cocked her head on one side with her turtle-like motion. "Why should
she not sing?" she asked in her thick, sweet voice. She had never learned
the difference between the pronouns. "She's be'n gatherin' yarbs in the
wood, an' th' sun is warm," she blinked at it rapidly, "an' the winter it
is pas', Marse Natty, no mo' winter!"

Nathaniel came close up to her, laying his thin fingers on her fat, black
arm. His voice quivered. "But they say if you love those things and if
they make you glad you are damned to everlasting brimstone fire. Tell me
how you dare to laugh, so that I will dare too."

The old woman laughed, opening her mouth so widely that the red lining to
her throat showed moistly, and all her fat shook on her bones. "Lord love
ye, chile, dat's white folks' talk. Dat don't scare a old black woman!"
She shifted her basket to the other arm and prepared to go on. "You're
bleeged to be keerful 'bout losin' yo' soul. Black folks ain't got no
souls, bless de Lord! When _dey_ dies dey _dies_!"

She shuffled along, laughing, and began to sing again. Nathaniel looked
after her with burning eyes. After she had disappeared between the tree
trunks of the forest, the breeze bore back to him a last joyous whoop of
"_Oh_, Molly-oh!" He burst into sobs, and shivering, made his way back
into his father's darkening, empty house.



III


At the breakfast table the next morning his father looked at him
neutrally. "This day you shall go to salt the sheep in the Miller lot," he
announced, "and you may have until the hour before sundown to walk in the
wood."

"Oh, _father_, really!"

"That is what I said," repeated the minister dryly, pushing away from the
table.

After the boy had gone, carrying the bag of salt and the little package of
his noonday meal, the minister sighed heavily. "I fear my weak heart
inclines me to too great softness to our son." To his wife he cried out a
moment later, "Oh, that some instance of the wrath of Jehovah could come
before us now, while our son's spirit is softened. Deacon Truitt said
yesterday that one more visitation would save him."

Nathaniel walked along soberly, his eyes on the road at his feet, his face
quite pale, a sleepless night evidently behind him. He came into the
birches without noticing them at first, and when he looked up he was for a
moment so taken by surprise that he was transfigured. The valley at his
feet shimmered like an opal through the slender white pillars of the
trees. The wood was like a many-columned chapel, unroofed and open to the
sunlight. Nathaniel gave a cry of rapture, and dropped the bag of salt.
"Oh!" he cried, stretching out his arms, and then again, "Oh!"

For a moment he stood so, caught into a joy that was almost anguish, and
then at a sudden thought he shrank together, his arm crooked over his
eyes. He sank forward, still covering his eyes, into a great bed of fern,
just beginning to unroll their whitey-green balls into long, pale plumes.
There he lay as still as if he were dead.

Two men came riding through the lane, their horses treading noiselessly
over the leaf-mold. They had almost passed the motionless, prostrate
figure when the older reined in and pointed with his whip. "What is that,
LeMaury?"

At the unexpected sound the boy half rose, showing a face so convulsed
that the other horseman cried out alarmed, "It ees a man crazed! Ride on,
_mon colonel_!" He put spurs to his horse and sprang forward as he spoke.

The old soldier laughed a little, and turned to Nathaniel. "Why, 'tis the
minister his son. I know you by the look of your father in you. What bad
dream have we waked you from, you pretty boy?"

"You have not waked me from it," cried Nathaniel. "I will never wake as
long as I live, and when I die--!"

"Why, LeMaury is right. The poor lad is crazed. We must see to this."

He swung himself stiffly from the saddle and came limping up to Nathaniel.
Kneeling by the boy he brought him up to a sitting position, and at the
sight of the ashen face and white, turned-back eyeballs he sat down
hastily, drawing the young head upon his shoulder with a rough tenderness.
"Why, so lads look under their first fire, when they die of fear. What
frights you so?"

Nathaniel opened great solemn eyes upon him. "I suppose it is the
conviction of sin. That is what they call it."

For an instant the old man's face was blank with astonishment, and then it
wrinkled into a thousand lines of mirth. He began to laugh as though he
would never stop. Nathaniel had never heard anyone laugh like that. He
clutched at the old man.

"How dare you laugh!"

The other wiped his eyes and rocked to and fro, "I laugh--who would
not--that such a witless baby should talk of his sin. You know not what
sin is, you silly innocent!"

At the kindliness of the tone an aching knot in the boy's throat relaxed.
He began to talk hurriedly, in a desperate whisper, his hands like little
birds' claws gripping the other's great gauntleted fist. "You do not know
how wicked I am--I am so wholly forward the wonder is the devil does not
take me at once. I live only in what my father calls the lust of the eye.
I--I would rather look at a haw-tree in bloom than meditate on the
Almighty!" He brought out this awful confession with a gasp at its
enormity, but hurried on to a yet more terrible climax. "I cannot be
righteous, but many times there are those who cannot--but oh, worse than
that, I cannot even _wish_ to be! I can only wish to be a painter."

At this unexpected ending the old man gave an exclamation of extreme
amazement.

"But, boy, lad, what's your name? However did you learn that there are
painters in the world, here in this prison-house of sanctity?"

Nathaniel had burrowed into his protector's coat as though hiding from the
imminent wrath of God. He now spoke in muffled tones. "Two years ago, when
I was but a little child, there came a man to our town, a Frenchman, they
said, and his horse fell lame, and he stopped two days at my Uncle
Elzaphan's. My Uncle Elzaphan asked him what business did he in the world,
and he said he put down on cloth or paper with brushes and colors all the
fair and comely things he saw. And he showed a piece of paper with on it
painted the row of willows along our brook. I sat in the chimney-corner
and no one heeded me. I saw--oh, then I _knew_! I have no paint, but ever
since I have made pictures with burnt sticks on birchbark--though my
father says that of all the evil ways of evil men none lead down more
swift to the chambers of death and the gates of hell than that. Every
night I make a vow unto the Lord that I will sin no more; but in the
morning the devil whispers in my ear and I rise up and sin again--no man
knows this--and I am never glad unless I think I have done well with my
pictures, and I hate the meeting-house and--" His voice died away
miserably.

"Two years ago, was't?" asked the old man. "And the man was French?"

"Aye."

The old soldier shifted his position, stretched out a stiff knee with a
grimace of pain, and pulled the tall lad bodily into his lap like a child.
For some time the two were silent, the sun shining down warmly on them
through the faint, vaporous green of the tiny leaves. The old horse
cropped the young shoots with a contented, ruminative air, once in a while
pausing to hang his head drowsily, and bask motionless in the warmth.

Then the old man began to speak in a serious tone, quite different from
his gentle laughter. "Young Everett, of all the people you have seen, is
there one whom you would wish to have even a moment of the tortures of
hell?"

Nathaniel looked at him horrified. "Why, no!" he cried indignantly.

"Then do you think your God less merciful than you?"

Nathaniel stared long into the steady eyes. "Oh, do you mean it is not
_true_?" He leaned close in an agony of hope. "Sometimes I have thought it
_could_ not be true!"

The old soldier struck him on the shoulder inspiritingly, his
weather-beaten face very grave. "Aye, lad, I mean it is not true. I am an
old man and I have learned that they lie who say it is true. There is no
hell but in our own hearts when we do evil; and we can escape a way out of
that by repenting and doing good. There is no devil but our evil desires,
and God gives to every man strength to fight with those. There is only
good in your love for the fair things God made and put into the world for
us to love. No man but only your own heart can tell you what is wrong and
what is right. Only _do not fear_, for all is well."

The scene was never to fade from Nathaniel Everett's eyes. In all the
after crises of his life the solemn words rang in his ears.

The old man suddenly smiled at him, all quaint drollery again. "And now
wait." He put hand to mouth and hallooed down the lane. "Ho there!
LeMaury!"

As the Frenchman came into sight, the old man turned to Nathaniel, "Is
this the gentleman who painted your willows?"

"Oh, aye!" cried Nathaniel.

The Frenchman dismounted near them with sparkling glances of inquiry.
"See, LeMaury, this is young Master Everett, whom you have bewitched with
your paint-pots. He would fain be an artist--_de gustibus_--! Perhaps you
have in him an apprentice for your return to France."

The artist looked sharply at Nathaniel. "Eh, so? Can young master draw?
Doth he know aught of _chiaroscuro_?"

Nathaniel blushed at his ignorance and looked timidly at his protector.

"Nay, he knows naught of your painter's gibberish. Give him a crayon and a
bit of white bark and see can he make my picture. I'll lean my head back
and fold my hands to sleep."

In the long sunny quiet that followed, the old man really slipped away
into a light doze, from which he was awakened by a loud shout from
LeMaury. The Frenchman had sprung upon Nathaniel and was kissing his
cheeks, which were now crimson with excitement. "Oh, it is Giotto come
back again. He shall be anything--Watteau."

Nathaniel broke away and ran toward the old man, his eyes blazing with
hope.

"What does he mean?" he demanded.

"He means that you're to be a painter and naught else, though how a man
can choose to daub paint when there are swords to be carried--well, well,"
he pulled himself painfully to his feet, wincing at gouty twinges, "I will
go and see your father about--"

"_Mais, Colonel Hall, dites_! How can I arrange not to lose this pearl
among artists?"

At the name, for he had not understood the title before, pronounced as it
was in French, the boy fell back in horrified recognition. "Oh! you are
Colonel Gideon Hall!"

"Aye, lad, who else?" The old soldier swung himself up to the saddle,
groaning, "Oh, damn that wet ground! I fear I cannot sit the nag home."

"But then you are the enemy of God--the chosen one of Beelzebub----"

"Do they call me _that_ in polite and pious Hillsboro?"

The Frenchman broke in, impatient of this incomprehensible talk. "See,
boy, you--Everett--I go back to France now soon. I lie next Friday night
at Woodburn. If you come to me there we will go together to France--to
Paris--you will be the great artist----"

He was silenced by a gesture from the colonel, who now sat very straight
on his horse and beckoned to Nathaniel. The boy came timorously. "You have
heard lies about me, Everett. Be man enough to trust your own heart." He
broke into a half-sad little laugh at Nathaniel's face of fascinated
repulsion.

"You can laugh now," whispered the boy, close at his knee, "but when you
come to die? Why, even my father trembles at the thought of death. Oh, if
I could but believe you!"

"Faugh! To fear death when one has done his best!"

He had turned his horse's head, but Nathaniel called after him, bringing
out the awful words with an effort. "But they say--that you do not believe
in God."

The colonel laughed again. "Why, lad, I'm the only man in this damn town
who does." He put his horse into a trot and left Nathaniel under the
birch-trees, the sun high over his head, the bag of salt forgotten at his
feet.



IV


A little before sundown the next day the minister strode into his house,
caught up his Bible, and called to his wife, "Deborah, the Lord hath
answered me in my trouble. Call Nathaniel and bring him after me to the
house of Gideon Hall."

Mistress Everett fell back, her hand at her heart, "To _that_ house?"

"Aye, even there. He lieth at the point of death. So are the wicked
brought into desolation. Yesterday, as he rode in the wood, his horse cast
him down so that it is thought he may not live till dark. I am sent for by
his pious sisters to wrestle with him in prayer. Oh, Deborah, now is the
time to strike the last blow for the salvation of our son. Let him see how
the devil carries off the transgressor into the fires of hell, or let him
see how, at the last, the proudest must make confession of his wicked
unbelief----"

He hurled himself through the door like a javelin, while his wife turned
to explain to Nathaniel the reason for the minister's putting on his
Sabbath voice of a week-day morning. He cried out miserably, "Oh, mother,
_don't_ make me go there!"

"Nay, Nathaniel, there is naught new. You have been with us before to many
a sickbed and seen many a righteous death. This is an ill man, whose
terrors at the reward of his unbelief will be like goodly medicine to your
sick soul, and teach you to lay hold on righteousness while there is yet
time."

"But, mother, my Uncle Elzaphan said--I asked him this morning about
Colonel Hall--that he had done naught but good to all men, that he had
fought bravely with French and Indians, that the poor had half of his
goods, that--"

She took him by the hand and dragged him relentlessly out upon the street.
"Your Uncle Elzaphan is a man of no understanding, and does not know that
the devil has no more subtile lure than a man who does good works but who
is not of the true faith. Aye, he maketh a worse confusion to the simple
than he who worketh iniquity by noonday."

She led him through the village street, through a long curving lane where
he had never been before, and down an avenue of maple-trees to a house at
which he had always been forbidden even to look. Various of the neighbor
women were hurrying along in the same direction. As they filed up the
stairs he trembled to hear his father's voice already raised in the
terrible tones of one of his inspired hours. At the entrance to the sick
chamber he clung for a moment to the door, gazing at the wild-eyed women
who knelt about the room, their frightened eyes fixed on his father. His
knees shook under him. He had a qualm of nausea at the slimy images of
corruption and decay which the minister was trumpeting forth as the end to
all earthly pride.

His mother pushed him inexorably forward into the room, and then, across
the nightmare of frenzy, he met the calm gaze of the dying man. It was the
turning-point of his life.

He ran to the bed, falling on his knees, clasping the great knotty hand
and searching the eyes which were turned upon him, gently smiling. The
minister, well pleased with this evidence of his son's emotion, caught his
breath for another flight of eloquence which should sear and blast the
pretensions of good works as opposed to the true faith. "See how low the
Lord layeth the man who thinks to bargain with the Almighty, and to ransom
his soul from hell by deeds which are like dust and ashes to Jehovah."

Nathaniel crept closer and whispered under cover of his father's
thunderings, "Oh, you are truly not afraid?"

The dying man looked at him, his eyes as steady as when they were in the
woods. "Nay, little comrade, it is all a part of life."

After that he seemed to sink into partial unconsciousness. Nathaniel felt
his hand grow colder, but he still held it, grasping it more tightly when
he felt the fumes of his father's reeking eloquence mount to his brain.
The women were all sobbing aloud. A young girl was writhing on the floor,
her groans stifled by her mother's hand. The air of the room was stifling
with hysteria. The old sister of the dying man called out, "Oh, quick,
Master Everett. He is going. Exhort him now to give us some token that at
the last he repents of his unbelief."

The minister whirled about, shaking with his own violence. The sweat was
running down his face. "Gideon Hall, I charge you to say if you repent of
your sins."

There was a pause. The silence was suffocating.

The old man gradually aroused himself from his torpor, although he did not
open his eyes. "Aye, truly I repent me of my sins," he whispered mildly,
"for any unkindness done to any man, or----"

The minister broke in, his voice mounting shrilly, "Nay, not so, thou
subtle mocker. Dost thou repent thee of thy unbelief in the true faith?"

Colonel Gideon Hall opened his eyes. He turned his head slowly on the
pillow until he faced the preacher, and at the sight of his terrible eyes
and ecstatic pallor he began to laugh whimsically, as he had laughed in
the wood with Nathaniel. "Why, man, I thought you did but frighten women
with it--not yourself too. Nay, do not trouble about me. _I_ don't believe
in your damned little hell."

The smile on his face gradually died away into a still serenity, which was
there later, when the minister lifted his son away from the dead man's
bed.



V


The four old men walked sturdily forward with their burden, although at
intervals they slipped their tall staves under the corners and rested,
wiping their foreheads and breathing hard. As they stood thus silent,
where the road passed through a thicket of sumac, a boy came rapidly
around the curve and was upon them before he saw that he was not alone.
He stopped short and made a guilty motion to hide a bundle that he
carried. The old men stared at him, and reassured by this absence of
recognition he advanced slowly, looking curiously at the great scarlet
flag which hung in heavy folds from their burden.

"Is this the road to Woodburn?" he asked them.

"Aye," they answered briefly.

He had almost passed them when he stopped again, drawing in his breath.

"Oh, are you--is this Colonel--"

"Aye, lad," said the oldest of the bearers, "this is the funeral
procession of the best commander and truest man who ever lived."

"But why--" began the boy, looking at the flag.

"He's wrapped in the flag of the king that he was a loyal servant to,
because the damned psalm-singing hypocrites in the town where he lived of
late would not make a coffin for him--no, nor allow ground to bury
him--no, nor men to bear him out to his grave! We be men who have served
under him in three wars, and we come from over the mountain to do the last
service for him. He saved our lives for us more than once--brave Colonel
Gid!"

They all uncovered at the name, and the boy shyly and awkwardly took his
cap off.

"May I--may I see him once again?" he asked, dropping his bundle. "He
saved my life too."

Two men put their gnarled old hands to the flag and drew it down from the
head of the bier. The boy did not speak, but he went nearer and nearer
with an expression on his face which one of the old men answered aloud.
"Aye, is he not at peace! God grant we may all look so when the time
comes."

They let the flag fall over the dead face again, set their shoulders to
the bier, and moved forward, bringing down their great staves rhythmically
as they walked. The boy stood still looking after them. When they passed
out into the sunshine of the open hillside he ran to the edge of the
thicket so that he could still follow them with his eyes. They plodded on,
growing smaller and smaller in the distance, until as they paused on the
crest of the hill only a spot of red could be seen, brilliant against the
brilliant sky.

The boy went back and picked up his bundle. When he returned to the edge
of the thicket the spot of red was disappearing over the hill. He took off
his cap and stood there until there was nothing before him but the sun
shining on the hillside.

Then he turned about, and walking steadily, Nathaniel Everett entered into
his own world.



NOCTES AMBROSIANAE


  From Hemlock Mountain's barren crest
  The roaring gale flies down the west
  And drifts the snow on Redmount's breast
      In hollows dark with pine.

      Full in its path from hill to hill
  There stands, beside a ruined mill,
  A lonely house, above whose sill
      A brace of candles shine.

      And there an ancient bachelor
  And maiden sister, full three-score,
  Sit all forgetful of the roar
      Of wind and mountain stream;

      Forgot the wind, forgot the snow,
  What magic airs about them blow?
  They read, in wondering voices low,
      The Midsummer Night's Dream!

      And, reading, past their frozen hill
  In charmed woods they range at will
  And hear the horns of Oberon shrill
      Above the plunging Tam;--

      Yea, long beyond the cock's first crow
  In dreams they walk where windflowers blow;
  Late do they dream, and liker grow
      To Charles and Mary Lamb.



HILLSBORO'S GOOD LUCK


When the news of Hillsboro's good fortune swept along the highroad there
was not a person in the other three villages of the valley who did not
admit that Hillsboro deserved it. Everyone said that in this case
Providence had rewarded true merit, Providence being represented by Mr.
Josiah Camden, king of the Chicago wheat pit, whose carelessly bestowed
bounty meant the happy termination of Hillsboro's long and arduous
struggles.

The memory of man could not go back to the time when that town had not
had a public library. It was the pride of the remote village, lost among
the Green Mountains, that long before Carnegie ever left Scotland there
had been a collection of books free to all in the wing of Deacon
Bradlaugh's house. Then as now the feat was achieved by the united efforts
of all inhabitants. They boasted that the town had never been taxed a cent
to keep up the library, that not a person had contributed a single penny
except of his own free will; and it was true that the public spirit of the
village concentrated itself most harmoniously upon this favorite feature
of their common life. Political strife might rage in the grocery-stores,
religious differences flame high in the vestibule of the church, and
social distinctions embitter the Ladies' Club, but the library was a
neutral ground where all parties met, united by a common and disinterested
effort.

Like all disinterested and generous actions it brought its own reward. The
great social event of the year, not only for Hillsboro, but for all the
outlying towns of Woodville, Greenford, and Windfield, was the annual
"Entertainment for buying new books," as it was named on the handbills
which were welcomed so eagerly by the snow-bound, monotony-ridden
inhabitants of the Necronsett Valley. It usually "ran" three nights so
that every one could get there, the people from over Hemlock Mountain
driving twenty miles. There was no theater for forty miles, and many a
dweller on the Hemlock slopes had never seen a nearer approach to one than
the town hall of Hillsboro on the great nights of the "Library Show."

As for Hillsboro itself, the excitement of one effort was scarcely over
before plans for the next year's were begun. Although the date was fixed
by tradition on the three days after Candlemas (known as "Woodchuck Day"
in the valley), they had often decided what the affair should be and had
begun rehearsals before the leaves had turned in the autumn. There was no
corner of the great world of dramatic art they had not explored, borne up
to the loftiest regions of endeavor by their touchingly unworldly
ignorance of their limitations. As often happens in such cases they
believed so ingenuously in their own capacities that their faith wrought
miracles.

Sometimes they gave a cantata, sometimes a nigger-minstrel show. The year
the interior of the town hall was changed, they took advantage of the time
before either the first or second floor was laid, and attempted and
achieved an indoor circus. And the year that an orchestra conductor from
Albany had to spend the winter in the mountains for his lungs, they
presented _Il Trovatore_. Everybody sang, as a matter of course, and those
whose best efforts in this direction brought them no glory had their
innings the year it was decided to give a play.

They had done _East Lynne_ and _Hamlet, Uncle Tom's Cabin_ and _Macbeth_,
and every once in a while the local literary man, who was also the
undertaker, wrote a play based on local traditions. Of course they gave
_The Village School_ and _Memory's Garland_, and if you don't remember
those delectable home-made entertainments, so much the worse for you. It
is true that in the allegorical tableau at the end of _Memory's Garland_
the wreath, which was of large artificial roses, had been made of such
generous proportions that when the Muses placed it on the head of slender
Elnathan Pritchett, representing "The Poet," it slipped over his ears,
down over his narrow shoulders, and sliding rapidly toward the floor was
only caught by him in time to hold it in place upon his stomach. That
happened only on the first night, of course. The other performances it was
perfect, lodging on his ears with the greatest precision.

It must not be supposed, however, that the responsibilities of Hillsboro
for the library ended with the triumphant counting out of the money after
the entertainment. This sum, the only actual cash ever handled by the
committee, was exclusively devoted to the purchase of new books. It was
the pride of the village that everything else was cared for without price,
by their own enterprise, public spirit, and ingenuity. When the books, had
overflowed the wing of Deacon Bradlaugh's house, back in 1869, they were
given free lodging in the rooms of the then newly established and
flourishing Post of the G.A.R. In 1896 they burst from this chrysalis into
the whole lower floor of the town hall, newly done over for the purpose.
From their shelves here the books looked down benignly on church suppers
and sociables, and even an occasional dance. It was the center of village
life, the big, low-ceilinged room, its windows curtained with white
muslin, its walls bright with fresh paper and colored pictures, like any
sitting-room in a village home. The firewood was contributed, a load
apiece, by the farmers of the country about, and the oil for the lamps was
the common gift of the three grocery-stores. There was no carpet, but
bright-colored rag rugs lay about on the bare floor, and it was a point of
honor with the Ladies' Aid Society of the church to keep these renewed.

The expense of a librarian's salary was obviated by the expedient of
having no librarian. The ladies of Hillsboro took turns in presiding over
the librarian's table, each one's day coming about once in three weeks.
"Library Day" was as fixed an institution in Hillsboro as "wash day," and
there was not a busy housewife who did not look forward to the long quiet
morning spent in dusting and caring for the worn old books, which were
like the faces of friends to her, familiar from childhood. The afternoon
and evening were more animated, since the library had become a sort of
common meeting-ground. The big, cheerful, sunlighted room full of
grown-ups and children, talking together, even laughing out loud at times,
did not look like any sophisticated idea of a library, for Hillsboro was
as benighted on the subject of the need for silence in a reading-room as
on all other up-to-date library theories. If you were so weak-nerved and
sickly that the noise kept you from reading, you could take your book, go
into Elzaphan Hall's room and shut the door, or you could take your book
and go home, but you could not object to people being sociable.

Elzaphan Hall was the janitor, and the town's only pauper. He was an old
G.A.R. man who had come back from the war minus an arm and a foot, and
otherwise so shattered that steady work was impossible. In order not to
wound him by making him feel that he was dependent on public charity, it
had been at once settled that he should keep the fire going in the
library, scrub the floor, and keep the room clean in return for his food
and lodging. He "boarded round" like the school-teacher, and slept in a
little room off the library. In the course of years he had grown
pathetically and exasperatingly convinced of his own importance, but he
had been there so long that his dictatorial airs and humors were regarded
with the unsurprised tolerance granted to things of long standing, and
were forgiven in view of his devotion to the best interests of the
library, which took the place of a family to him.

As for the expenses of cataloguing, no one ever thought of such a thing.
Catalogue the books? Why, as soon hang up a list of the family so that you
wouldn't forget how many children you had; as soon draw a plan of the
village so that people should not lose their way about. Everybody knew
what and where the books were, as well as they knew what and where the
fields on their farms were, or where the dishes were on the pantry
shelves. The money from the entertainment was in hand by the middle of
February; by April the new books, usually about a hundred in number, had
arrived; and by June any wide-awake, intelligent resident of Hillsboro
would have been ashamed to confess that he did not know the location of
every one.

The system of placing on the shelves was simplicity itself. Each year's
new acquisitions were kept together, regardless of subject, and located by
the name of the entertainment which had bought them. Thus, if you wished
to consult a certain book on geology, in which subject the library was
rich, owing to the scientific tastes of Squire Pritchett, you were told by
the librarian for the day, as she looked up from her darning with a
friendly smile, that it was in the "Uncle Tom's Cabin section." The
Shakespeare set, honorably worn and dog's-eared, dated back to the unnamed
mass coming from early days before things were so well systematized, and
was said to be in the "Old Times section"; whereas Ibsen (for some of
Hillsboro young people go away to college) was bright and fresh in the
"East Lynne section."

The books were a visible and sincere symbol of Hillsboro's past and
present. The honest, unpretending people had bought the books they wished
to read, and everyone's taste was represented, even a few French legends
and pious tales being present as a concession to the Roman Catholic
element among the French Canadians. There was a great deal of E.P. Roe,
there was all of Mrs. Southworth--is it possible that anywhere else in the
world there is a complete collection of that lady's voluminous
productions?--but beside them stood the Elizabethan dramatists and a
translation of Dante. The men of the town, who after they were grown up
did not care much for fiction, cast their votes for scientific treatises
on agriculture, forestry, and the like; and there was an informal history
club, consisting of the postmaster, the doctor, and the druggist, who bore
down heavily on history books. The school-teacher, the minister, and the
priest had each, ex officio, the choice of ten books with nobody to
object, and the children in school were allowed another ten with no advice
from elders.

It would have made a scientific librarian faint, the Hillsboro system, but
the result was that not a book was bought which did not find readers eager
to welcome it. A stranger would have turned dizzy trying to find his way
about, but there are no strangers in Hillsboro. The arrival even of a new
French-Canadian lumberman is a subject of endless discussion.

It can be imagined, therefore, how electrified was the village by the
apparition, on a bright June day, of an automobile creaking and wheezing
its slow way to the old tavern. The irritated elderly gentleman who
stepped out and began blaming the chauffeur for the delay announced
himself to Zadok Foster, the tavern-keeper, as Josiah Camden, of Chicago,
and was electrified in his turn by the calmness with which that mighty
name was received.

During the two days he waited in Hillsboro for the repair of his machine
he amused himself first by making sure of the incredible fact that nobody
in the village had ever heard of him, and second by learning with an
astounded and insatiable curiosity all the details of life in this
forgotten corner of the mountains. It was newer and stranger to him than
anything he had seen during his celebrated motor-car trip through the
Soudan. He was stricken speechless by hearing that you could rent a whole
house (of only five rooms, to be sure) and a garden for thirty-six dollars
a year, and that the wealthiest man in the place was supposed to have
inherited and accumulated the vast sum of ten thousand dollars. When he
heard of the public library he inquired quickly how much it cost to run
_that_? Mr. Camden knew from experience something about the cost of public
libraries.

"Not a cent," said Zadok Foster proudly.

