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Title: In Our Town
Author: White, William Allen, 1868-1944
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In Our Town" ***

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

                                   In Our Town

                              BY WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE

           The Court of Boyville, The Real Issue, Stratagems and Spoils

                   Illustrations by F. R. Gruger and W. Glackens


    Copyright 1906 by

    Published April, 1906

    Copyright 1904 by The Century Co.
    Copyright 1905-1906 by The Curtis Publishing Co.

[Illustration: He wore his collars so high that he had to order them
from a drummer]






















He Wore his Collars so High that He Had to Order Them from a Drummer

Suppressing Nothing "On Account of the Respectability of the Parties

As an Office Joke the Boys Used to Leave a Step-Ladder by Her Desk so
that She Could Climb Up and See How Her Top-Knot Really Looked

And Brought with Him a Large Leisure and a Taste for Society

Sometimes He Thought It was a Report of a Fire and at Other Times It
Seemed Like a Dress-Goods Catalogue

As the Dinner Hour Grew Near She Raged--So the Servants said--Whenever
the Telephone Rang

"Jim Purdy, Taken the Day He Left for the Army"

He Advertised the Fact that He was a Good Hater by Showing Callers at
His Office His Barrel

He Likes to Sit in the Old Swayback Swivel-Chair and Tell Us His Theory
of the Increase in the Rainfall

And Camped in the Office for Two Days, Looking for Jimmy

Reverend Milligan Came in with a Church Notice

A Desert Scorpion, Outcast by Society and Proud of it

"He Made a Lot of Money and Blew it in"

Went About Town with His Cigar Pointing Toward his Hat-Brim

The Traveling Men on the Veranda Craned Their Necks to Watch Her Out of

Counting the Liars and Scoundrels and Double-Dealers and Villains Who



Scribes and Pharisees

Ours is a little town in that part of the country called the West by
those who live east of the Alleghanies, and referred to lovingly as
"back East" by those who dwell west of the Rockies. It is a country town
where, as the song goes, "you know everybody and they all know you," and
the country newspaper office is the social clearing-house.

When a man has published a paper in a country community for many years,
he knows his town and its people, their strength and their weakness,
their joys and their sorrows, their failings and their prosperity--or if
he does not know these things, he is on the road to failure, for this
knowledge must be the spirit of his paper. The country editor and his
reporters sooner or later pass upon everything that interests their

In our little newspaper office we are all reporters, and we know many
intimate things about our people that we do not print. We know, for
instance, which wives will not let their husbands endorse other men's
notes at the banks. We know about the row the Baptists are having to get
rid of the bass singer in their choir, who has sung at funerals for
thirty years, until it has reached a point where all good Baptists dread
death on account of his lugubrious profundo. Perhaps we should take this
tragedy to heart, but we know that the Methodists are having the same
trouble with their soprano, who "flats"--and has flatted for ten years,
and is too proud to quit the choir "under fire" as she calls it; and we
remember what a time the Congregationalists had getting rid of their
tenor. So that choir troubles are to us only a part of the grist that
keeps the mill going.

As the merest incident of the daily grind, it came to the office that
the bank cashier, whose retirement we announced with half a column of
regret, was caught $3500 short, after twenty years of faithful service,
and that his wife sold the homestead to make his shortage good. We know
the week that the widower sets out, and we hear with remarkable accuracy
just when he has been refused by this particular widow or that, and,
when he begins on a school-teacher, the whole office has candy and cigar
and mince pie bets on the result, with the odds on the widower five to
one. We know the woman who is always sent for when a baby comes to town,
and who has laid more good people of the community in their shrouds than
all the undertakers. We know the politician who gets five dollars a day
for his "services" at the polls, the man who takes three dollars and the
man who will work for the good of the cause in the precious hope of a
blessed reward at some future county convention. To know these things is
not a matter of pride; it is not a source of annoyance or shame; it is
part of the business.

Though our loathed but esteemed contemporary, the _Statesman_, speaks of
our town as "this city," and calls the marshal "chief of police," we are
none the less a country town. Like hundreds of its kind, our little
daily newspaper is equipped with typesetting machines and is printed
from a web perfecting press, yet it is only a country newspaper, and
knowing this we refuse to put on city airs. Of course we print the
afternoon Associated Press report on the first page, under formal heads
and with some pretence of dignity, but that first page is the parlour of
the paper, as it is of most of its contemporaries, and in the other
pages they and we go around in our shirt sleeves, calling people by
their first names; teasing the boys and girls good-naturedly; tickling
the pompous members of the village family with straws from time to time,
and letting out the family secrets of the community without much regard
for the feelings of the supercilious.

Nine or ten thousand people in our town go to bed on this kind of mental
pabulum, as do country-town dwellers all over the United States, and
although we do not claim that it is helpful, we do contend that it does
not hurt them. Certainly by poking mild fun at the shams--the town
pharisees--we make it more difficult to maintain the class lines which
the pretenders would establish. Possibly by printing the news of
everything that happens, suppressing nothing "on account of the
respectability of the parties concerned," we may prevent some evil-doers
from going on with their plans, but this is mere conjecture, and we do
not set it down to our credit. What we maintain is that in printing our
little country dailies, we, the scribes, from one end of the world to
the other, get more than our share of fun out of life as we go along,
and pass as much of it on to our neighbours as we can spare.

[Illustration: Suppressing nothing "on account of the respectability of
the parties concerned"]

Because we live in country towns, where the only car-gongs we hear are
on the baker's waggon, and where the horses in the fire department work
on the streets, is no reason why city dwellers should assume that we are
natives. We have no dialect worth recording--save that some of us
Westerners burr our "r's" a little or drop an occasional final "g." But
you will find that all the things advertised in the backs of the
magazines are in our houses, and that the young men in our towns walking
home at midnight, with their coats over their arms, whistle the same
popular airs that lovelorn boys are whistling in New York, Portland, San
Francisco or New Orleans that same fine evening. Our girls are those
pretty, reliant, well-dressed young women whom you see at the summer
resorts from Coronado Beach to Buzzard's Bay. In the fall and winter
these girls fill the colleges of the East and the State universities of
the West. Those wholesome, frank, good-natured people whom you met last
winter at the Grand Cañons and who told you of the funny performance of
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" in Yiddish at the People's Theatre on the East Side
in New York, and insisted that you see the totem pole in Seattle; and
then take a cottage for a month at Catalina Island; who gave you the tip
about Abson's quaint little beefsteak chop-house up an alley in Chicago,
who told you of Mrs. O'Hagan's second-hand furniture shop in Charleston,
where you can get real colonial stuff dirt cheap--those people are our
leading citizens, who run the bank or the dry-goods store or the
flour-mill. At our annual arts and crafts show we have on exhibition
loot from the four corners of the earth, and the club woman who has not
heard it whispered around in our art circles that Mr. Sargent is
painting too many portraits lately, and that a certain long-legged model
whose face is familiar in the weekly magazines is no better than she
should be--a club woman in our town who does not know of these things
is out of caste in clubdom, and women say of her that she is giving too
much time to her church.

We take all the beautiful garden magazines, and our terra-cotta works
are turning out creditable vases--which we pronounce "vahzes," you may
be sure--for formal gardens. And though we men for the most part run our
own lawnmowers, and personally look after the work of the college boy
who takes care of the horse and the cow for his room, still there are a
few of us proud and haughty creatures who have automobiles, and go
snorting around the country scaring horses and tooting terror into the
herds by the roadside. But the bright young reporters on our papers do
not let an automobile come to town without printing an item stating its
make and its cost, and whether or not it is a new one or a second-hand
one, and what speed it can make. At the flower parade in our own little
town last October there were ten automobiles in line, decked with paper
flowers and laden with pretty girls in lawns and dimities and
linens--though as a matter of fact most of the linens were only "Indian
head." And our particular little country paper printed an item to the
effect that the real social line of cleavage in the town lies not
between the cut-glass set and the devotees of hand-painted china, but
between the real nobility who wear genuine linen and the base imitations
who wear Indian head.

In some towns an item like that would make people mad, but we have our
people trained to stand a good deal. They know that it costs them five
cents a line for cards of thanks and resolutions of respect, so they
never bring them in. They know that our paper never permits "one who was
there" to report social functions, so that dear old correspondent has
resigned; and because we have insisted for years on making an item about
the first tomatoes that are served in spring at any dinner or reception,
together with the cost per pound of the tomatoes, the town has become
used to our attitude and does not buzz with indignation when we poke a
risible finger at the homemade costumes of the Plymouth Daughters when
they present "The Mikado" to pay for the new pipe-organ. Indeed, so used
is the town to our ways that when there was great talk last winter about
Mrs. Frelingheysen for serving fresh strawberries over the ice cream at
her luncheon in February, just after her husband had gone through
bankruptcy, she called up Miss Larrabee, our society editor, on the
telephone and asked her to make a little item saying that the
strawberries served by Mrs. Frelingheysen at her luncheon were not
fresh, but merely sun dried. This we did gladly and printed her recipe.
So used is this town to our school teachers resigning to get married
that when one resigns for any other reason we make it a point to
announce in the paper that it is not for the usual reason, and tell our
readers exactly what the young woman is going to do.

So, gradually, without our intending to establish it, a family
vernacular has grown up in the paper which our people understand, but
which--like all other family vernaculars--is Greek to those outside the
circle. Thus we say:

"Bill Parker is making his eighth biennial distribution of cigars to-day
for a boy."

City papers would print it:

"Born to Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Parker, a baby boy."

Again we print this item:

"Mrs. Merriman is getting ready to lend her fern to the Nortons, June

That doesn't mean anything, unless you happen to know that Mrs. Merriman
has the prettiest Boston fern in town, and that no bow-window is
properly decorated at any wedding without that fern. In larger towns the
same news item would appear thus:

"Cards are out announcing the wedding of Miss Cecil Norton and Mr.
Collis R. Hatcher at the home of the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. T. J.
Norton, 1022 High street, June 15."

A plain drunk is generally referred to in our columns as a "guest of
Marshal Furgeson's informal house-party," and when a group of
drunk-and-disorderlies is brought in we feel free to say of their
evening diversion that they "spent the happy hours, after refreshments,
playing progressive hell." And this brings us to the consideration of
the most important personage with whom we have to deal. In what we call
"social circles," the most important personages are Mrs. Julia Neal
Worthington and Mrs. Priscilla Winthrop Conklin, who keep two hired
girls and can pay five dollars a week for them when the prevailing
price is three. In financial circles the most important personage is
John Markley, who buys real-estate mortgages; in political circles the
most important personage is Charlie Hedrick who knows the railroad
attorneys at the capital and always can get passes for the county
delegation to the State convention; in the railroad-yards the most
important personage is the division superintendent, who smokes ten-cent
cigars and has the only "room with a bath" at the Hotel Metropole. But
with us, in the publication of our newspaper, the most important
personage in town is Marshal Furgeson.

If you ever looked out of the car-window as you passed through town, you
undoubtedly saw him at the depot, walking nervously up and down the
platform, peering into the faces of strangers. He is ever on the outlook
for crooks, though nothing more violent has happened in our county for
years than an assault and battery. But Marshal Furgeson never
relinquishes his watch. In winter, clad in his blue uniform and campaign
hat, he is a familiar figure on our streets; and in summer, without coat
or vest, with his big silver star on which is stamped "Chief of
Police," pinned to his suspender, he may be seen at any point where
trouble is least likely to break out. He is the only man on the town
site whom we are afraid to tease, because he is our chief source of
news; for if we ruffle his temper he sees to it that our paper misses
the details of the next chicken-raid that comes under his notice. He can
bring us to time in short order.

When we particularly desire to please him we refer to him as "the
authorities." If the Palace Grocery has been invaded through the back
window and a box of plug tobacco stolen, Marshal Furgeson is delighted
to read in the paper that "the authorities have an important clew and
the arrest may be expected at any time." He is "the authorities." If
"the authorities have their eyes on a certain barber-shop on South Main
Street, which is supposed to be doing a back-door beer business," he
again is "the authorities," and contends that the word strikes more
terror into the hearts of evil-doers than the mere name, Marshal

Next in rank to "the authorities," in the diplomatic corps of the
office, come our advertisers: the proprietors of the White Front
Dry-Goods Store, the Golden Eagle Clothing Store, and the Bee Hive.
These men can come nearer to dictating the paper's policy than the
bankers and politicians, who are supposed to control country newspapers.
Though we are charged with being the "organ" of any of half-a-dozen
politicians whom we happen to speak of kindly at various times, we have
little real use for politicians in our office, and a business man who
brings in sixty or seventy dollars' worth of advertising every month has
more influence with us than all the politicians in the county. This is
the situation in most newspaper offices that succeed, and when any other
situation prevails, when politicians control editors, the newspapers
don't pay well, and sooner or later the politicians are bankrupt.

The only person in town whom all the merchants desire us to poke fun at
is Mail-Order Petrie. Mail-Order Petrie is a miserly old codger who buys
everything out of town that he can buy a penny cheaper than the home
merchants sell it. He is a hard-working man, so far as that goes, and
so stingy that he has been accused of going barefooted in the summer
time to save shoes. When he is sick he sends out of town for patent
medicines, and for ten years he worked in his truck-garden, fighting
floods and droughts, bugs and blight, to save something like a hundred
dollars, which he put in a mail-order bank in St. Louis. When it failed
he grinned at the fellows who twitted him of his loss, and said: "Oh,
come easy, go easy!"

A few years ago he subscribed to a matrimonial paper, and one day he
appeared at the office of the probate judge with a mail-order wife, who,
when they had been married a few years, went to an orphan asylum and got
a mail-order baby. We have had considerable sport with Mail-Order
Petrie, and he has become so used to it that he likes it. Sometimes on
dull days he comes around to the office to tell us what a bargain he got
at this or that mail-order house, and last summer he came in to tell us
about a great bargain in a cemetery lot in a new cemetery being laid out
in Kansas City; he bought it on the installment plan, a dollar down and
twenty-five cents a month, to be paid until he died, and he bragged a
great deal about his shrewdness in getting the lot on those terms. He
chuckled as he said that he would be dead in five years at the most and
would have a seventy-five dollar lot for a mere song. He made us promise
that when that time does come we will write up his obsequies under the
head "A Mail-Order Funeral." He added, as he stood with his hand on the
door screen, that he had no use for the preachers and the hypocrites in
the churches in this town, and that he was taking a paper called the
"Magazine of Mysteries," that teaches some new ideas on religion and
that he expects to wind up in a mail-order Heaven.

And this is the material with which we do our day's work--Mail-Order
Petrie, Marshal Furgeson, the pretty girls in the flower parade, the
wise clubwomen, the cut-glass society crowd, the proud owner of the
automobile, the "respectable parties concerned," the proprietor of the
Golden Eagle, the clerks in the Bee Hive, the country crook who aspires
to be a professional criminal some day, "the leading citizen," who
spends much of his time seeing the sights of his country, the college
boys who wear funny clothes and ribbons on their hats, and the
politicians, greedy for free advertising. They are ordinary two-legged
men and women, and if there is one thing more than any other that marks
our town, it is its charity, and the mercy that is at the bottom of all
its real impulses.

Our business seems to outsiders to be a cruel one, because we have to
deal as mere business with such sacred things as death and birth, the
meeting and parting of friends, and with tragedies as well as with
comedies. This is true. Every man--even a piano tuner--thinks his
business leads him a dog's life, and that it shows him only the seamy
side of the world. But our business, though it shows the seams, shows us
more of good than of bad in men. We are not cynics in our office; for we
know in a thousand ways that the world is good. We know that at the end
of the day we have set down more good deeds than bad deeds, and that the
people in our town will keep the telephone bell ringing to-morrow, more
to praise the recital of a good action than they will to talk to us
about some evil thing that we had to print.

Time and again we have been surprised at the charity of our people. They
are always willing to forgive, and be it man or woman who takes a
misstep in our town--which is the counterpart of hundreds of American
towns--if the offender shows that he wishes to walk straight, a thousand
hands are stretched out to help him and guide him. It is not true that a
man or woman who makes a mistake is eternally damned by his fellows. If
one persists in wrong after the first misdeed it is not because
sheltering love and kindness were not thrown around the wrongdoer. We
have in our town women who have done wrong and have lived down their
errors just as men do, and have been forgiven. A hundred times in our
office we have talked these things over and have been proud of our
people and of their humanity. We are all neighbours and friends, and
when sorrow comes, no one is alone. The town's greatest tragedies have
proved the town's sympathy, and have been worth their cost.


The Young Prince

We have had many reporters for our little country newspaper--some good
ones, who have gone up to the city and have become good newspaper men;
some bad ones, who have gone back to the livery-stables from which they
sprang; and some indifferent ones, who have drifted into the insurance
business and have become silent partners in student boarding-houses,
taking home the meat for dinner and eating finically at the second table
of life, with a first table discrimination. But of all the boys who have
sat at the old walnut desk by the window, the Young Prince gave us the
most joy. Before he came on the paper he was bell-boy at the National
Hotel--bell-hop, he called himself--and he first attracted our attention
by handing in personal items written in a fat, florid hand. He seemed to
have second sight. He knew more news than anyone else in town--who had
gone away, who was entertaining company, who was getting married, and
who was sick or dying.

The day the Young Prince went to work he put on his royal garment--a
ten-dollar ready-made costume that cost him two weeks' hard work. But it
was worth the effort. His freckled face and his tawny shock of red hair
rose above the gorgeous plaid of the clothes like a prairie sunset, and
as he pranced off down the street he was clearly proud of his job. This
pride never left him. He knew all the switchmen in the railroad yards,
all the girls in the dry-goods stores, all the boys on the grocers'
waggons, all the hack-drivers and all the barbers in town.

These are the great sources of news for a country daily. The reporter
who confines his acquaintance to doctors, lawyers, merchants and
preachers is always complaining of dull days.

But there was never a dull day with the Young Prince. When he could get
the list of "those present" at a social function in no other way, he
called up the hired girl of the festal house--we are such a small town
that only the rich bankers keep servants--and "made a date" with her,
and the names always appeared in the paper the next day; whereupon the
proud hostess, who thought it was bad form to give out the names of her
guests, sent down and bought a dozen extra copies of the paper to send
away to her Eastern kin. He knew all the secrets of the switch shanty.
Our paper printed the news of a change in the general superintendent's
office of the railroad before the city papers had heard of it, and we
usually figured it out that the day after the letter denying our story
had come down from the Superintendent's office the change would be
officially announced.

One day when the Prince was at the depot "making the train" with his
notebook in his hand, jotting down the names of the people who got on or
off the cars, the general superintendent saw him, and called the youth
to his car.

"Well, kid," said the most worshipful one in his teasingest voice,
"What's the latest news at the general offices to-day?"

The Young Prince turned his head on one side like a little dog looking
up at a big dog, and replied:

"Well, if you must know it, you're going to get the can, though we
ain't printing it till you've got a chance to land somewhere else."

The longer the Prince worked the more clothes he bought. One of his most
effective creations was a blue serge coat and vest, and a pair of white
duck trousers linked by emotional red socks to patent-leather shoes.
This confection, crowned with a wide, saw-edged straw hat with a blue
band, made him the brightest bit of colour on the sombre streets of our
dull town. He wore his collars so high that he had to order them of a
drummer, and as he came down street from the depot, riding magnificently
with the 'bus-driver, after the train had gone, the clerks used to cry:
"Look out for your horses; the steam-piano is coming!"

But it didn't affect the Young Prince. If he happened to have time and
was feeling like it, he would climb down over the rear end of the 'bus
and chase his tormentor into the back of the store where he worked, but
generally the Young Prince took no heed of the jibes of the envious. He
was conscious that he was cutting a figure, and this consciousness made
him proud. But his pride did not cut down the stack of copy that he
laid on the table every morning and every noon. He couldn't spell and he
was innocent of grammar, and every line he wrote had to be edited, but
he got the news. He was every where. He rushed down the streets after an
item, dodging in and out of stores and offices like a streak of chain
lightning having a fit. But it was beneath his dignity to run to fires.
When the fire-bell rang, he waited nonchalantly on the corner near the
fire-department house, and as the crowds parted to let the horses dash
by on the dead run, he would walk calmly to the middle of the street,
put his notebook in his pocket, and, as the fire-team plunged by, he
would ostentatiously throw out a stiff leg behind him like the tail of a
comet, and "flip" onto the end of the fire-waggon. Then he would turn
slowly around, raise a hand, and wiggle his fingers patronisingly at the
girls in front of the Racket Store as he flew past, swaying his body
with the motion of the rolling, staggering cart.

Other reporters who have been on the paper--the good ones as well as the
bad--have had to run the gauntlet of the town jokers who delight to give
green reporters bogus news, or start them out hunting impossible items.
But the man who soberly told the Young Prince that O. F. C. Taylor was
visiting at the home of the town drunkard, or that W. H. McBreyer had
accepted a position in a town drug-store, only got a wink and a grin
from the boy. Neither did the town wags fool him by giving him a birth
announcement from the wrong family, nor a wedding where there was none.
He was wise as a serpent. Where he got his wisdom, no one knows. He had
the town catalogued in a sort of rogues' directory--the liars and the
honest men set apart from one another, and it was a classification that
would not have tallied with the church directories nor with the town
blue-book nor with the commercial agency's reports. The sheep and the
goats in the Young Prince's record would have been strangers to one
another if they could have been assembled as he imagined them. But he
was generally right in his estimates of men. He had a sixth sense for

The Young Prince had the sense to know the truth and the courage to
write it. This is the essence of the genius that is required to make a
good newspaper man. No paper has trouble getting reporters who can hand
in copy that records events from the outside. Any blockhead can go to a
public meeting and bring in a report that has the words "as follows"
scattered here and there down the columns. But the reporter who can go
and bring back the soul of the meeting, the real truth about it--what
the inside fights meant that lay under the parliamentary politenesses of
the occasion; who can see the wires that reach back of the speakers, and
see the man who is moving the wires and can know why he is moving them;
who can translate the tall talking into history--he is a real reporter.
And the Young Prince was that kind of a youth. He went to the core of
everything; and if we didn't dare print the truth--as sometimes we did
not--he grumbled for a week about his luck. As passionately as he loved
his clothes, he was always ready to get them dirty in the interests of
his business.

For three years his nimble feet pounded the sidewalks of the town. He
knew no business hours, and ate and slept with his work. He never ceased
to be a reporter--never took off his make-up, never let down from his
exalted part. One day he fell sick of a fever, and for three weeks
fretted and fumed in delirium. In his dreams he wrote pay locals, and
made trains, and described funerals, got lists of names for the society
column, and grumbled because his stuff was cut or left over till the
next day. When he awoke he was weak and wan, and they felt that they
must tell him the truth.

The doctor took the boy's hands and told him very simply what they
feared. He looked at the man for a moment in dumb wonder, and sighed a
long, tired sigh. Then he said: "Well, if I must, here goes"--and turned
his face to the wall and closed his eyes without a tremor.

And thus the Young Prince went home.


The Society Editor

They say that in the newspaper offices of the city men work in ruts;
that the editorial writer never reports an item, no matter how much he
knows of it; that a reporter is not allowed to express an editorial view
of a subject, even though he be well qualified to speak; but on our
little country daily newspaper it is entirely different. We work on the
interchangeable point system. Everyone writes items, all of us get
advertising and job-work when it comes our way, and when one of us
writes anything particularly good, it is marked for the editorial page.
The religious reporter does the racing matinée in Wildwood Park, and the
financial editor who gets the market reports from the feed-store men
also gets any church news that comes along.

The only time we ever established a department was when we made Miss
Larrabee society editor. She came from the high school, where her
graduating essay on Kipling attracted our attention, and, after an
office council had decided that a Saturday society page would be a
paying proposition.

At first, say for six months after she came to the office, Miss Larrabee
devoted herself to the accumulation of professional pride. This pride
was as much a part of her life as her pompadour, which at that time was
so high that she had to tiptoe to reach it. However she managed to keep
it up was the wonder of the office. Finally, we all agreed that she must
use chicken-fence. She denied this, but was inclined to be good-natured
about it, and, as an office-joke, the boys used to leave a step-ladder
by her desk so that she could climb up and see how her top-knot really
looked. Nothing ruffled her spirits, and we soon quit teasing her and
began to admire her work. In addition to filling six columns of the
Saturday's paper with her society report in a town where a church social
is important enough to justify publishing the names of those who wait on
the tables, Miss Larrabee was a credit to the office.

[Illustration: As an office joke the boys used to leave a step-ladder by
her desk so that she could climb up and see how her top-knot really

She was always invited to the entertainments at the homes of the
Worthingtons and the Conklins, who had stationary wash-tubs in the
basements of their houses, and who ate dinner instead of supper in the
evening; and when she put on what the boys called her trotting harness,
her silk petticoats rustled louder than any others at the party. One day
she suddenly dropped her pompadour and appeared with her hair parted in
the middle and doused over her ears in long, undulating billows. No
other girl in town came within a quarter of an inch of Miss Larrabee's
dare. When straight-fronts became stylish, Miss Larrabee was a vertical
marvel, and when she rolled up her sleeves and organized a country club,
she referred to her shoes as boots and took the longest steps in town.
But with it all she was no mere clothes-horse. We drilled it into her
head during her first two weeks that "society" news in a country town
means not merely the doings of the cut-glass set, but that it means as
well the doings of the Happy Hoppers, the Trundle-Bed Trash, the Knights
of Columbus, the Rathbone Sisters, the King's Daughters, the Epworth
League, the Christian Endeavourers, the Woman's Relief Corps, the
Ladies' Aid and the Home Missionary Societies, Miss Nelson's Dancing
Class, the Switchmen's annual ball--if we get their job-work--and every
kindred, every tribe, except such as gather in what is known as "kitchen
sweats" and occasionally send in calls for the police. When Miss
Larrabee got this into her head she began to groan under her burden, and
by the end of the year, though she had great pride in her profession,
she affected to loathe her department.

Weddings were her especial abominations. When the first social cloud
appeared on the horizon indicating the approach of a series of showers
for the bride which would culminate in a cloudburst at some stone
church, Miss Larrabee would begin to rumble like distant thunder and, as
the storm grew thicker, she would flash out crooked chain-lightning
imprecations on the heads of the young people, their fathers and mothers
and uncles and aunts. By the day of the wedding she would be rolling a
steady diapason of polite, decolourised, expurgated, ladylike profanity.

While she sat at her desk writing the stereotyped account of the event,
it was like picking up a live wire to speak to her. As she wrote, we
could tell at just what stage she had arrived in her copy. Thus, if she
said to the adjacent atmosphere, "What a whopper!" we knew that she had
written, "The crowning glory of a happy fortnight of social gatherings
found its place when----" and when she hissed out, "Mortgaged clear to
the eaves and full of installment furniture!" we felt that she had
reached a point something like this: "After the ceremony the gay party
assembled at the palatial home." In a moment she would snarl: "I am dead
tired of seeing Mrs. Merriman's sprawly old fern and the Bosworth palm.
I wish they would stop lending them!" and then we realised that she had
reached the part of her write-up which said: "The chancel rail was
banked with a profusion of palms and ferns and rare tropical plants."
She always groaned when she came to the "simple and impressive ring
ceremony." When she wrote:

"The distinguished company came forward to offer congratulations to the
newly-wedded pair," she would say as she sharpened her pencil-point:
"There's nothing like a wedding to reveal what a raft of common kin
people have," and we knew that it was all over and that she was closing
the article with: "A dazzling array of costly and beautiful presents was
exhibited in the library," for then she would pick up her copy, dog-ear
the sheets, and jab them on the hook as she sighed: "Another great
American pickle-dish exhibit ended."

In the way she did two things Miss Larrabee excited the wonder and
admiration of the office. One was the way that she kept tab on brides.
We heard through her of the brides who could cook, and of those who were
beginning life by accumulating a bright little pile of tin cans in the
alley. She knew the brides who could do their own sewing and those who
could not. She had the single girl's sniff at the bride who wore her
trousseau season after season, made over and fixed up, and she gave the
office the benefit of her opinion of the husband in the case who had a
new tailor-made suit every fall and spring. She scented young married
troubles from afar, and we knew in the office whether his folks were
edging up on her, or her people were edging up on him. If a young
married man danced more than twice in one evening with anyone but his
wife, Miss Larrabee made faces at his back when he passed the office
window, and if she caught a young married woman flirting, Miss Larrabee
regaled us by telling with whom the woman in question had opened a
"fresh bottle of emotions."

The other way in which Miss Larrabee displayed genius for her work was
in describing women's costumes. Three or four times a year, when there
are large social gatherings, we print descriptions of the women's gowns.
Only three women in our town, Mrs. Worthington, Mrs. Conklin, and the
second Mrs. Markley, have more than one new party dress in a
twelve-month, and most of the women make a party gown last two or three
years. Miss Larrabee was familiar with every dress in town. She knew it
made over, and no woman was cunning enough to conceal the truth even
with a spangled yoke, a chiffon bertha, or a net over-dress; yet Miss
Larrabee would describe the gown, not merely twice, but half a dozen
times, so that the woman wearing it might send the description to her
relatives back East without arousing their suspicion that she was
wearing the same dress year after year. Therefore, whenever Miss
Larrabee wrote up the dresses worn at a party, we were sure to sell from
fifty to a hundred extra papers. She could so turn a breastpin and a
homemade point-lace handkerchief tucked in the front of a good old
lady's best black satin into "point-lace and diamonds," that they were
always good for a dozen copies of the paper, and she never overlooked
the dress of the wife of a good advertiser, no matter how plain it might

She was worth her wages to the office merely as a compendium of shams.
She knew whether the bridal couple, who announced that they would spend
their honeymoon in the East, were really going to Niagara Falls, or
whether they were going to spend a week with his relatives in Decatur,
Illinois. She knew every woman in town who bought two prizes for her
whist party--one to give if her friend should win the prize, and another
to give if the woman she hated should win. With the diabolical eye of a
fiend she detected the woman who was wearing the dry-cleaned cast-off
clothing of her sister in the city. What she saw the office knew,
though she kept her conclusions out of the paper if they would do any
harm or hurt anyone's feelings. No pretender ever dreamed that she was
not fooling Miss Larrabee. She was willing to agree most sympathetically
with Mrs. Conklin, who insisted that the "common people" wouldn't be
interested in the list of names at her party; and the only place where
we ever saw Miss Larrabee's claw in print was in the insistent
misspelling of the name of a woman who made it a point to ridicule the

We have had other girls around the office since Miss Larrabee left, but
they do not seem to get the work done with any system. She was not only
industrious but practical. Friday mornings, when her work piled up,
instead of fussing around the office and chattering at the telephone,
she would dive into her desk and bring up her regular list of
adjectives. These she would copy on three slips, carefully dividing the
list so that no one had a duplicate, and in the afternoon each of the
boys received a slip with a list of parties, and with instructions to
scatter the adjectives she had given him through the accounts of the
parties assigned to him--and the work was soon done. There was no
scratching the head for synonyms for "beautiful," "superb" or "elegant."
Miss Larrabee had doled out to each of us the adjectives necessary, and,
given the adjectives, society reporting is easy. The editing of the copy
is easy also, for one does not have to remember whether or not the
refreshments were "delicious" at the Jones party when he sees the word
in connection with the viands at the Smith party. No two parties were
ever "elegant" the same week. No two events were "charming." No two
women were "exquisitely" gowned. The person who was assigned the
adjective "delightful" by Miss Larrabee might stick it in front of a
luncheon, pin it on a hostess, or use it for an evening's entertainment.
But he could use it only once. And with a list of those present and the
adjectives thereunto appertaining, even a new boy could get up a column
in half an hour. She had an artist's pride in the finished work, however
much she might dislike the thing in making, and she used to sail down to
the press-room as soon as the paper was out, and, picking up the paper
from the folder, she would stand reading her page, line upon line,
precept upon precept, though every word and syllable was familiar to

During her first year she joined the Woman's State Press Club, but she
discovered that she was the only real worker in the club and never
attended a second meeting. She told us that too many of the women wore
white stockings and low shoes, read their own unpublished short stories,
and regarded her wide-shouldered shirtwaist and melodramatic openwork
hosiery with suspicion and alarm.

As the years passed, and wedding after wedding sizzled under her pen,
she complained to us that she was beginning to be called "auntie" in too
many houses, and that the stock of available young men who didn't wear
their handkerchiefs under their collars at the dances had dwindled down
to three. This reality faces every girl who lives in a country town.
Then she is left with two alternatives: to go visiting or to begin
bringing them up by hand.

Miss Larrabee went visiting. At the end of a month she wrote: "It's all
over with me. He is a nice fellow, and has a job doing 'Live Topics
About Town' here on the _Sun_. Give my job to the little Wheatly girl,
and tell her to quit writing poetry, and hike up her dress in the back.
My adjectives are in the left-hand corner of the desk under 'When
Knighthood Was in Flower.' And do you suppose you could get me and the
grand keeper of the records and seals a pass home for Christmas if I'd
do you a New York letter some time?

"They say these city papers are hog tight!"


"As a Breath into the Wind"

We are proud of the machinery in our office--the two linotypes, the big
perfecting press and the little jobbers. They are endowed by office
traditions with certain human attributes--having their moods and
vagaries and tantrums--so we love them as men love children. And this is
a queer thing about them: though our building is pocked with windows
that are open by day seven months in the year, and though the air of the
building is clean enough, save for the smell of the ink, yet at night,
after the machines have been idle for many hours and are probably
asleep, the place smells like the lair of wild animals. By day they are
as clean as machines may be kept. And even in the days when David Lewis
petted them and coddled them and gave them the core of his heart, they
were speckless, and bright as his big, brown, Welsh eyes, but the night
stinks of them were rank and beastly.

David came to us, a stray cat, fifteen years ago. He was too small to
wrestle with the forms--being cast in the nonpareil mould of his
race--and so we put him to carrying papers. In school season he seemed
to go to school, and in summer it is certain that he put a box on a high
stool in the back room, and learned the printer's case, and fed the job
presses at odd times, and edged on to the pay-roll without ever having
been formally hired. In the same surreptitious manner he slipped a cot
into the stockroom upstairs and slept there, and finally had it fitted
up as a bedroom, and so became an office fixture.

By the time his voice had stopped squeaking he was a good printer, and
what with using the front office for a study at night, and the New York
papers and the magazines for textbooks, he had acquired a good working
education. Whereupon he fell in love with two divinities at once--the
blonde one working in the Racket Store, on Main Street, and the other, a
new linotype that we installed the year before McKinley's first
election. His heart was sadly torn between them. He never went to bed
under midnight after calling on either of them, and, having the Celt's
natural aptitude to get at the soul of either women or intricate
mechanism, in a year he was engaged to both; but naturally enough a
brain fever overtook him, and he lay on a cot at the Sisters' Hospital
and jabbered strange things.

Among other things the priest who sat beside him one day heard Latin
verse; whereat the father addressed David in the language of the Church
and received reply in kind. And they talked solemnly about matters
theological for five minutes, David's voice changing to the drone of the
liturgist's and his face flushing with uncaged joy. In an hour there
were three priests with the boy, and he spoke in Latin to them without
faltering. He discussed abstruse ecclesiastical questions and claimed
incidentally to be an Italian priest dead a score of years, and, to
prove his claim, described Rome and the Vatican as it was before Leo's
day. Then he fell asleep and the next day was better and knew no Latin,
but insisted on reading the note under his pillow which his girl had
sent him. After that he wanted to know how New York stood in the
National League and how Hans Wagner's batting record was, and proceeded
to get well in short order.

David resumed his place in the office, and when we put in the perfecting
press he added another string to his bow. The press and the linotype and
his girl were his life's passions, and his position as short-stop in the
Maroons, and as snare-drummer in the Second Regiment band, were his
diversions. He wore clothes well and became president of the Imperial
Dancing Club--chiefly to please his girl, who desired social position. A
boy with twelve dollars a week in a country town, who will spend a
dollar or two a month to have his clothes pressed, can accomplish any
social heights which rise before him, and there is no barrier in our
town to a girl merely because she presides at the ribbon-counter; which,
of course, is as it should be.

So David became a town personage. When the linotype operator left, we
gave David the place. Now he courted only one of his sweethearts by
night, and found time for other things. Also we gave him three dollars
a week more to spend, and the Imperial Club got most of it--generally
through the medium of the blonde in the Racket Store, who was
cultivating a taste for diamonds, and liked to wear flowers at the more
formal dances.

Now, unless they are about to be married, a boy of twenty may not call
on a girl of nineteen in a respectable family, a member of the Plymouth
Daughters, and a graduate of the High School, oftener than four nights
in the week, without exciting more or less neighbourly comment; but
David and the girl were merely going together--as the parlance of our
town has it--and though they were engaged they had no idea of getting
married at any definite time. David thus had three nights in the seven
which might be called open. The big press would not receive him by
night, and he spent his love on his linotype by day; so he was lonesome
and longed for the society of his kind. The billiard-hall did not tempt
him; but at the cigar-store he met and fell under the spell of Henry
Larmy--known of the town as "Old Hen," though he was not two score years
gone--and the two began chumming together.

"Old Hen" worked in a tin-shop, read Ruskin, regarded Debs as a prophet,
received many papers devoted to socialism and the New Thought, and
believed that he believed in no man, no God and no devil. Also he was a
woman-hater, and though he never turned his head for a petticoat,
preached free-love and bought many books which promised to tell him how
to become a hypnotist. At various times, Larmy's category of beliefs
included the single-tax, Buddhism, spiritualism, and a faith in the
curative properties of blue glass. David and Henry Larmy would sit in
the office of evenings discussing these things when honest people should
be in bed.

Henry never could tell us just how the talk drifted to hypnotism and the
occult, nor when the current started that way. But one of the reporters
who happened to be driven off the street by the rain one night found
Henry and David in the office with a homemade planchette doing queer
things. They made it tell words in the middle of pages of newspapers
that neither had opened. They made it write answers to sums that neither
had calculated, and they made it give the names of Henry's relatives
dead and gone--also those that were living, whom David, who was
operating it, did not know. The thing would not move for the man, but
the boy's fingers on it made it fly. Some way the triangular board
broke, and the reporter and Henry were pop-eyed with wonder to see David
hold his hands above the pencil and make it write, dragging a splinter
of board behind it. David yawned five or six times and lay down on the
office couch, and when he got up a moment later his hands were fingering
the air, his lips fluttering like the wings of fledglings, and he seemed
to be trying some new kind of lingo. He did not look about him, but went
straight to the table, gripped the air above the pencil with the broken
board upon it, and the pencil came up and began writing something,
evidently in verse. David's face was shiny and smiling the while, but
his eyes were fixed, though his lips moved as they do when one writes
and is unused to it. Larmy stared at the boy with open mouth, clearly
afraid of the spectacle that was before him. A night creaking of the
building made him jump, and he moistened his lips as the pencil wrote
on. When the sheet was filled, the pencil fell and David looked about
him with a smile and dropping his head on the desk began to yawn. He
seemed to be coming out of a deep sleep, and grinned up blinking: "Gee,
I must 'a' gone to sleep on you fellows. I was up late last night."

Larmy told the boy what had happened, and the three of them looked at
the paper, but could make nothing of it. David shook his head.

"Not on your life," he laughed. "What do you fellers take me for--a
phonograph having the D. T.'s, or a mimeograph with a past? Uh-huh! Not
for little David! Why--say, that is some kind of Dutch!"

The reporter knew enough to know that it was Latin, but his High School
days were five years behind him, and he could not translate it. The
Latin professor at the college, however, said that it seemed to be an
imitation of Ovid.

And the next time the reporter saw a light in the office window he broke
into the seance. When the boy and his girl were not holding down the
sofa at her father's home, or when there was no dance at the Imperial
Club hall, nor any other social diversion, David and Larmy and the
reporter would meet at the office and dive into things too deep for
Horatio's philosophy.

