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Title: Options
Author: Henry, O., 1862-1910
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Options" ***

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



Note: Many of the author's spellings follow older, obsolete, or
      intentionally incorrect practice.



OPTIONS

by

O. HENRY



CONTENTS

   "The Rose of Dixie"
   The Third Ingredient
   The Hiding of Black Bill
   Schools and Schools
   Thimble, Thimble
   Supply and Demand
   Buried Treasure
   To Him Who Waits
   He Also Serves
   The Moment of Victory
   The Head-Hunter
   No Story
   The Higher Pragmatism
   Best-Seller
   Rus in Urbe
   A Poor Rule



"THE ROSE OF DIXIE"


When _The Rose of Dixie_ magazine was started by a stock company in
Toombs City, Georgia, there was never but one candidate for its chief
editorial position in the minds of its owners. Col. Aquila Telfair
was the man for the place. By all the rights of learning, family,
reputation, and Southern traditions, he was its foreordained, fit,
and logical editor. So, a committee of the patriotic Georgia citizens
who had subscribed the founding fund of $100,000 called upon Colonel
Telfair at his residence, Cedar Heights, fearful lest the enterprise
and the South should suffer by his possible refusal.

The colonel received them in his great library, where he spent most
of his days. The library had descended to him from his father. It
contained ten thousand volumes, some of which had been published as
late as the year 1861. When the deputation arrived, Colonel Telfair
was seated at his massive white-pine centre-table, reading Burton's
"Anatomy of Melancholy." He arose and shook hands punctiliously with
each member of the committee. If you were familiar with _The Rose of
Dixie_ you will remember the colonel's portrait, which appeared in it
from time to time. You could not forget the long, carefully brushed
white hair; the hooked, high-bridged nose, slightly twisted to the
left; the keen eyes under the still black eyebrows; the classic mouth
beneath the drooping white mustache, slightly frazzled at the ends.

The committee solicitously offered him the position of managing editor,
humbly presenting an outline of the field that the publication was
designed to cover and mentioning a comfortable salary. The colonel's
lands were growing poorer each year and were much cut up by red
gullies. Besides, the honor was not one to be refused.

In a forty-minute speech of acceptance, Colonel Telfair gave an
outline of English literature from Chaucer to Macaulay, re-fought the
battle of Chancellorsville, and said that, God helping him, he would
so conduct _The Rose of Dixie_ that its fragrance and beauty would
permeate the entire world, hurling back into the teeth of the Northern
minions their belief that no genius or good could exist in the brains
and hearts of the people whose property they had destroyed and whose
rights they had curtailed.

Offices for the magazine were partitioned off and furnished in the
second floor of the First National Bank building; and it was for the
colonel to cause _The Rose of Dixie_ to blossom and flourish or to
wilt in the balmy air of the land of flowers.

The staff of assistants and contributors that Editor-Colonel Telfair
drew about him was a peach. It was a whole crate of Georgia peaches.
The first assistant editor, Tolliver Lee Fairfax, had had a father
killed during Pickett's charge. The second assistant, Keats Unthank,
was the nephew of one of Morgan's Raiders. The book reviewer, Jackson
Rockingham, had been the youngest soldier in the Confederate army,
having appeared on the field of battle with a sword in one hand and a
milk-bottle in the other. The art editor, Roncesvalles Sykes, was a
third cousin to a nephew of Jefferson Davis. Miss Lavinia Terhune, the
colonel's stenographer and typewriter, had an aunt who had once been
kissed by Stonewall Jackson. Tommy Webster, the head office-boy,
got his job by having recited Father Ryan's poems, complete, at the
commencement exercises of the Toombs City High School. The girls who
wrapped and addressed the magazines were members of old Southern
families in Reduced Circumstances. The cashier was a scrub named
Hawkins, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who had recommendations and a bond
from a guarantee company filed with the owners. Even Georgia stock
companies sometimes realize that it takes live ones to bury the dead.

Well, sir, if you believe me, _The Rose of Dixie_ blossomed five times
before anybody heard of it except the people who buy their hooks and
eyes in Toombs City. Then Hawkins climbed off his stool and told on
'em to the stock company. Even in Ann Arbor he had been used to having
his business propositions heard of at least as far away as Detroit. So
an advertising manager was engaged--Beauregard Fitzhugh Banks, a young
man in a lavender necktie, whose grandfather had been the Exalted High
Pillow-slip of the Kuklux Klan.

In spite of which _The Rose of Dixie_ kept coming out every month.
Although in every issue it ran photos of either the Taj Mahal or
the Luxembourg Gardens, or Carmencita or La Follette, a certain
number of people bought it and subscribed for it. As a boom for it,
Editor-Colonel Telfair ran three different views of Andrew Jackson's
old home, "The Hermitage," a full-page engraving of the second battle
of Manassas, entitled "Lee to the Rear!" and a five-thousand-word
biography of Belle Boyd in the same number. The subscription list that
month advanced 118. Also there were poems in the same issue by Leonina
Vashti Haricot (pen-name), related to the Haricots of Charleston,
South Carolina, and Bill Thompson, nephew of one of the stockholders.
And an article from a special society correspondent describing a
tea-party given by the swell Boston and English set, where a lot of
tea was spilled overboard by some of the guests masquerading as
Indians.

One day a person whose breath would easily cloud a mirror, he was so
much alive, entered the office of _The Rose of Dixie_. He was a man
about the size of a real-estate agent, with a self-tied tie and a
manner that he must have borrowed conjointly from W. J. Bryan,
Hackenschmidt, and Hetty Green. He was shown into the editor-colonel's
_pons asinorum_. Colonel Telfair rose and began a Prince Albert bow.

"I'm Thacker," said the intruder, taking the editor's chair--"T. T.
Thacker, of New York."

He dribbled hastily upon the colonel's desk some cards, a bulky manila
envelope, and a letter from the owners of _The Rose of Dixie_. This
letter introduced Mr. Thacker, and politely requested Colonel Telfair
to give him a conference and whatever information about the magazine
he might desire.

"I've been corresponding with the secretary of the magazine owners
for some time," said Thacker, briskly. "I'm a practical magazine man
myself, and a circulation booster as good as any, if I do say it.
I'll guarantee an increase of anywhere from ten thousand to a hundred
thousand a year for any publication that isn't printed in a dead
language. I've had my eye on _The Rose of Dixie_ ever since it
started. I know every end of the business from editing to setting up
the classified ads. Now, I've come down here to put a good bunch of
money in the magazine, if I can see my way clear. It ought to be made
to pay. The secretary tells me it's losing money. I don't see why a
magazine in the South, if it's properly handled, shouldn't get a good
circulation in the North, too."

Colonel Telfair leaned back in his chair and polished his gold-rimmed
glasses.

"Mr. Thacker," said he, courteously but firmly, "_The Rose of Dixie_
is a publication devoted to the fostering and the voicing of Southern
genius. Its watchword, which you may have seen on the cover, is 'Of,
For, and By the South.'"

"But you wouldn't object to a Northern circulation, would you?" asked
Thacker.

"I suppose," said the editor-colonel, "that it is customary to open
the circulation lists to all. I do not know. I have nothing to do with
the business affairs of the magazine. I was called upon to assume
editorial control of it, and I have devoted to its conduct such poor
literary talents as I may possess and whatever store of erudition I
may have acquired."

"Sure," said Thacker. "But a dollar is a dollar anywhere, North,
South, or West--whether you're buying codfish, goober peas, or Rocky
Ford cantaloupes. Now, I've been looking over your November number. I
see one here on your desk. You don't mind running over it with me?

"Well, your leading article is all right. A good write-up of the
cotton-belt with plenty of photographs is a winner any time. New York
is always interested in the cotton crop. And this sensational account
of the Hatfield-McCoy feud, by a schoolmate of a niece of the Governor
of Kentucky, isn't such a bad idea. It happened so long ago that most
people have forgotten it. Now, here's a poem three pages long called
'The Tyrant's Foot,' by Lorella Lascelles. I've pawed around a good
deal over manuscripts, but I never saw her name on a rejection slip."

"Miss Lascelles," said the editor, "is one of our most widely
recognized Southern poetesses. She is closely related to the Alabama
Lascelles family, and made with her own hands the silken Confederate
banner that was presented to the governor of that state at his
inauguration."

"But why," persisted Thacker, "is the poem illustrated with a view of
the M. & O. Railroad freight depot at Tuscaloosa?"

"The illustration," said the colonel, with dignity, "shows a corner
of the fence surrounding the old homestead where Miss Lascelles was
born."

"All right," said Thacker. "I read the poem, but I couldn't tell
whether it was about the depot of the battle of Bull Run. Now, here's
a short story called 'Rosies' Temptation,' by Fosdyke Piggott. It's
rotten. What is a Piggott, anyway?"

"Mr. Piggott," said the editor, "is a brother of the principal
stockholder of the magazine."

"All's right with the world--Piggott passes," said Thacker. "Well this
article on Arctic exploration and the one on tarpon fishing might go.
But how about this write-up of the Atlanta, New Orleans, Nashville,
and Savannah breweries? It seems to consist mainly of statistics about
their output and the quality of their beer. What's the chip over the
bug?"

"If I understand your figurative language," answered Colonel Telfair,
"it is this: the article you refer to was handed to me by the owners
of the magazine with instructions to publish it. The literary quality
of it did not appeal to me. But, in a measure, I feel impelled to
conform, in certain matters, to the wishes of the gentlemen who are
interested in the financial side of _The Rose_."

"I see," said Thacker. "Next we have two pages of selections from
'Lalla Rookh,' by Thomas Moore. Now, what Federal prison did Moore
escape from, or what's the name of the F.F.V. family that he carries
as a handicap?"

"Moore was an Irish poet who died in 1852," said Colonel Telfair,
pityingly. "He is a classic. I have been thinking of reprinting his
translation of Anacreon serially in the magazine."

"Look out for the copyright laws," said Thacker, flippantly. Who's
Bessie Belleclair, who contributes the essay on the newly completed
water-works plant in Milledgeville?"

"The name, sir," said Colonel Telfair, "is the _nom de guerre_ of
Miss Elvira Simpkins. I have not the honor of knowing the lady; but
her contribution was sent to us by Congressman Brower, of her native
state. Congressman Brower's mother was related to the Polks of
Tennessee.

"Now, see here, Colonel," said Thacker, throwing down the magazine,
"this won't do. You can't successfully run a magazine for one
particular section of the country. You've got to make a universal
appeal. Look how the Northern publications have catered to the South
and encouraged the Southern writers. And you've got to go far and
wide for your contributors. You've got to buy stuff according to its
quality without any regard to the pedigree of the author. Now, I'll
bet a quart of ink that this Southern parlor organ you've been running
has never played a note that originated above Mason & Hamlin's line.
Am I right?"

"I have carefully and conscientiously rejected all contributions from
that section of the country--if I understand your figurative language
aright," replied the colonel.

"All right. Now I'll show you something."

Thacker reached for his thick manila envelope and dumped a mass of
typewritten manuscript on the editors desk.

"Here's some truck," said he, "that I paid cash for, and brought along
with me."

One by one he folded back the manuscripts and showed their first pages
to the colonel.

Here are four short stories by four of the highest priced authors in
the United States--three of 'em living in New York, and one commuting.
There's a special article on Vienna-bred society by Tom Vampson.
Here's an Italian serial by Captain Jack--no--it's the other Crawford.
Here are three separate exposés of city governments by Sniffings, and
here's a dandy entitled 'What Women Carry in Dress-Suit Cases'--a
Chicago newspaper woman hired herself out for five years as a lady's
maid to get that information. And here's a Synopsis of Preceding
Chapters of Hall Caine's new serial to appear next June. And here's a
couple of pounds of _vers de société_ that I got at a rate from the
clever magazines. That's the stuff that people everywhere want. And
now here's a write-up with photographs at the ages of four, twelve,
twenty-two, and thirty of George B. McClellan. It's a prognostication.
He's bound to be elected Mayor of New York. It'll make a big hit all
over the country. He--"

"I beg your pardon," said Colonel Telfair, stiffening in his chair.
"What was the name?"

"Oh, I see," said Thacker, with half a grin. Yes, he's a son of the
General. We'll pass that manuscript up. But, if you'll excuse me,
Colonel, it's a magazine we're trying to make go off--not the first
gun at Fort Sumter. Now, here's a thing that's bound to get next to
you. It's an original poem by James Whitcomb Riley. J. W. himself.
You know what that means to a magazine. I won't tell you what I had
to pay for that poem; but I'll tell you this--Riley can make more
money writing with a fountain-pen than you or I can with one that lets
the ink run. I'll read you the last two stanzas:

   "'Pa lays around 'n' loafs all day,
      'N' reads and makes us leave him be.
   He lets me do just like I please,
      'N' when I'm bad he laughs at me,
   'N' when I holler loud 'n' say
      Bad words 'n' then begin to tease
   The cat, 'n' pa just smiles, ma's mad
      'N' gives me Jesse crost her knees.
         I always wondered why that wuz--
         I guess it's cause
            Pa never does.

   "''N' after all the lights are out
      I'm sorry 'bout it; so I creep
   Out of my trundle bed to ma's
      'N' say I love her a whole heap,
   'N' kiss her, 'n' I hug her tight.
      'N' it's too dark to see her eyes,
   But every time I do I know
      She cries 'n' cries 'n' cries 'n' cries.
         I always wondered why that wuz--
         I guess it's 'cause
            Pa never does.'

"That's the stuff," continued Thacker. "What do you think of that?"

"I am not unfamiliar with the works of Mr. Riley," said the colonel,
deliberately. "I believe he lives in Indiana. For the last ten years I
have been somewhat of a literary recluse, and am familiar with nearly
all the books in the Cedar Heights library. I am also of the opinion
that a magazine should contain a certain amount of poetry. Many of the
sweetest singers of the South have already contributed to the pages of
_The Rose of Dixie_. I, myself, have thought of translating from the
original for publication in its pages the works of the great Italian
poet Tasso. Have you ever drunk from the fountain of this immortal
poet's lines, Mr. Thacker?"

"Not even a demi-Tasso," said Thacker. Now, let's come to the point,
Colonel Telfair. I've already invested some money in this as a flyer.
That bunch of manuscripts cost me $4,000. My object was to try a
number of them in the next issue--I believe you make up less than a
month ahead--and see what effect it has on the circulation. I believe
that by printing the best stuff we can get in the North, South, East,
or West we can make the magazine go. You have there the letter from
the owning company asking you to co-operate with me in the plan. Let's
chuck out some of this slush that you've been publishing just because
the writers are related to the Skoopdoodles of Skoopdoodle County. Are
you with me?"

"As long as I continue to be the editor of The Rose," said Colonel
Telfair, with dignity, "I shall be its editor. But I desire also to
conform to the wishes of its owners if I can do so conscientiously."

"That's the talk," said Thacker, briskly. "Now, how much of this stuff
I've brought can we get into the January number? We want to begin
right away."

"There is yet space in the January number," said the editor, "for
about eight thousand words, roughly estimated."

"Great!" said Thacker. "It isn't much, but it'll give the readers
some change from goobers, governors, and Gettysburg. I'll leave the
selection of the stuff I brought to fill the space to you, as it's all
good. I've got to run back to New York, and I'll be down again in a
couple of weeks."

Colonel Telfair slowly swung his eye-glasses by their broad, black
ribbon.

"The space in the January number that I referred to," said he,
measuredly, "has been held open purposely, pending a decision that
I have not yet made. A short time ago a contribution was submitted
to _The Rose of Dixie_ that is one of the most remarkable literary
efforts that has ever come under my observation. None but a master
mind and talent could have produced it. It would just fill the space
that I have reserved for its possible use."

Thacker looked anxious.

"What kind of stuff is it?" he asked. "Eight thousand words sounds
suspicious. The oldest families must have been collaborating. Is there
going to be another secession?"

"The author of the article," continued the colonel, ignoring Thacker's
allusions, "is a writer of some reputation. He has also distinguished
himself in other ways. I do not feel at liberty to reveal to you his
name--at least not until I have decided whether or not to accept his
contribution."

"Well," said Thacker, nervously, "is it a continued story, or an
account of the unveiling of the new town pump in Whitmire, South
Carolina, or a revised list of General Lee's body-servants, or what?"

"You are disposed to be facetious," said Colonel Telfair, calmly.
"The article is from the pen of a thinker, a philosopher, a lover of
mankind, a student, and a rhetorician of high degree."

"It must have been written by a syndicate," said Thacker. "But,
honestly, Colonel, you want to go slow. I don't know of any
eight-thousand-word single doses of written matter that are read by
anybody these days, except Supreme Court briefs and reports of murder
trials. You haven't by any accident gotten hold of a copy of one of
Daniel Webster's speeches, have you?"

Colonel Telfair swung a little in his chair and looked steadily from
under his bushy eyebrows at the magazine promoter.

"Mr. Thacker," he said, gravely, "I am willing to segregate the
somewhat crude expression of your sense of humor from the solicitude
that your business investments undoubtedly have conferred upon you.
But I must ask you to cease your jibes and derogatory comments upon
the South and the Southern people. They, sir, will not be tolerated
in the office of _The Rose of Dixie_ for one moment. And before you
proceed with more of your covert insinuations that I, the editor of
this magazine, am not a competent judge of the merits of the matter
submitted to its consideration, I beg that you will first present some
evidence or proof that you are my superior in any way, shape, or form
relative to the question in hand."

"Oh, come, Colonel," said Thacker, good-naturedly. "I didn't do
anything like that to you. It sounds like an indictment by the fourth
assistant attorney-general. Let's get back to business. What's this
8,000 to 1 shot about?"

"The article," said Colonel Telfair, acknowledging the apology by a
slight bow, "covers a wide area of knowledge. It takes up theories
and questions that have puzzled the world for centuries, and disposes
of them logically and concisely. One by one it holds up to view the
evils of the world, points out the way of eradicating them, and then
conscientiously and in detail commends the good. There is hardly a
phase of human life that it does not discuss wisely, calmly, and
equitably. The great policies of governments, the duties of private
citizens, the obligations of home life, law, ethics, morality--all
these important subjects are handled with a calm wisdom and confidence
that I must confess has captured my admiration."

"It must be a crackerjack," said Thacker, impressed.

"It is a great contribution to the world's wisdom," said the colonel.
"The only doubt remaining in my mind as to the tremendous advantage it
would be to us to give it publication in _The Rose of Dixie_ is that I
have not yet sufficient information about the author to give his work
publicity in our magazine.

"I thought you said he is a distinguished man," said Thacker.

"He is," replied the colonel, "both in literary and in other more
diversified and extraneous fields. But I am extremely careful about
the matter that I accept for publication. My contributors are people
of unquestionable repute and connections, which fact can be verified
at any time. As I said, I am holding this article until I can acquire
more information about its author. I do not know whether I will
publish it or not. If I decide against it, I shall be much pleased,
Mr. Thacker, to substitute the matter that you are leaving with me in
its place."

Thacker was somewhat at sea.

"I don't seem to gather," said he, "much about the gist of this
inspired piece of literature. It sounds more like a dark horse than
Pegasus to me."

"It is a human document," said the colonel-editor, confidently, "from
a man of great accomplishments who, in my opinion, has obtained a
stronger grasp on the world and its outcomes than that of any man
living to-day."

Thacker rose to his feet excitedly.

"Say!" he said. "It isn't possible that you've cornered John D.
Rockefeller's memoirs, is it? Don't tell me that all at once."

"No, sir," said Colonel Telfair. "I am speaking of mentality and
literature, not of the less worthy intricacies of trade."

"Well, what's the trouble about running the article," asked Thacker, a
little impatiently, "if the man's well known and has got the stuff?"

Colonel Telfair sighed.

"Mr. Thacker," said he, "for once I have been tempted. Nothing has
yet appeared in _The Rose of Dixie_ that has not been from the pen of
one of its sons or daughters. I know little about the author of this
article except that he has acquired prominence in a section of the
country that has always been inimical to my heart and mind. But I
recognize his genius; and, as I have told you, I have instituted an
investigation of his personality. Perhaps it will be futile. But I
shall pursue the inquiry. Until that is finished, I must leave open
the question of filling the vacant space in our January number."

Thacker arose to leave.

"All right, Colonel," he said, as cordially as he could. "You use your
own judgment. If you've really got a scoop or something that will make
'em sit up, run it instead of my stuff. I'll drop in again in about
two weeks. Good luck!"

Colonel Telfair and the magazine promoter shook hands.

Returning a fortnight later, Thacker dropped off a very rocky Pullman
at Toombs City. He found the January number of the magazine made up
and the forms closed.

The vacant space that had been yawning for type was filled by an
article that was headed thus:


                    SECOND MESSAGE TO CONGRESS

                            Written for

                         THE ROSE OF DIXIE

                                 BY

                    A Member of the Well-known

                    BULLOCH FAMILY, OF GEORGIA

                            T. Roosevelt



THE THIRD INGREDIENT


The (so-called) Vallambrosa Apartment-House is not an apartment-house.
It is composed of two old-fashioned, brownstone-front residences
welded into one. The parlor floor of one side is gay with the
wraps and head-gear of a modiste; the other is lugubrious with the
sophistical promises and grisly display of a painless dentist. You
may have a room there for two dollars a week or you may have one for
twenty dollars. Among the Vallambrosa's roomers are stenographers,
musicians, brokers, shop-girls, space-rate writers, art students,
wire-tappers, and other people who lean far over the banister-rail
when the door-bell rings.

This treatise shall have to do with but two of the Vallambrosians--
though meaning no disrespect to the others.

At six o'clock one afternoon Hetty Pepper came back to her third-floor
rear $3.50 room in the Vallambrosa with her nose and chin more sharply
pointed than usual. To be discharged from the department store where
you have been working four years, and with only fifteen cents in your
purse, does have a tendency to make your features appear more finely
chiselled.

And now for Hetty's thumb-nail biography while she climbs the two
flights of stairs.

She walked into the Biggest Store one morning four years before
with seventy-five other girls, applying for a job behind the waist
department counter. The phalanx of wage-earners formed a bewildering
scene of beauty, carrying a total mass of blond hair sufficient to
have justified the horseback gallops of a hundred Lady Godivas.

The capable, cool-eyed, impersonal, young, bald-headed man whose task
it was to engage six of the contestants, was aware of a feeling of
suffocation as if he were drowning in a sea of frangipanni, while
white clouds, hand-embroidered, floated about him. And then a sail
hove in sight. Hetty Pepper, homely of countenance, with small,
contemptuous, green eyes and chocolate-colored hair, dressed in a suit
of plain burlap and a common-sense hat, stood before him with every
one of her twenty-nine years of life unmistakably in sight.

"You're on!" shouted the bald-headed young man, and was saved. And
that is how Hetty came to be employed in the Biggest Store. The story
of her rise to an eight-dollar-a-week salary is the combined stories
of Hercules, Joan of Arc, Una, Job, and Little-Red-Riding-Hood. You
shall not learn from me the salary that was paid her as a beginner.
There is a sentiment growing about such things, and I want no
millionaire store-proprietors climbing the fire-escape of my
tenement-house to throw dynamite bombs into my skylight boudoir.

The story of Hetty's discharge from the Biggest Store is so nearly a
repetition of her engagement as to be monotonous.

In each department of the store there is an omniscient, omnipresent,
and omnivorous person carrying always a mileage book and a red
necktie, and referred to as a "buyer." The destinies of the girls in
his department who live on (see Bureau of Victual Statistics)--so much
per week are in his hands.

This particular buyer was a capable, cool-eyed, impersonal, young,
bald-headed man. As he walked along the aisles of his department he
seemed to be sailing on a sea of frangipanni, while white clouds,
machine-embroidered, floated around him. Too many sweets bring
surfeit. He looked upon Hetty Pepper's homely countenance, emerald
eyes, and chocolate-colored hair as a welcome oasis of green in a
desert of cloying beauty. In a quiet angle of a counter he pinched her
arm kindly, three inches above the elbow. She slapped him three feet
away with one good blow of her muscular and not especially lily-white
right. So, now you know why Hetty Pepper came to leave the Biggest
Store at thirty minutes' notice, with one dime and a nickel in her
purse.

This morning's quotations list the price of rib beef at six cents per
(butcher's) pound. But on the day that Hetty was "released" by the B.
S. the price was seven and one-half cents. That fact is what makes
this story possible. Otherwise, the extra four cents would have--

But the plot of nearly all the good stories in the world is concerned
with shorts who were unable to cover; so you can find no fault with
this one.

Hetty mounted with her rib beef to her $3.50 third-floor back. One
hot, savory beef-stew for supper, a night's good sleep, and she would
be fit in the morning to apply again for the tasks of Hercules, Joan
of Arc, Una, Job, and Little-Red-Riding-Hood.

In her room she got the granite-ware stew-pan out of the 2x4-foot
china--er--I mean earthenware closet, and began to dig down in a
rat's-nest of paper bags for the potatoes and onions. She came out
with her nose and chin just a little sharper pointed.

There was neither a potato nor an onion. Now, what kind of a beef-stew
can you make out of simply beef? You can make oyster-soup without
oysters, turtle-soup without turtles, coffee-cake without coffee, but
you can't make beef-stew without potatoes and onions.

But rib beef alone, in an emergency, can make an ordinary pine door
look like a wrought-iron gambling-house portal to the wolf. With salt
and pepper and a tablespoonful of flour (first well stirred in a
little cold water) 'twill serve--'tis not so deep as a lobster à la
Newburg nor so wide as a church festival doughnut; but 'twill serve.

Hetty took her stew-pan to the rear of the third-floor hall. According
to the advertisements of the Vallambrosa there was running water to be
found there. Between you and me and the water-meter, it only ambled
or walked through the faucets; but technicalities have no place here.
There was also a sink where housekeeping roomers often met to dump
their coffee grounds and glare at one another's kimonos.

At this sink Hetty found a girl with heavy, gold-brown, artistic hair
and plaintive eyes, washing two large "Irish" potatoes. Hetty knew the
Vallambrosa as well as any one not owning "double hextra-magnifying
eyes" could compass its mysteries. The kimonos were her encyclopedia,
her "Who's What?" her clearinghouse of news, of goers and comers. From
a rose-pink kimono edged with Nile green she had learned that the
girl with the potatoes was a miniature-painter living in a kind of
attic--or "studio," as they prefer to call it--on the top floor. Hetty
was not certain in her mind what a miniature was; but it certainly
wasn't a house; because house-painters, although they wear splashy
overalls and poke ladders in your face on the street, are known to
indulge in a riotous profusion of food at home.

The potato girl was quite slim and small, and handled her potatoes as
an old bachelor uncle handles a baby who is cutting teeth. She had a
dull shoemaker's knife in her right hand, and she had begun to peel
one of the potatoes with it.

Hetty addressed her in the punctiliously formal tone of one who
intends to be cheerfully familiar with you in the second round.

"Beg pardon," she said, "for butting into what's not my business, but
if you peel them potatoes you lose out. They're new Bermudas. You want
to scrape 'em. Lemme show you."

She took a potato and the knife, and began to demonstrate.

"Oh, thank you," breathed the artist. "I didn't know. And I _did_ hate
to see the thick peeling go; it seemed such a waste. But I thought
they always had to be peeled. When you've got only potatoes to eat,
the peelings count, you know."

"Say, kid," said Hetty, staying her knife, "you ain't up against it,
too, are you?"

The miniature artist smiled starvedly.

"I suppose I am. Art--or, at least, the way I interpret it--doesn't
seem to be much in demand. I have only these potatoes for my dinner.
But they aren't so bad boiled and hot, with a little butter and salt."

"Child," said Hetty, letting a brief smile soften her rigid features,
"Fate has sent me and you together. I've had it handed to me in the
neck, too; but I've got a chunk of meat in my, room as big as a
lap-dog. And I've done everything to get potatoes except pray for 'em.
Let's me and you bunch our commissary departments and make a stew of
'em. We'll cook it in my room. If we only had an onion to go in it!
Say, kid, you haven't got a couple of pennies that've slipped down
into the lining of your last winter's sealskin, have you? I could step
down to the corner and get one at old Giuseppe's stand. A stew without
an onion is worse'n a matinée without candy."

"You may call me Cecilia," said the artist. "No; I spent my last penny
three days ago."

"Then we'll have to cut the onion out instead of slicing it in," said
Hetty. "I'd ask the janitress for one, but I don't want 'em hep just
yet to the fact that I'm pounding the asphalt for another job. But I
wish we did have an onion."

In the shop-girl's room the two began to prepare their supper.
Cecilia's part was to sit on the couch helplessly and beg to be
allowed to do something, in the voice of a cooing ring-dove. Hetty
prepared the rib beef, putting it in cold salted water in the stew-pan
and setting it on the one-burner gas-stove.

"I wish we had an onion," said Hetty, as she scraped the two potatoes.

On the wall opposite the couch was pinned a flaming, gorgeous
advertising picture of one of the new ferry-boats of the P. U. F. F.
Railroad that had been built to cut down the time between Los Angeles
and New York City one-eighth of a minute.

Hetty, turning her head during her continuous monologue, saw
tears running from her guest's eyes as she gazed on the idealized
presentment of the speeding, foam-girdled transport.

"Why, say, Cecilia, kid," said Hetty, poising her knife, "is it as bad
art as that? I ain't a critic; but I thought it kind of brightened
up the room. Of course, a manicure-painter could tell it was a bum
picture in a minute. I'll take it down if you say so. I wish to the
holy Saint Potluck we had an onion."

But the miniature miniature-painter had tumbled down, sobbing, with
her nose indenting the hard-woven drapery of the couch. Something
was here deeper than the artistic temperament offended at crude
lithography.

Hetty knew. She had accepted her rôle long ago. How scant the words
with which we try to describe a single quality of a human being! When
we reach the abstract we are lost. The nearer to Nature that the
babbling of our lips comes, the better do we understand. Figuratively
(let us say), some people are Bosoms, some are Hands, some are Heads,
some are Muscles, some are Feet, some are Backs for burdens.

Hetty was a Shoulder. Hers was a sharp, sinewy shoulder; but all her
life people had laid their heads upon it, metaphorically or actually,
and had left there all or half their troubles. Looking at Life
anatomically, which is as good a way as any, she was preordained to
be a Shoulder. There were few truer collar-bones anywhere than hers.

Hetty was only thirty-three, and she had not yet outlived the little
pang that visited her whenever the head of youth and beauty leaned
upon her for consolation. But one glance in her mirror always served
as an instantaneous pain-killer. So she gave one pale look into the
crinkly old looking-glass on the wall above the gas-stove, turned down
the flame a little lower from the bubbling beef and potatoes, went
over to the couch, and lifted Cecilia's head to its confessional.

"Go on and tell me, honey," she said. "I know now that it ain't art
that's worrying you. You met him on a ferry-boat, didn't you? Go on,
Cecilia, kid, and tell your--your Aunt Hetty about it."

But youth and melancholy must first spend the surplus of sighs and
tears that waft and float the barque of romance to its harbor in the
delectable isles. Presently, through the stringy tendons that formed
the bars of the confessional, the penitent--or was it the glorified
communicant of the sacred flame--told her story without art or
illumination.

"It was only three days ago. I was coming back on the ferry from
Jersey City. Old Mr. Schrum, an art dealer, told me of a rich man in
Newark who wanted a miniature of his daughter painted. I went to see
him and showed him some of my work. When I told him the price would
be fifty dollars he laughed at me like a hyena. He said an enlarged
crayon twenty times the size would cost him only eight dollars.

"I had just enough money to buy my ferry ticket back to New York. I
felt as if I didn't want to live another day. I must have looked as I
felt, for I saw _him_ on the row of seats opposite me, looking at me
as if he understood. He was nice-looking, but oh, above everything
else, he looked kind. When one is tired or unhappy or hopeless,
kindness counts more than anything else.

"When I got so miserable that I couldn't fight against it any longer,
I got up and walked slowly out the rear door of the ferry-boat cabin.
No one was there, and I slipped quickly over the rail and dropped into
the water. Oh, friend Hetty, it was cold, cold!

"For just one moment I wished I was back in the old Vallambrosa,
starving and hoping. And then I got numb, and didn't care. And then I
felt that somebody else was in the water close by me, holding me up.
_He_ had followed me, and jumped in to save me.

"Somebody threw a thing like a big, white doughnut at us, and he made
me put my arms through the hole. Then the ferry-boat backed, and they
pulled us on board. Oh, Hetty, I was so ashamed of my wickedness in
trying to drown myself; and, besides, my hair had all tumbled down and
was sopping wet, and I was such a sight.

"And then some men in blue clothes came around; and he gave them his
card, and I heard him tell them he had seen me drop my purse on the
edge of the boat outside the rail, and in leaning over to get it I had
fallen overboard. And then I remembered having read in the papers that
people who try to kill themselves are locked up in cells with people
who try to kill other people, and I was afraid.

"But some ladies on the boat took me downstairs to the furnace-room
and got me nearly dry and did up my hair. When the boat landed, _he_
came and put me in a cab. He was all dripping himself, but laughed as
if he thought it was all a joke. He begged me, but I wouldn't tell him
my name nor where I lived, I was so ashamed."

"You were a fool, child," said Hetty, kindly. "Wait till I turn the
light up a bit. I wish to Heaven we had an onion."

"Then he raised his hat," went on Cecilia, "and said: 'Very well. But
I'll find you, anyhow. I'm going to claim my rights of salvage.' Then
he gave money to the cab-driver and told him to take me where I wanted
to go, and walked away. What is 'salvage,' Hetty?"

"The edge of a piece of goods that ain't hemmed," said the shop-girl.
"You must have looked pretty well frazzled out to the little hero
boy."

"It's been three days," moaned the miniature-painter, "and he hasn't
found me yet."

"Extend the time," said Hetty. "This is a big town. Think of how many
girls he might have to see soaked in water with their hair down before
he would recognize you. The stew's getting on fine--but oh, for an
onion! I'd even use a piece of garlic if I had it."

The beef and potatoes bubbled merrily, exhaling a mouth-watering savor
that yet lacked something, leaving a hunger on the palate, a haunting,
wistful desire for some lost and needful ingredient.

"I came near drowning in that awful river," said Cecilia, shuddering.

"It ought to have more water in it," said Hetty; "the stew, I mean.
I'll go get some at the sink."

"It smells good," said the artist.

"That nasty old North River?" objected Hetty. "It smells to me like
soap factories and wet setter-dogs--oh, you mean the stew. Well, I
wish we had an onion for it. Did he look like he had money?"

"First, he looked kind," said Cecilia. "I'm sure he was rich; but that
matters so little. When he drew out his bill-folder to pay the cab-man
you couldn't help seeing hundreds and thousands of dollars in it. And
I looked over the cab doors and saw him leave the ferry station in a
motor-car; and the chauffeur gave him his bearskin to put on, for he
was sopping wet. And it was only three days ago."

"What a fool!" said Hetty, shortly.

"Oh, the chauffeur wasn't wet," breathed Cecilia. "And he drove the
car away very nicely."

"I mean _you_," said Hetty. "For not giving him your address."

"I never give my address to chauffeurs," said Cecilia, haughtily.

"I wish we had one," said Hetty, disconsolately.

"What for?"

"For the stew, of course--oh, I mean an onion."

Hetty took a pitcher and started to the sink at the end of the hall.

A young man came down the stairs from above just as she was opposite
the lower step. He was decently dressed, but pale and haggard. His
eyes were dull with the stress of some burden of physical or mental
woe. In his hand he bore an onion--a pink, smooth, solid, shining
onion as large around as a ninety-eight-cent alarm-clock.

Hetty stopped. So did the young man. There was something
Joan of Arc-ish, Herculean, and Una-ish in the look and pose
of the shop-lady--she had cast off the rôles of Job and
Little-Red-Riding-Hood. The young man stopped at the foot of the
stairs and coughed distractedly. He felt marooned, held up, attacked,
assailed, levied upon, sacked, assessed, panhandled, browbeaten,
though he knew not why. It was the look in Hetty's eyes that did it.
In them he saw the Jolly Roger fly to the masthead and an able seaman
with a dirk between his teeth scurry up the ratlines and nail it
there. But as yet he did not know that the cargo he carried was the
thing that had caused him to be so nearly blown out of the water
without even a parley.

"_Beg_ your pardon," said Hetty, as sweetly as her dilute acetic acid
tones permitted, "but did you find that onion on the stairs? There was
a hole in the paper bag; and I've just come out to look for it."

The young man coughed for half a minute. The interval may have given
him the courage to defend his own property. Also, he clutched his
pungent prize greedily, and, with a show of spirit, faced his grim
waylayer.

"No," he said huskily, "I didn't find it on the stairs. It was given
to me by Jack Bevens, on the top floor. If you don't believe it, ask
him. I'll wait until you do."

"I know about Bevens," said Hetty, sourly. "He writes books and things
up there for the paper-and-rags man. We can hear the postman guy him
all over the house when he brings them thick envelopes back. Say--do
you live in the Vallambrosa?"

"I do not," said the young man. "I come to see Bevens sometimes. He's
my friend. I live two blocks west."

"What are you going to do with the onion?--_begging_ your pardon,"
said Hetty.

"I'm going to eat it."

"Raw?"

"Yes: as soon as I get home."

"Haven't you got anything else to eat with it?"

The young man considered briefly.

"No," he confessed; "there's not another scrap of anything in my
diggings to eat. I think old Jack is pretty hard up for grub in his
shack, too. He hated to give up the onion, but I worried him into
parting with it."

"Man," said Hetty, fixing him with her world-sapient eyes, and laying
a bony but impressive finger on his sleeve, "you've known trouble, too,
haven't you?"

"Lots," said the onion owner, promptly. "But this onion is my own
property, honestly come by. If you will excuse me, I must be going."

"Listen," said Hetty, paling a little with anxiety. "Raw onion is a
mighty poor diet. And so is a beef-stew without one. Now, if you're Jack
Bevens' friend, I guess you're nearly right. There's a little lady--a
friend of mine--in my room there at the end of the hall. Both of us
are out of luck; and we had just potatoes and meat between us. They're
stewing now. But it ain't got any soul. There's something lacking to it.
There's certain things in life that are naturally intended to fit and
belong together. One is pink cheese-cloth and green roses, and one is
ham and eggs, and one is Irish and trouble. And the other one is beef
and potatoes _with_ onions. And still another one is people who are up
against it and other people in the same fix."

The young man went into a protracted paroxysm of coughing. With one
hand he hugged his onion to his bosom.

