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Title: The Best Short Stories of 1917 - and the Yearbook of the American Short Story
Author: Various
Language: English
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THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1917

AND THE

YEARBOOK OF THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY

EDITED BY EDWARD J. O'BRIEN

EDITOR OF "THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1915," "THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF
1916," ETC.

[Illustration: SCIRE QVOD SCIENDVM]

BOSTON
SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY
PUBLISHERS

Copyright, 1918, by The Boston Transcript Company

Copyright, 1917, by The Pictorial Review Company, The Century Company,
Charles Scribner's Sons, The Curtis Publishing Company, Harper &
Brothers, The Metropolitan Magazine Company, The Atlantic Monthly
Company, The Crowell Publishing Company, The International Magazine
Company, The Pagan Publishing Company, The Stratford Journal, and The
Boston Transcript Company

Copyright, 1918, by Edwina Stanton Babcock, Thomas Beer, Maxwell
Struthers Burt, Francis Buzzell, Irvin S. Cobb, Charles Caldwell Dobie,
H. G. Dwight, Edna Ferber, Katharine Fullerton Gerould, Susan Glaspell
Cook, Frederick Stuart Greene, Richard Matthews Hallet, Fannie Hurst,
Fanny Kemble Costello, Burton Kline, Vincent O'Sullivan, Lawrence Perry,
Mary Brecht Pulver, Wilbur Daniel Steele, and Mary Synon

Copyright, 1918, by Edward J. O'Brien

Copyright, 1918, by Small, Maynard & Company, Inc.

Fourth printing, January, 1919
Fifth printing, September, 1919
Sixth printing, August, 1920
Seventh printing, August, 1921

TO

WILBUR DANIEL STEELE

BY WAY OF ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Grateful acknowledgment for permission to include the stories and other
material in this volume is made to the following authors, editors,
publishers, and copyright holders:

     To The Pictorial Review Company and Miss Edwina Stanton Babcock for
     permission to reprint "The Excursion," first published in _The
     Pictorial Review_; to The Century Company and Mr. Thomas Beer for
     permission to reprint "Onnie," first published in _The Century
     Magazine_; to Charles Scribner's Sons and Mr. Maxwell Struthers
     Burt for permission to reprint "A Cup of Tea," first published in
     _Scribner's Magazine_; to The Pictorial Review Company and Mr.
     Francis Buzzell for permission to reprint "Lonely Places," first
     published in _The Pictorial Review_; to The Curtis Publishing
     Company and Mr. Irvin S. Cobb for permission to reprint "Boys Will
     Be Boys," first published in _The Saturday Evening Post_; to Harper
     and Brothers and Mr. Charles Caldwell Dobie for permission to
     reprint "Laughter," first published in _Harper's Magazine_; to The
     Century Company and Mr. H. G. Dwight for permission to reprint "The
     Emperor of Elam," first published in _The Century Magazine_; to The
     Metropolitan Magazine Company and Miss Edna Ferber for permission
     to reprint "The Gay Old Dog," first published in _The Metropolitan
     Magazine_; to The Atlantic Monthly Company and Mrs. Katharine
     Fullerton Gerould for permission to reprint "The Knight's Move,"
     first published in _The Atlantic Monthly_; to The Crowell
     Publishing Company, the editor of _Every Week_, and Mrs. George
     Cram Cook for permission to reprint "A Jury of Her Peers," by Susan
     Glaspell, first published in _Every Week_ and _The Associated
     Sunday Magazines_; to The Century Company and Captain Frederick
     Stuart Greene for permission to reprint "The Bunker Mouse," first
     published in _The Century Magazine_; to Mr. Paul R. Reynolds for
     confirmation of Captain Greene's permission; to The Pictorial
     Review Company and Mr. Richard Matthews Hallet for permission to
     reprint "Rainbow Pete," first published in _The Pictorial Review_;
     to The International Magazine Company, the editor of _The
     Cosmopolitan Magazine_, and Miss Fannie Hurst for permission to
     reprint "Get Ready the Wreaths," first published in _The
     Cosmopolitan Magazine_; to the editor of _The Pagan_ and Mrs.
     Vincent Costello for permission to reprint "The Strange-Looking
     Man," by Fanny Kemble Johnson, first published in _The Pagan_; to
     The Stratford Journal, the editor of _The Stratford Journal_, and
     Mr. Burton Kline for permission to reprint "The Caller in the
     Night," first published in _The Stratford Journal_; to The Boston
     Transcript Company and Mr. Vincent O'Sullivan for permission to
     reprint "The Interval," first published in _The Boston Evening
     Transcript_; to Charles Scribner's Sons and Mr. Lawrence Perry for
     permission to reprint "'A Certain Rich Man--,'" first published in
     _Scribner's Magazine_; to The Curtis Publishing Company and Mrs.
     Mary Brecht Pulver for permission to reprint "The Path of Glory,"
     first published in _The Saturday Evening Post_; to The Pictorial
     Review Company and Mr. Wilbur Daniel Steele for permission to
     reprint "Ching, Ching, Chinaman," first published in _The Pictorial
     Review_; and to Harper and Brothers and Miss Mary Synon for
     permission to reprint "None So Blind," first published in _Harper's
     Magazine_.

     Acknowledgments are specially due to _The Boston Evening
     Transcript_ and _The Bookman_ for permission to reprint the large
     body of material previously published in their pages.

I wish specially to express my gratitude to the following who have
materially assisted by their efforts and advice in making this year-book
of American fiction possible and more nearly complete:

Mrs. Padraic Colum, Mr. A. A. Boyden, Mr. Ellery Sedgwick, Mr. Henry A.
Bellows, Mr. Herman E. Cassino, Mr. G. G. Wyant, Mr. Burton Kline, Mr.
Douglas Z. Doty, Mr. Barry Benefield, Mr. T. R. Smith, Mr. Frederick
Lewis Allen, Mr. Henry J. Forman, Miss Honoré Willsie, Mr. Harold
Hersey, Mr. Bruce Barton, Miss Bernice Brown, Miss Mariel Brady, Mr.
William Frederick Bigelow, Mr. John Chapman Hilder, Mr. Thomas B.
Wells, Mr. Lee Foster Hartman, Mr. Sewell Haggard, Mr. Samuel W.
Hippler, Mr. Joseph Bernard Rethy, Mr. Karl Edwin Harriman, Mr.
Christopher Morley, Miss Margaret Anderson, Mrs. Hughes Cornell, Miss
Myra G. Reed, Mr. Merrill Rogers, Mr. Charles Hanson Towne, Mr. Carl
Hovey, Miss Sonya Levien, Mr. John T. Frederick, Mr. Ival McPeak, Mr.
Robert H. Davis, Mrs. R. M. Hallowell, Mr. Harold T. Pulsifer, Mr.
Wyndham Martyn, Mr. Frank Harris, Mr. Robert W. Sneddon, Miss Rose L.
Ellerbe, Mr. Arthur T. Vance, Miss Jane Lee, Mr. Joseph Kling, Mr.
William Marion Reedy, Mr. Leo Pasvolsky, Mr. Churchill Williams, Mr.
Robert Bridges, Mr. Waldo Frank, Mr. H. E. Maule, Mr. Henry L. Mencken,
Mr. Robert Thomas Hardy, Miss Anne Rankin, Mr. Henry T. Schnittkind, Dr.
Isaac Goldberg, Mr. Charles K. Field, Mrs. Mary Fanton Roberts, Miss
Sarah Field Splint, Miss Mabel Barker, Mr. Hayden Carruth, Mrs. Kathleen
Norris, Mrs. Ethel Hoe, Miss Mildred Cram, Miss Dorothea Lawrance Mann,
Miss Hilda Baker, Mr. William Stanley Braithwaite, Mr. Frank Owen, Mr.
Alexander Harvey, Mr. Seumas O'Brien, Madame Gaston Lachaise, Mr. John
J. Phillips, Mr. Sylvester Baxter, Miss Alice Brown, Mr. Francis
Buzzell, Mr. Will Levington Comfort, Mr. Robert A. Parker, Mr. Randolph
Edgar, Miss Augusta B. Fowler, Captain Frederick Stuart Greene, Mr.
Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, Mr. Reginald Wright Kauffman, Mr. J. B.
Kerfoot, Mrs. Elsie S. Lewars, Miss Jeannette Marks, Mr. W. M. Clayton,
Mr. Vincent O'Sullivan, Mr. Henry Wallace Phillips, Mr. Melville
Davisson Post, Mr. John D. Sabine, Mr. Richard Barker Shelton, Mrs. A.
M. Scruggs, Miss May Selley, Mr. Daniel J. Shea, Mr. Vincent Starrett,
Mr. M. M. Stearns, Mrs. Ann Watkins, Dr. Blanche Colton Williams, Mr.
Edward P. Nagel, Mr. G. Humphrey, Rev. J.-F. Raiche, Mr. Wilbur Daniel
Steele, Miss Louise Rand Bascom, Mr. Octavus Roy Cohen, Mr. Robert
Cumberland, Mr. Charles Divine, Mr. Frank C. Dodd, Mr. William R. Kane,
Mr. David Gibson, Miss Ida Warren Gould, Miss Ella E. Hirsch, Miss Marie
Louise Kinsella, Mr. Frank E. Lohn, Mrs. Margaret Medbury, Miss Anna
Mitchell, Mr. Robert W. Neal, Mr. Edwin Carty Ranck, Miss Anne B.
Schultze, Mrs. Celia Baldwin Whitehead, Mr. Horatio Winslow, Miss Kate
Buss, Mrs. E. B. Dewing, Mr. A. E. Dingle, Mr. Edmund R. Brown, Mr.
George Gilbert, Mr. Harry E. Jergens, Mr. Eric Levison, Mr. Robert
McBlair, Mrs. Vivien C. Mackenzie, Mr. W. W. Norman, Rev. Wilbur
Fletcher Steele, Mrs. Elizabeth C. A. Smith, Captain Achmed Abdullah,
Mr. H. H. Howland, Mr. Howard W. Cook, Mr. Newton A. Fuessle, Mr. B.
Guilbert Guerney, Mr. William H. Briggs, Mr. Francis Garrison, Mr.
Albert J. Klinck, Mr. Alfred A. Knopf, Miss Mary Lerner, Mr. H. F.
Jenkins, Mr. Guy Holt, Mr. H. S. Latham, Mr. H. L. Pangborn, Miss Maisie
Prim, Mr. S. Edgar Briggs, Mr. William Morrow, Mr. Sherwood Anderson,
Hon. W. Andrews, Miss Edwina Stanton Babcock, Mr. Thomas Beer, Mrs.
Fleta Campbell Springer, Miss Sarah N. Cleghorn, Mr. Irvin S. Cobb, Miss
Alice Cowdery, Miss Bertha Helen Crabbe, Mr. H. G. Dwight, Miss Edna
Ferber, Mrs. Elizabeth Irons Folsom, Miss Ellen Glasgow, Mrs. George
Cram Cook, Mr. Armistead C. Gordon, Miss Fannie Hurst, Mrs. Vincent
Costello, Mrs. E. Clement Jones, Mrs. Gerald Stanley Lee, Mr. Addison
Lewis, Mr. Edison Marshall, Mr. Edgar Lee Masters, Miss Gertrude Nafe,
Mr. Meredith Nicholson, Mr. Harvey J. O'Higgins, Mr. Lawrence Perry,
Mrs. Olive Higgins Prouty, Mrs. Mary Brecht Pulver, Mr. Benjamin
Rosenblatt, Mr. Herman Schneider, Professor Grant Showerman, Miss Mary
Synon, Mrs. Mary Heaton O'Brien, Mr. George Weston, and especially to
Mr. Francis J. Hannigan, to whom I owe invaluable cooperation in ways
too numerous to mention.

I shall be grateful to my readers for corrections, and particularly for
suggestions leading to the wider usefulness of this annual volume. In
particular, I shall welcome the receipt, from authors, editors, and
publishers, of stories published during 1918 which have qualities of
distinction, and yet are not printed in periodicals falling under my
regular notice. It is also my intention during 1918 to review all
volumes of short stories published during that year in the United
States. All communications and volumes submitted for review in "The Best
Short Stories of 1918" maybe addressed to me at _South Yarmouth,
Massachusetts_. For such assistance, I shall make due and grateful
acknowledgment in next year's annual.

If I have been guilty of any omissions in these acknowledgments, it is
quite unintentional, and I trust that I shall be absolved for my good
intentions.

E. J. O.

* * *



CONTENTS[1]


                                                                    PAGE

INTRODUCTION. By the Editor                                         xvii

THE EXCURSION. By Edwina Stanton Babcock                               1
  (From _The Pictorial Review_)

ONNIE. By Thomas Beer                                                 20
  (From _The Century Magazine_)

A CUP OF TEA. By Maxwell Struthers Burt                               45
  (From _Scribner's Magazine_)

LONELY PLACES. By Francis Buzzell                                     70
  (From _The Pictorial Review_)

BOYS WILL BE BOYS. By Irvin S. Cobb                                   86
  (From _The Saturday Evening Post_)

LAUGHTER. By Charles Caldwell Dobie                                  128
  (From _Harper's Magazine_)

THE EMPEROR OF ELAM. By H. G. Dwight                                 147
  (From _The Century Magazine_)

THE GAY OLD DOG. By Edna Ferber                                      208
  (From _The Metropolitan Magazine_)

THE KNIGHT'S MOVE. By Katharine Fullerton Gerould                    234
  (From _The Atlantic Monthly_)

A JURY OF HER PEERS. By Susan Glaspell                               256
  (From _Every Week_)

THE BUNKER MOUSE. By Frederick Stuart Greene                         283
  (From _The Century Magazine_)

RAINBOW PETE. By Richard Matthews Hallet                             307
  (From _The Pictorial Review_)

GET READY THE WREATHS. By Fannie Hurst                               326
  (From _The Cosmopolitan Magazine_)

THE STRANGE-LOOKING MAN. By Fanny Kemble
  Johnson                                                            361
      (From _The Pagan_)

THE CALLER IN THE NIGHT. By Burton Kline                             365
  (From _The Stratford Journal_)

THE INTERVAL. By Vincent O'Sullivan                                  383
  (From _The Boston Evening Transcript_)

"A CERTAIN RICH MAN--." By Lawrence Perry                            391
  (From _Scribner's Magazine_)

THE PATH OF GLORY. By Mary Brecht Pulver                             412
  (From _The Saturday Evening Post_)

CHING, CHING, CHINAMAN. By Wilbur Daniel Steele                      441
  (From _The Pictorial Review_)

NONE SO BLIND. By Mary Synon                                         468
  (From _Harper's Magazine_)

THE YEARBOOK OF THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY
FOR 1917                                                             483

  Addresses of American Magazines Publishing Short
  Stories                                                            485

  The Biographical Roll of Honor of American Short
  Stories for 1917                                                   487

  The Roll of Honor of Foreign Short Stories in
  American Magazines for 1917                                        506

  The Best Books of Short Stories of 1917: A Critical
  Summary                                                            509

  Volumes of Short Stories Published During 1917:
  An Index                                                           521

  The Best Sixty-three American Short Stories of
  1917: A Critical Summary                                           536

  Magazine Averages for 1917                                         541

  Index of Short Stories for 1917                                    544


[Note 1: The order in which the stories in this volume are printed
is not intended as an indication of their comparative excellence; the
arrangement is alphabetical by authors.]



INTRODUCTION


A year ago, in the introduction to "The Best Short Stories of 1916," I
pointed out that the American short story cannot be reduced to a
literary formula, because the art in which it finds its concrete
embodiment is a growing art. The critic, when he approaches American
literature, cannot regard it as he can regard any foreign literature.
Setting aside the question of whether our cosmopolitan population, with
its widely different kinds of racial heritage, is at an advantage or a
disadvantage because of its conflicting traditions, we must accept the
variety in substance and attempt to find in it a new kind of national
unity, hitherto unknown in the history of the world. The message voiced
in President Wilson's words on several occasions during the past year is
a true reflection of the message implicit in American literature.
Various in substance, it finds its unity in the new freedom of
democracy, and English and French, German and Slav, Italian and
Scandinavian bring to the common melting-pot ideals which are fused in a
national unity of democratic utterance.

It is inevitable, therefore, that in this stage of our national literary
development, our newly conscious speech lacks the sophisticated
technique of older literatures. But, perhaps because of this very
limitation, it is much more alert to the variety and life of the human
substance with which it deals. It does not take the whole of life for
granted and it often reveals the fresh naïveté of childhood in its
discovery of life. When its sophistication is complete, it is the
sophistication of English rather than of American literature, and is
derivative rather than original, for the most part, in its criticism of
life. I would specifically except, however, from this criticism the
work of three writers, at least, whose sophistication is the embodiment
of a new American technique. Katharine Fullerton Gerould, Wilbur Daniel
Steele, and H. G. Dwight have each attained a distinction in our
contemporary literature which places them at the head of their craft.

During the past year there has been much pessimistic criticism of the
American short story, some of it by Americans, and some by Europeans who
are now residing in our midst. To the European mind, trained in a
tradition where technique in story-writing is paramount, it is natural
that the American short story should seem to reveal grave deficiencies.
I am by no means disposed to minimize the weakness of American
craftsmanship, but I feel that at the present stage of our literary
development, discouragement will prove a very easy and fatal thing. The
typical point of view of the European critic, when justified, is
adequately reflected in an article by Mary M. Colum, which was published
in the Dial last spring: "Those of us who take an interest in literary
history will remember how particular literary forms at times seize hold
of a country: in Elizabethan England, it was the verse drama; in the
eighteenth century, it was the essay; in Scandinavia of a generation
ago, it was the drama again. At present America is in the grip of the
short story--so thoroughly in its grip indeed that, in addition to all
the important writers, nearly all the literate population who are not
writing movie scenarios are writing or are about to write short stories.
One reason for this is the general belief that this highly sophisticated
and subtle art is a means for making money in spare time, and so one
finds everybody, from the man who solicits insurance to the barber who
sells hair-tonics, engaged in writing, or in taking courses in the
writing, of short stories. Judging from what appears in the magazines,
one imagines that they get their efforts accepted. There is no doubt
that the butcher, the baker, and the candle-stick maker are easily
capable of producing the current short stories with the aids now
afforded."

Now this is the heart of the matter with which criticism has to deal. It
is regrettable that the American magazine editor is not more mindful of
his high calling, but the tremendous advertising development of the
American magazine has bound American literature in the chains of
commercialism, and before a permanent literary criticism of the American
short story can be established, we must fight to break these bonds. I
conceive it to be my essential function to begin at the bottom and
record the first signs of grace, rather than to limit myself to the top
and write critically about work which will endure with or without
criticism. If American critics would devote their attention for ten
years to this spade work, they might not win so much honor, but we
should find the atmosphere clearer at the end of that period for the
true exercise of literary criticism.

Nevertheless I contend that there is much fine work being accomplished
at present, which is buried in the ruck of the interminable commonplace.
I regard it as my duty to chronicle this work, and thus render it
accessible for others to discuss.

Mrs. Colum continues: "Apart from the interesting experiments in free
verse or polyphonic prose, the short story in America is at a low ebb.
Magazine editors will probably say the blame rests with their readers.
This may be so, but do people really read the long, dreary stories of
from five to nine thousand words which the average American magazine
editor publishes? Why a vivid people like the American should be so
dusty and dull in their short stories is a lasting puzzle to the
European, who knows that America has produced a large proportion of the
great short stories of the world."

I deny that the American short story is at a low ebb, and I offer the
present volume as a revelation of the best that is now being done in
this field. I agree with Mrs. Colum that the best stories are only to be
found after a laborious dusty search, but this is the proof rather than
the refutation of my position.

Despite the touch of paradox, Mrs. Colum makes two admirable suggestions
to remedy this condition of affairs. "A few magazine editors could do a
great deal to raise the level of the American short story. They could at
once eradicate two of the things that cause a part of the evil--the
wordiness and the commercial standardization of the story. By declining
short stories over three thousand words long, and by refusing to pay
more than a hundred dollars for any short story, they could create a new
standard and raise both the prestige of the short story and of their
magazines. They would then get the imaginative writers, and not the
exploiters of a commercial article."

I am not sure that the average American editor wishes to welcome the
imaginative writer, but assuming this to be true, I would modify Mrs.
Colum's suggestions and propose that, except in an unusual instance, the
short story should be limited to five thousand words, and that the
compensation for it should not exceed three hundred dollars.

To repeat what I have said in previous volumes of this series, for the
benefit of the reader as yet unacquainted with my standards and
principles of selection, I shall point out that I have set myself the
task of disengaging the essential human qualities in our contemporary
fiction which, when chronicled conscientiously by our literary artists,
may fairly be called a criticism of life. I am not at all interested in
formulas, and organized criticism at its best would be nothing more than
dead criticism, as all dogmatic interpretation of life is always dead.
What has interested me, to the exclusion of other things, is the fresh
living current which flows through the best of our work, and the
psychological and imaginative reality which our writers have conferred
upon it.

No substance is of importance in fiction, unless it is organic
substance, that is to say, substance in which the pulse of life is
beating. Inorganic fiction has been our curse in the past, and bids fair
to remain so, unless we exercise much greater artistic discrimination
than we display at present.

During the past year I have sought to select from the stories published
in American magazines those which have rendered life imaginatively in
organic substance and artistic form. As the most adequate means to this
end, I have taken each short story by itself, and examined it
impartially. I have done my best to surrender myself to the writer's
point of view, and granting his choice of material and personal
interpretation of its value, have sought to test it by the double
standard of substance and form. Substance is something achieved by the
artist in every act of creation, rather than something already present,
and accordingly a fact or group of facts in a story only obtain
substantial embodiment when the artist's power of compelling imaginative
persuasion transforms them into a living truth. The first test of a
short story, therefore, in any qualitative analysis is to report upon
how vitally compelling the writer makes his selected facts or incidents.
This test may be known as the test of substance.

But a second test is necessary if a story is to take high rank above
other stories. The true artist will seek to shape this living substance
into the most beautiful and satisfying form, by skilful selection and
arrangement of his material, and by the most direct and appealing
presentation of it in portrayal and characterization.

The short stories which I have examined in this study, as in previous
years, have fallen naturally into four groups. The first group consists
of those stories which fail, in my opinion, to survive either the test
of substance or the test of form. These stories are listed in the
year-book without comment or a qualifying asterisk. The second group
consists of those stories which may fairly claim that they survive
either the test of substance or the test of form. Each of these stories
may claim to possess either distinction of technique alone, or more
frequently, I am glad to say, a persuasive sense of life in them to
which a reader responds with some part of his own experience. Stories
included in this group are indicated in the year-book index by a single
asterisk prefixed to the title. The third group, which is composed of
stories of still greater distinction, includes such narratives as may
lay convincing claim to a second reading, because each of them has
survived both tests, the test of substance and the test of form. Stories
included in this group are indicated in the year-book index by two
asterisks prefixed to the title.

Finally, I have recorded the names of a small group of stories which
possess, I believe, an even finer distinction--the distinction of
uniting genuine substance and artistic form in a closely woven pattern
with such sincerity that these stories may fairly claim a position in
our literature. If all of these stories by American authors were
republished, they would not occupy more space than six average novels.
My selection of them does not imply the critical belief that they are
great stories. It is simply to be taken as meaning that I have found the
equivalent of six volumes worthy of republication among all the stories
published during 1917. These stories are indicated in the year-book
index by three asterisks prefixed to the title, and are listed in the
special "Rolls of Honor." In compiling these lists, I have permitted no
personal preference or prejudice to influence my judgment consciously
for or against a story. To the titles of certain stories, however, in
the American "Roll of Honor," an asterisk is prefixed, and this
asterisk, I must confess, reveals in some measure a personal preference.
It is from this final short list that the stories reprinted in this
volume have been selected.

It has been a point of honor with me not to republish an English story,
nor a translation from a foreign author. I have also made it a rule not
to include more than one story by an individual author in the volume.
The general and particular results of my study will be found explained
and carefully detailed in the supplementary part of the volume.

The Yearbook for 1917 contains three new features. The Roll of Honor of
American Short Stories includes a short biographical sketch of each
author; a selection from the volumes of short stories published during
the past year is reviewed at some length; and, in response to numerous
requests, a list of American magazines publishing short stories, with
their editorial addresses, has been compiled.

Wilbur Daniel Steele and Katharine Fullerton Gerould are still at the
head of their craft. But during the past year the ten published stories
by Maxwell Struthers Burt and Charles Caldwell Dobie seem to promise a
future in our literature of equal importance to the later work of these
writers. Sherwood Anderson and Waldo Frank emerge as writers with a
great deal of importance to say, although they have not yet fully
mastered the art of saying it. The three new short story writers who
show most promise are Gertrude Nafe and Thomas Beer, whose first stories
appeared in the Century Magazine during 1917, and Elizabeth Stead Taber,
whose story, "The Scar," when it appeared in the Seven Arts, attracted
much favorable comment. Edwina Stanton Babcock and Lee Foster Hartman
have both published memorable stories, and "The Interval," which was
Vincent O'Sullivan's sole contribution to an American periodical during
1917, compels us to wonder why an artist, for whom men of such widely
different temperaments as Lionel Johnson, Remy de Gourmont, and Edward
Garnett had high critical esteem, finds the American public so
indifferent to his art.

Addison Lewis has published during the past year a series of stories in
Reedy's Mirror which have more of O. Henry's magic than the thousand
writers who have endeavored to imitate him to the everlasting injury of
American literature. Frederick Stuart Greene, in "The Bunker Mouse" and
"Molly McGuire, Fourteen," shows marked literary development, and
reinforces my belief that in him we have an important new story-teller.
I suppose the best war story of the year is "The Flying Teuton," by
Alice Brown, soon to be reprinted in book form.

I do not know whether it is an effect of the war or not, but during
1917, even more than during 1916, American magazines have been almost
absolutely devoid of humor. Save for Irvin S. Cobb, on whom the mantle
of Mark Twain has surely fallen, and for Seumas O'Brien, whom Mr. Dooley
must envy, I have found American fiction to be sufficiently solemn and
imperturbable.

I need not emphasize again the fine art of Fannie Hurst. Two years ago
Mr. Howells stated more truly than I can the significance of her work.
Comparing her with two other contemporaries, he wrote: "Miss Fannie
Hurst shows the same artistic quality, the same instinct for reality,
the same confident recognition of the superficial cheapness and
commonness of the stuff she handles; but in her stories she also attests
the right to be named with them for the gift of penetrating to the heart
of life. No one with the love of the grotesque which is the American
portion of the human tastes or passions, can fail of his joy in the play
of the obvious traits and motives of her Hebrew comedy, but he will fail
of something precious if he does not sound the depths of true and
beautiful feeling which underlies the comedy."

A similar distinction marks Edna Ferber's story entitled "The Gay Old
Dog."

Of the English short story writers who have published during the past
year in American periodicals, Mr. Galsworthy has presented the most
evenly distinguished work. Hardly second to his best are the six stories
by J. D. Beresford and D. H. Lawrence, both well known realists of the
younger generation. Stacy Aumonier has continued the promise of "The
Friends" with three new stories written in the same key. Although the
vein of his talent is a narrow one, it reveals pure gold. Good
Housekeeping has published three war stories by an Englishwoman, I. A.
R. Wylie, which I should have coveted for this book had they been by an
American author. But perhaps the best English short story of the year in
an American magazine was "The Coming of the Terror," by Arthur Machen,
since republished in book form.

Elsewhere I have discussed at some length the more important volumes of
short stories published during the year. "A Munster Twilight," by Daniel
Corkery is alone sufficient to mark a notable literary year. And "The
Echo of Voices," by Richard Curle is hardly second to it. Yet the year
has seen the publication of at least three other books by English
authors who are new to the reading public. Thomas Burke, Caradoc Evans,
and Arthur Machen have added permanent contributions to English
literature.

In "A Handbook on Story Writing," Dr. Blanche Colton Williams has
written the first definitive textbook on the subject. Its many
predecessors have either been content to deal with narrow branches in
the same field, or have exploited quite frankly and shamelessly the
commercial possibilities of story writing as a cheap trade. Dr.
Williams's book will not be in all likelihood superseded for many years
to come, and the effects of her work are already to be seen in the short
stories of many established writers.

In the death of Edward Thomas, England has lost a rare artist who, in
his particular field, was only rivalled by Richard Jefferies.

During the past year the Seven Arts and the Masses have ceased
publication. The Craftsman, which ceased publication a year ago, has
been succeeded by the Touchstone, which is already beginning to print
many interesting stories; and to the list of magazines which publish
short stories must now be welcomed the Bookman.

As it has been my happiness in past years to associate this annual with
the names of Benjamin Rosenblatt and Richard Matthews Hallet, whose
stories, "Zelig" and "Making Port," seemed to me respectively the best
short stories of 1915 and 1916, so it is my pleasure and honor this year
to dedicate the best that I have found in the American magazines as the
fruit of my labors to Wilbur Daniel Steele, who has contributed to
American literature, preëminently in "Ching, Ching, Chinaman," and
almost as finely in "White Hands" and "The Woman At Seven Brothers,"
three stories which take their place for finality, to the best of my
belief, in the great English line.

EDWARD J. O'BRIEN.

SOUTH YARMOUTH, MASSACHUSETTS,
December 23, 1917.



THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1917

NOTE. The twenty stories which follow are arranged in the alphabetical
order of their authors' names. This arrangement does not imply any
precedence in merit of particular stories.



THE EXCURSION[2]

[Note 2: Copyright, 1917, by The Pictorial Review Company.
Copyright, 1918, by Edwina Stanton Babcock.]

BY EDWINA STANTON BABCOCK
From _The Pictorial Review_


Mrs. Tuttle arrived breathless, bearing a large gilt parrot-cage. She
swept up the gangway of the _Fall of Rome_ and was enthusiastically
received. There were, however, concealed titterings and suppressed
whispers. "My sakes! She's went and brought that bird."

"I won't believe it till I see it."

"There he sets in his gold coop."

Mrs. Turtle brought Romeo to the excursion with the same assurance that
a woman of another stamp brings her Pekingese dog to a restaurant table.
While the _Fall of Rome_ sounded a warning whistle, and hawsers were
loosed she adjusted her veil and took cognizance of fellow passengers.

In spite of wealth and "owning her own automobile," Mrs. Turtle's fetish
was democratic popularity. She greeted one after another.

"How do, Mis' Bridge, and Mister, too! Who's keeping store while you're
away?

"Carrie Turpin! You here? Where's Si? Couldn't come? Now that's too
bad!" After a long stare, "You're some fleshier, ain't you, Carrie?"

A large woman in a tan-colored linen duster came slowly down the deck, a
camp-stool in either hand. Her portly advance was intercepted by Mrs.
Tuttle.

"Mis' Tinneray! Same as ever!"

Mrs. Tinneray dropped the camp-stools and adjusted her smoked glasses;
she gave a start and the two ladies embraced.

Mrs. Tuttle said that "it beat all," and Mrs. Tinneray said "she never!"

Mrs. Tuttle, emerged from the embrace, re-adjusting her hat with
many-ringed fingers, inquiring, "How's the folks?"

Up lumbered Mr. Tinneray, a large man with a chuckle and pale eyes, who
was introduced by the well-known formula, "Mis' Tuttle, Mr. Tinneray,
Mr. Tinneray, Mis' Tuttle."

The Tinnerays said, "So you brought the bird along, hey?" Then, without
warning, all conversation ceased. The _Fall of Rome_, steaming slowly
away from the pier, whistled a sodden whistle, the flags flapped, every
one realized that the excursion had really begun.

This excursion was one of the frank displays of human hopes, yearnings,
and vanities, that sometimes take place on steamboats. Feathers had a
hectic brilliancy that proved secret, dumb longings. Pendants known as
"lavaleers" hung from necks otherwise innocent of the costly fopperies
of Versailles. Old ladies clad in princess dresses with yachting caps
worn rakishly on their grey hair, vied with other old ladies in
automobile bonnets, who, with opera glasses, searched out the meaning of
every passing buoy. Young girls carrying "mesh-bags," that subtle
connotation of the feminine character, extracted tooth-picks from them
or searched for bits of chewing gum among their over scented treasures.

As it was an excursion, the _Fall of Rome_ carried a band and booths
laden with many delicious superfluities such as pop-corn and the
misleading compound known as "salt-water taffy." There were, besides,
the blue and red pennants that always go on excursions, and the yellow
and pink fly-flappers that always come home from them; also there were
stacks of whistle-whips and slender canes with ivory heads with little
holes pierced through. These canes were bought only by cynical young men
whose new straw hats were fastened to their persons by thin black
strings. Each young man, after purchasing an ivory-headed cane retired
to privacy to squint through it undisturbed. Emerging from this privacy
the young man would then confer with other young men. What these joyless
young men saw when they squinted they never revealed. But among their
elders they spread the strong impression that it was the Capital at
Washington or Bunker Hill Monument.

Besides bottled soda and all soft drinks the _Fall of Rome_ carried
other stimuli in the shape of comic gentlemen--such beings, as, more or
less depressed in their own proper environment, on excursions suddenly
see themselves in their true light, irresistibly facetious. These funny
gentlemen, mostly husbands, seated themselves near to large groups of
indulgent women and kept up an exquisite banter directed at each other's
personal defects, or upon the idiosyncrasies of any bachelor or spinster
near. These funny gentlemen kept alluding to the excursion as the
"Exertion." If the boat rolled a little they said, "Now, Mother, don't
rock the boat."

"Here, girls, sit up close, we'll all go down together."

"Hold on to yer beau, Minnie. He'll fall overboard and where'll you git
another?"

The peals of laughter at these sallies were unfailing. The crunch of
peanuts was unfailing. The band, with a sort of plethoric indulgence,
played slow waltzes in which the bass instruments frequently misapplied
notes, but to the allure of which came youthful dancers lovely in proud
awkward poses.

Mrs. Tuttle meanwhile was the social center, demonstrating that
mysterious psychic force known as being the "life of the party." She
advanced upon a tall sallow woman in mourning, challenging, "Now Mis'
Mealer, why don't you just set and take a little comfort, it won't cost
you nothing? Ain't that your girl over there by the coffee fountain? I
should ha' known her by the reesemblance to you; she's rill refined
lookin'."

Mrs. Mealer, a tall, sallow widow with carefully maintained mourning
visage, admitted that this was so. Refinement, she averred, was in the
family, but she hinted at some obscure ailment which, while it made Emma
refined, kept her "mizzable."

"I brought her along," sighed Mrs. Mealer, "tain't as if neither of us
could take much pleasure into it, both of us being so deep in black fer
her Popper, but the styles is bound to do her good. Emma is such a great
hand for style."

"Yuess?" replied Mrs. Tuttle blandly. This lady in blue was not nearly
so interested in Emma as in keeping a circle of admirers hanging around
her cerulean presence, but even slightly encouraged, Mrs. Mealer warmed
to her topic.

"Style?" she repeated impressively, "style? Seems like Emma couldn't
never have enough of it. Where she got it I don't know. I wasn't never
much for dress, and give her Popper coat and pants, twuz all _he_
wanted. But Emma--ef you want to make her happy tie a bow onto suthin'."

Mrs. Tuttle nodded with ostentatious understanding. Rising, she seized
Romeo's cage and placed it more conspicuously near her. She was
critically watched by the older women. They viewed the thing with
mingled feelings, one or two going so far as to murmur darkly, "Her and
her parrot!"

Still, the lady's elegance and the known fact that she owned and
operated her own automobile cast a spell over most of her observers, and
many faces, as Mrs. Tuttle proceeded to draw out her pet, were screwed
into watchful and ingratiating benevolence.

Romeo, a blasé bird with the air of having bitter memories, affected for
a long time not to hear his mistress's blandishments. After looking
contemptuously into his seed-cup, he crept slowly around the sides of
his cage, fixing a cynical eye upon all observers.

"How goes it, Romeo?" appealed Mrs. Tuttle. Making sounds supposed to be
appreciated by birds, the lady put her feathered head down, suggesting,
"Ah there, Romeo?"

"Rubberneck," returned Romeo sullenly. To show general scorn, the bird
revolved on one claw round and round his swing; he looked dangerous,
repeating, "Rubberneck."

At this an interested group gathered around Mrs. Tuttle, who, affable
and indulgent, attempted by coaxings and flirtings of a fat bediamonded
finger to show Romeo off, but the pampered bird saw further opportunity
to offend.

"Rubberneck," screamed Romeo again. He ruffled up his neck feathers,
repeating "Rubberneck, I'm cold as the deuce; what's the matter with
Hannah; let 'em all go to grass."

Several of the youths with ivory-headed canes now forsook their
contemplations to draw near, grinning, to the parrot-cage.

Stimulated by these youths, Romeo reeled off more ribald remarks, things
that created a sudden chill among the passengers on the _Fall of Rome_.
Mrs. Tinneray, looked upon as a leader, called up a shocked face and
walked away; Mrs. Mealer after a faint "Excuse _me_," also abandoned the
parrot-cage; and Mrs. Bean, a small stout woman with a brown false
front, followed the large lady with blue spectacles and the tan linen
duster. On some mysterious pretext of washing their hands, these two
left the upper deck and sought the calm of the white and gold passenger
saloon. Here they trod as in the very sanctities of luxury.

"These carpets is nice, ain't they?" remarked Mrs. Bean.

Then alluding to the scene they had just left: "Ain't it comical how she
idolizes that there bird?"

Mrs. Tinneray sniffed. "And what she spends on him! 'Nitials on his
seed-cup--and some says the cage itself is true gold."

Mrs. Bean, preparing to wash her hands, removed her black skirt and
pinned a towel around her waist. "This here liquid soap is
nice"--turning the faucets gingerly--"and don't the boat set good onto
the water?" Then returning to the rich topic of Mrs. Tuttle and her
pampered bird, "Where's she get all her money for her ottermobile and
her gold cage?"

Mrs. Tinneray at an adjacent basin raised her head sharply, "You ain't
heard about the Tuttle money? You don't know how Mabel Hutch that was,
was hair to everything?"

Mrs. Bean confessed that she had not heard, but she made it evident that
she thirsted for information. So the two ladies, exchanging remarks
about sunburn and freckles, finished their hand-washing and proceeded to
the dark-green plush seats of the saloon, where with appropriate looks
of horror and incredulity Mrs. Bean listened to the story of the hairs
to the Hutches' money.

"Mabel was the favorite; her Pa set great store by her. There was
another sister--consumpted--she should have been a hair, but she died.
Then the youngest one, Hetty, she married my second cousin Hen
Cronney--well it seemed like they hadn't nothing but bad luck and her Pa
and Mabel sort of took against Hetty."

Mrs. Bean, herself chewing calculatingly, handed Mrs. Tinneray a bit of
sugared calamus-root.

"Is your cousin Hen dark-complexioned like your folks?" she asked
scientifically.

Mrs. Tinneray, narrowing both eyes, considered. "More auburn-inclined, I
should say--he ain't rill smart, Hen ain't, he gets took with spells now
and then, but I never held _that_ against him."

"Uh-huh!" agreed Mrs. Bean sympathetically.

"Well, then, Mabel Hutch and her Popper took against poor little Hetty.
Old man Hutch he died and left everything to Mabel, and she never goes
near her own sister!"

Mrs. Bean raised gray-cotton gloved hands signifying horror.

"St--st--st----!" she deplored. She searched in her reticule for more
calamus-root. "He didn't leave her _nothing_?"

"No, ma'am! This one!" With a jerk of the head, Mrs. Tinneray indicated
a dashing blue feather seen through a distant saloon window. "This one's
got it all; hair to everything."

"And what did she do--married a traveling salesman and built a tony
brick house. They never had no children, but when he was killed into a
railway accident she trimmed up that parrot's cage with crape--and
now,"--Mrs. Tinneray with increasing solemnity chewed her
calamus-root--"_now_ she's been and bought one of them ottermobiles and
runs it herself like you'd run your sewin'-machine, just as
_shameless_--"

Both of the ladies glared condemnation at the distant blue feather.

Mrs. Tinneray continued, "Hetty Cronney's worth a dozen of her. When I
think of that there bird goin' on this excursion and Hetty Cronney
stayin' home because she's too poor, I get _nesty_, Mrs. Bean, yes, I
do!"

"Don't your cousin Hetty live over to Chadwick's Harbor," inquired Mrs.
Bean, "and don't this boat-ride stop there to take on more folks?"

Mrs. Tinneray, acknowledging that these things were so, uncorked a small
bottle of cologne and poured a little of it on a handkerchief
embroidered in black forget-me-nots. She handed the bottle to Mrs. Bean
who took three polite sniffs and closed her eyes. The two ladies sat
silent for a moment. They experienced a detachment of luxurious abandon
filled with the poetry of the steamboat saloon. Psychically they were
affected as by ecclesiasticism. The perfume of the cologne and the throb
of the engines swept them with a sense of esthetic reverie, the thrill
of travel, and the atmosphere of elegance. Moreover, the story of the
Hutch money and the Hutch hairs had in some undefined way affiliated the
two. At last by tacit consent they rose, went out on deck and, holding
their reticules tight, walked majestically up and down. When they passed
Mrs. Turtle's blue feathers and the gold parrot-cage they smiled
meaningly and looked at each other.

* * *

As the _Fall of Rome_ approached Chadwick's Landing more intimate groups
formed. The air was mild, the sun warm and inviting, and the water an
obvious and understandable blue. Some serious-minded excursionists sat
well forward on their camp-stools discussing deep topics over
half-skinned bananas.

"Give me the Vote," a lady in a purple raincoat was saying, "Give me the
Vote and I undertake to close up every rum-hole in God's World."

A mild-mannered youth with no chin, upon hearing this, edged away. He
went to the stern, looking down for a long time upon the white path of
foam left in the wake of the _Fall of Rome_ and taking a harmonica from
his waistcoat pocket began to play, "Darling, I Am Growing Old." This
tune, played with emotional throbbings managed by spasmodic movements of
the hands over the sides of the mouth, seemed to convey anything but age
to Miss Mealer, the girl who was so refined. She also sat alone in the
stern, also staring down at the white water. As the wailings of the
harmonica ceased, she put up a thin hand and furtively controlled some
waving strands of hair. Suddenly with scarlet face the mild-mannered
youth moved up his camp-stool to her side.

"They're talkin' about closing up the rum-holes." He indicated the group
dominated by the lady in the purple raincoat. "They don't know what
they're talking about. Some rum-holes is real refined and tasty, some of
them have got gramophones you can hear for nothin'."

"Is that so?" responded the refined Miss Mealer. She smoothed her
gloves. She opened her "mesh" bag and took out an intensely perfumed
handkerchief. The mild-mannered youth put his harmonica in his pocket
and warmed to the topic.

"Many's the time I've set into a saloon listening to that Lady that
sings high up--higher than any piano can go. I've set and listened till
I didn't know where I was settin'--of course I had to buy a drink, you
understand, or I couldn't 'a' set."

"And they call that _vice_," remarked Miss Mealer with languid
criticism.

The mild-mannered youth looked at her gratefully. The light of reason
and philosophy seemed to him to shine in her eyes.

"You've got a piano to your house," he said boldly, "can you--ahem--play
classic pieces, can you play--ahem--'Asleep on the Deep'?"

In another group where substantial sandwiches were being eaten, the main
theme was religion and psychic phenomena with a strong leaning toward
death-bed experiences.

"And then, my sister's mother-in-law, she set up, and she says, 'Where
am I?' she says, like she was in a store or somethin', and she told how
she seen all white before her eyes and all like gentlemen in high silk
hats walkin' around."

There were sighs of comprehension, gasps of dolorous interest.

"The same with my Christopher!"

"Just like my aunt's step-sister afore she went!"

Mrs. Tuttle did not favor the grave character of these symposia.

With the assured manner peculiar to her, she swept into such circles
bearing a round box of candy, upon which was tied a large bow of satin
ribbon of a convivial shade of heliotrope. Opening this box she handed
it about, commanding, "Help yourself."

At first it was considered refined to refuse. One or two excursionists,
awed by the superfluity of heliotrope ribbon, said feebly, "Don't rob
yourself."

But Mrs. Tuttle met this restraint with practised raillery. "What you
all afraid of? It ain't poisoned! I got more where this come from." She
turned to the younger people. "Come one, come all! It's French-mixed."

Meanwhile Mrs. Bean and Mrs. Tinneray, still aloof and enigmatic, paced
the deck. Mrs. Tuttle, blue feathers streaming, teetered on her high
heels in their direction. Again she proffered the box. One of the
cynical youths with the ivory-headed canes was following her, demanding
that the parrot be fed a caramel. Once more the sky-blue figure bent
over the ornate cage; then little Mrs. Bean looked at Mrs. Tinneray with
a gesture of utter repudiation.

"Ain't she _terrible_?"

As the steamboat approached the wharf and the dwarf pines and yellow
sand-banks of Chadwick's Landing, a whispered consultation between these
two ladies resulted in one desperate attempt to probe the heart of Mabel
Hutch that was. Drawing camp-stools up near the vicinity of the parrot's
cage, they began with what might to a suspicious nature have seemed
rather pointed speculation, to wonder who might or might not be at the
wharf when the _Fall of Rome_ got in.

Once more the bottle of cologne was produced and handkerchiefs genteelly
dampened. Mrs. Bean, taking off her green glasses, polished them and
held them up to the light, explaining, "This here sea air makes 'em all
of a muck."

Suddenly she leaned over to Mrs. Tuttle with an air of sympathetic
interest.

"I suppose--er--your sister Hetty'll be comin' on board when we get to
Chadwick's Landing--her and her husband?"

Mrs. Tuttle fidgeted. She covered Romeo's cage with a curious
arrangement like an altar-cloth on which gay embroidered parrakeets of
all colors were supposed to give Romeo, when lonely, a feeling of
congenial companionship.

Mrs. Bean, thus evaded, screwed up her eyes tight, then opened them wide
at Mrs. Tinneray, who sat rigid, her gaze riveted upon far-off horizons,
humming between long sighs a favorite hymn. Finally, however, the
last-named lady leaned past Mrs. Bean and touched Mrs. Turtle's silken
knee, volunteering,

"Your sister Hetty likes the water, I know. You remember them days, Mis'
Tuttle, when we all went bathin' together down to old Chadwick's Harbor,
afore they built the new wharf?"

Mrs. Tinneray continued reminiscently.

"You remember them old dresses we wore--no classy bathin'-suits
then--but my--the mornings used to smell good! That path to the shore
was all wild roses and we used to find blueberries in them woods. Us
girls was always teasin' Hetty, her bathin'-dress was white muslin and
when it was wet it stuck to her all over, she showed through--my, how
we'd laugh, but yet for all," concluded Mrs. Tinneray sentimentally,
"she looked lovely--just like a little wet angel."

Mrs. Tuttle carefully smoothed her blue mitts, observing nervously,
"Funny how Mis' Tinneray could remember so far back."

"Is Hetty your sister by rights," suavely inquired Mrs. Bean, "or ony by
your Pa's second marriage, as it were?"

The owner of the overestimated parrot roused herself.

"By rights," she admitted indifferently, "I don't see much of her--she
married beneath her."

The tip of Mrs. Tinneray's nose, either from cologne inhalings or
sunburn, grew suddenly scarlet. However she still regarded the far-off
horizons and repeated the last stanza of her hymn, which stanza, sung
with much quavering and sighing was a statement to the effect that Mrs.
Tinneray would "cling to the old rugged cross." Suddenly, however, she
remarked to the surrounding Summer air,

_"Hen Cronney is my second cousin on the mother's side. Some thought he
was pretty smart until troubles come and his wife was done out of her
rights._"

The shaft, carefully aimed, went straight into Mrs. Turtle's blue bosom
and stuck there. Her eyes, not overintelligent, turned once in her
complacent face, then with an air of grandiose detachment, she occupied
herself with the ends of her sky-blue automobile veil.

"I'll have to fix this different," she remarked unconcernedly, "or else
my waves'll come out. Well, I presume we'll soon be there. I better go
down-stairs and primp up some." The high heels clattered away. Mrs. Bean
fixed a long look of horror on Mrs. Tinneray, who silently turned her
eyes up to heaven!

As the _Fall of Rome_ churned its way up to the sunny wharf of
Chadwick's Landing, the groups already on the excursion bristled with
excitement. Children were prepared to meet indulgent grandparents,
lovers their sweethearts, and married couples old school friends they
had not seen for years. From time to time these admonished their
offspring.

"Hypatia Smith, you're draggin' your pink sash, leave Mommer fix it.
There now, don't you dare to set down so Grammer can see you lookin'
good."

"Lionel Jones, you throw that old pop-corn overboard. Do you want to eat
it after you've had it on the floor?"

"Does your stomach hurt you, dear? Well, here don't cry Mommer'll give
you another cruller."

With much shouting of jocular advice from the male passengers the _Fall
of Rome_ was warped into Chadwick's Landing and the waiting groups came
aboard. As they streamed on, bearing bundles and boxes and all the
impedimenta of excursions, those already on board congregated on the
after-deck to distinguish familiar faces. A few persons had come down to
the landing merely to look upon the embarkation.

These, not going themselves on the excursion, maintained an air of
benevolent superiority that could not conceal vivid curiosity. Among
them, eagerly scanning the faces on deck was a very small thin woman
clad in a gingham dress, on her head a battered straw hat of accentuated
by-gone mode, and an empty provision-basket swinging on her arm. Mrs.
Tinneray peering down on her through smoked glasses, suddenly started
violently. "My sakes," she ejaculated, "my sakes," then as the dramatic
significance of the thing gripped her, "My--my--my, ain't that
_terrible_?"

Solemnly, with prunella portentousness, Mrs. Tinneray stole back of the
other passengers leaning over the rail up to Mrs. Bean, who turned to
her animatedly, exclaiming,

"They've got a new schoolhouse. I can just see the cupola--there's some
changes since I was here. They tell me there's a flag sidewalk in front
of the Methodist church and that young Baxter the express agent has
growed a mustache, and's got married."

Mrs. Tinneray did not answer. She laid a compelling hand on Mrs. Bean's
shoulder and turned her so that she looked straight at the small group
of home-stayers down on the wharf. She pointed a sepulchral finger,

"_That there, in the brown with the basket, is Hetty Cronney, own sister
to Mis' Josiah Tuttle._"

Mrs. Bean clutched her reticule and leaned over the rail, gasping with
interest.

"Ye don't say--that's her? My! My! My!"

In solemn silence the two regarded the little brown woman so unconscious
of their gaze. By the piteous wizened face screwed up in the sunlight,
by the faded hair, nut-cracker jaws, and hollow eyes they utterly
condemned Mrs. Tuttle, who, blue feathers floating, was also absorbed in
watching the stream of embarking excursionists.

Mrs. Tinneray, after a whispered consultation with Mrs. Bean went up
and nudged her; without ceremony she pointed,

"Your sister's down there on the wharf," she announced flatly, "come on
over where we are and you can see her."

Frivolous Mrs. Tuttle turned and encountered a pair of eyes steely in
their determination. Re-adjusting the gold cage more comfortably on its
camp-stool and murmuring a blessing on the hooked-beak occupant, the
azure lady tripped off in the wake of her flat-heeled friend.

Meanwhile Mr. Tinneray, standing well aft, was calling cheerfully down
to the little figure on the wharf.

"Next Summer you must git your nerve up and come along. Excursions is
all the rage nowadays. My wife's took in four a'ready."

But little Mrs. Cronney did not answer. Shading her eyes from the sun
glare, she was establishing recognizance with her cerulean relative who,
waving a careless blue-mitted hand, called down in girlish greeting,

"Heigho, Hetty, how's Cronney? Why ain't you to the excursion?"

The little woman on the wharf was seen to wince slightly. She shifted
her brown basket to the other arm, ignoring the second question.

"Oh, Cronney's good--ony he's low-spirited--seems as tho he couldn't get
no work."

"Same old crooked stick, hey?" Mrs. Tuttle called down facetiously.

Mrs. Bean and Mrs. Tinneray stole horrified glances at each other. One
planted a cotton-gloved hand over an opening mouth. But little Mrs.
Cronney, standing alone on the pier was equal to the occasion. She shook
out a small and spotless handkerchief, blowing her nose with elegant
deliberation before she replied,

"Well--I don't know as he needs to work _all_ the time; Cronney is
_peculiar_, you know, he's one of them that is high-toned and nifty
about money--he ain't like _some_, clutching onto every penny!"

By degrees, other excursionists, leaning over the railing, began to
catch at something spicy in the situation of these two sisters brought
face to face. At Mrs. Cronney's sally, one of the funny men guffawed his
approval. Groups of excursionists explained to each other that that lady
down there, her on the wharf, in the brown, was own sister to Mrs.
Josiah Tuttle!

The whistle of the _Fall of Rome_ now sounded for all aboard. It was a
dramatic moment, the possibilities of which suddenly gripped Mrs.
Tinneray. She clasped her hands in effortless agony. This lady, as she
afterward related to Mrs. Bean, felt mean! She could see in her mind's
eye, she said, how it all looked to Hetty Cronney, the _Fall of Rome_
with its opulent leisurely class of excursionists steaming away from her
lonely little figure on the wharf; while Mabel Tuttle, selfish devourer
of the Hutches' substance and hair to everything, would still be handing
aroun' her boxes of French-mixed and talking baby talk to that there
bird!

At the moment, Mrs. Tinneray's mind, dwelling upon the golden cage and
its over-estimated occupant, became a mere boiling of savage desires.
Suddenly the line of grim resolution hardened on her face. This look,
one that the Tinneray children invariably connected with the switch
hanging behind the kitchen door, Mr. Tinneray also knew well. Seeing it
now, he hastened to his wife.

"What's the matter, Mother, seasick? Here I'll git you a lemon."

Mrs. Tinneray, jaw set, eyes rolling, was able to intimate that she
needed no lemon, but she drew her husband mysteriously aside. She fixed
him with a foreboding glare, she said it was a wonder the Lord didn't
sink the boat! Then she rapidly sketched the tragedy--Mrs. Tuttle serene
and pampered on the deck, and Hetty Cronney desolate on the wharf! She
pronounced verdict.

"It's _terrible_--that's what it is!"

Mr. Tinneray with great sagacity said he'd like to show Mabel Tuttle
her place--then he nudged his wife and chuckled admiringly,

"But yet for all, Hetty's got her tongue in her head yet--say, ain't she
the little stinger?"

_Sotto voce_ Mr. Tinneray related to his spouse how Mabel Tuttle was
bragging about her brick house and her shower-bath and her automobile
and her hired girl, and how she'd druv herself and that there bird down
to Boston and back.

"Hetty, she just stands there, just as easy, and hollers back that
Cronney has bought a gramophone and how they sets by it day and night
listening, and how it's son and daughter to 'em. Then she calls up to
Mabel Tuttle, 'I should think you'd be afraid of meddlin' with them
ottermobiles, _your_ time of life.'"

Mr. Tinneray choked over his own rendition of this audacity, but his
wife sniffed hopelessly.

"_They_ ain't got no gramophone--_her_, with that face and hat?--Cronney
don't make nothing; they two could _live_ on what that Blue Silk Quilt
feeds that stinkin' parrot."

But Mr. Tinneray chuckled again, he seemed to be possessed with the
humor of some delightful secret. Looking carefully around him and seeing
every one absorbed in other things he leaned closer to his wife.

"She's liable to lose that bird," he whispered. "Them young fellers with
the canes--they're full of their devilment--well, they wanted I
shouldn't say nothing and I ain't sayin' nothing--only--"

Fat Mr. Tinneray, pale eyes rolling in merriment, pointed to the
camp-stool where once the parrot's cage had rested and where now no
parrot-cage was to be seen.

"As fur as I can see," he nudged his wife again, "that bird's liable to
get left ashore."

For a moment Mrs. Tinneray received this news stolidly, then a look of
comprehension flashed over her face. "What you talkin' about, Henry?"
she demanded. "Say, ain't you never got grown up? Where's Manda Bean?"

Having located Mrs. Bean, the two ladies indulged in a rapid whispered
conversation. Upon certain revelations made by Mrs. Bean, Mrs. Tinneray
turned and laid commands upon her husband.

"Look here," she said, "that what you told me is true--them young
fellers--" she fixed Mr. Tinneray with blue-glassed significant eyes,
adding _sotto voce_, "_You keep Mabel Tuttle busy_."

Fat Mr. Tinneray, chuckling anew, withdrew to the after-rail where the
azure lady still stood, chained as it were in a sort of stupor induced
by the incisive thrusts of the forlorn little woman on the wharf. He
joined in the conversation.

"So yer got a gramophone, hey," he called down kindly--"Say, that's
nice, ain't it?--that's company fer you and Cronney." He appealed to
Mrs. Tuttle in her supposed part of interested relative. "Keeps 'em from
gettin' lonesome and all," he explained.

That lady looking a pointed unbelief, could not, with the other
excursionists watching, but follow his lead.

"Why--er--ye-ess, that's rill nice," she agreed, with all the patronage
of the wealthy relative.

Little Mrs. Cronney's eyes glittered. The steamboat hands had begun
lifting the hawsers from the wharf piles and her time was short. She was
not going to be pitied by the opulent persons on the excursion. Getting
as it were into her stride, she took a bolder line of imagery.

"And the telephone," looking up at Mr. Tinneray. "I got friends in
Quahawg Junction and Russell Center--we're talkin' sometimes till nine
o'clock at night. I can pick up jelly receipts and dress-patterns just
so easy."

But Mrs. Tuttle now looked open incredulity. She turned to such
excursionists as stood by and registered emphatic denial. "Uh-huh?" she
called down in apparent acceptance of these lurid statements, at the
same time remarking baldly to Mr. Tinneray, who had placed himself at
her side,

"_She_ ain't got no telephone!"

At this moment something seemed to occur to little Mrs. Cronney. As she
gave a parting defiant scrutiny to her opulent sister her black eyes
snapped in hollow reminiscence and she called out,

"Say--how's your parrot? How's your beau--Ro-me-o?"

At this, understood to be a parting shot, the crowd strung along the
rail of the _Fall of Rome_ burst into an appreciative titter. Mrs.
Tuttle, reddening, made no answer, but Mr. Tinneray, standing by and
knowing what he knew, seized this opportunity to call down vociferously,

"Oh--he's good, Romeo is. But your sister's had him to the excursion and
he's got just a little seasick comin' over. Mis' Tuttle, yer sister, is
going to leave him with you, till she can come and take him home, by
land, ye know, in her ottermobile--she's coming to get you too, fer a
visit, ye know."

There was an effect almost as of panic on the _Fall of Rome_. Not only
did the big whistle for "all aboard" blow, but some one's new hat went
overboard and while every one crowded to one side to see it rescued, it
was not discovered that Romeo's cage had disappeared! In the confusion
of a band of desperadoes composed of the entire group of cynical young
men with ivory-headed canes, seized upon an object covered with
something like an altar-cloth and ran down the gangplank with it.

Going in a body to little Mrs. Cronney, these young men deposited a
glittering burden, the gold parrot-cage with the green bird sitting
within, in her surprised and gratified embrace. Like flashes these agile
young men jumped back upon the deck of the _Fall of Rome_ just before
the space between wharf and deck became too wide to jump. Meanwhile on
the upper deck, before the petrified Mrs. Tuttle could open her mouth,
Mr. Tinneray shouted instructions,

"Your sister wants you should keep him," he roared, "till she comes
over to see you in her
ottermobile--to--fetch--him--and--git--you--for--a--visit!"

Suddenly the entire crowd of excursionists on the after-deck of the
_Fall of Rome_ gave a rousing cheer. The gratified young men with the
ivory-headed canes suddenly saw themselves of the age of chivalry and
burst into ragtime rapture; the excursion, a mass of waving flags and
hats and automobile veils, made enthusiastic adieu to one faded little
figure on the wharf, who proud and happy gently waved back a gleaming
parrot's cage!

It was Mr. Tinneray, dexterous in all such matters, that caught at a
drooping cerulean form as it toppled over.

"I know'd she'd faint," the pale-eyed gentleman chuckled. He manfully
held his burden until Mrs. Tinneray and Mrs. Bean relieved him. These
ladies, practised in all smelling-bottle and cologne soothings, supplied
also verbal comfort.

"Them young fellows," they explained to Mrs. Tuttle, "is full of their
devilment and you can't never tell what they'll do next. But ain't it
_lucky_, Mis' Tuttle, that it's your own sister has charge of that
bird?"

When at last a pale and interesting lady in blue appeared feebly on
deck, wiping away recurrent tears, she was received with the most
perfect sympathy tempered with congratulations. There may have been a
few winks and one or two nods of understanding which she did not see,
but Mrs. Tuttle herself was petted and soothed like a queen of the
realm, only, to her mind was brought a something of obligation--the
eternal obligation of those who greatly possess--for every excursionist
said,

"My, yes! No need to worry--your sister will take care of that bird like
he was one of her own, and then you can go over in yer ottermobile to
git him--and when you fetch him you can take her home with yer--fer a
visit."



ONNIE[3]

[Note 3: Copyright, 1917, by The Century Company. Copyright, 1918,
by Thomas Beer.]

BY THOMAS BEER

From _The Century Magazine_


Mrs. Rawling ordered Sanford to take a bath, and with the clear vision
of seven years Sanford noted that no distinct place for this process had
been recommended. So he retired to a sun-warmed tub of rain-water behind
the stables, and sat comfortably armpit deep therein, whirring a rattle
lately worn by a snake, and presented to him by one of the Varian tribe,
sons of his father's foreman. Soaking happily, Sanford admired his
mother's garden, spread up along the slope toward the thick cedar
forest, and thought of the mountain strawberries ripening in this hot
Pennsylvania June. His infant brother Peter yelled viciously in the big
gray-stone house, and the great sawmill snarled half a mile away, while
he waited patiently for the soapless water to remove all plantain stains
from his brown legs, the cause of this immersion.

A shadow came between him and the sun, and Sanford abandoned the rattles
to behold a monstrous female, unknown, white-skinned, moving on majestic
feet to his seclusion. He sat deeper in the tub, but she seemed
unabashed, and stood with a red hand on each hip, a grin rippling the
length of her mouth.

"Herself says you'll be comin' to herself now, if it's you that's Master
San," she said.

Sanford speculated. He knew that all things have an office in this
world, and tried to locate this preposterous, lofty creature while she
beamed upon him.

"I'm San. Are you the new cook?" he asked.

"I am the same," she admitted.

"Are you a _good_ cook?" he continued. "Aggie wasn't. She drank."

"God be above us all! And whatever did herself do with a cook that drank
in this place?"

"I don't know. Aggie got married. Cooks _do_," said Sanford, much
entertained by this person. Her deep voice was soft, emerging from the
largest, reddest mouth he had ever seen. The size of her feet made him
dubious as to her humanity. "Anyhow," he went on, "tell mother I'm not
clean yet. What's your name?"

"Onnie," said the new cook. "An' would this be the garden?"

"Silly, what did you think?"

"I'm a stranger in this place, Master San, an' I know not which is why
nor forever after."

Sanford's brain refused this statement entirely, and he blinked.

"I guess you're Irish," he meditated.

"I am. Do you be gettin' out of your tub now, an' Onnie'll dry you," she
offered.

"I can't," he said firmly; "you're a lady."

"A lady? Blessed Mary save us from sin! A lady? Myself? I'm no such
thing in this world at all; I'm just Onnie Killelia."

She appeared quite horrified, and Sanford was astonished. She seemed to
be a woman, for all her height and the extent of her hands.

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"As I am a Christian woman," said Onnie. "I never was a lady, nor could
I ever be such a thing."

"Well," said Sanford, "I don't know, but I suppose you can dry me."

He climbed out of his tub, and this novel being paid kind attention to
his directions. He began to like her, especially as her hair was of a
singular, silky blackness, suggesting dark mulberries, delightful to the
touch. He allowed her to kiss him and to carry him, clothed, back to the
house on her shoulders, which were as hard as a cedar trunk, but covered
with green cloth sprinkled with purple dots.

"And herself's in the libr'y drinkin' tea," said his vehicle, depositing
him on the veranda. "An' what might that be you'd be holdin'?"

"Just a rattle off a snake."

She examined the six-tiered, smoky rattle with a positive light in her
dull, black eyes and crossed herself.

"A queer country, where they do be bellin' the snakes! I heard the like
in the gover'ment school before I did come over the west water, but I
misbelieved the same. God's ways is strange, as the priests will be
sayin'."

"You can have it," said Sanford, and ran off to inquire of his mother
the difference between women and ladies.

Rawling, riding slowly, came up the driveway from the single lane of his
village, and found the gigantic girl sitting on the steps so absorbed in
this sinister toy that she jumped with a little yelp when he dismounted.

"What have you there?" he asked, using his most engaging smile.

"'Tis a snake's bell, your Honor, which Master San did be givin' me.
'Tis welcome indeed, as I lost off my holy medal, bein' sick, forever on
the steamship crossin' the west water."

"But--can you use a rattle for a holy medal?" said Rawling.

"The gifts of children are the blessin's of Mary's self," Onnie
maintained. She squatted on the gravel and hunted for one of the big
hair-pins her jump had loosened, then used it to pierce the topmost
shell. Rawling leaned against his saddle, watching the huge hands, and
Pat Sheehan, the old coachman, chuckled, coming up for the tired horse.

"You'll be from the West," he said, "where they string sea-shells."

"I am, an' you'll be from Dublin, by the sound of your speakin'. So was
my father, who is now drowned forever, and with his wooden leg," she
added mournfully, finding a cord in some recess of her pocket, entangled
there with a rosary and a cluster of small fishhooks. She patted the odd
scapular into the cleft of her bosom and smiled at Rawling. "Them in the
kitchen are tellin' me you'll be ownin' this whole country an' sixty
miles of it, all the trees an' hills. You'll be no less than a
President's son, then, your Honor."

Pat led the horse off hastily, and Rawling explained that his lineage
was not so interesting. The girl had arrived the night before, sent on
by an Oil City agency, and Mrs. Rawling had accepted the Amazon as
manna-fall. The lumber valley was ten miles above a tiny railroad
station, and servants had to be tempted with triple wages, were
transient, or married an employee before a month could pass. The valley
women regarded Rawling as their patron, heir of his father, and as
temporary aid gave feudal service on demand; but for the six months of
his family's residence each year house servants must be kept at any
price. He talked of his domain, and the Irish girl nodded, the rattles
whirring when she breathed, muffled in her breast, as if a snake were
crawling somewhere near.

"When my father came here," he said, "there wasn't any railroad, and
there were still Indians in the woods."

"Red Indians? Would they all be dead now? My brother Hyacinth is fair
departed his mind readin' of red Indians. Him is my twin."

"How many of you are there?"

"Twelve, your Honor," said Onnie, "an' me the first to go off, bein'
that I'm not so pretty a man would be marryin' me that day or this. An'
if herself is content, I am pleased entirely."

"You're a good cook," said Rawling, honestly. "How old are you?"

He had been puzzling about this; she was so wonderfully ugly that age
was difficult to conjecture. But she startled him.

"I'll be sixteen next Easter-time, your Honor."

"That's very young to leave home," he sympathized.

"Who'd be doin' the like of me any hurt? I'd trample the face off his
head," she laughed.

"I think you could. And now what do you think of my big son?"

The amazing Onnie gurgled like a child, clasping her hands.

"Sure, Mary herself bore the like among the Jew men, an' no one since
that day, or will forever. An' I must go to my cookin', or Master San
will have no dinner fit for him."

Rawling looked after her pink flannel petticoat, greatly touched and
pleased by this eulogy. Mrs. Rawling strolled out of the hall and
laughed at the narrative.

"She's appalling to look at, and she frightens the other girls, but
she's clean and teachable. If she likes San, she may not marry one of
the men--for a while."

"He'd be a bold man. She's as big as Jim Varian. If we run short of
hands, I'll send her up to a cutting. Where's San?"

"In the kitchen. He likes her. Heavens! if she'll only stay, Bob!"

Onnie stayed, and Mrs. Rawling was gratified by humble obedience and
excellent cookery. Sanford was gratified by her address, strange to him.
He was the property of his father's lumbermen, and their wives called
him everything from "heart's love" to "little cabbage," as their origin
might dictate; but no one had ever called him "Master San." He was San
to the whole valley, the first-born of the owner who gave their
children schools and stereopticon lectures in the union chapel, as his
father had before him. He went where he pleased, safe except from blind
nature and the unfriendly edges of whirling saws. Men fished him out of
the dammed river, where logs floated, waiting conversion into
merchantable planking, and the Varian boys, big, tawny youngsters, were
his body-guard. These perplexed Onnie Killelia in her first days at
Rawling's Hope.

"The agent's lads are whistlin' for Master San," she reported to Mrs.
Rawling. "Shall I be findin' him?"

"The agent's lads? Do you mean the Varian boys?"

"Them's them. Wouldn't Jim Varian be his honor's agent? Don't he be
payin' the tenantry an' sayin' where is the trees to be felled? I forbid
them to come in, as Miss Margot--which is a queer name!--is asleep
sound, an' Master Pete."

"Jim Varian came here with his honor's father, and taught his honor to
shoot and swim, also his honor's brother Peter, in New York, where we
live in winter. Yes, I suppose you'd call Jim Varian his honor's agent.
The boys take care of Master San almost as well as you do."

Onnie sniffed, balancing from heel to heel.

"Fine care! An' Bill Varian lettin' him go romping by the poison-ivy,
which God lets grow in this place like weeds in a widow's garden. An'
his honor, they do be sayin', sends Bill to a fine school, and will the
others after him, and to a college like Dublin has after. An' they
callin' himself San like he was their brother!"

As a volunteer nurse-maid Onnie was quite miraculous to her mistress.
Apparently she could follow Sanford by scent, for his bare soles left no
traces in the wild grass, and he moved rapidly, appearing at home
exactly when his stomach suggested. He was forbidden only the slate
ledges beyond the log basin, where rattlesnakes took the sun, and the
trackless farther reaches of the valley, bewildering to a small boy,
with intricate brooks and fallen cedar or the profitable yellow pine.
Onnie, crying out on her saints, retrieved him from the turn-table-pit
of the narrow-gauge logging-road, and pursued his fair head up the
blue-stone crags behind the house, her vast feet causing avalanches
among the garden beds. She withdrew him with railings from the
enchanting society of louse-infested Polish children, and danced
hysterically on the shore of the valley-wide, log-stippled pool when the
Varians took him to swim. She bore him off to bed, lowering at the
actual nurse. She filled his bath, she cut his toe-nails. She sang him
to sleep with "Drolien" and the heart-shattering lament for Gerald. She
prayed all night outside his door when he had a brief fever. When
trouble was coming, she said the "snake's bells" told her, talking
loudly; and petty incidents confirmed her so far that, after she found
the child's room ablaze from one of Rawling's cigarettes, they did not
argue, and grew to share half-way her superstition.

Women were scarce in the valley, and the well-fed, well-paid men needed
wives; and, as time went on, Honora Killelia was sought in marriage by
tall Scots and Swedes, who sat dumbly passionate on the back veranda,
where she mended Sanford's clothes. Even hawk-nosed Jim Varian, nearing
sixty, made cautious proposals, using Bill as messenger, when Sanford
was nine.

"God spare us from purgatory!" she shouted. "Me to sew for the eight of
you? Even in the fine house his honor did be givin' the agent I could
not stand the noise of it. An' who'd be mendin' Master San's clothes? Be
out of this kitchen, Bill Varian!"

Rawling, suffocated with laughter, reeled out of the pantry and fled to
his pretty wife.

"She thinks San's her own kid!" he gasped.

"She's perfectly priceless. I wish she'd be as careful of Margot and
Pete. I wish we could lure her to New York. She's worth twenty city
servants."

"Her theory is that if she stays here there's some one to see that Pat
Sheehan doesn't neglect--what does she call San's pony?" Rawling asked.

"The little horse. Yes, she told me she'd trample the face off Pat if
Shelty came to harm. She keeps the house like silver, too; and it's
heavenly to find the curtains put up when we get here. Heavens! listen!"

They were in Rawling's bedroom, and Onnie came up the curved stairs.
Even in list house-slippers she moved like an elephant, and Sanford had
called her, so the speed of her approach shook the square upper hall,
and the door jarred a little way open with the impact of her feet.

"Onnie, I'm not sleepy. Sing Gerald," he commanded.

"I will do that same if you'll be lyin' down still, Master San. Now,
this is what Conia sang when she found her son all dead forever in the
sands of the west water."

By the sound Onnie sat near the bed crooning steadily, her soft
contralto filling both stories of the happy house. Rawling went across
the hall to see, and stood in the boy's door. He loved Sanford as
imaginative men can who are still young, and the ugly girl's idolatry
seemed natural. Yet this was very charming, the simple room, the drowsy,
slender child, curled in his sheets, surrounded with song.

"Thank you, Onnie," said Sanford. "I suppose she loved him a lot. It's a
nice song. Goo' night."

As Onnie passed her master, he saw the stupid eyes full of tears.

"Now, why'll he be thankin' me," she muttered--"me that 'u'd die an'
stay in hell forever for him? Now I must go mend up the fish-bag your
Honor's brother's wife was for sendin' him an' which no decent fish
would be dyin' in."

"Aren't you going to take Jim Varian?" asked Rawling.

"I wouldn't be marryin' with Roosyvelt himself, that's President, an'
has his house built all of gold! Who'd be seein' he gets his meals, an'
no servants in the sufferin' land worth the curse of a heretic? Not the
agent, nor fifty of him," Onnie proclaimed, and marched away.

* * *

Sanford never came to scorn his slave or treat her as a servant. He was
proud of Onnie. She did not embarrass him by her all-embracing
attentions, although he weaned her of some of them as he grew into a
wood-ranging, silent boy, studious, and somewhat shy outside the feudal
valley. The Varian boys were sent, as each reached thirteen, to
Lawrenceville, and testified their gratitude to the patron by diligent
careers. They were Sanford's summer companions, with occasional visits
from his cousin Denis, whose mother disapproved of the valley and Onnie.

"I really don't see how Sanford can let the poor creature fondle him,"
she said. "Denny tells me she simply wails outside San's door if he
comes home wet or has a bruise. It's rather ludicrous, now that San's
fourteen. She writes to him at Saint Andrew's."

"I told her Saint Andrew's wasn't far from Boston, and she offered to
get her cousin Dermot--he's a bellhop at the Touraine--to valet him.
Imagine San with a valet at Saint Andrew's!" Rawling laughed.

"But San isn't spoiled," Peter observed, "and he's the idol of the
valley, Bob, even more than you are. Varian, McComas, Jansen--the whole
gang and their cubs. They'd slaughter any one who touched San."

"I don't see how you stand the place," said Mrs. Peter. "Even if the men
are respectful, they're so familiar. And anything could happen there.
Denny tells me you have Poles and Russians--all sorts of dreadful
people."

Her horror tinkled prettily in the Chinese drawing-room, but Rawling
sighed.

"We can't get the old sort--Scotch, Swedes, the _good_ Irish. We get any
old thing. Varian swears like a trooper, but he has to fire them right
and left all summer through. We've a couple of hundred who are there to
stay, some of them born there; but God help San when he takes it over!"

Sanford learned to row at Saint Andrew's, and came home in June with
new, flat bands of muscle in his chest, and Onnie worshiped with loud
Celtic exclamations, and bade small Pete grow up like Master San. And
Sanford grew two inches before he came home for the next summer,
reverting to bare feet, corduroys, and woolen shirts as usual. Onnie
eyed him dazedly when he strode into her kitchen for sandwiches against
an afternoon's fishing.

"O Master San, you're all grown up sudden'!"

"Just five foot eight, Onnie. Ling Varian's five foot nine; so's Cousin
Den."

"But don't you be goin' round the cuttin' camps up valley, neither.
You're too young to be hearin' the awful way these news hands do talk.
It's a sin to hear how they curse an' swear."

"The wumman's right," said Cameron, the smith, who was courting her
while he mended the kitchen range. "They're foul as an Edinburgh
fishwife--the new men. Go no place wi'out a Varian, two Varians, or one
of my lads."

"Good Lord! I'm not a kid, Ian!"

"Ye're no' a mon, neither. An' ye're the owner's first," said Cameron
grimly.

Rawling nodded when Sanford told him this.

"Jim carries an automatic in his belt, and we've had stabbings. Keep
your temper if they get fresh. We're in hot water constantly, San. Look
about the trails for whisky-caches. These rotten stevedores who come
floating in bother the girls and bully the kids. You're fifteen, and I
count on you to help keep the property decent. The boys will tell you
the things they hear. Use the Varians; Ling and Reuben are clever. I pay
high enough wages for this riffraff. I'll pay anything for good hands;
and we get dirt!"

Sanford enjoyed being a detective, and kept the Varians busy. Bill,
acting as assistant doctor of the five hundred, gave him advice on the
subject of cocaine symptoms and alcoholic eyes. Onnie raved when he
trotted in one night with Ling and Reuben at heel, their clothes rank
with the evil whiskey they had poured from kegs hidden in a cavern near
the valley-mouth.

"You'll be killed forever with some Polack beast! O Master San, it's not
you that's the polis. 'Tis not fit for him, your Honor. Some Irish pig
will be shootin' him, or a sufferin' Bohemyun."

"But it's the property, Onnie," the boy faltered. "Here's his honor
worked to death, and Uncle Jim. I've got to do something. They sell good
whisky at the store, and just smell me."

But Onnie wept, and Rawling, for sheer pity, sent her out of the
dining-room.

"She--she scares me!" Sanford said. "It's not natural, Dad, d' you
think?"

He was sitting on his bed, newly bathed and pensive, reviewing the day.

"Why not? She's alone here, and you're the only thing she's fond of.
Stop telling her about things or she'll get sick with worry."

"She's fond of Margot and Pete, but she's just idiotic about me. She did
scare me!"

Rawling looked at his son and wondered if the boy knew how attractive
were his dark, blue eyes and his plain, grave face. The younger children
were beautiful; but Sanford, reared more in the forest, had the forest
depth in his gaze and an animal litheness in his hard young body.

"She's like a dog," Sanford reflected. "Only she's a woman. It's sort
of--"

"Pathetic?"

"I suppose that's the word. But I _do_ love the poor old thing. Her
letters are rich. She tells me about all the new babies and who's
courting who and how the horses are. It _is_ pathetic."

* * *

He thought of Onnie often the next winter, and especially when she wrote
a lyric of thanksgiving after the family had come to Rawling's Hope in
April, saying that all would be well and trouble would cease. But his
father wrote differently:

"You know there is a strike in the West Virginia mines, and it has sent
a mass of ruffians out looking for work. We need all the people we can
get, but they are a pestiferous outfit. I am opening up a camp in Bear
Run, and our orders are enormous already, but I hate littering the
valley with these swine. They are as insolent and dirty as Turks. Pete
says the village smells, and has taken to the woods. Onnie says the new
Irish are black scum of Limerick, and Jim Varian's language isn't
printable. The old men are complaining, and altogether I feel like Louis
XVI in 1789. About every day I have to send for the sheriff and have
some thug arrested. A blackguard from Oil City has opened a dive just
outside the property, on the road to the station, and Cameron tells me
all sorts of dope is for sale in the hoarding-houses. We have
cocaine-inhalers, opium-smokers, and all the other vices."

After this outburst Sanford was not surprised when he heard from Onnie
that his father now wore a revolver, and that the overseers of the
sawmill did the same.

On the first of June Rawling posted signs at the edge of his valley and
at the railroad stations nearest, saying that he needed no more labor.
The tide of applicants ceased, but Mrs. Rawling was nervous. Pete
declared his intention of running away, and riding home in the late
afternoon, Margot was stopped by a drunken, babbling man, who seized her
pony's bridle, with unknown words. She galloped free, but next day
Rawling sent his wife and children to the seaside and sat waiting
Sanford's coming to cheer his desolate house, the new revolver cold on
his groin.

Sanford came home a day earlier than he had planned, and drove in a
borrowed cart from the station, furious when an old cottage blazed in
the rainy night, just below the white posts marking his heritage, and
shrill women screamed invitation at the horse's hoof-beats. He felt the
valley smirched, and his father's worn face angered him when they met.

"I almost wish you'd not come, Sonny. We're in rotten shape for a hard
summer. Go to bed, dear, and get warm."

"Got a six-shooter for me?"

"You? Who'd touch you? Some one would kill him. I let Bill have a gun,
and some other steady heads. You must keep your temper. You always have.
Ling Varian got into a splendid row with some hog who called Uncle
Jim--the usual name. Ling did him up. Ah, here's Onnie. Onnie, here's--"

The cook rushed down the stairs, a fearful and notable bed-gown covering
her night-dress, and the rattles chattering loudly.

"God's kind to us. See the chest of him! Master San! Master San!"

"Good Lord, Onnie. I wasn't dead, you know! Don't _kill_ a fellow!"

For the first time her embrace was an embarrassment; her mouth on his
cheek made him flush. She loved him so desperately, this poor stupid
woman, and he could only be fond of her, give her a sort of tolerant
affection. Honesty reddened his face.

"Come on and find me a hard-boiled egg, there's a--"

"A hard-boiled egg? Listen to that, your Honor! An' it's near the
middle of the night! No, I'll not be findin' hard-boiled eggs for
you--oh, he's laughin' at me! Now you come into the dinin'-room, an'
I'll be hottin' some milk for you, for you're wet as any drowned little
cat. An' the mare's fine, an' I've the fishin'-sticks all dusted, an'
your new bathin'-tub's to your bath-room, though ill fate follow that
English pig Percival that put it in, for he dug holes with his heels!
An' would you be wantin' a roast-beef sandwidge?"

"She's nearly wild," said Rawling as the pantry door slammed. "You must
be careful, San, and not get into any rows. She'd have a fit. What is
it?"

"What do you do when you can't--care about a person as much as they care
about you?"

"Put up with it patiently." Rawling shrugged. "What else _can_ you do?"

"I'm sixteen. She keeps on as if I were six. S-suppose she fell in love
with me? She's not old--very old."

"It's another sort of thing, Sonny. Don't worry," said Rawling, gravely,
and broke off the subject lest the boy should fret.

Late next afternoon Sanford rode down a trail from deep forest, lounging
in the saddle, and flicking brush aside with a long dog-whip. There was
a rain-storm gathering, and the hot air swayed no leaf. A rabbit,
sluggish and impertinent, hopped across his path and wandered up the
side trail toward Varian's cottage. Sanford halted the mare and
whistled. His father needed cheering, and Ling Varian, if obtainable,
would make a third at dinner. His intimate hurtled down the tunnel of
mountain ash directly and assented.

"Wait till I go back and tell Reuben, though. I'm cooking this week.
Wish Onnie 'd marry dad. Make her, can't you? Hi, Reu! I'm eating at the
house. The beef's on, and dad wants fried onions. Why won't she have
dad? _You're_ grown up."

He trotted beside the mare noiselessly, chewing a birch spray, a hand on
his friend's knee.

"She says she won't get married. I expect she'll stay here as long as
she lives."

"I suppose so, but I wish she'd marry dad," said Ling. "All this
trouble's wearing him out, and he won't have a hired girl if we could
catch one. There's a pile of trouble, San. He has rows every day. Had a
hell of a row with Percival yesterday."

"Who's this Percival? Onnie was cursing him out last night," Sanford
recollected.

"He's an awful big hog who's pulling logs at the runway. Used to be a
plumber in Australia. Swears like a sailor. He's a--what d' you call
'em? You know, a London mucker?"

"Cockney?"

"Yes, that's it. He put in your new bath-tub, and Onnie jumped him for
going round the house looking at things. Dad's getting ready to fire
him. He's the worst hand in the place. I'll point him out to you."

The sawmill whistle blew as the trail joined open road, and they passed
men, their shirts sweat-stained, nodding or waving to the boys as they
spread off to their houses and the swimming-place at the river bridge.

A group gathered daily behind the engine-yard to play horseshoe quoits,
and Sanford pulled the mare to a walk on the fringes of this half-circle
as old friends hailed him and shy lads with hair already sun-bleached
wriggled out of the crowd to shake hands, Camerons, Jansens, Nattiers,
Keenans, sons of the faithful. Bill Varian strolled up, his medical case
under an arm.

"I'm eating with you. The boss asked me. He feels better already. Come
in and speak to dad. He's hurt because _he's_ not seen you, and you
stopped to see Ian at the forge. Hi, Dad!" he called over the felt hats
of the ring, "here's San."

"Fetch him in, then," cried the foreman.

Bill and Ling led the nervous mare through the group of pipe-smoking,
friendly lumbermen, and Varian hugged his fosterling's son.

"Stop an' watch," he whispered. "They'll like seein' you, San. Onnie's
been tellin' the women you've growed a yard."

Sanford settled to the monotony of the endless sport, saluting known
brown faces and answering yelps of pleasure from the small boys who
squatted against the high fence behind the stake.

"That's Percival," said Ling, as a man swaggered out to the
pitching-mark.

"Six foot three," Bill said, "and strong as an ox. Drinks all the time.
Think he dopes, too."

Sanford looked at the fellow with a swift dislike for his vacant, heavy
face and his greasy, saffron hair. His bare arms were tattooed boldly
and in many colors, distorted with ropes of muscle. He seemed a little
drunk, and the green clouds cast a copper shade into his lashless eyes.

"Can't pitch for beans," said Ling as the first shoe went wide. When the
second fell beside it, the crowd laughed.

"Now," said Ian Cameron, "he'll be mad wi' vainglory. He's a camstearlie
ring' it an' a claverin' fu'."

"Ho! larf ahead!" snapped the giant. "'Ow's a man to 'eave a bloody
thing at a bloody stike?"

The experts chuckled, and he ruffled about the ring, truculent,
sneering, pausing before Varian, with a glance at Sanford.

"Give me something with some balance. Hi can show yer. Look!"

"I'm looking," said the foreman; "an' I ain't deaf, neither."

"'Ere's wot you blighters carn't 'eave. Learned it in Auckland, where
there's _real_ men." He fumbled in his shirt, and the mare snorted as
the eight-inch blade flashed out of its handle under her nose. "See?
That's the lidy! Now watch! There's a knot-'ole up the palings there."

The crowd fixed a stare on the green, solid barrier, and the knife
soared a full twenty yards, but missed the knot-hole and rattled down.
There was flat derision in the following laughter, and Percival dug his
heel in the sod.

"Larf ahead! Hany one else try 'er?"

"Oh, shut up!" said some one across the ring. "We're pitchin' shoes."

Percival slouched off after his knife, and the frieze of small boys
scattered except a lint-haired Cameron who was nursing a stray cat
busily, cross-legged against the green boarding.

"Yon's Robert Sanford Cameron," said the smith. "He can say half his
catechism."

"Good kid," said Sanford. "I never could get any--"

Percival had wandered back and stood a yard off, glaring at Bill as the
largest object near.

"Think I can't, wot?"

"I'm not interested, and you're spoiling the game," said Bill, who
feared nothing alive except germs, and could afford to disregard most of
these. Sanford's fingers tightened on his whip.

"Ho!" coughed the cockney. "See! You--there!"

Robert Cameron looked up at the shout. The blade shot between the
child's head and the kitten and hummed gently, quivering in the wood.

"Hi could 'a' cut 'is throat," said Percival so complacently that
Sanford boiled.

"You scared him stiff," he choked. "You hog! Don't--"

"'Ello, 'oo's the young dook?"

"Look out," said a voice. "That's San, the--"

"Ho! 'Im with the Hirish gal to 'elp 'im tike 'is bloody barth nights?
'Oo's _he_? She's a--"

A second later Sanford knew that he had struck the man over the face
with his whip, cutting the phrase. The mare plunged and the whole crowd
congested about the bellowing cockney as Bill held Cameron back, and
huge Jansen planted a hand on Rawling's chest.

"No worry," he said genially. "Yim an' us, Boss, our job."

Varian had wedged his hawk face close to the cockney's, now purple
blotched with wrath, and Rawling waited.

"Come to the office an' get your pay. You hear? Then you clear out. If
you ain't off the property in an hour you'll be dead. You hear?"

"He ought to," muttered Ling, leading the mare away. "Dad hasn't yelled
that loud since that Dutchman dropped the kid in the--hello, it's
raining!"

"Come on home, Sonny," said Rawling, "and tell us all about it. I didn't
see the start."

But Sanford was still boiling, and the owner had recourse to his godson.
Ling told the story, unabridged, as they mounted toward the house.

"Onnie'll hear of it," sighed Rawling. "Look, there she is by the
kitchen, and that's Jennie Cameron loping 'cross lots. Never mind, San.
You did the best you could; don't bother. Swine are swine."

The rain was cooling Sanford's head, and he laughed awkwardly.

"Sorry I lost my temper."

"I'm not. Jennie's telling Onnie. Hear?"

The smith's long-legged daughter was gesticulating at the kitchen
trellis, and Onnie's feet began a sort of war-dance in the wet grass as
Rawling approached.

"Where is this sufferin' pig, could your honor be tellin' me? God be
above us all! With my name in his black, ugly mouth! I _knew_ there'd be
trouble; the snake's bells did be sayin' so since the storm was comin'.
An' him three times the bigness of Master San! Where'd he be now?"

"Jim gave him an hour to be off the property, Onnie."

"God's mercy he had no knife in his hand, then, even with the men by an'
Master San on his horse. Blessed Mary! I will go wait an' have speech
with this Englishman on the road."

"You'll go get dinner, Onnie Killelia," said Rawling. "Master San is
tired, Bill and Ling are coming--and look there!"

The faithful were marching Percival down the road to the valley-mouth in
the green dusk. He walked between Jansen and Bill, a dozen men behind,
and a flying scud of boys before.

"An' Robbie's not hurt," said Miss Cameron, "an' San ain't, neither; so
don't you worry, Onnie. It's all right."

Onnie laughed.

"I'd like well to have seen the whip fly, your Honor. The arm of him!
Will he be wantin' waffles to his dinner? Heyah! more trouble yet!" The
rattles had whirred, and she shook her head. "A forest fire likely now?
Or a child bein' born dead?"

"Father says she's fëy," Jennie observed as the big woman lumbered off.

"You mean she has second sight? Perhaps. Here's a dollar for Robbie, and
tell Ian he's lucky."

* * *

Bill raced up as the rain began to fall heavily in the windless gray of
six o'clock. He reported the cockney gone and the men loud in admiration
of Sanford; so dinner was cheerful enough, although Sanford felt limp
after his first attack of killing rage. Onnie's name on this animal's
tongue had maddened him, the reaction made him drowsy; but Ling's winter
at Lawrenceville and Bill's in New York needed hearing. Rawling left the
three at the hall fireplace while he read a new novel in the library.
The rain increased, and the fall became a continuous throbbing so steady
that he hardly heard the telephone ring close to his chair; but old
Varian's voice came clear along the wire.

"Is that you, Bob? Now, listen. One of them girls at that place down the
station road was just talkin' to me. She's scared. She rung me up an'
Cameron. That dam' Englishman's gone out o' there bile drunk, swearin'
he'll cut San's heart out, the pup! He's gone off wavin' his knife. Now,
he knows the house, an' he ain't afraid of nothin'--when he's drunk. He
might get that far an' try breakin' in. You lock up--"

"Lock up? What with?" asked Rawling. "There's not a lock in the place.
Father never had them put in, and I haven't."

"Well, don't worry none. Ian's got out a dozen men or so with lights an'
guns, an' Bill's got his. You keep Bill an' Ling to sleep down-stairs.
Ian's got the men round the house by this. The hog'll make noise enough
to wake the dead."

"Nice, isn't it, Uncle Jim, having this whelp out gunning for San! I'll
keep the boys. Good-night," he said hastily as a shadow on the rug
engulfed his feet. The rattles spoke behind him.

"There's a big trouble sittin' on my soul," said Onnie. "Your Honor
knows there's nothing makes mortal flesh so wild mad as a whipping, an'
this dog does know the way of the house. Do you keep the agent's lads
to-night in this place with guns to hand. The snake's bells keep
ringin'."

"My God! Onnie, you're making me believe in your rattles! Listen.
Percival's gone out of that den down the road, swearin' he'll kill San.
He's drunk, and Cameron's got men out."

"That 'u'd be the why of the lanterns I was seein' down by the forge.
But it's black as the bowels of purgatory, your Honor, an' him a strong,
wicked devil, cruel an' angry. God destroy him! If he'd tread on a
poison snake! No night could be so black as his heart."

"Steady, Onnie!"

"I'm speakin' soft. Himself's not able to hear," she said, her eyes half
shut. She rocked slowly on the amazing feet. "Give me a pistol, your
Honor. I'll be for sleepin' outside his door this night."

"You'll go to bed and keep your door open. If you hear a sound, yell
like perdition. Send Bill in here. Say I want him. That's all. There's
no danger, Onnie; but I'm taking no chances."

"We'll take no chances, your Honor."

She turned away quietly, and Rawling shivered at this cool fury. The
rattles made his spine itch, and suddenly his valley seemed like a place
of demons. The lanterns circling on the lawn seemed like frail
glow-worms, incredibly useless, and he leaned on the window-pane
listening with fever to the rain.

"All right," said Bill when he had heard. "'Phone the sheriff. The man's
dangerous, sir. I doctored a cut he had the other day, and he tells me
he can see at night. That's a lie, of course, but he's light on his
feet, and he's a devil. I've seen some rotten curs in the hospitals, but
he's worse."

"Really, Billy, you sound as fierce as Onnie. She wanted a gun."

The handsome young man bit a lip, and his great body shook.

"This is San," he said, "and the men would kill any one who touched you,
and they'd burn any one who touched San. Sorry if I'm rude."

"We mustn't lose our heads." Rawling talked against his fear. "The man's
drunk. He'll never get near here, and he's got four miles to come in a
cold rain. But--"

"May I sleep in San's room?"

"Then he'll know. I don't want him to, or Ling, either; they're
imaginative kids. This is a vile mess, Billy."

"Hush! Then I'll sleep outside his door. I _will_, sir!"

"All right, old man. Thanks. Ling can sleep in Pete's room. Now I'll
'phone Mackintosh."

But the sheriff did not answer, and his deputy was ill. Rawling
shrugged, but when Varian telephoned that there were thirty men
searching, he felt more comfortable.

"You're using the wires a lot, Dad," said Sanford, roaming in. "Anything
wrong? Where's Ling to sleep?"

"In Pete's room. Good-night, Godson. No, nothing wrong."

But Sanford was back presently, his eyes wide.

"I say, Onnie's asleep front of my door and I can't get over her. What's
got into the girl?"

"She's worried. Her snake's bells are going, and she thinks the house'll
burn down. Let her be. Sleep with me, and keep my feet warm, Sonny."

"Sure," yawned Sanford. "'Night, Billy."

"Well," said Bill, "that settles that, sir. She'd hear anything, or I
will, and you're a light sleeper. Suppose we lock up as much as we can
and play some checkers?"

They locked the doors, and toward midnight Cameron rapped at the library
window, his rubber coat glistening.

"Not a print of the wastrel loon, sir; but the lads will bide out the
night. They've whusky an' biscuits an' keep moving."

"I'll come out myself," Rawling began, but the smith grunted.

"Ye're no stirrin' oot yer hoos, Robert Rawling! Ye're daft! Gin you met
this ganglin' assassinator, wha'd be for maister? San's no to lack a
father. Gae to yer bit bed!"

"Gosh!" said Bill, shutting the window, "_he's_ in earnest. He forgot to
try to talk English even. I feel better. The hog's fallen into a hole
and gone to sleep. Let's go up."

"I suppose if I tell Onnie San's with me, she'll just change to my
door," Rawling considered; "but I'll try. Poor girl, she's faithful as a
dog!"

They mounted softly and beheld her, huddled in a blanket, mountainous,
curled outside Sanford's closed door, just opposite the head of the
stairs. Rawling stooped over the heap and spoke to the tangle of
blue-shadowed hair.

"Onnie Killelia, go to bed."

"Leave me be, your Honor. I'm--"

Sleep cut the protest. The rattles sounded feebly, and Rawling stood up.

"Just like a dog," whispered Bill, stealing off to a guest-room. "I'll
leave my door open." He patted the revolver in his jacket and grinned
affectionately. "Good-night, Boss."

Rawling touched the switch inside his own door, and the big globe set in
the hall ceiling blinked out. They had decided that, supposing the
cockney got so far, a lightless house would perplex his feet, and he
would be the noisier. Rawling could reach this button from his bed, and
silently undressed in the blackness, laying the automatic on the bedside
table, reassured by all these circling folk, Onnie, stalwart Bill, and
the loyal men out in the rain. Here slept Sanford, breathing happily, so
lost that he only sighed when his father crept in beside him, and did
not rouse when Rawling thrust an arm under his warm weight to bring him
closer, safe in the perilous night.

The guest-room bed creaked beneath Bill's two hundred pounds of muscle,
and Ling snored in Peter's room. Rawling's nerves eased on the mattress,
and hypnotic rain began to deaden him, against his will. He saw Percival
sodden in some ditch, his knife forgotten in brandy's slumbers. No shout
came from the hillside. His mind edged toward vacancy, bore back when
the boy murmured once, then he gained a mid-state where sensation was
not, a mist.

* * *

He sat up, tearing the blankets back, because some one moved in the
house, and the rain could be heard more loudly, as if a new window were
open. He swung his legs free. Some one breathed heavily in the hall.
Rawling clutched his revolver, and the cold of it stung. This might be
Onnie, any one; but he put his finger on the switch.

"Straight hover--hover the way it was," said a thick, puzzled voice.
"There, that one! 'Is bloody barth!"

The rattles whirred as if their first owner lived. Rawling pressed the
switch.

"Your Honor!" Onnie screamed. "Your Honor! Master San! Be lockin' the
door inside, Master San! Out of this, you! You!"

Rawling's foot caught in the doorway of the bright hall, and he
stumbled, the light dazzling on the cockney's wet bulk hurling itself
toward the great woman where she stood, her arms flung cruciform,
guarding the empty room. The bodies met with a fearful jar as Rawling
staggered up, and there came a crisp explosion before he could raise his
hand. Bill's naked shoulder cannoned into him, charging, and Bill's
revolver clinked against his own. Rawling reeled to the stair-head,
aiming as Bill caught at the man's shirt; but the cockney fell backward,
crumpling down, his face purple, his teeth displayed.

"In the head!" said Bill, and bent to look, pushing the plastered curls
from a temple. The beast whimpered and died; the knife rattled on the
planks.

"Dad," cried Sanford, "what on--"

"Stay where you are!" Rawling gasped, sick of this ugliness, dizzy with
the stench of powder and brandy. Death had never seemed so vile. He
looked away to the guardian where she knelt at her post, her hands
clasped on the breast of her coarse white robe as if she prayed, the
hair hiding her face.

"I'll get a blanket," Bill said, rising. "There come the men! That you,
Ian?"

The smith and a crowd of pale faces crashed up the stairs.

"God forgie us! We let him by--the garden, sir. Alec thought he--"

"Gosh, Onnie!" said Bill, "excuse _me_! I'll get some clothes on. Here,
Ian--"

"Onnie," said Sanford, in the doorway--"Onnie, what's the matter?"

As if to show him this, her hands, unclasping, fell from the dead bosom,
and a streak of heart's blood widened from the knife-wound like the
ribbon of some very noble order.



A CUP OF TEA[4]

[Note 4: Copyright, 1917, by Charles Scribner's Sons. Copyright,
1918, by Maxwell Struthers Burt.]

BY MAXWELL STRUTHERS BURT

From _Scribner's Magazine_.


Young Burnaby was late. He was always late. One associated him with
lateness and certain eager, impossible excuses--he was always coming
from somewhere to somewheres, and his "train was delayed," or his huge
space-devouring motor "had broken down." You imagined him, enveloped in
dust and dusk, his face disguised beyond human semblance, tearing up and
down the highways of the world; or else in the corridor of a train,
biting his nails with poorly concealed impatience. As a matter of fact,
when you saw him, he was beyond average correctly attired, and his
manner was suppressed, as if to conceal the keenness that glowed behind
his dark eyes and kept the color mounting and receding in his sunburnt
cheeks. All of which, except the keenness, was a strange thing in a man
who spent half his life shooting big game and exploring. But then, one
imagined that Burnaby on the trail and Burnaby in a town were two
entirely different persons. He liked his life with a thrust to it, and
in a great city there are so many thrusts that, it is to be supposed,
one of Burnaby's temperament hardly has hours enough in a day to
appreciate all of them and at the same time keep appointments.

On this February night, at all events, he was extremely late, even
beyond his custom, and Mrs. Malcolm, having waited as long as she
possibly could, sighed amusedly and told her man to announce dinner.
There were only three others besides herself in the drawing-room,
Masters--Sir John Masters, the English financier--and his wife, and
Mrs. Selden, dark, a little silent, with a flushed, finely cut face and
a slightly sorrow-stricken mouth. And already these people had reached
the point where talk is interesting. People did in Mrs. Malcolm's house.
One went there with anticipation, and came away with the delightful, a
little vague, exhilaration that follows an evening where the perfection
of the material background--lights, food, wine, flowers--has been almost
forgotten in the thrill of contact with real persons, a rare enough
circumstance in a period when the dullest people entertain the most. In
the presence of Mrs. Malcolm even the very great forgot the suspicions
that grow with success and became themselves, and, having come once,
came again vividly, overlooking other people who really had more right
to their attentions than had she.

This was the case with Sir John Masters. And he was a very great man
indeed, not only as the world goes but in himself: a short, heavy man,
with a long, heavy head crowned with vibrant, still entirely dark hair
and pointed by a black, carefully kept beard, above which arose--"arose"
is the word, for Sir John's face was architectural--a splendid, slightly
curved nose--a buccaneering nose; a nose that, willy-nilly, would have
made its possessor famous. One suspected, far back in the yeoman strain,
a hurried, possibly furtive marriage with gypsy or Jew; a sudden
blossoming into lyricism on the part of a soil-stained Masters.
Certainly from somewhere Sir John had inherited an imagination which was
not insular. Dangerous men, these Sir Johns, with their hooked noses and
their lyric eyes!

Mrs. Malcolm described him as fascinating. There was about him that
sense of secret power that only politicians, usually meretriciously, and
diplomats, and, above all, great bankers as a rule possess; yet he
seldom talked of his own life, or the mission that had brought him to
New York; instead, in his sonorous, slightly Hebraic voice, he drew
other people on to talk about themselves, or else, to artists and
writers and their sort, discovered an amazing, discouraging knowledge of
the trades by which they earned their living. "One feels," said Mrs.
Malcolm, "that one is eyeing a sensitive python. He uncoils
beautifully."

They were seated at the round, candle-lit table, the rest of the room in
partial shadow, Sir John looking like a lost Rembrandt, and his blonde
wife, with her soft English face, like a rose-and-gray portrait by
Reynolds, when Burnaby strode in upon them ... strode in upon them, and
then, as if remembering the repression he believed in, hesitated, and
finally advanced quietly toward Mrs. Malcolm. One could smell the snowy
February night still about him.

"I'm so sorry," he said. "I--"

"You broke down, I suppose," said Mrs. Malcolm, "or the noon train from
Washington was late for the first time in six years. What do you do in
Washington, anyway? Moon about the Smithsonian?"

"No," said Burnaby, as he sank into a chair and unfolded his napkin.
"Y'see--well, that is--I ran across a fellow--an Englishman--who knew a
chap I met last summer up on the Francis River--I didn't exactly meet
him, that is, I ran into him, and it wasn't the Francis River really, it
was the Upper Liara, a branch that comes in from the northwest. Strange,
wasn't it?--this fellow, this Englishman, got to talking about tea, and
that reminded me of the whole thing." He paused on the last word and,
with a peculiar habit that is much his own, stared across the table at
Lady Masters, but over and through her, as if that pretty pink-and-white
woman had entirely disappeared,--and the warm shadows behind her,--and
in her place were no one could guess what vistas of tumbling rivers and
barren tundras.

"Tea!" ejaculated Mrs. Malcolm.

Burnaby came back to the flower-scented circle of light.

"Yes," he said soberly, "tea. Exactly."

Mrs. Malcolm's delicate eyebrows rose to a point. "What," she asked, in
the tones of delighted motherhood overlaid with a slight exasperation
which she habitually used toward Burnaby, "has tea got to do with a man
you met on the Upper Liara last summer and a man you met this afternoon?
Why tea?"

"A lot," said Burnaby cryptically, and proceeded to apply himself to his
salad, for he had refused the courses his lateness had made him miss.
"Y'see," he said, after a moment's reflection, "it was this way--and
it's worth telling, for it's queer. I ran into this Terhune this
afternoon at a club--a big, blond Englishman who's been in the army, but
now he's out making money. Owns a tea house in London. Terhune &
Terhune--perhaps you know them?" He turned to Sir John.

"Yes, very well. I imagine this is Arthur Terhune."

"That's the man. Well, his being in tea and that sort of thing got me to
telling him about an adventure I had last summer, and, the first crack
out of the box, he said he remembered the other chap perfectly--had
known him fairly well at one time. Odd, wasn't it, when you come to
think of it? A big, blond, freshly bathed Englishman in a club, and that
other man away up there!"

"And the other man? Is he in the tea business too?" asked Mrs. Selden.
She was interested by now, leaning across the table, her dark eyes
catching light from the candles. It was something--to interest Mrs.
Selden.

"No," said Burnaby abruptly. "No. He's in no business at all, except
going to perdition. Y'see, he's a squaw-man--a big, black squaw-man,
with a nose like a Norman king's. The sort of person you imagine in
evening clothes in the Carleton lounge. He might have been anything but
what he is."

"I wonder," said Sir John, "why we do that sort of thing so much more
than other nations? Our very best, too. It's odd."

"It was odd enough the way it happened to me, anyhow," said Burnaby.
"I'd been knocking around up there all summer, just an Indian and
myself--around what they call Fort Francis and the Pelly Lakes, and
toward the end of August we came down the Liara in a canoe. We were
headed for Lower Post on the Francis, and it was all very lovely until,
one day, we ran into a rapid, a devil of a thing, and my Indian got
drowned."

"How dreadful!" murmured Lady Masters.

"It was," agreed Burnaby; "but it might have been worse--for me, that
is. It couldn't have been much worse for the poor devil of an Indian,
could it? But I had a pretty fair idea of the country, and had only
about fifty miles to walk, and a little waterproof box of grub turned up
out of the wreck, so I wasn't in any danger of starving. It was lonely,
though--it's lonely enough country, anyhow, and of course I couldn't
help thinking about that Indian and the way big rapids roar. I couldn't
sleep when night came--saw black rocks sticking up out of white water
like the fangs of a mad dog. I was pretty near the horrors, I guess. So
you can imagine I wasn't sorry when, about four o'clock of the next
afternoon, I came back to the river again and a teepee standing up all
by itself on a little pine-crowned bluff. In front of the teepee was an
old squaw--she wasn't very old, really, but you know how Indians
get--boiling something over a fire in a big pot. 'How!' I said, and she
grunted. 'If you'll lend me part of your fire, I'll make some tea,' I
continued. 'And if you're good, I'll give you some when it's done.' Tea
was one of the things cached in the little box that had been saved. She
moved the pot to one side, so I judged she understood, and I trotted
down to the river for water and set to work. As you can guess, I was
pretty anxious for any kind of conversation by then, so after a while I
said brightly: 'All alone?' She grunted again and pointed over her
shoulder to the teepee. 'Well, seeing you're so interested,' said I,
'and that the tea's done, we'll all go inside and ask your man to a
party--if you'll dig up two tin cups. I've got one of my own.' She
raised the flap of the teepee and I followed her. I could see she wasn't
a person who wasted words. Inside a little fire was smouldering, and
seated with his back to us was a big, broad-shouldered buck, with a dark
blanket wrapped around him. 'Your good wife,' I began cheerily--I was
getting pretty darned sick of silence--'has allowed me to make some tea
over your fire. Have some? I'm shipwrecked from a canoe and on my way to
Lower Post. If you don't understand what I say, it doesn't make the
slightest difference, but for God's sake grunt--just once, to show
you're interested.' He grunted. 'Thanks!' I said, and poured the tea
into the three tin cups. The squaw handed one to her buck. Then I sat
down.

"There was nothing to be heard but the gurgling of the river outside and
the rather noisy breathing we three made as we drank; and then--very
clearly, just as if we'd been sitting in an English drawing-room--in the
silence a voice said: 'By Jove, that's the first decent cup of tea I've
had in ten years!' Yes, just that! 'By Jove, that's the first decent cup
of tea I've had in ten years!' I looked at the buck, but he hadn't
moved, and then I looked at the squaw, and she was still squatting and
sipping her tea, and then I said, very quietly, for I knew my nerves
were still ragged, 'Did any one speak?' and the buck turned slowly and
looked me up and down, and I saw the nose I was talking about--the nose
like a Norman king's. I was rattled, I admit; I forgot my manners.
'You're English!' I gasped out; and the buck said very sweetly: 'That's
none of your damned business.'"

Burnaby paused and looked about the circle of attentive faces. "That's
all. But it's enough, isn't it? To come out of nothing, going nowheres,
and run into a dirty Indian who says: 'By Jove, that's the first decent
cup of tea I've had in ten years!' And then along comes this Terhune
and says that he knows the man."

Mrs. Malcolm raised her chin from the hand that had been supporting it.
"I don't blame you," she said, "for being late."

"And this man," interrupted Sir John's sonorous voice, "this squaw-man,
did he tell you anything about himself?"

Burnaby shook his head. "Not likely," he answered. "I tried to draw him
out, but he wasn't drawable. Finally he said: 'If you'll shut your
damned mouth I'll give you two dirty blankets to sleep on. If you won't,
I'll kick you out of here.' The next morning I pulled out, leaving him
crouched over the little teepee fire nursing his knees. But I hadn't
gone twenty yards when he came to the flap and called out after me: 'I
say!' I turned about sullenly. His dirty face had a queer, cracked smile
on it. 'Look here! Do you--where did you get that tea from, anyway?
I--there's a lot of skins I've got; I don't suppose you'd care to trade,
would you?' I took the tea out of the air-tight box and put it on the
ground. Then I set off down river. Henderson, the factor at Lower Post,
told me a little about him: his name--it wasn't assumed, it seems; and
that he'd been in the country about fifteen years, going from bad to
worse. He was certainly at 'worse' when I saw him." Burnaby paused and
stared across the table again with his curious, far-away look. "Beastly,
isn't it?" he said, as if to himself. "Cold up there now, too! The snow
must be deep." He came back to the present. "And I suppose, you know,"
he said, smiling deprecatingly at Mrs. Selden, "he's just as fond of
flowers and lights and things as we are."

Mrs. Selden shivered.

"Fonder!" said Sir John. "Probably fonder. That sort is. It's the poets
of the world who can't write poetry who go to smash that way. They ought
to take a term at business, and"--he reflected--"the business men, of
course, at poetry." He regarded Burnaby with his inscrutable eyes, in
the depths of which danced little flecks of light.

"What did you say this man's name was?" asked Lady Masters, in her soft
voice. She had an extraordinary way of advancing, with a timid rush, as
it were, into the foreground, and then receding again, melting back into
the shadows. She rarely ever spoke without a sensation of astonishment
making itself felt. "She is like a mist," thought Mrs. Malcolm.

"Bewsher," said Burnaby--"Geoffrey Boisselier Bewsher. Quite a name,
isn't it? He was in the cavalry. His family are rather swells in an
old-fashioned way. He is the fifth son--or seventh, or whatever it
is--of a baronet and, Terhune says, was very much in evidence about
London twenty-odd years ago. Terhune used to see him in clubs, and every
now and then dining out. Although he himself, of course, was a much
younger man. Very handsome he was, too, Terhune said, and a favorite.
And then one day he just disappeared--got out--no one knows exactly why.
Terhune doesn't. Lost his money, or a woman, or something like that. The
usual thing, I suppose. I--You didn't hurt yourself, did you?"...

He had paused abruptly and was looking across the table; for there had
been a little tinkle and a crash of breaking glass, and now a pool of
champagne was forming beside Lady Masters's plate, and finding its way
in a thin thread of gold along the cloth. There was a moment's silence,
and then she advanced again out of the shadows with her curious soft
rush. "How clumsy I am!" she murmured. "My arm--My bracelet! I--I'm so
sorry!" She looked swiftly about her, and then at Burnaby. "Oh, no! I'm
not cut, thanks!" Her eyes held a pained embarrassment. He caught the
look, and her eyelids flickered and fell before his gaze, and then, as
the footman repaired the damage, she sank back once more into the
half-light beyond the radiance of the candles. "How shy she is!" thought
Burnaby. "So many of these English women are. She's an important woman
in her own right, too." He studied her furtively.

