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Title: The Co-Citizens
Author: Harris, Corra, 1869-1935
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 "The Co-Citizens" ***

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



THE CO-CITIZENS



BY THE SAME AUTHOR

  _A Circuit Rider's Wife_
  _Eve's Second Husband_
  _The Recording Angel_
  _In Search of a Husband_



[Illustration: "'_Do you know what he means, Selah, sending for the
oldest and fairest woman in Jordantown to meet him at this outrageous
hour of the afternoon?_'"]



THE

CO-CITIZENS


BY
CORRA HARRIS


_Illustrated
By Hanson Booth_


GARDEN CITY
NEW YORK
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
1915


_Copyright, 1915, by_
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  "Do you know what he means, Selah, sending for the
  oldest and ugliest, and the youngest and fairest woman in
  Jordantown to meet him at this outrageous hour of the
  afternoon?'"                                            _Frontispiece_

  "'I want to ask you a delicate question: where ish the
  ladies? I haven't sheen a woman in four hours!'"                    42

  "'You may be mayor of this town before you are thirty.
  A fat mayoress would never do'"                                     84

  "'Bob! I'll make a confession to you. It's been horrid,
  from first to last. When we are married I want to sit at
  home and darn your socks--you do wear holes in them,
  don't you?'"                                                       216



CHAPTER I


When Sarah Hayden Mosely died, she did something. Most people do not.
They cease to do. They are forgotten. The grass that springs above their
dust is the one recurrent memory which the earth publishes of them long
after the world has been eased of their presence, the fever of their
prayers and hopes. It was the other way with this dim little old woman.
During the whole of her life she had never done anything. She was one of
those faint whispers of femininity who missed the ears of mankind and
who faded into the sigh of widowhood without attracting the least
attention. She was simply the "relic" of William J. Mosely, who at the
time of his death was the richest man in Jordantown. And by the same
token, after his death, Sarah became the richest woman. She had no
children, no relatives. She was detached in every way, even from her
own property, which was managed by the agent, Samuel Briggs, and was
still known as the "William J. Mosely Estate." She attended divine
service every Sunday morning, always wearing a black silk frock and a
black bonnet tied under her sharp little chin, always sitting erect and
alone in her pew, always staring straight in front of her, but not at
the minister. Recalling this circumstance afterward, Mabel Acres said:

"She must have been thinking of _that_ all the time, not of the sermon."

She paid one dollar a year to the Woman's Home and Foreign Missionary
Society and twenty cents extra for "incidentals." She contributed five
dollars each quarter toward the Reverend Paul Stacey's salary. And she
never, under any circumstance, gave more, no matter how urgent the
appeal. She was suspected of being a miser. There was nothing else of
which she could be suspected. So far as any one knew in Jordantown, she
permitted herself only one luxury: this was a canary bird, not yellow,
but green. It was a very old bird, as canaries go. Somebody once said:
"Old Sarah's making her canary last as long as possible!" Every night
when she retired to her room, she took the cage in with her, hung it
above her bed on a hook, and threw her petticoat over it to keep the
bird quiet during the night.

On the morning of the 6th of April Mrs. Mosely did not appear at the
usual hour, which was six o'clock. The maid waited breakfast until the
toast was cold. Then she went to the door and knocked. No reply. She
opened the door, and fell with a scream to the floor. Something soft and
swift like wings brushed her face. She could not tell what it was. She
saw nothing.

The gardener, hearing her cries, ran in. They both approached the bed.
They beheld the face of their mistress looking like the yellowed dead
petals of a rose, wrinkled, withered, awfully still on the pillow.

The woman screamed again.

"She's dead! it was her spirit that brushed my face just now!"

"No, it was the canary. The cage is empty," said the gardener.

"I tell you the thing I felt was white!" cried the woman.

"Felt! If you'd looked, you'd have seen it was that green canary!"
persisted the man.

This was the beginning of a great whispering uproar in Jordantown, of
violent curiosity and anxious speculation.

No one ever called upon Sarah, and she never made visits. Now every one
came. They listened to the maid's story. All the little boys in town
were looking for the canary. They never found it.

"I told you so!" sniffled the maid.

On the day of the funeral all the business houses in Jordantown were
closed. It was as if a Sabbath had dropped down in the middle of the
week. Pale young clerks lounged idly beneath the awnings of the stores.
Servants stared from the back doors. Sparrows rose in whirls from the
dust and screeched ribald comments from the blooming magnolia trees. The
funeral procession was a long one, and included all the finest
automobiles and all the best people in Jordantown--not that the best
people had ever known the deceased, but most of them sustained anxious,
interest-bearing relations to the William J. Mosely Estate. No one was
weeping. No one was even looking sad. Everybody was talking. One might
have said this procession was a moving dictograph of Sarah Mosely, whom
no one knew.

The Reverend Paul Stacey and Samuel Briggs occupied the car next to the
hearse. They were at least the nearest relations to the present
situation.

"She was not a progressive woman," Stacey was saying.

"No," answered Briggs, frowning. He was thinking of his own future, not
this insignificant woman's past.

"No heirs, I hear?"

"None."

"In that case she would naturally leave most, probably all, of the
estate to the church or to some charity. That kind of woman usually
does," Stacey concluded cheerfully.

"This kind of woman does not!" Briggs objected quickly. "She was the
kind who does not make a will at all. Leaves everything in a muddle. No
sense of responsibility. I have always contended that since the law
classes women with minors and children they should not be trusted with
property. They should have guardians!"

"You are sure there is no will?"

"Absolutely. If she had drawn one, I should have been consulted,"
answered the agent.

"It seems strange that she should have been so remiss," Stacey murmured.

"Not at all. Making a will is like ordering your grave clothes. Takes
nerve. Mrs. Mosely didn't have any. She was merely a little old gray
barnacle sticking to her husband's estate. She--hello! What's the
matter?"

The procession halted. Both men leaned forward and stared. An
old-fashioned brougham was being drawn slowly by a very fat old white
horse into the too narrow space between the hearse and Briggs's car.
Seated in the brougham was the erect figure of a very thin old man. His
hair showed beneath his high silk hat like a stiff white ruff on his
neck. His hands were clasped over a gold-headed cane. His whole
appearance was one of extreme dignity and reverence. The procession at
once took on the decent air of mourning.

"Judge Regis! What's he got to do with this, I'd like to know!" growled
Briggs.

After the brief service at the grave the company scattered. The men
gathered in groups talking in rumbling undertones. The women wandered
along the flowering paths.

"We must do something about that baby's grave over there. The violets
are not blooming as they should. The ground needs mulching," said Mrs.
Sasnett, who was the president of the Woman's Civic League and Cemetery
Association.

"I think we made a mistake to trim that crimson rambler so close in the
Coleman lot. It is not blooming so well this year," said Mrs. Acres.

"No place for a crimson rambler, anyhow. I told Agatha she should have
planted a white rose."

"If we are to take care of this cemetery, I think we should have
something to say about what is planted here, anyhow," added Mrs. Acres
petulantly.

"We will have. There's been a committee appointed to draw up resolutions
covering that," answered Mrs. Sasnett, who was also a firm woman.

"I hope Sarah Mosely has left something to the Civic League and Cemetery
Association," said another woman walking behind.

"I doubt it, she had no public spirit. We could never interest her in
the work. Such a pity."

"And in these days when women are taking hold and doing things. I
called on her myself when we were putting out plants along the railroad
embankment beside the station and asked her for a contribution, even if
it was only a few dozen nasturtiums. But she said she wasn't
interested."

"I wonder what she has done with her money. Nobody seems to know."

They stood staring back at the grave, which was now deserted except for
the sexton's men, who were filling it, and a tall thin old man who stood
with his head bare, leaning upon his cane with an air of reverence.
Beneath the coffin lid below Sarah Mosely lay with her hands folded,
faintly smiling like a little withered girl who has done something, left
a curious deed which was to puzzle those who were still awake when they
discovered what she had done. And it did.

It was the afternoon of the same day. The doors of all the business
houses were open. Jordantown had taken off its coat and was busy in its
shirt sleeves trying to make up for the trade lost during the morning.
Customers came and went, merchants frowned, clerks smiled. Teams passed.
Children returning from school added, by their joyous indifference,
irritation to the general situation. All the sparrows were back in the
dust of the street discussing its merits. And everywhere men were
gathered in groups talking about something--_the_ Something. The
business of the town was like a house toppling upon sand as long as no
one knew what was to be the disposition of the Mosely Estate. This was
what every one was talking about.

Jordantown is one of those old Southern communities large enough to have
"corporations," a mayor and council, but small enough for members of
"the best families" not to speak to members of other "best families."
Everybody had "feelings" and they showed them, especially if they were
not agreeable. It was not a progressive place, due, partly, to its
ante-bellum sense of dignity, but more particularly to the fact that
when a business firm was about to fail, it did not fail. It borrowed
enough to "tide over" from the agent of the William J. Mosely Estate.
This interfered with that natural law in the business world as
everywhere else, the survival of the fittest. Everybody survived, the
fit and the unfit, which is death to competition and that arterial
excitation without which trade becomes stagnation.

Three men sat in the private office of the National Bank, the windows of
which overlooked the town square. They were the tutelary deities of all
public occasions in the town. They always sat on the platform behind the
speaker on Decoration Days. They were supposed to control municipal
elections, but not one of them had ever "run" for an office. Deities
don't. They are the powers behind the throne. These men represented
Providence in Jordantown. And Providence is always behind the scenes.
The trouble now was that by an ordinary and inevitable process of nature
they had lost control of the situation. A little old woman had died who
had no sense, and who for that very reason might have done something
foolish with the William J. Mosely Estate, which was the very foundation
upon which all deities and providences rested in that place.

"The Estate owns your National Bank Building, doesn't it?" asked Martin
Acres, who knew that it did.

"Yes, and a controlling interest in the stock besides, more is the pity!
I never like to have a woman own stock in my bank," Stark Coleman
answered, throwing himself back upon the spring of his revolving chair.

"Why?" This from Acres, who did like to have women make accounts at his
store.

"Dangerous. It is well enough for women to owe--that's their nature--but
not to own. Look at the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad
scandal!"

He was a short fat man with large blue eyes beneath swollen lids, and at
the present moment some inner pressure seemed to increase their
prominence.

"What has that to do with women?"

"Proves my point. Wouldn't have been such a racket over that scandal if
half the widows and orphans in New England hadn't been pinched. Men are
good losers. They keep quiet. Know better than to destroy their credit
by squealing. Women have no credit, so they all squeal. And the
sentimental public always adds to the clamour," Coleman concluded,
mopping his face.

"Briggs collects rent from every store and business house around this
square," Acres went on.

"And he told me he handles mortgages on nineteen thousand acres of land
in this county," laughed the third man, who was young and who had been
listening with the detached air of a humourist.

"You can afford to laugh, Sasnett," retorted the banker; "you are one of
the few men in this town not affected by this--er--disaster. But a good
many of the rest of us may find ourselves in a hell of a hole if that
woman has willed everything she had to the church or to some orphan
asylum!"

"Why?" asked Sasnett, still smiling in the provoking manner of a man who
has nothing to lose.

"I couldn't do business with every loan and investment to be passed upon
by a board of directors reeking with preachers and eleemosynary
trustees. They are all damphules, with empty breeches pockets, and craws
filled with morbid scruples. How do I know there won't be a woman among
them! Good Lord! Think of a woman on the board of directors in a bank!"
snorted Coleman.

"Well, it couldn't be as bad as that," said Acres, as he pulled at the
ends of his wiry gray moustache.

"Yes, it can! It can be as bad as hell, I tell you. Nobody knows what
that woman's done. And when you don't know what a woman's done, you may
be sure it's worse than you can imagine!" Coleman insisted.

"Carter is beside himself. Briggs holds a mortgage of sixteen hundred on
the _Signal_ and he was to let Carter have four hundred more to-day. Now
the loan's called off. He tells me the _Signal_ must suspend publication
if he can't raise the money," Sasnett put in.

"At least he'll sell a few hundred copies extra Saturday if he prints
Sarah Mosely's will," said Acres.

"But if there is no will?"

"What does Briggs say?"

"Oh, Briggs!" laughed Sasnett, "he's as mad as a horsefly that's been
slapped off. He says there is no will. But he doesn't really know. He's
zooning around wondering if he'll be able to light again on the flanks
of the estate."

"Regis made himself rather conspicuous at the funeral to-day--wonder
why," remarked Coleman thoughtfully.

"Whim. Old men like to show up on such occasions. They are next of kin
to funerals, feel their dust shaking on their bones when anybody dies."

"There he comes now!" exclaimed Acres.

The Judge was indeed approaching, walking smartly up the street to the
National Bank Building. He was one of those old men who somehow recall
a cavalry sword, slightly bent, of exceedingly good metal. He retained,
you might say, merely the skin and bones of a splendid countenance. The
skin was brown as parchment, and wrinkled, but the bones were
elegant--Hamlet's skull, not Yorick's. His eyes were perfectly round,
gray below a kind of yellow brilliance, as if an old eagle within looked
out beneath the steel bars of those bristling brows. His nose belonged
to the colonial period of American history. It was an antique, and a
very fine one, well preserved, high bridge, straight, with thin nostrils
which drew up at the corners to hold the singularly patient whimsical
smile in place which his mouth made. All told, the Judge's countenance
was one of those _de luxe_ histories of a gentleman not often seen
outside of the best literature, but sometimes seen in an old Southern
town where some gentleman has also managed to retain the exceeding
honour of being a man as well.

His long black coat-tails clung as close as a scabbard to his thin legs.
He wore a high silk hat and a white carnation in his buttonhole. He
looked neither to the right nor to the left. Apparently he was the one
man in sight who was not concerned about the question of what had become
or would become of the William J. Mosely Estate.

As he approached the Bank Building, a very large red-faced old man with
a white moustache and goatee turned his head in the opposite direction,
wrinkled his nose, which was naturally Roman and cynical, and grunted.
This was Colonel Marshall Adams. He and the Judge did not "speak." They
had not spoken to one another in thirty years. This requires great
firmness of character when you live within speaking distance in a town
where talking is the chief occupation. They both had that--firmness. It
was always one of the agreeable sensations in Jordantown to see these
two old men come near enough together to exchange a word or a
salutation. The sensation consisted in the fact that they never did it.

The Judge tucked his gold-headed cane under his arm and ascended the
stairs which led to his office on the floor above the bank. The Colonel
went off, rumbling through his Roman nose, down the street. He did not
walk, he paced, as if he were stepping upon pismires, with his feet wide
apart. This was due to the fact that so much of the time walking was a
matter of carefully balancing himself against the strange unsteadiness,
the heaving and rolling of the ground beneath him. And this was due in
turn to the fact that the Colonel was never himself except when he was
"not himself," but had been exalted about four fingers in a glass above
the level of the common man--a condition which has always affected the
flat permanency of the earth, often causing it to rise unaccountably
before such persons, to meet them even more than halfway. The Colonel
had had long experience in this matter, and he walked warily from force
of habit even when he was sober.

The difference between Judge Regis and Colonel Adams was this: when the
Judge perceived that he was about to meet the Colonel face to face, he
never turned aside. But when the Colonel perceived that he was about to
meet the Judge, he always did. It was the way each of them had of
expressing his contempt for the other.

As the Colonel negotiated himself around the next corner with the rotary
motion of a slightly inebriate straddle-legged old planet, he almost
collided with another body which was more nearly spherical and which
had apparently no legs at all, only two wide-toed "Old Lady's Comforts"
showing beneath the hem of her dress. These toes were now set far apart.
The very short old lady above them seemed to have caved in above the
waistline, but below it she was globular to a remarkable degree. Her
face was wrinkled like fine script and very florid. Her upper lip was
delicately crimped and sunken. Her lower lip stuck out and reached up in
an effort to meet the situation, the situation being more and longer
teeth in the lower jaw. Her nose was that of a girl, retroussé, still
impertinent.

She stood regarding the Colonel with that contradictory uplook of her
faded blue eyes which was pathetic, and that tilt of her nose which was
offensive, with her lips primped tight after the manner of a woman who
is getting ready to wash behind the ears of a small boy. She always put
the Colonel in this class when she looked at him, and he resented it. He
resented it now by removing his Kentucky Colonel straw hat and glaring
his bow at her, as if that was a concession he made to his own dignity,
not to her.

"Good afternoon, Colonel Adams! Well, who are you running from now?"
she said by way of seizing his ears.

"Madam!" he exclaimed, puffing out his breast, "no man would dare ask
such a question! For four years the enemy of my country never saw the
back of Marshall Adams--and----"

"And you've been retreating ever since," she added.

"From what?" he demanded, slowly purpling with impotent rage.

"From the Present, from things that are," she answered.

"Madam, I'm an old man, I prefer the grandeur of the past to those
follies to which you, and women like you, would commit the present."

"But there's Selah, she at least belongs to the Present."

"Selah belongs to me, thank God!"

"She belongs to herself. You are robbing her of her own life."

"No woman ever belonged to herself, Madam, especially a young and
beautiful woman. She is an ineffable estate which all men buy with love
and hold with all the strength they have."

"For shame, sir! You are a brigand keeping your daughter in a cave."

"My house is not so fine as Selah deserves, but it is not a cave," he
retorted, flattening himself sidewise in order to pass.

"All the same you are a brigand, robbing your own flesh and blood of
life and happiness," she thrust at him as he went by, waddling on
herself after the manner of a fat old duck.

This was Susan Walton, the one celebrated character Jordantown had
produced since the Civil War, and she was a source of embarrassment
rather than pride. According to the ethics of that place no woman should
be known beyond her own church and parlour, much less celebrated. Judge
Regis was a distinguished jurist, of course, and Marshall Adams had been
a famous leader of forlorn hopes in the Confederate Army. But it is one
thing to be distinguished at the bar or famous in battle fifty years
ago, and quite another thing to be celebrated in the present. Susan was
that thing. It was said of her that she had kept her husband, an elegant
soft old gentleman, in Congress for a quarter of a century and up to the
very day of his death by being a thorn in the side of the political
life of the state. She kept scrapbooks in which she pasted dangerous and
damaging information about politicians and prominent men generally.
Whenever one of them became a candidate in opposition to her husband,
she prepared an awful obituary of him from her encyclopedia of past
records; and he usually withdrew from the race or was defeated. Few men
live who can face their former deeds in a political campaign. She made
public speeches at a time when no other woman in the South would go
further than give her "experience" in church or read a missionary report
before the Woman's District Conference. She was for temperance and
education even before the days of Local Option and when the public
school system consisted of eight weeks in the summer. She was the only
woman who had ever had the honour, if it was an honour, to address the
State Legislature when a bill was pending there concerning Child Labour;
and she did it in the high falsetto voice of a mother who calls her sons
out of a bait game in the public square. It was said that she actually
did address that dignified body as "boys," and that the "boys" liked it.
She had the brains of a man and the temper of an indignant but
tender-hearted woman. This is an exact description of her literary
style, which was not literary, but it was versatile in wit and sarcasm
and outrageous veracity. She used it as an instrument of torture and
vengeance in the public prints upon the characters of political
demagogues, liquor interests, and the state treasury. And what she said
was violently effective. Her victims might persist in the error of their
ways, but not one of them ever recovered from the face-scratching fury
of her attack.

Add to this the fact that she was a suffragist in the days when there
was only one other woman in the state who believed in citizenship for
women, and that she never ceased to "agitate" for suffrage, and you
receive a faint impression of this old termagant celebrity who had put
Jordantown "on the map" and had given it a reputation for
broadmindedness at a distance which it in no way deserved.

Susan did not herself press the point of being a celebrity in her own
appearance. She did not look the part. She did not even try. She was
sixty years old, wore black frocks which touched the pavements behind as
she walked and were raised some eight inches above it in front, owing
to that perfect frankness with which age is always willing to confess
its stomach. She had worn the same bonnet for five years, tied under her
protruding chin. Sometimes she changed the ribbons, but she never
changed the "shape."

She nodded to the three men seated near the open window in the bank.
Then she paused at the bottom of the steps which led to the second floor
and sighed.

"This staircase was built for men to climb," she grumbled as she began
the ascent. She stood on the step below and put her right foot on the
one above, but she did not alternate with the left. The gears in her
left knee were not strong enough to bear the necessary lift. Her feet
made a flat all-heel-and-toe sound as she went up, very emphatic. When
she reached the top her face was red, and she was "out of breath." But
she went on panting down the hall, looking at the lettering on the doors
of the various offices. Printed on a large ground-glass door she saw
"Mike Prim." She wrinkled her nose, adjusted her spectacles, poked out
her neck and stared at it.

"Humph! Mike Prim! Nothing else! What does he do? How does he make a
living? Every man in this town knows, and not a single woman!" she said
to herself.

She came to the door at the end of the hall upon which was printed,
"John Regis, Attorney-at-law."

She opened it without knocking and stood upon the threshold.

"Well, John Regis, you must think you are still a young man, keeping
your office at the top of this ladder staircase," she complained,
raising her handkerchief and dabbing her face.

"Come in, Susan, and take this chair by the window," said the Judge.
Rising from his desk and coming forward, he conducted her elegantly to
the chair.

"It's forty years since I was here," she said, looking about her, "and
you've not changed a thing. You are scarcely changed yourself, John."

"The man is changed, Susan. Forty years make more difference in a man
than they do in things," he answered gently.

"The same books, all so thick and awful looking. I remember that day I
thought you must be the wisest man in the world--to know all that was in
them."

"I didn't know, and I don't know yet," he put in, smiling.

"The same chairs, the same brown prints on the wall. And that little
vase, isn't it the one you had on your desk that day?" she asked,
bending forward to look at it more closely.

"The very same. You put a rose into it that day, do you remember?"

"No, but I do remember that I was in love with you, John. A woman of
sixty may admit that now!" she laughed.

"I wish you had admitted it then. I tried hard enough to win you, Susan.
We should have been a team!"

"No, we should not. We are both headstrong. We should have obstructed
each other. I married the right man."

"I suppose so. Certainly you never could have henpecked me into Congress
the way you did Jim Walton! Why did you do it?" he asked, showing the
ends of a sword smile as he regarded her.

"Well, you see I couldn't go myself," she laughed.

"So you sent your husband, next best thing."

"It wasn't so bad. I helped him, you know."

"Wrote all his speeches, kicked up all of his dust for him, didn't you?"

"Not all, but I helped."

"With your scrapbooks, for example?"

"Yes," she admitted.

"If you had been a man, Susan, you'd not have survived some of the
things you've said and done."

"If I'd had the rights you men keep from us I'd never have done them!"
she retorted quickly.

"I don't know," he replied, wagging his head and smiling. "Having
rights, including the ballot, would not change the nature of a woman!
Tell me, Susan, have I escaped the scrapbooks? I've wondered many times
if you were keeping record of me, too."

"You never did--anything I could put in. And if you had----" she
hesitated.

"Would you have pasted it down against me?" he finished.

"I don't know. I'm glad I wasn't tempted. How have you kept yourself so
aloof all these years, John--so far above the furious issues of our
times?"

"Not above, not above, my dear," he objected; "I've been busy. The law
is a legal profession, not an illegal one, like politics."

They looked at each other and laughed, then the Judge added:

"And it may be I was afraid of your famous scrapbooks!"

"You were never afraid of anything," she returned.

"Yes, I am. I'm afraid of something now," he answered, flipping the
pages of some papers which lay upon his desk. "I'm an old man holding in
my hands a fuse which I must light presently, and I dread the
consequences."

"What are you talking about?" she exclaimed, leaning forward and staring
at him in faint alarm as if she did indeed smell something burning.

"I cannot tell you yet. I'm waiting for the other party," he answered.

"The other party? Whom do you expect? What does all this mean, anyway?
Why was I summoned here? Have we not had enough excitement for one day,
with the funeral this morning, and with every man in this town holding
his breath for fear of what will happen to him when the William J.
Mosely Estate is wound up? I've heard nothing else for two days. Not a
word about the poor woman, who might as well have been a shadow on the
wall of her house for all she meant to anybody until she died," she
said, fanning herself and looking at him irritably.

"She was a great woman," he said simply.

"Well, I'm just a tired woman. I spent the whole morning tacking white
pinks on an anchor design for the funeral. Then I went to the cemetery
with the procession. And all the time I heard nothing but speculation
about what she had or had not done with her money. I was just composing
myself for a little rest before going to the Civic League and Cemetery
Association at four o'clock when your messenger appeared at the door.
Now I want to know what it's all about."

