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Title: Hints to Pilgrims
Author: Brooks, Charles Stephen
Language: English
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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.

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produced from images available at The Internet Archive)



Other Books of Essays by the Same Author:

"Journeys to Bagdad"
_Fifth printing_.

"There's Pippins and Cheese to Come"
_Third printing_.

"Chimney-Pot Papers"
_Second printing_.

Also a novel, published by The Century Co.,
New York City,
"Luca Sarto"
_Second printing_.



Hints to Pilgrims



HINTS
TO
PILGRIMS

BY

CHARLES S. BROOKS

With Pictures by
Florence Minard

[Illustration]

NEW HAVEN:
YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS
LONDON:HUMPHREY MILFORD
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
MDCCCCXXI

Copyright, 1921, by
Yale University Press.

Publisher's Note:

The Yale University Press makes grateful
acknowledgment to the Editors of _The
Century Magazine_, _The Yale Review_, _The
Atlantic Monthly_ and _The Literary Review_
for permission to include in the present
volume essays of which they were the
original publishers.



To Edward B. Greene,
as witness of our long friendship and my high regard.



Contents.


       I. Hints to Pilgrims               11
      II. I Plan a Vacation               27
     III. At a Toy-Shop Window            42
      IV. Sic Transit--                   55
       V. The Posture of Authors          59
      VI. After-Dinner Pleasantries       77
     VII. Little Candles                  86
    VIII. A Visit to a Poet               92
      IX. Autumn Days                    103
       X. On Finding a Plot              107
      XI. Circus Days                    122
     XII. In Praise of a Lawn-Mower      133
    XIII. On Dropping Off to Sleep       138
     XIV. Who Was Jeremy?                147
      XV. A Chapter for Children         153
     XVI. The Crowded Curb               171
    XVII. A Corner for Echoes            178



Hints to Pilgrims.


When a man's thoughts in older time were set on pilgrimage, his
neighbors came forward with suggestions. One of them saw that his boots
were freshly tapped. Another was careful that his hose were darned with
honest wool--an oldish aunt, no doubt, with beeswax and thimble and
glasses forward on her nose. A third sly creature fetched in an
embroidered wallet to hold an extra shift, and hinted in return for a
true nail from the holy cross. If he were a bachelor, a tender garter
was offered him by a lonely maiden of the village, and was acknowledged
beneath the moon. But the older folk who had made the pilgrimage took
the settle and fell to argument on the merit of the inns. They scrawled
maps for his guidance on the hearth, and told him the sights that must
not be missed. Here he must veer off for a holy well. Here he must
beware a treacherous bog. Here he must ascend a steeple for the view.
They cautioned him to keep upon the highway. Was it not Christian, they
urged, who was lost in By-path Meadow? Again they talked of thieves and
warned him to lay a chair against the door. Then a honey syllabub was
drunk in clinking cups, and they made a night of it.

Or perhaps our pilgrim belonged to a guild which--by an agreeable
precedent--voted that its members walk with him to the city's gate and
present from each a half-penny to support him on the journey. The greasy
pockets yield their treasure. He rattles on both sides with generous
copper. Here, also, is a salve for man and beast--a receipt for a
fever-draught. We may fancy now the pilgrim's mule plowing up the lazy
dust at the turn of the road as he waves his last farewell. His thoughts
already have leaped the valley to the misty country beyond the hills.

And now above his dusty road the sun climbs the exultant noon. It whips
its flaming chariot to the west. On the rim of twilight, like a traveler
who departs, it throws a golden offering to the world.

But there are pilgrims in these later days, also,--strangers to our own
fair city, script in wallet and staff in hand,--who come to place their
heavy tribute on our shrine. And to them I offer these few suggestions.

The double stars of importance--as in Baedeker--mark our restaurants and
theatres. Dear pilgrim, put money in thy purse! Persuade your guild to
advance you to a penny! They mark the bridges, the shipping, the sharp
canyons of the lower city, the parks--limousines where silk and lace
play nurse to lap dogs--Bufo on an airing, the precious spitz upon a
scarlet cushion. They mark the parade of wealth, the shops and glitter
of Fifth Avenue on a winter afternoon. "If this is Fifth Avenue,"--as I
heard a dazzled stranger comment lately on a bus-top,--"my God! what
must First Avenue be like!"

And then there are the electric signs--the mammoth kitten rolling its
ball of silk, ginger-ale that forever issues from a bottle, a fiery
motor with a flame of dust, the Wrigley triplets correcting their
sluggish livers by exercise alongside the Astor roof. Surely letters
despatched home to Kalamazoo deal excitedly with these flashing
portents. And of the railroad stations and the Woolworth Tower with its
gothic pinnacles questing into heaven, what pilgrim words are adequate!
Here, certainly, Kalamazoo is baffled and must halt and bite its pen.

Nor can the hotels be described--toppling structures that run up to
thirty stories--at night a clatter in the basement and a clatter on the
roof--sons of Belial and rich folk from Akron who are spending the
profit on a few thousand hot-water bottles and inner tubes--what mad
pursuit! what pipes and timbrels! what wild ecstasy! Do we set a noisy
bard upon our towers in the hope that our merriment will sound to Mars?
Do we persuade them that jazz is the music of the spheres? But at
morning in these hotels are thirty stories of snoring bipeds--exhausted
trousers across the bed-post, frocks that have been rumpled in the
hubbub--tier on tier of bipeds, with sleepy curtains drawn against the
light. Boniface, in the olden time, sunning himself beneath his bush and
swinging dragon, watching the dust for travelers, how would he be amazed
at the advancement of the inn! Dear pilgrim, you must sag and clink for
entrance to the temples of our joyous gods. Put money in thy purse and
wire ahead!

On these streets there is a roar of traffic that Babylon never heard.
Nineveh in its golden age could have packed itself with all its splendid
luggage in a single building. Athens could have mustered in a street.
Our block-parties that are now the fashion--neighborhood affairs in
fancy costumes, with a hot trombone, and banners stretched from house to
house--produce as great an uproar as ever arose upon the Acropolis. And
lately, when our troops returned from overseas and marched beneath our
plaster arches, Rome itself could not have matched the largeness of our
triumph. Here, also, men have climbed up to walls and battlements--but
to what far dizzier heights!--to towers and windows, and to
chimney-tops, to see great Pompey pass the streets.

And by what contrast shall we measure our tall buildings? Otus and
Ephialtes, who contracted once to pile Pelion on top of Ossa, were
evidently builders who touched only the larger jobs. They did not stoop
to a cottage or a bungalow, but figured entirely on such things as arks
and the towers of Jericho. When old Cheops sickened, it is said, and
thought of death, they offered a bid upon his pyramid. Noah, if he was
indeed their customer, as seems likely, must have fretted them as their
work went forward. Whenever a cloud appeared in the rainy east he nagged
them for better speed. He prowled around on Sunday mornings with his
cubit measure to detect any shortness in the beam. Or he looked for
knot-holes in the gopher wood. But Otus and Ephialtes could not, with
all their sweating workmen, have fetched enough stones for even the
foundations of one of our loftier structures.

The Tower of Babel, if set opposite Wall Street, would squat as low as
Trinity: for its top, when confusion broke off the work, had advanced
scarcely more than seven stories from the pavement. My own windows,
dwarfed by my surroundings, look down from as great a height. Indeed, I
fancy that if the famous tower were my neighbor to the rear--on Ninth
Street, just off the L--its whiskered masons on the upmost platform
could have scraped acquaintance with our cook. They could have gossiped
at the noon hour from gutter to sink, and eaten the crullers that the
kind creature tossed across. Our whistling grocery-man would have found
a rival. And yet the good folk of the older Testament, ignorant of our
accomplishment to come, were in amazement at the tower, and strangers
came in from Gilead and Beersheba. Trippers, as it were, upon a
holiday--staff in hand and pomegranates in a papyrus bag--locusts and
wild honey, or manna to sustain them in the wilderness on their
return--trippers, I repeat, cocked back their heads, and they counted
the rows of windows to the top and went off to their far land marveling.

The Bankers Trust Building culminates in a pyramid. Where this narrows
to a point there issues a streamer of smoke. I am told that inside this
pyramid, at a dizzy height above the street, there is a storage room
for gold. Is it too fanciful to think that inside, upon this unsunned
heap of metal, there is concealed an altar of Mammon with priests to
feed the fire, and that this smoke, rising in the lazy air, is sweet in
the nostrils of the greedy god?

There is what seems to be a chapel on the roof of the Bush Terminal.
Gothic decoration marks our buildings--the pointed arch, mullions and
gargoyles. There are few nowadays to listen to the preaching of the
church, but its symbol is at least a pretty ornament on our commercial
towers.

Nor in the general muster of our sights must I forget the magic view
from across the river, in the end of a winter afternoon, when the lower
city is still lighted. The clustered windows shine as if a larger
constellation of stars had met in thick convention. But it is to the eye
of one who travels in the evening mist from Staten Island that towers of
finest gossamer arise. They are built to furnish a fantastic dream. The
architect of the summer clouds has tried here his finer hand.

It was only lately when our ferry-boat came around the point of
Governor's Island, that I noticed how sharply the chasm of Broadway cuts
the city. It was the twilight of a winter's day. A rack of sullen clouds
lay across the sky as if they met for mischief, and the water was black
with wind. In the threatening obscurity the whole island seemed a
mightier House of Usher, intricate of many buildings, cleft by Broadway
in its middle, and ready to fall prostrate into the dark waters of the
tarn. But until the gathering tempest rises and an evil moon peers
through the crevice, as in the story, we must judge the city to be safe.

Northward are nests of streets, thick with children. One might think
that the old woman who lived in a shoe dwelt hard by, with all of her
married sisters roundabout. Children scurry under foot, oblivious of
contact. They shoot their marbles between our feet, and we are the
moving hazard of their score. They chalk their games upon the pavement.
Baseball is played, long and thin, between the gutters. Peddlers' carts
line the curb--carrots, shoes and small hardware--and there is shrill
chaffering all the day. Here are dim restaurants, with truant smells for
their advertisement. In one of these I was served unleavened bread. Folk
from Damascus would have felt at home, and yet the shadow of the
Woolworth Tower was across the roof. The loaf was rolled thin, like a
chair-pad that a monstrous fat man habitually sits upon. Indeed, I
looked sharply at my ample waiter on the chance that it was he who had
taken his ease upon my bread. If Kalamazoo would tire for a night of the
Beauty Chorus and the Wrigley triplets, and would walk these streets of
foreign population, how amazing would be its letters home!

Our Greenwich Village, also, has its sights. Time was when we were
really a village beyond the city. Even more remotely there were farms
upon us and comfortable burghers jogged up from town to find the peace
of country. There was once a swamp where Washington Square now is, and,
quite lately, masons in demolishing a foundation struck into a conduit
of running water that still drains our pleasant park. When Broadway was
a muddy post-road, stretching for a weary week to Albany, ducks quacked
about us and were shot with blunderbuss. Yes, and they were doubtless
roasted, with apple-sauce upon the side. And then a hundred years went
by, and the breathless city jumped to the north and left us a village in
its midst.

It really is a village. The grocer gives you credit without question.
Further north, where fashion shops, he would inspect you up and down
with a cruel eye and ask a reference. He would linger on any patch or
shiny spot to trip your credit. But here he wets his pencil and writes
down the order without question. His friendly cat rubs against your
bundles on the counter. The shoemaker inquires how your tapped soles are
wearing. The bootblack, without lifting his eyes, knows you by the knots
in your shoe-strings. I fear he beats his wife, for he has a great red
nose which even prohibition has failed to cool. The little woman at the
corner offers you the _Times_ before you speak. The cigar man tosses you
a package of Camels as you enter. Even the four-corners beyond
Berea--unknown, remote, quite off the general travel--could hardly be
more familiar with the preference of its oldest citizen. We need only a
pump, and a pig and chickens in the street.

Our gossip is smaller than is found in cities. If we had yards and
gardens we would talk across the fence on Monday like any village, with
clothes-pins in our mouths, and pass our ailments down the street.

But we are crowded close, wall to wall. I see my neighbor cooking across
the street. Each morning she jolts her dust-mop out of the window. I see
shadows on a curtain as a family sits before the fire. A novelist is
down below. By the frenzy of his fingers on the typewriter it must be a
tale of great excitement. He never pauses or looks at the ceiling for a
plot. At night he reads his pages to his patient wife, when they
together have cleared away the dishes. In another window a girl lies
abed each morning. Exactly at 7.45, after a few minutes of sleepy
stretching, I see her slim legs come from the coverlet. Once she caught
my eye. She stuck out her tongue. Your stockings, my dear, hang across
the radiator.

We have odd characters, too, known to everybody, just as small towns
have, who, in country circumstance, would whittle on the bench outside
the village store. The father of a famous poet, but himself unknown
except hereabouts, has his chair in the corner of a certain restaurant,
and he offers wisdom and reminiscence to a coterie. He is our Johnson at
the Mitre. Old M----, who lives in the Alley in what was once a
hayloft--now a studio,--is known from Fourth to Twelfth Street for his
Indian curry and his knowledge of the older poets. It is his pleasant
custom to drop in on his friends from time to time and cook their
dinner. He tosses you an ancient sonnet as he stirs the pot, or he beats
time with his iron spoon to a melody of the Pathétique. He knows
Shakespeare to a comma, and discourses so agreeably that the Madison
Square clock fairly races up to midnight. Every morning, it is said--but
I doubt the truth of this, for a gossiping lady told me--every morning
until the general drouth set in, he issued from the Alley for a toddy to
sustain his seventy years. Sometimes, she says, old M---- went without
tie or collar on these quick excursions, yet with the manners of the
Empire and a sweeping bow, if he met any lady of his acquaintance.

A famous lecturer in a fur collar sweeps by me often, with his eyes on
the poetic stars. As he takes the air this sunny morning he thinks of
new paradoxes to startle the ladies at his matinée. How they love to be
shocked by his wicked speech! He is such a daring, handsome fellow--so
like a god of ancient Greece! And of course most of us know T----, who
gives a yearly dinner at an Assyrian restaurant--sixty cents a plate,
with a near-beer extra from a saloon across the way. Any guest may bring
a friend, but he must give ample warning in order that the table may be
stretched.

The chief poet of our village wears a corduroy suit and goes without his
hat, even in winter. If a comedy of his happens to be playing at a
little theatre, he himself rings a bell in his favorite restaurant and
makes the announcement in true Elizabethan fashion. "Know ye, one and
all, there is a conceited comedy this night--" His hair is always
tousled. But, as its confusion continues from March into the quieter
months, the disarrangement springs not so much from the outer tempest as
from the poetic storms inside.

Then we have a kind of Peter Pan grown to shiny middle life, who makes
ukuleles for a living. On any night of special celebration he is
prevailed upon to mount a table and sing one of his own songs to this
accompaniment. These songs tell what a merry, wicked crew we are. He
sings of the artists' balls that ape the Bohemia of Paris, of our
genius, our unrestraint, our scorn of all convention. What is morality
but a suit to be discarded when it is old? What is life, he sings, but a
mad jester with tinkling bells? Youth is brief, and when dead we're
buried deep. So let's romp and drink and kiss. It is a pagan song that
has lasted through the centuries. If it happens that any folk are down
from the uptown hotels, Peter Pan consents to sell a ukulele between his
encores. Here, my dear pilgrims, is an entertainment to be squeezed
between Ziegfeld's and the Winter Garden.

You are welcome at all of our restaurants--our Samovars, the Pig and
Whistle, the Three Steps Down (a crowded room, where you spill your soup
as you carry it to a table, but a cheap, honest place in which to eat),
the Green Witch, the Simple Simon. The food is good at all of these
places. Grope your way into a basement--wherever one of our fantastic
signs hangs out--or climb broken stairs into a dusty garret--over a
contractor's storage of old lumber and bath-tubs--over the litter of the
roofs--and you will find artistic folk with flowing ties, spreading
their elbows at bare tables with unkept, dripping candles.

Here is youth that is blown hither from distant villages--youth that was
misunderstood at home--youth that looks from its poor valley to the
heights and follows a flame across the darkness--youth whose eyes are a
window on the stars. Here also, alas, are slim white moths about a
candle. And here wrinkled children play at life and art.

Here are radicals who plot the reformation of the world. They hope it
may come by peaceful means, but if necessary will welcome revolution and
machine-guns. They demand free speech, but put to silence any utterance
less red than their own.

Here are seething sonneteers, playwrights bulging with rejected
manuscript, young women with bobbed hair and with cigarettes lolling
limply at their mouths. For a cigarette, I have observed, that hangs
loosely from the teeth shows an artistic temperament, just as in
business circles a cigar that is tilted up until it warms the nose marks
a sharp commercial nature.

But business counts for little with us. Recently, to make a purchase, I
ventured of an evening into one of our many small shops of fancy wares.
Judge my embarrassment to see that the salesman was entertaining a young
lady on his knee. I was too far inside to retreat. Presently the
salesman shifted the lady to his other knee and, brushing a lock of her
hair off his nose, asked me what I wanted. But I was unwilling to
disturb his hospitality. I begged him not to lay down his pleasant
burden, but rather to neglect my presence. He thanked me for my
courtesy, and made his guest comfortable once more while I fumbled along
the shelves. By good luck the price was marked upon my purchase. I laid
down the exact change and tip-toed out.

The peddlers of our village, our street musicians, our apple men, belong
to us. They may wander now and then to the outside world for a silver
tribute, yet they smile at us on their return as at their truest
friends. Ice creaks up the street in a little cart and trickles at the
cracks. Rags and bottles go by with a familiar, jangling bell. Scissors
grinders have a bell, also, with a flat, tinny sound, like a cow that
forever jerks its head with flies. But it was only the other day that
two fellows went by selling brooms. These were interlopers from a
noisier district, and they raised up such a clamor that one would have
thought that the Armistice had been signed again. The clatter was so
unusual--our own merchants are of quieter voice--that a dozen of us
thrust our heads from our windows. Perhaps another German government had
fallen. The novelist below me put out his shaggy beard. The girl with
the slim legs was craned out of the sill with excitement. My pretty
neighbor below, who is immaculate when I meet her on the stairs, was in
her mob-cap.

My dear pilgrim from the West, with your ample house and woodshed, your
yard with its croquet set and hammock between the wash-poles, you have
no notion how we are crowded on the island. Laundry tubs are concealed
beneath kitchen tables. Boxes for clothes and linen are ambushed under
our beds. Any burglar hiding there would have to snuggle among the moth
balls. Sitting-room tables are swept of books for dinner. Bookcases are
desks. Desks are beds. Beds are couches. Couches are--bless you! all the
furniture is at masquerade. Kitchen chairs turn upside down and become
step-ladders. If anything does not serve at least two uses it is a
slacker. Beds tumble out of closets. Fire escapes are nurseries. A patch
of roof is a pleasant garden. A bathroom becomes a kitchen, with a lid
upon the tub for groceries, and the milk cooling below with the cold
faucet drawn.

A room's use changes with the clock. That girl who lives opposite, when
she is dressed in the morning, puts a Bagdad stripe across her couch.
She punches a row of colored pillows against the wall. Her bedroom is
now ready for callers. It was only the other day that I read of a new
invention by which a single room becomes four rooms simply by pressing a
button. This is the manner of the magic. In a corner, let us say, of a
rectangular room there is set into the floor a turntable ten feet
across. On this are built four compartments, shaped like pieces of pie.
In one of these is placed a bath-tub and stand, in another a folding-bed
and wardrobe, in a third is a kitchen range and cupboard, and in the
fourth a bookcase and piano. Must I explain the mystery? On rising you
fold away your bed and spin the circle for your tub. And then in turn
your stove appears. At last, when you have whirled your dishes to
retirement, the piano comes in sight. It is as easy as spinning the
caster for the oil and vinegar. A whirling Susan on the supper table is
not more nimble. With this device it is estimated that the population of
our snug island can be quadruplicated, and that landlords can double
their rents with untroubled conscience. Or, by swinging a fifth piece of
pie out of the window, a sleeping-porch could be added. When the morning
alarm goes off you have only to spin the disk and dress in comfort
beside the radiator. Or you could--but possibilities are countless.

Tom Paine died on Grove Street. O. Henry lived on Irving Place and ate
at Allaire's on Third Avenue. The Aquarium was once a fort on an island
in the river. Later Lafayette was welcomed there. And Jenny Lind sang
there. John Masefield swept out a saloon, it's said, on Sixth Avenue
near the Jefferson Market, and, for all I know, his very broom may be
still standing behind the door. The Bowery was once a post-road up
toward Boston. In the stream that flowed down Maiden Lane, Dutch girls
did the family washing. In William Street, not long ago, they were
tearing down the house in which Alexander Hamilton lived. These are
facts at random.

But Captain Kidd lived at 119 Pearl Street. Dear me, I had thought that
he was a creature of a nursery book--one of the pirates whom Sinbad
fought. And here on Pearl Street, in our own city, he was arrested and
taken to hang in chains in London. A restaurant now stands at 119. A
bucket of oyster shells is at the door, and, inside, a clatter of hungry
spoons.

But the crowd thickens on these narrow streets. Work is done for the day
and tired folk hurry home. Crowds flow into the subway entrances. The
streets are flushed, as it were, with people, and the flood drains to
the rushing sewers. Now the lights go out one by one. The great
buildings, that glistened but a moment since at every window, are now
dark cliffs above us in the wintry mist.

It is time, dear pilgrim, to seek your hotel or favorite cabaret.

The Wrigley triplets once more correct by exercise their sluggish
livers. The kitten rolls its ball of fiery silk. Times Square flashes
with entertainment. It stretches its glittering web across the night.

Dear pilgrim, a last important word! Put money in thy purse!



I Plan a Vacation.


It is my hope, when the snow is off the ground and the ocean has been
tamed by breezes from the south, to cross to England. Already I fancy
myself seated in the pleasant office of the steamship agent, listening
to his gossip of rates and sailings, bending over his colored charts,
weighing the merit of cabins. Here is one amidships in a location of
greatest ease upon the stomach. Here is one with a forward port that
will catch the sharp and wholesome wind from the Atlantic. I trace the
giant funnels from deck to deck. My finger follows delightedly the
confusing passages. I smell the rubber on the landings and the salty
rugs. From on top I hear the wind in the cordage. I view the moon, and I
see the mast swinging among the stars.

Then, also, at the agent's, for my pleasure, there is a picture of a
ship cut down the middle, showing its inner furnishing and the hum of
life on its many decks. I study its flights of steps, its strange tubes
and vents and boilers. Munchausen's horse, when its rearward end was
snapped off by the falling gate (the faithful animal, you may recall,
galloped for a mile upon its forward legs alone before the misadventure
was discovered)--Munchausen's horse, I insist,--the unbroken, forward
half,--did not display so frankly its confusing pipes and coils. Then
there is another ship which, by a monstrous effort of the printer, is
laid in Broadway, where its stacks out-top Trinity. I pace its mighty
length on the street before my house, and my eye climbs our tallest tree
for a just comparison.

It is my hope to find a man of like ambition and endurance as myself and
to walk through England. He must be able, if necessary, to keep to the
road for twenty-five miles a day, or, if the inn runs before us in the
dark, to stretch to thirty. But he should be a creature, also, who is
content to doze in meditation beneath a hedge, heedless whether the sun,
in faster boots, puts into lodging first. Careless of the hour, he may
remark in my sleepy ear "how the shadows lengthen as the sun declines."

He must be able to jest when his feet are tired. His drooping grunt must
be spiced with humor. When stiffness cracks him in the morning, he can
the better play the clown. He will not grumble at his bed or poke too
shrewdly at his food. Neither will he talk of graves and rheumatism when
a rainstorm finds us unprepared. If he snuffle at the nose, he must
snuffle cheerfully and with hope. Wit, with its unexpected turns, is to
be desired; but a pleasant and even humor is a better comrade on a dusty
road. It endures blisters and an empty stomach. A pack rests more
lightly on its weary shoulders. If he sing, he should know a round of
tunes and not wear a single melody to tatters. The merriest lilt grows
dull and lame when it travels all the day. But although I wish my
companion to be of a cheerful temper, he need not pipe or dance until
the mists have left the hills. Does not the shining sun itself rise
slowly to its noonday glory? A companion must give me leave to enjoy in
silence my sullen breakfast.

A talent for sketching shall be welcome. Let him produce his pencils and
his tablet at a pointed arch or mullioned window, or catch us in absurd
posture as we travel. If one tumbles in a ditch, it is but decency to
hold the pose until the picture's made.

But, chiefly, a companion should be quick with a smile and nod, apt for
conversation along the road. Neither beard nor ringlet must snub his
agreeable advance. Such a fellow stirs up a mixed acquaintance between
town and town, to point the shortest way--a bit of modest gingham mixing
a pudding at a pantry window, age hobbling to the gate on its friendly
crutch, to show how a better path climbs across the hills. Or in a
taproom he buys a round of ale and becomes a crony of the place. He
enlists a dozen friends to sniff outdoors at bedtime, with conflicting
prophecy of a shifting wind and the chance of rain.

A companion should be alert for small adventure. He need not, therefore,
to prove himself, run to grapple with an angry dog. Rather, let him
soothe the snarling creature! Let him hold the beast in parley while I
go on to safety with unsoiled dignity! Only when arbitration and soft
terms fail shall he offer a haunch of his own fair flesh. Generously he
must boost me up a tree, before he seeks safety for himself.

But many a trivial mishap, if followed with a willing heart, leads to
comedy and is a jest thereafter. I know a man who, merely by following
an inquisitive nose through a doorway marked "No Admittance," became
comrade to a company of traveling actors. The play was _Uncle Tom's
Cabin_, and they were at rehearsal. Presently, at a changing of the
scene, my friend boasted to Little Eva, as they sat together on a pile
of waves, that he performed upon the tuba. It seems that she had
previously mounted into heaven in the final picture without any
welcoming trumpet of the angels. That night, by her persuasion, my
friend sat in the upper wings and dispensed flutings of great joy as she
ascended to her rest.

Three other men of my acquaintance were caught once, between towns, on a
walking trip in the Adirondacks, and fell by chance into a kind of
sanitarium for convalescent consumptives. At first it seemed a gloomy
prospect. But, learning that there was a movie in a near-by village,
they secured two jitneys and gave a party for the inmates. In the church
parlor, when the show was done, they ate ice-cream and layer-cake. Two
of the men were fat, but the third, a slight and handsome fellow--I
write on suspicion only--so won a pretty patient at the feast, that, on
the homeward ride--they were rattling in the tonneau--she graciously
permitted him to steady her at the bumps and sudden turns.

