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Title: In a Little Town
Author: Hughes, Rupert, 1872-1956
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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

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

  [Illustration: cover]




  IN A LITTLE TOWN                Illustrated. Post 8vo

  THE THIRTEENTH COMMANDMENT      Illustrated. Post 8vo

  CLIPPED WINGS.                  Frontispiece. Post 8vo

  WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY?           Illustrated. Post 8vo

  THE LAST ROSE OF SUMMER.        Frontispiece. 16mo

  EMPTY POCKETS.                  Illustrated. Post 8vo

         *       *       *       *       *


  [Illustration: Frontispiece]

  In a Little Town

  [Illustration: Title page decoration]



  [Illustration: Publisher's mark]




  Copyright, 1917, by Harper & Brothers

  Printed in the United States of America

  Published March, 1917

              AS AN I-O-U OF



  DON'T YOU CARE!                    1

  POP                               42

  BABY TALK                         73


  THE OLD FOLKS AT HOME            141

  AND THIS IS MARRIAGE             173



  PRAYERS                          224

  PAIN                             232

  THE BEAUTY AND THE FOOL          262


  DAUGHTERS OF SHILOH              285

  "A" AS IN "FATHER"               356


There are two immortal imbecilities that I have no patience for.

The other one is the treatment of little towns as if they were
essentially different from big towns. Cities are not "Ninevehs" and
"Babylons" any more than little towns are Arcadias or Utopias. In fact
we are now unearthing plentiful evidence of what might have been safely
assumed, that Babylon never was a "Babylon" nor Nineveh a "Nineveh" in
the sense employed by poets and praters without number. Those old cities
were made up of assorted souls as good and as bad and as mixed as now.

They do small towns a grievous injustice who deny them restlessness,
vice, ostentation, cruelty; as they do cities a grievous injustice who
deny them simplicity, homeliness, friendship, and contentment. It is one
of those undeniable facts (which everybody denies) that a city is only a
lot of small towns put together. Its population is largely made up of
people who came from small towns and of people who go back to small
towns every evening.

A village is simply a quiet street in the big city of the world. Quaint,
sweet happenings take place in the avenues most thronged, and desperate
events come about in sleepy lanes. People are people, chance is chance.

My novels have mainly concerned themselves with New York, and I have
tried therein to publish bits of its life as they appear to such eyes
and such mind as I have. Though several of my short stories have been
published in single volumes, this is the first group to be issued. They
are all devoted to small-town people. In them I have sought the same end
as in the city novels: to be true to truth, to observe with sympathy and
explain with fidelity, to find the epic of a stranger's existence and
shape it for the eyes of strangers--to pass the throb of another heart
through my heart to your heart.

The scene of these stories lies pretty close to the core of these United
States, in the Middle West, in the valley of the Mississippi River. I
was born near that river and spent a good deal of my boyhood in it.

Though it would be unfair, false, and unkind to fasten these stories on
any definite originals, they are centered in the region about the small
city of Keokuk, Iowa, from which one can also see into Illinois, and
into Missouri, where I was born. Comic poets have found something comic
in the name of Keokuk, as in other town names in which the letter "K" is
prominent. Why "K" should be so humorous, I can't imagine. The name of
Keokuk, however, belonged to a splendid Indian chief who was friendly
to the early settlers and saved them from massacre. The monument over
his bones in the park, on the high bluff there, now commands one of the
noblest views in the world, a great lake formed in the Mississippi River
by a dam which is as beautiful as if the Greeks had built it. It was, in
fact, built by a thousand Greeks who camped there for years. As an
engineering achievement it rivals the Assouan dam and as a manufacturer
of electricity it is a second to Niagara Falls. But it has not yet
materially disturbed the rural quality of the country.

The scenery thereabout is very beautiful, but I guarantee you against
landscape in these stories. I cannot, however, guarantee that the
stories are even based on fact. Yet I hope that they are truth.

The characters are limited to a small neighborhood, but if they are not
also faithful to humanity in general, then, as we would say out there,
"I miss my guess."

                                                      RUPERT HUGHES.




When she was told it was a girl, Mrs. Govers sighed. "Well, I never did
have any luck, anyway; so I d' know's I'm supprised."

Later she wept feebly:

"Girls are easier to raise, I suppose; but I kind of had my heart set on
namin' him Launcelot." After another interval she rallied to a smile: "I
was prepared for the worst, though; so I picked out Ellaphine for a name
in case he was a her. It's an awful pirty name, Ellaphine is. Don't you
think so?"

"Yes, yes," said the nurse, who would have agreed to anything then.

After a time Mrs. Govers resumed: "She'll be an awful pirty girl, I
hope. Is that her makin' all that noise? Give me a glimpse of her, will
you? I got a right, I guess, to see my own baby. Oh, Goshen! Is that
how she looks?" A kind of swoon; then more meditation, followed by a
courageous philosophy: "Children always look funny at first. She'll
outgrow it, I expect. Ellaphine is such an elegant name. It ought to be
a kind of inducement to grow up to. Don't you think so?"

The nurse, who was juggling the baby as if it were red-hot, mumbled
through a mustache of safety-pins that she thought so. Mrs. Govers
echoed, "I thought so, too." After that she went to sleep.

Ellaphine, however, did not grow up elegant, to fit the name. The name
grew inelegant to fit her. During her earliest years the witty little
children called her Elephant until they tired of the ingenuity and
allowed her to lapse indolently from Ellar to El.

Mrs. Govers for some years cherished a dream that her ugly duckling
would develop into a swan and fly away with a fabulously wealthy prince.
Later she dwindled to a prayer that she might capture a man who was
"tol'able well-to-do."

The majority of ugly ducklings, however, grow up into uglier ducks, and
Mrs. Govers resigned herself to the melancholy prospect of the widowed
mother of an old maid perennial.

To the confusion of prophecy, among all the batch of girls who descended
on Carthage about the time of Ellaphine's birth--"out of the nowhere
into the here"--Ellaphine was the first to be married! And she cut out
the prettiest girl in the township--it was not such a small township,

Those homely ones seem to make straight for a home the first thing.
Ellaphine carried off Eddie Pouch--the very Eddie of whom his mother
used to say, "He's little, but oh, my!" The rest of the people said,
"Oh, my, but he's little!"

Eddie's given name was Egbert. Edward was his taken name. He took it
after his mother died and he went to live at his uncle Loren's. Eddie
was sorry to change his name, but he said his mother was not responsible
at the time she pasted the label Egbert on him, and his shy soul could
not endure to be called Egg by his best friends--least of all by his
best girl.

His best girl was the township champion looker, Luella Thickins. From
the time his heart was big enough for Cupid to stick a child's-size
arrow in, Eddie idolized Luella. So did the other boys; and as Eddie was
the smallest of the lot, he was lost in the crowd. Even when Luella
noticed him it was with the atrocious contempt of little girls for
little boys they do not like.

Eddie could not give her sticks of candy or jawbreakers, for his uncle
Loren did not believe in spending money. And Eddie had no mother to go
to when the boys mistreated him and the girls ignored him. A dismal life
he led until he grew up as far as he ever grew up.

Eddie reached his twenty-second birthday and was working in Uncle
Loren's factory--one of the largest feather-duster factories in the
whole State--when he observed a sudden change in Luella's manner.

She had scared him away from paying court to her, save from a distance.
Now she took after him, with her aggressive beauty for a club and her
engaging smiles for a net. She asked him to take her to the
Sunday-school picnic, and asked him what he liked best for her to put in
for him. She informed him that she was going to cook it for herself and
everybody said she could fry chicken something grand. So he chose fried

He was so overjoyed that it was hard for him to be as solemn about the
house as he ought to have been, in view of the fact that Uncle Loren had
been taken suddenly and violently ill. Eddie was the natural heir to the
old man's fortune.

Uncle Loren was considered close in a town where extravagance was almost
impossible, but where rigid economy was supposed to pile up tremendous
wealth. Hitherto it had pained Uncle Loren to devote a penny to anything
but the sweet uses of investment. Now it suddenly occurred to the old
miser that he had invested nothing in the securities of New Jerusalem,
Limited. He was frightened immeasurably.

In his youth he had joined the Campbellite church and had been baptized
in the town pond when there was a crust of ice over it which the pastor
had to break with a stick before he immersed Loren. Everybody said the
crust of ice had stuck to his heart ever since.

In the panic that came on him now he craftily decided to transfer all
his savings to the other shore. The factory, of course, he must leave
behind; but he drafted a hasty will presenting all his money to the
Campbellite church under conditions that he counted on to gain him a
high commercial rating in heaven.

Over his shoulder, as he wrote, a shadow waited, grinning; and the old
man had hardly folded his last testament and stuffed it into his
pillow-slip when the grisly hand was laid on his shoulders and Uncle
Loren was no longer there.


His uncle's demise cut Eddie out of the picnic with Luella; but she was
present at the funeral and gave him a wonderful smile. Uncle Loren's
final will was not discovered until the pillow-slip was sent to the
wash; and at the funeral Eddie was still the object of more or less
disguised congratulations as an important heir.

Luella solaced him with rare tact and tenderness, and spoke much of his
loneliness and his need of a helpmate. Eddie resolved to ask her to
marry him as soon as he could compose the speech.

Some days later Uncle Loren's farewell will turned up, and Eddie fell
from grace with a thump. The town laughed at him, as people always laugh
when a person--particularly so plump a person as Eddie was--falls hard
on the slippery sidewalk of this icy world.

In his dismay he hastened to Luella for sympathy, but she turned up
missing. She jilted him with a jolt that knocked his heart out of his
mouth. He stood, as it were, gaping stupidly, in the middle of the

Then Ellaphine Govers came along, picked his heart out of the road,
dusted it, and offered it back. He was so grateful that he asked her to
keep it for him. He was so pitiable an object that he felt honored even
by the support of Ellar Govers.

He went with Ellar quite a lot. He found her very comfortable company.
She seemed flattered by his attention. Other people acted as if they
were doing him a favor by letting him stand around.

He had lost Uncle Loren's money, but he still had a small job at the
factory. Partly to please Ellar and partly to show certain folks that he
was not yet dead, he took her out for a drive behind a livery-stable
horse. It was a beautiful drive, and the horse was so tame that it
showed no desire to run away. It was perfectly willing to stand still
where the view was good.

He let Ellar drive awhile, and that was the only time the horse
misbehaved. It saw a stack of hay, nearly went mad, and tried to climb a
rail fence; but Ellar yelled at it and slapped the lines at it and got
it past the danger zone, and it relapsed into its usual mood of despair.

Eddie told Ellar the horse was "attackted with haydrophobia." And she
nearly laughed herself to death and said:

"You do say the funniest things!"

She was a girl who could appreciate a fellow's jokes, and he saw that
they could have awful good times together. He told her so without
difficulty and she agreed that they could, and they were as good as
engaged before they got back as far as the fair-grounds. As they came
into the familiar streets Eddie observed a remarkable change in the
manner of the people they passed. People made an effort to attract his
eye. They wafted him salutes from a distance. He encountered such a
lifting of hats, elaborateness of smiles and flourish of hands, that he
said to Ellaphine:

"Say, Pheeny, I wonder what the joke is!"

"Me, I guess," sighed Ellaphine. "They're makin' fun of you for takin'
me out buggy-ridin'."

"Ah, go on!" said Eddie. "They've found out something about me and
they're pokin' fun."

He was overcome with shame and drove to Ellaphine's house by a side
street and escorted the horse to the livery-stable by a back alley. On
his way home he tried in vain to dodge Luella Thickins, but she headed
him off with one of her Sunday-best smiles. She bowled him over by an
effusive manner.

"Why, Eddie, you haven't been round to see me for the longest time!
Can't you come on over 'safternoon? I'd just love to see you!"

He wondered whether she had forgotten how she had ground his meek heart
under her heel the last time he called.

She was so nice to him that she frightened him. He mumbled that he would
certainly call that afternoon, and got away, wondering what the trick
was. Her smile seemed less pretty than it used to be.


A block farther on Eddie met a man who explained the news, which had run
across the town like oil on water. Tim Holdredge, an idle lawyer who had
nothing else to do, looked into the matter of Uncle Loren's will and
found that the old man, in his innocence of charity and his passion for
economy, had left his money to the church on conditions that were not
according to the law. The money reverted to the estate. Eddie was the

When Tim Holdredge slapped Eddie on the shoulder and explained the
result of what he called "the little joker" in Uncle Loren's will, Eddie
did not rejoice, as Tim had a right to expect.

Eddie was poisoned by a horrible suspicion. The logic of events ran
through his head like a hateful tune which he could not shake off:

"When Luella thought I was coming into a pile of money she was nice to
me. When she heard I wasn't she was mean to me. Now that my money's
coming to me, after all, she's nice again. Therefore--" But he was
ashamed to give that ungallant _ergo_ brain room.

Still more bewildering was the behavior of Ellaphine. As soon as he
heard of his good fortune he hurried to tell her about it. Her mother
answered the door-bell and congratulated him on his good luck. When he
asked for Ellar, her mother said, "She was feelin' right poorly, so
she's layin' down." He was so alarmed that he forgot about Luella, who
waited the whole afternoon all dressed up.

After supper that night he patrolled before Ellaphine's home and tried
to pluck up courage enough to twist that old door-bell again. Suddenly
she ran into him. She was sneaking through the front gate. He tried to
talk to her, but she said:

"I'm in a tur'ble hurry. I got to go to the drug-store and get some
chloroform liniment. Mamma's lumbago's awful bad."

He walked along with her, though she tried to escape him. The first
drowsy lamp-post showed him that Ellaphine had been crying. It was the
least becoming thing she could have done. Eddie asked whether her mother
was so sick as all that. She said "No"--then changed to "Yes"--and then
stopped short and began to blubber uncouthly, dabbing her eyes
alternately with the backs of her wrists.

Eddie stared awhile, then yielded to an imperious urge to clasp her to
his heart and comfort her. She twisted out of his arms, and snapped,
"Don't you touch me, Eddie Pouch!"

Eddie mumbled, inanely, "You didn't mind it this mornin', buggy-ridin'."

Her answer completely flabbergasted him:

"No; because you didn't have all that money then."

"Gee whiz, Pheeny!" he gasped. "What you got against Uncle Loren's
money? It ain't a disease, is it? It's not ketchin', is it?"

"No," she sobbed; "but we--Well, when you were so poor and all, I
thought you might--you might really like me because I could be of
some--of some use to you; but now you--you needn't think I'm goin' to
hold you to any--anything against your will."

Eddie realized that across the street somebody had stopped to listen.
Eddie wanted to throw a rock at whoever it was, but Ellaphine absorbed
him as she wailed:

"It 'd be just like you to be just's nice to me as ever; but I'm not
goin' to tie you down to any homely old crow like me when you got money
enough to marry anybody. You can get Luella Thickins back now. You could
marry the Queen of England if you'd a mind to."

Eddie could find nothing better to say than, "Well, I'll be dog-on'd!"

While he gaped she got away.


Luella Thickins cast her spells over Eddie with all her might, but he
understood them now and escaped through their coarse meshes. She was so
resolute, however, that he did not dare trust himself alone in the same
town with her unless he had a chaperon.

He sent a note to Ellaphine, saying he was in dire trouble and needed
her help. This brought him the entree to her parlor. He told her the
exact situation and begged her to rescue him from Luella.

Ellaphine's craggy features grew as radiant as a mountain peak in the
sunrise. The light made beautiful what it illumined. She consented at
last to believe in Eddie's devotion, or at least in his need of her; and
the homely thing enjoyed the privilege of being pleaded for and of
yielding to the prayers of an ardent lover.

She assumed that the marriage could not take place for several years, if
ever. She wanted to give Eddie time to be sure of his heart; but Eddie
was stubborn and said:

"Seein' as we're agreed on gettin' married, let's have the wedding right
away and get it over with."

When Ellaphine's mother learned that Ellaphine had a chance to marry an
heir and was asking for time, Mrs. Govers delivered an oration that
would have sent Ellaphine to the altar with almost anybody, let alone
her idolized Eddie.

The wedding was a quiet affair. Everybody in Carthage was invited. Few
came. People feared that if they went they would have to send
wedding-presents, and Eddie and Ellar were too unimportant to the social
life of Carthage to make their approval valuable.

Eddie wore new shoes, which creaked and pinched. He looked twice as
uncomfortable and twice as sad as he had looked at his uncle Loren's
obsequies; and he suffered that supreme disenchantment of a too-large
collar with a necktie rampant.

In spite of the ancient and impregnable theory that all brides are
beautiful, was there ever a woman who looked her best in the uniform of
approaching servitude? In any case, Ellaphine's best was not good, and
she was at her worst in her ill-fitting white gown, with the veil askew.
Her graceless carriage was not improved by the difficulty of keeping
step with her escort and the added task of keeping step with the music.

The organist, Mr. Norman Maugans, always grew temperamental when he
played Mendelssohn's "Wedding March," and always relieved its monotonous
cadence with passionate accelerations and abrupt retardations. That made
walking difficult.

When the minister had finished with the couple and they moved down the
aisle to what the paper called the "Bridle March, by Lohengrin," Mr.
Maugans always craned his neck to see and usually put his foot on the
wrong pedal, with the startling effect of firing a cannon at the
departing guests.

He did not crane his neck, however, to see Mr. and Mrs. Pouch depart.
They were too commonplace entirely. He played the march with such
doleful indifference that Eddie found the aisle as long as the distance
from Marathon to Athens. Also he was trying to walk so that his pinching
shoes would not squeak.

At the end of the last pew Eddie and Ellaphine encountered Luella
Thickins leaning out into the aisle and triumphantly beautiful in her
finest raiment. Her charms were militant and vindictive, and her smile
plainly said: "Uh-huh! Don't you wish you'd taken me instead of that
thing you've hitched up with for life?"

Eddie gave her one glance and found her hideous. Ellaphine lowered her
eyelids in defeat and slunk from the church, thinking:

"Now he's already sorry that he married me. What can he see in me to
love? Nothing! Nothing!"

When they clambered into the carriage Eddie said, "Well, Mrs. Pouch,
give your old husband a kiss!"

Ellaphine shrank away from him, however, crying again. He was hurt and
puzzled until he remembered that it is the business of brides to cry.
He held her hand and tried to console her for being his victim, and
imagined almost every reason for her tears but the true one.

The guests at the church straggled to Mrs. Govers's home, drawn by the
call of refreshments. Luella was the gayest of them all. People wondered
why Eddie had not married her instead of Ellaphine. Luella heard some
one say, "What on earth can he see in her?"

Luella answered, "What on earth can she see in him?" It was hardly
playing fair, but Luella was a poor loser. She even added, to clinch it,
"What on earth can they see in each other?"

That became the town comment on the couple when there was any comment at
all. Mainly they were ignored completely.

Eddie and Ellar were not even honored with the usual outburst of the
ignoblest of all sports--bride-baiting. Nobody tied a white ribbon to
the wheel of the hack that took them to the depot. Old shoes had not
been provided and rice had been forgotten. They were not pelted or
subjected to immemorial jokes. They were not chased to the train, and
their elaborate schemes for deceiving the neighbors as to the place of
their honeymoon were wasted. Nobody cared where they went or how long
they stayed.

They returned sheepishly, expecting to run a gantlet of humor; but
people seemed unaware that they had been away. They settled down into
the quiet pool of Carthage without a splash, like a pair of mud-turtles
slipping off a log into the water. Even the interest in Eddie's
inheritance did not last long, for Uncle Loren's fortune did not last
long--not that they were spendthrift, for they spent next to nothing;
but money must be fed or it starves to death. Money must grow or wither.


Eddie found that his uncle's reputation for hard dealing had been a
condition of his success. He soon learned that the feather-duster
factory could be run at a profit only by the most microscopic care.
Wages must be kept down; hours kept up; the workers driven every minute,
fined if they were late, nagged if they dawdled. Profit could be wrung
from the trade only by ugly battles with dealers and purchasers. Raw
material had to be fought down, finished product fought up; bills due
fought off, accounts fought in; the smallest percentage of a percentage
wrestled for.

Eddie was incapable of such vigilant hostility toward everybody. The
factory almost immediately ceased to pay expenses. Eddie was prompt to
meet debts, but lenient as a collector. The rest of his inheritance
fared no better. Eddie was an ideal mortgagee. The first widow wept him
out of his interest in five tears. Having obliged her, he could hardly
deny the next person, who had money but wanted more, "to carry out a big

Eddie first gained a reputation for being a kind-hearted gentleman and a
Christian, and later a notoriety for being an easy mark. Eddie overheard
such comment eventually, and it wounded him as deeply as it bewildered
him. Bitterer than the contempt for a hard man is the contempt for a
soft man who is betrayed by a vice of mercy. Eddie was hopelessly
addicted to decency.

Uncle Loren had been a miser and so close that his nickname had implied
the ability to skin a flint. People hated him and raged against him; but
it suddenly became evident that they had worked hard to meet their bills
payable to him. They had sat up nights devising schemes to gain cash for
him. He was a cause of industry and thrift and self-denial. He paid poor
wages, but he kept the factory going. He squeezed a penny until the
eagle screamed, but he made dusters out of the tail feathers, and he was
planning to branch out into whisk brooms and pillows when, in the words
of the pastor, he was "called home." The pastor liked the phrase, as it
did not commit him to any definite habitat.

Eddie, however, though he worked hard and used thrift, and, with
Ellaphine's help, practised self-denial, found that he was not so big a
man as the small man he succeeded. He increased the wages and cut down
the hours, and found that he had diminished the output of everything
except complaints. The men loafed shamelessly, cheated him of the energy
and the material that belonged to him, and whined all the time. His
debtors grew shiftless and contemptuous.

It is the irony, the meanness, of the trade of life that virtue may
prove vicious in effect; and viciousness may produce good fruit. Figs do
grow from thistles.

For a time the Pouch couple attracted a great deal of attention from the
people of Carthage--the sort of attention that people on shore devote to
a pair of capsized canoeists for whom nobody cares to risk his life.

Luella Thickins had forced the note of gaiety at the wedding, but she
soon grew genuinely glad that Eddie had got away. She began to believe
that she had jilted him.


People who wondered what Mr. and Mrs. Pouch saw in each other could not
realize that he saw in her a fellow-sufferer who upheld him with her
love in all his terrors. She was everything that his office was
not--peace without demand for money; glowing admiration and raptures of

What she saw in him was what a mother sees in a crippled child that runs
home to her when the play of the other boys is too swift or too rough.
She saw a good man, who could not fight because he could not slash and
trample and loot. She saw what the Belgian peasant women saw--a little
cottage holder staring in dismay at the hostile armies crashing about
his homestead.

The only comfort Eddie found in the situation was the growing
realization that it was hopeless. The drowsy opiate of surrender began
to spread its peace through his soul. His torment was the remorse of
proving a traitor to his dead uncle's glory. The feather-dustery that
had been a monument was about to topple into the weeds. Eddie writhed at
that and at his feeling of disloyalty to the employees, who would be
turned out wageless in a small town that was staggering under the burden
of hard times.

He made a frantic effort to keep going on these accounts, but the battle
was too much for him. He could not imagine ways and means--he knew
nothing of the ropes of finance. He was like a farmer with a scythe
against sharpshooters. Ellaphine began to fear that the struggle would
break him down. One night she persuaded him to give up.

She watched him anxiously the next morning as his fat little body,
bulging with regrets, went meekly down the porch steps and along the
walk. The squeal of the gate as he shoved through sounded like a groan
from his own heart. He closed the gate after him with the gentle care he
gave all things. Then he leaned across it to wave to his Pheeny. It was
like the good-by salute of a man going to jail.

Ellaphine moped about the kitchen, preparing him the best dinner she
could to cheer him when he came home at noon. To add a touch of grace
she decided to set a bowl of petunias in front of him. He loved the
homely little flowers in their calico finery, like farmers' daughters at
a picnic. Their cheap and almost palpable fragrancy delighted him when
it powdered the air. She hoped that they would bring a smile to him at
noon, for he could still afford petunias.

She was squatting by the colony aligned along the walk, and her big
sunbonnet hid her unbeautiful face from the passers-by and theirs from
her, when she caught a glimpse of Luella Thickins coming along, giggling
with the banker's son. Luella put on a little extra steam for the
benefit of Ellaphine, who was glad of her sunbonnet and did not look up.

Later there came a quick step, thumping the boardwalk in a rhythm she
would have recognized but for its allegrity. The gate was opened with a
sweep that brought a shriek from its old rheumatic hinge, and was
permitted to swing shut with an unheeded smack. Ellaphine feared it was
somebody coming with the haste that bad news inspires. Something awful
had happened to Eddie! Her knees could not lift her to face the evil
tidings. She dared not turn her head.

Then she heard Eddie's own voice: "Pheeny! Pheeny, honey! Everything's
all right!"

Pheeny spilled the petunias and sat down on them. Eddie lifted her up
and pushed his glowing face deep into her sunbonnet, and kissed her.

Luella Thickins was coming back and her giggling stopped. She and the
banker's son, who were just sauntering about, exchanged glances of
disgust at the indecorous proceeding. Later Luella resumed her giggle
and enjoyed hugely her comment:

"Ellar looks fine in a sunbonnet! The bigger it is, the better she


Meantime Eddie was supporting his Pheeny into the house. His path was
strewn with petunias and she supposed he had some great victory to
announce. He had; but he was the victim.

The conqueror was the superintendent of the factory, Jabez Pittinger,
who had survived a cycle of Uncle Loren's martinetism with less
resentment than a year of Eddie's lenience. But Eddie is telling
Ellaphine of his glorious achievement:

"You see, I went to the fact'ry feeling like I was goin' to my grave."

"I know," she said; "but what happened?"

"I just thought I'd rather die than tack up the notice that we were
going to shut down and turn off those poor folks and all."

"I know," said Ellaphine; "but tell me."

"Well, finally," Eddie plodded along, "I tried to draw up the
'nouncement with the markin'-brush; but I just couldn't make the
letters. So I called in Jabe Pittinger and told him how it was; and I
says to him: 'Jabe, I jest naturally can't do it m'self. I wisht you'd
send the word round that the factory's goin' to stop next Sat'd'y.' I
thought he'd show some surprise; but he didn't. He just shot a splash
of tobacco-juice through that missin' tooth of his and says, 'I wouldn't
if I's you.' And I says, 'Goodness knows I hate to; but there's no way
out of it.' And he wopsed his cud round and said, 'Mebbe there is.'
'What do you mean?' I says. And he says, 'Fact is, Eddie'--he always
called me Mr. Pouch or Boss before, but I couldn't say anything to him,

"I know!" Ellaphine almost screamed. "But what'd he say? What's the

Eddie went on at his ox-like gait. "'Well,' he says, 'fact is,
Eddie,' he says, 'I been expectin' this, and I been figgerin' if they
wasn't a way somewhere to keep a-runnin',' says he; 'and I been talkin'
to certain parties that believes as I do, that the fault ain't with the
feather-duster business, but with the way it's run,' he says. 'People
gotter have feather dusters,' he says; 'but they gotter be gave to 'em
right.' O' course I knew he was gettin' at me, but I was in no p'sition
to talk back."

"Oh, please, Eddie!" Ellaphine moaned. "Please tell me! I'm goin' crazy
to know the upshot of it, and I smell the pie burnin'--it's rhubob,

"You got rhubob pie for dinner to-day?" Eddie chortled. "Oh, crickety,
that's fine!"

He followed her into the kitchen and helped her carry the things to the
dining-room, where they waited on each other in alternate dashes and
clashes of "Lemme get it!" and "You set right still!"

Eventually he reached the upshot, which was that Mr. Pittinger thought
he might raise money to run the factory if Eddie would give him the
control and drop out. Eddie concluded, with a burst of rapture: "I'm so
tickled I wisht I could telegraft poor Uncle Loren that everything's all


It was an outrageous piece of petty finance on high models, and it
euchred Eddie out of everything he had in the world except his illusion
that Jabez was working for the good of the factory.

Eddie always said "The Fact'ry" in the tone that city people use when
they say "The Cathedral."

Ellaphine saw through the wiles of Jabez and the measly capitalists he
had bound together, and she was ablaze with rage at them and with pity
for her tender-hearted child-husband; but she did not reveal these
emotions to Eddie.

She encouraged him to feast on the one sweetmeat of the situation: that
the hands would not be turned off and the factory would keep open doors.
In fact, when doubt began to creep into his own idle soul and a feeling
of shame depressed him, as the butt of the jokes and the pity that the
neighbors flung at him, Ellaphine pretended to be overjoyed at the
triumph he had wrested from defeat.

And when he began to chafe at his lack of occupation, and to fret about
their future, she went to the factory and invaded the office where the
usurper, Jabez Pittinger, sat enthroned at the hallowed desk, tossing
copious libations of tobacco-juice toward a huge new cuspidor. She
demanded a job for Eddie and bullied Jabez into making him a bookkeeper,
at a salary of forty-five dollars a month.

Thus, at last, Eddie Pouch found his place in the world. There are
soldiers who make ideal first sergeants and are ruined and ruinous as
second lieutenants; and there are soldiers who are worthless as first
sergeants, but irresistible as major-generals. Eddie was a born first
sergeant, a routine man, a congenital employee--doomed, like fire, to be
a splendid servant and a disastrous master.

Working for himself, he neglected every opportunity. Working for
another, he neglected nothing. Meeting emergencies, tricking creditors
and debtors, and massacring competitors were not in his line; but when
it came to adding up columns of figures all day, making out bills,
drawing checks for somebody else to sign, and the Santa Claus function
of stuffing the pay-roll into the little envelopes--Eddie was there.
Shrewd old Jabez recognized this. He tried him on a difficult collection
once--sent him forth to pry an ancient debt of eighteen dollars and
thirty-four cents out of the meanest man in town, vice Uncle Loren.
Eddie came back with a look of contentment.

"Did you git it?" said Jabez.

"Well, you see, it was like this: the poor feller--"

"Poor heller! Did you git it?"

"No; he was so hard up I lent him four dollars."


"Out of my own pocket, o' course."

Jabez remarked that he'd be hornswoggled; but he valued the incident and
added it to the anecdotes he used when he felt that he had need to
justify himself for playing Huerta with his dreamy Madero.


After that the most Jabez asked of Eddie was to write "Please remit" or
"Past due" on the mossier bills. Eddie preferred an exquisite poem he
had copied from a city creditor: "This account has no doubt escaped your
notice. As we have several large obligations to meet, we should greatly
appreciate a check by return mail."

Eddie loved that. There was a fine chivalry and democracy about it, as
one should say: "We're all debtors and creditors in this world, and we
big fellows and you little fellows must all work together."

Life had a regularity now that would have maddened a man more ambitious
than Eddie or a woman more restless than Ellaphine. Their world
was like the petunia-garden--the flowers were not orchids or
telegraph-pole-stemmed roses; but the flower faces were joyous, their
frocks neat, and their perfume savory.

Eddie knew just how much money was coming in and there was no temptation
to hope for an increase. They knew just how much time they had, and one
day was like another except that along about the first of every month
Eddie went to the office a little earlier and went back at night to get
out the bills and adjust his balances.

On these evenings Ellaphine was apt to go along and sit with him,
knitting thick woolen socks for the winter, making him shirts or
nightgowns, or fashioning something for herself or the house. Her
loftiest reach of splendor was a crazy quilt; and her rag carpets were
highly esteemed.

On Sundays they went to church in the morning and again in the evening.
Prayer-meeting night saw them always on their way to the place where the
church bell called: "Come! Come!"

Sometimes irregular people, who forgot it was prayer-meeting night,
would be reminded of it by seeing Eddie and Ellar go by. They went so
early that there was time for the careless to make haste with their
bonnets and arrive in time.

It was a saying that housewives set their kitchen clocks by Eddie's
transits to and from the factory. At any rate, there was no end to the
occasions when shiftless gossips, dawdling on their porches, were
surprised to see Eddie toddle homeward, and scurried away, cackling:

"My gracious! There goes Eddie Pouch, and my biscuits not cut out!"


The whole year was tranquil now for the Pouches, and the halcyon brooded
unalarmed in the waveless cove of their life. There were no debtors to
be harassed, no creditors to harass them. They paid cash for
everything--at least, Ellaphine did; for Eddie turned his entire
forty-five dollars over to her. She was his banker and his steward.

She could not persuade him to smoke, or to buy new clothes before the
old ones grew too shabby for so nice a man as a bookkeeper is apt to be.
He did not drink or play cards or billiards; he did not belong to any
lodge or political organization.

The outgo of money was as regular as the income--so much for the
contribution-basket on Sundays; so much for the butcher; so much for the
grocer; so much for the coal-oil lamps. The baker got none of their
money and the druggist little.

A few dollars went now and then to the dry-goods store for dress goods,
which Pheeny made up; and Eddie left an occasional sum at the
Pantatorium for a fresh alpaca coat, or for a new pair of trousers when
the seat of the old ones grew too refulgent or perilously extenuate. As
Eddie stood up at his tall desk most of the time, however, it was rather
his shoes than his pantaloons that felt the wear and tear of attrition.

And yet, in spite of all the tender miserhood of Ellaphine and the
asceticism of Eddie, few of the forty-five dollars survived the thirty
days' demands. Still, there was always something for the savings-bank,
and the blessing on its increment was that it grew by exactions from
themselves--not from their neighbors.

The inspiration of the fund was the children that were to be. The fund
had ample time for accretion, since the children were as late as Never

Such things are not discussed, of course, in Carthage. And nobody knew
how fiercely they yearned. Nobody knew of the high hopes that flared and

After the first few months of marriage Eddie had begun to call Pheeny
"Mother"--just for fun, you know. And it teased her so that he kept it
up, for he liked a joke as well as the next fellow. Before people, of
course, she was "Pheeny," and, on very grand occasions, "the wife."
"Mrs. Pouch" was beyond him. But once, at a sociable, he called across
the room, "Say, mother!"

He was going to ask her whether she wanted him to bring her a piece of
the "chalklut" cake or a hunk of the "cokernut," but he got no farther.
Nobody noticed it; but Eddie and Pheeny were consumed with shame and
slunk home scarlet. Nobody noticed that they had gone.

Time went on and on, and the fund grew and grew--a little coral reef of
pennies and nickels and dimes. The amusements of the couple were
petty--an occasional church sociable was society; a revival period was
drama. They never went to the shows that came to the Carthage Opera
House. They did not miss much.

Eddie wasted no time on reading any fiction except that in the news
columns of the evening paper, which a boy threw on the porch in a
twisted boomerang every afternoon, and which Eddie untwisted and read
after he had wiped the dishes that Pheeny washed.

Ellaphine spent no money on such vanities as novels or short stories,
but she read the edifying romances in the Sunday-school paper and an
occasional book from the Sunday-school library, mainly about children
whose angelic qualities gave her a picture of child life that would have
contrasted strongly with what their children would have been if they had
had any.

Their great source of literature, however, was the Bible. Soon after
their factory passed out of their control and their evenings ceased to
be devoted to riddles in finance, they had resolved to read the Bible
through, "from kiver to kiver." And Eddie and Ellaphine found that a
chapter read aloud before going to bed was an excellent sedative.

They had not invaded Genesis quite three weeks before the evening when
it came Eddie's turn to read aloud the astonishing romance of Abram, who
became Abraham, and of Sarai, who became Sarah. It was very exciting
when the child was promised to Sarah, though she was "well stricken in
age." Eddie smiled as he read, "Sarah laughed within herself." But
Pheeny blushed.

Ellaphine was far from the ninety years of Sarah, but she felt that the
promise of a son was no laughing matter. These poignant hopes and awful
denials and perilous adventures are not permitted to be written about or
printed for respectable eyes. If they are discussed it must be with
laughing ribaldry.

Even in their solitude Eddie and Pheeny used modest paraphrases and
breathed hard and looked askance, and made sure that no one overheard.
They whispered as parents do when their children are abed up-stairs.

The neighbors gave them hardly thought enough to imagine the lofty
trepidation of these thrilling hours. The neighbors never knew of the
merciless joke Fate played on them when, in their ignorance, they
believed the Lord had sent them a sign. They dwelt in a fools' paradise
for a long time, hoarding their glorious expectations.

At length Pheeny grew brazen enough to consult the old and peevish
Doctor Noxon; and he laughed her hopes away and informed her that she
need never trouble herself to hope again.

That was a smashing blow; and they cowered together under the shadow of
this great denial, each telling the other that it did not matter, since
children were a nuisance and a danger anyway.

They pretended to take solace in two current village tragedies--the
death of the mayor's wife in childbed and the death of the minister's
son in disgrace; but, though they lied to each other lovingly, they were
neither convincing nor convinced.


Year followed year as season trudged at the heel of season. The only
difference it made to them was that now Ellaphine evicted weeds from the
petunia-beds, and now swept snow from the porch and beat the broom out
on the steps; now Eddie carried his umbrella up against the sun or rain
and mopped his bald spot, and now he wore his galoshes through the slush
and was afraid he had caught a cold.

The fund in the bank went on growing like a neglected garden, but it was
growing for nothing. Eddie walked more slowly to and from the office,
and Pheeny took a longer time to set the table. She had to sit down a
good deal between trips and suffered a lot of pain. She said nothing
about it to Eddie of evenings, but it grew harder to conceal her
weakness from him when he helped her with the Sunday dinner.

Finally she could not walk to church one day and had to stay at home. He
stayed with her, and their empty pew made a sensation. Eddie fought at
Pheeny until she consented to see the doctor again--on Monday.

The doctor censured her for being foolish enough to try to die on her
feet, and demanded of Eddie why they did not keep a hired girl. Eddie
had never thought of it. He was horrified to realize how heartless and
negligent he had been. He promised to get one in at once.

Pheeny stormed and wept against the very idea; but her protests ended on
the morning when she could not get up to cook Eddie's breakfast for him.
He had to get his own and hers, and he was late at the office for the
first time in years. Two householders, seeing him going by, looked at
their clocks and set them back half an hour.

Jabez spoke harshly to Eddie about his tardiness. It would never do to
ignore an imperfection in the perfect. Eddie was Pheeny's nurse that
night and overslept in the morning. It would have made him late again if
he had stopped to fry an egg or boil a cup of coffee. He ran
breakfastless to his desk.

After that Pheeny consented to the engagement of a cook. They tried five
or six before they found one who combined the traits of being both
enduring and endurable.

Eddie was afraid of her to a pitiful degree. She put too much coffee in
his coffee and she made lighter bread than Pheeny did.

"There's no substance to her biscuits!" Eddie wailed, hoping to comfort
Pheeny, who had leisure enough now to develop at that late date her
first acquaintance with jealousy.


The cook was young and vigorous, and a hired man on a farm might have
called her good-looking; but her charms did not interest Eddie. His soul
was replete with the companionship of his other self--Pheeny; and if
Delia had been as sumptuous a beauty as Cleopatra he would have been
still more afraid of her. He had no more desire to possess her than to
own the Kohinoor.

And Delia, in her turn, was far more interested in the winks and
flatteries of the grocer's boy and the milkman than in any conquest of
the fussy little fat man, who ate whatever she slammed before him and
never raised his eyes.

Pheeny, however, could not imagine this. She could not know how secure
she was in Eddie's heart, or how she had grown in and about his soul
until she fairly permeated his being.

So Pheeny lay up in the prison of her bed and imagined vain things,
interpreting the goings-on down-stairs with a fantastic cynicism that
would have startled Boccaccio. She did not openly charge Eddie with
these fancied treacheries. She found him guilty silently and silently
acquitted him of fault, abjectly asking herself what right she had to
deny him all acquaintance with beauty, hilarity, and health.

She remembered her mother's eternal moan, "All men are alike." She
dramatized her poor mouse of a husband as a devastating Don Juan; and
then forgave him, as most of the victims of Don Juan's ruthless piracies
forgave him.

She suffered hideously, however. Eddie, seeing the deep, sad look of her
eyes as they studied him, wondered and wondered, and often asked her
what the matter was; but she always smiled as a mother smiles at a child
that is too sweet to punish for any mischief, and she always answered:
"Nothing! Nothing!" But then she would sigh to the caverns of her soul.
And sometimes tears would drip from her brimming lids to her pillow.
Still, she would tell him nothing but "Nothing!"

Finally the long repose repaired her worn-out sinews and she grew well
enough to move about the house. She prospered on the medicine of a new
hope that she should soon be well enough to expel the third person who
made a crowd of their little home.

And then Luella Thickins came back to town. Luella had married long
before and moved away; but now she came back a widow, handsome instead
of pretty, billowy instead of willowy, seductive instead of spoony, and
with that fearsome menace a widow carries like a cloud about her.

Eddie spoke of meeting her "down-town," and in his fatuous innocence
announced that she was "as pirty as ever." If he had hit Pheeny with a
hatchet he would have inflicted a less painful wound.


Luella's presence cast Pheeny into a profounder dismay than she had ever
felt about the cook. After all, Delia was only a hired girl, while
Luella was an old sweetheart. Delia had put wicked ideas into Eddie's
head and now Luella would finish him. As Ellaphine's mother had always
said, "Men have to have novelty."

The Lord Himself had never seen old Mr. Govers stray an inch aside from
the straight path of fidelity; but his wife had enhanced him with a
lifelong suspicion that eventually established itself as historical

Pheeny could find some excuse for Eddie's Don Juanity with the common
clay of Delia, especially as she never quite believed her own beliefs in
that affair; but Luella was different. Luella had been a rival. The
merest courtesy to Luella was an unpardonable affront to every sacred
right of successful rivalry.

The submerged bitternesses that had gathered in her soul like bubbles at
the bottom of a hot kettle came showering upward now, and her heart
simmered and thrummed, ready to boil over if the heat were not removed.

One day, soon, Luella fastened on Eddie as he left the factory to go
home to dinner. She had loitered about, hoping to engage the eye of
Jabez, who was now the most important widower in town. Luella had
elected him for her next; but he was away, and she whetted her wits on
Eddie. She walked at his side, excruciating him with her glib memories
of old times and the mad devotion he had cherished for her then.

He felt that it was unfaithful of him even to listen to her, but he
could not spur up courage enough to bolt and run. He welcomed the sight
of his own gate as an asylum of refuge. To his horror, Luella stopped
and continued her chatter, draping herself in emotional attitudes and
italicizing her coquetries. Her eyes seemed to drawl languorous words
that her lips dared not voice; and she committed the heinous offense of
plucking at Eddie's coat-sleeve and clinging to his hand. Then she
walked on like an erect cobra.

Eddie's very back had felt that Pheeny was watching him from one of the
windows or from all the windows; for when, at last, he achieved the rude
victory of breaking away from Luella and turned toward the porch, every
window was a somber eye of reproach.

He would not have looked so guilty if he had been guilty. He shuffled
into the house like a boy who comes home late from swimming; and when he
called aloud "Pheeny! Oh, Pheeny!" his voice cracked and his throat was
uncertain with phlegm.

He found Pheeny up-stairs in their room, with the door closed. He
closed it after him when he went in. He feigned a care-free joy at the
sight of her, and stumbled over his own foot as he crossed the room and
put his arms about her, where she sat in the big rocking-chair; but she
brushed his arms aside and bent her cheek away from his pursed lips.
This startled him, and he gasped:

"Why, what's the matter, honey? Why don't you kiss me?"

"You don't want to kiss me," she muttered.

"Why don't I?" he exclaimed.

"Because I'm not pirty. I'm not young. I'm not round or tall. I haven't
got nice clothes or those terrible manners that men like in women.
You're tired of me. I don't blame you; but you don't have to kiss me,
and you don't want to."

It was a silly sort of contest for so old a couple; but their souls felt
as young as childhood, or younger, and this debate was all-important. He
caught at her again and tried to drag her head to his lips, pleading

"Of course I want to kiss you, honey! Of course I do! Please--please
don't be this way!"

But she evaded him still, and glared at him as from a great distance,
sneering rather at herself than him and using that old byword of

"What can you see in me?" Suddenly she challenged him: "Who do you kiss
when you kiss me?"

He stared at her for a while as if he were not sure who she was. Then he
sat down on the broad arm of her chair and took one of her hands in
his--the hand with the wedding-ring on it--and seemed to talk to the
hand more than to her, lifting the fingers one after another and
studying each digit as though it had a separate personality--as perhaps
it had.


"Who do I kiss when I kiss you? That's a funny question!"

He laughed solemnly. Then he made a very long speech, for him; and she
listened to it with the attention due to that most fascinating of
themes, the discussion of oneself by another.

"Pheeny, when I was about knee-high to a grasshopper I went over to play
in Tim Holdredge's father's orchard; and when I started for home there
was a big dawg in old Mrs. Pittinger's front yard, and it jumped round
and barked at me. I guess it was just playing, because, as I remember it
now, it was wagging its tail, and afterward I found out it was only a
cocker spaniel; but I thought it was a wolf and was going to eat me. I
begun to cry, and I was afraid to go backward or to go forward. And by
and by a little girl came along and asked me what I was crying about,
and I said, 'About the dawg!' And the little girl said: 'O-oh! He's big,
ain't he?' And I said, 'He's goin' to eat one of us all up!' And the
little girl said: 'Aw, don't you care! You take a-holt of my hand and
I'll run past with you; and if he bites he'll bite me first and you can
git away!' She was as scared as I was, but she grabbed my hand and we
got by without being et up. Do you remember who that little girl was?"

The hand in his seemed to remember. The fingers of it closed on his a
moment, then relaxed as if to listen for more. He mused on:

"I wasn't very big for my size even then, and I wasn't very brave ever.
I didn't like to fight, like the other boys did, and I used to rather
take a lickin' than give one. Well, one day I was playin' marbles with
another boy, and he said I cheated when I won his big taw; but I didn't.
He wanted to fight, though, and he hit me; and I wouldn't hit back. He
was smaller than what I was, and he give me a lot of lip and dared me to
fight; and I just couldn't. He said I was afraid, and so did the other
boys; and I guess I was. It seemed to me I was more afraid of hurtin'
somebody else than gettin' hurt myself; but I guess I was just plain
afraid. The other boys began to push me round and call me a cowardy
calf, and I began to cry. I wanted to run home, but I was afraid to
start to run. And then a little girl came along and said: 'What's the
matter, Eddie? What you cryin' for?' And I said, 'They're all pickin' on
me and callin' me cowardy calf!' And she said: 'Don't you care! You come
right along with me; and if one of 'em says another word to you I'll
scratch their nasty eyes out!' Do you remember that, Pheeny?"

Her other hand came forward and embraced his wrist.

"And another time you found me cryin'. I was a little older, and I'd
studied hard and tried to get my lessons good; but I failed in the
exam'nations, and I was goin' to tie a rock round my neck and jump in
the pond. But you said: 'Aw, don't you care, Eddie! I didn't pass in
mine, either!'

"And when I wanted to go to college, and Uncle Loren wouldn't send me, I
didn't cry outside, but I cried inside; and I told you and you said:
'Don't you care! I don't get to go to boardin'-school myself.'

"And when I was fool enough to think I liked that no-account Luella
Thickins, and thought I'd go crazy because her wax-doll face wouldn't
smile for me, you said: 'Don't you care, Eddie! You're much too good for
her. I think you're the finest man in the country.'

"And when the baby didn't come and I acted like a baby myself, you said:
'Don't you care, Eddie! Ain't we got each other?'

"Seems like ev'ry time I been ready to lay down and die you've been
there with your old 'Don't you care! It's going to be all right!'

"Just last night I had a turrible dream. I didn't tell you about it for
fear it would upset you. I dreamed I got awful sick at the office. I
couldn't seem to add the figures right and the old desk wabbled. Finally
I had to leave off and start for home, though it was only a quarter of
twelve; and I had to set down on Doc Noxon's horse-block and on
Holdredge's wall to rest; and I couldn't get our gate open. And you run
out and dragged me in, and got me up-stairs somehow, and sent Delia
around for the doctor.

"Doc Noxon made you have a trained nurse, but I couldn't stand her; and
I wouldn't take medicine from anybody but you. I don't suppose I was
dreamin' more 'n a few minutes, all told; but it seemed like I laid
there for weeks, till one day Doc Noxon called you out of the room. I
couldn't hear what he was saying, but I heard you let out one horrible
scream, and then I heard sounds like he was chokin' you, and you kept
sayin': 'Oh no! No! No!'

"I tried to go and help you, but I couldn't lift my head. By and by you
come back, with your eyes all red. Doc Noxon was with you and he called
the nurse over to him. You come to me and tried to smile; and you said:

"'Well, honey, how are you now?'

"Then I knew what the doctor had told you and I was worse scared than
when the black dawg jumped at me. I tried to be brave, but I never could
seem to be. I put out my hands to you and hollered:

"'Pheeny, I'm goin' to die! I know I'm goin' to die! Don't let me go!
I'm afraid to die!'"

Now the hands clenched his with a frenzy that hurt--but beautifully.
And he kissed the wedding-ring as he finished:

"And you dropped down to me on the floor by the bed and took my
hands--just like that. And you whispered: 'Don't you care, honey! I'll
go with you. Don't you care!'

"And the fever seemed to cool out of me, and I kind of smiled and wasn't
afraid any more; and I turned my face to you and kissed you--like this,

"Why, you've been cryin', haven't you? You mustn't cry--you mustn't! All
those girls I been tellin' you about are the girl I kiss when I kiss
you, Pheeny. There couldn't be anybody as beautiful as you are to me.

"I ain't 'mounted to much; but it ain't your fault. I wouldn't have
'mounted to anything at all if it hadn't been for you, Pheeny; and I
been the happiest feller in all this world--or I have been up to now.
I'm awful lonedsome just now. Don't you s'pose you could spare me a

She spared him one.

Then the cook pounded on the door and called through in a voice that
threatened to warp the panels: "Ain't you folks ever comin' down to
dinner? I've rang the bell three times. Everything's all cold!"

But it wasn't. Everything was all warm.



They made a handsome family group, with just the one necessary element
of contrast.

Father was the contrast.

They were convened within and about the big three-walled divan which,
according to the fashion, was backed up against a long library-table in
what they now called the living-room. It had once been the sitting-room
and had contained a what-isn't-it and a sofa like an enormous bald
caterpillar, crowded against the wall so that you could fall off only
one side of it.

It was a family reunion and unexpected. Father was not convened with the
rest, but sat off in the shadow and counted the feet sticking out from
the divan and protruding from the chairs. He counted fourteen feet,
including his wife's and excluding his own. All the feet were
expensively shod except his own.

Three of the children had come home for a visit, and father, glad as he
was to see them, had a vague feeling that they had been brought in by
some other motive than their loudly proclaimed homesickness. He was
willing to wait until they disclosed it, for he had an idea what it was
and he was always glad to postpone a payment. It meant so much less
interest to lose. Father was a business man.

Father was also dismally computing the addition to the grocery bills,
the butchery bills, and livery bills, and the others. He was figuring
out the added expense of the dinner, with roast beef now costing as much
as peacocks' tongues. He had raised a large family and there was not a
dyspeptic in the lot--not even a banter.

They had been photographed together the day before and the proof had
just come home. Father was not in the picture. It was a handsome
picture. They admitted it themselves. They had urged father to come
along, but he had pleaded his business, as usual. As they studied the
picture they would glance across at father and realize how little the
picture lost by his absence. It lost nothing but the contrast.

While they were engaged each in that most fascinating of
employments--studying one's own photograph--they were all waiting for
the dining-room maid to appear like a black-and-white sketch and crisply
announce that dinner was served. They had not arrived yet at having a
man. Indeed, that room could still remember when a frowsy, blowsy hired
girl was wont to stick her head in and groan, "Supper's ready!"

In fact, mother had never been able to live down a memory of the time
when she used to put her own head in at a humbler dining-room door and
call with all the anger that cooks up in a cook: "Come on! What we got's
on the table!" But mother had entirely forgotten the first few months of
her married life, when she would sing out to father: "Oh, honey, help me
set the table, will you? I've a surprise for you--something you like!"

This family had evolved along the cycles so many families go
through--from pin feathers to paradise plumes--only, the male bird had
failed to improve his feathers or his song, though he never failed to
bring up the food and keep the nest thatched.

The history of an American family can often be traced by its monuments
in the names the children call the mother. Mrs. Grout had begun as--just
one Ma. Eventually they doubled that and progressed from the accent on
the first to the accent on the second ma. Years later one of the
inarticulate brats had come home as a collegian in a funny hat, and Mama
had become Mater. This had lasted until one of the brattines came home
as a collegienne with a swagger and a funny sweater. And then her Latin
title was Frenchified to _Mère_--which always gave father a shock; for
father had been raised on a farm, where only horses' wives were called
by that name.

Father had been dubbed Pop at an early date. Efforts to change this
title had been as futile as the terrific endeavors to keep him from
propping his knife against his plate. He had been browbeaten out of
using the blade for transportation purposes, but at that point he had
simply ceased to develop.

Names like Pappah, Pater, and _Père_ would not cling to him; they fell
off at once. Pop he was always called to his face, whether he were
referred to abroad as "the old man," "the governor," or "our dear

The evolution of the Grout family could be traced still more clearly in
the names the parents had given the children. The eldest was a daughter,
though when she grew up she dropped back in the line and became ever so
much younger than her next younger brothers. She might have fallen still
farther to the rear if she had not run up against another daughter who
had her own age to keep down.