Mr. Camden came from Chicago and not from Missouri, but the involuntary
exclamation of amazed incredulity which burst from his lips was, "Show
_me_!"

So they showed him. The denizen of the great world entered the poor,
low-ceilinged room, looked around at the dreadful chromos on the walls, at
the cheap, darned muslin curtains, at the gaudy rag rugs, at the shabby,
worn books in inextricable confusion on the shelves, and listened with
gleaming eyes to the account given by the librarian for the day of the
years of patient and uncomplaining struggles by which these
poverty-stricken mountaineers had secured this meager result. He struck
one hand into the other with a clap. "It's a chance in a million!" he
cried aloud.

When his momentous letter came back from Chicago, this was still the
recurrent note, that nowadays it is so hard for a poor millionaire to find
a deserving object for his gifts, that it is the rarest opportunity
possible when he really with his own eyes can make sure of placing his
money where it will carry on a work already begun in the right spirit. He
spoke in such glowing terms of Hillsboro's pathetic endeavors to keep
their poor little enterprise going, that Hillsboro, very unconscious
indeed of being pathetic, was bewildered. He said that owing to the
unusual conditions he would break the usual rules governing his
benefactions and ask no guarantee from the town. He begged, therefore, to
have the honor to announce that he had already dispatched an architect and
a contractor to Hillsboro, who would look the ground over, and put up a
thoroughly modern library building with no expense spared to make it
complete in equipment; that he had already placed to the credit of the
"Hillsboro Camden Public Library" a sufficient sum to maintain in
perpetuity a well-paid librarian, and to cover all expenses of fuel,
lights, purchase of books, cataloguing, etc.; and that the Library School
in Albany had already an order to select a perfectly well-balanced library
of thirty thousand books to begin with.

Reason recoils from any attempt to portray the excitement of Hillsboro
after this letter arrived. To say that it was as if a gold mine had been
discovered under the village green is the feeblest of metaphors. For an
entire week the town went to bed at night tired out with exclaiming, woke
in the morning sure it had dreamed it all, rushed with a common impulse to
the post-office where the letter was posted on the wall, and fell to
exclaiming again.

Then the architect and contractor arrived, and Hillsboro drew back into
its shell of somber taciturnity, and acted, the contractor told the
architect, as though they were in the habit of having libraries given them
three times a week regularly.

The architect replied that these mountaineers were like Indians. You
_couldn't_ throw a shock into them that would make them loosen up any.

Indeed, this characterization seemed just enough, in view of the passive
way in which Hillsboro received what was done for it during the months
which followed.

It was the passivity of stupefaction, however, as one marvel after another
was revealed to them. The first evening the architect sketched the plans
of a picturesque building in the old Norse style, to match the romantic
scenery of the lovely valley. The next morning he located it upon a knoll
cooled by a steady breeze. The contractor made hasty inquiries about
lumber, labor, and houses for his men, found that none of these essentials
were at hand, decided to import everything from Albany; and by noon of the
day after they arrived these two brisk young gentlemen had departed,
leaving Hillsboro still incredulous of its good fortune.

When they returned, ten days later, however, they brought solid and
visible proof in the shape of a trainload of building materials and a
crowd of Italian laborers, who established themselves in a boarding-car on
a sidetrack near the station.

"We are going," remarked the contractor to the architect, "to make the
dirt fly."

"We will make things hum," answered the architect, "as they've never
hummed before in this benighted spot."

And indeed, as up to this time they had never hummed at all, it is not
surprising that Hillsboro caught its breath as the work went forward like
Aladdin's palace. The corner-stone was laid on the third of July and on
the first of October the building stood complete. By the first of November
the books had come already catalogued by the Library School and arranged
in boxes so that they could be put at once upon the shelves; and the last
details of the interior decoration were complete. The architect was in the
most naïve ecstasy of admiration for his own taste. The outside was
deliciously unhackneyed in design, the only reproduction of a Norwegian
_Stave-Kirke_ in America, he reported to Mr. Camden; and while that made
the interior a little dark, the quaint wooden building was exquisitely in
harmony with the landscape. As for the interior it was a dream! The
reading-room was like the most beautiful drawing-room, an education in
itself, done in dark oak, with oriental rugs, mission furniture, and
reproductions of old masters on the walls. Lace sash-curtains hung at the
windows, covered by rich draperies in oriental design, which subdued the
light to a delightful soberness. The lamps came from Tiffany's.

When the young-lady librarian arrived from Albany and approved
enthusiastically of the stack-room and cataloguing, the architect's cup of
satisfaction fairly ran over; and when he went away, leaving her installed
in her handsome oak-finished office, he could hardly refrain from
embracing her, so exactly the right touch did she add to the whole thing
with her fresh white shirt-waist and pretty, business-like airs. There had
been no ceremony of opening, because Mr. Camden was so absorbed in an
exciting wheat deal that he could not think of coming East, and indeed the
whole transaction had been almost blotted from his mind by a month's
flurried, unsteady market. So one day in November the pretty librarian
walked into her office, and the Hillsboro Camden Public Library was open.

She was a very pretty librarian indeed, and she wore her tailor suits with
an air which made the village girls look uneasily into their mirrors and
made the village boys look after her as she passed. She was moreover as
permeated with the missionary fervor instilled into her at the Library
School as she was pretty, and she began at once to practice all the latest
devices for automatically turning a benighted community into the latest
thing in culture. When Mrs. Bradlaugh, wife of the deacon, and president
of the Ladies' Aid Society, was confined to the house with a cold, she
sent over to the library, as was her wont in such cases, for some
entertaining story to while away her tedious convalescence. Miss Martin
sent back one of Henry James's novels, and was surprised that Mrs.
Bradlaugh made no second attempt to use the library. When the little girls
in school asked for the Elsie books, she answered with a glow of pride
that the library did not possess one of those silly stories, and offered
as substitute, "Greek Myths for Children."

Squire Pritchett came, in a great hurry, one morning, and asked for his
favorite condensed handbook of geology, in order to identify a stone. He
was told that it was entirely out of date and very incomplete, and the
library did not own it, and he was referred to the drawer in the card
catalogue relating to geology. For a time his stubbed old fingers rambled
among the cards, with an ever-rising flood of baffled exasperation. How
could he tell by looking at a strange name on a little piece of paper
whether the book it represented would tell him about a stone out of his
gravel-pit! Finally he appealed to the librarian, who proclaimed on all
occasions her eagerness to help inquirers, and she referred him to a
handsome great Encyclopedia of Geology in forty-seven volumes. He wandered
around hopelessly in this for about an hour, and in the end retreated
unenlightened. Miss Martin tried to help him in his search, but, half
amused by his rustic ignorance, she asked him finally, with an air of
gentle patience, "how, if he didn't know _any_ of the scientific names,
he expected to be able to look up a subject in an alphabetically arranged
book?" Squire Pritchett never entered the library again. His son Elnathan
might be caught by her airs and graces, he said rudely enough in the
post-office, but he was "too old to be talked down to by a chit who didn't
know granite from marble."

When the schoolboys asked for "Nick Carter" she gave them those classics,
"The Rollo Books"; and to the French-Canadians she gave, reasonably
enough, the acknowledged masters of their language, Voltaire, Balzac, and
Flaubert, till the horrified priest forbade from the pulpit any of his
simple-minded flock to enter "that temple of sin, the public library." She
had little classes in art-criticism for the young ladies in town,
explaining to them with sweet lucidity why the Botticellis and Rembrandts
and Dürers were better than the chromos which still hung on the walls of
the old library, now cold and deserted except for church suppers and
sociables. These were never held in the new reading-room, the oriental
rugs being much too fine to have doughnut crumbs and coffee spilled on
them. After a time, however, the young ladies told her that they found
themselves too busy getting the missionary barrels ready to continue
absorbing information about Botticelli's rhythm and Dürer's line.

Miss Martin was not only pretty and competent, but she was firm of
purpose, as was shown by her encounter with Elzaphan Hall, who had
domineered over two generations of amateur librarians. The old man had
received strict orders to preserve silence in the reading-room when the
librarian could not be there, and yet one day she returned from the
stack-room to find the place in a most shocking state of confusion.
Everybody was laughing, Elzaphan himself most of all, and they did not
stop when she brought her severe young face among them. Elzaphan
explained, waving his hand at a dark Rembrandt looking gloomily down upon
them, that Elnathan Pritchett had said that if _he_ had such a dirty face
as that he'd _wash_ it, if he had to go as far as from here to the Eagle
Rock Spring to get the water! This seemed the dullest of bucolic wit to
Miss Martin, and she chilled Elnathan to the marrow by her sad gaze of
disappointment in him. Jennie Foster was very jealous of Miss Martin (as
were all the girls in town), and she rejoiced openly in Elnathan's
witticism, continuing to laugh at intervals after the rest of the room had
cowered into silence under the librarian's eye.

Miss Martin took the old janitor aside and told him sternly that if such
a thing happened again she would dismiss him; and when the old man,
crazily trying to show his spirit, allowed a spelling-match to go on, full
blast, right in library hours, she did dismiss him, drawing on the endless
funds at her disposal to import a young Irishman from Albany, who was soon
playing havoc with the pretty French-Canadian girls. Elzaphan Hall,
stunned by the blow, fell into bad company and began to drink heavily,
paying for his liquor by exceedingly comic and disrespectful imitations of
Miss Martin's talks on art.

It was now about the middle of the winter, and the knoll which in June had
been the center of gratefully cool breezes was raked by piercing north
winds which penetrated the picturesquely unplastered, wood-finished walls
as though they had been paper. The steam-heating plant did not work very
well, and the new janitor, seeing fewer and fewer people come to the
reading-room, spent less and less time in struggling with the boilers, or
in keeping the long path up the hill shoveled clear of snow. Miss Martin,
positively frightened by the ferocity with which winter flings itself upon
the high narrow valley, was helpless before the problem of the new
conditions, and could think of nothing to do except to buy more fuel and
yet more, and to beseech the elusive Celt, city-trained in plausible
excuses for not doing his duty, to burn more wood. Once she remarked
plaintively to Elnathan Pritchett, as she sat beside him at a church
supper (for she made a great point of "mingling with the people"), that it
seemed to her there must be something the _matter_ with the wood in
Hillsboro.

Everybody within earshot laughed, and the saying was repeated the next day
with shameless mirth as the best joke of the season. For the wood for the
library had had a history distinctly discreditable and as distinctly
ludicrous, at which Hillsboro people laughed with a conscious lowering of
their standards of honesty. The beginning had been an accident, but the
long sequence was not. For the first time in the history of the library,
the farmer who brought the first load of wood presented a bill for this
service. He charged two dollars a cord on the scrawled memorandum, but
Miss Martin mistook this figure for a seven, corrected his total with the
kindest tolerance for his faulty arithmetic, and gave the countryman a
check which reduced him for a time to a paralyzed silence. It was only on
telling the first person he met outside the library that the richness of a
grown person knowing no more than that about the price of wood came over
him, and the two screamed with laughter over the lady's beautifully formed
figures on the dirty sheet of paper.

Miss Martin took the hesitating awkwardness of the next man presenting
himself before her, not daring to ask the higher price and not willing to
take the lower, for rustic bashfulness, and put him at his ease by saying
airily, "Five cords? That makes thirty-five dollars. I always pay seven
dollars a cord." After that, the procession of grinning men driving
lumber-sleds toward the library became incessant. The minister attempted
to remonstrate with the respectable men of his church for cheating a poor
young lady, but they answered roughly that it wasn't her money but
Camden's, who had tossed them the library as a man would toss a penny to a
beggar, who had now quite forgotten about them, and, finally, who had made
his money none too honestly.

Since he had become of so much importance to them they had looked up his
successful career in the Chicago wheat pit, and, undazzled by the millions
involved, had penetrated shrewdly to the significance of his operations.
The record of his colossal and unpunished frauds had put to sleep, so far
as he was concerned, their old minute honesty. It was considered the best
of satires that the man who had fooled all the West should be fooled in
his turn by a handful of forgotten mountaineers, that they should be
fleecing him in little things as he had fleeced Chicago in great. There
was, however, an element which frowned on this shifting of standards, and,
before long, neighbors and old friends were divided into cliques, calling
each other, respectively, cheats and hypocrites. Hillsboro was intolerably
dull that winter because of the absence of the usual excitement over the
entertainment, and in that stagnation all attention was directed to the
new joke on the wheat king. It was turned over and over, forward and back,
and refurbished and made to do duty again and again, after the fashion of
rustic jokes. This one had the additional advantage of lining the pockets
of the perpetrators. They egged one another on to fresh inventions and
variations, until even the children, not to be left out, began to have
exploits of their own to tell. The grocers raised the price of kerosene,
groaning all the time at the extortions of the oil trust, till the
guileless guardian of Mr. Camden's funds was paying fifty cents a gallon
for it. The boys charged a quarter for every bouquet of pine-boughs they
brought to decorate the cold, empty reading-room. The washer-woman charged
five dollars for "doing-up" the lace sash-curtains. As spring came on, and
the damages wrought by the winter winds must be repaired, the carpenters
asked wages which made the sellers of firewood tear their hair at wasted
opportunities. They might have raised the price per cord! The new janitor,
hearing the talk about town, demanded a raise in salary and threatened to
leave without warning if it were not granted.

It was on the fifth of June, a year to a day after the arrival of Mr.
Camden in his automobile, that Miss Martin yielded to this last extortion,
and her action made the day as memorable as that of the year before. The
janitor, carried away by his victory, celebrated his good fortune in so
many glasses of hard cider that he was finally carried home and deposited
limply on the veranda of his boarding-house. Here he slept till the cold
of dawn awoke him to a knowledge of his whereabouts, so inverted and tipsy
that he rose, staggered to the library, cursing the intolerable length of
these damn Vermont winters, and proceeded to build a roaring fire on the
floor of the reading-room. As the varnished wood of the beautiful fittings
took light like a well-constructed bonfire, realization of his act came to
him, and he ran down the valley road, screaming and giving the alarm at
the top of his lungs, and so passed out of Hillsboro forever.

The village looked out of its windows, saw the wooden building blazing
like a great torch, hurried on its clothes and collected around the fire.
No effort was made to save the library. People stood around in the chilly
morning air, looking silently at the mountain of flame which burned as
though it would never stop. They thought of a great many things in that
silent hour as the sun rose over Hemlock Mountain, and there were no
smiles or their faces. They are ignorant and narrow people in Hillsboro,
but they have an inborn capacity unsparingly to look facts in the face.

When the last beam had fallen in with a crash to the blackened cellar-hole
Miss Martin, very pale and shaken, stepped bravely forward. "I know how
terribly you must be feeling about this," she began in her carefully
modulated voice, "but I want to assure you that I _know_ Mr. Camden will
rebuild the library for you if--"

She was interrupted by the chief man of the town, Squire Pritchett, who
began speaking with a sort of bellow only heard before in exciting moments
in town-meeting. "May I never live to see the day!" he shouted; and from
all the tongue-tied villagers there rose a murmur of relief at having
found a voice. They pressed about him closely and drank in his dry, curt
announcement: "As selectman I shall write Mr. Camden, tell him of the
fire, thank him for his kindness, and inform him that we don't want any
more of it" Everybody nodded. "I don't know whether his money is what they
call tainted or not, but there's one thing sure, it ain't done us any
good." He passed his hand over his unshaven jaw with a rasping wipe and
smiled grimly as he concluded, "I'm no hand to stir up lawbreakin' and
disorder, but I want to say right here that I'll never inform against any
Hillsboro man who keeps the next automobile out of town, if he has to take
a ax to it!"

People laughed, and neighbors who had not spoken to one another since the
quarrel over the price of wood fell into murmured, approving talk.

Elnathan Pritchett, blushing and hesitating, twitched at his father's
sleeve. "But, father--Miss Martin--We're keeping her out of a position."

That young lady made one more effort to reach these impenetrable people.
"I was about to resign," she said with dignity. "I am going to marry the
assistant to the head of the Department of Bibliography at Albany."

The only answer to this imposing announcement was a giggle from Jennie
Foster, to whose side Elnathan now fell back, silenced.

People began to move away in little knots, talking as they went. Elzaphan
Hall stumped hastily down the street to the town hall and was standing in
the open door as the first group passed him.

"Here, Mis' Foster, you're forgittin' somethin'," he said roughly, with
his old surly, dictatorial air. "This is your day to the library."

Mrs. Foster hesitated, laughing at the old man's manner.

"It seems foolish, but I don't know why _not_!" she said. "Jennie, you run
on over home and bring a broom for Elzaphan. The book must be in an
_awful_ state!"

When Jennie came back, a knot of women stood before the door, talking to
her mother and looking back at the smoldering ruins. The girl followed the
direction of their eyes and of their thoughts. "I don't believe but what
we can plant woodbine and things around it so that in a month's time you
won't know there's been anything there!" she said hopefully.



SALEM HILLS TO ELLIS ISLAND


  A single sleighbell, tinkling down
      The virgin road that skirts the wood,
  Makes poignant to the lonely town
      Its silence and its solitude.

      A single taper's feeble flare
      Makes darker by its lonely light
  The cold and empty farmsteads square
      That blackly loom to left and tight;

      And she who sews, by that dim flame,
      The patient quilt spread on her knees,
  Hears from her heirloom quilting-frame
      The frolic of forgotten bees.

      Yea, all the dying village thrills
      With echoes of its cheerful past,
  The golden days of Salem Hills;
      Its only golden days? Its last?



II


  From Salem Hills a voiceless cry
      Along the darkened valley rolls.
  Hear it, great ship, and forward ply
      With thy rich freight of venturous souls.

      Hear it, O thronging lower deck,
      Brave homestead-seekers come from far;
  And crowd the rail, and crane the neck;
      In Salem Hills your homesteads are!

      Where flourish now the brier and thorn,
      The barley and the wheat shall spring,
  And valleys standing thick with corn
      (Praise God, my heart!), shall laugh and sing.



AVUNCULUS

I


The library of Middletown College had been founded, like the college
itself, in 1818, and it was a firm article of undergraduate belief that
the librarian, Mr. J.M. Atterworthy, had sat behind his battered desk
from that date on to the present time. As a matter of fact, he was but
just gliding down-hill from middle age, having behind him the same number
of years as the active and high-spirited president of the college. And yet
there was ground for the undergraduate conviction that "Old J.M." as he
was always called, was an institution whose beginnings dated back into the
mists of antiquity, for of his sixty years he had spent forty-four in
Middletown, and forty as librarian of the college.

He had come down, a shy, lanky freshman of sixteen, from a little village
in the Green Mountains, and had found the only consolation for his
homesick soul in the reading-room of the library. During his sophomore and
junior years, there had sprung up in the bookish lad, shrinking from the
rough fun of his fellows, the first shoots of that passionate attachment
to the library which was later to bind him so irrevocably to the old
building. In those early days there was no regular librarian, the
professors taking turn and turn about in keeping the reading-room open for
a few hours, three or four days a week. In his senior year, "J.M." (even
at that time his real name was sunk in the initials, the significance of
which he jealously concealed) petitioned the faculty to be allowed to take
charge of the reading-room. They gave a shrug of surprise at his
eccentricity, investigated briefly his eminently sober-minded college
career, and heaved a sigh of relief as they granted his extraordinary
request.

On the evening of Commencement day, J.M. went to the president and made
the following statement: He said that his father and his mother had both
died during his senior year, leaving him entirely alone in the world, with
a small inheritance yielding about fifty dollars a month. He had no
leaning to any profession, he shrank with all his being from the savage
struggles of the business world, and he could not bear to return to
Woodville, to find himself lonely and bereaved in the spot where he had
had such a cloudlessly happy childhood. In short, Middletown was the only
place he knew and liked, except Woodville, which he loved too poignantly
to live there with the soul gone out of things; and the library was the
only home he now had. If the president could get the trustees, at their
next meeting, to allow him the use of the three rooms in the library
tower, and if they would vote him a small nominal salary, say thirty
dollars a month, enough to make him a regular member of the college corps,
he would like nothing better than to settle down and be the librarian of
his _alma mater_ for the rest of his life.

The president of that date was, like all the other presidents of
Middletown College, a florid, hearty old gentleman with more red blood
than he knew what to do with, in spite of his seventy years. He was vastly
amused at the inexperienced young fellow's simple-minded notion, and,
clapping him on the shoulder, said with his cheerfully Johnsonian
rotundity: "Why, my dear young sir, your recent sad bereavement must have
temporarily deranged your mental faculties, that at your age you can
contemplate adopting such a desiccated mode of existence. Your
proposition is, however, a highly advantageous one to your college, and I
shall see that it is accepted. However, I am willing to lay a wager with
you that a year will not be out before you are asking to be freed from
your contract."


J.M., trembling in suspense, took in nothing of the president's speech
beyond the acceptance of his offer, and, pale with relief, he tried to
stammer his thanks and his devotion to his chosen cause. He made no
attempt to contradict the president's confident prophecies; he only made
the greatest possible haste to the tower-rooms which were to be his home.
His eyes filled with thankfulness at his lot as he paced about them, and,
looking out of the windows upon the campus, he had a prophetic vision of
his future, of the simple, harmless, innocent life which was to be his.

Of the two prophets he proved himself the truer. The head of his college
and one generation after another of similar presidents laughed and joked
him about the _Wanderlust_ which would some day sweep him away from his
old moorings, or the sensible girl who would some day get hold of him and
make a man of him. He outlasted all these wiseacres, however, watching
through mild, spectacled eyes the shifting changes of the college world,
which always left him as immovable as the old elms before the library
door. He never went away from Middletown, except on the most necessary
trips to New York or Boston on business connected with book-buying for the
library.

He explained this unheard-of stagnation by saying that the utter
metamorphosis of the village after the college life stopped gave him
change enough. Only once had he gone farther and, to one of the younger
professors who had acquired an odd taste for old J.M.'s society,
confessed hesitatingly that he did not go away because he had no place to
which he could go, except to his childhood home. He said he couldn't bear
to go there lest he find it so changed that the sight of it would rob him
of his old memories, the dearest--in fact the only possessions of his
heart. After a pause he had added to his young listener, who found the
little old secular monk a tremendously pathetic figure: "Do you know,
Layton, I sometimes feel that I have missed a great deal in life--and yet
not at all what everybody thought I would miss, the stir of active life or
the vulgar excitement of being in love. All that kind of thing seems as
distasteful to me now as ever."

There he stopped and poked the fire until the young professor, overcome
with sympathetic curiosity, urged him to go on. He sighed at this, and
said: "Why, fortune ought not to have made me an only child, although I
can't say that I've ever longed for brothers or sisters.... But now I feel
that I should like very much to have some nephews and nieces. I never
could have stood having children of my own--I should have been crushed
under the responsibility; but a nephew, now--a young creature with a brain
and soul developing--to whom I could be a help ... I find as I get older
that I have an empty feeling as the college year draws to a close. I have
kept myself so remote from human life, for fear of being dragged into that
feverish center of it which has always so repelled me, that now I do not
touch it at all." He ended with a gentle resignation, taking off his
glasses and rubbing them sadly: "I suppose I do not deserve anything more,
because I was not willing to bear the burdens of common life ... and yet
it almost seems that there should be some place for such as I--?"

The heart of his young friend had melted within him at this revelation of
the submissive isolation of the sweet-tempered, cool-blooded old scholar.
Carelessly confident, like all the young, that any amount or variety of
human affection could be his for the asking, he promised himself to make
the dear old recluse a sharer in his own wealth; but the next year he
married a handsome, ambitious girl who made him accept an advantageous
offer in the commercial world. With his disappearance, the solitary door
in the prison walls which kept J.M. remote from his fellows swung shut.

He looked so hopelessly dull and becalmed after this that the president
was moved to force on him a little outing. Stopping one day with his
touring-car at the door of the library, he fairly swept the sedentary
little man off his feet and out to the machine. J.M. did not catch his
breath during the swift flight to the president's summer home in a trim,
green, elm-shaded village in the Berkshires. When he recovered a little he
was startled by the resemblance of the place to his old recollections of
Woodville. There were the same white houses with green shutters, and big
white pillars to the porches, the same green lawns and clumps of peonies
and carefully tended rose-gardens, and the same old-New-England air of
distance from the hurry and smoky energy of modern commercial life.

He spoke of this to the president's wife and she explained that it was no
wonder. The village was virtually owned by a summer colony of oldish
people who had lived there in their youth and who devoted themselves to
keeping the old place just as it had been. "We haven't any children to
bother about any more," she said, laughing, "so we take it out in putting
knockers on the doors instead of bells and in keeping the grocery-stores
out of sight so that the looks of the village green shan't be spoiled."

After J.M. returned to deserted Middletown, he could not keep out of his
mind the vision of the village he had just left, and the thought of the
village like it which he had loved so well in his boyhood. It seemed to
him that if Woodville kept its old aspect at all, he would find it a
comfort to try to inspire the people now living there to preserve the
old-timey look of it, as the president was doing for his old home. There
was positively a thrill for J.M. in the thought of his possibly
influencing other people, and before he knew it the plan had made itself
the main interest of the interminably long, empty days of the summer
vacation. His vague feeling of a lack in his life crystallized about a
definite attempt at filling it. He was stirred from his inertia and,
leaving word with the registrar of the college, a newcomer who was not at
all surprised that the librarian should follow the example of all the rest
of the faculty, J.M. made the three hours' journey which had separated
him for so many years from the home of his youth.

As the train wound along the valley beside the river, and as the familiar
outlines of the mountains rose up like the faces of dear, unforgotten
friends, J.M. expanded and bloomed with delight in his new idea; but it
was a very shriveled and dusty little old scholar who finally arrived at
the farther end of the Main Street of Woodville and stood, in the hush of
the noon hour, gazing back with a stricken face at the row of slovenly
unlovely front yards separating the wretched old houses from the street.

He stood before the house that had been his home, and when he looked at it
he turned very pale and sat down quickly as though his knees had failed
him. Apparently the house had not been painted since his childhood, and
certainly it had not been repaired. Broken, dangling shutters gave it a
blear-eyed look which it made him sick to see, and swarms of untidily
pin-feathered chickens wandered about over the hard-beaten earth of the
yard, which was without a spear of grass, littered with old boxes and
crates and unsightly rags, and hung with a flapping, many-legged wash.
From the three rural mail-delivery boxes at the gate, he gathered that
three families were crowded into the house which had seemed none too large
for his father, his mother, and himself. He put on his glasses and read
the names shudderingly--Jean-Baptiste Loyette, Patrick McCartey, and S.
Petrofsky.

"Good heavens!" he observed feebly to the vacant, dusty road beside him,
and in answer a whistle from the big, barrack-like building at the other
end of the street screamed so stridently that the heavy August air seemed
to vibrate about him in hot waves.

At once, as if all the houses on the street were toy barometers, every
door swung open and a stream of men and boys in dirty shirts and overalls
flowed out through the squalid yards along the sidewalks toward the
factory. From the house before which the librarian of Middletown College
sat in a crushed heap of resentment came three men to correspond to the
three mail-boxes: one short and red-haired; one dark, thick-set, and
grizzle-bearded; and the third tall, clumsily built, with an impassive
face and dark, smoldering eyes. They stared at the woebegone old stranger
before their gate, but evidently had no time to lose, as their house was
the last on the street, and hurried away toward the hideous, many-windowed
factory.

J.M. gazed after them, shaking his head droopingly, until a second
eruption from the house made him look back. The cause of the hard-beaten
bare ground of the yard was apparent at once, even to his inexperienced
eyes. The old house seemed to be exuding children from a thousand
pores--children red-haired and black-haired, and tow-headed, boys and
girls, little and big, and apparently yelling on a wager about who owned
the loudest voice, all dirty-faced, barelegged, and scantily clothed.
J.M. mechanically set himself to counting them, but when he got as high
as seventeen, he thought he must have counted some of them twice, and left
off.