"No doubt; no doubt," said he, at length. "But, as I said, I must be
going, because--"

Hetty clutched his sleeve firmly.

"Don't be a Dago, Little Brother. Don't eat raw onions. Chip it in
toward the dinner and line yourself inside with the best stew you ever
licked a spoon over. Must two ladies knock a young gentleman down and
drag him inside for the honor of dining with 'em? No harm shall befall
you, Little Brother. Loosen up and fall into line."

The young man's pale face relaxed into a grin.

"Believe I'll go you," he said, brightening. "If my onion is good as
a credential, I'll accept the invitation gladly."

"It's good as that, but better as seasoning," said Hetty. "You come
and stand outside the door till I ask my lady friend if she has any
objections. And don't run away with that letter of recommendation
before I come out."

Hetty went into her room and closed the door. The young man waited
outside.

"Cecilia, kid," said the shop-girl, oiling the sharp saw of her voice
as well as she could, "there's an onion outside. With a young man
attached. I've asked him in to dinner. You ain't going to kick, are
you?"

"Oh, dear!" said Cecilia, sitting up and patting her artistic hair. She
cast a mournful glance at the ferry-boat poster on the wall.

"Nit," said Hetty. "It ain't him. You're up against real life now. I
believe you said your hero friend had money and automobiles. This is
a poor skeezicks that's got nothing to eat but an onion. But he's
easy-spoken and not a freshy. I imagine he's been a gentleman, he's
so low down now. And we need the onion. Shall I bring him in? I'll
guarantee his behavior."

"Hetty, dear," sighed Cecilia, "I'm so hungry. What difference does it
make whether he's a prince or a burglar? I don't care. Bring him in if
he's got anything to eat with him."

Hetty went back into the hall. The onion man was gone. Her heart missed
a beat, and a gray look settled over her face except on her nose and
cheek-bones. And then the tides of life flowed in again, for she saw
him leaning out of the front window at the other end of the hall. She
hurried there. He was shouting to some one below. The noise of the
street overpowered the sound of her footsteps. She looked down over his
shoulder, saw whom he was speaking to, and heard his words. He pulled
himself in from the window-sill and saw her standing over him.

Hetty's eyes bored into him like two steel gimlets.

"Don't lie to me," she said, calmly. "What were you going to do with
that onion?"

The young man suppressed a cough and faced her resolutely. His manner
was that of one who had been bearded sufficiently.

"I was going to eat it," said he, with emphatic slowness; "just as I
told you before."

"And you have nothing else to eat at home?"

"Not a thing."

"What kind of work do you do?"

"I am not working at anything just now."

"Then why," said Hetty, with her voice set on its sharpest edge, "do you
lean out of windows and give orders to chauffeurs in green automobiles
in the street below?"

The young man flushed, and his dull eyes began to sparkle.

"Because, madam," said he, in _accelerando_ tones, "I pay the
chauffeur's wages and I own the automobile--and also this onion--this
onion, madam."

He flourished the onion within an inch of Hetty's nose. The shop-lady
did not retreat a hair's-breadth.

"Then why do you eat onions," she said, with biting contempt, "and
nothing else?"

"I never said I did," retorted the young man, heatedly. "I said I had
nothing else to eat where I live. I am not a delicatessen store-keeper."

"Then why," pursued Hetty, inflexibly, "were you going to eat a raw
onion?"

"My mother," said the young man, "always made me eat one for a cold.
Pardon my referring to a physical infirmity; but you may have noticed
that I have a very, very severe cold. I was going to eat the onion and
go to bed. I wonder why I am standing here and apologizing to you for
it."

"How did you catch this cold?" went on Hetty, suspiciously.

The young man seemed to have arrived at some extreme height of feeling.
There were two modes of descent open to him--a burst of rage or a
surrender to the ridiculous. He chose wisely; and the empty hall echoed
his hoarse laughter.

"You're a dandy," said he. "And I don't blame you for being careful. I
don't mind telling you. I got wet. I was on a North River ferry a few
days ago when a girl jumped overboard. Of course, I--"

Hetty extended her hand, interrupting his story.

"Give me the onion," she said.

The young man set his jaw a trifle harder.

"Give me the onion," she repeated.

He grinned, and laid it in her hand.

Then Hetty's infrequent, grim, melancholy smile showed itself. She took
the young man's arm and pointed with her other hand to the door of her
room.

"Little Brother," she said, "go in there. The little fool you fished out
of the river is there waiting for you. Go on in. I'll give you three
minutes before I come. Potatoes is in there, waiting. Go on in, Onions."

After he had tapped at the door and entered, Hetty began to peel and
wash the onion at the sink. She gave a gray look at the gray roofs
outside, and the smile on her face vanished by little jerks and
twitches.

"But it's us," she said, grimly, to herself, "it's _us_ that furnished
the beef."



THE HIDING OF BLACK BILL


A lank, strong, red-faced man with a Wellington beak and small, fiery
eyes tempered by flaxen lashes, sat on the station platform at Los
Pinos swinging his legs to and fro. At his side sat another man, fat,
melancholy, and seedy, who seemed to be his friend. They had the
appearance of men to whom life had appeared as a reversible coat--seamy
on both sides.

"Ain't seen you in about four years, Ham," said the seedy man. "Which
way you been travelling?"

"Texas," said the red-faced man. "It was too cold in Alaska for me.
And I found it warm in Texas. I'll tell you about one hot spell I went
through there.

"One morning I steps off the International at a water-tank and lets it
go on without me. 'Twas a ranch country, and fuller of spite-houses than
New York City. Only out there they build 'em twenty miles away so you
can't smell what they've got for dinner, instead of running 'em up two
inches from their neighbors' windows.

"There wasn't any roads in sight, so I footed it 'cross country. The
grass was shoe-top deep, and the mesquite timber looked just like a
peach orchard. It was so much like a gentleman's private estate that
every minute you expected a kennelful of bulldogs to run out and bite
you. But I must have walked twenty miles before I came in sight of a
ranch-house. It was a little one, about as big as an elevated-railroad
station.

"There was a little man in a white shirt and brown overalls and a pink
handkerchief around his neck rolling cigarettes under a tree in front
of the door.

"'Greetings,' says I. 'Any refreshment, welcome, emoluments, or even
work for a comparative stranger?'

"'Oh, come in,' says he, in a refined tone. 'Sit down on that stool,
please. I didn't hear your horse coming.'

"'He isn't near enough yet,' says I. 'I walked. I don't want to be
a burden, but I wonder if you have three or four gallons of water
handy.'

"'You do look pretty dusty,' says he; 'but our bathing arrangements--'

"'It's a drink I want,' says I. 'Never mind the dust that's on the
outside.'

"He gets me a dipper of water out of a red jar hanging up, and then
goes on:

"'Do you want work?'

"'For a time,' says I. 'This is a rather quiet section of the country,
isn't it?'

"'It is,' says he. 'Sometimes--so I have been told--one sees no human
being pass for weeks at a time. I've been here only a month. I bought
the ranch from an old settler who wanted to move farther west.'

"'It suits me,' says I. 'Quiet and retirement are good for a man
sometimes. And I need a job. I can tend bar, salt mines, lecture, float
stock, do a little middle-weight slugging, and play the piano.'

"'Can you herd sheep?' asks the little ranchman.

"'Do you mean _have_ I heard sheep?' says I.

"'Can you herd 'em--take charge of a flock of 'em?' says he.

"'Oh,' says I, 'now I understand. You mean chase 'em around and bark at
'em like collie dogs. Well, I might,' says I. 'I've never exactly done
any sheep-herding, but I've often seen 'em from car windows masticating
daisies, and they don't look dangerous.'

"'I'm short a herder,' says the ranchman. 'You never can depend on
the Mexicans. I've only got two flocks. You may take out my bunch of
muttons--there are only eight hundred of 'em--in the morning, if you
like. The pay is twelve dollars a month and your rations furnished. You
camp in a tent on the prairie with your sheep. You do your own cooking,
but wood and water are brought to your camp. It's an easy job.'

"'I'm on,' says I. 'I'll take the job even if I have to garland my brow
and hold on to a crook and wear a loose-effect and play on a pipe like
the shepherds do in pictures.'

"So the next morning the little ranchman helps me drive the flock of
muttons from the corral to about two miles out and let 'em graze on a
little hillside on the prairie. He gives me a lot of instructions about
not letting bunches of them stray off from the herd, and driving 'em
down to a water-hole to drink at noon.

"'I'll bring out your tent and camping outfit and rations in the
buckboard before night,' says he.

"'Fine,' says I. 'And don't forget the rations. Nor the camping outfit.
And be sure to bring the tent. Your name's Zollicoffer, ain't it?"

"'My name,' says he, 'is Henry Ogden.'

"'All right, Mr. Ogden,' says I. 'Mine is Mr. Percival Saint Clair.'

"I herded sheep for five days on the Rancho Chiquito; and then the wool
entered my soul. That getting next to Nature certainly got next to me.
I was lonesomer than Crusoe's goat. I've seen a lot of persons more
entertaining as companions than those sheep were. I'd drive 'em to the
corral and pen 'em every evening, and then cook my corn-bread and mutton
and coffee, and lie down in a tent the size of a table-cloth, and listen
to the coyotes and whip-poor-wills singing around the camp.

"The fifth evening, after I had corralled my costly but uncongenial
muttons, I walked over to the ranch-house and stepped in the door.

"'Mr. Ogden,' says I, 'you and me have got to get sociable. Sheep are
all very well to dot the landscape and furnish eight-dollar cotton
suitings for man, but for table-talk and fireside companions they rank
along with five-o'clock teazers. If you've got a deck of cards, or a
parcheesi outfit, or a game of authors, get 'em out, and let's get on a
mental basis. I've got to do something in an intellectual line, if it's
only to knock somebody's brains out.'

"This Henry Ogden was a peculiar kind of ranchman. He wore finger-rings
and a big gold watch and careful neckties. And his face was calm, and
his nose-spectacles was kept very shiny. I saw once, in Muscogee, an
outlaw hung for murdering six men, who was a dead ringer for him. But I
knew a preacher in Arkansas that you would have taken to be his brother.
I didn't care much for him either way; what I wanted was some fellowship
and communion with holy saints or lost sinners--anything sheepless would
do.

"'Well, Saint Clair,' says he, laying down the book he was reading, 'I
guess it must be pretty lonesome for you at first. And I don't deny that
it's monotonous for me. Are you sure you corralled your sheep so they
won't stray out?'

"'They're shut up as tight as the jury of a millionaire murderer,' says
I. 'And I'll be back with them long before they'll need their trained
nurse.'

"So Ogden digs up a deck of cards, and we play casino. After five
days and nights of my sheep-camp it was like a toot on Broadway. When
I caught big casino I felt as excited as if I had made a million in
Trinity. And when H. O. loosened up a little and told the story about
the lady in the Pullman car I laughed for five minutes.

"That showed what a comparative thing life is. A man may see so much
that he'd be bored to turn his head to look at a $3,000,000 fire or
Joe Weber or the Adriatic Sea. But let him herd sheep for a spell, and
you'll see him splitting his ribs laughing at 'Curfew Shall Not Ring
To-night,' or really enjoying himself playing cards with ladies.

"By-and-by Ogden gets out a decanter of Bourbon, and then there is a
total eclipse of sheep.

"'Do you remember reading in the papers, about a month ago,' says he,
'about a train hold-up on the M. K. & T.? The express agent was shot
through the shoulder and about $15,000 in currency taken. And it's said
that only one man did the job.'

"'Seems to me I do,' says I. 'But such things happen so often they don't
linger long in the human Texas mind. Did they overtake, overhaul, seize,
or lay hands upon the despoiler?'

"'He escaped,' says Ogden. 'And I was just reading in a paper to-day
that the officers have tracked him down into this part of the country.
It seems the bills the robber got were all the first issue of currency
to the Second National Bank of Espinosa City. And so they've followed
the trail where they've been spent, and it leads this way.'

"Ogden pours out some more Bourbon, and shoves me the bottle.

"'I imagine,' says I, after ingurgitating another modicum of the royal
booze, 'that it wouldn't be at all a disingenuous idea for a train
robber to run down into this part of the country to hide for a spell. A
sheep-ranch, now,' says I, 'would be the finest kind of a place. Who'd
ever expect to find such a desperate character among these song-birds
and muttons and wild flowers? And, by the way,' says I, kind of
looking H. Ogden over, 'was there any description mentioned of this
single-handed terror? Was his lineaments or height and thickness or
teeth fillings or style of habiliments set forth in print?'

"'Why, no,' says Ogden; 'they say nobody got a good sight of him because
he wore a mask. But they know it was a train-robber called Black Bill,
because he always works alone and because he dropped a handkerchief in
the express-car that had his name on it.'

"'All right,' says I. 'I approve of Black Bill's retreat to the
sheep-ranges. I guess they won't find him.'

"'There's one thousand dollars reward for his capture,' says Ogden.

"'I don't need that kind of money,' says I, looking Mr. Sheepman
straight in the eye. 'The twelve dollars a month you pay me is enough.
I need a rest, and I can save up until I get enough to pay my fare to
Texarkana, where my widowed mother lives. If Black Bill,' I goes on,
looking significantly at Ogden, 'was to have come down this way--say,
a month ago--and bought a little sheep-ranch and--'

"'Stop,' says Ogden, getting out of his chair and looking pretty
vicious. 'Do you mean to insinuate--'

"'Nothing,' says I; 'no insinuations. I'm stating a hypodermical case.
I say, if Black Bill had come down here and bought a sheep-ranch and
hired me to Little-Boy-Blue 'em and treated me square and friendly, as
you've done, he'd never have anything to fear from me. A man is a man,
regardless of any complications he may have with sheep or railroad
trains. Now you know where I stand.'

"Ogden looks black as camp-coffee for nine seconds, and then he laughs,
amused.

"'You'll do, Saint Clair,' says he. 'If I _was_ Black Bill I wouldn't
be afraid to trust you. Let's have a game or two of seven-up to-night.
That is, if you don't mind playing with a train-robber.'

"'I've told you,' says I, 'my oral sentiments, and there's no strings
to 'em.'

"While I was shuffling after the first hand, I asks Ogden, as if the
idea was a kind of a casualty, where he was from.

"'Oh,' says he, 'from the Mississippi Valley.'

"'That's a nice little place,' says I. 'I've often stopped over there.
But didn't you find the sheets a little damp and the food poor? Now, I
hail,' says I, 'from the Pacific Slope. Ever put up there?'

"'Too draughty,' says Ogden. 'But if you're ever in the Middle West just
mention my name, and you'll get foot-warmers and dripped coffee.'

"'Well,' says I, 'I wasn't exactly fishing for your private telephone
number and the middle name of your aunt that carried off the Cumberland
Presbyterian minister. It don't matter. I just want you to know you are
safe in the hands of your shepherd. Now, don't play hearts on spades,
and don't get nervous.'

"'Still harping,' says Ogden, laughing again. 'Don't you suppose that
if I was Black Bill and thought you suspected me, I'd put a Winchester
bullet into you and stop my nervousness, if I had any?'

"'Not any,' says I. 'A man who's got the nerve to hold up a train
single-handed wouldn't do a trick like that. I've knocked about enough
to know that them are the kind of men who put a value on a friend. Not
that I can claim being a friend of yours, Mr. Ogden,' says I, 'being
only your sheep-herder; but under more expeditious circumstances we
might have been.'

"'Forget the sheep temporarily, I beg,' says Ogden, 'and cut for deal.'

"About four days afterward, while my muttons was nooning on the
water-hole and I deep in the interstices of making a pot of coffee, up
rides softly on the grass a mysterious person in the garb of the being
he wished to represent. He was dressed somewhere between a Kansas City
detective, Buffalo Bill, and the town dog-catcher of Baton Rouge. His
chin and eye wasn't molded on fighting lines, so I knew he was only a
scout.

"'Herdin' sheep?' he asks me.

"'Well,' says I, 'to a man of your evident gumptional endowments, I
wouldn't have the nerve to state that I am engaged in decorating old
bronzes or oiling bicycle sprockets.'

"'You don't talk or look like a sheep-herder to me,' says he.

"'But you talk like what you look like to me,' says I.

"And then he asks me who I was working for, and I shows him Rancho
Chiquito, two miles away, in the shadow of a low hill, and he tells
me he's a deputy sheriff.

"'There's a train-robber called Black Bill supposed to be somewhere in
these parts,' says the scout. 'He's been traced as far as San Antonio,
and maybe farther. Have you seen or heard of any strangers around here
during the past month?'

"'I have not,' says I, 'except a report of one over at the Mexican
quarters of Loomis' ranch, on the Frio.'

"'What do you know about him?' asks the deputy.

"'He's three days old,' says I.

"'What kind of a looking man is the man you work for?' he asks. 'Does
old George Ramey own this place yet? He's run sheep here for the last
ten years, but never had no success.'

"'The old man has sold out and gone West,' I tells him. 'Another
sheep-fancier bought him out about a month ago.'

"'What kind of a looking man is he?' asks the deputy again.

"'Oh,' says I, 'a big, fat kind of a Dutchman with long whiskers and
blue specs. I don't think he knows a sheep from a ground-squirrel. I
guess old George soaked him pretty well on the deal,' says I.

"After indulging himself in a lot more non-communicative information
and two-thirds of my dinner, the deputy rides away.

"That night I mentions the matter to Ogden.

"'They're drawing the tendrils of the octopus around Black Bill,' says
I. And then I told him about the deputy sheriff, and how I'd described
him to the deputy, and what the deputy said about the matter.

"'Oh, well,' says Ogden, 'let's don't borrow any of Black Bill's
troubles. We've a few of our own. Get the Bourbon out of the cupboard
and we'll drink to his health--unless,' says he, with his little
cackling laugh, 'you're prejudiced against train-robbers.'

"'I'll drink,' says I, 'to any man who's a friend to a friend. And I
believe that Black Bill,' I goes on, 'would be that. So here's to Black
Bill, and may he have good luck.'

"And both of us drank.

"About two weeks later comes shearing-time. The sheep had to be driven
up to the ranch, and a lot of frowzy-headed Mexicans would snip the
fur off of them with back-action scissors. So the afternoon before the
barbers were to come I hustled my underdone muttons over the hill,
across the dell, down by the winding brook, and up to the ranch-house,
where I penned 'em in a corral and bade 'em my nightly adieus.

"I went from there to the ranch-house. I find H. Ogden, Esquire,
lying asleep on his little cot bed. I guess he had been overcome by
anti-insomnia or diswakefulness or some of the diseases peculiar to the
sheep business. His mouth and vest were open, and he breathed like a
second-hand bicycle pump. I looked at him and gave vent to just a few
musings. 'Imperial Cæsar,' says I, 'asleep in such a way, might shut
his mouth and keep the wind away.'

"A man asleep is certainly a sight to make angels weep. What good is all
his brain, muscle, backing, nerve, influence, and family connections?
He's at the mercy of his enemies, and more so of his friends. And he's
about as beautiful as a cab-horse leaning against the Metropolitan Opera
House at 12.30 A.M. dreaming of the plains of Arabia. Now, a woman
asleep you regard as different. No matter how she looks, you know it's
better for all hands for her to be that way.

"Well, I took a drink of Bourbon and one for Ogden, and started in to
be comfortable while he was taking his nap. He had some books on his
table on indigenous subjects, such as Japan and drainage and physical
culture--and some tobacco, which seemed more to the point.

"After I'd smoked a few, and listened to the sartorial breathing of H.
O., I happened to look out the window toward the shearing-pens, where
there was a kind of a road coming up from a kind of a road across a
kind of a creek farther away.

"I saw five men riding up to the house. All of 'em carried guns across
their saddles, and among 'em was the deputy that had talked to me at my
camp.

"They rode up careful, in open formation, with their guns ready. I set
apart with my eye the one I opinionated to be the boss muck-raker of
this law-and-order cavalry.

"'Good-evening, gents,' says I. 'Won't you 'light, and tie your horses?'

"The boss rides up close, and swings his gun over till the opening in
it seems to cover my whole front elevation.

"'Don't you move your hands none,' says he, 'till you and me indulge in
a adequate amount of necessary conversation.'

"'I will not,' says I. 'I am no deaf-mute, and therefore will not have
to disobey your injunctions in replying.'

"'We are on the lookout,' says he, 'for Black Bill, the man that held up
the Katy for $15,000 in May. We are searching the ranches and everybody
on 'em. What is your name, and what do you do on this ranch?'

"'Captain,' says I, 'Percival Saint Clair is my occupation, and my name
is sheep-herder. I've got my flock of veals--no, muttons--penned here
to-night. The shearers are coming to-morrow to give them a haircut--with
baa-a-rum, I suppose.'

"'Where's the boss of this ranch?' the captain of the gang asks me.

"'Wait just a minute, cap'n,' says I. 'Wasn't there a kind of a reward
offered for the capture of this desperate character you have referred
to in your preamble?'

"'There's a thousand dollars reward offered,' says the captain, 'but
it's for his capture and conviction. There don't seem to be no provision
made for an informer.'

"'It looks like it might rain in a day or so,' says I, in a tired way,
looking up at the cerulean blue sky.

"'If you know anything about the locality, disposition, or secretiveness
of this here Black Bill,' says he, in a severe dialect, 'you are amiable
to the law in not reporting it.'

"'I heard a fence-rider say,' says I, in a desultory kind of voice,
'that a Mexican told a cowboy named Jake over at Pidgin's store on the
Nueces that he heard that Black Bill had been seen in Matamoras by a
sheepman's cousin two weeks ago.'

"'Tell you what I'll do, Tight Mouth,' says the captain, after looking
me over for bargains. 'If you put us on so we can scoop Black Bill, I'll
pay you a hundred dollars out of my own--out of our own--pockets. That's
liberal,' says he. 'You ain't entitled to anything. Now, what do you
say?'

"'Cash down now?' I asks.

"The captain has a sort of discussion with his helpmates, and they all
produce the contents of their pockets for analysis. Out of the general
results they figured up $102.30 in cash and $31 worth of plug tobacco.

"'Come nearer, capitan meeo,' says I, 'and listen.' He so did.

"'I am mighty poor and low down in the world,' says I. 'I am working for
twelve dollars a month trying to keep a lot of animals together whose
only thought seems to be to get asunder. Although,' says I, 'I regard
myself as some better than the State of South Dakota, it's a come-down
to a man who has heretofore regarded sheep only in the form of chops.
I'm pretty far reduced in the world on account of foiled ambitions and
rum and a kind of cocktail they make along the P. R. R. all the way from
Scranton to Cincinnati--dry gin, French vermouth, one squeeze of a lime,
and a good dash of orange bitters. If you're ever up that way, don't
fail to let one try you. And, again,' says I, 'I have never yet went
back on a friend. I've stayed by 'em when they had plenty, and when
adversity's overtaken me I've never forsook 'em.

"'But,' I goes on, 'this is not exactly the case of a friend. Twelve
dollars a month is only bowing-acquaintance money. And I do not consider
brown beans and corn-bread the food of friendship. I am a poor man,'
says I, 'and I have a widowed mother in Texarkana. You will find Black
Bill,' says I, 'lying asleep in this house on a cot in the room to your
right. He's the man you want, as I know from his words and conversation.
He was in a way a friend,' I explains, 'and if I was the man I once was
the entire product of the mines of Gondola would not have tempted me to
betray him. But,' says I, 'every week half of the beans was wormy, and
not nigh enough wood in camp.

"'Better go in careful, gentlemen,' says I. 'He seems impatient at
times, and when you think of his late professional pursuits one would
look for abrupt actions if he was come upon sudden.'

"So the whole posse unmounts and ties their horses, and unlimbers their
ammunition and equipments, and tiptoes into the house. And I follows,
like Delilah when she set the Philip Steins on to Samson.

"The leader of the posse shakes Ogden and wakes him up. And then he
jumps up, and two more of the reward-hunters grab him. Ogden was mighty
tough with all his slimness, and he gives 'em as neat a single-footed
tussle against odds as I ever see.

"'What does this mean?' he says, after they had him down.

"'You're scooped in, Mr. Black Bill,' says the captain. 'That's all.'

"'It's an outrage,' says H. Ogden, madder yet.

"'It was,' says the peace-and-good-will man. 'The Katy wasn't bothering
you, and there's a law against monkeying with express packages.'

"And he sits on H. Ogden's stomach and goes through his pockets
symptomatically and careful.

"'I'll make you perspire for this,' says Ogden, perspiring some himself.
'I can prove who I am.'

"'So can I,' says the captain, as he draws from H. Ogden's inside
coat-pocket a handful of new bills of the Second National Bank
of Espinosa City. 'Your regular engraved Tuesdays-and-Fridays
visiting-card wouldn't have a louder voice in proclaiming your indemnity
than this here currency. You can get up now and prepare to go with us
and expatriate your sins.'

"H. Ogden gets up and fixes his necktie. He says no more after they
have taken the money off of him.

"'A well-greased idea,' says the sheriff captain, admiring, 'to slip off
down here and buy a little sheep-ranch where the hand of man is seldom
heard. It was the slickest hide-out I ever see,' says the captain.

"So one of the men goes to the shearing-pen and hunts up the other
herder, a Mexican they call John Sallies, and he saddles Ogden's horse,
and the sheriffs all ride up close around him with their guns in hand,
ready to take their prisoner to town.

"Before starting, Ogden puts the ranch in John Sallies' hands and gives
him orders about the shearing and where to graze the sheep, just as if
he intended to be back in a few days. And a couple of hours afterward
one Percival Saint Clair, an ex-sheep-herder of the Rancho Chiquito,
might have been seen, with a hundred and nine dollars--wages and
blood-money--in his pocket, riding south on another horse belonging to
said ranch."

The red-faced man paused and listened. The whistle of a coming
freight-train sounded far away among the low hills.

The fat, seedy man at his side sniffed, and shook his frowzy head slowly
and disparagingly.

"What is it, Snipy?" asked the other. "Got the blues again?"

"No, I ain't" said the seedy one, sniffing again. "But I don't like your
talk. You and me have been friends, off and on, for fifteen year; and I
never yet knew or heard of you giving anybody up to the law--not no one.
And here was a man whose saleratus you had et and at whose table you had
played games of cards--if casino can be so called. And yet you inform
him to the law and take money for it. It never was like you, I say."

"This H. Ogden," resumed the red-faced man, "through a lawyer, proved
himself free by alibis and other legal terminalities, as I so heard
afterward. He never suffered no harm. He did me favors, and I hated to
hand him over."

"How about the bills they found in his pocket?" asked the seedy man.

"I put 'em there," said the red-faced man, "while he was asleep, when I
saw the posse riding up. I was Black Bill. Look out, Snipy, here she
comes! We'll board her on the bumpers when she takes water at the tank."



SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLS


I


Old Jerome Warren lived in a hundred-thousand-dollar house at 35 East
Fifty-Soforth Street. He was a downtown broker, so rich that he could
afford to walk--for his health--a few blocks in the direction of his
office every morning, and then call a cab.

He had an adopted son, the son of an old friend named Gilbert--Cyril
Scott could play him nicely--who was becoming a successful painter as
fast as he could squeeze the paint out of his tubes. Another member of
the household was Barbara Ross, a step-niece. Man is born to trouble;
so, as old Jerome had no family of his own, he took up the burdens of
others.

Gilbert and Barbara got along swimmingly. There was a tacit and tactical
understanding all round that the two would stand up under a floral bell
some high noon, and promise the minister to keep old Jerome's money
in a state of high commotion. But at this point complications must be
introduced.

Thirty years before, when old Jerome was young Jerome, there was a
brother of his named Dick. Dick went West to seek his or somebody else's
fortune. Nothing was heard of him until one day old Jerome had a letter
from his brother. It was badly written on ruled paper that smelled
of salt bacon and coffee-grounds. The writing was asthmatic and the
spelling St. Vitusy.

It appeared that instead of Dick having forced Fortune to stand and
deliver, he had been held up himself, and made to give hostages to the
enemy. That is, as his letter disclosed, he was on the point of pegging
out with a complication of disorders that even whiskey had failed to
check. All that his thirty years of prospecting had netted him was one
daughter, nineteen years old, as per invoice, whom he was shipping East,
charges prepaid, for Jerome to clothe, feed, educate, comfort, and
cherish for the rest of her natural life or until matrimony should them
part.

Old Jerome was a board-walk. Everybody knows that the world is supported
by the shoulders of Atlas; and that Atlas stands on a rail-fence; and
that the rail-fence is built on a turtle's back. Now, the turtle has
to stand on something; and that is a board-walk made of men like old
Jerome.

I do not know whether immortality shall accrue to man; but if not so,
I would like to know when men like old Jerome get what is due them?

They met Nevada Warren at the station. She was a little girl, deeply
sunburned and wholesomely good-looking, with a manner that was frankly
unsophisticated, yet one that not even a cigar-drummer would intrude
upon without thinking twice. Looking at her, somehow you would expect
to see her in a short skirt and leather leggings, shooting glass balls
or taming mustangs. But in her plain white waist and black skirt she
sent you guessing again. With an easy exhibition of strength she swung
along a heavy valise, which the uniformed porters tried in vain to wrest
from her.

"I am sure we shall be the best of friends," said Barbara, pecking at
the firm, sunburned cheek.

"I hope so," said Nevada.

"Dear little niece," said old Jerome, "you are as welcome to my home as
if it were your father's own."

"Thanks," said Nevada.

"And I am going to call you 'cousin,'" said Gilbert, with his charming
smile.

"Take the valise, please," said Nevada. "It weighs a million pounds.
It's got samples from six of dad's old mines in it," she explained to
Barbara. "I calculate they'd assay about nine cents to the thousand
tons, but I promised him to bring them along."


II


It is a common custom to refer to the usual complication between one
man and two ladies, or one lady and two men, or a lady and a man and
a nobleman, or--well, any of those problems--as the triangle. But
they are never unqualified triangles. They are always isosceles--never
equilateral. So, upon the coming of Nevada Warren, she and Gilbert and
Barbara Ross lined up into such a figurative triangle; and of that
triangle Barbara formed the hypotenuse.

One morning old Jerome was lingering long after breakfast over the
dullest morning paper in the city before setting forth to his down-town
fly-trap. He had become quite fond of Nevada, finding in her much of
his dead brother's quiet independence and unsuspicious frankness.

A maid brought in a note for Miss Nevada Warren.

"A messenger-boy delivered it at the door, please," she said. "He's
waiting for an answer."

Nevada, who was whistling a Spanish waltz between her teeth, and
watching the carriages and autos roll by in the street, took the
envelope. She knew it was from Gilbert, before she opened it, by the
little gold palette in the upper left-hand corner.

After tearing it open she pored over the contents for a while,
absorbedly. Then, with a serious face, she went and stood at her uncle's
elbow.

"Uncle Jerome, Gilbert is a nice boy, isn't he?"

"Why, bless the child!" said old Jerome, crackling his paper loudly; "of
course he is. I raised him myself."

"He wouldn't write anything to anybody that wasn't exactly--I mean that
everybody couldn't know and read, would he?"

"I'd just like to see him try it," said uncle, tearing a handful from
his newspaper. "Why, what--"

"Read this note he just sent me, uncle, and see if you think it's all
right and proper. You see, I don't know much about city people and their
ways."

Old Jerome threw his paper down and set both his feet upon it. He took
Gilbert's note and fiercely perused it twice, and then a third time.

"Why, child," said he, "you had me almost excited, although I was sure
of that boy. He's a duplicate of his father, and he was a gilt-edged
diamond. He only asks if you and Barbara will be ready at four o'clock
this afternoon for an automobile drive over to Long Island. I don't see
anything to criticise in it except the stationery. I always did hate
that shade of blue."

"Would it be all right to go?" asked Nevada, eagerly.

"Yes, yes, yes, child; of course. Why not? Still, it pleases me to see
you so careful and candid. Go, by all means."

"I didn't know," said Nevada, demurely. "I thought I'd ask you. Couldn't
you go with us, uncle?"

"I? No, no, no, no! I've ridden once in a car that boy was driving.
Never again! But it's entirely proper for you and Barbara to go. Yes,
yes. But I will not. No, no, no, no!"

Nevada flew to the door, and said to the maid:

"You bet we'll go. I'll answer for Miss Barbara. Tell the boy to say
to Mr. Warren, 'You bet we'll go.'"

"Nevada," called old Jerome, "pardon me, my dear, but wouldn't it be
as well to send him a note in reply? Just a line would do."

"No, I won't bother about that," said Nevada, gayly. "Gilbert will
understand--he always does. I never rode in an automobile in my life;
but I've paddled a canoe down Little Devil River through the Lost Horse
Cañon, and if it's any livelier than that I'd like to know!"


III


Two months are supposed to have elapsed.

Barbara sat in the study of the hundred-thousand-dollar house. It was a
good place for her. Many places are provided in the world where men and
women may repair for the purpose of extricating themselves from divers
difficulties. There are cloisters, wailing-places, watering-places,
confessionals, hermitages, lawyer's offices, beauty parlors, air-ships,
and studies; and the greatest of these are studies.

It usually takes a hypotenuse a long time to discover that it is the
longest side of a triangle. But it's a long line that has no turning.

Barbara was alone. Uncle Jerome and Nevada had gone to the theatre.
Barbara had not cared to go. She wanted to stay at home and study in
the study. If you, miss, were a stunning New York girl, and saw every
day that a brown, ingenuous Western witch was getting hobbles and a
lasso on the young man you wanted for yourself, you, too, would lose
taste for the oxidized-silver setting of a musical comedy.

Barbara sat by the quartered-oak library table. Her right arm rested
upon the table, and her dextral fingers nervously manipulated a sealed
letter. The letter was addressed to Nevada Warren; and in the upper
left-hand corner of the envelope was Gilbert's little gold palette.
It had been delivered at nine o'clock, after Nevada had left.

Barbara would have given her pearl necklace to know what the letter
contained; but she could not open and read it by the aid of steam, or
a pen-handle, or a hair-pin, or any of the generally approved methods,
because her position in society forbade such an act. She had tried to
read some of the lines of the letter by holding the envelope up to a
strong light and pressing it hard against the paper, but Gilbert had
too good a taste in stationery to make that possible.

At eleven-thirty the theatre-goers returned. It was a delicious winter
night. Even so far as from the cab to the door they were powdered
thickly with the big flakes downpouring diagonally from the east. Old
Jerome growled good-naturedly about villainous cab service and blockaded
streets. Nevada, colored like a rose, with sapphire eyes, babbled of
the stormy nights in the mountains around dad's cabin. During all
these wintry apostrophes, Barbara, cold at heart, sawed wood--the only
appropriate thing she could think of to do.

Old Jerome went immediately up-stairs to hot-water-bottles and quinine.
Nevada fluttered into the study, the only cheerfully lighted room,
subsided into an arm-chair, and, while at the interminable task of
unbuttoning her elbow gloves, gave oral testimony as to the demerits
of the "show."

"Yes, I think Mr. Fields is really amusing--sometimes," said Barbara.
"Here is a letter for you, dear, that came by special delivery just
after you had gone."

"Who is it from?" asked Nevada, tugging at a button.

"Well, really," said Barbara, with a smile, "I can only guess. The
envelope has that queer little thing in one corner that Gilbert
calls a palette, but which looks to me rather like a gilt heart on a
school-girl's valentine."

"I wonder what he's writing to me about" remarked Nevada, listlessly.

"We're all alike," said Barbara; "all women. We try to find out what is
in a letter by studying the postmark. As a last resort we use scissors,
and read it from the bottom upward. Here it is."

She made a motion as if to toss the letter across the table to Nevada.

"Great catamounts!" exclaimed Nevada. "These centre-fire buttons are a
nuisance. I'd rather wear buckskins. Oh, Barbara, please shuck the hide
off that letter and read it. It'll be midnight before I get these gloves
off!"

"Why, dear, you don't want me to open Gilbert's letter to you? It's for
you, and you wouldn't wish any one else to read it, of course!"

Nevada raised her steady, calm, sapphire eyes from her gloves.

"Nobody writes me anything that everybody mightn't read," she said.
"Go on, Barbara. Maybe Gilbert wants us to go out in his car again
to-morrow."

Curiosity can do more things than kill a cat; and if emotions, well
recognized as feminine, are inimical to feline life, then jealousy would
soon leave the whole world catless. Barbara opened the letter, with an
indulgent, slightly bored air.

"Well, dear," said she, "I'll read it if you want me to."

She slit the envelope, and read the missive with swift-travelling eyes;
read it again, and cast a quick, shrewd glance at Nevada, who, for
the time, seemed to consider gloves as the world of her interest, and
letters from rising artists as no more than messages from Mars.

For a quarter of a minute Barbara looked at Nevada with a strange
steadfastness; and then a smile so small that it widened her mouth only
the sixteenth part of an inch, and narrowed her eyes no more than a
twentieth, flashed like an inspired thought across her face.

Since the beginning no woman has been a mystery to another woman. Swift
as light travels, each penetrates the heart and mind of another, sifts
her sister's words of their cunningest disguises, reads her most hidden
desires, and plucks the sophistry from her wiliest talk like hairs from
a comb, twiddling them sardonically between her thumb and fingers before
letting them float away on the breezes of fundamental doubt. Long ago
Eve's son rang the door-bell of the family residence in Paradise Park,
bearing a strange lady on his arm, whom he introduced. Eve took her
daughter-in-law aside and lifted a classic eyebrow.

"The Land of Nod," said the bride, languidly flirting the leaf of a
palm. "I suppose you've been there, of course?"

"Not lately," said Eve, absolutely unstaggered. "Don't you think the
apple-sauce they serve over there is execrable? I rather like that
mulberry-leaf tunic effect, dear; but, of course, the real fig goods
are not to be had over there. Come over behind this lilac-bush while
the gentlemen split a celery tonic. I think the caterpillar-holes have
made your dress open a little in the back."

So, then and there--according to the records--was the alliance formed
by the only two who's-who ladies in the world. Then it was agreed that
woman should forever remain as clear as a pane of glass--though glass
was yet to be discovered--to other women, and that she should palm
herself off on man as a mystery.

Barbara seemed to hesitate.

"Really, Nevada," she said, with a little show of embarrassment, "you
shouldn't have insisted on my opening this. I--I'm sure it wasn't meant
for any one else to know."

Nevada forgot her gloves for a moment.

"Then read it aloud," she said. "Since you've already read it, what's
the difference? If Mr. Warren has written to me something that any one
else oughtn't to know, that is all the more reason why everybody should
know it."