Nor was this the end. As it still lacked an hour of midnight the general
sanitarium declared a Roman holiday. The slight fellow, on a challenge,
did a hand-stand, with his feet waving against the wall, while his knife
and keys and money dropped from his pockets. The pretty patient read
aloud some verses of her own upon the spring. She brought down her
water-colors, and laying a charcoal portrait off the piano, she ranged
her lovely wares upon the top. The fattest of my friends, also, eager to
do his part, stretched himself, heels and head, between two chairs. But,
when another chair was tossed on his unsupported middle, he fell with a
boom upon the carpet. Then the old doctor brought out wine and Bohemian
glasses with long stems and, as the clock struck twelve, the company
pledged one another's health, with hopes for a reunion. They lighted
their candles on the landing, and so to bed.

I know a man, also, who once met a sword-swallower at a county fair. A
volunteer was needed for his trick--someone to hold the scarlet cushion
with its dangerous knives--and zealous friends pushed him from his seat
and toward the stage. Afterwards he met the Caucasian Beauties and,
despite his timidity, they dined together with great merriment.

Then there is a kind of humorous philosophy to be desired on an
excursion. It smokes a contented pipe to the tune of every rivulet. It
rests a peaceful stomach on the rail of every bridge, and it observes
the floating leaves, like golden caravels upon the stream. It interprets
a trivial event. It is both serious and absurd. It sits on a fence to
moralize on the life of cows and flings in Plato on the soul. It plays
catch and toss with life and death and the world beyond. And it sees
significance in common things. A farmer's cart is a tumbril of the
Revolution. A crowing rooster is Chanticleer. It is the very cock that
proclaimed to Hamlet that the dawn was nigh. When a cloud rises up, such
a philosopher discourses of the flood. He counts up the forty rainy days
and names the present rascals to be drowned--profiteers in food,
plumbers and all laundrymen.

A stable lantern, swinging in the dark, rouses up a race of giants--

I think it was some such fantastic quality of thought that Horace
Walpole had in mind when he commended the Three Princes of Serendip.
Their Highnesses, it seems, "were always making discoveries, by accident
and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance,"
he writes, "one of them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye
had traveled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten on the
left side." At first, I confess, this employment seems a waste of time.
Sherlock Holmes did better when he pronounced, on finding a neglected
whisp of beard, that Doctor Watson's shaving mirror had been shifted to
an opposite window. But doubtless the Princes put their deduction to
higher use, and met the countryside and village with shrewd and vivid
observation.

Don Quixote had this same quality, but with more than a touch of
madness. Did he not build up the Lady Tolosa out of a common creature
at an inn? He sought knighthood at the hands of its stupid keeper and
watched his armor all night by the foolish moon. He tilted against a
windmill. I cannot wholeheartedly commend the Don, but, for an
afternoon, certainly, I would prefer his company between town and town
to that of any man who carries his clanking factory on his back.

But, also, I wish a companion of my travels to be for the first time in
England, in order that I may have a fresh audience for my superior
knowledge. In the cathedral towns I wish to wave an instructive finger
in crypt and aisle. Here is a bit of early glass. Here is a wall that
was plastered against the plague when the Black Prince was still alive.
I shall gossip of scholars in cord and gown, working at their rubric in
sunny cloisters. Or if I choose to talk of kings and forgotten battles,
I wish a companion ignorant but eager for my boasting.

It was only last night that several of us discussed vacations. Wyoming
was the favorite--a ranch, with a month on horseback in the mountains,
hemlock brouse for a bed, morning at five and wood to chop. But a horse
is to me a troubled creature. He stands to too great a height. His eye
glows with exultant deviltry as he turns and views my imperfection. His
front teeth seem made for scraping along my arm. I dread any fly or bee
lest it sting him to emotion. I am point to point in agreement with the
psalmist: "An horse is a vain thing for safety." If I must ride, I
demand a tired horse, who has cropped his wild oats and has come to a
slippered state. Are we not told that the horse in the crustaceous
age--I select a large word at random--was built no bigger than a dog?
Let this snug and peerless ancestor be saddled and I shall buy a ticket
for the West.

But I do not at this time desire to beard the wilderness. There is a
camp of Indians near the ranch. I can smell them these thousand miles
away. Their beads and greasy blankets hold no charm. Smoky bacon,
indeed, I like. I can lie pleasurably at the flap of the tent with
sleepy eyes upon the stars. I can even plunge in a chilly pool at dawn.
But the Indians and horses that infest Wyoming do not arouse my present
interest.

I am for England, therefore--for its winding roads, its villages that
nest along the streams, its peaked bridges with salmon jumping at the
weir, its thatched cottages and flowering hedges.

    "The chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
    In England--now!"

I wish to see reapers at work in Surrey fields, to stride over the windy
top of Devon, to cross Wiltshire when wind and rain and mist have
brought the Druids back to Stonehenge. At a crossroad Stratford is ten
miles off. Raglan's ancient towers peep from a wooded hill. Tintern or
Glastonbury can be gained by night. Are not these names sweet upon the
tongue? And I wish a black-timbered inn in which to end the day--with
polished brasses in the tap and the smell of the musty centuries upon
the stairs.

At the window of our room the Cathedral spire rises above the roofs.
There is no trolley-car or creaking of any wheel, and on the pavement we
hear only the fall of feet in endless pattern. Day weaves a hurrying
mesh, but this is the quiet fabric of the night.

[Illustration]

I wish to walk from London to Inverness, to climb the ghostly ramparts
of Macbeth's castle, to hear the shrill cry of Duncan's murder in the
night, to watch for witches on the stormy moor. I shall sit on the bench
where Johnson sat with Boswell on his journey to the Hebrides. I shall
see the wizard of the North, lame of foot, walking in the shade of
ruined Dryburgh. With drunken Tam, I shall behold in Alloway Kirk
warlocks in a dance. From the gloomy house of Shaws and its broken tower
David Balfour runs in flight across the heather. Culloden echoes with
the defeat of an outlaw prince. The stairs of Holyrood drip with
Rizzio's blood. But also, I wish to follow the Devon lanes, to rest in
villages on the coast at the fall of day when fishermen wind their nets,
to dream of Arthur and his court on the rocks beyond Tintagel. Merlin
lies in Wales with his dusty garments pulled about him, and his magic
sleeps. But there is wind tonight in the noisy caverns of the sea, and
Spanish pirates dripping with the slime of a watery grave, bury their
treasure when the fog lies thick.

Thousands of years have peopled these English villages. Their pavements
echo with the tread of kings and poets. Here is a sunny bower for lovers
when the world was young. Bishops of the Roman church--Saint Thomas
himself in his robes pontifical has walked through these broken
cloisters. Here is the altar where he knelt at prayer when his assassins
came. From that tower Mary of Scotland looked vainly for assistance to
gallop from the north.

Here stretches the Pilgrims' Way across the downs of Surrey--worn and
scratched by pious feet. From the west they came to Canterbury. The wind
stirs the far-off traffic, and the mist covers the hills as with an
ancient memory.

How many thirsty elbows have rubbed this table in the forgotten years!
How many feasts have come steaming from the kitchen when the London
coach was in! That pewter cup, maybe, offered its eager pledge when the
news of Agincourt was blown from France. Up that stairway Tom Jones
reeled with sparkling canary at his belt. These cobbles clacked in the
Pretender's flight. Here is the chair where Falstaff sat when he cried
out that the sack was spoiled with villainous lime. That signboard
creaked in the tempest that shattered the Armada.

My fancy mingles in the past. It hears in the inn-yard the chattering
pilgrims starting on their journey. Here is the Pardoner jesting with
the merry Wife of Bath, with his finger on his lips to keep their
scandal private. It sees Dick Turpin at the crossroads with loaded
pistols in his boots. There is mist tonight on Bagshot Heath, and men in
Kendal green are out. And fancy rebuilds a ruined castle, and lights the
hospitable fires beneath its mighty caldrons. It hangs tapestry on its
empty walls and, like a sounding trumpet, it summons up a gaudy company
in ruff and velvet to tread the forgotten measures of the past.

Let Wyoming go and hang itself in its muddy riding-boots and khaki
shirt! Let its tall horses leap upward and click their heels upon the
moon! I am for England.

It is my preference to land at Plymouth, and our anchor--if the captain
is compliant--will be dropped at night, in order that the Devon hills,
as the thrifty stars are dimmed, may appear first through the mists of
dawn. If my memory serves, there is a country church with
stone-embattled tower on the summit above the town, and in the early
twilight all the roads that climb the hills lead away to promised
kingdoms. Drake, I assert, still bowls nightly on the quay at Plymouth,
with pins that rattle in the windy season, but the game is done when the
light appears.

We clatter up to London. Paddington station or Waterloo, I care not. But
for arrival a rainy night is best, when the pavements glisten and the
mad taxis are rushing to the theatres. And then, for a week, by way of
practice and to test our boots, we shall trudge the streets of
London--the Strand and the Embankment. And certainly we shall explore
the Temple and find the sites of Blackfriars and the Globe. Here, beyond
this present brewery, was the bear-pit. Tarlton's jests still sound upon
the bank. A wherry, once, on this busy river, conveyed Sir Roger up to
Vauxhall. Perhaps, here, on the homeward trip, he was rejected by the
widow. The dear fellow, it is recorded, out of sentiment merely, kept
his clothes unchanged in the fashion of this season of his
disappointment. Here, also, was the old bridge across the Fleet. Here
was Drury Lane where Garrick acted. Tender hearts, they say, in pit and
stall, fluttered to his Romeo, and sighed their souls across the
candles. On this muddy curb link-boys waited when the fog was thick.
Here the footmen bawled for chairs.

But there are bookshops still in Charing Cross Road. And, for frivolous
moments, haberdashery is offered in Bond Street and vaudeville in
Leicester Square.

And then on a supreme morning we pack our rucksacks.

It was a grievous oversight that Christian failed to tell us what
clothing he carried in his pack. We know it was a heavy burden, for it
dragged him in the mire. But did he carry slippers to ease his feet at
night? And what did the Pardoner put inside his wallet? Surely the Wife
of Bath was supplied with a powder-puff and a fresh taffeta to wear at
the journey's end. I could, indeed, spare Christian one or two of his
encounters for knowledge of his wardrobe. These homely details are of
interest. The mad Knight of La Mancha, we are told, mortgaged his house
and laid out a pretty sum on extra shirts. Stevenson, also, tells us the
exact gear that he loaded on his donkey, but what did Marco Polo carry?
And Munchausen and the Wandering Jew? I have skimmed their pages vainly
for a hint.

For myself, I shall take an extra suit of underwear and another flannel
shirt, a pair of stockings, a rubber cape of lightest weight that falls
below the knees, slippers, a shaving-kit and brushes. I shall wash my
linen at night and hang it from my window, where it shall wave like an
admiral's flag to show that I sleep upon the premises. I shall replace
it as it wears. And I shall take a book, not to read but to have ready
on the chance. I once carried the Book of Psalms, but it was Nick Carter
I read, which I bought in a tavern parlor, fifteen pages missing, from a
fat lady who served me beer.

We run to the window for a twentieth time. It has rained all night, but
the man in the lift was hopeful when we came up from breakfast. We
believe him; as if he sat on a tower with a spy-glass on the clouds. We
cherish his tip as if it came from Æolus himself, holding the winds in
leash.

And now a streak of yellowish sky--London's substitute for blue--shows
in the west.

We pay our bill. We scatter the usual silver. Several senators in
uniform bow us down the steps. We hale a bus in Trafalgar Square. We
climb to the top--to the front seat with full prospect. The Haymarket.
Sandwich men with weary step announce a vaudeville. We snap our fingers
at so stale an entertainment. There are flower-girls in Piccadilly
Circus. Regent Street. We pass the Marble Arch, near which cut-throats
were once hanged on the three-legged mare of Tyburn. Hammersmith.
Brentford. The bus stops. It is the end of the route. We have ridden out
our sixpence. We climb down. We adjust our packs and shoe-strings. The
road to the western country beckons.

My dear sir, perhaps you yourself have planned for a landaulet this
summer and an English trip. You have laid out two swift weeks to make
the breathless round. You journey from London to Bristol in a day.
Another day, and you will climb out, stiff of leg, among the northern
lakes. If then, as you loll among the cushions, lapped in luxury, pink
and soft--if then, you see two men with sticks in hand and packs on
shoulder, know them for ourselves. We are singing on the road to
Windsor--to Salisbury, to Stonehenge, to the hills of Dorset, to
Lyme-Regis, to Exeter and the Devon moors.

It was a shepherd who came with a song to the mountain-top. "The sun
shone, the bees swept past me singing; and I too sang, shouted, World,
world, I am coming!"

[Illustration]



At a Toy-Shop Window.


In this Christmas season, when snowflakes fill the air and twilight is
the pleasant thief of day, I sometimes pause at the window of a toy-shop
to see what manner of toys are offered to the children. It is only five
o'clock and yet the sky is dark. The night has come to town to do its
shopping before the stores are shut. The wind has Christmas errands.

And there is a throng of other shoppers. Fathers of families drip with
packages and puff after street cars. Fat ladies--Now then, all
together!--are hoisted up. Old ladies are caught in revolving doors. And
the relatives of Santa Claus--surely no nearer than nephews (anæmic
fellows in faded red coats and cotton beards)--pound their kettles for
an offering toward a Christmas dinner for the poor.

But, also, little children flatten their noses on the window of the
toy-shop. They point their thumbs through their woolly mittens in a
sharp rivalry of choice. Their unspent nickels itch for large
investment. Extravagant dimes bounce around their pockets. But their
ears are cold, and they jiggle on one leg against a frosty toe.

Here in the toy-shop is a tin motor-car. Here is a railroad train, with
tracks and curves and switches, a pasteboard mountain and a tunnel. Here
is a steamboat. With a turning of a key it starts for Honolulu behind
the sofa. The stormy Straits of Madagascar lie along the narrow hall.
Here in the window, also, are beams and girders for a tower. Not since
the days of Babel has such a vast supply been gathered. And there are
battleships and swift destroyers and guns and armoured tanks. The
nursery becomes a dangerous ocean, with submarines beneath the stairs:
or it is the plain of Flanders and the great war echoes across the
hearth. Château-Thierry is a pattern in the rug and the andirons are the
towers of threatened Paris.

But on this Christmas night, as I stand before the toy-shop in the
whirling storm, the wind brings me the laughter of far-off children.
Time draws back its sober curtain. The snow of thirty winters is piled
in my darkened memory, but I hear shrill voices across the night.

Once upon a time--in the days when noses and tables were almost on a
level, and manhood had wavered from kilts to pants buttoning at the
side--once there was a great chest which was lodged in a closet behind
a sitting-room. It was from this closet that the shadows came at night,
although at noon there was plainly a row of hooks with comfortable
winter garments. And there were drawers and shelves to the ceiling where
linen was kept, and a cupboard for cough-syrup and oily lotions for
chapped hands. A fragrant paste, also, was spread on the tip of the
little finger, which, when wiggled inside the nostril and inhaled, was
good for wet feet and snuffles. Twice a year these bottles were smelled
all round and half of them discarded. It was the ragman who bought them,
a penny to the bottle. He coveted chiefly, however, lead and iron, and
he thrilled to old piping as another man thrills to Brahms. He was a sly
fellow and, unless Annie looked sharp, he put his knee against the
scale.

But at the rear of the closet, beyond the lamplight, there was a chest
where playing-blocks were kept. There were a dozen broken sets of
various shapes and sizes--the deposit and remnant of many years.

These blocks had once been covered with letters and pictures. They had
conspired to teach us. C had stood for cat. D announced a dog. Learning
had put on, as it were, a sugar coat for pleasant swallowing. The arid
heights teased us to mount by an easy slope. But we scraped away the
letters and the pictures. Should a holiday, we thought, be ruined by
insidious instruction? Must a teacher's wagging finger always come among
us? It was sufficient that five blocks end to end made a railway car,
with finger-blocks for platforms; that three blocks were an engine, with
a block on top to be a smokestack. We had no toy mountain and pasteboard
tunnel, as in the soft fashion of the present, but we jacked the rug
with blocks up hill and down, and pushed our clanking trains through the
hollow underneath. It was an added touch to build a castle on the
summit. A spool on a finger-block was the Duke himself on horseback,
hunting across his sloping acres.

There was, also, in the chest, a remnant of iron coal-cars with real
wheels. Their use was too apparent. A best invention was to turn
playthings from an obvious design. So we placed one of the coal-cars
under the half of a folding checkerboard and by adding masts and turrets
and spools for guns we built a battleship. This could be sailed all
round the room, on smooth seas where the floor was bare, but it pitched
and tossed upon a carpet. If it came to port battered by the storm,
should it be condemned like a ship that is broken on a sunny river? Its
plates and rivets had been tested in a tempest. It had skirted the
headlands at the staircase and passed the windy Horn.

Or perhaps we built a fort upon the beach before the fire. It was a
pretty warfare between ship and fort, with marbles used shot and shot in
turn. A lucky marble toppled the checkerboard off its balance and
wrecked the ship. The sailors, after scrambling in the water, put to
shore on flat blocks from the boat deck and were held as prisoners until
supper, in the dungeons of the fort. It was in the sitting-room that we
played these games, under the family's feet. They moved above our sport
like a race of tolerant giants; but when callers came, we were brushed
to the rear of the house.

Spools were men. Thread was their short and subsidiary use. Their larger
life was given to our armies. We had several hundred of them threaded on
long strings on the closet-hooks. But if a great campaign was
planned--if the Plains of Abraham were to be stormed or Cornwallis
captured--our recruiting sergeants rummaged in the drawers of the
sewing-machine for any spool that had escaped the draft. Or we peeked
into mother's work-box, and if a spool was almost empty, we suddenly
became anxious about our buttons. Sometimes, when a great spool was
needed for a general, mother wound the thread upon a piece of cardboard.
General Grant had carried black silk. Napoleon had been used on
trouser-patches. And my grandmother and a half-dozen aunts and elder
cousins did their bit and plied their needles for the war. In this
regard grandfather was a slacker, but he directed the battle from the
sofa with his crutch.

Toothpicks were guns. Every soldier had a gun. If he was hit by a marble
in the battle and the toothpick remained in place, he was only wounded;
but he was dead if the toothpick fell out. Of each two men wounded, by
Hague Convention, one recovered for the next engagement.

Of course we had other toys. Lead soldiers in cocked hats came down the
chimney and were marshaled in the Christmas dawn. A whole Continental
Army lay in paper sheets, to be cut out with scissors. A steam engine
with a coil of springs and key furnished several rainy holidays. A red
wheel-barrow supplied a short fury of enjoyment. There were sleds and
skates, and a printing press on which we printed the milkman's tickets.
The memory still lingers that five cents, in those cheap days, bought a
pint of cream. There was, also, a castle with a princess at a window.
Was there no prince to climb her trellis and bear her off beneath the
moon? It had happened so in Astolat. The princes of the gorgeous East
had wooed, also, in such a fashion. Or perhaps this was the very castle
that the wicked Kazrac lifted across the Chinese mountains in the night,
cheating Aladdin of his bride. It was a rather clever idea, as things
seem now in this time of general shortage, to steal a lady, house and
all, not forgetting the cook and laundress. But one day a little girl
with dark hair smiled at me from next door and gave me a Christmas cake,
and in my dreams thereafter she became the princess in my castle.

We had stone blocks with arches and round columns that were too delicate
for the hazard of siege and battle. Once, when a playmate had scarlet
fever, we lent them to him for his convalescence. Afterwards, against
contagion, we left them for a month under a bush in the side yard. Every
afternoon we wet them with a garden hose. Did not Noah's flood purify
the world? It would be a stout microbe, we thought, that could survive
the deluge. At last we lifted out the blocks at arm's length. We smelled
them for any lurking fever. They were damp to the nose and smelled like
the cement under the back porch. But the contagion had vanished like
Noah's wicked neighbors.

But store toys always broke. Wheels came off. Springs were snapped. Even
the princess faded at her castle window.

Sometimes a toy, when it was broken, arrived at a larger usefulness.
Although I would not willingly forget my velocipede in its first gay
youth, my memory of sharpest pleasure reverts to its later days, when
one of its rear wheels was gone. It had been jammed in an accident
against the piano. It has escaped me whether the piano survived the
jolt; but the velocipede was in ruins. When the wheel came off the
brewery wagon before our house and the kegs rolled here and there, the
wreckage was hardly so complete. Three spokes were broken and the hub
was cracked. At first, it had seemed that the day of my velocipede was
done. We laid it on its side and tied the hub with rags. It looked like
a jaw with tooth-ache. Then we thought of the old baby-carriage in the
storeroom. Perhaps a transfusion of wheels was possible. We conveyed
upstairs a hammer and a saw. It was a wobbling and impossible
experiment. But at the top of the house there was a kind of race-track
around the four posts of the attic. With three wheels complete, we had
been forced to ride with caution at the turns or be pitched against the
sloping rafters. We now discovered that a missing wheel gave the
necessary tilt for speed. I do not recall that the pedals worked. We
legged it on both sides. Ten times around was a race; and the audience
sat on the ladder to the roof and held a watch with a second-hand for
records.

Ours was a roof that was flat in the center. On winter days, when snow
would pack, we pelted the friendly milkman. Ours, also, was a cellar
that was lost in darkened mazes. A blind area off the laundry, where the
pantry had been built above, seemed to be the opening of a cavern. And
we shuddered at the sights that must meet the candle of the furnaceman
when he closed the draught at bedtime.

Abandoned furniture had uses beyond a first intention. A folding-bed of
ours closed to about the shape of a piano. When the springs and mattress
were removed it was a house with a window at the end where a wooden flap
let down. Here sat the Prisoner of Chillon, with a clothes-line on his
ankle. A pile of old furniture in the attic, covered with a cloth,
became at twilight a range of mountains with a gloomy valley at the
back. I still believe--for so does fancy wanton with my thoughts--that
Aladdin's cave opens beneath those walnut bed-posts, that the cavern of
jewels needs but a dusty search on hands and knees. The old house, alas,
has come to foreign use. Does no one now climb the attic steps? Has time
worn down the awful Caucasus? No longer is there children's laughter on
the stairs. The echo of their feet sleeps at last in the common day.

Nor must furniture, of necessity, be discarded. We dived from the
footboard of our bed into a surf of pillows. We climbed its headboard
like a mast, and looked for pirates on the sea. A sewing-table with legs
folded flat was a sled upon the stairs. Must I do more than hint that
two bed-slats make a pair of stilts, and that one may tilt like King
Arthur with the wash-poles? Or who shall fix a narrow use for the
laundry tubs, or put a limit on the coal-hole? And step-ladders! There
are persons who consider a step-ladder as a menial. This is an injustice
to a giddy creature that needs but a holiday to show its metal. On
Thursday afternoons, when the cook was out, you would never know it for
the same thin creature that goes on work-days with a pail and cleans the
windows. It is a tower, a shining lighthouse, a crowded grandstand, a
circus, a ladder to the moon.

But perhaps, my dear young sir, you are so lucky as to possess a smaller
and inferior brother who frets with ridicule. He is a toy to be desired
above a red velocipede. I offer you a hint. Print upon a paper in bold,
plain letters--sucking the lead for extra blackness--that he is afraid
of the dark, that he likes the girls, that he is a butter-fingers at
baseball and teacher's pet and otherwise contemptible. Paste the paper
inside the glass of the bookcase, so that the insult shows. Then lock
the door and hide the key. Let him gaze at this placard of his weakness
during a rainy afternoon. But I caution you to secure the keys of all
similar glass doors--of the china closet, of the other bookcase, of the
knick-knack cabinet. Let him stew in his iniquity without chance of
retaliation.

But perhaps, in general, your brother is inclined to imitate you and be
a tardy pattern of your genius. He apes your fashion in suspenders, the
tilt of your cap, your method in shinny. If you crouch in a barrel in
hide-and-seek, he crowds in too. You wag your head from side to side on
your bicycle in the manner of Zimmerman, the champion. Your brother wags
his, too. You spit in your catcher's mit, like Kelly, the
ten-thousand-dollar baseball beauty. Your brother spits in his mit, too.
These things are unbearable. If you call him "sloppy" when his face is
dirty, he merely passes you back the insult unchanged. If you call him
"sloppy-two-times," still he has no invention. You are justified now to
call him "nigger" and to cuff him to his place.

Tagging is his worst offense--tagging along behind when you are engaged
on serious business. "Now then, sonny," you say, "run home. Get nurse to
blow your nose." Or you bribe him with a penny to mind his business.

I must say a few words about paper-hangers, although they cannot be
considered as toys or play--things by any rule of logic. There is
something rather jolly about having a room papered. The removal of the
pictures shows how the old paper looked before it faded. The furniture
is pushed into an agreeable confusion in the hall. A rocker seems
starting for the kitchen. The great couch goes out the window. A chair
has climbed upon a table to look about. It needs but an alpenstock to
clamber on the bookcase. The carpet marks the places where the piano
legs came down.

And the paper-hanger is a rather jolly person. He sings and whistles in
the empty room. He keeps to a tune, day after day, until you know it. He
slaps his brush as if he liked his work. It is a sticky, splashing,
sloshing slap. Not even a plasterer deals in more interesting material.
And he settles down on you with ladders and planks as if a circus had
moved in. After hours, when he is gone, you climb on his planking and
cross Niagara, as it were, with a cane for balance. To this day I think
of paper-hangers as a kindly race of men, who sing in echoing rooms and
eat pie and pickles for their lunch. Except for their Adam's apples--got
with gazing at the ceiling--surely not the wicked apple of the Garden--I
would wish to be a paper-hanger.

Plumbers were a darker breed, who chewed tobacco fetched up from their
hip-pockets. They were enemies of the cook by instinct, and they spat in
dark corners. We once found a cake of their tobacco when they were gone.
We carried it to the safety of the furnace-room and bit into it in turn.
It was of a sweetish flavor of licorice that was not unpleasant. But the
sin was too enormous for our comfort.

