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Title: Susan Clegg and Her Love Affairs
Author: Warner, Anne, 1869-1913
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Susan Clegg and Her Love Affairs" ***

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                                SUSAN CLEGG

                            AND HER LOVE AFFAIRS

                               BY ANNE WARNER

      Author of "The Rejuvenation of Aunt Mary," "Sunshine Jane," etc.


    WITH FRONTISPIECE BY
    H. M. BRETT

    BOSTON
    LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
    1916

    _Copyright, 1916_,

    BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.

    _All rights reserved_

    Published, May, 1916
    Reprinted, May, 1916



[Illustration: "Nothing but the floor stopped me from falling through to
China." FRONTISPIECE. _See Page 144._]



CONTENTS


       I. SUSAN CLEGG'S COURTING                              1

      II. SUSAN CLEGG AND THE CHINESE LADY                   32

     III. SUSAN CLEGG SOLVES THE MYSTERY                     58

      IV. SUSAN CLEGG AND THE OLIVE BRANCH                   80

       V. SUSAN CLEGG'S "IMPROVEMENTS"                      104

      VI. SUSAN CLEGG UPROOTED                              129

     VII. SUSAN CLEGG UNSETTLED                             153

    VIII. SUSAN CLEGG AND THE CYCLONE                       176

      IX. SUSAN CLEGG'S PRACTICAL FRIEND                    216

       X. SUSAN CLEGG DEVELOPS IMAGINATION                  236

      XI. SUSAN CLEGG AND THE PLAYWRIGHT                    256

     XII. SUSAN CLEGG'S DISAPPEARANCE                       277



SUSAN CLEGG AND HER LOVE AFFAIRS



I

SUSAN CLEGG'S COURTING


Mrs. Lathrop sat on her front piazza, and Susan Clegg sat with her. Mrs.
Lathrop was rocking, and Susan was just back from the Sewing Society.
Neither Mrs. Lathrop nor Susan was materially altered since we saw them
last. Time had moved on a bit, but not a great deal, and although both
were older, still they were not much older.

They were not enough older for Mrs. Lathrop to have had a new rocker,
nor for Susan to have purchased a new bonnet. Susan indeed looked almost
absolutely unaltered. She was a woman of the best wearing quality; she
was hard and firm as ever, and if there were any plating about her, it
was of the quadruple kind and would last.

If the reader knows Susan Clegg at all, he will surmise that she was
talking. And he will be right. Susan was most emphatically talking. She
had returned from the Sewing Society full to the brim, and Mrs. Lathrop
was already enjoying the overflow. Mrs. Lathrop liked to rock and
listen. She never went to the Sewing Society herself--she never went
anywhere.

"We was talking about dreams," Susan was saying; "it's a very curious
thing about dreams. Do you know, Mrs. Lathrop," wrinkling her brow and
regarding her friend with that look of friendship which is not blind to
any faults, "do you know, Mrs. Lathrop, they said down there that dreams
always go by contraries. We was discussing it for a long time, and they
ended up by making me believe in it. You see, it all began by my saying
how I dreamed last night that Jathrop was back, and he was a cat and
your cat, too, and he did something he wasn't let to, and you made one
jump at him, and out of the window he went. Now that was a very strange
dream for me to have dreamed, Mrs. Lathrop, and Mrs. Lupey, who's
staying with Mrs. Macy to-day and maybe to-morrow, too, says she's sure
it's a sign. She says if dreams go by contraries, mine ought to be a
sign as Jathrop is coming back, for the contraries is all there: Jathrop
_wasn't_ a cat, and he never done nothing that he shouldn't--nor that he
should, neither--and you never jump--I don't believe you've jumped in
years, have you?"

"I--" began Mrs. Lathrop reminiscently.

"Oh, that time don't count," said Susan, "it was just my ball of yarn,
even if it did look like a rat; I meant a jump when you meant it; you
didn't mean that jump. Well, an' to go back to the dream and what was
said about it and to tell you the rest of it, there wasn't any more of
it, but there was plenty more said about it. All of the dream was that
the cat went out of the window, and I woke up, but, oh, my, how we did
talk! Gran'ma Mullins wanted to know in the first place how I knew that
the cat was Jathrop. She was most interested in that, for she says she
often dreams of animals, but it never struck her that they might be any
one she knew. She dreamed she found a daddy-long-legs looking in her
bureau drawer the other night, but she never gave it another thought.
She'll be more careful after this, I guess. Well, then I begun to
consider, and for the life of me I can't think how I knew that that cat
was Jathrop. As I remember it was a very common looking cat, but being
common looking wouldn't mean Jathrop. Jathrop was common looking, but
not a common cat kind of common looking. It was a very strange dream,
Mrs. Lathrop, the more I consider it, the more I can't see what give it
to me. I finished up the doughnuts just before I went to bed, for I was
afraid they'd mold in another day with this damp weather, but it don't
seem as if doughnuts ought to result in cats like Jathrop. If I'd
dreamed of mice, it'd been different, for some of the doughnuts was
gnawed in a way as showed as there'd been mice in the jar. It does beat
all how mice get about. Maybe it was the mice made me think Jathrop was
a cat. But even then I can't see how I did come to dream that dream.
Unless it was a sign. Mrs. Lupey's sure it was a sign. We talked about
signs the whole of the Sewing Society. Dreams and signs. Everybody told
all they knew. Mrs. Macy told about her snow dream. Whenever Mrs. Macy
has her snow dream, somebody dies. She says it's so interesting to look
in a paper the next time she gets hold of one and see who it was. One
time she thought it was Edgar Allen Poe, but when she read it over
twice, she see that it was just that he'd been born. She says her snow
dream's a wonderful sign; it's never failed once. She dreamed it the
night before the earthquake in Italy, and she says to think how many
died of it that time!

"This started Gran'ma Mullins, and Gran'ma Mullins told about that dream
she had the year before she met her husband. That was an awful dream. I
wonder she met her husband a _tall_ after it. She thought she was alone
in a thick wood, and she saw a man coming, and she was scared to death.
She says she can feel her trembling now. She didn't know what to do,
'cause if she'd hid among the trees he couldn't have seen her, and that
idea scared her as bad as the other. So she just stood and shook and
watched the man coming nearer and nearer. I've heard her tell the story
a hundred times, but my blood always sort o' runs cold to hear it. The
man come nearer and nearer and, my, but she says he _was_ a man! She was
just a young girl, but she was old enough to be afraid, and old enough
not to want to hide from him, neither. She says it was an awful lesson
to her about going in woods alone, because of course you can't never
expect any sympathy if the man does murder you or kiss you--everybody'll
just say, 'Why didn't she hide in the woods?' Well, Gran'ma Mullins
says there she stood, and she can see herself still standing there. She
says she's never been in the woods since just on account of that
dream--and then, too, she's one of those that the mosquitos all get on
in the woods. And then, besides, she doesn't like woods, anyway. And
then, besides, there ain't no thick woods around here. But, anyhow, you
know what happened--just as he got to her she woke up, and I must say of
all the tame stories to have to sit and listen to over and over, that
dream of Gran'ma Mullins is the tamest. I get tired the minute she
begins it, but my dream had started every one to telling signs, and so
of course Gran'ma Mullins had to tell hers along with the rest.

"When she was done Mrs. Lupey told us about her mother, Mrs. Kitts, and
a curious kind of prophetic dream she used to have and kept right on
having up to the day she died. Mrs. Lupey said she never heard the like
of those dreams of her mother's, and I guess nobody else ever has,
either. No, nor never will. Well, it seems Mrs. Kitts used to dream she
was falling out of bed, and the curious part is that she always _did_
fall out of bed just as she dreamed it, so it never failed to come true.
She'd dream she hit the floor _bang!_ and the next second she'd hit the
floor _bang!_ Mrs. Lupey said she never saw such a dream for coming
true; if old Mrs. Kitts dreamed she hit her head, she'd hit her head,
and the time she dreamed she sprained her wrist, she sprained her wrist,
and the time she had her stroke, as soon as her mind was got back in
place she told them she'd dreamed she had a stroke in her chair just
before she fell out of her chair with the stroke. Even the minister's
wife didn't have a word to say.

"Mrs. Lupey said her mother was a most remarkable woman. She's very
sorry now she didn't board that painter for a portrait of her. The
painter was so awful took with old Mrs. Kitts that he was willing to do
her for six weeks and with the frame for two months. But Mrs. Lupey was
afraid to have a painter around. She'd just read a detective story about
a painter that killed the woman he was painting because he didn't want
any one else to paint her. Mrs. Lupey said it was a very Frenchy
story--there was a lot between the lines and on the lines, too--as she
couldn't make out, but it taught her never to have painters around, for
you never could be sure in a house with four other women that he'd kill
the one he was painting. But she's sorry now, for she's older now and
wiser and a match for any painter going, long-haired, short-haired or no
hair at all. But it's too late now, and there's Mrs. Kitts dead
unpainted, and all they've got left is a sweet memory and that cane she
used to hit at 'em with when they weren't spry enough to suit her, and
her hymn-book which she marked up without telling any one and left for a
remembrance. Mrs. Lupey says such markings you never heard of.

"When Mrs. Lupey was all done, Mrs. Brown took her turn and told us
some very interesting things about Amelia. Seems Amelia is so far
advanced in learning what nobody can understand that she can see quite a
little ways ahead now and tell just what she's going to do. She can't
see for the rest of the family, but she can see for herself. Sometimes
it's just a day ahead, and sometimes it's a long way ahead. The longest
way ahead that she's seen yet is that she can't see herself ever getting
up to breakfast again. Mrs. Brown says of course she respects Amelia's
religious views, but it's trying when Amelia wants to go to church, but
doesn't see herself going, so has to stay at home. She says Amelia just
loves to sew, but she can't see herself sewing any more, so she's given
it all up. She says Amelia's got a superior mind--anybody can tell that
only to see the way she's took to doing her hair--but she says it's a
little hard on young Doctor Brown and her, who haven't got superior
minds, to live with her. Amelia don't want to kill flies any more, for
fear they're going to be her blood relations a million years from now,
and Mrs. Brown says she never was any good once a mouse was caught, but
now she won't even hear to setting a trap; she says all things has equal
rights, and if she feels a spider, some one has got to take it off her
and set it gently outside on the grass. Oh, Mrs. Brown says, Amelia's
very hard to live up to, even with the best will in the world. Mrs.--"

Here Susan was interrupted by Brunhilde Susan, the minister's youngest
child, who brought the evening milk and the evening paper.

"There was a letter, so I brought that, too," said Brunhilde Susan.

"A letter!" said Susan in surprise.

"It's for Mrs. Lathrop," said Brunhilde Susan.

"For me!" said Mrs. Lathrop in even greater surprise.

"Yes'm," said Brunhilde Susan.

A letter for Mrs. Lathrop was indeed a surprise, as that good lady had
only received two in the last five years. As those had been of the
least interesting variety, she looked upon the present one with but mild
interest. The next minute she gave a scream, for, turning it over as
some people always do turn a letter over before opening it, she read on
the back "Return to Jathrop Lathrop..." and her fingers turning numb
with surprise and her head dizzy for the same reason, she dropped it on
the floor forthwith.

Brunhilde Susan had turned and gone back down the walk. Miss Clegg, who
had been regarding her friend's slowness to take action with
ill-concealed impatience, now made no attempt at concealing anything,
but leaned over abruptly and picked up the letter. As soon as she looked
at it she came near dropping it, too. "From Jathrop!" she exclaimed, in
a tone appalled. "Well, Mrs. Lathrop!"

Mrs. Lathrop was quite speechless. Susan held the letter and began to
regard it closely. It was quite a minute before another sound was made,
then suddenly a light burst over the younger woman's face. "It's my
dream. I told you so. It _was_ a sign, just as Mrs. Lupey said. He's
coming back!"

She looked toward Mrs. Lathrop, but Mrs. Lathrop still sat quite limp
and gasping for breath.

"Shall I open it and read it to you?" Susan then suggested.

"Y--y--" began Mrs. Lathrop and could get no further.

At that Susan promptly opened the letter. It was written on the paper of
a Chicago hotel, and ran thus:

     "_Dear Mother_:

     "Years have passed by, and here I am on my way home again. I've
     been to the Klondike and am now rich and on my way home. I hope
     that you are well and safe at home. You'll be glad to see me home
     again, I know. How is everybody at home? How is Susan Clegg? I
     shall get home Saturday morning.

     "Your afft. son,
     "J. LATHROP, ESQ."

That was all and surely it was quite enough.

"Well, I declare!" Susan Clegg said, staring first at the letter and
then at the mother. "Well, Mrs. Lathrop! Well, I declare. It _was_ a
sign. You and me'll never doubt signs after _this_, I guess."

Mrs. Lathrop made an effort to rally, but only succeeded in just feebly
shaking her head.

Susan continued to hold the letter in her hand and contemplate it.
Another slow minute or two passed.

But at last the wheels of life began to turn again, and that active
mind, which grasped so much so readily, grasped this news, too. Miss
Clegg ceased to view the letter and began to take action regarding it.

"Did you notice what he says here, Mrs. Lathrop? He says he's rich. I
don't know whether you noticed or not as I read, but he says he's rich.
I wonder how rich he means!"

Mrs. Lathrop opened and shut her eyes in a futile way that she had, but
continued speechless.

"Rich," repeated Miss Clegg, "and me dreaming of him last night; that's
very curious, when you come to think of it, 'cause I'm rich, too. And I
was dreaming of him! It doesn't make any difference my thinking he was a
cat; I knew it was Jathrop, even if he was only a cat in a dream.
Strange my dreaming of him that way! I can see him flying out of the
window right now. He was one of those lanky, long cats that eat from
dawn till dark and every time your back's turned and yet keep the
neighbors saying you starve it. And to think it was Jathrop all the
time! Thinking of me right that minute, probably. And he says, 'How's
Susan Clegg?' And he's rich. I _do_ wonder what he'd call rich!"

Susan paused and looked at her friend, but Mrs. Lathrop remained dumb.

"The Klondike, that's where he went to, was it? Goodness, I wonder how
he ever got there! Well, I'll never be surprised at nothing after this.
I've had many little surprises in my life, but never nothing to equal
this. Jathrop Lathrop come back rich! Why, the whole town will be at the
station to meet him to-morrow. I wonder if he'll come in the parlor-car!
Think of Jathrop being a cat overnight and coming in a parlor-car next
day! And he says, 'How's Susan Clegg?'"

The last three words seemed to make quite an impression on Susan, but
Mrs. Lathrop appeared smashed so supremely flat that nothing could make
any further impression on her. She continued dumb, and Susan continued
to hold the letter and comment on it.

"I wonder what he looks like now. I wonder if he's grown any better
looking! I certainly do wonder if he's got any homelier. And he's rich!
Why, nobody from this town has ever gone away and got rich before, not
that I can remember. I call myself a rich woman, but I ain't rich enough
to dream of writing it in a letter. I certainly should like to know
what Jathrop calls being rich. He couldn't possibly have millions, or it
would have reached here somehow. Maybe he's been digging under another
name! I suppose three or four thousand would seem enough to make him
call himself rich. If he comes home with three or four thousand and
calls that being rich, I shall certainly feel very sorry for you, Mrs.
Lathrop. He'll be very airy over his money, and he'll live on yours. If
you've got to have any one live with you, it's better for them to have
no money a _tall_, because if they've got ever such a little, they
always feel so perky over it. Mrs. Brown says if Amelia didn't have that
six dollars and seventy-five cents a month from her dead mother, she'd
be much easier to live with. Mrs. Brown says whenever Doctor Brown trys
to control Amelia, Amelia hops up and says she'll pay for it with her
own money. Mrs. Brown says to hear Amelia, you'd think she had at least
ten dollars a month of her own. Mrs. Brown's so sad over Amelia. Amelia
sees herself doing such outlandish things some days. Mrs. Brown says
your son's wife is the biggest puzzle a woman ever gets. I guess Mrs.
Brown would have liked young Doctor Brown never to marry."

Mrs. Lathrop opened her mouth and shut it again.

"I suppose you're thinking where to put Jathrop when he comes," Susan
said quickly. "I've been thinking of that, too. Where can you put him,
anyway? He never can sleep in that little shed bedroom where he used to
sleep, if he's really rich, and he'll have to have some place to wash
before we can find out."

Mrs. Lathrop looked distressed. "I--" she began.

"Oh, that wouldn't do," said Susan, knitting her brows quickly. "Think
of the work of changing all your things. No, I'll tell you what's the
best thing to do; he can sleep over at my house. Father's room was all
cleaned last week, and I'll make up the bed, and Jathrop can sleep there
until we find out how to treat him. Maybe his old shed bedroom will do,
after all, or maybe he's so awfully rich he'll enjoy sleeping in it,
like the president liked to stack hay. Maybe he'll ask nothing better
than to chop wood and take the ashes out of the stove just for a change.
I do wonder how rich he is. If he's rich enough to have a private car, I
expect this town _will_ open its eyes. You'll see a great change in your
position, Mrs. Lathrop, if Jathrop comes in a private car to-morrow
morning. There's something about a private car as makes everybody step
around lively. I don't say that I shan't respect him more myself if he
comes in a private car. But he can sleep one night in father's room,
anyway, although if he calls it being rich to come home with just two or
three thousand, I think he'd better understand it's for just one night
right from the start. I wouldn't want Jathrop to think that I had any
time to waste on him if he calls just two or three thousand being rich.
It'd be no wonder I dreamed he was a cat, if he's got the face to call
that being rich. But that would be just like Jathrop. You know yourself
that if Jathrop could ever do anything to disappoint anybody, he never
let the chance slide. I never had no use for Jathrop Lathrop, as you
know to your cost, Mrs. Lathrop. But, still, if he really is rich, I
haven't got anything against him, and I'll tell you what I'll do right
now: I'll go home and put that room in order and get my supper, and then
after supper I'll just run down to the square and see if anybody else
knows, and then I'll come back and tell you if they do. It's no use your
trying to put things a little in order, because you couldn't straighten
this place up in a month, and, besides, it isn't worth fussing till we
know how rich he is. He may just have writ that in for a joke--to break
it to you gently that he's coming back again to live here. Heaven help
you if that's the case, Mrs. Lathrop, for Jathrop never will. It isn't
in me to deceive so much as a fly on the window, and I never have
deceived you and I never will."

With which promise Susan took her departure.

It was all of three hours--quite nine in the evening--when Susan came
back. She found Mrs. Lathrop transferred to her back porch and seemingly
in a somewhat less complete state of total paralysis than when she had
left her.

Mrs. Lathrop looked up as her friend approached and smiled.

"Nobody knew," Susan announced as she mounted the steps, "but every one
knows now, for I told them. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you never saw anything
like it. There isn't a person in town as ever expected to see Jathrop
again, and only about three as always thought he'd come back rich. Every
one's going to the station to-morrow morning, even Mrs. Macy. Mrs. Macy
says if it's one of the mornings she can't walk, she'll hire Hiram and
his wheelbarrow just as she does for church those Sundays. Everybody's
so interested. I told them about the private car, and everybody hopes
that he's got one, and that he'll come in it. Mr. Dill says he must be
rich if he's been to the Klondike and come back a _tall_. He says
there's no halfway work about the Klondike. Either you come back a
millionaire or else you eat first your dog and then your boots and
that's the last of you. Gran'ma Mullins says she never heard of eating
boots in the Klondike; she thought you rode on a sled there and that
there weren't any women. She says Hiram's spoken of going there once or
twice, and Lucy thought maybe the coasting would do him good, but
Gran'ma Mullins says not while she's alive, no, sir. Why, it's 'way
across America and up a ways, and so many people want to go up that they
have to sleep three in a berth, and she says will you only think of
Hiram, with the way she's brought him up, three in a berth. If the bed
ain't tucked in with Gran'ma Mullins' own particular kind of tuck, Hiram
kicks at night and don't get any proper nourishment out of his sleep.
No, Gran'ma Mullins says she couldn't think of Hiram in the Klondike
sleeping under a snow-pile and having to hunt up a whale whenever he was
in need of more kerosene oil. And she says what good would millions do
her with the bones of the only baby she ever had feeding whatever kind
of creature they have up there. No, she says, no, and a million times
more, no; she's been reading about it in a New York paper that came
wrapped around her new stove lid, and she knows all there is to know on
that subject now. She says a New York paper is so interesting. She says
the way they print them makes it very entertaining. She was reading
about a sea serpent, and when she turned, she turned wrong, and she read
twelve columns about the suffragettes, looking eagerly to see when the
sea serpent was going on again. She says she give up trying to see why
they print them so or ever trying to finish any one subject at a time;
she just goes regularly through the paper now and lets the subjects
fight it out to suit themselves. She says it makes the last part very
interesting. You read about a baby, and after a while you find out
whether it's the Queen of Spain's or just a race-horse. She says she
supposes next Sunday there'll be a picture of Jathrop in the paper;
maybe there'll be a view of this house with you and me. I think that
that would be very interesting."

Susan paused to consider the idyllic little picture thus presented to
her mind's eye, and Mrs. Lathrop continued to say nothing. After a while
Susan went on again:

"I've been thinking a good deal about that letter, Mrs. Lathrop. I don't
know whether you noticed or not, but to my order of thinking it was very
strange his saying, 'How's Susan Clegg?' That's a curious thing for an
unmarried man to ask his mother about an unmarried woman. When you come
to consider how Jathrop was wild to marry me once, it really means a
terrible lot. I was the first woman except you he ever kissed; he wasn't
but a year old, and I was thirteen, but those things make an impression.
I don't mind telling you that I've often thought about Jathrop
nights--and days, too. And lately I've been thinking of him more and
more. And you can see that he's been feeling the same about me, for he's
showed that plain enough by saying in black and white, 'How's Susan
Clegg?' Jathrop is a very silent nature, you can see that from his never
writing even to his own mother in all these years. It means a good deal
when a silent nature opens its mouth all of a sudden and writes, 'How's
Susan Clegg?' And then my dreaming of him was so strange. He had soft
gray fur and big bright yellow eyes, and the way he flew out of the
window! Even in my dream I noticed how nice he jumped. He made a
beautiful cat. And you know I always stood up for him, Mrs. Lathrop,
I always did that. Even when I thought he needed lynching as much
as anybody, I never said so. And now he's come back rich, and he's
coming home to you and me, and he says, 'How's Susan Clegg?'
'How's--Susan--Clegg?'"

Susan's voice died dreamily away. Mrs. Lathrop said nothing. After a
minute Susan's voice went on again: "It's too bad I haven't time to sort
of freshen up my striped silk. It's got awful creasy laying folded so
long. I'd of put some new braid around the bottom if I'd known, and if
this town wasn't so noticey, I'd put my hair up on rollers to-night. A
little crimp sets my wave off so. But, laws, everybody'd be asking why I
did it, and if Jathrop's got any idea of me in his head, it'll be very
easy to knock it right straight out if this town gets first chance at
him. But I don't intend that this town shall get first chance at him. I
shall be on that platform to-morrow morning, and I'll be the nearest to
that train, and once he gets off that train, I shall bring him right
straight up here to you and me. It's safest, and it's his duty, too. As
soon as you've seen him, I'll take him over to my house to wash. Then
I'll give him his breakfast, and by the time he's done his breakfast, if
he really means anything, I'll know it. If he really means anything,
we'll come over after breakfast, and it'll do your heart good to see
how happy we'll look. He can leave his bag in father's room then, for
we'll have so much to talk over it'll be more convenient to take him
over there. You can see that for yourself, Mrs. Lathrop--you know how
young people like to be alone together when they're engaged, and a woman
of my age don't need no looking after any longer. I'm no Gran'ma Mullins
to be worrying over woods nor yet any Mrs. Lupey as supposes every man
you let into your house may be going to hit you over the head when
you're thinking of something pleasant.

"No, I ain't afraid of Jathrop Lathrop nor of any other man alive, thank
heaven. _But_, if I find out as he don't mean anything, I shall march
him over to you in sharp order, bag and all. If he don't mean anything,
I'll soon know the reason why, and as soon as I know the reason why,
I'll send Mr. Jathrop Lathrop flying. 'How's Susan Clegg?' indeed! He'll
find it's a very dangerous joke to go joking about me, no matter how
much money he's scraped out of the Klondike. A joke is a thing as I
never stand, Mrs. Lathrop, and if you'd been one as joked, you'd have
found that out to your deep and abiding sorrow long ago. Very few people
have ever tried to have any fun with me, and I've got even with the most
of them, I'm happy to remark. I shall find out yet who sent me that
comic valentine with the man skipping over the edge of the world and me
after him with a net, and when I do find out, I'll get even about that,
too. Me with a net! I'd like to see myself skipping after any man that
was skipping away from me. If he was skipping toward me, I wouldn't
marry him--not 'nless I loved him. I know that. Love is a thing as you
can't raise and lower just as the fancy strikes you. A woman can't love
but once, and I've got a kind of warm bubbling all around my heart as
tells me that I've loved that once and that it was Jathrop. It's very
strange, Mrs. Lathrop, but I've been thinking of Jathrop a great deal
lately. I keep remembering more and more how much I've been thinking
about him. I suppose he was thinking of me, and that's what started me.
'How's Susan Clegg?' I can just seem to hear Jathrop's voice; Jathrop
had a very strange voice. 'How's Susan Clegg?'

"The mind is a curious thing, when you stop to consider, Mrs. Lathrop.
Mrs. Brown says Amelia says minds can communicate if you know how. Mrs.
Brown says if she calls to Amelia when she's in the hammock and Amelia
don't answer, Amelia always explains afterwards as she was
communicating.

"It all shows that the mind is a wonderful thing. There was Jathrop and
me communicating regularly, and me so little understanding what it all
meant that I dreamed he was a cat. I can't get over that dream. I wonder
if that meant that he's got whiskers now. If he's got whiskers, and he
loves me, he's got to cut 'em right straight off. You'll have to speak
to him about that as soon as you see him, Mrs. Lathrop, for I won't be
able to, of course. And you can see for yourself that I couldn't have
whiskers around. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, and I've had no
experience with whiskers."

Mrs. Lathrop promised to remonstrate with Jathrop if he really had
whiskers, and after some further conversation Susan went home and to bed
and slept soundly. In the morning she was up very promptly, and Mrs.
Lathrop saw her off for the station.

The whole town was at the station. But in front of them all--closest to
the track--stood Susan Clegg.

It was a breathless moment when Johnny ran out with the flag and the
train stopped. Susan motioned the rest back with dignity and stood her
ground alone. The car door opened, and a stout, homely man, with eyes
set wide apart and a very large mouth, appeared on the platform. He was
well dressed and carried an alligator-skin traveling-bag.

Everybody gasped. But it was not his appearance nor the alligator-skin
bag that caused them to gasp. It was that Jathrop Lathrop, returning
after his long absence, had brought back a lady with him.



II

SUSAN CLEGG AND THE CHINESE LADY


And not merely a lady, but a Chinese lady at that. A particularly
chubby, solemn, Chinese lady, who descended from the train which brought
Jathrop Lathrop back to his native town after making a fortune in the
Klondike, and meekly trotted along in his wake, carrying the large
valise, while Jathrop carried the small one.

Susan walked off straightway with Jathrop and the Chinese lady, while
the town remained stock and staring behind. The town was frankly "done
did up." That Jathrop might return with a wife had never once entered
the head of any one. Still less had the idea of any one of that
community ever wedding a Chinese been entertained. It was a peculiarly
overwhelming sensation, and one which led Gran'ma Mullins to lean
against Hiram, while Mrs. Macy leaned against the equally firm side-wall
of the station itself. It was several seconds before people came to
their senses enough to go around by the track gate and look to see how
far the bewildering party had got on their way. They were just crossing
the square.

"Well, if that doesn't beat the Dutch," said Mr. Kimball, and his words
seemed to break the deadlock; everybody scattered forthwith, all talking
at once.

Meanwhile Jathrop, arriving at his mother's gate, paused and said quite
easily:

"I'll go in alone, Susan; mother will like the first hour or so quite
alone with me, I know. Won't you take Hop Loo to your house for
breakfast?"

Susan, who had by no means as yet recovered from the shock of the
Celestial bride, opened and shut her mouth once and her eyes twice, and
yielded. For the nonce she seemed as speechless as Mrs. Lathrop
herself. Jathrop's appealing ease of manner had overawed her all the way
up from the station, and the walk had been accomplished in stately
silence. If the Klondike Prodigal had been surprised over the alteration
in Susan, he had not said so, and now he quietly handed Hop Loo his
alligator-skin traveling-bag (or hers, whichever it was), and passing in
through his mother's gate, shut it forthwith behind him, and went on up
the walk. Susan cast one look, which would have thrown a basilisk into
everlasting darkness, after him; and then, turning, marched back to her
own gate. Hop Loo followed, Susan opened her own gate and passed through
it; Hop Loo passed through after her. Susan went up her walk; Hop kept
close to her heels. Together they mounted the steps and then entered the
house.

It was all of half an hour before Mrs. Macy, the first completely to
rally from the shock at the station, arrived to call. When she climbed
the steps and rang the bell, Susan came to the door at once. She looked
peculiarly grim and smileless. It was plain to be seen at the present
moment that she was not pleased with the world in general.

"I thought I'd just come up for a little," began Mrs. Macy, smiling
enough for two all alone by herself. Mrs. Macy always tried to keep up
her own spirits in a laudable attempt, possibly, to heighten those of
others. "I thought maybe you'd be glad to see a face you knew."

This allusion to the Chinese lady was not intended as unkindly as it
might have been in better society, Mrs. Macy being wholly incapable of
anything so subtle.

"Sit down," said Susan, briefly, indicating a porch chair. "There's no
use taking you in; she's up-stairs unpacking, and she's already set
about doing his cooking. It's plain to be seen that Jathrop Lathrop
never come all this way from the Klondike to take any chances of being
poisoned by me as soon as he got here. No, sir, Jathrop Lathrop has
learned too many little tricks for that."

Susan's tone was extremely bitter. She had removed the famous striped
silk and applied her hairbrush to both sides of her head after dipping
it (the hairbrush, not her head) in water. It was easy to be seen that
the vanities of this life had suddenly become offensive in her nostrils.

"Do you suppose she's really his wife?" asked Mrs. Macy, seating herself
and looking eagerly in her friend's face.

"Oh, yes, she's his wife," said Susan.

"Oh, Susan," Mrs. Macy went on, her eyes becoming quite globular under
the severe stress of her curiosity, "do you suppose anybody married 'em,
or did he just buy her for beads?"

"I don't know," said Susan, rocking severely back and forth, "I don't
know a _tall_. You must ask some one wiser than me what a white man does
about a Chinese when he wants her to cook for him. You ought to have
seen her in my kitchen, Mrs. Macy; she walked straight to my rack of
pans and took down just whatever she fancied. I _never_ saw the beat!
No, nor nobody else. She's learned how to be cool from Jathrop and the
North Pole together, looks to me. I never see such ways as Jathrop has
picked up. He never said a word walking up--nothing but 'Ah' once. I
don't call 'Ah' once much of a conversation for the woman as rocked your
cradle and might have married you, too--if she'd wanted to. For I could
have married Jathrop Lathrop, Mrs. Macy; nobody but me will ever know
what passed between us, but I could have married him. I won't say what
prevented, but I can tell you it wasn't him. And he's lived to regret
it, too. Just like the minister regrets it. When the minister speaks of
the treasure that layeth up in heaven, he doesn't mean no chicken--he
means me."

Susan paused and shook her head angrily.

"I don't doubt but what he's sorry," said Mrs. Macy; "maybe he married a
Chinese for fear any other kind would remind him of you."

Miss Clegg rejected this possible poetic view of Jathrop's action with a
look of great disgust accompanied by another shake of the head.

"I don't believe it's very often that a man ever marries some other
woman on account of any other woman. That's very pretty in books, but
books ain't life. Life's life, and if Jathrop Lathrop's married that
heathen Chinese, he's got very strange notions of life, and that's all I
can say. Why, if she didn't lug that heavy bag along and walk a little
back, and he never bothered to speak to her. She's very different from
what I'd have been, I can tell you. You can maybe fancy me carrying
Jathrop Lathrop's bag a little behind Jathrop Lathrop! I think I see
myself. 'How's Susan Clegg?' He'll soon find out how Susan Clegg is.
What do you think, Mrs. Macy, what _do_ you think? When we came to his
mother's gate, he just stopped, said he thought she'd like him alone
best, said to me, 'Give Hop Loo some breakfast, will you?'--and then if
my gentleman didn't walk through the gate and shut it after him! Well, I
_never_ did. There was me and his wife carefully shut out on the other
side of the fence like we was pigs. And then I had to bring her over
here and give her father's room. What would my dead and gone father say
to a Chinese woman having his room, I wonder! Father had very fine
feelings for a man as got about so little, and if he was alive, I don't
believe no Jathrop Lathrop would have gone sending no heathen Chinese
wife to live with _me_. She won't live with me long, I can tell you that
to your face, Mrs. Macy. I took her because I was too dumb did up over
having a gate shut in my face by Jathrop Lathrop to do anything else,
but I ain't intending to have her long. I've always been for shutting
the Chinese out, and I ain't going back on my principles at my time of
life. No, indeed. 'How's Susan Clegg?'"

Susan paused angrily. Her repetition of the deceptive phrase in
Jathrop's letter seemed to turn her boiling wrath into one of still,
white menace. She sat perfectly still, snapping her eyelids up and down,
and breathing hard.