A draggle-tailed woman stepped to a door and threw out a pan of
dish-water. J.M. resolved to overcome his squeamish disgust and make a
few inquiries before he fled back to the blessed cleanliness and quiet of
Middletown Library. Picking his way gingerly through the chickens and
puppies and cats and children, the last now smitten into astonished
silence by his appearance, he knocked on the door. The woman who came to
answer him was dressed in what had been a black and purple percale,
wrapper, she had a baby on her arm, and was making vain attempts to fasten
up a great coil of hair at the back of her head. No, she told him volubly,
she couldn't remember the town when it was any different, though she and
Pat had lived there ever since they were married and came over from
Ireland, and that was the whole of sixteen years ago.

"Oh!" with a sudden gush of sympathy, "and so it was your old home! Isn't
that interring now! You must come in and sit awhile. Pat, git a chair for
the gentleman, and Molly, take the baby so I can talk better. Oh, _won't_
you come in? You'd _better_, now, and have a bite to eat and a sup of tea.
I've some ready made." Of course, she went on, she knew the house didn't
look so nice as in his day.... "It's all along of the children! Irish
people can't kape so tidy, now, _can_ they, with siven or eight, as
Yankees can with one--" But it certainly was a grand house, she didn't
wonder he came back to look at it. Wasn't it fairly like a palace, now,
compared with anything her kin back in Ireland had, and such a fine big
place for the children to play an' all.

J.M. broke in to ask a final question, which she answered, making vain
attempts to button her buttonless collar about a fat white neck, and
following him as he retreated toward the street, through a lively game of
baseball among the older boys. No, so far as she knew there wasn't one of
the Yankees left that had lived here in old times. They had gone away when
the factory had come in, she'd heard said. J.M. had expected this answer,
but when it came, he turned a little sick for an instant, and felt giddy
with the heat of the sun and lack of food and a desolation in his heart
sharper and more searching than any emotion he had known since his
boyhood. Through a mist before his eyes, he saw his hostess make a wild
warning gesture, and heard a yell of dismay from the crowd of boys, but
before he could turn his head, something cruelly hard struck him in the
side. In the instant before he fell, his clearest impression was utter
amazement that anything in the world could cause him such incredible pain,
but then his head struck heavily against a stone, and he lay quite still
in a little crumpled heap under the old elm which had sheltered his
boyhood.



II


For an instant after he opened his eyes again, all his life after leaving
Woodville seemed to have melted away, for there at the foot of his bed was
the little, many-paned window out of which he had watched the seasons
change all through his boyhood, and close above him hung the familiar
slanting roof of his own little, old room. However, when he stirred, it
was not his mother but a rosy-faced Irish woman who stopped her sewing and
asked him in a thick, sweet brogue if he needed anything. As he stared at
her, recollecting but dimly having seen her glossy brown hair and fair,
matronly face before, she exclaimed: "Ah, I'm Bridget McCartey, you know,
an' you were hurted by the lads throwin' a baseball into your ribs. It's
lyin' here a week sick you've been, and, savin' your pardon, the sooner
you tell me where your folks live the better. They'll be fair wild about
you."

The sick man closed his eyes again. "I have no family at all," he said. It
was the first time in years that the thoroughgoing extent of that fact had
been brought home to him.

His nurse was moved to sympathy over so awful a fate. "Sure an' don't I
know how 'tis. Pat an' I left every one of our kith behind us, mostly,
when we come away, and it's that hungry for thim that I get. I dare say it
ill becomes me to say it, but the first thing I says to myself when I see
you was how like you are to one of my father's brothers in County Kerry.
It's been a real comfort to have you here sick, as though I had some of my
own kin near. _His_ name was Jerry. It's not possible, is't, that the J.
on your handkerchief stands for Jerry, too?"

For the first time since he had left Woodville J.M. disclosed the
grotesque secret of his initials. In the flaccid indifference of
convalescence it flowed from him painlessly. "My name is Jeroboam
Mordecai."

"Exactly to a hair like Uncle Jerry's!" cried Mrs. McCartey, overjoyed by
the coincidence. "Except that his J. stood for Jeremiah and his M. for
Michael. If you will tell me your last name, too, I'll try and lambaste
the children into callin' you proper. Not havin' sorra name to speak of
you by, and hearin' me say to Pat how you favored my father's brother,
haven't they taken to callin' _you_ Uncle Jerry--more shame to them!"

The mention of the children awoke to life J.M.'s old punctilious habits.
He tried to sit up. "But you have so little space for all your family--you
should not have taken me in; where can the children sleep?"

Mrs. McCartey pushed him back on the pillow with an affectionate firmness
born of "the bringin' up of sivin." "Now lay still, Uncle Jerry, and kape
yourself cool." The name slipped out unnoticed in her hospitable fervor
"Wasn't it the least we could do when 'twas our own Mike's ball that came
near killin' you? An' the children--the boys, that is, that this is their
room--isn't it out in the barn they're sleepin' on the hay? An' that
pleased with it. Pat and I were thinkin' that now was a good chance to
teach them to give up things--when you've no old folks about you, the
children are so apt to grow up selfish-like--but they think the barn's
better nor the house, bless them, so don't _you_ worry."

She pulled the bedclothes straight (J.M. noticed that they were quite
clean), settled the pillow, and drew down the shade. "Now thin, you've
talked enough," she said. "Take a sup of sleep for a while." And to
J.M.'s feeble surprise he found himself doing exactly as he was told,
dozing off with a curious weak-headed feeling of comfort.

He came to his strength slowly, the doctor forbidding him to think of
taking a journey for a month at least. Indeed, J.M., thinking of his
isolated tower-rooms in the deserted college town, was in no haste to
leave Mrs. McCartey's kindly, dictatorial care. He had been very sick
indeed, the doctor told him seriously, and he felt it in the trembling
weakness of his first attempts at sitting up, and in the blank vacancy of
his mind.

At first he could not seem to remember for more than an instant at a time
how he came to be there, and later, as his capacity for thought came back,
he found his surroundings grown insensibly familiar to him. He felt
himself somehow to have slipped so completely into the inside of things
that it was impossible to recover the remote, hostile point of view which
had been his as he had looked over the gate a fortnight ago. For instance,
knowing now, not only that the children's faces were scrubbed to a
polished redness every morning, but being: cognizant through his window of
most of the palpably unavoidable accidents of play which made them dirty
half an hour later, he would have resented as unreasonable intolerance any
undue emphasis on this phase of their appearance.

The first day that he was well enough to sit out on the porch was a great
event. The children, who before had made only shy, fleeting visits to his
room with "little handfuls of bokays," as their mother said, were as
excited and elated over his appearance as though it reflected some credit
on themselves. Indeed, J.M. found that he was the subject of
unaccountable pride to all the family, and one of the first of those
decisions of his between McCartey and Loyette occurred that very morning.
The Loyette children insisted on being included in the rejoicing over the
convalescent's step forward, and soon Pierre, the oldest boy, was haled
before J.M. himself to account for his having dared to use the McCartey
name for the sick man.

"You're _not_ his Uncle Jerry, _are_ you?" demanded Mike McCartey.

J.M. thought that now was the time to repress the too exuberant McCartey
familiarity. "I'm his Uncle Jerry just as much as I am yours!" he said
severely.

It took him a whole day to understand the jubilant triumph of the
French-Canadians and to realize that he had apparently not only upheld the
McCarteys in their preposterous nickname, but that he had added all the
black-eyed Loyettes to his new family. Mrs. McCartey said to him that
evening, with an innocent misconception of the situation, "Sure an'
mustn't it sound fine to you, that name, when you've no kith of your own."
J.M. realized that that speech broke down the last bridge of retreat into
his forsaken dignity. It is worthy of note that as he lay in bed that
evening, meditating upon it, he suddenly broke into a little laugh of
utter amusement, such as the assistants at Middletown Library had never
heard from his lips.

The rapidity with which he was fitted into the routine of the place took
his breath away. At first when he sat on the porch, which was the common
ground of all the families, either Mrs. McCartey or Mrs. Loyette sewed
near him to keep an eye on the children, but, as his strength came back,
they made him, with a sigh of relief, their substitute, and disappeared
into the house about neglected housework. "Oh, ain't it lovely now!" cried
Mrs. McCartey to Mrs. Loyette, "to have an old person of your own about
the place that you can leave the children with a half-minute, while you
snatch the wash-boiler off the fire or keep the baby from cuttin' her
throat with the butcher-knife."

Mrs. Loyette agreed, shaking her sleek black head a great many times in
emphasis. "Zose pipple," she added, "zose lucky pipple who have all zere
old pipple wiz zem, they can _not_ know how hard is eet to be a mozzer,
wizout a one grand'mère, or oncle."

So J.M. at the end of his first fortnight in Woodville found himself
undisputed umpire in all the games, discussions, quarrels,
and undertakings of seven young, Irish-Americans and more
French-Canadian-Americans than he could count. He never did find out
exactly how many Loyettes there were. The untidy front yard, littered with
boxes and barrels, assumed a strangely different aspect to him as he
learned its infinite possibilities, for games and buildings and
imaginations generally. Sometimes it was a village with a box as house for
each child, ranged in streets and lanes, and then Uncle Jerry was the
mayor and had to make the laws. Sometimes the yard foamed and heaved in
salt waves as, embarked in caravels, the expedition for the discovery of
America (out of the older children's history-books) dashed over the
Atlantic. It is needless to state that Uncle Jerry was Christopher
Columbus.

Both the grateful mothers whom he was relieving cried out that never had
there been such peace as since he came, not only because the children
could appeal to him for decisions instead of running to their mothers, but
because, the spectacular character in every game belonging to him as
"company," there were no more quarrels between Mike and Pierre about the
leadership. J.M. could not seem to find his old formal personality for
weeks after Mike's baseball had knocked it out of him, and in the meantime
he submitted, meekly at first and later with an absurd readiness, to being
an Indian chieftain, and the head of the fire department, and the
principal of a big public school, and the colonel of a regiment, and the
owner of a cotton factory, and the leader of Arctic expeditions, and all
the other characters which the fertile minds inhabiting the front yard
forced upon him. He realized that he was a changed soul when he found
himself rejoicing as the boys came tugging yet another big crate, obtained
from the factory, to add to the collection before him. They needed it for
the car for the elephant as the circus they were then performing moved
from one end of the yard to the other.

He was often very, very tired when night came, but he surprised himself by
never having a touch of his old enemy, insomnia. At first he went to bed
when the children did, but as he progressed out of convalescence, he sat
out on the porch with Pat and Bridget, as they insisted he should call
them. It was very quiet then, when the cool summer dusk had hushed all the
young life which made each day such an absorbing series of unexpected
events. The puppies and kittens slept in their boxes, the hens had
gathered the chickens under their wings, the children were sound asleep,
and the great elms cast kindly shadows on the porch where the older people
sat. The Loyettes often came out and joined them, and J.M. listened with
an interest which surprised him as they told stories about hard times in
their old homes, rejoiced in their present prosperity, and made humbly
aspiring plans for their children.

For the first time in his life J.M. felt himself to be a person of almost
unlimited resources, both of knowledge and wealth, as the pitiful
meagerness of his hosts supply of these commodities was revealed to him in
these talks, more intimate than any he had known, more vitally human than
any he had ever heard. The acquisition of rare first edition, perhaps the
most stirring event in his life in Middletown, had never aroused him to
anything like the eagerness with which he heard the Loyettes helplessly
bemoaning their inability to do anything for their oldest child, Rosalie,
a slim girl of seventeen. Her drawing-teacher at school had said that the
child had an unusual gift for designing, and a manufacturer of wallpaper,
who had seen some of her work on a visit to the Woodville factory, had
confirmed this judgment and said that "something ought to be done for
her."

"But _what?_" her parents wondered with an utter ignorance of the world
outside of Woodville which astonished J.M.

"Why don't you send her to a school of design?" he asked.

"Vat is _zat_?" asked Papa Loyette blankly, and "We have no money," sighed
Maman.

J.M. stirred himself, wrote to the director of a school of design in
Albany, consulted the priest of the parish, sent some of Rosalie's work,
and asked about scholarships. When a favorable answer came, he hurried to
explain the matter to the Loyettes and offered to provide the four dollars
a week necessary for her board at the Catholic Home for Working Girls, of
which the priest had told him. He went to bed that night with his heart
beating faster from the reflection of their agitated joy than it had done
for years. He could not get to sleep for a long time, such a thrill of
emotion did he get from each recollection of Maman Loyette's broad face
bathed in tears of gratitude.

After this they fell into the way of asking him about all their problems,
from the management of difficult children to what to do about an unjust
foreman and whether to join the union. The childless, unpractical,
academic old bachelor, forced to meditate on these new subjects, gave
utterance to advice whose sagacity amazed himself. He had not known it was
in him to have such sensible ideas about how to interest a growing boy in
athletics to keep him from drinking; and as for the question of unions, he
boiled at the memory of some of the half-baked, pedantic theories he had
heard promulgated by the professor of political economy in Middletown.

On the other hand, he stood in wonder at the unconscious but profound
wisdom which these ignorant people showed as to the fundamentals of life.

"No, we're not much for _clothes!_" said Mrs. McCartey, comfortably
tucking up her worn and faded sleeves. "Haven't we all of us enough good
clothes to go to Mass in, and that's a'plenty! The rest of Pat's money
goes to gettin' lots of good food for the children, bless their red faces
and fat little bellies! and laying by a dollar or so a week against the
rainy day. Children can play better, anyhow, with only overalls and
shirts. The best times for kids is the cheapest!"

J.M. thought of the heavy-eyed, harassed professors of his acquaintance,
working nights and Sundays at hack work to satisfy the nervous ambitions
of their wives to keep up appearances, and gave a sudden swift embrace to
the ragged child on his lap, little Molly, who had developed an especial
cult for him, following him everywhere with great pansy eyes of adoring
admiration.

On his first expedition out of the yard since his illness, he was touched
by the enthusiastic interest which all Main Street took in his progress.
Women with babies came down to nearly every gate to pass the time of day
with Rosalie, on whose arm he leaned, and to say in their varying foreign
accents that they were glad to see the sick gentleman able to be out.
Since J.M. had had a chance at first-hand observation of the variety of
occupation forced upon the mother of seven, he was not surprised that they
wore more or less dilapidated wrappers and did not Marcel-wave their hair.
Now he noticed the motherly look in their eyes, and the exuberant health
of the children laughing and swarming about them. When he returned to the
house he sat down on the porch to consider a number of new ideas which
were springing up in his mind, beginning to return to its old vigor. Mrs.
McCartey came out to see how he had stood the fatigue and said: "Sure you
look smarter than before you went! It inter_est_ed you now, didn't it, to
have a chance really to see the old place?"

"Yes," said J.M., "it did, very much."

Mrs. McCartey went on: "I've been thinkin' so many times since you come
how much luckier you are than most Yankees that come back to their old
homes. It must seem so good to you to see the houses just swarmin' with
young life and to know that the trees and yards and rocks and brooks that
give you such a good time when you was a boy, are goin' on givin' good
times to a string of other boys."

J.M. looked at her with attentive, surprised eyes. "Why, do you know," he
cried, "it _does_ seem good, to be sure!"

The other did not notice the oddness of his accent as she ended
meditatively: "You can never get me to believe that it don't make old
Yankees feel low in their minds to go back to their old homes and find
just a few white-headed rheumatickers potterin' around, an' the grass
growing over everything as though it was a molderin' graveyard that nobody
iver walked in, and sorra sign of life anyway you look up and down the
street."

J.M.'s mind flew back to the summer home of the president of Middletown.
"Good gracious," he exclaimed, "you're right!"

Mrs. McCartey did not take in to the full this compliment, her mind being
suddenly diverted by the appearance of a tall figure at the door of the
farther wing of the house. "Say, Uncle Jerry," she said, lowering her
voice, "Stefan Petrofsky asked me the other day if I thought you would let
him talk to you about Ivan some evening?"

"Why, who are they, anyhow?" asked J.M. "I've often wondered why they
kept themselves so separate from the rest of us." As he spoke he noticed
the turn of his phrase and almost laughed aloud.

"Petrofsky's wife, poor thing, died since they come here, and now there's
only Stefan, he's the father, and Ivan, he's the boy. He's awful smart
they say, and Stefan, he's about kilt himself to get the boy through the
high school. He graduated this spring and now Stefan he says he wants him
to get some _more_ education. He says their family, back in Russia, was
real gentry and he wants Ivan to learn a lot so that he can help the poor
Roosians who come here to do the right thing by the government--"

"_ What_?" asked J.M. "I don't seem to catch his idea."

"Well, no more do I, sorra bit," confessed Mrs. McCartey serenely. "Not a
breath of what he meant got to me, but what he _said_ was that Ivan's
schoolin' had put queer ideas in his head to be an anarchist or somethin'
and he thought that maybe more schoolin' would drive out _thim_ ideas and
put in other ones yet. Hasn't it a foolish sound, now?" She appealed to
J .M. for a sympathy she did not get.

"It sounds like the most interesting case I ever heard of," he cried, with
a generous looseness of superlative new to him. "Is Ivan that tall, shy,
sad-looking boy who goes with his father to work?"

"That's _him_. An' plays the fiddle fit to tear the heart out of your
body, and reads big books till God knows what hour in the mornin'. His
father, he says _he_ don't know what to do with him ... There's a big, bad
devil of a Polack down to the works that wants him to join the anarchists
in the fall and go to----"

J.M. rose to his feet and hurried down the porch toward the Petrofsky
wing of the house, addressing himself to the tall, grave-faced figure in
the doorway. "Oh, Mr. Petrofsky, may I have a few minutes' talk with you
about your son?" he said.



III


The registrar of Middletown College, being a newcomer, saw nothing unusual
in the fact that the librarian came to his office on matriculation day to
enroll as a freshman a shy, dark-eyed lad with a foreign name; but the
president and older professors were petrified into speechlessness by the
news that old J.M. had returned from parts unknown with a queer-looking
boy, who called the old man uncle. Their amazement rose to positive
incredulity when they heard that the fastidious, finical old bachelor had
actually installed a raw freshman in one of his precious tower-rooms,
always before inexorably guarded from the mildest and most passing
intrusion on their hallowed quiet.

The president made all haste to call on J.M. and see the phenomenon with
his own eyes. As discreetly as his raging curiosity would allow him, he
fell to questioning the former recluse. When he learned that J.M. had
spent six weeks in Woodville, no more explanation seemed needed. "Oh, of
course, your old home?"

"Yes," said J.M., "my old home."

"And you had a warm welcome there, I dare say?"

"Yes, indeed," said J.M.

"Found the old town in good condition?"

"Excellent!" this with emphasis.

The president saw it all, explaining it competently to himself. "Yes, yes,
I see it from here--vacation spent in renewing your youth playing with the
children--promised to go back at Christmas, I suppose."

"Oh, yes, of course," said J.M.

"Children cried when you came away, and gave you dotty little things
they'd made themselves?"

"Just like that," with a reminiscent smile.

"Well, well," the president got to his feet. "Of course, most natural
thing in the world to take an interest in your brothers' and sisters'
children."

J.M. did not contradict the president. He never contradicted the
presidents. He outlasted them so consistently that it was not necessary.
This time he took off his glasses and rubbed them on an awkwardly
fashioned chamois spectacle-wiper made for him by little Molly McCartey.
He noticed the pattern of the silk in his visitor's necktie and it made
him think of one of Rosalie Loyette's designs. He smiled a little.

The president regarded this smiling silence with suspicion. He cocked his
eye penetratingly upon his librarian. "But it is very queer, J.M., that as
long as I have known you, I never heard that you _had_ any family at all."

J.M. put his clean and polished spectacles back on his nose and looked
through them into the next room, where Ivan Petrofsky sat devouring his
first lesson in political economy. Then he turned, beaming like an amiable
sphinx upon his interrogator. "Do you know--I never realized it myself
until just lately," he said.



BY ABANA AND PHARPAR


  Fields, green fields of Shining River,
      Lightly left too soon
  In the stormy equinoctial,
      In the hunter's moon,--

      Snow-blown fields of Shining River
      I shall once more tread;
  I shall walk their crested hollows,
      Living or dead.



FINIS


To old Mrs. Prentiss, watching apprehensively each low mountain dawn, the
long, golden days of the warm autumn formed a series of blessed reprieves
from the loom which hung over her. With her inherited and trained sense of
reality, she could not cheat herself into forgetting, even for a moment,
that her fate was certain, but, nevertheless, she took a breathless
enjoyment in each day, as it passed and did not bring the dreaded change
in her life. She spoke to her husband about this feeling as they sat on
the front step one October evening, when the air was as mild as in late
May, breaking the calm silence, in which they usually sat, by saying,
"Seems as though this weather was just made for us, don't it, father?"

The old man stirred uneasily in his chair. "I dun'no'--seems sometimes to
me as though I'd ruther have winter come and be done with it. If we've got
to go as soon as cold weather sets in, we might as well go and have it
over with. As 'tis, I keep on saying good-by in my mind to things and
folks every minute, and then get up in the morning to begin it all again.
This afternoon I was down the river where I saved Hiram's life when he was
a little fellow--the old black whirl-hole. I got to thinking about that
time, I never was real sure till then I wouldn't be a coward if it come
right down _to_ it. Seems as though I'd been more of a man ever since.
It's been a real comfort to me to look at that whirl-hole, and that
afternoon it come over me that after this there wouldn't be a single thing
any more to remind us of anything _good_ or bad, we've ever done. It'll be
most as if we hadn't lived at all. I just felt as though I _couldn't_ go
away from everything and everybody I've ever known down to Hiram's stuffy
little flat. And yet I suppose we are real lucky to have such a good son
as Hiram now the others are all gone. I dun'no' what we'd do if 'tweren't
for him."

"Do!" cried his wife bitterly. "We could go on living right in this valley
where we belong, if 'twas only in the poor-house!"

The old man answered reasonably, as though trying to convince himself,
"Well, I suppose it's really flying in the face of Providence to feel so.
The doctor says your lungs ain't strong enough to stand another of our
winters in the mountains, fussing over stove fires, and zero weather and
all, and I'm so ailing I probably wouldn't last through, either. He says
it's a special dispensation that we've got such a nice place to go where
there's steam heat, and warm as summer, day and night."

"Nathaniel!" exclaimed his wife, attempting to turn her bulky body toward
him in the energy of her protest, "how can you talk so! We've visited
Hiram and we know what an awful place he lives in. I keep a-seeing that
little narrow room that's to be all the place you and I'll have, with the
one window that gets flapped by the wash of the Lord knows who, and that
kitchen as big as the closet to my bedroom here, and that long narrow
hall--why, it's as much as ever I can walk down that all without sticking
fast--and Hiram's queer Dutch wife--"

She stopped, silenced by the scantiness of her vocabulary, but through her
mind still whirled wordless outcries of rebellion. Her one brief visit to
the city rose before her with all the horror of the inexplicable, strange,
and repellent life which it had revealed to her. The very conveniences of
the compact city apartment were included in her revulsion from all that it
meant. The very kindnesses of the pretty, plump German woman who was her
daughter-in-law startled and repelled her, as did the familiar, easy,
loud-voiced affection of the blond young German-Americans who were her
grandchildren. Even her own son, Hiram, become half Teutonic through the
influence of his business and social relations among the Germans, seemed
alien and remote to her. The stout, beer-drinking, good-natured and
easygoing man seemed another person from the shy, stiff lad who had gone
away from them many years ago, looking so like his father at nineteen that
his mother choked to see him.

She passed in review all the small rooms of her son's home, "strung along
the hall like buttons on a string," and thought of the three flights of
stairs which were the only escape from them--three long, steep flights,
which left her breathless, her knees trembling under her great weight, and
which led out on the narrow side street, full of noisy, impertinent
children and clattering traffic. Beyond that, nothing--a city full of
strangers whose every thought and way of life were foreign to her, whose
very breath came in hurried, feverish gasps, who exhaled, as they passed
her, an almost palpable emanation of hostile indifference to her and her
existence. It was no new vision to her. Ever since the doctor's verdict
had made it impossible longer to resist her son's dutiful urging of his
parents to make his home theirs she had spent scarcely an hour without a
sudden sick wave of dread of what lay before her; but the picture was the
none the less horrifying because of familiarity, and she struck her hands
together with a sharp indrawn breath.

The gaunt old man turned toward her, a helpless sympathy twisting his
seamed and weather-marked face. "It's too _bad_, mother," he said. "I know
just how you feel about it. But Hiram's a good son, and"--he hesitated,
casting about for a redeeming feature--"there's always the Natural
History Museum and the birds."

"That's just it, Nathaniel," returned the old rebel against fate. "You
have something there that's going on with _one_ thing you've done here.
You've always noticed birds and studied 'em in the woods, and you can go
on doing it in a museum. But there ain't a thing for me! All I've ever
done is to live right here in this house ever since I was born, and look
out at the mountains and the big meadows and the river and the churchyard,
and keep house and take care of you and the children.

"Now the children are all gone, and I haven't the strength to take care of
you the way you need; my life is all done--there ain't no more to it!

"It's like a book--there's still a chapter _you_ can write, or one you can
finish up; but me--I've come right down to _Finis_, only the Lord won't
write it for me. It's as if somebody wanted to scrawl on the back flyleaf
something that hasn't a thing to do with the rest of the book, some
scratching stuff in a furrin' language that I can't even understand."

Her husband did not contradict her. He sighed heavily and they both fell
again into a cheerless silence. The moon rose with a strange, eerie
swiftness over the wall of mountain before them, and its wavering
reflection sprang at once to life in the swirling waters of the black hole
in the Necronsett on the other side of the meadow. The old woman's heart
gave a painful leap in her breast at the sight. It was probably one of the
last times she would see it. Numberless occasions when she had noted it
before hurried through her mind.

She felt herself again the little girl who had sat in summer evenings,
miles away from the talk of her elders in a happy child's reverie, and who
had grown dizzy with watching the swimming reflection in the whirlpool.
She had a strange fleeting hallucination that she was again sitting in the
moonlight, her cheeks flushed and her strong young pulse beating high to
hear Nathaniel's footfall draw nearer down the road. She felt again the
warm, soft weight of her little son, the first-born, the one who had died
young, as she remembered how proud she and Nathaniel had been when he
first noticed the moon.

An odd passion of recollection possessed her. As the moon rose higher she
seemed to be living over at one time a thousand hours of her busy, ardent
life. She looked at the high, drooping line of the mountains with her
childhood's delight in its clear outline against the sky; she saw the
white stones of the old graveyard, next door, glimmer through the shadow
cast by the church tower, with the half uneasy, fearful pleasure of her
romantic girlhood; she felt about her the solidity and permanency of the
old house, her father's and her grandfather's home, with the joy in
protected security of her young married life; and through it all there ran
a heavy sick realization that she was, in fact, a helpless old woman,
grown too feeble to conduct her own life, and who was to be forced to die
two deaths, one of the spirit and one of the body.

"Come, mother," said Nathaniel, rising, "we'd better go to bed. We both of
us get notiony sitting here in the moonlight."

He helped her raise her weighty body with the deftness of long practice
and they both went dully into the house.

The knowledge of the sky and of the signs of weather which was almost an
instinct with the descendant of generations of farmers, was put to an
anxious use during the days which followed.

Not since the days when, as a young girl, she had roamed the mountains, as
much a part of the forest and fields as any wild inhabitant, had she so
scanned the face of the valley which was her world.

She had stopped hoping for any release from her sentence. She only prayed
now for one more day of grace, and into each day she crowded a fullness of
life which was like a renewal of her vigorous youth.

