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Title: Miss Mink's Soldier and Other Stories
Author: Rice, Alice Caldwell Hegan, 1870-1942
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 "Miss Mink's Soldier and Other Stories" ***

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Team.



MISS MINK'S SOLDIER

AND OTHER STORIES


[Illustration: Then Miss Mink received a shock]



MISS MINK'S SOLDIER

AND OTHER STORIES

BY

ALICE HEGAN RICE

Author of "MRS. WIGGS OF THE CABBAGE PATCH," "MR. OPP," "CALVARY ALLEY,"
ETC.


NEW YORK
THE CENTURY CO.
1918



Copyright, 1905, 1906, 1910, 1918, by THE CENTURY CO.

Copyright, 1914, by THE CROWELL PUBLISHING COMPANY

_Published, October, 1918_



  TO
  THE LADY OF THE DECORATION

  A MEMENTO OF MANY HAPPY DAYS
  SPENT TOGETHER "EAST OF SUEZ"



CONTENTS

  MISS MINK'S SOLDIER

  A DARLING OF MISFORTUNE

  "POP"

  HOODOOED

  A MATTER OF FRIENDSHIP

  THE WILD OATS OF A SPINSTER

  CUPID GOES SLUMMING

  THE SOUL OF O SANA SAN



MISS MINK'S SOLDIER


Miss Mink sat in church with lips compressed and hands tightly clasped
in her black alpaca lap, and stubbornly refused to comply with the
request that was being made from the pulpit. She was a small desiccated
person, with a sharp chin and a sharper nose, and narrow faded eyes that
through the making of innumerable buttonholes had come to resemble them.

For over forty years she had sat in that same pew facing that same
minister, regarding him second only to his Maker, and striving in
thought and deed to follow his precepts. But the time had come when Miss
Mink's blind allegiance wavered.

Ever since the establishment of the big Cantonment near the city, Dr.
Morris, in order to encourage church attendance, had been insistent in
his request that every member of his congregation should take a soldier
home to Sunday dinner.

Now it was no lack of patriotism that made Miss Mink refuse to do her
part. Every ripple in the small flag that fluttered over her humble
dwelling sent a corresponding ripple along her spinal column. When she
essayed to sing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," in her high, quavering
soprano, she invariably broke down from sheer excess of emotion. But the
American army fighting for right and freedom in France, and the Army
individually tracking mud into her spotless cottage, were two very
different things. Miss Mink had always regarded a man in her house much
as she regarded a gnat in her eye. There was but one course to pursue in
either case--elimination!

But her firm stand in the matter had not been maintained without much
misgiving. Every Sunday when Dr. Morris made his earnest appeal,
something within urged her to comply. She was like an automobile that
gets cranked up and then refuses to go. Church-going instead of being
her greatest joy came to be a nightmare. She no longer lingered in the
vestibule, for those highly cherished exchanges of inoffensive gossip
that constituted her social life. Nobody seemed to have time for her.
Every one was busy with a soldier. Within the sanctuary it was no
better. Each khaki-clad figure that dotted the congregation claimed her
attention as a possible candidate for hospitality. And each one that
presented himself to her vision was indignantly repudiated. One was too
old, another too young, one too stylish, another had forgotten to wash
his ears. She found a dozen excuses for withholding her invitation.

But this morning as she sat upright and uncompromising in her short pew,
she was suddenly thrown into a state of agitation by the appearance in
the aisle of an un-ushered soldier who, after hesitating beside one or
two pews, slipped into the seat beside her. It seemed almost as if
Providence had taken a hand and since she had refused to select a
soldier, had prompted a soldier to select her.

During the service she sat gazing straight at the minister without
comprehending a word that he said. Never once did her glance stray to
that khaki-clad figure beside her, but her thoughts played around him
like lightning. What if she should get up her courage and ask him to
dinner, how would she ever be able to walk out the street with him! And
once she had got him to her cottage, what on earth would she talk to him
about? Her hands grew cold as she thought about it. Yet something warned
her it was now or never, and that it was only by taking the hated step
and getting it over with, that she could regain the peace of mind that
had of late deserted her.

The Doxology found her weakening, but the Benediction stiffened her
resolve, and when the final Amen sounded, she turned blindly to the man
beside her, and said, hardly above her breath:

"If you ain't got any place to go to dinner, you can come home with me."

The tall figure turned toward her, and a pair of melancholy brown eyes
looked down into hers:

"You will excuse if I do not quite comprehend your meaning," he said
politely, with a strong foreign accent.

Miss Mink was plunged into instant panic; suppose he was a German?
Suppose she should be convicted for entertaining a spy! Then she
remembered his uniform and was slightly reassured.

"I said would you come home to dinner with me?" she repeated weakly,
with a fervent prayer that he would decline.

But the soldier had no such intention. He bowed gravely, and picked up
his hat and overcoat.

Miss Mink, looking like a small tug towing a big steamer, shamefacedly
made her way to the nearest exit, and got him out through the
Sunday-school room. She would take him home through a side street, feed
him and send him away as soon as possible. It was a horrible ordeal, but
Miss Mink was not one to turn back once she had faced a difficult
situation. As they passed down the broad steps into the brilliant
October sunshine, she noticed with relief that his shoes were not
muddy. Then, before she could make other observations, her mind was
entirely preoccupied with a large, firm hand that grasped her elbow, and
seemed to half lift her slight weight from step to step. Miss Mink's
elbow was not used to such treatment and it indignantly freed itself
before the pavement was reached. The first square was traveled in
embarrassed silence, then Miss Mink made a heroic effort to break the
ice:

"My name is Mink," she said, "Miss Libby Mink. I do dress-making over on
Sixth Street."

"I am Bowinski," volunteered her tall companion, "first name Alexis. I
am a machinist before I enlist in the army."

"I knew you were some sort of a Dago," said Miss Mink.

"But no, Madame, I am Russian. My home is in Kiev in Ukrania."

"Why on earth didn't you stay there?" Miss Mink asked from the depths of
her heart.

The soldier looked at her earnestly. "Because of the persecution," he
said. "My father he was in exile. His family was suspect. I come alone
to America when I am but fifteen."

"Well I guess you're sorry enough now that you came," Miss Mink said,
"Now that you've got drafted."

They had reached her gate by this time, but Bowinski paused before
entering: "Madame mistakes!" he said with dignity. "I was _not_ drafted.
The day America enter the war, that day I give up my job I have held for
five years, and enlist. America is my country, she take me in when I
have nowhere to go. It is my proud moment when I fight for her!"

Then it was that Miss Mink took her first real look at him, and if it
was a longer look than she had ever before bestowed upon man, we must
put it down to the fact that he was well worth looking at, with his tall
square figure, and his serious dark face lit up at the present with a
somewhat indignant enthusiasm.

Miss Mink pushed open the gate and led the way into her narrow yard. She
usually entered the house by way of the side door which opened into the
dining room, which was also her bedroom by night, and her sewing room by
day. But this morning, after a moment's hesitation, she turned a key in
the rusty lock of the front door, and let a flood of sunshine dispel the
gloom of the room. The parlor had been furnished by Miss Mink's parents
some sixty years ago, and nothing had been changed. A customer had once
suggested that if the sofa was taken away from the window, and the table
put in its place, the room would be lighter. Miss Mink had regarded the
proposition as preposterous. One might as well have asked her to move
her nose around to the back of her head, or to exchange the positions of
her eyes and ears!

You have seen a drop of water caught in a crystal? Well, that was what
Miss Mink was like. She moved in the tiniest possible groove with her
home at one end and her church at the other. Is it any wonder that when
she beheld a strange young foreigner sitting stiffly on her parlor sofa,
and realized that she must entertain him for at least an hour, that
panic seized her?

"I better be seeing to dinner," she said hastily. "You can look at the
album till I get things dished up."

Private Bowinski, surnamed Alexis, sat with knees awkwardly hunched and
obediently turned the leaves of the large album, politely scanning the
placid countenances of departed Minks for several generations.

Miss Mink, moving about in the inner room, glanced in at him from time
to time. After the first glance she went to the small store room and got
out a jar of sweet pickle, and after the second she produced a glass of
crab apple jelly. Serving a soldier guest who had voluntarily adopted
her country, was after all not so distasteful, if only she did not have
to talk to him. But already the coming ordeal was casting its baleful
shadow.

When they were seated opposite one another at the small table, her worst
fears were realized. They could neither of them think of anything to
say. If she made a move to pass the bread to him he insisted upon
passing it to her. When she rose to serve him, he rose to serve her. She
had never realized before how oppressive excessive politeness could be.

The one point of consolation for her lay in the fact that he was
enjoying his dinner. He ate with a relish that would have flattered any
hostess. Sometimes when he put his knife in his mouth she winced with
apprehension, but aside from a few such lapses in etiquette he conducted
himself with solemn and punctilious propriety.

When he had finished his second slice of pie, and pushed back his chair,
Miss Mink waited hopefully for him to say good-bye. He was evidently
getting out his car fare now, searching with thumb and forefinger in his
vest pocket.

"If it is not to trouble you more, may I ask a match?" he said.

"A match? What on earth do you want with a match?" demanded Miss Mink.
Then a look of apprehension swept over her face. Was this young man
actually proposing to profane the virgin air of her domicile with the
fumes of tobacco?

"Perhaps you do not like that I should smoke?" Bowinski said instantly.
"I beg you excuse, I--"

"Oh! that's all right," said Miss Mink in a tone that she did not
recognize as her own, "the matches are in that little bisque figure on
the parlor mantel. I'll get you to leave the front door open, if you
don't mind. It's kinder hot in here."

Five o'clock that afternoon found Miss Mink and Alexis Bowinski still
sitting facing each other in the front parlor. They were mutually
exhausted, and conversation after having suffered innumerable relapses,
seemed about to succumb.

"If there's any place else you want to go, you mustn't feel that you've
got to stay here," Miss Mink had urged some time after dinner. But
Alexis had answered:

"I know only two place. The Camp and the railway depot. I go on last
Sunday to the railway depot. The Chaplain at the Camp advise me I go to
church this morning. Perhaps I make a friend."

"But what do the other soldiers do on Sunday?" Miss Mink asked
desperately.

"They promenade. Always promenade. Except they go to photo-plays, and
dance hall. It is the hard part of war, the waiting part."

Miss Mink agreed with him perfectly as she helped him wait. She had
never spent such a long day in her life. At a quarter past five he rose
to go. A skillful word on her part would have expedited matters, but
Miss Mink was not versed in the social trick of speeding a departing
guest. Fifteen minutes dragged their weary length even after he was on
his feet. Then Miss Mink received a shock from which it took her an even
longer time to recover. Alexis Bowinski, having at last arrived at the
moment of departure, took her hand in his and, bowing awkwardly, raised
it to his lips and kissed it! Then he backed out of the cottage, stalked
into the twilight and was soon lost to sight beyond the hedge.

Miss Mink sank limply on the sofa by the window, and regarded her small
wrinkled hand with stern surprise. It was a hand that had never been
kissed before and it was tingling in the strangest and most
unaccountable manner.

The following week was lived in the afterglow of that eventful Sunday.
She described the soldier's visit in detail to the few customers who
came in. She went early to prayer-meeting in order to tell about it. And
in the telling she subordinated everything to the dramatic climax:

"I never was so took back in my life!" she said. "After setting there
for four mortal hours with nothing to say, just boring each other to
death, for him to get up like that and make a regular play-actor bow,
and kiss my hand! Well, I never _was_ so took back!"

And judging from the number of times Miss Mink told the story, and the
conscious smile with which she concluded it, it was evident that she was
not averse to being "took back."

By the time Sunday arrived she had worked herself up to quite a state of
excitement. Would Bowinski he at church? Would he sit on her side of the
congregation? Would he wait after the service to speak to her? She put
on her best bonnet, which was usually reserved for funerals, and pinned
a bit of thread lace over the shabby collar of her coat.

The moment she entered church all doubts were dispelled. There in her
pew, quite as if he belonged there, sat the tall young Russian. He even
stepped into the aisle for her to pass in, helped her off with her coat,
and found the place for her in the hymn-book. Miss Mink realized with a
glow of satisfaction, that many curious heads were craning in her
direction. For the first time since she had gone forward forty years ago
to confess her faith, she was an object of interest to the congregation!

When the benediction was pronounced several women came forward
ostensibly to speak to her, but in reality to ask Bowinski to go home to
dinner with them. She waived them all aside.

"No, he's going with me!" she announced firmly, and Bowinski obediently
picked up his hat and accompanied her.

For the following month this scene was enacted each Sunday, with little
change to outward appearances but with great change to Miss Mink
herself. In the mothering of Bowinski she had found the great adventure
of her life. She mended his clothes, and made fancy dishes for him, she
knit him everything that could be knitted, including an aviator's helmet
for which he had no possible use. She talked about "my soldier" to any
one who would listen.

Bowinski accepted her attention with grave politeness. He wore the
things she made for him, he ate the things she cooked for him, he
answered all her questions and kissed her hand at parting. Miss Mink
considered his behavior perfect.

One snowy Sunday in late November Miss Mink was thrown into a panic by
his failure to appear on Sunday morning. She confided to Sister Bacon in
the adjoining pew that she was afraid he had been sent to France. Sister
Bacon promptly whispered to her husband that he _had_ been sent to
France, and the rumor spread until after church quite a little group
gathered around Miss Mink to hear about it.

"What was his company?" some one asked.

"Company C, 47th Infantry," Miss Mink repeated importantly.

"Why, that's my boy's company," said Mrs. Bacon. "_They_ haven't gone to
France."

The thought of her soldier being in the trenches even, was more
tolerable to Miss Mink than the thought of his being in town and failing
to come to her for Sunday dinner.

"I bet he's sick," she announced. "I wish I could find out."

Mrs. Bacon volunteered to ask her Jim about him, and three days later
stopped by Miss Mink's cottage to tell her that Bowinski had broken his
leg over a week before and was in the Base Hospital.

"Can anybody go out there that wants to?" demanded Miss Mink.

"Yes, on Sundays and Wednesdays. But you can't count on the cars running
to-day. Jim says everything's snowed under two feet deep."

Miss Mink held her own counsel but she knew what she was going to do.
Her soldier was in trouble, he had no family or friends. She was going
to him.

With trembling fingers she packed a small basket with some apples, a jar
of jelly and a slice of cake. There was no time for her own lunch, so
she hurriedly put on her coat and twisting a faded scarf about her neck
trudged out into the blustery afternoon.

The blizzard of the day before had almost suspended traffic, and when
she finally succeeded in getting a car, it was only to find that it ran
no farther than the city limits.

"How much farther is it to the Camp?" Miss Mink asked desperately.

"About a mile," said the conductor. "I wouldn't try it if I was you, the
walking's fierce."

But Miss Mink was not to be turned back. Gathering her skirts as high as
her sense of propriety would permit, and grasping her basket she set
bravely forth. The trip alone to the Camp, under the most auspicious
circumstances, would have been a trying ordeal for her, but under the
existing conditions it required nothing less than heroism. The snow had
drifted in places as high as her knees, and again and again she stumbled
and almost lost her footing as she staggered forward against the force
of the icy wind.

Before she had gone half a mile she was ready to collapse with
nervousness and exhaustion.

"Looks like I just can't make it," she whimpered, "and yet I'm going
to!"

The honk of an automobile sent her shying into a snowdrift, and when she
caught her breath and turned around she saw that the machine had stopped
and a hand was beckoning to her from the window.

"May I give you a lift?" asked a girl's high sweet voice and, looking
up, she saw a sparkling face smiling down at her over an upturned fur
collar.

Without waiting to be urged she climbed into the machine, stumbled over
the rug, and sank exhausted on the cushions.

"Give me your basket," commanded the young lady. "Now put your feet on
the heater. Sure you have room?"

Miss Mink, still breathless, nodded emphatically.

"It's a shame to ask anyone to ride when I'm so cluttered up," continued
the girl gaily. "I'm taking these things out to my sick soldier boys."

Miss Mink, looking down, saw that the floor of the machine was covered
with boxes and baskets.

"I'm going to the Hospital, too," she said.

"That's good!" exclaimed the girl. "I can take you all the way. Perhaps
you have a son or a grandson out there?"

Miss Mink winced. "No, he ain't any kin to me," she said, "but I been
sort of looking after him."

"How sweet of you!" said the pouting red lips with embarrassing ardor.
"Just think of your walking out here this awful day at your age. Quite
sure you are getting warm?"

Yes, Miss Mink was warm, but she felt suddenly old, old and shrivelled
beside this radiant young thing.

"I perfectly adore going to the hospital," said the girl, her blue eyes
dancing. "Father's one of the medical directors, Major Chalmers, I
expect you've heard of him. I'm Lois Chalmers."

But Miss Mink was scarcely listening. She was comparing the big luscious
looking oranges in the crate, with the hard little apples in her own
basket.

"Here we are!" cried Lois, as the car plowed through the snow and mud
and stopped in front of a long shed-like building. Two orderlies sprang
forward with smiling alacrity and began unloading the boxes.

"Aren't you the nicest ever?" cried Lois with a skillful smile that
embraced them both. "Those to the medical, those to the surgical, and
these to my little fat-faced Mumpsies."

Miss Mink got herself and her basket out unassisted, then stood in doubt
as to what she should do next. She wanted to thank Miss Chalmers for her
courtesy, but two dapper young officers had joined the group around her
making a circle of masculine admirers.

Miss Mink slipped away unnoticed and presented herself at the door
marked "Administration Building."

"Can you tell me where the broken-legged soldiers are?" she asked
timidly of a man at a desk.

"Who do you want to see?"

"Alexis Bowinski. He come from Russia. He's got curly hair and big sort
of sad eyes, and--"

"Bowinski," the man repeated, running his finger down a ledger, "A.
Bowinski, Surgical Ward 5-C. Through that door, two corridors to the
right midway down the second corridor."

Miss Mink started boldly forth to follow directions, but it was not
until she had been ejected from the X-ray Room, the Mess Hall, and the
Officers' Quarters, that she succeeded in reaching her destination. By
that time her courage was at its lowest ebb. On either side of the long
wards were cots, on which lay men in various stages of undress. Now Miss
Mink had seen pajamas in shop windows, she had even made a pair once of
silk for an ambitious groom, but this was the first time she had ever
seen them, as it were, occupied.

So acute was her embarrassment that she might have turned back at the
last moment, had her eyes not fallen on the cot nearest the door. There,
lying asleep, with his injured leg suspended from a pulley from which
depended two heavy weights, lay Bowinski.

Miss Mink slipped into the chair between his cot and the wall. After the
first glance at his pale unshaven face and the pain-lined brow, she
forgot all about herself. She felt only overwhelming pity for him, and
indignation at the treatment to which he was being subjected.

By and by he stirred and opened his eyes.

"Oh you came!" he said, "I mean you not to know I be in hospital. You
must have the kindness not to trouble about me."

"Trouble nothing," said Miss Mink, husky with emotion, "I never knew a
thing about it until to-day. What have they got you harnessed up like
this for?"

Then Alexis with difficulty found the English words to tell her how his
leg had not set straight, had been re-broken and was now being forced
into proper position.

"It is like hell, Madame," he concluded with a trembling lip, then he
drew a sharp breath, "But no, I forget, I am in the army. I beg you
excuse my complain."

Miss Mink laid herself out to entertain him. She unpacked her basket,
and spread her meagre offerings before him. She described in detail all
the surgical operations she had ever had any experience with, following
some to their direst consequences. Alexis listened apathetically. Now
and then a spasm of pain contracted his face, but he uttered no word of
complaint.

Only once during the afternoon did his eyes brighten. Miss Mink caught
the sudden change in his expression and, following his glance, saw Lois
Chalmers coming through the ward. She had thrown aside her heavy fur
coat, and her slim graceful little figure as alert as a bird's darted
from cart to cot as she tossed packages of cigarettes to right and left.

"Here you are, Mr. Whiskers!" she was calling out gaily to one. "This is
for you, Colonel Collar Bone. Where's Cadet Limpy? Discharged? Good for
him! Hello, Mr. Strong Man!" For a moment she poised at the foot of
Bowinski's cot, then recognizing Miss Mink she nodded:

"So you found your soldier? I'm going back to town in ten minutes, I'll
take you along if you like."

She flitted out of the ward as quickly as she had come, leaving two long
rows of smiling faces in her wake. She had brought no pity, nor
tenderness, nor understanding, but she had brought her fresh young
beauty, and her little gift of gayety, and made men forget, at least for
a moment, their pain-racked bodies and their weary brains.

Miss Mink reached her cottage that night weary and depressed. She had
had nothing to eat since breakfast, and yet was too tired to prepare
supper. She made her a cup of tea which she drank standing, and then
crept into bed only to lie staring into the darkness tortured by the
thought of those heavy weights on Bowinski's injured leg.

The result of her weariness and exposure was a sharp attack of
tonsilitis that kept her in bed several weeks. The first time she was
able to be up, she began to count the hours until the next visiting day
at the Camp. Her basket was packed the evening before, and placed beside
the box of carnations in which she had extravagantly indulged. It is
doubtful whether Miss Mink was ever so happy in her life as during that
hour of pleased expectancy.