"I don't blame you one mite, Susan," said Mrs. Macy warmly; "I wish Mrs.
Lupey was here. She wanted to come, too, but she's got her bag to pack
to go home. She only come for one night, and to-night'll make two, so
she wants to get packed. But she knows all about the Chinese. Her
husband's got a cousin who is a missionary in China, and she could have
felt for you. The cousin's got eleven Chinese servants besides a Bible
class of two as she's training to be missionaries after they're trained.
Mrs. Lupey says she'd have known what to do when that Chinese lady got
off the train this morning. They don't let 'em ride in the same cars in
China."

Just here Jathrop came out of his mother's front door and walked down
the path. Both ladies were freshly shocked by the sight. At the gate he
turned in the opposite direction. Both ladies stared after him. Soon he
was out of sight. Then they stared at each other.

"Well, what is he up to now?" Mrs. Macy finally ejaculated.

"I don't know," said Susan in a tone of complete despair as to ever
again gaining any insight into the motives which moved Jathrop, "I d'n
know, Mrs. Macy. Don't ask me anything about Jathrop Lathrop after he's
gone home to see his mother and has handed me over a Chinese wife to
board. He may be gone up to Mrs. Brown's to run off with Amelia for all
I know. Nothing is ever going to surprise me any more after this day. I
only know one thing, if he does run off with Amelia, that Chinee'll find
herself and his valises dumped off of my premises pretty quick. I never
was one for false feelings, and I should see no call for Christian
charity toward a heathen who comes to me with two black bags on her legs
and a dressing-sack for an overcoat."

"I wonder if Jathrop likes her wearing such clothes," said Mrs. Macy.
"Everybody is wondering."

"I don't know," said Miss Clegg, "men are very queer. There's no telling
what they are going to fancy till they get out of the train married to
it. Think of his having the face to write 'How's Susan Clegg?' and him
married to that puzzle-blocks thing all the time. I wonder what his
mother said when he told her!"

"Let's go over and see Mrs. Lathrop!" suggested Mrs. Macy, "she's over
there alone now."

This idea immediately found favor with Susan. "But I'll have to go in
and see what _she's_ up to first," she said. "If she's caught a rat and
is making soup in my teapot with it, I shan't feel to enjoy leaving her
alone with my teapot."

Mrs. Macy could but feel the extreme justice of this view, and Susan,
whose countenance indicated that she was sorely beset by misgivings,
went into the house.

When she came out, her face wore a relieved expression.

"She's all safe," she said. "She's asleep on the floor. I must say it's
changed my feelings toward her. It shows she knows her place."

They walked sedately to Mrs. Lathrop's. They climbed the back steps, and
they knocked.

Mrs. Lathrop was busy making preparations for dinner. She came to the
door with a promptitude which, in view of her well-known habit of
deliberation, was little short of miraculous.

"We came to see how you were," said Mrs. Macy.

"Come in," said Mrs. Lathrop.

They walked in and seated themselves on two of the wooden-bottomed
kitchen chairs. Mrs. Lathrop went on with her work. She was uncommonly
active, and her face wore a broad, unusual smile. "Jathrop's gone up to
the cemetery," she said. "He's going to have a monument put up to his
father."

"What do you think of--?" interrupted Susan.

"Yes, we come to--" began Mrs. Macy.

"He's going," continued Mrs. Lathrop, taking down a plate and blowing
the thick dust from its surface, "to have an awful handsome monument put
up. Not a animal like you put up to your father, Susan, but a angel
hanging to a pillar with both hands and feeling for a cloud with its
feet. He showed me the picture. And he's going to have the parlor
papered and give the town a watering-trough for horses, with a tin cup
on a chain for people, and he's--"

"Yes, but--" interrupted Susan.

"You know, of course--" began Mrs. Macy.

Mrs. Lathrop swept off the top of the rolling-pin with the stove-brush.
"And he's going to build me on a bedroom right off the hall," she
continued, "and put a furnace under the whole house. And one of those
lamps that haul up and down, and a new set of kitchen things, and he'll
come here every year and see if I want anything else, and if I do, I'm
to have it. I'm to have a pew in church, even if I never do go to
church, and a paper every day, and his baby picture done big, and be
fitted for new glasses."

"But, Mrs. Lathrop--" Susan interrupted, seeing that Mrs. Lathrop was
surely still in ignorance as to her Mongolian daughter-in-law.

"Yes, you--" began Mrs. Macy.

"Liza Em'ly is to do all the sewing I want," went on Mrs. Lathrop,
proceeding with her baking preparations at a great rate, "and Jathrop'll
pay the bill. And any things I want, I'm just to send for, and
Jathrop'll pay the bill; and anything I can think of what I want done,
I'm just to say so, and Jathrop'll pay the bill."

It seemed as if Susan Clegg would burst at this. It was plain now that
Jathrop really was rich, and here was his mother supposing the rose was
utterly thornless.

"But did he tell you about his wife?" she broke in desperately. "That's
what I want to know."

Mrs. Lathrop, who was mixing butter and sugar together in a yellow bowl,
stopped suddenly and stared.

"His wife!" she said blankly.

"Yes, his wife," repeated Susan.

"The wife he brought back with him," explained Mrs. Macy.

"The wife he--" Mrs. Lathrop pushed the yellow bowl a little back on the
table and rested her hands on the edge. They trembled visibly; "the wife
he--" she repeated.

"Surely you know that he brought his wife back with him?" said Mrs.
Macy. "Surely he's told you?"

Mrs. Lathrop--turned her usual dumb self again--looked at Mrs. Macy with
almost unseeing eyes.

"I--" she ejaculated faintly, "no, he--"

"Now, you see," exclaimed Susan, half to the friend and half to the
stricken mother, "it don't make any difference what a man turns into
outside, he stays just the same inside. What have I always said to you,
Mrs. Lathrop? You can't make no kind of a purse out of ears like
Jathrop's. Jathrop Lathrop could turn into fifty millionaires, and he'd
still be Jathrop Lathrop. He can hang all the angels he pleases and
water all the horses from here to Meadville, and still he never could be
any other man but just himself. And being himself, he never by no manner
of means could be frank and open. He was always one that held things
back. You thought it was because he didn't have no brains, but you was
his mother and naturally looked on the best side of him. But he never
deceived me, Mrs. Lathrop; I saw through Jathrop right from the start.
There was a foxiness about Jathrop as nobody never fully saw into but
me. That was my reason for never marrying him--one of my many reasons,
for his foxiness hasn't been the only thing about Jathrop that I've seen
through. I never was one to soften the blows to a tempered lamb, so I
will say that so many reasons for not loving a man as I've seen in
Jathrop I never see in any other man yet. But none of my reasons for not
marrying him has ever equalled this new reason as has cropped up now in
his bringing home a wife. When a man comes home with a wife, then you do
see through him for good and all, and when Jathrop come scrambling out
from between those two cars this morning with a heathen Chinee at his
heels--"

Mrs. Lathrop screamed loudly. "A--"

"Heathen Chinee," repeated Susan.

"You know what a Chinee is, don't you?" interposed Mrs. Macy; "they're
from China, you know."

Mrs. Lathrop retreated to her rocker with a totter.

"Yes, she's a heathen Chinee," said Susan, with unfailing firmness, "the
kindest heart in the world couldn't mistake her for anything even as
high up as a nigger. Her eyes cross just under her nose, and she's got
her hair wound round her head with a piece of black tape to hold it on.
She wears divided skirts as is most plainly divided, and not a gore has
she got to her name or her figure. She _is_ a Chinese and no mistake,
and you may believe me or not, just as you please, Mrs. Lathrop, but
Jathrop without a so much as by-your-leave dumped her onto me for
breakfast, and she's asleep on father's floor now."

"On your--" gasped Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, on father's," said Susan, "and now, Mrs. Lathrop, you see what he
is at last. He not only marries a Chinese when if he'd been patient he
might have got a white one, but he brings her home, and don't even tell
you he's brought her home, or even that he's got her, or even that he's
married her, or anything. A man might line my house with furnaces and
have his baby picture done big in every room, and I'd never forgive his
acting in such a way. I never hear the beat. It throws all the other
calamities as ever come upon anybody in this community clean out of the
shade. What will be the use of your having a pew in church; you won't
even be able to face the minister now with your son's marrying one of
them as we have to give our good money to teach to wear clothes. What
good will your having the parlor papered be with everybody ashamed to go
to see a woman who has got a Chinese daughter. To my order of thinking,
you was better off poor. Why, they eat the hen's nests, the Chinese do,
and prefer 'em to the eggs. It's small wonder I dreamed Jathrop was a
cat, with him descending on us like the wrath of heaven married to a
China woman. Jathrop's no fool though, and if you'd seen that humble
heathen going along back of him with his big valise, you'd have to see
as the man as picks out a wife like that never could have been a fool. I
felt for her, I really did, only she was watching me with the wrong eye
all the time, and it made me dizzy to try and look at her kindly. I'll
tell you what, Mrs. Lathrop, when Jathrop comes back, you'll just go for
him and give it to him good. Men must learn as they can't bring their
Chinese wives into this community. There's a principle as we'd ought to
live up to whether we enjoy it or not, and it's all against marrying
Chinese. The Chinese are all right, I hope and trust, but nothing as
feeds itself with a toothpick had ever ought to be held pressed to the
bosom of families like you and me, Mrs. Lathrop. It isn't the way we're
brought up to look at them, and it's a well-known fact as no matter what
the leopard does to the Ethiopian, he sticks to his spot just the same
as before--"

"But--" broke in Mrs. Lathrop.

"I don't want to hurt your feelings, Mrs. Lathrop,--we've been friends
too long for me not to feel kindly to you,--but Mrs. Macy is a witness
to his bringing her, even if I wasn't well known to be one as never
lies. Mrs. Macy is a witness, too, to how he's got her dressed, and a
more burning disgrace than this keeping your chosen wife in loose
overalls and a jacket as any monkey on a hand-organ would weep to see
the fit of, I never see. It may be the custom in the Klondike and may
be convenient for sliding, but this is no sliding community, and, to my
order of thinking, Jathrop would have showed you more affection and us
more respect if he'd bought his wife a bonnet and a shawl before he
brought her here."

Susan paused for breath. Mrs. Lathrop continued speechless. Mrs. Macy
tried to lighten the atmosphere by remarking, "Lands, she's got a
pigtail, too."

Susan picked up the cudgels afresh at that. "Wound twice around her
head," she said bitterly; "oh, she _is_ a figure of fun and no mistake.
I d'n know, I'm sure, what Jathrop was ever thinking of the day he
picked her out, but this I do know, and that is, that he'd better pick
her off of me pretty quick. You know, Mrs. Lathrop, as a friend is a
friend and I've always been a good friend to you, but I never was one to
stand any nonsense--not now and not never--and when a man writes, 'I'm
rich' and 'How's Susan Clegg?' he gets me where no Chinese wife ain't
going to please me in a hurry. I'm glad Jathrop is rich, on your
account, Mrs. Lathrop, but his being rich don't alter my views of him a
mite. I look upon him as a gray deceiver, that's what I look upon him
as, and if he's brought a piece of carnelian or anything back to me, you
can tell him to give it to his lawfully wedded wife, for I don't want to
have nothing more to do with him."

"But, Susan--" broke in poor Mrs. Lathrop.

"Don't interrupt me, Mrs. Lathrop; I'm in no mood to listen to no
one just now. I ain't mad, but I'm hurt. It's no wonder I dreamed he
was a cat, for of all the sly, back-door things a cat is the
meanest. And there was always something very cat-like about Jathrop
Lathrop--something soft and slow and creepy--nothing bold and
out-spoken. I might have known as even if he did come home rich, he'd
find a way to even it up. And now look how he has evened it up. Think of
your grandchildren; there won't be one of 'em able to ever look anybody
straight in more'n one eye at once. Marrying Chinese is terrible,
anyway--in some States it's forbidden. It's to be hoped Jathrop'll keep
out of those States or he may land in the penitentiary yet."

Just here the front door slammed, and Jathrop's voice was heard calling,
"Where are you, mother?"

He didn't wait for an answer, but came straight through the kitchen.
Entering there, what he saw startled him so much that he came to a
sudden halt.

"We've been telling your--" began Mrs. Macy.

"--mother about your wife," finished up Susan.

Jathrop looked at all three in great astonishment. "About my _wife_!" he
repeated. "Did you say 'my wife'?"

"Yes," said Susan, absolutely undaunted. "I think it would have been
kinder in you to have broke it to her yourself; but anyhow, we've done
it now."

"Oh, Jathrop, my son, my son!" wailed poor Mrs. Lathrop in
heart-wringing Biblical paraphrase.

"But I haven't got any wife," said Jathrop. "What under the sun do you
mean?"

There was a clammy pause; Susan and Mrs. Macy clasped hands.

"What made you think I had one?" Jathrop asked, quite bewildered. "Who
said I had one?"

Susan rose with dignity and coughed. Mrs. Macy rose, too, looking at
Susan. Poor Mrs. Lathrop seemed fairly terror-stricken.

"I think I'll go now," said Susan. "I hope I needn't board her much
longer, that's all. Even if she's only using the floor, it's a floor as
has been sacred to my dead father up to now, and a dead father is not to
be lightly took in vain by a heathen Chinee."

"But what does it all mean?" asked Jathrop, appearing genuinely
bewildered. "I don't understand. What are you talking about?"

Susan moved toward the door; Mrs. Macy faltered. "Maybe it was all
right in the Klondike," she began, trying to put a brace under the
situation.

"Maybe what was all right in the Klondike?" asked Jathrop.

"To buy her with beads."

"To buy who with beads? Who's her?" Jathrop's voice was becoming
exasperated.

"Hop Loo," said Susan, in a tone of piercing scorn, "the Chinese lady as
you brought with you and gave me to board."

Jathrop looked at them all in amazement. "But Hop Loo's a boy--my boy,"
he said.

"Your boy!" said Susan.

"Yes, my boy."

Miss Clegg turned and gave him a long look fraught with disgust, pity,
and hopeless resignation.

"Jathrop Lathrop," she said, "I _did_ suppose you had some sense even in
the view of all that's dead and gone, but I guess now I'll have to give
up. I did have some respect for you while I thought she was maybe your
wife, but if you've gone so clean crazy that you believe that that is
your boy--well!"

Susan thereupon sailed out of Mrs. Lathrop's house with Mrs. Macy
wobbling in her wake.



III

SUSAN CLEGG SOLVES THE MYSTERY


Susan Clegg and Mrs. Macy walked down to Mrs. Lathrop's gate, and out of
her gate and to Miss Clegg's gate; the whole in a silence deadly and
impressive. Mrs. Macy paused there.

"I don't believe I'll come in," she said doubtfully.

"I don't blame you," said Susan, "I wouldn't if it was me. Jathrop's
boy, indeed! What kind of a man is it as'll have a Chinese family and go
forcing them onto the true and long-tried friends of his one and only
mother!"

"I can't see why he didn't leave the boy in the Klondike," said Mrs.
Macy slowly and reflectively. "I thought men always left their Chinese
families just where they found 'em. It's strange Jathrop brought him
home with him."

"You see now what my dream meant," said Susan darkly, "a cat, indeed.
It's small wonder I knew the cat was Jathrop Lathrop. Of all the mean,
sly, creeping creatures that ever come up against the back of your legs
sudden a cat is the worst. A snake is open and aboveboard beside a cat.
You can see a snake. You don't see 'em often around here, thank heaven."

"Well, we haven't seen Jathrop often around here for a long time," said
Mrs. Macy, whose mind was as given to easy logical deduction as many of
her mental caliber, "and we do see a lot of cats--you know that, Susan."

"'How's Susan Clegg?'" quoted Susan in a tone of reflective wrath. "I
don't know whether you know it or not, Mrs. Macy, but Jathrop asked
after me in his letter to his mother, and him with a Chinese wife.
'How's Susan Clegg?' What did he write that for if he was married, I'd
like to know."

"Maybe he wanted to know how you were," suggested Mrs. Macy.

The look she received in recognition of this offered explanation led to
her immediately proposing to go on home. "You've got the Chinaman to
look after, anyhow," she added.

"You'd better come in while I go up and look at him again," said Susan
shortly. "It's a very strange sensation to be alone in your house with
what you fully and freely take to your dead father's bed and board,
supposing it's a wife, and then find out as it's her son instead. Come
on in."

Mrs. Macy was easily persuaded, and they thereupon went up the walk. "I
guess I'll go see if he's still asleep," Susan said when they reached
the piazza, and Mrs. Macy forthwith sat down to await what might come of
it.

Susan was absent but a few minutes; she returned with a fresh layer of
disapproval upon her face.

"Is he still sleeping?" Mrs. Macy asked.

"Yes, he's still sleeping," Miss Clegg replied, jerking a chair forward
for herself. "You'd know he was Jathrop Lathrop's child just by the way
he sleeps. You remember what a one Jathrop always was for sleeping. I
don't know as I remember Jathrop's ever being awake till he was fairly
grown. Whatever you set him at always just made him more sleepy. You
know yourself, Mrs. Macy, as he wouldn't be no grasshopper with Mrs.
Lathrop for his mother, but a cocoon is a comet beside what Jathrop
Lathrop always was. I don't know whether he's rich or not, but I do know
that heathen Chinee is his son, and I know it just by the way he
sleeps."

"And so Jathrop's rich," said Mrs. Macy, rocking agreeably to and fro,
and evidently striving toward more pleasant conversation.

"Yes," said Susan darkly, "rich and with a Chinese wife somewhere. Just
as often as I think of Jathrop Lathrop writing, 'How's Susan Clegg,'
with a Chinese wife I feel more and more tempered, and I can't conceal
my feelings. I never was one to conceal anything; if I had a Chinese
wife the whole world might know it."

Just here Gran'ma Mullins hove in sight, coming slowly and laboriously
up the street.

"Why, there's Gran'ma Mullins!" Mrs. Macy exclaimed. "She's surely
coming to see you, too."

Both ladies remained silent, watching the progress of Gran'ma Mullins.

Gran'ma Mullins arrived a good deal out of breath. Susan brought a chair
out of the house for her.

"I come to--tell you," panted the new visitor as soon as she had
attained unto the chair, "that Jathrop's--things is--coming."

"What things?" asked Susan.

"They all come on--the ten o'clock--from the junction; Hiram is helping
unload."

"What's he brought?" Susan asked.

"Well, he's brought an automobile," said Gran'ma Mullins, "and a lot of
other trunks and boxes."

"An automobile!" exclaimed Mrs. Macy, "well, he _is_ rich then!"

"I wouldn't be too sure of that," said Susan, "some very poor folks is
riding that way nowadays."

"And he brought three trunks and seventeen big wooden boxes," continued
Gran'ma Mullins, "big boxes."

"Three trunks and sev-en-teen--Three trunks and sev-en--" Susan's voice
faded into nothingness.

"Goodness knows what's in them," said Gran'ma Mullins. "Hiram was
getting so hot unloading that I wanted him to stop and let me fan him,
but he wouldn't hear to it. Hiram's so brave. If he said he'd unload
something, he'd unload it if he dropped dead under it and was smashed to
nothing."

There was a pause of unlimited bewilderment while Mrs. Macy and Susan
raised Jathrop upon the pedestal erected by his three trunks, seventeen
boxes and the automobile.

"And to think of his having a Chinese wife," Susan exclaimed, the keen
edge of sorrow cutting crossways through all her words.

It was just here that Mrs. Lupey now appeared, approaching at a good
pace. Mrs. Lupey was a large, imposing woman and wore a silk dolman with
fringe. It was immediately necessary for the party to adjourn to the
sitting-room, as the piazza was strictly limited.

It was Mrs. Lupey who without loss of time did away with the Lathrop
parentage of the young Chinese.

"Why, he's his servant, of course," she said in a lofty scorn. "I'm
surprised you didn't know that by his age."

"I did think of his age," Susan said, "but I read once in some paper as
the women in China get married when they're four years old, so you'd
never be able to tell nothing by the age of no one there. Well, well,
and so she isn't his wife, nor yet his son. Well, I'm glad--for Mrs.
Lathrop's sake."

"But if Jathrop's really got a automobile and seventeen trunks, he
_must_ be awful rich," said Mrs. Macy. "It'll be a great thing for this
town if Jathrop's rich. He'd ought to be very grateful to the place
where his happy childhood memories run around barefoot."

"Oh, he'll remember," said Gran'ma Mullins, "it's easy to remember when
you've got the money to do it. But I hope to heaven he won't set Hiram
off on that track again. Hiram does so want to go away and make a
fortune; I'm worried for fear he will all the time. And Lucy wants him
to, too. I can't understand a woman as wants a fortune worse than she
wants Hiram. Lucy doesn't seem to want Hiram 'round at all any more. If
he's asleep, she starts right in making the bed the same as if he wasn't
in it, and if she's sewing, he don't dare go within the length of her
thread.

"Life has come to a pretty pass when a wife'll run a needle into a
husband just for the simple pleasure of feeling him go away when she
sticks him." Gran'ma Mullins sighed.

"I wonder what they're doing now!" Mrs. Macy said.

All four turned at this and looked toward the Lathrop house together. It
was quiet as usual.

"I d'n know as it changes my opinion of Jathrop much, that being his
servant," said Miss Clegg suddenly. "It's kind of different, his handing
his wife or his son over to me; but his heathen Chinee servant! I don't
know as I'm very pleased."

"Pleased!" said Mrs. Lupey. "Why, in San Francisco they make 'em live
underground like rats."

"Maybe that was why you dreamed he was a cat, Susan?" suggested Mrs.
Macy, whose brain seemed to grasp at the subject under consideration
with special illumination.

Susan rose. "I think you'd better go," she said abruptly, "I've got to
get dinner. My mind's in no state to deal with all these sides of
Jathrop and his Chinaman just now."

What the day brought up the street and in and around Mrs. Lathrop's
house would take too long to catalogue. Suffice it to say that poor Mrs.
Lathrop, who had been for long years the veriest zero in the life of the
community, became suddenly its center and apex.

When Jathrop went to New York at the end of the week, he left his mother
not only sitting, but rocking in the lap of luxury, with her head
leaning back against more luxury and her feet braced firmly on yet more
luxury. Even her friend over the way was rendered utterly content.

And the pleasantest part of it all was the way that it affected Susan
Clegg. As Susan sat by Mrs. Lathrop and turned upon her that tender gaze
which one old friend may turn on another old friend when the latter's
son has suddenly bloomed forth golden, her full heart found utterance
thus:

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop--well, Mrs. Lathrop, I guess no one will ever doubt
anything again. Talk about dreams, _now_! I dreamed Jathrop was a cat,
and the reason was that it's a well-known fact that cats _always_ come
back. Why, Mrs. Macy told me once how she chloroformed a cat, and put it
in a flour sack with a stone, and put the sack in a hogshead of water,
and put the cover on the hogshead, and put a stone--another stone--on
that, and went to church to hear the minister preach on 'Do unto others
as you do unto others,' and when she came back, the cat was asleep on
top of the hogshead, and Mrs. Macy got the worst shock she ever got. So
you can easy see why I dreamed Jathrop was a cat; and he _did_ come
back.

"I declare that'll always be the pleasantest recollection of my life,
how I met him at the station and how we came chatting up the street
together. How he has improved, Mrs. Lathrop--not but what he was always
handsome! There was always something noble about Jathrop. Gran'ma
Mullins said yesterday as he made her think of a man she saw in a play
once as stood on his crossed legs in front of a fire and smoked. So
careless.

"And then his bringing Mrs. Macy that polar-bear skin! Mrs. Macy says if
there was one spot in the whole wide world where she never expected to
set foot it was on top of a polar bear, and now she can stand on her
head on one if the fancy takes her. I saw the minister when I was down
in the square to-night, and he told me not to speak of it, but he
thought a service of prayer for any stocks and mines as Jathrop has
would be the only fitting form of gratitude which a reverent and
affectionate congregation might offer to the great and glorious
generosity of him who is going to give us a steeple after all these
years of finishing flat at the top. Mr. Kimball came out to tell me to
ask you if you'd like some one to come regularly for your order, and he
says he'll keep caviare from now on, just on the chance of Jathrop's
being here to eat it; he says why he didn't keep it before was he
thought it was a kind of chamois skin.

"It's beautiful to see the faces down-town, Mrs. Lathrop; you never saw
nothing like it. Everybody's just so happy. Hiram is grinning from ear
to ear over being took to the Klondike, and everybody is swore to not
let Gran'ma Mullins know he's going. He's going to climb out of the
window at night and get away that way, and Gran'ma Mullins won't mind
what she feels when he really does come back a millionaire, too. She'll
be just like you, Mrs. Lathrop; no one minds anything once it's over.
Little misunderstandings are easy forgot.

"And to think there's been a blue automobile puffing at these very
kitchen steps! To think you and me was over to Meadville and back
between dinner and supper one day! I guess Mrs. Lupey never got such a
start. She'd been all the morning getting home on the train and was only
just putting her bonnet away in its box when we rolled up. I never
enjoyed nothing like that roll up in all my life! I never see
automobiles from the automobile's side before, but now I can. When a
automobile goes over a duck it makes all the difference in the world
whether it's your automobile or your duck.

"And then Jathrop's generosity! Not but what he was always generous.
Deacon White says he will say that for Jathrop, he was always generous.
And look what he brought home. Every child in town is just about out of
their senses. Felicia Hemans is crazy about the earrings, and 'Liza
Em'ly won't never take off the bracelet. Mr. Shores can't keep the tears
back when he looks at his watch charm. I think it was so kind of
Jathrop. But Jathrop was always kind; you know yourself that a kinder
creature never lived than Jathrop. I always said that for him.

"And then his having a new fence built around the cemetery. It was
thoughtful, and Judge Fitch says nobody can't say more. But Judge Fitch
says Jathrop was always thoughtful; he says he's been interested in him
always just for that very reason. Judge Fitch says Jathrop's nature was
always that deep kind that's easy overlooked. He says he'll have to
confess to his shame that some of the time he overlooked him himself. He
says it's very difficult to understand a deep nature, because if a deep
nature don't make money, there's hardly any way of ever knowing that it
really was deep; people just think you're a fool then--like we always
thought Jathrop was. You know, nobody ever thought he ever could amount
to nothing. You know that yourself, Mrs. Lathrop. But making money lets
you see just what a person's got in 'em and see it plain.

"I'm sure for all I've loved Jathrop as if he was going to be my own,
for years and years and years, still I never credited him with being the
man he is. I supposed he was a tramp somewhere--yes, I really did, Mrs.
Lathrop, you may believe me or not, but that's just what I thought when
I thought anything at all about him--which wasn't often.

"Everybody in the whole place is busy remembering pleasant things about
him now. The minister's wife remembers his coming to a Christmas tree
once a long time ago when they both was little; she says she hasn't
thought of it in thirty years, but she remembers it as plain as day
now,--he had on a coat and a little tie.

"And Gran'ma Mullins says she never will forget the day before he was
born, for she went to town and dropped her little bead bag, and you know
how much she thinks of her little bead bag now when the beads is all
worn off, so you can think what store she set by it when the beads were
still on, and so she was all back and forth along the road hunting for
it the whole blessed afternoon, and when she found it and went home, she
_was_ tired, and she slept late next morning because her husband was out
very late the night before, and when he slept late she always slept
late, 'cause she said sleeping late was almost the only treat he ever
give her, and, anyhow, when they did wake up and get up and get out,
there was Jathrop, and she says she shall never forget her joy over
having found the bead bag again.

"Mrs. Macy says she remembers the day he hid, and you thought he was in
the cistern, and you was kneeling down looking in when he jumped out
from behind the stove and give you such a start you went in head first.

"I remember that day myself, too--father was insisting he was paralyzed
then, and mother and me wouldn't take his word for it, and we fully
expected he'd race over and help haul you out, but all he said was,
'She'll have to manage the best she can--I'm paralyzed,' and we really
began to believe him from then on.

"The minister says he shall always remember how well he looked when he
put on long trousers; the minister's preparing a little paper on Jathrop
to read at the Sunday-school annual, and he says he shall begin with the
day he put on long trousers and then mark his rise step by step. The
minister's so pleased over Jathrop's patting Brunhilde Susan on the
head; he says there are pats and pats, but that pat that Jathrop give
Brunhilde Susan was what he calls, in pure and Biblical simplicity, _a_
pat."

Susan paused. Mrs. Lathrop just felt her diamond solitaires, glanced at
the new kitchen range, and was silent.

"And then, Mrs. Lathrop, that dear blessed little Chinese angel--I tell
you I shall never forget that boy. I liked his face when I first laid
eyes on him, and when I thought he was Jathrop's lawful wife, I loved
him as I'd loved even a Chinaman if he was your daughter; but when I saw
him cleaning up my sink, polishing my pans, washing out my cupboards and
all that, just the same as yours, _then_ was when I see that a heathen
Chinee has just the same right to go to heaven that anybody else has,
and from then on I just trusted him completely and let him do every bit
of the work till he left.

"I see now why everybody's so happy being a missionary if you can just
get away and live with the Chinee. I'd have kept that boy if Jathrop
hadn't wanted him--I'd have been very glad to; and it's awful to think
we're keeping quiet, lovable natures like his from settling here. A girl
might do much worse than marry that Chinese--_very_ much worse. A very
great deal worse. Though I suppose many would hesitate."

Mrs. Lathrop rose, went to the cupboard, took out a bottle of homemade
gooseberry wine, poured out a little, and took a sip. She did not offer
any to Susan.

"It'll do you good," said Susan encouragingly. "I don't like the taste
myself, but it'll do you good. Besides, Mrs. Lathrop, you must begin to
get used to it. When you go around with Jathrop in his private car,
you'll have to drink wine, and if I was you, I'd stop tying a stocking
around your neck nights, for you'll have to wear a very different cut of
gowns soon. If Jathrop buys that yacht he's gone to look at, you'll have
to wear a sailor blouse."

"Oh," said Mrs. Lathrop faintly, "oh, Susan, I--" Miss Clegg put her
hastily back into her chair.

"Never mind if it does make your head go 'round a little, Mrs. Lathrop;
you must learn how. It may be hard, but it'll make Jathrop happy, and
now he's come back rich, that's what everybody wants to do.

"Mrs. Brown says next time he comes she's going to make him a jet-black
pound-cake, and Mrs. Allen says she's going to work him a pincushion.
She says it'll be a plain, simple token of affection, but those whom
Fortune smiles on soon learn to know the true worth of a simple gift of
purest love. She says no one has ever known how she loved Jathrop,
'cause she kept it to herself for fear you'd think she was after him for
Polly."

Mrs. Lathrop rocked dreamily.

Susan rose to go.

"Don't--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"I must," said Susan. "Oh, Mrs. Lathrop, think of his giving me those
fifty shares of stock just on account of my long-suffering friendship
for you. I declare he's a great character--that's all I can say.

"I always had a feeling he'd end in some unusual way; when they started
to lynch him, I thought that was the way, but now I see that this was
the way, and I thank heaven that I wasn't right the other time and am
right this time. For human nature is human nature, Mrs. Lathrop, and
people are always kinder to a woman whose son comes home from the
Klondike a millionaire than they are if they had the bother of lynching
him, no matter how much he may have deserved it."

Mrs. Lathrop continued to finger her solitaire earrings in happy
silence. Miss Clegg, who never exhibited any tenderness toward anything,
went over and arranged the fold-over of her friend's gold-embroidered,
silk-quilted kimono.

"I'll be glad when your new hair gets here, Mrs. Lathrop," she said
tenderly, "it'll make a different woman of you. It's astonishing what a
little extra hair can do; I always feel that when I put on my wave.

"You and me will have to be getting used to all kinds of new things now.
And that beautiful dream of mine letting us know he was coming. Mrs.
Brown says Amelia says the Egyptians worshipped cats and used to pickle
them when they died.

"It's astonishing how, if you know enough, you can see how any dream is
full of meaning. There's Jathrop so fond of pickles, and you and me
worshipping him. And he writing in every letter he has time to get
somebody to write for him, 'How's Susan Clegg?'"

Mrs. Lathrop lapsed into beatific slumber. Susan Clegg went quietly
home.



IV

SUSAN CLEGG AND THE OLIVE BRANCH


It was not in reason to suppose that the return of Jathrop Lathrop
should continue to occupy wholly the attention of the community. Each
week--even each day--brought its fresh interests. Not the least exciting
of the provocative elements was borne back from the metropolis to which
'Liza Em'ly, that hitherto negatively regarded olive branch of the
ministerial family, had but recently emigrated. 'Liza Em'ly, it was
whispered one day, had written a book.

