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Title: Atlantic Narratives - Modern Short Stories
Author: Dwight, H. G., Louriet, F. J., Stone, Amy Wentworth, Doty, Madeleine Z., Lerner, Mary, Taylor, Arthur Russell, Sharp, Dallas Lore, 1870-1929, Montague, Margaret Prescott, Lynn, Margaret, Starr, Ernest, Gerould, Katharine Fullerton, 1879-1944, Butler, Katharine, Nesbit, E. (Edith), 1858-1924, Humphrey, Zephine, Lucas, E. V. (Edward Verrall), 1868-1938, Comer, Cornelia A. P., Ashe, Elizabeth, Mercer, C. A., Canby, Henry Seidel, 1878-1961, Dobie, Charles Caldwell, 1881-1943, Sherwood, Margaret Pollock, 1864-1955
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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ATLANTIC NARRATIVES

Modern Short Stories

EDITED WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

CHARLES SWAIN THOMAS, A. M.

_Head of Department of English, Newton (Mass.) High School
Lecturer in the Harvard Summer School_

[Illustration: colophon]

The Atlantic Monthly Press
BOSTON

_Copyright, 1918, by_

THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY PRESS, INC.



CONTENTS


                                                                    PAGE

INTRODUCTION                                                         vii

THE PRELIMINARIES              _Cornelia A. P. Comer_                  1

BUTTERCUP-NIGHT                _John Galsworthy_                      22

HEPATICAS                      _Anne Douglas Sedgwick_                30

POSSESSING PRUDENCE            _Amy Wentworth Stone_                  56

THE GLORY-BOX                  _Elizabeth Ashe_                       68

THE SPIRIT OF THE HERD         _Dallas Lore Sharp_                    89

IN THE PASHA'S GARDEN          _H. G. Dwight_                         98

LITTLE SELVES                  _Mary Lerner_                         121

THE FAILURE                    _Charles Caldwell Dobie_              136

BUSINESS IS BUSINESS           _Henry Seidel Canby_                  152

NOTHING                        _Zephine Humphrey_                    167

A MOTH OF PEACE                _Katharine Fullerton Gerould_         180

IN NO STRANGE LAND             _Katharine Butler_                    201

LITTLE BROTHER                 _Madeleine Z. Doty_                   208

WHAT ROAD GOETH HE?            _F. J. Louriet_                       217

THE CLEARER SIGHT              _Ernest Starr_                        227

THE GARDEN OF MEMORIES         _C. A. Mercer_                        252

THE CLEAREST VOICE             _Margaret Sherwood_                   259

THE MARBLE CHILD               _E. Nesbit_                           270

THE ONE LEFT                   _E. V. Lucas_                         283

THE LEGACY OF RICHARD HUGHES   _Margaret Lynn_                       290

OF WATER AND THE SPIRIT        _Margaret Prescott Montague_          310

MR. SQUEM                      _Arthur Russell Taylor_               326

  BIOGRAPHICAL AND INTERPRETATIVE NOTES                              337



INTRODUCTION

THE SHORT STORY


There is a story current among companionable golfers of a countryman who
reluctantly accepted an invitation from a group of friendly associates
to try his unpracticed hand at golf. When they all arrived at the links,
his friends carefully placed the little carbonadoed sphere upon the tee,
and told their aged neophyte that he must try to send this little
painted ball to the first hole--plainly marked by the distant waving red
flag toward which they pointed. The stalwart old man swung his club
valiantly, hit the golf-ball a square, ringing blow, and watched it
eagerly as it made its long, swift flight toward the far-off
putting-green. His three friends, all loudly congratulating him upon his
stroke, went with him in his silent search for the ball. Finally they
found it lying just three or four inches from the edge of the first
hole. A look of exultant astonishment was upon their faces; a look of
keen disappointment upon the face of the old man. "Gee, I missed it," he
muttered in disgust. His stroke had been the traditional stroke of the
ignorant lucky beginner; he had unwittingly accomplished a feat beyond
the dream of the trained expert.

Something similar to this triumphant accomplishment of the golf links
has occasionally happened in the realm of story-telling. An untrained
narrator, with a good tale to tell and with a natural instinct to select
the dramatic incidents and arrange them luckily in effective sequence,
has held his hearers in continuously rapt attention, and won from them,
at the close of his story, round upon round of spontaneous applause.
But as the literary world has grown older and more mature in its
æsthetic judgments, it has naturally grown more exacting. As narrator
after narrator has told his stories, the critical public and the
academic critics have come to impose certain definite technical
demands--demands not so definite or so exacting, however, that the
splendor of success in certain ways has not pardoned even rather glaring
neglects and defects along certain other concurrent ways.