Of late years, existence had flowed so uniform a passage through the
channels of habit that it had become but half sentient. The two old people
had lived in almost as harmoniously vacant and vital a silence as the old
trees in the forest back of the house. In the surroundings which
generations of human use had worn to an exquisite fitness for their needs,
and to which a long lifetime had adjusted their every action, they
convicted their life with the unthinking sureness of a process of Nature.
But now the old woman, feeling exile close upon her, drew from every
moment of the familiar life an essential savor.

She knew there was no hope for her; the repeated visits of the doctor and
his decided judgments left her no illusions as to the possibility of
escape. "The very first cold snap you must certainly go," he said, with
the inflexibility of the young. "Mr. Prentiss is likely to have one of his
bad turns and you simply cannot give him the are he must have. Besides,
when he is sick, you will have to look after the fires, and the slightest
exposure would mean pneumonia. I've just written your son so." He drew on
his overcoat. He was so recently from the hospital that it was still of a
fashionable cut and texture. "_I_ can't see anyway why you object to
going. Your son can't afford to keep you both here, and hire somebody to
look after you into the bargain. Think of the advantages you have there,
theaters and museums and the like."

Mrs. Prentiss spoke sharply. "I've never been in a theater in my life and
I hope I'll go to my grave without being; and as for museums and things,
look at me! I'm so big I can hardly get into the cars, and my city
grandchildren are ashamed to go out with me and have all the folks looking
at the fat old woman from the country."

The doctor laughed involuntarily at this picture as he turned away.

"Do you think you are so big it takes the whole Necronsett valley to hold
you?" he called lightly over his shoulder.

Mrs. Prentiss looked after him with burning eyes What did _he_ know about
the continuity of human life He had told her himself that he had never
lived more than four years in one place. What did he know of ordering your
life, not only for yourself, but for your parents and grandparents? She
felt often as she looked upon the unchanging line of the mountains
guarding the valley, as in her great-grandfather's time, that she saw with
the eyes of her ancestors as well as her own. The room in which she stood
had been her grandmother's bedroom, and her father had been born there, as
she had been herself, and as her children had been. In her childhood she
had looked up to the top of the tall chest of drawers as to a mountain
peak, and her children had, after her. Every inequality in the floor was
as familiar to her feet as to those of her great-grandmother. The big
chest, where she had always kept her children's clothes, had guarded hers
and her mother's, and as often as she had knelt by it, she had so vivid a
recollection of seeing her mother and her grandmother in the same
attitude, that she seemed to lose for a moment the small and confining
sense of individual personality, and to become merged in a noble
procession of mothers of the race.

She had been an undisciplined girl, called a tomboy in those days, whose
farmer forbears had given to her a pagan passion for the soil and the open
sky. Although brought up with a rigid training in theology, religion had
never meant more to her than a certainty of hell as a punishment for
misdeeds which neither she nor any of the valley people were likely to
commit--murder, suicide, false swearing, and the like. Of definite
religious feeling, she had none, although the discipline of a hard if
happy life had brought her spiritual life in an unconsciously profound
form. She had shrunk from that discipline with all the force of her
nature, and in her girl's heart had vowed that she would never marry and
lead the slave's life of a New England farmer's wife. But then had arrived
Nathaniel, the big, handsome lad who had taken her wild, shy heart and
lost his own when they first met.

So, half rebellious, she had begun the life of a wife in the old house
from which her mother had just gone to the churchyard next door, and which
was yet filled with her brave and gentle spirit. The old woman, looking
miserably about her, remembered how at every crisis of her life the old
house had spoken to her of the line of submissive wives and mothers which
lay back of her, and had tamed her to a happy resignation in the common
fate of women. On her mother's bed she had borne the agony of childbirth
without a murmur, she whose strong young body had never known pain of any
kind. She had been a joyful prisoner to her little children, she who had
always roamed so foot-free in her girlhood, and with a patience inspired
by the thought of her place in the pilgrimage of her race, she had turned
the great strength of her love for her husband toward a contented
acceptance of the narrow life which was all he could give her.

Each smallest detail in the room had a significance running back over
years. The ragged cuts in the window-sill moved her to a sudden
recollection of how naughty little Hiram had cut them with his first
knife. With what a repressed intensity she had loved the child while she
had reproved him! How could she go away and leave every reminder of her
children! With a quick and characteristic turn she caught herself in the
flagrant contradiction involved in her reluctance to leave behind her mere
senseless reminders of her son when she was going to his actual self. And
then, with the despairing clear sight of one in a crisis of life, she knew
that, in very fact, Hiram was no longer the boy who had left them years
ago. Away from all that made up her life, under influences utterly foreign
and alien, he had spent almost twice as many years as he had with her. Not
only had the reaction from his severe training carried him to another
extreme of laxness, but as result of his continued absence he had lost all
contact with her world. He no longer consciously repudiated it, he had
crossed the deeper gulf of forgetting it. He was a stranger to her.

Always before the memories which clung about every corner of the dark old
house had helped her, but now she was forced to face a crisis which none
of her people had known. It was not one of the hardships of life which
were to be accepted, and the hot rebellion of her girlhood burned in her
aching old heart. She thought resentfully of the doctor's blind and stony
lack of understanding. His last ironic sentence came to her mind and she
flamed at the recollection. Yes, it did take the whole valley to hold her,
the valley which was as much a part of her as her eyes which beheld it.
There were moments when she stood under the hazy autumn sky, so acutely
conscious of every line and color of the great wall of mountains
surrounding her that she grew in very fact to be an indivisible portion of
the whole--felt herself as actually rooted to that soil and as permanent
under that sky as the great elm before the door.

She made no more outcries against fate to her husband, partly because of
the anguish which came upon his gentle old face at the sight of her
suffering, and partly because she felt herself to have no tangible reason
for rebellion. During the last years they had gone drearily around and
around the circle which they felt closing so inexorably upon them, and
there was no longer any use to wear themselves out in futile discussions
of impossible plans. They had both been trained to regard reasonableness
as one of the cardinal virtues, and to the mild nature of the old man it
was a natural one, so they tried conscientiously to force themselves not
only to act, but to feel, "like sensible folks," as they put it bravely to
themselves.

"Other folks have gone to live with their children, and not near such good
sons as Hiram either, and they didn't make such a fuss about it," said Mr.
Prentiss one evening, out of a long silence, as they sat in front of the
hearth. He looked at his wife, hoping for a cheerful response, but her
lips were set in a quivering line of pain, and the flickering light showed
her fair broad face glistening with tears. "Oh, _mother_!" he cried, in a
helpless misery of sympathy. "Oh, mother, don't! I can't stand it! If I
could only do it for you! But we _can't_ stay, you know."

The other nodded dumbly, although after a moment she said, "Every day I
live all my life over again, and my mother's, and all my folks. It has
never seemed as though they really died as long as we lived here same as
they did. It's like killing them all again to go away and sell the house
to strangers."

There was a silence and then, "Oh, Nathaniel, what was that?" she cried,
her voice rising in a quaver of apprehension.

"The wind," said her husband, stirring the fire.

"I know. But _what_ wind? It sounds like the first beginning of the wind
over Eagle Rock, and that means snow!"

She hastened heavily to the window, and raised the shade. "There's a ring
around the moon as plain as my wedding ring!" And then as she looked there
clung to the window-pane a single flake of snow, showing ghastly white in
the instant before it melted.

"Nathaniel, the end has come," she said solemnly. "Help me get to bed."

The next morning there was a foot of snow and the thermometer was going
steadily down. When the doctor arrived, red-nosed and gasping from the
knife-like thrusts of the wind over Eagle Rock, he announced that it was
only eight above zero, and he brought a kindly telegram from Hiram, saying
that he had started for the mountains to accompany his parents back to the
city. "I envy you!" said the doctor, blowing on his stiff fingers. "Think
of the bliss of being where you have only to turn a screw in your
steam-radiator to escape from this beastly cold. Your son will be here on
the evening train, and I'll bring him right over. You'll be ready to start
tomorrow, won't you? You've had all the autumn to get packed up in."

Mrs. Prentiss did not answer. She was so irrationally angry with him that
she could not trust herself to speak. She stood looking out of the low
window at the Necronsett, running swift and black between the white banks.
She felt a wave of her old obsession that in her still lived the bygone
dwellers in the old house, that through her eyes they still saw the
infinitely dear and familiar scenes, something in her own attitude
reminded her of how her father had looked as he stood every morning at
that same window and speculated on the weather. For a moment she had an
almost dizzy conviction that he did in all reality stand there again.

Then she heard the doctor saying, "I'm coming over there myself when you
start for the station, to see that you're well wrapped up. The least
exposure----" He looked at Mrs. Prentiss's broad and obstinate back,
turned, to her husband, and tapped his chest significantly.

After he had gone the room was intensely quiet. Mr. Prentiss sat by the
fire, looking vacantly at his withered old hands on his knees, and his
wife did not stir from the window. Her heavy, wide figure was immovable,
but a veritable whirlwind of despair raged within her. She had supposed
she knew all along how bad it was going to be, but it had been a foolish
child's play, like shutting your eyes to pretend you were blind. Now that
utter darkness was upon her, it was as great a shock as though it came
with the most extreme and cruel surprise. A thousand furious fancies went
through her mind, although she continued to gaze out of the window with
the same blank look of stunned incredulity. The whirlpool in the river
caught her eye and she had a wild impulse to throw herself into it. Even
in her frenzy, however, there came the thought, instantly dissuading, of
the scandal in the village and family which such an action would cause.

No, there was no escape at all, since that simple and obvious one was
closed.

The valley lay about her, the mountain walls iridescent with snow in
sunshine, the river gleaming with its curious, rapid, serpentine life, in
all the peaceful death of winter; everything was as it always had been.
Her mind refused to accept the possibility of her living under other
conditions with as irresistible and final a certainty as if she had been
called upon to believe she could live with her head separated from her
body.

And yet, battering at that instinctive feeling, came the knowledge that
she was to start for New York the next day. She felt suddenly that she
could not. "I can't! I can't!" she cried dumbly. "I can't, even if I
_have_ to!"

An instant later, like an echo, a fiercer gust than usual swept down off
the ledge of rock above the little house, rattled the loose old window,
and sent a sharp blade of icy air full in the old woman's eyes. She gasped
and started back. And then, all in a breath, her face grew calm and
smooth, and her eyes bright with a sudden resolve. Without a moment's
hesitation, she turned to her husband and said in a tone more like her old
self than he had heard for some time, "Father, I wish you'd go over to
Mrs. Warner's and take back that pattern. If we're going to leave
to-morrow, you know----"

The old man rose obediently, and began putting on his wraps. His wife
helped him, and hurried him eagerly off. When she was alone, she tore at
the fastening of her gown in a fury of haste, baring her wrinkled old
throat widely. Then without a glance about her, she opened the door to the
woodshed, stepped out, and closed it behind her. The cold clutched at her
throat like a palpable hand of ice, and her first involuntary gasp set her
into a fit of coughing.

She sat down on the stump where kindlings were always split and opened her
gown wider. She noticed how fair and smooth the skin on her shoulders
still was and remembered that her husband had always been proud of her
pretty neck. She had worn a low-necked dress when he had told her he loved
her. That had been in the garden, into which she could now look as she sat
on the stump. She had been picking currants for tea, and he had gone out
to see her. The scene came up before her so vividly that she heard his
voice, and felt herself turn to him with the light grace of her girlhood
and cry again, in an ecstasy of surprised joy, "Oh, _Nathaniel!_"

A gust of wind whirled a handful of snow against her and some of it
settled on her bare shoulders. She watched it melt and felt the icy little
trickle with a curious aloofness. Suddenly she began to shiver, gripped by
a dreadful chill, which shook her like a strong hand. After that she was
very still again, the death-like cold penetrating deeper and deeper until
her breath came in constricted gasps. She did not stir until she heard the
front door bang to her husband's return. Then she rose with infinite
effort and struggled back into the kitchen. When he came in, she was
standing by the sink, fumbling idly with the dishes. Already her head was
whirling, and she scarcely knew what she was doing.

In the nightmare of horror which his wife's sudden sickness brought upon
him, old Mr. Prentiss felt that he could bear everything except the sight
and sound of his wife's struggles for breath. He hardly saw the neighbor
women who filled the house, taking advantage of this opportunity to
inspect the furniture with an eye to the auction which would follow the
removal of the old people to the city. He hardly heeded the doctor's
desperate attempts with all varieties of new-fangled scientific
contrivances to stay the hand of death. He hardly knew that his son had
come, and in his competent, prosperous way was managing everything for
him. He sat in one corner of the sick-room, and agonized over the
unconscious sick woman, fighting for every breath.

On the third day he was left alone with her, by some chance, and suddenly
the dreadful, heaving gasp was still. He sprang to the bedside, sick with
apprehension, but his wife looked up at him with recognition in her eyes.
"This is the end, Nathaniel," she said in so low a whisper that he laid
his ear to her lips to hear. "Don't let anybody in till I'm gone. I don't
want 'em to see how happy I look." Her face wore, indeed, an unearthly
look of beatitude.

"Nathaniel," she went on, "I hope there's no life after this--for _me_
anyway. I don't think I ever had very much soul. It was always enough for
me to live in the valley with you. When I go back into the ground I'll be
where I belong. I ain't fit for heaven, and, anyway, I'm tired. We've
lived hard, you and I, Nathaniel; we loved hard when we were young, and
we've lived all our lives right out to the end. Now I want to rest."

The old man sat down heavily in a chair by the bed. His lips quivered, but
he said nothing. His wife's brief respite from pain had passed as suddenly
as it came, and her huge frame began again to shake in the agony of
straining breath. She managed to speak between gasps.

"Don't let a soul in here, Nathaniel. I'll be gone in a few minutes.
I don't want 'em to see----"

The old man stepped to the door and locked it. As he came back, the sick
woman motioned him to come closer.

"Natty, I thought I could keep it, but I never did have a secret from you,
and I can't die without telling you, if there _is_ a heaven and
hell----Oh, Natty, I've done a wicked thing and I'm dying without
repenting. I'd do it again. That time you went to Mrs. Warner's with the
pattern--this cold I got that day I went out----"

Her husband interrupted her. For the first time in years he did not call
her "mother," but used the pet name of their courtship. The long years of
their parenthood had vanished. They had gone back to the days when each
had made up all the world to the other. "I know, Matey," he said. "I met
young Warner out in the road and give the pattern to him, and I come right
back, and see you sitting out there. I knew what 'twas for."

His wife stared at him, amazement silencing her.

"I thought it was the only thing left I could do for you, Matey, to let
you stay there. You know I never wished for anything but that you should
have what you wanted." He had spoken in a steady, even tone, which now
broke into an irrepressible wail of selfish, human anguish. "But you leave
me all _alone_, Matey! How can I get on without you! I thought I'd die
myself as I sat inside the house watching you. You're all I ever had,
Matey! All there has ever been in the world for me!"

The old woman stopped her gasping by a superhuman effort. "Why, Natty, I
never supposed you thought so much of me still. I thought that had gone
when we got old. But, oh, my dear! I'm afraid I've dragged you down with
me to destruction. It wa'n't any matter about me, but I'm afraid you've
lost your soul. That was a wicked thing for us to do!"

Her husband lifted his tear-stained, old face and laid it on the pillow
beside her. He did not put his arms about her, as a younger lover or one
of another country might have done, but because he was a man who had loved
deeply all his life, his answer came with the solemn significance and
sincerity of a speech before the Judgment Seat. "I ain't afraid of hell if
you're there, Matey," he said.

His wife turned her head and looked at him, her whole face transfigured.
She was no longer a fat old woman on her deathbed. Before his very eyes
she grew again to be the girl among the currant bushes, and with the same
amazed intonation of incredulous joy she cried his name aloud. "Oh,
Nathaniel!" she said, and with the word the longed for _Finis_ was written
to her life.



A VILLAGE MUNCHAUSEN


I


When I was a little girl, and lived in Hillsboro with my grandparents,
there were two Decoration Days in every year. One was when all we
school-children took flowers put to the cemetery and decorated the graves
of the soldiers; and the other was when the peonies and syringas bloomed,
and grandfather and I went alone to put a bouquet on the grave of old
Jedediah Chillingworth.

Grandfather did this as a sort of penance for a great mistake he had made,
and I think it was with the idea of making an atonement by confession that
he used always to tell me the story of his relations with the old man. At
any rate, he started his narrative when we left the house and began to
walk out to the cemetery, and ended it as he laid the flowers on the
neglected grave. I trotted along beside him, faster and faster as he grew
more and more interested, and then stood breathless on the other side of
the grave as he finished, in his cracked old voice, harsh with emotion.

The first part of his story happened a very long time ago, even before
grandfather was born, when Jedediah Chillingworth first began to win for
himself the combination title of town-fool and town-liar. By the time
grandfather was a half-grown boy, big enough to join in the rough crowd of
village lads who tormented Jed, the old dizzard had been for years the
local butt. Of course I never saw him, but I have keard so much about him
from all the gossips in the village, and grandfather used to describe him
so vividly, that I feel as if I know all about him.

For about ten years of his youth Jedediah had been way from our little
Vermont town, wandering in the great world. From his stories, he had been
everywhere on he map. In the evening, around the stove in the village
post-office, when somebody read aloud from the newspaper a remarkable
event, all the loafers turned to Jed with wide, malicious grins, to hear
him cap it with a yet ore marvelous tale of what had happened to him. They
gathered around the simple-minded little old man, their tongues in their
cheeks, and drew from him one silly, impossible, boastful story after
another. They made him amplify circumstantially by clumsily artful
questions, and poked one another in the ribs with delight over his deluded
joy in their sympathetic interest.

As he grew older, his yarns solidified like folk-lore, into a consecrated
and legendary form, which he repeated endlessly without variation. There
were many of them--"How I drove a team of four horses over a falling
bridge," "How I interviewed the King of Portugal," "How I saved big Sam
Harden's life in the forest fire." But the favorite one was, "How I rode
the moose into Kennettown, Massachusetts." This was the particular
flaunting, sumptuous yarn which everybody made old Jed bring out for
company. If a stranger remarked, "Old man Chillingworth can tell a tale or
two, can't he?" everybody started up eagerly with the cry: "Oh, but have
you heard him tell the story of how he rode the moose into Kennettown,
Massachusetts?"

If the answer was negative; all business was laid aside until the withered
little old man was found, pottering bout some of the odd jobs by which he
earned his living. He was always as pleased as Punch to be asked to
perform, and laid aside his tools with a foolish, bragging grin on his
face, of which grandfather has told me so many times that it seems as if I
had really seen it.

This is how he told the story, always word for word the same way:

"Wa'al, sir, I've had queer things happen to me in my time, hain't I,
boys?"--at which the surrounding crowd always wagged mocking heads--"but
nothin' to beat that. When I was ashore wunst, from one of my long v'y'ges
on the sea, I was to Kennettown, Massachusetts."

"How'd ye come to go there, Jed?" This was a question never to be omitted.

"Oh, I had a great sight of money to take to some folks that lived there.
The captain of our ship had died at sea, and he give me nine thousand five
hundred and seventy-two English gold guineas, to take to his brother and
sister."

Here he always stared around at the company, and accepted credulously the
counterfeit coin of grotesquely exaggerated amazement which was given him.

"Wa'al, sir, I done it. I give the gold to them as it belonged to, and I
was to leave town on the noon stagecoach. I was stayin' in the captain's
brother's house. It was spang up against the woods, on the edge of town;
and, I tell ye, woods _was_ woods in them days.

"The mornin' I was to leave I was up early, lookin' out of my window, when
what should I see with these mortial eyes but a gre't bull moose, as big
as two yoke o' oxen, comin' along toward the house. He sort o' staggered
along, and then give a gre't sigh I could hear from my room--I was on the
ground floor--fell down on his knees, and laid his head on the ground 's
if he was too beat out to go another step. Wa'al, sir, I never waited not
long enough even to fetch a holler to wake the folks I just dove out o'
the window, and made for him as fast as I could lick in. As I went by the
wood-pile, I grabbed up a big stick of wood----"

"What kind of wood?" everybody asked in chorus.

"'Twas a big stick of birch-wood, with the white bark on it as clean as
writin'-paper. I grabbed that up for a club--'twas the only thing in
sight--and when I got to the moose I hit him a clip on the side of the
head as hard as I could lay on. He didn't so much as open an eye, but I
saw he was still breathing and I climbed up on his back so's to get a good
whack at the top of his head. And then, sir, by Jupiter! he riz right up
like a earthquake under me, and started off at forty miles an hour. He
throwed his head back as he run, and ketched me right between his horns,
like a nut in a nutcracker. I couldn't have got out of them horns--no,
sir, a charge of powder couldn't scarcely have loosened me."

There was another pause at this place for the outcries of astonishment and
marvel which were never lacking. Then Jed went on, mumbling his toothless
gums in delight over his importance.

"Wa'al, sir, I dassent tell ye how long we careered around them woods and
pastures, for, after a while, he got so plumb crazy that he run right out
into the open country. I'd hit him a whack over the head with my stick of
wood every chanst I got and he was awful weak anyhow, so he'd kind o'
stagger whenever he made a sharp turn. By an' by we got to goin' toward
town. Somehow he'd landed himself in the road; an', sir, we rid up to the
hotel like a coach and four, and he drapped dead in front of the steps, me
stickin' as fast between his horns as if I'd 'a' growed to him. Yes, sir,
they ackchally had to saw one of them horns off'n his head before they got
me out."

He came to a full stop here, but this was not the end.

"What became of the horns, Jed? Why didn't ye bring 'em along?"

"I did take the one they sawed off, to give to my partner, big Sam Harden.
He was the biggest man I ever see, Sam Harden was. I left th' other horn
in Kennettown for the captain's sister. She was as smart an' handsome a
widow-woman as ever I see, an' I wanted for her to have a keepsake from
me."

This was really the end. The circle of inquisitors left their unconscious
victim nodding and grinning to himself, and went on down the road.
Grandfather said he still felt mean all over to remember how they laughed
among themselves, and how they pointed out to the stranger the high lights
in the story.

"Not only ain't there never been seen a moose in the State of
Massachusetts, and not only are a moose's horns set too wide to catch a
little squinch of a man like Jed, but what do you think?--there ain't no
Kennettown in Massachusetts! No, nor in any other State. No, nor never
was. Old Jed just made the town up out of his head, like the moose, an'
the money, and the birch-bark and the handsome widow. Don't he beat
_all_?"



II


My grandfather was one of these boys; in fact, he always used to say he
was the ringleader, but that may have been another form of his penance. As
he grew up he began to work into his father's business of tanning leather,
and by and by, when a man grown, he traveled down to a big tannery at
Newtonville, in Massachusetts, to learn some new processes in
leather-curing.

When grandfather got along to this part of the story he began stretching
his long legs faster and faster, until I was obliged to trot along,
panting. He always lived the hurried last part over again, and so did I,
although it happened so long before I was born.

One evening he was asked to tea by the mother of the prettiest girl in the
village--she afterward became my grandmother--and was taken into the "best
room" to see all the family curiosities. There were wax flowers and
silhouettes and relics of every description. Mrs. Hamilton spared him not
one of these wonders.

"This," she said, "is the chain that was made of my grandfather's hair. It
was finished and brought home on a Wednesday, and Thursday, the next day,
grandfather was burned up in the great tannery fire, and this was all my
grandmother had to remember him by. These are the front teeth of a savage
that my uncle Josiah Abijah killed in the South Sea Islands. Uncle Josiah
Abijah always said it was either him or the black man, but I have always
felt that it was murder, just the same, and this is the stick of
birch-wood that a sailor-man, who came here once to see my mother, killed
a bull moose with."

My grandmother has told me that never before or since did she see a human
face change as did grandfather's.

"What?" he shouted, and his voice cracked.

"Yes, it sounds queer, but it's so. It's the only time a moose was ever
seen here, and folks thought the wolves must have chased it till it was
crazy or tired out. This sailor-man, who happened to be here, saw it, ran
out, snatched up a stick from the wood-pile, and went at that great animal
all alone. Folks say he was the bravest man this town ever saw. He got
right up on its back--"

Grandmother said grandfather had turned so pale by this time that she
thought he was going to faint and he sat down as if somebody had knocked
him down. On the dusty road to the cemetery, however, he only strode along
the faster, half forgetting the little girl who dragged at his hand, and
turned a sympathetically agitated face up to his narrative.

Mrs. Hamilton went on through the whole incident, telling every single
thing just the way old Jed did. She showed the dark places on the
birch-bark where the blood had stained it, and she said the skull of the
animal, with its one horn sawed off, was over among the relics in her
aunt's home.

"My Aunt Maria was accounted a very good-looking woman in her day, and
there were those that thought she might have taken a second husband, if
the sailor had been so disposed. He was so brave and so honest, bringing
all that money from my uncle, the sea-captain, when goodness knows, he
might have run off with every cent of it, and nobody been any the wiser!"

At this grandfather gave a loud exclamation and stood up, shaking his head
as if he had the ague. He just couldn't believe his ears, he said.

"No! No! _No_! It can't be the same!" he said over and over. "Why, he said
it happened in Kennettown."

"Well, _now_!" said Mrs. Hamilton, surprised. "Where did you ever get hold
of _that_ old name? I didn't suppose a soul but some of our old folks
remembered that. Why, Newtonville wasn't named that but six months. Folks
got mad at the Kennetts for being so highfalutin' over having the town
named after them, and so 'twas changed back."

Grandfather said he'd no notion of another word she said after that. When
he went back to his room, he found a letter from home, telling him all the
news, and mentioning, among other things, that old Jedediah Chillingworth
wasn't expected to live much longer. Age had withered the little old man
until there wasn't enough of him left to go on living. Grandfather usually
reached this part of the story just as we arrived under the big maples
that stand on each side of the cemetery gate, and always stopped short to
say solemnly:

"Thank the _Lord_! I've two things to my credit. I never waited one minute
to start back to Hillsboro, and from that time on I wanted to do what was
right by the old man, even if it did turn out so different."


Then we went on into the cemetery, and paced slowly along the winding
paths as he continued:

"I got to Hillsboro late one night, and I'd 'most killed my horse to do
it. They said Jedediah was still alive, but wasn't expected to last till
morning. I went right up to his little old shack, without waiting to see
my folks or to get a mouthful to eat. A whole lot of the neighbors had
come in to watch with him, and even then, with the old dizzard actually
dying, they were making a fool of him.

"He was half propped up in bed--he wasn't bigger than my fist by that
time--with red spots in his cheeks, and his eyes like glass, and he was
just ending up that moose story. The folks were laughing and winking and
nudging one another in the ribs, just the way I used to. I was done up
with my long, hard ride, and some nervous, I guess, for it fair turned my
stomach to see them.

"I waited till they were all through laughing, and then I broke loose. I
just gave them a piece of my mind! 'Look-a-here, you fellows!' I said.
'You think you're awful smart, don't you, making fun of poor old Jed as he
lies a-dying? Now, listen to me. I've ridden forty miles over the
mountains to get here before he goes, and make every man jack of you beg
the old man's pardon. _That story's true_. I've just found out that every
word of it is absolutely, literally the way it happened. Newtonville,
where I'm staying in Massachusetts, used to be called Kennettown, and
Jedediah _did_ take the money there--yes, that exact sum we've laughed at
all these years. They call him the honestest man in the world over there.
They've got the stick of birch-wood, with the bloodstains on it, and the
moose's skull, with the horn sawed off, and there are lots of old people
who remember all about it. And I'm here to say I believe old Jed's been
telling the truth, not only about that, but about all his adventures.
I don't believe he's ever lied to us!'