The Sewing Society, at its next meeting, discussed it, as a matter of
course; and Susan Clegg, equally as a matter of course, promptly
reported the proceedings to her friend and neighbor, Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well," she began, sitting down with the heavy thump of one who is
completely and utterly overcome, "I give up. It's beyond me. I was to
the Sewing Society, and it's beyond them all, too. The idea of 'Liza
Em'ly's writing a book! No one can see how she ever come to think as she
could write a book. No one can see where she got any ideas to put in a
book. I don't know what any one thought she _would_ do when she set out
for the city to earn her own living, but there wasn't a soul in town as
expected her to do it, let alone writing a book, too. I can't see
whatever gives any one the idea of earning their living by writing
books. Books always seem so sort of unnecessary to me, anyway--I ain't
read one myself in years. No one in this community ever does read, and
that's what makes everybody so surprised over 'Liza Em'ly, after living
among us so long and so steady, starting up all of a sudden and doing
anything like this. And what makes it all the more surprising is she
never said a word about it either--never wrote home to the family or
told a living soul. And so you can maybe imagine the shock to the
minister when he got word as his own flesh and blood daughter had not
only written a book but got it all printed without consulting him. His
wife says he was completely done up and could hardly speak for quite a
little while, and later when the newspaper clippings begin to come, he
had to go to bed and have a salt-water cloth over his eyes. I tell you,
Mrs. Lathrop, the minister is a very sensitive nature; it's no light
thing to a sensitive nature to get a shock like a daughter's writing a
book."

"Is--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I should say that it was," said Miss Clegg. "I should say that it
was. And not only is it being advertised, but people are buying it just
like mad, the papers say. The minister is still more upset over that;
seems the responsibilities of even being connected with books nowadays
is no light thing. There was that man as was shot for what he wrote in
a book the other day, you know, and the minister's wife says as the
minister is most nervous over what may be in the book; she says he says
very few books as everybody is reading ought to be read, and he knows
what he's talking about, for he's a great reader himself. Why, his wife
says he's got books hid all over the house, and she says--speaking
confidentially--as he says most of 'em he's really very sorry he's
read--after he's finished 'em. She says--he says he'll know no peace
night or day now until he's read 'Liza Em'ly's book. I guess it's no
wonder that he's nervous. 'Liza Em'ly's been a handful for years, and
since she fell in love with Elijah, there's been just no managing her a
_tall_. If Elijah'd loved her, of course it would have been different,
but Elijah wasn't a energetic nature, and 'Liza Em'ly was, and when a
energetic nature loves a man like Elijah, there's just no knowing where
they will end up. I never see why Elijah didn't love 'Liza Em'ly, but
her grandmother's nose has always been against her, and he told me
himself as it was all he could think of when he sat quietly down to
think about her. But all that's neither here nor there, for it's a far
cry from a girl's nose to her brains nowadays, thank heavens, and 'Liza
Em'ly's got something to balance her now. Polly White has sent for one
of the books. She says she'll lend it around, no matter what's in it.
Polly says there's one good thing in getting married, and that is it
makes you a married woman, and being a married woman lets you read all
kinds of books. I guess Polly's been a great reader since she was
married. She's meant to get some good out of that situation, and she's
done it. The deacon isn't so badly off, either. I wouldn't say that he's
glad he's married all the time, but I guess some of the time he don't
mind, and it's about all married people ask if only some of the time
they can feel to not be sorry. A little let-up is a great relief."

"You--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, I know," said Miss Clegg, "but I pick up a good deal from others,
and there's a feeling as married women have when they talk to a woman as
they suppose can't possibly know anything just 'cause she never got into
any of their troubles, as makes them show forth the truth very plainly.
I won't say as married women strike me more and more as fools, for it
wouldn't be kindly, but I will say as the way they revel in being
married and saying how hard it is, kind of strikes me as amusing. _I_
wouldn't go into a store and buy a dress and then, when every one knew
as I picked it out myself, keep running around telling how it didn't fit
and was tearing out in all the seams--but that's about what most of this
marriage talk comes to. I do wonder what 'Liza Em'ly has said about
marriage in _Deacon Tooker Talks_. That's a very funny name for a book,
I think myself, but that's what she's named it. And as it seems to be
about most everything, I suppose it must be about marriage, too. Of
course 'Liza Em'ly's so wild to marry Elijah that everybody knows that
that was what took her up to town. She didn't want to earn her living
any more than any girl does. Nobody ever really aches to earn their
living. But some has to, and some wants to be around with men, and there
ain't no better way to be around with men nowadays than to go to work
with 'em. You have 'em all day long then, and pretty soon you have 'em
all the time. 'Liza Em'ly wants to have Elijah all the time."

"What--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, she says she thinks they're so congenial; she told me herself as
Elijah 'understood.' It seems to be a great thing to understand
nowadays. It's another of those things we used to take for granted but
which is now got new and uncommon and most remarkable. She told me when
she and Elijah watched the sun setting together, they both understood,
and she seemed to feel that that was a safe basis on which to set out
for town and start in to earn her own living. The minister didn't want
her to go. He was very much against it. It cost such a lot, too. The
minister's wife said it would have been ever so much cheaper to fix a
girl to get married. You can get married with six pairs of new
stockings, the minister's wife says, and it takes a whole dozen with the
heels run to earn your living. The minister's wife was very confidential
with me about it all, and 'Liza Em'ly confided considerably in me, too.
They both knew I'd never tell. Every one always confides in me because
they know I never tell. Why, the things folks in this community have
told me! Well!--But I _never_ tell. The real reason I never tell is
because they always tell every one themselves before I can get around,
but then a confiding nature is always telling its affairs, and so you
can't really blame 'em. I never tell my own affairs, because I've
learned as affairs is like love letters, and if they're interesting
enough, it is very risky. But really, Mrs. Lathrop, I must be going now,
and as soon as I get hold of that book, I'll be over with my opinion.
_Deacon Tooker Talks!_ My, but that is a funny name for a book! I can't
see myself what kind of a book it can possibly be with that title--but
anyway, we shall soon know now."

"Yes, we--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, indeed," said Susan, and the seance broke up for that day.

It was resumed the day after, and the day after that, but no further
progress having been made in the development of 'Liza Em'ly's affairs,
that interesting topic remained in abeyance until after the next meeting
of the Sewing Society, when the subject was put forward with emphasis.

"You never hear the beat," said the lady who nearly always went to the
Sewing Society to the lady who hadn't been there for years; "this book
of 'Liza Em'ly's seems to be something just beyond belief. Polly read it
all aloud to us to-day, and I must say it's a _most_ astonishing book. I
will tell you in confidence, Mrs. Lathrop, as I ain't surprised that the
minister hid his copy and that the newspapers is all printing things
about it. Seems it's a man in bed talking to his wife who is asleep
most of the time, only he don't pay the slightest attention to her not
paying the slightest attention. Polly had the name right, it is _Deacon
Tooker Talks_ (which is a _most_ singular name to my order of thinking).
The cover has got a picture of the deacon's head on a pillow talking,
and you can think how the minister would feel over his daughter's book's
cover having a pillow on it! I walked home with Mrs. Fisher, and she
will have it that 'Liza Em'ly's put her father into the book, soul and
body. There's a man called Mr. Lexicon as is a lawyer in the book, and
Mrs. Fisher says it's the minister. I wouldn't swear as it wasn't the
minister myself, but I hate to believe it, for a girl as'll put her
father in a book would be equal to most anything, I should suppose. But
Mrs. Fisher's sure it's the minister; she says she knew him right off by
his ear-muffs. Only 'Liza Em'ly has disguised the ear-muffs by calling
them overshoes. Mr. Lexicon has always got on his overshoes. Mrs.
Fisher waited until we got away from all the rest, and then she showed
me a review from a New York paper that just took my breath away. It says
no such book has appeared before a welcoming public in two hundred and
fifty years, and she's going to write the paper and ask what the book
two hundred and fifty years ago was about. Mrs. Fisher says she's
thinking very seriously of writing a book herself. She says she's always
wanted to write a book, and now she thinks she'll go up to town and see
'Liza Em'ly and ask her about their writing a book together. She says
she'll furnish all the story, and 'Liza Em'ly can write the book. Then
they'll divide the money even. And there'll be money to divide, too, for
'Liza Em'ly's book is surely selling. Mrs. Macy come up after Mrs.
Fisher went home, and she had a piece out of another newspaper that Mrs.
Lupey sent her, saying the book was in its ninth edition already. She
had it with her at the Sewing Society, but she didn't bring it out, out
of consideration for the feelings of the minister's wife. Mrs. Macy
says she thinks she'll write a book, too. She's got the same idea as
Mrs. Fisher about writing it with 'Liza Em'ly, only she says she'll let
'Liza Em'ly use some of her own ideas mixed in with Mrs. Macy's ideas,
and she can have two thirds of the money. She says it can't be hard to
write a book, or 'Liza Em'ly couldn't never have done it, but she says
'Liza Em'ly has got the Fishers in her book, and she's surprised Mrs.
Fisher didn't recognize 'em at the Sewing Society. 'Liza Em'ly calls 'em
the Hunters. Fishers, hunters--you see! An' John Bunyan she calls Martin
Luther, an' in place of being a genius, she covered that all up by
making him a painter. Laws, Mrs. Macy says writing a book's easy. She
says that book of 'Liza Em'ly's is really too flat for words, and what
makes people buy it, she can't see. Well, I shan't buy a copy, I know
_that_. I ain't knowed 'Liza Em'ly all my life to go doing things like
that now."

With which very common view as to the works produced by our intimate
friends, Miss Clegg rose to take her departure.

"Did--?" asked Mrs. Lathrop, when they next met.

"No--I asked, but not a soul knew. We haven't got _any_ man in town as
it could _possibly_ be. They was all discussing it, too. Mrs. Macy and
Mrs. Fisher is really going to town to see 'Liza Em'ly and take up their
ideas to talk over. Mrs. Macy is putting her ideas down on a piece of
paper, so as to be sure she has 'em with her. Mrs. Fisher's keeping hers
in her head, for she says if she lost them, anybody might write her
book. They think they'll go Tuesday. I hope they will, 'cause if they
do, they'll come straight from the train and tell me, and then I'll come
straight over and tell you."

With which amicable arrangement Miss Clegg again took her departure.

It was quite two weeks before affairs shaped themselves for Mrs. Macy
and Mrs. Fisher to go to the city on their literary errand, but they
managed it at last, and you may be very sure that Mrs. Lathrop peeked
eagerly and earnestly out of her window many times the afternoon after
their journey. They came up to call upon Miss Clegg and narrate their
adventures quite according to their usual friendly ideals, and directly
they took their leave that good lady hied herself rapidly to Mrs.
Lathrop to tell the tale.

Mrs. Lathrop met her at the door and both sank into chairs immediately.

"Well, what--" said the older lady then, and her younger friend rejoined
promptly:

"Perfectly dumfounding; nothing like it was ever knowed before or ever
will be again."

"Wha--?" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"They're both completely paralyzed. Mrs. Fisher can't say a word, and
Mrs. Macy can't keep still."

"Wha--?" began Mrs. Lathrop again.

Miss Clegg drew a sharp breath. "They went to see 'Liza Em'ly, an' they
saw her. My goodness heavens, I should think they did see her. Mrs.
Macy says if any one ever supposed as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon was
any wonder, they'd ought to go to the city an' see 'Liza Em'ly, and the
Hanging Gardens would keep their mouths shut forever after."

"Wha--?" began Mrs. Lathrop for the third time.

But Miss Clegg was now quite ready to discharge her full duty. "Seems
'Liza Em'ly's book went into the twentieth edition yesterday," she said,
opening her eyes and mouth with great expressiveness. "They knew that
before they got there, for you can believe Mrs. Macy or not, just as you
please, Mrs. Lathrop, but there were actually signboards saying so stuck
up all along in the fields as the train went by. The train-boy had the
books for sale on the train, too, and kept dropping 'em on top of 'em
all the way, but they didn't mind that, for Mrs. Fisher read her book as
fast as she could until he picked it up again, and she read to good
purpose, for this afternoon she asked for a glass of water, and while I
was out with her in the kitchen getting it, she told me there isn't a
mite of doubt but Mrs. Macy is in the book, and Doctor Carter of
Meadville is in right along with her. Mrs. Fisher says 'Liza Em'ly has
called her Miss Grace and him Doctor Wagner of Lemonadetown, but she
says she knew 'em instantly by the description of how they was in love;
she says you'd recognize how they was in love right off. I must say,
Mrs. Lathrop, as I think 'Liza Em'ly ought to be very careful what she
writes about real people if you can tell 'em as quick as that; but
anyway, they got to town and took a street car, and then, lo and behold,
if their first little surprise wasn't the finding as 'Liza Em'ly has
stopped living where she lives and gone to live in a hotel, so they had
to go to the hotel, too, and when they got there, what do you think?--If
'Liza Em'ly wasn't giving a reception to celebrate the twentieth
edition!"

"Wh--?" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, indeed," continued Miss Clegg, "certainly--yes, I should say so,
too. If they didn't get a fine shock over 'Liza Em'ly and her hotel and
her reception and the whole thing, Mrs. Macy says she'll never know what
a shock is when she sees it. Seems they was shoved into one end of a
elevator without so much as by your leave and out the other end before
they'd caught their breath, and then they found themselves in a room
with flowers all tied up in banners, and Elijah, with his hair parted in
the middle, passing cups of tea which a lady, with her muff on her head,
was pouring out, while 'Liza Em'ly sat on a table swinging her feet in
shoes she never bought in _this_ town, Mrs. Macy'll take her Bible oath,
and a dress that trained on the floor even from the table."

"My heavens alive!" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, that isn't anything," said Susan, "just you wait. Well, and so Mrs.
Macy says you can maybe imagine their feelings when they found their two
perfectly respectable and well brought up selves in the middle of such a
kind of a party! One man and one girl was under the piano playing cat's
cradle, while another man was doing a sum on the wallpaper with a
hatpin. Mrs. Macy says she wouldn't have been surprised at nothing after
that, you'd think, but she says when it comes to 'Liza Em'ly nowadays,
you don't know even what you're thinkin', for you'd suppose 'Liza Em'ly
would at least have looked ashamed of her feet and her train. Instead of
that, she just clapped her hands and said, 'Hello, home-folks,' which
nearly sent Mrs. Fisher over backwards. Elijah saw them then, and _he_
had the good manners to drop a teacup, but even he didn't look anywhere
near as used up as in Mrs. Macy's opinion a man away from business with
his hair parted in the middle in the middle of the afternoon had ought
to look. He gave them chairs though, and they set down between a young
lady as was smoking a cigarette and another as was very carefully
powdering herself in a little mirror set in her pocketbook. Just then
there was a noise like a awful crash and a hailstorm, and after they'd
both jumped and Mrs. Macy come near dislocating her hip, they see that
a man was beginning on the piano. Well, Mrs. Macy says _such_
piano-playing her one hope is as she may be going to be spared
hereafter; she says he'd skitter up the piano with both hands, and then
he'd bang his way back to where he belonged, and every time he hit the
very bottom, he'd give his head a flop and jerk down another lot of hair
over his eyes. Mrs. Macy says she never see a man with so much loose
hair where he could manage it, for he kept getting down more and more
till he looked like a cocoanut and nothing else, so help Mrs. Macy, and
then, when he was completely hid, he hit the piano four cracks and
folded his arms and was done."

"Mercy on--!" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"I should say so," continued Miss Clegg, "and Mrs. Macy says everybody
clapped like mad, and then 'Liza Em'ly come to earth and went and threw
her arms around his neck, which to Mrs. Macy's order of thinking, didn't
look much like she was going to marry Elijah. And then, before they
could shake hands or say good-by or do a thing, a boy came in with a
lot of telegrams on a tray, and while 'Liza Em'ly was fixing half a
spectacle in one eye to read 'em, a young lady dressed in snakeskins,
and very little else, jumped into the room right over the backs of their
two chairs in a most totally unlooked-for way, and then began to spin
about and wriggle here and there and in and out generally, and Mrs.
Fisher got up and said they really must go, and Elijah showed 'em to the
door with the lady in snakeskins making figure eights around them all
three and 'Liza Em'ly throwing a rose at them and kissing her hand till
somehow they got into the hall. They walked down flights of stairs then
till they thought there never would be a bottom anywhere, and then they
looked at each other, and after a while they got where they could speak,
and then they came home."

"Well, wha--?" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Me, too," said Susan, "I think it's _awful_! And the worst of it is for
her to be the minister's daughter. Think of it! They bought a paper as
had her picture on it and a account of the reception as they'd just been
at. It said Herr Schnitzel Beerstein played, so they know his name now,
and Madame Kalouka S-k-z-o-h danced, so when it comes to her name, they
ain't much better off than they were before. Wherever they looked they
see posters of _Deacon Tooker Talks_, and people in the cars was all
discussing the book. Two ministers is going to take it for a text
to-morrow, and the candy stores has all got little candy boxes like beds
with a chocolate drop for Deacon Tooker and a gum-drop for his wife."

"Well, wha--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"I don't know," said Miss Clegg. "The book's made right out of this
community, and since I've read it myself, I can see who every one is
_except_ Deacon Tooker. I can't see who Deacon Tooker is, for we haven't
got anybody like him. He's talking the whole time; in fact, the book is
all what he says about everything, and all his wife ever does is to wake
up when he shakes her and then go to sleep again. The idea's very
remarkable of a man laying awake chattering to himself all night long,
but I never heard of any such person here. Our only deacon is Deacon
White, and he never talks a _tall_."

"I wonder if the min--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, I don't believe so," said Miss Clegg. "My goodness, suppose he did
and hit something like they did! No, I hope he won't ever think of it,
and as for 'Liza Em'ly, I hope she'll remember her married father and
mother soon and remember her quiet and loving home, too, before she gets
in the habit of having parties like that very often. My gracious, think
of going to call on a girl as you see christened and having a snake-lady
gartering her way up your leg while you were trying to say good-by and
get away alive. Mrs. Macy says the creature was diving here and
wriggling there and slipping under tables and over chairs in a way as
made your flesh go creeping right after her. Well, it's clear 'Liza
Em'ly's started on a most singular career. Mrs. Macy says first they
give her a sandwich with a bow of ribbon on it, and she swallowed the
ribbon; and then they give her a piece out of a cake that they said had
a lucky quarter in it, and she's almost sure she swallowed the quarter,
so maybe she was prejudiced."

"Well, I--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"They felt the same way," said Miss Clegg; "they've come home very much
used up. Mrs. Macy says you can talk to her about the days of ancient
Rome and the way folks act underground in Paris, but she says she knows
positively as what she and Mrs. Fisher saw with their own eyes in 'Liza
Em'ly's sitting-room beat all those kind of little circuses hollow. Mrs.
Macy says she's seen enough of what they call high life now to last her
till she dies of shame. She says the only bright spot in the whole thing
is as 'Liza Em'ly's nose isn't anywhere near as prominent as you'd think
any more, and she's got a automobile and is going to Europe when the
book goes into its fiftieth edition."

"Well--I--" mused Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, and I will, too," said Miss Clegg. "I'll go straight home and do
it. I'm awful tired. And it bothers me more than I like to own not
knowing who Deacon Tooker is. You know my nature, Mrs. Lathrop, and
although I was never one to try to find out things nor to talk about 'em
after I've managed to find 'em out, still I never was one to like not to
know things, and I must say I do want to know who Deacon Tooker is.
Well, they say all things comes to him who waits, so I think I won't
stop here any longer. Good-by, and when I do find out, you can count on
my coming right over to tell you."

"Goo--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

But Miss Clegg had shut the door after her.



V

SUSAN CLEGG'S "IMPROVEMENTS"


There was nothing small or mean or economical about Jathrop Lathrop, now
that he had turned out rich. He was the soul of generosity, the epitome
of liberality, the concentrated essence of filial devotion as expressed
in checks and carte-blanche orders directed at his mother.

One of his earliest kind thoughts was to have Mrs. Lathrop's home
completely modernized, and as Susan Clegg lived next door and was his
mother's best and dearest friend, he decided to build her house over,
too.

To that end he hunted up the highest-priced architect of whom he could
hear and asked to have designs submitted forthwith. The highest-priced
architect readily undertook the reconstruction of the Lathrop and Clegg
domiciles, but being too occupied to go down into the country and look
over the field personally, he delegated one of his youngest and most
promising assistants to accomplish the task, and the young and promising
assistant forthwith packed his dress-suit case and set off.

He was an assistant of most extraordinary youth and almost unbelievable
promise, and he saw a chance to plan colleges (endowed by J. Lathrop,
Esq.), palaces (to be built for Lathrop, the millionaire), possibly to
be commissioned with the overseeing of the artistic development of some
new, up-springing city (Lathropville, Alaska, or something of that
sort), if he should only succeed in at once accomplishing a close union
of feeling with the golden offspring of our old friend. His first really
rich client is to a young débutant in bricks just what a well-hung
picture is to the budding artist, or a song before royalty is to a
singer. Such being the well-known facts of life the young and promising
assistant fully intended to do himself proud in the reconstruction of
the two houses consigned by Jathrop's benevolence to his tender mercies.

The young architect came to town and went to the hotel (at Jathrop's
expense). He spent the next ten days in going twice each day to study
his task, sketch its realities and idealities, and also make the
acquaintance of Mrs. Lathrop and Susan Clegg, for he was a young man of
new and novel ideas, and one of his newest and most novel ideas was to
build a house which would really suit those who were to live in it. He
was so young that he had no conception as to how this was to be done,
nor the faintest inkling as to what a Titanic-crossed-with-Promethean
undertaking it would be to do, if even he did know how; but he felt--and
most truly--that it was a new view of the relation between house and
builder, and he felt proud over having thought it out for himself as
well as for all time to come. Then he had another novel idea--not so
altogether his own, however--which was that a house should "express its
dweller." This latter idea was quite beyond the grasp of his present
audience and just a little beyond his own grasp, too, but he was brave
and conscientious and didn't see it that way at all.

It has taken some time to lay out all these premises, but if there is
any one with whom one can desire close acquaintance it is surely the man
who comes to build over a comfortable and in-most-ways-satisfactory home
of long years' standing, so I trust that the minutes have not been
altogether wasted.

Mrs. Lathrop and Miss Clegg received the young man and his mission in
such states of mind as were entirely compatible with their individual
outlook over life.

"I must say I'm far from altogether liking him," Susan said to her
friend, a very real note of disapproval in her voice, one day toward the
end of the week. Mrs. Lathrop was rocking in her new old-gold-plush
stationary rocker and listened as usual with interest. "He's on the
woodpile now, drawing a three-quarter profile of the woodshed. The way
he perches anywhere and then goes to work and draws anything would
surely make an English snail pull his castle right into his house along
with him, for I've got a feeling as there's nothing about me as he
hasn't got in his book by this time, and there's many things he's drawn
as I never would choose to have the world in general looking over. I'm
sure I don't want no view of my woodshed going down to posterity for one
thing. I've had to have a woodshed, but I've never admired it, and the
way I've nailed anything handy over holes in it is far from my usual way
of mending. You've always mended 'hit or miss,' Mrs. Lathrop, and after
years of such doings as was more worthy a poorhouse than a Christian,
heaven has seen fit to reward your patching with a son fresh from the
Klondike, but I've always darned blue with blue and brown with brown,
and the only spot in my whole life that I haven't carefully and neatly
matched the stripes in is my woodshed, and now to-day when I was
thinking very seriously of using it up for the kitchen-stove next
winter, if there isn't a young man from New York out drawing it in black
and white, and ten to one he'll print it in some unexpected Sunday paper
marked 'Jathrop Lathrop's mother's friend Susan Clegg's woodshed!'
That'll be a pretty kettle of fish, and you needn't tell me that there
won't be somebody to perk up and say, 'No smoke without some fire,'
which will be as good as throwing it in my teeth that I'm one of those
as use a safety pin when a button's off, when it's a thing as I've never
done and never would do even if there is a proverb that a pin's a pin
for all that."

Susan paused here and looked upon her friend in serious question. Mrs.
Lathrop, however, merely continued to rock pleasantly. A change had come
over the spirit of her rocking since the return of Jathrop. She had
rocked for years with a more or less apologetic air, as if she knew that
there were those who might criticize her action and yet she couldn't
personally feel that she really ought to give it up. But now she rocked
with a wide, free swing as if life was life and if she liked to rock,
she was going to rock, and if there were those who objected, they could
object--she didn't care. There is nothing that so quickly develops an
independent standpoint as the possession of money; there is nothing that
so fully produces a conviction that one is thoroughly justified in doing
just exactly what one pleases; there is nothing that leads to quite the
same lofty indifference as to whether what pleases one pleases or
displeases all the rest of the world.

We have but to look at Jathrop to see that this is true. Of all the
tame, mild-eyed, listless young individuals, Jathrop was the worst,
falling asleep on an average of three times an afternoon in school, and
never keeping conscious a whole evening. Whether a sudden change in
Jathrop's character was the cause of making him a financial power or
whether his Klondike-acquired bank account was the cause of his
awakening, it still is a fact that now in his quiet way he was a very
live person.

Jathrop was indifferent to a degree, also, as witness his appearance
with his Chinese boy whom everybody took to be his wife with his great
baggy trousers and pigtail that no respectable boy, Chinese or
otherwise, should wear. Of course, it must be acceded that Jathrop was
indifferent in that case from ignorance. He did not know what the world
was saying.

Perhaps that accounts for the lofty attitude, one might say lofty
altitude, of so many of our millionaires. They are so far removed from
the world that their ears cannot hear what is being said. People talk in
whispers about the "very rich," which makes it doubly hard for them to
hear, or hearing, to think that it matters very much, else people would
shout. However, when all is said, money does make a difference.

Mrs. Lathrop had been a silent, sat-upon, unaggressively-rocking person
for years; now Jathrop had come back from the Klondike and altered all
that; it was not that she had turned talkative, it was not that she had
so far altered the very foundations of her being as to presume ever to
try to contradict any other body's opinions, but the return of Jathrop
and the wealth of Jathrop had found expression in his mother through the
one medium of almost all expression with her. Mrs. Lathrop had ceased to
concern herself as to the length or the vigor of her rocking. It was
beautiful to see the energy of independence with which she went back and
forth, bringing her feet down with an audible clap whenever she desired
fresh impetus.

Susan Clegg did not seem to sympathize. Instead, sitting on her straight
chair opposite, she shook her head severely, further discontent making
itself visible in the manner of her shake.

But Mrs. Lathrop was proof against all manifestations of disapproval
now. She flew back and forth in the old-gold-plush stationary rocker
like the happy pendulum of some beatific clock. Jathrop was home.
Jathrop was rich. Jathrop would buy her anything she wanted.

"I d'n know, I'm sure, Mrs. Lathrop," Susan went on, the discontent
ringing somewhat more distinctly in her tone, "as I'm much taken with
this idea of building us over, even if Jathrop does mean it kindly. I
know there's a many as would nigh to go out of their senses at the very
idea of being made over new for nothing, but I was never one to go out
of my senses easy, and that young man on the woodpile doesn't give me
any kind of secure feeling as to what he'll make out of my house. He
looks to me like the kind of young man as will open doors square across
windows where the knob'll smash the glass sure if you're trying to carry
a bureau out at the time of the house-cleaning. The kind of cravats he's
got looks to me like his chimneys would be very likely not to draw, and
their color gives me a feeling that doughnuts in his house will smell in
shut-up closets a week after the frying. You know what shut-up fryings
is like after they've had no fresh air for a week, but I wasn't raised
that way. When I have fish I have fish and done with it, and when I have
onions I have onions, and I ain't very wild over maybe boarding my fish
and my onions in my best bonnet henceforth and forever.

"Mrs. Brown was telling me yesterday as she heard of some city woman as
had a system of ventilation put into her house, and the rats and mice
used it so freely that you couldn't sleep nights. They nested in it, and
they fought in it, and they died in it, all as happy and gay as you
please, and the family had to have it picked out of the walls in the end
and all new paper put on. That's the kind of ideas young men call modern
improvements, and that young man on the woodpile is about as modern and
improving as they make 'em, I take it.

"I can't say what it is about that young man that I don't like, but,
being as I'm always frank and open with you, I will remark that so far I
ain't found one thing about him as I _do_ like. He's been down cellar
hammering on the wall wherever the wind blew him to listeth to hammer,
and I had to sit up-stairs and listen without no chance to blow myself.
I caught him down on all fours this morning peeking under my front
porch, and he didn't even have the manners to blush. As to the way he
makes free with the outside of _your_ house, I wouldn't waste breath
with trying to tell you, but my own feeling is that an architect learns
his trade on a tight-rope to judge from that young man's manner, and
from what I've seen while he was swinging by one arm from your premises,
I wouldn't feel safe to take a bath even on top of a chimney, myself."

Susan rose at this and went to the window and looked out; from her
expression as she turned, it was plain to be seen that the artist was
still at his task.

"I don't know, Mrs. Lathrop," she said, coming back to her seat, "I d'n
know, I'm sure, as I'm took with this idea a _tall_. I never was one for
favors either given or asked, and although I know this isn't no favor,
but just a evidence of what I've been through with you first and last,
still it's done in spite of me and I've got no feeling that I'm going to
enjoy it. There's something about kindness as is always most trying to
the people who've got no choice but to stand up and be tried. People who
get freely given to is in the habit of getting what they don't want and
can't use, but I ain't. I'm very far from it. There's nothing in me
that's going to be pleased with getting a green hat when I needed a pink
coat--no, sir.

"And I don't need nothing. Or if I do, I can buy it. I know Jathrop
means it kindly, but Jathrop can't enter into my ways of thinking.
Jathrop is looking into life from the Klondike gold-fields and I'm
looking at it from my back stoop. That young man was out swishing his
pocket handkerchief about and sucking his thumb and holding it up all
yesterday afternoon, and about the time I'd made up my mind to bolt him
out of the kitchen for a lunatic, he come in and told me he really
thought there was wind enough in your back yard and my back yard
together to run a windmill, in which case a water system could be easy
inaugurated. I told him I didn't know you could inaugurate anything but
a president, but he said anything as you hadn't had before and thought
was going to work fine and be a great improvement could be inaugurated.
I told him I supposed I could stand a windmill if you could.

"What do you think--what _do_ you think, Mrs. Lathrop, if that young man
didn't ask if he might go and look up the parlor fireplace! Well, I told
him he could, and I give him a newspaper to shake his head on after he
was done looking, too. He's been in my garret until I bet he knows every
trunk label by heart, and I must say I feel as if I'd have very little
of my own affairs to tell on Judgment Day if he gets dressed and out of
his grave quicker than I get dressed and out of mine. But that isn't
all, whatever you may think. There's a many other things about him as I
don't like and don't like a _tall_.

"For one thing, he's got a way of looking around as if it was my house
that was the main thing and I was the last and smallest piece of
cross-paper tied in the kite's tail. To my order of thinking, that's a
far from polite way for a young man as Jathrop's hiring and boarding to
look on a woman whose house he may thank his lucky stars if he may get
the chance to build over. Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Lupey says architects is
all like that, but I'm far from seeing why. I don't consider that young
man superior a _tall_. I consider his brains as very far from being
equal to my own. When he asks me to hold the other end of his tape-line
and does it just as if a pin would do as well, only I was handier at the
moment, I'm very far from feeling flattered. I never saw just such a
young man before, and when I think of being delivered up to him--house
and all--for the summer, I'm also very far from feeling easy. I d'n
know, I'm sure, what will be the end of this, but I do know that it
looks to me like a pretty bad business."

Susan paused again and looked at her friend, but Mrs. Lathrop just
rocked onward. Life had widened so tremendously for her that she
couldn't possibly be perturbed in any way or by anything. If the roof
fell in, Jathrop would buy her another, and if she were smashed by it,
Jathrop would have her put together again. Why worry?

The young man remained ten days in all, and when his visit of
investigation was completed, he returned to New York. Jathrop took him
to the Lotus Club to wash and to the Yacht Club to lunch and to
Claremont in the afternoon (in his motor), and they talked it all over.
The young man had his sketches, ideas, ideals, and plans all tied into a
neat patent cover with cost-estimates lightly glued in the back. Jathrop
was deeply interested, and the young man expounded the inmost soul of
all his measurements and proposed altitudes and alterations. The young
man reminded Jathrop of his pertinent hypothesis that a house should
express its owner. Jathrop's own view of "express" was that if you
could pay the bill, it beat freighting all out of sight, but he felt
that perhaps the young man meant something different, so he merely gave
him a cigar.

The young man took the cigar and proceeded to elucidate his hypothesis
by explaining that, having carefully studied both Mrs. Lathrop and Miss
Clegg, he should suggest that Miss Clegg's house express her by being
severely Doric and that Mrs. Lathrop's should be rambling and Queen Anne
with wide, free floor spaces. He further suggested a hyena-headed
door-knocker for Miss Clegg and an electric button to press, so that the
door opened of itself for Mrs. Lathrop. Also a roofless pergola to
connect the two houses. Jathrop liked all his ideas and sketches very
much, but as he was really good-hearted and had not the least desire to
present green hats to those who wanted pink coats, he had the whole book
sent down to his mother and begged her to carefully inspect it in
company with Susan Clegg. They inspected it.

"Well," said Susan, "all I can say is I'll have to carry this book home
and sit down and try and make out what he _does_ mean. He's done it very
neat, that I will say, but between crosses and dotted lines and your
house behind mine like two Roman emperors on a cameo pin, I can't make
head or tail of what's going to be done to either of us. I can't even
find my own house in this plan on some pages, and as for this bird-cage
walk that I'm supposed to run back and forth in like a polar bear in a
circus all day long, my own opinion is that if it's got no roof, it's
going to be very hard indeed about the snow in winter, for I'll have to
carry every single solitary shovelful to one end or the other so as to
throw it out of either your kitchen window or mine. That's all the good
that will do us."

Mrs. Lathrop swung to and fro, totally unconcerned. No sort of
proposition could disconcert her now. If the house when built over
proved a failure, Jathrop would build her another.