As she moved feebly about putting the house in order, so that she could
make an early start in the morning, she discovered a letter that the
Postman had thrust under the side door earlier in the day. Across the
left hand corner was pictured an American flag, and across the right was
a red triangle in a circle. She hastily tore off the envelop and read:

    Dear Miss Mink:

    I am out the Hospital, getting along fine. Hope you are in the same
    circumstances. I am sending you a book which I got from a Dear Young
    Lady, in the Hospital. I really do not know what to call her because
    I do not know her name, but I know she deserve a nice, nice name for
    all good She dose to all soldiers. I think she deserve more
    especially from me than to call her a Sweet Dear Lady, because that
    I have the discouragement, and she make me to laugh and take heart.
    I would ask your kind favor to please pass the book back to the
    Young Lady, and pleas pass my thankful word to her, and if you might
    be able to send me her name before that I go to France, which I
    learn is very soon. Excuse all errors if you pleas will. This is
    goodby from

  Your soldier friend,
  A. BOWINSKI.

Miss Mink read the letter through, then she sat down limply in a kitchen
chair and stared at the stove. Twice she half rose to get the pen and
ink on the shelf above the coal box, but each time she changed her mind,
folded her arms indignantly, and went back to her stern contemplation of
the stove. Presently a tear rolled down her cheek, then another, and
another until she dropped her tired old face in her tired old hands, and
gave a long silent sob that shook her slight body from head to foot.
Then she rose resolutely and sweeping the back of her hand across her
eyes, took down her writing materials. On one side of a post card she
wrote the address of Alexis Bowinski, and on the other she penned in
her cramped neat writing, one line:

"Her name is Lois Chalmers. Hotel LeRoy."

This done she unpacked her basket, put her half dozen carnations in a
tumbler of water and carried them into the dark parlor, pulled her chair
up to the kitchen table, drew the lamp closer and patiently went back to
her buttonholes.



A DARLING OF MISFORTUNE


A shabby but joyous citizen of the world at large was Mr. Phelan
Harrihan, as, with a soul wholly in tune with the finite, he half sat
and half reclined on a baggage-truck at Lebanon Junction. He wag
relieving the tedium of his waiting moments by entertaining a critical
if not fastidious audience of three.

Beside him, with head thrust under his ragged sleeve, sat a small and
unlovely bull-terrier, who, at each fresh burst of laughter, lifted a
pair of languishing eyes to the face of his master, and then manifested
his surplus affection by ardently licking the buttons on the sleeve of
the arm that encircled him.

It was a moot question whether Mr. Harrihan resembled his dog, or
whether his dog resembled him. That there was a marked similarity
admitted of no discussion. If Corp's nose had been encouraged and his
lower jaw suppressed, if his intensely emotional nature had been under
better control, and his sentimentality tempered with humor, the analogy
would have been more complete. In taste, they were one. By birth,
predilection, and instinct both were philosophers of the open,
preferring an untrammeled life in Vagabondia to the collars and
conventions of society. Both delighted in exquisite leisure, and spent
it in pleased acquiescence with things as they are.

Some twenty-five years before, Phelan had opened his eyes upon a
half-circle of blue sky, seen through the end of a canvas-covered wagon
on a Western prairie, and having first conceived life to be a
free-and-easy affair on a long, open road, he thereafter declined to
consider it in any other light.

The only break in his nomadic existence was when a benevolent old
gentleman found him, a friendless lad in a Nashville hospital, cursed
him through a fever, and elected to educate him. Those were years of
black captivity for Phelan, and after being crammed and coached for what
seemed an interminable time, he was proudly entered at the University,
where he promptly failed in every subject and was dropped at the
mid-year term.

The old gentleman, fortunately, was spared all disappointment in regard
to his irresponsible protégé, for he died before the catastrophe,
leaving Phelan Harrihan a legacy of fifteen dollars a month and the
memory of a kind, but misguided, old man who was not quite right in his
head.

Being thus provided with a sum more than adequate to meet all his
earthly needs, Phelan joyously abandoned the straight and narrow path of
learning, and once more betook himself to the open road.

The call of blue skies and green fields, the excitement of each day's
encounter, the dramatic possibilities of every passing incident, the
opportunity for quick and intimate fellowship, and above all an
inherited and chronic disinclination for work, made Phelan an easy
victim to that malady called by the casual tourist "wanderlust," but
known in Hoboland as "railroad fever."

Only once a year did he return to civilization, don a stiff collar, and
recognize an institution. During his meteoric career at the University
he had been made a member of the Alpha Delta fraternity, in recognition
of his varied accomplishments. Not only could he sing and dance and tell
a tale with the best, but he was also a mimic and a ventriloquist, gifts
which had proven invaluable in crucial conflicts with the faculty, and
had constituted him a hero in several escapades. Of such material is
college history made, and the Alpha Delta, recognizing the distinction
of possessing this unique member, refused to accept his resignation, but
unanimously demanded his presence at each annual reunion.

On June second, for five consecutive years, the ends of the earth had
yielded up Phelan Harrihan; by a miracle of grace he had arrived in
Nashville, decently appareled, ready to respond to his toast, to bask
for his brief hour in the full glare of the calcium, then to depart
again into oblivion.

It was now the first day of June and as Phelan concluded his tale,
which was in fact an undress rehearsal of what he intended to tell on
the morrow, he looked forward with modest satisfaction to the triumph
that was sure to be his. For the hundredth time he made certain that the
small brown purse, so unused to its present obesity, was safe and sound
in his inside pocket.

During the pause that followed his recital, his audience grew restive.

"Go on, do it again," urged the ragged boy who sold the sandwiches,
"show us how Forty Fathom Dan looked when he thought he was sinking.

"I don't dare trifle with me features," said Phelan solemnly. "How much
are those sandwiches. One for five, is it? Two for fifteen, I suppose.
Well, here's one for me, and one for Corp, and keep the change, kid.
Ain't that the train coming?"

"It's the up train," said the station-master, rising reluctantly; "it
meets yours here. I've got to be hustling."

Phelan, left without an audience, strolled up and down the platform,
closely followed by Corporal Harrihan.

As the train slowed up at the little Junction, there was manifestly some
commotion on board. Standing in the doorway of the rear car a small,
white-faced woman argued excitedly with the conductor.

"I didn't have no ticket, I tell you!" she was saying as the train came
to a stop. "I 'lowed I'd pay my way, but I lost my pocket-book. I lost
it somewheres on the train here, I don't know where it is!"

"I've seen your kind before," said the conductor wearily; "what did you
get on for when you didn't have anything to pay your fare with?"

"I tell you I lost my pocket-book after I got on!" she said doggedly; "I
ain't going to get off, you daren't put me off!"

Phelan, who had sauntered up, grew sympathetic. He, too, had experienced
the annoyance of being pressed for his fare when it was inconvenient to
produce it.

"Go ahead," demanded the conductor firmly, "I don't want to push you
off, but if you don't step down and out right away, I'll have it to do."

The woman's expression changed from defiance to terror. She clung to the
brake with both hands and looked at him fearfully.

"No, no, don't touch me!" she cried. "Don't make me get off! I've got to
get to Cincinnati. My man's there. He's been hurt in the foundry.
He's--maybe he's dying now."

"I can't help that, maybe it's so and maybe it ain't. You never had any
money when you got on this train and you know it. Go on, step off!"

"But I did!" she cried wildly; "I did. Oh, God! don't put me off."

The train began to move, and the conductor seized the woman's arms from
behind and forced her forward. A moment more and she would be pushed off
the lowest step. She turned beseeching eyes on the little group of
spectators, and as she did so Phelan Harrihan sprang forward and with
his hand on the railing, ran along with the slow-moving train.

With a deft movement he bent forward and apparently snatched something
from the folds of her skirt.

"Get on to your luck now," he said with an encouraging smile that played
havoc with the position of his features; "if here ain't your pocket-book
all the time!"

The hysterical woman looked from the unfamiliar little brown purse in
her hand, to the snub-nosed, grimy face of the young man running along
the track, then she caught her breath.

"Why,--" she cried unsteadily, "yes--yes, it's my purse."

Phelan loosened his hold on the railing and had only time to scramble
breathlessly up the bank before the down train, the train for Nashville
which was to have been his, whizzed past.

He watched it regretfully as it slowed up at the station, then almost
immediately pulled out again for the south, carrying his hopes with it.

"Corporal," said Phelan, to the dog, who had looked upon the whole
episode as a physical-culture exercise indulged in for his special
benefit, "a noble act of charity is never to be regretted, but wasn't I
the original gun, not to wait for the change?"

His lack of business method seemed to weigh upon him, and he continued
to apologize to Corporal:

"It was so sudden, you know, Corp. Couldn't see a lady ditched, when I
had a bit of stuffed leather in my pocket. And two hundred miles to
Nashville! Well I'll--be--jammed!"

He searched in his trousers pockets and found a dime in one and a hole
in the other. It was an old trick of his to hide a piece of money in
time of prosperity, and then discover it in the blackness of adversity.

He held the dime out ruefully: "That's punk and plaster for supper, but
we'll have to depend on a hand-out for breakfast. And, Corp," he added
apologetically, "you know I told you we was going to ride regular like
gentlemen? Well, I've been compelled to change my plans. We are going to
turf it twelve miles down to the watering tank, and sit out a couple of
dances till the midnight freight comes along. If a side door Pullman
ain't convenient, I'll have to go on the bumpers, then what'll become of
you, Mr. Corporal Harrihan?"

The coming ordeal cast no shadow over Corporal. He was declaring his
passionate devotion, by wild tense springs at Phelan's face, seeking in
vain to overcome the cruel limitation of a physiognomy that made kissing
well-nigh impossible.

Phelan picked up his small bundle and started down the track with the
easy, regular swing of one who has long since gaged the distance of
railroad ties. But his step lacked its usual buoyancy, and he forgot to
whistle, Mr. Harrihan was undergoing the novel experience of being
worried. Of course he would get to Nashville,--if the train went, _he_
could go,--but the prospect of arriving without decent clothes and with
no money to pay for a lodging, did not in the least appeal to him. He
thought with regret of his well-laid plans: an early arrival, a Turkish
bath, the purchase of a new outfit, instalment at a good hotel,
then--presentation at the fraternity headquarters of Mr. Phelan
Harrihan, Gentleman for a Night. He could picture it all, the dramatic
effect of his entrance, the yell of welcome, the buzz of questions, and
the evasive, curiosity-enkindling answers which he meant to give. Then
the banquet, with its innumerable courses of well-served food, the
speeches and toasts, and the personal ovation that always followed Mr.
Harrihan's unique contribution.

Oh! he couldn't miss it! Providence would interfere in his behalf, he
knew it would, it always did. "Give me my luck, and keep your lucre!"
was a saying of Phelan's, quoted by brother hoboes from Maine to the
Gulf.

All the long afternoon he tramped the ties, with Corporal at his heels.
As dusk came on the clouds that had been doing picket duty, joined the
regiment on the horizon which slowly wheeled and charged across the sky.
Phelan scanned the heavens with an experienced weather eye, then began
to look for a possible shelter from the coming shower. On either side,
the fields stretched away in undulating lines, with no sign of a
habitation in sight. A dejected old scarecrow, and a tumble-down shed in
the distance were the only objects that presented themselves.

Turning up his coat-collar Phelan made a dash for the shed, but the
shower overtook him half-way. It was not one of your gentle little
summer showers, that patter on the shingles waking echoes underneath; it
was a large and instantaneous breakage in the celestial plumbing that
let gallons of water down Phelan's back, filling his pockets, hat brim,
and shoes and sending a dashing cascade down Corporal's oblique profile.

"Float on your back, Corp, and pull for the shore!" laughed Phelan as he
landed with a spring under the dilapidated shed. "Cheer up, old pard;
you look as if all your past misdeeds had come before you in your
drowning hour."

Corporal, shivering and unhappy, crept under cover, and dumbly demanded
of Phelan what he intended to do about it.

"Light a blaze, sure," said Phelan, "and linger here in the air of the
tropics till the midnight freight comes along."

Scraping together the old wood and débris in the rear of the shed, and
extricating with some difficulty a small tin match-box from his
saturated clothes, he knelt before the pile and used all of his
persuasive powers to induce it to ignite.

At the first feeble blaze Corporal's spirits rose so promptly that he
had to be restrained.

"Easy there! Corp," cautioned Phelan. "A fire's like a woman, you can't
be sure of it too soon. And, dog alive, stop wagging your tail, don't
you see it makes a draft?"

The fire capriciously would, then it wouldn't. A tiny flame played
tantalizingly along the top of a stick only to go sullenly out when it
reached the end. Match after match was sacrificed to the cause, but at
last, down deep under the surface, there was a steady, reassuring,
cheerful crackle that made Phelan sit back on his heels, and remark
complacently:

"They most generally come around, in the end!"

In five minutes the fire was burning bright, Corporal was dreaming of
meaty bones in far fence corners, and Phelan, less free from the
incumbrances of civilization, was divesting himself of his rain-soaked
garments.

From one of the innumerable pockets of his old cutaway coat he took a
comb and brush and clothes-brush, and carefully deposited them before
the fire. Then from around his neck he removed a small leather case,
hung by a string and holding a razor. His treasured toilet articles thus
being cared for, he turned his attention to the contents of his dripping
bundle. A suit of underwear and a battered old copy of Eli Perkins were
ruefully examined, and spread out to dry.

The fire, while it lasted, was doing admirable service, but the wood
supply was limited, and Phelan saw that he must take immediate advantage
of the heat. How to dry the underwear which he wore was the question
which puzzled him, and he wrestled with it for several moments before an
inspiration came.

"I'll borrow some duds from the scarecrow!" he said half aloud, and
went forth immediately to execute his idea.

The rain had ceased, but the fields were still afloat, and Phelan waded
ankle deep through the slush grass, to where the scarecrow raised his
threatening arms against the twilight sky.

"Beggars and borrowers shouldn't be choosers," said Phelan, as he
divested the figure of its ragged trousers and coat, "but I have a
strong feeling in my mind that these habiliments ain't going to become
me. Who's your tailor, friend?"

The scarecrow, reduced now to an old straw hat and a necktie, maintained
a dignified and oppressive silence.

"Well, he ain't on to the latest cut," continued Phelan, wringing the
water out of the coat. "But maybe these here is your pajamas? Don't tell
me I disturbed you after you'd retired for the night? Very well then,
aurevoy."

With the clothes under his arm he made his way back to the shed, and
divesting himself of his own raiment he got into his borrowed property.

By this time the fire had died down, and the place was in
semi-darkness. Phelan threw on a handful of sticks and, as the blaze
flared up, he caught his first clear sight of his newly acquired
clothes. They were ragged and weather-stained, and circled about with
broad, unmistakable stripes.

"Well, I'll be spiked!" said Phelan, vastly amused. "I wouldn't 'a'
thought it of a nice, friendly scarecrow like that! Buncoed me, didn't
he? Well, feathers don't always make the jail-bird. Wonder what poor
devil wore 'em last? Peeled out of 'em in this very shed, like as not.
Well, they'll serve my purpose all right, all right."

He took off his shoes, placed them under his head for a pillow, lit a
short cob pipe, threw on fresh wood, and prepared to wait for his
clothes to dry.

Meanwhile the question of the banquet revolved itself continually in his
mind. This time to-morrow night, the preparations would be in full
swing. Instead of being hungry, half naked, and chilled, he might be in
a luxurious club-house dallying with caviar, stuffed olives, and
Benedictine. All that lay between him and bliss were two hundred miles
of railroad ties and a decent suit of clothes!

"Wake up, Corp; for the love of Mike be sociable!" cried Phelan when the
situation became too gloomy to contemplate. "Ain't that like a dog now?
Hold your tongue when I'm longing for a word of kindly sympathy an'
encouragement, and barking your fool head off once we get on the
freight. Much good it'll be doing us to get to Nashville in this fix,
but we'll take our blessings as they come, Corp, and just trust to luck
that somebody will forget to turn 'em off. I know when I get to the
banquet there'll be one other man absent. That's Bell of Terre Haute.
Him and me is always in the same boat, he gets ten thousand a year and
ain't got the nerve to spend it, and I get fifteen a month, and ain't
got the nerve to keep it! Poor old Bell."

Corporal, roused from his slumbers, sniffed inquiringly at the many
garments spread about the fire, yawned, turned around several times in
dog fashion, then curled up beside Phelan, signifying by his bored
expression that he hadn't the slightest interest in the matter under
discussion.

Gradually the darkness closed in, and the fire died to embers. It would
be four hours before the night freight slowed up at the water tank, and
Phelan, tired from his long tramp, and drowsy from the heat and the
vapor rising from the drying clothes, shifted the shoe-buttons from
under his left ear, and drifted into dreamland.

How long he slept undisturbed, only the scarecrow outside knew. He was
dimly aware, in his dreams, of subdued sounds and, by and by, the sounds
formed themselves into whispered words and, still half asleep, he
listened.

"I thought we'd find him along here. This is the road they always take,"
a low voice was saying; "you and Sam stand here, John and me'll tackle
him from this side. He'll put up a stiff fight, you bet."

Phelan opened his eyes, and tried to remember where he was.

"Gosh! look at that bulldog!" came another whisper, and at the same
moment Corporal jumped to his feet, growling angrily.

As he did so, four men sprang through the opening of the shed, and
seized Phelan by the arms and legs.

"Look out there," cried one excitedly; "don't let him escape; here's the
handcuffs."

"But here," cried Phelan, "what's up; what you doing to me?"

By this time Corporal, thoroughly roused, made a vicious lunge at the
nearest man. The next minute there was a sharp report of a pistol, and
the bull-terrier went yelping and limping out into the night.

"You coward!" cried Phelan, struggling to rise, "if you killed that
dog--"

"Get those shackles on his legs," shouted one of the men. "Is the wagon
ready, Sam? Take his legs there, I've got his head. Leave the truck
here, we've got to drive like sand to catch that train!"

After being dragged to the road and thrown into a spring wagon, Phelan
found himself lying on his back, jolting over a rough country road, his
three vigilant captors sitting beside him with pistols in hand.

Any effort on his part to explain or seek information was promptly and
emphatically discouraged. But in time he gathered, from the bits let
fall by his captors, that he was an escaped convict, of a most desperate
character, for whom a reward was offered, and that he had been at large
twenty-four hours.

In vain did he struggle for a hearing. Only once did he get a response
to his oft-repeated plea of innocence. It was when he told how he had
come by the clothes he had on. For once Phelan got a laugh when he did
not relish it.

"Got 'em off a scarecrow, did you?" said the man at his head, when the
fun had subsided; "say, I want to be 'round when you tell that to the
Superintendent of the Penitentiary--I ain't heard him laugh in ten
years!"

So, in the face of such unbelief, Phelan lapsed into silence and gloom.
What became of him concerned him less, at the moment, than the fate of
Corporal, and the thought of the faithful little beast wounded and
perhaps dying out there in the fields, made him sick at heart.

Just as they came in sight of the lights of the station, the whistle of
the freight was heard down the track and the horses were beaten to a
gallop.

Phelan was hurried from the wagon into an empty box car, with his full
guard in attendance. As the train pulled out he heard a little whimper
beside him and there, panting for breath after his long run, and with
one ear hanging limp and bloody, cowered Corporal. Phelan's hands were
not at his disposal, but even if they had been it is doubtful if he
would have denied Corp the joy for once of kissing him.

Through the rest of the night the heavy cars rumbled over the rails, and
the men took turn about sleeping and guarding the prisoner. Only once
did Phelan venture another question:

"Say, you sports, you don't mind telling me where you are taking me, do
you?"

"Listen at his gaff!" said one. "He'll know all right when he gets to
Nashville."

Phelan sent such a radiant smile into the darkness that it threatened
to reveal itself. Then he slipped his encircled wrists about Corporal's
body and giving him a squeeze whispered:

"It's better'n the bumpers, Corp."

At the Penitentiary next day there was consternation and dismay when
instead of the desperate criminal, who two days before had scaled the
walls and dropped to freedom, an innocent little Irishman was presented,
whose only offense apparently was in having donned, temporarily, the
garb of crime.

As the investigation proceeded, Phelan found it expedient, to become
excessively indignant. That an American citizen, strolling harmlessly
through the fields of a summer evening, and being caught in a shower,
should attempt to dry his clothes in an unused shed, and find himself
attacked and bound, and hurried away without his belongings to a distant
city, was an inconceivable outrage. If a shadow of doubt remained as to
his identity, a score of prominent gentlemen in the city would be able
to identify him. He named them, and added that he was totally unable to
hazard a guess as to what form their resentment of his treatment would
assume.

The authorities looked grave. Could Mr. Harrihan remember just what
articles he had left behind? Mr. Harrihan could. A suit of clothes, a
pair of shoes, a hat, a toilet set, and a small sum of money; "the loss
of which," added Phelan with a fine air of indifference, "are as nothing
compared to the indignity offered to my person."

Would the gentleman be satisfied if the cost of these articles, together
with the railroad fare back to Lebanon Junction be paid him? The
gentleman, after an injured pause, announced that he would.

And thus it was that Mr. Phelan Harrihan, in immaculate raiment,
presented himself at the Sixth Annual Reunion of the Alpha Delta
fraternity and, with a complacent smile encircling a ten-cent cigar, won
fresh laurels by recounting, with many adornments, the adventures of the
previous night.