But in November, when days were turning cold and hands were chapped, our
parents' thoughts ran to the kindling-pile, to stock it for the winter.
Now the kindling-pile was the best quarry for our toys, because it was
bought from a washboard factory around the corner. Not every child has
the good fortune to live near a washboard factory. Necessary as
washboards are, a factory of modest output can supply a county, with
even a little dribble for export into neighbor counties. Many unlucky
children, therefore, live a good ten miles off, and can never know the
fascinating discard of its lathes--the little squares and cubes, the
volutes and rhythmic flourishes which are cast off in manufacture and
are sold as kindling. They think a washboard is a dull and common thing.
To them it smacks of Monday. It smells of yellow soap and suds. It
wears, so to speak, a checkered blouse and carries clothes-pins in its
mouth. It has perspiration on its nose. They do not know, in their
pitiable ignorance, the towers and bridges that can be made from the
scourings of a washboard factory.

Our washboard factory was a great wooden structure that had been built
for a roller-skating rink. Father and mother, as youngsters in the time
of their courtship, had cut fancy eights upon the floor. And still, in
these later days, if you listened outside a window, you heard a whirling
roar, as if perhaps the skaters had returned and again swept the corners
madly. But it was really the sound of machinery that you heard,
fashioning toys and blocks for us. At noonday, comely red-faced girls
ate their lunches on the window-sills, ready for conversation and
acquaintance.

And now, for several days, a rumor has been running around the house
that a wagon of kindling is expected. Each afternoon, on our return from
school, we run to the cellar. Even on baking-day the whiff of cookies
holds us only for a minute. We wait only to stuff our pockets. And at
last the great day comes. The fresh wood is piled to the ceiling. It is
a high mound and chaos, without form but certainly not void. For there
are long pieces for bridges, flat pieces for theatre scenery, tall
pieces for towers and grooves for marbles. It is a vast quarry for our
pleasant use. You will please leave us in the twilight, sustained by
doughnuts, burrowing in the pile, throwing out sticks to replenish our
chest of blocks.

And therefore on this Christmas night, as I stand before the toy-shop in
the whirling storm, the wind brings me the laughter of these far-off
children. The snow of thirty winters is piled in my darkened memory, but
I hear shrill voices across the night.



Sic Transit--


I do not recall a feeling of greater triumph than on last Saturday when
I walked off the eighteenth green of the Country Club with my opponent
four down. I have the card before me now with its pleasant row of fives
and sixes, and a four, _and a three_. Usually my card has mounted here
and there to an eight or nine, or I have blown up altogether in a
sandpit. Like Byron--but, oh, how differently!--I have wandered in the
pathless wood. Like Ruth I have stood in tears amid the alien corn.

In those old days--only a week ago, but dim already (so soon does time
wash the memory white)--in those old days, if I were asked to make up a
foursome, some green inferior fellow, a novice who used his sister's
clubs, was paired against me; or I was insulted with two strokes a hole,
with three on the long hole past the woods. But now I shall ascend to
faster company. It was my elbow. I now square it and cock it forward a
bit. And I am cured. Keep your head down, Fritzie Boy, I say. Mind your
elbow--I say it aloud--and I have no trouble.

There is a creek across the course. Like a thread in the woof it cuts
the web of nearly every green. It is a black strand that puts trouble in
the pattern, an evil thread from Clotho's ancient loom. Up at the sixth
hole this creek is merely a dirty rivulet and I can get out of the
damned thing--one must write, they say, as one talks and not go on
stilts--I can get out with a niblick by splashing myself a bit. But even
here, in its tender youth, as it were, the rivulet makes all the
mischief that it can. Gargantua with his nurses was not so great a
rogue. It crawls back and forth three times before the tee with a kind
of jeering tongue stuck out. It seems foredoomed from the cradle to a
villainous course. Farther down, at the seventeenth and second holes,
which are near together, it cuts a deeper chasm. The bank is shale and
steep. As I drive I feel like a black sinner on the nearer shore of
Styx, gazing upon the sunny fields of Paradise beyond. I put my caddy at
the top of the slope, where he sits with his apathetic eye upon the
sullen, predestined pool.

But since last Saturday all is different. I sailed across on every
drive, on every approach. The depths beckoned but I heeded not. And,
when I walked across the bridge, I snapped my fingers in contempt, as at
a dog that snarls safely on a leash.

I play best with a niblick. It is not entirely that I use it most. (Any
day you can hear me bawling to my caddy to fetch it behind a bunker or
beyond a fence.) Rather, the surface of the blade turns up at a
reassuring, hopeful angle. Its shining eye seems cast at heaven in a
prayer. I have had spells, also, of fondness for my mashie. It is fluted
for a back-spin. Except for the click and flight of a prosperous drive I
know nothing of prettier symmetry than an accurate approach. But my
brassie I consider a reckless creature. It has bad direction. It treads
not in the narrow path. I have driven. Good! For once I am clear of the
woods. That white speck on the fairway is my ball. But shall my ambition
o'erleap itself? Shall I select my brassie and tempt twice the gods of
chance? No! I'll use my mashie. I'll creep up to the hole on hands and
knees and be safe from trap and ditch.

Has anyone spent more time than I among the blackberry bushes along the
railroad tracks on the eleventh? It is no grossness of appetite. My
niblick grows hot with its exertions.

Once our course was not beset with sandpits. In those bright days woods
and gulley were enough. Once clear of the initial obstruction I could
roll up unimpeded to the green. I practiced a bouncing stroke with my
putter that offered security at twenty yards. But now these approaches
are guarded by traps. The greens are balanced on little mountains with
sharp ditches all about. I hoist up from one to fall into another. "What
a word, my son, has passed the barrier of your teeth!" said Athene once
to Odysseus. Is the game so ancient? Were there sandpits, also, on the
hills of stony Ithaca? Or in Ortygia, sea-girt? Was the dear wanderer
off his game and fallen to profanity? The white-armed nymph Calypso must
have stuffed her ears.

But now my troubles are behind me. I have cured my elbow of its fault. I
keep my head down. My very clubs have taken on a different look since
Saturday. I used to remark their nicks against the stones. A bit of
green upon the heel of my driver showed how it was that I went sidewise
to the woods. In those days I carried the bag spitefully to the shower.
Could I leave it, I pondered, as a foundling in an empty locker? Or
should I strangle it? But now all is changed. My clubs are servants to
my will, kindly, obedient creatures that wait upon my nod. Even my
brassie knows me for its master. And the country seems fairer. The
valleys smile at me. The creek is friendly to my drive. The tall hills
skip and clap their hands at my approach. My game needs only thought and
care. My fives will become fours, my sixes slip down to fives. And here
and there I shall have a three.

Except for a row of books my mantelpiece is bare. Who knows? Some day I
may sweep off a musty row of history and set up a silver cup.

Later--Saturday again. I have just been around in 123. Horrible! I was
in the woods and in the blackberry bushes, and in the creek seven times.
My envious brassie! My well-belovèd mashie! Oh, vile conspiracy!
Ambition's debt is paid. 123! Now--now it's my shoulder.

[Illustration]



The Posture of Authors.


There is something rather pleasantly suggestive in the fashion employed
by many of the older writers of inscribing their books from their
chambers or lodging. It gives them at once locality and circumstance. It
brings them to our common earth and understanding. Thomas Fuller, for
example, having finished his Church History of Britain, addressed his
reader in a preface from his chambers in Sion College. "May God alone
have the glory," he writes, "and the ingenuous reader the benefit, of my
endeavors! which is the hearty desire of Thy servant in Jesus Christ,
Thomas Fuller."

One pictures a room in the Tudor style, with oak wainscot, tall
mullioned windows and leaded glass, a deep fireplace and black beams
above. Outside, perhaps, is the green quadrangle of the college,
cloistered within ancient buildings, with gay wall--flowers against the
sober stones. Bells answer from tower to belfry in agreeable dispute
upon the hour. They were cast in a quieter time and refuse to bicker on
a paltry minute. The sunlight is soft and yellow with old age. Such a
dedication from such a place might turn the most careless reader into
scholarship. In the seat of its leaded windows even the quirk of a Latin
sentence might find a meaning. Here would be a room in which to meditate
on the worthies of old England, or to read a chronicle of forgotten
kings, queens, and protesting lovers who have faded into night.

Here we see Thomas Fuller dip his quill and make a start. "I have
sometimes solitarily pleased myself," he begins, and he gazes into the
dark shadows of the room, seeing, as it were, the pleasant spectres of
the past. Bishops of Britain, long dead, in stole and mitre, forgetful
of their solemn office, dance in the firelight on his walls. Popes move
in dim review across his studies and shake a ghostly finger at his
heresy. The past is not a prude. To her lover she reveals her beauty.
And the scholar's lamp is her marriage torch.

Nor need it entirely cool our interest to learn that Sion College did
not slope thus in country fashion to the peaceful waters of the Cam,
with its fringe of trees and sunny meadow; did not possess even a gothic
tower and cloister. It was built on the site of an ancient priory,
Elsing Spital, with almshouses attached, a Jesuit library and a college
for the clergy. It was right in London, down near the Roman wall, in the
heart of the tangled traffic, and street cries kept breaking
in--muffins, perhaps, and hot spiced gingerbread and broken glass. I
hope, at least, that the good gentleman's rooms were up above, somewhat
out of the clatter, where muffins had lost their shrillness.
Gingerbread, when distance has reduced it to a pleasant tune, is not
inclined to rouse a scholar from his meditation. And even broken glass
is blunted on a journey to a garret. I hope that the old gentleman
climbed three flights or more and that a range of chimney-pots was his
outlook and speculation.

It seems as if a rather richer flavor were given to a book by knowing
the circumstance of its composition. Not only would we know the
complexion of a man, whether he "be a black or a fair man," as Addison
suggests, "of a mild or choleric disposition, married or a bachelor,"
but also in what posture he works and what objects meet his eye when he
squares his elbows and dips his pen. We are concerned whether sunlight
falls upon his papers or whether he writes in shadow. Also, if an
author's desk stands at a window, we are curious whether it looks on a
street, or on a garden, or whether it squints blindly against a wall. A
view across distant hills surely sweetens the imagination, whereas the
clatter of the city gives a shrewder twist to fancy.

And household matters are of proper concern. We would like to be
informed whether an author works in the swirl of the common
sitting-room. If he writes within earshot of the kitchen, we should know
it. There has been debate whether a steam radiator chills a poet as
against an open fire, and whether a plot keeps up its giddy pace upon a
sweeping day. Histories have balked before a household interruption.
Novels have been checked by the rattle of a careless broom. A smoky
chimney has choked the sturdiest invention.

If a plot goes slack perhaps it is a bursted pipe. An incessant grocer's
boy, unanswered on the back porch, has often foiled the wicked Earl in
his attempts against the beautiful Pomona. Little did you think, my dear
madam, as you read your latest novel, that on the very instant when the
heroine, Mrs. Elmira Jones, deserted her babies to follow her conscience
and become a movie actress--that on that very instant when she slammed
the street door, the plumber (the author's plumber) came in to test the
radiator. Mrs. Jones nearly took her death on the steps as she waited
for the plot to deal with her. Even a Marquis, now and then, one of the
older sort in wig and ruffles, has been left--when the author's ashes
have needed attention--on his knees before the Lady Emily, begging her
to name the happy day.

Was it not Coleridge's cow that calved while he was writing "Kubla
Khan"? In burst the housemaid with the joyful news. And that man from
Porlock--mentioned in his letters--who came on business? Did he not
despoil the morning of its poetry? Did Wordsworth's pigs--surely he
owned pigs--never get into his neighbor's garden and need quick
attention? Martin Luther threw his inkpot, supposedly, at the devil. Is
it not more likely that it was at Annie, who came to dust? Thackeray is
said to have written largely at his club, the Garrick or the Athenæum.
There was a general stir of feet and voices, but it was foreign and did
not plague him. A tinkle of glasses in the distance, he confessed, was
soothing, like a waterfall.

Steele makes no complaint against his wife Prue, but he seems to have
written chiefly in taverns. In the very first paper of the _Tatler_ he
gratifies our natural curiosity by naming the several coffee-houses
where he intends to compose his thoughts. "Foreign and domestic news,"
he says, "you will have from Saint James's Coffee-House." Learning will
proceed from the Grecian. But "all accounts of gallantry, pleasure and
entertainment shall be under the article of White's Chocolate-House." In
the month of September, 1705, he continues, a gentleman "was washing his
teeth at a tavern window in Pall Mall, when a fine equipage passed by,
and in it, a young lady who looked up at him; away goes the coach--"
Away goes the beauty, with an alluring smile--rather an ambiguous smile,
I'm afraid--across her silken shoulder. But for the continuation of this
pleasant scandal (you may be sure that the pretty fellow was quite
distracted from his teeth) one must turn up the yellow pages of the
_Tatler_.

We may suppose that Steele called for pens and paper and a sandbox, and
took a table in one of White's forward windows. He wished no garden view
or brick wall against the window. We may even go so far as to assume
that something in the way of punch, or canary, or negus _luke_, _my
dear_, was handy at his elbow. His paragraphs are punctuated by the gay
procession of the street. Here goes a great dandy in red heels, with
lace at his beard and wrists. Here is a scarlet captain who has served
with Marlborough and has taken a whole regiment of Frenchmen by the
nose. Here is the Lady Belinda in her chariot, who is the pledge of all
the wits and poets. That little pink ear of hers has been rhymed in a
hundred sonnets--ear and tear and fear and near and dear. The King has
been toasted from her slipper. The pretty creature has been sitting at
ombre for most of the night, but now at four of the afternoon she takes
the morning air with her lap dog. That great hat and feather will slay
another dozen hearts between shop and shop. She is attended by a female
dragon, but contrives by accident to show an inch or so of charming
stocking at the curb. Steele, at his window, I'm afraid, forgets for the
moment his darling Prue and his promise to be home.

There is something rather pleasant in knowing where these old authors,
who are now almost forgotten, wrote their books. Richardson wrote
"Clarissa" at Parson's Green. That ought not to interest us very much,
for nobody reads "Clarissa" now. But we can picture the fat little
printer reading his daily batch of tender letters from young ladies,
begging him to reform the wicked Lovelace and turn the novel to a happy
end. For it was issued in parts and so, of course, there was no
opportunity for young ladies, however impatient, to thumb the back pages
for the plot.

Richardson wrote "Pamela" at a house called the Grange, then in the open
country just out of London. There was a garden at the back, and a
grotto--one of the grottoes that had been the fashion for prosperous
literary gentlemen since Pope had built himself one at Twickenham. Here,
it is said, Richardson used to read his story, day by day, as it was
freshly composed, to a circle of his lady admirers. Hugh Thompson has
drawn the picture in delightful silhouette. The ladies listen in
suspense--perhaps the wicked Master is just taking Pamela on his
knee--their hands are raised in protest. La! The Monster! Their noses
are pitched up to a high excitement. One old lady hangs her head and
blushes at the outrage. Or does she cock her ear to hear the better?

Richardson had a kind of rocking-horse in his study and he took his
exercise so between chapters. We may imagine him galloping furiously on
the hearth--rug, then, quite refreshed, after four or five dishes of
tea, hiding his villain once more under Pamela's bed. Did it never occur
to that young lady to lift the valance? Half a dozen times at least he
has come popping out after she has loosed her stays, once even when she
has got her stockings off. Perhaps this is the dangerous moment when the
old lady in the silhouette hung her head and blushed. If Pamela had gone
rummaging vigorously with a poker beneath her bed she could have cooled
her lover.

Goldsmith wrote his books, for the most part, in lodgings. We find him
starving with the beggars in Axe Lane, advancing to Green Arbour
Court--sending down to the cook-shop for a tart to make his
supper--living in the Temple, as his fortunes mended. Was it not at his
window in the Temple that he wrote part of his "Animated Nature"? His
first chapter--four pages--is called a sketch of the universe. In four
pages he cleared the beginning up to Adam. Could anything be simpler or
easier? The clever fellow, no doubt, could have made the
universe--actually made it out of chaos--stars and moon and fishes in
the sea--in less than the allotted six days and not needed a rest upon
the seventh. He could have gone, instead, in plum-colored coat--"in full
fig"--to Vauxhall for a frolic. Goldsmith had nothing in particular
outside of his window to look at but the stone flagging, a pump and a
solitary tree. Of the whole green earth this was the only living thing.
For a brief season a bird or two lodged there, and you may be sure that
Goldsmith put the remnant of his crumbs upon the window casement.
Perhaps it was here that he sent down to the cook-shop for a tart, and
he and the birds made a common banquet across the glass.

Poets, depending on their circumstance, are supposed to write either in
garrets or in gardens. Browning, it is true, lived at Casa Guidi, which
was "yellow with sunshine from morning to evening," and here and there a
prosperous Byron has a Persian carpet and mahogany desk. But, for the
most part, we put our poets in garrets, as a cheap place that has the
additional advantage of being nearest to the moon. From these high
windows sonnets are thrown, on a windy night. Rhymes and fancies are
roused by gazing on the stars. The rumble of the lower city is potent to
start a metaphor. "These fringes of lamplight," it is written,
"struggling up through smoke and thousandfold exhalation, some fathoms
into the ancient reign of Night, what thinks Boötes of them, as he leads
his Hunting-dogs over the Zenith in their leash of sidereal fire? That
stifled hum of Midnight, when Traffic has lain down to rest...."

Here, under a sloping roof, the poet sits, blowing at his fingers.
Hogarth has drawn him--the _Distressed Poet_--cold and lean and shabby.
That famous picture might have been copied from the life of any of a
hundred creatures of "The Dunciad," and, with a change of costume, it
might serve our time as well. The poor fellow sits at a broken table in
the dormer. About him lie his scattered sheets. His wife mends his
breeches. Outside the door stands a woman with the unpaid milk-score.
There is not a penny in the place--and for food only half a loaf and
something brewing in a kettle. You may remember that when Johnson was a
young poet, just come to London, he lived with Mr. Cave in St. John's
Gate. When there were visitors he ate his supper behind a screen because
he was too shabby to show himself. I wonder what definition he gave the
poet in his dictionary. If he wrote in his own experience, he put him
down as a poor devil who was always hungry. But Chatterton actually died
of starvation in a garret, and those other hundred poets of his time and
ours got down to the bone and took to coughing. Perhaps we shall change
our minds about that sonnet which we tossed lightly to the moon. The
wind thrusts a cold finger through chink and rag. The stars travel on
such lonely journeys. The jest loses its relish. Perhaps those merry
verses to the Christmas--the sleigh bells and the roasted goose--perhaps
those verses turn bitter when written on an empty stomach.

But do poets ever write in gardens? Swift, who was by way of being a
poet, built himself a garden-seat at Moor Park when he served Sir
William Temple, but I don't know that he wrote poetry there. Rather, it
was a place for reading. Pope in his prosperous days wrote at
Twickenham, with the sound of his artificial waterfall in his ears, and
he walked to take the air in his grotto along the Thames. But do poets
really wander beneath the moon to think their verses? Do they compose
"on summer eve by haunted stream"? I doubt whether Gray conceived his
Elegy in an actual graveyard. I smell oil. One need not see the thing
described upon the very moment. Shelley wrote of mountains--the awful
range of Caucasus--but his eye at the time looked on sunny Italy. Ibsen
wrote of the north when living in the south. When Bunyan wrote of the
Delectable Mountains he was snug inside a jail. Shakespeare, doubtless,
saw the giddy cliffs of Dover, the Rialto, the Scottish heath, from the
vantage of a London lodging.

Where did Andrew Marvell stand or sit or walk when he wrote about
gardens? Wordsworth is said to have strolled up and down a gravel path
with his eyes on the ground. I wonder whether the gardener ever broke
in--if he had a gardener--to complain about the drouth or how the
dandelions were getting the better of him. Or perhaps the lawn-mower
squeaked--if he had a lawn-mower--and threw him off. But wasn't it
Wordsworth who woke up four times in one night and called to his wife
for pens and paper lest an idea escape him? Surely he didn't take to the
garden at that time of night in his pajamas with an inkpot. But did
Wordsworth have a wife? How one forgets! Coleridge told Hazlitt that he
liked to compose "walking over uneven ground, or breaking through the
straggling branches of a copse-wood." But then, you recall that a calf
broke into "Kubla Khan." On that particular day, at least, he was snug
in his study.

No, I think that poets may like to sit in gardens and smoke their pipes
and poke idly with their sticks, but when it comes actually to composing
they would rather go inside. For even a little breeze scatters their
papers. No poet wishes to spend his precious morning chasing a frisky
sonnet across the lawn. Even a heavy epic, if lifted by a sudden squall,
challenges the swiftest foot. He puts his stick on one pile and his pipe
on another and he holds down loose sheets with his thumb. But it is
awkward business, and it checks the mind in its loftier flight.

Nor do poets care to suck their pencils too long where someone may see
them--perhaps Annie at the window rolling her pie-crust. And they can't
kick off their shoes outdoors in the hot agony of composition. And also,
which caps the argument, a garden is undeniably a sleepy place. The bees
drone to a sleepy tune. The breeze practices a lullaby. Even the
sunlight is in the common conspiracy. At the very moment when the poet
is considering Little Miss Muffet and how she sat on a tuffet--doubtless
in a garden, for there were spiders--even at the very moment when she
sits unsuspectingly at her curds and whey, down goes the poet's head and
he is fast asleep. Sleepiness is the plague of authors. You may remember
that when Christian--who, doubtless, was an author in his odd
moments--came to the garden and the Arbour on the Hill Difficulty, "he
pulled his Roll out of his bosom and read therein to his comfort....
Thus pleasing himself awhile, he at last fell into a slumber." I have no
doubt--other theories to the contrary--that "Kubla Khan" broke off
suddenly because Coleridge dropped off to sleep. A cup of black coffee
might have extended the poem to another stanza. Mince pie would have
stretched it to a volume. Is not Shakespeare allowed his forty winks?
Has it not been written that even the worthy Homer nods?

    "A pleasing land of drowsyhed it was:
    Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye;
    And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
    For ever flushing round a summer sky."

No, if one has a bit of writing to put out of the way, it is best to
stay indoors. Choose an uncomfortable, straight-backed chair. Toss the
sheets into a careless litter. And if someone will pay the milk-score
and keep the window mended, a garret is not a bad place in which to
write.

Novelists--unless they have need of history--can write anywhere, I
suppose, at home or on a journey. In the burst of their hot imagination
a knee is a desk. I have no doubt that Mr. Hugh Walpole, touring in this
country, contrives to write a bit even in a Pullman. The ingenious Mr.
Oppenheim surely dashes off a plot on the margin of the menu-card
between meat and salad. We know that "Pickwick Papers" was written
partly in hackney coaches while Dickens was jolting about the town.

An essayist, on the other hand, needs a desk and a library near at hand.
Because an essay is a kind of back-stove cookery. A novel needs a hot
fire, so to speak. A dozen chapters bubble in their turn above the
reddest coals, while an essay simmers over a little flame. Pieces of
this and that, an odd carrot, as it were, a left potato, a pithy bone,
discarded trifles, are tossed in from time to time to enrich the
composition. Raw paragraphs, when they have stewed all night, at last
become tender to the fork. An essay, therefore, cannot be written
hurriedly on the knee. Essayists, as a rule, chew their pencils. Their
desks are large and are always in disorder. There is a stack of books on
the clock shelf. Others are pushed under the bed. Matches, pencils and
bits of paper mark a hundred references. When an essayist goes out from
his lodging he wears the kind of overcoat that holds a book in every
pocket. His sagging pockets proclaim him. He is a bulging person, so
stuffed, even in his dress, with the ideas of others that his own
leanness is concealed. An essayist keeps a notebook, and he thumbs it
for forgotten thoughts. Nobody is safe from him, for he steals from
everyone he meets.

An essayist is not a mighty traveler. He does not run to grapple with a
roaring lion. He desires neither typhoon nor tempest. He is content in
his harbor to listen to the storm upon the rocks, if now and then, by a
lucky chance, he can shelter someone from the wreck. His hands are not
red with revolt against the world. He has glanced upon the thoughts of
many men; and as opposite philosophies point upon the truth, he is
modest with his own and tolerant toward the opinion of others. He looks
at the stars and, knowing in what a dim immensity we travel, he writes
of little things beyond dispute. There are enough to weep upon the
shadows, he, like a dial, marks the light. The small clatter of the city
beneath his window, the cry of peddlers, children chalking their games
upon the pavement, laundry dancing on the roofs and smoke in the
winter's wind--these are the things he weaves into the fabric of his
thoughts. Or sheep upon the hillside--if his window is so lucky--or a
sunny meadow, is a profitable speculation. And so, while the novelist is
struggling up a dizzy mountain, straining through the tempest to see the
kingdoms of the world, behold the essayist snug at home, content with
little sights. He is a kind of poet--a poet whose wings are clipped. He
flaps to no great heights and sees neither the devil, the seven oceans
nor the twelve apostles. He paints old thoughts in shiny varnish and, as
he is able, he mends small habits here and there. And therefore, as
essayists stay at home, they are precise--almost amorous--in the posture
and outlook of their writing. Leigh Hunt wished a great library next his
study. "But for the study itself," he writes, "give me a small snug
place, almost entirely walled with books. There should be only one
window in it looking upon trees." How the precious fellow scorns the
mountains and the ocean! He has no love, it seems, for typhoons and
roaring lions. "I entrench myself in my books," he continues, "equally
against sorrow and the weather. If the wind comes through a passage, I
look about to see how I can fence it off by a better disposition of my
movables." And by movables he means his books. These were his screen
against cold and trouble. But Leigh Hunt had been in prison for his
political beliefs. He had grappled with his lion. So perhaps, after all,
my argument fails.

Mr. Edmund Gosse had a different method to the same purpose. He "was so
anxious to fly all outward noise" that he desired a library apart from
the house. Maybe he had had some experience with Annie and her
clattering broomstick. "In my sleep," he writes, "'Where dreams are
multitude' I sometimes fancy that one day I shall have a library in a
garden. The phrase seems to contain the whole felicity of man.... It
sounds like having a castle in Spain, or a sheep-walk in Arcadia."

Montaigne's study was a tower, walled all about with books. At his table
in the midst he was the general focus of their wisdom. Hazlitt wrote
much at an inn at Winterslow, with Salisbury Plain around the corner of
his view. Now and then, let us hope, when the London coach was due, he
received in his nostrils a savory smell from the kitchen stove. I taste
pepper, sometimes, and sharp sauces in his writing. Stevenson, except
for ill-health and a love of the South Seas (here was the novelist
showing himself), would have preferred a windy perch over--looking
Edinburgh.