Now it has been my pleasant task during the recent months to read or to
reread scores upon scores of short stories that have been published in
the _Atlantic Monthly_. My object has been to select from the Atlantic
files some of the best and most representative of these narratives for
publication in book form, and thus make these significant stories more
readily available for the college, school, and the reading public. Out
of this study, as it has combined and recombined with all my impressions
of past readings, have come certain convictions that have grown more
persistent as the reading and the selecting have progressed.

The net result of this thinking, I may at the beginning assert, has been
to expand and liberalize my convictions concerning the art and technique
of short-story writing. The choice of theme is multitudinous, the
methods of allowable treatment generously variable, the emphasis upon
character, plot, and setting easily shiftable, and the ultimate effects
as diversified as our human moods and interests. Contrary to a currently
repeated assertion, there is, I am convinced, no strict Atlantic type of
story--at least none so rigorously conceived as not to allow
unquestioned commendation of the narrative art of such varied
personalities as Bret Harte, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Sarah Orne Jewett,
John Galsworthy, Mrs. Comer, Mrs. Gerould, E. Nesbit, Jack London, or
indeed that whole luminous galaxy of skilled story writers--many of them
without fame--who for the past sixty years have been contributing the
best of their literary selves to the _Atlantic_. Yet a study of these
contributions of such varied types convinces one of certain large
demands which each successive editor has, with somewhat latitudinarian
rigor, pretty positively held in mind while he was determining the worth
of the given product. What, we may be interested in asking, are these
larger and more persistent demands?


_The unified impression_

Perhaps the most obvious requirement is that one upon which Edgar Allan
Poe, in his brilliant critical essays on the art of the short story,
laid the strongest stress--the demand that the narrator produce an
unquestioned unified effect or impression. An examination of the
narrative method of the old Metrical Romances and of many of the Arabian
Nights Tales will by contrast illustrate Poe's comment. In those
writings there was often no apparent plan. The hero started out and had
an adventure. This the story-teller narrated as Episode No. 1. The hero
continued and had another adventure, similar or dissimilar to the first.
This we recognize as Episode No. 2. And thus the story continued until
the narrator's powers of invention or endurance were exhausted. We close
the reading with no sense of satisfied unity--no oneness of impression.
At the beginning of the story, the writer of these Romances and Tales
apparently had no definitely preconceived plan, he allowed no
foreshadowing of catastrophe, he was careless alike of both beginning
and end, he made no conscious use of suspense, setting,
character-contrast, reverting narrative, climax, or any of the numerous
devices that make up the technique of modern short-story writing. More
particularly did he ignore the principle of unified impression.


_Unified impression secured by character domination_

While unity of impression is the sovereign demand in the modern short
story, the ways in which this impression may be secured possess
interesting variety. One of the most important of these ways is evident
in the pervading or directing influence of some strongly dominant
character. Events move in accordance with the will of some one
person--or, it may be some group of persons with closely related powers
and aims.

An interesting example of single character domination is seen in Miss
Sherwood's story, _The Clearest Voice_. Alice, the wife, has been dead
five years, yet it is her personality that still pervades and governs
the home. Her spirit of kindly interest, her instinct for the æsthetic,
her household control--all these have persisted through the long months
that have intervened since her death. But it is when the husband is
faced by the temptation to accept an inheritance which legally, though
not justly, belongs to him--it is then that the influence of the wife's
assertive character silently and determinedly dictates the correct
decision. The husband's pressing financial difficulties, the urgings of
the relatives, the unquestioned legality of the bequest--these are all
finally swept aside by the subtle workings of a quietly persisting
ethical force.

Sometimes an author reveals the strength and wisdom of one of his
characters by allowing this character to yield to the wisdom and
domination of another. I am thinking of Mrs. Comer's story, _The Wealth
of Timmy Zimmerman_.[1] As we read the first part of this narrative, we
are interested only in Timmy Zimmerman and the personal character
problems which the huge profits of the tobacco trust suddenly thrust
upon this uncultured but good-souled parvenu. We watch him in his early
struggles so full of energy and bold emprise; we rejoice with him in his
significant financial triumphs, and later we watch him as he tries, by
an expensive building enterprise, by tours through Europe, by the rapid
and careless driving of his ten-thousand dollar red automobile, to win
back the nervous contentment that was the happy companion of those early
years of adventurous poverty. He dominates each separate situation, but
he does not solve his problem. It is only when he meets Molly Betterton
and sees himself as analyzed by her candid native acumen, that he learns
his own weakness and the true potentialities of his wealth. Her
character is strong enough to win dominion over him; it is not strong
enough to dominate the story and lure the reader away from the
controlling interest in the personality whose career the reader has so
intently watched. The unity of impression is firmly and continuously
centered in the portrayal of Timmy Zimmerman's character, and it is that
which tautly holds the reader's attention in leash.