The eldest daughter, born in the grim days of early penury, had been
grimly entitled Julia. The following child, a son, was soberly called by
his father's given and his mother's maiden names--John Pennock Grout, or
Jno. P., as his father wrote it.

A year or two later there appeared another hostage. Labeling him was a
matter of deep concern. John urged his own father's name, William; but
the mother wafted this away with a gesture of airy disgust. There was a
hired girl in the kitchen now and mother was reading a good many novels
between stitches. She debated long and hard while the child waited
anonymous. At length she ventured on Gerald. She changed that two or
three times and the boy had a narrow escape from Sylvester. He came
perilously near to carrying Abélard through an amused world; but she
harked back to Gerald--which he spelled Jerrold at times.

Then two daughters entered the family in succession and were stamped
Beatrice--pronounced Bay-ah-treat-she by those who had the time and the
energy--and Consuelo, which Pop would call Counser-eller.

By this time Julia had grown up and was beginning at finishing-school.
She soon saw that Julia would never do--never! She had started with a
handicap, but she caught up with the rest and passed them gracefully by
ingeniously altering the final _a_ to an _e_, and pronouncing it

Her father never could get within hailing distance of the French _j_ and
_u_, and teetered awkwardly between Jilly and Jelly. He was apt to relax
sickeningly into plain Julia--especially before folks, when he was
nervous anyway. Only they did not say "before folks" now; the Grouts
never said "before folks" now--they said, "In the presence of guests."

By the time the next son came the mother was shamelessly literary enough
to name him Ethelwolf, which his school companions joyously abbreviated
to Ethel, overlooking the wolf.

Ethelwolf was the last of the visitors. For by this time _Mère_ had
accumulated so many absolutely unforgivable grievances against her
absolutely impossible husband that she felt qualified for that crown of
comfortable martyrhood, that womanly ideal, "a wife in name only"--and
only that "for the sake of the children."

By this time the children, too, had acquired grievances against Pop. The
more refined they grew the coarser-grained he seemed. They could not
pulverize him in the coffee-mill of criticism. He was as hopeless in
ideas as in language. It was impossible to make him realize that the
best is always the cheapest; that fine clothes make fine people; that
petty economies are death to "the larger flights of the soul"; and that
parents have no right to have children unless they can give them what
other people's children have.

If John Grout complained that he was not a millionaire the younger
Grouts retorted that this was not their fault, but their misfortune; and
it was "up to Pop" to do the best he could during what _Mère_ was now
calling their "formative years." The children had liberal ideas,
artistic and refined ideals; but Pop was forever talking poor, always
splitting pennies, always dolefully reiterating, "I don't know where the
money is coming from!"

It was so foolish of him, too--for it always came from somewhere. The
children went to the best schools, traveled in Europe, wore as good
clothes as anybody--though they did not admit this, of course, within
father's hearing, lest it put false notions into his head; and the sons
made investments that had not yet begun to turn out right.

Parents cannot fool their children long, and the Grout youngsters had
learned at an early date that Pop always forked over when he was nagged
into it. Any of the children in trouble could always write or telegraph
home a "must have," and it was always forthcoming. There usually
followed a querulous note about "Sorry you have to have so much, but I
suppose it costs a lot where you are. Make it go as far as you can, for
I'm a little pinched just now." But this was taken as a mere detail--an
unfortunate paternal habit.

That was Pop's vice--his only one and about the least attractive of
vices. It was harrowing to be the children of a miser--for he must have
a lot hoarded away. His poor talk, his allusions to notes at the bank
and mortgages and drafts to meet, were just bogies to frighten them with
and to keep them down.

It was most humiliating for high-spirited children to be so
misunderstood. Pop lacked refined tastes. It was a harsh thing to say of
one's parent, but when you came right down to it Pop was a hopeless

Pop noticed the difference himself. He would have doubted that these
magnificent youngsters could be his own if that had not implied a
criticism of his unimpeachable wife. So he gave her all the credit. For
_Mère_ was different. She was well read; she entertained charmingly; she
loved good clothes, up-to-the-minute hats; she knew who was who and
what was what. She was ambitious, progressive. She nearly took up French

But Pop was shabby. Pop always wore a suit until it glistened and his
children ridiculed him into a new one. As for wearing evening dress, in
the words of Gerald they "had to blindfold him and back him into his
soup-and-fish, even on the night the Italian Opera Company came to

Pop never could take them anywhere. A vacation was a thing of horror to
him. It was almost impossible to drag him to a lake or the sea, and it
was quite impossible to keep him there more than a few days. His
business always called him home.

And such a business! Dry-goods!--and in a small town.

And such a town, with such a name! To the children who knew their Paris
and their London, their New York and their Washington, a visit home was
like a sentence to jail. It was humiliating to make a good impression on
acquaintances of importance and then have to confess to a home town
named Waupoos.

People either said, "I beg your pardon!" as if they had not heard it
right, or they laughed and said, "Honestly?"

The children had tried again and again to pry Pop out of Waupoos, but he
clung to it like a limpet. He had had opportunities, too, to move his
business to big cities, but he was afraid to venture. He was fairly sure
of sustenance in Waupoos so long as he nursed every penny; but he could
never find the courage to transplant himself to another place.

The worst of his cowardice was that he blamed the children--at least, he
said he dared not face a year or two of possible loss lest they might
need something. So he stayed in Waupoos and managed somehow to keep the
family afloat and the store open.

When _Mère_ revolted and longed for a glimpse of the outer world he
always advised her to take a trip and have a good time. He always said
he could afford that much, and he took an interest in seeing that she
had funds to buy some city clothes with; but he never had funds enough
to go along.

That was one of mother's grievances. Pop bored her to death at home and
she wanted to scream every time he mentioned his business--it was so
selfish of him to talk of that at night when she had so much to tell him
of the misbehavior of the servants. But, greatly as he annoyed her round
the house, she cherished an illusion that she would like him in a hotel.

She had tried to get him to read a certain novel--a wonderful book
mercilessly exposing the curse of modern America; which is the men's
habit of sticking to their business so closely that they give their poor
wives no companionship. They leave their poor wives to languish at home
or to go shopping or gossiping, while they indulge themselves in the
luxuries of vibration between creditor and debtor.

In this novel, and in several others she could have named, the poor
wife naturally fell a prey to the fascinations of a handsome devil with
dark eyes, a motor or two, and no office hours.

_Mère_ often wondered why she herself had not taken up with some
handsome devil fully equipped for the entertainment of neglected wives.

If she had not been a member of that stanch American womanhood to which
the glory of the country and its progress are really due, she might have
startled her husband into realizing too late, as the too-late husbands
in the novels realized, that a man's business is a side issue and that
the perpetuation of romance is the main task. Her self-respect was all
that held _Mère_ to the home; that and--whisper!--the fact that no
handsome devil with any kind of eyes ever tried to lure her away.

When she reproached Pop and threatened him he refused to be scared. He
paid his wife that most odious of tributes--a monotonous trust in her
loyalty and an insulting immunity to jealousy. Almost worse was his
monotonous loyalty to her and his failure to give her jealousy any

They quarreled incessantly, but the wrangles were not gorgeously
dramatic charges of intrigue with handsome men or painted women,
followed by rapturous make-ups. They were quarrels over expenditures,
extravagances, and voyages.

_Mère_ charged Pop with parsimony and he charged her with recklessness.
She accused him of trying to tie them down to a village; he accused her
of trying to drive him to bankruptcy. She demanded to know whether he
wanted his children to be like children of their neighbors--clerks in
small stores, starveling tradespeople and wives of little merchants. He
answered that she was breeding a pack of snobs that despised their
father and had no mercy on him--and no use for him except as a lemon to
squeeze dry. She answered with a laugh of scorn that lemon was a good
word; and he threw up his hands and returned to the shop if the war
broke out at noon, or slunk up to bed if it followed dinner.

This was the pattern of their daily life. Every night there was a new
theme, but the duet they built on it ran along the same formulas.

The children sided with _Mère_, of course. In the first place, she was a
poor, downtrodden woman; in the second, she was their broker. Her job
was to get them things. They gave her the credit for what she got them.
They gave Pop no praise for yielding--no credit for extracting somehow
from the dry-soil of an arid town the money they extracted from him.
They knew nothing of the myriad little agonies, the ingenuity, the
tireless attention to detail, the exquisite finesse that make success
possible in the mêlée of competition. Their souls were above trade and
its petty nigglings.

Jno. P., who was now known as J. Pennock, was aiming at a million
dollars in New York, and his mother was sure that he would get it next
time if Pop would only raise him a little more money to meet an
irritating obligation or seize a glittering opportunity. Pop always
raised the money and J. Pennock always lost it. Yet Pennock was a
financier and Pop was a village merchant. And now Pen had come home
unexpectedly. He was showing a great interest in Pop's affairs.

Gerald was home also unexpectedly. He was an artist of the most
wonderful promise. None of his promises was more wonderful than those he
made his father to repay just one more loan--to tide him over until he
sold his next picture; but it never sold, or it sold for a mere song.
Gerald solaced himself and _Mère_ solaced him for being ahead of his
time, unappreciated, too good for the public. She thanked Heaven that
Gerald was a genius, not a salesman. One salesman in the family was

And Gerald had beaten Pen home by one train. He had greeted Pen somewhat
coldly--as if Pen were a trespasser on his side of the street. And when
it was learned that Julie had telegraphed that she would arrive the next
day, both the brothers had frowned.

Pop had sighed. He was glad to see his wonderful offspring, but he had
already put off the grocer and the butcher--and even his life-insurance
premium--because he had an opportunity by a quick use of cash to obtain
the bankrupt stock of a rival dealer who had not nursed his pennies as
Pop had. It was by such purchases that Pop had managed to keep his store
alive and his brilliant children in funds.

He had temporarily drawn his bank account down to the irreducible
minimum and borrowed on his securities up to the insurmountable maximum.
It was a bad time for his children to tap him. But here they were--Jno.
P., Jerry, and Julia--all very unctuous over the home-coming, and yet
all of them evidently cherishing an ulterior idea.

He watched them lounging in fashionable awkwardness. They were brilliant
children. And he was as proud of them as he was afraid of them--and for


If the children looked brilliant to Pop he did not reflect their
refulgence. As they glanced from the photographer's proof to Pop they
were not impressed. They were not afraid of him or for him.

His bodily arrangement was pitifully gawky; he neither sat erect nor
lounged--he slumped spineless. Big spectacles were in style now, but
Pop's big spectacles were just out of it. His face was like a parchment
that had been left out in the rain and had dried carelessly in deep,
stiff wrinkles--with the writing washed off.

Ethelwolf, the last born, had no ulterior idea. He always spent his
monthly allowance by the second Tuesday after the first Monday, and
sulked through a period of famine and debt until the next month. It was
now the third Tuesday and he was disposed to sarcasm.

"Look at Pop!" he muttered. "He looks just like the old boy they put in
the cartoons to represent The Common People."

"He's the Beau Brummel of Waupoos, all right!" said Bayahtreatshe, who
was soon returning to Wellesley. And Consuelo, who was preparing for
Vassar, added under her breath, "Mère, can't you steal up on him and
swipe that already-tied tie?"

Had Pop overheard, he would have made no complaint. He had known the
time when they had thrown things at him. The reverence of American
children for their fathers is almost as famous as the meekness of
American wives before their husbands. Yet it might have hurt Pop a
little to see Mother shake her head and hear her sigh:

"He's hopeless, children! Do take warning from my misfortune and be
careful what you marry."

Poor _Mère_ had absolutely forgotten how proud she had been when Johnnie
Grout came courting her, and how she had extracted a proposal before he
knew what he was about, and had him at the altar before he was ready to
support a wife in the style she had been accustomed to hope for. She
remembered only the dreams he had not brought true, the harsh realities
of their struggle upward. She had worked and skimped with him then. Now
she was like a lolling passenger in a jinrikisha, who berates the shabby
coolie because he stumbles where the roads are rough and sweats where
they are steep.

Julie spoke up in answer to her mother's word of caution:

"There's one thing better than being careful what you marry--and that's
not marrying at all!"

The rest of them were used to Julie's views; but Pop, who had paid
little heed to them, almost collapsed from his chair. Julie went on:

"Men are all alike, Mère. They're very soft-spoken when they come to
make love; but it's only a bluff to make us give up our freedom. Before
we know it they drag us up before another man, a preacher, and make us
swear to love, honor, and obey. They kill the love, make the honor
impossible, and the obey ridiculous. Then they coop us up at home and
expect us to let them run the world to suit themselves. They've been
running it for thousands of years--and look at the botch they've made of
it! It's time for us to take the helm."

"Go to it, sis," said Ethelwolf. "I care not who makes the laws so long
as I can break them."

"Let your sister alone!" said _Mère_. "Go on, Julie!"

"I've put it all in the address I read before the Federation last week,"
said Julie. "It was reported at length in one of the papers. I've got a
clipping in my handbag here somewhere."

She began to rummage through a little condensed chaos of handkerchiefs,
gloves, powder-puff, powdery dollar bills, powdery coins, loose bits of
paper, samples, thread, pins, buttons--everything--every-whichway.

J. Pennock laughed. "Pipe what's going to run the world! Better get a
few pockets first."

"Don't be a brute, Pen!" said _Mère_.

At last Julie found the clipping she sought and, shaking the powder from
it, handed it to her mother.

"It's on the strength of this speech that I was elected delegate to the
international convention at San Francisco," she said.

"You were!" _Mère_ gasped, and Beatrice and Consuelo exclaimed,

"Are you going?" said _Mère_ when she recovered from her awe.

"Well, it's a pretty expensive trip. That's why I came home--to see
if--Well, we can take that up later. Tell me how you like the speech."

_Mère_ mumbled the report aloud to the delighted audience. Pop heard
little of it. He was having a chill. It was very like plain ague, but he
credited it to the terror of Julie's mission home. All she wanted him to
do was to send her on a little jaunt to San Francisco! The tyrant, as
usual, was expected to finance the rebellion.

When _Mère_ had finished reading everybody applauded Julie except Pop.
_Mère_ overheard his silence and rounded on him across the aristocratic
reading-glass she wielded.

"Did you hear that?"

Pop was so startled that he answered, "Uh-huh!"

"Didn't you think it was splendid?" _Mère_ demanded.

"Uh-huh!" said Pop.

"What didn't you like about it?"

"I liked it all first-rate. Julie is a smart girl, I tell you."

_Mère_ scented his evasion, and she would never tolerate evasions. She

"What didn't you like about it?"

"I liked all I could understand."

"Understand!" snapped _Mère_, who rarely wasted her culture on Pop.
"What didn't you understand? Could anything be clearer than this?
Listen!" She read in an oratorical voice:

"'Woman has been for ages man's mere beast of burden, his household
drudge. Being a wife has meant being a slave--the only servant without
wages or holiday. But the woman of to-day at last demands that the
shackles be stricken off; she demands freedom to live her life her own
way--to express her selfhood without the hampering restrictions imposed
on her by the barbaric customs inherited from the time of the

_Mère_ folded up the clipping and glared defiance at the cave-man
slumped in the uneasy chair.

"What's clearer than that?" she reiterated.

Pop was at bay. He was like a desperate rabbit. He answered:

"It's clear enough, I guess; but it's more than I can take in. Seems to
me the women folks are hollering at the men folks to give 'em what the
men folks have never been able to get for themselves."

It was peevish. Coming from Pop, it amounted to an outburst, a riot, a
mutiny. Such a tendency was dangerous. He must be sharply repressed at
once--as a new servant must be taught her place. _Mère_ administered the
necessary rebuke, aided and abetted by the daughters. The sons did not
rally to their father's defense. He was soon reduced to submission, but
his apology was further irritation:

"I'm kind of rattled like. I ain't feeling as chipper as usual."
"Chipper" was bad enough, but "ain't" was unendurable! They rebuked him
for that and he put in another irrelevant plea: "I had a kind of sick
spell at the store. I had to lay down."

"Lie down!" Beatrice corrected.

"Lie down," he accepted. "But as soon as I laid down--"

"Lay down!"

"Lay down--I had chills and shootin' pains; and I--"

"It's the weather," _Mère_ interrupted, impatiently. "I've had a
headache all day--such a headache as never was known! It seemed as if
hammers were beating upon my very brain. It was--"

"I'm not feeling at all well myself," said Consuelo.

There was almost a tournament of rivalry in describing sufferings.

Pop felt as if he had wakened a sleeping hospital. He sank back ashamed
of his own outburst. He rarely spoke of the few ailments he could
afford. When he did it was like one of his new clerks pulling a bolt of
goods from the shelf and bringing down a silken avalanche.

The clinic was interrupted by the crisp voice of Nora: "Dinner is

Everybody rose and moved to the door with quiet determination. Pop alone
failed to rise. _Mère_ glowered at him. He pleaded: "I don't feel very
good. I guess I'd better leave my stummick rest."

The children protested politely, but he refused to be moved and _Mère_
decided to humor him.

"Let him alone, children. It won't hurt him to skip a meal."

They said: "Too bad, Pop!"--"You'll be all right soon," and went out and
forgot him.

Pop heard them chattering briskly. It was polite talk. If slang were
used it was the very newest. He gleaned that Pen and Gerald were
opposing Julie's mission to San Francisco on the ground of the expense.
He smiled bitterly to hear that word from them. He heard Julie's retort:

"I suppose you boys want the money yourselves! Well, I've got first
havers at Pop. I saw him first!"

At about this point the conversation lost its coherence in Pop's ears.
It was mingled with a curious buzzing and a dizziness that made him grip
his chair lest it pitch him to the floor. Chills, in which his bones
were a mere rattlebox, alternated with little rushes of prairie fire
across his skin. Throes of pain wrung him.

Also, he was a little afraid--he was afraid he might not be able to get
to the store in the morning. And important people were coming! He had to
make the first payment on the invoice of that bankrupt stock. A
semiannual premium was overdue on his life insurance. The month of grace
had nearly expired, and if he failed to pay the policy would lapse--now
of all times! He had kept it up all these years; it must not lapse now,
for he was going to be right sick. He wanted somebody to nurse him: his
mother--or that long-lost girl he had married in the far past.

His shoes irked him; his vest--what they wanted called his
waistcoat--was as tight as a corset. He felt that he would be safer in
bed. He'd better go up to his own room and stretch out. He rose with
extraordinary difficulty and negotiated a swimming floor on swaying

The laughter from the dining-room irritated him. He would be better off
up-stairs, where he could not hear it. The noise in his ears was all he
could stand. He attained the foot of the stairs and the flight of steps
seemed as long and as misty as Jacob's Ladder. And he was no angel!

The Grouts lingered at dinner and over their black coffee and tobacco
until it was time to dress for the reception at Mrs. Alvin Mitnick's, at
which Waupoos society would pass itself in review. The later you got
there the smarter you were, and most people put off dressing until the
last possible minute in order to keep themselves from falling asleep
before it was time to start.

The Grouts, however, were eager to go early and get it over with. They
loved to trample on Waupoos traditions. As they drifted into the hall
they found it dark. They shook their heads in dismal recognition of a
familiar phenomenon, and Ethelwolf groaned:

"Pop has gone up-stairs. You can always trace Pop. Wherever he has
passed by the lights are out."

"He has figured out that by darkening the halls while we are at dinner
he saves nearly a cent a day," _Mère_ groaned.

"If Pop were dying he'd turn out a light somewhere because he wouldn't
need it." And Ethelwolf laughed.

But _Mère_ groaned again: "Can you wonder that I get depressed? Now,
children, I ask you--"

"Poor old Mère! It's awful!"--"Ghastly!"--"Maddening!"

They gathered round her lovingly, echoing her moans. They started up the
dark stairway, Consuelo first and turning back to say to Beatrice:

"Pop can cut a penny into more slices than--" Then she screamed and
started back.

Her agitation went down the stairway through the climbing Grouts like a
cold breeze. What was it? She looked close. A hand was just visible on
the floor at the head of the stairs. She had stepped on it.


Pop had evidently reached the upper hall, when the ruling passion
burning even through his fever had led him to grope about for the
electric switch. His last remaining energy had been expended for an
economy and he had collapsed.

They switched the light on again; they were always switching on currents
that he switched off--and paid for. They found him lying in a crumpled
sprawl that was awkward, even for Pop.

They stared at him in bewilderment. They would have said he was drunk;
but Pop never drank--nor smoked--nor played cards. Perhaps he was dead!

This thought was like a thunderbolt. There was a great thumping in the
breasts of the Grouts.

Suddenly _Mère_ strode forward, dropped to her knees and put her hand on
Pop's heart. It was not still--far from that. She placed her cold palm
on his forehead. His brow was clammy, hot and cold and wet.

"He has a high fever!" she said.

Then, with a curious emotion, she brushed back the scant wet hair;
closed her eyes and felt in her bosom a sudden ache like the turning of
a rusty iron. She felt young and afraid--a young wife who finds her man

She looked up and saw standing about her a number of tall ladies and
gentlemen--important-looking strangers. Then she remembered that they
had once been nobodies. She felt ashamed before them and she said,

"He's going to be ill. Telephone for the doctor to come right away. And
you girls get his bed ready. No, you'd better put him in my room--it
gets the sunlight. And you boys fill the ice-cap--and the hot-water bag
and--hurry! Hurry!"

The specters vanished. She was alone with her lover. She was drying his
forehead with her best lace handkerchief and murmuring:

"John honey, what's the matter! Why, honey--why didn't you tell me?"

Then a tall gentleman or two returned and one of them said:

"Better let us get him off the floor, Mère."

And the big sons of the frail little man picked him up and carried him
into the room and pulled off his elastic congress gaiters, and his coat
and vest, and his detached cuffs, and his permanently tied tie, and his
ridiculous collar.

Then _Mère_ put them out, and when the doctor arrived Pop was in bed in
his best nightshirt.

The doctor made his way up through the little mob of terrified children.
He found Mrs. Grout vastly agitated and much ashamed of herself. She did
not wish to look sentimental. She had reached the Indian-summer modesty
of old married couples.

The doctor went through the usual ritual of pulse-feeling and
tongue-examining and question-asking, while Pop lay inert, with a little
thermometer protruding from his mouth like a most inappropriate

The doctor was uncertain yet whether it were one of the big fevers or
pneumonia or just a bilious attack. Blood-tests would show; and he
scraped the lobe of the ear of the unresisting, indifferent old man, and
took a drop of thin pink fluid on a bit of glass. The doctor tried to
reassure the panicky family, but his voice was low and important.


The brilliant receptions and displays that _Mère_ and the children had
planned were abandoned without regret. All minor regrets were lost in
the one big regret for the poor old, worn-out man up-stairs.

There was a dignity about Pop now. The lowliest peasant takes on majesty
when he is battling for his life and his home.

There was dismay in all the hearts now--dismay at the things they had
said and the thoughts and sneers; dismay at the future without this
shabby but unfailing provider.

The proofs of the family photograph lay scattered about the living-room.
Pop was not there. They had smiled about it before. Now it looked
ominous! What would become of this family if Pop were not there?

The house was filled with a thick sense of hush like a heavy fog; but
thoughts seemed to be all the louder in the silence--jumbled thoughts of
selfish alarm; filial terror; remorse; tenderness; mutual rebuke; dread
of death, of the future, of the past.

The day nurse and the night nurse were in command of the house. The only
events were the arrivals of the doctor, his long stops, his whispered
conferences with the nurses, and the unsatisfactory, evasive answers he
gave as the family ambushed him at the foot of the stairs on his way

Meanwhile they could not help Pop in his long wrestle. They had drained
his strength and bruised his heart while he had his power, and now that
he needed their help and their youth they could not lend him anything;
they could not pay a single instalment on the mortgages they had

They could only stand at the door now and then and look in at him. They
could not beat off one of the invisible vultures of fever and pain that
hovered over him, swooped, and tore him.

They could not even get word to him--not a message of love or of
repentance or of hope. His brain was in a turmoil of its own. His white
lips were muttering delirious nonsense; his soul was fluttering from
scene to scene and year to year, like a restless dragon-fly. He was
young; he was old; he was married; he was a bachelor; he was at home;
he was in his store; he was pondering campaigns of business, slicing
pennies or making daring purchases; he was retrenching; he was
advertising; but he was afraid always that he might sink in the bog of
competition with rival merchants, with creditors, debtors, bankers, with
his wife, his children, his neighbors, his ideals, his business

"Ain't the moon pirty to-night, honey! Gee! I'm scared of that preacher!
What do I say when he says, 'Do you take this woman for your'--The
pay-roll? I can't meet it Saturday. How am I going to meet the pay-roll?
I don't see how we can sell those goods any cheaper, but we got to get
rid of 'em. My premium! My premium! I haven't paid my premium! What'll
become of the children? Three cents a yard--it's robbery! Eight cents a
yard--that's givin' it away! Don't misunderstand me, Sally. It's my way
of making love. I can't say pirty things like some folks can, but I can
think 'em. My premium--the pay-roll--so many children! Couldn't they do
without that? I ain't a millionaire, you know. Every time I begin to get
ahead a little seems like one of the children gets sick or in
trouble--the pay-roll! Three cents a yard--the new invoice--I can't buy
myself a noo soot. The doctor's bills! I ain't complaining of 'em; but
I've got to pay 'em! Let me stay home--I'd rather. I've had a hard day.
My premium! Don't put false notions in their heads! The pay-roll! Don't
scold me, honey! I got feelings, too. You haven't said a word of love
to me in years! I'll raise the money somehow. I know I'm close; but
somebody's got to be--the pay-roll--so many people depending on me. So
many mouths to feed--the children--all the clerks--the delivery-wagon
drivers--the advertising bills--the pay-roll--the children! I ain't as
young as I was--honey, don't scold me!"

The ceaseless babbling grew intolerable. Then it ceased; and the stupor
that succeeded was worse, for it meant exhaustion. The doctor grew more
grave. He ceased to talk of hope. He looked ashamed. He tried to throw
the blame from himself.

And one dreadful day he called the family together in the living-room.
Once more they were all there--all those expensively shod feet; those
well-clothed, well-fed bodies. In the chair where Pop had slumped the
doctor sat upright. He was saying:

"Of course there's always hope. While there's life there's always hope.
The fever is pretty well gone, but so is the patient. The crisis left
him drained. You see he has lived this American business man's life--no
exercise, no vacations, no change. The worst of it is that he seems to
have given up the fight. You know we doctors can only stand guard
outside. The patient has to fight it out inside himself. It's a very
serious sign when the sick man loses interest in the battle. Mr. Grout
does not rally. His powerful mind has given up."

In spite of themselves there was a general lifting of the brows of
surprise at the allusion to Pop's poor little footling brain as a
powerful mind. Perhaps the doctor saw it. He said:

"For it was a powerful mind! Mr. Grout has carried that store of his
from a little shop to a big institution; he has kept it afloat in a dull
town through hard times. He has kept his credit good and he has given
his family wonderful advantages. Look where he has placed you all! He
was a great man."

When the doctor had gone they began to understand that the town had
looked upon Pop as a giant of industry, a prodigal of vicarious
extravagance. They began to feel more keenly still how good a man he
was. While they were flourishing like orchids in the sun and air, he had
grubbed in the earth, sinking roots everywhere in search of moisture and
of sustenance. Through him, things that were lowly and ugly and cheap
were gathered and transformed and sent aloft as sap to make flowers of
and color them and give them velvet petals and exquisite perfume.

They gathered silently in his room to watch him. He was white and still,
hardly breathing, already the overdue chattel of the grave.

They talked of him in whispers, for he did not answer when they praised
him. He did not move when they caressed him. He was very far away and
drifting farther.

They spoke of how much they missed him, of how perfect a father he had
been, competing with one another in regrets and in praise. Back of all
this belated tribute there was a silent dismay they did not give voice
to--the keen, immediately personal reasons for regret.

"What will become of us?" they were thinking, each in his or her own
terrified soul.

"I can't go back to school!"

"This means no college for me!"

"I'll have to stay in this awful town the rest of my life!"

"I can't go to San Francisco! The greatest honor of my life is taken
from me just as I grasped it."

"I had a commission to paint the portrait of an ambassador at
Washington--it would have been the making of me! It meant a lot of
money, too. I came home to ask Pop to stake me to money enough to live
on until it was finished."

"My business will go to smash! I'll be saddled with debts for the rest
of my life. If I could have hung on a little longer I'd have reached the
shore; but the bank wouldn't lend me a cent. Nobody would. I came home
to ask Pop to raise me some cash. I counted on him. He never failed me

"What will become of us all?"

There was a stir on the pillow. The still head began to rock, the throat
to swell, the lips to twitch.

_Mère_ ran to the bedside and knelt by it, laying her hand on the
forehead. A miracle had been wrought in the very texture of his brow.
He was whispering something. She put her ear to his lips.

"Yes, honey. What is it? I'm here."

She caught the faint rustling of words. It was as if his hovering soul
had been eavesdropping on their thoughts. Perhaps it was merely that he
had learned so well in all these years just what each of them would be
thinking. For he murmured:

"I've been figuring out--how much the--funeral will cost--you know
they're awful expensive--funerals are--of course I wouldn't want
anything fancy--but--well--besides--and I've been thinking the children
have got to have so many things--I can't afford to--be away from the
store any longer. I ain't got time to die! I've had vacation enough!
Where's my clothes at?"

They held him back. But not for long. He was the most irritatingly
impatient of convalescents. In due course of time the family was
redistributed about the face of the earth. Ethelwolf was at preparatory
school; Beatrice and Consuelo were acquiring and lending luster at
Wellesley and Vassar; Gerald was painting a portrait at Washington; and
J. Pennock was like a returned Napoleon in Wall Street.

Pop was at his desk in the store. All his employees had gone home. He
was fretfully twiddling a telegram from San Francisco:

Julie's address sublime please telegraph two hundred more love


Pop was remembering the words of the address: "Woman has been for ages
man's mere beast of burden.... Being a wife has meant being a slave."

Pop could not understand it yet. But he told everybody he met about the
first three words of the telegram, and added:

"I got the smartest children that ever was and they owe it all to their
mother, every bit."



The wisest thing Prof. Stuart Litton was ever caught at was the thing he
was most ashamed of. He had begun to accumulate knowledge at an age when
most boys are learning to fight and to explain at home how they got
their clothes torn. He wore out spectacles almost as fast as his
brothers wore out copper-toed boots; but he did not begin to acquire
wisdom until he was just making forty. Up to that time, if the serpent
is the standard, Professor Litton was about as wise as an angleworm.

He submerged himself in books for nearly forty years; and then--in the
words of Leonard Teed--then he "came up for air." This man Teed was the
complete opposite of Litton. For one thing he was the liveliest young
student in the university where Litton was the solemnest old professor.
Teed had scientific ambitions and hated Greek and Latin, which Litton
felt almost necessary to salvation. Teed regarded Litton and his Latin
as the sole obstacles to his success in college; and, though Litton was
too much of a gentle heart to hate anybody, if he could have hated
anybody it would have been Teed. A girl was concerned in one of their
earliest encounters, though Litton's share in it was as unromantic as

Teed, it seems, had violated one of the rules at Webster University. He
had chatted with Miss Fannie Newman--a pretty student in the Woman's
College--after nine o'clock; nay, more, he had sat on a campus bench
bidding her good night for half an hour, and, with that brilliant
mathematical mind of his, had selected the bench at the greatest
possible distance from the smallest cluster of lampposts.

On this account he was haled before the disciplinary committee of the
faculty. Litton happened to be on that committee. Teed made the best
fight he could. He showed himself a Greek--in argument at least--and,
like an old sophist, he tried to prove, first, that he was not on the
campus with the girl and never had spooned with her; second, that if he
had been there and had spooned with her it was too dark for them to be
seen; and third, that he was engaged to the girl, anyway, and had a
right to spoon with her.

The accusing witness was a janitor whom Teed had played various jokes on
and had neglected to appease with tips. Teed submitted him to a fierce
cross-examination; forced him to admit that he could not see the loving
couple and had identified them solely by their voices. Teed demanded
the exact words overheard; and, as often happens to the too-ardent
cross-examiner, he got what he asked for and wished he had not. The
janitor, blushing at what he remembered, pleaded:

"You don't vant I should say it exectly vat I heered?"

"Exactly!" Teed answered in his iciest tone.

"Vell," the janitor mumbled, "it vas such a foolish talk as--but--vell,
ven I come by I hear voman's voice says, 'Me loafs oo besser as oo loafs

Teed flushed and the faculty sat forward.

"Den I hear man's voice says,'Oozie-voozie, mezie-vezie--' Must I got to
tell it all?"

"Go on!" said Teed, grimly; and the old German mopped his brow with
anguish and snorted with rage: "'Mezie-vezie loafs oozie-voozie

The purple-faced members of the faculty were hanging on to their own
safety-valves to keep from exploding--all save Professor Litton, who
felt that his hearing must be defective. Teed, fighting in the last
ditch, said:

"But such language does not prove the identity of the--er--participants.
You said you knew positively."

The janitor, writhing with disgust and indignation, went on:

"Ven I hear such nonsunse I stop and listen if it is two people escapet
from de loonatic-houze. And den young voman says, 'It doesn't loaf its
Fannie-vannie one teeny-veeny mite!' And young man says, 'So sure my
name is Lennie Teedie-veedie, little Fannie Newman iss de onliest gerl I
ever loafed!'"

The cross-examiner crumpled up in a chair, while the members of the
faculty behaved like children bursting with giggles in church--all save
Litton, who had listened with increasing amazement and now leaned
forward to demand of the janitor:

"Mr. Kraus, you don't mean to say that two of our students actually
disgraced this institution with conversation that would be appropriate
only to a nursery?"

Mr. Kraus thundered: "De talk of dose stoodents vould disgrace de
nursery! It vas so sickenink I can't forget ut. I try to, but I keep
rememberink Oozie-voozie! Mezie-vezie!"

Mr. Kraus was excused in a state of hydrophobic rage and Teed withdrew
in all meekness.

Litton had fallen into a stupor of despair at the futility of learning.
He remained in a state of coma while the rest of the committee laughed
over the familiar idiocies and debated a verdict. Two of the professors,
touched by some reminiscence of romance, voted to ignore the incident as
a trivial commonplace of youth. Two others, though full of sympathy for
Teed--Miss Fannie was very pretty--voted for his suspension as a
necessary example, lest the campus be overrun by duets in lovers' Latin.
The result was a tie and Litton was roused from his trance to cast the
deciding vote.

Now Professor Litton had read a vast amount about love. The classics are
full of its every imaginable version or perversion; but Litton had seen
it expressed only in the polished phrases of Anacreon, Bion, Propertius,
and the others. He had not guessed that, however these men polished
their verses, they doubtless addressed their sweethearts with all the
imbecility of sincerity.

Litton's own experience gave him little help. In his late youth he had
thought himself in love twice and had expressed his fiery emotions in a
Latin epistle, an elegy, and a number of very correct Alcaics. They
pleased his teacher, but frightened the spectacles off one bookish young
woman, and drove the other to the arms of a prescription clerk, who knew
no Latin except what was on his drug bottles.

Litton had thenceforward been wedded to knowledge. He had read nearly
everything ancient, but he must have forgotten the sentence of Publilius
Syrus: "Even a god could hardly love and be wise." He felt no mercy in
his soft heart for the soft-headed Teed. He was a worshiper of language
for its own sake and cast a vote accordingly.

"I do not question the propriety of the conduct of these young people,"
he said. "Mr. Teed claims to be engaged to the estimable young woman."

"Ah!" said Professor Mackail, delightedly.

Teed was the brightest pupil in his laboratory and he had voted for
acquittal. His joy vanished as Professor Litton went on:

"But"--he spoke the word with emphasis--"but waiving all questions of
propriety, I do feel that we should administer a stinging rebuke to the
use of such appallingly infantile language by one of our students.
Surely a man's culture should show itself, above all, in the addresses
he pays to the young lady of his choice. What vanity to build and
conduct a great institution of learning, such as this aims to be, and
then permit one of its pupils to express his regard for a student from
the Annex in such language as even Mr. Kraus was reluctant to quote:
'Mezie-wezie loves oozie-woozie bestest!'--if I remember rightly.
Really, gentlemen, if this is permitted we might as well change the
university to a kindergarten. For his own sake I vote that Mr. Teed be
given six months of meditation at home; and I trust that the faculty of
the Woman's College will have a similar regard for its ideals and the
welfare of the misguided young woman."

Professor Mackail protested furiously, but his advocacy only embittered
Litton--for Mackail was the leader of the faction that had tried for
years to place Webster University in line with others by removing Latin
and Greek from the position of required studies.

Mackail and his crew pretended that French and German, or science, were
appropriate substitutes for the classic languages in the case of those
whose tastes were not scholastic; but to Litton it was a religion that
no man should be allowed to spend four years in college without at
least rubbing up against Homer, Æschylos, Vergil, and Horace.

As Litton put it: "No man has a right to an Alma Mater who doesn't know
what the words mean; and nobody has a right to graduate without knowing
at least enough Latin to read his own diploma."

This old war had been fought with all the bitterness and professional
jealousies of scholarship, which rival those of religion and exceed
those of the stage. For yet a while Litton and his followers had
vanquished opposition. He little dreamed what he was preparing for
himself in punishing Teed.

Teed accepted his banishment with poor grace, but a magnificent
determination to come back and graduate. The effect of his punishment
was shown when, after six months of rustic meditation, he set out for
the university, leaving behind him his Fannie, who had been too timid to
return to the scene of her discomfiture. Teed's good-by words ran
something like this:

"Bess its ickle heartums! Don't se care! Soonie as Teedle-weedle gets
graduated he'll get fine job and marry his Fansy-pansy very first sing."
Then he kissed her "Goo'byjums"--and went back with the face of a
Regulus returning to be tortured by the enemy.


Teed had a splendid mind for everything material and modern, but he
could not and would not master the languages he called dead. His
mistranslations of the classics were themselves classics. They sent the
other students into uproars; but Litton saw nothing funny in them. When
he received Teed's examination papers he marked them with a pitiless

Teed reached the end of his junior year with a heap of conditions in the
classics. Litton insisted that he should not be allowed to graduate
until he cleaned them up. This meant that Teed must tutor all through
his last vacation or carry double work throughout his senior year--when
he expected to play some patriotic or Alma-Matriotic football.

Teed had no intention of enduring either of these inconveniences; he
trusted to fate to inspire him somehow with some scheme for attaining
his diploma without delay. His future job depended on his diploma--and
his girl depended on his job.

He did not intend to be kept from either by any ancient authors. He had
not the faintest idea how he was going to bridge that chasm--but, as he
wrote his Fansy-pansy, "Love will find the way."

While Teed was taking thought for the beginning of his life-work Litton
was completing his--or at least he thought he was. With the splendid
devotion of the scholar he had selected for his contribution to human
welfare the best possible edition of the work least likely to be read by
anybody. A firm of publishers had kindly consented to print it--at
Litton's expense.

Litton would donate a copy to his own university; two or three college
libraries would purchase copies out of respect to the learned professor;
and Litton would give away a few more. The rest would stand in an
undisturbed stack of increasing dust, there to remain unread as long
perhaps as the myriads of Babylonian classics that Assurbani-pal had
copied in brick volumes for his great library at Nineveh.

Professor Litton had chosen for his life-work a recension of the
ponderous epic in forty-eight books that old Nonnus wrote in Egypt, the
labyrinthine Dionysiaka describing the voyage of Bacchus to India and

A pretty theme for an old water-drinker who had never tasted wine! But
Litton toiled over the Greek text, added copious notes as to minute
variants, appallingly learned prolegomena, an index, and finally an
English version in prose. He had begun to translate it into hexameters,
but he feared that he would never live to finish it. It was hard enough
for a man like Litton to express at all the florid spirit of an author
whose theme was "the voluptuous phalanxes" of Bacchus' army--"the heroic
race of such unusual warriors; the shaggy satyrs; the breed of centaurs;
the tribes of Sileni, whose legs bristle with hair; and the battalions
of Bassarids."

He had kept at it all these years, however, and it was ready now for the
eyes of a world that would never see it. He had watched it through the
compositors' hands, keeping a tireless eye on the infinite nuisance of
Greek accents. He had read the galley proofs, the page proofs, and now
at last the black-bordered foundry proofs. He scorned to write the
bastard "O. K." of approval and wrote, instead, a stately "Imprimatur."
He placed the proofs in their envelope and sealed it with lips that
trembled like a priest's when giving an illuminated Gospel a ritual

The hour was late when Professor Litton finished. He stamped the
brown-paper envelope and went down the steps of the boarding-house that
had been for years his nearest approach to a home. He left the precious
envelope on the hall-tree, whence it would be taken to the post-office
for the first mail.

Feeling the need of a breath of air, he stepped out on the porch. It was
a spring midnight and the college roofs were wonderful under the
quivering moon--or _tremulo sub lumine_, as he remembered it. And he
remembered how Quintus Smyrnæus had said that the Amazon queen walked
among her outshone handmaidens, "as when, on the wide heavens, among the
stars, the divine Selene moves pre-eminent among them all."

He thought of everything in terms of the past; yet, when he heard,
mingled with the vague murmur of the night, a distant song of befuddled
collegians, among whose voices Teed's soared pre-eminent above the key,
he was not pleasantly reminded of the tipsy army of Dionysus. He was
revolted and, returning to his solitude, closed an indignant door on
the disgrace.

Poor old Litton! His learning had so frail a connection with the life
about him! Steeped in the classics and acquainted with the minutest
details of their texts, he never caught their spirit; never seemed to
realize that they are classics because their authors were so close to
life and imbued them with such vitality that time has not yet rendered
them obsolete.

He had hardly suspected the mischief that is in them. A more innocent
man could hardly be imagined or one more versed in the lore of evil.
Persons who believe that what is called immoral literature has a
debasing effect must overlook such men as Litton. He dwelt among those
Greek and Roman authors who excelled in exploiting the basest emotions
and made poems out of putridity.

He read in the original those terrifying pages that nobody has ever
dared to put into English without paraphrase--the polished infamies of
Martial; the exquisite atrocities of Theocritus and Catullus. Yet these
books left him as unsullied as water leaves a duck's back. They infected
him no more than a medical work gives the doctor that studies it the
diseases it describes. The appallingly learned Professor Litton was a
babe in arms compared with many of his pupils, who read little--or with
the janitor, who read nothing at all.

And now, arrived at a scant forty and looking a neglected fifty,
short-sighted, stoop-shouldered and absent-minded to a proverb, he cast
a last fond look at the parcel containing his translation of the Bacchic
epic and climbed the stairs to his bachelor bedroom, took off his shabby
garments, and stretched himself out in the illiterate sleep of a tired

Just one dream he had--a nightmare in which he read a printed copy of
his work, and a wrongly accented enclitic stuck out from one of the
pages like a sore thumb. He woke in a cold sweat, ran to his duplicate
proofs, found that his text was correct--and went back to bed contented.

Of such things his terrors and his joys had consisted all his years.


The next morning he felt like a laborer whose factory has closed. Every
day would be Sunday hereafter until he got another job. In this unwonted
sloth he dawdled over his porridge, his weak tea, and his morning paper.

Head-lines caught his eyes shouting the familiar name of Joel
Brown--familiar to the world at large because of the man's tremendous
success and relentless severity in business. Brown fell in love with one
of those shy, sly young women who make a business of millionaires. He
fell out with a thud and his Flossie entered a suit for breach of
promise, submitting selected letters of Brown's as proofs of his guile
and of her weak, womanly trust.

The newspapers pounced on them with joy, as cats pounce and purr on
catnip. The whole country studied Brown's letters with the rapture of
eavesdropping. Such letters! Such oozing molasses of sentiment! Such
elephantine coquetry! Joel weighed two hundred and eighteen pounds and
called himself Little Brownie and Pet Chickie!

This was the literature that the bewildered Litton found in the first
paper he had read carefully since he came up for air. One of the letters
ran something like this:

     Angel of the skies! My own Flossie-dovelet! Your Little Brownie has
     not seenest thee for a whole half a day, and he is pining,
     starving, famishing, perishing for a word from your blushing
     liplets. Oh, my Peaches and Cream! Oh, my Sugar Plum! How can your
     Pet Chickie live the eternity until he claspeths thee again this
     evening? When can your Brownie-wownie call you all his ownest only
     one? Ten billion kisses I send you from

                  Your own, owner, ownest

                                       Pet Chickie-Brownie.

       x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

The X's, Flossie explained, indicated kisses--a dozen to an X.

The jury laughed Little Brownie out of court after pinning a
twenty-five-thousand-dollar verdict to his coat-tail. The nation elected
him the Pantaloon of the hour and pounded him with bladders and

Professor Litton had heard nothing of the preliminary fanfare of the
suit. As he read of it now he was too much puzzled to be amused. He
read with the same incredulity he had felt when he heard the janitor
quote Teed's remarks to his fiancée. Litton called his landlady's
attention to the remarkable case. She had been reading it, with greedy
glee, every morning. She had had such letters herself in her better
days. She felt sorry for poor Mr. Brown and sorrier for the poor
professor when he said:

"Poor Mr. Brown must have gone quite insane. Nobody could have built up
such wealth without brains; yet nobody with brains could have written
such letters. Ergo, he has lost his brains."

"You'll be late to prayers," was all the landlady said. She treated
Litton as if he were a half-witted son. And he obeyed her, forsook his
unfinished tea and hurried away to the chapel. Thence he went to his
class-room, where Teed achieved some further miracles of mistranslation.
Litton thought how curious it was that this young man, of whom his
scientific professor spoke so highly, should have fallen into the same
delirium of amorous idiocy as the famous plutocrat, Joel Brown.

When the class was dismissed he sank back in his chair by the class-room
window. It was wide ajar to-day for the first time since winter. April,
like an early-morning housemaid, was throwing open all the windows of
the world. Litton felt a delicious lassitude; he was bewildered with
leisure. A kind of sweet loneliness fell on him. He had made no
provision for times like these.

He sat back and twiddled his thumbs. His eyes roved lazily about the
campus. The wind that fluttered the sparse forelock on his overweening
forehead hummed in his ears. It had a distance in it. It brought soft
cadences of faint voices from the athletic field. They seemed to come
from no place nearer than the Athenian Academe.

Along the paths of the campus a few women were sauntering, for the
students and teachers in the Women's Annex had the privilege of the
libraries, the laboratories, and lecture-rooms.

Across Litton's field of view passed a figure that caught his eye.
Absently he followed it as it enlarged with approach. He realized that
it was Prof. Martha Binley, Ph.D., who taught Greek over there in the

"How well she is looking!" he mused.

The very thought startled him, as if some one had spoken unexpectedly.
He wondered that he had noticed her appearance. After the window-sill
blotted her from view he still wondered, dallying comfortably with the


There was a knock at his door and in response to his call the door
opened--and she stood there.

"May I come in?" she said.


Before he knew it some impulse of gallantry hoisted him to his feet. He
lifted a bundle of archeological reviews from a chair close to his desk
and waited until she sat down. The chair was nearer his than he
realized, and as Professor Binley dropped into it she was so close that
Professor Litton pushed his spectacles up to his forehead.

It was the first time she had seen his eyes except through glasses
darkly. She noted their color instantly, woman-like. They were not dull,
either, as she had imagined. A cloying fragrance saluted his nostrils.

"What are the flowers you are wearing, may I ask?" he said. He hardly
knew a harebell from a peony.

"These are hyacinths," she said. "One of the girls gave them to me. I
just pinned them on."

"Ah, hyacinths!" he murmured. "Ah yes; I've read so much about them. So
these are hyacinths! Such a pretty story the Greeks had. You remember
it, no doubt?"

She said she did; but, schoolmaster that he was, he went right on:

"Apollo loved young Hyacinthus--or Huakinthos, as the Greeks called
it--and was teaching him to throw the discus, when a jealous breeze blew
the discus aside. It struck the boy in the forehead. He fell dead, and
from his blood this flower sprang. The petals, they said, were marked
with the letters Ai, Ai!--Alas! Alas! And the poet Moschus, you
remember, in his 'Lament for Bion,' says:

     "Nun huakinthe lalei ta sa grammata kai pleon aiai!

"Or, as I once Englished it--let me see, I put it into hexameters--it
was a long while ago. Ah, I have it!"

And with the orotund notes a poet assumes when reciting his own words,
he intoned:

     "Now, little hyacinth, babble thy syllables--louder yet--Aiai!
     Whimper with all of thy petals; a beautiful singer has perished."

Professor Binley stared at him in amazement and cried: "Charming!
Beautiful! Your own translation, you say?"

And he, somewhat shaken by her enthusiasm, waved it aside.

"A little exercise of my Freshman year. But to get back to
our--hyacinths: Theocritus, you remember, speaks of the 'lettered
hyacinth.' May I see whether we can find the words there?"

He bent forward to take and she bent forward to give the flowers. Her
hair brushed his forehead with a peculiar influence; and when their
fingers touched he noted how soft and warm her hand was. He flushed
strangely. She was flushed a little, too, possibly from
embarrassment--possibly from the warmth of the day, with its insinuation
of spring.

He pulled his spectacles over his eyes in a comfortable discomfiture and
peered at the flowers closely. And she peered, too, breathing foolishly
fast. When he could not find the living letters he shook his head and
felt again the soft touch of her hair.

"I can't find the words--can you? Your eyes are brighter than mine."

She bent closer and both their hands held the flowers. He looked down
into her hair. It struck him that it was a remarkably beautiful idea--a
woman's hair--especially hers, streaked as it was with white--silken
silver. When she shook her head a snowy thread tickled his nose

"I can't find anything like it," she confessed.

Then he said: "I've just remembered. Theocritus calls the hyacinth
black--_melan_--and so does Vergil. These cannot be hyacinths at all."

He was bitterly disappointed. It would have been delightful to meet the
flower in the flesh that he knew so well in literature. Doctor Martha
answered with quiet strength:

"These are hyacinths."

"But the Greeks--"

"Didn't know everything," she said; "or perhaps they referred to another
flower. But then we have dark-purple hyacinths."

"Ah!" he said. "Sappho speaks of the hyacinth as purple--_porphuron_."

Thus the modern world was reconciled with the Greek and he felt easier;
but there was a gentle forcefulness about her that surprised him. He
wondered whether she would not be interested in hearing about his
edition of Nonnus. He assumed that she would be, being evidently
intelligent. So he told her. He told her and told her, and she listened
with almost devout interest. He was still telling her when the students
in other classes stampeded to lunch with a many-hoofed clatter. When
they straggled back from lunch he was still telling her.

It was not until he was interrupted by an afternoon class of his own
that he realized how long he had talked. He apologized to Professor
Binley; but she said she was honored beyond words. She had come to ask
him a technical question in prosody, as from one professor to another;
but she had forgotten it altogether--at least she put it off to another
visit. She hastened away in a flutter, feeling slightly as if she had
been to a tryst.

Litton went without his lunch that day, but he was browsing on memories
of his visitor. He had not talked so long to a woman since he could
remember. This was the only woman who had let him talk uninterruptedly
about himself--a very superior woman, everybody said.

When he went to his room that night he was still thinking of hyacinths
and of her who had brought them to his eyes.

He knocked from his desk a book. It fell open at a page. As he picked it
up he noted that it was a copy of the anonymous old spring rhapsody, the
_Pervigilium Veneris_, with its ceaselessly reiterated refrain,
"To-morrow he shall love who never loved before." As he fell asleep it
was running through his head like a popular tune: _Cras amet qui nunquam
amavit; quique amavit cras amet_.

It struck him as an omen; but it did not terrify him.


Professor Martha called again to ask her question in verse technic. The
answer led to further talk and the consultation of books. She was a
trifle nearsighted and too proud to wear glasses, so she had to bend
close to the page; and her hair tickled his nose again foolishly.

Conference bred conference, and one day she asked him whether she would
dare ask him to call. He rewarded her bravery by calling. She lived in a
dormitory, with a parlor for the reception of guests. Male students were
allowed to call on only two evenings a week. Litton did not call on
those evenings; yet the fact that he called at all swept through the
town like a silent thunderbolt. The students were mysteriously apprised
of the fact that old Professor Litton and Prof. Martha Binley were
sitting up and taking notice. To the youngsters it looked like a
flirtation in an old folks' home.

Litton's very digestion was affected; his brain was in a whirl. He was
the prey of the most childish alarms; gusts of petulant emotion swept
through him if Martha were late when he called; he was mad with jealousy
if she mentioned another professor.

She was growing more careful of her appearance. A new youth had come to
her. She took fifteen years off her looks by simply fluffing her hair
out of its professorial constriction. Professor Mackail noticed it and
mentioned to Professor Litton that Professor Binley was looking ever so
much better.

"She's not half homely for such an old maid!" he said.

Professor Litton felt murder in his heart. He wanted to slay the
reprobate twice--once for daring to observe Martha's beauty and once for
his parsimony of praise.