"Well," said Barbara, "this is what it says: 'Dearest Nevada--Come to
my studio at twelve o'clock to-night. Do not fail.'" Barbara rose and
dropped the note in Nevada's lap. "I'm awfully sorry," she said, "that
I knew. It isn't like Gilbert. There must be some mistake. Just consider
that I am ignorant of it, will you, dear? I must go up-stairs now, I
have such a headache. I'm sure I don't understand the note. Perhaps
Gilbert has been dining too well, and will explain. Good night!"


IV


Nevada tiptoed to the hall, and heard Barbara's door close upstairs.
The bronze clock in the study told the hour of twelve was fifteen
minutes away. She ran swiftly to the front door, and let herself out
into the snow-storm. Gilbert Warren's studio was six squares away.

By aerial ferry the white, silent forces of the storm attacked the city
from beyond the sullen East River. Already the snow lay a foot deep
on the pavements, the drifts heaping themselves like scaling-ladders
against the walls of the besieged town. The Avenue was as quiet as a
street in Pompeii. Cabs now and then skimmed past like white-winged
gulls over a moonlit ocean; and less frequent motor-cars--sustaining the
comparison--hissed through the foaming waves like submarine boats on
their jocund, perilous journeys.

Nevada plunged like a wind-driven storm-petrel on her way. She looked
up at the ragged sierras of cloud-capped buildings that rose above the
streets, shaded by the night lights and the congealed vapors to gray,
drab, ashen, lavender, dun, and cerulean tints. They were so like the
wintry mountains of her Western home that she felt a satisfaction such
as the hundred-thousand-dollar house had seldom brought her.

A policeman caused her to waver on a corner, just by his eye and weight.

"Hello, Mabel!" said he. "Kind of late for you to be out, ain't it?"

"I--I am just going to the drug store," said Nevada, hurrying past him.

The excuse serves as a passport for the most sophisticated. Does it
prove that woman never progresses, or that she sprang from Adam's rib,
full-fledged in intellect and wiles?

Turning eastward, the direct blast cut down Nevada's speed one-half. She
made zigzag tracks in the snow; but she was as tough as a piñon sapling,
and bowed to it as gracefully. Suddenly the studio-building loomed
before her, a familiar landmark, like a cliff above some well-remembered
cañon. The haunt of business and its hostile neighbor, art, was darkened
and silent. The elevator stopped at ten.

Up eight flights of Stygian stairs Nevada climbed, and rapped firmly
at the door numbered "89." She had been there many times before, with
Barbara and Uncle Jerome.

Gilbert opened the door. He had a crayon pencil in one hand, a green
shade over his eyes, and a pipe in his mouth. The pipe dropped to the
floor.

"Am I late?" asked Nevada. "I came as quick as I could. Uncle and me
were at the theatre this evening. Here I am, Gilbert!"

Gilbert did a Pygmalion-and-Galatea act. He changed from a statue of
stupefaction to a young man with a problem to tackle. He admitted
Nevada, got a whisk-broom, and began to brush the snow from her clothes.
A great lamp, with a green shade, hung over an easel, where the artist
had been sketching in crayon.

"You wanted me," said Nevada simply, "and I came. You said so in your
letter. What did you send for me for?"

"You read my letter?" inquired Gilbert, sparring for wind.

"Barbara read it to me. I saw it afterward. It said: 'Come to my studio
at twelve to-night, and do not fail.' I thought you were sick, of
course, but you don't seem to be."

"Aha!" said Gilbert irrelevantly. "I'll tell you why I asked you to
come, Nevada. I want you to marry me immediately--to-night. What's a
little snow-storm? Will you do it?"

"You might have noticed that I would, long ago," said Nevada. "And I'm
rather stuck on the snow-storm idea, myself. I surely would hate one of
these flowery church noon-weddings. Gilbert, I didn't know you had grit
enough to propose it this way. Let's shock 'em--it's our funeral, ain't
it?"

"You bet!" said Gilbert. "Where did I hear that expression?" he added
to himself. "Wait a minute, Nevada; I want to do a little 'phoning."

He shut himself in a little dressing-room, and called upon the
lightnings of the heavens--condensed into unromantic numbers and
districts.

"That you, Jack? You confounded sleepyhead! Yes, wake up; this is me--or
I--oh, bother the difference in grammar! I'm going to be married right
away. Yes! Wake up your sister--don't answer me back; bring her along,
too--you _must_! Remind Agnes of the time I saved her from drowning in
Lake Ronkonkoma--I know it's caddish to refer to it, but she must come
with you. Yes. Nevada is here, waiting. We've been engaged quite a
while. Some opposition among the relatives, you know, and we have to
pull it off this way. We're waiting here for you. Don't let Agnes
out-talk you--bring her! You will? Good old boy! I'll order a carriage
to call for you, double-quick time. Confound you, Jack, you're all
right!"

Gilbert returned to the room where Nevada waited.

"My old friend, Jack Peyton, and his sister were to have been here at
a quarter to twelve," he explained; "but Jack is so confoundedly slow.
I've just 'phoned them to hurry. They'll be here in a few minutes. I'm
the happiest man in the world, Nevada! What did you do with the letter
I sent you to-day?"

"I've got it cinched here," said Nevada, pulling it out from beneath
her opera-cloak.

Gilbert drew the letter from the envelope and looked it over carefully.
Then he looked at Nevada thoughtfully.

"Didn't you think it rather queer that I should ask you to come to my
studio at midnight?" he asked.

"Why, no," said Nevada, rounding her eyes. "Not if you needed me.
Out West, when a pal sends you a hurry call--ain't that what you say
here?--we get there first and talk about it after the row is over. And
it's usually snowing there, too, when things happen. So I didn't mind."

Gilbert rushed into another room, and came back burdened with overcoats
warranted to turn wind, rain, or snow.

"Put this raincoat on," he said, holding it for her. "We have a quarter
of a mile to go. Old Jack and his sister will be here in a few minutes."
He began to struggle into a heavy coat. "Oh, Nevada," he said, "just
look at the headlines on the front page of that evening paper on the
table, will you? It's about your section of the West, and I know it will
interest you."

He waited a full minute, pretending to find trouble in the getting on of
his overcoat, and then turned. Nevada had not moved. She was looking at
him with strange and pensive directness. Her cheeks had a flush on them
beyond the color that had been contributed by the wind and snow; but her
eyes were steady.

"I was going to tell you," she said, "anyhow, before you--before
we--before--well, before anything. Dad never gave me a day of schooling.
I never learned to read or write a darned word. Now if--"

Pounding their uncertain way up-stairs, the feet of Jack, the somnolent,
and Agnes, the grateful, were heard.


V


When Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Warren were spinning softly homeward in a
closed carriage, after the ceremony, Gilbert said:

"Nevada, would you really like to know what I wrote you in the letter
that you received to-night?"

"Fire away!" said his bride.

"Word for word," said Gilbert, "it was this: 'My dear Miss Warren--You
were right about the flower. It was a hydrangea, and not a lilac.'"

"All right," said Nevada. "But let's forget it. The joke's on Barbara,
anyway!"



THIMBLE, THIMBLE


These are the directions for finding the office of Carteret & Carteret,
Mill Supplies and Leather Belting:

You follow the Broadway trail down until you pass the Crosstown Line,
the Bread Line, and the Dead Line, and come to the Big Cañons of the
Moneygrubber Tribe. Then you turn to the left, to the right, dodge a
push-cart and the tongue of a two-ton four-horse dray and hop, skip,
and jump to a granite ledge on the side of a twenty-one-story synthetic
mountain of stone and iron. In the twelfth story is the office of
Carteret & Carteret. The factory where they make the mill supplies and
leather belting is in Brooklyn. Those commodities--to say nothing of
Brooklyn--not being of interest to you, let us hold the incidents within
the confines of a one-act, one-scene play, thereby lessening the toil
of the reader and the expenditure of the publisher. So, if you have the
courage to face four pages of type and Carteret & Carteret's office boy,
Percival, you shall sit on a varnished chair in the inner office and
peep at the little comedy of the Old Nigger Man, the Hunting-Case Watch,
and the Open-Faced Question--mostly borrowed from the late Mr. Frank
Stockton, as you will conclude.

First, biography (but pared to the quick) must intervene. I am for the
inverted sugar-coated quinine pill--the bitter on the outside.

The Carterets were, or was (Columbia College professors please rule), an
old Virginia family. Long time ago the gentlemen of the family had worn
lace ruffles and carried tinless foils and owned plantations and had
slaves to burn. But the war had greatly reduced their holdings. (Of
course you can perceive at once that this flavor has been shoplifted
from Mr. F. Hopkinson Smith, in spite of the "et" after "Carter.") Well,
anyhow:

In digging up the Carteret history I shall not take you farther back
than the year 1620. The two original American Carterets came over in
that year, but by different means of transportation. One brother, named
John, came in the _Mayflower_ and became a Pilgrim Father. You've seen his
picture on the covers of the Thanksgiving magazines, hunting turkeys in
the deep snow with a blunderbuss. Blandford Carteret, the other brother,
crossed the pond in his own brigantine, landed on the Virginia coast,
and became an F.F.V. John became distinguished for piety and shrewdness
in business; Blandford for his pride, juleps; marksmanship, and vast
slave-cultivated plantations.

Then came the Civil War. (I must condense this historical
interpolation.) Stonewall Jackson was shot; Lee surrendered; Grant
toured the world; cotton went to nine cents; Old Crow whiskey and Jim
Crow cars were invented; the Seventy-ninth Massachusetts Volunteers
returned to the Ninety-seventh Alabama Zouaves the battle flag of
Lundy's Lane which they bought at a second-hand store in Chelsea, kept
by a man named Skzchnzski; Georgia sent the President a sixty-pound
watermelon--and that brings us up to the time when the story begins.
My! but that was sparring for an opening! I really must brush op on my
Aristotle.

The Yankee Carterets went into business in New York long before the war.
Their house, as far as Leather Belting and Mill Supplies was concerned,
was as musty and arrogant and solid as one of those old East India
tea-importing concerns that you read about in Dickens. There were some
rumors of a war behind its counters, but not enough to affect the
business.

During and after the war, Blandford Carteret, F.F.V., lost his
plantations, juleps, marksmanship, and life. He bequeathed little
more than his pride to his surviving family. So it came to pass that
Blandford Carteret, the Fifth, aged fifteen, was invited by the
leather-and-mill-supplies branch of that name to come North and learn
business instead of hunting foxes and boasting of the glory of his
fathers on the reduced acres of his impoverished family. The boy jumped
at the chance; and, at the age of twenty-five, sat in the office of the
firm equal partner with John, the Fifth, of the blunderbuss-and-turkey
branch. Here the story begins again.

The young men were about the same age, smooth of face, alert, easy of
manner, and with an air that promised mental and physical quickness.
They were razored, blue-serged, straw-hatted, and pearl stick-pinned
like other young New Yorkers who might be millionaires or bill clerks.

One afternoon at four o'clock, in the private office of the firm,
Blandford Carteret opened a letter that a clerk had just brought to his
desk. After reading it, he chuckled audibly for nearly a minute. John
looked around from his desk inquiringly.

"It's from mother," said Blandford. "I'll read you the funny part of
it. She tells me all the neighborhood news first, of course, and then
cautions me against getting my feet wet and musical comedies. After that
come vital statistics about calves and pigs and an estimate of the wheat
crop. And now I'll quote some:

"'And what do you think! Old Uncle Jake, who was seventy-six last
Wednesday, must go travelling. Nothing would do but he must go to New
York and see his "young Marster Blandford." Old as he is, he has a deal
of common sense, so I've let him go. I couldn't refuse him--he seemed to
have concentrated all his hopes and desires into this one adventure into
the wide world. You know he was born on the plantation, and has never
been ten miles away from it in his life. And he was your father's body
servant during the war, and has been always a faithful vassal and
servant of the family. He has often seen the gold watch--the watch that
was your father's and your father's father's. I told him it was to be
yours, And he begged me to allow him to take it to you and to put it
into your hands himself.

"'So he has it, carefully enclosed in a buck-skin case, and is bringing
it to you with all the pride and importance of a king's messenger. I
gave him money for the round trip and for a two weeks' stay in the city.
I wish you would see to it that he gets comfortable quarters--Jake
won't need much looking after--he's able to take care of himself. But
I have read in the papers that African bishops and colored potentates
generally have much trouble in obtaining food and lodging in the Yankee
metropolis. That may be all right; but I don't see why the best hotel
there shouldn't take Jake in. Still, I suppose it's a rule.

"'I gave him full directions about finding you, and packed his valise
myself. You won't have to bother with him; but I do hope you'll see that
he is made comfortable. Take the watch that he brings you--it's almost a
decoration. It has been worn by true Carterets, and there isn't a stain
upon it nor a false movement of the wheels. Bringing it to you is the
crowning joy of old Jake's life. I wanted him to have that little outing
and that happiness before it is too late. You have often heard us talk
about how Jake, pretty badly wounded himself, crawled through the
reddened grass at Chancellorsville to where your father lay with the
bullet in his dear heart, and took the watch from his pocket to keep it
from the "Yanks."

"'So, my son, when the old man comes consider him as a frail but worthy
messenger from the old-time life and home.

"'You have been so long away from home and so long among the people
that we have always regarded as aliens that I'm not sure that Jake will
know you when he sees you. But Jake has a keen perception, and I rather
believe that he will know a Virginia Carteret at sight. I can't conceive
that even ten years in Yankee-land could change a boy of mine. Anyhow,
I'm sure you will know Jake. I put eighteen collars in his valise. If
he should have to buy others, he wears a number 15½. Please see that he
gets the right ones. He will be no trouble to you at all.

"'If you are not too busy, I'd like for you to find him a place to board
where they have white-meal corn-bread, and try to keep him from taking
his shoes off in your office or on the street. His right foot swells a
little, and he likes to be comfortable.

"'If you can spare the time, count his handkerchiefs when they come back
from the wash. I bought him a dozen new ones before he left. He should
be there about the time this letter reaches you. I told him to go
straight to your office when he arrives.'"

As soon as Blandford had finished the reading of this, something
happened (as there should happen in stories and must happen on the
stage).

Percival, the office boy, with his air of despising the world's output
of mill supplies and leather belting, came in to announce that a colored
gentleman was outside to see Mr. Blandford Carteret.

"Bring him in," said Blandford, rising.

John Carteret swung around in his chair and said to Percival: "Ask him
to wait a few minutes outside. We'll let you know when to bring him in."

Then he turned to his cousin with one of those broad, slow smiles that
was an inheritance of all the Carterets, and said:

"Bland, I've always had a consuming curiosity to understand the
differences that you haughty Southerners believe to exist between 'you
all' and the people of the North. Of course, I know that you consider
yourselves made out of finer clay and look upon Adam as only a
collateral branch of your ancestry; but I don't know why. I never could
understand the differences between us."

"Well, John," said Blandford, laughing, "what you don't understand about
it is just the difference, of course. I suppose it was the feudal way
in which we lived that gave us our lordly baronial airs and feeling of
superiority."

"But you are not feudal, now," went on John. "Since we licked you
and stole your cotton and mules you've had to go to work just as we
'damyankees,' as you call us, have always been doing. And you're just as
proud and exclusive and upper-classy as you were before the war. So it
wasn't your money that caused it."

"Maybe it was the climate," said Blandford, lightly, "or maybe our
negroes spoiled us. I'll call old Jake in, now. I'll be glad to see the
old villain again."

"Wait just a moment," said John. "I've got a little theory I want to
test. You and I are pretty much alike in our general appearance. Old
Jake hasn't seen you since you were fifteen. Let's have him in and play
fair and see which of us gets the watch. The old darky surely ought to
be able to pick out his 'young marster' without any trouble. The alleged
aristocratic superiority of a 'reb' ought to be visible to him at once.
He couldn't make the mistake of handing over the timepiece to a Yankee,
of course. The loser buys the dinner this evening and two dozen 15½
collars for Jake. Is it a go?"

Blandford agreed heartily. Percival was summoned, and told to usher the
"colored gentleman" in.

Uncle Jake stepped inside the private office cautiously. He was a little
old man, as black as soot, wrinkled and bald except for a fringe of
white wool, cut decorously short, that ran over his ears and around his
head. There was nothing of the stage "uncle" about him: his black suit
nearly fitted him; his shoes shone, and his straw hat was banded with a
gaudy ribbon. In his right hand he carried something carefully concealed
by his closed fingers.

Uncle Jake stopped a few steps from the door. Two young men sat in their
revolving desk-chairs ten feet apart and looked at him in friendly
silence. His gaze slowly shifted many times from one to the other. He
felt sure that he was in the presence of one, at least, of the revered
family among whose fortunes his life had begun and was to end.

One had the pleasing but haughty Carteret air; the other had the
unmistakable straight, long family nose. Both had the keen black eyes,
horizontal brows, and thin, smiling lips that had distinguished both
the Carteret of the _Mayflower_ and him of the brigantine. Old Jake had
thought that he could have picked out his young master instantly from a
thousand Northerners; but he found himself in difficulties. The best he
could do was to use strategy.

"Howdy, Marse Blandford--howdy, suh?" he said, looking midway between
the two young men.

"Howdy, Uncle Jake?" they both answered pleasantly and in unison. "Sit
down. Have you brought the watch?"

Uncle Jake chose a hard-bottom chair at a respectful distance, sat on
the edge of it, and laid his hat carefully on the floor. The watch in
its buckskin case he gripped tightly. He had not risked his life on the
battle-field to rescue that watch from his "old marster's" foes to hand
it over again to the enemy without a struggle.

"Yes, suh; I got it in my hand, suh. I'm gwine give it to you right
away in jus' a minute. Old Missus told me to put it in young Marse
Blandford's hand and tell him to wear it for the family pride and
honor. It was a mighty longsome trip for an old nigger man to make--ten
thousand miles, it must be, back to old Vi'ginia, suh. You've growed
mightily, young marster. I wouldn't have reconnized you but for yo'
powerful resemblance to old marster."

With admirable diplomacy the old man kept his eyes roaming in the space
between the two men. His words might have been addressed to either.
Though neither wicked nor perverse, he was seeking for a sign.

Blandford and John exchanged winks.

"I reckon you done got you ma's letter," went on Uncle Jake. "She said
she was gwine to write to you 'bout my comin' along up this er-way.

"Yes, yes, Uncle Jake," said John briskly. "My cousin and I have just
been notified to expect you. We are both Carterets, you know."

"Although one of us," said Blandford, "was born and raised in the
North."

"So if you will hand over the watch--" said John.

"My cousin and I--" said Blandford.

"Will then see to it--" said John.

"That comfortable quarters are found for you," said Blandford.

With creditable ingenuity, old Jake set up a cackling, high-pitched,
protracted laugh. He beat his knee, picked up his hat and bent the brim
in an apparent paroxysm of humorous appreciation. The seizure afforded
him a mask behind which he could roll his eyes impartially between,
above, and beyond his two tormentors.

"I sees what!" he chuckled, after a while. "You gen'lemen is tryin' to
have fun with the po' old nigger. But you can't fool old Jake. I knowed
you, Marse Blandford, the minute I sot eyes on you. You was a po' skimpy
little boy no mo' than about fo'teen when you lef' home to come No'th;
but I knowed you the minute I sot eyes on you. You is the mawtal image
of old marster. The other gen'leman resembles you mightily, suh; but you
can't fool old Jake on a member of the old Vi'ginia family. No suh."

At exactly the same time both Carterets smiled and extended a hand for
the watch.

Uncle Jake's wrinkled, black face lost the expression of amusement to
which he had vainly twisted it. He knew that he was being teased, and
that it made little real difference, as far as its safety went, into
which of those outstretched hands he placed the family treasure. But it
seemed to him that not only his own pride and loyalty but much of the
Virginia Carterets' was at stake. He had heard down South during the war
about that other branch of the family that lived in the North and fought
on "the yuther side," and it had always grieved him. He had followed
his "old marster's" fortunes from stately luxury through war to almost
poverty. And now, with the last relic and reminder of him, blessed by
"old missus," and intrusted implicitly to his care, he had come ten
thousand miles (as it seemed) to deliver it into the hands of the one
who was to wear it and wind it and cherish it and listen to it tick off
the unsullied hours that marked the lives of the Carterets--of Virginia.

His experience and conception of the Yankees had been an impression of
tyrants--"low-down, common trash"--in blue, laying waste with fire and
sword. He had seen the smoke of many burning homesteads almost as grand
as Carteret Hall ascending to the drowsy Southern skies. And now he was
face to face with one of them--and he could not distinguish him from his
"young marster" whom he had come to find and bestow upon him the emblem
of his kingship--even as the arm "clothed in white samite, mystic,
wonderful" laid Excalibur in the right hand of Arthur. He saw before him
two young men, easy, kind, courteous, welcoming, either of whom might
have been the one he sought. Troubled, bewildered, sorely grieved at
his weakness of judgment, old Jake abandoned his loyal subterfuges.
His right hand sweated against the buckskin cover of the watch. He
was deeply humiliated and chastened. Seriously, now, his prominent,
yellow-white eyes closely scanned the two young men. At the end of his
scrutiny he was conscious of but one difference between them. One wore a
narrow black tie with a white pearl stickpin. The other's "four-in-hand"
was a narrow blue one pinned with a black pearl.

And then, to old Jake's relief, there came a sudden distraction. Drama
knocked at the door with imperious knuckles, and forced Comedy to the
wings, and Drama peeped with a smiling but set face over the footlights.

Percival, the hater of mill supplies, brought in a card, which he
handed, with the manner of one bearing a cartel, to Blue-Tie.

"Olivia De Ormond," read Blue-Tie from the card. He looked inquiringly
at his cousin.

"Why not have her in," said Black-Tie, "and bring matters to a
conclusion?"

"Uncle Jake," said one of the young men, "would you mind taking that
chair over there in the corner for a while? A lady is coming in--on some
business. We'll take up your case afterward."

The lady whom Percival ushered in was young and petulantly, decidedly,
freshly, consciously, and intentionally pretty. She was dressed with
such expensive plainness that she made you consider lace and ruffles as
mere tatters and rags. But one great ostrich plume that she wore would
have marked her anywhere in the army of beauty as the wearer of the
merry helmet of Navarre.

Miss De Ormond accepted the swivel chair at Blue-Tie's desk. Then the
gentlemen drew leather-upholstered seats conveniently near, and spoke
of the weather.

"Yes," said she, "I noticed it was warmer. But I mustn't take up too
much of your time during business hours. That is," she continued,
"unless we talk business."

She addressed her words to Blue-Tie, with a charming smile.

"Very well," said he. "You don't mind my cousin being present, do you?
We are generally rather confidential with each other--especially in
business matters."

"Oh no," caroled Miss De Ormond. "I'd rather he did hear. He knows all
about it, anyhow. In fact, he's quite a material witness because he was
present when you--when it happened. I thought you might want to talk
things over before--well, before any action is taken, as I believe the
lawyers say."

"Have you anything in the way of a proposition to make?" asked
Black-Tie.

Miss De Ormond looked reflectively at the neat toe of one of her dull
kid-pumps.

"I had a proposal made to me," she said. "If the proposal sticks it cuts
out the proposition. Let's have that settled first."

"Well, as far as--" began Blue-Tie.

"Excuse me, cousin," interrupted Black-Tie, "if you don't mind my
cutting in." And then he turned, with a good-natured air, toward the
lady.

"Now, let's recapitulate a bit," he said cheerfully. "All three of us,
besides other mutual acquaintances, have been out on a good many larks
together."

"I'm afraid I'll have to call the birds by another name," said Miss De
Ormond.

"All right," responded Black-Tie, with unimpaired cheerfulness; "suppose
we say 'squabs' when we talk about the 'proposal' and 'larks' when we
discuss the 'proposition.' You have a quick mind, Miss De Ormond. Two
months ago some half-dozen of us went in a motor-car for a day's run
into the country. We stopped at a road-house for dinner. My cousin
proposed marriage to you then and there. He was influenced to do so, of
course, by the beauty and charm which no one can deny that you possess."

"I wish I had you for a press agent, Mr. Carteret," said the beauty,
with a dazzling smile.

"You are on the stage, Miss De Ormond," went on Black-Tie. "You have
had, doubtless, many admirers, and perhaps other proposals. You must
remember, too, that we were a party of merrymakers on that occasion.
There were a good many corks pulled. That the proposal of marriage
was made to you by my cousin we cannot deny. But hasn't it been your
experience that, by common consent, such things lose their seriousness
when viewed in the next day's sunlight? Isn't there something of a
'code' among good 'sports'--I use the word in its best sense--that
wipes out each day the follies of the evening previous?"

"Oh yes," said Miss De Ormond. "I know that very well. And I've always
played up to it. But as you seem to be conducting the case--with the
silent consent of the defendant--I'll tell you something more. I've got
letters from him repeating the proposal. And they're signed, too."

"I understand," said Black-Tie gravely. "What's your price for the
letters?"

"I'm not a cheap one," said Miss De Ormond. "But I had decided to make
you a rate. You both belong to a swell family. Well, if I _am_ on the
stage nobody can say a word against me truthfully. And the money is only
a secondary consideration. It isn't the money I was after. I--I believed
him--and--and I liked him."

She cast a soft, entrancing glance at Blue-Tie from under her long
eyelashes.

"And the price?" went on Black-Tie, inexorably.

"Ten thousand dollars," said the lady, sweetly.

"Or--"

"Or the fulfillment of the engagement to marry."

"I think it is time," interrupted Blue-Tie, "for me to be allowed to say
a word or two. You and I, cousin, belong to a family that has held its
head pretty high. You have been brought up in a section of the country
very different from the one where our branch of the family lived. Yet
both of us are Carterets, even if some of our ways and theories differ.
You remember, it is a tradition of the family, that no Carteret ever
failed in chivalry to a lady or failed to keep his word when it was
given."

Then Blue-Tie, with frank decision showing on his countenance, turned
to Miss De Ormond.

"Olivia," said he, "on what date will you marry me?"

Before she could answer, Black-Tie again interposed.

"It is a long journey," said he, "from Plymouth rock to Norfolk Bay.
Between the two points we find the changes that nearly three centuries
have brought. In that time the old order has changed. We no longer burn
witches or torture slaves. And to-day we neither spread our cloaks on
the mud for ladies to walk over nor treat them to the ducking-stool.
It is the age of common sense, adjustment, and proportion. All of
us--ladies, gentlemen, women, men, Northerners, Southerners, lords,
caitiffs, actors, hardware-drummers, senators, hod-carriers, and
politicians--are coming to a better understanding. Chivalry is one of
our words that changes its meaning every day. Family pride is a thing
of many constructions--it may show itself by maintaining a moth-eaten
arrogance in a cobwebbed Colonial mansion or by the prompt paying of
one's debts.

"Now, I suppose you've had enough of my monologue. I've learned
something of business and a little of life; and I somehow believe,
cousin, that our great-great-grandfathers, the original Carterets,
would indorse my view of this matter."

Black-Tie wheeled around to his desk, wrote in a check-book and tore out
the check, the sharp rasp of the perforated leaf making the only sound
in the room. He laid the check within easy reach of Miss De Ormond's
hand.

"Business is business," said he. "We live in a business age. There is my
personal check for $10,000. What do you say, Miss De Ormond--will it he
orange blossoms or cash?"

Miss De Ormond picked up the cheek carelessly, folded it indifferently,
and stuffed it into her glove.

"Oh, this'll do," she said, calmly. "I just thought I'd call and put it
up to you. I guess you people are all right. But a girl has feelings,
you know. I've heard one of you was a Southerner--I wonder which one of
you it is?"

She arose, smiled sweetly, and walked to the door. There, with a flash
of white teeth and a dip of the heavy plume, she disappeared.

Both of the cousins had forgotten Uncle Jake for the time. But now they
heard the shuffling of his shoes as he came across the rug toward them
from his seat in the corner.

"Young marster," he said, "take yo' watch."

And without hesitation he laid the ancient timepiece in the hand of its
rightful owner.



SUPPLY AND DEMAND


Finch keeps a hats-cleaned-by-electricity-while-you-wait establishment,
nine feet by twelve, in Third Avenue. Once a customer, you are always
his. I do not know his secret process, but every four days your hat
needs to be cleaned again.

Finch is a leathern, sallow, slow-footed man, between twenty and forty.
You would say he had been brought up a bushelman in Essex Street. When
business is slack he likes to talk, so I had my hat cleaned even oftener
than it deserved, hoping Finch might let me into some of the secrets of
the sweatshops.

One afternoon I dropped in and found Finch alone. He began to anoint my
headpiece de Panama with his mysterious fluid that attracted dust and
dirt like a magnet.

"They say the Indians weave 'em under water," said I, for a leader.

"Don't you believe it," said Finch. "No Indian or white man could stay
under water that long. Say, do you pay much attention to politics? I see
in the paper something about a law they've passed called 'the law of
supply and demand.'"

I explained to him as well as I could that the reference was to a
politico-economical law, and not to a legal statute.

"I didn't know," said Finch. "I heard a good deal about it a year or so
ago, but in a one-sided way."

"Yes," said I, "political orators use it a great deal. In fact, they
never give it a rest. I suppose you heard some of those cart-tail
fellows spouting on the subject over here on the east side."

"I heard it from a king," said Finch--"the white king of a tribe of
Indians in South America."

I was interested but not surprised. The big city is like a mother's knee
to many who have strayed far and found the roads rough beneath their
uncertain feet. At dusk they come home and sit upon the door-step.
I know a piano player in a cheap café who has shot lions in Africa,
a bell-boy who fought in the British army against the Zulus, an
express-driver whose left arm had been cracked like a lobster's claw for
a stew-pot of Patagonian cannibals when the boat of his rescuers hove in
sight. So a hat-cleaner who had been a friend of a king did not oppress
me.

"A new band?" asked Finch, with his dry, barren smile.

"Yes," said I, "and half an inch wider." I had had a new band five days
before.

"I meets a man one night," said Finch, beginning his story--"a man
brown as snuff, with money in every pocket, eating schweinerknuckel in
Schlagel's. That was two years ago, when I was a hose-cart driver for
No. 98. His discourse runs to the subject of gold. He says that certain
mountains in a country down South that he calls Gaudymala is full of it.
He says the Indians wash it out of the streams in plural quantities.

"'Oh, Geronimo!' says I. 'Indians! There's no Indians in the South,' I
tell him, 'except Elks, Maccabees, and the buyers for the fall dry-goods
trade. The Indians are all on the reservations,' says I.

"'I'm telling you this with reservations,' says he. 'They ain't Buffalo
Bill Indians; they're squattier and more pedigreed. They call 'em Inkers
and Aspics, and they was old inhabitants when Mazuma was King of Mexico.
They wash the gold out of the mountain streams,' says the brown man,
'and fill quills with it; and then they empty 'em into red jars till
they are full; and then they pack it in buckskin sacks of one arroba
each--an arroba is twenty-five pounds--and store it in a stone house,
with an engraving of a idol with marcelled hair, playing a flute, over
the door.'

"'How do they work off this unearth increment?' I asks.

"'They don't,' says the man. 'It's a case of "Ill fares the land with
the great deal of velocity where wealth accumulates and there ain't any
reciprocity."'

"After this man and me got through our conversation, which left him
dry of information, I shook hands with him and told him I was sorry I
couldn't believe him. And a month afterward I landed on the coast of
this Gaudymala with $1,300 that I had been saving up for five years. I
thought I knew what Indians liked, and I fixed myself accordingly. I
loaded down four pack-mules with red woollen blankets, wrought-iron
pails, jewelled side-combs for the ladies, glass necklaces, and
safety-razors. I hired a black mozo, who was supposed to be a
mule-driver and an interpreter too. It turned out that he could
interpret mules all right, but he drove the English language much too
hard. His name sounded like a Yale key when you push it in wrong side
up, but I called him McClintock, which was close to the noise.

"Well, this gold village was forty miles up in the mountains, and it
took us nine days to find it. But one afternoon McClintock led the other
mules and myself over a rawhide bridge stretched across a precipice five
thousand feet deep, it seemed to me. The hoofs of the beasts drummed
on it just like before George M. Cohan makes his first entrance on the
stage.

"This village was built of mud and stone, and had no streets. Some few
yellow-and-brown persons popped their heads out-of-doors, looking about
like Welsh rabbits with Worcester sauce on em. Out of the biggest house,
that had a kind of a porch around it, steps a big white man, red as a
beet in color, dressed in fine tanned deerskin clothes, with a gold
chain around his neck, smoking a cigar. I've seen United States Senators
of his style of features and build, also head-waiters and cops.

"He walks up and takes a look at us, while McClintock disembarks and
begins to interpret to the lead mule while he smokes a cigarette.

"'Hello, Buttinsky,' says the fine man to me. 'How did you get in the
game? I didn't see you buy any chips. Who gave you the keys of the
city?'

"'I'm a poor traveller,' says I. 'Especially mule-back. You'll excuse
me. Do you run a hack line or only a bluff?'

"'Segregate yourself from your pseudo-equine quadruped,' says he, 'and
come inside.'

"He raises a finger, and a villager runs up.

"'This man will take care of your outfit,' says he, 'and I'll take care
of you.'

"He leads me into the biggest house, and sets out the chairs and a kind
of a drink the color of milk. It was the finest room I ever saw. The
stone walls was hung all over with silk shawls, and there was red and
yellow rugs on the floor, and jars of red pottery and Angora goat skins,
and enough bamboo furniture to misfurnish half a dozen seaside cottages.

"'In the first place,' says the man, 'you want to know who I am. I'm
sole lessee and proprietor of this tribe of Indians. They call me the
Grand Yacuma, which is to say King or Main Finger of the bunch. I've
got more power here than a chargé d'affaires, a charge of dynamite, and
a charge account at Tiffany's combined. In fact, I'm the Big Stick,
with as many extra knots on it as there is on the record run of the
Lusitania. Oh, I read the papers now and then,' says he. 'Now, let's
hear your entitlements,' he goes on, 'and the meeting will be open.'

"'Well,' says I, 'I am known as one W. D. Finch. Occupation, capitalist.
Address, 541 East Thirty-second--'

"'New York,' chips in the Noble Grand. 'I know,' says he, grinning. 'It
ain't the first time you've seen it go down on the blotter. I can tell
by the way you hand it out. Well, explain "capitalist."'

"I tells this boss plain what I come for and how I come to came.

"'Gold-dust?' says he, looking as puzzled as a baby that's got a feather
stuck on its molasses finger. 'That's funny. This ain't a gold-mining
country. And you invested all your capital on a stranger's story?
Well, well! These Indians of mine--they are the last of the tribe of
Peches--are simple as children. They know nothing of the purchasing
power of gold. I'm afraid you've been imposed on,' says he.

"'Maybe so,' says I, 'but it sounded pretty straight to me.'

"'W. D.,' says the King, all of a sudden, 'I'll give you a square deal.
It ain't often I get to talk to a white man, and I'll give you a show
for your money. It may be these constituents of mine have a few grains
of gold-dust hid away in their clothes. To-morrow you may get out these
goods you've brought up and see if you can make any sales. Now, I'm
going to introduce myself unofficially. My name is Shane--Patrick Shane.
I own this tribe of Peche Indians by right of conquest--single handed
and unafraid. I drifted up here four years ago, and won 'em by my size
and complexion and nerve. I learned their language in six weeks--it's
easy: you simply emit a string of consonants as long as your breath
holds out and then point at what you're asking for.

"'I conquered 'em, spectacularly,' goes on King Shane, 'and then I went
at 'em with economical politics, law, sleight-of-hand, and a kind of New
England ethics and parsimony. Every Sunday, or as near as I can guess at
it, I preach to 'em in the council-house (I'm the council) on the law of
supply and demand. I praise supply and knock demand. I use the same text
every time. You wouldn't think, W. D.,' says Shane, 'that I had poetry
in me, would you?'

"'Well,' says I, 'I wouldn't know whether to call it poetry or not.'

"'Tennyson,' says Shane, 'furnishes the poetic gospel I preach. I always
considered him the boss poet. Here's the way the text goes:


   "'"For, not to admire, if a man could learn it, were more
   Than to walk all day like a Sultan of old in a garden of spice."


"'You see, I teach 'em to cut out demand--that supply is the main
thing. I teach 'em not to desire anything beyond their simplest needs.
A little mutton, a little cocoa, and a little fruit brought up from
the coast--that's all they want to make 'em happy. I've got 'em well
trained. They make their own clothes and hats out of a vegetable fibre
and straw, and they're a contented lot. It's a great thing,' winds up
Shane, 'to have made a people happy by the incultivation of such simple
institutions.'

"Well, the next day, with the King's permission, I has the McClintock
open up a couple of sacks of my goods in the little plaza of the
village. The Indians swarmed around by the hundred and looked the
bargain-counter over. I shook red blankets at 'em, flashed finger-rings
and ear-bobs, tried pearl necklaces and side-combs on the women, and a
line of red hosiery on the men. 'Twas no use. They looked on like hungry
graven images, but I never made a sale. I asked McClintock what was the
trouble. Mac yawned three or four times, rolled a cigarette, made one or
two confidential side remarks to a mule, and then condescended to inform
me that the people had no money.

"Just then up strolls King Patrick, big and red 'and royal as usual,
with the gold chain over his chest and his cigar in front of him.

"'How's business, W. D.?' he asks.

"'Fine,' says I. 'It's a bargain-day rush. I've got one more line of
goods to offer before I shut up shop. I'll try 'em with safety-razors.
I've got two gross that I bought at a fire sale.'

"Shane laughs till some kind of mameluke or private secretary he carries
with him has to hold him up.

"'O my sainted Aunt Jerusha!' says he, 'ain't you one of the Babes in
the Goods, W. D.? Don't you know that no Indians ever shave? They pull
out their whiskers instead.'

"'Well,' says I, 'that's just what these razors would do for 'em--they
wouldn't have any kick coming if they used 'em once.'

"Shane went away, and I could hear him laughing a block, if there had
been any block.

"'Tell 'em,' says I to McClintock, 'it ain't money I want--tell 'em I'll
take gold-dust. Tell 'em I'll allow 'em sixteen dollars an ounce for it
in trade. That's what I'm out for--the dust.'

"Mac interprets, and you'd have thought a squadron of cops had charged
the crowd to disperse it. Every uncle's nephew and aunt's niece of 'em
faded away inside of two minutes.