Their favourite theme was the immortality of the soul, and when they
were on this theme David would get nervous, pace up and down the office,
and finally throw himself on the lounge and begin to yawn. Whereupon a
control, or state of mind, or personality that called itself Fra
Guiseppi would rise to consciousness and dominate the boy. Larmy and the
reporter called it "father," and talked to it with considerable
jocularity, considering that the father claimed they were talking to a
ghost. It would do odd things for them; go into rooms where David had
never been: describe their furnishings and occupants accurately; read
the numbers on watches of prominent citizens, which the reporter would
verify the next day; and pretend to bring other departed spirits into
the room to discuss various matters. Larmy had a pleasant social chat
with Karl Marx, and had the spirits hunting all over the kingdom-come
for Tom Paine and Murat. But the messenger either could not find them,
or the line was busy with someone else, so these worthies never

Still, this must be said of the "father," that it had a philosophy of
life, and a distinct personality far deeper and more charming and in
some way sweeter than David's; that it talked with an accent, which to
the hearers seemed Italian, and in a voice that certainly could not have
been the boy's by any trick of ventriloquism. One night in their talks
Larmy said:

"'Father,' you say you believe that the judgments of God are just--how
do you account for the sufferings, the heartaches, the sorrows, the
misery that come in the wake of those judgments? Here is a great railway
accident that strikes down twenty people, renders some cripples for
life, kills others. Here is a flood that sweeps away the property of
good men and bad men. Is that just? What compensation is there for it?"

The "father" put his chin in one hand and remained silent for a time, as
one deep in thought; then he replied:

"That is--what you call--life. That is what makes life, life; what
makes it different from the existence we know now. All your misfortunes,
your hardships, your joys, all your miseries and failures and
triumphs--these are the school of the soul which you call life. It is a
preparation for the hereafter."

And David waking knew nothing of the thing that possessed him sleeping.
When they told him, he would smoke his cigarette, and make reply that he
must have had 'em pretty bad this time, or that he was glad he wasn't
that "buggy" when he was awake.

David's talent soon became known in the office. We used to call it his
spook, but only once did we harness it to practical business and that
was when old Charley Hedrick, the local boss, was picking a candidate
for the Legislature. The reporter and Larmy asked the "father" one night
if it could get us connected with Mr. Hedrick. It said it would try; it
needed help. And there appeared another personality with which they were
more or less familiar, called the Jew. The Jew claimed to be a literary
man, and said it would act as receiver while the father acted as
transmitter on Hedrick. Then they got this one-sided telephonic
conversation in a thick, wheezy voice that was astonishingly like

"Harmony--hell, yes; we're always getting the harmony and the
Worthington state bank gets the offices." Then a pause ensued. "Well,
let'em bolt. I'm getting tired of giving up the whole county ticket to
them fellows to keep 'em from bolting." After another pause, he seemed
to answer someone: "Oh, Bill?--you can't trust him! He's played both
sides in this town for ten years. What I want isn't a man to satisfy
them, but just this once I want a man who won't be even under the
suspicion of satisfying them. I want a fellow to satisfy me." The other
side of the telephone must have spoken, for this came: "Well, then,
we'll bust their damn bank! Did you see their last statement: cash down
to fifteen per cent. and no dividends on half a million assets for a
year and a half? Something's rotten there. They're a lot of 'toads in a
poisoned tank,' as old Browning says. If they want a fight, they can
have it." After the silence he replied: "I tell you fellows they can't
afford a fight. And, anyway, there'll never be peace in this town till
we get things on the basis of one bank, one newspaper, one wife and one
country, and the way to do that is to get out in the open and fight. If
I've got as much sense as a rabbit I say that Ab Handy is the man, and
whether I'm right or wrong I'm going to run him." He seemed to retort to
some objector: "Yes, and the first thing you know he'd come charging up
to the Speaker's desk with a maximum freight-rate bill, or a stock-yards
bill--and where would I be? I tell you he won't stand hitched. He'll
swell up like a pizened pup, and you couldn't handle him. Where'd any of
us be, if the Representative from this county got to pawing the air for
reform? I know Jake as though I'd been through him with a lantern."
There must have been a discussion of some kind among the others, for a
lengthy interim followed; then the voice continued: "Elect him?--of
course we can elect him. I can get five hundred from the State Committee
and we can raise that much down here. This is a Republican year, and we
could elect Judas Iscariot against any of the eleven brethren this year
on the Republican ticket, and I tell you it's Ab. You fellows can do as
you please, but I'm going to run Ab."

Then, being full of political curiosity rather than impelled by a desire
for psychological research, the reporter slipped out and waited in a
stairway opposite the Exchange National Bank building until the light in
Hedrick's law office was extinguished. Then he saw old Charley and his
henchmen come out, one at a time, look cautiously up and down the street
and go forth in different, devious ways. The story in our paper the next
day of the candidacy of Ab Handy threw consternation into the ranks of
the enemy. We had printed the conversation as it had occurred, after
which five men publicly contended that one of their number was a

The summer browned the pastures, and the coming of autumn brought
trouble for David Lewis, president of the Imperial Dancing Club,
short-stop for the Maroons, snare-drummer in the band, and operator of
linotypes. We who are at the period of life where love is a harvest
forget the days of the harrow, and are prone to smile at the season of
the seeding. We do not know that the heaviest burden God puts on a
young soul is a burden of the heart. A travelling silk-salesman, with a
haughty manner and a two-hundred-dollar job, saw the blonde in the
Racket Store and began calling at her father's home like the captain of
an army with banners. David, being only an armour-bearer at fifteen
dollars a week, found heartbreak in it all for him. A girl of twenty is
so much older than a boy of twenty-one that the blonde began to assume a
maternal attitude toward the boy, and he took to walking afield on
Sundays, looking at the sky in agony and asking his little
"now-I-lay-me" God, what life was given to him for. He fabricated a
legend that she was selling herself for gold, and when the haughty
manner and the blonde sped by David's window behind jingling
sleigh-bells that winter, David, sitting at the machine, got back proofs
from the front office that looked like war-maps of a strange country.
Moreover he let his matrices go uncleaned until they were beardy as
wheat and the bill of repairs on the machine had begun to rise like a
cat's back.

All of this may seem funny in the telling, but to see the little
Welshman's heart breaking in him was no pleasant matter. The girls in
the office pitied the boy, and hoped the silk-drummer would break her
heart. The town and the Imperial Club, whereof David was much beloved,
took sides with him, and knew his sorrow for their own. As for the
blonde, it was only nature asserting itself in her; so David got back
his little chip diamonds, and his bangle bracelet, and his copy of
"Riley's Love Songs," and there was the "mist and the blinding rain" for
him, and the snow of winter hardened on the sidewalks.

To console himself, the boy traded for a music-box, which he set going
with a long brass lever. Its various tunes were picked in holes on
circular steel sheets, which were fed into the box and set whirling with
the lever. At night when Larmy wasn't enjoying what David called a
spook-fest, the boy would sit in the office by the hour and listen to
his music-box. He must have played "Love's Golden Dream Is Past" a
hundred lonesome times that winter (it had been their favourite
waltz--his and the girl's--at the Imperial Club), and it was a safe
guess that if the boys in the office, as they passed the box at noon,
would give the lever a yank, from the abdomen of the contrivance the
waltz song would begin deep and low to rumble and swell out with all the
simulation of sorrow that a mechanical soul may express.

As the winter deepened, Larmy and the reporter and the "father" had more
and more converse. The "father" explained a theory of immortality which
did not interest the reporter, but which Larmy heard eagerly. It said
that science would resolve matter into mere forms of motion, which are
expressions of divine will, and that the only place where this divine
will exists in its pure state, eluding the so-called material state, is
in the human soul. Further, the "father" explained that this soul, or
divine will, exists without the brain, independent of brain tissue, as
may be proved by the accepted phenomena of hypnotism, where the soul is
commanded to leave the body and see and hear and feel and know things
which the mere physical organs can not experience, owing to the
interposition of space. The "father" said that at death the Divine Will
commands the ripened seed of life to leave the body and assume
immortality, just as that Will commands the seeds of plants and the
sperm of animals to assume their natural functions. The Thing that
talked through David's lips said that the body is the seed-pod of the
soul, and that souls grow little or much as they are planted and
environed and nurtured by life. All this it said in many nights, while
Larmy wondered and the reporter scoffed and stuck pins in David to see
if he could feel them. And the boy wakened from his dreams always to
say: "Gimme a cigarette!" and to reach over and pull the lever of his
music-box, and add: "Perfessor, give us a tune! Hen, the professor says
he won't play unless you give me a cigarette for him."

One night, after a long wrangle which ended in a discourse by the
"father," a strange thing happened. Larmy and It were contending as to
whether It was merely a hypnotic influence on the boy, of someone living
whom they did not know, or what It claimed to be, a disembodied spirit.
By way of diversion, the reporter had just run a binder's needle under
one of the boy's finger-nails to see whether he would flinch. Then the
Voice that was coming from David's mouth spoke and said: "I will show
you something to prove it;" and the entranced boy rose and went to the
back room, while the two others followed him.

He turned the lever that flashed the light on his linotype, and set the
little motor going. He lifted up the lid of the metal-pot, to see if the
fire was keeping it molten. Then the boy sat at the machine with his
hands folded in his lap, gazing at the empty copy-holder out of dead
eyes. In a minute--perhaps it was a little longer--a brass matrix
slipped from the magazine and clicked down into the assembler; in a
second or two another fell, and then, very slowly, like the ticks of a
great clock, the brasses slipped--slipped--slipped into their places,
and the steel spaces dropped into theirs. A line was formed, while the
boy's hands lay in his lap. When it was a full line he grabbed the
lever, that sent the line over to the metal-pot to be cast, and his hand
fell back in his lap, while the dripping of the brasses continued and
the blue and white keys on the board sank and rose, although no finger
touched them.

Larmy squinted at the thing, and held his long, fuzzy, unshaven chin in
his hand. When the second line was cast the reporter broke the silence
with: "Well, I'll be damned!" And the Voice from David's mouth replied:
"Very likely." And the clicking of the brasses grew quicker.

Seven lines were cast and then the boy got up and went back to the couch
in the front room, where he yawned himself, apparently, through three
strata of consciousness, into his normal self. They took a proof of what
had been cast, but it was in Latin and they could not translate it.
David himself forgot about it the next day, but the reporter, being
impressed and curious, took the proof to the teacher of Latin at the
college, who translated it thus: "_He shall go away on a long journey
across the ocean, and he shall not return, yet the whole town shall see
him again and know him--and he shall bring back the song that is in his
heart, and you shall hear it._"

The next week the "Maine" was blown up, and in the excitement the
troubles of David were forgotten in the office. Moreover, as he had to
work overtime he put his soul deeper into the machine, and his nerves
took on something of the steel in which he lived. The Associated Press
report was long in those days, and the paper was filled with local news
of wars and rumours of wars, so that when the call for troops came in
the early spring, the town was eager for it, and David could not wait
for the local company to form, but went to Lawrence and enlisted with
the Twentieth Kansas. He was our first war-hero for thirty years, and
the town was proud of him. Most of the town knew why he went, and there
was reproach for the blonde in the Racket Store, who had told the girls
it would be in June and that they were going East for a wedding trip.

When David came back from Lawrence an enlisted man, with a week in which
to prepare for the fray, the Imperial Club gave him a farewell dance of
great pride, in that one end of Imperial Hall was decorated for the
occasion with all the Turkish rugs, and palms, and ferns, and
piano-lamps with red shades, and American flags draped from the electric
fixtures, and all the cut-glass and hand-painted punch-bowls that the
girls of the T. T. T. Club could beg or borrow; and red lemonade and
raspberry sherbet flowed like water. Whereat David Lewis was so pleased
that he grew tearful when he came into the hall and saw the splendour
that had been made for him. But his soul, despite his gratitude to the
boys and girls who gave the party, was filled with an unutterable
sadness; and he sat out many dances under the red lamp-shades with the
various girls who had been playing sister to him; and the boys to whom
the girls were more than sisters were not jealous.

As for the blonde, she beamed and preened and smiled on David, but her
name was not on his card, and as the silk-salesman was on the road, she
had many vacant lines on her programme, and she often sat alone by a
card-table shuffling the deck that lay there. The boy's eyes were dead
when they looked at her and her smile did not coax him to her. Once when
the others were dancing an extra David sat across the room from her, and
she went to him and sat by him, and said under the music:

"I thought we were always going to be friends--David?" And after he had
parried her for a while, he rose to go away, and she said: "Won't you
dance just once with me, Dave, just for old sake's sake before you go?"
And he put down his name for the next extra and thought of how long it
had been since the last June dance. Old sake's sake with youth may mean
something that happened only day before yesterday.

The boy did not speak to his partner during the next dance but went
about debating something in his mind; and when the number was ended he
tripped over to the leader of the orchestra, whom he had hired for
dances a score of times, and asked for "Love's Golden Dream Is Past" as
the next "extra." It was his waltz and he didn't care if the whole town
knew it--they would dance it together. And so when the orchestra began
he started away, a very heart-broken, brown-eyed, olive-skinned little
Welshman, who barely touched the finger-tips of a radiant, overdeveloped
blonde with roses in her cheeks and moonlight in her hair. She would
have come closer to him but he danced away and only hunted for her soul
with his brown Celtic eyes. And because David had asked for it and they
loved the boy, the old men in the orchestra played the waltz over and
over again, and at the end the dancers clapped their hands for an
encore, and when the chorus began they sang it dancing, and the boy
found the voice which cheered the "Men of Harlech," the sweet, cadent
voice of his race, and let out his heart in the words.

When he led her to a seat, the blonde had tears on her eyelashes as she
choked a "good-by, Dave" to him, but he turned away without answering
her and went to find his next partner. It was growing late and the crowd
soon went down the long, dark stairway leading from Imperial Hall, into
the moonlight and down the street, singing and humming and whistling
"Love's Golden Dream," and the next day they and the town and the band
came down to the noon train to see the conquering hero go.

It was lonesome in the office after David went, and his music-box in the
corner was dumb, for we couldn't find the brass lever for it, though the
printers and the reporters hunted in his trunk and in every place they
could think of. But the lonesomest things in the world for him were the
machines. The big press grew sulky and kept breaking the web, and his
linotype took to absorbing castor-oil as if it were a kind of hasheesh.
The new operator could run the new machine, but David's seemed to resent
familiarity. It was six months before we got things going straight after
he left us.

He wrote us soldier letters from the Presidio, and from mid-ocean, and
from the picket-line in front of Manila. One afternoon the messenger-boy
came in snuffling with a sheet of the Press-report. David's name was
among the killed. Then we turned the column rules on the first page and
got out the paper early to give the town the news. Henry Larmy brought
in an obituary, the next day, which needed much editing, and we printed
it under the head "A Tribute from a Friend," and signed Larmy's name to

The boy had no kith or kin--which is most unusual for a Welshman--and
so, except in our office, he seemed to be forgotten. A month went by,
the season changed, and changed again, and a year was gone, when the
Government sent word to Larmy--whom the boy seemed to have named for
his next friend--that David's body would be brought back for burial if
his friends desired it. So in the fall of 1900, when the Presidential
campaign was at its height, the conquering hero came home, and we gave
him a military funeral. The body came to us on Labor Day, and in our
office we consecrated the day to David. The band and the militia company
took him from the big stone church where sometimes he had gone to
Sunday-school as a child, and a long procession of townsfolk wound
around the hill to the cemetery, where David received a salute of guns,
and the bugler played taps, and our eyes grew wet and our hearts were
touched. Then we covered him with flowers, whipped up the horses and
came back to the world.

That night, as it was at the end of a holiday, the Republican Committee
had assigned to our town, for the benefit of the men in the shops, one
of the picture-shows that Mark Hanna, like a heathen in his blindness,
had sent to Kansas, thinking our State, after the war, needed a spur to
its patriotism in the election. The crowd in front of the post-office
was a hundred feet wide and two hundred feet long, looking at the
pictures from the kinetoscope--pictures of men going to work in mills
and factories; pictures of the troops unloading on the coast of Cuba;
pictures of the big warships sailing by; pictures of Dewey's flagship
coming up the Hudson to its glory; pictures of the Spanish ships lying
crushed in Manila harbour.

Larmy and the reporter were sitting kicking their heels on the stone
steps of the post-office opposite the screen on which the pictures were
flickering. Some they saw and others they did not notice, for their talk
was of David and of the strange things he had shown to them.

"How did you ever fix it up in your mind?" asked Larmy.

"I didn't fix it up. He was too many for me," was the reporter's answer.

"The little rooster couldn't have faked it up?" questioned Larmy.

"No--but he might have hypnotised us--or something."

"Yes--but still, he might have been hypnotised by something himself,"
suggested Larmy, and then added: "That thing he did with the
linotype--say, wasn't that about the limit? And yet nothing has come of
that prophecy. That's the trouble. I've seen dozens of those things, and
they always just come up to the edge of proving themselves, but always
jump back. There is always----"

"My God, Larmy, look--look!" cried the reporter.

And the two men looked at the screen before them, just as the backward
sway of the crowd had ceased and horror was finding a gasping voice upon
the lips of the women; for there, walking as naturally as life, out of
the background of the picture, came David Lewis with his dark sleeves
rolled up, his peaked army hat on the back of his head, a bucket in his
hand, and as he stopped and grinned at the crowd--between the
lightning-flashes of the kinetoscope--they could see him wave his free
hand. He stood there while a laugh covered his features, and he put his
hand in his pocket and drew out a key-ring, which he waved, holding it
by some long, stemlike instrument. Then he snapped back into nothing.

And the operator of the machine, being in a hurry to catch the
ten-thirty train, went on with his picture-show and gave us President
McKinley and Mark Hanna sitting on the front steps of the home in
Canton, then followed the photograph of the party around the big table
signing the treaty of peace. As the crowd loosened and dissolved, Larmy
and the reporter stood silently waiting. Then, when they could get away
together, the reporter said:

"Come, let's go over to the shop and think about this thing."

When they opened the office door, the rank odour of the machinery came
to them with sickening force. They left the front door open and raised
the windows. The reporter began using a chisel on the top of a little
box with a Government frank on it, that had been placed upon the
music-box in the corner.

"We may as well see what David sent home," he grunted, as he jerked at
the stubborn nails, "anyway, I've got a theory."

Larmy was smoking hard. "Yes," he replied after a time; "we might as
well open it now as any time. The letter said all his things would be
found there. I guess he didn't have a great deal. Poor little devil,
there was no one much to get things for but you fellows and maybe me, if
he thought of us."

By this time the box was opened, and the reporter was scooping things
out upon the floor. There was an army uniform, that had something clinky
in the pockets, and wrapped in a magenta silk handkerchief was a carved
piece of ivory. In a camera plate-box was a rose, faded and crumbly, a
chip-diamond ring, a bangle bracelet, a woman's glove and a photograph.
These Larmy looked at as he smoked. They meant nothing to him, but the
reporter dived into the clothes for the clinky things. He came up with a
bunch of keys, and on it was the long brass lever which unlocked the
music in the box.

"Here," he said as he jingled the keys, "is the last link in our chain."
And he rose and went over to the box, uncovered it, and jabbed in the
lever with a nervous hand. There was a rolling and clinking inside.
Then, slowly, a harmony rose, and the tinkling that came from the box
resolved itself into a melody that filled the room. It was strong and
clear and powerful, and seemed to have a certain passion in it that may
have been struck like flint fire from the time and the place and the
spirit of the occasion. The two men stared dumbly as they listened. The
sound rose stronger and stronger; over and over again the song repeated
itself; then very gently its strength began to fail; and finally it sank
into a ghostly tinkle that still carried the melody till it faded into

"That," said the reporter, "is the song that was in his heart--'Love's
Golden Dream.' I'm satisfied."

"The last link," shuddered Larmy. "That which seemed corporeal has
melted 'as a breath into the wind.'"

The reporter shovelled the debris into the box, pushed it under a desk,
and the two men hurried to close the office. As they stood on the
threshold a moment, while the reporter clicked the key in the lock, a
paper rustled and they heard a mouse scamper across the floor inside the
empty room.

"Let's go home," shivered Larmy. They started north, which was the short
way home, but Larmy took hold of his companion's arm and said: "No,
let's go this way: there's an electric light here on the corner, and
it's dark down there."

And so they turned into the white, sputtering glare and walked on
without words.


The Coming of the Leisure Class

We all are workers in our town, as people are in every small town. It is
always proper to ask what a man does for a living with us, for none of
us has money enough to live without work, and until the advent of
Beverly Amidon, our leisure class consisted of Red Martin, the gambler,
the only man in town with nothing to do in the middle of the day; and
the black boys who loafed on the south side of the bank building through
the long afternoons until it was time to deliver the clothes which their
wives and mothers had washed. Everyone else in town works, and,
excepting an occasional picnic, there is no social activity among the
men until after sundown. But five years ago Beverly Amidon came to town,
and brought with him a large leisure and a taste for society which made
him easily the "glass of fashion and the mould of form" not only in our
little community, but all over this part of the State. Beverly and his
mother, who had come to make their home with her sister, in one of the
big houses on the hill, had money. How much, we had no idea. In a small
town when one has "money" no one knows just how much or how little, but
it must be over fifteen thousand dollars, otherwise one is merely "well

[Illustration: And brought with him a large leisure and a taste for

But Beverly was a blessing to our office. We never could have filled the
society column Saturday without him, for he was a continuous social
performance. He was the first man in town who dared to wear a flannel
tennis suit on the streets, and he was a whole year ahead of the other
boys with his Panama hat. It was one of those broad-brimmed Panamas,
full of heart-interest, that made him look like a romantic barytone, and
when under that gala façade he came tripping into the office in his
white duck clothes, with a wide Windsor tie, Miss Larrabee, the society
editor, who was the only one of us with whom he ever had any business,
would pull the string that unhooked the latch of the gate to her section
of the room and say, without looking up: "Come into the garden, Maud."
To which he made invariable reply: "Oh, Miss Larrabee, don't be so
sarcastic! I have a little item for you."

The little item was always an account of one of his social triumphs. And
there was a long list of them to his credit. He introduced ping-pong; he
gave us our first "pit party"; he held the first barn dance given in the
county; his was our first "tacky party"; and he gave the first
progressive buggy ride the young people had ever enjoyed, and seven
girls afterward confessed that on the evening of that affair he hadn't
been in the buggy with them five minutes before he began driving with
one hand--and his right hand at that. Still, when the crowd assembled
for supper at Flat Rock, the girls didn't hold his left handiwork
against him, and they admitted that he was just killing when he put on
one of their hats and gave an imitation of a girl from Bethany College
who had been visiting in town the week before. Beverly was always the
life of the company. He could make three kinds of salad dressing, two
kinds of lobster Newburgh and four Welsh rarebits, and was often the
sole guest of honour at the afternoon meetings of the T. T. T. girls,
before whom he was always willing to show his prowess. Sometimes he
gave chafing-dish parties whereat he served ginger ale and was real

He used to ride around the country bare-headed with two or three girls
when honest men were at work, and he acquired a fine leather-coloured
tan. He tried organising a polo club, but the ponies from the delivery
waggons that were available after six o'clock did not take training
well, and he gave up polo. In making horse-back riding a social
diversion he taught a lot of fine old family buggy horses a number of
mincing steps, so that thereafter they were impossible in the family
phaeton. He thereby became unpopular with a number of the heads of
families, and he had to introduce bridge whist in the old married set to
regain their favour. This cost him the goodwill of the preachers, and he
gave a Japanese garden party for the Epworth League to restore himself
in the church where he was accustomed to pass the plate on Sundays. Miss
Larrabee used to call him the first aid to the ennuied. But the Young
Prince, who chased runaways teams and wrote personal items, never
referred to him except as "Queen of the Hand-holders." For fun we once
printed Beverly Amidon's name among those present at a Mothers' League
meeting, and it was almost as much of a hit in the town as the time we
put the words, "light refreshments were served and the evening was spent
in cards and dancing," at the close of an account of a social meeting of
the Ministerial Alliance.

The next time Beverly brought in his little item he stopped long enough
to tell us that he thought that the people who laughed at our obvious
mistake in the list of guests of the Mothers' League were rather coarse.
One word brought on two, and as it was late in the afternoon, and the
paper was out, we bade Beverly sit down and tell us the story of his
life, and his real name; for Miss Larrabee had declared a dozen times
that Beverly Amidon sounded so much like a stage name that she was
willing to bet that his real name was Jabez Skaggs.

Beverly's greatest joy was in talking about his social conquests in
Tiffin, Ohio; therefore he soon was telling us that there was so much
culture in Tiffin, such a jolly lot of girls, so many pleasant homes,
and a most extraordinary atmosphere of refinement. He rattled along,
telling us what great sport they used to have running down to Cleveland
for theatre-parties, and how easy it was to 'phone to Toledo and get the
nicest crowd of boys one could wish to come over to the parties, and how
Tiffin was famous all over that part of Ohio for its exclusive families
and its week-end house-parties.

The Young Prince sat by listening for a time and then got up and leaned
over the railing around Miss Larrabee's desk. Beverly was confiding to
us how he got up the sweetest living pictures you ever saw and took them
down to Cleveland, where they made all kinds of money for the King's
Daughters. He told what gorgeous costumes the girls wore and what
stunning backgrounds he rigged up. The Young Prince winked at Miss
Larrabee as he straightened up and started for the door. Then he let
fly: "Were you Psyche at the Pool in that show, or a Mellin's Food

But Beverly deigned no reply and a little later in the conversation
remarked that the young men in this town were very bad form. He thought
that he had seen some who were certainly not gentlemen. He really
didn't see how the young ladies could endure to have such persons in
their set. He confided to Miss Larrabee that at a recent lawn-party he
had come upon a young man, who should be nameless, with his arm about a
young woman's waist.

"And, Miss Larrabee," continued Beverly in his solemnest tones, "A young
man who will put his arm around a girl will go further--yes, Miss
Larabee--much further. He will kiss her!" Whereat he nodded his head and
shook it at the awful thought.

Miss Larrabee drew in a shocked breath and gasped:

"Do you really think so, Mr. Amidon? I couldn't imagine such a thing!"

He had a most bedizened college fraternity pin, which he was forever
lending to the girls. During his first year in town, Miss Larrabee told
us, at least a dozen girls had worn the thing. Wherefore she used to
call it the Amidon Loan Exhibit.

He introduced golf into our town, and was able to find six men to join
his fifteen young ladies in the ancient sport. Two preachers, a young
dentist and three college professors were the only male creatures who
dared walk across our town in plaid stockings and knickerbockers, and
certainly it hurt their standing at the banks, for the town frowned on
golf, and confined its sport to baseball in the summer, football in the
autumn, and checkers in the winter.

That was a year ago. In the autumn something happened to Beverly, and he
had to go to work. There was nothing in our little town for him, so he
went to Kansas City. He did not seem to "make it" socially there, for he
wrote to the girls that Kansas City was cold and distant and that
everything was ruled by money. He explained that there were some nice
people, but they did not belong to the fast set. He was positively
shocked, he wrote, at what he heard of the doings at the Country
Club--so different from the way things went in Tiffin, Ohio.

For a long time we did not hear his name mentioned in the office.
Finally there came a letter addressed to Miss Larrabee. In it Beverly
said that he had found his affinity. "She is not rich," he admitted,
"but," he added, "she belongs to an old, aristocratic, Southern family,
through reduced circumstances living in retirement; very exclusive, very
haughty. I have counted it a privilege to be constantly associated with
people of such rare distinction. Her mother is a grand dame of the old
school who has opened her home to a few choice paid guests who feel, as
I do, that it is far more refreshing socially to partake of the gracious
hospitality of her secluded home than to live in the noisy, vulgar
hotels of the city. It was in this relation at her mother's home that I
met the woman who is to join her lot with mine." Thereafter followed the
date and place of the wedding, a description of the bride's dress, an
account of her lineage back to the "Revolutionary Georgia Governor of
that name," and fifty cents in stamps for extra papers containing an
account of the wedding.

In time we hope to teach our young men to roll down their shirt-sleeves
in the summer, our girls to wear their hats, our horses to quit prancing
in the shafts of the family buggy. In time bridge whist will wear itself
out, in time our social life will resume its old estate, and the owners
of the five dress-suits in town will return to their former distinction.
In time caste lines set by the advent of the leisure class will be
obliterated, and it will be no longer bad form for the dry-goods clerk
to dance with the grocery clerk's wife at the Charity Ball. But, come
what may, we shall always know that there was a time in the social
history of our town when we danced the two-step as they dance it in
Tiffin, Ohio, and wore knee-breeches and plaid stockings, and quit work
at four o'clock. Those were great days--"the glory that was Greece, the
grandeur that was Rome."


The Bolton Girl's "Position"

When she said she would like to "accept a position" with our paper, it
was all over between us. After that we knew that she was at least highly
improbable if not entirely impossible. But then we might have expected
as much from a girl who called herself Maybelle. There is, however, this
much to be said in Maybelle's favour: she was persistent. She did not
let go till it thundered! We could have stood it well enough if she had
limited her campaign for a job on the paper to an occasional call at the
office. But she had a fiendish instinct which told her who were the
friends we liked most to oblige: the banker, for instance, who carried
our overdrafts, the leading advertiser, the chairman of the printing
committee of the town council--and she found ways to make them ask if we
couldn't do something for Miss Bolton. She could teach school; indeed,
she had a place in the Academy. But she loathed school-teaching. She
had always felt that, if she could once get a start, she could make a
name for herself.

She had written something that she called "A Critique on Hamlet," which
she submitted to us, and was deeply pained when we told her that we
didn't care for editorial matter; that what our paper needed was the
names of the people in our own country town and county, printed as many
times a day or a week or a month as they could be put into type. We
tried to tell her that more important to us than the influence of the
Celtic element on our national life and literature was the fact that
John Jones of Lebo--that is to say, red John, as distinguished from
black John--or Jones the tinner, or Jones of the Possum Holler
settlement was in town with a load of hay. "Other papers," we explained
carefully, while she looked as sympathetic and intelligent as a collie,
"other papers might be interested in the radio-activity of uranium X;
they might care to print articles on the psychological phenomena of
mobs"--to which she snapped eager agreement with her eyes--"others,
with entire propriety, might be interested in inorganic evolution"--and
she cheeped "yes, yes" with feverish intensity--"but in our little local
paper we cared only for the person who could tell our readers with the
most delicacy and precision how many spoons Mrs. Worthington had to
borrow for her party, who had the largest number of finger-bowls in
town, what Mrs. Conklin paid for the broilers she served at her party
last February, and the name of the country woman who raised them, and
why it was that all the women failed to make Jennie's recipe for
sunshine cake work when they tried it." Such are the things that
interest our people, and he, she or it who can turn in two or three
columns a day of items setting forth these things in a good-natured way,
so that the persons mentioned will only grin and wonder who told it, is
good for ten dollars of our money every Saturday night.

Maybelle thought it was such interesting work, and her eyes floated in
tears of happiness at the thought of such joy. If she could only have a
chance! It would be just lovely--simply grand, and she knew she could do
it! Something in her innermost soul thrilled with a tintinabulation that
made her quiver with anticipation. Whereupon she went out and came back
in three days with five sheets of foolscap on which she had written an
article beginning: "When Memory draws aside the curtains of her magic
chamber, revealing the pictures meditation paints, and we see through
the windows of our dreams the sweet vale of yesterday, lying outside and
beyond; when stern Ambition, with relentless hand, turns us away from
all this to ride in the sombre chariot of Duty--then it is that
entrancing Pleasure beckons us back to sit by Memory's fire and sip our
tea with Maiden meditation." What it was all about no one ever found
out; but the Young Prince at the local desk who read it clear through
said that sometimes he thought that it was a report of a fire and at
other times it seemed like a dress-goods catalogue. It would have made
four columns. As he put the roll back in the drawer the Young Prince
rose and paced grandly out. At the front door he stopped and said:
"You'll never make anything out of her--she's a handholder! When a girl
begins to get corns on her hands, I notice she has mush on the brain!"

[Illustration: Sometimes he thought it was a report of a fire and at
other times it seemed like a dress-goods catalogue]

But Maybelle returned, and we went all over the same ground again. We
explained that what we wanted was short items--two or three lines
each--little references to home doings; something telling who has
company, who is sick, who is putting shingles on the barn or an "L" on
the house. And she said "Oh, yes!" so passionately that it seemed as
though she would bark or put her front feet on the table. One felt like
taking her jaws in his hands and pulling her ears.

The next time she came in she said that if we would just try her--give
her something to do--she was sure she could show us how well she could
do it. On a venture, and partly to get rid of her, we sent her to the
district convention of the Epworth League to write up the opening
meeting. About noon of the next day she brought in three sermons, and
said that she didn't get the list of officers nor the names of the choir
because they were all people who lived here and everyone knew them. Then
we explained in short, simple sentences that the sermons were of no
value, and that the names were what we desired. She dropped her eyes and
said meekly "Oh!" and told us how sorry she was. Also she said that if
it wasn't for a meeting of the T. T. T. girls that afternoon she would
go back and get the names. When she went out, the Young Prince, sitting
by the window with his pencil behind his ear and his feet on the table,
said: "I bet she can make the grandest fudge!" "And such lovely angel
food," put in Miss Larrabee, who was busy writing up the Epworth League

Miss Bolton's name was always among the lists we printed of the guests
at the Entre Nous Card Club, the Imperial Dancing Club, the "Giddy Young
Things" Club, the Art Club and the Shakespeare Club. But when she came
to the office she was full of anxiety at the frivolity of society. She
said that she so longed for intellectual companionship that she felt
sometimes as if she must fly to a place where she could find a soul that
would feel in unison with the infinite that thrilled her being. Far be
it from her to wish to coin the pulsations of her soul, but papa and
mamma did need her help so. She accented papa and mamma on the last
syllable and leaned forward and looked upward like a shirtwaist Madonna.
But writing locals someway didn't appeal to her. She wondered if we
could use a serial story. And then she went on: "Oh, I have some of the
sweetest things in my head! I know I could write them. They just tingle
through my blood like wine. I know I could write them--such sublime
things--but when I sit down to put them on paper something always comes
up that prevents my going on with them. There are dozens whirling
through my brain begging to be written. There is one about the earl who
has imprisoned the young princess in a dungeon, and her lover, a knight
of the cross, comes home from a crusade and is put in the cell next to
her. A bird that she has been feeding through her prison window takes a
lock of her golden hair to the window where her lover is looking out
across the beautiful world, not knowing that she, too, has fallen into
the earl's clutches. And, oh, yes! there is another about Cornelia who
lived in a moated tower, and all the dukes and lords and kings in the
land had laid suit to her hand, and she could find none who came up to
her highest ideal, so she set them a task--and, oh, a lot more about
what they did; I haven't thought that out--but anyway she married the
red duke Wolfang who spurned her task and took her by night with his
retainers away from the tower, saying her love was his Holy Grail and to
get her was the object of his pilgrimage. Oh, it's just grand."

No, we don't use serials and when we do we buy them in stereotyped
plates by the pound. This made Miss Bolton droop, with another
disappointed "Oh." The grain of the world seems so coarse when one looks
at it closely.

We did not see Miss Bolton at the office for a long time after the duke
abducted the lady in the moated grange, but we received a poem signed M.
B. "To Dan Cupid," and another on "My Heart of Fire." Also there came an
anonymous communication in strangely familiar fat vertical handwriting
to the effect that "some people in this town think that if a young lady
has a gentleman friend call on her more than twice a week it is their
business to assume a courtship. They should know that there are souls
on this earth whose tendrils reach into the infinite beyond the gross
materiality of this mundane sphere to a destiny beyond the stars." At
the bottom of the page were the words: "Please publish and oblige a

The next that we heard of Miss Bolton was that she was running pink and
blue baby-ribbon through her white things, and was expecting a linen
shower from the T. T. T. girls, a silver shower from the "Giddy Young
Things," a handkerchief shower from the Entre Nous girls, and a kitchen
shower from the Imperial Club. Miss Larrabee, the society editor, began
to hate Miss Bolton with the white-hot hate which all society editors
turn on all brides. Miss Larrabee was authority for the statement that
Maybelle had used five hundred yards of baby-ribbon--pink and blue and
white and yellow--in her trousseau, and that she was bestowing the same
passionate fervour on her hemstitching and tucking that she had wasted
on literature; that she was helping papa and mamma by shouldering the
biggest wedding on them since the Tomlinsons went into bankruptcy after
their firework ceremonial. Miss Larrabee said that Papa Bolton's
livery-stable was burning up so fast that she wanted to call out the
fire department, and that Mamma Bolton made her think of the
patent-medicine testimonials we printed from "poor tired women."

The day of the wedding the blow came. A very starched-up little boy with
strawberry juice frescoed around his mouth brought in a note from
Maybelle and a tightly-rolled manuscript tied with blue baby-ribbon. In
the note she said that she thought it would be so romantic to "write up
her own wedding--recalling the dear, dead days when she was a neophyte
in letters." We handed the manuscript to Miss Larrabee, from whom, as
she read, came snorts: "'Drawing-room!' Huh! 'Music-room.' Heavens to
Betsy! 'Peculiar style of beauty!' Oh, joy! 'Looked like a wood-nymph in
the morn.' Wouldn't that saturate you! 'The Apollo-like beauty of the
groom.'" Miss Larrabee groaned as she rose, and putting her raincoat on
the floor by her chair she exclaimed: "Do you people know what I am
going to do? I have got to lie right down here and have a fit!"


"By the Rod of His Wrath"

Saturday afternoons, when the town is full, and farmers are coming in to
the office to pay their subscriptions for the _Weekly_, it is our habit,
after the paper is out, to sit in the office and look over Main Street,
where perhaps five hundred people are milling, and consider with one
another the nature of our particular little can of angle-worms and its
relation to the great forces that move the world. The town often seems
to us to be dismembered from the earth, and to be a chunk of humanity
drifting through space by itself, like a vagrant star, forgotten of the
law that governs the universe. Go where our people will, they find
change; but when they come home, they look out of the hack as they ride
through town, seeing the old familiar buildings and bill-boards and
street-signs, and say with surprise, as Mathew Boris said after a busy
and eventful day in Kansas City, where he had been marketing his
steers: "Well, the old town seems to keep right on, just the same."

The old men in town seem always to have been old, and though the
middle-aged do sometimes step across the old-age line, the young men
remain perennially young, and when they grow fat or dry up, and their
hair thins and whitens, they are still called by their diminutive names,
and to most of us they are known as sons of the old men. Here a new
house goes up, and there a new store is built, but they rise slowly, and
everyone in town has time to go through them and over them and criticise
the architectural taste of the builders, so that by the time a building
is finished it seems to have grown into the original consciousness of
the people, and to be a part of their earliest memories. We send our
children to Sunday-school, and we go to church and learn how God's
rewards or punishments fell upon the men of old, as they were faithful
or recreant; but we don't seem to be like the men of old, for we are
neither very good nor very bad--hardly worth God's while to sort us over
for any uncommon lot. Only once, in the case of John Markley, did the
Lord reach into our town and show His righteous judgment. And that
judgment was shown so clearly through the hearts of our people that very
likely John Markley does not consider it the judgment of God at all, but
the prejudice of the neighbours.

When we have been talking over the case of John Markley in the office we
have generally ended by wondering whether God--or whatever one cares to
call the force that operates the moral laws, as well as those that in
our ignorance we set apart as the physical laws of the world--whether
God moves by cataclysm and accidents, or whether He moves with blessing
or chastisement, through human nature as it is, in the ordinary business
of the lives of men. But we have never settled that in our office any
more than they have in the great schools, and as John Markley, game to
the end, has never said what he thought of the town's treatment of him,
it will never be known which side of our controversy is right.