That evening when he called on Martha he was tortured with a sullen
mood. She finally coaxed from him the astounding admission that he
suspected her of flirting with Mackail. She was too new in love to
recognize the ultimate compliment of his distress. She was horrified by
his distrust, and so hurt that she broke forth in a storm of tears and
denunciation. Their precious evening ended in a priceless quarrel of
amazing violence. He stamped down the outer steps as she stamped up the

For three days they did not meet and the university wore almost visible
mourning for its pets. Poor Litton had not known that the human heart
could suffer such agony. He was fairly burned alive with loneliness and
resentment--like another Hercules blistering in the shirt of Nessus. And
Martha was suffering likewise as Jason's second wife was consumed in
the terrible poisoned robe that Medea sent her.

One evening a hollow-eyed Litton crept up the dormitory steps and asked
the overjoyed maid for Professor Binley. When she appeared he caught her
in his arms as if she were a spar and he a drowning sailor. They made up
like young lovers and swore oaths that they would never quarrel
again--oaths which, fortunately for the variety of their future
existence, they found capable of infinite breaking and mending.

Each denied that the other could possibly love each. He decried himself
as a stupid, ugly old fogy; and she cried him up as the wisest and most
beautiful and best of men. Since best sounded rather weak, she called
him the bestest; and he did not charge the impossible word against her
as he had against Teed. He did not remember that Teed had ever used such
language. Nobody could ever have used such language, because nobody was
ever like her!

And when she said that he could not possibly love a homely, scrawny old
maid like her, he delivered a eulogy that would have struck Aphrodite,
rising milkily from the sea, as a slight exaggeration. And as for old
maid, he cried in a curious blending of puerility and scholasticism:

"Old maid, do you say? And has my little Margy-wargles forgotten what
Sappho said of an old maid? We'd have lost it if some old scholiast on
the stupid old sophist Hermogenes hadn't happened to quote it to
explain the word glukumalon--an apple grafted on a quince. Sappho said
this old maid was like--let me see!--'like the sweet apple that blushes
on the top of the bough--on the tip of the topmost; and the
apple-gatherers forgot it--no, they did not forget it; they just could
not get it!' And that's you, Moggles mine! You're an old maid because
you've been out of reach of everybody. I can't climb to you; so you're
going to drop into my arms--aren't you?"

She said she supposed she was. And she did.

Triumphantly he said, "Hadn't we better announce our engagement?"

This threw her into a spasm of fear. "Oh, not yet! Not yet! I'm afraid
to let the students all know it. A little later--on Commencement Day
will be time enough."

He bowed to her decision--not for the last time.

For a time Litton had taken pleasure in employing his learning in the
service of Martha's beauty. He called her classic names--_Meæ Deliciæ_,
or _Glukutate_, or _Melema_. A poem that he had always thought the last
word in silliness became a modest expression of his own emotions--the
poem in which Catallus begs Lesbia, "Give me a thousand kisses, then a
hundred, then a thousand more, then a second hundred; then, when we have
made up thousands galore, we shall mix them up so that we shall not
know--nor any enemy be able to cast a spell because he knows--how many
kisses there are."

His scholarship began to weary her, however, and it began to seem an
affectation to him; so that he was soon mangling the English language in
speech and in the frequent notes he found it necessary to send his idol
on infinitely unimportant matters that could not wait from after lunch
to after dinner.

She coined phrases for him, too, and his heart rejoiced when she
achieved the epoch-making revision of Stuart into Stookie-tookie! He had
thought that Toodie was wonderful, but it was a mere stepping-stone to

Her babble ran through his head like music, and it softened his heart,
so that almost nothing could bring him to earth except the recitations
of Teed, who crashed through the classics like a bull in a china-shop
or, as Litton's Greeks put it, like an ass among beehives.

During those black days when Litton had quarreled with Martha he had
fiercely reminded Teed that only a month remained before his final
examinations, and warned him that he would hold him strictly to account.
No classics, no diploma!

Teed had sulked and moped while Litton sulked and moped; but when Litton
was reconciled to Martha the sun seemed to come out on Teed's clouded
world, too. He took a sudden extra interest in his electrical studies
and obtained permission to work in the laboratory overtime. He obtained
permission even to visit the big city for certain apparatus. And he
wrote the despondent, distant Fannie Newman that there would "shortly
be something doing in the classics."


One afternoon Professor Litton, having dismissed his class--in which he
was obliged to rebuke Teed more severely than usual--fell to remembering
his last communion with Martha, the things he had said--and heard! He
wondered, as a philologist, at the strange prevalence of the "oo" sound
in his love-making. It was plainly an onomatopoeic word representing
the soul's delight. Oo! was what Ah! is to the soul in exaltation and
Oh! to the soul in surprise. If the hyacinths babbled _Ai, Ai!_ the
roses must murmur Oo! Oo!

The more he thought it over, the more nonsense it became, as all words
turn to drivel on repetition; but chiefly he was amazed that even love
could have wrought this change in him. In his distress he happened to
think of Dean Swift. Had not that fierce satirist created a dialect of
his own for his everlastingly mysterious love affairs?

Eager for the comfort of fellowship in disgrace he hurried to the
library and sought out the works of the Dean of St. Patrick's. And in
the "Journal to Stella" he found what he sought--and more. Expressions
of the most appalling coarseness alternated with the most insipid

The old dean had a code of abbreviations: M.D. for "My dear," Ppt. for
"Poppet," Pdfr. for "Poor dear foolish rogue," Oo or zoo or loo stood
for "you," Deelest for "Dearest," and Rettle for "Letter," and Dallars
for "Girl," Vely for "Very," and Hele and Lele for "Here and there."
Litton copied out for his own comfort and Martha's this passage.

     Do you know what? When I am writing in my own language I make up my
     mouth just as if I was speaking it: "Zoo must cly Lele and Hele,
     and Hele aden. Must loo mimitate Pdfr., pay? Iss, and so la shall!
     And so leles fol ee rettle. Dood mollow."

And Dean Swift had written this while he was in London two hundred years
before, a great man among great men. With such authority back of him
Litton returned to his empty class-room feeling as proud as Gulliver in
Lilliput. A little later he was Gulliver in Brobdingnag.

Alone at his desk, with none of his students in the seats before him, he
took from his pocket--his left pocket--a photograph of Prof. Martha
Binley. It had been taken one day on a picnic far from the spying eyes
of pupils. Her hair was all wind-blown, her eyes frowned gleamingly into
the sun, and her mouth was curled with laughter.

He sat there alone--the learned professor--and talked to this snapshot
in a dialogue he would have recently accepted as a perfect examination
paper for matriculation in an insane-asylum.

"Well, Margy-wargy, zoo and Stookie-tookie is dust like old Dean
Swiffikins, isn't we?"

There was a rap on the door and the knob turned as he shot the
photograph into his pocket and pretended to be reading a volume of
Bacchylides--upside down. The intruder was Teed. Litton was too much
startled and too throbbing with guilt to express his indignation. He

"We-well, Teed?" He almost called him teed-leums, his tongue had so
caught the rhythm of love.

Teed came forward with an ominous self-confidence bordering on
insolence. There was a glow in his eye that made his former tyrant

"Professor, I'd like a word with you about those conditions. I wish
you'd let me off on 'em."

"Let you off, T-Teed?"

"Yes, sir. I can't get ready for the exams. I've boned until my skull's
cracked and it lets the blamed stuff run out faster than I can cram it
in. The minute I leave college I expect to forget everything I've
learned here, anyway; so I'd be ever so much obliged if you'd just pass
me along."

"I don't think I quite comprehend," said Litton, who was beginning to
regain his pedagogical dignity.

"All you've gotta do," said Teed, "is to put a high enough mark on my
papers. You gimme a special examination and I'll make the best stab I
can at answering the questions; then you just shut one eye and mark it
just over the failure line. That'll save you a lot o' time and fix me

Litton was glaring at him, hearing the uncouth "gimme" and "gotta," and
wondering that a man could spend four years in college and scrape off
so little paint. Then he began to realize the meaning of Teed's
proposal. His own honor was in traffic. He groaned in suffocation:

"Do you dare to ask me to put false marks on examination-papers, sir?"

"Aw, Professor, what's the dif? You couldn't grind Latin and Greek into
me with a steel-rolling machine. Gimme a chance! There's a little girl
waiting for me outside and a big job. I can't get one without the
other--and I don't get either unless you folks slip me the sheepskin."

"Impossible, sir! Astounding! Insulting! Impossible!"

"Have a heart, can't you?"

"Leave the room, sir, at once!"

"All right!" Teed sighed, and turned away. At the door he paused to
murmur, "All right for you, Stookie-tookie!"

Litton's spectacles almost exploded from his nose.

"What's that?" he shrieked.

Teed turned and came back, with an intolerable smirk, straight to the
desk. He leaned on it with odious familiarity and grinned.

"Say, Prof, did you ever hear of the dictagraph?"

"No! And I don't care to now."

"You ought to read some of the modern languages, Prof! Dictagraph comes
from two perfectly good Latin words: dictum and graft--well, you'll know
'em. But the Greeks weren't wise to this little device. I got part of it

He took from his pocket the earpiece of the familiar engine of
latter-day detective romance. He explained it to the horribly fascinated
Litton, whose hair stood on end and whose voice stuck in his throat in
the best Vergilian manner. Before he quite understood its black magic
Litton suspected the infernal purpose it had been put to. His wrath had
melted to a sickening fear when Teed reached the conclusion of his
uninterrupted discourse:

"The other night I was calling on a pair of girls at the dormitory where
your--where Professor Binley lives. They pointed out the sofa near the
fireplace where you and the professoress sit and hold hands and make
googoo eyes."

There was that awful "oo" sound again! Litton was in an icy
perspiration; but he was even more afraid for his beloved, precious
sweetheart than for himself--and that was being about as much afraid as
there is. Teed went on relentlessly, gloating like a satyric mask:

"Well, I had an idea, and the girls fell for it with a yip of joy. The
next evening I called I carried a wire from my room across to that
dormitory and nobody paid any attention while I brought it through a
window and under the carpet to the back of the sofa. And there it
waited, laying for you. And over at my digs I had it attached to a
phonograph by a little invention of my own.

"Gosh! It was wonderful! It even repeated the creak of those old, rusty
springs while you waited for her. And when she came--well, anyway, I
got every word you said, engraved in wax, like one of those old poets of
yours used to write on."

Litton was afraid to ask evidence in verification. Teed supplied the
unspoken demand:

"For instance, the first thing she says to you is: 'Oh, there you are,
my little lover! I thought you'd never come!' And you says, 'Did it miss
its stupid old Stookie?' And she says: 'Hideously! Sit down, honey
heart.' And splung went the spring--and splung again! Then she says:
'Did it have a mis'ble day in hateful old class-room? Put its boo'ful
head on Margy-wargy's shojer.' Then you says--"

"Stop!" Litton cried, raising the only missile he could find, an
inkstand. "Who knows of this infamy besides you?"

"Nobody yet--on my word of honor."

"Honor!" sneered Litton, so savagely that Teed's shameless leer vanished
in a glare of anger.

"Nobody yet! The girls are dying to hear and some of the fellows knew
what I was up to; but I was thinking that I'd tell 'em that the blamed
thing didn't work, provided--provided--"

"Provided?" Litton wailed, miserably.

"Provided you could see your way clear to being a little careless with
your marks on my exam-papers."

Litton sat with his head whirling and roaring like a coffee-grinder. A
multitude of considerations ran through and were crushed into
powder--his honor; her honor; the standards of the university; the
standards of a lover; the unimportance of Teed; the all-importance of
Martha; the secret disloyalty to the faculty; the open disloyalty to his
best-beloved. He heard Teed's voice as from far off:

"Of course, if you can't see your way to sparing my sweetheart's
feelings I don't see why I'm expected to spare yours--or to lie to the
fellows and girls who are perishing to hear how two professors talk when
they're in love."

Another long pause. Then the artful Teed moved to the door and turned
the knob. Litton could not speak; but he threw a look that was like a
grappling-iron and Teed came back.

"How do I know," Litton moaned, "how do I know that you will keep your

"How do I know that you'll keep yours?" Teed replied, with the insolence
of a conqueror.

"Sir!" Litton flared, but weakly, like a sick candle.

"Well," Teed drawled, "I'll bring you the cylinders. I'll have to trust
you, as one gentleman to another."

"Gentleman!" Litton snarled in hydrophobic frenzy.

"Well, as one lover to another, then," Teed laughed. "Do I get my

Litton's head was so heavy he could not nod it.

"It's my diploma in exchange for your records. Come on, Professor--be a
sport! And take it from me, it's no fun having the words you whisper in
a girl's ear in the dark shouted out loud in the open court. And mine
were repeated in a Dutch dialect! I got yours just as they came from
your lips--and hers."

That ended it. Litton surrendered, passed himself under the yoke;
pledged himself to the loathsome compact, and Teed went to fetch the
price of his degree of Bachelor of Arts.

Litton hung dejected beyond feeling for a long while. His heart was
whimpering _Ai, Ai!_ He felt himself crushed under a hundred different
crimes. He felt that he could never look up again. Then he heard a soft
tap at the door. He could not raise his eyes or his voice. He heard the
door open and supposed it was Teed bringing him the wages of his shame;
but he heard another voice--an unimaginably beautiful, tragically tender

"Oo-oo! Stookie-tookie!"

He looked up. How radiant she was! He could only sigh. She came across
to him as gracefully and lightly as Iris running down a rainbow. She was

"I just had to slip over and tell you something."

"Well, Martha!" he sighed.

She stopped short, as if he had struck her.

"'Martha'? What's the matter? You aren't mad at me, are you, Stookie?"

"How could I be angry with you, Marg--er--Martha?"

"Then why don't you call me Margy-wargleums?"

He stared at her. Her whimsical smile, trembling to a piteously pretty
hint of terror, overwhelmed him. He hesitated, then shoved back his
chair and, rising, caught her to him so tightly that she gasped out,
"Oo!" There it was again! He laughed like an overgrown cub as he cried:

"Why don't I call you Margy-wargleums? Well, what a darned fool I'd be
not to! Margy-wargleums!"

To such ruin does love--the blind, the lawless, the illiterate
child--bring the noblest intelligences and the loftiest principles.



The town of Wakefield was--is--suffering from growing pains--from
ingrowing pains, according to its rival, Gatesville.

Wakefield has long been guilty of trying to add a cubit to its stature
by taking thought. Established, like thousands of other pools left in
the prairies by that tidal wave of humanity sweeping westward in the
middle of the last century, it passed its tenth thousand with a rush;
then something happened.

For decades the decennial census dismally tolled the same knell of
fifteen thousand in round numbers. The annual censuses but echoed the
reverberations. A few more cases of measles one year, and the population
lapsed a little below the mark; an easy winter, and it slipped a little
above. No mandragora of bad times or bad health ever quite brought it so
low as fourteen thousand. No fever of prosperity ever sent the
temperature quite so high as sixteen thousand.

The iteration got on people's nerves till a commercial association was
formed under the name of the Wide-a-Wakefield Club, with a motto of
"Boom or Bust." Many individuals accomplished the latter, but the town
still failed of the former. The chief activity of the club was in the
line of decoying manufacturers over into Macedonia by various bribes.

Its first capture was a cutlery company in another city. Though
apparently prosperous, it had fallen foul of the times, and its
president adroitly allowed the Wide-a-Wakefield Club to learn that, if a
building of sufficient size were offered rent free for a term of years,
the cutlery company might be induced to move to Wakefield and conduct
its business there, employing at least a hundred laborers, year in, year

There was not in all Wakefield a citizen too dull to see the individual
and collective advantage of this hundred increase. It meant money
in the pocket of every doctor, lawyer, merchant, clothier,
boarding-house-keeper, saloon-keeper, soda-water-vender--whom not?

Every establishment in town would profit, from the sanatorium to the
"pantatorium"--as the institution for the replenishment of trousers was
elegantly styled.

Commercial fervor rose to such heights in Wakefield that in no time at
all enough money was subscribed to build a convenient factory and to
purchase as many of the shares of cutlery stock as the amiable president
cared to print. In due season the manufacture of tableware and penknives
began, and the pride of the town was set aglow by the trade-mark
stamped on every article issued from the cutlery factory. It was an
ingenious emblem--a glorious Cupid in a sash marked "Wakefield,"
stabbing a miserable Cupid in a sash marked "Sheffield."

It was Sheffield that survived. In fact, the stupid English city
probably never heard of the Wakefield Cutlery Company. Nor did Wakefield
hear of it long. For the emery dust soon ceased to glisten in the air
and the steel died of a distemper.

It was a very real shock to Wakefield, and many a boy that had been
meant for college went into his father's store instead, and many a girl
who had planned to go East to be polished stayed at home and polished
her mother's plates and pans, because the family funds had been invested
in the steel-engravings of the cutlery stock certificates. They were
very handsome engravings.

Hope languished in Wakefield until a company from Kenosha consented to
transport its entire industry thither if it could receive a building
rent free. It was proffered, and it accepted, the cutlery works. For a
season the neighboring streets were acrid with the aroma of the
passionate pickles that were bottled there. And then its briny deeps
ceased to swim with knobby condiments. A tin-foil company abode awhile,
and yet again a tamale-canning corporation, which in its turn sailed on
to the Sargasso Sea of missing industries.

Other factory buildings in Wakefield fared likewise. They were but
lodging-houses for transient failures. The population swung with the
tide, but always at anchor. The lift which the census received from an
artificial-flower company, employing seventy-five hands, was canceled by
the demise of a more redolent pork-packing concern of equal pay-roll.
People missed it when the wind blew from the west.

But Wakefield hoped on. One day the executive committee of the
Wide-a-Wakefield Club, having nothing else to do, met in executive
session. There were various propositions to consider. All of them were
written on letter-heads of the highest school of commercial art, and all
of them promised to endow Wakefield with some epoch-making advantage,
provided merely that Wakefield furnish a building rent free, tax free,
water free, and subscribe to a certain amount of stock.

The club regarded these glittering baits with that cold and clammy gaze
with which an aged trout of many-scarred gills peruses some newfangled

But if these letters were tabled with suspicion because they offered too
much for too little, what hospitality could be expected for a letter
which offered still more for still less? The chairman of the committee
was Ansel K. Pettibone, whose sign-board announced him as a "practical
house-painter and paper-hanger." He read this letter, head-lines and





     DEAR SIRS,--The undersigned was born in your city, and left same
     about twenty years ago to seek his fortune. I have finally found it
     after many ups and downs. Us three brothers have jointly perfected
     and patented the famous Paradise Powder. It is generally conceded
     to be the grandest thing of its kind ever put on the market, and,
     in the words of the motto, "Makes Washday Welcome." Ladies who have
     used it agree that our statement is not excessive when we say,
     "Once tried, you will use no other."

     It is selling at such a rate in the East that I have a personal
     profit of two thousand dollars a week. We intend to push it in the
     West, and we were talking of where would be the best place to
     locate a branch factory at. My brothers mentioned Chicago, St.
     Louis, Omaha, Denver, and such places, but I said, "I vote for
     Wakefield." My brothers said I was cracked. I says maybe I am, but
     I'm going back to my old home town and spend the rest of my life
     there and my surplus money, too. I want to beautify Wakefield, and
     as near as I can remember there is room for improvement. It may not
     be good business, but it is what I want to do. And also what I want
     to know is, can I rely on the co-operation of the Wide-a-Wakefield
     Club in doing its share to build up the old town into a genuine
     metropolis? Also, what would be the probable cost of a desirable
     site for the factory?

     Hoping to receive a favorable reply from you at your earliest
                                         Yours truly,
                                                       LUKE B. SHELBY.

The chairman's grin had grown wider as he read and read. When he had
finished the letter he tossed it along the line. Every member read it
and shook with equal laughter.

"I wonder what kind of green goods he sells?" said Joel Spate, the owner
of the Bon-Ton Grocery.

"My father used to say to me," said Forshay, of the One-Price Emporium,
"whatever else you do, Jake, always suspicion the fellow that offers you
something for nothing. There's a nigger in the woodpile some'eres."

"That's so," said Soyer, the swell tailor, who was strong on second

"He says he's goin' to set up a factory here, but he don't ask for rent
free, tax free, light free--nothin' free," said the practical

"What's the name again?" said Spate.

"Shelby--Luke B. Shelby," answered Pettibone. "Says he used to live here
twenty years ago. Ever hear of him? I never did."

Spate's voice came from an ambush of spectacles and whiskers: "I've
lived here all m' life--I'm sixty-three next month. I don't remember any
such man or boy."

"Me, neither," echoed Soyer, "and I'm here going on thirty-five year."

The heads shook along the line as if a wind had passed over a row of

"It's some new dodge for sellin' stock," suspicioned One-Price Forshay,
who had a large collection of cutlery certificates.

"More likely it's just a scheme to get us talking about his Paradise
Powder. Seems to me I've had some of their circulars," said Bon-Ton

Pettibone, the practical chairman, silenced the gossip with a brisk,
"What is the pleasure of the meeting as regards answering it?"

"I move we lay it on the table," said Eberhart of the Furniture Palace.

"I move we lay it under the table," said Forshay, who had a keen sense
of humor.

"Order, gentlemen! Order," rapped Pettibone, as the room rocked with the
laughter in which Forshay led.

When sobriety was restored it was moved, seconded, and passed that the
secretary be instructed to send Shelby a copy of the boom number of the
Wakefield _Daily Eagle_.

And in due time the homesick Ulysses, waiting a welcome from Ithaca,
received this answer to his letter:

     LUKE B. SHELBY, Springfield, Mass.

     SIR,--Yours of sixteenth inst. rec'd and contents noted. In reply
     to same, beg to state are sending last special number _Daily
     Eagle_, giving full information about city and sites.

                                              Yours truly,

                                        JOEL SPATE, _Secy. Exec. Comm._

Shelby winced. The hand he had held out with pearls of price had been
brushed aside. His brothers laughed.

"We said you were cracked. They don't want your old money or your
society. Go somewheres where they do."

But Luke B. Shelby had won his success by refusing to be denied, and he
had set his heart on refurbishing his old home town. The instinct of
place is stronger than any other instinct in some animals, and Shelby
was homesick for Wakefield--not for anybody, any house, or any street in
particular there, but just for Wakefield.

Without further ado he packed his things and went.


There was no brass band to meet him. At the hotel the clerk read his
name without emotion. When he required the best two rooms in the hotel,
and a bath at that, the clerk looked suspicious:

"Any baggage?"

"Three trunks and a grip."

"What line do you carry? Will you use the sample-room?"

"Don't carry any line. Don't want any sample-room."

He walked out to see the town. It had so much the same look that it
seemed to have been embalmed. Here were the old stores, the old signs,
apparently the same fly-specked wares in the windows.

He read Doctor Barnby's rusty shingle. Wasn't that the same swaybacked
horse dozing at the hitching-post?

Here was the rough hill road where he used to coast as a child. There
stood Mrs. Hooker on the lawn with a hose, sprinkling the street, the
trees, the grass, the oleander in its tub and the moon-flower on the
porch. He seemed to have left her twenty years ago in that attitude with
the same arch of water springing from the nozzle.

He paused before the same gap-toothed street-crossing of yore, and he
started across it as across the stepping-stones of a dry stream. A
raw-boned horse whirled around the corner, just avoiding his toes. It
was followed by a bouncing grocery-wagon on the side of whose seat
dangled a shirt-sleeved youth who might have been Shelby himself a score
of years ago.

Shelby paused to watch. The horse drew up at the home of Doctor
Stillwell, the dentist. Before the wagon was at rest the delivery-boy
was off and half-way around the side of the house. Mrs. Stillwell opened
the screen door to take in the carrots and soap and washing-powder
Shelby used to bring her. Shelby remembered that she used washing-powder
then. He wondered if she had heard of the "Paradise."

As he hung poised on a brink of memory the screen door flapped shut, the
grocery-boy was hurrying back, the horse was moving away, and the boy
leaped to his side-saddle seat on the wagon while it was in motion. The
delivery-wagons and their Jehus were the only things that moved fast in
Wakefield, now as then.

Shelby drifted back to the main street and found the Bon-Ton Grocery
where it had been when he deserted the wagon. The same old vegetables
seemed to be sprawling outside. The same flies were avid at the
strawberry-boxes, which, he felt sure, the grocer's wife had arranged as
always, with the biggest on top. He knew that some Mrs. Spate had so
distributed them, if it were not the same who had hectored him, for old
Spate had a habit of marrying again. His wives lasted hardly so long as
his hard-driven horses.

Shelby paused to price some of the vegetables, just to draw Spate into
conversation. The old man was all spectacles and whiskers, as he had
always been. Shelby thought he must have been born with spectacles and

Joel Spate, never dreaming who Shelby was, was gracious to him for the
first time in history. He evidently looked upon Shelby as a new-comer
who might be pre-empted for a regular customer before Mrs. L. Bowers,
the rival grocer, got him. It somehow hurt Shelby's homesick heart to be
unrecognized, more than it pleased him to enjoy time's topsy-turvy. Here
he was, returned rich and powerful, to patronize the taskmaster who had
worked him hard and paid him harder in the old years. Yet he dared not
proclaim himself and take his revenge.

He ended the interview by buying a few of the grocer's horrible cigars,
which he gave away to the hotel porter later.

All round the town Shelby wandered, trying to be recognized. But age and
prosperity had altered him beyond recall, though he himself knew almost
every old negro whitewash man, almost every teamster, he met. He was
surer of the first names than of the last, for the first names had been
most used in his day, and it surprised him to find how clearly he
recalled these names and faces, though late acquaintances escaped his
memory with ease.

The women, too, he could generally place, though many who had been
short-skirted tomboys were now heavy-footed matrons of embonpoint with
children at their skirts, children as old as they themselves had been
when he knew them. Some of them, indeed, he recognized only by the
children that lagged alongside like early duplicates.

As he sauntered one street of homely homes redeemed by the opulence of
their foliage, he saw coming his way a woman whose outlines seemed but
the enlargement of some photograph in the gallery of remembrance. Before
she reached him he identified Phoebe Carew.

Her mother, he remembered, had been widowed early and had eked out a
meager income by making chocolate fudge, which the little girl peddled
about town on Saturday afternoons. And now the child, though she must be
thirty or thereabouts, had kept a certain grace of her youth, a wistful
prettiness, a girlish unmarriedness, that marked her as an old maid by
accident or choice, not by nature's decree.

He wondered if she, at least, would pay him the compliment of
recognition. She made no sign of it as she approached. As she passed he
lifted his hat.

"Isn't this Miss Phoebe Carew?"

Wakefield women were not in danger from strangers' advances; she paused
without alarm and answered with an inquiring smile:


"You don't remember me?"

She studied him. "I seem to, and yet--"

"I'm Luke Shelby."

"Luke Shelby! Oh yes! Why, how do you do?" She gave him her beautiful
hand, but she evidently lacked the faintest inkling of his identity.
Time had erased from recollection the boy who used to take her sliding
on his sled, the boy who used to put on her skates for her, the boy who
used to take her home on his grocery-wagon sometimes, pretending that he
was going her way, just for the benizon of her radiant companionship,
her shy laughter.

"I used to live here," he said, ashamed to be so forgettable. "My mother
was--my stepfather was A. J. Stacom, who kept the hardware-store."

"Oh yes," she said; "they moved away some years ago, didn't they?"

"Yes; after mother died my stepfather went back to Council Bluffs, where
we came from in the first place. I used to go to school with you,
Phoebe--er--Miss Carew. Then I drove Spate's delivery-wagon for a
while before I went East."

"Oh yes," she said; "I think I remember you very well. I'm very glad to
see you again, Mr.--Mr. Stacom."

"Shelby," he said, and he was so heartsick that he merely lifted his hat
and added, "I'm glad to see you looking so well."

"You're looking well, too," she said, and smiled the gracious, empty
smile one visits on a polite stranger. Then she went her way. In his
lonely eyes she moved with a goddess-like grace that made clouds of the
uneven pavements where he stumbled as he walked with reverted gaze.

He went back to the hotel lonelier than before, in a greater loneliness
than Ulysses felt ending his Odyssey in Ithaca. For, at least, Ulysses
was remembered by an old dog that licked his hand.

Once in his room, Shelby sank into a patent rocker of most uncomfortable
plush. The inhospitable garishness of a small-town hotel's luxury
expelled him from the hateful place, and he resumed the streets, taking,
as always, determination from rebuff and vowing within himself:

"I'll make 'em remember me. I'll make the name of Shelby the biggest
name in town."

On the main street he found one lone, bobtailed street-car waiting at
the end of its line, its horse dejected with the ennui of its career,
the driver dozing on the step.

Shelby decided to review the town from this seedy chariot; but the
driver, surly with sleep, opened one eye and one corner of his mouth
just enough to inform him that the next "run" was not due for fifteen

"I'll change that," said Shelby. "I'll give 'em a trolley, and open cars
in summer, too."

He dragged his discouraged feet back to the hotel and asked when dinner
would be served.

"Supper's been ready sence six," said the clerk, whose agile toothpick
proclaimed that he himself had banqueted.

Shelby went into the dining-room. A haughty head waitress, zealously
chewing gum, ignored him for a time, then piloted him to a table where
he found a party of doleful drummers sparring in repartee with a damsel
of fearful and wonderful coiffure.

She detached herself reluctantly and eventually brought Shelby a supper
contained in a myriad of tiny barges with which she surrounded his plate
in a far-reaching flotilla.

When he complained that his steak was mostly gristle, and that he did
not want his pie yet, Hebe answered:

"Don't get flip! Think you're at the Worldoff?"

Poor Shelby's nerves were so rocked that he condescended to complain to
the clerk. For answer he got this:

"Mamie's all right. If you don't like our ways, better build a hotel of
your own."

"I guess I will," said Shelby.

He went to his room to read. The gas was no more than darkness made
visible. He vowed to change that, too.

He would telephone to the theater. The telephone-girl was forever in
answering, and then she was impudent. Besides, the theater was closed.
Shelby learned that there was "a movin'-pitcher show going"! He went,
and it moved him to the door.

The sidewalks were full of doleful loafers and loaferesses. Men placed
their chairs in the street and smoked heinous tobacco. Girls and women
dawdled and jostled to and from the ice-cream-soda fountains.

The streets that night were not lighted at all, for the moon was abroad,
and the board of aldermen believed in letting God do all He could for
the town. In fact, He did nearly all that the town could show of charm.
The trees were majestic, the grass was lavishly spread, the sky was
divinely blue by day and angelically bestarred at night.

Shelby compared his boyhood impressions with the feelings governing his
mind now that it was adult and traveled. He felt that he had grown, but
that the town had stuck in the mire. He felt an ambition to lift it and
enlighten it. Like the old builder who found Rome brick and left it
marble, Shelby determined that the Wakefield which he found of plank he
should leave at least of limestone. Everything he saw displeased him and
urged him to reform it altogether, and he said:

"I'll change all this. And they'll love me for it."

And he did. But they--did they?


One day a greater than Shelby came to Wakefield, but not to stay. It was
no less than the President of these United States swinging around the
circle in an inspection of his realm, with possibly an eye to the
nearing moment when he should consent to re-election. As his special
train approached each new town the President studied up its statistics
so that he might make his speech enjoyable by telling the citizens the
things they already knew. He had learned that those are the things
people most like to hear.

His encyclopædia informed him that Wakefield had a population of about
fifteen thousand. He could not know how venerable an estimate this was,
for Wakefield was still fifteen thousand--now and forever, fifteen
thousand and insuperable.

The President had a mental picture of just what such a town of fifteen
thousand would look like, and he wished himself back in the White House.

He was met at the train by the usual entertainment committee, which in
this case coincided with the executive committee of the Wide-a-Wakefield
Club. It had seemed just as well to these members to elect themselves as
anybody else.

Mr. Pettibone, the town's most important paper-hanger, was again
chairman after some lapses from office. Joel Spate, the Bon-Ton Grocer,
was once more secretary, after having been treasurer twice and president
once. The One-Price Emporium, however, was now represented by the
younger Forshay, son of the founder, who had gone to the inevitable
Greenwood at the early age of sixty-nine. Soyer, the swell tailor, had
yielded his place to the stateliest man in town, Amasa Harbury,
president of the Wakefield Building and Loan Association. And Eberhart,
of the Furniture Palace, had been supplanted by Gibson Shoals, the bank

To the President's surprise the railroad station proved to be, instead
of the doleful shed usual in those parts, a graceful edifice of
metropolitan architecture. He was to ride in an open carriage, of
course, drawn by the two spanking dapples which usually drew the hearse
when it was needed. But this was tactfully kept from the President.

There had been some bitterness over the choice of the President's
companions in the carriage, since it was manifestly impossible for the
entire committee of seven to pile into the space of four, though young
Forshay, who had inherited his father's gift of humor, volunteered to
ride on the President's lap or hold him on his.

The extra members were finally consoled by being granted the next
carriage, an equipage drawn by no less than the noble black geldings
usually attached to the chief mourners' carriage.

As the President was escorted to his place he remarked that a
trolley-car was waiting at the station.

"I see that Wakefield boasts an electric line," he beamed.

"Yes," said Pettibone, "that's some of Shelby's foolishness."

A look from Spate silenced him, but the President had not caught the

The procession formed behind the town band, whose symphony suffered
somewhat from the effort of the musicians to keep one eye on the music
and throw the other eye backward at the great visitor.

"What a magnificent building!" said the President as the parade turned a
corner. Nobody said anything, and the President read the name aloud.
"The Shelby House. A fine hotel!" he exclaimed, as he lifted his hat to
the cheers from the white-capped chambermaids and the black-coated
waiters in the windows. They were male waiters.

"And the streets are lighted by electricity! And paved with brick!" the
President said. "Splendid! Splendid! There must be very enterprising
citizens in Gatesville--I mean Wakefield." He had visited so many towns!

"That's a handsome office-building," was his next remark. "It's quite
metropolitan." The committee vouchsafed no reply, but they could see
that he was reading the sign:


The committee was not used to chatting with Presidents, and even the
practical Pettibone, who had voted against him, had an awe of him in the
flesh. He decided to vote for him next time; it would be comforting to
be able to say, "Oh yes, I know the President well; I used to take long
drives with him--once."

There were heartaches in the carriage as the President, who commented on
so many things, failed to comment on the banner of welcome over
Pettibone's shop, painted by Pettibone's own practical hand; or the
gaily bedighted Bon-Ton Grocery with the wonderful arrangement of
tomato-cans into the words, "Welcome to Wakefield." The Building and
Loan Association had stretched a streamer across the street, too, and
the President never noticed it. His eyes and tongue were caught away by
the ornate structure of the opera-house.

"Shelby Opera House. So many things named after Mr. Shelby. Is he the
founder of the city or--or--"

"No, just one of the citizens," said Pettibone.

"I should be delighted to meet him."

Three votes fell from the Presidential tree with a thud.

Had the committee been able to imagine in advance how Shelbyisms would
obtrude everywhere upon the roving eye of the visitor, whose one aim was
a polite desire to exclaim upon everything exclaimable, they might have
laid out the line of march otherwise.

But it was too late to change now, and they grew grimmer and grimmer as
the way led to the stately pleasure-dome which Shelby Khan had decreed
and which imported architects and landscape-gardeners had established.

Here were close-razored lawns and terraces, a lake with spouting
fountains, statues of twisty nymphs, glaring, many-antlered stags and
couchant lions, all among cedar-trees and flower-beds whose perfumes
saluted the Presidential nostril like a gentle hurrah.

Emerging through the trees were the roofs, the cupola and ivy-bowered
windows of the home of Shelby, most homeless at home. For, after all his
munificence, Wakefield did not like him. The only tribute the people had
paid him was to boost the prices of everything he bought, from land to
labor, from wall-paper to cabbages. And now on the town's great day he
had not been included in any of the committees of welcome. He had been
left to brood alone in his mansion like a prince in ill favor exiled to
his palace.

He did not know that his palace had delighted even the jaded eye of the
far-traveled First Citizen. He only knew that his fellow-townsmen
sneered at it with dislike.

Shelby was never told by the discreet committeemen in the carriage that
the President had exclaimed on seeing his home:

"Why, this is magnificent! This is an estate! I never dreamed
that--er--Wakefield was a city of such importance and such wealth. And
whose home is this?"

Somebody groaned, "Shelby's."

"Ah yes; Shelby's, of course. So many things here are Shelby's. You must
be very proud of Mr. Shelby. Is he there, perhaps?"

"That's him, standing on the upper porch there, waving his hat,"
Pettibone mumbled.

The President waved his hat at Shelby.

"And the handsome lady is his wife, perhaps?"

"Yes, that's Mrs. Shelby," mumbled Spate. "She was Miss Carew. Used to
teach school here."

Phoebe Shelby was clinging to her husband's side. There were tears in
her eyes and her hands squeezed mute messages upon his arm, for she knew
that his many-wounded heart was now more bitterly hurt than in all his
knowledge of Wakefield. He was a prisoner in disgrace gazing through the
bars at a festival.

He never knew that the President suggested stopping a moment to
congratulate him, and that it was his own old taskmaster Spate who
ventured to say that the President could meet him later. Spate could
rise to an emergency; the other committeemen thanked him with their

As the carriage left the border of the Shelby place the President turned
his head to stare, for it was beautiful, ambitiously beautiful. And
something in the silent attitude of the owner and his wife struck a
deeper note in the noisy, gaudy welcome of the other citizens.

"Tell me about this Mr. Shelby," said the President.

Looks were exchanged among the committee. All disliked the task, but
finally Spate broke the silence.

"Well, Mr. President, Shelby is a kind of eccentric man. Some folks say
he's cracked. Used to drive a delivery-wagon for me. Ran away and tried
his hand at nearly everything. Finally, him and his two brothers
invented a kind of washing-powder. It was like a lot of others, but they
knew how to push it. Borrowed money to advertise it big. Got it started
till they couldn't have stopped it if they'd tried. Shelby decided to
come back here and establish a branch factory. That tall chimney is it.
No smoke comin' out of it to-day. He gave all the hands a holiday in
your honor, Mr. President."

The President said: "Well, that's mighty nice of him. So he's come back
to beautify his old home, eh? That's splendid--a fine spirit. Too many
of us, I'm afraid, forget the old places when ambition carries us away
into new scenes. Mr. Shelby must be very popular here."

There was a silence. Mr. Pettibone was too honest, or too something, to
let the matter pass.

"Well, I can't say as to that, Mr. President. Shelby's queer. He's very
pushing. You can't drive people more 'n so fast. Shelby is awful fussy.
Now, that trolley line--he put that in, but we didn't need it."

"Not but what Wakefield is enterprising," Spate added, anxiously.

Pettibone nodded and went on: "People used to think the old bobtailed
horse-car--excuse my language--wasn't much, but the trolley-cars are a
long way from perfect. Service ain't so very good. People don't ride on
'em much, because they don't run often enough."

The President started to say, "Perhaps they can't run oftener because
people don't ride on 'em enough," but something counseled him to
silence, and Pettibone continued:

"Same way with the electric light. People that had gas hated to change.
He made it cheap, but it's a long way from perfect. He put in an
independent telephone. The old one wasn't much good and it was
expensive. Now we can have telephones at half the old price. But result
is, you've got to have two, or you might just as well not have one.
Everybody you want to talk to is always on the other line."

The President nodded. He understood the ancient war between the simple
life and the strenuous. He wished he had left the subject unopened, but
Pettibone had warmed to the theme.

"Shelby built an opery-house and brought some first-class troupes here.
But this is a religious town, and people don't go much to shows. In the
first place, we don't believe in 'em; in the second place, we've been
bit by bad shows so often. So his opery-house costs more 'n it takes in.

"Then he laid out the Pastime Park--tried to get up games and things;
but the vacant lots always were good enough for baseball. He tried to
get people to go out in the country and play golf, too; but it was too
much like following the plow. Folks here like to sit on their porches
when they're tired.

"He brought an automobile to town--scared most of the horses to death.
Our women folks got afraid to drive because the most reliable old nags
tried to climb trees whenever Shelby came honking along. He built two or
three monuments to famous citizens, but that made the families of other
famous citizens jealous.

"He built that big home of his, but it only makes our wives envious.
It's so far out that the society ladies can't call much. Besides, they
feel uneasy with all that glory.

"Mrs. Shelby has a man in a dress-suit to open the door. The rest of
us--our wives answer the door-bell themselves. Our folks are kind of
afraid to invite Mr. and Mrs. Shelby to their parties for fear they'll
criticize; so Mrs. Shelby feels as if she was deserted.

"She thinks her husband is mistreated, too; but--well, Shelby's
eccentric. He says we're ungrateful. Maybe we are, but we like to do
things our own way. Shelby tried to get us to help boost the town, as he
calls it. He offered us stock in his ventures, but we've got taken in so
often that--well, once bit is twice shy, you know, Mr. President. So
Wakefield stands just about where she did before Shelby came here."

"Not but what Wakefield is enterprising," Mr. Spate repeated.

The President's curiosity overcame his policy. He asked one more

"But if you citizens didn't help Mr. Shelby, how did he manage all
these--improvements, if I may use the word?"

"Did it all by his lonesome, Mr. President. His income was immense. But
he cut into it something terrible. His brothers in the East began to row
at the way he poured it out. When he began to draw in advance they were
goin' to have him declared incompetent. Even his brothers say he's
cracked. Recently they've drawn in on him. Won't let him spend his own

A gruesome tone came from among Spate's spectacles and whiskers:

"He won't last long. Health's giving out. His wife told my wife, the
other day, he don't sleep nights. That's a bad sign. His pride is set on
keepin' everything going, though, and nothing can hold him. He wants the
street-cars to run regular, and the telephone to answer quick, even if
the town don't support 'em. He's cracked--there's nothing to it."

Amasa Harbury, of the Building and Loan Association, leaned close and
spoke in a confidential voice:

"He's got mortgages on 'most everything, Mr. President. He's borrowed on
all his securities up to the hilt. Only yesterday I had to refuse him a
second mortgage on his house. He stormed around about how much he'd put
into it. I told him it didn't count how much you put into a hole, it was
how much you could get out. You can imagine how much that palace of his
would bring in this town on a foreclosure sale--about as much as a white
elephant in a china-shop."

"Not but what Wakefield is enterprising," insisted Spate.

The lust for gossip had been aroused and Pettibone threw discretion to
the winds.

"Shelby was hopping mad because we left him off the committee of
welcome, but we thought we'd better stick to our own crowd of
represent'ive citizens. Shelby don't really belong to Wakefield,
anyway. Still, if you want to meet him, it can be arranged."

"Oh no," said the President. "Don't trouble."

And he was politic--or politician--enough to avoid the subject
thenceforward. But he could not get Shelby out of his mind that night as
his car whizzed on its way. To be called crazy and eccentric and to be
suspected, feared, resisted by the very people he longed to
lead--Presidents are not unaware of that ache of unrequited affection.

The same evening Shelby and Phoebe Shelby looked out on their park.
The crowds that had used it as a vantage-ground for the pageant had all
vanished, leaving behind a litter of rubbish, firecrackers, cigar stubs,
broken shrubs, gouged terraces. Not one of them had asked permission,
had murmured an apology or a word of thanks.

For the first time Phoebe Shelby noted that her husband did not take
new determination from rebuff. His resolution no longer made a
springboard of resistance. He seemed to lean on her a little.


The perennially empty cutlery-works gave the Wide-a-Wakefield Club no
rest. Year after year the anxiously awaited census renewed the old note
of fifteen thousand and denied the eloquent argument of increased
population. The committee in its letters continued to refer to
Wakefield as "thriving" rather than as "growing." Its ingeniously
evasive circulars finally roused a curiosity in Wilmer Barstow, a
manufacturer of refrigerators, dissatisfied with the taxes and freight
rates of the city of Clayton.

Barstow was the more willing to leave Clayton because he had suffered
there from that reward which is more unkind than the winter wind. He
loved a woman and paid court to her, sending her flowers at every
possible excuse and besetting her with gifts.

She was not much of a woman--her very lover could see that; but he loved
her in his own and her despite. She was unworthy of his jewels as of his
infatuation, yet she gave him no courtesy for his gifts. She behaved as
if they bored her; yet he knew no other way to win her. The more
indifference she showed the more he tried to dazzle her.

At last he found that she was paying court herself to a younger man--a
selfish good-for-naught who made fun of her as well as of Barstow, and
who borrowed money from her as well as from Barstow.

When Barstow fully realized that the woman had made him not only her own
booby, but the town joke as well, he could not endure her or the place
longer. He cast about for an escape. But he found his factory no
trifling baggage to move.

It was on such fertile soil that one of the Wide-a-Wakefield circulars

It chimed so well with Barstow's mood that he decided at least to look
the town over.

He came unannounced to make his own observations, like the spies sent
into Canaan. The trolley-car that met his train was rusty, paintless,
forlorn, untenanted. He took a ramshackle hack to the best hotel. Its
sign-board bore this legend: "The Palace, formerly Shelby
House--entirely new management."

He saw his baggage bestowed and went out to inspect the factory building
described to him. The cutlery-works proved smaller than his needs, and
it had a weary look. Not far away he found a far larger factory, idle,
empty, closed. The sign declared it to be the Wakefield Branch of the
Shelby Paradise Powder Company. He knew the prosperity of that firm and
wondered why this branch had been abandoned.

In the course of time the trolley-car overtook him, and he boarded it as
a sole passenger.

The lonely motorman was loquacious and welcomed Barstow as the Ancient
Mariner welcomed the wedding guest. He explained that he made but few
trips a day and passengers were fewer than trips. The company kept it
going to hold the franchise, for some day Wakefield would reach sixteen
thousand and lift the hoodoo.

The car passed an opera-house, with grass aspiring through the chinks of
the stone steps leading to the boarded-up doors.

The car passed the Shelby Block; the legend, "For Rent, apply to Amasa
Harbury," hid the list of Shelby enterprises.

The car grumbled through shabby streets to the outskirts of the town,
where it sizzled along a singing wire past the drooping fences, the
sagging bleachers, and the weedy riot of what had been a
pleasure-ground. A few dim lines in the grass marked the ghost of a
baseball diamond, a circular track, and foregone tennis-courts.

Barstow could read on what remained of the tottering fence:


When the car had reached the end of the line Barstow decided to walk
back to escape the garrulity of the motorman, who lived a lonely life,
though he was of a sociable disposition.

Barstow's way led him shortly to the edge of a curious demesne, or
rather the débris of an estate. A chaos of grass and weeds thrust even
through the rust of the high iron fence about the place. Shrubs that had
once been shapely grew raggedly up and swept down into the tall and
ragged grass. A few evergreen trees lifted flowering cones like funeral
candles in sconces. What had been a lake with fountains was a great,
cracked basin of concrete tarnished with scabious pools thick with the
dead leaves of many an autumn.

Barstow entered a fallen gate and walked along paths where his feet
slashed through barbaric tangles clutching at him like fingers. As he
prowled, wondering what splendor this could have been which was so
misplaced in so dull a town and drooping into so early a neglect, birds
took alarm and went crying through the branches. There were lithe
escapes through the grass, and from the rim of the lake ugly toads
plounced into the pool and set the water-spiders scurrying on their
frail catamarans.

Two bronze stags towered knee-deep in verdure; one had a single antler,
the other none. A pair of toothless lions brooded over their lost
dignity. Between their disconsolate sentry, mounted flight on flight of
marble steps to the house of the manor. It lay like an old frigate
storm-shattered and flung aground to rot. The hospitable doors were
planked shut, the windows, too; the floors of the verandas were broken
and the roof was everywhere sunken and insecure.

At the portal had stood two nymphs, now almost classic with decay. One
of them, toppling helplessly, quenched her bronze torch in weeds. Her
sister stood erect in grief like a daughter of Niobe wept into stone.

The scene somehow reminded Barstow of one of Poe's landscapes. It was
the corpse of a home. Eventually he noticed a tall woman in black,
seated on a bench and gazing down the terraces across the dead lake.
Barstow was tempted to ask her whose place this had been and what its
history was, but her mien and her crêpe daunted him.

He made his way out of the region, looking back as he went. When he
approached the most neighboring house a grocery-wagon came flying down
the road. Before it stopped the slanted driver was off the seat and
half-way across the yard. In a moment he was back again. Barstow called

"Whose place is that?"


"Did he move away?"

But the horse was already in motion, and the youth had darted after,
leaping to the side of the seat and calling back something which Barstow
could not hear.

Shelby, who had given the town everything he could, had even endowed it
with a ruins.

When Barstow had reached the hotel again he went in to his supper. A
head waitress, chewing gum, took him to a table where a wildly coiffed
damsel brought him a bewildering array of most undesirable foods in a
flotilla of small dishes.

After supper Barstow, following the suit of the other guests, took a
chair on the sidewalk, for a little breeze loafed along the hot street.
Barstow's name had been seen upon the hotel register and the executive
committee of the Wide-a-Wakefield Club waited upon him in an august

Mr. Pettibone introduced himself and the others. They took chairs and
hitched them close to Barstow, while they poured out in alternate
strains the advantages of Wakefield. Barstow listened politely, but the
empty factory and the dismantled home of Shelby haunted him and made a
dismal background to their advertisements.

It was of the factory that he spoke first:

"The building you wrote me about and offered me rent-free looks a little
small and out of date for our plant. I saw Shelby's factory empty. Could
I rent that at a reasonable figure, do you suppose?"

The committee leaped at the idea with enthusiasm. Spate laughed through
his beard:

"Lord, I reckon the company would rent it to you for almost the price of
the taxes."

Then he realized that this was saying just a trifle too much. They began
to crawfish their way out. But Barstow said, with unconviction:

"There's only one thing that worries me. Why did Shelby close up his
Paradise Powder factory and move away?"

Pettibone urged the reason hastily: "His brothers closed it up for him.
They wouldn't stand any more of his extravagant nonsense. They shut down
the factory and then shut down on him, too."

"So he gave up his house and moved away?" said Barstow.

"He gave up his house because he couldn't keep it up," said Amasa
Harbury. "Taxes were pretty steep and nobody would rent it, of course.
It don't belong in a town like Wakefield. Neither did Shelby."

"So he moved away?"

"Moved away, nothin'," sneered Spate. "He went to a boardin'-house and
died there. Left his wife a lot of stock in a broken-down street-car
line, and a no-good electric-light company, and an independent telephone
system that the regulars gobbled up. She's gone back to teachin' school
again. We used our influence to get her old job back. We didn't think we
ought to blame her for the faults of Shelby."

"And what had Shelby done?"

They told him in their own way--treading on one another's toes in their
anxiety; shutting one another up; hunching their chairs together in a
tangle as if their slanders were wares they were trying to sell.

But about all that Barstow could make of the matter was that Shelby had
been in much such case as his own. He had been hungry for human
gratitude, and had not realized that it is won rather by accepting than
by bestowing gifts.

Barstow sat and smoked glumly while the committee clattered. He hardly
heard what they were at such pains to emphasize. He was musing upon a
philosophy of his father's:

"There's an old saying, 'Never look a gift horse in the mouth.' But
sayings and doings are far apart. If you can manage to sell a man a
horse he'll make the best of the worst bargain; he'll nurse the nag and
feed him and drive him easy and brag about his faults. He'll overlook
everything from spavin to bots; he'll learn to think that a hamstrung
hind leg is the poetry of motion. But a gift horse--Lord love you! If
you give a man a horse he'll look him in the mouth and everywhere else.
The whole family will take turns with a microscope. They'll kick because
he isn't run by electricity, and if he's an Arabian they'll roast him
because he holds his tail so high. If you want folks to appreciate
anything don't give it to 'em; make 'em work for it and pay for
it--double if you can."

       *       *       *       *       *

Shelby had mixed poetry with business, had given something for nothing;
had paid the penalty.



The old road came pouring down from the wooded hills to the westward,
flowed round the foot of other hills, skirting a meadow and a pond, and
then went on easterly about its business. Almost overhanging the road,
like a mill jutting upon its journeyman stream, was an aged house. Still
older were the two lofty oaks standing mid-meadow and imaged again in
the pond. Younger than oaks or house or road, yet as old as Scripture
allots, was the man who stalked across the porch and slumped into a
chair. He always slumped into a chair, for his muscles still remembered
the days when he had sat only when he was worn out. Younger than oaks,
house, road, or man, yet older than a woman wants to be, was the woman
in the garden.

"What you doin', Maw?" the man called across the rail, though he could
see perfectly well.

"Just putterin' 'round in the garden. What you been doin', Paw?"

"Just putterin' 'round the barn. Better come in out the hot sun and rest
your old back."

Evidently the idea appealed to her, for the sunbonnet overhanging the
meek potato-flowers like a flamingo's beak rose in air, as she stood
erect, or as nearly erect as she ever stood nowadays. She tossed a few
uprooted weeds over the lilac-hedge, and, clumping up the steps of the
porch, slumped into a chair. Chairs had once been her luxury, too. She
carried a dish-pan full of green peas, and as her gaze wandered over the
beloved scene her wrinkled fingers were busy among the pods, shelling
them expertly, as if they knew their way about alone.

The old man sighed, the deep sigh of ultimate contentment. "Well, Maw,
as the fellow says in the circus, here we are again."