"At the royal palace that night me and the King talked it over.

"'They've got the dust hid out somewhere,' says I, 'or they wouldn't
have been so sensitive about it.'

"'They haven't,' says Shane. 'What's this gag you've got about gold?
You been reading Edward Allen Poe? They ain't got any gold.'

"'They put it in quills,' says I, 'and then they empty it in jars, and
then into sacks of twenty-five pounds each. I got it straight.'

"'W. D.,' says Shane, laughing and chewing his cigar, 'I don't often see
a white man, and I feel like putting you on. I don't think you'll get
away from here alive, anyhow, so I'm going to tell you. Come over here.'

"He draws aside a silk fibre curtain in a corner of the room and shows
me a pile of buckskin sacks.

"'Forty of 'em,' says Shane. 'One arroba in each one. In round numbers,
$220,000 worth of gold-dust you see there. It's all mine. It belongs
to the Grand Yacuma. They bring it all to me. Two hundred and twenty
thousand dollars--think of that, you glass-bead peddler,' says
Shane--'and all mine.'

"'Little good it does you,' says I, contemptuously and hatefully.
'And so you are the government depository of this gang of moneyless
money-makers? Don't you pay enough interest on it to enable one of your
depositors to buy an Augusta (Maine) Pullman carbon diamond worth $200
for $4.85?'

"'Listen,' says Patrick Shane, with the sweat coming out on his brow.
'I'm confidant with you, as you have, somehow, enlisted my regards. Did
you ever,' he says, 'feel the avoirdupois power of gold--not the troy
weight of it, but the sixteen-ounces-to-the-pound force of it?'

"'Never,' says I. 'I never take in any bad money.'

"Shane drops down on the floor and throws his arms over the sacks of
gold-dust.

"'I love it,' says he. 'I want to feel the touch of it day and night.
It's my pleasure in life. I come in this room, and I'm a king and a rich
man. I'll be a millionaire in another year. The pile's getting bigger
every month. I've got the whole tribe washing out the sands in the
creeks. I'm the happiest man in the world, W. D. I just want to be near
this gold, and know it's mine and it's increasing every day. Now, you
know,' says he, 'why my Indians wouldn't buy your goods. They can't.
They bring all the dust to me. I'm their king. I've taught 'em not to
desire or admire. You might as well shut up shop.'

"'I'll tell you what you are,' says I. 'You're a plain, contemptible
miser. You preach supply and you forget demand. Now, supply,' I goes
on, 'is never anything but supply. On the contrary,' says I, 'demand is
a much broader syllogism and assertion. Demand includes the rights of
our women and children, and charity and friendship, and even a little
begging on the street corners. They've both got to harmonize equally.
And I've got a few things up my commercial sleeve yet,' says I, 'that
may jostle your preconceived ideas of politics and economy.

"The next morning I had McClintock bring up another mule-load of goods
to the plaza and open it up. The people gathered around the same as
before.

"I got out the finest line of necklaces, bracelets, hair-combs, and
earrings that I carried, and had the women put 'em on. And then I played
trumps.

"Out of my last pack I opened up a half gross of hand-mirrors, with
solid tinfoil backs, and passed 'em around among the ladies. That was
the first introduction of looking-glasses among the Peche Indians.

"Shane walks by with his big laugh.

"'Business looking up any?' he asks.

"'It's looking at itself right now,' says I.

"By-and-by a kind of a murmur goes through the crowd. The women had
looked into the magic crystal and seen that they were beautiful, and was
confiding the secret to the men. The men seemed to be urging the lack
of money and the hard times just before the election, but their excuses
didn't go.

"Then was my time.

"I called McClintock away from an animated conversation with his mules
and told him to do some interpreting.

"'Tell 'em,' says I, 'that gold-dust will buy for them these befitting
ornaments for kings and queens of the earth. Tell 'em the yellow sand
they wash out of the waters for the High Sanctified Yacomay and Chop
Suey of the tribe will buy the precious jewels and charms that will make
them beautiful and preserve and pickle them from evil spirits. Tell 'em
the Pittsburgh banks are paying four per cent. interest on deposits
by mail, while this get-rich-frequently custodian of the public funds
ain't even paying attention. Keep telling 'em, Mac,' says I, 'to let the
gold-dust family do their work. Talk to 'em like a born anti-Bryanite,'
says I. 'Remind 'em that Tom Watson's gone back to Georgia,' says I.

"McClintock waves his hand affectionately at one of his mules, and then
hurls a few stickfuls of minion type at the mob of shoppers.

"A gutta-percha Indian man, with a lady hanging on his arm, with three
strings of my fish-scale jewelry and imitation marble beads around her
neck, stands up on a block of stone and makes a talk that sounds like
a man shaking dice in a box to fill aces and sixes.

"'He says,' says McClintock, 'that the people not know that gold-dust
will buy their things. The women very mad. The Grand Yacuma tell them
it no good but for keep to make bad spirits keep away.'

"'You can't keep bad spirits away from money,' says I.

"'They say,' goes on McClintock, 'the Yacuma fool them. They raise
plenty row.'

"'Going! Going!' says I. 'Gold-dust or cash takes the entire stock. The
dust weighed before you, and taken at sixteen dollars the ounce--the
highest price on the Gaudymala coast.'

"Then the crowd disperses all of a sudden, and I don't know what's up.
Mac and me packs away the hand-mirrors and jewelry they had handed back
to us, and we had the mules back to the corral they had set apart for
our garage.

"While we was there we hear great noises of shouting, and down across
the plaza runs Patrick Shane, hotfoot, with his clothes ripped half off,
and scratches on his face like a cat had fought him hard for every one
of its lives.

"'They're looting the treasury, W. D.,' he sings out. 'They're going to
kill me and you, too. Unlimber a couple of mules at once. We'll have to
make a get-away in a couple of minutes.'

"'They've found out,' says I,' the truth about the law of supply and
demand.'

"'It's the women, mostly,' says the King. 'And they used to admire me
so!'

"'They hadn't seen looking-glasses then,' says I.

"'They've got knives and hatchets,' says Shane; 'hurry!'

"'Take that roan mule,' says I. 'You and your law of supply! I'll ride
the dun, for he's two knots per hour the faster. The roan has a stiff
knee, but he may make it,' says I. 'If you'd included reciprocity in
your political platform I might have given you the dun,' says I.

"Shane and McClintock and me mounted our mules and rode across the
rawhide bridge just as the Peches reached the other side and began
firing stones and long knives at us. We cut the thongs that held up
our end of the bridge and headed for the coast."



A tall, bulky policeman came into Finch's shop at that moment and leaned
an elbow on the showcase. Finch nodded at him friendly.

"I heard down at Casey's," said the cop, in rumbling, husky tones, "that
there was going to be a picnic of the Hat-Cleaners' Union over at Bergen
Beach, Sunday. Is that right?"

"Sure," said Finch. "There'll be a dandy time."

"Gimme five tickets," said the cop, throwing a five-dollar bill on the
showcase.

"Why," said Finch, "ain't you going it a little too--"

"Go to h----!" said the cop. "You got 'em to sell, ain't you? Somebody's
got to buy 'em. Wish I could go along."

I was glad to See Finch so well thought of in his neighborhood.

And then in came a wee girl of seven, with dirty face and pure blue eyes
and a smutched and insufficient dress.

"Mamma says," she recited shrilly, "that you must give me eighty cents
for the grocer and nineteen for the milkman and five cents for me to buy
hokey-pokey with--but she didn't say that," the elf concluded, with a
hopeful but honest grin.

Finch shelled out the money, counting it twice, but I noticed that the
total sum that the small girl received was one dollar and four cents.

"That's the right kind of a law," remarked Finch, as he carefully broke
some of the stitches of my hatband so that it would assuredly come off
within a few days--"the law of supply and demand. But they've both got
to work together. I'll bet," he went on, with his dry smile, "she'll get
jelly beans with that nickel--she likes 'em. What's supply if there's no
demand for it?"

"What ever became of the King?" I asked, curiously.

"Oh, I might have told you," said Finch. "That was Shane came in and
bought the tickets. He came back with me, and he's on the force now."



BURIED TREASURE


There are many kinds of fools. Now, will everybody please sit still
until they are called upon specifically to rise?

I had been every kind of fool except one. I had expended my
patrimony, pretended my matrimony, played poker, lawn-tennis, and
bucket-shops--parted soon with my money in many ways. But there remained
one rule of the wearer of cap and bells that I had not played. That was
the Seeker after Buried Treasure. To few does the delectable furor come.
But of all the would-be followers in the hoof-prints of King Midas none
has found a pursuit so rich in pleasurable promise.

But, going back from my theme a while--as lame pens must do--I was a
fool of the sentimental sort. I saw May Martha Mangum, and was hers.
She was eighteen, the color of the white ivory keys of a new piano,
beautiful, and possessed by the exquisite solemnity and pathetic
witchery of an unsophisticated angel doomed to live in a small, dull,
Texas prairie-town. She had a spirit and charm that could have enabled
her to pluck rubies like raspberries from the crown of Belgium or any
other sporty kingdom, but she did not know it, and I did not paint the
picture for her.

You see, I wanted May Martha Mangum for to have and to hold. I wanted
her to abide with me, and put my slippers and pipe away every day in
places where they cannot be found of evenings.

May Martha's father was a man hidden behind whiskers and spectacles. He
lived for bugs and butterflies and all insects that fly or crawl or buzz
or get down your back or in the butter. He was an etymologist, or words
to that effect. He spent his life seining the air for flying fish of
the June-bug order, and then sticking pins through 'em and calling 'em
names.

He and May Martha were the whole family. He prized her highly as a
fine specimen of the _racibus humanus_ because she saw that he had
food at times, and put his clothes on right side before, and kept
his alcohol-bottles filled. Scientists, they say, are apt to be
absent-minded.

There was another besides myself who thought May Martha Mangum one to be
desired. That was Goodloe Banks, a young man just home from college. He
had all the attainments to be found in books--Latin, Greek, philosophy,
and especially the higher branches of mathematics and logic.

If it hadn't been for his habit of pouring out this information and
learning on every one that he addressed, I'd have liked him pretty well.
But, even as it was, he and I were, you would have thought, great pals.

We got together every time we could because each of us wanted to pump
the other for whatever straws we could to find which way the wind blew
from the heart of May Martha Mangum--rather a mixed metaphor; Goodloe
Banks would never have been guilty of that. That is the way of rivals.

You might say that Goodloe ran to books, manners, culture, rowing,
intellect, and clothes. I would have put you in mind more of baseball
and Friday-night debating societies--by way of culture--and maybe of a
good horseback rider.

But in our talks together, and in our visits and conversation with May
Martha, neither Goodloe Banks nor I could find out which one of us she
preferred. May Martha was a natural-born non-committal, and knew in her
cradle how to keep people guessing.

As I said, old man Mangum was absent-minded. After a long time he found
out one day--a little butterfly must have told him--that two young
men were trying to throw a net over the head of the young person,
a daughter, or some such technical appendage, who looked after his
comforts.

I never knew scientists could rise to such occasions. Old Mangum orally
labelled and classified Goodloe and myself easily among the lowest
orders of the vertebrates; and in English, too, without going any
further into Latin than the simple references to _Orgetorix, Rex
Helvetii_--which is as far as I ever went, myself. And he told us that
if he ever caught us around his house again he would add us to his
collection.

Goodloe Banks and I remained away five days, expecting the storm to
subside. When we dared to call at the house again May Martha Mangum and
her father were gone. Gone! The house they had rented was closed. Their
little store of goods and chattels was gone also.

And not a word of farewell to either of us from May Martha--not a white,
fluttering note pinned to the hawthorn-bush; not a chalk-mark on the
gate-post nor a post-card in the post-office to give us a clew.

For two months Goodloe Banks and I--separately--tried every scheme
we could think of to track the runaways. We used our friendship and
influence with the ticket-agent, with livery-stable men, railroad
conductors, and our one lone, lorn constable, but without results.

Then we became better friends and worse enemies than ever. We
forgathered in the back room of Snyder's saloon every afternoon after
work, and played dominoes, and laid conversational traps to find out
from each other if anything had been discovered. That is the way of
rivals.

Now, Goodloe Banks had a sarcastic way of displaying his own learning
and putting me in the class that was reading "Poor Jane Ray, her bird
is dead, she cannot play." Well, I rather liked Goodloe, and I had
a contempt for his college learning, and I was always regarded as
good-natured, so I kept my temper. And I was trying to find out if he
knew anything about May Martha, so I endured his society.

In talking things over one afternoon he said to me:

"Suppose you do find her, Ed, whereby would you profit? Miss Mangum has
a mind. Perhaps it is yet uncultured, but she is destined for higher
things than you could give her. I have talked with no one who seemed to
appreciate more the enchantment of the ancient poets and writers and
the modern cults that have assimilated and expended their philosophy of
life. Don't you think you are wasting your time looking for her?"

"My idea," said I, "of a happy home is an eight-room house in a grove of
live-oaks by the side of a _charco_ on a Texas prairie. A piano," I went
on, "with an automatic player in the sitting-room, three thousand head
of cattle under fence for a starter, a buckboard and ponies always
hitched at a post for 'the missus'--and May Martha Mangum to spend the
profits of the ranch as she pleases, and to abide with me, and put my
slippers and pipe away every day in places where they cannot be found of
evenings. That," said I, "is what is to be; and a fig--a dried, Smyrna,
dago-stand fig--for your curriculums, cults, and philosophy."

"She is meant for higher things," repeated Goodloe Banks.

"Whatever she is meant for," I answered, just now she is out of pocket.
And I shall find her as soon as I can without aid of the colleges."

"The game is blocked," said Goodloe, putting down a domino; and we had
the beer.

Shortly after that a young farmer whom I knew came into town and brought
me a folded blue paper. He said his grandfather had just died. I
concealed a tear, and he went on to say that the old man had jealously
guarded this paper for twenty years. He left it to his family as part of
his estate, the rest of which consisted of two mules and a hypotenuse of
non-arable land.

The sheet of paper was of the old, blue kind used during the rebellion
of the abolitionists against the secessionists. It was dated June
14, 1863, and it described the hiding-place of ten burro-loads of
gold and silver coin valued at three hundred thousand dollars. Old
Rundle--grandfather of his grandson, Sam--was given the information by
a Spanish priest who was in on the treasure-burying, and who died many
years before--no, afterward--in old Rundle's house. Old Rundle wrote it
down from dictation.

"Why didn't your father look this up?" I asked young Rundle.

"He went blind before he could do so," he replied.

"Why didn't you hunt for it yourself?" I asked.

"Well," said he, "I've only known about the paper for ten years. First
there was the spring ploughin' to do, and then choppin' the weeds out of
the corn; and then come takin' fodder; and mighty soon winter was on us.
It seemed to run along that way year after year."

That sounded perfectly reasonable to me, so I took it up with young Lee
Rundle at once.

The directions on the paper were simple. The whole burro cavalcade laden
with the treasure started from an old Spanish mission in Dolores County.
They travelled due south by the compass until they reached the Alamito
River. They forded this, and buried the treasure on the top of a little
mountain shaped like a pack-saddle standing in a row between two higher
ones. A heap of stones marked the place of the buried treasure. All the
party except the Spanish priest were killed by Indians a few days later.
The secret was a monopoly. It looked good to me.

Lee Rundle suggested that we rig out a camping outfit, hire a surveyor
to run out the line from the Spanish mission, and then spend the three
hundred thousand dollars seeing the sights in Fort Worth. But, without
being highly educated, I knew a way to save time and expense.

We went to the State land-office and had a practical, what they call a
"working," sketch made of all the surveys of land from the old mission
to the Alamito River. On this map I drew a line due southward to the
river. The length of lines of each survey and section of land was
accurately given on the sketch. By these we found the point on the river
and had a "connection" made with it and an important, well-identified
corner of the Los Animos five-league survey--a grant made by King Philip
of Spain.

By doing this we did not need to have the line run out by a surveyor. It
was a great saving of expense and time.

So, Lee Rundle and I fitted out a two-horse wagon team with all the
accessories, and drove a hundred and forty-nine miles to Chico, the
nearest town to the point we wished to reach. There we picked up a
deputy county surveyor. He found the corner of the Los Animos survey for
us, ran out the five thousand seven hundred and twenty varas west that
our sketch called for, laid a stone on the spot, had coffee and bacon,
and caught the mail-stage back to Chico.

I was pretty sure we would get that three hundred thousand dollars.
Lee Rundle's was to be only one-third, because I was paying all the
expenses. With that two hundred thousand dollars I knew I could find
May Martha Mangum if she was on earth. And with it I could flutter the
butterflies in old man Mangum's dovecot, too. If I could find that
treasure!

But Lee and I established camp. Across the river were a dozen little
mountains densely covered by cedar-brakes, but not one shaped like
a pack-saddle. That did not deter us. Appearances are deceptive. A
pack-saddle, like beauty, may exist only in the eye of the beholder.

I and the grandson of the treasure examined those cedar-covered hills
with the care of a lady hunting for the wicked flea. We explored every
side, top, circumference, mean elevation, angle, slope, and concavity of
every one for two miles up and down the river. We spent four days doing
so. Then we hitched up the roan and the dun, and hauled the remains
of the coffee and bacon the one hundred and forty-nine miles back to
Concho City.

Lee Rundle chewed much tobacco on the return trip. I was busy driving,
because I was in a hurry.

As shortly as could be after our empty return Goodloe Banks and I
forgathered in the back room of Snyder's saloon to play dominoes and
fish for information. I told Goodloe about my expedition after the
buried treasure.

"If I could have found that three hundred thousand dollars," I said to
him, "I could have scoured and sifted the surface of the earth to find
May Martha Mangum."

"She is meant for higher things," said Goodloe. "I shall find her
myself. But, tell me how you went about discovering the spot where this
unearthed increment was imprudently buried."

I told him in the smallest detail. I showed him the draughtsman's sketch
with the distances marked plainly upon it.

After glancing over it in a masterly way, he leaned back in his chair
and bestowed upon me an explosion of sardonic, superior, collegiate
laughter.

"Well, you _are_ a fool, Jim," he said, when he could speak.

"It's your play," said I, patiently, fingering my double-six.

"Twenty," said Goodloe, making two crosses on the table with his chalk.

"Why am I a fool?" I asked. "Buried treasure has been found before in
many places."

"Because," said he, "in calculating the point on the river where
your line would strike you neglected to allow for the variation. The
variation there would be nine degrees west. Let me have your pencil."

Goodloe Banks figured rapidly on the back of an envelope.

"The distance, from north to south, of the line run from the Spanish
mission," said he, "is exactly twenty-two miles. It was run by a
pocket-compass, according to your story. Allowing for the variation,
the point on the Alamito River where you should have searched for your
treasure is exactly six miles and nine hundred and forty-five varas
farther west than the place you hit upon. Oh, what a fool you are, Jim!"

"What is this variation that you speak of?" I asked. "I thought figures
never lied."

"The variation of the magnetic compass," said Goodloe, "from the true
meridian."

He smiled in his superior way; and then I saw come out in his face the
singular, eager, consuming cupidity of the seeker after buried treasure.

"Sometimes," he said with the air of the oracle, "these old traditions
of hidden money are not without foundation. Suppose you let me look over
that paper describing the location. Perhaps together we might--"

The result was that Goodloe Banks and I, rivals in love, became
companions in adventure. We went to Chico by stage from Huntersburg,
the nearest railroad town. In Chico we hired a team drawing a covered
spring-wagon and camping paraphernalia. We had the same surveyor run
out our distance, as revised by Goodloe and his variations, and then
dismissed him and sent him on his homeward road.

It was night when we arrived. I fed the horses and made a fire near the
bank of the river and cooked supper. Goodloe would have helped, but his
education had not fitted him for practical things.

But while I worked he cheered me with the expression of great thoughts
handed down from the dead ones of old. He quoted some translations from
the Greek at much length.

"Anacreon," he explained. "That was a favorite passage with Miss
Mangum--as I recited it."

"She is meant for higher things," said I, repeating his phrase.

"Can there be anything higher," asked Goodloe, "than to dwell in the
society of the classics, to live in the atmosphere of learning and
culture? You have often decried education. What of your wasted efforts
through your ignorance of simple mathematics? How soon would you have
found your treasure if my knowledge had not shown you your error?"

"We'll take a look at those hills across the river first," said I,
"and see what we find. I am still doubtful about variations. I have
been brought up to believe that the needle is true to the pole."

The next morning was a bright June one. We were up early and had
breakfast. Goodloe was charmed. He recited--Keats, I think it was, and
Kelly or Shelley--while I broiled the bacon. We were getting ready to
cross the river, which was little more than a shallow creek there, and
explore the many sharp-peaked cedar-covered hills on the other side.

"My good Ulysses," said Goodloe, slapping me on the shoulder while I was
washing the tin breakfast-plates, "let me see the enchanted document
once more. I believe it gives directions for climbing the hill shaped
like a pack-saddle. I never saw a pack-saddle. What is it like, Jim?"

"Score one against culture," said I. "I'll know it when I see it."

Goodloe was looking at old Rundle's document when he ripped out a most
uncollegiate swear-word.

"Come here," he said, holding the paper up against the sunlight. "Look
at that," he said, laying his finger against it.

On the blue paper--a thing I had never noticed before--I saw stand out
in white letters the word and figures: "Malvern, 1898."

"What about it?" I asked.

"It's the water-mark," said Goodloe. "The paper was manufactured in
1898. The writing on the paper is dated 1863. This is a palpable fraud."

"Oh, I don't know," said I. "The Rundles are pretty reliable, plain,
uneducated country people. Maybe the paper manufacturers tried to
perpetrate a swindle."

And then Goodloe Banks went as wild as his education permitted. He
dropped the glasses off his nose and glared at me.

"I've often told you you were a fool," he said. "You have let yourself
be imposed upon by a clodhopper. And you have imposed upon me."

"How," I asked, "have I imposed upon you?"

"By your ignorance," said he. "Twice I have discovered serious flaws in
your plans that a common-school education should have enabled you to
avoid. And," he continued, "I have been put to expense that I could ill
afford in pursuing this swindling quest. I am done with it."

I rose and pointed a large pewter spoon at him, fresh from the
dish-water.

"Goodloe Banks," I said, "I care not one parboiled navy bean for your
education. I always barely tolerated it in any one, and I despised it in
you. What has your learning done for you? It is a curse to yourself and
a bore to your friends. Away," I said--"away with your water-marks and
variations! They are nothing to me. They shall not deflect me from the
quest."

I pointed with my spoon across the river to a small mountain shaped like
a pack-saddle.

"I am going to search that mountain," I went on, "for the treasure.
Decide now whether you are in it or not. If you wish to let a
water-mark or a variation shake your soul, you are no true adventurer.
Decide."

A white cloud of dust began to rise far down the river road. It was the
mail-wagon from Hesperus to Chico. Goodloe flagged it.

"I am done with the swindle," said he, sourly. "No one but a fool would
pay any attention to that paper now. Well, you always were a fool, Jim.
I leave you to your fate."

He gathered his personal traps, climbed into the mail-wagon, adjusted
his glasses nervously, and flew away in a cloud of dust.

After I had washed the dishes and staked the horses on new grass,
I crossed the shallow river and made my way slowly through the
cedar-brakes up to the top of the hill shaped like a pack-saddle.

It was a wonderful June day. Never in my life had I seen so many birds,
so many butter-flies, dragon-flies, grasshoppers, and such winged and
stinged beasts of the air and fields.

I investigated the hill shaped like a pack-saddle from base to summit.
I found an absolute absence of signs relating to buried treasure. There
was no pile of stones, no ancient blazes on the trees, none of the
evidences of the three hundred thousand dollars, as set forth in the
document of old man Rundle.

I came down the hill in the cool of the afternoon. Suddenly, out of the
cedar-brake I stepped into a beautiful green valley where a tributary
small stream ran into the Alamito River.



And there I was startled to see what I took to be a wild man, with
unkempt beard and ragged hair, pursuing a giant butterfly with brilliant
wings.

"Perhaps he is an escaped madman," I thought; and wondered how he had
strayed so far from seats of education and learning.

And then I took a few more steps and saw a vine-covered cottage near
the small stream. And in a little grassy glade I saw May Martha Mangum
plucking wild flowers.

She straightened up and looked at me. For the first time since I knew
her I saw her face--which was the color of the white keys of a new
piano--turn pink. I walked toward her without a word. She let the
gathered flowers trickle slowly from her hand to the grass.

"I knew you would come, Jim," she said clearly. "Father wouldn't let me
write, but I knew you would come."

What followed you may guess--there was my wagon and team just across the
river.



I've often wondered what good too much education is to a man if he can't
use it for himself. If all the benefits of it are to go to others, where
does it come in?

For May Martha Mangum abides with me. There is an eight-room house in a
live-oak grove, and a piano with an automatic player, and a good start
toward the three thousand head of cattle is under fence.

And when I ride home at night my pipe and slippers are put away in
places where they cannot be found.

But who cares for that? Who cares--who cares?



TO HIM WHO WAITS


The Hermit of the Hudson was hustling about his cave with unusual
animation.

The cave was on or in the top of a little spur of the Catskills that had
strayed down to the river's edge, and, not having a ferry ticket, had to
stop there. The bijou mountains were densely wooded and were infested
by ferocious squirrels and woodpeckers that forever menaced the summer
transients. Like a badly sewn strip of white braid, a macadamized road
ran between the green skirt of the hills and the foamy lace of the
river's edge. A dim path wound from the comfortable road up a rocky
height to the hermit's cave. One mile upstream was the Viewpoint Inn,
to which summer folk from the city came; leaving cool, electric-fanned
apartments that they might be driven about in burning sunshine,
shrieking, in gasoline launches, by spindle-legged Modreds bearing the
blankest of shields.

Train your lorgnette upon the hermit and let your eye receive the
personal touch that shall endear you to the hero.

A man of forty, judging him fairly, with long hair curling at the ends,
dramatic eyes, and a forked brown beard like those that were imposed
upon the West some years ago by self-appointed "divine healers" who
succeeded the grasshopper crop. His outward vesture appeared to be kind
of gunny-sacking, cut and made into a garment that would have made the
fortune of a London tailor. His long, well-shaped fingers, delicate
nose, and poise of manner raised him high above the class of hermits
who fear water and bury money in oyster-cans in their caves in spots
indicated by rude crosses chipped in the stone wall above.

The hermit's home was not altogether a cave. The cave was an addition
to the hermitage, which was a rude hut made of poles daubed with clay
and covered with the best quality of rust-proof zinc roofing.

In the house proper there were stone slabs for seats, a rustic bookcase
made of unplaned poplar planks, and a table formed of a wooden slab laid
across two upright pieces of granite--something between the furniture of
a Druid temple and that of a Broadway beefsteak dungeon. Hung against
the walls were skins of wild animals purchased in the vicinity of Eighth
Street and University Place, New York.

The rear of the cabin merged into the cave. There the hermit cooked his
meals on a rude stone hearth. With infinite patience and an old axe he
had chopped natural shelves in the rocky walls. On them stood his stores
of flour, bacon, lard, talcum-powder, kerosene, baking-powder, soda-mint
tablets, pepper, salt, and Olivo-Cremo Emulsion for chaps and roughness
of the hands and face.

The hermit had hermited there for ten years. He was an asset of the
Viewpoint Inn. To its guests he was second in interest only to the
Mysterious Echo in the Haunted Glen. And the Lover's Leap beat him only
a few inches, flat-footed. He was known far (but not very wide, on
account of the topography) as a scholar of brilliant intellect who had
forsworn the world because he had been jilted in a love affair. Every
Saturday night the Viewpoint Inn sent to him surreptitiously a basket
of provisions. He never left the immediate outskirts of his hermitage.
Guests of the inn who visited him said his store of knowledge, wit, and
scintillating philosophy were simply wonderful, you know.

That summer the Viewpoint Inn was crowded with guests. So, on Saturday
nights, there were extra cans of tomatoes, and sirloin steak, instead
of "rounds," in the hermit's basket.

Now you have the material allegations in the case. So, make way for
Romance.

Evidently the hermit expected a visitor. He carefully combed his
long hair and parted his apostolic beard. When the ninety-eight-cent
alarm-clock on a stone shelf announced the hour of five he picked up his
gunny-sacking skirts, brushed them carefully, gathered an oaken staff,
and strolled slowly into the thick woods that surrounded the hermitage.

He had not long to wait. Up the faint pathway, slippery with its carpet
of pine-needles, toiled Beatrix, youngest and fairest of the famous
Trenholme sisters. She was all in blue from hat to canvas pumps, varying
in tint from the shade of the tinkle of a bluebell at daybreak on a
spring Saturday to the deep hue of a Monday morning at nine when the
washerwoman has failed to show up.

Beatrix dug her cerulean parasol deep into the pine-needles and sighed.
The hermit, on the _q. t._, removed a grass burr from the ankle of
one sandalled foot with the big toe of his other one. She blued--and
almost starched and ironed him--with her cobalt eyes.

"It must be so nice," she said in little, tremulous gasps, "to be a
hermit, and have ladies climb mountains to talk to you."

The hermit folded his arms and leaned against a tree. Beatrix, with a
sigh, settled down upon the mat of pine-needles like a bluebird upon her
nest. The hermit followed suit; drawing his feet rather awkwardly under
his gunny-sacking.

"It must be nice to be a mountain," said he, with ponderous lightness,
"and have angels in blue climb up you instead of flying over you."

"Mamma had neuralgia," said Beatrix, "and went to bed, or I couldn't
have come. It's dreadfully hot at that horrid old inn. But we hadn't
the money to go anywhere else this summer."

"Last night," said the hermit, "I climbed to the top of that big rock
above us. I could see the lights of the inn and hear a strain or two of
the music when the wind was right. I imagined you moving gracefully in
the arms of others to the dreamy music of the waltz amid the fragrance
of flowers. Think how lonely I must have been!"

The youngest, handsomest, and poorest of the famous Trenholme sisters
sighed.

"You haven't quite hit it," she said, plaintively. "I was moving
gracefully _at_ the arms of another. Mamma had one of her periodical
attacks of rheumatism in both elbows and shoulders, and I had to rub
them for an hour with that horrid old liniment. I hope you didn't think
_that_ smelled like flowers. You know, there were some West Point boys
and a yacht load of young men from the city at last evening's weekly
dance. I've known mamma to sit by an open window for three hours with
one-half of her registering 85 degrees and the other half frostbitten,
and never sneeze once. But just let a bunch of ineligibles come around
where I am, and she'll begin to swell at the knuckles and shriek with
pain. And I have to take her to her room and rub her arms. To see mamma
dressed you'd be surprised to know the number of square inches of surface
there are to her arms. I think it must be delightful to be a hermit.
That--cassock--or gabardine, isn't it?--that you wear is so becoming.
Do you make it--or them--of course you must have changes--yourself? And
what a blessed relief it must be to wear sandals instead of shoes! Think
how we must suffer--no matter how small I buy my shoes they always pinch
my toes. Oh, why can't there be lady hermits, too!"

The beautifulest and most adolescent Trenholme sister extended
two slender blue ankles that ended in two enormous blue-silk
bows that almost concealed two fairy Oxfords, also of one of the
forty-seven shades of blue. The hermit, as if impelled by a kind of
reflex-telepathic action, drew his bare toes farther beneath his
gunny-sacking.

"I have heard about the romance of your life," said Miss Trenholme,
softly. "They have it printed on the back of the menu card at the inn.
Was she very beautiful and charming?"

"On the bills of fare!" muttered the hermit; "but what do I care for the
world's babble? Yes, she was of the highest and grandest type. Then,"
he continued, "_then_ I thought the world could never contain another
equal to her. So I forsook it and repaired to this mountain fastness
to spend the remainder of my life alone--to devote and dedicate my
remaining years to her memory."

"It's grand," said Miss Trenholme, "absolutely grand. I think a hermit's
life is the ideal one. No bill-collectors calling, no dressing for
dinner--how I'd like to be one! But there's no such luck for me. If I
don't marry this season I honestly believe mamma will force me into
settlement work or trimming hats. It isn't because I'm getting old or
ugly; but we haven't enough money left to butt in at any of the swell
places any more. And I don't want to marry--unless it's somebody I like.
That's why I'd like to be a hermit. Hermits don't ever marry, do they?"

"Hundreds of 'em," said the hermit, "when they've found the right one."

"But they're hermits," said the youngest and beautifulest, "because
they've lost the right one, aren't they?"

"Because they think they have," answered the recluse, fatuously.
"Wisdom comes to one in a mountain cave as well as to one in the world
of 'swells,' as I believe they are called in the argot."

"When one of the 'swells' brings it to them," said Miss Trenholme. "And
my folks are swells. That's the trouble. But there are so many swells
at the seashore in the summer-time that we hardly amount to more than
ripples. So we've had to put all our money into river and harbor
appropriations. We were all girls, you know. There were four of us. I'm
the only surviving one. The others have been married off. All to money.
Mamma is so proud of my sisters. They send her the loveliest pen-wipers
and art calendars every Christmas. I'm the only one on the market now.
I'm forbidden to look at any one who hasn't money."

"But--" began the hermit.

"But, oh," said the beautifulest, "of course hermits have great pots of
gold and doubloons buried somewhere near three great oak-trees. They all
have."

"I have not," said the hermit, regretfully.

"I'm so sorry," said Miss Trenholme. "I always thought they had. I think
I must go now."

Oh, beyond question, she was the beautifulest.

"Fair lady--" began the hermit.

"I am Beatrix Trenholme--some call me Trix," she said. "You must come
to the inn to see me."

"I haven't been a stone's-throw from my cave in ten years," said the
hermit.

"You must come to see me there," she repeated. "Any evening except
Thursday."

The hermit smiled weakly.

"Good-bye," she said, gathering the folds of her pale-blue skirt. "I
shall expect you. But not on Thursday evening, remember."

What an interest it would give to the future menu cards of the Viewpoint
Inn to have these printed lines added to them: "Only once during the
more than ten years of his lonely existence did the mountain hermit
leave his famous cave. That was when he was irresistibly drawn to the
inn by the fascinations of Miss Beatrix Trenholme, youngest and most
beautiful of the celebrated Trenholme sisters, whose brilliant marriage
to--"

Aye, to whom?

The hermit walked back to the hermitage. At the door stood Bob Binkley,
his old friend and companion of the days before he had renounced the
world--Bob, himself, arrayed like the orchids of the greenhouse in the
summer man's polychromatic garb--Bob, the millionaire, with his fat,
firm, smooth, shrewd face, his diamond rings, sparkling fob-chain, and
pleated bosom. He was two years older than the hermit, and looked five
years younger.

"You're Hamp Ellison, in spite of those whiskers and that going-away
bathrobe," he shouted. "I read about you on the bill of fare at the inn.
They've run your biography in between the cheese and 'Not Responsible
for Coats and Umbrellas.' What 'd you do it for, Hamp? And ten years,
too--gee whilikins!"

"You're just the same," said the hermit. "Come in and sit down. Sit on
that limestone rock over there; it's softer than the granite."

"I can't understand it, old man," said Binkley. "I can see how you could
give up a woman for ten years, but not ten years for a woman. Of course
I know why you did it. Everybody does. Edith Carr. She jilted four or
five besides you. But you were the only one who took to a hole in the
ground. The others had recourse to whiskey, the Klondike, politics, and
that _similia similibus_ cure. But, say--Hamp, Edith Carr was just about
the finest woman in the world--high-toned and proud and noble, and
playing her ideals to win at all kinds of odds. She certainly was a
crackerjack."

"After I renounced the world," said the hermit, "I never heard of her
again."

"She married me," said Binkley.

The hermit leaned against the wooden walls of his ante-cave and wriggled
his toes.

"I know how you feel about it," said Binkley. "What else could she
do? There were her four sisters and her mother and old man Carr--you
remember how he put all the money he had into dirigible balloons? Well,
everything was coming down and nothing going up with 'em, as you might
say. Well, I know Edith as well as you do--although I married her. I was
worth a million then, but I've run it up since to between five and six.
It wasn't me she wanted as much as--well, it was about like this. She
had that bunch on her hands, and they had to be taken care of. Edith
married me two months after you did the ground-squirrel act. I thought
she liked me, too, at the time."

"And now?" inquired the recluse.

"We're better friends than ever now. She got a divorce from me two years
ago. Just incompatibility. I didn't put in any defence. Well, well,
well, Hamp, this is certainly a funny dugout you've built here. But you
always were a hero of fiction. Seems like you'd have been the very one
to strike Edith's fancy. Maybe you did--but it's the bank-roll that
catches 'em, my boy--your caves and whiskers won't do it. Honestly,
Hamp, don't you think you've been a darned fool?"

The hermit smiled behind his tangled beard. He was and always had been
so superior to the crude and mercenary Binkley that even his vulgarities
could not anger him. Moreover, his studies and meditations in his
retreat had raised him far above the little vanities of the world. His
little mountain-side had been almost an Olympus, over the edge of which
he saw, smiling, the bolts hurled in the valleys of man below. Had his
ten years of renunciation, of thought, of devotion to an ideal, of
living scorn of a sordid world, been in vain? Up from the world had
come to him the youngest and beautifulest--fairer than Edith--one and
three-seventh times lovelier than the seven-years-served Rachel. So the
hermit smiled in his beard.

When Binkley had relieved the hermitage from the blot of his presence
and the first faint star showed above the pines, the hermit got the can
of baking-powder from his cupboard. He still smiled behind his beard.

There was a slight rustle in the doorway. There stood Edith Carr, with
all the added beauty and stateliness and noble bearing that ten years
had brought her.

She was never one to chatter. She looked at the hermit with her large,
_thinking_, dark eyes. The hermit stood still, surprised into a pose as
motionless as her own. Only his subconscious sense of the fitness of
things caused him to turn the baking-powder can slowly in his hands
until its red label was hidden against his bosom.

"I am stopping at the inn," said Edith, in low but clear tones. "I heard
of you there. I told myself that I _must_ see you. I want to ask your
forgiveness. I sold my happiness for money. There were others to be
provided for--but that does not excuse me. I just wanted to see you
and ask your forgiveness. You have lived here ten years, they tell me,
cherishing my memory! I was blind, Hampton. I could not see then that
all the money in the world cannot weigh in the scales against a faithful
heart. If--but it is too late now, of course."