"Are you very much interested in the Woman's Civic League and Cemetery
Association, Susan?" asked the Judge, by way of avoiding an answer.

"Certainly not! It's a nuisance. But the women of this town must do
something. They have caught the public-spirit infection, and they show
it like little meddlesome girls, childishly. Have you seen the
nasturtium beds they've planted around the railroad station? That's
feminine civic enterprise! Last week they had a committee appointed to
see the mayor about keeping the cuspidors clean in the courthouse! And
the cemetery! It's the livest-looking place in Jordantown, more things
living and growing there than anywhere else. Even more women. They are
there every day, gardening above the dust of the dead!"

"Why do you belong to it?" he asked.

"In self-defence, of course! There is to be a report from a committee
about things they want changed at the cemetery this afternoon, and I'm
not on the committee because one object of it is to condemn the
arbor-vitæ trees in my lot there. They want to cut them down. Now I will
not have it! And I must be there at four o'clock to tell them so!" She
began to fan herself vigorously.

"Listen to me, Susan; let the non-essential go. Don't be the occasion of
a split in your ranks for the sake of a couple of shrubs. That's what
destroys the strength of parties. If the whole Democratic party voted
for any one man or issue, we should always have a democratic government.
If the entire Republican party----"

"Listen to me, John Regis! Women are not parties. They are always
factions, little, little factions, the one working against the other,
because they have no really important issue at stake. Now, my arbor-vitæ
trees----"

The door opened and a young girl stood upon the threshold hesitating, as
if she was not sure she was in the right place.

She was very tall, one of those cool, gray-eyed, ivory-skinned brunettes
who always remind the beholder of white lilies blooming in the dark. Her
lips were full, faintly pinkly purple, and affirmative, not beseeching.
She stood with one hand upon the knob behind her, bent a little forward,
the skirt of her white dress blown by the wind through the door, her
eyes showing almost black beneath the brim of her white hat.

"Selah! Is it for you we've been waiting?" This from Mrs. Walton.

"Come, Selah, you are almost late! That would have been a bad
beginning," said the Judge, rising, taking her hand and leading her to a
chair.

"You sent for me?" the girl said, as if there might still be some
mistake about that.

"Yes, yes! Sit down!"

"Mercy on us! What does the man mean? Do you know what he means, Selah,
sending for the oldest and ugliest and the youngest and fairest woman in
Jordantown to meet him in his office at this outrageous hour of the
afternoon?"

"How do you do, Mrs. Walton?" Selah greeted.

"I don't do at all, my dear; I'm tired of doing. I should be taking my
nap!"

For a moment after Selah Adams disappeared into Judge Regis's office the
hall outside was silent, a gloomy tunnel between gray walls with a
square light from the window at the end above the staircase. Then a
singular thing happened: the ground-glass door at which Susan had stared
with so much contempt opened very softly as if Silence himself was
behind it. The enormous head and face of a man appeared. His features
were concealed in fat, his nose merely protruded, a red knob with
nostrils in the end; his mouth was wide, sucked in above a great chin
covered with short black stubble; his jowls hung down, the back of his
neck rolled up, and the hair upon it stuck out like bristles.

He looked up and down the hall, listened. He opened the door wide, but
very softly, and came through it tiptoeing, a huge figure, almost
shapeless in its monstrous rotundity. He moved with astonishing
swiftness to the staircase, looked down, then fixed his black eyes with
a kind of animal ferocity upon the closed door of the Judge's office
until he reached it, and laid one of his little red ears to the keyhole.

If we were permitted to observe any man or woman of our acquaintance
when that person supposed himself or herself to be absolutely alone, we
should be astonished and often horrified at the unconscious revelations
we would receive. The woman with the Madonna face may unmask and show
the lineaments of a common shrew in her chamber. And the virago may
soften into the gentleness of a saint as she gives way to the penitence
of her own thoughts. The dignified man with the air of virtue and
authority might show himself as a nimble-motioned rascal, timid and
furtive, if he believed only God saw him. Not one of us ever acts
absolutely true to what we know we are except when the door between us
and every other man is closed. It is barely possible that sometimes in
the presence of a very young child we do play the rôle, but never before
any other creature, however near, neither wife nor husband nor friend.
It is the nature of the human to act before the footlights of the world
even in the broad open day, and even if there is no one to witness the
performance but a beggar who never saw him before and never will see him
again. It is only when he is alone that the best man does not practise
at least the deceit of conceit, or cast himself for some other part in
the _play of man_.

Mike Prim was alone. He was known as a jolly, blarney-tongued, slovenly
wit, who for a consideration managed the political affairs of Jordantown
and the county in a manner which was agreeable to the "deities" already
mentioned, who were not willing to do all the things in this business
that must be done. He was accustomed to call himself the "servant of the
people." And naturally they paid for his services. He managed campaign
funds and manipulated election returns in a manner which was highly
satisfactory. In short, he was a fat, good fellow, elastic morally, but
a good fellow, popular with men, and never introduced to women. This was
the rôle he played in the town.

But now, with his ear glued to the keyhole of the Judge's door, he was
not on the boards. He was behind the scenes acting according to the
laws which governed his nature. And judged by the changes in his
expression as he listened, one must have inferred that his personal
standards were savage beyond belief. At first he showed only amusement,
as if presently he might snort with mirth. His mouth worked like a worm,
stretching in a grin, then a sneer. But when at last the three-cornered
conversation within ended and the Judge's voice alone reached him, his
whole body seemed to stiffen. He clenched his fat fists. Amazement fled
before rage upon that furious face, perspiration streamed from every
pore. His eyes shot this way and that like black bullets. No other man
in the world can become so infuriated as the coward, for the brave man
knows that he can satisfy his anger. He reserves it as a force to use in
vengeance. He is temperate in that. But the worm-soul, which must crawl
and be satisfied with merely stinging the heel of his enemy, knows no
such temperance. He is the victim of his impotent fury.

Mike Prim was such a worm now, and it seemed that he must be consumed.
He was a hideous conflagration flaming against the door of the Judge's
office, scarcely touching it with his huge bulk, his mind leaping to
seize upon every sound from within.

Suddenly, without taking time to stand erect, he sprang back and fled,
his legs working like those of an enormous cat, with noiseless
swiftness. His door closed as gently as a feather blown in the wind, and
the next moment Prim had seized his 'phone.

"Two-five-six! yes, Acres's store! What? Not in? Well, damn him!" he
muttered, as he rattled the receiver and began again.

"Give me the National Bank, Central! What? The number? You know the
number! yes, five-two-four! What? Bank closed? I don't give a hang if it
is. Coleman's in his office. Saw him there myself."

During the next hour Mr. Michael Prim called the telephone number of
every prominent citizen in Jordantown. Treason was abroad in the air,
much treason, that was conducted by Prim. And something akin to treason
apparently was still going on in the Judge's office.

Meanwhile the streets of the town had taken on a lighter, more frivolous
aspect. Prettily dressed women were mincing along the pavements, their
parasols bobbing up and down like variegated mushrooms. They bowed,
smiled coquettishly at the men. The men swept off their hats and
smirked. All of them were lovers after the manner of lovers in the
South. That is to say, they adored all women, and these ladies were
accustomed to being loved after the manner of Southern women. They lived
for that, nothing else. Pretty goods, expensive goods, and nice,
virtuous little baggages. Speculators in love, but not deliberate moral
beings. They had nice consciences, easily satisfied. They had nice
minds, easily blinded. Some of them were little termagants, all the
dearer for that to men who like to conquer the shrew in a woman, if they
do not have to do it too often. Besides, these little doll ladies were
public spirited. They did dainty things about town, and they were
charming while they were doing them. At this very moment they were on
their way to the Woman's Civic League and Cemetery Association, which
was meeting with Mabel Acres, who was the wife of the most prominent
merchant in the town, and by the same token she always served the most
expensive refreshments. Not a single one of them as they passed beneath
the windows of the National Bank Building would or could have believed
that her whole nature and attitude toward man was to be changed before
night.

Susan Walton, strangely excited and enhanced, now happened to glance
through the window, and the sight of the fluttering feminine pageant
below reminded her of something.

"Come, Selah!" she exclaimed, rising with unexpected alacrity. "We are
due at the Civic League and Cemetery Association, and we have work to do
there!"

"If I'm not mistaken in your expression, Susan, this will be the last
meeting of that organization," said the Judge.

"I'm hopeful that it is. The women in this town only want something to
do. And we've got it at last, if only we can make them see it!" she
said, as she passed through the door which he held open for her,
accompanied by Selah, who wore the half-baptized look of a vague young
soul still in doubt.

"Not a word about her arbor-vitæ trees," said the Judge as he returned
to his desk. "I doubt if they'll ever be mentioned again. The weeds will
take the cemetery, and the women will stop fussing about clean
cuspidors in the courthouse. But what a din we shall have in this town
when they really get going. Well, God help us, it had to come! They are
no longer one flesh with us."

       *       *       *       *       *

A town without women in the streets is like a meadow without flowers, a
bay tree without leaves, like the air without the wings of birds in it
and the sweet sounds they make there about their feathers and affairs.

Now since four o'clock not a woman had been seen on the streets of
Jordantown, if one excepted an occasional bandanna-headed negress. Not a
fan had been purchased, not a paper of pins, nor a yard of lace. Trade
languished. Nobody knew yet what was wrong, but every man on the square
missed something. They thought they were still worried about the Mosely
will, and they were. But over and above that they had a sense of not
being entirely present. For a man to be sufficiently conscious of
himself, there must always be the possibility of a woman in sight before
whom he may magnify himself at least in his own imagination. The
Jordantown Square citizens lacked this mirror. They wandered from
corner to corner expecting to find it, to see somewhere near or far the
flutter of a woman's skirt, the sky of a woman's eyes. But they did not
know that this was what they were after. Each one pretended to himself
that he was looking for another man. And when two of them met, they went
on to the next corner together, both looking for some one else. Then
they separated, excused themselves, each hurrying in the opposite
direction.

The afternoon passed. Clerks were idle; they stood in doorways looking
up and down the street. Prominent citizens left their chairs beneath the
courthouse awning to avoid other prominent citizens whom they saw
approaching. Still they could not avoid one another.

"Any news?" asked Acres of Coleman, whom he met coming out of the
courthouse.

"Not a thing. Clerk says no will has been probated there to-day. Briggs
was right. There isn't any. He thinks the court will appoint him
administrator."

"And he looks his thought," sneered Acres; "been strutting around all
the afternoon, swelled fit to burst."

"Well, he may, nobody can tell. See you later," said Coleman, hastening
his steps.

"Wait! hold on! I thought you were going in my direction. I wanted to
ask you something," exclaimed Acres, detaining him.

"No, I'm going back to the bank. What?"

"Have you seen Mike?"

"Yes, just from his office. Sent for me. No, he says he's in the dark,
too," answered Coleman, still struggling against this companionship.

"He's always in the dark. Would be if he knew all about it," Acres
grumbled.

At this moment the huge amorphous figure of a man emerged sidewise from
the staircase of the National Bank Building. He looked back up the
stairs, shot a glance up and down the street, then he moved like a blur
around the corner into the darkening shadows. This was a habit he had
which the innocent people of the town had not sufficient experience to
interpret. He never started forth without looking both ways. He never
walked any distance without looking back over his shoulder.

"That's Mike now!" exclaimed Acres. "Not a dollar in his pocket, and he
owns this town."

"Yes, he has got dollars in his pocket, plenty of 'em. He's been
collecting for the campaign fund this afternoon--quarterage you know!"
sneered Coleman, who had just paid his.

"Aims to be the next mayor, doesn't he?"

"No, worse than that: he's going to be representative from this county
in the next legislature!"

"Bob Sasnett will have something to say about that. He told me to-day he
might run. That means he will."

"Well, he hasn't got anything else to do. He's the only man in town who
is independent of Mike. He can furnish his own campaign fund. Good
night!" said Coleman, determined to be gone this time.

"Wonder what's the matter with Coleman," muttered Acres, hurrying to
meet Carter, the editor of the _Signal_, only to see him vanish into the
drugstore. "Wonder what's the matter with everybody. Hello, Colonel
Adams, that you?"

"Yesh, it's me, Mabel; whatcher want," answered the Colonel, bracing
himself against the courthouse. He always called Acres "Mabel," after
his wife.

"Well, how do you feel--pretty good?" said the little gossip, grinning
up in the old red face.

"No, shur! I do not. I feel like a child on a cold night wish all the
bedclothes pulled off me--thatsh how I feel. How do you feel?"

"Same here, Colonel!"

[Illustration: "'_I want to ash you a delicate question--where ish the
ladies? I 'aven't sheen a woman in four hours_'"]

"Mabel, me boy," whispered the old man, swaying gently as he attempted
to fix his eyes upon the other's face, "I want to ash you a delicate
question: where ish the ladies? I haven't sheen a woman in four hours,
Mabel! Think of that and in a town full of the pretties' women in thish
state. What does it mean? Thash what I want to ash you. I'm famished,
I'm thirshty, for the shight of a pretty face!"

"That's so," said Acres; "what does it mean? Hadn't thought of it
before, but----"

"Oh, my God! what would thish world be without the ladies, Mabel! If we
wish 'em like thish in four hours, how could we live wishout 'em
forever! We could not, shur!" He began to weep, a poor old man of the
past, standing in the twilight of the village street, looking up and
down like a lost child crying for its mother. Then he moved on, refusing
"Mabel's" arm.

Men began to close their offices and shops; window sashes banged; keys
rattled in locks. More men appeared upon the streets. They lighted
cigars, loitered, not quite ready yet to go home. When a man knows his
wife and daughters are at home, he feels safe. He is in no hurry to be
there himself. This was the hour when every man in Jordantown was
accustomed to know that. If any one had asked a single one of them the
question, "Where's your wife?" he would have answered, "At home, of
course!" It was only the Colonel, half seas over, who had his doubts,
but the Colonel was notoriously psychic where women were concerned.

At this very moment a queer thing happened: a stream of women poured
into the square and took their way down both sides of it, almost
treading upon the toes of the men as they passed. And they were walking
leisurely.

These were undoubtedly the same women who had passed at four o'clock on
their way to the Civic League and Cemetery Association. Every man in the
streets recognized them. Yet they were not the same. They did not return
salutations. For the first time the men were ignored, not exactly
snubbed, but literally not seen by the women in Jordantown. And each
man was alone, there were not enough of them together to talk about it;
they could only feel and wonder, as they stood staring in amazement at
those fluttering white and black and blue and pink figures disappearing
around corners and down the avenues.

The sense of femininity is only a sense of weakness. And what we call
masculinity is only the sense of strength, which may belong to women as
well as to men under the same conditions. The men on the square had just
witnessed a miracle, never seen before in this world--the rise of
egotism in the feminine portion of the community, which caused every one
of them to enter that zone of man on an equal footing with men in
consciousness. And naturally the men did not understand that. They were
so dazed that they could not even discuss it with one another. What they
had experienced was too subtle to put into words. Not a man of them
looked any other man in the face as they followed those women home. But
every one of them was asking himself some question: "What's my wife
doing out so late?" "Why didn't Selah Adams speak to me?" "What in
hell's that old cat, Susan Walton, up to now, wading by me as if she
owned the town?" "Oh, it's nothing! they were embarrassed at being out
so late!" "But why then did they walk so infernally like Odd Fellows
coming home from the lodge at midnight?"

"I'll know presently!" said Magnis Carter, as he flirted around the
corner into the avenue. "I'll ask Carrie!"

And, as good as his word, he did.

"Carrie, what's the Civic League and Cemetery Association mean by
keeping such late hours?" he asked as he sat down to dinner.

"There is no such organization here any more, Magnis."

"Isn't? What's become of it? You women get mad and tear up your Magna
Charter?"

"No, we've changed it, going to get out another charter."

"So, you've changed it? Going to be an Odd Fellows lodge now?" he
laughed.

"Something like that," she answered coolly.

"Can't afford it, my dear; to be an Odd Fellow costs like thunder!"

"We have plenty of funds," was the astonishing reply.

"Speak as if you'd inherited the Mosely Estate."

Silence on the part of Carrie, who sat at the other end of the table
like a Dominique hen brooding strange eggs.

"Hear anything about the will?"

When there was no answer to this question, Carter looked up at his wife.

"I say did you hear anything about Sarah Mosely's will?"

Still no reply.

"Then you did hear something? What was it?" His manner had become
suddenly serious.

"You'll know soon enough, Magnis."

"Can't you tell me?"

"No, I cannot!"

"Secrets from your husband?"

"I never resent your keeping your affairs from me, why should you object
to my keeping mine from you?" she answered coolly.

"Good Lord, Carrie, you look at me as if you'd filed papers for divorce!
And when did the Mosely will become one of your affairs, I'd like to
know?"

She declined to tell him that. She poked her foot about under the table
with the absent-minded stare a woman always has when she is trying to
find the electric bell with her extremities. She found it and pressed
all the current on, so that the maid came with an injured put-upon air
to clear the table.

Carter continued to regard his wife as if she had become a phenomenon,
and as if he was entirely ignorant of the laws which had exalted her
into the unknown. When the servant disappeared with the tray of
indignantly rattling dishes he began again.

"Look here, Carrie, if there's any news about the disposition of that
woman's estate, I ought to have it for the _Signal_. We go to press
to-morrow."

"You'll get all the news you are entitled to have in time to publish
this week, Magnis, and through the proper channels."

Three doors farther down the avenue Selah Adams sat upon the front
veranda, looking like the vestal virgin of the moon.

She had taken the precaution to enter the house through the back door
when she returned with the other women. The Colonel was fuming in the
library. She could hear him through the open door as she fled
noiselessly up the staircase.

"Not a light in the house, by Jove! First time in forty years I've come
home to a darkened house. No candle in the window to guide an old man's
wandering feet, nobody to greet me, no slippers--no nothing!" he moaned.

And Selah, leaning over the banisters above, could hear him stumbling
over the chairs. She knew what that meant. The Colonel regarded all
chairs as his mortal enemies when he was in a certain condition. She
heard the crash of the big Morris chair as it struck the wall, and feet
attacking it furiously. Then the Colonel lumbered out into the hall.

"Hey, there! Tom! Becky! Where's everybody? By Gad! if somebody don't
come, I'll--I'll----"

"What is it, father?" came Selah's voice, tinkling like ice in a glass.

"Selah! whatsh thish mean?" he roared.

"What does what mean, father?"

"No light! I've just been asshaulted in my own house!" he shouted.

"Assaulted?" she giggled, turning the switch.

The hall below was instantly flooded with light. She beheld the Colonel
leaning against the newel post, looking up but not seeing her. He was
lifting first one foot and then the other and feeling them tenderly
with his hands.

"Yesh! thas what I shaid! That Morris chair met me at the door and
barked every shin I've got. Get out of here!" he roared at the two
servants who had entered from the kitchen. "Selah, where've you been?"

"I'm up here, father. I didn't know it was so late. I'll be down in a
minute."

To lie is not the nature of women, but it is often their necessity.

"Bring the arnica with you, me dear-- I'm a wounded man! But I'm glad
you were at home. I've been nervous 'bout you all day; there's something
wrong in this town!"

       *       *       *       *       *

All that had happened an hour ago. The Colonel was now peacefully
snoring with both feet bandaged and elevated upon pillows; and Selah was
waiting upon the veranda. She was evidently waiting. When a young and
beautiful woman is not waiting for a lover, she does not look so calmly,
sweetly indifferent. She is restless. She rises and looks at the moon.
Now the moon was looking at Selah, embroidering her white dress with
the fairy shadows of leaves, covering her face with a soft splendour,
glistening like a crown of light upon her dark hair. That was the
difference.

Footsteps sounded upon the gravel. The figure of a man, tall, slender,
regnant, was swinging up the walk. Selah did not move. She was that
fairest thing in a darkened world, the presence achieved when a woman
combines herself with silence, stillness, and moonlight.

The man sprang lightly up the steps.

"Hush!" she whispered, "don't ring the bell!"

"Selah!" he exclaimed, advancing to her. "What a vision you are!"

"Don't speak so loud," she whispered, motioning him to a seat beside
her.

"I didn't, darling. I'd as lief shout before an altar as lift my voice
in this chapel of the moon," he answered, taking her hand and lifting it
to his lips.

"Father is not well. He's just dozed off!" she exclaimed.

"If I know anything about such dozing, it would take an earthquake to
rouse him now!" he answered, laughing.

Selah sighed and withdrew her hand.

"If you do that, dear, I shall seize more!" he whispered, leaning
forward and slipping his arm around her waist.

"Don't, Mr. Sasnett!" she said so coolly that he drew back and stared at
her.

"'Mr. Sasnett,' and when did I cease to be Bob, pray? I've been Bob for
a good many years to you, Selah. What's the matter? Have you seen me
flirting with another girl? You have not! Have you heard of my calling
on Mike Prim? You have not! Has some one told you of the last murder I
committed? Certainly not! I haven't killed a man yet. Shall not do so
until he becomes my rival in your heart. Now what is it? Why am I 'Mr.
Sasnett' upon this beautiful moonlight night when of all times I should
be most tenderly Bob?"

"I can't explain," she answered.

"What is the matter with everybody in this town, especially the women?
It hasn't been an hour since mother came home and said _she_ couldn't
explain when I asked her why she was so upset."

"She was upset then?" asked the girl curiously.

"Most awfully! She got out of the car like a flying squadron of rage,
eyes blazing, face pale. And when I asked her what the trouble was she
said I'd know soon enough. Now what did she mean?"

"You'll know soon enough," repeated Selah, smiling.

"Good heavens! What's the game, Selah?"

"We've drawn trumps at last," answered Selah.

"We! Who are we? Certainly not mother! As she dashed--really dashed, you
know, and at her age!--upstairs to her room she informed me that she had
resigned from the presidency of the Civic League and Cemetery
Association, and that never again would she be mixed up with women who
had so far forgotten their dignity and womanhood. Then she banged the
door."

"She did take it rather hard. I imagine your mother is a very
old-fashioned woman."

"Well, she's quite the lady, if that's what you mean, and something of
an autocrat. Did you depose her from the presidency this afternoon?"

"No, we dissolved the organization. There is no Civic League and
Cemetery Association now!"

"Then we'll all have weeds on our graves--and untidy streets!" he
murmured between a snigger and a sob.

"Was that all your mother said?" asked Selah.

"Not quite. The fact is that's why I came over to-night. She's got her
neck feathers up at you, too, it seems. I asked her through the door if
we were to come by and pick you up for the drive we had planned, and
she----" he hesitated.

"Well?"

"She said, 'Don't mention Selah Adams to me, Robert,' just like that, as
if she'd seen you leading a riot or addressing a mob!"

"Yes, I know. You are a dramatist, Bob, better than you suspect!"
answered Selah.

"Thanks for the 'Bob,' anyway. Now let's forget it. Mother will come
around all right. She really loves you. She's only ruffled over some of
your cat-scratching politics in the league. Now be a good girl and kiss
me, dear!" he pleaded.

"I can't, Bob."

"You mean you won't; well, I can and will," he exclaimed, placing his
palms upon either side of her face and drawing her to him.

"You must _not_!" she objected, evading him.

"Why? Aren't we engaged?"

"We were engaged," she answered with a sob.

"Who's broken it? Not I?"

"You will, when you know! Besides, I wish to be released from--from----"

"Say it! You'd as well to say it as to wish it!" he exclaimed with
sudden passion.

"I don't want to say it, but I must give you your liberty, dear."

"Well, I'll not have it so long as you call me 'dear' in that tone!" he
cried.

"But I want mine!" she said, looking at him gravely.

"Don't you love me, Selah?"

"Love is not everything. There are--other things more important than
love. Every man knows that!"

"No woman ought to know it! Besides, love is everything. It's the face
of every flower. It's the leaves on the trees. It's the breath of
heaven. It's the blush on your cheek, the blood in your veins and mine,
dear."

"No, liberty is more than love. And liberty is the enemy of love," she
answered.

"You speak like a--like a----" He searched his imagination to find what
she did speak like, and she finished for him:

"Like an enemy!"

"No, not quite so bad as that, but you are morbid, dear. This isn't a
meeting of suffragists, this is a sacrament. You and I are alone before
the altar of love. We must not deny one another this sweet bread of
life!"

"You said something just then about suffragists. Do you believe in
suffrage for women, for your wife, for example?"

He sat up and looked at her. He began to smile teasingly, as if she were
a little girl and he a patient elder person with a beam in his eye.