"Here we are again, Paw."

They always said the same thing about this time of year, when they
wearied of the splendid home they had established as the capital of
their estate and came back to the ground from which they had sprung.
James Coburn always said:

"Well, Maw, as the fellow says in the circus, here we are again."

And Sarah Gregg Coburn always answered:

"Here we are again, Paw."

This place was to them what old slippers are to tired feet. Here they
put off the manners and the dignities their servants expected of them,
and lapsed into shabby clothes and colloquialisms, such as they had been
used to when they were first married, long before he became the master
of a thousand acres, of cattle upon a hundred hills, of blooded
thoroughbreds and patriarchal stallions, of town lots and a bank, and
of a record as Congressman for two terms. This pilgrimage had become a
sort of annual elopement, the mischief of two white-haired runaways. Now
that the graveyard or the city had robbed them of all their children,
they loved to turn back and play at an Indian-summer honeymoon.

This year, for the first time, Maw had consented to the aid of a "hired
girl." She refused to bring one of the maids or the cook from the big
house, and engaged a woman from the village nearest at hand--and then
tried to pretend the woman wasn't there. It hurt her to admit the
triumph of age in her bones, but there was compensation in the privilege
of hearing some one else faintly clattering over the dish-washing of
evenings, while she sat on the porch with Paw and watched the sunset
trail its gorgeous banners along the heavens and across the little toy
sky of the pond.

It was pleasant in the mornings, too, to lie abed in criminal indolence,
hearing from afar the racket of somebody else building the fire. After
breakfast she made a brave beginning, only to turn the broom and the
bedmaking over to Susan and dawdle about after Paw or celebrate matins
in the green aisles of the garden. But mostly the old couple just
pretended to do their chores, and sat on the porch and watched the
clouds go by and the frogs flop into the pond.

"Mail come yet, Maw?"

"Susan's gone for it."

He glanced up the road to a sunbonneted figure blurred in the glare, and
sniffed amiably. "Humph! Country's getting so citified the morning
papers are here almost before breakfast's cleared off. Remember when we
used to drive eleven mile to get the _Weekly Tribune_, Maw?"

"I remember. And it took you about a week to read it. Sometimes you got
one number behind. Nowadays you finish your paper in about five

"Nothing much in the papers nowadays except murder trials and divorce
cases. I guess Susan must have a mash on that mail-carrier."

"I wish she'd come on home and not gabble so much."

"Expectin' a letter from the boy?"

"Ought to be one this morning."

"You've said that every mornin' for three weeks. I s'pose he's so busy
in town he don't realize how much his letters mean to us."

"I hate to have him in the city with its dangers--he's so reckless with
his motor, and then there's the temptations and the scramble for money.
I wish Stevie had been contented to settle down with us. We've got
enough, goodness knows. But I suppose he feels he must be a millionaire
or nothing, and what you've made don't seem a drop in the bucket."

The old man winced. He thought how often the boy had found occasion to
draw on him for help in financing his "sure things" and paying up the
losses on the "sure things" that had gone wrong. Those letters had been
sent to the bank in town and had not been mentioned at home, except now
and then, long afterward, when the wife pressed the old man too hard
about holding back money from the boy. Then he would unfold a few
figures. They dazed her, but they never convinced her.

Who ever convinced a woman? Persuaded? Yes, since Eve! Convinced? Not

It hurts a man's pride to hear his wife impliedly disparage his own
achievements in contrast with his son's. Not that he is jealous of his
son; not that he does not hope and expect that the boy will climb to
peaks he has never dared; not that he would not give his all and bend
his own back as a stepping-stone to his son's ascension; but just that
comparisons are odious. This disparagement is natural, though, to wives,
for they compare what their husbands have done with what their sons are
going to do.

It was an old source of peevishness with Paw Coburn, and he was moved to
say--answering only by implication what she had unconsciously implied,
and seeming to take his theme from the landscape about them:

"When my father died all he left me was this little--bungalow they'd
call it nowadays, I suppose, and a few acres 'round it. You remember,
Maw, how, when the sun first came sneakin' over that knob off to the
left, the shadow of those two oaks used to just touch the stone wall on
the western border of father's property, and when the sun was just
crawlin' into bed behind those woods off yonder the shadow of the oaks
just overlapped the rail fence on the eastern border? That's all my
father left me--that and the mortgage. That's all I brought you home to,
Maw. I'm not disparaging my father. He was a great man. When he left his
own home in the East and came out here all this was woods, woods, woods,
far as you can see. Even that pond wasn't there then. My father cleared
it all--cut down everything except those two oak-trees. He used to call
them the Twin Oaks, but they always seemed to me like man and wife. I
kind o' like to think that they're you and me. And like you and me
they're all that's left standin' of the old trees. They were big trees,
too, and those were big days."

The greatness of his thoughts rendered him mute. He was a plain man, but
he was hearing the unwritten music of the American epic of the ax and
the plow, the more than Trojan war, the more than ten years' war,
against forests and savages. His wife brought him back from
hyper-Homeric vision to the concrete.

"Thank Heaven, Susan's finished gossipin' and started home."

The mail-carrier in his little umbrellaed cart was vanishing up the
hill, and the sunbonnet was floating down the road. The sky was an
unmitigated blue, save for a few masses of cloud, like piles of new
fleece on a shearing-floor. Green woods, gray road, blue sky, pale
clouds, all were steeped in heat and silence so intense it seemed that
something must break. And something broke.

Appallingly, abruptly, came a shattering crash, a streak of blinding
fire, an unendurable noise, a searing blast of blaze as if the sun had
been dynamite exploded, splintering the very joists of heaven. The whole
air rocked like a tidal wave breaking on a reef; the house writhed in
all its timbers. Then silence--unbearable silence.

The old woman, made a child again by a paralytic stroke of terror, found
herself on her knees, clinging frantically to her husband. The cheek
buried in his breast felt the lurch and leap of his pounding heart.
Manlike, he found courage in his woman's fright, but his hand quivered
upon her hair; she heard his shaken voice saying:

"There, there, Maw, it's all over."

When he dared to open his eyes he was blinded and dazed like the
stricken Saul. When he could see again he found the world unchanged. The
sky was still there, and still azure; the clouds swam serenely; the road
still poured down from the unaltered hills. He tried to laugh; it was a
sickly sound he made.

"I guess that was what the fellow calls a bolt from the blue. I've often
heard of 'em, but it's the first I ever saw. No harm's done, Maw,
except to Susan's feelings. She's pickin' herself up out the dust and
hurryin' home like two-forty. I guess the concussion must have knocked
her over."

The old woman, her heart still fluttering madly, rose from her knees
with the tremulous aid of the old man and opened her eyes. She could
hardly believe that she would not find the earth an apocalyptic ruin of
uprooted hills. She breathed deeply of the relief, and her eyes ran
along the remembered things as if calling the roll. Suddenly her eyes
paused, widened. Her hand went out to clutch her husband's arm.

"Look, Paw! The oaks, the oaks!"

The lightning had leaped upon them like a mad panther, rending their
branches from them, ripping off great strips of bark, and leaving long,
gaping wounds, dripping with the white blood of trees. The lesser of the
two oaks had felt the greater blow, and would have toppled to the ground
had it not fallen across its mate; and its mate, though grievously
riven, held it up, with branches interlocking like cherishing arms.

To that human couple the tragedy of the trees they had looked upon as
the very emblems of stability was pitiful. The old woman's eyes swam
with tears. She made no shame of her sobs. The old man tried to comfort
her with a commonplace:

"I was readin' only the other day, Maw, that oaks attract the lightning
more than any other trees," and then he broke down. "Father always
called 'em the Twin Oaks, but I always called 'em you and me."

The panic-racked Susan came stumbling up the steps, gasping with
experiences. But the aged couple either did not hear or did not heed.
With old hand embracing old hand they sat staring at the rapine of the
lightning, the tigerish atrocity that had butchered and mutilated their
beloved trees. Susan dropped into Mrs. Coburn's lap what mail she
brought and hurried inside to faint.

The old couple sat in a stupor long and long before Mrs. Coburn found
that she was idly fingering letters and papers. She glanced down, and a
familiar writing brought her from her trance.

"Oh, Paw, here's a letter from the boy! Here's a letter from Stevie. And
here's your paper."

He took the paper, but did not open it, turning instead to ask, "What
does the boy say?"

With hands awkwardly eager she ripped the envelope, tore out the letter,
and spread it open on her lap, then pulled her spectacles down from her
hair, and read with loving inflection:

     "MY DARLING MOTHER AND DAD,--It is simply heinous the way I neglect
     to write you, but somehow the rush of things here keeps me putting
     it off from day to day. If remembrances were letters you would have
     them in flocks, for I think of you always and I am homesick for the
     sight of your blessed faces.

     "I should like to come out and see you in your little old nest, but
     business piles up about me till I can't see my way out at present.
     I do wish you could run down here and make me a good long visit,
     but I suppose that is impossible, too. There are two or three big
     deals pending that look promising, and if any one of them wins out
     I shall clean up enough to be a gentleman of leisure. The first
     place I turn will be home. My heart aches for the rest and comfort
     of your love.

     "Write me often and tell me how you both are, and believe me, with
     all the affection in the world,

                                        "Your devoted son,

She pushed her dewy spectacles back in her gray hair and pressed the
letter to her lips; she was smiling as only old mothers smile over
letters from their far-off children. The man's face softened, too, with
the ache that battle-scarred fathers feel, thinking of their sons in the
thick of the fight. Then he unfolded his paper, set his glasses on his
big nose, and pursed his lips to read what was new in the world at
large. His wife sat still, just remembering, perusing old files and back
numbers of the gazettes of her boy's past, remembering him from her
first vague thrill of him to his slow youth, to manhood, and the last
good-by kiss.

Nothing was heard from either of them for a long while, save the creak
of her chair and the rustle of his paper as he turned to the page
recording the results in the incessant Gettysburgs over the prices of
corn, pork, poultry, butter, and eggs. They were history to him. He
could grow angry over a drop in December wheat, and he could glow at a
sign of feverishness in oats. To-day he was profoundly moved to read
that October ribs had opened at 10.95 and closed at 11.01, and
depressed to see that September lard had dropped from 11.67 to 11.65.

As he turned the paper his eye was caught by the head-lines of an old
and notorious trial at law, and he was confirmed in his wrath. He

"Good Lord, ain't that dog hung yet?"

"What you talkin' about, Paw?"

"I was just noticin' that the third trial of Tom Carey is in full swing
again. It's cost the State a hundred thousand dollars already, and the
scoundrel ain't punished yet."

"What did he do, Paw?"

The old man blushed like a boy as he stammered: "You're too young to
know all he did, Maw. If I told you, you wouldn't understand. But it
ended in murder. If he'd been a low-browed dago they'd have had him
railroaded to Jericho in no time. But the lawyers are above the law, and
they've kept this fellow from his deserts till folks have almost forgot
what it was he did. It's disgraceful. It makes our courts the
laughing-stock of the world. It gives the anarchists an excuse for
saying that there's one law for the poor and another for the rich."

After the thunder of his ire had rolled away there was a gentle murmur
from the old woman. "It's a terrible thing to put a man to death."

"So it is, Maw, and if this fellow had only realized it he'd have kept
out of trouble."

"He was excited, most likely, and out of his head. What I mean is, it's
a terrible thing for a judge and a jury to try a man and take his life
away from him."

"Oh, it's terrible, of course, Maw, but we've got to have laws to hold
the world together, ain't we? And if we don't enforce 'em, what's the
use of havin' 'em?"

Silence and a far-away look on the wrinkled face resting on the wrinkled
hand and then a quiet question:

"Suppose it was our Steve?"

"I won't suppose any such thing. Thank God there's been no stain on any
of our family, either side; just plain hard-workin' folks--no crazy
ones, no criminals."

"But supposing it was our boy, Paw?"

"Oh, what's the use of arguin' with a woman! I love you for it, Maw,
but--well, I'm sorry I spoke."

He returned to his paper, growling now and then as he read of some new
quibble devised by the attorneys for the defense. As softly and as
surreptitiously as it begins to rain on a cloudy day, she was crying. He
turned again with mock indignation.

"Here, here! What you turning up about now?"

"I want to see my boy. I'm worried. He may be sick. He'd never let us

The old man tried to cajole her from her forebodings, tried to reason
them away, laugh them away. At last he said, with a poor effort at

"Well, for the Lord's sake, why don't you go? He's always askin' us to
come and see him. I'm kind o' homesick for a sight of the boy m'self.
You haven't been to town for a month of Sundays. Throw a few things in a
valise and I'll hitch up. We'll just about make the next train from the

She needed no coercion from without. She rose at once. As she opened the
squeaky screen-door he was clumping down the steps. He paused to call

"Oh, Maw!"

"Yes, Paw!"

"Better tuck in a jar of those preserves you been puttin' up. The boy
always liked those better 'n most anything. Don't wrap 'em in my
nightshirt, though."

She called out, "All right," and the slap of the screen-door was echoed
a moment later by a similar sound in the barn, accompanied by the old
man's voice:

"Give over, Fan."


The elevator-boy hesitated. "Oh, yes-sum, I got a pass-key, all right,
but I can't hahdly let nobody in Mista Coburn's 'pahtment 'thout his

"But we're his mother and father."

"Of co'se I take yo' wud for that, ma'am, but, you see, I can't hahdly
let nobody--er--um'm--thank you, sir--well, I reckon Mista Coburn might
be mo' put out ef I didn't let you-all in than ef I did."

The elevator soared silently to the eighth floor, and there all three
debarked. The boy was so much impressed with the tip the old man had
slipped him that he unlocked the door, put the hand-baggage into the
room, snapped the switch that threw on all the lights, and said, "Thank
you, sir," again as he closed the door.

Paw opened it to give the boy another coin and say: "Don't you let on
that we're here. It's a surprise."

The boy, grinning, promised and descended, like an imp through a trap.

The old couple stood stock-still, hesitating to advance. So many
feelings, such varied timidities, urged them forward, yet held them
back. It was the home of the son they had begotten, conceived, tended,
loved, praised, punished, feared, prayed for, counseled, provisioned,
and surrendered. Years of separation had made him almost a stranger, and
they dreaded the intrusion into the home he had built for himself,
remote from their influence. Poor, weak, silly old things, with a
boy-and-girlish gawkishness about them, the helpless feeling of
uninvited guests!

"You go first, Paw."

And Paw went first. On the sill of the drawing-room he paused and swept
a glance around. He would have given an arm to be inspired with some
scheme for whisking his wife away or changing what she must see. But she
was already crowding on his heels, pushing him forward. There was no
retreat. He tried to laugh it off.

"Well, here we are at last, as the fellow doesn't say in the circus."

There was nothing to do but sit down and wait. The very chairs were of
an architecture and upholstery incongruous to them. They knew something
of luxury, but not of this school. There was nowhere for them to look
that something alien did not meet their eyes. So they looked at the

"It gets awful hot in town, don't it?" said Paw, mopping his beaded

"Awful," said Maw, dabbing at hers.

Eventually they heard the elevator door gride on its grooves. All the
way in on the train they had planned to hide and spring out on the boy.
They had giggled like children over the plot. It was rather their
prearrangement than their wills that moved them to action. Automatically
they hid themselves, without laughter, rather with a sort of guilty
terror. They found a deep wardrobe closet and stepped inside, drawing
the door almost shut.

They heard a key in the lock, the click of a knob, the sound of a door
closed. Then a pause. They had forgotten to turn off the lights.
Hurrying footsteps, loud on the bare floor, muffled on the rugs. How
well they knew that step! But there was excitement in its rhythm. They
could hear the familiar voice muttering unfamiliarly as the footsteps
hurried here and there. He came into the room where they were. They
could hear him breathe now, for he breathed heavily, as if he had been
running. From place to place he moved with a sense of restless stealth.
At length, just as they were about to sally forth, he hurried forward
and flung open their door.

Standing among the hanging clothes, the light strong on their faces,
they seemed to strike him at first as ghosts. He stared at them aghast,
and recoiled. Then the old ghosts smiled and stepped forward with open
arms. But he recoiled again, and his welcome to his far-come,
heart-hungry parents was a groan.

They saw that he had a revolver in his hand. His eyes recurred to it,
and he turned here and there for a place to lay it, but seemed unable to
let it go. His mother flung forward and threw her arms about him, her
lips pursed to kiss him, but he turned away with lowered eyes. His
father took him by the shoulders and said:

"Why, what's the matter, boy? Ain't you glad to see your Maw--and me?"

For answer he only breathed hard and chokingly. His eyes went to the
revolver again, then roved here and there, always as if searching for a
place to hide it.

"Give that thing to me, Steve," the old man said. And he took it in his
hands, forcing from the cold steel the colder fingers that clung as if
frozen about the handle.

Once he was free of the weapon, the boy toppled into a chair, his mother
still clasping him desperately.

The old man knew something about firearms. He found the spring, broke
the revolver, and looked into the cylinder. In every chamber was the
round eye of a cartridge. Three of them bore the little scar of the

Old Coburn leaned hard against the wall. He looked about for a place to
hide the horrible machine, but he, too, could not let go of it. His
mouth was full of the ashes of life. He would have been glad to drop
dead. But beyond the sick, clammy face of his son he saw the face of his
wife, an old face, a mother's face, witless with bewilderment. The old
man swallowed hard.

"What's happened, Steve? What's been goin' on?"

The young man only shook his head, ran his dry tongue along his lips,
tore a piece of loose skin from the lower one with his teeth, and
breathed noisily through nostrils that worked like a dog's. He pushed
his mother's hands away as if they irked him. The old man could have
struck him to the ground for that roughness, but the prayers in the
mother's eyes restrained him.

"Better tell us, Steve. Maybe we might help you."

The young man's head worked as if he were gulping at a hard lump; his
lips moved without sound, his gaze leaped from place to place, lighting
everywhere but on his father's waiting, watching eyes, and always coming
back to the revolver with a loathing fascination. At last he spoke, in a
whisper like the rasp of chafed husks:

"I had to do it. He deserved it."

The mother had not seen the nicks on the cartridges, but she needed no
such evidence. She wailed:

"You don't mean that you--no--no--you didn't k-kill-ill-ill--"

The word rattled in her throat, and she went to the floor like a
toppling bolster. It was the old man that lifted her face from the rug,
ran to fetch water, and knelt to restore her. The son just wavered in
his chair and kept saying:

"I had to do it. He was making her life a--"

"Her life?" the old man groaned, looking up where he knelt. "Then
there's a woman in it?"

"Yes, it was for her. She's had a hard time. She's been horribly
misunderstood. She may have been indiscreet--still she's a noble woman
at heart. Her husband was a vile dog. He deserved it."

But the old man's head had dropped as if his neck were cracked. He saw
what it all meant and would mean. He would have sprawled to the floor,
but he caught sight of the pitiful face of his old love still white with
the half-death of her swoon. He clenched his will with ferocity,
resolving that he must not break, could not, would not break. He laid a
hand on his son's knee and said, appealingly, in a low tone, as if he
were the suppliant for mercy:

"Better not mention anything about--about her--the woman you know,
Steve--before your mother, not just now. Your mother's kind of poorly
the last few days. Understand, Steve?"

The answer was a nod like the silly nodding of a toy mandarin.

It was a questionable mercy, restoring the mother just then from the
bliss of oblivion, but she came gradually back through a fog of daze to
the full glare of fact. Her thoughts did not run forward upon the
scandal, the horror of the public, the outcry of all the press; she had
but one thought, her son's welfare.

"Did anybody see you, Steve?"

"No. I went to his room. I don't think anybody s-saw me--yes, maybe the
man across the hall did. Yes, I guess he saw me. He was at his door when
I came out. He looked as if he sus-suspected-ed me. I suppose he heard
the shots. And probably he s-saw the revol-ver. I couldn't seem to let
it drop--to le-let it drop."

The mother turned frantic. "They'll come here for you, Stevie. They'll
find it out. You must get away--somewhere--for just now, till we can
think up something to do. Father will find some way of making everything
all right, won't you, Paw? He always does, you know. Don't be scared, my
boy. We must keep very calm." Her hands were wavering over him in a
palsy. "Where can he go, Paw? Where's the best place for him to go? I'll
tell you, Steve. Is your--your car anywhere near?"

"It's outside at the door. I came back in it."

She got to her feet, and her urgency was ferocious. "Then you get right
in this minute and go up to the old place--the little old house opposite
the pond. Go as fast as you can. You know the place--where we lived
before you were born. There's two big oak-trees st-standing there, and a
pond just across the road. You go there and tell Susan--what shall he
tell Susan, father? What shall he tell Susan? We'll stay here, and--and
we'll bribe the elevator-boy to say you haven't come home at all, and if
the po-po-lice come here we'll say we're expecting you, but we haven't
seen you for ever so long. Won't we, Paw? That's what we'll say, won't
we, Paw?"

The old man stood up to the lightning like an old oak. Trees do not run.
They stand fast and take what the sky sends them. Old Coburn shook his
white hair as a tree its leaves in a blast of wind before he spoke.

"Steve, my boy, I don't know what call you had to do this, but it's no
use trying to run away and hide. They'll get you wherever you go. The
telegraph and the cable and the detectives--no, it's not a bit of use.
It only makes things look worse. Put on your hat and come with me. We'll
go to the police before they come for you. I'll go with you, and I'll
see you through."

But flight, not fight, was the woman's one hope. She was wild with
resistance to the idea of surrender. Her panic confirmed the young man
in his one impulse--to get away. He dashed out into the hall, and when
the father would have pursued, the mother thrust him aside, hurried
past, and braced herself against the door. He put off her clinging,
clutching hands as gently as he might, but she resisted like a tigress
at bay, and before he could drag her aside they heard the iron-barred
door of the elevator glide open and clang shut. And there they stood in
the strange place, the old man staggered with the realization of the
future, the old woman imbecile with fear.

What harm is it the honest oaks do, that Heaven hates them so and its
lightnings search them out with such peculiar frenzy?


Having no arenas where captive gladiators and martyrs satisfy the public
longing for the sight of bleeding flesh and twitching nerve, the people
of our day flock to the court-rooms for their keenest excitements.

The case of "The People _vs._ Stephen Coburn" had been an intensely
popular entertainment. This day the room was unusually stuffed with men
and women. At the door the officers leaned like buttresses against the
thrust of a solid wall of humanity. Outside, the halls, the stairs, and
the sidewalk were jammed with the mob crushing toward the door for a
sight of the white-haired mother pilloried in the witness-box and
fighting with all her poor wits against the shrewdest, calmest, fiercest
cross-examiner in the State.

In the jury-box the twelve silent prisoners of patience sat in awe of
their responsibilities, a dozen extraordinarily ordinary, conspicuously
average persons condemned to the agony of deciding whether they should
consign a fellow-man to death or release a murderer among their

Next the judge sat Sarah Coburn, her withered hands clenched bonily in
the lap where, not so many years ago, she had cuddled the babe that was
now the culprit hunted down and abhorred. The mere pressure of his first
finger had sent a soul into eternity and brought the temple of his own
home crashing about his head.

Next the prisoner sat his father, veteran now with the experience that
runs back to the time when the first father and mother found the first
first-born of the world with hands reddened in the blood of the earliest
sacrifice on the altar of Cain.

People railed in the street and in the press against the law's delay
with Stephen Coburn's execution and against the ability of a rich father
to postpone indefinitely the vengeance of justice. Old Coburn had forced
the taxpayers to spend vast sums of money. He had spent vaster sums
himself. The public and the prosecution, his own enormously expensive
lawyers, his son and his very wife, supposed that he still had vast sums
to spend. It was solely his own secret that he had no more. He had built
his fortune as his father had built the stone wall along his fields,
digging each boulder from the ground with his hands, lugging it across
the irregular turf and heaving it to its place. Every dollar of his had
its history of effort, of sweat and ache. And now the whole wall was
gone, carried away in wholesale sweeps as by a landslide.

In his business he had been so shrewd and so close that people had said,
"Old Coburn will fight for five days for five minute's interest on five
cents." When his son's liberty was at stake he signed blank checks, he
told his lawyers to get the best counsel in the nation. He did not ask,
"How much?" He asked, "How good?" Every technical ruse that could be
employed to thwart the prosecution he employed. He bribed everybody
bribable whose silence or speech had value. Dangerous witnesses were
shipped to places whence they could not be summonsed. Blackmailers and
blackguards fattened on his generosity and his fear.

The son, Stephen Coburn, had gone to the city, warm-hearted, young,
venturesome, not vicious, had learned life in a heap, sowed his wild
oats all at once, fallen among evil companions, and drifted by easy
stages into an affair of inexcusable ugliness, whence he seemed unable
to escape till a misplaced chivalry whispered him what to do. He had
found himself like Lancelot with "his honor rooted in dishonor" and
"faith unfaithful kept him falsely true." But Stephen Coburn was no
Lancelot, any more than his siren was a Guinevere or her slain husband a
King Arthur. He was simply a well-meaning, hot-headed, madly enamoured
young fool. The proof of this last was that he took a revolver to his
Gordian knot. Revolvers, as he found too late, do not solve problems.
They make a far-reaching noise, and their messengers cannot be recalled.

His parents had not known the city phase of their son. They had known
the adorable babe he had been, the good boy weeping over a broken-winged
robin tumbled from a nest, running down-stairs in his bare feet for one
more good-night kiss, crying his heart out when he must be sent away to
school, remembering their birthdays and abounding in gentle graces. This
was the Stephen Coburn they had known. They believed it to be the real,
the permanent, Stephen Coburn; the other was but the victim of a
transient demon. They could not believe that their boy would harm the
world again. They could not endure the thought that his repentance and
his atonement should be frustrated by a dishonorable end.

The public knew only the wicked Stephen Coburn. His crime had been his
entrance into fame. All the bad things he had done, all the bad people
he had known, all the bad places he had gone, were searched out and
published by the detectives and the reporters. To blacken Stephen
Coburn's repute so horribly that the jurors would feel it their
inescapable duty to scavenge him from the offended earth, that was the
effort of the prosecution. To prevent that blackening was one of the
most vital and one of the most costly features of the defense. To deny
the murder and tear down the web of circumstantial evidence as fast as
the State could weave it was another.

The Coburn case had become a notorious example of that peculiarly
American institution, the serial trial. The first instalment had ended
in a verdict of guilty. It had been old Coburn's task to hold up his
wife and his son in the collapse of their mad despair, while he managed
and financed the long, slow struggle with the upper courts till he wrung
from them an order for a new trial. This had ended, after weeks of
torment in the court-room and forty-eight hours of almost unbearable
suspense, in a disagreement of the jury. The third trial found the
prosecution more determined than ever, and acquainted with all the
methods of the defense. The only flaw was the loss of an important
witness, "the man across the hall," whom impatient time had carried off
to the place where subpoenas are not respected. His deposition and his
testimony at the previous trials were as lacking in vitality as himself.

And now once more old Coburn must carry everything upon his back, aching
like a world-weary Atlas who dares not shift his burden. But now he was
three years weaker, and he had no more money to squander. His house, his
acres, the cattle upon his hills, his blooded thoroughbreds, his
patriarchal stallions, his town lots, his bank-building, his bonds and
stocks, all were sold, pawned as collateral, or blanketed with

As he had comforted his wife when they had witnessed the bolt from the
blue, so now he sat facing her in her third ordeal. Only now she was not
on the home porch, but in the arena. He could not hold her hands. Now
she dared not close her eyes and cry; it was not the work of one
thunderbolt she had to see. Now, under the darting questions of the
court-examiner, she was like a frightened girl lost in the woods and
groping through a tempest, with lightning thrusts pursuing her on every
side, stitching the woods with fire like the needle in a sewing-machine
stabbing and stabbing at the dodging shuttle.

The old woman had gone down into the pit for her son. She had been led
through the bogs and the sewers of vice. Almost unspeakable, almost
unthinkable wickedness had been taught to her till she had become deeply
versed in the lore that saddens the eyes of the scarlet women of
Babylon. But still her love purified her, and almost sanctified the
strategy she practised, the lies she told, the truths she concealed, the
plots she devised with the uncanny canniness of an old peasant. People
not only felt that it was her duty to fight for her young like a mad
she-wolf, but they would have despised her for any failure of sacrifice.

She sat for hours baffling the inquisitor, foreseeing his wiles by
intuition, evading his masked pitfalls by instinct. She was terribly
afraid of him, yet more afraid of herself, afraid that she would break
down and become a brainless, weeping thing. It was the sincerity of her
fight against this weakness that made her so dangerous to the
prosecuting attorney. He wanted to compel her to admit that her son had
confessed his deed to her. She sought to avoid this admission. She had
not guessed that he was more in dread of her tears than of her guile. He
was gentler with her than her own attorneys had been. At all costs he
felt that he must not succeed too well with her.

The whole trial had become by now as academic as a game of chess, to all
but the lonely, homesick parents. The prosecuting attorney knew that the
mother was not telling the truth; the judge and the jury knew that she
was not telling the truth. But unless this could be geometrically
demonstrated the jury would disregard its own senses. Yet the prosecutor
knew that if he succeeded in trapping the mother too abruptly into any
admission dangerous to her son she would probably break down and cry her
dreary old heart out, and then those twelve superhuman jurors would weep
with her and care for nothing on earth except her consolation.

The crisis came as crises love to come, without warning. The question
had been simple enough, and the tone as gentle as possible: "You have
just stated, Mrs. Coburn, that your son spoke to you in his apartment
the day he is alleged to have committed this act, but I find that at the
first and second trials you testified that you did not see him in his
apartment at all. Which, please, is the correct statement?"

In a flash she realized what she had done. It is so hard to build and
defend a fortress of lies, and she was very old and not very wise, tired
out, confused by the stare of the mob and the knowledge that every word
she uttered endangered the life she had borne. Now she felt that she had
undone everything. She blamed herself for ruining the work of years. She
saw her son led to death because of her blunder. Her answer to the
question and the patient courtesy of the attorney was to throw her hands
into the air, toss her white head to and fro, and give up the battle.
The tears came like a gush of blood from a deep wound; they poured
through the lean fingers she pressed against her gaunt cheeks, and she
shook with the dry, weak weeping of senility and utter desolation. Then
her old arms yearned for him as when a babe.

"I want my boy! I want my boy!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The judge grew very busy among his papers, the prosecuting attorney
swallowed hard. The jurymen thought no more of evidence and of the
stability of the laws. They all had mothers, or memory-mothers, and they
only resolved that whatever crime Stephen Coburn might have committed,
it would be a more dastardly crime for them to drive their twelve
daggers into the aching breast that had suckled him. On the instant the
trial had resolved itself into "The People _vs._ One Poor Old Mother."
The jury's tears voted for them, and their real verdict was surging up
in one thought:

"This white haired saint wants her boy: he may be a black sheep, but she
wants him, and she shall have him, by--" whatever was each juryman's
favorite oath.

When the judge had finished his charge the jury stumbled on one
another's heels to get to their sanctum. There they reached a verdict so
quickly that, as the saying is, the foreman was coming back into the
court-room before the twelfth man was out of it. Amazed at their own
unanimity, they were properly ashamed, each of the other eleven, for
their mawkish weakness, and their treachery to the stern requirements of
higher citizenship. But they went home not entirely unconsoled by the
old woman's cry of beatitude at that phrase, "Not Guilty."

She went among them sobbing with ecstasy, and her tears splashed their
hands like holy water. It was all outrageously illegal, and sentimental,
and harmful to the sanctity of the law. And yet, is it entirely
desirable that men should ever grow unmindful of the tears of old


The road came pouring down from the wooded hills, and the house faced
the pond as before. But there was a new guest in the house. Up-stairs,
in a room with a sloping wall and a low ceiling and a dormer window, sat
a young man whose face had been prominent so long in the press and in
the court-room that now he preferred to keep away from human eyes. So he
sat in the little room and read eternally. He had acquired the habit of
books in the whitewashed cell where he had spent the three of his years
that should have been the happiest, busiest, best of all. He read
anything he could find now--old books, old magazines, old newspapers.
Finally he read even the old family Bible his mother had toted into his
room for his comfort. It was a bulky tome with print of giant size and
pictures of crude imagery, with here and there blank pages for recording
births, deaths, marriages. Here he found the names of all his brothers
and sisters, and all of them were entered among the deaths. The manners
of the deaths were recorded in the shaky handwriting of fresh grief:
Alice Anne, scarlet fever; James Arthur, Jr., convulsions; Andrew
Morton, whooping-cough; Cicely Jane, typhoid; Amos Turner, drowned
while saving his brother Stephen's life; Edward John, killed in train

Sick at heart, he turned away from the record, but the book fell open of
itself at a full-page insert of the Decalogue, illuminated by some
artless printer with gaudy splotches of gold, red and blue and green
initials, and silly curlicues of arabesque, as if the man had been
ignorant of what they meant, those ten pillars of the world.

Stephen smiled wanly at the bad taste of the decoration, till one line
of fire leaped from the text at him, "Thou Shalt Not Kill." But he
needed no further lessoning in that wisdom. He retreated from the
accusing page and went to lean against the dormer window and look out
upon the world from the jail of his past. No jury could release him from
that. Everywhere he looked, everywhere he thought, he saw evidence of
the penalty he had brought upon his father and mother, more than upon
himself and his future. He knew that his father's life-work had been
ruined, and that his honorable career would be summed up in the
remembrance that he was the old man who bankrupted himself to save his
son from the gallows. He knew that this very house, which remained as
the last refuge, was mortgaged again as when his father and mother had
come into it before he was born. The ironic circle was complete.

Down-stairs he could hear the slow and heavy footsteps of his father,
and the creak of the chair as he dropped heavily into it. Then he heard
the screen-door flap and heard his mother's rocking-chair begin its
seesaw strain. He knew that their tired old hands would be
clasped and that their tired old eyes would be staring off at the
lightning-shattered oaks. He heard them say, just about as always:

"What you been doin', Paw?"

"Just putterin' 'round the barn. What you been doin', Maw?"

"Just putterin' 'round the kitchen gettin' supper started. I went
up-stairs and knocked at Stevie's door. He didn't answer. Guess he's

"Guess so."

"It seems awful good, Paw, to be back in this old place, don't it?--you
and me just settin' here and our boy safe and sound asleep up-stairs."

"That's so. As the fellow says in the circus, here we are again, Maw."

"Here we are again, Paw."


His soul floated upward from the lowermost depths of oblivion, slowly,
as a water-plant, broken beneath, drifts to the surface. And then he was
awake and unutterably afraid.

His soul opened, as it were, its eyes in terror and his fleshly eyelids
went ajar. There was nothing to frighten him except his own thoughts,
but they seemed to have waited all ready loaded with despair for the
instant of his waking.

The room was black about him. The world was black. He had left the
window open, but he could not see outdoors. Only his memory told him
where the window was. Never a star pinked the heavens to distinguish it.
He could not tell casement from sky, nor window from wall, nor wall from
ceiling or floor. He was as one hung in primeval chaos before light had
been decreed.

He could not see his own pillow. He knew of it only because he felt it
where it was hot under his hot cheek. He could not see the hand he
raised to push the hair from his wet brow. He knew that he had a hand
and a brow only from their contact, from the sense of himself in them,
from the throb of his pulse at the surface of himself.

He felt almost completely disembodied, poised in space, in infinite
gloom, alone with complete loneliness. As the old phrase puts it, he was
all by himself.

The only sound in his universe, besides the heavy surf of his own blood
beating in his ears, was the faint, slow breathing of his wife, asleep
in the same bed, yet separated from him by a sword of hostility that
kept their souls as far apart as planets are.

He laughed in bitter silence to think how false she was to the devoted
love she had promised him, how harsh her last words had been and how
strange from the lips that used to murmur every devotion, every
love-word, every trust.

He wanted to whirl on her, shake her out of the cowardly refuge of
sleep, and resume the wrangle that had ended in exhaustion.

He wanted to gag her so that she would hear him out for once and not
break into every phrase. He wanted to tell her for her own good in one
clear, cold, logical, unbroken harangue how atrocious she was, how
futile, fiendish, heartless. But he knew that she would not listen to
him. Even if he gagged her mouth her mind would still dodge and buffet
him. How ancient was the experience that warned a man against argument
with a woman! And that wise old saw, "Let sleeping dogs lie," referred
even better to wives. He would not let her know that he was
awake--awake, perhaps, for hours of misery.

This had happened often of late. It had been a hard week, day after day
of bitter toil wearing him down in body and fraying his every nerve.

His business was in a bad way, and he alone could save it, and he could
save it only by ingenuity and inspiration. But the inspiration, he was
sure, would not come to him till he could rest throughout.

Sleep was his hope, his passion, food, drink, medicine. He was heavily
pledged at the bank. He could borrow no more. The president had
threatened him if he did not pay what was overdue. Bigger businesses
than his were being left to crash. A financial earthquake was rocking
every tower in the world.

Though he needed cash vitally to further his business, there was a
sharper and sharper demand upon him from creditors desperately harried
by their own desperate creditors. He must find with his brain some new
source of cash. He must fight the world. But how could he fight without
rest? Even pugilists rested between rounds.

He had not slept a whole night for a week. To-night he had gone to bed
sternly resolved on a while of annihilation. Anything for the brief
sweet death with the morning of resurrection.

And then she had quarreled with him. And now he was awake, and he felt
that he would not sleep.

He wondered what the hour was. He was tempted to rise and make a light
and look at his watch, but he felt that the effort and the blow of the
glare on his eyes might confirm his insomnia. He lay and wondered,
consumed with curiosity as to the hour--as if that knowledge could be of

By and by, out of the stillness and the widespread black came the
slumbrous tone of a far-off town clock. Three times it rumored in the
air as if distance moaned faintly thrice.

Three o'clock! He had had but two hours' sleep, and would have no more!
And he needed ten! To-morrow morning--this morning!--he must join battle
for his very existence.

He lay supine, trying not to clench a muscle, seeking to force his
surrender to inanition; but he could not get sleep though he implored
his soul for it, prayed God for it.

At length he ceased to try to compel slumber. He lay musing. It is a
strange thing to lie musing in the dark. His soul seemed to tug and
waver outside his body as he had seen an elephant chained by one leg in
a circus tent lean far away from its shackles, and sway and put its
trunk forth gropingly. His soul seemed to be under his forehead, pushing
at it as against a door. He felt that if he had a larger, freer forehead
he would have more soul and more room for his mind to work.

Then the great fear came over him again. In these wakeful moods he
suffered ecstasies of fright.

He was appalled with life. He felt helpless, bodyless, doomed.

On his office wall hung a calendar with a colored picture showing
fishermen in a little boat in a fog looking up to see a great Atlantic
liner just about to run them down. So the universe loomed over him now,
rushed down to crush him. The other people of the world were asleep in
their places; his creditors, his rivals were resting, gaining strength
to overwhelm him on the morrow, and he must face them unrefreshed.

He dreamed forward through crisis after crisis, through bankruptcy,
disgrace, and mortal illness. He thought of his family, the children
asleep in their beds under the roof that he must uphold like an Atlas.
Poor little demanding, demanding things! What would become of them when
their father broke down and was turned out of his factory and out of his
home? How they would hamper him, cling to him, cry out to him not to let
them starve, not to let them go cold or barefoot, not to turn them

Yet they did not understand him. They loved their mother infinitely
more. She watched over them, played with them, cuddled and kissed them,
while he had to leave the house before they were up, and came home at
night too fagged to play their games or endure their noise. And if they
were to be punished, she used him as a threat, and saved them up for him
to torment and denounce.

They loved her and were afraid of him. Yet what had she done for them?
She had conceived them, borne them, nourished them for a year at most.
Thereafter their food, their shelter, their clothes, their education,
their whole prosperity must come from their father. Yet the very
necessities of the struggle for their welfare kept him from giving them
the time that would win their favor. They complained because he did not
buy them more. They were discontented with what they had, and covetous
of what the neighbors' children had, even where it was less than their

He busied himself awhile at figuring out how much, all told, his
children's upbringing had cost him. The total was astounding. If he had
half of that sum now he would not be fretting about his pay-roll or his
notes. He would triumph over every obstacle. Next he made estimate of
what the children would cost him in the future. As they grew their
expenses grew with them. He could not hope for the old comfort of sons,
when they made a man strong, for nowadays grown sons must be started in
business at huge cost with doubtful results and no intention of repaying
the investment. And daughters have to be dressed up like holiday
packages, expensive gifts that must be sent prepaid and may be returned,

He could see nothing but vanity back of him and a welter of cost ahead.
He could see no hope of ever catching up, of ever resting. His only rest
would come when he died.

If he did not sleep soon he would assuredly die or go mad. Perhaps he
was going mad already. He had fought too long, too hard. He would begin
to babble and giggle soon and be led away to twiddle his fingers and
talk with phantoms. He saw himself as he had seen other witless,
slavering spectacles that had once been human, and a nausea of fear
crushed big sweat out of his wincing skin.

Better to die than to play the living burlesque of himself. Better to
die than to face the shame of failure, the shame of reproach and
ridicule; the epitaph of his business a few lines in the small type of
"Business Troubles." Better to kill himself than risk the danger of
going mad and killing perhaps his own children and his wife. He knew a
man once, a faithful, devoted, gentle struggler with the world, whom a
sudden insanity had led to the butchery of his wife and three little
boys. They found him tittering among his mangled dead, and calling them
pet names, telling the shattered red things that he had wrought God's
will upon them.

What if this should come to him! Better to end all the danger of that by
removing himself from the reach of mania or shame. It would be the final
proof of his love for his flock. And they would not think bitterly of
him. All things are forgiven the dead. They would miss him and remember
the best of him.

They would appreciate what they had cost him, too, when they no longer
had him to draw on. He felt very sorry for himself. Grown man as he was,
he was driven back into infancy by his terrors, and like a pouting,
supperless boy, he wanted to die to spite the rest of the family and
win their apologies even if he should not hear them.

He wondered if, after all, his wife would not be happier to be rid of
him. No, she would regret him for one thing at least, that he left her
without means.

Well, she deserved to be penniless. Why should she expect a man to kill
himself for her sake and leave her a wealthy widow to buy some other
man? Let her practise then some of the economies he had vainly begged of
her before. If she had been worthy of his posthumous protection she
would not have treated him so outrageously at a time of such stress as

She knew he was dog-tired, yet she allowed him to be angered, and she
knew just what themes were sure to provoke his wrath. So she had harped
on these till she had rendered him to a frenzy.

They had stood about or paced the floor or dropped in chairs and fought
as they flung off their clothes piecemeal. She had combed and brushed
her hair viciously as she raged, weeping the unbeautiful tears of wrath.
But he had not had that comfort of tears; his tears ran down the inside
of his soul and burned. She goaded him out of his ordinary
self-control--knew just how to do it and reveled in it.

No doubt he had said things to her that a gentleman does not say to a
lady, that hardly any man would say to any woman. He was startled to
remember what he had said to her. He abhorred the thought of such
things coming from his lips--and to the mother of his children. But the
blame for these atrocities was also hers. She had driven him frantic;
she would have driven a less-dignified man to violence, to blows,
perhaps. And she had had the effrontery to blame him for driving her
frantic when it was she that drove him.

Finally they had stormed themselves out, squandered their vocabularies
of abuse, and taken resort to silence in a pretended dignity. That is,
she had done this. He had relapsed into silence because he realized how
impervious to truth or justice she was. Facts she would not deal in.
Logic she abhorred. Reasoning infuriated her.

And then in grim, mutual contempt they had crept into bed and lain as
far apart as they could. He would have gone into another room, but she
would have thought he was afraid to hear more of her. Or she would have
come knocking at the door and lured him back only to renew the war at
some appeal of his to that sense of justice he was forever hoping to
find in her soul.

He was aligned now along the very edge of the mattress. It was childish
of her to behave so spitefully, but what could he do except repay her in
kind? She would not have understood any other behavior. She had turned
her back on him, too, and stretched herself as thin as she could as
close to the edge as she could lie without falling out.

What a vixen she was! And at this time of all when she should have been
gentle, soothing. Even if she had thought him wrong and misinterpreted
his natural vehemence as virulence, she should have been patient. What
was a wife for but to be a helpmeet? She knew how easily his temper was
assuaged, she knew the very words. Why had she avoided them?

And she was to blame for so many of his problems. Her bills and her
children's bills were increasing. She took so much of his time. She
needed so much entertaining, so much waiting on, so much listening to.
Neither she nor the children produced. They simply spent. In a crisis
they never gave help, but exacted it.

In business, as in a shipwreck, strong and useful men must step back and
sacrifice themselves that the women and children might be saved--for
other men to take care of. And what frauds these women were! All
allurement and gentleness till they had entrapped their victims, then
fiends of exaction, without sympathy for the big work of men, without
interest in the world's problems, alert to ridiculous suspicions,
reckless with accusations, incapable of equity, and impatient of
everything important.

Marriage was a trap, masking its steel jaws and its chain under flowers.
What changelings brides were! A man never led away from the altar the
woman he led thither. Before marriage, so interested in a man's serious
talk and the business of his life! After marriage, unwilling to listen
to any news of import, sworn enemies of achievement, putting an
ingrowing sentiment above all other nobilities of the race.

And his wife was of all women the most womanish. She had lost what early
graces she had. In the earlier days they had never quarreled. That is,
of course, they had quarreled, but differently. They had left each other
several times, but how rapturously they had returned. And then she had
craved his forgiveness and granted hers without asking. She had always
forgiven him for what he had not done, said, or thought, or for the
things he had done and said most justly. But there had been a charm
about her, a sweet foolishness that was irresistible.

In the dark now he smiled to think how dear and fascinating she had been
then. Oh, she had loved him then, had loved the very faults she had
imagined in him. Perhaps after he was dead she would remember him with
her earlier tenderness. She would blame herself for making him the
irascible, hot-tempered brute he had been--perhaps--at times.

And now he had slain and buried himself, and his woe could burrow no
farther down. His soul was at the bottom of the pit. There was no other
way to go but upward, and that, of course, was impossible.

As he wallowed in the lugubrious comfort of his own post-mortem revenge
he wished that he had left unsaid some of the things he had said.
Quelled by the vision of his wife weeping over him and repenting her
cruelties, they began to seem less cruel. She was absolved by remorse.

He heard her sobbing over his coffin and heard her recall her ferocious
words with shame. His white, set face seemed to try to console her. He
heard what he was trying to tell her in all the gentle understanding of
the tomb:

"I said worse things, honey. I don't know how I could have used such
words to you, my sweetheart. A longshoreman wouldn't have called a
fishwife what I called you, you blessed child. But it was my love that
tormented me. If a man had quarreled with me, we'd have had a knock-down
and drag-out and nothing more thought of it. If any woman but you had
denounced me as you did I'd have shrugged my shoulders and not cared
a--at all.

"It was because I loved you, honey, that your least frown hurt me so.
But I didn't really mean what I said. It wasn't true. You're the best,
the faithfulest, the prettiest, dearest woman in all the world, and you
were a precious wife to me--so much more beautiful, more tender, more
devoted than the wives of the other men I knew. I will pray God to bring
you to me in the place I'm going to. I could not live without you

This was what he was trying to tell her, and could not utter a word of
it. He seemed to be lying in his coffin, staring up at her through
sealed eyelids. He could not purse his cold lips to kiss her warm mouth.
He could not lift an icy hand to bless her brow. They would come soon
to lay the last board over his face and screw down the lid. She would
scream and fight, but they would drag her away. And he could not answer
her wild cries. He could not go to her rescue. He would be lifted in the
box from the trestles and carried out on the shoulders of other men, and
slid into the waiting hearse; and the horses would trot away with him,
leaving her to penury, with her children and his at the mercy of the
merciless world, while he was lowered into a ditch and hidden under
shovelfuls of dirt, to lie there motionless, useless, hideously idle

This vision of himself dead was so vivid that his heart jumped in his
breast and raced like a propeller out of water. The very pain and the
terror were joyful, for they meant that he still lived.

Whatever other disasters overhung him, he was at least not dead. Better
a beggar slinking along the dingiest street than the wealthiest
Rothschild under the stateliest tomb. Better the sneers and pity of the
world in whispers about his path than all the empty praise of the most
resounding obituary.

The main thing was to be alive. Before that great good fortune all
misfortunes were minor, unimportant details. And, after all, he was not
so pitiable. His name was still respected. His factory was still
running. Whatever his liabilities, he still had some assets, not least
of them health and experience and courage.

But where had his courage been hiding that it left him whimpering
alone? Was he a little girl afraid of the dark, or was he a man?

There were still men who would lend him money or time. What if he was in
trouble? Were not the merchant princes of the earth sweating blood?
There had been a rich men's panic before the poor were reached. Now
everybody was involved.

After all, what if he failed? Who had not failed? What if he fell
bankrupt?--that was only a tumble down-stairs. Could he not pick himself
up and climb again? Some of the biggest industries in the world had
passed through temporary strain. The sun himself went into eclipse.

If his factory had to close, it could be opened again some day. Or even
if he could not recover, how many better men than he had failed? To be
crushed by the luck of things was no crime. There was a glory of defeat
as well as of victory.

The one great gleaming truth was that he was still alive, still in the
ring. He was not dead yet. He was not going to die. He was going to get
up and win.

There was no shame in the misfortunes he had had. There was no disgrace
in the fears he had bowed to. All the nations and all the men in them
were in a night of fear. But already there was a change of feeling. The
darker the hour, the nearer the dawn. The worse things were, the sooner
they must mend.

People had been too prosperous; the world had played the spendthrift
and gambled too high. But economy would restore the balance for the
toilers. What had been lost would soon be regained.

Fate could not down America yet. And he was an American. What was it
"Jim" Hill had said to the scare-mongers: "The man who sells the United
States short is a damned fool." And the man who sells himself short is a
damneder fool.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus he struggled through the bad weather of his soul. The clouds that
had gathered and roared and shuttled with lightnings had emptied their
wrath, and the earth still rolled. The mystery of terror was subtly
altered to a mystery of surety.

Lying in the dark, motionless, he had wrought out the miracle of
meditation. Within the senate chamber of his mind he had debated and
pondered and voted confidence in himself and in life.

His eyes, still open, still battling for light, had found none yet. The
universe was still black. He could not distinguish sky from window, nor
casement from ceiling. Yet the gloom was no longer terrible. The
universe was still a great ship rushing on, but he was no longer a
midget in a little cockleshell about to be crushed. He was a passenger
on the ship. The night was benevolent, majestic, sonorous with music.
The sea was glorious and the voyage forward.

And now that his heart was full of good news, he had a wild desire to
rush home with it to her who was his home. How often he had left her in
the morning after a wrangle, and hurried back to her at night bearing
glad tidings, the quarrel forgotten beyond the need of any treaty. And
she would be there among their children, beaming welcome from her big

And she was always so glad when he was glad. She took so much blame on
herself; though how was she to blame for herself? Yet she took no credit
to herself for being all the sweet things she was. She was the flowers
and the harvest, and the cool, amorous evening after the hard day was
done. And he was the peevish, whining, swearing imbecile that chose a
woman for wife because she was a rose and then clenched her thorns and
complained because she was not a turnip.

He felt a longing to tell her how false his croakings had been in that
old dead time so long ago as last night. But she was asleep. And she
needed sleep. She had been greatly troubled by his troubles. She had
been anxious for him and the children. She had so many things to worry
over that never troubled him. She had wept and been angry because she
could not make him understand. Her very wrath was a way of crying: "I
love you! You hurt me!"

He must let her sleep. Her beauty and her graces needed sleep. It was
his blessed privilege to guard her slumbers, his pride to house her well
and to see that she slept in fabrics suited to the delicate fabric of
her exquisite body.

But if only she might chance to be awake that he might tell her how
sorry he was that he had been weak and wicked enough to torment her with
his baseless fears and his unreasonable ire. At least he must touch her
with tenderness. Even though she slept, he must give her the benediction
of one light caress.

He put his hand out cautiously toward her. He laid his fingers gently on
her cheek. How beautiful it was even in the dark! But it was wet! with
tears! Suddenly her little invisible fingers closed upon his hand like
grape tendrils.

But this did not prove her awake. So habited they were to each other
that even in their sleep their bodies gave or answered such endearments.

He waited till his loneliness for her was unendurable, then he breathed,

"Are you asleep, honey?"

For answer she whirled into his bosom and clenched him in her arms and
wept--in whispers lest the children hear. He petted her tenderly and
kissed her hair and her eyelids and murmured:

"Did I wake you, honey?"

"No, no!" she sobbed. "I've been awake for hours."

"But you didn't move!"

"I was afraid to waken you. You need your rest so much. I've been
thinking how hard you work, how good you are. I'm so ashamed of myself

"But it was all my fault, honey."

"Oh no, no, my dear, my dear!"

He let her have the last word; for an enormous contentedness filled his
heart. He drew the covers about her shoulder and held her close and
breathed deep of the companionship of the soul he had chosen. He
breathed so deeply that his head drooped over hers, his cheek upon her
hair. The night seemed to bend above them and mother them and say to
them, "Hush! hush! and sleep!"