Susan took the prettily-bound portfolio home with her and spent the
evening over it. She studied it profoundly and to some purpose, for the
next morning when she brought it back to Mrs. Lathrop, it held but few
secrets, other than those of a purely technical character, for her.

"I've been all through it," she said to her friend, "and now I can't
really tell what I think a _tall_. But this I _do_ know, if we ever
really get these houses, I will be running back and forth from dawn to
dark through that wire tunnel in a way as'll make the liveliest polar
bear that ever kept taking a fresh turn look like a petrified tree
beside me. Why, only to keep the conveniences he's got put in scoured
bright would take me all of every morning in my house, to say nothing of
wiping up the floors, for Jathrop isn't intending to buy us no carpets
ever. We're to sit around on cherry when we ain't on Georgia pine, and
he's got every mantelpiece marked with the kind of wood we're to burn in
it, and he's been kind enough to tell us what colored china we're to
use in each bedroom. We're to shoot our clothes into the cellar through
a hole from up-stairs and wash 'em there in those two square boxes as we
couldn't make out. That thing I read 'angle-hook' is a 'inglenook,' and
so far from sitting in it to fish we're to set in it to look at the
fire, if we can get any mahogany to burn in that particular fireplace.

"Those fans are stairs, we're to go up 'em the way the arrow points, and
heaven knows where or how we're to get down again. What we thought was
beds is closets, and what we thought was closets is beds, and it's
evident with all his hopping and hanging he didn't really charge his
mind with us a _tall_, for he's got a bedroom in your house marked 'Mr.
Lathrop,' when the last bit of real thought would have made him just
_have_ to remember as you're a widow. He's give me a sewing-room when he
must have seen that I always do my mending in the kitchen, and he's give
us each enough places to wash to keep the whole community clean. I must
say he's tried to be fair, for he's give both houses the same number of
rooms and the same names to each room. We've each got a summer kitchen,
but he left the spring and autumn to scratch along anyhow; we've each
got a bathtub, and we've each got a china-closet as well as a pantry,
which shows he had very little observation of the way _you_ keep things
in order."

Mrs. Lathrop absorbed all this with the happy calm of a contented (and
rocking) sponge.

"But what takes me is the way he's not only got a finger, but has just
smashed both hands, into every pie on the place," Susan continued. "He's
moved the chicken-house and give us each a horse and give the cow a calf
without even so much as 'by your leave.' I don't know which will be the
most surprised if this plan comes true--me with my horse, or the cow
finding herself with a calf in the fall as well as the spring this year.
Then it beats me where he's going to get all his trees, for both houses
is a blooming bower, and the way tree-toads will sing me to sleep shows
he's had no close friends in the country. Trees brushing your window
mean mosquitos at night and spiders whenever they feel so disposed. And
that ain't all, whatever you may think, for you haven't got a
window-pane over four inches square and, as every window has fifty-six
of them, I see your windows going dirty till out of very shame I get 'em
washed for your funeral. And that ain't all, whatever you may think,
either, for the snow is going to lodge all around all those little
gables and inglenooks he's trimmed your roof with, and you'll leak
before six months goes by, or I'll lose my guess."

But it was impossible to impress Mrs. Lathrop. If things leaked, Jathrop
would have them mended. She just rocked and rocked.

"I don't know what to write Jathrop about these plans," Susan Clegg said
slowly. "Of course, I've got to write him something, and I declare I
don't know what to say. He means it kindly, and there's nothing in the
wide world that makes things so hard as when people mean kindly. You can
do all sorts of things when people is enemies, but when any one means
anything kindly, you've got to eat it if it kills you. Mrs. Allen was
telling me the other day that since she's took a vow to do one good
action daily, she's lost most all of her friends.

"That just shows how people feel about being grabbed by the neck and
held under till you feel you've done enough good to 'em. Jathrop means
this well, but I've got a feeling as we'll go through a great deal of
misery being built over, and I really don't think we'll be so much
better off after we've survived. You'll have to be torn right down, and
the day that that young man was up on my porch post, he said he couldn't
be positive that I'd keep even my north wall. He pounded it all over in
the dining-room until the paper was a sight, and then when he saw how
very far from pleased I was, he tried to get out of it by saying the
wall would have to come down, anyhow. I think he saw toward the last
that he'd gone too far in a many little ways. I didn't like his taking
the hens off their nests to measure how wide the henhouse was. I
consider a hen is one woman when she's seated at work and had ought not
to be called off by any man alive. But, laws, that young man wasn't any
respecter of work or hens or anything else! He called himself an artist,
and since I've been studying these plans, I've begun to think as he was
really telling the truth, for artists is all crazy, and anything crazier
than these plans I never did see. Not content with having us wash in the
sink and the cellar, we're to wash under the front stairs, too, not to
speak of all but swimming up-stairs."

Mrs. Lathrop just smiled and rocked more.

"I'm not in favor of it," said Miss Clegg, rising to go. "I don't
believe it'll be any real advantage. We'll be like the Indians that die
as soon as you civilize 'em--that's what we'll be. The windmill will
keep us awake nights, and you don't use any water to speak of, anyhow.
So I don't see why I should be kept awake. As for that laughing tiger
he's give me on my front door, I just won't have it, and that's all
there is about it. A laughing tiger's no kind of a welcome to people you
want, and when people come that I don't want, I don't need no tiger to
let 'em know it. No, I never took to that young man, and I don't take to
his plans. I don't like those four pillars across my front any more than
I do that mouse-hole without a roof that he's give me to go to you in. I
consider it a very poor compliment to you, Mrs. Lathrop, that he's fixed
it so if I once start to go to see you, I've got to keep on, for I can't
possibly get out so to go nowhere else."

Susan Clegg paused. Mrs. Lathrop rocked.

"Well?" said Miss Clegg, impatiently.

But Mrs. Lathrop just rocked. If Susan didn't like it, she needn't like
it. Jathrop would pay the bill.

Susan Clegg went home, her mind still unconvinced.



VI

SUSAN CLEGG UPROOTED


Many things against which we protest bitterly at first we eventually
come to accept and possibly even to enjoy. It was that way, to a degree
at least, with the reconstruction of the houses of Susan Clegg and her
friend Mrs. Lathrop, neither lady being particularly charmed with the
idea when it was originally presented, and Miss Clegg being even frankly
displeased with the plans that were sent down for approval. But the
plans were accepted, nevertheless, after some alterations, and by easy
stages Susan Clegg and Mrs. Lathrop arrived at that degree of philosophy
which enabled them to face with commendable composure the fact that they
must vacate their dwellings for an indefinitely extended period.

It was not that Miss Clegg had ceased to entertain doubts as to the
advisability of "being renovated," nor was it that Mrs. Lathrop looked
forward gladly to a temporary transplanting of herself and her rocker.
But Jathrop's glory as a millionaire was now so strongly to the fore in
their minds that both bowed, more or less resignedly, to his wishes.

"I must say I d'n know how this thing is going to work out in the end,"
Susan observed to Mrs. Lathrop, as the date set for the beginning of the
work drew nearer. "I'm against it myself, but I ain't against Jathrop,
so I'm giving up my views just to see what will happen. My own opinion
is as it's all very well to build over most anything, but if your house
is to be built over, you've got to get out of it, and I must say as I
don't just see as yet when we get out of our houses what we're going to
get into. Jathrop says we can go to the hotel, and that he'll pay the
bill. Well, I must say it's good he'd pay the bill, for I'd never go to
any hotel if somebody else didn't pay the bill--I know that. But even
if I haven't got the bill to pay, I don't feel so raving, raring mad to
go to the hotel. It wouldn't matter to you, Mrs. Lathrop, for nothing
ever does matter to you, and anyway, even if anything had mattered to
you before, you'd not mind it now that Jathrop's come back. But just the
same a hotel does matter to me. They take very little interest in their
housekeeping in hotels, and no matter who's eat off of what, if they can
use it again--and they generally can--they always do. Why, they churn up
the melted odds and ends of ice-cream and serve 'em out as fresh-made
with that cheerful countenance as loveth no giver. And what we'd throw
to the cat they scrape right back into the soup pot, and glad enough to
get it. I don't suppose you'd mind what you ate, nor what kind of a
cloth had dusted your plate, but I was brought up to be clean, and I
don't want to sleep with spiders swinging themselves down to see how I
do it. No, Mrs. Lathrop, I can't consider no hotel, not even in common
affection for Jathrop. I'd go down a well on my hands and knees to dig
coal for him if necessary, or I'd do any other thing as a woman as
respects Jathrop might do if she didn't respect herself more. But live
in a hotel I will not, and you can write and tell him so, for _I_ don't
want to hurt his feelings. But all kindness has its limits, and if I let
a boy architect run through the heart of my house, I consider as I've
done enough to prove my Christian spirit for one year."

"What--?" ventured Mrs. Lathrop, but Susan Clegg went right on.

"I don't see where we're ever going to put our things while they haul
our walls down and rock our foundations. That young man says there won't
be a room as won't have to have something done to it, and I don't want
my furniture spoiled, even if I do have to have my house built over
against my will. My furniture is very good furniture, Mrs. Lathrop. It's
been oiled, and rubbed, and polished ever since it was bought, and none
of the chairs has ever had their middles stepped on, and nothing of
mine has got a sunk hole from sitting,--no, sir! My mattresses is all
slept even, from side to side, and there ain't a bottle-mark in the
whole house. It's a sin to take and wreck a happy home like mine. I
shall have untold convenience hereafter, but I shall never take any more
real comfort. That's what I see a-coming. And where under the sun we are
going to put our things the Lord only knows."

Mrs. Lathrop was one of those who rarely take a question as a personal
matter. She made no suggestion; she just rocked.

"I can see what I've got to be doing," said Susan, a clearer light
breaking. "I've got to be getting up and seeing where you and me can go,
and where we can put our goods. I don't want to live under the same roof
with you if I can possibly help it. And not to do it's going to be hard,
for knowing we're such friends, folks is going to naturally plan to take
us together. I don't want to hurt your feelings, Mrs. Lathrop, and yet I
can't in Christian courtesy deny that to live with you would drive me
distracted, and so I shan't consider it for a minute. Not for one single
minute. Still, I can't live far from you, for we are old friends, and
the brother that leaveth all else to cleave to his brother wasn't more
close when he done it than I am to you. Besides, if they're building our
houses over, I shall naturally be pretty lively in watching them do it,
and as one of the houses is yours, you'll like to be where I can easy
tell you how it's being done. And so it goes without saying we've got to
be close together. But not too close together."

All these premises were so undeniably true that the passive Mrs. Lathrop
could not have gainsaid them even had she been so disposed; which she
wasn't.

Accordingly, upon the very next day, Susan began her search for an
abiding place, and the right abiding place was--as she had
predicted--not to be easily found.

"There's plenty of places," said Susan, when she returned from her task,
"but they don't any of them suit my views. You're easily suited, Mrs.
Lathrop, but I'm not and never will be. I'm of a nature that never is to
be lightly took in vain, nor yet to be just lightly took either. And no
one isn't going to put me in a room that'll be sunny in July, nor yet in
one that will be shady in September. No room as is pleasant in September
can help being most hot in summer; and although I'm willing to be hot in
my own house, I will not be hot in any place where I pay board. You'll
do very well almost anywhere, Mrs. Lathrop, for Lord knows whatever
other virtues you may have, being particular could never be left at your
door in no orphaned basket. But I'm different. Mrs. Brown would take us
until young Doctor Brown and Amelia gets back, and Mrs. Allen would be
glad of the very dust of our feet; but I couldn't go to either of those
two places. Mrs. Brown would have to have both of us, for there's no one
else to take you, and Mrs. Allen would want to read us her poetry. It's
all right to write if you ain't got brains or time for nothing better,
but I have, and I ain't going to knowingly board myself with no one as
hasn't."

Mrs. Lathrop made no comment. She merely rocked and waited.

"As for our things," Susan continued, "I've found where we can put
_them_. It wasn't easy, but I never give up, and Mr. Shores says he's
willing we should have all the back of his upper part. I told him as I
should want to be able to go to 'em any time, and he said far be it from
him to desire to prevent no woman from visiting what was her own. I
could see from his tone as he was thinking of his wife as run off with
his clerk, and it does beat all how you can even make a misery out of a
woman's visiting her furniture if you feel so inclined. So the goods is
off our minds, and now it's just us as has got to be put somewheres till
our own doors is opened to us again. I must say I'd like to know where
we'll end."

On the very next day the solution was effected.

"I've got it all fixed," said Susan, returning, dovelike, with the
evening shadows. "Mrs. Macy'll take one of us and Gran'ma Mullins the
other. Gran'ma Mullins says with Hiram gone to the Klondike and Lucy
gone to her father, either you or me can have their room; only for the
love of heaven we mustn't look like Hiram in bed; for her heart is
aching and breaking, and the car-wheels of his train ain't grinding on
any track half as much as they're grinding in her tenderest spot. Now
the question is, Mrs. Lathrop, which'll go which, and it's a thing as I
must consider very carefully, for Lord knows I don't want to be no more
miserable than I've got to be. And it goes without saying I wouldn't
choose to live with Gran'ma Mullins, nor Mrs. Macy, nor nobody else if I
had my choice. I'm too much give to liking to live alone with myself. Of
course, Mrs. Macy is a pleasanter disposition than Gran'ma Mullins, for
she ain't got Hiram to wear my bones into skin over; but I feel as
living with Mrs. Macy all summer will surely lead to her trying to make
it come out even for the rent up to next January, so I would have to
worry over that. Then, too, even if Gran'ma Mullins is wearing, she's
soothing too, and I shall need soothing this summer. I declare, Mrs.
Lathrop, I can't well see how I'm ever going to pack up my things. I
can't see what's to keep 'em from getting scratched and the corners
knocked. How can I fix a toilet set smooth together? A toilet set don't
never fit smooth together; the handles always stick out. And the
frying-pan's got a handle too, and a clothesbar ain't any ways adaptable
to nothing. Chair legs is very bad and table legs is worse, and there's
Mother's wedding-present clock as found its level years ago and ain't
been stirred since. Father give it to her, and it's so heavy I couldn't
stir it if I wanted to, anyhow. But I don't want to stir it. It's my
dead mother's last wish, and as such is sacred. I wasn't to stir Father
nor the clock. It's a French clock, and it's marble. It's a handsome
clock. It was Father's one handsome present to Mother. And now I've got
to put it in storage. And then there's our hens. I don't know but what
it'd be wisest to set right to eating them. I know one thing--I'll never
board chickens. Oh, Mrs. Lathrop, this is going to be an awful business!
Think of the carpets! Think of the window shades, and my dead mother's
lamberquins! Think of the things in the garret! And the things in the
cellar! And the things in the closets! I don't know, I'm sure, how we'll
ever get moved."

As the days went on, the slow trend of life brought the problem still
more pressingly to the front. Susan decided to lodge herself with
Gran'ma Mullins. Gran'ma Mullins, whose heart was still very heavy over
Hiram's escape from the home nest, would have preferred Mrs. Lathrop.
Mrs. Lathrop's capacity for listening would have meant much to Gran'ma
Mullins in these hours of bitter loneliness; but Mrs. Macy wanted Mrs.
Lathrop, and Susan didn't want Mrs. Macy, so the outcome of that
question was a fore-gone conclusion.

When all was settled, Jathrop dispatched emissaries who, with a deftness
and dexterity possessed only by the hirelings of millionaires, descended
on Mrs. Lathrop, and in the course of a single afternoon transferred
her, her rocker, and the whole contents of her bedroom to Mrs. Macy's.
The emissaries offered to do the same thing for Susan Clegg, but she
rejected their aid. Alone and unassisted Susan wrestled with her
packing, and no one ever knew just how she accomplished it. It took her
several days, and it introduced a new order of things into not only her
life but her speech. Her struggle was valiant, but towards the end she
had to call on Felicia Hemans and Sam Durny for help. When, on Saturday
night, Susan arrived at Gran'ma Mullins's, her first observation was
that when the Lord got through with the creation it was small wonder He
arranged to rest on the seventh day.

"I d'n know as I shall ever get up again," she said to Gran'ma Mullins,
who was watching her take off her bonnet. "A apron as has been used to
carry things in for six days is bright and starched beside me. Oh,
Gran'ma Mullins, pray on your folded knees as Hiram won't come back rich
and want to build you over! Anything but that."

"Oh, if he'll only come back, it's all I'll ask!" returned Gran'ma
Mullins sadly. "To think he can't get there for four weeks yet. And
think of Hiram in a boat! Why Hiram can't even see a mirror tipped back
and forth without having to go right where he'll be the only company.
And then to be in a boat! A boat is such a tippy thing. I read about one
man being drowned in one last week. They're hooking for him with
dynamite to see if they can even get a piece of him back for his wife.
His wife isn't much like Lucy, I guess. Oh, Susan, you'll never know
what I've stood from Lucy! Nobody will."

Miss Clegg shook her head and looked about her quarters with an eye that
was dubious.

"I've got some eggs for supper," said Gran'ma Mullins, "one for you and
one for me, and one for either of us as can eat two."

"I can eat two," said Susan, who thought best to declare herself at the
outset.

"Is your things all out of the house?" Gran'ma Mullins asked, as they
seated themselves at the table.

"Oh, yes," answered Susan, "everything is out! Towards the last we acted
more like hens being fed than anything else, but we got everything
finished."

"Did you get the clock out safe?"

Susan's expression altered suddenly. "The clock! Oh, the clock! What
_do_ you think happened to that clock? And I didn't feel to mind it,
either."

"Oh, Susan, you didn't break it!"

"I did. And in sixty thousand flinders. And I'm glad, too. Very glad.
It's a sad thing as how we may be found out, no matter how careful we
sweep up our trackings. And I don't mind telling you as the bitterest
pill in my cup of clearing out has been that very same clock."

"It was such a handsome clock," said Gran'ma Mullins, opening her
naturally open countenance still wider. "Oh, Susan! What did happen?"

"You thought it was a handsome clock," said Susan, "and so did I. It was
such a handsome clock that we weren't allowed to pick it up and look at
it. Father screwed it down with big screws, so we couldn't, and he wet
'em so they rusted in. I had a awful time getting those screws out
to-day, I can tell you. You get a very different light on a dead and
gone father when you're trying to get out screws that he wet thirty-five
years ago. Me on a stepladder digging under the claws of a clock for two
mortal hours! And when I got the last one out, I had to climb down and
wake my foot up before I could do the next thing. Then I got a block and
a bed-slat, and I proceeded very carefully to try how heavy that
handsome clock--that handsome marble clock--might be. I put the block
beside it, and I put the bed-slat over the block and under the clock.
Then I climbed my ladder again, and then I bore down on the bed-slat.
Well, Gran'ma Mullins, you can believe me or not, just as you please,
but it's a solemn fact that nothing but the ceiling stopped that clock
from going sky-high. And nothing but the floor stopped me from falling
through to China. I come down to earth with such a bang as brought
Felicia Hemans running. And the stepladder shut up on me with such
another bang as brought Sam Durny."

"The saints preserve us!" ejaculated Gran'ma Mullins.

"It wasn't a marble clock a _tall_," confessed Susan. "It was painted
wood. That was why Father screwed it down. Oh, men are such deceivers!
And the best wife in the world can't develop 'em above their natural
natures. I expect it was always a real pleasure to Father to think as
Mother and me didn't know that marble clock was wood. I don't know what
there is about a man as makes his everyday character liking to deceive
and his Sunday sense of righteousness satisfied with just calling it
fooling. Well, he's gone now, and the Bible says 'to him as hath shall
be given,' so I guess he's settling up accounts somewheres. Give me the
other egg!"

After supper they stepped over to Mrs. Macy's, which was next door, and
the four sat on the piazza in the pleasant spring twilight. Mrs. Macy
was so happy over having Mrs. Lathrop instead of Susan Clegg that she
smiled perpetually. Mrs. Lathrop sat and rocked in her old-gold-plush
rocker. Gran'ma Mullins and Susan Clegg occupied the step at the feet of
the other two.

"Well, Susan," Mrs. Macy remarked meditatively, "I never looked to see
you leave your house any way except feet first. Well, well, this
certainly is a funny world."

"Yes," returned Susan, brief for once, "it certainly is."

"It's a very sad world, I think," contributed Gran'ma Mullins with a
heavy, heavy sigh. "My goodness, to think this time last spring Hiram
was spading up the potato patch! And now where is he?"

"Nobody knows," answered Susan. "See how many years it was till Jathrop
come back. But I do hope for your sake, Gran'ma Mullins, that when Hiram
does come back he won't take it into his head to buy this house and
build it over for you."

Gran'ma Mullins looked at Mrs. Macy, and Mrs. Macy looked back at
Gran'ma Mullins, and a message flashed and was answered in the glances.

"Well, Susan," said Gran'ma Mullins with neighborly interest, "you do
see that the house needs fixing up, don't you?"

Susan was the owner and Mrs. Macy only the tenant, and the implication
was not at all pleasing to her. She turned with the air of the weariest
worm that had ever done so and gave Gran'ma Mullins a look that could
only be translated as an admonition to mind her own business. Whereupon
Gran'ma Mullins promptly subsided, and the subject did not come up
again.

It was on a Monday--the very next Monday--that the workmen arrived and
set to work to demolish the outer casing of the homes of Susan and Mrs.
Lathrop. Susan went up and stood about for an hour, viewing the way they
did it with great but resigned scorn. She went every day thereafter, and
her heart was rent at the sight of the sacrilege. Then, to add to her
woe, Gran'ma Mullins proved less soothing than had been expected, and
Susan suffered keenly at her hands.

"Oh, Mrs. Lathrop," she said one morning, when the exigencies of
shopping left the two old friends full freedom of intercourse, "if I'm
going to live in that house for this whole summer, the first thing that
I'll have to do is either to change Gran'ma Mullins or change me! I can
see that. Why, I never heard anything like Gran'ma Mullins' views on
Hiram. You've heard Mrs. Macy, and I've told you what Lucy's told me
whenever I've met her, but I never had no idea it was anything like
what it is. I'm stark, raving crazy hearing about Hiram. Gran'ma Mullins
says no child was ever like Hiram, and I begin to wonder if it ain't so.
No child ever made such an impression on his mother before,--I can take
my Bible oath on that, for she's talking about him from the time I wake
till long after I'm asleep,--and she remembers things in the stillness
of the night and wakes me up to hear 'em for fear she'll forget 'em
before morning. Last night she was up at two to tell me how Hiram used
to shut his eyes before he went to sleep when he was a baby. She said he
had a different way of doing it from any other child that's ever been
born. He picked it all up by himself. She couldn't possibly tell me just
how he did it, but it was most remarkable. He had it in May and well
into June the year he was born, but along in July he began to lose it,
and by October he opened and shut just like other people's babies.
That's what I was woke up to hear, Mrs. Lathrop, and Herod was a sweet
and good-tempered mother of ten compared to me as I listened. And then
at daybreak if she didn't come in again to explain as Hiram was so
different from all other babies that he crept before he walked, and the
first of his trying to walk he climbed up a chair leg."

"Why, Jathrop--" volunteered Mrs. Lathrop.

"Of course. They all do. But I must say I don't see how I'm going to
stand it till my house is ready to receive me back with open bosom if
this is the way she's going on straight along. I wouldn't stay with Mrs.
Macy because I was tired of hearing what she said Gran'ma Mullins said
about Hiram, but it never once struck me that if I stayed with Gran'ma
Mullins I'd have it all to hear straight from the fountain mouth. My
lands alive, Mrs. Lathrop, you never hear the beat! Hiram used to
wrinkle up his face when she washed it, and he never wanted to have a
bath. And he used to bring mud turtles into the house; and when she
thinks of that and how now he's off for the Klondike, she says she feels
like going straight after him. She says she could be very useful in the
Klondike. She could polish his pick and his sled-runners, and hang up
his snowy things, and wash out his gold and his clothes. She says she
can't just see how they wash out gold, but she knows how to polish
silver, and she says mother-love like hers can pick up anything. She
goes on and on till I feel like going to the Klondike myself. I'm
getting a great deal of sympathy for Lucy. Lucy always said she could
have been happy with Hiram--maybe--if it hadn't been for his mother.
Lucy's got no kind of tender feeling for Gran'ma Mullins, and I
certainly don't feel to blame her none."

"Is your--?" asked Mrs. Lathrop, striving towards pleasanter paths.

"Well, it ain't burnt up yet," answered Susan. "I stopped at Mr. Shores'
coming back and took a look at it, and I was far from pleased to find
the door as opens into the next room to the room as my furniture is
locked up in a little open. Goodness knows who'd opened it, but it
looked very much like some one had been trying my door, to me. I asked
Mr. Shores, and I saw at a glance as it was news to him, which shows
just how much interest he's taking in looking out for my things. He said
maybe the cat had pushed it open. The cat! I unlocked my door and went
in. The furniture's all safe enough, but it's enough to put any
housekeeper's heart through the clothes wringer only to see how it's
piled. The beds is smashed flat along the wall, and wherever they could
turn a table or a chair upside down and plant something on the wrong
side of it, they've done it. As for the way the dishes is combined, I
can only say that the Lord fits the back to the burden, so the
wash-bowls is bearing everything. They've put Mother's picture in a
coal-hod for safety, and the coal-hod is sitting on the bookcase. It's a
far from cheering sight, Mrs. Lathrop, but you know I was against being
built over from the start. When I see the walls of my happy home being
smashed flat and then picked over like they was raisins to see what'll
do to use again, and then when I see my furniture put together in a way
as no one living can make head or tail of, and when I see myself woke up
at three in the night to be told that sometimes when Hiram was a baby he
would go to sleep and sometimes he wouldn't, why I feel as if that Roman
as they rolled down hill in a barrel because he wouldn't stay anywhere
else where they put him was sitting smoking cross-legged compared to me.
I d'n know what I'm going to do this summer. It would just drive an
ordinary woman crazy. But I presume I'll survive."

Mrs. Lathrop looked slightly saddened. "Well, Susan,--" she began to
murmur sympathetically.

"Oh, it doesn't matter," said Susan. "Of course, if it gets where I
can't stand it, we'll just have to change houses, that's all."



VII

SUSAN CLEGG UNSETTLED


Life under the roof of Gran'ma Mullins eventually--and eventually was a
matter of days rather than weeks--became unbearable for Susan Clegg. At
least, she so decided, and finding opportunity in the fact that both
Gran'ma Mullins and Mrs. Macy had gone to market, Susan hastened to her
old friend, Mrs. Lathrop, and laid open her fresh burden of woes.

"I can't stand it, Mrs. Lathrop," she declared with strongest emphasis,
"I can't stand it. No matter what the Bible says, a saint on a gridiron
would smile all over and wriggle for nothing but joy only to think as
where he was and wasn't boarding with Gran'ma Mullins. It's awful.
That's what it is--awful. I never had no idea that nothing could be so
awful. I've got to where I'm thinking very seriously of leaving my
property to Lucy. I'm becoming very sorry for Lucy. Lucy isn't properly
appreciated. Why, Hiram was stung by a bee once,--no ordinary bee, but a
bee a third bigger than the usual bee,--and it swelled up all different
from common, and Gran'ma Mullins thought he was surely going to die
right there before her streaming eyes. But Hiram was so bright he
remembered about putting mud on bee-bites, and he did it. Only there
wasn't no mud, and nobody knew what they could do about it. But Hiram's
mind wasn't like the mind of a ordinary person. Hiram's mind is all
different, and Hiram said, just as quick as scat, to mix water and earth
and make some mud. So they did, and the water and earth, Gran'ma Mullins
says, made the finest mud she ever saw. They covered up Hiram's bee-bite
with it, and it didn't leave so much as a scar. And now there's Hiram in
the Klondike, knowing just what to do when bit by a bee, but without a
notion what to put on if a seal catches him unawares. And all this going
on hour after hour, Mrs. Lathrop, and me sitting there waiting for my
dinner, half mad anyway over the way my dead-and-gone father's home is
being torn limb from limb, and in no mood to listen to anything. Oh,
laws, no! It's no use. I can't stand it, and I won't either."

Susan paused expressively.

Mrs. Lathrop gasped. "What will--?"

"I'm going to find another place to live right away," Susan went on.
"I've too much consideration for you to ask you to go there, Mrs.
Lathrop, and besides, I feel it would be exchanging the fire for the
stew-pan for me to come here. I'm going this town over this very
afternoon, and I think I'll find some place where I can sleep part of
the night, at any rate. I guess I got about three quarters of a hour's
sleep last night. Gran'ma Mullins woke me up weeping on the foot of my
bed before daylight. Just before daylight is her special time for
recollecting how Hiram used to drink milk out of a cup when he was a
baby, and how he used to eat candy if anybody gave him any, and other
remarkable doings that he did. My lands, I wish Job could have met
Gran'ma Mullins! His friends and his boils would have just been pleasant
things to amuse him, then. I'm going first to Mrs. Allen, and then I'm
going to every one. I shan't make no bones about my errand, for
everybody knows Gran'ma Mullins. I'll have the sympathy of the whole
community. I need sympathy, and I feel I can soak up a good lot of it if
I'm let to."

"How's the--?" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"They're still pulling 'em down," said Susan gloomily. "It's a awful
sight, and one that doesn't give me more strength for Gran'ma Mullins. I
shall never have another house that will suit me as mine did, Mrs.
Lathrop. I know that Jathrop means it kindly, and I'm far from being one
to hold any gift-horse by the tail, but the truth is the truth, and I
must say nothing teaches you to really prize your cupboards like seeing
men going through 'em with pick-axes. There was many little conveniences
in my house as I never really thought much of until now I see 'em gone
forever. But it's a poor cat that lives on spilt milk, so I'll say no
more of that, but go back and get ready to hunt up a place to live. For
live I must, Mrs. Lathrop, and live I will. And I won't live by eating
and drinking and breathing Hiram Mullins the twenty-four hours round,
neither."

Miss Clegg's round of visits ended, curiously enough, in her
establishing herself with Lucy Mullins.

"Which I don't doubt is a very great surprise to you, Mrs. Lathrop," she
confessed to her friend that evening. "But Lucy ran across me in the
street, and when she saw me, those two women who met in the Bible and
knew all each other's business directly was strangers passing on express
trains beside Lucy and me. I took one look at Lucy, and I see she knowed
it all. Judge Fitch is going to be away a lot this month, seeing where
he can hire his witnesses for a big lawsuit, and Lucy says she and me'll
be alone and able to be silent from dawn to dark and on through the
night. She don't want to have to listen to no manner of talk, she says,
and I can have the second floor all alone to myself, for her and her
father sleep in the wings down-stairs."

"So you--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, I didn't look no more. I was suited, so I didn't see no use in
further fussing. I shall tell Gran'ma Mullins to-night and go there
to-morrow. And I may in confidence remark as no howling oasis in a
desert ever howled for joy the way I'll feel like howling when I get my
trunk on a wheelbarrow again. I've spoke for the wheelbarrow at eight
o'clock to-morrow morning, so I'll be over at Lucy's and settled before
you wake up, Mrs. Lathrop."

The next day Susan went, and, surprising as it may seem, Gran'ma Mullins
was singularly content over her going.

"I don't want to make no trouble between friends," said Gran'ma Mullins,
clambering up Mrs. Macy's steps to sit with Mrs. Macy and Mrs. Lathrop.
"But really, Susan is become most changed since her house is begun to be
built over. I wouldn't hardly have known her. I wouldn't say stuck-up
and I wouldn't say airy, but I will say as she's most changed. I
wouldn't say rude, neither, but I didn't consider it exactly friendly to
always either pull her breath in long and loud or else let it out short
and sharp whenever I mentioned Hiram. Hiram is my only legal and natural
child, and with him in the Klondike, and my heart aching and quaking and
breaking for fear the ice'll thaw and let him through into some
unexpected volcano all of a sudden, how can I but mention him? You know
what Hiram is to me, Mrs. Macy. We haven't lived in these two houses for
forty years without your knowing what Hiram is to me. You remember him
as a baby, Mrs. Macy, but you don't, Mrs. Lathrop, so I'll tell you what
Hiram was as a baby. Hiram was a most remarkable--"

When Mrs. Lathrop saw Susan Clegg again, Miss Clegg was looking far from
happy.