It does seem as if a rather richer flavor were given to a book by
knowing the circumstance of its composition. Consequently, readers, as
they grow older, turn more and more to biography. It is chiefly not the
biographies that deal with great crises and events, but rather the
biographies that are concerned with small circumstance and agreeable
gossip, that attract them most. The life of Gladstone, with its hard
facts of British policy, is all very well; but Mr. Lucas's life of Lamb
is better. Who would willingly neglect the record of a Thursday night at
Inner Temple Lane? In these pages Talfourd, Procter, Hazlitt and Hunt
have written their memories of these gatherings. It was to his partner
at whist, as he was dealing, that Lamb once said, "If dirt was trumps,
what hands you would hold!" Nights of wit and friendly banter! Who would
not crowd his ears with gossip of that mirthful company?--George Dyer,
who forgot his boots until half way home (the dear fellow grew forgetful
as the smoking jug went round)--Charles Lamb feeling the stranger's
bumps. Let the Empire totter! Let Napoleon fall! Africa shall be
parceled as it may. Here will we sit until the cups are empty.

Lately, in a bookshop at the foot of Cornhill, I fell in with an old
scholar who told me that it was his practice to recommend four books,
which, taken end on end, furnished the general history of English
letters from the Restoration to a time within our own memory. These
books were "Pepys' Diary," "Boswell's Johnson," the "Diary and Letters
of Madame d'Arblay" and the "Diary of Crabb Robinson."

Beginning almost with the days of Cromwell here is a chain of pleasant
gossip across the space of more than two hundred years. Perhaps, at the
first, there were old fellows still alive who could remember
Shakespeare--who still sat in chimney corners and babbled through their
toothless gums of Blackfriars and the Globe. And at the end we find a
reference to President Lincoln and the freeing of the slaves.

Here are a hundred authors--perhaps a thousand--tucking up their cuffs,
looking out from their familiar windows, scribbling their large or
trivial masterpieces.

[Illustration]



After-Dinner Pleasantries.


There is a shop below Fourteenth Street, somewhat remote from fashion,
that sells nothing but tricks for amateur and parlor use. It is a region
of cobblers, tailors and small grocers. Upstairs, locksmiths and
buttonhole cutters look through dusty windows on the L, which, under
some dim influence of the moon, tosses past the buildings here its human
tide, up and down, night and morning. The Trick Shop flatters itself on
its signboard that it carries the largest line of its peculiar trickery
on the western hemisphere--hinting modestly that Baluchistan, perhaps,
or Mesopotamia (where magic might be supposed to flourish) may have an
equal stock. The shop does not proclaim its greatness to the casual
glance. Its enormity of fraud offers no hint to the unsuspecting curb.
There must be caverns and cellars at the rear--a wealth of baffling sham
un-rumored to the street, shelves sagging with agreeable deception, huge
bales of sleight-of-hand and musty barrels of old magic.

But to the street the shop reveals no more than a small show-window, of
a kind in which licorice-sticks and all-day-suckers might feel at home.
It is a window at which children might stop on their way from school and
meditate their choice, fumbling in their pockets for their wealth.

I have stood at this window for ten minutes together. There are cards
for fortune tellers and manuals of astrology, decks with five aces and
marked backs, and trick hats and boxes with false bottoms. There are
iron cigars to be offered to a friend, and bleeding fingers, and a
device that makes a noise like blowing the nose, "only much louder."
Books of magic are displayed, and conjurers' outfits--shell games and
disappearing rabbits. There is a line of dribble-glasses--a humorous
contrivance with little holes under the brim for spilling water down the
front of an unwary guest. This, it is asserted, breaks the social ice
and makes a timid stranger feel at home. And there are puzzle pictures,
beards for villains and comic masks--Satan himself, and other painted
faces for Hallowe'en.

Some persons, of course, can perform their parlor tricks without this
machinery and appliance. I know a gifted fellow who can put on the
expression of an idiot. Or he wrinkles his face into the semblance of
eighty years, shakes with palsy and asks his tired wife if she will love
him when he's old. Again he puts a coffee cup under the shoulder of his
coat and plays the humpback. On a special occasion he mounts a table--or
two kitchen chairs become his stage--and recites Richard and the winter
of his discontent. He needs only a pillow to smother Desdemona. And then
he opens an imaginary bottle--the popping of the cork, the fizzing, the
gurgle when it pours. Sometimes he is a squealing pig caught under a
fence, and sometimes two steamboats signaling with their whistles in a
fog.

I know a young woman--of the newer sort--who appears to swallow a
lighted cigarette, with smoke coming from her ears. This was once a
man's trick, but the progress of the weaker sex has shifted it. On
request, she is a nervous lady with a fear of monkeys, taking five
children to the circus. She is Camille on her deathbed. I know a man,
too, who can give the Rebel yell and stick a needle, full length, into
his leg. The pulpy part above his knee seems to make an excellent
pincushion. And then there is the old locomotive starting on a slippery
grade (for beginners in entertainment), the hand-organ man and his
infested monkey (a duet), the chicken that is chased around the
barnyard, Hamlet with the broken pallet (this is side-splitting in any
company) and Moriarty on the telephone. I suppose our best vaudeville
performers were once amateurs themselves around the parlor lamp.

And there is Jones, too, who plays the piano. Jones, when he is asked,
sits at the keyboard and fingers little runs and chords. He seems to be
thinking which of a hundred pieces he will play. "What will you have?"
he asks. And a fat man wants "William Tell," and a lady with a powdered
nose asks for "Bubbles." But Jones ignores both and says, "Here's a
little thing of Schumann. It's a charming bit." On the other hand, when
Brown is asked to sing, it is generally too soon after dinner. Brown,
evidently, takes his food through his windpipe, and it is, so to speak,
a one-way street. He can hardly permit the ascending "Siegfried" to
squeeze past the cheese and crackers that still block the crowded
passage.

There is not a college dinner without the mockery of an eccentric
professor. A wag will catch the pointing of his finger, his favorite
phrase. Is there a lawyers' dinner without its imitation of Harry
Lauder? Isn't there always someone who wants to sing "It's Nice to Get
Up in the Mornin'," and trot up and down with twinkling legs? Plumbers
on their lodge nights, I am told, have their very own Charlie Chaplin.
And I suppose that the soda clerks' union--the dear creatures with their
gum--has its local Mary Pickford, ready with a scene from _Pollyanna_.
What jolly dinners dentists must have, telling one another in dialect
how old Mrs. Finnigan had her molars out! Forceps and burrs are their
unwearied jest across the years. When they are together and the doors
are closed, how they must frolic with our weakness!

And undertakers! Even they, I am informed, throw off their solemn
countenance when they gather in convention. Their carnation and mournful
smile are gone--that sober gesture that waves the chilly relations to
the sitting-room. But I wonder whether their dismal shop doesn't cling
always just a bit to their mirth and songs. That poor duffer in the poem
who asked to be laid low, wrapped in his tarpaulin jacket--surely,
undertakers never sing of him. They must look at him with disfavor for
his cheap proposal. He should have roused for a moment at the end, with
a request for black broadcloth and silver handles.

I once sat with an undertaker at a tragedy. He was of a lively sympathy
in the earlier parts and seemed hopeful that the hero would come through
alive. But in the fifth act, when the clanking army was defeated in the
wings and Brutus had fallen on his sword, then, unmistakably his
thoughts turned to the peculiar viewpoint of his profession. In fancy he
sat already in the back parlor with the grieving Mrs. Brutus, arranging
for the music.

To undertakers, Cæsar is always dead and turned to clay. Falstaff is
just a fat old gentleman who drank too much sack, a' babbled of green
fields and then needed professional attention. Perhaps at the very pitch
of their meetings when the merry glasses have been three times filled,
they pledge one another in what they are pleased to call the embalmers'
fluid. This jest grows rosier with the years. For these many centuries
at their banquets they have sung that it was a cough that carried him
off, that it was a coffin--Now then, gentlemen! All together for the
chorus!--that it was a coffin they carried him off in.

I dined lately with a man who could look like a weasel. When this was
applauded, he made a face like the Dude of _Palmer Cox's Brownies_. Even
Susan, the waitress, who knows her place and takes a jest soberly, broke
down at the pantry door. We could hear her dishes rattling in
convulsions in the sink. And then our host played the insect with his
fingers on the tablecloth, smelling a spot of careless gravy from the
roast with his long thin middle finger. He caught the habit that insects
have of waving their forward legs.

I still recall an uncle who could wiggle his ears. He did it every
Christmas and Thanksgiving Day. It was as much a part of the regular
program as the turkey and the cranberries. It was a feature of his
engaging foolery to pretend that the wiggle was produced by rubbing the
stomach, and a circle of us youngsters sat around him, rubbing our
expectant stomachs, waiting for the miracle. A cousin brought a guitar
and played the "Spanish Fandango" while we sat around the fire, sleepy
after dinner. And there was a maiden aunt with thin blue fingers, who
played waltzes while we danced, and she nodded and slept to the drowsy
sound of her own music.

Of my own after-dinner pleasantries I am modest. I have only one trick.
Two. I can recite the fur-bearing animals of North America--the bison,
the bear, the wolf, the seal, and sixteen others--and I can go
downstairs behind the couch for the cider. This last requires little
skill. As the books of magic say, it is an easy and baffling trick. With
every step you crook your legs a little more, until finally you are on
your knees, hunched together, and your head has disappeared from view.
You reverse the business coming up, with tray and glasses.

But these are my only tricks. There is a Brahms waltz that I once had
hopes of, but it has a hard run on the second page. I can never get my
thumb under in time to make connections. My best voice, too, covers only
five notes. You cannot do much for the neighbors with that cramped kind
of range. "A Tailor There Sat on His Window Ledge" is one of the few
tunes that fall inside my poverty. He calls to his wife, you may
remember, to bring him his old cross-bow, and there is a great Zum! Zum!
up and down in the bass until ready, before the chorus starts. On a
foggy morning I have quite a formidable voice for those Zums. But
after-dinner pleasantries are only good at night and then my bass is
thin. "A Sailor's Life, Yo, Ho!" is a very good tune but it goes up to
D, and I can sing it only when I am reckless of circumstance, or when I
am taking ashes from the furnace. I know a lady who sings only at her
sewing-machine. She finds a stirring accompaniment in the whirling of
the wheel. Others sing best in tiled bathrooms. Sitting in warm and
soapy water their voices swell to Caruso's. Laundresses, I have noticed,
are in lustiest voice at their tubs, where their arms keep a vigorous
rhythm on the scrubbing-board. But I choose ashes. I am little short of
a Valkyr, despite my sex, when I rattle the furnace grate.

With hymns I can make quite a showing in church if the bass part keeps
to a couple of notes. I pound along melodiously on some convenient low
note and slide up now and then, by a happy instinct, when the tune seems
to require it. The dear little lady, who sits in front of me, turns what
I am pleased to think is an appreciative ear, and now and then, for my
support, she throws in a pretty treble. But I have no tolerance with a
bass part that undertakes a flourish and climbs up behind the tenor.
This is mere egotism and a desire to shine. "Art thou there, true-penny?
You hear this fellow in the cellarage?" That is the proper bass.

Dear me! Now that I recall it, we have guests--guests tonight for
dinner. Will I be asked to sing? Am I in voice? I tum-a-lum a little, up
and down, for experiment. The roar of the subway drowns this from my
neighbors, but by holding my hand over my mouth I can hear it. Is my low
F in order? No--undeniably, it is not. Thin. And squeaky. The Zums would
never do. And that fast run in Brahms? Can I slip through it? Or will my
thumb, as usual, catch and stall? Have my guests seen me go
down--stairs behind the couch for the cider? Have they heard the
fur-bearing animals--the bison, the bear, the wolf, the seal, the
beaver, the otter, the fox and raccoon?

Perhaps--perhaps it will be better to stop at the Trick Shop and buy a
dribble-glass and a long black beard to amuse my guests.

[Illustration]



Little Candles.


High conceit of one's self and a sureness of one's opinion are based so
insecurely in experience that one is perplexed how their slight
structure stands. One marvels why these emphatic builders trust again
their glittering towers. Surely anyone who looks into himself and sees
its void or malformation ought by rights to shrink from adulation of
self, and his own opinion should appear to him merely as one candle
among a thousand.

And yet this conceit of self outlasts innumerable failures, and any new
pinnacle that is set up, neglecting the broken rubble on the ground and
all the wreckage at the base, boasts again of its sure communion with
the stars. A man, let us say, has gone headlong from one formula of
belief into another. In each, for a time, he burns with a hot
conviction. Then his faith cools. His god no longer nods. But just when
you think that failure must have brought him modesty, again he amazes
you with the golden prospect of a new adventure. He has climbed in his
life a hundred hillocks, thinking each to be a mountain. He has
journeyed on many paths, but always has fallen in a bog. Conceit is a
thin bubble in the wind, it is an empty froth and breath, yet, hammered
into ship-plates, it defies the U-boat.

On every sidewalk, also, we see some fine fellow, dressed and curled to
his satisfaction, parading in the sun. An accident of wealth or birth
has marked him from the crowd. He has decked his outer walls in gaudy
color, but is bare within. He is a cypher, but golden circumstance, like
a figure in the million column, gives him substance. Yet the void cries
out on all matters in dispute with firm conviction.

But this cypher need not dress in purple. He is shabby, let us say, and
pinched with poverty. Whose fault? Who knows? But does misfortune in
itself give wisdom? He is poor. Therefore he decides that the world is
sick with pestilence, and accordingly he proclaims himself a doctor. Or
perhaps he sits at ease in middle circumstance. He judges that his is an
open mind because he lets a harsh opinion blow upon his ignorance until
it flames with hatred. He sets up to be a thinker, and he is resolved to
shatter the foundations of a thousand years.

The outer darkness stretches to such a giddy distance! And these
thousand candles of belief, flickering in the night, are so insufficient
even in their aggregate! Shall a candle wink at flaming Jupiter as an
equal? By what persuasion is one's own tiny wick, shielded in the
fingers from misadventure, the greatest light?

Who is there who has read more than a single chapter in the book of
life? Most of us have faltered through scarcely a dozen paragraphs, yet
we scribble our sure opinion in the margin. We hear a trifling pebble
fall in a muddy pool, and we think that we have listened to the pounding
of the sea. We hold up our little candle and we consider that its light
dispels the general night.

But it has happened once in a while that someone really strikes a larger
light and offers it to many travelers for their safety. He holds his
candle above his head for the general comfort. And to it there rush the
multitude of those whose candles have been gutted. They relight their
wicks, and go their way with a song and cry, to announce their
brotherhood. If they see a stranger off the path, they call to him to
join their band. And they draw him from the mire.

And sometimes this company respects the other candles that survive the
wind. They confess with good temper that their glare, also, is
sufficient; that there is, indeed, more than one path across the night.
But sometimes in their intensity--in their sureness of exclusive
salvation--they fall to bickering. One band of converts elbows another.
There is a mutual lifting of the nose in scorn, an amused contempt, or
they come to blows and all candles are extinguished. And sometimes,
with candles out, they travel onward, still telling one another of their
band how the darkness flees before them.

We live in a world of storm, of hatred, of blind conceit, of shrill and
intolerant opinion. The past is worshiped. The past is scorned. Some
wish only to kiss the great toe of old convention. Others shout that we
must run bandaged in the dark, if we would prove our faith in God and
man. It is the best of times, and the worst of times. It is the dawn. We
grope toward midnight. Our fathers were saints in judgment. Our fathers
were fools and rogues. Let's hold minutely to the past! Any change is
sacrilege. Let's rip it up! Let's destroy it altogether!

We'll kill him and stamp on him: He's a Montague. We'll draw and quarter
him: He's a Capulet. He's a radical: He must be hanged. A conservative:
His head shall decorate our pike.

A plague on both your houses!

Panaceas are hawked among us, each with a magic to cure our ills.
Universal suffrage is a leap to perfection. Tax reform will bring the
golden age. With capital and interest smashed, we shall live in heaven.
The soviet, the recall from office, the six-hour day, the demands of
labor, mark the better path. The greater clamor of the crowd is the
guide to wisdom. Men with black beards and ladies with cigarettes say
that machine-guns and fire and death are pills that are potent for our
good. We live in a welter of quarrel and disagreement. One pictures a
mighty shelf with bottles, and doctors running to and fro. The poor
world is on its back, opening its mouth to every spoon. By the hubbub in
the pantry--the yells and scuffling at the sink--we know that drastic
and contrary cures are striving for the mastery.

There was a time when beacons burned on the hills to be our guidance.
The flames were fed and moulded by the experience of the centuries. Men
might differ on the path--might even scramble up a dozen different
slopes--but the hill-top was beyond dispute.

But now the great fires smoulder. The Constitution, it is said,--pecked
at since the first,--must now be carted off and sold as junk. Art has
torn down its older standards. The colors of Titian are in the dust.
Poets no longer bend the knee to Shakespeare.

Conceit is a pilot who scorns the harbor lights--

Modesty was once a virtue. Patience, diligence, thrift, humility,
charity--who pays now a tribute to them? Charity is only a sop, it
seems, that is thrown in fright to the swift wolves of revolution.
Humility is now a weakness. Diligence is despised. Thrift is the advice
of cowards. Who now cares for the lessons that experience and tested
fact once taught? Ignorance sits now in the highest seat and gives its
orders, and the clamor of the crowd is its high authority.

And what has become of modesty? A maid once was prodigal if she unmasked
her beauty to the moon. Morality? Let's all laugh together. It's a
quaint old word.

Tolerance is the last study in the school of wisdom. Lord! Lord! Tonight
let my prayer be that I may know that my own opinion is but a candle in
the wind!



A Visit to a Poet.


Not long ago I accepted the invitation of a young poet to visit him at
his lodging. As my life has fallen chiefly among merchants, lawyers and
other practical folk, I went with much curiosity.

My poet, I must confess, is not entirely famous. His verses have
appeared in several of the less known papers, and a judicious printer
has even offered to gather them into a modest sheaf. There are, however,
certain vile details of expense that hold up the project. The printer,
although he confesses their merit, feels that the poet should bear the
cost.

His verses are of the newer sort. When read aloud they sound pleasantly
in the ear, but I sometimes miss the meaning. I once pronounced an
intimate soul-study to be a jolly description of a rainy night. This was
my stupidity. I could see a soul quite plainly when it was pointed out.
It was like looking at the moon. You get what you look for--a man or a
woman or a kind of map of Asia. In poetry of this sort I need a hint or
two to start me right. But when my nose has been rubbed, so to speak,
against the anise-bag, I am a very hound upon the scent.

The street where my friend lives is just north of Greenwich Village, and
it still shows a remnant of more aristocratic days. Behind its shabby
fronts are long drawing-rooms with tarnished glass chandeliers and
frescoed ceilings and gaunt windows with inside blinds. Plaster cornices
still gather the dust of years. There are heavy stairways with black
walnut rails. Marble Lincolns still liberate the slaves in niches of the
hallway. Bronze Ladies of the Lake await their tardy lovers. Diana runs
with her hunting dogs upon the newel post. In these houses lived the
heroines of sixty years ago, who shopped for crinoline and spent their
mornings at Stewart's to match a Godey pattern. They drove of an
afternoon with gay silk parasols to the Crystal Palace on Forty-second
Street. In short, they were our despised Victorians. With our
advancement we have made the world so much better since.

I pressed an electric button. Then, as the door clicked, I sprang
against it. These patent catches throw me into a momentary panic. I feel
like one of the foolish virgins with untrimmed lamp, just about to be
caught outside--but perhaps I confuse the legend. Inside, there was a
bare hallway, with a series of stairways rising in the gloom--round and
round, like the frightful staircase of the Opium Eater. At the top of
the stairs a black disk hung over the rail--probably a head.

"Hello," I said.

"Oh, it's you. Come up!" And the poet came down to meet me, with
slippers slapping at the heels.

There was a villainous smell on the stairs. "Something burning?" I
asked.

At first the poet didn't smell it. "Oh, _that_ smell!" he said at last.
"That's the embalmer."

"The embalmer?"

We were opposite a heavy door on the second floor. He pointed his thumb
at it. "There's an embalmer's school inside."

"Dear me!" I said. "Has he any--anything to practice on?"

The poet pushed the door open a crack. It was very dark inside. It
smelled like Ptolemy in his later days. Or perhaps I detected Polonius,
found at last beneath the stairs.

"Bless me!" I asked, "What does he teach in his school?"

"Embalming, and all that sort of thing."

"It never occurred to me," I confessed, "that undertakers had to learn.
I thought it came naturally. Ducks to water, you know. They look as if
they could pick up a thing like embalming by instinct. I don't suppose
you knew old Mr. Smith."

"No."

"He wore a white carnation on business afternoons."

We rounded a turn of the black walnut stair.

"There!" exclaimed the poet. "That is the office of the _Shriek_."

I know the _Shriek_. It is one of the periodicals of the newer art that
does not descend to the popular taste. It will not compromise its
ideals. It prints pictures of men and women with hideous, distorted
bodies. It is solving sex. Once in a while the police know what it is
talking about, and then they rather stupidly keep it out of the mails
for a month or so.

Now I had intended for some time to subscribe to the _Shriek_, because I
wished to see my friend's verses as they appeared. In this way I could
learn what the newer art was doing, and could brush out of my head the
cobwebs of convention. Keats and Shelley have been thrown into the
discard. We have come a long journey from the older poets.

"I would like to subscribe," I said.

The poet, of course, was pleased. He rapped at a door marked "Editor."

A young woman's head in a mob-cap came into view. She wore a green and
purple smock, and a cigarette hung loosely from her mouth. She looked at
me at first as if I were an old-fashioned poem or a bundle of modest
drawings, but cheered when I told my errand. There was a cup of steaming
soup on an alcohol burner, and half a loaf of bread. On a string across
the window handkerchiefs and stockings were hung to dry. A desk was
littered with papers.

I paid my money and was enrolled. I was given a current number of the
_Shriek_, and was told not to miss a poem by Sillivitch.

"Sillivitch?" I asked.

"Sillivitch," the lady answered. "Our greatest poet--maybe the greatest
of all time. Writes only for the _Shriek_. Wonderful! Realistic!"

"Snug little office," I said to the poet, when we were on the stairs.
"She lives in there, too?"

"Oh, yes," he said. "Smart girl, that. Never compromises. Wants reality
and all that sort of thing. You must read Sillivitch. Amazing! Doesn't
seem to mean anything at first. But then you get it in a flash."

We had now come to the top of the building.

"There isn't much smell up here," I said.

"You don't mind the smell. You come to like it," he replied. "It's
bracing."

At the top of the stairs, a hallway led to rooms both front and back.
The ceiling of these rooms, low even in the middle, sloped to windows of
half height in dormers. The poet waved his hand. "I have been living in
the front room," he said, "but I am adding this room behind for a
study."

We entered the study. A man was mopping up the floor. Evidently the room
had not been lived in for years, for the dirt was caked to a half inch.
A general wreckage of furniture--a chair, a table with marble top, a
carved sideboard with walnut dingles, a wooden bed with massive
headboard, a mattress and a broken pitcher--had been swept to the middle
of the room. There was also a pile of old embalmer's journals, and a
great carton that seemed to contain tubes of tooth-paste.

"You see," said the poet, "I have been living in the other room. This
used to be a storage--years ago, for the family that once lived here,
and more recently for the embalmer."

"Storage!" I exclaimed. "You don't suppose that they kept any--?"

"No."

"Well," I said, "it's a snug little place."

I bent over and picked up one of the embalmer's journals. On the cover
there was a picture of a little boy in a night-gown, saying his prayer
to his mother. The prayer was printed underneath. "And, mama," it read,
"have God make me a good boy, and when I grow up let me help papa in his
business, and never use anything but _Twirpp's Old Reliable Embalming
Fluid_, the kind that papa has always used, and grandpa before him."

Now, Charles Lamb, I recall, once confessed that he was moved to
enthusiasm by an undertaker's advertisement. "Methinks," he writes, "I
could be willing to die, in death to be so attended. The two rows all
round close-drove best black japanned nails,--how feelingly do they
invite, and almost irresistibly persuade us to come and be fastened
down." But the journal did not stir me to this high emotion.

I crossed the room and stooped to look out of the dormer window--into a
shallow yard where an abandoned tin bath-tub and other unprized
valuables were kept. A shabby tree acknowledged that it had lost its
way, but didn't know what to do about it. It had its elbow on the fence
and seemed to be in thought. A wash-stand lay on its side, as if it
snapped its fingers forever at soap and towels. Beyond was a tall
building, with long tables and rows of girls working.

One of the girls desisted for a moment from her feathers with which she
was making hats, and stuck out her tongue at me in a coquettish way. I
returned her salute. She laughed and tossed her head and went back to
her feathers.

The young man who had been mopping up the floor went out for fresh
water.

"Who is that fellow?" I asked.

"He works downstairs."

"For the _Shriek?_"

"For the embalmer. He's an apprentice."

"I would like to meet him."

Presently I did meet him.

"What have you there?" I asked. He was folding up a great canvas bag of
curious pattern.

"It's when you are shipped away--to Texas or somewhere. This is a little
one. You'd need--" he appraised me from head to foot--"you'd need a
number ten."

He desisted from detail. He shifted to the story of his life. Since he
had been a child he had wished to be an undertaker.

Now I had myself once known an undertaker, and I had known his son. The
son went to Munich to study for Grand Opera. I crossed on the steamer
with him. He sang in the ship's concert, "Oh, That We Two Were Maying."
It was pitched for high tenor, so he sang it an octave low, and was
quite gloomy about it. In the last verse he expressed a desire to lie
at rest beneath the churchyard sod. The boat was rolling and I went out
to get the air. And then I did not see him for several years. We met at
a funeral. He wore a long black coat and a white carnation. He smiled at
me with a gentle, mournful smile and waved me to a seat. He was Tristan
no longer. Valhalla no more echoed to his voice. He had succeeded to his
father's business.

Here the poet interposed. "The Countess came to see me yesterday."

"Mercy," I said, "what countess?"

"Oh, don't you know her work? She's a poet and she writes for the people
downstairs. She's the Countess Sillivitch."

"Sillivitch!" I answered, "of course I know her. She is the greatest
poet, maybe, of all time."

"No doubt about it," said the poet excitedly, "and there's a poem of
hers in this number. She writes in italics when she wants you to yell
it. And when she puts it in capitals, my God! you could hear her to the
elevated. It's ripping stuff."

"Dear me," I said, "I should like to read it. Awfully. It must be
funny."