There are many raptures in the world, and countless beautiful moments,
and not the least of them is this solemn marriage in sleep of the man
and woman whose days are filled with cares, and under whose roof at
night children and servants slumber aloof secure.

While these two troubled spirits found repose and renewal, locked each
in the other's arms, the blackness was gradually withdrawn from the air.
In the sky there came a pallor that grew to a twilight and became a
radiance and a splendor. And night was day. It would soon be time for
the father to rise and go forth to his work, and for the mother to rise
to the offices of the home.



In the tame little town of Hillsdale he seemed the tamest thing of all,
Will Rudd--especially appropriate to a kneeling trade, a shoe clerk by
election. He bent the pregnant hinges to anybody soever that entered the
shop, with its ingenious rebus on the sign-board:

[Illustration: CLAY KITTREDGE and Emporium Nobby Footwear]

He not only untied the stilted Oxfords or buttoned in the arching
insteps of those who sat in the "Ladies' and Misses' Dept.," which was
the other side of the double-backed bench whose obverse was the "Gents'
Dept.," but also he took upon the glistening surface of his trousers the
muddy soles of merchants, the clay-bronzed brogans of hired men, the
cowhide toboggans of teamsters, and the brass-toed, red-kneed boots of
little boys ecstatic in their first feel of big leather.

Rudd was a shoe clerk to be trusted. He never revealed to a soul that
Miss Clara Lommel wore shoes two sizes too small, and when she bit her
lip and blenched with agony as he pried her heel into the protesting
dongola, he seemed not to notice that she was no Cinderella.

And one day, when it was too late, and Miss Lucy Posnett, whose people
lived in the big brick mansard, realized that she had a hole in her
stocking, what did Rudd do? Why, he never let on.

Stanch Methodist that he was, William Rudd stifled _in petto_ the fact
that the United Presbyterian parson's wife was vain and bought little,
soft black kids with the Cuban heel and a patent-leather tip to the
opera toe! The United Presbyterian parson himself had salved his own
vanity by saying that shoes show so plainly on the pulpit, and it was
better to buy them a trifle too small than a trifle too large,
but--umm!--er, hadn't you better put in a little more of that powder,
Mr. Rudd? I have on--whew!--unusually thick socks to-day.

Clay Kittredge, Rudd's employer, valued him, secretly, as a man who
brought in customers and sold them goods. But he never mentioned this
to his clerk lest Rudd be tempted to the sin of vanity, and
incidentally to demanding an increase in that salary which had remained
the same since he had been promoted from delivery-boy.

Kittredge found that Rudd kept his secrets as he kept everybody's else.
Professing church member as he was, Rudd earnestly palmed off shopworn
stock for fresh invoices, declared that the obsolete Piccadillies which
Kittredge had snapped up from a bankrupt sale were worn on all the best
feet on Fifth Avenoo, and blandly substituted "just as good" for
advertised wares that Kittredge did not carry.

Besides, when no customer was in the shop he spent the time at the back
window, doctoring tags--as the King of France negotiated the hill--by
marking up prices, then marking them down.

But when he took his hat from the peg and set it on his head, he put on
his private conscience. Whatever else he did, he never lied or cheated
to his own advantage.

And so everybody in town liked William Rudd, and nobody admired him. He
was treated with the affectionate contempt of an old family servant. But
he had his ambitions and great ones, ambitions that reached past himself
into the future of another generation. He felt the thrill that stirs the
acorn, fallen into the ground and hidden there, but destined to father
an oak. His was the ambition beyond ambition that glorifies the seed in
the loam and ennobles the roots of trees thrusting themselves downward
and gripping obscurity in order that trunks and branches, flowers and
fruits, pods and cones, may flourish aloft.

Eventually old Clay Kittredge died, and the son chopped the "Jr."
curlicue from the end of his name and began a new régime. The old
Kittredge had sought only his own aggrandizement, and his son was his
son. The new Clay Kittredge had gone to public school with Rudd and they
continued to be "Clay" and "Will" to each other; no one would ever have
called Rudd by so demonstrative a name as "Bill."

When Clay second stepped into his father's boots--and shoes--he began to
enlarge the business, hoping to efface his father's achievements by his
own. The shop gradually expanded to a department store for covering all
portions of the anatomy and supplying inner wants as well.

Rudd was so overjoyed at not being uprooted and flung aside to die that
he never observed the shrewd irony of Kittredge's phrase, "You may
remain, Will, with no reduction of salary."

To have lost his humble position would have frustrated his dream, for he
was doing his best to build for himself and for Her a home where they
could fulfil their destinies. He cherished no hope, hardly even a
desire, to be a great or rich man himself. He was one of the
nest-weavers, the cave-burrowers, the home-makers, who prepare the way
for the greater than themselves who shall spring from themselves.

He was of those who become the unknown fathers of great men. And so, on
a salary that would have meant penury to a man of self-seeking tastes,
he managed to save always the major part of his earning. At the bank he
was a modest but regular visitor to the receiving-teller, and almost a
total stranger to the paying-teller.

His wildest dissipation being a second pipeful of tobacco before he went
to bed--or "retired," as he would more gently have said it--he
eventually heaped up enough money and courage to ask Martha Kellogg to
marry him. Martha, who was the plainest woman in plain Hillsdale,
accepted William, and they were made one by the parson. The wedding was
accounted "plain" even in Hillsdale.

The groomy bridegroom and the unbridy bride spent together all the time
that Rudd could spare from the store. He bought for her a little frame
house with a porch about as big as an upper berth, a patch of grass with
a path through it to the back door, some hollyhocks of startling color,
and a highly unimportant woodshed. It spelled HOME to them, and they
were as happy as people usually are. He did all he could to please her.
At her desire he even gave up his pipe without missing it--much.

Mrs. Martha Rudd was an ambitious woman, or at least restless and
discontented. Having escaped her supreme horror, that of being an old
maid, she began to grow ambitious for her husband. She nagged him for a
while about his plodding ways, the things that satisfied him, the salary
he endured. But it did no good. Will Rudd was never meant to put boots
and spurs on his own feet and splash around in gore. He was for carpet
slippers, round-toed shoes, and on wet days, rubbers; on slushy days he
even descended to what he called "ar'tics."

Not understanding the true majesty of her husband's long-distance
dreams, and baffled by his unresponse to her ambitions for him, Martha
grew ambitious for the child that was coming. She grew frantically,
fantastically ambitious. Here was something William Rudd could respond
to. He could be ambitious as Cæsar--but not for himself. He was a
groundling, but his son should climb.

Husband and wife spent evenings and evenings debating the future of the
child. They never agreed on the name--or the alternative names. For it
is advisable to have two ready for any emergency. But the future was
rosy. They were unanimous on that--President of the United States,
mebbe; or at least the President's wife.

Mrs. Rudd, who occasionally read the continued stories in the evening
paper, had happened on a hero named "Eric." She favored that name--or
Gwendolynne (with a "y"), as the case might be. In any event, the
child's future was so glowing that it warmed Mrs. Rudd to asking one
evening, forgetful of her earlier edict:

"Why don't you smoke your pipe any more, Will?"

"I'd kind o' got out of the habit, Marthy," he said, and added, hastily,
"but I guess I'll git back in."

Thereafter they sat of evenings by the lamp, he smoking, she sewing
things--holding them up now and then for him to see. They looked almost
too small to be convincing, until he brought home from the store a pair
of shoes--"the smallest size made, Marthy, too small for some of the
dolls you see over at Bostwick's."

It was the golden period of his life. Rudd never sold shoes so well.
People could hardly resist his high spirits. Anticipation is a great
thing--it is all that some people get.

To be a successful shoe clerk one must acquire the patience of Job
without his gift of complaint, and Rudd was thoroughly schooled. So he
waited with a hope-lit serenity the preamble to the arrival of
his--her--their child.

And then fate, which had previously been content with denying him
comforts and keeping him from luxuries, dealt him a blow in the face,
smote him on his patient mouth. The doctor told him that the little body
of his son had been born still. After that it was rather a stupor of
despair than courage that carried him through the vain struggle for life
of the worn-out housewife who became only almost a mother. It seemed
merely the logical completion of the world's cruelty when the doctor
laid a heavy hand on his shoulder and walked out of the door, without
leaving any prescription to fill. Rudd stood like a wooden Indian, too
dazed to understand or to feel. He opened the door to the undertaker and
waited outside the room, just twiddling his fingers and wondering. His
world had come to an end and he did not know what to do.

At the church, the offices of the parson, and the soprano's voice from
behind the flowers, singing "Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me"--Marthy's
favorite hymn--brought the tears trickling, but he could not believe
that what had happened had happened. He got through the melancholy honor
of riding in the first hack in the shabby pageant, though the town
looked strange from that window. He shivered stupidly at the first sight
of the trench in the turf which was to be the new lodging of his family.
He kept as quiet as any of the group among the mounds while the
bareheaded preacher finished his part.

He was too numb with incredulity to find any expression until he heard
that awfulest sound that ever grates the human ear--the first shovelful
of clods rattling on a coffin. Then he understood--then he woke. When he
saw the muddy spade spill dirt hideously above her lips, her cheeks, her
brow, and the little bundle of futile flesh she cuddled with a rigid arm
to a breast of ice--then a cry like the shriek of a falling tree split
his throat and he dropped into the grave, sprawling across the casket,
beating on its denying door, and sobbing:

"You mustn't go alone, Marthy. I won't let you two go all by yourselves.
It's so fur and so dark. I can't live without you and the--the baby.
Wait! Wait!"

They dragged him out, and the shovels concluded their venerable task. He
was sobbing too loudly to hear them, and the parson was holding him in
his arms and patting his back and saying "'Shh! 'Shh!" as if he were a
child afraid of the dark.

The sparse company that had gathered to pay the last devoir to the
unimportant woman in the box in the ditch felt, most of all, amazement
at such an unexpected outburst from so expectable a man as William Rudd.
There was much talk about it as the horses galloped home, much talk in
every carriage except his and the one that had been hers.

Up to this, the neighbors had taken the whole affair with that splendid
philosophy neighbors apply to other people's woes. Mrs. Budd Granger had
said to Mrs. Ad. Peck when they met in Bostwick's dry-goods store, at
the linen counter:

"Too bad about Martha Rudd, isn't it? Plain little body, but nice. Meant
well. Went to church regular. Yes, it's too bad. I don't think they
ought to put off the strawb'ry fest'val, though, just for that, do you?
Never would be any fun if we stopped for every funeral, would there?
Besides, the strawb'ry fest'val's for charity, isn't it?"

The strawberry festival was not put off and the town paper said that "a
pleasant time was had by all." Most of the talk was about Will Rudd.
The quiet shoe clerk had provided the town with an alarm, an
astonishment. He was most astounded of all. As he rode back to the frame
house in the swaying carriage he absolutely could not believe that such
hopes, such plans, could be shattered with such wanton, wasteful
cruelty. That he should have loved, married, and begotten, and that the
new-made mother and the new-born child should be struck dead, nullified,
returned to clay--such things were too foolish, too spendthrift, to

It is strange that people do not get used to death. It has come to
nearly every being anybody has ever heard of; and whom it has not yet
reached, it will. Every one of the two billions of us on earth to-day
expects it to come to him, and (if he have them) to his son, his
daughter, his man-servant, his maid-servant, his ox, his ass, the
stranger within his gates, the weeds by the road. Kittens and kingdoms,
potato-bugs, plants, and planets--all are on the visiting-list.

Death is the one expectation that never fails to arrive. But it comes
always as a new thing, an unheard-of thing, a miracle. It is the
commonest word in the lexicon, yet it always reads as a _hapax
legomenon_. It is like spring, though so unlike. For who ever believed
that May would emerge from March this year? And who ever remembers that
violets were suddenly abroad on the hills last April, too?

William Rudd ought to have known better. In a town where funerals were
social events dangerously near to diversion, he had been unusually
frequent at them. For he belonged to the local chapter of the Knights of
Pythias, and when a fellow-member in good standing was forced to resign,
William Rudd donned his black suit, his odd-looking cocked hat with the
plume, and the anachronous sword, which he carried as one would expect a
shoe clerk to carry a sword. The man in the hearse ahead went to no
further funerals, stopped paying his dues, made no more noise at the
bowling-alley, and ceased to dent his pew cushion. Somebody got his job
at once and, after a decent time, somebody else probably got his wife.
The man became a remembrance, if that.

Rudd had long realized that people eventually become dead; but he had
never realized death. He had been an oblivious child when his mother and
father had taken the long trip whose tickets read but one way, and had
left him to the grudging care of an uncle with a large enough family.

And now his own family was obliterated. He was again a single man, that
familiar thing called a widower. He could not accept it as a fact. He
denied his eyes. He was as incredulous as a man who sees a magician play
some old vanishing trick. He had seen it, but he could not understand it
enough to believe it. When the hack left him at his house he found it
emptier than he could have imagined a house could be. Marthy was not on
the porch, or in the settin'-room, the dinin'-room, the kitchen, or
anywhere up-stairs. The bed was empty, the stove cold. The lamp had not
been filled. The cruse of his life was dry, the silver cord loosened,
the pitcher broken at the fountain, the wheel broken at the cistern.

As he stumbled about filling the lamp, and covering his hands with
kerosene, he wondered what he should do in those long hours between the
closing of the shoe-shop of evenings and its opening of mornings. Men
behave differently in this recurring situation. Some take to drink, or
return to it. Rudd did not like liquor; at least he did not think he
would have liked it if he had ever tasted it. Some take to gambling.
Rudd did not know big casino from little, though he had once almost
acquired a passion for checkers--the give-away game. Some submerge
themselves in money-getting. Rudd would not have given up the serene
certainty of his little salary for a speculator's chance to clean up a
million, or lose his margin.

If only the child had lived, he should have had an industry, an
ambition, a use.

Widowers have occasionally hunted consolation with the same sex that
sent them grief. Rudd had never known any woman in town as well as he
had known Martha, and it had taken him years to find courage to propose
to her. The thought of approaching any other woman with intimate
intention gave him an ague sweat.

And how was he to think of taking another wife? Even if he had not been
so confounded with grief for his helpmeet as to believe her the only
woman on earth for him, how could he have accosted another woman when he
had only debts for a dowry?

Death is an expensive thing in every phase. The event that robbed Rudd
of his wife, his child, his hope, had taken also his companion, his
cook, his chambermaid, his washerwoman, the mender of his things; and in
their place had left an appalling monument of bills. The only people he
had permitted himself to owe money to were the gruesome committee that
brought him his grief; the doctor, the druggist, the casket-maker, the
sexton, and the dealer in the unreal estate who sold the tiny lots in
the sad little town.

His soul was too bruised to grope its way about, but instinct told him
that bills must be paid. Instinct automatically set him to work clearing
up his accounts. For their sakes he devoted himself to a stricter
economy than ever. He engaged meals at Mrs. Judd's boarding-house. He
resolved even to rent his home. But, mercifully, there was no one in
town to take the place. In economy's name, too, he put away his
pipe--for one horrible evening. The next day he remembered how Marthy
had sung out, "Why don't you smoke your pipe any more, Will?" and he had
answered: "I'd kind o' got out of the habit, Marthy, but I guess I'll
git back in." And Lordy, how she laughed! The laughter of the dead--it
made a lonely echo in the house.

Gradually he found, as so many dismal castaways have found, that there
is a mystic companionship in that weed which has come out of the
vegetable world, as the dog from among the animals, to make fellowship
with man. Rudd and his pipe were Robinson Crusoe and his man Friday on
the desert island of loneliness. They stared out to sea; and imagined.

Remembering how Martha and he used to dream about the child, in the
tobacco twilight, and how they planned his future, Rudd's soul learned
to follow the pipe smoke out from the porch, over the fence and to
disappear beyond the horizons of the town and the sharp definition of
the graveyard fence. He became addicted to dreams, habituated to dealing
in futurities that could never come to pass.

Being his only luxury on earth, by and by they became his necessities,
realities more concrete than the shoes he sold or the board walk he
plodded to and from his store.

One Sunday Rudd was present at church when Mr. and Mrs. Budd Granger
brought their fourth baby forward to be christened. The infant bawled
and choked and kicked its safety-pins loose. Rudd was sure that Eric
never would have misbehaved like that. Yet Eric had been denied the
sacred rite.

This reminded Rudd how many learned theologians had proved by rigid
logic that unbaptized babies are damned forever. He spent days of horror
at the frightful possibility, and nights of infernal travel across
gridirons where babies flung their blistered hands in vain appeal to
far-off mothers. He could not get it from his mind until, one evening,
his pipe persuaded him to erect a font in the temple of his imagination.

He mused through all the ritual, and the little frame house seemed to
thrill as the vague preacher enounced the sonorous phrase:

"I baptize thee Eric--in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Ghost."

Marthy was there, too, of course, but it was the father that held the
baby. And the child did not wince when the pastor's fingers moistened
the tiny brow. He just clasped a geranium-petal hand round Rudd's thumb
and stared at the sacrament with eyes of more than mortal understanding.

The very next day Mrs. Ad. Peck walked into the store, proud as a
peahen. She wanted shoes for her baby. The soles of the old pair were
intact, but the stubby toes were protruding.

"He crawls all over the house, Mr. Rudd! And he cut his first tooth
to-day, too. Just look at it. Ain't it a beauty?"

In her insensate conceit she pried the child's mouth apart as if he were
a pony, to disclose the minute peak of ivory. It was nothing to make
such a fuss over, Rudd thought, though he praised it as if it were a
snow-capped Fuji-yama.

That night Eric cut two teeth. And Marthy nearly laughed her head off.

Rudd did not talk aloud to the family he had revened from the grave. He
had no occult persuasions. He just sat in his rocker and smoked hard and
imagined hard. He imagined the lives of his family not only as they
might have been, but as they ought to have been. He was like a spectator
at a play, mingling belief and make-belief inextricably, knowing it all
untrue, yet weeping, laughing, thrilling as if it were the very image of

All mothers and some fathers have a sad little calendar in their hearts'
cupboards where they keep track of the things that might have been.
"October fifth," they muse. "Why, it's Ned's birthday! He'd have been
twenty-one to-day if he'd lived. He'd have voted this year. December
twenty-third? Alice would have been coming home from boarding-school
to-day if--July fourth? Humph! How Harry loved the fireworks! But he'd
be a Senator now and invited to his home town to make a speech in the
park to-day if--" If! If!

Everybody must keep some such if-almanac, some such diary of prayers
denied. That was all Rudd did; only he wrote it up every evening. He
would take from the lavender where he kept them the little things Martha
had sewed for the child and the little shoes he had bought. The warm
body had never wriggled and laughed in the tiny trousseau, the little
shoes had never housed pink toes, but they helped him to pretend until
they became to him things outgrown by a living, growing child. He
cherished them as all parents cherish the first shoes and the first
linens and woolens of their young.

Marthy and Eric Rudd lived just behind the diaphanous curtain of the
pipe smoke, or in the nooks of the twilight shadow, or in the heart of
the settin'-room stove.

The frame house had no fireplace, and in its lieu he was wont to open
the door of the wood-stove, lean forward, elbows on knees, and gaze into
the creamy core of the glow where his people moved unharmed and radiant,
like the three youths conversing in the fiery furnace.

In the brief period allotted them before bedtime they must needs live
fast. The boy grew at an extraordinary rate and in an extraordinary
manner, for sometimes Rudd performed for him that feat which God Himself
seems not to achieve in His world; he turned back time and brought on
yesterday again, or reverted the year before last, as a reaper may pause
and return to glean some sheaf overlooked before.

For instance, Eric was already a strapping lad of seven spinning through
school at a rate that would have given brain fever to a less-gifted
youngster, when, one day, Farmer Stebbins came to the Emporium with a
four-year-old chub of a son who ran in ahead of his father, kicked his
shoes in opposite directions and yelled, to the great dismay of an old
maid in the "Ladies' and Misses' Dept.":

"Hay, mister, gimme pair boots 'ith brass toes!"

The father, after a formulaic pretense of reproving the lad, explained:

"We'll have to excuse him, Rudd; it's his first pair of boots."

Rudd's heart was sore within him, and he was oppressed with guilt. He
had never bought Eric his first pair of brass-toed boots! And he a shoe

So that night Eric had to be reduced several years, brought out of
school, and taken to St. Louis. Rudd knew what an epoch-making event
this was, and he wanted Eric to select from a larger stock than the
meager and out-of-date supply of Kittredge's Emporium--though this
admission was only for Rudd's own family. The thumb-screw could not have
wrung it from him for the public.

There was a similar mix-up about Eric's first long trousers which Rudd
likewise overlooked. He accomplished the Irish miracle of the tight
boots. Eric had worn his breeches a long while before he put them on for
the first time.

To the outer knowledge of the stranger or the neighbor, William Rudd's
employer had all the good luck that was coming to him, and all of Rudd's
besides. They were antitheses at every point.

Where Rudd was without ambition, importance, family, or funds, Kittredge
was the richest man in town, the man of most impressive family, and
easily the leading citizen. People began to talk him up for Congressman,
maybe for Senator. He had held all the other conspicuous offices in his
church, his bank, his county. You could hardly say that he had ever run
for any office; he had just walked up and taken it.

Yet Rudd did not envy him his record or his family. Clay Kittredge had
children, real children. The cemetery lodged none of them. Yet one of
the girls or boys was always ill or in trouble with somebody; Mrs.
Kittredge was forever cautioning her children not to play with Mrs.
So-and-so's children and Mrs. So-and-so would return the compliment. The
town was fairly torn up with these nursery Guelph and Ghibelline wars.

Rudd compared the wickednesses of other people's children with the
perfections of Eric. Sometimes his evil genius whispered a bitter
thought that if Eric had lived to enter the world this side of the
tobacco smoke, he, too, might have been a complete scoundrel in
knee-breeches, instead of the clean-hearted, clear-skinned, studious,
truthful little gentleman of light and laughter and love that he was.
But Rudd banished the thought.

Eric was never ill, or only ill enough at times to give the parents a
little of the rapture of anxiety and of sitting by his bedside holding
his hand and brushing his hair back from a hot forehead. Eric never was
impolite, or cruel to an animal, or impudent to a teacher, or backward
in a class.

And Rudd's wife differed from Kittredge's wife and wives in general--and
indeed from the old Martha herself--in staying young and growing more
and more beautiful. The old Martha had been too shy and too cognizant of
the truth ever to face a camera; and Rudd often regretted that he owned
not even a bridal photograph such as the other respectable married folks
of Hillsdale had on the wall, or in a crayon enlargement on an uneasy
easel. He had no likeness of Martha except that in his heart. But
thereby his fancy was unshackled and he was enabled to imagine her
sweeter, fairer, every day.

It was the boy alone that grew; the mother, having become perfect,
remained stationary in charm like the blessed Greeks in the
asphodel-fields of Hades.

About the time Eric Rudd outgrew the public schools of Hillsdale and
graduated from the high school with a wonderful oration of his own
writing called "Night Brings Out the Stars," Kittredge announced that
his eldest son would go to Harvard in the fall. Rudd determined that
Eric should go to Yale. He even sent for catalogues. Rudd was appalled
to see how much a person had to know before he could even get into
college. And then, this nearly omniscient intellect was called a

The prices of rooms, of meals, of books, of extra fees, the estimated
allowances for clothing and spending-money dazed the poor shoe clerk and
nearly sent Eric into business. But, fortunately, the brier pipe came to
the rescue with an unexpected legacy from an unsuspected uncle.

The four years of college life were imagined with a good deal of
elision and an amount of guesswork that would have amused a janitor. But
Rudd and Martha were chiefly interested in the boy's vacations at home,
and their own trips to New Haven, and the letters of approval from the

Eric had an athletic career seldom equaled since the days of Hercules.
For Eric was a champion tennis-player, hockey-player, baseballist,
boxer, swimmer, runner, jumper, shot-putter. And he was the best
quoit-thrower in the New Haven town square. Rudd had rather dim notions
of some of the games, so that Eric was established both as center rush
of the football team and the cockswain in the crew.

He was also a member of all the best fraternities. He was a "Bones" man
in his Freshman year, and in his Sophomore year added the other Senior
societies. And, of course, he stood at the head of all his
classes--though he never condescended to take a single red apple to a

The boy's college life lasted Rudd a thousand and one evenings. It was
in beautiful contrast with the career of Kittredge's children, some of
whom were forever flunking their examinations, slipping back a year,
requiring expensive tutors, acquiring bad habits, and getting into debt.
Almost the only joy Kittredge had of them was in telegraphing them money
in response to their telegrams for money--they never wrote. Their
vacations either sent them scurrying on house parties or other
excursions. Or if they came home they were discontented with house and
parents. They corrected Kittredge's grammar, though his State accounted
him an orator. They corrected Mrs. Kittredge's etiquette, though
Hillsdale looked up to her as a social arbitrix.

Kittredge poured a deal of his disappointment into Rudd's ear, because
his hard heart was broken and breaking anew every day, and he had to
tell somebody. He knew that his old clerk would keep it where he kept
all the secrets of his business, but he never knew that Rudd still had a
child of his own, forging ahead without failure. Rudd could give
comfort, for he had it to spare, and he was empty of envy.

It was a ghastly morning when Kittredge showed Rudd a telegram saying
that his eldest son, Thomas, had thrown himself in front of a train
because of the discovery that his accounts were wrong. Kittredge had
found him a place in a New York bank, but the gambling fever had seized
the young fellow. And now he was dead, in his sins, in his shame. Dives
cried out to Lazarus:

"It's hell to be a father, Will. It's an awful thing to bring children
into the world and try to carry 'em through it. It's not a man's job.
It's God's."

At times like these, and when Rudd heard from the tattlers, or read in
the printed gossip of the evening paper concerning the multifarious
wickednesses of the children of men about the earth, he felt almost glad
that his boy had never lived upon so plague-infected a world. But in the
soothe of twilight the old pipe persuaded him to a pleasanter view of
his boy, alive and always doing the right thing, avoiding the evil.

His motto was, "Eric would have done different." He was sure of that. It
was his constant conclusion.

After graduating from an imaginary Yale Eric went to an imaginary
law-school in New York City--no less. Then he was admitted to that
imaginary bar where a lawyer never defends an unrighteous cause, never
loses a case, yet grows rich. And, of course, like every other American
boy that dreams or is dreamed of, in good time he had to become

Eric lived so exemplary a life, was so busy in virtue, so unblemished of
fault, that he could not be overlooked by the managers of the
quadrennial national performance, searching with Demosthenes' lantern
for a man against whom nothing could be said. They called Eric from
private life to be headliner in their vaudeville.

Rudd had watched Kittredge clambering to his success, or rather
wallowing to it through a swamp of mud. All the wrong things Kittredge
had ever done, and their name was legion, were hurled in his path. His
family scandals were dug up by the double handful and splashed in his
face. Against his opponent the same methods were used. It was like a
race through a marsh; and when Kittredge reached his goal in the Senate
he was so muck-bemired, his heart had been so lacerated, the nakedness
of his past so exposed, that his laurel seemed more like a wreath of
poison ivy. And once mounted on his high post, he was an even better
target than when he was on the wing.

Against Eric's blameless life the arrows of slander were like darts shot
toward the sun. They fell back upon the archers' heads. That was a
lively night in the tobacco lagoon when the election returns came in and
State after State swung to Eric's column. Rudd made it as nearly
unanimous as he could without making it stupid. The solid South he left
unbroken; he just brought it over to Eric en bloc. For Eric, it seems,
had devised what everybody else has looked for in vain, a solution of
the negro problem to satisfy both North and South--and the negroes.
Unfortunately the details have been lost.

Marthy was there, of course; she rode in the same hack with their boy.
Some of the politicians and the ex-President wanted to get in, but Eric

"My mother and father ride with me or I won't be President."

That settled 'em. Eric even wanted to ride backward, too, but Will, as
his father, insisted; and of course Eric obeyed, though he was
President. And the weather was more like June than March, no blizzards
delaying trains and distributing pneumonia.

Once the administration was begun, the newspapers differed strangely in
their treatment of Eric from their attitude toward other Chief
Magistrates, from Washington down. Realizing that Eric was an honorable
man trying to do the right thing by the people, no editor or cartoonist
dreamed of accusing him of an unworthy motive or an unwise act. As for
the tariff labyrinth, a matter of some trouble to certain Presidents
pulled in all directions at once by warring constituencies, Eric settled
that in a jiffy. And the best of it was that everybody was satisfied,
importers and exporters; East, West, and Middle; farmers, manufacturers,
lumbermen, oilmen, painters--everybody.

And when his first term was ended the Democrats and Republicans,
realizing that they had at last found a perfectly wise and honorable
ruler, nominated him by acclamation at both conventions. The result was
delightful; both parties elected their candidate.

Marthy and Will sat with Eric in the carriage at the second inaugural,
too. There was an argument again about who should ride backward. Rudd

"Eric, your Excellency, these here crowds came to see you, and you ought
to face 'em. As your dad I order you to set there 'side of your mother."

But Eric said, "Dad, your Majesty, the people have seen me often enough,
and as the President of these here United States I order you to set
there 'side of your wife."

And of course Rudd had to do it. Folks looked very much surprised to see
him and there was quite a piece in the papers about it.

To every man his day's work and his night's dream. Will Rudd has poor
nourishment of the former, but he is richly fed of the latter. His
failures and his poverty and the monotony of his existence are public
knowledge; his dream is his own triumph and the greater for being his

The Fates seemed to go out of their way to be cruel to Will Rudd, but he
beat them at their own game. Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos kept Jupiter
himself in awe of their shears, and the old Norns, Urdur, Verdandi, and
Skuld, ruined Wotan's power and his glory. But they could not touch the
shoe clerk. They shattered his little scheme of things to bits, but he
rebuilt it nearer to his heart's desire. He spread a sky about his
private planet and ruled his little universe like a tribal god. He,
alone of all men, had won the oldest, vainest prayer that was ever said
or sung: "O God, keep the woman I love young and beautiful, and grant
our child happiness and success without sin or sorrow."

If, sometimes, the imagination of the matter-of-fact man wavers, and the
ugliness of his loneliness overwhelms him, thrusts through his dream
like a hideous mountainside when an avalanche strips the barren crags of
their fleece; and if he then breaks down and calls aloud for his child
and his wife to be given back to him from Out There--these panics are
also his secret. Only the homely sitting-room of the lonely frame house
knows them. He opens the door of the wood-stove or follows his pipe
smoke and rallies his courage, resumes his dream. The next morning sees
him emerge from his door and go briskly to the shop as always, whether
his path is through rain or sleet, or past the recurrent lilacs that
have scattered many a purple snow across his sidewalk since the
bankruptcy of his ambitions.

He would have been proud to be the unknown father of a great man. He was
not permitted to be the father even of a humble man. Yet being denied
the reality, he has taken sustenance in what might have been, and has
turned "the saddest words of tongue or pen" into something almost sweet.
If his child has missed the glories of what might have been, he has
escaped the shames that might have been, and the bruises and heartaches
and remorses that must have been, that always have been. That is the
increasing consolation a bitter world offers to those who love and have
lost. That was Rudd's solace. And he made the most of it; added to it a
dream. He was a wise man.

After he paid his sorrowful debts his next slow savings went to the
building of a monument for his family. It is one of the handsomest
shafts in the cemetery. If Rudd could brag of anything he would brag of
that. The inscription took a long time to write. You could tell that by
its simplicity. And you might notice the blank space left for his own
name when all three shall be together again.

Rudd is now saving a third fund against the encroaching time when he
shall be too feeble to get up from his knees after he has dropped upon
them to unlace somebody's sandal. Lonely old orphans like Rudd must
provide their own pensions. There is a will, however, which bequeaths
whatever is left of his funds to an orphan home. Being a sonless father,
he thinks of the sons who have no fathers to do for them what he was so
fain to do for his. It is not a large fund for these days when rich men
toss millions as tips to posterity, but it is pretty good for a shoe
clerk. And it will mean everything to some Eric that gets himself really

If you drop in at the Emporium and ask for a pair of shoes or boots, or
slippers or rubbers, or trees or pumps, and wait for old Rudd to get
round to you, you will be served with deference, yet with a pride of
occupation that is almost priestly. And you will probably buy something,
whether you want it or not.

The old man is slightly shuffly in his gaiters. His own elastics are
less resilient than once they were. If you ask for anything on the top
shelf he is a trifle slow getting the ladder and rather ratchety in
clambering up and down, and his eyes are growing so tired that he may
offer you a 6D when you ask for a 3A.

But, above all things, don't hurt his pride by offering to help him to
his feet if he shows some difficulty in rising when he has performed his
genuflexion before you. Just pretend not to notice, as he would pretend
not to notice any infirmity or vanity of yours. It is his vanity to be
still the best shoe clerk in town--as he is. There is a gracious
satisfiedness about the old man that radiates contentment and makes you
comfortable for the time in most uncomfortable shoes. And as old Rudd

"You'll find that the best shoe is the one that pinches at first and
hurts a little; in time it will grow very comfortable and still be

That is what Rudd says, and he ought to know.

In these days he is so supremely comfortable in his old shoes that his
own fellow-clerks hardly know what to make of him. If they only
understood what is going on in his private world they would realize that
Eric is about to be married--in the White House. The boy was so busy for
the country and loved his mother so that he had no time to go sparkin'.

But Marthy got after him and said: "Eric, they're goin' to make you
President for the third term. Oh, what's that old tradition got to do
with it? Can't they change it? Well, you mark my words, like as not
you'll settle down and live in the White House the rest of your life.
You'd ought to have a wife, Eric, and be raisin' some childern to
comfort your declining years. What would Will and me have done without
you? I'm gettin' old, Eric, and I'd kind o' like to see how it feels to
be a grandmother, before they take me out to the--"

But that was a word Rudd could never frame even in his thoughts.

Eric, being a mighty good boy, listened to his mother, as always. And
Marthy looked everywhere for an ideal woman, and when she found one,
Eric fell in love with her right away. It is not every child that is so
dutiful as that.

The marriage is to take place shortly and Rudd is very busy with the
details. He will go on to Washington, of course--of evenings. In fact,
the wedding is to be in the evening, so that he won't have to miss any
time at the shop. There are so many people coming in every day and
asking for shoes, that he wouldn't dare be away.

Martha is insisting on Will's buying a dress soot for the festivities,
but he is in doubt about that. Martha, though, shall have the finest
dress in the land, for she is more beautiful even than Eric's bride, and
she doesn't look a day older than she did when she was a bride herself.
A body would never guess how many years ago that was.

The White House is going to be all lit up, and a lot of big folks will
be there--a couple of kings, like as not. There will be fried chicken
for dinner and ice-cream--mixed, maybe, chocolate and vanella, and
p'raps a streak of strawb'ry. And there will be enough so's everybody
can have two plates. Marthy will prob'ly bake the cake herself, if she
can get that old White House stove to working right.

Rudd has a great surprise in store for her. He's going to tell a good
one on Marthy. At just the proper moment he's going to lean over--Lord,
he hopes he can keep his face straight--and say, kind of offhand:

"Do you remember, Marthy, the time when you was makin' little
baby-clothes for the President of the United States here, and you says
to me--you see, Eric, she'd made me quit smokin', herself, but she plumb
forgot all about that--and she says to me, s'she, 'Why don't you smoke
your pipe any more, Will?' she says. And I says, 'I'd kind o' got out of
the habit, Marthy,' s'I, 'but I guess I'll git back in,' s'I. I said it
right off like that, 'I guess I'll git back in!' s'I. Remember,


    Jes' down the road a piece, 'ith dust so deep
      It teched the bay mare's fetlocks, an' the sun
    So b'ilin' hot, the peewees dassn't peep,
      Seemed like midsummer 'fore the spring's begun!
    An' me plumb beat an' good-for-nothin'-like
      An' awful lonedsome fer a sight o' you ...
    I come to that big locus' by the pike,
      An' she was all in bloom, an' trembly, too,
    With breezes like drug-store perfumery.
      I stood up in my sturrups, with my head
    So deep in flowers they almost smothered me.
      I kind o' liked to think that I was dead ...
    An' if I hed 'a' died like that to-day,
    I'd 'a' b'en the happiest man in Ioway.

    For what's the use't o' goin' on like this?
      Your pa not 'lowin' me around the place ...
    Well, fust I knowed, I'd give' them blooms a kiss;
      They tasted like Good-Night on your white face.
    I reached my arms out wide, an' hugged 'em--say,
      I dreamp' your little heart was hammerin' me!
    I broke this branch off for a love-bo'quet;
      'F I'd b'en a giant, I'd 'a' plucked the tree!
    The blooms is kind o' dusty from the road,
      But you won't mind. So, as the feller said,
    "When this you see remember me"--I knowed
      Another poem; but I've lost my head
    From seein' you! 'Bout all that I kin say
    Is--"I'm the happiest man in Ioway."

    Well, comin' 'long the road I seen your ma
     Drive by to town--she didn't speak to me!
    An' in the farthest field I seen your pa
      At his spring-plowin', like I'd ought to be.
    But, knowin' you'd be here all by yourself,
      I hed to come; for now's our livin' chance!
    Take off yer apern, leave things on the shelf--
      Our preacher needs what th' feller calls "romance."
    'Ain't got no red-wheeled buggy; but the mare
      Will carry double, like we've trained her to.
    Jes' put a locus'-blossom in your hair
      An' let's ride straight to heaven--me an' you!
    I'll build y' a little house, an' folks'll say:
    "There lives the happiest pair in Ioway."


God leaned forward in His throne and bent His all-seeing gaze upon one
of the least of the countless suns. A few tiny planets spun slowly about
it like dead leaves around a deserted camp-fire.

Almost the smallest of these planets had named itself the Earth. The
glow of the central cinder brightened one side and they called that Day.
And where the shadow was was Night.

The creeping glimmer of Day woke, as it passed, a jangle in shops and
factories, a racket and hurry of traffic, war and business, which the
coming of the gloom hushed in its turn. As God's eyes pierced the shadow
they found, between the dotted lines of street-lamps and under the roofs
where the windows glimmered--revelry or solemnity. In denser shadows
there was a murmur of the voices of lovers and of families at peace or
at war.

The All-hearing heard no chaos in this discord, but knew each instrument
and understood each melody, concord, and clash. Loudest of all were the
silences or the faint whimperings of those who knelt by their beds and
bent their brows toward their own bosoms, communing with the various
selves that they interpreted as the one God. He knew who prayed for
what, and He answered each in His own wisdom, knowing that He would seem
to have answered none and knowing why.

Among the multitudinous prayers one group arrived at His throne from
separate places, but linked together by their contradictions. He heard
the limping effort to be formal as before a king or a court of justice.
He heard the anxious fear break through the petition; He heard the
selfish eagerness trembling in the pious phrases of altruism. He


Our Father which art in heaven let me come back to Thy kingdom. Bless my
wife Edith and our little Marjorie and give them to me again. I am not
worthy of them; I have sinned against them and against Thee. I have been
drunken, adulterous, heartless, but from this night I will be good
again. I will try with all my soul, and with Thy help I will succeed.
Teach me to be strong. Forgive me my trespasses and help Edith to
forgive them. Make my wife beautiful in my sight and make all those
other beautiful faces ugly in my eyes so that I shall see only Edith as
I used to.

Grant me freedom from the wicked woman who will not let me go; don't let
Rose carry out her threats; don't let her wreck my home; make her
understand that I am doing my duty; make her love some one else; make
her forget me. How can I be true to my sin and true to Thee! Help me
out of these depths, O Lord, that I may walk in the narrow path and
escape destruction.

To-morrow I am going back to my wife and my child with words of love and
humility on my lips.

Give me back my home again, O God. Amen.


Let me come to Thee again, dear Father, and do not reject my prayer.
Forgive me for what I shall do to-night. Take care of my little Marjorie
and save her from the temptations that have overwhelmed me. Thou alone
knowest how hard I have tried to live without love, how long I have
waited for John to come back to me. Thou only hast seen me struggling
against the long loneliness. Thou alone canst forgive, for Thou hast
seen me refuse to be tempted with love. Thou hast heard my cries in the
long, long nights. Thou knowest that I have been true to my husband who
was not true to me. Thou hast seen me put away the happiness that Frank
has offered me and asked of me. And now if I can endure no longer, if I
give myself to him, more for his sake than mine, let me bear the
punishment, not Frank; let me bear even the punishment John has earned.
I am what Thou hast made me, Lord. If it be Thy pleasure that I shall
burn in the fires forever, then let Thy will be done; for I can live no
longer without Frank. Thou mayest refuse to hear my prayers, but I
cannot refuse to hear his. Forgive me if I leave my beloved child alone.
She is safer with Thee than with me. Perhaps her father will be good to
her now. Perhaps he will turn back to her if I am away. And help me
through the coming years to be true to Frank. He needs me, he loves me,
he is braving the wrath of the world and of heaven for my sake.

Help us, Lord, to find in our new life the peace and the virtue that was
not in the old and bless and guard my motherless little Marjorie, O God,
and save her from the fate that overwhelmed her mother for her father's
fault. I am leaving her asleep here in Thy charge, O God. When she wakes
in the morning let Thy angels comfort her and dry her tears. Let me not
hear her crying for me, or I shall kill myself. I cannot bear
everything. I have endured more than my strength can endure. Help me, O
Lord, and forgive me for my sin--if sin it is. Amen.


God, if You are in heaven, hear me and help me. I have not prayed for
many years. My voice is strange to You. My prayer may offend You, but it
rushes from my heart.

I am about to do what the world calls hideous crime--to steal another
man's wife and carry her to another country where we may have peace. I
loved Edith before her husband loved her. I love her better than John
ever loved her. I can't stand it. I can't stand it any longer to see her
deserted in her beauty, and despised and weeping in loneliness, wasting
her love on a dog who squandered his heart on a vile woman. I can't go
on watching her die in a living hell. I have sold all my goods and
gotten all I could save into my safe so that we may sever all ties with
this heartless love. If what we are about to do offends Thee, then let
me suffer for her. She has suffered enough, enough, enough!

And keep her husband from following us, lest I kill him. Keep her from
mourning too much for her child--his child. Give her a little happiness,
O God. Take bitter toll from my heart afterward, but give us a little
happiness now. Grant us escape to-night and safety and a little
happiness for her. And then I shall believe in Thee again and live
honorably in Thy sight. Amen.


Dear God in heaven, what shall I do? He has abandoned me, John has
turned against me at last. Has denounced me as wicked, and hateful, has
accused me of wrecking his life and breaking his wife's heart--as if she
had a heart, as if I had not saved him from despair, as if I had not
sacrificed my name, my hopes, on earth and in heaven to make him happy.

O God, why hast Thou persecuted me so fiercely always? What made You
hate me so? Why didn't You give me a decent home as a child? Why did You
throw me into the snares of those vile men? Why did You make me
beautiful and weak and trusting? Why didn't You make me ugly and
suspicious and hateful so that I could be good?

And now, now that I am no longer a girl, now that the wrinkles are
coming, and the fat and the dullness, why didst Thou throw me into the
way of this man who promised to love me forever, who promised me and
praised me and called me his real wife, only to tire of me and tear my
hands away and go back to her?

But don't let him have her, don't let him be happy with her, while I
grovel here in shame! I can't bear the thought of that, I can't imagine
him in her arms telling her how good she is and how bad I was. I'd
rather kill them both. Isn't that best, O Lord--to kill them both--to
kill her, anyway? Then I can kill myself and he will be sorry. Don't let
him have both of us, O God. Am I going mad, or do I hear Thy voice
telling me to act? Yes, it is Thy voice. Thou hast answered. I will do
as Thou dost command. Perhaps he is going there to-night. I will go to
the house and wait in the shadow and when he comes to the door and she
comes to meet him I will shoot her and myself, and then he shall be
punished as he should be.

I thank Thee, God, for showing me the way. Guide my arm and my heart and
don't let me be afraid to die or to make her die. Forgive my sins and
take me into Thy peace, O God, for I am tired of life and the wickedness
of the world. Amen. Amen.


Our Father which art in he'v'm, hallowed be Dy name. Dy king'm come. Dy
will be done in earf as it is in he'v'm. Give us dis day our daily bread
and forgive an'--an' forgive Marjorie for bein' a bad chile an' getting
so s'eepy, and b'ess papa an' b'ing him home to mamma an'--an'
trespasses as--tres-passes 'gainst us. King'm, power, and glory forever.


--and give my poor Edith strength and let her find happiness again in
the return of her husband. Let her forget his wrongs and forgive them
and live happily in her old age as I have done with my husband. I thank
Thee for helping me through those cruel years. Thou alone couldst have
helped me and now all would be happiness if only Edith had happiness,
but for the mercies Thou hast vouchsafed make me grateful.


--and help my poor Rose to be a good girl to her old mother and keep her
out of trouble and make her send me some more money, for I'm so sick
and tired and the rent's comin' due and I need a warm coat for the
winter, and I've had a hard life and many's the curse You've put upon
me, but I'm doing my best and I'm all wore out.


Fergimme, O Gawd, if it makes Thou mad fer to be prayed to by a sneakin'
boiglar, but help me t'roo dis one job and I'll go straight from now on,
so help me. Don't let dis guy find me crackin' his safe, so's I won't
have to kill 'im. Help me make a clean getaway and I'll toin over a noo
leaf, I will. I'll send money to me mudder, and I'll go to choich
reg'lar and I'll never do nuttin' crooked again. On'y dis one time, O

       *       *       *       *       *

God closed His eyes and smiled the sorrowful smile of the All-knowing,
the All-pitying, the Unknown, the Unpitied, and He said to Him who sat
at His side:

"They call these Prayers! They will wonder why I have not finished the
tasks they set Me nor accepted the bribes they offered. And to-morrow
they will rebuke Me as a faithless, indolent servant who has



"How much more bitter, dearly beloved, are the anguishes of the soul
than any mere bodily distress! When the heart under conviction of sin
for the violation of one of God's laws writhes and cries aloud in
repentance and remorse, then, ah, then, is true suffering. What are the
fleeting torments of this tenement of clay, mere bone and flesh, to the
soul's despair? Nothing! Noth--"

The clergyman's emphatic fist did not thump the Scriptures the second
time. He checked it in air; for a woman stood up straight and stared at
him straight. Her thin mouth seemed to twist with a sneer. He thought he
read on her lips words not quite uttered. He read:

"You fool! You fool!"

Then Miss Straley sidled from the family pew to the aisle and marched up
it and out of the church.

Doctor Crosson was shocked doubly. The woman's action was an outrage
upon the holy composure of the Sabbath, and it would remind everybody
that he was an old lover of Irene Straley's.

The neatly arranged congregational skulls were disordered now, some
still tilted forward in sleep, some tilted back to see what the pastor
would do, some craned round to observe the departer, some turned inward
in whispering couples.

Such a thing had never happened before in all the parsoning of Doctor
Crosson--the D.D. had been conferred on him by the small theological
institute where he had imbibed enough dogmas in two years to last him a

Some of his dogmas were so out of fashion that he felt them a trifle
shabby even for village wear. He had laid aside the old red hell-fire
dogma for a new one of hell-as-a-state-of-mind. He was expounding that
doctrine this morning again. He had never heard any complaint of it. But
his mind was so far from his memory that he hardly knew what he had just
uttered. He wondered what he could have said to offend Miss Straley.

But he must not stand there gaping and wondering before his gaping and
wondering congregation. He must push on to his _lastly's_. His mind
retraced his words, and he repeated:

"What are the fleeting torments of this tenement of clay, mere bone and
flesh, to the soul's despair? Nothing! As I said before--nothing!"

And then he understood why Irene Straley had walked out. The realization
deranged him so that only the police-force every one has among his
faculties coerced him into going on with his sermon.

It was a good sermon. It was his own, too; for at last he had paid the
final instalment on the clergyman's library which contained a thousand
sermons as aids to overworked, underinspired evangelists. He had built
this discourse from well-seasoned timbers. He had used it in two pulpits
where he had visited, and now he was giving it to his own flock. He knew
it well enough to trust his oratorical machinery with its delivery,
while the rest of his mind meditated other things.

Often, while preaching, a portion of his brain would be watching the
effect on his congregation, another watching the clock, another thinking
of dinner, another musing over the scandals he knew in the lives of the

But now all his by-thoughts were scattered at the abrupt deed of Irene
Straley. She was the traffic of his other brains now, while his lips
went on enouncing the phrases of his discourse and his fists thudded the
Bible for emphasis. He was remembering his boyhood and his infatuation
for Irene Straley. That was before he was sure of his call to the
ministry. If he had married her, he might not have heard the call.

Doctor Crosson hoped that he was not regretting that sacrament! Sweat
came out on his brow as he understood the blasphemy of noting (even here
on the rostrum with his mouth pouring forth sacred eloquence) that Irene
Straley as she marched out of the church was still slender and flexile,
virginal. Doctor Crosson mopped his brow at the atrocity of his thoughts
this morning. The springtime air was to blame. The windows were open
for the first time. The breeze that lolled through the church had no
right there. It was irreverent and frivolous. It was amused at the
people. It rippled with laughter at the preacher's heavy effort to start
a jealousy between the pangs of the flesh and the pangs of the soul.

It brought into church a savor of green rushes growing in the warm, wet
thickets where Doctor Crosson--once Eddie Crosson--had loved to go
hunting squirrels and rabbits, and wild duck in season. Those were years
of depravity, but they were entrancing in memory. He felt a Satanic
whisper: "Order these old fogies out into the fields and let them
worship there. It is May, you fool!"

"You fool!" That was what Irene Straley had seemed to whisper. Only, the
breeze made a soft, sweet coo of the word that had been so bitter on her

Across the square of a window near the pulpit a venerable locust-tree
brandished a bough dripping with blossoms. Countless little censers of
white spice swung frankincense and myrrh for pagan nostrils.

There was a beckoning in the locust bough, and in the air an incantation
that made a folly of sermons and souls and old maids' resentments and
gossips' queries. The preacher fought on, another Saint Anthony in a
cloud of witches.

He could hear himself intoning the long sermon with the familiar
pulpiteering rhythms and the final upsnap of the last syllable of each
sentence. He could see that the congregation was already drowsily
forgetful of Irene Straley's absence. But, to save his soul, he could
not keep his mind from following her out into the leafy streets and on
into the past where she had been the prize he and young Drury Boldin had
contended for--a past in which he had never dreamed that his future was
a pulpit in his home town.

He was the manlier of the two, for Drury was a delicate boy, too
sensitive for the approval of his Spartan fellows. They made fun of his
gentleness. He hated to wreathe a fishing-worm on a hook! He loathed to
wrench a hook from a fish's gullet! The nearest he had ever come to
fighting was in defense of a thousand-legged worm that one of the boys
had stuck a pin through, to watch it writhe and bite itself behind the

Irene Straley was a sentimental girl. That was right in a girl, but
silly in a boy.

Once when Eddie Crosson stubbed his toe and it swelled up to great
importance, Irene Straley wept when she saw it, while Drury Boldin
turned pale and sat down hard. Once when Drury cut his thumb with a
penknife he fainted at the sight of his own blood!

Eddie Crosson was a real boy. He smoked cubeb cigarettes with an almost
unprecedented precocity. He nearly learned to chew tobacco. He could
snap a sparrow off a telegraph-wire with a nigger-shooter almost
infallibly. He had the first air-gun in town and a shot-gun at fifteen.
He thought that he was manlier than Drury because he was wiser and
stronger. It never occurred to him that Drury might suffer more because
he was more finely built, that his nerves were harp-strings while
Crosson's were fence-wire.

So Crosson called Drury a milksop because he would not go hunting. He
called himself one of the sons of Nimrod.

For a time he gained prestige with Irene Straley, especially as he gave
her bright feathers now and then, an oriole's gilded mourning, or a
tanager's scarlet vesture.

One day Drury Boldin was at her porch when Ed came in from across the
river with a brace of duck.

"You can have these for your dinner to-morrow, Reny," he said, as he
laid the limp, silky bodies on the porch floor.

Their bills and feet were grotesque, but there was something about their
throats, stretched out in waning iridescence, that asked for regret.

"Oh, much obliged!" Irene cried. "That's awful nice of you, Eddie. Duck
cook awful good."

And then her enthusiasm ebbed, for she caught the look of Drury Boldin
as he bent down and stroked the glossy mantle of the birds, not with
zest for their flavor, nor envy of the skill that had fetched them from
the sky, but with sorrow for their ended careers, for the miracle gone
out of their wings, and the strange fact that they had once quawked and
chirruped in the high air and on hidden waters--and would never fly or
swim again. "I wonder if they had souls," he mumbled.

Eddie Crosson winked at Irene. There was no use getting mad at Drury.
Eddie only laughed:

"'Course not, you darn galoot!"

"How do you know?" Drury asked.

"Anybody knows that much," was Crosson's sufficient answer, and Drury
changed to another topic. He asked:

"Did it hurt 'em much to die?"

"'Course not," Eddie answered, promptly. "Not the way I got 'em. They
just stopped sailin' and dropped. I lost one, though. He was goin' like
sixty when I drew bead on him. Light wasn't any too good and I just
nipped one wing. You ought to seen him turning somersets, Reny. He lit
in a swampy spot, though, and I couldn't find him. I hunted for an hour
or more, but I couldn't find him and it was growin' dark, so I come

Drury spoke up quickly: "You didn't kill him?"