A more recent story that secures its chief interest from character
portrayal is Mr. Arthur Russell Taylor's _Mr. Squem_. Mr. Squem is a
traveling man who sells Mercury rubber tires. He wears clothes that
arrest attention--broad striped affairs that seemed stripes before they
were clothes; his talk is profusely interlarded with vulgar but
picturesque slang; he is far removed from the academy. Brought into
direct contrast with the Reverend Allan Dare and Professor William Emory
Browne, his crudity is the more grossly apparent. It is later enhanced
by the glimpse we get of his room--'extremely dennish, smitingly red as
to walls, oppressive with plush upholstery. A huge deerhead, jutting
from over the mantel, divided honors with a highly-colored September
Morn, affrontingly framed. On a shelf stood a small bottle. It contained
a finger of Mr. Squem, amputated years before, in alcohol.'

But in the midst of a railroad wreck, we lose all thought of these
banalities and crudities; we take Mr. Squem for what he really is--a
genuine, large-hearted, efficient minister unto his fellow men. The
impression he creates dominates the entire situation.

Of the classic stories which admirably illustrate this method of
securing a unity of impression through concentrated character interest,
we like to revert to Bret Harte's _Tennessee's Partner_. It is of small
moment that we do not know this man's name--of small moment indeed that
he seems, throughout his mining career at Sandy Bar, to have been
content to have his personality dimmed by the somewhat more luminous
aura of Tennessee. But when Tennessee's repeated offences bring him to
trial before Judge Lynch, and finally to his doom on the ominous tree at
the top of Morley's Hill, Tennessee's partner comes suddenly upon the
scene and overpoweringly dominates the situation. We close our reading
of the story completely impressed by the devoted loyalty of Tennessee's
partner--the loyalty that creates the unified impression.

And this same unity of impression thus secured in _The Clearest Voice_,
_The Wealth of Timmy Zimmerman_, _Mr. Squem_, and _Tennessee's Partner_
by concentrated interest in character, is easily discernible, in scores
of other stories. The method is artistically employed by Hawthorne in
_The Great Stone Face_, in Maxim Gorky's _Tchelkache_, Turgenef's _A
Lear of the Steppes_, J. M. Barrie's _Cree Queery_ and _Myra Drolby_,
Thomas Nelson Page's _Marse Chan_, Henry James's _The Real Thing_,
Joseph Conrad's _The Informer_, and such well-known Atlantic stories as
Anna Fuller's _The Boy_, Esther Tiffany's _Anna Mareea_, Florence
Gilmore's _Little Brother_, Ellen Mackubin's _Rosita_, Charles Dobie's
_The Failure_, Clarkson Crane's _Snipe_, and Christina Krysto's
_Babanchik_. Indeed the list is well-nigh inexhaustible, and is
constantly being increased by the many gifted writers who, enriching our
current literature, see in personal character the germ of
story-interest.


_Unified impression secured by plot_

Just as in looking at a finished piece of artistic tapestry we get a
sense of harmonious design, so in contemplating the events of a
well-told story, our sense of artistic completeness is satisfied by the
skill displayed in the weaving and interweaving of incident--such
weaving and interweaving as bring the significant events into the
immediate foreground, and group the items of lesser moment in such an
unobtrusive manner as to merge them into harmony with the main design.

Preceding the beginning of any story, we assume the existence of a state
of repose. Either there is nothing happening, or, if events are
happening, they are simply happening in the atmosphere of dull and
inconsequential routine, and are accordingly without the pale of
narratable notice. Then, suddenly, or gradually, something happens to
disturb this repose; and to this initial exciting force are traceable
the succeeding events, with such varied culminations as prosperity, or
poverty, or dejection, tragedy or joy, or restored calm, or any one of
the multitudinous finalities that life brings with her in her equipage.