"So that's it, hey? You want to be a suffragist and with the suffragists
stand! Of course I believe in it. I believe in letting every woman have
what she wants. Now kiss me, Selah, like the dear little suffering suff
you are!"

"No, I must be sure you mean that. Men say things to women they do not
believe, just to humour them, just to get----"

"A kiss, yes! I'd vote for you for coroner, Selah, for one kiss
to-night!"

"Well, you won't get it, Mr. Sasnett, not until I am _sure_, absolutely
sure, you are for us, not against us."

"Us! One at a time, Selah, I say. You wouldn't have me be for all women,
would you? A man loves one woman, but he can't stand 'em _en masse_.
He'd romp like a four-year-old in a crowd of men, but a crowd of women,
a commonwealth of women! Good Lord! it would be awful. Don't ask me to
kiss them all, dear!"

"You are making fun of us. I knew you were not for us," she said.

"But I'm for _you_, heart and soul. When are we to be married? You
promised to name the day."

"It will not be this year, if ever," she answered coolly.

"Not this year? It must be this year! I'm going to be representative
from this county, and I want to take my bride to the Capitol with me."

"You don't know whether you will be elected or not, yet, Mr. Sasnett. It
depends upon conditions of which you do not now dream. When is the
election?"

"In November," he answered.

"Before that time there will be five thousand more voters in this county
than there are now!"

"Where'll they come from?"

"They are here now."

"In your pocket, is that what you mean?"

"They may be," she answered, smiling darkly.

"You speak as if you were Mike Prim, Selah. It's scandalous!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was Saturday afternoon, two days since the funeral and two days since
Mike Prim bent listening with such furious excitement at the keyhole of
Judge Regis's office. Jordantown had become the stage upon which a
mystery play was being enacted with all the farcical features of a
comedy. Every man, especially, was doing exactly what he would have done
and said if there had been footlights and an audience in front, only not
one of them knew that this was so. Providence is the Great Dramatist,
and secures perfectly natural effects by providing emergencies which
call for action, and by keeping every man under the delusion that he
chooses his own rôle.

The suspense concerning the disposition of the Mosely Estate was only
partially balanced by the confounded indignation of many citizens who
came and went from Mike Prim's office.

"Sent for you again, too?" exclaimed Coleman when he met Acres as he
descended the stairs.

"Yes, what's the matter?" asked Acres anxiously.

"You'll find out when you get up there. He's as mad as a rhinoceros
horning sand in a desert."

"But what does he want?" Acres insisted.

"Wants you to double your subscription to the campaign fund. Better not
go up if you can't do it. He got me for a cool hundred."

"What's he in such a hurry for? The campaign doesn't begin for months
yet!"

"He says it's on, began two days ago. Says the liberty of every man in
this county is at stake. Says he needs a fund of four times as much as
usual to meet the situation," answered Coleman.

"What's he doing with it?"

"Can't tell you; not a cent of it is deposited in the bank."

"Well, I know he has taken in over a thousand dollars in the last two
days."

"It's no time to collect now with everybody in suspense over this Mosely
will," groaned Coleman.

"I'll be hanged if it doesn't look like blackmail to me!" exclaimed
Acres.

"Why submit, then?" demanded Coleman with a grin.

"You know we are all in too deep with Prim. You submitted, didn't you?"

"Yes, and you will, too, when you see him. He's got conviction in his
manner and compulsion in his tongue," said Coleman as Acres passed him
upon the stairs.

"Mabel, my boy, can you lend me fifty dollars?"

Acres beheld Colonel Adams standing in the deep shadows at the top of
the stairs. He wore a yellow seersucker coat, brown linen trousers,
carpet slippers, with the toes of his right foot bandaged and exposed
through a slit in the red leather. He was forlornly sober, pale, with
his moustache drooping like a rooster's tail in the rain.

"Fifty dollars, Colonel!" exclaimed Acres.

"I'm absolutely obliged to have it, Mabel."

"Make it fifty cents and I'll be glad to accommodate you."

"Very well, fifty cents then. Thank you, Mabel. I'll just go down with
this. No use to face Mike with half a dollar. He wants fifty."

"Shearing you, too?"

"No, you can't shear a sheep that's been plucked as clean as your hand.
Prim keeps me mighty cool."

"What's he want with so much money, do you know?"

The Colonel limped forward very painfully, placed one hand upon Acres's
shoulder, ogled Prim's door, and whispered:

"There are only two things in this world more expensive than women and
wine, Mabel: politics and piety."

"You ought to be able to economize on piety," Acres retorted.

"When you do that, you get in deeper with politics--comes to the same
thing--and I've never held an office in my life!" he concluded with a
groan, as he placed his good foot on the second step of the stairs and
drew the other tenderly after it. When he had descended three in this
manner, he beckoned to Acres.

"Say, Mabel, if Mike asks about me, tell him I'm standing on the
courthouse steps, with both feet bandaged and my trousers rolled up
showing my barked shins. Tell him I'm begging for the cause, and as soon
as I've got fifty dollars I'll be up to see him!"

The next minute Acres was facing Prim, who sat with his hands spread
upon the desk in front of him, his elbows sticking out, his hair
bristling, his mouth sucked in, and his eyes spitting venom. He looked
like a reptile about to spring, and Acres had much the expression of a
rabbit facing the reptile, slowly being drawn to his fate.

"But a hundred dollars, Mike! I can't spare that much now. Besides,
what's the hurry?" he was protesting despairingly.

"Look here, Acres, who's kept this town wide open for five years? Mike
Prim! Who's profited by that? Every business man in it! Who's given
Jordantown an easy reputation that draws workingmen and all kinds of men
who spend liberally what they make for what they want? Mike Prim! Who's
profited by the jug business in the back of Bill Saddler's livery
stable? Not Prim! I get my liquor cheap, that's all. Who's borne the
reputation for the dirty work in your elections while you fellows played
the part of law-abiding citizens and deacons and elders in the church?
Prim! But who hired me for this job? You fellows with the ornamental
virtues of society. I was to provide all the profits of vice to support
your position. By God! do you think I haven't kept your letters of
instruction about the Wimply campaign--that suggestion you made about
counting the election returns? I've got it! And Coleman's order for
liquor and funds to be used in the Dry Valley district, I've got that,
too. And I have the agreement Wimply signed to keep the town open that
year you fellows were masquerading on that Law and Order Committee: You
all voted for Wimply! I've enough signatures here to put half of you in
stripes!" he exclaimed, striking the desk with his clenched fist.

"That's all right, Mike. I just wanted to know what----"

"What I'm up to? Well, I'll tell you I aim to be the representative from
this county. It'll take a damn sight of money to elect me, and I'm going
to be elected."

"Of course, we understand that. But what's the hurry? Campaign doesn't
begin now."

"That's all you know about it. But _I_ know we are facing a crisis in
this county _now_. Everything I've worked for, everything you fellows
have stood for secretly and made _me do_--all of it may be swept from
under our feet in sixty days. That's why I want money, and----"

"All right," Acres interrupted, taking out his check book, "here's mine.
And it's more than I can spare."

"Not if I need more!" growled Prim, listing the check with a dozen
others.

If an outlaw, armed to the teeth, had passed up and down the streets and
robbed every man in Jordantown, they could not have appeared more
dejected and, at the same time, alarmed. Conversation languished beneath
the awnings. Men sat in their shirt sleeves, side by side, perfectly
silent. You do not discuss the thorn in your side--and they all had two
thorns. They were not only outraged by Prim's demands, they were
suffering from the neuralgia of suspense in regard to the Mosely Estate.

"It's about time for the _Signal_ to be out," said Coleman, looking at
his watch.

"Never is anything in it when it does come----My God! What was that?"

The air was rent, torn to mere tatters of air, by a long blood-curdling
yell, a yell which seemed to catch its breath with battle fierceness,
and then come again.

The two men rushed to the door of the bank. They beheld a scene of the
wildest confusion. The square, which a moment before had been sunken in
apathy, was now filled with terrific excitement. Men were running from
every direction toward the post office, stumbling over yelping dogs,
shouting, waving their arms as they ran.

In front of the post office, in the yellow flare of the setting sun,
Acres and Coleman beheld a scene which contained all the elements of
dignity, rage, pathos, and comedy.

Judge Regis stood with his silk hat perfectly level upon his head, his
cane tucked under his arm, and he was looking over the spread sheet of
the Jordantown _Signal_ very much as if he stared at an enemy over the
top of an impregnable fortification.

In front of him Colonel Marshall Adams pranced like an old bird kicking
his wings. His hat and coat lay upon the pavement. His face was a red
map of rage. He held a copy of the _Signal_ between the thumb and
forefinger of his left hand, and at arm's length, as if closer contact
with it meant unbearable pollution. And as he trod his measure, his
right fist shot out at regular intervals, each time nearer and nearer
the Judge's nose, and with each motion the Colonel sent forth that
ear-splitting yell which had not been heard in Jordantown since a
Confederate regiment charged a Federal division there in 1864.

Bob Sasnett was the first to reach the scene. He seized the Colonel
around the waist from behind, dragging him back so that his red slippers
turned up on the heels and showed the soles.

"Look at him, gentlemen! That man has committed a crime!" the Colonel
shouted to the gathering crowd as he shook an accusing finger at Regis.

"A crime?" came an incredulous voice.

Regis, calmly folding his paper, looked over the head of his accuser and
addressed Sasnett.

"Thank you, Sasnett, for saving his dignity. He was a brave soldier. We
must never forget that," he said, lifting his hat impersonally to
courage as he made his way out of the ring of staring faces.

"Let me go, Bob!" screamed the Colonel, struggling. "Did you hear him?
_Was_ a brave soldier. By Gad, what am I now? And this from a man who
would destroy the sanctity of fair womanhood, and then barricades
himself behind a newspaper when I demand shatisfaction."

"What's the old boy talking about?" demanded Briggs, stretching his neck
to get a view of the Colonel.

"If you don't believe what I shay, though I dare any man to doubt my
word, read that!" he cried, flinging the paper from him.

The _Signal_ fell flat and smooth upon the pavement; there was the
scraping of many feet as the crowd pushed forward, a mere instant of
silence as they read:

  "_The Last Will and Testament of Sarah Hayden Mosely_";

then a furious rush for the post office, where every subscriber to the
_Signal_ hastily snatched his copy.

The Colonel, bereft of Sasnett's support, slid gently to a sitting
posture against the lamp post, his legs wide apart, his red slippers
half off. Tears filled his eyes. He wagged his head and sobbed:

"Selah! Selah! Sharper than a sherpent's tooth----" He could not recall
the rest, he merely felt it. He was a poor old man, alone, forsaken, he
knew that.

No one noticed him. One after another the men filed out, each with the
_Signal_ wide open, and with his eyes fastened upon a certain column.

They scattered beneath the various awnings, singly or in groups. Not one
addressed his neighbour. Each remained concealed behind the wide
enveloping sheets which literally tittered in their trembling hands.



CHAPTER II


Silence is the luxury of wise men and the necessity of fools--which
indicates how few men are wise. It is usually the man who does not know
what to say, or who has nothing worth saying to impart, that does the
talking. It is a form of verbal hysteria, a kind of babbling dust which
he stirs by way of concealing his incapacities. And the discourse is
more characteristic of women than of the opposite sex, because the lives
they live tend to the innocuous, if they do not tend to neuralgia and
despair. Silence in a woman is always supernatural. But there are
emergencies in life so dumbfounding and sinister in their aspect that
they bind the tongue and inform even the foolish with the momentary
wisdom of silence and prudence.

Magnis Carter as editor of the _Signal_ was naturally loquacious,
especially in print. He published the news with all the fluency which
liquefied language permits. It was only in this manner that he was able
to fill the few inside columns of the _Signal_. The outside pages were
"patented," of course, and contained matter taken from other papers and
magazines. News was so scarce in Jordantown that if a stray dog trotted
across the square, it was almost a sensation. Not to know whose dog a
dog was afforded an opportunity for speculation and for a change in the
topic of conversation.

The singular brevity therefore with which Carter published the most
important information ever needed and yearned for in Jordantown, was
significant. Even the weekly local column was exceedingly reserved, as
if some prescience of the future had rendered every man and woman
cautious of performing a single act worthy of interest. Nothing was said
of the last meeting of the Ladies' Civic League and Cemetery
Association. There was no flamboyant boasting concerning the various
enterprises.

But at the top of the first column on the editorial page, between two
wide black lines, appeared this notice:

  "_Death of an Estimable Christian Woman._"

The obituary of Sarah Hayden Mosely followed below. This was so brief
that it might have been placed in capital letters on her tombstone
without crowding the margins. It appeared to have been written with the
circumspection of a person who desired his readers to understand that he
was in no way responsible for the deceased nor for her deeds. The title
was stereotyped. Every woman who died in Jordantown appeared in the
_Signal_ obituary tribute as "An Estimable Christian Woman."

It was at the next column that every man stared with amazement mixed
with fear and indignation. This contained "The Last Will and Testament
of Sarah Hayden Mosely," the title written in smaller, paler type. The
text of the will followed:

     In the name of God, Amen.

     I, Sarah Hayden Mosely, being weak in body but of sound and
     perfect mind, do make this my last will and testament:

     I give and dispose of my entire estate, real and personal, to a
     self-perpetuating Board of Trust, the members of which are
     hereinafter named.

     The said estate shall no longer be known as the William J. Mosely
     Estate, but it shall be called the Co-Citizens' Foundation Fund of
     Jordan County.

     This fund shall not be subject to liquidation, but the income
     from it, or such part of it as is necessary, shall be spent each
     year in the effort to obtain equal suffrage for the women of
     Jordan County.

     No part of the said income shall be spent for any other purpose
     until the said women shall have the right to vote in all elections
     held in the said county.

     But after they have obtained the ballot, the said Board of Trust
     shall found and maintain at the expense of this fund a department
     of Common Law in the Jordantown Female Seminary. And all possible
     efforts shall be made to establish here a school of law for the
     women of this state where they may receive that legal training
     which alone insures to women the proper knowledge and mental
     discipline necessary for the preservation of their property and
     their rights as citizens of this commonwealth.

     This self-perpetuating Board of Trust shall consist of three
     members, one man and two women.

     Each shall receive a salary of twelve hundred dollars a year for
     services rendered.

     I appoint John Regis, Susan Walton, and Selah Adams members of
     this self-perpetuating Board of Trust and executors of my will.
     And they shall not give bond nor be held accountable to the court
     for the manner in which they exercise these functions.

     If any member or members of the said board appointed in this will
     shall refuse to serve, the remaining members or member shall
     choose and elect a suitable person or persons to fill each
     vacancy.

     No monument or stone shall mark my grave until the conditions of
     this will have been fulfilled.

     In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this the
     3d day of April, 1914.

  [Seal]
  SARAH HAYDEN MOSELY.

     Signed and sealed by the above named Sarah Hayden Mosely as her last
     will and testament, and by us in her presence and at her request
     subscribed as witnesses.

  ENOS CANN.
  MARY CANN.

In a brief paragraph beneath this extraordinary document the editor
added that in an interview Judge John Regis admitted that all the
trustees had accepted, that they were confident of carrying out the
terms of the will, but that the board was not ready now to give
information concerning its plans.

No woman had ever been "interviewed" in Jordantown by a newspaper
reporter. This may have accounted for the fact that Carter did not call
upon either Mrs. Walton or Selah Adams before going to press. Besides,
the sixteen-hundred-dollar mortgage on the _Signal_ was now owned by the
Co-Citizens' Foundation. He could not trust himself even in the presence
of these powerful women. The very form of his question, his manner,
might betray his secret feelings and do incredible damage.

In fact all domestic conversation in Jordantown was now censored as
carefully both by the men and the women as if they belonged to opposing
armies. Every man regarded his wife with suspicion, and he was at the
same time conscious of a strange cheerful indifference on the part of
his wife that was unnatural and offensive. Half the clinging-vine love
with which women entwine their husbands is not love at all, but a
nameless anxiety due to their sense of helplessness. Transpose the
conditions of each and the same beseeching look so often seen in women's
faces will be ludicrously mixed with the whiskers on the faces of their
lords. The only ineradicable difference between men and women is gender.
They are singularly alike in every other particular. Give a woman
liberty, and she will go a man one better in license. Take a man's
liberty from him, and he surpasses any woman in timidity. If men have
more strength, women have more endurance. If the one is more active, the
other is the more persistent. And it depends entirely upon the emergency
which will show the most courage. Place them side by side under the
same conditions to accomplish the same thing, and while each will go
about the business in a different manner, the same proportion of both
sexes will succeed at the job.

The difficulty is that men and women neither live nor work under the
same conditions. The former have the overwhelming advantage, owing to
the fact that they create their own public opinion and hold the balance
of power, prestige, and influence.

This was precisely the balance which had been destroyed in Jordantown.
The women now had all the advantage. It was monstrous and called for the
exercise of all the furnace language of which men are naturally capable.

The one hope expressed everywhere was that, being the timid things that
they were, the women would not know how to keep the grip they had upon
the situation.

"Hang it! They are our wives and daughters. We ought to be able to do
what we always have done, direct them and control them through their
affections," said Acres, turning up the ends of his moustache with a
kind of bantam bravado.

"If a woman has nothing but her affections it is easy enough to manage
her, but nobody knows what use she may make of her heels if she has
everything else besides," growled Coleman, who had just come from a
breakfast table where his wife, Agatha, had pointedly refused to give
him certain information about the Co-Citizens' Foundation which he knew
she had.

"It's all a huge joke, that's what this damphule will is," said Briggs
gloomily.

"Of course the suffrage part of it is a joke. The state constitution is
plain on that question. Only males can vote," Acres agreed.

"But, hang it! They've got this vast estate, which affects every
business interest in this town, and the devil only knows what they will
do with it!" exclaimed Coleman.

"Ask your wife," Sasnett suggested.

"I did ask Mabel," Acres admitted.

"What'd she say?"

"Said they'd collect the rents and interest first thing."

Sasnett laughed, and Briggs seized his hat and left the room with the
air of an injured man.

While these desultory conferences were being held all over the town
Monday morning, where two or three were gathered together on the
streets, Susan Walton was sitting opposite Judge Regis in his office.
Her knees were wide apart, her hands folded above her fat stomach. She
had untied her bonnet strings, which was a bad-weather indication.

The Judge was listening with his eye fixed keenly upon her, the hair
above his temples sticking out like owl's ears.

"I've bluffed it so far, John Regis. I've reorganized the Civic League
and Cemetery Association into the Co-Citizens' League, which was no
small undertaking, I can tell you. Half the women would not have joined
if they'd known what they were doing. I got them by not explaining how
immediate the business of getting suffrage is, and by offering
scandalous committee appropriations. But I'm shaking in my shoes. I
don't know how we are to carry out the conditions of this trust. The
more I think of it, the more I suspect Sarah Mosely of being plain
crazy!"

"She's the first woman in this country to meet the issue of suffrage for
women with the sanity of practical common sense," he answered.

"But she's limited her bequest to use in this county. Suffrage is a
state issue. I should know. I have given years of thought to it."

"Yes, you've spent your energies like the rest of them, Susan, in mere
agitation, in parades with transparencies bearing the legend, 'Votes for
Women!' The last one of you might as well be blowing your breath against
the order of things. Nothing could be more futile."

"We are beginning to create a sentiment for suffrage," she protested.

"Yes, in women. But can women give it to you? What's the good of
undertaking the impossible? The income from this Foundation will not
exceed twenty thousand dollars a year. That would not be a drop in the
bucket in a state campaign, where you would be compelled to fight the
most powerful political machines, and the graft and vice elements of the
cities, all of which are naturally opposed to suffrage for women."

"Still, I don't see what we can do here in this county alone with the
whole state against us," she objected.

"That is the question Mrs. Mosely answered. This little old woman fading
into a mere shadow behind the doors of her house saw the solution which
the rest of you missed with all your breadth of vision--too much breadth
of vision, Susan, is as bad as not having any at all. No focus to it,
not enough rays to burn through."

"I think you know I have had some experience in political affairs, more
than most women, and I must say I don't see yet where Sarah Mosely
focussed her rays," snapped Susan.

"I had several conferences with her. It appeared that she had thought of
nothing else for years but this Foundation. She got the idea, she told
me, from living with her husband. He was a man whose wife was his rib,
not a separate human being. He was kind to her, but she had no more
liberty than a child. She never knew anything of his affairs. She told
me that she was and had always been absolutely incapable of attending to
any business. She had been obliged to trust an agent. In any case she
would have been forced to trust some one. She thought most women were in
this condition of helplessness, and that they would remain so, always
the prey of circumstances of the forces about them. And she wished to
change that."

"Go on," the old lady commanded as the Judge paused.

He did go on. He called attention to certain laws governing county
elections.

"With all your knowledge of the needs of women, and your bitter sense of
injustice, you women never thought of this simple means by which you may
win. And it was the thing Sarah Mosely grasped. She was the first woman
in America, so far as I know, to grasp the significance of this easy and
effective method of obtaining suffrage for women. And instead of leaving
her money to a hospital, or to endow a chair or two in some university,
she has left it for this purpose. It's amazing--her vision, and the
directness with which she reasoned to the right conclusion!"

"Still I don't see how we can _force_ this issue here," Mrs. Walton
insisted.

"Do you know, Susan, why men have the ballot and why women have not got
it?"

"I have my suspicions, John. It's because they've got everything else,
including us. Because they've got pockets in their breeches, for one
thing."

"Exactly! now you've got pockets in your skirts, with something like
twenty thousand dollars to spend for a certain purpose. And that is not
all you have. This Board of Trust owns the majority of stock in the
National Bank, and has loaned money to nearly all the business houses in
town. You hold mortgages on nineteen thousand acres of land in this
county. You practically own the _Signal_. There is not a politician
anywhere who would not know he held this county in the hollow of his
hand if he had that much influence to back him. Influence, Susan, is not
mere influence ever. It's power! You've got that!"

"When did you become such an ardent suffragist, John?" Susan suddenly
demanded.

The Judge laughed.

"I've been a kind of mugwump of the cause for years. If I were younger,
I doubt if I should be ardently in favour of it now. I admit that I
prefer the dear woman to the abler ballot-bearing woman--every man
must--but before your sex can become entirely like my sex except in
gender, Susan, I shall be where Sarah Mosely is now. It will not matter
to me. I admit, however, that I was converted to active partisanship by
Mrs. Mosely. I have been more impressed by that dim little old woman
than by all the arguments you, for example, ever made for suffrage. She
was herself an unanswerable plea for the rights of women to _live_, for
she had never really lived at all. She looked as if every mortgage held
by her estate had been foreclosed at her expense."

"Yes, I know," said Mrs. Walton with a sigh. "She was pathetic in her
submission. Most women submit, but still have enough to fuss about from
time to time to keep them alive."

"She was really the least submissive of you all. She put on her thimble,
threaded the needle of her robin-headed brain, and worked all your fuss
and agitations and futile parades down to a formula by which you can
actually obtain the ballot," he put in.

"Well, coming down to this formula, what shall we do with Briggs?" she
asked shrewdly. "He looks like a dangerous factor in it to me."

"Briggs will be of use. All he needs is an expert accountant to overhaul
his books occasionally. And we shall need him as we need a pair of tongs
to handle live coals. Besides, we cannot afford to dismiss him now and
incur his enmity. We are not working up antagonism. We have one man
against us already who counts for all we can overcome."

"Who is that?"

"Mike Prim. He owns nothing visible. So we have no mortgage to hold over
his head. But he practically controls this town, politically speaking."

"How?"

"Don't ask me! He is not a merchant, nor a lawyer, nor a real estate
agent, nor a banker, nor a broker, nor anything else that has a name,
but more men--prominent citizens, farmers, labourers, tramps, beggars,
anybody and everybody--go and come from his office than to and from any
other office in this town. He is the power of darkness in this county to
be overcome before you can win suffrage, I can tell you that."

"Well, at least Prim is tangible. He is in my line. I shall know what to
do with him," answered Susan grimly.

The Judge threw back his head and laughed.

"Now you are coming, Susan! I want to see you dragging your wings before
Prim!"

"I do my best work in private, John, but I'm beginning to see light.
This thing really is possible. Now let us get down to business. I have
an appointment with Selah Adams. She couldn't come up here this
morning. I feel anxious. Her voice sounded like that of a child being
kept in after school. Shouldn't wonder if that old family sword of a
father were making trouble."