"I don't guess so. He was workin' mighty hard when he flopped."

"Oh, that's terrible!" Drury groaned. "He must be layin' out there now
somewheres--sufferin'. Oh, that's terrible!"

"Aw, what's it your business?" was Crosson's gruff comment. But there
was uneasiness in his tone, for Drury had set Irene to wringing her
hands nervously, and Crosson felt a trifle uncomfortable himself.
Twilight always made him susceptible to emotions that daylight blinded
him to, as to the stars. He remembered that boyhood emotion now in his
pulpit, and his shoulder-blades twitched; an icy finger seemed to have
written something on them. He was casting up his eyes and his hands in a
familiar gesture and quoting a familiar text:

"'Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler and from the
noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his
wings shalt thou trust.'"

From the roof of the church he seemed to see that wounded wild duck
falling, turning in air, striking at the air frantically with his good
wing and feebly with the one that bled. Down he fell, struggling
somewhere among the pews.

A fantastic notion drifted into the preacher's mind--that Satan had shot
up a bullet from hell and it had lodged among the feathers of Jehovah
the protector, and He was falling and lost among that congregation in
which so often the preacher had failed to find God.

Doctor Crosson shook his head violently to fling away such madnesses,
and he propounded his next "furthermore" with added energy. But he could
not shake off the torment in the recollection of Drury Boldin's nagging
interest in that wild duck.


Drury insisted on knowing where the wild duck fell, and Crosson told him
that it was "near where the crick emptied into the sluice, where the
cat-tails grew extra high."

He went on home to his supper, but the thought of the suffering bird had
seized his mind; it flopped and twisted at the roots of his thoughts.

A few days later Drury met him and asked him again where the duck had

"I can't find it where you said," he said.

"You ain't been lookin' for it, have you?"

"Yes, for days."

"What'd you do if you found it?" Crosson asked.

"Kill it," Drury answered. It was a most unexpectable phrase from him.

"That sounds funny, comin' from you," Crosson snickered. Then he spoke
gruffly to conceal his own misgivings. "Aw, it's dead long ago."

"I'd feel better if I was sure," said Drury.

Crosson called him a natural-born idiot, but the next day Crosson
himself was across the river, dragged by a queer mood. He took his
bearings from the spot where he had fired his shot-gun and then made
toward the place where the duck fell.

He stumbled about in slime and snarl for an hour in vain. Suddenly he
was startled by the sound of something floundering through the reeds. He
was afraid that it might be a wild animal, a traditional bear or a big
dog. But it was Drury Boldin. And Irene Straley was with him.

They were covered with mud. Crosson was jealous and suspicious and
indignant. They told him that they were looking for the hurt bird. He
was furious. He advised them to go along about their own business. It
was his bird.

"Who gave it to you?" Drury answered, with a battling look in his soft

"The Lord and my shot-gun."

"What right you got to go shootin' wild birds, anyway?" Drury demanded.

Crosson was even then devoted to the Bible for its majestic music, if
for nothing else. He quoted the phrase about the dominion over the fowls
of the air given to man for his use.

Drury would not venture to contradict the Scriptures, and so he turned
away silenced. But he continued his search. And Irene followed him.

In sullen humor Crosson also searched, till he heard Drury cry out; then
he ran to see what he had found.

Irene and Drury were shrinking back from something that even the son of
Nimrod regarded with disquiet. The duck, one wing caked and festered,
and busy with ants and adrone with flies, was still alive after all
those many days.

Its flat bill was opening and shutting in hideous awkwardness, its
hunger-emaciated frame rising and falling with a kind of lurching
breath, and the film over its eyes drawing together and rolling back

At the sight of the three visitors to its death-chamber it made a
hopeless effort to lift itself again to the air of its security. It
could not even lift its head.

Drury fell to one knee before it, and a swarm of flies zooned angrily
away. He put out his hand, but he was afraid to touch, and he only added
panic to the bird's wretchedness.

He rose and backed away. The three stood off and stared. Crosson felt
the guilt of Cain, but when Irene moaned, "What you goin' to do?" he
shook his head. He could not finish his task.

It was Drury Boldin, weak-kneed and putty-faced, who went hunting now.
He had to look far before he found a heavy rock. He lugged it back and
said, "Go on away, Reny."

She hurried to a distance, and even Crosson turned his head aside.

On the way home they were all three tired and sick, and Drury had to
stop every now and then to sit down and get strength into his knees.

But there was a sense of grim relief that helped them all, and the bird,
once safely dead, was rapidly forgotten. After that Crosson seemed to
lose his place in Irene's heart, and Drury won all that Crosson lost,
and more. Before long it was understood that Drury and Irene had agreed
to get married as soon as he could earn enough to keep them. All four
parents opposed the match; Irene's because Drury was "no 'count," and
Drury's for much the same reason.

Old Boldin allowed that Irene would be added to his family, for meals
and lodgin', if she married his son; and old Straley guessed that it
would be the other way round, and the Boldin boy would come over to his
house to live.

Also, Drury could get no work in Carthage. Eventually he went to Chicago
to try his luck there. Crosson seized the chance to try to get back to
Irene. One Sunday he took his shot-gun out in the wilderness and brought
down a duck whose throat had so rich a glimmer that he believed it would
delight Irene. He took it to her.

She was out in her garden, and she looked at his gift with eyes so hurt
by the pity of the bird's drooping neck that they were blind to its

While Crosson stood in sheepish dismay, recognizing that Drury was
present still in his absence, the minister appeared at his elbow. It was
not the wrecked career of the fowl that shocked the pastor, but the
broken Sabbath.

"It seems to me, Eddie," he said, "that it is high time you were
beginning to take life seriously. Come to church to-night and make up
for your ungodliness."

Crosson consented. It was a good way of making his escape from Irene's
haunted eyes.

The service that night had little influence on his heart, but a month
later a revivalist came into Carthage with a great fanfare of attack on
the hosts of Lucifer. This man was an emotionalist of irresistible fire.
He reasoned less than he sang. His voice was as thrilling as a trombone,
and his words did not matter. It was his tone that made the heart
resound like a smitten bell.

The revivalist struck unsuspected chords of emotion in Eddie Crosson and
made him weep! But he wept tears of a different sort from the waters of
grief. His unusual tears were a tribute to eloquence. Sonorous words and
noble thoughts thrilled Eddie Crosson then as ever after.

He had loved to speak pieces at school. Whether it were Spartacus
exhorting his brawny slaves to revolt, or Daniel Webster upholding the
Union now and forever, one and inseparable, he had felt an exaltation,
an exultation that enlarged him to the clouds. He loved the phrase more
than the meaning. What was well worded was well reasoned.

His passion for elocution had inclined him at first to be a lawyer, but
when he visited the county courthouse the attorneys he listened to had
such dull themes to expound that he felt no call to the law. What glory
was there in pleading for the honor of an old darky chicken-thief when
everybody knew at once that he was guilty of stealing the chickens in
question, or would have been if he had known of their accessibility?
What rapture was there in insisting that a case in an Alabama court
eight years before furnished an exact precedent in the matter of a
mechanic's lien in Carthage?

So Crosson chilled toward the legal profession. His father urged him to
come into the Crosson hardware emporium, but Eddie hated the silent
trades. The revivalist decided him, and he began to make his heart
ready for the clerical life. His father opposed him heathenishly and
would not pay for his seminary course.

For several months Crosson waited about, becalmed in the doldrums. There
was little to interest him in town except a helpless espionage on
Irene's loyalty to Drury Boldin. Her troth defied both time and space.
She went every day to the post-office to mail a heavy letter and to
receive the heavy letter she was sure to find there.

She became a sort of tender joke at the post-office, and on the street
as well, for she always read her daily letter on the way home. She would
be so absorbed in the petty chronicles of Drury's life that she would
stroll into people and bump into trees, or fetch up short against a
fence. She sprained her ankle once walking off the walk. And once she
marched plump into the parson's horrified bosom.

Crosson often stood in ambush so that she would run into him. She was
very soft and delicate, and she usually had flowers pinned at her

Crosson would grin as she stumbled against him; then the lovelorn girl
would stare up at him through the haze of the distance her letter had
carried her to, and stammer excuses and fall back and blush, and glide
round him on her way. Crosson would laugh aloud, bravely, but afterward
he would turn and stare at her solemnly enough when she resumed her
letter and strolled on in the rosy cloud of her communion with her
far-off "fellow."

One day Crosson had to run after her, because when she thought she was
turning into her own yard her absent mind led her to unlatch the gate to
a pasture where a muley cow with a scandalous temper was waiting for her
with swaying head.

Irene laughed at her escape, with an unusual mirth for her. She
explained it by seizing Crosson's sleeve and exclaiming:

"Oh, Eddie, such good news from Drury you never heard! He's got a
position with a jewelry-store, the biggest in Chicago. And they put him
in the designing department at ten dollars a week, and they say he's got
a future. Isn't it simply glorious?"

She held Crosson while she read the young man's hallelujahs. They
sounded to Crosson like a funeral address.

Irene's mother was even prouder of Drury's success than the daughter
was. She bragged now of the wedding she had dreaded before. Finally
Irene proclaimed the glorious truth that Drury's salary had been boosted
again and they would wait no longer for wealth. He was awful busy, and
so he'd just run down for a couple of days and marry her and run back
with her to Chicago and jewelry. This arrangement ended Irene's mother's
dreams of a fine wedding and relieved the townspeople of the expense of

The sudden announcement of the wedding shocked Crosson. He endured a
jealousy whose intensity surprised him in retrospect. He endured a good
deal of humor, too, from village cut-ups, who teased him because his
best girl was marrying the other fellow.

Crosson felt a need of solitude and a fierce desire to kill something.
He got his abandoned gun and went hunting to wear out his wrath. He wore
himself out, at least. He shot savagely at all sorts of life. He
followed one flitting, sarcastic blue-jay with a voice like a village
cut-up, all the way home without getting near enough to shoot.

He came down the long hill with the sunset, bragging to himself that he
was reconciled to Irene's marriage with anybody she'd a mind to.

He could see her from a distance, sitting on the porch alone. She was
all dressed up and rocking impatiently. Evidently the train was late
again, as always. From where he was, Crosson could see the track winding
around the hills like a little metal brook. The smoke of the engine was
not yet pluming along the horizon. The train could not arrive for some
minutes yet.

To prove his freedom from rancor and his emancipation from love, but
really because he could not resist the chance to have a last word with
Irene, he went across lots to her father's back yard and came round to
the porch. He forgot to draw the shells from his gun.

In the sunset, with his weapon a-shoulder, he must have looked a bit
wild, for Irene jumped when he spoke to her. He sought an excuse for his
visit and put at her feet the game he had bagged--a squirrel, a rabbit,
and a few birds--the last he ever shot.

The moment the dead things were there he regretted the impulse. He was
reminded of his previous quarry and its ill success. Irene was reminded,
too, for she thanked him timidly and asked if he had left any wounded
birds in the field. He laughed "No" with a poor grace.

She said: "I'd better get these out of sight before Drury comes. He
doesn't like to see such things."

She lifted them distastefully and went into the house. She came out
almost at once, for she heard a train. But it was not the passenger
swooping south; it was the freight trudging north. There was only a
single track then, and no block system of signals.

Irene no sooner recognized the lumbering, jostling drove of cattle-cars
and flats going by than she gasped:

"That freight ought not to be on that track--now!"

She was frozen with dread. Crosson understood, too. Then from the
distance came the whistle of the express, the long hurrah of its
approach to the station. The freight engineer answered it with short,
sharp blasts of his whistle. He kept jabbing the air with its noise.

There was the grind of the brakes on the wheels. The cars tried to stop,
like a mob, but the rear cars bunted the front cars forward
irresistibly. The cattle aboard lowed and bellowed. The brakemen, quaint
silhouettes against the red sky, ran along the tops of the box-cars,
twisting the brake-wheels.

Irene stumbled down the steps and dashed across the pastures toward the
jutting hill that she had so often seen the express sweep round. Crosson

They came to a fence. She could not climb, she was trembling so. Crosson
had to help her over. She ran on, and as he sprawled after, he nearly
discharged the gun.

He brought it along by habit as he followed Irene, who ran and ran,
waving her arms as if she would stop the express with her naked hands.

But long before they reached the tracks the express roared round the
headland and plunged into the freight. The two locomotives met and rose
up and wrestled like two black bears, and fell over. The cars were
scattered and jumbled like a baby's train. They were all of wood--heated
by soft-coal stoves and lighted by coal-oil lamps.

The wreck was the usual horror, the usual chaos of wanton destruction
and mysterious escape. The engineers stuck to their engines and were
involved in their ruin somewhere. The passenger-train was crowded, and
destruction showed no favoritism: old men, women, children, sheep,
horses, cows, were maimed, or killed, or left scot-free.

Some of those who were uninjured ran away. Some stood weeping. Some of
the wounded began at once to rescue others. Crosson stood gaping at the
spectacle, but Irene went into the wreckage, pawing and peering like a

She could not find what she was looking for. She would bend and stare
into a face glaring under the timbers and maundering for help, then pass
on. She would turn over a twisted frame and let it roll back. She was
not a sister of charity; she was Drury Boldin's helpmeet.

She kept calling his name, "Drury--Drury--Drury!" Crosson watched her as
she poised to listen for the answer that did not come. He gaped at her
in stupid fascination till a brakeman shook him and ordered him to lend
a hand. He rested his gun against a pile of ties and bowed his shoulder
to the hoisting of a beam overhanging a woman and a suckling babe.

The helpers dislodged other beams and finished the lives they had meant
to save.

There were no physicians on the train. But a doctor or two from the town
came out and the others were sent for. A telegram was sent to summon a
relief-train, but it could not arrive for hours.

The doctors began at the beginning, but they could do little. Their own
lives were in constant danger from tumbling wreckage, for the rescuers
were playing a game of tragic jackstraws. The least mistake brought down

As he worked, Crosson could hear Irene calling, calling, "Drury, Drury,

He left his task to follow her, his jealousy turned into a wild sorrow
for her.

At last he heard in her cry of "Drury!" a note that meant she had found
him. But such a welcome as it was for a bride to give! And such a

The car Drury was in had turned a somersault and cracked open across
another. Its inverted wheels on their trucks had made a bower of steel
about the bridegroom. The flames from the stove and from the oil-lamps
were blooming like hell-flowers everywhere. And the wind that fanned the
blazes was blowing clouds of scalding steam from the crumpled boilers of
the two engines.

Crosson ran to Irene's side. She was trying to clamber through a trellis
of iron and splintered wood. She was stretching her hand out to Drury,
where he lay unconscious, deep in the clutter. Crosson dragged her away
from a flame that swung toward her. She struck his hand aside and thrust
her body into the danger again.

Crosson, finding no water, began to shovel loose earth on the blaze with
a sharp plank from the side of a car. Finding that she could not reach
her lover, Irene turned and begged Crosson to run for help and for the

He ran, but the doctors refused to leave the work they had in hand, and
the other men growled:

"Everybody's got to take their turn."

Crosson ran back to Irene with the news. Drury had just emerged from the
merciful swoon of shock to the frenzies of his splintered bones,
lacerated flesh and blistered skin, and the threat of his infernal

The last exquisite fiendishness was the sight of his sweetheart as
witness to his agony, her face lighted up by the flames that were
ravening toward him, her hands hungering toward him, just beyond the
stretch of his one free arm.

Crosson heard the lovers murmur to each other across that little abyss.
He flung himself against the barriers like a madman. But his hands were
futile against the tangle of joists and hot steel.

Irene saw him working alone and asked him where the others were, and the

"They wouldn't come!" Crosson groaned, ashamed of their ugly sense of

The girl's face took on a look of grim ferocity. She said to Crosson:

"Your gun--where is it?"

He pointed to where he had left it. It had fallen to the ground.

She ran and seized it up, and holding it awkwardly but with menace,
advanced on a doctor who toiled with sleeves rolled high, and face and
beard and arms blotched with red grime.

She thrust the muzzle into his chest and spoke hoarsely:

"Doctor Lane, you come with me."

"I'm busy here," he growled, pushing the gun aside, hardly knowing what
it was.

She jammed it against his heart again and cried, "Come with me or I'll
kill you!"

He followed her, wondering rather than fearing, and she swept a group of
men with the weapon, and commanded, "You men come, too." She marched
them to the spot where Drury was concealed, and pointed to him and
snarled, "Get him out!"

The men tested their strength here and there without promise of success.
One group started a heap of wheels to slewing downward and Crosson
shouted to them to stop. An inch more, and they would have buried Drury
from sight or hope.

One man wormed through somehow and caught Drury by the hand, but the
first tug brought from him such a wail of anguish that the man fell
back. He could not budge the body clamped with steel. He could only
wrench it. So he came away.

"There's nothing for me to do, Reny," the doctor faltered, and, choked
with pity for her and her lover and the helplessness of mankind, he
turned away, and she let him go. The gun fell to the ground.

The other men left the place. One of them said that the wrecking-crew
would be along with a derrick in a few hours.

"A few hours!" Irene whimpered.

She leaned against the lattice that kept her from the bridegroom and
tried to tell him to be brave. But he had heard his sentence, and with
his last hope went what little courage he had ever had.

He began to plead and protest and weep. He gave voice to all the voices
of pain, the myriad voices from every tormented particle of him.

Irene knelt down and twisted through the crevice to where she could hold
his hand. But he snatched it away, babbling: "Don't touch me! Don't
touch me!"

Crosson stayed near, dreading lest Irene's skirts should catch fire.
Twice he beat them out with his hands. She had not noticed that they
were aflame. She was murmuring love-words of odious vanity to one who
almost forgot her existence, centered in the glowing sphere of his own

Drury rolled and panted and gibbered, cursed even, with lips more used
to gentle words and prayers. He prayed, too, but with sacrilege:

"O Lord, spare me this. O God, have a little mercy. Send rain, send
help, lift this mountain from me just till I can breathe. O God, if You
have any mercy in Your heart--but no, no--no, no, You let Your own Son
hang on the cross, didn't You? He asked You why You had deserted Him,
and You didn't answer, did You?"

Crosson looked up to see a thunderbolt split the dark sky, but the stars
were agleam now, twinkling about the moon's serenity.

Irene put her fingers across Drury's lips to hush his blasphemy. She
tore her face with her nails, and tried for his sake to stifle the sobs
that smote through her.

By and by Drury's voice grew hoarse, and he whispered. She bent close
and heard. She called to Crosson:

"Run get the doctor to give him something--some morphine or
something--quick. Every second is agony for my poor boy."

Crosson ran to the doctor. He stood among writhing bodies and shook his
head dismally. He was saying as Crosson came up:

"I'm sorry, I'm awful sorry, folks, but the last grain of morphine is
gone. The drug-stores haven't got any more. We've telegraphed to the
next town. You'll just have to stand it."

Crosson went back slowly with that heavy burden of news. He whispered it
to Irene, but Drury heard him, and a shriek of despair went from him
like a flash of fire. New blazes sprang up with an impish merriment.
Crosson, fearing for Irene's safety, fought at them with earth and with
water that boys fetched from distances, and at last extinguished the
immediate fire.

The bystanders worked elsewhere, but Crosson lingered to protect Irene.
In the dark he could hear Drury whispering something to her.

He pleaded, wheedled, kissed her hand, mumbled it like a dog, reasoned
with her insanely, while she trembled all over, a shivering leaf on a
blown twig.

Crosson could hear occasional phrases: "If you love me, you will--if
you love me, Reny. What do you want me to suffer for, honey? You don't
want me just to suffer--just to suffer, do you--you don't, do you? Reny
honey, Reny? You say you love me, and you won't do the thing that will
help me. You don't love me. That's it, you don't really love me!"

She turned to Crosson at last and moaned: "He wants me to kill him! What
can I do? Oh, what is there to do?"

Crosson could not bear to look in her eyes. He could not bear the sound
of Drury's voice. He could not even debate that problem. He was cravenly
glad when somebody's hand seized him and a rough voice called him away
to other toil. He slunk off.

There were miseries enough wherever he went, but they were the miseries
of strangers. He could not forget Irene and the riddle of duty that was
hers. He avoided the spot where she was closeted with grief, and worked
remote in the glimmer from bonfires lighted in the fields alongside.

The fire in the wreck was out now, save that here and there little
blazes appeared, only to be quenched at once. But smoldering timbers
crackled like rifle-shots, and there were thunderous slidings of

Irene's mother and father had stood off at a distance for a long time,
but at length they missed Irene and came over to question Crosson. He
knew that Irene would not wish them present at such obsequies, and he
told them she had gone home.

After a time, curiosity nagged him into approaching her hiding-place. He
listened, and there was no sound. He peered in and dimly descried Drury.
He was not moving; he might have been asleep. Irene might have been
asleep, too, for she lay huddled up in what space there was.

Crosson knelt down and crawled in. She was unconscious. He touched Drury
with a dreading hand, which drew quickly back as from a contact with

A kind of panic seized Crosson. He backed out quickly and dragged Irene
away with him in awkward desperation.

As her body came forth, his gun came too. He thought it had lain
outside. He caught it and broke it at the breech, ejecting the two
shells; one of them was empty. He threw it into the wreck and pocketed
the other shell and tossed the gun under a stack of wreckage.

He was trying to revive Irene when her father and mother came back
anxiously to say that she was not at home. Her mother dropped down at
her side.

Crosson left Irene with her own people. He did not want to see her or
hear her when she came back to this miserable world. He did not want her
even to know what he knew.


Crosson had tried afterward to forget. It had been hard at first, but in
time he had forgotten. He had gone to a theological school and learned
to chide people for their complaints and to administer well-phrased
anodynes. During his vacations he had avoided Irene. When he had been
graduated he had been first pulpited in a far-off city.

Years afterward he had been invited to supply an empty pulpit in his
home town. He had not succeeded with life. He lacked the flame or the
luck or the tact--something. He had come back to the place he started
from. He had renewed old acquaintances, laughed over the ancient jokes,
and said he was sorry for those who had had misfortune. When he met
Irene Straley he hardly recalled his love, except to smile at it as a
boyish whim. He had forgotten the pangs of that as one forgets almost
all his yester aches. He had forgotten the pains he had seen others
suffer, even more easily than he forgot his own.

To-day his sermon on the triviality of bodily discomfort had flung Irene
Straley back into the caldron of that old torment. She had made that
silent protest against the iniquitous cruelty of his preachment. She had
dragged him backward into the living presence of his past.

She had not forgotten. She had been faithful to Drury Boldin while he
was working in a distant city. She was faithful to him still in that
Farthest Country. She had the genius of remembrance.

These were Doctor Crosson's ulterior thoughts while he harangued his
flock visibly and audibly. His thoughts had not needed the time their
telling requires. They gave him back his scenes in pictures, not in
words; in heartaches and heartbreaks and terrors and longings, not in
limping syllables that mock the vision with their ineptitude.

He felt anew what he had felt and seen, and he could not give any verve
to the peroration of his sermon. He could not even change it. It had
been effective when he had preached it previously. But now he parroted
with unconscious irony the phrases he had once so admired. He came to
the last word.

"And so, to repeat: How much more bitter, dearly beloved, are the
anguishes of the soul than any mere bodily distress! What are the
fleeting torments of this tenement of clay, mere bone and flesh, to the
soul's despair? Nothing, nothing."

His congregation felt a lack of warmth in his tone. His hand fell limply
on the Bible and the sermon was done. The only stir was one of relief at
its conclusion.

He gave out the final hymn, and he sat through it while the people
dragged it to the end. He gave forth the benediction "in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost," and he made short work of
the dawdlers who waited to exchange stupidities with him. He took refuge
from his congregation in his study, locked the door, and gave himself up
to meditation.

Somehow pain had suddenly come to mean more to him than it had yet
meant. He had known it, groaned under it, lived it down, and let it go.
He had felt sorry for other people and got rid of their woes as best as
he could with the trite expressions in use, and had forgotten whether
they were hushed by health or by death.

And so he had let the old-fashioned hell go by with other dogmas out of
style. He had fashioned a new Hades to frighten people with, that they
might not find sin too attractive and imperilous.

Now he was suddenly convinced that if there must be hell, it must be
such as Dante set to rhyme and the old hard-shell preachers preached: a
region where flames sear and demons pluck at the frantic nerves, playing
upon them fiendish tunes.

Yet he could not reconcile that hell with the God that made the
lilac-bush whose purple clusters shook perfume and little flowers
against his window-sill, while the old locust in rivalry bent down and
flaunted against the lilacs its pendants of ivory grace and heavenly

Against that torment of beauty came glimpses of Drury and Irene in the
lurid cavern under the wreck. Beyond those delicate blossoms he imagined
the battle-fields of Europe and the ruined vessels where hurt souls
writhed in multitudes.

He could not be satisfied with any theory of the world. He could not
find that pain was punishment here, or see how it could follow the soul
after the soul had left behind it the fleshly instrument of torture. The
why of it escaped his reason utterly; for Drury had been good, and he
had come upon an honorable errand when he fell into the pit.

Doctor Crosson stood at his window and begged the placid sky for
information. He looked through the lilacs and the locusts and all the
green wilderness where beauty beat and throbbed like a heart in bliss.
It was the Sabbath, and he was not sure. But he was sure of a melting
tenderness in his heart for Irene Straley, and he felt that her power to
feel sorry for her lover--sorry enough to defy all the laws in his
behalf--was a wonderful power. He longed for her sympathy.

By and by he began to feel a pain, the pain of Drury Boldin. He was
glad. He groaned. "I hurt! I hope that I may hurt terribly."

Suddenly it seemed that he actually was Drury Boldin in the throes of
every fierce and spasmic thrill. Again he most vividly was Irene Straley
watching her lover till she could not endure his torture or her own, and
with one desperate challenge sent him back to the mystery whence he

Doctor Crosson, when he came back to himself, could not solve that
mystery or any mystery. He knew one reality, that it hurts to be alive;
that everybody is always hurting, and that human heart must help human
heart as best it can. Pain is the one inescapable fact; the rest is
theory.... He prayed with a deeper fervor than he had ever known:

"God give me pain, that I may understand, that I may understand!"


There was once a beautiful woman, and she lived in a small town, though
people said that she belonged rather in a great city, where her gifts
would bring her glory, riches, and a brilliant marriage. In repose, she
was superb; in motion, quite perfectly beautiful of form and carriage,
with all the suave rhythms of a beautiful being.

Her beauty was her sole opulence; the boast of her friends; the
confession of her enemies; the magnet of many lovers; the village's one
statue. She had an ordinary heart, quite commonplace brains, but beauty
that lined the pathway where she walked with eyes of admiration and

In her town, among her suitors, was one that was a Fool--not a
remarkable fool; a simple, commonplace fool of the sort that abounds
even in villages. He was foolish enough to love the Beauty so completely
that when he made sure that she would not love him he could not endure
to remain in the village, but went far away in the West to get the
torment of her beauty out of his sight. The other suitors, who were
wiser than he, when they found that she was not for them, gave her up
with mild regret as one gives up a fabulous dream, saying: "There was
no hope for us, anyway. If the Fool had stayed at home he would have
been saved from the sight of her, for she is going East, where there are
great fortunes for the very beautiful."

And this she made ready to do, since the praise she had received had
bred ambition in her--a reasonable and right ambition, for why should a
light be hidden under a bushel when it might be set up on high to
illumine a wide garden? Besides, she had not learned to love any of the
unimportant men who loved her important beauty, yet promised it nothing
more than a bushel to hide itself in.

So she made ready to take her beauty to the larger market-place. But the
night before she was to leave the village her father's house took fire
mysteriously. The servant, rushing to her door to waken her, died,
suffocated there before she could cry out. The Beauty woke to find her
bed in flames. She rose with hair and gown ablaze, and, agonizing to a
window, leaped blindly out upon the pavement. There the neighbors
quenched the fire and saved her life--but nothing more.

Thereafter she was a cripple, and her vaunted beauty was dead; it had
gone into the flames, and she had only the ashes of it on her seared
face. Now she had only pity where she had had envy and adulation. Now
there was a turning away of eyes when she hurried abroad on necessary
errands. Now her enemies were tenderly disposed toward her, and
everybody forbore to mention what she had been. Everybody spared her
feelings and talked of other things and looked at the floor or at the
sky when she must be spoken to.

One day the Fool, having heard only that the Beauty was to leave the
village, and having heard nothing of the fire, and not having prospered
where he was, returned to his old home. The first person he saw he asked
of the Beauty, and that one told him of the holocaust of her graces, and
warned him, remembering that the Fool had always spoken his thoughts
without tact or discretion--warned the Fool to disguise when he saw her
the shock he must feel and make no sign that he found her other than he
left her. And the Fool promised.

When he saw her he made a pretense indeed of greeting her as before, but
he was like a man trying to look upon a fog as upon a sunrise; for the
old beauty of her face did not strike his eyes full of its own radiance.
She saw the struggle of his smile and the wincing of his soul. But she
did not wince, for she was by now bitterly accustomed to this reticence
and self-control.

He walked along the street with her, and looked always aside or ahead
and talked of other things. He walked with her to her own gate, and to
her porch, trying to find some light thing to say to leave her. But the
cruelty of the world was like a rusty nail in his heart, and when he put
out his hand and she set in his hand what her once so exquisite fingers
were now, his heart broke in his breast; and when he lifted his eyes to
what her once so triumphant face was now, they refused to withhold their
tears, and his lips could not hold back his thoughts, and he groaned

"Oh, you were so beautiful! No one was ever so beautiful as you were
then. But now--I can't stand it! I can't stand it! I wish that I might
have died for you. You were so beautiful! I can see you now as you were
when I told you good-by."

Then he was afraid for what he had said, and ashamed, and he dreaded to
look at her again. He would have dashed away, but she seized him by the
sleeve, and whispered:

"How good it is to hear your words! You are the only one that has told
me that I ever was beautiful since I became what I am. Tell me, tell me
how I looked when you bade me good-by!"

And he told her. Looking aside or at the sky, he told her of her face
like a rose in the moonlight, of her hair like some mist spun and woven
in shadows and glamours of its own, of her long creamy arms and her
hands that a god had fashioned lovingly. He told her of her eyes and
their deeps, and their lashes and the brows above them. He told her of
the strange rhythm of her musical form when she walked or danced or
leaned upon the arm of her chair.

He dared not look at her lest he lose his remembrance of them; but he
heard her laughing, softly at first, then with pride and wild triumph.
And she crushed his hand in hers and kissed it, murmuring: "God bless
you! God bless you!"

For even in poverty it is sweet to know that once we were rich.



In a little hall bedroom in a big city lay a little woman in a big
trouble. She had taken the room under an assumed name, and a visitor had
come to her there--to little her in the big city, from the bigger

She had taken the room as "Mrs. Emerton." The landlady, Mrs. Rotch, had
had her doubts. But then she was liberal-minded--folks had to be in that
street. Still, she made it an invariable rule that "no visitors was
never allowed in rooms," a parlor being kept for the purpose up to ten
o'clock, when the landlady went to bed in it, "her having to have her
sleep as well as anybody."

But, in spite of the rules, a visitor had come to "Mrs. Emerton's"
room--a very, very young man. His only name as yet was "the Baby." She
dared not give the young man his father's name, for then people would
know, and she had come to the city to keep people from knowing. She had
come to the wicked city from the sweet, wholesome country, where,
according to fiction, there is no evil, but where, according to fact,
people are still people and moonlight is still madness. In the country,
love could be concealed but not its consequence.

Her coadjutor in the ceremony of summoning this little spirit from the
vasty deep had not followed her to the city where the miracle was
achieved. He was poor, and his parents would have been brokenhearted; his
employer in the village would have taken away his seven-dollar-a-week job.

So the boy sent the girl to town alone, with what money he had saved up
and what little he could borrow; and he stayed in the village to earn

The girl's name was Lightfoot--Hilda Lightfoot--a curiously prophetic
name for her progress in the primrose path, though she had gone
heavy-footed enough afterward. And now she could hardly walk at all.

Hilda Lightfoot had come to the city in no mood to enjoy its
frivolities, and with no means. She had climbed the four flights to her
room a few days ago for the last time. In all the weeks and weeks she
had never had a caller, except, the other day, a doctor and a nurse, who
had taken away most of her money and left her this little clamorous
youth, whose victim she was as he was hers.

To-night she was desperately lonely. Even the baby's eternal demands and
uproars were hushed in sleep. She felt strong enough now to go out into
the wonderful air of the city; the breeze was as soft and moonseeped as
the blithe night wind that blew across the meadows at home.

The crowds went by the window and teased her like a circus parade
marching past a school.

But she could not go to circuses--she had no money. All she had was a
nameless, restless baby.

She grew frantically lonely. She went almost out of her head from her
solitude, the jail-like loneliness, with no one to talk to except her
little fellow-prisoner who could not talk.

Her homesick heart ran back to the home life she was exiled from. She
was thinking of the village. It was prayer-meeting night, and the moon
would wait outside the church like Mary's white-fleeced lamb till the
service was over, and then it would follow the couples home, gamboling
after them when they walked, and, when they paused, waiting patiently

The moon was a lone white lamb on a shadowy hill all spotted with
daisies. Everything in the world was beautiful except her fate, her
prison, her poverty, and her loneliness.

If only she could go down from this dungeon into the streets! If only
she had some clothes to wear and knew somebody who would take her
somewhere where there was light and music! It was not much to ask.
Hundreds of thousands of girls were having fun in the theaters and the
restaurants and the streets. Hundreds of thousands of fellows were
taking their best girls places.

If only Webster Edie would come and take her out for a walk! She had
been his best girl, and he had been her fellow. Why must he send her
here, alone? It was his duty to be with her, now of all times. A woman
had a right to a little petting, now of all times. She had written him
so yesterday, begging him to come to her at any cost. But her letter
must have crossed his letter, and in that he said that he could not get
away and could not send her any money for at least another week, and
then not much.

She was doomed to loneliness--indefinitely. If only some one would come
in and talk to her! The landlady never came except about the bill. The
little slattern who brought her meals had gone to bed. She knew
nobody--only voices, the voices of other boarders who went up and down
the stairs and sometimes paused outside her door to talk and laugh or
exchange gossip. She had caught a few names from occasional greeting or
exclamation: "Good morning, Miss Marland!" "Why, Mrs. Elsbree!" "How was
the show last night, Miss Bessett?" "Oh, Mrs. Teed, would you mind
mailing these letters as you go out?" "Not at all, Mrs. Braywood."

They were as formless to her as ghosts, but she could not help imagining
bodies and faces and clothes to fit the voices. She could not help
forming likes and dislikes. She would have been glad to have any of them
come to see her, to ask how she was or admire the baby, or to borrow a
pin or lend a book.

If somebody did not come to see her she would go mad. If only she dared,
she would leave the baby and steal down the stairs and out of the front
door and slip along the streets. They called her; they beckoned to her
and promised her happiness. She was like a little yacht held fast in a
cove by a little anchor. The breeze was full of summons and nudgings;
the water in the bay was dancing, every ripple a giggle. Only her anchor
held her, such a little anchor, such a gripping anchor!

If only some one would come in! If only the baby could talk, or even
listen with understanding! She was afraid to be alone any longer, lest
she do something insane and fearful. She sat at the window, with one arm
stretched out across the sill and her chin across it, and stared off
into the city's well of white lights. Then she bent her head, hid her
hot face in the hollow of her elbow, and clenched her eyelids to shut
away the torment. She was loneliest staring at the city, but she was
unendurably lonely with her eyes shut. She would go crazy if somebody
did not come.

There was a knock at the door. It startled her.

She sat up and listened. The knock was repeated softly. She turned her
head and stared at the door. Then she murmured, "Come in."

The door whispered open, and a woman in soft black skirts whispered in.
The room was lighted only by the radiance from the sky, and the
mysterious woman was mysteriously vague against the dimly illuminated

She closed the door after her and stood, a shadow in a shadow. Even her
face was a mere glimmer, like a patch of moonlight on the door, and her
voice was stealthy as a breeze. It was something like the voice she
heard called "Mrs. Elsbree."

Hilda started to rise, but a faint, white hand pressed her back and the
voice said:

"Don't rise, my dear. I know how weak you are, what you have gone
through, alone, here in this dreary place. I know what pain you have
endured, and the shame you have felt, the shame that faces you outside
in the world. It is a cruel world. To women--oh, but it is cruel! It has
no mercy for a woman who loves too well.

"If you had a lot of money you might fight it with its own weapon. Money
is the one weapon it respects. But you haven't any money, have you, my
dear? If you had, you wouldn't be here in the dark alone, would you?

"I'm afraid there is nothing ahead of you, either, but darkness, my
dear. The man you loved has deserted you, hasn't he? He is a poor, weak
thing, anyway. Even if he married you, you would probably part. He'd
always hate you. Nobody else will want you for a wife, you poor child;
you know that, don't you? And nobody will help you, because of the baby.
You couldn't find work and keep the baby with you, could you? And you
couldn't leave it. It is a weight about your neck; it will drown you in
deep waters.

"Even if it lived, it would have only misery ahead of it, for your story
would follow it through life. The older it grew, the more it would
suffer. It would despise you and itself. How much happier you would be
not to be alive at all, both of you, you poor, unwelcome things!

"There are many problems ahead of you, my dear; and you'll never solve
them, except in one way. If you were dead and asleep in your grave with
your poor little one at your breast, all your troubles would be over
then, wouldn't they? People would feel sorry for you; they wouldn't
sneer at you then. And you wouldn't mind loneliness or hunger or
pointing fingers or anything.

"Take my advice, dearie, and end it now. There are so many ways; so many
things to buy at drug-stores. And that's the river you can just see over
there. It is very peaceful in its depths. Its cool, dark waters will
wash away your sorrows. Or if that is too far for you to go, there's the
window. You could climb out on the ledge with your baby in your arms and
just step off into--peace. Take my advice, poor, lonely, little thing.
It's the one way; I know. The world will forgive you, and Heaven will be
merciful. Didn't Christ take the Magdalen into His own company and His
mother's? He will take you up into heaven, if you go now. Good-by. Don't
be afraid. Good-by. Don't be afraid."

She was gone so softly that Hilda did not see her go. She had been
staring off into that ocean of space, and when she turned her head the
woman was gone. But her influence was left in the very air. Her words
went on whispering about the room. Under their influence the girl rose,
tottered to the bed, gathered the sleeping baby to her young bosom,
kissed his brow without waking him, and stumbled to the window.

She pushed it as high as it would go and knelt on the ledge, peering
down into the street. It was a fearful distance to the walk.

She hoped she would not strike the stone steps or the area rail. And yet
what difference would it make? It would only assure her peace the
quicker. She must wait for those people below to walk past. But they
were not gone before others were there. She could not hurl herself upon

As she waited, it grew terrible to take the plunge. She had always been
afraid of high places. She grew dizzy now, and must cling hard to keep
from falling before she said her prayers and was ready. And, now the
pavement was clear. She kissed her baby again. She drew in a deep
breath, her last sip of the breath of life. How good it was, this clear,
cool air flowing across this great, beautiful, heartless city that she
should never see again! And now--

There was a knock at the door. It checked her. She lost impulse and
impetus and crept back and sank into a chair. She was pretending to be
rocking the baby to sleep when she murmured, "Come in."

Perhaps it would be Mrs. Elsbree, returned to reproach her for her
cowardice and her delay. But when she dared to look up it was another
woman. At least it was another voice--perhaps Miss Marland's.

"I've been meaning to call on you, Mrs. Emerton, but I haven't had a
free moment. Of course I've known all along why you were here. We all
have. There's been a good deal of backbiting. But that's the
boarding-house of it. This evening, at dinner, there was some mention of
you at the table, and some of the women were ridiculing you and some
were condemning you. Oh, don't wince, my dear; everybody is always being
ridiculed or condemned or both for something. If you were one of the
saints they would burn you at the stake or put you to the torture.

"Anyway, I spoke up and told them that the only one who had a right to
cast a stone at you was one without sin, and I despaired of finding such
a person in this boarding-house--or outside, either, for that matter. I
spoke up and told them that you were no worse than the others. They all
had their scandals, and I know most of them. There's some scandal about
everybody. We're all sinners--if you want to call it sin to follow your
most sacred instincts.

"Why should you be afraid of a little gossip or a few jokes or a little
abuse from a few hypocrites? They're all sinners--worse than you, too,
most of them, if the truth were known.

"Why blame yourself and call yourself a criminal? You loved the
boy--loved him too much, that's all. If you had been really wicked you
would have refused to love him or to give yourself up to his plea. If
you had been really bad you'd have known too much to have this child.
You'd have got rid of it at all costs.

"You are really a very good little woman with a passion for being a
mother. It's the world outside that's bad. Don't be ashamed before it.
Hold your head up. The world owes you a living, and it will pay it if
you demand it. It will pay for you and your child, too. Just demand your
rights. You'll soon find a place. You're too young and beautiful to be
neglected. You're young and beautiful and passionate. You can make some
man awfully happy. He'll be glad to have your baby and you--disgrace and
all. He may be very rich, too. Go find him. The baby may grow up to be a
wonderful man. You could make enough to give the boy every advantage and
a fine start in the world.

"The world is yours, if you'll only take it. Remember the Bible, 'Ask
and it shall be given unto you.' Think it over, my dear. Don't do
anything foolish or rash. You're too young and too beautiful. And now I
must ran along. Good-by and good luck."

While Hilda was breathing deep of this wine of hope and courage the
woman was gone.

Hilda glanced out of the window again. She shuddered. A moment more and
she would have been lying below there, broken, mangled,
unsightly--perhaps not dead, only crippled for life and arrested as a
suicide that failed; perhaps as a murderess, since the fall would surely
have killed her child--her precious child. She held him close, her great
man-baby, her son; he laughed, beat the air with his hands, chuckled,
and smote her cheek with palms like white roses. She would take him from
this gloomy place. She would go out and demand money, fine clothes,

She put on her hat, a very shabby little hat. She began to wrap the baby
in a heavy shawl. They would have finer things soon.

She grew dizzy with excitement and the exertion, and sank back in the
chair a moment, to regain her strength. The chair creaked. No, it was a
knock at the door. It proved what the last woman had said. "Ask, and it
shall be given unto you."

She had wished for some one to call on her. The whole boarding-house was
coming. She was giving a party.

This time it was another voice out of the darkness. It must have been
Miss Bessett's. She spoke in a cold, hard, hasty tone. "Going out, my
dear? Alone, I hope? No, the baby's wrapped up! You're not going to be
so foolish as to lug that baby along? He brands you at once. Nobody will
want you round with a squalling baby. Oh, of course he's a pretty child;
but he's too noisy. He'll ruin every chance you have.

"You're really very pretty, my dear. The landlady said so. If she
noticed it, you must be a beauty, indeed. This is a great town for
pretty girls. There's a steady market for them.

"The light is poor here, but beauty like yours glows even in darkness,
and that's what they want, the men. The world will pay anything for
beauty, if beauty has the brains to ask a high price and not give too
much for it.

"Think of the slaves who have become queens, the mistresses who have
become empresses. There are rich women all over town who came by their
money dishonestly. You should see some of them in the Park with their
automobiles. You'd be ashamed even to let them run over you. Yet, if you
were dressed up, you'd look better than any of the automobile brigade.

"You might be a great singer. I've heard you crooning to the baby. You
find a rich man and make him pay for your lessons, and then you make
eyes at the manager and, before you know it, you'll be engaged for the
opera and earning a thousand dollars a night--more than that, maybe.

"Think how much that means. It would make you mighty glad you didn't
marry that young gawp at home. He's a cheap skate to get you into this
trouble and not help you out.

"But I'll set you in the way of making a mint of money. There's only one
thing: you must give up the baby and never let anybody know you ever had
it. Don't freeze up and turn away. There are so many ways of disposing
of a baby. Send it to a foundling asylum. No questions will be asked.
The baby will have the best of care and grow so strong that some rich
couple will insist on adopting it, or you could come back when you are
married to a rich man and pretend you took a fancy to it and adopt it

"And there's a lot of other ways to get rid of a baby. You could give it
the wrong medicine by mistake, or just walk out and forget it. And
there's the river; you could drop it into those black waters. And then
you're free--baby would never know. He would be ever so much better off.
And you would be free.

"You must be free. You must get a little taste of life. You've a right
to it. You lived in a little stupid village all your years--and now
you're in the city. Listen to it! It would be yours for the asking. And
it gives riches and glory to the pretty girls it likes. But you must go
to it as a girl, not as a poor, broken, ragged thing, lugging a sickly
baby with no name. Get rid of the baby, my dear. It will die, anyway. It
will starve and sicken. Put it out of its misery. That medicine on your
wash-stand--an overdose of that and you can say it was a mistake. Who
can prove it wasn't? Then you are free. You'll have hundreds of friends,
and a career, and a motor of your own, and servants, and a beautiful
home. Don't waste your youth, my dear. Invest your beauty where it will
bring big proceeds.

"See those lights off there--the big lights with the name of that woman
in electric letters? She came to town poorer than you and with a worse
name. Now she is rich and famous. And the Countess of--What's-her-name?
She was poor and bad, but she didn't let any old-fashioned ideas of
remorse hold her back. Go on; get rid of the brat. Go on!"

Hilda clutched the baby closer and moved away to shield her from this
grim counselor. When she turned again she was alone. The woman had gone,
but the air trembled with her fierce wisdom. She was ruthless, but how

The lights flaring up into the sky carried that other woman's name. Her
picture was everywhere. She had been poor and wicked. Now she was a
household word, respected because she was rich. She had succeeded.

There came a lilting of music on a breeze. They were dancing, somewhere.
The tango "coaxed her feet." Her body swayed with it.

If she were there, men would quarrel over her, rush to claim her--as
they had done even in the village before she threw herself away on the
most worthless, shiftless of the lot, who got her into trouble and
deserted her. It was not her business to starve for his baby.

The baby began to fret again, to squawk with vicious explosions of ugly
rage; it puled and yowled. It was a nuisance. It caught a fistful of her
hair and wrenched till the tears of pain rushed to her eyes. She
unclasped the little talons, ran to the wash-stand, took up an ugly
bottle and poured out enough to put an end to that nauseating wail.

She bent over to lift the baby to the glass. Its lips touched her bosom.
Its crying turned to a little chortle like a brook's music. It pommeled
her with hands like white roses. The moon rested on its little head and
made its fuzz of hair a halo. She paused, adoring it sacredly like
another Madonna.

A soft tap at the door. She put the fatal glass away and turned
guiltily. A dark little woman was there, and a soft, motherly voice
spoke. It must be Mrs. Braywood's. She could not have suspected, for her
tone was all of affection.

"I heard your child laughing, my dear--and crying. I don't know which
went to my heart deeper. I just had to come to see it. It is so
marvelous to be a mother. I've been married for ten years, and my
husband and I have prayed and waited. But God would not send us a baby.
He saved that honor for you. And such an honor and glory and power! To
be a mother! To be a rose-bush and have a white bud grow upon your stem,
and bloom! Oh, you lucky child, to be selected for such a privilege! You
must have suffered; you must be suffering now; but there's nothing worth
while that doesn't cost pain.

"It occurred to me that--don't misunderstand me, my child, but--well,
the landlady said you were poor; she was in doubt of the room rent; so
I thought--perhaps you might not want the baby as much as I do.

"I hoped you might let me take him. I'd be such a good mother to him.
I'd love him as if he were my own, and my husband would pay you well for
him. We'd give him our own name, and people should never know that
he--that you--that we weren't really his parents. Give him to me, won't
you? Please! I beg you!"

Hilda whirled away from her pleading hands and clenched the baby so hard
that it cried a little. The sound was like that first wail of his she
had ever heard. Again it went into her heart like a little hand seizing
and wringing it.

Mrs. Braywood--if it were Mrs. Braywood--was not angry at the rebuff,
though she was plainly disheartened. She tried to be brave, and sighed.

"Oh, I don't wonder you turn away. I understand. I wouldn't give him up
if I were in your place. The father must come soon. He won't stay away
long. Just let him see the baby and hear its voice and know it is his
baby, and he will stand by you.

"He will come to you. He will hear the voice wherever he is, and he will
make you his wife. And the baby will make a man of him and give him
ambition and inspiration. Babies always provide for themselves, they
say. You will have trouble, and you will suffer from the gibes of
self-righteous people, and you will be cruelly blamed; but there is
only one way to expiate sin, my child, and that is to face its
consequences and pay its penalties in full. The only way to atone for a
wrong deed is to do the next right thing. Take good care of your
precious treasure. Good-by. His father will come soon. He will come.
Good-by. Oh, you enviable thing, you mother!"

And now she was gone. But she had left the baby's value enhanced, and
the mother's, too.

She had offered a price for the baby, and glorified the mother. The
lonely young country girl felt no longer utterly disgraced. She did not
feel that the baby was a mark of Heaven's disfavor, but rather of its
favor. She felt lonely no longer. The streets interested her no more.
Let those idle revelers go their way; let them dance and laugh. They had
no child of their own to adore and to enjoy.

If the baby's father came they would be married. If he delayed--well,
she would stumble on alone. The baby was her cross. She must carry it up
the hill.

Hilda felt entirely content, but very tired, full of hope that Webster
Edie would come to her, but full of contentment, too. She talked to the
baby, and he seemed to understand her now. She could not translate his
language, but he translated hers.

She slipped out of her day clothes and into her nightgown--and so to
bed. She fell asleep with her baby in her arms. Her head drooped back
and her parted lips seemed to pant and glow. The moon reached her
window and sent in a long shaft of light. It found a great tear on her
cheek. It gleamed on her throat bent back; it gleamed on one bare
shoulder where the gown was torn; it gleamed on her breast where the
baby drowsily clung.

There was a benediction in the moonlight.



Mrs. Serina Pepperall had called her husband twice without success. It
was at that hatefulest hour of the whole week when everybody that has to
get up is getting up and realizing that it is Monday morning, and
raining besides.

It is bad enough for it to be Monday, but for it to be raining is

Young Horace Pepperall used to say that that was the reason the world
didn't improve much. People got good on Sunday, and then it had to go
and be Monday. He had an idea that if Sunday could be followed by some
other day, preferably Saturday, there would be more happiness and virtue
in the world. Mrs. Pepperall used to say that her boy was quite a
ph'losopher in his way. Mr. Pepperall said he was a hopeless loafer and
spent more time deciding whether he'd ought to do this or that than it
would have taken to do 'em both twice. Whereupon Mrs. Pepperall, whose
maiden name was Boody--daughter of Mrs. Ex-County-Clerk Boody--would
remind her husband that he was only a Pepperall, after all, while her
son was at least half Boody. Whereupon her husband would remind her of
certain things about the Boodys. And so it would go. But that was other
mornings. This was this morning.

Among all the homes that the sun looked upon--or would have looked upon
if it could have looked upon anything and if it hadn't been raining and
the Pepperall roof had not been impervious to light, though not to
moisture--among them all, surely the Pepperall reveille would have been
the least attractive. Homer never got his picture of rosy-fingered
Aurora smilingly leaping out of the couch of night from any such home as
the Pepperalls' in Carthage.

Serina was as unlike Aurora as possible. Aurora is usually poised on
tiptoe, with her well-manicured nails gracefully extended, and nothing
much about her except a chariot and more or less chiffon, according to
whether the picture is for families or bachelors.

Serina was entirely surrounded by flannelette, of simple and pitilessly
chaste design--a hole at the top for her head to go through and a larger
one at the other extreme for her feet to stick out at. But it was so
long that you couldn't have seen her feet if you had been there. And
Papa Pepperall, who was there, was no longer interested in those once
exciting ankles. They had been more interesting when there had been less
of them. But we'd better talk about the sleeves.

The sleeves were so long that they kept falling into the water where
Serina was making a hasty toilet at the little marble-topped altar to
cleanliness which the Pepperalls called the "worsh-stand"--that is, the
"hand-wash-basin," as Mrs. Hippisley called it after she came back from
her never-to-be-forgotten trip to England.

But then Serina's sleeves had always been falling into the suds, and
ever since she could remember she had rolled them up again with that
peculiar motion with which people roll up sleeves. This morning, having
failed to elicit papa from the bed by persuasion, she made such a racket
about her ablutions that he lifted his dreary lids at last. He realized
that it was morning, Monday, and raining. It irritated him so that he
glared at his faithful wife with no fervor for her unsullied and
unwearied--if not altogether unwearisome--devotion. He watched her roll
up those sleeves thrice more. Somehow he wanted to scream at the
futility of it. But he checked the impulse partly, and it was with
softness that he made a comment he had choked back for years. "Serina--"
he began.

"Well," she returned, pausing with the soap clenched in one hand.

He spoke with the luxurious leisureliness and the pauses for commas of a
nearly educated man lolling too long abed:

"Serina, it has just occurred to me that, since we have been married,
you have expended, on rolling back those everlastingly relapsing sleeves
of yours, enough energy to have rolled the Sphinx of Egypt up on top of
the Pyramid of Cheops."