The whole principle of plot, as here briefly analyzed, is simply and
artistically revealed in Mr. Ernest Starr's _The Clearer Sight_--an
admirable example of a story whose unity is secured largely by the
effective handling of situation and incident. To Noakes, the young
scientist who is the central character in the story, the master chemist,
Henry Maxineff, has given certain general suggestions for a formula
which will give an explosive of great value and of high potential power.
The young man, following these general lines, discovers that, by slight
additions and alterations, he can successfully work out the formula and
immediately sell his secret to a foreign government. The sum he would
thus secure would amply justify him in proposing marriage to Becky
Hallam, the girl of his choice. We watch him in his brisk experiments
and in his conclusive yielding to the temptation. We see him betraying
his employer and at the same time failing to meet the standard of
confidence which is demanded by the girl he loves. Right in the midst of
these scientific successes and these ethical failures comes the terrible
explosion in the laboratory where Noakes was working in secret. He is
blinded by the accident--permanently, he thinks. Harassed by his
sufferings--more particularly by his spiritual sufferings--he makes his
confessions to Mr. Maxineff and Miss Hallam, and looks despairingly
toward the empty future. The story closes with the physician's hope that
the loss of his sight is after all but temporary. As we end our reading
and view the events in retrospect, we are conscious of having seen the
various threads of interest woven into a complete and unified design.

Again, the principles of plot structure are clearly seen quietly
creating their unified impression in _A Sea Change_, one of Alice
Brown's homely stories.[2] Cynthia Miller, a New England housewife, had
lived for years her life of dull routine in an isolated mountain farm
eight miles from the nearest village. Her husband, Timothy, 'was a son
of the soil, made out of the earth, and not many generations removed
from that maternity.' Cynthia gradually comes to despise her life and
her husband's crude carelessness--exemplified by his habitual animal
aura and his newly-greased boots by the open oven door. With little ado,
but with grim determination, she leaves him and goes to the sea-side
home of her sister Frances. Cynthia is taken ill, but is at length cured
by the kindly village doctor and the silent ministrations of the
neighboring sea. Timothy, changed by the sudden departure of his wife
and the opportunity for introspection that his lonely life now brings
him, shakes off a bit of his earthiness and goes, after several weeks,
to find his wife. We listen to the brief reconciliation and see Timothy
begin to breathe in new life of aroused love and appreciation. The
author's skillful manipulation of the action makes us live in the glow
of a clearly perceived oneness of impression.

There are, of course, thousands of stories which secure this singleness
of effect by a similar skill in the handling of situations and
incidents. Among these many we need mention only a few whose unity is
largely secured by plot-interest--Thomas Bailey Aldrich's _Marjorie
Daw_, Maupassant's _The Necklace_, Poe's _Murders in the Rue Morgue_,
Stockton's _A Tale of Negative Gravity_ and _The Lady or the Tiger_,
Kipling's _Without Benefit of Clergy_, Pushkin's _The Shot_, A. Conan
Doyle's _The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes_, and Jack London's _A Day's
Lodging_.


_Unified impression secured by setting_

Perhaps the most significant critical comment on setting--the third
important element in the story-weaving process that secures oneness of
impression--is that frequently quoted conversation of Stevenson with
Graham Balfour: 'You may,' said Stevenson, 'take a certain atmosphere
and get action and persons to express it. I'll give you an
example--_The Merry Men_. There I began with the feeling of one of those
islands on the west coast of Scotland, and I gradually developed the
story to express the sentiment with which the coast affected me.'

There is no sensitive reader who will not sympathize with this feeling
and immediately understand how the atmosphere of a particular place will
act upon inventive genius and become the exciting force for the
production of a story. The squalid surroundings in the city slums, the
gay glamour of a garishly-lighted casino, the unending stretch of desert
waste, the dim twilight or the shrouded darkness of the pine forest, the
bleakness of the beaches in midwinter, the sounding cataracts, haunting
one like a passion--how rich in storied suggestiveness may be each of
these to him who already has within him the instinct of story or
romance.

How the mood of place may effect its influence is well expressed in the
opening passages of John Galsworthy's _Buttercup-Night_, which
sensitively analyzes the feelings for an unnamed bit of land in the
'West country' as the author experienced them one Sunday night of a
by-gone early June.

     'Why is it that in some places there is such a feeling of life
     being all one; not merely a long picture-show for human eyes, but a
     single breathing, glowing, growing thing, of which we are no more
     important a part than the swallows and magpies, the foals and sheep
     in the meadows, the sycamores and ash trees and flowers in the
     fields, the rocks and little bright streams, or even the long
     fleecy clouds and their soft-shouting drivers, the winds?

     'True, we register these parts of being, and they--so far as we
     know--do not register us; yet it is impossible to feel, in such
     places as I speak of, the busy, dry, complacent sense of being all
     that matters, which in general we humans have so strongly.