"It isn't funny at all," the poet answered. "It isn't meant to be funny.
Did you read her 'Burning Kiss'?"

"I'm sorry," I answered.

The poet sighed. "It's wonderfully realistic. There's nothing
old-fashioned about that poem. The Countess wears painted stockings."

"Bless me!" I cried.

"Stalks with flowers. She comes from Bulgaria, or Esthonia, or
somewhere. Has a husband in a castle. Incompatible. He stifles her.
Common. In business. Beer spigots. She is artistic. Wants to soar. And
tragic. You remember my study of a soul?"

"The rainy night? Yes, I remember."

"Well, she's the one. She sat on the floor and told me her troubles."

"You don't suppose that I could meet her, do you?" I asked.

The poet looked at me with withering scorn. "You wouldn't like her," he
said. "She's very modern. She says very startling things. You have to be
in the modern spirit to follow her. And sympathetic. She doesn't want
any marriage or government or things like that. Just truth and freedom.
It's convention that clips our wings."

"Conventions are stupid things," I agreed.

"And the past isn't any good, either," the poet said. "The past is a
chain upon us. It keeps us off the mountains."

"Exactly," I assented.

"That's what the Countess thinks. We must destroy the past. Everything.
Customs. Art. Government. We must be ready for the coming of the dawn."

"Naturally," I said. "Candles trimmed, and all that sort of thing. You
don't suppose that I could meet the Countess? Well, I'm sorry. What's
the bit of red paper on the wall? Is it over a dirty spot?"

"It's to stir up my ideas. It's gay and when I look at it I think of
something."

"And then I suppose that you look out of that window, against that brick
wall and those windows opposite, and write poems--a sonnet to the girl
who stuck out her tongue at me."

"Oh, yes."

"Hot in summer up here?"

"Yes."

"And cold in winter?"

"Yes."

"And I suppose that you get some ideas out of that old tin bath-tub and
those ash-cans."

"Well, hardly."

"And you look at the moon through that dirty skylight?"

"No! There's nothing in that old stuff. Everybody's fed up on the moon."

"It's a snug place," I said. And I came away.

I circled the stairs into the denser smell which, by this time, I found
rather agreeable. The embalmer's door was open. In the gloom inside I
saw the apprentice busied in some dark employment. "I got somethin' to
show you," he called.

"Tomorrow," I answered.

As I was opening the street door, a woman came up the steps. She was a
dark, Bulgarian sort of woman. Or Esthonian, perhaps. I held back the
door to let her pass. She wore long ear-rings. Her skirt was looped high
in scollops. She wore sandals--and painted stockings.



Autumn Days.


It was rather a disservice when the poet wrote that the melancholy days
were come. His folly is inexplicable. If he had sung through his nose of
thaw and drizzle, all of us would have pitched in to help him in his
dismal chorus. But October and November are brisk and cheerful months.

In the spring, to be sure, there is a languid sadness. Its beauty is too
frail. Its flowerets droop upon the plucking. Its warm nights, its
breeze that blows from the fragrant hills, warn us how brief is the
blossom time. In August the year slumbers. Its sleepy days nod across
the heavy orchards and the yellow grain fields. Smoke looks out from
chimneys, but finds no wind for comrade. For a penny it would stay at
home and doze upon the hearth, to await a playmate from the north. The
birds are still. Only the insects sing. A threshing-machine, far off,
sinks to as drowsy a melody as theirs, like a company of grasshoppers,
but with longer beard and deeper voice. The streams that frolicked to
nimble tunes in May now crawl from pool to pool. The very shadows linger
under cover. They crouch close beneath shed and tree, and scarcely stir
a finger until the fiery sun has turned its back.

September rubs its eyes. It hears autumn, as it were, pounding on its
bedroom door, and turns for another wink of sleep. But October is
awakened by the frost. It dresses itself in gaudy color. It flings a
scarlet garment on the woods and a purple scarf across the hills. The
wind, at last, like a merry piper, cries out the tune, and its brisk and
sunny days come dancing from the north.

Yesterday was a holiday and I went walking in the woods. Although it is
still September it grows late, and there is already a touch of October
in the air. After a week of sultry weather--a tardy remnant from last
month--a breeze yesterday sprang out of the northwest. Like a good
housewife it swept the dusty corners of the world. It cleared our path
across the heavens and raked down the hot cobwebs from the sky. Clouds
had yawned in idleness. They had sat on the dull circle of the earth
like fat old men with drooping chins, but yesterday they stirred
themselves. The wind whipped them to their feet. It pursued them and
plucked at their frightened skirts. It is thus, after the sleepy season,
that the wind practices for the rough and tumble of November. It needs
but to quicken the tempo into sixteenth notes, to rouse a wholesome
tempest.

Who could be melancholy in so brisk a month? The poet should hang his
head for shame at uttering such a libel. These dazzling days could hale
him into court. The jury, with one voice, without rising from its box,
would hold for a heavy fine. Apples have been gathered in. There is a
thirsty, tipsy smell from the cider presses. Hay is pitched up to the
very roof. Bursting granaries show their golden produce at the cracks.
The yellow stubble of the fields is a promise that is kept. And who
shall say that there is any sadness in the fallen leaves? They are a gay
and sounding carpet. Who dances here needs no bell upon his ankle, and
no fiddle for the tune.

And sometimes in October the air is hazy and spiced with smells. Nature,
it seems, has cooked a feast in the heat of summer, and now its viands
stand out to cool.

November lights its fires and brings in early candles. This is the
season when chimneys must be tightened for the tempest. Their mighty
throats roar that all is strong aloft. Dogs now leave a stranger to go
his way in peace, and they bark at the windy moon. Windows rattle, but
not with sadness. They jest and chatter with the blast. They gossip of
storms on barren mountains.

Night, for so many months, has been a timid creature. It has hid so long
in gloomy cellars while the regal sun strutted on his way. But now night
and darkness put their heads together for his overthrow. In shadowy
garrets they mutter their discontent and plan rebellion. They snatch the
fields by four o'clock. By five they have restored their kingdom. They
set the stars as guardsmen of their rule.

Now travelers are pelted into shelter. Signboards creak. The wind
whistles for its rowdy company. Night, the monarch, rides upon the
storm.

A match! We'll light the logs. We'll crack nuts and pass the cider. How
now, master poet, is there no thirsty passage in your throat? I offer
you a bowl of milk and popcorn. Must you brood tonight upon the barren
fields--the meadows brown and sear? Who cares now how the wind grapples
with the chimneys? Here is snug company, warm and safe. Here are syrup
and griddle-cakes. Do you still suck your melancholy pen when such a
feast is going forward?



On Finding a Plot.


A young author has confessed to me that lately, in despair at hitting on
a plot, he locked himself in his room after breakfast with an oath that
he would not leave it until something was contrived and under way. He
did put an apple and sandwich prudently at the back of his desk, but
these, he swore, like the locusts and wild honey in the wilderness,
should last him through his struggle. By a happy afterthought he took
with him into retirement a volume of De Maupassant. Perhaps, he
considered, if his own invention lagged and the hour grew late, he might
shift its characters into new positions. Rather than starve till dawn he
could dress a courtezan in honest cloth, or tease a happy wife from her
household in the text to a mad elopement. Or by jiggling all the plots
together, like the bits of glass in a kaleidoscope, the pieces might
fall into strange and startling patterns.

This is not altogether a new thought with him. While sucking at his pen
in a former drouth he considered whether a novel might not be made by
combining the characters of one story with the circumstance of another.
Let us suppose, for example, that Carmen, before she got into that ugly
affair with the Toreador, had settled down in Barchester beneath the
towers. Would the shadow of the cloister, do you think, have cooled her
southern blood? Would she have conformed to the decent gossip of the
town? Or, on the contrary, does not a hot color always tint the colder
mixture? Suppose that Carmen came to live just outside the Cathedral
close and walked every morning with her gay parasol and her pretty
swishing skirts past the Bishop's window.

We can fancy his pen hanging dully above his sermon, with his eyes on
space for any wandering thought, as if the clouds, like treasure ships
upon a sea, were freighted with riches for his use. The Bishop is
brooding on an address to the Ladies' Sewing Guild. He must find a text
for his instructive finger. It is a warm spring morning and the
daffodils are waving in the borders of the grass. A robin sings in the
hedge with an answer from his mate. There is wind in the tree-tops with
lively invitation to adventure, but the Bishop is bent to his sober
task. Carmen picks her way demurely across the puddles in the direction
of the Vicarage. Her eyes turn modestly toward his window. Surely she
does not see him at his desk. That dainty inch of scarlet stocking is
quite by accident. It is the puddles and the wind frisking with her
skirt.

"Eh! Dear me!" The good man is merely human. He pushes up his spectacles
for nearer sight. He draws aside the curtain. "Dear me! Bless my soul!
Who is the lady? Quite a foreign air. I don't remember her at our little
gatherings for the heathen." A text is forgotten. The clouds are empty
caravels. He calls to Betsy, the housemaid, for a fresh neck-cloth and
his gaiters. He has recalled a meeting with the Vicar and goes out
whistling softly, to disaster.

Alas! In my forgetfulness I have skimmed upon the actual plot. You have
recalled already how La Signora Madeline descended on the Bishop's
Palace. Her beauty was a hard assault. Except for her crippled state she
might herself have toppled the Bishop over. But she pales beside the
dangerous Carmen.

Suppose, for a better example, that the cheerful Mark Tapley who always
came out strong in adversity, were placed in a modern Russian novel. As
the undaunted Taplovitch he would have shifted its gloom to a sunny
ending. Fancy our own dear Pollyanna, the glad girl, adopted by an aunt
in "Crime and Punishment." Even Dostoyevsky must have laid down his
doleful pen to give her at last a happy wedding--flower-girls and
angel-food, even a shrill soprano behind the hired palms and a table of
cut glass.

Oliver Twist and Nancy,--merely acquaintances in the original
story,--with a fresh hand at the plot, might have gone on a bank holiday
to Margate. And been blown off shore. Suppose that the whole excursion
was wrecked on Treasure Island and that everyone was drowned except
Nancy, Oliver and perhaps the trombone player of the ship's band, who
had blown himself so full of wind for fox-trots on the upper deck that
he couldn't sink. It is Robinson Crusoe, lodging as a handsome bachelor
on the lonely island,--observe the cunning of the plot!--who battles
with the waves and rescues Nancy. The movie-rights alone of this are
worth a fortune. And then Crusoe, Oliver, Friday and the trombone player
stand a siege from John Silver and Bill Sikes, who are pirates, with
Spanish doubloons in a hidden cove. And Crusoe falls in love with Nancy.
Here is a tense triangle. But youth goes to youth. Crusoe's whiskers are
only dyed their glossy black. The trombone player, by good luck (you see
now why he was saved from the wreck), is discovered to be a retired
clergyman--doubtless a Methodist. The happy knot is tied. And then--a
sail! A sail! Oliver and Nancy settle down in a semi-detached near
London, with oyster shells along the garden path and cat-tails in the
umbrella jar. The story ends prettily under their plane-tree at the
rear--tea for three, with a trombone solo, and the faithful Friday and
Old Bill, reformed now, as gardener, clipping together the shrubs
against the sunny wall.

Was there a serpent in the garden at peaceful Cranford? Suppose that one
of the gay rascals of Dumas, with tall boots and black moustachios, had
got in when the tempting moon was up. Could the gentle ladies in their
fragile guard of crinoline have withstood this French assault?

Or Camille, perhaps, before she took her cough, settled at Bath and
entangled Mr. Pickwick in the Pump Room. Do not a great hat and feather
find their victim anywhere? Is not a silken ankle as potent at Bath as
in Bohemia? Surely a touch of age and gout is no prevention against the
general plague. Nor does a bald head tower above the softer passions.
Camille's pretty nose is powdered for the onslaught. She has arranged
her laces in dangerous hazard to the eye. And now the bold huzzy
undeniably winks at Mr. Pickwick over her pint of "killibeate." She
drops her fan with usual consequence. A nod. A smile. A word. At the
Assembly--mark her sudden progress and the triumphant end!--they sit
together in the shadows of the balcony. "My dear," says Mr. Pickwick,
gazing tenderly through his glasses, "my love, my own, will you--bless
my soul!--will you share my lodgings at Mrs. Bardell's in Goswell
Street?" We are mariners, all of us, coasting in dangerous waters. It is
the syren's voice, her white beauty gleaming on the shoal--it is the
moon that throws us on the rocks.

And then a dozen dowagers breed the gossip. Duchesses, frail with years,
pop and burst with the pleasant secret. There is even greater commotion
than at Mr. Pickwick's other disturbing affair with the middle-aged lady
in the yellow curl-papers. This previous affair you may recall. He had
left his watch by an oversight in the taproom, and he went down to get
it when the inn was dark. On the return he took a false direction at the
landing and, being misled by the row of boots along the hall, he entered
the wrong room. He was in his nightcap in bed when, peeping through the
curtains, he saw the aforesaid lady brushing her back hair. A duel was
narrowly averted when this startling scandal came to the ears of the
lady's lover, Mr. Peter Magnus. Camille, I think, could have kept this
sharper scandal to herself. At most, with a prudent finger on her lips,
she would have whispered the intrigue harmlessly behind her fan and set
herself to snare a duke.

I like to think, also, of the incongruity of throwing Rollo (Rollo the
perfect, the Bayard of the nursery, the example of our suffering
childhood)--Rollo grown up, of course, and without his aseptic Uncle
George--into the gay scandal, let us say, of the Queen's Necklace.
Perhaps it is forgotten how he and his little sister Jane went to the
Bull Fight in Rome on Sunday morning by mistake. They were looking for
the Presbyterian Church, and hand in hand they followed the crowd. It is
needless to remind you how Uncle George was vexed. Rollo was a prig. He
loved his Sunday school and his hour of piano practice. He brushed his
hair and washed his face without compulsion. He even got in behind his
ears. He went to bed cheerfully upon a hint. Thirty years ago--I was so
pestered--if I could have met Rollo in the flesh I would have lured him
to the alleyway behind our barn and pushed him into the manure-pit. In
the crisp vernacular of our street, I would have punched the everlasting
tar out of him.

It was circumstance that held the Bishop and Rollo down. Isn't
Cinderella just a common story of sordid realism until the fairy
godmother appears? Except for the pumpkin and a very small foot she
would have married the butcher's boy, and been snubbed by her sisters
to the end. It was only luck that it was a prince who awakened the
Sleeping Beauty. The plumber's assistant might have stumbled by. What
was Aladdin without his uncle, the magician? Do princesses still sleep
exposed to a golden kiss? Are there lamps for rubbing, discarded now in
attics?

Sinbad, with a steady wife, would have stayed at home and become an
alderman. Romeo might have married a Montague and lived happily ever
after. It was but chance that Titania awakened in the Ass's
company--chance that Viola was cast on the coast of Illyria and found
her lover. Any of these plots could have been altered by jogging the
author's elbow. A bit of indigestion wrecks the crimson shallop. Comedy
or tragedy is but the falling of the dice. By the flip of a coin comes
the poisoned goblet or the princess.

But my young author's experiment with De Maupassant was not successful.
He tells me that hunger caught him in the middle of the afternoon, and
that he went forth for a cup of malted milk, which is his weakness. His
head was as empty as his stomach.

And yet there are many novels written and even published, and most of
them seem to have what pass for plots. Bipeds, undeniably, are set up
with some likeness to humanity. They talk from page to page without any
squeak of bellows. They live in lodgings and make acquaintance across
the air-shaft. They wrestle with villains. They fall in love. They
starve and then grow famous. And at last, in all good books, journeys
end in lovers' meeting. It is as easy as lying. Only a plot is needed.

And may not anyone set up the puppets? Rich man, poor man, beggarman,
thief! You have only to say _eenie meenie_ down the list, and trot out a
brunette or a blonde. There is broadcloth in the tiring-box, and swords
and velvet; and there is, also, patched wool, and shiny elbows. Your
lady may sigh her soul to the Grecian tents, or watch for honest Tom on
his motor-cycle. On Venetian balcony and village stoop the stars show
alike for lovers and everywhere there are friendly shadows in the night.

Like a master of marionettes, we may pull the puppets by their strings.
It is such an easy matter--if once a plot is given--to lift a beggar or
to overthrow a rascal. A virtuous puppet can be hoisted to a tinsel
castle. A twitching of the thumb upsets the wicked King. Rollo is
pitched to his knees before a scheming beauty. And would it not be fun
to dangle before the Bishop that little Carmen figure with her daring
lace and scarlet stockings?--or to swing the bold Camille by the strings
into Mr. Pickwick's arms as the curtain falls?

Was it not Hawthorne who died leaving a notebook full of plots? And
Walter Scott, when that loyal, harassed hand of his was shriveled into
death, must have had by him a hundred hints for projected books. One
author--I forget who he was--bequeathed to another author--the name has
escaped me--a memorandum of characters and events. At any author's
death there must be a precious salvage. Among the surviving papers there
sits at least one dusty heroine waiting for a lover. Here are notes for
the Duchess's elopement. Here is a sketch how the deacon proved to be a
villain. As old ladies put by scraps of silk for a crazy quilt, shall
not an author, also, treasure in his desk shreds of character and odds
and ends to make a plot?

Now the truth is, I suspect, that the actual plot has little to do with
the merits of a great many of the best books. It is only the bucket that
fetches up the water from the well. It is the string that holds the
shining beads. Who really cares whether Tom Jones married Sophia? And
what does it matter whether Falstaff died in bed or in his boots, or
whether Uncle Toby married the widow? It is the mirth and casual
adventure by the way that hold our interest.

Some of the best authors, indeed, have not given a thought to their
plots until it is time to wind up the volume. When Dickens sent the
Pickwick Club upon its travels, certainly he was not concerned whether
Tracy Tupman found a wife. He had not given a thought to Sam's romance
with the pretty housemaid at Mr. Nupkins's. The elder Mrs. Weller's
fatal cough was clearly a happy afterthought. Thackeray, at the start,
could hardly have foreseen Esmond's marriage. When he wrote the early
chapters of "Vanity Fair," he had not traced Becky to her shabby garret
of the Elephant at Pumpernickel. Dumas, I have no doubt, wrote from
page to page, careless of the end. Doubtless he marked Milady for a bad
end, but was unconcerned whether it would be a cough or noose. Victor
Hugo did no more than follow a trail across the mountains of his
invention, content with the kingdoms of each new turning.

In these older and more deliberate books, if a young lady smiled upon
the hero, it was not already schemed whether they would be lovers, with
the very manner of his proposal already set. The glittering moon was not
yet bespoken for the night. "My dear young lady," this older author
thinks, "you have certainly very pretty eyes and I like the way that
lock of brown hair rests against your ear, but I am not at all sure that
I shall let you marry my hero. Please sit around for a dozen chapters
while I observe you. I must see you in tweed as well as silk. Perhaps
you have an ugly habit of whining. Or safe in a married state you might
wear a mob-cap in to breakfast. I'll send my hero up to London for his
fling. There is an actress I must have him meet. I'll let him frolic
through the winter. On his return he may choose between you."

"My dear madam," another of these older authors meditates, "how can I
judge you on a first acquaintance? Certainly you talk loosely for an
honest wife. It is too soon, as yet, to know how far your flirtation
leads. I must observe you with Mr. Fopling in the garden after dinner.
If, later, I grow dull and my readers nod, your elopement will come
handy."

Nor was a lady novelist of the older school less deliberate. When a
bold adventurer appears, she holds her heroine to the rearward of her
affection. "I'll make no decision yet for Lady Emily," she thinks. "This
gay fellow may have a wife somewhere. His smooth manner with the ladies
comes with practice. It is soon enough if I decide upon their affair in
my second volume. Perhaps, after all, the captain may prove to be the
better man."

And yet this spacious method requires an ample genius. A smaller writer
must take a map and put his finger beforehand on his destination. When a
hero fares forth singing in the dawn, the author must know at once his
snug tavern for the night. The hazard of the morning has been matched
already with a peaceful twilight. The seeds of time are planted, the
very harvest counted when the furrow's made. My heart goes out to that
young author who sits locked in his study, munching his barren apple. He
must perfect his scenario before he starts. How easy would be his task,
if only he could just begin, "Once upon a time," and follow his careless
contrivance.

I know a teacher who has a full-length novel unpublished and concealed.
Sometimes, I fancy, at midnight, when his Latin themes are marked, he
draws forth its precious pages. He alters and smooths his sentences
while the household sleeps. And even in his classroom, as he listens to
the droning of a conjugation, he leaps to horse. Little do his students
suspect, as they stutter with their verbs, that with their teacher,
heedless of convention, rides the dark lady of his swift adventure.

I look with great awe on an acquaintance who averages more than one
story a week and publishes them in a periodical called _Frisky Stories_.
He shifts for variety among as many as five or six pen-names. And I
marvel at a friend who once wrote a story a day for a newspaper
syndicate. But his case was pathetic. When I saw him last, he was
sitting on a log in the north forest, gloomily estimating how many of
his wretched stories would cover the wood-pulp of the state. His health
was threatened. He was resting from the toil

    "Of dropping buckets into empty wells,
    And growing old in drawing nothing up."

From all this it must appear that the real difficulty is in finding a
sufficient plot. The start of a plot is easy, but it is hard to carry it
on and end it. I myself, on any vacant morning, could get a hero tied
hand and foot inside a cab, but then I would not know where to drive
him. I have thought, in an enthusiastic moment, that he might be lowered
down a manhole through the bottom of the cab. This is an unprecedented
villainy, and I have gone so far as to select a lonely manhole in
Gramercy Park around the corner from the Players' Club. But I am lost
how my hero could be rescued. Covered with muck, I could hardly hope
that his lady would go running to his arms. I have, also, a pretty
pencil for a fight in the ancient style, with swords upon a stairway.
But what then? And what shall I do with the gallant Percival de Vere,
after he has slid down the rope from his beetling dungeon tower? As for
ladies--I could dress up the pretty creatures, but would they move or
speak upon my bidding? No one would more gladly throw a lady and
gentleman on a desert island. At a pinch I flatter myself I could draw a
roaring lion. But in what circumstance should the hungry cannibals
appear? These questions must tax a novelist heavily.

Or might I not, for copy, strip the front from that building opposite?

    "The whole of the frontage shaven sheer,
    The inside gaped: exposed to day,
    Right and wrong and common and queer,
    Bare, as the palm of your hand, it lay."

Every room contains a story. That chair, the stove, the very tub for
washing holds its secrets. The stairs echo with the tread of a dozen
lives. And in every crowd upon the street I could cast a stone and find
a hero. There is a seamstress somewhere, a locksmith, a fellow with a
shovel. I need but the genius to pluck out the heart of their mystery.
The rumble of the subway is the friction of lives that rub together. The
very roar of cities is the meshing of our human gear.

I dream of this world I might create. In romantic mood, a castle lifts
its towers into the blue dome of heaven. I issue in spirit with Jeanne
d'Arc from the gate of Orleans, and I play the tragedy with changing
scene until the fires of Rouen have fallen into ashes. I sail the seas
with Raleigh. I scheme with the hump-backed Richard. Out of the north,
with wind and sunlight, my hero comes singing to his adventures.

It would be glorious fun to create a world, to paint a valley in autumn
colors and set up a village at the crossroads. Housewives chatter at
their wash-lines. Wheels rattle on the wooden bridge. Old men doze on
the grocery bench. And now let's throw the plot, at a hazard, around the
lovely Susan, the grocer's clerk. For her lover we select a young
garage-man, the jest of the village, who tinkers at an improvement of a
carburetor. The owner of a thousand acres on the hill shall be our
villain--a wastrel and a gambler. There is a mortgage on his acres. He
is pressed for payment. He steals the garage-man's blueprints. And now
it is night. Susan dearly loves a movie. The Orpheum is eight miles off.
Painted Cupids. Angels with trumpets. The villain. An eight-cylindered
runabout. Susan. B-r-r-r-r! The movie. The runabout again. A lonely
road. Just a kiss, my pretty girl. Help! Help! Chug! Chug! Aha! Foiled!
The garage-man. You cur! You hound! Take that! And that! Susan. The
garage-man. The blueprints. Name the happy day. Oh, joy! Oh, bliss!

It would be fun to model these little worlds and set them up to cool.

Is it any wonder that there are a million stars across the night? God
Himself enjoyed the vast creation of His worlds. It was the evening and
the morning of the sixth day when He set his puppets moving in their
stupendous comedy.

[Illustration]



Circus Days.


There have been warm winds out of the south for several days, soft rains
have teased the daffodils into blossom along the fences, and this
morning I heard the first clicking of a lawn-mower. It seems but
yesterday that winter was tugging at the chimneys, that March freshets
were brawling in the gutters; but, with the shifting of the cock upon
the steeple, the spring comes from its hiding in the hills. At this
moment, to prove the changing of the season, a street organ plays
beneath my window. It is a rather miserable box and is stocked with
sentimental tunes for coaxing nickels out of pity. Its inlaid mahogany
is soiled with travel. It has a peg-leg and it hangs around the
musician's neck as if weary of the road. "Master," it seems to say, "may
we sit awhile? My old stump is wearing off." And yet on this warm
morning in the sunlight there is almost a touch of frolic in the box. A
syncopation attempts a happier temper. It has sniffed the fragrant air,
and desires to put a better face upon its troubles.

The housemaid next door hangs out the Monday's garments to dry, and
there is a pleasant flapping of legs and arms as if impatient for
partners in a dance. Must a petticoat sit unasked when the music plays?
Surely breeches and stockings will not hold back when a lively skirt
shall beckon. A slow waltz might even tempt aunty's night-gown off the
line. If only a vegetable man would come with a cart of red pieplant and
green lettuce and offer his gaudy wares along the street, then the
evidence of spring would be complete.

But there is even better evidence at hand. This morning I noticed that a
circus poster had been pasted on the billboard near the school-house.
Several children and I stopped to see the wonders that were promised.
Then the school-bell rang and they dawdled off. At Stratford, also, once
upon a time, boys with shining morning faces crept like snails to
school. Were there circus billboards in so remote a day? The pundits,
bleared with search, are strangely silent. This morning it will be a
shrewd lesson that keeps the children's thoughts from leaping out the
window. Two times two will hardly hold their noses on the desk.