"POP"


The gloomy corridor in the big Baltimore hospital was still and deserted
save for a nurse who sat at a flat-topped desk under a green lamp
mechanically transferring figures from one chart to another. It was the
period of quiet that usually precedes the first restless stirring of the
sick at the breaking of dawn. The silence was intense as only a silence
can be that waits momentarily for an interrupting sound.

Suddenly it came in a prolonged, imperative ring of the telephone bell.
So insistent was the call that the nurse's hand closed over the
transmitter long before the burr ceased. The office was notifying Ward B
that an emergency case had been brought in and an immediate operation
was necessary.

With prompt efficiency the well-ordered machinery for saving human life
was put in motion. Soft-footed nurses emerged from the shadows and
moved quickly about, making necessary arrangements. A trim, comely
woman, straight of feature and clear of eye, gave directions in low
decisive tones. When the telephone rang the second time she answered it.

"Yes, Office," she said, "this is Miss Fletcher. They are not going to
operate? Too late? I see. Very well. Send the patient up to No. 16.
Everything is ready."

Even as she spoke the complaining creak of the elevator could he heard,
and presently two orderlies appeared at the end of the corridor bearing
a stretcher.

Beside it, with head erect and jaw set, strode a strangely commanding
figure. Six feet two he loomed in the shadows, a gaunt, raw-boned old
mountaineer. On his head was a tall, wide-brimmed hat and in his right
hand he carried a bulky carpet sack. The left sleeve of his long-tailed
coat hung empty to the elbow. The massive head with its white flowing
beard and hawklike face, the beaked nose and fierce, deep-set eyes,
might have served as a model for Michael Angelo when he modeled his
immortal Moses.

As the orderlies passed through the door of No. 16 and lowered the
stretcher, the old man put down his carpet sack and grimly watched the
nurse uncover the patient. Under the worn homespun coverlet, stained
with the dull dyes of barks and berries, lay an emaciated figure, just
as it had been brought into the hospital. One long coarse garment
covered it, and the bare feet with their prominent ankle bones and the
large work-hardened hands might have belonged to either a boy or a girl.

"Take that thar head wrappin' off!" ordered the old man peremptorily.

A nurse carefully unwound the rough woolen scarf and as she did so a
mass of red hair fell across the pillow, hair that in spite of its
matted disorder showed flashes of gleaming gold.

"We'll get her on the bed," a night nurse said to an assistant. "Put
your arm under her knees. Don't jar the stretcher!"

Before the novice could obey another and a stronger arm was thrust
forward.

"Stand back thar, some of you-uns," commanded a loud voice, "I'll holp
move Sal myself."

In vain were protests from nurses and orderlies alike, the old
mountaineer seemed bent on making good use of his one arm and with quick
dexterity he helped to lift her on the bed.

"Now, whar's the doctor?" he demanded, standing with feet far apart and
head thrown back.

The doctor was at the desk in the corridor, speaking to Miss Fletcher in
an undertone:

"We only made a superficial examination down-stairs," he was saying,
"but it is evidently a ruptured appendix. If she's living in a couple of
hours I may be able to operate. But it's ten to one she dies on the
table."

"Who are they, and where did they come from?" Miss Fletcher asked
curiously.

"Their name is Hawkins, and they are from somewhere in the Kentucky
mountains. Think of his starting with her in that condition! He can't
read or write; it's the first time he has ever been in a city. I am
afraid he's going to prove troublesome. You'd better get him out of
there as soon as possible."

But anyone, however mighty in authority, who proposed to move Jeb
Hawkins when he did not choose to be moved reckoned unknowingly. All
tactics were exhausted from suggestion to positive command, and the
rules of the hospital were quoted in vain.

In the remote regions where Jeb lived there were no laws to break. Every
man's home was his stronghold, to be protected at the point of a pistol.
He was one of the three million people of good Anglo-Saxon stock who had
been stranded in the highlands when the Cumberland Mountains dammed the
stream of humanity that swept westward through the level wilderness.
Development had been arrested so long in Jeb and his ancestors that the
outside world, its interests and its mode of living, was a matter of
supreme and profound indifference. A sudden and unprecedented emergency
had driven him to the "Settlements." His girl had developed an ailment
that baffled the skill of the herb doctors; so, following one bit of
advice after another, he had finally landed in Baltimore. And now that
the terrible journey was ended and Sal was in the hands of the doctor
who was to work the cure, the wholly preposterous request was made of
him that he abandon her to her fate!

With dogged determination he sat beside the bed, and chewed silently and
stolidly through the argument.

"You gals mought ez well save yer wind," he announced at last. "Ef Sal
stays, I stay. Ef I go, Sal goes. We ain't axin' favors of nobody."

He was so much in the way during the necessary preparations for the
possible operation that finally Miss Fletcher was appealed to. She was a
woman accustomed to giving orders and to having them obeyed; but she was
also a woman of tact. Ten minutes of valuable time were spent in
propitiating the old man before she suggested that he come with her into
the corridor while the nurses straightened the room. A few minutes later
she returned, smiling:

"I've corralled him in the linen closet," she whispered; "he is
unpacking his carpet sack as if he meant to take up his abode with us."

"I am afraid," said the special nurse, glancing toward the bed, "he
won't have long to stay. How do you suppose he ever got her here?"

"I asked him. He said he drove her for three days in an ox-cart along
the creek bottom until they got to Jackson. Then he told the ticket
agent to send them to the best hospital the train ran to. Neither of
them had ever seen a train before. It's a miracle she's lived this
long."

"Does he realize her condition?"

"I don't know. I suppose I ought to tell him that the end may come at
any time."

But telling him was not an easy matter as Miss Fletcher found when she
joined him later in the linen closet. He was busy spreading his varied
possessions along the shelves on top of the piles of immaculate linen,
stopping now and then to refresh himself with a bite of salt pork and
some corn pone that had been packed for days along with Sally's shoes
and sunbonnet and his own scanty wardrobe.

"I suppose you know," Miss Fletcher began gently, trying not to show her
chagrin at the state of the room, "that your daughter is in a very
serious condition."

He looked at her sharply. "Shucks! Sal'll pull through," he said with
mingled defiance and alarm. "You ain't saw her afore in one of them
spells. Besides, hit meks a difference when a gal's paw and grandpaw and
great-grandpaw was feud-followers. A feud-follower teks more killin'
then ordinary folks. Her maw was subjec' to cramp colic afore her."

"But this isn't cramp colic," Miss Fletcher urged, "it's her appendix,
and it wasn't taken in time."

"Well, ain't they goin' to draw it?" he asked irritably. "Ain't that
whut we're here fer?"

"Yes; but you don't understand. The doctor may decide _not_, to
operate."

The old man's face wore a puzzled look, then his lips hardened:

"Mebbe hit's the money thet's a-woriyin' him. You go toll him that Jeb
Hawkins pays ez he goes! I got pension money sewed in my coat frum the
hem clean up to the collar. I hain't askin' none of you to cure my gal
fer nothin'!"

Miss Fletcher laid her hand on his arm. It was a shapely hand as well as
a kindly one.

"It isn't a question of money," she said quietly, "it's a question of
life or death. There is only a slight chance that your daughter will
live through the day."

Someone tapped at the door and Miss Fletcher, after a whispered
consultation, turned again to the old man:

"They have decided to take the chance," she said hurriedly. "They are
carrying her up now. You stay here, and I will let you know as soon as
it is over."

"Whar they fetching her to?" he demanded savagely.

"To the operating-room."

"You take me thar!"

"But you can't go, Mr. Hawkins. No one but the surgeons and nurses can
be with her. Besides, the nurse who was just here said she had regained
consciousness, and it might excite her to see you."

She might as well have tried to stop a mountain torrent. He brushed past
her and was making his way to the elevator before she had ceased
speaking. At the open door of the operating-room on the fourth floor he
paused. On a long white table lay the patient, a white-clad doctor on
either side of her, and a nurse in the background sorting a handful of
gleaming instruments. With two strides the old man reached the girl's
side.

"Sal!" he said fiercely, bending over her, "air ye wuss?"

Her dazed eyes cleared slightly.

"I dunno, Pop," she murmured feebly.

"Ye ain't fixin' to die, air ye?" he persisted.

"I dunno, Pop."

"Don't you let 'em skeer you," he commanded sternly. "You keep on
a-fightin'. Don't you dare give up. Sal, do you hear me?"

The girl's wavering consciousness steadied, and for a moment the
challenge that the old man flung at death was valiantly answered in her
pain-racked eyes.

For an hour and a half the surgeons worked. The case, critical enough at
best, was greatly complicated by the long delay. Twice further effort
seemed useless, and it was only by the prompt administration of oxygen
that the end was averted. During the nerve-racking suspense Pop not only
refused to leave the room, he even refused to stand back from the table.
With keen, suspicious eyes he followed every movement of the surgeons'
hands. Only once did he speak out, and that was in the beginning, to an
interne who was administering the anæsthetic:

"Lift that funnel, you squash-headed fool!" he thundered; "don't you see
hit's marking of her cheek?"

When the work was finished and the unconscious patient had been taken
down to her ward, Pop still kept his place beside her. With his hand on
her pulse he watched her breathing, watched the first faint quivering of
her lids, the restlessness that grew into pain and later into agony.
Hour after hour he sat there and passed with her through that
crucifixion that follows some capital operations.

On his refusal at luncheon time to leave the bedside Miss Fletcher
ignored the rules and sent him a tray; but when night came and he still
refused to go, she became impatient.

"You can't stay in here to-night, Mr. Hawkins," she said firmly. "I have
asked one of the orderlies, who lives nearby, to take you home with him.
We can send for you if there is any change. I must insist that you go
now."

"Ain't I made it cl'ar from the start," cried Pop angrily, "thet I ain't
a-goin' to be druv out? You-uns kin call me muley-headed or whatever
you've a mind to. Sal's always stood by me, and by golly, I'm a-goin' to
stand by Sal!"

His raised voice roused the patient, and a feeble summons brought Miss
Fletcher to the bedside.

"Say," plead the girl faintly, "don't rile Pop. He's the--fightenest
man--in--Breathitt--when his blood's--up."

"All right, dear," said Miss Fletcher, with a soothing hand on the hot
brow; "he shall do as he likes."

During that long night the girl passed from one paroxysm of pain to
another with brief intervals of drug-induced sleep. During the quiet
moments the nurse snatched what rest she could; but old Jeb Hawkins
stuck to his post in the straight-backed chair, never nodding, never
relaxing the vigilance of his watch. For Pop was doing sentry duty, much
as he had done it in the old days of the Civil War, when he had answered
Lincoln's first call for volunteers and given his left arm for his
country.

But the enemy to-night was mysterious, crafty, one that might come in
the twinkling of an eye, and a sentry at seventy is not what he was at
twenty-two. When the doctor arrived in the morning he found the old man
haggard with fatigue.

"This won't do, Mr. Hawkins," he said kindly; "you must get some rest."

"Be she goin' to die?" Pop demanded, steadying himself by a chair.

"It is too soon to tell," the doctor said evasively; "but I'll say this
much, her pulse is better than I expected. Now, go get some sleep."

Half an hour later a strange rumbling sound puzzled the nurses in Ward
B. It came at regular intervals, rising from a monotonous growl to a
staccato, then dying away in a plaintive diminuendo. It was not until
one of the nurses needed clean sheets that the mystery was explained. On
the floor of the linen closet, stretched on his back with his carpet
sack under his head and his empty sleeve across his chest, lay Pop!

From that time on the old mountaineer became a daily problem to Ward B.
It is true, he agreed in time to go home at night with the orderly; but
by six in the morning he was sitting on the hospital steps, impatiently
awaiting admission. The linen closet was still regarded by him as his
private apartment, to which he repaired at such times as he could not
stay in Sally's room, and refreshed himself with the luncheon he brought
with him each day.

During the first week, when the girl's life hung in the balance, he was
granted privileges which he afterward refused to relinquish. The
hospital confines, after the freedom of the hills, chafed him sorely. As
the days grew warmer he discarded his coat, collar, and at times his
shoes.

"I 'low I'm goin' to tek Sal home next week!" became his daily threat.

But the days and weeks slipped by, and still the girl lay with a low,
consuming fever, and still Pop watched by her side, showing her no
affection by word or gesture but serving her and anticipating her every
want with a thoroughness that left little for the nurses to do.

In some way Miss Fletcher had gained his confidence. To her he intrusted
the bills which he ripped from his coat at the end of each week with the
instruction that she "pay off them boys down in the office fa'r an'
squar', but not to 'low 'em to cheat her." It may have been her growing
interest in the invalid that won his favor, for she came in often to
chat awhile with Sally and sometimes brought up a handful of flowers to
brighten the sick room.

"She's getting better," she said one morning as she held the girl's big
bony hand and looked down at the thin bright face in its frame of
shining hair. "We'll have her sitting up now before long."

Pop's whole aspect brightened.

"Ef Sal onct begins to git well, can't none of 'em beat her," he said
proudly.

"Have you any other children?" Miss Fletcher asked.

"Lord, yes," said Pop, "heaps of 'em. Thar's Ted an' Larkin, an'
Gus,--they wuz all kilt in feud fights. An' Burt an' Jim,--they're in
jail in Jackson fer moonshinin'. Four more died when they wuz babies.
An' they ain't nary a one at home now but jes' Sal."

"How old is she?"

"Seventeen or eighteen, mebbe."

"And she tells me she has never been to school."

"Thar warn't no needcessity," said Pop complacently, taking a long twist
of tobacco from his pocket. "Sal don't need no larnin'. She's pearter
then most gals thet's got book sense. You show me ary one of these gals
round here thet kin spin an' weave the cloth to mek ther own dresses,
thet kin mold candles, an' mek soap, an' hoe terbaccy, an' handle a
rifle good ez a man."

"But, Mr. Hawkins," insisted Miss Fletcher, "there are better things
than those for us to learn. Haven't you ever felt the need of an
education yourself?"

Pop looked at her suspiciously: "Look a-here, young woman. I'm nigh on
to seventy. I never hed a doctor but onct in my life, an' then he
chopped my arm off when it might hev got well whar it wuz. I kin plow,
an' fell trees, an' haul wood. Thar ain't a log-rollin' ner a
house-raisin' in our neck of the woods thet Jeb Hawkins ain't sent fer.
I kin h'ist a barrel with the best of 'em, and shake up Ole Dan Tucker
ez peart ez the next one. Now how about yer scholards? This here
horspittle is full of 'em. Pale-faced, spindly-legged, nerve-jerking
young fellows thet has spent ther fust twenty years gittin' larnin',
an' ther next twenty gittin' over hit. Me an' Sal will keep to the
open!"

But Sally was not so confident. As her strength began to return she took
a growing interest in all that went on around her, asking eager,
intelligent questions and noting with wistful curiosity the speech and
manners of the nurses who served her. She was a raw recruit from Nature,
unsophisticated, illiterate. Under a bondage of poverty and drudgery she
had led her starved life in the mountain fastnesses; but now she had
opened her eyes on a new and unexpected world.

"How do you go about gittin' a larnin'?" she ventured at last to ask one
of the friendly nurses. "Can't you fetch me up some of them thar picter
books?"

For hours after this she pored over her new treasures, until one day
Miss Fletcher brought her a primer, and the seventeen-year-old girl
grappled for the first time with the alphabet. After that she was loath
to have the book out of her hand, going painfully and slowly over the
lessons, mastering each in turn with patient perseverance.

Pop viewed this proceeding with disfavor. He seemed to sense the
entering wedge that was to separate her from him. His pride in her
accomplishment was overshadowed by his jealousy, and when she was able
to read a whole page and attempted to explain the intricate process to
him, he was distinctly cast down. He left the hospital that afternoon
for the first time, and was gone until dusk. When he returned he carried
a bunch of faded wild flowers that he had tramped two miles in the
country to get for his girl.

May dragged into June, and still they were kept at the hospital. The old
man became as restless as a caged animal; he paced the corridors for
hours at a time and his eyes grew furtive and defiant. He, who had lived
out of sight of the smoke from his nearest neighbor's chimneys, who had
spent his life in the vast, still solitudes of the hills, was incredibly
lonely here among his fellow men.

"If Pop has to stay here much longer, I'm afraid he'll smash the
furniture," said the night nurse who, like everybody else in the ward,
had grown interested in the old man. "He packs his things every morning
before the doctor comes, only to unpack them after he leaves."

"The confinement is telling on him," said Miss Fletcher. "I wish for his
sake they could start home to-day. But I do hate to see Sally go! The
girl is getting her first taste of civilization, and I've never seen
anyone so eager to learn. We have to take the books away from her every
day, and when she can't study she begs to be allowed to roll bandages.
The third day she sat up she wanted to help nurse the other patients.

"I am afraid we have spoiled her for hoeing tobacco, and planting corn,"
said the night nurse.

"I hope so," Miss Fletcher answered fervently.

It was nearly the last of June when the doctor dismissed his patient.
"This doesn't mean that she is well," he warned Pop. "You will have to
be careful of her for a long time. She has worked too hard for a growing
girl, and she's not as strong now as she was."

"She will be!" Pop responded confidently. "That thar gal is made outen
iron! Her maw was afore her. Liza wuz my third wife, an' she'd borned
six or seven children, when she died at thirty-five, an', by Joshuy,
she'd never once hed a doctor in all her life!"

Pop's joy over their dismissal was slightly dimmed by Sally's reception
of the news. He saw her draw a long breath and bite her lips; then he
saw what he had never seen since she was a baby, two large tears gather
slowly in her eyes and roll down on the pillow. He watched them in
amazement.

"Sal, whut ails ye?" he asked anxiously, after the doctor was gone.

"I want to git a larnin'!" she broke out. "I don't want to go back to
the hills."

Instantly the old man's face, which had been tender, hardened to a mask
of fury.

"That passel of fool women's been workin' on ye," he cried hoarsely,
"larnin', larnin', thet's all they know. Ain't the Fork good enough fer
ye? Ain't the cabin whar yer paw, an' yer grandpaw, an' yer
great-grandpaw was borned good enough for ye?"

"Yes, Pop, yes!" she gasped, terrified at the storm she had raised. "I'm
a-goin' back with you. Don't tek on so, Pop, I'm a-goin'!"

But the tempest was raging, and the old man got up and strode angrily up
and down the small room, filling the air with his indignation.

"I should say you _wuz_ goin' back! I'd like to see any of 'em try to
keep you. They'd like to make one o' them dressed-up doll women outen
you! You're goin' back with me to the Fork, an' ef thar's ever any more
nussin' er doctorin' to do, I'm a-goin' to do hit. I've nussed three
women on their deathbeds, an' when your time comes I 'low I kin handle
you too."

Then his mood changed suddenly, and he sat down by the bed.

"Sal," he said almost persuasively, "you'll git over this here
foolishness. Ag'in' fall you'll be a-cappin corn, an' a-roastin' sweet
pertatoes, an' singin' them ole ballarts along with the Hicks gals, an'
Cy West, an' Bub Holly. An' I'll tote you behind me on the beast over
the Ridge to the Baptist Meetin' House the very next feet-washin' they
hev. Jes' think how good hit's goin' to be to see the sun a-risin' over
Ole Baldy, an' to hev room to stretch an' breathe in. Seems ez if I
hain't been able to git my lungs full of wind sense I left Jackson."

"I know it, Pop," Sally said miserably. "You growed old in the hills
afore you ever seen the Settlements. But sence I got a sight of whut
folks is a-doin' down here, 'pears like I can't be reconciled to goin'
back. 'Tain't the work back home, nor the lonesomeness, tho' the Lord
knows the only folks thet ever does pass is when they're totin' deads
down the creek bottom. Hit's the feelin' of bein' shet off from my
chanct. Ef I could git a larnin' I wouldn't ask nothin' better then to
go back an' pass it along. When I see these here gals a-larnin' how to
holp the sick, an' keer fer babies, an' doctor folks, I lay here an'
steddy 'bout all the good I could do back home ef I only knowed how."

"You do know how," Pop declared vociferously; "ain't you bin a-lookin'
after folks thet's ailin' around the Fork fer a couple of years or more?
Ez fer these new-fangled doctorin's, they won't nary one ov 'em do the
good yarbs will. I'd ruther trust bitter-goldenseal root to cure a
ailment than all the durn physic in this here horspittle. I ben
a-studyin' these here doctors, an' I don't take much stock in 'em;
instid of workin' on a organ thet gets twisted, they ups and draws hit.
Now the Lord A'mighty put thet air pertickler thing in you fer some good
reason, an' ther's bound to be a hitch in the machinery when hit's took
out. Hit's a marvel to me some of these here patients ain't a amblin'
round on all fours from what's been did to their insides!"

"But think whut the doctor did fer me," urged Sally.

"I ain't fergittin'," Pop said suddenly, "an' I've paid 'em fer hit. But
ef they calkerlate on yer takin' root here, they're treein' the wrong
possum. You're a-goin' home along o' me to-morrow."

That afternoon he left the hospital, and several hours later was seen
walking up Monument Street with his arm full of bundles.

"I believe he's been buying clothes to take Sally home in!" said one of
the nurses, who was watching him from an upper window. "He asked me this
morning if I knew a place where he could buy women's togs."