     'In these rare spots, that are always in the remote country,
     untouched by the advantages of civilization, one is conscious of an
     enwrapping web or mist of spirit, the glamorous and wistful wraith
     of all the vanished shapes that once dwelt there in such close
     comradeship.'

We can readily see, as we read _Buttercup-Night_, that it is the
atmosphere of the place that subtly dictates the telling of the story,
and at the end leaves the reader breathing this delicious June air and
living within the charmed romance of this accumulated mass of magical
yellow. What happens is interesting, but it is interesting largely
because the incidents are fused and integrated with the hovering spirit
of place and time--here as dominating in their charm as is the weird,
mysterious Usher homestead in its gloom.

While such stories as Stevenson's _Merry Men_ and Galsworthy's
_Buttercup-Night_ and Poe's _The Fall of the House of Usher_ illustrate
in a particularly striking way the dominant influence of setting, we
recall scores upon scores of stories that have an added power because
their authors have shown skill in the creation of a permeating and
directing environment. Among the more famous of these stories are Sarah
Orne Jewett's _The Queen's Twin_,[3] Israel Zangwill's _They that Walk
in Darkness_, Prosper Mérimée's _Mateo Falcone_, Hardy's _Wessex Tales_,
Lafcadio Hearn's _Youma_,[4] Jack London's _Children of the Frost_, John
Fox's _Christmas Eve on Lonesome_, Edith Wyatt's _In November_,[5] and
Mrs. Gerould's _The Moth of Peace_.[6]


_Unified impression secured by theme_

Another element of the story which we find interesting to discover and
analyze is the author's dominant theme--what in the older days we might
have unapologetically called the moral of the story. But along with the
development of the technique of the short story, there came a school of
critics and writers that shied terribly at this mention of the word
moral; and such writers as Stevenson often seemed over-conscious of its
lurking danger. In such consciousness, Stevenson wrote wonderful stories
of adventure and mystery, such as _Treasure Island_ and _The Sire de
Maletroit's Door_. Yet the native instinct toward emphasis upon theme
allowed him to write such powerful ethical stories as _Markheim_ and
_Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde_. But in these, as in most of the modern
thematic stories, the ethical truth pervades rather than intrudes. It is
so firmly woven into incident and character and surroundings and natural
dramaturgy that its identity is not exposed to naked bareness, but
combines with other elements to produce a perfect unity through harmony
of tone and effect.

Among the recent Atlantic story-writers this harmonious linking is seen
happily existent in the deft workmanship of Mrs. C. A. P. Comer and Anne
Douglas Sedgwick. In each number of three notable trilogies which these
gifted writers have contributed, there is an artistic treatment of three
notable themes. In Mrs. Comer's _Preliminaries_, _The Kinzer Portraits_,
and _The Long Inheritance_ we find the author's implied comments on
Engagement, Marriage, and Divorce. In Anne Douglas Sedgwick's
unconnected floral trilogy--_Hepaticas_, _Carnations_, and
_Pansies_--there is in turn reflected Miss Sedgwick's attitude toward
three themes which are less concrete and which demand a longer
phrasing. In the first there is the world-old story of a noble spirited
woman's love and sacrifice and ardent wishings for her self-victimized
son. In _Carnations_ we have the story of a husband, Rupert Wilson,
released from the bondage of an unfortunate infatuation and restored to
the sanity of love. In _Pansies_ we have a generous tribute to quiet
sentiment, developed by a study in character contrasts--the
simple-hearted woman, loving a simple garden, contrasted with the kindly
disposed but worldly-environed Mrs. Lennard, fond of display and Dorothy
Perkins effects, and laying a disproportioned stress upon the expensive
and the modern.

In none of these six stories is there the slightest suggestion that the
narrative has been conceived in the spirit of propaganda. It would be
impossible to say even that it was the underlying theme which gave the
initial conception to the narrative and directed its progress. Any one
of these six stories I can fancy beginning in plot, or in character, or
in setting. Plot, character, setting, and theme--all are here, but all
are so happily combined that I feel no disproportionate emphasis, and
hence no forcing of a technical element. I only know that, personally,
when I think over these stories, I find the theme of each leaving its
strong and lingering impression.