Years ago, perhaps as long ago as the drought of seventy-four, men began
calling him "Honest John Markley." He was the fairest man in town, and
he made money by it, for when he opened his little bank Centennial year,
which was the year of the big wheat crop, farmers stood in line half an
hour at a time, at the door of his bank, waiting to give him their
money. He was a plain, uncollared, short-whiskered man, brown-haired and
grey-eyed, whose wife always made his shirts and, being a famous cook in
town, kept him round and chubby. He referred to her as "Ma," and she
called him "Pa Markley" so insistently that when we elected him State
Senator, after he made his bank a National bank, in 1880, the town and
county couldn't get used to calling him Senator Markley, so "Pa Markley"
it was until after his Senatorial fame had been forgotten. Their
children had grown up and left home before the boom of the eighties
came--one girl went to California and the boy to South America;--and
when John Markley began to write his wealth in six figures--which is
almost beyond the dreams of avarice in a town like ours--he and his wife
were lonely and knew little what to do with their income.

They bought new furniture for the parlour, and the Ladies' Missionary
Society of the First Methodist Church, the only souls that saw it with
the linen jackets off, say it was lovely to behold; they bought
everything the fruit-tree man had in his catalogue, and their five acres
on Exchange Street were pimpled over with shrubs that never bloomed and
with trees that never bore fruit. He passed the hat in church--being a
brother-in-law to the organisation, as he explained; sang "Tramp, Tramp,
Tramp, the Boys Are Marching" at Grand Army entertainments, and always
as an encore dragged "Ma" out to sing with him "Dear, Dear, What Can the
Matter Be." She was a skinny, sharp-eyed, shy little woman in her late
fifties when the trouble came. She rose at every annual meeting of the
church to give a hundred dollars but her voice never lasted until she
got through announcing her donation, and she sat down demurely, blushing
and looking down her nose as though she had disgraced the family. She
had lost a brother in the war, and never came further out of mourning
than purple flowers in her bonnet. She bought John Markley's clothes, so
that his Sunday finery contained nothing giddier than a grey made-up
tie, that she pinned around the collars which her own hands had ironed.

Slowly as their fortune piled up, and people said they had a million,
his brown beard grizzled a little, and his brow crept up and up and his
girth stretched out to forty-four. But his hands did not whiten or
soften, and though he was "Honest John," and every quarter-section of
land that he bought doubled in value by some magic that he only seemed
to know, he kept the habits of his youth, rose early, washed at the
kitchen basin, and was the first man at his office in the morning. At
night, after a hard day's work he smoked a cob-pipe in the basement,
where he could spit into the furnace and watch the fire until nine
o'clock, when he put out the cat and bedded down the fire, while "Ma"
set the buckwheat cakes. They never had a servant in their house.

We used to see John Markley pass the office window a dozen times a day,
a hale, vigorous man, whose heels clicked hard on the sidewalk as he
came hurrying along--head back and shoulders rolling. He was a powerful,
masculine, indomitable creature, who looked out of defiant, cold,
unblinking eyes as though he were just about to tell the whole world to
go to hell! The town was proud of him. He was our "prominent citizen,"
and when he was elected president of the district bankers' association,
and his name appeared in the papers as a possible candidate for United
States Senator or Minister to Mexico or Secretary of the Interior, we
were glad that "Honest John Markley" was our fellow-townsman.

And then came the crash. Man is a curious creature, and, even if he is
nine parts good, the old Adam in him must burn out one way or another in
his youth, or there comes a danger period at the height of his middle
life when his submerged tenth that has been smouldering for years flares
up and destroys him. Wherefore the problem which we have never been able
to solve, though we have talked it over in the office a dozen times:
whether John Markley had begun to feel, before he met the Hobart woman,
that he wasn't getting enough out of life for the money he had invested
in it; or whether she put the notion in his head.

It is scarcely correct to speak of his having met her, for she grew up
in the town, and had been working for the Markley Mortgage and
Investment Company for half-a-dozen years before he began to notice her.
From a brassy street-gadding child of twelve, whose mother crowded her
into grown-up society before she left the high school, and let her spell
her name Ysabelle, she had grown into womanhood like a rank weed; had
married at nineteen, was divorced at twenty-one, and having tried music
teaching and failed, china painting and failed, she learned stenography
by sheer force of her own will, with no instruction save that in her
book, and opened an office for such work as she could get, while aiming
for the best job in town--the position of cashier and stenographer for
the Markley Mortgage Company. It took her three years to get in and
another year to make herself invaluable. She was big and strong, did the
work of two men for the pay of one, and for five years John Markley, who
saw that she had plenty of work to do, did not seem to know that she was
on earth. But one day "Alphabetical" Morrison, who was in our office
picking up his bundle of exchanges, looked rather idly out of the
window, and suddenly rested his roving eyes upon John Markley and Mrs.
Hobart, standing and talking in front of the post office. The man at the
desk near Morrison happened to be looking out at that moment, and he,
too, saw what Morrison saw--which was nothing at all, except a man
standing beside a woman. Probably the pair had met in exactly the same
place at exactly the same time, and had exchanged an idle word daily for
five years! and no one had noticed it, but that day Morrison
unconsciously put his hand to his chin and scratched his jaw, and his
eyes and the man's at the desk beside him met in a surprised
interrogation, and Morrison's mouth and nose twitched, and the other man
said, as he turned his face into his work, "Well, wouldn't that get

The conversation went no further. Neither could have said what he saw.
But there is something in every human creature--a survival of our jungle
days, which lets our eyes see more than our consciousness records in
language. And these men, who saw Markley and the woman, could not have
defined the canine impression which he gave them. Yet it was there. The
volcano was beginning to smoke.

It was a month later before the town saw the flames. During that time
John Markley had been walking to and from his midday dinner with Isabel
Hobart, had been helping her on and off with her wraps in the office,
and had been all but kicking up the dirt behind him and barking around
her, as the clerks there told us, without causing comment. An honest man
always has such a long start when he runs away from himself that no one
misses him until he is beyond extradition. Matters went along thus for
nearly a year before the woman in the cottage on Exchange Street knew
how they stood. And that speaks well of our town; for we are not a mean
town, and if anyone ever had our sympathy it was Mrs. Markley, as she
went about her quiet ways, giving her missionary teas, looking after the
poor of her church, making her famous doughnuts for the socials, doing
her part at the Relief Corps chicken-pie suppers, digging her club paper
out of the encyclopædia, and making over her black silk the third time
for every day. If John Markley was cross with her in that time--and the
neighbours say that he was; if he sat for hours in the house without
saying a word, and grumbled and flew into a rage at the least ruffling
of the domestic waters--his wife kept her grief to herself, and even
when she left town to visit her daughter in California no one knew what
she knew.

A month passed, two months passed, and John Markley's name had become a
by-word and a hissing. Three months passed, a year went by, and still
the wife did not return. And then one day Ab Handy, who sometimes
prepared John Markley's abstracts, came into our office and whispered to
the man at the desk that there was a little paper filed in the court
which, under the circumstances, Mr. Markley would rather we would say as
little about as is consistent with our policy in such cases. Handy
didn't say what it was, and backed out bowing and eating dirt, and we
sent a boy hot-foot to the court-house to find out what had been filed.
The boy came back with a copy of a petition for divorce that had been
entered by John Markley, alleging desertion. John Markley did not face
the town when he brought his suit, but left for Chicago on the
afternoon train, and was gone nearly a month. The broken little woman
did not come back to contest the case, and the divorce was granted.

The day before his marriage to Isabel Hobart, John Markley shaved off
his grizzled brown beard, and showed the town a face so strong and
cunning and brutal that men were shocked; they said that she wished to
make him appear young, and the shave did drop ten years from his
countenance; but it uncovered his soul so shamelessly that it seemed
immodest to look at his face. Upon the return from the wedding trip, the
employees of the Markley Mortgage Company, at John Markley's suggestion,
gave a reception for the bride and groom, and the Lord laid the first
visible stripe on John Markley while he stood with his bride for three
hours, waiting for the thousand invited guests who never came.
"Alphabetical" Morrison, who owed John Markley money, and had to go,
told us in the office the next day that John Markley in evening clothes,
with his great paunch swathed in a white silk vest, smirking like a
gorged jackal, showing his fellow-townsmen for the first time his
coarse, yellow teeth and his thin, cruel lips, looked like some horrible
cartoon of his former self. Colonel Morrison did not describe the bride,
but she passed our office that day, going the rounds of the dry-goods
stores, giggling with the men clerks--a picture of sin that made men wet
their lips. She was big, oversexed, and feline; rattling in silks, with
an aura of sensuousness around her which seemed to glow like a coal,
without a flicker of kindness or shame or sweetness, and which all the
town knew instinctively must clinker into something black and ugly as
the years went by.

So the threshold of the cottage on Exchange Street was not darkened by
our people. And when the big house went up--a palace for a country town,
though it only cost John Markley $25,000--he, who had been so reticent
about his affairs in other years, tried to talk to his old friends of
the house, telling them expansively that he was putting it up so that
the town would have something in the way of a house for public
gatherings; but he aroused no responsive enthusiasm, and long before the
big opening reception his fervour had been quenched. Though we are a
curious people, and though we all were anxious to know how the inside of
the new house looked, we did not go to the reception; only the socially
impossible, and the travelling men's wives at the Metropole, whom Mrs.
Markley had met when she was boarding during the week they moved,
gathered to hear the orchestra from Kansas City, to eat the Topeka
caterer's food, and to fall down on the newly-waxed floors of the
Markley mansion. But our professional instinct at the office told us
that the town was eager for news of that house, and we took three
columns to write up the reception. Our description of the place began
with the swimming pool in the cellar and ended with the ballroom in the
third story.

It took John Markley a long time to realise that the town was done with
him, for there was no uprising, no demonstration, just a gradual
loosening of his hold upon the community. In other years his neighbours
had urged him and expected him to serve on the school-board, of which he
had been chairman for a dozen years, but the spring that the big house
was opened Mrs. Julia Worthington was elected in his place. At the June
meeting of the Methodist Conference a new director was chosen to fill
John Markley's place on the college board, and when he cancelled his
annual subscription no one came to ask him to renew it. In the fall his
party selected a new ward committeeman, and though Markley had been
treasurer of the committee for a dozen years, his successor was named
from the Worthington bank, and they had the grace not to come to Markley
with the subscription-paper asking for money. It took some time for the
sense of the situation to penetrate John Markley's thick skin; whereupon
the fight began in earnest, and men around town said that John Markley
had knocked the lid off his barrel. He doubled his donation to the
county campaign fund; he crowded himself at the head of every
subscription-paper; and frequently he brought us communications to
print, offering to give as much money himself for the library, or the
Provident Association, or the Y. M. C. A., as the rest of the town would
subscribe combined. He mended church roofs under which he never had
sat; he bought church bells whose calls he never heeded; and paid the
greater part of the pipe-organ debts in two stone churches. Colonel
Morrison remarked in the office one day that John Markley was raising
the price of popular esteem so high that none but the rich could afford
it. "But," chuckled the Colonel, "I notice old John hasn't got a corner
on it yet, and he doesn't seem to have all he needs for his own use."
The wrench that had torn open his treasure chest, had also loosened John
Markley's hard face, and he had begun to smile. He became as affable as
a man may who has lived for fifty years silent and self-contained. He
beamed upon his old friends, and once or twice a week he went the rounds
of the stores making small purchases, to let the clerks bask in his

If a new preacher came to town the Markleys went to his church, and Mrs.
Markley tried to be the first woman to call on his wife.

All the noted campaign speakers assigned to our town were invited to be
the Markleys' guests, and Mrs. Markley sent her husband, red necktied,
high-hatted and tailor-made, to the train to meet the distinguished
guest. If the man was as much as a United States Senator, Markley hired
the band, and in an open hack rode in solemn state with his prize
through the town behind the tinkling cymbals, and then, with much
punctility, took the statesman up and down Main Street afoot, into all
the stores and offices, introducing him to the common people. At such
times John Markley was the soul of cordiality; he seemed hungry for a
kind look and a pleasant word with his old friends. About this time his
defiant eyes began to lose their boring points, and to wander and hunt
for something they had lost. When we had a State convention of the
dominant party, the Markleys saw to it that the Governor and all the
important people attending, with their wives, stopped in the big house.
The Markleys gave receptions to them, which the men in our town dared
not ignore, but sent their wives away visiting and went alone. This
familiarity with politicians probably gave the Markleys the idea that
they might help their status in the community if John Markley ran for
Governor. He announced his candidacy, and the Kansas City papers, which
did not appreciate the local situation, spoke well of him; but his boom
died in the first month, when some of his old friends called at the back
room of the bank to tell him that the Democrats would air his family
affairs if he made another move. He looked up pitiably into Ab Handy's
face when the men were done talking and said: "Don't you suppose they'll
ever quit? Ain't they no statute of limitation?" And then he arose and
stood by his desk with one arm akimbo and his other hand at his temple
as he sighed: "Oh hell, Ab--what's the use? Tell 'em I'm out of it!"

Mrs. Markley seems to have shut him out of the G. A. R., thinking maybe
that the old boys and their wives were not of her social level, or
perhaps she had some idea of playing even with them, because their wives
had not recognised her; but she shut away much of her husband's social
comfort when she barred his comrades, and they in turn grew harder
toward him than they were at first. As the Markleys entered their second
year, Mrs. Markley alone in the big house, with only the new people from
the hotel to eat her dinners, and with only the beer-drinking crowd from
the West Side to dance in the attic ballroom, had much time to think,
and she bethought her of the lecturers who were upon the college lecture
course, whereupon John Markley had to carve for authors and explorers,
and an occasional Senator or Congressman, who, after a hard evening's
work on the platform, paid for his dinner and lodging by sitting up on a
gilded high-backed and uncomfortable chair in the stately reception-room
of the Markley home, talking John Markley into a snore, before Isabel
let them go to bed. Isabel sent the accounts of these affairs to the
office for us to print, with the lists of invited guests, who never
accepted. And the town grinned.

At the end of two years John Markley's fat wit told him that it was a
losing fight. He had been dropped from the head of the Merchants'
Association; he was cut off from the executive committee of the Fair; he
was not asked to serve on the railroad committee. His old friends, whom
he asked over to spend the evening at his house, always had good
excuses, which they gave him later over the telephone, and their wives,
who used to call him by his first name, scarcely recognised him on the
street. He quit coming to our office with pieces for the paper telling
the town his views on this or that local matter; and gradually gave up
the fight for his old place on the school board.

The clerks in the Markley Mortgage Company office say that he fell into
a moody way, and would come to the office and refuse to speak to anyone
for hours. Also, as the big house often glowed until midnight for a
dance of the socially impossible who used the Markley ballroom, rent
free, as a convenience, John Markley grew to have a sleepy look by day,
and lines came into his red, shaved face. He grew anxious about his
health, and a hundred worries tightened his belt and shook his great fat
hand, just the least in the world, and when through some gossip that his
wife brought him from the kitchen he felt the scorn of an old friend
burn his soul like a caustic, for many days he would brood over it.
Finally care began to chisel down his flinty face, to cut the fat from
his bull neck, so that the cords stood out, and, through staring in
impotent rage and pain at the ceiling in the darkness of the night, red
rims began to worm around his eyes. He was not sixty years old then,
and he had lashed himself into seventy.

However his money-cunning did not grow dull. He kept his golden touch
and his impotent dollars piled higher and higher. The pile must have
mocked Isabel Markley, for it could bring her nothing that she wanted.
She stopped trying to give big parties and receptions. Her social
efforts tapered down to little dinners for the new people in town. But
as the dinner hour grew near she raged--so the servants said--whenever
the telephone rang, and in the end she had to give up even the dinner

[Illustration: As the dinner hour grew near she raged--so the servants
said--whenever the telephone rang]

So there came a time when they began to take trips to the seashore and
the mountains, flitting from hotel to hotel. In the office we knew when
they changed quarters, for at each resort John Markley would see the
reporters and give out a long interview, which was generally prefaced by
the statement that he was a prominent Western capitalist, who had
refused the nomination for Governor or for Senator, or for whatever
Isabel Markley happened to think of; and papers containing these
interviews, marked in green ink, came addressed to the office in her
stylish, angular hand. During grand opera season one might see the
Markleys hanging about the great hotels of Chicago or Kansas City, he a
tired, sleepy-faced, prematurely old man, who seemed to be counting the
hours till bed-time, and she a tailored, rather overfed figure, with a
freshly varnished face and unhealthy, bright, bold eyes, walking
slightly ahead of her shambling companion, looking nervously about her
in search of some indefinite thing that was gone from her life.

One day John Markley shuffled into our office, bedizened as usual, and
fumbled in his pocket for several minutes before he could find the copy
of the _Mexican Herald_ containing the news of his boy's death in Vera
Cruz. He had passed the time of life for tears, yet when he asked us to
reprint the item he said sadly: "The old settlers will remember
him--maybe. I don't know whether they will or not." He seemed a pitiful
figure as he dragged himself out of the office--so stooped and weazened,
and so utterly alone, but when he turned around and came back upon some
second thought, his teeth snapped viciously as he snarled: "Here, give
it back. I guess I don't want it printed. They don't care for me,

The boys in his office told the boys in our office that the old man was
cross and petulant that year, and there is no doubt that Isabel Markley
was beginning to find her mess of pottage bitter. The women around town,
who have a wireless system of collecting news, said that the Markleys
quarrelled, and that she was cruel to him. Certain it is that she began
to feed on young boys, and made the old fellow sit up in his evening
clothes until impossible hours, for sheer appearance sake, while his bed
was piled with the wraps of boys and girls from what our paper called
the Hand-holders' Union, who were invading the Markley home, eating the
Markley olives and canned lobster, and dancing to the music of the
Markley pianola. Occasionally a young travelling man would be spoken of
by these young people as Isabel Markley's fellow.

Mrs. Markley began to make fun of her husband to the girls of the
third-rate dancing set whose mothers let them go to her house; also, she
reviled John Markley to the servants. It was known in the town that she
nicknamed him the "Goat." As for Markley, the fight was gone from him,
and his whole life was devoted to getting money. That part of his brain
which knew the accumulative secret kept its tireless energy; but his
emotions, his sensibilities, his passions seemed to be either atrophied
or burned out, and, sitting at his desk in the back room of the Mortgage
Company's offices, he looked like a busy spider spinning his web of gold
around the town. It was the town theory that he and Isabel must have
fought it out to a finish about the night sessions; for there came a
time when he went to bed at nine o'clock, and she either lighted up and
prepared to celebrate with the cheap people at home, or attached one of
her young men, and went out to some impossible gathering--generally
where there was much beer, and many risqué things said, and the women
were all good fellows. And thus another year flew by.

One night, when the great house was still, John Markley grew sick and,
in the terror of death that, his office people say, was always with him,
rose to call for help. In the dark hall, feeling for an electric-light
switch, he must have lost his way, for he fell down the hard oak
stairs. It was never known how long he lay there unable to move one-half
of his body, but his wife stood nearly an hour at the front door that
night, and when she finally switched on the light, she and the man with
her saw Markley lying before them with one eye shut and with half his
face withered and dead, the other half around the open eye quivering
with hate. He choked on an oath, and shook at her a gnarled bare arm.
Her face was flushed, and her tongue was unsure, but she laughed a
shrill, wicked laugh and cried: "Ah, you old goat; don't you double your
fist at me!"

Whereupon she shuddered away from the shaking figure at her feet and
scurried upstairs. And the man standing in the doorway, wondering what
the old man had heard, wakened the house, and helped to carry John
Markley upstairs to his bed.

It was nearly three months before he could be wheeled to his office,
where he still sits every day, spinning his golden web and filling his
soul with poison. They say that, helpless as he is, he may live for a
score of years. Isabel Markley knows how old she will be then. A
thousand times she has counted it.

To see our town of a summer twilight, with the families riding abroad
behind their good old nags, under the overhanging elms that meet above
our newly-paved streets, one would not think that there could exist in
so lovely a place as miserable a creature as John Markley is; or as
Isabel, his wife, for that matter. The town--out beyond Main Street,
which is always dreary and ugly with tin gorgons on the cornices--the
town is a great grove springing from a bluegrass sod, with porch boxes
making flecks of colour among the vines; cannas and elephant ears and
foliage plants rise from the wide lawns; and children bloom like moving
flowers all through the picture.

There are certain streets, like the one past the Markley mansion, upon
which we make it a point always to drive with our visitors--show streets
we may as well frankly call them--and one of these leads down a wide,
handsome street out to the college. There the town often goes in its
best bib and tucker to hear the lecturers whom Mrs. Markley feeds. Last
winter one came who converted Dan Gregg--once Governor, but for ten
years best known among us as the town infidel. The lecturer explained
how matter had probably evolved from some one form--even the elements
coming in a most natural way from a common source. He made it plain that
all matter is but a form of motion; that atoms themselves are divided
into ions and corpuscles, which are merely different forms of electrical
motion, and that all this motion seems to tend to one form, which is the
spirit of the universe. Dan said he had found God there, and, although
the pious were shocked, in our office we were glad that Dan had found
his God anywhere. While we were sitting in front of the office one fine
evening this spring, looking at the stars and talking of Dan Gregg's God
and ours, we began to wonder whether or not the God that is the spirit
of things at the base of this material world might not be indeed the
spirit that moves men to execute His laws. Men in the colleges to-day
think they have found the moving spirit of matter; but do they know His
wonderful being as well as the old Hebrew prophets knew it who wrote
the Psalms and the Proverbs and the wisdom of the Great Book. That
brought us back to the old question about John Markley. Was it God,
moving in us, that punished Markley "by the rod of His wrath," that used
our hearts as wireless stations for His displeasure to travel through,
or was it the chance prejudice of a simple people? It was late when we
broke up and left the office--Dan Gregg, Henry Larmy, the reporter, and
old George. As we parted, looking up at the stars where our ways divided
out under the elms, we heard, far up Exchange Street, the clatter of the
pianola in the Markley home, and saw the high windows glowing like lost
souls in the night.


"A Bundle of Myrrh"

One of the first things that a new reporter on our paper has to learn is
the kinology of the town. Until he knows who is kin to whom, and how, a
reporter is likely at any time to make a bad break. Now, the kinology of
a country town is no simple proposition. After a man has spent ten years
writing up weddings, births and deaths, attending old settlers' picnics,
family reunions and golden weddings, he may run into a new line of kin
that opens a whole avenue of hitherto unexplainable facts to him,
showing why certain families line up in the ward primaries, and why
certain others are fighting tooth and toe-nail.

The only person in town who knows all of our kinology--and most of that
in the county, where it is a separate and interminable study--is "Aunt"
Martha Merryfield. She has lived here since the early fifties, and was a
Perkins, one of the eleven Perkins children that grew up in town; and
the Perkinses were related by marriage to the Mortons, of whom there are
over fifty living adult descendants on the town-site now. So one begins
to see why she is called "Aunt Martha" Merryfield. She is literally aunt
to over a hundred people here, and the habit of calling her aunt has
spread from them to the rest of the population.

She lives alone in the big brick house on the hill, though her children
and grandchildren and great-grandchildren are in and out all day and
most of the night, so that she is not at all lonesome. She is the only
person to whom we can look for accurate information about local history,
and when a man dies who has been at all prominent in affairs of the town
or county or State, we always call up "Aunt" Martha on the 'phone, or
send a reporter to her, to learn the real printable and unprintable
truth about him. She knows whom he "went with" before he was married,
and why they "broke off," and what crowd he associated with in the early
days; how he got his money, and what they used to "say" about him. If a
family began putting on frills, she can tell how the head of the house
got his start by stealing "aid" sent to the grasshopper sufferers and
opening a store with the goods. If a woman begins speaking of the hired
girl as her "maid," contrary to the vernacular rules of the town, Aunt
Martha does not hesitate to bring up the subject of the flour-sack
underwear which the woman wore when she was a girl during the drought of

Aunt Martha used to bring us flowers for the office table, and it was
her delight to sit down and take out her corn-knife--as she called
it--and go after the town shams. She has promised a dozen times to write
an article for the paper, which she says we dare not print, entitled
"Self-made Women I Have Known." She says that men were always bragging
about how they had clerked, worked on farms, dug ditches and whacked
mules across the plains before the railroads came; but that their wives
insisted that they were princesses of the royal blood. She says she is
going to include in her Self-made Women only those who have worked out,
and she maintains that we will be surprised at the list.

Her particular animosity in the town is Mrs. Julia Neal Worthington.
Aunt Martha told us that when Tim Neal came to town he had a brogue you
could scrape with a knife and an "O" before his name you could hoop a
hogshead with. "And that woman," exclaimed Aunt Martha, when she was
under full sail, "that woman, because she has two bookcases in the front
room and reads the book-reviews in the _Delineator_, thinks that she is
cultured. When her folks first came to town they were as poor as Job's
turkey, which was not to their discredit--everyone was poor in those
days. The old man Neal was as honest an old Mick as you'd meet in a
day's journey, or at a fair, and he used to run a lemonade and peanut
stand down by the bank corner. But his girls, who were raised on it,
until they began teaching school, used to refer to the peanut stand as
'papa's hobby,' pretend that he only ran it for recreation, and say:
'Now _why_ do you suppose papa enjoys it?--We just can't get him to give
it up!' And now Julia is president of the Woman's Federation, has
stomach trouble, has had two operations, and is suffering untold agonies
with acute culturitis. And yet," Aunt Martha would say through a
beatific smile, "she's a good-enough woman in many ways, and I wouldn't
say anything against her for the world."

Once Miss Larrabee, the society editor, brought back this from a visit
to Aunt Martha: "I know, my dear, that your paper says there are no
cliques and crowds in society in this town, and that it is so
democratic. But you and I know the truth. We know about society in this
town. We know that if there ever was a town that looked like a side of
bacon--streak of lean and streak of fat all the way down--it is this
blessed place. Crowds?--why, I've lived here over fifty years and it was
always crowds. 'Way back in the days when the boys used to pick us up
and carry us across Elm Creek when we went to dances, there were crowds.
The girls who crossed on the boys' backs weren't considered quite proper
by the girls who were carried over in the boys' arms. And they didn't
dance in the same set."

Miss Larrabee says she looked into the elder woman's eyes to find which
crowd Aunt Martha belonged to, when she flashed out:

"Oh, child, you needn't look at me--I did both; it depended on who was
looking! But, as I was saying, if anyone knows about society in this
town, I do. I went to every dance in town for the first twenty-five
years, and I have made potato salad to pay the salary of every Methodist
preacher for the past thirty years, and I ought to know what I'm talking
about." There was fire enough to twinkle in her old eyes as she spoke.
"Beginning at the bottom, one may say that the base of society is the
little tads, ranging down from what your paper calls the Amalgamated
Hand-holders, to the trundle-bed trash just out of their kissing games.
It's funny to watch the little tads grow up and pair off and see how
bravely they try to keep in the swim. I've seen ten grandchildren get
out and I've a great-grandchild whose mother will be pushing her out
before she is old enough to know anything. When young people get married
they all say they're not going to be old-marriedy, and they hang on to
the dances and little hops until the first baby comes. Then they don't
get out to the dances much, but they join a card club."

In her dissertation on the social progress of young married people, Aunt
Martha explained that after the second year the couple go only to the
big dances where everyone is invited, but they pay more attention to
cards. The young mother begins going to afternoon parties, and has the
other young married couples in for dinner. Then, before they know it,
they are invited out to receptions and parties, where little tads
preside at the punch-bowls and wait on table, and are seen and not
heard. Aunt Martha continued:

"By the time the second baby comes they take one of two shoots--either
go in for church socials or edge into a whist club. In this town, I
think, on the whole, that the Congregational Whist Club is younger and
gayer than the Presbyterian Whist Club, but in most towns the
Episcopalians have the really fashionable club. Of course, these clubs
never call themselves by the church names, but they are generally made
up along church lines--except we poor Methodists and Baptists--we have
to divide ourselves out among the others to keep the preacher from going
after us."

Aunt Martha's eyes danced with the mischief in her heart as she went on:
"Now, if after the second baby comes, the young parents begin to feel
like saving money, and being someone at the bank, they join the church
and go in for church socials, which don't take so much time or money as
the whist clubs and receptions. The babies keep coming and the young
people keep on improving their home, moving from the little house to the
big house; the young man's name begins to creep into lists of directors
at the bank, and they are invited out to the big parties, and she goes
to all the stand-up and 'gabble-gobble-and-git' receptions. As they grow
older, they are asked with the preachers and widows for the first night
of a series of parties at a house to get them out of the way and over
with before the young folks come later in the week. When they get to a
point where the young folks laugh and clap their hands at little pudgy
daddy when he dances 'Old Dan Tucker' at the big parties in the brick
houses, it's all up with them--they are old married folks, and the next
step takes them to the old folks' whist club, where the bankers' wives
and the insurance widows run things. That is the inner sanctuary, the
holy of holies in the society of this town."

After a pause Aunt Martha added: "You'd think, to hear these chosen
people talk, that the benighted souls who go to missionary teas, Woman's
Relief Corps chicken-pie suppers, and get up bean-dinners for the church
on election day, live on another planet. Yet I guess we're all made of
the same kind of mud.

"That reminds me of the Winthrops. When they came here, back in the
sixties, it happened to be Fourth of July, and the band was out playing
in the grove by the depot. Mrs. Winthrop got off the train quite grandly
and bowed and waved her hand to the band, and the Judge walked over and
gave the band leader five dollars. They said afterward that they felt
deeply touched to find a raw Western town so appreciative of the coming
of an old New England family, that it greeted them with a band. Before
Mrs. Winthrop had been here three weeks she called on me, 'as one of the
first ladies of the town,' she said, to organise and see if we couldn't
break up the habit of the hired girls eating at the table with the
family." Aunt Martha smiled and her eyes glittered as she added: "After
they organised, the titled aristocracy of this town did their own work
and sent the washing out for a year or more."

The talk drifted back to the old days, and Aunt Martha got out her
photograph-album and showed Miss Larrabee the pictures of those whom she
called "the rude forefathers of the village," in their quaint old
costumes of war-times. In the book were baby pictures of middle-aged
men and women, and youthful pictures of the old men and women of
the town. But most interesting of all to Miss Larrabee were the
daguerreotypes--quaint old portraits in their little black boxes, framed
in plush and gilt. The old woman brought out picture after picture--her
husband's among the others, in a broad beaver hat with a high choker
taken back in Brattleboro before he came to Kansas. She looked at it for
a long minute, and then said gaily to Miss Larrabee: "He was a handsome
boy--quite the beau of the State when we were married--Judge of the
District Court at twenty-four." She held the case in her hand and went
on opening the others. She came to one showing a moustached and goateed
youth in a captain's uniform--a slim, straight, soldierly figure. As she
passed it to Miss Larrabee Aunt Martha looked sidewise at her, saying:
"You wouldn't know him now. Yet you see him every day, I suppose." After
the girl shook her head, the elder woman continued: "Well, that's Jim
Purdy, taken the day he left for the army." She sighed as she said: "Let
me see, I guess I haven't happened to run across Jim for ten years or
more, but he didn't look much like this then. Poor old Jim, they tell me
he's not having the best time in the world. Someway, all the old-timers
that are living seem to be hard up, or in bad health, or unhappy. It
doesn't seem right, after what they've done and what they've gone
through. But I guess it's the way of life. It's the way life gets even
with us for letting us outlive the others. Compensation--as Emerson

[Illustration: "Jim Purdy, taken the day he left for the army"]

Miss Larrabee came down the lilac-bordered walk from the stately old
brick house, carrying a great bouquet of sweet peas and nasturtiums and
poppies and phlox, a fleeting memory of some association she had in her
mind of Uncle Jimmy Purdy and Aunt Martha kept tantalising her. She
could not get it out of the background of her consciousness, and yet it
refused to form itself into a tangible conception. It was associated
vaguely with her own grandmother, as though, infinite ages ago, her
grandmother had said something that had lodged the idea in the girl's

When the occasion made itself, Miss Larrabee asked her grandmother the
question that puzzled her, and learned that Martha Perkins and Jim Purdy
were lovers before the war, and that she was wearing his ring when he
went away--thinking he would be back in a few weeks with the Rebellion
put down. In his first fight he was shot in the head and was in the
hospital for a year, demented; when he was put back in the ranks he was
captured and his name given out among the killed. In prison his dementia
returned and he stayed there two years. Then for a year after his
exchange he followed the Union Army like a dumb creature, and not until
two years after the close of the war did the poor fellow drift home
again, as one from the dead--all uncertain of the past and unfitted for
the future.

And his sweetheart drank her cup alone. The old settlers say that she
never flinched nor shrank, but for years, even after her marriage to the
Judge, the young woman kept a little grave covered with flowers, that
bore the simple words: "Martha, aged five months and three days." They
say that she did not lose her courage and that she bent her head for no
one. But the war brought her neighbours so many sorrows that Martha's
trouble was forgotten, the years passed and only the old people of the
community know about the little grave beside the Judge's and their
little boy's. Jimmy Purdy grew into a smooth-faced, unwrinkled, rather
blank-eyed old man, clerking in the bookstore for a time, serving as
City Clerk for twenty years, and later living at the Palace Hotel on his
pension. He worshipped Aunt Martha's children and her children's
children, but he never saw her except when they met in some casual way.
She was married when he came back from the war, and if he ever knew her
agony he never spoke of it. Whenever he talked of the events before the
war, his face wore a troubled, baffled look, and he did not seem to
remember things clearly. He was a simple old man with a boyish face and
heart who was confused by the world growing old around him.

One day they found him dead in his bed. And Miss Larrabee hurried out to
Aunt Martha's to get the facts about his life for the paper. It was a
bright October morning as she went up the walk to the old brick house,
and she heard someone playing on the piano, rolling the chords after the
grandiose manner of pianists fifty years ago. A voice seemed to be
singing an old ballad. As the girl mounted the steps the voice came more
distinctly to her. It was quavering and unsure, but with a moan of
passion the words came forth:

     "As I lay my heart on your dead heart,--Douglas, Douglas, Douglas,
     tender and true----"

Suddenly the voice choked in a groan. As she stood by the open door Miss
Larrabee could see in the darkened room the figure of an old woman
racked with sobs on a great mahogany sofa, and on the floor beside her
lay a daguerreotype, glinting its gilt and glass through the gloom.

The girl tiptoed across the porch, down the steps through the garden and
out of the gate.


Our Loathed but Esteemed Contemporary

No one remembers a time when there were not two newspapers in our
town--generally quarrelling with each other. Though musicians and
doctors and barbers are always jealous of their business rivals, and
though they show their envy more or less to their discredit, editors are
so jealous of one another, and so shameless about it, that the
profession has been made a joke. Certainly in our town there is a
deep-seated belief that if one paper takes one side of any question,
even so fair a proposition as street-paving, the other will take the
opposing side.

Of course, our paper has not been contrary; but we have noticed a good
many times--every one in the office has noticed it, the boys and girls
in the back-office, and the boys and girls in the front-office--that
whenever we take a stand for anything, say for closing the stores at
six o'clock, the General swings the _Statesman_ into line against it. If
he has done it once he has done it fifty times in the last ten years;
and, though we have often felt impelled to oppose some of the schemes
which he has brought forward, it has been because they were bad for the
town, and perhaps because, even though they did seem plausible, we knew
that the unscrupulous gang that was behind these schemes would in some
way turn them into a money-making plot to rob the people. We never could
see that justification in the _Statesman_'s position. To us it seemed
merely pigheadedness. But the passing years are teaching us to
appreciate the General better, and each added year is seeming to make us
more tolerant of his shortcomings.

Counting in the three years he was in the army, he has been running the
_Statesman_ for forty-five years, and for thirty-five years he was
master of the field. For thirty years this town was known as General A.
Jackson Durham's town. He ran the county Republican conventions, and
controlled the five counties next to ours, so that, though he could
never go to Congress himself, on account of his accumulation of enemies,
he always named the successful candidate from the district, and for a
generation held undisturbed the selection of post-masters within his
sphere of influence. In State politics he was more powerful than any
Congressman he ever made. Often he came down to the State Convention
with blood in his eye after the political scalp of some politician who
had displeased him, and the fight he made and the disturbance he
started, gave him the name of Old Bull Durham. On such occasions, he
would throw back his head, shut his eyes and roar his wrath at his
opponents in a most disquieting manner, and when he returned home,
whether he had won or lost his fight, his paper would bristle for two or
three weeks with rage, and his editorial page would be full of lurid
articles written in short exclamatory sentences, pocked with italics,
capital letters and black-faced lines.

[Illustration: He advertised the fact that he was a good hater by
showing callers at his office his barrel]

For General A. Jackson Durham was a fire-eater and was proud of it. He
advertised the fact that he was a good hater by showing his barrel to
callers at his office. In that barrel he had filed away every
disreputable thing that he had been able to find against friend or foe,
far or near, and when the friend became a foe, or the foe became
troublesome, the General opened his barrel. He kept also an office
blacklist, on which were written the names of the men in town that were
never to be printed in the _Statesman_. When we established our little
handbill of a newspaper, he made all manner of fun of our "dish-rag," as
he called it, and insisted on writing so much about our paper that
people read it to see what we had to say. Other papers had made the
mistake of replying to the General in kind, and people had soon tired of
the quarrel and dropped the new quarrelling paper for the old one. The
State never had seen the General's equal as a wrangler; but we did not
fight back, and there was only a one-sided quarrel for the people to
tire of. We grew and got a foothold in the town, but the General never
admitted it. He does not admit it now, though his paper has been cut
down time and again, and is no larger than our little dish-rag was in
the beginning. But he still maintains his old assumption of the power
that departed years ago. He walked proudly out of the County Convention
the day that it rode over him, and he still begins the names of the new
party leaders in the county in small letters to show his contempt for

The day of his downfall in the County Convention marked the beginning of
his decline in State politics. When it was known that his county was
against him, people ceased to fear him and in time new leaders came in
the State whom he did not know even by sight; but the General did not
recognise them as leaders. To him they were interlopers. He sent his
paper regularly to the old leaders, who had been shoved aside as he had
been, and wrote letters to them urging them to arouse the people to
throw off the chains of bossdom. Five years ago he and a number of
lonesome and forgotten ones, who formerly ruled the State with an iron
hand, and whose arrogance had cost the party a humiliating defeat,
organised the "Anti-Boss League," and held semi-annual conventions at
the capital. They made long speeches and issued long proclamations, and
called vehemently upon the people to rend their chains, but some way the
people didn't heed the call, and the General and his boss-busters, as
they were called, began to have hard work getting their "calls" and
"proclamations" and "addresses" into the city papers. The reporters
referred to them as the Ancient Order of Has-Beens, and wounded the
General's pride by calling him Past Master of the Grand Lodge of Hons.
He came home from the meeting of the boss-busters at which this insult
had been heaped upon him and bellowed like a mad bull for six months,
using so much space in his paper that there was no room at all for local

In the General's idea of what a newspaper should contain; news does not
come first, and he does not mind crowding it out. He believes that a
newspaper should stand for "principles." The _Statesman_ was started
during the progress of the Civil War, when issues were news, and the
General has never been able to realize that in times of peace people buy
a newspaper for its news and not for its opinions. He never could
understand our attitude toward what he called "principles." When the
town was for free silver, we were for the gold standard, and we never
exerted ourselves particularly for a high tariff, and when the General
saw our paper grow in spite of its heresies, he was amazed, and
expressed his amazement in columns of vitriolic anger. Because we often
ignored "issues" and "principles" and "great basic and fundamental
ideas," as he called his contentions on the silver and tariff questions,
for lists of delegates at conventions, names of pupils at the county
institute, and winners of prizes at the fair, he was filled with alarm
for the future of the noble calling of journalism.

Long ago we quit making fun of him. One day we wrote an article
referring to him as "the old man," and it was gossiped among the
printers that he was cut to the heart. He did not reply to that, and
although a few days later he referred to us as thieves and villains, we
never had the heart to tease him again, and now every one around the
office has instructions to put "General" before his name whenever it is
used. Probably this cheers him up. At least it should do so, for in
spite of his pride and his much advertised undying wrath, he is in truth
a tender-hearted old man, and has never been disloyal to the town. It is
the apple of his eye. His fierceness has always been more for
publication than as an evidence of good faith. He likes to think that he
is unforgiving and relentless, but he has a woman's heart. He fought the
renomination of Grant for a third term most bitterly, but when the old
commander died, the boys in the _Statesman_ office say that Durham
sniffled gently while he wrote the obituary, and when he closed with the
words "Poor Grant," he laid his head on the table and his frame shook in
real sorrow.