"Are you--?" enquired Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I d'n know," came the answer more than a little dubiously. Then:
"Seeing that I am always frank and open with you, Mrs. Lathrop, I may as
well say plainly as I ain't. Very far from it. I never knew when I went
to live with Lucy as Judge Fitch has got a dog as barks. He ain't no
ordinary dog--he's a most uncommon dog. He only barks when it's
moonlight, or when he hears something, and I must say he's got the
sharpest ears I ever see. But it isn't his barking that's so bad, as it
is that whenever he barks, Lucy gets right up to see whether it's Hiram
come back. It seems the reason Lucy took me to board is she hates to go
around the house alone nights with the dog and a candle. That's a pretty
thing for me to never mistrust till I got there with my trunk. I must
say I don't blame Lucy for not liking to go around alone, for the dog
smells your heels all the time, and if he was in the Klondike with Hiram
his nose couldn't be colder. But all the same I think she ought to of
told me. For whatever it may be to others, a cold nose is certainly most
new to my heels. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, we was out hunting with our dog
three times last night, and Lucy says often enough he gets her up nine
and ten times. Lucy's so nervous for fear Hiram'll come back that she
can't possibly sleep if she thinks there's a chance of it. She says if
Hiram's come back, she wants to know it right off. She says that's her
nature. If she's got to have a tooth out, she wants it out at once. She
says she never was one to shrink from nothing. And the dog's prompt,
too. He's quite of the same mind as Lucy. He gives one bark, and then he
don't dilly-dally none. He gets right up, and by the time he's got to
Lucy, Lucy's got up too, and they both come racing up-stairs for me to
join 'em. My door don't lock, so the dog's licking my face before I
know where I am. And then, before I know much more where I am, we're
all three capering down-stairs together again. Then we take the whole
house carefully around and listen at every door and window, with the dog
smelling while we listen. Then, when we know for sure as it ain't Hiram,
the dog scrambles back into his basket, and Lucy tucks him up, and she
and I go back to bed alone and untucked. That's a pretty kettle of fish.
And you can believe me or not, just as you please, Mrs. Lathrop, but I
never had no notion of having my heels smelled by a cold dog's nose
three times, and maybe nine, a night when I went to live at Judge
Fitch's, and if it keeps on, I shall just leave. Lucy's got no lease on
me, and although I'm sorry for her, I ain't anywhere near sorry enough
for her to be woke up to pussy-cornering all over the premises with a
dog the livelong night through. As between having Gran'ma Mullins
sitting on my feet wailing over Hiram, and Lucy's dog smelling of my
heels while we hunt for Hiram, I think I'd rather have Gran'ma Mullins.
I was warm and comfortable and laid out flat at Gran'ma Mullins, but I'm
goodness knows what at Lucy's. And I do hate having my face licked. I
don't like it. I never was used to such things, and I can't begin now."

"What will--?" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"I shall look up another nice place to live," said Miss Clegg, "and I
shall take a leaf out of the dog's book and be prompt about it, too.
I've spoke for the wheelbarrow to-morrow at ten o'clock, and I shall
move then, whether or no."

Susan, again on the lookout for a new abiding place, discovered a most
attractive proposition in Mrs. Allen. Mrs. Allen and her husband lived
alone, were neat and well-fed, and kept no dog.

"I'll never go where there's a dog again, I know that," said Susan.
"Why, Mrs. Lathrop, if I was in a blizzard in Switzerland and fifty of
those little beer-keg dogs they've got there came scurrying up to rescue
me, I wouldn't get up and let 'em have the joy of seeing me obliged. I
won't ever get up for no dog again in my life, I know that. And I know
it for keeps. And there's a bolt on my side of my door at Mrs. Allen's.
I've looked to that, too; and no one is to wake me nights; I've looked
to that. I told Mrs. Allen all the story of what I'd suffered, and she
said she'd see as I had peace in her house. She told me that I'd
suffered because I needed to suffer, but now I was to have peace, and
I'd have it with her. I didn't bother to ask what she meant, for I guess
if she's got any secret thorn, I'll find it out quick enough, anyhow.
And if it's anything that wakes me up nights, my present feeling is as I
won't be well able to bear it. Well, the wheelbarrow is set for ten
o'clock, and so I must go, and when I see you, I'll know what's wrong
with Mrs. Allen, and the Lord help me if it's something as makes me have
to move again. That's all I can say."

Susan did not visit her old friend directly after her third change of
residence. Two whole days passed by, and Mrs. Lathrop was openly
troubled.

"Don't you worry," said Gran'ma Mullins soothingly. "There's nothing the
matter with her, because I see her in the square this very morning. But
she looked at me odd and went down a side street. I'm sure I hope
Susan's not losing her mind."

"Oh, wouldn't that be awful!" exclaimed Mrs. Macy with real sympathy.
"We'd have to appoint a commission to catch her and sit on her, and then
if she was put in the insane asylum, I guess Susan Clegg would be mad."

"Oh, Susan wouldn't like that a bit," said Gran'ma Mullins meditatively.
"They make little cups and saucers out of beads. I know, because Hiram
had one once. And they read books with the letters all punched out at
you."

"You're thinking of the Home for the Blind," corrected Mrs. Macy. "I was
there once, too. I don't think Susan would mind going there so much,
because of course she can see, which would give her a great advantage
over the others, and Susan does like to have an advantage over anybody
else. But I don't believe she'd like going to the Insane Asylum much.
The Insane Asylum's so limited. My husband's sister went to the Insane
Asylum once, but it didn't help her none, so she came home. It wouldn't
ever suit Susan."

"Well, maybe not," said Gran'ma Mullins amicably. "And I don't think she
could go there, anyway, for she isn't crazy, and she's got her own
money. So why should she be a charge on the county?"

The very next day Susan came wearily in to see her old friend.

"Well, I d'n know what I've ever done to have this kind of a summer,"
she began, seating herself sadly. "Why didn't I stay in my own house and
just simply take you to board while they laid violent hands on your
house? I was against being built over all along, Mrs. Lathrop, you know
that. And now the fox has his cheese and the cow has her corn, just as
the Scripture says, but Susan Clegg's absolutely forced to live with
Mrs. Allen. Oh, Mrs. Lathrop, you don't know what living with Mrs. Allen
is, and you can't imagine, either. I never dreamed of such a thing
before I went there. I was a little afraid she'd want to read me her
poetry, but her poetry would have been paradise to what is. Seems as if
Mrs. Allen has got a new kind of religion, and heaven help the present
run of mankind if any more new religions is sprung on us, and heaven
help me if I've got to live long with Mrs. Allen's new one. Mrs. Allen's
new religion is most peculiar. I never see nothing like it. It's
Persian, and it's very singular just to look at. But it's most awful to
live with. Lucy and her dog is simple beside it, and as to Gran'ma
Mullins, she's nothing but a baby dabbing a ball in comparison.
According to Mrs. Allen's new religion, you mustn't find fault with
nothing or nobody--never. Everything's all right, no matter how wrong it
is; and if you lose your purse, you was meant to lose it, so why
complain? You was give your purse for just a little while, and in place
of wildly running here and there trying to find it, you must just thank
heaven for kindly letting you have it so long, and think no more about
it. If you're meant to see any more of that purse, it'll kindly look you
up itself. But it's no manner of use your looking for it, because if
heaven takes back a purse deliberately, never intending to return it, it
never does return it, and that's all there is to be said on the subject.
Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you think perhaps you can see what it would be to
live with any one that feels to see life in that way; but you don't
really know what you think a good deal of the time, and never less than
now. Mrs. Allen's things is mostly back in heaven's hands again, and her
biscuits is mostly burnt, and not one bit does she care, seeing as she
don't consider as she has the least thing to do with any of it. She's
happy and singing and forgetting from dawn to dark. She says the day'll
soon be that the whole earth will see the truth and be singing with
her. She says the toiling millions will cease to toil then, and life'll
be all Adams and Eves and no manner of misery. In the meantime, I don't
get nothing to eat, and when I feel to holler down-stairs, she says
dinner was meant to be late that day, or it couldn't possibly have been
late. Not by no manner of means."

"Well, I--" commented Mrs. Lathrop blankly.

"Just my way of seeing it," said Susan, "and she aggravates me still
more with pointing her moral, from dawn to dark. She says it's beautiful
to see how beautiful life comes along. You and me needed quiet, and we
got quiet. And now we need our houses built over, and we're getting 'em
built over. I told her I didn't need my house built over a _tall_, and
she said as I just thought so, but that I really did, or it wouldn't be
being done. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I d'n know, I'm sure, what I will run up
against next. But I don't believe I can stay at Mrs. Allen's. I really
don't. There's one thing--it'll be mighty easy to leave her, for I
shan't have to say nothing. I shall say I was meant to leave and then
and there leave. It's a poor religion as don't fit others as easy as its
own selves; and I ain't washed in the Allens' dirty rain water full of
dead and drowned bugs for two days because I was meant to wash and they
was meant to drown, without learning how to turn even a drowned bug to
my advantage. No, sir, I'm going out this afternoon and see what I can
get, and if I can't do no better, I'll buy a bolt for my door and come
back to Gran'ma Mullins. Gran'ma Mullins has her good points. I always
said that, Mrs. Lathrop, Gran'ma Mullins certainly has her good points.
And I must learn to bear Hiram if I must. There's one thing certain: I
can hear about Hiram in bed, and I don't have to get up and out of bed
to hunt for him. And whatever else Gran'ma Mullins does, she don't burn
her bread and blame it on the Almighty. Mrs. Allen's got the Bible so
pat that you don't need to do nothing, according to her--nothing a
_tall_, but just sit still and let the world turn you around with its
turning. She says Solomon said the little lilies didn't spin, and so why
should she? Well, if we're to quit doing everything that lilies don't
have a hand in, I must say we'll soon be in a pretty state. I never was
one to admire Solomon like some people, and as for David, I think he was
a fool--dancing around the ark like he'd just got it for Christmas!"

Susan searched long and wearily for a fourth abiding place that
afternoon, but in the end she had to speak for the wheelbarrow for the
next morning and move back to Gran'ma Mullins's.

And Gran'ma Mullins was very glad to see her back.

"Your bed's all made up with the same sheets for you, Susan," she said
cordially, "and I ain't even swept so as to spoil the homelike look.
You'll see your own last burnt matches and all, just as you left 'em."

"I've bought a bolt for my door," said Susan, "and I'll beg to borrow a
screwdriver and something sharp to put it on with."

"I'll get 'em," agreed Gran'ma Mullins happily, "and I won't wake you no
more nights, Susan. I suppose it's only natural that you, never having
been married, can't possibly know the feelings of a mother. But I meant
it kindly, Susan. When Lucy speaks of Hiram, she means it unkindly. But
when I speak of Hiram, I always mean it kindly."

"Yes, I know," said Susan, "and if I believed like Mrs. Allen does, I'd
know I was meant to listen and wouldn't mind. But I don't take no stock
in that religion of Mrs. Allen's, and I won't be woke up. And although I
don't want to hurt your feelings, I do want that understood right from
the beginning."

"I'll remember," said Gran'ma Mullins submissively. "And now I'll fetch
the screwdriver."

That evening the four friends sat pleasantly once again on Mrs. Macy's
piazza.

"Mrs. Lathrop had a letter from Jathrop to-day. Did you know that,
Susan?" asked Mrs. Macy.

"No, I didn't," returned Susan Clegg. "What did he say?"

"He's going sailing to the West Indies in his new boat," Mrs. Macy
informed her. "He's going for his health, and he's going to take three
other millionaires and their own doctor."

Susan appeared unimpressed.

"He sent his mother a book about the place where he's going," said Mrs.
Macy. "Do you want to see it?" She went in and brought it out.

Susan took the volume and viewed the title with an indifferent eye.

"_Stark's Guide to the Bahamas_," she read aloud. "What are
they--something to eat?"

"You're thinking of bananas," suggested Mrs. Macy. "It's islands. It's
where Columbus hit first. Nobody knows just where he hit, but he hit
there; everybody knows that."

Susan placed the book under her arm. "I'll read it," she said briefly.
"But I must say as to my order of thinking Jathrop's setting off just
now is very much like a hen getting up from her eggs. Here's you and
me--" addressing Mrs. Lathrop directly--"with our houses done away with,
and him as has engineered the wreck skipping away with a parcel of men."

"He isn't skipping," interposed Mrs. Macy. "He's sailing--sailing in his
own private boat, like the tea-man with the cup."

"Oh, I don't care what he's doing," said Susan, rising. "I'm about beat
out, and I'm going home and going to bed. Such a week! The Bible says
'Whom the Lord loveth He chaseth,' and heaven knows I've been chased
this week till my legs is about wore off. Such a week! I've had all the
chasing I want for one while. And I never was great on being loved, so
I'm going home and going to bed."

Whereupon, with the _Guide to the Bahamas_ under her arm and a heavy
fold between her brows, Susan Clegg stalked over to her temporary
domicile.

"I don't think Susan's very well," said Gran'ma Mullins.

"Maybe she's worried over Jathrop," suggested Mrs. Macy.

Mrs. Lathrop said nothing. She just rocked.



VIII

SUSAN CLEGG AND THE CYCLONE


"I d'n know, I'm sure, what star this town could ever have been laid out
under," said Susan Clegg, one exceptionally hot night as the four
friends sat out on Mrs. Macy's steps, "but my own opinion is as it must
have been a comet, for we're always skiting along into some sort of hot
water. When it ain't all of us, it's some of us, and when it ain't some
of us, it's one of us, and now the walls of my house is up I'd be
willing to bet a nickel as a calamity'll happen along just because
something's always happening here and my walls is the youngest and
tenderest thing in the community now."

"Your roof ain't--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Of course not; how could it be, when my walls is only just up? I don't
wish to be casting no stones at him as is the least among us, but I will
say, Mrs. Lathrop, as Jathrop's orders seem to be taking you up under
the loving protection of their wings, while I'm running around like I
was a viper without no warm bosom to hatch me. _Your_ walls have been up
and a-doing for a week, but my walls have been sitting around waiting
until I was nigh to put out. To see your laths going in and your plaster
going on, while I stay lumber and nails, is a lesson in yielding to the
will of heaven as I never calculated on. There's few things more
aggravating than to see some other house speeding along while your own
house sits silently, patiently waiting. Of course I can't say nothing,
as even the boy as carries water knows my house is going to be a present
to me in the end. It's all right, and likely enough the Lord has seen
fit to send this summer to me as a chastisement; but I will say that if
I'd known how this summer was going, the Lord would most certainly have
had to plan some other way to punish me. I don't say as it wasn't
natural that your walls should go up first, Jathrop being your son, and,
now that he's rich, no more to me than a benefactor--"

"Oh, Susan!" expostulated Mrs. Macy.

"That's what he is, Mrs. Macy; he's my benefactor, and I can't escape if
I want to. You may tend a man's mother ten years, day and night, house
cleanings and cistern cleanings, moths and the well froze up, and if the
man comes back rich, he's your benefactor."

"Susan!" cried Mrs. Lathrop, "you--"

"Don't deny it, Mrs. Lathrop; it's the truth. It's one of those truths
that the wiser they are, the sadder you get. It's one of those truths as
is the whole truth and a little left over; and I'm learning that I'm to
be what's left over, more every day. After a life of being independent
and living on my own money, I'm now going down on my knees learning the
lesson of being humbly grateful for what I don't want. I may sound
bitter, but if I do it isn't surprising, for I feel bitter; and Gran'ma
Mullins knows I'm always frank and open, so she'll excuse my saying that
there's nothing in living with _her_ as tends to calm me much. A woman
as sleeps in a bed as Hiram must have played leap-frog over all his life
from the feel of the springs, and pours out of a pitcher as has got a
chip out of its nose, ain't in no mood to mince nothing. I never was one
to mince, and I never will be--not now and not never. Mincing is for
them as ain't got it in them to speak their minds freely; and my mind is
a thing that's made to be free and not a slave."

"Well, really, Susan," expostulated Mrs. Macy, "what ever--"

"Don't interrupt me, Mrs. Macy. I'm full of goodness knows what, but
whatever it is, I'm too full of it for comfort. There's nothing in the
life I'm leading this summer to make me expect comfort, and very little
to make me feel full, but there's things as would make a man dying of
starvation bust if he experienced them. And I'm full of such things. I
never had no idea of being out of my house all summer, and now, when my
walls is up at last, and it looks like maybe I'd get back a home feeling
some day soon, I must up and get quite another kind of feeling--a
feeling that something is going to happen. It's a very strange feeling,
and at first I thought it was just some more of Gran'ma Mullins'
cooking; but it kept getting stronger, and when I was in the square, I
spoke to Mr. Kimball about it; and he says this is cyclone weather, and
maybe a cyclone is going to happen. He says a man was in town yesterday
wanting to insure everybody against fire and cyclones. Most everybody
did it. Mr. Kimball says after the young man got through, you pretty
much had to do it. Them as had policies with the company could get the
word 'cyclone' writ in for a dollar. I guess the young man did a very
good day's work. Mr. Kimball says if it's true as there's any cyclones
coming nosing about here, he wants his dried-apple machine insured
anyhow. It's a fine machine, and every kind of fruit as is left over
each night comes out jam next day, while all the vegetables make
breakfast food. He says it's a wonder."

"What makes him think we're going to have a cyclone?" inquired Mrs. Macy
anxiously.

"He says the weather is cyclony. And he says if I feel queer that's a
sign, for I'm a sensitive nature."

"I never--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, nor me, neither. But Mr. Kimball seemed to feel there wasn't no
doubt. He says I'm just the kind of sensitive nature as could feel a
cyclone. Why, he says cyclones take the roofs off the houses!"

"Ow!" cried Gran'ma Mullins in surprise.

"If one's coming, I'm glad to know, for I never see one near to," said
Mrs. Macy pensively.

"You won't see it a _tall_," said Susan, "for Mr. Kimball says the only
safe place in a cyclone is the cellar; and to pull a kitchen table over
you to keep the house from squashing you flat when it caves in."

"My heavens alive!" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"That's what he said. But he says not to worry, for the young man told
him as they're getting so common no one notices them any more. He says
they're always going hop, skip, and jump over Kansas and everywhere, and
no one pays no attention to 'em. He knows all about it. But he wanted it
clear as he was only insuring for _cyclones_; he says his firm wouldn't
have nothing to do with tornadoes. You can get as much on a cyclone as
on a fire, but you can't get a penny on a tornado--"

"What's the diff--" asked Gran'ma Mullins.

"That's the trouble; nobody can just tell. A cyclone is wind and
lightning mixed by combustion and drove forward by expulsion, the young
man told Mr. Kimball. He said they'd got cyclones all worked out, and
they can average 'em up same as everything else, but he says a tornado
is something as no man can get hold of, and no man will ever be able to
study. Tornadoes drive nails through fences--"

"Where do they get the nails?" asked Gran'ma Mullins.

"I d'n know. Pick 'em out of the fences first, I guess. And they strip
the feathers off chickens and scoop up haystacks and carry them up in
the air for good and all."

"Oh, my!" cried Mrs. Macy.

"Mr. Kimball said the young man told him that a tornado dug up a
complete marsh once in Minnesota and spread it out upside down on top of
a wood a little ways off; and when there's a tornado anywhere near, the
sewing-machines all tick like they was telegraphing."

"No!" cried Mrs. Macy.

"Yes, the young man said so."

"But do you believe him?"

"I don't know why not. I wouldn't believe Mr. Kimball because he's
always fixing up his stories to sound better than they really are, which
makes me have very little faith in him; but Judge Fitch says he'd make
a splendid witness for any one just on that very account. Judge Fitch
says with a little well-advised help Mr. Kimball would carry convictions
to any man,--he don't except none,--but I see no reason why the young
man wasn't telling the truth. Young men do tell the truth sometimes;
most everybody does that. A tornado catches up pigs and carries 'em
miles and pulls up trees by the roots. I don't wonder they won't insure
'em."

"The pigs?" asked Mrs. Macy.

"No, the tornadoes."

"What's the signs of a tornado?" asked Gran'ma Mullins uneasily.

"Well, the signs is alike for both. The signs is weather like to-day and
a kind of breathlessness like to-night. Mr. Kimball says a funnel-shaped
cloud is a great sign; and when you see it, in three minutes it's on
you, and off goes your roof if it's a cyclone, and off you go yourself
if it's a tornado."

"My heavens alive!" cried Mrs. Lathrop, clutching the arms of her
old-gold-plush stationary rocker.

"Do people ever come down again?" Gran'ma Mullins inquired; she was very
pale.

"Elijah didn't, Mr. Kimball says."

"Elijah Doxey?" cried Mrs. Macy. "Why, is he off on a cyclone? No one
ever told me."

"No, Elijah in the Bible, you know. The Elijah as was caught up in a
chariot of fire. Mr. Kimball says there ain't a mite of doubt in his
mind but that it was a tornado. I guess Mr. Kimball told the truth that
time, for it's all in the Bible."

"That's true," said Gran'ma Mullins. "I remember Elijah myself. He kept
a tame raven, seems to me, or some such thing."

"Oh, Susan!" Mrs. Lathrop cried out suddenly. "There's a fun--" Her
voice failed her; she raised her hand and pointed.

Susan turned quickly, and her face became suddenly gray-white. "It can't
be a cy--" she faltered.

With that all four women jumped different ways at once.

"Where shall we go?" shrieked Mrs. Macy. "Oh, saints and sinners
preserve us! Oh, Susan, where shall we go?"

But Susan Clegg stood as if paralyzed, staring straight at the
funnel-shaped cloud.

Gran'ma Mullins started for her own house; Mrs. Lathrop sprang up and
clasped the piazza post nearest; Mrs. Macy grabbed her skirts up at both
sides and faced the cyclone just as she had once faced the cow.

The funnel-shaped cloud came sweeping towards them. The town was
between, and a darkness and a mighty roar arose. Buildings seemed
falling; the din was terrible.

"I knew it," said Susan grimly. "It _is_ a cyclone!" She faced the
worst--standing erect.

The next instant the storm was on them all. It lifted Mrs. Lathrop's
old-gold-plush stationary rocker and hurled it at that good lady,
smashing her hard against the post. It raised the roof of Mrs. Macy's
house and dropped it like an extinguisher over the fleeing form of
Gran'ma Mullins.

"Oh, Gran'ma Mullins, it _is_ a cyclone!" Susan shrieked. But Gran'ma
Mullins answered not.

A second mighty burst of fury blew down two trees, and it blew Susan
herself back against the side wall of the house which shook and swayed
like a bit of cardboard.

"Oh, yes, it's a cyclone," Susan screamed over and over. "Oh, Mrs.
Lathrop, it's a real cyclone! It isn't a tornado; you can see the
difference now. It's a cyclone; look at the roof; it's a cyclone!"

Mrs. Lathrop could see nothing. She and the old-gold-plush stationary
rocker were all piled together under the piazza post.

And now came the third and worst burst of fury. It crashed on the
blacksmith's shop; it carried the sails of the windmill swooping down
the road, and then "without halting, without rest" lifted Mrs. Macy
with her outspread skirts and carried her straight up in the air. "Oh!
Oh!" she shrieked and sailed forth.

Susan gave a piercing yell. "Oh, Mrs. Macy, it's a tornado, it's a
tornado!" But Mrs. Macy answered not.

Tipping, swaying, ducking to the right or left, she flew majestically
away over her own roof first and then over that of Gran'ma Mullins'
woodshed.

"Help! Help!" cried Gran'ma Mullins from under the roof.

Mrs. Lathrop was oblivious to all, smashed by her own old-gold-plush
stationary rocker.

Susan Clegg stood as one fascinated, staring after the trail which was
all that was left of Mrs. Macy.

"It was a tornado!" she said over and over. "Mrs. Macy'll always believe
in the Bible now, I guess. It was a tornado! It _was_ a tornado!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"No, they ain't found her yet," Susan said, coming into the hotel room
where Mrs. Lathrop and Gran'ma Mullins had found a pleasant and
comfortable refuge and were occupied in recuperating together at
Jathrop's expense. Neither lady was seriously injured. Gran'ma Mullins
had been preserved from even a wetting through the neat capping of her
climax by Mrs. Macy's roof; while Mrs. Lathrop's squeeze between the
piazza post and her well beloved old-gold-plush stationary rocker had
not--as Gran'ma Mullins put it--so much as turned a hair of even the
rocker.

"No one's heard anything from her yet," continued Susan, "but that ain't
so surprising as it would be if anybody had time to want to know. But
nobody's got time for nothing to-day. The town's in a awful taking, and
I d'n know as I ever see a worse situation. You two want to be very
grateful as you're so nicely and neatly laid aside, for what has
descended on the community now is worse'n any cyclone, and if you could
get out and see what the cyclone's done, you'd know what _that_ means."

"Was you to my house, Susan?" asked Gran'ma Mullins anxiously.

"I was; but the insurance men was before me, or anyhow, we met there."

"The insurance men!"

"That's what I said,--the insurance men. Oh, Mrs. Lathrop, we all know
one side of what it is to insure ourselves, but now the Lord in his
infinite wrath has mercifully seen fit to show us the other side. The
Assyrian pouncing down on the wolf in his fold is a young mother
wrapping up her first baby to look out the window compared to those
insurance men. They descended on us bright and shining to-day, and if we
was murderers with our families buried under the kitchen floor, we
couldn't be looked on with more suspicion. I was far from pleased when I
first laid eyes on 'em, for there's a foxiness in any city man as comes
to settle things in the country as is far from being either soothing or
syrupy to him as lives in the country; but you can maybe imagine my
feelings when they very plainly informed me as I couldn't put the roof
back on Mrs. Macy's house till it was settled whether it was a cyclone
or a tornado--"

"Settled--whether--" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"Cyclone or tornado," repeated Susan. "The first thing isn't to get to
rights, but it is to settle whether we've got any rights to get. I never
dreamed what it was to be injured--no, or no one else neither. Seems if
it's a tornado, we don't get a cent of our insurance. And to think it
all depends on Mrs. Macy."

"On Mrs.--" cried Gran'ma Mullins.

"Yes, because she's the only one as really knows whether she was carried
off or not. Well, all I can say is, if she don't come back pretty quick,
we're going to have a little John Brown raid right here in town; we--"

"But what--?"

"I'm telling you. It'll be the town rising up against the insurance men,
and the insurance men will soon find that when it comes to
dilly-dallying with folks newly cycloned upside down, it's life and
death if you don't deal fair. What with chimneys down and roofs turned
up at the corner like the inquiring angels didn't have time to take the
cover all off but just pried up a little to see what was inside,--I say
with all this and everything wet and Mrs. Macy gone, this community was
in no mood to be sealed up--"

"Sealed up!" cried Mrs. Lathrop and Gran'ma Mullins together.

"That's what it is. Sealed up we are, and sealed up we've got to stay
until Mrs. Macy gets back--"

"But--" cried Gran'ma Mullins.

"Everybody's just as mad as you are. Charging bulls is setting hens
beside this town to-night. Even Mr. Kimball's mad for once in his life;
he's losing money most awful, for he can't sell so much as a paper of
tacks. They've got both his doors and all his windows sealed, and he's
standing out in front with nothing to do except to keep a sharp eye out
for Mrs. Macy. He says it ain't in reason to expect as she'll fly back,
but she's got to come from somewhere, and he means to prevent her
getting away again on the sly. He says his opinion is as she'd have
stood a better chance before airships was so common. He says ten years
ago folks would have took steps for hooking at her just as quick as they
saw her coming along, but nowadays it'd be a pretty brave man as would
try to stop anything he saw flying overhead. I guess he's about right
there. It's a hard question to know what to do with things that fly,
even if Mrs. Macy hadn't took to it, too. My view is that we advance
faster than we can learn how to manage our new inventions. I d'n know,
I'm sure, though, what Mrs. Macy is going to do about this trip of hers.
She went without even the moment's notice as folks in a hurry always has
had up to now. She's been gone most twenty-four hours. She's skipped
three meals already, not to speak of her night and her nap; and you know
as well as I do how Mrs. Macy was give to her nights and her napping."

Susan shook her head, and Mrs. Lathrop looked wide-eyed and alarmed.

"But now--" Gran'ma Mullins asked.

"I've been all over the place," Susan continued. "I didn't understand
fully what was up when I scurried off to try and get those men to put
the roof back on Mrs. Macy's house, but I know it all now. It's no use
trying to get anybody to do nothing now; the whole town's upside down
and inside out. I never see nothing like it. And the insurance men has
got it laid down flat as nobody can't touch nothing till it's settled
whether it's a cyclone or a tornado. Seems a good many was insured for
cyclones right in with their fires without knowing it; but there ain't a
soul in the place insured against a tornado, because you can't get any
insurance against tornadoes--no one will insure them. The insurance men
say if it's a tornado, we won't have nothing to do except to do the best
we can; but if it's a cyclone, we mus'n't touch anything till they can
get some one to judge what's worth saving and how much it's worth and
deduct that from our insurance. That's how it is."

"But what has--?" began Gran'ma Mullins.

"How long--?" demanded Mrs. Lathrop.

"Nobody knows," said Susan. "The whole town is asking, and nobody knows.
The insurance company won't let anybody go home or get anything unless
they'll sign a paper giving up their insurance and swearing that it was
a tornado. Mr. Dill just had to sign the paper because he was taking a
bath and had nothing except the table cover to wear. He signed the paper
and said he'd swear anything if only for his shoes alone; and it seems
that his house isn't hurt a mite, and he didn't have no insurance
anyhow. A good many is blaming him, but he says he really couldn't think
of anything in the excitement and the table cloth. It's a awful state of
things. The cyclone has tore everything to pieces, and the insurance
men has put their seal on the chips. People is being drove to all
lengths. The minister and his family is camping in the henhouse. Our
walls is fell in so goodness knows what will happen to you and me next,
Mrs. Lathrop. The wires is all down, so we can't hear nothing about the
storm. The rails is all up, so there's no trains. The church is stove
in, so we can't pray. But I must say as to my order of thinking, it
looks as if no one feels like praying. The insurance men is running all
over, like winged ants hatching out, sealing up more doors and more
windows every minute and getting more signatures as it was a tornado
before they'll unstick them. Nothing can't be really settled till Mrs.
Macy comes back. Mrs. Macy is the key to the whole situation."

"But why--?" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"The Jilkins is in from Cherry Pond, and all it did there was to rain.
The Sperrits was in, too, and the storm was most singular with them. It
hailed in the sunshine till they see four rainbows--they never see the
beat. Mr. Weskins is advising everybody to go into their houses and make
a test case of it. Judge Fitch is advising everybody not to. It's plain
as he's on the side of the insurance men. He says just as they do, that
we'd better wait till Mrs. Macy comes back and hear her story. He says
in the very nature of things her view'll be a most general one. He says
all there is to know she'll know; she'll know the area affected and be
able to tell whether it was electricity or just wind. Mr. Kimball said
if she went far enough, she'd be a star witness; but no one thinks that
jokes about Mrs. Macy ought to be told now. The situation is too
serious. It may be _very_ serious for Mrs. Macy. If the storm stopped
sudden, it may be very serious indeed for Mrs. Macy. Mrs. Macy isn't as
young as she was, and she hadn't the least idea of leaving town; she
wasn't a bit prepared, that we can all swear to. She was just carried
away by a sudden impulse--as you might say--and the main question is
how far did she get on her impulse, and where is she now? To my order
of thinking, it all depends on how she come down. Cycloning along like
she was, if she come down on a pond or a peak, she'll be far from
finding it funny. I was thinking about her all the way here, and I can't
think of any way as'll be easy for her to come to earth, no matter how
she comes. And if she hits hard, she isn't going to like it. Mrs. Macy
was never one as took a joke pleasant; she never made light of nothing.
She took life very solemn-like--a owl was a laughing hyena compared to
Mrs. Macy. It's too bad she was that way. My own view is as she never
got over not getting married again. Some women don't. She always took it
as a reflection. There's no reflection to not getting married; my
opinion is as there's a deal of things more important and most thing's
more comfortable. If Mrs. Macy was married, she'd be much worse off than
she is right now, for instead of being able to give her whole time and
attention to whatever she's doing and looking over, she'd be wondering
what he was giving his time and attention to doing and prying into. When
a man's out of your sight, you've always got to wonder, and most of the
time that's all in the world you can do about a man. Now Mrs. Macy's
perfectly independent, she can go where she pleases and come down when
she pleases, and she hasn't got to tell what she saw unless she wants
to. Mrs. Brown says she ain't never been nowhere. It's plain to be seen
as Mrs. Brown's envying Mrs. Macy her trip."

"But why--?" began Gran'ma Mullins with great determination.

"That's just it," replied Susan promptly. "I declare, I can't but wonder
what'll happen next. I'm in that state that nothing will surprise me.
Everything's so upset and off the track there's no use even trying to
think. My walls is fell into my cistern, and Mrs. Macy's roof is sitting
on the ground beside her house yet. The insurance men has sealed up
Gran'ma Mullins' house, and they wouldn't leave the henhouse open till I
signed a affidavit on behalf of the hens and released 'em from all
claims for feed. Mr. Dill said they tried to seal up his cow. They've
got Mr. Kimball's dried-apple machine tied with a rope. It's awful."

"But Susan--" interrupted Gran'ma Mullins.

"Mr. Weskins says the great difficulty is the insurance men say they
don't see how anything is going to be settled or decided until we hear
from Mrs. Macy. The point's right here. If she comes back, it's evidence
as it was a tornado, because if she comes back it proves as she was
carried off, in which case the insurance men won't have to pay nothing
anyhow, and we'll all be unsealed and allowed to go to work putting our
roofs back on our heads and clearing up as fast as we can. But Mr.
Weskins says if Mrs. Macy don't come back, there'll be no way to prove
as she was even carried off by the storm for you, Mrs. Lathrop, had your
back turned; and you, Gran'ma Mullins, was under the roof; and I'm only
one, and it takes two witnesses to prove anything as is contrary to law
and nature."

"Do they doubt--?" cried Mrs. Lathrop, quite excited--for her.

"Yes, they do. They doubt everything. Insurance men don't take nothing
for granted. They've decided to just pin their whole case to Mrs. Macy,
and there's Mrs. Macy gone away to, heaven knows where."

"Well, Susan," said Gran'ma Mullins, "we must look on the bright side.
Mrs. Macy'll have something to talk about as'll always interest
everybody if she does come back, and if she don't come back, we'll
always have her to remember."

"Yes, and if we don't get our houses unstuck pretty soon, we'll remember
her a long while," said Susan darkly.