"We need Selah; her beauty and enthusiasm are real assets to this
movement," said the Judge.

"Oh, we shall keep her on the board if I have to fight a duel with
Marshall Adams," she replied with a cackling laugh.

The conference which followed was of a nature so private that they
instinctively adopted the tones of conspirators as they turned the pages
of ledgers which Briggs had been required to submit for inspection.

       *       *       *       *       *

At two o'clock Selah Adams slipped softly out of the house, crossed the
street, and entered Mrs. Walton's front door.

"She says come right up to her room, Miss Selah; she's busy and can't
come down," said the negro maid, rolling her eyes and stifling either a
snigger or a sob by slapping her hand over her mouth.

The next moment Selah stood in the door of Mrs. Walton's bedroom,
staring with horrified eyes.

Susan Walton, clad in only her essential underwear, lay flat upon her
back on the floor. She was slowly lifting first one stockinged leg, then
the other, to a right angle with her body, at the same time thrusting up
one arm and then the other. She was staring at the ceiling and muttering
a certain formula under her breath.

"Oh! Oh! What is the matter, Mrs. Walton? Is it a fit?" cried Selah,
staggering back.

"No! Exercise. Just had my lunch! One--two--three! Never allow yourself
to get fat, Selah!" Up shot the other foot and arm.

[Illustration: "'_You may be mayor of this town before you are thirty. A
fat mayoress would never do_'"]

"If I'd known what was before me twenty years ago, I'd have been more
careful. One--two--three! Can't do what's before me unless I reduce.
Avoid oatmeal and cream, that's what does it! You may be mayor of this
town before you are thirty. A fat mayoress would never do. It would
suggest beer! And look at me. I'm already so fat I have to lie down to
take my exercise! But Regis and I have planned enough work to keep you
lean this summer," she added, sitting up apparently satisfied with her
state of exhaustion.

"That's what I came to see you about," said the girl, seating herself
and looking down sorrowfully. "Father is dreadfully upset. He has
forbidden me to mention woman suffrage in the house."

"Well, don't, then; don't speak of it at all to him."

"But he will never consent to my holding this trusteeship."

"Aren't you twenty-one?"

"I'm twenty-four, as to that, but----"

"If you were your father's son, do you think he would forbid your having
your own convictions and living up to them?" the older woman
interrupted.

"No, but I'm only his daughter!" Selah said.

"Can't you see that is provided for? If he forbade you the house, you
still have twelve hundred dollars a year, which is certainly more than
he could afford to give you."

"That isn't it: he can't do without me, he needs me."

"Listen to me, Selah! Men have been our little children for so long that
we do not know how to wean them. Here you are, ready to resign the
greatest opportunity any young woman has ever had in this state in order
to stay at home and break your father's breakfast eggs and putter over
him and keep him soothed by agreeing with everything he says. That's
why men can vote and we can't. That's why they get everything, and we
get nothing but our board and clothes. We've humoured and pampered them
until they have no sense of us and our needs," she concluded, twisting
her hair angrily into a tight knot on the back of her head.

"Oh, I wish I knew what was right!" cried the girl, clasping her hands.

"We've tried the old sacrificial righteousness long enough, Selah, to
know that it is not contagious so far as we are concerned. Now you just
take my advice, and we'll have the new righteousness for women proved in
Jordan County before the end of this year!"

"As soon as that?" cried the girl, enthused in spite of herself.

"Yes, if we can win at all we can do it in a few months. Regis and I
planned the whole campaign this morning. Give me that kimono. Now let me
have your hand. It's not so easy to get to one's feet at sixty, Selah!"

She was sublimely unconscious of the figure she made moving across the
room with the ends of her kimono trailing back like the gray wings of
an old duck-legged hen. She gathered up some loose sheets from her desk.

"Here's the whole thing--all divided into three parts. Yours will be in
some ways the most difficult. You'll have the organizing to do among the
women in the country districts. But we've decided to get a good motor.
You'll need to cover distances rapidly. That will be one agreeable
feature at least. You and Bob Sasnett may find it convenient to do your
canvassing together!" she laughed, while Selah blushed.

       *       *       *       *       *

If by some miracle a modern man should awaken some morning to find
himself thrust back a hundred years in time, although in the same place
where he had always lived, he could not believe in the reality of a
single thing he saw. Every man and every woman would be merely
characters in an historical romance. Every sentence he would hear would
sound like fiction. All manners and customs would seem exaggerated,
sentimental, and he himself would give the impression of being a monster
without breeding or a single attribute becoming to proper manhood.

If, on the other hand, he should by some incantation be projected
forward only fifty years in time, still in the place of his birth, the
effect of unreality would be even more startling, especially if those
things should have happened which prophets predict and toward which all
progress tends. Conditions would be unendurable, manners offensive. No
man would seem quite a man. No woman would seem modest. Clothes,
customs, beliefs, ambitions, and ideals would all have changed. And he
himself would seem to them a pitiable reversion to type, ludicrously
unequal to meeting the emergencies of advanced civilization. In short,
there are no lasting standards of living. Education, morals, economics,
finance, and politics are only the cards we play every generation in the
progressive euchre of evolution. The honesty with which we play the game
determines the worth of society.

At the end of a month Jordantown had not undergone so great a
metamorphosis as fifty years would make, but it was in the throes of a
frightful evolution. The changes already wrought were so amazing that
the author may be excused if this record fails to convince the reader of
their reality. At least half the citizens themselves did not and could
not believe that they were not walking in a hideous nightmare from which
they hoped to awaken and find their womankind properly subdued and
returned to the less conspicuous sphere of womanhood.

The first bomb exploded when Samuel Briggs resigned as director of the
National Bank. Mr. Briggs had been elected to represent the stock owned
by the Mosely Estate. He had not only resigned, but he had ventured to
propose the name of Mrs. Susan Walton as a suitable person to represent
the same stock which was now owned and controlled by the Co-Citizens'
Foundation Fund. He did not add that he had been able to retain his
position as agent only by signing a contract with the Board of Trust to
obey every instruction given him with all the energy and influence he
possessed in the town. This demand, that he should resign as director in
favour of Mrs. Walton, was the first test made of his obedience.

Having offered his suggestions Briggs leaned back in his chair, smoked,
and stared at the ceiling, while the eleven other directors stared at
him with the horror of honest men contemplating an armed traitor.

"If this is going to be a hencoop instead of a bank, I'll draw every
dollar I have in it out, and sell my stock to the lowest bidder!"
exclaimed a frowsy old man, clawing his whiskers. This was Thaddeus
Bailey. He owned three grocery stores in Jordantown, and had a monopoly
on that trade.

"I don't know how much money you have on deposit, Thad, but it will take
more stock than you own to satisfy that mortgage you owe to this
new-fangled female suffrage fund," answered his neighbour.

"What'll we do with her if we elect her?" asked Acres.

"Better ask what she'll do with the bank?" some one replied.

"She'll run it, that's what! Didn't she run her husband for Congress
till his tongue hung out? Ain't she running the whole female population
of this county at the present time?"

"Hang it! I'd rather close the doors of this bank than elect that woman
a director!" exclaimed Coleman.

"Come to the same thing if you didn't," replied Briggs. "Take it from
me, the trustees will withdraw the last dollar they have invested in
it. You couldn't pay. And then they'd declare you insolvent, appoint
Susan Walton receiver, and take the whole thing over!"

"I move we let her in, gentlemen, and appropriate fifty dollars to add a
ladies' dressing-room. Susan's looking up. She'll need it. She's
beginning to powder her nose, and she's bought a new bonnet, thank God!"
said Bob Sasnett with his usual laugh.

When the directors were leaving the bank after indignantly electing Mrs.
Walton to the board, Coleman looked at Sasnett suspiciously.

"Where do you stand in this damn business, anyhow, Bob?" he demanded.

"Oh, I'm not standing at present, Stark, I'm crawling on my umbilicus
same as the rest of you; the only difference is that I retain the charm
and radiance of my countenance."

"When do you purpose to announce your candidacy for representative?"

Sasnett looked at him so quickly that even his smile scarcely veiled the
shrewdness of his glance.

"Waiting for the women to settle Mike Prim," he answered. "If they
don't, you fellows may elect him. Mike's so deep rooted in your affairs
a man couldn't dig him up without soiling his hands."

"Think the women can?"

"Not a doubt of it if they get wise to him, and they are so naïvely
unscrupulous, bless their hearts, that they'll do some things to
accomplish their purpose a man can't afford to do."

"And if they settle Mike, you'll run on the crinoline ticket, I
suppose?" Coleman answered.

"Can't say yet, Stark; don't want to give myself away, but I'm buying my
collars at the Co-Citizens' Coöperative League Emporium!" he said,
winking his eye and drawing up the corner of his mouth in a most
offensive manner.

This reference to the women's coöperative store was far from being a
joke.

The first floor of the old Mosely residence had been divided in half
with a partition. The walls between the rooms on each side had been
fitted up in a modern and expensive manner with shelves and counters,
middle-aisle showcase, and so forth. The right-hand division was a
drygoods and millinery department, with such a display of hats and
finery as never had been seen before in Jordantown. The left division
contained everything necessary to thrifty existence, from horse collars
to hams, sugar and molasses, flour and corn meal.

The upper rooms of the house were used as offices for the female
trustees of the Fund, and for the various committees, of which there
were an amazing number in order that as many women as possible should
have prominent and executive relations to the Co-Citizens' movement.

The whole front of the place was ablaze every night with electric signs.
"_The Co-Citizens' League Headquarters_," winked across the front of the
upper story. Beneath that "_The Women's Coöperative Department Stores_"
winked in blue, red, and white light splendour.

This was not the worst of it: Susan Walton, aided and abetted by John
Regis, had secured the services of foreign female talent, expert
saleswomen, bookkeepers, and a general manager, also a female. With the
assistance of these experienced persons they had purchased such a stock
and assortment of goods as no merchant in Jordantown could afford. They
paid cash, and counted the discount as part of the profit. They figured
to a cent the cost of the stock and the expense of running the store,
and they sold without reference to making any profit at all. What they
lost or failed to collect was charged up as "campaign expense" against
the Foundation Fund!

"This store is a kind of suffragist flypaper put out to catch as many as
we can by offering bargains and credit to possible voters," said Susan
to Judge Regis.

"But, my dear woman, bribing voters is a penal offence," exclaimed the
Judge, laughing.

"This is not bribery, John. This is a premium we are offering to get men
to vote on this measure at all. That is going to be the great
difficulty. Even if we get enough of them to sign the petition to hold
the election, they may outwit us by remaining away from the polls. When
men have employed every other argument to get their way with women, they
cease to argue, back their ears, plant their fore feet, and balk. We
shall cause it to be known that credit can be had at this store only by
persons who furnish sufficient assurance that they will vote in the
election!" she explained.

"But in case they vote against suffrage?" he asked, smiling grimly.

"Before time for the election we shall have convinced the men of this
county of so many financial disasters to follow upon such perfidy, that
the majority will not dare cast their ballots against us," she retorted.

"Intimidation is also a penal offence at the polls, Susan!"

"Do you think men will ever admit that they have been intimidated
politically by women? Never! It was you yourself who said influence is
not influence, it's power! We've got that. Before the spring season is
over, we shall have forced all the merchants in this town into
bankruptcy, or we shall have proper assurance of their support. When
Acres and the rest have kicked against the pricks long enough to realize
the situation, we will let them know upon what conditions only this
store will charge regulation prices for goods. We may offer to sell out
to them. The mercantile life does not appeal to me. This store is not a
financial venture. It is a political guide to the polls of the county!"

"Well, you must hurry the issue, Susan. Twenty thousand dollars will not
last six months the way you are spending it. That suffragist motor car
we bought last week cost twenty-two hundred dollars!" he warned.

"If we win at all we shall do it in less than six months," answered the
valiant old termagant.

Meanwhile all was confusion in the stores on the avenue. Drays piled
high with boxes and barrels were drawn up before the doors of the League
store. A perfect thunder of industry went on within, while the ladies of
the town crowded the street from one end of the block to the other. They
talked, they inspected, they matched samples as fast as the laces and
dress goods were placed upon the shelves and counters. They compared
prices; they were excited, elated beyond measure. On the square trade
was not exactly languishing yet, but it stood with hands raised in dumb
astonishment. Business men had not been informed of the projected store.
They did not conceive of such outrageous competition until the thing was
actually ready to open its doors. Even then they were not prepared for
the cut in prices. Acres continued to sell fifteen pounds of sugar for a
dollar a week after the Coöperative Store began to sell twenty pounds
for the same price. Percale that could be bought for ten cents a yard on
the avenue, sold on the square for fifteen cents.

"They can't keep it up!" Acres predicted. "Just shows how unfit women
are for business."

"But a damphule ought to know that ham can't be sold for twelve and a
half cents per pound!" cried Thad Bailey furiously.

They had both failed to get the usual spring loan from the National
Bank, due entirely to the fact that at the first directors' meeting, the
new director had demanded to know exactly how much they owed already,
and she refused to sanction the advance of another dollar to any
merchant in Jordantown.

"Gentlemen, I have reason to know that these men will not be able to pay
the interest upon the loans this bank has already made to them. We
cannot afford to risk another advance," she explained.

Fortunately, the two victims had absented themselves from this meeting.
But no argument or appeal from the others could move her.

Every one suspected the worst, but no one really knew what was on foot,
for up to this time not a word was heard of suffrage for women.

Only one man besides Judge Regis seemed to know what was going forward.
This was Magnis Carter, and he refused to tell what he knew. He merely
explained that he was preparing certain announcements for the _Signal_,
which would of course include an advertisement of the new store. If
anybody wanted to know what was going on, let them read the _Signal_. It
always contained the news. He was tremendously puffed up. He was
inclined to snub the curious. Lord save us! did anybody think he was
going to give away his own scoop?

He was also silent about a certain transaction between him and Susan
Walton.

Three days before the formal opening of the Coöperative Store, she
surprised him at his editorial desk. This was a deal table in a corner
of the printing office. It was littered with proof, scratch paper,
scissors, mucilage, pencils, inkwells, and a case of "pie." He was
engaged in sorting this. His collar and cravat hung upon a nail on the
wall above the table. He was in his shirt sleeves. His hair was rumpled,
his fingers inky.

But the first thing he thought of when he saw the old lady picking her
way between bales of paper near the door of the office, was his socks.
The day was very warm, and he thought he remembered pulling them down
to cool his legs. It was impossible to make sure. You cannot pull up
your socks in the presence of a woman, even an old woman. Besides, she
had her mouth primped severely and her eyes fixed with a soap-and-water
expression upon him.

He leaped from his chair, showing a purple rim around each ankle and the
bare skin above. He cast a despairing glance at his collar, and made a
dive for his coat.

"Oh, good afternoon, Mrs. Walton! Excuse me," he exclaimed, thrusting
his arms in the sleeves. "I was not expecting this honour, as you see!"

She advanced and deliberately seated herself in the chair he had
vacated.

"Don't trouble to put on your coat, Mr. Carter. It's very warm in here,"
fanning herself. "I think we shall have to move the _Signal_ to the
Woman's Building on the avenue. There is still the kitchen and pantry we
could use--very large pantry--make an excellent private editorial
office."

"I beg pardon, Madam, what did you say?"

He had forgotten his socks. His eyes protruded. She laughed--it was the
triumph of mind over matter--that laugh, an old woman's cackle, he
being the matter. He did not like it. He stood waiting for an
explanation, seeing that she occupied the only chair. He felt that it
would take a good deal to explain how and why she thought she could
induce him to move the office of the _Signal_ into the kitchen of that
female rat trap on the avenue.

She came immediately to the point, a thing you never do in business
unless you are sure you have the drop on the other fellow.

"The Co-Citizens' Foundation Fund holds a mortgage on the _Signal_, Mr.
Carter?" She put this affirmative in the form of a question.

"Er--I believe there was a small mortgage held by the Mosely Estate," he
admitted.

"And with the four years' interest due, I believe it covers the value of
the property now, doesn't it?" She had taken out another pair of
spectacles and adjusted them upon her upturned nose.

"About," he added, dazed.

"We shall be glad to retain your services. That is what I am here for
this afternoon, to make arrangements with you, if possible."

Carter raised his hand, scratched his chin through his beard, squinted
one eye, and took sight along the barrel of his personal interest at
Susan.

"We are prepared to bear all the expense of publication and offer you a
salary of one hundred dollars a month to conduct the paper; but of
course we should expect to control the policy of it absolutely. We
purpose to make it the organ of the Woman's Suffrage Movement here. I
should myself dictate most of the editorials."

"You should, Madam?" he exclaimed.

"Yes."

"And where would I come in?"

"Oh, we should want you to do the work, get up advertisements, write
special articles along such educational lines for the movement as we
should suggest. You would 'come in' a great deal, Mr. Carter. You would
be the busiest man in Jordantown."

"But, good Lord--beg pardon! You want me to become a woman suffragist,
Madam--and I'm a man!"

"We should certainly require you to work for it. Suffrage for women is
not a matter of sex. It's a question of common justice."

"At what salary did you say?" he asked after a thoughtful pause.

"One hundred dollars a month, and we pay the expense of publication,"
she answered.

Carter had never cleared a dollar as editor of the _Signal_. He could
not even have supported himself if he had paid the interest on his
mortgage. Still he hesitated. He was not sure that this offer did not
mean the sale of his manhood, on the installment plan, at so much a
month. He wondered what the men would think of this arrangement. His wit
in the paper had long consisted in humorous comments upon the modern
woman, and the Suffrage Movement in particular.

"Give me time to think it over," he said.

"Until to-morrow morning," she said, rising. "In case you accept the
position we shall expect you at nine o'clock. There is some advertising
stuff for the next issue, and I shall want to dictate an editorial."

"And if I do not accept?" he put in as she advanced toward the door.

"In that case we shall take charge of the _Signal_ as soon as we can
foreclose the mortgage," she answered without looking back.

"Er--good afternoon, Mrs. Walton!" he suddenly called after her.

"Good afternoon. Remember, promptly at nine o'clock!" she returned,
still without looking back.

Carter sat for an hour after her departure scratching his chin. He
crossed his legs, shook his elevated foot, showed every sign of profound
concentration. He was making up his mind to become a decimal point in
the Woman Suffrage Movement. It was like making up his mind to be born
again, and not so well born at that!

But "promptly at nine o'clock" the following morning he appeared at
Susan's office in the Woman's Building, accepted the nominal editorship
of the _Signal_, and submitted to the indignity of taking down the
editorial which she dictated.

On Saturday the _Signal_ appeared. It was a wonder. The entire front
page was taken up with an advertisement of the Women's Coöperative
Store. The quality of everything was the best. The prices quoted were
far below what they had ever been before in Jordantown.

But that which paralyzed the whole male population in the square was
this announcement at the top of the editorial page:

  _Owned and Controlled_
  _By the Co-Citizens' Foundation._
  _Susan Walton,_
  _Managing Editor._
  _Magnis Carter,_
  _Assistant Editor._
  _Price $1.00 a year._
  _Advertising rates reduced one half to all women and
  to friends of the Suffrage Movement in Jordan County._

This was bad enough, but the crowning affront was the leading editorial.

"The _Signal_ has become the property of the Co-Citizens' Foundation
Fund, bequeathed by the late Sarah Hayden Mosely for the purpose of
obtaining suffrage for women in Jordan County," was the opening
sentence. "Henceforth the paper will be published in the interest of the
Suffrage Movement and in any other interests which do not conflict
directly or indirectly with this movement. No matter containing adverse
criticism of suffrage for women will be published. And no
advertisements from any source not known to be friendly to the movement
will be accepted. For this reason all those which have not been paid for
in advance have been excluded. Business men who desire the use of our
columns for advertising should call at the office of the _Signal_ at
their earliest convenience, to give assurance of their support of the
policy of this paper in order that they may still use its columns as an
advertising medium."

The paragraph which followed stated brazenly that the majority of the
citizens of Jordan County were heartily in favour of suffrage for women,
and that they were determined no longer to endure "taxation without
representation," and so forth and so on. There was no hysterical railing
about the partialities of men for men in the administering of law and
the interpretation of the rights of citizenship.

The astonished readers understood for the first time, however, that
Jordantown and Jordan County were in the grip of something stronger than
feminine sentimentality or even the Democratic party.

The office of the _Signal_ had actually been moved to the Woman's
Building. The transit took place some time during the night. No one
knew when. Carter came and went through a side entrance formerly used by
delivery wagons when they brought Sarah Mosely her meagre household
supplies. He remained in seclusion there, as modest as a girl, and only
Susan Walton knew with what diligence he laboured. No man dared to seek
him in the seclusion of that place. And when Mike Prim called him over
the 'phone, after the first issue of the _Signal_ under the new
management, demanding that he should come to his office at once, Carter
declined to obey the summons. This was incredible. For years he had been
the henchman of Prim. He had received from time to time modest sums for
publishing copy prepared under Prim's supervision and designed to
influence public opinion in proper Prim channels.

However, late one night when Carter slipped into the quiet side street
with a roll of proof under his arm, he walked not exactly into the arms
of Mike Prim, who was standing in the shadows just outside, but it would
be more exact to say that he slipped directly in vocative range of
Mike's rage.

"Look here, Carter, what the ---- do you mean by selling the _Signal_ to
these blankety-blank-blank women?" he exclaimed as the editor started
back astonished and for the moment disconcerted.

"Didn't. The Mosely Estate owned a mortgage covering the paper; you know
that!" he answered quickly.

"And _you_ know the _Signal_ was the official organ of our party. And
you've betrayed like----"

"Stop!" hissed Carter, lifting his roll of proof over Prim's head as if
it had been a policeman's billy. "Don't you insult me, Mike! I don't
have to take any more of your damn impudence and I won't!"

"Well, what did you sell out for?" growled Prim.

"I tell you I didn't. They owned the paper. They'll own this town inside
of six months. They've got the last one of you like 'possums with their
tails in a split stick! And you'll find it out. Don't talk to me about
selling the _Signal_! The people who own a paper always control its
policies."

"And what's become of your political convictions, Magnis, with your
apron-string editorials?" the other sneered.

"A really intelligent, progressive editor, Mike, moulds public opinion.
He don't get it from a village boss. I'm becoming intelligent. I'm
following the trend of our times."

"The hell you are! You're sitting on that old she-cat's footstool taking
dictation!" he snorted, turning upon his heels and slumping off down the
street.

If there is anything more exasperating than a Republican to an old Adam
Democrat of the South, it must be the little political Eve-rib in his
side turned into a maverick female suffragist with no traditions and no
fears of consequences to keep her inside established party lines.

The scene which Jordantown presented by the 1st of June is as difficult
to describe--the mere physical changes--as it is to interpret these
changes. The square was practically deserted; the Acres Mercantile
Company was not even able to hold its country trade. Every farmer made
straight for the Women's Coöperative Store. The avenue was filled from
morning till night with wagons and buggies and a slow-moving procession
of men in hickory shirts, and their wives and daughters. They were drawn
by curiosity and cupidity. Both were gratified. They received more in
barter for their country produce; and, besides that, there was always a
"committee of ladies" on hand to show them through and to enlighten them
upon many things besides the price of commodities.

There is a theory to the effect that women follow men. It is based upon
one-sided experience for the most part. The reason they do is because so
far they have never had the opportunity to lead. The present situation
in Jordantown afforded this opportunity. Women were rarely seen now upon
the square, but the avenue literally teemed with men. They crowded the
aisles of the stores; they blocked the sidewalks. Only the victims held
aloof. Acres, Thad Bailey, and the other merchants remained bitterly
faithful to the square. The usual groups of loafers occupied the
courthouse veranda. Colonel Marshall Adams had apparently retired from
public life. He spent his days on his farm, which lay upon the outskirts
of the town. He could be seen returning late in the evening, seated upon
an old pacing horse like a wounded warrior barely able to keep in his
saddle.

There was a report in Jordantown to the effect that real estate had
fallen in value, that the workingmen were leaving, that bankruptcy and
starvation stared every man in the face. But if this was so, there was
no way to warn the people. The _Signal_ published every week glowing
accounts of the prosperity of the town. The most amazing information
appeared from week to week concerning the growth of sentiment in favour
of suffrage for women. The locals were filled with complimentary notices
of the comings and goings of country matrons and country belles who had
never seen their names in print before. And there was an occasional
interview from some woman prominent in the suffragist movement.

Martin Acres reached the infuriated end of his patience when he saw the
following quotation from Mabel, who had permitted herself to be
interviewed.