On the billboard there is the usual blonde with pink legs, balanced on
one toe on a running horse. The clown holds the paper hoop. The band is
blowing itself very red in the face. An acrobat leaps headlong from a
high trapeze. There are five rings, thirty clowns, an amazing variety of
equestrian and slack-wire genius, a galaxy of dazzling beauties; and
every performance includes a dizzy, death-defying dive by a dauntless
dare-devil--on a bicycle from the top of the tent. And of course there
are elephants and performing dogs and fat ladies. One day only--two
performances--rain or shine.

Does not this kind of billboard stir the blood in these languid days of
spring? It is a tonic to the sober street. It is a shining dial that
marks the coming of the summer. In the winter let barns and fences
proclaim the fashion of our dress and tease us with bargains for the
kitchen. But in the spring, when the wind is from the south, fences have
a better use. They announce the circus. What child now will not come
upon a trot? What student can keep to his solemn book? There is a sleepy
droning from the school-house. The irregular verbs--lawless rascals with
a past--chafe in a dull routine. The clock loiters through the hour.

It was by mere coincidence that last night on my way home I stopped at a
news-stand for a daily paper, and saw a periodical by the name of the
_Paste-Brush_. On a gay cover was the picture of another blonde--a
sister, maybe, of the lady of the billboard. She was held by an ankle
over a sea of up-turned faces, but by her happy, inverted smile she
seemed unconscious of her danger.

The _Paste-Brush_ is new to me. I bought a copy, folded its scandalous
cover out of sight and took it home. It proves to be the trade journal
of the circus and amusement-park interests. It announces a circulation
of seventy thousand, which I assume is largely among acrobats,
magicians, fat ladies, clowns, liniment-venders, lion-tamers, Caucasian
Beauties and actors on obscure circuits.

Now it happens that among a fairly wide acquaintance I cannot boast a
single acrobat or liniment-vender. Nor even a professional fat man. A
friend of mine, it is true, swells in that direction as an amateur, but
he rolls night and morning as a corrective. I did once, also, pass an
agreeable hour at a County Fair with a strong man who bends iron bars in
his teeth. He had picked me from his audience as one of convincing
weight to hang across the bar while he performed his trick. When the
show was done, he introduced me to the Bearded Beauty and a talkative
Mermaid from Chicago. One of my friends, also, has told me that she is
acquainted with a lady--a former pupil of her Sunday school--who leaps
on holidays in the park from a parachute. The bantam champion, too, many
years ago, lived behind us around the corner; but he was a distant hero,
sated with fame, unconscious of our youthful worship. But these meetings
are exceptional and accidental. Most of us, let us assume, find our
acquaintance in the usual walks of life. Last night, therefore, having
laid by the letters of Madame d'Arblay, on whose seven volumes I have
been engaged for a month, I took up the _Paste-Brush_ and was carried at
once into another and unfamiliar world.

The frontispiece is the big tent of the circus with side-shows in the
foreground. There is a great wheel with its swinging baskets, a
merry-go-round, a Funny Castle, and a sword-swallower's booth. By a
dense crowd around a wagon I am of opinion that here nothing less than
red lemonade is sold. Certainly Jolly Maude, "that mountain of flesh,"
holds a distant, surging crowd against the ropes.

An article entitled "Freaks I Have Known" is worth the reading. You may
care to know that a celebrated missing-link--I withhold the lady's
name--plays solitaire in her tent as she waits her turn. Bearded ladies,
it is asserted, are mostly married and have a fondness for crocheting
out of hours. A certain three-legged boy, "the favorite of applauding
thousands," tried to enlist for the war, but was rejected because he
broke up a pair of shoes. The Wild Man of Borneo lived and died in
Waltham, Massachusetts. If the street and number were given, it would
tempt me to a pilgrimage. Have I not journeyed to Concord and to
Plymouth? Perhaps an old inhabitant--an antique spinster or rheumatic
grocer--can still remember the pranks of the Wild Man's childhood.

But in the _Paste-Brush_ the pages of advertisement are best. Slot
machines for chewing-gum are offered for sale--Merry-Widow swings, beach
babies (a kind of doll), genuine Tiffany rings that defy the expert,
second-hand saxophones, fountain pens at eight cents each and sofa
pillows with pictures of Turkish beauties.

But let us suppose that you, my dear sir, are one of those seventy
thousand subscribers and are by profession a tattooer. On the day of
publication with what eagerness you scan its columns! Here is your
opportunity to pick up an improved outfit--"stencils and supplies
complete, with twelve chest designs and a picture of a tattooed lady in
colors, twelve by eighteen, for display. Send for price list." Or if you
have skill in charming snakes and your stock of vipers is running low,
write to the Snake King of Florida for his catalogue. "He treats you
right." Here is an advertisement of an alligator farm. Alligator-wrestlers,
it is said, make big money at popular resorts on the southern circuit.
You take off your shoes and stockings, when the crowd has gathered, and
wade into the slimy pool. It needs only a moderate skill to seize the
fierce creature by his tail and haul him to the shore. A deft movement
throws him on his back. Then you tickle him under the ear to calm him
and pass the hat.

Here in the _Paste-Brush_ is an announcement of a ship-load of monkeys
from Brazil. Would you care to buy a walrus? A crocodile is easy money
on the Public Square in old-home week. Or perhaps you are a glass-blower
with your own outfit, a ventriloquist, a diving beauty, a lyric tenor or
a nail-eater. If so, here is an agent who will book you through the
West. The small cities and large towns of Kansas yearn for you. Or if
you, my dear madam, are of good figure, the Alamo Beauties, touring in
Mississippi, want your services. Long season. No back pay.

Would you like to play a tuba in a ladies' orchestra? You are wanted in
Oklahoma. The Sunshine Girls--famous on western circuits--are looking to
augment their number. "Wanted: Woman for Eliza and Ophelia. Also a child
for Eva. Must double as a pony. State salary. Canada theatres."

It is affirmed that there is money in box-ball, that hoop-la yields a
fortune, that "you mop up the tin" with a huckley-buck. It sounds easy.
I wonder what a huckley-buck is like. I wonder if I have ever seen one.
It must be common knowledge to the readers of the _Paste-Brush_, for the
term is not explained. Perhaps one puts a huckley-buck in a wagon and
drives from town to town. Doubtless it returns a fortune in a County
Fair. Is this not an opportunity for an underpaid school-teacher or slim
seamstress? No longer must she subsist upon a pittance. Here is rest for
her blue, old fingers. Let her write today for a catalogue. She should
choose a huckley-buck of gaudy color, with a Persian princess on the
side, to draw the crowd. Let her stop by the village pump and sound a
stirring blast upon her megaphone.

Or perhaps you, my dear sir, have been chafing in an indoor job. You
have been hooped through a dreary winter upon a desk. If so, your gloomy
disposition can be mended by a hoop-la booth, whatever it is. "This
way, gentlemen! Try your luck! Positively no blanks. A valuable prize
for everybody." Your stooped shoulders will straighten. Your digestion
will come to order in a month. Or why not run a stand at the beach for
walking-sticks, with a view in the handle of a "dashing French actress
in a daring pose, or the latest picture of President and Mrs. Wilson at
the Peace Conference."

Or curiosities may be purchased--"two-headed giants, mermaids,
sea-serpents, a devil-child and an Egyptian mummy. New lists ready." A
mummy would be a quiet and profitable companion for our seamstress in
the long vacation. It would need less attention than a sea-serpent. She
should announce the dusty creature as the darling daughter of the
Ptolemies. When the word has gone round, she may sit at ease before the
booth in scarlet overalls and count the dropping nickels. With what
vigor will she take to her thimble in the autumn!

Out in Gilmer, Texas, there is a hog with six legs--"alive and healthy.
Five hundred dollars take it." Here is a merchant who will sell you
"snake, frog and monkey tights." After your church supper, on the stage
of the Sunday school, surely, in such a costume, my dear madam, you
could draw a crowd. Study the trombone and double your income. Can you
yodle? "It can be learned at home, evenings, in six easy lessons."

A used popcorn engine is cut in half. A waffle machine will be shipped
to you on trial. Does no one wish to take the road with a five-legged
cow? Here is one for sale--an extraordinary animal that cleaned up sixty
dollars in one afternoon at a County Fair in Indiana. "Walk up, ladies
and gentlemen! The marvel of the age. Plenty of time before the big show
starts. A five-legged cow. Count 'em. Answers to the name of Guenevere.
Shown before all the crowned heads of Europe. Once owned by the Czar of
Russia. Only a dime. A tenth of a dollar. Ten cents. Show about to
start."

Or perhaps you think it more profitable to buy a steam calliope--some
very good ones are offered second-hand in the _Paste-Brush_--and tour
your neighboring towns. Make a stand at the crossroads under the
soldiers' monument. Give a free concert. Then when the crowd is thick
about you, offer them a magic ointment. Rub an old man for his
rheumatism. Throw away his crutch, clap him on the back and pronounce
him cured. Or pull teeth for a dollar each. It takes but a moment for a
diagnosis. When once the fashion starts, the profitable bicuspids will
drop around you.

And Funny Castles can be bought. Perhaps you do not know what they are.
They are usual in amusement parks. You and a favorite lady enter, hand
in hand. It is dark inside and if she is of an agreeable timidity she
leans to your support. Only if you are a churl will you deny your arm.
Then presently a fiery devil's head flashes beside you in the passage.
The flooring tilts and wobbles as you step. Here, surely, no lady will
wish to keep her independence. Presently a picture opens in the wall. It
is souls in hell, or the Queen of Sheba on a journey. Then a sharp draft
ascends through an opening in the floor. Your lady screams and minds her
skirts. A progress through a Funny Castle, it is said, ripens the
greenest friendship. Now take the lady outside, smooth her off and
regale her with a lovers' sundae. Funny Castles, with wind machines, a
Queen of Sheba almost new, and devil's head complete, can be purchased.
Remit twenty-five per cent with order. The balance on delivery.

Perhaps I am too old for these high excitements. Funny Castles are
behind me. Ladies of the circus, alas! who ride in golden chariots are
no longer beautiful. Cleopatra in her tinsel has sunk to the common
level. Clowns with slap-sticks rouse in me only a moderate delight.

At this moment, as I write, the clock strikes twelve. It is noon and
school is out. There is a slamming of desks and a rush for caps. The
boys scamper on the stairs. They surge through the gate. The acrobat on
the billboard greets their eyes--the clown, also the lady with the pink
legs. They pause. They gather in a circle. They have fallen victims to
her smile. They mark the great day in their memory.

The wind is from the south. The daffodils flourish along the fences. The
street organ hangs heavily on its strap. There will be a parade in the
morning. The freaks will be on their platforms by one o'clock. The great
show starts at two. I shall buy tickets and take Nepos, my nephew.

[Illustration]



In Praise of a Lawn-Mower.


I do not recall that anyone has written the praises of a lawn-mower. I
seem to sow in virgin soil. One could hardly expect a poet to lift up
his voice on such a homely theme. By instinct he prefers the more
rhythmic scythe. Nor, on the other hand, will mechanical folk pay a full
respect to a barren engine without cylinders and motive power. But to me
it is just intricate enough to engage the interest. I can trace the
relation of its wheels and knives, and see how the lesser spinning
starts the greater. In a printing press, on the contrary, I hear only
the general rattle. Before a gas-engine, also, I am dumb. Its sixteen
processes to an explosion baffle me. I could as easily digest a machine
for setting type. I nod blankly, as if a god explained the motion of the
stars. Even when I select a motor I take it merely on reputation and by
bouncing on the cushions to test its comfort.

It has been a great many years since I was last intimate with a
lawn-mower. My acquaintance began in the days when a dirty face was the
badge of freedom. One early Saturday morning I was hard at work before
breakfast. Mother called down through the upstairs shutters, at the
first clicking of the knives, to ask if I wore my rubbers in the dew.
With the money earned by noon, I went to Conrad's shop. The season for
tops and marbles had gone by. But in the window there was a peerless
baseball with a rubber core, known as a _cock-of-the-walk_. By
indecision, even by starting for the door, I bought it a nickel off
because it was specked by flies.

It did not occur to me last week, at first, that I could cut the grass.
I talked with an Irishman who keeps the lawn next door. He leaned on his
rake, took his pipe from his mouth and told me that his time was full.
If he had as many hands as a centipede--so he expressed himself--he
could not do all the work that was asked of him. The whole street
clamored for his service. Then I talked with an Italian on the other
side, who comes to work on a motor-cycle with his lawn-mower across his
shoulder. His time was worth a dollar an hour, and he could squeeze me
in after supper and before breakfast. But how can I consistently write
upstairs--I am puttering with a novel--with so expensive a din sounding
in my ears? My expected royalties shrink beside such swollen pay. So I
have become my own yard-man.

Last week I had the lawn-mower sharpened, but it came home without
adjustment. It went down the lawn without clipping a blade. What a
struggle I had as a child getting the knives to touch along their entire
length! I remember it as yesterday. What an ugly path was left when they
cut on one side only! My bicycle chain, the front wheel that wobbled,
the ball-bearings in the gear, none of these things were so perplexing.
Last week I got out my screw-driver with somewhat of my old feeling of
impotence. I sat down on the grass with discouragement in contemplation.
One set of screws had to be loosened while another set was tightened,
and success lay in the delicacy of my advance. What was my amazement to
discover that on a second trial my mower cut to its entire width! Even
when I first wired a base-plug and found that the table lamp would
really light, I was not more astonished.

This success with the lawn-mower has given me hope. I am not, as I am
accused, all thumbs. I may yet become a handy man around the house. Is
the swirl of furnace pipes inside my intellect? Perhaps I can fix the
leaky packing in the laundry tubs, and henceforth look on the plumber as
an equal brother. My dormant brain cells at last are wakened. But I must
curb myself. I must not be too useful. There is no rest for a handy man.
It is ignorance that permits a vacant holiday. At most I shall admit a
familiarity with base-plugs and picture-wire and rubber washers--perhaps
even with canvas awnings, which smack pleasantly of the sea--but I shall
commit myself no further.

Once in a while I rather enjoy cleaning the garage--raking down the
cobwebs from the walls and windows with a stream from the hose--puddling
the dirt into the central drain. I am ruthless with old oil cans and
with the discarded clothing of the chauffeur we had last month. Why is
an old pair of pants stuffed so regularly in the tool drawer? There is a
barrel at the alley fence--but I shall spare the details. It was the
river Alpheus that Hercules turned through the Augean stables. They had
held three thousand oxen and had not been cleaned for thirty years. Dear
me! I know oxen. I rank this labor ahead of the killing of the Hydra, or
fetching the golden apples of the Hesperides. Our garage can be
sweetened with a hose.

But I really like outside work. Last week I pulled up a quantity of dock
and dandelions that were strangling the grass. And I raked in seed. This
morning, when I went out for the daily paper, I saw a bit of tender
green. The Reds, as I noticed in the headline of the paper, were
advancing on Warsaw. France and England were consulting for the defense
of Poland, but I ignored these great events and stood transfixed in
admiration before this shimmer of new grass.

Our yard, fore and aft, is about an afternoon's work. And now that I
have cut it once I have signed up for the summer. It requires just the
right amount of intelligence. I would not trust myself to pull weeds in
the garden. M---- has the necessary skill for this. I might pull up the
Canterbury bells which, out of season, I consider unsightly stalks. And
I do not enjoy clipping the grass along the walks. It is a kind of
barber's job. But I like the long straightaways, and I could wish that
our grass plot stretched for another hundred feet.

And I like the sound of a lawn-mower. It is such a busy click and
whirr. It seems to work so willingly. Not even a sewing-machine has
quite so brisk a tempo. And when a lawn-mower strikes a twig, it stops
suddenly on its haunches with such impatience to be off again. "Bend
over, won't you," it seems to say, "and pull out that stick. These trees
are a pesky nuisance. They keep dropping branches all the while. Now
then! Are we ready? Whee! What's an apple? I can cut an apple all to
flinders. You whistle and I'll whirr. Let's run down that slope
together!"



On Dropping Off to Sleep.


I sleep too well--that is, I go to sleep too soon. I am told that I pass
a few minutes of troubled breathing--not vulgar snores, but a kind of
uneasy ripple on the shore of wakefulness--then I drift out with the
silent tide. Doubtless I merit no sympathy for my perfection--and yet--

Well, in the first place, lately we have had windy, moonlit nights and
as my bed sets at the edge of the sleeping porch and the rail cuts off
the earth, it is like a ride in an aëroplane to lie awake among the torn
and ragged clouds. I have cast off the moorings of the sluggish world.
Our garden with its flowering path, the coop for our neighbor's
chickens, the apple tree, all have sunk from sight. The prow of my plane
is pitched across the top of a waving poplar. Earth's harbor lights are
at the stern. The Pleiades mark the channel to the open sky. I must hang
out a lantern to fend me from the moon.

I shall keep awake for fifteen minutes, I think. Perhaps I can recall
Keats's sonnet to the night:

    "When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
    Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance--"

and those lines of Milton about the moon rising in clouded majesty,
unveiling her peerless light.

Here a star peeps out. Presently its companions will show themselves
and I shall know the constellation. Are they playing like little
children at hide-and-seek? Do I catch Arcturus looking from its cover?
Shall I shout hi-spy to Alpha Lyra? A shooting star, that has crouched
behind a cloud, runs home to the goal untagged. Surely these glistening
worlds cannot be hard-fisted planets like our own, holding a close
schedule across the sky. They have looted the shining treasure of the
sunset. They sail the high fantastic seas like caravels blown from
India. In the twilight they have lifted vagrant anchors and they will
moor in strange havens at the dawn.

Are not these ragged clouds the garment of the night? Like the beggar
maiden of an ancient tale she runs with flying raiment. She unmasks her
beauty when the world's asleep. And the wind, like an eager prince upon
his wooing, rides out of the stormy north.

And then! Poof! Sleep draws its dark curtain across the glittering
pageant--

Presently I hear Annie, the cook, on the kitchen steps below, beating me
up to breakfast. She sounds her unwelcome reveille on a tin pan with an
iron spoon. Her first alarm I treat with indifference. It even weaves
itself pleasantly into my dreams. I have been to a circus lately, let us
say, and this racket seems to be the tom-tom of a side-show where a thin
gentleman swallows snakes. Nor does a second outburst stir me. She only
tries the metal and practices for the later din. At the third alarm I
rise, for now she nurses a mighty wrath. I must humor the angry creature
lest in her fury she push over a shelf of crockery. There is a cold
jump for slippers--a chilly passage.

I passed a week lately at a country hotel where there were a number of
bad sleepers--men broken by the cares of business, but convalescent.
Each morning, as I dressed, I heard them on the veranda outside my
window, exchanging their complaints. "Well," said one, "I slept three
hours last night." "I wish I could," said a second. "I never do," said a
third. No matter how little sleep the first man allowed himself, the
second clipped off an hour. The third man told the bells he had
heard--one and two and three and four--both Baptist and Methodist--and
finished with his preceding competitor at least a half hour down. But
always there was an old man--an ancient man with flowing beard--who
waited until all were done, and concluded the discussion just at the
breakfast gong: _"I never slept a wink."_ This was the perfect score.
His was the golden cup. Whereupon the insomnious veranda hung its
defeated head with shame, and filed into the dining-room to be soothed
and comforted with griddle-cakes.

This daily contest recalled to me the story of the two men drowned in
the Dayton and Johnstown floods who boasted to each other when they came
to heaven. Has the story gone the rounds? For a while they were the
biggest lions among all the angels, and harps hung untuned and neglected
in their presence. As often as they met in the windy portico of heaven,
one of these heroes, falling to reminiscence of the flood that drowned
him, lifted the swirling water of Johnstown to the second floor. The
other hero, not to be outdone, drenched the Dayton garrets. The first
was now compelled to submerge a chimney. Turn by turn they mounted in
competition to the top of familiar steeples. But always an old man sat
by--an ancient man with flowing beard--who said "Fudge!" in a tone of
great contempt. Must I continue? Surely you have guessed the end. It was
the old mariner himself. It was the survivor of Ararat. It was Noah.
Once, I myself, among these bad sleepers on the veranda, boasted that I
had heard the bells at two o'clock, but I was scorned as an unfledged
novice in their high convention.

Sleeping too well seems to argue that there is nothing on your mind.
Your head, it is asserted by the jealous, is a vacancy that matches the
empty spaces of the night. It is as void as the untwinkling north. If
there has been a rummage, they affirm, of important matters all day
above your ears, it can hardly be checked at once by popping the tired
head down upon a pillow. These fizzing squibs of thought cannot be
smothered in a blanket. When one has planned a railroad or a revolution,
the mighty churning still progresses in the dark. A dubious franchise
must be gained. Villains must be pricked down for execution. Or bankers
have come up from Paraguay, and one meditates from hour to hour on the
sureness of the loan. Or perhaps an imperfect poem searches for a rhyme,
or the plot of a novel sticks.

It is the shell, they say, which is fetched from the stormy sea that
roars all night. My head, alas, by the evidence, is a shell which is
brought from a stagnant shore.

Tired Nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep! Sleep that knits up the
ravell'd sleave of care! That is all very well, and pretty poetry, but I
am afraid, when everything is said, that I am a sleepy-head. I do not,
of course, have to pinch myself at a business meeting. At high noon I do
not hear the lotus song. I do not topple, full of dreams, off the
platform of a street-car. The sleepy poppy is not always at my nose.

Nor do I yawn at dinner behind a napkin, or doze in the firelight when
there are guests about. My manners keep me from this boorishness. In an
extremity, if they sit too late, I stir the fire, or I put my head out
of doors for the wind to waken me. I show a sudden anxiety whether the
garage is locked. I pretend that the lawn-mower is left outside, or that
the awnings are loose and flapping. But I do not dash out the lights
when our guests are still upon the steps. I listen at the window until I
hear their motor clear the corner. Then I turn furiously to my buttons.
I kick off my shoes upon the staircase.

Several of us were camping once in the woods north of Lake Superior. As
we had no guides we did all the work ourselves, and everyone was of
harder endurance than myself. Was it not Pippa who cried out "Morning's
at seven"? Seven! I look on her as being no better than a slug-a-bed.
She should have had her dishes washed and been on her way by six. Our
day began at five. Our tents had to be taken down, our blankets and
duffle packed. We were regularly on the water an hour before Pippa
stirred a foot. And then there were four or five hours of paddling,
perhaps in windy water. And then a new camp was made. Our day matched
the exertions of a traveling circus. In default of expert knowledge I
carried water, cut brouse for the beds and washed dishes. Little jobs,
of an unpleasant nature, were found for me as often as I paused. Others
did the showy, light-fingered work. I was housemaid and roustabout from
sunrise to weary sunset. I was never allowed to rest. Nor was I
permitted to flop the bacon, which I consider an easy, sedentary
occupation. I acquired, unjustly,--let us agree in this!--a reputation
for laziness, because one day I sat for several hours in a blueberry
patch, when work was going forward.

And then one night, when all labor seemed done and there was an hour of
twilight, I was asked to read aloud. Everyone settled himself for a
feast of Shakespeare's sonnets. But it was my ill luck that I selected
the sonnet that begins, "Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed." A great
shout went up--a shout of derision. That night I read no more. I carried
up six or eight pails of water from the spring and followed the
sonneteer's example.

There are a great many books that I would like to read of a winter's
evening if I could stay awake--all of the histories, certainly, of
Fiske. And Rhodes, perhaps. I might even read "The Four Horsemen,"
"Trilby" and "The Education of Henry Adams," so as not to be alone. It
is snug by the fire, and the very wind taps on the window as if it asked
for invitation to share the hearth. I could compile a list, a five-foot
shelf, for these nights of tempest. There is a writer in a Boston paper
who tells us every week the books that he would like to read. His is a
prospect rather than a review, for it is based on his anticipation. But
does he ever read these books? Perhaps he, too, dozes. His book slips
off his knee and his chin drops to comfort on his front. Let me inform
him that a wood fire--if the logs are hardly dry--is a corrective. Its
debility, as water oozes at the end, requires attendance every five
minutes. Even Wardle's fat boy at Manor Farm could have lasted through
the evening if the poker had been forced into his hand so often. "I
read," says Tennyson, "before my eyelids dropt their shade." And wasn't
Alice sitting with her book when she fell asleep and down the
rabbit-hole? "And so to bed," writes Pepys. He, too, then, is one of us.

I wonder if that phrase--he who runs may read--has not a deeper
significance than lies upon the surface. Perhaps the prophet--was it
Habakkuk who wrote the line?--it does not matter--perhaps the bearded
prophet had himself the sleepy habit, and kept moving briskly for remedy
around his study. I can see him in dressing-gown and slippers, with book
in hand--his whiskers veering in the wind--quickening his lively pace
around the kerosene lamp, steering among the chairs, stumbling across
the cat--

In ambition I am a night-hawk. I would like to sit late with old books
and reconstruct the forgotten world at midnight. These bells that I hear
now across the darkness are the mad bells of Saint Bartholomew. With
that distant whistle--a train on the B. & O.--Guy Fawkes gathers his
villains to light the fuse. Through my window from the night I hear the
sounds of far-off wars and kingdoms falling.

And I would like, also, at least in theory, to sit with a merry company
of friends, and let the cannikin clink till dawn.

I would like to walk the streets of our crowded city and marvel at the
windows--to speculate on the thousand dramas that weave their webs in
our common life. Here is mirth that shakes its sides when its neighbors
sleep. Here is a hungry student whose ambition builds him rosy castles.
Here is a light at a fevered pillow where hope burns dim.

On some fairy night I would wish to wander in the woods, when there are
dancing shadows and a moon. Here Oberon holds state. Here Titania
sleeps. I would cross a silver upland. I would stand on a barren
hill-top, like the skipper of the world in its whirling voyage.

But these high accomplishments are beyond me. Habakkuk and the fat boy,
and Alice and Pepys and I, and all the others, must be content. Even the
wet wood and the poker fail. The very wind grows sleepy at the window.
Our chins fall forward. Our books slip off our knees.

And now, at last, our buoyant bed floats among the stars. I have cast
off the moorings of the sluggish world. Earth's harbor lights are at the
stern. The Pleiades mark the channel to the moon--

Poof! Sleep draws again its dark curtain across the glittering pageant.



Who Was Jeremy?


Who was Jeremy Bentham? I have run on his name recently two or three
times. I could, of course, find out. The Encyclopedia--volume _Aus to
Bis_--would enlighten me. Right now, downstairs in the bookcase--up near
the top where the shabby books are kept--among the old Baedekers--there
is a life of him by Leslie Stephen. No! That is a life of Hobbes. I
don't know anything about Hobbes either. It seems to me that he wrote
the "Leviathan," whatever that was. But there is a Bentham somewhere
around the house. But I have not read it.