Serina was so surprised that she shot the slippery soap under the
wash-stand. She went right after it. There may be nymphs who can stalk a
cake of soap under a wash-stand with grace, but Serina was not one of
them. Her indolent spouse made another cynical comment:

"Don't do that! You look like the Goddess of Liberty trying to peek into
the Subway."

But she did not hear him. She was rummaging for the soap and for an
answer to his first remark. At length she emerged with both. She stood
up and panted.

"Well, I can't see as it would 'a' done me any good if I had have!"

"Had have what?" her husband yawned, having forgotten his original

"Got the Sphinnix on top of the Cheops. And besides, I've been meaning
to hem them up; but now that you've gone bankrupt again, and I have to
do my own cooking and all--"

"But, my dear Serina, you've said the same thing ever since we were
married. What frets me is to think of the terrible waste of labor with
nothing to show for it."

She sniffed, and retorted with all the superiority of the unsuccessful
wife of an unsuccessful husband:

"Well, I can't see as you're so smart. Ever since we been married you
been goin' to that stationery-store of yours, and you never learned
enough to keep from going bankrupt three times. And now they've shut
the shop, and you've nothing better to do than lay in bed and make fun
of me that have slaved for you and your children."

They were always his children when she talked of the trouble they were.
Her all too familiar oration was interrupted by the eel-like leap of the
soap. This time it described a graceful arc that landed it under the
middle of the bed--a double bed at that.

Pepperall had the gallantry to pursue it. He went head first over the
starboard quarter of the deck, leaving his feet aboard. Just as he
tagged the soap with his fingers his feet came on over after him, and he
found himself flat on his back, with his head under the bed and his feet
under the bureau.

When the thunder of his downfall had subsided he heard Serina say, "Now
that you're up you better stay up."

So he wriggled out from under and got himself aloft, rubbing his
indignant back. If Serina was no Aurora rising from the sea, her husband
was no Phoebus Apollo. His gown looked like hers, only younger. It had
a frivolous little pocket, and the slit-skirt effect on both sides; and
it was cut what is called "misses' length," disclosing two of the least
attractive shins in Carthage.

He was aching all over and he was angry, and he snarled as he stood at
the wash-stand:

"Have you finished with this water?"

"Yes," she said, muffledly, from the depths of a face-towel.

"Why don't you ever empty the bowl then?" he growled, and viciously
tilted the contents into the--must I say the awful word?--the
slop-jar--what other word is there?

The water splashed over and struck the bare feet of both icily. They
yowled and danced like Piute Indians, and glared at each other as they
danced. They glared in a nagged rage that would have turned into an ugly
quarrel if a great sorrow had not suddenly overswept them. They saw
themselves as they were and by a whim of memory they remembered what
they had been. He laughed bitterly:

"It's the first time we've danced together in a long time, eh?"

Her lower lip began to quiver and swell quite independently and she

"Not much like the dances we used to dance. Oh dear!"

She dropped into a chair and stared, not at her husband, but at the
bridegroom of long ago he had shriveled from. She remembered those
honeymoon mornings when they had awakened like eager children and
laughed and romped and been glad of the new day. The mornings had been
precious then, for it was a tragedy to let him go to his shop, as it was
a festival to watch from the porch in the evening till he came round the
corner and waved to her.

She looked from him to herself, to what she could see of herself--it was
not all, but more than enough. She saw her heavy red hands and the
coarse gown over her awkward knees, and the dismal slovenliness of her
attitude. She felt that he was remembering the slim, wild, sweet girl he
had married. And she was ashamed before his eyes, because she had let
the years prey upon her and had lazily permitted beauty to escape from
her--from her body, her face, her motions, her thoughts.

She felt that for all her prating of duty she had committed a great
wickedness lifelong. She wondered if this were not "the unpardonable
sin," whose exact identity nobody had seemed to decide--to grow
strangers with beauty and to forget grace.


Whatever her husband may have been thinking, he had the presence of mind
to hide his eyes in the water he had poured from the pitcher. He scooped
it up now in double handfuls. He made a great splutter and soused his
face in the bowl, and scrubbed the back of his neck and behind his ears
and his bald spot, and slapped his eminent collar-bones with his wet
hand. And then he was bathed.

Serina pulled on her stockings, and hated them and the coarser feet they
covered. She opened the wardrobe door as a screen, less from modesty for
herself than from sudden disgust of her old corset and her all too sober
lingerie. She resolved that she would hereafter deck herself with more
of that coquetry which had abruptly returned to her mind as a wife's
most solemn duty.

Then she remembered that they were poorer than they ever had been. Now
they could not even run into debt again; for who would give them further
credit, since their previous bills had been canceled by nothing more
satisfactory than the grim "Received payment" of the bankruptcy court?

It was too late for her to reform. Her song was sung. And as for buying
frills and fallals, there were two daughters to provide for and a son
who was growing into the stratum of foppery. With a sigh of dismissal
she flung on her old wrapper, whose comfortableness she suddenly
despised, and made her escape, murmuring, "I'll call the childern."

She pounded on the boy's door, and Horace eventually answered with his
regular program of uncouth noises, like some one protesting against
being strangled to death. These were followed by moans of woe, and then
by far-off-sounding promises of "Oh, aw ri', I'm git'nup."

Serina moved on to her youngest daughter's door. She had tapped but once
when it was opened by "the best girl that ever lived," according to her
father; and according to her mother, "a treasure; never gave me a bit of
trouble--plain, of course, but so willing!"

Ollie was fully dressed and so was her room, except for the bed, the
covers of which were thrown back like a wave breaking over the
footboard. In fact, after Ollie had kissed her mother she informed her
that the kitchen fire was made, the wash-boiler on, and the breakfast

"You are a treasure!" Serina sighed.

She passed on to the door of Prue. Prue was the second daughter. Rosie,
the eldest, had married Tom Milford and moved away. She was having
troubles of her own, and children with a regularity that led Serina to
dislike Tom Milford more than ever.

Serina knocked several times at Prue's door without response. Then she
went in as she always had to. Prue was still asleep, and her yesterday's
clothes seemed to be asleep, too, in all sorts of attitudes and all
sorts of places. The only regularity about the room was the fact that
every single thing was out of place. The dressing-table held a little
chaos, including one stocking. The other stocking was on the floor. One
silken garter glowed in the southeast corner and one in the northwest.
One shoe reclined in the southwest corner and the other gaped in the
northeast. But they were pretty shoes.

Her frock was in a heap, but it suggested a heap of flowers.
Hair-ribbons and ribboned things and a crumpled sash bedecked the
carpet. But the prettiest thing of all was the head half fallen from the
pillow and half smothered in the tangled skeins of hair. One arm was
bent back over her brow to shut out the sunlight and the other arm
dangled to the floor. There was something adorable about the round chin
nestling in the soft throat. Her chin seemed to frown with a lovable
sullenness. There was a mysterious grace in the very sprawl vaguely
outlined by the long wrinkles and ridges of the blankets.

Serina shook her head over Prue in a loving despair. She was the bad boy
of the family, impatient, exacting, hot-tempered, stormy, luxurious, yet
never monotonous.

"You can always put your hand on Ollie," Serina would say; "but you
never know where Prue is from one minute to the next."

Consequently Ollie was not interesting and Prue was.

They were all afraid of Prue and afraid for her. They all toadied to her
and she kept them excited--alarmed, perhaps; angry, oh yes; but never

And there were rewards in her service, too, for she could be as stormy
with affection as with mutiny. Sometimes she would attack Serina with
such gusts of gratitude or admiration that her mother would cry for
help. She would squeeze her father's ribs till he gasped for breath.
When she was pleased she would dance about the house like a whirling
mænad with ululations of ecstasy. These crises were sharp, but they left
a sweet taste in the memory.

So Prue had the best clothes and did the least work. Prue was sent off
to boarding-school in Chicago, though she had never been able to keep up
with her classes in Carthage; while Ollie--who took first prizes till
even the goody-goody boys hated her--stayed at home. She had dreamed of
being a teacher in the High, but she never mentioned it, and she studied
bookkeeping and stenography in the business college so that she could
help her father.

Prue had not been home long and had come home with bad grace. When her
father had found it impossible to borrow more money even to pay his
clerks, to say nothing of boarding-school bills, he had to write the
truth to Prue. He told her to come again to Carthage.

She did not come back at once and she refused to explain why. As a
matter of fact, she had desperately endeavored to find a permanent job
in Chicago. It was easy for so attractive a girl to get jobs, but it was
hard for so domineering a soul to keep one. She was regretfully bounced
out of three department stores in six days for "sassing" the customers
and the aisle-manager.

She even tried the theater. She was readily accepted by a stage-manager,
but when he found that he could not teach her the usual figures or
persuade her to keep in step or line with the rest he regretfully let
her go.

It was the regularity of it that stumped Prue. She could dance like a
ballerina by herself, but she could not count "one-two-three-four" twice
in succession. The second time it was "o-o-one-t'threeee-f'r" and next
it would be "onety-thry-fo-o-our."

Prue hung about Chicago, getting herself into scrapes by her charm and
fighting her way out of them by her ferocious pride. Finally she went
hungry and came home. When she learned the extent of her father's
financial collapse she delivered tirades against the people of Carthage
and she sang him up as a genius. And then she sought escape from the
depression at home by seeking what gaiety Carthage afforded. She made no
effort to master the typewriter and she declined to sell dry-goods.

Serina stood and studied the sleeping girl, that strange wild thing she
had borne and had tried in vain to control. She thought how odd it was
that in the mystic transmission of her life she had given all the useful
virtues to Ollie and none of them to Prue. She wondered what she had
been thinking of to make such a mess of motherhood. And what could she
do to correct the oversight? Ollie did not need restraint, and Prue
would not endure it. She stood aloof, afraid to waken the girl to the
miseries of existence in a household where every day was blue Monday

Ollie had not waited to be called. Ollie had risen betimes and done all
the work that could be done, and stood ready to do whatever she could.
Prue was still aloll on a bed of ease. Even to waken her was to waken a
March wind. The moment she was up she would have everybody running
errands for her. She would be lavish in complaint and parsimonious of
help. And yet she was a dear! She did enjoy her morning sleep so well.
It would be a pity to disturb her. The rescuing thought came to Serina
that Prue loved to take a long hot bath on Monday mornings, because on
wash-day there was always a plenty of hot water in the bathroom. On
other mornings the hot-water faucet suffered from a distressing cough
and nothing more.

So she tiptoed out and closed the door softly.


At breakfast Ollie waited on the table after compelling Serina to sit
down and eat. There was little to tempt the appetite and no appetite to
be tempted.

Papa was in the doldrums. He had always complained before of having to
gulp his breakfast and hurry to the shop. And now he complained because
there was no hurry; indeed, there was no shop. He must set out at his
time of years, after his life of independent warfare, to ask for
enlistment as a private in some other man's company--in a town where
vacancies rarely occurred and where William Pepperall would not be

The whole town was mad at him. He had owed everybody, and then suddenly
he owed nobody. By the presto-change-o of bankruptcy his debts had been
passed from the hat of unpaid bills to the hat of worthless accounts.

Serina was as dismal as any wife is when she is faced with the prospect
of having her man hanging about the house all day. A wife in a man's
office hours is a nuisance, but a man at home in household office hours
is a pest. This was the newest but not the least of Serina's woes.

Horace was even glummer than ever, as soggy as his own oatmeal. At best
he was one of those breakfast bruins. Now he was a bear that has been
hit on the nose. He, too, must seek a job. School had seemed confining
before, but now that he must go to work, school seemed like one long

Even Ollie was depressed. Hers was the misery of an active person denied
activity. She had prepared herself as an aid in her father's business,
and now he had no business. In this alkali desert of inanition Prue's
vivacious temper would have been welcome.

"Where's Prue?" said papa for the fifth time.

Serina was about to say that she was still asleep when Prue made her
presence known. Everybody was apprised that the water had been turned on
in the bathroom; it resounded throughout the house. It seemed to fall
about one's head.

Prue was filling the tub for her Monday morning siesta. She was humming
a strange tune over the cascade like another Minnehaha. And from the
behavior of the dining-room chandelier and the plates on the sideboard
she was evidently dancing.

"What's that toon she's dancing to?" papa asked, after a while.

"I don't know," said Serina.

"I never heard it," said Ollie.

"Ah," growled Horace, "it's the Argentine tango."

"The tango!" gasped papa. "Isn't that the new dance I've been reading
about, that's making a sensation in New York?"

"Ah, wake up, pop!" said Horace. "It's a sensation here, too."

"In Carthage? They're dancing the tango in our home town?"

"Surest thing you know, pop. The whole burg's goin' bug over it."

"How is it done? What is it like?"

"Something like this," said Horace, and, rising, he indulged in the
prehistoric turkey-trot of a year ago, with burlesque hip-snaps and
poultry-yard scrapings of the foot.

"Stop it!" papa thundered. "It's loathsome! Do you mean to tell me that
my daughter does that sort of thing?"

"Sure! She's a wonder at it."

"What scoundrel taught my poor child such--such--Who taught her, I say?"

"Gosh!" sniffed Horace, "sis don't need teachin'. She's teachin' the
rest of 'em. They're crazy about her."

"Teaching others! My g-g-goodness! Where did she learn?"

"Chicago, I guess."

"Oh, the wickedness of these cities and the foreigners that are dragging
our American homes down to their own level!"

"I guess the foreigners got nothin' on us," said Horace. "It's a
Namerican dance."

"What are we coming to? Go tell Prue to come here at once. I'll put a
stop to that right here and now."

Serina gave him one searing glance, and he understood that he could not
deliver his edict to Prue yet awhile. He heard her singing even more
barbaric strains. The chandelier danced with a peculiar savagery, then
the dance was evidently quenched and subdued. Awestruck yowls from above
indicated that Prue was in hot water.

"This is the last straw!" groaned papa, with all the wretchedness of a
father learning that his daughter was gone to the bad.


Prue did not appear below-stairs for so long that her father had lost
his magnificent running start by the time she sauntered in all sleek and
shiny and asked for her food. She brought a radiant grace into the dull
gray room; and Serina whispered to Will to let her have her breakfast

She and Ollie waited on Prue, while the father paced the floor, stealing
sidelong glances at her, and wondering if it were possible that so sweet
a thing should be as vicious as she would have to be to tango.

When she had scoured her plate and licked her spoon with a child-like
charm her father began to crank up his throat for a tirade. He began
with the reluctant horror of a young attorney cross-examining his first

"Prue--I want to--to--er--Prue, do you--did you--ever--This--er--this
tango business--Prue--have you--do you--er--What do you know about it?"

"Well, of course, papa, they change it so fast on you it's hard to keep
up with it, but I was about three days ahead of Chicago when I left
there. I met with a man who had just stepped off the twenty-hour train
and I learned all he knew before I turned him loose."

In a strangled tone the father croaked, "You dance it, then?"

"You bet! Papa, stand up and I'll show you the very newest roll. It's a
peach. Put your weight on your right leg. Say, it's a shame we haven't a
phonograph! Don't you suppose you could afford a little one? I could
have you all in fine form in no time. And it would be so good for

Papa fell back into a chair with just strength enough to murmur, "I want
you to promise me never to dance it again."

"Don't be foolish, you dear old bump-on-a-log!"

"I forbid you to dance it ever again."

She laughed uproariously: "Listen at the old Skeezicks! Get up here and
I'll show you the cutest dip."

When at last he grew angry, and made her realize it, she flared into a
tumult of mutiny that drove him out into the rain. He spent the day
looking for a job without finding one. Horace came home wet and
discouraged with the same news. Ollie, the treasure, however, announced
that she had obtained a splendid position as typist in Judge Hippisley's
office, at a salary of thirty dollars a month.

William was overjoyed, but Serina protested bitterly. She and Mrs. Judge
Hippisley had been bitter social rivals for twenty years. They had
fought each other with teas and euchre parties and receptions from young
wifehood to middle-aged portliness. And now her daughter was to work in
that hateful Anastasia Hippisley's old fool of a husband's office? Well,

"It's better than starving," said Ollie, and for once would not be
coerced, though even her disobedience was on the ground of service.
After she had cleared the table and washed the dishes she set out for
her room, lugging a typewriter she had borrowed to brush up her speed

Prue had begged off from even wiping the dishes, because she had to
dress. As Ollie started up-stairs to her task she was brought back by
the door-bell. She ushered young Orton Hippisley into the parlor. He had
come to take Prue to a dance.

When papa heard this mamma had to hold her hand over his mouth to keep
him from making a scene. He was for kicking young Hippisley out of the

"And lose me my job?" gasped Ollie.

The overpowered parent whispered his determination to go up-stairs and
forbid Prue to leave. He went up-stairs and forbade her, but she went
right on binding her hair with Ollie's best ribbon. In the midst of her
father's peroration she kissed him good-by and danced down-stairs in
Ollie's new slippers. Her own had been trotted into shreds.

Papa sat fuming all evening. He would not go to bed till Prue came home
to the ultimatum he was preparing for her. From above came the
tick-tock-tock of Ollie's typewriter. It got on his nerves, like rain on
a tin roof.

"To think of it--Ollie up-stairs working her fingers to the bone to help
us out, and Prue dancing her feet off disgracing us! To think that one
of our daughters should be so good and one so bad!"

"I can't believe that our little Prue is really bad," Serina sighed.

"Yet girls do go wrong, don't they?" her husband groaned. "This
morning's paper prints a sermon about the tango. Reverend Doctor
What's-his-name, the famous New York newspaper preacher, tears the whole
tango crowd to pieces. He points out that the tango is the cause of the
present-day wickedness, the ruin of the home!"

Serina was dismal and terrified, but from force of habit she took the
opposite side.

"Oh, they were complaining of divorces long before the tango was ever
heard of. That same preacher used to blame them on the bicycle, then on
the automobile and the movies. And now it's the tango. It'll be
flying-machines next."

Papa was used to fighting with mamma, and he roared with fine leoninity:
"Are you defending your daughter's shamelessness? Do you approve of the

"I've never seen it."

"Then it must be just because you always encourage your children to
flout my authority. I never could keep any discipline because you always
fought for them, encouraged them to disobey their father, to--to--to--"

She chanted her responses according to the familiar family antipathy
antiphony. They talked themselves out eventually; but Prue was not home.
Ollie gradually typewrote herself to sleep and Prue was not home. Horace
came in from the Y. M. C. A. bowling-alley and went to bed, and Prue was
not home.

The old heads nodded. The sentinels slept. At some dimly distant time
papa woke with a start and inquired, "Huh?"

Mamma jumped and gasped, "Who?"

They were shivering with the after-midnight chill of the cold room, and
Prue was not home. Papa snapped his watch open and snapped it shut; and
the same to his jaw:

"Two o'clock! And Prue not home. I'm going after her!"

He thrust into his overcoat, slapped his hat on his aching head, flung
open the door. And Prue came home.

She was alone! And in tears!


As papa's overcoat slid off his arms and his hat off his head she tore
down her gloves, tossed her cloak in the direction of the hat-tree and
stumbled up the stairs, sobbing. Her mother caught her hand.

"What's the matter, honey?"

Prue wrenched loose and went on up.

Father and mother stared at her, then at each other, then at the floor.
Each read the same unspeakable fear in the other's soul. Serina ran up
the stairs as fast as she could. William automatically locked the doors
and windows, turned out the lights, and followed.

He paused in the upper hall to listen. Prue was explaining at last.

"It's that Orton Hippisley," Prue sobbed.

"What--what has he done?" Serina pleaded, and Prue sobbed on:

"Oh, he got fresh! Some of these fellas in this town think that because
a girl likes to have a good time and knows how to dance they can get
fresh with her. I didn't like the way Ort Hippisley held me and I told
him. Finally I wouldn't dance any more with him. I gave his dances to
Grant Beadle till the last; then Ort begged so hard I said all right.
And he danced like a gentleman. But on the way home he--he put his arm
round me. And when I told him to take it away he wouldn't. He said I had
been in his arms half the evening before folks, and if I hadn't minded
then I oughtn't to mind now. And I said: 'Is that so? Well, it's mighty
different when you're dancing.' And he said, 'Oh no, it isn't,' and I
said, 'Oh yes, it is.' And he tried to kiss me and I hauled off and
smashed him right in the nose. It bloodied all over his dress soot, and
I'm glad of it."

Somehow Papa Pepperall felt such an impulse to give three cheers that he
had to put his own hand over his mouth. He tiptoed to his room, and when
mamma appeared to announce with triumph, "I guess Prue hasn't gone to
the bad yet," papa said: "Who said she had? Prue is the finest girl in

"I thought you were saying--"

"Why can't you ever once get me right? I was saying that Prue is too
fine a girl to be allowed to mingle with that tango set. I'm going to
cowhide that Hippisley cub. And Prue's not going to another one of those

But he didn't. And she did.


Ollie was up betimes the next morning to get breakfast and make haste to
her office. She was so excited that she dropped a stove-lid on the
coalscuttle just as her mother appeared.

"For mercy's sake, less noise!" Serina whispered. "You'll wake poor

Ollie next dropped the tray she had just unloaded on the table. Serina
was furious. Ollie whispered:

"I'm so nervous for fear I've lost my job at Judge Hippisley's, now that
Prue had to go and slap Orton."

"Always thinking of yourself," was Serina's rebuke. "Don't be so

But Ollie's fears were wasted. Orton Hippisley might have boasted of
kisses he did not get, but not of the slaps that he did. He had gained a
new respect for Prue, and at the first opportunity pleaded for
forgiveness, eying her little fist the while. He begged her to go with
him to a dance at his home that evening.

She forgave him for the sake of the invitation--and she glided and
dipped at the judge's house while Ollie spent the evening in his office
trying to finish the day's work. Her speed was not yet up to
requirements. Prue's speed was.

Other girls watched Prue manipulating her members in the intricate
mechanisms of the latest dances. They begged her to teach them, but she
laughed and said: "It's easy. Just watch what I do and do the same."

So Raphael told his pupils and Napoleon his subordinates.

That night Ollie and Prue reached home at nearly the same time. Ollie
told how well she was getting along in the judge's office. Prue told how
she had made wall-flowers of everybody else in Mrs. Hippisley's parlor.
Let those who know a mother's heart decide which daughter Serina was the
prouder of, the good or the bad.

She told William about it--how Ollie had learned to type letters with
both hands and how Prue got there with both feet. And papa said, "She's
a great girl!"

And that was singular.


A few mornings later Judge Hippisley stopped William on the street and
spoke in his best bench manner:

"Will, I hate to speak about your daughter, but I've got to."

"Why, Judge, what's Ollie done? Isn't she fast enough?"

"Ollie's all right. I'm speaking of Prue. She's entirely too fast. I
want you to tell her to let my son alone."

"Why, I--you--he--"

"My boy was clerking in Beadle's hardware-store, learning the business
and earning twelve dollars a week. And now he spends half his time
dancing with that dam--daughter of yours. And Beadle is going to fire
him if he doesn't 'tend to business better."

"I--I'll speak to Prue," was all Pepperall dared to say. The judge had
too many powers over him to be talked back to.

Papa spoke to Prue and it amused her very much. She said that old Mr.
Beadle had better speak to his own boy, who was Orton's fiercest rival
at the dances. And as for the fat old judge, he'd better take up dancing

The following Sunday three of the Carthage preachers attacked the tango.
One of them used for his text Matthew xiv:6, and the other used Mark
vi:22. Both told how John the Baptist had lost his head over Salome's
dancing. Doctor Brearley chose Isaiah lix:7 "Their feet run to evil ...
their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in
their paths."

Mr. and Mrs. Pepperall and Ollie sat under Doctor Brearley. Prue had
slept too late to be present. Doctor Brearley blamed so many of the
evils of the world on the tango craze that if a visitor from Mars had
dropped into a pew he might have judged that the world had been an Eden
till the tango came. But then Doctor Brearley had always blamed old
things on new things.

It was a ferocious sermon, however, and the wincing Pepperalls felt that
it was aimed directly at them. When Doctor Brearley denounced modern
parents for their own godlessness and the irreligion of their homes,
William took the blame to himself. On his way home he announced his
determination to resume the long-neglected family custom of reading from
the Bible.

After the heavy Sabbath dinner had been eaten--Prue was up in time for
this rite--he gathered his little flock in the parlor for a solemn
while. It had been his habit to choose the reading of the day at
random--he called it "letting the Lord decide." The big rusty-hinged
Bible fell open with a loud puff of dust several years old. Papa
adjusted his spectacles and read what he found before him:

"Nehemiah x: 'Now those that sealed were, Nehemiah, the Tirshatha, the
son of Hachaliah, and Zidkijah, Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, Pashur,
Amariah, Malchijah, Hattush ...'" He began to breathe hard. He was lost
in an impenetrable forest of names, and he could not pronounce one of
them. He sneaked a peek ahead, dimly made out "Bunni, Hizkijah, Magpiash
and Hashub," and choked.

It looked like sacrilege, but he ventured to close the Book and open it
once more.

This time he happened on the last chapter of the Book of Judges, wherein
is the chronicle of the plight of the tribe of Benjamin, which could not
get women to marry into it. The wife famine of the Benjamites was not in
the least interesting to Mr. Pepperall, but he would not tempt the Lord
again. So he read on, while the children yawned and shuffled, Prue

Suddenly Prue sat still and listened, and papa's cough grew worse. He
was reading about the "feast of the Lord in Shiloh yearly," and how the
elders of the congregation ordered the children of Benjamin to go and
lie in wait in the vineyards.

"'And see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in
dances, then come ye out of the vineyards and catch you every man his
wife of the daughters of Shiloh....

"'And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to
their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and
returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in

"'In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which
was right in his own eyes."

He closed the Book and stole a glance at Prue. Her eyes were so bright
with triumph that he had to say:

"Of course that proves nothing about dancing. It doesn't say that the
Shiloh girls made good wives."

Prue had the impudence to add, "And it doesn't say that the sons of
Benjamin were good dancers."

Her father silenced her with a scowl of horror. Then he made a long
prayer, directed more at his family than at the Lord. It apparently had
an equal effect on each. After a hymn had been mumbled through the
family dispersed.

Prue lingered just long enough to capture the Bible and carry it off to
her room in a double embrace. Serina and William tried to be glad to
see her sudden interest, but they were a little afraid of her exact

She made no noise at all and did not come down in time to help get
supper--the sad, cold supper of a Sunday evening. She slipped into the
dining-room just before the family was called. Papa found at his plate a
neat little stack of cards, bearing each a carefully lettered legend in
Prue's writing. He picked them up, glanced at them, and flushed.

"I dare you to read them," said Prue.

So he read: "'To every thing there is a season, and a time to every
purpose under the heaven ... a time to mourn and a time to dance.... He
hath made every thing beautiful in his time.' Ecclesiastes iii.

"'Let them praise his name in the dance ... for the Lord taketh pleasure
in his people.... Praise him with the timbrel and dance.... Praise him
upon the loud cymbals.' Psalms cxlix, cl.

"'O virgin of Israel ... thou shalt go forth in the dances of them that
make merry.... Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young
men and old together.' Jeremiah xxxi.

"'We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced.' Matthew xi: 17.

"'Michal, Saul's daughter, looked through a window, and saw King David
leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her
heart.... Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the
day of her death.' II Samuel vi: 16, 23."

Papa did not fall back upon the Shakesperean defense that the devil can
quote Scripture to his purpose. He choked a little and filled his hand
with the apple-butter he was spreading on his cold biscuit. Then he

"It's not that I don't believe in dancing. I don't say all dances are

"You better not," said Serina, darkly. "You met me at a dance. We used
to dance all the time till you got so's you wouldn't take me to parties
any more. And you got so clumsy and I began to take on flesh, and ran
short of breath like."

"Oh, there's mor'l dances as well as immor'l dances," William confessed,
not knowing the history of the opposition every dance has encountered in
its younger days. "The waltz now, or the lancers or the Virginia reel.
Even the two-step was all right. But this turkey-trot-tango
business--it's goin' to be the ruination of the home. It isn't fit for
decent folks to look at, let alone let their daughters do. I want you
should quit it, Prue. If you need exercise help your mother with the
housework. You go and tango round with a broom awhile. I don't see why
you don't try to help your sister, too, and make something useful of
yourself. I tell you, in these days a woman ought to be able to earn her
own living same's a man. You could get a good position in Shillaber's
dry-goods store if you only would."

Prue wriggled her shoulders impatiently and said: "I guess I'm one of
those Shiloh girls. I'll just dance round awhile, and maybe some rich
Benjamin gent'man will grab me and take me off your hands."


One evening Prue came home late to supper after a session at Bertha
Appleby's. An informal gathering had convened under the disguise of a
church-society meeting, only to degenerate into a dancing-bee after a
few perfunctory formalities.

Prue had just time to seize a bite before she went to dress for a
frankly confessed dancing-bout at Eliza Erf's. As she ate with angry
voracity she complained:

"I guess I'll just quit going to dances. I don't have a bit of fun any

Her father started from his chair to embrace the returned prodigal, but
he dropped into Ollie's place as Prue exclaimed:

"Everybody is always at me for help. 'Prue, is this right?' 'Prue, teach
me that.' 'Oh, what did you do then?' 'Is it the inside foot or the
outside you start on?' 'Do you drop on the front knee or the hind?' 'Do
you do the Innovation?' Why, it's worse than teaching school!"

"Why don't you teach school?" said William, feebly. "There's going to be
a vacancy in the kindergarten."

Prue sniffed. "I see myself!" And went to her room to dress.

Her father sank back discouraged. What ailed the girl? She simply would
not take life seriously. She would not lift her hand to help. When they
were so poor and the future so dour, how could she keep from earning a
little money? Was she condemned to be altogether useless, shiftless,
unprofitable? A weight about her father's neck till he could shift her
to the neck of some unhappy husband?

He remembered the fable of the ant and the locust. Prue was the locust,
frivoling away the summer. At the first cold blast she would be pleading
with the industrious ant, Ollie, to take her in. In the fable the locust
was turned away to freeze, but you couldn't do that with a human locust.
The ants just have to feed them. Poor Ollie!

Munching this quinine cud of thought, he went up to bed. He was footsore
from tramping the town for work. He had covered almost as much distance
as Prue had danced. He was all in. She was just going out.

She kissed him good night, but he would not answer. She went to kiss her
mother and Ollie and Horace. Ollie was practising shorthand, and kissed
Prue with sorrowing patience. Horace dodged the kiss, but called her
attention to an article in the evening paper:

"Say, Prue, if you want to get rich quick whyn't you charge for your
tango advice? Says here that teachers are springing up all over Noo York
and Chicawgo, and they get big, immense prices."

"How much?" said Prue, indifferently.

"Says here twenty-five dollars an hour. Some of 'em's earning a couple
of thousand dollars a week."

This information went through the room like a projectile from a
coast-defense gun. Serina listened with bated breath as Horace read the
confirmation. She shook her head:

"It beats all the way vice pays in this world."

Horace read on. The article described how some of the most prominent
women in metropolitan society were sponsoring the dances. A group of
ladies, whose names were more familiar to Serina than the Christian
martyrs, had rented a whole dwelling-house for a dancing couple to
disport in, so that the universal amusement could be practised

That settled Serina. Whatever Mrs. ---- and Miss ---- and the mother of
the Duchess of ---- did was better than right. It was swell.

Prue's frown now was the frown of meditation. "If they charge
twenty-five dollars an hour in New York, what ought to be the price in

"About five cents a week," said Serina, who did not approve of Carthage.
"Nobody in this town would pay anything for anything."

"We used to pay old Professor Durand to teach us to waltz and polka,"
said Horace, "in the good old days before pop got the bankruptcy habit."

That night Prue made an experiment. She danced exclusively with Ort
Hippisley and Grant Beadle, the surest-footed bipeds in the town. When
members of the awkward squad pleaded to cut in she danced away
impishly, will-o'-the-wispishly. When the girls lifted their skirts and
asked her to correct their footwork she referred them to the articles in
the magazines.

She was chiefly pestered by Idalene Brearley, daughter of the clergyman,
and his chief cross.

Finally Idalene Brearley tore Prue from the arms of Ort Hippisley,
backed her into a corner, and said:

"Say, Prue, you've got to listen! I'm invited to visit the swellest home
in Council Bluffs for a house-party. They call it a week-end; that shows
how swell they are. They're going to dance all the time. When it comes
to these new dances I'm weak at both ends, head and feet." She laughed
shamelessly at her own joke, as women do. "I don't want to go there like
I'd never been any place, or like Carthage wasn't up to date. I'm just
beginning to get the hang of the Maxixe and the Hesitation, and I
thought if you could give me a couple of days' real hard work I wouldn't
be such an awful gump. Could you? Do you suppose you could? Or could

Prue looked such astonishment at this that Idalene hastened to say:

"O' course I'm not asking you to kill yourself for nothing. How much
would you charge? Of course I haven't much saved up; but I thought if I
took two lessons a day you could make me a special rate. How much would
it be, d'you s'pose? Or what do you think?"

Prue wondered. This was a new and thrilling moment for her. A boy is
excited enough over the first penny he earns, but he is brought up to
earn money. To a girl, and a girl like Prue, the luxury was almost
intolerably intense. She finally found voice to murmur:

"How much you gettin' for the lessons you give?"

Idalene had, for the sake of pin money, been giving a few alleged
lessons in piano, voice, water-colors, bridge whist, fancy stitching,
brass-hammering, and things like that. She answered Prue with

"I get fifty cents an hour. But o' course I make a specialty of those

"I'm making a specialty of dancing," said Prue, coldly.

Idalene was torn between the bitterly opposite emotions of getting and
giving. Prue tried to speak with indifference, but she looked as greedy
as the old miser in the "Chimes of Normandy."

"Fifty cents suits me, seeing it's you."

Idalene gasped: "Well, o' course, two lessons a day would be a dollar.
Could you make it six bits by wholesale?"

Prue didn't see how she could. Teaching would interfere so with her
amusements. Finally Idalene sighed:

"Oh, well, all right! Call it fifty cents straight. When can I come over
to your house?"

"To my house?" gasped Prue. "Papa doesn't approve of my dancing. I'll
come to yours."

"Oh no, you won't," gasped Idalene. "My father doesn't dream that I
dance. I'm going to let him sleep as long as I can."

Here was a plight! Mrs. Judge Hippisley strolled up and demanded,
"What's all this whispering about?"

They explained their predicament. Mrs. Hippisley thought it was a
perfectly wonderful idea to take lessons. She would let Prue teach
Idalene in her parlor if Prue would teach her at the same time for

"Unless you think I'm too old and stupid to learn," she added,

Prue put a catfish on her hook: "Oh, Mrs. Hippisley, I've seen women
much older and fatter and stupider than you dancing in Chicago."

While the hours of tuition were being discussed Bertha Appleby tiptoed
up to eavesdrop, and pleaded to be accepted as a pupil. And she forced
on the timorous Prue a quarter as her matriculation fee.

Orton Hippisley beau'd Prue home that night, and they paused in an
arcade of maples to practise a new step she had been composing in the
back of her head.

He was an apt pupil, and when they had resumed their homeward stroll she
neglected to make him take his arm away. Encouraged, he tried to kiss
her when they reached the gate. She cuffed him again, but this time her
buffet was almost a caress. She sighed:

"I can't get very mad at you, you're such a quick student. I hope your
mother will learn as fast."

"My mother!" he exclaimed.

"Yes. She wants me to teach her the one-step."

"Don't you dare!"

"And why not?" she asked, with sultry calm.

"Do you think I'll let my mother carry on like that? Well, hardly!"

"Oh, so what I do isn't good enough for your mother!"

"I don't mean just that; but can't you see--Wait a minute--"

She slammed the gate on his outstretched fingers and he went home
fondling his wound.

The next day he strolled by the parlor door at his own home, but Prue
would not speak to him and his mother was too busy to invite him in. It
amazed him to see how humble his haughty mother was before the hitherto
neglected Prue.

Prue would have felt sorrier for him if she had not been so exalted over
her earnings.

She had not let on at home about her class till she could lay the proof
of her success on the supper-table. When she stacked up the entire two
dollars that she had earned by only a few miles of trotting, it looked
like the loot the mercenaries captured in that old Carthage which the
new Carthage had never heard of.

The family was aghast. It was twice as much as Ollie had earned that
day. Ollie's money "came reg'lar," of course, and would total up more in
the long run.

But for Prue to earn anything was a miracle. And in Carthage two dollars
is two dollars, at the very least.


The news that Carthage had a tango-teacher created a sensation rivaling
the advent of its first street-car. It gave the place a metropolitan
flavor. If it only had a slums district, now, it would be a great and
gloriously wicked city.

Prue was fairly besieged with applicants for lessons. Those who could
dance a few steps wanted the new steps. Those who could not dance at all
wanted to climb aboard the ark.

Mrs. Hippisley's drawing-room did not long serve its purpose. On the
third day the judge stalked in. He came home with a chill. At the sight
of his wife with one knee up, trying to paw like a horse, his chill
changed to fever. His roar was heard in the kitchen. He was so used to
domineering that he was not even afraid of his wife when he was in the
first flush of rage.

Prue and Idalene and Bertha he would have sentenced to deportation if he
had had the jurisdiction. He could at least send them home. He
threatened his wife with dire punishments if she ever took another step
of the abominable dance.

Prue was afraid of the judge, but she was not afraid of her own father.
She told him that she was going to use the parlor, and he told her that
she wasn't. The next day he came home to find the class installed.

He peeked into the parlor and saw Bertha Appleby dancing with Idalene
Brearley. Prue was in the arms of old "Tawm" Kinch, the town scoundrel,
a bald and wealthy old bachelor who had lingered uncaught like a wise
old trout in a pool, though generations of girls had tried every device,
from whipping the' stream to tickling his sides. He had refused every
bait and lived more or less alone in the big old mansion he had
inherited from his skinflint mother.

At the sight of Tawm Kinch in his parlor embracing his daughter and
bungling an odious dance with her, William Pepperall saw red. He would
throw the old brute out of his house. As he made his temper ready Mrs.
Judge Hippisley hurried up the hall. She had walked round the block,
crossed two back yards and climbed the kitchen steps to throw the judge
off the scent. William could hardly make a scene before these women. He
could only protest by leaving the house.

He found that, having let the outrage go unpunished, once, it was hard
to work up steam to drive it out the second day. Also he remembered that
he had asked Tawm Kinch for a position in his sash-and-blind factory
and Tawm had said he would see about it. Attacking Tawm Kinch would be
like assaulting his future bread and butter. He kept away from the house
as much as he could, sulking like a punished boy. One evening as he went
home to supper, purposely delaying as long as possible, he saw Tawm
Kinch coming from the house. He ran down the steps like an urchin and
seized William's hand as if he had not seen him for a long time.

"Take a walk with me, Bill," he said, and led William along an
unfrequented side street. After much hemming and hawing he began: "Bill,
I got a proposition to make you. I find there's a possibility of a
p'sition openin' up in the works and maybe I could fit you into it if
you'd do something for me."

William tried not to betray his overweening joy.

"I'd always do anything for you, Tawm," he said. "I always liked you,
always spoke well of you, which is more 'n I can say of some of the
other folks round here."

Tawm was flying too high to note the raw tactlessness of this; he went
right on:

"Bill--or Mr. Pepperall, I'd better say--I'm simply dead gone on that
girl of yours. She's the sweetest, smartest, gracefulest thing that ever
struck this town, and when I--Well, I'm afraid to ask her m'self, but I
was thinkin' if you could arrange it."

"Arrange what?"

"I want to marry her. I know I'm no kid, but she could have the big
house, and I can be as foolish as anybody about spending money when I've
a mind to. Prue could have 'most anything she wanted and I could give
you a good job. And then ever'body would be happy."


Papa did his best to be dignified and not turn a handspring or shout for
joy. He was like a boy trying to look sad when he learns that the
school-teacher is ill. He managed to hold back and tell Tawm Kinch that
this was kind of sudden like and he'd have to talk to the wife about it,
and o' course the girl would have to be considered.

He was good salesman enough not to leap at the first offer, and he left
Tawm Kinch guessing at the gate of the big house. To Tawm it looked as
lonely and forlorn as it looked majestic and desirable to Papa
Pepperall, glancing back over his shoulder as he sauntered home with
difficult deliberation. His heart was singing, "What a place to eat
Sunday dinners at!"

Once out of Tawm Kinch's range, he broke into a walk that was almost a
lope, and he rounded a corner into the portico that Judge Hippisley
carried ahead of him. When the judge had regained his breath he seized
papa by both lapels and growled:

"Look here, Pepperall, I told you to keep your daughter away from my
boy, and you didn't; and now Ort has lost his job. Beadle fired him
to-day. And jobs ain't easy to get in this town, as you know. And now
what's going to happen?"

William Pepperall was so exultant that he tried to say two things at the
same time; that Orton's job or loss of it was entirely immaterial and a
matter of perfect indifference. What he said was, "It's material of
perfect immaterence to me."

He spurned to correct himself and stalked on, leaving the judge gaping.
A few paces off William's knees weakened at the thought of how he had
jeopardized Ollie's position; but he tossed that aside with equal
"immaterence," for when Prue became Mrs. Kinch she could take Ollie to
live with her, or send her to school, or something.

When he reached home he drew his wife into the parlor to break the
glorious news to her. She was more hilarious than he had been. All their
financial problems were solved and their social position enhanced, as if
the family had suddenly been elevated to the peerage.

She was on pins and needles of impatience because Prue was late for
supper. She came down at last when the others had heard all about it and
nearly finished their food. She had her hat on, and she was in such a
hurry that she paid no attention to the fluttering of the covey, or the
prolonged throat-clearing of her father, who had difficulty in keeping
Serina from blurting out the end of the story first. At length he said:

"Well, Prue, I guess the tango ain't as bad as I made out."

"You going to join the class, poppa?" said Prue, round the spoonful of
preserved pears she checked before her mouth.

Her father went on: "I guess you're one of those daughters of Shiloh
like you said you was. And the son of Benjamin has come right out after
you. And he's the biggest son of a gun in the whole tribe."

Prue put down the following spoonful and turned to her mother: "What
ails poppa, momma? He talks feverish."

Serina fairly gurgled: "Prepare yourself for the grandest surprise.
You'd never guess."

And William had to jump to beat her to the news: "Tawm Kinch wants to
marry you."



"What makes you think so?"

"He asked me."

"Asked you!"

Serina clasped her hands and her eyes filled with tears of the rescued.
"Oh, Prue, ain't it wonderful? Ain't the Lord good to us?"

Prue did not catch fire from the blaze. She sniffed, "He wasn't very
good to Tawm Kinch."

William, bitter with disappointment, snapped: "What do you mean? He's
the richest man in town. Some folks say he's as good as worth a hundred
thousand dollars."

"Well, what of it? He'll never learn to dance. His feet interfere."

"What's dancing got to do with it? You'll stop all that foolishness
after you've married Tawm."

"Oh, will I? Ort Hippisley can dance better with one foot than Tawm
Kinch could dance if he was a centipede."

"Ort Hippisley! Humph! He's lost his job and he'll never get another.
You couldn't marry him."

"I'm not in any hurry to marry anybody."

The reaction from hope to confusion, the rejection of the glittering
gift he proffered, infuriated the hen-pecked, chickpecked father. He

"Well, you're going to marry Tawm Kinch or you're going to get out of my

"Papa!" gasped Ollie.

"Here, dad!" growled Horace.

"William!" cried Serina.

William thumped the table and rose to his full height. He had not often
risen to it. And his voice had an unsuspected timbre:

"I mean it. I've been a worm in this house long enough. Here's where I
turn. This girl has made me a laughing-stock and a despising-stock long
enough. She can take this grand opportunity I got for her or she can
pack up her duds and clear out--for good!"

He thumped the table again and sat down trembling with spent rage.
Serina was so crushed under the crumbled wall of her air-castles that
she could not protest. Olive and Horace felt that since Prue was so
indifferent to their happiness they need not consider hers. There was a
long, long silence.

The sound of a low whistle outside stole into the silence. Prue rose and
said, quietly:

"Ollie, would you mind packing my things for me? I'll send over for them
when I know where I'll be."

Ollie tried to answer, but her lips made no sound. Prue kissed each of
the solemn faces round the table, including her father's. They might
have been dead in their chairs for all their response. She paused with
prophetic loneliness. That low whistle shrilled again.

She murmured a somber, "Good-by, everybody," and went out.

The door closed like a dull "Good-by." They heard her swift feet slowly
crossing the porch and descending the steps. They imagined them upon the
walk. They heard the old gate squeal a rusty, "Good-by-y--Prue-ue!"


It was Ort Hippisley, of course, that waited for Prue outside the gate.
They swapped bad news. She had heard that he had lost his job, but not
that his father had forbidden him to speak to Prue.

Her evil tidings that she had been compelled to choose between marrying
Tawm Kinch and banishment from home threw Ort into a panic of dismay.
He was a natural-born dancer, but not a predestined hero. He had no
inspirations for crises like these. He was as graceful as a manly man
could be, but he was not at his best when the hour was darkest. He was
at his best when the band was playing.

In him Prue found somebody to support, not to lean on. But his distress
at her distress was so complete that it endeared him to her war-like
soul more than a braver quality might have done. They stood awhile thus
in each other's arms like a Pierrot and his Columbine with winter coming
on. Finally Orton sighed:

"What in Heaven's name is goin' to become of us? What you goin' to do,
Prue? Where can you go?"

Prue's resolution asserted itself. "The first place to go is Mrs.
Prosser's boardin'-house and get me a room. Then we can go on to the
dance and maybe that'll give us an idea."

"But maybe Mrs. Prosser won't want you since your father's turned you

"In the first place it was me that turned me out. In the second place
Mrs. Prosser wants 'most anybody that's got six dollars a week comin'
in. And I've got that, provided I can find a room to teach in."

Mrs. Prosser welcomed Prue, not without question, not without every
question she could get answered, but she made no great bones of the
family war. "The best o' families quar'ls," she said. "And half the time
they take their meals with me till they quiet down. I'll be losin' you

Prue broached the question of a room to teach in. To Mrs. Prosser,
renting a room had always the joy of renting a room. She said that her
"poller" was not used much and she'd be right glad to get something for
it. She would throw in the use of the pianna. Prue touched the keys. It
was an old boarding-house piano and sounded like a wire fence plucked;
but almost anything would serve.

So Prue and Orton hastened away to the party, and danced with the final
rapture of doing the forbidden thing under an overhanging cloud of
menace. Several more pupils enlisted themselves in Prue's classes.
Another problem was solved and a new danger commenced by Mr. Norman

The question of music had become serious. It was hard to make progress
when the dancers had to hum their own tunes. Prue could not buy a
phonograph, and the Prosser piano dated from a time when pianos did not
play themselves. Prue could "tear off a few rags," as she put it, but
she could not dance and teach and play her own music all at once. Mrs.
Hippisley was afraid to lend her phonograph lest the judge should notice
its absence.

And now like a sent angel came Mr. Norman Maugans, who played the
pipe-organ at the church, and offered to exchange his services as
musician for occasional lessons and the privilege of watching Prue
dance, for which privilege, he said, "folks in New York would pay a
hundred dollars a night if they knew what they was missin'."

Prue grabbed the bargain, and the next morning began to teach him to
play such things as "Some Smoke" and "Leg of Mutton."

At first he played "Girls, Run Along" so that it could hardly be told
from "Where Is My Wandering Boy To-night?" and his waltzes were mostly
hesitation; but by and by he got so that he fairly tangoed on the
pedals, and he was so funny bouncing about on the piano-stool to
"Something Seems Tingle-ingle-ingle-ingling So Queer" that the pupils
stopped dancing to watch him.

The tango was upon the world like a Mississippi at flood-time. The
levees were going over one by one; or if they stood fast they stood
alone, for the water crept round from above and backed up from below.

In Carthage, as in both Portlands, Maine and Oregon, and the two Cairos,
Illinois and Egypt, the Parises of Kentucky and France, the Yorks and
Londons, old and new; in Germany, Italy, and Japan, fathers, monarchs,
mayors, editors stormed against the new dance; societies passed
resolutions; police interfered; ballet-girls declared the dances immoral
and ungraceful. The army of the dance went right on growing.

Doctor Brearley called a meeting of the chief men of his congregation to
talk things over and discipline, if not expel, all guilty members.
Deacon Luxton was in a state of mind. He dared not vote in favor of the
dance and he dared not vote against it. He and his wife were taking
lessons from Prue surreptitiously at their own home. Judge Hippisley's
voice would have been louder for war if he had not discovered that his
wife was secretly addicted to the one-step. Old Doctor Brearley was
walking about rehearsing a sermon against it when he happened to enter a
room where Idalene was practising. He wrung from her a confession of the
depth of her iniquity. This knowledge paralyzed his enthusiasm.

Sour old Deacon Flugal was loudly in favor of making an example of Prue.
His wife was even more violent. She happened to mention her disgust to
Mrs. Deacon Luxton:

"I guess this'll put an end to the tango in Carthage!"

"Oh, I hope not!" Mrs. Luxton cried.

"You hope not!"

"Yes, I do. It has done my husband no end of good. It's taken pounds and
pounds of fat off him. It brings out the prespiration on him something
wonderful. And it's taken years off his age. He's that spry and full of
jokes and he's gettin' right spoony. He used to be a tumble cut-up, and
then he settled down so there was no livin' with him. But now he keeps
at me to buy some new clothes and he's thinkin' of gettin' a tuxeda. His
old disp'sition seems to have come back and he's as cheerful and, oh, so
affectionate! It's like a second honeymoon."

Mrs. Luxton gazed off into space with rapture. Mrs. Flugal was so silent
that Mrs. Luxton turned to see if she had walked away in disgust. But
there was in her eyes that light that lies in woman's eyes, and she
turned a delicious tomato-red as she murmured:

"How much, do you s'pose, would a term of lessons cost for my husband?"


Somehow the church failed to take official action. There was loud
criticism still, but phonographs that had hitherto been silent or at
least circumspect were heard to blare forth dance rhythms, and not
always with the soft needle on.

Mrs. Prosser's boarders were mainly past the age when they were liable
to temptation. At first the presence and activities of Prue had added a
tang of much-needed spice to this desert-island existence. They loved to
stare through the door or even to sit in at the lessons. But at the
first blast of the storm that the church had set up they scurried about
in consternation. Mrs. Prosser was informed that her boarding-house was
no longer a fit place for church-fearing ladies. She was warned to
expurgate Prue or lose the others. Mrs. Prosser regretfully banished the

And now Prue felt like the locust turned away from ant-hill after
ant-hill. She walked the streets disconsolately. Her feet from old habit
led her past her father's door. She paused to gaze at the dear front
walk and the beloved frayed steps, the darling need of paint, the
time-gnawed porch furniture, the empty hammock hooks. She sighed and
would have trudged on, but her mother saw her and called to her from the
sewing-room window, and ran out bareheaded in her old wrapper.

They embraced across the gate and Serina carried on so that Prue had to
go in with her to keep the neighbors from having too good a time. Prue
told her story, and Serina's jaw set in the kind of tetanus that mothers
are liable to. She sent Horace to fetch Prue's baggage from "old
Prosser's," and she re-established Prue in her former room.

When William came slumping up the steps, still jobless, he found the
doors locked, front and back, and the porch windows fastened. Serina
from an upper sill informed him that Prue was back, and he could either
accept her or go somewhere else to live.

William yielded, salving his conscience by refusing to speak to the
girl. Prue settled down with the meekness of returned prodigals for whom
fatted calves are killed. According to the old college song, "The
Prod.," when he got back, "sued father and brother for time while away."
That was the sort of prodigal Prue was. Prue brought her classes with

Papa Pepperall gave up the battle. He dared not lock his daughter in or
out or up. He must not beat her or strangle her with a bowstring or drop
her into the Bosporus. He could not sell her down the river. A modern
father has about as much authority as a chained watch-dog. He can jump
about and bark and snap, but he only abrades his own throat.

There were Pepperall feuds all over town. One by one the most
conservative were recruited or silenced.

William Pepperall, however, still fumed at home and abroad, and Judge
Hippisley would have authorized raids if there had been any places to
raid. Thus far the orgies had been confined to private walls. There was,
indeed, no place in Carthage for public dancing except the big room in
the Westcott Block over Jake Meyer's restaurant, and that room was
rented to various secret societies on various nights.

Prue's class outgrew the parlor, spread to the dining-room, and trickled
into the kitchen. Here the growth had to stop, till it was learned that
if Mr. Maugans played very loud he could be heard in the bedrooms
up-stairs. And there a sort of University Extension was practised for
ladies only.

And still the demand for education increased. The benighted held out
hands pleading for help. Young men and old offered fabulous sums, a
dollar a lesson, two dollars! Prue decided that if her mother would stay
up-stairs as a chaperon it would be proper to let the men dance there,

"But how am I going to cook the meals?" said mamma.

"We'll hire a cook," said Prue. And it was done. She even bought mamma
a new dress, and established her above-stairs as a sort of grand duenna.

Mamma watched Prue with such keenness that now and then, when Prue had
to rush down-stairs, mamma would sometimes solve a problem for one of
Prue's "scholars," as she called them.