Into the soft silence came Sir John's carefully modulated voice.
"Barbara and I," he explained, "will feel this very much. We both knew
Bewsher." His eyes became somber. "This is very distressing," he said
abruptly.

"By Jove!" ejaculated Burnaby, and raised his head like an alert hound.

"How odd it all is!" said Mrs. Malcolm. But she was wondering why men
are so queer with their wives--resent so much the slightest social
clumsiness on their part, while in other women--provided the offense is
not too great--it merely amuses them. Even the guarded manners of Sir
John had been disturbed. For a moment he had been very angry with the
shadow that bore his name; one could tell by the swift glance he had
cast in her direction. After all, upsetting a glass of champagne was a
very natural sequel to a story such as Burnaby had told, a story about a
former acquaintance--perhaps friend.

Sir John thoughtfully helped himself to a spoonful of his dessert before
he looked up; when he did so he laid down his spoon and sat back in his
chair with the manner of a man who has made a sudden decision. "No," he
said, and an unexpected little smile hovered about his lips, "it isn't
so odd. Bewsher was rather a figure of a man twenty years ago. Shall I
tell you his history?"

To Mrs. Malcolm, watching with alert, humorous eyes, there came a
curious impression, faint but distinct, like wind touching her hair; as
if, that is, a door into the room had opened and shut. She leaned
forward, supporting her chin in her hand.

"Of course," she said.

Sir John twisted between his fingers the stem of his champagne-glass and
studied thoughtfully the motes of at the heart of the amber wine. "You
see," he began thoughtfully, "it's such a difficult story to
tell--difficult because it took twenty-five--and, now that Mr. Burnaby
has furnished the sequel, forty-five years--to live; and difficult
because it is largely a matter of psychology. I can only give you the
high lights, as it were. You must fill in the rest for yourselves. You
must imagine, that is, Bewsher and this other fellow--this Morton. I
can't give you his real name--it is too important; you would know it.
No, it isn't obviously dramatic. And yet--" his voice suddenly became
vibrant--"such things compose, as a matter of fact, the real drama of
the world. It--" he looked about the table swiftly and leaned forward,
and then, as if interrupting himself, "but what _was_ obviously
dramatic," he said--and the little dancing sparks in the depths of his
eyes were peculiarly noticeable--"was the way I, of all people, heard
it. Yes. You see, I heard it at a dinner party like this, in London; and
Morton--the man himself--told the story." He paused, and with
half-closed eyes studied the effect of his announcement.

"You mean--?" asked Burnaby.

"Exactly." Sir John spoke with a certain cool eagerness. "He sat up
before all those people and told the inner secrets of his life; and of
them all I was the only one who suspected the truth. Of course, he was
comparatively safe, none of them knew him well except myself, but think
of it! The bravado--the audacity! Rather magnificent, wasn't it?" He
sank back once more in his chair.

Mrs. Malcolm agreed. "Yes," she said. "Magnificent and insulting."

Sir John smiled. "My dear lady," he asked, "doesn't life consist largely
of insults from the strong to the weak?"

"And were all these people so weak, then?"

"No, in their own way they were fairly important, I suppose, but
compared to Morton they were weak--very weak--Ah, yes! I like this
custom of smoking at table. Thanks!" He selected a cigarette
deliberately, and stooped toward the proffered match. The flame
illumined the swarthy curve of his beard and the heavy lines of his dark
face. "You see," he began, straightening up in his chair, "the whole
thing--that part of it, and the part I'm to tell--is really, if you
choose, an allegory of strength, of strength and weakness. On the one
side Morton--there's strength, sheer, undiluted power, the thing that
runs the world; and on the other Bewsher, the ordinary man, with all his
mixed-up ideas of right and wrong and the impossible, confused thing he
calls a 'code'--Bewsher, and later on the girl. She too is part of the
allegory. She represents--what shall I say? A composite portrait of the
ordinary young woman? Religion, I suppose. Worldly religion. The
religion of most of my good friends in England. A vague but none the
less passionate belief in a heaven populated by ladies and gentlemen who
dine out with a God who resembles royalty. And coupled with this
religion the girl had, of course, as have most of her class, a very
distinct sense of her own importance in the world; not that
exactly--personally she was over-modest; a sense rather of her
importance as a unit of an important family, and a deep-rooted
conviction of the fundamental necessity of unimportant things: parties,
and class-worship, and the whole jumbled-up order as it is. The usual
young woman, that is, if you lay aside her unusual beauty. And, you see,
people like Bewsher and the girl haven't much chance against a man like
Morton, have they? Do you remember the girl, my dear?" he asked, turning
to his wife.

"Yes," murmured Lady Masters.

"Well, then," continued Sir John, "you must imagine this Morton, an ugly
little boy of twelve, going up on a scholarship to a great public
school--a rather bitter little boy, without any particular prospects
ahead of him except those his scholarship held out; and back of him a
poor, stunted life, with a mother in it--a sad dehumanized creature, I
gathered, who subsisted on the bounty of a niggardly brother. And this,
you can understand, was the first thing that made Morton hate virtue
devoid of strength. His mother, he told me, was the best woman he had
ever known. The world had beaten her unmercifully. His earliest
recollection was hearing her cry at night.... And there, at the school,
he had his first glimpse of the great world that up to then he had only
dimly suspected. Dramatic enough in itself, isn't it?--if you can
visualize the little dark chap. A common enough drama, too, the Lord
knows. We people on top are bequeathing misery to our posterity when we
let the Mortons of the world hate the rich. And head and shoulders above
the other boys of his age at the school was Bewsher; not that
materially, of course, there weren't others more important; Bewsher's
family was old and rich as such families go, but he was very much a
younger son, and his people lived mostly in the country; yet even then
there was something about him--a manner, an adeptness in sports, an
unsought popularity, that picked him out; the beginnings of that Norman
nose that Mr. Burnaby has mentioned. And here"--Sir John paused and
puffed thoughtfully at his cigarette--"is the first high light.

"To begin with, of course, Morton hated Bewsher and all he represented,
hated him in a way that only a boy of his nature can; and then, one
day--I don't know exactly when it could have been, probably a year or
two after he had gone up to school--he began to see quite clearly what
this hate meant; began to see that for such as he to hate the Bewshers
of the world was the sheerest folly--a luxury far beyond his means.
Quaint, wasn't it? In a boy of his age! You can imagine him working it
out at night, in his narrow dormitory bed, when the other boys were
asleep. You see, he realized, dimly at first, clearly at last, that
through Bewsher and his kind lay the hope of Morton and his kind. Nice
little boys think the same thing, only they are trained not to admit
it. That was the first big moment of Morton's life, and with the
determination characteristic of him he set out to accomplish what he had
decided. In England we make our future through our friends, in this
country you make it through your enemies. But it wasn't easy for Morton;
such tasks never are. He had a good many insults to swallow. In the end,
however, from being tolerated he came to be indispensable, and from
being indispensable eventually to be liked. He had planned his campaign
with care. Carefulness, recklessly carried out, has been, I think, the
guiding rule of his life. He had modelled himself on Bewsher; he walked
like Bewsher; tried to think like Bewsher--that is, in the less
important things of life--and, with the divination that marks his type
of man, the little money he had, the little money that as a schoolboy he
could borrow, he had spent with precision on clothes and other things
that brought him personal distinction; in what people call necessities
he starved himself. By the time he was ready to leave school you could
hardly have told him from the man he had set out to follow: he was
equally well-mannered; equally at his ease; if anything, more conscious
of prerogative than Bewsher. He had come to spend most of his holidays
at Bewsher's great old house in Gloucestershire. That, too, was an
illumination. It showed him what money was made for--the sunny quiet of
the place, the wheels of a spacious living that ran so smoothly, the
long gardens, the inevitableness of it all. Some day, he told himself,
he would have just such a house. He has. It is his mistress. The world
has not allowed him much of the poetry that, as you must already see,
the man has in him; he takes it out on his place.

"It was in Morton's last year at Oxford, just before his graduation,
that the second great moment of his life occurred. He had done well at
his college, not a poor college either; and all the while, you must
remember, he was borrowing money and running up bills. But this didn't
bother him. He was perfectly assured in his own mind concerning his
future. He had counted costs. In that May, Bewsher, who from school had
gone to Sandhurst, came up on a visit with two or three other fledgling
officers, and they had a dinner in Morton's rooms. It turned into rather
a 'rag,' as those things do, and it was there, across a flower-strewn,
wine-stained table, that Morton had his second revelation. He wasn't
drunk--he never got drunk; the others were. The thing came in upon him
slowly, warmingly, like the breeze that stirred the curtains. He felt
himself, as never before, a man. You can see him sitting back in his
chair, in the smoke and the noise and the foolish singing, cool, his
eyes a little closed. He knew now that he had passed the level of these
men; yes, even the shining mark Bewsher had set. He had gone on, while
they had stood still. To him, he suddenly realized, and to such as he,
belonged the heritage of the years, not to these men who thought they
held it. These old gray buildings stretching away into the May dusk, the
history of a thousand years, were his. These sprawled young aristocrats
before him--they, whether they eventually came to know it or not, they,
and Bewsher with them--would one day do his bidding: come when he
beckoned, go when he sent. It was a big thought, wasn't it, for a man of
twenty-two?" Sir John paused and puffed at his cigarette.

"That was the second high light," he continued, "and the third did not
come until fifteen years later. Bewsher went into the Indian army--his
family had ideas of service--and Morton into a banking-house in London.
And there, as deliberately as he had taken them up, he laid aside for
the time being all the social perquisites which he had with so much
pains acquired. Do you know--he told me that for fifteen years not once
had he dined out, except when he thought his ambitions would be
furthered by so doing, and then, as one turns on a tap, he turned on the
charm he now knew himself to possess. It is not astonishing, is it, when
you come to think of it, that eventually he became rich and famous?
Most people are unwilling to sacrifice their youth to their future. He
wasn't. But it wasn't a happy time. He hated it. He paid off his debts,
however, and at the end of the fifteen years found himself a big man in
a small way, with every prospect of becoming a big man in a big way.
Then, of course--such men do--he began to look about him. He wanted
wider horizons, he wanted luxury, he wanted a wife; and he wanted them
as a starved man wants food. He experienced comparatively little
difficulty in getting started. Some of his school and university friends
remembered him, and there was a whisper about that he was a man that
bore watching. But afterward he stuck. The inner citadel of London is by
no means as assailable as the outer fortifications lead one to suppose.

"They say a man never has a desire but there's an angel or a devil to
write it down. Morton had hardly made his discovery when Bewsher turned
up from India, transferred to a crack cavalry regiment; a sunburnt,
cordial Bewsher, devilishly determined to enjoy the fulness of his
prime. On his skirts, as he had done once before, Morton penetrated
farther and farther into the esoteric heart of society. I'm not sure
just how Bewsher felt toward Morton at the time; he liked him, I think;
at all events, he had the habit of him. As for Morton, he liked Bewsher
as much as he dared; he never permitted himself to like any one too
much.

"I don't know how it is with you, but I have noticed again and again
that intimate friends are prone to fall in love with the same woman:
perhaps it is because they have so many tastes in common; perhaps it is
jealousy--I don't know. Anyhow, that is what happened to these two,
Morton first, then Bewsher; and it is characteristic that the former
mentioned it to no one, while the latter was confidential and expansive.
Such men do not deserve women, and yet they are often the very men women
fall most in love with. At first the girl had been attracted to Morton,
it seems; he intrigued her--no doubt the sense of power about him; but
the handsomer man, when he entered the running, speedily drew ahead. You
can imagine the effect of this upon her earlier suitor. It was the first
rebuff that for a long time had occurred to him in his ordered plan of
life. He resented it and turned it over in his mind, and eventually, as
it always does to men of his kind, his opportunity came. You see, unlike
Bewsher and his class, all his days had been an exercise in the
recognition and appreciation of chances. He isolated the inevitable fly
in the ointment, and in this particular ointment the fly happened to be
Bewsher's lack of money and the education the girl had received. She was
poor in the way that only the daughter of a great house can be. To
Morton, once he was aware of the fly, and once he had combined the
knowledge of it with what these two people most lacked, it was a simple
thing. They lacked, as you have already guessed, courage and directness.
On Morton's side was all the dunder-headism of an aristocracy, all its
romanticism, all its gross materialism, all its confusion of ideals. But
you mustn't think that he, Morton, was cold or objective in all this:
far from it; he was desperately in love with the girl himself, and he
was playing his game like a man in a corner--all his wits about him, but
fever in his heart.

"There was the situation, an old one--a girl who dare not marry a poor
man, and a poor man cracking his brains to know where to get money from.
I dare say Bewsher never questioned the rightness of it all--he was too
much in love with the girl, his own training had been too similar. And
Morton, hovering on the outskirts, talked--to weak people the most fatal
doctrine in the world--the doctrine of power, the doctrine that each man
and woman can have just what they want if they will only get out and
seek it. That's true for the big people; for the small it usually spells
death. They falter on methods. They are too afraid of unimportant
details. His insistence had its results even more speedily than he had
hoped. Before long the girl, too, was urging Bewsher on to effort. It
isn't the first time goodness has sent weakness to the devil. Meanwhile
the instigator dropped from his one-time position of tentative lover to
that of adviser in particular. It was just the position that at the time
he most desired.

"Things came to a head on a warm night in April. Bewsher dropped in upon
Morton in his chambers. Very handsome he looked, too, I dare say, in his
evening clothes, with an opera-coat thrown back from his shoulders. I
remember well myself his grand air, with a touch of cavalry swagger
about it. I've no doubt he leaned against the chimney-piece and tapped
his leg with his stick. And the upshot of it was that he wanted money.

"Oh, no! not a loan. It wasn't as bad as that. He had enough to screw
along with himself; although he was frightfully in debt. He wanted a big
sum. An income. To make money, that was. He didn't want to go into
business if he could help it; hadn't any ability that way; hated it. But
perhaps Morton could put him in the way of something? He didn't mind
chances."

"Do you see?" Sir John leaned forward. "And he never realized the
vulgarity of it--that product of five centuries, that English gentleman.
Never realized the vulgarity of demanding of life something for nothing;
of asking from a man as a free gift what that man had sweated for and
starved for all his life; yes, literally, all his life. It was an
illumination, as Morton said, upon that pitiful thing we call 'class.'
He demanded all this as his right, too; demanded power, the one precious
possession. Well, the other man had his code as well, and the first
paragraph in it was that a man shall get only what he works for. Can you
imagine him, the little ugly man, sitting at his table and thinking all
this? And suddenly he got to his feet. 'Yes,' he said, 'I'll make you a
rich man.' But he didn't say he would keep him one. That was the third
high light--the little man standing where all through the ages had stood
men like him, the secret movers of the world, while before them,
supplicating, had passed the beauty and the pride of their times. In the
end they all beg at the feet of power--the kings and the fighting men.
And yet, although this was the great, hidden triumph of his life, and,
moreover, beyond his hopes a realization of the game he had been
playing--for it put Bewsher, you see, utterly in his power--Morton said
at the moment it made him a little sick. It was too crude; Bewsher's
request too unashamed; it made suddenly too cheap, since men could ask
for it so lightly, all the stakes for which he, Morton, had sacrificed
the slow minutes and hours of his life. And then, of course, there was
this as well: Bewsher had been to Morton an ideal, and ideals can't die,
even the memory of them, without some pain."

Mrs. Malcolm, watching with lips a little parted, said to herself: "He
has uncoiled too much."

"Yes"--Sir John reached out his hand and, picking up a long-stemmed rose
from the table, began idly to twist it in his fingers. "And that was the
end. From then on the matter was simple. It was like a duel between a
trained swordsman and a novice; only it wasn't really a duel at all, for
one of the antagonists was unaware that he was fighting. I suppose that
most people would call it unfair. I have wondered. And yet Bewsher, in a
polo game, or in the game of social life, would not have hesitated to
use all the skill and craft he knew. But, you say, he would not have
played against beginners. Well, he had asked himself into this game; he
had not been invited. And so, all through that spring and into the
summer and autumn the three-cornered contest went on, and into the
winter and on to the spring beyond. Unwittingly, the girl was playing
more surely than ever into Morton's hand. The increasing number of
Bewsher's platitudes about wealth, about keeping up tradition, about
religion, showed that. He even talked vaguely about giving up the army
and going into business. 'It must have its fascinations, you know,' he
remarked lightly. In the eyes of both of them Morton had become sort of
fairy godfather--a mysterious, wonderful gnome at whose beck gold leaped
from the mountainside. It was just the illusion he wished to create. In
the final analysis the figure of the gnome is the most beloved figure in
the rotten class to which we belong.

"And then, just as spontaneously as it had come, Bewsher's money began
to melt away--slowly at first; faster afterward until, finally, he was
back again to his original income. This was a time of stress, of hurried
consultations, of sympathy on the part of Morton, of some rather ugly
funk on the part of Bewsher; and Morton realized that in the eyes of the
girl he was rapidly becoming once more the dominant figure. It didn't do
him much good"--Sir John broke the stem of the rose between his fingers.

"Soon there was an end to it all. There came, finally, a very unpleasant
evening. This too was in April; April a year after Bewsher's visit to
Morton's chambers, only this time the scene was laid in an office.
Bewsher had put a check on the desk. 'Here,' he said, 'that will tide me
over until I can get on my feet,' and his voice was curiously thick; and
Morton, looking down, had seen that the signature wasn't genuine--a
clumsy business done by a clumsy man--and, despite all his training,
from what he said, a little cold shiver had run up and down his back.
This had gone farther than he had planned. But he made no remark, simply
pocketed the check, and the next day settled out of his own pockets
Bewsher's sorry affairs; put him back, that is, where he had started,
with a small income mortgaged beyond hope. Then he sent a note to the
girl requesting an interview on urgent business. She saw him that night
in her drawing-room. She was very lovely. Morton was all friendly
sympathy. It wasn't altogether unreal, either. I think, from What he
told me, he was genuinely touched. But he felt, you know--the urge, the
goad, of his own career. His kind do. Ultimately they are not their own
masters. He showed the girl the check--not at first, you understand,
but delicately, after preliminary discussion; reluctantly upon repeated
urging. 'What was he to do? What would she advise? Bewsher was safe, of
course; he had seen to that; but the whole unintelligible, shocking
aspect of the thing!' He tore the check up and threw it in the fire. He
was not unaware that the girl's eyes admired him. It was a warm night.
He said good-by and walked home along the deserted street. He
remembered, he told me, how sweet the trees smelled. He was not happy.
You see, Bewsher had been the nearest approach to a friend he had ever
had.

"That practically finished the sordid business. What the girl said to
Bewsher Morton never knew; he trusted to her conventionalized religion
and her family pride to break Bewsher's heart, and to Bewsher's
sentimentality to eliminate him forever from the scene. In both surmises
he was correct; he was only not aware that at the same time the girl had
broken her own heart. He found that out afterward. And Bewsher
eliminated himself more thoroughly than necessary. I suppose the shame
of the thing was to him like a blow to a thoroughbred, instead of an
incentive, as it would have been to a man of coarser fibre. He went from
bad to worse, resigned from his regiment, finally disappeared.
Personally, I had hoped that he had begun again somewhere on the
outskirts of the world. But he isn't that sort. There's not much of the
Norman king to him except his nose. The girl married Morton. He gave her
no time to recover from her gratitude. He felt very happy, he told me,
the day of his wedding, very elated. It was one of those rare occasions
when he felt that the world was a good place. Another high light, you
see. And it was no mean thing, if you consider it, for a man such as he
to marry the daughter of a peer, and at the same time to love her. He
was not a gentleman, you understand, he could never be that--it was the
one secret thing that always hurt him--no amount of brains, no amount of
courage could make him what he wasn't; he never lied to himself as most
men do; so he had acquired a habit of secretly triumphing over those who
possessed the gift. The other thing that hurt him was when, a few months
later, he discovered that his wife still loved Bewsher and always would.
And that"--Sir John picked up the broken rose again--"is, I suppose, the
end of the story."

There was a moment's silence and then Burnaby lifted his pointed chin.
"By George!" he said, "it _is_ interesting to know how things really
happen, isn't it? But I think--you have, haven't you, left out the real
point. Do you--would you mind telling just why you imagine Morton did
this thing? Told his secret before all those people? It wasn't like him,
was it?"

Sir John slowly lighted another cigarette, and then he turned to Burnaby
and smiled. "Yes," he said, "it was extremely like him. Still, it's very
clever of you, very clever. Can't you guess? It isn't so very
difficult."

"No," said Burnaby, "I can't guess at all."

"Well, then, listen." And to Mrs. Malcolm it seemed as if Sir John had
grown larger, had merged in the shadows about him; at least he gave that
impression, for he sat up very straight and threw back his shoulders.
For a moment he hesitated, then he began, "You must go back to the
dinner I was describing," he said--"the dinner in London. I too was
intrigued as you are, and when it was over I followed Morton out and
walked with him toward his club. And, like you, I asked the question. I
think that he had known all along that I suspected; at all events, it is
characteristic of the man that he did not try to bluff me. He walked on
for a little while in silence, and then he laughed abruptly. 'Yes,' he
said, 'I'll tell you. Yes. Just this. What there is to be got, I've got;
what work can win I've won; but back of it all there's something else,
and back even of that there's a careless god who gives his gifts where
they are least deserved. That's one reason why I talked as I did
to-night. To all of us--the men like me--there comes in the end a time
when we realize that what a man can do we can do, but that love, the
touch of other people's minds, these two things are the gifts of the
careless god. And it irritates us, I suppose, irritates us! We want them
in a way that the ordinary man who has them cannot understand. We want
them as damned souls in hell want water. And sometimes the strain's too
much. It was to-night. To touch other minds, even for a moment, even if
they hate you while you are doing it, that's the thing! To lay yourself,
just once, bare to the gaze of ordinary people! With the hope, perhaps,
that even then they may still find in you something to admire or love.
Self-revelation! Every man confesses sometime. It happened that I chose
a dinner party. Do you understand?'" It was almost as if Sir John
himself had asked the question.

"And then"--he was speaking in his usual calm tones again--"there
happened a curious thing, a very curious thing, for Morton stopped and
turned toward me and began to laugh. I thought he would never stop. It
was rather uncanny, under the street lamp there, this usually rather
quiet man. 'And that,' he said at length, 'that's only half the story.
The cream of it is this: the way I myself felt, sitting there among all
those soft, easily lived people. That's the cream of it. To flout them,
to sting them, to laugh at them, to know you had more courage than all
of them put together, you who were once so afraid of them! To feel
that--even if they knew it was about yourself you were talking--that
even then they were afraid of you, and would to-morrow ask you back
again to their houses. That's power! That's worth doing! After all, you
can keep your love and your sympathy and your gentlemen; it's only to
men like me, men who've sweated and come up, that moments arise such as
I've had to-night.' And then, 'It's rather a pity,' he said, after a
pause, 'that of them all you alone knew of whom I was talking. Rather a
pity, isn't it?'" Sir John hesitated and looked about the table. "It
was unusual, wasn't it?" he said at length gently. "Have I been too
dramatic?"

In the little silence that followed, Mrs. Malcolm leaned forward, her
eyes starry. "I would rather," she said, "talk to Bewsher in his teepee
than talk to Morton with all his money."

Sir John looked at her and smiled--his charming smile. "Oh, no, you
wouldn't," he said. "Oh, no! We say those things, but we don't mean
them. If you sat next to Morton at dinner you'd like him; but as for
Bewsher you'd despise him, as all right-minded women despise a failure.
Oh, no; you'd prefer Morton."

"Perhaps you're right," sighed Mrs. Malcolm; "pirates are fascinating, I
suppose." She arose to her feet. Out of the shadows Lady Masters
advanced to meet her. "She _is_ like a mist," thought Mrs. Malcolm.
"Exactly like a rather faint mist."

Burnaby leaned over and lit a cigarette at one of the candles. "And, of
course," he said quietly, without raising his head, "the curious thing
is that this fellow Morton, despite all his talk of power, in the end is
merely a ghost of Bewsher, after all, isn't he?"

Sir John turned and looked at the bowed sleek head with a puzzled
expression. "A ghost!" he murmured. "I don't think I quite understand."

"It's very simple," said Burnaby, and raised his head. "Despite all
Morton has done, in the things worth while, in the things he wants the
most, he can at best be only a shadow of the shadow Bewsher has left--a
shadow of a man to the woman who loves Bewsher, a shadow of a friend to
the men who liked Bewsher, a shadow of a gentleman to the gentlemen
about him. A ghost, in other words. It's the inevitable end of all
selfishness. I think Bewsher has rather the best of it, don't you?"

"I--I had never thought of it in quite that light," said Sir John, and
followed Mrs. Malcolm.

They went into the drawing-room beyond--across a hallway, and up a
half-flight of stairs, and through glass doors. "Play for us!" said Mrs.
Malcolm, and Burnaby, that remarkable young man, sat down to the piano
and for perhaps an hour made the chords sob to a strange music, mostly
his own.

"That's Bewsher!" he said when he was through, and had sat back on his
stool, and was sipping a long-neglected cordial.

"Br-r-r-!" shivered Mrs. Selden from her place by the fire. "How
unpleasant you are!"

Sir John looked troubled. "I hope," he said, "my story hasn't depressed
you too much. Burnaby's was really worse, you know. Well, I must be
going." He turned to Mrs. Malcolm. "You are one of the few women who can
make me sit up late."

He bade each in turn good-night in his suave, charming, slightly Hebraic
manner. To Burnaby he said: "Thank you for the music. Improvisation is
perhaps the happiest of gifts."

But Burnaby for once was awkward. He was watching Sir John's face with
the curious, intent look of a forest animal that so often possessed his
long, dark eyes. Suddenly he remembered himself. "Oh, yes," he said
hastily, "I beg your pardon. Thanks, very much."

"Good-night!" Sir John and Lady Masters passed through the glass doors.

Burnaby paused a moment where he had shaken hands, and then, with the
long stride characteristic of him, went to the window and, drawing aside
the curtain, peered into the darkness beyond. He stood listening until
the purr of a great motor rose and died on the snow-muffled air. "He's
gone!" he said, and turned back into the room. He spread his arms out
and dropped them to his sides. "Swastika!" he said. "And God keep us
from the evil eye!"

"What do you mean?" asked Mrs. Malcolm.

"Sir John," said Burnaby. "He has 'a bad heart.'"

"Stop talking your Indian talk and tell us what you mean."

Burnaby balanced himself on the hearth. "Am I to understand you don't
know?" he asked. "Well, Morton's Masters, and 'the girl's' Lady Masters,
and Bewsher--well, he's just a squaw-man."

"I don't believe it!" said Mrs. Malcolm. "He wouldn't dare."

"Wouldn't dare?" Burnaby laughed shortly. "My dear Minna, he'd dare
anything if it gave him a sense of power."

"But why--why did he choose us? We're not so important as all that?"

"Because--well, Bewsher's name came up. Because, well, you heard what he
said--self-revelation--men who had sweated. Because--" suddenly Burnaby
took a step forward and his jaw shot out--"because that shadow of his,
that wife of his, broke a champagne-glass when I said Geoffrey
Boisselier Bewsher; broke her champagne-glass and, I've no doubt, cried
out loud in her heart. Power can't buy love--no; but power can stamp to
death anything that won't love it. That's Masters. I can tell a
timber-wolf far off. Can you see him now in his motor? He'll have turned
the lights out, and she--his wife--will be looking out of the window at
the snow. All you can see of him would be his nose and his beard and the
glow of his cigar--except his smile. You could see that when the car
passed a corner lamp, couldn't you?"

"I don't believe it yet," said Mrs. Malcolm. "It's too preposterous."



LONELY PLACES[5]

[Note 5: Copyright, 1917, by The Pictorial Review Company.
Copyright, 1918, by Francis Buzzell.]

BY FRANCIS BUZZELL

From _The Pictorial Review_


She was not quite forty years old, but so aged was she in appearance
that another twenty-five years would not find her perceptibly older. And
to the people of Almont she was still Abbie Snover, or "that Snover
girl." Age in Almont is not reckoned in years, but by marriage, and by
children, and grandchildren.

Nearly all the young men of Abbie's generation had gone to the City,
returning only in after years, with the intention of staying a week or
two weeks, and leaving at the end of a day, or two days. So Abbie never
married.

It had never occurred to Abbie to leave Almont because all the young men
had gone away. She had been born in the big house at the foot of Tillson
Street; she had never lived anywhere else; she had never slept anywhere
but in the black walnut bed in the South bedroom.

At the age of twenty-five, Abbie inherited the big house, and with it
hired-man Chris. He was part of her inheritance. Her memory of him, like
her memory of the big house, went back as far as her memory of herself.

Every Winter evening, between seven and eight o'clock, Abbie lighted the
glass-handled lamp, placed it on the marble-topped table in the parlor
window, and sat down beside it. The faint light of this lamp, gleaming
through the snow-hung, shelving evergreens, was the only sign that the
big house was there, and occupied. When the wind blew from the West she
could occasionally hear a burst of laughter from the boys and girls
sliding down Giddings's Hill; the song of some young farmer driving
home. She thought of the Spring, when the snow would disappear, and the
honeysuckle would flower, and the wrens would again occupy the old
teapots hung in the vines of the dining-room porch.

The things that made the people of Almont interesting to each other and
drew them together meant nothing to Abbie Snover. When she had become
too old to be asked in marriage by any one, she had stopped going to
dances and to sleigh-rides, and no one had asked her why. Then she had
left the choir.

Except when she went to do her marketing, Abbie was never seen on the
streets.

For fifteen years after Amos Snover died, Abbie and Old Chris lived
alone in the big house. Every Saturday morning, as her mother had done
before her, Abbie went to the grocery store, to the butcher shop, and to
"Newberry's." She always walked along the East side of Main Street, Old
Chris, with the market-basket, following about three feet behind her.
And every Saturday night Old Chris went down-town to sit in the back of
Pot Lippincott's store and visit with Owen Frazer, who drove in from the
sixty acres he farmed as a "renter" at Mile Corners. Once every week
Abbie made a batch of cookies, cutting the thin-rolled dough into the
shape of leaves with an old tin cutter that had been her mother's. She
stored the cookies in the shiny tin pail that stood on the shelf in the
clothes-press of the downstairs bedroom, because that was where her
mother had always kept them, to be handy and yet out of reach of the
hired help. And when Jennie Sanders's children came to her door on their
way home from school she gave them two cookies each, because her mother
had always given her two.

Once every three months "the Jersey girls," dressed in black broadcloth,
with black, fluted ruffles around their necks, and black-flowered
bonnets covering their scanty hair, turned the corner at Chase's Lane,
walked three blocks to the foot of Tilson Street, and rang Abbie
Snover's door-bell.

As Old Chris grew older and less able, Abbie was compelled to close off
first one room and then another; but Old Chris still occupied the back
chamber near the upstairs woodroom, and Abbie still slept in the South
bedroom.

Early one October afternoon, Jim East, Almont's express agent and keeper
of the general store, drove his hooded delivery cart up to the front
steps of the big house. He trembled with excitement as he climbed down
from the seat.

"Abbie Snover! Ab--bie!" he called. "I got somethin' for you! A package
all the way from China! Just you come an' look!"

Jim East lifted the package out of the delivery cart, carried it up the
steps, and set it down at Abbie's feet.

"Just you look, Abbie! That there crate's made of little fishin' poles,
an' what's inside's all wrapped up in Chinee mats!"

Old Chris came around from the back of the house. Jim East grabbed his
arm and pointed at the bamboo crate:

"Just you put your nose down, Chris, an' smell. Ain't that foreign?"

Abbie brought her scissors. Carefully she removed the red and yellow
labels.

"There's American writin' on 'em, too," Jim East hastened to explain,
"'cause otherwise how'd I know who it was _for_, hey?"

Abbie carried the labels into the parlor and looked for a safe place for
them. She saw the picture-album and put them in it. Then she hurried
back to the porch. Old Chris opened one end of the crate.

"It's a plant," Jim East whispered; "a Chinee plant."

"It's a dwarf orange-tree," Old Chris announced. "See, it says so on
that there card."

Abbie carried the little orange-tree into the parlor. Who could have
sent it to her? There was no one she knew, away off there in China!

"You be careful of that bamboo and the wrappings," she warned Old Chris.
"I'll make something decorative-like out of them."

Abbie waited until Jim East drove away in his delivery cart. Then she
sat down at the table in the parlor and opened the album. She found her
name on one of the labels--ABBIE SNOVER, ALMONT, MICHIGAN, U. S. A. It
seemed queer to her that her name had come all the way from China. On
the card that said that the plant was a dwarf orange-tree she found the
name--Thomas J. Thorington. Thomas? Tom? Tom Thorington! Why, the last
she had heard of Tom had been fifteen years back. He had gone out West.
She had received a picture of him in a uniform, with a gun on his
shoulder. She dimly recollected that he had been a guard at some
penitentiary. How long ago it seemed! He must have become a missionary
or something, to be away off in China. And he had remembered her! She
sat for a long time looking at the labels. She wondered if the queer
Chinese letters spelled ABBIE SNOVER, ALMONT, MICHIGAN. She opened the
album again and hunted until she found the picture of Tom Thorington in
his guard's uniform. Then she placed the labels next to the picture,
closed the album, and carefully fastened the adjustable clasp.

* * *

Under Abbie's constant attention, the little orange-tree thrived. A tiny
green orange appeared. Day by day she watched it grow, looking forward
to the time when it would become large and yellow. The days grew shorter
and colder, but she did not mind; every week the orange grew larger.
After the first snow, she moved the tree into the down-stairs bedroom.
She placed it on a little stand in the South window. The inside blinds,
which she had always kept as her mother liked them best--the lower
blinds closed, the top blinds opened a little to let in the morning
light--she now threw wide open so that the tree would get all of the
sun. And she kept a fire in the small sheet-iron stove, for fear that
the old, drafty wood furnace might not send up a steady enough heat
through the register. When the nights became severe, she crept down the
narrow, winding stairs, and through the cold, bare halls, to put an
extra chunk of hardwood into the stove. Every morning she swept and
dusted the room; the ashes and wood dirt around the stove gave her
something extra to do near the orange-tree. She removed the red and
white coverlet from the bed, and put in its place the fancy patch-quilt
with the green birds and the yellow flowers, to make the room look
brighter.

"Abbie Snover loves that orange-tree more'n anything in the world," Old
Chris cautioned the children when they came after cookies, "an' don't
you dare touch it, even with your little finger."

The growing orange was as wonderful to the children as it was to Abbie.
Instead of taking the cookies and hurrying home, they stood in front of
the tree, their eyes round and big. And one day, when Abbie went to the
clothes-press to get the cookie-pail, Bruce Sanders snipped the orange
from the tree.

The children were unnaturally still when Abbie came out of the
clothes-press. They did not rush forward to get the cookies. Abbie
looked quickly at the tree; the pail of cookies dropped from her hands.
She grabbed the two children nearest and shook them until their heads
bumped together. Then she drove them all in front of her to the door and
down the path to the gate, which she slammed shut behind them.

Once outside the gate the children ran, yelling: "Ab-bie Sno-ver,
na--aa--ah! Ab-bie Sno-ver, na--aa--ah!"

Abbie, her hands trembling, her eyes hot, went back into the house. That
was what came of letting them take fruit from the trees and vines in
the yard; of giving them cookies every time they rang her door-bell.
Well, there would be no more cookies, and Old Chris should be told never
to let them come into the yard again.

That evening, when the metallic hiccough of the well pump on the kitchen
porch told her that Old Chris was drawing up fresh water for the night,
Abbie went out into the kitchen to make sure that he placed one end of
the prop under the knob of the kitchen door and the other end against
the leg of the kitchen table.

"It'll freeze afore mornin'," said Old Chris.

"Yes," Abbie answered.

But she did not get up in the night to put an extra chunk of wood in the
stove of the down-stairs bedroom.

* * *

"Ab-bie Sno-ver, na--aa--ah! Ab-bie Sno-ver, na--aa--ah!"

Old Chris stopped shoveling snow to shake his fist at the yelling
children.

"Your Mas'll fix you, if you don't stop that screechin'!"

And they answered: "Ab-bie Sno-ver, an' old Chris! Ab-bie Sno-ver, an'
old Chris!"

Every day they yelled the two names as they passed the big house. They
yelled them on their way to and from school, and on their way to
Giddings's Hill to slide. The older boys took it up, and yelled it when
they saw Abbie and Old Chris on Main Street Saturday mornings. And
finally they rimed it into a couplet,

    "Ab-bie Sno-ver, an' Old Chris--
    We saw Chris an' Ab-bie kiss!"

It was too much. Abbie went to Hugh Perry's mother.

Mrs. Perry defended her young son. "He couldn't have done it," she told
Abbie. "He ain't that kind of a boy, and you can just tell that Old
Chris I said so. I guess it must be true, the way you're fussin'
round!"

Mrs. Perry slammed the door in Abbie's face. Then she whipped her young
son, and hated Abbie and Old Chris because they were responsible for it.

"That Abbie Snover came to my house," Mrs. Perry told Mrs. Rowles, "an'
said my Hugh had been a-couplin' her name with Old Chris's in a nasty
way. An' I told her--"

"The idea! the idea!" Mrs. Rowles interrupted.

"An' I told her it must be so, an' I guess it is," Mrs. Perry concluded.

Mrs. Rowles called upon Pastor Lucus's wife.

"Abbie Snover an' Old Chris was seen kissin'."

"It's scandalous," Mrs. Lucas told the pastor. "The town shouldn't put
up with it a minute longer. That's what comes of Abbie Snover not coming
to church since her Ma died."

On Saturday mornings when Abbie went down-town followed by Old Chris,
the women eyed her coldly, and the faces of the men took on quizzical,
humorous expressions. Abbie could not help but notice it; she was
disturbed. The time for "the Jersey girls" to call came around. Every
afternoon Abbie sat in the window and watched for them to turn the
corner at Chase's Lane. She brought out the polished apples which she
kept in the clothes-press all ready for some one, but "the Jersey girls"
did not come.

"You haven't heard of anybody being sick at the Jersey house, have you,
Chris?"

"Um? Nope!"

"Haven't seen Josie or Em Jersey anywhere lately?"

"Seen 'em at the post-office night afore last."

"H'mp!"

Abbie pushed the kettle to the front of the kitchen stove, poked up the
fire, and put in fresh sticks of wood. When the water boiled she poured
it into a blue-lacquered pail with yellow bands around the rim, carried
it up the steep back stairs, and got out fresh stockings.

An hour later Old Chris saw her climbing up Tillson street. He scratched
his head and frowned.

Abbie turned the corner at Chase's Lane. The snow, driven by the wind,
blinded her. She almost bumped into Viny Freeman.

"My, Viny! What you doing out on such a day?"

Viny Freeman passed her without answering.

"Seems she didn't see me," Abbie muttered. "What can she be doing away
down here on such a day? Must be something special to bring her out of
her lonely old house with her lame side. My! I almost bumped that hand
she's always holding up her pain with. My!"

Abbie turned into the Jersey gate and climbed the icy steps, hanging
onto the railing with both hands. She saw Em Jersey rise from her chair
in the parlor and go into the back sitting-room. Abbie pulled the
bell-knob and waited. No one answered. She pulled it again. No answer.
She rapped on the door with her knuckles. Big Mary, the Jersey hired
girl, opened the door part way.

"They ain't to home."

"Ain't to home?" exclaimed Abbie. "My land! Didn't I just see Em Jersey
through the parlor window?"

"No'm, you never did. They ain't to home."

"Well, I never! And their Ma and mine was cousins! They ain't sick or
nothing? Well!"

* * *

The snow melted; the streets ran with water and then froze. Old Chris no
longer came into the parlor in the evening to sit, his hands clasped
over his thin stomach, his bald head bent until his chin rested upon the
starched neckband of his shirt.

They ate in silence the meals which Abbie prepared: Old Chris at one end
of the long table, and Abbie at the other end.

In silence they went about their accustomed tasks.

Abbie, tired with a new weariness, sat in her chair beside the
marble-topped table. The village was talking about her; she knew it; she
felt it all around her. Well, let them talk!

But one day Almont sent a committee to her. It was composed of one man
and three women. Abbie saw them when they turned in at her gate--Pastor
Lucus Lorina Inman, Antha Ewell, and Aunt Alphie Newberry.

Abbie walked to the center of the parlor and stood there, her hands
clenched, her face set. The door-bell rang; for a moment her body
swayed. Then she went into the bay window and drew the blinds aside.
Antha Ewell saw her and jerked Pastor Lucus's arm. Pastor Lucus turned
and caught sight of Abbie; he thought that she had not heard the bell,
so he tapped the door panel with his fingers and nodded his head at her
invitingly, as if to say:

"See, we're waiting for you to let us in." Abbie's expression did not
change. Pastor Lucus tapped at the door again, this time hesitantly, and
still she looked at them with unseeing eyes. He tapped a third time,
then turned and looked at the three women. Aunt Alphie Newberry tugged,
at his arm, and the committee of four turned about without looking at
Abbie, and walked down the steps.

A few minutes later Abbie heard the door between the parlor and
dining-room open. Old Chris came in. For a moment or two neither spoke.
Old Chris fingered his cap.

"Abbie, I lived here forty-two years. I was here when you was born. I
carried you around in my arms a little bit of thing an' made you laugh."

Abbie did not turn away from the window.

"I know what they came for," Old Chris continued. "Your Ma--your Ma,
she'd never thought I'd have to go away from here."

Abbie could not answer him.

"I don't know who'll keep the furnace a-goin' when I'm gone, nor fill
the up-stairs woodroom."

Still no answer.

"I'm old now--I'll go to Owen Frazer's farm--down to Mile Corners. He'll
have some work I can do."

Old Chris stroked his baggy cheeks with trembling hands. Abbie still
looked out of the window.

"I'm a-goin' down to the post-office now," said Old Chris, as he turned
and went to the door. "Be there anything you want?"

Abbie shook her head; she could not find words. As Old Chris went down
the hall she heard him mumble, "I don't know what she'll do when I'm
gone."

That night Abbie sat in the parlor window longer than usual. It was a
white night; wet snow had been falling heavily all day. Some time
between eight and nine o'clock she arose from her chair and went into
the long, narrow dining-room. The pat-pat of her slippered feet aroused
Old Chris from his nodding over the _Farm Herald_. Finding that the hot
air was not coming up strong through the register over which he sat, the
old man slowly pushed his wool-socked feet into felt-lined overshoes and
tramped down into the cellar, picking up the kitchen lamp as he went.
Abbie followed as far as the kitchen. The pungent dry-wood smell that
came up the stairs when Old Chris swung open the door of the wood cellar
made her sniff. She heard the sounds as he loaded the wheelbarrow with
the sticks of quartered hardwood; the noise of the wheel bumping over
the loose boards as he pushed his load into the furnace-room. She went
back into the parlor and stood over the register. Hollow sounds came up
through the pipe as Old Chris leveled the ashes in the fire-box and
threw in the fresh sticks.

When Old Chris came up from the cellar and went out onto the porch to
draw up fresh water for the night, Abbie went back into the kitchen.

"It's snowin' hard out," said Old Chris.

"Yes," Abbie answered.

She led the way back into the dining-room. Old Chris placed the kitchen
lamp on the stand under the fruit picture and waited. For a few moments
they stood in the blast of hot air rising from the register. Then Abbie
took up the larger of the two lamps. Through the bare, high-ceilinged
rooms she went, opening and closing the heavy doors; on through the
cold, empty hall, up the stairs, into the South bedroom. While she was
closing the blinds she heard Old Chris stumble up the back stairs and
into the chamber he had occupied ever since she could remember.

The night after Old Chris had gone, Abbie took the brass dinner-bell
from the pantry shelf and set it on the chair beside her bed. Over the
back of the chair she placed her heavy, rabbit-lined coat; it would be
handy if any one disturbed her. Once or twice when she heard sounds, she
put out her hand and touched the bell; but the sounds did not recur. The
next night she tried sleeping in the down-stairs bedroom. The
blue-and-gray carpet, the blue fixings on the bureau and commode, the
blue bands around the wash-bowl and pitcher--all faded and
old-looking--reminded her of her mother and father, and would not let
her sleep. On the wall in front of her was a picture in a black frame of
a rowboat filled with people. It was called "From Shore to Shore."
Trying not to see it, her eyes were caught by a black-and-white print in
a gilt frame, called "The First Steps." How she had loved the picture
when she was a little girl; her mother had explained it to her many
times--the bird teaching its little ones to fly; the big, shaggy dog
encouraging its waddling puppies; the mother coaxing her baby to walk
alone.

At midnight Abbie got out of bed, picked up the dinner-bell by the
clapper, and went back up-stairs to the South bedroom.

The tall, bare walls of the big house, the high ceilings with their
centerpieces of plaster fruits and flowers, the cold whiteness, closed
her in. Having no one to talk to, she talked to herself: "It's snowin'
hard out----why! that was what Old Chris said the night before he went
away." She began to be troubled by a queer, detached feeling; she knew
that she had mislaid something, but just what she could not remember.
Forebodings came to her, distressing, disquieting. There would never be
any one for her to speak to--never! The big house grew terrible; the
rooms echoed her steps. She would have given everything for a little
house of two or three small, low-ceilinged rooms close to the sidewalk
on a street where people passed up and down.

A night came when Abbie forgot that Old Chris had gone away. She had
been sitting in her chair beside the marble-topped table, staring out
into the night. All day the wind had blown; snow was piled high around
the porch. Her thoughts had got back to her childhood. Somehow they had
centered around the old grandfather who, years before, had sat in the
same window. She saw him in his chair; heard his raspy old voice, "I
married Jane sixty-eight an' a half years ago, an' a half year in a
man's life is something, I'll bet you. An' I buried her thirty years
ago, an' that's a long time, too. We never tore each other's shirts.
Jane wanted to live a quiet life. She wanted one child, an' she was
tenacious 'bout that. She never wanted any more, an' she had three, an'
one of 'em was your Ma. She never wanted to be seen out with a baby in
her arms, Jane didn't. I made her get bundled up once or twice, an' I
hitched up the horse an' took her ridin' in my phaeton that cost two
hundred dollars.--You'll be in your dotage some day, Abbie. I've been in
my dotage for years now.--Oh, I altered my life to fit Jane's. I
expected I had a wife to go out and see the neighbors with. By gosh! we
never went across the street--I'll take on goodness some day, Abbie. By
goll! that's all I'm good for to take on now.--Oh, it beat all what a
boy I was. I and Mother broke our first team of oxen. When you get
children, Abbie, let them raise themselves up. They'll do better at it
than a poor father or mother can. I had the finest horses and the best
phaeton for miles around, but you never saw a girl a-ridin' by the side
of me.--Some men can't work alone, Abbie. They got to have the women
around or they quit. Don't you get that kind of a man, Abbie.--Oh, she
was renowned was my old mare, Kit. You never got to the end of her. She
lived to be more'n thirty year, an' she raised fourteen colts. She was a
darned good little thing she was. I got her for a big black mare that
weighed fourteen hundred pound, an' I made 'em give me ten dollars, too,
an' I got her colt with her--"

Abbie suddenly realized that she was shivering; that her feet were cold;
that it was long after nine o'clock. Old Chris must have fallen asleep
in his chair. She went to the dining-room door and opened it; the
dining-room was dark. Why?--why, of course! Old Chris had been gone for
more than three weeks. She took hold of the door to steady herself; her
hands shook. How could she have forgotten? Was she going crazy? Would
the loneliness come to that?

Abbie went to bed. All night she lay awake, thinking. The thoughts came
of themselves. What the town had to say didn't matter after all; the
town had paid her no attention for years; it was paying her no attention
now. Why, then, should she live without any one to speak to? "I'll go
and get Old Chris, that's what I'll do. I won't live here alone any
longer." And with this decision she went to sleep.

In the morning when Abbie opened the kitchen door and stepped out onto
the porch, frost lay thick upon the well pump.

She drew her shawl close around her and took hold of the pump-handle
with her mittened hands. When she had filled the pail she went back into
the kitchen. The sound of the wind made her shiver. To walk all the way
to Mile Corners on such a day required green tea, so Abbie drank three
cupfuls. Then, as on the day when she went out to call upon "the Jersey
girls," she carried hot water up-stairs and got out fresh stockings.

About nine o'clock three women of Pastor Lucus's church, standing on the
front steps of Aunt Alphie Newberry's house, saw Abbie struggling
through a drift.

"Why, there's Abbie Snover," said Jennie Chipman.

"She's turnin' down the road to Mile Corners," added Judie Wing.

Aunt Alphie Newberry opened the door to the three women:

"Whatever's the matter to be bringin' you callin' so early?"

"Ain't you heard yet?"

"We come to tell you."

"My! my! my! What can have happened?" Aunt Alphie exclaimed.

"Old Chris died last night--"

"Just after bein' middlin' sick for a day an'--"

"An' they say," Judie Wing interrupted, "that it was 'cause Abbie Snover
turned him out."

* * *

Abbie reached the end of the town sidewalk. Lifting her skirts high, she
waded through the deep snow to the rough-rutted track left by the
farmers' sleighs. Every little while she had to step off the road into
the deep snow to let a bob-sled loaded high with hay or straw pass on
its way into town. Some of the farmers recognized her; they spoke to her
with kindly voices, but she made no answer. Walking was hard; Owen
Frazer's farm was over the hill; there was a steep climb ahead of her.
And besides, Owen Frazer's house was no place for Old Chris. No one knew
anything about Owen Frazer and that woman of his; they hadn't been born
in Almont. How could she have let Old Chris go down there, anyway?

"Whoa up! Hey! Better climb in, Abbie, an' ride with me. This ain't no
day for walkin'. Get up here on the seat. I'll come down an' help you."

Abbie looked up at Undertaker Hopkins. In the box of his funeral wagon
was a black coffin with a sprinkling of snow on its top. Abbie shook her
head, but did not speak.

"Guess I shouldn't have asked you," Undertaker Hopkins apologized.
"Sorry! Get along as fast as you can, Abbie. It's gettin' mighty,
all-fired cold. It'll be a little sheltered when you get over the hill."

Undertaker Hopkins drove on. Abbie tried to keep her feet in the fresh
track made by the runners. She reached the top of the hill. Owen
Frazer's red barn stood up above the snow. Undertaker Hopkins and his
funeral wagon had disappeared.

"He must have turned down the Mill Road," Abbie muttered.

She reached the gate in front of the low, one-story farmhouse. A
shepherd dog barked as she went up the path. She rapped at the front
door. A woman appeared at the window and pointed to the side of the
house. Abbie's face expressed surprise and resentment. She backed down
the steps and made her way to the back door. The woman, Owen Frazer's
wife, let her into the kitchen.

"Owen! Here be Abbie Snover!"

Owen Frazer came in from the front of the house.

"Good day! Didn't expect you here. Pretty cold out, ain't it? Have a
chair."

Abbie did not realize how numb the cold had made her body until she
tried to sit down.

"Maggie, give her a cup of that hot tea," Owen Frazer continued. "She's
been almost froze, an' I guess she'll have a cup of tea. Hey! Miss
Snover?"

"I want to talk to Old Chris."

"Talk to Old Chris! Talk to Old Chris, you want to?"

Owen Frazer looked at his wife. Abbie Snover didn't know, yet she had
walked all the way to Mile Corners in the cold. He couldn't understand
it.

"What'd you come for, anyhow, Abbie Snover?"

"Now, Owen, you wait!" Owen Frazer's wife turned to Abbie:

"Got lonesome, did you, all by yourself in that big barn of a house?"

"I want to talk to Old Chris," Abbie repeated.

"Was you so fond of him, then?"

Abbie made no answer. Owen Frazer went over to the sink and looked out
of the window at the bed-tick smoldering on the rubbish heap. Owen
Frazer's wife pushed open the door of the sitting-room, then stood back
and turned to Abbie:

"You may be fine old family, Abbie Snover, but we're better. You turned
Old Chris out, an' now you want to talk to him. All right, talk to him
if you want to. He's in the parlor. Go on in now. Talk to him if you
want to--go on in!"

The animosity in Mrs. Frazer's voice shook Abbie; she was disturbed;
doubt came to her for the first time. As she went through the
sitting-room, fear slowed her steps. Perhaps they had turned Old Chris
away from her and she would have to go back alone, to live alone, for
all the remaining years of her life, in that big house.



BOYS WILL BE BOYS[6]

[Note 6: Copyright, 1917, by The Curtis Publishing Company.
Copyright, 1918, by Irvin S. Cobb.]

BY IRVIN S. COBB

From _The Saturday Evening Post_


When Judge Priest, on this particular morning, came puffing into his
chambers at the courthouse, looking, with his broad beam and in his
costume of flappy, loose white ducks, a good deal like an old-fashioned
full-rigger with all sails set, his black shadow, Jeff Poindexter, had
already finished the job of putting the quarters to rights for the day.
The cedar water bucket had been properly replenished; the jagged flange
of a fifteen-cent chunk of ice protruded above the rim of the bucket;
and alongside, on the appointed nail, hung the gourd dipper that the
master always used. The floor had been swept, except, of course, in the
corners and underneath things; there were evidences, in streaky scrolls
of fine grit particles upon various flat surfaces, that a dusting brush
had been more or less sparingly employed. A spray of trumpet flowers,
plucked from the vine that grew outside the window, had been draped over
the framed steel engraving of President Davis and his Cabinet upon the
wall; and on the top of the big square desk in the middle of the room,
where a small section of cleared green-blotter space formed an oasis in
a dry and arid desert of cluttered law journals and dusty documents, the
morning's mail rested in a little heap.

Having placed his old cotton umbrella in a corner, having removed his
coat and hung it upon a peg behind the hall door, and having seen to it
that a palm-leaf fan was in arm's reach should he require it, the
Judge, in his billowy white shirt, sat down at his desk and gave his
attention to his letters. There was an invitation from the Hylan B.
Gracey Camp of Confederate Veterans of Eddyburg, asking him to deliver
the chief oration at the annual reunion, to be held at Mineral Springs
on the twelfth day of the following month; an official notice from the
clerk of the Court of Appeals concerning the affirmation of a judgment
that had been handed down by Judge Priest at the preceding term of his
own court; a bill for five pounds of a special brand of smoking tobacco;
a notice of a lodge meeting--altogether quite a sizable batch of mail.

At the bottom of the pile he came upon a long envelope addressed to him
by his title, instead of by his name, and bearing on its upper
right-hand corner several foreign-looking stamps; they were British
stamps, he saw, on closer examination.

To the best of his recollection it had been a good long time since Judge
Priest had had a communication by post from overseas. He adjusted his
steel-bowed spectacles, ripped the wrapper with care and shook out the
contents. There appeared to be several inclosures; in fact, there were
several--a sheaf of printed forms, a document with seals attached, and a
letter that covered two sheets of paper with typewritten lines. To the
letter the recipient gave consideration first. Before he reached the end
of the opening paragraph he uttered a profound grunt of surprise; his
reading of the rest was frequently punctuated by small exclamations, his
face meantime puckering up in interested lines. At the conclusion, when
he came to the signature, he indulged himself in a soft low whistle. He
read the letter all through again, and after that he examined the forms
and the document which had accompanied it.

Chuckling under his breath, he wriggled himself free from the snug
embrace of his chair arms and waddled out of his own office and down the
long bare empty hall to the office of Sheriff Giles Birdsong. Within,
that competent functionary, Deputy Sheriff Breck Quarles, sat at ease in
his shirt sleeves, engaged, with the smaller blade of his pocketknife,
in performing upon his finger nails an operation that combined the fine
deftness of the manicure with the less delicate art of the farrier. At
the sight of the Judge in the open doorway he hastily withdrew from a
tabletop, where they rested, a pair of long thin legs, and rose.

"Mornin', Breck," said Judge Priest to the other's salutation. "No,
thank you, son. I won't come in; but I've got a little job for you. I
wisht, ef you ain't too busy, that you'd step down the street and see ef
you can't find Peep O'Day fur me and fetch him back here with you. It
won't take you long, will it?"

"No, suh--not very." Mr. Quarles reached for his hat and snuggled his
shoulder holster back inside his unbuttoned waistcoat. "He'll most
likely be down round Gafford's stable. Whut's Old Peep been doin',
Judge--gettin' himself in contempt of court or somethin'?" He grinned,
asking the question with the air of one making a little joke.

"No," vouchsafed the Judge; "he ain't done nothin'. But he's about to
have somethin' of a highly onusual nature done to him. You jest tell him
I'm wishful to see him right away--that'll be sufficient, I reckin."

Without making further explanation, Judge Priest returned to his
chambers and for the third time read the letter from foreign parts.
Court was not in session, and the hour was early and the weather was
hot; nobody interrupted him. Perhaps fifteen minutes passed. Mr. Quarles
poked his head in at the door.

"I found him, suh," the deputy stated. "He's outside here in the hall."

"Much obliged to you, son," said Judge Priest. "Send him on in, will
you, please?"

The head was withdrawn; its owner lingered out of sight of His Honor,
but within earshot. It was hard to figure the presiding judge of the
First Judicial District of the State of Kentucky as having business with
Peep O'Day; and, though Mr. Quarles was no eavesdropper, still he felt a
pardonable curiosity in whatsoever might transpire. As he feigned an
absorbed interest in a tax notice, which was pasted on a blackboard just
outside the office door, there entered the presence of the Judge a man
who seemingly was but a few years younger than the Judge himself--a man
who looked to be somewhere between sixty-five and seventy. There is a
look that you may have seen in the eyes of ownerless but
well-intentioned dogs--dogs that, expecting kicks as their daily
portion, are humbly grateful for kind words and stray bones; dogs that
are fairly yearning to be adopted by somebody--by anybody--being
prepared to give to such a benefactor a most faithful doglike devotion
in return.

This look, which is fairly common among masterless and homeless dogs, is
rare among humans; still, once in a while you do find it there too. The
man who now timidly shuffled himself across the threshold of Judge
Priest's office had such a look out of his eyes. He had a long simple
face, partly inclosed in gray whiskers. Four dollars would have been a
sufficient price to pay for the garments he stood in, including the
wrecked hat he held in his hands and the broken, misshaped shoes on his
feet. A purchaser who gave more than four dollars for the whole in its
present state of decrepitude would have been but a poor hand at
bargaining.

The man who wore this outfit coughed in an embarrassed fashion and
halted, fumbling his ruinous hat in his hands.

"Howdy do?" said Judge Priest heartily. "Come in!"

The other diffidently advanced himself a yard or two.

"Excuse me, suh," he said apologetically; "but this here Breck Quarles
he come after me and he said ez how you wanted to see me. 'Twas him ez
brung me here, suh."

Faintly underlying the drawl of the speaker was just a suspicion--a mere
trace, as you might say--of a labial softness that belongs solely and
exclusively to the children, and in a diminishing degree to the
grandchildren, of native-born sons and daughters of a certain small
green isle in the sea. It was not so much a suggestion of a brogue as it
was the suggestion of the ghost of a brogue; a brogue almost
extinguished, almost obliterated, and yet persisting through the
generations--South of Ireland struggling beneath south of Mason and
Dixon's Line.

"Yes," said the Judge; "that's right. I do want to see you." The tone
was one that he might employ in addressing a bashful child. "Set down
there and make yourself at home."

The newcomer obeyed to the extent of perching himself on the extreme
forward edge of a chair. His feet shuffled uneasily where they were
drawn up against the cross rung of the chair.

The Judge reared well back, studying his visitor over the tops of his
glasses with rather a quizzical look. In one hand he balanced the large
envelope which had come to him that morning.

"Seems to me I heared somewheres, years back, that your regular
Christian name was Paul--is that right?" he asked.

"Shorely is, suh," assented the ragged man, surprised and plainly
grateful that one holding a supremely high position in the community
should vouchsafe to remember a fact relating to so inconsequent an atom
as himself. "But I ain't heared it fur so long I come mighty nigh
furgittin' it sometimes, myself. You see, Judge Priest, when I wasn't
nothin' but jest a shaver folks started in to callin' me Peep--on
account of my last name bein O'Day, I reckin. They been callin' me so
ever since. Fust off, 'twas Little Peep, and then jest plain Peep; and
now it's got to be Old Peep. But my real entitled name is Paul, jest
like you said, Judge--Paul Felix O'Day."

"Uh-huh! And wasn't your father's name Philip and your mother's name
Katherine Dwyer O'Day?"

"To the best of my recollection that's partly so, too, suh. They both of
'em up and died when I was a baby, long before I could remember anything
a-tall. But they always told me my paw's name was Phil, or Philip. Only
my maw's name wasn't Kath--Kath--wasn't whut you jest now called it,
Judge. It was plain Kate."

"Kate or Katherine--it makes no great difference," explained Judge
Priest. "I reckin the record is straight this fur. And now think hard
and see ef you kin ever remember hearin' of an uncle named Daniel
O'Day--your father's brother."

The answer was a shake of the tousled head.

"I don't know nothin' about my people. I only jest know they come over
frum some place with a funny name in the Old Country before I was born.
The onliest kin I ever had over here was that there no-'count triflin'
nephew of mine--Perce Dwyer--him that uster hang round this town. I
reckin you call him to mind, Judge?"

The old Judge nodded before continuing:

"All the same, I reckin there ain't no manner of doubt but whut you had
an uncle of the name of Daniel. All the evidences would seem to p'int
that way. Accordin' to the proofs, this here Uncle Daniel of yours lived
in a little town called Kilmare, in Ireland." He glanced at one of the
papers that lay on his desktop; then added in a casual tone: "Tell me,
Peep, whut are you doin' now fur a livin'?"

The object of this examination grinned a faint grin of extenuation.

"Well, suh, I'm knockin' about, doin' the best I kin--which ain't much.
I help out round Gafford's liver' stable, and Pete Gafford he lets me
sleep in a little room behind the feed room, and his wife she gives me
my vittles. Oncet in a while I git a chancet to do odd jobs fur folks
round town--cuttin' weeds and splittin' stove wood and packin' in coal,
and sech ez that."

"Not much money in it, is there?"

"No, suh; not much. Folks is more prone to offer me old clothes than
they are to pay me in cash. Still, I manage to git along. I don't live
very fancy; but, then, I don't starve, and that's more'n some kin say."

"Peep, whut was the most money you ever had in your life--at one time?"

Peep scratched with a freckled hand at his thatch of faded whitish hair
to stimulate recollection.

"I reckin not more'n six bits at any one time, suh. Seems like I've
sorter got the knack of livin' without money."

"Well, Peep, sech bein' the case, whut would you say ef I was to tell
you that you're a rich man?"

The answer came slowly:

"I reckin, suh, ef it didn't sound disrespectful, I'd say you was
prankin' with me--makin' fun of me, suh."

Judge Priest bent forward in his chair.

"I'm not prankin' with you. It's my pleasant duty to inform you that at
this moment you are the rightful owner of eight thousand pounds."

"Pounds of whut, Judge?" The tone expressed a heavy incredulity.

"Why, pounds in money."

Outside, in the hall, with one ear held conveniently near the crack in
the door, Deputy Sheriff Quarles gave a violent start; and then, at
once, was torn between a desire to stay and hear more and an urge to
hurry forth and spread the unbelievable tidings. After the briefest of
struggles the latter inclination won; this news was too marvelously good
to keep; surely a harbinger and a herald were needed to spread it
broadcast.

Mr. Quarles tiptoed rapidly down the hall. When he reached the sidewalk
the volunteer bearer of a miraculous tale fairly ran. As for the man who
sat facing the Judge, he merely stared in a dull bewilderment.

"Judge," he said at length, "eight thousand pounds of money oughter make
a powerful big pile, oughten it?"

"It wouldn't weigh quite that much ef you put it on the scales,"
explained His Honor painstakingly. "I mean pounds sterlin'--English
money. Near ez I kin figger offhand, it comes in our money to somewheres
between thirty-five and forty thousand dollars--nearer forty than
thirty-five. And it's yours, Peep--every red cent of it."

"Excuse me, suh, and not meanin' to contradict you, or nothin' like
that; but I reckin there must be some mistake. Why, Judge, I don't
scursely know anybody that's ez wealthy ez all that, let alone anybody
that'd give me sech a lot of money."

"Listen, Peep: This here letter I'm holdin' in my hand came to me by
to-day's mail--jest a little spell ago. It's frum Ireland--frum the town
of Kilmare, where your people came frum. It was sent to me by a firm of
barristers in that town--lawyers we'd call 'em. In this letter they ask
me to find you and to tell you what's happened. It seems, from whut they
write, that your uncle, by name Daniel O'Day, died not very long ago
without issue--that is to say, without leavin' any children of his own,
and without makin' any will.

"It appears he had eight thousand pounds saved up. Ever since he died
those lawyers and some other folks over there in Ireland have been
tryin' to find out who that money should go to. They learnt in some way
that your father and your mother settled in this town a mighty long time
ago, and that they died here and left one son, which is you. All the
rest of the family over there in Ireland have already died out, it
seems; that natchelly makes you the next of kin and the heir at law,
which means that all your uncle's money comes direct to you.

"So, Peep, you're a wealthy man in your own name. That's the news I had
to tell you. Allow me to congratulate you on your good fortune."

The beneficiary rose to his feet, seeming not to see the hand the old
Judge had extended across the desktop toward him. On his face, of a
sudden, was a queer, eager look. It was as though he foresaw the coming
true of long-cherished and heretofore unattainable visions.

"Have you got it here, suh?"

He glanced about him as though expecting to see a bulky bundle. Judge
Priest smiled.

"Oh, no; they didn't send it along with the letter--that wouldn't be
regular. There's quite a lot of things to be done fust. There'll be some
proofs to be got up and sworn to before a man called a British consul;
and likely there'll be a lot of papers that you'll have to sign; and
then all the papers and the proofs and things will be sent across the
ocean. And, after some fees are paid out over there--why, then you'll
git your inheritance."

The rapt look faded from the strained face, leaving it downcast. "I'm
afeared, then, I won't be able to claim that there money," he said
forlornly.

"Why not?"

"Because I don't know how to sign my own name. Raised the way I was, I
never got no book learnin'. I can't neither read nor write."

Compassion shadowed the Judge's chubby face; and compassion was in his
voice as he made answer:

"You don't need to worry about that part of it. You can make your
mark--- just a cross mark on the paper, with witnesses present--like
this."

He took up a pen, dipped it in the inkwell and illustrated his meaning.

"Yes, suh; I'm glad it kin be done thataway. I always wisht I knowed how
to read big print and spell my own name out. I ast a feller oncet to
write my name out fur me in plain letters on a piece of paper. I was
aimin' to learn to copy it off; but I showed it to one of the hands at
the liver' stable and he busted out laughin'. And then I come to find
out this here feller had tricked me fur to make game of me. He hadn't
wrote my name out a-tall--- he'd wrote some dirty words instid. So after
that I give up tryin' to educate myself. That was several years back and
I ain't tried sence. Now I reckin I'm too old learn.... I wonder,
suh--I wonder ef it'll be very long before that there money gits here
and I begin to have the spendin' of it?"

"Makin' plans already?"

"Yes, suh," O'Day answered truthfully; "I am." He was silent for a
moment, his eyes on the floor; then timidly he advanced the thought that
had come to him. "I reckin, suh, it wouldn't be no more'n fair and
proper ef I divided my money with you to pay you back fur all this
trouble, you're fixin' to take on my account. Would--would half of it be
enough? The other half oughter last me fur what uses I'll make of it."

"I know you mean well and I'm much obliged to you fur your offer,"
stated Judge Priest, smiling a little; "but it wouldn't be fittin' or
proper fur me to tech a cent of your money. There'll be some court dues
and some lawyers' fees, and sech, to pay over there in Ireland; but
after that's settled up everything comes direct to you. It's goin' to be
a pleasure to me to help you arrange these here details that you don't
understand--a pleasure and not a burden."

He considered the figure before him.

"Now here's another thing, Peep; I judge it's hardly fittin' fur a man
of substance to go on livin' the way you've had to live durin' your
life. Ef you don't mind my offerin' you a little advice I would suggest
that you go right down to Felsburg Brothers when you leave here and git
yourself fitted out with some suitable clothin'. And you'd better go to
Max Biederman's, too, and order a better pair of shoes fur yourself than
them you've got on. Tell 'em I sent you and that I guarantee the payment
of your bills. Though I reckin that'll hardly be necessary--when the
news of your good luck gits noised round I misdoubt whether there's any
firm in our entire city that wouldn't be glad to have you on their books
fur a stiddy customer.

"And, also, ef I was you I'd arrange to git me regular board and
lodgin's somewheres round town. You see, Peep, comin' into a property
entails consider'ble many responsibilities right frum the start."

"Yes, suh," assented the legatee obediently. "I'll do jest ez you say,
Judge Priest, about the clothes and the shoes, and all that; but--but,
ef you don't mind, I'd like to go on livin' at Gafford's. Pete Gafford's
been mighty good to me--him and his wife both; and I wouldn't like fur
'em to think I was gittin' stuck up jest because I've had this here
streak of luck come to me. Mebbe, seein' ez how things has changed with
me, they'd be willin' to take me in fur a table boarder at their house;
but I shorely would hate to give up livin' in that there little room
behind the feed room at the liver' stable. I don't know ez I could ever
find any place that would seem ez homelike to me ez whut it is."

"Suit yourself about that," said Judge Priest heartily. "I don't know
but whut you've got the proper notion about it after all."

"Yes, suh. Them Gaffords have been purty nigh the only real true friends
I ever had that I could count on." He hesitated a moment. "I reckin--I
reckin, suh, it'll be a right smart while, won't it, before that money
gits here frum all the way acrost the ocean?"

"Why, yes; I imagine it will. Was you figurin' on investin' a little of
it now?"

"Yes, suh; I was."

"About how much did you think of spendin' fur a beginnin'?"

O'Day squinted his eyes, his lips moving in silent calculation.

"Well, suh," he said at length, "I could use ez much ez a silver dollar.
But, of course, sence--"

"That sounds kind of moderate to me," broke in Judge Priest. He shoved a
pudgy hand into a pocket of his white trousers. "I reckin this detail
kin be arranged. Here, Peep"--he extended his hand--"here's your
dollar." Then, as the other drew back, stammering a refusal, he hastily
added: "No, no, no; go ahead and take it--it's yours. I'm jest
advancin' it to you out of whut'll be comin' to you shortly.

"I'll tell you whut: Until sech time ez you are in position to draw on
your own funds you jest drap in here to see me when you're in need of
cash, and I'll try to let you have whut you require--in reason. I'll
keep a proper reckinin' of whut you git and you kin pay me back ez soon
ez your inheritance is put into your hands.

"One thing more," he added as the heir, having thanked him, was making
his grateful adieu at the threshold: "Now that you're wealthy, or about
to be so, I kind of imagine quite a passel of fellers will suddenly
discover themselves strangely and affectionately drawed toward you.
You're liable to find out you've always had more true and devoted
friends in this community than whut you ever imagined to be the case
before.

"Now friendship is a mighty fine thing, takin' it by and large; but it
kin be overdone. It's barely possible that some of this here new crop of
your well-wishers and admirers will be makin' little business
propositions to you--desirin' to have you go partners with 'em in
business, or to sell you desirable pieces of real estate; or even to let
you loan 'em various sums of money. I wouldn't be surprised but whut a
number of sech chances will be comin' your way durin' the next few days,
and frum then on. Ef sech should be the case I would suggest to you
that, before committin' yourself to anybody or anything, you tell 'em
that I'm sort of actin' as your unofficial adviser in money matters, and
that they should come to me and outline their little schemes in person.
Do you git my general drift?"

"Yes, suh," said Peep. "I won't furgit; and thank you ag'in, Judge,
specially fur lettin' me have this dollar ahead of time."

He shambled out with the coin in his hand; and on his face was again the
look of one who sees before him the immediate fulfillment of a
delectable dream.

With lines of sympathy and amusement crosshatched at the outer corners
of his eyelids, Judge Priest, rising and stepping to his door, watched
the retreating figure of the town's newest and strangest capitalist
disappear down the wide front steps of the courthouse.

Presently he went back to his chair and sat down, tugging at his short
chin beard.

"I wonder now," said he, meditatively addressing the emptiness of the
room, "I wonder whut a man sixty-odd-year old is goin' to do with the
fust whole dollar he ever had in his life!"

It was characteristic of our circuit judge that he should have voiced
his curiosity aloud. Talking to himself when he was alone was one of his
habits. Also, it was characteristic of him that he had refrained from
betraying his inquisitiveness to his late caller. Similar motives of
delicacy had kept him from following the other man to watch the
sequence.

However, at secondhand, the details very shortly reached him. They were
brought by no less a person than Deputy Sheriff Quarles, who, some
twenty minutes or possibly half an hour later, obtruded himself upon
Judge Priest's presence.

"Judge," began Mr. Quarles, "you'd never in the world guess whut Old
Peep O'Day done with the first piece of money he got his hands on out of
that there forty thousand pounds of silver dollars he's come into from
his uncle's estate."

The old man slanted a keen glance in Mr. Quarles' direction.

"Tell me, son," he asked softly, "how did you come to hear the glad
tidin's so promptly?"

"Me?" said Mr. Quarles innocently. "Why, Judge Priest, the word is all
over this part of town by this time. Why, I reckin twenty-five or fifty
people must 'a' been watchin' Old Peep to see how he was goin' to act
when he come out of this courthouse."

"Well, well, well!" murmured the Judge blandly. "Good news travels
almost ez fast sometimes ez whut bad news does--don't it, now? Well,
son, I give up the riddle. Tell me jest whut our elderly friend did do
with the first installment of his inheritance."

"Well, suh, he turned south here at the gate and went down the street,
a-lookin' neither to the right nor the left. He looked to me like a man
in a trance, almost. He keeps right on through Legal Row till he comes
to Franklin Street, and then he goes up Franklin to B. Weil & Son's
confectionery store; and there he turns in. I happened to be followin'
'long behind him, with a few others--with several others, in fact--and
we-all sort of slowed up in passin' and looked in at the door; and
that's how I come to be in a position to see what happened.

"Old Peep, he marches in jest like I'm tellin' it to you, suh; and Mr.
B. Weil comes to wait on him, and he starts in buyin'. He buys hisself a
five-cent bag of gumdrops; and a five-cent bag of jelly beans; and a
ten-cent bag of mixed candies--kisses and candy mottoes, and sech ez
them, you know; and a sack of fresh-roasted peanuts--a big sack, it was,
fifteen-cent size; and two prize boxes; and some gingersnaps--ten cents'
worth; and a cocoanut; and half a dozen red bananas; and half a dozen
more of the plain yaller ones. Altogether I figger he spent a even
dollar; in fact, I seen him hand Mr. Weil a dollar, and I didn't see him
gittin' no change back out of it.

"Then he comes on out of the store, with all these things stuck in his
pockets and stacked up in his arms till he looks sort of like some new
kind of a summertime Santy Klaws; and he sets down on a goods box at the
edge of the pavement, with his feet in the gutter, and starts in eatin'
all them things.

"First, he takes a bite off a yaller banana and then off a red banana,
and then a mouthful of peanuts; and then maybe some mixed candies--not
sayin' a word to nobody, but jest natchelly eatin' his fool head off. A
young chap that's clerkin' in Bagby's grocery, next door, steps up to
him and speaks to him, meanin', I suppose, to ast him is it true he's
wealthy. And Old Peep, he says to him, 'Please don't come botherin' me
now, sonny--I'm busy ketchin' up,' he says; and keeps right on
a-munchin' and a-chewin' like all possessed.

"That ain't all of it, neither, Judge--not by a long shot it ain't!
Purty soon Old Peep looks round him at the little crowd that's gathered.
He didn't seem to pay no heed to the grown-up people standin' there; but
he sees a couple of boys about ten years old in the crowd, and he
beckons to them to come to him, and he makes room fur them alongside him
on the box and divides up his knick-knacks with them.

"When I left there to come on back here he had no less'n six kids
squatted round him, includin' one little nigger boy; and between 'em all
they'd jest finished up the last of the bananas and peanuts and the
candy and the gingersnaps, and was fixin' to take turns drinkin' the
milk out of the cocoanut. I s'pose they've got it all cracked out of the
shell and et up by now--the cocoanut, I mean. Judge, you oughter stepped
down into Franklin Street and taken a look at the picture whilst there
was still time. You never seen sech a funny sight in all your days, I'll
bet!"

"I reckin 'twould be too late to be startin' now," said Judge Priest.
"I'm right sorry I missed it.... Busy ketchin' up, huh? Yes; I reckin he
is.... Tell me, son, whut did you make out of the way Peep O'Day acted?"

"Why, suh," stated Mr. Quarles, "to my mind, Judge, there ain't no
manner of doubt but whut prosperity has went to his head and turned it.
He acted to me like a plum' distracted idiot. A grown man with forty
thousand pounds of solid money settin' on the side of a gutter eatin'
jimcracks with a passel of dirty little boys! Kin you figure it out any
other way, Judge--except that his mind is gone?"

"I don't set myself up to be a specialist in mental disorders, son,"
said Judge Priest softly; "but, sence you ask me the question, I should
say, speakin' offhand, that it looks to me more ez ef the heart was the
organ that was mainly affected. And possibly"--he added this last with a
dry little smile--"and possibly, by now, the stomach also."

* * *

Whether or not Mr. Quarles was correct in his psychopathic diagnosis, he
certainly had been right when he told Judge Priest that the word was
already all over the business district. It had spread fast and was still
spreading; it spread to beat the wireless, traveling as it did by that
mouth-to-ear method of communication which is so amazingly swift and
generally so tremendously incorrect. Persons who could not credit the
tale at all, nevertheless lost no time in giving to it a yet wider
circulation; so that, as though borne on the wind, it moved in every
direction, like ripples on a pond; and with each time of retelling the
size of the legacy grew.

The _Daily Evening News_, appearing on the streets at five P. M.,
confirmed the tale; though by its account the fortune was reduced to a
sum far below the gorgeously exaggerated estimates of most of the
earlier narrators. Between breakfast and supper-time Peep O'Day's
position in the common estimation of his fellow citizens underwent a
radical and revolutionary change. He ceased--automatically, as it
were--to be a town character; he became, by universal consent, a town
notable, whose every act and every word would thereafter be subjected to
close scrutiny and closer analysis.

The next morning the nation at large had opportunity to know of the
great good fortune that had befallen Paul Felix O'Day, for the story had
been wired to the city papers by the local correspondents of the same;
and the press associations had picked up a stickful of the story and
sped it broadcast over leased wires. Many who until that day had never
heard of the fortunate man, or, indeed, of the place where he lived, at
once manifested a concern in his well-being.

Certain firms of investment brokers in New York and Chicago promptly
added a new name to what vulgarly they called their "sucker" lists.
Dealers in mining stocks, in oil stocks, in all kinds of attractive
stocks showed interest; in circular form samples of the most optimistic
and alluring literature the world has ever known were consigned to the
post, addressed to Mr. P. F. O'Day, such-and-such a town, such-and-such
a state, care of general delivery.

Various lonesome ladies in various lonesome places lost no time in
sitting themselves down and inditing congratulatory letters; object
matrimony. Some of these were single ladies; others had been widowed,
either by death or request. Various other persons of both sexes,
residing here, there, and elsewhere in our country, suddenly remembered
that they, too, were descended from the O'Days of Ireland, and wrote on
forthwith to claim proud and fond relationship with the particular O'Day
who had come into money.

It was a remarkable circumstance, which speedily developed, that one man
should have so many distant cousins scattered over the Union, and a
thing equally noteworthy that practically all these kinspeople, through
no fault of their own, should at the present moment be in such
straitened circumstances and in such dire need of temporary assistance
of a financial nature. Ticker and printer's ink, operating in
conjunction, certainly did their work mighty well; even so, several days
were to elapse before the news reached one who, of all those who read
it, had most cause to feel a profound personal sensation in the
intelligence.

This delay, however, was nowise to be blamed upon the tardiness of the
newspapers; it was occasioned by the fact that the person referred to
was for the moment well out of contact with the active currents of world
affairs, he being confined in a workhouse at Evansville, Indiana.

As soon as he had rallied from the shock this individual set about
making plans to put himself in direct touch with the inheritor. He had
ample time in which to frame and shape his campaign, inasmuch as there
remained for him yet to serve nearly eight long and painfully tedious
weeks of a three-months' vagrancy sentence. Unlike most of those now
manifesting their interest, he did not write a letter; but he dreamed
dreams that made him forget the annoyances of a ball and chain fast on
his ankle and piles of stubborn stones to be cracked up into fine bits
with a heavy hammer.

We are getting ahead of our narrative, though--days ahead of it. The
chronological sequence of events properly dates from the morning
following the morning when Peep O'Day, having been abruptly translated
from the masses of the penniless to the classes of the wealthy, had
forthwith embarked upon the gastronomic orgy so graphically detailed by
Deputy Sheriff Quarles.

On that next day more eyes probably than had been trained in Peep
O'Day's direction in all the unremarked and unremarkable days of his
life put together were focused upon him. Persons who theretofore had
regarded his existence--if indeed they gave it a thought--as one of the
utterly trivial and inconsequential incidents of the cosmic scheme, were
moved to speak to him, to clasp his hand, and, in numerous instances, to
express a hearty satisfaction over his altered circumstances. To all
these, whether they were moved by mere neighborly good will, or
perchance were inspired by impulses of selfishness, the old man
exhibited a mien of aloofness and embarrassment.

This diffidence or this suspicion--or this whatever it was--protected
him from those who might entertain covetous and ulterior designs upon
his inheritance even better than though he had been brusque and rude;
while those who sought to question him regarding his plans for the
future drew from him only mumbled and evasive replies, which left them
as deeply in the dark as they had been before. Altogether, in his
intercourse with adults he appeared shy and very ill at ease.

It was noted, though, that early in the forenoon he attached to him
perhaps half a dozen urchins, of whom the oldest could scarcely have
been more than twelve or thirteen years of age; and that these
youngsters remained his companions throughout the day. Likewise the
events of that day were such as to confirm a majority of the observers
in practically the same belief that had been voiced of Mr.
Quarles--namely, that whatever scanty brains Peep O'Day might have ever
had were now completely addled by the stroke of luck that had befallen
him.

In fairness to all--to O'Day and to the town critics who sat in judgment
upon his behavior--it should be stated that his conduct at the very
outset was not entirely devoid of evidences of sanity. With his troupe
of ragged juveniles trailing behind him, he first visited Felsburg
Brothers' Emporium to exchange his old and disreputable costume for a
wardrobe that, in accordance with Judge Priest's recommendation, he had
ordered on the afternoon previous, and which had since been undergoing
certain necessary alterations.

With his meager frame incased in new black woolens, and wearing, as an
incongruous added touch, the most brilliant of neckties, a necktie of
the shade of a pomegranate blossom, he presently issued from Felsburg
Brothers' and entered M. Biederman's shoe store, two doors below. Here
Mr. Biederman fitted him with shoes, and in addition noted down a
further order, which the purchaser did not give until after he had
conferred earnestly with the members of his youthful entourage.

Those watching this scene from a distance saw--and perhaps marveled at
the sight--that already, between these small boys, on the one part, and
this old man, on the other, a perfect understanding appeared to have
been established.

After leaving Biederman's, and tagged by his small escorts, O'Day went
straight to the courthouse and, upon knocking at the door, was admitted
to Judge Priest's private chambers, the boys meantime waiting outside
in the hall. When he came forth he showed them something he held in his
hand and told them something; whereupon all of them burst into excited
and joyous whoops.

It was at that point that O'Day, by the common verdict of most grown-up
onlookers, began to betray the vagaries of a disordered intellect. Not
that his reason had not been under suspicion already, as a result of his
freakish excess in the matter of B. Weil & Son's wares on the preceding
day; but the relapse that now followed, as nearly everybody agreed, was
even more pronounced, even more symptomatic than the earlier attack of
aberration.

In brief, this was what happened: To begin with, Mr. Virgil Overall, who
dealt in lands and houses and sold insurance of all the commoner
varieties on the side, had stalked O'Day to this point and was lying in
wait for him as he came out of the courthouse into the Public Square,
being anxious to describe to him some especially desirable bargains, in
both improved and unimproved realty; also, Mr. Overall was prepared to
book him for life, accident and health policies on the spot.

So pleased was Mr. Overall at having distanced his professional rivals
in the hunt that he dribbled at the mouth. But the warmth of his
disappointment and indignation dried up the salivary founts instantly
when the prospective patron declined to listen to him at all and,
breaking free from Mr. Overall's detaining clasp, hurried on into Legal
Row, with his small convoys trotting along ahead and alongside him.

At the door of the Blue Goose Saloon and Short Order Restaurant its
proprietor, by name Link Iserman, was lurking, as it were, in ambush. He
hailed the approaching O'Day most cordially; he inquired in a warm voice
regarding O'Day's health; and then, with a rare burst of generosity, he
invited, nay urged, O'Day to step inside and have something on the
house--wines, ales, liquors or cigars; it was all one to Mr. Iserman.
The other merely shook his head and, without a word of thanks for the
offer, passed on as though bent upon a important mission.

Mark how the proofs were accumulating: The man had disdained the company
of men of approximately his own age or thereabout; he had refused an
opportunity to partake of refreshment suitable to his years; and now he
stepped into the Bon Ton toy store and bought for cash--most
inconceivable of acquisitions!--a little wagon that was painted bright
red and bore on its sides in curlicued letters, the name Comet.

His next stop was made at Bishop & Bryan's grocery, where, with the aid
of his youthful compatriots, he first discriminatingly selected, and
then purchased on credit, and finally loaded into the wagon, such
purchases as a dozen bottles of soda pop, assorted flavors; cheese,
crackers--soda and animal; sponge cakes with weather-proof pink icing on
them; fruits of the season; cove oysters; a bottle of pepper sauce; and
a quantity of the extra large sized bright green cucumber pickles known
to the trade as the Fancy Jumbo Brand, Prime Selected.

Presently the astounding spectacle was presented of two small boys, with
string bridles on their arms, drawing the wagon through our town and out
of it into the country, with Peep O'Day in the rôle of teamster walking
alongside the laden wagon. He was holding the lines in his hands and
shouting orders at his team, who showed a colty inclination to shy at
objects, to kick up their heels without provocation, and at intervals to
try to run away. Eight or ten small boys--for by now the troupe had
grown in number and in volume of noise--trailed along, keeping step with
their elderly patron and advising him shrilly regarding the management
of his refractory span.

As it turned out, the destination of this preposterous procession was
Bradshaw's Grove, where the entire party spent the day picnicking in the
woods and, as reported by several reliable witnesses, playing games. It
was not so strange that holidaying boys should play games; the amazing
feature of the performance was that Peep O'Day, a man old enough to be
grandfather to any of them, played with them, being by turns an Indian
chief, a robber baron, and the driver of a stagecoach attacked by Wild
Western desperadoes.

When he returned to town at dusk, drawing his little red wagon behind
him, his new suit was rumpled into many wrinkles and marked by dust and
grass stains; his flame-colored tie was twisted under one ear; his new
straw hat was mashed quite out of shape; and in his eyes was a light
that sundry citizens, on meeting him, could only interpret for a spark
struck from inner fires of madness.

Days that came after this, on through the midsummer, were, with
variations, but repetitions of the day I have just described. Each
morning Peep O'Day would go to either the courthouse or Judge Priest's
home to turn over to the Judge the unopened mail which had been
delivered to him at Gafford's stables; then he would secure from the
Judge a loan of money against his inheritance. Generally the amount of
his daily borrowing was a dollar; rarely was it so much as two dollars;
and only once was it more than two dollars.

By nightfall the sum would have been expended upon perfectly useless and
absolutely childish devices. It might be that he would buy toy pistols
and paper caps for himself and his following of urchins; or that his
whim would lead him to expend all the money in tin flutes. In one case
the group he so incongruously headed would be for that one day a gang of
make-believe banditti; in another, they would constitute themselves a
fife-and-drum corps--with barreltops for the drums--and would march
through the streets, where scandalized adults stood in their tracks to
watch them go by, they all the while making weird sounds, which with
them passed for music.

Or again, the available cash resources would be invested in provender;
and then there would be an outing in the woods. Under Peep O'Day's
captaincy his chosen band of youngsters picked dewberries; they went
swimming together in Guthrie's Gravel Pit, out by the old Fair Grounds,
where his spare naked shanks contrasted strongly with their plump
freckled legs as all of them splashed through the shallows, making for
deep water. Under his leadership they stole watermelons from Mr. Dick
Bell's patch, afterward eating their spoils in thickets of grapevines
along the banks of Perkins' Creek.

It was felt that mental befuddlement and mortal folly could reach no
greater heights--or no lower depths--than on a certain hour of a certain
day, along toward the end of August, when O'Day came forth from his
quarters in Gafford's stables, wearing a pair of boots that M.
Biederman's establishment had turned out to his order and his
measure--not such boots as a sensible man might be expected to wear, but
boots that were exaggerated and monstrous counterfeits of the
red-topped, scroll-fronted, brass-toed, stub-heeled, squeaky-soled
bootees that small boys of an earlier generation possessed.

Very proudly and seemingly unconscious of, or, at least, oblivious to,
the derisive remarks that the appearance of these new belongings drew
from many persons, the owner went clumping about in them, with the
rumply legs of his trousers tucked down in them, and ballooning up and
out over the tops in folds which overlapped from his knee joints halfway
down his attenuated calves.

As Deputy Sheriff Quarles said, the combination was a sight fit to make
a horse laugh. It may be that small boys have a lesser sense of humor
than horses have, for certainly the boys who were the old man's
invariable shadows did not laugh at him, or at his boots either. Between
the whiskered senior and his small comrades there existed a freemasonry
that made them all sense a thing beyond the ken of most of their elders.
Perhaps this was because the elders, being blind in their superior
wisdom, saw neither this thing nor the communion that flourished. They
saw only the farcical joke. But His Honor, Judge Priest, to cite a
conspicuous exception, seemed not to see the lamentable comedy of it.

Indeed, it seemed to some almost as if Judge Priest were aiding and
abetting the befogged O'Day in his demented enterprises, his peculiar
excursions and his weird purchases. If he did not actually encourage him
in these constant exhibitions of witlessness, certainly there were no
evidences available to show that he sought to dissuade O'Day from his
strange course.

At the end of a fortnight one citizen, in whom patience had ceased to be
a virtue and to whose nature long-continued silence on any public topic
was intolerable, felt it his duty to speak to the Judge upon the
subject. This gentleman--his name was S. P. Escott--held, with many,
that, for the good name of the community, steps should be taken to abate
the infantile, futile activities of the besotted legatee.

Afterward Mr. Escott, giving a partial account of the conversation with
Judge Priest to certain of his friends, showed unfeigned annoyance at
the outcome.

"I claim that old man's not fittin' to be runnin' a court any longer,"
he stated bitterly. "He's too old and peevish--that's what ails him! For
one, I'm certainly not never goin' to vote fur him again. Why, it's
gettin' to be ez much ez a man's life is worth to stop that there
spiteful old crank in the street and put a civil question to him--that's
whut's the matter!"

"What happened S. P.?" inquired some one.

"Why, here's what happened!" exclaimed the aggrieved Mr. Escott. "I
hadn't any more than started in to tell him the whole town was talkin'
about the way that daffy Old Peep O'Day was carryin' on, and that
somethin' had oughter be done about it, and didn't he think it was
beholdin' on him ez circuit judge to do somethin' right away, sech ez
havin' O'Day tuck up and tried fur a lunatic, and that I fur one was
ready and willin' to testify to the crazy things I'd seen done with my
own eyes--when he cut in on me and jest ez good ez told me to my own
face that ef I'd quit tendin' to other people's business I'd mebbe have
more business of my own to tend to.

"Think of that, gentlemen! A circuit judge bemeanin' a citizen and a
taxpayer"--he checked himself slightly--"anyhow, a citizen, thataway! It
shows he can't be rational his ownself. Personally I claim Old Priest is
failin' mentally--he must be! And ef anybody kin be found to run against
him at the next election you gentlemen jest watch and see who gits my
vote!"

Having uttered this threat with deep and significant emphasis Mr.
Escott, still muttering, turned and entered the front gate of his
boarding house. It was not exactly his boarding house; his wife ran it.
But Mr. Escott lived there and voted from there.

But the apogee of Peep O'Day's carnival of weird vagaries of deportment
came at the end of two months--two months in which each day the man
furnished cumulative and piled-up material for derisive and jocular
comment on the part of a very considerable proportion of his fellow
townsmen.

Three occurrences of a widely dissimilar nature, yet all closely
interrelated to the main issue, marked the climax of the man's new rôle
in his new career. The first of these was the arrival of his legacy; the
second was a one-ring circus; and the third and last was a nephew.

In the form of sundry bills of exchange the estate left by the late
Daniel O'Day, of the town of Kilmare, in the island of Ireland, was on a
certain afternoon delivered over into Judge Priest's hands, and by him,
in turn, handed to the rightful owner, after which sundry
indebtednesses, representing the total of the old Judge's day-to-day
cash advances to O'Day, were liquidated.

The ceremony of deducting this sum took place at the Planters' Bank,
whither the two had journeyed in company from the courthouse. Having,
with the aid of the paying teller, instructed O'Day in the technical
details requisite to the drawing of personal checks, Judge Priest went
home and had his bag packed, and left for Reelfoot Lake to spend a week
fishing. As a consequence he missed the remaining two events, following
immediately thereafter.

The circus was no great shakes of a circus; no grand, glittering,
gorgeous, glorious pageant of education and entertainment, traveling on
its own special trains; no vast tented city of world's wonders and
world's champions, heralded for weeks and weeks in advance of its coming
by dead walls emblazoned with the finest examples of the lithographer's
art, and by half-page advertisements in the _Daily Evening News_. On the
contrary, it was a shabby little wagon show, which, coming overland on
short notice, rolled into town under horse power, and set up its ragged
and dusty canvases on the vacant lot across from Yeiser's drug store.

Compared with the street parade of any of its great and famous rivals,
the street parade of this circus was a meager and disappointing thing.
Why, there was only one elephant, a dwarfish and debilitated-looking
creature, worn mangy and slick on its various angles, like the cover of
an old-fashioned haircloth trunk; and obviously most of the closed cages
were weather-beaten stake wagons in disguise. Nevertheless, there was a
sizable turnout of people for the afternoon performance. After all, a
circus was a circus.

Moreover, this particular circus was marked at the afternoon performance
by happenings of a nature most decidedly unusual. At one o'clock the
doors were opened; at one-ten the eyes of the proprietor were made glad
and his heart was uplifted within him by the sight of a strange
procession, drawing nearer and nearer across the scuffed turf of the
Common, and heading in the direction of the red ticket wagon.

At the head of the procession marched Peep O'Day--only, of course, the
proprietor didn't know it was Peep O'Day--a queer figure in his rumpled
black clothes and his red-topped brass-toed boots, and with one hand
holding fast to the string of a captive toy balloon. Behind him, in an
uneven jostling formation, followed many small boys and some small
girls. A census of the ranks would have developed that here were
included practically all the juvenile white population who otherwise,
through a lack of funds, would have been denied the opportunity to
patronize this circus or, in fact, any circus.

Each member of the joyous company was likewise the bearer of a toy
balloon--red, yellow, blue, green, or purple, as the case might be. Over
the line of heads the taut rubbery globes rode on their tethers, nodding
and twisting like so many big iridescent bubbles; and half a block away,
at the edge of the lot, a balloon vender, whose entire stock had been
disposed of in one splendid transaction, now stood, empty-handed but
full-pocketed, marveling at the stroke of luck that enabled him to take
an afternoon off and rest his voice.

Out of a seemingly bottomless exchequer Peep O'Day bought tickets of
admission for all. But this was only the beginning. Once inside the tent
he procured accommodations in the reserved-seat section for himself and
those who accompanied him. From such superior points of vantage the
whole crew of them witnessed the performance, from the thrilling grand
entry, with spangled ladies and gentlemen riding two by two on
broad-backed steeds, to the tumbling bout introducing the full strength
of the company, which came at the end.

They munched fresh-roasted peanuts and balls of sugar-coated popcorn,
slightly rancid, until they munched no longer with zest but merely
mechanically. They drank pink lemonade to an extent that threatened
absolute depletion of the fluid contents of both barrels in the
refreshment stand out in the menagerie tent. They whooped their
unbridled approval when the wild Indian chief, after shooting down a
stuffed coon with a bow and arrow from somewhere up near the top of the
center pole while balancing himself jauntily erect upon the haunches of
a coursing white charger, suddenly flung off his feathered headdress,
his wig and his fringed leather garments, and revealed himself in pink
fleshings as the principal bareback rider.

They screamed in a chorus of delight when the funny old clown, who had
been forcibly deprived of three tin flutes in rapid succession, now
produced yet a fourth from the seemingly inexhaustible depths of his
baggy white pants--a flute with a string and a bent pin attached to
it--and, secretly affixing the pin in the tail of the cross ringmaster's
coat, was thereafter enabled to toot sharp shrill blasts at frequent
intervals, much to the chagrin of the ringmaster, who seemed utterly
unable to discover the whereabouts of the instrument dangling behind
him.

But no one among them whooped louder or laughed longer than their
elderly and bewhiskered friend, who sat among them, paying the bills. As
his guests they stayed for the concert; and, following this, they
patronized the side show in a body. They had been almost the first upon
the scene; assuredly they were the last of the audience to quit it.

Indeed, before they trailed their confrère away from the spot the sun
was nearly down; and at scores of supper tables all over town the tale
of poor old Peep O'Day's latest exhibition of freakishness was being
retailed, with elaborations, to interested auditors. Estimates of the
sum probably expended by him in this crowning extravagance ranged well
up into the hundreds of dollars.

As for the object of these speculations, he was destined not to eat any
supper at all that night. Something happened that so upset him as to
make him forget the meal altogether. It began to happen when he reached
the modest home of P. Gafford, adjoining the Gafford stables, on Locust
Street, and found sitting on the lower-most step of the porch a young
man of untidy and unshaved aspect, who hailed him affectionately as
Uncle Paul, and who showed deep annoyance and acute distress upon being
rebuffed with chill words.

It is possible that the strain of serving a three-months' sentence, on
the technical charge of vagrancy, in a workhouse somewhere in Indiana,
had affected the young man's nerves. His ankle bones still ached where
the ball and chain had been hitched; on his palms the blisters induced
by the uncongenial use of a sledge hammer on a rock pile had hardly as
yet turned to calluses. So it is only fair to presume that his nervous
system felt the stress of his recent confining experiences also.

Almost tearfully he pleaded with Peep O'Day to remember the ties of
blood that bound them; repeatedly he pointed out that he was the only
known kinsman of the other in all the world, and, therefore, had more
reason than any other living being to expect kindness and generosity at
his uncle's hands. He spoke socialistically of the advisability of an
equal division; failing to make any impression here he mentioned the
subject of a loan--at first hopefully, but finally despairingly.

When he was done Peep O'Day, in a perfectly colorless and unsympathetic
voice, bade him good-by--not good-night but good-by! And, going inside
the house, he closed the door behind him, leaving his newly returned
relative outside and quite alone.

At this the young man uttered violent language; but, since there was
nobody present to hear him, it is likely he found small satisfaction in
his profanity, rich though it may have been in metaphor and variety. So
presently he betook himself off, going straight to the office in Legal
Row of H. B. Sublette, Attorney-at-law.

From the circumstance that he found Mr. Sublette in, though it was long
past that gentleman's office hours, and, moreover, found Mr. Sublette
waiting in an expectant and attentive attitude, it might have been
adduced by one skilled in the trick of putting two and two together that
the pair of them had reached a prior understanding sometime during the
day; and that the visit of the young man to the Gafford home and his
speeches there had all been parts of a scheme planned out at a prior
conference.

Be this as it may, so soon as Mr. Sublette had heard his caller's
version of the meeting upon the porch he lost no time in taking certain
legal steps. That very night, on behalf of his client, denominated in
the documents as Percival Dwyer, Esquire, he prepared a petition
addressed to the circuit judge of the district, setting forth that,
inasmuch as Paul Felix O'Day had by divers acts shown himself to be of
unsound mind, now, therefore, came his nephew and next of kin praying
that a committee or curator be appointed to take over the estate of the
said Paul Felix O'Day, and administer the same in accordance with the
orders of the court until such time as the said Paul Felix O'Day should
recover his reason, or should pass from this life, and so forth and so
on; not to mention whereases in great number and aforesaids abounding
throughout the text in the utmost profusion.

On the following morning the papers were filed with Circuit Clerk Milam.
That vigilant barrister, Mr. Sublette, brought them in person to the
courthouse before nine o'clock, he having the interests of his client at
heart and perhaps also visions of a large contingent fee in his mind. No
retainer had been paid. The state of Mr. Dwyer's finances--or, rather,
the absence of any finances--had precluded the performance of that
customary detail; but to Mr. Sublette's experienced mind the prospects
of future increment seemed large.

Accordingly he was all for prompt action. Formally he said he wished to
go on record as demanding for his principal a speedy hearing of the
issue, with a view to preventing the defendant named in the pleadings
from dissipating any more of the estate lately bequeathed to him and now
fully in his possession--or words to that effect.

Mr. Milam felt justified in getting into communication with Judge Priest
over the long-distance 'phone; and the Judge, cutting short his vacation
and leaving uncaught vast numbers of bass and perch in Reelfoot Lake,
came home, arriving late that night.

Next morning, having issued divers orders in connection with the
impending litigation, he sent a messenger to find Peep O'Day and to
direct O'Day to come to the courthouse for a personal interview.

Shortly thereafter a scene that had occurred some two months earlier,
with his Honor's private chamber for a setting, was substantially
duplicated: there was the same cast of two, the same stage properties,
the same atmosphere of untidy tidiness. And, as before, the dialogue was
in Judge Priest's hands. He led and his fellow character followed his
leads.

"Peep," he was saying, "you understand, don't you, that this here
fragrant nephew of yours that's turned up from nowheres in particular is
fixin' to git ready to try to prove that you are feeble-minded? And, on
top of that, that he's goin' to ask that a committee be app'inted fur
you--in other words, that somebody or other shall be named by the court,
meanin' me, to take charge of your property and control the spendin' of
it frum now on?"

"Yes, suh," stated O'Day. "Pete Gafford he set down with me and made hit
all clear to me, yestiddy evenin', after they'd done served the papers
on me."

"All right, then. Now I'm goin' to fix the hearin' fur to-morrow mornin'
at ten. The other side is askin' fur a quick decision; and I rather
figger they're entitled to it. Is that agreeable to you?"

"Whutever you say, Judge."

"Well, have you retained a lawyer to represent your interests in court?
That's the main question that I sent fur you to ast you."

"Do I need a lawyer, Judge?"

"Well, there have been times when I regarded lawyers ez bein'
superfluous," stated Judge Priest dryly. "Still, in most cases litigants
do have 'em round when the case is bein' heard."

"I don't know ez I need any lawyer to he'p me say whut I've got to say,"
said O'Day. "Judge, you ain't never ast me no questions about the way
I've been carryin' on sence I come into this here money; but I reckin
mebbe this is ez good a time ez any to tell you jest why I've been
actin' the way I've done. You see, suh--"

"Hold on!" broke in Judge Priest. "Up to now, ez my friend, it would 'a'
been perfectly proper fur you to give me your confidences ef you were
minded so to do; but now I reckin you'd better not. You see, I'm the
judge that's got to decide whether you are a responsible person--whether
you're mentally capable of handlin' your own financial affairs, or
whether you ain't. So you'd better wait and make your statement in your
own behalf to me whilst I'm settin' on the bench. I'll see that you git
an opportunity to do so and I'll listen to it; and I'll give it all the
consideration it's deservin' of.

"And, on second thought, p'raps it would only be a waste of time and
money fur you to go hirin' a lawyer specially to represent you. Under
the law it's my duty, in sech a case ez this here one is, to app'int a
member of the bar to serve durin' the proceedin's ez your guardian _ad
litem_.

"You don't need to be startled," he added, as O'Day flinched at the
sound in his ears of these strange and fearsome words. "A guardian _ad
litem_ is simply a lawyer that tends to your affairs till the case is
settled one way or the other. Ef you had a dozen lawyers I'd have to
app'int him jest the same. So you don't need to worry about that part of
it.

"That's all. You kin go now ef you want to. Only, ef I was you, I
wouldn't draw out any more money from the bank 'twixt now and the time
when I make my decision."

* * *

All things considered, it was an unusual assemblage that Judge Priest
regarded over the top rims of his glasses as he sat facing it in his
broad armchair, with the flat top of the bench intervening between him
and the gathering. Not often, even in the case of exciting murder
trials, had the old courtroom held a larger crowd; certainly never had
it held so many boys. Boys, and boys exclusively, filled the back rows
of benches downstairs. More boys packed the narrow shelf-like balcony
that spanned the chamber across its far end--mainly small boys,
barefooted, sunburned, freckle-faced, shock-headed boys. And, for boys,
they were strangely silent and strangely attentive.

The petitioner sat with his counsel, Mr. Sublette. The petitioner had
been newly shaved, and from some mysterious source had been equipped
with a neat wardrobe. Plainly he was endeavoring to wear a look of
virtue, which was a difficult undertaking, as you would understand had
you known the petitioner.

The defending party to the action was seated across the room, touching
elbows with old Colonel Farrell, dean of the local bar and its most
florid orator.

"The court will designate Col. Horatio Farrell as guardian _ad litem_
for the defendant during these proceedings," Judge Priest had stated a
few minutes earlier, using the formal and grammatical language he
reserved exclusively for his courtroom.

At once old Colonel Farrell had hitched his chair up alongside O'Day;
had asked him several questions in a tone inaudible to those about them;
had listened to the whispered answers of O'Day; and then had nodded his
huge curly white dome of a head, as though amply satisfied with the
responses.

Let us skip the preliminaries. True, they seemed to interest the
audience; here, though, they would be tedious reading. Likewise, in
touching upon the opening and outlining address of Attorney-at-Law
Sublette let us, for the sake of time and space, be very much briefer
than Mr. Sublette was. For our present purposes, I deem it sufficient to
say that in all his professional career Mr. Sublette was never more
eloquent, never more forceful never more vehement in his allegations,
and never more convinced--as he himself stated, not once but
repeatedly--of his ability to prove the facts he alleged by competent
and unbiased testimony. These facts, he pointed out, were common
knowledge in the community; nevertheless, he stood prepared to buttress
them with the evidence of reputable witnesses, given under oath.

Mr. Sublette, having unwound at length, now wound up. He sat down,
perspiring freely and through the perspiration radiating confidence in
his contentions, confidence in the result, and, most of all, unbounded
confidence in Mr. Sublette.

Now Colonel Farrell was standing up to address the court. Under the
cloak of a theatrical presence and a large orotund manner, and behind a
Ciceronian command of sonorous language, the colonel carried concealed a
shrewd old brain. It was as though a skilled marksman lurked in ambush
amid a tangle of luxuriant foliage. In this particular instance,
moreover, it is barely possible that the colonel was acting on a cue,
privily conveyed to him before the court opened.

"May it please Your Honor," he began, "I have just conferred with the
defendant here; and, acting in the capacity of his guardian _ad litem_,
I have advised him to waive an opening address by counsel. Indeed, the
defendant has no counsel. Furthermore, the defendant, also acting upon
my advice, will present no witnesses in his own behalf. But, with Your
Honor's permission, the defendant will now make a personal statement;
and thereafter he will rest content, leaving the final arbitrament of
the issue to Your Honor's discretion."

"I object!" exclaimed Mr. Sublette briskly.

"On what ground does the learned counsel object?" inquired Judge Priest.

"On the grounds that, since the mental competence of this man is
concerned--since it is our contention that he is patently and plainly a
victim of senility, an individual prematurely in his dotage--any
utterances by him will be of no value whatsoever in aiding the
conscience and intelligence of the court to arrive at a fair and just
conclusion regarding the defendant's mental condition."

Mr. Sublette excelled in the use of big words; there was no doubt about
that.

"The objection is overruled," said Judge Priest. He nodded in the
direction of O'Day and Colonel Farrell. "The court will hear the
defendant. He is not to be interrupted while making his statement. The
defendant may proceed."

Without further urging, O'Day stood up, a tall, slab-sided rack of a
man, with his long arms dangling at his sides, half facing Judge Priest
and half facing his nephew and his nephew's lawyer. Without hesitation
he began to speak. And this was what he said:

"There's mebbe some here ez knows about how I was raised and fetched up.
My paw and my maw died when I was jest only a baby; so I was brung up
out here at the old county porehouse ez a pauper. I can't remember the
time when I didn't have to work for my board and keep, and work hard.
While other boys was goin' to school and playin' hooky, and goin' in
washin' in the creek, and playin' games, and all sech ez that, I had to
work. I never done no playin' round in my whole life--not till here jest
recently, anyway.

"But I always craved to play round some. I didn't never say nothin'
about it to nobody after I growed up, 'cause I figgered it out they
wouldn't understand and mebbe'd laugh at me; but all these years, ever
sence I left that there porehouse, I've had a hankerin' here inside of
me"--he lifted one hand and touched his breast--"I've had a hankerin' to
be a boy and to do all the things a boy does; to do the things I was
chiseled out of doin' whilst I was of a suitable age to be doin' 'em. I
call to mind that I uster dream in my sleep about doin' 'em; but the
dream never come true--not till jest here lately. It didn't have no
chancet to come true--not till then.

"So, when this money come to me so sudden and unbeknownstlike I said to
myself that I was goin' to make that there dream come true; and I
started out fur to do it. And I done it! And I reckin that's the cause
of my bein' here to-day, accused of bein' feeble-minded. But, even so,
I don't regret it none. Ef it was all to do over ag'in, I'd do it jest
the very same way.

"Why, I never knowed whut it was, till here two months or so ago, to
have my fill of bananas and candy and gingersnaps, and all sech
knickknacks ez them. All my life I've been cravin' secretly to own a
pair of red-topped boots with brass toes on 'em, like I used to see
other boys wearin' in the wintertime when I was out yonder at that
porehouse wearin' an old pair of somebody else's cast-off shoes--mebbe a
man's shoes, with rags wropped round my feet to keep the snow frum
comin' through the cracks in 'em, and to keep 'em from slippin' right
spang off my feet. I got three toes frostbit oncet durin' a cold spell,
wearin' them kind of shoes. But here the other week I found myself able
to buy me some red-top boots with brass toes on 'em. So I had 'em made
to order and I'm wearin' 'em now. I wear 'em reg'lar even ef it is
summertime. I take a heap of pleasure out of 'em. And, also, all my life
long I've been wantin' to go to a circus. But not till three days ago I
didn't never git no chancet to go to one.

"That gentleman yonder--Mister Sublette--he 'lowed jest now that I was
leadin' a lot of little boys in this here town into bad habits. He said
that I was learnin' 'em nobody knowed whut devilment. And he spoke of my
havin' egged 'em on to steal watermelons frum Mister Bell's watermelon
patch out here three miles frum town, on the Marshallville gravel road.
You-all heared whut he jest now said about that.

"I don't mean no offense and I beg his pardon fur contradictin' him
right out before everybody here in the big courthouse; but, mister,
you're wrong. I don't lead these here boys astray that I've been runnin'
round with. They're mighty nice clean boys, all of 'em. Some of 'em are
mighty near ez pore ez whut I uster be; but there ain't no real harm in
any of 'em. We git along together fine--me and them. And, without no
preachin', nor nothin' like that, I've done my best these weeks we've
been frolickin' and projectin' round together to keep 'em frum growin'
up to do mean things. I use chawin' tobacco myself; but I've told 'em, I
don't know how many times, that ef they chaw it'll stunt 'em in their
growth. And I've got several of 'em that was smokin' cigarettes on the
sly to promise me they'd quit. So I don't figger ez I've done them boys
any real harm by goin' round with 'em. And I believe ef you was to ast
'em they'd all tell you the same, suh.

"Now about them watermelons: Sence this gentleman has brung them
watermelons up, I'm goin' to tell you-all the truth about that too."