Most of the subscribers have left his paper, and few of the advertisers
use it, but what seems to hurt him worst is his feeling that the town
has gone back on him. He has given all of his life to this town; he has
spent thousands of dollars to promote its growth; he has watched every
house on the town-site rise, and has made an item in his paper about it;
he has written up the weddings of many of the grandmothers and
grandfathers of the town; he has chronicled the birth of their children
and children's children. The old scrapbooks are filled with kind things
that the General has written. Old men and old women scan these wrinkled
pages with eyes that have lost their lustre, and on the rusty clippings
pasted there fall many tears. In this book many a woman reads the little
verse below the name of a child whom only she and God remember. In some
other scrapbook a man, long since out of the current of life, reads the
story of his little triumph in the world; in the family Bible is a
clipping from the _Statesman_--yellow and crisp with years--that tells
of a daughter's wedding and the social glory that descended upon the
house for that one great day. So, as the General goes about the streets
of the town, in his shiny long frock-coat and his faded campaign hat,
men do not laugh at him, nor do they hate him. He is the old buffalo,
horned out of the herd.

The profession of newspaper making is a young man's profession. The time
will come when over at our office there will be a shrinkage. Even now
our leading citizens never go away from town and talk to other newspaper
men that they do not say that if someone would come over here and start
a bright, spicy newspaper he could drive us out of town and make money.
The best friends we have, when they talk to newspaper men in other towns
are not above saying that our paper is so generally hated that it would
be no trouble to put it out of business. That is what people said of the
General in the eighties. They do not say it now.

For the fight is over with him. And he is walking on an old battlefield,
reviewing old victories, not knowing that another contest is waging
further on. Sometimes the boys in the _Statesman_ office get their money
Saturday night, and sometimes they do not. If they do not, the General
grandly issues "orders" on the grocery stores. Then he takes his pen in
hand and writes a stirring editorial on the battle of Cold Harbor, and
closes by enquiring whether the country is going to forget the grand
principles that inspired men in those trying days.

In the days when the _Statesman_ was a power in the land, editorials
like this were widely quoted. He was department commander of the G. A.
R. at a time when such a personage was as important in our State as the
Governor. The General's editorials on pensions were read before the
Pensions Committee in Congress and had much weight there, and even in
the White House the General's attitude was reckoned with. When he
rallied the old soldiers to any cause the earth trembled, but now the
General's editorials pass unheeded. When he calls to "the men who
defended this country in one great crisis to rise and rescue her again,"
he does not understand that he is speaking to a world of ghosts, and
that his "clarion note" falls on empty air. The old boys whom he would
arouse are sleeping; only he and a little handful survive. Yet to him
they still live; to him their power is still invincible--if they would
but rally to the old call. He believes that some day they will rally,
and that the world, which is now going sadly wrong, will be set right.
With his hands clasped behind him, looking through his steel-rimmed
glasses, from under his shaggy brows, he walks through a mad world,
waiting for it to return to reason. In his fiery black eyes one may see
a puzzled look as he views the bewildering show. He is confused, but
defiant. His head is still high; he has no thought of surrender. So, day
after day, he riddles the bedlam about him with his broadsides, in the
hourly hope of victory.

It was only last week that the General was in Jim Bolton's livery stable
office asking Jim if he had any old ledgers, that the _Statesman_ office
might have. He explained that he tore off their covers, cut them up and
used the unspoiled sheets for copy-paper. In Bolton's office he met a
farmer from the Folcraft neighbourhood in the southern end of the
county, who hadn't seen the General for half-a-dozen years. "Why--hello
General," exclaimed the farmer with unconcealed surprise, as though
addressing one risen from the dead. "You still around here? What are you
doing now?" The old man tucked the ledger under his arm, straightened up
with great dignity, and tried not to wince under the blow. He put one
hand in his shiny, frayed, greenish-black frock-coat, and replied with
quiet dignity, "I am following my profession, sir--that of a
journalist." And after fixing the farmer with his piercing black eyes
for a moment, the General turned away and was gone.

When we do something to displease him, he turns all his guns on us,
though probably his foreman has to borrow paper from our office to get
the _Statesman_ out. The General regards us as his natural prey and his
foreman regards our paper stock as his natural forage--but they use so
little that we do not mind.

Once a new bookkeeper in our office saw the General's old account for
paper. She sent the General a statement, and another, and in the third
she put the words: "Please remit." The day after he had received the
insult the General stalked grandly into the office with the amount of
money required by the bookkeeper. He put it down without a word and
walked over to the desk where the proprietor was working.

"Young man," said the General, as he rapped with his cane on the desk.
"I was talking to-day with a gentleman from Norwalk, Ohio, who knew your
father. Yes, sir; he knew your father, and speaks highly of him, sir. I
am surprised to hear, sir, that your father was a perfect gentleman,
sir. Good-morning, sir."

And with that the General moved majestically out of the office.


A Question of Climate

Colonel Morrison had three initials, so the town naturally called him
"Alphabetical" Morrison, and dropped the "Colonel." He came to our part
of the country in an early day--he used to explain that they caught him
in the trees, when he was drinking creek water, eating sheep-sorrel, and
running wild with a buffalo tail for a trolley, and that the first thing
they did, after teaching him to eat out of a plate, was to set him at
work in the grading gang that was laying out the Cottonwood and Walnut
Rivers and putting the limestone in the hills. He was one of the
original five patriots who laid out the Corn Belt Railroad from the
Mississippi to the Pacific, and was appointed one of that committee to
take the matter to New York for the inspection of capitalists--and be it
said to the credit of Alphabetical Morrison that he was the only person
in the crowd with money enough to pay the ferryman when he reached the
Missouri River, though he had only enough to get himself across. But in
spite of that the road was built, and though it missed our town, it was
because we didn't vote the bonds, though old Alphabetical went through
the county, roaring in the schoolhouses, bellowing at the crossroads,
and doing all that a good, honest pair of lungs could do for the cause.
However, he was not dismayed at his failure, and began immediately to
organise a company to build another road. We finally secured a railroad,
though it was only a branch.

Over his office door he had a sign--"Land Office"--painted on the false
board front of the building in letters as big as a cow, and the first
our newspaper knew of him was twenty years ago, when he brought in an
order for some stationery for the Commercial Club. At that time we had
not heard that the town supported a Commercial Club--nor had anyone else
heard of it, for that matter--for old Alphabetical was the president,
and his bookkeeper, with the Miss dropped off her name, was secretary.
But he had a wonderfully alluring letterhead printed, and seemed to get
results, for he made a living while his competitors starved. Later, when
he found time, he organised a real Commercial Club, and had himself
elected president of it. He used to call meetings of the club to discuss
things, but as no one cared much for his monologues on the future of the
town, the attendance was often light. He issued circulars referring to
our village as "the Queen City of the Prairies," and on the circulars
was a map, showing that the Queen City of the Prairies was "the railroad
axis of the West." There was one road running into the town; the others
old Alphabetical indicated with dotted lines, and explained in a
foot-note that they were in process of construction.

He became possessed of a theory that a canning factory would pay in the
Queen City of the Prairies, and the first step he took toward building
it was to invest in a high hat, a long coat and white vest, and a pair
of mouse-coloured trousers. With these and his theory he went East and
returned with a condition. The canning factory went up, but the railroad
rates went wrong, and the factory was never opened. Alphabetical
blinked at it through his gold-rimmed glasses for a few weeks, and then
organised a company to turn it into a woollen mill. He elected himself
president of that company and used to bring around to our paper, notices
of directors' meetings, and while he was in the office he would insist
that we devoted too much space to idle gossip and not enough to the
commercial and industrial interests of the Queen City.

At times he would bring in an editorial that he had written himself,
highly excitable and full of cyclonic language, and if we printed it
Alphabetical would buy a hundred copies of the paper containing it and
send them East. His office desk gradually filled with woodcuts and zinc
etchings of buildings that never existed save in his own dear old head,
and about twice a year during the boom days he would bring them around
and have a circular printed on which were the pictures showing the
imaginary public buildings and theoretical business thoroughfares of the
Queen City.

The woollen mill naturally didn't pay, and he persuaded some Eastern
capitalists to install an electric plant in the building and put a
streetcar line in the town, though the longest distance from one side of
the place to the other was less than ten blocks. But Alphabetical was
enthusiastic about it, and had the Governor come down to drive the first
spike. It was gold-plated, and Alphabetical pulled it up and used it for
a paper-weight in his office for many years, and it is now the only
reminder there is in town of the street railway, except a hard ridge of
earth over the ties in the middle of Main Street. When someone twitted
him on the failure of the street railway he made answer:

"Of course it failed; here I go pawing up the earth, milking out the
surplus capital of the effete East, and building up this town--and what
happens? Four thousand old silurian fossils comb the moss on the north
side of 'em, with mussel shell, and turn over and yawp that old
Alphabetical is visionary. Here I get a canning factory and nobody eats
the goods; I hustle up a woollen factory, and the community quits
wearing trousers; I build for them a streetcar line to haul them to and
from their palatial residences, and what do the sun-baked human mud
turtles do but all jump off the log into the water and hide from them
cars like they were chariots of fire? What this town needs is not
factories, nor railroads, nor modern improvements--Old Alphabetical can
get them--but the next great scheme I go into is to go down to the
river, get some good red mud, and make a few thousand men who will build
up a town."

It has been fifteen years and over since Colonel Morrison put on his
long coat and high hat and started for the money markets of the East,
seeking whom he might devour. At the close of the eighties the Colonel
and all his tribe found that the stock of Eastern capitalists who were
ready to pay good prices for the fine shimmering blue sky and bracing
ozone of the West was running low. It was said in town that the Colonel
had come to the end of his string, for not only were the doors of
capital closed to him in the East, but newcomers had stopped looking for
farms at home. There was nothing to do but to sit down and swap
jack-knives with other land agents, and as they had taken most of the
agencies for the best insurance companies while the Colonel was on
dress parade, there was nothing left for him to do but to run for
justice of the peace, and, being elected, do what he could to make his
tenure for life.

Though he was elected, more out of gratitude for what he had tried to do
for the town than because people thought he would make a fair judge, he
got no further than his office in popular esteem. He did not seem to
wear well with the people in the daily run and jostle of life. During
the forty years he has been in our town, he has lived most of the time
apart from the people--transacting his business in the East, or locating
strangers on new lands. He has not been one of us, and there were
stories afloat that his shrewdness had sometimes caused him to thrust a
toe over the dead-line of exact honesty. In the town he never helped us
to fight for those things of which the town is really proud: our
schools, the college, the municipal ownership of electric lights and
waterworks, the public library, the abolition of the saloon, and all of
the dozen small matters of public interest in which good citizens take a
pride. Colonel Morrison was living his grand life, in his tailor-made
clothes, while his townsmen were out with their coats off making our
town the substantial place it is. So in his latter days he is old
Alphabetical Morrison, a man apart from us. We like him well enough, and
so long as he cares to be justice of the peace no one will object, for
that is his due. But, someway, there is no talk of making him County
Clerk; and there is a reason in everyone's mind why no party names him
to run for County Treasurer. He has been trying hard enough for ten
years to break through the crust of the common interests that he has so
long ignored. One sees him at public meetings--a rather wistful-looking,
chubby-faced old man--on the edge of the crowd, ready to be called out
for a speech. But no one calls his name; no one cares particularly what
old Alphabetical has to say. Long ago he said all that he can say to our

The only thing that Alphabetical ever organised that paid was a family.
In the early days he managed to get a home clear of indebtedness and was
shrewd enough to keep it out of all of his transactions. Tow-headed
Morrisons filled the schoolhouse, and twenty years later there were so
many of his girls teaching school that the school-board had to make a
ruling limiting the number of teachers from one family in the city
school, in order to force the younger Morrison girls to go to the
country to teach. In these days the girls keep the house going and
Alphabetical is a notary public and a justice of the peace, which keeps
his office going in the little square board building at the end of the
street. But every day for the past ten years he has been coming to our
office for his bundle of old newspapers. These he reads carefully, and
sometimes what he reads inspires him to write something for our paper on
the future of the Queen City, though much oftener his articles are
retrospective. He is the president of the Old Settlers' Society, and
once or twice a year he brings in an obituary which he has written for
the family of some of the old-timers.

One would think that an idler would be a nuisance in a busy place, but,
on the contrary, we all like old Alphabetical around our office. For he
is an old man who has not grown sour. His smooth, fat face has not been
wrinkled by the vinegar of failure, and the noise that came from his
lusty lungs in the old days is subsiding. But he has never forgiven
General Durham, of the _Statesman_, for saying of a fight between
Alphabetical and another land agent back in the sixties that "those who
heard it pronounced it the most vocal engagement they had ever known."
That is why he brings his obituaries to us; that is why he does us the
honour of borrowing papers from us; and that is why, on a dull
afternoon, he likes to sit in the old sway-back swivel-chair and tell us
his theory of the increase in the rainfall, his notion about the
influence of trees upon the hot winds, his opinion of the disappearance
of the grasshoppers. Also, that is why we always save a circus-ticket
for old Alphabetical, just as we save one for each of the boys in the

[Illustration: He likes to sit in the old sway-back swivel-chair and
tell us his theory of the increase in the rainfall]

One day he came into the office in a bad humour. He picked up a country
paper, glanced it over, threw it down, kicked from under his feet a dog
that had followed a subscriber into the room, and slammed his hat into
the waste-basket with considerable feeling as he picked up a New York

"Well--well, what's the matter with the judiciary this morning?"
someone asked the old man.

He did not reply at once, but turned his paper over and over, apparently
looking for something to interest him. Gradually the revolutions of his
paper became slower and slower, and finally he stopped turning the paper
and began reading. It was ten or fifteen minutes before he spoke. When
he put down the paper his cherubic face was beaming, and he said:

"Oh--I know I'm a fool, but I wish the Lord had sent me to live in a
town large enough so that every dirty-faced brat on the street wouldn't
feel he had a right to call me 'Alphabetical'! Dammit, I've done the
best I could! I haven't made any alarming success. I know it. There's no
need of rubbing it in on me."--He was silent for a time with his hands
on his knees and his head thrown back looking at the ceiling. Almost
imperceptibly a smile began to crack his features, and, when he turned
his eyes to the man at the desk, they were dancing with merriment, as he
said: "Just been reading a piece here in the _Sun_ about the influence
of climate on human endeavour. It says that in northern latitudes there
is more oxygen in the air and folks breathe faster, and their blood
flows faster, and that keeps their livers going. Trouble with me has
always been climate--sluggish liver. If I had had just a little more
oxygen floating round in my system, the woollen mill would still be
running, the street-cars would be going, and this town would have had
forty thousand inhabitants. My fatal mistake was one of latitude.
But"--and he drawled out the word mockingly--"but I guess if the Lord
had wanted me to make a town here he would have given me a different
kind of liver!" He slapped his knees as he sighed: "This is a funny
world, and the more you see of it the funnier it gets." The old man
grinned complacently at the ceiling for a minute, and before getting out
of his chair kicked his shoe-heels together merrily, wiped his glasses
as he rose, put his bundle of papers under his arm, and left the office
whistling an old, old-fashioned tune.


The Casting Out of Jimmy Myers

It seemed a cruel thing to do, but we had to do it. For ours is
ordinarily a quiet office. We have never had a libel suit. We have had
fewer fights than most newspaper offices have, and while it hardly may
be said that we strive to please, still in the main we try to get on
with the people, and tell them as much truth as they are entitled to for
ten cents a week. Naturally, we do our best to get up a sprightly paper,
and in that the Myers boy had our idea exactly. He was industrious; more
than that, he tried with all his might to exercise his best judgment,
and no one could say that he was careless; yet everyone around the
office admitted that he was unlucky. He was one of those persons who
always have slivers on their doors, or tar on the knocker, when
opportunity comes their way; so his stay in the office was marked by a
series of seismic disturbances in the paper that came from under his
desk, and yet he was in no way to blame for them.

We took him from the college at the edge of town. He had been running
the college paper for a year, and knew the merchants around town fairly
well; and, since he was equipped as far as education went, he seemed to
be a likely sort of a boy for reporter and advertising solicitor.

One of the first things that happened to him was a mistake in an item
about the opera house. He said that a syndicate had taken a lien on it.
What he meant was a lease, and as he got the item from a man who didn't
know the difference, and as the boy stuck to it that the man had said
lien and not lease, we did not charge that up to him. A few days later
he wrote for a town photographer a paid local criticising someone who
was going around the county peddling picture-frames and taking orders
for enlarged pictures. That was not so bad, but it turned out that the
pedlar was a woman, and she came with a rawhide and camped in the office
for two days waiting for Jimmy, while he came in and out of the back
door, stuck his copy on the hook by stealth, and travelled only in the
alleys to get his news. One could hardly say that he was to blame for
that, either, as the photographer who paid for the item didn't say the
pedlar was a woman, and the boy was no clairvoyant.

[Illustration: And camped in the office for two days, looking for Jimmy]

One dull day he wrote a piece about the gang who played poker at night
in Red Martin's room. Jimmy said he wasn't afraid of Red, and he wasn't.
The item was popular enough, and led to a raid on the place, which
disclosed our best advertiser sitting in the game. To suppress his name
meant our shame before the town; to print it meant his--at our expense.
It was embarrassing, but it wasn't exactly the boy's fault. It was just
one of those unfortunate circumstances that come up in life. However,
the advertiser aforesaid began to hate the boy.

He must have been used to injustice all his life, for there was a
vertical line between his eyes that marked trouble. The line deepened as
he went further and further into the newspaper business; for, generally
speaking, a person who is unlucky has less to fear handling dynamite
than he has writing local items on a country paper.

A few days after the raid on the poker-room Jimmy, who had acquired a
particularly legible hand, wrote: "The hem of her skirt was trimmed with
pink crushed roses," and he was in no way to blame for the fact that the
printer accidentally put an "h" for a "k" in skirt, though the woman's
husband chased Jimmy into a culvert under Main Street and kept him there
most of the forenoon, while the cheering crowd informed the injured
husband whenever Jimmy tried to get out of either end of his prison.

The printer that made the mistake bought Jimmy a new suit of clothes, we
managed to print an apology that cooled the husband's wrath, and for ten
days, or perhaps two weeks, the boy's life was one round of joy.
Everything was done promptly, accurately and with remarkable
intelligence. He whistled at his work and stacked up more copy than the
printers could set up in type. No man ever got in or out of town without
having his name in our paper. Jimmy wrote up a railroad bond election
meeting so fairly that he pleased both sides, and reported a murder
trial so well that the lawyers for each side kept the boy's pockets full
of ten-cent cigars. The vertical wrinkle was fading from his forehead,
when one fine summer morning he brought in a paid item from a hardware
merchant, and went blithely out to write up the funeral of the wife of a
prominent citizen. He was so cheerful that day that it bothered him.

He told us in confidence that he never felt festive and gay that
something didn't happen. He was not in the building that evening when
the paper went to press, but after it was printed and the carriers had
left the office he came in, singing "She's My Sweetheart, I'm Her Beau,"
and sat down to read the paper.

Suddenly the smile on his face withered as with frost, and he handed the
paper across the table to the bookkeeper, who read this item:


     Prepare for the hot weather, my good woman. There is only one way
     now; get a gasoline stove, of Hurley & Co., and you need not fear
     any future heat.

And it wasn't Jimmy's fault. The foreman had merely misplaced a head
line, but that explanation did not satisfy the bereaved family.

Jimmy was beginning to acquire a reputation as a joker. People refused
to believe that such things just happened. They did not happen before
Mr. James Myers came to the paper--why should they begin with his coming
and continue during his engagement? Thus reasoned the comforters of the
Gilseys, and those interested in our downfall. The next day the
_Statesman_ wrote a burning editorial denouncing us "for an utter lack
of all sense of common decency" that permitted us "to violate the
sacredest feeling known to the human heart for the sake of getting a
ribald laugh from the unthinking." We were two weeks explaining that the
error was not the boy's fault. People assumed that the mistake could not
have occurred in any well-regulated printing office, and it didn't seem
probable that it could occur--yet there it was. But Jimmy wasn't to
blame. He suffered more than we did--more than the bereaved family did.
He went unshaven and forgot to trim his cuffs or turn his collar. He
hated to go on the streets for news, and covered with the office
telephone as much of his beat as possible.

The summer wore away and the dog days came. The Democratic State
campaign was about to open in our town, and orators and statesmen
assembled from all over the Missouri valley. There was a lack of flags
at the dry-goods stores. The Fourth of July celebration had taken all
the stock. The only materials available were some red bunting, some
white bunting, and some blue bunting with stars dotted upon it. With
this bunting the Committee on Reception covered the speakers' stand,
wrapping the canopy under which the orators stood in the solid colours
and the star-spangled blue. It was beautiful to see, and the pride of
the window-dresser of the Golden Eagle Clothing Store. But the old
soldiers who walked by nudged one another and smiled.

About noon of the day of the speaking the City Clerk, who wore the
little bronze button of the G. A. R., asked Jimmy if he didn't want
someone to take care of the Democratic meeting. Jimmy, who hated
politics, was running his legs off to get the names of the visitors, and
was glad to have the help. He turned in the contributed copy without
reading it, as he had done with the City Clerk's articles many times
before, and this is what greeted his horrified eyes when he read the

               "UNDER THE STARS & BARS"

    Democracy Opens Its State Campaign Under the
                 Rebel Emblem To-day
                   A Fitting Token
    Treasonable Utterances Have a Proper Setting

And then followed half a column of most violent abuse of the Democrats
who had charge of the affair. Jimmy did not appear on the street that
night, but the next morning, when he came down, the office was crowded
with indignant Democrats "stopping the paper."

We began to feel uneasy about Jimmy. So long as his face was in the
eclipse of grief there seemed to be a probability that we would have no
trouble, but as soon as his moon began to shine we were nervous.

Jimmy had a peculiar knack of getting up little stories of the town--not
exactly news stories, but little odd bits that made people smile without
rancour when they saw their names in the quaintly turned items. One day
he wrote up a story of a little boy whose mother asked him where he got
a dollar that he was flourishing on his return with his father from a
visit in Kansas City. The little boy's answer was that his father gave
it to him for calling him uncle when any ladies were around. It was
merrily spun, and knowing that it would not make John Lusk, the boy's
father, mad, we printed it, and Jimmy put at the head of it a foolish
little verse of Kipling's. Miss Larrabee, at the bottom of her society
column, announced the engagement of two prominent young people in town.
The Saturday paper was unusually readable. But when Jimmy came in after
the paper was out he found Miss Larrabee in tears, and the foreman
leaning over the counter laughing so that he couldn't speak. It wasn't
Jimmy's fault. The foreman had done it--by the mere transposition of a
little brass rule separating the society news from Jimmy's story with
the Kipling verse at the head of it. The rule tacked the Kipling verse
onto Miss Larrabee's article announcing the engagement. Here is the way
it read:

"This marriage, which will take place at St. Andrew's Church, will unite
two of the most popular people in town and two of the best-known
families in the State.

    "_And this is the sorrowful story
      Told as the twilight fails,
    While the monkeys are walking together,
      Holding each other's tails!_"

Now, Jimmy was no more to blame than Miss Larrabee, and many people
thought, and think to this day, that Miss Larrabee did it--and did it on
purpose. But for all that it cast clouds over the moon of Jimmy's
countenance, and it was nearly a year before he regained his merry
heart. He was nervous, and whenever he saw a man coming toward the
office with a paper in his hand Jimmy would dash out of the room to
avoid the meeting. For an hour after the paper was out the ringing of
the telephone bell would make him start. He didn't know what was going
to happen next.

But as the months rolled by he became calm, and when Governor Antrobus
died, Jimmy got up a remarkably good story of his life and achievements,
and though there was no family left to the dear old man to buy extra
copies, all the old settlers--who are the hardest people in the world
to please--bought extra copies for their scrapbooks. We were proud of
Jimmy, and assigned him to write up the funeral. That was to be a "day
of triumph in Capua." There being no relatives to interfere, the lodges
of the town--and the Governor was known as a "jiner"--had vied with one
another to make the funeral the greatest rooster-feather show ever given
in the State. The whole town turned out, and the foreman of our office,
and everyone in the back room who could be spared, was at the Governor's
funeral, wearing a plume, a tin sword, a red leather belt, or a sash of
some kind. We put a tramp printer on to make up the paper, and told
Jimmy to call by the undertaker's for a paid local which the undertaker
had written for the paper that day.

Jimmy's face was beaming as he snuggled up to his desk at three o'clock
that afternoon. He said he had a great story--names of the pall-bearers,
names of the double sextette choir, names of all the chaplains of all
the lodges who read their rituals, names of distinguished guests from
abroad, names of the ushers at the church. Page by page he tore off his
copy and gave it to the tramp printer, who took it in to the machines.
Trusting the foreman to read the proof, Jimmie rushed out to get from a
United States Senator who was attending the funeral an interview on the
sugar scandal, for the Kansas City _Star_.

The rest of us did not get back from the cemetery until the carriers had
left the office, and this is what we found:

"The solemn moan of the organ had scarcely died away, like a quivering
sob upon the fragrant air, when the mournful procession of citizens
began filing past the flower-laden bier to view the calm face of their
beloved friend and honoured townsman. In the grief-stricken hush that
followed might be heard the stifled grief of some old comrade as he
paused for the last time before the coffin.

"At this particular time we desire to call the attention of our readers
to the admirable work done by our hustling young undertaker, J. B.
Morgan. He has been in the city but a short time, yet by his efficient
work and careful attention to duty, he has built up an enviable
reputation and an excellent custom among the best families of the city.
All work done with neatness and dispatch. We strive to please.

"When the last sad mourner had filed out, the pall-bearers took up their
sorrowful task, and slowly, as the band played the 'Dead March in Saul,'
the great throng assembled in the street viewed the mortal remains of
Governor Antrobus start on their last long journey."

Of course it wasn't Jimmy's fault. The "rising young undertaker" had
paid the tramp printer, who made up the forms, five dollars to work his
paid local into the funeral notice. But after that--Jimmy had to go.
Public sentiment would no longer stand him as a reporter on the paper,
and we gave him a good letter and sent him onward and upward. He took
his dismissal decently enough. He realised that his luck was against
him; he knew that we had borne with him in all patience.

The day that he left he was instructing the new man in the ways of the
town. Reverend Frank Milligan came in with a church notice. Jimmy took
the notice and began marking it for the printer. As the door behind him
opened and closed, Jimmy, with his head still in his work, called across
the room to the new man: "That was old Milligan that just went
out--beware of him. He will load you up with truck about himself. He
rings in his sermons; trots around with church social notices that ought
to be paid for, and tries to get them in free; likes to be referred to
as doctor; slips in mean items about his congregation, if you don't
watch him; and insists on talking religion Saturday morning when you are
too busy to spit. More than that, he has an awful breath--cut him out;
he will make life a burden if you don't--and if you do he will go to the
old man with it, and say you are not treating him right."

[Illustration: Reverend Milligan came in with a church notice]

There was a rattling and a scratching on the wire partition between
Jimmy and the door. Jimmy looked up from his work and saw the sprightly
little figure of Parson Milligan coming over the railing like a monkey.
He had not gone out of the door--a printer had come in when it opened
and shut. And then Jimmy took his last flying trip out of the back door
of the office, down the alley, "toward the sunset's purple rim." It was
not his fault. He was only telling the truth--where it would do the most


"'A Babbled of Green Fields"

Our town is set upon a hillside, rising from a prairie stream. Forty
years ago the stream ran through a thick woodland nearly a mile wide,
and in the woodland were stately elms, spreading walnut trees, shapely
oaks, gaunt white sycamores, and straight, bushy hackberries, that shook
their fruit upon the ice in spots least frequented by skaters. Along the
draws that emptied into the stream were pawpaw trees, with their tender
foliage, and their soft wood, which little boys delighted to cut for
stick horses. Beneath all these trees grew a dense underbrush of
buckeyes, blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, and little red winter
berries called Indian beads by the children. Wild grapevines, "poison"
grapes, and ivies of both kinds wove the woods into a mass of summer
green. In the clearings and bordering the wood grew the sumach, that
flared red at the very thought of Jack Frost's coming. In these woods
the boys of our town--many of whom have been dead these twenty
years--used to lay their traps for the monsters of the forest, and
trudged back from the timber before breakfast, in winter, bringing home
redbirds, and rabbits and squirrels. Sometimes a particularly doughty
woodsman would report that there were wildcat tracks about his trap; but
none of us ever saw a wildcat, though Enoch Haver, whose father's father
had heard a wildcat scream, and had taught the boy its cry, would hide
in a hollow sycamore and screech until the little boys were terrified
and would not go alone to their traps for days. In summer, boys, usually
from the country, or from a neighbouring town, caught 'coons, and
dragged them chained through alleys for our boys to see, and 'Dory Paine
had an owl which was widely sought by other boys in the circus and
menagerie line. The boys of our town in that day seemed to live in the
wood and around the long millpond, though little fellows were afraid
that lurking Indians or camping gypsies might steal them--a boy's
superstition, which experience has proved too good to be true. They
fared forth to the riffle below the dam, which deepens in the shade
under the water elm; this was the pool known as "baby hole," despised of
the ten-year-olds, who plunged into the deepest of the thicket and came
out at the limekiln, where all day long one might hear "so-deep,
so-deep, so-deep," and "go-round, go-round, go-round," until school
commenced in the fall. Then the rattle of little homemade wagons, and
the shrilling of boy voices might be heard all over the wilderness, and
the black-stained hands of schoolboys told of the day of the walnut
harvest. It was nearly a mile from the schoolhouse to the woods, and yet
on winter afternoons no school-ma'am could keep the boys from using
school hours to dig out the screw-holes and heel-plates of their boots
before wadding them with paper. At four o'clock a troop of boys would
burst forth from that schoolhouse so wildly that General Durham of the
_Statesman_, whose office we used to pass with a roar, always looked up
from his work to say: "Well, I see hell's out for noon again."

In the spring the boys fished, and on Saturdays go, up the river or
down, or on either side, where one would, one was never out of sight of
some thoughtful boy, sitting either on a stump or on a log stretching
into the stream, or squatting on a muddy bank with his worm can beside
him, throwing a line into the deep, green, quiet water. Always it was to
the woods one went to find a lost boy, for the brush was alive with
fierce pirates, and blood-bound brother-hoods, and gory Indian fighters,
and dauntless scouts. Under the red clay banks that rose above the
sluggish stream, robbers' caves, and treasure houses, and freebooters'
dens, were filled with boys who, five days in the week and six hours a
day, could "_amo amas amat, amamus amatus amant_" with the best of them.
On Sundays these same boys sat with trousers creeping above the wrinkles
at the ankles of their copper-toed, red-topped boots, recited golden
texts, sang "When He Cometh," and while planning worse for their own
little brothers, read with much virtuous indignation of little Joseph's
wicked brothers, who put him in a pit. After Sunday School was over
these highly respected young persons walked sedately in their best
clothes over the scenes of their Saturday crimes.

They say the woods are gone now. Certainly the trees have been cut away
and the underbrush burned; cornfields cover the former scenes of
valorous achievement; but none the less the woods are there; each nook
and cranny is as it was, despite the cornfields. Scattered about the sad
old earth live men who could walk blindfolded over the dam, across the
millrace, around the bend, through the pawpaw patch to the grapevine
home of the "Slaves of the Magic Tree;" who could find their trail under
the elder bushes in Boswell's ravine, though they should come--as they
often come--at the dead of night from great cities and from mountain
camps and from across seas, and fore-gather there, in the smoke and dirt
of the rendezvous to eat their unsalted sacrificial rabbit. They can
follow the circuitous route around John Betts's hog lot, to avoid the
enemy, as easily to-day as they could before the axe and the fire and
the plough made their fine pretence of changing the landscape. And when
Joe Nevison gets ready to signal them from his seat high in the crotch
of the oak tree across the creek, the "Slaves of the Tree" will come and
obey their leader. They say that the tree is gone, and that Joe is gone,
but we know better; for at night, when the Tree has called us, and we
hear the notes from the pumpkin-stem reed, we come and sit in the
branches beneath him and plan our raids and learn our passwords, and
swear our vengeance upon such as cross our pathway. There may have been
a time when men thought the Slaves of the Tree were disbanded; indeed it
did seem so, but as the years go by, one by one they come wandering
back, take their places in the branches of the magic tree, swing far out
over the world like birds, and summon again the _genius loci_ who has
slept for nearly forty years.

Of course we knew that Joe would be the first one back; he didn't care
what they said--even then; he registered his oath that it made no
difference what they did to him or what the others did, he would never
desert the Tree. He commanded all of us to come back; if not by day then
to gather in the moonlight and bring our chicken for the altar and our
eggs for the ceremony, and he promised that he would be there. We were
years and years in obeying Joe Nevison. Many of us have had long
journeys to go; and some of us lead little children by the hand as we
creep up the hollow, crawl through the gooseberry bushes, and 'coon the
log over the chasm to our meeting place. But we are nearly all there
now; and in the moonlight, when the corn seems to be waving over a wide
field, a tree springs up as by magic and we take our places again as of

Many years have passed since Marshal Furgeson stood those seven Slaves
of the Magic Tree in line before the calaboose door and made them
surrender the feathered cork apple-stealers and the sacred chicken
hooks. In those years many terrors have ridden the boys who have gone
out into the world to fight its dragons and grapple with its gorgons;
but never have those boys felt any happiness so sweet as that which
rested on their hearts when they heard the Marshal say, "Now you boys
run on home--but mind you if I ever----" and he never did--except Joe
Nevison. Once it was for boring a hole in the depot platform and
tapping a barrel of cider; once it was for going through a window in the
Hustler hardware store and taking a box of pocketknives and two
revolvers, with which to reward his gang, and finally, when the boy was
in the midst of his teens, for breaking into the schoolhouse and burning
the books. Joe's father always bought him off, as fathers always can buy
boys off, when mothers go to the offended person and promise, and beg,
and weep. So Joe Nevison grew up the town bad boy--defiant of law,
reckless and unrestrained, with the blood of border ruffianism in his
veins and the scorn of God and man and the love of sin in his heart. The
week after he left town, and before he was twenty, his father paid for
"Red" Martin's grey race horse, which disappeared the night Joe's bed
was found empty. In those days the Nevisons had more money than most of
the people in our town, but as the years went by they began to lose
their property, and it was said that it went in great slices to Joe, to
keep him out of the penitentiary.

We knew that Joe Nevison was in the West. People from our town, who seem
to swarm over the earth, wrote back that they had met Joe in Dodge
City, in Leoti, in No-Man's-Land, in Texas, in Arizona--wherever there
was trouble. Sometimes he was the hired bad man of a desert town, whose
business it was to shoot terror into the hearts of disturbers from rival
towns; sometimes he was a free lance--living the devil knows how--always
dressed like a fashion-plate of the plains in high-heeled boots, wide
felt hat, flowing necktie, flannel shirt and velvet trousers. They say
that he did not gamble more than was common among the sporting men of
his class, and that he never worked. Sometimes we heard of him
adventuring as a land dealer, sometimes as a cattleman, sometimes as a
mining promoter, sometimes as a horseman, but always as the sharper, who
rides on the crest of the forward wave of civilization, leaving a town
when it tears down its tents and puts up brick buildings, and then
appearing in the next canvas community, wherein the night is filled with
music, and the cares that infest the day are drowned in bad whiskey or
winked out with powder and shot. And thus Joe Nevison closed his
twenties--a desert scorpion, outcast by society and proud of it. As he
passed into his thirties he left the smoky human crystals that formed on
the cow trails and at the mountain gold camps. Cripple Creek became too
effete for him, and an electric light in a tent became a target he could
not resist; wherefore he went into the sage brush and the short grass,
seeking others of his kind, the human rattlesnake, the ranging coyote
and the outlawed wolf. Joe Nevison rode with the Dalton gang, raided
ranches and robbed banks with the McWhorters and held up stages as a
lone highwayman. At least, so men said in the West, though no one could
prove it, and at the opening of Lawton he appeared at the head of a band
of cutthroats, who were herded out of town by the deputy United States
marshals before noon of the first day. Not until popular government was
established could they get in to open their skin-game, which was better
and safer for them than ordinary highway faring. At Lawton our people
saw Joe and he asked about the home people, asked about the boys--the
old boys he called them--and becoming possessed of a post-office
address, Joe wrote a long letter to George Kirwin, the foreman of our
office. We call him old George, because he is still under forty. Joe
being in an expansive mood, and with more money on his clothes than he
cared for, sent old George ten dollars to pay for a dollar Joe had
borrowed the day he left town in the eighties. We printed Joe's letter
in our paper, and it pleased his mother. That was the beginning of a
regular correspondence between the rover and the home-stayer. George
Kirwin, gaunt, taciturn, and hard-working, had grown out of the dreamy,
story-loving boy who had been one of the Slaves of the Magic Tree and
into a shy old bachelor who wept over "East Lynne" whenever it came to
the town opera house, and asked for a lay-off only when Modjeska
appeared in Topeka, or when there was grand opera at Kansas City. But he
ruled the back office with an iron hand and superintended the Mission
Sunday-School across the track, putting all his spare money into
Christmas presents for his pupils. After that first letter that came
from Joe Nevison, no one had a hint of what passed between the two men.
But a month never went by that Joe's letter missed. When Lawton began
to wane, Joe Nevison seemed to mend his wayward course. He moved to
South McAlester and opened a faro game--a square game they said it
was--for the Territory! This meant that unless Joe was hard up every man
had his chance before the wheel. Old George took the longest trip of his
life, when we got him a pass to South McAlester and he put on his black
frock coat and went to visit Joe. All that we learned from him was that
Joe "had changed a good deal," and that he was "taking everything in the
drug store, from the big green bottle at the right of the front door
clear around past the red prescription case, and back to the big blue
bottle at the left of the door." But after George came home the Mission
Sunday-School began to thrive. George was not afraid of tainted money,
and the school got a new library, which included "Tom Sawyer" and
"Huckleberry Finn," as well as "Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates" for
the boys, and all the "Pansy" books for the girls. It was a quaint old
lot of books, and George Kirwin was nearly a year getting it together.
Also he bought a new stove for his Sunday-School room, and a lot of
pictures for the church walls, among others "Wide Awake and Fast
Asleep," "Simply to Thy Cross," and "The Old Oaken Bucket." He gave to
the school a cabinet organ with more stops than most of the children
could count.

[Illustration: A desert Scorpion, outcast by society and proud of it]

A year ago a new reporter brought in this item: "Joseph Nevison, of
South McAlester, I. T., is visiting his mother, Mrs. Julia Nevison, at
234 South Fifth Street."

We sent the reporter out for more about Joe Nevison and at noon George
Kirwin hurried down to the little home below the tracks. From these two
searchers after truth we learned that Joe Nevison's mother had brought
him home from the Indian Territory mortally sick. Half-a-dozen of us who
had played with him as boys went to see him that evening, and found a
wan, haggard man with burned-out black eyes, lying in a clean white bed.
He seemed to know each of us for a moment and spoke to us through his
delirium in a tired, piping voice--like the voice of the little boy who
had been our leader. He called us by forgotten nicknames, and he hummed
at a tune that we had not heard for a score of years. Then he piped out
"While the Landlubbers Lie Down Below, Below, Below," and followed that
with "Green Grass Growing all Around, all Around," and that with the
song about the "Tonga Islands," his voice growing into a clearer alto as
he sang. His mother tried to quiet him, but he smiled his dead smile at
her through his cindery eyes, shook his head and went on. When he had
lain quiet for a moment, he turned to one of us and said: "Dock, I'm
goin' up and dive off that stump--a back flip-flop--you dassent!" Pretty
soon he seemed to come up snuffing and blowing and grinning and said,
"Last man dressed got to chaw beef." Then he cried: "Dock's it--Dock's
it; catch 'im, hold him--there he goes--duck him, strip him. O well, let
him go if he's go'n' to cry. Say, boys, I wish you fellers'd come over
t' my stick horse livery stable--honest I got the best hickory horse you
ever see. Whoa, there--whoa now, I tell you. You Pilliken Dunlevy let me
harness you; there, put it under your arm, and back of your neck--no I
ain't go'n' to let you hold it--I'll jerk the tar out of you if you
don't go. Whe-e-e that's the way to go, hol--hold on, whoa there. Back
up. Let's go over to Jim's and run on his track. Say, Jim, I got the
best little pacer in the country here--get up there, Pilliken," and he
clucked and sawed his arms, and cracked an imaginary whip. When George
came in, the face on the bed brightened and the treble voice said:
"Hello Fatty--we've been waitin' for you. Now let's go on. What you got
in your wagon--humph--bet it's a pumpkin. Did old Boswell chase you?"
and then he laughed, and turned away from us. His trembling hands seemed
to be fighting something from his face. "Bushes," whispered Enoch Haver,
and then added, "Now he's climbing up the bank of the ravine." And we
saw the lean hands on the bed clutch up the wall, and then the voice
broke forth: "Me first--first up--get away from here, Dock--I said
first," and we could see his hands climbing an imaginary tree.