What is true regarding this effective combination of elements in these
stories of Mrs. Comer's and Miss Sedgwick's is of course true of many of
the Atlantic stories which I have been reading. Perhaps in the majority
of the best there is such a thorough merging of all the elements that
the final impression falls upon neither character nor plot nor setting
nor theme. The author has had something worth while to relate, and he
has related it in a simple and natural way,--all unconscious of, or
happily triumphant over, any studied technique in the art of narration.
It has indeed been a conviction in the minds of some of the Atlantic
editors that most persons, even though untrained in manipulating the
story-maker's gear, have at least one experience--real or imagined--that
is abundantly worth telling and worth writing. Unconsciously of course
this artless narrator might throw into bold relief theme, character,
setting, or plot. Or he might unconsciously merge these separate
interests.


_The woman writers_

Aside from the mere contemplation of story-element technique, there are
many other interesting observations which naturally come to one who
reads critically the currently published fiction. He who examines the
recent Atlantic files will be immediately impressed by the dominant
place held by women writers of the short story--Mrs. Wharton, Mrs.
Comer, Mrs. Gerould, Sarah Orne Jewett, Alice Brown, Mary Antin, Zephine
Humphrey, Edith Ronald Merrielees, Margaret Prescott Montague, Kathleen
Norris, E. Nesbit, Laura Spencer Portor, Anna Fuller, Edith Wyatt,
Margaret Lynn, Elizabeth Ashe, Anne Douglas Sedgwick, Elsie Singmaster,
Margaret Sherwood. Among the Atlantic contributors we should find it
difficult indeed to match this list with an equal number of men equally
gifted in story-telling power. But even if we should succeed in such a
fatuous pairing of talent, we should still be impressed with the high
place attained by the women writers--high in contrast with the place
which they have attained in painting, sculpture, architecture, drama,
and music.

And why this high attainment in the realm of the short story? Perhaps it
is partially due to a lighter-winged fancy native in the feminine
mind--a fancy that roves with more natural ease and grace among the
animals and flowers of earth, among the clouds and stars and spirits of
the sky, among the demon-haunted grottoes of the underworld. From all
these easily-directed journeys perhaps it turns more naturally to the
penetrable secrets of human motive--penetrable, however, only to those
hearts which yield quickly, spontaneously--even wantonly--to the springs
of love, hate, beauty, justice, jealousy, fear, vengeance, and the
silent routine of daily duty. Doing all this of its natural self, the
heart can more readily guide the mind in the deft record of vicarious
action. Leastwise, to make a simple record of a real or an imagined
experience is a task which can be more easily done by girls than by
boys.

As boys and girls grow into maturity and the desire for contact with
life increases, the masculine mind finds its natural outlet in business,
in wrestlings with the soil, in contests of law and--at the present
moment, alas!--in the chaos of relentless war. Woman's sphere, though
continually enlarging, is still relatively narrowed, and she seeks her
freedom in the realm of imagination, thus identifying herself oftentimes
in the work-a-day contests of men. This mental exercise within the wide
gamut of imagined emotions naturally helps her to enter sympathetically
into varied contests. And it is perhaps because of her broadened
understanding that she is fuller and truer in her written record.

The feminine mind, moreover, is more observant of detail and more ready
to perceive a lack of harmony in arrangement; and while mere fullness of
observation might in isolated cases lead to incontinent garrulousness,
the generous flow is usually held in sufficient check by that nicer
feminine perception of an æsthetic effect that dictates shearing and
compression.

Perhaps the widening of the educational field, the world's fuller
acknowledgment of woman's varied ability, her easier mastery of delicate
technique, a more habitual access to a writing-pad--perhaps all these
combine with other facts and circumstances to encourage her in this
prolific output of marketable fiction. At any rate, the fact is easily
apparent.


_The stamp of authenticity_

A further interesting fact revealed in an examination of Atlantic
narratives is the encouragement of that type of story which carries with
it the stamp of an authentic atmosphere. More than a generation ago this
magazine was printing the stories of Bret Harte--stories that revealed
with great accuracy and skill and sympathy the spirit of the California
mining camp. Bret Harte had lived and breathed the grim and romantic
spirit of this environment. Fusing this experience with an imagination
that emotionalized a native instinct for story-telling, Bret Harte was
able to lend to his writing a verisimilitude that easily won the
reader's interest in the charm and novelty of that strenuous and
elemental western life.