He cast a quick, furtive look, almost a guilty look, over his shoulder
toward the rear of the courtroom before he went on:

"Them watermelons wasn't really stole at all. I seen Mister Dick Bell
beforehand and arranged with him to pay him in full fur whutever damage
mout be done. But, you see, I knowed watermelons tasted sweeter to a boy
ef he thought he'd hooked 'em out of a patch; so I never let on to my
little pardners yonder that I'd the same ez paid Mister Bell in advance
fur the melons we snuck out of his patch and et in the woods. They've
all been thinkin' up till now that we really hooked them watermelons.
But ef that was wrong I'm sorry fur it.

"Mister Sublette, you jest now said that I was fritterin' away my
property on vain foolishment. Them was the words you used--'fritterin''
and 'vain foolishment.' Mebbe you're right, suh, about the fritterin'
part; but ef spendin' money in a certain way gives a man ez much
pleasure ez it's give me these last two months, and ef the money is
his'n by rights, I figger it can't be so very foolish; though it may
'pear so to some.

"Excusin' these here clothes I've got on and these here boots, which
ain't paid fur yet, but is charged up to me on Felsburg Brothers' books
and Mister M. Biederman's books, I didn't spend only a dollar a day, or
mebbe two dollars, and once three dollars in a single day out of whut
was comin' to me. The Judge here, he let me have that out of his own
pocket; and I paid him back. And that was all I did spend till here
three days ago when that there circus come to town. I reckin I did spend
a right smart then.

"My money had come frum the old country only the day before; so I went
to the bank and they writ out one of them pieces of paper which is
called a check, and I signed it--with my mark; and they give me the
money I wanted--an even two hundred dollars. And part of that there
money I used to pay fur circus tickets fur all the little boys and
little girls I could find in this town that couldn't 'a' got to the
circus no other way. Some of 'em are settin' back there behind you-all
now--some of the boys, I mean; I don't see none of the little girls.

"There was several of 'em told me at the time they hadn't never seen a
circus--not in their whole lives. Fur that matter, I hadn't, neither;
but I didn't want no pore child in this town to grow up to be ez old ez
I am without havin' been to at least one circus. So I taken 'em all in
and paid all the bills; and when night come there wasn't but 'bout nine
dollars left out of the whole two hundred that I'd started out with in
the mornin'. But I don't begredge spendin' it. It looked to me like it
was money well invested. They all seemed to enjoy it; and I know I done
so.

"There may be bigger circuses'n whut that one was; but I don't see how a
circus could 'a' been any better than this here one I'm tellin' about,
ef it was ten times ez big. I don't regret the investment and I don't
aim to lie about it now. Mister Sublette, I'd do the same thing over
ag'in ef the chance should come, lawsuit or no lawsuit. Ef you should
win this here case mebbe I wouldn't have no second chance.

"Ef some gentleman is app'inted ez a committee to handle my money it's
likely he wouldn't look at the thing the same way I do; and it's likely
he wouldn't let me have so much money all in one lump to spend takin' a
passel of little shavers that ain't no kin to me to the circus and to
the side show, besides lettin' 'em stay fur the grand concert or after
show, and all. But I done it once; and I've got it to remember about and
think about in my own mind ez long ez I live.

"I'm 'bout finished now. There's jest one thing more I'd like to say,
and that is this: Mister Sublette he said a minute ago that I was in my
second childhood. Meanin' no offense, suh, but you was wrong there too.
The way I look at it, a man can't be in his second childhood without
he's had his first childhood; and I was cheated plum' out of mine. I'm
more'n sixty years old, ez near ez I kin figger; but I'm tryin' to be a
boy before it's too late."

He paused a moment and looked round him.

"The way I look at it, Judge Priest, suh, and you-all, every man that
grows up, no matter how old he may git to be, is entitled to 'a' been a
boy oncet in his lifetime. I--I reckin that's all."

He sat down and dropped his eyes upon the floor, as though ashamed that
his temerity should have carried him so far. There was a strange little
hush filling the courtroom. It was Judge Priest who broke it.

"The court," he said, "has by the words just spoken by this man been
sufficiently advised as to the sanity of the man himself. The court
cares to hear nothing more from either side on this subject. The
petition is dismissed."

Very probably these last words may have been as so much Greek to the
juvenile members of the audience; possibly, though, they were made aware
of the meaning of them by the look upon the face of Nephew Percival
Dwyer and the look upon the face of Nephew Percival Dwyer's attorney. At
any rate, His Honor hardly had uttered the last syllable of his decision
before, from the rear of the courtroom and from the gallery above, there
arose a shrill, vehement, sincere sound of yelling--exultant,
triumphant, and deafening. It continued for upward of a minute before
the small disturbers remembered where they were and reduced themselves
to a state of comparative quiet.

For reasons best known to himself, Judge Priest, who ordinarily stickled
for order and decorum in his courtroom, made no effort to quell the
outburst or to have it quelled--not even when a considerable number of
the adults present joined in it, having first cleared their throats of a
slight huskiness that had come upon them, severally and generally.

Presently the Judge rapped for quiet--and got it. It was apparent that
he had more to say; and all there hearkened to hear what it might be.

"I have just this to add," quoth His Honor: "It is the official judgment
of this court that the late defendant, being entirely sane, is competent
to manage his own affairs after his preferences.

"And it is the private opinion of this court that not only is the late
defendant sane but that he is the sanest man in this entire
jurisdiction. Mister Clerk, this court stands adjourned."

Coming down the three short steps from the raised platform of the bench,
Judge Priest beckoned to Sheriff Giles Birdsong, who, at the tail of the
departing crowd, was shepherding its last exuberant members through the
doorway.

"Giles," said Judge Priest in an undertone, when the worthy sheriff had
drawn near, "the circuit clerk tells me there's an indictment for
malicious mischief ag'in this here Perce Dwyer knockin' round amongst
the records somewheres--an indictment the grand jury returned several
sessions back, but which was never pressed, owin' to the sudden
departure frum our midst of the person in question.

"I wonder ef it would be too much trouble fur you to sort of drap a hint
in the ear of the young man or his lawyer that the said indictment is
apt to be revived, and that the said Dwyer is liable to be tuck into
custody by you and lodged in the county jail sometime during the ensuin'
forty-eight hours--without he should see his way clear durin' the
meantime to get clean out of this city, county and state! Would it?"

"Trouble? No, suh! It won't be no trouble to me," said Mr. Birdsong
promptly. "Why, it'll be more of a pleasure, Judge."

And so it was.

Except for one small added and purely incidental circumstance, our
narrative is ended. That same afternoon Judge Priest sat on the front
porch of his old white house out on Clay Street, waiting for Jeff
Poindexter to summon him to supper. Peep O'Day opened the front gate and
came up the graveled walk between the twin rows of silver-leaf poplars.
The Judge, rising to greet his visitor, met him at the top step.

"Come in," bade the Judge heartily, "and set down a spell and rest your
face and hands."

"No, suh; much obliged, but I ain't got only a minute to stay," said
O'Day. "I jest come out here, suh, to thank you fur whut you done to-day
on my account in the big courthouse, and--and to make you a little kind
of a present."

"It's all right to thank me," said Judge Priest; "but I couldn't accept
any reward fur renderin' a decision in accordance with the plain facts."

"'Tain't no gift of money, or nothin' like that," O'Day hastened to
explain. "Really, suh, it don't amount to nothin' at all, scursely. But
a little while ago I happened to be in Mr. B. Weil & Son's store, doin'
a little tradin', and I run acrost a new kind of knickknack, which it
seemed like to me it was about the best thing I ever tasted in my whole
life. So, on the chancet, suh, that you might have a sweet tooth, too, I
taken the liberty of bringin' you a sack of 'em and--and--and here they
are, suh; three flavors--strawberry, lemon and vanilly."

Suddenly overcome with confusion, he dislodged a large-sized paper bag
from his side coat pocket and thrust it into Judge Priest's hands; then,
backing away, he turned and clumped down the graveled path in great and
embarrassed haste.

Judge Priest opened the bag and peered down into it.

It contained a sticky sugary dozen of flattened confections, each molded
round a short length of wooden splinter. These sirupy articles, which
have since come into quite general use, are known, I believe, as all-day
suckers.

When Judge Priest looked up again, Peep O'Day was outside the gate,
clumping down the uneven sidewalk of Clay Street with long strides of
his booted legs. Half a dozen small boys, who, it was evident, had
remained hidden during the ceremony of presentation, now mysteriously
appeared and were accompanying the departing donor, half trotting to
keep up with him.



LAUGHTER[7]

[Note 7: Copyright, 1917, by Harper and Brothers. Copyright, 1918,
by Charles Caldwell Dobie.]

BY CHARLES CALDWELL DOBIE

From _Harper's Magazine_


As Suvaroff neared his lodgings, he began to wonder whether the Italian
who had the room next him would continue to grind out tunes all night
upon his accordion. The thought made Suvaroff shudder. What in Heaven's
name possessed people to grind out tunes, Suvaroff found himself
inquiring, unless one earned one's living that way? Certainly this
weather-beaten Italian was no musician; he smelled too strongly of fish
for any one to mistake his occupation. He tortured melody from choice,
blandly, for the pure enjoyment of the thing. With Suvaroff it was
different; if he did not play, he did not eat.

Suvaroff's head had ached all day. The café where he scraped his violin
from early afternoon until midnight had never seemed so stuffy, so
tawdry, so impossible! All day he had sat and played and played, while
people ate and chattered and danced. No, that did not describe what
people did; they gorged and shrieked and gyrated like decapitated fowls,
accomplishing everything with a furious energy, primitive, abandoned,
disgusting. He wondered if he would ever again see people eat quietly
and simply, like normal human beings.

If only the Italian would go away, or decide to sleep, or die! Yes,
Suvaroff would have been glad to have found his neighbor quite
dead--anything to still that terrible accordion, which had been pumping
out tunes for over a week at all hours of the day and night! The music
did not have the virtue of an attempt at gaiety; instead it droned out
prolonged wails, melancholy and indescribably discordant.

The night was damp, a typical San Francisco midsummer night. A drizzling
fog had swept in from the ocean and fell refreshingly on the gray city.
But the keenness of the air irritated Suvaroff's headache instead of
soothing it; he felt the wind upon his temples as one feels the cool cut
of a knife. In short, everything irritated Suvaroff--his profession, the
café where he fiddled, the strident streets of the city, the evening
mist, the Hôtel des Alpes Maritimes, where he lodged, and the Italian
fisherman and his doleful accordion.

Turning off Kearny Street into Broadway, he had half a notion not to go
home, but his dissatisfaction was so inclusive that home seemed, at
once, quite as good and as hopeless a place to go as any other. So he
pushed open the door of his lodging-house and stamped rather heavily
up-stairs.

Although midnight, the first sound which greeted Suvaroff was the
wheezing of the Italian's accordion.

"Now," muttered Suvaroff, "I shall suffer in silence no longer. Nobody
in this city, much less in these wretched lodgings, has an ear for
anything but the clink of money and the shrill laughter of women. If
fifty men were to file saws in front of the entrance of any one of these
rooms, there would be not the slightest concern. Every one would go on
sleeping as if they had nothing more weighty on their conscience than
the theft of a kiss from a pretty girl."

He tossed his hat on the bed and made for the Italian's door. He did not
wait to knock, but broke in noisily. The accordion stopped with a
prolonged wail; its owner rose, visibly frightened.

"Ah!" cried the Italian, "it is you! I am glad of that. See, I have not
left the house for three days."

There was a genial simplicity about the man; Suvaroff felt overcome
with confusion. "What is the matter? Are you ill?" he stammered, closing
the door.

"No. I am afraid to go out. There is somebody waiting for me. Tell me,
did you see a cripple standing on the corner, near Bollo's Wine Shop, as
you came in?"

Suvaroff reflected. "Well, not a cripple, exactly. But I saw a hunchback
with--with--"

"Yes! yes!" cried the other, excitedly. "A hunchback with a handsome
face! That is he! I am afraid of him. For three days he has sat there,
waiting!"

"For you? How absurd! Why should any one do such a ridiculous thing?"

The Italian slipped his hands from the accordion and laid it aside.
"Nobody but one who is mad would do it, but he is mad. There is no doubt
about that!"

Suvaroff began to feel irritated. "What are you talking about? Have you
lost your senses? If he is waiting for you, why do you not go out and
send him away? Go out and pay him what you owe him."

The Italian rose and began to shudder. "I owe him nothing. He is waiting
for me--_to kill me_!"

"Nonsense!" cried Suvaroff. "What is his reason?"

"He is waiting to kill me because I laughed at him."

"That is ridiculous!" said Suvaroff.

"Nevertheless, it is true," replied the Italian. "He kills every one who
laughs at him. Three days ago I laughed at him. But I ran away. He
followed me. He does not know where I lodge, but he has wit enough to
understand that if he waits long enough he will find me out. In Heaven's
name, my friend, can you not help me? See, I am a simple soul. I cannot
think quickly. I have prayed to the Virgin, but it is no use. Tell me,
what can I do to escape?"

"Why do you not see a policeman?"

The Italian let his hands fall hopelessly. "A policeman? What good would
that do? Even _you_ do not believe me!"

A chill seized Suvaroff. He began to shake, and in the next instant a
fever burned his cheeks. His head as full of little darting pains. He
turned away from the Italian, impatiently. "You must be a pretty sort of
man to let a little hunchback frighten you! Good night."

And with that Suvaroff went out, slamming the door.

When Suvaroff got to his room he felt dizzy. He threw himself on the bed
and lay for some time in a stupor. When he came to his senses again the
first sound to greet him was the wail of his neighbor's accordion.

"What a fool I am!" he muttered. "Here I go bursting into this Italian's
room for the purpose of asking him to quit his abominable noise, and I
listen like a dumb sheep to _his_ bleatings, and so forget my errand!"

The noise continued, grew more insistent, became unbearable. Suvaroff
covered his ears with a comforter. His head was throbbing so violently
that even the ticking of a clock upon the table by his bed cut his
senses like a two-edged sword. He rose, stumbling about with a feeling
of indescribable weakness. What was the matter? Why did he feel so ill?
His eyes burned, his legs seemed weighted, his throat was so dry that
there was no comfort when he swallowed. All this he could have stood if
it had not been for the fiendish noise which, he began to feel, was
being played merely for his torture.

He put on his hat and stumbled down-stairs, out into the night. Crossing
the street, he went at once to Bollo's Wine Shop. The hunchback was
sitting on a garbage-can, almost at the entrance. At the sight of this
misshapen figure, the irritating memory of the Italian and his
impossible music recurred to Suvaroff. A sudden sinister cruelty came
over him; he felt a wanton ruthlessness that the sight of ugliness
sometimes engenders in natures sensitive to beauty. He went up to the
hunchback and looked searchingly into the man's face. It was a strangely
handsome face, and its incongruity struck Suvaroff. Had Nature been
weary, or merely in a satirical mood, when she fashioned such a thing of
horror?--for Suvaroff found that the handsome face seemed even more
horrible than the twisted body, so sharp and violent was the contrast.

The hunchback returned Suvaroff's stare with almost insulting
indifference, but there was something in the look that quickened the
beating of Suvaroff's heart.

"You are waiting here," began Suvaroff, "for an Italian who lodges
across the street. Would you like me to tell you where he may be found?"

The hunchback shrugged. "It does not matter in the slightest, one way or
another. If you tell me where he lodges, the inevitable will happen more
quickly than if I sat and waited for the rat to come out of his hole.
Waiting has its own peculiar interest. If you have ever waited, as I
wait now, you know the joy that a cat feels--expectation is two-thirds
of any game."

Suvaroff shuddered. He had an impulse to walk away, but the eyes of the
other burned with a strange fascination.

"Nevertheless," said Suvaroff, "I shall tell--"

The hunchback waved him to silence. "Do whatever you wish, my friend,
but remember, if you do tell me this thing, you and I will be forever
bound by a tie that it will be impossible to break. With me it does not
matter, but you are a young man, and all your life you will drag a
secret about like a dead thing chained to your wrist. I am Flavio
Minetti, and I kill every one who laughs at me! This Italian of whom you
speak has laughed at me. I may wait a week--a month. It will be the
same. No one has yet escaped me."

An exquisite fear began to move Suvaroff. "Nevertheless," he repeated
again, "I shall tell you where he lodges. You will find him upon the
third landing of the Hôtel des Alpes Maritimes. There are no numbers on
the doors, but it will be impossible for you to mistake his room. All
day and night he sits playing an accordion."

Flavio Minetti took a cigarette from his pocket. "Remember, my young
friend, I gave you fair warning."

"I shall not forget," replied Suvaroff.

* * *

Suvaroff climbed back to his room. He sat upon his bed holding his head
in his hands. The sound of the accordion seemed gruesome now.

Presently he heard a step on the landing. His heart stood still. Sounds
drifted down the passageway. The noise was not heavy and clattering, but
it had a pattering quality, like a bird upon a roof. Above the wailing
of the music, Suvaroff heard a door opened--slowly, cautiously. There
followed a moment of silence; Suvaroff was frightened. But almost
immediately the playing began again.

"Now," thought Suvaroff, "why is the Italian not frightened? The door
has been opened and he goes on playing, undisturbed.... It must be that
he is sitting with his back to the door. If this is so, God help him!...
Well, why need I worry? What is it to me? It is not my fault if a fool
like that sits with his door unlocked and his face turned from the face
of danger."

And, curiously, Suvaroff's thoughts wandered to other things, and a
picture of his native country flashed over him--Little Russia in the
languid embrace of summer--green and blue and golden. The soft notes of
the balalaika at twilight came to him, and the dim shapes of dancing
peasants, whirling like aspen-leaves in a fresh breeze. He remembered
the noonday laughter of skylarks; the pear-trees bending patiently
beneath their harvest; the placid river winding its willow-hedged way,
cutting the plain like a thin silver knife.

Now, suddenly, it came upon him that the music in the next room had
stopped. He waited. There was not a sound!... After a time the door
banged sharply. The pattering began again, and died away. But still
there was no music!...

Suvaroff rose and began to strip off his clothes. His teeth were
chattering. "Well, at last," he muttered, "I shall have some peace!" He
threw himself on the bed, drawing the coverings up over his head....
Presently a thud shook the house. "He has slipped from his seat," said
Suvaroff aloud. "It is all over!" And he drew the bedclothes higher and
went to sleep.

* * *

Next morning, Suvaroff felt better. To be sure, he was weak, but he rose
and dressed.

"What strange dreams people have when they are in a fever!" he
exclaimed, as he put on his hat. Nevertheless, as he left the house, he
did not so much as glance at the Italian's door.

It was a pleasant morning, the mist had lifted and the sky was a freshly
washed blue. Suvaroff walked down Kearny Street, and past Portsmouth
Square. At this hour the little park was cleared of its human wreckage,
and dowdy sparrows hopped unafraid upon the deserted benches. A Chinese
woman and her child romped upon the green; a weather-beaten peddler
stooped to the fountain and drank; the three poplar-trees about the
Stevenson monument trembled to silver in the frank sunshine. Suvaroff
could not remember when the city had appeared so fresh and innocent. It
seemed to him as if the gray, cold drizzle of the night had washed away
even the sins of the wine-red town. But an indefinite disquiet rippled
the surface of his content. His peace was filled with a vague suggestion
of sinister things to follow, like the dead calm of this very morning,
which so skilfully bound up the night wind in its cool, placid air. He
would have liked to linger a moment in the park, but he passed quickly
by and went into a little chop-house for his morning meal.

As he dawdled over his cup of muddy coffee he had a curious sense that
his mind was intent on keeping at bay some half-formulated fear. He felt
pursued, as by an indistinct dream. Yet he was cunning enough to pretend
that this something was too illusive to capture outright, so he turned
his thoughts to all manner of remote things. But there are times when it
is almost as difficult to deceive oneself as to cheat others. In the
midst of his thoughts he suddenly realized that under the stimulating
influence of a second cup of coffee he was feeling quite himself again.

"That is because I got such a good night's sleep," he muttered. "For
over a week this Italian and his wretched accordion--" He halted his
thoughts abruptly. "What am I thinking about?" he demanded. Then he
rose, paid his bill, and departed.

He turned back to his lodgings. At Bollo's Wine Shop he hesitated. A
knot of people stood at the entrance of the Hôtel des Alpes Maritimes,
and a curious wagon was drawn up to the curb.

He stopped a child. "What is the trouble?" he inquired.

The girl raised a pair of mournful eyes to him. "A man has been killed!"
she answered.

Suvaroff turned quickly and walked in another direction. He went to the
café where he fiddled. At this hour it was like an empty cavern. A smell
of stale beer and tobacco smoke pervaded the imprisoned air. He sat down
upon the deserted platform and pretended to practise. He played
erratically, feverishly. The waiters, moving about their morning
preparations with an almost uncanny quiet, listened attentively. Finally
one of them stopped before him.

"What has come over you, Suvaroff?" questioned the man. "You are making
our flesh creep!"

"Oh, pardon me!" cried Suvaroff. "I shall not trouble you further!"

And with that he packed up his violin and left. He did not go back to
the café, even at the appointed hour. Instead, he wandered aimlessly
about. All day he tramped the streets. He listened to street-fakirs,
peered into shop-windows, threw himself upon the grass of the public
squares and stared up at the blue sky. He had very little personal
consciousness; he seemed to have lost track of himself. He had an absurd
feeling that he had come away from somewhere and left behind a vital
part of his being.

"Suvaroff! Suvaroff!" he would repeat over and over to himself, as if
trying to recall the memory of some one whose precise outline had
escaped him.

He caught a glimpse of his figure in the mirror of a shop-window. He
went closer, staring for some moments at the face opposite him. There
followed an infinitesimal fraction of time when his spirit deserted him
as completely as if he were dead. When he recovered himself he had a
sense that he was staring at the reflection of a stranger. He moved
away, puzzled. Was he going mad? Then, suddenly, everything grew quite
clear. He remembered the Italian, the accordion, the hunchback.
Characters, circumstances, sequences--all stood out as sharply as the
sky-line of a city in the glow of sunset.... He put his fingers to his
pulse. Everything seemed normal; his skin was moist and cool. Yet last
night he had been very ill. That was it! Last night he had been ill!

"What strange dreams people have when they are in a fever!" he exclaimed
for the second time that day. He decided to go home. "I wonder, though,"
thought he, "whether the Italian is still playing that awful
instrument?" Curiously enough, the idea did not disturb him in the
least. "I shall teach him a Russian tune or two!" he decided,
cheerfully. "Then, maybe his playing will be endurable."

When he came again to his lodgings he was surprised to find a knot of
curious people on the opposite side of the street, and another before
the entrance. He went up the stairs. His landlady came to meet him.

"Mr. Suvaroff," she began at once, "have you not heard what has
happened? The man in the next room to you was found this
morning--_dead_!"

He did not pretend to be surprised. "Well," he announced, brutally, "at
least we shall have no more of dreadful music! How did he kill himself?"

The woman gave way to his advance with a movement of flattering
confusion. "The knife was in his side," she answered. "In his
side--toward the back."

"Ah, then he was murdered!"

"Yes."

He was mounting the second flight of stairs when his landlady again
halted him. "Mr. Suvaroff," she ventured, "I hope you will not be angry!
But his mother came early this morning. All day she has sat in your
room, weeping. I cannot persuade her to go away. What am I to do?"

Suvaroff glared at her for a moment. "It is nothing!" he announced, as
he passed on, shrugging.

The door of his room was open; he went in. A gnarled old woman sat on
the edge of the bed; a female consoler was on either side. At the sight
of Suvaroff the mourner rose and stood trembling before him, rolling a
gaudy handkerchief into a moist bundle.

"My good woman," said Suvaroff, kindly, "do not stand; sit down."

"Kind gentleman!" the old woman began. "Kind gentleman--"

She got no further because of her tears. The other women rose and sat
her down again. She began to moan. Suvaroff, awkward and disturbed,
stood as men do in such situations.

Finally the old woman found her voice. "Kind gentleman," she said, "I am
a poor old woman, and my son--Ah! I was washing his socks when they came
after me.... You see what has happened! He was a good son. Once a week
he came to me and brought me five dollars. Now--What am I to do, my kind
gentleman?"

Suvaroff said nothing.

She swayed back and forth, and spoke again. "Only last week he said:
'There is a man who lodges next me who plays music.' Yes, my son was
fond of you because of that. He said: 'I have seen him only once. He
plays music all day and night, so that he may have money enough to live
on. When I hear him coming up the stairs I take down my accordion and
begin to play. All day and night he plays for others. So I think, Now it
will be nice to give him some pleasure. So I take down my accordion and
play for _him_!'... Yes, yes! He was like that all his life. He was a
good son. Now what am I to do?"

A shudder passed over Suvaroff. There was a soft tap upon the door. The
three women and Suvaroff looked up. Flavio Minetti stood in the doorway.

The three women gave the hunchback swift, inclusive glances, such as
women always use when they measure a newcomer, and speedily dropped
their eyes. Suvaroff stared silently at the warped figure. Minetti
leaned against the door; his smile was at once both cruel and curiously
touching. At length Minetti spoke. The sound of his voice provoked a
sort of terror in the breast of Suvaroff.

"I have just heard," he said, benevolently, "from the proprietor of the
wine-shop across the way, that your neighbor has been murdered. The
landlady tells me that his mother is here."

The old woman roused herself. "Yes--you can see for yourself that I am
here. I am a poor old woman, and my son--Ah! I was washing his socks
when--"

"Yes, yes!" interrupted the hunchback, advancing into the room. "You are
a poor old woman! Let me give you some money in all charity."

He threw gold into her lap. She began to tremble. Suvaroff saw her hands
greedily close over the coins, and the sight sickened him.

"Why did you come?" Suvaroff demanded of Minetti. "Go away! You are not
wanted here!"

The three women rose. The old woman began to mumble a blessing. She even
put up her hand in the fashion of bestowing a benediction. Suvaroff
fancied that he saw Minetti wince.

"He was a good son," the old woman began to mutter they led her out. At
the door she looked back. Suvaroff turned away. "Once a week he came to
me and brought me five dollars," she said, quite calmly. "He was a good
son. He even played his music to give pleasure to others. Yes, yes! He
was like that all his life...."

When the women were gone, Suvaroff felt the hunchback's hand upon his.
Suvaroff turned a face of dry-eyed hopelessness toward his tormentor.

"Did you not sleep peacefully last night, my friend?" Minetti inquired,
mockingly.

"After the thud I knew nothing," replied Suvaroff.

"The thud?"

"He fell from his chair."

"Of course. That was to be expected. Just so."

"You see for yourself what you have done? Fancy, this man has a mother!"

"See, it is just as I said. Already you are dragging this dead thing
about, chained to your wrist. Come, forget it. I should have killed him,
anyway."

"That is not the point. The point is--My God! Tell me, in what fashion
do these people laugh at you? Tell me how it is done."

"Laughter cannot be taught, my friend."

"Then Heaven help me! for I should like to laugh at you. If I could but
laugh at you, all would be over."

"Ah!" said the hunchback. "I see."

* * *

At the end of the week Minetti came to Suvaroff one evening and said,
not unkindly: "Why don't you leave? You are killing yourself. Go
away--miles away. It would have happened, anyway."

Suvaroff was lying upon his bed. His face was turned toward the wall. He
did not trouble to look at Minetti.

"I cannot leave. You know that as well as I do. When I am absent from
this room I am in a fever until I get back to it again. I lie here and
close my eyes and think.... Whenever a thud shakes the house I leap up,
trembling. I have not worked for five days. They have given up sending
for me from the café. Yesterday his mother came and sat with me. She
drove me mad. But I sat and listened to her. 'Yes, he was a good son!'
She repeats this by the hour, and rolls and unrolls her handkerchief....
It is bad enough in the daytime. But at night--God! If only the music
would play again! I cannot endure such silence."

He buried his face in the pillow. Minetti shrugged and left.

In about an hour Suvaroff rose and went out. He found a squalid
wine-shop in the quarter just below the Barbary Coast. He went in and
sat alone at a table. The floors had not been freshly sanded for weeks;
a dank mildew covered the green wall-paper. He called for brandy, and a
fat, greasy-haired man placed a bottle of villainous stuff before him.
Suvaroff poured out a drink and swallowed it greedily. He drank another
and another. The room began to fill. The lights were dim, and the
arrival and departure of patrons threw an endless procession of
grotesque silhouettes upon the walls. Suvaroff was fascinated by these
dancing shadows. They seemed familiar and friendly. He sat sipping his
brandy, now, with a quieter, more leisurely air. The shadows were
indescribably fascinating; they were so horrible and amusing! He began
to wonder whether their antics would move him to laughter if he sat and
drank long enough. He had a feeling that laughter and sleep went hand in
hand. If he could but laugh again he was quite sure that he would fall
asleep. But he discovered a truth while he sat there. Amusement and
laughter were often strangers. He had known this all his life, of
course, but he had never thought of it. Once, when he was a child, an
old man had fallen in the road before him, in a fit. Suvaroff had stood
rooted to the spot with amusement, but he had not laughed. Yet the man
had gone through the contortions of a clown.... Well, then he was not to
be moved to laughter, after all. He wearily put the cork back in the
bottle of brandy. The fat bartender came forward. Suvaroff paid him and
departed.

He went to the wine-shop the next night--and the next. He began to have
a hope that if he persisted he would discover a shadow grotesque enough
to make him laugh. He sat for hours, drinking abominable brandy. The
patrons of the shop did not interest him. They were squalid, dirty,
uninteresting. But their shadows were things of wonder. How was it
possible for such drab people to have even interesting shadows? And why
were these shadows so familiar? Suvaroff recognized each in turn, as if
it were an old friend that he remembered but could not name. After the
second night he came to a definite conclusion.

"They are not old friends at all," he said to himself. "They are not
even the shadows of these people who come here. They are merely the
silhouettes of my own thoughts.... If I could but draw my thoughts, they
would be as black and as fantastic."

But at another time he dismissed this theory.

"No," he muttered, "they are not the shadows of my thoughts at all. They
are the souls of these men. They are the twisted, dark, horrible souls
of these men, that cannot crawl out except at nightfall! They are the
souls of these men seeking to escape, like dogs chained to their
kennels!... I wonder if the Italian had such a soul?..."

He rose suddenly. "I am wasting my time here," he said, almost aloud.
"One may learn to laugh at a shadow. One may even learn to laugh at the
picture of one's thoughts. But to laugh at a soul--No! A man's soul is
too dreadful a thing to laugh at." He staggered out into the night.

On his way home he went into a pawn-shop and bought a pistol. He was in
a fever to get back to his lodgings. He found Minetti waiting for him.
He tried to conceal the pistol, but he knew that Minetti had seen it.
Minetti was as pleasant as one could imagine. He told the most droll
stories of his life in London. It appeared that he had lived there in a
hotbed of exiled radicals; but he, himself, seemed to have no
convictions. Everything he described was touched with a certain ironic
humor. When he rose to go he said, quite simply:

"How are things? Do you sleep nights now?"

"No. I never expect to sleep again."

Minetti made no comment. "I see you have bought a pistol," he observed.

"Yes," replied Suvaroff.

"You have wasted your money, my young friend," declared the hunchback.
"You will never use it."

With that Minetti left the room. Suvaroff laid the pistol on the table
and threw himself upon the bed. He lay there without moving until
morning.... Toward six o'clock he rose. He went over to the table and
deliberately put the pistol to his temple. The coldness of the muzzle
sent a tremor through him.... He put down the weapon in disgust.

* * *

Suvaroff stayed away from the wine-shop for two nights, but finally the
memory of its fascinating shadows lured him back. The fat bartender saw
him enter, and came forward with a bottle of brandy. Suvaroff smiled
grimly and said nothing. He turned his back upon the company and began
to watch the shadows enter and disappear. To-night the puppets seemed
more whimsical than grotesque, and once he nearly laughed. A shadow with
an enormous nose appeared; and a fly, as big as a bumblebee, lit upon
the nose and sat rubbing its legs together in insolent content. A hand,
upraised, struck at the fly. The nose disappeared as if completely
annihilated by the blow, while the fly hovered safely aloof. Feeling
encouraged, Suvaroff took another drink. But the more he drank the less
genial were the shadows, and by midnight they all had become as sinister
and terrible as ever.

On the way home to his room Suvaroff suddenly remembered that he had a
friend who was a druggist.

"Perhaps he can give me something to make me sleep," Suvaroff muttered.

But the drug-store was closed. Suvaroff climbed wearily up the stairs of
the Hôtel des Alpes Maritimes. Minetti was sitting on the steps near the
third landing.

"I was preparing to go home," said the hunchback. "What kept you so
late?"

"I went around another way," answered Suvaroff. "I thought I might get
something from a druggist friend to help me sleep."

They stood before the door of Suvaroff's room. Suvaroff opened the door
and they went in.

"Sleeping-powders are dangerous," observed Minetti, throwing his hat
upon the bed.

"So I fancied," replied Suvaroff, dryly.

"Where do you spend your nights?" Minetti demanded suddenly.

Suvaroff sat down. "Watching shadows in a wine-shop."

"Ah--a puppet show!"

"No, not exactly. I will explain.... No; come to think of it, there is
no explanation. But it is extremely amusing. To-night, for instance, I
nearly laughed.... Have you ever watched shadows upon a wall? Really,
they are diverting beyond belief."

"Yes. I have watched them often. They are more real to me than actual
people, because they are uglier. Beauty is a lie!"

A note of dreadful conviction crept into the hunchback's voice. Suvaroff
looked at him intently, and said, quite simply:

"What a bitter truth _you_ are, my friend!"

Minetti stared at Suvaroff, and he rose. "Perhaps I shall see you at
your puppet show some evening," he said. And, without waiting for a
reply, he left the room.

Suvaroff lay again all night upon his bed staring in a mute agony at the
ceiling. Once or twice he fancied he heard the sounds of music from the
next room. His heart leaped joyfully. But almost instantly his hopes
sank back, like spent swimmers in a relentless sea. It seemed as if his
brain were thirsting. He was in a pitiless desert of white-heated
thought, and there was not a cloud of oblivion upon the horizon of his
despair. Remembrance flamed like a molten sun, greedily withering every
green, refreshing thing in its path. How long before this dreadful
memory would consume him utterly?

"If I could only laugh!" he cried in his agony. "_If I could only
laugh!_"

* * *

All next day Suvaroff was in a fever; not a physical fever, but a mental
fever that burned with devastating insistence. He could not lie still
upon his bed, so he rose and stumbled about the city's streets. But
nothing diverted him. Before his eyes a sheet of fire burned, and a
blinding light seemed to shut out everything else from his vision. Even
his thoughts crackled like dry faggots in a flame.

"When evening comes," he said, "a breeze will spring up and I shall have
some relief." But almost at once he thought: "A breeze will do no good.
It will only make matters worse! I have heard that nothing puts out a
fire so quickly as a shower. Let me see--It is now the middle of
August.... It does not rain in this part of the world until October.
Well, I must wait until October, then. No; a breeze at evening will do
no good. I will go and watch the shadows again. Shadows are cool affairs
if one sits in them, but how...."

And he began to wonder how he could contrive to sit in shadows that fell
only on a wall.

How he got to the wine-shop he did not know, but at a late hour he found
himself sitting at his accustomed seat. His bottle of brandy stood
before him. To-night the shadows were blacker than ever, as if the fury
of the flames within him were providing these dancing figures with a
brighter background.

"These shadows are not the pictures of my thoughts," he said to himself.
"Neither are they chained souls seeking to escape. They are the smoke
from the fire in my head. They are the black smoke from my brain which
is slowly burning away!"

He sat for hours, staring at the wall. The figures came and went, but
they ceased to have any form or meaning. He merely sat and drank, and
stared.... All at once a strange shadow appeared. A shadow? No; a
phantom--a dreadful thing! Suvaroff leaned forward. His breath came
quickly, his body trembled in the grip of a convulsion, his hands were
clenched. He rose in his seat, and suddenly--quite suddenly, without
warning--he began to laugh.... The shadow halted in its flight across
the wall. Suvaroff circled the room with his gaze. In the center of the
wine-shop stood Flavio Minetti. Suvaroff sat down. He was still shaking
with laughter.

Presently Suvaroff was conscious that Minetti had disappeared. The fire
in his brain had ceased to burn. Instead his senses seemed chilled, not
disagreeably, but with a certain pleasant numbness. He glanced about.
What was he doing in such a strange, squalid place? And the brandy was
abominable! He called the waiter, paid him what was owing, and left at
once.

There was no mist in the air to-night. The sky was clear and a wisp of
moon crept on its disdainful way through the heavens.

"I shall sleep to-night," muttered Suvaroff, as he climbed up to his
room upon the third story of the Hôtel des Alpes Maritimes.

He undressed deliberately. All his former frenzy was gone. Shortly after
he had crawled into bed he heard a step on the landing. Then, as usual,
sounds began to drift down the passageway, not in heavy and clattering
fashion, but with a pattering quality like a bird upon a roof. And,
curiously, Suvaroff's thoughts wandered to other things, and a picture
of his native country flashed over him--Little Russia in the languid
embrace of summer--green and blue and golden. The soft notes of the
balalaika at twilight came to him, and the dim shapes of dancing
peasants, whirling like aspen-leaves in a fresh breeze. He remembered
the noonday laughter of skylarks; the pear-trees bending patiently
beneath their harvest; the placid river winding its willow-hedged way,
cutting the plain like a thin silver knife.

A fresh current of air began to blow upon him. He heard the creak of a
rusty hinge.

"He has opened the door," Suvaroff whispered. His teeth began to
chatter. "Nevertheless, I shall sleep to-night," he said to himself
reassuringly.

A faint footfall sounded upon the threshold.... Suvaroff drew the
bedclothes higher.



THE EMPEROR OF ELAM[8]

[Note 8: Copyright, 1917, by The Century Company. Copyright, 1918,
by H. G. Dwight.]

BY H. G. DWIGHT

From _The Century Magazine_.

_I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift,
nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet
riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time
and chance happeneth to them all._

_Ecclesiastes_, ix, 11.


I

The first of the two boats to arrive at this unappointed rendezvous was
one to catch the eye even in that river of strange craft. She had
neither the raking bow nor the rising poop of the local _mehala_, but a
tall incurving beak, not unlike those of certain Mesopotamian
sculptures, with a windowed and curtained deck-house at the stern.
Forward she carried a short mast. The lateen sail was furled, however,
and the galley was propelled at a fairly good gait by seven pairs of
long sweeps. They flashed none too rhythmically, it must be added, at
the sun which had just risen above the Persian mountains. And although
the slit sleeves of the fourteen oarsmen, all of them young and none of
them ill to look upon, flapped decoratively enough about the handles of
the sweeps, they could not be said to present a shipshape appearance.
Neither did the black felt caps the boatmen wore, fantastically tall and
knotted about their heads with gay fringed scarves.

This barge had passed out of the Ab-i-Diz and was making its stately
enough way across the basin of divided waters below Bund-i-Kir, when
from the mouth of the Ab-i-Gerger--the easterly of two turbid threads
into which the Karun above this point is split by a long island--there
shot a trim white motor-boat. The noise she made in the breathless
summer sunrise, intensified and reechoed by the high clay banks which
here rise thirty feet or more above the water, caused the rowers of the
galley to look around. Then they dropped their sweeps in astonishment at
the spectacle of the small boat advancing so rapidly toward them without
any effort on the part of the four men it contained, as if blown by the
breath of jinn. The word _Firengi_, however, passed around the
deck--that word so flattering to a great race, which once meant Frank
but which now, in one form or another, describes for the people of
western Asia the people of Europe and their cousins beyond the seas.
Among the friends of the jinn, of whom as it happened only two were
Europeans, there also passed an explanatory word. But although they
pronounced the strange oarsmen to be Lurs, they caused their jinni to
cease his panting, so struck were they by the appearance of the
high-beaked barge.

The two craft drifted abreast of each other about midway of the sunken
basin. As they did so, one of the Europeans in the motor-boat, a stocky
black-moustached fellow in blue overalls, wearing in place of the
regulation helmet of that climate a greasy black _béret_ over one ear,
lifted his hand from the wheel and called out the Arabic salutation of
the country:

"Peace be unto you!"

"And to you, peace!" responded a deep voice from the doorway of the
deck-house. It was evident that the utterer of this friendly antiphon
was not a Lur. Fairer, taller, stouter, and older than his wild-looking
crew, he was also better dressed--in a girdled robe of gray silk, with a
striped silk scarf covering his hair and the back of his neck in the
manner of the Arabs. A thick brown beard made his appearance more
imposing, while two scars across his left cheek, emerging from the
beard, suggested or added to something in him which might on occasion
become formidable. As it was he stepped forward with a bow and
addressed a slim young man who sat in the stern of the motor-boat.
"Shall we pass as Kinglake and the Englishman of _Eothen_ did in the
desert," asked the stranger, smiling, in a very good English, "because
they had not been introduced? Or will you do me the honor to come on
board my--ark?"

The slim young man, whose fair hair, smooth face, and white clothes made
him the most boyish looking of that curious company, lifted his white
helmet and smiled in return.

"Why not?" he assented. And, becoming conscious that his examination of
this surprising stranger, who looked down at him with odd light eyes,
was too near a stare, he added: "What on earth is your ark made of, Mr.
Noah?"

What she was made of, as a matter of fact, was what heightened the
effect of remoteness she produced--a hard dark wood unknown to the lower
Karun, cut in lengths of not more than two or three feet and caulked
with reeds and mud.

"'Make thee an ark of gopher wood,'" quoted the stranger. "'Rooms shalt
thou make in the ark, and thou shalt pitch it within and without with
pitch.'"

"Bitumen, eh?" exclaimed the slim young man. "Where did you get it?"

"Do you ask, you who drill oil at Meidan-i-Naft?"

"As it happens, I don't!" smiled the slim young man.

"At any rate," continued the stranger, after a scarcely perceptible
pause, "let me welcome you on board the Ark." And when the unseen jinni
had made it possible for the slim young man to set foot on the deck of
the barge, the stranger added, with a bow: "Magin is my name--from
Brazil."

If the slim young man did not stare again, he at least had time to make
out that the oddity of his host's light eyes lay not so much in the fact
of their failing to be distinctly brown, gray, or green, as that they
had a translucent look. Then he responded briefly, holding out his
hand:

"Matthews. But isn't this a long way from Rio de Janeiro?"

"Well," returned the other, "it's not so near London! But come in and
have something, won't you?" And he held aside the reed portière that
screened the door of the deck-house.

"My word! You do know how to do yourself!" exclaimed Matthews. His eye
took in the Kerman embroidery on the table in the centre of the small
saloon, the gazelle skins and silky Shiraz rugs covering the two divans
at the sides, the fine Sumak carpet on the floor, and the lion pelt in
front of an inner door. "By Jove!" he exclaimed again. "That's a
beauty!"

"Ha!" laughed the Brazilian. "The Englishman spies his lion first!"

"Where did you find him?" asked Matthews, going behind the table for a
better look. "They're getting few and far between around here, they
say."

"Oh, they still turn up," answered the Brazilian, it seemed to Matthews
not too definitely. Before he could pursue the question farther, Magin
clapped his hands. Instantly there appeared at the outer door a
barefooted Lur, whose extraordinary cap looked to Matthews even taller
and more pontifical than those of his fellow-countrymen at the oars. The
Lur, his hands crossed on his girdle, received a rapid order and
vanished as silently as he came.

"I wish I knew the lingo like that!" commented Matthews.

Magin waved a deprecatory hand.

"One picks it up soon enough. Besides, what's the use--with a man like
yours? Who is he, by the way? He doesn't look English."

"Who? Gaston? He isn't. He's French. And he doesn't know too much of the
lingo. But the blighter could get on anywhere. He's been all over the
place--Algiers, Egypt, Baghdad. He's been chauffeur to more nabobs in
turbans than you can count. He's a topping mechanic, too. The wheel
hasn't been invented that beggar can't make go 'round. The only trouble
he has is with his own. He keeps time for a year or two, and then
something happens to his mainspring and he gets the sack. But he never
seems to go home. He always moves on to some place where it's hotter and
dirtier. You should hear his stories! He's an amusing devil."

"And perhaps not so different from the rest of us!" threw out Magin.
"What flea bites us? Why do you come here, courting destruction in a
cockleshell that may any minute split on a rock and spill you to the
sharks, when you might be punting some pretty girl up the backwaters of
the Thames? Why do I float around in this old ark of reeds and
bulrushes, like an elderly Moses in search of a promised land, who
should be at home wearing the slippers of middle age? What is it? A
sunstroke? This is hardly the country where Goethe's citrons bloom!"

"Damned if I know!" laughed Matthews. "I fancy we like a bit of a lark!"

The Brazilian laughed too.

"A bit of a lark!" he echoed.

Just then the silent Lur reappeared with a tray.

"I say!" protested Matthews. "Whiskey and soda at five o'clock in the
morning, in the middle of July--"

"1914, if you must be so precise!" added Magin jovially. "But why not?"
he demanded. "Aren't you an Englishman? You mustn't shake the pious
belief in which I was brought up, that you are all weaned with Scotch!
Say when. It isn't every day that I have the pleasure of so fortunate an
encounter." And, rising, he lifted his glass, bowed, and said: "Here's
to a bit of a lark, Mr. Matthews!"

The younger man rose to it. But inwardly he began to feel a little
irked.

"By the way," he asked, nibbling at a biscuit, "can you tell me anything
about the Ab-i-Diz? I dare say you must know something about it--since
your men look as if they came from up that way. Is there a decent
channel as far as Dizful?"

"Ah!" uttered Magin slowly. "Are you thinking of going up there?" He
considered the question, and his guest, with a flicker in his lighted
eyes. "Well, decent is a relative word, you know. However, wonders can
be accomplished with a stout rope and a gang of natives, even beyond
Dizful. But here you see me and my ark still whole--after a night
journey, too. The worst thing is the sun. You see I am more careful of
my skin than you. As for the shoals, the rapids, the sharks, the lions,
the nomads who pop at you from the bank, _et cetera_--you are an
Englishman! Do you take an interest in antiques?" he broke off abruptly.

"Yes--though interest is a relative word too, I expect."

"Quite so!" agreed the Brazilian. "I have rather a mania for that sort
of thing, myself. Wait. Let me show you." And he went into the inner
cabin. When he came back he held up an alabaster cup. "A Greek kylix!"
he cried. "Pure Greek! What an outline, eh? This is what keeps me from
putting on my slippers! I have no doubt Alexander left it behind him.
Perhaps Hephaistion drank out of it, or Nearchus, to celebrate his
return from India. And some rascally Persian stole it out of a tent!"

Matthews, taking the cup, saw the flicker brighten in the Brazilian's
eyes.

"Nice little pattern of grape leaves, that," he said. "And think of
picking it up out here!"

"Oh you can always pick things up, if you know where to look," said
Magin. "Dieulafoy and the rest of them didn't take everything. How could
they? The people who have come and gone through this country of Elam!
Why just over there, at Bund-i-Kir, Antigonus fought Eumenes and the
Silver Shields for the spoils of Susa--and won them! I have
discovered--But come in here." And he pushed wider open the door of the
inner cabin.

Matthews stepped into what was evidently a stateroom. A broad bunk
filled one side of it, and the visitor could not help remarking a second
interior door. But his eye was chiefly struck by two, three, no four,
chests, which took up more space in the narrow cabin than could be
convenient for its occupant. They seemed to be made of the same
mysterious dark wood as the "ark," clamped with copper.

"I say! Those aren't bad!" he exclaimed. "More of the spoils of Susa?"

"Ho! My trunks? I had them made up the river, like the rest. But I
wonder what would interest you in my museum. Let's see." He bent over
one of the chests, unlocked it, rummaged under the cover, and brought
out a broad metal circlet which he handed to Matthews. "How would that
do for a crown, eh?"

The young man took it over to the porthole. The metal, he then saw, was
a soft antique gold, wrought into a decoration of delicate spindles,
with a border of filigree. The circlet was beautiful in itself, and
astonishingly heavy. But what it chiefly did for Matthews was to sharpen
the sense of strangeness, of remoteness, which this bizarre galley, come
from unknown waters, had brought into the familiar muddy Karun.

"As a matter of fact," went on the Brazilian, "it's an anklet. But can
you make it out? Those spindles are Persian, while the filigree is more
Byzantine than anything else. You find funny things up there, in
caves--"

He tossed a vague hand, into which Matthews put the anklet, saying:

"Take it before I steal it!"

"Keep it, won't you?" proposed the astonishing Brazilian.

"Oh, thanks. But I could hardly do that," Matthews replied.

"Why not?" protested Magin. "As a souvenir of a pleasant meeting! I have
a ton of them." He waved his hand at the chests.

"No, really, thanks," persisted the young man. "And I'm afraid we must
be getting on. I don't know the river, you see, and I'd like to reach
Dizful before dark."

The Brazilian studied him a moment.

"As you say," he finally conceded. "But you will at least have another
drink before you go?"

"No, not even that, thanks," said Matthews. "We really must be off. But
it's been very decent of you."

He felt both awkward and amused as he backed out to the deck, followed
by his imposing host. At sight of the two the crew scattered to their
oars. They had been leaning over the side, absorbed in admiration of the
white jinn-boat. Matthews' Persian servant handed up to Magin's butler a
tray of tea glasses--on which Matthews also noted a bottle. In honor of
that bottle Gaston himself stood up and took off his greasy cap.

"A thousand thanks, Monsieur," he said. "I have tasted nothing so good
since I left France."

"In that case, my friend," rejoined Magin in French as good as his
English, "it is time you returned!" And he abounded in amiable speeches
and ceremonious bows until the last _au revoir_.

"_Au plaisir!_" called back Gaston, having invoked his jinni. Then,
after a last look at the barge, he asked over his shoulder in a low
voice: "Who is this extraordinary type, M'sieu Guy? A species of an
Arab, who speaks French and English and who voyages in a galley from a
museum!"

"A Brazilian, he says," imparted M'sieu Guy--whose surname was beyond
Gaston's gallic tongue.

"Ah! The uncle of America! That understands itself! He sent me out a
cognac, too! And did he present you to his _dame de compagnie_? She put
her head out of a porthole to look at our boat. A Lur, like the others,
but with a pair of blistering black eyes! And a jewel in her nose!"

"It takes you, Gaston," said Guy Matthews, "to discover a dame of
company!"


II

When the white motor-boat had disappeared in the glitter of the
Ab-i-Diz, Senhor Magin, not unlike other fallible human beings when
released from the necessity of keeping up a pitch, appeared to lose
something of his gracious humor. So, it transpired, did his decorative
boatmen, who had not expected to row twenty-five miles upstream at a
time when most people in that climate seek the relief of their
_serdabs_--which are underground chambers cooled by running water, it
may be, and by a tall _badgir_, or air chimney. The running water, to be
sure, was here, and had already begun to carry the barge down the Karun.
If the high banks of that tawny stream constituted a species of air
chimney, however, such air as moved therein was not calculated for
relief. But when Brazilians command, even a Lur may obey. These Lurs, at
all events, propelled their galley back to the basin of Bund-i-Kir, and
on into the Ab-i-Shuteit--which is the westerly of those two halves of
the Karun. Before nightfall the barge had reached the point where
navigation ends. There Magin sent his majordomo ashore to procure
mounts. And at sunset the two of them, followed by a horse boy, rode
northward six or seven miles, till the city of Shuster rose dark above
them in the summer evening, on its rock that cleaves the Karun in two.

The Bazaar by which they entered the town was deserted at that hour,
save by dogs that set up a terrific barking at the sight of strangers.
Here the _charvadar_ lighted a vast white linen lantern, which he
proceeded to carry in front of the two riders. He seemed to know where
he was going, for he led the way without a pause through long blank
silent streets of indescribable filth and smells. The gloom of them was
deepened by jutting balconies, and by innumerable _badgirs_ that cut out
a strange black fretwork against amazing stars. At last the three
stopped in front of a gate in the vicinity of the citadel. This was not
one of the gateways that separate the different quarters of Shuster,
but a door in a wall, recessed in a tall arch and ornamented with an
extraordinary variety of iron clamps, knobs, locks, and knockers.

Of one of the latter the _charvadar_ made repeated use until someone
shouted from inside. The horse-boy shouted back, and presently his
lantern caught a glitter of two eyes in a slit. The eyes belonged to a
cautious doorkeeper, who after satisfying himself that the visitors were
not enemies admitted the Brazilian and the Lur into a vaulted brick
vestibule. Then, having looked to his wards and bolts, he lighted Magin
through a corridor which turned into a low tunnel-like passage. This led
into a sort of cloister, where a covered ambulatory surrounded a dark
pool of stars. Thence another passage brought them out into a great open
court. Here an invisible jet of water made an illusion of coolness in
another, larger, pool, overlooked by a portico of tall slim pillars.
Between them Magin caught the glow of a cigar.

"Good evening, Ganz," his bass voice called from the court.

"Heaven! Is that you?" replied the smoker of the cigar. "What are you
doing here, in God's name? I imagined you at Mohamera, by this time, or
even in the Gulf." This remark, it may not be irrelevant to say, was in
German--as spoken in the trim town of Zurich.

"And so I should have been," replied the polyglot Magin in the same
language, mounting the steps of the portico and shaking his friend's
hand, "but for--all sorts of things. If we ran aground once, we ran
aground three thousand times. I begin to wonder if we shall get through
the reefs at Ahwaz--with all the rubbish I have on board."

"Ah, bah! You can manage, going down. But why do you waste your time in
Shuster, with all that is going on in Europe?"

"H'm!" grunted Magin. "What is going on in Europe? A great family is
wearing well cut mourning, and a small family is beginning to turn
green! How does that affect two quiet nomads in Elam--especially when
one of them is a Swiss and one a Brazilian?" He laughed, and lighted a
cigar the other offered him. "My dear Ganz, it is an enigma to me how a
man who can listen to such a fountain, and admire such stars, can
perpetually sigh after the absurdities of Europe! Which reminds me that
I met an Englishman this morning."

"Well, what of that? Are Englishmen so rare?"

"Alas, no--though I notice, my good Ganz, that you do your best to thin
them out! This specimen was too typical for me to be able to describe
him. Younger than usual, possibly; yellow hair, blue eyes, constrained
manner, everything to sample. He called himself Mark, or Matthew. Rather
their apostolic air, too--except that he was in the Oil Company's
motor-boat. But he gave me to understand that he was not in the Oil
Company."

"Quite so."

"I saw for myself that he knows nothing about archæology. Who is he?
Lynch? Bank? Telegraph?"

"He's not Lynch, and he's not Bank, and he's not Telegraph. Neither is
he consul, or even that famous railroad. He's--English!" And Ganz let
out a chuckle at the success of his own characterization.

"Ah! So?" exclaimed Magin elaborately. "I hear, by the way, that that
famous railroad is not marching so fast. The Lurs don't like it. But
sometimes even Englishmen," he added, "have reasons for doing what they
do. This one, at any rate, seemed more inclined to ask questions than to
answer them. I confess I don't know whether it was because he had
nothing to say or whether he preferred not to say it. Is he perhaps a
son of Papa, making the grand tour?"

"More or less. Papa gave him no great letter of credit, though. He came
out to visit some of the Oil people. And he's been here long enough to
learn quite a lot of Persian."

"So he starts this morning, I take it, from Sheleilieh. But why the
devil does he go to Dizful, by himself?"

"And why the devil shouldn't he? He's out here, and he wants to see the
sights--such as they are. So he's going to take a look at the ruins of
Susa, and at your wonderful unspoiled Dizful. Shir Ali Khan will be
delighted to get a few _tomans_ for his empty house by the river. Then
the 21st, you know, is the coronation. So I gave him a letter to the
Father of Swords, who--"

"Thunder and lightning!" Magin's heavy voice resounded in the portico
very like a bellow. "You, Ganz, sent this man to the Father of Swords?
He might be one of those lieutenants from India who go smelling around
in their holidays, so pink and innocent!"

"What is that to me?" demanded the Swiss, raising his own voice. "Or to
you either? After all, Senhor Magin, are you the Emperor of Elam?"

The Brazilian laughed.

"Not yet! And naturally it's nothing to you, when you cash him checks
and sell him tinned cows and quinine. But for a man who perpetually
sighs after Europe, Herr Ganz, and for a Swiss of the north, you strike
me as betraying a singular lack of sensibility to certain larger
interests of your race. However--What concerns me is that you should
have confided to this young man, with such a roll of sentimental eyes as
I can imagine, that Dizful is still 'unspoiled'! If Dizful is unspoiled,
he might spoil it. I've found some very nice things up there, you know.
I was even fool enough to show him one or two."

"Bah! He likes to play tennis and shoot! You know these English boys."

Magin considered those English boys in silence for a moment.

"Yes, I know them. This one told me he liked a bit of a lark! I know
myself what a lark it is to navigate the Ab-i-Diz, at the end of July!
But what is most curious about these English boys is that when they go
out for a bit of a lark they come home with Egypt or India in their
pocket. Have you noticed that, Ganz? That's their idea of a bit of a
lark. And with it all they are still children. What can one do with
such people? A bit of a lark! Well, you will perhaps make me a little
annoyance, Mr. Adolf Ganz, by sending your English boy up to Dizful to
have a bit of a lark. However, he'll either give himself a sunstroke or
get himself bitten in two by a shark. He asked me about the channel, and
I had an inspiration. I told him he would have no trouble. So he'll go
full speed and we shall see what we shall see. Do you sell coffins, Mr.
Ganz, in addition to all your other valuable merchandise?"

"Naturally, Mr. Magin," replied the Swiss. "Do you need one? But you
haven't explained to me yet why you give me the pain of saying good-bye
to you a second time."

"Partly, Mr. Ganz, because I am tired of sleeping in an oven, and partly
because I--the Father of Swords has asked me to run up to Bala Bala
before I leave. But principally because I need a case or two more of
your excellent _vin de champagne_--manufactured out of Persian
petroleum, the water of the Karun, the nameless abominations of Shuster,
and the ever effervescing impudence of the Swiss Republic!"

"What can I do?" smiled the flattered author of this concoction. "I have
to use what I can get, in this Godforsaken place."

"And I suppose you will end by getting a million, eh?"

"No such luck! But I'm getting a piano. Did I tell you? A Blüthner. It's
already on the way up from Mohamera."

"A Blüthner! In Shuster! God in heaven! Why did you wait until I had
gone?"

"Well, aren't you still here?" The fact of Magin's being still there, so
unexpectedly, hung in his mind. "By the way, speaking of the Father of
Swords, did you give him an order?"

"I gave him an order. Didn't you pay it?"

"I thought twice about it. For unless you have struck oil, up in that
country of yours where nobody goes, or gold--"

"Mr. Adolf Ganz," remarked the Brazilian with some pointedness, "all I
ask of you is to respect my signature and to keep closed that
many-tongued mouth of yours. I sometimes fear that in you the banker is
inclined to exchange confidences with the chemist--or even with the son
of Papa who cashes a check. Eh?"

Ganz cleared his throat.

"In that case," he rejoined, "all you have to do is to ask him, when you
meet him again at Bala Bala. And the English bank will no doubt be happy
to accept the transfer of your account."

Magin began to chuckle.

"We assert our dignity? Never mind, Adolf. As a matter of fact I have a
high opinion of your discretion--so high that when I found the Imperial
Bank of Elam I shall put you in charge of it! And you did me a real
service by sending that motor-boat across my bow this morning. For in it
I discovered just the chauffeur I have been looking for. I am getting
tired of my galley, you know. You will see something when I come back."

"But," Ganz asked after a moment, "do you really expect to come back?"

"But what else should I do? End my days sneezing and sniffling by some
polite lake of Zurich like you, my poor Ganz, when you find in your hand
the magic key that might unlock for you any door in the world? That, for
example, is not my idea of a lark, as your son of Papa would say! Men
are astounding animals, I admit. But I never could live in Europe, where
you can't turn around without stepping on some one else's toes. I want
room! I want air! I want light! And for a collector, you know, America
is after all a little bare. While here--!"

"O God!" cried Adolf Ganz out of his dark Persian portico.


III

As Gaston very truly observed, there are moments in Persia when even the
most experienced chauffeur is capable of an emotion. And an unusual
number of such moments enlivened for Gaston and his companions their
journey up the Ab-i-Diz. Indeed Matthews asked himself more than once
why he had chosen so doubtful a road to Dizful, when he might so much
more easily have ridden there, and at night. It certainly was not
beautiful, that river of brass zigzagging out of sight of its empty
hinterland. Very seldom did anything so visible as a palm lift itself
against the blinding Persian blue. Konar trees were commoner, their
dense round masses sometimes shading a white-washed tomb or a black
tent. Once or twice at sight of the motor-boat a _bellam_, a native
canoe, took refuge at the mouth of one of the gullies that scarred the
bank like sun-cracks. Generally, however, there was nothing to be seen
between the water and the sky but two yellow walls of clay, topped by
endless thickets of tamarisk and nameless scrub. Matthews wondered,
disappointed, whether a jungle looked like that, and if some black-maned
lion walked more softly in it, or slept less soundly, hearing the pant
of the unknown creature in the river. But there was no lack of more
immediate lions in the path. The sun, for one thing, as the Brazilian
had predicted, proved a torment against which double awnings faced with
green were of small avail. Then the treacheries of a crooked and
constantly shallowing channel needed all the attention the travelers
could spare. And the rapids of Kaleh Bunder, where a rocky island
flanked by two reefs threatened to bar any further progress, afforded
the liveliest moments of their day.

The end of that day, nevertheless, found our sight-seer smoking
cigarettes in Shir Ali Khan's garden at Dizful and listening to the
camel bells that jingled from the direction of certain tall black
pointed arches straddling the dark river. When Matthews looked at those
arches by sunlight, and at the queer old flat-topped yellow town visible
through them, he regretted that he had made up his mind to continue his
journey so soon. However, he was coming back. So he packed off Gaston
and the Bakhtiari to Sheleilieh, where they and their motor-boat
belonged. And he himself, with his servant Abbas and the _charvadar_ of
whom they hired horses, set out at nightfall for the mountain citadel of
Bala Bala. For there the great Salman Taki Khan, chieftain of the lower
Lurs, otherwise known as the Father of Swords, was to celebrate as
became a redoubtable vassal of a remote and youthful suzerain the
coronation of Ahmed Shah Kajar.

It was nearly morning again when, after a last scramble up a trough of
rocks and gravel too steep for riding, the small cavalcade reached a
plateau in the shadow of still loftier elevations. Here they were
greeted by a furious barking of dogs. Indeed it quickly became necessary
to organize a defence of whips and stones against the guardians of that
high plateau. The uproar soon brought a shout out of the darkness. The
_charvadar_ shouted back, and after a long-distance colloquy there
appeared a figure crowned by the tall _kola_ of the Brazilian's boatmen,
who drove the dogs away. The dialect in which he spoke proved
incomprehensible to Matthews. Luckily it was not altogether so to Abbas,
that underling long resigned to the eccentricities of the _Firengi_,
whose accomplishments included even a sketchy knowledge of his master's
tongue. It appeared that the law of Bala Bala forbade the door of the
Father of Swords to open before sunrise. But the tall-hatted one offered
the visitor the provisional hospitality of a black tent, of a refreshing
drink of goats' buttermilk, and of a comfortable felt whereon to stretch
cramped legs.

When Matthews returned to consciousness he first became aware of a
blinding oblong of light in the dark wall of the tent. He then made out
a circle of pontifical black hats, staring at him, his fair hair, and
his indecently close-fitting clothes, in the silence of unutterable
curiosity. It made him think, for a bewildered instant, that he was back
on the barge he had met in the river. As for the black hats, what
astonished them not least was the stranger's immediate demand for water,
and his evident dissatisfaction with the quantity of it they brought
him. There happily proved to be no lack of this commodity, as Matthews'
ears had told him. He was not long in pursuing the sound into the open,
where he found himself at the edge of a village of black tents, pitched
in a grassy hollow between two heights. The nearer and lower was a
detached cone of rock, crowned by a rude castle. The other peak, not
quite so precipitous, afforded foothold for scattered scrub oaks and for
a host of slowly moving sheep and goats. Between them the plateau looked
down on two sides into two converging valleys. And the clear air was
full of the noise of a brook that cascaded between the scrub oaks of the
higher mountain, raced past the tents, and plunged out of sight in the
narrower gorge.

"Ripping!" pronounced Matthews genially to his black-hatted gallery.

He was less genial about the persistence of the gallery, rapidly
increased by recruits from the black tents, in dogging him through every
detail of his toilet. But he was rescued at last by Abbas and an old Lur
who, putting his two hands to the edge of his black cap, saluted him in
the name of the Father of Swords. The Lur then led the way to a trail
that zigzagged up the lower part of the rocky cone. He explained the
quantity of loose boulders obstructing the path by saying that they had
been left there to roll down on whomever should visit the Father of
Swords without an invitation. That such an enterprise would not be too
simple became more evident when the path turned into a cave. Here
another Lur was waiting with candles. He gave one each to the newcomers,
leading the way to a low door in the rock. This was opened by an
individual in a long red coat of ceremony, carrying a heavy silver mace,
who gave Matthews the customary salutation of peace and bowed him into
an irregular court. An infinity of doors opened out of it--chiefly of
the stables, the old man said, pointing out a big white mule or two of
the famous breed of Bala Bala. Thence the visitor was led up a steep
stone stair to a terrace giving entrance upon a corridor and another,
narrower stone stair. From its prodigiously high steps he emerged into a
hall, carpeted with felt. At this point, the Lurs took off their shoes.
Matthews followed suit, being then ushered into what was evidently a
room of state. It contained no furniture, to be sure, save for the
handsome rugs on the floor. The room did not look bare, however, for its
lines were broken by a deep alcove, and by a continuous succession of
niches. Between and about the niches the walls were decorated with
plaster reliefs of flowers and arabesques. Matthews wondered if the
black hats were capable of that! But what chiefly caught his eye was the
terrace opening out of the room, and the stupendous view.

The terrace hung over a green chasm where the two converging gorges met
at the foot of the crag of Bala Bala. Matthews looked down as from the
prow of a ship into the tumbled country below him, through which a river
flashed sinuously toward the faraway haze of the plains. The sound of
water filling the still clear air, the brilliance of the morning light,
the wildness and remoteness of that mountain eyrie, so different from
anything he had yet seen, added a last strangeness to the impressions of
which the young man had been having so many.

"What a pity to spoil it with a railroad!" he could not help thinking,
as he leaned over the parapet of the terrace.

"Sahib!" suddenly whispered Abbas behind him.

Matthews turned, and saw in the doorway of the terrace a personage who
could be none other than his host. In place of the _kola_ of his people
this personage wore a great white turban, touched with gold. The loose
blue _aba_ enveloping his ample figure was also embroidered with gold.
Not the least striking detail of his appearance however, was his beard,
which had a pronounced tendency toward scarlet. His nails were likewise
reddened with henna, reminding Matthews that the hands belonging to the
nails were rumored to bear even more sinister stains. And the
bottomless black eyes peering out from under the white turban lent
surprising credibility to such rumors. But there was no lack of
graciousness in the gestures with which those famous hands saluted the
visitor and pointed him to a seat of honor on the rug beside the Father
of Swords. The Father of Swords furthermore pronounced his heart
uplifted to receive a friend of Ganz Sahib, that prince among the
merchants of Shuster. Yet he did not hesitate to express a certain
surprise at discovering in the friend of the prince among the merchants
of Shuster one still in the flower of youth, who at the same time
exhibited the features of good fortune and the lineaments of prudence.
And he inquired as to what sorrow had led one so young to fold the
carpet of enjoyment and wander so far from his parents.

Matthews, disdaining the promptings of Abbas--who stood apart like a
statue of obsequiousness, each hand stuck into the sleeve of the
other--responded as best he might. In the meantime tea and candies were
served by a black hat on bended knee, who also produced a pair of ornate
pipes. The Father of Swords marvelled that Matthews should have
abandoned the delights of Shuster in order to witness his poor
celebrations of the morrow, in honor of the coronation. And had he felt
no fear of robbers, during his long night ride from Dizful? But what
robbers were there to fear, protested Matthews, in the very shadow of
Bala Bala? At that the Father of Swords began to make bitter complaint
of the afflictions Allah had laid upon him, taking his text from these
lines of Sadi: "If thou tellest the sorrows of thy heart, let it be to
him in whose countenance thou mayst be assured of prompt consolation."
The world, he declared, was fallen into disorder, like the hair of an
Ethiopian. Within the city wall was a people well disposed as angels;
without, a band of tigers. After which he asked if the young _Firengi_
were of the company of those who dug for the poisoned water of Bakhtiari
Land, or whether perchance he were of the People of the Chain.

These figures of speech would have been incomprehensible to Matthews, if
Abbas had not hinted something about oil rigs. He accordingly confessed
that he had nothing to do with either of the two enterprises. The Father
of Swords then expatiated on those who caused the Lurs to seize the hand
of amazement with the teeth of chagrin, by dragging through their
valleys a long chain, as if they meant to take prisoners. These
unwelcome _Firengis_ were also to be known by certain strange inventions
on three legs, into which they would gaze by the hour. Were they
warriors, threatening devastation? Or were they magicians, spying into
the future and laying a spell upon the people of Luristan? Their account
of themselves the Father of Swords found far from satisfactory, claiming
as they did that they proposed to build a road of iron, whereby it would
be possible for a man to go from Dizful to Khorremabad in one day. For
the rest, what business had the people of Dizful, too many of whom were
Arabs, in Khorremabad, a city of Lurs? Let the men of Dizful remain in
Dizful, and those of Khorremabad continue where they were born. As for
him, his white mules needed no road of iron to carry him about his
affairs.

Matthews, recalling his own thoughts as he leaned over the parapet of
the terrace, spoke consolingly to the Father of Swords concerning the
People of the Chain. The Father of Swords listened to him, drawing
meditatively at his waterpipe. He thereupon inquired if Matthews were
acquainted with another friend of the prince among the merchants of
Shuster, himself a _Firengi_ by birth, though recently persuaded of the
truths of Islam; and not like this visitor of good omen, in the bloom of
youth, but bearded and hardened in battles, bearing the scars of them on
his face.

Matthews began to go over in his mind the short list of Europeans he had
met on the Karun, till suddenly he bethought him of that extraordinary
barge he had encountered--could it be only a couple of days ago?

"Magin Sahib?" he asked. "I know him--if he is the one who travels in
the river in a _mehala_ not like other _mehalas_, rowed by Lurs."

"'That is a musk which discloses itself by its scent, and not what the
perfumers impose upon us,'" quoted the Father of Swords. "This man," he
continued, "our friend and the friend of our friend, warned me that they
of the chain are sons of oppression, destined to bring misfortune to the
Lurs. Surely my soul is tightened, not knowing whom I may believe."

"Rum bounder!" said Matthews to himself, as his mind went back to the
already mythic barge, and its fantastic oarsmen from these very
mountains, and its antique-hunting, history-citing master from oversea,
who quoted the Book of Genesis and who carried mysterious passengers
with nose-jewels. But our not too articulate young man was less prompt
about what he should say aloud. He began to find more in this interview
than he had expected. He was tickled at his host's flowery forms of
speech, and after all rather sympathized with the suspicious old
ruffian, yet it was not for him to fail in loyalty toward the "People of
the Chain." Several of them he knew, as it happened, and they had
delighted him with their wild yarns of surveying in Luristan. So he
managed no more than to achieve an appearance of slightly offended
dignity.

Considering which, out of those opaque eyes, the Father of Swords
clapped those famous hands and commanded a responsive black hat to bring
him his green chest. At that Matthews pricked up interested ears indeed.
The chest, however, when set down in front of the Father of Swords,
proved to be nothing at all like the one out of which the Brazilian had
taken his gold anklet. It was quite small and painted green, though
quaintly enough provided with triple locks of beaten iron. The Father of
Swords unlocked them deliberately, withdrew from an inner compartment a
round tin case, and from that a roll of parchment which he pressed to
his lips with infinite solemnity. He then handed it to Matthews.

He was one, our not too articulate young man, to take things as they
came and not to require, even east of Suez, the spice of romance with
his daily bread. His last days, moreover, had been too crowded for him
to ruminate over their taste. But it was not every day that he squatted
on the same rug with a scarlet-bearded old cutthroat of a mountain
chief. So it was that his more or less casual lark visibly took on, from
the perspective of this castle in Luristan, as he unrolled a gaudy
emblazonment of eagles at the top of the parchment, a new and curious
color. For below the eagle he came upon what he darkly made out to be a
species of treaty, inscribed neither in the Arabic nor in the Roman but
in the German character, between the Father of Swords and a more
notorious War Lord. And below that was signed, sealed, and imposingly
paraphed the signature of one Julius Magin. Which was indeed a novel
aspect for a Brazilian, however versatile, to reveal.

He permitted himself, did Guy Matthews, a smile.

"You do not kiss it?" observed the Father of Swords.

"In my country," Matthews began--

"But it is, may I be your sacrifice," interrupted the Father of Swords,
"a letter from the Shah of the Shahs of the _Firengis_." It was evident
that he was both impressed and certain of impressing his hearer. "He has
promised eternal peace to me and to my people."

The Englishman in Matthews permitted him a second smile.

"The Father of Swords," he said, "speaks a word which I do not
understand. I am a _Firengi_, but I have never heard of a Shah of the
Shahs of the _Firengis_. In the house of Islam are there not many who
rule? In Tehran, for instance, there is the young Ahmed Shah. Then among
the Bakhtiaris there is an Ilkhani, at Mohamera there is the Sheikh of
the Cha'b, and in the valleys of Pusht-i-Kuh none is above the Father of
Swords. I do not forget, either, the Emirs of Mecca and Afghanistan, or
the Sultan in Stambul. And among them what _Firengi_ shall say who is
the greatest? And so it is in _Firengistan_. Yet as for this paper, it
is written in the tongue of a king smaller than the one whose subject I
am, whose crown has been worn by few fathers. But the name at the bottom
of the paper is not his. It is not even a name known to the _Firengis_
when they speak among themselves of the great of their lands. Where did
you see him?"

The Father of Swords stroked his scarlet beard, looking at his young
visitor with more of a gleam in the dull black of his eyes than Matthews
had yet noticed.

"Truly is it said: 'Fix not thy heart on what is transitory, for the
Tigris will continue to flow through Baghdad after the race of Caliphs
is extinct!' You make it clear to me that you are of the People of the
Chain."

"If I were of the People of the Chain," protested Matthews, "there is no
reason why I should hide it. The People of the Chain do not steal
secretly through the valleys of Pusht-i-Kuh, telling the Lurs lies and
giving them papers in the night. I am not one of the People of the
Chain. But the king of the People of the Chain is also my king. And he
is a great king, lord of many lands and many seas, who has no need of
secret messengers, hostlers and scullions of whom no one has heard, to
persuade strangers of his greatness."

"Your words do not persuade me!" cried the Father of Swords. "A wise man
is like a jar in the house of the apothecary, silent but full of
virtues. If the king who sent me this letter has such hostlers and such
scullions, how great must be his khans and viziers! And why do the Turks
trust him? Why do the other _Firengis_ allow his ships in Bushir and
Basra? Or why do not the People of the Chain better prove the character
of their lord? But the hand of liberality is stronger than the arm of
power. This king, against whom you speak, heard me draw the sigh of
affliction from the bosom of uncertainty. He deigned to regard me with
the eye of patronage, sending me good words and promises of peace and
friendship. He will not permit the house of Islam to be troubled. From
many we have heard it."

"Ah!" exclaimed Matthews. "Now I understand why you have not kept your
promises to the People of the Chain!" And he rubbed his thumb against
his forefinger, in the gesture of the East that signifies the payment of
money.

"Why not?" demanded the Father of Swords, angrily. "The duty of a king
is munificence. Or why should there be a way to pass through my
mountains? Has it ever been said of the Lur that he stepped back before
a stranger? That is for the Shah in Tehran, who has become the servant
of the Russian! Let the People of the Chain learn that my neck does not
know how to bow! And what guest are you to sprinkle my sore with the
salt of harsh words? A boy, who comes here no one knows why, on hired
horses, with only one follower to attend him!"

Matthews flushed.

"Salman Taki Khan," he retorted, "it is true that I come to you humbly,
and without a beard. And your beard is already white, and you can call
out thirty thousand men to follow you. Yet a piece of gold will make you
believe a lie. And I swear to you that whether I give you back this
paper to put in your chest, or whether I spit on it and tear it in
pieces and throw it to the wind of that valley, it is one."

To which the Father of Swords made emphatic enough rejoinder by
snatching the parchment away, rising to his feet, and striding out of
the room without a word.


IV

The festivities in honor of the Shah's coronation took place at Bala
Bala with due solemnity. Among the black tents there was much plucking
of plaintive strings, there was more stuffing of mutton and _pilau_,
and after dark many a little rockets, improvized out of gunpowder and
baked clay, traced brief arabesques of gold against the black of the
underlying gorges. The castle celebrated in the same simple way. The
stuffing, to be sure, was more prolonged and recondite, while dancers
imported from Dizful swayed and snapped their fingers, singing for the
pleasure of the Father of Swords. The eyes of that old man of the
mountain remained opaque as ever, save when he rebuked the almoner who
sat at meat with him for indecorously quoting the lines of Sadi, when he
says: "Such was this delicate crescent of the moon, and fascination of
the holy, this form of an angel, and decoration of a peacock, that let
them once behold her, and continence must cease to exist in the
constitutions of the chaste."

This rebuke might have been called forth by the presence of another
guest at the board. Be that as it may, the eyes of the Father of Swords
glimmered perceptibly when they rested on the unannounced visitor for
whom he fished out, with his own henna'ed fingers, the fattest morsels
of mutton and the juiciest sweets. I hasten to add that the newcomer was
not the one whose earlier arrival and interview with the Father of
Swords has already been recorded. He was, nevertheless, a personage not
unknown to this record, whether as Senhor Magin of Brazil or as the
emissary of the Shah of the Shahs of _Firengistan_. For not only had he
felt impelled to bid good-by a second time to his friend Adolf Ganz,
prince among the merchants of Shustar. He had even postponed his voyage
down the Karun long enough to make one more journey overland to Bala
Bala. And he heard there, not without interest, the story of the short
visit and the sudden flight of the young Englishman he had accidentally
met on the river.

As for Matthews, he celebrated the coronation at Dizful, in bed. And by
the time he had slept off his fag, Bala Bala and the Father of Swords
and the green chest and the ingenious Magin looked to him more than
ever like figures of myth. He was too little of the timber out of which
journalists, romancers, or diplomats are made to take them very
seriously. The world he lived in, moreover, was too solid to be shaken
by any such flimsy device as the one of which he had happened to catch a
glimpse. What had been real to him was that he, Guy Matthews, had been
suspected of playing a part in story-book intrigues, and had been
treated rudely by an old barbarian of whom he expected the proverbial
hospitality of the East. His affair had therefore been to show Mr.
Scarlet Beard that if a Lur could turn his back, an Englishman could do
likewise. He now saw, to be sure, that he himself had not been
altogether the pattern of courtesy. But the old man of the mountain had
got what was coming to him. And Matthews regretted very little, after
all, missing what he had gone to see. For Dizful, peering at him through
the arches of the bridge, reminded that there was still something to
see.

It must be said of him, however, that he showed no impatience to see the
neighboring ruins of Susa. He was not one, this young man who was out
for a bit of a lark, to sentimentalize about antiquity or the charm of
the unspoiled. Yet even such young men are capable of finding the
rumness of strange towns a passable enough lark, to say nothing of the
general unexpectedness of life. And Dizful turned out to be quite as
unexpected, in its way, as Bala Bala. Matthews found that out before he
had been three days in the place, when a sudden roar set all the loose
little panes tinkling in Shir Ali Khan's garden windows.

Abbas explained that this was merely a cannon shot, announcing the new
moon of Ramazan. That loud call of the faith evidently made Dizful a
rummer place than it normally was. Matthews soon got used to the daily
repetitions of the sound, rumbling off at sunset and before dawn into
the silence of the plains. But the recurring explosion became for him
the voice of the particular rumness of the fanatical old border
town--of fierce sun, terrific smells, snapping dogs, and scowling
people. When the stranger without the gate crossed his bridge of a
morning for a stroll in the town, he felt like a discoverer of some lost
desert city. He threaded alleys of blinding light, he explored dim
thatched bazaars, he studied tiled doorways in blank mud walls, he
investigated quaint water-mills by the river, and scarce a soul did he
see, unless a stork in its nest on top of a tall badgir or a naked
dervish lying in a scrap of shade asleep under a lion skin. It was as if
Dizful drowsed sullenly in that July blaze brewing something, like a
geyser, and burst out with it at the end of the unendurable day.

The brew of the night, however, was a different mixture, quite the
rummiest compound of its kind Matthews had ever tasted. The bang of the
sunset gun instantly brought the deserted city back to life. Lights
began to twinkle--in tea houses, along the river, among the indigo
plantations--streets filled with ghostly costumes and jostling camels,
and everywhere voices would celebrate the happy return of dusk so
strangely and piercingly that they made Matthews think of "battles far
away." This was most so when he listened to them, out of sight of
unfriendly eyes, from his own garden. Above the extraordinary rumor that
drifted to him through the arches of the bridge he heard the wailing of
pipes, raucous blasts of cow horns, the thumping of drums; while dogs
barked incessantly, and all night long the caravans of Mesopotamia
jingled to and fro. Then the cannon would thunder out its climax, and
the city would fall anew under the spell of the sun.

The moon of those Arabian nights was nearing its first quarter and
Matthews was waiting for it to become bright enough for him to fulfill
his true duty as a sightseer by riding to the mounds of Susa, when
Dizful treated Matthews to fresh discoveries as to what an unspoiled
town may contain. It contained, Abbas informed him with some mystery
after one of his prolonged visits to the bazaar, another _firengi_. This
_firengi's_ servant, moreover, had given Abbas explicit directions as to
the whereabouts of the _firengi's_ house, in order that Abbas might give
due warning, as is the custom of the country, of a call from Matthews.
Whereat Matthews made the surprising announcement that he had not come
to Dizful to call on _firengis_. The chief charm of Dizful for him, as a
matter of fact, was that there he felt himself free of the social
obligations under which he had lain rather longer than he liked. But if
Abbas was able to resign himself to this new proof of the eccentricity
of his master, the unknown _firengi_ apparently was not. At all events,
Matthews soon made another discovery as to the possibilities of Dizful.
An evening or two later, as he loitered on the bridge watching a string
of loaded camels, a respectable-looking old gentleman in a black _aba_
addressed him in French. French in Dizful! And it appeared that this
remarkable Elamite was a Jew, who had picked up in Baghdad the idiom of
Paris! He went on to describe himself as the "agent" of a distinguished
foreign resident, who, the linguistic old gentleman gave Matthews to
understand, languished for a sight of the new-comer, and was unable to
understand why he had not already been favored with a call. His pain was
the deeper because the newcomer had recently enjoyed the hospitality of
this distinguished foreign resident on a little yacht on the river.

"The unmitigated bounder!" exclaimed Matthews, unable to deliver himself
in French of that sentiment, and turning upon the stupefied old
gentleman a rude Anglo-Saxon back. "He has cheek enough for anything."

He had enough, at any rate, to knock the next afternoon, unannounced, on
Matthews' gate, to follow Matthews' servant into the house without
waiting to hear whether Matthews would receive him, to present himself
at the door of the dim underground _serdab_ where Matthews lounged in
his pajamas till it should be cool enough to go out, to make Matthews
the most ceremonious of bows, and to give that young man a half-amused,
half-annoyed consciousness of being put at his ease. The advantage of
position, Matthews had good reason to feel, was with himself. He knew
more about the bounder than the bounder thought, and it was not he who
had knocked at the bounder's gate. Yet the sound of that knock, pealing
muffled through the hot silence, had been distinctly welcome. Nor could
our incipient connoisseur of rum towns pretend that the sight of Magin
bowing in the doorway was wholly unwelcome, so long had he been stewing
there in the sun by himself. What annoyed him, what amused him, what in
spite of himself impressed him, was to see how the bounder ignored
advantages of position. Matthews had forgotten, too, what an imposing
individual the bounder really was. And measuring his tall figure,
listening to his deep voice, looking at his light eyes and his two
sinister scars and the big shaved dome of a head which he this time
uncovered, our cool enough young man wondered whether there might be
something more than fantastic about this navigator of strange waters. It
was rather odd, at all events, how he kept bobbing up, and what a power
he had of quickening--what? A school-boyish sense of the romantic? Or
mere vulgar curiosity? For he suddenly found himself aware, Guy
Matthews, that what he knew about his visitor was less than what he
desired to know.

The visitor made no haste, however, to volunteer any information. Nor
did he make of Matthews any but the most perfunctory inquiries.

"And Monsieur--What was his name? Your Frenchman?" he continued.

"Gaston. He's not my Frenchman, though," replied Matthews. "He went back
long ago."

"Oh!" uttered Magin. He declined the refreshments which Abbas at that
point produced, even to the cigarette Matthews offered him. He merely
glanced at the make. Then he examined, with a flicker of amusement in
his eyes, the bare white-washed room. A runnel of water trickled across
it in a stone channel that widened in the centre into a shallow pool. "A
bit of a lark, eh? I remember that _mot_ of yours, Mr. Matthews. To sit
steaming, or perhaps I should say dreaming, in a sort of Turkish bath in
the bottom of Elam while over there in Europe--"

"Is there anything new?" asked Matthews, recognizing his caller's habit
of finishing a sentence with a gesture. "Archdukes and that sort of
thing don't seem to matter much in Dizful. I have even lost track of the
date."

"I would not have thought an Englishman so--_dolce far niente_," said
Magin. "It is perhaps because we archæologists feed on dates! I happen
to recollect, though, that we first met on the eighteenth of July. And
to-day, if you would like to know, is Saturday, the first of August,
1914." The flicker of amusement in his eyes became something more
inscrutable. "But there is a telegraph even in Elam," he went on. "A
little news trickles out of it now and then. Don't you ever catch,
perhaps, some echo of the trickle?"

"That's not my idea of a lark," laughed Matthews.

Magin regarded him a moment.

"Well," he conceded, "Europe does take on a new perspective from the
point of view of Susa. I see you are a philosopher, sitting amidst the
ruins of empires and wisely preferring the trickle of your fountain to
the trickle of the telegraph. If Austria falls to pieces, if Serbia
reaches the Adriatic, what is that to us? Nothing but a story that in
Elam has been told too often to have any novelty! Eh?"

"Why," asked Matthews, quickly, "is that on already?"

Magin looked at him again a moment before answering.

"Not yet! But why," he added, "do you say already?"

His voice had a curious rumble in the dim stone room. Matthews wondered
whether it were because the acoustic properties of a _serdab_ in Dizful
differ from those of a galley on the Karun, or whether there really were
something new about him.

"Why, it's bound to come sooner or later, isn't it? If it's true that
all the way from Nish to Ragusa those chaps speak the same language and
belong to the same race, one can hardly blame them for wanting to do
what the Italians and the Germans have already done. And, as a
philosopher sitting amidst the ruins of empires, wouldn't you say
yourself that Austria has bitten off rather more than she can chew?"

"Very likely I should." Magin took a cigar out of his pocket, snipped
off the end with a patent cutter, lighted it, and regarded the smoke
with a growing look of amusement. "But," he went on, "as a philosopher
sitting amidst the ruins of empires, I would hardly confine that
observation to Austria-Hungary. For instance, I have heard"--and his
look of amusement verged on a smile--"of an island in the Atlantic Ocean
not much larger than the land of Elam, an island of rains and fogs whose
people, feeling the need of a little more sunlight perhaps, or of
pin-money and elbow-room, sailed away and conquered for themselves two
entire continents, as well as a good part of a third. I have also heard
that the inhabitants of this island, not content with killing and
enslaving so many defenseless fellow-creatures, or with picking up any
lesser island, cape, or bay that happened to suit their fancy, took it
upon themselves to govern several hundred million unwilling individuals
of all colors and religions in other parts of the world. And, having
thus procured both sunlight and elbow-room, those enterprising islanders
assumed a virtuous air and pushed the high cries--as our friend Gaston
would say--if any of their neighbors ever showed the slightest symptom
of following their very successful example. Have you ever heard of such
an island? And would you not say--as a philosopher sitting amidst the
ruins of empires--that it had also bitten off rather more than it could
chew?"

Matthews, facing the question and the now open smile, felt that he
wanted to be cool, but that he did not altogether succeed.

"I dare say that two or three hundred years ago we did things we
wouldn't do now. Times have changed in all sorts of ways. But we never
set out like a Cæsar or a Napoleon or a Bismarck to invent an empire. It
all came about quite naturally. Anybody else could have done the same.
But nobody else thought of it--at the time. We simply got there first."

"Ah?" Magin smiled more broadly. "It seems to me that I have heard of
another island, not so far from here, which is no more than a pin-point,
to be sure, but which happens to be the key of the Persian Gulf. I have
also heard that the Portuguese got there first, as you put it. But you
crushed Portugal, you crushed Spain, you crushed Holland, you crushed
France--or you meant to. And I must say it looks to me as if you would
not mind crushing Germany. Why do you go on building ships, building
ships, building ships, always two to Germany's one? Simply that you and
your friends can go on eating up Asia and Africa--and perhaps Germany
too!"

Matthews noticed that the elder man ended, at any rate, not quite so
coolly as he began.

"Nonsense! The thing's so simple it isn't worth repeating. We have to
have more ships than anybody else because our empire is bigger than
anybody else's--and more scattered. As for eating, it strikes me that
Germany has done more of that lately than any one. However, if you know
so much about islands, you must also know how we happened to go into
India--or Egypt. In the beginning it was pure accident. And you know
very well that if we left them to-morrow there would be the devil to
pay. Do we get a penny out of them?"

"Oh, no!" laughed Magin. "You administer them purely on altruistic
principles, for their own good and that of the world at large--like the
oil-wells of the Karun!"

"Well, since you put it that way," laughed Matthews in turn, "perhaps we
do!"

Magin shrugged his shoulders.

"Extraordinary people! Do you really think the rest of the world so
stupid? Or it is that the fog of your island has got into your brains?
You always talk about truth as if it were a patented British invention,
yet no one is less willing to call a spade a spade. Look at Cairo, where
you pretend to keep nothing but a consul-general, but where the ruler of
the country can't turn over in bed without his permission. A
consul-general! Look at your novels! Look at what you yourself are
saying to me!"

Matthews lighted a pipe over it.

"In a way, of course, you are right," he said. "But I am not sure that
we are altogether wrong. Spades exist, but there's no inherent virtue in
talking about them. In fact it's often better not to mention them at
all. There's something very funny about words, you know. They so often
turn out to mean more than you expected."

At that Magin regarded his companion with a new interest.

"I would not have thought you knew that, at your age! But after all, if
you will allow me to say so, it is a woman's point of view. A man ought
to say things out--and stick by them. He is less likely to get into
trouble afterward. For example, it would have been not only more honest
but more advantageous for your country if you had openly annexed Egypt
in the beginning. Now where are you? You continually have to explain,
and to watch very sharply lest some other consul-general tell the
Khedive to turn over in bed. And since you and the Russians intend to
eat up Persia, why on earth don't you do it frankly, instead of trying
not to frighten the Persians, and talking vaguely about spheres of
influence, neutral zones, and what not? I'm afraid the truth is that
you're getting old and fat. What?" He glanced over his cigar at
Matthews, who was regarding the trickle of the water beside them. "Those
Russians, they are younger," he went on. "They have still to be reckoned
with. And they aren't so squeamish, either in novels or in life. Look at
what they have done in their 'sphere.' They have roads, they have
Cossacks, they have the Shah under their thumb. And whenever they choose
they shut the Baghdad train against your caravans--yours, with whom they
have an understanding! A famous understanding! You don't even understand
how to make the most of your own sphere. You have had the Karun in your
hands for three hundred years, and what have you done with it? Why, in
heaven's name, didn't you blast out that rock at Ahwaz long ago? Why
haven't you made a proper road to Isfahan? Why don't you build that
railroad to Khorremabad that you are always talking about, and finish it
before the Germans get to Baghdad? Ah! If they had been here in your
place you would have seen!"

"It strikes me," retorted Matthews, with less coolness than he had yet
shown, "that you are here already--from what the Father of the Swords
told me." And he looked straight at the man who had told him that an
Englishman couldn't call a spade a spade. But he saw anew how that man
could ignore an advantage of position.

Magin returned the look--frankly, humorously, quizzically. Then he said:

"You remind me, by the way, of a question I came to ask you. Would you
object to telling me what you are up to here?"

"What am I up to?" queried Matthews, in astonishment. The cheek of the
bounder was really beyond everything! "What do you mean?"

Magin smiled.

"I am not an Englishman. I mean what I say."

"No you're not!" Matthews threw back at him. "No Englishman would try to
pass himself off for a Brazilian."

Magin smiled again.

"Nor would a German jump too hastily at conclusions. If I told you I was
from Brazil, I spoke the truth. I was born there, as were many
Englishmen I know. That makes them very little less English, and it has
perhaps made me more German. Who knows? As a philosopher sitting with
you amidst the ruins of empires I am at least inclined to believe that
we take our mother country more seriously than you do yours! But to
return to our point: what are you doing here?"

"I'm attending to my business. Which seems to me more than you are
doing, Mr. Magin."

Matthews noticed, from the reverberation of the room, that his voice
must have been unnecessarily loud. He busied himself with the bowl of
his pipe. As for Magin, he got up and began walking to and fro, drawing
at his cigar. The red of it showed how much darker the room had been
growing. It increased, too, the curious effect of his eyes. They looked
like two empty holes in a mask.

"Eh, too bad!" sighed the visitor at last. "You disappoint me. Do you
know? You are, of course, much younger than I; but you made me hope that
you were perhaps--how shall I put it?--a spirit of the first class. I
hoped that without padding, without rancor, like true philosophers, we
might exchange our points of view. However--Since it suits you to stand
on your dignity, I must say that I am very distinctly attending to my
business. And I am obliged to add that it does not help my business, Mr.
Matthews, to have you sitting so mysteriously in Dizful--and refusing to
call on me, but occasionally calling on nomad chiefs. I confess that you
don't look to me like a spy. Spies are generally older men than you,
more cooked, as Gaston would say, more fluent in languages. It does not
seem to me, either, that even an English spy would go about his affairs
quite as you have done. Still, I regret to have to repeat that I dislike
your idea of a lark. And not only because you upset nomad chiefs. You
upset other people as well. You might even end up by upsetting
yourself."

"Who the devil are you?" demanded Matthews, hotly. "The Emperor of
Elam?"

"Ha! I see you are acquainted with the excellent Adolf Ganz!" laughed
Magin. "No," he went on in another tone. "His viceroy, perhaps. But as I
was saying, it does not suit me to have you stopping here. I can see,
however, that you have reason to be surprised, possibly annoyed, at my
telling you so. I am willing to be reasonable about it. How much do you
want--for the expenses of your going away?"

Matthews could hardly believe his ears. He got up in turn.

"What in hell do you mean by that?"

"I am sorry, Mr. Matthews," answered the other, slowly, "that my
knowledge of your language does not permit me to make myself clear to
you. Perhaps you will understand me better if I quote from yourself. I
got here first. Did you ever put your foot into this country until two
weeks ago? Did your countrymen ever trouble themselves about it, even
after Layard showed them the way? No! They expressly left it outside of
their famous 'sphere,' in that famous neutral zone. And all these
centuries it has been lying here in the sun, asleep, forgotten,
deserted, lost, given over to nomads and to lions--until I came. I am
the first European since Alexander the Great who has seen what it might
be. It is not so impossible that I might open again those choked-up
canals which once made these burnt plains a paradise. In those mountains
I have found--what I have found. What right have you to interfere with
me, who are only out for a lark? Or what right have your countrymen?
They have already, as you so gracefully express it, bitten off so much
more than they can chew. The Gulf, the Karun, the oil-wells--they are
yours. Take them. But Baghdad is ours: if not today, then tomorrow. And
if you will exercise that logical process of which your British mind
appears to be not altogether destitute, you can hardly help seeing that
this part of your famous neutral zone, if not the whole of it, falls
into the sphere of Baghdad. You know, too, that we do things more
thoroughly than you. Therefore I must very respectfully but very firmly
ask you, at your very earliest convenience, to leave Dizful. I am quite
willing to believe, however, that your interference with my arrangements
was accidental. And I dislike to put you to any unnecessary trouble. So
I shall be happy to compensate you, in marks, _tomans_, or pounds
sterling, for any disappointment you may feel in bringing this
particular lark to an end. Do you now understand me? How much do you
want?"

He perceived, Guy Matthews, that his lark had indeed taken an unexpected
turn. He was destined, far sooner than he dreamed, to be asked of life,
and to answer, questions even more direct than this. But until now life
had chosen to confront him with no problem more pressing than one of
cricket or hunting. He was therefore troubled by an unwonted confusion
of feelings. For he felt that his ordinary vocabulary--made up of such
substantives as lark, cheek, and bounder, and the comprehensive
adjective "rum"--fell short of coping with this extraordinary speech. He
even felt that he might possibly have answered in a different way, but
for that unspeakable offer of money. And the rumble of Magin's bass in
the dark stone room somehow threw a light on the melancholy land
without, somehow gave him a dim sense that he did not answer for himself
alone--that he answered for the tradition of Layard and Rawlinson and
Morier and Sherley, of Clive and Kitchener, of Drake and Raleigh and
Nelson, of all the adventurous young men of that beloved foggy island at
which this pseudo-Brazilian jeered.

"When I first met you in the river, Mr. Magin," he said, quietly, "I
confess I did not realize how much of the spoils of Susa you were
carrying away in your chests. And I didn't take your gold anklet as a
bribe, though I didn't take you for too much of a gentleman in offering
it to me. But all I have to say now is that I shall stay in Dizful as
long as I please--and that you had better clear out of this house unless
you want me to kick you out."

"Heroics, eh? You obstinate little fool! I could choke you with one
hand!"

"You'd better try!" shouted Matthews.

He started in spite of himself when a muffled boom suddenly answered
him, jarring even the sunken walls of the room. Then he remembered that
voice of the drowsing city, bursting out with the pent-up brew of the
day.

"Ah!" exclaimed Magin strangely--"The cannon speaks at last! You will
hear, beside your fountain, what it has to say. That, at any rate, you
will perhaps understand--you and the people of your island." He stopped
a moment. "But," he went on, "if some fasting dervish knocks you on the
head with his mace, or sticks his knife into your back, don't say I
didn't warn you!"

And the echo of his receding stamp in the corridor drowned for a moment
the trickle of the invisible water.


V

The destiny of some men lies coiled within them, invisible as the blood
of their hearts or the stuff of their will, working darkly, day by day
and year after year, for their glory or for their destruction. The
destiny of other men is an accident, a god from the machine or an enemy
in ambush. Such was the destiny of Guy Matthews, as it was of how many
other unsuspecting young men of his time. It would have been
inconceivable to him, as he stood in his dark stone room listening to
Magin's receding stamp, that anything could make him do what Magin
demanded. Yet something did it--the last drop of the strange essence
Dizful had been brewing for him.

The letter that accomplished this miracle came to him by the hand of a
Bakhtiari from Meidan-i-Naft. It said very little. It said so little,
and that little so briefly, that Matthews, still preoccupied with his
own quarrel, at first saw no reason why a stupid war on the Continent,
and the consequent impossibility of telegraphing home except by way of
India, should affect the oil-works, or why his friends should put him in
the position of showing Magin the white feather. But as he turned over
the Bakhtiari's scrap of paper the meaning of it grew, in the light of
the very circumstances that made him hesitate, so portentously that he
sent Abbas for horses. And before the Ramazan gun boomed again he was
well on his way back to Meidan-i-Naft.

There was something unreal to him about that night ride eastward across
the dusty moonlit plain. He never forgot that night. The unexpectedness
of it was only a part of the unreality. What pulled him up short was a
new quality in the general unexpectedness of life. Life had always been,
like the trip from which he was returning, more or less of a lark.
Whereas it suddenly appeared that life might, perhaps, be very little of
a lark. So far as he had ever pictured life to himself he had seen it as
an extension of his ordered English countryside, beset by no hazard more
searching than a hawthorne hedge. But the plain across which he rode
gave him a new picture of it, lighted romantically enough by the moon,
yet offering a rider magnificent chances to break his neck in some
invisible nullah, if not to be waylaid by marauding Lurs or lions. It
even began to come to this not too articulate young man that romance and
reality might be the same thing, romance being what happens to the other
fellow and reality being what happens to you. He looked up at the moon
of war that had been heralded to him by cannon and tried to imagine
what, under that same moon far away in Europe, was happening to the
other fellow. For it was entirely on the cards that it might also happen
to him, Guy Matthews, who had gone up the Ab-i-Diz for a lark! That his
experience had an extraordinary air of having happened to some one else,
as he went back in his mind to his cruise on the river, his meeting with
the barge, his first glimpse of Dizful, the interlude of Bala Bala, the
return to Dizful, the cannon, Magin. Magin! He was extraordinary enough,
in all conscience, as Matthews tried to piece together, under his
romantic-realistic moon, the various unrelated fragments his memory
produced of that individual, connoisseur of Greek kylixes and Lur
nose-jewels, quoter of Scripture and secret agent.

The bounder must have known, as he sat smoking his cigar and ironizing
on the ruins of empires, that the safe and settled little world to which
they both belonged was already in a blaze. Of course he had known
it--and he had said nothing about it! But not least extraordinary was
the way the bounder, whom after all Matthews had only seen twice, seemed
to color the whole adventure. In fact, he had been the first speck in
the blue, the forerunner--if Matthews had only seen it--of the more epic
adventure into which he was so quickly to be caught.

At Shuster he broke his journey. There were still thirty miles to do,
and fresh horses were to be hired--of some fasting _charvadar_ who would
never consent in Ramazan, Matthews very well knew, to start for
Meidan-i-Naft under the terrific August sun. But he was not ungrateful
for a chance to rest. He discovered in himself, too, a sudden interest
in all the trickle of the telegraph. And he was anxious to pick up what
news he could from the few Europeans in the town. Moreover, he needed to
see Ganz about the replenishing of his money-bag; for not the lightest
item of the traveler's pack in Persia is his load of silver _krans_.

At the telegraph office Matthews ran into Ganz himself. The Swiss was a
short, fair, faded man, not too neat about his white clothes, with a
pensive mustache and an ambiguous blue eye that lighted at sight of the
young Englishman. The light, however, was not one to illuminate
Matthews' darkness in the matter of news. What news trickled out of the
local wire was very meager indeed. The Austrians were shelling Belgrade,
the Germans, the Russians, and the French had gone in. That was all. No,
not quite all; for the bank-rate in England had suddenly jumped
sky-high--higher, at any rate, than it had ever jumped before. And even
Shuster felt the distant commotion, in that the bazaar had already seen
fit to put up the price of sugar and petroleum. Not that Shuster showed
any outward sign of commotion as the two threaded their way toward
Ganz's house. The deserted streets reminded Matthews strangely of
Dizful. What was stranger was to find how they reminded him of a chapter
that is closed. He hardly noticed the blank walls, the archways of brick
and tile, the tall _badgirs_, even the filth and smells. But strangest
was it to listen to the hot silence, to look up at the brilliant stripe
of blue between the adobe walls, while over there--!

The portentous uncertainty of what might be over there made his answers
to Ganz's questions about his journey curt and abstracted. He gave no
explanation of his failure to see the celebration at Bala Bala and the
ruins of Susa, which Ganz supposed to be the chief objects of his
excursion. Yet he found himself looking with a new eye at the anomalous
exile whom the Father of Swords called the prince among the merchants of
Shuster, noting the faded untidy air as he had never noted it before,
wondering why a man should bury himself in such a hole as this. Was one
now, he speculated, to look at everybody all over again? He was not the
kind of man, Ganz, to interest the Guy Matthews who had gone to Dizful.
But it was the Guy Matthews who came back from Dizful who didn't like
Ganz's name or Ganz's good enough accent. Nevertheless he yielded to
Ganz's insistence, when they reached the office and the money-bag had
been restored to its normal portliness, that the traveler should step
into the house to rest and cool off.

"Do come!" urged the Swiss. "I so seldom see a civilized being. And I
have a new piano!" he threw in as an added inducement. "Do you play?"

He had no parlor tricks, he told Ganz, and he told himself that he
wanted to get on. But Ganz had been very decent to him, after all. And
he began to perceive that he himself was extremely tired. So he followed
Ganz through the cloister of the pool to the court where the great basin
glittered in the sun, below the pillared portico.

"Who is that?" exclaimed Ganz suddenly. "What a tone, eh? And what a
touch!"

Matthews heard from Ganz's private quarters a welling of music so
different from the pipes and cow-horns of Dizful that it gave him a
sudden stab of homesickness.

"I say," he said, brightening, "could it be any of the fellows from
Meidan-i-Naft?"

The ambiguous blue eye brightened too.

"Perhaps! It is the river music from _Rheingold_. But listen," Ganz
added with a smile. "There are sharks among the Rhine maidens!"

They went on, up the steps of the portico, to the door which Ganz opened
softly, stepping aside for his visitor to pass in. The room was so dark,
after the blinding light of the court, that Matthews saw nothing at
first. He stepped forward eagerly, feeling his way among Ganz's tables
and chairs toward the end of the room from which the music came. They
gave him, the cluttering tables and chairs, after the empty rooms he had
been living in, a sharper renewal of his stab. And even a piano--! It
made him think of Kipling and the _Song of the Banjo_:

    "I am memory and torment--I am Town!
    I am all that ever went with evening dress!"

But what mute inglorious Paderewski of the restricted circle he had
moved in for the past months was capable of such parlor tricks as this?
Then, suddenly, he saw. He saw, swaying back and forth against the dark
background of the piano, a domed shaven head that made him stop
short--that head full of so many astounding things! He saw, traveling
swiftly up and down the keys, rising above them to an extravagant height
and pouncing down upon them again, those predatory hands that had
pounced on the spoils of Susa! They began, in a moment, to flutter
lightly over the upper end of the keyboard. It was extraordinary what a
ripple poured as if out of those hands. Magin himself bent over to
listen to the ripple, partly showing his face as he turned his ear to
the keys. He showed, too, in the lessening gloom, a smile Matthews had
never seen before, more extraordinary than anything. Yet even as
Matthews watched it, in his stupefaction, the smile changed, broadened,
hardened. And Magin, sitting up straight again with his back to the
room, began to execute a series of crashing chords.

After several minutes he stopped and swung around on the piano-stool.
Ganz clapped his hands, shouting "Bis! Bis!" At that Magin rose, bowed
elaborately, and kissed his hands right and left. He ended by pulling up
a table-cover near him, gazing intently under the table.

"Have you lost something?" inquired Ganz.

"I seem," answered Magin, "to have lost half my audience. What has
become of our elusive English friend? Am I so unfortunate as to have
been unable to satisfy his refined ear? Or can it be that his emotions
were too much for him?"

"He was in a hurry," explained Ganz. "He is just back from Dizful, you
know."

"Ah?" uttered Magin. "He is a very curious young man. He is always in a
hurry. He was in a hurry the first time I had the pleasure of meeting
him. He was in such a hurry at Bala Bala that he didn't wait to see the
celebration which you told me he went to see. He also left Dizful in a
surprising hurry, from what I hear. I happen to know that the telegraph
had nothing to do with it. I can only conclude that some one frightened
him away. Where do you suppose he hurries to? And do you think he will
arrive in time?"

Ganz opened his mouth; but if he intended to say something, he decided
instead to draw his hand across his spare jaw. However, he did speak
after all.

"I notice that you at least do not hurry, Majesty! Do you fiddle while
Rome burns?"

"Ha!" laughed Magin. "It is not Rome that burns! And I notice, Mr. Ganz,
that you seem to be of a forgetful as well as of an inquiring
disposition. I would have been in Mohamera long ago if it had not been
for your son of Papa, with his interest in unspoiled towns. I will thank
you to issue no more letters to the Father of Swords without remembering
me. Do you wish to enrich the already overstocked British Museum at my
expense? But I do not mind revealing to you that I am now really on my
way to Mohamera."

"H'm," let out Ganz slowly. "My dear fellow, haven't you heard that
there is a war in Europe?"

"I must confess, my good Ganz, that I have. But what has Europe to do
with Mohamera?"

"God knows," said Ganz. "I should think, however, since you are so far
from the Gulf, that you would prefer the route of Baghdad--now that
French and Russian cruisers are seeking whom they may devour."

"You forget, Mr. Ganz, that I am so fortunate as to possess a number of
valuable objects of virtue. I would think twice before attempting to
carry those objects of virtue through the country of our excellent
friends the Beni Lam Arabs!"

Ganz laughed.

"Your objects of virtue could very well be left with me. What if the
English should go into the war?"

"The English? Go into the war? Never fear! This is not their affair. And
if it were, what could they do? Sail their famous ships up the Rhine and
the Elbe? Besides, that treacherous memory of yours seems to fail you
again. This is Persia, not England."

"Perhaps," answered Ganz. "But the English are very funny people. There
is a rumor, you know, of pourparlers. What if you were to sail down to
the gulf and some little midshipman were to fire a shot across your
bow?"

"Ah, bah! I am a neutral! And Britannia is a fat old woman! Also a rich
one, who doesn't put her hand into her pocket to please her neighbors.
Besides, I have a little affair with the Sheikh of Mohamera--objects of
virtue, indigo, who knows what? As you know, I am a versatile man." And
swinging around on his stool, Magin began to play again.

"But even fat old women sometimes know how to bite," objected Ganz.

"Not when their teeth have dropped out," Magin threw over his
shoulder--"or when strong young men plug their jaws!"


VI

Two days later, or not quite three days later, the galley and the
motor-boat whose accidental encounter brought about the events of this
narrative met again. This second meeting took place in the Karun, as
before, but at a point some fifty or sixty miles below Bund-i-Kir. And
now the moon, not the sun, cast its paler glitter between the high dark
banks of the stream. It was a keen-eared young Lur who first heard afar
the pant of the mysterious jinni. Before he or his companions descried
the motor-boat, however, Gaston, rounding a sharp curve above the island
of Umm-un-Nakhl, caught sight of the sweeps of the barge flashing in the
moonlight. The unexpected view of that flash was not disagreeable to
Gaston. For, as Gaston put it to himself, he was sad--despite the
efforts of his friend, the telegraph operator at Ahwaz, to cheer him up.
It is true that the operator, who was Irish and a man of heart, had
accorded him but a limited amount of cheer, together with hard words not
a few. Recalling them, Gaston picked up a knife that lay on the seat
beside him--an odd curved knife of the country, in a leather sheath.
There is no reason why I should conceal the fact that this knife was a
gift from Gaston's Bakhtiari henchman, who had presented it to Gaston,
with immense solemnity, on hearing that there was a war in Firengistan
and that the young men of the oil works were going to it. What had
become of that type of a Bakhtiari, Gaston wondered? Then, spying the
flash of those remembered oars, he bethought him of the seigneur of a
Brazilian whose hospitable yacht, he had reason to know, was not
destitute of cheer.

When he was near enough the barge to make out the shadow of the high
beak on the moonlit water he cut off the motor. The sweeps forthwith
ceased to flash. Gaston then called out the customary salutation. It was
answered, as before, by the deep voice of the Brazilian. He stood at the
rail of the barge as the motor-boat glided alongside.

"Ah, _mon vieux_, you are alone this time?" said Magin genially. "Where
are the others?"

"I do not figure to myself," answered Gaston, "that you derange yourself
to inquire for my sacred devil of a Bakhtiari, who has taken the key of
the fields. As for Monsieur Guy, the Englishman you saw the other time,
whose name does not pronounce itself, he has gone to the war. I just
took him and three others to Ahwaz, where they meet more of their
friends and all go together on the steamer to Mohamera."

"Really! And did you hear any news at Ahwaz?"

"The latest is that England has declared war."

"Tiens!" exclaimed Magin. His voice was extraordinarily loud and deep in
the stillness of the river. It impressed Gaston, who sat looking up at
the dark figure in front of the ghostly Lurs. What types, with their
black hats of a theater! He hoped the absence of M'sieu Guy and the
Brazilian's evident surprise would not cloud the latter's hospitality.
He was accordingly gratified to hear the Brazilian say, after a moment:
"And they tell us that madness is not catching! But we, at least, have
not lost our heads. Eh? To prove it, Monsieur Gaston, will you not come
aboard a moment, if you are not in too much of a hurry, and drink a
little glass with me?"