One day papa came home to his pandemonium, jostled through the
couple-cluttered hall, stamped up-stairs, and found mamma showing Deacon
Flugal how to do the drop-step.

"You trot four short steps backward," mamma was saying, "then you make a
little dip; but don't swing your shoulders. Prue says if you want to
dance refined you mustn't swing your shoulders or your--your--the rest
of you."

Papa was ready to swing his shoulders and drop the deacon through the
window, but as he was about to protest the deacon caught mamma in his
arms and swept backward, dropping his fourth step incisively on papa's
instep, rendering papa _hors de combat_.

By the time William had rubbed witch-hazel into the deacon's heel-mark,
the deacon in a glorious "prespiration" had gone home with his own
breathless wife ditto. William dragged Serina into the bathroom, the
only room where dancing was not in progress. He warned her not to forget
that she had sworn to be a faithful wife. She pooh-poohed him and said:

"You'd better learn to dance yourself. Come on, I'll show you the Jedia
Luna. It's very easy and awful refined. Do just like I do."

She put her hands on her hips and began to sidle. She had him nearly
sidled into the bathtub before he could escape with the cry of a hunted
animal. At supper he thumped the table with another of his resolutions,
and cried:

"My house was not built for a dance-hall!"

"That's right, poppa," said Prue; "and it shakes so I'm afraid it'll
come down on us. I've been thinking that you'll have to hire me the
lodge-room in the Westcott Block. I can give classes there all day."

He refused flatly. So she persuaded Deacon Flugal and several gentlemen
who were on the waiting-list of her pupils to arrange it for her.

And now all day long she taught in the Westcott Block. The noise of her
music interfered with business--with lawyers and dentists and insurance
agents. At first they were hostile, then they were hypnotized. Lawyer
and client would drop a title discussion to quarrel over a step. The
dentist's forceps would dance along the teeth, and many an uncomplaining
bicuspid was wrenched from its happy home, many an uneasy molar assumed
a crown. The money Prue made would have been scandalous if money did not
tend to become self-sterilizing after it passes certain dimensions.

By and by the various lodge members found their meetings and their
secret rites to be so stupid, compared with the new dances, that almost
nobody came. Quorums were rare. Important members began to resign.
Everybody wanted to be Past Grand Master of the Tango.

The next step was the gradual postponement of meetings to permit of a
little informal dancing in the evening. The lodges invited their ladies
to enter the precincts and revel. Gradually the room was given over
night and day to the worship of Saint Vitus.


The solution of every human problem always opens another. People danced
themselves into enormities of appetite and thirst. It was not that food
was attractive in itself. Far from it. It was an interruption, a
distraction from the tango; a base streak of materialism in the bacon of
ecstasy. But it was necessary in order that strength might be kept up
for further dancing.

Deacon Flugal put it happily: "Eating is just like stoking. When I'm
giving a party at our house I hate to have to leave the company and go
down cellar and throw coal in the furnace. But it's got to be did or the
party's gotter stop."

Carthage had one good hotel and two bad ones, but all three were "down
near the deepo." Almost the only other place to eat away from home was
"Jake Meyer's Place," an odious restaurant where the food was ill chosen
and ill cooked, and served in china of primeval shapes as if stone had
been slightly hollowed out.

Prue was complaining that there was no place in Carthage where people
could dance with their meals and give "teas donsons." Horace was smitten
with a tremendous idea.

"Why not persuade Jake Meyer to clear a space in his rest'runt like they
do in Chicawgo?"

Prue was enraptured, and Horace was despatched to Jake with the proffer
of a magnificent opportunity. Horace cannily tried to extract from Jake
the promise of a commission before he told him. Jake promised. Then
Horace sprang his invention.

Now Jake was even more bitter against the tango than Doctor Brearley,
Judge Hippisley, or Mr. Pepperall. The bar annex to his restaurant, or
rather the bar to which his restaurant was annexed, had been almost
deserted of evenings since the vicious dance mania raged. The
bowling-alley where the thirst-producing dust was wont to arise in
clouds was mute. Over his head he heard the eternal Maugans and the
myriad-hoofed shuffle of the unceasing dance. When he understood what
Horace proposed he emitted the roar of an old uhlan, and the only
commission he offered Horace was the commission of murder upon his

Horace retreated in disorder and reported to Prue. Prue called upon Jake
herself, smilingly told him that all he needed to do was to crowd his
tables together round a clear space, revolutionize his menu, get a cook
who would cook, and spend about five hundred dollars on decorations.

"Five hundret thalers!" Jake howled. "I sell you de whole shop for five
hundret thalers."

"I'll think it over," said Prue as she walked out.

She could think over all of it except the five hundred dollars. She had
never thought that high. She told Horace, and he said that the way to
finance anything was to borrow the money from the bank.

Prue called on Clarence Dolge, the bank president she knew best. He
asked her a number of personal questions about her earnings. He was
surprised at their amount and horrified that she had saved none of them.
He advised her to start an account with him; but she reminded him that
she had not come to put in, but to take out.

He said that he would cheerfully lend her the money if she could get a
proper indorsement on her note. She knew that her father did not indorse
her dancing, but perhaps he might feel differently about her note.

"I might get poppa to sign his name," she smiled.

Mr. Dolge exclaimed, "No, thank you!" without a moment's hesitation. He
already had a sheaf of papa's autographs, all duly protested.

She went to another bank, whose president announced that he would have
to put the very unusual proposal before the directors. Judge Hippisley
was most of the directors. The president did not report exactly what the
directors said, for Prue, after all, was a woman. But she did not get
the five hundred.

Prue had set her heart on providing Carthage with a _café dansant_. She
determined to save her money. Prue saving!

It was hard, too, for shoes gave out quickly and she could not wear the
same frock all the time. And sometimes at night she was so tired she
just could not walk home and she rode home in a hack. A number of young
men offered to buggy-ride her home or to take her in their little
automobiles. But they, too, seemed to confuse art and business with

Sometimes she would ask Ort to ride home with her, but she wouldn't let
him pay for the hack. Indeed he could not if he would. His devotion to
Prue's school had cost him his job, and the judge would not give him a

Sometimes in the hack Prue would permit Ort to keep his arm round her.
Sometimes when he was very doleful she would have to ask him to put it
round her. But it was all right, because they were going to get married
when Orton learned how to earn some money. He was afraid he would have
to leave Carthage. But how could he tear himself from Prue? She would
not let him talk about it.


Now the fame of Prue and her prancing was not long pent up in Carthage.
Visitors from other towns saw her work and carried her praises home.
Sometimes farmers, driving into town, would hear Mr. Maugans's music
through the open windows. Their daughters would climb the stairs and
peer in and lose their taste for the old dances, and wistfully entreat
Prue to learn them them newfangled steps.

In the towns smaller than Carthage the anxiety for the tango fermented.
A class was formed in Oscawanna, and Prue was bribed to come over twice
a week and help.

Clint Sprague, the manager of the Carthage Opera House, which was now
chiefly devoted to moving pictures, with occasional interpolations of
vaudeville, came home from Chicago with stories of the enormous moneys
obtained by certain tango teams. He proposed to book Prue in a chain of
small theaters round about, if she could get a dancing partner. She said
she had one.

Sprague wrote glowing letters to neighboring theater-managers, but,
being theater-managers, they were unable to know what their publics
wanted. They declined to take any risks, but offered Sprague their
houses at the regular rental, leaving him any profits that might result.

Clint glumly admitted that it wouldn't cost much to try it out in
Oscawanna. He would guarantee the rental and pay for the show-cards and
the dodgers; Prue would pay the fare and hotel bills of herself, her
partner, and Mr. Maugans.

Prue hesitated. It was an expense and a risk. Prue cautious! She would
take nobody for partner but Orton Hippisley. Perhaps he could borrow the
money from his father. She told him about it, and he was wild with
enthusiasm. He loved to dance with Prue. To invest money in enlarging
her fame would be divine.

He saw the judge. Then he heard him.

He came back to Prue and told her in as delicate a translation as he
could manage that it was all off. The judge had bellowed at him that not
only would he not finance his outrageous escapade with that shameless
Pepperall baggage, but if the boy dared to undertake it he would disown

"Now you'll have to go," said Prue, grimly.

"But I have no money, honey," he protested, miserably.

"I'll pay your expenses and give you half what I get," she said.

He refused flatly to share in the profits. His poverty consented to
accept the railroad fare and food enough to dance on. And he would pay
that back the first job he got.

Then Prue went to Clint Sprague and offered to pay the bills if he would
give her three-fourths of the profits. He fumed; but she drove a good
bargain. Prue driving bargains! At last he consented, growling.

When Prue announced the make-up of her troupe there was a cyclone in her
own home. Papa was as loud as the judge.

"You goin' gallivantin' round the country with that Maugans idiot and
that young Hippisley scoundrel? Well, I guess not! You've disgraced us
enough in our own town, without spreading the poor but honorable name of
Pepperall all over Oscawanna and Perkinsville and Athens and Thebes."

The worn-out, typewritten-out Ollie pleaded against Prue's lawlessness.
It would be sure to cost her her place in the judge's office. It was bad
enough now.

Even Serina, who had become a mere echo of Prue, herself went so far as
to say, "Really, Prue, you know!"

Prue thought awhile and said: "I'll fix that all right. Don't you worry.
There'll be no scandal. I'll marry the boy."


And she did! Took ten dollars from the hiding-place where she banked her
wealth, and took the boy to an Oscawanna preacher, and telegraphed home
that he was hers and she his and both each other's.

The news spread like oil ablaze on water. Mrs. Hippisley had consented
to take lessons of Prue, but she had never dreamed of losing her eldest
son to her. She and Serina had quite a "run-in" on the telephone.
William and the judge almost had a fight-out--and right on Main Street,

Each accused the other of fathering a child that had decoyed away and
ruined the life of the other child. Both were so scorched with helpless
wrath that each went home to his bed and threatened to bite any hand
that was held out in comfort. Judge Hippisley had just strength enough
to send word to poor Olive that she was fired.


The next news came the next day. Oscawanna had been famished for a sight
of the world-sweeping dances. It turned out in multitudes to see the
famous Carthage queen in the new steps. The opera-house there had not
held such a crowd since William J. Bryan spoke there--the time he did
not charge admission. According to the Oscawanna _Eagle_: "This
enterprising city paid one thousand dollars to see Peerless Prue
Pepperall dance with her partner Otto Hipkinson. What you got to say
about that, ye scribes of Carthage?"

Like the corpse in Ben King's poem, Judge Hippisley sat up at the news
and said: "What's that?" And when the figures were repeated he "dropped
dead again."

The next day word was received that Perkinsville, jealous of Oscawanna,
had shoveled twelve hundred dollars into the drug-store where tickets
were sold. Two sick people had nearly died because they couldn't get
their prescriptions filled for twelve hours, and the mayor of the town
had had to go behind the counter and pick out his own stomach bitters.

The Athens theater had been sold out so quickly that the town hall was
engaged for a special matinée. Athens paid about fifteen hundred
dollars. The Athenians had never suspected that there was so much money
in town. People who had not paid a bill for months managed to dig up
cash for tickets.

Indignant Oscawanna wired for a return engagement, so that those who had
been crowded out could see the epoch-making dances. Those who had seen
them wanted to see them again. In the mornings Prue gave lessons to
select classes at auction prices.

Wonderful as this was, unbelievable, indeed, to Carthage, it was not
surprising. This blue and lonely dispeptic world has always been ready
to enrich the lucky being that can tempt its palate with something it
wants and didn't know it wanted. Other people were leaping from poverty
to wealth all over the world for teaching the world to dance again. Prue
caught the crest of the wave that overswept a neglected region.

The influence of her success on her people and her neighbors was bound
to be overwhelming. The judge modulated from a contemptuous allusion to
"that Pepperall cat" to "my daughter-in-law." Prue's father, who had
never watched her dance, had refused to collaborate even that far in her
ruination, could not continue to believe that she was entirely lost
when she was so conspicuously found.

Perhaps he was right. Perhaps the world is so wholesome and so well
balanced that nobody ever attained enormous prosperity without some
excuse for it. People who contribute the beauty, laughter, thrills, and
rhythm to the world may do as much to make life livable as people who
invent electric lights and telephones and automobiles. Why should they
not be paid handsomely?

Prue, the impossible, unimaginable Prue, triumphed home safely with
several thousands of dollars in her satchel. Orton bought a revolver to
guard it with, and nearly shot one of his priceless feet off with it.
They dumped the money upon the shelf of the banker who had refused to
lend Prue five hundred dollars. He had to raise the steel grating to get
the bundle in. The receiving teller almost fainted and had to count it

Clint Sprague alone was disconsolate. He had refused to risk Prue's
expenses, had forced her to take the lioness's share of the actual costs
and the imaginary profits. He almost wept over what he might have had,
despising what he had.

Prue ought to have been a wreck; but there is no stimulant like success.
In a boat-race the winning crew never collapses. Prue's mother begged
her to rest; her doctor warned her that she would drop dead. But she
smiled, "If I can die dancing it won't be so bad."

Even more maddeningly joyful than the dancing now was the rhapsody of
income. To be both Salome and Hetty Green! Mr. Dolge figured out her
income. At any reasonable rate of interest it represented a capital far
bigger than Tawm Kinch's mythical hundred thousand. Mr. Dolge said to
William Pepperall:

"Bill, your daughter is the richest man in town. Any time you want to
borrow a little money, get her name on your note and I'll be glad to let
you have it."

Somehow his little pleasantry brought no smile to William's face. He

"You mind your own business and I'll mind mine."

"Oh, I suppose you don't have to borrow it," Dolge purred; "she just
gives it to you."

William almost wept at this humiliation.

Prue bought out Jake Meyer's restaurant. She spent a thousand dollars on
its decoration. She consoled Ollie with a position as her secretary at
twenty-five dollars a week and bought her some new dresses.

Her mother scolded poor Ollie for being such a stick as not to be able
to dance like her sister and having to be dependent on her. There was
something hideously immoral and disconcerting about this success. But
then there always is. Prue was whisked from the ranks of the resentful
poor to those of the predatory rich.

Prue established Horace as cashier of the restaurant. She wanted to make
her father manager, but he could not bend his pride to the yoke of
taking wages from his child. If she had come home in disgrace and
repentance he could have been a father to her.

The blossoming of what had been Jake Meyer's place into what Carthage
called the "Palais de Pepperall" was a festival indeed. The newspapers,
in which at Horace's suggestion Prue advertised lavishly, gave the event
head-lines on the front page. The article included a complete catalogue
of those present. This roster of forty "Mesdames" was thereafter
accepted as the authorized beadroll of the Carthage Four Hundred. Mrs.
Hippisley was present and as proud as Judy. But the judge and William
Pepperall were absent, and Prue felt an ache in a heart that should have
been so full of pride. She and Orton rode home in a hack and she cried
all the way. In fact, he had to stick his head out and tell the driver
to drive round awhile until she was calm enough to go home.

A few days later, as Prue was hurrying along the street looking over a
list of things she had to purchase for her restaurant, she encountered
old Doctor Brearley, who was looking over a list of subscribers to the
fund for paying the overdue interest on the mortgage on the new steeple.
He was afraid the builders might take it down.

In trying to pass each other Prue and the preacher fell into an
involuntary tango step that delighted the witnesses. When Doctor
Brearley had recovered his composure, and before he had adjusted his
spectacles, he thought that Prue was Bertha Appleby, and he said:

"Ah, my dear child, I was just going to call on you and see if you
couldn't contribute a little to help us out in this very worthy cause."

Prue let him explain, and then she said:

"Tell you what I'll do, Doctor: I'll give you the entire proceeds of my
restaurant for one evening. And I'll dance for you with my husband."

Doctor Brearley was aghast when he realized the situation. He was afraid
to accept; afraid to refuse. He was in an excruciating dilemma. Prue had
mercy on him. She said:

"I'll just announce it as an idea of my own. You needn't have anything
to do with it."

The townspeople were set in a turmoil over Prue's latest audacity. Half
the church members declared it an outrage; the other half decided that
it gave them an opportunity to see her dance under safe auspices. Foxy


The restaurant was crowded with unfamiliar faces, terrified at what they
were to witness. Doctor Brearley had not known what to do. It seemed so
mean to stay away and so perilous to go. His daughter solved the
problem by telling him that she would say she had made him come. He went
so far as to let her drag him in. "But just for a moment," he
explained. "He really must leave immediately after Mr. and Mrs.
Hippisley's--er--exercises." He apparently apologized to the other
guests, but really to an outraged heaven.

He trembled with anxiety on the edge of his chair. The savagery of the
music alarmed him. When Prue walked out with her husband the old Doctor
was distressed by her beauty. Then they danced and his heart thumped;
but subtly it was persuaded to thump in the measure of that unholy
Maxixe. He did not know that outside in the street before the two
windows stood two exiled fathers watching in bitter loneliness.

He saw a little love drama displayed, and reminded himself that, after
all, some critics said that the Song of Solomon was a kind of wedding
drama or dance. After all, Mrs. Hippisley was squired by her perfectly
proper and very earnest young husband--though Orton in his black clothes
was hardly more than her shifting shadow.

The old preacher had been studying his Cruden, and bolstering himself
up, too, with the very Scriptural texts that Prue had written out for
her stiff-necked father. He had met other texts that she had not known
how to find. The idea came to the preacher that, in a sense, since God
made everything He must have made the dance, breathed its impulse into
the clay.

This daughter of Shiloh was an extraordinarily successful piece of
workmanship. There was nothing very wicked surely about that coquettish
bending of her head, those playful escapes from her husband's embrace,
that heel-and-toe tripping, that lithe elusiveness, that joyous psalmody
of youth.

Prue was so pretty and her ways so pretty that the old man felt the
pathos of beauty, so fleet, so fleeting, so lyrical, so full of--Alas!
The tears were in his eyes, and he almost applauded with the others when
the dance was finished. He bowed vaguely in the direction of the anxious
Prue and made his way out. She felt rebuked and condemned and would not
be comforted by the praise of others. She did not know that the old
preacher had encountered on the sidewalk Judge Hippisley. Doctor
Brearley had forgotten that the judge had not yet ordered his own
decision reversed, and he thought he was saying the unavoidable thing
when he murmured:

"Ah, Judge, how proud you must be of your dear son's dear wife. I fancy
that Miriam, the prophetess, must have danced something like that on the
banks of the Red Sea when the Egyptians were overthrown."

Then he put up the umbrella he always carried and stumbled back to his
parsonage under the star-light. His heart was dancing a trifle, and he
escaped the scene of wrath that broke out as soon as he was away.

For William Pepperall had a lump in his throat made up of equal parts of
desire to cry and desire to fight, and he said to Judge Hippisley with
all truculence:

"Look here, Judge! I understand you been jawin' round this town about my
daughter not being all she'd ought to be. Now I'm goin' to put a stop to
that jaw of yours if I have to slam it right through the top of your
head. If you want to send me to jail for contemp' of court, sentence me
for life, because that's the way I feel about you, you fat old--"

Judge Hippisley put up wide-open hands and protested:

"Why, Bill, I--I just been wonderin' how I could get your daughter to
make up with me. I been afraid to ask her for fear she'd just think I
was toadyin' to her. I think she's the finest girl ever came out of
Carthage. Do you suppose she'd make up and--and come over to our house
to dinner Sunday?"

"Let's ask her," said William, and they walked in at the door.


Early one morning about six months from the first dismal Monday morning
after William Pepperall's last bankruptcy, Serina wakened to find that
William was already up. She had been oversleeping with that luxury which
a woman can experience only in an expensive and frilly nightie combined
with hemstitched linen sheets. She opened her heavy and
slumber-contented eyes to behold her husband in a suit of partly-silk
pajamas. He was making strange motions with his feet. "What on earth you
doing there?" she yawned, and William grinned.

"Yestiddy afternoon the judge was showin' me a new step in this Max
Hicks dance. It's right cute. Goes like this."

Mamma Pepperall watched him cavort a moment, then sniffed
contemptuously, and rolled out like a fireman summoned.

"Not a bit like it! It goes like this."

A few minutes later the door opened and Ollie put her head in.

"For Heaven's sake be quiet! You'll wake Prue, and she's all wore out;
and she's only got an hour more before they have to get up and take the
train for Des Moines."

The old rascals promised to be good, but as soon as she had gone they
wrangled in whispers and danced on tiptoes. Suddenly Prue put her head
in at the door and gasped:

"What in Heaven's name are you and poppa up to? Do you want to wake

Papa had to explain:

"I got a new step, Prue. Goes like this. Come on, momma."

Serina shyly took her place in his arms; but they had taken only a few
strides when Prue hissed:

"Sh-h! Don't do it! Stop it!"


"In the first place it's out of date. And in the second place it's not

Then the hard-working locust, having rebuked the frivolous ants, went
back to bed.



For two years life at Harvard was one long siesta to Orson Carver, 2d.
And then he fell off the window-seat. Orson Carver, 1st, ordered him to
wake up and get to work at once. Orson announced to his friends that he
was leaving college to pay an extensive visit to "Carthage" and it
sounded magnificent until he added, "in the Middle West."

A struggling young railroad had succumbed to hard times out there, and
Orson senior had been appointed receiver. It was the Carthage, Thebes &
Rome Railroad, connecting three towns whose names were larger than their

Since Orson had seemed unable to decide what career to choose, if any,
his father decided for him--decided that he should take up railroading
and begin at the beginning, which was the office at Carthage. And Orson
went West to "grow up young man with the country."

Carthage bore not the faintest resemblance to the moving-picture life of
the West; he didn't see a single person on horseback. Yet his mother
thought of him as one who had vanished into the Mojave desert. She wrote
to warn him not to drink the alkali water.

Young Orson, regarding the villagers with patient disdain, was amazed to
find that they were patronizing him with amusement. They spoke of his
adored Boston as an old-fogy place with "no git-up-and-git."

Orson's mother was somewhat comforted when he wrote her that the young
women of Carthage were noisy rowdies dressed like frumps. She was a
trifle alarmed when she read in his next letter that some of them were
not half bad-looking, surprisingly well groomed for so far West, and
fairly attractive till they opened their mouths. Then, he said, they
twanged the banjo at every vowel and went over the letter "r" as if it
were a bump in the road. He had no desire for blinders, but he said that
he would derive comfort from a pair of ear-muffs. By and by he was
writing her not to be worried about losing him, for there was safety in
numbers, and Carthage was so crowded with such graces that he could
never single out one siren among so many. The word "siren" forced his
mother to conclude that even their voices had ceased to annoy him. She
expected him to bring home an Indian squaw or a cowgirl bride on any

And so Orson Carver was by delicate degrees engulfed in the life of
Carthage. He was never assimilated. He kept his own "dialect," as they
called it.

The girl that Orson especially attended in Carthage was Tudie Litton,
as pretty a creature as he could imagine or desire. For manifest reasons
he affected an interest in her brother Arthur. And Arthur, with a
characteristic brotherly feeling, tried to keep his sister in her place.
He not only told her that she was "not such a much," but he also said to

"You think my sister is some girl, but wait till you see Em Terriberry.
She makes Tudie look like something the pup found outside. Just you wait
till you see Em. She's been to boarding-school and made some swell
friends there, and they've taken her to Europe with 'em. Just you wait."

"I'll wait," said Orson, and proceeded to do so.

But Em remained out of town so long that he had begun to believe her a
myth, when one day the word passed down the line that she was coming
home at last.

That night Tudie murmured a hope that Orson would not be so infatuated
with the new-comer as to cast old "friends" aside. She underlined the
word "friends" with a long, slow sigh like a heavy pen-stroke, and not
without reason, for the word by itself was mild in view of the fact that
the "friends" were seated in a motionless hammock in a moon-sheltered
porch corner and holding on to each other as if a comet had struck the
earth and they were in grave danger of being flung off the planet.

Orson assured Tudie: "No woman exists who could come between us!" And a
woman must have been supernaturally thin to achieve the feat at that

But even Tudie, in her jealous dread, had no word to say against the
imminent Em. Everybody spoke so well of her that Orson had a mingled
expectation of seeing an Aphrodite and a Sister of Charity rolled into

Now Carthage was by no means one of those petty towns where nearly
everybody goes to the station to meet nearly every train. But nearly
everybody went down to see Em arrive. Foremost among the throng was
Arthur Litton. Before Em left town he and she had been engaged "on
approval." While she was away he kept in practice by taking Liddy Sovey
to parties and prayer-meetings and picnics. Now that Em was on the way
home Arthur let Liddy drop with a thud and groomed himself once more to
wear the livery of Em's fiancé.

When the crowd met the train it was recognized that Arthur was next in
importance to Em's father and mother. Nobody dreamed of pushing up ahead
of him. On the outskirts of the mêlée stood Orson Carver. He gave
railroad business as the pretext for his visit to the station, and he
hovered in the offing.

As the train from the East slid in, voices cried, "Hello, Em!" "Woo-oo!"
"Oh, Em!" "Oh, you Emma!" and other Carthage equivalents for "_Ave!_"
and "all hail!"

Orson saw that a girl standing on the Pullman platform waved a
handkerchief and smiled joyously in response. This must be Em. When the
train stopped with a pneumatic wail she descended the steps like a young
queen coming down from a dais.

She was gowned to the minute; she carried herself with metropolitan
poise; her very hilarity had the city touch. Orson longed to dash
forward and throw his coat under her feet, to snatch away the porter's
hand-step and put his heart there in its place. But he could not do
these things unintroduced. He hung back and watched her hug her mother
and father in a brief wrestling-match while Arthur stood by in simpering

When she reached out her hand to Arthur he wrung it and clung to it with
the dignity of proprietorship and a smirk that seemed to say: "I own
this beautiful object, and I could kiss her if I wanted to. And she
would like it. But I am too well bred to do such a thing in the presence
of so many people."

Orson was not close enough to hear what he actually said. The glow in
his eyes, however, was enough. Then Em visibly spoke. When her lips
moved Arthur stared at her aghast; seemed to ask her to repeat what she
said. She evidently did. Now Arthur looked askance as if her words
shocked him.

Her father and mother, too, exchanged glances of dismay and chagrin. The
throng of friends pressing forward in noisy salutation was silenced as
if a great hand were clapped over every murmurous mouth.

Orson wondered what terrible thing the girl could have spoken. There was
nothing coarse in her manner. Delicacy and grace seemed to mark her. And
whatever it was she said she smiled luminously when she said it.

The look in her eyes was incompatible with profanity, mild soever. Yet
her language must have been appalling, for her father and mother blushed
and seemed to be ashamed of bringing her into the world, sorry that she
had come home. The ovation froze away into a confused babble.

What could the girl have said?


Orson was called in by the station agent before he could question any of
the greeters. When he was released the throng had dispersed. The
Terriberrys had clambered into the family surrey and driven home with
their disgrace.

But that night there was a party at the Littons', planned in Emma's
honor. Tudie had invited Orson to be present.

He found that the one theme of conversation was Emma. Everybody said to
him, "Have you seen Emma?" and when he said "Yes," everybody demanded,
"Have you heard her?" and when he said "No" everybody said, "Just you

Orson was growing desperate over the mystery. He seized Newt Elkey by
the arm and said, "What does she do?"

"What does who do?"

"This Miss Em Terriberry. Everybody says, 'Have you heard her?'"

"Well, haven't you?"

"No! What under the sun does she say?"

"Just you wait. 'Shh!"

Then Emma came down the stairs like a slowly swooping angel.

She had seemed a princess in her traveling-togs; in her evening gown--!
Orson had not seen such a gown since he had been in Paris. He imagined
this girl poised on the noble stairway of the Opéra there. Em came
floating down upon these small-town girls with this fabric from heavenly
looms, and reduced them once for all to a chorus.

But there was no scorn in her manner and no humility in her welcome. The
Carthage girls frankly gave her her triumph, yet when she reached the
foot of the stairs and the waiting Arthur she murmured something that
broke the spell. The crowd rippled with suppressed amusement. Arthur

Orson was again too remote to hear. But he could feel the wave of
derision, and he could see the hot shame on Arthur's cheeks. Emma bent
low for her train, took Arthur's arm, and disappeared into the parlor
where the dancing had begun.

Orson felt his arm pinched, and turned to find Tudie looking at him.
"This is our dance," she said, "unless you'd rather dance with her."

"With her? With Miss Terriberry, you mean?"

"Naturally. You were staring at her so hard I thought your eyes would
roll out on the floor."

There was only one way to quell this mutiny, and that was to soothe it
away. He caught Tudie in his arms. It was strenuous work bumping about
in that little parlor, and collisions were incessant, but he wooed Tudie
as if they were afloat in interstellar spaces.

They collided oftenest with Arthur and his Emma, for the lucky youth who
held that drifting nymph seemed most unhappy in his pride. The girl was
talking amiably, but the man was grim and furtive and as careless of his
steering as a tipsy chauffeur.

Orson forgot himself enough to comment to Tudie, "Your brother doesn't
seem to be enjoying himself."

"Poor boy, he's heartbroken."


"He's so disappointed with Em."

"I can't see anything wrong with her."

"Evidently not; but have you heard her?"

In a sudden access of rage Orson stopped short in the middle of the
swirl, and, ignoring the battery of other dancers, demanded, "In
Heaven's name, what's the matter with the girl?"

"Nothing, I should judge from the look on your face after your close

"Oh, for pity's sake, don't begin on me; but tell me--"

"Talk to her and find out," said Tudie, with a twang that resounded as
the music came to a stop. "Oh, Em--Miss Terriberry, this is Mr. Carver;
he's dying to meet you."

She whirled around so quickly that he almost fell into the girl's arms.
She received him with a smile of self-possession: "Chahmed, Mr. Cahveh."

Orson's Eastern ears, expecting some horror of speech, felt delight
instead. She did not say "charrmed" like an alarm-clock breaking out.
She did not trundle his name up like a wheelbarrow. She softened the "a"
and ignored the "r."

Tudie rolled the "r" on his ear-drums as with drum-sticks, and by
contrast the sound came to him as: "Misterr Carrverr comes from
Harrvarrd. He calls it Havvad."

"Oh," said Em, with further illumination, "I woah the Hahvahd colohs the
lahst time I went to a game."

Orson wanted to say something about her lips being the perfect Havvad
crimson, but he did not quite dare--yet. And being of New England, he
would always be parsimonious with flatteries.

Tudie hooked her brother's arm and said with an angelic spitefulness,
"We'll leave you two together," and swished away.

Orson immediately asked for the next dance and Em granted it. While they
were waiting for the rheumatic piano to resume they promenaded. Orson
noted that everybody they passed regarded them with a sly and cynical
amusement. It froze all the language on his lips, and the girl was still
breathing so fast from the dance that she apologized. Orson wanted to
tell her how glorious she looked with her cheeks kindled, her lips
parted, and her young bosom panting. But he suppressed the feverish
impulse. And he wondered more and more what ridiculous quality the
Carthaginians could have found in her who had returned in such splendor.

The piano exploded now with a brazen impudence of clamor. Orson opened
his arms to her, but she shook her head: "Oh, I cahn't dahnce again just
yet. You'd bettah find anothah pahtnah."

She said it meekly, and seemed to be shyly pleased when he said he much
preferred to sit it out. And they sat it out--on the porch. Moonlight
could not have been more luscious on Cleopatra's barge than it was
there. The piazza, which needed paint in the daylight, was blue enameled
by the moon. The girl's voice was in key with the harmony of the hour
and she brought him tidings from the East and from Europe. They were as
grateful as home news in exile.

He expected to have her torn from him at any moment. But, to his
amazement, no one came to demand her. They were permitted to sit
undisturbed for dance after dance. She was suffering ostracism. The more
he talked to her the more he was puzzled. Even Arthur did not appear.
Even the normal jealousy of a fiancé was not evident. Orson's brain grew
frantic for explanation. The girl was not wicked, nor insolent. She
plainly had no contagious disease, no leprosy, no plague, not even a
cold. Then why was she persecuted?

He was still fretting when the word was passed that supper was ready,
and they were called in. Plates and napkins were handed about by
obliging young gallants; chicken salad and sandwiches were dealt out
with a lavish hand, and ice-cream and cake completed the banquet.

Arthur had the decency to sit with Em and to bring her things to eat,
but he munched grimly at his own fodder. Orson tagged along and sat on
the same sofa. It was surprising how much noise the guests made while
they consumed their food. The laughter and clatter contrasted with the
soft speech of Em, all to her advantage.

When the provender was gone, and the plates were removed, Tudie whisked
Orson away to dance with her. As he danced he noted that Em was a
wall-flower, trying to look unconcerned, but finally seeking shelter by
the side of Tudie's mother, who gave her scant hospitality.

Tudie began at once, "Well, have you found out?"

"No, I haven't."

"Didn't you notice how affected she is?"

"No more than any other girl."

"Oh, thank you! So you think I'm affected."

"Not especially. But everybody is, one way or another--even the animals
and the birds."

"Really! And what is my affectation?"

"I don't know, and I wouldn't tell you if I did. What's Miss

"Didn't you dahnce with her?"


"Well, that's it."

"What's that?"

"She says 'dahnce,' doesn't she?"

"I believe she does."

"Well, she used to say 'dannce' like the rest of us."

"What of it? Is it a sin to change?"

"It's an affectation."

"Why? Is education an affectation?"

"Oh! so you call the rest of us uneducated?"

"For Heaven's sake, no! You know too much, if anything. But what has
that to do with Miss Terriberry?"

Because their minds were at such loggerheads their feet could not keep
measure. They dropped out of the dance and sought the porch, while Tudie
raged on:

"She has no right to put on airs. Her father is no better than mine. Who
is she, anyway, that she should say 'dahnce' and 'cahn't' and

Orson was amazed at the depths of bitterness stirred up by a mere
question of pronunciation. He answered, softly: "Some of the meekest
people in the world use the soft 'a.' I say 'dahnce.'"

"Oh, but you can't help saying it."

"Yes, I could if I tried."

"But you were born where everybody talks like that. Em was born out

"She has traveled, though."

"So have I. And I didn't come back playing copy-cat."

"It's natural for some people to mimic others. She may not be as
strong-minded as you are." He thought that rather diplomatic. "Besides
'dannce' and 'cann't' aren't correct."

"Oh yes, they are!"

"Oh no, they're not! Not by any dictionary ever printed."

"Then they'd better print some more. Dictionaries don't know everything.
They're very inconsistent."


"Now you say 'tomahto' where I say 'tomayto.'"


"Why don't you say 'potahto'?"

"Because nobody does."

"Well, nobody that was born out here says 'dahnce' and 'cahn't.'"

"But she's been East and in Europe, and--where's the harm of it, anyway?
What's your objection to the soft 'a'?"

"It's all right for those that are used to it."

"But you say 'father.' Why don't you say 'rather' to rhyme with it?"

"Don't be foolish."

"I'm trying not to be."

"Well, then, don't try to convince me that Em Terriberry is a wonderful
creature because she's picked up a lot of foreign mannerisms and comes
home thinking she's better than the rest of us. We'll show her--the
conceited thing! Her own father and mother are ashamed of her, and
Arthur is so disgusted the poor boy doesn't know what to do. I think he
ought to give her a good talking to or break off the engagement."

Orson sank back stunned at the ferocity of her manner. He beheld how
great a matter a little fire kindleth. It was so natural to him to speak
as Miss Terriberry spoke that he could not understand the hatred the
alien "a" and the suppressed "r" could evoke among those native to the
flat vowel and the protuberant consonant. He was yet to learn to what
lengths disputes could go over quirks of speech.


The very "talking to" that Tudie believed her brother ought to give his
betrothed he was giving her at that moment at the other end of the
porch. Arthur had hesitated to attempt the reproof. It was not pleasant
to broach the subject, and he knew that it was dangerous, since Em was
high-spirited. Even when she expressed a wonder at the coolness of
everybody's behavior he could not find the courage for the lecture
seething in his indignant heart.

He was worrying through a perfunctory consolation: "Oh, you just imagine
that people are cold to you, Em. Everybody's tickled to death to have
you home. You see, Em--"

"I wish you wouldn't call me Em," she said.

"It's your name, isn't it?"

"It's a part of my old name; but I've changed Emma to Amélie. After this
I want to be called Amélie."

If she had announced her desire to wear trousers on the street, or to
smoke a pipe in church, or even to go in for circus-riding, he could not
have been more appalled than he was at what she said.

"Amélie?" he gasped. "What in the name of--of all that's sensible is
that for?"

"I hate Em. It's ugly. It sounds like a letter of the alphabet. I like
Amélie better. It's pretty and I choose it."

"But look here, Em--"


"This is carrying things too blamed far."

He was not entirely heedless of her own welfare. He had felt the
animosity and ridicule that had gathered like sultry electricity in the
atmosphere when Emma had murmured at the station those words that Orson
had not heard.

Orson, seated with Tudie at one end of the porch, heard them now at the
other end of the porch as they were quoted with mockery by Arthur. Orson
and Tudie forgot their own quarrel in the supernal rapture of
eavesdropping somebody's else wrangle.

"When you got off the train," Arthur groaned, "you knocked me off my
pins by what you said to your father and mother."

"And what did I say?" said Em in innocent wonder.

"You said, 'Oh, my dolling m'mah, I cahn't believe it's you'!"

"What was wrong with that?"

"You used to call her 'momma' and you called me 'darrling.' And you
wouldn't have dared to say 'cahn't'! When I heard you I wanted to die.
Then you grabbed your father and gurgled, 'Oh, p'pah, you deah old
angel!' I nearly dropped in my tracks, and so did your father. And then
you turned to me and I knew what was coming! I tried to stop you, but I
couldn't. And you said it! You called me 'Ahthuh'!"

"Isn't that your name, deah?"

"No, it is not! My name is 'Arrthurr' and you know it! 'Ahthuh'! what do
you think I am? My name is good honest 'Arrthurr.'" He said it like a
good honest watch-dog, and he gnarred the "r" in the manner that made
the ancients call it the canine letter.

Amélie, born Emma, laughed at his rage. She tried to appease him. "I
think 'Ahthuh' is prettiah. It expresses my tendah feelings bettah. The
way you say it, it sounds like garrgling something."

But her levity in such a crisis only excited her lover the more.
"Everybody at the station was laughing at you. To-night when you
traipsed down the stairs, looking so pretty in your new dress, you had
to spoil everything by saying: 'What a chahming pahty. Shall we dahnce,
Ahthuh?' I just wanted to die."

The victim of his tirade declined to wither. She answered: "I cahn't
tell you how sorry I am to have humiliated you. But if it's a sin to
speak correctly you'll have to get used to it."

"No, I won't; but you'll get over it. You can live it down in time; but
don't you dare try to change your name to Amélie. They'd laugh you out
of Carthage."

"Oh, would they now? Well, Amélie is my name for heahaftah, and if you
don't want to call me that you needn't call me anything."

"Look here, Em."


"Emamélie! for Heaven's sake don't be a snob!"

"You're the snob, not I. There's just as much snobbery in sticking to
mispronunciation as there is in being correct. And just as much
affectation in talking with a burr as in dropping it. You think it's all
right for me to dress as they do in New York. Why shouldn't I talk the
same way? If it's all right for me to put on a pretty gown and weah my
haiah the most becoming way, why cahn't I improve my name, too? You
cahn't frighten me. I'm not afraid of you or the rest of your backwoods
friends. Beauty is my religion, and if necessary I'll be a mahtah to

"You'll be a what?"

"A mahtah."

"Do you mean a motto?"

"I mean what you'd call a marrtyrr. But I won't make you one. I'll
release you from our engagement, and you can go back to Liddy Sovey. I
understand you've been rushing her very hahd. And you needn't take me
home. I'll get back by the gahden pahth."

She rose and swept into the house, followed by her despairing swain.

Orson and Tudie eavesdropped in silence. Tudie was full of scorn.
Amélie's arguments were piffle or worse to her, and her willingness to
undergo "martyrdom" for them was the most arrant pigheadedness, as the
martyrdom of alien creeds usually is.

Orson, the alien, was full of amazement. Here was a nice young man in
love with a beautiful young woman. He had been devoted for years, and
now, because she had slightly altered her habits in one vowel and one
consonant, their love was curdled.


Greater wars have begun from less causes and been waged more fiercely.
They say that an avalanche can be brought down from a mountain by a
whispered word. Small wonder, then, that the murmur of a vowel and the
murder of a consonant should precipitate upon the town of Carthage the
stored-up snows of tradition. Business was dull in the village and any
excitement was welcome. Before Emma's return there had been a certain
slight interest in pronunciation.

Orson Carver had for a time stimulated amusement by his droll talk. He
had been suspected for some time of being an impostor because he spoke
of his university as "Havvad." The Carthaginians did not expect him to
call it "Harrvarrd," as it was spelled, but they had always understood
that true graduates called it "Hawvawd," and local humorists won much
laughter by calling it "Haw-haw-vawd." Orson had bewildered them further
by a sort of cockneyism of misappropriated letters. He used the flat "a"
in words where Carthaginians used the soft, as in his own name and his
university's. He saved up the "r" that he dropped from its rightful
place and put it on where it did not belong, as in "idear." He had
provoked roars of laughter one evening when a practical joker requested
him to read a list of the books of the Bible, and he had mentioned
"Numbas, Joshuar, Ezrar, Nehemiar, Estha, Provubbs, Isaiar, Jeremiar."

Eventually he was eclipsed by another young man sent to a post in the
C., T. & R. Railroad by an ambitious parent--Jefferson Digney, of Yale.
Digney, born and raised in Virginia and removed to Georgia, had taken
his accent to New Haven and taken it away with him unsullied. His
Southern speech had given Carthage acute joy for a while.

Arthur Litton had commented once on the contrast between Orson and
Jefferson. "Neither of you can pronounce the name of his State," said
Arthur. "He calls it 'Jawja' and you call it 'Jahjar.'"

"What should it be?"



"You can't pronounce your own name."

"Oh, cahn't I?"

"No, you cahn't I. You call it 'Cavveh.' He calls it 'Cyahvah.'"

"What ought it to be?"

"Carrvurr--as it's spelt."

Yet another new-comer to the town was an Englishman, Anthony Hopper, a
younger son of a stock-holder abroad. He was not at all the Englishman
of the stage, and the Carthaginians were astonished to find that he did
not drop his "h's" or misapply them. And he never once said "fawncy,"
but flat "fancy." He did not call himself "Hanthony 'Opper," as they
expected. But he did take a "caold bahth in the mawning."

With a New Englander, an old Englander, and an Atlantan in the town,
Carthage took an astonishing interest in pronunciation that winter. When
conversation flagged anybody could raise a laugh by referring to their
outlandish pronunciations. Quoting their remarks took the place of such
parlor games as trying to say "She sells sea shells," or "The sea
ceaseth and it sufficeth us."

The foreigners entered into the spirit of it and retorted with
burlesques of Carthagese. They were received with excellent
sportsmanship. One might have been led to believe that the Carthaginians
took the matter of pronunciation lightly, since they could laugh
tolerantly at foreigners. This, however, was because the foreigners had
missed advantages of Carthaginian standards.

Emma Terriberry's crime was not in her pronunciation, but in the fact
that she had changed it. Having come from Carthage, she must forever
remain a Carthagenian or face down a storm of wrath. Her quarrel with
her lover was the beginning of a quarrel with the whole town.

Arthur Litton became suddenly a hero, like the first man wounded in a
war. The town rallied to his support. Emma was a heartless wretch, who
had insulted a faithful lover because he would not become as abject a
toady to the hateful East as she was. Her new name became a byword. Her
pronunciations were heard everywhere in the most ruthless parody. She
was accused of things that she never had said, things that nobody could
ever say.

They inflicted on her the impossible habit of consistency. She was
reported as calling a hat a "hot," a rat a "rot," of teaching her little
sister to read from the primer, "Is the cot on the mot?" Pronunciation
became a test of character. The soft "r" and the hard "a" were taken as
proofs of effeminate hypocrisy.

Carthage differed only in degree, not in kind, from old Italy at the
time of the "Sicilian Vespers," when they called upon everybody to
pronounce the word "ciceri." The natives who could say "chee-cheree"
escaped, but the poor French who could come no nearer than "seeseree"
were butchered. Gradually now in Carthage the foreigners from
Massachusetts, Georgia, England, and elsewhere ceased to be regarded
with tolerance. Their accents no longer amused. They gave offense.

In the railroad office there were six or seven of these new-comers. They
were driven together by indignation. They took up Amélie's cause; made
her their queen; declined invitations in which she was not included;
gave parties in her honor: took her buggy-riding. Each had his day.

A few girls could not endure her triumph. They broke away from the fold
and became renegades, timidly softening their speech. This infuriated
the others, and the town was split into Guelph and Ghibelline.

Amélie enjoyed the notoriety immensely. She flaunted her success. She
ridiculed the Carthage people as yokels. She burlesqued their jargon as
outrageously as they hers.

The soda-water fountains became battle-fields of backbiting and mockery.
The feuds were as bitter, if not as deadly, as those that flourished
around the fountains in medieval Italian towns. Two girls would perch on
the drug-store stools back to back, and bicker in pretended ignorance
of each other's presence. Tudie Litton would order "sahsahpahrillah,"
which she hated, just to mock Amélie's manner; and Amélie, assuming to
be ignorant of Tudie's existence, would retort by ordering "a
strorrburry sody wattur." Then each would laugh recklessly but

The church at which the Terriberrys worshiped was almost torn apart by
the matter. The more ardent partisans felt that Amélie's unrepentant
soul had no right in the sacred edifice. Others urged that there should
be a truce to factions there, as in heaven. One Sunday dear old Dr.
Brearley, oblivious of the whole war, as of nearly everything else less
than a hundred years away, chose as his text Judges xii: 6:

"Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for
he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew
him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the
Ephraimites forty and two thousand."

If the anti-Amélites had needed any increase of enthusiasm they got it
now. They had Scripture on their side. If it were proper for the men of
Gilead, where the well-known balm came from, to slay forty-two thousand
people for a mispronunciation, surely the Carthaginians had authority to
stand by their "alturrs" and their "fi-urs" and protect them from those
who called them "altahs" and "fiahs."

No country except ours could foster such a feud. No language except the
chaos we fumble with could make it possible. By and by the war wore out
of its own violence. People ceased to care how a thing was said, and
began to take interest again in what was said. Those who had mimicked
Amélie had grown into the habit of mimicry until they half forgot their
scorn. The old-time flatness and burr began to soften from attrition, to
be modified because they were conspicuous. You would have heard Arthur
subduing his twang and unburring the "r." If you had asked him he would
have told you his name was either "Arthuh" or "Ahthur."

Amélie and her little bodyguard, on the other hand, grew so nervous of
the sacred emblems that they avoided their use. When they came to a word
containing an "a" or a final "r" they hesitated or sidestepped and let
it pass. Amélie fell into the habit of saying "couldn't" for "cahn't,"
and "A. M." for "mawning."

People began to smile when they met her, and she smiled back. Slowly
everybody that had "not been speaking" began speaking, bowing, chatting.
Now, when one of the disputed words drifted into the talk, each tried to
concede a little to the other's belief, as soldiers of the blue and the
gray trod delicately on one another's toes after peace was decreed.
Everybody was now half and half, or, as Tudie vividly spoke it, "haff
and hahf." You would hear the same person say "haff-pahst ten,"
"hahf-passt eleven," and "hahf-pahst twelve."

Carthage became as confused in its language as Alsace-Lorraine.


All through this tremendous feud Orson Carver had been faithful to
Amélie. Whether he had given Tudie the sack or she him was never
decided. But she was loyal to her dialect. He ceased to call; Tudie
ceased to invite him. They smiled coldly and still more coldly, and then
she ceased to see him when they met. He was simply transparent.

Orson was Amélie's first cavalier in Carthage. He found her mightily
attractive. She was brisk of wit and she adored his Boston and his ways.
She was sufficiently languorous and meek in the moonlight, too--an
excellent hammock-half.

But when the other Outlanders had begun to gather to her standard it
crowded the porch uncomfortably.

Dissension rose within the citadel. Orson's father had fought
Jefferson's father in 1861-65. The great-grandfathers of both of them
had fought Anthony Hopper's forefathers in '76-83. The pronunciations of
the three grew mutually distasteful, and dreadful triangular rows took
place on matters of speech.

Amélie sat in silence while they wrangled, and her thoughts reverted to
Arthur Litton. He had loved her well enough to be ashamed of her and
rebuke her. She was afraid that she had been a bit of a snob, a trifle
caddish. She had aired her new accent and her new clothes a trifle too
insolently. Old customs grew dear to her like old slippers. She
remembered the Littons' shabby buggy and the fuzzy horse, and the drives
Arthur and she had taken under the former moons.

Her father and mother had shocked her with their modes of speech when
she came home, and she had ventured to rebuke them. She felt now that
they ought to have spanked her. A great tenderness welled up in her
heart for them and their homely ways. She wanted to be like them.

The village was taking her back into its slumberous comfortableness.

She would waken from her reveries to hear the aliens arguing their alien
rules of speech. It suddenly struck her that they were all wrong,
anyway. She felt an impulse to run for a broom and sweep them off into
space. She grew curt with them. They felt the chill and dropped away,
all but Orson. At last his lonely mother bullied his father into
recalling him from the Western wilds.

He called on Amélie to bid a heartbreaking good-by. He was disconsolate.
He asked her to write to him. She promised she would. He was excited to
the point of proposing. She declined him plaintively. She could never
leave the old folks. "My place is here," she said.

He left her and walked down the street like a moving elegy.

He suffered agonies of regret till he met a girl on the East-bound
train. She was exceedingly pretty and he made a thrilling adventure of
scraping acquaintance with her mother first, and thus with her. They
were returning to Boston, too. They were his home folks.

When at last the train hurtled him back into Massachusetts he had almost
forgotten that he had ever been in Carthage. He had a sharp awakening.

When he flung his arms about his mother and told her how glad he was to
see her, her second exclamation was: "But how on uth did you acquiah
that ghahstly Weste'n accent?"

       *       *       *       *       *

One evening in the far-off Middle West the lonely Amélie was sitting in
her creaking hammock, wondering how she could endure her loneliness,
plotting how she could regain her old lover. She was desperately
considering a call upon his sister. She would implore forgiveness for
her sin of vanity and beg Tudie's intercession with Arthur. She had
nearly steeled herself to this glorious contrition when she heard a
warning squeal from the front gate, a slow step on the front walk, and
hesitant feet on the porch steps.

And there he stood, a shadow against the shadow. In a sorrowful voice he
mumbled, "Is anybody home?"

"I am!" she cried. "I was hoping you would come."


"Yes. I was just about ready to telephone you."

There was so much more than hospitality in her voice that he stumbled
forward. Their shadows collided and merged in one embrace.

"Oh, Amélie!" he sighed in her neck.

And she answered behind his left ear: "Don't call me Amélie any more. I
like Em betterr from you! It's so shorrt and sweet--as you say it. We'll
forget the passt forreverr."

"Am! my dolling!"

"Oh, Arrthurr!"



       *       *       *       *       *


_In this book of leisurely wanderings the author journeys among the
various holiday resorts of the United States from Maine to Atlantic
City, Newport, Bar Harbor, the Massachusetts beaches, Long Island Sound,
the Great Lakes, Niagara, ever-young Greenbriar White and other Virginia
Springs, Saratoga, White Mountains, the winter resorts of Florida, the
Carolinas and California._ Illustrated in Color

       *       *       *       *       *



_All those who are on the lookout for an unusual way to spend a vacation
will find suggestions here. This book of leisurely travel in New
Hampshire and Vermont has been reprinted to meet the demand for a work
that has never failed to charm since its first publication more than a
decade ago._ Illustrated

       *       *       *       *       *


_In this book the author gives a chatty account of his trip along the
outskirts of Australian civilization. The big cities were merely passed
through, and the journeying was principally by stage-coach, on
camel-back, or by small coastal steamers from Western Australia to New
Guinea._ Illustrated in Tint

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_CALIFORNIA: An Intimate History_


_The California of to-day and the California of yesterday with its
picturesque story, are set forth in this book by the one writer who
could bring to it the skill united with that love for the task of a
Californian-born, Gertrude Atherton. This story of California covers the
varied history of the state from its earliest geological beginnings down
to the California of 1915._ Illustrated

       *       *       *       *       *



_Poems of to-day, of living persons, of present hopes and fears. There
are stirring poems on the great war: "The Battle of Liège," "Dead on the
Field of Honor," "Sunk by a Mine," "The Glory of War," etc., Poems of
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Post 8vo, Cloth

       *       *       *       *       *


_A book of lyrics and other poems written in the major key of
cheerfulness and hope. "I sting too hot with life to whine," says the
author. Mr. Marquis has filled successfully many different verse forms
with the wine of his interest in life._

Post 8vo, Cloth

       *       *       *       *       *


_A book of humorous verses on various subjects ranging from prehistoric
beasts to Bernard Shaw. The ballads are mock-heroic, parodies of the
ballads of chivalry. In other verses the Puritans, the Dutch inhabitants
of New Amsterdam are gently satirized._

Post 8vo, Cloth

       *       *       *       *       *



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