"It's a shame he won't let the girl stay," said Miss Fletcher. "I have
been talking to the superintendent, and she is quite willing to let her
do light work around the hospital and pick up what training she can. I
should be glad enough to look after her, and there's a good night school
two blocks over."

"Why don't you talk to the old man?" urged the nurse. "You are the only
one who has ever been able to do anything with him. Perhaps you could
make him see what an injustice he is doing the girl."

"I believe I'll try," said Miss Fletcher.

The next morning, when she came on duty, she found Sally's bed the
repository of a strange assortment of wearing apparel. A calico dress
of pronounced hue, a large lace jabot, and a small pair of yellow kid
gloves were spread out for inspection.

"I knowed they wuz too leetle," Pop was saying, as he carefully smoothed
the kid fingers, "but I 'lowed you could kerry 'em in yer hand."

There was an unusual eagerness in his hard face, an evident desire to
make up to Sally in one way for what he was depriving her of in another.
He was more talkative than at any time since coming to the hospital, and
he dilated with satisfaction on the joys that awaited their home-coming.

"May I have a little talk with you before you go?" asked Miss Fletcher.

He flashed on her a quick look of suspicion, but her calm, impassive
face told him nothing. She was a pretty woman, and Pop had evidently
recognized the fact from the start.

"Wal, I'll come now," he said, rising reluctantly; "but, Sal, you git
yer clothes on an' be ready to start time I git back. I ain't anxious to
stay round these here diggin's no longer'n need be. Besides, that thar
railroad car mought take a earlier start. You be ready ag'in I git
back."

For an hour and a quarter Miss Fletcher was shut up in the linen closet
with the old man. What arguments and persuasions she brought to bear are
not known. Occasionally his voice could be heard in loud and angry
dissent, but when at last they emerged he looked like some old king of
the jungle that has been captured and tamed. His shoulders drooped, his
one arm hung limply by his side, and his usually restless eyes were bent
upon the floor.

Without a word he strode back to the room where Sally in her misfit
clothes was waiting for him.

"Come along o' me, Sal," he commanded sternly as he picked up his carpet
sack. "Leave your things whar they be."

Silently they passed out of the ward, down the stairway, through the
long vaultlike corridor to the superintendent's room. Once there he
flung back his rusty coat and ripped the last bill but one from its
hiding place.

"That thar is fer my gal," he said defiantly to the superintendent.
"She'll git one the fust day of every month. Give her the larnin' she's
so hell-bent on, stuff her plumb full on it. An' ef you let ennything
happen to her"--his brows lowered threateningly--"I'll come back an'
blow yer whole blame' horspittle into eternity!"

"Pop!" Sally pleaded, "Pop!"

But his emotions were at high tide and he did not heed her. Pushing her
roughly aside, he strode back to the entrance hall, and was about to
pick up his carpet sack when his gaze was suddenly arrested by the great
marble figure that bends its thorn-crowned head in pity over the unhappy
and the pain-racked mortals that pass beneath its outstretched hands.

"You ain't goin' to leave me like this, Pop?" begged Sally. "Ef you take
it so hard, I'll go back, an' I'll go willin'. Jus' say the word, Pop,
an' I'll go!"

The old mountaineer's one hand closed on the girl's bony arm in a tight
clasp, his shoulders heaved, and his massive features worked, but his
gaze never left the calm, pitying face of the Saviour overhead. He had
followed his child without a tremor into the Valley of the Shadow of
Death, but at the entrance of this new life, where he must let her go
alone, his courage failed and his spirit faltered. His dominant will,
hitherto the only law he knew, was in mortal combat with a new and
unknown force that for the first time had entered his life.

For several minutes he stood thus, his conflicting passions swaying him,
as opposing gales shake a giant forest tree. Then he resolutely loosened
his grip on the girl's arm and taking up his burden, without a word or a
backward glance, set his face toward the hills, leaving an awkward,
wistful girl watching him with her tears only half obscuring the vision
that was already dawning for her.



HOODOOED


Gordon Lee Surrender Jones lay upon what he confidently claimed to be
his death-bed. Now and again he glanced furtively at the cabin door and
listened. Being assured that nobody was coming, he cautiously extricated
a large black foot from the bedclothes, and, holding it near the candle,
laboriously tied a red string about one of his toes. He was a powerful
negro, with a close-cropped bullet-head, a massive bulldog jaw, and a
pair of incongruously gentle and credulous eyes.

According to his own diagnosis, he was suffering from "asmy, bronketers,
pneumony, grip, diabeters, and old age." The last affliction was hardly
possible, as Gordon Lee was probably born during the last days of the
Civil War, though he might have been eighty, for all he knew to the
contrary. In addition to his acknowledged ailments, there was one he
cherished in secret. It was by far the most mysterious and deadly of the
lot, a malady to be pondered on in the dark watches of the night, to be
treated with weird rites and ceremonies, and to be cured only by some
specialist versed in the deepest lore of witchcraft; for Gordon Lee knew
beyond the faintest shadow of a doubt that a hoodoo had been laid upon
him.

Of course, like most of his race, he had had experiences in this line
before; but this was different. In fact, it was no less a calamity than
a cricket in his leg. Just how the cricket got into his leg was a matter
too deep for human speculation; but the fact that it was there, and that
it hopped with ease from knee to ankle, and made excruciating excursions
into his five toes, was as patent as the toes themselves.

What complicated the situation for Gordon Lee was that he could not
discuss this painful topic with his wife. Amanda Jones had embarked on
the higher education, and had long ago thrown overboard her old
superstitions. She was not only Queen Mother of the Sisters of the
Order of the Star, and an officer in various church societies, but she
was also a cook in the house of Mrs. James Bertram, President of the
State Federation of Women's Clubs. The crumbs of wisdom that fell from
the lips of the great Mrs. Bertram were carefully preserved by Amanda,
and warmed over, with sundry garnishings of her own, for the various
colored clubs to which she belonged.

Gordon Lee had succeeded in adorning only three toes when he heard a
quick step on the gravel outside and, hastily getting his foot under
cover, he settled back on the pillow, closed his eyes, and began
laboriously inhaling with a wheeze and exhaling with a groan.

The candle sputtered as the door was flung open, and a small, energetic
mulatto woman, twenty years Gordon Lee's junior, bustled into the room.

"Good lan'! but it's hot in heah!" she exclaimed, flinging up a window.
"I got a good mind to _nail_ this heah window down f'om the top."

"I done open' de door fer a spell dis mawnin'," said Gordon Lee,
sullenly, pulling the bedclothes tighter about his neck. "Lettin' in all
dis heah night air meks my eyes sore."

The bedclothes, having thus been drawn up from the bottom of the bed,
left the patient's feet exposed, and Amanda immediately spied the
string-encircled toes.

"Gordon Lee Surrender Jones," she exclaimed indignantly, "has that there
meddlin' ol' Aunt Kizzy been here again?"

Gordon Lee's eyes blinked, and his thick, sullen under lip dropped half
an inch lower.

"Ef you think," continued Amanda, furiously, "that I'm a-goin' to keep
on a-workin' my fingers to the bone, lak I been doin' for the past year,
a-payin' doctors' bills, an' buyin' medicines fer you, while you lay up
in this here bed listenin' to the fool talk of a passel of igneramuses,
you's certainly mistaken. Hit's bad enough to have you steddyin' up new
ailments ever' day, without folks a-puttin' 'em in yer head. Whut them
strings tied on yer toes fer?"

Gordon Lee's wheezing had ceased under his severe mental strain, and now
he lay blinking at the ceiling, utterly unable to give a satisfactory
answer.

"Aunt Kizzy jes happen' 'long," he muttered presently. "Ain't no harm in
a' ol' frien' passin' de time ob day."

"Whut them _strings_ tied on yer toes fer?" repeated Amanda with fearful
insistence.

Gordon Lee, pushed to the extreme, and knowing by experience that he was
as powerless in the hands of his diminutive wife as an elephant in those
of his keeper, weakly capitulated.

"Aunt Kizzy 'low'--I ain't sayin' she's right; I's jes tellin' you what
she _'low'_--Aunt Kizzy 'low' dat, 'cordin' to de symtems, she
say',--an' I ain't sayin' I b'lieve her,--but she say' hit looks to her
lak I's sufferin' f'om a hoodoo."

"A hoodoo!" Amanda's scorn was unbounded. "Ef it don't beat my time how
some of you niggers hang on to them ol' notions. 'Tain't nothin' 't all
but ignorant superstition. Ain't I tol' you that a hunderd times?"

"Yes, you done tol' me," said Gordon Lee, putting up a feeble defense.
"You all time quoilin' an' runnin' down conjurin' an' bad-luck signs
an' all de _nigger_ superstitions; but you's quick 'nough to tek up all
dese heah _white_ superstitions."

"How you mean?" demanded Amanda.

Gordon Lee, flattered at having any remark of his noticed, proceeded to
elaborate.

"I mean all dis heah talk 'bout hits bein' bad luck to sleep wid de
windows shet, an' bout flies carrying disease, an' 'bout worms gittin'
in de milk ef you leave it settin' roun' unkivered."

"Not worms," corrected Amanda; "_germs_. That ain't no superstition;
that's a scientific fac'. They is so little you don't see 'em; but
they's there all right. Mis' Bertram says they's ever'where--in the
water, in the air, crawlin' up the very walls."

Gordon Lee looked fearfully at the ceiling, as if he expected an
immediate attack from that direction.

"I ain't sayin' dey ain't, Amanda. Come to think of hit, seems lak I
'member 'em scrunchin' 'g'inst my teeth when I eats. I ain't sayin'
nothin' 't all 'bout white folks superstitions,--I 'spec' dey's true,
ebery one ob 'em,--but hit look' lak you oughtn't to shet yer min'
ag'inst de colored signs dat done come down f'om yer maw an' yer paw,
an' yer gran'maw an' gran'paw fer back as Adam. I 'spec' Adam hisself
was conjured. Lak as not de sarpint done tricked him into regalin'
hisself wid dat apple. But I s'pose you'd lay hit on de germs whut was
disportin' deyselves on de apple. But dey ain't no use in 'sputin' dat
p'int, 'ca'se de fac' remains dat de apple's done et."

"I ain't astin' you to dispute nothin'," cried Amanda, by this time in a
high state of indignation. "I'm a-talkin' scientific fac's, an' you're
talkin' nigger foolishness. The ignorance jes nachully oozes outen the
pores o' your skin."

Gordon Lee, thus arraigned, lay with contracted brows and protruding
lips, nursing his wrongs, while Amanda disappeared into the adjoining
room, there to vent her wrath on the pots and pans about the stove.

Despite the fact that it was after eight o'clock and she had been on her
feet all day, she set about preparing the evening meal for her husband
with all the care she had bestowed on the white folks' supper.

Soon the little cabin was filled with the savory odor of bacon, and when
the corn battercakes began to sizzle promisingly, and she flipped them
over dexterously with a fork, Gordon Lee forgot his ill humor, and
through the door watched the performance with growing eagerness.

"Git yerself propped up," Amanda called when the cakes were encircled
with crisp, brown edges. "I'll git the bread-board to put acrost yer
knees. You be eatin' this soup while I dishes up the bacon an' onions.
How'd you like to have a little jam along with yer apple-dumplin'?"

Gordon Lee, sitting up in bed with this liberal repast spread on the
bread-board across his knees, and his large, bare feet, with their pink
adornments, rising like ebony tombstones at the foot of the bed, forgot
his grievance.

"Jam!" he repeated. "Well, dat dere Sally Ann Slocum's dumplin's may
need jam, er Maria Johnsing's, but dis heah dumplin' is complete in
hitself. Ef dey ever was a pusson dat could assemble a' apple-dumplin'
so's you swoller hit 'most afore hit gits to yer mouf, dat pusson is
you."

Harmony being thus restored, and the patient having emptied all the
dishes before him, Amanda proceeded to clear up. Her small, energetic
figure moved briskly from one room to the other, and as she worked she
sang in a low, chanting tone:

              "You got a shoe,
              I got a shoe,
  All God's children got shoes.
  When I git to heaben, gwine try on my shoes,
  Gwine walk all over God's heaben, heaben, heaben.
  Ever'body's talkin' 'bout heaben ain't gwine to heaben--
  Heaben, heaben, gwine walk all over God's heaben."

But the truce, thus declared, was only temporary. During the long days
that Amanda was away at her work, Gordon Lee had nothing to do but lie
on his back and think of his ailments. For twenty years he had worked in
an iron foundry, where his muscles were as active as his brain was
passive. Now that the case was reversed, the result was disastrous.
From an attack of rheumatism a year ago he had developed an amazing
number of complaints, all of which finally fell under the head of the
dread hoodoo.

Aunt Kizzy, the object of Amanda's special scorn, he held in great
reverence. She had been a familiar figure in his mother's chimney-corner
when he was a boy, and to doubt her knowledge of charms and conjuring
was to him nothing short of heresy. She knew the value of every herb and
simple that grew in Hurricane Hollow. She was an adept in getting people
into the world and getting them out of it. She was constantly consulted
about weaning calves, and planting crops according to the stage of the
moon. And for everything in the heavens above and the earth beneath and
the waters under the earth she "had a sign."

Since Gordon Lee's illness, she had fallen into the habit of dropping in
to sit with him at such hours as Amanda would not be there. She would
crouch over the fire, elbows on knees and pipe in mouth, and regale him
with hair-raising tales of "hants" and "sperrits" and the part she had
played in exorcising them.

"Dis heah case ob yourn," she said one day, "ain't no ordinary case. I
done worked on lizards in de laigs, but I nebber had no 'casion to treat
a _cricket_ in de laig. Looks lak de cricket is a more persistent animal
dan de lizard. 'Sides, ez I signify afore, dis heah case ob yourn ain't
no ordinary case."

"Why--why ain't it?" Gordon Lee stammered apprehensively.

Aunt Kizzy lifted a bony black hand, and shook her turbaned head
ominously.

"Dey's two kinds ob hoodoos," she said, "de libin' an' de daid. De daid
ones is de easiest to lift, 'ca'se dey answers to charms; but nobody can
lift a libin' hoodoo 'ceptin' de one dat laid hit on. I been a-steddyin'
an' a-steddyin', an' de signs claim dat dis heah hoodoo ob yourn ain't
no daid hoodoo."

By this time the whites of Gordon Lee's eyes were largely in evidence,
and he raised himself fearfully on his elbow.

"Aunt Kizzy," he whispered hoarsely, "how am I gwine to fin' out who 't
is done conjured me?"

"By de sign ob seben," she answered mysteriously. "I's gwine home an'
work hit out, den I come back an' tell yer. Ef my 'spicions am true, dat
dis heah is a _libin'_ hoodoo, de only power in de earth to tek it off
am ter git er bigger trick an' lay on de top ob hit. I'm gwine home now,
an' I'll be back inside de hour."

That night when Amanda returned home she found Gordon Lee preoccupied
and silent. He ate gingerly of the tempting meal she prepared, and
refused to have his bed straightened before he went to sleep.

"Huccome you put yer pillow on the floor?" she asked.

"I ain't believin' in feathers," he answered sullenly; "dey meks me heah
things."

In vain Amanda tried to cheer him; she recounted the affairs of the day;
she gave him all the gossip of the Order of the Sisters of the Star. He
lay perfectly stolid, his horizontal profile resembling a mountain-range
the highest peak of which was his under lip.

Finally Amanda's patience wore thin.

"Whut's the matter with you, Gordon Lee Surrender Jones?" she demanded.
"Whut you mean by stickin' out yer lip lak a circus camel?"

Now that the opportunity for action had come, he feared to take
advantage of it. Amanda, small as she was, looked firm and determined,
and he knew by experience that he was no match for her.

"'Tain't fer you to be astin' _me_ whut's de matter," he began
significantly. "De glove's on de other han'."

"Whut you 'sinuatin', nigger?" cried Amanda, now thoroughly roused.

"I's tired layin' heah under dis heah spell," complained Gordon Lee. "I
knowed all 'long 'twas a hoodoo, but I neber 'spicioned till to-day who
was 'sponsible fer hit. Aunt Kizzy tried de test, an', 'fore de Lawd,
hit p'inted powerful' near home."

Amanda sank into the one rocking-chair the cabin boasted, and dropped
her hands in her lap. Her anger had given place for the moment to sheer
amazement.

"Well, if this ain't the beatenest thing I ever heard tell of in all my
born days! Do you mean to say that that honery old cross-eyed nigger
Kizzy had the audacity to set up before my fire, in my house, an' tell
my husband I'd laid a spell on him?"

"Dat's whut de signs p'int to," said Gordon Lee, doggedly.

Amanda rose, and it seemed to him that she towered to the ceiling. With
hands on hips and head thrown back, she delivered herself, and her voice
rang with suppressed passion.

"Yas, I laid a spell on yer! I laid a spell on yer when I let you quit
work, an' lay up in bed wid nothin' to do but to circulate yer symtems.
I put a spell on yer when I nuss you an' feed you an' s'port you an'
spile the life plumb outen you. I ain't claimin' 't wasn't rheumatism in
the fust place, but it's a spell now, all right--a spell I did lay on
yer, a spell of laziness pure an' simple!"

After this outburst the relations were decidedly strained in the little
cabin at the far end of Hurricane Hollow. Gordon Lee persistently
refused to eat anything his wife cooked for him, depending upon the
food that Aunt Kizzy or other neighbors brought in.

To Amanda the humiliation of this was acute. She used every strategy to
conciliate him, and at last succeeded by bringing home some pig's feet.
His appetite got the better of his resentment, and he disposed of four
with evident relish.

With the approach of winter, however, other and graver troubles
developed. The rent of the cabin, which had always been promptly paid
out of Gordon Lee's wages, had now to come out of Amanda's limited
earnings. Two years' joint savings had gone to pay the doctor and the
druggist.

Amanda gave up the joys of club life, and began to take in small
washings, which she did at night. Gordon Lee, surrounded by every luxury
save that of approbation, continued to lie on his back in the white bed
and nurse his hallucinations.

"'Mandy," he said one morning as she was going to work, "wished you'd
ast Marse Jim ef he got a' ol' pair of pants he could spare me."

Her face brightened.

"You fixin' to git up, Honey?" she asked hopefully.

"No, I's jes collectin' ob my grave-clothes," said Gordon Lee. "Dere's a
pair ob purple socks in de bottom drawer, an' a b'iled shirt in de
wardrobe. But I been layin' heah steddyin' 'bout dat shirt. Hit's got
Marse Jim's name on de tail of it, an' s'pose I git to heaben, an' St.
Peter he read de name an' look hit up in de jedgment book. He's 'lowable
to come to me an' say, 'Huccome you wearin' dat shirt? Dey ain't but one
James Bartrum writ down in de book, an' he ain't no colored pusson.'
'Co'se I _could_ explain, but I's got 'splainin' 'nough to do when I git
to heaben widout dat."

Amanda paused with her hand on the doorknob.

"Marse Jim'll beat you to heaben; that is, ef he don't beat you to the
bad place first. You git that idea of dyin' outen yer mind, and you'll
git well."

"I can't git well till de hoodoo's lifted. Aunt Kizzy 'lows--"

But the door was slammed before he could finish.

The limit of Amanda's endurance was reached about Christmas-time. One
gloomy Sunday afternoon when she had finished the numerous chores that
had accumulated during the week, she started for the coal-shed to get an
armful of kindling.

Dusk was coming on, and Hurricane Hollow had never seemed more lonesome
and deserted. The corn-shocks leaned toward one another as if they were
afraid of a common enemy. Somewhere down the road a dog howled dismally.

Amanda resolutely pushed open the door of the shed, and felt her way
toward the pile of chips. Suddenly she found her progress blocked by a
strange and colossal object. It was an oblong affair, and it stood on
one end, which was larger than the other. With growing curiosity she
felt its back and sides, and then peered around it to get a front view.
What she saw sent her flying back to the cabin with her mouth open and
her limbs shaking.

"Gordon Lee," she cried, "whose coffin is that settin' in our
coal-shed?"

The candidate for the next world looked very much embarrassed.

"Well, 'Mandy," he began lamely, "I can't say 'zactly ez hit's any
pusson's jes yit. But hit's gwine be mine when de summons comes."

"Where'd you git it at?" demanded his Nemesis.

His eyes shifted guiltily.

"De foundry boss done been heah las' week, an' he gimme some money. I
'lowed I was layin' hit up fer a rainy day."

"An' you mean to tell me," she cried, "that you took that money an'
spent it for a coffin, a white one with shiny handles, an' a satin
bolster that'll done be wore out, an' et up by moths, 'fore you ever git
a chancet to use it?"

"Couldn't you fix hit up in terbaccy er mothballs ag'in' de time I need
hit?" Gordon Lee asked helplessly.

But Amanda was too exasperated this time to argue the matter. Fifty
dollars' worth of coffin in the coal-shed and fifty cents' worth of coal
in the bin constituted a situation that demanded her entire attention.

For six months now Gordon Lee had remained in bed, firm in the belief
that he could not walk on account of the spell that had been laid upon
him. During that time he had come to take a luxurious satisfaction in
the interest his case was exciting in the neighborhood. Being in
excellent physical condition, he could afford the melancholy joy of
playing with the idea of death. He spent hours discussing the details of
his funeral, which had assumed in his mind the proportions of a pageant.