Gaston needed no urging. In a trice he had tied his boat to the barge
and was on the deck. The agreeable Brazilian was not too much of a
seigneur to shake his hand in welcome, or to lead him into the cabin
where a young Lur was in the act of lighting candles.

"It is so hot, and so many strange beasts fly about this river," Magin
explained, "that I usually prefer to travel without a light. But we must
see the way to our mouths! What will you have? Beer? Bordeaux?
Champagne?"

Gaston considered this serious question with attention.

"Since Monsieur has the goodness to inquire, if Monsieur has any of that
_fine champagne_ I tasted before--"

"Ah yes! Certainly." And he gave a rapid order to the Lur. Then he stood
silent, his eyes fixed on the reed portière. Gaston was more impressed
than ever as he stood too, _béret_ in hand, looking around the little
saloon, so oddly, yet so comfortably fitted out with rugs and skins.
Presently the Lur reappeared through the reed portière, which aroused
the Brazilian from his abstraction. He filled the two glasses himself,
waving his attendant out of the cabin, and handed one to Gaston. The
other he raised in the air, bowing to his guest. "To the victor!" he
said. "And sit down, won't you? There is more than one glass in that
bottle."

Gaston was enchanted to sit down and to sip another cognac.

"But, Monsieur," he exclaimed, looking about again, "you travel like an
emperor!"

"Ho!" laughed Magin, with a quick glance at Gaston. "I am well enough
here. But there is one difficulty." He looked at his glass, holding it
up to the light. "I travel too slowly."

Gaston smiled.

"In Persia, who cares?"

"Well, it happens that at this moment I do. I have affairs at Mohamera.
And in this tub it will take me three days more at the best--without
considering that I shall have to wait till daylight to get through the
rocks at Ahwaz." He lowered his glass and looked back at Gaston. "Tell
me: Why shouldn't you take me down, ahead of my tub? Eh? Or to Sablah,
if Mohamera is too far? It would not delay you so much, after all. You
can tell them any story you like at Sheleilieh. Otherwise I am sure we
can make a satisfactory arrangement." He put his hand suggestively into
his pocket.

Gaston considered it between sips. It really was not much to do for this
uncle of America who had been so amiable. And others had suddenly become
so much less amiable than their wont. Moreover that Bakhtiari--he might
repent when he heard the motor again. At any rate one could say that one
had waited for him. And the Brazilian would no doubt show a gratitude so
handsome that one could afford to be a little independent. If those on
the steamer asked any questions when the motor-boat passed, surely the
Brazilian, who was more of a seigneur than any employee of an oil
company, would know how to answer.

"_Allons!_ Why not?" he said aloud.

"Bravo!" cried the Brazilian, withdrawing his hand from his pocket.
"Take that as part of my ticket. And excuse me a moment while I make
arrangements."

He disappeared through the reed portière, leaving Gaston to admire five
shining napoleons. It gave him an odd sensation to see, after so long,
those coins of his country. When Magin finally came back, it was through
the inner door.

"Tell me: how much can you carry?" he asked. "I have four boxes I would
like to take with me, besides a few small things. These fools might
wreck themselves at Ahwaz and lose everything in the river. It would
annoy me very much--after all the trouble I have had to collect my
objects of virtue! Besides, the tub will get through more easily without
them. Come in and see."

"_Mon Dieu_!" exclaimed Gaston, scratching his head, when he saw. "My
boat won't get through more easily with them, especially at night." He
looked curiously around the cozy stateroom.

"But it will take them, eh? If necessary, we can land them at Ahwaz and
have them carried around the rapids."

The thing took some manoeuvering; but the Lurs, with the help of much
fluent profanity from the master, finally accomplished it without
sinking the motor-boat. Gaston, sitting at the wheel to guard his
precious engine against some clumsiness of the black-hatted
mountaineers, looked on with humorous astonishment at this turn of
affairs. He was destined, it appeared, to be disappointed in his hope of
cheer. That cognac was really very good--if only one had had more of it.
Still, one at least had company now; and he was not the man to be
insensible to the fine champagne of the unexpected. Nor was he
unconscious that of many baroque scenes at which he had assisted, this
was not the least baroque.

When the fourth chest had gingerly been lowered into place, Magin
vanished again. Presently he reappeared, followed by his majordomo, to
whom he gave instructions in a low voice. Then he stepped into the stern
of the boat. The majordomo, taking two portmanteaux and a rug from the
Lurs behind him, handed them down to Gaston. Having disposed of them,
Gaston stood up, his eyes on the Lurs who crowded the rail.

"Well, my friend," said Magin gaily, "for whom are you waiting? We shall
yet have opportunities to admire the romantic scenery of the Karun!"

"Ah! Monsieur takes no--other object of virtue with him?"

"Have you so much room?" laughed Magin. "It is a good thing there is no
wind to-night. Go ahead."

Gaston cast off, backed a few feet, reversed, and described a wide
circle around the stern of the barge. It made a strange picture in the
moonlight, with its black-curved beak and its spectral crew. They
shifted to the other rail as the motor-boat came about, watching
silently.

"To your oars!" shouted Magin at them. "Row, sons of burnt fathers! Will
you have me wait a month for you at Mohamera?"

They scattered to their places, and Gaston caught the renewed flash of
the sweeps as he turned to steer for the bend. It was a good thing, he
told himself, that there was no wind to-night. The gunwale was nearer
the water than he or the boat cared for. She made nothing like her usual
speed. However, he said nothing. Neither did Magin--until the dark
shadow of Umm-un-Nakhl divided the glitter in front of them.

"Take the narrower channel," he ordered then. And when they were in it
he added: "Stop, will you, and steer in there, under the shadow of the
shore? I think we would better fortify ourselves for the work of the
night. I at least did not forget the cognac, among my other objects of
virtue."

They fortified themselves accordingly, the Brazilian producing cigars as
well. He certainly was an original, thought Gaston, now hopeful of
experiencing actual cheer. That originality proved itself anew when,
after a much longer period of refreshment than would suit most gentlemen
in a hurry, the familiar flash became visible in the river behind them.

"Now be quiet," commanded the extraordinary uncle of America. "Whatever
happens we mustn't let them hear us. If they take this channel, we will
slip down, and run part way up the other. We shall give them a little
surprise."

Nearer and nearer came the flash, which suddenly went out behind the
island. A recurrent splash succeeded it, and a wild melancholy singing.
The singing and the recurrent splash grew louder, filled the silence of
the river, grew softer; and presently the receding oars flashed again,
below the island. But not until the last glint was lost in the shimmer
of the water, the last sound had died out of the summer night, did the
Brazilian begin to unfold his surprise.

"_Que diable allait-on faire dans cette galère!_" he exclaimed. "It's
the first time I ever knew them to do the right thing! Let us drink one
more little glass to the good fortune of their voyage. And here, by the
way, is another part of my ticket." He handed Gaston five more
napoleons. "But now, my friend, we have some work. I see we shall never
get anywhere with all this load. Let us therefore consign our objects of
virtue to the safe keeping of the river. He will guard them better than
anybody. Is it deep enough here?"

It was deep enough. But what an affair, getting those heavy chests
overboard! The last one nearly pulled Magin in with it. One of the
clamps caught in his clothes, threw him against the side of the boat,
and jerked something after it into the water. He sat down, swearing
softly to himself, to catch his breath and investigate the damage.

"It was only my revolver," he announced. "And we have no need of that,
since we are not going to the war! Now, my good Gaston, I have changed
my mind. We will not go down the river, after all. We will go up."

Gaston, this time, stared at him.

"Up? But, Monsieur, the barge--"

"What is my barge to you, dear Gaston? Besides, it is no longer mine. It
now belongs to the Sheikh of Mohamera--with whatever objects of virtue
it still contains. He has long teased me for it. And none of them can
read the note they are carrying to him! Didn't I tell you I was going to
give them a little surprise? Well, there it is. I am not a man, you
see, to be tied to objects of virtue. Which reminds me: where are my
portmanteaux?"

"Here, on the tank."

"Fi! And you a chauffeur! Give them to me. I will arrange myself a
little. As for you, turn around and see how quickly you can carry me to
the charming resort of Bund-i-Kir--where Antigonus fought Eumenes and
the Silver Shields for the spoils of Susa, and won them. Did you ever
hear, Gaston, of that interesting incident?"

"Monsieur is too strong for me," replied Gaston, cryptically. He took
off his cap, wiped his face, and sat down at the wheel.

"If a man is not strong, what is he?" rejoined Magin. "But you will not
find this cigar too strong," he added amicably.

Gaston did not. What he found strong was the originality of his
passenger--and the way that cognac failed, in spite of its friendly
warmth, to cheer him. For he kept thinking of that absurd Bakhtiari, and
of the telegraph operator, and of M'sieu Guy, and the others, as he sped
northward on the silent moonlit river.

"This is very well, eh, Gaston?" uttered the Brazilian at last. "We
march better without our objects of virtue." Gaston felt that he smiled
as he lay smoking on his rug in the bottom of the boat. "But tell me,"
he went on presently, "how is it, if I may ask, that you didn't happen
to go in the steamer too, with your Monsieur Guy? You do not look to me
either old or incapable."

There it was, the same question, which really seemed to need no answer
at first, but which somehow became harder to answer every time! Why was
it? And how could it spoil so good a cognac?

"How is it?" repeated Gaston. "It is, Monsieur, that France is a great
lady who does not derange herself for a simple vagabond like Gaston, or
about whose liaisons or quarrels it is not for Gaston to concern
himself. This great lady has naturally not asked my opinion about this
quarrel. But if she had, I would have told her that it is very stupid
for everybody in Europe to begin shooting at each other. Why? Simply
because it pleases _ces messieurs_ the Austrians to treat _ces
messieurs_ the Serbs _de haut en bas_! What have I to do with that?
Besides, this great lady is very far away, and by the time I arrive she
will have arranged her affair. In the meantime there are many others,
younger and more capable than I, whose express business it is to arrange
such affairs. Will one _piou-piou_ more or less change the result of one
battle? Of course not! And if I should lose my hand or my head, who
would buy me another? Not France! I have seen a little what France does
in such cases. My own father left his leg at Gravelotte, together with
his job and my mother's peace. I have seen what happened to her, and how
it is that I am a vagabond--about whom France has never troubled
herself." He shouted it over his shoulder, above the noise of the motor,
with an increasing loudness. "Also," he went on, "I have duties not so
far away as France. Up there, at Sheleilieh, there will perhaps be next
month a little Gaston. If I go away, who will feed him? I have not the
courage of Monsieur, who separates himself so easily from objects of
virtue. _Voilà!_"

Magin said nothing for a moment. Then:

"Courage, yes! One needs a little courage in this curious world." There
was a pause, as the boat cut around a dark curve. "But do not think, my
poor Gaston, that it is I who blame you. On the contrary, I find you
very reasonable--more reasonable than many ministers of state. If others
in Europe had been able to express themselves like you, Gaston, Monsieur
Guy and his friends would not have run away so suddenly. It takes
courage, too, not to run after them." He made a sound, as if changing
his position, and presently he began to sing softly to himself.

"Monsieur would make a fortune in the _café-chantant_," commented
Gaston. He began to feel, at last, after the favorable reception of his
speech, a little cheered. He felt cooler, too, in this quiet rushing
moonlight of the river. "What is it that Monsieur sings? It seems to me
that I have heard that air."

"Very likely you have, Gaston. It is a little song of sentiment, sung by
all the sentimental young ladies of the world. He who wrote it, however,
was far from sentimental. He was a fellow countryman of mine--and of the
late Abraham!--who loved your country so much that he lived in it and
died in it." And Magin sang again, more loudly, the first words of the
song:

    "Ich weiss nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
    Dass ich so traurig bin;
    Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten,
    Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn."

Gaston listened with admiration, astonishment, and perplexity. It
suddenly came back to him how this original Brazilian had sworn when the
chest caught his clothes.

"But, Monsieur, I thought--Are you, then, a German?"

Magin, after a second, laughed.

"But Gaston, am I then an enemy?"

Gaston examined him in the moonlight.

"Well," he answered slowly, "if your country and mine are at war--"

"What has that to do with us, as you just now so truly said? You have
found that your country's quarrel was not cause enough for you to leave
Persia, and so have I. _Voilà tout!_" He examined Gaston in turn. "But I
thought you knew all the time. Such is fame! I flattered myself that
your Monsieur Guy would leave no one untold. Whereas he has left us the
pleasure of a situation more piquant, after all, than I supposed. We
enjoy the magnificent moonlight of the south, we admire a historic river
under its most successful aspect, and we do not exalt ourselves because
our countrymen, many hundreds of miles away, have lost their heads." He
smiled over the piquancy of the situation. "Strength is good," he went
on in his impressive bass, "and courage is better. But reason, as you so
justly say, is best of all. For which reason," he added, "allow me to
recommend to you, my dear Gaston, that you look a little where you are
steering."

Gaston looked. But he discovered that his moment of cheer had been all
too brief. A piquant situation, indeed! The piquancy of that situation
somehow complicated everything more darkly than before. If there were
reasons why he should not go away with the others, as they had all taken
it for granted that he would do, was that a reason why he, Gaston, whose
father had lost a leg at Gravelotte, should do this masquerading German
a service? All the German's amiability and originality did not change
that. Perhaps, indeed, that explained the originality and amiability.
The German, at any rate, did not seem to trouble himself about it. When
Gaston next looked over his shoulder, Magin was lying flat on his back
in the bottom of the boat, with his hands under his head and his eyes
closed. And so he continued to lie, silent and apparently asleep, while
his troubled companion, hand on wheel and _béret_ on ear, steered
through the waning moonlight of the Karun.


VII

The moon was but a ghost of itself, and a faint rose was beginning to
tinge the pallor of the sky behind the Bakhtiari mountains, when the
motor began to miss fire. Gaston, stifling an exclamation, cut it off,
unscrewed the cap of the tank, and measured the gasolene. Then he
stepped softly forward to the place in the bow where he kept his reserve
cans. Magin, roused by the stopping of the boat, sat up, stretching.

"_Tiens!_" he exclaimed. "Here we are!" He looked about at the high clay
banks enclosing the tawny basin of the four rivers. In front of him the
konar trees of Bund-i-Kir showed their dark green. At the right, on top
of the bluff of the eastern shore, a solitary peasant stood white
against the sky. Near him a couple of oxen on an inclined plane worked
the rude mechanism that drew up water to the fields. The creak of the
pulleys and the splash of the dripping goatskins only made more intense
the early morning silence. "Do you remember, Gaston?" asked Magin. "It
was here we first had the good fortune to meet--not quite three weeks
ago."

"I remember," answered Gaston, keeping his eye on the mouth of the tank
he was filling, "that I was the one who wished you peace, Monsieur; and
that no one asked who you were or where you were going."

Magin yawned.

"Well, you seem to have satisfied yourself now on those important
points. I might add, however, for your further information, that I think
I shall not go to Bund-i-Kir, which looks too peaceful to disturb at
this matinal hour, but there--on the western shore of the Ab-i-Shuteit.
And that reminds me. I still have to pay you the rest of my ticket."

He reached forward and laid a little pile of gold on Gaston's seat.
Gaston, watching out of the corner of his eye as he poured gasolene, saw
that there were more than five napoleons in that pile. There were at
least ten.

"What would you say, Monsieur," he asked slowly, emptying his tin, "if I
were to take you instead to Sheleilieh--where there are still a few of
the English?"

"I would say, my good Gaston, that you had more courage than I thought.
By the way," he went on casually, "what is this?"

He reached forward again toward Gaston's seat, where lay the Bakhtiari's
present. Gaston dropped his tin and made a snatch at it. But Magin was
too quick for him. He retreated to his place at the stern of the boat,
where he drew the knife out of its sheath.

"Sharp, too!" he commented, with a smile at Gaston. "And my revolver is
gone!"

Gaston, very pale, stepped to his seat.

"That, Monsieur, was given me by my Bakhtiari brother-in-law--to take to
the war. When he found I had not the courage to go, he ran away from
me."

"But you thought there might be more than one way to make war, eh? Well,
I at least am not an Apache. Perhaps the sharks will know what to do
with it." The blade glittered in the brightening air and splashed out of
sight. And Magin, folding his arms, smiled again at Gaston. "Another
object of virtue for the safe custody of the Karun!"

"But not all!" cried Gaston thickly, seizing the little pile of gold
beside him and flinging it after the knife.

Magin's smile broadened.

"Have you not forgotten something, Gaston?"

"But certainly not, Monsieur," he replied, putting his hand into his
pocket. The next moment a second shower of gold caught the light. And
where the little circles of ripples widened in the river, a sharp fin
suddenly cut the muddy water.

"Oho! Mr. Shark loses no time!" cried Magin. He stopped smiling, and
turned back to Gaston. "But we do. Allow me to say, my friend, that you
show yourself really too romantic. This is no doubt an excellent comedy
which we are playing for the benefit of that gentleman on the bluff. But
even he begins to get tired of it. See? He starts to say his morning
prayer. So be so good as to show a little of the reason which you know
how to show, and start for shore. But first you might do well to screw
on the cap of your tank--if you do not mind a little friendly advice."

Gaston looked around absent-mindedly, and took up the nickel cap. But he
suddenly turned back to Magin.

"You speak too much about friends, Monsieur. I am not your friend. I am
your enemy. And I shall not take you there, to the Ab-i-Shuteit. I
shall take you into the Ab-i-Gerger--to Sheleilieh and the English."

Magin considered him, with a flicker in his lighted eyes.

"You might perhaps have done it if you had not forgotten about your
gasolene--And you may yet. We shall see. But it seems to me,
my--enemy!--that you make a miscalculation. Let us suppose that you take
me to Sheleilieh. It is highly improbable, because you no longer have
your knife to assist you. I, it is true, no longer have my revolver to
assist me; but I have two arms, longer and I fancy stronger than yours.
However, let us make the supposition. And let us make the equally
improbable supposition that I fall into the hands of the English. What
can they do to me? The worst they can do is to give me free lodging and
nourishment till the end of the war! Whereas you, Gaston--you do not
seem to have reflected that life will not be so simple for you, after
this. There is a very unpleasant little word by which they name citizens
who do not respond to their country's call to arms. In other words, Mr.
Deserter, you have taken the road which, in war time, ends between a
firing-squad and a stone wall."

Gaston, evidently, had not reflected on that. He stared at his nickel
cap, turning it around in his fingers.

"You see?" continued Magin. "Well then, what about that little Gaston? I
do not know what has suddenly made you so much less reasonable than you
were last night; but I, at least, have not changed. And I see no reason
why that little Gaston should be left between two horns of a dilemma. In
fact I see excellent reasons not only why you should take me that short
distance to the shore, but why you should accompany me to Dizful. There
I am at home. I am, more than any one else, emperor. And I need a man
like you. I am going to have a car, I am going to have a boat, I am
going to have a place in the sun. There will be many changes in that
country after the war. You will see. It is not so far, either, from
here. It is evident that your heart, like mine, is in this part of the
world. So come with me. Eh, Gaston?"

"Heart!" repeated Gaston, with a bitter smile. "It is you who speak of
the heart, and of---- But you do not speak of the little surprise with
which you might some day regale me, Mr. Enemy! Nor do you say what you
fear--that I might take it into my head to go fishing at Umm-un-Nakhl!"

"Ah bah!" exclaimed Magin impatiently. "However, you are right. I am not
like you. I do not betray my country for a little savage with a jewel in
her nose! It is because of that small difference between us, Gaston,
between your people and my people, that you will see such changes here
after the war. But you will not see them unless you accept my offer.
After all, what else can you do?" He left Gaston to take it in as he
twirled his metal cap. "There is the sun already," Magin added
presently. "We shall have a hot journey."

Gaston looked over his shoulder at the quivering rim of gold that surged
up behind the Bakhtiari mountains. How sharp and purple they were,
against what a deepening blue! On the bluff the white-clad peasant stood
with his back to the light, his hands folded in front of him, his head
bowed.

"You look tired, Gaston," said Magin pleasantly. "Will you have this
cigar?"

"No, thank you," replied Gaston. He felt in his own pockets, however,
first for a cigarette and then for a match. He was indeed tired, so
tired that he no longer remembered which pocket to fumble in or what he
held in his hand as he fumbled. Ah, that sacred tank! Then he suddenly
smiled again, looking at Magin. "There is something else I can do!"

"What?" asked Magin as he lay at ease in the stern, enjoying the first
perfume of his cigar. "You can't go back to France, now, and I should
hardly advise you to go back to Sheleilieh. At least until after the
war. Then there will be no more English there to ask you troublesome
questions!"

Gaston lighted his cigarette. And, keeping his eyes on Magin, he slowly
moved his hand, in which were both the nickel cap and the still-burning
match, toward the mouth of the tank.

"This!" he answered.

Magin watched him. He did not catch the connection at first. He saw it
quickly enough, however. In his pale translucent eyes there was
something very like a flare.

"Look out--or we shall go together after all!"

"We shall go together, after all," repeated Gaston. "And here is your
place in the sun!"

Magin still watched, as the little flame flickered through the windless
air. But he did not move.

"It will go out! And you have not the courage Apache!"

"You will see, Prussian!" The match stopped, at last, above the open
hole; but the hand that held it trembled a little, and so did the
strange low voice that said: "This at least I can do--for that great
lady, far away."

The peasant on the bluff, prostrated toward Mecca with his forehead in
the dust, was startled out of his prayer by a roar in the basin below
him. There where the trim-white jinn-boat of the _Firengi_ had been was
now a blazing mass of wreckage, out of which came fierce cracklings,
hissings, sounds not to be named. As he stared at it the wreckage fell
apart, began to disappear in a cloud of smoke and steam that lengthened
toward the southern gateway of the basin. And in the turbid water, cut
by swift sharks' fins, he saw a sudden bright trail of red, redder than
any fire or sunrise. It paled gradually, the smoke melted after the
steam, the current caught the last charred fragments of wreckage and
drew them out of sight.

The peasant watched it all silently, as if waiting for some new magic of
the _Firengi_, from his high bank of the Karun--that snow-born river
bound for distant palms, that had seen so many generations of the faces
of men, so many of the barks to which men trust their hearts, their
hopes, their treasures, as it wound, century after century, from the
mountains to the sea. Then, at last, the peasant folded his hands anew
and bowed his head toward Mecca.



THE GAY OLD DOG[9]

[Note 9: Copyright, 1917, by The Metropolitan Magazine Company.
Copyright, 1918, by Edna Ferber.]

BY EDNA FERBER

From _The Metropolitan Magazine_


Those of you who have dwelt--or even lingered--in Chicago, Illinois
(this is not a humorous story), are familiar with the region known as
the Loop. For those others of you to whom Chicago is a transfer point
between New York and San Francisco there is presented this brief
explanation:

The Loop is a clamorous, smoke-infested district embraced by the iron
arms of the elevated tracks. In a city boasting fewer millions, it would
be known familiarly as downtown. From Congress to Lake Street, from
Wabash almost to the river, those thunderous tracks make a complete
circle, or loop. Within it lie the retail shops, the commercial hotels,
the theaters, the restaurants. It is the Fifth Avenue (diluted) and the
Broadway (deleted) of Chicago. And he who frequents it by night in
search of amusement and cheer is known, vulgarly, as a loop-hound.

Jo Hertz was a loop-hound. On the occasion of those sparse first nights
granted the metropolis of the Middle West he was always present, third
row, aisle, left. When a new loop café was opened, Jo's table always
commanded an unobstructed view of anything worth viewing. On entering he
was wont to say, "Hello, Gus," with careless cordiality to the
head-waiter, the while his eye roved expertly from table to table as he
removed his gloves. He ordered things under glass, so that his table,
at midnight or thereabouts, resembled a hot-bed that favors the bell
system. The waiters fought for him. He was the kind of man who mixes his
own salad dressing. He liked to call for a bowl, some cracked ice,
lemon, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, vinegar and oil, and make a rite
of it. People at near-by tables would lay down their knives and forks to
watch, fascinated. The secret of it seemed to lie in using all the oil
in sight and calling for more.

That was Jo--a plump and lonely bachelor of fifty. A plethoric,
roving-eyed and kindly man, clutching vainly at the garments of a youth
that had long slipped past him. Jo Hertz, in one of those pinch-waist
belted suits and a trench coat and a little green hat, walking up
Michigan Avenue of a bright winter's afternoon, trying to take the curb
with a jaunty youthfulness against which every one of his fat-encased
muscles rebelled, was a sight for mirth or pity, depending on one's
vision.

The gay-dog business was a late phase in the life of Jo Hertz. He had
been a quite different sort of canine. The staid and harassed brother of
three unwed and selfish sisters is an under dog. The tale of how Jo
Hertz came to be a loop-hound should not be compressed within the limits
of a short story. It should be told as are the photoplays, with frequent
throw-backs and many cut-ins. To condense twenty-three years of a man's
life into some five or six thousand words requires a verbal economy
amounting to parsimony.

At twenty-seven Jo had been the dutiful, hard-working son (in the
wholesale harness business) of a widowed and gummidging mother, who
called him Joey. If you had looked close you would have seen that now
and then a double wrinkle would appear between Jo's eyes--a wrinkle that
had no business there at twenty-seven. Then Jo's mother died, leaving
him handicapped by a death-bed promise, the three sisters and a
three-story-and-basement house on Calumet Avenue. Jo's wrinkle became a
fixture.

Death-bed promises should be broken as lightly as they are seriously
made. The dead have no right to lay their clammy fingers upon the
living.

"Joey," she had said, in her high, thin voice, "take care of the girls."

"I will, ma," Jo had choked.

"Joey," and the voice was weaker, "promise me you won't marry till the
girls are all provided for." Then as Jo had hesitated, appalled: "Joey,
it's my dying wish. Promise!"

"I promise, ma," he had said.

Whereupon his mother had died, comfortably, leaving him with a
completely ruined life.

They were not bad-looking girls, and they had a certain style, too. That
is, Stell and Eva had. Carrie, the middle one, taught school over on the
West Side. In those days it took her almost two hours each way. She said
the kind of costume she required should have been corrugated steel. But
all three knew what was being worn, and they wore it--or fairly faithful
copies of it. Eva, the housekeeping sister, had a needle knack. She
could skim the State Street windows and come away with a mental
photograph of every separate tuck, hem, yoke, and ribbon. Heads of
departments showed her the things they kept in drawers, and she went
home and reproduced them with the aid of a two-dollar-a-day seamstress.
Stell, the youngest, was the beauty. They called her Babe. She wasn't
really a beauty, but some one had once told her that she looked like
Janice Meredith (it was when that work of fiction was at the height of
its popularity). For years afterward, whenever she went to parties, she
affected a single, fat curl over her right shoulder, with a rose stuck
through it.

Twenty-three years ago one's sisters did not strain at the household
leash, nor crave a career. Carrie taught school, and hated it. Eva kept
house expertly and complainingly. Babe's profession was being the
family beauty, and it took all her spare time. Eva always let her sleep
until ten.

This was Jo's household, and he was the nominal head of it. But it was
an empty title. The three women dominated his life. They weren't
consciously selfish. If you had called them cruel they would have put
you down as mad. When you are the lone brother of three sisters, it
means that you must constantly be calling for, escorting, or dropping
one of them somewhere. Most men of Jo's age were standing before their
mirror of a Saturday night, whistling blithely and abstractedly while
they discarded a blue polka-dot for a maroon tie, whipped off the maroon
for a shot-silk, and at the last moment decided against the shot-silk in
favor of a plain black-and-white, because she had once said she
preferred quiet ties. Jo, when he should have been preening his feathers
for conquest, was saying:

"Well, my God, I _am_ hurrying! Give a man time, can't you? I just got
home. You girls have been laying around the house all day. No wonder
you're ready."

He took a certain pride in seeing his sisters well dressed, at a time
when he should have been reveling in fancy waistcoats and brilliant-hued
socks, according to the style of that day, and the inalienable right of
any unwed male under thirty, in any day. On those rare occasions when
his business necessitated an out-of-town trip, he would spend half a day
floundering about the shops selecting handkerchiefs, or stockings, or
feathers, or fans, or gloves for the girls. They always turned out to be
the wrong kind, judging by their reception.

From Carrie, "What in the world do I want of a fan!"

"I thought you didn't have one," Jo would say.

"I haven't. I never go to dances."

Jo would pass a futile hand over the top of his head, as was his way
when disturbed. "I just thought you'd like one. I thought every girl
liked a fan. Just," feebly, "just to--to have."

"Oh, for pity's sake!"

And from Eva or Babe, "I've _got_ silk stockings, Jo." Or, "You brought
me handkerchiefs the last time."

There was something selfish in his giving, as there always is in any
gift freely and joyfully made. They never suspected the exquisite
pleasure it gave him to select these things; these fine, soft, silken
things. There were many things about this slow-going, amiable brother of
theirs that they never suspected. If you had told them he was a dreamer
of dreams, for example, they would have been amused. Sometimes,
dead-tired by nine o'clock, after a hard day downtown, he would doze
over the evening paper. At intervals he would wake, red-eyed, to a
snatch of conversation such as, "Yes, but if you get a blue you can wear
it anywhere. It's dressy, and at the same time it's quiet, too." Eva,
the expert, wrestling with Carrie over the problem of the new spring
dress. They never guessed that the commonplace man in the frayed old
smoking-jacket had banished them all from the room long ago; had
banished himself, for that matter. In his place was a tall, debonair,
and rather dangerously handsome man to whom six o'clock spelled evening
clothes. The kind of a man who can lean up against a mantel, or propose
a toast, or give an order to a man-servant, or whisper a gallant speech
in a lady's ear with equal ease. The shabby old house on Calumet Avenue
was transformed into a brocaded and chandeliered rendezvous for the
brilliance of the city. Beauty was there, and wit. But none so beautiful
and witty as She. Mrs.--er--Jo Hertz. There was wine, of course; but no
vulgar display. There was music; the soft sheen of satin; laughter. And
he the gracious, tactful host, king of his own domain--

"Jo, for heaven's sake, if you're going to snore go to bed!"

"Why--did I fall asleep?"

"You haven't been doing anything else all evening. A person would think
you were fifty instead of thirty."

And Jo Hertz was again just the dull, gray, commonplace brother of three
well-meaning sisters.

Babe used to say petulantly, "Jo, why don't you ever bring home any of
your men friends? A girl might as well not have any brother, all the
good you do."

Jo, conscience-stricken, did his best to make amends. But a man who has
been petticoat-ridden for years loses the knack, somehow, of comradeship
with men. He acquires, too, a knowledge of women, and a distaste for
them, equaled only, perhaps, by that of an elevator-starter in a
department store.

Which brings us to one Sunday in May. Jo came home from a late Sunday
afternoon walk to find company for supper. Carrie often had in one of
her school-teacher friends, or Babe one of her frivolous intimates, or
even Eva a staid guest of the old-girl type. There was always a Sunday
night supper of potato salad, and cold meat, and coffee, and perhaps a
fresh cake. Jo rather enjoyed it, being a hospitable soul. But he
regarded the guests with the undazzled eyes of a man to whom they were
just so many petticoats, timid of the night streets and requiring escort
home. If you had suggested to him that some of his sisters' popularity
was due to his own presence, or if you had hinted that the more
kittenish of these visitors were palpably making eyes at him, he would
have stared in amazement and unbelief.

This Sunday night it turned out to be one of Carrie's friends.

"Emily," said Carrie, "this is my brother, Jo." Jo had learned what to
expect in Carrie's friends.

Drab-looking women in the late thirties, whose facial lines all slanted
downward.

"Happy to meet you," said Jo, and looked down at a different sort
altogether. A most surprisingly different sort, for one of Carrie's
friends. This Emily person was very small, and fluffy, and blue-eyed,
and sort of--well, crinkly looking. You know. The corners of her mouth
when she smiled, and her eyes when she looked up at you, and her hair,
which was brown, but had the miraculous effect, somehow, of being
golden.

Jo shook hands with her. Her hand was incredibly small, and soft, so
that you were afraid of crushing it, until you discovered she had a firm
little grip all her own. It surprised and amused you, that grip, as does
a baby's unexpected clutch on your patronizing forefinger. As Jo felt it
in his own big clasp, the strangest thing happened to him. Something
inside Jo Hertz stopped working for a moment, then lurched sickeningly,
then thumped like mad. It was his heart. He stood staring down at her,
and she up at him, until the others laughed. Then their hands fell
apart, lingeringly.

"Are you a school-teacher, Emily?" he said.

"Kindergarten. It's my first year. And don't call me Emily, please."

"Why not? It's your name. I think it's the prettiest name in the world."
Which he hadn't meant to say at all. In fact, he was perfectly aghast to
find himself saying it. But he meant it.

At supper he passed her things, and stared, until everybody laughed
again, and Eva said acidly, "Why don't you feed her?"

It wasn't that Emily had an air of helplessness. She just made you feel
you wanted her to be helpless, so that you could help her.

Jo took her home, and from that Sunday night he began to strain at the
leash. He took his sisters out, dutifully, but he would suggest, with a
carelessness that deceived no one, "Don't you want one of your girl
friends to come along? That little What's-her-name--Emily, or something.
So long's I've got three of you, I might as well have a full squad."

For a long time he didn't know what was the matter with him. He only
knew he was miserable, and yet happy. Sometimes his heart seemed to ache
with an actual physical ache. He realized that he wanted to do things
for Emily. He wanted to buy things for Emily--useless, pretty, expensive
things that he couldn't afford. He wanted to buy everything that Emily
needed, and everything that Emily desired. He wanted to marry Emily.
That was it. He discovered that one day, with a shock, in the midst of a
transaction in the harness business. He stared at the man with whom he
was dealing until that startled person grew uncomfortable.

"What's the matter, Hertz?"

"Matter?"

"You look as if you'd seen a ghost or found a gold mine. I don't know
which."

"Gold mine," said Jo. And then, "No. Ghost."

For he remembered that high, thin voice, and his promise. And the
harness business was slithering downhill with dreadful rapidity, as the
automobile business began its amazing climb. Jo tried to stop it. But he
was not that kind of business man. It never occurred to him to jump out
of the down-going vehicle and catch the up-going one. He stayed on,
vainly applying brakes that refused to work.

"You know, Emily, I couldn't support two households now. Not the way
things are. But if you'll wait. If you'll only wait. The girls
might--that is, Babe and Carrie--"

She was a sensible little thing, Emily. "Of course I'll wait. But we
mustn't just sit back and let the years go by. We've got to help."

She went about it as if she were already a little matchmaking matron.
She corraled all the men she had ever known and introduced them to Babe,
Carrie, and Eva separately, in pairs, and en masse. She arranged parties
at which Babe could display the curl. She got up picnics. She stayed
home while Jo took the three about. When she was present she tried to
look as plain and obscure as possible, so that the sisters should show
up to advantage. She schemed, and planned, and contrived, and hoped; and
smiled into Jo's despairing eyes.

And three years went by. Three precious years. Carrie still taught
school, and hated it. Eva kept house, more and more complainingly as
prices advanced and allowance retreated. Stell was still Babe, the
family beauty; but even she knew that the time was past for curls.
Emily's hair, somehow, lost its glint and began to look just plain
brown. Her crinkliness began to iron out.

"Now, look here!" Jo argued, desperately, one night. "We could be happy,
anyway. There's plenty of room at the house. Lots of people begin that
way. Of course, I couldn't give you all I'd like to at first. But maybe,
after a while--"

No dreams of salons, and brocade, and velvet-footed servitors, and satin
damask now. Just two rooms, all their own, all alone, and Emily to work
for. That was his dream. But it seemed less possible than that other
absurd one had been.

You know that Emily was as practical a little thing as she looked
fluffy. She knew women. Especially did she know Eva, and Carrie, and
Babe. She tried to imagine herself taking the household affairs and the
housekeeping pocketbook out of Eva's expert hands. Eva had once
displayed to her a sheaf of aigrettes she had bought with what she saved
out of the housekeeping money. So then she tried to picture herself
allowing the reins of Jo's house to remain in Eva's hands. And
everything feminine and normal in her rebelled. Emily knew she'd want to
put away her own freshly laundered linen, and smooth it, and pat it. She
was that kind of woman. She knew she'd want to do her own delightful
haggling with butcher and vegetable peddler. She knew she'd want to muss
Jo's hair, and sit on his knee, and even quarrel with him, if necessary,
without the awareness of three ever-present pairs of maiden eyes and
ears.

"No! No! We'd only be miserable. I know. Even if they didn't object. And
they would, Jo. Wouldn't they?"

His silence was miserable assent. Then, "But you do love me, don't you,
Emily?"

"I do, Jo. I love you--and love you--and love you. But, Jo, I--can't."

"I know it, dear. I knew it all the time, really. I just thought, maybe,
somehow--"

The two sat staring for a moment into space, their hands clasped. Then
they both shut their eyes, with a little shudder, as though what they
saw was terrible to look upon. Emily's hand, the tiny hand that was so
unexpectedly firm, tightened its hold on his, and his crushed the absurd
fingers until she winced with pain.

That was the beginning of the end, and they knew it.

Emily wasn't the kind of girl who would be left to pine. There are too
many Jo's in the world whose hearts are prone to lurch and then thump at
the feel of a soft, fluttering, incredibly small hand in their grip. One
year later Emily was married to a young man whose father owned a large,
pie-shaped slice of the prosperous state of Michigan.

That being safely accomplished, there was something grimly humorous in
the trend taken by affairs in the old house on Calumet. For Eva married.
Of all people, Eva! Married well, too, though he was a great deal older
than she. She went off in a hat she had copied from a French model at
Fields's, and a suit she had contrived with a home dressmaker, aided by
pressing on the part of the little tailor in the basement over on
Thirty-first Street. It was the last of that, though. The next time they
saw her, she had on a hat that even she would have despaired of copying,
and a suit that sort of melted into your gaze. She moved to the North
Side (trust Eva for that), and Babe assumed the management of the
household on Calumet Avenue. It was rather a pinched little household
now, for the harness business shrank and shrank.

"I don't see how you can expect me to keep house decently on this!" Babe
would say contemptuously. Babe's nose, always a little inclined to
sharpness, had whittled down to a point of late. "If you knew what Ben
gives Eva."

"It's the best I can do, Sis. Business is something rotten."

"Ben says if you had the least bit of--" Ben was Eva's husband, and
quotable, as are all successful men.

"I don't care what Ben says," shouted Jo, goaded into rage. "I'm sick of
your everlasting Ben. Go and get a Ben of your own, why don't you, if
you're so stuck on the way he does things."

And Babe did. She made a last desperate drive, aided by Eva, and she
captured a rather surprised young man in the brokerage way, who had made
up his mind not to marry for years and years. Eva wanted to give her her
wedding things, but at that Jo broke into sudden rebellion.

"No, sir! No Ben is going to buy my sister's wedding clothes,
understand? I guess I'm not broke--yet. I'll furnish the money for her
things, and there'll be enough of them, too."

Babe had as useless a trousseau, and as filled with extravagant
pink-and-blue and lacy and frilly things as any daughter of doting
parents. Jo seemed to find a grim pleasure in providing them. But it
left him pretty well pinched. After Babe's marriage (she insisted that
they call her Estelle now) Jo sold the house on Calumet. He and Carrie
took one of those little flats that were springing up, seemingly over
night, all through Chicago's South Side.

There was nothing domestic about Carrie. She had given up teaching two
years before, and had gone into Social Service work on the West Side.
She had what is known as a legal mind, hard, clear, orderly, and she
made a great success of it. Her dream was to live at the Settlement
House and give all her time to the work. Upon the little household she
bestowed a certain amount of grim, capable attention. It was the same
kind of attention she would have given a piece of machinery whose
oiling and running had been entrusted to her care. She hated it, and
didn't hesitate to say so.

Jo took to prowling about department store basements, and household
goods sections. He was always sending home a bargain in a ham, or a sack
of potatoes, or fifty pounds of sugar, or a window clamp, or a new kind
of paring knife. He was forever doing odd little jobs that the janitor
should have done. It was the domestic in him claiming its own.

Then, one night, Carrie came home with a dull glow in her leathery
cheeks, and her eyes alight with resolve. They had what she called a
plain talk.

"Listen, Jo. They've offered me the job of first assistant resident
worker. And I'm going to take it. Take it! I know fifty other girls
who'd give their ears for it. I go in next month."

They were at dinner. Jo looked up from his plate, dully. Then he glanced
around the little dining-room, with its ugly tan walls and its heavy
dark furniture (the Calumet Street pieces fitted cumbersomely into the
five-room flat).

"Away? Away from here, you mean--to live?"

Carrie laid down her fork. "Well, really, Jo! After all that
explanation."

"But to go over there to live! Why, that neighborhood's full of dirt,
and disease, and crime, and the Lord knows what all. I can't let you do
that, Carrie."

Carrie's chin came up. She laughed a short little laugh. "Let me! That's
eighteenth-century talk, Jo. My life's my own to live. I'm going."

And she went. Jo stayed on in the apartment until the lease was up. Then
he sold what furniture he could, stored or gave away the rest, and took
a room on Michigan Avenue in one of the old stone mansions whose decayed
splendor was being put to such purpose.

Jo Hertz was his own master. Free to marry. Free to come and go. And he
found he didn't even think of marrying. He didn't even want to come or
go, particularly. A rather frumpy old bachelor, with thinning hair and a
thickening neck. Much has been written about the unwed, middle-aged
woman; her fussiness, her primness, her angularity of mind and body. In
the male that same fussiness develops, and a certain primness, too. But
he grows flabby where she grows lean.

Every Thursday evening he took dinner at Eva's, and on Sunday noon at
Stell's. He tucked his napkin under his chin and openly enjoyed the
home-made soup and the well-cooked meats. After dinner he tried to talk
business with Eva's husband, or Stell's. His business talks were the
old-fashioned kind, beginning:

"Well, now, looka here. Take, f'rinstance your raw hides and leathers."

But Ben and George didn't want to take f'rinstance your raw hides and
leathers. They wanted, when they took anything at all, to take golf, or
politics, or stocks. They were the modern type of business man who
prefers to leave his work out of his play. Business, with them, was a
profession--a finely graded and balanced thing, differing from Jo's
clumsy, downhill style as completely as does the method of a great
criminal detective differ from that of a village constable. They would
listen, restively, and say, "Uh-uh," at intervals, and at the first
chance they would sort of fade out of the room, with a meaning glance at
their wives. Eva had two children now. Girls. They treated Uncle Jo with
good-natured tolerance. Stell had no children. Uncle Jo degenerated, by
almost imperceptible degrees, from the position of honored guest, who is
served with white meat, to that of one who is content with a leg and one
of those obscure and bony sections which, after much turning with a
bewildered and investigating knife and fork, leave one baffled and
unsatisfied.

Eva and Stell got together and decided that Jo ought to marry.

"It isn't natural," Eva told him. "I never saw a man who took so little
interest in women."

"Me!" protested Jo, almost shyly. "Women!"

"Yes. Of course. You act like a frightened school boy."

So they had in for dinner certain friends and acquaintances of fitting
age. They spoke of them as "splendid girls." Between thirty-six and
forty. They talked awfully well, in a firm, clear way, about civics, and
classes, and politics, and economics, and boards. They rather terrified
Jo. He didn't understand much that they talked about, and he felt humbly
inferior, and yet a little resentful, as if something had passed him by.
He escorted them home, dutifully, though they told him not to bother,
and they evidently meant it. They seemed capable, not only of going home
quite unattended, but of delivering a pointed lecture to any highwayman
or brawler who might molest them.

The following Thursday Eva would say, "How did you like her, Jo?"

"Like who?" Jo would spar feebly.

"Miss Matthews."

"Who's she?"

"Now, don't be funny, Jo. You know very well I mean the girl who was
here for dinner. The one who talked so well on the emigration question."

"Oh, her! Why, I liked her, all right. Seems to be a smart woman."

"Smart! She's a perfectly splendid girl."

"Sure," Jo would agree cheerfully.

"But didn't you like her?"

"I can't say I did, Eve. And I can't say I didn't. She made me think a
lot of a teacher I had in the fifth reader. Name of Himes. As I recall
her, she must have been a fine woman. But I never thought of her as a
woman at all. She was just Teacher."

"You make me tired," snapped Eva impatiently. "A man of your age. You
don't expect to marry a girl, do you? A child!"

"I don't expect to marry anybody," Jo had answered.

And that was the truth, lonely though he often was.

The following year Eva moved to Winnetka. Any one who got the meaning of
the Loop knows the significance of a move to a north shore suburb, and a
house. Eva's daughter, Ethel, was growing up, and her mother had an eye
on society.

That did away with Jo's Thursday dinner. Then Stell's husband bought a
car. They went out into the country every Sunday. Stell said it was
getting so that maids objected to Sunday dinners, anyway. Besides, they
were unhealthy, old-fashioned things. They always meant to ask Jo to
come along, but by the time their friends were placed, and the lunch,
and the boxes, and sweaters, and George's camera, and everything, there
seemed to be no room for a man of Jo's bulk. So that eliminated the
Sunday dinners.

"Just drop in any time during the week," Stell said, "for dinner. Except
Wednesday--that's our bridge night--and Saturday. And, of course,
Thursday. Cook is out that night. Don't wait for me to 'phone."

And so Jo drifted into that sad-eyed, dyspeptic family made up of those
you see dining in second-rate restaurants, their paper propped up
against the bowl of oyster crackers, munching solemnly and with
indifference to the stare of the passer-by surveying them through the
brazen plate-glass window.

* * *

And then came the War. The war that spelled death and destruction to
millions. The war that brought a fortune to Jo Hertz, and transformed
him, over night, from a baggy-kneed old bachelor whose business was a
failure to a prosperous manufacturer whose only trouble was the shortage
in hides for the making of his product--leather! The armies of Europe
called for it. Harnesses! More harnesses! Straps! Millions of straps!
More! More!

The musty old harness business over on Lake Street was magically changed
from a dust-covered, dead-alive concern to an orderly hive that hummed
and glittered with success. Orders poured in. Jo Hertz had inside
information on the War. He knew about troops and horses. He talked with
French and English and Italian buyers--noblemen, many of
them--commissioned by their countries to get American-made supplies. And
now, when he said to Ben or George, "Take f'rinstance your raw hides and
leathers," they listened with respectful attention.

And then began the gay dog business in the life of Jo Hertz. He
developed into a loop-hound, ever keen on the scent of fresh pleasure.
That side of Jo Hertz which had been repressed and crushed and ignored
began to bloom, unhealthily. At first he spent money on his rather
contemptuous nieces. He sent them gorgeous fans, and watch bracelets,
and velvet bags. He took two expensive rooms at a downtown hotel, and
there was something more tear-compelling than grotesque about the way he
gloated over the luxury of a separate ice-water tap in the bathroom. He
explained it.

"Just turn it on. Ice-water! Any hour of the day or night."

He bought a car. Naturally. A glittering affair; in color a bright blue,
with pale-blue leather straps and a great deal of gold fittings and wire
wheels. Eva said it was the kind of a thing a soubrette would use,
rather than an elderly business man. You saw him driving about in it,
red-faced and rather awkward at the wheel. You saw him, too, in the
Pompeiian room at the Congress Hotel of a Saturday afternoon when
doubtful and roving-eyed matrons in kolinsky capes are wont to
congregate to sip pale amber drinks. Actors grew to recognize the
semi-bald head and the shining, round, good-natured face looming out at
them from the dim well of the parquet, and sometimes, in a musical
show, they directed a quip at him, and he liked it. He could pick out
the critics as they came down the aisle, and even had a nodding
acquaintance with two of them.

"Kelly, of the _Herald_," he would say carelessly. "Bean, of the _Trib_.
They're all afraid of him."

So he frolicked, ponderously. In New York he might have been called a
Man About Town.

And he was lonesome. He was very lonesome. So he searched about in his
mind and brought from the dim past the memory of the luxuriously
furnished establishment of which he used to dream in the evenings when
he dozed over his paper in the old house on Calumet. So he rented an
apartment, many-roomed and expensive, with a man-servant in charge, and
furnished it in styles and periods ranging through all the Louis. The
living room was mostly rose color. It was like an unhealthy and bloated
boudoir. And yet there was nothing sybaritic or uncleanly in the sight
of this paunchy, middle-aged man sinking into the rosy-cushioned luxury
of his ridiculous home. It was a frank and naïve indulgence of
long-starved senses, and there was in it a great resemblance to the
rolling-eyed ecstasy of a school-boy smacking his lips over an all-day
sucker.

The War went on, and on, and on. And the money continued to roll in--a
flood of it. Then, one afternoon, Eva, in town on shopping bent, entered
a small, exclusive, and expensive shop on Michigan Avenue. Exclusive,
that is, in price. Eva's weakness, you may remember, was hats. She was
seeking a hat now. She described what she sought with a languid
conciseness, and stood looking about her after the saleswoman had
vanished in quest of it. The room was becomingly rose-illumined and
somewhat dim, so that some minutes had passed before she realized that a
man seated on a raspberry brocade settee not five feet away--a man with
a walking stick, and yellow gloves, and tan spats, and a check suit--was
her brother Jo. From him Eva's wild-eyed glance leaped to the woman who
was trying on hats before one of the many long mirrors. She was seated,
and a saleswoman was exclaiming discreetly at her elbow.

Eva turned sharply and encountered her own saleswoman returning,
hat-laden. "Not to-day," she gasped. "I'm feeling ill. Suddenly." And
almost ran from the room.

That evening she told Stell, relating her news in that telephone
pidgin-English devised by every family of married sisters as protection
against the neighbors and Central. Translated, it ran thus:

"He looked straight at me. My dear, I thought I'd die! But at least he
had sense enough not to speak. She was one of those limp, willowy
creatures with the greediest eyes that she tried to keep softened to a
baby stare, and couldn't, she was so crazy to get her hands on those
hats. I saw it all in one awful minute. You know the way I do. I suppose
some people would call her pretty. I don't. And her color! Well! And the
most expensive-looking hats. Aigrettes, and paradise, and feathers. Not
one of them under seventy-five. Isn't it disgusting! At his age! Suppose
Ethel had been with me!"

The next time it was Stell who saw them. In a restaurant. She said it
spoiled her evening. And the third time it was Ethel. She was one of the
guests at a theater party given by Nicky Overton II. You know. The North
Shore Overtons. Lake Forest. They came in late, and occupied the entire
third row at the opening performance of "Believe Me!" And Ethel was
Nicky's partner. She was glowing like a rose. When the lights went up
after the first act Ethel saw that her uncle Jo was seated just ahead of
her with what she afterward described as a Blonde. Then her uncle had
turned around, and seeing her, had been surprised into a smile that
spread genially all over his plump and rubicund face. Then he had turned
to face forward again, quickly.

"Who's the old bird?" Nicky had asked. Ethel had pretended not to hear,
so he had asked again.

"My uncle," Ethel answered, and flushed all over her delicate face, and
down to her throat. Nicky had looked at the Blonde, and his eyebrows had
gone up ever so slightly.

It spoiled Ethel's evening. More than that, as she told her mother of it
later, weeping, she declared it had spoiled her life.

Ethel talked it over with her husband in that intimate, kimonoed hour
that precedes bedtime. She gesticulated heatedly with her hair brush.

"It's disgusting, that's what it is. Perfectly disgusting. There's no
fool like an old fool. Imagine! A creature like that. At his time of
life."

There exists a strange and loyal kinship among men. "Well, I don't
know," Ben said now, and even grinned a little. "I suppose a boy's got
to sow his wild oats some time."

"Don't be any more vulgar than you can help," Eva retorted. "And I think
you know, as well as I, what it means to have that Overton boy
interested in Ethel."

"If he's interested in her," Ben blundered, "I guess the fact that
Ethel's uncle went to the theater with some one who wasn't Ethel's aunt
won't cause a shudder to run up and down his frail young frame, will
it?"

"All right," Eva had retorted. "If you're not man enough to stop it,
I'll have to, that's all. I'm going up there with Stell this week."

They did not notify Jo of their coming. Eva telephoned his apartment
when she knew he would be out, and asked his man if he expected his
master home to dinner that evening. The man had said yes. Eva arranged
to meet Stell in town. They would drive to Jo's apartment together, and
wait for him there.

* * *

When she reached the city Eva found turmoil there. The first of the
American troops to be sent to France were leaving. Michigan Boulevard
was a billowing, surging mass: Flags, pennants, bands, crowds. All the
elements that make for demonstration. And over the whole--quiet. No
holiday crowd, this. A solid, determined mass of people waiting patient
hours to see the khaki-clads go by. Three years of indefatigable reading
had brought them to a clear knowledge of what these boys were going to.

"Isn't it dreadful!" Stell gasped.

"Nicky Overton's only nineteen, thank goodness."

Their car was caught in the jam. When they moved at all it was by
inches. When at last they reached Jo's apartment they were flushed,
nervous, apprehensive. But he had not yet come in. So they waited.

No, they were not staying to dinner with their brother, they told the
relieved houseman. Jo's home has already been described to you. Stell
and Eva, sunk in rose-colored cushions, viewed it with disgust, and some
mirth. They rather avoided each other's eyes.

"Carrie ought to be here," Eva said. They both smiled at the thought of
the austere Carrie in the midst of those rosy cushions, and hangings,
and lamps. Stell rose and began to walk about, restlessly. She picked up
a vase and laid it down; straightened a picture. Eva got up, too, and
wandered into the hall. She stood there a moment, listening. Then she
turned and passed into Jo's bedroom. And there you knew Jo for what he
was.

This room was as bare as the other had been ornate. It was Jo, the
clean-minded and simple-hearted, in revolt against the cloying luxury
with which he had surrounded himself. The bedroom, of all rooms in any
house, reflects the personality of its occupant. True, the actual
furniture was paneled, cupid-surmounted, and ridiculous. It had been the
fruit of Jo's first orgy of the senses. But now it stood out in that
stark little room with an air as incongruous and ashamed as that of a
pink tarleton danseuse who finds herself in a monk's cell. None of those
wall-pictures with which bachelor bedrooms are reputed to be hung. No
satin slippers. No scented notes. Two plain-backed military brushes on
the chiffonier (and he so nearly hairless!). A little orderly stack of
books on the table near the bed. Eva fingered their titles and gave a
little gasp. One of them was on gardening. "Well, of all things!"
exclaimed Stell. A book on the War, by an Englishman. A detective story
of the lurid type that lulls us to sleep. His shoes ranged in a careful
row in the closet, with shoe-trees in every one of them. There was
something speaking about them. They looked so human. Eva shut the door
on them, quickly. Some bottles on the dresser. A jar of pomade. An
ointment such as a man uses who is growing bald and is panic-stricken
too late. An insurance calendar on the wall. Some rhubarb-and-soda
mixture on the shelf in the bathroom, and a little box of pepsin
tablets.

"Eats all kinds of things at all hours of the night," Eva said, and
wandered out into the rose-colored front room again with the air of one
who is chagrined at her failure to find what she has sought. Stell
followed her, furtively.

"Where do you suppose he can be?" she demanded. "It's--" she glanced at
her wrist, "why, it's after six!"

And then there was a little click. The two women sat up, tense. The door
opened. Jo came in. He blinked a little. The two women in the rosy room
stood up.

"Why--Eve! Why, Babe! Well! Why didn't you let me know?"

"We were just about to leave. We thought you weren't coming home."

* * *

Jo came in, slowly. "I was in the jam on Michigan, watching the boys go
by." He sat down, heavily. The light from the window fell on him. And
you saw that his eyes were red.

And you'll have to learn why. He had found himself one of the thousands
in the jam on Michigan Avenue, as he said. He had a place near the curb,
where his big frame shut off the view of the unfortunates behind him.
He waited with the placid interest of one who has subscribed to all the
funds and societies to which a prosperous, middle-aged business man is
called upon to subscribe in war time. Then, just as he was about to
leave, impatient at the delay, the crowd had cried, with a queer
dramatic, exultant note in its voice, "Here they come! here come the
boys!"

Just at that moment two little, futile, frenzied fists began to beat a
mad tattoo on Jo Hertz's broad back. Jo tried to turn in the crowd, all
indignant resentment. "Say, looka here!"

The little fists kept up their frantic beating and pushing. And a
voice--a choked, high little voice--cried, "Let me by! I can't see! You
man, you! You big fat man! My boy's going by--to war--and I can't see!
Let me by!"

Jo scrooged around, still keeping his place. He looked down. And
upturned to him in agonized appeal was the face of little Emily. They
stared at each other for what seemed a long, long time. It was really
only the fraction of a second. Then Jo put one great arm firmly around
Emily's waist and swung her around in front of him. His great bulk
protected her. Emily was clinging to his hand. She was breathing
rapidly, as if she had been running. Her eyes were straining up the
street.

"Why, Emily, how in the world!--"

"I ran away. Fred didn't want me to come. He said it would excite me too
much."

"Fred?"

"My husband. He made me promise to say good-by to Jo at home."

"Jo's my boy. And he's going to war. So I ran away. I had to see him. I
had to see him go."

She was dry-eyed. Her gaze was straining up the street.

"Why, sure," said Jo. "Of course you want to see him." And then the
crowd gave a great roar. There came over Jo a feeling of weakness. He
was trembling. The boys went marching by.

"There he is," Emily shrilled, above the din. "There he is! There he is!
There he--" And waved a futile little hand. It wasn't so much a wave as
a clutching. A clutching after something beyond her reach.

"Which one? Which one, Emily?"

"The handsome one. The handsome one. There!" Her voice quavered and
died.

Jo put a steady hand on her shoulder. "Point him out," he commanded.
"Show me." And the next instant. "Never mind. I see him."

Somehow, miraculously, he had picked him from among the hundreds. Had
picked him as surely as his own father might have. It was Emily's boy.
He was marching by, rather stiffly. He was nineteen, and fun-loving, and
he had a girl, and he didn't particularly want to go to France and--to
go to France. But more than he had hated going, he had hated not to go.
So he marched by, looking straight ahead, his jaw set so that his chin
stuck out just a little. Emily's boy.

Jo looked at him, and his face flushed purple. His eyes, the hard-boiled
eyes of a loop-hound, took on the look of a sad old man. And suddenly he
was no longer Jo, the sport; old J. Hertz, the gay dog. He was Jo Hertz,
thirty, in love with life, in love with Emily, and with the stinging
blood of young manhood coursing through his veins.

Another minute and the boy had passed on up the broad street--the fine,
flag-bedecked street--just one of a hundred service-hats bobbing in
rhythmic motion like sandy waves lapping a shore and flowing on.

Then he disappeared altogether.

Emily was clinging to Jo. She was mumbling something over and over. "I
can't. I can't. Don't ask me to. I can't let him go. Like that. I
can't."

Jo said a queer thing.

"Why, Emily! We wouldn't have him stay home, would we? We wouldn't want
him to do anything different, would we? Not our boy. I'm glad he
volunteered. I'm proud of him. So are you, glad."

Little by little he quieted her. He took her to the car that was
waiting, a worried chauffeur in charge. They said good-by, awkwardly.
Emily's face was a red, swollen mass.

So it was that when Jo entered his own hallway half an hour later he
blinked, dazedly, and when the light from the window fell on him you saw
that his eyes were red.

Eva was not one to beat about the bush. She sat forward in her chair,
clutching her bag rather nervously.

"Now, look here, Jo. Stell and I are here for a reason. We're here to
tell you that this thing's got to stop."

"Thing? Stop?"

"You know very well what I mean. You saw me at the milliner's that day.
And night before last, Ethel. We're all disgusted. If you must go about
with people like that, please have some sense of decency."

Something gathering in Jo's face should have warned her. But he was
slumped down in his chair in such a huddle, and he looked so old and fat
that she did not heed it. She went on. "You've got us to consider. Your
sisters. And your nieces. Not to speak of your own--"

But he got to his feet then, shaking, and at what she saw in his face
even Eva faltered and stopped. It wasn't at all the face of a fat,
middle-aged sport. It was a face Jovian, terrible.

"You!" he began, low-voiced, ominous. "You!" He raised a great fist
high. "You two murderers! You didn't consider me, twenty years ago. You
come to me with talk like that. Where's my boy! You killed him, you two,
twenty years ago. And now he belongs to somebody else. Where's my son
that should have gone marching by to-day?" He flung his arms out in a
great gesture of longing. The red veins stood out on his forehead.
"Where's my son! Answer me that, you two selfish, miserable women.
Where's my son!" Then as they huddled together, frightened, wild-eyed.
"Out of my house! Out of my house! Before I hurt you!"

They fled, terrified. The door banged behind them.

Jo stood, shaking, in the center of the room. Then he reached for a
chair, gropingly, and sat down. He passed one moist, flabby hand over
his forehead and it came away wet. The telephone rang. He sat still, it
sounded far away and unimportant, like something forgotten. I think he
did not even hear it with his conscious ear. But it rang and rang
insistently. Jo liked to answer his telephone when at home.

"Hello!" He knew instantly the voice at the other end.

"That you, Jo?" it said.

"Yes."

"How's my boy?"

"I'm--all right."

"Listen, Jo. The crowd's coming over to-night. I've fixed up a little
poker game for you. Just eight of us."

"I can't come to-night, Gert."

"Can't! Why not?"

"I'm not feeling so good."

"You just said you were all right."

"I _am_ all right. Just kind of tired."

The voice took on a cooing note. "Is my Joey tired? Then he shall be all
comfy on the sofa, and he doesn't need to play if he don't want to. No,
sir."

Jo stood staring at the black mouth-piece of the telephone. He was
seeing a procession go marching by. Boys, hundreds of boys, in khaki.

"Hello! Hello!" the voice took on an anxious note. "Are you there?"

"Yes," wearily.

"Jo, there's something the matter. You're sick. I'm coming right over."

"No!"

"Why not? You sound as if you'd been sleeping. Look here--"

"Leave me alone!" cried Jo, suddenly, and the receiver clacked onto the
hook. "Leave me alone. Leave me alone." Long after the connection had
been broken.

He stood staring at the instrument with unseeing eyes. Then he turned
and walked into the front room. All the light had gone out of it. Dusk
had come on. All the light had gone out of everything. The zest had gone
out of life. The game was over--the game he had been playing against
loneliness and disappointment. And he was just a tired old man. A
lonely, tired old man in a ridiculous, rose-colored room that had grown,
all of a sudden, drab.



THE KNIGHT'S MOVE[10]

[Note 10: Copyright, 1917, by The Atlantic Monthly Company.
Copyright, 1918, by Katharine Fullerton Gerould.]

BY KATHARINE FULLERTON GEROULD

From _The Atlantic Monthly_.


I

Havelock the Dane settled himself back in his chair and set his feet
firmly on the oaken table. Chantry let him do it, though some
imperceptible inch of his body winced. For the oak of it was neither
fumed nor golden; it was English to its ancient core, and the table had
served in the refectory of monks before Henry VIII decided that monks
shocked him. Naturally Chantry did not want his friends' boots havocking
upon it. But more important than to possess the table was to possess it
nonchalantly. He let the big man dig his heel in. Any man but Havelock
the Dane would have known better. But Havelock did as he pleased, and
you either gave him up or bore it. Chantry did not want to give him up.

Chantry was a feminist; a bit of an æsthete but canny at affairs;
good-looking, and temperate, and less hipped on the matter of sex than
feminist gentlemen are wont to be. That is to say, while he vaguely
wanted _l'homme moyen sensuel_ to mend his ways, he did not expect him
to change fundamentally. He rather thought the women would manage all
that when they got the vote. You see, he was not a socialist: only a
feminist.

Havelock the Dane, on the other hand, was by no means a feminist, but
was a socialist. What probably brought the two men together--apart from
their common likableness--was that each, in his way, refused to "go the
whole hog." They sometimes threshed the thing out together, unable to
decide on a programme, but always united at last in their agreement that
things were wrong. Havelock trusted Labor, and Chantry trusted Woman;
the point was that neither trusted men like themselves, with a little
money and an inherited code of honor. Havelock wanted his money taken
away from him; Chantry desired his code to be trampled on by innumerable
feminine feet. But each was rather helpless, for both expected these
things to be done for them.

Except for this tie of ineffectuality, they had nothing special in
common. Havelock's life had been adventurous in the good old-fashioned
sense: the bars down and a deal of wandering. Chantry had sown so many
crops of intellectual wild oats that even the people who came for
subscriptions might be forgiven for thinking him a mental libertine,
good for subscriptions and not much else. Between them, they boxed the
compass about once a week. Havelock had more of what is known as
"personality" than Chantry; Chantry more of what is known as "culture."
They dovetailed, on the whole, not badly.

Havelock, this afternoon, was full of a story. Chantry wanted to listen,
though he knew that he could have listened better if Havelock's heel had
not been quite so ponderous on the sæcular oak. He took refuge in a
cosmic point of view. That was the only point of view from which
Havelock (it was, by the way, his physical type only that had caused him
to be nicknamed the Dane: his ancestors had come over from England in
great discomfort two centuries since), in his blonde hugeness, became
negligible. You had to climb very high to see him small.

"You never did the man justice," Havelock was saying.

"Justice be hanged!" replied Chantry.

"Quite so: the feminist slogan."

"A socialist can't afford to throw stones."

The retorts were spoken sharply, on both sides. Then both men laughed.
They had too often had it out seriously to mind; these little insults
were mere convention.

"Get at your story," resumed Chantry. "I suppose there's a woman in it:
a nasty cat invented by your own prejudices. There usually is."

"Never a woman at all. If there were, I shouldn't be asking for your
opinion. My opinion, of course, is merely the rational one. I don't
side-step the truth because a little drama gets in. I am appealing to
you because you are the average man who hasn't seen the light. I
honestly want to know what you think. There's a reason."

"What's the reason?"

"I'll tell you that later. Now, I'll tell you the story." Havelock
screwed his tawny eyebrows together for a moment before plunging in.
"Humph!" he ejaculated at last. "Much good anybody is in a case like
this--What did you say you thought of Ferguson?"

"I didn't think anything of Ferguson--except that he had a big brain for
biology. He was a loss."

"No personal opinion?"

"I never like people who think so well of themselves as all that."

"No opinion about his death?"

"Accidental, as they said, I suppose."

"Oh, 'they said'! It was suicide, I tell you."

"Suicide? Really?" Chantry's brown eyes lighted for an instant. "Oh,
poor chap; I'm sorry."

It did not occur to him immediately to ask how Havelock knew. He trusted
a plain statement from Havelock.

"I'm not. Or--yes, I am. I hate to have a man inconsistent."

"It's inconsistent for any one to kill himself. But it's frequently
done."

Havelock, hemming and hawing like this, was more nearly a bore than
Chantry had ever known him.

"Not for Ferguson."

"Oh, well, never mind Ferguson," Chantry yawned. "Tell me some anecdote
out of your tapestried past."

"I won't."

Havelock dug his heel in harder. Chantry all but told him to take his
feet down, but stopped himself just in time.

"Well, go on, then," he said, "but it doesn't sound interesting. I hate
all tales of suicide. And there isn't even a woman in it," he sighed
maliciously.

"Oh, if it comes to that, there is."

"But you said--"

"Not in it exactly, unless you go in for _post hoc, propter hoc_."

"Oh, drive on." Chantry was pettish.

But at that point Havelock the Dane removed his feet from the refectory
table. He will probably never know why Chantry, just then, began to be
amiable.

"Excuse me, Havelock. Of course, whatever drove a man like Ferguson to
suicide is interesting. And I may say he managed it awfully well. Not a
hint, anywhere."

"Well, a scientist ought to get something out of it for himself.
Ferguson certainly knew how. Can't you imagine him sitting up there,
cocking his hair" (an odd phrase, but Chantry understood), "and deciding
just how to circumvent the coroner? I can."

"Ferguson hadn't much imagination."

"A coroner doesn't take imagination. He takes a little hard, expert
knowledge."

"I dare say." But Chantry's mind was wandering through other defiles.
"Odd, that he should have snatched his life out of the very jaws of
what-do-you-call-it, once, only to give it up at last, politely, of his
own volition."

"You may well say it." Havelock spoke with more earnestness than he had
done. "If you're not a socialist when I get through with you, Chantry,
my boy--"

"Lord, Lord! don't tell me your beastly socialism is mixed up with it
all! I never took to Ferguson, but he was no syndicalist. In life _or_
in death, I'd swear to that."

"Ah, no. If he had been! But all I mean is that, in a properly regulated
state, Ferguson's tragedy would not have occurred."

"So it was a tragedy?"

"He was a loss to the state, God knows."

Had they been speaking of anything less dignified than death and genius,
Havelock might have sounded a little austere and silly. As it
was--Chantry bit back, and swallowed, his censure.

"That's why I want to know what you think," went on Havelock,
irrelevantly. "Whether your damned code of honor is worth Ferguson."

"It's not my damned code any more than yours," broke in Chantry.

"Yes, it is. Or, at least, we break it down at different
points--theoretically. Actually, we walk all round it every day to be
sure it's intact. Let's be honest."

"Honest as you like, if you'll only come to the point. Whew, but it's
hot! Let's have a gin-fizz."

"You aren't serious."

Havelock seemed to try to lash himself into a rage. But he was so big
that he could never have got all of himself into a rage at once. You
felt that only part of him was angry--his toes, perhaps, or his
complexion.

Chantry rang for ice and lemon, and took gin, sugar, and a siphon out of
a carved cabinet.

"Go slow," he said. He himself was going very slow, with a beautiful
crystal decanter which he set lovingly on the oaken table. "Go slow," he
repeated, more easily, when he had set it down. "I can think just as
well with a gin-fizz as without one. And I didn't know Ferguson well;
and I didn't like him at all. I read his books, and I admired him. But
he looked like the devil--_the_ devil, you'll notice, not _a_ devil.
With a dash of Charles I by Van Dyck. The one standing by a horse. As
you say, he cocked his hair. It went into little horns, above each
eyebrow. I'm sorry he's lost to the world, but it doesn't get me. He
may have been a saint, for all I know; but there you are--I never cared
particularly to know. I am serious. Only, somehow, it doesn't touch me."

And he proceeded to make use of crushed ice and lemon juice.

"Oh, blow all that," said Havelock the Dane finally, over the top of his
glass. "I'm going to tell you, anyhow. Only I wish you would forget your
prejudices. I want an opinion."

"Go on."

Chantry made himself comfortable.


II

"You remember the time when Ferguson didn't go down on the _Argentina_?"

"I do. Ferguson just wouldn't go down, you know. He'd turn up smiling,
without even a chill, and meanwhile lots of good fellows would be at the
bottom of the sea."

"Prejudice again," barked Havelock. "Yet in point of fact, it's
perfectly true. And you would have preferred him to drown."

"I was very glad he was saved." Chantry said it in a stilted manner.

"Why?"

"Because his life was really important to the world."

Chantry might have been distributing tracts. His very voice sounded
falsetto.

"Exactly. Well, that is what Ferguson thought."

"How do you know?"

"He told me."

"You must have known him well. Thank heaven, I never did."

Havelock flung out a huge hand. "Oh, get off that ridiculous animal
you're riding, Chantry, and come to the point. You mean you don't think
Ferguson should have admitted it?"

Chantry's tone changed. "Well, one doesn't."

The huge hand, clenched into a fist, came down on the table. The crystal
bottle was too heavy to rock, but the glasses jingled and a spoon slid
over the edge of its saucer.

"There it is--what I was looking for."

"What were you looking for?" Chantry's wonder was not feigned.

"For your hydra-headed prejudice. Makes me want to play Hercules."

"Oh, drop your metaphors, Havelock. Get into the game. What is it?"

"It's this: that you don't think--or affect not to think--that it's
decent for a man to recognize his own worth."

Chantry did not retort. He dropped his chin on his chest and thought for
a moment. Then he spoke, very quietly and apologetically.

"Well--I don't see you telling another man how wonderful you are. It
isn't immoral, it simply isn't manners. And if Ferguson boasted to you
that he was saved when so many went down, it was worse than bad manners.
He ought to have been kicked for it. It's the kind of phenomenal luck
that it would have been decent to regret."

Havelock set his massive lips firmly together. You could not say that he
pursed that Cyclopean mouth.

"Ferguson did not boast. He merely told me. He was, I think, a modest
man."

Incredulity beyond any power of laughter to express settled on Chantry's
countenance. "Modest? And he _told_ you?"

"The whole thing." Havelock's voice was heavy enough for tragedy.
"Listen. Don't interrupt me once. Ferguson told me that, when the
explosion came, he looked round--considered, for fully a minute, his
duty. He never lost control of himself once, he said, and I believe him.
The _Argentina_ was a small boat, making a winter passage. There were
very few cabin passengers. No second cabin, but plenty of steerage. She
sailed, you remember, from Naples. He had been doing some work, some
very important work, in the Aquarium. The only other person of
consequence--I am speaking in the most literal and un-snobbish sense--in
the first cabin, was Benson. No" (with a lifted hand), "_don't interrupt
me_. Benson, as we all know, was an international figure. But Benson was
getting old. His son could be trusted to carry on the House of Benson.
In fact, every one suspected that the son had become more important than
the old man. He had put through the last big loan while his father was
taking a rest-cure in Italy. That is how Benson _père_ happened to be on
the _Argentina_. The newspapers never sufficiently accounted for that. A
private deck on the _Schrecklichkeit_ would have been more his size.
Ferguson made it out: the old man got wild, suddenly, at the notion of
their putting anything through without him. He trusted his gouty bones
to the _Argentina_."

"Sounds plausible, but--" Chantry broke in.

"If you interrupt again," said Havelock, "I'll hit you, with all the
strength I've got."

Chantry grunted. You had to take Havelock the Dane as you found him.

"Ferguson saw the whole thing clear. Old Benson had just gone into the
smoking-room. Ferguson was on the deck outside his own stateroom. The
only person on board who could possibly be considered as important as
Ferguson was Benson; and he had good reason to believe that every one
would get on well enough without Benson. He had just time, then, to put
on a life-preserver, melt into his stateroom, and get a little pile of
notes, very important ones, and drop into a boat. No, don't interrupt. I
know what you are going to say. 'Women and children.' What do you
suppose a lot of Neapolitan peasants meant to Ferguson--or to you and
me, either? He didn't do anything outrageous; he just dropped into a
boat. As a result, we had the big book a year later. No" (again
crushing down a gesture of Chantry's), "don't say anything about the
instincts of a gentleman. If Ferguson hadn't been perfectly cool, his
instincts would have governed him. He would have dashed about trying to
save people, and then met the waves with a noble gesture. He had time to
be reasonable; not instinctive. The world was the gainer, as he jolly
well knew it would be--or where would have been the reasonableness? I
don't believe Ferguson cared a hang about keeping his individual machine
going for its own sake. But he knew he was a valuable person. His mind
was a Kohinoor among minds. It stands to reason that you save the
Kohinoor and let the little stones go. Well, that's not the story. Only
I wanted to get that out of the way first, or the story wouldn't have
meant anything. Did you wish," he finished graciously, "to ask a
question?"

Chantry made a violent gesture of denial. "Ask a question about a hog
like that? God forbid!"

"Um-m-m." Havelock seemed to muse within himself. "You will admit that
if a jury of impartial men of sense could have sat, just then, on that
slanting deck, they would have agreed that Ferguson's life was worth
more to the world than all the rest of the boiling put together?"

"Yes, but--"

"Well, there wasn't any jury. Ferguson had to be it. I am perfectly sure
that if there had been a super-Ferguson on board, our Ferguson would
have turned his hand to saving him first. In fact, I honestly believe he
was sorry there hadn't been a super-Ferguson. For he had all the
instincts of a gentleman; and it's never a pleasant job making your
reason inhibit your instincts. You can't look at this thing perfectly
straight, probably. But if you can't, who can? I don't happen to want an
enlightened opinion; I've got one, right here at home. You don't care
about the State: you want to put it into white petticoats and see it
cross a muddy street."

"I don't wonder the socialists won't have anything to do with you."

"Because I'm not a feminist? I know. Just as the feminists won't have
anything to do with you because you're so reactionary. We're both out of
it. Fifty years ago; either of us could have been a real prophet, for
the price of a hall and cleaning the rotten eggs off our clothes. Now
we're too timid for any use. But this is a digression."

"Distinctly. Is there anything more about Ferguson?"

"I should say there was. About a year ago, he became engaged. She's a
very nice girl, and I am sure you never heard of her. The engagement
wasn't to be announced until just before the marriage, for family
reasons of some sort--cockering the older generation somehow. I've
forgotten; it's not important. But they would have been married by now,
if Ferguson hadn't stepped out."

"You seem to have been very intimate with Ferguson."

"He talked to me once--just once. The girl was a distant connection of
my own. I think that was why. Now I've got some more things to tell you.
I've let you interrupt a good lot, and if you're through, I'd like to
start in on the next lap. It isn't easy for me to tell this thing in
bits. It's an effort."

Havelock the Dane set down his second emptied glass and drew a long
breath. He proceeded, with quickened pace.


III

"He didn't see the girl very often. She lives at some little distance.
He was busy,--you know how he worked,--and she was chained at home, more
or less. Occasionally he slipped away for a week-end, to see her. One
time--the last time, about two months ago--he managed to get in a whole
week. It was as near happiness as Ferguson ever got, I imagine; for they
were able to fix a date. Good heaven, how he loved that girl! Just
before he went, he told me of the engagement. I barely knew her, but, as
I said, she's some sort of kin. Then, after he came back, he sent for me
to come and see him. I didn't like his cheek, but I went as though I had
been a laboratory boy. I'm not like you. Ferguson always did get me. He
wanted the greatest good of the greatest number. Nothing petty about
him. He was a big man.

"I went, as I say. And Ferguson told me, the very first thing, that the
engagement was off. He began by cocking his hair a good deal. But he
almost lost control of himself. He didn't cock it long: he ruffled it
instead, with his hands. I thought he was in a queer state, for he
seemed to want to give me, with his beautiful scientific precision--as
if he'd been preparing a slide--the details of a country walk he and she
had taken the day before he left. It began with grade-crossings, and I
simply couldn't imagine what he was getting at. It wasn't his business
to fight grade-crossings--though they might be a very pretty symbol for
the kind of thing he was fighting, tooth and nail, all the time. I
couldn't seem to see it, at first; but finally it came out. There was a
grade-crossing, with a 'Look out for the Engine' sign, and there was a
tow-headed infant in rags. They had noticed the infant before. It had
bandy legs and granulated eyelids, and seemed to be dumb. It had started
them off on eugenics. She was very keen on the subject; Ferguson, being
a big scientist, had some reserves. It was a real argument.

"Then everything happened at once. Tow-head with the sore eyes rocked
onto the track simultaneously with the whistle. They were about fifty
yards off. Ferguson sprinted back down the hill, the girl screaming
pointlessly meanwhile. There was just time--you'll have to take my word
for this; Ferguson explained it all to me in the most meticulous detail,
but I can't repeat that masterpiece of exposition--for Ferguson to
decide. To decide again, you understand, precisely as he had decided on
the _Argentina_. Rotten luck, wasn't it? He could just have flung
tow-head out of the way by getting under the engine himself. He grabbed
for tow-head, but he didn't roll onto the track. So tow-head was killed.
If he had got there ten seconds earlier, he could have done the trick.
He was ten seconds too late to save both Ferguson and tow-head. So--once
more--he saved Ferguson. Do you get the situation?"

"I should say I did!" shouted Chantry. "Twice in a man's life--good
Lord! I hope you walked out of his house at that point."

"I didn't. I was very much interested. And by the way, Chantry, if
Ferguson had given his life for tow-head, you would have been the first
man to write a pleasant little article for some damned highbrow review,
to prove that it was utterly wrong that Ferguson should have exchanged
his life for that of a little Polish defective. I can even see you
talking about the greatest good of the greatest number. You would have
loved the paradox of it; the mistaken martyr, self-preservation the
greatest altruism, and all the rest of it. But because Ferguson did
exactly what you would have said in your article that he ought to have
done, you are in a state of virtuous chill."

"I should have written no such article. I don't see how you can be so
flippant."

"Flippant--I? Have I the figure of a flippant man? Can't you
see--honestly, now, can't you see?--that it was a hideous misfortune for
that situation to come to Ferguson twice? Can't you see that it was
about as hard luck as a man ever had? Look at it just once from his
point of view."

"I can't," said Chantry frankly. "I can understand a man's being a
coward, saving his own skin because he wants to. But to save his own
skin on principle--humph! Talk of paradoxes: there's one for you.
There's not a principle on earth that tells you to save your own life
at some one's else expense. If he thought it was principle, he was the
bigger defective of the two. Of course it would have been a pity; of
course we should all have regretted it; but there's not a human being in
this town, high or low, who wouldn't have applauded, with whatever
regret--who wouldn't have said he did the only thing a self-respecting
man could do. Of course it's a shame; but that is the only way the race
has ever got on: by the strong, because they were strong, going under
for the weak, because they were weak. Otherwise we'd all be living, to
this day, in hell."

"I know; I know." Havelock's voice was touched with emotion. "That's the
convention--invented by individualists, for individualists. All sorts of
people would see it that way, still. But you've got more sense than
most; and I will make you at least see the other point of view. Suppose
Ferguson to have been a good Catholic--or a soldier in the ranks. If his
confessor or his commanding officer had told him to save his own skin,
you'd consider Ferguson justified; you might even consider the priest or
the officer justified. The one thing you can't stand is the man's giving
himself those orders. But let's not argue over it now--let's go back to
the story. I'll make you 'get' Ferguson, anyhow--even if I can't make
him 'get' you.

"Well, here comes in the girl."

"And you said there was no girl in it!"

Chantry could not resist that. He believed that Havelock's assertion had
been made only because he didn't want the girl in it--resented her being
there.

"There isn't, as I see it," replied Havelock the Dane quietly. "From my
point of view, the story is over. Ferguson's decision: that is the whole
thing--made more interesting, more valuable, because the repetition of
the thing proves beyond a doubt that he acted on principle, not on
impulse. If he had flung himself into the life-boat because he was a
coward, he would have been ashamed of it; and whatever he might have
done afterwards, he would never have done that thing again. He would
have been sensitive: not saving his own life would have turned into an
obsession with him. But there is left, I admit, the murder. And murders
always take the public. So I'll give you the murder--though it throws no
light on Ferguson, who is the only thing in the whole accursed affair
that really counts."

"The murder? I don't see--unless you mean the murdering of the
tow-headed child."

"I mean the murder of Ferguson by the girl he loved."

"You said 'suicide' a little while ago," panted Chantry.

"Technically, yes. She was a hundred miles away when it happened. But
she did it just the same. Oh, I suppose I've got to tell you, as
Ferguson told me."

"Did he tell you he was going to kill himself?" Chantry's voice was
sharp.

"He did not. Ferguson wasn't a fool. But it was plain as day to me after
it happened, that he had done it himself."

"How--"

"I'm telling you this, am I not? Let me tell it, then. The thing
happened in no time, of course. The girl got over screaming, and ran
down to the track, frightened out of her wits. The train managed to
stop, about twice its own length farther down, round a bend in the
track, and the conductor and brakeman came running back. The mother came
out of her hovel, carrying twins. The--the--thing was on the track,
across the rails. It was a beastly mess, and Ferguson got the girl away;
set her down to cry in a pasture, and then went back and helped out, and
gave his testimony, and left money, a lot of it, with the mother,
and--all the rest. You can imagine it. No one there considered that
Ferguson ought to have saved the child; no one but Ferguson dreamed that
he could have. Indeed, an ordinary man, in Ferguson's place, wouldn't
have supposed he could. It was only that brain, working like lightning,
working as no plain man's could, that had made the calculation and
_seen_. There were no preliminary seconds lost in surprise or shock, you
see. Ferguson's mind hadn't been jarred from its pace for an instant.
The thing had happened too quickly for any one--except Ferguson--to
understand what was going on. Therefore he ought to have laid that
super-normal brain under the wheels, of course!

"Ferguson was so sane, himself, that he couldn't understand, even after
he had been engaged six months, our little everyday madnesses. It never
occurred to him, when he got back to the girl and she began all sorts of
hysterical questions, not to answer them straight. It was by way of
describing the event simply, that he informed her that he would just
have had time to pull the creature out, but not enough to pull himself
back afterwards. Ferguson was used to calculating things in millionths
of an inch; she wasn't. I dare say the single second that had given
Ferguson time to turn round in his mind, she conceived of as a minute,
at least. It would have taken her a week to turn round in her own mind,
no doubt--a month, a year, perhaps. How do I know? But she got the
essential fact: that Ferguson had made a choice. Then she rounded on
him. It would have killed her to lose him, but she would rather have
lost him than to see him standing before her, etc., etc. Ferguson quoted
a lot of her talk straight to me, and I can remember it; but you needn't
ask me to soil my mouth with it. 'And half an hour before, she had been
saying with a good deal of heat that that little runt ought never to
have been born, and that if we had decent laws it never would have been
allowed to live." Ferguson said that to me, with a kind of bewilderment.
You see, he had made the mistake of taking that little fool seriously.
Well, he loved her. You can't go below that: that's rock-bottom.
Ferguson couldn't dig any deeper down for his way out. There _was_ no
deeper down.

"Apparently Ferguson still thought he could argue it out with her. She
so believed in eugenics, you see--a very radical, compared with
Ferguson. It was she who had had no doubt about tow-head. And the
love-part of it seemed to him fixed: it didn't occur to him that that
was debatable. So he stuck to something that could be discussed.
Then--and this was his moment of exceeding folly--he caught at the old
episode of the _Argentina_. _That_ had nothing to do with her present
state of shock. She had seen tow-head; but she hadn't seen the sprinkled
Mediterranean. And she had accepted that. At least, she had spoken of
his survival as though it had been one of the few times when God had
done precisely the right thing. So he took that to explain with. The
fool! The reasonable fool!

"Then--oh, then she went wild. (Yet she must have known there were a
thousand chances on the _Argentina_ for him to throw his life away, and
precious few to save it.) She backed up against a tree and stretched her
arms out like this"--Havelock made a clumsy stage-gesture of aversion
from Chantry, the villain. "And for an instant he thought she was afraid
of a Jersey cow that had come up to take part in the discussion. So he
threw a twig at its nose."


IV

Chantry's wonder grew, swelled, and burst.

"Do you mean to say that that safety-deposit vault of a Ferguson told
you all this?"

"As I am telling it to you. Only much more detail, of course--and much,
much faster. It wasn't like a story at all: it was like--like a
hemorrhage. I didn't interrupt him as you've been interrupting me. Well,
the upshot of it was that she spurned him quite in the grand manner. She
found the opposites of all the nice things she had been saying for six
months, and said them. And Ferguson--your cocky Ferguson--stood and
listened, until she had talked herself out, and then went away. He never
saw her again; and when he sent for me, he had made up his mind that
she never intended to take any of it back. So he stepped out, I tell
you."

"As hard hit as that," Chantry mused.

"Just as hard hit as that. Ferguson had had no previous affairs; she was
very literally the one woman; and he managed, at forty, to combine the
illusions of the boy of twenty and the man of sixty."

"But if he thought he was so precious to the world, wasn't it more than
ever his duty to preserve his existence? He could see other people die
in his place, but he couldn't see himself bucking up against a broken
heart. Isn't that what the strong man does? Lives out his life when he
doesn't at all like the look of it? Say what you like, he was a coward,
Havelock--at the last, anyhow."

"I won't ask for your opinion just yet, thank you. Perhaps if Ferguson
had been sure he would ever do good work again, he wouldn't have taken
himself off. That might have held him. He might have stuck by on the
chance. But I doubt it. Don't you see? He loved the girl too much."

"Thought he couldn't live without her," snorted Chantry.

"Oh, no--not that. But if she was right, he was the meanest skunk alive.
He owed the world at least two deaths, so to speak. The only approach
you can make to dying twice is to die in your prime, of your own
volition." Havelock spoke very slowly. "At least, that's the way I've
worked it out. He didn't say so. He was careful as a cat."

"You think"--Chantry leaned forward, very eager at last--"that he
decided she was right? That I'm right--that we're all of us right?"

Havelock the Dane bowed his head in his huge hands. "No. If you ask me,
I think he kept his own opinion untarnished to the end. When I told him
I thought he was right, he just nodded, as if one took that for granted.
But it didn't matter to him. I am pretty sure that he cared only what
_she_ thought."

"If he didn't agree with her? And if she had treated him like a
criminal? He must have despised her, in that case."

"He never said one word of her--bar quoting some of _her_ words--that
wasn't utterly gentle. You could see that he loved her with his whole
soul. And--it's my belief--he gave her the benefit of the doubt. In
killing himself, he acted on the hypothesis that she had been right. It
was the one thing he could do for her."

"But if no one except you thinks it was suicide--and you can't prove
it--"

"Oh, he had to take that chance--the chance of her never knowing--or
else create a scandal. And that would have been very hard on her and on
his family. But there were straws she could easily clutch at--as I have
clutched at them. The perfect order in which everything happened to be
left--even the last notes he had made. His laboratory was a scientist's
paradise, they tell me. And the will, made after she threw him over,
leaving everything to her. Not a letter unanswered, all little bills
paid, and little debts liquidated. He came as near suggesting it as he
could, in decency. But I dare say she will never guess it."

"Then what did it profit him?"

"It didn't profit him, in your sense. He took a very long chance on her
guessing. That wasn't what concerned him."

"I hope she will never guess, anyhow. It would ruin her life, to no good
end."

"Oh, no." Havelock was firm. "I doubt if she would take it that way. If
she grasped it at all, she'd believe he thought her right. And if he
thought her right, of course he wouldn't want to live, would he? She
would never think he killed himself simply for love of her."

"Why not?"

"Well, she wouldn't? She wouldn't be able to conceive of Ferguson's
killing himself merely for that--with _his_ notions about survival."

"As he did."

"As he did--and didn't."

"Ah, she'd scarcely refine on it as you are doing, Havelock. You're
amazing."

"Well, he certainly never expected her to know that he did it himself.
If he had been the sort of weakling that dies because he can't have a
particular woman, he'd have been also the sort of weakling that leaves a
letter explaining."

"What then did he die for? You'll have to explain to me. Not because he
couldn't have her; not because he felt guilty. Why, then? You haven't
left him a motive."

"Oh, haven't I? The most beautiful motive in the whole world, my dear
fellow. A motive that puts all your little simple motives in the shade."

"Well, what?"

"Don't you see? Why, I told you. He simply assumed, for all practical
purposes, that she had been right. He gave himself the fate he knew she
considered him to deserve. He preferred--loving her as he did--to do
what she would have had him do. He knew she was wrong; but he knew also
that she was made that way, that she would never be right. And he took
her for what she was, and loved her as she was. His love--don't you
see?--was too big. He couldn't revolt from her: she had the whole of
him--except, perhaps, his excellent judgment. He couldn't drag about a
life which she felt that way about. He destroyed it, as he would have
destroyed anything she found loathsome. He was merely justifying himself
to his love. He couldn't hope she would know. Nor, I believe, could he
have lied to her. That is, he couldn't have admitted in words that she
was right, when he felt her so absolutely wrong; but he could make that
magnificent silent act of faith."

Chantry still held out. "I don't believe he did it. I hold with the
coroner."

"I don't. He came as near telling me as he could without making me an
accessory before the fact. There were none of the loose ends that the
most orderly man would leave if he died suddenly. Take my word for it,
old man."

A long look passed between them. Each seemed to be trying to find out
with his eyes something that words had not helped him to.

Finally Chantry protested once more. "But Ferguson couldn't love like
that."

Havelock the Dane laid one hand on the arm of Chantry's chair and spoke
sternly. "He not only could, but did. And there I am a better authority
than you. Think what you please, but I will not have that fact
challenged. Perhaps you could count up on your fingers the women who are
loved like that; but, anyhow, she was. My second cousin once removed,
damn her!" He ended with a vicious twang.

"And now"--Havelock rose--"I'd like your opinion."

"About what?"

"Well, can't you see the beautiful sanity of Ferguson?"

"No, I can't," snapped Chantry. "I think he was wrong, both in the
beginning and in the end. But I will admit he was not a coward. I
respect him, but I do not think, at any point, he was right--except
perhaps in 'doing' the coroner."

"That settles it, then," said Havelock. And he started towards the door.

"Settles what, in heaven's name?"

"What I came to have settled. I shan't tell her. If I could have got one
other decent citizen--and I confess you were my only chance--to agree
with me that Ferguson was right,--right about his fellow passengers on
the _Argentina_, right about tow-head on the track,--I'd have gone to
her, I think. I'd rather like to ruin her life, if I could."

A great conviction approached Chantry just then. He felt the rush of it
through his brain.

"No," he cried. "Ferguson loved her too much. He wouldn't like that--not
as you'd put it to her."

Havelock thought a moment. "No," he said in turn; but his "no" was very
humble. "He wouldn't. I shall never do it. But, my God, how I wanted
to!"

"And I'll tell you another thing, too." Chantry's tone was curious. "You
may agree with Ferguson all you like; you may admire him as much as you
say; but you, Havelock, would never have done what he did. Not even"--he
lifted a hand against interruption--"if you knew you had the brain you
think Ferguson had. You'd have been at the bottom of the sea, or under
the engine wheels, and you know it."

He folded his arms with a hint of truculence.

But Havelock the Dane, to Chantry's surprise, was meek. "Yes," he said,
"I know it. Now let me out of here."

"Well, then,"--Chantry's voice rang out triumphant,--"what does that
prove?"

"Prove?" Havelock's great fist crashed down on the table. "It proves
that Ferguson's a better man than either of us. I can think straight,
but he had the sand to act straight. You haven't even the sand to think
straight. You and your reactionary rot! The world's moving, Chantry.
Ferguson was ahead of it, beckoning. You're an ant that got caught in
the machinery, I shouldn't wonder."

"Oh, stow the rhetoric! We simply don't agree. It's happened before."
Chantry laughed scornfully. "I tell you I respect him; but God Almighty
wouldn't make me agree with him."

"You're too mediæval by half," Havelock mused. "Now, Ferguson was a
knight of the future--a knight of Humanity."

"Don't!" shouted Chantry. His nerves were beginning to feel the strain.
"Leave chivalry out of it. The _Argentina_ business may or may not have
been wisdom, but it certainly wasn't cricket."

"No," said Havelock. "Chess, rather. The game where chance hasn't a
show--the game of the intelligent future. That very irregular and
disconcerting move of his.... And he got taken, you might say. She's an
irresponsible beast, your queen."

"Drop it, will you!" Then Chantry pulled himself together, a little
ashamed. "It's fearfully late. Better stop and dine."

"No, thanks." The big man opened the door of the room and rested a foot
on the threshold. "I feel like dining with some one who appreciates
Ferguson."

"I don't know where you'll find him." Chantry smiled and shook hands.

"Oh, I carry him about with me. Good-night," said Havelock the Dane.



A JURY OF HER PEERS[11]

[Note 11: Copyright, 1917, by The Crowell Publishing Company.
Copyright, 1918, by Susan Glaspell Cook.]

BY SUSAN GLASPELL

From _Every Week_


When Martha Hale opened the storm-door and got a cut of the north wind,
she ran back for her big woolen scarf. As she hurriedly wound that round
her head her eye made a scandalized sweep of her kitchen. It was no
ordinary thing that called her away--it was probably farther from
ordinary than anything that had ever happened in Dickson County. But
what her eye took in was that her kitchen was in no shape for leaving:
her bread all ready for mixing, half the flour sifted and half unsifted.

She hated to see things half done; but she had been at that when the
team from town stopped to get Mr. Hale, and then the sheriff came
running in to say his wife wished Mrs. Hale would come too--adding, with
a grin, that he guessed she was getting scarey and wanted another woman
along. So she had dropped everything right where it was.

"Martha!" now came her husband's impatient voice. "Don't keep folks
waiting out here in the cold."

She again opened the storm-door, and this time joined the three men and
the one woman waiting for her in the big two-seated buggy.

After she had the robes tucked around her she took another look at the
woman who sat beside her on the back seat. She had met Mrs. Peters the
year before at the county fair, and the thing she remembered about her
was that she didn't seem like a sheriff's wife. She was small and thin
and didn't have a strong voice. Mrs. Gorman, sheriff's wife before
Gorman went out and Peters came in, had a voice that somehow seemed to
be backing up the law with every word. But if Mrs. Peters didn't look
like a sheriff's wife, Peters made it up in looking like a sheriff. He
was to a dot the kind of man who could get himself elected sheriff--a
heavy man with a big voice, who was particularly genial with the
law-abiding, as if to make it plain that he knew the difference between
criminals and non-criminals. And right there it came into Mrs. Hale's
mind, with a stab, that this man who was so pleasant and lively with all
of them was going to the Wrights' now as a sheriff.

"The country's not very pleasant this time of year," Mrs. Peters at last
ventured, as if she felt they ought to be talking as well as the men.

Mrs. Hale scarcely finished her reply, for they had gone up a little
hill and could see the Wright place now, and seeing it did not make her
feel like talking. It looked very lonesome this cold March morning. It
had always been a lonesome-looking place. It was down in a hollow, and
the poplar trees around it were lonesome-looking trees. The men were
looking at it and talking about what had happened. The county attorney
was bending to one side of the buggy, and kept looking steadily at the
place as they drew up to it.

"I'm glad you came with me," Mrs. Peters said nervously, as the two
women were about to follow the men in through the kitchen door.

Even after she had her foot on the door-step, her hand on the knob,
Martha Hale had a moment of feeling she could not cross that threshold.
And the reason it seemed she couldn't cross it now was simply because
she hadn't crossed it before. Time and time again it had been in her
mind, "I ought to go over and see Minnie Foster"--she still thought of
her as Minnie Foster, though for twenty years she had been Mrs. Wright.
And then there was always something to do and Minnie Foster would go
from her mind. But _now_ she could come.

* * *

The men went over to the stove. The women stood close together by the
door. Young Henderson, the county attorney, turned around and said,
"Come up to the fire, ladies."

Mrs. Peters took a step forward, then stopped. "I'm not--cold," she
said.

And so the two women stood by the door, at first not even so much as
looking around the kitchen.

The men talked for a minute about what a good thing it was the sheriff
had sent his deputy out that morning to make a fire for them, and then
Sheriff Peters stepped back from the stove, unbuttoned his outer coat,
and leaned his hands on the kitchen table in a way that seemed to mark
the beginning of official business. "Now, Mr. Hale," he said in a sort
of semi-official voice, "before we move things about, you tell Mr.
Henderson just what it was you saw when you came here yesterday
morning."

The county attorney was looking around the kitchen.

"By the way," he said, "has anything been moved?" He turned to the
sheriff. "Are things just as you left them yesterday?"

Peters looked from cupboard to sink; from that to a small worn rocker a
little to one side of the kitchen table.

"It's just the same."

"Somebody should have been left here yesterday," said the county
attorney.

"Oh--yesterday," returned the sheriff, with a little gesture as of
yesterday having been more than he could bear to think of. "When I had
to send Frank to Morris Center for that man who went crazy--let me tell
you, I had my hands full _yesterday_. I knew you could get back from
Omaha by to-day, George, and as long as I went over everything here
myself--"

"Well, Mr. Hale," said the county attorney, in a way of letting what was
past and gone go, "tell just what happened when you came here yesterday
morning."

Mrs. Hale, still leaning against the door, had that sinking feeling of
the mother whose child is about to speak a piece. Lewis often wandered
along and got things mixed up in a story. She hoped he would tell this
straight and plain, and not say unnecessary things that would just make
things harder for Minnie Foster. He didn't begin at once, and she
noticed that he looked queer--as if standing in that kitchen and having
to tell what he had seen there yesterday morning made him almost sick.

"Yes, Mr. Hale?" the county attorney reminded.

"Harry and I had started to town with a load of potatoes," Mrs. Hale's
husband began.

Harry was Mrs. Hale's oldest boy. He wasn't with them now, for the very
good reason that those potatoes never got to town yesterday and he was
taking them this morning, so he hadn't been home when the sheriff
stopped to say he wanted Mr. Hale to come over to the Wright place and
tell the county attorney his story there, where he could point it all
out. With all Mrs. Hale's other emotions came the fear now that maybe
Harry wasn't dressed warm enough--they hadn't any of them realized how
that north wind did bite.

"We come along this road," Hale was going on, with a motion of his hand
to the road over which they had just come, "and as we got in sight of
the house I says to Harry, 'I'm goin' to see if I can't get John Wright
to take a telephone.' You see," he explained to Henderson, "unless I can
get somebody to go in with me they won't come out this branch road
except for a price _I_ can't pay. I'd spoke to Wright about it once
before; but he put me off, saying folks talked too much anyway, and all
he asked was peace and quiet--guess you know about how much he talked
himself. But I thought maybe if I went to the house and talked about it
before his wife, and said all the women-folks liked the telephones, and
that in this lonesome stretch of road it would be a good thing--well, I
said to Harry that that was what I was going to say--though I said at
the same time that I didn't know as what his wife wanted made much
difference to John--"

Now, there he was!--saying things he didn't need to say. Mrs. Hale tried
to catch her husband's eye, but fortunately the county attorney
interrupted with:

"Let's talk about that a little later, Mr. Hale. I do want to talk about
that, but I'm anxious now to get along to just what happened when you
got here."

When he began this time, it was very deliberately and carefully:

"I didn't see or hear anything. I knocked at the door. And still it was
all quiet inside. I knew they must be up--it was past eight o'clock. So
I knocked again, louder, and I thought I heard somebody say, 'Come in.'
I wasn't sure--I'm not sure yet. But I opened the door--this door,"
jerking a hand toward the door by which the two women stood, "and there,
in that rocker"--pointing to it--"sat Mrs. Wright."

Every one in the kitchen looked at the rocker. It came into Mrs. Hale's
mind that that rocker didn't look in the least like Minnie Foster--the
Minnie Foster of twenty years before. It was a dingy red, with wooden
rungs up the back, and the middle rung was gone, and the chair sagged to
one side.

"How did she--look?" the county attorney was inquiring.

"Well," said Hale, "she looked--queer."

"How do you mean--queer?"

As he asked it he took out a note-book and pencil. Mrs. Hale did not
like the sight of that pencil. She kept her eye fixed on her husband, as
if to keep him from saying unnecessary things that would go into that
note-book and make trouble.

Hale did speak guardedly, as if the pencil had affected him too.

"Well, as if she didn't know what she was going to do next. And kind
of--done up."

"How did she seem to feel about your coming?"

"Why, I don't think she minded--one way or other. She didn't pay much
attention. I said, 'Ho' do, Mrs. Wright? It's cold, ain't it?' And she
said, 'Is it?'--and went on pleatin' at her apron.

"Well, I was surprised. She didn't ask me to come up to the stove, or to
sit down, but just set there, not even lookin' at me. And so I said: 'I
want to see John.'

"And then she--laughed. I guess you would call it a laugh.

"I thought of Harry and the team outside, so I said, a little sharp,
'Can I see John?' 'No,' says she--kind of dull like. 'Ain't he home?'
says I. Then she looked at me. 'Yes,' says she, 'he's home.' 'Then why
can't I see him?' I asked her, out of patience with her now. ''Cause
he's dead,' says she, just as quiet and dull--and fell to pleatin' her
apron. 'Dead?' says I, like you do when you can't take in what you've
heard.

"She just nodded her head, not getting a bit excited, but rockin' back
and forth.

"'Why--where is he?' says I, not knowing _what_ to say.

"She just pointed upstairs--like this"--pointing to the room above.

"I got up, with the idea of going up there myself. By this time
I--didn't know what to do. I walked from there to here; then I says:
'Why, what did he die of?'

"'He died of a rope round his neck,' says she; and just went on pleatin'
at her apron."

* * *

Hale stopped speaking, and stood staring at the rocker, as if he were
still seeing the woman who had sat there the morning before. Nobody
spoke; it was as if every one were seeing the woman who had sat there
the morning before.

"And what did you do then?" the county attorney at last broke the
silence.

"I went out and called Harry. I thought I might--need help. I got Harry
in, and we went upstairs." His voice fell almost to a whisper. "There he
was--lying over the--"

"I think I'd rather have you go into that upstairs," the county attorney
interrupted, "where you can point it all out. Just go on now with the
rest of the story."

"Well, my first thought was to get that rope off. It looked--"

He stopped, his face twitching.

"But Harry, he went up to him, and he said, 'No, he's dead all right,
and we'd better not touch anything.' So we went downstairs.

"She was still sitting that same way. 'Has anybody been notified?' I
asked. 'No,' says she, unconcerned.

"'Who did this, Mrs. Wright?' said Harry. He said it businesslike, and
she stopped pleatin' at her apron. 'I don't know,' she says. 'You don't
_know_?' says Harry. 'Weren't you sleepin' in the bed with him?' 'Yes,'
says she, 'but I was on the inside.' 'Somebody slipped a rope round his
neck and strangled him, and you didn't wake up?' says Harry. 'I didn't
wake up,' she said after him.

"We may have looked as if we didn't see how that could be, for after a
minute she said, 'I sleep sound.'

"Harry was going to ask her more questions, but I said maybe that
weren't our business; maybe we ought to let her tell her story first to
the coroner or the sheriff. So Harry went fast as he could over to High
Road--the Rivers' place, where there's a telephone."

"And what did she do when she knew you had gone for the coroner?" The
attorney got his pencil in his hand all ready for writing.

"She moved from that chair to this one over here"--Hale pointed to a
small chair in the corner--"and just sat there with her hands held
together and looking down. I got a feeling that I ought to make some
conversation, so I said I had come in to see if John wanted to put in a
telephone; and at that she started to laugh, and then she stopped and
looked at me--scared."

At sound of a moving pencil the man who was telling the story looked up.

"I dunno--maybe it wasn't scared," he hastened; "I wouldn't like to say
it was. Soon Harry got back, and then Dr. Lloyd came, and you, Mr.
Peters, and so I guess that's all I know that you don't."

* * *

He said that last with relief, and moved a little, as if relaxing. Every
one moved a little. The county attorney walked toward the stair door.

"I guess we'll go upstairs first--then out to the barn and around
there."

He paused and looked around the kitchen.

"You're convinced there was nothing important here?" he asked the
sheriff. "Nothing that would--point to any motive?"

The sheriff too looked all around, as if to re-convince himself.

"Nothing here but kitchen things," he said, with a little laugh for the
insignificance of kitchen things.

The county attorney was looking at the cupboard--a peculiar, ungainly
structure, half closet and half cupboard, the upper part of it being
built in the wall, and the lower part just the old-fashioned kitchen
cupboard. As if its queerness attracted him, he got a chair and opened
the upper part and looked in. After a moment he drew his hand away
sticky.

"Here's a nice mess," he said resentfully.

The two women had drawn nearer, and now the sheriff's wife spoke.

"Oh--her fruit," she said, looking to Mrs. Hale for sympathetic
understanding. She turned back to the county attorney and explained:
"She worried about that when it turned so cold last night. She said the
fire would go out and her jars might burst."

Mrs. Peters' husband broke into a laugh.

"Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worrying about her
preserves!"

The young attorney set his lips.

"I guess before we're through with her she may have something more
serious than preserves to worry about."

"Oh, well," said Mrs. Hale's husband, with good-natured superiority,
"women are used to worrying over trifles."

The two women moved a little closer together. Neither of them spoke. The
county attorney seemed suddenly to remember his manners--and think of
his future.

"And yet," said he, with the gallantry of a young politician, "for all
their worries, what would we do without the ladies?"

The women did not speak, did not unbend. He went to the sink and began
washing his hands. He turned to wipe them on the roller towel--whirled
it for a cleaner place.

"Dirty towels! Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?"

He kicked his foot against some dirty pans under the sink.

"There's a great deal of work to be done on a farm," said Mrs. Hale
stiffly.

"To be sure. And yet"--with a little bow to her--"I know there are some
Dickson County farm-houses that do not have such roller towels." He gave
it a pull to expose its full length again.

"Those towels get dirty awful quick. Men's hands aren't always as clean
as they might be."

"Ah, loyal to your sex, I see," he laughed. He stopped and gave her a
keen look. "But you and Mrs. Wright were neighbors. I suppose you were
friends, too."

Martha Hale shook her head.

"I've seen little enough of her of late years. I've not been in this
house--it's more than a year."

"And why was that? You didn't like her?"

"I liked her well enough," she replied with spirit. "Farmers' wives have
their hands full, Mr. Henderson. And then--" She looked around the
kitchen.

"Yes?" he encouraged.

"It never seemed a very cheerful place," said she, more to herself than
to him.

"No," he agreed; "I don't think any one would call it cheerful. I
shouldn't say she had the home-making instinct."

"Well, I don't know as Wright had, either," she muttered.

"You mean they didn't get on very well?" he was quick to ask.

"No; I don't mean anything," she answered, with decision. As she turned
a little away from him, she added: "But I don't think a place would be
any the cheerfuler for John Wright's bein' in it."

"I'd like to talk to you about that a little later, Mrs. Hale," he said.
"I'm anxious to get the lay of things upstairs now."

He moved toward the stair door, followed by the two men.

"I suppose anything Mrs. Peters does'll be all right?" the sheriff
inquired. "She was to take in some clothes for her, you know--and a few
little things. We left in such a hurry yesterday."

The county attorney looked at the two women whom they were leaving alone
there among the kitchen things.

"Yes--Mrs. Peters," he said, his glance resting on the woman who was not
Mrs. Peters, the big farmer woman who stood behind the sheriff's wife.
"Of course Mrs. Peters is one of us," he said, in a manner of
entrusting responsibility. "And keep your eye out Mrs. Peters, for
anything that might be of use. No telling; you women might come upon a
clue to the motive--and that's the thing we need."

Mr. Hale rubbed his face after the fashion of a show man getting ready
for a pleasantry.

"But would the women know a clue if they did come upon it?" he said;
and, having delivered himself of this, he followed the others through
the stair door.

* * *

The women stood motionless and silent, listening to the footsteps, first
upon the stairs, then in the room above them.

Then, as if releasing herself from something strange, Mrs. Hale began to
arrange the dirty pans under the sink, which the county attorney's
disdainful push of the foot had deranged.

"I'd hate to have men comin' into my kitchen," she said
testily--"snoopin' round and criticizin'."

"Of course it's no more than their duty," said the sheriff's wife, in
her manner of timid acquiescence.

"Duty's all right," replied Mrs. Hale bluffly; "but I guess that deputy
sheriff that come out to make the fire might have got a little of this
on." She gave the roller towel a pull. "Wish I'd thought of that sooner!
Seems mean to talk about her for not having things slicked up, when she
had to come away in such a hurry."

She looked around the kitchen. Certainly it was not "slicked up." Her
eye was held by a bucket of sugar on a low shelf. The cover was off the
wooden bucket, and beside it was a paper bag--half full.

Mrs. Hale moved toward it.

"She was putting this in there," she said to herself--slowly.

She thought of the flour in her kitchen at home--half sifted, half not
sifted. She had been interrupted, and had left things half done. What
had interrupted Minnie Foster? Why had that work been left half done?
She made a move as if to finish it,--unfinished things always bothered
her,--and then she glanced around and saw that Mrs. Peters was watching
her--and she didn't want Mrs. Peters to get that feeling she had got of
work begun and then--for some reason--not finished.

"It's a shame about her fruit," she said, and walked toward the cupboard
that the county attorney had opened, and got on the chair, murmuring: "I
wonder if it's all gone."

It was a sorry enough looking sight, but "Here's one that's all right,"
she said at last. She held it toward the light. "This is cherries, too."
She looked again. "I declare I believe that's the only one."

With a sigh, she got down from the chair, went to the sink, and wiped
off the bottle.

"She'll feel awful bad, after all her hard work in the hot weather. I
remember the afternoon I put up my cherries last summer."

She set the bottle on the table, and, with another sigh, started to sit
down in the rocker. But she did not sit down. Something kept her from
sitting down in that chair. She straightened--stepped back, and, half
turned away, stood looking at it, seeing the woman who had sat there
"pleatin' at her apron."

The thin voice of the sheriff's wife broke in upon her: "I must be
getting those things from the front room closet." She opened the door
into the other room, started in, stepped back. "You coming with me, Mrs.
Hale?" she asked nervously. "You--you could help me get them."

They were soon back--the stark coldness of that shut-up room was not a
thing to linger in.

"My!" said Mrs. Peters, dropping the things on the table and hurrying to
the stove.

Mrs. Hale stood examining the clothes the woman who was being detained
in town had said she wanted.