In a rough way I know who Bentham was. He lived perhaps a hundred years
ago and he had a theory of utility. Utility was to clean the infected
world. Even the worst of us were to rise out of the tub white and
perfect. It was Bentham who wished to revisit the world in a hundred
years to see how sweet and clean we had become. He was to utility what
Malthus was to population. Malthus! There is another hard one. It is the
kind of name that is cut round the top of a new City Hall to shame
citizens by their ignorance.

I can go downstairs this minute and look up Bentham. Is it worth while?
But then I might be called to dinner in the middle of the article, or I
might be wanted to move the refrigerator. There is a musty smell, it
seems, in the drain pipe, and the stubborn casters are turned sidewise.
It hardly seems worth the chance and effort.

There are a great many things that really do stir my curiosity, and even
those things I don't look up. Or tardily, after my ignorance has been
exposed. The other day the moon arose--as a topic--at the round table of
the club where I eat lunch. It had really never occurred to me that we
had never seen its other side, that we never could--except by a
catastrophe--unless it smashed into a planet and was thrown heels up.
How does it keep itself so balanced that one face is forever hid? Try to
roll an apple around a pumpkin and meanwhile spin the pumpkin. Try this
on your carpet. I take my hat off to the moon.

I have been very ignorant of the moon. All of these years I have
regarded it as a kindly creature that showed itself now and then merely
on a whim. It was just jogging around of an evening, so I supposed, and
looked us up. It was an old neighbor who dropped in after dinner, as it
were, for a bit of gossip and an apple. But even the itinerant
knife-grinder--whose whirling wheel I can hear this minute below me in
the street--even the knife-grinder has a route. He knows at what season
we grow dull. What necessity, then, of ours beckons to the moon? Perhaps
it comes with a silver brush to paint the earth when it grows shabby
with the traffic of the day. Perhaps it shows itself to stir a lover who
halts coldly in his suit. The pink god, they say, shoots a dangerous
arrow when the moon is full.

The extent of my general ignorance is amazing. And yet, I suppose, by
persistence and energy I could mend it. Old Doctor Dwight used to advise
those of us who sat in his classroom to read a hard book for half an
hour each day. How those half hours would mount up through the years!
What a prodigious background of history, of science, of literature, one
would gain as the years revolved! If I had followed his advice I would
today be bursting with knowledge of Jeremy Bentham; I would never have
been tripped upon the moon.

How ignorant most of us are of the times in which we live! We see the
smoke and fires of revolution in Europe. We hear the cries of famine and
disease, but our perception is lost in the general smudge. How are the
Balkans parceled? How is the nest of nationalities along the Danube
disposed? This morning there is revolt in Londonderry. What parties are
opposite in the quarrel? Trouble brews in Chile. Is Tacni-Arica a
district or a mountain range? The Åland Islands breed war in the north.
Today there is a casualty list from Bagdad. The Bolsheviki advance on
Warsaw. Those of us who are cobblers tap our shoes unruffled, tailors
stitch, we bargain in the market--all of us go about on little errands
without excitement when the news is brought.

And then there is mechanics. This is now so preeminently a mechanical
world that no one ought to be entirely ignorant of cylinders and cogs
and carburetors. And yet my own motor is as dark as Africa. I am as
ignorant of a carburetor as of the black stomach of a zebra. Once a
carpenter's bench was given me at Christmas, fitted up with all manner
of tricky tools. The bookshelves I built in my first high enthusiasm
have now gone down to the basement to hold the canned fruit, where they
lean with rickets against the wall. Even the box I made to hold the milk
bottles on the back steps has gone the way of flesh. Any chicken-coop of
mine would topple in the wind. Well-instructed hens would sit around on
fence-posts and cackle at my efforts with a saw. Certainly, if a company
of us were thrown on a desert island, it would not be I who proved the
Admirable Crichton. Not by my shrewdness could we build a hut. Robinson
Crusoe contrived a boat. If I tied a raft together it would be sure to
sink.

Where are the Virgin Islands? What makes a teapot bubble? What forces
bring the rain and tempest?

In cooking I go no farther than an egg. Birds, to me, are either
sparrows or robins. I know an elm and a maple, but hemlocks and pines
and firs mix me up. I am not to be trusted to pull the weeds. Up would
come the hollyhocks. Japanese prints and Chinese vases sit in a world
above me.

I can thump myself in front without knowing whether I jar my stomach or
my liver. I have no notion where my food goes when it disappears. When
once I have tilted my pudding off its spoon my knowledge ceases. It is
as a child of Israel on journey in the wilderness. Does it pass through
my thorax? And where do my lungs branch off?

I know nothing of etchings, and I sit in gloomy silence when friends
toss Whistler and Rembrandt across the table. I know who our mayor is,
but I scratch my head to name our senator. And why does the world
crumple up in hills and mountains?

I could look up Jeremy Bentham and hereafter I would know all about him.
And I could look up the moon. And Hobbes. And Leslie Stephen, who wrote
a book about him. And a man named Maitland who wrote a life of Stephen.
Somebody must have written about Maitland. I could look him up, too. And
I could read about the Balkans and tell my neighbors whether they are
tertiary or triassic. I could pursue the thorax to its lair. Saws and
chicken-coops, no doubt, are an engaging study. I might take a tree-book
to the country, or seek an instructive job in a garage.

But what is the use? Right in front of Jeremy Bentham, in _Aus to Bis_,
is George Bentham, an English botanist. To be thorough I would have to
read about him also. Then following along is Bentivoglio, and Benzene--a
long article on benzene. And Beowulf! No educated person should be quite
ignorant of him. Albrecht Bitzius was a Swiss novelist. Somehow he has
escaped me entirely. And Susanna Blamire, "the muse of Cumberland"! She
sounds engaging. Who is there so incurious that he would not give an
evening to Borneo? And the Bryophyta?--which I am glad to learn include
"the mosses and the liverworts." Dear me! it is quite discouraging.

And then, when I am gaining information on Hobbes, the Hittites, right
in front, take my eye. Hilarius wrote "light verses of the goliardic
type"--whatever that means. And the hippopotamus! "the largest
representative of the non-ruminating artiodactyle ungulate mammals." I
must sit with the hippopotamus and worm his secret.

And after I have learned to use the saw, I would have to take up the
plane. And then the auger. And Whistler. And Japanese prints. And a bird
book.

It is very discouraging.

I stand with Pope. Certainly, unless one is very thirsty and has a great
deal of vacant time, it is best to avoid the Pierian spring.

Jeremy can go and hang himself. I am learning to play golf.



A Chapter for Children.


Once upon a time--for this is the way a story should begin--there lived
in a remote part of the world a family of children whose father was busy
all day making war against his enemies. And so, as their mother, also,
was busy (clubs, my dear, and parties), they were taken care of and had
their noses wiped--but in a most kindly way--by an old man who loved
them very much.

Now this old man had been a jester in his youth. For these were the
children of a king and so, of course, they had a jester, just as you and
I, if we are rich, have a cook. He had been paid wages--I don't know how
many kywatskies--merely to stand in the dining-room and say funny
things, and nobody asked him to jump around for the salt or to hurry up
the waffles. And he didn't even brush up the crumbs afterward.

I do not happen to know the children of any king--there is not a single
king living on our street--yet, except for their clothes, they are much
like other children. Of course they wear shinier clothes. It is not the
shininess that comes from sliding down the stair rail, but a royal
shininess, as though it were always eleven o'clock on Sunday morning and
the second bell of the Methodist church were ringing, with several
deacons on the steps. For if one's father is a king, ambassadors and
generals keep dropping in all the time, and queens, dressed up in
brocade so stiff you can hear them breathe.

One day the children had been sliding down hill in the snow--on Flexible
Flyers, painted red--and their mittens and stockings were wet. So the
old man felt their feet--tickling their toes--and set them, bare-legged,
in a row, in front of the nursery fire. And he told them a story.

"O children of the king!" he began, and with that he wiped their noses
all round, for it had been a cold day, when even the best-mannered
persons snuffle now and then. "O children of the king!" he began again,
and then he stopped to light a taper at the fire. For he was a wise old
man and he knew that when there is excitement in a tale, a light will
keep the bogies off. This old man could tell a story so that your eyes
opened wider and wider, as they do when Annie brings in ice-cream with
raspberry sauce. And once in a while he said Odd Zooks, and God-a-Mercy
when he forgot himself.

"Once upon a time," he began, "there lived a king in a far-off country.
To get to that country, O children of a king, you would have to turn and
turn, and spell out every signpost. And then you climb up the sides of
seventeen mountains, and swim twenty-three streams precisely. Here you
wait till dusk. But just before the lamps are lighted, you get down on
all-fours--if you are a boy (girls, I believe, don't have
all-fours)--and crawl under the sofa. Keep straight on for an hour or so
with the coal-scuttle three points starboard, but be careful not to let
your knees touch the carpet, for that wears holes in them and spoils the
magic. Then get nurse to pull you out by the hind legs--and--_there you
are_.

"Once upon a time, then, there lived a king with a ferocious moustache
and a great sword which rattled when he walked around the house. He made
scratches all over the piano legs, but no one felt like giving him a
paddy-whack. This king had a pretty daughter.

"Now it is a sad fact that there was a war going on. It was between this
king who had the pretty daughter and another king who lived near by, on
an adjoining farm, so to speak. And the first king had sworn by his
halidome--and at this his court turned pale--that he would take his
enemy by his blasted nose.

"Both of these kings lived in castles whose walls were thick and whose
towers were high. And around their tops were curious indentings that
looked as your teeth would look if every other one were pulled. These
castles had moats with lily pads and green water in them, which was not
at all healthful, except that persons in those days did not know about
it and were consequently just as well off. And there were jousting
fields and soup caldrons (with a barrel of animal crackers) and a tun of
lemonade (six glasses to a lemon)--everything to make life comfortable.

"Here's a secret. The other king who lived near by was in love with the
first king's daughter. Here are two kings fighting each other, and one
of them in love with the other's daughter, but not saying a word about
it.

"Now the second king--the one in love--was not very fierce, and his name
was King Muffin--which suggests pleasant thoughts--whereas the first
king with the beautiful daughter was called King Odd Zooks, Zooks the
Sixth, for he was the sixth of his powerful line. And my story is to
show how King Muffin got the better of King Zooks and married his
daughter. It was a clever piece of business, for the walls of the castle
were high, and the window of the Princess was way above the trees. King
Muffin didn't even know which her window was, for it did not have any
lace curtains and it looked no better than the cook's, except that the
cook sometimes on Monday tied her stockings to the curtain cord to dry.
And of course if King Muffin had come openly to the castle, the guards
would have cut him all to bits.

"One day in June King Muffin was out on horseback. He had left his crown
at home and was wearing his third-best clothes, so you would have
thought that he was just an ordinary man. But he was a good horseman;
that is, he wasn't thinking every minute about falling off, but sat
loosely, as one might sit in a rocking-chair.

"The country was beautiful and green, and in the sky there were puffy
clouds that looked the way a pop-over looks before it turns brown--a big
pop-over that would stuff even a hungry giant up to his ears. And there
was a wind that wiggled everything, and the noise of a brook among the
trees. Also, there were birds, but you must not ask me their names, for
I am not good at birds.

"King Muffin, although he was a brave man, loved a pleasant day. So he
turned back his collar at the throat in order that the wind might tickle
his neck and he dropped his reins on his horse's back in a careless way
that wouldn't be possible on a street where there were trolley-cars. In
this fashion he rode on for several miles and sang to himself a great
many songs. Sometimes he knew the words and sometimes he said _tum tum
te tum tum_, but he kept to the tune.

"King Muffin enjoyed his ride so much that before he knew it he was out
of his own kingdom and at least six parasangs in the kingdom of King
Zooks. _My dear, use your handkerchief!_

"And even then King Muffin would not have realized it, except that on
turning a corner he saw a young man lying under a tree in a suit that
was half green and half yellow. King Muffin knew him at once to be a
jester--but whose? King Zooks's jester, of course, his mortal enemy. For
jesters have to go off by themselves once in a while to think up new
jokes, and no other king lived within riding distance. Really, the
jester was thinking of rhymes to _zithern_, which is the name of the
curious musical instrument he carried, and is a little like a mandolin,
only harder to play. It cannot be learned in twelve easy lessons. And
the jester was making a sorry business of it, for it is a difficult
word to find rhymes to, as you would know if you tried. He was terribly
woeful.

"King Muffin said 'Whoa' and stopped his horse. Then he said 'Good
morning, fellow,' in the kind of superior tone that kings use.

"The jester got off the ground and, as he did not know that Muffin was a
king, he sneezed; for the ground was damp. It was a slow sneeze in
coming, for the ground was not very wet, and he stood waiting for it
with his mouth open and his eyes squinting. So King Muffin waited too,
and had a moment to think. And as kings think very fast, very many
thoughts came to him. So, by the time the sneeze had gone off like a
shower bath, and before the pipes filled up for another, some
interesting things had occurred to him. Well! things about the Princess
and how he might get a chance to speak with her. But he said:

"'Ho, ho! Methinks King Zooks's jester has the snuffles.'

"At this, Jeppo--for that was the jester's name--looked up with a wry
face, for he still kept a sneeze inside him which he couldn't dislodge.

"'By my boots and spurs!' the King cried again, 'you are a woeful
jester.'

"Jeppo _was_ woeful. For on this very night King Zooks was to give a
grand dinner--not a simple dinner such as you have at home with Annie
passing dishes and rattling the pie around the pantry--but a dinner for
a hundred persons, generals and ambassadors, all dressed in lace and
eating from gold plates. And of course everyone would look to Jeppo for
something funny--maybe a new song with twenty verses and a
_rol-de-rol-rol chorus_, which everyone could sing even if he didn't
know the words. And Jeppo didn't know a single new thing. He had tried
to write something, but had stuck while trying to think of a rhyme for
_zithern_. So of course he was woeful. And King Muffin knew it.

"All this while King Muffin was thinking hard, although he didn't scowl
once, for some persons can think without scowling. He wished so much to
see the Princess, and yet he knew that if he climbed the tallest tree he
couldn't reach her window. And even if he found a ladder long enough, as
likely as not he would lean it up against the cook's window, not
noticing the stockings on the curtain cord. King Muffin should have
looked glum. But presently he smiled.

"'Jeppo,' he said, 'what would you say if I offered to change places
with you? Here you are fretting about that song of yours and the dinner
only a few hours off. You will be flogged tomorrow, sure, for being so
dull tonight. Just change clothes with me and go off and enjoy yourself.
Sit in a tavern! Spend these kywatskies!' Here King Muffin rattled his
pocket. 'I'll take your place. I know a dozen songs, and they will
tickle your king until, goodness me! he will cry into his soup.' King
Muffin really didn't give King Zooks credit for ordinary manners, but
then he was his mortal enemy, and prej'iced.

"Well, Jeppo _was_ terribly woeful and that word _zithern_ was
bothering him. There was _pithern_ and _dithern_ and _mithern_. He had
tried them all, but none of them seemed to mean anything. So he looked
at King Muffin, who sat very straight on his horse, for he wasn't at all
afraid of him, although he was a tall horse and had nostrils that got
bigger and littler all the time; and back legs that twitched. Meanwhile
King Muffin twirled a gold chain in his fingers. Then Jeppo looked at
King Muffin's clothes and saw that they were fashionable. Then he looked
at his hat and there was a yellow feather in it. And those kywatskies.
King Muffin, just to tease him, twirled his moustache, as kings will.

"So the bargain was made. There was a thicket near, so dense that it
would have done for taking off your clothes when you go swimming. In
this thicket King Muffin and Jeppo exchanged clothes. Of course Jeppo
had trouble with the buttons for he had never dressed in such fine
clothes before, and many of a king's buttons are behind.

"And now, when the exchange was made, Jeppo inquired where he would find
an expensive tavern with brass pull-handles on the lemonade vat, and he
rode off, licking his lips and jingling his kywatskies. But King Muffin,
dressed as a jester, vaulted on his horse and trotted in the direction
of King Zooks's castle, which had indentings around the top like a row
of teeth if every other one were pulled.

"And after a little while it became night. It is my private opinion, my
dear, which I shall whisper in the middle of your ear--the outer flap
being merely ornamental and for 'spection purposes--that the sun is
afraid of the dark, because you never see him around after nightfall.
Bless you, he goes off to bed before twilight and tucks himself to the
chin before you or I would even think of lighting a candle. And, on my
word, he prefers to sleep in the basement. He goes down the back stairs
and cuddles behind the furnace. And he has the bad habit, mercy! of
reading in bed. A good half hour after he should be sound asleep, you
can see the reflection of his candle on the evening clouds."

At this point the old man paused a bit, to see if the children were
still awake. Then he wiped their noses all around, not forgetting the
youngest with the fat legs, and began again.

"During all this time King Zooks had been getting ready for the party,
trying on shiny coats, and getting his silk stockings so that the seams
at the back went straight up and didn't wind around, which is the way
they naturally do unless you are particular. And he put a clean
handkerchief into every pocket, in case he sneezed in a hurry--for King
Zooks was a lavish dresser.

"His wife was dressing in another room, keeping three maids busy with
safety pins and powder-puffs, and getting all of the snarls out of her
hair. And, in still another room of the castle, his daughter was
dressing. Now his wife was a nice-looking woman, like nurse, except that
she wore stiff brocade and didn't jounce. But his daughter was
beautiful and didn't need a powder-puff.

"When they were all dressed they met outside, just to ask questions of
one another about handkerchiefs and noses and behind the ears. The
Queen, also, wished to be very sure that there wasn't a hole in the heel
of her stocking, for she wore black stockings, which makes it worse.
King Zooks was fond of his wife and fond of his daughter, and when he
was with them he did not look so fierce. He kissed both of them, but
when he kissed his daughter--which was the better fun--he took hold of
her nose--but in a most kindly way--so that her face wouldn't slip.

"Then they went down the marble stairs, with flunkies bowing up and
down.

"But how worried King Zooks would have been if he had known that at that
very moment his enemy, King Muffin, was coming into the castle,
disguised as a jester. Nobody stopped King Muffin, for wandering jesters
were common in those days.

"And now the party started with all its might.

"King Zooks offered his arm to the wife of the Ambassador, and Queen
Zooks offered hers to the General of the army. There was a fight around
the Princess, but she said _eenie meenie minie moe, catch a nigger by
the toe_ and counted them all out but one. And so they went down another
marble stairway to the dining-room, where a band was blowing itself red
in the face--the trombonist, in particular, seeming to be in great
distress.

"And where was King Muffin?

"King Muffin came in by the postern--the back stoop, my dear--and he
washed his hands and ears at the kitchen sink and went right up to the
dining-room. And there he was standing behind the King's chair, where
King Zooks couldn't see him but the Princess could. You can see from
this what a crafty person King Muffin was. Queen Zooks, to be sure,
could see him, but she was an unsuspicious person, and was very hungry.
There were waffles for dinner, and when there were waffles she didn't
even talk very much.

"King Muffin was very funny. He told jokes which were old at his own
castle, but were new to King Zooks. And King Zooks, thinking he was a
real jester, laughed until he cried--only his tears did not get into his
soup, for by that time the soup had been cleared away. A few of them,
however--just a splatter--did fall on his fish, but it didn't matter as
it was a salt fish anyway. But all the guests, inasmuch as they were
eating away from home, had to be more particular. And when the
_rol-de-rol-rol_ choruses came, how King Zooks sang, throwing back his
head and forgetting all about his ferocious moustache!

"No one enjoyed the fun more than King Muffin. Whenever things quieted
down a bit he said something even funnier than the last. But during all
this time it had not occurred to King Zooks to inquire for Jeppo, or to
ask why a new fool stood behind his chair. He just laughed and nudged
the wife of the Ambassador with his elbow and ate his waffles and
enjoyed himself.

"So the dinner grew merrier and merrier until at last everyone had had
enough to eat. They would have pushed back a little from the table to be
more comfortable in front, except for their manners. King Zooks was the
last to finish, for the dinner ended with ice-cream and he was fond of
it. He didn't have it ordinary days. In fact he was so eager to get the
last bit that he scraped his spoon round and round upon the dish until
Queen Zooks was ashamed of him. When, finally, he was all through, the
guests folded their napkins and pushed back their chairs until you never
heard such a squeak. A few of them--but these had never been out to
dinner before--had spilled crumbs in their laps and had to brush them
off.

"And now there was a dance.

"So King Zooks offered his arm to the wife of the Ambassador and Queen
Zooks offered hers to the General of the army, and they started up the
marble stairway to the ballroom. But what should King Muffin do but skip
up to the Princess while she was still smoothing out her skirts. (Yellow
organdie, my dear, and it musses when you sit on it.) Muffin made a low
bow and kissed her hand. Then he asked her for the first dance. It was
so preposterous that a jester should ask her to dance at all, that
everyone said it was the funniest thing he had done, and they went into
a gale about it on the marble stairway. Even Queen Zooks, who ordinarily
didn't laugh much at jokes, threw back her head and laughed quite
loud--but in a minute, when everybody else was done. And then to
everyone's surprise the Princess consented to dance with King Muffin,
although the General of the army stood by in a kind of empty fashion.
But everybody was so merry, and in particular King Zooks, that no one
minded.

"King Muffin, when he danced with the Princess, looked at her very hard
and softly, and she looked back at him as if she didn't mind it a bit.
Evidently she knew him despite his disguise. And naturally she knew that
he was in love with her.

"Now King Muffin hadn't had a thing to eat, for jesters are supposed to
eat at a little table afterwards. If they ate at the big table they
would forget and sing sometimes with their mouths full and you know how
that would sound. So he and the Princess went downstairs to the pantry,
where he ate seven cream puffs and three floating islands, one after the
other, never spilling a bit on his blouse. He called them 'floatin'
Irelands,' having learned it that way as a child, his nurse not
correcting him. Then he felt better and they returned to the ballroom,
where the dance was still going on with all its might.

"King Muffin took the Princess out on the balcony, which was the place
where young gentlemen, even in those days, took ladies when they had
something particular to say. He shut the door carefully and looked all
around to make sure that there were no spies about, under the chairs,
inside the vases. He even wiggled the rug for fear that there might be
a trapdoor beneath.

"Did the Princess love King Muffin? Of course she did. But she wasn't
going to let him know it all at once. Ladies never do things like that.
So she looked indifferent, as though she might yawn at any moment.
Despite that, King Muffin told her what was on his mind, and when he was
finished, he looked for an answer. But she didn't say anything, but just
sat quiet and pretended there was a button off her dress. So King Muffin
told it again, and moved up a bit. And this time her head nodded ever so
little. But he saw it. So he reached down in his side pocket, so far
that he had to straighten out his leg to get to the bottom. He brought
up a ring. Then he slipped it on her finger, the next to the longest one
on her left hand. After that he kissed her in a most affectionate way.

"This was all very well, but of course King Zooks would never consent to
their marriage. And if he discovered that the new jester was King
Muffin, his guards would cut him all to slivers. For a minute they were
woeful. Then a bright idea came to King Muffin--

"Meanwhile the dance had been going on with all its might. First the
General of the army danced with Queen Zooks. He was a very manly dancer
and was quite stiff from the waist up, and she bounced around on
tip-toe. Then the Ambassador danced with her, but his sword kept getting
in her way. Then both of them, having done their duty, looked around
for the Princess. They went to the lemonade room, for that was the first
place naturally to look. Then they went to the cardroom, where the older
persons were playing casino, and were sitting very solemn, as if it were
not a party at all.

"Then they went to King Zooks, who was jiggling on his toes, with his
back to the fire, full and happy. 'Where is your daughter, Majestical
Majesty?' they asked. But as King Zooks didn't know he joined the
search, and Queen Zooks, too. But she wasn't much good at it, for she
had a long train and she couldn't turn a corner sharp, although her
maids trotted after her and whisked it about as fast as possible.

"But they couldn't find the Princess anywhere inside the castle.

"After a while it occurred to King Zooks that the cook might know. She
had gone to bed--leaving her dishes until morning--so up they climbed.
She answered from under the covers, 'Whajuwant?' which shows that she
didn't talk English and was probably a Spanish cook or an Indian
princess captured very young. So she got up, all excited. My! how she
scuffed around, looking for her slippers, trying to find her clothes and
getting one or two things on wrong side out! She was so confused that
she thought it was morning and brushed her teeth.

"By this time an hour had passed and King Zooks was fidgety. He told his
red-faced band to lean their trombones and other things up against the
wall, so that he could think. Then he stroked his chin, while the court
stood by and tried to think also. Finally the King sent a herald to
proclaim around the castle how fidgety he was and that his daughter must
be brought to him. But the Princess was not found. Meantime the band ate
ice-cream and cocoanut macaroons, and appeared to enjoy itself.

"In a tall tower that stands high above the trees there was a great
clock, and, by and by, it began to strike the hour. It did not stop
until it had struck ten times. So you see it was growing late and the
King had the right to be getting fidgety. When the clock had done, those
guests who were not in the habit of sitting up so late, began to grow
sleepy; only, of course, they did not yawn out loud, but behind fans and
things.

"Meanwhile King Muffin had gone downstairs to the stable. He brought out
his horse with the flaring nostrils and another horse also. He took them
around to the Princess, who sat waiting for him on a marble bench in the
shadow of a tree.

"'Climb up, beautiful Princess,' he said.

"She hopped into her saddle and he into his. They were off like the
wind.

"They heard the clock strike ten and they saw the great tower rising
above the castle with the silver moon upon it, but they galloped on and
on. Through the forest they galloped, over bridges and streams. And the
moon climbed off the tower and kept with them--as it does with all good
folk--plunging through the clouds like a ship upon the ocean. And still
they galloped on. Presently they met Jeppo returning from the tavern
with the brass pull-handles. 'Yo, ho!' called out the King, and they
passed him in a flash. _Clackety-clack-clack, clackety-clack-clack,
clack-clack, clackety-clack!_

"And peasants, who usually slept right through the night, awoke at the
sound of their hoofs and although they were very sleepy, they ran and
looked out of their windows--being careful to put on slippers so as not
to get the snuffles. And King Muffin and the Princess galloped by with
the moonlight upon them, and the peasants wondered who they were. But as
they were very sleepy, presently they went back to bed without finding
out. One of them did, however, stumble against a chair, right on the
toe, and had to light a candle to see if it were worth mending.