Three days passed by and no word was heard from Mrs. Macy. As soon as
the telegraph assumed its usual route, messages were sent all about in
the direction whither she had flown, but not a trace of her was
discovered by any one. The town was very much wrought up, for although
its members were given to having strange experiences, no experience so
strange as this had ever happened there before. The exasperation of
being barred out of house and home until Mrs. Macy should be found,
naturally heightened the interest. Everybody had had just time to add
the magic word "cyclone" to their policies before the cyclone came
"damaging along"--as Susan Clegg expressed it. Susan was much perturbed.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop,"--she said on the afternoon of the third day, as
she came into the hotel room where the mother of the millionaire was now
equal to her usual vigorous exercise in her old-gold-plush stationary
rocker. "Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you may well be grateful as Jathrop has got
money enough for us to be living here, for the living of the community
is getting to be no living a _tall_."

Gran'ma Mullins, still in bed, turned herself about and manifested a
vivid interest, "Well, Susan," she said, "it's three days now; how long
is this going to keep up?"

"It can't keep up very much longer, or we'll have a new French
Revolution, that's what we'll have," said Susan. "Why, the community is
getting where it won't stand even being said good morning to pleasantly.
The children is running all over, pulling each other's hair, and Deacon
White says he's going to buy a pistol. Things is come to a pretty pass
when Deacon White wants to buy a pistol, for he's just as afraid of one
end as the other. But it's a straw as shows which way the cyclone blew
his house."

"But isn't something--?"

"Something has got to be done. The boys stretched a string across the
door of the insurance men's room this morning, and they fell in a heap
when they started out; and some one as nobody can locate poured a
pitcher of ice water through the ventilator as is over their bed. Seeing
that public feeling is on the rise, they sent right after breakfast for
the appraisers, and they're going to begin appraising and un-sealing
to-morrow morning. They've entirely give up the idea of waiting for
Mrs. Macy. The town just won't stand for any more hanging around waiting
for nothing. I never see us so before. Every one is so upset and divided
in their feelings that some think we'd ought to horsewhip the insurance
men, and some think we'd ought to hold a burial service for Mrs. Macy."

"I wouldn't see any good in holding a service for Mrs. Macy," said
Gran'ma Mullins. "She wouldn't have been buried here if she was dead;
she was always planning to go to Meadville when she was dead."

"Yes," said Susan, "I know. Because Mrs. Lupey's got that nice lot with
that nice mausoleum as she bought from the Pennybackers when they got
rich and moved even their great-grandfather to the city."

"I remember the Pennybackers," said Gran'ma Mullins. "Old man
Pennybacker used to drive a cart for rags. It was a great day for the
Pennybackers when Joe went into the pawnbroker business."

"Yes," said Susan, "it's wonderful how rich men manage to get on when
they're young. Seems as if there's just no way to crowd a millionaire
out of business or kill him off. I'm always reading what they went
through in the papers, but it never helped none. A millionaire is a
thing as when it's going to be is going to be, and you've just got to
let 'em do it once they get started."

"It was a nice mausoleum," said Gran'ma Mullins. "Mrs. Macy has told me
about it a hundred times. It's so big, Mrs. Lupey says, she can live up
to her hospitable nature at last, for there's room for all and to spare.
Mrs. Macy was the first person she asked. Mrs. Macy thought that was
very kind of just a cousin. There's only Mrs. Kitts there, now, and Mrs.
Lupey's aunt, Mrs. Cogetts."

"Mrs. Macy didn't know she had a aunt," said Susan. "Mrs. Cogetts came
way from Jacoma just on account of the mausoleum. That's a long ways to
come just to save paying for a lot where you are, seems to me; but some
natures'll go to any lengths to save money."

"I wonder where Mrs. Macy is now," said Gran'ma Mullins, with a sigh.

"Nobody knows. A good many is decided that it's surely a clear case of
Elijah, only nobody pretends to believe in the Bible so much as to think
that she can go up and stay there. Mrs. Macy'd have to come down, and
the higher she went the more heaven help her when she does come down.
Mrs. Macy was very solid, as we all know who've heard her sit down or
seen her get up, and I can't see no happy ending ahead, even though we
all wish her well. The insurance men is very blue over her not coming
back, for they expected to prove a tornado sure; but even insurance men
can't have the whole world run to suit them these days. Anyhow, my view
is as it's no use worrying. Spilt milk's a poor thing to cook with. If
you're in the fire, you ain't in the frying-pan. The real sufferers is
this community, as is all locked out of their houses. The Browns is
living in the cellar to the cowshed, with two lengths of sidewalk laid
over them. Mrs. Brown says she feels like a Pilgrim Father, and she
sees why they got killed off so fast by the Indians,--it was so much
easier to be scalped than to do your hair. Mr. and Mrs. Craig takes
turns at one hammock all night long. Mrs. Craig says they change
regular, for whoever turns over spills out, and the other one is sitting
looking at the moon and waiting all ready to get in."

"I declare, Susan," said Gran'ma Mullins warmly, "I think it's most
shocking. I won't say outrageous, but I will say shocking."

"But what are you going to do about it?" said Susan. "That's the rub in
this country. There's plenty as is shocking, but here we sit at the
mercy of any cyclone or Congress as comes along. Here we was, peaceful,
happy, and loving, and a cyclone swishes through. Down comes half a
dozen men from the city and seals up everything in town. I tell you you
ought to have heard me when they was sealing up your house and Mrs.
Macy's. I give it to 'em, and I didn't mince matters none. I spoke my
whole mind, and it was a great satisfaction, but they went right on and
sealed up the houses."

"Oh, Susan," began Mrs. Lathrop, "how are--?"

"All in ruins," replied Susan promptly. "I don't believe you and me is
ever going to live in happy homes any more. Fate seems dead set against
the idea. And nobody can get ahead of Fate. They may talk all they
please about overcoming, and when I was young I was always charging
along with my horns down and my tail waving same as every other young
thing; but I'm older now, and I see as resignation is the only thing as
really pays in the end. I get as mad as ever, but I stay meek. I wanted
to lam those insurance men with a stick of wood as was lying most handy,
but all I did was to walk home. Mr. Shores says he's just the same way.
We was talking it over this morning. He says when his wife first run off
with his clerk, he was nigh to crazy; he says he thought getting along
without a wife was going to just drive him out of his senses, and he
said her taking the clerk just seemed to add insult to perjury, but he
says now, as he gets older, he finds having no wife a great comfort."

"I wish Jathrop would--" sighed Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, he will, likely enough," said Susan. "Now he's rich, some girl
will snap him up, and he won't find how he's been fooled till three or
four months after the wedding."

"I suppose Jathrop could marry just any one he pleased now," said
Gran'ma Mullins, sighing in her turn. "Hiram didn't have no choice;
Jathrop'll have a choice."

"He may be none the better for that," said Susan darkly. "If Jathrop
Lathrop is wise, he'll not go routing wildly around like a president
after a elephant; he'll stick to what's tried and true. But I have my
doubt as to Jathrop's being wise; very few men with money have any
sense."

"Who do _you_ think--?" began Mrs. Lathrop, looking intently at Susan.

"I d'n know," said Susan, looking hard at Mrs. Lathrop; "far be it from
me to judge."

"They do say, Susan," said Gran'ma Mullins wisely, "as he'll end up by
marrying you. Everybody says so."

Susan shook her head hard. "It's not for me to say. Affairs has been
going on and off between Jathrop and me for too many years now for me to
begin to discuss them. What is to be will be, and what isn't to be can't
possibly be brought about."

Gran'ma Mullins sighed again, and Mrs. Lathrop went on rocking. As she
rocked, she viewed Susan Clegg from time to time in a speculative
manner. It was many, many years since she had suggested to Susan the
idea of marrying Jathrop.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the next morning that Mrs. Macy re-appeared on the scene. The
insurance men had unsealed all the houses, and the result was her
discovery.

"Well, you could drown me for a new-born kitten, and I'd never open my
eyes in surprise after _this_," Susan expounded to the friends at the
hotel. "But Mrs. Macy always _was_ peculiar; she was always give to
adventures. To think of her living there as snug as a moth in a rug,
cooking her meals on the little oil-stove--"

"But where--?" interposed Mrs. Lathrop.

"I'm telling you. She's been sleeping in a good bed, too, and being
perfectly comfortable while we've all been suffering along of waiting
for her to come back."

"But Susan--" cried Gran'ma Mullins, wide-eyed.

"I'll tell you where she was; she was in your house--that's where she
was. The cyclone just gave her a lift over your woodshed, and then it
set her down pretty quick. She says she came to earth like a piece of
thistledown on the other side. Her story is as your back door was open,
so she run in, and then it begun to rain, so she saw no reason for going
out again. When it stopped raining, she looked out and seen nobody. That
isn't surprising, for we wasn't there. She thought that it was strange
not seeing any lights, but she started to go home, and she says _what_
was her feelings when she fell over her own roof in the path. She says
of all the strange sensations a perfectly respectable woman can possibly
ever get to start to go home and fall over her own roof is surely the
most singular. She says she was so sleepy she thought maybe she was
dreaming, and not having any lantern, it was no use trying to
investigate, so she just went back to your house and went to bed in my
bed. She says she dreamed of Hiram's ears all night long. I'd completely
forgot Hiram's ears, which is strange, for they was far and away the
most amusing things in this community. I think that way he could turn
'em about was so entertaining. That way he used to cock 'em at you
always give him the air of paying so much attention. They say he never
cocked 'em at Lucy but once--"

"Oh, my, that once!" exclaimed Gran'ma Mullins involuntarily.

"It was a sin and a shame for Lucy to choke Hiram's ears off like she
did," Susan declared warmly. "She just seemed to take all the courage
right out of 'em. Hiram always reminded me of a black-and-tan as long as
he had the free use of his ears, but after Lucy broke their backbone
like she did, he never reminded me of much of nothing." Susan paused to
sigh. Gran'ma Mullins wiped her eyes.

"You and Hiram give up to Lucy too much," said Susan. "I wish she'd
married me."

"I wish she had, Susan," said Gran'ma Mullins. "I wouldn't wish to seem
unkind to the wife of my born and wedded only son, but I do wish that
she'd married you, and if Hiram could only see Lucy with a mother's
clear blue eye, he'd wish it, too."

"Where is--?" asked Mrs. Lathrop, desiring to recur to the main object
under discussion.

"Oh, she's gone straight over to Meadville," said Susan. "Oh, my, she
says, but think of her feelings as she sat inside that nice, comfortable
house and realized that she was the only person in town with a roof
over her head! You see, she heard me talking with the insurance men, and
she didn't know why we was to be sealed up, but she got it all straight
as we was going to be turned out of house and home, and she says she
made up her mind as no one should ever know as she was in a house and so
come capering up to put her out. She says she settled down as still as a
mouse, made no smoke, and never lit so much as a candle nights. Mrs.
Macy is surely most foxy!"

"And she's gone to Meadville?" said Gran'ma Mullins.

"Yes, she didn't want to pay board here, and her own house hasn't got no
roof, so she's gone to Mrs. Lupey. Old Doctor Carter was over here to
appraise the damage done to folks, and he took her back with him."

"I wonder if she'll ever--" wondered Gran'ma Mullins.

"I d'n know. If folks talk about a marriage long enough, it usually ends
up that way. Doctor Carter and Mrs. Macy has been kind of jumping at
each other and then running away for fifteen years or so. They say he'd
like her money, but he hates to be bothered with her."

"She wouldn't like to be bothered with him, either," said Gran'ma
Mullins.

"I know," said Susan. "That's what's making so few people like to get
married nowadays. They don't want to be bothered with each other."

Mrs. Lathrop fixed her little, black, beady eyes hard on Susan.

Susan stared straight ahead.



IX

SUSAN CLEGG'S PRACTICAL FRIEND


"Mrs. Sperrit can't stand it no longer, and she's going visiting,"
announced Susan Clegg to the three friends who, seated together on Mrs.
Macy's piazza, had been awaiting her return from down-town. Both Mrs.
Macy and Gran'ma Mullins were now back in their own houses after the
temporary absence due to the cyclone, and Mrs. Lathrop and she who might
yet be her daughter-in-law were reëstablished as their paying guests.

"Why, I never knew that Mr. Sperrit was that kind of a man," said
Gran'ma Mullins, opening her eyes very wide indeed. "I wouldn't say he's
han'some, and I wouldn't say he's entertaining; but I always thought
they got on well together."

"He isn't that kind of a man a _tall_," rejoined Susan, who had been
holding one hatpin in her mouth while she felt for the other, but now
freed herself of both. "It's just that Mrs. Sperrit's sick of all this
clutter of mending up after the cyclone. She says she's nervous for the
first time in her life and has got to have a change. She says the
carrying off of the barn and its never being heard from any more has got
on her nerves somehow, even if it was only a barn. She says God forgive
her and not to mention it to you, Mrs. Macy, but she wishes every hour
of her life as the cyclone had took you and left their barn, because the
barn had her sewing-machine in it, and she'd as leave be dead as be
without that sewing-machine."

"Where--?" mildly interpolated Mrs. Lathrop.

"Mr. Sperrit says wherever she likes. He's been upset by the barn too,
because it had his tool-chest in it, and he's such a handy man with his
tools that he feels for her in a way as not many women get felt for."

"Where does--?" began Gran'ma Mullins.

"She didn't know at first, but now she thinks she'll go and stay with
her cousin. She hasn't had much to do with her cousin for years, and she
says she feels as maybe the barn was a judgment. She never got along
well with her cousin. She says her cousin was pretty, with curls, and
she herself was freckled, with straight hair, and so it was only natural
as she always hated her. I don't feel to blame her none, for curls is
very hard on them as is born straight-haired. But there was more reasons
than one for Mrs. Sperrit not to get along with her cousin, and she says
it never was so much the curls as it was her not being practical. Mrs.
Sperrit is practical, and she's always been practical, and her cousin
wasn't. They didn't speak for years and years."

"Whatever set 'em at it again?" asked Mrs. Macy.

"Well, Mrs. Sperrit says it come by degrees. She says she first noticed
as her cousin was trying to make up about five years ago, but she
thought she'd best wait and be sure. Mrs. Sperrit's practical; she don't
never look in anywhere until she's leaped around the edge enough to know
what she's doing. She says her cousin named her first boy Gringer, which
is Mrs. Sperrit's family name; but then, it is the cousin's family name,
too, so she didn't pay any attention to that. Then she named her first
girl Eliza, which, as we know, is Mrs. Sperrit's own name, but seeing as
it was the name of the grandmother of both of them, she didn't pay any
attention to _that_, either. Then she named the second boy Sperrit,
which was a little pointed, of course; and Mrs. Sperrit says if her
cousin had been practical, she would certainly have thought that the
Sperrits ought to have given the child something. But she wasn't and
didn't, and they didn't. Then she named the second girl Azile--which is
Eliza spelt backwards--and Mrs. Sperrit says it was the spelling of
Eliza backwards as first showed her how awful friendly her cousin was
trying to get to be. Then, when she named the third boy Jacob, after
Mr. Sperrit, and the fourth boy Bocaj--which is Jacob spelled
backwards--Mrs. Sperrit says that it was no use pretending not to see.
Besides, naming the baby Bocaj just did go to her heart, particularly as
the baby wasn't very strong, anyway. So since then the Sperrits has sent
'em a turkey every Thanksgiving and a quarter apiece to the children
every Christmas."

"What's she named the other children?" asked Mrs. Macy with real
interest.

"Why, there ain't no more yet. Bocaj is only six months old."

"Oh, then they ain't sent no turkey yet!" exclaimed Mrs. Macy.

"No, not yet, but when they begin, they'll keep it up steady. And now
Mrs. Sperrit says she'll go and visit and see for herself how things
are. She's not very hopeful of enjoying herself, for she says visiting a
person as isn't practical is most difficult. She knows, because when she
taught school, she used to board with a family as was that way. She says
she kept the things she bought then, and she shall take 'em all to her
cousin's. She says when you stay with any one as isn't practical, you
must take your own spirit-lamp, and teapot, and kettle, and tea, and
matches, and a small blanket, and pen and ink, and a box of crackers,
and a sharp knife, and some blank telegrams, and a good deal of
court-plaster, and a teacup, and sugar if you take it, and a ball of
good heavy string, and your own Bible, and a pillow. And never forget to
wear your trunk-key round your neck, even if you only go down-stairs to
look at the clock. She's got all those things left over from her
school-teaching days. She says everything always comes in handy again
some time if you're practical, and she thanks God she's practical."

"I don't think that I should care to visit that way," said Gran'ma
Mullins thoughtfully. "I wouldn't say I wouldn't, and I wouldn't say I
couldn't, but I don't think--"

"She's going Tuesday," continued Susan Clegg. "Mr. Sperrit says she can,
and she's going Tuesday. She's written her cousin, and her cousin's
written her. Her cousin says they'll be too glad for words, and for her
to stay till Christmas--or till Thanksgiving, anyway. Mrs. Sperrit says
she won't do that, but she'll stay until the end of next week if she can
stand her cousin's husband. She says she never had any use for her
cousin's husband, because he isn't practical either, and when he was
young, his tie was never on straight. Mrs. Sperrit says a man that wears
his tie crooked when he's young is the kind to keep shy of later. She
says he'll never have a pocket knife and borrow hers, and never have a
pencil and borrow hers. And then, too, she's almost sure as by this time
he's spoilt her cousin's temper; and visiting a cousin whose temper's
spoilt wouldn't be fun, even if she was practical. Which this one
ain't."

"If her cousin's got a sharp tongue I--" began Gran'ma Mullins in quiet,
sad reminiscence.

"She was buying some wood alcohol and a cheap spoon at Mr. Kimball's,"
Susan went on. "She took me in her buggy and drove me up to look at our
houses, which is trying feebly to climb again to where they was before
the cyclone. But they're a sorry sight. I don't know when we're ever
going to get into them, I'm sure. I only wish Jathrop was to see how
slow those carpenters can be." Then Miss Clegg's countenance assumed a
coy expression, her eyes lowered bashfully, and her fingers nervously
sought to touch between the buttons of her waist some treasured object
hidden within. "I--I had a letter from him to-day."

And at that all three listeners started in more or less violent
amazement.

"What!" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"Nothing that I can tell any one," said Susan serenely. "So it's no use
asking me another word about it."

Mrs. Sperrit left on Tuesday precisely and practically as she had
planned; but she returned very much sooner than she had expected.

"And no wonder," declared Susan, just back from the Sewing Society, to
Mrs. Lathrop, who never went. "I should say it was no wonder. Well, Mrs.
Sperrit has had an experience, and I guess no lost barn will ever lead
her into looking up no more cousins after this."

"She's so worn-looking," said Gran'ma Mullins, who had returned with
Susan. "I wouldn't say white, and I wouldn't say worried, but I call it
peaked."

"Why, she's been through enough to make a book," said Mrs. Macy, who had
come in with the others, "--a book like _The Jungle_, as makes you right
down sick in spots."

"Oh, _The Jungle_ isn't so bad," said Susan. "If it was, Roosevelt would
have straightened it out soon enough when he was in it himself. But
what's awful about Mrs. Sperrit is what she has suffered, for that woman
certainly has suffered. She's a lesson once for all as to visiting. No
one as hears her is ever going lightly visiting after this. She lost her
trunk-key as soon as she landed in the house, and she says she was too
took up to miss it for three days, which shows what kind of a time she
had. Why, her cousin went right to bed as soon as she got there, because
she said as she knowed that Mrs. Sperrit was practical and could do
everything better than she could. So that was a nice beginning to begin
with. Well, she says such a house you never see. The chickens come into
the dining-room, and they was raising mud turtles in the bathtub, and
caterpillars in the cake-box. The children was awful right from the
start. She slept in the room with two of them, and they woke her up
mornings playing shave with the ends of her braids. She found out as
they dipped 'em first in the water pitcher and then in the tooth powder
to make it like lather."

"My heavens alive!" exclaimed Mrs. Lathrop.

"Then Jacob, who's only two and a half, ate mashed potatoes with his
fingers, which is a thing, Mrs. Sperrit says, as must be seen to be
believed, and they all just swum in jam from dawn to dark. She says she
never see such children, anyway. Whenever anybody sat down, they'd play
she was the Alps, and go back and forth over her wherever they could get
a purchase. And she says--would you believe it?--her cousin is got to be
so calm that it drives you out of your senses only to see the way she
takes things. Mrs. Sperrit says all she can say is as when a woman as
isn't practical does go to bed, she's resigned to that degree that you
wish you could blow her up with dynamite if only to see her move quick
just once."

"Why didn't she come home?" asked Mrs. Macy. "My view would be as I'd
come home. I said so to her to-day."

"She did come home, didn't she?" said Miss Clegg. "You heard her, and
you know she's home. It's Mrs. Lathrop as all this is new to, isn't it?
Well, Mrs. Lathrop, it would go to your heart to hear what happened to
all those little conveniences as she took. There wasn't no sharp knife
in the house but hers, so she never see hers after she unpacked it.
There wasn't no string or court-plaster either, so they disappeared
too. Then they run out of tea the minute they see she brought some, and
not being practical, her cousin's teapot naturally didn't have no nose,
so she lost her teapot, too. The whole family took her hairbrush and
used it for a clothes brush, and she thinks for a shoe brush when she
was down-town. Her cousin wore her stockings and her collars, and her
cousin's husband slept on the pillow with the blanket folded around him.
Not being practical, he liked his feet free."

"Well, I nev--!" ejaculated Mrs. Lathrop.

"Mrs. Sperrit said by the third day she had to begin to do something, so
she asked if she could clean her own room, and her cousin said she was
going to let her make herself happy in her own way and just to go ahead
and clean the whole house if she liked. So she went to work and cleaned
the whole house, and she says such a house she never dreamed could
exist. She found families of mice, and families of swallows, and
families of moths. She found things as had been lost for years, and
they was wild with delight to see 'em again. She found things as, she
says, she wouldn't like to say she found, because when all's said and
done a cousin is still a cousin, but she says--Good lands, what she
found! Well, she says when she got the house cleaned, her cousin was
still in bed, so she took heart of grace and asked if she might teach
the children to mind. Her cousin said she didn't care, so Mrs. Sperrit
went to work on those six children. Well, she says that was a job, and
it was that as led to her coming away like she did. She says the
children was the very worst children anybody ever saw. She says she
taught school, and she thought she knew children, but anything like
those children nobody--even those as is chock full of things not fit to
eat--could ever by any possibility of dreamed of. Why, she says they was
used to heating the poker and jabbing one another with it when mad; and
while you was leaning down to tie your shoe, they'd snatch your chair
away from behind you, and such games. But Mrs. Sperrit is practical,
and she believes in her Bible, and she thought as how the Lord had
delivered them into her hands and set to work. She said she begun by
washing them all--for they was always slippery from jam. And then she
cut their nails very short and started in. Well, she says it was some
work, for they was so funny she could hardly keep from laughing. She
says they're mighty bright children--she must say that for 'em, although
it don't soften her feelings a mite towards 'em. Well, she says you
couldn't do nothing a _tall_ with 'em. But she didn't lose courage. When
she talked serious, they took it as a great joke, and she had to stop
for meals so often that it used her all up; for she says such steady
eating she never see. She says the meals was most terrible, too, as they
always had herring, and of course the bones made so much picking that
the children kept telling her she ate with her fingers, herself. She
says that was the most awful part, the way they talked back. But she
didn't despair. She kept washing them out of the jam and taking a fresh
cut at their nails, until finally come the last hour of wrath. And then,
she says, they did make her mad--good and mad."

"But what did--?" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, seems the worst child was 'Zile. Of course, Mrs. Sperrit, having
taught school, thought they'd pronounce it like Azalea, and make a real
pretty name out of Eliza spelt backwards, but seems they dropped the A
and just called her 'Zile to rhyme with file; and Mrs. Sperrit says she
rhymed with file all right."

"Go on, Susan," urged Mrs. Macy.

"Well, the cousin and the husband was invited to go on a all-day
excursion, so the cousin got up and dressed and went. She said she might
as well, seeing as Mrs. Sperrit was there with the children. When they
was gone, Mrs. Sperrit made up her mind as now was her chance to bring
those children to time, once and for all. So she rolled up her sleeves
and give 'em all a good bath--for she says the way they'd get freshly
jammed was most astonishing--and then she went up-stairs to get her
scissors to cut their nails. She was opening her trunk to get out the
scissors when she heard a click. Well, when she run to the door, what do
you suppose? She found they'd locked her in.

"Well, maybe you can imagine her feelings! She says she was never so mad
in all her life. She called through the door, but not a sound. There was
a crack big enough to put your hand through under the door, and she
tried to look through it, but it wasn't high enough to put your eye to.
Then she heard a shout and run to the window. There they all was, out on
the grass in front,--all but Bocaj, who was asleep in his cradle
down-stairs. Well, such doings! She says 'Zile, who was always full of
ideas, was just outstripping herself in ideas this time. They had a old
pair of scissors, and first they went to work for half an hour cutting
each other's hair. She says you can maybe think of her feelings in the
upper window, left in charge of 'em, with full permission to whip 'em
if necessary, and having to sit and watch 'em trim each other anyway
the notion hit 'em. She says tying a man to a tree while cannibals eat
up his family is the only thing as would express it a _tall_. After they
got done cutting hair, they went in and got a pot of jam and brought it
out and sat down in full sight and eat jam with their fingers till there
was no more jam. She says she'd stopped calling things to 'em by that
time and was just sitting quietly in the window, thanking God for every
minute as they stayed where she could see what they was doing. But when
they had finished the jam, they went in the house and was so deathly
quiet she was scared to fits. She thought maybe they was setting fire to
something. But after a while they begun to bang on the piano, and when
she was half crazy over the noise, she looked towards the door, and
there was the key poked under. She made a jump for the key, and it was
jerked back by a piece of string. And her own string at that. Then she
was called to the window by Gringer yelling, and while she was trying
to hear what he had to say--the piano jangling worse than ever--they
opened the door suddenly and bundled Bocaj into the room and then locked
the door again.

"The baby was just woke up and hungry, and it was a pretty kettle of
fish. She says she made up her mind then and there to quit that house
and adopt Bocaj. She says she saw as there was no use trying to reform
the rest; but Bocaj was so little and helpless, and nothing in her heart
made her feel as he couldn't be raised to be practical. She went to work
and fed him crackers soaked in boiling water while she packed her trunk.
And when her cousin came home, she was sitting with her bonnet on ready
to go. Her cousin just naturally felt awful. She wanted to call it a
joke; but Mrs. Sperrit is a woman whose feelings isn't lightly took in
vain. She left, and she took Bocaj with her. She telegraphed Mr.
Sperrit, and he met her at the train. He was some disappointed because
he'd forgotten about the baby's name and thought from reading it in the
telegraph that she was bringing back a monkey. Seems Mr. Sperrit has
always wanted a monkey, and she wouldn't have one. But now she says he
can have a monkey or anything else, if he'll only stay practical. She
says she doesn't believe she could ever live with any one as wasn't
practical, after this experience."

Susan paused, Mrs. Macy and Gran'ma Mullins rose to go to their kitchens
and get suppers for their guests. When they had gone, Susan, having Mrs.
Lathrop alone, eased a troubled conscience.

"Oh, Mrs. Lathrop," she confided, "do you remember me saying the other
evening I'd had a letter from Jathrop?"

Mrs. Lathrop suddenly stopped rocking. "Yes--yes, Susan," she answered
eagerly. "I--"

"Well, I didn't have one. It was just as everybody in this community has
got their minds fixed on Jathrop's being wild about me, so I felt to
mention a letter, and I shall go on mentioning getting a letter from
him whenever the spirit moves me."

"Why, Susan--!" exclaimed Mrs. Lathrop.

"It doesn't hurt him a _tall_," said Susan Clegg with calm decision,
"and it saves me from being asked questions. And you know as well as I
do, Mrs. Lathrop, that I can have him if I want him."

Mrs. Lathrop sat open-mouthed, dumb.

"If I don't have him, it'll be because I don't want him," added Miss
Clegg with dignity. "So it's no use your saying one other word, Mrs.
Lathrop."

And Mrs. Lathrop, thus adjured, refrained from further speech.



X

SUSAN CLEGG DEVELOPS IMAGINATION


"Far be it from me, Mrs. Lathrop," said Susan Clegg, returning from an
early errand down-town and dropping in at Mrs. Macy's to find her friend
still in her own room and rocking in her old-gold stationary rocker. It
was now autumn, and to take the chill off the room an oil burner was
brightly ablaze. "Far be it from me to say anything disrespectful of
such a good Samaritan as your son Jathrop, but as we have it in the
scriptures, he certainly does move in a mysterious way his neighbors to
inform. It's mighty good of him to go to all the expense of building
over my house in a way I'd never in this wide world have had it if I
could 'a' understood those plans of that boy architect, and it may
be--providing we escape earthquake, fire, blood, and famine--that I'll
get into it once more before next summer, notwithstanding it's all of
two months behind yours, you being his mother, Mrs. Lathrop, and me only
your friend. But a early frost is sure to crack the plaster, and, seeing
as the glass blowers has gone on a strike, there's no telling when
they'll blow the panes for the windows. Just the same, kind and good as
Jathrop is, he might have had more consideration for me as would this
day have been his wife, if I'd felt to answer him with a three-letter
word instead of a two, than to put me on the pillar of scorn before a
community as has known me always as a scrupulous lover of the voracious
truth."

"You don't--" began Mrs. Lathrop, in mild astonishment.

"Yes, I do," continued Susan, with growing indignation. "Jathrop has
done his best to make me out a liar, and I don't know as I'll ever be
able to hold my head up again. He's struck me in the tenderest spot he
could strike me in, and not boldly neither, but in a skulking,
underhand way that makes it all the bitterer pill to swallow."

"I can't see--" objected Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, nor me neither. But he did, and in no time everybody'll know it
from Johnny, at the station, to Mrs. Lupey in Meadville, not forgettin'
the poor demented over to the insane asylum. And it all comes of those
letters I have been getting from Jathrop during the summer."

"But--"

"Yes, I know and you know there was no letters a _tall_. But everybody
else, except you and me and the postmaster, believed I had a letter
regular every week. Whenever I run short of subjects at the Sewing
Society, I just fell back on my last letter from Jathrop and told them
all about what he was doing in those islands. I'd read the book he sent,
and I'd read it to good profit. There was some things as I didn't quite
understand, of course, but on them I just put my own interpretations,
and knowing Jathrop as I did, it was easy enough for me to figure out
how he'd be most likely to act in a strange, barbaric land. The book
didn't have a word to say about the costumes of the native tribes, but
I'm not so ignorant as not to know how those South Sea Islanders never
wear nothing more hamperin' than sea-shell earrings and necklaces of
sharks' teeth; and I'd read, too, that foreign visitors, on account of
the unbearable heat, was in the habit of adoptin' the native fashions in
dress. When you get started makin' things up, there's no knowing just
where you're likely as to end. It's so easy to go straight ahead and say
just whatever you please that seems in any way interesting. And so, when
Mrs. Fisher asked me one day whether I supposed there was any cannibals
there, I said there was one cannibal tribe that was most ferocious and
had appetites that there was no such thing as quenchin'. I said that in
Jathrop's last letter he had written me about how this tribe had
captured the cook off the yacht and that when they finally found his
captors and defeated them in a desperate battle lasting three days, all
that was found of the cook was two chicken croquettes."

"For gra--!" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"That's what Mrs. Fisher said. Of course, with the cook eat up--all but
what was in the two croquettes, that is,--Jathrop and his millionaire
friends was a good deal put about. There wasn't a one of 'em as knew the
first thing about cooking, and after the exercise of the three days'
battle they was most awful hungry. And then, I says, quoting from the
letter from Jathrop which never came, they had a piece of real luck,
just as millionaires is always having. They had taken one prisoner, and
by means of signs, not knowin' a word of the cannibal language, they
discovered that the prisoner was the cook of the tribe. He pointed to
the croquettes as a example of his handiwork, and Jathrop said that he
never saw anything in the cookin' line that looked more toothsome than
they did. So, of course they engaged the cannibal cook on the spot and
carried him back to the yacht with 'em. Everything went well for a few
days, but on a day when they had invited the chief of a friendly tribe
to dinner, there was something as aroused their suspicions. The
principal dish for the feast was, so far as they could make out from the
cook's sign-language, a savory rabbit stew. Now as they had never seen
or heard tell of a rabbit in the Bahamas, they was naturally curious to
learn where the cook had managed to dig it up. He either couldn't or
wouldn't tell. I says that Jathrop says you might 'a' thought that the
cook was a thirty-second degree mason and that the origin of the rabbit
was a thirty-second degree masonic secret. The millionaires gathered in
council and discussed the question, pro and con, from every obtainable
or imaginable angle. Then, just as they were about to adjourn without
having reached any conclusion whatever, they rang for the cabin boy to
fetch some liquid refreshment. But there wasn't no answer. And they
might 'a' been ringing yet as to any good it would do. They never did
see that cabin boy, and the only one to eat the savory rabbit stew was
the visiting chief."