"Wright was close!" she exclaimed, holding up a shabby black skirt that
bore the marks of much making over. "I think maybe that's why she kept
so much to herself. I s'pose she felt she couldn't do her part; and
then, you don't enjoy things when you feel shabby. She used to wear
pretty clothes and be lively--when she was Minnie Foster, one of the
town girls, singing in the choir. But that--oh, that was twenty years
ago."

With a carefulness in which there was something tender, she folded the
shabby clothes and piled them at one corner of the table. She looked up
at Mrs. Peters and there was something in the other woman's look that
irritated her.

"She don't care," she said to herself. "Much difference it makes to her
whether Minnie Foster had pretty clothes when she was a girl."

Then she looked again, and she wasn't so sure; in fact, she hadn't at
any time been perfectly sure about Mrs. Peters. She had that shrinking
manner, and yet her eyes looked as if they could see a long way into
things.

"This all you was to take in?" asked Mrs. Hale.

"No," said the sheriff's wife; "she said she wanted an apron. Funny
thing to want," she ventured in her nervous little way, "for there's not
much to get you dirty in jail, goodness knows. But I suppose just to
make her feel more natural. If you're used to wearing an apron--. She
said they were in the bottom drawer of this cupboard. Yes--here they
are. And then her little shawl that always hung on the stair door."

She took the small gray shawl from behind the door leading upstairs, and
stood a minute looking at it.

Suddenly Mrs. Hale took a quick step toward the other woman.

"Mrs. Peters!"

"Yes, Mrs. Hale?"

"Do you think she--did it?"

A frightened look blurred the other thing in Mrs. Peters' eyes.

"Oh, I don't know," she said, in a voice that seemed to shrink away from
the subject.

"Well, I don't think she did," affirmed Mrs. Hale stoutly. "Asking for
an apron, and her little shawl. Worryin' about her fruit."

"Mr. Peters says--." Footsteps were heard in the room above; she
stopped, looked up, then went on in a lowered voice: "Mr. Peters
says--it looks bad for her. Mr. Henderson is awful sarcastic in a
speech, and he's going to make fun of her saying she didn't--wake up."

For a moment Mrs. Hale had no answer. Then, "Well, I guess John Wright
didn't wake up--when they was slippin' that rope under his neck," she
muttered.

"No, it's _strange_," breathed Mrs. Peters. "They think it was such
a--funny way to kill a man."

She began to laugh; at sound of the laugh, abruptly stopped.

"That's just what Mr. Hale said," said Mrs. Hale, in a resolutely
natural voice. "There was a gun in the house. He says that's what he
can't understand."

"Mr. Henderson said, coming out, that what was needed for the case was a
motive. Something to show anger--or sudden feeling."

"Well, I don't see any signs of anger around here," said Mrs. Hale. "I
don't--"

She stopped. It was as if her mind tripped on something. Her eye was
caught by a dish-towel in the middle of the kitchen table. Slowly she
moved toward the table. One half of it was wiped clean, the other half
messy. Her eyes made a slow, almost unwilling turn to the bucket of
sugar and the half empty bag beside it. Things begun--and not finished.

After a moment she stepped back, and said, in that manner of releasing
herself:

"Wonder how they're finding things upstairs? I hope she had it a little
more red up up there. You know,"--she paused, and feeling gathered,--"it
seems kind of _sneaking_: locking her up in town and coming out here to
get her own house to turn against her!"

"But, Mrs. Hale," said the sheriff's wife, "the law is the law."

"I s'pose 'tis," answered Mrs. Hale shortly.

She turned to the stove, saying something about that fire not being much
to brag of. She worked with it a minute, and when she straightened up
she said aggressively:

"The law is the law--and a bad stove is a bad stove. How'd you like to
cook on this?"--pointing with the poker to the broken lining. She opened
the oven door and started to express her opinion of the oven; but she
was swept into her own thoughts, thinking of what it would mean, year
after year, to have that stove to wrestle with. The thought of Minnie
Foster trying to bake in that oven--and the thought of her never going
over to see Minnie Foster--.

She was startled by hearing Mrs. Peters say: "A person gets
discouraged--and loses heart."

The sheriff's wife had looked from the stove to the sink--to the pail of
water which had been carried in from outside. The two women stood there
silent, above them the footsteps of the men who were looking for
evidence against the woman who had worked in that kitchen. That look of
seeing into things, of seeing through a thing to something else, was in
the eyes of the sheriff's wife now. When Mrs. Hale next spoke to her, it
was gently:

"Better loosen up your things, Mrs. Peters. We'll not feel them when we
go out."

Mrs. Peters went to the back of the room to hang up the fur tippet she
was wearing. A moment later she exclaimed, "Why, she was piecing a
quilt," and held up a large sewing basket piled high with quilt pieces.

Mrs. Hale spread some of the blocks out on the table.

"It's log-cabin pattern," she said, putting several of them together.
"Pretty, isn't it?"

They were so engaged with the quilt that they did not hear the footsteps
on the stairs. Just as the stair door opened Mrs. Hale was saying:

"Do you suppose she was going to quilt it or just knot it?"

The sheriff threw up his hands.

"They wonder whether she was going to quilt it or just knot it!"

There was a laugh for the ways of women, a warming of hands over the
stove, and then the county attorney said briskly:

"Well, let's go right out to the barn and get that cleared up."

"I don't see as there's anything so strange," Mrs. Hale said
resentfully, after the outside door had closed on the three men--"our
taking up our time with little things while we're waiting for them to
get the evidence. I don't see as it's anything to laugh about."

"Of course they've got awful important things on their minds," said the
sheriff's wife apologetically.

They returned to an inspection of the block for the quilt. Mrs. Hale was
looking at the fine, even sewing, and preoccupied with thoughts of the
woman who had done that sewing, when she heard the sheriff's wife say,
in a queer tone:

"Why, look at this one."

She turned to take the block held out to her.

"The sewing," said Mrs. Peters, in a troubled way. "All the rest of them
have been so nice and even--but--this one. Why, it looks as if she
didn't know what she was about!"

Their eyes met--something flashed to life, passed between them; then, as
if with an effort, they seemed to pull away from each other. A moment
Mrs. Hale sat her hands folded over that sewing which was so unlike all
the rest of the sewing. Then she had pulled a knot and drawn the
threads.

"Oh, what are you doing, Mrs. Hale?" asked the sheriff's wife, startled.

"Just pulling out a stitch or two that's not sewed very good," said Mrs.
Hale mildly.

"I don't think we ought to touch things," Mrs. Peters said, a little
helplessly.

"I'll just finish up this end," answered Mrs. Hale, still in that mild,
matter-of-fact fashion.

She threaded a needle and started to replace bad sewing with good. For a
little while she sewed in silence. Then, in that thin, timid voice, she
heard:

"Mrs. Hale!"

"Yes, Mrs. Peters?"

"What do you suppose she was so--nervous about?"

"Oh, _I_ don't know," said Mrs. Hale, as if dismissing a thing not
important enough to spend much time on. "I don't know as she
was--nervous. I sew awful queer sometimes when I'm just tired."

She cut a thread, and out of the corner of her eye looked up at Mrs.
Peters. The small, lean face of the sheriff's wife seemed to have
tightened up. Her eyes had that look of peering into something. But next
moment she moved, and said in her thin, indecisive way:

"Well, I must get those clothes wrapped. They may be through sooner than
we think. I wonder where I could find a piece of paper--and string."

"In that cupboard, maybe," suggested Mrs. Hale, after a glance around.

* * *

One piece of the crazy sewing remained unripped. Mrs. Peters' back
turned, Martha Hale now scrutinized that piece, compared it with the
dainty, accurate sewing of the other blocks. The difference was
startling. Holding this block made her feel queer, as if the distracted
thoughts of the woman who had perhaps turned to it to try and quiet
herself were communicating themselves to her.

Mrs. Peters' voice roused her.

"Here's a bird-cage," she said. "Did she have a bird, Mrs. Hale?"

"Why, I don't know whether she did or not." She turned to look at the
cage Mrs. Peter was holding up. "I've not been here in so long." She
sighed. "There was a man round last year selling canaries cheap--but I
don't know as she took one. Maybe she did. She used to sing real pretty
herself."

Mrs. Peters looked around the kitchen.

"Seems kind of funny to think of a bird here." She half laughed--an
attempt to put up a barrier. "But she must have had one--or why would
she have a cage? I wonder what happened to it."

"I suppose maybe the cat got it," suggested Mrs. Hale, resuming her
sewing.

"No; she didn't have a cat. She's got that feeling some people have
about cats--being afraid of them. When they brought her to our house
yesterday, my cat got in the room, and she was real upset and asked me
to take it out."

"My sister Bessie was like that," laughed Mrs. Hale.

The sheriff's wife did not reply. The silence made Mrs. Hale turn round.
Mrs. Peters was examining the bird-cage.

"Look at this door," she said slowly. "It's broke. One hinge has been
pulled apart."

Mrs. Hale came nearer.

"Looks as if some one must have been--rough with it."

Again their eyes met--startled, questioning, apprehensive. For a moment
neither spoke nor stirred. Then Mrs. Hale, turning away, said brusquely:

"If they're going to find any evidence, I wish they'd be about it. I
don't like this place."

"But I'm awful glad you came with me, Mrs. Hale," Mrs. Peters put the
bird-cage on the table and sat down. "It would be lonesome for
me--sitting here alone."

"Yes, it would, wouldn't it?" agreed Mrs. Hale, a certain determined
naturalness in her voice. She had picked up the sewing, but now it
dropped in her lap, and she murmured in a different voice: "But I tell
you what I _do_ wish, Mrs. Peters. I wish I had come over sometimes when
she was here. I wish--I had."

"But of course you were awful busy, Mrs. Hale. Your house--and your
children."

"I could've come," retorted Mrs. Hale shortly. "I stayed away because it
weren't cheerful--and that's why I ought to have come. I"--she looked
around--"I've never liked this place. Maybe because it's down in a
hollow and you don't see the road. I don't know what it is, but it's a
lonesome place, and always was. I wish I had come over to see Minnie
Foster sometimes. I can see now--" She did not put it into words.

"Well, you mustn't reproach yourself," counseled Mrs. Peters. "Somehow,
we just don't see how it is with other folks till--something comes up."

"Not having children makes less work," mused Mrs. Hale, after a silence,
"but it makes a quiet house--and Wright out to work all day--and no
company when he did come in. Did you know John Wright, Mrs. Peters?"

"Not to know him. I've seen him in town. They say he was a good man."

"Yes--good," conceded John Wright's neighbor grimly. "He didn't drink,
and kept his word as well as most, I guess, and paid his debts. But he
was a hard man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him--."
She stopped, shivered a little. "Like a raw wind that gets to the bone."
Her eye fell upon the cage on the table before her, and she added,
almost bitterly: "I should think she would've wanted a bird!"

Suddenly she leaned forward, looking intently at the cage. "But what do
you s'pose went wrong with it?"

"I don't know," returned Mrs. Peters; "unless it got sick and died."

But after she said it she reached over and swung the broken door. Both
women watched it as if somehow held by it.

"You didn't know--her?" Mrs. Hale asked, a gentler note in her voice.

"Not till they brought her yesterday," said the sheriff's wife.

"She--come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself.
Real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and--fluttery.
How--she--did--change."

That held her for a long time. Finally, as if struck with a happy
thought and relieved to get back to every-day things, she exclaimed:

"Tell you what, Mrs. Peters, why don't you take the quilt in with you?
It might take up her mind."

"Why, I think that's a real nice idea, Mrs. Hale," agreed the sheriff's
wife, as if she too were glad to come into the atmosphere of a simple
kindness. "There couldn't possibly be any objection to that, could
there? Now, just what will I take? I wonder if her patches are in
here--and her things."

They turned to the sewing basket.

"Here's some red," said Mrs. Hale, bringing out a roll of cloth.
Underneath that was a box. "Here, maybe her scissors are in here--and
her things." She held it up. "What a pretty box! I'll warrant that was
something she had a long time ago--when she was a girl."

She held it in her hand a moment; then, with a little sigh, opened it.

Instantly her hand went to her nose.

"Why--!"

Mrs. Peters drew nearer--then turned away.

"There's something wrapped up in this piece of silk," faltered Mrs.
Hale.

"This isn't her scissors," said Mrs. Peters, in a shrinking voice.

Her hand not steady, Mrs. Hale raised the piece of silk. "Oh, Mrs.
Peters!" she cried. "It's--"

Mrs. Peters bent closer.

"It's the bird," she whispered.

"But, Mrs. Peters!" cried Mrs. Hale. "_Look_ at it! Its _neck_--look at
its neck! It's all--other side _to_."

She held the box away from her.

The sheriff's wife again bent closer.

"Somebody wrung its neck," said she, in a voice that was slow and deep.

And then again the eyes of the two women met--this time clung together
in a look of dawning comprehension, of growing horror. Mrs. Peters
looked from the dead bird to the broken door of the cage. Again their
eyes met. And just then there was a sound at the outside door.

Mrs. Hale slipped the box under the quilt pieces in the basket, and sank
into the chair before it. Mrs. Peters stood holding to the table. The
county attorney and the sheriff came in from outside.

"Well, ladies," said the county attorney, as one turning from serious
things to little pleasantries, "have you decided whether she was going
to quilt it or knot it?"

"We think," began the sheriff's wife in a flurried voice, "that she was
going to--knot it."

He was too preoccupied to notice the change that came in her voice on
that last.

"Well, that's very interesting, I'm sure," he said tolerantly. He caught
sight of the bird-cage. "Has the bird flown?"

"We think the cat got it," said Mrs. Hale in a voice curiously even.

He was walking up and down, as if thinking something out.

"Is there a cat?" he asked absently.

Mrs. Hale shot a look up at the sheriff's wife.

"Well, not _now_," said Mrs. Peters. "They're superstitious, you know;
they leave."

She sank into her chair.

The county attorney did not heed her. "No sign at all of any one having
come in from the outside," he said to Peters, in the manner of
continuing an interrupted conversation. "Their own rope. Now let's go
upstairs again and go over it, piece by piece. It would have to have
been some one who knew just the--"

The stair door closed behind them and their voices were lost.

The two women sat motionless, not looking at each other, but as if
peering into something and at the same time holding back. When they
spoke now it was as if they were afraid of what they were saying, but as
if they could not help saying it.

"She liked the bird," said Martha Hale, low and slowly. "She was going
to bury it in that pretty box."

"When I was a girl," said Mrs. Peters, under her breath, "my
kitten--there was a boy took a hatchet, and before my eyes--before I
could get there--" She covered her face an instant. "If they hadn't held
me back I would have"--she caught herself, looked upstairs where
footsteps were heard, and finished weakly--"hurt him."

Then they sat without speaking or moving.

"I wonder how it would seem," Mrs. Hale at last began, as if feeling her
way over strange ground--"never to have had any children around?" Her
eyes made a slow sweep of the kitchen, as if seeing what that kitchen
had meant through all the years. "No, Wright wouldn't like the bird,"
she said after that--"a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed
that too." Her voice tightened.

Mrs. Peters moved uneasily.

"Of course we don't know who killed the bird."

"I knew John Wright," was Mrs. Hale's answer.

"It was an awful thing was done in this house that night, Mrs. Hale,"
said the sheriff's wife. "Killing a man while he slept--slipping a thing
round his neck that choked the life out of him."

Mrs. Hale's hand went out to the bird-cage.

"His neck. Choked the life out of him."

"We don't _know_ who killed him," whispered Mrs. Peters wildly. "We
don't _know_."

Mrs. Hale had not moved. "If there had been years and years of--nothing,
then a bird to sing to you, it would be awful--still--after the bird was
still."

It was as if something within her not herself had spoken, and it found
in Mrs. Peters something she did not know as herself.

"I know what stillness is," she said, in a queer, monotonous voice.
"When we homesteaded in Dakota, and my first baby died--after he was two
years old--and me with no other then--"

Mrs. Hale stirred.

"How soon do you suppose they'll be through looking for the evidence?"

"I know what stillness is," repeated Mrs. Peters, in just that same way.
Then she too pulled back. "The law has got to punish crime, Mrs. Hale,"
she said in her tight little way.

"I wish you'd seen Minnie Foster," was the answer, "when she wore a
white dress with blue ribbons, and stood up there in the choir and
sang."

The picture of that girl, the fact that she had lived neighbor to that
girl for twenty years, and had let her die for lack of life, was
suddenly more than she could bear.

"Oh, I _wish_ I'd come over here once in a while!" she cried. "That was
a crime! That was a crime! Who's going to punish that?"

"We mustn't take on," said Mrs. Peters, with a frightened look toward
the stairs.

"I might 'a' _known_ she needed help! I tell you, it's _queer_, Mrs.
Peters. We live close together, and we live far apart. We all go through
the same things--it's all just a different kind of the same thing! If it
weren't--why do you and I _understand_? Why do we _know_--what we know
this minute?"

She dashed her hand across her eyes. Then, seeing the jar of fruit on
the table, she reached for it and choked out:

"If I was you I wouldn't _tell_ her her fruit was gone! Tell her it
_ain't_. Tell her it's all right--all of it. Here--take this in to prove
it to her! She--she may never know whether it was broke or not."

She turned away.

Mrs. Peters reached out for the bottle of fruit as if she were glad to
take it--as if touching a familiar thing, having something to do, could
keep her from something else. She got up, looked about for something to
wrap the fruit in, took a petticoat from the pile of clothes she had
brought from the front room, and nervously started winding that round
the bottle.

"My!" she began, in a high, false voice, "it's a good thing the men
couldn't hear us! Getting all stirred up over a little thing like
a--dead canary." She hurried over that. "As if that could have anything
to do with--with--My, wouldn't they _laugh_?"

Footsteps were heard on the stairs.

"Maybe they would," muttered Mrs. Hale--"maybe they wouldn't."

"No, Peters," said the county attorney incisively; "it's all perfectly
clear, except the reason for doing it. But you know juries when it comes
to women. If there was some definite thing--something to show. Something
to make a story about. A thing that would connect up with this clumsy
way of doing it."

In a covert way Mrs. Hale looked at Mrs. Peters. Mrs. Peters was looking
at her. Quickly they looked away from each other. The outer door opened
and Mr. Hale came in.

"I've got the team round now," he said. "Pretty cold out there."

"I'm going to stay here awhile by myself," the county attorney suddenly
announced. "You can send Frank out for me, can't you?" he asked the
sheriff. "I want to go over everything. I'm not satisfied we can't do
better."

Again, for one brief moment, the two women's eyes found one another.

The sheriff came up to the table.

"Did you want to see what Mrs. Peters was going to take in?"

The county attorney picked up the apron. He laughed.

"Oh, I guess they're not very dangerous things the ladies have picked
out."

Mrs. Hale's hand was on the sewing basket in which the box was
concealed. She felt that she ought to take her hand off the basket. She
did not seem able to. He picked up one of the quilt blocks which she had
piled on to cover the box. Her eyes felt like fire. She had a feeling
that if he took up the basket she would snatch it from him.

But he did not take it up. With another little laugh, he turned away,
saying:

"No; Mrs. Peters doesn't need supervising. For that matter, a sheriff's
wife is married to the law. Ever think of it that way, Mrs. Peters?"

Mrs. Peters was standing beside the table. Mrs. Hale shot a look up at
her; but she could not see her face. Mrs. Peters had turned away. When
she spoke, her voice was muffled.

"Not--just that way," she said.

"Married to the law!" chuckled Mrs. Peters' husband. He moved toward the
door into the front room, and said to the county attorney:

"I just want you to come in here a minute, George. We ought to take a
look at these windows."

"Oh--windows," said the county attorney scoffingly.

"We'll be right out, Mr. Hale," said the sheriff to the farmer, who was
still waiting by the door.

Hale went to look after the horses. The sheriff followed the county
attorney into the other room. Again--for one final moment--the two women
were alone in that kitchen.

Martha Hale sprang up, her hands tight together, looking at that other
woman, with whom it rested. At first she could not see her eyes, for the
sheriff's wife had not turned back since she turned away at that
suggestion of being married to the law. But now Mrs. Hale made her turn
back. Her eyes made her turn back. Slowly, unwillingly, Mrs. Peters
turned her head until her eyes met the eyes of the other woman. There
was a moment when they held each other in a steady, burning look in
which there was no evasion nor flinching. Then Martha Hale's eyes
pointed the way to the basket in which was hidden the thing that would
make certain the conviction of the other woman--that woman who was not
there and yet who had been there with them all through that hour.

For a moment Mrs. Peters did not move. And then she did it. With a rush
forward, she threw back the quilt pieces, got the box, tried to put it
in her handbag. It was too big. Desperately she opened it, started to
take the bird out. But there she broke--she could not touch the bird.
She stood there helpless, foolish.

There was the sound of a knob turning in the inner door. Martha Hale
snatched the box from the sheriff's wife, and got it in the pocket of
her big coat just as the sheriff and the county attorney came back into
the kitchen.

"Well, Henry," said the county attorney facetiously, "at least we found
out that she was not going to quilt it. She was going to--what is it
you call it, ladies?"

Mrs. Hale's hand was against the pocket of her coat.

"We call it--knot it, Mr. Henderson."



THE BUNKER MOUSE[12]

[Note 12: Copyright, 1917, by The Century Company. Copyright, 1918,
by Frederick Stuart Greene.]

By FREDERICK STUART GREENE

From _The Century Magazine_


LARRY WALSH slowly climbed the stairs of a house near the waterfront, in
a run-down quarter of old New York. He halted on the top floor, blinking
in the dim light that struggled through the grime-coated window of the
hallway. After a time he knocked timidly on the door before him.

There was nothing in the pleasant "Come in" to alarm the small man; he
started to retreat, but stopped when the door was thrown wide.

"Then it's yourself, Mouse! It's good for the eyes just to look at you."

The woman who greeted Walsh was in striking contrast to her shabby
surroundings. Everything about the old-fashioned house, one floor of
which was her home, spoke of neglected age. This girl, from the heavy,
black braids encircling her head to the soles of her shoes, vibrated
youth. Her cheeks glowed with the color of splendid health; her blue
Irish eyes were bright with it. Friendliness had rung in the tones of
her rich brogue, and showed now in her smile as she waited for her
visitor to answer.

Larry stood before her too shy to speak.

"Is it word from Dan you're bringin' me?" she encouraged. "But there,
now, I'm forgettin' me manners! Come in, an' I'll be makin' you a cup of
tea." She took his arm impulsively, with the frank comradeship of a
young woman for a man much older than herself, and led him to a chair.

Larry sat ready for flight, his cap held stiffly across his knees. He
watched every movement of the girl, a look of pathetic meekness in his
eyes.

"You're right, Mrs. Sullivan," he said after an effort; "Dan was askin'
me to step in on my way to the ship."

She turned quickly from the stove.

"You're not tellin' me now Dan ain't comin' himself, an' the boat
leavin' this night?"

Larry was plainly uneasy.

"Well, you see--it's--now it's just like I'm tellin' you, Mrs. Sullivan;
he's that important to the chief, is Dan, they can't get on without him
to-day at all."

"Then bad luck, I say, to the chief! Look at the grand supper I'm after
fixin' for Dan!"

"Oh, Mary--Mrs. Sullivan, don't be speakin' disrespectful' of the chief,
an' him thinkin' so highly of Dan!"

Mary's blue eyes flashed.

"An' why wouldn't he! It's not every day he'll find the likes of Dan,
with the strong arms an' the great legs of him, not to mention his grand
looks." She crossed to Larry, her face aglow. "Rest easy now while you
drink your tea," she urged kindly, "an' tell me what the chief be
wantin' him for."

She drew her chair close to Larry, but the small man turned shyly from
her searching gaze.

"Well, you see, Mrs.--"

"Call me Mary. It's a year an' more now since the first time you brought
Dan home to me." A sudden smile lighted her face. "Well I remember how
frightened you looked when first you set eyes on me. Was you thinkin' to
find Dan's wife a slip of a girl?"

"No; he told me you was a fine, big lass." He looked from Mary to the
picture of an older woman that hung above the mantel. "That'll be your
mother, I'm thinkin'." Then, with abrupt change, "When did you leave
the old country, Mary?"

"A little more'n a year before I married Dan. But tell me, Mouse, about
the chief wantin' him."

"We'll you see, Dan's that handy-like--"

"That's the blessed truth you're speakin'," she interupted, her face
lovely with its flush of pride. "But tell me more, that's a darlin'."

Larry thought rapidly before he spoke again.

"Only the last trip I was hearin' the chief say: 'Dan,' says he, 'it's
not long now you'll be swingin' the shovel. I'll be makin' you
water-tender soon.'"

Mary leaned nearer, and caught both of Larry's hands in hers.

"Them's grand words you're sayin'; they fair makes my heart jump." She
paused; the gladness faded quickly from her look. "Then the chief don't
know Dan sometimes takes a drop?"

"Ain't the chief Irish himself? Every man on the boilers takes his
dram." Her wistful eyes spurred him on. "Sure's I'm sittin' here, Dan's
the soberest of the lot."

Mary shook her head sadly.

"Good reason I have to fear the drink; 't was that spoiled my mother's
life."

Larry rose quickly.

"Your mother never drank!"

"No; the saints preserve us!" She looked up in surprise at Larry's
startled face. "It was my father. I don't remember only what mother told
me; he left her one night, ravin' drunk, an' never come back."

Larry hastily took up his cap.

"I must be goin' back to the ship now," he said abruptly. "An' thank
you, Mary, for the tea." He hurried from the room.

When Larry reached the ground floor he heard Mary's door open again.

"Can I be troublin' you, Mouse, to take something to Dan?" She came
down the stairs, carrying a dinner-pail. "I'd thought to be eatin' this
supper along with him," Mary said, disappointment in her tone. She
followed Larry to the outer landing. "It's the true word you was sayin',
he'll be makin' Dan water-tender?"

Larry forced himself to look into her anxious eyes.

"Sure; it's just as I said, Mary."

"Then I'll pray this night to the Mother of God for that chief; for
soon"--Mary hesitated; a light came to her face that lifted the girl
high above her squalid surroundings--"the extra pay'll be comin' handy
soon," she ended, her voice as soft as a Killarney breeze.

Larry, as he looked at the young wife standing between the scarred
columns of the old doorway, was stirred to the farthest corner of his
heart.

"They only smile like that to the angels," he thought. Then aloud: "Bad
cess to me! I was forgettin' entirely! Dan said to leave this with you."
He pushed crumpled, coal-soiled money into her hand, and fled down the
steps.

When Larry heard the door close creakily behind him, he looked back to
where Mary had stood, his eyes blinking rapidly. After some moments he
walked slowly on toward the wharves. In the distance before him the
spars and funnels of ships loomed through the dusk, their outlines
rapidly fading into the sky beyond--a late September sky, now fast
turning to a burned-out sheet of dull gray.

Larry went aboard his ship, and, going to the forecastle, peered into an
upper bunk.

"Your baby's not to home, Mouse," a voice jeered. "I saw him over to
Flanagan's awhile ago."

A hopeless look crossed Larry's face.

"Give me a hand up the side, like a good lad, Jim, when I come aboard
again."

A few minutes later the little man was making his way back to the
steamer, every step of his journey harassed by derisive shouts as he
dodged between the lines of belated trucks that jammed West Street from
curb to string-piece. He pushed a wheelbarrow before him, his knees
bending under the load it held. Across the barrow, legs and head
dangling over the sides, lay an unconscious heap that when sober
answered to the name of Dan Sullivan.

* * *

Larry Walsh, stoker on the coastwise freighter _San Gardo_, was the butt
of the ship; every man of the crew imposed on his good nature. He was
one of those persons "just fool enough to do what he's told to do." For
thirty of his fifty years he had been a seaman, and the marks of a
sailor's life were stamped hard on his face. His weathered cheeks were
plowed by wrinkles that stretched, deep furrowed, from his red-gray hair
to the corners of his mouth. From under scant brows he peered out on the
world with near-sighted eyes; but whenever a smile broadened his wide
mouth, his eyes would shine with a kindly light.

Larry's defective sight had led to his banishment as a sailor from the
decks. During a storm off Hatteras a stoker had fallen and died on the
boiler-room plates.

"It don't take no eyes at all to see clean to the back of a Scotch
boiler," the boatswain had told the chief engineer. "I can give you that
little squint-eyed feller." So, at the age of forty or thereabouts,
Larry left the cool, wind-swept deck to take up work new to him in the
superheated, gas-stifling air of the fire-room. Though entered on the
ship's papers as a sailor, he had gone without complaint down the
straight ladders to the very bottom of the hull. Bidden to take the dead
stoker's place, "he was just fool enough to do what he was told to do."

Larry was made the coal-passer of that watch, and began at once the
back-breaking task of shoveling fuel from the bunkers to the floor
outside, ready for the stokers to heave into the boilers. He had been
passing less than an hour during his first watch when the coal ran
short in the lower bunker. He speared with a slice-bar in the bunker
above. The fuel rested at a steeper angle than his weak eyes could see,
and his bar dislodged a wedged lump; an instant later the new passer was
half buried under a heap of sliding coal. Bewildered, but unhurt, he
crawled to the boiler-room, shaking the coal from his back and
shoulders. Through dust-filled ears he heard the general laugh at his
plight.

"Look at the nigger Irishman!" a stoker called.

"Irishman!" came the answer. "It's no man at all; it's a mouse you're
seein'--a bunker mouse."

From that moment the name Larry Walsh was forgotten.

* * *

The _San Gardo_ was late getting away that night; two bells of the
evening watch had sounded when at last she backed from her pier into the
North River and began the first mile of her trip to Galveston. Though
she showed a full six inches of the red paint below her water-line, the
loading of her freight had caused the delay. In the hold lay many parts
of sawmill machinery. When the last of this clumsy cargo had settled to
its allotted place, there was left an unusual void of empty blackness
below the deck hatches.

"It's up to you now, Matie," the stevedore had said to the impatient
first officer. "My job's done right, but she'll roll her sticks out if
it's rough outside."

"That's nice; hand me all the cheerful news you have when you know they
hung out storm-warnings at noon," the officer had growled as the
stevedore went ashore.

Signs that both the Government and the stevedore had predicted correctly
began to show as soon as the vessel cleared the Hook. The wind was
blowing half a gale from the southeast and had already kicked up a
troublesome sea. The ship, resenting her half-filled hold, pitched with
a viciousness new to the crew.

There was unusual activity on board the _San Gardo_ that night. Long
after the last hatch-cover had been placed the boatswain continued to
inspect, going over the deck from bow to stern to see that every movable
thing was lashed fast.

In the engine-room as well, extra precautions were taken. It was Robert
Neville's watch below; he was the first of the three assistant
engineers. Neville, a young man, was unique in that most undemocratic
institution, a ship's crew, for he apparently considered the stokers
under him as human beings. For one of his fire-room force he had an
actual liking.

"Why do you keep that fellow they call Bunker Mouse in your watch?" the
chief once asked.

"Because he's willing and the handiest man I have," Neville answered
promptly.

"Well, suit yourself; but that brute Sullivan will kill him some day, I
hear."

"I don't know about that, Chief. The Mouse is game."

"So's a trout; but it's got a damn poor show against a shark," the chief
had added with a shrug.

Neville's watch went on duty shortly after the twin lights above Sandy
Hook had dropped astern. The ship was then rolling heavily enough to
make walking difficult on the oily floor of the engine-room; in the
boiler-room, lower by three feet, to stand steady even for a moment was
impossible. Here, in this badly lighted quarter of the ship, ill humor
hung in the air thicker than the coal-gas.

Dan Sullivan, partly sobered, fired his boiler, showing ugly readiness
for a fight. Larry, stoking next to him, kept a weather-eye constantly
on his fellow-laborer.

Neville's men had been on duty only a few minutes when the engineer came
to the end of the passage and called Larry.

"That's right," Dan growled; "run along, you engineer's pet, leavin'
your work for me to do!"

Larry gave him no answer as he hurried away.

"Make fast any loose thing you see here," Neville ordered.

Larry went about the machinery-crowded room securing every object that a
lurching ship might send flying from its place. When he returned to the
fire-room he heard the water-tender shouting:

"Sullivan, you're loafin' on your job! Get more fire under that boiler!"

"An' ain't I doin' double work, with that damn Mouse forever sneakin' up
to the engine-room?"

Larry, giving no sign that he had heard Dan's growling answer, drove his
scoop into the coal, and with a swinging thrust spread its heaped load
evenly over the glowing bed in the fire-box. He closed the fire-door
with a quick slam, for in a pitching boiler-room burning coal can fall
from an open furnace as suddenly as new coal can be thrown into it.

"So, you're back," Dan sneered. "It's a wonder you wouldn't stay the
watch up there with your betters."

Larry went silently on with his work.

"Soft, ain't it, you jellyfish, havin' me do your job? You eel, you--."
Dan poured out a stream of abusive oaths.

Still Larry did not answer.

"Dan's ravin' mad," a man on the port boilers said. "Will he soak the
Mouse to-night, I wonder."

"Sure," the stoker beside him answered. "An' it's a dirty shame for a
big devil like him to smash the little un."

"You're new on this ship; you don't know 'em. The Mouse is a regular
mother to that booze-fighter, an' small thanks he gets. But wait, an'
you'll see somethin' in a minute."

Dan's temper, however, was not yet at fighting heat. He glared a moment
longer at Larry, then turned sullenly to his boiler. He was none too
steady on his legs, and this, with the lurching of the ship, made his
work ragged. After a few slipshod passes he struck the door-frame
squarely with his scoop, spilling the coal to the floor.

"Damn your squint eyes!" he yelled. "You done that, Mouse! You shoved
ag'in' me. Now scrape it all up, an' be quick about it!"

Without a word, while his tormentor jeered and cursed him, Larry did as
he was told.

"Ain't you got no fight at all in your shriveled-up body?" Dan taunted
as Larry finished. "You're a disgrace to Ireland, that's what you are."

Larry, still patient, turned away. Dan sprang to him and spun the little
man about.

"Where's the tongue in your ugly mouth?" Dan was shaking with rage.
"I'll not be havin' the likes of you followin' me from ship to ship, an'
sniffin' at my heels ashore. I won't stand for it no longer, do you
hear? Do you think I need a nurse? Now say you'll leave this ship when
we makes port, or I'll break every bone in you."

Dan towered above Larry, his arm drawn back ready to strike. Every man
in the room stopped work to watch the outcome of the row.

At the beginning of the tirade Larry's thin shoulders had straightened;
he raised his head; his lower jaw, undershot, was set hard. The light
from the boiler showed his near-sighted eyes steady on Sullivan,
unafraid.

"Get on with your work, an' don't be a fool, Dan," he said quietly.

"A fool, am I!"

Dan's knotted fist flashed to within an inch of Larry's jaw. The Bunker
Mouse did not flinch. For a moment the big stoker's arm quivered to
strike, then slowly fell.

"You ain't worth smashin'," Sullivan snarled, and turned away.

"Well, what d'yer know about that!" the new stoker cried.

"It's that way all the time," he was answered; "there ain't a trip Dan
don't ball the Mouse out to a fare-you-well; but he never lays hand to
'im. None of us knows why."

"You don't? Well, I do. The big slob's yeller, an' I'll show 'im up."
The stoker crossed to Sullivan. "See here, Bo, why don't you take on a
man your size?" He thrust his face close to Dan's and shouted the answer
to his question: "I'll tell you why. You ain't got sand enough."

Dan's teeth snapped closed, then parted to grin at his challenger.

"Do you think you're big enough?" The joy of battle was in his growl.

"Yes, I do." The man put up his hands.

Instantly Dan's left broke down the guard; his right fist landed
squarely on the stoker's jaw, sending him reeling to the bunker wall,
where he fell. It was a clean knock-out.

"Go douse your friend with a pail of water, Mouse." Dan, still grinning,
picked up his shovel and went to work.

* * *

When Neville's watch went off duty, Larry found the sea no rougher than
on countless other runs he had made along the Atlantic coast. The wind
had freshened to a strong gale, but he reached the forecastle with no
great difficulty.

Without marked change the _San Gardo_ carried the same heavy weather
from Barnegat Light to the Virginia capes. Beyond Cape Henry the blow
began to stiffen and increased every hour as the freighter plowed
steadily southward. Bucking head seas every mile of the way, she picked
up Diamond Shoals four hours behind schedule. As she plunged past the
tossing light-ship, Larry, squinting through a forecastle port, wondered
how long its anchor chains would hold. The _San Gardo_ was off Jupiter
by noon the third day out, running down the Florida coast; the wind-bent
palms showed faintly through the driving spray.

Neville's watch went on duty that night at eight. As his men left the
forecastle a driving rain beat against their backs, and seas broke over
the port bow at every downward plunge of the ship. To gain the
fire-room door, they clung to rail or stanchion to save themselves from
being swept overboard. They held on desperately as each wave flooded the
deck, watched their chance, then sprang for the next support. On
freighters no cargo space is wasted below decks in passageways for the
crew.

When Larry reached the fire-room there was not a dry inch of cloth
covering his wiry body. He and his fellow-stokers took up immediately
the work of the men they had relieved, and during the first hours of
their watch fired the boilers with no more difficulty than is usual in
heavy weather.

At eleven o'clock the speaking-tube whistled, and a moment later Neville
came to the end of the passage.

"What are you carrying?" he shouted to the water-tender. "We've got to
keep a full head of steam on her to-night."

"We've got it, Mr. Neville--one hundred and sixty, an' we've held
between that and sixty-five ever since I've been on."

"The captain says we've made Tortugas. We lost three hours on the run
from Jupiter," Neville answered, and went back to his engine.

During the next hour no one on deck had to tell these men, toiling far
below the water-line, that wind and sea had risen. They had warnings
enough. Within their steel-incased quarters every bolt and rivet sounded
the overstrain forced upon it. In the engine-room the oiler could no
longer move from the throttle. Every few minutes now, despite his
watchfulness, a jarring shiver spread through the hull as the propeller,
thrown high, raced wildly in mid-air before he could shut off steam.

At eleven-thirty the indicator clanged, and its arrow jumped to
half-speed ahead. A moment later the men below decks "felt the rudder"
as the _San Gardo_, abandoning further attempts to hold her course,
swung about to meet the seas head on.

Eight bells--midnight--struck, marking the end of the shift; but no one
came down the ladders to relieve Neville's watch. The growls of the
tired men rose above the noise in the fire-room. Again Neville came
through the passage.

"The tube to the bridge is out of commission," he called, "but I can
raise the chief. He says no man can live on deck; one's gone overboard
already. The second watch can't get out of the forecastle. It's up to
us, men, to keep this ship afloat, and steam's the only thing that'll do
it."

For the next hour and the next the fire-room force and the two men in
the engine-room stuck doggedly to their work. They knew that the _San
Gardo_ was making a desperate struggle, that it was touch and go whether
the ship would live out the hurricane or sink to the bottom. They knew
also, to the last man of them, that if for a moment the ship fell off
broadside to the seas, the giant waves would roll her over and over like
an empty barrel in a mill-race. The groaning of every rib and plate in
the hull, the crash of seas against the sides, the thunder of waves
breaking on deck, drowned the usual noises below.

The color of the men's courage began to show. Some kept grimly at their
work, dumb from fear. Others covered fright with profanity, cursing the
storm, the ship, their mates, cursing themselves. Larry, as he threw
coal steadily through his fire-doors, hummed a broken tune. He gave no
heed to Dan, who grew more savage as the slow hours of overtoil dragged
by.

About four in the morning Neville called Larry to the engine-room. On
his return Dan blazed out at him:

"Boot-lickin' Neville ag'in, was you? I'd lay you out, you shrimp, only
I want you to do your work."

Larry took up his shovel; as usual his silence enraged Sullivan.

"You chicken-livered wharf-rat, ain't you got no spunk to answer wid?"
Dan jerked a slice-bar from the fire and hurled it to the floor at
Larry's feet. The little man leaped in the air; the white-hot end of
the bar, bounding from the floor, missed his legs by an inch.

Larry's jaw shot out; he turned on Sullivan, all meekness gone.

"Dan," he cried shrilly, "if you try that again--"

"Great God! what's that!"

Dan's eyes were staring; panic showed on every face in the room. The
sound of an explosion had come from the forward hold. Another followed,
and another, a broadside of deafening reports. The terrifying sounds
came racing aft. They reached the bulkhead nearest them, and tore
through the fire-room, bringing unmasked fear to every man of the watch.
The crew stood for a moment awed, then broke, and, rushing for the
ladder, fought for a chance to escape this new, unknown madness of the
storm.

Only Larry kept his head.

"Stop! Come back!" His shrill voice carried above the terrifying noise.
"It's the plates bucklin' between the ribs."

"Plates! Hell! she's breakin' up!"

Neville rushed in from the engine-room.

"Back to your fires, men, or we'll all drown! Steam, keep up--" He was
shouting at full-lung power, but his cries were cut short. Again the
deafening reports started at the bows. Again, crash after crash, the
sounds came tearing aft as if a machine-gun were raking the vessel from
bow to stern. At any time these noises would bring terror to men locked
below decks; but now, in the half-filled cargo spaces, each crashing
report was like the bursting of a ten-inch shell.

Neville went among the watch, urging, commanding, assuring them that
these sounds meant no real danger to the ship. He finally ended the
panic by beating the more frightened ones back to their boilers.

Then for hours, at every plunge of the ship, the deafening boom of
buckling plates continued until the watch was crazed by the sound.

This new terror began between four and five in the morning, when the men
had served double time under the grueling strain. At sunrise another
misery was added to their torture: the rain increased suddenly, and fell
a steady cataract to the decks. This deluge and the flying spray sent
gallons of water down the stack; striking the breeching-plates, it was
instantly turned to steam and boiling water. As the fagged stokers bent
before the boilers, the hot water, dripping from the breeching, washed
scalding channels through the coal-dust down their bare backs. They
hailed this new torment with louder curses, but continued to endure it
for hours, while outside the hurricane raged, no end, no limit, to its
power.

Since the beginning of the watch the bilge-pumps had had all they could
do to handle the leakage coming from the seams of the strained hull.
Twice Neville had taken the throttle and sent his oiler to clear the
suctions. The violent lurching of the ship had churned up every ounce of
sediment that had lain undisturbed beneath the floor-plates since the
vessel's launching. Sometime between seven and eight all the bilge-pumps
clogged at the same moment, and the water began rising at a rate that
threatened the fires. It became a question of minutes between life and
death for all hands. Neville, working frantically to clear the pumps,
yelled to the oiler to leave the throttle and come to him. The water,
gaining fast, showed him that their combined efforts were hopeless. He
ran to the boiler-room for more aid. Here the water had risen almost to
the fires; as the ship rolled, it slushed up between the floor-plates
and ran in oily streams about the men's feet. Again panic seized the
crew.

"Come on, lads!" Sullivan shouted above the infernal din. "We'll be
drowned in this hell-hole!"

In the next second he was half-way up the ladder, below him, clinging to
the rungs like frightened apes, hung other stokers.

"Come back, you fool!" Neville shouted. "Open that deck-door, and you'll
swamp the ship!"

Dan continued to climb.

"Come down or I'll fire!"

"Shoot an' be damned to you!" Dan called back.

The report of Neville's revolver was lost in the noise; but the bullet,
purposely sent high, spattered against the steel plate above Dan's head.
He looked down. Neville, swaying with the pitching floor, was aiming
true for his second shot. Cursing at the top of his voice, Dan scrambled
down the ladder, pushing the men below him to the floor.

"Back to your boilers!" Neville ordered; but the stokers, huddled in a
frightened group, refused to leave the ladder.

It was only a matter of seconds now before the fires would be drenched.
Bilge-water was splashing against the under boiler-plates, filling the
room with dense steam. Neville left the men and raced for the
engine-room. He found Larry and the oiler working desperately at the
valve-wheel of the circulating pump. Neville grasped the wheel, and gave
the best he had to open the valve. This manifold, connecting the pump
with the bilges, was intended only for emergency use. It had not been
opened for months, and was now rusted tight. The three men, straining
every muscle, failed to budge the wheel. After the third hopeless
attempt, Larry let go, and without a word bolted through the passage to
the fire-room.

"You miserable quitter!" Neville screamed after him, and bent again to
the wheel.

As he looked up, despairing of any chance to loosen the rusted valve,
Larry came back on the run, carrying a coal-pick handle. He thrust it
between the spokes of the wheel.

"Now, Mr. Neville, all together!" His Celtic jaw was set hard.

All three threw their weight against the handle. The wheel stirred.

As they straightened for another effort, a louder noise of hissing steam
sounded from the boilers, and the fire-room force, mad with fright, came
crowding through the passage to the higher floor of the engine-room.

"Quick! Together!" Neville gasped.

The wheel moved an inch.

"Once more! _Now!_"

The wheel turned and did not stop. The three men dropped the lever,
seized the wheel, and threw the valve wide open.

"Good work, men!" Neville cried, and fell back exhausted.

The centrifugal pump was thrown in at the last desperate moment. When
the rusted valve finally opened, water had risen to the lower grate-bars
under every boiler in the fire-room. But once in action, the twelve-inch
suction of the giant pump did its work with magic swiftness. In less
than thirty seconds the last gallon of water in the bilges had been
lifted and sent, rushing through the discharge, overboard.

Neville faced the boiler-room crew sternly.

"Now, you cowards, get to your fires!" he said.

As the men slunk back through the passage Dan growled:

"May that man some day burn in hell!"

"Don't be wishin' him no such luck," an angry voice answered; "wish him
down here wid us."

* * *

The morning dragged past; noon came, marking the sixteenth hour that the
men, imprisoned below the sea-swept decks, had struggled to save the
ship. Sundown followed, and the second night of their unbroken toil
began. They stuck to it, stood up somehow under the racking grind, their
nerves quivering, their bodies craving food, their eyes gritty from the
urge of sleep, while always the hideous noises of the gale screamed in
their ears. The machine-gun roar of buckling plates, raking battered
hull, never ceased.

With each crawling minute the men grew more silent, more desperate. Dan
Sullivan let no chance pass to vent his spleen on Larry. Twice during
the day his fellow-stokers, watching the familiar scene, saw the big man
reach the point of crushing the small one; but the ever-expected blow
did not fall.

Shortly after midnight the first hope came to the exhausted men that
their fight might not be in vain. Though the buckling plates still
thundered, though the floor under their feet still pitched at crazy
angles, there was a "feel" in the fire-room that ribs and beams and
rivets were not so near the breaking-point.

Neville came to the end of the passage.

"The hurricane's blowing itself to death," he shouted. "Stick to it,
boys, for an hour longer; the second watch can reach us by then."

The hour passed, but no relief came. The wind had lost some force, but
the seas still broke over the bows, pouring tons of water to the deck.
The vessel pitched as high, rolled as deep, as before.

As the men fired their boilers they rested the filled scoops on the
floor and waited for the ship to roll down. Then a quick jerk of the
fire-door chain, a quick heave of the shovel, and the door was snapped
shut before the floor rolled up again. Making one of these hurried
passes, Larry swayed on tired legs. He managed the toss and was able to
close the door before he fell hard against Dan. His sullen enemy
instantly launched a new tirade, fiercer, more blasphemous, than any
before. He ended a stream of oaths, and rested the scoop ready for his
throw.

"I'll learn yuh, yuh snivelin'--" The ship rolled deep. Dan jerked the
fire-door open--"yuh snivelin' shrimp!" He glared at Larry as he made
the pass. He missed the opening. His shovel struck hard against the
boiler front. The jar knocked Dan to the floor, pitched that moment at
its steepest angle. He clutched desperately to gain a hold on the
smooth-worn steel plates, his face distorted by fear as he slid down to
the fire.

Larry, crying a shrill warning, sprang between Sullivan and the open
furnace. He stooped, and with all the strength he could gather shoved
the big stoker from danger. Then above the crashing sounds a shriek tore
the steam-clouded air of the fire-room. Larry had fallen!

As his feet struck the ash-door, the ship rolled up. A cascade falling
from Dan's fire had buried Larry's legs to the knees under a bed of
white-hot coals. He shrieked again the cry of the mortally hurt as Dan
dragged him too late from before the open door.

"Mouse! Mouse!" Horror throbbed in Sullivan's voice. "You're hurted
bad!" He knelt, holding Larry in his arms, while others threw water on
the blazing coals.

"Speak, lad!" Dan pleaded. "Speak to me!"

The fire-room force stood over them silenced. Accident, death even, they
always expected; but to see Dan Sullivan show pity for any living thing,
and above all, for the Bunker Mouse--

The lines of Larry's tortured face eased.

"It's the last hurt I'll be havin', Dan," he said before he fainted.

"Don't speak the word, Mouse, an' you just after savin' me life!" Then
the men in the fire-room saw a miracle: tears filled the big stoker's
eyes.

Neville had heard Larry's cry and rushed to the boiler-room.

"For God's sake! what's happened now?"

Dan pointed a shaking finger. Neville looked once at what only a moment
before had been the legs and feet of a man. As he turned quickly from
the sight the engineer's face was like chalk.

"Here, two of you," he called unsteadily, "carry him to the
engine-room."

Dan threw the men roughly aside.

"Leave him be," he growled. "Don't a one of you put hand on him!" He
lifted Larry gently and, careful of each step, crossed the swaying
floor.

"Lay him there by the dynamo," Neville ordered when they had reached the
engine-room.

Dan hesitated.

"'T ain't fittin', sir, an' him so bad' hurt. Let me be takin' him to
the store-room."

Neville looked doubtfully up the narrow stairs.

"We can't get him there with this sea running."

Sullivan spread his legs wide, took both of Larry's wrists in one hand,
and swung the unconscious man across his back. He strode to the iron
stairs and began to climb. As he reached the first grating Larry
groaned. Dan stopped dead; near him the great cross-heads were plunging
steadily up and down.

"God, Mr. Neville, did he hit ag'in' somethin'?" The sweat of strain and
fear covered his face.

The vessel leaped to the crest of a wave, and dropped sheer into the
trough beyond.

"No; but for God's sake, man, go on! You'll pitch with him to the floor
if she does that again!"

Dan, clinging to the rail with his free hand, began climbing the second
flight.

At the top grating Neville sprang past him to the store-room door.

"Hold him a second longer," he called, and spread an armful of cotton
waste on the vise bench.

Dan laid Larry on the bench. He straightened his own great body for a
moment, then sat down on the floor and cried.

Neville, pretending not to see Dan's distress, brought more waste. As he
placed it beneath his head Larry groaned. Dan, still on the floor, wrung
his hands, calling on the saints and the Virgin to lighten the pain of
this man it had been his joy to torture.

Neville turned to him.

"Get up from there!" he cried sharply. "Go see what you can find to help
him."

Dan left the room, rubbing his red-flanneled arm across his eyes. He
returned quickly with a can of cylinder oil, and poured it slowly over
the horribly burned limbs.

"There ain't no bandages, sir; only this." He held out a shirt belonging
to the engineer; his eyes pleaded his question. Neville nodded, and Dan
tore the shirt in strips. When he finished the task, strange to his
clumsy hands, Larry had regained consciousness and lay trying pitifully
to stifle his moans.

"Does it make you feel aisier, Mouse?" Dan leaned close to the quivering
lips to catch the answer.

"It helps fine," Larry answered, and fainted again.

"You'll be leavin' me stay wid him, sir?" Dan begged. "'T was for me
he's come to this."

Neville gave consent and left the two men together.

* * *

Between four and five in the morning, when Neville's watch had lived
through thirty-three unbroken hours of the fearful grind, a shout that
ended in a screaming laugh ran through the fire-room. High above the
toil-crazed men a door had opened and closed. A form, seen dimly through
the smoke and steam, was moving backward down the ladder. Again the door
opened; another man came through. Every shovel in the room fell to the
steel floor; every man in the room shouted or laughed or cried.

The engine-room door, too, had opened, admitting the chief and his
assistant. Not until he had examined each mechanical tragedy below did
the chief give time to the human one above.

"Where's that man that's hurt?" he asked as he came, slowly, from an
inspection of the burned-out bearings down the shaft alley.

Neville went with him to the store-room. Dan, sagging under fatigue,
clung to the bench where Larry lay moaning.

"You can go now, Sullivan," Neville told him.

Dan raised his head, remorse, entreaty, stubbornness in his look.

"Let me be! I'll not leave him!"

The chief turned to Neville.

"What's come over that drunk?" he asked.

"Ever since the Mouse got hurt, Sullivan's acted queer, just like a
woman."

"Get to your quarters, Sullivan," the chief ordered. "We'll take care of
this man."

Dan's hands closed; for an instant he glared rebellion from blood-shot
eyes. Then the iron law of sea discipline conquering, he turned to
Larry.

"The Blessed Virgin aise you, poor Mouse!" he mumbled huskily and
slouched out through the door.

* * *

At midday the _San Gardo's_ captain got a shot at the sun. Though his
vessel had been headed steadily northeast for more than thirty hours,
the observation showed that she had made twenty-eight miles sternway to
the southwest. By two in the afternoon the wind had dropped to half a
gale, making a change of course possible. The captain signaled full
speed ahead, and the ship, swinging about, began limping across the
gulf, headed once more toward Galveston.

Neville, who had slept like a stone, came on deck just before sunset.
The piled-up seas, racing along the side, had lost their breaking
crests; the ship rose and fell with some degree of regularity. He called
the boatswain and went to the store-room.

They found Larry in one of his conscious moments.

"Well, Mouse, we're going to fix you in a better place," the engineer
called with what heart he could show.

"Thank you kindly, sir," Larry managed to answer; "but 't is my last
voyage, Mr. Neville." And the grit that lay hidden in the man's soul
showed in his pain-twisted smile.

They carried him up the last flight of iron stairs to the deck. Clear of
the engine-room, the boatswain turned toward the bow.

"No. The other way, Boson," Neville ordered.

The chief, passing them, stopped.

"Where are you taking him, Mr. Neville?"

"The poor fellow's dying, sir," Neville answered in a low voice.

"Well, where are you taking him?" the chief persisted.

"I'd like to put him in my room, sir."

"A stoker in officers' quarters!" The chief frowned. "Sunday-school
discipline!" He disappeared through the engine-room door, slamming it
after him.

They did what they could, these seamen, for the injured man; on
freighters one of the crew has no business to get hurt. They laid Larry
in Neville's berth and went out, leaving a sailor to watch over him.

The sun rose the next day in a cloudless sky, and shone on a brilliant
sea of tumbling, white-capped waves. Far off the starboard bow floated a
thin line of smoke from a tug's funnel, the first sign to the crew since
the hurricane that the world was not swept clean of ships. Two hours
later the tug was standing by, her captain hailing the _San Gardo_
through a megaphone.

"Run in to New Orleans!" he shouted.

"I cleared for Galveston, and I'm going there," the _San Gardo's_
captain called back.

"No, you ain't neither."

"I'd like to know why, I won't."

"Because you can't,"--the answer carried distinctly across the
waves,--"there ain't no such place. It's been washed clean off the
earth."

The _San Gardo_ swung farther to the west and with her engine pounding
at every stroke, limped on toward the Mississippi.

At five o'clock a Port Eads pilot climbed over the side, and taking the
vessel through South Pass, straightened her in the smooth, yellow waters
of the great river for the hundred-mile run to New Orleans.

When the sun hung low over the sugar plantations that stretch in flat
miles to the east and west beyond the levees, when all was quiet on land
and water and ship, Neville walked slowly to the forecastle.

"Sullivan," he called, "come with me."

Dan climbed down from his bunk and came to the door; the big stoker
searched Neville's face with a changed, sobered look.

"I've been wantin' all this time to go to 'im. How's he now, sir?"

"He's dying, Sullivan, and has asked for you."

Outside Neville's quarters Dan took off his cap and went quietly into
the room.

Larry lay with closed eyes, his face ominously white.

Dan crept clumsily to the berth and put his big hand on Larry's
shoulder.

"It's me, Mouse. They wouldn't leave me come no sooner."

Larry's head moved slightly; his faded eyes opened.

Dan stooped in awkward embarrassment until his face was close to Larry.

"I come to ask you--" Dan stopped. The muscles of his thick neck moved
jerkily--"to ask you, Mouse, before--to forgit the damn mean things--I
done to you, Mouse."

Larry made no answer; he kept his failing sight fixed on Dan.

After a long wait Sullivan spoke again.

"An' to think you done it, Mouse, for me!"

A light sprang to Larry's eyes, flooding his near-sighted gaze with
sudden anger.

"For you!" The cry came from his narrow chest with jarring force. "You!
_You!_" he repeated in rising voice. "It's always of yourself you're
thinkin', Dan Sullivan!" He stopped, his face twitching in pain; then
with both hands clenched he went on, his breast heaving at each word
hurled at Dan:

"Do you think I followed you from ship to ship, dragged you out of every
rum-hole in every port, for your own sake!"

He lay back exhausted, his chest rising and falling painfully, his
eyelids fluttering over his burning eyes.

Dan stepped back, and, silenced, stared at the dying man.

Larry clung to his last moments of life, fighting for strength to
finish. He struggled, and raised himself on one elbow.

"For you!" he screamed. "No, for Mary! For Mary, my own flesh and
blood--Mary, the child of the woman I beat when I was drunk an' left to
starve when I got ready!"

Through the stateroom door the sun's flat rays struck full on Larry's
inspired face. He swayed on his elbow; his head fell forward. By a final
effort he steadied himself. His last words came in ringing command.

"Go back! Go--" he faltered, gasping for breath--"go home sober to Mary
an' the child that's comin'!"

The fire of anger drifted slowly from Larry's dying gaze. The little man
fell back. The Bunker Mouse went out, all man, big at the end.



RAINBOW PETE[13]

[Note 13: Copyright, 1917, by The Pictorial Review Company.
Copyright, 1918, by Richard Matthews Hallet.]

BY RICHARD MATTHEWS HALLET

From _The Pictorial Review_


In pursuance of a policy to detain us on the island at Sick Dog until
the arrival of his daughter, Papa Isbister thought fit to tell us the
fate of Rainbow Pete, of whose physical deformity and thirst for gold we
knew something already. Rainbow Pete had come to Mushrat Portage,
playing his flute, at a time when preparations were being made to blast
a road-bed through the wilderness for the railroad.

Mushrat Portage had been but recently a willow clump, and a black rock
ledge hanging over a precipitous valley: the hand of the Indian could be
seen one day parting the leaves of the trail, and on the next, drills
came and tins of black powder, and hordes of greedy men, blind with a
burning zeal for "monkeying with powder" as our host of Sick Dog said.
They were strange men, hoarse men, unreasonable men who cast
sheep's-eyes at the dark woman from Regina, whose shack, rented of
Scarecrow Charlie, crowned the high point of the ledge. She was the only
woman on Mushrat, and at a time just before the blasting began, when
Rainbow Pete sauntered over the trail with his pick and his flute and
his dirty bag of rock specimens, she was hungrily watched and waited on
by the new inhabitants of that ancient portage--Mushrat, whose destinies
were soon to be so splendid, and whose skies were to be rocked and rent
by the thunders of men struggling with reluctant nature, monkeying with
powder.

When Pete laid down his tools and guns on the table at Scarecrow
Charlie's, where the woman was employed, had he in his heart some
foreshadowing presentiment of the peril he was in, of the sharp
destroying fire of a resolute woman's eyes, which he was subjecting
himself to, in including her in his universal caress? Who knows? Perhaps
his flute had whispered tidings to him. He was, said Papa Isbister,
immensely proud of his plaything, this huge gaunt sailor, who had been
bent into the shape of a rainbow--the foot of a rainbow--by a chance
shot, which shattered his hip and gave him an impressive forward cant,
which appeared to women, it seemed--I quote my old friend--in the light
of an endearing droop.

The romantic visitation of this musical sailorman made the efforts of
all Mushrat as nothing. But Rainbow Pete seemed unaware of the fiery
jealousies glowing in the night on all sides of him when he fixed his
eyes on her for the first time--with that mellow assurance of a careless
master of the hearts and whims of women.

"What's this he said to her?" said our old friend. "It was skilful; it
was put like a notable question if she took it so."

"You don't want to go out to-night," he said to her, with his guns on
the table.

"No, I do not," she said to the man.

"There you will be taking the words out of my mouth to suit your heart,"
he went on saying to her. "Mark this, I'm making this a command to you.
You don't want to go out to-night. Do not do it."

This he told her was on account of stray bullets, because he was meaning
to shoot up that place.

Heh! It was a trick of his, to trap her into denying him when he had
made no offer.

Old Isbister laughed heartily at this picture of Pete in the days of his
triumph.

He was a captivating man, it appeared. He was tattooed. On his arms were
snakes and the like of that, daggers and the like of that, dragons and
the like of that. This was a romantic skin to the man; and his blue
eyes were like the diamond drills they were bringing to Mushrat.

"Oh my," said the woman, leaning at his table, "this is what will be
keeping me from mass, I shouldn't wonder."

This was a prairie woman from Regina; now mark, it was whispered to be
no credit to human nature that she had had to leave that town. No. She
was a full woman, very deep, with burning eyes. It was hard talking with
her, because of her lingering speech. Oh, she was a massive woman, for
the small shoes she wore. She was tall, as high as Rainbow Pete's
shoulder. She purchased scent for her hair. This I know, having seen it
standing in the bottles. She was a prairie woman.

This was a wild night we spent on Mushrat, after Pete's reproving the
woman there in Scarecrow Charlie's place. Smash McGregor, the little
doctor, was sitting between us in his yellow skull-cap; and Willis
Countryman was reading and drinking in one corner, listening to the
laughing men there. They were laughing, thinking of the fortunes there
would be here when blasting begun.

But Rainbow Pete was not one of the rockmen. No. He told them strange
tales of gold. Heh! He was athirst for gold. Strange tales he told of
gold. Once how in Australia he had hold of a lump of it as big as poor
McGregor's skull, but isn't it a perishing pity, oh my, this was just a
desert where he was, there was no water, he grew faint carrying the
nugget. Our mouths were open when the man told us he had dropped it in
the desert, with his name carved on it.

"There it is to this day, sinking in the sands," he said. Oh, the proud
woman from Regina. There she turned her dark eyes over our heads, never
looking at the plausible man at all; but she had heard him.

"Gold?" said Smash McGregor. "Why, there's gold enough in the world."

"Ay, there's comfort too, if you know where to take it," said Rainbow
Pete, twirling here at his mustache and looking at the woman.

"There's gold," said McGregor, "for any man."

"Yes, my hearty," said Pete, "it's twinkling in the river-beds, it
shines in the sands under your feet, but still it's hard to get in your
two fisties."

"Why," said Smash McGregor, "did you never hear there's a pot of gold at
the foot of every rainbow?"

Oh, my friend, as he went mentioning the rainbow, there was a
thunder-cap on the brow of that great sailor.

"So they call me--Rainbow Pete," he said.

"Look then," said McGregor, "take the pick, and strike the ground at
your feet."

Rainbow Pete was not hearing them.

"This is a man I have been following on many trails," he muttered, "This
man who made a rainbow of me. Mark this, he shall thirst, if I meet him.
Ay! He shall burn with these fingers at his throat. He shall have gold
poured into him like liquid, however."

It was plain he had no love for this man who had fashioned him in the
form of a rainbow.

"What is this man called?" said the little doctor.

"It's a dark man wearing a red cap, called Pal Yachy," said Rainbow
Pete. "He spends his time escaping me. Look, where he shot me in the
hip."

Now we shielded him, and he drew out his shirt showing the wound in the
thigh which made a rainbow of him; but stop, didn't McGregor discover
the strange business on his spine?

"What's this, however?" he said.

"This is a palm-tree," said the man. "Stand close about me."

Oh my, we stood close, watching the man twisting up his shirt, and here
we saw the palm-tree going up his spine, and every joint of his spine
was used for a joint of the tree, like; and the long blue leaves were
waving on his shoulder-blade when he would be rippling the skin. This
was a fine broad back like satin to be putting a palm-tree on. Look, as
I am lifting my head, here I see the dark woman silent at the bar,
burning up with curiosity at what we are hiding here. Listen, it's the
man's voice, under his shirt.

"This was done in the South Seas, when I was young," he said to us, "and
the bigger I grow, the bigger the tree is. And now what next?" Then he
put his shirt back, and stood up to be fixing an eye on the woman from
Regina.

He was first to be waited on at Scarecrow Charlie's. Yes, he was first.
This was a mystery of a man to that dark woman from Regina.

Now in these days before blasting began, they were fond of talking
marriage on Mushrat, thinking of this woman from Regina, who was at the
disposal of no man there. They were full of doubts and wonderments, when
they would be idling together in Scarecrow Charlie's. But now one
morning when they were idling there, Shoepack Sam must be yawning and
saying to them,

"Oh, my, this is the time now, before the sun is up, I'm glad I am not
married. It's a pleasure to be a single man at this hour."

Heh! Heh! As a usual thing we are not gratified at all for this favor of
heaven. A single man, Shoepack Sam was saying, would not have to be
looking at the wreck of his wife in the morning; and this is when women
were caught unawares in the gill-nets time is lowering for them.

"They are pale about the gills then," he said. "They are just drowned
fish. They have stayed in the nets too long."

"No, it's not certain," said Rainbow Pete. "She might be
pleasant-looking on the pillow with her hair adrift."

Then Shoepack told him that the salt water had leaked into his brains,
what with his voyages.

"Still, this is a beautiful cheek," said Pete, speaking low, because she
was moving about beyond the boards.

"These things are purchased," said Shoepack, scraping his feet together
in yellow moosehides. "Listen to me, I have seen them in a long line, on
her shelf, with many odors."

So they were talking together, and Rainbow Pete was putting his fingers
to the flute and staring down the valley, where Throat River was
twisting like a rag.

"I could have had a wife for speaking at Kicking Horse," he said.

"There is one for speaking now," said Shoepack.

"In a few days I go North," Rainbow Pete went muttering. "There is gold
at Dungeon Creek. I have seen samples of this vein."

"She will be the less trouble to you then, if you are not satisfied on
this question," said Shoepack Sam.

Then Rainbow Pete said he was not so certain of her, on questioning
himself. He was a modest man.

"This palm-tree and the other designs you have not been speaking about
will be enticing her," said Shoepack Sam. "But do not speak to her of
going away at the time of asking her."

"This is wisdom," said Rainbow Pete, and he put his lips to the flute,
to be giving us a touch of music.

This was a light reason for marriage, disn't it seem? This was what
Willis Countryman called a marriage of convenience, in the fashion of
frogs. Ay! It was convenient to them to be married. He was a great
reader--Willis.

So they were married, I'm telling you, but it's impossible to know what
he said to her in speaking about it. They were married by the man called
Justice of the Peace on Mushrat. This was before the blasting, and it
was the first marriage on Mushrat.

Then they lived together in the little house she had chosen, sitting on
the black ledge above Scarecrow Charlie's eating-place. Now it was a
wonderment to Mushrat, to hear the sound of Rainbow Pete's old flute
dropping from the dark ledge, by night, when they were taking their
opinion of matrimony up there together, with a candle at the window.

But now look here, when Shoepack Sam came plucking him at the elbow,
saying, "Was I right or was I wrong?" then Rainbow Pete stared at him
with his eyes like drills, and he said to him, "You were curious and
nothing more." Oh my, isn't this the perversity of married men.

They bore him a grudge on Mushrat, for his silence, because, disn't it
seem, this was like a general marriage satisfying all men's souls. It
was treasonable. Oh my, it was sailor's mischief to be living on that
ledge, and dropping nothing but notes from his greasy flute. These are
sweet but they are hard to be turning into language.

Now one morning, when I saw him coming from the ledge with his bag of
specimens over his shoulder, I saw without speaking to him that he was
parching with his thirst for gold. He was going away into the bush,
thinking no more of his new wife. Oh, he was a casual man.

"How is this?" I said. "Can she be left alone on the ledge?"

"Can she not?" said Rainbow Pete. "Old fellow, this is a substantial
woman. She was alone before I came."

"This is not the same thing," I said.

"It is the same woman," said Rainbow Pete, "she will be missing nothing
but the flute."

Oh my, wasn't the flute a little thing to reckon with. He went North,
dreaming of gold, and here the matter they were thinking about was
locked in his heart. They were angry with the man on Mushrat. This was
not what they were looking for between friends. They were hoping to
learn the result of the experiment; but this was vain.

When he was gone, I saw her looking down into the valley, where the
first shots were being fired in the rock. Ay, the sun was dazzling her
eyes, but she dis not move, sitting as if her arms have been chopped
from the shoulders.

Now it was not many days after this that the blasting was begun on
Mushrat. Men came with instruments stamped by the government; these they
pointed down the trail and drove stakes into the ground. These were
great days on Mushrat. Oh yes, numbers of Swedes and Italians were in a
desperate way monkeying with powder. It's a fetching business. In a
week, look here, Scarecrow Charlie left his eating-place to go monkeying
with powder like the others, and disn't he get a bolt of iron through
his brain one morning? Oh, it's very much as if some one had pushed a
broom-handle through his skull.

That dark woman from Regina was not dismayed. She ran the eating-place
herself. This was a famous place: they heard of this as far West as
Regina and they came here to work and eat, attracted by her. She was
valuable to the contractors, bringing labor here. Disn't it seem an
achievement for a married woman? Still, Rainbow Pete was not remembered
after a time; and she was a dark beauty, with a reputation for not
saying much.

My, my, these were golden days for Smash McGregor. I ponder over them,
thinking what a business he had. He was paid by the contractors to be
sorting out arms and legs, putting the short ones together in one box,
and the long ones in another, marked with charcoal to be shipped. Oh,
they were just gathering up parts of mortals in packing cases,
dispatching them to Throat River Landing; and blood was leaking on the
decks every way in little lines. They were unlikely consignments.

Then, my friend, there came one night a dark man wearing a red cap and
here under his arm he had the instrument with strings. This was the
Chief Contractor under the Government in this region. He was rich; at
Winnipeg he had stabled many blood horses. Then they were clustering
about him at Scarecrow Charlie's, asking him his name. This, he said,
was Pal Yachy.

Oh my, now we knew him. This was the man who had given Pete his shape
of a rainbow. Disn't it seem an unfortunate thing for him to be coming
here? Still he did not know at first that this dark woman standing there
was the wife of Rainbow Pete.

He went flashing at her with his teeth, the dark musician. Ay, he was
better with the music than Rainbow Pete's old flute. He sang, plucking
this instrument, with a jolly face. Heh! Heh! She leaned over the bar,
looking at him, and dreaming of the prairies.

Then they told him that this woman was the wife of Rainbow Pete.

"Aha," he said, "but, my friends, a rainbow is not for very long. It is
beautiful, but look, it vanishes in air."

Was he afraid, without saying so? That I can not tell you. Still he
stayed on Mushrat. He was the destroyer of his countrymen. They blew
themselves to pieces in his service, coming in great numbers when he
crooked his finger.

Then my friend, he made himself noticeable to that dark woman. He took
his instrument to the ledge and sang to her.

This I know from Willis Countryman who lived near that place. He told me
that the man sang in the night a soft song and that the woman listened.
Ay, she listened in the window, looking down into the valley where
Throat River went roaring and the great Falls were like rags waving in
the dark. Ay, she sat watching the River come out of the North, where
Rainbow Pete was cruising after gold.

This Willis Countryman I'm telling you about was a fine man in his old
age for reading. Oh, it was not easy talking to the man, with his
muttering and muttering and his chin down firm intil the book. When he
had his shack on Mouse Island the fire jumped over from the wind-rows
they were burning in a right of way. What next? Disn't he put his furs
in a canoe to sink in the lee of the island, and there he went on
reading in the night with his chin out of water, and the light from his
house blazing and lighting up the book in his fist. Oh my, he was great
for reading, Willis.

Well, here, one night he came telling me about some queer women on a
beach, singing. "Ay! It was impossible to keep away from them while they
were at it. What is their name again?"

He made a prolonged effort to remember, sighed painfully, fixed his
gaze. I brought him back as if from a fit of epilepsy by the
interjection of the word, "Siren."

"Ay," he said, slowly and sadly. "The men put wax in their ears--" Now
mark this. The day after I was hearing this of Willis, the woman put her
hand on my arm as I was passing the ledge.

"You are a friend of my husband's," she whispered to me.

"What now?" I said.

"Will he come back to me, I wonder?" she said, looking in the valley.

"This is a long business, searching for gold," I went muttering.

"No man can say I have been unfaithful to him," she said to me, the
fierce woman, breathing through her teeth. "I have been speaking to no
man."

"This is certain," I said to her.

"If he dis not come according to my dream I am a lost woman, by this way
of going on," she said to me.

How is this? There were tears flowing on the face, while she was telling
me she was bewitched by the singing of Pal Yachy.

Oh, at first she would just lie listening there, but now the man with
his sweet voice was drawing her from her bed, to come putting aside the
scented bottles and leaning in the window.

Now I said, "My good woman, I am an old man with knowledge of the world.
This man is a--what's this again--siren. He has a fatal voice. You must
simply put wax in your ears not to hear it when he comes."

What next? Disn't she confess to me that she has listened to him too
many times to be deaf to him. No, she must watch the valley when he
comes singing his rich song; her cheeks were wet then, and the wind went
shaking her. No, this was not a moment for wax. I was an old man. She
prevailed upon me to sit outside her window in a chair, watching for
him.

"Oh, I am afraid," she whispered to me, "being alone so high out of the
valley."

There I sat by night, hearing sounds of thunder below this crag. Pebbles
came rattling on the window, the rapid was choked with flying rock. They
were growing rich, these madmen monkeying with powder. The government
sent them gold in sacks, to pay those who were left for the lives that
had been lost.

They were mad; they tumbled champagne out of bottles into tubs, frisking
about in it. They had heard that this was done with money.

But Pal Yachy was more foolish. He came singing; oh my, this was a
powerful song, ringing against the ledges. This was a fantastic Italian,
singing like an angel to the deserted woman. Her eyes were dark; the
breast heaved. Oh, these sweet notes were never lost on her.

Now at this time, too, Pal Yachy offered a great prize for the first
child to be born on Mushrat. He came grinning under his red cap, saying
to us, "There are so many dying, should there not be a prize offered for
new life?"

He had learned what manner the woman had of surprising Rainbow Pete. It
was a great prize he offered. When the child was born, he stopped the
monkeying with powder in the valley for that day, though this too was a
great loss in money. The woman pleased him.

Then, my friend, on the night of the day when this child was born,
Rainbow Pete came back into the valley. Oh my, it's plain to us, looking
at the man under the stars, he has been toughing it. Ay! His beard was
tangled, the great bones were rising on his bare chest, his fingers
twitched as he was drooping over us. Now I'm telling you his eyes were
dim, and the sun had bleached his mustache the color of a lemon. There
he stood before us, holding the bag over his shoulder, while he went
scratching his bold nose like the picture of a pirate. Still he was
gentle in the eye; he was mild in misfortune. Oh, this sailorman was
just used to toughing it.

Look here, there he stopped, in the shadow of this great rock I'm
speaking of, and these men of Mushrat came asking him if he had made the
grade. They were fresh from dipping their carcasses in champagne. They
were sparkling men, not accountable to themselves.

"Have you made the grade?" they went bawling to him. This is to say, had
he struck gold?

"Oh, there's gold enough," Pete went rumbling at them, "but it's too far
to the North, mate. There's no taickle made for getting purchase on it."

"So I am thinking," said the little medicine-man, McGregor. "It lies
still at the foot of the rainbow."

"Ay," said Rainbow Pete; but with this word we went thinking of Pal
Yachy. Still we did not speak the name of that Italian. No, this would
be stronger in the ear of that sailorman than gunpowder in the valley.

"Look you here," said Rainbow Pete. "I am starving. I have not eaten in
two days. This is the curse falling on me for hunting gold."

Then they laughed, these mad rockmen, mocking him with their eyes. Their
eyes were twitching; there was powder in the corners of them.

"Are you not master of the eating-place?" they howled at him. "Look,
there it stands; is not your wife alone in it?"

"Oh my, oh my, he stood looking at them with a ghastly face. Disn't he
seem the casual man? It's as if he had forgotten that woman. He had no
memories at all.

"My wife," said the rainbow-man.

"Look," said Shoepack Sam--oh, he remembered treason well--"he is
forgetful that he has a wife on Mushrat."

This was so appearedly. There he stood in the blue star-shine, fingering
his flute to bring her back to mind. Now, I thought, he will be asking
what description of wife is this answering to my name on Mushrat? Oh,
man is careless in appointing himself among various women.

Now, my friend, Rainbow Pete, blew a note on his flute to settle the
thing clear in his mind. Oh, he was not too brisk in looking up at the
black ledge, with the candle in the window. Now he was taken by the
knees. This is not the convenient part of a marriage of convenience. No.
But Shoepack Sam was waving a hand to us to be telling the man nothing
of destiny at that moment.

"Come," he said, "the flute is nothing now. There must be more song than
this, by what is going on."

Here he took Rainbow by the elbow, telling him to come and eat at
Scarecrow Charlie's, for he will need his strength.

"I am in charge here for the day," said Shoepack.

"How is this?" said Rainbow, whispering.

They went laughing on all sides of him. Oh the demons, they were
cackling while he sat devouring a great moose joint, until he was close
to braining them with the yellow ball of the joint. He went eating like
a timber-wolf from Great Bear.

"This is the palm-tree man," they sang in his ear. "Oh, why is it he
grew no cocoanuts stumbling on that lost trail? Isn't it convenient for
the man he is married this night?"

Oh, they were full of mischief with him, remembering the secret face he
had for them in the days of his experiment.

"Drink this," said Shoepack Sam. There he put champagne in a glass
before him. Oh, they were careful of the man.

"Here, take my hand, and let me see if strength is coming back," said
Shoepack. "What is a rainbow without colors?"

Then the little medicine-man took his pulse, kneeling on the floor
beside him. Oh, the great sailor was puzzled. Still he drank what was in
the glass before him and after this he put his mustache into his mouth,
sipping it by chance.

"What is this you are preparing?" he said, pointing his bold nose to
them. Oh, the eyes were like a dreamer's: he was a child to appearances.

Then they went speaking to him of the stringed instrument they had heard
humming on the ledge, speaking another language than his own.

"This is a wife to be defended," said Shoepack Sam, padding there with
his yellow shoepacks bringing another drink. But still there was no word
of Pal Yachy. That black Italian was not popular at Throat River.

"Now I see you are speaking of another man," said Rainbow Pete. Then
Shoepack Sam went roaring, it was time for honest men to speak, when an
honest woman was being taken by a voice.

"Wait," said Rainbow Pete, with his thumb in the foam, "this is unlikely
she will want me cruising in, with another man singing in her ear."

Oh my, he was a considerate man, he was a natural husband, thinking of
his wife's feelings.

"Are you a man?" said Smash McGregor. "Here she has fed you when you
were starving--this is her food you have been eating. Will you pass this
ledge, leaving her to fortune?"

Rainbow Pete went putting the edge of the cruiser's ax to his twisted
thumb.

"I come to her in my shoes only," he said. "This is not what she will be
wanting. I have no gold."

They were shouting to him to have no thought of that, those mad rockmen.
There would be gold in plenty. There would be gold. Only go up on the
ledge.

"Heard you nothing of the prize?" they bawled to him, the mischief
makers. "Oh, there will be no lack of money."

"How is this?" said Rainbow Pete. But they would not be answering him.
No! No! They went tumbling him out of Scarecrow Charlie's place, and
making for the ledge with him. Oh my, the mystified man. This was a
great shameface he had behind his mustache.

"I am much altered for the worse," he went muttering to us. "She will
think nothing of me now."

"There is still time for constancy," said Shoepack Sam. "Do not lose
hope."

Then he told them to be quiet, looking up at the dark ledge where the
woman lay.

"Old Greyback," said Rainbow Pete, whispering to me, "I am mistrustful
of this moment."

"Hist!" said McGregor, "that was the sound of his string. He will be
beginning now."

Ay, the voice began. We were wooden men, in rows, listening to this
Italian singing here a golden dream between his teeth.

"Who is this man?" said Rainbow Pete. Heh! Heh! Had he not heard this
voice before? We were dumb. Oh, this was wild, this was sweet, the long
cry of the man over the deep valley. He sang in his throat, saying to
the woman there would be no returning. The night was blue. I'm telling
you. He was a cunning beggar, Pal Yachy, for making the stars burn in
their sockets.

Now I saw him lift his arm to his head, the wicked sailor, listening to
the tune of his enemy. Ay, this was the man who had fashioned him in the
form of a rainbow. Still he did not know it, dreaming on his feet. He
went swaying like a poplar.

Look, I am an old man, but I stood thinking of my airly days. Yes, yes.
My brain was heavy. Oh, it was a sweet dagger here twisting in the soul
of man. I went picturing the deep snow to me, and the dark spruces of
the North; oh, the roses are speaking to me again from this cheek that
has been gone from me so long.

Heh! Heh! I should not be speaking of this. It was a sorrowful harp, the
voice of that fiend. It was like the wind following the eddy into
Lookout Cavern. Now it went choking that great sailor at the throat;
look, he was mild, he was a simple man for crying. The tears rolled in
his cheek, they sparkled there like the champagne.

Oh my, the song was done.

He was dumb, the great sailor, twisting his mustache.

"Come now," said McGregor, "quick, he will be going into the house."

They were gulls for diving at the ledge; but Rainbow Pete held out his
arm, stopping them.

"Stand away," he said, "I will be going into my house with old Greyback
here and no other."

This arm was not yet withered he had. No! They stayed in their tracks,
as we were going up the ledge.

The door was open of that house; the stringed instrument was laid
against it. Ay, the strings were humming still, the song was spinning
round like a leaf in the cavern of it; but the black Italian was inside.

Yes, he had gone before into the chamber where she was lying, with his
beautiful smile.

The door here was open. Look, by candle-light I saw her lying in a red
blanket, staring at the notable singer. Yes, I saw the bottles
containing odors standing in a row. There was scent in the room. Now she
closed her eyes, this prairie woman, lying under him like death. My
friend, there is no doubt she was beautiful upon the pillow without the
aid of scented bottles.

Heh! I felt him quiver, this great sailor, when he saw Pal Yachy
standing there, but I put my arms about him whispering to him to wait.
It was dark where we were, there was a light from the stove only.

Oh my, there the dark Italian was glittering and heaving; he went
holding in his fist a canvas sack stamped by the Government, containing
the proper weight of gold.

"This is his weight in gold," he said, and there he laid it at her
knees. Still her eyes were closed against that demon of a singer, as he
went saying, "But now my dear one, there must be no more talk of
husbands. Ha! ha! they are like smoke, these husbands. When it has
drifted, there must be new fire. So they say in my country."

She lay, not speaking to him, with the sack of gold heavy against her
knees.

"Is this plain?" said that Italian. Look now, Rainbow Pete is in his
very shadow. Ay, in the shadow of this man who had fashioned him like a
rainbow.

"This is a great sum," said Pal Yachy, never looking behind him. "To
this must be added the silence of one day in the valley."

"The silence," she went whispering, "the silence."

Ha! ha! this was not so dangerous as song. She was leaning on her elbow,
clutching the red blanket to her throat, with her long fingers twisting
at the bag. Now my heart stumbled. Oh now, I thought, the gold is heavy
against her; this is a misfortunate time to be forsaking her husband,
isn't it? Look, the shadow was deeper in the cheek of this sailor. He
saw nothing, I fancied, but the gold lying on the blanket.

What next I knew? Here was McGregor in his yellow skull, whispering,

"Is this the gold then at the foot of the rainbow? This is fool's gold
where the heart is concerned."

Then, my friend, she threw it clear of the bed. Ay! I heard it falling
on the ledge there, but at this time she did not know that Rainbow Pete
was in the room.

When she had thrown it, then she saw him, standing behind that demon of
a singer. Her eyes were strange then. By the expression of her eyes Pal
Yachy saw that he was doomed. He was like a frozen man.

"Wait now," said Rainbow Pete, "am I in my house here?"

"Am I not your wife?" cried the dark woman from Regina.

Oh, the pleasant sailor. The song had touched him.

"Look now," he said to Pal Yachy, "you made a rainbow of me in the
beginning. Do you bring gold here now to plant at my feet, generous
man?"

My, my, this fantastic Italian knew that words were wasted now. He was
like a snake with his sting. But Rainbow Pete was not an easy man. He
broke the arm with one twist, look, the knife went spinning on the
ledge. And at this moment the blasting in the rock began again below the
ledge. They were at it again, monkeying with powder. Oh, it was death
they were speaking to down there. It was like a battle between giants
going on, there were thunders and red gleams in the black valley; and
the candle-flame went shivering with the great noises.

"Here," said Rainbow Pete, "I will scatter you like the rocks of the
valley."

Oh, the righteous man. Isn't it a strange consideration, the voice of
Pal Yachy moving this crooked sailor to good deeds? Ay! He was a noble
man, hurling the Italian from the house by his ears. Oh, it's a
circumstance to be puzzling over. He threw the gold after him. Ay, the
gold after--like dirt; and here the clothes hung loose on his own body
where he had been starving in the search for bags like that.

Now, as he went kneeling by his wife, he discovered his son, by the
crowing under the blanket.

"Look here at the little nipper, old Greyback," he said, "come a little
way into the room. Look now, at the fat back for putting a little
palm-tree on, while he is young. This is truth, old fellow, here is true
gold lying at the foot of the rainbow, according to the prophecy."

Our old friend stopped to breathe and blink.

"He had staked this claim but he had never worked it," he said solemnly.
But isn't it strange, the same man who had been fashioning him like a
rainbow, should be pointing out the gold to him. Oh, there's no doubt
Pal Yachy was defeated in the end by his own voice--

He went away that night, leaving all to the sub-contractors. Heh! He was
not seen on Mushrat again. Still he had a remarkable voice. Many times
afterward I have heard Rainbow Pete playing on his flute--this is in the
evening when the ledge is quiet--but this is not the same thing. No, no,
he could never bewitch her with his music, she must love him for his
intention only, to be charming her. Ay! This is safer.



GET READY THE WREATHS[14]

[Note 14: Copyright, 1917, by The International Magazine Company.
Copyright 1918, by Fannie Hurst.]

BY FANNIE HURST

From _The Cosmopolitan Magazine_


WHERE St. Louis begins to peter out into brick-and limestone-kilns and
great scars of unworked and overworked quarries, the first and more
unpretentious of its suburbs take up--Benson, Maplehurst, and Ridgeway
Heights intervening with one-story brick cottages and two-story
packing-cases--between the smoke of the city and the carefully parked
Queen Anne quietude of Glenwood and Croton Grove.

Over Benson hangs a white haze of limestone, gritty with train and
foundry smoke. At night, the lime-kilns, spotted with white deposits,
burn redly, showing through their open doors like great, inflamed
diphtheretic throats, tongues of flame bursting and licking-out.

Winchester Road, which runs out from the heart of the city to string
these towns together, is paved with brick, and its traffic, for the most
part, is the great tin-tired dump-carts of the quarries and steel
interurban electric cars, which hum so heavily that even the windows of
outlying cottages titillate.

For blocks, from Benson to Maplehurst and from Maplehurst to Ridgeway
Heights, Winchester Road repeats itself in terms of the butcher, the
baker, the corner saloon. A feed store. A monument-and stone-cutter. A
confectioner. A general-merchandise store, with a glass case of men's
collars outside the entrance. The butcher, the baker, the corner saloon.

At Benson, where this highway cuts through, the city, wreathed in
smoke, and a great oceanic stretch of roofs are in easy view, and at
closer range, an outlying section of public asylums for the city's
discard of its debility and its senility.

Jutting a story above the one-storied march of Winchester Road, The
Convenience Merchandise Corner, Benson, overlooks, from the southeast
up-stairs window, a remote view of the City Hospital, the Ferris wheel
of an amusement-park, and on clear days, the oceanic waves of roof.
Below, within the store, that view is entirely obliterated by a brace of
shelves built across the corresponding window and brilliantly stacked
with ribbons of a score of colors and as many widths. A considerable
flow of daylight thus diverted, The Convenience Merchandise Corner, even
of early afternoon, fades out into half-discernible corners; a rear-wall
display of overalls and striped denim coats crowded back into
indefinitude, the haberdashery counter, with a giant gilt shirt-stud
suspended above, hardly more outstanding.

Even the notions and dry-goods, flanking the right wall in stacks and
bolts, merge into blur, the outline of a white-sateen and corseted
woman's torso surmounting the top-most of the shelves with bold
curvature.

With spring sunshine even hot against the steel rails of Winchester
Road, and awnings drawn against its inroads into the window display,
Mrs. Shila Coblenz, routing gloom, reached up tiptoe across the
haberdashery counter for the suspended chain of a cluster of bulbs, the
red of exertion rising up the taut line of throat and lifted chin.

"A little light on the subject, Milt."

"Let me, Mrs. C."

Facing her from the outer side of the counter, Mr. Milton Bauer
stretched also, his well-pressed, pin-checked coat crawling up.

All things swam out into the glow. The great suspended stud; the
background of shelves and boxes; the scissors-like overalls against the
wall; a clothes-line of children's factory-made print frocks; a
center-bin of women's untrimmed hats; a headless dummy beside the door,
enveloped in a long-sleeved gingham apron.

Beneath the dome of the wooden stud, Mrs. Shila Coblenz, of not too
fulsome but the hour-glass proportions of two decades ago, smiled, her
black eyes, ever so quick to dart, receding slightly as the cheeks
lifted.

"Two twenty-five, Milt, for those ribbed assorted sizes and reenforced
heels. Leave or take. Bergdorff & Sloan will quote me the whole mill at
that price."

With his chest across the counter and legs out violently behind, Mr.
Bauer flung up a glance from his order-pad.

"Have a heart, Mrs. C. I'm getting two forty for that stocking from
every house in town. The factory can't turn out the orders fast enough
at that price. An up-to-date woman like you mustn't make a noise like
before the war."

"Leave or take."

"You could shave an egg," he said.

"And rush up those printed lawns. There was two in this morning,
sniffing around for spring dimities."

"Any cotton goods? Next month this time, you'll be paying an advance of
four cents on percales."

"Stocked."

"Can't tempt you with them wash silks, Mrs. C.? Neatest little article
on the market to-day."

"No demand. They finger it up, and then buy the cotton stuffs. Every
time I forget my trade hacks rock instead of clips bonds for its
spending-money, I get stung."

"This here wash silk, Mrs. C., would--"

"Send me up a dress-pattern off this coral-pink sample for Selene."

"This here dark mulberry, Mrs. C., would suit you something immense."

"That'll be about all."

He flopped shut his book, snapping a rubber band about it and inserting
it in an inner coat pocket.

"You ought to stick to them dark, winy shades, Mrs. C. With your
coloring and black hair and eyes, they bring you out like a Gipsy. Never
seen you look better than at the Y. M. H. A. entertainment."

Quick color flowed down her open throat and into her shirtwaist. It was
as if the platitude merged with the very corpuscles of a blush that sank
down into thirsty soil.

"You boys," she said, "come out here and throw in a jolly with every
bill of goods. I'll take a good fat discount instead."

"Fact. Never seen you look better. When you got out on the floor in that
stamp-your-foot kind of dance with old man Shulof, your hand on your hip
and your head jerking it up, there wasn't a girl on the floor, your own
daughter included, could touch you, and I'm giving it to you straight."

"That old thing! It's a Russian folk-dance my mother taught me the first
year we were in this country. I was three years old then, and, when she
got just crazy with homesickness, we used to dance it to each other
evenings on the kitchen floor."

"Say, have you heard the news?"

"No."

"Guess."

"Can't."

"Hammerstein is bringing over the crowned heads of Europe for
vaudeville."

Mrs. Coblenz moved back a step, her mouth falling open.

"Why--Milton Bauer--in the old country a man could be strung up for
saying less than that!"

"That didn't get across. Try another. A Frenchman and his wife were
traveling in Russia, and--"

"If--if you had an old mother like mine upstairs, Milton, eating out her
heart and her days and her weeks and her months over a husband's grave
somewhere in Siberia and a son's grave somewhere in Kishinef, you
wouldn't see the joke, neither."

Mr. Bauer executed a self-administered pat sharply against the back of
his hand.

"Keeper," he said, "put me in the brain-ward. I--I'm sorry, Mrs. C., so
help me! Didn't mean to. How is your mother, Mrs. C.? Seems to me, at
the dance the other night, Selene said she was fine and dandy."

"Selene ain't the best judge of her poor old grandmother. It's hard for
a young girl to have patience for old age sitting and chewing all day
over the past. It's right pitiful the way her grandmother knows it, too,
and makes herself talk English all the time to please the child and
tries to perk up for her. Selene, thank God, ain't suffered, and can't
sympathize!"

"What's ailing her, Mrs. C.? I kinda miss seeing the old lady sitting
down here in the store."

"It's the last year or so, Milt. Just like all of a sudden, a woman as
active as mamma always was, her health and--her mind kind of went off
with a pop."

"Thu! Thu!"

"Doctor says with care she can live for years, but--but it seems
terrible the way her--poor mind keeps skipping back. Past all these
thirty years in America to--even weeks before I was born. The night
they--took my father off to Siberia, with his bare feet in the snow--for
distributing papers they found on him--papers that used the word
'_svoboda_'--'freedom.' And the time, ten years later--they shot down my
brother right in front of her for--the same reason. She keeps living it
over--living it over till I--could die."

"Say, ain't that just a shame, though!"

"Living it, and living it, and living it! The night with me, a heavy
three-year-old, in her arms that she got us to the border, dragging a
pack of linens with her! The night my father's feet were bleeding in the
snow, when they took him! How with me a kid in the crib, my--my
brother's face was crushed in--with a heel and a spur--all night,
sometimes, she cries in her sleep--begging to go back to find the
graves. All day she sits making raffia wreaths to take back--making
wreaths--making wreaths!"

"Say, ain't that tough!"

"It's a godsend she's got the eyes to do it. It's wonderful the way she
reads--in English, too. There ain't a daily she misses. Without them and
the wreaths--I dunno--I just dunno. Is--is it any wonder, Milt, I--I
can't see the joke?"

"My God, no!"

"I'll get her back, though."

"Why, you--she can't get back there, Mrs. C."

"There's a way. Nobody can tell me there's not. Before the war--before
she got like this, seven hundred dollars would have done it for both of
us--and it will again, after the war. She's got the bank-book, and every
week that I can squeeze out above expenses, she sees the entry for
herself. I'll get her back. There's a way lying around somewhere. God
knows why she should eat out her heart to go back--but she wants it.
God, how she wants it!"

"Poor old dame!"

"You boys guy me with my close-fisted buying these last two years. It's
up to me, Milt, to squeeze this old shebang dry. There's not much more
than a living in it at best, and now with Selene grown up and naturally
wanting to have it like other girls, it ain't always easy to see my way
clear. But I'll do it, if I got to trust the store for a year to a child
like Selene. I'll get her back."

"You can call on me, Mrs. C., to keep my eye on things while you're
gone."

"You boys are one crowd of true blues, all right. There ain't a city
salesman comes out here I wouldn't trust to the limit."

"You just try me out."

"Why, just to show you how a woman don't know many real friends she has
got, why--even Mark Haas, of the Mound City Silk Company, a firm I don't
do two hundred dollars' worth of business with a year, I wish you could
have heard him the other night at the Y. M. H. A., a man you know for
yourself just comes here to be sociable with the trade."

"Fine fellow, Mark Haas!"

"'When the time comes, Mrs. Coblenz,' he says, 'that you want to make
that trip, just you let me know. Before the war there wasn't a year I
didn't cross the water twice, maybe three times, for the firm. I don't
know there's much I can do; it ain't so easy to arrange for Russia, but,
just the same, you let me know when you're ready to make that trip.'
Just like that he said it. That from Mark Haas!"

"And a man like Haas don't talk that way if he don't mean it."

"Mind you, not a hundred dollars a year business with him. I haven't got
the demands for silks."

"That wash silk I'm telling you about though, Mrs. C., does up like a--"

"There's ma thumping with the poker on the upstairs floor. When it's
closing-time, she begins to get restless. I--I wish Selene would come
in. She went out with Lester Goldmark in his little flivver, and I get
nervous about automobiles."

Mr. Bauer slid an open-face watch from his waistcoat.

"Good Lord, five-forty, and I've just got time to sell the Maplehurst
Emporium a bill of goods!"

"Good-night, Milt; and mind you put up that order of assorted neckwear
yourself. Greens in ready-tieds are good sellers for this time of the
year, and put in some reds and purples for the teamsters."

"No sooner said than done."

"And come out for supper some Sunday night, Milt. It does mamma good to
have young people around."

"I'm yours."

"Good-night, Milt."

He reached across the counter, placing his hand over hers.

"Good-night, Mrs. C.," he said, a note lower in his throat; "and
remember, that call-on-me stuff wasn't just conversation."

"Good-night, Milt," said Mrs. Coblenz, a coating of husk over her own
voice and sliding her hand out from beneath, to top his. "You--you're
all right!"

* * *

Upstairs, in a too tufted and too crowded room directly over the frontal
half of the store, the window overlooking the remote sea of city was
turning taupe, the dusk of early spring, which is faintly tinged with
violet, invading. Beside the stove, a base-burner with faint fire
showing through its mica, the identity of her figure merged with the fat
upholstery of the chair, except where the faint pink through the mica
lighted up old flesh, Mrs. Miriam Horowitz, full of years and senile
with them, wove with grasses, the écru of her own skin, wreaths that had
mounted to a great stack in a bedroom cupboard.

A clock, with a little wheeze and burring attached to each chime, rang
six, and upon it, Mrs. Coblenz, breathing from a climb, opened the door.

"Ma, why didn't you rap for Katie to come up and light the gas? You'll
ruin your eyes, dearie."

She found out a match, immediately lighting two jets of a
center-chandelier, turning them down from singing, drawing the shades of
the two front and the southeast windows, stooping over the upholstered
chair to imprint a light kiss.

"A fine day, mamma. There'll be an entry this week. Fifty dollars and
thirteen cents and another call for garden implements. I think I'll lay
in a hardware line after we--we get back. I can use the lower shelf of
the china-table, eh, ma?"

Mrs. Horowitz, whose face, the color of old linen in the yellowing,
emerged rather startling from the still black hair strained back from
it, lay back in her chair, turning her profile against the upholstered
back, half a wreath and a trail of raffia sliding to the floor. It was
as if age had sapped from beneath the skin, so that every curve had
collapsed to bagginess, the cheeks and the underchin sagging with too
much skin. Even the hands were crinkled like too large gloves, a wide,
curiously etched marriage band hanging loosely from the third finger.

Mrs. Coblenz stooped, recovering the wreath.

"Say, mamma, this one is a beauty! That's a new weave, ain't it? Here,
work some more, dearie--till Selene comes with your evening papers."

With her profile still to the chair-back, a tear oozed down the
corrugated surface of Mrs. Horowitz's cheek. Another.

"Now, mamma! Now, mamma!"

"I got a heaviness--here--inside. I got a heaviness--"

Mrs. Coblenz slid down to her knees beside the chair.

"Now, mamma; shame on my little mamma! Is that the way to act when Shila
comes up after a good day? Ain't we got just lots to be thankful for,
the business growing and the bank-book growing, and our Selene on top?
Shame on mamma!"

"I got a heaviness--here--inside--here."

Mrs. Coblenz reached up for the old hand, patting it.

"It's nothing, mamma--a little nervousness."

"I'm an old woman. I--"

"And just think, Shila's mamma, Mark Haas is going to get us letters and
passports and--"

"My son--my boy--his father before him--"

"Mamma--mamma, please don't let a spell come on! It's all right. Shila's
going to fix it. Any day now, maybe--"

"You'm a good girl. You'm a good girl, Shila." Tears were coursing down
to a mouth that was constantly wry with the taste of them.

"And you're a good mother, mamma. Nobody knows better than me how good."

"You'm a good girl, Shila."

"I was thinking last night, mamma, waiting up for Selene--just thinking
how all the good you've done ought to keep your mind off the spells,
dearie."

"My son--"

"Why, a woman with as much good to remember as you've got oughtn't to
have time for spells. I got to thinking about Coblenz to-day, mamma,
how--you never did want him, and when I--I went and did it anyway, and
made my mistake, you stood by me to--to the day he died. Never throwing
anything up to me! Never nothing but my good little mother, working her
hands to the bone after he got us out here to help meet the debts he
left us. Ain't that a satisfaction for you to be able to sit and think,
mamma, how you helped--"

"His feet--blood from my heart in the snow--blood from my heart!"

"The past is gone, darling. What's the use tearing yourself to pieces
with it? Them years in New York, when it was a fight even for bread, and
them years here trying to raise Selene and get the business on a
footing, you didn't have time to brood then, mamma. That's why, dearie,
if only you'll keep yourself busy with something--the wreaths--the--"

"His feet--blood from my--"

"But I'm going to take you back, mamma. To papa's grave. To Aylorff's.
But don't eat your heart out until it comes, darling. I'm going to take
you back, mamma, with every wreath in the stack; only, you mustn't eat
out your heart in spells. You mustn't, mamma; you mustn't."

Sobs rumbled up through Mrs. Horowitz, which her hand to her mouth tried
to constrict.

"For his people he died. The papers--I begged he should burn them--he
couldn't--I begged he should keep in his hate--he couldn't--in the
square he talked it--the soldiers--he died for his people--they got
him--the soldiers--his feet in the snow when they took him--the blood in
the snow--O my God--my--God!"

"Mamma, darling, please don't go over it all again. What's the use
making yourself sick? Please!"

She was well forward in her chair now, winding her dry hands one over
the other with a small rotary motion.

"I was rocking--Shila-baby in my lap--stirring on the fire black lentils
for my boy--black lentils--he--"

"Mamma!"

"My boy. Like his father before him. My--"

"Mamma, please! Selene is coming any minute now. You know how she hates
it. Don't let yourself think back, mamma. A little will-power, the
doctor says, is all you need. Think of to-morrow, mamma; maybe, if you
want, you can come down and sit in the store awhile and--"

"I was rocking. O my God, I was rocking, and--"

"Don't get to it--mamma, please! Don't rock yourself that way! You'll
get yourself dizzy. Don't, ma; don't!"

"Outside--my boy--the holler--O God, in my ears all my life! My boy--the
papers--the swords--Aylorff--Aylorff--"

"Shh-h-h--mamma--"

"It came through his heart out the back--a blade with two sides--out the
back when I opened the door--the spur in his face when he
fell--Shila--the spur in his face--the beautiful face of my boy--my
Aylorff--my husband before him--that died to make free!" And fell back,
bathed in the sweat of the terrific hiccoughing of sobs.

"Mamma, mamma--my God! What shall we do? These spells! You'll kill
yourself, darling. I'm going to take you back, dearie--ain't that
enough? I promise. I promise. You mustn't, mamma! These spells--- they
ain't good for a young girl like Selene to hear. Mamma, ain't you got
your own Shila--your own Selene? Ain't that something? Ain't it? Ain't
it?"

Large drops of sweat had come out and a state of exhaustion that swept
completely over, prostrating the huddled form in the chair.

With her arms twined about the immediately supporting form of her
daughter, her entire weight relaxed, and footsteps that dragged without
lift, one after the other, Mrs. Horowitz groped out, one hand feeling in
advance, into the gloom of a room adjoining.

"Rest! O my God, rest!"

"Yes, yes, mamma; lean on me."

"My--bed."

"Yes, yes, darling."

"Bed."

Her voice had died now to a whimper that lay on the room after she had
passed out of it.

* * *

When Selene Coblenz, with a gust that swept the room, sucking the lace
curtains back against the panes, flung open the door upon that chromatic
scene, the two jets of gas were singing softly into its silence, and,
within the nickel-trimmed base-burner, the pink mica had cooled to gray.
Sweeping open that door, she closed it softly, standing for the moment
against it, her hand crossed in back and on the knob. It was as if
standing there with her head cocked and beneath a shadowy blue
sailor-hat, a smile coming out, something within her was playing,
sweetly insistent to be heard. Philomela, at the first sound of her
nightingale self, must have stood thus, trembling with melody. Opposite
her, above the crowded mantelpiece and surmounted by a raffia wreath,
the enlarged-crayon gaze of her deceased maternal grandparent, abetted
by a horrible device of photography, followed her, his eyes focusing the
entire room at a glance. Impervious to that scrutiny, Miss Coblenz moved
a tiptoe step or two further into the room, lifting off her hat, staring
and smiling through a three-shelved cabinet of knick-knacks at what she
saw far beyond. Beneath the two jets, high lights in her hair came out,
bronze showing through the brown waves and the patches of curls brought
out over her cheeks.

In her dark-blue dress with the row of silver buttons down what was hip
before the hipless age, the chest sufficiently concave and the
silhouette a mere stroke of hard pencil, Miss Selene Coblenz measured up
and down to America's Venus de Milo, whose chief curvature is of the
spine. Slim-etched, and that slimness enhanced by a conscious kind of
collapse beneath the blue-silk girdle that reached up halfway to her
throat, hers were those proportions which strong women, eschewing the
sweetmeat, would earn by the sweat of the Turkish bath.

When Miss Coblenz caught her eye in the square of mirror above the
mantelpiece, her hands flew to her cheeks to feel of their redness. They
were soft cheeks, smooth with the pollen of youth, and hands still
casing them, she moved another step toward the portièred door.

"Mamma!"

Mrs. Coblenz emerged immediately, finger up for silence, kissing her
daughter on the little spray of cheek-curls.

"Shh-h-h! Gramaw just had a terrible spell."

She dropped down into the upholstered chair beside the base-burner, the
pink and moisture of exertion out in her face, took to fanning herself
with the end of a face-towel flung across her arm.

"Poor gramaw!" she said. "Poor gramaw!"

Miss Coblenz sat down on the edge of a slim, home-gilded chair, and took
to gathering the blue-silk dress into little plaits at her knee.

"Of course--if you don't want to know where I've been--or anything--"

Mrs. Coblenz jerked herself to the moment.

"Did mamma's girl have a good time? Look at your dress all dusty! You
oughtn't to wear you best in that little flivver."

Suddenly Miss Coblenz raised her eyes, her red mouth bunched, her eyes
all iris.

"Of course--if you don't want to know--anything."

At that large, brilliant gaze, Mrs. Coblenz leaned forward, quickened.

"Why, Selene!"

"Well, why--why don't you ask me something?"

"Why I--I dunno, honey, did--did you and Lester have a nice ride?"

There hung a slight pause, and then a swift moving and crumpling-up of
Miss Coblenz on the floor beside her mother's knee.

"You know--only, you won't ask."

With her hand light upon her daughter's hair, Mrs. Coblenz leaned
forward, her bosom rising to faster breathing.

"Why--Selene--I why--"

"We--we were speeding along and--all of a sudden--out of a clear
sky--he--he popped. He wants it in June--so we can make it our honeymoon
to his new territory out in Oklahoma. He knew he was going to pop, he
said, ever since the first night he saw me at the Y. M. H. A. He says to
his uncle Mark, the very next day in the store, he says to him, 'Uncle
Mark,' he says, 'I've met _the_ little girl.' He says he thinks more of
my little finger than all of his regular crowd of girls in town put
together. He wants to live in one of the built-in-bed flats on Wasserman
Avenue, like all the swell young marrieds. He's making twenty-six
hundred now, mamma, and if he makes good in the new Oklahoma territory,
his uncle Mark is--is going to take care of him better. Ain't it like a
dream, mamma--your little Selene all of a sudden in with--the
somebodys?"

Immediately tears were already finding staggering procession down Mrs.
Coblenz' face, her hovering arms completely encircling the slight figure
at her feet.

"My little girl! My little Selene! My all!"

"I'll be marrying into one of the best families in town, ma. A girl who
marries a nephew of Mark Haas can hold up her head with the best of
them. There's not a boy in town with a better future than Lester. Like
Lester says, everything his uncle Mark touches turns to gold, and he's
already touched Lester. One of the best known men on Washington Avenue
for his blood-uncle, and on his poor dead father's side related to the
Katz & Harberger Harbergers. Was I right, mamma, when I said if you'd
only let me stop school, I'd show you? Was I right, momsie?"

"My baby! It's like I can't realize it. So young!"

"He took the measure of my finger, mamma, with a piece of string. A
diamond, he says, not too flashy, but neat."

"We have 'em, and we suffer for 'em, and we lose 'em."

"He's going to trade in the flivver for a chummy roadster, and--"

"Oh, darling, it's like I can't bear it!"

At that, Miss Coblenz sat back on her tall wooden heels, mauve spats
crinkling.

"Well, you're a merry little future mother-in-law, momsie."

"It ain't that, baby. I'm happy that my girl has got herself up in the
world with a fine upright boy like Lester; only--you can't understand,
babe, till you've got something of your own flesh and blood that belongs
to you, that I--I couldn't feel anything except that a piece of my heart
was going if--if it was a king you was marrying."

"Now, momsie, it's not like I was moving a thousand miles away. You can
be glad I don't have to go far, to New York or to Cleveland, like Alma
Yawitz."

"I am! I am!"

"Uncle--Uncle Mark, I guess, will furnish us up like he did Leon and
Irma--only, I don't want mahogany--I want Circassian walnut. He gave
them their flat-silver, too, Puritan design, for an engagement present.
Think of it, mamma, me having that stuck-up Irma Sinsheimer for a
relation! It always made her sore when I got chums with Amy at school
and got my nose in it with the Acme crowd, and--and she'll change her
tune now, I guess, me marrying her husband's second cousin."

"Didn't Lester want to--to come in for a while, Selene, to--to see--me?"

Sitting there on her heels, Miss Coblenz looked away, answering with her
face in profile.

"Yes; only--I--well if you want to know it, mamma, it's no fun for a
girl to bring a boy like Lester up here in--in this crazy room all hung
up with gramaw's wreaths and half the time her sitting out there in the
dark looking in at us through the door and talking to herself."

"Gramaw's an old--"

"Is--it any wonder I'm down at Amy's half the time. How--do you think a
girl feels to have gramaw keep hanging onto that old black wig of hers
and not letting me take the crayons or wreaths down off the wall. In
Lester's crowd, they don't know--nothing about Revolutionary stuff
and--and persecutions. Amy's grandmother don't even talk with an accent,
and Lester says his grandmother came from Alsace-Lorraine. That's
French. They think only tailors and old-clothes men and--"

"Selene!"

"Well, they do. You--you're all right, mamma, as up to date as any of
them, but how do you think a girl feels with gramaw always harping right
in front of everybody the--the way granpa was a revolutionist and
was--was hustled off barefooted to Siberia like--like a tramp. And the
way she was cooking black beans when--my uncle--died. Other girls'
grandmothers don't tell everything they know. Alma Yawitz's grandmother
wears lorgnettes, and you told me yourself they came from nearly the
same part of the Pale as gramaw. But you don't hear them remembering it.
Alma Yawitz says she's Alsace-Lorraine on both sides. People
don't--tell everything they know. Anyway--where a girl's got herself as
far as I have."

Through sobs that rocked her, Mrs. Coblenz looked down upon her
daughter.

"Your poor old grandmother don't deserve that from you! In her day, she
worked her hands to the bone for you. With--the kind of father you had,
we--we might have died in the gutter but--for how she helped to keep us
out, you ungrateful girl--your poor old grandmother that's suffered so
terrible!"

"I know it, mamma, but so have other people suffered."

"She's old, Selene--old."

"I tell you it's the way you indulge her, mamma. I've seen her sitting
here as perk as you please, and the minute you come in the room, down
goes her head like--like she was dying."

"It's her mind, Selene--that's going. That's why I feel if I could only
get her back. She ain't old, gramaw ain't. If I could only get her back
where she--could see for herself--the graves--is all she needs. All old
people think of--the grave. It's eating her--eating her mind. Mark Haas
is going to fix it for me after the war--maybe before--if he can. That's
the only way poor gramaw can live--or die--happy, Selene. Now--now that
my--my little girl ain't any longer my responsibility, I--I'm going to
take her back--my little--girl"--her hand reached out, caressing the
smooth head, her face projected forward and the eyes yearning down--"my
all."

"It's you will be my responsibility now, ma."

"No! No!"

"The first thing Lester says was a flat on Wasserman and a spare room
for mother Coblenz when she wants to come down. Wasn't it sweet for him
to put it that way right off, ma. 'Mother Coblenz,' he says."

"He's a good boy, Selene. It'll be a proud day for me and gramaw.
Gramaw mustn't miss none of it. He's a good boy and a fine family."