Her assertion was a question clothed as best it could be in a loving
woman's pride. But through the thin disguise the hermit saw easily
that his lady had come back to him--if he chose. He had won a golden
crown--if it pleased him to take it. The reward of his decade of
faithfulness was ready for his hand--if he desired to stretch it forth.

For the space of one minute the old enchantment shone upon him with
a reflected radiance. And then by turns he felt the manly sensations
of indignation at having been discarded, and of repugnance at having
been--as it were--sought again. And last of all--how strange that it
should have come at last!--the pale-blue vision of the beautifulest of
the Trenholme sisters illuminated his mind's eye and left him without
a waver.

"It is too late," he said, in deep tones, pressing the baking-powder
can against his heart.

Once she turned after she had gone slowly twenty yards down the path.
The hermit had begun to twist the lid off his can, but he hid it again
under his sacking robe. He could see her great eyes shining sadly
through the twilight; but he stood inflexible in the doorway of his
shack and made no sign.



Just as the moon rose on Thursday evening the hermit was seized by the
world-madness.

Up from the inn, fainter than the horns of elf-land, came now and then
a few bars of music played by the casino band. The Hudson was broadened
by the night into an illimitable sea--those lights, dimly seen on its
opposite shore, were not beacons for prosaic trolley-lines, but low-set
stars millions of miles away. The waters in front of the inn were gay
with fireflies--or were they motor-boats, smelling of gasoline and oil?
Once the hermit had known these things and had sported with Amaryllis
in the shade of the red-and-white-striped awnings. But for ten years
he had turned a heedless ear to these far-off echoes of a frivolous
world. But to-night there was something wrong.

The casino band was playing a waltz--a waltz. What a fool he had
been to tear deliberately ten years of his life from the calendar
of existence for one who had given him up for the false joys that
wealth--"_tum_ ti _tum_ ti _tum_ ti"--how did that waltz go? Butthose
years had not been sacrificed--had they not brought him the star and
pearl of all the world, the youngest and beautifulest of--

"But do _not_ come on Thursday evening," she had insisted. Perhaps by
now she would be moving slowly and gracefully to the strains of that
waltz, held closely by West-Pointers or city commuters, while he, who
had read in her eyes things that had recompensed him for ten lost
years of life, moped like some wild animal in its mountain den. Why
should--"

"Damn it," said the hermit, suddenly, "I'll do it!"

He threw down his Marcus Aurelius and threw off his gunny-sack toga.
He dragged a dust-covered trunk from a corner of the cave, and with
difficulty wrenched open its lid.

Candles he had in plenty, and the cave was soon aglow. Clothes--ten
years old in cut--scissors, razors, hats, shoes, all his discarded
attire and belongings, were dragged ruthlessly from their renunciatory
rest and strewn about in painful disorder.

A pair of scissors soon reduced his beard sufficiently for the dulled
razors to perform approximately their office. Cutting his own hair
was beyond the hermit's skill. So he only combed and brushed it
backward as smoothly as he could. Charity forbids us to consider the
heartburnings and exertions of one so long removed from haberdashery
and society.

At the last the hermit went to an inner corner of his cave and began
to dig in the soft earth with a long iron spoon. Out of the cavity he
thus made he drew a tin can, and out of the can three thousand dollars
in bills, tightly rolled and wrapped in oiled silk. He was a real
hermit, as this may assure you.

You may take a brief look at him as he hastens down the little
mountain-side. A long, wrinkled black frock-coat reached to his
calves. White duck trousers, unacquainted with the tailor's goose, a
pink shirt, white standing collar with brilliant blue butterfly tie,
and buttoned congress gaiters. But think, sir and madam--ten years!
From beneath a narrow-brimmed straw hat with a striped band flowed his
hair. Seeing him, with all your shrewdness you could not have guessed
him. You would have said that he played Hamlet--or the tuba--or
pinochle--you would never have laid your hand on your heart and said:
"He is a hermit who lived ten years in a cave for love of one lady--to
win another."

The dancing pavilion extended above the waters of the river. Gay
lanterns and frosted electric globes shed a soft glamour within it. A
hundred ladies and gentlemen from the inn and summer cottages flitted
in and about it. To the left of the dusty roadway down which the
hermit had tramped were the inn and grill-room. Something seemed to
be on there, too. The windows were brilliantly lighted, and music was
playing--music different from the two-steps and waltzes of the casino
band.

A negro man wearing a white jacket came through the iron gate, with
its immense granite posts and wrought-iron lamp-holders.

"What is going on here to-night?" asked the hermit.

"Well, sah," said the servitor, "dey is having de reg'lar
Thursday-evenin' dance in de casino. And in de grill-room dere's a
beefsteak dinner, sah."

The hermit glanced up at the inn on the hillside whence burst suddenly
a triumphant strain of splendid harmony.

"And up there," said he, "they are playing Mendelssohn--what is going
on up there?"

"Up in de inn," said the dusky one, "dey is a weddin' goin' on. Mr.
Binkley, a mighty rich man, am marryin' Miss Trenholme, sah--de young
lady who am quite de belle of de place, sah."



HE ALSO SERVES



If I could have a thousand years--just one little thousand years--more
of life, I might, in that time, draw near enough to true Romance to
touch the hem of her robe.

Up from ships men come, and from waste places and forest and road and
garret and cellar to maunder to me in strangely distributed words
of the things they have seen and considered. The recording of their
tales is no more than a matter of ears and fingers. There are only
two fates I dread--deafness and writer's cramp. The hand is yet
steady; let the ear bear the blame if these printed words be not in
the order they were delivered to me by Hunky Magee, true camp-follower
of fortune.

Biography shall claim you but an instant--I first knew Hunky when he
was head-waiter at Chubb's little beefsteak restaurant and café on
Third Avenue. There was only one waiter besides.

Then, successively, I caromed against him in the little streets of
the Big City after his trip to Alaska, his voyage as cook with a
treasure-seeking expedition to the Caribbean, and his failure as a
pearl-fisher in the Arkansas River. Between these dashes into the land
of adventure he usually came back to Chubb's for a while. Chubb's was
a port for him when gales blew too high; but when you dined there and
Hunky went for your steak you never knew whether he would come to
anchor in the kitchen or in the Malayan Archipelago. You wouldn't
care for his description--he was soft of voice and hard of face,
and rarely had to use more than one eye to quell any approach to a
disturbance among Chubb's customers.

One night I found Hunky standing at a corner of Twenty-third Street
and Third Avenue after an absence of several months. In ten minutes
we had a little round table between us in a quiet corner, and my
ears began to get busy. I leave out my sly ruses and feints to draw
Hunky's word-of-mouth blows--it all came to something like this:

"Speaking of the next election," said Hunky, "did you ever know much
about Indians? No? I don't mean the Cooper, Beadle, cigar-store, or
Laughing Water kind--I mean the modern Indian--the kind that takes
Greek prizes in colleges and scalps the half-back on the other side
in football games. The kind that eats macaroons and tea in the
afternoons with the daughter of the professor of biology, and fills
up on grasshoppers and fried rattlesnake when they get back to the
ancestral wickiup.

"Well, they ain't so bad. I like 'em better than most foreigners that
have come over in the last few hundred years. One thing about the
Indian is this: when he mixes with the white race he swaps all his own
vices for them of the pale-faces--and he retains all his own virtues.
Well, his virtues are enough to call out the reserves whenever he lets
'em loose. But the imported foreigners adopt our virtues and keep
their own vices--and it's going to take our whole standing army some
day to police that gang.

"But let me tell you about the trip I took to Mexico with High Jack
Snakefeeder, a Cherokee twice removed, a graduate of a Pennsylvania
college and the latest thing in pointed-toed, rubber-heeled, patent
kid moccasins and Madras hunting-shirt with turned-back cuffs. He was
a friend of mine. I met him in Tahlequah when I was out there during
the land boom, and we got thick. He had got all there was out of
colleges and had come back to lead his people out of Egypt. He was a
man of first-class style and wrote essays, and had been invited to
visit rich guys' houses in Boston and such places.

"There was a Cherokee girl in Muscogee that High Jack was foolish
about. He took me to see her a few times. Her name was Florence Blue
Feather--but you want to clear your mind of all ideas of squaws with
nose-rings and army blankets. This young lady was whiter than you
are, and better educated than I ever was. You couldn't have told her
from any of the girls shopping in the swell Third Avenue stores. I
liked her so well that I got to calling on her now and then when High
Jack wasn't along, which is the way of friends in such matters. She
was educated at the Muscogee College, and was making a specialty
of--let's see--eth--yes, ethnology. That's the art that goes back
and traces the descent of different races of people, leading up from
jelly-fish through monkeys and to the O'Briens. High Jack had took
up that line too, and had read papers about it before all kinds of
riotous assemblies--Chautauquas and Choctaws and chowder-parties, and
such. Having a mutual taste for musty information like that was what
made 'em like each other, I suppose. But I don't know! What they
call congeniality of tastes ain't always it. Now, when Miss Blue
Feather and me was talking together, I listened to her affidavits
about the first families of the Land of Nod being cousins german
(well, if the Germans don't nod, who does?) to the mound-builders of
Ohio with incomprehension and respect. And when I'd tell her about
the Bowery and Coney Island, and sing her a few songs that I'd heard
the Jamaica niggers sing at their church lawn-parties, she didn't look
much less interested than she did when High Jack would tell her that
he had a pipe that the first inhabitants of America originally arrived
here on stilts after a freshet at Tenafly, New Jersey.

"But I was going to tell you more about High Jack.

"About six months ago I get a letter from him, saying he'd been
commissioned by the Minority Report Bureau of Ethnology at Washington
to go down to Mexico and translate some excavations or dig up the
meaning of some shorthand notes on some ruins--or something of that
sort. And if I'd go along he could squeeze the price into the expense
account.

"Well, I'd been holding a napkin over my arm at Chubb's about long
enough then, so I wired High Jack 'Yes'; and he sent me a ticket, and
I met him in Washington, and he had a lot of news to tell me. First
of all, was that Florence Blue Feather had suddenly disappeared from
her home and environments.

"'Run away?' I asked.

"'Vanished,' says High Jack. 'Disappeared like your shadow when
the sun goes under a cloud. She was seen on the street, and then
she turned a corner and nobody ever seen her afterward. The whole
community turned out to look for her, but we never found a clew.'

"'That's bad--that's bad,' says I. 'She was a mighty nice girl, and
as smart as you find em.'

"High Jack seemed to take it hard. I guess he must have esteemed Miss
Blue Feather quite highly. I could see that he'd referred the matter
to the whiskey-jug. That was his weak point--and many another man's.
I've noticed that when a man loses a girl he generally takes to drink
either just before or just after it happens.

"From Washington we railroaded it to New Orleans, and there took a
tramp steamer bound for Belize. And a gale pounded us all down the
Caribbean, and nearly wrecked us on the Yucatan coast opposite a
little town without a harbor called Boca de Coacoyula. Suppose the
ship had run against that name in the dark!

"'Better fifty years of Europe than a cyclone in the bay,' says High
Jack Snakefeeder. So we get the captain to send us ashore in a dory
when the squall seemed to cease from squalling.

"'We will find ruins here or make 'em,' says High. 'The Government
doesn't care which we do. An appropriation is an appropriation.'

"Boca de Coacoyula was a dead town. Them biblical towns we read
about--Tired and Siphon--after they was destroyed, they must have
looked like Forty-second Street and Broadway compared to this Boca
place. It still claimed 1300 inhabitants as estimated and engraved
on the stone court-house by the census-taker in 1597. The citizens
were a mixture of Indians and other Indians; but some of 'em was
light-colored, which I was surprised to see. The town was huddled up
on the shore, with woods so thick around it that a subpoena-server
couldn't have reached a monkey ten yards away with the papers. We
wondered what kept it from being annexed to Kansas; but we soon found
out that it was Major Bing.

"Major Bing was the ointment around the fly. He had the cochineal,
sarsaparilla, log-wood, annatto, hemp, and all other dye-woods and
pure food adulteration concessions cornered. He had five-sixths of
the Boca de Thingama-jiggers working for him on shares. It was a
beautiful graft. We used to brag about Morgan and E. H. and others
of our wisest when I was in the provinces--but now no more. That
peninsula has got our little country turned into a submarine without
even the observation tower showing.

"Major Bing's idea was this. He had the population go forth into the
forest and gather these products. When they brought 'em in he gave
'em one-fifth for their trouble. Sometimes they'd strike and demand a
sixth. The Major always gave in to 'em.

"The Major had a bungalow so close on the sea that the nine-inch
tide seeped through the cracks in the kitchen floor. Me and him and
High Jack Snakefeeder sat on the porch and drank rum from noon till
midnight. He said he had piled up $300,000 in New Orleans banks, and
High and me could stay with him forever if we would. But High Jack
happened to think of the United States, and began to talk ethnology.

"'Ruins!' says Major Bing. 'The woods are full of 'em. I don't know
how far they date back, but they was here before I came.'

"High Jack asks what form of worship the citizens of that locality are
addicted to.

"'Why,' says the Major, rubbing his nose, 'I can't hardly say. I
imagine it's infidel or Aztec or Nonconformist or something like
that. There's a church here--a Methodist or some other kind--with
a parson named Skidder. He claims to have converted the people to
Christianity. He and me don't assimilate except on state occasions.
I imagine they worship some kind of gods or idols yet. But Skidder
says he has 'em in the fold.'

"A few days later High Jack and me, prowling around, strikes a plain
path into the forest, and follows it a good four miles. Then a branch
turns to the left. We go a mile, maybe, down that, and run up against
the finest ruin you ever saw--solid stone with trees and vines and
under-brush all growing up against it and in it and through it. All
over it was chiselled carvings of funny beasts and people that would
have been arrested if they'd ever come out in vaudeville that way. We
approached it from the rear.

"High Jack had been drinking too much rum ever since we landed in
Boca. You know how an Indian is--the palefaces fixed his clock when
they introduced him to firewater. He'd brought a quart along with
him.

"'Hunky,' says he, 'we'll explore the ancient temple. It may be that
the storm that landed us here was propitious. The Minority Report
Bureau of Ethnology,' says he, 'may yet profit by the vagaries of wind
and tide.'

"We went in the rear door of the bum edifice. We struck a kind of
alcove without bath. There was a granite davenport, and a stone
wash-stand without any soap or exit for the water, and some hardwood
pegs drove into holes in the wall, and that was all. To go out of that
furnished apartment into a Harlem hall bedroom would make you feel
like getting back home from an amateur violoncello solo at an East
Side Settlement house.

"While High was examining some hieroglyphics on the wall that the
stone-masons must have made when their tools slipped, I stepped into
the front room. That was at least thirty by fifty feet, stone floor,
six little windows like square port-holes that didn't let much light
in.

"I looked back over my shoulder, and sees High Jack's face three feet
away.

"'High,' says I, 'of all the--'

"And then I noticed he looked funny, and I turned around.

"He'd taken off his clothes to the waist, and he didn't seem to hear
me. I touched him, and came near beating it. High Jack had turned to
stone. I had been drinking some rum myself.

"'Ossified!' I says to him, loudly. 'I knew what would happen if you
kept it up.'

"And then High Jack comes in from the alcove when he hears me
conversing with nobody, and we have a look at Mr. Snakefeeder No. 2.
It's a stone idol, or god, or revised statute or something, and it
looks as much like High Jack as one green pea looks like itself. It's
got exactly his face and size and color, but it's steadier on its
pins. It stands on a kind of rostrum or pedestal, and you can see
it's been there ten million years.

"'He's a cousin of mine,' sings High, and then he turns solemn.

"'Hunky,' he says, putting one hand on my shoulder and one on the
statue's, 'I'm in the holy temple of my ancestors.'

"'Well, if looks goes for anything,' says I, 'you've struck a twin.
Stand side by side with buddy, and let's see if there's any
difference.'

"There wasn't. You know an Indian can keep his face as still as an
iron dog's when he wants to, so when High Jack froze his features you
couldn't have told him from the other one.

"'There's some letters,' says I, 'on his nob's pedestal, but I can't
make 'em out. The alphabet of this country seems to be composed of
sometimes _a_, _e_, _i_, _o_, and _u_, but generally _z's_, _l's_,
and _t's_.'

"High Jack's ethnology gets the upper hand of his rum for a minute,
and he investigates the inscription.

"'Hunky,' says he, 'this is a statue of Tlotopaxl, one of the most
powerful gods of the ancient Aztecs.'

"'Glad to know him,' says I, 'but in his present condition he reminds
me of the joke Shakespeare got off on Julius Cæsar. We might say
about your friend:


   "'Imperious What's-his-name, dead and turned to stone--
     No use to write or call him on the 'phone.'


"'Hunky,' says High Jack Snakefeeder, looking at me funny, 'do you
believe in reincarnation?'

"'It sounds to me,' says I, 'like either a clean-up of the
slaughter-houses or a new kind of Boston pink. I don't know.'

"'I believe,' says he, 'that I am the reincarnation of Tlotopaxl.
My researches have convinced me that the Cherokees, of all the North
American tribes, can boast of the straightest descent from the
proud Aztec race. That,' says he, 'was a favorite theory of mine and
Florence Blue Feather's. And she--what if she--'

"High Jack grabs my arm and walls his eyes at me. Just then he looked
more like his eminent co-Indian murderer, Crazy Horse.

"'Well,' says I, 'what if she, what if she, what if she? You're
drunk,' says I. 'Impersonating idols and believing in--what was
it?--recarnalization? Let's have a drink,' says I. 'It's as spooky here
as a Brooklyn artificial-limb factory at midnight with the gas turned
down.'

"Just then I heard somebody coming, and I dragged High Jack into the
bedless bedchamber. There was peep-holes bored through the wall, so
we could see the whole front part of the temple. Major Bing told me
afterward that the ancient priests in charge used to rubber through
them at the congregation.

"In a few minutes an old Indian woman came in with a big oval earthen
dish full of grub. She set it on a square block of stone in front of
the graven image, and laid down and walloped her face on the floor a
few times, and then took a walk for herself.

"High Jack and me was hungry, so we came out and looked it over.
There was goat steaks and fried rice-cakes, and plantains and cassava,
and broiled land-crabs and mangoes--nothing like what you get at
Chubb's.

"We ate hearty--and had another round of rum.

"'It must be old Tecumseh's--or whatever you call him--birthday,' says
I. 'Or do they feed him every day? I thought gods only drank vanilla
on Mount Catawampus.'

"Then some more native parties in short kimonos that showed their
aboriginees punctured the near-horizon, and me and High had to skip
back into Father Axletree's private boudoir. They came by ones, twos,
and threes, and left all sorts of offerings--there was enough grub
for Bingham's nine gods of war, with plenty left over for the Peace
Conference at The Hague. They brought jars of honey, and bunches of
bananas, and bottles of wine, and stacks of tortillas, and beautiful
shawls worth one hundred dollars apiece that the Indian women weave of
a kind of vegetable fibre like silk. All of 'em got down and wriggled
on the floor in front of that hard-finish god, and then sneaked off
through the woods again.

"'I wonder who gets this rake-off?' remarks High Jack.

"'Oh,' says I, 'there's priests or deputy idols or a committee of
disarrangements somewhere in the woods on the job. Wherever you
find a god you'll find somebody waiting to take charge of the burnt
offerings.'

"And then we took another swig of rum and walked out to the parlor
front door to cool off, for it was as hot inside as a summer camp on
the Palisades.

"And while we stood there in the breeze we looks down the path and
sees a young lady approaching the blasted ruin. She was bare-footed
and had on a white robe, and carried a wreath of white flowers in her
hand. When she got nearer we saw she had a long blue feather stuck
through her black hair. And when she got nearer still me and High
Jack Snakefeeder grabbed each other to keep from tumbling down on the
floor; for the girl's face was as much like Florence Blue Feather's
as his was like old King Toxicology's.

"And then was when High Jack's booze drowned his system of ethnology.
He dragged me inside back of the statue, and says:

"'Lay hold of it, Hunky. We'll pack it into the other room. I felt
it all the time,' says he. 'I'm the reconsideration of the god
Locomotorataxia, and Florence Blue Feather was my bride a thousand
years ago. She has come to seek me in the temple where I used to
reign.'

"'All right,' says I. 'There's no use arguing against the rum
question. You take his feet.'

"We lifted the three-hundred-pound stone god, and carried him into
the back room of the café--the temple, I mean--and leaned him against
the wall. It was more work than bouncing three live ones from an
all-night Broadway joint on New-Year's Eve.

"Then High Jack ran out and brought in a couple of them Indian silk
shawls and began to undress himself.

"'Oh, figs!' says I. 'Is it thus? Strong drink is an adder and
subtractor, too. Is it the heat or the call of the wild that's got
you?'

"But High Jack is too full of exaltation and cane-juice to reply. He
stops the disrobing business just short of the Manhattan Beach rules,
and then winds them red-and-white shawls around him, and goes out and.
stands on the pedestal as steady as any platinum deity you ever saw.
And I looks through a peek-hole to see what he is up to.

"In a few minutes in comes the girl with the flower wreath. Danged
if I wasn't knocked a little silly when she got close, she looked
so exactly much like Florence Blue Feather. 'I wonder,' says I to
myself, 'if she has been reincarcerated, too? If I could see,' says I
to myself, 'whether she has a mole on her left--' But the next minute
I thought she looked one-eighth of a shade darker than Florence; but
she looked good at that. And High Jack hadn't drunk all the rum that
had been drank.

"The girl went up within ten feet of the bum idol, and got down and
massaged her nose with the floor, like the rest did. Then she went
nearer and laid the flower wreath on the block of stone at High Jack's
feet. Rummy as I was, I thought it was kind of nice of her to think
of offering flowers instead of household and kitchen provisions. Even
a stone god ought to appreciate a little sentiment like that on top of
the fancy groceries they had piled up in front of him.

"And then High Jack steps down from his pedestal, quiet, and mentions
a few words that sounded just like the hieroglyphics carved on the
walls of the ruin. The girl gives a little jump backward, and her
eyes fly open as big as doughnuts; but she don't beat it.

"Why didn't she? I'll tell you why I think why. It don't seem to a
girl so supernatural, unlikely, strange, and startling that a stone
god should come to life for _her_. If he was to do it for one of them
snub-nosed brown girls on the other side of the woods, now, it would
be different--but _her_! I'll bet she said to herself: 'Well, goodness
me! you've been a long time getting on your job. I've half a mind not
to speak to you.'

"But she and High Jack holds hands and walks away out of the temple
together. By the time I'd had time to take another drink and enter
upon the scene they was twenty yards away, going up the path in the
woods that the girl had come down. With the natural scenery already
in place, it was just like a play to watch 'em--she looking up at
him, and him giving her back the best that an Indian can hand,
out in the way of a goo-goo eye. But there wasn't anything in that
recarnification and revulsion to tintype for me.

"'Hey! Injun!' I yells out to High Jack. 'We've got a board-bill due
in town, and you're leaving me without a cent. Brace up and cut out
the Neapolitan fisher-maiden, and let's go back home.'

"But on the two goes; without looking once back until, as you might
say, the forest swallowed 'em up. And I never saw or heard of High
Jack Snakefeeder from that day to this. I don't know if the Cherokees
came from the Aspics; but if they did, one of 'em went back.

"All I could do was to hustle back to that Boca place and panhandle
Major Bing. He detached himself from enough of his winnings to buy me
a ticket home. And I'm back again on the job at Chubb's, sir, and I'm
going to hold it steady. Come round, and you'll find the steaks as
good as ever."

I wondered what Hunky Magee thought about his own story; so I asked
him if he had any theories about reincarnation and transmogrification
and such mysteries as he had touched upon.

"Nothing like that," said Hunky, positively. "What ailed High Jack
was too much booze and education. They'll do an Indian up every
time."

"But what about Miss Blue Feather?" I persisted.

"Say," said Hunky, with a grin, "that little lady that stole High Jack
certainly did give me a jar when I first took a look at her, but it
was only for a minute. You remember I told you High Jack said that
Miss Florence Blue Feather disappeared from home about a year ago?
Well, where she landed four days later was in as neat a five-room flat
on East Twenty-third Street as you ever walked sideways through--and
she's been Mrs. Magee ever since."



THE MOMENT OF VICTORY


Ben Granger is a war veteran aged twenty-nine--which should enable
you to guess the war. He is also principal merchant and postmaster of
Cadiz, a little town over which the breezes from the Gulf of Mexico
perpetually blow.

Ben helped to hurl the Don from his stronghold in the Greater
Antilles; and then, hiking across half the world, he marched as a
corporal-usher up and down the blazing tropic aisles of the open-air
college in which the Filipino was schooled. Now, with his bayonet
beaten into a cheese-slicer, he rallies his corporal's guard of
cronies in the shade of his well-whittled porch, instead of in the
matted jungles of Mindanao. Always have his interest and choice been
for deeds rather than for words; but the consideration and digestion
of motives is not beyond him, as this story, which is his, will
attest.

"What is it," he asked me one moonlit eve, as we sat among his boxes
and barrels, "that generally makes men go through dangers, and fire,
and trouble, and starvation, and battle, and such recourses? What
does a man do it for? Why does he try to outdo his fellow-humans, and
be braver and stronger and more daring and showy than even his best
friends are? What's his game? What does he expect to get out of it?
He don't do it just for the fresh air and exercise. What would you
say, now, Bill, that an ordinary man expects, generally speaking, for
his efforts along the line of ambition and extraordinary hustling in
the marketplaces, forums, shooting-galleries, lyceums, battle-fields,
links, cinder-paths, and arenas of the civilized and _vice versa_
places of the world?"

"Well, Ben," said I, with judicial seriousness, "I think we might
safely limit the number of motives of a man who seeks fame to three--to
ambition, which is a desire for popular applause; to avarice, which
looks to the material side of success; and to love of some woman whom
he either possesses or desires to possess."

Ben pondered over my words while a mocking-bird on the top of a
mesquite by the porch trilled a dozen bars.

"I reckon," said he, "that your diagnosis about covers the case
according to the rules laid down in the copy-books and historical
readers. But what I had in my mind was the case of Willie Robbins, a
person I used to know. I'll tell you about him before I close up the
store, if you don't mind listening.

"Willie was one of our social set up in San Augustine. I was clerking
there then for Brady & Murchison, wholesale dry-goods and ranch
supplies. Willie and I belonged to the same german club and athletic
association and military company. He played the triangle in our
serenading and quartet crowd that used to ring the welkin three nights
a week somewhere in town.

"Willie jibed with his name considerable. He weighed about as much
as a hundred pounds of veal in his summer suitings, and he had a
'Where-is-Mary?' expression on his features so plain that you could
almost see the wool growing on him.

"And yet you couldn't fence him away from the girls with barbed wire.
You know that kind of young fellows--a kind of a mixture of fools and
angels--they rush in and fear to tread at the same time; but they never
fail to tread when they get the chance. He was always on hand when 'a
joyful occasion was had,' as the morning paper would say, looking as
happy as a king full, and at the same time as uncomfortable as a raw
oyster served with sweet pickles. He danced like he had hind hobbles
on; and he had a vocabulary of about three hundred and fifty words
that he made stretch over four germans a week, and plagiarized from
to get him through two ice-cream suppers and a Sunday-night call. He
seemed to me to be a sort of a mixture of Maltese kitten, sensitive
plant, and a member of a stranded 'Two Orphans' company.

"I'll give you an estimate of his physiological and pictorial make-up,
and then I'll stick spurs into the sides of my narrative.

"Willie inclined to the Caucasian in his coloring and manner of style.
His hair was opalescent and his conversation fragmentary. His eyes
were the same blue shade as the china dog's on the right-hand corner
of your Aunt Ellen's mantelpiece. He took things as they came, and I
never felt any hostility against him. I let him live, and so did
others.

"But what does this Willie do but coax his heart out of his boots and
lose it to Myra Allison, the liveliest, brightest, keenest, smartest,
and prettiest girl in San Augustine. I tell you, she had the blackest
eyes, the shiniest curls, and the most tantalizing--Oh, no, you're
off--I wasn't a victim. I might have been, but I knew better. I kept
out. Joe Granberry was It from the start. He had everybody else
beat a couple of leagues and thence east to a stake and mound. But,
anyhow, Myra was a nine-pound, full-merino, fall-clip fleece, sacked
and loaded on a four-horse team for San Antone.

"One night there was an ice-cream sociable at Mrs. Colonel
Spraggins', in San Augustine. We fellows had a big room up-stairs
opened up for us to put our hats and things in, and to comb our hair
and put on the clean collars we brought along inside the sweat-bands
of our hats--in short, a room to fix up in just like they have
everywhere at high-toned doings. A little farther down the hall
was the girls' room, which they used to powder up in, and so forth.
Downstairs we--that is, the San Augustine Social Cotillion and
Merrymakers' Club--had a stretcher put down in the parlor where our
dance was going on.

"Willie Robbins and me happened to be up in our--cloak-room, I believe
we called it--when Myra Allison skipped through the hall on her way
down-stairs from the girls' room. Willie was standing before the
mirror, deeply interested in smoothing down the blond grass-plot on
his head, which seemed to give him lots of trouble. Myra was always
full of life and devilment. She stopped and stuck her head in our
door. She certainly was good-looking. But I knew how Joe Granberry
stood with her. So did Willie; but he kept on ba-a-a-ing after her
and following her around. He had a system of persistence that didn't
coincide with pale hair and light eyes.

"'Hello, Willie!' says Myra. 'What are you doing to yourself in the
glass?'

"'I'm trying to look fly,' says Willie.

"'Well, you never could _be_ fly,' says Myra, with her special laugh,
which was the provokingest sound I ever heard except the rattle of an
empty canteen against my saddle-horn.

"I looked around at Willie after Myra had gone. He had a kind of a
lily-white look on him which seemed to show that her remark had, as
you might say, disrupted his soul. I never noticed anything in what
she said that sounded particularly destructive to a man's ideas
of self-consciousness; but he was set back to an extent you could
scarcely imagine.

"After we went down-stairs with our clean collars on, Willie never
went near Myra again that night. After all, he seemed to be a diluted
kind of a skim-milk sort of a chap, and I never wondered that Joe
Granberry beat him out.

"The next day the battleship _Maine_ was blown up, and then pretty soon
somebody--I reckon it was Joe Bailey, or Ben Tillman, or maybe the
Government--declared war against Spain.

"Well, everybody south of Mason & Hamlin's line knew that the North
by itself couldn't whip a whole country the size of Spain. So the
Yankees commenced to holler for help, and the Johnny Rebs answered the
call. 'We're coming, Father William, a hundred thousand strong--and
then some,' was the way they sang it. And the old party lines drawn
by Sherman's march and the Kuklux and nine-cent cotton and the Jim
Crow street-car ordinances faded away. We became one undivided.
country, with no North, very little East, a good-sized chunk of West,
and a South that loomed up as big as the first foreign label on a new
eight-dollar suit-case.

"Of course the dogs of war weren't a complete pack without a yelp from
the San Augustine Rifles, Company D, of the Fourteenth Texas Regiment.
Our company was among the first to land in Cuba and strike terror
into the hearts of the foe. I'm not going to give you a history of
the war, I'm just dragging it in to fill out my story about Willie
Robbins, just as the Republican party dragged it in to help out the
election in 1898.

"If anybody ever had heroitis, it was that Willie Robbins. From the
minute he set foot on the soil of the tyrants of Castile he seemed to
engulf danger as a cat laps up cream. He certainly astonished every
man in our company, from the captain up. You'd have expected him
to gravitate naturally to the job of an orderly to the colonel, or
typewriter in the commissary--but not any. He created the part of
the flaxen-haired boy hero who lives and gets back home with the
goods, instead of dying with an important despatch in his hands at
his colonel's feet.

"Our company got into a section of Cuban scenery where one of the
messiest and most unsung portions of the campaign occurred. We were
out every day capering around in the bushes, and having little
skirmishes with the Spanish troops that looked more like kind of
tired-out feuds than anything else. The war was a joke to us, and
of no interest to them. We never could see it any other way than as
a howling farce-comedy that the San Augustine Rifles were actually
fighting to uphold the Stars and Stripes. And the blamed little
señors didn't get enough pay to make them care whether they were
patriots or traitors. Now and then somebody would get killed. It
seemed like a waste of life to me. I was at Coney Island when I went
to New York once, and one of them down-hill skidding apparatuses they
call 'roller-coasters' flew the track and killed a man in a brown
sack-suit. Whenever the Spaniards shot one of our men, it struck me
as just about as unnecessary and regrettable as that was.

"But I'm dropping Willie Robbins out of the conversation.

"He was out for bloodshed, laurels, ambition, medals, recommendations,
and all other forms of military glory. And he didn't seem to be
afraid of any of the recognized forms of military danger, such as
Spaniards, cannon-balls, canned beef, gunpowder, or nepotism. He went
forth with his pallid hair and china-blue eyes and ate up Spaniards
like you would sardines _à la canopy_. Wars and rumbles of wars never
flustered him. He would stand guard-duty, mosquitoes, hardtack,
treat, and fire with equally perfect unanimity. No blondes in history
ever come in comparison distance of him except the Jack of Diamonds
and Queen Catherine of Russia.

"I remember, one time, a little _caballard_ of Spanish men sauntered
out from behind a patch of sugar-cane and shot Bob Turner, the first
sergeant of our company, while we were eating dinner. As required
by the army regulations, we fellows went through the usual tactics
of falling into line, saluting the enemy, and loading and firing,
kneeling.

"That wasn't the Texas way of scrapping; but, being a very important
addendum and annex to the regular army, the San Augustine Rifles had
to conform to the red-tape system of getting even.

"By the time we had got out our 'Upton's Tactics,' turned to page
fifty-seven, said 'one--two--three--one--two--three' a couple of
times, and got blank cartridges into our Springfields, the Spanish
outfit had smiled repeatedly, rolled and lit cigarettes by squads, and
walked away contemptuously.

"I went straight to Captain Floyd, and says to him: 'Sam, I don't
think this war is a straight game. You know as well as I do that Bob
Turner was one of the whitest fellows that ever threw a leg over a
saddle, and now these wirepullers in Washington have fixed his clock.
He's politically and ostensibly dead. It ain't fair. Why should they
keep this thing up? If they want Spain licked, why don't they turn
the San Augustine Rifles and Joe Seely's ranger company and a car-load
of West Texas deputy-sheriffs onto these Spaniards, and let us
exonerate them from the face of the earth? I never did,' says I,
'care much about fighting by the Lord Chesterfield ring rules. I'm
going to hand in my resignation and go home if anybody else I am
personally acquainted with gets hurt in this war. If you can get
somebody in my place, Sam,' says I, 'I'll quit the first of next week.
I don't want to work in an army that don't give its help a chance.
Never mind my wages,' says I; 'let the Secretary of the Treasury keep
'em.'

"'Well, Ben,' says the captain to me, 'your allegations and estimations
of the tactics of war, government, patriotism, guard-mounting,
and democracy are all right. But I've looked into the system of
international arbitration and the ethics of justifiable slaughter
a little closer, maybe, than you have. Now, you can hand in your
resignation the first of next week if you are so minded. But if you
do,' says Sam, 'I'll order a corporal's guard to take you over by
that limestone bluff on the creek and shoot enough lead into you to
ballast a submarine air-ship. I'm captain of this company, and I've
swore allegiance to the Amalgamated States regardless of sectional,
secessional, and Congressional differences. Have you got any
smoking-tobacco?' winds up Sam. 'Mine got wet when I swum the creek
this morning.'

"The reason I drag all this _non ex parte_ evidence in is because Willie
Robbins was standing there listening to us. I was a second sergeant
and he was a private then, but among us Texans and Westerners there
never was as much tactics and subordination as there was in the
regular army. We never called our captain anything but 'Sam' except
when there was a lot of major-generals and admirals around, so as to
preserve the discipline.

"And says Willie Robbins to me, in a sharp construction of voice much
unbecoming to his light hair and previous record:

"'You ought to be shot, Ben, for emitting any such sentiments. A man
that won't fight for his country is worse than a horse-thief. If I
was the cap, I'd put you in the guard-house for thirty days on round
steak and tamales. War,' says Willie, 'is great and glorious. I
didn't know you were a coward.'

"'I'm not,' says I. 'If I was, I'd knock some of the pallidness off
of your marble brow. I'm lenient with you,' I says, 'just as I am
with the Spaniards, because you have always reminded me of something
with mushrooms on the side. Why, you little Lady of Shalott,' says I,
'you underdone leader of cotillions, you glassy fashion and moulded
form, you white-pine soldier made in the Cisalpine Alps in Germany
for the late New-Year trade, do you know of whom you are talking
to? We've been in the same social circle,' says I, 'and I've put
up with you because you seemed so meek and self-un-satisfying. I
don't understand why you have so sudden taken a personal interest
in chivalrousness and murder. Your nature's undergone a complete
revelation. Now, how is it?'

"'Well, you wouldn't understand, Ben,' says Willie, giving one of his
refined smiles and turning away.

"'Come back here!' says I, catching him by the tail of his khaki coat.
'You've made me kind of mad, in spite of the aloofness in which I have
heretofore held you. You are out for making a success in this hero
business, and I believe I know what for. You are doing it either
because you are crazy or because you expect to catch some girl by it.
Now, if it's a girl, I've got something here to show you.'

"I wouldn't have done it, but I was plumb mad. I pulled a San
Augustine paper out of my hip-pocket, and showed him an item. It was
a half a column about the marriage of Myra Allison and Joe Granberry.

"Willie laughed, and I saw I hadn't touched him.

"'Oh,' says he, 'everybody knew that was going to happen. I heard
about that a week ago.' And then he gave me the laugh again.

"'All right,' says I. 'Then why do you so recklessly chase the bright
rainbow of fame? Do you expect to be elected President, or do you
belong to a suicide club?'

"And then Captain Sam interferes.

"'You gentlemen quit jawing and go back to your quarters,' says he,
'or I'll have you escorted to the guard-house. Now, scat, both of
you! Before you go, which one of you has got any chewing-tobacco?'

"'We're off, Sam,' says I. 'It's supper-time, anyhow. But what do
you think of what we was talking about? I've noticed you throwing out
a good many grappling-hooks for this here balloon called fame--What's
ambition, anyhow? What does a man risk his life day after day for?
Do you know of anything he gets in the end that can pay him for the
trouble? I want to go back home,' says I. 'I don't care whether Cuba
sinks or swims, and I don't give a pipeful of rabbit tobacco whether
Queen Sophia Christina or Charlie Culberson rules these fairy isles;
and I don't want my name on any list except the list of survivors.
But I've noticed you, Sam,' says I, 'seeking the bubble notoriety in
the cannon's larynx a number of times. Now, what do you do it for? Is
it ambition, business, or some freckle-faced Phoebe at home that you
are heroing for?'