Amanda, on the other hand, overworked and anxious, and compelled to
forego her lodges and societies, became more and more irascible and
depressed. In some subtle way she was aware that the sympathy of the
colored community was solidly with Gordon Lee. Nobody now asked her how
he was. Nobody came to the cabin when she was there, though it was
apparent that visitors were frequent during her absence. Aunt Kizzy had
evidently been busy in the neighborhood.

One night Amanda sat very long over the stove rolling her hair into
little wads about the length and thickness of her finger, then tightly
wrapping each with a stout bit of cord to take out the kink. When Gordon
Lee roused himself now and then to inquire suspiciously what she was
doing, she answered with ominous calm.

"Jes steddyin', that's all."

Her meditations evidently resulted in a plan of action, for the next
night she came home from her work in a most mysterious and unusual mood.
Gordon Lee heard her moving some heavy and cumbersome article across the
kitchen floor, then he saw her surreptitiously put something into a tin
can before she presented herself at the foot of his bed.

"'Mandy," he said, anxious to break the silence, and distrusting that
subdued look of excitement in her eyes, "did you bring me dat possum,
lak you 'lowed you was gwine to?"

Her lips tightened.

"Yes, I got the possum, an' also some apples fer a dumplin'; but before
I lays a stick to the fire I'm goin' to say my say."

Gordon Lee looked at her with consternation. She stood at the foot of
his bed as if it wore a rostrum, and with an air of detached dignity
addressed him as if he had been the whole Order of the Sisters of the
Star.

"I done arrive' at a decision," she declared. "I arrive' at it in the
watches of the night. I'm goin' to cure you 'cordin' to yer lights an'
knowledge. I'm goin' to lif' that spell ef I has to purge my immortal
soul to do it."

"'Mandy," cried Gordon Lee, eagerly, "you mean to say you gwine to
remove the hoodoo?"

"I am," she said solemnly. "I'm goin' to draw out all yer miseries fer
the rest of yer life, _includin' of the cricket in yer leg_."

"'Mandy," he cried again fearfully, "you ain't gwine ter hurt me in no
way, is you?"

"Not effen you do as I tell you. But fust of all you got to take the
pledge of silence. Whatsomever takes place heah in this cabin to-night
ain't never to be revealed till the jedgment-day. Do you swear?"

The big negro, fascinated with the mystery, and deeply impressed with
his wife's manner, laid his hand on the Bible and solemnly took the
oath.

"Now," she continued impressively, "while I go in the kitchen an' git
the supper started, I want you to ease yerse'f outen the bed on to the
floor, an' lay with yer head to the north an' your han's outspread, an'
yer mind on the heabenly kingdom."

"Air you shore hit ain't gwine hurt me?" again he queried.

"Not if you do 'zactly like I say. Besides," she added dryly, "if it
comes to the worst, ain't you ready an' waitin' to go!"

"Yas," agreed Gordon Lee; "but I ain't fixin' to go till I's sent fer."

It took not only time, but courage, for him to follow the prescribed
directions. He had for a long time cherished the belief that any
exertion would prove fatal; but the prospect of having the hoodoo
removed, together with a lively curiosity as to what means Amanda would
employ to remove it, spurred him to persist despite groans, wheezes,
and ejaculations.

Once stretched upon the floor, with his head to the north and his arms
extended, he encountered a new difficulty: his mind refused to dwell
upon the heavenly kingdom. Anxiety as to the treatment he was about to
be subjected to alternated with satisfaction at the savory odors that
floated in from the kitchen. If the ordeal was uncertain, the reward at
least was sure.

After what seemed to him an endless vigil, Amanda appeared in the
doorway. With measured steps and great solemnity of mien, she
approached, holding in her right hand a piece of white chalk.

"De hour has come," she chanted. "With this chalk, an' around this man,
I make the mark of his image." Stooping, she began to trace his outline
on the dull rag-carpet, speaking monotonously as she worked: "Gordon Lee
Surrender Jones, I command all the aches an' the pains, all the miseries
an' fool notions, includin' the cricket in yer leg, to pass outen yer
real body into this heah image on the floor. Keep yer head still,
nigger! I pass 'em through you into yer symbol, an' from thence I draws
'em out to satisfy yer mind now and forever more, amen. Now roll over to
the right an' watch what's about to happen."

The patient by this time was so interested that he followed instructions
mechanically. He saw Amanda dart into the kitchen and emerge with an
object totally unfamiliar to him. It was a heavy, box-shaped object,
attached to a long handle. This she placed on the chalked outline of his
right leg. Then she stood with her eyes fixed on the floor and solemnly
chanted:

  "Draw, draw, 'cordin' to the law,
    Lif' the hoodoo, now I beg,
  An' draw the cricket
    F'om this heah leg!"

And Gordon Lee, raised on his elbow, watching with protruding eyes,
_heard_ it draw! He heard the heavy, panting breathing as Amanda ran the
vacuum cleaner over every inch of the chalked outline, and when she
stopped and, kneeling beside the box, removed a small bag of dust and
lint, he was not in the least surprised to see a cricket jump from the
débris.

"Praise be!" he cried in sudden ecstasy. "De pain's done lef me, do
spell's done lifted!"

"An' the cricket's done removed," urged Amanda, skilfully getting the
machine out of sight. "You seen it removed with yer own eyes."

"Wid my own eyes," echoed Gordon Lee, still in a state of self-hypnosis.

"An' now," she said, "I'm goin' to git that supper ready jes as quick ez
I kin."

"Ain't you gwine help me back in bed fust?" he asked from where he still
lay on the floor.

"What fer?" she exclaimed. "Ain't the spell lifted? I'm goin' to set the
table in the kitchen, an' ef you wants any of that possum an' sweet
pertater an' that apple-dumplin' an' hard sass, you got to walk in there
to git em."

For ten minutes Gordon Lee Surrender Jones lay flat on his back on the
floor, trying to trace the course of human events during the last
half-hour. Against the dim suspicion that Amanda had in some way
outwitted him rose the staggering evidence of that very live cricket
that still hopped about the room, chirping contentedly.

Twice Amanda spoke to him, but he refused to answer. His silence did not
seem to affect her good spirits, for she continued her work, singing
softly to herself.

Despite himself, he became aware of the refrain, and before he knew it
he was going over the familiar words with her:

  "Oh, chicken-pie an 'pepper, oh!
  Chicken-pie is good, I know;
  So is wattehmillion, too;
  So is rabbit in a stew;
  So is dumplin's, b'iled with squab;
  So is cawn, b'iled on de cob;
  So is chine an' turkey breast;
  So is aigs des f'om de nest."

Gordon Lee rose unsteadily. Holding to a chair, he reached the table,
then the door, through which he shambled, and sheepishly took his old
place at the foot of the table. Amanda outdid herself in serving him,
emptying the larder in honor of the occasion; but neither of them spoke
until the apple-dumpling was reached. Then Gordon Lee turned toward her
and said confidentially:

"I wished we knowed some corpse we could sell dat coffin to."



A MATTER OF FRIENDSHIP


When a jovial young person in irreproachable pongee, and a wholly
reproachable brown topi, scrambled up the lifting gang-plank of the big
Pacific liner, setting sail from Yokohama, he was welcomed with acclaim.
The Captain stopped swearing long enough to megaphone a greeting from
the bridge, the First Officer slapped him on the back, while the half
dozen sailors, tugging at the ropes, grinned as one man.

Three months before this good ship _East India_ had carried Frederick
Reynolds out to the Orient and deposited him on the alien soil, an
untried youth of unimpeachable morals with a fatal facility for making
friends.

The temporary transplanting had had a strange and exotic effect. The
East has a way of developing crops of wild oats that have been neglected
in the West, and by the end of his sojourn Mr. Frederick Reynolds had
seen more, felt more, and lived more than in all of his previous
twenty-four years put together. He had learned the difference between a
"straight flush" and a "full house" under the palms at Raffles Hotel in
Singapore; he had been instructed in the ways of the wise in Shanghai by
a sophisticated attaché of the French Legation, who imparted his
knowledge between sips of absinthe, as he looked down on the passing
show from a teahouse on the Bubbling Well Road; he had rapturously
listened to every sweet secret that Japan had to tell, and had left a
wake of smiles from Nagasaki to Yokohama.

In fact, in three short months he was fully qualified to pass a
connoisseur's judgment on a high-ball, to hold his own in a game of
poker, and to carry on a fairly coherent flirtation in four different
languages.

With this newly acquired wisdom he was now setting sail for home, having
accomplished his downward career with such alacrity that he did not at
all realize what had happened to him.

Nor did the return voyage promise much in the way of silent meditation
and timely repentance. The Captain placed Reynolds next to him at table,
declaring that he was like an electric fan on a sultry day; the Purser,
with the elasticity of conscience peculiar to pursers, moved him from
the inexpensive inside room which he had engaged, to a spacious
state-room on the promenade deck, where sufficient corks were drawn
nightly to make a small life preserver.

The one person who watched these proceedings with disfavor was a short,
attenuated, bow-legged Chinaman, with a face like a grotesque brass
knocker, and a taciturnity that enveloped him like a fog.

On the voyage out, Tsang Foo, the assistant deck steward, had gotten
into a fight with a brother Chinaman, and had been saved from dismissal
by Reynolds's timely intercession at headquarters. In dumb gratitude for
this service, he had laid his celestial soul at the feet of the young
American and sworn eternal allegiance.

From the day Reynolds reëmbarked, Tsang's silken, slippered feet
silently followed him from smoking-room to bar, from bar back to
smoking-room. Whatever emotion troubled the depths of his being, no sign
of it rose to his ageless, youthless face. But whether he was silently
performing his duties on deck, or sitting on the hatchway smoking his
opium, his vigilant eyes from their long, narrow slits kept watch.

For thirteen days the sun sparkled on the blue waters of the Pacific,
and favoring breezes gave every promise of landing the _East India_ in
port with the fastest record of the season. Bets went higher and higher
on each day's running, and the excitement was intense each evening in
the smoking-room when the numbers most likely to win the next day's pool
were auctioned off to the highest bidder.

It was the afternoon of the fourteenth day, thirty-six hours out from
San Francisco, that Mr. Frederick Reynolds, who had bet more, drunk
more, talked more, and laughed more than any man on board, suddenly came
to his full senses. Then it was that he went quietly to his luxurious
state-room with its brass bed and crimson hangings, and took a
forty-two caliber revolver from his steamer trunk. Slipping a cartridge
into the cylinder, he sat breathing heavily and staring impatiently
before him.

From outside above the roar of the ocean, came the tramp of the
passengers on deck, and the trivial scraps of conversation that floated
in kept side-tracking his thoughts, preventing their reaching the
desired destination.

The world, which he had sternly resolved to leave, seemed determined to
stay with him as long as possible. He heard Glass, the actor, inquiring
for him, and in spite of himself he felt flattered; he heard the pretty
girl whose steamer chair was next his, make a conditional engagement
with the high-voiced army-officer, and he knew why she left the matter
open; even a plaintive old voice inquiring how long it would be before
tea, caused him to wait for the answer.

At last, as if to present his misery in embodied form, he produced a
note-book and tried to concentrate his attention upon the items therein
recorded. Line after line of wavering figures danced in impish glee
before him, defying inspection. But at the foot of the column, like
soldiers waiting to shoot a prisoner, stood four formidable units
unquestionably pointing his way to doom.

As be looked at them Reynolds's thoughts got back on the main track and
rushed to a conclusion. Tearing the leaf from the book, and crushing it
in his hand, he jumped to his feet. Seized with a fury of self-disgust,
he pulled off his coat and collar, and with the reckless courage of a
boy put the mouth of the revolver to his temple.

As he did so the room darkened. He involuntarily looked up. Framed in
the circle of the port-hole were the head and shoulders of Tsang Foo.
Not a muscle of the yellow face moved, not a tremor of the slanting
eyelids showed surprise. The right hand, holding a bit of tow,
mechanically continued polishing the brass around the port-hole, but the
left--long, thin, and with claw-like nails, shot stealthily forward and
snatched the pistol.

For a full minute the polishing continued, then face and figure
vanished, and Reynolds was left staring in impotent rage at the empty
port-hole.

When the room steward appeared in answer to an imperative summons, he
was directed to send Tsang Foo to room No. 7 at once.

Tsang came almost immediately, bearing tea and anchovy sandwiches, which
he urbanely placed on a camp-stool.

"Where's my pistol?" demanded Reynolds hotly, holding to the door to
steady himself.

Tsang's eyes, earnest as a dog's, were lifted to his:

"He fall overboard," he explained suavely, "me velly solly."

Reynolds impulsively lifted his arm to strike, but a second impulse,
engulfing the first, made him turn and fling himself upon his berth,
struggling to master the heavy sobs that shook him from head to foot.

The Chinaman softly closed the door and slipped the bolt, then he
dropped to a sitting posture on the floor and waited.

When the squall had passed, Reynolds addressed his companion from the
depths of the pillows in language suited to his comprehension.

"Me belong large fool, Tsang!" he said savagely. "Have drink too much.
No good. You go 'long, I'm all right now."

Tsang's eye swept the disordered room and returned to the figure on the
bed. "Suppose me go," he said, "you makee one hole in head?"

"That's my business," said Reynolds, his wrath rekindling. "You go
'long, and get my pistol; there's a good chap."

Tsang did not stir; he sat with his hands clasped about his knees, and
contemplated space with the abstract look of a Buddha gazing into
Nirvana.

Reynolds passed from persuasion to profanity with no satisfactory
result. His language, whether eloquent or fiery, beat upon an
unresponsive ear. But being in that condition that demands sympathy, he
found the mere talking a relief, and presently drifted into a recital of
his woes.

"I'm up against it, in the hole, you know, much largee trouble," he
amplified with many gestures, sitting on the side of his berth, and
pounding out excited, incoherent phrases to the impassive figure
opposite. "Company sent me out to collect money. My have spent all. No
can go back home. Suppose my lose face, more better die!"

Tsang shifted his position and nodded gravely. Out of much that was
unintelligible, the last statement loomed clear and incontrovertible.

"I'm a thief!" burst out Reynolds passionately, not to Tsang now, but to
the world at large, "a plain, common thief. And the worst of it is there
isn't a man in that San Francisco office that doesn't trust me down to
the ground. Then there's the Governor. O God! I can't face the
Governor!"

Tsang sat immovable, lost in thought. Stray words and phrases helped,
but it was by some subtle working of his own complex brain that he was
arriving at the truth.

"Father, him no can lend money?" he suggested presently.

"The Governor? Good heavens, no. There's not enough money in our whole
family to wad a gun! They put up all they had to give me a start, and
look where I have landed! Do you suppose I'd go back and ask them to put
up a thousand more for my rotten foolishness?" He knotted his hands
together until the nails grew white then, seeing the unenlightened face
below, he added emphatically: "No, no, Tsang, no can askee!"

"How fashion you losee money!" asked Tsang.

"The money? Oh, belong gamble. Bet on ship's run. First day--win. Second
day--win. Then lose, lose, keep on losing. Didn't know half the time
what I was doing. To-day my settle up; no can pay office. A thousand
dollars out! Lord! All same two thousand Mex', Tsang!"

An invisible calculation was made on the end of the steamer trunk by a
long, pointed, fingernail, but no change of expression crossed the
yellow face. For an incalculable time Tsang sat, lost in thought. All
his conserved energy went to aid him in solving the problem. At last he
reached a decision: this was clearly a case to be laid before the only
god be knew, the god of Chance.

"Me gamble too," he said; "me no lose."

"But s'pose you _had_ lost? S'pose you lose what no belong you? What
thing you do?"

"You do all same my talkee you?" asked Tsang, for the first time lifting
his eyes.

It was a slender straw, to be sure, but Reynolds grasped at it.

"What thing you mean, Tsang? What can I do?"

"Two more night' to San Flancisco," said Tsang softly; "one more bet,
maybe!"

"Oh, I've thought of that. What's the good of throwing good money after
bad? No use, I no got chance."

"_My_ have got chance," announced Tsang emphatically, "you bet how
fashion my talkee you, your money come back."

Reynolds studied the brass knocker of a face, but found no clue to the
riddle. "What you mean, Tsang?" he asked. "What do you know? For the
Lord's sake don't fool with me about it!"

"Me no fool," declared Tsang. "You le' me talkee number, him win big
heap money."

"But how do you know?"

"Me savey," said Tsang enigmatically.

Again Reynolds studied the impassive face. "It's on the square, Tsang?
You don't stand in with anybody below decks? The thing is on the level?"
Then finding further elucidation necessary, he added, "No belong cheat!"

Tsang Foo shook his head positively. "No belong cheat, all belong
ploper. No man savey, only me savey, this side," and he tapped his head
significantly.

Reynolds gave a short, unpleasant laugh. "All right," he said, thrusting
his hand in his pocket. "I'll give myself one more chance. There'll be
time to-morrow to finish my job. I'll make a bargain with you, Tsang!
Bet this, and this, and this, on the next run for me. You win, I no
makee shoot; you lose, you promise bring back pistol, then go way. My
can do what thing my wantchee, see?"

Tsang Foo looked at him cunningly: "I win, you belong good boy? Stop
whisky-soda, maybe?"

Reynolds laughed in spite of himself: "Going to reform me, oh? All
right, it's a bargain."

Tsang allowed his hand to be shaken, then he carefully counted over the
express checks that had been given to him.

"My go now," he announced as eight bells sounded from the bridge.

As the door closed Reynolds sighed, then his eyes brightened as they
fell upon the sandwiches. Even a desperate young man on the verge of
suicide if he is hungry must needs cheer up temporarily at the sight of
food. Reynolds had taken an early breakfast after being up all night,
and had eaten nothing since. After devouring the sandwiches and tea with
relish, he ordered a hot bath, and in less than an hour was wrapped in
his berth sleeping the sleep that is not confined to the righteous.

It was high noon the next day when he awoke. His first feeling was one
of exhilaration: the long sleep, the fresh sea air pouring in at the
port-hole, and a sense of perfect physical well-being had made him
forget, for a moment, the serious business the day might have in store
for him.

As he lay, half dozing, he became dimly aware that something was wrong.
The throb of the engines had ceased, and an ominous stillness prevailed.
He sat up in bed and listened, then he thrust his head out of the
port-hole, only to see a deserted deck. The passage was likewise
deserted save for a hurried stewardess, who called back, over her
shoulder, "It's a man overboard, sir, on the starboard side--"

Reynolds flung on his clothes. The boy in him was keen for excitement,
and in five minutes he was on deck, and had joined the crowd of
passengers that thronged the railing.

The life-boat was being lowered, groaning and protesting as it cleared
the davits and swung away from the ship's side. Far behind, in the still
shining wake of the steamer, a small black object bobbed helplessly in
the gray expanse of waters.

"What's the matter?" "Did he fall overboard!" "Did he jump in?" "Was it
suicide?" The air buzzed with questions. The sentimental contingent
clung to the theory that it was some poor stoker who could no longer
stand the heat, or a foreign refugee afraid to come into port. The more
practical argued that it was probably one of the seamen who, while doing
outside painting, had lost his balance and fallen into the sea.

A smug, well-dressed man, with close-cropped gray beard, and a detached
gaze that seemed to go no further than his rimless glasses, turned and
spoke to Reynolds:

"It has gotten to be quite the fashion for somebody in the steerage to
create this sort of sensation. It happened as I went over. If a man sees
fit to jump overboard, all well and good; in nine cases out of ten it's
a good riddance to the community. But why in Heaven's name should the
steamer put back? Why should several hundred people be delayed an hour
or so for the sake of an inconsiderate, useless fool?"

Reynolds turned away sickened. From a point, apart from the rest, he
strained his eyes to keep in sight the small black object now hidden,
now revealed, by the waves. A fierce sense of kinship for that man in
the water seized him. He, too, perhaps had grappled with some
unendurable situation and been overcome. What if he was an utterly
worthless asset on the great human ledger? He was a fellow-being,
suffering, tempted, vanquished. Was it kind to bring him back, to go
through with it all again?

For answer Reynolds's muscles strained with those of the sailors rowing
below: all the life and youth in him rose in rebellion against
unnecessary death. He watched with teeth hard set as the small boat
climbed to the crest of a wave, then plunged into the trough again,
crawling by imperceptible inches toward the bobbing spot in the water.
He longed to be in the boat, in the water even, helping to save that
human life that only on the verge of extinction had gained significance.
What if the man wished to die? No matter, he must be saved, saved from
himself, given another chance, made to face it out, whatever it was.
Not until then did Reynolds remember another life that be had dared to
threaten, that even now he meant to take if the wheel of chance swung
against him. Suddenly he faced the awful judgment of his own act, and
shuddered back as one who, standing upon a precipice, trembles in terror
before the mad desire to leap.

"I'll stick it out!" he said half aloud as if in promise. "Whatever
comes, I'll take my medicine, I'll--"

An eager murmur swept through the crowd. A sailor with a rope about him
was being lowered from the life-boat.

For five tense minutes the two men rose and fell at the mercy of the
high waves, and the distance between them did not lessen by an inch.