"That's why, mamma, we--got to--to do it up right."

"Lester knows, child, he's not marrying a rich girl."

"A girl don't have to--be rich to get married right."

"You'll have as good as mamma can afford to give it to her girl."

"It--it would be different if Lester's uncle and all wasn't in the Acme
Club crowd, and if I hadn't got in with all that bunch. It's the last
expense I'll ever be to you, mamma."

"Oh, baby, don't say that!"

"I--me and Lester--Lester and me were talking, mamma--when the
engagement's announced next week--a reception--"

"We can clear out this room, move the bed out of gramaw's room into
ours, and serve the ice-cream and cake in--"

"Oh, mamma, I don't mean--that!"

"What?"

"Who ever heard of having a reception _here_! People won't come from
town way out to this old--cabbage patch. Even Gertie Wolf with their big
house on West Pine Boulevard had her reception at the Walsingham Hotel.
You--we--can't expect Mark Haas and all the relations--the
Sinsheimers--and--all to come out here. I'd rather not have any."

"But, Selene, everybody knows we ain't millionaires, and that you got in
with that crowd through being friends at school with Amy Rosen. All the
city salesmen and the boys on Washington Avenue, even Mark Haas himself,
that time he was in the store with Lester, knows the way we live. You
don't need to be ashamed of your little home, Selene, even if it ain't
on West Pine Boulevard."

"It'll be--your last expense, mamma. The Walsingham, that's where the
girl that Lester Goldmark marries is expected to have her reception."

"But, Selene, mamma can't afford nothing like that."

Pink swam up into Miss Coblenz's face, and above the sheer-white collar
there was a little beating movement at the throat, as if something were
fluttering within.

"I--I'd just as soon not get married as--as not to have it like other
girls."

"But, Selene--"

"If I--can't have a trousseau like other girls and the things that go
with marrying into a--a family like Lester's--I--then--there's no use.
I--I can't! I--wouldn't!"

She was fumbling now for a handkerchief against tears that were
imminent.

"Why, baby, a girl couldn't have a finer trousseau than the old linens
back yet from Russia that me and gramaw got saved up for our girl--linen
that can't be bought these days. Bed-sheets that gramaw herself carried
to the border, and--"

"Oh, I know. I knew you'd try to dump that stuff on me. That old
worm-eaten stuff in gramaw's chest."

"It's hand-woven, Selene, with--"

"I wouldn't have that yellow old stuff--that old-fashioned junk--if I
didn't have any trousseau. If I can't afford monogrammed up-to-date
linens, like even Alma Yawitz, and a--a pussy-willow-taffeta reception
dress, I wouldn't have any. I wouldn't." Her voice crowded with passion
and tears rose to the crest of a sob. "I--I'd die first!"

"Selene, Selene, mamma ain't got the money. If she had it, wouldn't she
be willing to take the very last penny to give her girl the kind of a
wedding she wants? A trousseau like Alma's cost a thousand dollars if it
cost a cent. Her table-napkins alone they say cost thirty-six dollars a
dozen, unmonogrammed. A reception at the Walsingham costs two hundred
dollars if it costs a cent. Selene, mamma will make for you every
sacrifice she can afford, but she ain't got the money."

"You--have got the money!"

"So help me God, Selene! You know, with the quarries shut down, what
business has been. You know how--sometimes even to make ends meet, it is
a pinch. You're an ungrateful girl, Selene, to ask what I ain't able to
do for you. A child like you that's been indulged, that I ain't even
asked ever in her life to help a day down in the store. If I had the
money, God knows you should be married in real lace, with the finest
trousseau a girl ever had. But I ain't got the money--I ain't got the
money."

"You have got the money! The book in gramaw's drawer is seven hundred
and forty. I guess I ain't blind. I know a thing or two."

"Why Selene--that's gramaw's--to go back--"

"You mean the bank-book's hers?"

"That's gramaw's to go back--home on. That's the money for me to take
gramaw and her wreaths back home on."

"There you go--talking loony."

"Selene!"

"Well, I'd like to know what else you'd call it, kidding yourself along
like that."

"You--"

"All right. If you think gramaw, with her life all lived, comes first
before me, with all my life to live--all right!"

"Your poor old--"

"It's always been gramaw first in this house, anyway. I couldn't even
have company since I'm grown up because the way she's always allowed
around. Nobody can say I ain't good to gramaw; Lester say it's beautiful
the way I am with her, remembering always to bring the newspapers and
all, but just the same I know when right's right and wrong's wrong. If
my life ain't more important than gramaw's, with hers all lived, all
right. Go ahead!"

"Selene, Selene, ain't it coming to gramaw, after all her years' hard
work helping us that--she should be entitled to go back with her wreaths
for the graves? Ain't she entitled to die with that off her poor old
mind? You bad, ungrateful girl, you, it's coming to a poor old woman
that's suffered as terrible as gramaw that I should find a way to take
her back."

"Take her back. Where--to jail? To prison in Siberia herself--"

"There's a way--"

"You know gramaw's too old to take a trip like that. You know in your
own heart she won't ever see that day. Even before the war, much less
now, there wasn't a chance for her to get passports back there. I don't
say it ain't all right to kid her along, but when it comes to--to
keeping me out of the--the biggest thing that can happen to a girl--when
gramaw wouldn't know the difference if you keep showing her the
bank-book--it ain't right. That's what it ain't. It ain't right!"

In the smallest possible compass, Miss Coblenz crouched now upon the
floor, head down somewhere in her knees, and her curving back racked
with rising sobs.

"Selene--but some day--"

"Some day nothing! A woman like gramaw can't do much more than go
down-town once a year, and then you talk about taking her to Russia! You
can't get in there, I--tell you--no way you try to fix it after--the way
gramaw--had--to leave. Even before the war, Ray Letsky's father couldn't
get back on business. There's nothing for her there even after she gets
there. In thirty years do you think you can find those graves? Do you
know the size of Siberia? No! But I got to pay--I got to pay for
gramaw's nonsense. But I won't. I won't go to Lester, if I can't go
right. I--"

"Baby, don't cry so--for God's sake don't cry so!

"I wish I was dead."

"Sh-h-h--you'll wake gramaw."

"I do!"

"O God, help me to do the right thing!"

"If gramaw could understand, she'd be the first one to tell you the
right thing. Anybody would."

"No! No! That little bank-book and its entries are her life--her life."

"She don't need to know, mamma. I'm not asking that. That's the way they
always do with old people to keep them satisfied. Just humor 'em. Ain't
I the one with life before me--ain't I, mamma?"

"O God, show me the way!"

"If there was a chance, you think I'd be spoiling things for gramaw? But
there ain't, mamma--not one."

"I keep hoping if not before, then after the war. With the help of Mark
Haas--"

"With the book in her drawer like always, and the entries changed once
in a while, she'll never know the difference. I swear to God she'll
never know the difference, mamma!"

"Poor gramaw!"

"Mamma, promise me--your little Selene. Promise me?"

"Selene, Selene, can we keep it from her?"

"I swear we can, mamma."

"Poor, poor gramaw!"

"Mamma? Mamma darling?"

"O God, show me the way!"

"Ain't it me that's got life before me? My whole life?"

"Yes--Selene."

"Then, mamma, please--you will--you will--darling?"

"Yes, Selene."

* * *

In a large, all-frescoed, seventy-five dollars an evening with lights
and cloak-room service ballroom of the Hotel Walsingham, a family
hostelry in that family circle of St. Louis known as its West End, the
city holds not a few of its charity-whists and benefit musicales; on a
dais which can be carried in for the purpose, morning readings of
"Little Moments from Little Plays," and with the introduction of a
throne-chair, the monthly lodge-meetings of the Lady Mahadharatas of
America. For weddings and receptions, a lane of red carpet leads up to
the slight dais; and, lined about the brocade and paneled walls,
gilt-and-brocade chairs, with the crest of Walsingham in padded
embroidery on the backs. Crystal chandeliers, icicles of dripping light,
glow down upon a scene of parquet floor, draped velours, and mirrors
wreathed in gilt.

At Miss Selene Coblenz's engagement reception, an event properly
festooned with smilax and properly jostled with the elbowing figures of
waiters tilting their plates of dark-meat chicken salad, two olives, and
a finger-roll in among the crowd, a stringed three-piece orchestra,
faintly seen and still more faintly heard, played into the babel.

Light, glitteringly filtered through the glass prisms, flowed down upon
the dais; upon Miss Selene Coblenz, in a taffeta that wrapped her flat
waist and chest like a calyx and suddenly bloomed into the full inverted
petals of a skirt; upon Mr. Lester Goldmark, his long body barely
knitted yet to man's estate, and his complexion almost clear, standing
omnivorous, omnipotent, omnipresent, his hair so well brushed that it
lay like black japanning, a white carnation at his silk lapel, and his
smile slightly projected by a rush of very white teeth to the very
front. Next in line, Mrs. Coblenz, the red of a fervent moment high in
her face, beneath the maroon-net bodice the swell of her bosom fast, and
her white-gloved hands constantly at the opening and shutting of a
lace-and-spangled fan. Back, and well out of the picture, a potted
hydrangea beside the Louis Quinze armchair, her hands in silk mitts laid
out along the gold-chair sides, her head quavering in a kind of mild
palsy, Mrs. Miriam Horowitz, smiling and quivering her state of
bewilderment.

With an unfailing propensity to lay hold of to whomsoever he spake, Mr.
Lester Goldmark placed his white-gloved hand upon the white-gloved arm
of Mrs. Coblenz.

"Say, mother Coblenz, ain't it about time this little girl of mine was
resting her pink-satin double A's? She's been on duty up here from four
to seven. No wonder uncle Mark bucked."

Mrs. Coblenz threw her glance out over the crowded room, surging with a
wave of plumes and clipped heads like a swaying bucket of water which
crowds but does not lap over its sides.

"I guess the crowd is finished coming in by now. You tired, Selene?"

Miss Coblenz turned her glowing glance.

"Tired! This is the swellest engagement-party I ever had."

Mrs. Coblenz shifted her weight from one slipper to the other, her
maroon-net skirts lying in a swirl around them.

"Just look at gramaw, too! She holds up her head with the best of them.
I wouldn't have had her miss this, not for the world."

"Sure one fine old lady! Ought to have seen her shake my hand, mother
Coblenz. I nearly had to holler, 'Ouch!'"

"Mamma, here comes Sara Suss and her mother. Take my arm, Lester honey.
People mamma used to know." Miss Coblenz leaned forward beyond the dais
with the frail curve of a reed.

"Howdado, Mrs. Suss.... Thank you. Thanks. Howdado, Sara. Meet my
_fiancé_, Lester Haas Goldmark; Mrs. Suss and Sara Suss, my _fiancé_....
That's right; better late than never. There's plenty left.... We think
he is, Mrs. Suss. Aw, Lester honey, quit! Mamma, here's Mrs. Suss and
Sadie."

"Mrs. Suss! Say--if you hadn't come, I was going to lay it up against
you. If my new ones can come on a day like this, it's a pity my old
friends can't come, too.

"Well, Sadie, it's your turn next, eh?... I know better than that. With
them pink cheeks and black eyes, I wish I had a dime for every chance."
(_Sotto._) "Do you like it, Mrs. Suss? Pussy-willow taffeta.... Say, it
ought to be. An estimate dress from Madame Murphy--sixty-five with
findings. I'm so mad, Sara, you and your mamma couldn't come to the
house that night to see her things. If I say so myself, Mrs. Suss,
everybody who seen it says Jacob Sinsheimer's daughter herself didn't
have a finer. Maybe not so much, but every stitch, Mrs. Suss, made by
the same sisters in the same convent that made hers.... Towels! I tell
her it's a shame to expose them to the light, much less wipe on them.
Ain't it?... The goodness looks out from his face. And such a love-pair!
Lunatics, I call them. He can't keep his hands off. It ain't nice, I
tell him.... Me? Come close. I dyed the net myself. Ten cents' worth of
maroon color. Don't it warm your heart, Mrs. Suss? This morning, after
we got her in Lester's uncle Mark's big automobile, I says to her, I
says, 'Mamma, you sure it ain't too much.' Like her old self for a
minute, Mrs. Suss, she hit me on the arm. 'Go 'way,' she said, 'on my
grandchild's engagement-day anything should be too much? Here, waiter,
get these two ladies some salad. Good measure, too. Over there by the
window, Mrs. Suss. Help yourselves."

"Mamma, sh-h-h, the waiters know what to do."

Mrs. Coblenz turned back, the flush warm to her face.

"Say, for an old friend, I can be my own self."

"Can we break the receiving-line now, Lester honey, and go down with
everybody? The Sinsheimers and their crowd over there by themselves, we
ought to show we appreciate their coming."

Mr. Goldmark twisted high in his collar, cupping her small bare elbow in
his hand.

"That's what I say, lovey; let's break. Come, mother Coblenz, let's step
down on high society's corns."

"Lester!"

"You and Selene go down with the crowd, Lester. I want to take gramaw to
rest for a while before we go home. The manager says we can have room
fifty-six by the elevator for her to rest in."

"Get her some newspapers, ma, and I brought her a wreath down to keep
her quiet. It's wrapped in her shawl."

Her skirts delicately lifted, Miss Coblenz stepped down off the dais.
With her cloud of gauze scarf enveloping her, she was like a
tulle-clouded "Springtime," done in the key of Botticelli.

"Oop-si-lah, lovey-dovey!" said Mr. Goldmark, tilting her elbow for the
downward step.

"Oop-si-lay, dovey-lovey!" said Miss Coblenz, relaxing to the support.

Gathering up her plentiful skirts, Mrs. Coblenz stepped off, too, but
back toward the secluded chair beside the potted hydrangea. A fine line
of pain, like a cord tightening, was binding her head, and she put up
two fingers to each temple, pressing down the throb.

"Mrs. Coblenz, see what I got for you!" She turned, smiling. "You don't
look like you need salad and green ice-cream. You look like you needed
what I wanted--a cup of coffee."

"Aw, Mr. Haas--now where in the world--aw, Mr. Haas!"

With a steaming cup outheld and carefully out of collision with the
crowd, Mr. Haas unflapped a napkin with his free hand, inserting his
foot in the rung of a chair and dragging it toward her.

"Now," he cried, "sit and watch me take care of you!"

There comes a tide in the affairs of men when the years lap softly,
leaving no particular inundations on the celebrated sands of time.
Between forty and fifty, that span of years which begin the first slight
gradations from the apex of life, the gray hair, upstanding like a
thick-bristled brush off Mr. Haas's brow, had not so much as whitened,
or the slight paunchiness enhanced even the moving-over of a button.
When Mr. Haas smiled, his mustache, which ended in a slight but not
waxed flourish, lifted to reveal a white-and-gold smile of the artistry
of careful dentistry, and when, upon occasion, he threw back his head to
laugh, the roof of his mouth was his own.

He smiled now, peering through gold-rimmed spectacles attached by a
chain to a wire-encircled left ear.

"Sit," he cried, "and let me serve you!"

Standing there with a diffidence which she could not crowd down, Mrs.
Coblenz smiled through closed lips that would pull at the corners.

"The idea, Mr. Haas--going to all that trouble!"

"'Trouble,' she says! After two hours hand-shaking in a swallowtail, a
man knows what real trouble is!"

She stirred around and around the cup, supping up spoonfuls gratefully.

"I'm sure much obliged. It touches the right spot."

He pressed her down to the chair, seating himself on the low edge of the
dais.

"Now you sit right here and rest your bones."

"But my mother, Mr. Haas. Before it's time for the ride home, she must
rest in a quiet place."

"My car'll be here and waiting five minutes after I telephone."

"You--sure have been grand, Mr. Haas!"

"I shouldn't be grand yet to my--let's see what relation is it I am to
you?"

"Honest, you're a case, Mr. Haas--always making fun!"

"My poor dead sister's son marries your daughter. That makes you
my--nothing-in-law."

"Honest, Mr. Haas, if I was around you, I'd get fat laughing."

"I wish you was."

"Selene would have fits. 'Never get fat, mamma,' she says, 'if you
don't want----'"

"I don't mean that."

"What?"

"I mean I wish you was around me."

She struck him then with her fan, but the color rose up into the mound
of her carefully piled hair.

"I always say I can see where Lester gets his comical ways. Like his
uncle, that boy keeps us all laughing."

"Gad, look at her blush! I know women your age would give fifty dollars
a blush to do it that way."

She was looking away again, shoulders heaving to silent laughter, the
blush still stinging.

"It's been so--so long, Mr. Haas, since I had compliments made to
me--you make me feel so--silly."

"I know it, you nice, fine woman, you, and it's a darn shame!"

"Mr.--Haas!"

"I mean it. I hate to see a fine woman not get her dues. Anyways, when
she's the finest woman of them all!"

"I--the woman that lives to see a day like this--her daughter the
happiest girl in the world with the finest boy in the world--is getting
her dues all right, Mr. Haas."

"She's a fine girl, but she ain't worth her mother's little finger
nail."

"Mr.--Haas!"

"No, sir-ee!"

"I must be going now, Mr. Haas--my mother--"

"That's right. The minute a man tries to break the ice with this little
lady, it's a freeze-out. Now, what did I say so bad? In business, too.
Never seen the like. It's like trying to swat a fly to come down on you
at the right minute. But now, with you for a nothing-in-law, I got
rights."

"If--you ain't the limit, Mr. Haas!"

"Don't mind saying it, Mrs. C., and, for a bachelor, they tell me I'm
not the worst judge in the world, but there's not a woman on the floor
stacks up like you do."

"Well--of all things!"

"Mean it."

"My mother, Mr. Haas, she--"

"And if anybody should ask you if I've got you on my mind or not, well
I've already got the letters out on that little matter of the passports
you spoke to me about. If there's a way to fix that up for you, and
leave it to me to find it, I--"

She sprang now, trembling, to her feet, all the red of the moment
receding.

"Mr. Haas, I--I must go now. My--mother--"

He took her arm, winding her in and out among crowded-out chairs behind
the dais.

"I wish it to every mother to have a daughter like you, Mrs. C."

"No! No!" she said, stumbling rather wildly through the chairs. "No! No!
No!"

He forged ahead, clearing her path of them.

Beside the potted hydrangea, well back and yet within an easy view, Mrs.
Horowitz, her gilt armchair well cushioned for the occasion, and her
black grenadine spread decently about her, looked out upon the scene,
her slightly palsied head well forward.

"Mamma, you got enough? You wouldn't have missed it, eh? A crowd of
people we can be proud to entertain, not? Come; sit quiet in another
room for a while, and then Mr. Haas, with his nice big car, will drive
us all home again. You know Mr. Haas, dearie--Lester's uncle that had us
drove so careful in his fine big car. You remember, dearie--Lester's
uncle?"

Mrs. Horowitz looked up, her old face cracking to smile.

"My grandchild! My grandchild! She'm a fine one. Not? My grandchild! My
grandchild!"

"You--mustn't mind, Mr. Haas. That's--the way she's done since--since
she's--sick. Keeps repeating--"

"My grandchild! From a good mother and a bad father comes a good
grandchild. My grandchild! She'm a good one. My--"

"Mamma, dearie, Mr. Haas is in a hurry. He's come to help me walk you
into a little room to rest before we go home in Mr. Haas's big fine
auto. Where you can go and rest, mamma, and read the newspapers. Come."

"My back--_ach_--my back!"

"Yes, yes, mamma; we'll fix it. Up! So--la!"

They raised her by the crook of each arm, gently.

"So! Please, Mr. Haas, the pillows. Shawl. There!"

Around a rear hallway, they were almost immediately into a blank,
staring hotel bedroom, fresh towels on the furniture-tops only enhancing
its staleness.

"Here we are. Sit her here, Mr. Haas, in this rocker."

They lowered her almost inch by inch, sliding down pillows against the
chair-back.

"Now, Shila's little mamma, want to sleep?"

"I got--no rest--no rest."

"You're too excited, honey, that's all."

"No rest."

"Here--here's a brand-new hotel Bible on the table, dearie. Shall Shila
read it to you?"

"Aylorff--"

"Now, now, mamma. Now, now; you mustn't! Didn't you promise Shila? Look!
See, here's a wreath wrapped in your shawl for Shila's little mamma to
work on. Plenty of wreaths for us to take back. Work awhile, dearie, and
then we'll get Selene and Lester, and, after all the nice company goes
away, we'll go home in the auto."

"I begged he should keep in his hate--his feet in the----"

"I know! The papers. That's what little mamma wants. Mr. Haas, that's
what she likes better than anything--the evening papers."

"I'll go down and send 'em right up with a boy, and telephone for the
car. The crowd's beginning to pour out now. Just hold your horses
there, Mrs. C., and I'll have those papers up here in a jiffy."

He was already closing the door after him, letting in and shutting out a
flare of music.

"See, mamma, nice Mr. Haas is getting us the papers. Nice evening papers
for Shila's mamma." She leaned down into the recesses of the black
grenadine, withdrawing from one of the pockets a pair of silver-rimmed
spectacles, adjusting them with some difficulty to the nodding head.
"Shila's--little mamma! Shila's mamma!"

"Aylorff, the littlest wreath for--Aylorff--_Meine Kräntze_--"

"Yes, yes."

"_Mein Mann. Mein Sühn._"

"Ssh-h-h, dearie!"

"Aylorff--_der klenste Kranz far ihm_!"

"Ssh-h-h, dearie--talk English, like Selene wants. Wait till we get on
the ship--the beautiful ship to take us back. Mamma, see out the window!
Look! That's the beautiful Forest Park, and this is the fine Hotel
Walsingham just across--see out--Selene is going to have a flat on--"

"_Sey hoben gestorben far Freiheit. Sey hoben_--"

"There, that's the papers!"

To a succession of quick knocks, she flew to the door, returning with
the folded evening editions under her arm.

"Now," she cried, unfolding and inserting the first of them into the
quivering hands, "now, a shawl over my little mamma's knees and we're
fixed!"

With a series of rapid movements, she flung open one of the
black-cashmere shawls across the bed, folding it back into a triangle.
Beside the table, bare except for the formal, unthumbed Bible, Mrs.
Horowitz rattled out her paper, her near-sighted eyes traveling back and
forth across the page.

Music from the ferned-in orchestra came in drifts, faint, not so faint.
From somewhere, then immediately from everywhere, beyond, below,
without, the fast shouts of newsboys mingling.

Suddenly and of her own volition, and with a cry that shot up through
the room, rending it like a gash, Mrs. Horowitz, who moved by inches,
sprang to her supreme height, her arms, the crooks forced out, flung up.

"My darlings--what died--for it! My darlings what died for it--my
darlings--Aylorff--my husband!" There was a wail rose up off her words,
like the smoke of incense curling, circling around her. "My darlings
what died to make free!"

"Mamma--darling--mamma--Mr. Haas! Help! Mamma! My God!"

"Aylorff--my husband--I paid with my blood to make free--my blood--my
son--my--own--" Immovable there, her arms flung up and tears so heavy
that they rolled whole from her face down to the black grenadine, she
was as sonorous as the tragic meter of an Alexandrian line; she was like
Ruth, ancestress of heroes and progenitor of kings. "My boy--my
own--they died for it! _Mein Mann! Mein Sühn!_"

On her knees, frantic to press her down once more into the chair,
terrified at the rigid immobility of the upright figure, Mrs. Coblenz
paused then, too, her clasp falling away, and leaned forward to the open
sheet of the newspaper, its black headlines facing her:

RUSSIA FREE

BANS DOWN
100,000 SIBERIAN PRISONERS LIBERATED

In her ears a ringing silence, as if a great steel disk had clattered
down into the depths of her consciousness. There on her knees, trembling
seized her, and she hugged herself against it, leaning forward to
corroborate her gaze.

MOST RIGID AUTOCRACY IN THE WORLD
OVERTHROWN

RUSSIA REJOICES

"Mamma! Mamma! My God, Mamma!"

"Home, Shila; home! My husband who died for it--Aylorff! Home now,
quick! My wreaths! My wreaths!"

"O my God, Mamma!"

"Home!"

"Yes--darling--yes--"

"My wreaths!"

"Yes, yes, darling; your wreaths. Let--let me think. Freedom!--O my God,
help me to find a way! O my God!"

"My wreaths!"

"Here--darling--here!"

From the floor beside her, the raffia wreath half in the making, Mrs.
Coblenz reached up, pressing it flat to the heaving old bosom.

"There, darling, there!"

"I paid with my blood--"

"Yes, yes, mamma; you--paid with your blood. Mamma--sit, please. Sit
and--let's try to think. Take it slow, darling--it's like we can't take
it in all at once. I--we--sit down, darling. You'll make yourself
terrible sick. Sit down, darling, you--you're slipping."

"My wreaths--"

Heavily, the arm at the waist gently sustaining, Mrs. Horowitz sank
rather softly down, her eyelids fluttering for the moment. A smile had
come out on her face, and, as her head sank back against the rest, the
eyes resting at the downward flutter, she gave out a long breath, not
taking it in again.

"Mamma! You're fainting!" She leaned to her, shaking the relaxed figure
by the elbows, her face almost touching the tallowlike one with the
smile lying so deeply into it. "Mamma! My God, darling, wake up! I'll
take you back. I'll find a way to take you. I'm a bad girl, darling, but
I'll find a way to take you. I'll take you if--if I kill for it. I
promise before God I'll take you. To-morrow--now--nobody can keep me
from taking you. The wreaths, mamma! Get ready the wreaths! Mamma,
darling, wake up. Get ready the wreaths! The wreaths!" Shaking at that
quiet form, sobs that were full of voice, tearing raw from her throat,
she fell to kissing the sunken face, enclosing it, stroking it, holding
her streaming gaze closely and burningly against the closed lids.
"Mamma, I swear to God I'll take you! Answer me, mamma! The
bank-book--you've got it! Why don't you wake up--mamma? Help!"

Upon that scene, the quiet of the room so raucously lacerated, burst Mr.
Haas, too breathless for voice.

"Mr. Haas my mother--help--my mother! It's a faint, ain't it? A faint?"

He was beside her at two bounds, feeling of the limp wrists, laying his
ear to the grenadine bosom, lifting the reluctant lids, touching the
flesh that yielded so to touch.

"It's a faint, ain't it, Mr. Haas? Tell her I'll take her back. Wake her
up, Mr. Haas! Tell her I'm a bad girl, but I--I'm going to take her
back. Now! Tell her! Tell her, Mr. Haas, I've got the bank-book. Please!
Please! O my God!"

He turned to her, his face working to keep down compassion.

"We must get a doctor, little lady."

She threw out an arm.

"No! No! I see! My old mother--my old mother--all her life a nobody--she
helped--she gave it to them--my mother--a poor little widow nobody--she
bought with her blood that freedom--she--"

"God, I just heard it downstairs--it's the tenth wonder of the world.
It's too big to take in. I was afraid--"

"Mamma darling, I tell you, wake up! I'm a bad girl, but I'll take you
back. Tell her, Mr. Haas, I'll take her back. Wake up, darling! I swear
to God--I'll take you!"

"Mrs. Coblenz, my--poor little lady--your mother don't need you to take
her back. She's gone back where--where she wants to be. Look at her
face, little lady; can't you see she's gone back?"

"No! No! Let me go. Let me touch her. No! No! Mamma darling!"

"Why, there wasn't a way, little lady, you could have fixed it for that
poor--old body. She's beyond any of the poor fixings we could do for
her. You never saw her face like that before. Look!"

"The wreaths--- the wreaths!"

He picked up the raffia circle, placing it back again against the quiet
bosom.

"Poor little lady!" he said. "Shila--that's left for us to do. You and
me, Shila--we'll take the wreaths back for her."

"My darling--my darling mother! I'll take them back for you! I'll take
them back for you!"

"_We'll_ take them back for her--Shila."

"I'll--"

"_We'll_ take them back for her--Shila."

"_We'll_ take them back for you, mamma. We'll take them back for you,
darling!"



THE STRANGE-LOOKING MAN[15]

[Note 15: Copyright, 1917, by The Pagan Publishing Company.
Copyright, 1918, by Fanny Kemble Johnson.]

BY FANNY KEMBLE JOHNSON

From _The Pagan_


A TINY village lay among the mountains of a country from which for four
years the men had gone forth to fight. First the best men had gone, then
the older men, then the youths, and lastly the school boys. It will be
seen that no men could have been left in the village except the very
aged, and the bodily incapacitated, who soon died, owing to the war
policy of the Government which was to let the useless perish that there
might be more food for the useful.

Now it chanced that while all the men went away, save those left to die
of slow starvation, only a few returned, and these few were crippled and
disfigured in various ways. One young man had only part of a face, and
had to wear a painted tin mask, like a holiday-maker. Another had two
legs but no arms, and another two arms but no legs. One man could
scarcely be looked at by his own mother, having had his eyes burned out
of his head until he stared like Death. One had neither arms nor legs,
and was mad of his misery besides, and lay all day in a cradle like a
baby. And there was a quite old man who strangled night and day from
having sucked in poison-gas; and another, a mere boy, who shook, like a
leaf in a high wind, from shell-shock, and screamed at a sound. And he
too had lost a hand, and part of his face, though not enough to warrant
the expense of a mask for him.

All these men, except he who had been crazed by horror of himself, had
been furnished with ingenious appliances to enable them to be partly
self-supporting, and to earn enough to pay their share of the taxes
which burdened their defeated nation.

To go through that village after the war was something like going
through a life-sized toy-village with all the mechanical figures wound
up and clicking. Only instead of the figures being new, and gay, and
pretty, they were battered and grotesque and inhuman.

There would be the windmill, and the smithy, and the public house. There
would be the row of cottages, the village church, the sparkling
waterfall, the parti-colored fields spread out like bright kerchiefs on
the hillsides, the parading fowl, the goats and cows,--though not many
of these last. There would be the women, and with them some children;
very few, however, for the women had been getting reasonable, and were
now refusing to have sons who might one day be sent back to them
limbless and mad, to be rocked in cradles--for many years, perhaps.

Still the younger women, softer creatures of impulse, had borne a child
or two. One of these, born the second year of the war, was a very blonde
and bullet-headed rascal of three, with a bullying air, and of a roving
disposition. But such traits appear engaging in children of sufficiently
tender years, and he was a sort of village plaything, here, there, and
everywhere, on the most familiar terms with the wrecks of the war which
the Government of that country had made.

He tried on the tin mask and played with the baker's mechanical leg, so
indulgent were they of his caprices; and it amused him excessively to
rock the cradle of the man who had no limbs, and who was his father.

In and out he ran, and was humored to his bent. To one he seemed the son
he had lost, to another the son he might have had, had the world gone
differently. To others he served as a brief escape from the shadow of a
future without hope; to others yet, the diversion of an hour. This last
was especially true of the blind man who sat at the door of his old
mother's cottage binding brooms. The presence of the child seemed to him
like a warm ray of sunshine falling across his hand, and he would lure
him to linger by letting him try on the great blue goggles which he
found it best to wear in public. But no disfigurement or deformity
appeared to frighten the little fellow. These had been his playthings
from earliest infancy.

One morning, his mother, being busy washing clothes, had left him alone,
confident that he would soon seek out some friendly fragment of soldier,
and entertain himself till noon and hunger-time. But occasionally
children have odd notions, and do the exact opposite of what one
supposes.

On this brilliant summer morning the child fancied a solitary ramble
along the bank of the mountain-stream. Vaguely he meant to seek a pool
higher up, and to cast stones in it. He wandered slowly straying now and
then into small valleys, or chasing wayside ducks. It was past ten
before he gained the green-gleaming and foam-whitened pool, sunk in the
shadow of a tall gray rock over whose flat top three pine-trees swayed
in the fresh breeze. Under them, looking to the child like a white cloud
in a green sky, stood a beautiful young man, poised on the sheer brink
for a dive. A single instant he stood there, clad only in shadow and
sunshine, the next he had dived so expertly that he scarcely splashed up
the water around him. Then his dark, dripping head rose in sight, his
glittering arm thrust up, and he swam vigorously to shore. He climbed
the rock for another dive. These actions he repeated in pure sport and
joy in life so often that his little spectator became dizzy with
watching.

At length he had enough of it and stooped for his discarded garments.
These he carried to a more sheltered spot and rapidly put on, the child
still wide-eyed and wondering, for indeed he had much to occupy his
attention.

He had two arms, two legs, a whole face with eyes, nose, mouth, chin,
and ears, complete. He could see, for he had glanced about him as he
dressed. He could speak, for he sang loudly. He could hear, for he had
turned quickly at the whir of pigeon-wings behind him. His skin was
smooth all over, and nowhere on it were the dark scarlet maps which the
child found so interesting on the arms, face, and breast of the burned
man. He did not strangle every little while, or shiver madly, and scream
at a sound. It was truly inexplicable, and therefore terrifying.

The child was beginning to whimper, to tremble, to look wildly about for
his mother, when the young man observed him.

"_Hullo!_" he cried eagerly, "if it isn't a child!"

He came forward across the foot-bridge with a most ingratiating smile,
for this was the first time that day he had seen a child and he had been
thinking it remarkable that there should be so few children in a valley,
where, when he had travelled that way five years before, there had been
so many he had scarcely been able to find pennies for them. So he cried
"Hullo," quite joyously, and searched in his pockets.

But, to his amazement, the bullet-headed little blond boy screamed out
in terror, and fled for protection into the arms of a hurriedly
approaching young woman. She embraced him with evident relief, and was
lavishing on him terms of scolding and endearment in the same breath,
when the traveler came up, looking as if his feelings were hurt.

"I assure you, Madam," said he, "that I only meant to give your little
boy these pennies." He examined himself with an air of wonder. "What on
earth is there about me to frighten a child?" he queried plaintively.

The young peasant-woman smiled indulgently on them both, on the child
now sobbing, his face buried in her skirt, and on the boyish, perplexed,
and beautiful young man.

"It is because he finds the Herr Traveler so strange-looking," she said,
curtsying. "He is quite small," she showed his smallness with a gesture,
"and it is the first time he has even seen a whole man."



THE CALLER IN THE NIGHT[16]

[Note 16: Copyright, 1917, by The Stratford Journal. Copyright,
1918, by Burton Kline.]

BY BURTON KLINE

From _The Stratford Journal_


BY the side of a road which wanders in company of a stream across a
region of Pennsylvania farmland that is called "Paradise" because of its
beauty, you may still mark the ruins of a small brick cabin in the
depths of a grove. In summertime ivy drapes its jagged fragments and the
pile might be lost to notice but that at dusk the trembling leaves of
the vine have a way of whispering to the nerves of your horse and
setting them too in a tremble. And the people in the village beyond have
a belief that three troubled human beings lie buried under those ruins,
and that at night, or in a storm, they sometimes cry aloud in their
unrest.

The village is Bustlebury, and its people have a legend that on a
memorable night there was once disclosed to a former inhabitant the
secret of that ivied sepulchre.

* * *

All the afternoon the two young women had chattered in the parlor,
cooled by the shade of the portico, and lost to the heat of the day, to
the few sounds of the village, to the passing hours themselves. Then of
a sudden Mrs. Pollard was recalled to herself at the necessity of
closing her front windows against a gust of wind that blew the curtains,
like flapping flags, into the room.

"Sallie, we're going to get it again," she said, pausing for a glance at
the horizon before she lowered the sash.

"Get what?" Her visitor walked to the other front window and stooped to
peer out.

Early evening clouds were drawing a black cap over the fair face of the
land.

"I think we're going to have some more of Old Screamer Moll this
evening. I knew we should, after this hot--"

"There! Margie, that was the expression I've been trying to remember all
afternoon. You used it this morning. Where did you get such a poetic
nickname for a thunder--O-oh!"

For a second, noon had returned to the two women. From their feet two
long streaks of black shadow darted back into the room, and vanished.
Overhead an octopus of lightning snatched the whole heavens in its
grasp, shook them, and disappeared.

The two women screamed, and threw themselves on the sofa. Yet in a
minute it was clear that the world still rolled on, and each looked at
the other and laughed at her fright--till the prospect of an evening of
storm sobered them both.

"Mercy!" Mrs. Pollard breathed in discouragement. "We're in for another
night of it. We've had this sort of thing for a week. And to-night of
all nights, when I wanted you to see this wonderful country under the
moon!"

Mrs. Pollard, followed by her guest, Mrs. Reeves, ventured to the window
timidly again, to challenge what part of the sky they could see from
under the great portico outside, and learn its portent for the night.

An evil visage it wore--a swift change from a noon-day of beaming calm.
Now it was curtained completely with blue-black cloud, which sent out
mutterings, and then long brooding silences more ominous still in their
very concealment of the night's intentions.

There was no defence against it but to draw down the blinds and shut out
this angry gloom in the glow of the lamps within. And, with a half hour
of such glow to cozen them, the two women were soon merry again over
their reminiscences, Mrs. Pollard at her embroidery, Mrs. Reeves at the
piano, strumming something from Chopin in the intervals of their
chatter.

"The girl" fetched them their tea. "Five already!" Mrs. Pollard verified
the punctuality of her servant with a glance at the clock. "Then John
will be away for another night. I do hope he won't try to get back this
time. Night before last he left his assistant with a case, and raced his
horse ten miles in the dead of the night to get home," Mrs. Pollard
proudly reported, "for fear I'd be afraid in the storm."

"And married four years!" Mrs. Reeves smilingly shook her head in
indulgence of such long-lived romance.

In the midst of their cakes and tea the bell announced an impatient hand
at the door.

"Well, 'speak of angels!'" Mrs. Pollard quoted, and flew to greet her
husband. But she opened the door upon smiling old Mr. Barber, instead,
from the precincts across the village street.

Mr. Barber seemed to be embarrassed. "I--I rather thought you mought be
wanting something," he said in words. By intention he was making apology
for the night. "I saw the doctor drive away, but I haven't seen him come
back. So I--I thought I'd just run over and see--see if there wasn't
something you wanted." He laughed uneasily.

Mr. Barber's transparent diplomacy having been rewarded with tea, they
all came at once to direct speech. "It ain't going to amount to much,"
Mr. Barber insisted. "Better come out, you ladies, and have a look
around. It may rain a bit, but you'll feel easier if you come and get
acquainted with things, so to say." And gathering their resolution the
two women followed him out on the portico.

They shuddered at what they saw.

Night was at hand, two hours before its time. Nothing stirred, not a
vocal chord of hungry, puzzled, frightened chicken or cow. The whole
region seemed to have caught its breath, to be smothered under a pall of
stillness, unbroken except for some occasional distant earthquake of
thunder from the inverted Switzerland of cloud that hung pendant from
the sky.

Mr. Barber's emotions finally ordered themselves into speech as he
watched. "Ain't it grand!" he said.

The two women made no reply. They sat on the steps to the portico, their
arms entwined. The scene beat their more sophisticated intelligences
back into silence. Some minutes they all sat there together, and then
again Mr. Barber broke the spell.

"It do look fearful, like. But you needn't be afraid. It's better to be
friends with it, you might say. And then go to bed and fergit it."

They thanked him for his goodness, bade him good-by, and he clinked down
the flags of the walk and started across the street.

He had got midway across when they all heard a startling sound, an
unearthly cry.

It came out of the distance, and struck the stillness like a blow.

"What is it? What is it, Margie?" Mrs. Reeves whispered excitedly.

Faint and quavering at its beginning, the cry grew louder and more
shrill, and then died away, as the breath that made it ebbed and was
spent. It seemed as if this unusual night had found at last a voice
suited to its mood. Twice the cry was given, and then all was still as
before.

At its first notes the muscles in Mrs. Pollard's arm had tightened. But
Mr. Barber had hastened back at once with reassurance.

"I guess Mrs. Pollard knows what that is," he called to them from the
gate. "It's only our old friend Moll, that lives down there in the
notch. She gets lonesome, every thunderstorm, and let's it off like
that. It's only her rheumatiz, I reckon. We wouldn't feel easy ourselves
without them few kind words from old Moll!"

The two women applauded as they could his effort toward humor. Then,
"Come on, Sallie, quick!" Mrs. Pollard cried to her guest, and the two
women bolted up the steps of the portico and flew like girls through the
door, which they quickly locked between themselves and the disquieting
night.

Once safe within, relief from their nerves came at the simple effort of
laughter, and an hour later, when it was clear that the stars still held
to their courses, the two ladies were at their ease again, beneath the
lamp on the table, with speech and conversation to provide an escape
from thought. The night seemed to cool its high temper as the hours wore
on, and gradually the storm allowed itself to be forgotten.

Together, at bed time, the two made their tour of the house, locking the
windows and doors, and visiting the pantry on the way for an apple.
Outside all was truly calm and still, as, with mock and exaggerated
caution, they peered through one last open window. A periodic, lazy
flash from the far distance was all that the sky could muster of its
earlier wrath. And they tripped upstairs and to bed, with that hilarity
which always attends the feminine pursuit of repose.

* * *

But in the night they were awakened.

Not for nothing, after all, had the skies marshalled that afternoon
array of their forces. Now they were as terribly vociferous as they had
been terrifyingly still before. Leaves, that had drooped melancholy and
motionless in the afternoon, were whipped from their branches at the
snatch of the wind. The rain came down in a solid cataract. The thunder
was a steady bombardment, and the frolic powers above, that had toyed
and practised with soundless flashes in the afternoon, had grown wanton
at their sport, and hurled their electric shots at earth in appallingly
accurate marksmanship. Between the flashes from the sky, the steady
glare of a burning barn here and there reddened the blackness. The
village dead, under the pelted sod, must have shuddered at the din. Even
the moments of lull were saturate with terrors. In them rose audible the
roar of waters, the clatter of frightened animals, the rattle of gates,
the shouts of voices, the click of heels on the flags of the streets, as
the villagers hurried to the succor of neighbors fighting fires out on
the hills. For long afterward the tempest of that night was remembered.
For hours while it lasted, trees were toppled over, and houses rocked to
the blast.

And for as long as it would, the rain beat in through an open window and
wetted the two women where they lay in their bed, afraid to stir, even
to help themselves, gripped in a paralysis of terror.

Their nerves were not the more disposed to peace, either, by another
token of the storm. All through the night, since their waking, in
moments of stillness sufficient for it to be heard, they had caught that
cry of the late afternoon. Doggedly it asserted itself against the
uproar. It insisted upon being heard. It too wished to shriek
relievingly, like the inanimate night, and publish its sickness abroad.
They heard it far off, at first. But it moved, and came nearer. Once the
two women quaked when it came to them, shrill and clear, from a point
close at hand. But they bore its invasion along with the wind and the
rain, and lay shameless and numb in the rude arms of the night.

They lay so till deliverance from the hideous spell came at last, in a
vigorous pounding at the front door.

"It's John!" Mrs. Pollard cried in her joy. "And through such a storm!"

She slipped from the bed, threw a damp blanket about her, and groped her
way out of the room and down the stair, her guest stumbling after. They
scarcely could fly fast enough down the dark steps. At the bottom Mrs.
Pollard turned brighter the dimly burning entry lamp, shot back the
bolt with fingers barely able to grasp it in their eagerness, and threw
open the door.

"John!" she cried.

But there moved into the house the tall and thin but heavily framed
figure of an old woman, who peered about in confusion.

In a flash of recognition Mrs. Pollard hurled herself against the
intruder to thrust her out.

"No!" the woman said. "No, you will not, on such a night!" And the
apparition herself, looking with feverish curiosity at her unwilling
hostesses, slowly closed the door and leaned against it.

Mrs. Pollard and her friend turned to fly, in a mad instinct to be
anywhere behind a locked door. Yet before the instinct could reach their
muscles, the unbidden visitor stopped them again.

"No!" she said. "I am dying. Help me!"

The two women turned, as if hypnotically obedient to her command. Their
tongues lay thick and dead in their mouths. They fell into each other's
arms, and their caller stood looking them over, with the same fevered
curiosity. Then she turned her deliberate scrutiny to the house itself.

In a moment she almost reassured them with a first token of being human
and feminine. On the table by the stairs lay a book, and she went and
picked it up. "Fine!" she mused. Then her eye travelled over the
pictures on the walls. "Fine!" she said. "So this is the inside of a
fine house!" But suddenly, as her peering gaze returned to the two
women, she was recalled to herself. "But you wanted to put me out--on a
night like this! Hear it!"

For a moment she looked at them in frank hatred. And on an impulse she
revenged herself upon them by sounding, in their very ears, the shrill
cry they had heard in the afternoon, and through the night, that had
mystified the villagers for years from the grove. The house rang with
it, and with the hard peal of laughter that finished it.

All three of them stood there, for an instant, viewing each other. But
at the end of it the weakest of them was the partly sibylline, partly
mountebank intruder. She swayed back against the wall. Her head rolled
limply to one side, and she moaned, "O God, how tired I am to-night!"

Frightened as they still were, their runaway hearts beating a tattoo
that was almost audible, the two other women made a move to support her.
But she waved them back with a suddenly returning air of command. "No!"
she said. "You wanted to put me out!"

The creature wore some sort of thin skirt whose color had vanished in
the blue-black of its wetness. Over her head and shoulders was thrown a
ragged piece of shawl. From under it dangled strands of grizzled gray
hair. Her dark eyes were hidden in the shadows of her impromptu hood.
The hollows of her cheeks looked deeper in its shadows.

She loosed the shawl from her head, and it dropped to the floor,
disclosing a face like one of the Fates. She folded her arms, and there
was a rude majesty in the massive figure and its bearing as she tried to
command herself and speak.

"I come here--in this storm. Hear it! Hear that! I want shelter. I want
comfort. And what do you say to me!... Well, then I take comfort from
you. You thought I was your husband. You called his name. Well, I saw
him this afternoon. He drove out. I called to him from the roadside.
'Let me tell your fortune! Only fifty cent!' But he whipped up his horse
and drove away. You are all alike. But I see him now--in Woodman's
Narrows. It rains there, same as here. Thunder and lightning, same as
here. Trees fall. The wind blows. The wind blows!"

The woman had tilted her head and fixed her eyes, shining and eager, as
if on some invisible scene, and she half intoned her words as if in a
trance.

"I see your husband now. His wagon is smashed by a tree. The horse is
dead. Your husband lies very still. He does not move. There!"--she
turned to them alert again to their presence--"there is the husband that
you want. If you don't believe me, all I say is, wait! He is there. You
will see!"

She ended in a peal of laughter, which itself ended in a weary moan.
"Oh, why can't you help me!" She came toward them, her arms
outstretched. "_Don't_ be afraid of me. I want a woman to know me--to
comfort me. I die to-night. It's calling me, outside. Don't you hear?...

"Listen to me, you women!" she went on, and tried to smile, to gain
their favor. "I lied to you, to get even with you. You want your
husband. Well, I lied. He isn't dead. For all you tried to shut me out.
Do you never pity? Do you never help? O-oh--"

Her hand traveled over her brow, and her eyes wandered.

"No one knows what I need now! I got to tell it, I got to tell it! Hear
that?" There had been a louder and nearer crash outside. "That's my
warning. That says I got to tell it, before it's too late. No storm like
this for forty years--not since one night forty years ago. My God, that
night!" Another heavy rumble interrupted her. "Yes, yes!" she turned and
called. "I'll tell it! I promise!"

She came toward her audience and said pleadingly, "Listen--even if it
frightens you. You've got to listen. That night, forty years ago"--she
peered about her cautiously--"I think--I think I hurt two people--hurt
them very bad. And ever since that night--"

The two women had once again tried to fly away, but again she halted
them. "Listen! You have no right to run away. You got to comfort me! You
hear? Please, please, don't go."

She smiled, and so seemed less ugly. What could her two auditors do but
cling to each other and hear her through, dumb and helpless beneath her
spell?

"Only wait. I'll tell you quickly. Oh, I was not always like this. Once
I could talk--elegant too. I've almost forgotten now. But I never looked
like this then. I was not always ugly--no teeth--gray hair. Once I was
beautiful too. You laugh? But yes! Ah, I was young, and tall, and had
long black hair. I was Mollie, then. Mollie Morgan. That's the first
time I've said my name for years. But that's who I was. Ask Bruce--he
knows."

She had fallen back against the wall again, her eyes roaming as she
remembered. Here she laughed. "But Bruce is dead these many years. He
was my dog." A long pause. "We played together. Among the flowers--in
the pretty cottage--under the vines. Not far from here. But all gone
now, all gone. Even the woods are gone--the woods where Bruce and I
hunted berries. And my mother!"

Again the restless hands sought the face and covered it.

"My mother! Almost as young as I. And how _she_ could talk! A fine lady.
As fine as you. And oh, we had good times together. Nearly always.
Sometimes mother got angry--in a rage. She'd strike me, and say I was an
idiot like my father. The next minute she'd hug me, and cry, and beg me
to forgive her. It all comes back to me. Those were the days when she'd
bake a cake for supper--the days when she cried, and put on a black
dress. But mostly she wore the fine dresses--all bright, and soft, and
full of flowers. Oh, how she would dance about in those, sometimes. And
always laughed when I stared at her. And say I was Ned's girl to my
finger-tips. I never understood what she meant--then."

The shrill speaker of a moment before had softened suddenly. The
creature of the woods sniffed eagerly this atmosphere of the house, and
faint vestiges of a former personage returned to her, summoned along
with the scene she had set herself to recall.

"But oh, how good she was to me! And read to me. And taught me to read.
And careful of me? Ha! Never let me go alone to the village. Said I was
too good for such a place. Some day we would go back to the
world--whatever she meant by that. Said people there would clap the
hands when they saw me--more than they had clapped the hands for her.
Once she saw a young man walk along the road with me. Oh, how she beat
my head when I came home! Nearly killed me, she was so angry. Said I
mustn't waste myself on such trash. My mother--I never understood her
then.

"She used to tell me stories--about New York, and Phil'delph. Many big
cities. There they applaud, and clap the hands, when my mother was a
queen, or a beggar girl, in the theatre, and make love and kill and
fight. Have grand supper in hotel afterward. And I'd ask my mother how
soon I too may be a queen. And she'd give me to learn the words they
say, and I'd say them. Then she'd clap me on the head again and tell me,
'Oh, you're Ned's girl. You're a blockhead, just like your father!' And
I'd say, 'Where is my father? Why does he never come?' And after that my
mother would always sit quiet, and never answer when I talked.

"And then she'd be kind again, and make me proud, and tell me I'm a very
fine lady, and have fine blood. And she'd talk about the day when we'd
go back to the world, and she'd buy me pretty things to wear. But I
thought it was fine where we were--there in the cottage, I with the
flowers, and Bruce. In those days, yes," the woman sighed, and left them
to silence for a space,--for silent seemed the wind and rain, on the
breaking of her speech.

A rumble from without started her on again.

"Yes, yes! I'm telling! I'll hurry. Then I grow big. Seventeen. My
mother call me her little giantess, her handsome darling, her conceited
fool, all at the same time. I never understood my mother--then.

"But then, one day, it came!"

The woman pressed her fingers against her eyes, as if to shut out the
vision her mind was preparing.

"Everything changed then. Everything was different. No more nights with
stories and books. No more about New York and Phil'delph. Never again.

"I was out in the yard one day, on my knees, with the flowers. It was
Springtime, and I was digging and fixing. And I heard a horse's hoofs on
the road. A runaway, I thought at first. I stood up to look, and--" She
faltered, and then choked out, "I stood up to look, and the man came!"
And with the words came a crash that rocked the house.

"Hear that!" the woman almost shrieked. "That's him--that's the man. I
hear him in every storm!...

"He came," she went, more rapidly. "A tall man--fine--dressed in fine
clothes--brown hair--brown eyes! Oh, I often see those brown eyes. I
know what they are like. He came riding along the bye-road. When he
caught sight of my mother he almost fell from his horse. The horse
nearly fell, the man pulled him in so sharp. 'Good God!' the man said.
'Fanny! Is this where you are! Curse you, old girl, is this where you
are!' Funny, how I remember his words. And then he came in.

"And he talked to my mother a long time. Then he looked round and said,
'So this is where you've crawled to!' And he petted Bruce. And then he
came to me, and looked into my face a long time, and said, 'So this is
his girl, eh? Fanny junior, down to the last eyelash! Come here, puss!'
he said. And I made a face at him. And he put his hands to his sides and
laughed and laughed at me. And he turned to my mother and said, 'Fanny,
Fanny, what a queen!' I thought he meant be a queen in the theatre. But
he meant something else. He came to me again, and squeezed me and
pressed his face against mine. And my mother ran and snatched him away.
And I ran behind the house.

"And by-and-by my mother came to find me, and said, 'Oho, my little
giantess! So here you are! What are you trembling for!' And she kicked
me. 'Take that!' she said.

"And I didn't understand--not then. But I understand now.

"Next day the man came again, and talked to my mother. But I saw him
look and look at me. And by-and-by he reached for my hand. And my mother
said, 'Stop that! None of that, my little George! One at a time, if you
please!' And he laughed and let me go. And they went out and sat on a
bench in the yard. And the man stroked my mother's hair. And I watched
and listened. They talked a long time till it was night. And I heard
George say, 'Well, Fanny, old girl, we did for him, all right, didn't
we?' I've always remembered it. And they laughed and they laughed. Then
the man said, 'God, how it does scare me, sometimes!' And my mother
laughed at him for that. And George said, 'Look what I've had to give
up. And you penned up here! But never mind. It will blow over. Then
we'll crawl back to the old world, eh, Fanny?'"

All this the woman had rattled off like a child with a recitation, as
something learned long ago and long rehearsed against just this last
contingency of confession.

"Oh, I remember it!" she said, as if her volubility needed an
explanation. "It took me a long time to understand. But one day I
understood.

"He came often, then--George did. And I was not afraid of him any more.
He was fine, like my mother. Every time I saw him come my stomach would
give a jump. And I liked to have him put his face against mine, the way
I'd seen him do to mother. And every time he went away I'd watch him
from the hilltop till I couldn't see him any more. And at night I
couldn't sleep. And George came very often--to see me, he told me, and
not my mother.

"And my mother was changed then. She never hit me again, because George
said he'd kill her if she did. But she acted very strange when he told
her that, and looked and looked at me. And didn't speak to me for days
and days. But I didn't mind--I could talk to George. And we'd go for
long walks, and he'd tell me more about New York and Phil'delph--more
than my mother could tell. Oh, I loved to hear him talk. And he said
such nice things to me--such nice things to me! Bruce--I forgot all
about Bruce. Oh, I was happy!... But that was because I knew nothing....

"Yes, I pleased George. But by-and-by he changed too. Then I couldn't
say anything that he liked. 'Stupid child!' he called me. I tried, ever
so hard, to please him. But it was like walking against a wind, that you
can't push aside. You women, you just guess how I felt then! You just
guess! You want your husband. It was the same with me. I want George.
But he wouldn't listen to me no more."

The woman seemed to sink, to shrivel, under the weight of her
recollection. Finding her not a monster but a woman after all, her two
hearers were moved to another slight token of sympathy. They were
"guessing," as she commanded. But still, with a kind of weary
magnanimity, she waved them back, away from the things she had yet to
make clear.

"But one day I saw it. One day I saw something. I came home with my
berries, and George was there. His breath was funny, and he talked
funny, and walked funny. I'd seen people in the village that way.
But--my mother was that way, too. She looked funny--had very red cheeks,
and talked very fast. Very foolish. And her breath was the same as
George's. And she laughed and laughed at me, and made fun of me.

"I said nothing. But I didn't sleep that night. I wondered what would
happen. Many days I thought of what was happening. Then I knew. My
mother was trying to get George away from me. That was what had
happened.

"Another day I came back with my berries, and my mother was not there.
Neither was George there. So! She had taken George away. My George.
Well! I set out to look. No rest for me till I find them. I knew pretty
well where they might be. I started for George's little brick house down
in the hollow. That's where he had taken to living--hunting and fishing.
It was late--the brick house was far away--I was very tired. But I went.
And--"

She had been speaking more rapidly. Here she stopped to breathe, to
swallow, to collect herself for the final plunge.

"I heard a runaway horse. 'George's horse!' I said. 'George is coming
back to me, after all! George is coming back to me! She can't keep him!'
And, yes, it was George's horse. But nobody on him. I was so scared I
could hardly stand. Something had happened to George. Only then did I
know how much I wanted him--when something had happened to him. I almost
fell down in the road, but I crawled on. And presently I came to him, to
George. He was walking in the road, limping and stumbling and
rolling--all muddy--singing to himself. He didn't know me at first. I
ran to him--to my George. And he grabbed me, and stumbled, and fell. And
he grabbed my ankle. 'Come to me, li'l' one!' he said. 'Damn the old
hag!' he said. 'It's the girl I want--Ned's own!' he said. 'Come here to
me, Ned's own. I want you!' And he pinched me. He bit my hand. And--and
I--all of a sudden I was afraid.

"And I snatched myself loose. 'George!' I screamed. 'No!' I said--I
don't know why. I was very scared. I was wild. I kicked away--and
ran--ran, ran--away--I don't know where--to the woods. And oh, a long
time I heard George laugh at me. 'Just like the very old Ned!' I heard
him shout. But I ran, till I fell down tired. And there I sat and
thought.

"And all of a sudden I understood. All at once I knew many things. I
knew then what my mother had said about Ned sometimes. He was my father.
He was dead. Somebody had killed him, I knew--I knew it from what they
said. George knew my father, then, too. What did he know? That was it!
He--he was the man that killed my father. He was after my mother
then--he had been after her before, and made her breathe funny, made a
fool of her. That was why my beautiful mother was so strange to me
sometimes. That's why there was no more New York and Phil'delph. George
did that--spoiled everything. Now he was back--making a fool of her
again--my mother! And wanted to make a fool of me. Oh, then I knew! That
man! And I had liked him. His brown hair, his brown eyes! But oh, I
understood, I understood.

"I got up from the ground. Everything reeled and fell apart. There was
nothing more for me. Everything spoiled. Our pretty cottage--the
stories--all gone. Spoiled. So I ran back. Maybe I could bring my mother
back. Maybe I could save something. Oh, I was sick. The trees, they bent
and rolled the way George walked. The wind bent them double. They held
their stomachs, as if they were George, laughing at me. They seemed to
holler 'Ned's girl!' at me. I was dizzy, and the wind nearly blew me
over. But I had to hurry home.

"I got near. No one there. Not even George. But I had to find my
beautiful little mother. All round I ran. The brambles threw me down. I
fell over a stump and struck my face. I could feel the blood running
down over my cheeks. It was warmer than the rain. No matter, I had to
find my mother. My poor little mother.

"Bruce growled at me when I got to the house. He didn't know me. That's
how I looked! But there was a light in the house. Yes, my mother was
there! But George was there, too. That man! They had bundles all ready
to go away. They weren't glad to see me. I got there too soon. George
said, 'Damn her soul! Always that girl of Ned's! I'll show her!' And he
kicked me.

"George kicked me!...

"But my mother--she didn't laugh when she saw me. She was very scared.
She shook George, and said, 'George! Come away, quick! Look at her face!
Look at her eyes!' she said.

"Oh, my mother, my little mother. She thought I would hurt her. Even
when she'd been such a fool. I was the one that had to take care of her,
then. But she wanted to go away--with that man! That made me wild.

"'You, George!' I said, 'You've got to go! You've--you've done too much
to us!' I said. 'You go!' And 'Mother!' I said. 'You've got to leave
him! He's done too much to us!' I said.

"She only answered, 'George, come, quick!' And she dragged George toward
the door. And George laughed at me. Laughed and laughed--till he saw my
eyes. He didn't laugh then. Nor my mother. My mother screamed when she
saw my eyes. 'Shut up, George!' she screamed. 'She's not Ned's girl
now!' And George said, 'No, by God! She's _your_ brat now, all right!
She's the devil's own!'

"And they ran for the door. I tried to get there first, to catch my
little mother. My mother only screamed, as if she were wild. And they
got out--out in the dark. 'Mother!' I cried. 'Mother! Come back, come
back!' No answer. My mother was gone.

"Oh, that made me feel, somehow, very strong. 'I'll bring you back!' I
shouted. 'You, George! I'll send you away. Wait and see!' They never
answered. Maybe they never heard. The wind was blowing, like to-night.

"But I knew where I could find them. I knew where to go to find George.
And I ran to my loft, for my knife. But, O my God, when I saw poor
Mollie in the glass! Teeth gone. I wasn't beautiful any more. And my
eyes!--they came out of the glass at me, like two big dogs jumping a
fence. I ran from them. I didn't know myself. I ran out of the door, in
the night. I went after that man. He had done too much. That storm--the
lightning that night! Awful! But no storm kept me back. Rain--hail--but
I kept on. Trees fell--but I went on. I called out. I laughed then,
myself. I'll get him! I say, 'Look out for Ned's girl! Look out for
Ned's girl!' I say...."

Unconsciously the woman was re-enacting every gesture, repeating every
phrase and accent of her journey through the night, that excursion out
of the world, from which there had been no return for her. "Look out for
Ned's girl!"--the house rang with the cry. But this second journey, of
the memory, ended in a moan and a faint.

"I said I would tell it! Help me!" she said.

In some fashion they worked her heavy bulk out of its crazy wrappings
and into a bed. John arrived, to help them. Morning peered timidly over
the eastern hills, as if fearful of beholding what the night had
wrought. In its smiling calm the noise of the storm was already done
away. But the storm in the troubled mind raged on.

For days it raged, in fever and delirium. Then they buried the rude
minister of justice in the place where she commanded--under the pile of
broken stones and bricks among the trees in the hollow. And it is said
that the inquisitive villagers who had a part in the simple ceremonies
stirred about till they made the discovery of two skeletons under the
ruins. And to this day there are persons in Bustlebury with a belief
that at night, or in a storm, they sometimes hear a long-drawn cry
issuing from that lonely little hollow.



THE INTERVAL [17]

[Note 17: Copyright 1917, by The Boston Transcript Co. Copyright,
1918, by Vincent O' Sullivan.]

BY VINCENT O'SULLIVAN

From _The Boston Evening Transcript_


Mrs. Wilton passed through a little alley leading from one of the gates
which are around Regent's Park, and came out on the wide and quiet
street. She walked along slowly, peering anxiously from side to side so
as not to overlook the number. She pulled her furs closer round her;
after her years in India this London damp seemed very harsh. Still, it
was not a fog to-day. A dense haze, gray and tinged ruddy, lay between
the houses, sometimes blowing with a little wet kiss against the face.
Mrs. Wilton's hair and eyelashes and her furs were powdered with tiny
drops. But there was nothing in the weather to blur the sight; she could
see the faces of people some distance off and read the signs on the
shops.

Before the door of a dealer in antiques and second-hand furniture she
paused and looked through the shabby uncleaned window at an unassorted
heap of things, many of them of great value. She read the Polish name
fastened on the pane in white letters.

"Yes; this is the place."

She opened the door, which met her entrance with an ill-tempered jangle.
From somewhere in the black depths of the shop the dealer came forward.
He had a clammy white face, with a sparse black beard, and wore a skull
cap and spectacles. Mrs. Wilton spoke to him in a low voice.

A look of complicity, of cunning, perhaps of irony, passed through the
dealer's cynical and sad eyes. But he bowed gravely and respectfully.

"Yes, she is here, madam. Whether she will see you or not I do not know.
She is not always well; she has her moods. And then, we have to be so
careful. The police--Not that they would touch a lady like you. But the
poor alien has not much chance these days."

Mrs. Wilton followed him to the back of the shop, where there was a
winding staircase. She knocked over a few things in her passage and
stooped to pick them up, but the dealer kept muttering, "It does not
matter--surely it does not matter." He lit a candle.

"You must go up these stairs. They are very dark; be careful. When you
come to a door, open it and go straight in."

He stood at the foot of the stairs holding the light high above his head
as she ascended.

* * *

The room was not very large, and it seemed very ordinary. There were
some flimsy, uncomfortable chairs in gilt and red. Two large palms were
in corners. Under a glass cover on the table was a view of Rome. The
room had not a business-like look, thought Mrs. Wilton; there was no
suggestion of the office or waiting-room where people came and went all
day; yet you would not say that it was a private room which was lived
in. There were no books or papers about; every chair was in the place it
had been placed when the room was last swept; there was no fire and it
was very cold.

To the right of the window was a door covered with a plush curtain. Mrs.
Wilton sat down near the table and watched this door. She thought it
must be through it that the soothsayer would come forth. She laid her
hands listlessly one on top of the other on the table. This must be the
tenth seer she had consulted since Hugh had been killed. She thought
them over. No, this must be the eleventh. She had forgotten that
frightening man in Paris who said he had been a priest. Yet of them all
it was only he who had told her anything definite. But even he could do
no more than tell the past. He told of her marriage; he even had the
duration of it right--twenty-one months. He told too of their time in
India--at least, he knew that her husband had been a soldier, and said
he had been on service in the "colonies." On the whole, though, he had
been as unsatisfactory as the others. None of them had given her the
consolation she sought. She did not want to be told of the past. If Hugh
was gone forever, then with him had gone all her love of living, her
courage, all her better self. She wanted to be lifted out of the
despair, the dazed aimless drifting from day to day, longing at night
for the morning, and in the morning for the fall of night, which had
been her life since his death. If somebody could assure her that it was
not all over, that he was somewhere, not too far away, unchanged from
what he had been here, with his crisp hair and rather slow smile and
lean brown face, that he saw her sometimes, that he had not forgotten
her....

"Oh, Hugh, darling!"

When she looked up again the woman was sitting there before her. Mrs.
Wilton had not heard her come in. With her experience, wide enough now,
of seers and fortune-tellers of all kinds, she saw at once that this
woman was different from the others. She was used to the quick
appraising look, the attempts, sometimes clumsy, but often cleverly
disguised, to collect some fragments of information whereupon to erect a
plausible vision. But this woman looked as if she took it out of
herself.

Not that her appearance suggested intercourse with the spiritual world
more than the others had done; it suggested that, in fact, considerably
less. Some of the others were frail, yearning, evaporated creatures, and
the ex-priest in Paris had something terrible and condemned in his
look. He might well sup with the devil, that man, and probably did in
some way or other.

But this was a little fat, weary-faced woman about fifty, who only did
not look like a cook because she looked more like a sempstress. Her
black dress was all covered with white threads. Mrs. Wilton looked at
her with some embarrassment. It seemed more reasonable to be asking a
woman like this about altering a gown than about intercourse with the
dead. That seemed even absurd in such a very commonplace presence. The
woman seemed timid and oppressed; she breathed heavily and kept rubbing
her dingy hands, which looked moist, one over the other; she was always
wetting her lips, and coughed with a little dry cough. But in her these
signs of nervous exhaustion suggested overwork in a close atmosphere,
bending too close over the sewing-machine. Her uninteresting hair, like
a rat's pelt, was eked out with a false addition of another color. Some
threads had got into her hair too.

Her harried, uneasy look caused Mrs. Wilton to ask compassionately: "Are
you much worried by the police?"

"Oh, the police! Why don't they leave us alone? You never know who comes
to see you. Why don't they leave me alone? I'm a good woman. I only
think. What I do is no harm to any one."...

She continued in an uneven querulous voice, always rubbing her hands
together nervously. She seemed to the visitor to be talking at random,
just gabbling, like children do sometimes before they fall asleep.

"I wanted to explain--" hesitated Mrs. Wilton.

But the woman, with her head pressed close against the back of the
chair, was staring beyond her at the wall. Her face had lost whatever
little expression it had; it was blank and stupid. When she spoke it was
very slowly and her voice was guttural.

"Can't you see him? It seems strange to me that you can't see him. He
is so near you. He is passing his arm round your shoulders."

This was a frequent gesture of Hugh's. And indeed at that moment she
felt that somebody was very near her, bending over her. She was
enveloped in tenderness. Only a very thin veil, she felt, prevented her
from seeing. But the woman saw. She was describing Hugh minutely, even
the little things like the burn on his right hand.

"Is he happy? Oh, ask him does he love me?"

The result was so far beyond anything she had hoped for that she was
stunned. She could only stammer the first thing that came into her head.
"Does he love me?"

"He loves you. He won't answer, but he loves you. He wants me to make
you see him; he is disappointed, I think, because I can't. But I can't
unless you do it yourself."

After a while she said:

"I think you will see him again. You think of nothing else. He is very
close to us now."

Then she collapsed, and fell into a heavy sleep and lay there
motionless, hardly breathing. Mrs. Wilton put some notes on the table
and stole out on tip-toe.

* * *

She seemed to remember that downstairs in the dark shop the dealer with
the waxen face detained her to shew some old silver and jewellery and
such like. But she did not come to herself, she had no precise
recollection of anything, till she found herself entering a church near
Portland Place. It was an unlikely act in her normal moments. Why did
she go in there? She acted like one walking in her sleep.

The church was old and dim, with high black pews. There was nobody
there. Mrs. Wilton sat down in one of the pews and bent forward with her
face in her hands.

After a few minutes she saw that a soldier had come in noiselessly and
placed himself about half-a-dozen rows ahead of her. He never turned
round; but presently she was struck by something familiar in the figure.
First she thought vaguely that the soldier looked like her Hugh. Then,
when he put up his hand, she saw who it was.

She hurried out of the pew and ran towards him. "Oh, Hugh, Hugh, have
you come back?"

He looked round with a smile. He had not been killed. It was all a
mistake. He was going to speak....

Footsteps sounded hollow in the empty church. She turned and glanced
down the dim aisle.

It was an old sexton or verger who approached. "I thought I heard you
call," he said.

"I was speaking to my husband." But Hugh was nowhere to be seen.

"He was here a moment ago." She looked about in anguish. "He must have
gone to the door."

"There's nobody here," said the old man gently. "Only you and me. Ladies
are often taken funny since the war. There was one in here yesterday
afternoon said she was married in this church and her husband had
promised to meet her here. Perhaps you were married here?"

"No," said Mrs. Wilton, desolately. "I was married in India."

* * *

It might have been two or three days after that, when she went into a
small Italian restaurant in the Bayswater district. She often went out
for her meals now: she had developed an exhausting cough, and she found
that it somehow became less troublesome when she was in a public place
looking at strange faces. In her flat there were all the things that
Hugh had used; the trunks and bags still had his name on them with the
labels of places where they had been together. They were like stabs. In
the restaurant, people came and went, many soldiers too among them, just
glancing at her in her corner.

This day, as it chanced, she was rather late and there nobody there. She
was very tired. She nibbled at the food they brought her. She could
almost have cried from tiredness and loneliness and the ache in her
heart.

Then suddenly he was before her, sitting there opposite at the table. It
was as it was in the days of their engagement, when they used sometimes
to lunch at restaurants. He was not in uniform. He smiled at her and
urged her to eat, just as he used in those days....

* * *

I met her that afternoon as she was crossing Kensington Gardens, and she
told me about it.

"I have been with Hugh." She seemed most happy.

"Did he say anything?"

"N-no. Yes. I think he did, but I could not quite hear. My head was so
very tired. The next time----"

* * *

I did not see her for some time after that. She found, I think, that by
going to places where she had once seen him--the old church, the little
restaurant--she was more certain to see him again. She never saw him at
home. But in the street or the park he would often walk along beside
her. Once he saved her from being run over. She said she actually felt
his hand grabbing her arm, suddenly, when the car was nearly upon her.

She had given me the address of the clairvoyant; and it is through that
strange woman that I know--or seem to know--what followed.

Mrs. Wilton was not exactly ill last winter, not so ill, at least, as to
keep to her bedroom. But she was very thin, and her great handsome eyes
always seemed to be staring at some point beyond, searching. There was a
look in them that seamen's eyes sometimes have when they are drawing on
a coast of which they are not very certain. She lived almost in
solitude: she hardly ever saw anybody except when they sought her out.
To those who were anxious about her she laughed and said she was very
well.

One sunny morning she was lying awake, waiting for the maid to bring her
tea. The shy London sunlight peeped through the blinds. The room had a
fresh and happy look.

When she heard the door open she thought that the maid had come in. Then
she saw that Hugh was standing at the foot of the bed. He was in uniform
this time, and looked as he had looked the day he went away.

"Oh, Hugh, speak to me! Will you not say just one word?"

He smiled and threw back his head, just as he used to in the old days at
her mother's house when he wanted to call her out of the room without
attracting the attention of the others. He moved towards the door, still
signing to her to follow him. He picked up her slippers on his way and
held them out to her as if he wanted her to put them on. She slipped out
of bed hastily....

* * *

It is strange that when they came to look through her things after her
death the slippers could never be found.



"A CERTAIN RICH MAN----"[18]

[Note 18: Copyright, 1917, by Charles Scribner's Sons. Copyright,
1918, by Lawrence Perry.]

BY LAWRENCE PERRY

From _Scribner's Magazine._


Evelyn Colcord glanced up the table with the appraising eye of a young
hostess who had already established a reputation for her dinners. The
room had been decorated with a happy effect of national colors, merged
with those of the allied nations, and neither in the table nor its
appointments was a flaw revealed--while the low, contented murmur of
conversation and light laughter attending completion of the first course
afforded assurance that the company was well chosen and the atmosphere
assertive in qualities that made for equanimity and good cheer.

She smiled slightly, nodding at the butler, who had been watching her
anxiously, and then glanced out the corner of her eye at Professor
Simec, seated at her right. She had entertained doubts concerning him,
had, in fact, resented the business necessity which had brought him
thither as guest of honor, not through any emotion approximating
inhospitality but wholly because of her mistrust as to the effect of
this alien note upon her dinner, which was quite impromptu, having been
arranged at the eleventh hour in deference to the wishes of Jerry Dane,
a partner of Colcord's, who was handling the firm's foreign war patents.

She had done the best she could as to guests, had done exceedingly well,
as it chanced, fortune having favored her especially in the cases of
several of those who sat about the table. And now Simec was fully
involved in conversation with Bessie Dane, who seemed deeply
interested. As for the man, weazened and attenuate, she could catch only
his profile--the bulging, hairless brow, and beard curling outward from
the tip, forming sort of a crescent, which she found hardly less
sinister than the cynical twist where grizzled whiskers and mustaches
conjoined and the cold, level white eyes that she had noted as dominant
characteristics when he was presented.

Simec was a laboratory recluse who had found his _métier_ in the war.
Rumor credited to him at least one of the deadliest chemical
combinations employed by the allied armies. But it was merely rumor;
nothing definite was known. These are things of which little is hinted
and less said. None the less, intangible as were his practical
achievements--whatever they might be--his reputation was substantial,
enhanced, small doubt, by the very vagueness of his endeavors. The
element of mystery, which his physical appearance tended not to allay,
invested him, as it were, with a thaumaturgic veil through which was
dimly revealed the man. It was as though his personality was merely a
nexus to the things he stood for and had done, so that he appeared to
Evelyn less a human entity than a symbol. But at least Bessie Dane was
interested and the fine atmosphere of the table was without a taint.

Shrugging almost imperceptibly, she withdrew her eyes and looked across
the table with an expression which Nicholas Colcord could have
interpreted had he not been engrossed with Sybil Latham. Evelyn studied
him with admiring tenderness as he lounged in his chair, toying idly
with a fork, smiling at something his partner was saying, while her mind
ran lovingly over the dominant traits of a personality which was so
strong, so keenly alive, so sensitive to decent, manly things, so
perfectly balanced.

Failing to catch his eye, Evelyn turned to her plate filled with a
subtle melancholy. When would there be another dinner like this? Not, at
all events, until the war was over. Nick had spoken about this--very
definitely; there would be no more entertaining. She had agreed with
him, of course, not, however, escaping the conviction that her husband's
viewpoint was more or less in keeping with a certain unusual sombreness
which she had caught creeping into his mood in the past year or so.

Still, everybody who amounted to anything was pulling up on the bit and
doing something or talking of doing something or other for the country.
It was already assured that the season would be insufferably dull--from
a social standpoint at least. Evelyn could not suppress a certain
resentment. She was not one of those who had found an element of thrill
in the suddenly altered perspectives. Her plans for the spring season
had been laid; engagements had been accepted or declined, as functions
promised to be worth while or uninteresting; all the delicate
interlocking machinery of the life in which Evelyn Colcord moved,
somewhat prominently, was in motion--then the sudden checking of the
wheels: war.

Now there were memories of her husband's sober words; now there was
young Jeffery Latham at her elbow--he had been almost shot to pieces in
France--now there was Simec, the genius of diabolical achievement....
What were things coming to? Even the weather had gone wrong. Outside, an
unseasonable cold rain, lashed by a northeast gale, was driving against
the panes of the French windows, and the sizzling effulgence of an
arc-lamp revealed pools of water lying on the asphalt of the avenue....

The dry, softly modulated voice of Captain Latham at her left lifted
Evelyn from her trend of sombre revery.

"Nick is looking uncommonly fit--he'll go in for the cavalry, I
suppose."

The young British officer spoke more with a half-humorous effort at
conversation than any other motive, but she turned to him with a gesture
of appeal.

"Jeffery," she said, "you make me shiver!"

The man stared at her curiously.

"Why, I--I'm sorry. I'm sure I didn't--"

"Oh, of course," she interrupted, "I know you didn't. Don't be silly. As
for me, I'm perfectly foolish, don't you know. Only"--she paused--"I
detest war talk. It's so fearfully upsetting. It seems only yesterday
that it was a subject to drag in when conversation lagged. But now--"

Latham's quizzical reply was almost upon his lips, when, evidently
changing his mind, he spoke dryly.

"No doubt you'll become used to it in time.... By the by, I was in fun
about old Nick. His objection to grouse coverts and deer-stalking--I
can't fancy him in war."

As she didn't reply he picked up his fork, adding: "Yet he's a
tremendous athlete--polo and all that sort of thing. Do you know, I
suspect that when the real pull comes he won't object to potting at
Germans.... Did you do these menu cards, Evelyn? They're awfully well
done."

She nodded, eying him eagerly.

"Yes, I painted them this afternoon. You see, it was a rush order.... As
to Nick, I don't think it will come to his enlisting. I've never
considered it, really. He's awfully mixed up in government finances,
don't you know. We all tell him he's more valuable where he is."

Latham smiled faintly.

"What does Nick say to that?"

"Oh, I don't know." She shrugged. "Nothing very definite. War has been a
taboo subject with him--I mean from the first when you all went in. I
know he has strong feelings about it, terribly strong. But he never
talks about them."

"He went in strong on the financial end, didn't he?" asked the
Englishman. "Some one in London told me he'd made a lot of oof."

She nodded, coloring.

"Yes, oceans of money.... Not that we needed it," Evelyn added, a trifle
defensively.

"I know; it just came," was Latham's comment. "Well, it all helped us
out of a nasty mess."

Evelyn was thinking and did not reply immediately. When she did speak it
was apparent that in changing the subject she had followed a natural
impulse without intention or design.

"Jeffery," she said, "do you know I haven't been able to make you out
since you arrived here--nor Sybil either," she added, nodding toward
Latham's wife, whose classic, flaxen-haired profile was turned toward
them.

The man was smiling curiously.

"I didn't realize we had changed so."

"Well, you have, both of you. You talk the same and act the same--except
a--a sort of reserve; something; I don't know just what.... Somehow,
you, and Sybil, too, seem as though you felt strange, aloof, out of
place. You used to be so absolutely--well, natural and at home with us
all--"

"My word!" Latham laughed but made no further comment.

"Of course," Evelyn went on, "you've been through a lot, I can
appreciate that. When I got Sybil's letter I simply wept: twenty-four
hours in a muddy shell-hole; invalided for good, with an arm you can't
raise above your shoulder; a horrid scar down your face...."

"It does make rather a poor face to look at, doesn't it?" Latham flushed
and hurried on. "Well, I've no complaint."

She glanced at the cross on his olive-drab coat.

"Of course not! How absurd, Jeffery! But how did Sybil ever stand it?
How did she _live_ through it? I mean the parting, the months of
suspense, word that you were missing, then mortally wounded?... Her
brother killed by gas?"

Latham glanced at his wife, a soft light in his eyes.

"Poor Sybil," he replied. "She was a brick, Evelyn--a perfect brick. I
don't know how she got through it. But one does, you know."

"Yes, one does, I suppose." Evelyn sighed. "But how? _I_ couldn't; I
simply couldn't. Why, Jeffery, I can't bear even to think of it."

Latham shook his head negatively at the footman, who stood at his side,
and then turned smiling to Evelyn. "Oh, come! Of course you could. You
don't understand now, but you will. There's a sort of grace given, I
fancy."

"Jeffery, I don't want to understand, and I don't want any grace, and I
think you're horrid and unsympathetic." She tapped him admonishingly on
the arm, laughing lightly. But the gloom was still in her dark-gray
eyes. "But, after all, you are right. We _are_ in for it, just as you
have been.... God grant there are women more Spartan than I."

Latham grimaced and was raising a deprecating hand when she caught it
impulsively.

"Please let's talk about something else."

"Very well." He smiled mockingly and lowered his voice. "Your friend at
your right there--curious beggar, don't you think?"

Evelyn glanced at Simec, turning again to Latham.

"He gives me the creeps," she confessed. "It seems absurd, but he does."

"Really!" The Englishman stared at the man a moment. "Do you know," he
resumed, "he does seem a bit uncanny. Where'd Nick pick him up?"

"It was Jerry Dane," she replied. "He's done some tremendous things on
the other side. Jerry met him in Washington the other day and seems to
regard him as a find. He has no business sense and has given away
practically everything. Now we are going to capitalize him; I believe
that's the word. I never saw him before tonight"--her voice sank to a
whisper--"and, do you know, I hope I never shall again." She shrugged.
"Listen to him."

Several of the guests were already doing that. His toneless voice rose
and fell monotonously, and he appeared so detached from what he was
saying that as Evelyn gazed at him she seemed to find difficulty in
relating words that were said to the speaker; only the slight movement
of the lips and an occasional formless gesture made the association
definite.

"Doctor Allison," he was saying, "has missed the distinction between
_hostia honoraria_ and _hostia piacularis_. In the former case the deity
accepts the gift of a life; in the latter he demands it."

"What in the world are you all talking about now?" asked Evelyn
plaintively. "Not war--?"

"Sacrifice, Mrs. Colcord." Simec inclined his head slightly in her
direction.

"I was saying," explained Doctor Allison, "that we do well if we send
our young men to battle in the spirit of privileged sacrifice, as--as
something that is our--our--yes--our proud privilege, as I say, to do."

Simec shook his head in thoughtful negation.

"That is sentiment, excellent sentiment; unfortunately, it doesn't stand
assay. Reaction comes. We do better if we make our gift of blood as a
matter of unalterable necessity. We make too much of it all, in any
event. The vast evil of extended peace is the attachment of too great
value to luxuries and to human life--trite, but true. We know, of
course, that the world has progressed chiefly over the dead bodies of
men and, yes, women and children."

Some new element had entered into the voice. Whether it was herself or
whether it was Simec, Evelyn was in no mood to determine.... She was
aware only of a certain metallic cadence which beat cruelly upon her
nerves. Silence had followed, but not of the same sort as before. As
though seeking complete withdrawal, Evelyn turned her eyes out of the
window. A wayfarer, head down, was struggling through the nimbus of
watery electric light; a horse-drawn vehicle was plodding by. Colcord's
voice brought her back; it was strained.

"I don't feel as Allison does," he said. "And I certainly have no
sympathy with Simec." He leaned forward, his elbows on the table. "You
see," he went on, "I--I--well, maybe, I'm a product of extended peace,
as Simec puts it. No doubt I'm soft. But this war--I've never talked nor
let myself think much about the war--but this whole thing of sacrifice
got under me from the very first.... Young men, thousands, hundreds of
thousands of them, yes, millions, torn from their homes, from their
mothers, their fathers--their wives, for what? To be blown into
shapeless, unrecognizable clay, to be maimed, made useless for life. My
God! It has kept me awake nights!"

"Colcord"--Simec's white eyes rested professionally upon the host--"let
us get to the root of your state of mind; your brief is for the
individual as against the common good, is it not?"

Colcord frowned.

"Oh, I haven't any brief, Simec; I've never reasoned about the thing,
that is, in a cold, scientific way. It's a matter of heart, I
suppose--of instinct. I just can't seem to stand the calculating, sordid
wastage of young life and all that it involves. Now, of course, it has
come closer home. And it's terrible."

"You never would shoot anything for sport, would you, old fellow?" said
Latham, sympathetically, "not even pheasants."

Colcord tossed his beautifully modelled head.

"Latham, I tell you, I'm soft; I'm the ultimate product of peace and
civilization."

"Yes, you're soft, terribly so," smiled Dane. "I ought to know; I played
opposite you at tackle for two years."

"Stuff! You understand what I mean, Jerry; I guess you all do. I've
never talked this way before; as I say, I've always kept the war in the
background, tried to gloss it over, forget it. But I couldn't; I've done
a heap of thinking." He sat bolt upright, his clinched fist upon the
table. "All these young chaps herded together and suddenly turned loose
from all they've known and done and thought--I tell you I can't duck it
any more."

"I know, old chap." Arnold Bates, who wrote light society novels, spoke
soothingly. "It is--rotten. But what are you going to do about it?"

Colcord's fine brow was wrinkled painfully.

"Nothing, Arnold, nothing. That's the trouble; you have to sit still and
watch this wrecking of civilization or else get out and take a hack at
the thing yourself. I can't do that; not unless I have to." He paused.
"I've had a good time in this life; things have always come easily--"

Sybil Latham was regarding him contemplatively.

"Yes," she murmured, "I don't know a man who has impressed me as so
thoroughly enjoying life as you, Nick--"

Colcord stared at her a moment.

"Well, I do," he replied at length. "But I want to say this right here:
if some person or presence, some supernatural being, say, should come
here to-night, at this table, and tell me that by giving up my life
right now I would, through that act, bring an end to--"

"Nick!" Evelyn Colcord's voice was poignantly sharp.

"If through that little sacrifice the blood glut in Europe would end,
I'd do it cheerfully, joyfully, in a minute."

Simec was gazing at the speaker with half-closed eyes; the others, in
thrall of his words, were staring at the table or at one another.

"What a thought!" Mrs. Allison glanced at him curiously. "Coming from
you, of all men, Nick!"

"I wonder if I could say that?" Jerry Dane sank down in his chair, put
his hands in his pockets, and gazed sombrely up at the ceiling. "By
George! I wish I could--but I can't."

Bates shifted uneasily. He shrugged.

"It's too hypothetical. And yet--of course it's absurd--yet if the
thing _could_ happen, I think I'd stick with Colcord."

"In other words"--Simec's voice now had a sibilant hiss--"if you could
end war through your death you'd be willing to die--now, or at any
specified time?"

"If you're talking to me," said Colcord, "I'm on record. Those who know
me well know I don't have to say a thing twice."

"I was talking to Mr. Bates," replied the inventor. "He seemed
doubtful."

"Well, I'm not now," retorted the writer sharply. "I'm with Nick
absolutely."

Doctor Allison was shaking his head.

"Theoretically, I would make the same assertion," he confessed, "but I
wish to be honest; I don't know whether I could do it or not."

"Neither do I," said Dane. "A certainty like that and taking a chance on
the battlefield are two different things. What do you say, Latham;
you've been through the mill?"

"Well, you know," shrugged the soldier, "I fancy I'm a bit hardened. I'd
like to see the thing through now. We've gone so far, don't you know."

There was a momentary silence broken only by the soft movements of the
butler and footman. One of the windows rattled in a gust of wind and
rain. Under the flickering candle-lights the company seemed to draw
to-gether in a fellowship that was not the bond of gustatory
cheer--which Evelyn could so infallibly establish at her table--but a
communion of sympathetic feeling as of one drawing to another in the
common thrall of subdued emotion. The prevailing mood impressed Evelyn
Colcord strongly, and, glancing down the table, she started at her
accuracy in divining the cause. Simec's place was vacant. She recalled
now that but a moment before he had been summoned to the telephone. She
had noted his temporary departure only as one notices the lifting of a
saffron mist.

Unquestionably, the absorbing topic had gripped the imagination of all.
It was sufficiently theoretical, so absolutely hypothetical, in fact, so
utterly impossible, that Evelyn's alert intellect found pleasure in
grappling with it.

"I wonder--!" Her elbows were on the table, her chin upon her hands. "Of
course, it's awfully easy to say; but I wonder how it would be if we
really faced such a question. Just consider, Arnold,"--she was smiling
at Bates--"the superhuman firing squad is outside the door; the
superhuman agent stands at your side ready to push the button and end
the war as the shots ring out. You picture it, of course, with your
imagination. Well, sir, what do you say?"

Bates grimaced, twisting the stem of his wine-glass in his fingers.

"Well, one can say only what he _thinks_ he would do. It's so absurd
that I can't visualize your picture--not even with my imagination. But
it seems to me--it _seems_ that I would gladly make the sacrifice."

Doctor Allison, who had been scowling at the ceiling, passing his
fingers thoughtfully through his sparse gray hair, sighed deeply.

"That's just it; how could one possibly tell? The mind adapts itself to
situations, I suppose; in fact, of course it does. It's altogether
difficult, sitting at this table with its food and color and light and
excellent company, to place yourself in the position Nicholas has
devised. It's simply flying from the very comfortable and congenial and
normal present into a dark limbo that is deucedly uncomfortable,
uncongenial, and abnormal. I can't go beyond what I've already said; I
don't know whether I'd do it or not."

"You'd like to, of course," suggested Mrs. Dane.

"Oh, of course I'd _like_ to," was the reply. "The point I make is
whether I could or not; I don't _know_."

"Well"--the young woman paused--"I'm not going to put the question to
my husband because I wouldn't let Jerry do it, even if he were willing."

"Oh, come now, Bess!" grinned Dane.

"Well, I wouldn't, and I imagine I'd have some rights in the matter."

"Now we're getting back to Simec's _hostia honoraria_ and _hostia
piacularis_," laughed Bates.

"It is a new viewpoint," sighed Evelyn. "Curiously, I hadn't thought of
_that_."

She smiled across the table at her husband, but he was slouched in his
chair, his eyes staring vacantly over her head.

"Of course you'd all do it, every one," he said presently. "The trouble
now is that you are attempting to visualize the tragic part of it and
not considering the humanitarian side--the great good that would come of
the sacrifice. When you look at it that way you would be willing to do
it--and think it a mighty darn cheap exchange."

"Well, perhaps so," grumbled Allison. "But I can't help thinking I'm
glad I don't have to face the alternative."

Evelyn turned swiftly toward Sybil Latham, under the impression that she
had made some little exclamation or that she had checked one. But her
face was hard and inscrutable.

"Let's change the subject." Evelyn laughed self-consciously. "It's so
far-fetched; it's getting a bit on my nerves."

Even as she spoke she knew that Simec had resumed his seat, although he
had made no sound and her eyes were upon her husband. She was thus not
surprised to hear his voice.

"I gather, then," he said, as though picking up a conversational thread,
"that there are two of you who would be willing to make the gift of
sacrifice--Colcord and Bates."

His manner was such as to draw them all from their mood of idle,
comfortable speculation to rigidity. Turning to him, searching him, they
saw, as it seemed to them, a new being divested of vagueness--dominant,
commanding, remorseless. Sitting rigid, his thin, hairy neck stretched
outward, he suggested some sinister bird of prey. Thus poised for an
instant he regarded the two men whom he had named.

"Suppose," he proceeded, "that I could make this absurd condition--as
Bates terms it--exist. Would you gentlemen still hold your position?
Believe me, I ask this in the utmost good faith--"

Evelyn Colcord spoke before either man could make reply.

"Nick, this is getting a bit unpleasant, really." She laughed nervously.
"Don't you think we could turn to something more cheerful? I adore a
joke--"

"But this is not a joke, Mrs. Colcord," rejoined Simec gravely.

"Well, in any event--" began Evelyn, but her husband interrupted.

"I told you I was on record, Simec," he said. "You show me a way to end
this carnival of murder--and I'm your man."

"I, too." Bates chuckled. "Perhaps, after all, we've been dining closer
to the supernatural than we realized. Well, I'm game. Life, after all,
is only a few more summers and a few more winters, even if we live it
out. Go to it, Simec." There was sort of a reckless ring in the writer's
voice which was taken as a sign that he was seriously impressed. But
Bates would be; he had imagination and was temperamental.

"I wish you all would stop." Bessie Dane's voice was childishly
plaintive.

"Nick, please!" cried Evelyn. "This is not at all funny."

"I don't see the joke, I must confess," grumbled Allison.

Evelyn wished that Latham or his wife would add weight to the protest,
but they remained silent, staring curiously at the inventor, as, indeed,
they had throughout. Now she thought of it, she realized that the two
had remained practically aloof from the discussion that had preceded
Simec's _dénouement_.

"I'm afraid, Simec," said Colcord crisply, "that we're getting a bit
unpopular. We'd better drop the subject. It was rather a cheap play,
I'll admit, stacking myself up as a martyr in a wholly impossible
situation. You called me--and Bates there--rather cleverly.... The
drinks are on us.... At the same time I meant what I said, even if it
was far-fetched; I mean I was sincere."

Simec threw out his arm in a long, bony gesture.

"I am perfectly convinced of that. That is why I am going to ask you to
make your offer good."

Had it come from any one else there would have been derisive laughter.
But Simec, a man to whom had been credited so much of mystery and
achievement, was speaking. In the soft crimson glow of the table he
stood, reducing to practical application the very situation which they
had found so attractive, only because of its utter grotesque
impossibility. It was startling, grimly thrilling. There was the sense
among some about the table of struggling mentally to break the spell
which this coldly unemotional creature of science had cast. At length
Dane spoke as though by sheer physical effort.

"Simec--we--we all know you're a genius. But just now you don't quite
get over."

The inventor turned his head slowly toward the speaker.

"I don't think I quite understand."

"Rats," said Dane roughly. "Here Nick says he'd give up his life if the
war could be stopped and you bob up and tell him to make good, throwing
sort of a Faust effect over the whole dinner. All right for Nick and
Arnold Bates--but how about you, Simec? How will you stop the war if
they shuffle off? I'll bite once on anything; how will you do it?" There
was a general movement of the diners. Dane's wife laughed a trifle
hysterically.

Simec arose and stood leaning forward, his hands upon the table.

"The situation which Colcord devised, as it happens, is not so
impossible as you think. In fact, it may prove to be quite feasible--"
He paused, but no voice rose to break the silence. The candle-lights
were flickering softly in an entering breath of wind. Evelyn looked
appealingly at her husband, who grimaced and shrugged slightly.

"I imagine I have some sort of a reputation in the way of physical
formula as applied to war," Simec went on presently. "Dane is about to
handle a rather extraordinary gun of mine in the foreign market. But one
gun differs from another only inasmuch as it is somewhat more
deadly--its destructiveness is not total." He raised a thin forefinger
and levelled it along the table.

"Let us assume," he said, "that there has been devised and perfected an
apparatus which will release a destructive energy through the medium of
ether waves. If you understand anything about the wireless telegraph you
will grasp what I mean; in itself the wireless, of course, involves
transmitted power. Let us transform and amplify that power and we
encompass--destruction. The air is filled with energy. A sun-ray is
energy; you will recall that Archimedes concentrated it through immense
burning-glasses which set fire to Roman ships."

His voice had grown clear and strong, as though he was lecturing to a
class of students.

"Now, then, assume an instrument such as I have roughly described be
placed in the hands of our allied nations, an instrument which releases
and propels against the enemy energy so incomprehensibly enormous that
it destroys matter instantaneously, whether organic or inorganic; assume
that in a few hours it could lay the greatest host the world ever saw in
death, whether they were concealed in the earth or were in the air, or
wherever they were; assume it could level a great city. Assuming all
this, can you conceive that the nations holding this mighty force in
their hands could bring about peace which would not only be instant but
would be permanent?"

There was silence for a moment. The footman, obeying a significant
glance from the butler, withdrew; the butler himself went softly out of
the room. Latham looked up with the expression of a man emerging from a
trance.

"I don't fancy any one could doubt that," he said.

"No, indeed. Certainly not." Allison gestured in playful salute. "Let me
congratulate you upon a fine flight of imagination, Professor Simec."

"Thank you--but it isn't imagination, Doctor Allison." The man's voice
had again become flat and unemotional, with the effect of withdrawal of
personality. "I have reason to think I have perfected some such
device.... At least I believe I now possess the means of destroying
human life on a wholesale scale. There is yet more to do before we may
successfully assail inorganic matter. The waves penetrate but do not as
yet destroy, so that while we should easily bring dissolution to human
beings we cannot yet disintegrate the walls behind which they lurk.
That, however, is a detail--"

"Just like that, eh?" No one smiled at Jerry Dane's comment. Bates
leaned forward.

"Where do Colcord and I come in?"

Simec, who had resumed his seat, turned to him.

"Of course--I beg your pardon. I should have explained at the outset
that the discovery has never had adequate practical test. One of my
assistants lost his life a month or so ago, to be sure; an extremely
promising man. The incident was of value in demonstrating practically a
theoretical deadliness; unfortunately, it proved also that the power
energized ether waves in all directions, whereas obviously it should be
within the power of the operator to send it only in a given direction."

"Otherwise," remarked Latham, "it would be as fatal to the side using it
as to the army against whom it was directed."

"Precisely." Simec lifted his wine-glass and sipped slowly. "For a
time," he went on, "this drawback seemed insuperable, just as it has
been in wireless telegraphy. Within the past week, however, I am
convinced that a solution of that difficulty has been reached. In theory
and in tests on a minor scale it certainly has. My assistants, however,
refuse to serve in the demonstrations at full power--which, of course,
are vitally necessary--even though I engage to share a part, but not, of
course, the major part, of the risk. I have been equally unfortunate in
enlisting others, to whom, naturally, I was in duty bound to designate
possible--in fact, extremely probable--dangers."

"In more precise words," snapped Bates, "if your invention is what you
think it is your assistants are bound to die."

Simec hesitated a moment, his gleaming brow wrinkled thoughtfully.

"Well, not precisely," he said at length. "That is, not necessarily.
There is, of course, as I have said, that possi--that probability. I
cannot be certain. Assuming the more serious outcome materializes, there
will be no further danger for those who operate; I shall have learned
all that it is necessary to know." He paused. "Then war will cease;
either before or immediately after the initial field application."

"But this is absurd." Allison smote the table in agitation. "Why don't
you secure condemned convicts?"

"Even were that possible, I should not care to proceed in that way.
Again, I must have one or more men of keen intelligence."

"But neither Colcord nor Bates is a scientist!"

"That is not at all necessary," was the composed reply. "I am the
scientist."

"And Nick the victim," flashed Evelyn Colcord. "Well, I most decidedly
and unalterably object, Professor Simec."

"Your husband and Mr. Bates, inspired by humanitarian motives, named a
condition under which they would _give_--not risk--their lives. I meet
their condition, at least so far as it lies within human agency to
do.... Of course they can withdraw their offer--"

Bates, who had left his seat and was walking up and down the room,
turned suddenly, standing over the scientist with upraised hand.

"Simec, I withdraw right here. I'm no fool. The whole spirit of
this--this situation is not in keeping with the original idea. Not at
all. Whether you are joking, serious, or simply insane, I'm out. Try it
on yourself."

"I have already assumed great risks. In furtherance of my device--which,
as you may imagine, will have far-reaching effects--I must survive, if I
can."

Evelyn, who had suppressed an exclamation of approval of Arnold Bates's
stanch words, turned to her husband. His jaws were bulging at the
corners, his eyes alight. In a species of panic she tried to speak but
could not.

"And you, Colcord?" Simec's colorless delivered question came as from
afar.

Colcord had arisen and was staring at the inventor with the face of one
exalted.

"If you have what you say you have, Simec, you meet my condition to the
letter. At the very least, it will be a most important asset to the
cause of my country. In either case the least I can give to help it
along is my life--if that proves necessary.... When do you want me?"

In the silence that followed Evelyn Colcord, sitting like a statue,
unable to move nor to speak, passed through a limbo of nameless emotion.
Through her mind swept a flashing filament of despair, hope, craven
fear, and sturdy resolution. Tortured in the human alembic, she was at
length resolved, seeing with a vision that pierced all her horizons. And
then, trembling, tense, there came--a thought? A vision? She knew not
what it was, nor was she conscious of attempting to ascertain. She knew
only that for a fleeting instant the veil had been lifted and that she
had gazed upon serenity and that all was well. Further, she had no
inclination to know. Not that she feared complete revelation; for that
matter, some subconscious conviction that all would be well illumined
her senses. This she spurned, or rather ignored, in a greater if
nameless exaltation. Stern with the real fibre of her womanhood, she
lifted her head in pride.

Then, moved by initiative not her own, her face turned, not to her
husband, but to her guests, each in turn. Arnold Bates was crushing a
napkin in his sensitive fingers, flushed, angry, rebellious, perhaps a
trifle discomfited. Dane was smiling foolishly; Bessie was leaning
forward on the table, dead white, inert. Doctor Allison's head was
shaking; he was clicking his tongue and his wife was twisting her stout
fingers one around another. So her gaze wandered, and then, as though
emerging from a dream, revivified, calm, she studied each intently. She
knew not why, but something akin to contempt crept into her mind.

It was as though seeking relief that her eyes rested upon Sybil Latham.
The Englishwoman's face was turned to Colcord; her color was heightened
only slightly, but in her blue eyes was the light of serene stars, and
about her lips those new lines of self-sacrifice, anxiety, sorrow, which
Evelyn had resented as marring the woman's delicate beauty, now imparted
to her face vast strength, ineffable dignity, nobility.

Evelyn Colcord's throat clicked; for a moment she did not breathe, while
a vivid flash of jealous emotion departed, leaving in its place a great
peace, an exaltation born of sudden knowing. Instinctively seeking
further confirmation, her eyes, now wide and big and flaming, swept to
Latham. His face, too, was turned toward her husband. It was the grimly
triumphant visage of the fighter who knows his own kind, of the friend
and believer whose faith, suddenly justified, has made him proud.

Evelyn rose and stood erect, staring into vacancy. Here were two who
_knew_, who understood--who had been through hell and found it worth
while.

Voices, expostulatory voices, roused her. Allison was at her side and
Dane, whose wife, weeping, was pulling at her bare arm. Colcord and
Simec stood to one side, aloof, as though already detached from the
world.

"Evelyn!" Allison's voice was peremptory. "I command you! You're the
only one who has the right to check this damn foolishness. I command you
to speak."

"Evelyn--" Dane's voice trailed into nothingness.

Again her eyes turned to Sybil Latham, and then, rigidly as an
automaton, she walked swiftly to her husband's side. For a moment the
two stood facing each other, eye riveted to eye. Her beautiful bare arms
flew out swiftly, resting upon his shoulders, not encircling his neck.

"Nick--" Her voice was low, guttural. "I--I didn't help you much, did I,
dear heart? I didn't understand. They've been saying it would all come
home to us. But I didn't think so quickly--nor to us. I--I wasn't ready.
I am now. I want to help; I--I--" Her fingers clutched his shoulders
convulsively. "When--when do you go?"

Colcord stood a moment, his eyes smouldering upon her.

"To-morrow morning at seven," he replied. "That was the hour, Professor
Simec?" he added with a side-wise inclination of his head.

"Yes." The scientist looked away, hesitated, and then joined in the
little procession to the dimly lighted hall. Evelyn started as she felt
her fingers locked together in a firm hand.

"You _know_, dear girl, don't you?" There was a mist in Latham's eyes.

But Evelyn's face was light.

"Yes, Jeffery," she said proudly, "I know now."



THE PATH OF GLORY[19]

[Note 19: Copyright 1917, by The Curtis Publishing Company.
Copyright 1918, by Mary Brecht Pulver.]

BY MARY BRECHT PULVER

From _The Saturday Evening Post_.


It was so poor a place--a bitten-off morsel "at the beyond end of
nowhere"--that when a February gale came driving down out of a steel sky
and shut up the little lane road and covered the house with snow a
passer-by might have mistaken it all, peeping through its icy fleece,
for just a huddle of the brown bowlders so common to the country
thereabouts.

And even when there was no snow it was as bad--worse, almost, Luke
thought. When everything else went brave and young with new greenery;
when the alders were laced with the yellow haze of leaf bud, and the
brooks got out of prison again, and arbutus and violet and buttercup
went through their rotation of bloom up in the rock pastures and maple
bush--the farm buildings seemed only the bleaker and barer.

That forlorn unpainted little house, with its sagging blinds! It
squatted there through the year like a one-eyed beggar without a
friend--lost in its venerable white-beard winters, or contemplating an
untidy welter of rusty farm machinery through the summers.

When Luke brought his one scraggy little cow up the lane he always
turned away his head. The place made him think of the old man who let
the birds build nests in his whiskers. He preferred, instead, to look at
the glories of Bald Mountain or one of the other hills. There was
nothing wrong with the back drop in the home stage-set; it was only home
itself that hurt one's feelings.

There was no cheer inside, either. The sagging old floors, though
scrubbed and spotless, were uncarpeted; the furniture meager. A pine
table, a few old chairs, a shabby scratched settle covered by a thin
horse blanket as innocent of nap as a Mexican hairless--these for
essentials; and for embellishment a shadeless glass lamp on the table,
about six-candle power, where you might make shift to read the
_Biweekly_--times when there was enough money to have a Biweekly--if you
were so minded; and window shelves full of corn and tomato cans, still
wearing their horticultural labels, where scrawny one-legged geraniums
and yellowing coleus and begonia contrived an existence of sorts.

And then, of course, the mantelpiece with the black-edged funeral notice
and shiny coffin plate, relics of Grampaw Peel's taking-off; and the
pink mug with the purple pansy and "Woodstock, N.Y.," on it; the
photograph of a forgotten cousin in Iowa, with long antennæ-shaped
mustaches; the Bible with the little china knobs on the corners; and the
pile of medicine testimonials and seed catalogues--all these contributed
something.

If it was not a beautiful place within, it was, also, not even a
pleasant place spiritually. What with the open door into his father's
room, whence you could hear the thin frettings made by the man who had
lain these ten years with chronic rheumatism, and the untuneful
whistlings of whittling Tom, the big brother, the shapely supple giant
whose mind had never grown since the fall from the barn room when he was
eight years old, and the acrid complaints of the tall gaunt mother,
stepping about getting their inadequate supper, in her gray wrapper,
with the ugly little blue shawl pinned round her shoulders, it was as
bad a place as you might find in a year's journeying for anyone to keep
bright and "chirk up" in.

Not that anyone in particular expected "them poor Hayneses" to keep
bright or "chirk up." As far back as he could remember, Luke had
realized that the hand of God was laid on his family. Dragging his bad
leg up the hill pastures after the cow, day in and day out, he had
evolved a sort of patient philosophy about it. It was just inevitable,
like a lot of things known in that rock-ribbed and fatalistic region--as
immutably decreed by heaven as foreordination and the damnation of
unbaptized babes. The Hayneses had just "got it hard."

Yet there were times, now he was come to a gangling fourteen, when
Luke's philosophy threatened to fail him. It wasn't fair--so it wasn't!
They weren't bad folks; they'd done nothing wicked. His mother worked
like a dog--"no fair for her," any way you looked at it. There were
times when the boy drank in bitterly every detail of the miserable place
he called home and knew the depths of an utter despair.

If there was only some way to better it all! But there was no chance.
His father had been a failure at everything he touched in early life,
and now he was a hopeless invalid. Tom was an idiot--or almost--and
himself a cripple. And Nat! Well, Nat "wa'n't willin'"--not that one
should blame him. Times like these, a lump like a roc's egg would rise
in the boy's throat. He had to spit--and spit hard--to conquer it.

"If we hain't the gosh-awfulest lot!" he would gulp.

To-day, as he came up the lane, June was in the land. She'd done her
best to be kind to the farm. All the old heterogeneous rosebushes in the
wood-yard and front "lawn" were pied with fragrant bloom. Usually Luke
would have lingered to sniff it all, but he saw only one thing now with
a sudden skipping at his heart--an automobile standing beside the front
porch.

It was not the type of car to cause cardiac disturbance in a
connoisseur. It was, in fact, of an early vintage, high-set, chunky,
brassily æsthetic, and given to asthmatic choking on occasion; but Luke
did not know this. He knew only that it spelled luxury beyond all
dreams. It belonged, in short, to his Uncle Clem Cheesman, the rich
butcher who lived in the village twelve miles away; and its presence
here signaled the fact that Uncle Clem and Aunt Mollie had come to pay
one of their detestable quarterly visits to their poor relations. They
had come while he was out, and Maw was in there now, bearing it all
alone.

Luke limped into the house hastily. He was not mistaken. There was a
company air in the room, a stiff hostile-polite taint in the atmosphere.
Three visitors sat in the kitchen, and a large hamper, its contents
partly disgorged, stood on the table. Luke knew that it contained
gifts--the hateful, merciful, nauseating charity of the better-off.

Aunt Mollie was speaking as he entered--a large, high-colored,
pouter-pigeon-chested woman, with a great many rings with bright stones,
and a nodding pink plume in her hat. She was holding up a bifurcated
crimson garment, and greeted Luke absently.

"Three pair o' them underdrawers, Delia--an' not a break in one of 'em!
I sez, as soon as I see Clem layin' 'em aside this spring, 'Them
things'll be jest right fur Delia's Jere, layin' there with the
rheumatiz.' They may come a little loose; but, of course, you can't be
choicey. I've b'en at Clem fur five years to buy him union suits; but
he's always b'en so stuck on red flannen. But now he's got two
aut'mobiles, countin' the new delivery, I guess he's gotta be more tony;
so he made out to spare 'em. And now that hat, Delia--it ain't a mite
wore out, an' fur all you'll need one it's plenty good enough. I only
had it two years and I guess folks won't remember; an' what if they
do--they all know you get my things. Same way with that collarette. It's
a little moth-eaten, but it won't matter fur you.... The gray suit you
can easy cut down fur Luke, there--"

She droned on, the other woman making dry automatic sounds of assent.
She looked cool--Maw--Luke thought; but she wasn't. Not by a darn sight!
There was a spot of pink in each cheek and she stared hard every little
bit at Grampaw Peel's funeral plate on the mantel. Luke knew what she
was thinking of--poor Maw! She was burning in a fire of her own
lighting. She had brought it all on herself--on the whole of them.

Years ago she had been just like Aunt Mollie. The daughters of a
prosperous village carpenter, they had shared beads, beaux and bangles
until Maw, in a moment's madness, had chucked it all away to marry poor
Paw. Now she had made her bed, she must lie in it. Must sit and say
"Thank you!" for Aunt Mollie's leavings, precious scraps she dared not
refuse--Maw, who had a pride as fierce and keen as any! It was devilish!
Oh, it was kind of Aunt Mollie to give; it was the taking that came so
bitter hard. And then they weren't genteel about their giving. There was
always that air of superiority, that conscious patronage, as now, when
Uncle Clem, breaking off his conversation with the invalid in the next
room about the price of mutton on the hoof and the chances of the
Democrats' getting in again, stopped fiddling with his thick plated
watch chain and grinned across at big Tom to fling his undeviating
flower of wit:

"Runnin' all to beef, hain't ye, Tom, boy? Come on down to the market
an' we'll git some A-1 sirloins outen ye, anyway. Do your folks that
much good."

It was things like this that made Luke want to burn, poison, or shoot
Uncle Clem. He was not a bad man, Uncle Clem--a thick sandy chunk of a
fellow, given to bright neckties and a jocosity that took no account of
feelings. Shaped a little like a log, he was--back of his head and back
of his neck--all of a width. Little lively green eyes and bristling red
mustaches. A complexion a society bud might have envied. Why was it a
butcher got so pink and white and sleek? Pork, that's what Uncle Clem
resembled, Luke thought--a nice, smooth, pale-fleshed pig, ready to be
skinned.

His turn next! When crops and politics failed and the joke at poor
Tom--Tom always giggled inordinately at it, too--had come off, there was
sure to be the one about himself and the lame duck next. To divert
himself of bored expectation, Luke turned to stare at his cousin,
S'norta.

S'norta, sitting quietly in a chair across the room, was seldom known to
be emotional. Indeed, there were times when Luke wondered whether she
had not died in her chair. One had that feeling about S'norta, so
motionless was she, so uncompromising of glance. She was very
prosperous-looking, as became the heiress to the Cheesman meat
business--a fat little girl of twelve, dressed with a profusion of
ruffles, glass pearls, gilt buckles, and thick tawny curls that might
have come straight from the sausage hook in her papa's shop.