His face glowed with the excitement of his delirium as he climbed, and
then apparently catching his breath he rested before he called out: "I'm
comin' down, clear the track for old Dan Tucker," and from the
convulsive gripping of his hands and arms and the hysterical intake of
his breath we who had seen Joe Nevison dive from the top of the old
tree, from limb to limb to the bottom, knew what he was doing. His heart
was thumping audibly when he finished, and we tried to calm him. For a
while we all sat about him in silence--forgetting the walls that shut us
in, and living with him in the open, Slaves of the Magic Tree. Then one
by one we left and only George Kirwin stayed with the sick man.

Joe Nevison had lived a wicked life. He had been the friend and
companion of vile men and the women whom such men choose, and they had
lived lives such as we in our little town only read about--and do not
understand. Yet all that night Joe Nevison roamed through the woods by
the creek, a little child, and no word passed his lips that could have
brought a hint of the vicious life that his manhood had known.

In that long night, while George Kirwin sat by his dying friend,
listening to his babble, two men were in the genii's hands. They put off
their years as a garment. Together they ran over the roofs of buildings
on Main Street that have been torn down for thirty years; they played
in barns and corncribs burned down so long ago that their very site is
in doubt; they romped over prairies where now are elm-covered streets;
and they played with boys and girls who have lain forgotten in little
sunken graves for a quarter of a century, out on the hill; or they
called from the four winds of heaven playmates who left our town at a
time so remote that to the watcher by the bed it seemed ages ago. The
games they played were of another day than this. When Joe began crying
"Barbaree," he summoned a troop of ghosts, and the pack went scampering
through the spectre town in the starlight; and when that game had tired
him the voice began to chatter of "Slap-and-a-kick," and
"Foot-and-a-half," and of "Rolly-poley," and of the ball games--"Scrub,"
and "Town-ball," and "Anteover," each old game conjuring up spirits from
its own vasty deep until the room was full of phantoms and the watcher's
memory ached with the sweet sorrow of old joys.

George Kirwin says that long after midnight Joe awakened from a doze,
fumbling through the bedclothes, looking for something. Finally he
complained that he could not find his mouth-harp. They tried to make him
forget it, but when they failed, his mother went to the bureau and
pulling open the lower drawer found a little varnished box; under the
shaded lamp she brought out a sack of marbles, a broken bean-shooter,
with whittled prongs, a Barlow knife, a tintype picture of a boy, and
the mouth-organ. This she gave to the hands that fluttered about the
face on the pillow. He began to play "The Mocking Bird," opening and
shutting his bony hands to let the music rise and fall. When he closed
that tune he played "O the Mistletoe Bough," and after that over and
over again he played "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground." When he dropped
the mouth-harp, he lay very still for a time, though his lips moved
incessantly. The morning was coming, and he was growing weak. But when
his voice came back they knew that he was far afield again; for he said,
"Come on, fellers, let's set down here under the hill and rest. It's a
long ways back." When he had rested he spoke up again, "Say, fellers,
what'll we sing?" George tried him with a gospel hymn, but Joe would
have none of it, and reviled the song and the singer after the fashion
of boys. In a moment he exclaimed: "Here--listen to me. Let's sing
this," and his alto voice came out uncertainly and faintly: "Wrap Me up
in My Tarpaulin Jacket."

George Kirwin's rough voice joined the song and the mother listened and
wept. Other old songs followed, but Joe Nevison, the man, never woke up.
It was the little boy full of the poetry and sweetness of a child at
play, the boy who had turned the poetry of his boyish soul into a life
of adventure unchecked by moral restraint, whose eyes they closed that

And George Kirwin explained to us when he came down to work that
afternoon, that maybe the bad part of Joe Nevison's soul had shrivelled
away during his sickness, instead of waiting for death. George told us
that what made him sad was that a soul in which there was so much that
might have been good had been stunted by life and was entering eternity
with so little to show for its earthly journey.

When one considers it, one finds that Joe Nevison wasted his life most
miserably. There was nothing to his credit to say in his obituary--no
good deed to recount and there were many, many bad ones. Moreover, the
sorrow and bitterness that he brought into his father's last days, and
the shame that he put upon his mother, who lived to see his end, made it
impossible for our paper to say of him any kind thing that would not
have seemed maudlin.

Yet at Joe Nevison's funeral the old settlers, many of them broken in
years and by trouble, gathered at the little wooden church in the hollow
below the track, to see the last of him, though certainly not to pay him
a tribute of respect. They remembered him as the little boy who had
trudged up the hill to school when the old stone schoolhouse was the
only stone building in town; they remembered him as he was in the days
when he began to turn Marshal Furgeson's hair grey with wild pranks.
They remembered the boy's childish virtues, and could feel the remorse
that must at times have gnawed his heart. Also these old men and women
knew of the devil of unbridled passion that the child's father had put
into Joe's blood. And when he started down the broad road they had seen
his track beyond him. So as the little gathering of old people filed
through the church door and lined up on the sidewalk waiting for the
mourners to come out, we heard through the crowd white haired men
sighing: "Poor Joe; poor fellow." Can one hope that God's forgiveness
will be fuller than that!


A Pilgrim in the Wilderness

A few years ago we were getting out a special edition of our paper,
printed on book-paper, and filled with pictures of the old settlers, and
we called it "the historical edition." In preparing the historical
edition we had to confer with "Aunt" Martha Merrifield so often that
George Kirwin, the foreman, who was kept trotting to her with
proof-slips and copy for her to revise, remarked, as he was making up
the last form of the troublesome edition, that, if the recording angel
ever had a fire in his office, he could make up the record for our town
from "Aunt" Martha's scrapbook. In that big, fat, crinkly-leafed book,
she has pasted so many wedding notices and birth notices and death
notices that one who reads the book wonders how so many people could
have been born, married and died in a town of only ten thousand
inhabitants. One evening, while the historical edition was growing, a
reporter spent the evening with "Aunt" Martha. The talk drifted back to
the early days, and "Aunt" Martha mentioned Balderson. To identify him
she went to her scrapbook, and as she was turning the pages she said:

"In those days of the early seventies, before the railroad came, when
the town awoke in the morning and found a newly arrived covered waggon
near a neighbour's house, it always meant that kin had come. If at
school that day the children from the house of visitation bragged about
their relatives, expatiating upon the power and riches that they left
back East, the town knew that the visitors were ordinary kin; but if the
children from the afflicted household said little about the visitors and
evidently tried to avoid telling just who they were, then the town knew
that the strangers were poor kin--probably some of "his folks"; for it
was well understood that the women in this town all came from high
connections 'back East' in Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa. Newcomers
sometimes wondered how such a galaxy of princesses and duchesses and
ladyships happened to marry so far beneath their station.

"But the Dixons had no children, so when a covered waggon drove up to
their place in the night, and a fussy, pussy little man with a dingy,
stringy beard, appeared in the Dixons' back yard in the morning, looking
after the horses hitched to the strange waggon; the town had to wait
until the next week's issue of the _Statesman_ to get reliable news
about their prospective fellow-citizen." With that "Aunt" Martha opened
her scrapbook and read a clipping from the _Statesman_, under the head,
"A Valuable Acquisition to Our City." It ran:

"It has been many months since we have been favoured with a call from so
cultured and learned a gentleman as the Hon. Andoneran P. Balderson,
late of Quito, Hancock County, Iowa, who has finally determined to
settle in our midst. Cramped by the irritating conventionalities of an
effete civilisation, Colonel Balderson comes among us for that larger
freedom and wider horizon which his growing powers demand. He comes with
the ripened experience of a jurist, a soldier, and a publicist, and,
when transportation facilities have been completed between this and the
Missouri River, Judge Balderson will bring to our little city his
magnificent law library; but until then he will be found over the Elite
Oyster Bay, where he will be glad to welcome clients and others.

"Having participated in the late War of the Rebellion, as captain in
Company G of Colonel Jennison's famous and invincible army of the
border, Colonel Balderson will give special attention to pension
matters. He also will set to work to obtain a complete set of abstracts,
and will be glad to give advice on real-estate law and the practice of
eminent domain, to which subject he has given deep study. All business
done with neatness and despatch.

"Before leaving Iowa, and after considerable pressure, Judge Balderson
consented to act as agent for a number of powerful Eastern fire
insurance companies, and has in contemplation the establishment of the
Southwestern distributing point for the Multum in Parvo Farm Gate
Company, of which corporation Colonel Balderson owns the patent right
for Kansas. This business, however, he would be willing to dispose of to
proper parties. Terms on application.

"The colonel desires us to announce that there will be a meeting of the
veterans of the late war at the schoolhouse next Saturday night, for the
purpose of organising a society to refresh and perpetuate the sacred
memories of that gigantic struggle, and to rally around the old flag,
touch shoulders again, and come into a closer fellowship for benevolent,
social, and other purposes. The judge, on that occasion, will deliver
his famous address on the 'Battle of Look Out Mountain,' in which battle
Colonel Balderson participated as a member of an Iowa regiment.
Admission free. Silver collection to defray necessary expenses."

Accompanying this article was a slightly worn woodcut of the colonel in
his soldier garb, a cap with the top drawn forward, the visor low over
his eyes, and a military overcoat thrown gaily back, exposing his
shoulder. The picture showed the soldier in profile, with a fierce
military moustache and a stubby, runty goatee, meant to strike terror to
the civilian heart.

From "Aunt" Martha we learned that before Judge Balderson had been in
town a week he had dyed his whiskers and had taken command of our forces
in the county-seat war then brewing. During the judge's first month in
the county the campaign for the county-seat election was opened, and he
canvassed the north end of the county for our town, denouncing, with
elaborate eloquence, as horse thieves, mendicants, and renegades from
justice, the settlers in the south end of the county who favoured the
rival town. The judge organised a military company and picketed the
hills about our town day and night against a raid from the Southenders;
and, having stirred public passion deeply, he turned his pickets loose
on the morning of election day to set prairie fires all over the south
end of the county to harass the settlers who might vote for the rival
town and keep them away from the polls fighting fire.

Our people won; "the hell-hounds of disorder and anarchy"--as Judge
Balderson called the rival townspeople--were "rebuked by the stern hand
of a just and terrible Providence." Balderson was a hero, and our people
sent him to the legislature. "Aunt" Martha added:

"He went to Topeka in his blue soldier clothes, his campaign hat, and
brass buttons; but he came back, at the first recess, in diamonds and
fine linen, and the town sniffed a little." Having learned this much of
Balderson our office became interested in him, and a reporter was set to
work to look up Balderson. The reporter found that according to Wilder's
"Annals," Balderson hustled himself into the chairmanship of the
railroad committee and became a power in the State. The next time
Colonel "Alphabetical" Morrison came to the office he was asked for
further details about Balderson. The Colonel told us that when the
legislature finally adjourned, very proud and very drunk, in the bedlam
of the closing hours, Judge Balderson mounted a desk, waved the Stars
and Stripes, and told of the Battle of Look Out Mountain. Colonel
Morrison chuckled as he added: "The next day the _State Journal_ printed
his picture--the one with the slouching cap, the military moustache, the
fierce goatee, and the devil-may-care cape--and referred to the judge as
'the silver-tongued orator of the Cottonwood,' a title which began to
amuse the fellows around town."

Naturally he was a candidate for Congress. Colonel Morrison says that
Balderson became familiarly known in State politics as Little Baldy,
and was in demand at soldiers' meetings and posed as the soldier's

Wilder's "Annals" records the fact that Balderson failed to go to
Congress, but went to the State Senate. He waxed fat. We learned that he
bought a private bank and all the books recording abstracts of title to
land in his county, and that he affected a high silk hat when he went to
Chicago, while his townsmen were inclined to eye him askance. The lack
of three votes from his home precinct kept him from being nominated
lieutenant-governor by his party, but Colonel Morrison says that
Balderson soon took on the title of governor, and was unruffled by his
defeat. The Colonel describes Balderson as assuming the air of a kind of
sacred white cow, and putting much hair-oil and ointment and
frankincense upon his carcass. Other old settlers say that in those days
his dyed whiskers fairly glistened. And when, at State conventions, in
the fervour of his passion he unbent, unbuttoned his frock-coat, grabbed
the old flag, and charged up and down the platform in an oratorical
frensy, it seemed that another being had emerged from the greasy little
roll of adipose in which "Governor" Balderson enshrined himself. His
climax was invariably the wavering battle-line upon the mountain, the
flag tottering and about to fall, "when suddenly it rises and goes
forward, up--up--up the hill, through the smoke of hell, and full and
fair into the teeth of death, with ten thousand cheering, maddened
soldiers behind it. And who carried that flag--who carried that flag?"
he would scream, in a tremulous voice, repeating his question over and
over, and then answer himself in tragic bass: "The little corporal of
Company B!" And, "Who fell into the arms of victory that great day, with
four wounds upon his body? The little corporal of Company B!" It is
hardly necessary to add that Governor Balderson was the little corporal.

After the failure of his bank, when rumour accused him of burning the
court-house that he might sell his abstracts to the county at a fabulous
price, he called a public meeting to hear his defence, and repeated to
his townsmen that query, "Who carried the flag?" adding in a hoarse
whisper: "And yet--great God!--they say that the little corporal is an
in-cen-di-ary. Was this great war fought in vain, that tr-e-e-sin should
lift her hydra head to hiss out such blasphemy upon the boys who wore
the blue?"

However, the evidence was against him, and as our people had long since
lost interest in the flag-bearer, the committee gave him five minutes to
leave. He returned three minutes in change and struck out over the hill
towards the west, afoot, and the town knew him no more forever.

Where Balderson went after leaving town no one seems to know. The earth
might have swallowed him up. But in 1882 someone sent a marked copy of
the _Denver Tribune_ to the _Statesman_ office, the _Statesman_
reprinted it, and "Aunt" Martha filed it away in her book. Here is it:

"Big Burro Springs, Colorado, September 7th (Special).--Three men were
killed yesterday in a fight between the men at Jingle-bob ranch and a
surveying party under A. P. Balderson. The Balderson party consisted of
four men, among whom was 'Rowdy' Joe Nevison, the famous marshal of
Leoti, Kansas. They were locating a reservoir site which Balderson has
taken up on Burro Creek for the Balderson Irrigation Company and for
supplying the Look Out Townsite Company with water. These are
Balderson's schemes, and, if established, will put the Jingle-bob ranch
people out of business, as they have no title to the land on which they
are operating. The remarkable part of the fight is that which Balderson
took in it. After two of his men had been killed and the owner of the
Jingle-bob ranch had fallen, Balderson and his two remaining men came
forward with hands up, waving handkerchiefs. The Jingle-bob people
recognised the flag of truce, and Balderson led his men across the creek
to the cow-camp. Just as he approached close enough to the man who had
the party covered, Balderson yelled, 'Watch out--back of you!' and, as
all the captors turned their heads, Balderson knocked the pistol from
the hand of the only man whose weapon was pointed at the Balderson
party, and the next moment the cow-men looked into the barrels of the
surveyors' three revolvers, and were told that if they budged a hair
they would be killed. Balderson then disarmed the cow-men, and, after
passing around the drinks, hired the outfit as policemen for the town
of Look Out. It is said that he has given them two thousand dollars
apiece in Irrigation Company stock, has promised to defend them if they
are charged with the murder of the two surveyors, and has given each
cow-man a deed to a corner lot on the public square of the prospective
Balderson town. Deputy Sheriff Crosby from this place went over to
arrest Balderson, charged with killing D. V. Sherman of the Jingle-bob
property, and, after asking for his warrant, Balderson took it, put it
in his pocket, advised the deputy to hurry home, and, if he found any
coyotes or jack-rabbits that couldn't get out of his way fast enough,
not to stop to kill them, but shoo them off the trail and save time."

They say in Colorado that Balderson became an irrigation king. It is
certain that he raised half a million dollars in New York for his dam
and ditches. He built the "Look Out Opera House," and decorated it in
gilded stucco and with red plush two inches deep. Morrison contributed
this anecdote to the office Legend of Balderson: "He was in Florida in
his private car when they finished the opera house. When he came back
and saw a plaster bust of Shakespeare over the proscenium arch, he waved
his cane pompously and exclaimed: 'Take her down! Bill Shakespeare is
all right for the effete East, but out here he ain't deuce high with the
little corporal of Company B.'" So in Shakespeare's niche is a
plaster-cast of a soldier's face with the slouch-cap, the military
moustache, and the goatee of great pride, after the picture that once
adorned the columns of the _Statesman_. For a time they talked of
Balderson for United States Senator, and, at the laying of the
corner-stone of the capitol, the Denver papers spoke of the masterly
oration of former Governor Balderson of Kansas, whose marvellous
word-painting of the Battle of Look Out Mountain held the vast audience
spellbound for an hour. A few months later a cloudburst carried away the
Big Burro dam, and times went bad, and the stockholders in Balderson's
company, who would have rebuilt the dam, could not find Balderson when
they needed him, and certain creditors of the company, hitherto unknown,
appeared, and Balderson faded away like a morning star.

Here is a part of the narrative that George Kirwin got from Joe
Nevison: Joe began with the coal strike at Castle Rock, Wyoming, in
1893, when the strikers massed on Flat Top Mountain and day after day
went through their drill. He told a highly dramatic story of the
stoutish little man of fifty-five, with a fat, smooth-shaven face, who
pounded that horde of angry men into some semblance of military order.
All day the little man, in his shrunken seersucker coat and greasy white
hat, would bark orders at the men, march and counter-march them, and go
through the manual of arms, backward and forward and seven hands round.
When the battle with the militia came, the strikers charged down Flat
Top and fought bravely. The little man in the seersucker coat stayed
with them, snapping orders at them, damning them, coaxing them. And when
the deputies gathered up the strikers for the trial in court two months
later, the little man was still there. He was prospecting on a
gopher-hole somewhere up in the hills, and was trying to get his wildcat
mine listed on the Salt Lake Mining Exchange. No one gave bond for the
little man in the seersucker coat, and he went to jail. He was
Balderson. He seemed to give little heed to the trial, and sat with the
strikers rather stolidly. Venire after venire of jurymen was gone
through. At last an old man wearing a Loyal Legion button went into the
jury-box. Balderson saw him; they exchanged recognising glances, and
Balderson turned scarlet and looked away quickly. He nudged an attorney
for the strikers and said: "Keep him, whatever you do."

After the evidence was all in and the attorneys were about to make their
arguments, Balderson and one of the lawyers for the strikers were alone.

"They told me to take the part about you, Balderson; you were in the
Union Army, weren't you?"

Balderson looked at the floor and said:

"Yes; but don't say anything about it."

The lawyer, who knew Balderson's record, was astonished. He had made his
whole speech up on the line that Balderson as an old soldier would
appeal to the sympathies of the jury. Over and over the lawyer pressed
Balderson to know why nothing should be said of his soldier record, and
finally in exasperation the lawyer broke out:

"Lookee here, Baldy; you're too old to get coy. I'm going to make my
speech as I've mapped it out, soldier racket and all. I guess you've
taken enough trips up Look Out Mountain to get used to the altitude by
this time."

The lawyer started away, but Balderson grabbed him and pulled him back.
"Don't do it; for God's sake, don't do it! There's a fellow on that jury
that's a G. A. R. man; we were soldiers together; he knows me from away
back. Talk of Iowy; talk of Kansas; talk of anything on God's green
earth, but don't talk soldier. That man would wade through hell for me
neck deep on any other basis than that." Balderson's voice was
quivering. He added: "But don't talk soldier." Balderson slumped, with
his head in his hands. The attorney snapped at him:

"Weren't you a soldier?"

"Yes; oh, yes," Balderson sighed.

"Didn't you go up Look Out Mountain?"

"Oh, yes--that, too."

There was a silence between the men. The lawyer rasped it with, "Well,
what then?"

"Well--well," and the tousled little man sighed so deeply his sigh was
almost a sob, and lifted up the eyes of a whipped dog to the
lawyer's--"after that I got in the commissary department--and--and--was
dishonourably discharged." He rubbed his eyes with his fingers a moment
and then grinned foxily: "Ain't that enough?"

Roosevelt is a mining-camp in Idaho. It is five days from a morning
paper, and the camp is new. It is a log town with one street and no
society, except such as may gather around the big box-stove at Johnnie
Conyer's saloon. A number of ladies and two women lived in the camp, a
few tin-horn "gents," and about two hundred men. It is a seven months'
snow-camp, where men take their drama canned in the phonograph, their
food canned, their medicine all out of one bottle, and their morals
"without benefit of clergy." Across the front of one of the
canvas-covered log store-rooms that fringe the single street a cloth
sign is stretched. It reads, "Department Store," and inside a dance
hall, a saloon, and a gambling-place are operating. A few years ago,
when Colonel Alphabetical Morrison was travelling through the West on a
land deal for John Markley, business took him to Roosevelt, and he found
Balderson, grey of beard, shiny of pate, with unkempt, ratty back hair;
he was watery-eyed, and his red-veined skin had slipped down from his
once fat face into draperies over his lean neck and jowls. He was in the
dealer's chair, running the game.

The statute of limitations had covered all his Kansas misdeeds, and he
nodded affably as his old acquaintance came in. Later in the day the two
men went to Mrs. Smith's boarding-house to take a social bite. They sat
in front of the log-house in the evening, Balderson mellow and

"Seems to me this way: I ain't cut out for society as it is organised. I
do all right in a town until the piano begins to get respectable and the
rules of order are tucked snugly inside the decalogue, then I slip my
belt, and my running gear doesn't track. I get a few grand and noble
thoughts, freeze to 'em, and later find that the hereditary
appurtenances thereunto appertaining are private property of someone
else, and there is nothing for me to do but to stand a lawsuit or
vanish. I have had bad luck, lost my money, lost my friends, lost my
conscience, lost everything, pretty near"--and here he turned his watery
eyes on his friend with a saw-toothed smile and shook his depleted
abdomen, that had been worn off climbing many hills--"I've lost
everything, pretty near, but my vermiform appendix and my table of
contents, and as like as not I'll find some feller's got them
copyrighted." He heaved a great sigh and resumed, "I suppose I could 'a'
stood it all well enough if I had just had some sort of faith, some
religious consolation, some creed, or god, or something." He sighed
again, and then leered up: "But, you know--I'm so damned skeptic!"

Last spring, according to the Boisé, Idaho, papers, "Governor" Balderson
and two other old soldiers celebrated Memorial Day in Roosevelt. They
got a muslin flag as big as the flap of a shirt, from heaven knows
where, and in the streets of Roosevelt they hoisted this flag on the
highest pine pole in all the Salmon River Mountains. There were
elaborate ceremonies, and to the miners and gamblers and keepers of
wildcat mines in the mountains assembled, "Governor" Balderson told
eloquently of the Battle of Look Out Mountain. And Colonel Morrison who
read the account smiled appreciatively and pointed out to us the exact
stage in the proceedings where Balderson demanded to know who carried
the flag. There was long and tumultuous applause at the climax.

We also read in the Boisé papers that at the fall election in Roosevelt
they made Balderson justice of the peace, which, as Colonel Morrison
explained, was a purely honorary office in a community where every man
is his own court and constable and jury and judge; but the Colonel said
that Balderson was proud of official distinction, and probably levied
mild tribute from the people who indulged in riotous living, by
compelling them to buy drink-checks redeemable only at his department

It was from the Boisé papers that we had the final word from Balderson.
A message came to Roosevelt this spring that an outfit, thirty miles
away at the head of Profile Creek, was sick and starving. It was a
dangerous trip to the rescue, for snowslides were booming on every
southern hillside. Death would literally play tag with the man who dared
to hit the trail for Profile. Balderson did not hesitate a moment, but
filled his pack with provisions, put a marked deck and some loaded dice
in his pocket, and waved Roosevelt a cheery good-by as he struck out
over the three logs that bridge Mule Creek. He was bundled to the chin
in warm coats, and on his way met Hot Foot Higgins coming in from
Profile. Balderson seems to have given Higgins his warmest coat before
the snow-slide hit them. It killed them both. Hot Foot died instantly,
but Balderson must have lived many hours, for the snow about his body
was melted and in his pocket they found Hot Foot's watch.

They buried him near the trail where they found him, and, stuck in a
candle-box, over the heap of stones above him, flutters lonesomely in
the desolation of the mountain-side the little muslin rag that was once
a flag. They call the hill on which he sleeps "Look Out Mountain."

Late this spring the mail brought to the office of the Boisé
_Capital-News_ a battered woodcut half a century old. When the _News_
came to our office we saw the familiar soldier's face in profile, with
a cap drawn over the eyes, with a waving moustache and a fierce goatee,
and across the shoulders of the figure a military cape thrown back
jauntily. With the old cut in the Boisé paper was an article which the
editor says in a note was written in a young woman's angular
handwriting, done in pencil on wrapping-paper. The article told, in
spelling unspeakable, of the greatness and goodness of "Ex-Governor
Balderson of Kansas." It related that he was ever the "friend to the
friendless"; that, "with all his worldly honours, he was modest and
unassuming"; that "he had his faults, as who of us have not," but that
he was "honest, tried and true"; and the memorial closed with the words:
"Heaven's angel gained is Roosevelt's hero lost."


The Passing of Priscilla Winthrop

What a dreary waste life in our office must have been before Miss
Larrabee came to us to edit a society page for the paper! To be sure we
had known in a vague way that there were lines of social cleavage in the
town; that there were whist clubs and dancing clubs and women's clubs,
and in a general way that the women who composed these clubs made up our
best society, and that those benighted souls beyond the pale of these
clubs were out of the caste. We knew that certain persons whose names
were always handed in on the lists of guests at parties were what we
called "howling swells." But it remained for Miss Larrabee to sort out
ten or a dozen of these "howling swells" who belonged to the strictest
social caste in town, and call them "howling dervishes." Incidentally it
may be said that both Miss Larrabee and her mother were dervishes, but
that did not prevent her from making sport of them. From Miss Larrabee
we learned that the high priestess of the howling dervishes of our
society was Mrs. Mortimer Conklin, known by the sisterhood of the mosque
as Priscilla Winthrop. We in our office had never heard her called by
that name, but Miss Larrabee explained, rather elaborately, that unless
one was permitted to speak of Mrs. Conklin thus, one was quite beyond
the hope of a social heaven.

In the first place, Priscilla Winthrop was Mrs. Conklin's maiden name;
in the second place, it links her with the Colonial Puritan stock of
which she is so justly proud--being scornful of mere Daughters of the
Revolution--and finally, though Mrs. Conklin is a grandmother, her
maiden name seems to preserve the sweet, vague illusion of girlhood
which Mrs. Conklin always carries about her like the shadow of a dream.
And Miss Larrabee punctuated this with a wink which we took to be a
quotation mark, and she went on with her work. So we knew we had been
listening to the language used in the temple.

Our town was organised fifty years ago by Abolitionists from New
England, and twenty years ago, when Alphabetical Morrison was getting
out one of the numerous boom editions of his real estate circular, he
printed an historical article therein in which he said that Priscilla
Winthrop was the first white child born on the town site. Her father was
territorial judge, afterward member of the State Senate, and after ten
years spent in mining in the far West, died in the seventies, the
richest man in the State. It was known that he left Priscilla, his only
child, half a million dollars in government bonds.

She was the first girl in our town to go away to school. Naturally, she
went to Oberlin, famous in those days for admitting coloured students.
But she finished her education at Vassar, and came back so much of a
young lady that the town could hardly contain her. She married Mortimer
Conklin, took him to the Centennial on a wedding trip, came home,
rebuilt her father's house, covering it with towers and minarets and
steeples, and scroll-saw fretwork, and christened it Winthrop Hall. She
erected a store building on Main Street, that Mortimer might have a
luxurious office on the second floor, and then settled down to the
serious business of life, which was building up a titled aristocracy in
a Kansas town.

The Conklin children were never sent to the public schools, but had a
governess, yet Mortimer Conklin, who was always alert for the call,
could not understand why the people never summoned him to any office of
honour or trust. He kept his brass signboard polished, went to his
office punctually every morning at ten o'clock, and returned home to
dinner at five, and made clients wait ten minutes in the outer office
before they could see him--at least so both of them say, and there were
no others in all the years. He shaved every day, wore a frock-coat and a
high hat to church--where for ten years he was the only male member of
the Episcopalian flock--and Mrs. Conklin told the women that altogether
he was a credit to his sex and his family--a remark which was passed
about ribaldly in town for a dozen years, though Mortimer Conklin never
knew that he was the subject of a town joke. Once he rebuked a man in
the barber shop for speaking of feminine extravagance, and told the shop
that he did not stint his wife, that when she asked him for money he
always gave it to her without question, and that if she wanted a dress
he told her to buy it and send the bill to him. And we are such a polite
people that no one in the crowded shop laughed--until Mortimer Conklin
went out.

Of course at the office we have known for twenty-five years what the men
thought of Mortimer, but not until Miss Larrabee joined the force did we
know that among the women Mrs. Conklin was considered an oracle. Miss
Larrabee said that her mother has a legend that when Priscilla Winthrop
brought home from Boston the first sealskin sacque ever worn in town she
gave a party for it, and it lay in its box on the big walnut bureau in
the spare room of the Conklin mansion in solemn state, while
seventy-five women salaamed to it. After that Priscilla Winthrop was the
town authority on sealskins. When any member of the town nobility had a
new sealskin, she took it humbly to Priscilla Winthrop to pass judgment
upon it. If Priscilla said it was London-dyed, its owner pranced away
on clouds of glory; but if she said it was American-dyed, its owner
crawled away in shame, and when one admired the disgraced garment, the
martyred owner smiled with resigned sweetness and said humbly: "Yes--but
it's only American-dyed, you know."

No dervish ever questioned the curse of the priestess. The only time a
revolt was imminent was in the autumn of 1884 when the Conklins returned
from their season at Duxbury, Massachusetts, and Mrs. Conklin took up
the carpets in her house, heroically sold all of them at the second-hand
store, put in new waxed floors and spread down rugs. The town uprose and
hooted; the outcasts and barbarians in the Methodist and Baptist
Missionary Societies rocked the Conklin home with their merriment, and
ten dervishes with set faces bravely met the onslaughts of the savages;
but among themselves in hushed whispers, behind locked doors, the
faithful wondered if there was not a mistake some place. However, when
Priscilla Winthrop assured them that in all the best homes in Boston
rugs were replacing carpets, their souls were at peace.

All this time we at the office knew nothing of what was going on. We
knew that the Conklins devoted considerable time to society; but
Alphabetical Morrison explained that by calling attention to the fact
that Mrs. Conklin had prematurely grey hair. He said a woman with
prematurely grey hair was as sure to be a social leader as a spotted
horse is to join a circus. But now we know that Colonel Morrison's view
was a superficial one, for he was probably deterred from going deeper
into the subject by his dislike for Mortimer Conklin, who invested a
quarter of a million dollars of the Winthrop fortune in the Wichita
boom, and lost it. Colonel Morrison naturally thought as long as Conklin
was going to lose that money he could have lost it just as well at home
in the "Queen City of the Prairies," giving the Colonel a chance to win.
And when Conklin, protecting his equities in Wichita, sent a hundred
thousand dollars of good money after the quarter million of bad money,
Colonel Morrison's grief could find no words; though he did find
language for his wrath. When the Conklins draped their Oriental rugs for
airing every Saturday over the veranda and portico railings of the
house front, Colonel Morrison accused the Conklins of hanging out their
stamp collection to let the neighbours see it. This was the only side of
the rug question we ever heard in our office until Miss Larrabee came;
then she told us that one of the first requirements of a howling dervish
was to be able to quote from Priscilla Winthrop's Rug book from memory.
The Rug book, the China book and the Old Furniture book were the three
sacred scrolls of the sect.

All this was news to us. However, through Colonel Morrison, we had
received many years ago another sidelight on the social status of the
Conklins. It came out in this way: Time honoured custom in our town
allows the children of a home where there is an outbreak of social
revelry, whether a church festival or a meeting of the Cold-Nosed Whist
Club, to line up with the neighbour children on the back stoop or in the
kitchen, like human vultures, waiting to lick the ice-cream freezer and
to devour the bits of cake and chicken salad that are left over. Colonel
Morrison told us that no child was ever known to adorn the back yard of
the Conklin home while a social cataclysm was going on, but that when
Mrs. Morrison entertained the Ladies' Literary League, children from the
holy Conklin family went home from his back porch with their faces
smeared with chicken croquettes and their hands sticky with jellycake.

This story never gained general circulation in town, but even if it had
been known of all men it would not have shaken the faith of the
devotees. For they did not smile when Priscilla Winthrop began to refer
to old Frank Hagan, who came to milk the Conklin cow and curry the
Conklin horse, as "François, the man," or to call the girl who did the
cooking and general housework "Cosette, the maid," though every one of
the dozen other women in town whom "Cosette, the maid" had worked for
knew that her name was Fanny Ropes. And shortly after that the homes of
the rich and the great over on the hill above Main Street began to fill
with Lisettes and Nanons and Fanchons, and Mrs. Julia Neal Worthington
called her girl "Grisette," explaining that they had always had a
Grisette about the house since her mother first went to housekeeping in
Peoria, Illinois, and it sounded so natural to hear the name that they
always gave it to a new servant. This story came to the office through
the Young Prince, who chuckled over it during the whole hour he consumed
in writing Ezra Worthington's obituary.

Miss Larrabee says that the death of Ezra Worthington marks such a
distinct epoch in the social life of the town that we must set down
here--even if the narrative of the Conklins halts for a moment--how the
Worthingtons rose and flourished. Julia Neal, eldest daughter of Thomas
Neal--who lost the "O" before his name somewhere between the docks of
Dublin and the west bank of the Missouri River--was for ten years
principal of the ward school in that part of our town known as
"Arkansaw," where her term of service is still remembered as the "reign
of terror." It was said of her then that she could whip any man in the
ward--and would do it if he gave her a chance. The same manner which
made the neighbours complain that Julia Neal carried her head too high,
later in life, when she had money to back it, gave her what the women of
the State Federation called a "regal air." In her early thirties she
married Ezra Worthington, bachelor, twenty year her senior. Ezra
Worthington was at that time, had been for twenty years before, and
continued to be until his death, proprietor of the Worthington Poultry
and Produce Commission Company. He was owner of the stock-yards,
president of the Worthington State Bank, vice-president, treasurer and
general manager of the Worthington Mercantile Company, and owner of five
brick buildings on Main Street. He bought one suit of clothes every five
years whether he needed it or not, never let go of a dollar until the
Goddess of Liberty on it was black in the face, and died rated "As
$350,000" by all the commercial agencies in the country. And the first
thing Mrs. Worthington did after the funeral was to telephone to the
bank and ask them to send her a hundred dollars.

The next important thing she did was to put a heavy, immovable granite
monument over the deceased so that he would not be restless, and then
she built what is known in our town as the Worthington Palace. It makes
the Markley mansion which cost $25,000 look like a barn. The
Worthingtons in the lifetime of Ezra had ventured no further into the
social whirl of the town than to entertain the new Presbyterian preacher
at tea, and to lend their lawn to the King's Daughters for a social,
sending a bill in to the society for the eggs used in the coffee and the
gasoline used in heating it.

To the howling dervishes who surrounded Priscilla Winthrop the
Worthingtons were as mere Christian dogs. It was not until three years
after Ezra Worthington's death that the glow of the rising Worthington
sun began to be seen in the Winthrop mosque. During those three years
Mrs. Worthington had bought and read four different sets of the best
hundred books, had consumed the Chautauqua course, had prepared and
delivered for the Social Science Club, which she organised, five papers
ranging in subject from the home life of Rameses I., through a Survey of
the Forces Dominating Michael Angelo, to the Influence of Esoteric
Buddhism on Modern Political Tendencies. More than that, she had been
elected president of the City Federation of Clubs, and, being a delegate
to the National Federation from the State, was talked of for the State
Federation Presidency. When the State Federation met in our town, Mrs.
Worthington gave a reception for the delegates in the Worthington
Palace, a feature of which was a concert by a Kansas City organist on
the new pipe-organ which she had erected in the music-room of her house,
and despite the fact that the devotees of the Priscilla shrine said that
the crowd was distinctly mixed and not at all representative of our best
social grace and elegance, there is no question but that Mrs.
Worthington's reception made a strong impression upon the best local
society. The fact that, as Miss Larrabee said, "Priscilla Winthrop was
so nice about it," also may be regarded as ominous. But the women who
lent Mrs. Worthington the spoons and forks for the occasion were
delighted, and formed a phalanx about her, which made up in numbers what
it might have lacked in distinction. Yet while Mrs. Worthington was in
Europe the faithful routed the phalanx, and Mrs. Conklin returned from
her summer in Duxbury with half a carload of old furniture from Harrison
Sampson's shop and gave a talk to the priestesses of the inner temple
on "Heppelwhite in New England."

Miss Larrabee reported the affair for our paper, giving the small list
of guests and the long line of refreshments--which included
alligator-pear salad, right out of the Smart Set Cook Book. Moreover,
when Jefferson appeared in Topeka that fall, Priscilla Winthrop, who had
met him through some of her Duxbury friends in Boston, invited him to
run down for a luncheon with her and the members of the royal family who
surrounded her. It was the proud boast of the defenders of the Winthrop
faith in town that week, that though twenty-four people sat down to the
table, not only did all the men wear frock-coats--not only did Uncle
Charlie Haskins of String Town wear the old Winthrop butler's livery
without a wrinkle in it, and with only the faint odour of mothballs to
mingle with the perfume of the roses--but (and here the voices of the
followers of the prophet dropped in awe) not a single knife or fork or
spoon or napkin was borrowed! After that, when any of the sisterhood had
occasion to speak of the absent Mrs. Worthington, whose house was
filled with new mahogany and brass furniture, they referred to her as
the Duchess of Grand Rapids, which gave them much comfort.