Then a passenger with a binocular announced that the sailor was swimming
around to the far side to get the man between him and the boat.

With long, steady, overhand strokes, the sailor was gaining his way, and
when at last he reached the apparently motionless object and got a rope
under its arms, and the two were hauled into the life-boat, a rousing
cheer went up from the big steamer above.

Reynolds drew in his breath sharply and turned away from the railing. As
he did so he was hailed by a group of friends who were returning to
their cards, waiting face downward on the small tables in the
smoking-room.

"Behold His Nibs!" shouted Glass, the actor, "the luckiest duffer that
ever hit a high-ball!"

"How did you happen to do it?" cried another.

Reynolds lifted his hand to his bewildered head. "Do what?" he asked
dully. "I'm not on."

"Oh, come!" said Glass, shaking him by the shoulder; "that bet you sent
in last night! When the Chink said you wanted to buy the low field for
all six pools, and to bet five hundred to boot that you'd win, I thought
you were either drunk or crazy. Yesterday's run was four-fifty-one, a
regular corker, and yet with even better weather conditions, you took
only the numbers below four-thirty-one. I argued with the Chinaman 'til
I was blue in the face, but he stood pat, said, you were all right, and
had told him what to do. Nothing but an accident could have saved you,
and it arrived. You've won the biggest pool of the crossing, don't you
think it's about time for you to set 'em up? Say Martini cocktails for
the crowd, eh?"

Reynolds was jostled about in congratulation and good-humored banter.
Everybody was glad of the boy's success, he was an all round favorite,
and some of the men who had won his money felt relieved to return it.

"Here's your cocktail, Freddy," cried Glass, "and here's to you!"

Reynolds stood in the midst of the crowd, his face flushed, his hair
tumbled. With a quick movement he sent the glass and its contents
spinning out of a near-by port-hole.

"Not for Frederick!" he said with emphasis, "I've been that particular
kind of a fool for the last time."

Some hours later when the crowd went below to dress for dinner, Reynolds
dropped behind to ask the Second Officer about the man who had been
rescued.

"He is still pretty full of salt water," said the Officer, "but he is
being bailed out."

"How did it happen?" asked Reynolds.

"Give it up. He hasn't spoken yet. It looks as if he were getting ready
to do some outside cleaning, for he had on a life-preserver. Funny thing
about it, though, that's not his work. He's not even on duty during the
starboard watch. The man in the lookout saw him climb out on the bow,
shout something up to him, then fall backward into the water. I'll be
hanged if I can make it out. Tsang Foo is one of the steadiest sailors
on board."

"Tsang Foo!" shouted Reynolds. "You don't mean that man was Tsang?"

With headlong haste he seized the bewildered officer and made him pilot
him below decks. Stumbling down the ladders and through dark passages,
he at last reached the bunk where Tsang Foo lay with the ship's surgeon
and a steward in attendance.

The Chinaman's lips were drawn tightly back over his prominent teeth,
and his breath came in irregular gasps. Across the pillow in a straight
black line lay his dripping queque. As his eyelids fluttered feebly, the
doctor straightened his own tired back.

"He'll come round now, all right," he said to the steward. "Give him
those drops and don't talk to him. He's had a close call. I'll be back
in ten minutes."

Reynolds crowded into the narrow apace the doctor had left. The fact
that he was saved from disgrace was utterly blotted out by the bigger
fact that this ignorant, uncouth, foreign sailor had fearlessly risked
his life to save him from facing a merited punishment. Reynolds's very
soul seemed to grow bigger to accommodate the thought.

"Tsang!" he whispered, seizing the yellow hand, "You are a brick! Number
one good man. But my no can take money,--I--"

The steward in attendance, who had stepped aside, made a warning gesture
and laid his finger on his lips.

For five minutes the man in the bunk and the one beside it looked
silently into each other's eyes, then the drawn lips moved, and
Reynolds, bending his head to listen, heard the broken question:

"You--no--blake--bargain?"

Reynolds's mind dashed at two conclusions and recoiled from each. Should
be follow his impulse to explain the whole affair, serious consequences
would result for Tsang, while the other alternative of accepting the
situation made him a party, albeit an innocent one, to a most
reprehensible proceeding. It was to his credit, that of the two courses
the latter was infinitely the more intolerable. He got up nervously,
then sat down again.

"No--blake--bargain!" repeated Tsang anxiously.

Still Reynolds waited for some prompting from a conscience unaccustomed
to being rusty. Any course that would involve the loyal little Chinaman,
who had played the game according to the rules as he knew them, was out
of the question. The money must be paid back, of course, but how, and
when? If he cleared himself at the office it might be years before he
could settle this new debt, but he could do it in time, he must do it.
Then at last, light came to him. He would accept Tsang's sacrifice but
it should stand for more than the mere material good it had purchased.
It should pledge him to a fresh start, a clean life. He would justify
the present by the future. He drew a deep breath of relief and leaned
forward:

"Tsang," he said, and his voice trembled with the earnestness of his
resolve, "I no break bargain. From now on my behave all same proper. It
wasn't right, old fellow, you oughtn't--" then he gave it up and smiled
helplessly, "you belong my good friend Tsang, what thing you wantchee?"

A slow smile broke the brass-like stillness of Tsang Foo's face:

"Pipe," he gasped softly, "opium velly good,--make land and sea--all
same--by an' by!"



THE WILD OATS OF A SPINSTER


Judging from appearances Miss Lucinda Perkins was justifying her reason
for being by conforming absolutely to her environment. She apparently
fitted as perfectly into her little niche in the Locustwood Seminary for
young ladies as Miss Joe Hill fitted into hers. The only difference was
that Miss Joe Hill did not confine herself to a niche; she filled the
seminary, as a plump hand does a tight glove.

It was the year after Miss Lucinda had come to the seminary to teach
elocution that Miss Joe Hill discovered in her an affinity. As
principal, Miss Joe Hill's word was never questioned, and Miss Lucinda,
with pleased obedience, accepted the honor that was thrust upon her, and
meekly moved her few belongings into Miss Joe Hill's apartment.

For four years they had lived in the rarified atmosphere of celestial
friendship. They clothed their bodies in the same raiment, and their
minds in the same thoughts, and when one was cold the other shivered.

If Miss Lucinda, in those early days found it difficult to live up to
Miss Joe Hill's transcendental code she gave no sign of it. She laid
aside her mildly adorned garments and enveloped her small angular person
in a garb of sombre severity. Even the modest bird that adorned her hat
was replaced by an uncompromising band. She foreswore meat and became a
vegetarian. She stopped reading novels and devoted her spare time to
essays and biography. In fact she and Miss Joe Hill became one and that
one was Miss Joe Hill.

It was not until Floss Speckert entered the senior class at Locustwood
Seminary that this sublimated friendship suffered a jar.

Floss's father lived in Chicago, and it was due to his unerring
discernment in the buying and selling of live stock that Floss was being
"finished" in all branches without regard to the cost.

"Learn her all you want to," he said magnanimously to Miss Lucinda, who
negotiated the arrangement. "I ain't got but two children, her and Tom.
He's just like me--don't know a blame thing but business; but Floss--"
his bosom swelled under his checked vest--"she's on to it all. I pay for
everything you get into her head. Dancin', singin', French--all them
extries goes."

Miss Lucinda had consequently undertaken the management of Floss
Speckert, and the result had been far-reaching in its consequences.

Floss was a person whose thoughts did not dwell upon the highest
development of the spiritual life. Her mind was given over to the
pursuit of worldly amusements, her only serious thought being a burning
ambition to win histrionic honors. The road to this led naturally
through the elocution classes, and Floss accepted Miss Lucinda as the
only means toward the desired end.

A drop of water in a bottle of ink produces no visible result, but a
drop of ink in a glass of water contaminates it at once. Miss Lucinda
took increasing interest in her frivolous young pupil; she listened
with half-suppressed eagerness to unlimited gossip about stage-land, and
even sank to the regular perusal of certain bold theatrical papers. She
was unmistakably becoming contaminated.

Meanwhile Miss Joe Hill, quite blind to the situation, condoned the
friendship. "You are developing your own character," she told Miss
Lucinda. "You are exercising self-control and forbearance in dealing
with that crude, undisciplined girl. Florence is the natural outcome of
common stock and newly acquired riches. It is your noble aspiration to
take this vulgar clay and mold it into something higher. Your motive is
laudable, Lucinda; your self-sacrifice in giving up our evening hour
together is heroic. I read you like an open book, dear."

And Miss Lucinda listened and trembled. They were standing together
before the window of their rigid little sitting room, the chastened
severity of which banished all ideas of comfort. "What purpose do you
serve?" Miss Joe Hill demanded of every article that went into her
apartment, and many of the comforts of life failed to pass the
examination.

After Miss Joe Hill had gone out, Miss Lucinda remained at the window
and restlessly tapped her knuckles against the sill. The insidious
spring sunshine, the laughter of the girls in the court below, the
foolish happy birds telling their secrets under the new, green leaves,
all worked together to disturb her peace of mind.

She resolutely turned her back to the window and took breathing
exercises. That was one of Miss Joe Hill's sternest
requirements--fifteen minutes three times a day and two pints of water
between meals. Then she sat down in a straight-back chair and tried to
read "The Power Through Poise." Her body was doing its duty, but it did
not deceive her mind. She knew that she was living a life of black
deception; evidences of her guilt were on every hand. Behind the books
on her little shelf was a paper of chocolate creams; in the music rack,
back to back with Grieg and Brahms, was an impertinent sheet of ragtime
which Floss had persuaded her to learn as an accompaniment. And deeper
and darker and falser than all was a plan which had been fermenting in
her mind for days.

In a fortnight the school term would be over. Following the usual
custom, Miss Lucinda was to go to her brother in the country and Miss
Joe Hill to her sister for a week. This obligation to their respective
families being discharged, they would repair to the seclusion of a
Catskill farmhouse, there to hang upon each other's souls for the rest
of the summer.

Miss Lucinda's visits to her brother were reminiscent of a multiplicity
of children and a scarcity of room. To her the Inferno presented no more
disquieting prospect than the necessity of sharing her bedroom. She
always returned from these sojourns in the country with impaired
digestion, and shattered nerves. She looked forward to them with dread
and looked back on them with horror. Was it any wonder that when a
brilliant alternative presented itself she was eager to accept it?

Floss Speckert had gained her father's consent to spend her first week
out of school in New York provided she could find a suitable chaperon.
She had fallen upon the first and most harmless person in sight and
besieged her with entreaties.

Miss Lucinda would have flared to the project had not a forbidding
presence loomed between her and the alluring invitation. She knew only
too well that Miss Joe Hill would never countenance the proposition.

As she sat trying vainly to concentrate on her "Power Through Poise,"
she was startled by a noise at the window, followed immediately by a
dishevelled figure that scrambled laughingly over the sill.

"I came down the fire escape!" whispered the invader breathlessly, "Miss
Joe Hill caught us making fudge in the linen closet, and I gave her the
slip."

"But Florence!" Miss Lucinda began reproachfully, but Floss interrupted
her:

"Don't 'Florence' me, Miss Lucy! You're just pretending to be mad
anyhow. You are a perfect darling and Miss Joe Hill is an old bear!"

Miss Lucinda was aghast at this irreverence but her halting protests
had no effect on the torrent of Floss's eloquence.

"I am going to take you to New York," the girl declared "and I am going
to give you the time of your life! Dad's got to put us up in style--a
room and a bath apiece and maybe a sitting room. He likes me to splurge
around a bit, says he'd hate to have a daughter that acted like she
wasn't used to money."

Miss Lucinda glanced apprehensively at the door and then back at the
sparkling face before her.

"I can't go," she insisted miserably, trying to free her hand from
Floss's plump grasp. "My brother is expecting me and Miss Hill--"

"Oh, bother Miss Joe Hill! You don't have to tell her anything about it!
You can pretend you are going to your brother's and meet me some place
on the road instead."

Miss Lucinda looked horrified, but she listened. A material kept plastic
by years of manipulation does not harden to a new hand. Her objections
to Floss's plan grew fainter and fainter.

"Think of the theaters," went on the temptress, putting an arm around
her neck, and ignoring the fact that caresses embarrassed Miss Lucinda
almost to the point of tears; "think of it! A new show every night, and
operas and pictures. There will be three Shakspere plays that week,
'Merchant of Venice,' 'Twelfth Night,' and 'Hamlet.'"

Miss Lucinda's heart fluttered in her bosom. Although she had spent a
great part of her life interpreting the Bard of Avon, she had never seen
one of his plays produced. In her secret soul she believed that her own
rendition of "The quality of mercy," was not to be excelled.

"I--I haven't any clothes," she urged feebly, putting up her last
defense.

"I have," declared Floss in triumph--"two trunks full, and we are almost
the same size. It's just for a week, Miss Lucy; won't you come?"

Miss Lucinda, sitting rigid, felt a warm cheek pressed against her own,
and a stray curl touched her lips. She sat for a moment with her eyes
closed. It was more than disconcerting to be so close to youth and joy
and life; it was infectious. The blood surged suddenly through her
veins, and an exultation seized her.

"I'm going to do it," she cried recklessly; "I never had a real good
time in my life."

Floss threw her arms about her and waltzed her across the room, but a
step in the hall brought them to a halt.

"It's Miss Joe Hill," whispered Floss, with trepidation; "I am going out
the way I came. Don't you forget; you have promised."

When Miss Joe Hill entered, she smiled complacently at finding Miss
Lucinda in the straight-back chair, absorbed in the second volume of the
"Power Through Poise."

At the Union Depot in Chicago, two weeks later, a small, nervous lady
fluttered uncertainly from one door to another. She wore a short, brown
coat suit of classic severity, and a felt hat which was fastened under
her smoothly braided hair by a narrow elastic band.

On her fourth trip to the main entrance she stopped a train-boy. "Can
you tell me where I can get a drink?" she asked, fanning her flushed
face. He looked surprised. "Third door to the left," he answered. Miss
Lucinda, carrying a hand-bag, a suit-case, and an umbrella, followed
directions. When she pushed open the heavy door she was confronted by a
long counter with shining glasses and a smiling bartender. Beating a
confused retreat, she fled back to the main entrance, and stood there
trembling. For the hundredth time that day she wished she had not come.

The arrangements, so glibly planned by Floss, had not been adhered to in
any particular. At the last moment that mercurial young person had
decided to go on two days in advance and visit a friend in Philadelphia.
She wrote Miss Lucinda to come on to Chicago, where Tom would meet her
and give her her ticket, and that she would meet her in New York.

With many misgivings and grievous twinges of conscience, Miss Lucinda
had bade Miss Joe Hill a guilty farewell, and started ostensibly for her
brother's home. At the Junction she changed cars for Chicago, missed two
connections, and lost her lunch-box. Now that she had arrived In
Chicago, three hours late, nervous and excited over her experiences,
there was no one to meet her.

A sense of homesickness rushed over her, and she decided to return to
Locustwood. It was the same motive that might prompt a newly hatched
chicken, embarrassed by its sudden liberty, to return to its shell. Just
as she was going in search of a time-table, a round-faced young man came
up.

"Miss Perkins?" he asked, and when she nodded, he went on: "Been looking
for you for half an hour. Sis told me what you looked like, but I
couldn't find you." He failed to observe that Floss's comparison had
been a squirrel.

"Isn't it nearly time to start?" asked Miss Lucinda, nervously.

"Just five minutes; but I want to explain something to you first." He
looked through the papers in his pocket and selected one. "This is a
pass," he explained; "the governor can get them over this road. I got
there late, so I could only get one that had been made out for somebody
else and not been used. It's all right, you know; you won't have a bit
of trouble."

Miss Lucinda took the bit of paper, put on her glasses, and read, "Mrs.
Lura Doring."

"Yes," said Tom; "that's the lady it was made out for. Nine chances out
of ten they won't mention it; but if anything comes up, you just say
yes, you are Mrs. Doring, and it will be all right."

"But," protested Miss Lucinda, ready to weep, "I cannot tell a
falsehood."

"I don't think you'll have to," said Tom, somewhat impatiently; "but if
you deny it, you'll get us both into no end of a scrape. Hello! there's
the call for your train. I'll bring your bag."

In the confusion of getting settled in her section, and of expressing
her gratitude to Tom, Miss Lucinda forgot for the time the deadly
weight of guilt that rested upon her. It was not until the conductor
called for her ticket that her heart grew cold, and a look of
consternation swept over her face. It seemed to her that he eyed the
pass suspiciously and when he did not return it a terror seized her. She
knew he was coming back to ask her name, and what was her name? Mrs.
Dora Luring, or Mrs. Dura Loring, or Mrs. Lura Doring?

In despair she fled to the dressing room and stood there concealed by
the curtains. In a few moments the conductor passed, and she peeped at
his retreating figure. He stopped in the narrow passage by the window
and studied her pass, then he compared it with a telegram which he held
in his hand. Just then the porter joined him, and she flattened herself
against the wall and held her breath.

"It's the same name," she heard the conductor say in an undertone. "I'll
wire back to headquarters at the next stop."

If ever retribution followed an erring soul, it followed Miss Lucinda on
that trip. No one spoke to her, and nothing happened, but she sat in
terrified suspense, looking neither to right nor left, her heart beating
frantically at every approach, and the whirring wheels repeating the
questioning refrain, "Dora Luring? Dura Loring? Lura Doring?"

In New York, Floss met her as she stepped off the train, fairly
enveloping her in her enthusiasm.

"Here you are, you old darling! I have been having a fit a minute for
fear you wouldn't come. This is my Cousin May. She is going to stay with
us the whole week. New York is simply heavenly, Miss Lucy. We have made
four engagements already. Matinée this afternoon, a dinner
to-night--What's the matter? Did you leave anything on the train?"

"No, no," stammered Miss Lucinda, still casting furtive glances backward
at the conductor. "Was he talking to a policeman?" she asked
suspiciously.

"Who?"

"The conductor."

The girls laughed.

"I don't wonder you were scared," said Floss; "a policeman always does
remind me of Miss Joe Hill."

They called a cab and, to Miss Lucinda's vast relief, were soon rolling
away from the scene of danger.

       *       *       *       *       *

It needed only one glance into a handsome suite of an up-town hotel one
week later to prove the rapid moral deterioration of the prodigal.

Arrayed in a shell-pink kimono, she was having her nails manicured. Her
gaily figured garment was sufficient in itself to give her an unusual
appearance; but there was a more startling reason.

Miss Lucinda's hair, hitherto a pale drab smoothly drawn into a braided
coil at the back, had undergone a startling metamorphosis. It was
Floss's suggestion that Miss Lucinda wash it in "Golden Glow," a
preparation guaranteed to restore luster and beauty to faded locks. Miss
Lucinda had been over-zealous, and the result was that of copper in
sunshine.

These outward manifestations, however, were insignificant compared with
the evidences of Miss Lucinda's inner guilt. She was taking the keenest
interest in the manicure's progress, only lifting her eyes occasionally
to survey herself with satisfaction in the mirror opposite.

At first her sense of propriety had been deeply offended by her changed
appearance. She wept so bitterly that the girls, seeking to console her,
had overdone the matter.

"I never thought you _could_ look so pretty," Floss had declared; "you
look ten years younger. It makes your eyes brighter and your skin
clearer. Of course this awfully bright color will wear off, and then it
will be just dear."

Miss Lucinda began to feel better; she even allowed May to arrange her
changed locks in a modest pompadour.

The week she had spent in New York was a riotous round of dissipation.
May's fiancé had prepared a whirlwind of pleasures, and Miss Lucinda was
caught up and revolved at a pace that made her dizzy. Dances, dinners,
plays, roof-gardens, coaching parties, were all held together by a line
of candy, telegrams, and roses.

There was only one time in the day when Miss Lucinda came down to earth.
Every evening, no matter how exhausted she might he from the frivolities
of the day, she conscientiously penned an affectionate letter to her
celestial affinity, expressing her undying devotion, and incidentally
mentioning the health and doings of her brother's family. These she sent
under separate cover to her brother to be mailed.

Her conscience assured her that the reckoning would come, that sooner or
later she would face the bar of justice and receive the verdict of
guilty; but while one day of grace remained, she would still "in the
fire of spring, her winter garments of repentance fling."

As the manicure put the finishing touch to her nails, Floss came rushing
in:

"Hurry up, Miss Lucy dear! Dick Benson has just 'phoned that he is going
to take us for a farewell frolic. We leave here at five, have dinner
somewhere, then do all sorts of stunts. You are going to wear my tan
coat-suit and light blue waist. Yes, you are, too! That's all
foolishness; everybody wears elbow-sleeves. Blue's your color, and I've
got the hat to match. May says she'll fix your hair, and you can wear
her French-heel Oxfords again. They pitch you over? Oh, nonsense! you
just tripped along the other day like a nice little jay-bird. Hurry,
hurry!"

Even Miss Lucinda's week of strenuous living had not prepared her for
what followed. First, there was a short trip on the train, during which
she conscientiously studied a map. Then followed a dinner at a large and
ostentatious hotel. The decorations were more brilliant, the music
louder, and the dresses gayer, than at any place Miss Lucinda had yet
been. She viewed the passing show through her glasses, and experienced a
pleasant thrill of sophistication. This, she assured herself, was
society; henceforth she was in a position to rail at its follies as one
having authority.