While the work of Bret Harte perhaps most strikingly illustrates this
power of authentic portrayal of experience and place, there are scores
of Atlantic stories that employ the same general method. Sarah Orne
Jewett, in such stories as _The Queen's Twin_, _The Life of Nancy_, and
_A Dummet Shepherd_, has admirably re-created the simple life of rural
New England. Lafcadio Hearn has realistically brought to us the spirit
of Japan, Jacob Riis has portrayed for us many pictures of New York
tenement life, Joseph Husband has brought us into the atmosphere of
industrialism, H. G. Dwight and Charles Johnson have allowed us to
breathe the spirit of Orientalism. And scores of other writers, such as
Dallas Lore Sharp, E. Morlae, Margaret Prescott Montague, Abraham
Rihbany, Mary Antin, Mildred Aldrich, Simeon Strunsky, after they have
lived their separate experiences, have shared with us the intimate
memories which those personal experiences have bequeathed.


_Sordidness rejected_

The Atlantic traditions, for the most part, have rejected the harrowing
and the sordid and the meretricious. Contrasted with the tone of tragic
realism so often dominant in Gorky, Dostoevsky, Turgenef, Maupassant,
and Zola, we usually find in the pages of the _Atlantic_ an emphasis
upon themes which suggest a gentler and more humane spirit. The winds of
heaven do, of course, sometimes blow over places that are bleak, barren,
and desolate. They shriek and moan through winter wilds, and sometimes
the human mood that corresponds to this despair has found its reflection
in stories which the _Atlantic_ has printed. But the mission of the
magazine has in general been in the sunlit fields or near the
hearthfire's glow. If it sometimes has witnessed tragedy, it has never
found delight in the disclosure of grimness for grimness' sake. It has
been more watchful of scenes within the commonplaces of human action;
here the writers have found themes of quiet pathos, of homely humor, and
of rich romance. Small wonder, indeed, if since August, 1914, grimmer
scenes than usual should not sometimes shadow the pages! But even so;
the writers have not yet lost their sanity, their hopefulness, or their
quiet sense of humor.


_Possibilities within the future_

After these comments on the more dominant characteristics of the short
story it is natural to inquire into the possible future of the art. It
is apparent that writers are paying careful attention to technique, and
there is real danger to the art if technique is to be too narrowly
interpreted and too slavishly followed. A credulous acceptance of a
guide has always worked havoc in the field of creative literature.
Aristotle, and Horace, and Longinus--to revert to a literary period now
far distant--showed admirable critical acumen, but it may be sincerely
questioned whether they enhanced the worth of Grecian and Roman
literature. We may be quite sure that the critical writings of neither
Boileau nor Pope deepened or improved French or English poetry. Will our
short stories be any better here in America because Brander Matthews,
Bliss Perry, Clayton Hamilton, Henry S. Canby, W. B. Pitkin, Miss
Albright, Miss Ashmun, and a score of others have written so
entertainingly about them? As I have read these criticisms and as I have
seen new writers apparently influenced by these criticisms and by the
methods obvious in Poe, Bret Harte, Kipling, and O. Henry, I have been
reluctantly made to feel that we were perhaps on the verge of yielding
to the technique of the telling rather than to the substance of the
experience.

Where art becomes too self-conscious and too critical, it sacrifices
spontaneity and elemental power, and smothers itself in the wrappings of
its self-woven web. Reliance upon technique and long practice in its use
will help crudeness to rise to mediocrity, but the process will never
lift the mediocre writer to the plane of the supremely excellent or the
austerely great.

Perhaps the present danger lies partly in the attitude of the magazine
editor whose sceptre is his checkbook. Let us not deceive ourselves.
Literature is now a business--or if not wholly commercialized, it is
acutely sensitive to the laws of the trade. The purely commercial
editors, with their eyes riveted to the main chance, have come to
recognize the power of technique, and to it they have been paying
bountiful tribute. The public has in turn learned to expect the sudden
start, the swift pace, the placarded climax, the clever paradox, the
crisp repartee, the pinchbeck style, the bared realism, the concluding
click. It is all very perfect and very regular, and the editor in
accepting the manuscript that adheres to each conventional requirement
encloses his check for two hundred dollars in a letter that contains an
order for a half dozen more of the identical type. One of the deplorable
adjuncts of this procedure is that the editor often realizes the
emptiness of this technically correct story, and his own best literary
judgment spurns it. But trying to objectify what his clientele would
applaud, he pays the price and orders more.

Conversely, a story with genuine substance and sincere feeling comes to
his desk. He reads it and approves. Then he asks that fateful
question--What will my reading public say? He concludes that they will
note the utter lack of climax, of cleverness, of ingenuity, of realistic
contact with unadorned everydayness. He closes the incident by a return
of the manuscript with a printed rejection slip enclosed.