"Do you think women know better how to buy and sell than men?" Mrs.
Acres was asked.

"Of course they do. Isn't it women who have to cook, or see to it? Then
why shouldn't they know better than men what is proper food for their
families? And isn't it women that make the clothes and who wear most of
them? So we naturally know better what stuffs we need for clothes. If
you could see the ugly dimities and ginghams and calicoes we have worn
in this town all our lives, chosen by colour-blind merchants who do not
know what is becoming to us! Things are different here this spring, our
groceries are of a better quality, and our frocks are infinitely more
becoming."

There was more in the same tenor. But Acres was too angry to read
further. He rushed into his wife's room with the _Signal_ in his hand.

"Did you say that, Mabel?" he shouted, thrusting the offensive page
beneath her nose.

"What, Martin?" she exclaimed, lifting her hand to thrust it aside as
she stared up at her husband.

"Did you give out this scandalous interview criticising me and my
business?" he insisted.

"Why, Martin, how could you think such a thing! I never uttered a
critical word of my husband in my life!"

"Then you didn't say it?"

"Let me see what you are talking about," she said, craning her neck to
see the print. "Oh _that_! Yes, Mrs. Walton asked me to say something to
show how natural it is, and how right, you know, for women to keep a
store, do the sedentary things while men do the hard things--till the
ground, and all that. Did you read----"

"No, by Gad! I didn't read far enough to see that you wanted me to
become a day labourer!"

"Oh, I wasn't speaking of you, dear, I was just promulgating one of the
theories of our movement. I was so flattered when Mrs. Walton asked
me----"

"Your movement be damned, Mabel! Enough of a thing is enough. You will
resign to-morrow from this plagued movement which is carrying us all to
the devil!"

"But, Martin, I can't; I'm chairman of the Finance Committee. Mrs.
Walton----"

"Don't let me hear that old viper's name again in this house. She's the
serpent in this town tempting the last one of you to----"

"I can't have you speak disrespectfully of our chief, dear," said Mabel
with frigid dignity.

"And what's your husband, I'd like to know!"

"Why, you, you are just my husband, Martin, as I used to be just your
wife!"

"Good Lord, Mabel, you are crazy! Don't you know you are helping that
gang to drive me into bankruptcy!"

Mrs. Acres was the living feminine likeness of Pin Money. She was very
small, very fair, with faded blue eyes. Her clothes were always too
tight, and she wore narrow ruffles like the hope, the mere hope, of
feathers and wings to come.

She looked up now into her husband's face with a curious little white
smile.

"I know that I am all that stands between you and ruin, Martin. I've
been waiting to talk to you, to give you a hint, but our affairs are not
entirely in shape. We are not ready to show our hand."

"To show her hand! And this from my own wife!" groaned Acres, beginning
to stride up and down the room.

"Listen, dear," said Mabel, rising and following him. "I ought not to do
it, but I will give you just one little hint."

"All right, _hint_!" he sneered.

"Call on Judge Regis to-morrow, and tell him you are very much
interested in suffrage for women in this county. Say that you'd like to
take your part in bringing it about. Just that, no more. And you'll see
what happens." She turned her head to one side and looked at him with
treacherous sweetness.

"I'll be hanged if I do!"

"Be reasonable, Martin!"

"Don't talk to me about being reasonable. I'm one of the few reasonable
beings left in this town."

"Well, that kind of reason is out of fashion now. You've got to share
our reasons, Martin. Women have a rationality you men do not recognize;
now you've got to."

"I will not! But suppose I do?"

"You'll get immediate relief from your present financial pressure, for
one thing."

"Tell that to the marines!"

"Very well. I'll stand between you and--and ruin as long as I can, but
if you don't give in I can't save you!" she whimpered.

"And what about Thad Bailey and Baldwin and Saddler and all the other
merchants?" he asked curiously, with his nose pointed like a terrier who
smells a rat.

"The sooner you or somebody persuades them to go to Judge Regis and make
the same agreement, the sooner you'll get what you want," she replied.

"And what we don't want! Do you think for a moment the men in this
county would give women the vote even if they could, Mabel?"

"I don't think about it, Martin, I know you are going to be forced to do
it, and I want you to give in before it is too late to save your credit;
you'll be a day labourer before you know it if you don't listen to
reason," she concluded tearfully.

"Reason! Reason! A set of crazy women dictating to men. What is reason?"
shouted the furious little merchant as he rushed from the room.

The domestic atmosphere of Jordantown from one end to the other was
charged with thunderstorm possibilities. The wives of all the citizens
were attending hurriedly to their household affairs, and then attending
to other affairs which were not household. Every day some council or
committee met in the Woman's Building. They even met in the evenings.
Putting on their hats and taking the latchkey, they went out as
nonchalantly as ever their husbands had gone. They weathered the rage of
these husbands with singular calm, very much as mothers cheerfully
witness the tantrums of their growing children. The fact that they went
out in the evenings was not remarkable. The women of Jordantown were
pious. They attended prayer meetings regularly: they made up the
congregation on Wednesday evenings. But now they neglected this service
and gathered in the upper chambers of the Woman's Building. The
community was going to the dogs. Every man said so to every other man he
met on the square, but no man confided to the other that his wife had
been out until half-past ten o'clock the night before.

One evening Stark Coleman was in the library reading the _Signal_. His
wife came in, seated herself, and overflowed the low rocking-chair on
the other side of the table with her voluminous skirts. She was tall and
very large. Her face was as placid as that of a clock which has just
marked the last hour of the day and has nothing to do but tick-tock
until bed-time.

This was the one hour of the day when they were alone together after the
children had been put to bed. They usually spent it in silence. Probably
no two people in the world have as little to say to one another as a
husband and wife after they have been married a dozen years. Each knows
all the other thinks. They become fearful mind readers of one another's
most secret thoughts. Long ago they settled all their differences in the
struggles of their first ardent loving years. Henceforth one commands
while the other obeys. Everything is finished between them but their
lives. These go on like weary vegetation from which their children
gather the fruit.

Coleman had enjoyed several years of this kind of peace. It never
occurred to him to wonder if his wife did. She had the children. He
liked the quiet evenings after the noise and bustle in the bank, with
his wife for a mere presence. And without being aware of the fact, he
liked the diffidence with which she always awaited his pleasure, never
breaking in rudely upon his rest with her feminine affairs unless he
signified his willingness to listen.

During the past two months, however, he was aware of a different quality
in Mrs. Coleman's silence. She held to it even when he wished to talk,
answering him in monosyllables. She was preoccupied. The senseless
turmoil in which the town had been thrown by the Co-Citizens' agitation
was foreign to all he had ever known of her nature and retiring
disposition, and he was loath to connect her with it. But he could not
help knowing that she was interested, to what extent he did not know,
owing to this growing reserve. Still he did his best to defend her in
his thoughts. She had spent the whole of her married life bearing
children very much as a tree puts out leaves every spring. This year it
seemed to have occurred to her that she would not have a baby. At least
she did not. Instead of that she had taken a verdant new lease on life
herself, apparent in the figured muslins which she got from the
Coöperative Store. Coleman attributed her activities, which he called
"social," to the fact that she could "go out."

She looked now in the soft lamplight like an enormous azalea in full
bloom. She sat with folded hands humming a tune, not any known air, but
one of those nasal harmonies women sometimes accomplish through their
noses as a cat purrs to signify content.

The humming annoyed Coleman. Everything annoyed him these days. He
fidgeted, slapped one knee violently over the other, and jerked the
_Signal_ open as if he would rend it sheet from sheet.

"Hu-u-m, hu-e-e-u-m hum!" droned Mrs. Coleman, her eyes fixed upon a
large chromo of the Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus hanging upon the
opposite wall.

Perspiration broke out in beads upon her husband's brow. He uncrossed
his legs and brought his foot down with a bang on the floor. Surely she
would understand that he was disturbed. She did not. She went on.

"H-u-m, hu-e-e-um, hum----"

He leaped from his chair, strutted into the hall and out upon the
veranda.

"Hu-u-e-e hum!"

It followed him through the windows of the library, which were open.

He rushed back, his hands clenched behind his back, his whole body
inflated with rage.

"Agatha!" he exclaimed, planting himself squarely in front of her. "Will
you stop making a trombone of your nose?"

"You must be nervous," she said, looking up at him serenely.

"I _am_ nervous, I'm nearly crazy. This town is going to hell!"

"Your language, Stark! If----"

"Don't talk to me about my language, Agatha! The native speech of hell
is blasphemy, and I've been in it for two months. I should think you
would have noticed the condition I'm in."

"I have."

"Then why do you make that infernal noise through your nose?"

"I suppose it's because I am happy." She said that!

"Happy! Look here, I must prepare you for what's coming. The bank's
going to fail."

"Oh, no!"

"Yes, it is. We haven't made a loan in six weeks. We've been obliged to
turn down nearly fifty thousand dollars' worth of investments since that
woman became director. She represents a majority of the stocks and she
refuses to lend a dollar or to risk a single cent on anything in this
town. The bank might as well be a miser's box. Business is at a
standstill."

"Not on the avenue. We are doing splendidly in the Coöperative Store."

"We? Are you in that thing, too?"

"Nearly every woman here is, except Mrs. Sasnett, even the poorest. You
have no idea how interested they are. I never dreamed so many women of
all classes wanted the ballot."

"Agatha, I must insist upon your withdrawing from that bedlam in the
Woman's Building. I did not suspect that you were really interested. It
is unwomanly."

"I can't, Stark. I'm chairman of the Income Committee, and----"

"Who's chairman of the Dead Cat Committee?" he sneered.

"Mike Prim, we think," she laughed.

He gasped. It was a kind of pollution for a woman even to know of Prim's
existence.

"And I'm enjoying the work so much," Agatha went on.

"You are enjoying ruining your husband! That's what you mean, even if
you do not know it," he accused.

"On the contrary, I'm saving you, Stark. If it was not for the prominent
part I've taken in this movement, and the influence I'm expected to
exert over you, you would not now be president of the bank."

"Upon my word!"

"I've been waiting to talk to you, dear, to explain. I've only waited
until you should realize the situation. I knew you wouldn't listen
before," she went on kindly.

"Very well, the first thing I want you to explain is what good you think
this damnation Foundation will accomplish by destroying the business
and credit of this town?" he said, drawing up a chair and seating
himself belligerently in front of her.

"We shall induce you to favour the cause of suffrage----"

"Even supposing it is possible according to the constitution of this
state for us to give women the ballot, don't you know that you are only
exciting antagonism, making an enemy of every voter in the county?" he
interrupted.

"Until you understand, yes, possibly. But when you do realize that we
hold the situation in our hands, your common sense will compel you to
surrender in order to escape the pressure. It's so simple," she smiled.

"It is! It's damn simple! Only a set of foolish women could have devised
such a plan! Think I'm going to knuckle to that old Walton cat! She's
taking all of the cash out of the bank as fast as it comes in to run her
schemes, and----"

"She is only taking the rent and interest on the property of the
Foundation as it is deposited. I suppose you were in the habit of
lending it."

"Of course, what do you think a bank is for?"

"You'll never have the use of another dollar until you give in."

"It's all nonsense this ballot for women, Agatha; we can't give it to
you, and God knows I don't want to!"

"Why?"

"It's against nature. Women lack the wisdom, the experience, the er--the
shrewdness to conduct the affairs of government. You have no idea how
many wheels within wheels there are."

"Yes, we have, Stark, we know all about Mike Prim! If you are wise you
will not drive us to deal with Prim!" she said, looking at him queerly.
"And besides," she went on, "we have had the shrewdness, as you call it,
to block the business of this town. You'll never be able to do anything
so long as we hold you up."

"You can't stop the commerce of a whole county with twenty thousand
dollars, Agatha. You may inconvenience us for a time but----"

"It isn't the interest we count upon, you see--that's the smallest part
of it. It's the way we have our capital invested. It's the land beneath
your feet, the boards above your head, the stock in your bank, the goods
in your stores. We've got most of it! I wish you would listen to
reason, Stark!" she concluded.

He had not heard half of it. He was wondering what she meant by that
reference to Prim. But he caught the last sentence.

"And suppose I do listen to reason, as you call it. How would I go about
it?" he asked as he would have tested the strength of an enemy, not that
he had the remotest intention of following her advice.

"Go to Judge Regis in the morning and tell him that you are interested
in suffrage for women. Say that you are heartily in favour of it
and----"

"I'll be hanged if I do! I'll----"

The telephone bell rang. Coleman went out in the hall to answer the
call.

"Yes, I'm here," his wife heard him say.

"What's the matter? Oh, all right, be glad to see you."

He returned to the library still frowning, very angry, but really
thankful for any diversion which seemed to lead from an offensive
discussion.

"Wonder what's up now. Stacey has just called. Wants to see me at once.
Coming right over," he explained.

"Church business. I'll go up and see if the children are comfortable.
It's very warm," Agatha said innocently as she left the room.

Five minutes later Stacey came in. He looked like a good man whose
salvation had been mortgaged for its full value. He parted his long
coat-tails and sat down. He regarded Coleman with a watery expression.
His mouth was pulled up in the middle and drawn down at the corners.

"I suppose Mrs. Coleman has already informed you?" he began in
sepulchral tones.

"About what?" asked Coleman, who warily avoided admitting that he was
not in Agatha's confidence.

"About what happened this afternoon at the Woman's Home and Foreign
Missionary meeting."

"My wife is still upstairs with the children," he evaded.

"I saw Mrs. Sasnett as soon as it was over. She came straight to me and
told me all that had occurred. Really I could not have believed such a
thing could happen in a Christian community!" he groaned.

"What did happen? Has that Walton woman garnisheed the missionary
collection?" asked Coleman impatiently.

"Worse than that! I fear there will be no collection," he answered,
wagging his head. Then he went on:

"Mrs. Sasnett, as you know, is a very loyal worker. She's president of
the society here. She did what she could to prevent the catastrophe, but
she was powerless. Then she resigned. This was Rally Day, you know. The
women from all the county churches came in. There must have been two
hundred of them. We looked forward to a very profitable meeting. I
prayed the opening prayer myself. Then I had some calls to make. It was
after I went out that it happened," the inference being that had he
remained it could not possibly have happened. "The minutes were read.
Mrs. Sasnett made an address. Then, as is the custom, she opened the
meeting for general discussion.

"She said that before any one else had time to get up, Mrs. Walton arose
and began to speak. As president, Mrs. Sasnett told me she tried to stop
her when she realized the iniquitous trend of her remarks. But she was
unable to do so. The women in the congregation actually clapped their
hands and insisted that she should be allowed to go on.

"That woman-- I can hardly bring myself to speak of her with
respect--began by saying that she had long felt called as a Christian
citizen--she used the term citizen--to inform the women of our church of
the mistake they were making with their missionary dues. She had too
much confidence in their motherhood to believe they would be guilty of
such heathen conduct if they really understood.

"The report Mrs. Sasnett gave was so vivid I'm able to quote the very
words of Mrs. Walton's outrageous assault upon the church.

"'This state ranks third from the bottom in the United States in
illiteracy, and Jordan County ranks third from the bottom in this state!
We have a public school system which lasts only five months in the
year!' That was her opening sentence.

"'Do you know what this means, women of Jordan County? That your
children will be the bond servants of the next generation. That they
will not be fitted to hold any but the lowest positions in society and
in the industrial world. If your daughters marry they must marry
ignorant men. If they do not marry and seek to better their condition in
the world, they cannot do so, they must enter factories, become
servants. They will not know how to spell well enough to be
stenographers even. If your sons remain on the farms, they will be
renters; they cannot hold the land. Ignorance means bankruptcy for the
poor farmer now. If they leave the farm for the cities, they will become
street-car drivers, porters, janitors, day labourers. The time has
passed when a country boy without education can go to the city, make a
hit, and become President of the United States. Instead of that they are
forced to accept the lowest society the city affords. They are the
victims of its vices.

"'Now listen to me. The women of this state pay more to home and foreign
missions in the various churches than the state does for the common
school fund. Where does your money go? To found schools in Soochow,
China, and Yokohama, Japan, and in Kobe, and in Siam, and in Africa. You
do not know it, but you women pay two thirds of all the money that goes
to support the church. You do that much toward building churches,
supporting connectional officers, prelates, pastors, missions, the
whole thing, and you are not even allowed a voice in determining the way
your money shall be spent. You do the "Lord's work," and the men profit
by it. You pray most of the prayers that are prayed properly in secret.
You furnish four fifths of all the piety--and your own children grow up
in ignorance. Do you think the Lord blesses such labour and sacrifice? I
tell you He will not. Look at your children, mothers, you women from the
farms, who left them this very day working in the fields, when they
should be in school!'

"Mrs. Sasnett says that she wrought so upon the emotions of those women
that they actually wept.

"She went on reminding them of the sacrifices they made to raise their
missionary dues. She even went so far as to call attention to their
clothes, their hats that were so old-fashioned. She calculated what they
contributed one way and another to the church, Coleman, as if that were
a crime. Then she concluded by telling them that they could have schools
nine months in the year for their own children with the best teachers if
they would only do the Lord's work and pay the same amount for this
purpose. And when Mrs. Sasnett tried to interrupt her, she grew
violent.

"'Hold up your right hand, every woman present who is willing to pledge
herself to give never another dollar to foreign missions or to the
support of the church until her children have schools nine months in the
year!'

"And would you believe it, nearly all of them held up their hands. Some
of the old women shouted! Mrs. Sasnett said it resembled a love-feast.
She said they crowded around Mrs. Walton as if--well, as if she'd been a
preacher!"

He sighed and looked at Coleman, who made no comment. He was chairman of
the Board of Stewards in the Jordantown church, and he was making a
rapid mental calculation of the deficit that was likely to occur.

"Of course," Stacey went on, "they were excited. There will be a
reaction when we remind them of their vows to support the institutions
of the church. But what am I to do, meanwhile? I have not taken any
collections for this year."

"Don't take them now!" said Coleman quickly.

"It may be worse later on. You know that Miss Adams has been canvassing
the county for weeks, arranging those Co-Citizens' Leagues in every
voting precinct. I hear that she has made capital out of that failure in
Porter County where they tried to float a bond issue to secure a full
school term. The men voted it down, especially the farmers. Claimed that
they needed the children to work the crops and gather them. She's using
that to prove that we need compulsory education in this county and that
we'll never get it until the women can vote."

"I don't know what Marshall Adams can be thinking of, allowing his
daughter to get into this mess!" said Coleman.

Stacey looked at him. He wondered if this man knew how deep his own wife
was in the same "mess."

"I suppose you have heard that they are getting ready for a big mass
meeting here?" he ventured.

"That so?"

"Going to announce their plans, I hear."

"Well, I hope they do. When we know what they are up to, we will know
how to stop them."

"You think we can?"

"Certainly! Can women force us to the polls, or compel us to vote for
this silly measure? Besides, the state constitution is a perfect
protection; only males can vote. This is all a form of feminine
hysteria, Stacey; it's bound to pass. Just sit tight in the boat and
wait. I don't mind telling you that the trustees of this--d--er--this
Foundation are spending their income like water. When that gives out,
they'll be at the end of their tether. They can't touch the principal."

"But they might borrow on it," Stacey put in doubtfully as he arose to
take his departure.

This was a devilish possibility of which Coleman had not thought. He was
angry with Stacey for suggesting it.

"Damphule to leave the church with Susan Walton in it!" he grumbled as
he went upstairs.

Agatha was already in bed. She lay with her hands crossed above the
coverlid, her eyes closed, her face resting upon the pillow as serene as
the epitaph of a good woman on a large white tombstone.

He undressed stealthily. He would no more have disturbed her than he
would have thrust a thorn in his side. He turned out the light and lay
down beside her, scarcely allowing himself the relief of a sigh.

Instantly Agatha's eyes flew open. She lay very still watching him.
She could make out his nose in the dark. It was a powerfully built,
upstanding nose which even the shadows of the night did not entirely
conceal. Slowly she divined his features one by one. A man, even
the ablest, looks very helpless in his sleep. She saw his chin drop,
his mouth open. Then the silence was parted by a certain sound,
exactly the same sound she had heard every night since she had
married--"Ha-a-w-s-ah! Ah-ha-a-w-sah." It was a cross between the bray
of an ass and the excruciating grief of a cat.

Most men come down to this the moment they sink into the unconsciousness
of slumber. It is a kind of reversion to type which they suffer without
knowing it.

Agatha had often lain awake resenting the blasts which Coleman sent
through his nose. But to-night the sound touched some cord of
tenderness. It reminded her of the years and years they had lived
together as they could never live again. She laid her hand gently upon
his breast. He gave a terrific snort, then groaned. Even in his sleep he
was troubled. She, his wife, had failed him in some dear intimacy of the
soul. She wondered how she would be able to hold out against him. It
was no use to pretend that she was not against him. She knew that she
was, that nothing but an incredible change in the order of things could
unite them again as they had been; that even then they would be
different. They would spend the remainder of their lives adjusting
themselves to strange conditions. She began to weep softly. She was glad
that at least nothing could change Stark's snore!

       *       *       *       *       *

One reason why more men do not join the oldest order in the world--the
Brotherhood of Man--is because its constitution and by-laws are neither
secret nor cryptic. Everybody knows what they are, and everybody knows
what they mean. "Love thy neighbour as thyself," "Do unto others as you
would have them do unto you," "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For
with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure
ye mete it shall be measured to you again."

There is a whole Book filled with these regulations for the governing of
this ancient order. But it has the largest circulation of any book in
the civilized world, and any one is eligible to membership by some
profession of faith. So you cannot choose your brethren. This is
directly opposed to one of our strongest instincts as social animals:
the instinct of election and selection in this present world. The
Brotherhood does what it can, of course, to segregate the different
classes and caste of men into creeds and missions and saints and
sinners. But it is not successful, and the failure has resulted,
especially among men, in the founding of innumerable secret orders--to
say nothing of adolescent college fraternities, where youths are trained
in snobbishness, and to all the traditions and mysteries which mask
these orders. There is no more virtue in being a Mason, or a Knight of
Pythias, or an Elk, or an Odd Fellow than there is in being a Christian
gentleman, but there is more distinction among men. So they are
complimented to be chosen and elected to one of these goat-riding
organizations.

Women have never been accepted as members of these orders, though they
are sometimes annexed under a separate "star," for example, or as mere
useful "Rebecca" appendages. Enough "Eastern Stars," or "Rebeccas" in a
town will do all the drudgery, bake all the cakes, and get ready
generally for the annual celebration of the real order to which they
have been annexed, you understand. But they never share the inner shrine
privileges with their lords. They do not wear the royal purple, nor the
red-and-gold-lace uniforms of the Knights, nor carry banners. If you see
them at all they will be tacked on to the end of the parade, with
cotton-ribbon badges pinned to their bosoms just to show that they
sustain a meek cup-bearing culinary relation to the Sons of Heaven
prancing in front.

Still, if they could, women would indulge in the same vanity of secret
orders. The trouble is that they are so situated in life that they
cannot hold together, unless they are in a shirtwaist factory and join a
labour union. The great majority are confined, one in a house, or in the
innocuous desuetude of society, where there is no bond of common
interest, but violent feminine competition. They have no issue which
unites them; they do not hold together. They do well to hold the men.
This keeps them anxious, tearful, deceitful, and busy, besides being
dear and sweet for the same purpose.

But of all creatures they do crave mysteries. And they do love
secrets--something to whisper.

Selah Adams, by virtue of the fact that during her college years she had
belonged to a sorority with Greek letter coverings and many gruesome
rites within, was the one person engaged in the suffrage campaign who
recognized the advantage to be derived from secrecy in organizing the
women for the struggle. She perceived the appeal that this would make to
their pride and ambition. It was at her suggestion that all the work of
committees in Jordantown should be conducted as quietly as possible. The
women were pledged not to betray plans to any one but women belonging to
the League. So when women of all classes discovered that they would be
received most cordially in an organization fostered by the leading
ladies of the place, they hastened to join. For the first time social
lines in Jordantown disappeared. The banker's wife walked down the steps
of the Woman's Building arm in arm with the grocer's wife. In their
first stages of growth all political movements are divinely democratic.
It is not until the thing has been reduced to a working formula that
some boss seizes the formula and the tyrannies of monarchical methods
begin.

Selah adopted the same plan of secrecy in organizing women's
Co-Citizens' Leagues in the country neighbourhoods. This was her part of
the work. She was not only beautiful in a grave and dignified fashion,
she had the adorable gift of youth when it came to relating herself to
elder women.