"'Well, Ben,' says Sam, kind of hefting his sword out from between
his knees, 'as your superior officer I could court-martial you for
attempted cowardice and desertion. But I won't. And I'll tell you
why I'm trying for promotion and the usual honors of war and conquest.
A major gets more pay than a captain, and I need the money.'

"'Correct for you!' says I. 'I can understand that. Your system of
fame-seeking is rooted in the deepest soil of patriotism. But I can't
comprehend,' says I, 'why Willie Robbins, whose folks at home are well
off, and who used to be as meek and undesirous of notice as a cat with
cream on his whiskers, should all at once develop into a warrior bold
with the most fire-eating kind of proclivities. And the girl in his
case seems to have been eliminated by marriage to another fellow. I
reckon,' says I, 'it's a plain case of just common ambition. He wants
his name, maybe, to go thundering down the coroners of time. It must
be that.'

"Well, without itemizing his deeds, Willie sure made good as a hero.
He simply spent most of his time on his knees begging our captain to
send him on forlorn hopes and dangerous scouting expeditions. In
every fight he was the first man to mix it at close quarters with the
Don Alfonsos. He got three or four bullets planted in various parts
of his autonomy. Once he went off with a detail of eight men and
captured a whole company of Spanish. He kept Captain Floyd busy
writing out recommendations of his bravery to send in to headquarters;
and he began to accumulate medals for all kinds of things--heroism
and target-shooting and valor and tactics and uninsubordination, and
all the little accomplishments that look good to the third assistant
secretaries of the War Department.

"Finally, Cap Floyd got promoted to be a major-general, or a knight
commander of the main herd, or something like that. He pounded around
on a white horse, all desecrated up with gold-leaf and hen-feathers
and a Good Templar's hat, and wasn't allowed by the regulations to
speak to us. And Willie Robbins was made captain of our company.

"And maybe he didn't go after the wreath of fame then! As far as
I could see it was him that ended the war. He got eighteen of us
boys--friends of his, too--killed in battles that he stirred up
himself, and that didn't seem to me necessary at all. One night he took
twelve of us and waded through a little rill about a hundred and ninety
yards wide, and climbed a couple of mountains, and sneaked through a
mile of neglected shrubbery and a couple of rock-quarries and into a
rye-straw village, and captured a Spanish general named, as they said,
Benny Veedus. Benny seemed to me hardly worth the trouble, being a
blackish man without shoes or cuffs, and anxious to surrender and throw
himself on the commissary of his foe.

"But that job gave Willie the big boost he wanted. The San Augustine
_News_ and the Galveston, St. Louis, New York, and Kansas City papers
printed his picture and columns of stuff about him. Old San Augustine
simply went crazy over its 'gallant son.' The _News_ had an editorial
tearfully begging the Government to call off the regular army and
the national guard, and let Willie carry on the rest of the war
single-handed. It said that a refusal to do so would be regarded as a
proof that the Northern jealousy of the South was still as rampant as
ever.

"If the war hadn't ended pretty soon, I don't know to what heights of
gold braid and encomiums Willie would have climbed; but it did. There
was a secession of hostilities just three days after he was appointed
a colonel, and got in three more medals by registered mail, and shot
two Spaniards while they were drinking lemonade in an ambuscade.

"Our company went back to San Augustine when the war was over. There
wasn't anywhere else for it to go. And what do you think? The old
town notified us in print, by wire cable, special delivery, and a
nigger named Saul sent on a gray mule to San Antone, that they was
going to give us the biggest blow-out, complimentary, alimentary, and
elementary, that ever disturbed the kildees on the sand-flats outside
of the immediate contiguity of the city.

"I say 'we,' but it was all meant for ex-Private, Captain _de facto_,
and Colonel-elect Willie Robbins. The town was crazy about him. They
notified us that the reception they were going to put up would make
the Mardi Gras in New Orleans look like an afternoon tea in Bury St.
Edmunds with a curate's aunt.

"Well, the San Augustine Rifles got back home on schedule time.
Everybody was at the depot giving forth Roosevelt-Democrat--they
used to be called Rebel--yells. There was two brass-bands, and the
mayor, and schoolgirls in white frightening the street-car horses by
throwing Cherokee roses in the streets, and--well, maybe you've seen
a celebration by a town that was inland and out of water.

"They wanted Brevet-Colonel Willie to get into a carriage and be drawn
by prominent citizens and some of the city aldermen to the armory, but
he stuck to his company and marched at the head of it up Sam Houston
Avenue. The buildings on both sides was covered with flags and
audiences, and everybody hollered 'Robbins!' or 'Hello, Willie!' as
we marched up in files of fours. I never saw a illustriouser-looking
human in my life than Willie was. He had at least seven or eight
medals and diplomas and decorations on the breast of his khaki coat;
he was sunburnt the color of a saddle, and he certainly done himself
proud.

"They told us at the depot that the courthouse was to be illuminated
at half-past seven, and there would be speeches and chili-con-carne at
the Palace Hotel. Miss Delphine Thompson was to read an original poem
by James Whitcomb Ryan, and Constable Hooker had promised us a salute
of nine guns from Chicago that he had arrested that day.

"After we had disbanded in the armory, Willie says to me:

"'Want to walk out a piece with me?'

"'Why, yes,' says I, 'if it ain't so far that we can't hear the tumult
and the shouting die away. I'm hungry myself,' says I, 'and I'm
pining for some home grub, but I'll go with you.'

"Willie steered me down some side streets till we came to a little
white cottage in a new lot with a twenty-by-thirty-foot lawn decorated
with brickbats and old barrel-staves.

"'Halt and give the countersign,' says I to Willie. 'Don't you know
this dugout? It's the bird's-nest that Joe Granberry built before he
married Myra Allison. What you going there for?'

"But Willie already had the gate open. He walked up the brick walk to
the steps, and I went with him. Myra was sitting in a rocking-chair
on the porch, sewing. Her hair was smoothed back kind of hasty and
tied in a knot. I never noticed till then that she had freckles. Joe
was at one side of the porch, in his shirt-sleeves, with no collar
on, and no signs of a shave, trying to scrape out a hole among the
brickbats and tin cans to plant a little fruit-tree in. He looked up
but never said a word, and neither did Myra.

"Willie was sure dandy-looking in his uniform, with medals strung on
his breast and his new gold-handled sword. You'd never have taken him
for the little white-headed snipe that the girls used to order about
and make fun of. He just stood there for a minute, looking at Myra
with a peculiar little smile on his face; and then he says to her,
slow, and kind of holding on to his words with his teeth:

"'_Oh, I don't know! Maybe I could if I tried!_'

"That was all that was said. Willie raised his hat, and we walked
away.

"And, somehow, when he said that, I remembered, all of a sudden,
the night of that dance and Willie brushing his hair before the
looking-glass, and Myra sticking her head in the door to guy him.

"When we got back to Sam Houston Avenue, Willie says:

"'Well, so long, Ben. I'm going down home and get off my shoes and
take a rest.'

"'You?' says I. 'What's the matter with you? Ain't the court-house
jammed with everybody in town waiting to honor the hero? And two
brass-bands, and recitations and flags and jags and grub to follow
waiting for you?'

"Willie sighs.

"'All right, Ben,' says he. 'Darned if I didn't forget all about
that.'

"And that's why I say," concluded Ben Granger, "that you can't tell
where ambition begins any more than you can where it is going to wind
up."



THE HEAD-HUNTER


When the war between Spain and George Dewey was over, I went to the
Philippine Islands. There I remained as bush-whacker correspondent
for my paper until its managing editor notified me that an
eight-hundred-word cablegram describing the grief of a pet carabao
over the death of an infant Moro was not considered by the office to
be war news. So I resigned, and came home.

On board the trading-vessel that brought me back I pondered much
upon the strange things I had sensed in the weird archipelago of the
yellow-brown people. The manoeuvres and skirmishings of the petty war
interested me not: I was spellbound by the outlandish and unreadable
countenance of that race that had turned its expressionless gaze upon
us out of an unguessable past.

Particularly during my stay in Mindanao had I been fascinated and
attracted by that delightfully original tribe of heathen known as
the head-hunters. Those grim, flinty, relentless little men, never
seen, but chilling the warmest noonday by the subtle terror of their
concealed presence, paralleling the trail of their prey through
unmapped forests, across perilous mountain-tops, adown bottomless
chasms, into uninhabitable jungles, always near with the invisible
hand of death uplifted, betraying their pursuit only by such signs as
a beast or a bird or a gliding serpent might make--a twig crackling
in the awful, sweat-soaked night, a drench of dew showering from the
screening foliage of a giant tree, a whisper at even from the rushes
of a water-level--a hint of death for every mile and every hour--they
amused me greatly, those little fellows of one idea.

When you think of it, their method is beautifully and almost
hilariously effective and simple.

You have your hut in which you live and carry out the destiny that
was decreed for you. Spiked to the jamb of your bamboo doorway is a
basket made of green withes, plaited. From time to time, as vanity or
ennui or love or jealousy or ambition may move you, you creep forth
with your snickersnee and take up the silent trail. Back from it you
come, triumphant, bearing the severed, gory head of your victim, which
you deposit with pardonable pride in the basket at the side of your
door. It may be the head of your enemy, your friend, or a stranger,
according as competition, jealousy, or simple sportiveness has been
your incentive to labor.

In any case, your reward is certain. The village men, in passing,
stop to congratulate you, as your neighbor on weaker planes of life
stops to admire and praise the begonias in your front yard. Your
particular brown maid lingers, with fluttering bosom, casting soft
tiger's eyes at the evidence of your love for her. You chew betel-nut
and listen, content, to the intermittent soft drip from the ends of
the severed neck arteries. And you show your teeth and grunt like a
water-buffalo--which is as near as you can come to laughing--at the
thought that the cold, acephalous body of your door ornament is being
spotted by wheeling vultures in the Mindanaoan wilds.

Truly, the life of the merry head-hunter captivated me. He had
reduced art and philosophy to a simple code. To take your adversary's
head, to basket it at the portal of your castle, to see it lying
there, a dead thing, with its cunning and stratagems and power gone--
Is there a better way to foil his plots, to refute his arguments, to
establish your superiority over his skill and wisdom?

The ship that brought me home was captained by an erratic Swede, who
changed his course and deposited me, with genuine compassion, in
a small town on the Pacific coast of one of the Central American
republics, a few hundred miles south of the port to which he had
engaged to convey me. But I was wearied of movement and exotic
fancies; so I leaped contentedly upon the firm sands of the village of
Mojada, telling myself I should be sure to find there the rest that I
craved. After all, far better to linger there (I thought), lulled by
the sedative plash of the waves and the rustling of palm-fronds, than
to sit upon the horsehair sofa of my parental home in the East, and
there, cast down by currant wine and cake, and scourged by fatuous
relatives, drivel into the ears of gaping neighbors sad stories of the
death of colonial governors.



When I first saw Chloe Greene she was standing, all in white, in the
doorway of her father's tile-roofed 'dobe house. She was polishing
a silver cup with a cloth, and she looked like a pearl laid against
black velvet. She turned on me a flatteringly protracted but a
wiltingly disapproving gaze, and then went inside, humming a light
song to indicate the value she placed upon my existence.

Small wonder: for Dr. Stamford (the most disreputable professional
man between Juneau and Valparaiso) and I were zigzagging along the
turfy street, tunelessly singing the words of "Auld Lang Syne" to the
air of "Muzzer's Little Coal-Black Coon." We had come from the ice
factory, which was Mojada's palace of wickedness, where we had been
playing billiards and opening black bottles, white with frost, that
we dragged with strings out of old Sandoval's ice-cold vats.

I turned in sudden rage to Dr. Stamford, as sober as the verger of a
cathedral. In a moment I had become aware that we were swine cast
before a pearl.

"You beast," I said, "this is half your doing. And the other half
is the fault of this cursed country. I'd better have gone back to
Sleepy-town and died in a wild orgy of currant wine and buns than to
have had this happen."

Stamford filled the empty street with his roaring laughter.

"You too!" he cried. "And all as quick as the popping of a cork.
Well, she does seem to strike agreeably upon the retina. But don't
burn your fingers. All Mojada will tell you that Louis Devoe is the
man.

"We will see about that," said I. "And, perhaps, whether he is _a_
man as well as _the_ man."

I lost no time in meeting Louis Devoe. That was easily accomplished,
for the foreign colony in Mojada numbered scarce a dozen; and they
gathered daily at a half-decent hotel kept by a Turk, where they
managed to patch together the fluttering rags of country and
civilization that were left them. I sought Devoe before I did my
pearl of the doorway, because I had learned a little of the game of
war, and knew better than to strike for a prize before testing the
strength of the enemy.

A sort of cold dismay--something akin to fear--filled me when I had
estimated him. I found a man so perfectly poised, so charming, so
deeply learned in the world's rituals, so full of tact, courtesy, and
hospitality, so endowed with grace and ease and a kind of careless,
haughty power that I almost overstepped the bounds in probing him, in
turning him on the spit to find the weak point that I so craved for
him to have. But I left him whole--I had to make bitter acknowledgment
to myself that Louis Devoe was a gentleman worthy of my best blows;
and I swore to give him them. He was a great merchant of the country,
a wealthy importer and exporter. All day he sat in a fastidiously
appointed office, surrounded by works of art and evidences of his high
culture, directing through glass doors and windows the affairs of his
house.

In person he was slender and hardly tall. His small, well-shaped head
was covered with thick, brown hair, trimmed short, and he wore a
thick, brown beard also cut close and to a fine point. His manners
were a pattern.

Before long I had become a regular and a welcome visitor at the
Greene home. I shook my wild habits from me like a worn-out cloak.
I trained for the conflict with the care of a prize-fighter and the
self-denial of a Brahmin.

As for Chloe Greene, I shall weary you with no sonnets to her eyebrow.
She was a splendidly feminine girl, as wholesome as a November pippin,
and no more mysterious than a window-pane. She had whimsical little
theories that she had deduced from life, and that fitted the maxims
of Epictetus like princess gowns. I wonder, after all, if that old
duffer wasn't rather wise!

Chloe had a father, the Reverend Homer Greene, and an intermittent
mother, who sometimes palely presided over a twilight teapot. The
Reverend Homer was a burr-like man with a life-work. He was writing
a concordance to the Scriptures, and had arrived as far as Kings.
Being, presumably, a suitor for his daughter's hand, I was timber for
his literary outpourings. I had the family tree of Israel drilled
into my head until I used to cry aloud in my sleep: "And Aminadab
begat Jay Eye See," and so forth, until he had tackled another book.
I once made a calculation that the Reverend Homer's concordance would
be worked up as far as the Seven Vials mentioned in Revelations about
the third day after they were opened.

Louis Devoe, as well as I, was a visitor and an intimate friend of the
Greenes. It was there I met him the oftenest, and a more agreeable
man or a more accomplished I have never hated in my life.

Luckily or unfortunately, I came to be accepted as a Boy. My
appearance was youthful, and I suppose I had that pleading and
homeless air that always draws the motherliness that is in women and
the cursed theories and hobbies of paterfamilias.

Chloe called me "Tommy," and made sisterly fun of my attempts to
woo her. With Devoe she was vastly more reserved. He was the man of
romance, one to stir her imagination and deepest feelings had her
fancy leaned toward him. I was closer to her, but standing in no
glamour; I had the task before me of winning her in what seems to me
the American way of fighting--with cleanness and pluck and everyday
devotion to break away the barriers of friendship that divided us, and
to take her, if I could, between sunrise and dark, abetted by neither
moonlight nor music nor foreign wiles.

Chloe gave no sign of bestowing her blithe affections upon either of
us. But one day she let out to me an inkling of what she preferred
in a man. It was tremendously interesting to me, but not illuminating
as to its application. I had been tormenting her for the dozenth time
with the statement and catalogue of my sentiments toward her.

"Tommy," said she, "I don't want a man to show his love for me by
leading an army against another country and blowing people off the
earth with cannons."

"If you mean that the opposite way," I answered, "as they say women
do, I'll see what I can do. The papers are full of this diplomatic
row in Russia. My people know some big people in Washington who are
right next to the army people, and I could get an artillery commission
and--"

"I'm not that way," interrupted Chloe. "I mean what I say. It isn't
the big things that are done in the world, Tommy, that count with a
woman. When the knights were riding abroad in their armor to slay
dragons, many a stay-at-home page won a lonesome lady's hand by being
on the spot to pick up her glove and be quick with her cloak when the
wind blew. The man I am to like best, whoever he shall be, must show
his love in little ways. He must never forget, after hearing it once,
that I do not like to have any one walk at my left side; that I detest
bright-colored neckties; that I prefer to sit with my back to a light;
that I like candied violets; that I must not be talked to when I am
looking at the moonlight shining on water, and that I very, very often
long for dates stuffed with English walnuts."

"Frivolity," I said, with a frown. "Any well-trained servant would be
equal to such details."

"And he must remember," went on Chloe, to remind me of what I want
when I do not know, myself, what I want."

"You're rising in the scale," I said. "What you seem to need is a
first-class clairvoyant."

"And if I say that I am dying to hear a Beethoven sonata, and stamp my
foot when I say it, he must know by that that what my soul craves is
salted almonds; and he will have them ready in his pocket."

"Now," said I, "I am at a loss. I do not know whether your soul's
affinity is to be an impresario or a fancy grocer."

Chloe turned her pearly smile upon me.

"Take less than half of what I said as a jest," she went on. "And
don't think too lightly of the little things, Boy. Be a paladin if
you must, but don't let it show on you. Most women are only very big
children, and most men are only very little ones. Please us; don't
try to overpower us. When we want a hero we can make one out of even
a plain grocer the third time he catches our handkerchief before it
falls to the ground."

That evening I was taken down with pernicious fever. That is a kind
of coast fever with improvements and high-geared attachments. Your
temperature goes up among the threes and fours and remains there,
laughing scornfully and feverishly at the cinchona trees and the
coal-tar derivatives. Pernicious fever is a case for a simple
mathematician instead of a doctor. It is merely this formula:
Vitality + the desire to live - the duration of the fever = the
result.

I took to my bed in the two-roomed thatched hut where I had been
comfortably established, and sent for a gallon of rum. That was not
for myself. Drunk, Stamford was the best doctor between the Andes
and the Pacific. He came, sat at my bedside, and drank himself into
condition.

"My boy," said he, "my lily-white and reformed Romeo, medicine will do
you no good. But I will give you quinine, which, being bitter, will
arouse in you hatred and anger--two stimulants that will add ten per
cent. to your chances. You are as strong as a caribou calf, and you
will get well if the fever doesn't get in a knockout blow when you're
off your guard."

For two weeks I lay on my back feeling like a Hindoo widow on a
burning ghat. Old Atasca, an untrained Indian nurse, sat near the
door like a petrified statue of What's-the-Use, attending to her
duties, which were, mainly, to see that time went by without slipping
a cog. Sometimes I would fancy myself back in the Philippines, or, at
worse times, sliding off the horsehair sofa in Sleepytown.

One afternoon I ordered Atasca to vamose, and got up and dressed
carefully. I took my temperature, which I was pleased to find 104.
I paid almost dainty attention to my dress, choosing solicitously
a necktie of a dull and subdued hue. The mirror showed that I was
looking little the worse from my illness. The fever gave brightness
to my eyes and color to my face. And while I looked at my reflection
my color went and came again as I thought of Chloe Greene and the
millions of eons that had passed since I'd seen her, and of Louis
Devoe and the time he had gained on me.

I went straight to her house. I seemed to float rather than walk; I
hardly felt the ground under my feet; I thought pernicious fever must
be a great boon to make one feel so strong.

I found Chloe and Louis Devoe sitting under the awning in front of the
house. She jumped up and met me with a double handshake.

"I'm glad, glad, glad to see you out again!" she cried, every word a
pearl strung on the string of her sentence. "You are well, Tommy--or
better, of course. I wanted to come to see you, but they wouldn't let
me."

"Oh yes," said I, carelessly, "it was nothing. Merely a little fever.
I am out again, as you see."

We three sat there and talked for half an hour or so. Then Chloe
looked out yearningly and almost piteously across the ocean. I could
see in her sea-blue eyes some deep and intense desire. Devoe, curse
him! saw it too.

"What is it?" we asked, in unison.

"Cocoanut-pudding," said Chloe, pathetically. "I've wanted some--oh,
so badly, for two days. It's got beyond a wish; it's an obsession."

"The cocoanut season is over," said Devoe, in that voice of his that
gave thrilling interest to his most commonplace words. "I hardly
think one could be found in Mojada. The natives never use them except
when they are green and the milk is fresh. They sell all the ripe
ones to the fruiterers."

"Wouldn't a broiled lobster or a Welsh rabbit do as well?" I remarked,
with the engaging idiocy of a pernicious-fever convalescent.

Chloe came as near to pouting as a sweet disposition and a perfect
profile would allow her to come.

The Reverend Homer poked his ermine-lined face through the doorway and
added a concordance to the conversation.

"Sometimes," said he, "old Campos keeps the dried nuts in his little
store on the hill. But it would be far better, my daughter, to
restrain unusual desires, and partake thankfully of the daily dishes
that the Lord has set before us."

"Stuff!" said I.

"How was that?" asked the Reverend Homer, sharply.

"I say it's tough," said I, "to drop into the vernacular, that Miss
Greene should be deprived of the food she desires--a simple thing like
kalsomine-pudding. Perhaps," I continued, solicitously, "some pickled
walnuts or a fricassee of Hungarian butternuts would do as well."

Every one looked at me with a slight exhibition of curiosity.

Louis Devoe arose and made his adieus. I watched him until he had
sauntered slowly and grandiosely to the corner, around which he turned
to reach his great warehouse and store. Chloe made her excuses, and
went inside for a few minutes to attend to some detail affecting the
seven-o'clock dinner. She was a passed mistress in housekeeping. I
had tasted her puddings and bread with beatitude.

When all had gone, I turned casually and saw a basket made of
plaited green withes hanging by a nail outside the door-jamb. With
a rush that made my hot temples throb there came vividly to my mind
recollections of the head-hunters--_those grim, flinty, relentless
little men, never seen, but chilling the warmest noonday by the
subtle terror of their concealed presence . . . From time to time,
as vanity or ennui or love or jealousy or ambition may move him,
one creeps forth with his snickersnee and takes up the silent
trail . . . Back he comes, triumphant, bearing the severed, gory head
of his victim . . . His particular brown or white maid lingers, with
fluttering bosom, casting soft tiger's eyes at the evidence of his
love for her_.

I stole softly from the house and returned to my hut. From its
supporting nails in the wall I took a machete as heavy as a butcher's
cleaver and sharper than a safety-razor. And then I chuckled softly
to myself, and set out to the fastidiously appointed private office of
Monsieur Louis Devoe, usurper to the hand of the Pearl of the Pacific.

He was never slow at thinking; he gave one look at my face and another
at the weapon in my hand as I entered his door, and then he seemed
to fade from my sight. I ran to the back door, kicked it open, and
saw him running like a deer up the road toward the wood that began
two hundred yards away. I was after him, with a shout. I remember
hearing children and women screaming, and seeing them flying from the
road.

He was fleet, but I was stronger. A mile, and I had almost come up
with him. He doubled cunningly and dashed into a brake that extended
into a small cañon. I crashed through this after him, and in five
minutes had him cornered in an angle of insurmountable cliffs. There
his instinct of self-preservation steadied him, as it will steady even
animals at bay. He turned to me, quite calm, with a ghastly smile.

"Oh, Rayburn!" he said, with such an awful effort at ease that I was
impolite enough to laugh rudely in his face. "Oh, Rayburn!" said he,
"come, let's have done with this nonsense. Of course, I know it's the
fever and you're not yourself; but collect yourself, man--give me that
ridiculous weapon, now, and let's go back and talk it over."

"I will go back," said I, "carrying your head with me. We will see
how charmingly it can discourse when it lies in the basket at her
door."

"Come," said he, persuasively, "I think better of you than to suppose
that you try this sort of thing as a joke. But even the vagaries of
a fever-crazed lunatic come some time to a limit. What is this talk
about heads and baskets? Get yourself together and throw away that
absurd cane-chopper. What would Miss Greene think of you?" he ended,
with the silky cajolery that one would use toward a fretful child.

"Listen," said I. "At last you have struck upon the right note. What
would she think of me? Listen," I repeated.

"There are women," I said, "who look upon horsehair sofas and currant
wine as dross. To them even the calculated modulation of your
well-trimmed talk sounds like the dropping of rotten plums from a tree
in the night. They are the maidens who walk back and forth in the
villages, scorning the emptiness of the baskets at the doors of the
young men who would win them.

"One such as they," I said, "is waiting. Only a fool would try to win
a woman by drooling like a braggart in her doorway or by waiting upon
her whims like a footman. They are all daughters of Herodias, and to
gain their hearts one must lay the heads of his enemies before them
with his own hands. Now, bend your neck, Louis Devoe. Do not be a
coward as well as a chatterer at a lady's tea-table."

"There, there!" said Devoe, falteringly. "You know me, don't you,
Rayburn?"

"Oh yes," I said, "I know you. I know you. I know you. But the
basket is empty. The old men of the village and the young men, and
both the dark maidens and the ones who are as fair as pearls walk back
and forth and see its emptiness. Will you kneel now, or must we have
a scuffle? It is not like you to make things go roughly and with bad
form. But the basket is waiting for your head."

With that he went to pieces. I had to catch him as he tried to
scamper past me like a scared rabbit. I stretched him out and got a
foot on his chest, but he squirmed like a worm, although I appealed
repeatedly to his sense of propriety and the duty he owed to himself
as a gentleman not to make a row.

But at last he gave me the chance, and I swung the machete.

It was not hard work. He flopped like a chicken during the six or
seven blows that it took to sever his head; but finally he lay still,
and I tied his head in my handkerchief. The eyes opened and shut
thrice while I walked a hundred yards. I was red to my feet with the
drip, but what did that matter? With delight I felt under my hands
the crisp touch of his short, thick, brown hair and close-trimmed
beard.

I reached the house of the Greenes and dumped the head of Louis Devoe
into the basket that still hung by the nail in the door-jamb. I sat
in a chair under the awning and waited. The sun was within two hours
of setting. Chloe came out and looked surprised.

"Where have you been, Tommy?" she asked. "You were gone when I came
out."

"Look in the basket," I said, rising to my feet. She looked, and gave
a little scream--of delight, I was pleased to note.

"Oh, Tommy!" she said. "It was just what I wanted you to do. It's
leaking a little, but that doesn't matter. Wasn't I telling you?
It's the little things that count. And you remembered."

Little things! She held the ensanguined head of Louis Devoe in her
white apron. Tiny streams of red widened on her apron and dripped
upon the floor. Her face was bright and tender.

"Little things, indeed!" I thought again. "The head-hunters are
right. These are the things that women like you to do for them."

Chloe came close to me. There was no one in sight. She looked tip at
me with sea-blue eyes that said things they had never said before.

"You think of me," she said. "You are the man I was describing. You
think of the little things, and they are what make the world worth
living in. The man for me must consider my little wishes, and make me
happy in small ways. He must bring me little red peaches in December
if I wish for them, and then I will love him till June. I will have
no knight in armor slaying his rival or killing dragons for me. You
please me very well, Tommy."

I stooped and kissed her. Then a moisture broke out on my forehead,
and I began to feel weak. I saw the red stains vanish from Chloe's
apron, and the head of Louis Devoe turn to a brown, dried cocoanut.

"There will be cocoanut-pudding for dinner, Tommy, boy," said Chloe,
gayly, "and you must come. I must go in for a little while."

She vanished in a delightful flutter.

Dr. Stamford tramped up hurriedly. He seized my pulse as though it
were his own property that I had escaped with.

"You are the biggest fool outside of any asylum!" he said, angrily.
"Why did you leave your bed? And the idiotic things you've been
doing!--and no wonder, with your pulse going like a sledge-hammer."

"Name some of them," said I.

"Devoe sent for me," said Stamford. "He saw you from his window go to
old Campos' store, chase him up the hill with his own yardstick, and
then come back and make off with his biggest cocoanut."

"It's the little things that count, after all," said I.

"It's your little bed that counts with you just now," said the doctor.
"You come with me at once, or I'll throw up the case. 'You're as
loony as a loon."

So I got no cocoanut-pudding that evening, but I conceived a distrust
as to the value of the method of the head-hunters. Perhaps for many
centuries the maidens of the villages may have been looking wistfully
at the heads in the baskets at the doorways, longing for other and
lesser trophies.



NO STORY


To avoid having this book hurled into corner of the room by the
suspicious reader, I will assert in time that this is not a newspaper
story. You will encounter no shirt-sleeved, omniscient city editor,
no prodigy "cub" reporter just off the farm, no scoop, no story--no
anything.

But if you will concede me the setting of the first scene in the
reporters' room of the _Morning Beacon_, I will repay the favor by
keeping strictly my promises set forth above.

I was doing space-work on the _Beacon_, hoping to be put on a salary.
Some one had cleared with a rake or a shovel a small space for me at
the end of a long table piled high with exchanges, _Congressional
Records_, and old files. There I did my work. I wrote whatever the
city whispered or roared or chuckled to me on my diligent wanderings
about its streets. My income was not regular.

One day Tripp came in and leaned on my table. Tripp was something in
the mechanical department--I think he had something to do with the
pictures, for he smelled of photographers' supplies, and his hands
were always stained and cut up with acids. He was about twenty-five
and looked forty. Half of his face was covered with short, curly red
whiskers that looked like a door-mat with the "welcome" left off. He
was pale and unhealthy and miserable and fawning, and an assiduous
borrower of sums ranging from twenty-five cents to a dollar. One
dollar was his limit. He knew the extent of his credit as well as the
Chemical National Bank knows the amount of H2O that collateral will
show on analysis. When he sat on my table he held one hand with the
other to keep both from shaking. Whiskey. He had a spurious air of
lightness and bravado about him that deceived no one, but was useful
in his borrowing because it was so pitifully and perceptibly assumed.

This day I had coaxed from the cashier five shining silver dollars as
a grumbling advance on a story that the Sunday editor had reluctantly
accepted. So if I was not feeling at peace with the world, at least
an armistice had been declared; and I was beginning with ardor to
write a description of the Brooklyn Bridge by moonlight.

"Well, Tripp," said I, looking up at him rather impatiently, "how goes
it?" He was looking to-day more miserable, more cringing and haggard
and downtrodden than I had ever seen him. He was at that stage of
misery where he drew your pity so fully that you longed to kick him.

"Have you got a dollar?" asked Tripp, with his most fawning look
and his dog-like eyes that blinked in the narrow space between his
high-growing matted beard and his low-growing matted hair.

"I have," said I; and again I said, "I have," more loudly and
inhospitably, "and four besides. And I had hard work corkscrewing
them out of old Atkinson, I can tell you. And I drew them," I
continued, "to meet a want--a hiatus--a demand--a need--an exigency--a
requirement of exactly five dollars."

I was driven to emphasis by the premonition that I was to lose one of
the dollars on the spot.

"I don't want to borrow any," said Tripp, and I breathed again. "I
thought you'd like to get put onto a good story," he went on. "I've
got a rattling fine one for you. You ought to make it run a column
at least. It'll make a dandy if you work it up right. It'll probably
cost you a dollar or two to get the stuff. I don't want anything out
of it myself."

I became placated. The proposition showed that Tripp appreciated past
favors, although he did not return them. If he had been wise enough
to strike me for a quarter then he would have got it.

"What is the story?" I asked, poising my pencil with a finely
calculated editorial air.

"I'll tell you," said Tripp. "It's a girl. A beauty. One of the
howlingest Amsden's Junes you ever saw. Rosebuds covered with dew--
violets in their mossy bed--and truck like that. She's lived on Long
Island twenty years and never saw New York City before. I ran against
her on Thirty-fourth Street. She'd just got in on the East River
ferry. I tell you, she's a beauty that would take the hydrogen out
of all the peroxides in the world. She stopped me on the street and
asked me where she could find George Brown. Asked me where she could
find _George Brown in New York City!_ What do you think of that?

"I talked to her, and found that she was going to marry a young
farmer named Dodd--Hiram Dodd--next week. But it seems that George
Brown still holds the championship in her youthful fancy. George had
greased his cowhide boots some years ago, and came to the city to make
his fortune. But he forgot to remember to show up again at Greenburg,
and Hiram got in as second-best choice. But when it comes to the
scratch Ada--her name's Ada Lowery--saddles a nag and rides eight
miles to the railroad station and catches the 6.45 A.M. train for
the city. Looking for George, you know--you understand about women--
George wasn't there, so she wanted him.

"Well, you know, I couldn't leave her loose in Wolftown-on-the-Hudson.
I suppose she thought the first person she inquired of would say:
'George Brown?--why, yes--lemme see--he's a short man with light-blue
eyes, ain't he? Oh yes--you'll find George on One Hundred and
Twenty-fifth Street, right next to the grocery. He's bill-clerk in
a saddle-and-harness store.' That's about how innocent and beautiful
she is. You know those little Long Island water-front villages like
Greenburg--a couple of duck-farms for sport, and clams and about nine
summer visitors for industries. That's the kind of a place she comes
from. But, say--you ought to see her!

"What could I do? I don't know what money looks like in the morning.
And she'd paid her last cent of pocket-money for her railroad ticket
except a quarter, which she had squandered on gum-drops. She was
eating them out of a paper bag. I took her to a boarding-house on
Thirty-second Street where I used to live, and hocked her. She's in
soak for a dollar. That's old Mother McGinnis' price per day. I'll
show you the house."

"What words are these, Tripp?" said I. "I thought you said you had a
story. Every ferryboat that crosses the East River brings or takes
away girls from Long Island."

The premature lines on Tripp's face grew deeper. He frowned seriously
from his tangle of hair. He separated his hands and emphasized his
answer with one shaking forefinger.

"Can't you see," he said, "what a rattling fine story it would make?
You could do it fine. All about the romance, you know, and describe
the girl, and put a lot of stuff in it about true love, and sling
in a few stickfuls of funny business--joshing the Long Islanders
about being green, and, well--you know how to do it. You ought to
get fifteen dollars out of it, anyhow. And it'll cost you only about
four dollars. You'll make a clear profit of eleven."

"How will it cost me four dollars?" I asked, suspiciously.

"One dollar to Mrs. McGinnis," Tripp answered, promptly, "and two
dollars to pay the girl's fare back home."

"And the fourth dimension?" I inquired, making a rapid mental
calculation.

"One dollar to me," said Tripp. "For whiskey. Are you on?"

I smiled enigmatically and spread my elbows as if to begin writing
again. But this grim, abject, specious, subservient, burr-like wreck
of a man would not be shaken off. His forehead suddenly became
shiningly moist.

"Don't you see," he said, with a sort of desperate calmness, "that
this girl has got to be sent home to-day--not to-night nor to-morrow,
but to-day? I can't do anything for her. You know, I'm the janitor
and corresponding secretary of the Down-and-Out Club. I thought you
could make a newspaper story out of it and win out a piece of money
on general results. But, anyhow, don't you see that she's got to get
back home before night?"

And then I began to feel that dull, leaden, soul-depressing sensation
known as the sense of duty. Why should that sense fall upon one as a
weight and a burden? I knew that I was doomed that day to give up the
bulk of my store of hard-wrung coin to the relief of this Ada Lowery.
But I swore to myself that Tripp's whiskey dollar would not be
forthcoming. He might play knight-errant at my expense, but he would
indulge in no wassail afterward, commemorating my weakness and
gullibility. In a kind of chilly anger I put on my coat and hat.

Tripp, submissive, cringing, vainly endeavoring to please, conducted
me via the street-cars to the human pawn-shop of Mother McGinnis. I
paid the fares. It seemed that the collodion-scented Don Quixote and
the smallest minted coin were strangers.

Tripp pulled the bell at the door of the mouldy red-brick
boarding-house. At its faint tinkle he paled, and crouched as a
rabbit makes ready to spring away at the sound of a hunting-dog.
I guessed what a life he had led, terror-haunted by the coming
footsteps of landladies.

"Give me one of the dollars--quick!" he said.

The door opened six inches. Mother McGinnis stood there with white
eyes--they were white, I say--and a yellow face, holding together at
her throat with one hand a dingy pink flannel dressing-sack. Tripp
thrust the dollar through the space without a word, and it bought us
entry.

"She's in the parlor," said the McGinnis, turning the back of her sack
upon us.

In the dim parlor a girl sat at the cracked marble centre-table
weeping comfortably and eating gum-drops. She was a flawless beauty.
Crying had only made her brilliant eyes brighter. When she crunched
a gum-drop you thought only of the poetry of motion and envied the
senseless confection. Eve at the age of five minutes must have been
a ringer for Miss Ada Lowery at nineteen or twenty. I was introduced,
and a gum-drop suffered neglect while she conveyed to me a naïve
interest, such as a puppy dog (a prize winner) might bestow upon a
crawling beetle or a frog.

Tripp took his stand by the table, with the fingers of one hand spread
upon it, as an attorney or a master of ceremonies might have stood.
But he looked the master of nothing. His faded coat was buttoned
high, as if it sought to be charitable to deficiencies of tie and
linen.

I thought of a Scotch terrier at the sight of his shifty eyes in the
glade between his tangled hair and beard. For one ignoble moment I
felt ashamed of having been introduced as his friend in the presence
of so much beauty in distress. But evidently Tripp meant to conduct
the ceremonies, whatever they might be. I thought I detected in his
actions and pose an intention of foisting the situation upon me as
material for a newspaper story, in a lingering hope of extracting from
me his whiskey dollar.

"My friend" (I shuddered), "Mr. Chalmers," said Tripp, "will tell
you, Miss Lowery, the same that I did. He's a reporter, and he can
hand out the talk better than I can. That's why I brought him with
me." (O Tripp, wasn't it the _silver_-tongued orator you wanted?)
"He's wise to a lot of things, and he'll tell you now what's best
to do."

I stood on one foot, as it were, as I sat in my rickety chair.