S'norta had been consecrated early in life to the unusual. Even her name
was not ordinary. Her romantic mother, immersed in the prenatal period
in the hair-lifting adventures of one Señorita Carmena, could think of
no lovelier appellation when her darling came than the first portion of
that sloe-eyed and restless lady's title, which she conceived to be
baptismal; and in due course she had conferred it, together with her own
pronunciation, on her child. A bold man stopping in at Uncle Clem's
market, as Luke knew, had once tried to pronounce and expound the
cognomen in a very different fashion; but he had been hustled
unceremoniously from the place, and S'norta remained in undisturbed
possession of her honors.

Now Luke was recalled from his contemplation by his uncle's voice again.
A lull had fallen and out of it broke the question Luke always dreaded.

"Nat, now!" said Uncle Clem, leaning forward, his thick fingers
clutching his fat knees. "You ain't had any news of him since quite a
while ago, have you?" The wit that was so preponderate a feature of
Uncle Clem's nature bubbled to the surface. "Dunno but he's landed in
jail a spell back and can't git out again!" The lively little eyes
twinkled appreciatively.

Nobody answered. It set Maw's mouth in a thin, hard line. You wouldn't
get a rise out of old Maw with such tactics--Maw, who believed in Nat,
soul and body. Into Luke's mind flashed suddenly a formless half prayer:
"Don't let 'em nag her now--make 'em talk other things!"

The Lord, in the guise of Aunt Mollie, answered him. For once, Nat and
Nat's character and failings did not hold her. She drew a deep breath
and voiced something that claimed her interest:

"Well, Delia, I see you wasn't out at the Bisbee's funeral. Though I
don't s'pose anyone really expected you, knowin' how things goes with
you. Time was, when you was a girl, you counted in as big as any and
traveled with the best; but now"--she paused delicately, and coughed
politely with an appreciative glance round the poor room--"they ain't
anyone hereabouts but's talkin' about it. My land, it was swell! I
couldn't ask no better for my own. Fourteen cabs, and the hearse sent
over from Rockville--all pale gray, with mottled gray horses. It was
what I call tasty.

"Matty wasn't what you'd call well-off--not as lucky as some I could
mention; but she certainly went off grand! The whole Methodist choir was
out, with three numbers in broken time; and her cousin's brother-in-law
from out West--some kind of bishop--to preach. Honest, it was one of the
grandest sermons I ever heard! Wasn't it, Clem?"

Uncle Clem cleared his throat thoughtfully.

"Humiliatin'!--that's what I'd call it. A strong maur'l sermon all
round. A man couldn't hear it 'thout bein' humiliated more ways'n one."
He was back at the watch-chain again.

"It's a pity you couldn't of gone, Delia--you an' Matty always was so
intimate too. You certainly missed a grand treat, I can tell you;
though, if you hadn't the right clothes--"

"Well, I haven't," Maw spoke dryly. "I don't go nowheres, as you
know--not even church."

"I s'pose not. Time was it was different, though, Delia. Ain't nobody
but talks how bad off you are. Ann Chester said she seen you in town a
while back and wouldn't of knowed it was you if it hadn't of b'en you
was wearin' my old brown cape, an' she reconnized it. Her an' me got 'em
both alike to the same store in Rockville. You was so changed, she said
she couldn't hardly believe it was you at all."

"Sometimes I wonder myself if it is," said Maw grimly.

"Well, 's I was sayin', it was a grand funeral. None better! They even
had engraved invites, over a hundred printed--and they had folks from
all over the state. They give Clem, here, the contract fur the supper
meat--"

"The best of everything!" Uncle Clem broke in. "None o' your cheap
graft. Gimme a free hand. Jim Bisbee tole me himself. 'I want the best
ye got,' he sez; an' I give it. Spring lamb and prime ribs, fancy hotel
style--"

"An' Em Carson baked the cakes fur 'em, sixteen of 'em; an' Dickison the
undertaker's tellin' all over they got the best quality shroud he
carries. Well, you'll find it all in the _Biweekly_, under Death's Busy
Sickle. Jim Bisbee shore set a store by Matty oncet she was dead. It was
a grand affair, Delia. Not but what we've had some good ones in our time
too."

It was Aunt Mollie's turn to stare pridefully at the Peel plate on the
chimney shelf.

"A thing like that sets a family up, sorta."

Uncle Clem had taken out a fat black cigar with a red-white-and-blue
band. He bit off the end and alternately thrust it between his lips or
felt of its thickness with a fondling thumb and finger. Luke, watching,
felt a sudden compassion for the cigar. It looked so harried.

"I always say," Aunt Mollie droned on, "a person shows up what he really
is at the last--what him and his family stands fur. It's what kind of a
funeral you've got that counts--who comes out an' all. An' that was
true with Matty. There wa'n't a soul worth namin' that wasn't out to
hers."

How Aunt Molly could gouge--even amicably! And funerals! What a subject,
even in a countryside where a funeral is a social event and the manner
of its furniture marks a definite social status! Would they never go?
But it seemed at last they would. Incredibly, somehow, they were taking
their leave, Aunt Mollie kissing Maw good-by, with the usual remark
about "hopin' the things would help some," and about being "glad to
spare somethin' from my great plenty."

She and Señorita were presently packed into the car and Tom had gone out
to goggle at Uncle Clem cranking up, the cold cigar still between his
lips. Now they were off--choking and snorting their way out of the
wood-yard and down the lane. Aunt Mollie's pink feather streamed into
the breeze like a pennon of triumph.

* * *

Maw was standing by the stove, a queer look in her eyes; so queer that
Luke didn't speak at once. He limped over to finger the spilled
treasures on the table.

"Gee! Lookit, Maw! More o' them prunes we liked so; an' a bag o' early
peaches; an' fresh soup meat fur a week--"

A queer trembling had seized his mother. She was so white he was
frightened.

"Did you sense what it meant, Luke--what Aunt Molly told us about Matty
Bisbee? We was left out deliberate--that's what it meant. Her an' me
that was raised together an' went to school and picnics all our girlhood
together! Never could see one 'thout the other when we was growin'
up--Jim Bisbee knew that too! But"--her voice wavered miserably--"I
didn't get no invite to her funeral. I don't count no more, Lukey. None
of us, anywheres.... We're jest them poor Gawd-forsaken Hayneses."

She slipped down suddenly into a chair and covered her face, her thin
shoulders shaking. Luke went and touched her awkwardly. Times he would
have liked to put his arms round Maw--now more than ever; but he didn't
dare.

"Don't take on, Maw! Don't!"

"Who's takin' on?" She lifted a fierce, sallow, tear-wet face. "Hain't
no use makin' a fuss. All's left's to work--to work, an' die after a
while."

"I hate 'em! Uncle Clem an' her, I mean."

"They mean kindness--their way." But her tears started afresh.

"I hate 'em!" Luke's voice grew shriller. "I'd like--I'd like--Oh, damn
'em!"

"Don't swear, boy!"

It was Tom who broke in on them. "It's a letter from Rural Free
Delivery. He jest dropped it."

He came up, grinning, with the missive. The mother's fingers closed on
it nervously.

"From Nat, mebbe--he ain't wrote in months."

But it wasn't from Nat. It was a bill for a last payment on the "new
harrow," bought three years before.


II

One of the earliest memories Luke could recall was the big blurred
impression of Nat's face bending over his crib of an evening. At first
flat, indefinite, remote as the moon, it grew with time to more human,
intimate proportions. It became the face of "brother," the black-haired,
blue-eyed big boy who rollicked on the floor with or danced him on his
knee to--

    This is the way the lady rides!
    Tritty-trot-trot; tritty-trot-trot!

Or who, returning from school and meeting his faltering feet in the
lane, would toss him up on his shoulder and canter him home with mad,
merry scamperings.

Not that school and Nat ever had much in common. Even as a little shaver
Luke had realized that. Nat was the family wilding, the migratory bird
that yearned for other climes. There were the times when he sulked long
days by the fire, and the springs and autumns when he played an unending
round of hookey. There were the days when he was sent home from school
in disgrace; when protesting notes, and sometimes even teacher, arrived.

"It's not that Nat's a bad boy, Mrs. Haynes," he remembered one teacher
saying; "but he's so active, so full of restless animal spirits. How are
we ever going to tame him?"

Maw didn't know the answer--that was sure. She loved Nat best--Luke had
guessed it long ago, by the tone of her voice when she spoke to him, by
the touch of her hand on his head, or the size of his apple turnover, so
much bigger than the others'. Maw must have built heavily on her hopes
of Nat those days--her one perfect child. She was so proud of him! In
the face of all ominous prediction she would fling her head high.

"My Nat's a Peel!" she would say. "Can't never tell how he'll turn out."

The farmers thereabouts thought they could tell her. Nat was into one
scrape after another--nothing especially wicked; but a compound of the
bubbling mischief in a too ardent life--robbed orchards, broken windows,
practical jokes, Halloween jinks, vagrant whimsies of an active
imagination.

It was just that Nat's quarters were too small for him, chiefly. Even he
realized this presently. Luke would never forget the sloppy March
morning when Nat went away. He was wakened by a flare of candle in the
room he shared with his brothers. Tom, the twelve-year-old, lay sound
asleep; but Nat, the big man of fifteen, was up, dressed, bending over
something he was writing on a paper at the bureau. There was a fat
little bundle beside him, done up in a blue-and-white bandanna.

Day was still far off. The window showed black; there was the sound of a
thaw running off the eaves; the white-washed wall was painted with
grotesque leaping shadows by the candle flame. At the first murmur, Nat
had come and put his arms about him.

"Don't ye holler, little un; don't ye do it! 'Tain't nothin'--on'y
Natty's goin' away a spell; quite a spell, little un. Now kiss Natty....
That's right!... An' you lay still there an' don't holler. An' listen
here, too: Natty's goin' to bring ye somethin'--a grand red ball,
mebbe--if you're good. You wait an' see!"

But Natty hadn't brought the ball. Two years had passed without a scrap
of news of him; and then--he was back. Slipped into the village on a
freighter at dusk one evening. A forlorn scarecrow Nat was; so tattered
of garment, so smeared of coal dust, you scarcely knew him. So full of
strange sophistications, too, and new trails of thought--so oddly rich
of experience. He gave them his story. The tale of an exigent life in a
great city; a piecework life made of such flotsam labors as he could
pick up, of spells of loafing, of odd incredible associates, of months
tagging a circus, picking up a task here and there, of long journeyings
through the country, "riding the bumpers"--even of alms asked at back
doors!

"Oh, not a tramp, Nat!"

The hurt had quivered all through Maw.

But Nat only laughed.

"Jiminy Christmas, it was great!"

He had thrown back his head, laughing. That was Nat all through--sipping
of life generously, no matter in what form.

He had stayed just three weeks. He had spent them chiefly defeating
Maw's plans to keep him. Wanderlust kept him longer the next time. That
was eight years ago. Since then he had been back home three times. Never
so poor and shabby as at first--indeed, Nat's wanderings had prospered
more or less--but still remote, somewhat mysterious, touched by new
habits of life, new ways of speech.

The countryside, remembering the manner of his first return, shook its
head darkly. A tramp--a burglar, even. God knew what! When, on his third
visit home, he brought an air of extreme opulence, plenty of money, and
a sartorial perfection undreamed of locally, the heads wagged even
harder. A gambler probably; a ne'er-do-well certainly; and one to break
his mother's heart in the end.

But none of this was true, as Luke knew. It was just that Nat hated
farming; that he liked to rove and take a floater's fortune. He had a
taste for the mechanical and followed incomprehensible quests. San
Francisco had known him; the big races at Cincinnati; the hangars of
Mineola. He was restless--Nat; but he was respectable. No one could look
into his merry blue eyes and not know it. If his labors were uncertain
and sporadic, and his address that of a nomad, it all sufficed, at least
for himself.

If at times Luke felt a stirring doubt that Nat was not acquitting
himself of his family duty, he quenched it fiercely. Nat was different.
He was born free; you could tell it in his talk, in his way of thinking.
He was like an eagle and hated to be bound by earthly ties. He cared for
them all in his own way. Times when he was back he helped Maw all he
could. If he brought money he gave of it freely; if he had none, just
the look of his eye or the ready jest on his lip helped.

Upstairs in a drawer of the old pine bureau lay some of Nat's discarded
clothing--incredible garments to Luke. The lame boy, going to them
sometimes, fingered them, pondering, reconstructing for himself the
fabric of Nat's adventures, his life. The ice-cream pants of a bygone
day; the pointed, shriveled yellow Oxfords! the silk-front shirt; the
odd cuff link or stud--they were like a genie-in-a-bottle, these poor
clothes! You rubbed them and a whole Arabian Night's dream unfurled from
them.

And Nat lived it all! But people--dull stodgy people like Uncle Clem and
Aunt Mollie, and old Beckonridge down at the store, and a dozen
others--these criticized him for not "workin' reg'lar" and giving a full
account of himself.

Luke, thinking of all this, would flush with impotent anger.

"Oh, let 'em talk, though! He'll show 'em some day! They dunno Nat.
He'll do somethin' big fur us all some day."


III

Midsummer came to trim the old farm with her wreaths. It was the time
Luke loved best of all--the long, sweet, loam-scented evenings with Maw
and Tom on the old porch; and sometimes--when there was no fog--Paw's
cot, wheeled out in the stillness. But Maw was not herself this summer.
Something had fretted and eaten into her heart like an acid ever since
Aunt Mollie's visit and the news of Matty Bisbee's funeral.

When, one by one, the early summer festivities of the neighborhood had
slipped by, with no inclusion of the Hayneses, she had fallen to
brooding deeply,--to feeling more bitterly than ever the ignominy and
wretchedness of their position.

Luke tried to comfort her; to point out that this summer was like any
other; that they "never had mattered much to folks." But Maw continued
to brood; to allude vaguely and insistently to "the straw that broke the
camel's back." It was bitter hard to have Maw like that--home was bad
enough, anyway. Sometimes on clear, soft nights, when the moon came out
all splendid and the "peepers" sang so plaintively in the Hollow, the
boy's heart would fill and grow enormous in his chest with the
intolerable sadness he felt.

Then Maw's mood lifted--pierced by a ray of heavenly sunlight--for Nat
came home!

Luke saw him first--heard him, rather; for Nat came up the lane--oh,
miraculous!--driving a motor car. It was not a car like Uncle
Clem's--not even a stepbrother to it. It was low and almost noiseless,
and shaped like one of those queer torpedoes they were fighting with
across the water. It was colored a soft dust-gray and trimmed with
nickel; and, huge and powerful though it was, it swung to a mere touch
of Nat's hand.

Nat stood before them, clad in black leather Norfolk and visored cap and
leggings.

"Look like a fancy brand of chauffeur, don't I?" he laughed, with the
easy resumption of a long-broken relation that was so characteristically
Nat.

But Nat was not a chauffeur. Something much bigger and grander. The news
he brought them on top of it all took their breaths away. Nat was a
special demonstrator, out on a brand-new high-class job for a house
handling a special line of high-priced goods. And he was to go to Europe
in another week--did they get it straight? Europe! Jiminy! He and
another fellow were taking cars over to France and England.

No; they didn't quite get it. They could not grasp its significance, but
clung humbly, instead, to the mere glorious fact of his presence.

He stayed two days and a night; and summer was never lovelier. Maw was
like a girl, and there was such a killing of pullets and extravagance
with new-laid eggs as they had never known before. At the last he gave
them all presents.

"Tell the truth," he laughed, "I'm stony broke. 'Tisn't mine, all this
stuff you see. I got some kale in advance--not much, but enough to swing
me; but of course, the outfit's the company's. But I'll tell you one
thing: I'm going to bring some long green home with me, you can bet! And
when I do"--Nat had given Maw a prodigious nudge in the ribs--"when I
do--I ain't goin' to stay an old bachelor forever! Do you get that?"

Maw's smile had faded for a moment. But the presents were fine--a new
knife for Tom, a book for Luke, and twenty whole round dollars for Maw,
enough to pay that old grocery bill down at Beckonridge's and Paw's new
invoice of patent medicine.

They all stood on the porch and watched him as far they could see; and
Maw's black mood didn't return for a whole week.

Evenings now they had something different to talk about--journeys in
seagoing craft; foreign countries and the progress of the "Ee-ropean"
war, and Nat's likelihood--he had laughed at this--of touching even its
fringe. They worked it all up from the boiler-plate war news in the
_Bi-weekly_ and Luke's school geography. Yes; for a little space the
blackness was lifted.

Then came the August morning when Paw died. This was an unexpected and
unsettling contingency. One doesn't look for a "chronic's" doing
anything so unscheduled and foreign to routine; but Paw spoiled all
precedent. They found him that morning with his heart quite still, and
Luke knew they stood in the presence of imminent tragedy.

It's all very well to peck along, hand-to-mouth fashion. You can manage
a living of sorts; and farm produce, even scanty, unskillfully
contrived, and the charity of relatives, and the patience of tradesmen,
will see you through. But a funeral--that's different! Undertaker--that
means money. Was it possible that the sordid epic of their lives must be
capped by the crowning insult, the Poormaster and the Pauper's Field? If
only poor Paw could have waited a little before he claimed the
spotlight--until prices fell a little or Nat got back with that "long
green"!

Maw swallowed her bitter pill.

She went to see Uncle Clem and ask! And Uncle Clem was kind.

"He'll buy a casket--he's willin' fur that--an' send a wreath and pay
fur notices, an' even half on a buryin' lot; but he said he couldn't do
no more. The high cost has hit him too.... An' where are we to git the
rest? He said--at the last--it might be better all round fur us to take
what Ellick Flick would gimme outen the Poor Fund--" Maw hadn't been
able to go on for a spell.

A pauper's burial for Paw! Surely Maw would manage better than that! She
tried to find a better way that very night.

"This farm's mortgaged to the neck; but I calculate Ben Travis won't
care if I'm a mind to put Paw in the south field. It hain't no mortal
good fur anything else, anyhow; an' he can lay there if we want. It's a
real pleasant place. An' I can git the preacher myself--I'll give him
the rest o' the broilers; an' they's seasoned hickory plankin' in the
lean-to. Tom, you come along with me."

All night Luke had lain and listened to the sound of big Tom's saw and
hammer. Tom was real handy if you told him how--and Maw would be showing
him just how to shape it all out. Each hammer blow struck deep on the
boy's heart.

Maw lined the home-made box herself with soft old quilts, and washed and
dressed her dead herself in his faded outlawed wedding clothes. And on a
morning soft and sweet, with a hint of rain in the air, they rode down
in the farm wagon to the south field together--Paw and Maw and
Luke--with big Tom walking beside the aged knobby horse's head.

Abel Gazzam, a neighbor, had seen to the grave; and in due course the
little cavalcade reached the appointed spot inside the snake fence--a
quiet place in a corner, under a graybeard elm. As Maw had said, it was
"a pleasant place for Paw to lay in."

There were some old neighbors out in their own rigs, and Uncle Clem had
brought his family up in his car, with a proper wreath; and Reverend
Kearns came up and--declining all lien on the broilers--read the burial
service, and spoke a little about poor Paw. But it wasn't a funeral, no
how. No supper; no condolence; no viewing "the remains"--not even a
handshake! Maw didn't even look at her old friends, riding back home
between Tom and Luke, with her head fiercely high in the air.

A dull depression settled on Luke's heart. It was all up with the
Hayneses now. They had saved Paw from charity with their home-made
burial; but what had it availed? They might as well have gone the whole
figure. Everybody knew! There wasn't any comeback for a thing like this.
They were just nobodies--the social pariahs of the district.


IV

Somehow, after the fashion of other years, they got their meager crops
in--turnips, potatoes and Hubbard squashes put up in the vegetable
cellar; oats cradled; corn husked; the buckwheat ready for the mill;
even Tom's crooked furrows for the spring sowings made. Somehow, Maw
helping like a man and Tom obeying like a docile child, they took toll
of their summer. And suddenly September was at their heels--and then the
equinox.

It seemed to Luke that it had never rained so much before. Brown vapor
rose eternally from the valley flats; the hilltops lay lost entirely in
clotted murk. By periods hard rains, like showers of steel darts, beat
on the soaking earth. Gypsy gales of wind went ricocheting among the
farm buildings, setting the shingles to snapping and singing; the
windows moaned and rattled. The sourest weather the boy could remember!

And on the worst day of all they got the news. Out of the mail box in
the lane Luke got it--going down under an old rubber cape in a steady
blinding pour. It got all damp--the letter, foreign postmark, stamp and
all--by the time he put it into Maw's hand.

It was a double letter--or so one judged, first opening it. There was
another inside, complete, sealed, and addressed in Nat's hand; but one
must read the paper inclosed with it first--that was obvious. It was
just a strip, queer, official looking, with a few lines typed upon it
and a black heading that sprang out at one strangely. They read it
together--or tried to. At first they got no sense from it. Paris--from
clear off in France--and then the words below--and Maw's name at the
top, just like the address on the newspaper:

MRS. JERE HAYNES,
Stony Brook, New York.

It was for Maw all right. Then quite suddenly the words came clear
through the blur:

MRS. JERE HAYNES,
Stony Brook, New York.

_Dear Madam_: We regret to inform you that the official _communiqué_ for
September sixth contains the tidings that the writer of the enclosed
letter, Nathaniel Haynes, of Stony Brook, New York, U. S. A., was killed
while on duty as an ambulance driver in the Sector of Verdun, and has
been buried in that region. Further details will follow.

The American Ambulance, Paris.

Even when she realized, Maw never cried out. She sat wetting her lips
oddly, looking at the words that had come like evil birds across the
wide spaces of earth. It was Luke who remembered the other letter:

"_My dear kind folks--Father, Mother and Brothers_: I guess I dare call
you that when I get far enough away from you. Perhaps you won't mind
when I tell you my news.

"Well we came over from England last Thursday and struck into our
contract here. Things was going pretty good; but you might guess yours
truly couldn't stand the dead end of things. I bet Maw's guessed
already. Well sir it's that roving streak in me I guess. Never could
stick to nothing steady. It got me bad when I got here any how.

"To cut it short I throwed up my job with the firm yesterday and have
volunteered as an Ambulance driver. Nothing but glory; but I'm going to
like it fine! They're short-handed anyhow and a fellow likes to help
what he can. Wish I could send a little money; but it took all I had to
outfit me. Had to cough up eight bucks for a suit of underclothes. What
do you know about that?

"You can write me in care of the Ambulance, Paris.

"Now Maw don't worry! I'm not going to fight. I did try to get into the
Foreign Legion but had no chance. I'm all right. Think of me as a nice
little Red Cross boy and the Wise Willie on the gas wagon. And won't I
have the hot stuff to make old Luke's eyes pop out! Hope Paw's legs are
better. And Maw have a kiss on me. Mebbe you folks think I don't
appreciate you. If I was any good at writing I'd tell you different.

"Your Son and Brother,
"NAT HAYNES."

The worst of it all was about Maw's not crying--just sitting there
staring at the fire, or where the fire had been when the wood had died
out of neglect. It's not in reason that a woman shouldn't cry, Luke
felt. He tried some words of comfort:

"He's safe, anyhow, Maw--'member that! That's a whole lot too. Didn't
always know that, times he was rollin' round so over here. You worried a
whole lot about him, you know."

But Maw didn't answer. She seldom spoke at all--moved about as little as
possible. When she had put out food for him and Tom she always went back
to her corner and stared into the fire. Luke had to bring a plate to her
and coax her to eat. Even the day Uncle Clem and Aunt Mollie came up
she did not notice them. Only once she spoke of Nat to Luke.

"You loved him the most, didn't ye, Maw?" he asked timidly one dreary
evening.

She answered in a sort of dull surprise.

"Why, lad, he was my first!" she said; and after a bit as though to
herself: "His head was that round and shiny when he was a little fellow
it was like to a little round apple. I mind, before he ever come, I
bought me a cap fur him over to Rockville, with a blue bow onto it. He
looked awful smart an' pretty in it."

Sometimes in the night Luke, sleeping ill and thinking long, lay and
listened for possible sounds from Maw's room. Perhaps she cried in the
nights. If she only would--it would help break the tension for them all.
But he never heard anything but the rain--steadily, miserably beating on
the sodden shingles overhead.

* * *

It was only Luke who watched the mail box now. One morning his journey
to it bore fruit. No sting any longer; no fear in the thick foreign
letter he carried.

"It'll tell ye all's to it, I bet!" he said eagerly.

Maw seemed scarcely interested. It was Luke who broke the seal and read
it aloud.

It was written from the Ambulance Headquarters, in Paris--written by a
man of rare insight, of fine and delicate perception. All that Nat's
family might have wished to learn he sought to tell them. He had himself
investigated Nat's story and he gave it all fully and freely. He spoke
in praise of Nat; of his friendly associations with the Ambulance men;
of his good nature and cheerful spirits; his popularity and ready
willingness to serve. People, one felt, had loved Nat over there.

He wrote of the preliminary duties in Paris, the preparations--of Nat's
final going to join one of the three sections working round Verdun. It
wasn't easy work that waited for Nat there. It was a stiff contract
guiding the little ambulance over the shell-rutted roads, with deftness
and precision, to those distant dressing stations where the hurt
soldiers waited for him. It was a picture that thrilled Luke and made
his pulses tingle--the blackness of the nights; the rumble of moving
artillery and troops; the flash of starlights; the distant crackling of
rifle fire; the steady thunder of heavy guns.

And the shells! It was mighty close they swept to a fellow, whistling,
shrieking, low overhead; falling to tear out great gouges in the earth.
It was enough to wreck one's nerve utterly; but the fellows that drove
were all nerve. Just part of the day's work to them! And that was Nat
too. Nat hadn't known what fear was--he'd eaten it alive. The adventurer
in him had gone out to meet it joyously.

Nat was only on his third trip when tragedy had come to him. He and a
companion were seeking a dressing station in the cellar of a little
ruined house in an obscure French village, when a shell had burst right
at their feet, so to speak. That was all. Simple as that. Nat was dead
instantly and his companion--oh, Nat was really the lucky one....

Luke had to stop for a little time. One couldn't go on at once before a
thing like that.... When he did, it was to leave behind the darkness,
the shell-torn houses, the bruised earth, the racked and mutilated
humans.... Reading on, it was like emerging from Hades into a great
Peace.

* * *

"I wish it were possible to convey to you, my dear Mrs. Haynes, some
impression of the moving and beautiful ceremony with which your son was
laid to rest on the morning of September ninth, in the little village of
Aucourt. Imagine a warm, sunny, late-summer day, and a village street
sloping up a hillside, filled with soldiers in faded, dusty blue, and
American Ambulance drivers in khaki.

"In the open door of one of the houses, the front of which was covered
with the tri-color of France, the coffin was placed, wrapped in a great
French flag, and covered with flowers and wreaths sent by the various
American sections. At the head a small American flag was placed, on
which was pinned the _Croix de Guerre_--a gold star on a red-and-green
ribbon--a tribute from the army general to the boy who gave his life for
France.

"A priest, with six soldier attendants, led the procession from the
courtyard. Six more soldiers bore the coffin, the Americans and
representatives of the army branches following, bearing wreaths. After
these came the General of the Army Corps, with a group of officers, and
a detachment of soldiers with arms reversed. At the foot of the hill a
second detachment fell in and joined them....

"The scene was unforgettable, beautiful and impressive. In the little
church a choir of soldiers sang and a soldier-priest played the organ,
while the Chaplain of the Army Division held the burial service. The
chaplain's sermon I have asked to have reproduced and sent to you,
together with other effects of your son's....

"The chaplain spoke most beautifully and at length, telling very
tenderly what it meant to the French people that an American should give
his life while trying to help them in the hour of their extremity. The
name of this chaplain is Henri Deligny, _Aumônier Militaire_, Ambulance
16-27, Sector 112; and he was assisted by the permanent curé of the
little church, Abbé Blondelle, who wishes me to assure you that he will
guard most reverently your son's grave, and be there to receive you when
the day may come that you shall wish to visit it.

"After leaving the church the procession marched to the military
cemetery, where your son's body was laid beside the hundreds of others
who have died for France. Both the lieutenant and general here paid
tributes of appreciation, which I will have sent to you. The general,
various officers of the army, and ambulance assisted in the last
rites....

"I have brought back and will send you the _Croix de Guerre_...."

* * *

Oh, but you couldn't read any further--for the great lump of pride in
your throat, the thick mist of tears in your eyes. A sob escaped the
boy. He looked over at Maw and saw the miraculous. Maw was awake at last
and crying--a new-fledged pulsating Maw emerged from the brown chrysalis
of her sorrows.

"Oh, Maw!... Our Nat!... All that--that--funeral!... Some funeral, Maw!"
The boy choked.

"My Nat!" Maw was saying. "Buried like a king!... Like a King o'
France!" She clasped her hands tightly.

It was like some beautiful fantasy. A Haynes--the despised and rejected
of earth--borne to his last home with such pomp and ceremony!

"There never was nothin' like it heard of round here, Maw.... If folks
could only know--"

She lifted her head as at a challenge.

"Why, they're goin' to know, Luke--for I'm goin' to tell 'em. Folks that
have talked behind Nat's back--folks that have pitied us--when they see
this--like a King o' France!" she repeated softly. "I'm goin' down to
town to-day, Luke."


V

It was dusk when Maw came back; dusk of a clear day, with a rosy sunset
off behind the hills. Luke opened the door for her and he saw that she
had brought some of the sun along in with her--its colors in her worn
face; its peace in her eyes. She was the same, yet somehow new. Even the
tilt of her crazy old bonnet could not detract from a strange new
dignity that clothed her.

She did not speak at once, going over to warm her gloveless hands at
the stove, and staring up at the Grampaw Peel plate; then:

"When it comes--my Nat's medal--it's goin' to set right up here, 'stead
o' this old thing--an' the letters and the sermons in my shell box I got
on my weddin' trip.... Lawyer Ritchie told me to-day what it means, the
name o' that medal--Cross o' War! It's a decoration fur soldiers and
earned by bravery."

She paused; then broke out suddenly:

"I b'en a fool, settin' here grievin'. My Nat was a hero, an' I never
knew it!... A hero's folks hadn't ought to cry. It's a thing too big for
that. Come here, you little Luke! Maw hain't b'en real good to you an'
Tommy lately. You're gittin' all white an' peaked. Too much frettin'
'bout Nat. You an' me's got to stop it, I tell you. Folks round here
ain't goin' to let us fret--"

"Folks! Maw!" The words burst from the boy's heart. "Did they find
out?... You showed it to 'em? Uncle Clem--"

Maw sniffed.

"Clem! Oh, he was real took aback; but he don't count in on this--not
big enough." Then triumph hastened her story. "It's the big ones that's
mixin' into this, Lukey. Seems like they'd heard somethin' a spell back
in one o' the county papers, an' we didn't know.... Anyhow, when I first
got into town I met Judge Geer. He had me right into his office in
Masonic Hall 'fore I could git my breath almost--had me settin' in his
private room, an' sent his stenugifer out fur a cup o' cawfee fur me. He
had me give him the letter to read, an' asked dare he make some copies.
The stenugifer took 'em like lightnin', right there.

"The judge had a hard time of it, coughin' an' blowin' over that letter.
He's goin' to send some copies to the New York papers right off. He took
me acrost the hall and interduced me to Lawyer Ritchie. Lawyer Ritchie,
he read the letter too. 'A hero!' they called Nat; an' me 'A hero's
mother!'

"'We ain't goin' to forgit this, Mis' Haynes,' Lawyer Ritchie said.
'This here whole town's proud o' your Nat.'... My land! I couldn't sense
it all!... Me, Delia Haynes, gettin' her hand wrung, 'count o' anything
Nat'd b'en doin', by the big bugs round town! Judge Geer, he fetched 'em
all out o' their offices--Slade, the supervisor, and Fuller Brothers,
and old Sumner Pratt--an' all! An' Ben Watson asked could he have a copy
to put in the _Bi-weekly_. It's goin' to take the whole front page, with
an editor'al inside. He said the Rockville Center News'd most likely
copy it too.

"I was like in a dream!... All I'd aimed to do was to let some o' them
folks know that those people acrost the ocean had thought well of our
Nat, an' here they was breakin' their necks to git in on it too!...
Goin' down the street they was more of it. Lu Shiffer run right out o'
the hardware store an' left the nails he was weighin' to shake hands
with me; and Jem Brand came; and Lan'lord Peters come out o' the Valley
House an' spoke to me.... I felt awful public. An' Jim Beckonridge come
out of the Emporium to shake too.

"'I ain't seen you down in town fur quite a spell,' he sez. 'How are you
all up there to the farm?... Want to say I'm real proud o' Nat--a boy
from round here!' he sez.... Old Beckonridge, that was always wantin' to
arrest Nat fur takin' his chestnuts or foolin' down in the store!

"I just let 'em drift--seein' they had it all fixed fur me. All along
the street they come an' spoke to me. Mame Parmlee, that ain't b'en able
to see me fur three years, left off sweepin' her porch an' come down an'
shook my hand, an' cried about it; an' that stylish Mis' Willowby,
that's president o' the Civil Club, followed me all over the Square and
asked dare she read a copy o' the letter an' tell about Nat to the
schoolhouse next Wednesday.

"It seems Judge Geer had gone out an' spread it broadcast that I was in
town, for they followed me everywhere. Next thing I run into Reverend
Kearns and Reverend Higby, huntin' me hard. They both had one idee.

"'We wanted to have a memor'al service to the churches 'bout Nat,' they
sez; 'then it come over us that it was the town's affair really. So,
Mis' Haynes,' they sez, 'we want you should share this thing with us.
You mustn't be selfish. You gotta give us a little part in it too. Are
you willin'?'"

"It knocked me dumb--me givin' anybody anything! Well, to finish, they's
to be a big public service in the Town Hall on Friday. They'll have it
all flags--French ones, an' our'n too. An' the ministers'll preach; an'
Judge Geer'll tell Nat's story an' speak about him; an' the Ladies'
Guild'll serve a big hot supper, because they'll probably be hundreds
out; an' they'll read the letters an' have prayers for our Nat!" She
faltered a moment. "An' we'll be there too--you an' me an' Tom--settin'
in the seat o' honor, right up front!... It'll be the greatest funeral
service this town's ever seen, Luke."

Maw's face was crimson with emotion.

"An' Uncle Clem an' Aunt Mollie--"

"Oh--them!" Maw came back to earth and smiled tolerantly. "They was real
sharp to be in it too. Mollie took me into the parlor an' fetched a
glass o' wine to stren'then me up." Maw mused a moment; then spoke with
a touch of patronage: "I'm goin' to knit Clem some new socks this
winter. He says he can't git none like the oldtime wool ones; an' the
market floors are cold. Clem's done what he could, an' I'll be real glad
to help him out.... Oh, I asked 'em to come an' set with us at the
service--S'norta too. I allowed we could manage to spare 'em the room."

She dreamed again, launched on a sea of glory; then roused to her final
triumph:

"But that's only part, Luke. The best's comin'. Jim Beckonridge wants
you to go down an' see him. 'That lame boy o' yours,' he sez, 'was in
here a spell ago with some notion about raisin' bees an' buckwheat
together, an' gittin' a city market fur buckwheat honey. Slipped my
mind,' he sez, 'till I heard what Nat'd done; an' then it all come back.
City party this summer had the same notion an' was lookin' out for a
likely place to invest some cash in. You send that boy down an' we'll
talk it over. Shouldn't wonder if he'd get some backin'. I calculate I
might help him, myself,' he sez, 'I b'en thinkin' of it too.'... Don't
seem like it could hardly be true."

"Oh, Maw!" Luke's pulses were leaping wildly. Buckwheat honey was the
dear dream of many a long hour's wistful meditation. "If we could--I
could study up about it an' send away fur printed books. We could make
some money--"

But Maw had not yet finished.

"An' they's some about Tom, too, Luke! That young Doctor Wells down
there--he's on'y b'en there a year--he come right up, an' spoke to me,
in the midst of several. 'I want to talk about your boy,' he sez. 'I've
wanted to fur some time, but didn't like to make bold; but now seem's as
good a time as any.' 'They're all talkin' of him,' I sez. 'Well,' he
sez, 'I don't mean the dead, but the livin' boy--the one folks calls Big
Tom. I've heard his story, an' I got a good look over him down here in
the store a while ago. Woman'--he sez it jest like that--'if that big
boy o' your'n had a little operation, he'd be as good as any.'

"I answered him patient, an' told him what ailed Tom an' why he couldn't
be no different--jest what old Doc Andrews told us--that they was a
little piece o' bone druv deep into his skull that time he fell. He
spoke real vi'lent then. 'But--my Lord!--woman,' he sez, 'that's what
I'm talkin' about. If we jack up that bone'--trepannin', he called it
too--'his brains'd git to be like anybody else's.' Told me he wants fur
us to let him look after it. Won't cost anything unless we want. They's
a hospital to Rockville would tend to it, an' glad to--when we git
ready.... My poor Tommy!... Don't seem's if it could be true."

Her face softened, and she broke up suddenly.

"I got good boys all round," she wept. "I always said it; an' now folks
know."

* * *

Luke lay on the old settle, thinking. In the air-tight stove the hickory
fagots crackled, with jeweled color-play. On the other side Tom sat
whittling silently--Tom, who would presently whittle no more, but rise
to be a man.

It was incredible! Incredible that the old place might some day shake
off its shackles of poverty and be organized for a decent struggle with
life! Incredible that Maw--stepping briskly about getting the
supper--should be singing!

Already the room seemed filled and warmed with the odors of prosperity
and self-respect. Maw had put a red geranium on the table; there was the
crispy fragrance of frying salt pork and soda biscuit in the air.

These the Hayneses! These people, with hope and self-esteem once more in
their hearts! These people, with a new, a unique place in the
community's respect! It was all like a beautiful miracle; and, thinking
of its maker, Luke choked suddenly and gulped.

There was a moist spot on the old Mexican hairless right under his eyes;
but it had been made by tears of pride, not sorrow. Maw was right! A
hero's folks hadn't ought to cry. And he wouldn't. Nat was better off
than ever--safe and honored. He had trod the path of glory. A line out
of the boy's old Reader sprang to his mind: "The paths of glory lead but
to the grave." Oh, but it wasn't true! Nat's path led to life--to hope;
to help for all of them, for Nat's own. In his death, if not in his
life, he had rehabilitated them. And Nat--who loved them--would look
down and call it good.

In spite of himself the boy sobbed, visioning his brother's face.

"Oh, Nat!" he whispered. "I knew you'd do it! I always said you'd do
somethin' big for us all."



CHING, CHING, CHINAMAN[20]

[Note 20: Copyright, 1917, by The Pictorial Review Company.
Copyright, 1918, by Wilbur Daniel Steele.]

BY WILBUR DANIEL STEELE

From _The Pictorial Review_


How gaily we used to chant it over Yen Sin's scow when I was a boy on
Urkey water-front, and how unfailingly it brought the minister charging
down upon us. I can see him now, just as he used to burst upon our
vision from the wharf lane, face paper-white, eyes warm with a holy
wrath, lips moving uncontrollably. And I can hear his voice trembling at
our heels as we scuttled off:

"For shame, lads! Christ died for him, lads! For shame! Shame!"

And looking back I can see him there on the wharf above the scow, hands
hanging, shoulders falling together, brooding over the unredeemed.

Minister Malden had seen "the field" in a day of his surging youth--seen
it, and no more. He had seen it from the deck of the steamer by which he
had come out, and by which he had now to return, since his seminary
bride had fallen sick on the voyage. He perceived the teeming harbor
clogged with junks and house-boats, the muddy river, an artery out of
the heart of darkness, the fantastic, colored shore-lines, the vast,
dull drone of heathendom stirring in his ears, the temple gongs calling
blindly to the blind, the alluring and incomprehensible accents of the
boatmen's tongue which he was to have made his own and lightened with
the fierce sweet name of the Cross--and now could not.

Poor young Minister Malden, he turned his face away. He gave up "the
field" for the bride, and when the bride went out in mid-ocean, he had
neither bride nor field. He drifted back to New England, somehow or
other, and found Yen Sin.

He found another bride too; Minister Malden was human. It was a mercy of
justice, folks said, when Widow Gibbs got a man like Minister Malden.
Heaven knows she had had bad enough luck with Gibbs, a sallow devil of a
whaler who never did a fine act in his life till he went down with his
vessel and all hands in the Arctic one year and left Sympathy Gibbs
sitting alone in the Pillar House on Lovett's Court, pretty, plump, and
rather well-to-do as Urkey goes.

Everybody in the island was glad enough when those two undertook to mend
each other's blasted life--everybody but Mate Snow. He had been thinking
of Sympathy Gibbs himself, they said; and they said he stood behind the
prescription screen in his drug-store far into the night, after the
betrothal was given out in Center Church, his eyes half-closed, his thin
lips bluish white, and hell-fire smouldering out of sight in him. And
they said Mate was the kind that never forget. That was what made it so
queer.

It seems to me that I must remember the time when the minister lived in
the Pillar House with Sympathy Gibbs.

Back there in the mists of youth I seem to see them walking home
together after the Sunday morning preaching, arm in arm and full of a
sedate joy; turning in between the tubbed box-trees at Lovett's Court,
loitering for a moment to gaze out over the smooth harbor and nod to the
stragglers of the congregation before they entered the big green door
flanked by the lilac panes.

Perhaps it was told me. There can be no question, though, that I
remember the night when Minister Malden came home from the Infield
Conference, a father of two days' standing. Urkey village made a
festival of that homecoming to the tiny daughter he had never seen, and
to Sympathy Gibbs, weak and waiting and radiant. Yes, I remember.

We were all at the landing, making a racket. The minister looked ill
when he came over the packet's side, followed by Mate Snow, who had gone
to Conference with him as lay delegate from Center Church. Our welcome
touched him in a strange and shocking way; he staggered and would have
fallen had it not been for Mate's quick hand. He had not a word to say
to us; he walked up the shore street between the wondering lines till he
came to the Pillar House, and there he stood for a moment, silhouetted
against the open door, a drooping, hunted figure, afraid to go in.

We saw his shadow later, moving uncertainly across the shades in the
upper chamber where Sympathy Gibbs lay with her baby, his hand lifted
once with the fingers crooked in mysterious agony. Some one started a
hymn in the street below and people took it up, bawling desperately for
comfort to their souls. Mate Snow didn't sing. He stood motionless
between the box-trees, staring up at the lighted window shades, as if
waiting. By-and-by Minister Malden came down the steps, and moving away
beside him like a drunken man, went to live in the two rooms over the
drugstore. And that was the beginning of it.

* * *

Folks said Mate Snow was not the kind to forget an injury, and yet it
was Mate who stood behind the minister through those first days of shock
and scandal, who out-faced the congregation with his stubborn, tight
lips, and who shut off the whisperings of the Dorcas Guild with the
sentence which was destined to become a sort of formula on his tongue
through the ensuing years:

"You don't know what's wrong, and neither do I; but we can all see the
man's a saint, can't we?"

"But the woman?" some still persisted.

"Sympathy Gibbs? You ought to know Sympathy Gibbs by this time."

And if there was a faint curling at the corners of his lips, they were
all too dull to wonder at it. As for me, the boy, I took the changing
phenomena of life pretty well for granted, and wasted little of my
golden time speculating about such things. But as I look back now on the
blunt end of those Urkey days, I seem to see Minister Malden growing
smaller as he comes nearer, and Mate Snow growing larger--Mate Snow
browbeating the congregation with a more and more menacing
righteousness--Minister Malden, in his protecting shadow, leaner,
grayer, his eyes burning with an ever fiercer zeal, escaping Center
Church and slipping away to redeem the Chinaman.

"There is more joy in heaven over one sinner," was his inspiration, his
justification, and, I suspect, his blessed opiate.

But it must have been hard on Yen Sin. I remember him now, a
steam-blurred silhouette, earlier than the earliest, later than the
latest, swaying over his tubs and sad-irons in the shanty on the
stranded scow by Pickett's wharf, dreaming perhaps of the populous
rivers of his birth, or of the rats he ate, or of the opium he smoked at
dead of night, or of those weird, heathen idols before which he bowed
down his shining head--familiar and inscrutable alien.

An evening comes back to me when I sat in Yen Sin's shop and waited for
my first "stand up" collar to be ironed, listening with a kind of awe to
the tide making up the flats, muffled and unfamiliar, and inhaling the
perfume compounded of steam, soap, hot linen, rats, opium, tea, idols
and what-not peculiar to Yen Sin's shop and to a thousand lone shops in
a thousand lone villages scattered across the mainland. When the
precious collar was at last in my hands, still limp and hot from its
ordeal, Yen Sin hung over me in the yellow nimbus of the lamp, smiling
at my wonder. I stared with a growing distrust at the flock of tiny
bird-scratches inked on the band.

"What," I demanded suspiciously, "is _that_?"

"Lat's Mista You," he said, nodding his head and summoning another
hundred of wrinkles to his damp, polished face.

"That ain't my name. You don't know my name," I accused him.

"Mista Yen Sin gottee name, allee light."

The thing fascinated me, like a serpent.

"Whose name is _that_, then?" I demanded, pointing to a collar on the
counter between us. The band was half-covered with the cryptic
characters, done finely and as if with the loving hand of an artist.

Yen Sin held it up before his eyes in the full glow of the lamp. His
face seemed incredibly old; not senile, like our white-beards mumbling
on the wharves, but as if it had been a long, long time in the making
and was still young. I thought he had forgotten me, he was so engrossed
in his handiwork.

"Lat colla?" he mused by-and-by. "Lat's Mista Minista, boy."

"Mister Minister _Malden_?"

And there both of us stared a little, for there was a voice at the door.

"Yes? Yes? What is it?"

Minister Malden stood with his head and shoulders bent, wary of the low
door-frame, and his eyes blinking in the new light. I am sure he did not
see me on the bench; he was looking at Yen Sin.

"How is it with you to-night, my brother?"

The Chinaman straightened up and faced him, grave, watchful.

"Fine," he said. "Mista Yen Sin fine. Mista Minista fine, yes?"

He bowed and motioned his visitor to a rocker, upholstered with a worn
piece of Axminster and a bit of yellow silk with half a dragon on it.
The ceremony, one could see, was not new. Vanishing into the further
mysteries of the rear, he brought out a bowl of tea, steaming, a small
dish of heathenish things, nuts perhaps, or preserves, deposited the
offering on the minister's pointed knees, and retired behind the counter
to watch and wait.

An amazing change came over the minister. Accustomed to seeing him
gentle, shrinking, illusively non-resisting, I scarcely knew this white
flame of a man, burning over the tea-bowl!

"You are kind to me," he cried, "and yet your heart is not touched. I
would give up my life gladly, brother, if I could only go up to the
Throne and say to Jesus, 'Behold, Lord, Thy son, Yen Sin, kneeling at
the foot of the Cross. Thou gavest me the power, Lord, and the glory is
thine!' If I could say that, brother, I--I--"

His voice trailed off, though his lips continued to move uncertainly.
His face was transfigured, his eyes filmed with dreams. He was looking
beyond Yen Sin now, and on the lost yellow millions. The tea, untasted,
smoked upward into his face, an insidious, narcotic cloud. I can think
of him now as he sat there, wresting out of his easeless years one
moment of those seminary dreams; the color of far-away, the sweet shock
of the alien and the bizarre, the enormous odds, the Game. The walls of
Yen Sin's shop were the margins of the world, and for a moment the
missionary lived.

"He would soften your heart," he murmured. "In a wondrous way. Have you
never thought, Yen Sin, 'I would like to be a good man'?"

The other spread his right hand across his breast.

"Mista Yen Sin velly humble dog. Mista Yen Sin no good. Mista Yen Sin's
head on le glound. Mista Yen Sin velly good man. Washy colla fine."

It was evidently an old point, an established score for the heathen.

"Yes, I must say, you do do your work. I've brought you that collar for
five years now, and it still seems new." The minister's face fell a
little. Yen Sin continued grave and alert.

"And Mista Matee Snow, yes? His colla allee same like new, yes?"

"Yes, I must say!" The other shook himself. "But it's not that, brother.
We're all of us wicked, Yen Sin, and unless we--"

"Mista Minista wickee?"

For a moment the minister's eyes seemed fascinated by the Chinaman's;
pain whitened his face.

"All of us," he murmured uncertainly, "are weak. The best among us sins
in a day enough to blacken eternity. And unless we believe, and have
faith in the Divine Mercy of the Father, and confess--confession--" His
voice grew stronger and into it crept the rapt note of one whose auditor
is within. "Confession! A sin confessed is no longer a sin. The word
spoken out of the broken and contrite heart makes all things right. If
one but had faith in that! If--if one had Faith!"

The life went out of his voice, the fire died in his eyes, his fingers
drooped on the tea-bowl. The Chinaman's clock was striking the half
after seven. He stared at the floor, haggard with guilt.

"Dear me, I'm late for prayer-meeting again. Snow will be looking for
me."

I slipped out behind him, glad enough of Urkey's raw air after that
close chamber of mysteries. I avoided the wharf-lane, however, more than
a little scared by this sudden new aspect of the Minister, and got
myself out to the shore street by Miah White's yard and the grocery
porch, and there I found myself face to face with Mate Snow. That
frightened me still more, for the light from Henny's Notions' window was
shining oddly in his eyes.

"You're lookin' for the minister," I stammered, ducking my head.

He stopped and stared down at me, tapping a sole on the cobbles.

"What's this? What's this?"

"He--he says you'd be lookin' for 'im, an' I seen 'im to the Chinaman's
an' he's comin' right there, honest he is, Mr. Snow."

"Oh! So? I'd be looking for him, would I?"

"Y--y--yessir."

I sank down on the grocery steps and studied my toes.

"He was _there_, though!" I protested in desperation, when we had been
waiting in vain for a long quarter-hour. The dark monitor lifted his
chin from his collar and looked at his watch.

"It's hard," I heard him sigh, as he turned away down Lovett's Court,
where Center Church blossomed with its prayer-meeting lamps. Shadows of
the uneasy flock moved across the windows; Emsy Nickerson, in his
trustee's black, peered out of the door into the dubious night, and
beyond him in the bright vestry Aunt Nickerson made a little spot of
color, agitated, nursing formless despairs, an artist in vague dreads.

I was near enough, at the church steps, to hear what Mate told them.

"I'll lead to-night. He's gone out in the back-country to pray alone."

Aunt Nickerson wept quietly, peeping from the corners of her eyes.
Reverent awe struggled with an old rebellion in Emsy's face, and in
others as they came crowding. The trustee broke out bitterly:

"Miah White's took to the bottle again, along o' him. If only he'd do
his prayin' at Miah's house a spell, 'stead o' the back-country--"

"There was a back-country in Judea," Mate cried him down. "And some one
prayed there, not one night, but forty nights and days!"

What a far cry it was from the thwarted lover behind the prescription
screen, fanning the flames of hell-fire through the night, to the Seer
thundering in the vestry--had there been any there with heads enough to
wonder at it.

It happened from time to time, this mysterious retreat into the moors,
more frequently as the Infield Conference drew on and the hollows
deepened in the minister's cheeks and his eyes shone brighter with
foreboding. Nor was this the first time the back-country had been
mentioned in the same breath with the Wilderness of Judea. I can
remember our Miss Beedie, in Sunday School, lifting her eyes and sighing
at the first verse of the fourth chapter of the Book of Luke.

And to-night, while I crept off tingling through the dark of Lovett's
Court, he was in the Wilderness again, and I had seen him last.

I brought up by one of the tubbed box-trees and peered in at the Pillar
House with a new wonder. I was so used to it there, dead on the outside
and living on the inside, that I had never learned to think of it as a
strange thing. Perhaps a dozen times I had seen little Hope Gibbs (they
still said "Gibbs") playing quietly among the lilacs in the back yard.
It was always at dusk when the shadows were long there, and she a shadow
among them, so unobtrusive and far away. As for her mother, no one ever
saw Sympathy Gibbs.

Crouching by the box-tree, I found myself wondering what they were doing
in there, Sympathy Gibbs and the little girl; whether they were
sleeping, or whether they were sitting in the dark, thinking, or
whispering about the husband and father who was neither husband nor
father, or whether, in some remote chamber, there might not be a lamp or
a candle burning.

The dead hush of the place oppressed me. I turned my head to look back
at the comfortable, bumbling devotion of Center Church, and this is what
I saw there.

The door was still open, a blank, bright rectangle giving into the
deserted vestry, and it was against this mat of light that I spied
Minister Malden's head and shoulders thrust furtively, as he peeped in
and seemed to harken to the muffled unison of the prayer.

You may imagine me startled enough at that, but what of my emotion
when, having peeped and listened and reassured himself for a dozen
seconds, Minister Malden turned and came softly down the Court toward
the gate and the box-trees and me, a furtive silhouette against the
door-light, his face turned back over one shoulder.

I couldn't bolt; he was too close for that. The wonder was that he
failed to see me, for he stopped within two yards of where I cowered in
the shadow and stood for a long time gazing in between the trees at the
pillared porch, and I could hear his breathing, uneven and laborious, as
though he had been running or fighting. Once I thought he struck out at
something with a vicious fist. Then his trouble was gone, between two
winks, and he was gone too, up the walk and up the steps, without any
to-do about it. I don't know whether he tapped on the door or not. It
was open directly. I caught a passing glimpse of Sympathy Gibbs in the
black aperture; the door closed on them both, and the Pillar House was
dead again.

Now this was an odd way for Minister Malden to fast and pray in the
Wilderness--odd enough, one would say, to keep me waiting there a while
to see what would come of it all. But it didn't. I had had enough of
mysteries for one Summer's night, or at any rate I had enough by the
time I got my short legs, full tilt, into the shore street. For I had
caught a fleeting glimpse, on the way, of a watcher in the shadow behind
the _other_ box-tree--Yen Sin, the heathen, with a surprised eyeball
slanting at me over one shoulder.

* * *

Among the most impressive of the phenomena of life, as noted in my
thirteenth year, is the amazing way in which a community can change
while one is away from it a month. Urkey village at the beginning of my
'teens seemed to me much the same Urkey village upon which I had first
opened my eyes. And then I went to make a visit with my uncle Orville
Means in Gillyport, just across the Sound, and when I came back on the
packet I could assure myself with all the somber satisfaction of the
returning exile that I would scarcely have known the old place.

Gramma Pilot's cow had been poisoned. There had been a fire in the
Selectmen's room at Town Hall. Amber Matheson had left Mrs. Wharf's
Millinery and set up for herself, opposite the Eastern School. And Mate
Snow, all of a sudden, had bought the old Pons house, on the hill
hanging high over the town, and gone to live there. With a leap, and as
it were behind my back, he sat there dominating the village and the
harbor and the island--our Great Man.

He took Minister Malden with him, naturally, out of the two rooms over
the store, into one room in the third story of the house on the
hill--where Sympathy Gibbs could see him if she chose to look that way,
as frankly and ignominiously a dependent as any baron's chaplain in the
Golden Days.

"She'd have done better with Mate, after all," folks began to say.

But of all the changes in the village, the most momentous to me was the
change in Yen Sin. I don't know why it should have been I, out of all
the Urkey youth, who went to the Chinaman's; perhaps it was the
spiritual itch left from that first adventure on the scow. At any rate,
I had fallen into a habit of dropping in at the cabin, and not always
with a collar to do.

I had succeeded in worming out of him the meaning of that first set of
bird-scratches on my collar-band--"The boy who throws clam-shells"--and
of a second and more elaborate writing--"The boy who is courageous in
the face of all the water of the ocean, yet trembles before so much of
it as may be poured in a wash-basin." There came a third inscription in
time, but of that he would not tell me, nor of Mate Snow's, nor the
minister's. It was a queer library he had, those fine-written collars of
Urkey village.

He had been growing feebler so long and so gradually that I had made
nothing of it. Once, I remember, it struck me queer that he wasn't
working so hard as he had used to. Still earliest of all and latest of
all, he would sometimes leave his iron cooling on the board now and
stand for minutes of the precious day, dreaming out of the harbor
window. When the sun was sinking, the shaft through the window bathed
his head and his lean neck with a quality almost barbaric, and for a
moment in the gloom made by the bright pencil, the new, raw things of
Urkey faded out, leaving him alone in his ancient and ordered
civilization, a little wistful, I think, and perhaps a little
frightened, as a child waking from a long, dreaming sleep, to find his
mother gone.

He had begun to talk about China, too, and the river where he was born.
And I made nothing of it, it came on so gradually, day by day. Then I
went away, as I have said, and came back again. I dropped in at the scow
the second day after the packet brought me home.

"Hello, there!" I cried, peeping over the counter, "I got a collar for
you to--to--" I began to stumble. "Mr. Yen Sin, dear me, what's the
matter of you?"

"Mista Yen Sin fine," he said in a strengthless voice, smiling and
nodding from the couch where he lay, half propped up by a gorgeous,
faded cushion. "Mista Yen Sin go back China way pletty quick now, yes."

"Honest?"

He made no further answer, but took up the collar I had brought.

"You been gone Gillypo't, yes? You take colla China boy, yes?"

"Yessir!"

"He pletty nice man, Sam Low, yes?"

"Oh, you know him, then? Oh, he's all right, Yen Sin."

It was growing dark outside, and colder, with a rising wind from
landward to seaward against the tide. A sense of something odd and wrong
came over me; it was a moment before I could make it out. The fire was
dead in the stove for the first time in memory and the Vestal irons were
cold. Yen Sin asked me to light the lamp. In the waxing yellow glow he
turned his eyes to mine, and mine were big.

"You know Mista God?" he questioned.

"Oh, yes," I answered soberly. "Yes, indeed."

"Mista God allee same like Mista Yen Sin, yes?"

I felt myself paling at his blasphemy, and thought of lightning.

"Mista God," he went on in the same speculative tone, "Mista God know
allee bad things, allee same like Mista Yen Sin, yes?"

"Where is the minister?" I demanded in desperation.

"Mista Yen Sin likee see Mista Minista." When he added, with a
transparent hand fluttering over his heart: "Like see pletty quick now,"
I seemed to fathom for the first time what was happening to him.

"Wait," I cried, too full of awe to know what I said. "Wait, wait, Yen
Sin. I'll fetch 'im."

It was dark outside, the sky overcast, and the wind beginning to moan a
high note across the roofs as it swept in from the moors and out again
over the graying waters. In the shore street my eyes chanced upon the
light of Center Church, and I remembered that it was meeting-night.

* * *

There was only a handful of worshippers that evening, but a thousand
could have had no more eyes it seemed to me as I tiptoed down the aisle
with the scandalized pad-pad of Emsy Nickerson's pursuing soles behind
my back. Confusion seized me; I started to run, and had come almost up
to Mister Malden before I had wit enough to discover that it wasn't
Minister Malden at all, but Mate Snow in the pulpit, standing with an
open hymn-book in one hand and staring down at me with grim, inquiring
eyes. After a time I managed to stammer:

"The Chinaman, you know--he's goin' to die--the minister--"

Then I fled, dodging Emsy's legs. Confused voices followed me; Aunt
Nickerson's full of a nameless horror; Mate Snow's, thundering: "Brother
Hemans, you will please continue the meeting. I will go and see what I
can do. But your prayers are needed here."

Poor Minister Malden! His hour had struck--the hour so long awaited--and
now it was Mate Snow who should go to answer it. Perhaps the night had
something to do with it, and the melancholy disaster of the wind.
Perhaps it was the look of Mate Snow's back as he passed me, panting on
the steps, his head bowed with his solemn and triumphant stewardship.
But all of a sudden I hated him, this righteous man. He had so many
things, and Minister Malden had nothing--nothing but the Chinaman's
soul--and he was going to try and get that too.

I had to find Minister Malden, and right away. But where _was_ he, and
on prayer-meeting night too? My mind skipped back. The "Wilderness."

I was already ducking along the Court to reconnoiter the Pillar House,
black and silent beyond the box-trees. And then I put my hands in my
pockets, my ardor dimmed by the look of that vacant, staring face. What
was I, a boy of thirteen, against that house? I could knock at the door,
to be sure, as the minister had done that other night. Yes; but when I
stood, soft-footed, on the porch, the thought that Sympathy Gibbs might
open it suddenly and find me there sent the hands back again into the
sanctuary of my pockets. What did I know of her? What did any one know
of her? To be confronted by her, suddenly, in the dark behind a green
door--I tiptoed down the steps.

If only there were a cranny of light somewhere in the dead place! I
began to prowl around the yard, feeling adventurous enough, you may
believe, for no boy had ever scouted that bit of Urkey land before. And
I did find a light, beneath a drawn shade in the rear. Approaching as
stealthily as a red Indian, I put one large, round eye to the aperture.

If I had expected a melodramatic tableau, I was disappointed. I had
always figured the inside of the Pillar House as full of treasures, for
they told tales of the old whaler's wealth. My prying eyes found it
bare, like a deserted house gutted by seasons of tramps. A little fire
of twigs and a broken butter-box on the hearth made a pathetic shift at
domestic cheer. Minister Malden sat at one side of it, his back to me,
his face half-buried in his hands. Little Hope Gibbs played quietly on
the floor, building pig-pens with a box of matches, a sober, fire-lined
shade. Sympathy Gibbs was not in the picture, but I heard her voice
after a moment, coming out from an invisible corner.

"How much do you want this time, Will?"

"Want?" There was an anguished protest in the man's cry.

"Need, then." The voice was softer.

The minister's face dropped back in his hands, and after a moment the
words came out between his tight fingers, hardly to be heard.

"Five hundred dollars, Sympathy."

I thought there was a gasp from the corner, suppressed. I caught the
sound of a drawer pulled open and the vague rustling of skirts as the
woman moved about. Her voice was as even as death itself.

"Here it is, Will. It brings us to the end, Will. God knows where it
will come from next time."

"It--it--you mean--" An indefinable horror ran though the minister's
voice, and I could see the cords shining on the hands which gripped the
chair-arms. "Next time--next year--" His eyes were fixed on the child at
his feet. "God knows where it will come from. Perhaps--before another
time--something will happen. Dear little Hope--little girl!"

The child's eyes turned with a preoccupied wonder as the man's hand
touched her hair; then went back to the alluring pattern of the matches.

Sympathy Gibbs spoke once more.

"I've found out who holds the mortgage, Will. Mr. Dow told me."

His hand slid from Hope's hair and hung in the air. During the momentary
hush his head, half-turned, seemed to wait in a praying suspense.

"It's Mate Snow," the voice went on. The man covered his face.

"Thank God!" he said. I thought he shivered. "Then it's all--all right,"
he sighed after a moment. "I was afraid it might be somebody who
would--who might make trouble." He took out a handkerchief and touched
his forehead with it. "Thank--God!"

"Why do you thank God?" A weariness, like anger, touched her words.

"Why? Why do I thank God?" He faced her, wondering. "Because he has
given me a strong man to be my friend and stand behind me. Because Mate
Snow, who might have hated me, has--"

"Has sucked the life out of you!" It came out of the corner like a
blade. "Yes, yes, he has sucked the life out of you in his hate, and
thrown the dry shell of you to me; and that makes him feel good on his
hill there. No, no, no; I'm going to say it now. Has he ever tried to
find out what was wrong with us? No. He didn't need to. Why? Because no
matter what it was, we were given over into his hands, body and soul.
And now it's Mate Snow who is the big man of this island, and it's the
minister that eats the crumbs that fall from his table, and folks pity
you and honor him because he's so good to you, and--"

_And this was Urkey village, and night, and Yen Sin was dying._

"And he's down to the Chinaman's _now_!" I screamed, walking out of my
dream. "An' the Chinaman's dyin' an' wants the minister, an' Mate Snow
he got there first."

The light went out in the room; I heard a chair knocked over, and then
Minister Malden's voice: "God forgive me! God forgive me!"

I ran, sprawling headlong through the shrubs.

Out in the dark of Lovett's Court I found people all about me, the
congregation, let out, hobbling and skipping and jostling shoreward, a
curious rout. Others were there, not of the church; Kibby Baker, the
atheist, who had heard the news through the church window where he
peeped at the worshipers; Miah White's brother, the ship-calker,
summoned by his sister; a score of others, herding down the dark wind.
At the shore street, folks were coming from the Westward. It was strange
to see them all and to think it was only a heathen dying.

Or, perhaps, it wasn't so strange, when one remembered Minister Malden
coming down the years with that light in his eyes, building his slow
edifice, like one in Israel prophesying the coming of the Messiah.

I shall never forget the picture I saw that night from the deck of the
Chinaman's scow. The water here in the lee was as smooth as black glass,
save for the little ground-swell that rocked the outer end of the craft.
The tide was rising; the grounded end would soon be swimming. There were
others on the deck with me, and more on the dock overhead, their faces
picked out against the sky by the faint irradiations from the lighted
shanty beneath. And over and behind it all ran the tumult of the
elements; behind it the sea, where it picked up on the Bight out there
beyond our eyes; above it the wind, scouring the channels of the crowded
roofs and flinging out to meet the waters, like a ravening and
disastrous bride.

Mate Snow stood by the counter in the little cabin, his close-cropped
head almost to the beams, his voice, dry austere, summoning the Chinaman
to repentance. "Verily, if a man be not born again, he shall not enter
into the Kingdom of Heaven." His eyes skipped to the door.

"And to be born again," he went on with a hint of haste, "you must
confess, Yen Sin, and have faith. That is enough. The outer and inner
manifestations--confession and faith."

"Me, Mista Yen Sin--confessee?"

A curious and shocking change had come over the Chinaman in the little
time I had been away. He lay quite motionless on his couch, with a bit
of silken tapestry behind his head, like a heathen halo protecting him
at last. He was more alive than he had been, precisely because the life
had gone out of him, and he was no longer bothered with it. His face was
a mask, transparent and curiously luminous, and there for the first time
I saw the emotion of humor, which is another name for perception.

His unclouded eyes found me by the door and he moved a hand in a vague
gesture. I went, walking stiff-legged, awe mingling with
self-importance.

"Mista Boy, please," he whispered in my ear. "The collas on the shelf
theah. Led paypah--"

Wondering, I took them down and piled them on the couch beside him, one
after another, little bundles done up carefully in flaring tissue with
black characters inked on them.

"That one!" he whispered, and I undid the one under his finger,
discovering half a dozen collars, coiled with their long imprisonment.

"And that one, and that one--"

They covered his legs and rose about his thin shoulders, those treasured
soiled collars of his, gleaming under the lamp like the funeral-pyre of
some fantastic potentate. Nothing was heard in the room save the faint
crackling of the paper, and after a moment Lem Pigeon murmuring in
amazement to his neighbor, over in a corner.

"Look a-there, will ye? He's got my collar with the blood spot onto it
where the Lisbon woman's husband hit me that time down to New Bedford.
What ye make o' that now?"

Yen Sin lifted his eyes to Mate Snow's hanging over him in wonder.

"Mista Matee Snow confessee, yes?"

There was a moment of shocked silence while our great man stared at Yen
Sin. He took his weight from the counter and stood up straight.

"I confess my sins to God," he said.

The other moved a fluttering hand over his collars. "Mista Yen Sin allee
same like Mista God, yes."

In the hush I heard news of the blasphemy whispering from lip to lip,
out the door and up the awe-struck dock. Mate Snow lifted a hand.

"Stop!" he cried. "Yen Sin, you are standing in the Valley of the Shadow
of Death--"

"Mista Matee Snow wickee man? No? Yes? Mista Matee Snow confessee?"

The Chinaman was making a game of his death-bed, and even the dullest
caught the challenge. Mate Snow understood. The yellow man had asked him
with the divine clarity of the last day either to play the game or not
to play the game. And Mate Snow wanted something enough to play.

"Yes," he murmured, "I am weak. All flesh is weak." He faltered, and his
brow was corded with the labor of memory. It is hard for a good man to
summon up sins enough to make a decent confession; nearly always they
fall back in the end upon the same worn and respectable category.

"I confess to the sin of pride," he pronounced slowly. "And to good
deeds and kind acts undone; to moments of harshness and impatience--"

"Mista Matee Snow confessee?" Yen Sin shook a weary protest at the
cheater wasting the precious moments with words. Mate Snow lifted his
eyes, and I saw his face whiten and a pearl of sweat form on his
forehead. A hush filled the close cave of light, a waiting silence,
oppressive and struck with a new expectancy. Little sounds on the dock
above became important--young Gilman Pilot's voice, cautioning: "Here,
best take my hand on that ladder, Mr. Malden. Last rung's carried away."

It was curious to see Mate Snow's face at that; it was as if one read
the moving history of years in it as he leaned over the counter and
touched the dying man's breast with a passion strange in him.

"I will tell you how wicked I am, Yen Sin. Three years ago I did Ginny
Silva out of seventy dollars wages in the bogs; and if he's here tonight
I'll pay him the last cent of it. And--and--" He appealed for mercy to
the Chinaman's unshaken eyes. Then, hearing the minister on the deck
behind, he cast in the desperate sop of truth. "And--_and I have coveted
my neighbor's wife_!"

It was now that Minister Malden cried from the doorway: "That is
nothing, Yen Sin--_nothing_--when you think of _me_!"

You may laugh. But just then, in that rocking death-chamber, with the
sea and the dark and the wind, no one laughed. Except Yen Sin, perhaps;
he may have smiled, though the mask of his features did not move.
Minister Malden stepped into the room, and his face was like new ivory.

"Look at me! I have wanted to bring your soul to Christ before I died.
That is white, but all the rest of me is black. I have lived a lie; I
have broken a law of God; to cover that I have broken another,
another--"

His voice hung in the air, filled with a strange horror of itself. The
Chinaman fingered his collars. Without our consent or our understanding,
he had done the thing which had so shocked us when he said it with his
lips; the heathen sat in judgment, weighing the sins of our little
world.

"Yes?" he seemed to murmur. "And then?"

The minister's eyes widened; pain lifted him on his toes.

"I am an adulterer," he cried. "And my child is a--a--bastard. Her
mother's husband, Joshua Gibbs, didn't go down with his vessel after
all. He was alive when I married her. He is alive today, a wanderer. He
learned of things and sent me a letter; it found me at the Infield
Conference the day before I came home that time to see my baby. Since
that day it has seemed to me that I would suffer the eternity of the
damned rather than that that stain should mar my child's life, and in
the blackness of my heart I have believed that it wouldn't if it weren't
known. I have kept him quiet; I have hushed up the truth. I have paid
him money, leaving it for him where he wrote me to leave it. I have gone
hungry and ragged to satisfy him. I have begged my living of a friend. I
have drained the life of the woman I love. And yet he is never content.
And I have betrayed even _him_. For he forbade me to see his wife ever
again, or even to know the child I had begotten, and I have gone to
them, in secret, by night. I have sinned not alone against God, but
against the devil. I have sinned against--_everything_!"

* * *

The fire which had swept him on left him now of a sudden, his arms hung
down at his sides, his head drooped. It was Mate Snow who broke the
silence, falling back a step, as if he had been struck.

"God forgive me," he said in awe. "And _I_ have kept you here. _You_! To
preach the word of God to these people. God forgive me!"

"I think Mista God laugh, yes."

Yen Sin wasn't laughing himself; he was looking at his collars. Mate
Snow shrugged his shoulders fiercely, impatient of the interruption.

"I have kept you here," he pursued bitterly, "for the good of my own
soul, which would have liked to drive you away. I have kept you here,
even when you wanted to go away--"

"Little mousie want to go away. Little cat say, 'no--no.'" Yen Sin's
head turned slowly and he spoke on to the bit of yellow silk, his words
clear and powerless as a voice in a dream. "No--no, Mousie, stay with
little cat. Good little cat. Like see little mousie jump. Little cat!"

Mate Snow wheeled on him, and I saw a queer sight on his face for an
instant; the gray wrinkles of age. My cousin Duncan was there, constable
of Urkey village, and he saw it too and came a step out of his corner.
It was all over in a wink; Mate Snow lifted his shoulders with a sigh,
as much as to say: "You can see how far gone the poor fellow is."

The Chinaman, careless of the little by-play, went on.

"Mista Sam Kow nice China fella. Mista Minista go to Mista Sam Kow in
Infield, washy colla. Mista Yen Sin lite a letta to Mista Sam Kow, on
Mista Minista colla-band. See? Mista Sam Kow lite a letta back on
colla-band. See?"

We saw--that the yellow man was no longer talking at random, but slowly,
with his eyes on the collar he held in his hand, like a scholar in his
closet, perusing the occult pages of a chronicle.

"Mista Sam Kow say: 'This man go night-time in Chestnut Stleet; pickee
out letta undah sidewalk, stickee money-bag undah sidewalk, cly, shivah,
makee allee same like sick fella. Walkee all lound town allee night.
Allee same like Chlistian dlunk man. No sleepee. That's all--Sam Kow.'
Mista Yen Sin keepee colla when Mista Minista come back; give new colla:
one, two, five, seven time; Mista Minista say: 'You washy colla fine,
Yen Sin: this colla, allee same like new.' Mista Matee Snow, his colla
allee same like new, too--"

* * *

Something happened so suddenly that none of us knew what was going on.
But there was my cousin Duncan standing by the counter, his arm and
shoulder still thrust forward with the blow he had given; and there was
our great man of the hill flung back against the wall with a haggard
grimace set on his face.

"No, you don't!" Duncan growled, his voice shivering a little with
excitement. "No, you don't, Mate!"

Mate Snow screamed, and his curse was like the end of the world in Urkey
island.

"Curse you! The man's a thief, I tell you. He's stolen my property! I
demand my property--those collars there in his hand now. You're
constable, you say. Well, I want my--"

He let himself down on the bench, as if the strength had left his knees.

"He's going to tell you lies," he cried. "He's making fools of you all
with his--his--Duncan, boy! Don't listen to the black liar. He's going
to try and make out 'twas _me_ put the letter under the walk in Chestnut
Street, up there to Infield; that it was _me_, all these years, that
went back and got out money he put there. _Me! Mate Snow._ Duncan, boy;
he's going to tell you a low, black-hearted lie!"

"_How do you know?_" That was all my cousin Duncan said.

To the dying man, nothing made much difference. It was as if he had only
paused to gather his failing breath, and when he spoke his tone was the
same, detached, dispassionate, with a ghost of humor running through it.

"How many times?" He counted the collars with a finger tip. "One two,
tlee, six, seven time. Seven yeahs. Too bad. Any time Mista Minista
wantee confessee, Mista God makee allee light. Mista Yen Sin allee same
like Mista God. Wait. Wait. Wait. Laugh. Cly inside!"

Mate Snow was leaning forward on the bench in a queer, lazy attitude,
his face buried in his hands and his elbows propped on his knees. But no
one looked at him, for Minister Malden was speaking in the voice of one
risen from the dead, his eyes blinking at the Chinaman's lamp.

"Then you mean--you mean that he--isn't alive? After all? That he wasn't
alive--_then_? You mean it was all a--a kind of a--_joke_? I--I--Oh,
Mate! _Mate Snow!_"

It was queer to see him turning with his news to his traditional
protector. It had been too sudden; his brain had been so taken up with
the naked miracle that Gibbs was not alive that all the rest of it, the
drawn-out and devious revenge of the druggist, had somehow failed to get
into him as yet.

"Mate Snow!" he cried, running over to the sagging figure. "Did you
hear, Mate? Eh? It isn't true! It was all a--a joke, Mate!" He shook
Snow's shoulder with a pleading ecstasy. "It's been a mistake, Mate, and
I am--she is--little Hope is--"

He fell back a step, letting the man lop over suddenly on his doubled
knees, and stared blankly at a tiny drug-phial, uncorked and empty,
rolling away across the floor. He passed a slow hand across his eyes.
"Why--why--I--I'm afraid Mate is--isn't very--well."

Urkey had held its tongue too long. Now it was that the dam gave way and
the torrent came whirling down and a hundred voices were lifted. Crowds
and shadows distracted the light. One cried. "The man's dead, you fools;
can't you see?" A dozen took it up and it ran out and away along the
rumbling dock. "Doctor!" another bawled. "He's drank poison! Where's the
doctor at?" And that, too, went out, and a faint shout answered from
somewhere shoreward that the doctor was out at Si Pilot's place and Miah
White was after him, astraddle of the tar-wagon horse. Through it all I
can remember Aunt Nickerson's wail continuing, undaunted and
unquenchable, "God save our souls! God save our souls!"

And then, following the instinct of the frightened pack, they were all
gone of a sudden, carrying the dead man to meet the doctor. I would
have gone, too, and I had gotten as far as the door at their heels, when
I paused to look back at the Chinaman.

He lay so still over there on the couch--the thought came to me that he,
too, was dead. And of a sudden, leaning there on the door-frame, the
phantom years trooped back to me, and I saw the man for the first time
moving through them--a lone, far outpost of the thing he knew, one
yellow man against ten thousand whites, unshaken, unappalled, facing the
odds, working so early, so late, day after day and year after year, and
smiling a little, perhaps, as he peeped behind the scenes of the thing
which we call civilization. Yes, cry as he might inside, he must have
smiled outside, sometimes, through those years of terror, at the sight
of Minister Malden shrinking at the shadow of the ghost of something
that was nothing, to vanish at a touch of light.

And now his foreign service was ended; his post was to be relieved; and
he could go wherever he wanted to go.

Not quite yet. He had been dreaming, that was all. His eyes opened, and
rested, not on me, but to the right of me. Then I saw for the first time
that I wasn't alone in the room with him after all, but that Minister
Malden was standing there, where he had stood through all the din like a
little boy struck dumb before a sudden Christmas tree.

And like a little boy, he went red and white and began to stammer.

"I--I--Yen Sin--" He held his breath a moment. Then it came out all
together. "_I'll run and fetch them--both!_" With that he was past me,
out of the door and up the ladder, and I heard his light feet drumming
on the dock, bearing such news as never was.

* * *

The Chinaman's eyes had come to me now, and there was a queer light in
them that I couldn't understand. An adventure beyond my little
comprehension was taking shape behind them, and all I knew enough to do
was to sneak around behind the counter and take hold of one of his
fingers and shake it up and down, like one man taking a day's leave of
another. His eyes thanked me for my violence; then they were back again
to their mysterious speculations. An overweening excitement gathered in
them. He frightened me. Quite abruptly, as if an unexpected reservoir of
energy had been tapped, the dying man lifted on an elbow and slid one
leg over the edge of the couch. Then he glanced at me with an air almost
furtive.

"Boy," he whispered. "Run quick gettee Mista Minista, yes."

"But he's coming _himself_," I protested. "You better lay back."

"Mista Yen Sin askee _please_! Please, boy."

What was there for me to do? I ran. Once on the dock above, misgivings
assailed me. I was too young, and the night was too appalling. I had
forgotten the wind, down in the cabin, but in the open here I felt its
weight. It grew all the while; its voice drowned the world now, and
there was spindrift through it, picked from the back shore of the island
and flung all the way across. Objects were lost in it; ghostly things,
shore lights, fish-houses, piers, strained seaward. I heard the packet's
singing masts at the next wharf, but I saw no packet. The ponderous scow
below me became a thing of life and light, an eager bird fluttering at
its bonds and calling to the wide spaces. To my bewildered eyes it
seemed to move--it _was_ moving, shaking off the heavy hands of bondage,
joining itself with the wind. I got down on my knees of a sudden and
peered at the deck.

"_Yen Sin!_" I screamed. "_What you doin' out there?_"

I saw him dimly in the open air outside his door, fumbling and fumbling
at something. This was his great adventure, the thing that had gleamed
in his eyes and had tapped that unguessed reservoir of strength. His
voice crept back to me, harassed by the wind,

"This velly funny countly, Mista Boy. Mista Yen Sin go back China way."

His bow-line was fast to an iron ring on the wharf. I wanted to hold him
back, and I clutched at the rope with my hands as if my little strength
were something against that freed thing. The line came up to me easily,
cast off from the scow at the other end.

He was waning. His window and door and the little fan-light before the
door were all I could see now, and even that pattern blurred and became
uncertain and ghostly on the mat of the night. He was clear of the
wharves now, and the wind had him--sailing China way--so peaceful, so
dreamless, surrounded by his tell-tale cargo of Urkey's unwashed
collars.

* * *

I don't know how long it was I crouched there on the timbers, staring
out into the havoc of that black night, and listening to the hungry
clamor of the Bight. I must have been crying for the minister, over and
over, without knowing it, for when my cousin Duncan's hand fell on my
shoulder and I started up half out of my wits, he pointed a finger
toward the outer edge of the wharf.

And there they were in a little close group, Sympathy Gibbs standing
straight with the child in her arms, and Minister Malden down on his
knees. There were many people on the pier, all with their eyes to sea,
all except Sympathy Gibbs; hers were up-shore, where Mate Snow lay in
state on his own counter, all his sweet revenge behind him and gone.

I thought little Hope was asleep in the swathing shawl, till I saw the
dark round spots of her eyes. If it was a strange night for the others,
it was stranger still to her.

The wind and the rain beat on Minister Malden's bended back. He loved it
that way. The missionary was praying for the soul of the heathen.



NONE SO BLIND[21]

[Note 21: Copyright 1917, by Harper and Brothers. Copyright 1918, by
Mary Synon.]

BY MARY SYNON

From _Harper's Magazine_.


We were listening to Leila Burton's music--her husband, and Dick
Allport, and I--with the throb of London beating under us like the surge
of an ocean in anger, when there rose above the smooth harmonies of the
piano and the pulsing roar of the night a sound more poignant than them
both, the quavering melody of a street girl's song.

Through the purpling twilight of that St. John's Eve I had been drifting
in dreams while Leila had gone from golden splendors of chords which
reflected the glow on westward-fronting windows into somber symphonies
which had seemed to make vocal the turbulent soul of the city--for Dick
Allport and I were topping the structure of that house of life that was
to shelter the love we had long been cherishing. With Leila playing in
that art which had dowered her with fame, I was visioning the glory of
such love as she and Standish Burton gave each other while I watched
Dick, sensing rather than seeing the dearness of him as he gave to the
mounting climaxes the tense interest he always tendered to Leila's
music.

I had known, before I came to love Dick Allport, other loves and other
lovers. Because I had followed will-o'-the-wisps of fancy through
marshes of sentiment I could appreciate the more the truth of that flame
which he and I had lighted for our guidance on the road. A moody boy he
had been when I first met him, full of a boy's high chivalry and of a
boy's dark despairs. A moody man he had become in the years that had
denied him the material success toward which he had striven; but
something in the patience of his efforts, something in the fineness of
his struggle had endeared him to me as no triumph could have done.
Because he needed me, because I had come to believe that I meant to him
belief in the ultimate good of living, as well as belief in womanhood, I
cherished in my soul that love of him which yearned over him even as it
longed for him.

Watching him in the dusk while he lounged in that concentrated quiet of
attention, I went on piling the bricks of that wide house of happiness
we should enter together; and, although I could see him but dimly, so
well did I know every line of his face that I could fancy the little
smile that quivered around his lips and that shone from the depths of
his eyes as Leila played the measures we both loved. I must have been
smiling in answer when the song of the girl outside rose high.

Not until that alien sound struck athwart the power and beauty of the
spell did I come to know how high I had builded my castles; but the
knocking at the gate toppled down the dreams as Leila swept a discord
over the keyboard and crossed to the open window.

In the dusk, as she flung back the heavy curtains, I could see the bulk
of Brompton Oratory set behind the houses like the looming back-drop of
a painted scene. Nearer, in front of a tall house across the way, stood
the singer, a thin girl whose shadowy presence seemed animated by a
curious bravery. In a nasal, plaintive voice she was singing the words
of a ballad of love and of loving that London, as only London can, had
made curiously its own that season. The insistence of her plea--for she
sang as if she cried out her life's longing, sang as if she called on
the passing crowd not for alms, but for understanding--made her for the
moment, before she faded back into oblivion, an artist, voicing the
heartache and the heartbreak of womankind; and the artist in Leila
Burton responded to the thrill.

Until the ending of the song she stood silent in front of the window,
unconscious of the fact that she, and not the scene beyond her, held the
center of the stage. Not for her beauty, although at times Leila Burton
gave the impression of being exquisitely lovely, was she remarkable, but
rather for that receptive attitude that made her an inspired listener.
In me, who had known her for but a little while, she awakened my deepest
and drowsiest ambition, the desire to express in pictures the light and
the shade of the London I knew. With her I could feel the power, and the
glory, and the fear, and the terror of the city as I never did at other
times. It was not alone that she was all things to all men; it was that
she led men and women who knew her to the summits of their aspirations.

Even Standish Burton, big, sullen man that he was, immersed in his
engineering problems, responded to his wife's spiritual charm with a
readiness that always aroused in Dick and myself an admiration for him
that our other knowledge of him did not justify. He was, aside from his
relationship to Leila, a man whose hardness suggested a bitter knowledge
of dark ways of life. Now, crouched down in the depths of his chair, he
kept watching Leila with a gaze of smouldering adoration, revealing that
love for her which had been strong enough to break down those barriers
which she had erected in the years while he had worked for her in
Jacob's bondage. In her he seemed to be discovering, all over again, the
vestal to tend the fires of his faith.

Dick Allport, too, bending forward over the table on which his hands
fell clenched, was studying Leila with an inscrutable stare that seemed
to be of query. I was wondering what it meant, wondering the more
because my failure to understand its meaning hung another veil between
my vision and my shrine of belief in the fullness of love, when the
song outside came to an end and Leila turned back to us.

Her look, winging its way to Standish, lighted her face even beyond the
glow from the lamps which she switched on. For an instant his heavy
countenance flared into brightness. Dick Allport sighed almost
imperceptibly as he turned to me. I had a feeling that such a fire as
the Burtons kindled for each other should have sprung up in the moment
between Dick and me, for we had fought and labored and struggled for our
love as Standish and Leila had never needed to battle. Because of our
constancy I expected something better than the serene affectionateness
that shone in Dick's smile. I wanted such stormy passion of devotion as
Burton gave to Leila, such love as I, remembering a night of years ago,
knew that Dick could give. It was the old desire of earth, spoken in the
street girl's song, that surged in me until I could have cried out in my
longing for the soul of the sacrament whose substance I had been given;
but the knowledge that we were, the four of us, conventional people in a
conventional setting locked my heart as it locked my lips until I could
mirror the ease with which Leila bore herself.

"I have been thinking," she said, lightly, "that I should like to be a
street singer for a night. If only a piano were not so cumbersome, I
should go out and play into the ears of the city the thing that girl put
into her song."

"Why not?" I asked her, "It would be an adventure, and life has too few
adventures."

"It might have too many," Dick said.

"Not for Leila," Standish declared. "Life's for her a quest of joy."

"That's it," Dick interposed. "Her adventures have all been joyous."

"But they haven't," Leila insisted. "I'm no spoiled darling of the gods.
I've been poor, poor as that girl out there. I've had heartaches, and
disappointments, and misfortunes."

"Not vital ones," Dick declared. "You've never had a knock-out blow."

"She doesn't know what one is," Standish laughed, but there sounded a
ruefulness in his laughter that told of the kind of blow he must once
have suffered to bring that note in his voice. Standish Burton took life
lightly, except where Leila was concerned. His manner now indicated,
almost mysteriously, that something threatened his harbor of peace, but
the regard Leila gave to him proved that the threat of impending danger
had not come to her.

"Oh, but I do know," she persisted.

"Vicariously," I suggested. "All artists do."

"No, actually," she said.

"You're wrong," said Standish. "You're the sort of woman whom the world
saves from its own cruelties."

There was something so essentially true in his appraisal of his wife
that the certainty covered the banality of his statement and kept Dick
and myself in agreement with him. Leila Burton, exquisitely remote from
all things commonplace, was unquestionably a woman to be protected.
Without envy--since my own way had its compensations in full measure--I
admitted it.

"I think that you must have forgotten, if you ever knew," she said, "how
I struggled here in London for the little recognition I have won."

"Oh, that!" Dick Allport deprecated. "That isn't what Stan means. Every
one in the world worth talking about goes through that sort of struggle.
He means the flinging down from a high mountain after you've seen the
glories, not of this world, but of another, the casting out from
paradise after you've learned what paradise may mean. He spoke with an
odd timbre of emotion in his voice, a quality that puzzled me for the
moment.

"That's it," said Standish, gratefully. "Those are the knock-out blows."

"Well, then, I don't know them"--Leila admitted her defeat--"and I hope
that I shall not."

Softly she began to play the music of an accompaniment. There was a
familiar hauntingness in its strains that puzzled me until I associated
them with the song that Burton used to whistle so often in the times
when Leila was in Paris and he had turned for companionship to Dick and
to me.

"I've heard Stan murder that often enough to be able to try it myself,"
I told her.

"I didn't know he knew it," she said. "I heard it for the first time the
other day. A girl--I didn't hear her name--sang it for an encore at the
concert of the Musicians' Club. She sang it well, too. She was a queer
girl," Leila laughed, "a little bit of a thing, with all the air of a
tragedy queen. And you should have heard how she sang that! You know the
words?"--she asked me over her shoulder:

    "And because I, too, am a lover,
      And my love is far from me,
    I hated the two on the sands there,
      And the moon, and the sands, and the sea."

"And the moon, and the sands, and the sea," Dick repeated. He rose,
going to the window where Leila had stood, and looking outward. When he
faced us again he must have seen the worry in my eyes, for he smiled at
me with the old, endearing fondness and touched my hair lightly as he
passed.

"What was she like--the girl?" Standish asked, lighting another
cigarette.

"Oh, just ordinary and rather pretty. Big brown eyes that seemed to be
forever asking a question that no one could answer, and a little pointed
chin that she flung up when she sang." Dick Allport looked quickly
across at Burton, but Stan gave him no answering glance. He was staring
at Leila as she went on: "I don't believe I should have noticed her at
all if she hadn't come to me as I was leaving the hall. 'Are you Mrs.
Standish Burton?' she asked me. When I told her that I was, she stared
me full in the face, then walked off without another word. I wish that
I could describe to you, though, the scorn and contempt that blazed in
her eyes. If I had been a singer who had robbed her of her chance at
Covent Garden, I could have understood. But I'd never seen her before,
and my singing wouldn't rouse the envy of a crow!" She laughed
light-heartedly over the recollection, then her face clouded. "Do you
know," she mused, "that I thought just now, when the girl was singing on
the street, that I should like to know that other girl? There was
something about her that I can't forget. She was the sort that tries,
and fails, and sinks. Some day, I'm afraid, she'll be singing on the
streets, and, if I ever hear her, I shall have a terrible thought that I
might have saved her from it, if only I had tried!"

"Better let her sort alone," Burton said, shortly. He struck a match and
relit his cigarette with a gesture of savage annoyance. Leila looked at
him in amazement, and Dick gave him a glance that seemed to counsel
silence. There was a hostility about the mood into which Standish
relapsed that seemed to bring in upon us some of the urgent sorrows of
the city outside, as if he had drawn aside a curtain to show us a world
alien to the place of beauty and of the making of beauty through which
Leila moved. Even she must have felt the import of his mood, for she let
her hands fall on the keys while Dick and I stared at each other before
the shock of this crackle that seemed to threaten the perfection of
their happiness.

From Brompton came the boom of the bell for evensong. Down Piccadilly
ran the roar of the night traffic, wending a blithesome way to places of
pleasure. It was the hour when London was wont to awaken to the thrill
of its greatness, its power, its vastness, its strength, and its glory,
and to send down luminous lanes its carnival crowd of men and women. It
was the time when weltering misery shrank shrouded into merciful gloom;
when the East End lay far from our hearts; when poverty and sin and
shame went skulking into byways where we need never follow; when painted
women held back in the shadows; when the pall of night rested like a
velvet carpet over the spaces of that floor that, by daylight, gave
glimpses into loathsome cellars of humanity. It was, as it had been so
often of late, an hour of serene beauty, that first hour of darkness in
a June night with the season coming to an end, an hour of dusk to be
remembered in exile or in age.

There should have come to us then the strains of an orchestra floating
in with the fragrance of gardenias from a vendor's basket, symbols of
life's call to us, luring us out beneath stars of joy. But, instead, the
bell of Brompton pealed out warningly over our souls, and, when its
clanging died, there drifted in the sound of a preaching voice.

Only phrases clattering across the darkness were the words from
beyond--resonant through the open windows: "The Cross is always ready,
and everywhere awaiteth thee.... Turn thyself upward, or turn thyself
downward; turn thyself inward, or turn thyself outward; everywhere thou
shalt find the Cross;... if thou fling away one Cross thou wilt find
another, and perhaps a heavier."

Like sibylline prophecy the voice of the unseen preacher struck down on
us. We moved uneasily, the four of us, as he cried out challenge to the
passing world before his voice went down before the surge of a hymn.
Then, just as the gay whirl of cars and omnibuses beat once more upon
the pavements, and London swung joyously into our hearts again, the bell
of the telephone in the hall rang out with a quivering jangle that
brought Leila to her feet even as Standish jumped to answer its summons.

She stood beside the piano as he gave answer to the call, watching him
as if she expected evil news. Dick, who had moved back into the shadow
from a lamp on the table, was staring with that same searching gaze he
had bestowed on her when she had lingered beside the window. I was
looking at him, when a queer cry from Standish whirled me around.

In the dim light of the hall he was standing with the instrument in his
hands, clutching it with the stupidity of a man who has been struck by
an unexpected and unexplainable missile. His face had gone to a grayish
white, and his hands trembled as he set the receiver on the hook. His
eyes were bulging from emotion and he kept wetting his lips as he stood
in the doorway.

"What is it?" Leila cried. "What's happened, Stan? Can't you tell me?
What is it?"

Not to her, but to Dick Allport, he made answer. "Bessie Lowe is dead!"

I saw Dick Allport's thunderstruck surprise before he arose. I saw his
glance go from Standish to Leila with a questioning that overrode all
other possible emotion in him. Then I saw him look at Burton as if he
doubted his sanity. His voice, level as ever, rang sharply across the
other man's distraction.

"When did she die?" he asked him.

"Just now." He ran his hand over his hair, gazing at Dick as if Leila
and I were not there. "She--she killed herself down in the Hotel
Meynard."

"Why?" Leila's voice, hard with terror, snapped off the word.

"She--she--I don't know." He stared at his wife as if he had just become
conscious of her presence. The grayness in his face deepened, and his
lips grew livid. Like a man condemned to death, he stared at the world
he was losing.

"Who is Bessie Lowe?" Leila questioned. "And why have they called you to
tell of her?" Her eyes blazed with a fire that seemed about to singe
pretense from his soul.

His hand went to his throat, and I saw Leila whiten. Her hand, resting
on the piano, trembled, but her face held immobile, although I knew that
all the happiness of the rest of her life hung upon his answer. On what
Standish Burton would tell her depended the years to come. In that
moment I knew that she loved him even as I loved Dick, even as women
have always loved and will always love the men whom fate had marked for
their caring; and in a sudden flash of vision I knew, too, that Burton,
no matter what Bessie Lowe or any other girl had ever been to him,
worshiped his wife with an intensity of devotion that would make all his
days one long reparation for whatever wrong he might have done her. I
knew, though, that, if he had done the wrong, she would never again be
able to give him the eager love he desired, and I, too, an unwilling
spectator, waited on his words for his future, and Leila's; but his
voice did not make answer. It was Dick Allport who spoke.

"Bessie Lowe is a girl I used to care for," he said. "She is the girl
who sang at the Musicians' Club, the girl who spoke to you. She heard
that I was going to be married. She wanted me to come back to her. I
refused."

He was standing in the shadow, looking neither at Leila nor at me, but
at Standish Burton. Burton turned to him.

"Yes," he muttered thickly, "they told me to tell you. They knew you'd
be here."

"I see," said Leila. She looked at Standish and then at Dick Allport,
and there came into her eyes a queer, glazed stare that filmed their
brightness. "I am sorry that I asked questions, Mr. Allport, about
something that was nothing to me. Will you forgive me?"

"There is nothing to be forgiven," he said. He turned to her and smiled
a little. She tried to answer his smile, but a gasp came from her
instead.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," she said, "so sorry for her!"

It was Standish's gaze that brought to me sudden realization that I,
too, had a part in the drama. Until I found his steady stare on me I had
felt apart from the play that he and Dick and Leila were going through,
but with his urgent glare I awoke into knowledge that the message he had
taken for Dick held for me the same significance that Leila had thought
it bore for her. Like a stab from a knife came the thought that this
girl--whoever she was--had, in her dying, done what she had not done in
life, taken Dick Allport from me. There went over me numbing waves of a
great sense of loss, bearing me out on an ocean of oblivion. Against
these I fought desperately to hold myself somewhere near the shore of
sensibility. As if I were beholding him from a great distance, I could
see Dick standing in the lamplight in front of Leila Burton.
Understanding of how dear he was to me, of how vitally part of me he had
grown in the years through which I had loved him--sometimes lightly,
sometimes stormily, but always faithfully--beaconed me inshore; and the
plank of faith in him, faith that held in itself something of forgiving
charity, floated out to succor my drowning soul. I moved across the room
while Standish Burton kept his unwinking gaze upon me, and Leila never
looked up from the piano. I had come beside Dick before he heard me.

He looked at me as if he had only just then remembered that I was there.
Into his eyes flashed a look of poignant remorse. He shrank back from me
a little as I touched his hand, and I turned to Leila, who had not
stirred from the place where she had listened to Standish's cry when he
took the fateful message. "We are going," I said, "to do what we
can--for her."

She moved then to look at me, and I saw that her eyes held not the
compassion I had feared, but a strange speculativeness, as if she
questioned what I knew rather than what I felt. Their contemplating
quiet somehow disturbed me more than had her husband's flashlight
scrutiny, and with eyes suddenly blinded and throat drawn tight with
terror I took my way beside Dick Allport out from the soft lights of the
Burtons' house into the darkness of the night.

Outside we paused a moment, waiting for a cab. For the first time since
he had told Leila of Bessie Lowe, Dick spoke to me. "I think," he said,
"that it would be just as well if you didn't come."

"I must," I told him, "It isn't curiosity. You understand that, don't
you? It is simply that this is the time for me to stand by you, if ever
I shall do it, Dick."

"I don't deserve it." There was a break in his voice. "But I shall try
to, my dear. I can't promise you much, but I can promise you that."

Down the brightness of Piccadilly into the fuller glow of Regent Street
we rode without speech. Somewhere below the Circus we turned aside and
went through dim cañons of houses that opened a way past the Museum and
let us into Bloomsbury. There in a wilderness of cheap hotels and
lodging-houses we found the Meynard.

A gas lamp was flaring in the hall when the porter admitted us. At a
desk set under the stairway a pale-faced clerk awaited us with staring
insolence that shifted to annoyance when Dick asked him if we might go
to Bessie Lowe's room. "No," he said, abruptly. "The officers won't let
any one in there. They've taken her to the undertaker's."

He gave us the location of the place with a scorn that sent us out in
haste. I, at least, felt a sense of relief that I did not have to go up
to the place where this unknown girl had thrown away the greatest gift.
As we walked through the poorly lighted streets toward the Tottenham
Court Road I felt for the first time a surge of that emotion that Leila
Burton had voiced, a pity for the dead girl. And yet, stealing a look at
Dick as he walked onward quietly, sadly, but with a dignity that lifted
him above the sordidness of the circumstances, I felt that I could not
blame him as I should. It was London, I thought, and life that had
tightened the rope on the girl.

Strangely I felt a lightness of relief in the realization that the
catastrophe having come, was not really as terrible as it had seemed
back there in Leila's room. It was an old story that many women had
conned, and since, after all, Dick Allport was yet young, and my own, I
condoned the sin for the sake of the sinner; and yet, even as I held the
thought close to my aching heart, I felt that I was somehow letting slip
from my shoulders the cross that had been laid upon them, the cross
that I should have borne, the burden of shame and sorrow for the wrong
that the man I loved had done to the girl who had died for love of him.

The place where she lay, a gruesome establishment set in behind that
highway of reeking cheapness, the Tottenham Court Road, was very quiet
when we entered. A black-garbed man came to meet us from a room in which
we saw two tall candles burning. Dick spoke to him sharply, asking if
any one had come to look after the dead girl.

"No one with authority," the man whined--"just a girl as lived with her
off and on."

He stood, rubbing his hands together as Dick went into hurried details
with him, and I went past them into the room where the candles burned.
For an instant, as I stood at the door, I had the desire to run away
from it all, but I pulled myself together and went over to the place
where lay the girl they had called Bessie Lowe.

I had drawn back the sheet and was standing looking down at the white
face when I heard a sob in the room. I replaced the covering and turned
to see in the corner the shadowy form of a woman whose eyes blazed at me
out of the dark. While I hesitated, wondering if this were the girl who
had lived occasionally with Bessie Lowe, she came closer, staring at me
with scornful hate. Miserably thin, wretchedly nervous as she was, she
had donned for the nonce a mantle of dignity that she seemed to be
trailing as she approached, glaring at me with furious resentment. "So
you thought as how you'd come here," she demanded of me, her crimsoned
face close to my own, "to see what she was like, to see what sort of a
girl had him before you took him away from her? Well, I'll tell you
something, and you can forget it or remember it, as you like. Bessie
Lowe was a good girl until she ran into him, and she'd have stayed good,
I tell you, if he'd let her alone. She was a fool, though, and she
thought that he'd marry her some day--and all the time he was only
waiting until you'd take him! You never think of our kind, do you, when
you're living out your lives, wondering if you care enough to marry the
men who're worshipping you while they're playing with us? Well, perhaps
it won't be anything to you, but, all the same, there's some kind of a
God, and if He's just He'll punish you when He punishes Standish
Burton!"

"But I--" I gasped. "Did you think that I--?"

"Aren't you his wife?" She came near to me, peering at me in the
flickering candle-light. "Aren't you Standish Burton's wife?"

"No," I said.

"Oh, well"--she shrugged--"you're her sort, and it'll come to the same
thing in the end."

She slouched back to the corner, all anger gone from her. Outside I
heard Dick's voice, low, decisive. Swiftly I followed the girl. "You
must tell me," I pleaded with her, "if she did it because of Standish
Burton."

"I thought everybody knew that," she said, "even his wife. What's it to
you, if you're not that?"

"Nothing," I replied, but I knew, as I stood where she kept vigil with
Bessie Lowe, that I lied. For I saw the truth in a lightning-flash; and
I knew, as I had not known when Dick perjured himself in Leila's
music-room, that I had come to the place of ultimate understanding, for
I realized that not a dead girl, but a living woman, had come between
us. Not Bessie Lowe, but Leila Burton, lifted the sword at the gateway
of my paradise.

With the poignancy of a poisoned arrow reality came to me. Because Dick
had loved Leila Burton he had laid his bond with me on the altar of his
chivalry. For her sake he had sacrificed me to the hurt to which
Standish would not sacrifice her. And the joke of it--the pity of it was
that she hadn't believed them! But because she was Burton's wife,
because it was too late for facing of the truth, she had pretended to
believe Dick; and she had known, she must have known, that he had lied
to her because he loved her.

The humiliation of that knowledge beat down on me, battering me with
such blows as I had not felt in my belief that Dick had not been true to
me in his affair with this poor girl. Her rivalry, living or dead, I
could have endured and overcome--for no Bessie Lowe could ever have won
from Dick, as she could never have given to him, that thing which was
mine. But against Leila Burton I could not stand, for she was of my
world, of my own people, and the crown a man would give to her was the
one he must take from me.

There in that shabby place I buried my idols. Not I, but a power beyond
me, held the stone on which was written commandment for me. By the light
of the candles above Bessie Lowe I knew that I should not marry Dick
Allport.

I found him waiting for me at the doorway. I think that he knew then
that the light of our guiding lantern had flickered out, but he said
nothing. We crossed the garishly bright road and went in silence through
quiet streets. Like children afraid of the dark we went through the
strange ways of the city, two lonely stragglers from the procession of
love, who, with our own dreams ended, saw clearer the world's wild
pursuit of the fleeing vision.

We had wandered back into our own land when, in front of the darkened
Oratory and almost under the shadow of Leila Burton's home, there came
to us through the soft darkness the ominous plea that heralds summer
into town. Out of the shadows an old woman, bent and shriveled, leaned
toward us. "Get yer lavender tonight," she pleaded. "'Tis the first of
the crop, m'lidy."

"That means--" Dick Allport began as I paused to buy.

I fastened the sprigs at my belt, then looked up at the distant stars,
since I could not yet bear to look at him. "It means the end of the
season," I said, "when the lavender comes to London."



THE YEARBOOK OF THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY FOR 1917



ADDRESSES OF AMERICAN MAGAZINES PUBLISHING SHORT STORIES


NOTE. _This address list does not aim to be complete, but is based
simply on the magazines which I have considered for this volume._

Ainslee's Magazine, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York City.
All-Story Weekly, 8 West 40th Street, New York City.
American Magazine, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Art World, 2 West 45th Street, New York City.
Atlantic Monthly, 3 Park Street, Boston, Mass.
Bellman, 118 South 6th Street, Minneapolis, Minn.
Black Cat, Salem, Mass.
Bookman, 443 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Boston Evening Transcript, 324 Washington Street, Boston, Mass.
Century Magazine, 353 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Collier's Weekly, 416 West 13th Street, New York City.
Cosmopolitan Magazine, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.
Delineator, Spring and Macdougal Streets, New York City.
Detective Story Magazine, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York City.
Everybody's Magazine, Spring and Macdougal Streets, New York City.
Every Week, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Forum, 286 Fifth Avenue, New York City.
Good Housekeeping, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.
Harper's Bazar, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.
Harper's Magazine, Franklin Square, New York City.
Hearst's Magazine, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.
Illustrated Sunday Magazine, 193 Main Street, Buffalo, N. Y.
Ladies' Home Journal, Independence Square, Philadelphia, Pa.
Live Stories, 35 West 39th Street, New York City.
McCall's Magazine, 236 West 37th Street, New York City.
McClure's Magazine, 251 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Metropolitan Magazine, 432 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Midland, Moorhead, Minn.
Milestones, Akron, Ohio.
Munsey's Magazine, 8 West 40th Street, New York City.
Outlook, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Pagan, 174 Centre Street, New York City.
Parisienne, Printing Crafts Building, 461 Eighth Avenue, New York City.
Pearson's Magazine, 34 Union Square, New York City.
Pictorial Review, 216 West 39th Street, New York City.
Queen's Work, 3200 Russell Avenue, St. Louis, Mo.
Reedy's Mirror, Syndicate Trust Building, St. Louis, Mo.
Saturday Evening Post, Independence Square, Philadelphia, Pa.
Scribner's Magazine, 597 Fifth Avenue, New York City.
Short Stories, Garden City, Long Island, N. Y.
Smart Set, Printing Crafts Building, New York City.
Snappy Stories, 35 West 39th Street, New York City.
Southern Woman's Magazine, American Building, Nashville, Tenn.
Stratford Journal, 32 Oliver Street, Boston, Mass.
Sunset Magazine, 460 Fourth Street, San Francisco, Cal.
To-day's Housewife, 461 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Top-Notch Magazine, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York City.
Touchstone, 118 East 30th Street, New York City.
Woman's Home Companion, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Woman's World, 107 So. Clinton Street, Chicago, Ill.
Youth's Companion, St. Paul Street, Boston, Mass.



THE BIOGRAPHICAL ROLL OF HONOR OF AMERICAN SHORT STORIES FOR 1917


NOTE. _Only stories by American authors are listed. The best sixty-three
stories are indicated by an asterisk before the title of the story. The
index figures 1, 2, and 3 prefixed to the name of the author indicate
that his work has been included in the Rolls of Honor for 1914, 1915,
and 1916 respectively._

"AMID, JOHN." (M. M. STEARNS.) Born at West Hartford, Conn., 1884. Lived
in New England at Hartford, South Dartmouth, Mass., and Randolph, N. H.,
until 1903, with the exception of two years abroad. Threatened with
blindness when fifteen years old, and gave up school work, but later
resumed studies, graduating from Stanford University, 1906. Has been
active in newspaper work in Los Angeles. Has since developed water,
broken horses, and set out lemon trees. Married. Three children. Good
mechanic. Musical. Fond of boating and chess. Authority on turkey
raising. At present associate scenario editor of the American Film
Company, Santa Barbara, Cal.

  Professor, A.

(3) ANDERSON, SHERWOOD. Born in Camden, Ohio. Primary school education.
Newsboy until he became strong enough to work; then a day laborer. With
American army in Cuban campaign. Studied for a few months at college,
Springfield, Ohio. Now an advertising writer. Author of "Windy
McPherson's Son" and "Marching Men." Has three novels, three books of
short stories, and book of songs unpublished. First short story
published, "The Rabbit-pen," Harper's Magazine, July, 1914. Lives in
Chicago.

  "Mother."
  Thinker, The.
  Untold Lie, The.

(3) ANDREWS, MARY RAYMOND SHIPMAN. Born at Mobile, Ala. While still a
baby, moved with her parents to Lexington, Ky., where she lived until
about 1880. Married W. S. Andrews, 1884, now Justice Supreme Court of
New York. Chief interests: horseback riding, shooting, and fishing.
Author of "The Marshal," "The Enchanted Forest," "The Three Things,"
"The Good Samaritan," "The Perfect Tribute," "Bob and the Guides," "The
Militants," "The Eternal Feminine," "The Eternal Masculine," "The
Courage of the Commonplace," "The Lifted Bandage," "Counsel Assigned,"
"Better Treasure," and "Old Glory." First short story, "Crowned with
Glory and Honor," Scribner's Magazine, February, 1902. Resides in
Syracuse, N. Y.

  Blood Brothers.
  Return of K. of K., The.

(3) BABCOCK, EDWINA STANTON. Born at Nyack, N. Y. One of eleven
children. Academic experience up to age of twenty-three, one year in
private school. Attended extension classes in English, Teachers'
College, Columbia University. Author "Greek Wayfarers," a volume of
verse. First short story, "The Diary of a Cat," Harper's Magazine,
August, 1904. Her deepest enthusiasms are children, the mountains of
Greece, the French Theatre, and the Irish imagination. She lives at
Nyack, N. Y., and Nantucket, Mass.

  *Excursion, The.

BARNARD, FLOY TOLBERT. Born in Hunter, Ohio, 1879. High school education
in Perry, Iowa. Married Dr. Leslie O. Barnard, 1902. Went West, 1905.
Descendant of Rouget de Lisle, author of the "Marseillaise," through her
mother. Her great-grandfather dropped the "de" to please a Quaker girl,
who would not otherwise marry him, so opposed was she to the French, and
to a name so associated with war. Her first story, "--Nor the Smell of
Fire," appeared in Young's Magazine February, 1915. Lives in Seattle,
Wash.

  Surprise in Perspective, A.

BEER, THOMAS. Born in 1889, Council Bluffs, Iowa. Educated at MacKenzie
School, Dobbs Ferry, N. Y., Yale College (1911), Columbia Law School.
Now in National army. First story, "The Brothers," Century, February,
1917. Chief interest: the theatre. Lives at Yonkers, N. Y.

  *Brothers, The.
  *Onnie.

(3) BOTTOME, PHYLLIS. Born of American parents. Now resident in England.
Author of "The Derelict," "The Second Fiddle," and "The Dark Tower."

  *Ironstone.

"BRECK, JOHN." (ELIZABETH C. A. SMITH.) Lives in Grosse Isle, Mich.

  *From Hungary.

(3) BROOKS, ALDEN. Author of "The Fighting Men." Lives in Paris. Now in
the American army in France.

  Three Slavs, The.

(23) BROWN, ALICE. Born at Hampton Falls, N. H., 1857. Graduated from
Robinson Seminary, Exeter, N. H., 1876. Author "Fools of Nature,"
"Meadow-Grass," "The Road to Castaly," "The Day of His Youth," "Tiverton
Tales," "King's End," "Margaret Warrener," "The Mannerings," "High
Noon," "Paradise," "The County Road," "The Court of Love," "Rose
MacLeod," "The Story of Thyrza," "Country Neighbors," "John
Winterbourne's Family," "The One-Footed Fairy," "The Secret of the
Clan," "Vanishing Points," "Robin Hood's Barn," "My Love and I,"
"Children of Earth," "The Prisoner," "Bromley Neighbourhood," and other
books. Lives in Boston.

  *Flying Teuton, The.
  Nemesis.

(1) BURT, MAXWELL STRUTHERS. Born in Philadelphia, 1882. Educated at
Princeton, 1904, and at Merton College, Oxford. Author of "In the High
Hills." Instructor of English at Princeton for two years. Then went
West, settling in Jackson Hole, Wyo., where he is senior partner of a
cattle ranch. He is now in the Signal Corps, Aviation Section, U. S.
Army. First story, "The Water-Hole," Scribner's Magazine, July, 1915
(reprinted in "The Best Short Stories of 1915").