In the midst of these complacent reflections she choked on a crumb, and,
after groping with closed eyes for her tumbler, gulped down the
contents. A strange, delicious tingle filled her mouth; she forgot she
was choking, and opened her eyes. To her horror, she found that she had
emptied her glass of champagne.

"Spirituous liquor!" she thought in dismay, as the shade of Miss Joe
Hill rose before her.

Total abstinence was such a firm plank in the platform of the celestial
affinity that, even in the chafing-dish, alcohol had been tabooed. The
utter iniquity of having deliberately swallowed a glass of champagne was
appalling to Miss Lucinda. She sat silent during the rest of the dinner,
eating little, and plucking nervously at the ruffles about her elbows.
The fear of rheumatism in her wrists which had assailed her earlier in
the evening gave way to a deeper and more disturbing discomfort.

When the dinner was over, the party started forth on a hilarious round
of sight-seeing. Miss Lucinda limped after them, vaguely aware that she
was in a giant electric cage filled with swarming humanity, that bands
were playing, drums beating, and that at every turn disagreeable men
with loud voices were imploring her to "step this way."

"Come on!" cried Dick. "We are going on the scenic railway."

But the worm turned. "I--I'm not going," she protested. "I will wait
here. All of you go; I will wait right here."

With a sigh of relief she slipped into a vacant corner, and gave herself
up to the luxury of being miserable. She longed for solitude in which to
face the full enormity of her misdeed, and to plan an immediate
reformation. She would throw herself bodily upon the mercy of Miss Joe
Hill, she would spare herself nothing; penance of any kind would be
welcome, bodily pain even--

She shifted her weight to the slender support of one high-heeled shoe
while she rested the other foot. Her hair, unused to its new
arrangement, pulled cruelly upon every restraining hair-pin, and her
head was beginning to ache.

"I deny the slavery of sense. I repudiate the bondage of matter. I
affirm spirit and freedom," she quoted to herself, but the thought
failed to have any effect.

A two-ringed circus was in progress at her right while at her left a
procession of camels and Egyptians was followed by a noisy crowd of
urchins. People were thronging in every direction, and she realized that
she was occasionally the recipient of a curious glance. She began to
watch rather anxiously for the return of her party. Ten minutes passed,
and still they did not come.

Suddenly the awful possibility presented itself that they might have
lost her. She had no money, and even with it, she knew she could not
find her way back to the hotel alone. Anxiety gained upon her in leaps.
In bitter remorse she upbraided herself for ever having strayed from the
blessed protection of Miss Joe Hill's authority. Gulfs of hideous
possibility yawned at her feet; imagination faltered at the things that
might befall a lone and unprotected lady in this bedlam of frivolity.

Just as her fear was turning to terror the party returned.

"Oh, here you are!" cried Floss. "We thought we had lost you. It was
just dandy, Miss Lucy; you ought to have gone. It makes you feel like
your feet are growing right out of the top of your head. Come on; we are
going to have our tintypes taken."

Strengthened by the fear of being left alone again, Miss Lucinda rallied
her courage, and once more followed in their wake. She was faint and
exhausted, but the one grain of comfort she extracted from the situation
was that through her present suffering she was atoning for her sins.

At midnight Dick said: "There's only one other thing to do. It's more
fun than all the rest put together. Come this way."

Miss Lucinda followed blindly. She had ceased to think; there were only
two realities left in the world, French-heels and hair-pins.

At the foot of a flight of steps the party paused to buy tickets.

"You can wait for us here, Miss Lucy," said Floss.

Miss Lucinda protested eagerly that she was not too tired to go with
them. The prospect of being left alone again nerved her to climb to any
height.

"But," cried Floss, "if you get up there, there's only one way to come
down. You have to--"

"Let her come!" interrupted the others in laughing chorus, and, to Miss
Lucinda's great relief, she was allowed to pass through the little gate.

When she reached the top of the long stairs, she looked about for the
attraction. A wide inclined plane slanted down to the ground floor, and
on it were bumps of various sizes and shapes, all of a shining
smoothness. She had a vague idea that it was a mammoth map for the
blind, until she saw Dick and Floss sit down at the top and go sliding
to the bottom.

"Come on, Miss Lucinda!" cried May. "You can't get down any other way,
you know. Look out! Here I go!"

One by one the others followed, and Miss Lucinda could not distinguish
them as they merged in the laughing crowd at the base.

Delay was fatal; they would lose her again if she hesitated. In
desperation she gathered her skirts about her, and let herself
cautiously down on the floor. For one awful moment terror paralyzed her,
then, grasping her skirts with one hand and her hat with the other and
closing her eyes, she slid.

Miss Lucinda did not "hump the bumps"; she slid gracefully around them,
describing fanciful curves and loops in her airy flight. When she
arrived in a confused bunch on the cushioned platform below, she was
greeted with a burst of applause.

"Ain't it great?" cried Floss, straightening Miss Lucinda's hat and
trying to get her to open her eyes. "Dick says you are the gamest
chaperon he ever saw. Sit up and let me pin your collar straight."

But Miss Lucinda's sense of direction had evidently been disturbed, for
she did not yet know which was up, and which was down. She leaned limply
against Floss and tried to get her breath.

"Excuse me," said a man's voice above her, "but are either of you
ladies Mrs. Lura Doring?"

The effect was electrical. Miss Lucinda sat bolt upright and stared
madly about. Tom Speckert had told her to be sure to answer to that
name. It would get him into trouble if she failed to do so.

"Yes, yes," she gasped; "I am Mrs. Lura Doring."

The members of her little party looked at her anxiously and ceased to
laugh. The slide had evidently unsettled her mind.

"Why, this is Miss Perkins--Miss Lucinda Perkins of Locustwood, Ohio,"
explained Dick Benson to the officer, "She's rather upset by her
tobogganing, and didn't understand you."

"I did," declared Miss Lucinda, making mysterious signs to Dick to be
silent. "It's all right; I am Mrs. Doring."

The officer looked suspiciously from one to the other, then consulted
his memorandum: "Small, slender woman, yellow hair, gray eyes, answers
to name of Mrs. Lura Doring. Left Chicago on June 10."

"When did she get to New York?" asked the officer.

"A week ago to-morrow, on the eleventh," said Floss.

"Then I guess I'll have to take her up," said the officer; "she answers
all the requirements. I've got a warrant for her arrest."

"Arrest!" gasped Benson. "What for?"

"For forging her husband's name, and defrauding two hotels in Chicago."

"My husband--" Miss Lucinda staggered to her feet, then, catching sight
of the crowd that had collected, she gave a fluttering cry and fainted
away in the arms of the law.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Miss Joe Hill arrived in New York, in answer to an urgent telegram,
she went directly to work with her usual executive ability to unravel
the mystery. After obtaining the full facts in the case, she was able to
make a satisfactory explanation to the officers at headquarters. Then
she sent the girls to their respective homes, and turned her full
attention upon Miss Lucinda.

"The barber will be here in half an hour to cut your hair," she
announced on the eve of their departure for the Catskills.

"You ought not to be so good to me!" sobbed Miss Lucinda, who was lying
limply on a couch.

Miss Joe Hill took her hand firmly and said: "Lucinda, error and illness
and disorder are man-made perversions. Let the past week be wiped from
our memories. Once we are in the mountains we will turn the formative
power of our thoughts upon things invisible, and yield ourselves to the
higher harmonies."

The next morning, Miss Lucinda, shorn and penitent, was led forth from
the scene of her recent profligacy. It was her final exit from a world
which for a little space she had loved not wisely but too well.



CUPID GOES SLUMMING


It is a debatable question whether love is a cause or an effect, whether
Adam discovered a heart in the recesses of his anatomy before or after
the appearance of Eve. In the case of Joe Ridder it was distinctly the
former.

At nineteen his knowledge of the tender passion consisted of dynamic
impressions received across the footlights at an angle of forty-five
degrees. Love was something that hovered with the calcium light about
beauty in distress, something that brought the hero from the uttermost
parts of the earth to hurl defiance at the villain and clasp the
swooning maiden in his arms; it was something that sent a fellow down
from his perch in the peanut gallery with his head hot and his hands
cold, and a sort of blissful misery rioting in his soul.

Joe lived in what was known by courtesy as Rear Ninth Street. "Rear
Ninth Street" has a sound of exclusive aristocracy, and the name was a
matter of some pride to the dwellers in the narrow, unpaved alley that
writhed its watery way between two rows of tumble-down cottages, Joe's
family consisted of his father, whose vocation was plumbing, and whose
avocation was driving either in the ambulance or the patrol wagon; his
mother, who had discharged her entire debt to society when she bestowed
nine healthy young citizens upon it; eight young Ridders, and Joe
himself, who had stopped school at twelve to assume the financial
responsibilities of a rapidly increasing family.

Lack of time and the limited opportunities of Rear Ninth Street,
together with an uncontrollable shyness, had brought Joe to his
nineteenth year of broad-shouldered, muscular manhood, with no
acquaintance whatever among the girls. But where a shrine is built for
Cupid and the tapers are kept burning, the devotee is seldom
disappointed.

One morning in October, as Joe was guiding his rickety wheel around the
mud puddles on his way to the cooper shops, he saw a new sign on the
first cottage after he left the alley--"Mrs. R. Beaver, Modiste & Dress
Maker." In the yard and on the steps were a confusion of household
effects, and in their midst a girl with a pink shawl over her head.

So absorbed was Joe in open-mouthed wonder over the "Modiste," that he
failed to see the girl, until a laughing exclamation made him look up.

"Watch out!"

"What's the matter?" asked Joe, coming to a halt.

"I thought maybe you didn't know your wheels was going 'round!" the girl
said audaciously, then fled into the house and slammed the door.

All day at the shops Joe worked as in a trance. Every iron rivet that he
drove into a wooden hoop was duly informed of the romantic occurrence of
the morning, and as some four thousand rivets are fastened into four
thousand hoops in the course of one day, it will be seen that the matter
was duly considered. The stray spark from a feminine eye had kindled
such a fierce fire in his heart that by the time the six o'clock
whistle blew the conflagration threw a rosy glow over the entire
landscape.

As he rode home, the girl was sitting on the steps, but she would not
look at him. Joe had formulated a definite course of action, and though
the utter boldness of it nearly cost him his balance, he adhered to it
strictly. When just opposite her gate, without turning his head or his
eyes, he lifted his hat, then rode at a furious pace around the corner.

"What you tidying up so fer, Joe?" asked his mother that night; "you
goin' out?"

"No," said Joe evasively, as he endeavoured in vain to coax back the
shine to an old pair of shoes.

"Well, I'm right glad you ain't. Berney and Dick ain't got up the coal,
and there's all them dishes to wash, and the baby she's got a misery in
her year."

"Has paw turned up?" asked Joe.

"Yes," answered Mrs. Ridder indifferently. "He looked in 'bout three
o'clock. He was tolerable full then, and I 'spec he's been took up by
now. He said he was goin' to buy me a bird-cage with a bird in it, but I
surely hope he won't. Them white mice he brought me on his last spree
chewed a hole in Berney's stocking; besides, I never did care much for
birds. Good lands! what are you goin' to wash yer head for?"

Joe was substituting a basin of water for a small girl in the nearest
kitchen chair, and a howl ensued.

"Shut up, Lottie!" admonished Mrs. Ridder, "you ain't any too good to
set on the floor. It's a good thing this is pay-day, Joe, for the rent's
due and four of the children's got their feet on the ground. You paid up
the grocery last week, didn't you!"

Joe nodded a dripping head.

"Well, I'll jes' git yer money out of yer coat while I think about it,"
she went on as she rummaged in his pocket and brought out nine dollars.

"Leave me a quarter," demanded Joe, gasping beneath his soap-suds.

"All right," said Mrs. Ridder accommodatingly; "now that Bob and Ike
are gitting fifty cents a day, it ain't so hard to make out. I'll be
gittin' a new dress first thing, you know."

"I seen one up at the corner!" said Joe.

"A new dress?"

"Naw, a dressmaker. She's got out her sign."

"What's her name?" asked Mrs. Ridder, keen with interest.

"Mrs. R. Beaver, Modiste," repeated Joe from the sign that floated in
letters of gold in his memory.

"I knowed a Mrs. Beaver wunst, up on Eleventh Street--a big, fat woman
that got in a fuss with the preacher and smacked his jaws."

"Did she have any children?" asked Joe.

"Seems like there was one, a pretty little tow-headed girl."

"That's her," announced Joe conclusively. "What was her name?"

"Lawsee, I don't know. I never would 'a' ricollected Mrs. Beaver 'cepten
she was such a tarnashious woman, always a-tearin' up stumps, and never
happy unless she was rippitin' 'bout somethin'. _What_ you want? A
needle and thread to mend your coat? Why, what struck you? You been
wearin' it that a-way for a month. You better leave it be 'til I git
time to fix it."

But Joe had determined to work out the salvation of his own wardrobe.
Late in the evening after the family had retired, he sat before the
stove with back humped and knees drawn up trying to coax a coarse thread
through a small needle. Surely no rich man need have any fear about
entering the kingdom of heaven since Joe Ridder managed to get that
particular thread through the eye of that particular needle!

But when a boy is put at a work-bench at twelve years of age and does
the same thing day in and day out for seven long years, he may have lost
all of the things that youth holds dear, but one thing he is apt to have
learned, a dogged, plodding, unquestioning patience that shoves silently
along at the appointed task until the work is done.

By midnight all the rents were mended and a large new patch adorned
each elbow. The patches, to be sure, were blue, and the coat was black,
but the stitches were set with mechanical regularity. Joe straightened
his aching shoulders and held the garment at arm's length with a smile.
It was his first votive offering at the shrine of love.

The effect of Joe's efforts were prompt and satisfactory. The next day
being Sunday, he spent the major part of it in passing and repassing the
house on the corner, only going home between times to remove the mud
from his shoes and give an extra brush to his hair. The girl, meanwhile,
was devoting her day to sweeping off the front pavement, a scant three
feet of pathway from her steps to the wooden gate. Every time Joe passed
she looked up and smiled, and every time she smiled Joe suffered all the
symptoms of locomotor ataxia!

By afternoon his emotional nature had reached the saturation point.
Without any conscious volition on his part, his feet carried him to the
gate and refused to carry him farther. His voice then decided to speak
for itself, and in strange, hollow tones he heard himself saying--

"Say, do you wanter go to the show with me?"

"Sure," said the pink fascinator. "When?"

"I don't care," said Joe, too much embarrassed to remember the days of
the week.

"To-morrer night?" prompted the girl.

"I don't care," said Joe, and the conversation seeming to lauguish, he
moved on.

After countless eons of time the next night arrived. It found Joe and
his girl cosily squeezed in between two fat women in the gallery of the
People's Theatre. Joe had to sit sideways and double his feet up, but he
would willingly have endured a rack of torture for the privilege of
looking down on that fluffy, blond pompadour under its large bow, and of
receiving the sparkling glances that were flashed up at him from time to
time.

"I ain't ever gone with a feller that I didn't know his name before!"
she confided before the curtain rose.

"It's Joe," he said, "Joe Ridder, What's your front name?"

"Miss Beaver," she said mischievously. "What do you think it is?"

Joe could not guess.

"Say," she went on, "I knew who you was all right even if I didn't know
yer name. I seen you over to the hall when they had the boxin' match."

"The last one?"

"Yes, when you and Ben Schenk was fightin'. Say, you didn't do a thing
to him!"

The surest of all antidotes to masculine shyness was not without its
immediate effect. Joe straightened his shoulders and smiled
complacently.

"Didn't I massacre him?" he said. "That there was a half-Nelson holt I
give him. It put him out of business all right, all right. Say, I never
knowed you was there!"

"You bet I was," said his companion in honest admiration; "that was when
I got stuck on you!"

Before he could fully comprehend the significance of this confession,
the curtain rose, and love itself had to make way for the tragic and
absorbing career of "The Widowed Bride." By the end of the third act
Joe's emotions were so wrought upon by the unhappy fate of the heroine,
that he rose abruptly and, muttering something about "gittin' some gum,"
fled to the rear. When he returned and squeezed his way back to his seat
he found "Miss Beaver" with red eyes and a dejected mien.

"What's the matter with you?" he asked banteringly.

"My shoe hurts me," said Miss Beaver evasively.

"What you givin' me?" asked Joe, with fine superiority. "These here
kinds of play never hurts my feelin's none. Catch me cryin' at a show!"

But Miss Beaver was too much moved to recover herself at once. She sat
in limp dejection and surreptitiously dabbed her eyes with her moist
ball of a handkerchief.

Joe was at a loss to know how to meet the situation until his hand,
quite by chance, touched hers as it lay on the arm of her chair. He
withdrew it as quickly as if he had received an electric shock, but the
next moment, like a lodestone following a magnet, it traveled slowly
back to hers.

From that time on Joe sat staring straight ahead of him in embarrassed
ecstasy, while Miss Beaver, thus comforted, was able to pass through the
tragic finale of the last act with remarkable composure.

When the time came to say "Good night" at the Beavers' door, all Joe's
reticence and awkwardness returned. He watched her let herself in and
waited until she lit a candle. Then he found himself out on the pavement
in the dark feeling as if the curtain had gone down on the best show be
had ever seen. Suddenly a side window was raised cautiously and he heard
his name called softly. He had turned the corner, but he went back to
the fence.

"Say!" whispered the voice at the window, "I forgot to tell you--It's
Mittie."

The course of true love thus auspiciously started might have flowed on
to blissful fulfilment had it not encountered the inevitable barrier in
the formidable person of Mrs. Beaver. Not that she disapproved of Mittie
receiving attention; on the contrary, it was her oft-repeated boast that
"Mittie had been keepin' company with the boys ever since she was six,
and she 'spected she'd keep right on till she was sixty." It was not
attention in the abstract that she objected to, it was rather the
threatening of "a steady," and that steady, the big, awkward, shy Joe
Ridder. With serpentine wisdom she instituted a counter-attraction.

Under her skilful manipulation, Ben Schenk, the son of the
saloon-keeper, soon developed into a rival suitor. Ben was engaged at a
down-town pool-room, and wore collars on a weekday without any apparent
discomfort. The style of his garments, together with his easy air of
sophistication, entirely captivated Mrs. Beaver, while Ben on his part
found it increasingly pleasant to lounge in the Beavers' best parlour
chair and recount to a credulous audience the prominent part which he
was taking in all the affairs of the day.

Matters reached a climax one night when, after some close financing,
Joe Ridder took Mittie to the Skating Rink. An unexpected run on the tin
savings bank at the Ridders' had caused a temporary embarrassment, and
by the closest calculation Joe could do no better than pay for two
entrance-tickets and hire one pair of skates. He therefore found it
necessary to develop a sprained ankle, which grew rapidly worse as they
neared the rink.

"I don't think you orter skate on it, Joe!" said Mittie sympathetically.

"Oh, I reckon I kin manage it all O.K.," said Joe.

"But I ain't agoin' to let you!" she declared with divine authority. "We
can just set down and rubber at the rest of them."

"Naw, you don't," said Joe; "you kin go on an' skate, and I'll watch
you."

The arrangement proved entirely satisfactory so long as Mittie paused on
every other round to rest or to get him to adjust a strap, or to hold
her hat, but when Ben Schenk arrived on the scene, the situation was
materially changed.

It was sufficiently irritating to see Ben go through an exhaustive
exhibition of his accomplishments under the admiring glances of Mittie,
but when he condescended to ask her to skate, and even offered to teach
her some new figures, Joe's irritation rose to ire. In vain he tried to
catch her eye; she was laughing and clinging to Ben and giving all her
attention to his instructions.

Joe sat sullen and indignant, savagely biting his nails. He would have
parted with everything he had in the world at that moment for three
paltry nickels!

On and on went the skaters, and on and on went the music, and Joe turned
his face to the wall and doggedly waited. When at last Mittie came to
him flushed and radiant, he had no word of greeting for her.

"Did you see all the new steps Mr. Ben learnt me?" she asked.

"Naw," said Joe.

"Does yer foot hurt you, Joe?"

"Naw," said Joe.

Mittie was too versed in masculine moods to press the subject. She
waited until they were out under the starlight in the clear stretch of
common near home. Then she slipped her hand through his arm and said
coaxingly--

"Say now, Joe, what you kickin' 'bout?"

"Him," said Joe comprehensively.

"Mr. Ben? Why, he's one of our best friends. Maw likes him better'n
anybody I ever kept company with. What have all you fellers got against
him?"

"He was black marveled at the hall all right," said Joe grimly.

"What for?"

"It ain't none of my business to tell what for," said Joe, though his
lips ached to tell what he knew.

"Maw says all you fellows are jealous 'cause he talks so pretty and
wears such stylish clothes."

"We might, too, if we got 'em like he done," Joe began, then checked
himself. "Say, Mittie, why don't yer maw like me?"

"She says you haven't got any school education and don't talk good
grammar."

"Don't I talk good grammar?" asked Joe anxiously.

"I don't know," said Mittie; "that's what she says. How long did you go
to school?"