But joy is short-lived. When Mrs. Worthington came back from Europe and
opened her house to the City Federation, and gave a coloured
lantern-slide lecture on "An evening with the Old Masters," serving
punch from her own cut-glass punch bowl instead of renting the
hand-painted crockery bowl of the queensware store, the old dull pain
came back into the hearts of the dwellers in the inner circle. Then just
in the nick of time Mrs. Conklin went to Kansas City and was operated on
for appendicitis. She came back pale and interesting, and gave her club
a paper called "Hospital Days," fragrant with iodoform and Henley's
poems. Miss Larrabee told us that it was almost as pleasant as an
operation on one's self to hear Mrs. Conklin tell about hers. And they
thought it was rather brutal--so Miss Larrabee afterward told us--when
Mrs. Worthington went to the hospital one month, and gave her famous
Delsarte lecture course the next month, and explained to the women that
if she wasn't as heavy as she used to be it was because she had had
everything cut out of her below the windpipe. It seemed to the temple
priestesses that, considering what a serious time poor dear Priscilla
Winthrop had gone through, Mrs. Worthington was making light of serious

There is no doubt that the formal rebellion of Mrs. Worthington, Duchess
of Grand Rapids, and known of the town's nobility as the Pretender,
began with the hospital contest. The Pretender planted her siege-guns
before the walls of the temple of the priestess, and prepared for
business. The first manoeuvre made by the beleaguered one was to give a
luncheon in the mosque, at which, though it was midwinter, fresh
tomatoes and fresh strawberries were served, and a real authoress from
Boston talked upon John Fiske's philosophy and, in the presence of the
admiring guests, made a new kind of salad dressing for the fresh lettuce
and tomatoes. Thirty women who watched her forgot what John Fiske's
theory of the cosmos is, and thirty husbands who afterward ate that
salad dressing have learned to suffer and be strong. But that salad
dressing undermined the faith of thirty mere men--raw outlanders to be
sure--in the social omniscience of Priscilla Winthrop. Of course they
did not see it made; the spell of the enchantress was not over them; but
in their homes they maintained that if Priscilla Winthrop didn't know
any more about cosmic philosophy than to pay a woman forty dollars to
make a salad dressing like that--and the whole town knows that was the
price--the vaunted town of Duxbury, Massachusetts, with its old
furniture and new culture, which Priscilla spoke of in such repressed
ecstasy, is probably no better than Manitou, Colorado, where they get
their Indian goods from Buffalo, New York.

Such is the perverse reasoning of man. And Mrs. Worthington, having
lived with considerable of a man for fifteen years, hearing echoes of
this sedition, attacked the fortification of the faithful on its weakest
side. She invited the thirty seditious husbands with their wives to a
beefsteak dinner, where she heaped their plates with planked sirloin,
garnished the sirloin with big, fat, fresh mushrooms, and topped off the
meal with a mince pie of her own concoction, which would make a man
leave home to follow it. She passed cigars at the table, and after the
guests went into the music-room ten old men with ten old fiddles
appeared and contested with old-fashioned tunes for a prize, after which
the company danced four quadrilles and a Virginia reel. The men threw
down their arms going home and went over in a body to the Pretender. But
in a social conflict men are mere non-combatants, and their surrender
did not seriously injure the cause that they deserted.

The war went on without abatement. During the spring that followed the
winter of the beefsteak dinner many skirmishes, minor engagements,
ambushes and midnight raids occurred. But the contest was not decisive.
For purposes of military drill, the defenders of the Winthrop faith
formed themselves into a Whist Club. _The_ Whist Club they called it,
just as they spoke of Priscilla Winthrop's gowns as "the black and white
one," "the blue brocade," "the white china silk," as if no other black
and white or blue brocade or white china silk gowns had been created in
the world before and could not be made again by human hands. So, in the
language of the inner sanctuary, there was "The Whist Club," to the
exclusion of all other possible human Whist Clubs under the stars. When
summer came the Whist Club fled as birds to the mountains--save
Priscilla Winthrop, who went to Duxbury, and came home with a brass
warming-pan and a set of Royal Copenhagen china that were set up as holy
objects in the temple.

But Mrs. Worthington went to the National Federation of Women's Clubs,
made the acquaintance of the women there who wore clothes from Paris,
began tracing her ancestry back to the Maryland Calverts--on her
mother's side of the house--brought home a membership in the Daughters
of the Revolution, the Colonial Dames and a society which referred to
Charles I. as "Charles Martyr," claimed a Stuart as the rightful king of
England, affecting to scorn the impudence of King Edward in sitting on
another's throne. More than this, Mrs. Worthington had secured the
promise of Mrs. Ellen Vail Montgomery, Vice-President of the National
Federation, to visit Cliff Crest, as Mrs. Worthington called the
Worthington mansion, and she turned up her nose at those who worshipped
under the towers, turrets and minarets of the Conklin mosque, and played
the hose of her ridicule on their outer wall that she might have it
spotless for a target when she got ready to raze it with her big gun.

The week that Ellen Vail Montgomery came to town was a busy one for Miss
Larrabee. We turned over the whole fourth page of the paper to her for a
daily society page, and charged the Bee Hive and the White Front Dry
Goods store people double rates to put their special sale advertisements
on that page while the "National Vice," as the Young Prince called her,
was in town. For the "National Vice" brought the State President and two
State Vices down, also four District Presidents and six District Vices,
who, as Miss Larrabee said, were monsters "of so frightful a mien, that
to be hated need but to be seen." The entire delegation of visiting
stateswomen--Vices and Virtues and Beatitudes as we called them--were
entertained by Mrs. Worthington at Cliff Crest, and there was so much
Federation politics going on in our town that the New York _Sun_ took
five hundred words about it by wire, and Colonel Alphabetical Morrison
said that with all those dressed-up women about he felt as though he was
living in a Sunday supplement.

The third day of the ghost-dance at Cliff Crest was to be the day of the
big event--as the office parlance had it. The ceremonies began at
sunrise with a breakfast to which half a dozen of the captains and kings
of the besieging host of the Pretender were bidden. It seems to have
been a modest orgy, with nothing more astonishing than a new gold-band
china set to dishearten the enemy. By ten o'clock Priscilla Winthrop and
the Whist Club had recovered from that; but they had been asked to the
luncheon--the star feature of the week's round of gayety. It is just as
well to be frank, and say that they went with fear and trembling. Panic
and terror were in their ranks, for they knew a crisis was at hand. It
came when they were "ushered into the dining-hall," as our paper so
grandly put it, and saw in the great oak-beamed room a table laid on the
polished bare wood--a table laid for forty-eight guests, with a doily
for every plate, and every glass, and every salt-cellar, and--here the
mosque fell on the heads of the howling dervishes--forty-eight
soup-spoons, forty-eight silver-handled knives and forks; forty-eight
butter-spreaders, forty-eight spoons, forty-eight salad forks,
forty-eight ice-cream spoons, forty-eight coffee spoons. Little did it
avail the beleaguered party to peep slyly under the spoon-handles--the
word "Sterling" was there, and, more than that, a large, severely plain
"W" with a crest glared up at them from every piece of silver. The
service had not been rented. They knew their case was hopeless. And so
they ate in peace.

When the meal was over it was Mrs. Ellen Vail Montgomery, in her
thousand-dollar gown, worshipped by the eyes of forty-eight women, who
put her arm about Priscilla Winthrop and led her into the conservatory,
where they had "a dear, sweet quarter of an hour," as Mrs. Montgomery
afterward told her hostess. In that dear, sweet quarter of an hour
Priscilla Winthrop Conklin unbuckled her social sword and handed it to
the conqueror, in that she agreed absolutely with Mrs. Montgomery that
Mrs. Worthington was "perfectly lovely," that she was "delighted to be
of any service" to Mrs. Worthington; that Mrs. Conklin "was sure no one
else in our town was so admirably qualified for "National Vice" as Mrs.
Worthington," and that "it would be such a privilege" for Mrs. Conklin
to suggest Mrs. Worthington's name for the office. And then Mrs.
Montgomery, "National Vice" and former State Secretary for Vermont of
the Colonial Dames, kissed Priscilla Winthrop and they came forth
wet-eyed and radiant, holding each other's hands. When the company had
been hushed by the magic of a State Vice and two District Virtues,
Priscilla Winthrop rose and in the sweetest Kansas Bostonese told the
ladies that she thought this an eminently fitting place to let the
visiting ladies know how dearly our town esteems its most distinguished
townswoman, Mrs. Julia Neal Worthington, and that entirely without her
solicitation, indeed quite without her knowledge, the women of our
town--and she hoped of our beloved State--were ready now to announce
that they were unanimous in their wish that Mrs. Worthington should be
National Vice-President of the Federation of Women's Clubs, and that
she, the speaker, had entered the contest with her whole soul to bring
this end to pass. Then there was hand-clapping and handkerchief waving
and some tears, and a little good, honest Irish hugging, and in the
twilight two score of women filed down through the formal garden of
Cliff Crest and walked by twos and threes into the town.

There was the usual clatter of home-going wagons; lights winked out of
kitchen windows; the tinkle of distant cow-bells was in the air; on Main
Street the commerce of the town was gently ebbing, and man and nature
seemed utterly oblivious of the great event that had happened. The
course of human events was not changed; the great world rolled on, while
Priscilla Winthrop went home to a broken shrine to sit among the


"And Yet a Fool"

The exchanges that come to a country newspaper like ours become familiar
friends as the years pass. One who reads these papers regularly comes to
know them even in their wrappers, though to an unpracticed eye the
wrappers seem much alike. But when he has been poking his thumb through
the paper husks in a certain pile every morning for a score of years, he
knows by some sort of prescience when a new paper appears; and, when the
pile looks odd to him, he goes hunting for the stranger and is not happy
until he has found it.

One morning this spring the stranger stuck its head from the bottom of
the exchange pile, and when we had glanced at the handwriting of the
address and at the one-cent stamp on the cover we knew it had been
mailed to us by someone besides the publisher. For the newspaper "hand"
is as definite a form of writing as the legal hand or the doctor's. The
paper proved to be an Arizona newspaper full of saloon advertising,
restaurant cards, church and school meeting notices, local items about
the sawmill and the woman's club, land notices and paid items from wool
dealers. On the local page in the midst of a circle of red ink was the
announcement of the death of Horace P. Sampson. Every month we get
notices like this, of the deaths of old settlers who have gone to the
ends of the earth, but this notice was peculiar in that it said:

"One year ago our lamented townsman deposited with the firm of Cross &
Kurtz, the popular undertakers and dealers in Indian goods and general
merchandise, $100 to cover his funeral expenses, and another hundred to
provide that a huge boulder be rolled over his grave on which he desired
the following unusual inscription: '_Horace P. Sampson, Born Dec. 6,
1840, and died ----." And is not this a rare fellow, my lord? He's good
at anything and yet a fool._"'"

We handed the paper to Alphabetical Morrison, who happened to be in the
office at the time, pawing through the discarded exchanges in the
waste-basket, looking for his New York _Sun_, and, after Colonel
Morrison had read the item, he began drumming with his finger-nails on
the chair-seat between his knees. His eyes were full of dreams and no
one disturbed him as he looked off into space. Finally he sighed:

"And yet a fool--a motley fool! Poor old Samp--kept it up to the end! I
take it from the guarded way the paper refers to his faults, 'as who of
us have not,' that he died of the tremens or something like that." The
Colonel paused and smiled just perceptibly, and went on: "Yet I see that
he was a good fellow to the end. I notice that the Shriners and the Elks
and the Eagles and the Hoo-hoos buried him. Nary an insurance order in
his! Poor old Samp; he certainly went all the gaits!"

We suggested that Colonel Morrison write something about the deceased
for the paper, but though the Colonel admitted that he knew Sampson
"like a book," there was no persuading Morrison to write the obituary.

"After some urging and by way of compromise," he said, "I'm perfectly
willing to give you fellows the facts and let you fix up what you

Because the reporters were both busy we called the stenographer, and had
the Colonel's story taken down as he told it--to be rewritten into an
obituary later. And it is what he said and not what we printed about
Sampson that is worth putting down here. The Colonel took the big
leather chair, locked his hands behind his head, and began:

"Let me see. Samp was born, as he says, December 6, 1840, in Wisconsin,
and came out to Kansas right after the war closed. He was going to
college up there, and at the second call for troops he led the whole
senior class into forming a company, and enlisted before graduation and
fought from that time on till the close of the war. He was a captain, I
think, but you never heard him called that. When he came here he'd been
admitted to the bar and was a good lawyer--a mighty good lawyer for that
time--and had more business 'n a bird pup with a gum-shoe. He was just a
boy then, and, like all boys, he enjoyed a good time. He drank more or
less in the army--they all did 's far as that goes--but he kept it up in
a desultory way after he came here, as a sort of accessory to his main
business of life, which was being a good fellow.

"And he was a good fellow--an awful good fellow. We were all young then;
there wasn't an old man on the town-site as I remember it. We use to
load up the whole bunch and go hunting--closing up the stores and taking
the girls along--and did not show up till midnight. Samp would always
have a little something to take under his buggy-seat, and we would wet
up and sing coming home, with the beds of the spring-wagons so full of
prairie chickens and quail that they jolted out at every rut. Samp would
always lead the singing--being just a mite more lubricated than the rest
of us, and the girls thought he was all hunkey dorey--as they used to

[Illustration: "He made a lot of money and blew it in"]

"He made a lot of money and blew it in at Jim Thomas's saloon, buying
drinks, playing stud poker, betting on quarter horses, and lending it
out to fellows who helped him forget they'd borrowed it. And--say in
two or three years, after the chicken-hunting set had married off, and
begun in a way to settle down--Samp took up with the next set coming on;
he married and got the prettiest girl in town. We always thought that he
married only because he wanted to be a good fellow and did not wish to
be impolite to the girl he'd paired off with in the first crowd. Still
he didn't stay home nights, and once or twice a year--say, election or
Fourth of July--he and a lot of other young fellows would go out and tip
over all the board sidewalks in town, and paint funny signs on the store
buildings and stack beer bottles on the preacher's front porch, and
raise Ned generally. And the fellows of his age, who owned the stores
and were in nights, would say to Samp when they saw him coming down
about noon the next day:

"'Go it when you're young Samp, for when you're old you can't.' And he
would wink at 'em, give 'em ten dollars apiece for their damages and
jolly his way down the street to his office.

"Now, you mustn't get the idea that Samp was the town drunkard, for he
never was. He was just a good fellow. When the second set of young
fellows outgrew him and settled down, he picked up with the third, and
his wife's brown alpaca began to be noticed more or less among the
women. But Samp's practice didn't seem to fall off--it only changed. He
didn't have so much real estate lawing and got more criminal practice.
Gradually he became a criminal lawyer, and his fame for wit and
eloquence extended over all the State. When a cowpuncher got in trouble
his folks in the East always gave Samp a big fee to get the boy out, and
he did it. When he went to any other county-seat besides our own to try
a case, the fellows--and you know who the fellows are in a town--the
fellows knew that while Samp was in town there would be something going
on with 'fireworks in the evening.' For he was a great fellow for a good
time, and the dining-room girls at the hotel used to giggle in the
kitchen for a week after he was gone at the awful things he would say to
'em. He knew more girls by their first names than a drummer."

Colonel Morrison chuckled and crossed his fat legs at the ankles as he
continued, after lighting the cigar we gave him:

"Well, along in the late seventies we fellows that he started out with
got to owning our own homes and getting on in the world. That was the
time when Samp should have been grubbing at his law books, but nary a
grub for him. He was playing horse for dear life. And right there the
fellows all left him behind. Some were buying real estate for
speculation; some running for office; some starting a bank; and others
lending money at two per cent. a month, and leading in the
prayer-meeting. So Samp kind of hitched up his ambition and took the
slack out of his habits for a few months and went to the legislature.
They say that he certainly did have a good time, though, when he got
there. They remember that session yet up there, and call it the year of
the great flood, for the nights they were filled with music, as the poet
says, and from the best accounts we could get the days were devoid of
ease also, and how Mrs. Sampson stood it the women never could find out,
for, of course, she must have known all about it, though he wouldn't
let her come near Topeka. He began to get pursy and red-faced, and was
clicking it off with his fifth set of young fellows. It took a big slug
of whisky to set off his oratory, but when he got it wound up he surely
could pull the feathers out of the bird of freedom to beat scandalous.
But as a stump speaker you weren't always sure he'd fill the engagement.
He could make a jury blubber and clench its fists at the prosecuting
attorney, yet he didn't claim to know much law, and he did turn over all
the work in the Supreme Court to his partner, Charley Hedrick. Then,
when Charley was practising before the Supreme Court and wasn't here to
hold him down, Samp would get out and whoop it up with the boys, quote
Shakespeare and make stump speeches on dry-goods boxes at midnight, and
put his arms around old Marshal Furgeson's neck and tell him he was the
blooming flower of chivalry. Also women made a fool of him--more or

"Where was I?" asked Colonel Morrison of the stenographer when she had
finished sharpening her pencil. "Oh, yes, along in the eighties came
the boom, and Samp tried to get in it and make some money. He seems to
have tried to catch up with us fellows of his age, and he began to
plunge. He got in debt, and, when the boom broke, he was still living in
a rented house with the rent ten months behind; his partnership was gone
and his practice was cut down to joint-keepers, gamblers, and the
farmers who hadn't heard the stories of his financial irregularities
that were floating around town.

"Yet his wife stuck to him, forever explaining to my wife that he would
be all right when he settled down. But he continued to soak up a
little--not much, but a little. He never was drunk in the daytime, but I
remember there used to be mornings when his office smelled pretty sour.
I had an office next to his for a while and he used to come in and talk
to me a good deal. The young fellows around town whom he would like to
run with were beginning to find him stupid, and the old fellows--except
me--were busy and he had no one to loaf with. He decided, I remember,
several times to brace up, and once he kept white shirts, cuffs and
collars on for nearly a year. But when Harrison was elected, he filled
up from his shoes to his hat and didn't go home for three days. One day
after that, when he had gone back to his flannel shirts and dirty
collars, he was sitting in my office looking at the fire in the big box
stove when he broke out with:

"'Alphabetical--what's the matter with me, anyway? This town sends men
to Congress; it makes Supreme Court judges of others. It sends fellows
to Kansas City as rich bankers. It makes big merchants out of grocery
clerks. Fortune just naturally flirts with everyone in town--but never a
wink do I get. I know and you know I'm smarter than those jays. I can
teach your Congressman economics, and your Supreme judge law. I can
think up more schemes than the banker, and can beat the merchant in any
kind of a game he'll name. I don't lie and I don't steal and I ain't
stuck up. What's the matter with me, anyway?'

"And of course," mused Colonel Morrison as he relighted the butt of his
cigar, "of course I had to lie to him and say I didn't know. But I did.
We all knew. He was too much of a good fellow. His failure to get on
bothered him a good deal, and one day he got roaring full and went up
and down town telling people how smart he was. Then his pride left him,
and he let his whiskers grow frowsy and used his vest for a spittoon,
and his eyes watered too easily for a man still in his forties.

"He went West a dozen years ago, about the time of Cleveland's second
election, expecting to get a job in Arizona and grow up with the
country. His wife was mighty happy, and she told our folks and the rest
of the women that when Horace got away from his old associates in this
town she knew that he would be all right. Poor Myrtle Kenwick, the
prettiest girl you ever saw along in the sixties--and she was through
here not long ago and stayed with my wife and the girls--a broken old
woman, going back to her kinfolk in Iowa after she left him. Poor
Myrtle! I wonder where she is. I see this Arizona paper doesn't say
anything about her."

Colonel Morrison read over the item again, and smiled as he proceeded:

"But it does say that he occupied many places of honour and trust in
his former home in Kansas, which seems to indicate that whisky made old
Samp a liar as well as a loafer at last. My, my!" sighed the Colonel as
he rose and put the paper on the desk. "My, my! What a treacherous
serpent it is! It gave him a good time--literally a hell of a good time.
And he was a good fellow--literally a damned good fellow--'damned from
here to eternity,' as your man Kipling says. God gave him every talent.
He might have been a respected, useful citizen; no honour was beyond
him; but he put aside fame and worth and happiness to play with whisky.
My Lord, just think of it!" exclaimed the Colonel as he reached for his
hat and put up his glasses. "And this is how whisky served him: brought
him to shame, wrecked his home, made his name a by-word, and lured him
on and on to utter ruin by holding before him the phantom of a good
time. What a pitiful, heart-breaking mocker it is!" He sighed a long
sigh as he stood in the door looking up at the sky with his hands
clasped behind him, and said half audibly as he went down the steps:
"And whoso is deceived thereby is not wise--not wise. 'He's good at
anything--and yet a fool'!"

That was what Colonel Morrison gave the stenographer. What we made for
the paper is entirely uninteresting and need not be printed here.


A Kansas "Childe Roland"

One of the wisest things ever said about the newspaper business was said
by the late J. Sterling Morton, of Nebraska. He declared that a
newspaper's enemies were its assets, and the newspaper's liabilities its
friends. This is particularly true of a country newspaper. For instance,
witness the ten-years' struggle of our own little paper to get rid of
the word "Hon." as a prefix to the names of politicians. Everyone in
town used to laugh at us for referring to whippersnapper statesmen as
"Honourable"; because everyone in town knew that for the most part these
whippersnappers were entirely dishonourable. It was easy enough to stop
calling our enemies "Hon.," for they didn't dare to complain; but if we
dropped the title even from so mangy a man as Abner Handy, within a week
Charley Hedrick would happen into the office with twenty or thirty
dollars' worth of legal printing, and after doing us so important a
favour would pause before going out to say:

"Boys, what you fellows got against Ab Handy?" And the ensuing dialogue
would conclude from old Charley: "Well, I know--I know--but Ab likes it,
and it really isn't much, and I know he's a fool about it; I don't care
in my own case, but if you can do it I kind of wish you would. Ab's
funny that way; he's never given up. He's like the fellow old Browning
tells about who has 'august anticipations, of a dim splendour ever on
before,' and when you fellows quit calling him 'Hon.' it makes him

And old Charley would grow purple with a big, wheezy, asthmatic laugh,
and shake his great six-foot hulk and toddle out leaving us vanquished.
For though the whole town reviles Abner Handy, Charley Hedrick still
looks after him.

It was said for thirty years that Handy did old Charley's dirty work in
politics, but we knew many of the mean things that Handy did were
unjustly charged to Hedrick. People in a small community are apt to put
two and two together and make five. Much of the talk about the alliance
between Hedrick and Handy is, of course, down-right slander; every
lawyer who tries lawsuits for forty years in a country town is bound to
make enemies of small-minded people, many of whom occupy large places in
the community, and a small-minded man, believing that his enemy is a
villain, makes up his facts to suit his belief, and then peddles his
story. It is always just as well to discount the home stories on an old
lawyer ninety-five per cent. if they are bad; and seventy per cent. if
they are good--for he may have saved the fellow who is telling them from
the penitentiary. But Abner Handy was never enough of a lawyer to come
within this rule. Indeed they used to say that he was not admitted to
the bar, at all, but that when he came to town, in 1871, he erased his
dead brother's name on a law diploma and substituted his own. Still, he
practised on the law--as Simon Mehronay used to say of Handy--and for
twenty years carried an advertisement in Eastern farm journals
proclaiming that his specialty was Kansas collections. He never took as
a fee less than ninety-five per cent. of the amount he collected. That
was the advantage which he had as a lawyer, which advantage inspired
Colonel Alphabetical Morrison to proclaim that a lawyer's diploma is
nothing but a license to steal; upon hearing which Charley Hedrick sent
back to the Colonel the retort that it would take two legal diplomas
working day and night to keep up with the Colonel's more or less honest

Now Ab Handy was a lean coyote, who was forever licking his bruises, and
some ten years later he tried to run for the school board solely to get
the Colonel's daughters dismissed as school-teachers. It was his boast
that he never forgot a foe; and for twenty years after Hedrick saved
Handy from going to jail for robbing a cattleman of a thousand dollars
in "Red" Martin's gambling-room, the only good thing the town knew of
Handy was that he never forgot a friend.

During that twenty years whenever, to further his ends in a primary or
in an election, Charley Hedrick needed the votes of the rough element
that gathered about our little town, Abner Handy, card-sharper and
jack-leg lawyer, would go forth into the byways and alleys and gather
them in. For this service, when Hedrick carried the county--which was
about four times out of five--Handy was rewarded by being put on the
delegation to the State convention. Thus he made his beginning in State
politics. The second time that he attended a State convention Handy
swelled up in his Sunday clothes, and by reason of his slight
acquaintance with the manipulators of State politics, began to patronise
the other members of our delegation--good, honest men, whose contempt
for him at home was unspeakable; but when they huddled like sheep in the
strange crowd at the convention they often accepted Handy as a guide in
important matters. In talking with the home delegation Handy very soon
began speaking of the convention leaders familiarly as "Jim" and "Dick"
and "Tawm" and "Bill," and sometimes Handy brought one of these
dignitaries to the rooms of our delegation and introduced him to our
people with a grand flourish. Every time the legislature met, Ab Handy
was a clerk in it, and, if he was a clerk of an important committee
like the railroad committee or the committee on the calendar, he
invariably came home with a few hundred dollars, three suits of clothes
and a railroad pass. No one but Charley Hedrick could live with him for
six months afterward.

It was when he returned from one of these profitable sessions that Abner
Handy and Nora Sinclair were married. The affinity between them was
this: his good clothes and proud manner caught her; and her social
position caught him. Everyone in town knew, however, that Nora Sinclair
had been too smart for Handy. She had him hooked through the gills
before he knew that he was more than nibbling at the bait. The town
concurred with Colonel Morrison--our only townsman who travelled widely
in those days--when he put it succinctly: "Ab Handy is Nora Sinclair's
last call for the dining-car."

Her influence on Abner Handy and his life was such that it is necessary
to record something of the kind of a woman she was before he met her. A
woman of the right sort might have made a man of Handy, even that late
in life. Strong, good women have made weak men fairly strong, but such
women were never girls like Nora. She was a nice enough little girl
until she became boy-struck--as our vernacular puts it. Her mother
thought this development of the child was "so cute," and told callers
about the boys who came to see Nora--before she was twelve. In those
days, and in some old-fashioned families in our town, little girls were
asked to run out to play when the neighbours had to be discussed. But
Mrs. Sinclair claimed Nora was "neither sugar nor salt nor anybody's
honey," and everything was talked over before the child. We knew at the
office from Colonel Morrison that his little girls did not play at the
Sinclairs'. Her mother put long dresses and picture hats upon her and
pushed her out into society, and the whole town knew that Nora was a
mature woman, in all her instincts, by the time she was sixteen. Her
mother, moreover, was manifestly proud that the child wasn't "one of
those long-legged, gangling tom-boy girls, who seem so backward" and
wear pigtails and chew slate pencils and dream.

The gilded youths who boarded at the Hotel Metropole began to notice
her. That pleased her mother also, and she said to the mothers of other
little girls of Nora's age who were climbing fences and wiping dishes:
"You know Nora is so popular with the gentlemen." When the girl was
seventeen she was engaged. She kept a town fellow and had a college
fellow. She acquired a "gentleman friend" in Kansas City who gave her
expensive presents. These her mother took great joy in displaying, and
never objected when he stayed after eleven o'clock; for she thought he
was "such a good catch" and such a "swell young man." But Nora shooed
him off the front porch in the summer following, because he objected to
her having two or three other eleven o'clock fellows. She said he was
"selfish, and would not let her have a good time." At nineteen she knew
more about matters that were none of her business than most women know
on their wedding day, and the boys said that she was soft. Every time
that Nora left town she came back with two or three correspondents. She
perfumed her stationery, used a seal, adopted all the latest frills,
and learned to write an angular hand. At twenty she was going with the
young married set, and was invited out to the afternoon card clubs. She
was known as a dashing girl at this time, and travelling men in three
States knew about her. Her mother used to send personal items to our
office telling of their exalted business positions and announcing their
visits to the Sinclair home. There was more or less talk about Nora in a
quiet way, but her mother said that "it is because the other girls don't
know how to wear their clothes as well as Nora does," and that "when a
girl has a fine figure--which few enough girls in this town have, Heaven
knows--why, she is a fool if she doesn't make the most of herself."

Then, gradually, Nora went to seed. She became a faded, hard-faced
woman, and all the sisters in town warned their brothers against her.
She was invited out only when there was a crowd. She took up with the
boys of the younger set, and the married women of her own age called her
the kidnapper. She was a social joke. About once a year a strange man
would show up in her parlour, and she kept up the illusion about being
engaged. But in the office we shared the town's knowledge that her harp
was on the willows. She was massaging her face at twenty-six and her
mother was sniffing at the town and saying that there were no social
advantages to be had here. She and the girl went to the Lakes every
summer, and Nora always came home declaring that she had had the time of
her life, and that she met so many lovely gentlemen. But that was all
there was to it, and in the end it was Abner Handy or no one.

After their wedding, Nora and Abner Handy set about the business of
making politics pay. That is a difficult thing to do in a country town,
where every voter is a watchdog of the county and city treasuries. Abner
gave up his gambling, he and his wife joined all the lodges in town, and
she dragged him into that coterie of people known as Society. She joined
a woman's club, and was always anxious to be appointed on the soliciting
committee when the women had any public work to do; so when the library
needed books, or the trash cans at the street corners needed paint, or
the park trees needed trimming, or the new hospital needed an additional
bed, or the band needed new uniforms, Mrs. Handy might be seen on the
streets with two or three women of a much better social status than she
had, making it clear that she was a public-spirited woman and that she
moved in the best circles. Whereupon Abner Handy got work in the
court-house--as a deputy, or as a clerk, or as an under-sheriff, or as a
juror--and when the legislature met he went to Topeka as a clerk.

No one knew how they lived, but they did live. Every two years they gave
a series of parties, and the splendour of these festivals made the town
exclaim in one voice: "Well, _how_ do they do it?" But Mrs. Handy, who
was steaming the wrinkles out of her face, and assuming more or less
kittenish airs in her late thirties, never offered the town an
explanation. "Hers not to answer why, hers not to make reply, hers but
to do and dye" was the way Colonel Morrison put it the day after Mrs.
Handy swooped down into Main Street with a golden yellow finish on her
hair. She walked serenely between Mrs. Frelinghuysen and Mrs. Priscilla
Winthrop Conklin. They were begging for funds with which to furnish a
rest room for farmers' wives. And when they bore down on our office,
Colonel Morrison folded his papers in his bosom and passed them on the
threshold as one hurrying to a fire in the roof of his own house. It was
interesting to observe, when the Federation Committee called on us that
day, that Mrs. Handy did all the talking. She was as full of airs and
graces as an actress, and ogled with her glassy eyes, and put on a sweet
babyish innocence of the ways of business and of men--as though men were
a race apart, greatly to be feared because they ate up little girls. But
she got her dollar before she left the office, and George Kirwin, who
happened to be in the front room at the time waiting for a proof, said
he thought that the performance and the new hair were worth the price.

Five years passed and in each year Mrs. Handy had found some artificial
way of deluding herself that she was cheating time. Then Charley
Hedrick, who needed a vote in the legislature, and was too busy to go
there himself, nominated Abner Handy and elected him to a seat in the
lower house. The thing that Hedrick needed was not important--merely
the creation of a new judicial district which would remove an obnoxious
district judge in an adjoining county from our district, and leave our
county in a district by itself. Hedrick hated the judge, and Hedrick
used Handy's vote for trading purposes with other statesmen desiring
similar small matters and got the district remade as he desired it.

When the Handys started to Topeka for the opening of the session, they
began to inflame with importance as the train whistled for the junction
east of town, and by the time they actually arrived at Topeka they were
so highly swollen that they could not get into a boarding-house door,
but went to the best hotel, and engaged rooms at seven dollars a day.
The town gasped for two days and then began to laugh and wink. Two weeks
after their arrival at the State capital, Abner Handy had been made
chairman of the joint committee on the calendar, second member of the
judiciary committee and member of the railroad committee, and Mrs. Handy
had established credit at a Topeka dry-goods store and was going it
blind. She gave her hair an extra dip, and used to come sailing down
the corridors of the hotel in gorgeous silk house-gowns with ridiculous
trains, and never appeared at breakfast without her diamonds. Before the
session was well under way she had been to Kansas City to have her face
enameled and had told the other "ladies of the hotel," as the wives of
members of the legislature stopping at the hotel were called, that
Topeka stores offered such a poor selection; she confided to them that
Mr. Handy always wore silk nightshirts, and that she was unable to find
anything in town that he would put on. She regarded herself as a
charmer, and made great eyes at all the important lobbyists, to whom she
put on her baby voice and manner and said that she thought politics were
just simply awful, and added that if she were a man she would show them
how honest a politician could be, but she wasn't, and when Abner tried
to explain it to her it made her head ache, and all she wanted him to do
was to help his friends, and she would add coyly: "I'm going to see that
he helps you--whatever he does."

Every bill that had a dollar in it was held at the bottom of the
calendar until satisfactory arrangements were made with Abner Handy and
his friends. When the legislative buccaneers under the black flag,
sailed after an insurance company, their bill remained at the bottom of
the calendar in one house or the other until Ab Handy had been seen, and
no one could find out why. And so, in spite of our dislike of the man,
our paper was forced to acknowledge that Handy was a house leader.
Although he had never had a dozen cases above the police court, he came
back at the end of the session with the local attorneyship of two
railroads, and was chairman of a house committee to investigate the
taxes paid by the railroads in the various counties. This gave him a
year's work, so he rented an office in the Worthington block and hired a
stenographer. Of course, we knew in town how Ab Handy had made his
money. But he paid so many of his old debts, and dispensed so many
favours with such a lordly hand, that it was hard to stir local
sentiment against him. He donned the clothes of a "prominent citizen,"
and in discussing public affairs assumed an owlish manner that impressed
his former associates, and fooled stupid people, who began to believe
that they had been harbouring a statesman unawares. But Charley Hedrick
only grinned when men talked to him of the rise of Handy, and replied to
the complaints of the scrupulous that Ab was no worse than he had always
been, and if he was making it pay better, no one was poorer for his
prosperity but Ab himself, and added: "Certainly he is a sincere
spender." One day when Handy appeared on the street in a particularly
fiery red necktie, Hedrick got him in a crowd, and began: "Just for a
handful of silver he left us--just for a riband to stick in his coat."
And when the crowd laughed with the joker, Hedrick continued in his
thick, gravy-coated voice: "Old Browning's the boy. You fellows that
want Shakespeare can have him; but Ab here knows that I take a little
dash of Browning in mine. Since Ab's got to be a statesman, he's bought
all of Webster's works and is learning 'em by heart. But"--and here
Hedrick chuckled and shook his fat sides before letting out the joke
which he enjoyed so much--"I says to Ab: as old Browning says, what does
'the fine felicity and flower of wickedness' like you need with
Webster; what you want to commit to memory is the penal statutes." And
he threw back his head and gurgled down in his abdomen, while the crowd
roared and Handy showed the wool in his teeth with a dog-like grin.

No other man in town would have dared that with Handy after he became a
statesman; but we figured it out in the office that old Charley Hedrick
was merely exhibiting his brand on Ab Handy to show the town that his
title to Handy was still good. For though there was considerable of the
King Cole about Hedrick--in that he was a merry old soul--he was always
king, and he insisted on having his divine right to rule the politics of
the county unquestioned. That was his vanity and he knew it, and was not
ashamed of it.

He was the best lawyer in the State in those days, and one of the best
in the West. Ten months in the year he paid no attention to politics,
pendulating daily between his house and his office. Often, being
preoccupied with his work, he would go the whole length of Main Street
speaking to no one. When a tangled case was in his mind he would enter
his office in the morning, roll up his desk top, and dig into his work
without speaking to a soul until, about the middle of the morning, he
would look up from his desk to say as though he had just left off
speaking: "Jim, hand me that 32 Kansas report over there on the table."
When he worked, law books sprang up around him and sprawled over his
desk and lay half open on chairs and tables near him until he had found
his point; then he would get up and begin rollicking, slamming books
together, cleaning up his debris and playing like a great porpoise with
the litter he had made. At such times--and, indeed, all the time unless
he was in what he called a "legal trance"--Hedrick was bubbling with
good spirits, and when he left his office for politics he could get out
in his shirt-sleeves at a primary and peddle tickets, or nose up and
down the street like a fat ferret looking for votes. So when Abner Handy
announced that he desired to go to the State Senate, to fill an
unexpired term for two years, he had Hedrick behind him to give strength
and respectability to his candidacy. Between the two Handy won. That was
before the days of reform, when it was supposed to be considerable of a
virtue for a man to stand by his friend; and, being a lawyer, Hedrick
naturally had the lawyer's view that no man is guilty until the jury is
in, and its findings have been reviewed by the supreme court.

So Senator and Mrs. Senator Handy--as the town put it--went to Topeka as
grandly as ever "Childe Roland to the dark tower came"--to use Hedrick's
language. "No one ever has been able to find out what Roland was up to
when he went to the dark tower, but," continued Hedrick, "with Ab and
his child-wonder it will be different. She isn't taking all that special
scenery along in her trunks for nothing. Ab has stumbled on to this
great truth--that clothes may not make the man, but they make the

Handy drew a dark brow when he became a Senator, and made a point of
trying to look ominous. He carried his chin tilted up at an angle of
forty-five degrees, and spoke of the most obvious things with an air of
mystery. He never admitted anything; his closest approach to committing
himself on even so apparent a proposition as the sunrise, was that it
had risen "ostensibly"; he became known to the reporters as "Old

It was his habit to tiptoe around the Senate chamber whispering to other
Senators, and then having sat down to rise suddenly as though some great
impulse had come to him and hurry into the cloakroom. He inherited the
chairmanship of the railroad committee, and all employees came to him
for their railroad passes; so he was the god of the blue-bottle flies of
politics that feed on legislatures, and buzz pompously about the capitol
doing nothing, at three dollars a day. In that session Handy was for the
"peepul." He patronised the State Shippers' Association, and told their
committee that he would give them a better railroad bill than they were
asking. His practice was to commit to memory a bill that he was about to
introduce and then go into his committee-room, when it was full of
loafers, and pretend to dictate it offhand to the stenographer, section
by section without pausing. It was an impressive performance, and gained
Handy the reputation of being brainy. But we at home who knew Handy
were not impressed; and, in our office, we knew that he was the same Ab
Handy who once did business with a marked deck; who cheated widows and
orphans; who sold bogus bonds; who got on two sides of lawsuits, and
whose note was never good at any bank unless backed by blackmail.

When the session closed Abner Handy came home, a statesman with views on
the tariff, and ostentatiously displayed his thousand-dollar bills. The
Handys spent the summer in Atlantic City, and Abner came home wearing
New York clothes of an exaggerated type, and though he never showed it
in our town, they used to say that he put on a high hat when the train
whistled for Topeka. Also we heard that the first time Mrs. Handy
appeared at the political hotel in her New York regalia, adorned with
spangles and beads and cords and tassels, the "ladies of the hotel" said
that she was "fixed up like a Christmas tree"--a remark that we in the
office coupled with Colonel Morrison's reflection when he spoke of Ab's
"illustrated vests." At the meeting of the State Federation of Woman's
Clubs, Mrs. Handy first flourished her lorgnette, and came home with
her wedding ring made over on a pattern after the prevailing style.
About this time she made her famous remark to "Aunt" Martha Merrifield
that she didn't think it proper for a woman to go through her husband's
money with too sensitive a nose; she said that men must work and women
must weep, and that she for one would not make the work of her husband
any harder by criticising it with her silly morals.

As for Abner Handy, it would have made little difference to him then
whether she or anyone else had tried to check his career; for he was
cultivating a loud tone of voice and a regal sweep to his arms. He
always signed himself on hotel registers Senator Handy, and the help
about the Topeka hotels began to mark him for their hate, for he was
insolent to those whom he regarded as his inferiors. But Colonel
Morrison used to say that he wore his vest-buttons off crawling to those
in authority. He took little notice of the town. He referred to us as
"his people" in a fine feudal way, and went about town with his cigar
pointing toward his hat brim and his eyes fixed on something in the next
block. He became the attorney for a number of crooked promotion schemes,
and the diamond rings on his wife's fingers crowded the second joint. He
had telegraph and express franks, railway and Pullman passes in such
quantities that it made his coat pocket bulge to carry them. Often he
would spread out these evidences of his shame on his office table, to
awe the local politicians, and in so far as they could influence the
town opinion, they promulgated the idea that if Ab Handy was a
scoundrel--and of course he was--he was a smart scoundrel. So he came to
think this himself.

[Illustration: Went about town with his cigar pointing toward his

Mrs. Handy threw herself into the work of the City Federation with
passionate zeal. Also she kept up her lodge connections, and explained
to the women, whom she considered of a higher social caste than the
lodge women, that she was "doing it to help Mr. Handy." She did a little
church work for the same reason, but her soul was in the Federation, for
it insured her social status as neither lodge nor church could do. So
she put herself under the protecting seal-lined wing of Mrs. Julia Neal
Worthington who on account of her efforts to clean the streets we at
the office had been taught by Colonel Morrison to know as the Joan of
the trash-cans. And Miss Larrabee, our society reporter, told us that
Mrs. Handy was the only woman in town who did not smile into her
handkerchief when Mrs. Worthington, who had trained down to one hundred
and ninety-seven pounds five and three-eighths ounces, gave her course
of lectures on delsarte before the Federation.