"I don't--" observed Mrs. Lathrop, rocking faster.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you're right about that," Susan confirmed,
loosening her shawl, for the oil-stove was rapidly lifting the room's
temperature. "I don't see, myself, why anybody should ever have known
any better, and nobody would have, if it hadn't been as Jathrop took it
into his head to talk to a newspaper man at Atlantic City on about the
same day as I had him missing the cabin boy and refusing a helping to
the rabbit stew. Mr. Kimball showed me the paper as came from New York
wrapped around a new ledger he just received by express. The reporter
had written two columns and over about the 'Klondike Bonanza King,' and
if Jathrop had set his mind to makin' me out a Ananias and a Saphira
boiled into one, he couldn't have succeeded better. He hasn't been in
the Bahamas a _tall_. The yacht started for there, but it went to Cuba
instead, and he and his friends only stayed in Cuba a week. From there
they went down to Panama and looked over the canal as far as it's gone.
They spent the summer sailin' from one summer resort to another, and I
must say I should think there was better ways of passin' the time than
that. When it comes to eatin', I'd about as leave eat the dishes of a
cannibal cook as eat things made of the salt water that people go
bathin' in, and that's what they do at Atlantic City. The minister
showed me some candy 'Liza Em'ly sent him from Atlantic City in July,
and I know what I'm talkin' about, for it was printed on the paper
around each piece. 'Salt-water Taffy.' Think of that! It's plain to be
seen that they ain't got any fresh water there, or they wouldn't use
salt. Jathrop and the other millionaires, I suppose, drink nothin' but
wine, but the poor folks must drink salt water or go thirsty. I suppose
it saves salt in seasonin', but I'd rather have my vituals unseasoned
than have 'em salted with water that folks has swum in. They certainly
ain't got no enterprise, that's sure. If they had they'd pipe
water--fresh water--from somewheres. And if there's no place near enough
to pipe it from, they'd build cisterns. But water's not the only thing
as shows their shiftlessness. Our town isn't exactly a metropolis, but
we got a few cement sidewalks. Atlantic City ain't got a one. I heard
about that long ago. And in these days of progress, too! Nothing but a
board walk on its principal street--nothing a _tall_."

"What did--?" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"He said a good deal more'n his prayers, I can tell you that. He said
his object in going to the Bahamas, to which he never went, after all,
was to look into the possibility of securin' a large tract of land there
for the cultivation and growth of sisal. Now what under the sun would
you suppose sisal was? I saw in the book that sisal was being grown in
increasing quantities in the islands, and I just naturally supposed it
was some sort of animal. It might of been buffalo, or it might of been
guinea pigs, but when I spoke at the Sewing Society of how Jathrop had
mentioned the great number of sisal, and Mrs. Allen says: 'What is
sisal?' I just right then and there on the spur of the minute says:
'Why, don't you know? Sisal is a sort of small oxen striped like a zebra
and spotted like a leopard.' And would you believe it, Mrs. Lathrop,
when Mr. Kimball asked me that same question to-day, I said the very
same thing--small oxen striped like a zebra and spotted like a leopard.
'That's what Mrs. Allen told me you said, Miss Clegg,' says he, 'but
accordin' to the paper, Jathrop Lathrop don't quite agree with you.' I
don't know, Mrs. Lathrop, I d'n know, I'm sure, why Jathrop should take
pleasure in making me appear like a ignoramus, but there ain't no
question about it that that's what he did when he gave that interview to
that there reporter. 'What kind of animal is a sisal, then, Mr.
Kimball?' I asked, and you can believe me my blood was boilin' in my
veins. 'It ain't no animal a _tall_,' he says. 'It's hemp what they
make ropes out of to hang murderers with. And the seeds they feed
canaries on.' 'Well,' I says, 'that may be the reporter's sisal, but it
ain't mine, and it ain't Jathrop's. The newspapers never get nothin'
right nohow, but when it comes to reducin' cattle into rope and
birdseed, they are certainly goin' one better on the Chicago pork
packers.' In all my life I have never been a respecter of the untruth,
but I know enough on the subject to tell a good lie when necessity calls
upon me and to stick to it as long as it has an eyelid to hang by. But I
will say this for your son Jathrop, Mrs. Lathrop, and that is that
before he got done with that reporter, he didn't leave so much as a
eyelash, let alone a lid. It wasn't only that he'd never been to those
islands a _tall_, and I'd been tellin' everybody in town as how I'd had
a letter from him there every week the whole summer through, but he must
air his acquaintance with things on the islands just as if he'd been
born and raised there. And it seems there ain't no natives within miles
of the Bahamas, and hasn't been since Columbus and his people was there,
goin' on fifteen hundred years ago. Columbus told 'em that he'd take 'em
to the land where all their dead relatives and friends had gone to, a
land flowin' with milk and honey, and he kept his word. Seems he shipped
every last mother's son and daughter of 'em back to Spain with him, and
left the islands bare for the next comers. It may have appeared a rather
roundabout way for the native Bahamians to reach heaven and their
departed folks, seeing as it led through hard work in the Spanish mines,
but there ain't no question whatever that they every one got there in
the end."

"You mean--" suggested Mrs. Lathrop.

"I mean that unless Lathrop or the reporter made it up, or the pair of
'em together, that nobody lives there now except whites and blacks, and
there's not enough whites to make a nice shepherd's plaid out of the
combination. But savagery, except for pirates, has never had any place
there, and cannibalism is absolutely unknown. It's all very
humiliating, and it'd 'a' been much better to let people ask me and
never said nothing back a _tall_. When people is in the dark, they've
got to imagine for themselves, and as long as they don't tell what they
imagine to others, no piece in a newspaper can never make 'em blush. I
can tell you it's learnt me a lesson as I won't soon forget. I'll never
get over the way Mr. Kimball looked at me when he said as how sisal was
hemp; and me thinking all the time it was a animal when it was a herb.
Well, Mrs. Lathrop, it's a ill wind that don't chill the shorn lamb. I'm
that chilled that I feel I never shall talk again. I'll never say black
is black or white is white until I've looked at the color twice with my
glasses on. Accuracy is the best policy, I says, from this day
henceforth."

"You might--" began Mrs. Lathrop sympathetically.

"That's true, too. I might have known that it didn't sound true to be
getting letters every week from a man who went away to the Klondike and
never sent his mother so much as a picture postal card in all the years
he was there. But then, too, you've got to consider the kind of folks as
you're telling things to, and with all due respect to the ladies of the
Sewing Society, from Mrs. Allen to Gran'ma Mullins, they're not
over-burdened with the kind of intellect as can add two and two and get
the same answer twice in succession. There wasn't a one of 'em as
thought of that, or they'd 'a' said it straight out, without once
considering my feelings. And I'll say this much for you, Mrs. Lathrop:
you're not the best housekeeper I ever see, and you're about a match for
Mrs. Sperrit's cousin when it comes to being practical, but you have got
some brains, and I'd no more think of trying to deceive you than I'd
think of trying to deceive Judge Fitch when he'd got a big retainer to
get the truth out of me."

Mrs. Lathrop leaned down and turned out the oil burner.

"Was that--?"

"No, it wasn't all. There was something else that has set me all of a
flutter. If it wasn't as you never can tell whether a newspaper is
voracious or just bearing false witness, I'd certainly feel as if
Jathrop was playing fast and loose with my affections. I can remember,
and you can remember, too, when the freedom of the press didn't mean
freedom to make a Pike's Peak out of a ant hill. But in these days
there's no telling whether, when we read of a poor soul being attacked
by a wild beast, it's a jungle tiger or just a pet yellow kitten. Folks
would rather read about the tiger than the kitten, and so the papers
give 'em what they want without any regard for the real facts a _tall_.
Elijah Doxey, who's a real editor if there ever was one, and knows all
about the paper business, says that the newspaper, like everything else,
has to keep abreast of the times or go to the wall, and that since
people in these days 'ld rather read fiction than history, it stands to
reason a paper can't stand in its own light by sticking always to cold
commonplace facts."

"Did the--?" Mrs. Lathrop attempted mildly to question.

"I don't know, I d'n know, I'm sure, Mrs. Lathrop. But the interview
with Jathrop wasn't all interview, by no means. It said a lot about his
party, and it mentioned each of the millionaires as was in it. Seems the
interview was given on one of those Atlantic City board walks, and it
was given--from what on earth do you think, Mrs. Lathrop? From a wheel
chair. Jathrop in a wheel chair! Think of that! And not alone, either.
'Beside him,' wrote the interviewer, 'was the beautiful, dark-eyed Cuban
señora who, rumor says, is soon to become his bride.' My lands! If it
hadn't been for Mr. Kimball's apple barrel, I certainly would have
dropped. It would 'a' been bad enough if they was both strong and well,
but to think of Jathrop being too weak to walk and going to marry a
foreigner no more robust than himself. You can't imagine the shock it
give me. For a minute I was clean speechless, and I'd 'a' been dumb yet,
I do believe, if it wasn't as I begun to figure things out in my head
and got sight of a ray of hope. Just as like as not, I says, Jathrop was
suffering from the sudden change of climate,--from the Klondike to Cuba
seems to me a pretty rigorous switch for any constitution,--and the
Cuban woman was more'n likely his trained nurse fetched from the island.
Either that or the woman was just recovering from a illness, and Jathrop
got in to ride with her out of pure kindness of heart. Then, too, I
remembered that: 'rumor says,' and cheered right up. Rumor never told
the truth yet, as far as I know, and it's not in reason to believe the
shameless thing is going to reform in these degenerate days. Jathrop may
be going to marry the señora, I don't say he isn't, and I don't say he
is. But before I believe it, I've got to have some better authority than
what rumor says. He's steered clear of wives in the Klondike, and he's
steered clear of 'em in other places, and I don't see as there's any
reason to think his steering apparatus come to grief while he was in
Cuba. 'How's Susan Clegg?' That was what he wrote in the first letter
you'd had from him in a dog's age, Mrs. Lathrop, and it showed pretty
clear to me who he was thinking of while engaged in the steering
operation."

"You don't think--" Mrs. Lathrop began distressfully.

"No man as was seriously sick, Mrs. Lathrop, ever talked two whole long
newspaper columns to a reporter. You can bank on that. He was well
enough to make me out the king of prevaricators, and it took some
strength and a good deal of attention to small details to do it, and as
the Cuban señora never said one word in all that time, I can't think as
she is cutting any figure eights in his affairs. Consequently, I don't
believe it'll pay either of us to do any great lot of worrying."

"If--" Mrs. Lathrop attempted once more to interpolate.

"That's just what I told Mr. Kimball. 'If Mrs. Lathrop could only see
this paper,' I says, 'I know she'd be delighted.' It stands to reason
as a mother must be proud of a son who, after having no more sense than
to take a kicking cow for a bad debt, goes to the Klondike and comes
back a millionaire; but it stands to reason, too, that she'd be more
proud of him to get two columns of free advertising in a New York paper
that can sell its columns to the department stores for real money. Well,
I asked him for the paper just to show you, and though he didn't feel to
part with it, just the same he did in the end, and I carried it away in
triumph."

"You've brought--"

"No, I haven't. I'm sorry to disappoint you, Mrs. Lathrop, more sorry
than I am to disappoint Mr. Kimball in not being able to return it, but
the truth is I lost it on the way home."

"Lost--"

"Every last scrap of it. And I can't say as it was altogether accidental
either. As Shakespeare says: 'Self-protection is the best part of
valor.' If that paper was ever to get before the Sewing Society, my
character would be stripped off me to the last rag. Mr. Kimball can say
what was in it, but without the paper itself, he'll have a hard time
proving anything, and my word when it comes to a dispute is as good as
his and a thousand times better."

Mrs. Lathrop leaned forward and for a moment stopped rocking.

"You--" she said quietly but tensely.

"Tore it into small bits," returned Susan, rising, "and scattered them
to the winds of heaven. There's a paper trail all the way from the
square to Mrs. Macy's gate."

Mrs. Lathrop resumed her rocking and relapsed into silence.

Susan Clegg, laying her finger to her lips as a parting warning, went
quietly out.



XI

SUSAN CLEGG AND THE PLAYWRIGHT


"Well," said Miss Clegg to her dear friend in the early fall of that
same year, while they still waited under alien roofs the completion of
their own made-over houses, "the men who write the Sunday papers and say
that when you look at the world with a impartial eye in this century you
can't but have hopes of women some day developing into something, surely
would know they spoke the truth if they could see Elijah Doxey now."

"But Eli--" expostulated Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, of course not. But 'Liza Em'ly is, and it's her I'm talking about.
She was up to see me this afternoon, and she says she'll spare no money
nowhere. The trained nurse is to stay with him right along forever if
he likes, and the two can have her automobile and ride or walk or do
anything, without thinking once what it costs. There was a doctor up
from the city again yesterday, and that makes four visits at a hundred a
visit. But 'Liza Em'ly says even if Elijah hadn't anything of his own,
she'd pay all the bills sooner'n think anything that could be done was
being left out. It's a pretty sad case, Mrs. Lathrop, and this last
doctor says he never see a sadder. He said nothing more could be done
right now, for there really is nothing in this community to remind
Elijah that he ever wrote a play, if they only could get those clippings
from the newspapers away from him. But that's just what they can't do.
He keeps looking them over, and then such a look of agony comes into his
eyes,--and Elijah was never one to bear pain as you must know,
remembering him with the colic,--and he clasps his hands and shakes his
head, and--well, Mrs. Lathrop, Elijah just wasn't strong enough to write
a play, and some one as was stronger ought to of restrained him right
in the first of it."

"He--" said Mrs. Lathrop pityingly.

"Yes, that's it," confirmed Susan, "and oh, it's awful to take a bright
young promising life like his and wreck it completely like that! To see
Elijah walking about with a trained nurse and those clippings at his age
is surely one of the most touching sights as this town'll ever see.
'Liza Em'ly says she offered a thousand dollars to any newspaper as
would print one good notice, 'cause the doctors say just one good notice
might turn the whole tide of his brain. But the newspapers say if they
printed one good notice of such a play, the Pure Food Commission would
have 'em up for libel within a week, and they just don't dare risk it.
This last doctor says he can't blame Elijah for going mad, 'cause he
knows a little about the stage through being in love with a actress
once, and he says he wasn't treated fair. He says play-writing is not
like any other kind of writing, and Elijah wasn't prepared for the
great difference. Seems all words on the stage mean something they don't
mean in the dictionary, and that makes it very hard for a mere ordinary
person to know what they're saying if they say anything a _tall_. And
then, too, Elijah never grasped that the main thing is to keep the
gallery laughing, even if the two-dollar people have tears running down
their cheeks. And you can't write for the stage nowadays without you
keep folks laughing the whole time. Elijah never thought about the
laughing, because his play was a tragedy like _Hamlet_, only with Hamlet
left out. For the lady is dead in the play, and her ghost is all that's
left of her. But 'Liza Em'ly told me to-day as his trouble came right in
the start, for the people who look plays over no sooner looked Elijah's
over before they took hold of it and fixed it. And they kept on fixing
it till it was _Hamlet_ with nobody but Hamlet left in. And then, so as
to manage the laughs, they dressed everybody like chickens if they
turned back-to. So that while the audience was weeping, if any one on
the stage turned 'round, they went off into shrieks of laughter. 'Liza
Em'ly says they never told Elijah about the chicken feathers, and the
opening night was the first he knew about that little game, for he was
laid up for ever so long before then. He got all used up in the first
part of the rehearsals; for it seems you can only have a theater to
rehearse in at times when even the people who sweep it don't feel to be
sweeping. And so they always rehearse from one to six in the morning.
And Elijah naturally wasn't used to that. But they'd had trouble even
before then; for right from the start there was a pretty how-d'ye-do
over the plot. Seems Elijah wanted his own plot and his own people in
his own play, and they had a awful time getting it through his head as
it's honor enough to have your own play, and it's only unreasonable to
stick out for your own plot and your own people too. 'Liza Em'ly says
they had a awful time with him over it all, and there was a time when he
felt so bad over giving up his plot and his people that any one ought
to have seen right there as he'd never be strong enough to stand all the
rest of what was surely coming. 'Liza Em'ly didn't tell me the whole of
the rest what come, but Mr. Kimball told me that what was one great
strain on Elijah, right through to the hour he begun to scream, was that
the leading lady fell in love with him and used to have him up at all
hours to fix up her part, and then kiss him. And Elijah didn't want to
fix up her part, and he hated to be kissed. But they told him the part
must be fixed up to suit her, and that the kisses didn't matter, because
they was only little things after all.

"He was wading along through the mire as best he could, when all of a
sudden it come out as she had one husband as she'd completely overlooked
and never divorced. He turned up most unexpectedly and come at Elijah
about the kisses. Then they told Elijah he couldn't do a better thing by
his play than to let the man shoot him two or three times in places as
would let him be carried pale and white to a box for the opening night;
and then, between the last two acts, marry the lady and let it be in all
the morning papers. You can maybe think, Mrs. Lathrop, how such a idea
would come to the man as is to be shot. But, oh, my, they didn't make
nothing of Elijah's feelings in the matter. Nothing a _tall_. They just
set right to work and called a meeting of the play manager and the stage
manager and the leading lady's manager and Elijah's manager, and the man
who really does the managing. They all got together, and they drew up a
diagram as to where Elijah was to be hit, and a contract for him and the
leading lady to sign as they wouldn't marry anybody else in the
meantime. And if it hadn't been for 'Liza Em'ly, the deal, as they
called it, would have gone straight through. For Elijah was so dead beat
by this time that about all he was fit for was to sit on a electric
battery with a ice bag on his head, and look up words in a stage
dictionary and then cross 'em out of his play."

"Oh, I--" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"That's just what 'Liza Em'ly said she said," rejoined Susan Clegg. "I
tell you, Mrs. Lathrop, 'Liza Em'ly is no fool since her book's gone
into the thirty-seventh edition, and that's a fact. She told me to-day
as when she realized the man she loved--for 'Liza Em'ly really loves
Elijah; any one can see that just by looking at the trained nurse she's
got him--was being murdered alive, she went straight up and took a hand
in the matter herself. I guess she had a pretty hard time, for the
leading lady wouldn't hear to changing any of what they call the
routing, and said if Elijah wasn't shot and married according to the
signed agreement, she wouldn't play. And when a leading lady won't play,
then is when you find out what Shakespeare really did write for,
according to 'Liza Em'ly. For a little they was all running this way and
that way, just beside themselves, with the leading lady in the
Adirondacks and two detectives watching her husband. And the man as was
painting the scenery took a overdose of chloral and went off with all
his ideas in his head, and that unexpected trouble brought 'em all
together again. The husband came down off his high horse and said he'd
take five per cent, of the net--Don't ask me what that means, for Mr.
Dill don't know either--and the littlest chorus girl and go to Europe.
And he said, too, as he'd sign a paper first releasing Elijah from all
claim on account of his wife. So they all signed, and he sailed. He was
clear out to sea before they discovered as he had another wife as he'd
never divorced, so the leading lady could of married Elijah, after all.
Well, that was a pretty mess, with a husband as had no claim on nobody
gone off to Europe with five percent of the net. The stage manager and
Elijah's manager took the _Mauretania_ and started right after him, for
when it comes to five per cent. on any kind of stage thing, Mr. Kimball
says, any monkeying counts up so quick that even hiring a yacht is
nothing if you want to catch that five per cent. in time. So they was
off, one in the captain's room and the other in the bridal suite, while
'Liza Em'ly was down in Savannah getting local color to patch up the
scenery, leaving Elijah totally unprotected on his battery with his
ideas.

"But Elijah wasn't to be left in peace even now. Seems they was having a
investigation into the poor quality of the electricity in the city, and
a newspaper opened a referendum and made 'em double the power. The
company was so mad, they didn't give no warning to a soul, but just slid
up the needle from 100 to 200 right then and there; and one of the
results was they blew Elijah nearly through the ceiling. Nothing in the
world but the ice bag saved him from having his skull caved in, and the
specialist thinks he's got a concussion in his sinus right now. Poor
Elijah!"

"But--?" Mrs. Lathrop queried.

"They took him to the hospital, and from then on to the opening night
he had nothing to do with his own play. The leading lady married the
stage manager till she got the stage to suit her, and then she married
the man who really does the managing until she got everything else to
suit her. Next, without letting any of the others know, she married
Elijah's manager secretly, so that when poor Elijah in the hospital
thought he was looking at his manager, he was really nursing a viper in
his bosom. When 'Liza Em'ly came back with her local color, they told
her they didn't want it because they was going to have the camping-out
scene in the parlor, and play the people all liked a joke. When she went
to a lawyer to protest, the lawyer looked through all Elijah's contracts
and said Elijah had never stipulated as the camping-out scene should be
in the woods. So 'Liza Em'ly paid him fifty dollars and come away a good
deal wiser than she went.

"Then come the opening night, and Mr. Kimball says he shall never forget
that opening night as long as he lives. You know he bought himself one
of those hats as when you sit on 'em just gets a better shape, and then
he went up to see his own nephew's own play. Seems he sat on his hat in
Elijah's own box, but he says Elijah was looking very bad even before
the curtain went up. Seems Elijah didn't expect much, but he did have
just a little hope that here and there in spots he'd see some of his own
play. But the hope was very faint. After the curtain went up, it kept
getting fainter. Of course Elijah meant it for a tragedy and called it
_Millicent_; and seeing the title changed to _Milly Tilly_ was a hard
blow to him right in the beginning. Seems the woman poisoned herself
because she was unhappy, and after she's dead, she remembers there was
some poison left in the bottle, and so she wants to warn the family. It
was a very nice plot, Polly White thinks, and Elijah was wild over it
'cause there's never been a plot used like it. But of course his idea
was as it should be took seriously. Do you wonder then, Mrs. Lathrop,
that the first time in the play when one of the play actors turned
round he nearly died? Mr. Kimball says he nearly died himself. He says
he never saw anything so funny as those chicken backs in all his life.
He says people was just laying any way and every way in their seats,
wailing to stop, so they could stop too. He says he was laughing fit to
kill himself when all of a sudden he looked up to see Elijah, and he
says nothing ever give him such a chill as Elijah's then-and-there
expression. Seems Elijah was just staring at the leading lady as was
flapping her wings and playing crow, while the gallery was pounding and
yelling like mad. And then Elijah suddenly shot out of the box and round
behind the scenes and vanished completely."

Mrs. Lathrop gasped and lifted her hands, but no word issued from
between her lips.

"Well, of course we know now what happened, but nobody did then. Nobody
was expecting him on the stage, before the scenes or behind 'em, and Mr.
Kimball didn't know where he was gone. So it was the end of the piece
before he was really missed. Then they begun to hunt, and no Elijah high
or low nowhere. You know how the papers was full of it, and there would
have been more about it, only Mr. Kimball and 'Liza Em'ly supposed it
was just advertising. Even 'Liza Em'ly thought it was the wrong kind of
advertising and that the leading lady had seen Elijah's face and thought
it was better to kidnap him until the play got settled down her way.
Seems if you can keep a play going any kind of a way for a little while,
you can't never change it afterwards, no matter what you've put in it.
It's all most remarkable business, a play is. But anyway, wherever he
was, they all moved on to the next town anyhow. 'Liza Em'ly and Mr.
Kimball went right with them to protect Elijah's interest, as it was
plain to be seen from where Elijah's manager was sleeping, where his
interest was now. And as soon as they begun to unload the scenery, the
afternoon of that day, whatever do you suppose? There was Elijah, just
where he'd fell when he tripped over the first scene. They'd carted him
off in the triangle that unfolds into a grand piano, right along to the
baggage-car, where they'd piled the whole of his play on top of him,
ending up even with the chicken feathers."

"Great heav--!" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"So he said," interrupted Miss Clegg. "But there was no help for it.
Seems while you're playing Act III. of a play, Act II. is getting packed
up, and Act I. is already in the train. So Elijah was all packed and
pretty flat before they even missed him, and most crazy before he was
found. Well, and so to try and soothe him they took him to the theater
that night again, and the leading lady, when she looked at him and saw
how awful weak he looked, sent him in a new idea she'd got, which was to
let her have a poster done of him packed up in the scenery. Then every
night he could sit in a box and at a certain sign give a yell and shoot
out. Then she'd make a speech about his having been in the scenery car
all the night before, and being naturally kind of excited. She said it
would make the play draw like mad. Well, Elijah wouldn't consent to that
a _tall_. And then again they worked with him and talked to him and
called him a fool till he really begun to get awfully scared. They had
in all the managers together, and they wouldn't let him consult any one.
Seems they just all sat looking at his forehead just over his nose where
you hypnotize people, and he kept getting more and more scared. Seems he
told his nurse, during what they call a lucid interval, that you can
talk all you please about will power--and it may be true of people in
general--but no rule ever made on earth can possibly apply to any one
who has just written a play. There's something about writing a play as
takes all the marrow out of your bones and the blood out of your body.
And he says he wasn't no more responsible when he signed that contract
to go mad in a box every evening and at least one matinée every week
than a grasshopper. He says his one and only thought by that time was
to get away from 'em and make a break to where he'd never hear about his
play again. But after he'd signed, they never let him out of sight. They
locked him up in a dressing-room with the leading lady's pet mouse until
after the performance, and then they took him and introduced him to two
very big managers as was engaged to do nothing except manage him nights
in the box.

"Well, you know the rest, Mrs. Lathrop. He really did go mad, then, and
we've got him here now helpless, getting rich almost as fast as 'Liza
Em'ly, and crazy as a loon. I declare, it's one of the saddest cases I
ever see. I don't know whatever can be done. They say as fast as he gets
sane, the play'll surely drive him crazy again, so I don't see what
'Liza Em'ly will do. She set with me the whole afternoon and talked very
nicely about it all. To see her here, you'd never think she could act
the way Mrs. Macy and Mrs. Fisher tell about. I can see she's got a
little airy, and she says she misses her maid and her secretary more
than she ever tells the minister's family; but on the whole I like her
very much, and her devotion to Elijah is most beautiful. She says he's
the one love of her life, and she shall marry him if ever he gets sense
enough to know what he's doing. If he doesn't, she says she shall take a
yacht and sail with him and write books until he dies. She says they can
land once in a while to get their provisions and their royalties. But
she says the only possible salvation for Elijah, as things are now, will
be to stay where he never sees a car to remind him of scenery, or a
house to remind him of a stage, for years and years to come. I asked her
what she _really_ thought of his play, and she said she thought the
leading lady was just right and very clever, only Elijah was too
sensitive a nature to understand little artistic touches like the
chicken feathers. She says folks are too tired nowadays to be bothered
to laugh. They want to be made to laugh without even thinking. She says
Elijah is a earnest nature as likes to work his laughs out very
carefully and conscientious; but the leading lady understands getting
the same effect, only a million times quicker, with chicken feathers and
divorces. 'Liza Em'ly says the leading lady is very fair according to
her own idea of fairness. She didn't have no money to put in the play,
so she agreed to put in four divorces and one scandal as her part of the
stock. Now the play's only been on a month, and she's paid up everything
except one divorce and the scandal; and she's done so well they're
trying to work up some scheme to let her pay both those off at the same
time. The play is going fine. They print columns about Elijah and his
madness, and the whole company is learning to crow together at the end
of the second act. Every night they take out a little of what Elijah
wrote, and the main manager says that there'll soon be nothing of Elijah
left in except the ghost, and the ghost of the bottle, and the agreement
to pay Elijah his royalties. And according to the main manager's views,
that's being pretty fair and square with Elijah."

"Do you--?" queried Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I don't know," answered Miss Clegg, "I really d'n know what to
say. I'm kind of dumb did over both 'Liza Em'ly and Elijah, for you know
as well as I do, Mrs. Lathrop, that nobody ever looked for those kind of
things from them."

"Shall--?" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, if it ever comes where I can," responded Miss Clegg, "I shall like
to see it very much."

"Did--?" pressed Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, yes, I asked her," Susan admitted, "I asked her fair and square. I
says: ''Liza Em'ly, there's no use denying as you've used real people in
this community in your book, and now I want to know who is Deacon
Tooker?' She said Deacon Tooker was just the book itself. She seemed
more amused than there was any particular sense in; but I thought if
anything could give her a good laugh, it wasn't me would begrudge her.
There's this to be said for our young folks when they do get rich, Mrs.
Lathrop, and that is that they're nice about it, and it makes every one
feel kindly towards 'em. Every one feels kindly towards Jathrop, and
every one feels kindly towards 'Liza Em'ly, and as for poor, dear
Elijah--Well!"

The tone was expressive enough. Mrs. Lathrop shook her head sadly. Then
both were silent.



XII

SUSAN CLEGG'S DISAPPEARANCE


The "building-over" of Susan Clegg and her friend, Mrs. Lathrop, was
completed during the second week in December, and in less than
twenty-four hours they were once more established in their own
dwellings, surrounded by their own goods and chattels. For only the
briefest space, however, did Miss Clegg remain where she was put. Then
she hurried through the passageway afforded by the connecting pergola
and burst excitedly into her neighbor's brand new kitchen in the very
center of which sat Mrs. Lathrop in her old-gold-plush stationary
rocker, calmly surveying her domiciliary spick-and-spanness. On her lap
lay a just-opened letter; but for once the scrupulously observing Miss
Clegg failed to observe. She was too full of fresh trials.

"I d'n know whatever sins I committed in this world, Mrs. Lathrop," she
began, dropping into the nearest chair and facing her friend in an
upright, a little bent forward attitude that was clearly pugnacious,
"that I should have these things visited upon me. The Lord knows, just
the same as you do, as I've always been a good and pure woman, loving my
neighbors like myself and doing all my Christian duties as I was give to
see 'em. When I was tore up from my home by the roots and cast wilted
and faded upon Gran'ma Mullins, where the infant memories of Hiram
certainly wasn't calculated to do no reviving, I made the best of it. I
made the best of Lucy and a dog with a cold nose, too; and I bore up
with courage and no complaint under Mrs. Allen and her Persian religion.
And I did it all to please you, Mrs. Lathrop, and your fool of a son,
Jathrop, whose money, it's my opinion, has acted on him in a most
injurious way. He never had much sense, as you yourself know, but now he
ain't got no sense a _tall_."

"I don't--" Mrs. Lathrop started gently to protest.

"Well, I do," rejoined Susan Clegg spiritedly; "and if you don't, you
ought to. Anyhow, I mean to tell you, if it's the last act of my life.
Anybody as has any sense a _tall_ must have seen that building over was
just a mite removed from building new; and what's new never did go with
what's old, and it never will. If we was to be built over, we ought to
have been all built over or let alone. Jathrop's built the houses over,
but he ain't built over the furnishings, and the built-over houses and
the not-built-over furniture and carpets and window shades and pots and
kettles and pans and china and linen and everything else don't agree and
just naturally can't and never can. They're fighting now like sixty, and
they'll go on fighting the longer they're kept together. My house was
restful and peaceful before, but now it's like a circus with all the
wild animals let loose. And I can tell you this, Mrs. Lathrop; my things
is getting the worst of it. Why, before they went to storage at Mr.
Shores', they was in the best repair you ever see, and now it would make
your heart ache to look at 'em. They've aged a century at least during
the summer. They're wrinkled and halt and lame and blind, and the new
paper on the walls and the new polish on the floors and the new paint on
the woodwork is making 'em look sicker and sicker every minute. If
there's a society for the prevention of cruelty to furniture and other
household goods, it ought to put Jathrop Lathrop in prison. I feel so
sorry for those poor tables and chairs and bedsteads and all the rest of
'em as I could cry my eyes out this very minute. There's one walnut,
haircloth sofa as Father laid on before he was took to his bed as is
pitiful to behold. It looks sicker than Father did even in his last
hours, and I wouldn't be surprised any minute to see it just turn over
all of itself and give up the ghost. And everything has on such a
reproachful look it's more than human nature can bear to face it. If I'd
ever thought as being built over would of come to this, I'd of gone on
my knees and worked 'em to the bare bones before I'd of put up with it."

Mrs. Lathrop continued to rock in silence.