"I felt so grand and magnanimous," grandfather went on, "to think how I
was making it up to the poor old man, and so set up over bringing a piece
of news that just paralyzed everybody with astonishment. They all jumped
up, yelling and carrying on. '_What_? That story _true_! Well, did you
ever! Wouldn't that beat all? To think old Jed's been telling--"

"And then we all thought of him, and started toward the bed to say how bad
we felt.

"I'll never forget how he looked. His eyes were fairly coming out of his
head, and his face was as white as paper. But that wasn't the dreadful
thing. What always comes back to me whenever I think of him is the
expression on his face. You could just see his heart breaking. He was so
hurt, so surprised, so ashamed, that it wasn't decent to look at him. But
we couldn't look away. We stood there, hanging our heads--I never felt so
mean in my life--while he tried to get breath enough to say something. And
then he screamed out--'twas dreadful to hear:

"'Why, didn't you fellers _believe_ me? Did you think I was _lyin_?'"

Here grandfather stopped and blew his nose, and I choked.

"Those were his last words. He had some kind of a spasm, and never came to
enough to know anything before he died. Those were the last words he said;
and though they told us that in the coffin he looked just as he always
had, only more quiet, with the foolish look gone, we were all of us
ashamed to look the dead man in the face."

Here grandfather laid the flowers on the unkempt grave, as if to serve as
an "Amen" to his confession.

After this I always went around and held his hand tightly, and we stood
very still. It was the solemnest time of the year.



III


All this used to happen, as I said, when I was a little girl; but I, too,
grew up, as grandfather grew bent and feeble. When he was an old, old man
of eighty-five, and when I had been away from Hillsboro several years
teaching school, the last of my grandmother's relatives in Newtonville
died. I was sent for to decide what should be done with the few family
relics, and one Saturday and Sunday I went all through the little old
house, looking over the things.

In the garret I came across the moose-skull with one horn. It made me feel
queer to think what a part it had played in the development of my
grandfather's honorable and tender old soul. There were a few sticks of
furniture, some daguerrotypes and silhouettes, and a drawerful of yellow
papers. The first I sent home to Hillsboro to grandmother. I took the
papers back to the town where I was teaching, to look over them.

Among other things was a quaint old diary of my grandmother's great-aunt,
she that was the buxom widow of Jed's story. It was full of homely items
of her rustic occupations; what day she had "sett the broune hen," and how
much butter was made the first month she had the "party-colored cowe from
over the mount'n." I glanced idly at these faded bits of insignificant
news, when I was electrified by seeing the following entry:

#This day came to my Bro. Amos and Me, a sea-man, bringeing news of my
Bro. Elijah's the capt'n's dethe, and allso mutch monie in gold, sent to
us by our Bro. The sea-man is the greatest in size aver I saw. No man in
towne his bed can reach so mutch as to his sholder. And comely withal#.

The words fairly whirled on the page before my astonished eyes. Where was
the image of the ill-favored little old Jed, so present to my imagination?
I read on breathlessly, skipping news of the hen-house and barnyard, until
I came upon this, the only other reference, but quite sufficient:

This day the sea-man, Samuel Harden, left us.

The self-restrained woman had said nothing of any disappointment she might
have felt. The item stood quite alone, however, in a significant
isolation. At least on that day she had not noticed the number of eggs.

I doubt if grandfather himself had been more excited when he saw the
birch-wood club than I was to read those few words. I could hardly wait
till the next Saturday to rush back to Hillsboro, and relieve the poor old
man of the burden of remorse he had carried so faithfully and so
mistakenly all these years, and to snatch the specious crown of martyrdom
from that shameless thief of another man's exploits.

And yet, when I finally arrived at Hillsboro, I found it not so easy to
begin. Some strange spell, exhaled from the unchanging aspect of the old
house and the old people, fell on me, and, though I tried several times, I
could not find a suitable opening. On Sunday morning grandfather asked me
if I would help him to get out to Jed's grave. The peonies and syringas
were in bloom, and grandmother had the bouquet made up ready. Drawing me
aside, she to me that grandfather was really too infirm to try to make the
expedition at all, and certainly could not go alone. Even then I could
find no words to tell her. I thought it might be easier to do so out of
doors.

It was the middle of a bright spring morning, when we started off,
grandfather leaning on his cane and holding to my arm, while I carried the
great clump of red peonies and white syringas. The sun was warm, but a
cool breeze blew down from the mountains, and grandfather hobbled along
bravely.

It made me feel like a little girl again to have him begin the story of
the moose, and tell it word for word as he always had. He was forced to
stop often now, and wait for breath to come back to him. At each of these
halts beside the road, which was white in the clear spring sunshine, it
was harder and harder to think of breaking in on him with my discovery.

As he finally told about Jedediah's wounded virtue on his deathbed--that
outcry which seemed to me the most brazen part of the whole
imposture--suddenly my heart softened, and I, too, believed that by that
time of his life old Jed was--I really don't know just what it was that I
believed, but it was something as comforting as the quiet warmth of the
sunshine.

We were standing by the sunken old grave when grandfather finished. I
looked at him, the sun shining down on his bent figure and bared white
head, the flowers reflecting their brightness up into his withered old
face, and a lump came into my throat. I could not have told him if I had
wished to.

"We were ashamed to look the dead man in the face," he said humbly, and
laid the flowers down on the young grass.

Then I went around and held his dear old hand tightly in mine; and we
stood very still for a long, long time.



THE ARTIST


"After the sickening stench of personality in theatrical life," the great
Madame Orloff told the doctor with her usual free-handed use of language,
"it is like breathing a thin, pure air to be here again with our dear
inhuman old Vieyra. He hypnotizes me into his own belief that nothing
matters--not broken hearts, nor death, nor success, nor first love, nor
old age---nothing but the chiaroscuro of his latest acquisition."

The picture-dealer looked at her in silence, bringing the point of his
white beard up to his chin with a meditative fist. The big surgeon gazed
about him with appreciative eyes, touched his mustache to his gold-lined
coffee-cup, and sighed contentedly. "You're not the only one, my dear
Olga," he said, "who finds Vieyra's hard heart a blessing. When I am here
in his magnificent old den, listening to one of his frank accounts of his
own artistic acumen and rejoicing in his beautiful possessions, why the
rest of the world--real humanity--seems in retrospect like one great
hospital full of shrieking incurables."

"Oh, humanity----!" The actress thrust it away with one of her startling,
vivid gestures.

"You think it very clever, my distinguished friends, to discuss me before
my face," commented the old picture-dealer indifferently. He fingered the
bright-colored decorations on his breast, looking down at them with absent
eyes. After a moment he added, "and to show your in-ti-mate knowledge of
my character." Only its careful correctness betrayed the foreignness of
his speech.

There was a pause in which the three gazed idly at the fire's reflection
in the brass of the superb old andirons Then, "Haven't you something new
to show us?" asked the woman. "Some genuine Masaccio, picked up in a
hill-town monastery--a real Ribera?"

The small old Jew drew a long breath. "Yes, I have something new." He
hesitated, opened his lips, closed them again and, looking at the fire,
"Oh yes, very new indeed--new to me."

"Is it here?" The great surgeon looked about the picture-covered walls.

"No; I have it in--you know what you call the inner sanctuary--the light
here is not good enough."

The actress stood up, her glittering dress flashing a thousand eyes at the
fire. "Let me see it," she commanded. "Certainly I would like to see
anything that was new to _you_!"

"You shall amuse yourself by identifying the artist without my aid," said
old Vieyra.

He opened a door, held back a portière, let his guests pass through into a
darkened room, turned on a softly brilliant light, and: "Whom do you make
the artist?" he said. He did not look at the picture. He looked at the
faces of his guests, and after a long silent pause, he smiled faintly into
his beard. "Let us go back to the fire," he said, and clicked them into
darkness again.

"And what do you say?" he asked as they sat down.

"By Jove!" cried the doctor. "By Jove!"

Madame Orloff turned on the collector the somber glow of her deep-set
eyes. "I have dreamed it," she said.

"It is real," said Vieyra. "You are the first to see it. I wished to
observe how----"

"It's an unknown Vermeer!" The doctor brought his big white hand down
loudly on this discovery. "Nobody but Vermeer could have done the plaster
wall in the sunlight. And the girl's strange gray head-dress must be
seventeenth-century Dutch of some province I don't----"

"I am a rich man, for a picture-dealer," said Vieyra, "but only national
governments can afford to buy Vermeers nowadays."

"But you picked it up from some corner, some attic, some stable----"

"Yes, I picked it up from a stable," said the collector.

The actress laid her slender, burning fingers on his cool old hand. "Tell
us--tell us," she urged. "There is something different here."

"Yes, there is something different," he stirred in his chair and thrust
out his lips. "So different that I don't know if you----"

"Try me! try me!" she assured him ardently. "You have educated me well to
your own hard standards all these years."

At this he looked at her, startled, frowning, attentive, and ended by
shaking off her hand. "No, I will not tell you."

"You shall----" her eyes commanded, adjured him. There was a silence. "I
will understand," she said under her breath.

"You will not understand," he said in the same tone; but aloud he began:
"I heard of it first from an American picture-dealer over here scraping up
a mock-Barbizon collection for a new millionaire. He wanted to get my
judgment, he said, on a canvas that had been brought to him by a cousin of
his children's governess. I was to be sure to see it when I went to New
York--you knew did you not, that I had been called to New York to testify
in the prosecution of Paullsen for selling a signed copy?"

"Did you really go?" asked the doctor. "I thought you swore that nothing
could take you to America."

"I went," said the old man grimly. "Paullsen did me a bad turn once,
thirty years ago. And while I was there I went to see the unknown canvas.
The dealer half apologized for taking my time--said he did not as a rule
pay any attention to freak things brought in from country holes by
amateurs, but--I remember his wording--this thing, some ways he looked at
it, didn't seem bad somehow."

The collector paused, passed his tongue over his lips, and said briefly:
"Then he showed it to me. It was the young girl and kitten in there."

"By Jove!" cried the doctor.

"You have too exciting a profession, my good old dear," said the actress.
"Some day you will die of a heart failure."

"Not after living through that!"

"What did you tell him?"

"I asked for the address of the cousin of his children's governess, of
course. When I had it, I bought a ticket to the place, and when I reached
there, I found myself at the end of all things--an abomination of
desolation, a parched place in the wilderness. Do you know America, either
of you?"

The doctor shook his head.

"I have toured there, three times," said the actress.

"Did you ever hear of a place called Vermont?"

Madame Orloff looked blank. "It sounds French, not English. Perhaps you do
not pronounce it as they do."

"Heaven forbid that I should do anything as 'they' do! This place, then,
call it what you will, is inhabited by a lean, tall, sullenly silent race
who live in preposterously ugly little wooden houses of the most naked
cleanliness ... God of my Fathers! the hideousness of the huddle of those
huts where I finally found the cousin! He was a seller of letter-paper and
cheap chromos and he knew nothing of the picture except that it was
brought to him to sell by the countryman who sold him butter. So I found
the address of the butter-maker and drove endless miles over an execrable
road to his house, and encountered at last a person who could tell me
something of what I wanted to know. It was the butter-maker's mother, a
stolid, middle-aged woman, who looked at me out of the most uncanny quiet
eyes ... all the people in that valley have extraordinary piercing and
quiet eyes ... and asked, 'Is it about the picture? For if it is, I don't
want you should let on about it to anybody but me. Nobody but the family
knows he paints 'em!"

At this the doctor burst out, "Gracious powers! You don't mean to say that
the man who painted that picture is alive now ... in 1915!"

The actress frowned at the interruption and turned with a lithe petulance
on the big Briton. "If you want to know, let him alone!" she commanded.

"And soon I had it all," the narrator went on. "Almost more than I could
bear. The old woman could tell me what I wished to know, she said. He was
her uncle, the only brother of her mother, and he had brought up her and
her brothers and sisters. She knew... oh, she knew with good reason, all
of his life. All, that is, but the beginning. She had heard from the older
people in the valley that he had been wild in his youth (he has always
been, she told me gravely, 'queer') and she knew that he had traveled far
in his young days, very, very far."

"'To New York?' I ventured.

"'Oh, no, beyond that. Across the water.'

"'To Paris?'

"That she didn't know. It was a foreign country at least, and he had stayed
there two, three years, until he was called back by her father's
death--his brother-in-law's--to take care of his mother, and his sister
and the children. Here her mind went back to my question, and she said she
had something perhaps I could tell from, where he had been. She kept it in
her Bible. He had given it to her when she was a child as a reward the day
she had kept her little brother from falling in the fire. She brought it
out. It was a sketch, hasty, vigorous, suggestive, haunting as the
original itself, of the Leonardo da Vinci Ste. Anne.

"Yes, I told her, now I knew where he had been. And they had called him
back from there--_here_?

"'When my father died,' she repeated, 'my uncle was all my grandmother and
my mother had. We were five little children, and the oldest not seven, and
we were all very poor,'

"'How old was your uncle then?' I asked.

"'A young man--he was younger than my mother. Perhaps he was twenty-five,'

"I looked at the sketch in my hand. Twenty-five, and called back from
Paris--_here_!

"'When did he go back to Paris?'

"'Oh, he never went back,' She told me this quite placidly, as she said
everything else. 'He never went back at all.'

"He had stayed there the rest of his life, and worked the little farm that
was all his sister had, and made a living for them--not large, the farm
being poor and he not a first-class farmer, but still enough. He had
always been kind to them--if he was quite queer and absent. She had heard
her grandmother say that at first, the first ten years, perhaps, he had
had strange, gloomy savage fits like a person possessed that you read of
in the Bible; but she herself could never remember him as anything but
quiet and smiling. He had a very queer smile unlike anyone else, as I
would notice for myself when I went to see him about the picture. You
could tell him by that, and by his being very lame.

"That brought me back with a start. I rushed at her with questions. 'How
about the picture? Were there others? Were there many? Had he always
painted? Had he never shown them to anyone? Was he painting now?

"She could not tell me much. It had been a detail of their common life she
had but absently remarked, as though she had lived with a man who
collected snail-shells, or studied the post-marks on letters. She 'had
never noticed'--that was the answer to most of my questions. No, she did
not think there were very many now, though he must have painted 'most a
million. He was always at it, every minute he could spare from farming.
But they had been so poor he had not felt he could afford many canvases.
The paints cost a good deal too. So he painted them over and over, first
one thing and then another, as he happened to fancy. He painted in the
horse-barn. 'Had a place rigged up,' in her phrase, in one corner of the
room where the hay was stored, and had cut a big window in the roof that
was apt to let in water on the hay if the rain came from the north.

"'What did he paint?' 'Oh, anything. He was queer about that. He'd paint
_any_thing! He did one picture of nothing but the corner of the barnyard,
with a big white sow and some little pigs in the straw, early in the
morning, when the dew was on everything. He had thought quite a lot of
that, but he had had to paint over it to make the picture of her little
sister with the yellow kittie--the one she'd sent down to the village to
try to sell, the one--'

"'Yes, yes,' I told her, 'the one I saw. But did he never try to sell any
himself? Did he never even show them to anyone?'

"She hesitated, tried to remember, and said that once when they were very
poor, and there was a big doctor's bill to pay, he _had_ sent a picture
down to New York. But it was sent back. They had made a good deal of fun
of it, the people down there, because it wasn't finished off enough. She
thought her uncle's feelings had been hurt by their letter. The express
down and back had cost a good deal too, and the only frame he had got
broken. Altogether, she guessed that discouraged him. Anyhow, he'd never
tried again. He seemed to get so after a while that he didn't care whether
anybody liked them or even saw them or not--he just painted them to amuse
himself, she guessed. He seemed to get a good real of comfort out of it.
It made his face very still and smiling to paint. Nobody around there so
much as knew he did it, the farm was so far from neighbors.

"'Twas a real lonely place, she told me, and she had been glad to marry
and come down in the valley to live closer to folks. Her uncle had given
her her wedding outfit. He had done real well by them all, and they were
grateful; and now he was getting feeble and had trouble with his heart,
they wanted to do something for him. They had thought, perhaps, they could
sell some of his pictures for enough to hire a man to help him with the
farm work. She had heard that pictures were coming into fashion more than
they had been, and she had borrowed that one of her little sister and the
kittie, and without her uncle's knowing anything about it, had sent it
off. She was about discouraged waiting for somebody down in the city to
make up his mind whether he'd buy it or not.

"I asked her a thousand other questions but she could answer none of them.
The only detail I could get from her being an account of her uncle's habit
of 'staring' for sometimes a half an hour at something, without once
looking away. She'd seen him stop that way, when he'd be husking corn
maybe, and stare at a place where a sunbeam came in on a pile of corn. It
put him back quite considerable in his work, that habit, but they had
nothing to complain of. He'd done well by them, when you considered they
weren't his own children.

"'Hadn't he ever tried to break away?' I asked her amazed. 'To leave them?
To go back?'

"She told me: 'Oh, no, he was the only support his mother and his sister
had, and there were all the little children. He _had_ to stay.'"

The actress broke in fiercely: "Oh, stop! stop! it makes me sick to hear.
I could boil them in oil, that family! Quick! You saw him? You brought him
away? You--"

"I saw him," said Vieyra, "yes, I saw him."

Madame Orloff leaned toward him, her eyebrows a line of painful attention.

"I drove that afternoon up to a still tinier village in the mountains near
where he lived, and there I slept that night--or, at least, I lay in a
bed."

"Of course, you could not sleep," broke in the listening woman; "I shall
not to-night."

"When dawn came I dressed and went out to wander until people should be
awake. I walked far, through fields, and then through a wood as red as
red-gold--like nothing I ever saw. It was in October, and the sun was late
to rise. When I came out on an uplying heath, the mists were just
beginning to roll away from the valley below. As I stood there, leaning
against a tree in the edge of the wood, some cows came by, little,
pinched, lean cows and a young dog bounding along, and then, after them,
slowly, an old man in gray--very lame."

The actress closed her eyes.

"He did not see me. He whistled to the dog and stroked his head, and then
as the cows went through a gate, he turned and faced the rising sun, the
light full on his face. He looked at the valley coming into sight through
the mists. He was so close to me I could have tossed a stone to him--I
shall never know how long he stood there--how long I had that face before
me."

The narrator was silent. Madame Orloff opened her eyes and looked at him
piercingly.

"I cannot tell you--I cannot!" he answered her. 'Who can tell of life and
death and a new birth? It was as though I were thinking with my
finger-nails, or the hair of my head--a part of me I had never before
dreamed had feeling. My eyes were dazzled. I could have bowed myself to
the earth like Moses before the burning bush. How can I tell you--? How
can I tell you?"

"He was--?" breathed the woman.

"Hubert van Eyck might have painted God the Father with those eyes--that
mouth--that face of patient power--of selfless, still beatitude.--Once the
dog, nestling by his side, whimpered and licked his hand. He looked down,
he turned his eyes away from his vision, and looked down at the animal and
smiled. Jehovah! What a smile. It seemed to me then that if God loves
humanity, he can have no kinder smile for us. And then he looked back
across the valley--at the sky, at the mountains, at the smoke rising from
the houses below us--he looked at the world--at some vision, some
knowledge--what he saw--what he saw--!

"I did not know when he went. I was alone in that crimson wood.

"I went back to the village. I went back to the city. I would not speak to
him till I had some honor worthy to offer him. I tried to think what would
mean most to him. I remembered the drawing of the Ste. Anne. I remembered
his years in Paris, and I knew what would seem most honor to him. I cabled
Drouot of the Luxembourg Gallery. I waited in New York till he came. I
showed him the picture. I told him the story. He was on fire!

"We were to go back to the mountains together, to tell him that his
picture would hang in the Luxembourg, and then in the Louvre--that in all
probability he would be decorated by the French government, that other
pictures of his would live for all time in Paris, in London, in
Brussels--a letter came from the woman, his niece. He was dead."

The actress fell back in her chair, her hands over her face.

The surgeon stirred wrathfully. "Heavens and earth, Vieyra, what beastly,
ghastly, brutally tragic horror are you telling us, anyhow?"

The old Jew moistened his lips and was silent. After a moment he said: "I
should not have told you. I knew you could not understand."

Madame Orloff looked up sharply. "Do you mean--is it possible that _you_
mean that if we had seen him--had seen that look--we would--that he had
had all that an artist--"

The picture-dealer addressed himself to her, turning his back on the
doctor. "I went back to the funeral, to the mountains. The niece told me
that before he died he smiled suddenly on them all and said: 'I have had a
happy life,' I had taken a palm to lay on his coffin, and after I had
looked long at his dead face, I put aside the palm. I felt that if he had
lived I could never have spoken to him---could never have told him."

The old Jew looked down at the decorations on his breast, and around at
the picture-covered walls. He made a sweeping gesture.

"What had I to offer him?" he said.



WHO ELSE HEARD IT?


  A lady walking through the square
      With steamship tickets in her hand,
  To spend her summer in the Alps,
      Her winter in the Holy Land,

      Heard (or else dreamed), as she passed by
      The Orphan Home across the way,
  A small and clear and wondering voice
      From out a dormer window say,

      "And would you really rather climb
      Mont Blanc alone, than walk with me
  Out hunting Mayflowers in the woods
      Of Westerburn and Cloverlea?

      "Alas! And would you rather hear
      Cathedral choirs in cities far
  Than one at bedtime, on your lap,
      Say 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star'?"

  "A lonely Christmas would you spend
      By Galilee or Jordan's tide
  When a child's stocking you might fill
      And hang it by your own fireside?"



A DROP IN THE BUCKET


There is no need to describe in detail the heroine of this tale, because
she represents a type familiar to all readers of the conventional
New-England-village dialect story. She was for a long time the sole
inhabitant of Hillsboro, who came up to the expectations of our visiting
friends from the city, on the lookout for Mary Wilkins characters. We
always used to take such people directly to see Cousin Tryphena, as
dwellers in an Italian city always take their foreign friends to see their
one bit of ruined city wall or the heap of stones which was once an
Inquisitorial torture chamber, never to see the new water-works or the
modern, sanitary hospital.

On the way to the other end of the street, where Cousin Tryphena's tiny,
two-roomed house stood, we always laid bare the secrets of her somnolent,
respectable, unprofitable life; we always informed our visitors that she
lived and kept up a social position on two hundred and fifteen dollars a
year, and that she had never been further from home than to the next
village. We always drew attention to her one treasure, the fine Sheraton
sideboard that had belonged to her great-grandfather, old Priest Perkins;
and, when we walked away from the orderly and empty house, we were sure
that our friends from the city would always exclaim with great insight
into character, "What a charmingly picturesque life! Isn't she perfectly
delicious!"

Next door to Cousin Tryphena's minute, snow-white house is a forlorn old
building, one of the few places for rent in our village, where nearly
everyone owns his own shelter. It stood desolately idle for some time,
tumbling to pieces almost visibly, until, one day, two years ago, a burly,
white-bearded tramp stopped in front of it, laid down his stick and bundle,
and went to inquire at the neighbor's if the place were for rent, then
moved in with his stick and bundle and sent away for the rest of his
belongings, that is to say, an outfit for cobbling shoes. He cut a big
wooden boot out of the side of an empty box, painted it black with
axle-grease and soot, hung it up over the door, and announced himself as
ready to do all the cobbling and harness-repairing he could get ... and a
fine workman he showed himself to be.

We were all rather glad to have this odd new member of our community
settle down among us ... all, that is, except Cousin Tryphena, who was
sure, for months afterward, that he would cut her throat some night and
steal away her Sheraton sideboard. It was an open secret that Putnam, the
antique-furniture dealer in Troy, had offered her two hundred and fifty
dollars for it. The other women of the village, however, not living alone
in such dangerous proximity to the formidable stranger, felt reassured by
his long, white beard, and by his great liking for little children.

Although, from his name, as from his strong accent, it was evident that
old Jombatiste belonged, by birth, to our French-Canadian colony, he never
associated himself with that easy-going, devoutly Catholic, law-abiding,
and rather unlettered group of our citizens. He allied himself with quite
another class, making no secret of the fact that he was an out-and-out
Socialist, Anti-clerical, Syndicalist, Anarchist, Nihilist. ... We in
Hillsboro are not acute in distinguishing between the different shades of
radicalism, and never have been able exactly to place him, except that,
beside his smashing, loudly-voiced theories, young Arthur Robbins'
Progressivism sounds like old Martin Pelham's continued jubilation over
the Hayes campaign.

The central article of Jombatiste's passionately held creed seemed to be
that everything was exactly wrong, and that, while the Socialist party was
not nearly sweeping enough in its ideas, it was, as yet, the best means
for accomplishing the inevitable, righteous overturning of society.
Accordingly, he worked incessantly, not only at his cobbling, but at any
odd job he could find to do, lived the life of an anchorite, went in rags,
ate mainly crackers and milk, and sent every penny he could save to the
Socialist Headquarters. We knew about this not only through his own
trumpeting of the programme of his life, but because Phil Latimer, the
postmaster, is cousin to us all and often told us about the money-orders,
so large that they must have represented almost all the earnings of the
fanatical old shoemaker.

And yet he was never willing to join in any of our charitable enterprises,
although his ardent old heart was evidently as tender as it was hot.
Nothing threw him into such bellowing fury as cruelty. He became the
terror of all our boys who trapped rabbits, and, indeed, by the sole
influence of his whirlwind descents upon them, and his highly illegal
destruction of their traps, he practically made that boyish pastime a
thing of the past in Hillsboro. Somehow, though the boys talked mightily
about how they'd have the law of dirty, hot-tempered old Jombatiste,
nobody cared really to face him. He had on tap a stream of red-hot
vituperation astonishingly varied for a man of his evident lack of early
education. Perhaps it came from his incessant reading and absorption of
Socialist and incendiary literature.

He took two Socialist newspapers, and nobody knows how many queer little
inflammatory magazines from which he read aloud selections to anyone who
did not run away.

Naturally enough, from his point of view, he began with his neighbor,
fastidious Cousin Tryphena.

What Cousin Tryphena did not know about the way the world outside of
Hillsboro was run would have made a complete treatise on modern
civilization. She never took a newspaper, only borrowing, once in a while,
the local sheet to read the news items from Greenford, where she had some
distant cousins; and, though she occasionally looked at one of the
illustrated magazines, it was only at the pictures.

It is therefore plain that old Jombatiste could not have found a worse
listener for his bellowed statements that ninety per cent. of the money of
this country was in the hands of two per cent. of the population; that the
franchise was a farce because the government was controlled by a Wall
Street clique; and that any man who could not earn a good living for his
family had a moral right to shoot a millionaire. For the most part, Cousin
Tryphena counted her tatting stitches and paid not the least attention to
her malcontent neighbor. When she did listen, she did not believe a word
he said. She had lived in Hillsboro for fifty-five years and she knew what
made people poor. It was shiftlessness. There was always plenty of work to
be had at the brush-back factory for any man who had the sense and
backbone to keep at it. If they _would_ stop work in deer-week to go
hunting, or go on a spree Town-meeting day, or run away to fish, she'd
like to know what business they had blaming millionaires because they lost
their jobs. She did not expound her opinions of these points to Jombatiste
because, in the first place, she despised him for a dirty Canuck, and,
secondly, because opinions seemed shadowy and unsubstantial things to her.
The important matters were to make your starch clear and not to be late to
church.

It is proverbial that people who are mostly silent often keep for some
time a reputation for more wisdom than is theirs. Cousin Tryphena
unconsciously profited in the estimation of her neighbor by this fact of
psychology. Old Jombatiste had thundered his per cents. of the
distribution of capital for many months before he discovered that he was
on the wrong track.