  *Closed Doors.
  *Cup of Tea, A.
  Glory of the Wild Green Earth, The.
  John O'May.
  Le Panache.

(13) BUZZELL, FRANCIS. Born in Romeo, Mich., 1882. His father was editor
of the Romeo Hydrant, which Mr. Buzzell mentions in his Almont stories
as the "Almont Hydrant." Moved when he was seven years old to Port
Huron, Mich. Backward student. Educated in private school, and one year
in Port Huron High School and Business College. Worked in railroad
yards, and at age of nineteen as reporter on Port Huron Herald. At
twenty-one became Chicago newspaper reporter, and later, associate
editor, Popular Mechanics. In 1912 began literary career by publishing
two poems in Poetry. Went to New York determined to become a great poet,
and stayed there nine months. Married Miriam Kiper and returned to
Chicago. Now a chief petty officer, U. S. N., and associate editor of
Great Lakes Recruit. Lives in Lake Bluff, Ill.

  *Lonely Places.
  *Long Vacation, The.

(3) CAMPBELL, FLETA. (_See Roll of Honor for 1916 under_ SPRINGER, FLETA
CAMPBELL.) Born in Newton, Kan., 1886, moved to Oklahoma, 1889. Educated
in common schools of the frontier, no high school, and a year and a half
preparatory school, University of Oklahoma. Lived in Texas and
California. First story, "Solitude," Harper's Magazine, March, 1912.
Lives in New York City.

  *Mistress, The.

CEDERSCHIÖLD, GUNNAR.

  *Foundling, The.

CHAMBERLAIN, GEORGE AGNEW. Born of American parents, São Paulo, Brazil,
1879. Educated Lawrenceville School, N. J., and Princeton. Unmarried. In
consular service since 1904. Now American Consul at Lourenço Marquez,
Portuguese East Africa.

  Man Who Went Back, The.

CLEGHORN, SARAH NORCLIFFE. Born at Norfolk, Va., 1876. Educated at Burr
and Burton Seminary, Manchester, Vt., an old country co-educational
school; and one year at Radcliffe. Writer and tutor by profession. Chief
interests are anti-vivisection, socialism, and above all, pacifism of
the "extreme" kind. She likes best of everything in the world to go on a
picnic with plenty of children. First short story, "The Mellen
Idolatry," Delineator, about 1900. Author of "A Turnpike Lady," "The
Spinster," "Fellow Captains" (with Dorothy Canfield), and "Portraits and
Protests." Lives in Manchester, Vt.

  "Mr. Charles Raleigh Rawdon, Ma'am."

(23) COBB, IRVIN SHREWSBURY. Born at Paducah, Ky., 1876. Education
limited to attendance of public and private schools up to age of
sixteen. Reporter and cartoonist for several years; magazine contributor
since 1910. Chief interests, outdoor life and travel. First short story,
"The Escape of Mr. Trimm," Saturday Evening Post, November, 1910. Author
of "Back Home," "Cobb's Anatomy," "The Escape of Mr. Trimm," "Cobb's
Bill of Fare," "Roughing It de Luxe," "Europe Revised," "Paths of
Glory," "Speaking of Operations," "Local Color," "Fibble, D. D.," "Old
Judge Priest," "Speaking of Prussians," "Those Times and These," and
"'Twixt the Bluff and the Sound." Lives within commuting distance of New
York City.

  *Boys Will Be Boys.
   Cinnamon Seed and Sandy Bottom.
  *Family Tree, The.
  *Quality Folks.

(3) CONNOLLY, JAMES BRENDAN. Born at South Boston, Mass. Education,
parochial and public schools of Boston and a few months in Harvard.
Married Elizabeth F. Hurley, 1904. Clerk, inspector, and surveyor with
U. S. Engineering Corps, Savannah, 1892-95. Won first Olympic
championship of modern times at Athens, 1896. Served in Cuban campaign
and in U. S. Navy, 1907-08. Progressive candidate for Congress, 1912.
Member National Institute of Arts and Letters. Author "Jeb Hutton," "Out
of Gloucester," "The Seiners," "The Deep Sea's Toll," "The Crested
Seas," "An Olympic Victor," "Open Water," "Wide Courses," "Sonnie Boy's
People," "The Trawler," "Head Winds," and "Running Free." Lives in
Boston.

  Breath o' Dawn.

(2) COWDERY, ALICE. Born in San Francisco. Graduate of Leland Stanford
University. First short story, "Gallant Age," Harper's Magazine,
September, 1914. Lives in California.

  Robert.

CRABBE, BERTHA HELEN. Born in 1887 in Coxsackie, N. Y. Her father moved
his family to Rockaway Beach, L. I., in 1888, when it was little more
than an isolated fishing-station. It was her good fortune to live among
the novel conditions attending the rapid growth of this pioneer village,
and to be surrounded by those interesting and widely varying types of
people who are drawn to a city-in-the-making. Educated in public schools
of the Rockaways, and at a boarding school in Tarrytown, N. Y. Student
of painting. First story published in 1913 in a magazine of the Munsey
group. Lives in Far Rockaway.

  Once in a Lifetime.

DOBIE, CHARLES CALDWELL. Born in San Francisco, 1881. Education; grammar
school and seventeen years' supplementary schooling in University of
Hard Knocks. In fire insurance business for nearly twenty years. First
story, "An Invasion," San Francisco Argonaut, Oct. 8, 1910. Gave up
business, 1916, to devote himself to literature. Lives in San Francisco.

  Empty Pistol, The.
  Gifts, The.
  *Laughter.
  *Our Dog.

DODGE, MABEL.

  Farmhands.

(23) DUNCAN, NORMAN. Born at Brantford, Ont., 1871. Educated University
of Toronto. On staff New York Evening Post, 1897-01; professor rhetoric,
Washington and Jefferson College, 1902-06; adjunct professor English
literature, University Of Kansas, 1908-10. Travelled widely in
Newfoundland, Labrador, Asia, and Australasia. Died 1916. Author: "The
Soul of the Street," "The Way of the Sea," "Dr. Luke of the Labrador,"
"Dr. Grenfell's Parish," "The Mother," "The Adventures of Billy
Topsail," "The Cruise of the Shining Light," "Every Man for Himself,"
"Going Down from Jerusalem," "The Suitable Child," "Higgins," "Billy
Topsail & Company," "The Measure of a Man," "The Best of a Bad Job," "A
God in Israel," "The Bird-Store Man," "Australian Byways," and "Billy
Topsail, M.D."

  *Little Nipper of Hide-an'-Seek Harbor, A.

(13) DWIGHT, H. G. Born in Constantinople, 1875. Educated at St.
Johnsbury Academy, St. Johnsbury, Vt., and Amherst College. Chief
interests: gardening and sailing. He remembers neither the title nor the
date of his first published story. This because he was his own first
editor and publisher. "First real story," "The Bathers," Scribner's
Magazine, December, 1903. Author of "Constantinople," "Stamboul Nights,"
and "Persian Miniatures." Lives in Roselle, N. J. Is now an army field
clerk in France.

  *Emperor of Elam, The.

FERBER, EDNA. Born in Kalamazoo, Mich., 1887. Educated in public and
high schools, Appleton, Wis. Began as reporter on Appleton Daily
Crescent at seventeen. Employed on Milwaukee Journal and Chicago
Tribune; contributor to magazines since 1910. First short story, "The
Homely Heroine," Everybody's Magazine, November, 1910. Jewish religion.
Author of "Dawn O'Hara," "Buttered Side Down," "Roast Beef Medium,"
"Personality Plus," "Emma McChesney & Co.," and "Fanny Herself."
Co-author with George V. Hobart of "Our Mrs. McChesney." Lives in New
York City.

  *Gay Old Dog, The.

FOLSOM, ELIZABETH IRONS. Born at Peoria, Ill., 1876. Grandfather and
father were both writers. For a number of years member of editorial
staff of The Pantagraph at Bloomington, Ill., doing the court work there
and reading law at the same time. Left newspaper in 1916 to devote
herself to fiction. First short story, "The Scheming of Letitia,"
Munsey's Magazine, April, 1914. Lives in New York City.

  Kamerad.

FRANK, WALDO. Born in 1800, Long Branch, N. J. Educated in New York
public schools and at Yale. (B.A., M.A., and Honorary Fellowship.) While
still at college, wrote regular signed column of dramatic criticism in
New Haven Journal-Courier. Two years' newspaper work in New York. Went
to Europe, devoting himself to study of French and German theater. One
of the founders and associate editor of the Seven Arts Magazine. Chief
interests: fiction, drama, criticism of American literary standards, and
strengthening of relations between America and contemporary European
(non-English) cultures. First story, "The Fruit of Misadventure," Smart
Set, July, 1915. Author of "The Unwelcome Man." Lives in New York City.

  *Bread-Crumbs.
  Candles of Romance, The.
  Rudd.

(123) FREEMAN, MARY E. WILKINS. Born at Randolph, Mass., 1862. Educated
at Randolph and Mt. Holyoke. Married Dr. Charles M. Freeman, 1902.
Author of "A Humble Romance," "A New England Nun," "Young Lucretia,"
"Jane Field," "Giles Corey," "Pembroke," "Madelon," "Jerome," "Silence,"
"Evelina's Garden," "The Love of Parson Lord," "The Heart's Highway,"
"The Portion of Labor," "Understudies," "Six Trees," "The Wind In the
Rose Bush," "The Givers," "Doc Gordon," "By the Light of the Soul,"
"Shoulders of Atlas," "The Winning Lady," "Green Door," "Butterfly
House," "The Yates Pride," "Copy-Cat," and other books. Lives in
Metuchen, N. J.

  Boomerang, The.
  Cloak Also, The.
  Ring with the Green Stone, The.

GEER, CORNELIA THROOP, is an instructor in Bryn Mawr College.

  *Pearls Before Swine.

(123) GEROULD, KATHARINE FULLERTON. Born in Brockton, Mass., 1879.
Graduate of Radcliffe College. Married, 1910. Reader in English, Bryn
Mawr, 1901-10. Author: "Vain Oblations," "The Great Tradition,"
"Hawaii," and "A Change of Air." Lives in New Jersey.

  *East of Eden.
  *Hand of Jim Fane, The.
  *Knight's Move, The.
  *Wax Doll, The.
  *What They Seem.

GLASGOW, ELLEN. Born in Richmond, Va., 1874. Educated at home, but this
has been supplemented by a wide range of reading, and travel both abroad
and in this country. Her first short story was "A Point in Morals,"
Harper's Magazine, about 1897. Author of "The Descendant," "Some Phases
of an Inferior Planet," "The Voice of the People," "The Freeman and
Other Poems," "The Battleground," "The Deliverance," "The Wheel of
Life," "The Ancient Law," "The Romance of a Plain Man," "The Miller of
Old Church," "Virginia," "Life and Gabriella." She lives in Richmond,
Va.

  *Dare's Gift.

GLASPELL, SUSAN. (Mrs. George Cram Cook.) Born in Davenport, Iowa, 1882.
Graduate Drake University. Reporter in Des Moines for several years. The
idea for "A Jury of Her Peers" came from a murder trial which she
reported. Chief interest: the little theater. Associated with the
Provincetown Players. Married George Cram Cook, 1913. First story, "In
the Face of His Constituents," Harper's Magazine, October 1903. Author
of "The Glory of the Conquered," "The Visioning," "Lifted Masks,"
"Fidelity," several one-act plays: "Trifles," "Suppressed Desires" (in
collaboration with George Cram Cook), "The People," and "Close the
Book." Lives in Provincetown and New York City.

  *Hearing Ear, The.
  *Jury of Her Peers, A.
  Matter of Gesture, A.

(13) GORDON, ARMISTEAD CHURCHILL. Born in Albemarle County, Va., 1855.
Educated at classical academy in Warrenton, N. C., and Charlottesville,
Va., and at University of Virginia. Lawyer in Staunton, Va., since 1879.
First story, "Envion," South Atlantic Magazine, July, 1880. Of this
story his friend, Thomas Nelson Page, wrote in a preface to a volume of
Mr. Gordon's stories, printed in 1899, but never published, entitled
"Envion and Other Tales of Old and New Virginia": "To one of these
sketches the writer is personally indebted for the idea of a tragic love
affair during the war, an idea which he employed in his story 'Marse
Chan,' and also for the method which he adopted of telling the story
through the medium of a faithful servant." Author of "Befo' de War:
Echoes in Negro Dialect" (with Thomas Nelson Page), "Congressional
Currency," "For Truth and Freedom: Poems of Commemoration," "The Gay
Gordons," "The Gift of the Morning Star," "The Ivory Gate," "Robin
Aroon: A Comedy of Manners," "William Fitzhugh Gordon, a Virginian of
the Old School," "J. L. M. Curry" (with E. A. Alderman), "Maje, a Love
Story," and "Ommirandy." Lives in Staunton, Va.

  *His Father's Flag.

(3) GREENE, FREDERICK STUART. Born in Rappahannock County, Va., 1870.
Graduated from Virginia Military Institute, 1890. Civil engineer until
May 14, 1917. Now commanding officer of Company "B," 302d Engineers,
National Army, Camp Upton, N. Y. His chief interests are to see this war
to a successful conclusion, and to devote himself thereafter to writing.
First story, "Stictuit," Saturday Evening Post, April 5, 1913. Editor of
"The Grim 13." Lives on Long Island, N. Y.

  *Bunker Mouse, The.
  *"Molly McGuire, Fourteen."

(3) HALLET, RICHARD MATTHEWS. Born in Yarmouthport, Mass. Author of "The
Lady Aft" and "Trial By Fire."

  *Rainbow Pete.

HARRIS, CORRA MAY. Born at Farm Hill, Ga. 1869. Married Rev. Lundy
Howard Harris, 1887. Methodist. Began writing for the Independent, 1899.
Author: "The Jessica Letters" (with Paul Elmer More), "A Circuit Rider's
Wife," "Eve's Second Husband," "The Recording Angel," "In Search of a
Husband," and "Co-Citizens." Lives in Rydal, Ga.

  Other Soldiers in France, The.

HARTMAN, LEE FOSTER. Born in Fort Wayne, Ind., 1879. Graduate of
Wesleyan University. Engaged in newspaper and magazine work in New York
City since 1901. Now assistant editor of Harper's Magazine. First story,
"My Lady's Bracelet," Munsey's Magazine, October, 1904. Author of "The
White Sapphire." Lives in New York City.

  *Frazee.

HEMENWAY, HETTY LAWRENCE. (MRS. AUGUSTE RICHARD.) Born in Boston, 1890.
Educated in private schools in her home city. She has always been fond
of outdoor life and devoted to animals, especially dogs and horses.
Married Lieut. Auguste Richard, 1917. First story, "Four Days," Atlantic
Monthly, May, 1917, since reprinted in book form.

  *Four Days.

HUNT, EDWARD EYRE. Graduate of Harvard. Associated with American Relief
Commission in Belgium. Author of "War-Bread."

  Ghosts.
  Saint Dympna's Miracle.

(23) HURST, FANNIE. Born in Hamilton, Ohio, 1889, but spent the first
nineteen years of her life in St. Louis, Mo. An only child, and
consequently forced into much solitude and a precocious amount of
reading. Educated at home and in public schools of St. Louis. Graduate
of Washington University. Two years' graduate work at Columbia. After
vacillating between writing and the stage, the pen finally conquered,
and between 1909 and 1912 just thirty-three manuscripts were submitted
to and rejected by one publication alone,--a publication which later
came to feature her work. First short story published in Reedy's Mirror,
1909; second story in Smith's Magazine, 1912. Lives in New York City.
Active in women's suffrage, tennis and single tax; but her chief
interest is her writing, her work-day being six hours long. Has made
personal studies of the life she interprets, having at various times
apprenticed herself as waitress, saleswoman, and factory-girl. Author of
"Just Around the Corner," "Every Soul Hath Its Song," "Gaslight
Sonatas."

  *Get Ready the Wreaths.
  Solitary Reaper.

HUTCHISON, PERCY ADAMS. Graduate of, and for some years instructor at,
Harvard University.

  *Journey's End.

(3) JOHNSON, FANNY KEMBLE. (MRS. VINCENT COSTELLO.) Born in Rockbridge
County, Va., and educated in private schools. Moved to Charleston, W.
Va., 1897. Married Vincent Costello, 1899. Has lived in Wheeling, W.
Va., since 1907. Her chief interests are her four children, her writing,
and contemporary history as it is made from day to day. "The Pathway
Round," Atlantic Monthly, August, 1900, marked her entrance into the
professional magazines. Author of "The Beloved Son."

  *Strange-Looking Man, The.

JONES, E. CLEMENT. Born in Boston, 1890. First short story in verse,
"Country Breath and the Ungoverned Brother," London Nation, 1911.
Contributor to The New Republic and The Seven Arts. Lives in Concord,
Mass.

  *Sea-Turn, The.

KAUFFMAN, REGINALD WRIGHT. Born at Columbia, Pa., 1877. Educated at St.
Paul's School, Concord, and at Harvard. Married, 1909. In newspaper work
since 1897. Associate editor Saturday Evening Post, 1904-07; later
associate editor Delineator, and managing editor Hampton's Magazine.
Author of "Jarvis of Harvard," "The Things That Are Cæsar's," "The
Chasm," "Miss Frances Baird, Detective," "The Bachelor's Guide to
Matrimony," "What is Socialism?", "My Heart and Stephanie," "The House
of Bondage," "The Girl That Goes Wrong," "The Way of Peace," "The
Sentence of Silence," "The Latter Day Saints" (with Ruth Kauffman),
"Running Sands," "The Spider's Web," "Little Old Belgium," "In a Moment
of Time," "Jim," and "The Silver Spoon." Lives in Columbia, Pa.

  Lonely House, The.

KLINE, BURTON. Born at Williamsport, Pa., 1877. Educated at Dickinson
Seminary, Williamsport, and at Harvard. Married, 1909. Newspaper man.
Magazine editor Boston Transcript. Republican. Lutheran. Author of
"Struck by Lightning" and "The End of the Flight." Lives in Arlington,
Mass.

  *Caller in the Night, The.

KRYSTO, CHRISTINA. Born in Batum, Russia, 1887. Her early education was
thoroughly Russian. She was taught at home and given unrestricted
freedom in a really fine library. Emigrated to California when nine
years old. Studied at University of California. Now engaged in ranch
work and the endeavor to arrange her life so that there will be room in
it for writing. "Babanchik" is her first story. She lives in Alta Loma,
Cal.

  Babanchik.

LEE, JENNETTE. Born at Bristol, Conn., 1860. Attended Bristol schools.
Began teaching, 1876. Graduated from Smith College, 1886. First story,
"Bufiddle," published in the Independent, 1886. Taught English at
Vassar, Western Reserve College for Women, and Smith College. Her
special interest is relating education to life. Resigned professorship
in English at Smith College, 1913. Married Gerald Stanley Lee, 1896.
Author of "Kate Wetherell," "A Pillar of Salt," "The Son of a Fiddler,"
"Uncle William," "The Ibsen Secret," "Simeon Tetlow's Shadow," "Happy
Island," "Mr. Achilles," "The Taste of Apples," "The Woman in the
Alcove," "Aunt Jane," "The Symphony Play," "Unfinished Portraits," and
"The Green Jacket." She lives in Northampton, Mass.

  John Fairchild's Mirror.

LEWIS, ADDISON. Born in Minneapolis, 1889. Educated in public schools.
Graduated from University of Minnesota in 1912. Regards as a liberal
share of his education a very brief circus career, and five years spent
as assistant managing editor of The Bellman and the Northwestern Miller.
His professions are journalism and advertising; is bothered mostly with
the necessity of getting the nebulous idea for a story on paper,
freshwater sailing, and the problem of improving his game of golf. First
story, "The End of the Lane," Reedy's Mirror, Feb. 2, 1917. He lives in
Minneapolis.

  *When Did You Write Your Mother Last?

LONDON, JACK. Born at San Francisco, 1876. Educated at University of
California. Married Bessie Maddern, 1900; Charmian Kittredge, 1905. Went
to the Klondike instead of graduating from college; went to sea before
the mast; traveled as a tramp through the United States and Canada; war
correspondent during the Russo-Japanese War; and navigated his yacht
"Snark" in the South Seas, 1907-09. Socialist. Author of "The Son of the
Wolf," "The God of His Fathers," "A Daughter of the Snows," "The
Children of the Frost," "The Cruise of the Dazzler," "The People of the
Abyss," "Kempton-Wace Letters," "The Call of the Wild," "The Faith of
Men," "The Sea Wolf," "The Game," "War of the Classes," "Tales of the
Fish Patrol," "Moon-Face," "Scorn of Women," "White Fang," "Before
Adam," "Love of Life," "The Iron Heel," "The Road," "Martin Eden," "Lost
Face," "Revolution," "Burning Daylight," "Theft," "When God Laughs,"
"Adventure," "The Cruise of the Snark," "South Sea Tales," "Smoke Bellew
Tales," "The House of Pride," "A Son of the Sun," "The Night-Born," "The
Abysmal Brute," "John Barleycorn," "The Valley of the Moon," "The
Strength of the Strong," "The Mutiny of the Elsinore," "The Scarlet
Plague," "The Star Rover," "The Little Lady of the Big House," "Jerry,"
and "Michael, the Brother of Jerry." He died in 1916.

  Like Argus of the Ancient Time.

(3) MARSHALL, EDISON. Born in Rensselaer, Ind. Moved to Medford, Ore.,
in 1907. Educated at University of Oregon. In newspaper work till 1916.
Now writing for the magazines. Unmarried. Chief interests: hunting and
fishing. His first story was, "The Sacred Fire," Argosy, April, 1915.
Age, twenty-four. Principal ambition is to get to France. Lives in
Medford, Ore.

  Man that Was in Him, The.

MASTERS, EDGAR LEE. Born at Garnett, Kan., 1868. Educated at high school
and Knox College. Studied law in his father's office. Admitted to the
bar, 1891. Married, 1898. Democrat. Author of "A Book of Verses,"
"Maximilian," "The New Star Chamber and Other Essays," "Blood of the
Prophets," "Althea," "The Trifler," "Spoon River Anthology," "Songs and
Satires," and "The Great Valley." His first story was published in the
Peoria Call in 1886 or 1887, and in 1889 he published several short
stories in the Waverly Magazine. Lives in Chicago.

  Boyhood Friends.
  *Widow La Rue.

MORTON, JOHNSON.

  *Understudy, The.

NAFE, GERTRUDE. Born in Grand Island, Neb., 1883. Graduate of University
of Colorado. Teaches English in East Denver High School. Her chief
interest in life is revolution. Her first contribution was "The Woman
Who Stood in the Market Place," published in Mother Earth in February,
1914. Lives in Denver, Colo.

  One Hundred Dollars.

NICHOLSON, MEREDITH. Born at Crawfordsville, Ind., 1866. Educated in
Indianapolis public schools. Married, 1896. Member of National Institute
of Arts and Letters. Author of "Short Flights," "The Hoosiers," "The
Main Chance," "Zelda Dameron," "The House of a Thousand Candles,"
"Poems," "The Port of Missing Men," "Rosalind at Red Gate," "The Little
Brown Jug at Kildare," "The Lords of High Decision," "The Siege of the
Seven Suitors," "The Hoosier Chronicle," "The Provincial American,"
"Otherwise Phyllis," "The Poet," "The Proof of the Pudding," "The
Madness of May," and "A Reversible Santa Claus."

"My first literary tinklings were in verse; you will note two volumes of
poems in my list. Finding at fifteen that the schools within my reach
did not meet my requirements, I went to work and began educating myself
along lines of least resistance. My occupations were various: worked in
printing offices, learned shorthand, became stenographer in a law
office; was in newspaper work for twelve years; at thirty was auditor
and treasurer of a coal-mining corporation in Colorado; after three
years of business became a writer of books. When I was eighteen I wrote
three short stories which were published, and after that wrote no
fiction till I was thirty-two. I haven't thought of it before, but it
was odd that I wrote no short stories and had no interest in that form
until about five years ago. Since then I have done a number every year.
Without being a politician, I have dabbled somewhat in political
matters, making speeches at times, and abusing my fellow partisans (I am
a Democrat) when they needed chastisement. I have been defeated for
nominations and have declined nominations, and I once refused a foreign
appointment of considerable dignity that was very kindly offered me by a
President. When it comes to 'interests' I have, I suppose, a
journalistic mind. Anything that is of contemporaneous human interest
interests me--even free verse, which I despise, but read." Mr. Nicholson
lives in Indianapolis.

  *Heart of Life, The.

NORTON, ROY. Born at Kewanee, Ill., 1869. High school education. Studied
law, mining, and languages. Married, 1894. Practiced law at Ogden, 1892.
In newspaper work for some years. Democrat. Roman Catholic. Mason.
Author of "Guilty" (with William Hallowell), "The Vanishing Fleets,"
"The Toll of the Sea," "Mary Jane's Pa," "The Garden of Fate," "The
Plunderer," "Captains Three," "The Mediator," "The Moccasins of Gold,"
"The Boomers," and "The Man of Peace." Lives in New Jersey.

  Aunt Seliny.

(2) O'BRIEN, SEUMAS. Born at Glenbrook, County Cork, Ireland, April 26,
1880,--three days and three hundred and sixteen years (?) after Mr.
William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon. Education: none or very
little, and less German than French. Profession: pessimist. Chief
interests: Russian Jewesses and American dollars. In more sober truth,
education: Presentation Brothers Schools, Cork School of Art, Cork
School of Music, Metropolitan School of Art, Dublin, and Royal College
of Art, London. Profession: sculptor and dramatist. Chief interests:
literature, art, and music. First magazine to publish his work, The
Tatler. Author of "The Whale and the Grasshopper," "Duty, and Other
Irish Comedies," and "The Knowledgeable Man." Lives in Brooklyn, N. Y.

  *Murder?

O'HIGGINS, HARVEY J. Born in London, Ont., 1876. Educated at public
schools and Toronto University. In newspaper work from 1897 to 1902.
First short story, "Not for Publication," in Youth's Companion, March,
1902. Chief interests: those of a publicist, aiding social and political
reforms. Author of "The Smoke Eaters," "Don-a-Dreams," "A Grand Army
Man," "Old Clinkers," "The Beast and the Jungle" (with Judge Ben B.
Lindsey), "Under the Prophet in Utah" (with Frank J. Cannon), "The
Argyle Case" (with Harriet Ford), "The Dummy," "Polygamy," "Silent Sam"
(with Harriet Ford), and "Adventures of Detective Barney." He lives in
New Jersey.

  From the Life: Thomas Wales Warren.

(3) O'SULLIVAN, VINCENT. Born in New York, 1872. Graduate of Oxford.
Author of "The Good Girl," "Sentiment," "Of Human Affairs," and many
other books. Lives in Brooklyn, N. Y.

  *Interval, The.

PANGBORN, GEORGIA WOOD. Born at Malone, N. Y., 1872. Educated at
Franklin Academy, Malone; Packer Institute, Brooklyn, and Smith College.
Married, 1894. First short story, "The Grek Collie," Scribner's
Magazine, July, 1903. Author of "Roman Biznet" and "Interventions."
Lives in New York City.

  *Bixby's Bridge.

PERRY, LAWRENCE. Born in Newark, N. J., 1875. Educated in public and
private schools. He had a choice between college and the New York Sun
(Charles A. Dana, then editor) as a medium of higher education. Has
always regarded his decision in favor of the Sun as wise, considering an
ambition to learn life and then write about it. On staff of Sun and
Evening Sun, 1897-1905. Went to Evening Post, 1906; there organized and
edited "Yachting" until 1909. Has since concentrated on inter-collegiate
sport and fiction. His first story, "Joe Lewis," in Frank Leslie's
Popular Monthly, September, 1902. Author of "Dan Merrithew," "Prince or
Chauffeur," "Holton," and "The Fullback." Lives in New York City.

  *"Certain Rich Man, A.--"

PORTOR, LAURA SPENCER.

  Boy's Mother, The.
  Idealist, The.

POTTLE, EMERY. Is a poet and short-story writer of distinction, now with
the Aviation Corps in France, specializing in Observation Balloon work.

  Breach in the Wall, The.
  *Portrait, The.

PROUTY, OLIVE HIGGINS. Born in Worcester, Mass., 1882. Educated in
public schools. Graduated from Smith College, 1904. Post-graduate work
at Simmons College and Radcliffe. Chief interests: home and her
children's development and education. Married in 1907. First story,
"When Elise Came," American Magazine, April, 1909. Author of "Bobbie,
General Manager," and "The Fifth Wheel." Lives in Brookline, Mass.

  New England War Bride, A.

PULVER, MARY BRECHT. Born in Mount Joy, Pa., 1883. Educated in public
schools, normal school, and Philadelphia School of Applied Art. Married,
1906. Chief interests: music, painting, and literature. Author of "The
Spring Lady." Lives in Binghamton, N. Y.

  *Path of Glory, The.

RAISIN, OVRO'OM, is a distinguished Yiddish writer of fiction now living
in New York City.

  Ascetic, The.

RICHARDSON, NORVAL. Born at Vicksburg, Miss., 1877. Educated at
Lawrenceville School, N. J., and Southwestern Presbyterian University.
Secretary and treasurer Lee Richardson & Company. In diplomatic service
since 1909 at Havana, Copenhagen, and Rome. Author of "The Heart of
Hope," "The Lead of Honour," "George Thorne," and "The Honey Pot." Is
now connected with the American Embassy, Rome, Italy.

  *Miss Fothergill.

(23) ROSENBLATT, BENJAMIN. Born on New Year's Eve, 1880, in a tiny
Russian village named Resoska. When he was ten, his parents brought him
to New York, where he was set to work in a shop at once. Later he sold
newspapers. At the age of seventeen his first story in Yiddish, entitled
"She Laughed," appeared in Vörwarts. At that time he studied English
diligently, and prepared himself for college. For a number of years he
was a frequent contributor to the Jewish press. His first English story,
entitled "Free," appeared in The Outlook, July 4, 1903. After leaving
the normal training school he taught English to foreigners, opening a
preparatory school. His story "Zelig," in my opinion, was the best
American short story in 1915. He is now attending New York University,
and is an insurance agent. He lives in Brooklyn, N. Y.

  Madonna, The.

SCHNEIDER, HERMAN. Born at Summit Hill, Pa., 1872. Graduated from Lehigh
University in science, 1894. Now Dean of the College of Engineering,
University of Cincinnati. Profession: civil engineer. Chief interests:
advancing technical education, promoting scientific research, and
planning methods to give free outlook to the creative genius of the
country in science, art, music, literature, and every other phase of
human endeavor. Author of "Education for Industrial Workers." First
short story, "Arthur McQuaid, American," Outlook, May 23, 1917. At
present, living in Washington, working in the Ordnance Department on
industrial service problems.

  Shaft of Light, A.

SHEPHERD, WILLIAM GUNN, is a war correspondent in Europe, who was with
Richard Harding Davis at Salonika when the incident occurred which
suggested to Davis the idea for his short story, "The Deserter."

  *Scar that Tripled, The.

SHOWERMAN, GRANT. Born in Brookfield, Wis., 1870, of Dutch and English
stock, his grandfather, Luther Parker, having in 1836 driven the entire
distance from Indian Stream, N. H., to Wisconsin, where he was the first
permanent settler in his township. Educated in Brookfield district
school, Carroll College, and University of Wisconsin. Fellow in the
American School of Classical Studies at Rome, 1898-1900. Married, 1900.
Now professor of classics, University of Wisconsin. Interested chiefly
in literature and finds his diversion on the Four Lakes. First short
story, "Italia Liberata," Scribner's Magazine, January, 1908. Author of
"With the Professor," a translation of Ovid's "Heroides" and "Amores,"
"The Indian Stream Republic and Luther Parker," "A Country Chronicle,"
and "A Country Child." Lives in Madison, Wis.

  *Country Christmas, A.

(123) SINGMASTER, ELSIE. (MRS. HAROLD LEWARS.) Born at Schuylkill Haven,
Pa., 1879. Graduate of Radcliffe College. Her first story, "The Lése
Majesté of Hans Heckendorn," Scribner's Magazine, November, 1905. Author
of "When Sarah Saved the Day," "When Sarah Went to School,"
"Gettysburg," "Katy Gaumer," "Emmeline," "The Long Journey," "Martin
Luther: the Story of His Life," and "History of Lutheran Missions."
Lives in Gettysburg, Pa.

  *Christmas Angel, The.
  *Flag of Eliphalet, The.

SMITH, ELIZABETH C. A. (_See_ "BRECK, JOHN.")

(23) SMITH, GORDON ARTHUR, was born in Rochester, N. Y., 1886. Educated
at Harvard. Studied architecture in Paris for four years. Now a writer
by profession. Chief interests: aviation, architecture, and music. First
published story, "The Bottom of the Sea," in Black Cat at age of
sixteen. Author of "Mascarose" and "The Crown of Life." Now an ensign in
the U. S. Navy Flying Forces, "somewhere in France." Home: Rochester, N.
Y.

  *End of the Road, The.
  Friend of the People, A.

(23) SNEDDON, ROBERT W. Born in 1880 at Beith, Ayrshire, Scotland, the
son of a doctor. Studied arts and law at Glasgow University, and served
law apprenticeship at Glasgow and Edinburgh. Lived in London and Paris,
and since 1909 has lived in New York. First short story, "Little Golden
Shoes," The Forum, August, 1912. Author of "The Might-Have-Beens." Fond
of outdoors and fireside. Chief interest: reaching the heart of the
public. Chief sport: hunting for a publisher for three volumes of short
stories and for producers for his plays.

  "Mirror! Mirror! Tell Me True!"

"STAR, MARK," is the pseudonym of a lady who prefers to remain unknown.

  Garden of Sleep, The.

(23) STEELE, WILBUR DANIEL. Born in Greensboro, N. C., 1886. Educated at
University of Denver. Studied art in Denver, Boston, and Paris. First
short story, "On the Ebb Tide," Success, 1910. Author of "Storm." Lives
in Provincetown, Mass.

  *Ching, Ching, Chinaman.
  Devil of a Fellow, A.
  Free.
  *Ked's Hand.
  Point of Honor, A.
  *White Hands.
  *The Woman at Seven Brothers.

STEFFENS, (JOSEPH) LINCOLN. Born at San Francisco, 1866. Educated at
University of California, Berlin, Heidelberg, Leipzig, Paris, and
Sorbonne. Married, 1891. In newspaper work, 1892-1902. Since then
managing and associate editor at different times of McClure's Magazine,
American Magazine, and Everybody's Magazine. Author of "The Shame of the
Cities," "The Struggle for Self Government," "Upbuilders," and "The
Least of These." He lives in New York City.

  Bunk.
  Great Lost Moment, The.

SULLIVAN, ALAN, is a Canadian author.

  Only Time He Smiled, The.

(123) SYNON, MARY. Born in Chicago, 1881. Educated at St. Jarlath's
School, West Division High School, and University of Chicago. In
newspaper work since 1900. Chosen by Gaelic League in 1912 to write for
American newspapers a series of articles on the Irish situation. First
story, "The Boy Who Went Back to the Bush," Scribner's Magazine,
November, 1909. For three years secretary of the Woman's Auxiliary of
the Catholic Church Extension Society; now executive secretary of the
Woman's Liberty Loan Committee. Author of "The Fleet Goes By." Lives in
Wilmette, Ill.

  Clay-Shattered Doors.
  End of the Underground, The.
  *None So Blind.

TABER, ELIZABETH STEAD.

  *Scar, The.

(3) VORSE, MARY HEATON. (MARY HEATON VORSE O'BRIEN.) Born in New York.
Never went properly to school because her family traveled widely, but
studied art in Paris at several academies. She is most interested in
radical thought, especially as expressed in the radical wing of the
labor movement. Married Albert W. Vorse, 1898; Joseph O'Brien, 1912.
First story, "The Boy Who Didn't Catch Things," Everybody's Magazine,
June, 1904. Author of "The Breaking in of a Yachtsman's Wife," "The Very
Little Person," "The Autobiography of an Elderly Woman," "The Heart's
Country," and "The Ninth Man." Lives in Provincetown, Mass., and New
York City.

  Great God, The.
  Pavilion of Saint Merci, The.

(23) WESTON, GEORGE. Born in New York, 1880. High school education.
Studied law and founded the Western Engineering Company. On editorial
staff of New York Evening Sun from 1900. Retired to farm in Connecticut,
1912. An enthusiastic sportsman, farmer, and motorist. Single, white, an
ardent Republican, a staunch admirer of Mr. Charles Chaplin, an
accomplished listener to the violin, a Latin versifier, a connoisseur of
roses, a fancier of fox-terriers, a lover of shad-roe and bacon, and a
never-swerving champion of woman's suffrage. First short story, "After
Many Years," Harper's Magazine, 1910. Author of "Oh, Mary, Be Careful!"
Lives in Packer, Conn.

  Perfect Gentleman, A.



THE ROLL OF HONOR OF FOREIGN SHORT STORIES IN AMERICAN MAGAZINES FOR
1917


NOTE. _Stories of special excellence are indicated by an asterisk. The
index figures 1, 2, and 3 prefixed to the name of the author indicate
that his work has been included in the Rolls of Honor for 1914, 1915,
and 1916 respectively._


I. ENGLISH AND IRISH AUTHORS

(23) AUMONIER, STACY.

  *In the Way of Business.
  *Packet, The.
  *Them Others.

(3) BERESFORD, J. D.

  *Escape, The.
  *Little Town, The.
  *Powers of the Air.

(13) CONRAD, JOSEPH.

  *Warrior's Soul, The.

DUDENEY, MRS. HENRY.

  *Feather-bed, The.

DUNSANY, LORD.

  *How the Gods Avenged Meoul Ki Ning.

(123) GALSWORTHY, JOHN.

  *Defeat.
  Flotsam and Jetsam.
  Juryman, The.

GEORGE, W. L.

  *Interlude.

GIBSON, WILFRID WILSON.

  *News, The.

HAMILTON, COSMO.

  Ladder Leaning on a Cloud, The.

HOUSEMAN, LAURENCE.

  Inside-out.

LAWRENCE, D. H.

  *England, My England.
  *Mortal Coil, The.
  *Thimble, The.

LE GALLIENNE, RICHARD.

  Bugler of the Immortals, The.

MACHEN, ARTHUR.

  *Coming of the Terror, The.

MACMANUS, SEUMAS.

  *Mad Man, the Dead Man, and the Devil, The.

MORDAUNT, ELINOR.

  *Gold Fish, The.

PERTWEE, ROLAND.

  *Camouflage.
  *Red and White.

(3) SOUTAR, ANDREW.

  Behind the Veil.

THOMAS, EDWARD.

  *Passing of Pan, The.

(3) WYLIE, I. A. R.

  *Holy Fire.
  *'Melia No-Good.
  *Return, The.


II. TRANSLATIONS

ANDREYEV, LEONID NIKOLAEVICH. (_Russian._)

  *Lazarus.

ANONYMOUS. (_German._)

  Evocation, The.
  "Huppdiwupp."

BAZIN, RENÉ. (_French._)

  *Mathurine's Eyes.

BOUTET, FREDERIC. (_French._)

  *Medallion, The.

CHEKHOV, ANTON. (_Russian._) (_See_ TCHEKHOV, ANTON.)

CHIRIKOV, EVGENIY. (_Russian._)

  *Past, The.

DELARUE-MADRUS, LUCIE. (_French._)

  *Death of the Dead, The.

HEINE, ANSELMA. (_German._)

  *Vision, The.

LE BRAZ, ANATOLE. (_French._)

  Christmas Treasure, The.

LEV, BERNARD. (_Bohemian._)

  Bert, the Scamp.
  *Marfa's Assumption.

MADEIROS E ALBUQUERQUE, JOSÉ DE. (_Brazilian._)

  *Vengeance of Felix, The.

NETTO, COELHO. (_Brazilian._)

  *Pigeons, The.

PHILIPPE, CHARLES-LOUIS. (_French._)

  *Meeting, The.

RINCK, C. A. (_German._)

  Song, The.

SALTYKOV, M. Y. ("N. SCHEDRIN.") (_Russian._)

  *Hungry Officials and the Accommodating Muzhik, The.

"SKITALETS." (_Russian._)

  *"And the Forest Burned."

TCHEKHOV, ANTON. (_Russian._)

  Dushitchka.
  *Old Age.



THE BEST BOOKS OF SHORT STORIES OF 1917: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS


CHRISTMAS TALES OF FLANDERS, illustrated by _Jean de Bosschere_ (Dodd,
Mead & Co.). If you like Andersen's Fairy Tales, here is a book which
comes as truly from the heart of a people. Many old folk legends are
here set down just as they came from the lips of old people in Flanders,
and as they have never grown old in that countryside let us hope that
they will take root equally well here. The volume is superbly
illustrated with many pictures from the whimsical fancy of Jean de
Bosschere. These pictures are indescribable, but they will rejoice the
heart of any child, old or young.

FROM DEATH TO LIFE by _A. Apukhtin_, translated by _R. Frank_ and _E.
Huybers_ (R. Frank). This story, which so happily inaugurates a series
of translations from Russian literature, is a poetic study in life after
death, chronicling the experiences of a soul between death and rebirth.
The translators have succeeded in reflecting successfully the fine
imaginative style of this prose poem, which deserves to be widely known.
It tempts us to wish that other stories by Apukhtin may soon find an
English translator.

TALES OF THE REVOLUTION by _Michael Artzibashev_, translated by _Percy
Pinkerton_. (B. W. Huebsch.) The five tales by Artzibashev included in
this volume all have the same quality of bitter irony and mordant
self-analysis. The psychological revelation of the mind that has made
the later phases of the present Russian Revolution possible is complete,
and I know of no book that presents more clearly and truthfully the
rudderless pessimism of these particular spiritual reactions. Such
courageous dissection of the diseased mind has never been undertaken in
American or English fiction, and though its realism is appalling, it is
healthful in its naked frankness.

THE FRIENDS by _Stacy Aumonier_ (The Century Co.). When "The Friends"
was published two years ago in The Century Magazine, it was evident at
once that an important new short-story writer had arrived. The homely
humanity of his characterization was but the evidence of a rich
imaginative talent that found self-expression in the more quiet ways of
life. I said at the time that I believed "The Friends" to be one the
two best short stories of 1915, and others felt it to be the best story
of the year. To "The Friends" have now been added in this volume two
other stories of almost equal distinction,--"The Packet" and "'In the
Way of Business.'" While Mr. Aumonier has a certain didactic intention
in these stories, he has kept it entirely subordinate to the artistry of
his exposition, and it is the few characters which he has added to
English fiction that we remember after his somewhat obvious moral has
been conveyed. His short stories have the same flavor of belated
Victorianism that one enjoys in the novels of William De Morgan, and he
is equally noteworthy in his chosen field.

IRISH IDYLLS by _Jane Barlow_ (Dodd, Mead & Co.). This new edition of
"Irish Idylls" should introduce the admirable studies of Miss Barlow to
a new audience that may not be familiar with what was a pioneer volume
in its day. Published in 1893, it almost marked the beginning of the
Irish literary movement, and so many fine writers followed Miss Barlow
that she has been most unfairly concealed by their shadows. Her studies
of the lives and deaths, joys and sorrows, of Connemara peasants are
none the less real because they are the product of observation by one
who did not live among them. They show, as Miss Barlow says, that "there
are plenty of things beside turf to be found in a bog." It is true that
they represent a slight spirit of condescension, entirely absent from
the work of Padraic Colum, for instance, but they approach far more
closely to the heart of the Irish fishermen and farmers than the work of
any other English type of mind; and although Miss Barlow is best known
today by her poetry, I have always felt that she conveyed more poetry
into "Irish Idylls" than into any other of her books. The volume is a
necessary and permanent edition to any small collection of modern Irish
literature.

DAY AND NIGHT STORIES by _Algernon Blackwood_ (E. P. Dutton & Co.). In
these fifteen short stories Mr. Blackwood has adequately maintained the
quality of his best previous animistic work. To those who found a new
imaginative world in "The Centaur" and "Pan's Garden," the old familiar
magic still has power in many of these stories,--almost completely in
"The Touch of Pan" and "Initiation." Hardly inferior to these stories
for their passionate reality are "The Other Wing," "The Occupant of the
Room," "The Tryst," and "H. S. H." There is no story in this volume
which would not have made the reputation of a new writer, and I can
hardly find a better introduction than "Day and Night Stories" to the
beauty of Mr. Blackwood's imaginative life. He serves the same altar of
beauty in our day that John Keats served a century ago, and I cannot but
believe that his magic will gain greater poignancy as generations pass.

THE DERELICT by _Phyllis Bottome_ (The Century Co.). This collection of
Miss Bottome's short stories, many of which have previously appeared in
the Century Magazine during the past two years, gives a more complete
revelation of her talent than either of her novels. I suspect that the
short story is her true literary medium, and certainly there are at
least six of these eight short stories which I should be compelled to
list with three stars in my annual Roll of Honor. In subject and mood
they range from tragedy to social comedy. Elsewhere in this volume I
have discussed "'Ironstone,'" which seems to me the best of these
stories. A subtle irony pervades them, but it is so definitely concealed
that its insistence is never evident.

OLD CHRISTMAS, AND OTHER KENTUCKY TALES IN VERSE by _William Aspenwall
Bradley_ (The Houghton-Mifflin Co.). In this series of vignettes in
verse Mr. Bradley has presented the Kentucky mountaineer as
imaginatively as Robert Frost has presented the farmer-folk of New
Hampshire in "North of Boston" and "Mountain Interval." The racy humor
of these narratives is thoroughly indigenous, and Mr. Bradley's work has
a vivid dramatic power which challenges successfully a comparison with
the stories of John Fox, Jr. These poems prove Mr. Bradley's rightful
claim to be the first adequate imaginative interpreter of the people who
live in the Cumberland Mountains.

THE FIGHTING MEN by _Alden Brooks_ (Charles Scribner's Sons). Of these
six stories four have been published in Collier's Weekly during the past
two years, and elsewhere I have had occasion to comment upon their
excellence. These narratives may be regarded as separate cantos of a war
epic, which is fairly comparable for its vividness of portrayal to
Stephen Crane's masterpiece, "The Red Badge of Courage." Few writers,
other than these two, have been able to portray the naked ugliness of
warfare, and the passions which warfare engenders, with more brutal
power. Time alone will tell whether these stories have a chance of
permanence, but I am disposed to rank them with that other portrait of
the mercilessness of war, "Under Fire," by Henri Barbusse.

LIMEHOUSE NIGHTS by _Thomas Burke_ (Robert M. McBride & Co.). These
colorful stories of life in London's Chinatown are in my humble belief
destined never to grow old. This volume is the most important volume of
short stories by a new English writer to appear during 1917, and is only
surpassed by Daniel Corkery's volume "A Munster Twilight." Such
patterned prose in fiction has not been known since the days of Walter
Pater, and Mr. Burke's sense of the almost intolerable beauty of ugly
things has a persuasive fascination for the reader who may have a strong
prejudice against his subjects. Such horror as Mr. Burke has imagined is
almost impossible to portray convincingly, yet the author has softened
its starkness into patterns of gracious beauty and musical rhythmic
speech.

RINCONETE AND CORTADILLO by _Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra_, translated
from the Spanish by _Mariano J. Lorente_, with a preface by _R. B.
Cunninghame Graham_ (The Four Seas Co.). This is an excellent
translation by a Spanish man of letters of what is perhaps the best
exemplary Novel by Cervantes. As Mr. Cunninghame Graham points out in
his delightful introduction, "Rinconete and Cortadillo" is perhaps the
best sketch of Spanish low-life that has come down to us. It is highly
amoral, despite its sub-title, and all the more delightful perhaps on
that account. I hope that the translator may be persuaded, if the volume
goes into the second edition it so richly deserves, to omit his very
contentious preface, which can be of interest only to himself and two
other people. Then our delight in this volume would be complete.

THE DUEL (Macmillan), THE HOUSE WITH THE MEZZANINE (Scribner), THE LADY
WITH THE DOG (Macmillan), THE PARTY (Macmillan), and ROTHSCHILD'S FIDDLE
(Boni and Liveright) by _Anton Chekhov_. TO THE DARLING, which was the
first volume, so far as I know, of Chekhov, to be presented to the
American public, five new collections of Chekhov's tales have been added
during the past year in excellent English renderings. Three of these
volumes are translated by Constance Garnett, whose superb translations
of Turgenieff and Dostoievsky are well known to American readers.
Because Chekhov ranks with Poe and De Maupassant as one of the three
supreme masters of the short story, it is a matter of signal importance
that these translations should appear, and in them every mood of Russian
life is reflected with subtle artistry and a passionate reality of
creative vision. Chekhov is destined to exert greater and greater
influence on the American short story as the translations of his work
increase, and these five volumes prove him to be fully equal to
Dostoievsky in sustained and varied spiritual observation. These stories
range through the entire gamut of human emotion from sublime tragedy to
the richest and most golden comedy. If I were to choose a single author
of short stories for my library on a desert island, my choice would
inevitably turn to these volumes.

THOSE TIMES AND THESE by _Irvin S. Cobb_ (George H. Doran Co.). This is
quite the best volume of short stories that Mr. Cobb has yet published.
Since "The Escape of Mr. Trimm," which was his first short story, was
printed in the Saturday Evening Post seven years ago, Mr. Cobb's
literary development has been rapid, if not sure; but he may now with
this volume lay claim fairly to the mantle of Mark Twain for the rich
humanity with which he has endowed his substance and the inimitable
humor of his characterizations. In "The Family Tree" and "Cinnamon Seed
and Sandy Bottom" Mr. Cobb has added two stories of permanent value to
American literature, and in "Mr. Felsburg Gets Even" and "And There Was
Light" Mr. Cobb's literary art is almost as well sustained. My only
quarrel with him in this book is for the inclusion of "A Kiss for
Kindness," where a fine short-story possibility seems to have been
entirely missed by the author, perhaps because, as he ingenuously
confessed shortly afterward, he had just become an abandoned farmer.

RUNNING FREE by _James B. Connolly_ (Charles Scribner's Sons). Of the
ten short stories included by Mr. Connolly in this collection, four are
among the best he has ever written: "Breath O' Dawn," "The Sea-Birds,"
"The Medicine Ship," and "One Wireless Night." With the simplicity of
speech which characterizes all of Mr. Connolly's work, he relates his
story for the story's sake. Because he is an Irishman he is an
incorrigible romanticist, and I suspect that characterization interests
him for the story's sake rather than for itself alone. But now that
Richard Harding Davis is dead, I suppose that James B. Connolly may
fairly take his place as our best born yarner, with all a yarner's
privileges.

TEEPEE NEIGHBORS by _Grace Coolidge_ (The Four Seas Co.). This quiet
little book of narratives and Indian portraits by Miss Coolidge deserves
more attention than it has yet received, and for its qualities of quiet
pathos and sympathetic insight into the Indian character I associate it
as of equal value with Margaret Prescott Montague's stories of blind
children in West Virginia.

A MUNSTER TWILIGHT by _Daniel Corkery_ (Frederick A. Stokes Co.). I have
never read a new volume of short stories with such a sense of discovery
as I felt when these tales came to my hand. Because the volume appears
to have attracted absolutely no attention as yet in this country, I wish
to emphasize my firm belief that this is the most memorable volume of
short stories published in English within the past five years. It makes
us eager to read Mr. Corkery's new novel, "The Threshold of Quiet," in
order that we may see if such a glorious imaginative sweep can be
maintained in a novel as the reader will find in any single short story
of this volume. Here you will find the very heart of Ireland's spiritual
adventure revealed in folk speech of inevitable beauty. There is not a
story in the book which does not disclose new aspects after repeated
readings. A craftsmanship so fine and vigorous is seldom related with
such artistic humility. "A Munster Twilight" proves that there are still
great men in Ireland.

BROUGHT FORWARD, FAITH, HOPE, CHARITY, PROGRESS, and SUCCESS by _R. B.
Cunninghame Graham_ (Frederick A. Stokes Co.). It is an extraordinary
fact that a short-story writer so deservedly well-known in England as
Mr. Cunninghame Graham, whose sketches of life in many parts of the
globe have been published at frequent intervals through the past decade,
is yet entirely unknown in this country. To be sure, such has been the
fate of W. H. Hudson until very recently. These six volumes certainly
rank, by virtue of the quality of their style and the imaginative
reality of their substance, with the best work of Mr. Hudson, and the
parallel is the more complete because both writers have made the
vanished life of the South American plains real to the English mind. Mr.
Cunninghame Graham is one of the great travel writers, and ranks with
Borrow and Ford, but he is more impartially interested in character than
either Borrow or Ford, and has a far more vivid feeling for the
spiritual values of landscape. It may be that these stories are for the
few only, but I am loth to believe it. The life of the pampas and the
life of the Moroccan desert live in these pages with an actuality as
great as the life of the American plains lives in the work of Hamlin
Garland, and there is an epic sweep in Mr. Cunninghame Graham's vision
that I find in no other contemporary English writer.

THE ECHO OF VOICES by _Richard Curle_ (Alfred A. Knopf). It is very
rarely that a disciple as faithful as Mr. Curle publishes a volume which
his master would be proud to sign, but I think that the reader will
detect in this book the authentic voice of Joseph Conrad. Mr. Conrad's
own personal enthusiasm for the book is an ingratiating introduction to
the reader, but in these eight stories Mr. Curle can certainly afford to
stand alone. Preoccupied as he is with the mystery of human existence,
and the effect of circumstance upon the character, he portrays eight
widely different human types, almost all of them with a certain pathetic
futility of aspect, so surely and finely that they live before us. It is
an interesting fact that the three best short story books in English of
1917 come from the other side of the water. "Limehouse Nights," "A
Munster Twilight," and "The Echo of Voices" make this year so memorable
in fiction that later years may well prove disappointing.

THE ETERNAL HUSBAND AND OTHER STORIES and THE GAMBLER AND OTHER STORIES
by _Fyodor Dostoievsky_ (The Macmillan Co.). These two new volumes
continue the complete English edition of Dostoievsky which is being
translated by Constance Garnett. The renderings have the same qualities
of idiomatic speech and subtly rendered nuance which is always to be
found in this translator's work, and although both of these volumes
represent the minor work of Dostoievsky, his minor work is finer than
our major work, and characterized by a passionate curiosity about the
human soul and a deep insight into its mysteries. It is idle to argue as
to whether these narratives are short stories or brief novels. However
we classify them, they are profound revelations of human relationship,
and place their author among the great masters of the world's
literature. Nor is it pertinent to discuss their technique or lack of
it. Their technique is sufficient for the author's purpose, and he has
achieved his will nobly in a manner inevitable to him.

BILLY TOPSAIL, M.D., by _Norman Duncan_ (Fleming H. Revell Co.). In this
posthumous volume Norman Duncan has woven together a selection of his
later short stories, in which further adventures of Doctor Luke of the
Labrador are chronicled. They represent the very best of his later work,
and in them the stern physical conditions with which nature surrounds
the life of man provide an admirably rendered background for the
portrayal of character developed by circumstance. Norman Duncan can
never have a successor, and in "Billy Topsail, M.D." the reader will
find him very nearly at his best.

MY PEOPLE by _Caradoc Evans_ (Duffield & Co.). "My People" is a record
of the peasantry of West Wales, and these chronicles are set down with a
biblical economy of speech that makes for a noteworthy literary style. I
refuse to believe that they are a truthful portrait of the folk of whom
Mr. Evans writes, but I believe that he has created a real subjective
world of his own that is thoroughly convincing. H. G. Wells has written
eulogistically of the book and also of the author's novel, "Capel Sion."
I appreciate the qualities in the book that have won Mr. Wells' esteem,
and the book is indeed memorable. But I believe that its excellence is
an artificial excellence, and I commend it to the reader as a work of
incomparable artifice rather than as a faithful reflection of life.

IN HAPPY VALLEY by _John Fox, Jr._ (Charles Scribner's Sons). Of these
ten new chronicles of the Kentucky mountains, gathered from the pages of
Scribner's Magazine during the past year for the most part, "His Last
Christmas Gift" is the most memorable. But all the stories are brief and
vivid vignettes of the countryside which Mr. Fox knows so well, told
with the utmost economy of speech and with a fine sense of atmospheric
values. These stories are a happy illustration of the better regionalism
that is characteristic of contemporary American fiction, and like
"Ommirandy" will prove valuable records to a later generation of a life
that even now is rapidly passing away.

THE WAR, MADAME, by _Paul Géraldy_ (Charles Scribner's Sons). The
delicate fantasy of this little story only enhances the poignant tragedy
that it discloses. Somehow it suggests a comparison with "Four Days" by
Hetty Hemenway, although it is told with greater deftness and a more
subtle irony. In these pages pulses the very heart of France, and it is
compact of the spirit that has made France a mistress to die for. The
translation is admirable.

COLLECTED POEMS by _Wilfrid Wilson Gibson_ (The Macmillan Co.). In these
noble studies of English social life among the laboring classes Mr.
Gibson has collected all of his stories in verse which he wishes to
retain in his collected works. He has already become an influence on the
work of many of his contemporaries, and the qualities of incisive
observation, warm humanity, and subtle art which characterize his best
work are adequately disclosed in his poems. I am sure that the reader of
short stories will find them as fascinating as any volume of prose
published this year, and the sum of all these poems is an English
_Comédie Humaine_ which portrays every type of English labor in rich
imaginative speech. The dramatic quality of these stories is achieved by
virtue of a constant economy of selection, and a nervous singing speech
as authentic as that of Synge.

OMMIRANDY by _Armistead C. Gordon_ (Charles Scribner's Sons). In this
collection Mr. Gordon, whose name is so happily associated with that of
Thomas Nelson Page, has collected from the files of Scribner's Magazine
the deft and insinuating chronicles of negro life on a Virginia
plantation which have attracted so much favorable comment in recent
years. This collection places Mr. Gordon in the same rank as the author
of "Marse' Chan," as a literary artist of the vanished South. These
transcripts from the folk life of the people are told very quietly in a
persuasive style that reveals a rich poetic sense of human values. The
mellow atmosphere of these stories is particularly noteworthy, and Mr.
Gordon's instinctive sympathy with his subject has saved him from that
spirit of condescension which has been the weakness of so much American
folk writing in the past. "Ommirandy" will long remain a happy and
honorable tradition in American literature.

THE GRIM 13, edited by _Frederick Stuart Greene_ (Dodd, Mead & Co.), is
a collection of thirteen stories of literary value which have been
declined with enthusiastic praise by the editors of American magazines
because of their grim quality, or because they have an extremely unhappy
ending. The collection was gathered as a test of the public interest, in
order to remove if possible what the editor believed to be a false
editorial policy. It is interesting to examine these stories, and to
pretend that one is an editor. The experiment has been extremely
successful and has produced at least one story by an American author
("The Abigail Sheriff Memorial" by Vincent O'Sullivan) and one story by
an English author ("Old Fags" by Stacy Aumonier), which are permanent in
their literary value.

FOUR DAYS: THE STORY OF A WAR MARRIAGE, by _Hetty Hemenway_ (Little,
Brown & Co.). Of this story I have spoken elsewhere in this volume, I
shall only add here that it is one of the most significant spiritual
studies in fiction that the war has produced, and that it is directly
told in a style of sensitive beauty.

A DIVERSITY OF CREATURES by _Rudyard Kipling_ (Doubleday, Page & Co.) is
the first collection of Mr. Kipling's short stories published in several
years. I must confess frankly that there is but one story in the volume
which seems to me a completely realized rendering of the substance which
Mr. Kipling has chosen, and that is the incomparable satire on publicity
entitled "The Village That Voted the Earth Was Flat." In this volume you
will find many stories in many moods, and some of them are postscripts
to earlier volumes of Mr. Kipling. I cannot believe that his war stories
deserve as high praise as they have been accorded. This volume presents
Mr. Kipling as the most consummate living master of technique in the
English tongue, but his inspiration has failed him except for the single
exception which I have chronicled. The volume is a memory rather than an
actuality, and it has the pathos of a forgotten dream.

THE BRACELET OF GARNETS AND OTHER STORIES by _Alexander Kuprin_,
translated by _Leo Pasvolsky_, with an Introduction by _William Lyon
Phelps_ (Charles Scribner's Sons). This collection of stories is based
on the author's own selection for this purpose, and although the
translation is not thoroughly idiomatic, the sheer poetry of Kuprin's
imagination shines through the veil of an alien speech and captures the
imagination of the reader. Kuprin's pictorial sense is curiously similar
to that of Wilbur Daniel Steele, and it is interesting to study the
reactions of similar temperaments on widely different substances and
backgrounds. Kuprin achieves a chiselled finality of utterance which is
as evident in his tragedy as in his comedy, and in some of these pieces
a fine allegorical beauty shines prismatically through a carefully
economized brilliance of narrative.

THE PRUSSIAN OFFICER AND OTHER STORIES by _D. H. Lawrence_ (B. W.
Huebsch). The twelve short stories collected in this volume are full of
the same warm color that one always associates with Mr. Lawrence's best
work, and the nervous complaining beauty of his style makes him the
English compeer of Gabriele d'Annunzio. The warm lush fragrance of many
European countrysides pervades these stories and a certain poignant
sensual disillusionment is insistently stressed by the characters who
flit through the shadowy foreground. It is the definitely realized and
concrete sense of landscape that Mr. Lawrence has achieved which is his
finest artistic attribute, and the sensitive response to light which is
so characteristic an element in his vision bathes all the pictures he
presents in a rich glow, whose gradations of light and shadow respond
finely to the emotional reactions of his characters. He is the most
sophisticated of the contemporary English realists, and has the sense of
poetry to a high degree which is conspicuously absent in the work of
other English novelists.

A DESIGNER OF DAWNS AND OTHER TALES by _Gertrude Russell Lewis_ (Pilgrim
Press). I set this volume of allegories beside "Flame and the
Shadow-Eater" by Henrietta Weaver as one of the two best books of
allegories published in 1917. These seven little tales have a quiet
imaginative glow that is very appealing and I find in them a folk
quality that is almost Scandinavian in its naïvete.

THE TERROR: A MYSTERY, by _Arthur Machen_ (Robert M. McBride & Co.).
When this story was first published in the Century Magazine in 1917,
under the title of "The Coming of the Terror," it was at once hailed by
discriminating readers as the best short story by an English writer
published in an American magazine since "The Friends" by Stacy Aumonier.
It is now published in its complete form as originally written, and
although it is as long as a short novel, it has an essential unity of
incident which justifies us in claiming it as a short story. I suppose
that Algernon Blackwood is the only other English writer who has the
same gift for making strange spiritual adventures completely real to the
imagination, and the author of "The Bowmen" has surpassed even that fine
story in this description of how a mysterious terror overran England
during the last years of the great war and how the mystery of its
passing was finally revealed. The emotional tension of the reader is
enhanced by the quiet matter-of-fact air with which the story is
presented. The volume is one of the best five or six books of short
stories which England has produced during the past year.

THE SECOND ODD NUMBER: THIRTEEN TALES, by _Guy de Maupassant_, the
translation by _Charles Henry White_, an Introduction by _William Dean
Howells_ (Harper & Brothers). It is reported in some volume of French
literary memoirs that Guy de Maupassant regarded the first series of
"The Odd Number" as better than the original. Be this as it may, the
thirteen stories which make up this volume are admirably rendered with a
careful reflection of the slightest nuances. As Mr. Howells states in
his introduction to the volume: "The range of these stories is not very
great; the effect they make is greater than the range." But this
selection has been admirably chosen with a view to making the range as
wide as possible, and I can only hope that it will serve to influence
some of our younger writers toward a greater descriptive and emotional
economy.

THE GIRL AND THE FAUN by _Eden Phillpotts_ (J. B. Lippincott Co.). These
eight idylls of the four seasons are graceful Greek legends told with a
modern touch in poetic prose. They have a quality of quiet beauty which
will commend them to many readers to whom the more realistic work of Mr.
Phillpotts does not appeal, and the admirable illustrations by Frank
Brangwyn are a felicitous accompaniment to the modulated prose of Mr.
Phillpotts.

BARBED WIRE AND OTHER POEMS by _Edwin Ford Piper_ (The Midland Press,
Moorhead, Minn.). As Grant Showerman's "A Country Chronicle" is an
admirable rendering of the farm life of Wisconsin in the seventies, so
these poems are a fine imaginative record of the pioneer life of
Nebraska a little later. I believe this volume to contain quite as fine
poetry as Robert Frost's "North of Boston." Here you will meet many men
and women struggling against the loneliness of prairie life, and winning
spiritual as well as material conquests out of nature. The greater part
of this volume is composed of a series of narrative poems entitled "The
Neighborhood." Their lack of literary sophistication is part of their
charm, and the calculated ruggedness of the author's style is a faithful
reflection of his barren physical background.

BEST RUSSIAN SHORT STORIES, compiled and edited by _Thomas Seltzer_
(Boni and Liveright). This is the first anthology of Russian short
stories which has yet been published in English, and the selections are
excellent. There is a wide range of literary art represented in this
volume, and the translations are extremely smooth and idiomatic. As is
only fitting, the work of Tolstoi, Dostoievsky, Turgenev, and other
Russians, whose work is already well known to the American reader, are
only represented lightly in the collection, and greater space is
devoted to the stories of Chekhov and other writers less familiar to the
American public. Nineteen stories are translated from the work of
Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoievsky, Tolstoi, Saltykov, Korolenko,
Garshin, Chekhov, Sologub, Potapenko, Semyonov, Gorky, Andreyev,
Artzybashev, and Kuprin, and the volume is prefixed with an excellent
critical introduction by the editor.

A COUNTRY CHILD by _Grant Showerman_ (The Century Co.). This is a sequel
to Professor Showerman's earlier volume, "A Country Chronicle." The book
is an epic of what a little boy saw and felt and dreamed on a farm in
Wisconsin forty years ago, told just as a little boy would tell it. It
will help you to remember how you went to the circus and how you stayed
up late on your birthday. You will also recall the ball game the day you
didn't go home from school, and how you went in swimming, and about that
fight with Bill, and ever so many other things which you thought that
you had forgotten. I think all the boys and girls that used to write to
James Whitcomb Riley should send a birthday letter this year to Grant
Showerman, so that he will get it on the 9th of January. Let's start a
movement in Wisconsin to have a Showerman Day.

FLAME AND THE SHADOW-EATER by _Henrietta Weaver_ (Henry Holt & Co.). In
these fifteen short allegorical tales Henrietta Weaver has introduced
with considerable skill much Persian philosophy, and presented it to the
American reader so attractively that it is thoroughly persuasive. Akin
in a measure to certain similar stories by Jeannette Marks, they have
the same prismatic quality of brilliance and impermanence. I do not
believe that the reader who enjoys the poetry of the mind will find
these allegories specially esoteric, but I may commend them frankly for
their story value, irrespective of the symbols which the author has
chosen to attach to them.

THE GREAT MODERN FRENCH STORIES edited by _Willard Huntington Wright_
(Boni and Liveright), MARRIED by _August Strindberg_ (Boni and
Liveright), and VISIONS by _Count Ilya Tolstoy_ (James B. Pond) have
reached me too late for extended review. I list them here as three
volumes of permanent literary value.



VOLUMES OF SHORT STORIES PUBLISHED DURING 1917

NOTE. _An asterisk before a title indicates distinction. This list
includes single short stories, collections of short stories, and a few
continuous narratives based on short stories previously published in
magazines._


I. AMERICAN AUTHORS

ADAMS, SAMUEL HOPKINS.
  *Our Square and the People In It. Houghton-Mifflin.

BAIN, R. NISBET.
  *Cossack Fairy Tales. Stokes.

BANGS, JOHN KENDRICK.
  Half Hours With the Idiot. Little, Brown.

BASSETT, WILBUR.
  Wander-Ships. Open Court Pub. Co.

BEACH, REX.
  Laughing Bill Hyde. Harper.

BEND, REV. JOHN J.
  Stranger than Fiction. Sheehan.

BOTTOME, PHYLLIS.
  *Derelict, The. Century.

BRADLEY, WILLIAM ASPENWALL.
  *Old Christmas, and Other Kentucky Tales in Verse. Houghton-Mifflin.

BRADY, CYRUS TOWNSEND.
  Little Book for Christmas, A. Putnam.

BROOKS, ALDEN.
  *Fighting Men, The. Scribner.

BROWN, KATHARINE HOLLAND.
  *Wages of Honor, The. Scribner.

BRUBAKER, HOWARD.
  Ranny. Harper.

BRUNTON, F. CARMICHAEL.
  Enchanted Lochan, The. Crowell.

BUNNER, H. C.
  *More "Short Sixes." Scribner.
  *"Short Sixes." Scribner.

BUNTS, FREDERICK EMORY.
  Soul of Henry Harrington, The. Cleveland: privately printed.

BUTLER, ELLIS PARKER.
  Dominie Dean. Revell.

CARMICHAEL, M. H.
  Pioneer Days. Duffield.

CARTER, CHARLES FRANKLIN.
  Stories of the Old Missions of California. Elder.

CHAMBERS, ROBERT W.
  *Barbarians. Appleton.

COBB, IRVIN S.
  *Those Times and These. Doran.

COFFIN, JULIA H.
  Vendor of Dreams, The. Dodd, Mead.

*COLLIER'S, PRIZE STORIES FROM. 5 v. Collier.

CONNOLLY, JAMES B.
  *Running Free. Scribner.

COOLIDGE, GRACE.
  *Teepee Neighbors. Four Seas.

CROWNFIELD, GERTRUDE.
  Little Tailor of the Winding Way, The. Macmillan.

DAVIS, CHARLES BELMONT.
  Her Own Sort and Others. Scribner.

DAVIS, RICHARD HARDING.
  *Boy Scout, The, and Other Stories. Scribner.
  *Deserter, The. Scribner.

DUNCAN, NORMAN.
  *Billy Topsail, M.D. Revell.

EELLS, ELSIE SPICER.
  *Fairy Tales from Brazil. Dodd, Mead.

FISHER, FRED B.
  Gifts from the Desert. Abington Press.

FOOTE, JOHN TAINTOR.
  Dumb-bell of Brookfield. Appleton.

FORD, SEWELL.
  Wilt Thou Torchy. Clode.

FOR FRANCE. Doubleday, Page.

FOX, EDWARD LYELL.
  New Gethsemane, The. McBride.

FOX, JOHN, JR.
  *In Happy Valley. Scribner.

FUTRELLE, JACQUES.
  Problem of Cell 13, The. Dodd, Mead.

GORDON, ARMISTEAD C.
  *Ommirandy. Scribner.

GREENE, FREDERICK STUART, _Editor_.
  *Grim Thirteen, The. Dodd, Mead.

"HALL, HOLWORTHY."
  Dormie One. Century.

HANSHEW, T. W.
  Cleek's Government Cases. Doubleday, Page.

HEMENWAY, HETTY.
  *Four Days. Little, Brown.

"HENRY, O."
  *Waifs and Strays. Doubleday, Page.

HINES, JACK.
  Blue Streak, The. Doran.

HOLMES, MARY CAROLINE.
  "Who Follows in Their Train?" Revell.

HOUGH, LYNN HAROLD.
  Little Old Lady, The.

HUGHES, RUPERT.
  In a Little Town. Harper.

INGRAM, ELEANOR M.
  Twice American, The. Lippincott.

IRWIN, WALLACE.
  Pilgrims Into Folly. Doran.

JEFFERSON, CHARLES E.
  Land of Enough, The. Crowell.

JOHNSTON, MARY.
  *Wanderers, The. Houghton-Mifflin.

JOHNSTON, WILLIAM.
  "Limpy." Little, Brown.

KARR, LOUISE.
  Trouble. Himebaugh and Browne.

KELLERHOUSE, LUCY CHARLTON.
  *Forest Fancies. Duffield.

KIRK, R. G.
  White Monarch and the Gas-House Pup. Little, Brown.

KIRKLAND, WINIFRED.
  *My Little Town. Dutton.

LAIT, JACK.
  Gus the Bus and Evelyn, the Exquisite Checker. Doubleday, Page.

LARDNER, RING W.
  Gullible's Travels. Bobbs-Merrill.

LEACOCK, STEPHEN.
  Frenzied Fiction. Lane.

LEWIS, GERTRUDE RUSSELL.
  *Designer of Dawns, A. Pilgrim Press.

MCCLUNG, NELLIE L.
  Next of Kin, The. Houghton-Mifflin.

MACKAY, HELEN.
  *Journal of Small Things. Duffield.

MEIROVITZ, JOSEPH M.
  Path of Error, The. Four Seas Co.

MERWIN, SAMUEL.
  Temperamental Henry. Bobbs-Merrill.

NEWTON, ALMA.
  Memories. Duffield.

NOBLE, EDWARD.
  Outposts of the Fleet. Houghton-Mifflin.

O'BRIEN, EDWARD J., _Editor_.
  The Best Short Stories of 1916. Small, Maynard.

OSBORN, E. B.
  Maid with Wings, The. Lane.

PAINE, ALBERT BIGELOW.
  Mr. Crow and the Whitewash. Harper.
  Mr. Rabbit's Wedding. Harper.
  Mr. Turtle's Flying Adventure. Harper.

PAINE, RALPH D.
  Sons of Eli. Scribner.

PERKINS, J. R.
  Thin Volume, A. Saalfield.

PERRY, MONTANYE.
  Where It Touches the Ground. Abingdon Press.
  Zerah. Abingdon Press.

PIPER, EDWIN FORD.
  *Barbed Wire and Other Poems. Midland Press.

PUTNAM, NINA WILCOX.
  When the Highbrow Joined the Outfit. Duffield.

REEVE, ARTHUR B.
  Ear in the Wall, The. Hearst.
  Treasure Train, The. Harper.

RICHMOND, GRACE S.
  Whistling Mother, The. Doubleday, Page.

RINEHART, MARY ROBERTS.
  Bab: A Sub-deb. Doran.

RODEHEAVER, HOMER.
  Song Stories of the Sawdust Trail. Moffat, Yard.

ROSENBACH, A. S. W.
  Unpublishable Memoirs, The. Kennerley.

RYDER, ARTHUR W.
  *Twenty-two Goblins. Dutton.

SABIN, EDWIN L.
  How Are You Feeling Now? Little, Brown.

SCHAYER, E. RICHARD.
  Good Loser, The. McKay.

SCOTT, LEROY.
  Mary Regan. Houghton-Mifflin.

SHOWERMAN, GRANT.
  *Country Child, A. Century.

STEINER, EDWARD A.
  My Doctor Dog. Revell.

STERN, GERTRUDE.
  My Mother and I. Macmillan.

STITZER, DANIEL AHRENS.
  Stories of the Occult. Badger.

STUART, FLORENCE PARTELLO.
  Piang, the Moro Jungle Boy. Century.

TABER, SUSAN.
  Optimist, The. Duffield.

"THANET, OCTAVE."
  And the Captain Entered. Bobbs-Merrill.

THOMSON, EDWARD WILLIAM.
  Old Man Savarin Stories. Doran.

TOMPKINS, JULIET WILBOR.
  At the Sign of the Oldest House. Bobbs-Merrill.

TURPIN, EDNA.
  Peggy of Roundabout Lane. Macmillan.

TUTTLE, FLORENCE GUERTIN.
  Give My Love to Maria. Abingdon Press.

VAN LOAN, CHARLES E.
  Old Man Curry. Doran.

WEAVER, HENRIETTA.
  *Flame and the Shadow-Eater. Holt.

WILLSIE, HONORÉ.
  Benefits Forgot. Stokes.


II. ENGLISH AND IRISH AUTHORS

AUMONIER, STACY.
  *Friends, The, and Two Other Stories. Century.

"AYSCOUGH, JOHN."
  *French Windows. Longmans.

BARLOW, JANE.
  *Irish Idylls. Dodd, Mead.

BELL, J. J.
  Cupid in Oilskins. Revell.
  *Kiddies. Stokes.

BENSON, EDWARD FREDERIC.
  Freaks of Mayfair, The. Doran.

BLACKWOOD, ALGERNON.
  *Day and Night Stories. Dutton.

BURKE, THOMAS.
  *Limehouse Nights. McBride.

CORKERY, DANIEL.
  *Munster Twilight, A. Stokes.

CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM, R. B.
  *Brought Forward. Stokes.
  *Charity. Stokes.
  *Faith. Stokes.
  *Hope. Stokes.
  *Progress. Stokes.
  *Success. Stokes.

CURLE, RICHARD.
  *Echo of Voices. Knopf.

DAWSON, CONINGSBY.
  *Seventh Christmas, The. Holt.

DELL, ETHEL M.
  Safety Curtain, The. Putnam.

DOYLE, SIR ARTHUR CONAN.
  His Last Bow. Doran.

DUNSANY, LORD.
  *Dreamer's Tales, A. Boni and Liveright.
  *Fifty-one Tales. Little, Brown.

EVANS, CARADOC.
  *My People. Duffield.

GATE, ETHEL M.
  *Broom Fairies, The. Yale Univ. Press.

GIBSON, WILFRID WILSON.
  *Collected Poems. Macmillan.

HALL, MORDAUNT.
  Some Naval Yarns. Doran.

HARRISON, CUTHBERT WOODVILLE.
  *Magic of Malaya, The. Lane.

HOWARD, KEBLE.
  Smiths in War Time, The. Lane.

JEROME, JEROME K.
  Street of the Blank Wall, The. Dodd, Mead.

KIPLING, RUDYARD.
  *Diversity of Creatures, A. Doubleday, Page.

MACHEN, ARTHUR.
  *Terror, The. McBride.

MASON, A. E. W.
  *Four Corners of the World, The. Scribner.

NEWBOLT, SIR HENRY.
  *Happy Warrior, The. Longmans, Green.
  Tales of the Great War. Longmans, Green.

PEACOCKE, E. M.
  Dicky, Knight-Errant. McBride.

PHILLPOTTS, EDEN.
  *Girl and the Faun, The. Lippincott.

RANSOME, ARTHUR.
  *Old Peter's Russian Tales. Stokes.

RENDALL, VERNON HORACE.
  London Nights of Belsize, The. Lane.

"ROHMER, SAX."
  Hand of Fu-Manchu, The. McBride.

"SAPPER."
  *No Man's Land. Doran.

STACPOOLE, H. DE VERE.
  Sea Plunder. Lane.

SWINTON, LIEUT.-COL. E. D.
  Great Tab Dope, The. Doubleday, Page.

"TAFFRAIL."
  Sea Spray and Spindrift. Lippincott.

TREE, SIR HERBERT BEERBOHM.
  Nothing Matters. Houghton-Mifflin.

WREN, PERCIVAL C.
  Young Stagers. Longmans, Green.


III. TRANSLATIONS

APUKHTIN, A. (_Russian._)
  *From Death to Life. Frank.

ARTZIBASHEV, MICHAEL MIKHAILOVICH. (_Russian._)
  *Tales of the Revolution. Huebsch.

CERVANTES, MIGUEL DE. (_Spanish._)
  *Rinconete and Cortadillo. Four Seas.

CHEKHOV, ANTON. (_Russian._) (_See_ TCHEKHOV, ANTON.)

*CHRISTMAS TALES OF FLANDERS. (_Belgian._) Dodd, Mead.

DOSTOEVSKY, FYODOR MIKHAILOVICH. (_Russian._)
  *Eternal Husband, The. Macmillan.
  *Gambler, and Other Stories, The. Macmillan.

FRANCE, ANATOLE. (_French._)
  *Girls and Boys. Duffield.
  *Our Children. Duffield.

GÉRALDY, PAUL. (_French._)
  *The War, Madame. Scribner.

ISPIRESCU, PETRE. (_Rumanian._)
  *Foundling Prince, The. Houghton-Mifflin.

KUPRIN, ALEXANDER IVANOVICH. (_Russian._)
  *Bracelet of Garnets, The. Scribner.

MAUPASSANT, GUY DE. (_French._)
  *Mademoiselle Fifi. Boni and Liveright.
  *Second Odd Number, The. Harper.

SELTZER, THOMAS, _Editor._ (_Russian._)
  *Best Russian Short Stories, The. Boni and Liveright.

*SHIELD, THE. (_Russian._) Knopf.

STRINDBERG, AUGUST. (_Swedish._)
  *Married. Boni and Liveright.

SUDERMANN, HERMANN. (_German._)
  *Dame Care. Boni and Liveright.

TCHEKHOV, ANTON. (_Russian._)
  *Duel, The. Macmillan.
  *House with the Mezzanine, The. Scribner.
  *Lady with the Dog, The. Macmillan.
  *Party, The. Macmillan.
  *Rothschild's Fiddle. Boni and Liveright.
  *Will o' the Wisp. International Authors' Association.

TOLSTOI, ILYA, COUNT.
  *Visions. Pond.

WRIGHT, WILLARD HUNTINGTON, _Editor._ (_French._)
  *Great Modern French Stories, The. Boni and Liveright.



THE BEST SIXTY-THREE AMERICAN SHORT STORIES OF 1917


_The sixty-three short stories published in the American magazines
during 1917 which I shall discuss in this article are chosen from a
larger group of about one hundred and twenty-five stories, whose
literary excellence justified me in including them in my annual "Roll of
Honor." The stories, which are included in this Roll of Honor have been
chosen from the stories published in about sixty-five American
periodicals during 1917. In selecting them, I have sought to accept the
author's point of view and manner of treatment, and to measure simply
the degree of success he had in doing what he set out to achieve. But I
must confess that it has been difficult to eliminate personal admiration
completely in the further winnowing which has resulted in this selection
of sixty-three stories. Below are set forth the particular qualities
which have seemed to me to justify in each case the inclusion of a story
in this list._

1. THE EXCURSION by _Edwina Stanton Babcock_ (The Pictorial Review) is
in my belief one of the best five American short stories of the year. It
is significant because of its faithful and imaginative rendering of
American folk-life, because of its subtle characterization, and the
successful manner in which it reveals the essentially racy humor of the
American countryside with the utmost economy of means. The
characterization is achieved almost entirely through dialogue, and the
portraiture of the characters is rendered inimitably in a phrase or two.
In this story, as well as in "The Band," Miss Babcock has earned the
right to a place beside Francis Buzzell as a regional story writer,
fairly comparable to John Trevena's renderings of Dartmoor.

2. THE BROTHERS by _Thomas Beer_ (The Century Magazine) will remind the
reader in some respects of Frederick Stuart Greene's story, "The Black
Pool," published in "The Grim 13." But apart from a superficial
resemblance in the substance with which both writers deal, the two
stories are more notable in their differences than in their
resemblances. If "The Brothers" is less inevitable than "The Black
Pool," it is perhaps a more sophisticated work of art, and I am not sure
but that its conclusion and the resolution of character that it involves
is not more artistically convincing than the end of "The Black Pool." It
is certainly a memorable first story by a new writer and would of
itself be enough to make a reputation. Mr. Beer is the most original new
talent that the Century Magazine has discovered since Stacy Aumonier.

3. ONNIE by _Thomas Beer_ (The Century Magazine) has a certain stark
faithfulness which makes of somewhat obvious material an extremely vivid
and freshly felt rendering of life. There is a certain quality of
observation in the story which we are accustomed to think of as a Gallic
rather than an American trait. I think that Mr. Beer has slightly
broadened his canvas where greater restraint and less cautious use of
suggestion would have better answered his purpose. But "Onnie" is a
better story than "The Brothers" to my mind, and Mr. Beer, by virtue of
these two stories, is one of the two or three most interesting new
talents of the year.

4. IRONSTONE by _Phyllis Bottome_ (The Century Magazine). To those who
have enjoyed in recent years the admirable social comedy and deft
handling of English character to which Miss Bottome has accustomed us,
"Ironstone" must have come as a surprise in its revelation of a new
aspect in the author's talent, akin to the kind of tale which is found
at its best as a "middle" in the London Nation. It compresses the
emotion of a Greek drama into a space of perhaps four thousand words. I
find that the closing dialogue in this story is as certain in its march
as the closing pages of "Riders to the Sea," and the _katharsis_ is
timeless in its final solution.

5. FROM HUNGARY by "_John Breck_" (The Bookman) is perhaps not to be
classified as a short story, but the academic limitations of the short
story have never interested me greatly, and in its own field this short
fiction sketch is memorable. Its secret is the secret of atmosphere
rather than speech, but atmosphere here becomes human in its reality and
the resultant effect is not unlike that of "When Hannah Var Eight Yar
Old" by Miss Girling, which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly a few years
ago. "John Breck," or Elizabeth C. A. Smith, to reveal her authorship,
has found complete embodiment for her conception in this story for the
first time, and it is a promise for a vivid and interesting future.

6. THE FLYING TEUTON by _Alice Brown_ (Harper's Magazine) is the best
short story that has come out of this war as yet in either English or
American magazines. Accepting the old legend of the Flying Dutchman,
Miss Brown has imagined it reëmbodied in a modern setting, and out of
the ironies of this situation a most dramatic story results with a sure
and true message for the American people. It is in my opinion one of the
five best short stories of the year, and I am happy to say that it will
soon be accessible to the public once more in book form.

7. CLOSED DOORS, and 8. A CUP OF TEA by _Maxwell Struthers Burt_ (both
in Scribner's Magazine). In these two stories, and in "The Glory of the
Wild Green Earth," "John O'May," and "Le Panache," all of which appeared
in Scribner's Magazine during the past year, a place is made for the
author among American short story writers beside that of Mrs. Gerould,
Wilbur Daniel Steele, and H. G. Dwight. Two years ago I had the pleasure
of reprinting his first short story, "The Water-Hole," in "The Best
Short Stories of 1915." I thought at that time that Mr. Burt would
eventually do fine things, but I never suspected that, in the short
period of two years, he would win for himself so important a place in
contemporary American letters. Mr. Burt's technique is still a trifle
over-sophisticated, but I suppose this is a fault on virtue's side. A
collection of Mr. Burt's short stories in book form should be anxiously
awaited by the American public.

9. LONELY PLACES, and 10. THE LONG VACATION by _Francis Buzzell_ (The
Pictorial Review). The attentive reader of American fiction must have
already noted two memorable stories by Francis Buzzell published in
previous years, "Addie Erb and Her Girl Lottie" and "Ma's Pretties."
These two stories won for Mr. Buzzell an important position as an
American folk-writer, and this position is amply sustained by the two
fine stories which he has published during the past year. His
imaginative realism weaves poignant beauty out of the simplest and most
dusty elements in life, and it is my belief that it is along the lines
of his method and that of Miss Babcock that America is most likely
eventually to contribute something distinctively national to the world's
literary culture.

11. THE MISTRESS by _Fleta Campbell_ (Harper's Bazar) is a most highly
polished and sharply outlined story of the war. It makes an art out of
coldness in narration which serves to emphasize and bring out by
contrast the human warmth of the story's substance.

12. THE FOUNDLING by _Gunnar Cederschiöld_ (Collier's Weekly). Readers
who recall the fine series of stories by Alden Brooks published during
the past two years in Collier's Weekly and the Century Magazine will
find in "The Foundling" a story equally memorable as a ruthless
portrayal of the effects of war. Whether one approves or disapproves in
general of the ending is irrelevant in this case. This story must take
its place as one of the best dozen stories of the war.

13. BOYS WILL BE BOYS, 14. THE FAMILY TREE, and 15. QUALITY FOLKS by
_Irvin S. Cobb_ (all in the Saturday Evening Post). It is seven years
since Irvin Cobb published his first short story, "The Escape of Mr.
Trimm," in the Saturday Evening Post. During that short period he has
passed from the position of an excellent journalist to that of
America's most representative humorist, in the truer meaning of that
word. Upon him the mantle of Mark Twain has descended, and with that
mantle he has inherited the artistic virtues and the utter inability to
criticize his own work that was so characteristic of Mr. Clemens. But
the very gusto of his creative work has been shaping his style during
the past two years to a point where he may now fairly claim to have
mastered his material, and to have found the most effective human
persuasiveness in its presentation. Our grandchildren will read these
three stories, and thank God that there was a man named Cobb once born
in Paducah, Kentucky.

16. LAUGHTER (Harper's Magazine), and 17. OUR DOG (Pictorial Review) by
_Charles Caldwell Dobie_. The rapid rise of Mr. Dobie in less than two
years from the date when his first short story was published challenges
comparison with the similar career of Maxwell Struthers Burt. As Mr.
Burt's art has its analogies with that of Mrs. Gerould, so Mr. Dobie's
art has its analogies with that of Wilbur Daniel Steele. I am not
certain that Mr. Dobie's talent is not essentially that of a
novel-writer, but certainly at least four of the short stories which he
has published during the past year are notable artistic achievements in
widely different moods. If tragedy prevails, it is purified by a fine
spiritual idealism, which takes symbols and makes of them something more
human than a mere allegory. If an American publisher were courageous
enough to start publishing a series of volumes of short stories by
contemporary American writers, he could not do better than to begin with
a selection of Mr. Dobie's tales.

18. A LITTLE NIPPER OF HIDE-AN'-SEEK HARBOR by _Norman Duncan_
(Pictorial Review). This story has a melancholy interest, because it was
the last story sold by its author before his sudden death last year. But
it would have been remembered for its own sake as the last and not the
least important of the long series of Newfoundland sagas which Mr.
Duncan has given us. It shows that Norman Duncan kept his artistic vigor
to the last, and those who know Newfoundland can testify that such
stories as these will always remain its most permanent literary record.

19. THE EMPEROR OF ELAM by _H. G. Dwight_ (The Century Magazine). Those
who have read Mr. Dwight's volume of short stories entitled "Stamboul
Nights" do not need to be told that Mr. Dwight is the one American short
story writer whom we may confidently set beside Joseph Conrad as a
master in a similar literary field. American editors have been diffident
about publishing his stories for reasons which cast more discredit on
the American editor than on Mr. Dwight, and accordingly it is a genuine
pleasure to encounter "The Emperor of Elam," and to chronicle the
hardihood of the editor of the Century Magazine. The story is a modern
odyssey of adventure, set as usual in the Turkish background with which
Mr. Dwight is most familiar. In it atmosphere is realized completely for
its own sake, and as a motive power urging the lives of his characters
to their inevitable end.

20. THE GAY OLD DOG by _Edna Ferber_ (Metropolitan Magazine) is in my
opinion the big story which "The Eldest" was not. It is my belief that
Edna Ferber is a novelist first and a short story writer afterwards, but
in "The Gay Old Dog" she has accepted a theme which can best be handled
in the short story form and has made the most of it artistically, much
as Fannie Hurst has done in all of her better stories. Miss Ferber has
not sentimentalized her substance as she does most often, but has let it
remain at its true valuation.

21. BREAD-CRUMBS by _Waldo Frank_ (Seven Arts Magazine). I cannot help
feeling that this is an extremely well written and honestly conceived
story whose substance is essentially false, but the author has
apparently persuaded himself of its truth and presents it almost
convincingly to the reader. Be this as it may, Mr. Frank has not failed
to make his two characters real for us, and the poignancy of their final
revelation is certainly genuine. Mr. Frank, however, should save such
material as this for longer fiction, as his method is essentially that
of a novelist.

22. PEARLS BEFORE SWINE by _Cornelia Throop Geer_ (Atlantic Monthly).
With a quiet and somewhat reticent art, the author of this story has
succeeded in deftly conveying to her readers a delicate pastoral scene
of innocence reflecting the dreams of two little Irish children. It was
a difficult feat to attempt, as few can safely reproduce the atmosphere
of an alien race successfully, and, even to Irish-Americans, Ireland
cannot be sufficiently realized for creative embodiment. I am told that
a volume of Irish stories is promised from the pen of Miss Geer, and it
should take its place with the better folk stories of modern Irish life.
Miss Geer's method is the result of identification with, rather than
condescension toward, her subject.

23. EAST OF EDEN (Harper's Magazine), 24. THE HAND OF JIM FANE (Harper's
Magazine), 25. THE KNIGHT'S MOVE (Atlantic Monthly), 26. THE WAX DOLL
(Scribner's Magazine), and 27. WHAT THEY SEEM (Harper's Magazine) by
_Katharine Fullerton Gerould_. In these five short stories Mrs. Gerould
amply sustains her claim to rank as one of the three most distinguished
contemporary writers of the American short story. Preoccupied as she is
with the subtle rendering of abnormal psychological situations, her work
is in the great traditional line whose last completely adequate exponent
was Henry James. One and all, these stories have the fascination of
strange spiritual adventure, and the persuasiveness of her exposition
conceals inimitably the closely woven craftsmanship of her work. Of
these five stories, "The Knight's Move" and "East of Eden" surely
represent a development in her art which it will be almost impossible
for her to surpass.

28. DARE'S GIFT by _Ellen Glasgow_ (Harper's Magazine). I prefer to beg
the question whether this is a short story or a very short novel. It
certainly has the unity of a well-defined spiritual incident, and if one
recalls its substance, it is only to view it as a completely rounded
whole. As such it is surely as fine a study of the influence of place as
Mrs. Wharton's "Kerfol" or Mrs. Pangborn's "Bixby's Bridge." The
brooding atmosphere of a house mindful of its past and reacting upon
successive inmates morally, or perhaps immorally, has seldom been more
faithfully rendered.

29. THE HEARING EAR (Harper's Magazine), and 30. A JURY OF HER PEERS
(Every Week) by _Susan Glaspell_. It is always interesting to study the
achievement of a novelist who has won distinction deservedly in that
field, when that novelist attempts the very different technique of the
short story. It is particularly interesting in the case of Susan
Glaspell, because with these two stories she convinces the reader that
her future really lies in the short story rather than in the novel. Few
American writers have such a natural dramatic story sense, and to this
Susan Glaspell has added an increasing reticence in the portrayal of her
characters. In these two stories you will not find the slightest
sentimentalization of her subject matter, nor is it keyed so tightly as
some of her previous work. "A Jury of Her Peers" is one of the better
folk stories of the year, sharing that distinction with "The Excursion"
by Miss Babcock and the two stories by Francis Buzzell, of which I have
spoken above.

31. HIS FATHER'S FLAG by _Armistead C. Gordon_ (Scribner's Magazine).
The many readers who have revelled in Mr. Gordon's admirable portraits
of Virginia negro plantation life will be surprised and gratified at Mr.
Gordon's venture in this story into a new field. This story has all the
infectious emotional feeling of memory recalling glorious things, and I
can only compare it for its spiritual fidelity toward a cause to the
stories by Elsie Singmaster which she has gathered into her volume about
Gettysburg, and particularly to that fine story, "The Survivors."

32. THE BUNKER MOUSE, and 33. "MOLLY MCGUIRE, FOURTEEN" by _Frederick
Stuart Greene_ (The Century Magazine). Captain Greene's story "The Cat
of the Cane-Brake" attracted so much attention at the time of its
publication in the Metropolitan Magazine a year ago that it is
interesting to find him achieving high distinction in other imaginative
fields. Captain Greene's natural gift of narrative is the result of a
strong impulse toward creative expression, which molds its form a little
self-consciously, but convincingly, for the most part. I think that he
is at his best in these two stories rather than in "The Cat of the
Cane-Brake" and "The Black Pool," because they are based upon a more
direct apprehension and experience of life. "Molly McGuire, Fourteen"
adds one more tradition to those of the Virginia Military Institute.

34. RAINBOW PETE by _Richard Matthews Hallet_ (The Pictorial Review)
reveals the author in his most incorrigibly romantic mood. Mr. Hallet
casts glamour over his creations, partly through his detached and
pictorial perception of life, and partly through the magic of his words.
He has been compared to Conrad, and in a lesser way he has much in
common with the author of "Lord Jim," but his artistic method is
essentially different and quite as individual.

35. FRAZEE by _Lee Foster Hartman_ (Harper's Magazine). Mr. Hartman has
been a good friend to other story writers for so long that we had begun
to forget how fine an artist he can be himself. In "Frazee" he has taken
a subject which would have fascinated Mrs. Gerould and handled it with
reserve and power. It is pitched in a quieter key than is usual in such
a story, and the result is that character merges with atmosphere almost
imperceptibly. I regard the story as almost a model of construction for
students of short story writing.

36. FOUR DAYS by _Hetty Hemenway_ (Atlantic Monthly). This remarkable
story of the spiritual effect of the war upon two young people was so
widely commented upon, not only after its appearance in the Atlantic
Monthly, but later when it was republished in book form, that I shall
only commend it to the reader here as an artistically woven study in war
psychology.

37. GET READY THE WREATHS by _Fannie Hurst_ (Cosmopolitan Magazine). The
artistic qualities in Miss Hurst's work which have commended themselves
to such disinterested critics as Mr. Howells are revealed once more in
this story, in which Miss Hurst accepts the shoddiness of background
which characterizes her literary types, and reveals the fine human
current that runs beneath it all. I am not sure that Miss Hurst has not
diluted her substance a little too much during the past year, and in any
case that danger is implicit in her method. But in "Get Ready the
Wreaths" the emotional validity of her substance is absolutely
unimpeachable and her handling of the situation it presents is adequate
and fine.

38. JOURNEY'S END by _Percy Adams Hutchison_ (Harper's Magazine). An
attentive reader of the American short stories during the past few years
may have observed with interest at rare intervals the work of Mr.
Hutchison. In it there was always a promise of an achievement not unlike
that of Perceval Gibbon, but a certain looseness of texture prevented
Mr. Hutchison from being completely persuasive. In "Journey's End,"
however, it must be confessed that he has written a memorable sea story
that is certainly equal at least to the better stories in Mr. Kipling's
latest volume.

39. THE STRANGE-LOOKING MAN by _Fanny Kemble Johnson_ (The Pagan). I
suppose that this story is to be regarded as a sketch rather than a
short story, but in any case it is a vividly rendered picture of war's
effects portrayed with subtle irony and quiet art. I associate it with
"Chautonville" by Will Levington Comfort, and "The Flying Teuton" by
Alice Brown, as one of the three stories with the most authentic
spiritual message in American fiction that the war has produced.

40. THE SEA-TURN by _E. Clement James_ (The Seven Arts). In this study
of the spiritual reactions of a starved environment upon an imaginative
mind, Mrs. Jones has added a convincing character portrait to American
letters which ranks with the better short stories of J. D. Beresford in
a similar _genre_. The story is in the same tradition as that of the
younger English realists, but it is an essential contribution to our
nationalism, and as such helps to point the way toward the future in
which a true national literature must find its only and inevitable
realization.

41. THE CALLER IN THE NIGHT by _Burton Kline_ (The Stratford Journal). I
believe that Mr. Kline has completely realized in this story a fine
imaginative situation and has presented a folk story with a significant
legendary quality. It is in the tradition of Hawthorne, but the
substance with which Mr. Kline deals is the substance of his own people,
and consequently that in which his creative impulse has found the freest
scope. It may be compared to its own advantage with "The Lost Phoebe" by
Theodore Dreiser, which was equally memorable among the folk-stories of
1916, and the comparison suggests that in both cases the author's
training as a novelist has not been to his disadvantage as a short-story
teller.

42. WHEN DID YOU WRITE YOUR MOTHER LAST? by _Addison Lewis_ (Reedy's
Mirror). This is the only story I have read in three years in which it
seemed to me that I found the authentic voice of "O. Henry" speaking.
Mr. Lewis has been publishing a series of these "Tales While You Wait"
in Reedy's Mirror during the past few months, and I should much prefer
them to those of Jack Lait for the complete success with which he has
achieved his aims. Imitation of "O. Henry" has been the curse of
American story-telling for the past ten years, because "O. Henry" is
practically inimitable. Mr. Lewis is not an imitator, but he may well
prove before very long to be "O. Henry's" successor. In the words of
Padna Dan and Micus Pat, "Here's the chance for some one to make a
discovery."

43. WIDOW LA RUE by _Edgar Lee Masters_ (Reedy's Mirror). This is the
best short story in verse that the year has produced, and as literature
it realizes in my belief even greater imaginative fulfilment than "Spoon
River Anthology." I should have most certainly wished to include it in
"The Best Short Stories of 1917" had it been in prose, and it adds one
more unforgettable legend to our folk imagination.

44. THE UNDERSTUDY by _Johnson Morton_ (Harper's Magazine) is an ironic
character study developed with much finesse in the tradition of Henry
James. Its defect is a certain conventional atmosphere which demands an
artificial attitude on the part of the reader. Its admirable distinction
is its faithful rendering of a personality not unlike the "Tante" of
Anne Douglas Sedgwick, if a novel portrait and a short story portrait
may fittingly be compared. If the portraiture is unpleasant, it is at
any rate rendered with incisive kindliness.

45. THE HEART OF LIFE by _Meredith Nicholson_ (Scribner's Magazine). Mr.
Nicholson has treated an old theme freshly in "The Heart of Life" and
discovered in it new values of contrasting character. Among his short
stories it stands out as notably as "A Hoosier Chronicle" among his
novels. It is in such work as this that Mr. Nicholson justifies his
calling, and it is by them that he has most hope of remembrance in
American literature.

46. MURDER? by _Seumas O'Brien_ (The Illustrated Sunday Magazine). With
something of Hardy's stark rendering of atmosphere, Mr. O'Brien has
portrayed a grim situation unforgettably. Woven out of the simplest
elements, and with an entire lack of literary sophistication, his story
is fairly comparable to the work of Daniel Corkery, whose volume, "A
Munster Twilight," has interested me more than any other volume of short
stories published in America this year. The story is of particular
interest because Mr. O'Brien's reputation as an artist has been based
solely upon his work as a satirist and Irish fabulist.

47. THE INTERVAL by _Vincent O'Sullivan_ (Boston Evening Transcript). It
is odd to reflect that a literary artist of Mr. O'Sullivan's distinction
is not represented in American magazines during 1917 at all, and that it
has been left to a daily newspaper to publish his work. In "The
Interval," Mr. O'Sullivan has sought to suggest the spiritual effect of
the war upon a certain type of mind. He has rendered with faithful
subtleness the newly aroused longing for religious belief or some form
of concrete spiritual expression that bereavement brings. This state has
a pathos of its own that the author adequately realizes in his story,
and his irony in portraying it is Gallic in its quality.

48. BIXBY'S BRIDGE by _Georgia Wood Pangborn_ (Harper's Magazine). Mrs.
Pangborn is well known for her artistic stories of the supernatural, and
this will rank among the very best of them. She shares with Algernon
Blackwood that gift for making spiritual illusion real which is so rare
in contemporary work. What is specially distinctive is her gift of
selection, by which she brings out the most illusive psychological
contrasts.

49. "A CERTAIN RICH MAN--," by _Lawrence Perry_ (Scribner's Magazine). I
find in this story an emotional quality keyed up as tightly, but as
surely, as in the best short stories by Mary Synon. Remote as its
substance may seem, superficially, it touches the very heart of the
experience that the war has brought to us all, and reveals the naked
stuff out of which our war psychology has emerged.

50. THE PORTRAIT by _Emery Pottle_ (The Touchstone). This study in
Italian backgrounds is by another disciple of Henry James, who portrays
with deft sure touches the nostalgia of an American girl unhappily
married to an Italian nobleman. It just fails of complete persuasiveness
because it is a trifle overstrung, but nevertheless it is memorable for
its artistic sincerity.

51. THE PATH OF GLORY by _Mary Brecht Pulver_ (Saturday Evening Post).
This story of how distinction came to a poor family in the mountains
through the death of their son in the French army is simply told with a
quiet, unassuming earnestness that makes it very real. It marks a new
phase of Mrs. Pulver's talent, and one which promises her a richer
fulfilment in the future than her other stories have suggested. Time and
time again I have been impressed this year by the folk quality that is
manifest in our younger writers, and what is most encouraging is that,
when they write of the poor and the lowly, there is less of that
condescension toward their subject than has been characteristic of
American folk-writing in the past.

52. MISS FOTHERGILL by _Norval Richardson_ (Scribner's Magazine). The
tradition in English fiction, which is most signally marked by "Pride
and Prejudice," "Cranford," and "Barchester Towers," and which was so
pleasantly continued by the late Dr. S. Weir Mitchell and by Margaret
Deland, is admirably embodied in the work of this writer, whose work
should be better known. The quiet blending of humor and pathos in "Miss
Fothergill" is unusual.

53. THE SCAR THAT TRIPLED by _William Gunn Shepherd_ (Metropolitan
Magazine) is none the less truly a remarkable short story because it
happens to be based on fact. "The Deserter" was the last fine short
story written by the late Richard Harding Davis, and "The Scar That
Tripled" is the engrossing narrative of the adventure which suggested
that story. Personally, I regard it as superior to "The Deserter."

54. A COUNTRY CHRISTMAS by _Grant Showerman_ (Century Magazine).
Professor Showerman's country chronicles are now well known to American
readers, and this is quite the best of them. These sketches rank with
those of Hamlin Garland as a permanent and delightful record of a
pioneer life that has passed away for ever. Their deliberate homeliness
and consistent reflection of a small boy's attitude toward life have no
equal to my knowledge.

55. THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL (The Pictorial Review), and 56. THE FLAG OF
ELIPHALET (Boston Evening Transcript) by _Elsie Singmaster_ add two more
portraits to the pleasant gallery of Elsie Singmaster's vivid creations.
Although her vein is a narrow one, no one is more competent than she in
its expression, and few surpass her in the faithful rendering of homely
but none the less real spiritual circumstance.

57. THE END OF THE ROAD by _Gordon Arthur Smith_ (Scribner's Magazine)
is a sequel to "Feet of Gold" and chronicles the further love adventures
of Ferdinand Taillandy, and their tragic conclusion. In these two
stories Mr. Smith has proven his literary kinship with Leonard Merrick,
and these stories surely rank with the chronicles of Tricotrin and
Pitou.

58. CHING, CHING, CHINAMAN (Pictorial Review), 59. KED'S HAND (Harper's
Magazine), 60. WHITE HANDS (Pictorial Review), and 61. THE WOMAN AT
SEVEN BROTHERS (Harper's Magazine) by _Wilbur Daniel Steele_. With these
four stories, together with "A Devil of a Fellow," "Free," and "A Point
of Honor," Mr. Steele assumes his rightful place with Katharine
Fullerton Gerould and H. G. Dwight as a leader in American fiction.
"Ching, Ching, Chinaman," "White Hands," and "The Woman at Seven
Brothers" are, in my belief, the three best short stories that were
published in 1917, by an American author, and I may safely predict their
literary permanence. Mr. Steele's extraordinary gift for presenting
action and spiritual conflict pictorially is unrivalled, and his sense
of human mystery has a rich tragic humor akin to that of Thomas Hardy,
though his philosophy of life is infinitely more hopeful.

62. NONE SO BLIND by _Mary Synon_ (Harper's Magazine) is a study in
tragic circumstance, the more powerful because it is so reticently
handled. It is Miss Synon's first profound study in feminine psychology,
and reveals an unusual sense of emotional values. Few backgrounds have
been more subtly rendered in their influence upon character, and the
action of the story is inevitable despite its character of surprise.

63. THE SCAR by _Elisabeth Stead Taber_ (The Seven Arts). The brutal
realism of this story may repel the reader, but its power and convincing
quality cannot be gainsaid. So many writers have followed John Fox's
example in writing about the mountaineers of the Alleghanies, that it is
gratifying to chronicle so exceptional a story as this. It is as
inevitable in its ugliness as "The Cat of the Cane-Brake" by Frederick
Stuart Greene, and psychologically it is far more convincing.



MAGAZINE AVERAGES FOR 1917


_The following table includes the averages of American periodicals
published during 1917. One, two, and three asterisks are employed to
indicate relative distinction. "Three-asterisk stories" are of somewhat
permanent literary value. The list excludes reprints._


                              |         |     NO. OF      |  PERCENTAGE OF
                              | NO. OF  |   DISTINCTIVE   |   DISTINCTIVE
         PERIODICALS          | STORIES |     STORIES     |     STORIES
                              |   PUB-  |    PUBLISHED    |    PUBLISHED
                              | LISHED  +-----------------+----------------
                              |         |  *  |  ** | *** |  *  |  ** | ***
------------------------------+---------+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+----
American Magazine             |    54   |  25 |   3 |   1 |  46 |   6 |   2
Atlantic Monthly              |    20   |  17 |  11 |   5 |  85 |  55 |  25
Bellman                       |    47   |  34 |  17 |   2 |  72 |  36 |   4
Bookman                       |     5   |   5 |   4 |   1 | 100 |  80 |  20
Boston Evening Transcript     |     6   |   6 |   6 |   2 | 100 | 100 |  33
Century                       |    50   |  40 |  29 |  17 |  80 |  58 |  34
Collier's Weekly              |   108   |  51 |  22 |   3 |  47 |  20 |   3
Delineator                    |    46   |  18 |   5 |   2 |  39 |  11 |   4
Everybody's Magazine          |    45   |  26 |   7 |   3 |  58 |  15 |   7
Every Week                    |    87   |  18 |   5 |   2 |  21 |   6 |   2
Forum                         |     6   |   4 |   1 |   1 |  67 |  17 |  17
Good Housekeeping             |    40   |  12 |   9 |   5 |  30 |  23 |  13
Harper's Magazine             |    80   |  64 |  39 |  27 |  80 |  49 |  34
Illustrated Sunday Magazine   |    25   |  10 |   4 |   1 |  40 |  16 |   4
Ladies' Home Journal          |    33   |  11 |   4 |   1 |  33 |  12 |   3
Masses (except Oct. and Nov.) |    11   |   6 |   3 |   0 |  54 |  27 |   0
McClure's Magazine            |    45   |   9 |   4 |   2 |  20 |   9 |   4
Metropolitan                  |    43   |  16 |   8 |   5 |  37 |  19 |  12
Midland                       |    22   |  21 |  17 |   2 |  95 |  77 |   9
New Republic                  |     5   |   5 |   2 |   1 | 100 |  40 |  20
New York Tribune              |    30   |  22 |   7 |   4 |  73 |  23 |  13
Outlook                       |    18   |  10 |   8 |   1 |  56 |  44 |   6
Pagan                         |    11   |   8 |   8 |   4 |  72 |  72 |  36
Pictorial Review              |    42   |  26 |  18 |  14 |  62 |  43 |  33
Reedy's Mirror                |    32   |  18 |  10 |   3 |  56 |  31 |   9
Saturday Evening Post         |   235   |  62 |  25 |   7 |  21 |  11 |   3
Scribner's Magazine           |    65   |  52 |  31 |  16 |  80 |  48 |  25
Seven Arts                    |    23   |  22 |  19 |  14 |  96 |  83 |  69
Smart Set                     |   107   |  22 |  12 |   3 |  20 |  11 |   3
Stratford Journal             |    10   |  10 |  10 |   9 | 100 | 100 |  90
Sunset Magazine               |    32   |   6 |   0 |   0 |  19 |   0 |   0
Touchstone                    |    15   |  15 |  10 |   2 | 100 |  67 |  13
==============================+=========+=====+=====+=====+=====+=====+====

_The following tables indicate the rank, during 1917, by number and
percentage of distinctive stories published, of the nineteen periodicals
coming within the scope of my examination which have published during
the past year over twenty-five stories and which have exceeded an
average of 15% in stories of distinction. The lists exclude reprints._


BY PERCENTAGE OF DISTINCTIVE STORIES

1.  Harper's Magazine       80%
2.  Scribner's Magazine     80%
3.  Century Magazine        80%
4.  New York Tribune        73%
5.  Bellman                 72%
6.  Pictorial Review        62%
7.  Everybody's Magazine    58%
8.  Reedy's Mirror          56%
9.  Collier's Weekly        47%
10. American Magazine       46%
11. Delineator              39%
12. Metropolitan Magazine   37%
13. Ladies' Home Journal    33%
14. Good Housekeeping       30%
15. Saturday Evening Post   21%
16. Every Week              21%
17. Smart Set               20%
18. McClure's Magazine      20%
19. Sunset Magazine         19%


BY NUMBER OF DISTINCTIVE STORIES

1.  Harper's Magazine             64
2.  Saturday Evening Post         62
3.  Scribner's Magazine           52
4.  Collier's Weekly              51
5.  Century Magazine              40
6.  Bellman                       34
7.  Everybody's Magazine          26
8.  Pictorial Review              26
9.  American Magazine             25
10. New York Tribune              22
11. Smart Set