She was one of the sensations, blessing the eyes and stimulating the
imagination of all travellers along country roads as she passed in her
car from one neighbourhood to another. She was invariably accompanied
upon these expeditions by some farmer's wife who was already an officer
in some other League. She wore white linen tailored clothes and a
three-cornered white turban, with a pair of white wings spread and
lifted high at the back of her head, which is the one proper place for
wings on a mortal. The brain of a man or woman is the only soaring part
of them. Sublimated spiritual bodies may look naturally supernatural
with wings attached to the breastbone or between the shoulders behind,
but the fairest, most spiritual, woman would appear a trifle ludicrous
with them anywhere else unless she should be dancing a ballet with no
skirts on worth mentioning. Selah achieved a sort of glorified presence
very grateful to the eyes of the farmers' wives and daughters, who did
not understand how much of it was due to the wings on her hat.

Her method was simple after she had made the first round of the county,
visiting the women in their homes and explaining the purpose of the
Co-Citizens' Leagues. Each week the _Signal_ published her itinerary.
She would meet the women of Possum Trot on such and such a day. She
would address the Co-Citizens' League of Sugar Valley on Tuesday
afternoon. She would meet with the Co-Citizens of Dry Pond on Friday
afternoon--always at the schoolhouse.

In addition to this the _Signal_ invariably gave glowing accounts of the
progress of the suffrage sentiment everywhere. There was no means of
proving that the _Signal_ was lying. It was the only paper published in
the county, and it was sent free of charge to every woman in the county.
But never was there a single line reporting what transpired at any of
the meetings. The Odd Fellows, who were exceedingly plentiful all over
the county, were almost open books compared to the secrecy and mystery
attending these meetings of their women.

It is not generally known, but nearly all farmers' wives are in favour
of suffrage for women. It is not known, because almost without
exception they deny that they are if there is a man within earshot of
their protestations. The patriarchal hold upon them is stronger in the
country places, because the economic necessities of the situation uphold
the patriarch and not his wife. She obeys, not only her husband, but the
laws of the seasons with the labour of her hands.

There were at first many timid souls whom Selah Adams could not draw
into her conspiracy. But these were strengthened from week to week with
the amazing assurances they read in the _Signal_, to the effect that
Jordan County was coming out of the dark ages: "Men as well as women are
impatient to see their wives and mothers and daughters exercise the
inalienable right of every freeborn American Citizen!" And so on and so
forth.

"Who are the men?" asked every man.

Echo answered:

"Who?"

No one believed there were any such cowardly males among them, but they
could not prove it. The men were growing more and more silent, partly
through anxiety and partly with grim confidence that no way could be
found to force this issue of suffrage on the voters of the county. The
women remained maliciously silent on this point. If they had any plan,
not the most ingratiating persuasions from their nearest mankind could
induce them to reveal it.

The lives of most women on remote farms are tragic beyond belief. They
appear natural and commonplace only because the victims are trained in
endurance, not in the vocabulary of expression. There are thousands of
farmers' wives in every rural community who endure hardships undreamed
of in the sweatshops of commerce. There are no laws to protect them from
long hours, nor any to protect their children. They average sixteen
hours a day, while the hardest working man takes at least two hours at
noon in which to rest. They may complain of backache, of rheumatism, of
any number of stitches in their sides, but they never complain of the
long, long day's work. On the contrary, if the worst comes to worst,
especially during the harvest season, they think they will get up an
hour earlier the next morning and maybe "get through" what they have to
do.

When one of them dies of the strain, she just dies. The obituary notice
of her as the wife of so-and-so never tells how she just "gave out,"
having borne eight children and having done the cooking, washing,
ironing, and sewing for the family, besides "helping in the fields."

It was to these women that Selah came with her definite plans for better
conditions for them and their children. She brought them the refreshment
of social intercourse, and united them in a secret common cause. It was
difficult to accomplish against the order and very nature of their
lives. Sometimes she failed.

One day she called at a little farmhouse hidden away from the public
road in one of the mountain coves. There were no children about, no
noisy cackling of cocks and hens, no flowers in the yard, not a sound to
break the awful silence of the accompanying hills. It was as if life
died there long ago and left behind only the rickety skeleton of a house
as a mournful epitaph.

But inside, an old woman sat mending bags. She wore a gray calico slip,
tied in around the waist with her apron strings; both were ragged,
abominably soiled. Her hair was white; strands of it hung around her
neck from a little knot twisted tight on the back of her head. Her face
was ghastly white, wrinkled, toothless, but the pale blue eyes, rolling
wildly, senselessly, in the cavernous sockets, gave her an expression so
terrible that Selah started back involuntarily as she lifted her head,
stared at her, and went on with her mending on the ill-smelling meal
sack. This was the wife of Jake Terry.

The Terrys had had nine children. They all worked in the field. None of
them had ever gone to school. They were poor with a desperation of
poverty undreamed of even in the slums.

But Terry had a sawmill. At last when his sons were old enough to work,
he began to make money. The wife and daughters did the farming. Then,
quite inconveniently, Mrs. Terry took leave of her senses. She was
violent in her efforts to throw herself in the mill pond. She was sent
to the asylum and remained there three years--until she was no longer
violent. Then she was brought home, still witless, but able in a
mechanical way from long habit to do the things she had always done.
Terry thought that this was better than hiring some one. His children
had married or "run off" and left him. So the old wife went back into
the treadmill. She was obsessed with the idea of work. She would not
sleep. Sometimes she would spring out of the bed in the dead hours of
the night, kindle a fire in the slatternly stove, and "start breakfast."
She was always hurrying from one task to another.

"How do you do, Mrs. Terry?" Selah ventured, still standing in the
doorway.

"My hens is all dead!" cried the old woman.

"I've come to see you about something," Selah said, advancing.

"No, you ain't; nobody ever comes here. My children are all dead, too!"
she wailed.

"They are not dead, they are married," Selah said soothingly.

"My hens is all dead, and my children is all dead, and I'm dead, too.
Women don't live, you know, they jest work." This last in a low,
confidential tone as she stretched the wrinkles of her face into a
ghastly grin. "I've heard of you," she went on. "You think you are going
to make the women live same as men. You can't do it. We ain't for
ourselves, we are jest made for them. I wouldn't mind it so much if my
hens hadn't all died!"

Selah fled from the house, climbed into the car, and commanded the
chauffeur to drive on.

"I knew it wasn't any use for you to go in there," said Mrs. Deal,
staring at the girl's stricken face. "Did she tell you all her hens were
dead?"

"Yes, but it wasn't that, nor her forlorn condition; it was something
else. She said she was dead, too: 'Women don't live you know, they just
work!' Ah, it was awful!"

"We've had four women from this settlement sent to the asylum just like
that," Mrs. Deal added after a pause as they moved swiftly along the
fragrant June road.

It was Saturday afternoon; they were on their way to a meeting of the
Co-Citizens' League at Possum Trot. Mr. Deal, a prosperous farmer, was
also the justice of the peace in the tiny mountain village; and this
also happened to be the day when he retailed justice in small sentences
in the usual neighbourhood squabbles.

Court had adjourned as they entered the village. Men stood in groups
before the one store, talking in undertones as women passed--all going
in the direction of the schoolhouse, which stood exactly opposite. Deal
was "dressed up"--that is to say, he wore his coat, collar, and tie. He
stood combing his whiskers and looking over his steel-rimmed spectacles
at Mrs. Deal, who descended from the automobile and followed Selah into
the house.

Presently another man flirted his head to one side, spat on the ground,
and looked at Deal, whose face above his whiskers was puffed out in a
fat smile.

"Helendamnation, Squire! what does all this female gaddin' and gittin'
together and whisperin' mean?" he snickered.

"Nothin'!" answered Deal.

"What we goin' to do about it?"

"Nothin'!"

"But they tell me they're fixin' to vote or bust."

"Well, they won't! it's just a piece of devilment started by Susan
Walton to pretend she's earnin' her salary as trustee of that fool Fund
the Mosely woman left. She's puttin' the Adams girl up to this. 'Tain't
nothin'. Susan Walton ain't the husband of my wife nor the head of my
family. What I say goes in my house!"

"I don't know, things is gittin' mighty queer, especially the women. My
wife's quit talkin'! I hear they're fixin' to boycott us durin' the
harvest season if we don't vote for 'em!"

"I've been married twenty years, and my wife's never refused to do what
I tell her yet. I don't reckon she'll begin now by refusin' to cook for
me and them that sets at my table."

During this exchange of opinions both men had made their way slowly
across the street and entered the group of men who were gathering about
the schoolhouse door.

Far down in the cool brown shadows within, Selah Adams was standing upon
the teacher's rostrum. She was speaking in low terms which could not be
heard from the door, which had been left open for coolness. Fifty women
sat below her in creaking split-bottom chairs, with faces as rapt and
attentive as if they had been listening to a revival sermon. Some of
them were mature maidens of thirty years; some were young wives who had
reached that stage of feminine dissolution when women cease to curl
their front hair and permit their short back locks to hang down in a
doleful fringe upon the back of their necks. The majority of them,
however, were elderly matrons. Their shoulders had that noble giving
droop which only women show who have reached the sublimity of nurturing
many children at their breasts. They were all moving palmetto fans with
the serene air of fat, ugly old goddesses who had passed out of the
desire of man and had now returned to their own woman's sanity.

"Squire, I don't like them goings on in thar!"

"What you talkin' about?"

"That gal, she looks damn dangerous seditious. I can't hear what she's
sayin', but them women they can, and they look like they was bein'
converted. They got the same expression females always have durin' a
revival, when they've made up their pra'r-meetin' minds to do what the
preacher tells 'em if they burn at the stake for it! I tell you that
gal's got 'em. They'll follow her as if she was a 'pillow' of cloud by
day and of fire by night, leadin' 'em through the Red Sea to the
Promised Land!"

"I'll show you who one of 'em will follow!" exclaimed Deal, advancing to
the door.

His long forked shadow fell across the silent figures in the audience as
he thrust his head in and craned his neck until he caught sight of Mrs.
Deal seated at the far end of the first row.

"Molly!" he called sternly.

The even rhythm of Molly's fan did not change. She did not so much as
turn her head. Her large blue eyes upturned beneath their thick lids
never wavered from Selah's face.

"Molly, come out! I'm waitin' for you!" shouted the Squire in a louder,
unmistakable voice of command.

Selah paused, nodded to a young girl, and murmured, "Close the door,
Mary," very much in the same preoccupied tone she might have used if she
had said, "Mary, shoo the chickens out!" It was a splendid triumph for
Selah.

The next moment a roar of laughter went up in the street beyond the
closed door. A red spot flamed upon Molly Deal's cheeks, but her fan
went on swinging gently to and fro. Her eyes were still fixed upon
Selah's smiling face.

The meeting was important. The day and even the hour was fixed when the
women would announce the plans by which they were determined to obtain
suffrage in Jordan County. So far the men had not received a hint as to
what these plans were. The whole movement seemed senseless and hopeless,
merely causing furious antagonism and outrageous embarrassment; for Mrs.
Walton's perversities as director of the bank had been felt far and wide
in the country districts, where farmers were not only unable to secure
loans, but many who had mortgaged their land to the Mosely Estate now
found themselves facing the possibility of foreclosure.

There was to be a mass meeting in Jordantown the first Saturday in July.
Selah informed the Leagues of this as she made this tour from one
community to another. The purpose of the great mass meeting was fully
explained, and plans were laid for getting as many people to attend as
possible.

At last, as the shades of evening fell, the women filed out of the
schoolhouse, strange, exasperatingly potential figures to the Odd Fellow
husbands who had waited impatiently outside for them. Molly Deal climbed
silently into the red-and-green spring wagon beside her equally silent
husband. Selah waved her hand prettily from the car as she passed up the
road in the direction of Jordantown. She was fairly contented with the
progress made in the County Leagues. She had worked indefatigably for
nearly three months, organizing, teaching, and inspiring the proper
spirit of life and hope, as she called it, in the women.

But the test was yet to come. All depended upon the success of the mass
meeting, its effects upon the men. Would they understand the gravity of
refusing to coöperate with the women? She refused to contemplate the
disasters, the bitter suspense and disappointment if they did hold out.
It seemed strange that not a single man had guessed the method the
suffragists would adopt to win. She was excited, elated, hopeful, and at
the same time she was sad. She thought of her father, so bereaved by her
conduct. Her eyes filled with tears at the vision of him mournfully
silent in the evenings, too much cast down to even reproach her with her
perfidy. Then she began to laugh as a certain thought came to her. He
had ceased to show his diminished head on the streets of Jordantown. He
had been sober for two months, spending all of his time attending to his
farm. He was like a good soldier, who in the face of a decisive battle
indulges in no weakness, keeps his wits about him. She was sure he was
camping in the spirit beneath her walls, waiting for the citadel to
fall. They practised the fine honour of noble enemies. He never asked
her any question about what was going forward in the suffrage ranks. He
even broke his own eggs at breakfast with the proud air of a man who
neither asks nor gives quarter.

"Father," she would say at the breakfast table, "let me break your
eggs!"

"No, Selah, I'm an old man, I've come upon evil days in my own house,
but I am still able to attend to my simple wants. Pray don't let me
detain you"--seeing that she wore her hat, and that the abominable car
would be purring at the curb.

"Very well, then, I'll be off, but expect me back before night," she
would say, kissing him on the forehead.

"No, I do not expect you home before night. I never do. It would not
surprise me if you didn't get in before midnight. I'm prepared for
anything now!" he would answer without looking up.

Nevertheless, she made it a rule always to get back from her engagements
before he came in.

"Is that you, father?" she would call down the staircase.

"Yes, just came in, but I didn't expect to find you here," he would
answer accusingly.

It could not be said that they kept the peace. Rather they kept a truce,
smiling on the part of Selah, coldly dignified on the part of the
Colonel.

One evening she came down unexpectedly, and surprised him sneaking in
with one enormous bunch of June roses which he had brought in from the
farm.

"How lovely, and how sweet of you to think of me!" she exclaimed.

"I did not think of you, and these are not for you. If I'd been
gathering flowers for you, Selah, I should have brought bachelor
buttons!" he answered as he passed out into the darkened avenue, still
carrying his posy ludicrously upside down.

It was another month before she or any one else knew what he did with
them.

She had tried to put Bob Sasnett out of her thoughts, but not very
successfully. Love is the finest logic nature ever achieves. Nothing, no
argument however reasonable and expedient, can withstand it. She thought
continually of him as an enemy she must face sooner or later. She loved
him--at least she feared that she did. But she was still so young that
she longed for sacrifice. She wished to give the whole of her life to
women. She could not do that and give the whole of her heart to Bob. She
did not reflect that this is the law of women's hearts with which no
privilege of citizenship can interfere, and that all the other women for
whom she sacrificed herself would be doing just this thing if there
should be enough men about to receive their hearts. One thing was
certain: she had "grown." She was no longer the girl she had been,
shrinking, timid, yet filled with longings to live her own life, to do
things. Three months ago she had but one outlook, that of marrying Bob
Sasnett and spending the remainder of her days as Mrs. Sasnett's
daughter-in-law--that is to say, in total eclipse. Now, she reflected,
as the car rolled silently toward the distant courthouse dome, showing
gray above the trees of Jordantown, now some day she might become a
lawyer and plead a case beneath that very dome!

"Good evening, sweet Goddess of Liberty! Deign to bend your far-seeing
eyes upon your humble slave!"

"Mr. Sasnett!" exclaimed Selah, as he advanced from the deep shade of an
elm tree beside the road, where he appeared to have been standing.

"No, not 'Mr. Sasnett!' I left him an hour since, vainly contending with
Susan Walton, in the effort to gain her consent for the bank to extend
the loan to the Acres Mercantile Company another six months, and----"

Selah laughed.

"Don't interrupt, Minerva! I say that I left this fellow Sasnett
imploring her, paying her undue compliments with this charitable end in
view, while Acres waited outside the door of the directors' room. This
poor adventurer whom you behold bound at present to your chariot wheel,
is none other than 'Bob,'" he concluded, smiling up at her with
whimsical audacity.

"But what are you doing out here at this hour? It's almost tea time,"
she exclaimed with well-simulated innocence.

"Waiting for you," he replied, accusing her innocence with a stare so
bold that she blushed.

"That was kind of you. Get in!" she said, thrusting the door of the car
open and making room for him on the seat.

"It is not my idea to return to the er--goddess-ridden metropolis of
Jordantown as the obvious captive of Minerva," he replied, backing off.
"I ventured to hope that you would descend and walk back with me," he
explained.

"I can't," she objected, "I always try to be home when father comes, and
it's already late."

"Old boy won't be in for another hour. He's having his wheat thrashed;
met one of the men taking more sacks out just now. He says it will be
nine o'clock before they finish."

Still she hesitated, looking down at him.

"Come!" he insisted, "I've something very important to tell you."

"Are you sure it's important?" she asked waveringly.

"Absolutely! Whole future of your movement, as you call it, may depend
upon it!" he assured her with suspicious gravity.

"Very well, then, I'll come," she agreed, allowing him to assist her
down into the road.

"Drive on, Charles!" Sasnett commanded, surreptitiously placing a dollar
in the negro's hand to insure a quick departure.

The car sprang forward, disregarding all speed limits, leaving the two
lovers veiled in yellow dust, which lifted presently, wind blown,
rolling out over the fields beyond like dried sunlight. The road lay
before them, a golden band between widespreading trees, fading into the
shadows of evening.

They walked in silence, Selah waiting for what he should tell her,
wondering vaguely if at last the men had divined their plans, and if
this was the news he brought. She feared it might be something
disagreeable, since he was in no hurry to begin. She looked at him
surreptitiously, and flushed to find that he was also regarding her in
the same sidewise, secret manner.

"Well, what is it?" she demanded quickly to cover her embarrassment.

"What is what?" he asked innocently.

"The important something that you have to tell me."

"That I love you," he answered shamelessly.

"Oh!" exclaimed Selah, looking unutterable reproach.

"Isn't that important? Do you think the ballot will satisfy your whole
heart and nature, make life one glad song? Will women cease to love men
when they can vote? Not on your life, dear! Look at your Co-Citizens
now. Didn't Susan Walton have a husband who honoured and obeyed her till
the day of his death? Doesn't the fact that they have husbands add to
the interest Mabel Acres and Agatha Coleman have in the suffrage
question? Do you think poor Miss Mary Heath would refuse a proposal of
marriage, even if she controlled every man's vote in the town? Believe
me, those little adolescent Citizenesses-to-be, the seminary girls, do
not primp and pile their curls bewitchingly over their ears because they
want the ballot. It's the daily petition they make of themselves for
lovers!"

"That is your egregious masculine conceit, Bob, imagining every woman is
thinking of winning lovers and husbands. We love ourselves. We do our
best to look well because we have a satisfaction in our own appearance!"
Selah exclaimed with indignant heat.

"Of course, and I must say you bear charming witness to your own sweet
perfection, dear," he laughed, "but you don't see my point."

"I will not! It is not a point anyway, it's--it's--a joke you make at
our expense!" she accused.

"No, beloved, it really is well taken, my position. But your mind is so
obsessed, all of your thoughts are so focussed upon one of the mere
incidents of life, that you are missing the real issue of happiness. Let
me explain."

"You can't do it, but you may try," she conceded.

"Love, Selah, is the one thing that must always come to pass in the
hearts of men and women. It doesn't matter under what conditions they
live, they must love or die unfulfilled in the very purpose for which
they were created. It is a season in the life of us, dear, a _season_,
you understand--the time when nature blooms in us, when the fragrance of
our very spirits ascends in tender emotions, in the perfume of language,
in looks such as the gaze with which I now behold you, and which makes
your cheek one anthology of roses!" he concluded, as the warm colour
rose like a red wreath beneath her ivory skin. "But listen, dear, the
season passes. The rose fades. The strength of man changes, passes into
the strength of achievement or into the dead leaves of failure. Then
where will we be, Selah, you and I?"

"Well be doing our share of the world's work, sanely and well, I hope,"
she answered quickly.

"Granted, though it's an awful gamble. But suppose you succeed. Suppose
you win everything and more than you are now contending for. Suppose at
forty you are nominated for Congress from this district, do you think
I'd ask you then to be my wife? Not if I had failed as much as you had
succeeded! I would not, because I could not love you as I love you now.
Don't cry! But I swear I will not marry you then!" he ended, laughing.

"And do you think I'd want to marry you then?" she asked, amazed.

"Yes, I know you will; if not me, some other man. You will have
discovered that doing the world's work even well is a thankless job, and
that fame and success are the husks that swine do eat compared with even
the tears and griefs of love. But you will not be lovable then, Selah;
you will only be horribly intelligent and capable. I can see that, the
way you are tending now. You will have gray hair, thin, too. You will
draw it back like a conviction, and wind it in a knot at the back of
your head as tight as a narrow-minded conclusion. You will have lost the
damask flush of youth. I think your cheek bones will stick up, too
prominent, you know, as if your character had knobbed up under your
eyes. There will be a staircase of political wrinkles upon your
forehead. Your eyes---- Oh, my God! I cannot bear the vision I see of
you, with your eyes showing like gray stones casting eddies of wrinkles!
And you'll be lank, the skeleton left by the passing of a great and
successful movement undertaken for the emancipation of woman!"

"And if I married you, how should I look at forty?" asked Selah with
shrewish shrewdness.

"Oh, my beloved, I don't know. I should not know even then. You would be
my wife, the mother of my children--as sacred as that--the memory of my
youth distilled, the citadel of my mature years, the alabaster box of my
hopes and faith in the life to come! I couldn't see you at all, Selah,
for you would have become everything to me, and a man can't see or
foretell that much."

She looked at him, her eyes shining behind her tears like distant
windows of light through the rain on a dark night. How could she keep
faith with the Cause of Woman while the Cause of Man stood before her so
gallantly portrayed!

"Bob," she whispered, "I--you are so dear. You cannot know how dear you
are to me. I've just found out myself, but----"

"But what?" he cried impatiently.

"You must wait. I can't, I just can't give you my whole heart now. It
seems to have gone from me, some fierce energy of life. I've got to do
this thing that we've set out to do before I can promise, before I'll
know myself."

"Well, for God's sake, hurry then and do it," he answered, not pleased.

"You'll help, won't you?" she asked softly.

"There are times when I fear I'd help you commit murder if the victim
stood between us, Selah, but really I don't know how I can help you win
this fight for suffrage in Jordan County. The whole thing seems so far
fetched. I can't see what you are driving at. You have effectually tied
up things for the men, but what good will that do? I don't want to
discourage you, but I can only think harm will come of it without your
having accomplished your purpose."

She was singularly serene under this discouragement. She even changed
the subject.

"When do you begin your campaign as candidate for representative?" she
asked as they entered the avenue.

"Two bodies cannot revolve in the same orbit. I'm waiting until you quit
revolving in the county. I hear you make the Co-Citizens write their
names in their own blood when they sign the vow not to reveal the
secrets of the League. Is that so?" he laughed.

"Not quite so bad as that. But they do keep the vow, don't they? Not one
of you will know our plans until we reveal them ourselves at the mass
meeting. But you are going to run for the legislature?" she insisted,
returning to that.

"I'm not sure; I'm waiting to see what Prim's going to do. I----"

"We will take care of Prim," she put in.

"Oh, you will? And which one of you has been chosen to murder him, you
or Susan? Nothing short of death, I think, will rid this town of him."

"We shall not resort to capital punishment unless it is absolutely
necessary," she laughed, "but I think I can assure you of one thing:
Prim will not be a candidate."

"Thanks!" he said, but without conviction. "Does Prim know he is not to
run?" almost sarcastically.

"Not yet," she laughed.

"Good night, Minerva!" he murmured, kissing her hand.

"Good night, Bob, and remember you can go ahead. Prim will not be in
your way."

"I'll wait, thank you; I'm young; I can afford to take my time gathering
county laurels for my brow. And no decent man could oppose Prim without
getting smeared with political slime. Sticks, too!"



CHAPTER III


One very hot morning early in July Mike Prim came up the staircase of
the National Bank Building. He stood for a moment in the hall, breathing
heavily from the exertion of bearing his great weight up the steps. He
took off his straw hat and mopped his red face. Then he glared at the
door of Judge Regis's office.

"That's the long-legged old devil's horse who's put the women up to all
this damnation!" he growled as he entered his own office and closed the
door.