"Still, there's no cloud, however black, as hasn't got some silk in its
lining, and the silk in this is the clock as Father gave Mother, which
was supposed to be marble and wasn't. Much as I hated that clock, I
couldn't have borne to see its agonies when set on by the new fireplace
below, and the pink and gold wall paper behind, and the roses and cupids
in the cornish above. It must just of shriveled in shame instead of
going out in glorious flight, as it did when I set it flying at the end
of the bed-slat. Lord knows, though, Mrs. Lathrop, that's a small thing
to be thankful for; and it's the only thing. I haven't begun yet to tell
you all. And I don't intend to. There's a limit to my temper, and if I
once got started, there's no saying where I'd end. But there's one thing
more as I can't hold in, and it's the thing as was marked on the plans:
'But. Pan.' I never did understand why I should be give a separate room
to keep butter pans in, seeing as I ain't got no cow, let alone no
dairy. And even if I had, why I should keep my butter pans or my milk
pans either in a little alley-way between the kitchen and the
dining-room, just where the heat and smells could get at 'em from one
side and the flies from both, not to mention the added footsteps put on
me journeying from the stove to the dinner table. You can see for
yourself, Mrs. Lathrop, there's no sense in it, whatever. But I'd never
say a word about it, if that was all. But it ain't all. It's the
littlest part. For Jathrop's cruelty hasn't stopped with torturing the
furniture. It's clear he couldn't be satisfied till he fixed up a trap
as sooner or later would hit me square in the face and break my nose. At
both ends of his 'But. Pan.' he's had hung doors as swing, and springs
on 'em to make 'em swing hard and deadly. What either one of those
swinging doors might do to my features, let alone to the pudding or stew
I might be carrying, it isn't in mortal tongue to express. If I could
find one thing as was right in the whole house, I'd be fair and square
enough to overlook the others; but there ain't to my mind a single
solitary betterment. There's glass knobs on all the doors as will show
every finger mark, and will keep me busy wiping from dawn to dark. The
old brown knobs never showed nothing and didn't never have to be thought
of, let alone polished. It's always been my idea as a cupboard was a
place to shut things up in out of sight, and here if he hasn't gone and
put glass doors on the one in the corner of the dining room, so as every
one can see just what's meant to be hid. It's clear to be seen he's
crazy on the subject of glass, which I ain't and never have been. And I
don't like the way he's stinted things as is necessary and put all the
money in things as had better been left out. Necessities before
everything is my motto. What use, I'd like to know, is that cupid and
rose cornish? But he puts that there just to catch dust and leaves out
the whole of one parlor wall. If you'll believe me, Mrs. Lathrop,
there's not a hair or hide of a wall between my entry hall and my
parlor. Nothing but a pair of white posts as most people use on their
piazzas. How I'm ever going to keep that parlor dark I don't see; for
he's got glass over the front door and on both sides of it, and no
shutters to keep the sun out. He's built in both the kitchen stove and
the ice box, and for the life of me, I can't find no reasonable way of
taking the ashes out of the one or the water out of the other. The
builder says the ashes dump into a place in the cellar and the water
from the ice drains down a pipe underneath the house. But I don't like
neither plan. The drip from a ice box is a very cheering sound, I think,
and with hot ashes going down cellar where you can't see 'em, I'll be in
deadly fear of the house going up in smoke while I'm dreaming in my bed.
The long and the short of it is, Mrs. Lathrop, I feel as I have been
assaulted and robbed. Jathrop's took away my home and left me a house as
isn't a home to me and never can be. And as far as I can see, he's done
the same to you, which is ten thousand times worse, you being his
mother."

"I--" began Mrs. Lathrop, taking up the letter from her lap so that at
last it was forced upon Susan's observance.

"From him, I suppose," Miss Clegg instantly concluded, reaching for it.
"If he's got anything to say in his defence, I'm sure I'd delight to
read it. But no matter what he says, he can't undo to me what he's done
to me. I'll never feel the same towards Jathrop, your son or not your
son, Mrs. Lathrop, as long as I live."

Mrs. Lathrop passed the letter to Miss Clegg. Like all of Jathrop's
letters, it was brief and to the point. He announced that he would spend
Christmas with his mother in her rebuilt home and would bring with him a
friend as his guest. Susan read it over twice, turning the page each
time, evidently in hope of finding an enlightening postscript.

"Well, of all things!" she exclaimed, as she passed the letter back to
her friend. "Coming to see his work of destruction and going to bring
_her_ with him!"

"He don't--" Mrs. Lathrop endeavored to explain.

"He don't, because he don't dare; but there's no question what he means.
He's bringing the señora. And he wouldn't bring her if it wasn't that
he's going to marry her. Even you must see that. And if there was ever a
insult multiplied by perjury, Jathrop's done it in that action. It's a
good thing he didn't ask: 'How's Susan Clegg?' this time, as he did the
time he was coming back from the Klondike. For I don't believe I could
ever have stood that. All I can say, Mrs. Lathrop, is as I'm sorry for
you from the soles of my feet up. You'll never in the world be able to
get up a Christmas dinner as will please any señora, you can take my
word on that. And not to please her will be a bad beginning with a
señora as is to be your future daughter-in-law. Señoras don't care
shucks for turkey and mince pie. They're not used to 'em and likely to
get indigestion from 'em, and think what it would mean to Jathrop, let
alone to her, if she should be carried off by a acute attack right here
in your new, built-over house, at the dinner table. He'd blame it on
you, and like as not she'd haunt you the rest of your living days. No,
sir. You've got to give her Spanish omelets with lots of red peppers in
'em, and everything else Creole style, which means all he't up with
tabasco sauce fit to burn out your insides. It's eating like that as
makes those Spaniards and Cubans so dark colored you can't tell 'em from
mulattoes. The peppers and the tabasco sauce bakes 'em brown on the
outside, after leaving 'em all scorched and parched within."

For once, however, Susan Clegg was wrong in her deduction. Jathrop
arrived in a red automobile on the day before Christmas, with a
chauffeur in bear-skins driving, and a guest in sealskin beside him. But
the guest was not the señora. It was one of Jathrop's millionaire
friends who, Jathrop said, could buy and sell him twenty times over. He
was a small man with a bald head and a red beard and old enough to be
Jathrop's father.

Miss Clegg viewed the arrival from her bedroom window and was so glad it
wasn't the señora that she at once set about baking extra doughnuts and
mince pie to contribute to the festivities of the morrow. This occupied
her until supper time. Then she made a hurried meal, washed her one
plate and cup and saucer, and loaded down with her thank offering,
flitted through the pergola and in at Mrs. Lathrop's kitchen door. The
kitchen was empty, but voices penetrating from the dining room told her
that her friend and her visitors were still at table. Being a trifle
nervous and unable to sit quietly, she began at once to put the
disordered kitchen into some degree of order, purely for the sake of
occupation.

She had just finished washing and scouring the pots and pans and was
flushing the waste-pipe of Mrs. Lathrop's new porcelain sink with
lye-water so strong that her eyes ran tears from the fumes, when the
voices growing more and more audible told her that Jathrop was leading
his mother and his guest toward the kitchen. She just had time hurriedly
to dry her hands on the roller towel when they appeared.

"Well, well," exclaimed Jathrop, in apparent surprise, "if here ain't
our old friend, Susan Clegg!"

There is no question that Miss Clegg was slightly flustered at thus
being taken unawares, but she recovered herself promptly, and shook
hands cordially with Jathrop and not less cordially with the little
millionaire, whom he introduced as Mr. Kettlewell. And Mr. Kettlewell
was cordiality itself. Everybody sat down, right there in the kitchen
and talked for a full hour, and in the course of the talk, Jathrop told
Susan that he had arranged with a department store in New York to let
her have whatever she needed for her built-over house and charge the
same to his account. She could select the things from the firm's
catalogue, or go to the city at his expense and pick out the actual
articles. It was his Christmas present to his mother's and his own
oldest friend. In conclusion, Jathrop joined with his mother in an
invitation to Susan to take Christmas dinner with them; and Mr.
Kettlewell smilingly begged her, for his sake, not to refuse. Altogether
Susan had the pleasantest evening she had experienced in years, and the
next morning, while Jathrop and Mr. Kettlewell were off in the car after
evergreens with which to decorate the two houses, she ran over with the
express purpose of telling Mrs. Lathrop so.

"Jathrop mayn't have much judgment when it comes to selecting
architects," she began, "nor again when it comes to selecting servants,
as was proved by his bringing that Hop Loo all the way from the
Klondike. Nor again, neither, when it comes to wives, if it's a real
fact that he's going to marry a brown-baked señora; but there's no
getting away from the fact that he's a king in choosing his men friends.
I've seen men in my life of all sorts and descriptions, from the
minister to the blacksmith, but I ain't never see before such a
handsome, high-minded, superior gentleman as Jathrop's friend, Mr.
Kettlewell. I never thought much of bald-headed men before, but his head
is so white and shiny, it's a pleasure to look at it. And I always just
hated a red beard; but Mr. Kettlewell's beard is of a different red.
It's a nice, warm, comforting red as makes you feel as cosy as the glow
of a red-hot stove when the thermometer's down around zero. I can't say
either, Mrs. Lathrop, as I wasn't more or less prejudiced against men as
never rightly grew up, but stopped in the women's sizes. But there's a
something about Mr. Kettlewell's proportions as gives you the idea he's
really taller than he seems. And there's only one thing to compare his
voice to. It's milk and honey. My lands, what a sweet, clear-rolling,
liquid voice that Mr. Kettlewell has!"

"Ja--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, I heard him. But I don't put that against Mr. Kettlewell, not a
_tall_. I'm sure he made every penny of it honestly, and if he's retired
from business now, it don't mean he's quit work. It's no easy job
cutting coupons off all the bonds he must have, and collecting rents is
a occupation I don't envy nobody. It's the penalty that rich men have to
pay for their success. They work hard to get the principal, and then
they're made to work twice as hard to get the interest. There's no such
thing as rest for the rich any more'n there is for the poor. I used to
think before Father died as I'd like to roll in wealth, but it ain't no
easy rolling, I can tell you that, Mrs. Lathrop, especially when you've
got a tenant like Mrs. Macy, who won't buy so much as a gas-tip or do so
much as drive a nail without charging it up to the owner."

Miss Clegg's participation in the Christmas dinner at her neighbors' was
twofold. She took part in its preparation as well as in its discussion.
It was her soup which began it, it was her "stuffing" which added zest
to the roast turkey, it was her cranberry sauce which sweetened
contrastingly the high seasoning, and it was her mince pie which brought
the repast to a fitting and enjoyable close. Seated opposite to Mr.
Kettlewell, where she could revel in a full view of his shining pate and
his warmly comforting whiskers, her enjoyment was ocular as well as
gustatory; and under the caressing sweetness of his voice it was
likewise auricular. For the occasion Jathrop had provided a fine vintage
champagne, and though Miss Clegg, whose total-abstinence principles
forbade her to even taste, refrained from so much as touching her lips
to the edge of her glass, she unquestionably warmed in the stimulating
atmosphere of the sparkling, bubbling, golden juice of the grape. To her
it was indeed the red-letter Christmas of her life, and every incident,
of the dinner especially, was a matter for reflection and rumination in
the succeeding hours.

In this vale of tears, however, there is apparently no great joy without
its compensating sorrow; and in Susan Clegg's case the one followed
swiftly on the heels of the other. In the pale gray of the dawn of the
following day, Susan Clegg dashed wildly out of her kitchen door and
flitted with lifted skirts across the brief intervening space that led
to Mrs. Lathrop's back door. As pallid as the morning itself, her scant
hair streaming, her eyes wide with mixed terror and indignation, she
burst into her neighbor's kitchen, where to her great relief she found
her old friend already up and occupied.

One glimpse of Susan was enough for Mrs. Lathrop. Up went her hands and
down went she on to the nearest chair with an inarticulate gasp of
horrified yet questioning astonishment, while Miss Clegg flopped limply
into another at the end of the kitchen table.

There she must have sat for a full minute before she could get breath to
utter a word, which, being contrary to all her habits, was in itself
terrifying to her friend. Eventually, however, she forced herself to
assume an upright position and simultaneously attained a somewhat
feeble attempt at speech.

"Well, of all things in this world to happen to me!" Then she paused for
a fresh breath, which being utterly without precedent, added mightily to
Mrs. Lathrop's alarm. "And even now at this minute I don't really know
whether I'm more dead than alive, or more alive than dead."

Mrs. Lathrop, believing that the situation being extraordinary, some
extraordinary effort on her part was demanded, stirred herself to a
prolonged speech.

"Don't tell me I'm looking--"

"No, I'm not a ghost, if that's what you mean. You are looking at Susan
Clegg in the flesh--all the flesh that ain't been scared clean off her.
But it's the greatest miracle as ever happened in this community that
it's my body and not my spirit as is here to tell the tale. My house was
broken into by a burglar, Mrs. Lathrop, and I was tied up and gagged in
one of my own chairs."

Mrs. Lathrop just gasped. Susan drew herself up a little straighter,
gaining courage from the sound of her own voice, and striking something
like her old oral gait.

"I was gagged for five hours, Mrs. Lathrop, and knowing me as you do for
all these years and years, maybe you can feel what being gagged for five
hours and not able to say even 'boo' meant to a active person like me.
Every one of those hours was like a eternity in a Spanish inferno of
torture. And everything I possess in this world, from my bonnet and
striped silk dress to Father's deeds at the mercy of that gagger. And
all I've got to say is this: If I hadn't of been built over, it never in
the wide creation would have happened. And if your son Jathrop thinks he
can ever make up to me for being gagged by inviting me to a Christmas
dinner, most of which I cooked with my own hands, and offering to give
me strange pieces of furniture to take the place of pieces as is old
friends and dearer than the apples of my two eyes, he'd better do some
more thinking. There never was nothing about the house I was born in and
my mother and father died in to make a burglar look at it twice. No
burglar as had any respect for himself or his calling, Mrs. Lathrop,
would have looked at it once or knowed as it was there. But built over
it's as different as diamon's is from pebbles. It looks money from the
tips of its lightning rods to its cellar windows and is as inviting to
robbers as if it had a sign on the gatepost, reading: 'Walk in!' So,
however you look at it, there's nobody responsible for my gagging and
for whatever is missing but one man, and that man is Jathrop Lathrop.
It's easy to be seen as he's no more fit to have money than a crow as
steals gold trinkets that cost fortunes and goes and hides 'em in hollow
trees. He was born poor, and the Lord meant him to stay poor, no matter
what Mrs. Allen and her Persian religion has to say about things as
happens being meant to happen. The Lord hadn't nothing to do with
Jathrop going to the Klondike and getting rich, you can be certain
about that. If he hadn't been fool enough to take a kicking cow for a
perfectly good debt and then let it loose to ride over a peaceful and
long-suffering community, he'd 'a' lived and died a pauper in this here
very town. So's far as I can see it was the devil and not the Lord as
guided Jathrop from the first, and everything as has happened since
shows the devil is still guiding him. Everything he turns his mind to
goes by contraries. I'm not saying anything against the goodness of
Jathrop's intentions, mind you, Mrs. Lathrop, but no matter how good
they are, evil and misery certainly seems sure to follow."

The tirade stirred Mrs. Lathrop to her feet, but she was not resentful.
She knew that Susan Clegg's bitterness was confined to her tongue, and
that even with that she could salve as well as sting.

"Can't I--?" she suggested.

"Indeed you can," answered Miss Clegg. "I never felt as I needed a cup
of tea more, and if the doughnuts I brought you ain't all eat up, I'd
relish four or five of 'em right now."

"You haven't--" began Mrs. Lathrop, taking down the teapot.

"No; but I'm coming to it. I begun with the cause, and the effect'll
come trailing after like the tails of Mary's little lambs. Only the
tails in this case was bigger than the sheep. It may have been hearing
the noise Jathrop makes when he eats, or it may have been your turkey
gravy or your biscuits, Mrs. Lathrop, or all of 'em put together. Not
knowing which, I'm not foolish enough to blame one more'n the other. But
it's a fact as is undeniable that I never slept poorer than last night.
I was in bed by nine, but I never closed my eyes till eleven, and I
certainly heard the clock strike midnight. I counted goats jumping over
a stile, and I counted 'em backward as well as forward, but I heard one
struck, and I heard two. And then I heard something as set my hair up on
end and the gooseflesh sprouting all over me. It sounded like footsteps
in the 'But. Pan.,' and they was too heavy for the cat's, I could tell
that at once, though at two in the morning it's surprising how loud a
cat's footsteps can sound, especially when it's reached the pouncing
stage, and the rat ain't got no hole to run to. I'd forgot to put the
turkey leg in the ice-box as I'd carried home with me, and all I could
think of was that if it was the cat, there'd be nothing left on that
bone by morning, unless I stopped things right then and immediately.
You'd never believe how cold a house can be at two o'clock in the
morning of the day after Christmas unless you'd got up in it as I did;
and now to look back at it, I see how lucky it was as it was as cold as
it was, for if it hadn't of been, I'd a gone down just as I was, and I
was in no trim to meet a man burglar, I can tell you _that_. So I just
slipped into this flannel wrapper and a old pair of slippers, which I've
got on now under these arctics, and I picked up the candle as I'd lit,
and down-stairs I went. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I hope you may never in your
born days in this world or the other have such a shock as met me there
face to face in my own new, built-over kitchen. If there wasn't the
biggest giant of a man I ever see coming out of the shadows between the
cookstove and the cellar door. And he with his head all wrapped around
in one of my best plaid roller towels, so that nothing of him was to be
seen but two fierce, staring, bloodshot eyes as gleamed like a wild
beast's. Oh, my soul and body, Mrs. Lathrop, that minute! How I ever
kept my senses I don't pretend to say, more especially as he was on me
with one jump. There was no such thing as holding on to the candle, you
can see that. It dropped, and I never knew I dropped it. For, of course,
I shut my eyes, and when your eyes is shut, there's no knowing whether
there's a lighted candle about or whether there isn't."

In her agitation over the recital, Mrs. Lathrop, who was placing cups
and saucers on the table, let one of the cups slide crashing to the
floor. "Oh, Su--!" she exclaimed.

"You may well say: 'Oh, Susan!'" Miss Clegg continued. "There is times
when 'Oh, Susan' don't half express the state of affairs, and this was
one of 'em, Mrs. Lathrop. It wasn't in nature for me not to scream, so I
screamed, and it was that scream that did the business. It showed the
burglar I wasn't deaf and dumb, and people as isn't deaf and dumb is
looked on by burglars as their natural enemies. Maybe some people can
scream without opening their mouths, but I never was one of that kind,
and the kind as open their mouths when they scream is the kind that all
burglars prefer. It saves 'em the trouble of forcing apart their jaws. I
never shut my mouth after opening it; for the burglar just shoved
something in it as quick as scat, and then he tied a bandage around back
of my head so I couldn't spit it out. Then he picked me up and plumped
me down hard in a chair and tied me fast to it with my own clothesline.
And all the time he never no more opened his lips to speak than if he
couldn't. It's my opinion he must have had a cold and lost his voice.
Either that, or his voice was such a unpleasant voice he was ashamed to
let anybody hear it. For it ain't in common sense as a man, even if he
is a burglar, could keep as still as he did, if he had a speaking voice
that's in any way fit for use. I know in the time he took there was a
lot of things I felt to say to him, and would if I could, and common
sense'll tell you, Mrs. Lathrop, that he must have felt to say a lot of
things to me. But he didn't make so much as a peep behind his roller
towel."

"Did--?" asked Mrs. Lathrop, pouring the tea.

"I can't say as he did or he didn't. I haven't missed nothing yet, but
then I haven't looked. Still, if he didn't I can't say as I'd have much
respect for him. What sort of a burglar would a burglar be to take all
that trouble of breaking in, binding and gagging, and then go away
without helping himself to something for his trouble. I ain't got no
love for burglars in general or in particular. But any burglar as 'ld
do a fool trick like that I ain't got no respect for neither."

"How--?" queried her neighbor as she passed Susan her cup.

"It was something of a job I can tell you, but when I sets my mind to a
thing I sets my mind to it, and ropes and a kitchen chair ain't got the
power to stop me. I begun wriggling as soon as I heard the burglar shut
the door behind him, and I kept on wriggling for every minute of the
five hours. A tramped-on worm never did more turning and wriggling than
I did between two and seven this morning, and at last wriggling being
its own reward, I wriggled free, first with my hands and then with my
feet. But before I got my feet free, I undid the band and ungagged
myself and said just a few of the things that was bottled up all that
time. The Bible says there's a time to talk and a time to be still, but
there's such a thing as overdoing the still time, I think, and when
you're gagged by a burglar is one of 'em."

Susan sipped her tea for a moment in silence.

"Where's Jathrop and Mr. Kettlewell?" she asked at length. "Ain't they
up yet?"

Mrs. Lathrop nodded. "They start--" she began.

"You don't mean they've both lit out already?" asked Susan in surprise.
Then: "I was hoping to see Mr. Kettlewell again. But it's a long journey
back to New York, so I suppose they set off before light."

Mrs. Lathrop nodded once more.

"Aren't--?" she questioned.

"I certainly am. I'm going to report the burglary at once. I've got a
clue, and it ought to be easy enough to run down that burglar." She drew
from her bosom a rather damp handkerchief. "That's what he left me to
chew on for five hours," she said, as she spread it out. "And there's
the clue right there in the corner."

Mrs. Lathrop took it to the window and inspected it through her glasses.
The handkerchief was initialed with a "K."

The New Year came and January was passing and, so far as Susan Clegg
cared to divulge at least, there was no news of her burglar. It was
noted, however, not only by Mrs. Lathrop, but by Mrs. Macy and Gran'ma
Mullins, and indeed by all the ladies of the Sewing Society, that Miss
Clegg had adopted an air of secretiveness concerning the matter that was
quite foreign to her usual frank, unreserved communicativeness. But the
curiosity provoked by this strangely unfamiliar attitude was swallowed
up in the sensational tidings which spread throughout the community
shortly after. Without so much as a hint of warning, Susan Clegg had
vanished between dark and dawn, leaving her house locked, bolted, and
barred, the blinds drawn, and the shutters fast closed.

For once Mrs. Lathrop, thus deprived of her prop and her stay, evinced
sufficient initiative to have the cellar door forced and a search of the
premises made; a rumor having got abroad that the burglar had returned,
this time more murderously inclined, and that Miss Clegg's mangled
corpse would be found stiff and stark within her own darkened domicile.
To every one's infinite relief the search proved the rumor utterly
unfounded; and it proved something more, as well. It proved that Susan's
departure was plainly premeditated--"with malice prepense," to quote
Judge Fitch--since all her best clothes had gone with her. Whereupon
sentiment switched to the opposite pole, and it was openly declared that
Miss Clegg had gone after the burglar.

The wonder was of a magnitude calculated to extend far beyond the
proverbial nine days, and it probably would have greatly exceeded that
limit, had not the heroine of the affair chosen to cut it short of her
own volition by reappearing quite as suddenly as she had vanished, at
the end of a single week.

Mrs. Lathrop, looking across from her bedroom window as she arose from
her night's sleep on the morning of the eighth day, was joyously
startled to see the Clegg windows unshaded, and the house otherwise
displaying signs of rehabitation. Nor did she have long to wait for the
explanation of the mystery, which to the exclusion of everything else
had filled her mind ever since her friend's going. With a shawl over her
head and shoulders, she hastened through the pergola, and the next
moment was facing her neighbor with glad eyes across four yards of
kitchen floor space.

"Oh, Susan! Such a fri--" These were her four and a half words of
greeting.

"I knew it would," Miss Clegg caught her up, beaming as Mrs. Lathrop
couldn't remember ever to have seen her beam before. "I knew it would
frighten you all half to death, but when a thing's to be done, it's to
be done, and there ain't no use shirking. I had to go, and I had to go
quick, and I was never so glad of anything in my life, past or present,
as that I went. Of course, it was all along of that burglary, as any
fool might have guessed if they took the trouble. In the first place, I
don't mind telling you now, I went straight to Mr. Weskin the morning
after it happened, and I took him the clue and showed it to him. The way
he spun around in his spinning chair was fit to make even a level-headed
person like me dizzy. He examined the linen, and he examined the way the
K was worked, and then he says, no it couldn't possibly be Mr.
Kimball's. Now, what _do_ you think of that? Just as if I ever suspected
it was. I guess I know Mr. Kimball well enough to know him, even if he
has got his head wrapped up in one of my new roller towels, and I told
Lawyer Weskin so. Mr. Kimball, indeed! But Lawyer Weskin said as he
didn't never hear of a burglar whose name commenced with K, and he
didn't know a soul in these parts either, burglar or no burglar, whose
name did, except Mr. Kimball. There's only one way to ferret out the
perpetrator of a crime, he says, and that's by deduction, and the first
rule of deduction is to guess what the K stands for. I never thought
much of Lawyer Weskin, I'm free to admit that, but if he don't know
nothing else, it's as clear as shooting that he does know about
education. For in the end it worked out just as he said, and the Lord be
praised for it."

"You don't--" began Mrs. Lathrop in astonishment.

"I don't say as Mr. Kimball had a thing to do with it. I certainly
don't. In the first place, Mr. Kimball would never dare to come to my
house at such a hour of the morning, and in the second place Mr. Kimball
never carried as fine a handkerchief as the one I chewed on. So that put
it past Mr. Kimball. And the only other K I could possibly think of was
old Mrs. Kitts over to Meadville, who could no more of got over here
than could the king of the Sandwich Islands, whose name begins with K,
too. There was the Kellys, of course, but the Kellys couldn't qualify
neither, for they're too rich to need to do any burglarizing. Well, I
can tell you, I soon come to a point where I didn't know where to turn,
and I never would of turned neither, if it hadn't of been for a letter I
got the day of the night I went away. You'd never guess in the world,
Mrs. Lathrop, who that letter was from so I may as well tell you first
as last. It was from Mr. Kettlewell."

Mrs. Lathrop opened her mouth in astonishment, but no sound came forth.

"I knew it'ld surprise you, but it's as true as we're both standing in
this kitchen at this minute. It was a very nice letter, and it said as
how he had admired me from the first minute he saw me, but more
particularly after he'd sat opposite to me at the table and eat my
cranberry sauce. He said he'd always loved cranberry sauce, but as he
felt he'd never tasted none until he tasted mine. I certainly never see
a more complimentary letter than that letter of Mr. Kettlewell's. But it
was the end of the letter where he signed his name that lit me up with
the clear light of revelation. Until I see his name spelled out there in
black and white, I never once believed it begun with a K. I'd thought
all along as his name was Cattlewell, with a C. Far be it from me, Mrs.
Lathrop, to ever have suspected as Jathrop's friend would stoop to
housebreaking and to binding and gagging a lone woman, but there's other
ways as his handkerchief might have got to my mouth, and I felt to know
the truth. His address was on the letter, and there was nothing as could
have stayed me from getting to that address as fast as steam and steel
could carry me. I left in the middle of the night, and I got to New York
in the morning, and I didn't have that feeling for nothing. Mr.
Kettlewell was at his hotel, and in all my born days I never see a
person gladder to see anybody than Mr. Kettlewell was to see me. It's
marvelous what a impression a little good cooking will make on a man,
even if it's only in cranberry sauce. His mouth actually hadn't stopped
watering yet. Leastwise he said it hadn't, and I'd be a fool not to
believe him. He begun talking about it right away, and I let him talk,
just so's I could look at his shiny bald head and his red whiskers
without having to think of anything else except the sound of his
milk-and-honey voice. Finally he said he supposed I'd come to the city
to select Jathrop's Christmas present of furnishings, and if I'd like
him to help me select 'em, he'd be glad enough to go along and lend a
hand. Well, nothing could of been nicer than that, now, could it? But I
told him I wasn't one as traveled all the way to New York under false
pretences, and that if he must have the truth, I'd never give one
thought to Jathrop's present since he mentioned it. All my thought, I
said, had been give to finding a handkerchief with a K onto it, which
I'd washed and ironed with my own hands and brought to him, believing I
must of picked it up at the Christmas dinner by mistake, and not wanting
him to feel the need of it any longer. And you can believe me or not,
Mrs. Lathrop, just as you feel about it, if he didn't right then and
there on seeing that clue, confess that it did belong to him, and that
he couldn't for the life of him remember where he'd left it."

Mrs. Lathrop, who had been standing all the while, dropped into a chair
at this point in dumb stupefaction. But Susan, who had been caught with
a bowl of batter in one hand and a spoon in the other, paused only to do
a little more stirring.

"Yes, sir," she went on, still apparently as pleased as punch. "The clue
belonged to Mr. Kettlewell and no one else, which led me to suspect
right away that the burglar must have robbed your house first. I knowed
very well that I never carried that clue home myself, though I'd said I
might, just for the sake of drawing Mr. Kettlewell on. And so how could
it have got into my mouth unless the burglar got it from Mr. Kettlewell
himself? But there is stranger things in this world than you and me ever
dreamed of, Mrs. Lathrop, and that was one of 'em. Mr. Kettlewell is a
very frank and open gentleman, and seeing how disturbed I was over
something, though I'd never so much as breathed burglar or burglary, he
made another confession. And when it comes to dreaming, there is very
few people, he said, as has the power to dream the way he does. He
don't just lie still in bed and picture things out in his sleep, but he
gets up and does the things he's dreaming about. He ain't got no
limitations in it, either. Sleepwalkers is more or less common. But
sleepwalkers just walk, and that ends 'em. Mr. Kettlewell says he very
seldom walks. He usually drives a automobile when he's dreaming, just as
he does when he's wide awake. Sometimes he comes to while he's driving,
and he's found himself often as much as a couple a hundred miles from
home, and without a cent in his clothes, the clothes usually being just
pajamas with nothing but a handkerchief in the pocket. Now, if you had
any imagination a _tall_, Mrs. Lathrop, you'd see what I'm coming to,
but as you haven't you don't, I can tell by the way you look. So you'll
get the full benefit of the surprise when I say that on Christmas night
Mr. Kettlewell distinctly remembers he dreamed of committing a burglary.
He says it wasn't my mince pie as did it, because he's often eaten
mince pie before and never dreamed nothing worse than going to the
electric chair; and it wasn't my stuffing neither, for turkey stuffing
when it's indigestible always makes him dream he's a monkey climbing
trees. He says once he woke up sudden and fell and broke his arm, but
that that was a long while ago. Now he's had more experience, he never
wakes up till he's safe back in bed again. And he says doughnuts causes
his dreams to run back to when he was a boy, and one time he come to,
after a after-dinner nap, when he had doughnuts for dessert, playing
marbles in the back alley with a lot of street urchins. I can tell you,
Mrs. Lathrop, he was most interesting. He's got all his dreams sort of
classified in that way, and can almost tell to a dot what he'll dream
about according to what he eats. And he says soggy biscuits always makes
him dream he's robbing a house or killing somebody. It was mighty lucky
for me, as you can see for yourself, that this time he only dreamed of
binding and gagging. If he'd dreamed of murder, I'd not be here now to
tell the tale. And it's clean to be seen that your biscuits would of
been an accessory before the fact."

"Then he--"

"Yes, it was him as done it, and without no moral blame attaching to him
a _tall_. If he'd killed me, the law couldn't of touched him either, for
the law takes no account of what a person does while they're asleep. But
as you made the biscuits in your full senses and with your eyes wide
open, you'd of been the only one to blame."

Mrs. Lathrop groaned. "You know, Sus--" she protested.

"Of course if I was alive, I'd never hold it against you, because I know
very well you can't make biscuits no better, and ain't never had sense
enough to learn. But if I was murdered, my ghost couldn't testify, and I
don't see as how you could be saved from the law taking its course."

At this juncture there was a sound overhead, and both ladies started,
Mrs. Lathrop in surprise and her friend in sudden realization of
neglected duties.

"What is--?" inquired Mrs. Lathrop.

"It's him," answered Susan. "Mr. Kettlewell. And the coffee's boiled now
till it's bitter, and there ain't a single cake on the griddle." She was
turning back to the stove as Mrs. Lathrop's exclamation caught her and
switched her around.

"Why, Susan Clegg!"

"Don't Susan Clegg me, Mrs. Lathrop," she commanded. "There ain't no
Susan Clegg any more. When Susan Clegg disappeared a week ago last
night, she disappeared for good, never to return. And if you suspect
anything else, it's best I should introduce myself here and now,--Susan
Kettlewell, from this time forth, if you please."

Mrs. Lathrop sprang up and dropped back again.

"You don't--"

"I do. I do mean to say I'm married at last. We was wedded with a ring
in New York last Wednesday, and it's my husband's footsteps you hear up
there in the new bathroom."

She dropped three spreading spoonfuls of batter on the greased griddle
and gave Mrs. Lathrop a full minute to absorb the announcement. Then, as
she drew the coffee pot to one side, she continued:

"And it was purely a love match, make no mistake about that. He's got
money enough to buy and sell Jathrop, but he's as simple-minded and
simple-tasted as a babe in arms. And there's nothing I can think of that
he's not ready and willing to give me. Besides, he's frank and open
about everything. He says his teeth is false, and he has a bullet in his
right leg, got one time when he dreamed somebody was shooting him; but
that otherwise he's as perfect as a man of his age can be. He says he'll
buy a wig if I want him to, and that if I don't like the color of his
whiskers, he'll have 'em dyed whatever color I'd like best, and the
wig'l be made to match. But I wouldn't have him changed the least mite.
And if there's one thing in the world I'm thankful for it is that I got
him and not Jathrop. And I'm not thinking from the financial standpoint,
neither."


THE END

       *       *       *       *       *



          Distinctive Fiction by Anne Warner


     The reading world owes Anne Warner a vote of thanks for her
     contributions to the best of American humor.--_New York Times._

     Anne Warner has taken her place as one of the drollest of American
     humorists.--_Century Magazine._


The Gay and Festive Claverhouse

     A story of the desperate attempt of a supposedly dying man to lose
     the love of a girl.


Sunshine Jane

     The joyful story of a Sunshine Nurse whose mission was not to care
     for sick bodies but to heal sick souls.


When Woman Proposes.

     A clever and entertaining story of a woman who fell in love with an
     army officer.


How Leslie Loved

     Not only a buoyant love story but a penetrating satire on modern
     manners.


Just Between Themselves

     A vivacious satire on married life which is full of mirth of the
     quieter, chuckling variety.


The Taming of Amorette

     A clever comedy telling how a man cured his attractive wife of
     flirting.


Susan Clegg, Her Friend, and Her Neighbors

     A study of life which is most delectable for its simplicity and for
     the quaint character creation.


Susan Clegg and a Man in the House

     The remarkable happenings at the Clegg homestead after the boarder
     came.


The Rejuvenation of Aunt Mary.

     The pranks of a scapegrace nephew who was showing his old aunt a
     "good time."


In a Mysterious Way

     Compounded of amusing studies of human nature in a rural community.


A Woman's Will

     Describes the wooing of a young American widow on the continent by
     a musical genius.


Little, Brown & Co., _Publishers_, Boston





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