It was Mrs. Handy who encouraged Mrs. Worthington to open her salon. But
as there were lodge meetings the first three nights in the week, and
prayer-meetings in the middle of the week, and as the choirs met for
practice, and the whist clubs met for business the last of the week, the
salon did not seem to take with the town, and so was discontinued. Then
Mrs. Worthington and Mrs. Handy sought other fields. And the first field
they stumbled into was the court-house square. For fifty years the
farmers near our town had been hitching at the racks provided by the
county commissioners. But Mrs. Worthington decided that the time had
come for a change and that the town was getting large enough to take
down the hitching-racks. So, as chairman of the Municipal Improvement
section of the City Federation, Mrs. Worthington began war on the
hitching-racks. At the Federation meetings for three months there were
reports from committees appointed to interview the councilmen; reports
of committees to interview the county commissioners--who were obdurate;
reports of committees to lease new ground for the hitching rack stands;
reports of the legal committee; reports of the sanitary committee, and
through it all Mrs. Worthington rose at every meeting and declared that
the hitching racks must be destroyed. And as she was rated in
Bradstreet's report at nearly half a million dollars, her words had much

The town was beginning to stir itself. The merchants were with the
women--because the women bought the dry goods and groceries--and we
forgot about the farmers. To all this milling among the people Handy was
oblivious, for he was stepping like a hen in high oats, with his eyes on
a seat in Congress. Matters of mere local importance did not concern
him. The railroads were for him, and the stars in their courses seemed
to him to be pointing his way to Washington. He knew of the
hitching-rack trouble only when he had to go with Mrs. Handy to the
dinners at the Worthington home given to the councilmen and their wives,
who were lukewarm on the removal proposition.

In the spring before the election of 1902 Mrs. Worthington had a
majority in the council, and one Saturday night the hitching-racks were
taken down by the street commissioner. And within a week the town was on
the verge of civil war, for the farmers of the county rose as one man
and demanded the blood of the offenders. But Abner Handy knew nothing of
the disturbance. The county attorney had the street commissioner and his
men arrested for trespassing upon county property; farmers threatened to
boycott the town. But Abner Handy's ear was attuned to higher things.
Merchants who had signed the petition asking the council to remove the
racks began to denounce the removal as an act of treason. But Abner
Handy conferred with State leaders on great questions, and the city
attorney, who was a candidate for county attorney that fall, did not
dare to defend the street commissioner. The council got stubborn, and
Colonel Morrison, before whom as justice of the peace the case was to be
tried, fearing for the professional safety of his three daughters in the
town schools and his four daughters in the county schools, took a trip
to his wife's people, and told us he was enlisted there for "ninety days
or during the war"; and still Abner Handy looked at the green hills

We are generally accounted by ourselves a fearless newspaper; but here
we admitted that the situation required discretion. So we straddled it.
We wrote cautious editorials in carefully-balanced sentences demanding
that the people keep cool. We advised both sides to realise that only
good sense and judgment would straighten out the tangle. We demanded
that each side recognise the other's rights and made both sides angry,
whereas General Durham, of the _Statesman_, made his first popular
stroke in a dozen years by insisting, in double leads and italics, that
the tariff on hides was a divine institution, and that humanity called
upon us to hold the Philippines. Charley Hedrick knew better than
anyone else in town what a tempest was rising. He might have warned
Handy, but he did not; for Handy had reached a point in his career where
he considered that a mere county boss was beneath his confidence. More
than that, Hedrick had refused to indorse Handy's note at the bank.
Handy needed money, and being a shorn lamb, the wind changed in his
direction in this wise:

In the midst of the furore that week, Mrs. Worthington gave an evening
reception for the Federation and its husbands at her mansion, fed them
sumptuously, and, after Mrs. Handy had tapped a bell for silence, Mrs.
Worthington rose in her jet and passementerie and announced that our
town had come to a crisis in its career; that we must now decide whether
we were going to be a beautiful little city or a cow pasture. She said
that beauty was as much an essential to life as money and that we would
be better off with more beauty and less trade, and that with the
court-house square a mudhole the town could never rise to any real
consequence. As the men of the town seemed to be moral cowards, she was
going to enlist the women in this war, and as the first step in her
campaign she proposed to hire the Honourable Abner Handy to assist the
city attorney in fighting this case, and as a retainer she would
herewith and now hand him her personal check for five hundred dollars.
Whereat the women clapped their hands, their husbands winked at one
another, and "there was a sound of revelry by night." The check was put
on a silver card-tray by Mrs. Worthington and set on a table in the
midst of the company waiting for Handy to come forward and take it.
After the town had looked at the check, Mrs. Handy seemed to cut his
leashes and Abner went after it. He was waiting at the Worthington bank
the next morning at nine o'clock to cash it--and all the town saw that

Whereupon the town grinned broadly that evening when it read in the
_Statesman_ a most laudatory article about "our distinguished
fellow-townsman." The article declared that it was "the duty of the hour
to send Honourable Abner Handy to the halls of Congress." The
_Statesman_ contended that "Judge Handy had been for a lifetime the
defender of those grand and glorious principles of freedom and
protection and sound money for which the Grand Old Party stood." The
General proclaimed that "it shall be not only a duty, but a pleasure,
for our citizens to lay aside all petty personal and factional quarrels
and rally round the standard of our noble leader in this great contest."

If Handy ever went to the city attorney's office to look after Mrs.
Worthington's lawsuit, no one knew it. He smiled wisely when asked how
the suit was progressing, and one day John Markley--who during the life
of Ezra Worthington, hated him with a ten-horse-power hate and loaded it
onto his widow's shoulders and the Worthington bank which she
inherited--John Markley called Handy into the back room of the Markley
Mortgage Company, and, when Handy passed the cashier's window going out,
he cashed a check signed by John Markley for a thousand dollars on which
was inscribed "for legal services in assisting the county attorney in
the hitching rack case."

Handy had arrived at a point where he feared nothing. He seemed to
believe that he lived a charmed life and never would get caught. He
bought extra copies of the _Statesman_, which was booming him for
Congress, and sent them over the Congressional District by the
thousands. He went to Topeka in his high silk hat and his New York
clothes, gave out interviews on the causes of the flurry in the money
market, and, desiring further advertisement, gave a banquet for the
newspaper men of the capital which cost him a hundred dollars. So he
became a great man. At home he assumed a patronising air to the people
about Charley Hedrick. And one night in Smith's cigar store, just to be
talking, he said that he didn't get so much of Mrs. Worthington's money
as people thought, for part of it had to go to "square old Charley
Hedrick." Hedrick was John Markley's attorney, and he had taken an
active part in helping the county attorney prosecute the street
commissioners. Naturally Handy's remark stirred up the town. It was two
weeks, however, in getting to Hedrick, and when it came the man turned
black and seemed to be swallowing a pint of emotional language before he
spoke. And there Abner Handy's doom was sealed; though Hedrick did not
make the sentence public.

Now, it is well known in our county that the country people are slow to
wrath. They were two months finding out beyond a question of doubt that
Abner Handy had accepted Mrs. Worthington's money to act against them,
but when they knew this there was no hope for Handy among them. They are
a quiet people, and make no noise. For a month, only Charley Hedrick and
the grocers and the hardware men, with whom the farmers trade, knew the
truth about Handy's standing in the county. Hedrick bided his time. The
Handy boom for Congress was rolling over the district, and the
_Statesman_ italics were becoming worn, and its exclamation points
battered in the service, when one day Handy stalked up to Hedrick's
office, imperiously beckoned Hedrick into the private room, and blurted

"Charley, I got to have some more money--need it in my business. Can't
you touch old John Markley for me again--say for about five hundred on
that hitching rack case? Sister Worthington is kind of wanting me to get
action on her case."

Hedrick was dumb with rage, but Handy thought it was acquiescence. He
went on:

"You just step down to the bank and say: 'John, I've noticed Ab Handy
actin' kind of queer about that hitching rack case.' That's all you need
say, and pretty soon I'll step in and say: 'John, I don't see how I can
help doin' something for Aunt Julia Worthington.' And I believe I can
tap him for five hundred more easy enough. I got an idea he is mightily
in earnest about beating her in that suit."

When Hedrick got his breath, which was churning and wheezing in his
throat, he cut Handy's sentence off with:

"You human razor-back shoat--you swill-barrel gladiator,
why--why--I--I----" And Hedrick sparred for wind and went on before
Handy realised the situation. "Ab Handy, I spat on the dust and breathed
into the chaff that made you, and put you on the mud-sills of hell to
dry, and I've got a right to turn you back into fertiliser, and I'm
going to do it. Git out of here--git out of this office, or I----"

And the hulking form of Hedrick fell on the bag of shaking bones that
was Handy and battered him through the latched door into the crowded
outer office; and Handy picked himself up and ran like a wolf, turning
at the door to show his teeth before he scampered through the hall and
scurried down the stairs. As Hedrick came puffing out of the broken door
his coat snagged on a splinter. He grinned as he unfastened himself:

"Well, the snail seems to be on the thorn; the lark certainly is on the

    "_God's in his heaven.
      All's right with the world!_"

And he batted his eyes at the group of loafing local statesmen in his
office as he viewed the wreckage, and went to the telephone and ordered
a carpenter, without wasting any words on the crowd.

We decided long ago that the source of Hedrick's power in politics was
what we called his "do it now" policy. All politicians have schemes.
Hedrick puts his through before he talks about them. If he has an idea
that satisfies his judgment, he makes it a reality in the quickest
possible time. That is why the fellows around town who hate Hedrick call
him the rattlesnake, and those who admire him call him the Wrath of
God. When he put up the telephone receiver he reached for his hat and
bolted from the office under a full head of steam. He went directly to
John Markley's back office, got the check that Markley had given to
Handy, dictated a letter in the anteroom of Markley's office to a Kansas
City plate-maker, inclosed fifty dollars as he passed the draft counter,
and, as he swung by the post-office he mailed the Handy check with
instructions to have ten photographic half-tone cuts made of the check
and mailed back to Hedrick in four days.

Then he went to Mrs. Worthington, told her his story, as a lawyer puts
his case before a jury--had her raging at Ab Handy--and got an order on
the bank for the check she had given to Handy. This also he sent to the
plate-maker, and in an hour was back at his desk dictating a half-page
advertisement to go into every Republican weekly newspaper in the
district. He sent that advertisement out with the half-tone cuts Monday
morning, and it appeared all over the district that week. The
advertisement was signed by Hedrick, and began:

"Browning has a poem made after visiting a dead house, and in it he
describes the corpse of a suicide, and says 'one clear, nice, cool
squirt of water o'er the bust,' is the 'right thing to extinguish lust.'
And I desire this advertisement to be 'one clear, nice, cool squirt of
water' over the political remains of Honourable Abner Handy, to
extinguish if possible his fatal lust for crooked money." After this
followed the story of Handy's perfidy in the hitching rack case, a
petition in disbarment proceedings, and the copy of the warrant for his
arrest charged with a felony in the case sworn to by Hedrick himself.
But the effective thing was the pictures, showing both sides of the two
checks, each carefully inscribed by the two makers "for legal services
in the hitching rack case," and each check indorsed by Handy in his big,
brazen signature.

Hedrick saw to it also that, on the day the country papers printed his
advertisement, the Kansas City and Topeka papers printed the whole
story, including the casting out of Handy from Hedrick's office. It did
Handy little good to go to Topeka in his flashy clothes and give out a
festive interview asking his friends to suspend judgment, and saying
that he would try his case in the courts and not in the newspapers. It
was contended by the newspapers that if Handy had an honest defence, it
would lose no weight in court by being printed in the newspapers; and
his enemies in the Congressional fight pushed the charges against Handy
so relentlessly that the public faith in him melted like an April snow,
and when the delegates to the Congressional convention were named, our
own county instructed its delegates against Handy. The farmers opposed
him for taking the case against them, and the town scorned him for his
perfidy. No one who was not paid for it would peddle his tickets at the
primaries, so Handy, with his money all spent, went home on the night of
the local primaries a whipped dog. They said around town that all the
whipped dog got at home was a tin can; for it is certain that at
daylight Handy was down on Main Street viciously drunk, flourishing a
revolver with which he said he was going to kill Charley Hedrick and
then himself. They took the pistol from him, and then he wept and said
he was going to jump in the river, but no one followed him when he
started toward the bridge, and he fell asleep in the shade of the piers,
where he was found during the morning, washed up and sent home sober.

One of the curious revelations of society's partnership in crime was the
way the grocers and butchers who despised Ab Handy's method, but shared
his gains when he succeeded, stopped giving him credit when he failed.
At the end of the first year after the primary wherein he was defeated,
the Handys could not get a dime's worth of beefsteak without the dime.
And dimes were scarce. By that time Handy was wearing his flashy New
York clothes for every day--frayed and spotted and rusty. His
temperament changed with his clothes, from the oily optimism of success
to the sodden pessimism of utter failure; which inspired Colonel
Morrison, returning after the hitching rack case had been settled in
favour of the town, to remark, speaking of Handy, that "an optimist is a
man who isn't caught, and is cheering to keep up his courage, and a
pessimist is one who has been caught and thinks it will be but a
question of time until his neighbours are found out too."

Mrs. Worthington, who was a necessary witness in the disbarment
proceedings and the criminal proceedings against Handy, always went to
Europe when the cases were called; so rather than put a woman in jail
for contempt of court, the court dismissed the proceedings against Handy
and he was not allowed to be even a martyr. One morning about a year and
a half after Handy's defeat, when Hedrick opened his office door, he
found Handy there with his fingers clutching the chair arms and his eyes
fixed on the floor. The man was breathing audibly, and seemed to be
struggling with a great passion. Hedrick and Handy had not spoken since
they came through the panels of the door together, but Hedrick went to
the miserable creature, touched him gently on the shoulder, and motioned
him into the private office. There, with his eyes still on the floor,
Handy told Hedrick that the end of the rope had been reached.

"I had to come down without any breakfast this
morning--because--they--they ain't anything in the house for her to fix.
And there ain't any show for dinner. Next week, Red Martin has promised
me some money he's goin' to get from Jim Huddleson; but they ain't a
soul in town but you I can come to now"; and Handy raised his eyes from
the floor in canine self-pity as he whined--"and she's making life a
hell for me!" When Hedrick opened his desk and got out his check-book,
he smiled as he fancied he could detect about Handy's body the faint
resemblance of a wagging tail. He made the check for fifty dollars and
gave it to Handy saying, "Oh, well, Ab--we'll let bygones be bygones."

Handy snapped at it and in an instant was gone.

That afternoon Hedrick met Handy sailing down Main Street in his old
manner. His head was erect, his eyes were sparkling, his big, rough,
statesman's voice was bellowing abroad, and his thumbs were in the
armholes of his vest. He walked straight to Hedrick and led him by the
coat lapel into a dark stairway. There was an air of deep mystery about
Handy and when he put his arm on Hedrick to whisper in his ear,
Hedrick, smelling the statesman's breath heavy with whiskey and onions
and cloves and cardamon seeds and pungent gum, heard this:

"Say, Charley, I'm fooling 'em--I've got 'em all fooled. They think I'm
poor. They think I ain't got any money. But old Ab's too smart for them.
I've got lots of money--all I want--all anyone could want--wealth beyond
the dreams of avar--of av--avar--avar'ce, as John Ingalls used to say.
Just look at this!" And with that Handy pulled from his inside coat
pocket a roll of one and two-dollar bills, that seemed to Hedrick to
represent fifty dollars less the price of about ten drinks. "Look
a-here," continued Handy, "ol' Ab's got 'em all fooled. Don't you say
anything about it; but ol' Ab's goin' to make his mark." And he shook
Hedrick's hand and took him down to the street, and shook it again and
again before prancing grandly down the sidewalk.

For three years Mrs. Handy's boarding-house has been one of the most
exclusive in our town. They say that she pays Mr. Handy for mowing the
lawn and helping about the rough work in the kitchen, and that he sleeps
in the barn and pays her for such meals as he eats. Sometimes a new
boarder makes the mistake of paying the board money to Handy, and he
appears on Main Street ostentatiously jingling his silver and toward
evening has ideas about the railroad situation. On election days and
when there is a primary Handy drives a carriage and gathers up his
cronies in the fifth ward, who, like him, are not so much in evidence as
they were ten years ago.

It was only last week that Hedrick was in our office telling us of
Handy's "wealth beyond the dreams of avarice." He paused when he had
finished the story, cocked his head on one side, and squinted at the
ceiling as he said:

"For three long, weary, fruitless years I've searched the drug-stores of
this town for the brand of liquor Ab had that day. I believe if I had
two drinks of that I could write better poetry than old Browning

Whereupon Hedrick shook himself out of the office in a gentle wheesy


The Tremolo Stop

Our business has changed greatly since Horace Greeley's day. And,
although machines have come into little offices like ours, the greatest
changes have come in the men who do the work in these offices. In the
old days--the days before the great war and after it--printers and
editors were rarely leading citizens in the community. The editor and
the printer were just coming out of the wandering minstrel stage of
social development, and the journeyman who went from town to town
seeking work, and increasing his skill, was an important factor in the
craft. One might always depend upon a tramp printer's coming in when
there was a rush of work in the office, and also figure on one of the
tourists in the office leaving when he was needed most.

From the ranks of this wayward class came the old editors and reporters;
they were postgraduates from the back room of newspaper offices and
they brought to the front room their easy view of life. Some of these
itinerant writing craftsmen had professional fame. There was Peter B.
Lee, who had tramped the country over, who knew Greeley and Dana and
Prentice and Bob Burdett and Henry Watterson, and to whom the cub in
country offices looked with worshipful eyes. There was "Old Slugs"--the
printer who carried his moulds for making lead slugs, and who, under the
influence of improper stimulants, could recite stirring scenes from the
tragedies of Shakespeare. There was Buzby--old Buzby, who went about
from office to office leaving his obituary set up by his own hand,
conveying the impression that at last the end had come to a misspent
life. Then there was J. N. Free--the "Immortal J. N.," as he called
himself, a gaunt, cadaverous figure in broad hat and linen duster, with
hair flowing over his shoulders, who stalked into the offices at
unseemly hours to "raise the veil" of ignorance and error, and "relieve
the pressure" of psychic congestion in a town by turning upon it the
batteries of his mind.

They were a dear lot of old souls out of accord with the world about
them, ever seeking the place where they would harmonise. They might have
stepped out of Dickens's books or Cruikshank's pictures, and, when one
recalls them now, their lineaments seem out of drawing and impossible in
the modern world. And yet they did live and move in the world that was,
and the other day when we were looking over the files we came across the
work of Simon Mehronay,--the name which he said was spelled Dutch and
sounded Irish,--and it does not seem fair to set down the stories of the
others who have made our office traditions without giving some account
of him.

For to us he was the most precious of all the old tribe of journalistic
aborigines. He came to the office one bright April day with red mud on
his shoes that was not the mud of our river bottoms, and we knew that he
had ridden to town "blind baggage"--as they say of men who steal their
way--from the South. The season was ripe for the birds to come North and
it was the mud of Texas that clung to him. His greeting as he strode
through the front room not waiting for a reply was "How's work?" And
when the foreman told him to hang up his coat, he found a stick, got a
"chunk of copy," and was clicking away at his case three minutes from
the time he darkened the threshold of the office.

There he sat for two weeks--the first man down in the morning and the
last to quit at night--before anyone knew whence he came or whither he
was bound. He had a little "false motion," the foreman said, and
clattered his types too audibly in the steel stick, but as he got up a
good string of type at the end of the day and furnished his own chewing
tobacco, he created no unfavourable comment in the office. He was a bald
little man, with a fringe of hair above the greasy velvet collar of his
coat, with beady, dancing black eyes, and black chin whiskers and a
moustache that often needed dyeing. It was the opinion of the foreman
and the printers that Mehronay's weakness was liquor, though that
opinion did not arise from anything that he said. For during the first
two weeks we did not hear him say much, but in the years that followed,
his mild little voice that ever seemed to be teetering on the edge of
the laugh into which he fell a score of times during an hour, became a
familiar sound about the office, and the soft, flabby little hand which
the other printers laughed about, during the first week of his
employment with us, has rested on most of the shoulders in the shop
guiding us through many sad ways.

In those days there were only three of us in the front room. All the
bookkeeping and collecting and reporting and editorial writing were done
by the three, and it happened that one morning near the first of the
month, when the books needed attention, no one had heard the performance
of "Hamlet" given by Thomas Keene at the opera house the night before,
and no one about the paper could write it up. Wherefore there was
perturbation; but in an hour this came from the back room set up in type
and proved in the galley:

"There were more clean shaves in town last night than have been seen
here for a long time. Everyone who wears cuffs and a necktie got a
'twice-over' and was 'out amongst 'em.' In the gallery of the opera
house roosted the college faculty and the Potter boy who holds the
Cottonwood Valley belt as the champion lay-down collar swell, and near
him was Everett Fowler, who was making his first public appearance in
his new parted spring whiskers, and was the observed of all observers.
Colonel Alphabetical Morrison, with his famous U-shaped hair-cut, lent
the grace of his presence to the dress circle. The first Methodist
Church was represented by Brother-in-law John Markley, who is wearing a
new flowered necktie, sent by his daughter in California (if you must
know), and General Durham of the _Statesman_ says that when the
orchestra played 'Turkey in the Straw,' and Bill Master began to shake
the sand-box--which is a new wrinkle in musical circles in our
town--John Markley's feet began to wiggle until people thought this was
his 'chill day.' After 'Turkey in the Straw,' the orchestra struck up
something quick and devilish, which Charley Hedrick, who played the
snare drum at Gettysburg, and is therefore entitled to speak on musical
subjects, says was 'The Irish Washerwoman.' After this appropriate
overture the curtain rose and the real show began.

"Mr. Keene's Hamlet is not so familiar to our people as his Richard
III., but it gave great satisfaction; for it is certainly a Methodist
Hamlet from the clang of the gong to the home-stretch. The town never
has stood for Mr. Lawrence Barrett's Unitarian Hamlet, and the high
church Episcopal Hamlet put on the boards last winter by Mr. Frederick
Paulding was distinctly disappointing. One of the most searching scenes
in the play was enacted when Ophelia got the power and had to be carried
out to the pump. The Chicago brother who plays the ghost has a great
voice for his work. He brought many souls to a realizing sense that they
are sin-stricken and hair-hung over the fiery pit. The groans and amens
from the sanctified in the audience were a delicate compliment to his
histrionic ability. The queen seems to have been a Presbyterian, and the
king a Second Day Adventist of an argumentative type. And they were not
popular with the audience, but the boy preacher who did Laertes was
exceedingly blessed with the gift of tongues. Brother Polonius seems to
have been a sort of presiding elder, and, when his exhortation rose, the
chickens in Mike Wessner's coop, in the meat-market downstairs, gave up
hope of life and lay down to be cut up and fried for breakfast. The
performance was a great treat and, barring the fact that some switchmen,
thinking Ophelia was full, giggled during the mad scene, and the further
fact that someone yelled, 'Go for his wind, Ham!' during the fencing
scene, the evening with Shakespeare's weirdest hero was a distinct
credit to Mr. Keene, his company and our people."

We wrote a conventional report of the performance, and printed
Mehronay's account below it, under the caption FROM ANOTHER REPORTER,
and it made the paper talked about for a week. Now in our town Keene was
a histrionic god of the first order, and so many church people came to
the office to "stop the paper" that circulation had a real impetus. We
have never had a boom in subscription that did not begin with a lot of
angry citizens coming in to stop the paper. It became known about town
who wrote the Keene article, and Mehronay became in a small way a public
character. We encouraged him to write more, so every morning the first
proof slips that came in began to have on them ten or a dozen short
items of Mehronay's writing. There was a smile in every one of them, and
if he wrote more than ten lines there was a laugh. It was Mehronay who
referred to Huddleson's livery-stable joint--where the old soaks got
their beer in a stall and salted it from the feed-box--as "a gilded
palace of sin." It was Mehronay who wrote the advertisement of the
Chinese laundryman and signed his name "Fat Sam Child of the Sun,
Brother of the Moon and Second Cousin by marriage to all the Stars." It
was Mehronay who took a galley of pi which the office devil had set up
from a wrecked form, and interspersed up and down the column of
meaningless letters "Great applause"--"Tremendous cheering"--Cries of
"Good, good!--that's the way to hit 'em!"--"Hurrah for Hancock"--and ran
it in the paper as a report of Carl Schurz's speech to the
German-American League at the court-house. It was Mehronay who put the
advertisement in the paper proclaiming the fact that General Durham of
the _Statesman_ office desired to purchase a good second-hand fiddle,
and explaining that the owner must play five tunes on it in front of the
_Statesman_ office door before bringing it in. Mehronay originated the
fiction that there was an association in town formed to insure its
members against wedding invitations which, in case of loss, paid the
afflicted member a pickle dish or a napkin ring, to present as his
offering to the bride.

Mehronay started a mythical Widowers' Protective Foot-racing Society,
and the town had great sport with the old boys whose names he used so
wittily that it transcended impudence. Mehronay got up a long list of
husbands who wiped dishes when the family was "out of a girl," as our
people say, and organised them into a union to strike for their altars
and their kitchen fires. When we sent him out to write up a fire,
however, he generally forgot the amount of insurance and the extent of
the loss, but he told all about the way the crowd tried to boss the fire
department; and if we sent him out to gather the local markets, he made
such a mess of it that we were a week straightening matters up. Figures
didn't mean anything to Mehronay. When the bank failed, he tried to
write something about it, but mixed the assets and the liabilities so
hopelessly that we had to keep him busy with other things, so that he
would have no time to touch the bank story. They used to say around town
that when he laid down a piece of money, however large, on a store
counter he never waited for his change, but be it said to the credit of
most of the merchants that they would save it for Mehronay and give it
to him on his next visit to the store, when he would be as joyful as a

Gradually he left the back room and became a fixture in the front
office. He wrote locals and editorials and helped with the advertising,
drawing for this the munificent salary of fifteen dollars a week, which
should have kept him like a prince; but it did not--though what he did
with his money no one knew. He bought no new clothes, and never buttoned
those he had. Before sending him out on the street in the morning,
someone in the office had to button him up, and if it was a gala
day--say circus day, or the day of a big political pow-wow--we had to
put a clean paper collar on Mehronay above his brown wool shirt and
shove out the dents in his derby hat--a procedure which he called
"making a butterfly of fashion out of an honest workin' man." He slept
in the press-room, on a bed which he rolled up and stowed behind the
press by day, and in the evening he consorted with the goddess of
nicotine--as he called his plug tobacco--and put in his time at his desk
with a lead pencil and a pad of white paper writing copy for the next
day's issue. Nothing delighted him so much as a fictitious personage or
situation which held real relations with local events or home people.
One of the best of his many inventions was a new reporter who, according
to Mehronay's legend, had just quit work for a circus where he had been
employed writing the posters. Mehronay's joy was to write up a local
occurrence and pretend that the circus poster-writer had written it and
that we had been greatly bothered to restrain his adjectives. A few days
after the Sinclair-Handy wedding--a particularly gorgeous affair in one
of the stone churches, which had been written up by the bride's mother,
as the whole town knew, in a most disgusting manner--Mehronay sat
chuckling in his corner, writing something which he put on the copy-hook
before going out on his beat. It was headed A DAZZLING AFFAIR and it ran

"For some time we have realised that we have not been doing full justice
to the weddings that occur in this town; we have been using a repressed
and obsolete style which is painful to those who enter into the joyous
spirit of such occasions, and last night's wedding in the family of the
patrician Skinners we assigned to our gentlemanly and urbane Mr. J.
Mortimer Montague, late of the publicity department of the world-famed
Robinson Circus and Menagerie. The following graceful account from Mr.
Montague's facile pen is the most accurate and satisfactory report of a
nuptial event we have ever recorded in these columns."

And thereafter followed this:

"Last evening, just as the clock in the steeple struck nine, a vast
concourse of the beauty and the chivalry of our splendid city, composing
wealth beyond the dreams of the kings of India and forming a galaxy only
excelled in splendour by the knightly company at the Field of the Cloth
of Gold, assembled to witness the marriage of Miss May Skinner and Mr.
John Fortesque. The great auditorium was a bower of smilax and
chrysanthemums, bewildering, amazing, superb in its verdant labyrinth.
As the clock was striking the hour, the ten-thousand-dollar pipe-organ
filled the edifice with strains of most seductive, entrancing music,
played by Miss Jane Brown, the only real left-handed organist in the
civilised world. Then came the wedding party, magnificent, radiant,
resplendent with the glittering jewels of the Orient, dazzling with
gorgeousness, stupefying and miraculous in its revelation of beauty.
There were six handsome ushers--count them--six, ten bridesmaids--ten--a
bevy of real, live, flower-bearing fairies, captured at an immense
outlay of time and money in far Caucasia. The bride's resplendent
costume and surpassing beauty put the blush upon the Queen of Sheba,
made Hebe's effulgence fade as the moon before the sun; and as the long
courtly train of knights errant and ladies-in-waiting passed the
populace, they presented a regal spectacle, never equalled since the
proud Cleopatra sailed down the perfumed lotus-bearing Nile in her
gilded pageant to meet Marc Antony, while all the world stood agape at
the unheard-of triumph.

"To describe the bride's costume beggars the English language; and human
imagination falls faint and feeble before the Herculean task. From the
everlasting stars she stole the glittering diamonds that decked her
alabaster brow and hid them in the Stygian umbrage of her hair. From the
fleecy, graceful cloud she snared the marvellous drapery that floated
like a dream about her queenly figure, and from the Peri at Heaven's
gate she captured the matchless grace that bore her like an enchanted
wraith through the hymeneal scene.

"The array of presents spread in the throne-room of the Skinner palace
has been unexcelled in lavish expenditure of fabulous and reckless
prodigal wealth anywhere in the world. Golden tokens literally strewed
the apartment, merely as effulgent settings for the mammoth, appalling,
maddening array of jewels and precious stones, sunbursts and pearls
without price, that gleamed like a transcendent electrical display in
the hypnotising picture."

There was more of the same kind, but it need not be set down here.
However, it should be said that nothing we ever printed in the paper
before or since set the town to laughing as did that piece. We have
calls to-day for papers containing the circus-poster wedding, and it was
printed over two decades ago.

It was Mehronay's first great triumph in town; then the expected
happened. For three days he did not appear at the office and we
suspected the truth--that by day he slept the sleep of the unjust in the
loft of Huddleson's stable and by night he vibrated between the Elite
oyster parlour, where he absorbed fabulous quantities of soup, and Red
Martin's gambling-room, where he disported himself most festively before
the gang assembled there. The morning of the fourth day Mehronay
appeared--but not at his desk. We found him sitting glumly on his stool
at the case in the back room, clicking the types, with his hat over his
eyes and the smile rubbed off his face.

We were a month coaxing Mehronay back in to the front room. His
self-respect grew slowly, but finally it returned, and he sat at his
desk turning off reams of copy so good that the people read the paper up
one side and down the other hunting for his items. He is the only man we
have ever had around the paper who could write. Everyone else we have
employed has been a news-gatherer. But Mehronay cared little for what we
call news. He went about the town asking for news, and getting more or
less of it, but the way he put it was much more important than the thing
itself. He had imagination. He created his own world in the town, and
put it in the paper so vividly that before we realised it the whole town
was living in Mehronay's world, seeing the people and events about them
through his merry countenance. No one ever referred to him as Mr.
Mehronay, and before he had been on the street six months he was calling
people by their first names, or by nicknames, which he tagged onto them.
He was so fatherly to the young people that the girls in the Bee Hive,
or the White Front, or the Racket Store used to brush his clothes when
they needed it, if we in the office neglected him, and smooth his back
hair with their pocket combs, and he--never remembering the name of the
particular ministering angel who fixed him up--called one and all of
them "darter," smiled a grateful smile like an old dog that is petted,
and then went his way. The girls in the White Front Drygoods Store gave
him a cravat, and though it was made up, he brought it every morning in
his pocket for them to pin on. He was as simple as a child, and, like a
child, lived in a world of unrealities. He swore like a mule driver, and
yet he told the men in the back room that he could never go to sleep
without getting down and saying his prayers, and the only men with whom
he ever quarrelled were a teacher of zoölogy at the College, who is an
evolutionist, and Dan Gregg, the town infidel.

One morning when we were sitting in the office before going out to the
street for the morning's grist, Mehronay dog-eared a fat piece of copy
and jabbed it on the hook as he started for the door.

"My boy was drunk last night," he said. "Me and his mother felt so bad
over it that I gave him a pretty straight talk this morning. There it

The office dropped its jaw and bugged its eyes.

"Oh, yes," he continued. "Didn't you know I had a boy? He's been the
best kind of a boy till here lately. I can see his mother don't like it
and his sister's worried too." His face for a second wore an expression
of infinite sadness, and he sighed even while the smile came back on the
face he turned to us from the door as he said: "Sometimes I think he is
studying law with old Charley Hedrick and sometimes I think he is in the
bank with John Markley; but he is always with me, and was such a decent
boy when I had him out to the College. But I saw him with Joe Nevison
last night, and I knew he'd been drinking."

With that he closed the door behind him and was gone. This was the
article that Mehronay left on the hook:

"Your pa was downtown this morning, complaining about his 'old trouble,'
that crick in his back that he got loading hay one hot day in Huron
County, Ohio, 'before the army.' The 'old trouble,' as you will
remember, bothers your pa a good deal, and your ma thinks that his
father must have been a pretty hard-hearted man to let him work so hard
when he was a boy. Your pa likes to have you and your ma think that when
he was a boy he did nothing but work and go to prayer-meeting and go
around doing noble deeds out of the third reader, but a number of the
old boys of the Eleventh Kansas, who knew your pa in the sixties, are
prepared to do a lot of forgetting for him whenever he asks it. The
truth about your pa's 'old trouble' is that he was down at Fort
Leavenworth just after the close of the war, and after filling up on
laughing-water at a saloon, he got into a fight with the bartender, was
kicked out of the saloon, and slept in the alley all night. That was his
last whizz. He took an invoice of his stock and found that he had some
of the most valuable experiences that a man can acquire, and he
straightened up and came out here and grew up with the country. Your ma
met him at a basket-meeting, and she thought he was an extremely pious
young man, and they made a go of it.

"So, Bub, when you think that by breathing on your coat sleeve to kill
the whisky you can fool your pa, you are wrong. Your pa in his day ate
three carloads of cardamon seeds and cloves and used listerine by the
barrel. He knew which was the creaky step on the stairs in his father's
house and used to avoid it coming in at night, just as you do now, and
he knows just what you are doing. More than that, your pa speaks from
the bitterest kind of experience when he pleads with you to quit. It is
no goody-goody talk of a mutton-headed old deacon that he is giving you;
it has taken him a year to get his courage up to speak to you, and every
word that he speaks is boiled out of an agony of bitter memories. He
knows where boys that start as you are starting end if they don't turn
back. Your pa turned, but he recollects the career of the Blue boys, who
are divided between the penitentiary, the poor-house and the southwest
corner of hell; he recalls the Winklers--one dead, one a porter in a
saloon in Peoria, one crazy; and he looks at you, and it seems to him
that he must take you in his arms as he did when you were a little child
in the prairie fire, and run to safety with you. And when he talks to
you with his bashful, halting speech, you just sit there and grin, and
cut his heart to its core, for he knows you do not understand.

"It's rather up to you, Bub. In the next few months you will have to
decide whether or not you are going to hell. Of course the 'vilest
sinner may return' at any point along the road--but to what? To
shattered health; to a mother heart-broken in her grave; to a wife
damned to all eternity by your thoughtless brutality; and to children
who are always afraid to look up the alley, when they see a group of
boys, for fear they may be teasing you--you, drunk and dirty, lying in
the stable filth! To that you will 'return,' with your strength spent,
and your sportive friends, gone to the devil before you, and your chance
in life frittered away.

"Just sit down and figure it out, Bub. Of course there are a lot of good
fellows on the road to hell; you will have a good time going; but you'll
be a long time there. You'll dance and play cards and chase out nights,
and soak your soul in the essence of don't-give-a-dam-tiveness, and
you'll wonder, as you go up in the balloon, what fun there is in walking
through this sober old earth. Friends--what are they? The love of
humanity--what is it? Thoughtfulness to those about you? Gentility--What
are these things? Letteroll--letteroll! But as you drop out of the
balloon, the earth will look like a serious piece of landscape.

"When you are old, the beer you have swilled will choke your throat; the
women you have flirted with will hang round your feet and make you
stumble. All the nights you have wasted at poker will dim your eyes. The
garden of the days that are gone, wherein you should have planted
kindness and consideration and thoughtfulness and manly courage to do
right, will be grown up to weeds, that will blossom in your patches and
in your rags and in your twisted, gnarly face that no one will love.

"Go it, Bub! don't stop for your pa's sake; you know it all. Your pa is
merely an old fogy. Tell him you can paddle your own canoe. But when you
were a little boy, a very little boy, with a soft, round body, your pa
used to take you in his arms and rub his beard--his rough, stubby,
three-days' beard--against your face and pray that God would keep you
from the path you are going in.

"And so the sins of the father, Bub--but we won't talk of that."

Three months later, when the Methodists opened their regular winter
revival, Mehronay, becoming enraged at what he called the tin-horn
clothes of the travelling evangelist conducting the meetings, began to
make fun of him in the paper; and, as a revivalist in a church is a
sacred person while the meetings are going on, we had to kill Mehronay's
items about the revival; whereupon, his professional pride being hurt,
Mehronay went forth into the streets, got haughtily drunk, and strutted
up and down Main Street scattering sirs and misters and madams about so
lavishly that men who did not appreciate his condition thought he had
gone mad. That night he went to the revival, and sat upon the back seat
alone, muttering his imprecations at the preacher until the singing
began, when the heat of the room and the emotional music mellowed his
pride, and he drowned out the revivalist's singing partner with a
clear, sweet tenor that made the congregation turn to look at him.
Mehronay knew the gospel hymns by heart, as he seemed to know his New
Testament, and the cunning revivalist kept the song service going for an
hour. When Mehronay was thoroughly sober there was a short prayer, and
the singer on the platform feelingly sang "There Were Ninety and Nine"
with an adagio movement, and Mehronay's face was wet with tears and he
rose for prayers.

He came to the office chastened and subdued next morning and wrote an
account of the revival so eulogistic that we had to tone it down, and
for a week he went about damning, with all the oaths in the pirate's
log, Dan Gregg and the College professor who taught evolution. But no
one could coax him back to the revival. As spring came we thought that
he had forgotten the episode of his regeneration, and perhaps he had
forgotten it, but the Saturday before Easter he put on the copy-hook an
Easter sermon that made us in the office think that he had added another
dream to his world. It was a curious thing for Mehronay to write;
indeed, few people in town realised that he did write it; for he had
been rollicking over town on his beat every day for months after the
revival, and half the pious people in town thought he shammed his
emotion the night he came to the church merely to mock them and their
revivalist. But we in the office knew that Mehronay's Easter sermon had
come as the offering of a contrite heart. It is in so many scrapbooks in
the town that it should be reprinted here that the town may know that
Mehronay wrote it. It read:

"The celebration of Easter is the celebration of the renewal of life
after the death that prevails in winter. People of many faiths observe a
spring festival of rejoicing, and of prayer for future bounty. Probably
the Easter celebration is like that at Christmas and Thanksgiving--a
survival of some ancient pagan rite that men established out of
overflowing hearts, rejoicing at the end of a good season and praying
for favour at the beginning of a new one.

"To the Christian world Easter symbolises a Divine tragedy. The coming
of Easter, as it is set forth in the Great Book, is a most powerful
story; it is the story of one of the deepest passions that may move the
human heart--the passion of father-love.