He took off his coat, then his collar and tie, flung them with his hat
on a chair, and sat down to his desk. Then he unbuttoned his cuffs and
rolled up his sleeves. He placed his elbows on the desk and his enormous
folded chin in his two hands. So he sat, a monstrous figure, with his
great paunch filling his white shirt like a concealed balloon, with his
hideously hairy arms naked halfway, and his thick hands purple beneath
the weight of his amorphously fat face, his little reptilian eyes
staring at the opposite wall.

He was at his wits' end. He was not making good at his business, and he
knew it. What was worse, everybody else knew it. He had had few callers
of late. Campaign collections had dwindled to almost nothing. They were
getting bold in their refusals to contribute at all. "Why didn't he do
something?" "What were they paying him for if it was not to do
something?" "Was he going to let a set of fanatical women down him and
take things in their own hands?" These were some of the questions they
asked him which he could not answer satisfactorily. In vain he advised
patience, and even more vainly he vowed he could and would stop the
women's damphulishness at the proper time. They did not believe him;
they pointed out that business had already stopped. From being the one
who threatened, he had become the one who cajoled, while every man who
came in offered him veiled threats instead of dollars.

He was furious, and he was obliged to conceal his fury. He hated these
rebellious men even more than he hated the upstart women. He was
determined, if the opportunity offered, to be revenged upon them for
their insolence. But how? This was the matter he revolved in his
snake-licking mind as he stared at the wall, and he was in a hurry to
reach a solution of his difficulty. Stark Coleman had called him before
he was out of bed that morning to say that there had been a citizens'
meeting the night before, and that he, Coleman, would be up to see him
at ten o'clock. In the first place, why had he not been notified of the
citizens' meeting. He usually presided on these occasions when the
tutelary deities of Jordantown gathered in Coleman's office, or more
frequently in his own office, to discuss the ways and means by which the
principles of the Democratic party could be made to contribute most
liberally to the liberty of man, especially in Jordantown. In the second
place, the tone of Coleman's voice was cool, offensively so. He detected
a note of command in it. Suppose Coleman should be coming up to inform
him of certain changes in the policy which would govern the
manifestations of the democratic principle? In short, suppose he was
about to be dismissed from his office? True, it was an office without a
name, but it had been a lucrative position.

There was a knock upon the door. He flung himself back, looked hastily
at his watch and saw that it was barely nine o'clock. Coleman must be
anxious, he thought, to keep an appointment in such a hurry, which was a
good sign.

"Come in!" he shouted, whirling around on his swivel chair to face the
door.

It opened with a quick inward thrust and Susan Walton walked in. She
carried her everlasting little black reticule in one hand, and in the
other she held--of all things in this world--an empty brown-linen
laundry bag, swinging by the strings!

"Good morning, Mr. Prim!" she said, looking at him pleasantly over the
top of her spectacles, as if it was the most natural thing for her to
drop in informally.

He was too amazed to return her salutation. He stared at her, then he
bowed his thick neck and stared at the flabby bag. He did not even offer
her a seat, but she was in no way disconcerted by that. She chose a
chair, drew it up in front of him, sat down, and crumpled the bag up in
her lap.

"I came to see you on a matter of business, Mr. Prim," she said, coming
briskly to the point. "I suppose you've been expecting me?"

"No," he managed to say.

"I'd given you credit then for more sense than you seem to have, for I'm
the only hope you have now."

She said that in tones of conviction.

"You are the last person in the world I'd look upon as a--hope!" he
returned slowly, widening his lips into a grin which was also a sneer.

"You are at the end of your rope. You've been so for a month. You can't
squeeze another dollar out of this town for your campaign fund. The men
have lost confidence in you."

"How'd you come by so much useful information?" he interrupted.

"I have it. That's the point. You'll never dare announce yourself a
candidate for representative. You gave that up three months ago."

"What makes you think so?" he asked, fixing his eyes upon her face with
deep reptilian concentration.

"I don't think, I know it. You went on with your collections for
private, personal reasons. But you did not deposit a single dollar of it
in this bank, and you knew from the day Sarah Mosely's will was read up
here in Judge Regis's office that you did not have a ghost of a chance
to be elected, and you made up your mind that day not to run."

"Your powers of penetration are well known, Madam, but again I must ask
you how you have penetrated so far into my secret thoughts, granting of
course for the sake of argument that you have done so?" he said, now in
complete possession of his faculties, and coolly on guard.

"I saw you listening at Judge Regis's office door the day the will was
read, and the day we first discussed our plans for winning equal
suffrage for women in this country. You are the only man in it who has
known positively from the first that we can do it!" she answered, and
showed her nerve by keeping her gaze fixed imperturbably upon him.

He bent forward, his face slowly purpling with rage, his fists clenched,
his upper lip skinned back from his teeth as he hissed: "You are a--you
did not see me!"

"I didn't see you, that's a fact, but I saw your shadow in the
ground-glass door, cast by the light from the window at the end of the
hall. Nobody could mistake it for any other shape who'd ever seen you,
Mike Prim!"

They sat for the briefest moment measuring each other, he with
incredible ferocity, and Susan with her lips primped, grimly fearless.

"Now that we understand each other, let's get down to business!" she
began.

"To business?" he snarled.

"Yes, this is the situation: you can't run for the legislature; you
don't want to! You have squeezed every dollar you can get out of the
Democrats here." She sniffed at the word. "They have lost confidence in
you as manager of their political ends. They've begun to suspect your
game. It's only a question of hours, I might say of one hour, before you
get your walking papers, so to speak; for they are mad, Mike Prim. They
are as angry as men always are when they realize that they've been duped
and robbed----"

"If you were not a woman you couldn't sit there and say such things to
me. Anyhow, I won't stand it! What's your business, as you call it?" he
exclaimed, heaving his huge bulk from the chair and coming to his feet.

"Sit down! Sit down, Mr. Prim. I am here to make you a definite
proposition!"

"Make it!" he growled, still standing, his feet wide apart, glowering
down at her.

"The Co-Citizens' Foundation is prepared to purchase your papers----"

"My papers?"

"Yes, your letters, your political correspondence."

"Think they are valuable?"

"We can get on without them, but we are willing to pay a reasonable
price for them. We know that they are valuable to a certain extent."

"How?"

"You remember your conversation with Stark Coleman the day you
threatened him with certain letters you had of his and of other
prominent citizens here. Miss Adams heard what you said on that
occasion."

"So she's added eavesdropping to her other accomplishments?" he
exclaimed venomously.

"Not eavesdropping, but Coleman left the door slightly ajar; she had
come back up here to get some papers from Judge Regis, and, hearing such
interesting conversation going on, naturally she listened. What will you
take for these letters?" she demanded.

"I'd have to think about it," he said, sitting down.

"I'll buy them now or not at all'" she said.

"Aim to publish them?" he asked, grinning. He was beginning to be in a
very good humour.

"That's our affair, but I don't mind telling you that we do not intend
to publish them."

"And if I refuse?" he held out.

"In that case you must abide by the consequences, you and the men who
wrote the letters. We shall publish all we know about them, what you
yourself claimed for them, and leave the next grand jury to make the
proper investigations."

"Humph!"

"Naturally we should try to see to it that you did not escape," she
added.

"What will you pay for them?" he demanded.

"Five hundred dollars for every scrap of paper in this desk, and
immunity for you--for turning state's evidence you know!"

"They are worth more than that," he said, taking no notice of the
insult.

They bargained back and forth. Prim was really in a hurry to close the
trade. He wished to be able to handle Coleman when he came in. It was
five minutes to ten o'clock when they finally closed the deal.

"But I can't take a check," he objected suddenly.

"I thought as much. I've brought the money. A thousand dollars is too
much. This bag isn't half full!" she exclaimed, shaking it down, drawing
up the strings, and looking at it. Then she counted out the bills on the
desk, every drawer of which was now empty.

Some one came up the stairs and walked briskly forward in the hall
outside.

Prim had barely time to snatch the fluttering green and yellow bills
before Stark Coleman entered the room, without the ceremony of knocking.

It would be difficult to say which showed the greater surprise at seeing
the other, he or Susan Walton, tightly clutching her bulging laundry
bag.

"Good morning, Mr. Coleman," she said, waddling rapidly toward the door.

"Good morning, Madam!" he returned.

"Fine large day!" She said this from the door as she went out.

Coleman turned angrily to Prim, who was standing reared back, feet wide
apart, hands in his pockets, grinning broadly.

"What's she doing in here?" he demanded.

"Wanted me to help the cause!" he answered shamelessly.

"What'd she have in that bag?"

"Dirty linen--wash day. Taking it to the Co-Citizens' Laundry!"

"Didn't know they had one."

"Yes, they have. She's soliciting patronage!"

"Well, I'll be damned! You don't mean to tell me that woman was up here
to get----"

"My soiled office linen," Prim obligingly finished. "She was, and I let
her have every scrap of it," he answered symbolically.

He turned, seized his collar and tie, and reached for the button at the
back of his neck.

"Look here, Mike, things aren't going right in this town," Coleman
began, having lighted a fresh cigar without offering one to Prim, who
went on adjusting his collar. "We had a meeting last night and the
general opinion was that you are not holding the situation down as we
expected you would."

When there was no reply from Prim, who was holding his head back and
struggling to make ends meet over his front collar button, he went on:

"We don't blame you, but the fact is we want to make a change."

"Good idea!" said Prim.

"Glad you feel that way. Knew you would, but the boys thought you might
be willing to dispose of the records and papers that have accumulated
here." Coleman looked up and caught Prim's eye fixed upon him. "They're
of no value to you. And we are prepared to offer you, well, more than
they are worth. We----"

"Want my memoirs, do you?" laughed Prim, seizing his coat.

"That's it, for the archives, you know. How much will you take for
them?"

"I wouldn't sell them to you, Stark Coleman, for all the cash you could
rake and scrape out of your measly little old Co-Citizens' Bank!" he
answered, thrusting his arms into the sleeves of his coat, hunching it
up on his shoulders, and making for the door.

Coleman could not believe his ears, and now he could not believe his
eyes. The man was actually leaving the room. He took the cigar from his
mouth, and lifted his hand in a commanding gesture.

"Hold on, Prim!"

"Hold on yourself if you can! I'm off! A henpecked town is no place for
a _man_!" he sneered, banging the door.

Coleman stood a moment stupefied. He heard Prim thundering downstairs.
Then suddenly he returned to his senses. He rushed to the desk, and
pulled out one drawer after another. Not a scrap of paper remained in a
single one of them.

"My God!" he groaned, burying his face in his hands. He had no doubt at
all as to the quality of the linen in Susan Walton's laundry bag.

Meanwhile Prim was standing on the platform of the vestibule train tying
his cravat. He had not taken the trouble to buy a ticket. He had
actually swung on board the train as it moved slowly out of the depot
along the track which ran directly behind the National Bank Building.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Fourth of July fell on Saturday, the day wisely chosen by the
Women's Leagues for their mass meeting. Bills were posted advertising
this "historical event" far and wide in every post office, and country
store, in mills, gin houses, and at every crossroad in the county.

  _Co-Citizens' Mass Meeting_
  _Great Historical Event!_
  _At Jordantown Hall, July 4th, 3:00 p. m._
  _Speeches by Prominent Leaders of the Movement!_
  _Announcement of Election Plans!_
  _Everybody invited!_

If anything could have added to the crowds which gathered in Jordantown
every year on this day, these impudent circulars were calculated to do
it.

"Election plans! by gad!" exclaimed Squire Deal when he found one of the
obnoxious bills posted on the door of the little courtroom in Possum
Trot. "Who said there was going to be an election, I'd like to know.
Darndest piece of impudence I ever saw in my life!"

"Maybe they'll tell us what their rickrack political platform is, too!"
said another farmer.

Nevertheless, they all went to Jordantown on the appointed day. It was
their custom to go, and they were determined that this woman foolishness
should not interfere with their long-established habit of celebrating
the Fourth.

The sun rose blistering hot. Clouds of dust rolled above every highway
to the town, and out of it moved a long procession of vehicles, buggies,
wagons, even ox carts, all filled with men, women, and children.

Jordantown was doing its best to look glorious. It had thrown off for a
moment the lethargy of business depression. Flags waved, the Town Hall
was literally swathed in yellow bunting, with a great white canvas
stretched across the top of the doors, upon which was printed in black
letters a foot long:

  _Co-Citizens' Mass Meeting!_
  _3:00 p. m._
  _Don't Miss It!_

The square teamed with life and glory. Mules brayed, horses neighed,
dogs yelped, man hailed his fellowman. Matrons in calico frocks and
sunbonnets walked side by side with their daughters in white muslin and
pink sashes, with gala hats on their young heads. The avenue was a sight
and a scandal. Strings ran across from house to house high above the
heads of the throng, upon which little yellow flags with "Votes for
Women" hung thick as waving goldenrod upon October hills, alternating
with the red, white, and blue larkspur of the national colours. The
Women's Coöperative Store was a seething beehive of activity. There was
a cake and lemonade stand stretching across the entire front, where, for
the first time in the history of glorious Fourths, you got your lemonade
and gluttonous wedges of cake free of charge. This may or may not have
accounted for the fact that, as the day advanced, the avenue outdid the
square in popularity. The latter was barely able to hold its own by
means of a very tall greased pole with a ten-dollar bill sticking on top
of it, which was to be had by any boy climbing the pole. The crowd
yelled itself hoarse as urchin after urchin slid back to defeat. Finally
a little fellow, who had surreptitiously smeared the inside of his
breeches with pitch, reached the top and seized the prize. The crowd
went wild, threw its hats high in the air over this performance, then,
with the fickleness of its nature, it turned again toward the avenue and
the free lemonade dispensed by the fairest maidens in Jordantown. But
before the stream could turn the corner, a long-legged black pig greased
with the lard of its forbears was turned loose--to become the property
of any man who could catch and hold him. A wild scramble ensued. The pig
darted this way and that, slipped nimbly through detaining hands, until,
by much handling, his grease was rubbed off, and he was held, a
squealing trophy, by a young farmer. One after another the attractions
of the square failed, and the crowd surged into the avenue, where it was
fed to repletion--all free of charge. The stomach of man is singularly
elemental in its cravings, and not subject to political or any other
influence which fails to meet this demand.

Long before three o'clock in the afternoon the Town Hall was filled and
jammed to its doors with men and women. The farmers were in such high
good humour that, laying all masculine prejudice aside, they were
determined to witness the last feature of the day's entertainment, or
rather they would indulge in the humour of gratifying their masculine
prejudices at the mass meeting. They stamped their feet, they hooted,
they looked at the still empty stage and demanded to know where were the
leaders of the "Crinoline Campaign." They whispered and nudged each
other and shouted ribald laughter.

At ten minutes to three o'clock a line of women filed on the rostrum and
took their chairs at the back of it. They were the representatives of
the Co-Citizens' County Leagues. There were twenty-five of them, and
they ranged in age and dignity all the way from Granny White, who was
seventy, to the youngest bride from Apple Valley. Granny White looked
like a crooked letter of the female alphabet in a peroda waist frock
with a very full skirt, and a black silk sunbonnet upon her old palsied
head, which wagged incessantly. The bride wore her wedding dress, which
was now a trifle too tight for her. She looked like a pale young Madonna
scarcely able to bear the weighty honour which had been thrust upon her.
Some of the other women were enormously fat, some were pathetically
lean, but they all faced the jeering crowd below with amazing
assurance. They represented the harvest of all the virtues and sorrows
and sacrifices of women for centuries, and all unconsciously they showed
it with a calm accusing majesty.

The audience, which was largely composed of men, stared at them and grew
suddenly silent. They recognized their wives and mothers in those serene
faces, and manhood forbids that you should hoot at your own
blood-and-bone kin womenfolk. So they changed the subject. They began to
talk, a perfect hurricane of inconsequential comments on every
imaginable subject except the subject of women and their rights.

Promptly at three o'clock Judge Regis came through a side door upon the
rostrum, accompanied by Susan Walton and Selah Adams. The women took
their places in two empty chairs among those at the back; the Judge
approached the table in the middle of the rostrum, stood for a moment, a
tall and elegant figure, looking out over the sea of faces below him.
Then, lifting the gavel, he rapped for order.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he began in slow, distinct tones, "I have the
honour and privilege of opening the most remarkable meeting ever held in
this county or state. We are about to make history, which is becoming
to this memorial day of American Independence. I shall not address you
upon the momentous issue at hand. Others far more capable will speak to
you presently on that. I shall only state the purpose of the meeting.

"We are assembled here to learn for the first time how the brave women
who have done such valiant work for the cause of suffrage in this county
have succeeded in their efforts beyond their most sanguine hopes----"

"Hear! Hear! Ha! ha! Oh, haw-haw, haw!" The wall shook with the
cannonade of masculine mirth.

The Judge waited patiently. Then he rapped loudly for order, and in the
lull he went on, not hurrying:

"--and to reveal to you the plans by which this county will have the
great distinction of being the first one in this or any other Southern
state to give the ballot to our women, who have proved by nearly three
hundred years of devotion and virtue and sacrifice for us and our
children their worthiness for this trust.

"The speakers of the afternoon are Miss Selah Adams and Mrs. Susan
Walton. I have the honour to introduce Miss Adams, who will address you
upon some general aspects of the question under discussion."

"Adams! Adams! Adams!" yelled the audience.

But before the Judge could retire or Selah could rise from her chair,
one of those incidents occurred which sometimes inform a public occasion
with humour and pathos. At this moment Colonel Marshall Adams entered
the hall. He had not heard Judge Regis's "opening remarks," but he had
spent an unusually glorious Fourth. He was magnificently befuddled, and
for the first time in three months he was the regnant intoxicated ideal
of what a gentleman and a soldier should be. He was a man among men,
equal to any emergency, capable of leading a forlorn hope, or entering
the lists for a lady's hand. He had forgotten, if he had ever known, the
object of this meeting; but when he heard his name loudly called, he
understood at once; he recalled the fact that he had something eloquent
and momentous to say.

He squared his shoulders, lifted his old standard-bearing presence, and
made for the rostrum. Before any one could stop him--if any one in the
roaring throng would have done so--he stood beside the table, one hand
resting heavily upon it, the other thrust into the tightly buttoned
breast of his yellow seersucker coat.

He was received with deafening applause. He waited, as he must have
waited long ago at the charge of his regiment when it climbed the
breastworks of the enemy in the roar of a thousand guns, his head erect,
his nostrils dilated, his eyes glistening--only slightly wavering upon
his Fourth of July legs.

"Ladies and gentlemen: It was with surprise not unmixed with pardonable
pride that I heard you calling my name upon this momentous occasion. But
never has Marshall Adams failed to listen to the call of his country in
dishtresh!" he cried, making a determined effort to control his
inebriated aitches and waving his sword arm defiantly.

"And we are in dire distress, my countrymen! Never since the
bloodstained days of eighteen shixty-five have we been in such need of
courage. We face a terrible situation. I addresh you in behalf of these
fair woman whom we shee before us, and who are about to suffer the
irreparable loss of their sphere. No greater calamity could befall this
great nation. For four long years, through the snows of winter and the
heat of summer, we fought for them, my countrymen, to preserve their
homes, their traditions, their honour and pride as the fairest flowers
in this fair land!" Deafening applause, during which the Colonel waited,
sanctified by his emotions; then waving his hand for silence, he went
on:

"And we did preserve them! The Yankees relieved us of the burden of a
few unprofitable slaves. They slew the best and the bravest of our men.
They took our wealth and reduced us to unimaginable poverty and
hardship. But, thank God, we saved our women! We returned to them
ragged, wounded, footsore, and despairing, and we found them faithful as
the stars in their courses. More inspiring than 'pillows' of fire by
night and of cloud by day, they led us back to hope and love and
prosperity. They were the trophies of the brave which no enemy could
wrest from us----"

"Oh Lord! listen to him! That thar's a man talkin' up thar!" shouted an
old veteran.

"--and we went on shaving 'em, gentlemen! There has never been another
country in the world reduced to ashes by war where the women were not
forced to work shoulder to shoulder with the men afterward to reclaim
her. But we treasured our women. We did the work, we kept them comely
and fine. We educated them when we could not educate ourselves. We
poured our wealth at their feet--and that's why they have the smallest
feet in America, gentlemen, the fairest skin, the softest palms."

There was a slight sniffing to be heard here among the farmers' wives,
but he went on to his conclusion:

"And now, my comrades, we must save them again; they are about to be
dragged from the shanctity of the home, from the altar of the fireside,
into the grime and dirt of publicity. There is a movement on foot to
thrust the ballot, gentlemen, into their unsteady hands! My God! My God!
where is your gallantry and courage? Where is your manhood that you
think of giving these gentle creatures your work to do, and lose what a
hundred to one Yankees could not take from you?"

He looked about him with terrific scorn.

"I did not think that I should ever again appear in their dear defence.
I'm an old man, my glory has departed. You shee before you--you
shee--before--you----"

He lifted his hand to his forehead as if suddenly he was dazed, sunken
into the dream of years. His knees bent, he would have fallen. Selah
sprang swiftly forward, placed his arm over her shoulder, and supported
him. He sank slowly into the chair she had just vacated. She made sure
swiftly from long experience that he had only reached the coma of a
familiar state. Then she went back to the front of the stage and began
to speak.

The Colonel looked up vaguely, saw her standing there as one remembers a
vision in a dream.

"That's it, Selah, my love! Give 'em 'Curfew Shall Not Ring To-night,'"
he murmured, as his head sank upon his breast.

"You have listened to the brave speech of a brave gentleman, my
friends," she began, "and I would not if I could subtract one lovely
word from that lovely tribute to the men and women and order to which he
belongs. What he has said is the truth, raised to the eloquence of a
martial soul. Until the present time we women, as he told you, have
figured chiefly in religion, poetry, and romance. We have been that
part of the imaginations of men which creates creeds, poetry, windmills,
and fiction. We have no reputation for any other form of existence. We
have been purely imaginary beings living in physical bodies for just
men. Our character is a legend invented by men; it could never fit a
real human being. Yet we have accepted it, and tried to believe in it.
You have indeed kept us, but we have not lived at all except for you. We
are not the authors of a single standard governing our lives. Do you
understand what that means, you men who live only according to your own
will and purpose?"

They listened to her in silence. They studied her in amazement. But we
do not applaud an accusing angel, and they did not applaud Selah, who
stood so elegantly fair and tall, a slim figure with earnest dark eyes
bent in passionate appeal upon their faces.

"It was men," she went on, "who divided women into three great
classes--virgins, wives, and prostitutes, a purely physical
classification. You commanded chastity. We have never had the right to
choose it. Women have never been real parents. They are only the mothers
of the children of men. The small, almost negligible influence they
have over their sons proves that. After the years of childhood are
passed sons sustain only a sentimental relation to their mothers. They
are inspired by them merely as religion or poetry inspires. Your
institutions, social, moral, economic, and political, do not represent
us nor our needs. But they represent you men.

"Every civilization is a bachelor civilization, with good or bad
provision in it for the protection of women. But we do live, and like
other sentient beings we desire to express ourselves in life, not merely
in poetry. Listen, men," she said, bending sweetly forward like a lily
in the golden gloom. "After they had knowledge, the first pair, man and
woman, went out of the garden _together_! But you, with your beautiful
but mistaken chivalry, have gone out and left us in the garden, the
helpless, kept women of your love and desires. We wish to come out, to
be with you. We must come! Once we have tasted knowledge, once we know
what better things we are for, we must follow you to the ends of the
earth. This everlasting garden where you keep us is no place for a
thoughtful person. It is too limited by innocence and idleness. We are
no longer innocent, we know the same things you know; we have the same
education, the same thoughts, the same aspirations. Disobedience is not
always a sin. When the first man and woman tasted of the fruit of
knowledge, they simply assumed a terrific responsibility. But they
assumed it _together_! You are withholding from us this right to live by
your side. We are doing too much, or nothing at all. And you are not
sharing justly with us. We are losing our old places in your hearts.
After all, this is not the golden age of poetry and knights. The very
pedestal upon which we once stood in your regard has been overturned by
realities. We have ceased to be your ideals dearly cherished. It is not
our fault nor yours. No one is to blame. This movement of women is as
natural as any other growth. We are migrating out of the legendary into
the real; we are passing from sentiment and romance into history. And we
have arrived! Nothing can stop us. You only shame yourselves, your
manhood, and your honour if you oppose us. We must succeed because we
are right!"

She turned suddenly, and went back into the wings.

"What'd she say?" asked a man in a hoarse whisper. "Gol dern if I know!
Foreign language to me!"