"But in the morning the peasants found a bauble near the lodge-gate, a
cap and bells on the ravine bridge, and on the long road to the border
of King Muffin's land they found a jester's coat.

"And to this day, although many years have passed, their children and
their children's children, on the way from school, gather the lilies of
the valley which flourish in the woods and along the roads. And they
think that they are jesters' bells which were scattered in the flight."

Whereupon the old man, having finished his story, wiped the noses of the
children, not forgetting the youngest one with the fat legs, and sent
them off to bed.

[Illustration]



The Crowded Curb.


Recently I came on an urchin in the crowded city, pitching pennies by
himself, in the angle of an abutment. Three feet from his patched
seat--a gay pattern which he tilted upward now and then--there moved a
thick stream of shoppers. He was in solitary contest with himself, his
evening papers neglected in a heap, wrapped in his score, unconscious of
the throng that pressed against him. He was resting from labor, as a
greater merchant takes to golf for his refreshment. The curb was his
club. He had fetched his recreation down to business, to the vacancy
between editions. Presently he will scoop his earnings to his pocket and
will bawl out to his advantage our latest murder.

How mad--how delightful our streets would be if all of us followed as
unreservedly, with so little self-consciousness or respect of small
convention, our innocent desires!

Who of us even whistles in a crowd?--or in the spring goes with a skip
and leap?

A lady of my acquaintance--who grows plump in her early forties--tells
me that she has always wanted to run after an ice-wagon and ride up
town, bouncing on the tail-board. It is doubtless an inheritance from a
childhood which was stifled and kept in starch. A singer, also, of
bellowing bass, has confided to me that he would like above all things
to roar his tunes down town on a crowded crossing. The trolley-cars, he
feels, the motors and all the shrill instruments of traffic, are no more
than a sufficient orchestra for his lusty upper register. An old lady,
too, in the daintiest of lace caps, with whom I lately sat at dinner,
confessed that whenever she has seen hop-scotch chalked in an eddy of
the crowded city, she has been tempted to gather up her skirts and join
the play.

But none of these folk obey their instinct. Opinion chills them. They
plod the streets with gray exterior. Once, on Fifth Avenue, to be sure,
when it was barely twilight, I observed a man, suddenly, without
warning, perform a cart-wheel, heels over head. He was dressed in the
common fashion. Surely he was not an advertisement. He bore no placard
on his hat. Nor was it apparent that he practiced for a circus. Rather,
I think, he was resolved for once to let the stiff, censorious world go
by unheeded, and be himself alone.

On a night of carnival how greedily the crowd assumes the pantaloon! A
day that was prim and solemn at the start now dresses in cap and bells.
How recklessly it stretches its charter for the broadest jest! Observe
those men in women's bonnets! With what delight they swing their merry
bladders at the crowd! They are hard on forty. All week they have bent
to their heavy desks, but tonight they take their pay of life. The years
are a sullen garment, but on a night of carnival they toss it off. Blood
that was cold and temperate at noon now feels the fire. Scratch a man
and you find a clown inside. It was at the celebration of the Armistice
that I followed a sober fellow for a mile, who beat incessantly with a
long iron spoon on an ash-can top. Almost solemnly he advanced among the
throng. Was it joy entirely for the ending of the war? Or rather was he
not yielding at last to an old desire to parade and be a band? The glad
occasion merely loosed him from convention. That lady friend of mine, in
the circumstance, would have bounced on ice-wagons up to midnight.

For it is convention, rather than our years--it is the respect and fear
of our neighbors that restrains us on an ordinary occasion. If we
followed our innocent desires at the noon hour, without waiting for a
carnival, how mad our streets would seem! The bellowing bass would pitch
back his head and lament the fair Isolde. The old lady in lace cap would
tuck up her skirts for hop-scotch and score her goal at last.

Is it not the French who set aside a special night for foolery, when
everyone appears in fancy costume? They should set the celebration
forward in the day, and let the blazing sun stare upon their mirth.
Merriment should not wait upon the owl.

The Dickey Club at Harvard, I think, was fashioned with some such
purpose of release. Its initiation occurs always in the spring, when the
blood of an undergraduate is hottest against restraint. It is a vent
placed where it is needed most. Zealously the candidates perform their
pranks. They exceed the letter of their instruction. The streets of
Boston are a silly spectacle. Young men wear their trousers inside out
and their coats reversed. They greet strangers with preposterous speech.
I once came on a merry fellow eating a whole pie with great mouthfuls on
the Court House steps, explaining meantime to the crowd that he was the
youngest son of Little Jack Horner. And, of course, with such a hardened
gourmand for an ancestor, he was not embarrassed by his ridiculous
posture.

But it is not youth which needs the stirring most. Nor need one
necessarily play an absurd antic to be natural. And therefore, here at
home, on our own Soldiers' Monument--on its steps and pediment that
mount above the street--I offer a few suggestions to the throng.

Ladies and gentlemen! I invite you to a carnival. Here! Now! At noon! I
bid you to throw off your solemn pretense. And be yourself! That sober
manner is a cloak. Your dignity scarcely reaches to your skin. Does no
one desire to play leap-frog across those posts? Do none of you care to
skip and leap? What! Will no one accept my invitation?

You, my dear sirs, I know you. You play chess together every afternoon
in your club. One of you carries at this moment a small board in his
waistcoat pocket. Why hurry to your club, gentlemen? Here on this step
is a place to play your game. Surely your concentration is proof against
the legs that swing around you. And you, my dear sir! I see that you
are a scholar by your bag of books. You chafe for your golden studies.
Come, sit alongside! Here is a shady spot for the pursuit of knowledge.
Did not Socrates ply his book in the public concourse?

My dear young lady, it is evident that a desire has seized you to
practice your soprano voice. Why do you wait for your solitary piano to
pitch the tune? On these steps you can throw your trills up heaven-ward.

An ice-wagon! With a tail-board! Is there no lady in her forties, prim
in youth, who will take her fling? Or does no gentleman in silk hat wish
a piece of ice to suck?

Observe that good-natured father with his son! They have shopped for
toys. He carries a bundle beneath his arm. It is doubtless a mechanical
bear--a creature that roars and walks on the turning of a key. After
supper these two will squat together on the parlor carpet and wind it up
for a trial performance. But must such an honest pleasure sit for the
coming of the twilight? Break the string! Insert the key! Let the
fearful creature stride boldly among the shoppers.

Here is an iron balustrade along the steps. A dozen of you desire,
secretly, to slide down its slippery length.

My dear madam, it is plain that the heir is naughty. Rightfully you have
withdrawn his lollypop. And now he resists your advance, stiff-legged
and spunky. Your stern eye already has passed its sentence. You merely
wait to get him home. I offer you these steps in lieu of nursery or
woodshed. You have only to tip him up. Surely the flat of your hand
gains no cunning by delay.

And you, my dear sir--you who twirl a silk moustache--you with the young
lady on your arm! If I am not mistaken you will woo your fair companion
on this summer evening beneath the moon. Must so good a deed await the
night? Shall a lover's arms hang idle all the day? On these steps, my
dear sir, a kiss, at least, may be given as a prelude.

Hop-scotch! Where is my old friend of the lace cap? The game is already
chalked upon the stones.

Is there no one in the passing throng who desires to dance? Are there no
toes that wriggle for release? My dear lady, the rhythmic swish of your
skirt betrays you. A tune for a merry waltz runs through your head.
Come! we'll find you a partner in the crowd. Those silk stockings of
yours must not be wasted in a mincing gait.

Have lawyers, walking sourly on their business, any sweeter nature to
display to us? Our larger merchants seem covered with restraint and
thought of profit. That physician with his bag of pellets seems not to
know that laughter is a panacea. Has Labor no desire to play leap-frog
on its pick and go shouting home to supper? Housewives follow their
unfaltering noses from groceries to meats. Will neither gingham nor
brocade romp and cut a caper for us?

Ladies and gentlemen! Why wait for a night of carnival? Does not the
blood flow red, also, at the noon hour? Must the moon point a silly
finger before you start your merriment? I offer you these steps.

Is there no one who will whistle in the crowd? Will none of you, even in
the spring, go with a skip and leap upon your business?

[Illustration]



A Corner for Echoes.


Sometimes in a quiet hour I see in the memory of my childhood a frame
house across a wide lawn from a pleasant street. There are no trees
about the yard, in itself a defect, yet in its circumstance, as the
house arises in my view, the barrenness denotes no more than a breadth
of sunlight across those endless days.

There was, indeed, in contrast and by way of shadowy admonishment, a
church near by, whose sober bell, grieving lest our joy should romp too
long, recalled us to fearful introspection on Sunday evening, and it
moved me chiefly to the thought of eternity--eternity everlasting.
Reward or punishment mattered not. It was Time itself that plagued me,
Time that rolled like a wheel forever until the imagination reeled and
sickened. And on Thursday evening also--another bad intrusion on the
happy week--again the sexton tugged at the rope for prayer and the
dismal clapper answered from above. It is strange that a man in friendly
red suspenders, pipe in mouth as he pushed his lawn-mower through the
week, should spread such desolation. But presently, when our better
neighbors were stiffly gathered in and had composed their skirts, a
brisker hymn arose. Tenor and soprano assured one another vigorously
from pew to pew that they were Christian soldiers marching as to war.
When they were off at last for the fair Jerusalem, the fret of eternity
passed from me. And yet, for the most part, we played in sunlight all
the week, and our thoughts dwelt happily on wide horizons.

There was another church, far off across the housetops, seen only from
an attic window, whose bells in contrast were of a pleasant jangle.
Exactly where this church stood I never knew. Its towers arose above a
neighbor's barn and acknowledged no base or local habitation. Indeed,
its glittering and unsubstantial spire offered a hint that it was but an
imaginary creature of the attic, a pageant that mustered only to the
view of him who looked out through these narrow, cobwebbed windows. For
here, as in a kind of magic, the twilight flourished at the noon and its
shadows practiced beforehand for the night. Through these windows
children saw the unfamiliar, distant marvels of the world--towers and
kingdoms unseen by older eyes that were grown dusty with common sights.

Yet regularly, out of a noonday stillness--except for the cries of the
butcher boy upon the steps--a dozen clappers of the tower struck their
sudden din across the city. It appeared that at the very moment of the
noon, having lagged to the utmost second, the frantic clappers had
bolted up the belfry stairs to call the town to dinner. Or perhaps to an
older ear their discordant and heterodox tongue hinted that Roman
infallibility had here fallen into argument and that various and
contrary doctrine was laboring in warm dispute. Certainly the clappers
were brawling in the tower and had come to blows. But a half mile off it
was an agreeable racket and did not rouse up eternity to tease me.

Across from our house, but at the rear, with only an alley entrance,
there was a building in which pies were baked--a horrid factory in our
very midst!--and insolent smoke curled off the chimney and flaunted our
imperfection. Respectable ladies, long resident, wearing black poke
bonnets and camel's-hair shawls, lifted their patrician eyebrows with
disapproval. Scorn sat on their gentle up-turned noses. They held their
skirts close, in passing, from contamination. These pies could not count
upon their patronage. They were contraband even in a pinch, with
unexpected guests arrived. It were better to buy of Cobey, the grocer on
the Circle. And the building did smell heavily of its commodity. But
despite detraction, as one came from school, when the wind was north,
an agreeable whiff of lard and cooking touched the nostrils as a happy
prologue to one's dinner. Sometimes a cart issued to the street, boarded
close, full of pies on shelves, and rattled cityward.

The fire station was around the corner and down a hill. We marveled at
the polished engine, the harness that hung ready from the ceiling, the
poles down which the firemen slid from their rooms above. It was at the
fire station that we got the baseball score, inning by inning, and other
news, if it was worthy, from the outside world. But perhaps we dozed in
a hammock or were lost with Oliver Optic in a jungle when the fire-bell
rang. If spry, we caught a glimpse of the hook-and-ladder from the top
of the hill, or the horses galloping up the slope. But would none of our
neighbors ever burn? we thought. Must all candles be overturned far off?

Near the school-house was the reservoir, a mound and pond covering all
the block. Round about the top there was a gravel path that commanded
the city--the belching chimneys on the river, the ships upon the lake,
and to the south a horizon of wooded hills. The world lay across that
tumbled ridge and there our thoughts went searching for adventure.
Perhaps these were the foothills of the Himalaya and from the top were
seen the towers of Babylon. Perhaps there was an ocean, with white sails
which were blown from the Spanish coast. On a summer afternoon clouds
drifted across the sky, like mountains on a journey--emigrants, they
seemed, from a loftier range, seeking a fresh plain on which to erect
their fortunes.

But the chief use of this reservoir, except for its wholly subsidiary
supply of water, was its grassy slope. It was usual in the noon
recess--when we were cramped with learning--to slide down on a barrel
stave and be wrecked and spilled midway. In default of stave a geography
served as sled, for by noon the most sedentary geography itched for
action. Of what profit--so it complained--is a knowledge of the world if
one is cooped always with stupid primers in a desk? Of what account are
the boundaries of Hindostan, if one is housed all day beneath a lid with
slate and pencils? But the geography required an exact balance, with
feet lifted forward into space, and with fingers gripped behind. Our
present geographies, alas, are of smaller surface, and, unless students
have shrunk and shriveled, their more profitable use upon a hill is
past. Some children descended without stave or book, and their
preference was marked upon their shining seats.

It was Hoppy who marred this sport. Hoppy was the keeper of the
reservoir, a one-legged Irishman with a crutch. His superfluous
trouser-leg was folded and pinned across, and it was a general quarry
for patches. When his elbow or his knees came through, here was a remedy
at hand. Here his wife clipped, also, for her crazy quilt. And all the
little Hoppies--for I fancy him to have been a family man--were
reinforced from this extra cloth. But when Hoppy's bad profile appeared
at the top of the hill we grabbed our staves and scurried off. The cry
of warning--"Peg-leg's a-comin'"--still haunts my memory. It was Hoppy's
reward to lead one of us smaller fry roughly by the ear. Or he gripped
us by the wrist and snapped his stinging finger at our nose. Then he
pitched us through the fence where a wooden slat was gone.

Hoppy's crutch was none of your elaborate affairs, curved and glossy.
Instead, it was only a stout, unvarnished stick, with a padded
cross-piece at the top. But the varlet could run, leaping forward upon
us with long, uneven strides. And I have wondered whether Stevenson, by
any chance, while he was still pondering the plot of "Treasure Island,"
may not have visited our city and, seeing Hoppy on our heels, have
contrived John Silver out of him. He must have built him anew above the
waist, shearing him at his suspender buttons, scrapping his common upper
parts; but the wooden stump and breeches were a precious salvage. His
crutch, at the least, became John Silver's very timber.

The Circle was down the street. In the center of this sunny park there
arose an artificial mountain, with a waterfall that trickled off the
rocks pleasantly on hot days. Ruins and blasted towers, battlements and
cement grottoes, were still the fashion. In those days masons built
stony belvederes and laid pipes which burst forth into mountain pools a
good ten feet above the sidewalk. The cliff upon our Circle, with its
path winding upward among the fern, its tiny castle on the peak and its
tinkle of little water, sprang from this romantic period. From the
terrace on top one could spit over the balustrade on the unsuspecting
folk who walked below. Later the town had a mechanical ship that sailed
around the pond. As often as this ship neared the cliffs the mechanical
captain on the bridge lifted his glasses with a startled jerk and gave
orders for the changing of the course.

Tinkey's shop was on the Circle. One side of Tinkey's window was a
bakery with jelly-cakes and angel-food. This, as I recall, was my
earliest theology. Heaven, certainly, was worth the effort. The other
window unbent to peppermint sticks and grab-bags to catch our dirtier
pennies. But this meaner produce was a concession to the trade, and the
Tinkey fingers, from father down to youngest daughter, touched it with
scorn. Mrs. Tinkey, in particular, who, we thought, was above her place,
lifted a grab-bag at arm's length, and her nostrils quivered as if she
held a dead mouse by the tail.

But in the essence Tinkey was a caterer and his handiwork was shown in
the persons of a frosted bride and groom who waited before a sugar altar
for the word that would make them man and wife. Her nose in time was
bruised--a careless lifting of the glass by the youngest Miss
Tinkey--but he, like a faithful suitor, stood to his youthful pledge.

Beyond the shop was a room with blazing red wall paper and a fiery
carpet. In this hot furnace, out-rivaling the boasts of Abednego, the
neighborhood perspired pleasantly on August nights, and ate ice-cream.
If we arose to the price of a Tinkey layer-cake thick with chocolate,
the night stood out in splendor above its fellows.

Around the corner was Conrad's bookstore. Conrad was a dumpy fellow with
unending good humor and a fat, soft hand. He sometimes called lady
customers, _My dear_, but it was only in his eagerness to press a sale.
I do not recall that he was a scholar. If you asked to be shown the
newest books, he might offer you the "Vicar of Wakefield" as a work just
off the press, and tell you that Goldsmith was a man to watch. A young
woman assistant read The Duchess between customers. In her fancy she
eloped daily with a duke, but actually she kept company with a grocer's
clerk. They ate sodas together at Tinkey's. How could he know, poor
fellow, when their fingers met beneath the table, that he was but a
substitute in her high romance? At the very moment, in her thoughts, she
was off with the duke beneath the moon. Conrad had also an errand boy
with a dirty face, who spent the day on a packing case at the rear of
the shop, where he ate an endless succession of apples. An orchard went
through him in the season.

Conrad's shop was only moderate in books, but it spread itself in fancy
goods--crackers for the Fourth--marbles and tops in their season--and
for Saint Valentine's Day a range of sentiment that distanced his
competitors. A lover, though he sighed like furnace, found here mottoes
for his passion. Also there were "comics"--base insulting valentines of
suitable greeting from man to man. These were three for a nickel just as
they came off the pile, but two for a nickel with selection.

At Christmas, Conrad displayed china inkstands. There was one of these
which, although often near a sale, still stuck to the shelves year after
year. The beauty of its device dwelt in a little negro who perched at
the rear on a rustic fence that held the penholders. But suddenly, when
choice was wavering in his favor, off he would pitch into the inkwell.
At this mischance Conrad would regularly be astonished, and he would
sell instead a china camel whose back was hollowed out for ink. Then he
laved the negro for the twentieth time and set him back upon the fence,
where he sat like an interrupted suicide with his dark eye again upon
the pool.

Nor must I forget a line of Catholic saints. There was one jolly bit of
crockery--Saint Patrick, I believe--that had lost an arm. This defect
should have been considered a further mark of piety--a martyrdom
unrecorded by the church--a special flagellation--but although the price
in successive years sunk to thirty-nine and at last to the wholly
ridiculous sum of twenty-three cents--less than one third the price of
his unbroken but really inferior mates (Saint Aloysius and Saint
Anthony)--yet he lingered on.

Nowhere was there a larger assortment of odd and unmatched letter paper.
No box was full and many were soiled. If pink envelopes were needed,
Conrad, unabashed, laid out a blue, or with his fat thumb he fumbled two
boxes into one to complete the count. Initialed paper once had been the
fashion--G for Gladys--and there was still a remnant of several letters
toward the end of the alphabet. If one of these chanced to fit a
customer, with what zest Conrad blew upon the box and slapped it! But
until Xenophon and Xerxes shall come to buy, these final letters must
rest unsold upon his shelves.

Conrad was a dear good fellow (Bless me! he is still alive--just as fat
and bow-legged, with the same soft hand, just as friendly!) and when he
retired at last from business the street lost half its mirth and humor.

Near Conrad's shop and the Circle was our house. By it a horse-car
jangled, one way only, cityward, at intervals of twelve minutes. In
winter there was straw on the floor. In front was a fare-box with
sliding shelves down which the nickels rattled, or, if one's memory
lagged, the thin driver rapped his whip-handle on the glass. He sat on a
high stool which was padded to eke out nature.

Once before, as I have read, there was a corner for echoes. The
buildings were set so that the quiet folk who dwelt near by could hear
the sound of coming steps--steps far off, then nearer until they tramped
beneath the windows. Then, as they listened, the sounds faded. And it
seemed to him who chronicled the place that he heard the persons of his
drama coming--little steps that would grow to manhood, steps that
faltered already toward their final curtain. But there is no plot to
thicken around our corner. Or rather, there are a hundred plots. And
when I listen in fancy to the echoes, I hear the general tapping of our
neighbors--beloved feet that have gone into darkness for a while.

I hear the footsteps of an old man. When he trod our street he was of
gloomy temper. The world was awry for him. He was sunk in despair at
politics, yet I recall that he relished an apple. As often as he stopped
to see us, he told us that the country had gone to the demnition
bow-wows, and he snapped at his apple as if it had been a Democrat. His
little dog ran a full block ahead of him on their evening stroll, and
always trotted into our gateway. He sat on the lowest step with his eyes
down the street. "Master," he seemed to say, "here we all are, waiting
for you."

John Smith cut the grass on the Circle. He was a friend of children,
and, for his nod and greeting, I drove down street my span of tin horses
on a wheel. Hand in hand we climbed his rocky mountain to see where the
waterfall spurted from a pipe. Below, the neighbors' bonnets, with
baskets, went to shop at Cobey's. I still hear the click of his
lawn-mower of a summer afternoon.

Darky Dan beat our carpets. He was a merry fellow and he sang upon the
street. Wild melodies they were, with head thrown back and crazy
laughter. He was a harmless, good-natured fellow, but nurse-maids
huddled us close until his song had turned the corner.

I recall a crippled child--maybe of half wit only--who dragged a broken
foot. To our shame he seemed a comic creature and we pelted him with
snowballs and ran from his piteous anger.

A match-boy with red hair came by on winter nights and was warmed beside
the fire. My father questioned him--as one merchant to another--about
his business, and mother kept him in mittens. In payment for bread and
jam he loosed his muffler and played the mouth-organ. In turn we blew
upon the vents, but as music it was naught. Gone is that melody. The
house is dark.

There was an old lady lived near by in almost feudal state. Her steps
were the broadest on the street, her walnut doors were carved in the
deepest pattern, her fence was the highest. Her furniture, the year
around, was covered in linen cloths, and the great chairs with their
claw feet resembled the horses in panoply that draw the chariot of the
Nubian Queen in the circus parade. With this old lady there lived an old
cook, an old second-maid, an old laundress and an old coachman. The
second-maid thrust a platter at you as you sat at table and nudged you
in the ribs--if you were a child--"Eat it," she said, "it's good!" The
coachman nodded on his box, the laundress in her tubs, but the cook was
spry despite her years. In the yard there was a fountain--all yards had
fountains then--and I used to wonder whether this were the font of
Ponce de León that restored the aged to their youth. Here, surely, was
the very house to test the cure. And when the ancient laundress came by
I speculated whether, after a sudden splash, she would emerge a dazzling
princess.

With this old lady there dwelt a niece, or a daughter, or a younger
sister--relationship was vague--and this niece owned a little black dog.
But the old lady was dull of sight and in the dark passages of her house
she waved her arm and kept saying, "Whisk, Nigger! Whisk, Nigger!" for
she had stepped once on the creature's tail. Every year she gave a
children's party, and we youngsters looked for magic in a mirror and
went to Jerusalem around her solemn chairs. She had bought toys and
trinkets from Europe for all of us.

Then there was an old neighbor, a justice of the peace, who, being
devoid of much knowledge of the law, put his cases to my grandfather.
When he had been advised, he stroked his beard and said it was an
opinion to which he had come himself. He went down the steps mumbling
the judgment to keep it in his memory.

It was my grandfather's custom in the late afternoon of summer, when the
sun had slanted, to pull a chair off the veranda and sit sprinkling the
lawn with his crutch beside him. Toward supper Mr. Hodge, a building
contractor and our neighbor, went by. His wagon usually rattled with
some bit of salvage--perhaps an iron bath-tub plucked from a building
before he wrecked it, or a kitchen sink. His yard was piled with the
fruitage of his profession. Mr. Hodge was of sociable turn and he cried
_whoa_ to his jogging horse.

Now ensued a half-hour's gossip. It was the comedy of the occasion that
the horse, after having made several attempts to start and been stopped
by a jerking of the reins, took to craftiness. He put forward a hoof,
quite carelessly it seemed. If there was no protest, in time he tried a
diagonal hoof behind. It was then but a shifting of the weight to swing
forward a step. "Whoa!" yelled Mr. Hodge. "Yes, yes," the old horse
seemed to answer, "certainly, of course, yes, yes! But can't a fellow
shift his legs?" In this way the sly brute inched toward supper. My
grandfather enjoyed this comedy, and once, if I am not mistaken, I
caught him exchanging a wink with the horse. Certainly the beast was
glancing round to find a partner for his jest. A conversation, begun at
the standpipe, progressed to the telegraph pole, and at last came
opposite the kitchen. As my grandfather did not move his chair, Mr.
Hodge lifted his voice until the neighborhood knew the price of brick
and the unworthiness of plumbers. Mr. Hodge was a Republican and he
spoke in favor of the tariff. To clinch an argument he had a usual
formula. "It's neither here nor there," and he brought his fist against
the dashboard, _"it's right here."_ But finally the hungry horse
prevailed, Mr. Hodge slapped the reins in consent and they rattled home
to supper.

Around this corner, also, there are echoes of children's feet--racing
feet upon the grass--feet that lag in the morning on the way to school
and run back at four o'clock--feet that leap the hitching posts or avoid
the sidewalk cracks. Girls' feet rustle in the fallen leaves, and they
think their skirts are silk. And I hear dimly the cries of hide-and-seek
and pull-away and the merriment of blindman's buff. One lad rises in my
memory who won our marbles. Another excelled us all when he threw his
top. His father was a grocer and we envied him his easy access to the
candy counter.

And particularly I remember a little girl with yellow curls and blue
eyes. She was the Sleeping Beauty in a Christmas play. I had known her
before in daytime gingham and I had judged her to be as other
girls--creatures that tag along and spoil the fun. But now, as she
rested in laces for the picture, she dazzled my imagination; for I was
the silken Prince to awaken her. For a week I wished to run to sea, sink
a pirate ship, and be worthy of her love. But then a sewer was dug along
the street and I was a miner instead--recusant to love--digging in the
yellow sand for the center of the earth.

But chiefly it is the echo of older steps I hear--steps whose sound is
long since stilled--feet that have crossed the horizon and have gone on
journey for a while. And when I listen I hear echoes that are fading
into silence.

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA





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