"Me? Oh, off and on 'bout two year. The old man was always poorly, and
Maw, she had to work out, till me an' the boys done got big enough to
work. 'Fore that I had to stay home and mind the kids. Don't I talk like
other fellers, Mittie?"

"You talk better than some," said Mittie loyally.

After he left her, Joe reviewed the matter carefully. He thought of the
few educated people he knew--the boss at the shops, the preacher up on
Twelfth Street, the doctor who sewed up his head after he stopped a
runaway team, even Ben Schenk, who had gone through the eighth grade.
Yes, there was a difference. Being clean and wearing good clothes were
not the only things.

When he got home, he tiptoed into the front room, and picking his way
around the various beds and pallets, took Berney's school satchel from
the top of the wardrobe. Retracing his steps, he returned to the
kitchen, and with his hat still on and his coat collar turned up, he
began to take an inventory of his mental stock.

One after another of the dog-eared, grimy books he pondered over, and
one after another he laid aside, with a puzzled, distressed look
deepening in his face.

"Berney she ain't but fourteen an' she gits on to 'em," he said to
himself; "looks like I orter."

Once more he seized the nearest book, and with the courage of despair
repeated the sentences again and again to himself.

"That you, Joe?" asked Mrs. Ridder from the next room an hour later. "I
didn't know you'd come. Yer paw sent word by old man Jackson that he was
at Hank's Exchange way down on Market Street, and fer you to come git
him."

"It's twelve o'clock," remonstrated Joe.

"I know it," said Mrs. Ridder, yawning, "but I reckon you better go. The
old man always gits the rheumatiz when he lays out all night, and that
there rheumatiz medicine cost sixty-five cents a bottle!"

"All right," said Joe with a resignation born of experience, "but don't
you go and put no more of the kids in my bed. Jack and Gus kick the
stuffin' out of me now."

And with this parting injunction he went wearily out into the night,
giving up his struggle with Minerva, only to begin the next round with
Bacchus.

The seeds of ambition, though sown late, grew steadily, and Joe became
so desirous of proving worthy of the consideration of Mrs. Beaver that
he took the boss of the shops partially into his confidence.

"It's a first-rate idea, Joe," said the boss, a big, capable fellow who
had worked his way up from the bottom. "I could move you right along the
line if you had a better education. I have a good offer up in Chicago
next year; if you can get more book sense in your head, I will take you
along."

"Where can I get it at?" asked Joe, somewhat dubious of his own power
of achievement.

"Night school," said the boss. "I know a man that teaches in the
Settlement over on Burk Street. I'll put you in there if you like."

Now, the prospect of going to school to a man who had been head of a
family for seven years, who had been the champion scrapper of the South
End, who was in the midst of a critical love affair, was trebly
humiliating. But Joe was game, and while he determined to keep the
matter as secret as possible, he agreed to the boss's proposition.

"You're mighty stingy with yourself these days!" said Mittie Beaver one
night a month later, when he stopped on his way to school.

Joe grinned somewhat foolishly. "I come every evenin'," he said.

"For 'bout ten minutes," said Mittie, with a toss of her voluminous
pompadour; "there's some wants more'n ten minutes."

"Ben Schenk?" asked Joe, alert with jealousy.

"I ain't sayin'," went on Mittie. "What do you do of nights, hang around
the hall?"

"Naw," said Joe indignantly. "There ain't nobody can say they've sawn
me around the hall sence I've went with you!"

"Well, where do you go?"

"I'm trainin'," said Joe evasively.

"I don't believe you like me as much as you used to," said Mittie
plaintively.

Joe looked at her dumbly. His one thought from the time he cooked his
own early breakfast, down to the moment when he undressed in the cold
and dropped into his place in bed between Gussie and Dick, was of her.
The love of her made his back stop aching as he bent hour after hour
over the machine; it made all the problems and hard words and new ideas
at night school come straight at last; it made the whole sordid, ugly
day swing round the glorious ten minutes that they spent together in the
twilight.

"Yes, I like you all right," he said, twisting his big, grease-stained
hands in embarrassment. "You're the onliest girl I ever could care
about. Besides, I couldn't go with no other girl if I wanted to, 'cause
I don't know none."

Is it small wonder that Ben Schenk's glib protestations, reinforced by
Mrs. Beaver's own zealous approval, should have in time outclassed the
humble Joe? The blow fell just when the second term of night school was
over, and Joe was looking forward to long summer evenings of unlimited
joy.

He had bought two tickets for a river excursion, and was hurrying into
the Beavers' when he encountered a stolid bulwark in the form of Mrs.
Beaver, whose portly person seemed permanently wedged into the narrow
aperture of the front door. She sat in silent majesty, her hands just
succeeding in clasping each other around her ample waist. Had she closed
her eyes, she might have passed for a placid, amiable person, whose
angles of disposition had also become curves. But Mrs. Beaver did not
close her eyes. She opened them as widely as the geography of her face
would permit, and coldly surveyed Joe Ridder.

Mrs. Beaver was a born manager; she had managed her husband into an
untimely grave, she had managed her daughter from the hour she was
born, she had dismissed three preachers, induced two women to leave
their husbands, and now dogmatically announced herself arbiter of
fashions and conduct in Rear Ninth Street.

"No, she can't see you," she said firmly in reply to Joe's question.
"She's going out to a dance party with Mr. Schenk."

"Where at?" demanded Joe, who still trembled in her presence.

"Somewheres down town," said Mrs. Beaver, "to a real swell party."

"He oughtn't to take her to no down-town dance," said Joe, his
indignation getting the better of his shyness. "I don't want her to go,
and I'm going to tell her so."

"In-deed!" said Mrs. Beaver in scorn. "And what have you got to say
about it? I guess Mr. Schenk's got the right to take her anywhere he
wants to!"

"What right?" demanded Joe, getting suddenly a bit dizzy.

"'Cause he's got engaged to her. He's going to give her a real handsome
turquoise ring, fourteen-carat gold."

"Didn't Mittie send me no word?" faltered Joe.

"No," said Mrs. Beaver unhesitatingly, though she had in her pocket a
note for him from the unhappy Mittie.

Joe fumbled for his hat. "I guess I better be goin'," he said, a lump
rising ominously in his throat. He got the gate open and made his way
half dazed around the corner. As he did so, he saw a procession of small
Ridders bearing joyously down upon him.

"Joe!" shrieked Lottie, arriving first, "Maw says hurry on home; we got
another new baby to our house."

During the weeks that followed, Rear Ninth Street was greatly thrilled
over the unusual event of a home wedding. The reticence of the groom was
more than made up for by the bulletins of news issued daily by Mrs.
Beaver. To use that worthy lady's own words, "she was in her elements!"
She organised various committees--on decoration, on refreshment, and
even on the bride's trousseau, tactfully permitting each assistant to
contribute in some way to the general grandeur of the occasion.

"I am going to have this a real showy wedding," she said from her point
of vantage by the parlour window, where she sat like a field-marshal and
issued her orders. "Those paper fringes want to go clean across every
one of the shelves, and you all must make enough paper roses to pin
'round the edges of all the curtains. Ever'thing's got to look gay and
festive."

"Mittie don't look very gay," ventured one of the assistants. "I seen
her in the kitchen cryin' a minute ago."

"Mittie's a fool!" announced Mrs. Beaver calmly. "She don't know a good
thing when she sees it! Get them draperies up a little higher in the
middle; I'm going to hang a silver horseshoe on to the loop."

The wedding night arrived, and the Beaver cottage was filled to
suffocation with the _élite_ of Rear Ninth Street. The guests found it
difficult to circulate freely in the room on account of the elaborate
and aggressive decorations, so they stood in silent rows awaiting the
approaching ceremony. As the appointed hour drew near, and none of the
groom's family arrived, a few whispered comments were exchanged.

"It's 'most time to begin," whispered the preacher to Mrs. Beaver, whose
keen black eyes had been watching the door with growing impatience.

"Well, we won't wait on nobody," she said positively, as she rose and
left the room to give the signal.

In the kitchen she found great consternation: the bride, pale and
dejected in all her finery, sat on the table, all the chairs being in
the parlour.

"What's the matter?" demanded Mrs. Beaver.

"He ain't come!" announced one of the women in tragic tones.

"Ben Schenk ain't here?" asked Mrs. Beaver in accents so awful that her
listeners quaked. "Well, I'll see the reason why!"

Out into the night she sallied, picking her way around the puddles until
she reached the saloon at the corner.

"Where's Ben Schenk?" she demanded sternly of the men around the bar.

There was an ominous silence, broken only by the embarrassed shuffling
of feet.

Drawing herself up, Mrs. Beaver thumped the counter.

"Where's he at?" she repeated, glaring at the most embarrassed of the
lot.

"He don't know where he's at," said the man. "I rickon he cilebrated a
little too much fer the weddin'."

"Can he stand up?" demanded Mrs. Beaver.

"Not without starchin'," said the man, and amid the titter that
followed, Mrs. Beaver made her exit.

On the corner she paused to reconnoitre. Across the street was her gaily
lighted cottage, where all the guests were waiting. She thought of the
ignominy that would follow their abrupt dismissal, she thought of the
refreshments that must be used to-night or never, she thought of the
little bride sitting disconsolate on the kitchen table.

With a sudden determination she decided to lead a forlorn hope. Facing
about, she marched weightily around to the rear of the saloon and began
laboriously to climb the steps that lead to the hall. At the door she
paused and made a rapid survey of the room until she found what she was
looking for.

"Joe Ridder!" she called peremptorily.

Joe, haggard and listless, put down his billiard-cue and came to the
door.

Five minutes later a breathless figure presented himself at the Beaver
kitchen. He had on a clean shirt and his Sunday clothes, and while he
wore no collar, a clean handkerchief was neatly pinned about his neck.

"Everybody but the bride and groom come into the parlour," commanded
Mrs. Beaver. "I'm a-going to make a speech, and tell 'em that the bride
has done changed her mind."

Joe and Mittie, left alone, looked at each other in dazed rapture. She
was the first to recover.

"Joe!" she cried, moving timidly towards him, "ain't you mad? Do you
still want me?"

Joe, with both hands entangled in her veil and his feet lost in her
train, looked down at her through swimming eyes.

"Want yer?" he repeated, and his lips trembled, "gee whiz! I feel like I
done ribbeted a hoop round the hull world!"

The signal was given for them to enter the parlour, and without further
interruption the ceremony proceeded, if not in exact accordance with the
plans of Mrs. Beaver, at least in obedience to the mandate of a certain
little autocrat who sometimes takes a hand in the affairs of man even in
Rear Ninth Street.



THE SOUL OF O SANA SAN


O Sana San stood in the heart of a joyous world, as much a part of the
radiant, throbbing, irresponsible spring as the golden butterfly which
fluttered in her hand. Through the close-stemmed bamboos she could see
the sparkling river racing away to the Inland Sea, while slow-moving
junks, with their sixfold sails, glided with almost imperceptible motion
toward a far-distant port. From below, across the rice-fields, came the
shouts and laughter of naked bronze babies who played at the water's
edge, and from above, high up on the ferny cliff, a mellow-throated
temple bell answered the call of each vagrant breeze. Far away, shutting
out the strange, big world, the luminous mountains hung in the purple
mists of May.

And every note of color in the varied landscape, from the purple irises
whose royal reflection stained the water below, to the rosy-tipped
clover at the foot of the hill, was repeated in the kimono and _obi_ of
the child who flitted about in the grasses, catching butterflies in her
long-handled net.

It was in the days of the Japanese-Russian War, but the constant echo of
the great conflict that sounded around her disturbed her no more than it
did the birds overhead. All day long the bugles sounded from the
parade-grounds, and always and always the soldiers went marching away to
the front. Around the bend in the river were miniature fortifications
where recruits learned to make forts and trenches, and to shoot through
tiny holes in a wall at imaginary Russian troopers. Down in the town
below were long white hospitals where twenty thousand sick and wounded
soldiers lay. No thought of the horror of it came to trouble O Sana San.
The cherry-trees gladly and freely gave up their blossoms to the wind,
and so much the country give up its men for the Emperor. Her father had
marched away, then one brother, then another, and she had held up her
hands and shouted, "Banzai!" and smiled because her mother smiled.
Everything was vague and uncertain, and no imagined catastrophe troubled
her serenity. It was all the will of the Emperor, and it was well.

Life was a very simple matter to O Sana San. She rose when the sun
climbed over the mountain, bathed her face and hands in the shallow
copper basin in the garden, ate her breakfast of bean-curd and pickled
fish and warm yellow tea. Then she hung the quilts over poles to sun,
dusted the screens, and placed an offering of rice on the steps of the
tiny shrine to Inari, where the little foxes kept guard. These simple
duties being accomplished, she tied a bit of bean-cake in her gaily
colored handkerchief, and stepping into her _geta_, went pattering off
to school.

It was an English school, where she sat with hands folded through the
long mornings, passively permitting the lessons to filter through her
brain, and listening in smiling patience while the kind foreign ladies
spoke incomprehensible things. Sometimes she helped pass the hours by
watching the shadows of the dancing leaves outside; sometimes she told
herself stories about "The Old Man Who Made Withered Trees to Blossom,"
or about "Momotaro, the Little Peach Boy." Again she would repeat the
strange English words and phrases that she heard, and would puzzle out
their meaning.

But the sum of her lore consisted in being happy; and when the shadow of
the mountains began to slip across the valley, she would dance back
along the homeward way, singing with the birds, laughing with the
rippling water, and adding her share of brightness to the sunshine of
the world.

As she stood on this particular morning with her net poised over a
butterfly, she heard the tramping of many feet. A slow cavalcade was
coming around the road,--a long line of coolies bearing bamboo
stretchers,--and in the rear, in a jinrikisha, was a foreign man with a
red cross on his sleeve.

O Sana San scrambled up the bank and watched with smiling curiosity as
the men halted to rest. On the stretcher nearest her lay a young
Russian prisoner with the fair skin and blond hair that are so
unfamiliar to Japanese eyes. His blanket was drawn tight around his
shoulders, and he lay very still, with lips set, gazing straight up
through the bamboo leaves to the blue beyond.

Then it was that O Sana San, gazing in frank inquisitiveness at the
soldier, saw a strange thing happen. A tear formed on his lashes and
trickled slowly across his temple; then another and another, until they
formed a tiny rivulet. More and more curious, she drew yet nearer, and
watched the tears creep unheeded down the man's face. She was sure he
was not crying, because soldiers never cry; it could not be the pain,
because his face was very smooth and calm. What made the tears drop,
drop on the hard pillow, and why did he not brush them away?

A vague trouble dawned in the breast of O Sana San. Running back to the
field, she gathered a handful of wild flowers and returned to the
soldier. The tears no longer fell, but his lips quivered and his face
was distorted with pain. She looked about her in dismay. The coolies
were down by the river, drinking from their hands and calling to one
another; the only person to whom she could appeal was the foreigner with
the red cross on his arm who was adjusting a bandage for a patient at
the end of the line.

With halting steps and many misgivings, she timidly made her way to his
side; then placing her hands on her knees, she bowed low before him. The
embarrassment of speaking to a stranger and a foreigner almost
overwhelmed her, but she mustered her bravest array of English, and
pointing to the stretcher, faltered out her message:

"Soldier not happy very much is. I sink soldier heart sorry."

The Red Cross orderly looked up from his work, and his eyes followed her
gesture.

"He is hurt bad," he said shortly; "no legs, no arms."

"_So--deska_?" she said politely, then repeated his words in puzzled
incomprehension: "Nowarms? Nowarms?"

When she returned to the soldier she gathered up the flowers which she
had dropped by the wayside, and timidly offered them to him. For a long
moment she waited, then her smile faded mid her hand dropped. With a
child's quick sensitiveness to rebuff, she was turning away when an
exclamation recalled her.

The prisoner was looking at her in a strange, distressed way; his
deep-set gray eyes glanced down first at one bandaged shoulder, then at
the other, then he shook his head.

As O Sana San followed his glance, a startled look of comprehension
sprang into her face. "Nowarms!" she repeated softly as the meaning
dawned upon her, then with a little cry of sympathy she ran forward and
gently laid her flowers on his breast.

The cavalcade moved on, under the warm spring sun, over the smooth white
road, under the arching cryptomerias; but little O Sana Sun stood with
her butterfly net over her shoulder and watched it with troubled eyes.
A dreadful something was stirring in her breast, something clutched at
her throat, and she no longer saw the sunshine and the flowers. Kneeling
by the roadside, she loosened the little basket which was tied to her
_obi_ and gently lifted the lid. Slowly at first, and then with eager
wings, a dozen captive butterflies fluttered back to freedom.

       *       *       *       *       *

Along the banks of the Upper Flowing River, in a rudely improvised
hospital, lay the wounded Russian prisoners. To one of the small rooms
at the end of the ward reserved for fatally wounded patients a
self-appointed nurse came daily, and rendered her tiny service in the
only way she knew.

O Sana San's heart had been so wrought upon by the sad plight of her
soldier friend that she had begged to be taken to see him and to be
allowed to carry him flowers with her own hand. Her mother, in whom
smoldered the fires of dead samurai, was quick to be gracious to a
fallen foe, and it was with her consent that O Sana San went day after
day to the hospital.

The nurses humored her childish whim, thinking each day would be the
last; but as the days grew into weeks and the weeks into months, her
visits became a matter of course.

And the young Russian, lying on his rack of pain, learned to watch for
her coming as the one hour of brightness in an interminable night of
gloom. He made a sort of sun-dial of the cracks in the floor, and when
the shadows reached a certain spot his tired eyes grew eager, and he
turned his head to listen for the patter of the little _tabi_ that was
sure to sound along the hall.

Sometimes she would bring her picture-books and read him wonderful
stories in words he did not understand, and show him the pictures of
Momotaro, who was born out of a peach and who grew up to be so strong
and brave that he went to the Ogres' Island and carried off all their
treasures,--caps and coats that made their wearers invisible, jewels
which made the tide come or go, coral and amber and tortoise-shell,--and
all these things the little Peach Boy took back to his kind old foster
mother and father, and they all lived happily forever after. And in the
telling O Sana Man's voice would thrill, and her almond eyes grow
bright, while her slender brown finger pointed out the figures on the
gaily colored pages.

Sometimes she would sing to him, in soft minor strains, of the beauty of
the snow on the pine-trees, or the wonders of Fuji-San.

And he would pucker his white lips and try to whistle the accompaniment,
to her great amusement and delight.

Many were the treasures she brought forth from the depths of her long
sleeves, and many were the devices she contrived to amuse him. The most
ambitious achievement was a miniature garden in a wooden box--a
wonderful garden where grasses stood for tall bamboo, and a saucer of
water, surrounded by moss and pebbles, made a shining lake across which
a bridge led through a _torii_ to a diminutive shrine above.

He would watch her deft fingers fashioning the minute objects, and
listen to her endless prattle in her soft, unknown tongue, and for a
little space the pain-racked body would relax and the cruel furrows
vanish from between his brows.

But there were days in which the story and the song and the play had no
part. At such times O Sana San slipped in on tiptoe and took her place
at the head of the cot where he could not see her. Sitting on her heels,
with hand folded in hand, she watched patiently for hours, alert to
adjust the covers or smooth the pillow, but turning her eyes away when
the spasms of pain contorted his face. All the latent maternity in the
child rose to succor his helplessness. The same instinct that had
prompted her to strap her doll upon her back when yet a mere baby
herself, made her accept the burden of his suffering, and mother him
with a very passion of tenderness.

Longer and sultrier grew the days; the wistaria, hanging in feathery
festoons from many a trellis, gave way to the flaming azalea, and the
azalea in turn vanished with the coming of the lotus that floated
sleepily in the old castle moat.

Still the soul of the young Russian was held a prisoner in his shattered
body, and the spirit in him grew restive at the delay. Months passed
before the doctor told him his release was at hand. It was early in the
morning, and the sun fell in long, level rays across his cot. He turned
his head and looked wistfully at the distance it would have to travel
before it would be afternoon.

The nurse brought the screen and placed it about the bed--the last
service she could render. For hours the end was expected, but moment by
moment he held death at bay, refusing to accept the freedom that he so
earnestly longed for. At noon the sky became overcast and the slow
falling of rain was heard on the low wooden roof. But still his fervent
eyes watched the sun-dial.

At last the sound of _geta_ was heard without, and in a moment O Sana
San slipped past the screen and dropped on her knees beside him. Under
one arm was tightly held a small white kitten, her final offering at the
shrine of love.

When he saw her quaint little figure, a look of peace came over his face
and he closed his eyes. An interpreter, knowing that a prisoner was
about to die, came to the bedside and asked if he wanted to leave any
message. He stirred slightly then, in a scarcely audible voice, asked in
Russian what the Japanese word was for "good-by." A long pause followed,
during which the spirit seemed to hover irresolute upon the brink of
eternity.

O Sana San sat motionless, her lips parted, her face full of the awe and
mystery of death. Presently he stirred and turned his head slowly until
his eyes were on a level with her own.

"_Sayonara_," he whispered faintly, and tried to smile; and O Sana San,
summoning all her courage to restrain the tears, smiled bravely back and
whispered, "Sayonara."

It was scarcely said before the spirit of the prisoner started forth
upon his final journey, but he went not alone. The soul of a child went
with him, leaving in its place the tender, newborn soul of a woman.





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