Then, one winter day, as Cousin Tryphena was hanging out her washing, he
ran over to her, waving his favorite magazine. He read her a paragraph
from it, striking the paper occasionally for emphasis with his horny,
blackened, shoemaker's hand, and following her as she moved along the
clothes-lines----

"And it is thus definitely _proved,_" he shouted in conclusion, "that
Senator Burlingame was in the pay of J.D. Darby, when he held up the Rouse
Workingman's Bill in the Senate Committee...." He stopped and glared
triumphantly at his neighbor. A rare impulse of perversity rose in Cousin
Tryphena's unawakened heart. She took a clothes-pin out of her mouth and
asked with some exasperation, "Well, what _of_ it!" a comment on his
information which sent the old man reeling back as though she had struck
him.

In the conversation which followed, old Jombatiste, exploring at last
Cousin Tryphena's mind, leaned giddily over the abyss of her ignorance of
political economy and sociology, dropping one exploring plummet after
another into its depths, only to find them fathomless. He went shakily
back to his own house, silenced for once.

But, although for the first time he neglected work to do it, he returned
to the attack the next day with a new weapon. He made no more remarks
about industrial slavery, nor did he begin, as was his wont, with the
solemnly enunciated axiom, "Wealth comes from labor alone!" He laid down,
on the Sheraton sideboard, an armful of his little magazines, and settled
himself in a chair, observing with a new comprehension how instinctively
Cousin Tryphena reached for her tatting as he began to read aloud. He read
the story of a man who was burned to death in molten steel because his
employers did not install a rather expensive safety device, and who left
a young widow and three children. These tried to earn their livings by
making artificial flowers. They could earn, all of them working together,
three cents an hour. When the last dollar of the dead father's savings was
used up, and there was talk of separating the family so that the children
could be put in an asylum, the mother drowned the three little ones and
herself after them. Cousin Tryphena dropped her tatting, her country-bred
mind reeling. "Didn't she have any _folks_ to help her out?"

Jombatiste explained that she came from East Poland, so that her folks, if
indeed she had any, were too far away to be of use. He struck one fist
inside his palm with a fierce gesture, such as he used when he caught a
boy trapping, and cried, "... and that in a country that produces three
times the food it consumes." For the first time, a statistical statement
awoke an echo in Cousin Tryphena's atrophied brain.

Old Jombatiste read on, this time about a girl of seventeen, left by her
parents' death in charge of a small brother. She had been paid twenty
cents for making crocheted lace which sold for a dollar and a half. By
working twelve hours a day, she had been able to make forty-seven cents.
Seeing her little brother grow pale from lack of food, she had, in
desperation, taken the first, the awfully decisive first step downward,
and had almost at once thereafter vanished, drawn down by the maelstrom of
vice. The little brother, wild with grief over his sister's disappearance,
had been taken to an orphan asylum where he had since twice tried to
commit suicide.

Cousin Tryphena sat rigid, her tatting fallen to the floor, her breath
coming with difficulty. It is impossible for the average modern mind,
calloused by promiscuous reading, to conceive the effect upon her
primitive organism of this attack from the printed page. She not only did
not dream that these stories might not be true, they seemed as real to her
as though she had seen the people. There was not a particle of blood in
her haggard face.

Jombatiste read on--the story of a decent, ambitious man, employed in a
sweatshop tailoring establishment, who contracted tuberculosis from the
foul air, and who dragged down with him, in his agonizing descent to the
very depths of misery, a wife and two children. He was now dead, and his
wife was living in a corner of a moldy, damp basement, a pile of rags the
only bed for her and her children, their only heat what fire the mother
could make out of paper and rubbish picked up on the streets.

Cousin Tryphena's horrified eyes fell on her well-blacked stove, sending
out the aromatic breath of burning white-birch sticks. She recoiled from
it with a shudder.

Jombatiste read on, the story of the woman who, when her three sons died
in an accident due to negligence on their employer's part ... he read no
more that day, for Cousin Tryphena put her gray head down on the
center-table and wept as she never had done in her life. Jombatiste rose
softly and tiptoed out of the room.

The tap-tap-tap of his hammer rang loud and fast the rest of that day. He
was exulting over having aroused another bourgeois from the sleep of
greasy complacency. He had made a convert. To his dire and utter
pennilessness, Cousin Tryphena's tiny income seemed a fortune. He had a
happy dream of persuading her to join him in his weekly contributions to
the sacred funds! As he stood at midnight, in the open door, for the long
draught of fresh air he always took before turning in on his pile of hay,
he heard in the wood on the hill back of the house the shrill shriek of a
trapped rabbit. He plowed furiously out through the deep snow to find it,
gave the tortured animal a merciful death, carried the trap back to the
river and threw it in with a furious splash. He strode home under the
frosty stars, his dirty shirt open over his corded, old neck, his burning
heart almost content. He had done a good day's work.

Early the next morning, his neighbor came to his door, very white, very
hollow-eyed, evidently with a sleepless night back of her, and asked him
for the papers he had read from. Jombatiste gave them to her in a tactful
silence. She took them in one shaking hand, drawing her shawl around her
wrinkled face with the other, and went back through the snow to her own
house.

By noon that day, everyone in the village was thrilling with wild surmise.
Cousin Tryphena had gone over to Graham and Sanders', asked to use their
long-distance telephone and had telephoned to Putnam to come and get her
sideboard. After this strange act, she had passed Albert Graham, then by
chance alone in the store, with so wild a mien that he had not ventured to
make any inquiries. But he took pains to mention the matter, to everyone
who happened to come in, that morning; and, by dinner-time, every family
in Hillsboro was discussing over its pie the possibility that the
well-known _queer streak_, which had sent several of Cousin Tryphena's
ancestors to the asylum, was suddenly making its appearance in her.

I was detained, that afternoon, and did not reach her house until nearly
four; and I was almost the last to arrive. I found Cousin Tryphena very
silent, her usually pale face very red, the center of a group of neighbors
who all at once began to tell me what had happened. I could make nothing
out of their incoherent explanations. ... "Trypheny was crazy ... she'd
ought to have a guardeen ... that Canuck shoemaker had addled her
brains ... there'd ought to be a law against that kind of
newspaper. ... Trypheny was goin' like her great-aunt, Lucilly, that died
in the asylum. ..." I appealed directly to Cousin Tryphena for information
as to what the trouble was.

"There ain't any trouble 's I know of," she answered in a shaking voice.
"I've just heard of a widow-woman, down in the city, who's bringin' up her
two children in the corner of a basement where the green mold stands out
on the wall, and I'm goin' down to fetch her an' the children up here to
live with me ... them an' a little orphan boy as don't like the 'sylum
where they've put him----"

Somebody broke in on her to cry, "Why, Trypheny, you simple old critter,
that's four people! Where you goin' to put 'em in this little tucked-up
place?"

Cousin Tryphena answered doggedly and pointedly, "Your own grandmother,
Rebecca Mason, brought up a family of seven in a house no bigger than
this, and no cellar."

"But how, ..." another voice exclaimed, "air you goin' to get enough for
'em to eat? You ain't got but barely enough for yourself!"

Cousin Tryphena paled a little, "I'm a good sewer, I could make money
sewing ... and I could do washings for city-folks, summer-times...." Her
set mouth told what a price she paid for this voluntary abandonment of the
social standing that had been hers by virtue of her idleness. She went on
with sudden spirit, "You all act as though I was doin' it to spite you and
to amuse myself! I don't _want_ to! When I think of my things I've kept so
nice always, I'm _wild_ ... but how can I help it, now I know about 'em! I
didn't sleep a wink last night. I'll go clean crazy if I don't do
something! I saw those three children strugglin' in the water and their
mother a-holdin' on 'em down, and then jumpin' in herself----Why, I give
enough milk to the _cat_ to keep a baby ... what else can I do?"

I was touched, as I think we all were, by her helpless simplicity and
ignorance, and by her defenselessness against this first vision of life,
the vision which had been spared her so long, only to burst upon her like
a forest-fire. I hid an odd fancy that she had just awakened after a sleep
of half a century.

"Dear Cousin Tryphena," I said as gently as I could, "you haven't had a
very wide experience of modern industrial or city conditions and there are
some phases of this matter which you don't take into consideration." Then
I brought out the old, wordy, eminently reasonable arguments we all use to
stifle the thrust of self-questioning: I told her that it was very likely
that the editor of that newspaper had invented, or at least greatly
exaggerated those stories, and that she would find on investigation that
no such family existed.

"I don't see how that lets me out of _lookin'_ for them," said Cousin
Tryphena.

"Well, at least," I urged, "don't be in such a hurry about it. Take time
to think it over! Wait till--"

"Wait!" cried Cousin Tryphena. "Why, another one may be jumpin' in the
river this minute! If I'd ha' had the money, I'd ha' gone on the noon
train!"

At this point, the man from Putnam's came with a team from our livery to
carry away the Sheraton sideboard. Cousin Tryphena bore herself like a
martyr at the stake, watching, with dry eyes, the departure of her one
certificate to dear gentility and receiving with proud indifference the
crisp bills of a denomination most of us had never seen before.

"You won't need all that just to go down to the city," I remonstrated.

She stopped watching the men load her shining old treasure into the wagon
and turned her anguished eyes to me. "They'll likely be needing clothes
and things."

I gave up. She had indeed thought it all out.

It was time for us to go home to prepare our several suppers and we went
our different ways, shaking our heads over Tryphena's queerness. I stopped
a moment before the cobbler's open door, watched him briskly sewing a
broken halter and telling a folk-tale to some children by his knee. When
he finished, I said with some acerbity, "Well, Jombatiste, I hope you're
satisfied with what you've done to poor old Miss Tryphena ... spoiling the
rest of her life for her!"

"Such a life, Madame," said Jombatiste dryly, "ought to be spoiled, the
sooner the better."

"She's going to start for the city to-morrow," I said, supposing of course
that he had heard the news.

Jombatiste looked up very quickly. "For what goes she to the city?"

"Why ... she's gone daft over those bogie-stories of yours ... she's
looked the list over and picked out the survivors, the widow of the man
who died of tuberculosis, and so on, and she's going to bring them back
here to share her luxurious life."

Jombatiste bounded into the air as if a bomb had exploded under him,
scattering his tools and the children, rushing past me out of the house
and toward Cousin Tryphena's. ... As he ran, he did what I have never seen
anyone do, out of a book; he tore at his bushy hair and scattered handfuls
in the air. It seemed to me that some sudden madness had struck our dull
little village, and I hastened after him to protect Cousin Tryphena.

She opened the door in answer to his battering knocks, frowned, and began
to say something to him, but was fairly swept off her feet by the torrent
of his reproaches.... "How dare you take the information I give you and
use it to betray your fellow-man! How do you _dare_ stand there, so
mealy-mouthed, and face me, when you are planning a cowardly attack on the
liberty of your country! You call yourself a nurse ... what would you
think of a mother who hid an ulcer in her child's side from the doctor
because it did not look pretty! What _else_ are you planning to do? What
would you think of a nurse who put paint and powder on her patient's face,
to cover up a filthy skin disease? What else are you planning to
do ... you with your plan to put court-plaster over one pustule in ten
million and thinking you are helping cure the patient! You are planning
simply to please yourself, you cowardly ... and you are an idiot too ..."
he beat his hands on the door-jambs, "... if you had the money of forty
millionaires, you couldn't do anything in that way ... how many people are
you thinking to help ... two, three ... maybe four! But there are hundreds
of others ... why, I could read you a thousand stories of worse--"

Cousin Tryphena's limit had been reached. She advanced upon the intruder
with a face as excited as his own. ... "Jombatiste Ramotte, if you ever
dare to read me another such story, I'll go right out and jump in the
Necronsett River!"

The mania which had haunted earlier generations of her family looked out
luridly from her eyes.

I felt the goose-flesh stand out on my arms, and even Jombatiste's hot
blood was cooled. He stood silent an instant.

Cousin Tryphena slammed the door in his face.

He turned to me with a bewilderment almost pathetic so tremendous was
it--"Did you hear that ... what sort of logic do you call--"

"Jombatiste," I counseled him, "if you take my advice you'll leave Miss
Tryphena alone after this."

Cousin Tryphena started off on her crack-brained expedition, the very next
morning, on the six-thirty train. I happened to be looking out sleepily
and saw her trudging wearily past our house in the bleak gray of our
mountain dawn, the inadequate little, yellow flame of her old fashioned
lantern like a glowworm at her side. It seemed somehow symbolical of
something, I did not know what.

It was a full week before we heard from her, and we had begun really to
fear that we would never see her again, thinking that perhaps, while she
was among strangers, her unsettled mind might have taken some new fancy
which would be her destruction.

That week Jombatiste shut the door to his house. The children reported
that he would not even let them in, and that they could see him through
the window stitching away in ominous silence, muttering to himself.

Eight days after Cousin Tryphena had gone away, I had a telegram from her,
which read, "Build fires in both my stoves to-morrow afternoon."

The dark comes early in the mountains, and so, although I dare say there
was not a house in the village without a face at the pane after the late
evening train came up, none of us saw anything but our usual impenetrable
December darkness. That, too, seemed, to my perhaps overwrought
consciousness of the problem, highly suggestive of the usual course of our
lives. At least, I told myself, Cousin Tryphena had taken her absurd
little lantern and gone forth.

The next morning, soon after breakfast, I set off for the other end of the
street. Cousin Tryphena saw me coming and opened the door. She did not
smile, and she was still very pale, but I saw that she had regained her
self-control, "Come right in," she said, in rather a tense voice, and, as
I entered she added, in our rustic phrase for introduction, "Make you
'quainted with my friend, Mrs. Lindstrom. She's come up from the city to
stay with me. And this is her little boy, Sigurd, and this is the baby."

Blinking somewhat, I shook hands with a small, stoop-shouldered woman, in
a new, ready-made dress, with abundant yellow hair drawn back from the
thinnest, palest, saddest little face I had ever seen. She was holding an
immaculately clean baby, asleep, its long golden lashes lying on cheeks as
white and sunken as her own. A sturdily built boy of about six scrambled
up from where he lay on the floor, playing with the cat, and gave me a
hand shyly, hanging down his head. His mother had glanced up at me with a
quick, shrinking look of fright, the tears starting to her eyes.

Cousin Tryphena was evidently afraid that I would not take her cue and
sound the right note, for she went on hastily, "Mrs. Lindstrom has been
real sick and kind o' worried over the baby, so's she's some nervous. I
tell her Hillsboro air is thought very good for people's nerves. Lots of
city folks come here in summer time, just for that. Don't you think Sigurd
is a real big boy for only six and a half? He knows his letters too! He's
goin' to school as soon as we get settled down. I want you should bring
over those alphabet blocks that your Peggy doesn't use any more--"

The other woman was openly crying now, clinging to her benefactress' hand
and holding it against her cheek as she sobbed.

My heroic old cousin patted her hair awkwardly, but kept on talking in her
matter-of-fact manner, looking at me sternly as though defying me to show,
by look or word, any consciousness of anything unusual in the situation;
and we fell at once, she and I, into a commonplace conversation about the
incidents of the trip up.

When I came away, half an hour later, Cousin Tryphena slipped a shawl over
her head and came down the walk with me to the gate. I was much affected
by what seemed to me the dramatically fitting outcome of my old
kinswoman's Quixotism. I saw Cousin Tryphena picturesquely as the Happy
Fool of old folk-lore, the character who, through his very lack of worldly
wisdom, attains without effort all that self-seeking folks try for in
vain. The happy ending of her adventure filled me with a cheerful wonder
at the ways of Providence, which I tried to pass on to her in the
exclamation, "Why, Cousin Tryphena, it's like a story-book? You're going
to _enjoy_ having those people. The woman is as nice as she can be, and
that's the brightest little boy! He's as smart as a whip!"

I was aware that the oddness of Cousin Tryphena's manner still persisted
even now that we were alone. She sighed heavily and said, "I don't sleep
much better nights now I've done it!" Then facing me, "I hadn't ought to
have brought them up here! I just did it to please myself! Once I saw
'em ... I wanted 'em!"

This seemed to me the wildest possible perversion of the Puritan instinct
for self-condemnation and, half-vexed, I attempted some expostulation.

She stopped me with a look and gesture Dante might have had, "You ain't
seen what I've seen."

I was half-frightened by her expression but tried to speak coolly. "Why,
was it as bad as that paper said?" I asked.

She laid her hand on my arm, "Child, it was nothing like what the paper
said...it was so much worse!"

"Oh ..." I commented inadequately.

"I was five days looking for her...they'd moved from the address the paper
give. And, in those five days, I saw so many others..._so many others_..."
her face twitched. She put one lean old hand before her eyes. Then, quite
unexpectedly, she cast out at me an exclamation which made my notion of
the pretty picturesqueness of her adventure seem cheap and trivial and
superficial. "Jombatiste is right!" she cried to me with a bitter
fierceness: "Everything is wrong! Everything is wrong! If I can do
anything, I'd ought to do it to help them as want to smash everything up
and start over! What good does it do for me to bring up here just these
three out of all I saw ..." Her voice broke into pitiful, self-excusing
quavers, "but when I saw them ...the baby was so sick ... and little
Sigurd is so cunning ... he took to me right away, came to me the first
thing ... this morning he wouldn't pick up his new rubbers off the floor
for his mother, but, when I asked him, he did, right off ... you ought to
have seen what he had on ... such rags ... such dirt ... and 'twan't her
fault either! She's ... why she's like anybody ... like a person's cousin
they never happened to see before ...why, they were all _folks_!" she
cried out, her tired old mind wandering fitfully from one thing to
another.

"You didn't find the little boy in the asylum?" I asked.


"He was dead before I got there," she answered.

"Oh ... !" I said again, shocked, and then tentatively, "Had he ...?"

"I don't know whether he had or not," said Cousin Tryphena, "I didn't ask.
I didn't want to know. I know too much now!" She looked up fixedly at the
mountain line, high and keen against the winter sky. "Jombatiste is
right," she said again unsparingly, "I hadn't ought to be enjoying
them ... their father ought to be alive and with them. He was willing to
work all he could, and yet he ... here I've lived for fifty-five years and
never airned my salt a single day. What was I livin' on? The stuff these
folks ought to ha' had to eat ... them and the Lord only knows how many
more besides! Jombatiste is right ... what I'm doin' now is only a drop in
the bucket!"

She started from her somber reverie at the sound of a childish wail from
the house. ... "That's Sigurd ...I _knew_ that cat would scratch him!" she
told me with instant, breathless agitation, as though the skies were
falling, and darted back. After a moment's hesitation I too, went back and
watched her bind up with stiff, unaccustomed old fingers the little
scratched hand, watched the frightened little boy sob himself quiet on her
old knees that had never before known a child's soft weight saw the
expression in her eyes as she looked down at the sleeping baby and gazed
about the untidy room so full of mire, which had always been so orderly
and so empty.

She lifted the little boy up higher so that his tousled yellow hair rested
against her bosom. He put an arm around her neck and she flushed with
pleasure like a girl; but, although she held him close to her with a
sudden wistful tenderness, there was in her eyes a gloomy austerity which
forbade me to sentimentalize over the picture she made.

"But, Cousin Tryphena," I urged, "it _is_ a drop in the bucket, you know,
and that's something!"

She looked down at the child on her knee, she laid her cheek against his
bright hair, but she told me with harsh, self-accusing rigor, "Tain't
right for me to be here alive enjoying that dead man's little boy."

       *       *       *       *       *

That was eighteen months ago. Mrs. Lindstrom is dead of consumption; but
the two children are rosy and hearty and not to be distinguished from the
other little Yankees of the village. They are devotedly attached to their
Aunt Tryphena and rule her despotically.

And so we live along, like a symbol of the great world, bewildered Cousin
Tryphena toiling lovingly for her adopted children, with the memory of her
descent into hell still darkening and confusing her kind eyes; Jomatiste
clothing his old body in rags and his soul in flaming indignation as he
batters hopefully at the ramparts of intrenched unrighteousness ... and
the rest of us doing nothing at all.



THE GOLDEN TONGUE OF IRELAND


  Tongue of spice and salt and wine and honey,
      Magic, mystic, sweet, intemperate tongue!
  Flower of lavish love and lyric fury,
      Mixed on lips forever rash and young,
  Wildly droll and quaintly tender;--

      Hark, the hidden melodies of Elfland
      In the under, in the over tone;
  Clear faint wailing of the far-heard banshee,
      Out of lands where never the sun shone,
  Calling doom on chieftains dying....



PIPER TIM

I


When Moira O'Donnell was born, Timothy Moran was thirty-three years old, a
faëry number, as he often told himself afterward. When he was forty and
she was seven, another mystic number, he dedicated his life to her and she
gave him back his lost kingdom of enchantment. It was on the evening of
her seventh birthday that she led him to the Land of Heart's Desire he
thought he had left forever in green and desolate Donegal, and her
birthday fell on the seventh of October, and October is the month when the
little people are busiest. He never forgot what she did for him that
evening, although her part in it was so brief.

His own birthday was on the thirteenth of the month, and he often laid his
sorrows to that unchancy date. On the seventh he sat on the old Round
Stone, his pipes lying silent beside him, and brooded on his heavy ill.
Father Delancey had just left him and had told him flatly that he had no
ills at all. Hence he sat, his heart heavier than ever, drooping, under
the great maple tree, the road white before him, leading away into the
empty, half-translucent shadows of starlight. Father Delancey had said it
was only the faëry nonsense in his head that made him miserable, and had
marshaled before him the irrefutable blessings of his life. Had he not
been cared for from the first minute of his landing from Ireland, a
penniless piper of nineteen, as though the holy saints themselves were
about him? Had he not gone direct to Father Delancey, sent by the priest
in Donegal, and had not Father Delancey at once placed him in the Wilcox
family, kindliest, heartiest, and most stirring of New England farmers?
And had he not lived in prosperity with them ever since?

Timothy started at the faëry number. "Twinty-one years? So 'tis,
Father--an' more! 'Tis twinty-one years to-day since I came, aven and
true--the seventh day of October. Sure, somethin' ought to happen on such
a day--oughtn't it?"

"Happen?" queried Father Delancey.

"The seventh day of October, the twinty-first year and October bein' the
month for thim," said Timothy, elucidating confidently.

Father Delancey frowned and broke into an angry exclamation, "'Tis simple
mad ye are, Timothy Moran, with your faëry foolishness, and I've a half a
mind to take your pipes away from you as a penance for your ignorant
superstition!"

"But, Father, I'm the seventh son and sure ye must admit 'tis a lonesome
country, all this, that looks so like Donegal and Killarney mountains, an'
is so dead-like, wi' no little people to fill up the big gap between the
dead an' the livin', an' the good an' the bad. 'Tis empty, all this
valley."

"Timothy Moran, that are my sister's husband's cousin's son, I'm ashamed
of ye, an' I bid ye note that 'twas the hand of the Blessed Virgin herself
that sent ye out o' Ireland, for if you'd 'a' stayed in th' ould country
you'd 'a' been bewitched long before now--not, savin' us all th' blessed
saints, that I belave in any of your nonsense!"

Timothy smiled at this with an innocent malice. "You see how 'tis, Father.
You cannot kape yourself from belivin' in thim and you a man o' God."

"I do _not_, Timothy! Tis but a way of speech that I learned in my
childhood. An' 'tis lucky for you that I have a knowledge of thim, for any
other priest would have driven you out of the parish, you and your
stubborn pipes that do naught but play faëry music. An' you a man of forty
in a trifle of six days, and no wife an' childer to keep you from foolish
notions. If ye had, now, you could be livin' in the proper tenant's house
for the Wilcox's man, instead of Michael O'Donnell, who has no business
livin' up here on the hill so far from his work that he can come home but
once a week to look after his poor motherless child. I will say for you,
Tim, that you do your duty by that bit of a slip of a girl baby, keepin'
her so neat and clean an' all, times when Mike's not here."

Timothy did not raise his drooping head at this praise, and something
about his attitude struck sharp across the priest's trained observation.
The big, shambling, red-headed man looked like a guilty child. There was a
moment's silence, while Father Delancey speculated, and then his
experienced instinct sped him to the bull's-eye. "Timothy Moran, you're
not putting your foolish notions in the head of that innocent child o'
God, Moira O'Donnell, are you?"

The red head sank lower.

"Answer me, man! Are ye fillin' her mind with your sidhe[A] and your
red-hatted little people an' your stories of 'gentle places' an' the
leprechaun?"

[Footnote A: Pronounced _shee_ (as in Banshee), the fairies.]

Timothy arose suddenly and flung his long arms abroad in a gesture of
revolt. "I am that, Father Delancey, 'tis th' only comfort of my life,
livin' it, as I do, in a dead country--a valley where folks have lived and
died for two hundred years such lumps of clay that they niver had wan man
sharp enough to see the counts in between heaven and earth." He lapsed
again into his listless position on the Round Stone. "But ye needn't be
a-fearin' for her soul, Father--her wid th' black hair an' the big gray
eyes like wan that cud see thim if she wud! She's as dead a lump as anny
of th' rest--as thim meat-eatin' Protestants, the Wilcoxes, heaven save
the kindly bodies, for they've no souls at all, at all." From the stone he
picked up a curiously shaped willow whistle with white lines carved on it
in an odd criss-cross pattern. "To-day's her seventh birthday, an' I
showed her how to make the cruachan whistle, an' when I'd finished she
blew on it a loud note that wud ha' wakened the sidhe for miles around in
Donegal. An' then she looked at me as dumb as a fish, her big gray eyes
blank as a plowed field wid nothin' sown in it. She niver has a word to
show that she _hears_ me, even, when I tell o' the gentle people." He
added in a whisper to himself, "But maybe she's only waiting."


"'Tis the Virgin protectin' her from yer foolishness, Tim," returned the
priest, rising with a relieved air. "She'll soon be goin' to district
school along with all the other hard-headed little Yankees, and then your
tales can't give her notions." With which triumphant meditation he walked
briskly away, leaving Timothy to sit alone with his pipes under the
maple-tree, flaming with a still heat of burning autumn red, like a faëry
fire.

His head sank heavily in his hands as his heart grew intolerably sad with
the lack he felt in all the world, most of all in himself. He had often
tried to tell himself what made the world so dully repellant, but he never
could get beyond, "'Tis as though I was aslape an' yet not quite
aslape--just half wakin', an' somethin' lovely is goin' on in the next
room, an' I can't wake up to see what 'tis. The trouble's with th' people.
They're all _dead_ aslape here, an' there's nobody to wake me up."

"Piper Tim! Piper Tim!" was breathed close to his ear. He sprang up, with
wide, startled eyes.

"Piper Tim," said the little girl gravely, "_I've seen them_."

The man stared at her in a breathless silence.

"A little wee woman with a red hat and kerchief around her neck, an' she
said, 'Go straight to Piper Tim an' tell him to play "The Call o' the
Sidhe" as he sits on the Round Stone, for this is th' day of the Cruachan
Whistle.'"

The child put out her hand, and drew him to the pipes, still keeping her
deep eyes fixed on him, "Play, Piper Tim, an' shut your eyes an' I'll see
what you should see an' tell you what 'tis."

The first notes were quavering as the man's big frame shook, but the
little hands across his eyes seemed to steady him, and the final flourish
was like a call of triumph. In the silence which followed the child spoke
in her high little treble with a grave elation. "They're here, Piper Tim,
all the river fog in the valley is full of them, dancin' and singin' so
gay-like to cheer up the poor hills. An' whist! Here they come up the
road, troops and troops of them, all so bright in the ferlie green; an'
sure," with a little catch of merriment, "sure, they've no toes on their
feet at all! They've danced them all away. And now, Piper Tim, hold your
breath, for they'll be after comin' by, but all so still, so still! so you
won't hear them and maybe think to open your eyes and see them--for that
'ud mean--sh! sh! Piper Tim, don't stir! _They're here! They're here_!"