"Why--er--Miss Lowery," I began, secretly enraged at Tripp's awkward
opening, "I am at your service, of course, but--er--as I haven't been
apprized of the circumstances of the case, I--er--"

"Oh," said Miss Lowery, beaming for a moment, "it ain't as bad as
that--there ain't any circumstances. It's the first time I've ever
been in New York except once when I was five years old, and I had no
idea it was such a big town. And I met Mr.--Mr. Snip on the street
and asked him about a friend of mine, and he brought me here and asked
me to wait."

"I advise you, Miss Lowery," said Tripp, "to tell Mr. Chalmers all.
He's a friend of mine" (I was getting used to it by this time), "and
he'll give you the right tip."

"Why, certainly," said Miss Ada, chewing a gum-drop toward me. "There
ain't anything to tell except that--well, everything's fixed for me to
marry Hiram Dodd next Thursday evening. Hi has got two hundred acres
of land with a lot of shore-front, and one of the best truck-farms on
the Island. But this morning I had my horse saddled up--he's a white
horse named Dancer--and I rode over to the station. I told 'em at
home I was going to spend the day with Susie Adams. It was a story,
I guess, but I don't care. And I came to New York on the train, and
I met Mr.--Mr. Flip on the street and asked him if he knew where I
could find G--G--"

"Now, Miss Lowery," broke in Tripp, loudly, and with much bad taste,
I thought, as she hesitated with her word, "you like this young man,
Hiram Dodd, don't you? He's all right, and good to you, ain't he?"

"Of course I like him," said Miss Lowery emphatically. "Hi's all
right. And of course he's good to me. So is everybody."

I could have sworn it myself. Throughout Miss Ada Lowery's life all
men would be to good to her. They would strive, contrive, struggle,
and compete to hold umbrellas over her hat, check her trunk, pick up
her handkerchief, and buy for her soda at the fountain.

"But," went on Miss Lowery, "last night I got to thinking about
G--George, and I--"

Down went the bright gold head upon dimpled, clasped hands on the
table. Such a beautiful April storm! Unrestrainedly she sobbed. I
wished I could have comforted her. But I was not George. And I was
glad I was not Hiram--and yet I was sorry, too.

By-and-by the shower passed. She straightened up, brave and half-way
smiling. She would have made a splendid wife, for crying only made
her eyes more bright and tender. She took a gum-drop and began her
story.

"I guess I'm a terrible hayseed," she said between her little gulps
and sighs, "but I can't help it. G--George Brown and I were sweethearts
since he was eight and I was five. When he was nineteen--that was
four years ago--he left Greenburg and went to the city. He said he was
going to be a policeman or a railroad president or something. And then
he was coming back for me. But I never heard from him any more. And
I--I--liked him."

Another flow of tears seemed imminent, but Tripp hurled himself into
the crevasse and dammed it. Confound him, I could see his game. He
was trying to make a story of it for his sordid ends and profit.

"Go on, Mr. Chalmers," said he, "and tell the lady what's the proper
caper. That's what I told her--you'd hand it to her straight. Spiel
up."

I coughed, and tried to feel less wrathful toward Tripp. I saw my
duty. Cunningly I had been inveigled, but I was securely trapped.
Tripp's first dictum to me had been just and correct. The young lady
must be sent back to Greenburg that day. She must be argued with,
convinced, assured, instructed, ticketed, and returned without delay.
I hated Hiram and despised George; but duty must be done. _Noblesse
oblige_ and only five silver dollars are not strictly romantic
compatibles, but sometimes they can be made to jibe. It was mine to
be Sir Oracle, and then pay the freight. So I assumed an air that
mingled Solomon's with that of the general passenger agent of the
Long Island Railroad.

"Miss Lowery," said I, as impressively as I could, "life is rather a
queer proposition, after all." There was a familiar sound to these
words after I had spoken them, and I hoped Miss Lowery had never
heard Mr. Cohan's song. "Those whom we first love we seldom wed. Our
earlier romances, tinged with the magic radiance of youth, often fail
to materialize." The last three words sounded somewhat trite when
they struck the air. "But those fondly cherished dreams," I went
on, "may cast a pleasant afterglow on our future lives, however
impracticable and vague they may have been. But life is full of
realities as well as visions and dreams. One cannot live on memories.
May I ask, Miss Lowery, if you think you could pass a happy--that is,
a contented and harmonious life with Mr.--er--Dodd--if in other ways
than romantic recollections he seems to--er--fill the bill, as I might
say?"

"Oh, Hi's all right," answered Miss Lowery. "Yes, I could get along
with him fine. He's promised me an automobile and a motor-boat. But
somehow, when it got so close to the time I was to marry him, I
couldn't help wishing--well, just thinking about George. Something
must have happened to him or he'd have written. On the day he left,
he and me got a hammer and a chisel and cut a dime into two pieces. I
took one piece and he took the other, and we promised to be true to
each other and always keep the pieces till we saw each other again.
I've got mine at home now in a ring-box in the top drawer of my
dresser. I guess I was silly to come up here looking for him. I
never realized what a big place it is."

And then Tripp joined in with a little grating laugh that he had,
still trying to drag in a little story or drama to earn the miserable
dollar that he craved.

"Oh, the boys from the country forget a lot when they come to the city
and learn something. I guess George, maybe, is on the bum, or got
roped in by some other girl, or maybe gone to the dogs on account of
whiskey or the races. You listen to Mr. Chalmers and go back home,
and you'll be all right."

But now the time was come for action, for the hands of the clock
were moving close to noon. Frowning upon Tripp, I argued gently and
philosophically with Miss Lowery, delicately convincing her of the
importance of returning home at once. And I impressed upon her
the truth that it would not be absolutely necessary to her future
happiness that she mention to Hi the wonders or the fact of her visit
to the city that had swallowed up the unlucky George.

She said she had left her horse (unfortunate Rosinante) tied to a tree
near the railroad station. Tripp and I gave her instructions to mount
the patient steed as soon as she arrived and ride home as fast as
possible. There she was to recount the exciting adventure of a day
spent with Susie Adams. She could "fix" Susie--I was sure of that--
and all would be well.

And then, being susceptible to the barbed arrows of beauty, I warmed
to the adventure. The three of us hurried to the ferry, and there I
found the price of a ticket to Greenburg to be but a dollar and eighty
cents. I bought one, and a red, red rose with the twenty cents for
Miss Lowery. We saw her aboard her ferryboat, and stood watching her
wave her handkerchief at us until it was the tiniest white patch
imaginable. And then Tripp and I faced each other, brought back to
earth, left dry and desolate in the shade of the sombre verities of
life.

The spell wrought by beauty and romance was dwindling. I looked at
Tripp and almost sneered. He looked more careworn, contemptible, and
disreputable than ever. I fingered the two silver dollars remaining
in my pocket and looked at him with the half-closed eyelids of
contempt. He mustered up an imitation of resistance.

"Can't you get a story out of it?" he asked, huskily. "Some sort of
a story, even if you have to fake part of it?"

"Not a line," said I. "I can fancy the look on Grimes' face if I
should try to put over any slush like this. But we've helped the
little lady out, and that'll have to be our only reward."

"I'm sorry," said Tripp, almost inaudibly. "I'm sorry you're out your
money. Now, it seemed to me like a find of a big story, you know--
that is, a sort of thing that would write up pretty well."

"Let's try to forget it," said I, with a praiseworthy attempt at
gayety, "and take the next car 'cross town."

I steeled myself against his unexpressed but palpable desire. He
should not coax, cajole, or wring from me the dollar he craved. I had
had enough of that wild-goose chase.

Tripp feebly unbuttoned his coat of the faded pattern and glossy seams
to reach for something that had once been a handkerchief deep down in
some obscure and cavernous pocket. As he did so I caught the shine
of a cheap silver-plated watch-chain across his vest, and something
dangling from it caused me to stretch forth my hand and seize it
curiously. It was the half of a silver dime that had been cut in
halves with a chisel.

"What!" I said, looking at him keenly.

"Oh yes," he responded, dully. "George Brown, alias Tripp. What's
the use?"

Barring the W. C. T. U., I'd like to know if anybody disapproves of
my having produced promptly from my pocket Tripp's whiskey dollar and
unhesitatingly laying it in his hand.



THE HIGHER PRAGMATISM


I


Where to go for wisdom has become a question of serious import.
The ancients are discredited; Plato is boiler-plate; Aristotle is
tottering; Marcus Aurelius is reeling; Æsop has been copyrighted by
Indiana; Solomon is too solemn; you couldn't get anything out of
Epictetus with a pick.

The ant, which for many years served as a model of intelligence and
industry in the school-readers, has been proven to be a doddering
idiot and a waster of time and effort. The owl to-day is hooted at.
Chautauqua conventions have abandoned culture and adopted diabolo.
Graybeards give glowing testimonials to the venders of patent
hair-restorers. There are typographical errors in the almanacs
published by the daily newspapers. College professors have become--

But there shall be no personalities.

To sit in classes, to delve into the encyclopedia or the
past-performances page, will not make us wise. As the poet says,
"Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers." Wisdom is dew, which, while
we know it not, soaks into us, refreshes us, and makes us grow.
Knowledge is a strong stream of water turned on us through a hose.
It disturbs our roots.

Then, let us rather gather wisdom. But how to do so requires
knowledge. If we know a thing, we know it; but very often we are not
wise to it that we are wise, and--

But let's go on with the story.


II


Once upon a time I found a ten-cent magazine lying on a bench in a
little city park. Anyhow, that was the amount he asked me for when
I sat on the bench next to him. He was a musty, dingy, and tattered
magazine, with some queer stories bound in him, I was sure. He turned
out to be a scrap-book.

"I am a newspaper reporter," I said to him, to try him. "I have been
detailed to write up some of the experiences of the unfortunate ones
who spend their evenings in this park. May I ask you to what you
attribute your downfall in--"

I was interrupted by a laugh from my purchase--a laugh so rusty and
unpractised that I was sure it had been his first for many a day.

"Oh, no, no," said he. "You ain't a reporter. Reporters don't talk
that way. They pretend to be one of us, and say they've just got in
on the blind baggage from St. Louis. I can tell a reporter on sight.
Us park bums get to be fine judges of human nature. We sit here all
day and watch the people go by. I can size up anybody who walks past
my bench in a way that would surprise you."

"Well," I said, "go on and tell me. How do you size me up?"

"I should say," said the student of human nature with unpardonable
hesitation, "that you was, say, in the contracting business--or maybe
worked in a store--or was a sign-painter. You stopped in the park to
finish your cigar, and thought you'd get a little free monologue out
of me. Still, you might be a plasterer or a lawyer--it's getting kind
of dark, you see. And your wife won't let you smoke at home."

I frowned gloomily.

"But, judging again," went on the reader of men, "I'd say you ain't
got a wife."

"No," said I, rising restlessly. "No, no, no, I ain't. But I _will_
have, by the arrows of Cupid! That is, if--"

My voice must have trailed away and muffled itself in uncertainty and
despair.

"I see you have a story yourself," said the dusty vagrant--impudently,
it seemed to me. "Suppose you take your dime back and spin your yarn
for me. I'm interested myself in the ups and downs of unfortunate
ones who spend their evenings in the park."

Somehow, that amused me. I looked at the frowsy derelict with more
interest. I did have a story. Why not tell it to him? I had told
none of my friends. I had always been a reserved and bottled-up man.
It was psychical timidity or sensitiveness--perhaps both. And I smiled
to myself in wonder when I felt an impulse to confide in this stranger
and vagabond.

"Jack," said I.

"Mack," said he.

"Mack," said I, "I'll tell you."

"Do you want the dime back in advance?" said he.

I handed him a dollar.

"The dime," said I, "was the price of listening to _your_ story."

"Right on the point of the jaw," said he. "Go on."

And then, incredible as it may seem to the lovers in the world who
confide their sorrows only to the night wind and the gibbous moon, I
laid bare my secret to that wreck of all things that you would have
supposed to be in sympathy with love.

I told him of the days and weeks and months that I had spent in
adoring Mildred Telfair. I spoke of my despair, my grievous days
and wakeful nights, my dwindling hopes and distress of mind. I even
pictured to this night-prowler her beauty and dignity, the great sway
she had in society, and the magnificence of her life as the elder
daughter of an ancient race whose pride overbalanced the dollars of
the city's millionaires.

"Why don't you cop the lady out?" asked Mack, bringing me down to
earth and dialect again.

I explained to him that my worth was so small, my income so minute,
and my fears so large that I hadn't the courage to speak to her of
my worship. I told him that in her presence I could only blush and
stammer, and that she looked upon me with a wonderful, maddening smile
of amusement.

"She kind of moves in the professional class, don't she?" asked Mack.

"The Telfair family--" I began, haughtily.

"I mean professional beauty," said my hearer.

"She is greatly and widely admired," I answered, cautiously.

"Any sisters?"

"One."

"You know any more girls?"

"Why, several," I answered. "And a few others."

"Say," said Mack, "tell me one thing--can you hand out the dope
to other girls? Can you chin 'em and make matinée eyes at 'em and
squeeze 'em? You know what I mean. You're just shy when it comes to
this particular dame--the professional beauty--ain't that right?"

"In a way you have outlined the situation with approximate truth," I
admitted.

"I thought so," said Mack, grimly. "Now, that reminds me of my own
case. I'll tell you about it."

I was indignant, but concealed it. What was this loafer's case or
anybody's case compared with mine? Besides, I had given him a dollar
and ten cents.

"Feel my muscle," said my companion, suddenly, flexing his biceps. I
did so mechanically. The fellows in gyms are always asking you to do
that. His arm was as hard as cast-iron.

"Four years ago," said Mack, "I could lick any man in New York outside
of the professional ring. Your case and mine is just the same. I come
from the West Side--between Thirtieth and Fourteenth--I won't give the
number on the door. I was a scrapper when I was ten, and when I was
twenty no amateur in the city could stand up four rounds with me. 'S
a fact. You know Bill McCarty? No? He managed the smokers for some
of them swell clubs. Well, I knocked out everything Bill brought up
before me. I was a middle-weight, but could train down to a welter
when necessary. I boxed all over the West Side at bouts and benefits
and private entertainments, and was never put out once.

"But, say, the first time I put my foot in the ring with a professional
I was no more than a canned lobster. I dunno how it was--I seemed to
lose heart. I guess I got too much imagination. There was a formality
and publicness about it that kind of weakened my nerve. I never won a
fight in the ring. Light-weights and all kinds of scrubs used to sign
up with my manager and then walk up and tap me on the wrist and see me
fall. The minute I seen the crowd and a lot of gents in evening clothes
down in front, and seen a professional come inside the ropes, I got as
weak as ginger-ale.

"Of course, it wasn't long till I couldn't get no backers, and I didn't
have any more chances to fight a professional--or many amateurs,
either. But lemme tell you--I was as good as most men inside the ring
or out. It was just that dumb, dead feeling I had when I was up against
a regular that always done me up.

"Well, sir, after I had got out of the business, I got a mighty grouch
on. I used to go round town licking private citizens and all kinds of
unprofessionals just to please myself. I'd lick cops in dark streets
and car-conductors and cab-drivers and draymen whenever I could start
a row with 'em. It didn't make any difference how big they were, or
how much science they had, I got away with 'em. If I'd only just have
had the confidence in the ring that I had beating up the best men
outside of it, I'd be wearing black pearls and heliotrope silk socks
to-day.

"One evening I was walking along near the Bowery, thinking about
things, when along comes a slumming-party. About six or seven they
was, all in swallowtails, and these silk hats that don't shine. One
of the gang kind of shoves me off the sidewalk. I hadn't had a scrap
in three days, and I just says, 'De-light-ed!' and hits him back of
the ear.

"Well, we had it. That Johnnie put up as decent a little fight as
you'd want to see in the moving pictures. It was on a side street,
and no cops around. The other guy had a lot of science, but it only
took me about six minutes to lay him out.

"Some of the swallowtails dragged him up against some steps and began
to fan him. Another one of 'em comes over to me and says:

"'Young man, do you know what you've done?'

"'Oh, beat it,' says I. 'I've done nothing but a little punching-bag
work. Take Freddy back to Yale and tell him to quit studying
sociology on the wrong side of the sidewalk.'

"'My good fellow,' says he, 'I don't know who you are, but I'd like
to. You've knocked out Reddy Burns, the champion middle-weight of the
world! He came to New York yesterday, to try to get a match on with
Jim Jeffries. If you--'

"But when I come out of my faint I was laying on the floor in a
drug-store saturated with aromatic spirits of ammonia. If I'd known
that was Reddy Burns, I'd have got down in the gutter and crawled past
him instead of handing him one like I did. Why, if I'd ever been in a
ring and seen him climbing over the ropes, I'd have been all to the
sal-volatile.

"So that's what imagination does," concluded Mack. "And, as I said,
your case and mine is simultaneous. You'll never win out. You can't
go up against the professionals. I tell you, it's a park bench for
yours in this romance business."

Mack, the pessimist, laughed harshly.

"I'm afraid I don't see the parallel," I said, coldly. "I have only a
very slight acquaintance with the prize-ring."

The derelict touched my sleeve with his forefinger, for emphasis, as
he explained his parable.

"Every man," said he, with some dignity, "has got his lamps on
something that looks good to him. With you, it's this dame that
you're afraid to say your say to. With me, it was to win out in the
ring. Well, you'll lose just like I did."

"Why do you think I shall lose?" I asked warmly.

"'Cause," said he, "you're afraid to go in the ring. You dassen't
stand up before a professional. Your case and mine is just the same.
You're a amateur; and that means that you'd better keep outside of the
ropes."

"Well, I must be going," I said, rising and looking with elaborate
care at my watch.

When I was twenty feet away the park-bencher called to me.

"Much obliged for the dollar," he said. "And for the dime. But
you'll never get 'er. You're in the amateur class."

"Serves you right," I said to myself, "for hobnobbing with a tramp.
His impudence!"

But, as I walked, his words seemed to repeat themselves over and over
again in my brain. I think I even grew angry at the man.

"I'll show him!" I finally said, aloud. "I'll show him that I can
fight Reddy Burns, too--even knowing who he is."

I hurried to a telephone-booth and rang up the Telfair residence.

A soft, sweet voice answered. Didn't I know that voice? My hand
holding the receiver shook.

"Is that _you_?" said I, employing the foolish words that form the
vocabulary of every talker through the telephone.

"Yes, this is I," came back the answer in the low, clear-cut tones
that are an inheritance of the Telfairs. "Who is it, please?"

"It's me," said I, less ungrammatically than egotistically. "It's me,
and I've got a few things that I want to say to you right now and
immediately and straight to the point."

"_Dear_ me," said the voice. "Oh, it's you, Mr. Arden!"

I wondered if any accent on the first word was intended; Mildred was
fine at saying things that you had to study out afterward.

"Yes," said I. "I hope so. And now to come down to brass tacks." I
thought that rather a vernacularism, if there is such a word, as
soon as I had said it; but I didn't stop to apologize. "You know, of
course, that I love you, and that I have been in that idiotic state
for a long time. I don't want any more foolishness about it--that is,
I mean I want an answer from you right now. Will you marry me or not?
Hold the wire, please. Keep out, Central. Hello, hello! Will you, or
will you _not_?"

That was just the uppercut for Reddy Burns' chin. The answer came
back:

"Why, Phil, dear, of course I will! I didn't know that you--that is,
you never said--oh, come up to the house, please--I can't say what I
want to over the 'phone. You are so importunate. But please come up
to the house, won't you?"

Would I?

I rang the bell of the Telfair house violently. Some sort of a human
came to the door and shooed me into the drawing-room.

"Oh, well," said I to myself, looking at the ceiling, "any one can
learn from any one. That was a pretty good philosophy of Mack's,
anyhow. He didn't take advantage of his experience, but I get the
benefit of it. If you want to get into the professional class, you've
got to--"

I stopped thinking then. Some one was coming down the stairs. My
knees began to shake. I knew then how Mack had felt when a
professional began to climb over the ropes.

I looked around foolishly for a door or a window by which I might
escape. If it had been any other girl approaching, I mightn't have--

But just then the door opened, and Bess, Mildred's younger sister,
came in. I'd never seen her look so much like a glorified angel. She
walked straight tip to me, and--and--

I'd never noticed before what perfectly wonderful eyes and hair
Elizabeth Telfair had.

"Phil," she said, in the Telfair, sweet, thrilling tones, "why didn't
you tell me about it before? I thought it was sister you wanted all
the time, until you telephoned to me a few minutes ago!"

I suppose Mack and I always will be hopeless amateurs. But, as the
thing has turned out in my case, I'm mighty glad of it.



BEST-SELLER


I


One day last summer I went to Pittsburgh--well, I had to go there on
business.

My chair-car was profitably well filled with people of the kind one
usually sees on chair-cars. Most of them were ladies in brown-silk
dresses cut with square yokes, with lace insertion, and dotted veils,
who refused to have the windows raised. Then there was the usual
number of men who looked as if they might be in almost any business
and going almost anywhere. Some students of human nature can look at
a man in a Pullman and tell you where he is from, his occupation and
his stations in life, both flag and social; but I never could. The
only way I can correctly judge a fellow-traveller is when the train is
held up by robbers, or when he reaches at the same time I do for the
last towel in the dressing-room of the sleeper.

The porter came and brushed the collection of soot on the window-sill
off to the left knee of my trousers. I removed it with an air of
apology. The temperature was eighty-eight. One of the dotted-veiled
ladies demanded the closing of two more ventilators, and spoke loudly
of Interlaken. I leaned back idly in chair No. 7, and looked with
the tepidest curiosity at the small, black, bald-spotted head just
visible above the back of No. 9.

Suddenly No. 9 hurled a book to the floor between his chair and the
window, and, looking, I saw that it was "The Rose-Lady and Trevelyan,"
one of the best-selling novels of the present day. And then the
critic or Philistine, whichever he was, veered his chair toward the
window, and I knew him at once for John A. Pescud, of Pittsburgh,
travelling salesman for a plate-glass company--an old acquaintance
whom I had not seen in two years.

In two minutes we were faced, had shaken hands, and had finished with
such topics as rain, prosperity, health, residence, and destination.
Politics might have followed next; but I was not so ill-fated.

I wish you might know John A. Pescud. He is of the stuff that heroes
are not often lucky enough to be made of. He is a small man with a
wide smile, and an eye that seems to be fixed upon that little red
spot on the end of your nose. I never saw him wear but one kind of
necktie, and he believes in cuff-holders and button-shoes. He is as
hard and true as anything ever turned out by the Cambria Steel Works;
and he believes that as soon as Pittsburgh makes smoke-consumers
compulsory, St. Peter will come down and sit at the foot of
Smithfield Street, and let somebody else attend to the gate up in
the branch heaven. He believes that "our" plate-glass is the most
important commodity in the world, and that when a man is in his home
town he ought to be decent and law-abiding.

During my acquaintance with him in the City of Diurnal Night I had
never known his views on life, romance, literature, and ethics. We
had browsed, during our meetings, on local topics, and then parted,
after Chateau Margaux, Irish stew, flannel-cakes, cottage-pudding,
and coffee (hey, there!--with milk separate). Now I was to get more
of his ideas. By way of facts, he told me that business had picked
up since the party conventions, and that he was going to get off at
Coketown.


II


"Say," said Pescud, stirring his discarded book with the toe of his
right shoe, "did you ever read one of these best-sellers? I mean
the kind where the hero is an American swell--sometimes even from
Chicago--who falls in love with a royal princess from Europe who is
travelling under an alias, and follows her to her father's kingdom
or principality? I guess you have. They're all alike. Sometimes
this going-away masher is a Washington newspaper correspondent,
and sometimes he is a Van Something from New York, or a Chicago
wheat-broker worthy fifty millions. But he's always ready to break
into the king row of any foreign country that sends over their queens
and princesses to try the new plush seats on the Big Four or the B.
and O. There doesn't seem to be any other reason in the book for their
being here.

"Well, this fellow chases the royal chair-warmer home, as I said, and
finds out who she is. He meets her on the _corso_ or the _strasse_ one
evening and gives us ten pages of conversation. She reminds him of
the difference in their stations, and that gives him a chance to ring
in three solid pages about America's uncrowned sovereigns. If you'd
take his remarks and set 'em to music, and then take the music away
from 'em, they'd sound exactly like one of George Cohan's songs.

"Well, you know how it runs on, if you've read any of 'em--he slaps
the king's Swiss body-guards around like everything whenever they
get in his way. He's a great fencer, too. Now, I've known of some
Chicago men who were pretty notorious fences, but I never heard of
any fencers coming from there. He stands on the first landing of the
royal staircase in Castle Schutzenfestenstein with a gleaming rapier
in his hand, and makes a Baltimore broil of six platoons of traitors
who come to massacre the said king. And then he has to fight duels
with a couple of chancellors, and foil a plot by four Austrian
archdukes to seize the kingdom for a gasoline-station.

"But the great scene is when his rival for the princess' hand, Count
Feodor, attacks him between the portcullis and the ruined chapel,
armed with a mitrailleuse, a yataghan, and a couple of Siberian
bloodhounds. This scene is what runs the best-seller into the
twenty-ninth edition before the publisher has had time to draw a
check for the advance royalties.

"The American hero shucks his coat and throws it over the heads of the
bloodhounds, gives the mitrailleuse a slap with his mitt, says 'Yah!'
to the yataghan, and lands in Kid McCoy's best style on the count's
left eye. Of course, we have a neat little prize-fight right then
and there. The count--in order to make the go possible--seems to be
an expert at the art of self-defence, himself; and here we have the
Corbett-Sullivan fight done over into literature. The book ends with
the broker and the princess doing a John Cecil Clay cover under the
linden-trees on the Gorgonzola Walk. That winds up the love-story
plenty good enough. But I notice that the book dodges the final
issue. Even a best-seller has sense enough to shy at either leaving a
Chicago grain broker on the throne of Lobsterpotsdam or bringing over
a real princess to eat fish and potato salad in an Italian chalet on
Michigan Avenue. What do you think about 'em?"

"Why," said I, "I hardly know, John. There's a saying: 'Love levels
all ranks,' you know."

"Yes," said Pescud, "but these kind of love-stories are rank--on the
level. I know something about literature, even if I am in plate-glass.
These kind of books are wrong, and yet I never go into a train but
what they pile 'em up on me. No good can come out of an international
clinch between the Old-World aristocracy and one of us fresh
Americans. When people in real life marry, they generally hunt up
somebody in their own station. A fellow usually picks out a girl that
went to the same high-school and belonged to the same singing-society
that he did. When young millionaires fall in love, they always select
the chorus-girl that likes the same kind of sauce on the lobster that
he does. Washington newspaper correspondents always many widow ladies
ten years older than themselves who keep boarding-houses. No, sir,
you can't make a novel sound right to me when it makes one of C. D.
Gibson's bright young men go abroad and turn kingdoms upside down
just because he's a Taft American and took a course at a gymnasium.
And listen how they talk, too!"

Pescud picked up the best-seller and hunted his page.

"Listen at this," said he. "Trevelyan is chinning with the Princess
Alwyna at the back end of the tulip-garden. This is how it goes:


   "'Say not so, dearest and sweetest of earth's fairest flowers.
   Would I aspire? You are a star set high above me in a royal
   heaven; I am only--myself. Yet I am a man, and I have a heart
   to do and dare. I have no title save that of an uncrowned
   sovereign; but I have an arm and a sword that yet might free
   Schutzenfestenstein from the plots of traitors.'


"Think of a Chicago man packing a sword, and talking about freeing
anything that sounded as much like canned pork as that! He'd be much
more likely to fight to have an import duty put on it."

"I think I understand you, John," said I. "You want fiction-writers
to be consistent with their scenes and characters. They shouldn't
mix Turkish pashas with Vermont farmers, or English dukes with Long
Island clam-diggers, or Italian countesses with Montana cowboys, or
Cincinnati brewery agents with the rajahs of India."

"Or plain business men with aristocracy high above 'em," added Pescud.
"It don't jibe. People are divided into classes, whether we admit it
or not, and it's everybody's impulse to stick to their own class.
They do it, too. I don't see why people go to work and buy hundreds
of thousands of books like that. You don't see or hear of any such
didoes and capers in real life."


III


"Well, John," said I, "I haven't read a best-seller in a long time.
Maybe I've had notions about them somewhat like yours. But tell me
more about yourself. Getting along all right with the company?"

"Bully," said Pescud, brightening at once. "I've had my salary raised
twice since I saw you, and I get a commission, too. I've bought a
neat slice of real estate out in the East End, and have run up a
house on it. Next year the firm is going to sell me some shares of
stock. Oh, I'm in on the line of General Prosperity, no matter who's
elected!"

"Met your affinity yet, John?" I asked.

"Oh, I didn't tell you about that, did I?" said Pescud with a broader
grin.

"O-ho!" I said. "So you've taken time enough off from your plate-glass
to have a romance?"

"No, no," said John. "No romance--nothing like that! But I'll tell
you about it.

"I was on the south-bound, going to Cincinnati, about eighteen months
ago, when I saw, across the aisle, the finest-looking girl I'd ever
laid eyes on. Nothing spectacular, you know, but just the sort you
want for keeps. Well, I never was up to the flirtation business,
either handkerchief, automobile, postage-stamp, or door-step, and she
wasn't the kind to start anything. She read a book and minded her
business, which was to make the world prettier and better just by
residing on it. I kept on looking out of the side doors of my eyes,
and finally the proposition got out of the Pullman class into a case
of a cottage with a lawn and vines running over the porch. I never
thought of speaking to her, but I let the plate-glass business go to
smash for a while.

"She changed cars at Cincinnati, and took a sleeper to Louisville over
the L. and N. There she bought another ticket, and went on through
Shelbyville, Frankfort, and Lexington. Along there I began to have
a hard time keeping up with her. The trains came along when they
pleased, and didn't seem to be going anywhere in particular, except to
keep on the track and the right of way as much as possible. Then they
began to stop at junctions instead of towns, and at last they stopped
altogether. I'll bet Pinkerton would outbid the plate-glass people
for my services any time if they knew how I managed to shadow that
young lady. I contrived to keep out of her sight as much as I could,
but I never lost track of her.

"The last station she got off at was away down in Virginia, about
six in the afternoon. There were about fifty houses and four hundred
niggers in sight. The rest was red mud, mules, and speckled hounds.

"A tall old man, with a smooth face and white hair, looking as proud
as Julius Cæsar and Roscoe Conkling on the same post-card, was there
to meet her. His clothes were frazzled, but I didn't notice that
till later. He took her little satchel, and they started over the
plank-walks and went up a road along the hill. I kept along a piece
behind 'em, trying to look like I was hunting a garnet ring in the
sand that my sister had lost at a picnic the previous Saturday.

"They went in a gate on top of the hill. It nearly took my breath
away when I looked up. Up there in the biggest grove I ever saw was a
tremendous house with round white pillars about a thousand feet high,
and the yard was so full of rose-bushes and box-bushes and lilacs
that you couldn't have seen the house if it hadn't been as big as the
Capitol at Washington.

"'Here's where I have to trail,' says I to myself. I thought before
that she seemed to be in moderate circumstances, at least. This
must be the Governor's mansion, or the Agricultural Building of a
new World's Fair, anyhow. I'd better go back to the village and get
posted by the postmaster, or drug the druggist for some information.

"In the village I found a pine hotel called the Bay View House. The
only excuse for the name was a bay horse grazing in the front yard. I
set my sample-case down, and tried to be ostensible. I told the
landlord I was taking orders for plate-glass.

"'I don't want no plates,' says he, 'but I do need another glass
molasses-pitcher.'

"By-and-by I got him down to local gossip and answering questions.

"'Why,' says he, 'I thought everybody knowed who lived in the big
white house on the hill. It's Colonel Allyn, the biggest man and the
finest quality in Virginia, or anywhere else. They're the oldest
family in the State. That was his daughter that got off the train.
She's been up to Illinois to see her aunt, who is sick.'

"I registered at the hotel, and on the third day I caught the young
lady walking in the front yard, down next to the paling fence. I
stopped and raised my hat--there wasn't any other way.

"'Excuse me,' says I, 'can you tell me where Mr. Hinkle lives?'

"She looks at me as cool as if I was the man come to see about the
weeding of the garden, but I thought I saw just a slight twinkle of
fun in her eyes.

"'No one of that name lives in Birchton,' says she. 'That is,' she
goes on, 'as far as I know. Is the gentleman you are seeking white?'

"Well, that tickled me. 'No kidding,' says I. 'I'm not looking for
smoke, even if I do come from Pittsburgh.'

"'You are quite a distance from home,' says she.

"'I'd have gone a thousand miles farther,' says I.

"'Not if you hadn't waked up when the train started in Shelbyville,'
says she; and then she turned almost as red as one of the roses on
the bushes in the yard. I remembered I had dropped off to sleep on a
bench in the Shelbyville station, waiting to see which train she took,
and only just managed to wake up in time.

"And then I told her why I had come, as respectful and earnest as I
could. And I told her everything about myself, and what I was making,
and how that all I asked was just to get acquainted with her and try
to get her to like me.

"She smiles a little, and blushes some, but her eyes never get mixed
up. They look straight at whatever she's talking to.

"'I never had any one talk like this to me before, Mr. Pescud,' says
she. 'What did you say your name is--John?'

"'John A.,' says I.

"'And you came mighty near missing the train at Powhatan Junction,
too,' says she, with a laugh that sounded as good as a mileage-book to
me.

"'How did you know?' I asked.

"'Men are very clumsy,' said she. 'I knew you were on every train. I
thought you were going to speak to me, and I'm glad you didn't.'

"Then we had more talk; and at last a kind of proud, serious look came
on her face, and she turned and pointed a finger at the big house.

"'The Allyns,' says she, 'have lived in Elmcroft for a hundred years.
We are a proud family. Look at that mansion. It has fifty rooms.
See the pillars and porches and balconies. The ceilings in the
reception-rooms and the ball-room are twenty-eight feet high. My
father is a lineal descendant of belted earls.'

"'I belted one of 'em once in the Duquesne Hotel, in Pittsburgh,'
says I, 'and he didn't offer to resent it. He was there dividing his
attentions between Monongahela whiskey and heiresses, and he got
fresh.'

"'Of course,' she goes on, 'my father wouldn't allow a drummer to set
his foot in Elmcroft. If he knew that I was talking to one over the
fence he would lock me in my room.'

"'Would _you_ let me come there?' says I. 'Would _you_ talk to me
if I was to call? For,' I goes on, 'if you said I might come and
see you, the earls might be belted or suspendered, or pinned up with
safety-pins, as far as I am concerned.'

"'I must not talk to you,' she says, 'because we have not been
introduced. It is not exactly proper. So I will say good-bye, Mr.--'

"'Say the name,' says I. 'You haven't forgotten it.'

"'Pescud,' says she, a little mad.

"'The rest of the name!' I demands, cool as could be.

"'John,' says she.

"'John--what?' I says.

"'John A.,' says she, with her head high. 'Are you through, now?'

"'I'm coming to see the belted earl to-morrow,' I says.

"'He'll feed you to his fox-hounds,' says she, laughing.

"'If he does, it'll improve their running,' says I. 'I'm something of
a hunter myself.'

"'I must be going in now,' says she. 'I oughtn't to have spoken to you
at all. I hope you'll have a pleasant trip back to Minneapolis--or
Pittsburgh, was it? Good-bye!'

"'Good-night,' says I, 'and it wasn't Minneapolis. What's your name,
first, please?'

"She hesitated. Then she pulled a leaf off a bush, and said:

"'My name is Jessie,' says she.

"'Good-night, Miss Allyn,' says I.

"The next morning at eleven, sharp, I rang the door-bell of that
World's Fair main building. After about three-quarters of an hour an
old nigger man about eighty showed up and asked what I wanted. I gave
him my business card, and said I wanted to see the colonel. He showed
me in.

"Say, did you ever crack open a wormy English walnut? That's what
that house was like. There wasn't enough furniture in it to fill an
eight-dollar flat. Some old horsehair lounges and three-legged chairs
and some framed ancestors on the walls were all that met the eye. But
when Colonel Allyn comes in, the place seemed to light up. You could
almost hear a band playing, and see a bunch of old-timers in wigs
and white stockings dancing a quadrille. It was the style of him,
although he had on the same shabby clothes I saw him wear at the
station.

"For about nine seconds he had me rattled, and I came mighty near
getting cold feet and trying to sell him some plate-glass. But I got
my nerve back pretty quick. He asked me to sit down, and I told him
everything. I told him how I followed his daughter from Cincinnati,
and what I did it for, and all about my salary and prospects, and
explained to him my little code of living--to be always decent and
right in your home town; and when you're on the road, never take more
than four glasses of beer a day or play higher than a twenty-five-cent
limit. At first I thought he was going to throw me out of the window,
but I kept on talking. Pretty soon I got a chance to tell him that
story about the Western Congressman who had lost his pocket-book
and the grass widow--you remember that story. Well, that got him to
laughing, and I'll bet that was the first laugh those ancestors and
horsehair sofas had heard in many a day.

"We talked two hours. I told him everything I knew; and then he began
to ask questions, and I told him the rest. All I asked of him was to
give me a chance. If I couldn't make a hit with the little lady, I'd
clear out, and not bother any more. At last he says:

"'There was a Sir Courtenay Pescud in the time of Charles I, if I
remember rightly.'

"'If there was,' says I, 'he can't claim kin with our bunch. We've
always lived in and around Pittsburgh. I've got an uncle in the
real-estate business, and one in trouble somewhere out in Kansas.
You can inquire about any of the rest of us from anybody in old
Smoky Town, and get satisfactory replies. Did you ever run across
that story about the captain of the whaler who tried to make a
sailor say his prayers?' says I.

"'It occurs to me that I have never been so fortunate,' says the
colonel.

"So I told it to him. Laugh! I was wishing to myself that he was a
customer. What a bill of glass I'd sell him! And then he says:

"'The relating of anecdotes and humorous occurrences has always seemed
to me, Mr. Pescud, to be a particularly agreeable way of promoting
and perpetuating amenities between friends. With your permission, I
will relate to you a fox-hunting story with which I was personally
connected, and which may furnish you some amusement.'

"So he tells it. It takes forty minutes by the watch. Did I laugh?
Well, say! When I got my face straight he calls in old Pete, the
superannuated darky, and sends him down to the hotel to bring up my
valise. It was Elmcroft for me while I was in the town.

"Two evenings later I got a chance to speak a word with Miss Jessie
alone on the porch while the colonel was thinking up another story.

"'It's going to be a fine evening,' says I.