"Once there lived in the desert a man and his little child--a very
little boy, who sometimes was a bad little boy, and who did not do as he
was told. On a day when the father was away about his business the
child, playing, wandered out on the desert and was lost. From home the
desert beckoned the little boy; it seemed fair and fine to adventure in.
When the boy had been gone for many hours the father returned and could
not find him, and knew that the child was lost. But the father knew the
desert; he knew how it lured men on; he knew its parching thirst; he
knew its thorns and brambles, and its choking dust and the heat that
beats one down.

"And when he saw that the boy was lost his heart was aflame with
anguish; he could all but feel the desert fire in the little boy's
blood, the cactus barbs in the bleeding little feet, and the great
lonesomeness of the desert in the little boy's heart; and as from afar
the man heard a wailing little voice in his ears calling, 'Father,
father!' like a lost sheep. But it was only a seeming, and the house
where the little boy had played was silent.

"Then the father went to the desert, and neither the desert fire
murmuring at his brow, nor the sand that filled his mouth, nor the
stones and prickles that cut his feet, nor the wild beasts that lurked
upon the hillsides, could keep out of his ears the bleat of that little
child's voice crying 'Father, father!' When the night fell, still and
cold and numbing, the father pressed on, calling to the child in his
agony; for he thought it was such a little boy, such a poor, lonesome,
terror-stricken little boy out in the desert, lost and in pain, crying
for help, with no one to hear.

"And wandering so, the father died, with his heart full of unspeakable
woe. But they found the wayward child in the light of another day. And
he never knew what his father suffered, nor why his father died, nor did
he understand it all till he had grown to a man's stature, and then he
knew; and he tried to live his days as his father had lived, and to lay
down his life, if need be, for his friend.

"This is the Easter story that should come to every heart. The Christ
that came into the desert of this weary life, and walked here foot-sore,
heart-broken and athirst, came here for the love that was in His heart.
Who put it there--whether the God that gave Shakespeare his brain and
Wagner his harmonies, gave Christ His heart--or whether it was the God
that paints the lily and moves the mountains in their labours--it
matters not. It is one God, the Author and First Cause of all things. It
is His heart that moves our own hearts to all their aspirations, to all
the benevolence that the wicked world knows; it is His mind that is made
manifest in our marvels of civilisation; it is His vast, unknowable plan
that is moving the nations of the earth.

"Whether it be spirit or law or tendency or person--what matter?--it is
our Father, who went to the desert to find His sheep."

All day Saturday, in order to square himself with the printers who set
up his sermon, and to rehabilitate himself in the graces of the others
about the office who knew of his weakness, Mehronay turned in the gayest
lot of copy that he had ever written. There was an "assessment call of
the Widowers' Protective Association to pay the sad wedding loss of
Brother P. R. Cullom, of the Bee Hive," whose wedding was announced in
the society column; there was a card of thanks from Ben Pore to those
who had come with their sympathy and glue to nurse his wooden Indian
which had blown down and broken the night before, and resolutions of
respect for the same departed brother, in most mocking language, from
the Red Men's Lodge. There was an item saying seven different varieties
of Joneses and three kinds of Hugheses were in town from Lebo--the Welsh
settlement; there was a call for the uniformed rank of head waiters to
meet in regalia at Mrs. Larrabee's reception, signed by the three men in
town who were known to have evening clothes, and there was a meeting of
the anti-kin society announced to discuss the length of time
Alphabetical Morrison's new son-in-law should be allowed to visit the
Morrisons before the neighbours could ask when he was going to leave.
But when the paper was out Mehronay got a dozen copies from the press
and sent them away in wrappers which he addressed, and the piece his
blue pencil marked was none of these.

For many days after Mehronay wrote his Easter sermon the gentle, low,
beelike hum that he kept up while he was at work followed the tunes of
gospel hymns, or hymns of an older fashion. We always knew when to
expect what he called a "piece" from Mehronay--which meant an article
into which he put more than ordinary endeavour--for his bee-song would
grow louder, with now and then an intelligible word in it, and if it was
to be an exceptional piece Mehronay would whistle. When he began writing
the music would die down, but when he was well under sail on his
"piece," the steam of his swelling emotions would set his chin to going
like the lid of a kettle, and he would drone and jibber the words as he
wrote them--half audibly, humming and sputtering in the pauses while he
thought. Scores of times we have seen the dear old fellow sitting at his
desk when a "piece" was in the pot, and have gathered the men around
back of his chair to watch him simmer. When it was finished he would
whirl about in his chair, as he gathered up the sheets of paper and
shook them together, and say: "I've writ a piece here--a damn good
piece!" And then, as he put the copy on the hook and got his hat, he
would tell us in most profane language what it was all about--quoting
the best sentences and chuckling to himself as he went out onto the

As the spring filled out and became summer we noticed that Mehronay was
singing fewer gospel hymns and rather more sentimental songs than usual.
And then the horrible report came to the office that Mehronay had been
seen by one of the printers walking by night after bed-time under the
State Street elms with a woman. Also his items began to indicate a
closer knowledge of what was going on in society than Mehronay naturally
could have. In the fall we learned through the girls in the Bee Hive
that he had bought a white shirt and a pair of celluloid cuffs. This
rumour set the office afire with curiosity, but no one dared to tease
Mehronay. For no one knew who she was.

Not until late in the fall, when Madame Janauschek came to the opera
house to play "Macbeth," did Mehronay uncover his intrigue. Then for
the first time in his three years' employment on the paper he asked for
two show tickets! The entire office lined up at the opera house--most of
us paying our own way, not to see the Macbeths, but to see Mehronay's
Romeo and Juliet. The office devil, who was late mailing the papers that
night, says that about seven o'clock Mehronay came in singing "Jean,
Jean, my Bonnie Jean," and that he went to his trunk, took out his
celluloid cuffs, a new sky-blue and shell-pink necktie that none of us
had seen before, a clean paper collar--and the boy, who probably was
mistaken, swears Mehronay also took his white shirt--in a bundle which
he proudly tucked under his arm and toddled out of the office whistling
a wedding march. An hour later, dressed in this regalia and a new black
suit, buttoned primly and exactly in a fashion unknown to Mehronay, he
appeared at the opera house with Miss Columbia Merley, spinster, teacher
of Greek and Hellenic philosophy at the College. The office force asked
in a gasp of wonder: "Who dressed him?" Miss Merley--late in her
forties, steel-eyed, thin-chested, flint-faced and with hair knotted so
tightly back from her high stony brow that she had to take out two
hairpins to wink--Miss Merley might have done it--but she had no kith or
kin who could have done it for her, and certainly the hand that smoothed
the coat buttoned the vest, and the hand that buttoned the vest put on
the collar and tie, and as for the shirt----

But that was an office mystery. We never have solved it, and no one had
the courage to tease Mehronay about it the next morning. After that we
knew, and Mehronay knew that we knew, that he and Miss Merley went to
church every Sunday evening--the Presbyterian church, mind you, where
there is no foolishness--and that after church Mehronay always spent
exactly half an hour in the parlour of the house where his divinity
roomed. A whole year went by wherein Mehronay was sober, and did not
look upon the wine when it was red or brown or yellow or any other
colour. Now when he "writ a piece" there was frequently something in it
defending women's rights. Also he severed diplomatic relations with the
girl clerks in the White Front and the Bee Hive and the Racket, and
bought a cane and aspired to some dignity of person. But Mehronay's
heart was unchanged. The snows of boreal affection did not wither or
fade his eternal spring. The sap still ran sweet in his veins and the
bees still sang among the blossoms that sprang up along his path. He was
everyone's friend, and spoke cheerily to the dogs and the horses, and
was no more courteous to the preachers and the bankers, who are our most
worshipful ones in town, than to the men from Red Martin's
gambling-room, and even the woman in red, whom all the town knows but
whom no one ever mentions, got a kind word from Mehronay as they met
upon the street. He always called her sister.

And so another year went by and Mehronay's "pieces" made the circulation
grow, and we were prosperous. It became known about town long before we
knew it in the office that if Mehronay kept sober for three years she
would have him, and when we finally heard it he was on the last half of
the third year and was growing sombre. "In the Cottage by the Sea" was
his favourite song, and "Put Away the Little Playthings" also was much
in his throat when he wrote. We thought, perhaps--and now we know--that
he was thinking of a home that was gone. The day before Mehronay's
wedding a child died over near the railroad, and on the morning he was
to be married we found this on the copy hook when we came down to open
the office, after Mehronay had gone to claim his bride:

"A ten-line item appeared in last night's paper, away down in one
corner, that brought more hearts together in a common bond--the bond of
fear and sympathy and sorrow--than any other item has done for a long
time. The item told of the death, by scarlet fever, of little Flossie
Yengst. Probably the child was not known outside of her little group of
playmates; her father and mother are not of that advertised clique known
of men as prominent people; he is an engineer on the Santa Fé, and the
mother moves in that small circle of friends and neighbours which
circumscribes American motherhood of the best type. And yet last night,
when that little ten-line item was read by a thousand firesides in this
town, thousands and thousands of hearts turned to that desolate home by
the track, and poured upon it the benediction of their sympathies. That
home was the meeting-place where rich and poor, great and weak, good and
bad, stood equals. For there is something in the death of a little
child, something in its infinite pathos, that makes all human creatures
mourn. Because in every heart that is not a dead heart, calloused to all
joy or sorrow, some little child is enshrined--either dead or
living--and so child-love is the one universal emotion of the soul, and
child-death is the saddest thing in all the world.

"A child's soul is such a small thing, and the world and the systems of
worlds, and the infinite stretches of illimitable space, are so wide for
a child's soul to wander in, that, sane as we may be, stolid as we may
try to be, we think in imagery, and the figure of little feet setting
off on the far track to the end of things, hunting God, wrings our
heart-strings and makes our throats grip and our eyelids quiver.

"And then a child dying, leaving this good world of ours, seems to have
had so small a chance for itself. There is something in all of us
struggling against oblivion, striving vainly to make some real impress
on the current of time, and a child, dying, can only clutch the hands
about it and go down--forever. It seems so merciless, so unfair. Perhaps
that is why, all over the world, the little graves are cared for best.
It is to the little graves that we turn in our keenest anguish and not
to the larger mounds; to the little graves that our hearts are drawn in
our hours of triumph. And so the child, though dead, lives its appointed
time and dies only in the fullness of its years. The little shoes, the
little dresses, the 'little tin soldiers covered with rust,' and the
memories sweeter than dreams of a honeymoon, these are life's
immortelles that never fade. And though men and women come and go upon
the earth, though civilisations may wither and pass, these little images
remain; and the sun and the stars, which see men come and go, may see
these little idols before which every creature bows, and the sun and
stars, knowing no time, may think these children's relics are also

"It is a desperately lonely home, that Yengst home, with the little girl
gone away on a long journey; but how tight and close other fathers and
mothers hugged their little ones last night when their hearts came back
from the house of sorrow. And the little ones, feeling no fear,
unconscious of the pang of terror that was shooting through the souls
about them--the children played on, and maybe, before dropping to sleep,
wondered a little at anxious looks they saw in grown-up eyes.

"This is the faith of a little child, curious but implicit, in the
goodness of those things outside one's self. And 'of such is the Kingdom
of Heaven.'"

A day or so after the wedding someone said to him: "Mehronay, sometimes
your pieces make me cry," and he replied with all the fine sincerity of
his heart showing in his eyes: "Yes--and if you only knew how they make
me cry! Sometimes when I have written one like--like that--I go to my
bed and sob like a child." He turned and walked away, but he came into
the office whistling "The Dutch Company."

After his wedding we made brave, in a sly way, to rail at Mehronay about
his love affair, and he took it good-naturedly. He knew the situation
just as it was; his sense of humour allowed him no false view of the
matter. One afternoon when the paper was out, George Kirwin, the
foreman, and one of the reporters and Mehronay were in the back room
leaning against the imposing-stones looking over the paper, when Kirwin
said: "Say, Mehronay, how did you get yourself screwed up to ask her?"

It was spoken in a joke. The two young men were grinning, but Mehronay
looked at the floor in a study as he said:

"Well, to be honest--damfino if I ever did--just exactly." He smiled
reflectively in a pause and continued: "Nearest I remember was one night
we was sitting with our feet on the base-burner and I looked up and
says, 'Hell's afire, Commie'--I called her that for short--'why in the
devil don't a fine woman like you get married? She got up and come over
to where I was a-sitting and before I could say Lordamighty, she put her
hand on my shoulder and says real soft and solemn: 'I'll just be damned
if I don't believe I will.'"

He did not smile when he looked up, but sighed contentedly as he added
reverently: "And so, by hell, she did!" If Columbia Merley Mehronay had
known this language which her husband's innocent inadvertence put into
her mouth she would have strangled him--even then.

We did not have Mehronay with us more than a year after his wedding.
Mrs. Mehronay knew what he was worth. She asked for twenty-five dollars
a week for him, and when we told her the office could not afford it she
took him away. They went to New York City, where she peddled his pieces
about town until she got him a regular place. There they have lived
happily ever after. Mehronay brings his envelope home every Saturday
night, and she gives him his carfare and his shaving-money and puts the
rest where it will do the most good. When the men from our office go to
New York--which they sometimes do--they visit with Mehronay at his
office, and sometimes--if there is time for due and proper notice of the
function in writing--there is an invitation to dinner. Mehronay fondles
his old friends as a child fondles its playmates and he takes eager
pleasure in them, but she that was Columbia Merley all but searches
their pockets for the tempter.

Mehronay has never broken his word. He knows if he does break it she
will tear him limb from limb and eat him raw. So he goes to his work,
writes his pieces, hums his gentle bee-song--so that men do not like to
room with him at the office--and has learned to keep himself fairly well
buttoned up in the great city. But Miss Larrabee that was--who used to
edit the society page for our paper, but who now lives in New York--told
us when she was home that as she was walking down Fourth Avenue one
winter day when the street was empty, she saw Mehronay standing before
the window of a liquor store looking intently at the display of bottled
goods before him. When he saw her half a block away he turned from her
and shuffled rapidly down the street, clicking his cane nervously.

It was not for him!


Sown in Our Weakness

When one comes to know an animal well--say a horse or a cow or a
dog--and sees how sensibly it acts, following the rules of conduct laid
down by the wisdom of its kind, one cannot help wondering how much
happier, and healthier, and better, human beings would be if they used
the discretion of the animals. For ages men have been taught what is
good for their bodies and their minds and their souls. There has been no
question about the wisdom of being temperate and industrious and honest
and kind; and the folly of immoderation and laziness and chicanery and
meanness is so well known that a geometrical proposition has not been
more definitely proved. Yet only a few people in any community observe
the rules of life, and of these few no one observes them all; and so
misery and pain and poverty and anguish are as a pestilence among men,
and they wonder why they are living in such a cruel world. It was Eli
Martin who, back in the seventies, won the prize in the Bethel
neighbourhood for reciting more chapters of the Old Testament than any
other child in Sunday-school; and the old McGuffey's Reader that he used
on week-days was filled with moral tales; but someway when it came to
applying the rules he had learned, and the moral that the stories
pointed, Eli Martin lacked the sense of a dog or a horse. Once, when the
paper contained an account of one of Red Martin's police court
escapades, George Kirwin recalled that, when we offered a prize during
the Christmas season of 1880, for the best essay by a child under
twelve, it was Ethelwylde Swaney who won the prize with an essay on the
Weakness of Vanity; and she married Eli Martin when she and the whole
town knew what he was.

Naturally one would suppose that two persons so full of theoretical
wisdom would have applied it, and that in applying it they would have
been the happiest and most useful people in all the town; but instead
they were probably the most miserable people in town, and Mrs. Martin,
whom we knew better than Red, because she once had worked in the office,
was forever bemoaning what she called her "lot," though we knew for many
years that her "lot" was not the result of the fates against her, but
merely the inevitable consequence of her temperament.

Before we put in linotypes and set our type by machinery it was set by
girls. Usually we employed half-a-dozen, who came from the town high
school. They kept coming and going, as girls do who work in country
towns, getting married in their twenties or finding something better
than printing, and it is likely that in ten years as many as fifty girls
have worked in the office, and be it said to the credit of the
girls--which cannot be said of so many of the boys and men who have
worked in the shop--that they were girls we were proud of--all but
Ethelwylde Swaney.

She that we called the Princess worked in the office less than two
years, but the memory of her still lingers, though hardly could one say
like "the scent of the roses"; for the Princess was not merely a poor
compositor, she was the kind that would make mistakes and blame others
for them, and that kind never learns. Though she ran away to marry Red
Martin--which was her own mistake--this habit of blaming others for her
faults was so strong that she never forgave her mother for making the
match. We know in our office that Mrs. Swaney did not dream that the
girl was even going with Red Martin until they were married. Yet the
Martin neighbours for twenty years have blamed Mrs. Swaney. When the
Princess was in the office we found out that the truth wasn't in her;
also we discovered that she was lazy and that she cried too easily.
Right at the busy hour in the afternoon we used to catch her with a type
in her fingers and her hand poised in the air, looking off into space
for a minute at a time, and when we spoke to her she would put her head
on her case and cry softly; and the foreman would have to apologise
before she would go back to work. Even then she would have to take the
broken piece of looking-glass that she kept in her capital "K" box and
make an elaborate toilet before settling down. Moreover, though she was
only seventeen, much of the foreman's time was spent chasing dirty-faced
little boys away from her case, and if some boy didn't have his elbow in
her quad box, she was off her stool visiting either with some other
girl, or standing by the stove drying her hands--she was eternally
drying her hands--and talking to one of the men. In all the year and a
half that she was in the office the Princess never learned how to help
herself. When she had to dump her type, she had to call some man from
his work to help her--and then there would be more conversation.

But we kept her and were patient with her on account of her father, John
Swaney, a hard-working man who was trying to make something of the
Princess, so we put up with her perfumery and her powder rags and her
royal airs, and did all we could to teach her the difference between a
comma and a period--though she never really learned; and we were still
patient with her, even when she deliberately pied a lot of type after
being corrected for some piece of carelessness or worse. We made due
allowances for the Rutherford temper, which her father warned us not to
arouse. Nevertheless, her mother came to the office one winter day in
her black straw hat with a veil around it, and with the coat she had
worn for ten years, to tell us that she was afraid working in the shop
would hurt her daughter's social standing. So the Princess walked out
that night in a gust of musk--in her picture hat and sweeping cloak,
with bangles tinkling and petticoat swishing--and the office knew her no
more forever.

About the time that the Princess left the office to improve her social
standing, Eli Martin and his big mule team came to town from the Bethel
neighbourhood. He was as likely a looking red-headed country boy as you
ever saw. We were laying the town waterworks pipes that year, and Eli
and his team had work all summer. On the street he towered above the
other men several inches in height, and he looked big and muscular and
masculine in his striped undershirt and blue overalls, as he worked with
his team in the hot sun. Of course, the Princess would not have seen him
in those days. Her nose was seeking a higher social level, and the
clerks in the White Front dry-goods store formed the pinnacle of her
social ideal. But Eli Martin was naturally what in our parlance we call
a ladies' man, and he was not long in learning that the wide-brimmed
black hat, the ready-made faded green suit and the red string necktie
which had swept the girls down before him in the Bethel neighbourhood
would accomplish little in town. So when winter came, and work with his
team was hard to get, he sold his mules and bedecked himself in fine
linen. He had a few hundred dollars saved up, so he lived in the cabbage
smells of the Astor House, and fancied that he was enjoying the
refinements of a great city. Time hung heavily upon him, and at night he
joined the switchmen and certain young men of leisure in the town in a
more or less friendly game of poker in the rooms at the head of the dark
stairway on South Main Street.

When spring came the young man had no desire and little need to go back
to work, for by that time he was known as Lucky Red. In a year the
sunburn left him and he grew white and thin. He went to Kansas City for
a season, and became known among gamblers as far west as Denver; but he
was only a tin-horn gambler in the big cities, while in our town he was
at the head of his profession, so he came back and opened a room of his
own. He came back in a blaze of glory; to wit: a long grey frock coat
with trousers to match, pleated white shirts studded with blinding
diamonds, a small white hat dented jauntily on three sides, a matted
lump of red hair on the back of his head and a dashing red curl combed
extravagantly low on his forehead. Before he left town for his foreign
tour Red Martin used to hang about the churches Sunday evenings, peering
through the blinds and making eyes at the girls; but upon his return he
had risen to another social level. He had acquired a cart with red
wheels and a three-minute horse; so he dropped from his social list the
girls who "worked out" and made eyes at those young women who lived at
home, gadding around town evenings, picking up boys on the street and
forever talking about their "latest."

It was the most natural thing in the world that Red and the Princess
should find each other, and six months before the elopement we heard
that the Princess was riding about the country with him in the
red-wheeled cart. For after she left the office in one way and another
we had kept track of the girl--sometimes through her father, who, being
a carpenter, was frequently called to the office to fix up a door or a
window; sometimes through the other girls in the office, and sometimes
through Alphabetical Morrison, whose big family of girl school-teachers
made him a storage battery of social information.

It seems that the Rutherford temper developed in the Princess as she
grew older. Mrs. Swaney was Juanita Sinclair; her father was a
mild-mannered little man, who went out of doors to cough, but her mother
was a Rutherford--a big, stiff-necked, beer-bottle-shaped woman, who
bossed the missionary society until she divided the church. John Swaney,
who is not a talkative man, once got in a crowd at Smith's cigar-store
where they were telling ghost stories, and his contribution to the
horror of the occasion was a relating of how, when they were fooling
with tables, trying to make them tip at his house one night at a family
reunion, the spirit of Grandma Rutherford appeared, split the table into
kindling, dislocated three shoulder-blades and sprained five wrists. It
was this Rutherford temper that the Princess wore when she slouched
around the house in her mother-hubbard with her hair in papers. The
girls in the office used to say that if her mother over-cooked the
Princess's egg in the morning she would rise grandly from the breakfast
table, tipping over her chair behind her, and rush to her room "to have
a good cry," and the whole family had to let the breakfast cool while
they coaxed her down. That was the Rutherford temper. Also, when they
tried to teach her to cook, it was the Rutherford temper that broke the
dishes. Colonel Morrison once told us that when the Princess thought it
was time to give a party, the neighbours could see the Rutherford temper
begin wig-wagging at the world through the Princess's proud head, and
there was nothing for her father to do but to kill the chickens, run
errands all day to the grocery store, and sit in the cellar freezing
cream, and then go to the barn at night to smoke. It was known in the
neighbourhood that the Princess dragged her shoestrings until noon, and
that her bed was never in the memory of woman made up in the daytime. We
are Yankees in our town, and these things made more talk to the girl's
discredit than the story that she was keeping company with Red Martin!

But we at the office saw in the proud creature that passed our window so
grandly nothing to indicate her real self. The year that Red Martin came
back to town the Princess used to turn into Main Street in an afternoon,
wearing the big black hat that cost her father a week's hard work,
looking as sweet as a jug of sorghum and as smiling as a basket of
chips. Though women sniffed at her, the men on the veranda of the Hotel
Metropole craned their necks to watch her out of sight. She jingled with
chains and watches and lockets and chatelaines, carried more rings than
a cane rack, and walked with the air of the heroine of the society drama
at the opera house. When she was on parade she never even glanced toward
our office, where she had jeopardised her social position. She barely
quivered a recognising eye-brow at the girls who had worked with her,
and they had their laugh at her, so matters were about even. But the
office girls say that, after the Princess eloped with Red Martin, she
was glad to rush up and shake hands with them. For we know in our town
that the princess business does not last more than ten days or two weeks
after marriage; it is a trade of quick sales, short seasons and small
profits. The day that the elopement was the talk of the town, Colonel
Alphabetical Morrison was in the office. He said that he remembered
Juanita Sinclair when she was a princess and wore Dolly Varden clothes
and was the playfullest kitten in the basketful that used to turn out to
the platform dances on Fourth of July, and appear as belles of the
suppers given for the Silver Cornet Band just after the war. "But,"
added the Colonel, "this town is full of saffron-coloured old girls with
wiry hair and sun-bleached eyes, who at one time or another were in the
princess business. Not only has every dog his day, but eventually every
kitten becomes a cat."

[Illustration: The traveling men on the veranda craned their necks to
watch her out of sight]

From the night of the charivari when Red Martin handed the boys twenty
dollars--the largest sum ever contributed to a similar purpose in the
town's history--he and the Princess began to slump. The sloughing off of
the veneer of civilisation was not rapid, but it was sure. The first
pair of shoes that Red bought after his wedding were not patent leather,
and, though the porter of his gambling place blacked them every morning,
still they were common leather, and the boy noticed it. Likewise, the
Princess had her hat retrimmed with her old plumes the fall after her
wedding, bought no new clothes, and wore her giddy spring jacket, thin
as it was, all winter, and after the second baby came no human being
ever saw her in anything but a wrapper, except when she was on Main

The neighbours said she wore a wrapper so that she could have free use
of her lungs, for when Red and the Princess opened a family debate, the
neighbours had to shut the doors and windows and call in the children.
Notwithstanding all the names that she called him in their lung-testing
events, there was no question about her love for the man. For, after the
first year of her marriage, though she lost interest in her clothes and
ceased calling for the "fashion leaf" at the dress-goods counter in the
White Front, and let her hair go stringy, we around our office knew that
the Princess was only a child, who some way had lost interest in her old
toys. When God gives babies to children, the children forget their other
dolls, and the Princess, when the babies came, put away her other dolls,
and played with the toys that came alive. And she spanked them and
fondled them and scolded them with the same empty-headed vanity that she
used to devote to her clothes.

Red Martin was one of the Princess's dearest dolls, and she and the
babies were his toys; but, being a boy, he did not care for them so much
with the paint rubbed off, yet he did not neglect them. Instead, he
neglected himself. When the babies began to put grease spots on his
clothes, he did not clean them, and about the time his wife quit
powdering, when she came to Main Street, he stopped wearing collars. She
grew fat and frowsy, and her chief interest in life seemed to be to
over-dress her children, and sometimes Red Martin encouraged her by
bringing home the most extravagant suits for the boys, and sometimes he
abused her when the bills came in for things which she had bought for
the children, and asked why she did not buy something half-way
respectable-looking to wear herself. After each of their furious
quarrels she would go over the neighbourhood the next day and tell the
neighbours that her mother had married her to a gambler, and ask them
what a gambler's wife could expect. If any neighbour woman agreed with
Mrs. Martin about her husband or her position Mrs. Martin would become
angry and flounce out of the house, but if the women spoke kindly of her
husband she would berate him and weep, and assure them that she had
refused the banker, or the proprietor of the Bee Hive, or anyone else
who seemed to make her story possible.

By the time that the third baby was old enough to carry his baby sister
and the fifth baby was in the crib, Red Martin's face had begun to grow
purple. He lost the gambling-room which was once his pride; it was
operated by a youth with a curly black moustache, whose clothes recalled
the days of Red's triumph. Red was only a dealer, and his trousers were
frayed at the bottom and he shaved but once a week. Then the Princess
used to come slinking up Main Street at night carrying a pistol under
her coat to use if she found the woman with him. Who the woman was the
neighbours never knew, but the Princess gave them to understand that
they would be surprised if she told them. It was her vanity to pretend
that the woman was a society leader, as she called her, but the boys
around the poker-dive knew that Red Martin's days as a heart-breaker
were gone. For what whisky and cocaine and absinthe could do for Red to
hurry his end they were doing, but a man is a strong beast, and it takes
many years to kill him. Also, the Lord saves men like Red for horrible
examples, letting them live long that He may not have to waste others;
but women seem to have God's pity and He takes them out of their misery
more quickly than He takes men. With the coming of the seventh baby the
Princess died. When the news came to the office that she was gone we
were not sorry, for life had held little for her. Her looks were gone;
her health was gone; her dreams were smudged out--pitiful and wretched
and sordid as they were, even at the best. Yet for all that George
Kirwin took down to the funeral a wreath which the office force bought
for her.

To know George Kirwin casually one would say he never saw anything but
the types and machinery in the back room of our office. When he went
among strangers he seemed to be looking always at his hands or studying
his knees, and his responses to those whom he did not know were "yea,
yea," and "nay, nay"; but that night he told us more about the funeral
of the Princess than all the reporters on the paper would have learned.
He told us how the pitiful little parlour with its advertising chromos
and its soap-prize lamp was filled with the women who always come to
funerals in our town--funerals being their only diversion; how they sat
in the undertaker's chairs with their handkerchiefs carefully folded and
in their hands during the first part of the service, waiting for Brother
Hopper to tell about his mother's death, which he never fails to do at
funerals, though the elders have spoken to him about it, as all the town
knows; how Red Martin, shaved for the occasion, and, in a borrowed suit
of clothes, stood out by the well and did not come into the house during
the services; how only the elder children sat in the front room with the
other mourners, and how the prattle of the little ones in the kitchen
ran through the parson's prayer with heart-breaking insistence.

George seemed to think that the poverty-stricken little makeshifts to
bring beauty into the miserable home and keep up the appearance of a
kind of gentility--perhaps for the children--was the best thing he ever
knew about the Princess, and he said that he was glad that he went to
the funeral for the geraniums in the crêpe paper covered tomato cans,
the cheap lace curtains at the windows, and the hair-wreath inheritance
from the Swaneys, made him think that the best of the Princess might
have survived all the rack and calamity of the years.

When the funeral left the house the neighbour women came and put it in
order, and there was a better supper waiting for the father and the
children than they had eaten for many years. And then, after the dishes
were put away, the neighbours left; and for what he tried to do and be
for the motherless brood just that one night, God will put down a good
mark for Eli Martin--even though the man failed most sadly.

When he went back to the gambling-room the next night, where he was
porter; men tried not to swear while he was in earshot, and the next day
they swore only mild oaths around him, out of respect for his grief, but
the day after they forgot their compunctions, and, within a week, Red
Martin seemed to have forgotten, too. In time, the family was scattered
over the earth--divided among kin, and adopted out, and as the town grew
older its conscience quickened and the gambling-room was closed,
whereupon Red Martin went to Huddleston's livery stable, where he worked
for enough to keep him in whisky and laudanum, and ate only when someone
gave him food.

He grew dirty, unkempt, and dull-witted. Disease bent and twisted him
hideously. When he was too sick to work, he went to the poor-house, and
came back weak and pale to sit much in the sun on the south side of the
building like a sick dog. When he is lying about the street drunk,
little boys poke sticks at him and flee with terror before him when he
wakes to blind rage and stumbles after them. It is hard to realise that
this disgusting, inhuman-looking creature is the Red Martin of twenty
years ago, who, in his long grey frock coat, patent leather shoes, white
hat and black tie, walked serenely up the steps of the bank the day it
failed, tapped on the door-pane with his revolver barrel, and, when a
man came to answer, made him open, and backed out with his revolver in
one hand and his diamonds and money in the other. He does not recall in
any vague way the Red Martin who gave the town a month's smile when he
said, after losing all his money on election, that he had learned never
to bet on anything that could talk, or had less than four legs. That Red
Martin has been dead these many years; perhaps he was no more worthy
than this one who hangs on to life, and bears the name and the disgrace
that his dead youth made inevitable.

How strange it is that a man should wreck himself, and blight those of
his own blood as this man has done! He knew what we all know about life
and its rules. He had been told, as we all are told in a thousand ways,
that bad conduct brings sorrow to the world, and that pain and
wretchedness are the only rewards of that behaviour which men call sin.
And yet there he is, sitting on his hunkers near the stable, with God's
stamp of failure all over his broken, battered body--put there by Red
Martin's own hands. But George Kirwin, who often thinks with a kindlier
spirit than others, says we are Red Martin's partners in iniquity, for
we all lived here with him, maintaining a town that tolerated gambling
and debauchery, and that, in some way, we shall each of us suffer as Red
has suffered, insomuch as each has had his share in a neighbour's shame.

We tell George that he is getting old, though he is still on the bright
side of forty, because he likes to come down town of evenings and hold a
parliament with Henry Larmy and Dan Gregg and Colonel Morrison.
Sometimes they hold it in the office and settle important affairs. A
month ago they settled the immortality of the soul, and the other night,
returning to their former subject, the question came up: "What will
become of Red Martin when he goes to Heaven?" Dan contended that the
poor fellow is carrying around his own little blowpipe hell as he goes
through life. George Kirwin maintained that Red Martin will enter the
next world with the soul that died when his body began to live in
wickedness; that there must have been some imperishable good in him as a
boy, and that Heaven, or whatever we decide to call the next world, must
be full of men and women like Red Martin--some more respectable than
he--whose hell will be the unmasking of their real selves in the world
where we "shall know as we are known." While we were sitting in judgment
on poor Red Martin, in toddled Simon Mehronay, who is visiting in town
from New York in the company of the vestal virgin who had, as he
expressed it, snatched him as a brand from the burning. Mehronay has
been gone from town nearly twenty years, and until they told him he did
not know how Red Martin had fallen. When he heard it, Mehronay sighed
and tears came into his dear old eyes, as he put his hand on Colonel
Morrison's arm and said:

"Poor Red! Poor Red! A decent, brave, big-hearted chap! Why, he's taken
whisky away from me a dozen times! He's won my money from me to keep it
over Saturday night. Why, I'm no better than he is! Only they've caught
Red, and they haven't caught me. And when we stand before the
judgment-seat, I can tell a damnsight more good things about Red than he
can about me. I'm going out to find him and get him a square meal."

And so, while we were debating, Mehronay went down the Jericho road
looking for the man who was lying there, beaten and bruised and waiting
for the Samaritan.



In the afternoon, between two and three o'clock, the messenger boy from
the telegraph office brings over the final sheet of the day's report of
the Associated Press. Always at the end is the signature "Thirty." That
tells us that the report is closed for the day. Just why "Thirty" should
be used to indicate the close of the day's work no one seems to know. It
is the custom. They do so in telegraph offices all over the country, and
in the newspaper business "Thirty" stands so significantly for the end
that whenever a printer or a reporter dies his associates generally feel
called upon to have a floral emblem made with that figure in the centre.
It is therefore entirely proper that these sketches of life in a country
town, seen through a reporter's eyes, should close with that symbolic
word. But how to close? That is the question.

Sitting here by the office window, with the smell of ink in one's
nostrils, with the steady monotonous clatter of the linotypes in the
ears, and the whirring of the shafting from the press-room in the
basement throbbing through one's nerves, with the very material
realisation of the office around one; we feel that only a small part of
it, and of the life about it, has been set down in these sketches.
Passing the office window every moment is someone with a story that
should be told. Every human life, if one could know it well and
translate it into language, has in it the making of a great story. It is
because we are blind that we pass men and women around us, heedless of
the tragic quality of their lives. If each man or woman could understand
that every other human life is as full of sorrows, of joys, of base
temptations, of heartaches and of remorse as his own, which he thinks so
peculiarly isolated from the web of life, how much kinder, how much
gentler he would be! And how much richer life would be for all of us!
Life is dull to no one; but life seems dull to those dull persons who
think life is dull for others, and who see only the drab and grey
shades in the woof that is woven about them.

Here in our town are ten thousand people, and yet these sketches have
told of less than two score of them. In the town are thousands of others
quite as interesting as these of whom we have written. A few minutes ago
Jim Bolton rode by on his hack. There is no reason why others should be
advertised of men and Jim left out; for Jim is the proudest man in town.

He came here when the town was young, and was president of the
Anti-Horse-Thief League in the days before it became an emeritus
institution, when it was a power in politics and named the Sheriff as a
matter of right and of course. Jim has never let the fact that he kept a
livery-stable and drove a hack interfere with his position as leading
citizen. He keeps a livery-stable, because that is his business, and he
drives a hack because he cannot trust such a valuable piece of property
in the hands of the boy. But when the street fair is to be put on, or
the baseball team financed, or when the Baptist Church needs a new roof,
or the petitions are to be circulated for a bond election, Jim Bolton
gets down from his hack, puts on his crystal slipper and is the
Cinderella of the occasion. That is why, when young men go in Jim's hack
to take young women to parties and dances, they always invite Jim in to
sit by the fire and get warm while the girls are primping. That is why,
when young Ben Mercer, just home from five years at Harvard, offered Jim
a "tip" over the usual twenty-five-cent fare, Jim quietly took off his
coat and whipped young Ben where he stood--and the town lined up for an
hour, each man eager for the privilege of contributing ten cents to the
popular subscription to pay old Jim's fine and costs in police-court.

Following Jim Bolton on his hack past the office window came Bill
Harrison, once extra brakeman on the Dry Creek Branch, just promoted to
be conductor on the main line, and so full of vainglory in his exalted
position that he wears his brass buttons on freight trains. Bill's wife
signs his pay-check and doles out his cigar money, a quarter at a time,
and when he asks for a dollar, she looks at him as if she suspected him
of leading a double life. It is her ambition to live in Topeka, for
"there are so many conductors in Topeka," she says, "that society is not
so mixed"--as it is in our town, where she complains that the switchmen
and the firemen and the student-brakemen dominate society. Once a cigar
salesman from Kansas City got on Bill's train and offered a lead dollar
for fare.

"I can't take this," protested Bill, emphasising the "I," because his
job was new.

"Well, then, you might just turn that one over to the company,"
responded the drummer.

And when the head-brakeman told it in the yards, Bill had to fuss with
his wife for two days to get money for a box of cigars to stop the

As these lines were being written, Miss Littleton came into the office
with a notice for the Missionary Society. She has been teaching school
in town for thirty years and is not so cheerful as she was once. For a
long time the board has considered dismissing her; but it continues to
change her around from building to building and from room to room, and
to keep her out of sheer pity; and she knows it. There is tragedy enough
in her story to fill a book. Yet she looks as humdrum as you please, and
smiles so gaily as she puts down her notice, that one thinks perhaps she
is trying to dispel the impression that she is cross and impatient with

On the other side of the street, upstairs in his dusty real estate
office, with tin placards of insurance companies on the wall, and gaudy
calendars tacked everywhere, Silas Buckner stands at the window counting
the liars and scoundrels, and double-dealers and villains, and thieves
and swindlers who pass. Since Silas was defeated for Register of Deeds
he has become a pessimist. He has soured on the town, and when he sees a
man, Silas thinks only of the evil that man has done. Silas knows all
men's weaknesses, forgets their strength, and looking down from the
window hates his fellow-creatures for the wrong they have done him, or
the wickedness that he knows of them. He has never given our reporters a
kindly item of news since he was turned down, but if there is a
discreditable story on any citizen going around we hear it first from
Silas, and if we do not print it he says we have taken hush money. If
we have to print it, he says we are stirring up strife. Seeing him over
there, looking down on the town which to him is accursed, we have often
thought how weary God must be looking at the world and knowing so much
better than Silas the weakness and iniquity of men. Sometimes we have
wondered if sin is really as important as Silas thinks it is, for with
Silas sin is a blot that effaces a man's soul. But maybe God sees sin
only as a blemish that men may overcome. Perhaps God is not so
discouraged with us as Silas is. But life is a puzzle at most.

[Illustration: Counting the liars and scoundrels and double-dealers and
villains who pass]

Last night Aaron Marlin died. He had lived for ninety years in this
world, and had seen much and suffered much, and has died as a child
turns to sleep. It was quiet and still at his home among the elms as he
lay in his coffin. The mourners spoke in low and solemn tones, and the
blinds were drawn as if death were shy. As he lay there in the great
hush that was over the house, there passed before it on the sidewalk two
who spoke as low as the mourners, though they were oblivious to the
house of death. They trod slowly, and a great calm was on their souls.
One of the scribes who sets down these lines stood in the shadow of the
doorway pine-tree and saw the lovers passing; he felt the silence and
the sorrow behind the door he was about to enter; and there he stood
wondering--between Death and Love--the End and the Beginning of God's
great mystery of Life. Now, with the sense of that great mystery upon
him, with all of this pied skein of life about him, he puts down his
pen, and looks out of the window as the thread winds down the street.

For "Thirty" is in for the day.


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