His eyes ached with the pressure of the strong little hands across them,
his ears ached with straining them into the silence which lay about them.
His heart beat fast with hope and then with certainty. Yes, it was no
longer the thin, dead silence of the New England woods he knew so
unhappily well. It was the still that comes with activity suspended. It
was like the quivering quiet of a dancer, suddenly stricken motionless to
listen for the sound of intruding footsteps. There was not the faintest
sound, but the silence was full of that rich consciousness of life which
marks the first awakening of a profound sleeper.

The hands were withdrawn from before his eyes, but he did not open them.
He reached blindly for his pipes, and played "The Song of Angus to the
Stars," tears of joy running from between his closed eyelids, to recognize
in his own music the quality he had been starving for; the sense of the
futile, poignant beauty, of the lovely and harmless tragedy, of the sweet,
moving, gay sad meaning of things.

When he looked about him he was quite alone. Moira was gone, and the road
lay white and still before him.



II


He did not see her all the next day, although he went down to the little
house to do the household tasks his big hands performed with so curious a
skill. He wished to see her and clear his mind of a weight which the
morning's light had put upon him; but she did not come in answer to his
call. The little house seemed full of her in its apparent emptiness, and
several times he had swung sharply about, feeling her back of him, but
always the room had turned a blank face.

That evening he was returning late from the upland pastures where he had
been searching vainly for a lost cow. His path lay through a thick copse
of maple saplings where it was quite dark. As he emerged into a stony
pasture, he saw the child standing still in the center of a ring of fern,
brown and crumpled by the early frosts. When he appeared she held him
motionless by the sudden passion of her gestured appeal for silence. She
did not stir after this, her hands laid along her cheeks as though to hold
her head quite still, her eyes directed with a smiling eagerness toward a
huge rock, looming dimly in the transparent twilight. The silence was
oppressive. Timothy's blood ran chill as the expectancy grew more and more
strained in the child's eyes. He did not dare look at the rock himself.
He stared only at the elfin creature before him, and when her hands were
finally flung out in a gesture of welcoming ardor, he broke the unearthly
silence by crying out loud in a rapid whirl, "God save us. Christ save us!
The Holy Virgin guard us! St. Patrick defend us! St. Columba--"

The little girl burst into a storm of tears and sank down on the ferns.
Timothy stopped his hysterical litany and ran toward her. "Don't you come
a-near me, bad Piper Tim!" she sobbed. "You don't dare step on the magic
circle anyhow. It 'ud burn your wicked foot!"

The big farm laborer drew back in a terror he instantly disguised. "I was
just lookin' for you, Moira aroon," he said propitiatingly. "I was wishin'
to tell you--to tell you--why, that it's all pretend. There aren't any
little people really, you know. Tis just old Tim's nonsense." He shivered
at the blasphemy and crossed himself. "Or, if there are any, 'tis only in
th' ould country." The child rose to her feet, eying him strangely, her
eyes like deep pools.

He went on conscientiously, with a mental eye on Father Delancey, "An' if
there _are_ any, which they aren't, they're bad things for Christians to
have aught to do with, because they know neither right nor wrong, and
'tisn't fit that mortals should iver be light an' gay wi' that burden
gone! So they're bad for us--an' we shouldn't think of thim, and just
cross ourselves wheniver--"

The unspoken protest in the child's face was grown so passionate that he
interrupted himself to answer it in a burst of sympathy. "Och, Moira,
acushla, sure an' I know how 'tis to ye--" And then with a reaction to
virtue, he said sternly, "An' if they're not bad, why do they go when you
call on the blessed saints?"

At this the child's face twisted again for tears. "Och, bad Piper Tim, to
scare them away from me! It's not that they're bad--only that good's too
heavy for them. They're such _little_ people! It's too heavy! It's too
heavy." She ran away through the dusk, sobbing and calling this over her
shoulder reproachfully.

In the weeks which followed, old Timothy Moran, as he was called, could
scarcely complain that he was but half awake. He seemed to be making up
for the dull apathy of his long exile by the storminess of his days and
nights. Mrs. Wilcox, bustling housewife, hastening about the kitchen,
engaged in some late evening task, was moved to a sudden burst of
hysterical tears, by the faint sound of Tim's pipes, dropping down to her
from the Round Stone in a whirling roulade of ever-ascending merriness.
"You, Ralph!" she cried angrily through her sobs, to her oldest boy,
stricken open-mouthed and silent by his mother's amazing outburst, "you,
Ralph, run up to the Round Stone and tell the Irishman to stop playing
that jig over and over. I'm that tired to-night it drives me wild with
nerves!" As she brushed away the tears she said fretfully, "My sakes!
When my liver gets to tormenting me so I have the megrims like a girl,
it's time to do something."

The boy came back to say that Old Tim had stopped playing "the jig" before
he reached him, and was lying sobbing on the stone.

Moira was as approachable as a barn swallow, swooping into the house for a
mouthful of food and off again to the sky apparently. Timothy's
child-heart was guiltily heavy within him, for all his excitement, and
when he finally caught her in the pine woods he spoke briefly and firmly,
almost like Father Delancey himself. "Moira, Tim was a big fool to tell
you lies. There aren't really any little people. Tis only a way of
talkin'-like, to say how lovely the woods and stars an' all are."

"Why do you sit on the Round Stone evenings?" asked Moira defiantly.

"That's just it! I pretend all kind o' things, but it's really because the
moon is like gold, and the white fog comes up in puffs like incense in the
church, an' the valley's all bright wi' lamps like the sky wi' stars.
That's all anybody means by fairies--just how lovely things are if we can
but open our eyes to see thim, an' take time from th' ugly business o'
livin' to hear thim, and get a place quiet enough to half see what
everything means. I didn't know before, in Ireland, but now I'm like one
born again to the ferie country, and now I think I know. There aren't any
Little People really but just in your own head--"

Moira shook off his hand and faced him, laughing mockingly, her dark eyes
wide with an elfin merriment. "Are there not, Piper Tim? Are there not?
Listen! You'll see!" She held up a tiny forefinger to the great man
towering above her. As he looked down on her, so pixy-like in the twilight
of the pines, he felt his flesh creep. She seemed to be waiting for
something infinitely comic which yet should startle her. She was poised,
half turned as though for flight, yet hung so, without a quiver in an
endless listening pause. The man tried in vain to remember the name of a
single saint, so held was he by the breathless expectancy in the eyes of
the little hobgoblin. His nerves gave way with a loud snap when she
suddenly leaped up at him with snapping fingers and some whispered,
half-heard exclamation of "_Now! Now_!" and turning he plunged down the
hill in panic-stricken flight. And the next day Father Delancey took her
down to the valley to begin her schooling.



III


Upon her return she had adopted the attitude which she never changed
during all the years until Timothy went away. She would not speak openly,
nor allow Tim to discuss "their" existence. "They mind their business and
we should mind ours," she said, eying him hard; but she made his world
over for him. Every spring she came back from the valley school and every
autumn she went away; and the months in between were golden. After
Timothy's work was done in the evenings, he left the hot kitchen, redolent
of food and fire and kindly human life, took his pipes up on the Round
Stone and played one after another of the songs of the sidhe, until the
child's white face shone suddenly from the dusk.

Then their entertainment varied. Sometimes they sat and watched the white
river fog rise toward them, translucent and distant at first, and then
blowing upon them in gusty, impalpable billows. Timothy's tongue was
loosened by the understanding in the little girl's eyes and he poured out
to her the wise foolishness of his inconsequent and profound faëry lore.
He told her what was in the fog for him, the souls of mountain people long
dead, who came back to their home heights thus. He related long tales of
the doings of the leprechaun, with lovely, irrelevant episodes, and told
her what he thought was their meaning.

Some nights the moon rode high and the air was clear and those were not
the times for words--only for sitting quite still and playing every air in
all the world on the pipes. Moira lay beside him, her strange, wide eyes
fixed intently on the road and the shadows until she peopled them almost
visibly to the musician with the folk of his melodies--with Angus, the
beautiful and strong, with Maive, the sad, the happy, with Congal of the
frightful Vision of War, and Mananan, strange wanderer on these mountain
tops.

Sometimes it rained, the long steady downpour of summer nights, and they
sat on the steps of Michael O'Donnell's little cabin, Timothy's pipes
sounding sweet and shrill against the deep note of the rushing rain. This
was the time of the wildest stories, when sheltering walls were close
about them; of newly wed wives carried off by the fairies to live happy
always, always without a moment of pain, and then to perish utterly on the
Day of Judgment, like a last year's butterfly, for souls cannot live
without sorrow; of newly born babes whose souls were carried away by the
sidhe because a cock was not killed on the night of their birth, and of
the mystic meaning of vicarious sacrifice; of people who had lain down to
sleep unaware in a fairy ring and were foolish ever afterward--that is, as
people say, foolish, but really wise, for they saw how things are; of
homes built unknowingly across a fairy path where the sidhe take their
journeys, and how ill luck followed the inhabitants until they moved, and
of the strange penalties for living out of harmony with the little-known
currents of the soul's life; of how blind men see more than others; of how
a fool is one whose mind is so cleared of all futile commonplace traffic
that it reflects untroubled and serene the stars and their courses; of how
wisdom is folly, and life, death. All these things and many more did
Timothy say in words and play in music on his pipes, and to all of them
Moira gave her wide comprehending silence.

The best of all was on evenings when the stars came out first, and then as
the two sat watching them from the Round Stone they suddenly began to
pale, and the moon flashed into sight, rising swiftly over the mountain
Moira called "The Hill o' Delights," because it was from a wide, white
door in it that the rushing, light-footed little people came out every
evening when the twilight fell and the harsh endeavor of human life was
stilled to peace. There was neither talk nor music on those evenings, but
a silence full, like the lovely world about them, of unsaid, quivering
joy. Sometimes Timothy would turn after such a long time of deep and
cheering mutual knowledge of how fair were all things, and find Moira
slipped away from beside him; but so impalpable was the companionship she
gave him in the strange and sweet confusion of his thoughts that he did
not feel himself alone, though she might be already deep in the pines
behind him.

The girl grew taller, but the cool whiteness of her face was untinged by
any flush of young maidenhood. At seventeen she was a slender sprite of a
girl, to reach whose unearthly aloofness the warm human hands of her
companions strained unavailing. Each winter she descended to the valley
and to school and church, a silent, remote child, moving like one in a
dream. And every spring she came back to the hill, to Timothy and his
pipes, to the pines and the uplands, to the Round Stone and the white road
in front of it. Ralph Wilcox, hearty, kindly son of his hearty, kindly
parents, tried to speak to her long enough to make her seem real, but she
was rarely in the house except during the day and a half of each week when
her father was there; and on their casual encounters out of doors she
melted from before his eyes like a pixie, knowing the hiding places and
turns of his own land better than he. Sometimes he caught a glimpse of her
afterward, regarding him steadily and curiously from a nook in a hillside,
and once as she darted away she had dropped a handkerchief and turned her
head in time to see him pick it up; but she did not slacken her pace, or
speak to him then or at all.

She rarely spoke, even to Timothy, but this was no barrier between them.
All the winter Timothy lived on the thoughts of the spring, and when the
arbutus and Moira came back he poured out to her the strange treasures he
had found in his heart. Scarcely to her, for she only gazed silent at the
stars as he talked. Rather she seemed to unlock in him the rich stores of
his own understanding and emotion. He marveled that he could ever have
found the valley empty. He felt within him a swelling flood, ever renewed,
of significance to fill all his world with a sweet and comforting meaning.

And so his red hair grew threaded with white, and his foolish, idle heart
happier and happier as the years went on. Then, one midwinter day, Father
Delancey climbed the hill to say that Timothy's sister's husband was dead,
and that Timothy was sent for to take his place, hold the Nebraska claim,
work the land, and be a father to his sister's children. Timothy was
stunned with horror, but the unbending will of the never-contradicted
parish priest bore him along without question.

"Sure, Tim, go! I tell you to! 'Tis the only thing _to_ do! And 'twill be
a man's work and earn ye many hours out of purgatory. An' 'twill be grand
for ye, ye that never would have a family o' your own--here's the Blessed
Virgin pushin' ye into one, ready-made. 'Twill be the makin' o' ye, 'twill
make ye rale human, an' ye'll have no more time for star-gazin' an' such
foolishness. Ye can find out what people are in the world for, instead
keepin' yerself so outside o' things. Sure, yes, man, yes, I'll tell Moira
ye said good-by to her, an'--yes, I give ye my word, and promise true and
true, I'll lave ye now if she moves away or if any harm comes to her."



IV


His grizzled hair was turned quite white when his sister kissed him
good-by, fresh tears in her eyes, scarcely dry from the excitement of her
youngest daughter's wedding. She had a moment of divination like his, and
said sadly, "There's no use trying to thank ye, Timmy, words can't do it.
If ye'd been anybody else, I cud ha' said ye got ye'r pay for all these
long, hard years in the love the childer bear ye. That's the pay folks get
for workin' an' livin' for others--but ye're not folks. Is't that ye're
the seventh son? Is't that ye've second sight? Is't that--_what_ is't that
makes ye so far away? An' what _is_ ye'r pay, Tim? Now that it's over and
the children all safe and grown up, ye look yerself like a child that's
done its lesson an' run out to play. Is't all just work or play with ye?
Can't ye niver just _live_?"

In truth her brother's eagerness to be away was scarcely concealed at all
from the grateful, wistful Irish eyes about him. He was breathless with
haste to be off. The long trip to New England was a never-ending nightmare
of delay to him, and although he had planned for years to walk up the
hill, his trembling old legs dragged in a slow progress maddening to his
impatience. A farmer, driving by, offered him a lift, which he accepted
gratefully, sitting strained far forward on the high seat. At a turn of
the road he looked back and saw that he had passed the cluster of pines
where Moira had laughed at him, and where he had felt so thick about him
the thronging rush of his newly awakened perceptions of the finer meaning
of things, the gay, sweet crowd of gentle little people.

He stopped the farmer and, leaping down from the high seat, he took his
pipes under his arm and fairly ran up the little path. His rheumatic knee
creaked a little, but the color came up hard in his tired old face as the
twilight of the pines and their pungent, welcoming breath fell about him.
He cast him down and buried his face in the rust-red dried needles. He did
not weep, but from time to time a long sigh heaved his shoulders. Then he
turned over and lay on his back, looking at the sunset-yellow sky through
the green, thick-clustered needles, noticing how the light made each one
glisten as though dipped in molten gold. His hand strayed out to his
pipes, lying beside him with mute, gaping mouths. "The Gold o' the
Glamour," he murmured to himself, and as he broke the silence with the old
tune faintly blown, he felt the wood peopled about him as of yore with
twilight forms. Unseen bright eyes gazed at him from behind tree-trunks,
and the branches were populous with invisible, kindly listeners. The very
hush was symbolic of the consciousness of the wood that he was there
again. There was none of the careless commonplace of rustling leaves, and
snapping twigs, and indifferent, fearless bird-song. In the death-like
still he felt life quivering and observant with a thousand innocent,
curious, welcoming eyes.

When he had quavered through the last note he let the pipes fall and gazed
about him with a smile, like a happy old child. The sun sank behind the
mountain as he looked, and he pulled himself heavily up. His way to the
farm lay over bare upland pastures where his feet, accustomed for years to
the yielding prarie levels, stumbled and tripped among the loose stones.
Twilight came on rapidly, so that he found himself several times walking
blindly through fairy rings of fern. He crossed himself and bowed his head
three times to the west, where the evening star now shone pale in the
radiance of the glowing sky. Between two of the ridges he wandered into a
bog where his feet, hot in their heavy boots, felt gratefully the oozing,
cool brown water.

And then, as he stepped into the lane, dark with dense maple-trees and
echoing faintly with the notes of the hermit thrush, he saw the light of
the little house glimmer through the trees in so exactly the spot where
his hungering eyes sought it that his heart gave a great hammering leap in
his breast.

He knocked at the door, half doubtfully, for all his eagerness. It might
be she lived elsewhere in the parish now. He had schooled himself to this
thought so that it was no surprise, although a heavy disappointment, when
the door was opened by a small dark man holding a sleeping baby on his
arm. Timothy lowered his voice and the man gave a brief and hushed answer.
He spoke in a strong French-Canadian accent. "Moira O'Donnell? I nevaire
heard before. Go to ze house on ze hill--mebbe zey know--"

He closed the door, and, through the open window, Timothy saw him sit
down, still holding the baby and looking at it as though the interrupting
episode were already forgotten. The old man shivered with a passing eerie
sense of being like a ghost knocking vainly at the doors of the living. He
limped up the hill, and knocked on the kitchen door of the old Wilcox
house. To his eyes, dilated with the wide dusk of the early evening, the
windows seemed to blaze with light, and when the door was opened to him he
shaded his eyes, blinking fast against the rays of a lamp held high in the
hand of a round, little woman who looked at him with an impersonal
kindness. His heart beat so he could not speak.

Suddenly from the past rang out his old name, the one he had almost lost
in the dreary years of  "Uncle Tim" which lay behind him.

"Why, Piper Tim!" cried the woman in a voice of exceeding warmth and
affection. "Why, it's dear, dear, darling old Piper Tim come back to visit
his old home. I knew ye in a minute by the pipes. Come in! Come in!
There's not a soul livin' or dead that's welcomer in th' house of Moira
Wilcox."

The name blazed high through all the confusion of his swimming senses. To
his blank look she returned a mellow laugh. "Why sure, Timmy darlint,
hasn't anybody; iver told ye I was married? I'd have written ye myself,
only that I knew you couldn't read it, and 'twas hard to tell through
other people. Though, saints preserve us, 'tis long since I thought
anything about it, one way _or_ th' other. 'Tis as nat'ral as breathing
now."

She was pulling him into the warm, light room, taking his cap and pipes
from him, and at the last she pushed him affectionately into a chair, and
stood looking kindly at his pale agitation, her arms wide in a soft angle
as she placed her hands on her rounded hips. "Oh, Timothy Moran, you
darlint! Moira's that glad to see you! You mind me of the times when I was
young and that's comin' to be long ago."

She turned and stepped hastily to the stove from which rose an appetizing
smell of frying ham. As she bent her plump, flushed face over this, the
door opened and two dark-eyed little girls darted in. On seeing a
stranger, they were frozen in mid-flight with the shy gaze of country
children.

"Here, childer, 'tis Piper Tim come back to visit us. Piper Tim that I've
told ye so many tales about--an' the gran' tunes he can play on his pipes.
He can play with ye better nor I--he niver has aught else to do!" She
smiled a wide, friendly smile on the old man as she said this, to show she
meant no harm, and turned the slices of ham deftly so that they sent a
puff of blue savory smoke up to her face. "Don't th' ham smell good, ye
spalpeens, fresh from runnin' th' hills? Go an' wash ye'r faces an' hands
and call ye'r father an' brothers. I've four," she added proudly to the
man by the table watching her with horrified eyes.

The fumes of the cooking made him sick, the close air suffocated him. He
felt as though he were in some oppressive nightmare, and the talk at the
supper-table penetrated but dully to his mind. The cordiality of Moira's
husband, the shy, curious looks of the children at his pipes, even Moira's
face rosy from brow to rounded chin, and beaming with indulgent,
affectionate interest all melted together into a sort of indistinguishable
confusion. This dull distress was rendered acute anguish by Moira's talk.
In that hot, indoor place, with all those ignorant blank faces about her,
she spoke of the pines and the upland bogs, of the fog and the Round
Stone, and desecrated a sacred thing with every word.

It would have been a comfort to him if she had even talked with an
apostate's yearning bitterness for his betrayed religion, if she had
spoken harshly of their old, sweet folly; but she was all kindness and
eager, willing reminiscence. Just as she spoke his name, his faëry name of
"Piper Tim," in a tone that made it worse than "Uncle Tim," so she
blighted one after another of the old memories as she held them up in her
firm, assured hands, and laughed gently at their oddity.

After supper as Tim sat again in the kitchen watching her do the evening
work, the tides of revulsion rose strong within him. "We were a queer lot,
an' no mistake, Piper Tim," she said, scraping at a frying pan with a
vigorous knife. "An' the childer are just like us. I've thried to tell
them some of our old tales, but--I dun'no'--they've kind o' gone from me,
now I've such a lot to do. I suppose you were up to the same always, with
your nephews an' nieces out West. 'Twas fine for ye to have a family of
your own that way, you that was always so lonely like."

Timothy's shuddering horror of protest rose into words at this, incoherent
words and bursts of indignation that took his breath away in gasps.
"Moira! _Moira_! What are ye sayin' to me? _Me_ wid a family! Anyone who's
iver had th' quiet to listen to th' blessed little people--_him_ to fill
up his ears wid th' clatter of mortial tongues. No? Since I lift here I've
had no minute o' peace--oh, Moira, th' country there--th' great flat
hidjious country of thim--an' th' people like it--flat an' fruitful. An'
oh, Moira, aroon, it's my heart breakin' in me, that now I've worked and
worked there and done my mortial task an' had my purgatory before my time,
an' I've come back to live again--that ye've no single welcomin' word to
bid me stay."

The loving Irish heart of the woman melted in a misunderstanding sympathy
and remorse. "Why, poor Piper Tim, I didn't mean ye should go back to them
or their country if ye like it better here. Ye're welcome every day of the
year from now till judgment tramp. I only meant--why--seem' they were your
own folks--and all, that ye'd sort o' taken to thim--the way most do, when
it's their own blood."

She flowed on in a stream of fumbling, warm-hearted, mistaken apology
that sickened the old man's soul. When he finally rose for his great
adventure, he spoke timidly, with a wretched foreknowledge of what her
answer would be.

"Och, Piper Tim, 'tis real sweet of ye to think of it and ask me, an' I'd
like fine to go. Sure, I've not been on the Round Stone of an
evening--why, not since you went away I do believe! But Ralph's goin' to
the grange meetin' to-night, an' one of th' childer is restless with a
cough, and I think I'll not go. My feet get sort of sore-like, too, after
bein' on them all day."



V.


As he stepped out from the warm, brightly lighted room, the night seemed
chill and black, but after a moment his eyes dilated and he saw the stars
shining through the densely hanging maple leaves.

Up by the Round Stone the valley opened out beneath him. Restlessly he
looked up and down the road and across the valley with a questing glance
which did not show him what he sought. The night for all its dark corners
had nothing in it for him beyond what lay openly before him. He put out
his hand instinctively for his pipes, remembered that he had left them at
the house, and sprang to his feet to return for them. Perhaps Moira would
come out with him now. Perhaps the child had gone to sleep. The brief stay
in the ample twilight of the hillside had given him a faint, momentary
courage to appeal again to her against the narrow brightness of her
prison.

Moira sat by the kitchen table, sewing, her smooth round face blooming
like a rose in the light from the open door of the stove. Her kindly eyes
beamed sweetly on the old man. "Ah, Piper Tim, ye're wise. 'Tis a damp
night out for ye'r rheumatis. The fog risin' too, likely?"

The old piper went to her chair and stood looking at her with a fixed
gaze, "Moira!" he said vehemently, "Moira O'Donnell that was, the stars
are bright over the Round Stone, an' th' moon is risin' behind th' Hill o'
Delights, and the first white puffs of incense are risin' from th'
whirl-hole of th' river. I've come back for my pipes, and I'm goin' out to
play to th' little people--an' oh, shall old Piper Tim go without Moira?"

He spoke with a glowing fervor like the leaping up of a dying candle. From
the inexorably kind woman who smiled so friendly on him his heart recoiled
and puffed itself out into darkness. She surveyed him with the wise,
tender pity of a mother for a foolish, much-loved child. "Sure, 'tis th'
same Piper Tim ye are!" she said cheerfully, laying down her work, "but,
Lord save ye, Timmy darlint, _Moira's grown up_! There's no need for my
pretendin' to play any more, is there, when I've got proper childer o' my
own to keep it up. _They_ are my little people--an' I don't have to have a
quiet place to fancy them up out o' nothin'. They're real! An' they're
takin' my place all over again. There's one--the youngest girl--the one
that looks so like me as ye noticed--she's just such a one as I was.
To-day only (she's seven to-morrow), she minded me of some old tales I had
told her about the cruachan whistle for the sidhe on the seventh birthday,
an' she'd been tryin' to make one, but I'd clean forgot how the
criss-cross lines go. It made me think back on that evening when I was
seven--maybe you've forgot, but you was sittin' on the Round Stone in
th'----"

Timothy's sore heart rebelled at this last rifling of the shrine, and he
made for the door. Moira's sweet solicitude held him for an instant in
check. "Oh, Tim, ye'd best stay in an' warm your knee by the good fire.
I've a pile of mendin' to do, and you'll tell me all about your family in
th' West and how you farmed there. It'll be real cozy-like."

Timothy uttered an outraged sound and snatching up his pipes fled out of
the pleasant, low-ceilinged room, up the road, now white as chalk beneath
the newly risen moon. At the Round Stone he sat down and, putting his
pipes to his lips, he played resolutely through to the end "The Song of
Angus to the Stars." As the last, high, confident note died, he put his
pipes down hastily, and dropped his face in his hands with a broken murmur
of Gaelic lament.

When he looked abroad again, the valley was like a great opal, where the
moon shot its rays into the transparent fog far below him. The road was
white and the shadows black and one was no more devoid of mystery than the
other.

The sky for all its stars hung above the valley like an empty bowl above
an empty vessel, and in his heart he felt no swelling possibilities to
fill this void. To the haggard old eyes the face of the world was like a
dead thing, which did not return his gaze even with hostility, but
blankly--a smooth, thin mask which hid behind it nothing at all.

He was startled by the sudden appearance of a dog from out of the shadows,
a shaggy collie who trotted briskly down the road, stopping to roll a
friendly, inquiring eye on his bent figure. His eyes followed the animal
until it vanished in the shadows on the other side. After the sound of its
padding footsteps was still, the old man's heart died within him at the
silence.

He tried vainly to exorcise this anguish by naming it What was it? Why did
he droop dully now that he was where he had so longed to be? Everything
was as it had been, the valley, the clean white fog, tossing its waves up
to him as he had dreamed of it in the arid days of Nebraska; the mountains
closing in on him with the line of drooping peace he had never lost from
before his eyes during the long, dreary years of exile. Only he was
changed. His eye fell on his mud-caked boots, and his face contracted.
"Oh, my! Oh, my!" he said aloud, like an anxious old child. "She couldn't
ha' liked my tracking bog durt on to her clane kitchen floor!"

But as he sat brooding, his hand dropped heavily to the Round Stone and
encountered a small object which he held up to view. It was a willow
whistle of curious construction, with white lines criss-cross on it; and
beside it lay a jackknife with a broken blade. The old man looked at it,
absently at first, then with a start, and finally with a rush of joyful
and exultant exclamations.

And afterward, quite tranquilly, with a shining face of peace, he played
softly on his pipes, "The Call of the Sidhe to the Children."



ADESTE FIDELES!

I.


The persuasive agent sought old Miss Abigail out among her flower-beds and
held up to her a tiny chair with roses painted on the back. "I was told to
see you about these. They're only four dollars a dozen, and the smallest
school children love 'em." Miss Abigail straightened herself with
difficulty. She had been weeding the gladiolus bed. "Four dollars," she
mused, "I was going to put four dollars into rose-bushes this fall." She
put out a strong, earth-stained old hand and took the chair. Her affection
for her native Greenford began to rise through her life-long thrift, a
mental ferment not unusual with her. Finally, "All right," she said; "send
'em to the schoolhouse, and say they're in memory of all my grandfathers
and grandmothers that learned their letters in that schoolhouse."