"'He's coming,' says she. 'He's going to tell you, this time, the
story about the old negro and the green watermelons. It always comes
after the one about the Yankees and the game rooster. There was
another time,' she goes on, 'that you nearly got left--it was at
Pulaski City.'

"'Yes,' says I, 'I remember. My foot slipped as I was jumping on the
step, and I nearly tumbled off.'

"'I know,' says she. 'And--and I--_I was afraid you had, John A. I
was afraid you had._'

"And then she skips into the house through one of the big windows."


IV


"Coketown!" droned the porter, making his way through the slowing car.

Pescud gathered his hat and baggage with the leisurely promptness of
an old traveller.

"I married her a year ago," said John. "I told you I built a house in
the East End. The belted--I mean the colonel--is there, too. I find
him waiting at the gate whenever I get back from a trip to hear any
new story I might have picked up on the road."

I glanced out of the window. Coketown was nothing more than a ragged
hillside dotted with a score of black dismal huts propped up against
dreary mounds of slag and clinkers. It rained in slanting torrents,
too, and the rills foamed and splashed down through the black mud to
the railroad-tracks.

"You won't sell much plate-glass here, John," said I. "Why do you get
off at this end-o'-the-world?"

"Why," said Pescud, "the other day I took Jessie for a little trip to
Philadelphia, and coming back she thought she saw some petunias in
a pot in one of those windows over there just like some she used to
raise down in the old Virginia home. So I thought I'd drop off here
for the night, and see if I could dig up some of the cuttings or
blossoms for her. Here we are. Good-night, old man. I gave you the
address. Come out and see us when you have time."

The train moved forward. One of the dotted brown ladies insisted
on having windows raised, now that the rain beat against them. The
porter came along with his mysterious wand and began to light the car.

I glanced downward and saw the best-seller. I picked it up and set it
carefully farther along on the floor of the car, where the rain-drops
would not fall upon it. And then, suddenly, I smiled, and seemed to
see that life has no geographical metes and bounds.

"Good-luck to you, Trevelyan," I said. "And may you get the petunias
for your princess!"



RUS IN URBE


Considering men in relation to money, there are three kinds whom I
dislike: men who have more money than they can spend; men who have
more money than they do spend; and men who spend more money than they
have. Of the three varieties, I believe I have the least liking for
the first. But, as a man, I liked Spencer Grenville North pretty
well, although he had something like two or ten or thirty millions--
I've forgotten exactly how many.

I did not leave town that summer. I usually went down to a village
on the south shore of Long Island. The place was surrounded by
duck-farms, and the ducks and dogs and whippoorwills and rusty
windmills made so much noise that I could sleep as peacefully as if
I were in my own flat six doors from the elevated railroad in New
York. But that summer I did not go. Remember that. One of my friends
asked me why I did not. I replied:

"Because, old man, New York is the finest summer resort in the world."
You have heard that phrase before. But that is what I told him.

I was press-agent that year for Binkly & Bing, the theatrical managers
and producers. Of course you know what a press-agent is. Well, he is
not. That is the secret of being one.

Binkly was touring France in his new C. & N. Williamson car, and Bing
had gone to Scotland to learn curling, which he seemed to associate in
his mind with hot tongs rather than with ice. Before they left they
gave me June and July, on salary, for my vacation, which act was in
accord with their large spirit of liberality. But I remained in New
York, which I had decided was the finest summer resort in--

But I said that before.

On July the 10th, North came to town from his camp in the Adirondacks.
Try to imagine a camp with sixteen rooms, plumbing, eiderdown quilts,
a butler, a garage, solid silver plate, and a long-distance telephone.
Of course it was in the woods--if Mr. Pinchot wants to preserve the
forests let him give every citizen two or ten or thirty million
dollars, and the trees will all gather around the summer camps, as the
Birnam woods came to Dunsinane, and be preserved.

North came to see me in my three rooms and bath, extra charge for
light when used extravagantly or all night. He slapped me on the back
(I would rather have my shins kicked any day), and greeted me with
out-door obstreperousness and revolting good spirits. He was
insolently brown and healthy-looking, and offensively well dressed.

"Just ran down for a few days," said he, "to sign some papers and
stuff like that. My lawyer wired me to come. Well, you indolent
cockney, what are you doing in town? I took a chance and telephoned,
and they said you were here. What's the matter with that Utopia on
Long Island where you used to take your typewriter and your villainous
temper every summer? Anything wrong with the--er--swans, weren't
they, that used to sing on the farms at night?"

"Ducks," said I. "The songs of swans are for luckier ears. They swim
and curve their necks in artificial lakes on the estates of the
wealthy to delight the eyes of the favorites of Fortune."

"Also in Central Park," said North, "to delight the eyes of immigrants
and bummers. I've seen em there lots of times. But why are you in
the city so late in the summer?"

"New York City," I began to recite, "is the finest sum--"

"No, you don't," said North, emphatically. "You don't spring that old
one on me. I know you know better. Man, you ought to have gone up
with us this summer. The Prestons are there, and Tom Volney and the
Monroes and Lulu Stanford and the Miss Kennedy and her aunt that you
liked so well."

"I never liked Miss Kennedy's aunt," I said.

"I didn't say you did," said North. "We are having the greatest time
we've ever had. The pickerel and trout are so ravenous that I believe
they would swallow your hook with a Montana copper-mine prospectus
fastened on it. And we've a couple of electric launches; and I'll
tell you what we do every night or two--we tow a rowboat behind each
one with a big phonograph and a boy to change the discs in 'em. On
the water, and twenty yards behind you, they are not so bad. And
there are passably good roads through the woods where we go motoring.
I shipped two cars up there. And the Pinecliff Inn is only three
miles away. You know the Pinecliff. Some good people are there this
season, and we run over to the dances twice a week. Can't you go back
with me for a week, old man?"

I laughed. "Northy," said I--"if I may be so familiar with a
millionaire, because I hate both the names Spencer and Grenville--your
invitation is meant kindly, but--the city in the summer-time for me.
Here, while the _bourgeoisie_ is away, I can live as Nero lived--
barring, thank heaven, the fiddling--while the city burns at ninety
in the shade. The tropics and the zones wait upon me like handmaidens.
I sit under Florida palms and eat pomegranates while Boreas himself,
electrically conjured up, blows upon me his Arctic breath. As for
trout, you know, yourself, that Jean, at Maurice's, cooks them better
than any one else in the world."

"Be advised," said North. "My chef has pinched the blue ribbon from
the lot. He lays some slices of bacon inside the trout, wraps it all
in corn-husks--the husks of green corn, you know--buries them in hot
ashes and covers them with live coals. We build fires on the bank of
the lake and have fish suppers."

"I know," said I. "And the servants bring down tables and chairs and
damask cloths, and you eat with silver forks. I know the kind of
camps that you millionaires have. And there are champagne pails set
about, disgracing the wild flowers, and, no doubt, Madame Tetrazzini
to sing in the boat pavilion after the trout."

"Oh no," said North, concernedly, "we were never as bad as that. We
did have a variety troupe up from the city three or four nights, but
they weren't stars by as far as light can travel in the same length
of time. I always like a few home comforts even when I'm roughing it.
But don't tell me you prefer to stay in the city during summer. I
don't believe it. If you do, why did you spend your summers there for
the last four years, even sneaking away from town on a night train,
and refusing to tell your friends where this Arcadian village was?"

"Because," said I, "they might have followed me and discovered it.
But since then I have learned that Amaryllis has come to town. The
coolest things, the freshest, the brightest, the choicest, are to be
found in the city. If you've nothing on hand this evening I will show
you."

"I'm free," said North, "and I have my light car outside. I suppose,
since you've been converted to the town, that your idea of rural sport
is to have a little whirl between bicycle cops in Central Park and
then a mug of sticky ale in some stuffy rathskeller under a fan that
can't stir up as many revolutions in a week as Nicaragua can in a
day."

"We'll begin with the spin through the Park, anyhow," I said. I was
choking with the hot, stale air of my little apartment, and I wanted
that breath of the cool to brace me for the task of proving to my
friend that New York was the greatest--and so forth.

"Where can you find air any fresher or purer than this?" I asked, as
we sped into Central's boskiest dell.

"Air!" said North, contemptuously. "Do you call this air?--this muggy
vapor, smelling of garbage and gasoline smoke. Man, I wish you could
get one sniff of the real Adirondack article in the pine woods at
daylight."

"I have heard of it," said I. "But for fragrance and tang and a joy
in the nostrils I would not give one puff of sea breeze across the
bay, down on my little boat dock on Long Island, for ten of your
turpentine-scented tornadoes."

"Then why," asked North, a little curiously, "don't you go there
instead of staying cooped up in this Greater Bakery?"

"Because," said I, doggedly, "I have discovered that New York is the
greatest summer--"

"Don't say that again," interrupted North, "unless you've actually got
a job as General Passenger Agent of the Subway. You can't really
believe it."

I went to some trouble to try to prove my theory to my friend. The
Weather Bureau and the season had conspired to make the argument
worthy of an able advocate.

The city seemed stretched on a broiler directly above the furnaces
of Avernus. There was a kind of tepid gayety afoot and awheel in the
boulevards, mainly evinced by languid men strolling about in straw
hats and evening clothes, and rows of idle taxicabs with their flags
up, looking like a blockaded Fourth of July procession. The hotels
kept up a specious brilliancy and hospitable outlook, but inside one
saw vast empty caverns, and the footrails at the bars gleamed brightly
from long disacquaintance with the sole-leather of customers. In
the cross-town streets the steps of the old brownstone houses were
swarming with "stoopers," that motley race hailing from sky-light room
and basement, bringing out their straw door-step mats to sit and fill
the air with strange noises and opinions.

North and I dined on the top of a hotel; and here, for a few minutes,
I thought I had made a score. An east wind, almost cool, blew across
the roofless roof. A capable orchestra concealed in a bower of
wistaria played with sufficient judgment to make the art of music
probable and the art of conversation possible.

Some ladies in reproachless summer gowns at other tables gave
animation and color to the scene. And an excellent dinner, mainly
from the refrigerator, seemed to successfully back my judgment as to
summer resorts. But North grumbled all during the meal, and cursed
his lawyers and prated so of his confounded camp in the woods that I
began to wish he would go back there and leave me in my peaceful city
retreat.

After dining we went to a roof-garden vaudeville that was being
much praised. There we found a good bill, an artificially cooled
atmosphere, cold drinks, prompt service, and a gay, well-dressed
audience. North was bored.

"If this isn't comfortable enough for you on the hottest August night
for five years," I said, a little sarcastically, "you might think
about the kids down in Delancey and Hester streets lying out on the
fire-escapes with their tongues hanging out, trying to get a breath of
air that hasn't been fried on both sides. The contrast might increase
your enjoyment."

"Don't talk Socialism," said North. "I gave five hundred dollars to
the free ice fund on the first of May. I'm contrasting these stale,
artificial, hollow, wearisome 'amusements' with the enjoyment a
man can get in the woods. You should see the firs and pines do
skirt-dances during a storm; and lie down flat and drink out of a
mountain branch at the end of a day's tramp after the deer. That's
the only way to spend a summer. Get out and live with nature."

"I agree with you absolutely," said I, with emphasis.

For one moment I had relaxed my vigilance, and had spoken my true
sentiments. North looked at me long and curiously.

"Then why, in the name of Pan and Apollo," he asked, "have you been
singing this deceitful pæan to summer in town?"

I suppose I looked my guilt.

"Ha," said North, "I see. May I ask her name?"

"Annie Ashton," said I, simply. "She played Nannette in Binkley &
Bing's production of 'The Silver Cord.' She is to have a better part
next season."

"Take me to see her," said North.

Miss Ashton lived with her mother in a small hotel. They were out
of the West, and had a little money that bridged the seasons. As
press-agent of Binkley & Bing I had tried to keep her before the
public. As Robert James Vandiver I had hoped to withdraw her; for if
ever one was made to keep company with said Vandiver and smell the
salt breeze on the south shore of Long Island and listen to the ducks
quack in the watches of the night, it was the Ashton set forth above.

But she had a soul above ducks--above nightingales; aye, even above
birds of paradise. She was very beautiful, with quiet ways, and
seemed genuine. She had both taste and talent for the stage, and she
liked to stay at home and read and make caps for her mother. She was
unvaryingly kind and friendly with Binkley & Bing's press-agent.
Since the theatre had closed she had allowed Mr. Vandiver to call in
an unofficial rôle. I had often spoken to her of my friend, Spencer
Grenville North; and so, as it was early, the first turn of the
vaudeville being not yet over, we left to find a telephone.

Miss Ashton would be very glad to see Mr. Vandiver and Mr. North.

We found her fitting a new cap on her mother. I never saw her look
more charming.

North made himself disagreeably entertaining. He was a good talker,
and had a way with him. Besides, he had two, ten, or thirty millions,
I've forgotten which. I incautiously admired the mother's cap,
whereupon she brought out her store of a dozen or two, and I took a
course in edgings and frills. Even though Annie's fingers had pinked,
or ruched, or hemmed, or whatever you do to 'em, they palled upon me.
And I could hear North drivelling to Annie about his odious Adirondack
camp.

Two days after that I saw North in his motor-car with Miss Ashton and
her mother. On the next afternoon he dropped in on me.

"Bobby," said he, "this old burg isn't such a bad proposition in the
summer-time, after all. Since I've keen knocking around it looks
better to me. There are some first-rate musical comedies and light
operas on the roofs and in the outdoor gardens. And if you hunt up
the right places and stick to soft drinks, you can keep about as cool
here as you can in the country. Hang it! when you come to think of
it, there's nothing much to the country, anyhow. You get tired and
sunburned and lonesome, and you have to eat any old thing that the
cook dishes up to you."

"It makes a difference, doesn't it?" said I.

"It certainly does. Now, I found some whitebait yesterday, at
Maurice's, with a new sauce that beats anything in the trout line I
ever tasted."

"It makes a difference, doesn't it?" I said.

"Immense. The sauce is the main thing with whitebait."

"It makes a difference, doesn't it?" I asked, looking him straight in
the eye. He understood.

"Look here, Bob," he said, "I was going to tell you. I couldn't help
it. I'll play fair with you, but I'm going in to win. She is the
'one particular' for me."

"All right," said I. "It's a fair field. There are no rights for you
to encroach upon."

On Thursday afternoon Miss Ashton invited North and myself to have
tea in her apartment. He was devoted, and she was more charming
than usual. By avoiding the subject of caps I managed to get a
word or two into and out of the talk. Miss Ashton asked me in a
make-conversational tone something about the next season's tour.

"Oh," said I, "I don't know about that. I'm not going to be with
Binkley & Bing next season."

"Why, I thought," said she, "that they were going to put the Number
One road company under your charge. I thought you told me so."

"They were," said I, "but they won't.. I'll tell you what I'm going
to do. I'm going to the south shore of Long Island and buy a small
cottage I know there on the edge of the bay. And I'll buy a catboat
and a rowboat and a shotgun and a yellow dog. I've got money enough
to do it. And I'll smell the salt wind all day when it blows from the
sea and the pine odor when it blows from the land. And, of course,
I'll write plays until I have a trunk full of 'em on hand.

"And the next thing and the biggest thing I'll do will be to buy that
duck-farm next door. Few people understand ducks. I can watch 'em
for hours. They can march better than any company in the National
Guard, and they can play 'follow my leader' better than the entire
Democratic party. Their voices don't amount to much, but I like to
hear 'em. They wake you up a dozen times a night, but there's a
homely sound about their quacking that is more musical to me than the
cry of 'Fresh strawber-rees!' under your window in the morning when
you want to sleep.

"And," I went on, enthusiastically, "do you know the value of ducks
besides their beauty and intelligence and order and sweetness of
voice? Picking their feathers gives you an unfailing and never-ceasing
income. On a farm that I know the feathers were sold for $400 in one
year. Think of that! And the ones shipped to the market will bring
in more money than that. Yes, I am for the ducks and the salt breeze
coming over the bay. I think I shall get a Chinaman cook, and with him
and the dog and the sunsets for company I shall do well. No more of
this dull, baking, senseless, roaring city for me."

Miss Ashton looked surprised. North laughed.

"I am going to begin one of my plays tonight," I said, "so I must be
going." And with that I took my departure.

A few days later Miss Ashton telephoned to me, asking me to call at
four in the afternoon.

I did.

"You have been very good to me," she said, hesitatingly, "and I
thought I would tell you. I am going to leave the stage."

"Yes," said I, "I suppose you will. They usually do when there's so
much money."

"There is no money," she said, "or very little. Our money is almost
gone."

"But I am told," said I, "that he has something like two or ten or
thirty millions--I have forgotten which."

"I know what you mean," she said. "I will not pretend that I do not.
I am not going to marry Mr. North."

"Then why are you leaving the stage?" I asked, severely. "What else
can you do to earn a living?"

She came closer to me, and I can see the look in her eyes yet as she
spoke.

"I can pick ducks," she said.

We sold the first year's feathers for $350.



A POOR RULE


I have always maintained, and asserted time to time, that woman is
no mystery; that man can foretell, construe, subdue, comprehend, and
interpret her. That she is a mystery has been foisted by herself
upon credulous mankind. Whether I am right or wrong we shall see. As
"Harper's Drawer" used to say in bygone years: "The following good
story is told of Miss ----, Mr. ----, Mr. ----, and Mr. ----."

We shall have to omit "Bishop X" and "the Rev. ----," for they do not
belong.

In those days Paloma was a new town on the line of the Southern
Pacific. A reporter would have called it a "mushroom" town; but it
was not. Paloma was, first and last, of the toadstool variety.

The train stopped there at noon for the engine to drink and for the
passengers both to drink and to dine. There was a new yellow-pine
hotel, also a wool warehouse, and perhaps three dozen box residences.
The rest was composed of tents, cow ponies, "black-waxy" mud,
and mesquite-trees, all bound round by a horizon. Paloma was an
about-to-be city. The houses represented faith; the tents hope; the
twice-a-day train, by which you might leave, creditably sustained
the rôle of charity.

The Parisian Restaurant occupied the muddiest spot in the town while
it rained, and the warmest when it shone. It was operated, owned, and
perpetrated by a citizen known as Old Man Hinkle, who had come out
of Indiana to make his fortune in this land of condensed milk and
sorghum.

There was a four-room, unpainted, weather-boarded box house in which
the family lived. From the kitchen extended a "shelter" made of poles
covered with chaparral brush. Under this was a table and two benches,
each twenty feet long, the product of Paloma home carpentry. Here
was set forth the roast mutton, the stewed apples, boiled beans,
soda-biscuits, puddinorpie, and hot coffee of the Parisian menu.

Ma Hinkle and a subordinate known to the ears as "Betty," but denied
to the eyesight, presided at the range. Pa Hinkle himself, with
salamandrous thumbs, served the scalding viands. During rush hours a
Mexican youth, who rolled and smoked cigarettes between courses, aided
him in waiting on the guests. As is customary at Parisian banquets, I
place the sweets at the end of my wordy menu.

Ileen Hinkle!

The spelling is correct, for I have seen her write it. No doubt she
had been named by ear; but she so splendidly bore the orthography
that Tom Moore himself (had he seen her) would have endorsed the
phonography.

Ileen was the daughter of the house, and the first Lady Cashier to
invade the territory south of an east-and-west line drawn through
Galveston and Del Rio. She sat on a high stool in a rough pine
grand-stand--or was it a temple?--under the shelter at the door of
the kitchen. There was a barbed-wire protection in front of her, with
a little arch under which you passed your money. Heaven knows why the
barbed wire; for every man who dined Parisianly there would have died
in her service. Her duties were light; each meal was a dollar; you
put it under the arch, and she took it.

I set out with the intent to describe Ileen Hinkle to you. Instead, I
must refer you to the volume by Edmund Burke entitled: _A Philosophical
Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful_.
It is an exhaustive treatise, dealing first with the primitive
conceptions of beauty--roundness and smoothness, I think they are,
according to Burke. It is well said. Rotundity is a patent charm; as
for smoothness--the more new wrinkles a woman acquires, the smoother
she becomes.

Ileen was a strictly vegetable compound, guaranteed under the Pure
Ambrosia and Balm-of-Gilead Act of the year of the fall of Adam. She
was a fruit-stand blonde--strawberries, peaches, cherries, etc. Her
eyes were wide apart, and she possessed the calm that precedes a storm
that never comes. But it seems to me that words (at any rate per) are
wasted in an effort to describe the beautiful. Like fancy, "It is
engendered in the eyes." There are three kinds of beauties--I was
foreordained to be homiletic; I can never stick to a story.

The first is the freckle-faced, snub-nosed girl whom you like. The
second is Maud Adams. The third is, or are, the ladies in Bouguereau's
paintings. Ileen Hinkle was the fourth. She was the mayoress of
Spotless Town. There were a thousand golden apples coming to her as
Helen of the Troy laundries.

The Parisian Restaurant was within a radius. Even from beyond its
circumference men rode in to Paloma to win her smiles. They got them.
One meal--one smile--one dollar. But, with all her impartiality,
Ileen seemed to favor three of her admirers above the rest. According
to the rules of politeness, I will mention myself last.

The first was an artificial product known as Bryan Jacks--a name
that had obviously met with reverses. Jacks was the outcome of paved
cities. He was a small man made of some material resembling flexible
sandstone. His hair was the color of a brick Quaker meeting-house;
his eyes were twin cranberries; his mouth was like the aperture under
a drop-letters-here sign.

He knew every city from Bangor to San Francisco, thence north to
Portland, thence S. 45 E. to a given point in Florida. He had mastered
every art, trade, game, business, profession, and sport in the world,
had been present at, or hurrying on his way to, every headline event
that had ever occurred between oceans since he was five years old. You
might open the atlas, place your finger at random upon the name of
a town, and Jacks would tell you the front names of three prominent
citizens before you could close it again. He spoke patronizingly and
even disrespectfully of Broadway, Beacon Hill, Michigan, Euclid, and
Fifth avenues, and the St. Louis Four Courts. Compared with him as a
cosmopolite, the Wandering Jew would have seemed a mere hermit. He had
learned everything the world could teach him, and he would tell you
about it.

I hate to be reminded of Pollok's "Course of Time," and so do you;
but every time I saw Jacks I would think of the poet's description
of another poet by the name of G. G. Byron who "Drank early; deeply
drank--drank draughts that common millions might have quenched; then
died of thirst because there was no more to drink."

That fitted Jacks, except that, instead of dying, he came to Paloma,
which was about the same thing. He was a telegrapher and station-and
express-agent at seventy-five dollars a month. Why a young man who
knew everything and could do everything was content to serve in such
an obscure capacity I never could understand, although he let out
a hint once that it was as a personal favor to the president and
stockholders of the S. P. Ry. Co.

One more line of description, and I turn Jacks over to you. He wore
bright blue clothes, yellow shoes, and a bow tie made of the same
cloth as his shirt.

My rival No.2 was Bud Cunningham, whose services had been engaged by
a ranch near Paloma to assist in compelling refractory cattle to keep
within the bounds of decorum and order. Bud was the only cowboy off
the stage that I ever saw who looked like one on it. He wore the
sombrero, the chaps, and the handkerchief tied at the back of his
neck.

Twice a week Bud rode in from the Val Verde Ranch to sup at the
Parisian Restaurant. He rode a many-high-handed Kentucky horse at a
tremendously fast lope, which animal he would rein up so suddenly
under the big mesquite at the corner of the brush shelter that his
hoofs would plough canals yards long in the loam.

Jacks and I were regular boarders at the restaurant, of course.

The front room of the Hinkle House was as neat a little parlor as
there was in the black-waxy country. It was all willow rocking-chairs,
and home-knit tidies, and albums, and conch shells in a row. And a
little upright piano in one corner.

Here Jacks and Bud and I--or sometimes one or two of us, according
to our good-luck--used to sit of evenings when the tide of trade was
over, and "visit" Miss Hinkle.

Ileen was a girl of ideas. She was destined for higher things (if
there can be anything higher) than taking in dollars all day through a
barbed-wire wicket. She had read and listened and thought. Her looks
would have formed a career for a less ambitious girl; but, rising
superior to mere beauty, she must establish something in the nature of
a _salon_--the only one in Paloma.

"Don't you think that Shakespeare was a great writer?" she would ask,
with such a pretty little knit of her arched brows that the late
Ignatius Donnelly, himself, had he seen it, could scarcely have saved
his Bacon.

Ileen was of the opinion, also, that Boston is more cultured than
Chicago; that Rosa Bonheur was one of the greatest of women painters;
that Westerners are more spontaneous and open-hearted than Easterners;
that London must be a very foggy city, and that California must be
quite lovely in the springtime. And of many other opinions indicating
a keeping up with the world's best thought.

These, however, were but gleaned from hearsay and evidence: Ileen
had theories of her own. One, in particular, she disseminated to us
untiringly. Flattery she detested. Frankness and honesty of speech
and action, she declared, were the chief mental ornaments of man
and woman. If ever she could like any one, it would be for those
qualities.

"I'm awfully weary," she said, one evening, when we three musketeers
of the mesquite were in the little parlor, "of having compliments on
my looks paid to me. I know I'm not beautiful."

(Bud Cunningham told me afterward that it was all he could do to keep
from calling her a liar when she said that.)

"I'm only a little Middle-Western girl," went on Ileen, "who just
wants to be simple and neat, and tries to help her father make a
humble living."

(Old Man Hinkle was shipping a thousand silver dollars a month, clear
profit, to a bank in San Antonio.)

Bud twisted around in his chair and bent the rim of his hat, from
which he could never be persuaded to separate. He did not know
whether she wanted what she said she wanted or what she knew she
deserved. Many a wiser man has hesitated at deciding. Bud decided.

"Why--ah, Miss Ileen, beauty, as you might say, ain't everything. Not
sayin' that you haven't your share of good looks, I always admired
more than anything else about you the nice, kind way you treat your
ma and pa. Any one what's good to their parents and is a kind of
home-body don't specially need to be too pretty."

Ileen gave him one of her sweetest smiles. "Thank you, Mr.
Cunningham," she said. "I consider that one of the finest compliments
I've had in a long time. I'd so much rather hear you say that than to
hear you talk about my eyes and hair. I'm glad you believe me when I
say I don't like flattery."

Our cue was there for us. Bud had made a good guess. You couldn't
lose Jacks. He chimed in next.

"Sure thing, Miss Ileen," he said; "the good-lookers don't always win
out. Now, you ain't bad looking, of course--but that's nix-cum-rous.
I knew a girl once in Dubuque with a face like a cocoanut, who could
skin the cat twice on a horizontal bar without changing hands. Now, a
girl might have the California peach crop mashed to a marmalade and
not be able to do that. I've seen--er--worse lookers than _you_, Miss
Ileen; but what I like about you is the business way you've got of
doing things. Cool and wise--that's the winning way for a girl. Mr.
Hinkle told me the other day you'd never taken in a lead silver dollar
or a plugged one since you've been on the job. Now, that's the stuff
for a girl--that's what catches me."

Jacks got his smile, too.

"Thank you, Mr. Jacks," said Ileen. "If you only knew how I
appreciate any one's being candid and not a flatterer! I get so tired
of people telling me I'm pretty. I think it is the loveliest thing to
have friends who tell you the truth."

Then I thought I saw an expectant look on Ileen's face as she glanced
toward me. I had a wild, sudden impulse to dare fate, and tell her of
all the beautiful handiwork of the Great Artificer she was the most
exquisite--that she was a flawless pearl gleaming pure and serene in a
setting of black mud and emerald prairies--that she was--a--a corker;
and as for mine, I cared not if she were as cruel as a serpent's
tooth to her fond parents, or if she couldn't tell a plugged dollar
from a bridle buckle, if I might sing, chant, praise, glorify, and
worship her peerless and wonderful beauty.

But I refrained. I feared the fate of a flatterer. I had witnessed
her delight at the crafty and discreet words of Bud and Jacks. No!
Miss Hinkle was not one to be beguiled by the plated-silver tongue of
a flatterer. So I joined the ranks of the candid and honest. At once
I became mendacious and didactic.

"In all ages, Miss Hinkle," said I, "in spite of the poetry and
romance of each, intellect in woman has been admired more than beauty.
Even in Cleopatra, herself, men found more charm in her queenly mind
than in her looks."

"Well, I should think so!" said Ileen. "I've seen pictures of her
that weren't so much. She had an awfully long nose."

"If I may say so," I went on, "you remind me of Cleopatra, Miss
Ileen."

"Why, my nose isn't so long!" said she, opening her eyes wide and
touching that comely feature with a dimpled forefinger.

"Why--er--I mean," said I--"I mean as to mental endowments."

"Oh!" said she; and then I got my smile just as Bud and Jacks had got
theirs.

"Thank every one of you," she said, very, very sweetly, "for being
so frank and honest with me. That's the way I want you to be always.
Just tell me plainly and truthfully what you think, and we'll all be
the best friends in the world. And now, because you've been so good
to me, and understand so well how I dislike people who do nothing but
pay me exaggerated compliments, I'll sing and play a little for you."

Of course, we expressed our thanks and joy; but we would have been
better pleased if Ileen had remained in her low rocking-chair face to
face with us and let us gaze upon her. For she was no Adelina Patti--
not even on the farewellest of the diva's farewell tours. She had a
cooing little voice like that of a turtle-dove that could almost fill
the parlor when the windows and doors were closed, and Betty was not
rattling the lids of the stove in the kitchen. She had a gamut that I
estimate at about eight inches on the piano; and her runs and trills
sounded like the clothes bubbling in your grandmother's iron wash-pot.
Believe that she must have been beautiful when I tell you that it
sounded like music to us.

Ileen's musical taste was catholic. She would sing through a pile of
sheet music on the left-hand top of the piano, laying each slaughtered
composition on the right-hand top. The next evening she would sing
from right to left. Her favorites were Mendelssohn, and Moody and
Sankey. By request she always wound up with "Sweet Violets" and "When
the Leaves Begin to Turn."

When we left at ten o'clock the three of us would go down to Jacks'
little wooden station and sit on the platform, swinging our feet and
trying to pump one another for clews as to which way Miss Ileen's
inclinations seemed to lean. That is the way of rivals--they do
not avoid and glower at one another; they convene and converse and
construe--striving by the art politic to estimate the strength of the
enemy.

One day there came a dark horse to Paloma, a young lawyer who at once
flaunted his shingle and himself spectacularly upon the town. His
name was C. Vincent Vesey. You could see at a glance that he was a
recent graduate of a southwestern law school. His Prince Albert coat,
light striped trousers, broad-brimmed soft black hat, and narrow white
muslin bow tie proclaimed that more loudly than any diploma could.
Vesey was a compound of Daniel Webster, Lord Chesterfield, Beau
Brummell, and Little Jack Horner. His coming boomed Paloma. The next
day after he arrived an addition to the town was surveyed and laid off
in lots.

Of course, Vesey, to further his professional fortunes, must mingle
with the citizenry and outliers of Paloma. And, as well as with the
soldier men, he was bound to seek popularity with the gay dogs of the
place. So Jacks and Bud Cunningham and I came to be honored by his
acquaintance.

The doctrine of predestination would have been discredited had
not Vesey seen Ileen Hinkle and become fourth in the tourney.
Magnificently, he boarded at the yellow pine hotel instead of at the
Parisian Restaurant; but he came to be a formidable visitor in the
Hinkle parlor. His competition reduced Bud to an inspired increase
of profanity, drove Jacks to an outburst of slang so weird that it
sounded more horrible than the most trenchant of Bud's imprecations,
and made me dumb with gloom.

For Vesey had the rhetoric. Words flowed from him like oil from
a gusher. Hyperbole, compliment, praise, appreciation, honeyed
gallantry, golden opinions, eulogy, and unveiled panegyric vied with
one another for pre-eminence in his speech. We had small hopes that
Ileen could resist his oratory and Prince Albert.

But a day came that gave us courage.

About dusk one evening I was sitting on the little gallery in front
of the Hinkle parlor, waiting for Ileen to come, when I heard voices
inside. She had come into the room with her father, and Old Man
Hinkle began to talk to her. I had observed before that he was a
shrewd man, and not unphilosophic.

"Ily," said he, "I notice there's three or four young fellers that
have been callin' to see you regular for quite a while. Is there any
one of 'em you like better than another?"

"Why, pa," she answered, "I like all of 'em very well. I think Mr.
Cunningham and Mr. Jacks and Mr. Harris are very nice young men. They
are so frank and honest in everything they say to me. I haven't known
Mr. Vesey very long, but I think he's a very nice young man, he's so
frank and honest in everything he says to me."

"Now, that's what I'm gittin' at," says old Hinkle. "You've always
been sayin' you like people what tell the truth and don't go
humbuggin' you with compliments and bogus talk. Now, suppose you
make a test of these fellers, and see which one of 'em will talk the
straightest to you."

"But how'll I do it, pa?"

"I'll tell you how. You know you sing a little bit, Ily; you took
music-lessons nearly two years in Logansport. It wasn't long, but it
was all we could afford then. And your teacher said you didn't have
any voice, and it was a waste of money to keep on. Now, suppose you
ask the fellers what they think of your singin', and see what each
one of 'em tells you. The man that'll tell you the truth about it'll
have a mighty lot of nerve, and 'll do to tie to. What do you think
of the plan?"

"All right, pa," said Ileen. "I think it's a good idea. I'll try
it."

Ileen and Mr. Hinkle went out of the room through the inside doors.
Unobserved, I hurried down to the station. Jacks was at his telegraph
table waiting for eight o'clock to come. It was Bud's night in town,
and when he rode in I repeated the conversation to them both. I was
loyal to my rivals, as all true admirers of all Ileens should be.

Simultaneously the three of us were smitten by an uplifting thought.
Surely this test would eliminate Vesey from the contest. He, with his
unctuous flattery, would be driven from the lists. Well we remembered
Ileen's love of frankness and honesty--how she treasured truth and
candor above vain compliment and blandishment.

Linking arms, we did a grotesque dance of joy up and down the
platform, singing "Muldoon Was a Solid Man" at the top of our voices.

That evening four of the willow rocking-chairs were filled besides the
lucky one that sustained the trim figure of Miss Hinkle. Three of us
awaited with suppressed excitement the application of the test. It
was tried on Bud first.

"Mr. Cunningham," said Ileen, with her dazzling smile, after she had
sung "When the Leaves Begin to Turn," "what do you really think of my
voice? Frankly and honestly, now, as you know I want you to always be
toward me."

Bud squirmed in his chair at his chance to show the sincerity that he
knew was required of him.

"Tell you the truth, Miss Ileen," he said, earnestly, "you ain't got
much more voice than a weasel--just a little squeak, you know. Of
course, we all like to hear you sing, for it's kind of sweet and
soothin' after all, and you look most as mighty well sittin' on the
piano-stool as you do faced around. But as for real singin'--I reckon
you couldn't call it that."

I looked closely at Ileen to see if Bud had overdone his frankness,
but her pleased smile and sweetly spoken thanks assured me that we
were on the right track.

"And what do you think, Mr. Jacks?" she asked next.

"Take it from me," said Jacks, "you ain't in the prima donna class.
I've heard 'em warble in every city in the United States; and I tell
you your vocal output don't go. Otherwise, you've got the grand
opera bunch sent to the soap factory--in looks, I mean; for the high
screechers generally look like Mary Ann on her Thursday out. But nix
for the gargle work. Your epiglottis ain't a real side-stepper--its
footwork ain't good."

With a merry laugh at Jacks' criticism, Ileen looked inquiringly at
me.

I admit that I faltered a little. Was there not such a thing as being
too frank? Perhaps I even hedged a little in my verdict; but I stayed
with the critics.

"I am not skilled in scientific music, Miss Ileen," I said, "but,
frankly, I cannot praise very highly the singing-voice that Nature has
given you. It has long been a favorite comparison that a great singer
sings like a bird. Well, there are birds and birds. I would say that
your voice reminds me of the thrush's--throaty and not strong, nor of
much compass or variety--but still--er--sweet--in--er--its--way, and--
er--"

"Thank you, Mr. Harris," interrupted Miss Hinkle. "I knew I could
depend upon your frankness and honesty."

And then C. Vincent Vesey drew back one sleeve from his snowy cuff,
and the water came down at Lodore.

My memory cannot do justice to his masterly tribute to that priceless,
God-given treasure--Miss Hinkle's voice. He raved over it in terms
that, if they had been addressed to the morning stars when they sang
together, would have made that stellar choir explode in a meteoric
shower of flaming self-satisfaction.

He marshalled on his white finger-tips the grand opera stars of all
the continents, from Jenny Lind to Emma Abbott, only to depreciate
their endowments. He spoke of larynxes, of chest notes, of phrasing,
arpeggios, and other strange paraphernalia of the throaty art. He
admitted, as though driven to a corner, that Jenny Lind had a note or
two in the high register that Miss Hinkle had not yet acquired--but--
"!!!"--that was a mere matter of practice and training.

And, as a peroration, he predicted--solemnly predicted--a career in
vocal art for the "coming star of the Southwest--and one of which
grand old Texas may well be proud," hitherto unsurpassed in the annals
of musical history.

When we left at ten, Ileen gave each of us her usual warm, cordial
handshake, entrancing smile, and invitation to call again. I could
not see that one was favored above or below another--but three of us
knew--we knew.

We knew that frankness and honesty had won, and that the rivals now
numbered three instead of four.

Down at the station Jacks brought out a pint bottle of the proper
stuff, and we celebrated the downfall of a blatant interloper.

Four days went by without anything happening worthy of recount.

On the fifth, Jacks and I, entering the brush arbor for our supper,
saw the Mexican youth, instead of a divinity in a spotless waist and a
navy-blue skirt, taking in the dollars through the barbed-wire wicket.

We rushed into the kitchen, meeting Pa Hinkle coming out with two cups
of hot coffee in his hands.

"Where's Ileen?" we asked, in recitative.

Pa Hinkle was a kindly man. "Well, gents," said he, "it was a sudden
notion she took; but I've got the money, and I let her have her way.
She's gone to a corn--a conservatory in Boston for four years for to
have her voice cultivated. Now, excuse me to pass, gents, for this
coffee's hot, and my thumbs is tender."

That night there were four instead of three of us sitting on the
station platform and swinging our feet. C. Vincent Vesey was one of
us. We discussed things while dogs barked at the moon that rose, as
big as a five-cent piece or a flour barrel, over the chaparral.

And what we discussed was whether it is better to lie to a woman or
to tell her the truth.

And as all of us were young then, we did not come to a decision.





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