"The volypuke of the Woman's Movement! Didn't understand one word she
said!"

"Well, you'll understand what's coming now or I'll eat my boots!" the
other whispered.

He nodded toward the stage, where Susan Walton stood, flat-footed, fat,
belligerent, her mouth primped, holding her head very much as if she
wore horns instead of the black bonnet tied under her chin. And she was
looking over the top of her spectacles at every man, seemingly straight
in the eye.

"Don't look at us that way, Susan! Makes us feel like we'd been in
washing without your permission!" called some one, imitating a little
boy's whine. There was a gale of good-natured laughter.

"Men and women," she began in her high virago voice, "we have listened
to two very fine speeches this afternoon, one upholding the
sentimentality of the past, the other mystically prophesying the
sentimentality of the future. I'm an apostate from the past, and a
disciple of the future. I've got one foot in the grave and the other
foot on the ballot for women. I shall not deal in sentiment or
prophecies, but in cold facts!"

"Told you we'd understand her, boys!" shouted a voice.

"Go it, Susan! we all know you, and we don't have to give you no
quarter!" yelled a bearded farmer standing in the back of the hall.

"Yes," screamed the old lady, shaking her fist at him, "and I know you,
Tim Cates. You've been living on your wife's land ever since you married
her. And you've made her mortgage it to pay your debts!"

"Git a chip somebody and take po' Tim out on it. She's done ruin't him!"

"Come ag'in, Susan! you drawed blood that time!" shouted the voice.

"I'm coming, and I've got the facts with me!" she cried, flirting her
head in the direction from which the voice came. "I know every man in
this hall: how he lives, how he votes, what he owes, what he can't or
don't pay. I know how hard you farmers work your wives, harder than you
do your beasts, in spite of all that fine talk we listened to from
Marshall Adams, and I know how little you give them, how little they are
allowed to spend. There's one of you standing in plain sight of me
right now who took the fancy bedquilts your wife and daughters pieced
last winter and sold them to get money to pay his taxes, though he is
worth five thousand dollars! You needn't dodge!" she laughed shrilly.
"I'll not call your name if you keep quiet and behave. But if you men
don't stop your fuss and listen to what I have to say, I'll tell
everything I know about you."

The titters of the women became distinctly audible for the first time in
the indignant silence which followed this threat, for they knew that she
was as good and could be even worse than her word.

"Three months ago Sarah Mosely died and willed all of her property to
the Co-Citizens' Foundation Fund, with the distinct command that the
interest on this fund shall be spent to get suffrage for women in Jordan
County," she began again. "The property of this Fund consists in
mortgages on nineteen thousand acres of land in this county, in the
ownership of most of the business houses around the square in
Jordantown, in various loans, in 60 per cent. of the stock of the
National Bank, and in other properties, including the _Signal_. That is
to say, gentlemen, if we do not own this county, we control enough of
the property in it to have a right to say how it shall be taxed and
governed. And while there is a law against bribing voters or
intimidating voters, there is no law against foreclosing these loans and
mortgages, nearly all of which are overdue. And I give you my word as
one of the trustees of this Fund, that every one of them shall be
foreclosed as fast as we can do it if our rights as citizens are not
acknowledged with all the privileges that go with citizenship!

"And that is not all! Day before yesterday we purchased from Mr. Mike
Prim the written records of the political workings of the Democratic
party in this county during the past three years--all the letters
written by you men who control the county districts with the money you
received or were to receive for your services, and other letters even
more interesting--but not a single statement of what you actually did
with these contributions. I have not had time to go over Mr. Prim's
memoirs carefully, but as near as I can make out it has been a
blood-sucking business. Some of you have paid as high as three hundred
dollars a year to the campaign fund, and some of you have received as
much as a thousand dollars for delivering this town, say, in an
election, while your wives pinched and scraped to pay the preachers and
support missions in foreign fields! The appropriations for county
schools have been bitten into with outrageous expense accounts which
took thousands of dollars from the already meagre appropriations.

"I say these papers and letters are now the property of the Co-Citizens'
Foundation; and if necessary we shall use them, spend your reputations
as ruthlessly and extravagantly for our ends as you have spent the taxes
of this county for your political purposes.

"The time has passed, men, when we are to be deceived by that foolish
fallacy by which you have so long even deceived yourselves: that women
win by their gentle influence over you. They don't! If they influence
you at all it is for your good, not theirs. We are in the position to
use the same lever that you have always had--power--and we shall use it.
If you defeat us, you must destroy yourselves, your credit, and your
reputation.

"You have been boasting at the impossibility of our even getting this
issue as far as the polls. You have been challenging us to tell you how
that can be done. That's what we are here for this afternoon: to tell
you, and to leave you perfectly free to act as your judgment directs."

The audience moved, drew its breath, crossed and uncrossed its knees,
spat its tobacco quids upon the floor, and craned its neck to see her
better, to hear more distinctly what she had to say. Every man in Jordan
County had been waiting for this news for three months.

"How did you get stock low in this county fifteen years ago?" she asked,
and waited.

"Please, Marm, we voted on it!" whimpered the same waggish voice.

"But before you voted, you got up a petition signed by three fourths of
the voting register of the county, didn't you? And then you submitted
the petition to the Ordinary of the county, who by the laws of this
state advertised the election to be held not sooner than thirty days.
And you got prohibition the same way! Twenty, fifteen years ago this was
the only way to close saloons and grogshops that were open at every
crossroad and on the streets of every town and village. We have a
state-wide temperance law now as the result of local option laws that
were enforced first until public sentiment against liquor was
sufficiently strong to control state legislation."

She paused, opened one palm, and brought her other fist down upon it
with a smack that could be heard to the back of the hall, as she
exclaimed:

"That, gentlemen, is the way we shall win suffrage for women in this
state. We shall get it first by _local option_ in this county! Other
counties will follow your illustrious example and get it the same way,
until the boundaries of these counties shall touch, and the experiment
is no longer an experiment but an assured success!"

The women cheered. They made as much noise as they could, they waved
their handkerchiefs, and emitted little feminine chirrups. But the men
sat silent, staring in amazement at the little fat old lady who was
smiling at them like a gratified mother.

"Now I have told you, and all you have to do at present is to sign that
petition," she went on very pleasantly. "We have already secured to-day
and yesterday the names of many of the leading citizens of Jordantown.
And you will find just outside the doors of this hall two gentlemen whom
you all know very well, Mr. Stark Coleman and Mr. Martin Acres. Each of
them has a copy of the petition to be signed, and enough extra sheets of
paper for every man here to sign his name.

"Now," she concluded, "we will close this meeting by singing the
national hymn, not only because this day commemorates the signing of the
Declaration of Independence, but because, for all years to come, we
shall look back upon this day as the one upon which the men of this
county signed the petition which calls for liberty, rights, and justice
for women!"

The twenty-five women at the back of the stage came forward and gathered
about her.

  "My Country 'tis of thee,
  Sweet land of liberty----"

they sang, their voices rising high and keen, unaccompanied by a single
bass note. The women in the audience joined in. Colonel Adams, who had
slept peacefully since his own masterly effort to protect the ladies,
started now, sat up, saw the ecstatic faces of these women, arose,
stumbled off the stage. He was satisfied. The dear creatures were
singing! Nothing more becoming to women than song! Meanwhile, the men
filed out bustling, and whispering, with Acres and Coleman heading the
petition. That put a different face on the situation. One was the
president of the bank and the other was the leading merchant of the
county. If _they_ favoured the thing, far be it from the others to
oppose it--at least not the petition.

"Signing this here thing ain't votin' for women. We don't have to go to
the polls on election day!"

This whisper went the rounds as they stood in line, looking curious,
grinning suspiciously at Coleman and Acres, who had in fact stationed
themselves on either side of the door, at little writing stands upon
which the petition lay spread, with an ever-increasing list of names
beneath as one man after another "put his fist to it," chaffing one
another with grievous comments as they did so. And most of them secretly
determined that this was the last they would have to do with the
iniquitous thing.

But they were sadly mistaken. From opposing suffrage, many of the
leading men were now pushing the petition. Coleman, Acres, and Bob
Sasnett toured the county in their automobiles to secure signatures.
They literally took the movement out of the hands of the Co-Citizens in
their efforts to hasten the election. There was a tremendous spreading
of the news of events going forward in Jordan County. The press of the
state published extracts from the _Signal_, with numerous comments,
later with serious prophecies of the future effects of this experiment
so gallantly undertaken by the men of Jordan County. Reporters were sent
down for interviews, which they got from Coleman and Acres, who calmly
assumed the glory and responsibility of bringing about the coming
election. For the first time in their lives they figured in the
headlines of city newspapers, with their pictures on the front page.
Susan Walton laughed at their vanity till her fat stomach shook like
jelly.

Bob Sasnett figured as the first candidate in Jordan County who would
run for office on the crinoline ticket. "Mr. Sasnett is extremely
optimistic. He feels sure that he will be elected by an overwhelming
majority of the crinoline vote. He is a very handsome young man," was
the comment beneath his picture in a great morning daily.

The necessary number of signatures to the petition having been secured
at last, the election was duly advertised for the 16th of September.

The women were hopeful, but they were by no means sure of success. The
Foundation did not hold mortgages on all the farms by any means, neither
were all the farmers implicated in the Prim papers. The large majority
of them was still composed of free men of blameless characters, and with
reputations for stubbornness that were alarming. Still, public sentiment
was undoubtedly overwhelming in favour of suffrage now, and the county
women held frequent secret League meetings at which they discussed
plans, the great question being to get their husbands to the polls at
all.

       *       *       *       *       *

The 16th of September dawned upon Jordan County like an irritable old
woman with a shawl over her shoulders and a broom in her hands. The sun
rose clear, but there was a hint of frost in the air and the east wind
was blowing. Ironweeds and goldenrods upon the hills bent low before it.
The cotton fields looked dishevelled with white locks flying. The
cornstalks, stripped long since of fodder, stood with down-hanging ears
like rows of soldiers at attention with knapsacks upon their lean backs.
It was as if, overnight, Nature had suddenly got in a hurry to shift her
scenes and change the season.

Whether it was the brushing, brisk, windy character of the day, or the
mood of the women owing to other circumstances, no one will ever know,
but it is already a matter of history that upon this day every woman
belonging to the Women's Co-Citizens' League had a fit of housecleaning.
They cooked breakfasts for their respective families in a frenzy,
scolding shrilly. They boxed the ears of their little boys, drove their
little girls to the churning without mercy, clattered the breakfast
dishes furiously, and in various ways indicated to their lords and
masters that the day belonged to them, to them exclusively, and that no
man could hope to remain in peace within range of their mops and brooms
till every vestige of summer dust and dirt was removed, every feather
bed sunned till it swelled tick tight, every quilt aired, every rug
beaten, every floor scoured, and they themselves relaxed, exhausted,
purified, and satisfied at the end of the day.

I say only their Maker could have told what inspired the women of
Jordan County to undertake these arduous labours upon this particular
day. Women have instincts to which the east wind appeals strongly. It
excites their neuralgic energies. On the other hand, it was a curious
circumstance, discovered afterward by an exchange of confidence between
the desperate male victims, that this cleaning rage was carried on
almost exclusively by the members of the Women's Co-Citizens' League in
each of the voting districts of the county.

When a mere society woman desires for any reason to avenge herself upon
the man nearest to her in the relations of life, or to bring him to
terms, she may engage in a discreet flirtation with some other man. She
knows how to exile him from his home with a reception or a bridge party.
But when a good faithful wife makes up her virtuous mind to humble her
man and declare her own supremacy, she pins an ugly rag tight over her
head to keep the dust out of her hair, doubles her chin, draws her mouth
into a facial command, tucks up her skirts, moves the furniture out of
the living-room, dashes twelve gallons of hot suds over the floor, leaps
into it with an old stiff broom, and begins to sweep. At such a moment
the most timid, man-fearing woman becomes august. Her nature undergoes a
swift change. She is no longer herself, she belongs once more to the
matriarchal age when she carried man like a sack on her back and dumped
him where she pleased, when she pleased. The most tyrannical husband
immediately abrogates his authority when he sees the symptoms of this
frenzy developing in her. He takes to his heels and remains away until
she puts things in order and returns to her senses. This is the proof of
a queer ineradicable cowardice in every man, that the bravest and
hardiest of them who does not shrink from marching barefooted through
winter snows to meet the enemy in overwhelming numbers will fly before
the face of one woman who has made up her mind to wet his feet with
scouring water if he does not get out of the way.

Before nine o'clock in the morning the domestic entrails of Jordan
County were out of doors, piled in the sun, hanging upon the
clotheslines, flapping in the wind. The swish of wet brooms could be
heard in every house, mingled with the sharp voices of scolding women.
The air was filled with clouds of dust, the sound of sticks in muffled
strokes upon rugs and carpets like the drums of an invading army. These
were answered by the strumming of other sticks similarly employed in
other farmyards.

It was a fact, five hundred men had been rendered homeless for that day
at least. Nevertheless, they were holding out. An hour later only one
ballot had been cast at the polls in Possum Trot. The crowd thickened
outside the courthouse door. Men eyed each other quizzically, morosely,
some even avoided each other's questioning glances.

"Where's Jake Terry?" some one asked helplessly.

"Who, Terry?" answered Bill Long. "He was the first man here after the
polls opened. Said if it was the last ballot he'd ever cast he'd vote
against woman suffrage, went and put it in first for an example to the
rest of us!"

"Susan Walton ain't got a mortgage on his sawmill, or he wouldn't be so
gol dern frisky about votin' ag'in her!" growled Deal.

"What we going to do about this business, anyhow?" demanded one
nervously.

"We could get drunk," suggested another. "There's nothing that takes the
starch out of women and shows 'em their place quicker than that."

"But we can't stay drunk. We got to go home some time or other and have
it out with 'em after we are sober and penitent," put in still another
victim philosophically.

At this moment Tim Cates rode into the edge of the crowd, his mouth
stretched in a broad grin, and his goatee working like a white peg in
his chin.

"Boys," he shouted, rolling out of his saddle, "you'd as well give it up
and take your medicine. I met a man coming from the Sugar Valley just
now, and he 'lowed that out of a hundred and fifty votes down there this
morning there wan't but three cast ag'in suffrage for women, and one of
them was challenged. Susan Walton's got a man stationed at every
precinct, with a list of the names of the men in that district that
ain't registered nor paid their poll tax, ready to drop 'em if they try
to vote!"

"Tim, step up to the store and telephone to Dry Pond and Calico Valley
and see how the election is going."

Cates stepped briskly. He was one of these meddlesome persons who would
sell his birthright to gratify his curiosity. Presently he returned,
cupped his hands over his mouth, and trumpeted the news.

"Dry Pond, forty-two ballots cast, forty-two for suffrage, nary one
anti!" This joke was greeted with a groan.

"Calico Valley, seventy-four ballots cast, sixty-eight for suffrage, six
anti-suffrage! Fellow at Dry Pond says the women are beating their
feather beds for miles around, and the men air scared to death. He
says----"

A tall, well-dressed man, past fifty years of age, joined the group.
This was John Fairfield, the only gentleman farmer in the community, and
one of the few men whose wife was not implicated in the Woman's
Movement. She was an invalid, nearly blind. Fairfield had been the
understudy of Prim in controlling the political affairs of the
community. He was very popular.

"Mr. Fairfield, how are you going to vote?" some one yelled.

"Yes, tell us what you're going to do!"

"A speech. Give us a speech!" came from a dozen husky throats.

"'We air po' wanderin' sheep to-day, away on the mountains wild and
bar'!' Put yo' crook around our necks, John, an' lead us home with our
tails behind us, so as our Bo Peeps'll know us when we come an' gladden
us with their soft black eyes! Ain't that the way the poetry runs?"
snickered a drunken wag, dropping on the post-office steps and gazing up
with a befuddled air at Fairfield, who had removed his hat and ascended
the steps.

"Gentlemen," he began, "you know me."

"Yes," sobbed the wag, "we know you and we know ourselves, unfortunate
creatures that we air--an' we thought we knowed the women in this
county. We've dandled some of 'em on our knees. We've drawed 'em in
times past to our unworthy bosoms--but now all is changed. We've lost
'em! Where, oh, where----"

"Shet up, you darn fool! and let us hear what he has to say."

The "darn fool" laid his head in the dust, and gave himself up wholly to
his grief.

"I was about to say," Fairfield began again, "that you know me----"

"Yes!"

"Shet up!"

"--and you know I have always stood for what was right among you----"

"Always! Give me five dollars for my vote last 'lection, ginerous man!"

Fairfield lifted his voice and hastened to drown these revelations of
his generosity.

"I believe in woman! She has been the 'pillow' of cloud by day and fire
by night----"

"Candle in the window, John, don't forget that!"

"--that guides us through the wilderness of the world, and now she has
become the bright new star of our better destinies! We must follow
her----"

"Dangerous to monkey with female stars!"

"--No man ever loses his way who trusts such women as we have among us."

"Sampson, oh, Sampson, listen to that!" cried the voice at his feet.

"For thirty years I have served one woman faithfully. I owe everything I
am and everything I have to this service."

Every man present had a vision of the little, frail, white-haired woman
who lay in his house helpless and blind. Never before had he referred to
her, but they knew his devotion. He lifted himself in their regard by
this one sentence. There are moments when even the demagogue may show
the halo of a saint. Fairfield, henchman of Prim, never suspected it,
but this was the crowning hour of his life, the one moment when he stood
without fear and without reproach like a true knight.

"My advice to every citizen present is that he vote this day for the
women who have cast so many ballots for us in their prayers!" he
concluded, bowing to their cheers.

Immediately after there was a rush for the polls.

In Jordantown the day passed quietly. The women were in strict
seclusion. All the "prominent citizens" were working earnestly at the
polls for the cause of suffrage. At last the hour arrived for counting
the ballots. The town had gone overwhelmingly for suffrage for women,
but the returns were slow in coming from the country precincts, and
great anxiety was felt about the issues there. The rumour was current
that the farmers were determined not to vote at all.

About seven o'clock some one came swiftly down the courthouse steps, and
rushed across to the National Bank Building. In five minutes the square
was in an uproar. Men shouted to men: "We've put 'em in! We've put the
women in!"

Stark Coleman snatched up the 'phone on his desk.

"Agatha, my dear, it's glorious news! Thank God, we've won by a majority
of 633! You are now a voter in Jordan County!"

He hung up the receiver and ran out to Acres's store. At the same moment
Sam Briggs, who was now a diligent clerk in Judge Regis's outer office,
thrust the door open and shouted:

"They're in, Judge, by a good 633 majority!"

"All right, Briggs! finish that list of election expenses. We want to
publish it in the _Signal_ to-morrow!" he said quietly, as he arose and
put on his hat. "I'll go over and tell Mrs. Walton. Think I've earned
that privilege, anyhow!" he added, smiling.

"You did it!" exclaimed Briggs, "you worked the whole thing and put it
across!"

"No, that speech she made in July did it," he said.

"It was a jo-darter all right, that speech!" laughed Briggs to himself
as he went back to his desk.

On his way to Mrs. Walton's residence, the Judge passed two men.

"Bill," one of them was saying to the other, "we can't never get rid of
our wives any more, nowhere, not even when we attend a political
convention. Apt as not my wife will be my alternate!"

"Apt as not, you'll be hers, you damn fool!" he retorted.

As the Judge came up on the steps Mrs. Walton appeared in the door. At
the sight of him there she threw up her hands and cried:

"Don't tell me we are defeated, John Regis, I can't bear it!"

"Susan, you may now run for sheriff of this county, there are enough
more women than men in it to elect you. And you've got 'em in your
pocket!" he concluded, laughing as he seized her hands.

"Oh!" she sobbed, sinking down into a chair. "I thought this day would
never end. Such suspense!"

"Showed the white feather, too, didn't you? I called at your office
early in the afternoon and you were not there," he teased.

"I couldn't stand it. I felt that if we should be defeated, I must hear
the news in my own house--in reach of my bed!" she sobbed, half
laughing.

"If I was twenty years younger, Susan, I'd ask you to marry me this
night by way of celebrating our victory," he said, looking down at her.

"If I was twenty years younger there'd be no such victory to celebrate,
John," she replied, "so you wouldn't have asked me!"

"You should see Coleman and Acres. They are taking all the credit of the
election, strutting like fighting cocks on the square!"

"Let them have it. I'd rather the world should think the men gave us the
ballot willingly, and that it should never be known that we beat them
out of it," she said, heaving a sigh of relief.

       *       *       *       *       *

A young man and a young woman were seated behind the vine on the veranda
three doors down the avenue. His arm was about her waist, her head upon
his shoulder. The moon was doing what she could to cover them with the
mottled shadows of leaves.

"Could you manage it in two weeks, dear? I want you for my wife before I
begin my own campaign! We'd make a honeymoon of it then, canvassing it
together!" he pleaded softly.

"I'll marry you, Bob, but not for such a honeymoon as that! Oh, I'm sick
and tired of politics. I never want to hear the word again. I'll just
barely vote for you, that's all!" she sighed.

"Upon my word," he laughed, drawing her closer and kissing her. "I
thought you'd be keen for the canvass."

[Illustration: "'_Bob, I'll make a confession to you. It's been horrid,
from first to last. When we are married I want to sit at home and darn
your socks--you do wear holes in them, don't you?_'"]

"Bob!" she said, sitting up and looking at him solemnly, "I'll make a
confession to you, now it's over and we have won; it's been horrid, from
first to last. When we are married I want to sit at home and darn your
socks--you do wear holes in them, don't you?" She laughed hysterically.
"I believe it would relieve some outraged instinct in me if I could iron
your shirts! Isn't it awful! I _crave_ to do just the woman things--to
serve you and father. I feel as if nothing else will ever naturalize me
again as a woman!"

After an ineffable pause, during which her lover had laid a laughing
tribute upon her lips and brow, she added:

"Poor father, I wonder where he is?"

"Saw him going down the avenue as I came up, with an enormous bunch of
flowers in his hand," Bob told her.

"Poor father" was, in fact, approaching Mrs. Sasnett at that moment, who
was seated in mournful but resplendent grandeur upon a rustic bench
beneath the trees in her yard.

She was indignant at the day's doings. She had been indignant for
months, but she thanked God that she was still a lady, and she was
determined to remain one, to which end she had contributed that day
enough to make up for the deficit in the women's missionary collections
of her church. And she had dressed herself in purple and fine linen by
way of making out that she was a lady and nothing but a lady.

"Colonel Adams!" she exclaimed softly, as the Colonel approached.

"Madam, the sight of you is grateful after what I've been through this
day!" he said, kissing her hand, and depositing the flowers upon the
ground at her feet.

"Oh! Colonel, no one can have had more sympathy with you than I have
felt during these trying months," she sighed.

"I have felt it," he returned, parting his coat tails and seating
himself beside her.

"No one could have sympathized with you so keenly in your sorrow," she
murmured.

"I divined as much. I have suffered!"

"I know!" she breathed.

"My one pleasure has been the offering I have placed upon your doorstep
each evening," he sighed.

"So the flowers were from you, then?" she said, gazing at the bouquet so
significantly laid now at her feet.

"I trusted your woman's intuition to know that," he answered, with a
shade of offended dignity.

"I suspected, of course, but how could I know? You never confessed."

"Who else in this shameless town would have the sense, the feeling, to
approach a lady with flowers--they give 'em the ballot instead!"

"Don't speak of it!" she implored, lifting her hand tragically as if to
ward off a blow.

"But I _must_ speak of it, Lula," he exclaimed, seizing the despairing
hand. "As much as I hate to mention a matter so indelicate, I must,
because it concerns us." They looked at each other like two old doves.

"How should it matter to us?" she asked sadly.

"Because if we do not unite against this awful situation, we--well, we
are lost!"

She sighed, as if she saw no hope anywhere in the moonlight.

"Will you marry me, Lula?"

"Oh! Colonel Adams----"

"Under ordinary circumstances I'd never dare hope for such a boon. I'm
unworthy of you. No man can be--but consider what will happen if you
refuse?"

"What will happen?" she exclaimed.

"You must pass the remainder of your days, the sweetest, most beautiful
years of a woman's life, in intimate daily contact with a suffragist,
with a young woman who votes like a man!"

"God help me! What do you mean?" she cried in genuine alarm.

"Bob's going to marry Selah! that's what I mean. You'll have to live
with them. And if you don't marry me, I'll have to live with them!"


THE END





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