She went back to her digging and the agent clicked the gate back of his
retreat. Suddenly she stood up without remembering to ease her back. She
heard the first shot from the enemy who was to advance so rapidly upon her
thereafter. "Wait a minute," she called to the agent. As he paused, she
made a swift calculation. "I don't believe I want a dozen," she said, much
surprised. "I can't think of that many little ones." The agent took his
notebook. "How many?" he asked.

The ponderous old woman stared at him absently, while she made a mental
canvass of the town. She spoke with a gasp. "We don't need any!" she
cried. "There ain't a child in school under eleven."

"Take some now and have them handy," urged the agent.

Miss Abigail's gaze again narrowed in silent calculation. When she spoke
her exclamation was not for her listener. She had forgotten him. "Good
Lord of Love!" she cried. "There ain't a single one comin' up to sit on
those chairs if I should buy 'em!"

The agent was utterly blotted from her mind. She did not know when he left
her garden. She only knew that there were no children in Greenford. There
were no children in her town! "Why, what's comin' to Greenford!" she
cried.

And yet, even as she cried out, she was aware that she had had a warning,
definite, ominous, a few days before, from the lips of Molly Leonard. At
that time she had put away her startled uneasiness with a masterful hand,
burying it resolutely where she had laid away all the other emotions of
her life, under the brown loam of her garden. But it all came back to her
now.

Her thin, fluttering, little old friend had begun with tragic emphasis,
"The roof to the library leaks!"

Miss Abigail had laughed as usual at Molly's habit of taking small events
with bated breath. "What of it?" she asked. "That roof never was good,
even back in the days when 'twas a private house and my great-uncle lived
in it."

Miss Molly fluttered still more before the awfulness of her next
announcement.

"Well, the talk is that the town won't vote a cent toward repairs."

"They'll have to! You can't get along without a library!"

"No, they won't. The talk is that the men won't vote to have the town give
a bit of money for shingles. No, nor to pay somebody to take the place of
Ellen Monroe as librarian. She's got work in the print mill at
Johnsonville and is going to move down there to be near her mother's
family."

"Oh, _talk_!" said Miss Abigail with the easy contempt she had for things
outside her garden hedge. "Haven't you heard men talk before?"

"But they say really they _won't!_ They say nobody ever goes into it any
more when the summer folks go away in the autumn."

Miss Abigail's gesture indicated that the thing was unthinkable. "What's
the matter with young folks nowadays, anyhow? They always used to run
there and chatter till you couldn't hear yourself think."

Miss Molly lowered her voice like a person coming to the frightening
climax of a ghost story. "Miss Abigail, they _ain't_ any young folks here
any more!"

"What do you call the Pitkin girls!" demanded the other.

"They were the very last ones and they and their mother have decided
they'll move to Johnsonville this fall."

Miss Abigail cried out in energetic disapproval, "What in the Lord's world
are the Pitkinses going to move away from Greenford for! They belong
here!"

Miss Molly marshaled the reasons with a sad swiftness, "There aren't any
music pupils left for the oldest one, the two next have got positions in
the print mill and little Sarah is too old for the school here any more."

Miss Abigail shook her head impatiently as though to brush away a
troublesome gnat. "How about the Leavitts? There ought to be enough young
ones in that or family to--"

"They moved to Johnsonville last week, going to rent their house to city
folks in the summer, the way all the rest here in the street do. They
didn't want to go a bit. Eliza felt dreadful about it, but what can they
do? Ezra hasn't had enough carpentering to do in the last six months to
pay their grocery bill, and down in Johnsonville they can't get carpenters
enough. Besides, all the children's friends are there, and they got so
lonesome here winters."

Miss Abigail quailed a little, but rallying, she brought out, "What's the
matter with the Bennetts? The whole kit and b'iling of them came in here
the other day to pester me asking about how I grew my lilies."

"Why, Miss Abigail! You don't pay any more attention to village news!
They've been working in the mills for two years now, and only come home
for two weeks in the summer like everybody else."

The old woman stirred her weighty person wrathfully. "Like everybody else!
Molly, you talk like a fool! As if there was nobody lived here all the
year around!"

"But it's _so!_ I don't know what's coming to Greenford!"

An imperative gesture from the older woman cut her short. "Don't chatter
so, Molly! If it's true, that about the library, we've got to do
something!"

The interview had ended in an agreement from her, after a struggle with
the two passions of her life, to give up the tulip bulbs for which she had
been saving so long, and spend the money for repairing the roof. Miss
Molly, having no money to give, since she was already much poorer than she
could possibly be and live, agreed, according to Miss Abigail's peremptory
suggestion, to give her time, and keep the library open at least during
the afternoons.

"You can do it, Molly, as well as not, for you don't seem to have half the
sewing you used to."

"There's nobody here any more to sew _for_--" began the seamstress
despairingly, but Miss Abigail would not listen, bundling her out of the
garden gate and sending her trotting home, cheered unreasonably by the old
woman's jovial blustering, "No such kind of talk allowed in _my_ garden!"

But now, after the second warning, Miss Abigail felt the need of some
cheer for herself as she toiled among the hollyhocks and larkspurs. She
would not let herself think of the significance of the visit of the agent
for the chairs, and she could not force herself to think of anything else.
For several wretched weeks she hung in this limbo. Then, one morning as
she stood gazing at her Speciosums Rubrums without seeing them, she
received her summons to the front. She had a call from her neighbor, Mr.
Edward Horton, whom the rest of the world knows as a sculptor, but whom
Miss Abigail esteemed only because of his orthodox ideas on rose culture.
He came in to ask some information about a blight on his Red Ramblers,
although after Miss Abigail had finished her strong recommendation to use
whale oil soap sprayed, and not hellebore, he still lingered, crushing a
leaf of lemon verbena between his fingers and sniffing the resultant
perfume with thoughtful appreciation. He was almost as enthusiastic a
horticulturist as Miss Abigail, and stood high in her good graces as one
of the few individuals of sense among the summer colony. She faced him
therefore in a peaceable, friendly mood, glad of the diversion from her
thoughts, and quite unprepared for the shock he was about to give her.

"I'm on my way to interview the trustees of the church," he remarked. "It
is curious that all but one of them now really live in Johnsonville,
although they still keep their nominal residence here."

"What do you want to see _them_ for?" asked Miss Abigail, with a bluntness
caused in part by her wincing at his casual statement of an unwelcome fact.

"Why, I've had what I flatter myself is an inspiration for everyone
concerned. I've got a big commission for part of the decorations of the
new State House in Montana, and I need a very large studio. It occurred to
me the other day that instead of building I'd save time by buying the old
church here and using that."

Miss Abigail leaned against the palings. "_Buy our church!_" she said, and
every letter was a capital.

"I didn't know you were a member," said the sculptor, a little surprised.
"You don't often go."

Miss Abigail shouted out, "Why, my grandfather was minister in that
church!" Mr. Horton received this as a statement of fact. "Indeed? I
didn't realize the building was so old. I wonder if the foundations are
still in good shape." He went on, explanatorily, "I really don't know why
I hadn't thought of the plan before. The number who attend church in that
great barn of a place could easily be put into someone's parlor, and save
the trustees the expense of heating. One of them whom I saw the other day
seemed quite pleased with the notion--said they'd been at a loss to know
what to do about conditions here." He glanced at his watch. "Well, I must
be going or I shall miss the train to Johnsonville. Thank you very much
for the hint about the blight."

He went down the street, humming a cheerful little tune.

To Miss Abigail it was the bugle call of "Forward, charge!" She had been,
for the last few weeks, a little paler than usual. Now her powerful old
face flushed to an angry red. She dashed her trowel to the garden path and
clenched her fists. "What's coming to Greenford!" she shouted. It was no
longer a wail of despair. It was a battle-cry of defiance.



II


She had no time to organize a campaign, forced as she was to begin
fighting at once. Reaching wildly for any weapon at hand, she rushed to
the front, as grim-visaged a warrior as ever frightened a peaceable,
shiftless non-combatant "Joel Barney!" she cried, storming up his front
steps. "You're a trustee of the church, aren't you? Well, if you don't
vote against selling the church, I'll foreclose the mortgage on your house
so quick you can't wink. And you tell 'Lias Bennett that if he doesn't do
the same, I'll pile manure all over that field of mine near his place, and
stink out his summer renters so they'll never set foot here again."

She shifted tactics as she encountered different adversaries and tried no
blackmail on stubborn Miles Benton, whom she took pains to see the next
time he came back to Greenford for a visit. Him she hailed as the
Native-Born. "How would you like to have brazen models and nasty statues
made in the building where your own folks have always gone to church?"

But when the skirmish was over, she realized ruefully that the argument
which had brought her her hard-won victory had been the one which, for a
person of such very moderate means as hers, reflected the least hope for
future battles. At the last, in desperation, she had guaranteed in the
name of the Ladies' Aid Society that the church, except for the minister's
salary, should thereafter be no expense to the trustees. She had invented
that source of authority, remembering that Molly Leonard had said she
belonged to the Ladies' Aid Society, "and I can make Molly do anything,"
she thought, trusting Providence for the management of the others.

As a matter of fact, when she came to investigate the matter, she found
that Molly was now the sole remaining member. Her dismay was acute,
Molly's finances being only too well known to her, but she rallied
bravely. "They don't do much to a church that costs money," she thought,
and, when Molly went away, she made out her budget unflinchingly. Wood for
the furnace, kerosene for the lamps, wages to the janitor, repairs when
needed--"Well, Abigail Warner," she told herself, "it means nothing new
bought for the garden, and no new microscope--the roof to the library
costing more than they said 'twould and all."

But the joy of triumphant battle was still swelling her doughty old heart,
so that even these considerations did not damp her exultation over her
artist neighbor the next time he came to see her. He listened to her
boasting with his pleasant, philosophic smile, and, when she finished,
delivered himself of a quiet little disquisition or the nature of things
which was like ice-water in the face of the hot-blooded old fighter.

"My dear Miss Abigail, your zeal does your heart credit, and your
management of the trustees proves you an unsuspected diplomat; but as a
friend, and, believe me, a disinterested friend, let me warn you that you
are contending against irresistible forces. You can no more resuscitate
your old Greenford than you can any other dead body. You have kept the
church from my clutches, it is true, though for that matter I wouldn't
have offered to buy it if I hadn't thought no one cared about it--but what
do you mean to do with it now you have it? You cannot bring back the old
Greenford families from their well-paid work in Johnsonville to sit in
those rescued pews, or read in your deserted library, or send their
children to your empty schoolhouse. You tell me they are loyal to their
old home, and love to come back here for visits. Is that strange?
Greenford is a charming village set in the midst of beautiful mountains,
and Johnsonville is a raw factory town in a plain. But they cannot live on
picturesque scenery or old associations. The laws of economics are like
all other laws of nature, inevitable in their action and irresistible in--"

Miss Abigail gave the grampus snort which had been her great-grandfather's
war-cry. "Hoo! You're like all other book folks! You give things such long
names you scare yourselves! I haven't got anything to do with economics,
nor it with me. It's a plain question as to whether the church my
ancestors built and worshipped in is to be sold. There's nothing so
inevitable in _that_, let me tell you. Laws of nature--fiddlesticks! How
about the law of gravity? Don't I break that every time I get up gumption
enough to raise my hand to my head!"

Mr. Horton looked at the belligerent old woman with the kindest smile of
comprehension. "Ah, I know how hard it is for you. In another way I have
been through the same bitter experience. My home, my real home, where my
own people are, is out in a wind-swept little town on the Nebraska
prairies. But I cannot live there because it is too far from my world of
artists and art patrons. I tried it once, but the laws of supply and
demand work for all alike. I gave it up. Here I am, you see. You can't
help such things. You'd better follow on to Johnsonville now and not
embitter the last of your life with a hopeless struggle."

Miss Abigail fairly shouted at him her repudiation of his ideas. "Not
while there is a breath in me! My folks were all soldiers."

"But even soldiers surrender to overpowering forces."

"Hoo! Hoo! How do they know they're overpowering till they're overpowered!
How do they dare surrender till they're dead! How do they know that if
they hold out just a little longer they won't get reënforcements!"

Mr. Horton was a little impatient of his old friend's unreason. "My dear
Miss Abigail, you have brains. _Use_ them! What possible reinforcements
can you expect?"

The old woman opposed to his arguments nothing but a passionately bare
denial. "No! No! No! We're different! It's in your blood to give up
because you can reason it all out that you're beaten," She stood up,
shaking with her vehemence. "It's in my blood to fight and fight and
fight--"

"And then what?" asked the sculptor, as she hesitated.

"Go on fighting!" she cried.



III


She was seventy-one years old when she first flew this flag, and for the
next four years she battled unceasingly under its bold motto against odds
that rapidly grew more overwhelming as the process that had been
imperceptibly draining Greenford of its population gained impetus with it
own action. In the beginning people moved to Johnsonville because they
could get work in the print mill, but after a time they went because the
others had gone. Before long there was no cobbler in Greenford because
there was so little cobbling to do. After that the butcher went away, then
the carpenter, and finally the grocery-store was shut up and deserted by
the man whose father and grandfather had kept store in the same building
for sixty years. It was the old story. He had a large family of children
who needed education and "a chance."

The well-kept old village still preserved its outer shell of quaintness
and had a constantly increasing charm for summering strangers who rejoiced
with a shameless egoism in the death-like quiet of the moribund place, and
pointed out to visiting friends from the city the tufts of grass beginning
to grow in the main street as delightful proofs of the tranquillity of
their summer retreat.

Miss Abigail overheard a conversation to this effect one day between some
self-invited visitors to her wonderful garden. Her heart burned and her
face blackened. "You might as well," she told them, "laugh at the funny
faces of a person who's choking to death!"

The urbane city people turned amused and inquiring faces upon her. "How
so?"

"Roads aren't for grass to grow in!" she fulminated.
"They're for folks to use, for men and women and little children to go over
to and from their homes."

"Ah, economic conditions," they began to murmur. "The inevitable laws of
supply and--"

"Get out of my garden!" Miss Abigail raged at them. "Get out!"


They had scuttled before her, laughing at her quaint verocity, and she had
sworn wrath fully never to let another city dweller inside her gate--a
resolution which she was forced to forego as time passed on and she became
more and more hard pressed for ammunition.

Up to this time she had lived in perfect satisfaction on seven hundred
dollars a year, but now she began to feel straitened. She no longer dared
afford even the tiniest expenditure for her garden. She spaded the beds
herself, drew leaf mold from the woods in repeated trips with a child's
express wagon, and cut the poles for her sweet-peas with her own hands.
When Miss Molly Leonard declared herself on the verge of starvation from
lack of sewing to do, and threatened to move to Johnsonville to be near
her sister Annie, Miss Abigail gave up her "help" and paid Miss Molly for
the time spent in the empty reading-room of the library. But the campaign
soon called for more than economy, even the most rigid. When the minister
had a call elsewhere, and the trustees of the church seized the
opportunity to declare it impossible to appoint his successor, Miss
Abigail sold her woodlot and arranged through the Home Missionary Board
for someone to hold services at least once a fortnight. Later the "big
meadow" so long coveted by a New York family as a building site was
sacrificed to fill the empty war chest, and, temporarily in funds, she
hired a boy to drive her about the country drumming up a congregation.

Christmas time was the hardest for her. The traditions of old Greenford
were for much decorating of the church with ropes of hemlock, and a huge
Christmas tree in the Town Hall with presents for the best of the
Sunday-school scholars. Winding the ropes had been, of old, work for the
young unmarried people, laughing and flirting cheerfully. By the promise
of a hot supper, which she furnished herself, Miss Abigail succeeded in
getting a few stragglers from the back hills, but the number grew steadily
smaller year by year. She and Miss Molly always trimmed the Christmas tree
themselves. Indeed, it soon became a struggle to pick out any child a
regular enough attendant at Sunday-school to be eligible for a present.
The time came when Miss Abigail found it difficult to secure any children
at all for the annual Christmas party.

The school authorities began to murmur at keeping up the large old
schoolhouse for a handful of pupils. Miss Abigail, at her wit's end,
guaranteed the fuel for warming the house, and half the pay of a teacher.
Examining, after this, her shrunk and meager resources, she discovered
she had promised far beyond her means. She was then seventy-three years
old, but an ageless valor sprang up in her to meet the new emergency. She
focused her acumen to the burning point and saw that the only way out of
her situation was to earn some money--an impossible thing at her age.
Without an instant's pause, "How shall I do it?" she asked herself, and
sat frowning into space for a long time.

When she rose up, the next development in her campaign was planned. Not in
vain had she listened scornfully to the silly talk of city folks about the
picturesqueness of her old house and garden. It was all grist to her mill,
she perceived, and during the next summer it was a grimly amused old
miller who watched the antics of Abigail Warner, arrayed in a
pseudo-oldfashioned gown of green-flowered muslin, with a quaintly ruffled
cap confining her rebellious white hair, talking the most correct
book-brand of down-east jargon, and selling flowers at twenty times their
value to automobile and carriage folk. She did not mind sacrificing her
personal dignity, but she did blush for her garden, reduced to the most
obvious commonplaces of flowers that any child could grow. But by
September she had saved the school-teacher's pay, and the Martins and the
Allens, who had been wavering on account of their children, decided to
stay another winter at least.

That was _something_, Miss Abigail thought, that Christmas, as she and
Miss Molly tortured their rheumatic limbs to play games with the six
children around the tree. She had held rigorously to the old tradition of
having the Christmas tree party in the Town Hall, and she had heartened
Miss Molly through the long lonely hours they had spent in trimming it;
but as the tiny handful of forlorn celebrants gathered about the tall
tree, glittering in all the tinsel finery which was left over from the
days when the big hall had rung to the laughter of a hundred children and
as many more young people, even Miss Abigail felt a catch in her throat as
she quavered through "King _Will_yum was King _James's_ son!"

When the games were over and the children sat about soberly, eating their
ice-cream and cake, she looked over her shoulder into the big empty room
and shivered. The children went away and she and Miss Molly put out the
lights in silence. When they came out into the moonlight and looked up and
down the deserted street, lined with darkened houses, the face of the
younger woman was frankly tear-stained. "Oh, Miss Abigail," she said;
"let's give it up!"

Miss Abigail waited an instant, perceptible instant before answering, but,
when she did, her voice was full and harsh with its usual vigor.
"Fiddlesticks! You must ha' been losing your sleep. Go tuck yourself up
and get a good night's rest and you won't talk such kind of talk!"

But she herself sat up late into the night with a pencil and paper,
figuring out sums that had impossible answers.

That March she had a slight stroke of paralysis, and was in an agony of
apprehension lest she should not recover enough to plant the flowers for
the summer's market. By May, flatly against the doctor's orders, she was
dragging herself around the garden on crutches, and she stuck to her post,
smiling and making prearranged rustic speeches all the summer. She earned
enough to pay the school-teacher another winter and to buy the fuel for
the schoolhouse, and again the Martins and the Allens stayed over; though
they announced with a callous indifference to Miss Abigail's ideas that
they were going down to Johnsonville at Christmas to visit their relatives
there, and have the children go to the tree the ex-Greenfordites always
trimmed.

When she heard this Miss Abigail set off to the Allen farm on the lower
slope of Hemlock Mountain. "Wa'n't our tree good enough?" she demanded
hotly.

"The _tree_ was all right," they answered, "but the children were so
mortal lonesome. Little Katie Ann came home crying."

Miss Abigail turned away without answering and hobbled off up the road
toward the mountain. Things were black before her eyes and in her heart as
she went blindly forward where the road led her. She still fought off any
acknowledgment of the bitterness that filled her, but when the road, after
dwindling to a wood trail and then to a path, finally stopped, she sat
down with a great swelling breath. "Well, I guess this is the end," she
said aloud, instantly thereafter making a pretense to herself that she
meant the road. She looked about her with a brave show of interest in the
bare November woods, unroofed and open to the sunlight, and was rewarded
by a throb of real interest to observe that she was where she had not been
for forty years, when she used to clamber over the spur of Hemlock
Mountain to hunt for lady's-slippers in the marshy ground at the head of
the gorge. A few steps more and she would be on her own property, a steep,
rocky tract of brushland left her by her great-uncle. She had a throb as
she realized that, besides her house and garden, this unsalable bit of the
mountainside was her only remaining possession. She had indeed come to the
end.

With the thought came her old dogged defiance to despair. She shut her
hands on her crutches, pulled herself heavily up to her feet, and toiled
forward through some brush. She would not allow herself to think if
thoughts were like that. Soon she came out into a little clearing beside
the Winthrop Branch, swirling and fumbling in its headlong descent. The
remains of a stone wall and a blackened beam or two showed her that she
had hit upon the ruins of the old sawmill her great-grandfather had owned.
This forgotten and abandoned decay, a symbol of the future of the whole
region, struck a last blow at the remnants of her courage. She sank down
on the wall and set herself to a losing struggle with the blackness that
was closing in about her. All her effort had been in vain. The fight was
over. She had not a weapon left.

A last spark of valor flickered into flame within her. She stood up,
lifting her head high, and summoning with a loudly beating heart every
scattered energy. She was alive; her fight could not be over while she
still breathed.

For an instant she stood, self-hypnotized by the intensity of her
resolution. Then there burst upon her ear, as though she had not heard it
before, the roar of the water rushing past her. It sounded like a loud
voice calling to her. She shivered and turned a little giddy as though
passing into a trance, and then, with one bound, the gigantic forces of
subconscious self, wrought by her long struggle to a white heat of
concentration on one aim, arose and mastered her. For a time--hours
perhaps--she never knew how long, old Miss Abigail was a genius, with the
brain of an engineer and the prophetic vision of a seer.



IV


The next months were the hardest of her life. The long dreary battle
against insurmountable obstacles she had been able to bear with a stoical
front, but the sickening alternations of emotions which now filled her
days wore upon her until she was fairly suffocated. About mail time each
day she became of an unendurable irritability, so that poor Miss Molly was
quite afraid to go near her. For the first time in her life there was no
living thing growing in her house.

"Don't you mean to have any service this Christmas?" asked Miss Molly one
day.

Miss Abigail shouted at her so fiercely that she retreated in a panic.
"Why not? Why shouldn't we? What makes you think such a thing?"

"Why, I didn't know of anybody to go but just you and me, and I noticed
that you hadn't any flowers started for decorations the way you always do."

Miss Abigail flamed and fulminated as though her timid little friend had
offered her an insult. "I've been to service in that church every
Christmas since I was born and I shall till I die. And as for my not
growing any flowers, that's _my_ business, ain't it!" Her voice cracked
under the outraged emphasis she put on it.

Her companion fled away without a word, and Miss Abigail sank into a chair
trembling. It came over her with a shock that her preoccupation had been
so great that she had _forgotten_ about her winter flowers.

The fortnight before Christmas was interminable to her. Every morning she
broke a hobbling path through the snow to the post-office, where she
waited with a haggard face for the postmaster's verdict of "nothing." The
rest of the day she wandered desolately about her house, from one window
to another, always staring, staring up at Hemlock Mountain.

She disposed of the problem of the Christmas service with the absent
competence of a person engrossed in greater matters. Miss Molly had
declared it impossible--there was no money for a minister, there was no
congregation, there was no fuel for the furnace. Miss Abigail wrote so
urgently to the Theological Seminary of the next State that they promised
one of their seniors for the service; and she loaded a hand sled with wood
from her own woodshed and, harnessing herself and Miss Molly to it, drew
it with painful difficulty through the empty village street. There was not
enough of this fuel to fill even once the great furnace in the cellar, so
she decreed that the service should be in the vestibule where a stove
stood. The last few days before Christmas she spent in sending out
desperate appeals to remote families to come. But when the morning
arrived, she and Miss Molly were the only ones there.

The young theologian appeared a little before the appointed time, brought
in the motor car of a wealthy friend of his own age. They were trying to
make a record winter trip, and were impatient at the delay occasioned by
the service. When they saw that two shabby old women constituted the
congregation, they laughed as they stood warming their hands by the stove
and waiting for the hour. They ignored the two women, chatting lightly of
their own affairs. It seemed that they were on their way to a winter house
party to which the young clergyman-to-be was invited on account of his
fine voice--an operetta by amateurs being one of the gayeties to which
they looked forward.

Miss Abigail and Miss Molly were silent in their rusty black, Miss Molly's
soft eyes red with restrained tears, Miss Abigail's face like a flint.

"A pretty place, this village is," said the motorist to the minister. "I
have visited the Ellerys here. Really charming in summer time--so utterly
deserted and peaceful." He looked out of the window speculatively. "Rather
odd we should be passing through it to-day. There's been a lot of talk
about it in our family lately."

"How so?" asked the minister, beginning cautiously to unwind the wrapping
from around his throat.

"Why, my brother-in-law--Peg's husband--don't you remember, the one who
sang so fearfully flat in----" He was off on a reminiscence over which
both men laughed loudly.

Finally, "But what did you start to tell me about him?" asked the minister.

"I forget, I'm sure. What was it? Oh, yes; he owns those print mills in
Johnsonville--hideous place for Peg to live, that town!--and of late he's
been awfully put out by the failure of his water-power. There's not much
fall there at the best, and when the river's low--and it's low most all
the time nowadays--he doesn't get power enough, so he says, to run a
churn! He's been wondering what he could do about it, when doesn't he get
a tip from some old Rube up here that, above this village, there's a
whopping water-power--the Winthrop Branch. I know it--fished it lots of
times. He didn't take any stock in it of course at first, but, just on the
chance, he sent his engineer up here to look it over, and, by Jove, it's
true. It'll furnish twice the power he's had in Johnsonville lately."

"Seems queer," said the minister a little skeptically, "that nobody's ever
thought of it before."

"Well, _I_ said that, but Pete says that his engineer tells him that there
are lots of such unknown water-powers in the East. Nobody but farmers live
near 'em, you see."

The minister was but mildly interested. "I thought the cost of
transmitting power was so great it didn't pay for any water-force but
Niagara."

"He isn't going to carry the power to Johnsonville. He's going to bring
his mill here. A lot of his operators come from around here and most of
'em have kept their old homes, so there won't be any trouble about keeping
his help. Besides, it seems the old hayseed who wrote him about it owned
the land, and offered him land, water-power, right of way--anything!--free,
just to 'help the town' by getting the mill up here. That bespeaks the
materialistic Yankee, doesn't it?--to want to spoil a quiet little
Paradise like this village with a lot of greasy mill-hands."

The minister looked at his watch. "I think I'll begin the service now.
There's no use waiting for a congregation to turn up." He felt in one
pocket after the other with increasing irritation. "Pshaw! I've left my
eyeglasses out in the car." The two disappeared, leaving the vestibule
echoing and empty.

For a moment the two women did not speak. Then Miss Molly cast herself
upon her old friend's bosom. "They're coming back!" she cried. "Annie and
her children!"

Miss Abigail stared over her head. "They are _all_ coming back," she said,
"and--we are ready for them. The library's ready--the school is ready--"
she got up and opened the door into the great, cold, lofty church, "and--"
They looked in silence at the empty pews.

"Next Christmas!" said Miss Molly. "Next Christmas--"

The young minister bustled in, announcing as he came, "We will open the
service by singing hymn number forty-nine."

He sat down before the little old organ and struck a resonant chord.

  "Oh, come, all ye faithful!"

his full rich voice proclaimed, and then he stopped short, startled by a
great cry from Miss Abigail. Looking over his shoulder, he saw that the
tears were streaming down her face. He smiled to himself at the
sentimentality of old women and turned again to the organ, relieved that
his performance of a favorite hymn was not to be marred by cracked
trebles. He sang with much taste and expression.

  "Oh, come, all ye faithful!"

he chanted lustily,

  "Joyful and triumphant!"





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