But this procedure is sometimes happily reversed: an editor has had the
fortitude to ignore the fancied judgment of his readers and has relied
upon his own impressions of what constitutes literary worth. He is
conscious that the story he has accepted is written in utter ignorance
or in total disregard of traditional propriety and the laws of modern
technique; yet it carries a message, it reveals character, it shows real
thinking powers. Accepted and published, as was Arthur Russell Taylor's
_Mr. Squem_, it has been enthusiastically received by its readers.

There is one final conviction that emerges from the varied and the
multitudinous impressions that come from the reading of all these
stories. Every individual has an experience worth narrating; and most
individuals have scores upon scores of experiences--real or
imagined--that are worth narrating. To succeed in the attempt one does
not necessarily need to be a conscious master of technique. He must, of
course, have a reasonably firm command of his vernacular--indeed, to
succeed in any large degree, he must attain unquestioned mastery and
fittingly fashion his style to the theme immediately at hand. He should
have a sense of organization that deftly orders the proper sequence of
events and skillfully adjusts both minor and major incidents to secure a
unified impression. There is, I am convinced, no single minor rule that
critics may formulate which will stand a rigid acid test. Genius
abrogates every law; talent may abrogate most laws. A great experience,
a great situation, a great theme, a great character, a great scene, a
great emotion--any one of these may direct even an ordinary writer to
successful narration. The skilled story-teller will win success from
even scanty material--but the scanty material will be enriched by a
sense of humor, an ingenious fancy, a felicitous style, a controlling
imagination, a deft craftsmanship, or a keen perception of the value and
regulation of detail.



ATLANTIC NARRATIVES



THE PRELIMINARIES

BY CORNELIA A. P. COMER


I


Young Oliver Pickersgill was in love with Peter Lannithorne's daughter.
Peter Lannithorne was serving a six-year term in the penitentiary for
embezzlement.

It seemed to Ollie that there was only one right-minded way of looking
at these basal facts of his situation. But this simple view of the
matter was destined to receive several shocks in the course of his
negotiations for Ruth Lannithorne's hand. I say negotiations advisedly.
Most young men in love have only to secure the consent of the girl and
find enough money to go to housekeeping. It is quite otherwise when you
wish to marry into a royal family, or to ally yourself with a criminal's
daughter. The preliminaries are more complicated.

Ollie thought a man ought to marry the girl he loves, and prejudices be
hanged! In the deeps of his soul, he probably knew this to be the
magnanimous, manly attitude, but certainly there was no condescension in
his outward bearing when he asked Ruth Lannithorne to be his wife. Yet
she turned on him fiercely, bristling with pride and tense with
over-wrought nerves.

'I will never marry any one,' she declared, 'who doesn't respect my
father as I do!'

If Oliver's jaw fell, it is hardly surprising. He had expected her to
say she would never many into a family where she was not welcome. He had
planned to get around the natural objections of his parents
somehow--the details of this were vague in his mind--and then he meant
to reassure her warmly, and tell her that personal merit was the only
thing that counted with him or his. He may have visualized himself as
wiping away her tears and gently raising her to share the safe social
pedestal whereon the Pickersgills were firmly planted. The young do have
these visions not infrequently. But to be asked to respect Peter
Lannithorne, about whom he knew practically nothing save his present
address!

'I don't remember that I ever saw your father, Ruth,' he faltered.

'He was the best man,' said the girl excitedly, 'the kindest, the most
indulgent.--That's another thing, Ollie. I will never marry an indulgent
man, nor one who will let his wife manage him. If it hadn't been for
mother--' She broke off abruptly.

Ollie tried to look sympathetic and not too intelligent. He had heard
that Mrs. Lannithorne was considered difficult.

'I oughtn't to say it, but can't explain father unless I do. Mother
nagged; she wanted more money than there was; she made him feel her
illnesses, and our failings, and the overdone beefsteak, and the
under-done bread,--everything that went wrong, always, was his fault.
His fault--because he didn't make more money. We were on the edge of
things, and she wanted to be in the middle, as she was used to being. Of
course, she really hasn't been well, but I think it's mostly nerves,'
said Ruth, with the terrible hardness of the young. 'Anyhow, she might
just as well have stuck knives into him as to say the things she did. It
hurt him--like knives, I could see him wince--and try harder--and get
discouraged--and then, at last--' The girl burst into a passion of
tears.

Oliver tried to soothe her. Secretly he was appalled at these squalid
revelations of discordant family life. The domestic affairs of the
Pickersgills ran smoothly, in affluence and peace. Oliver had never
listened to a nagging woman in his life. He had an idea that such
phenomena were confined to the lower classes.

'Don't you care for me at all, Ruth?'

The girl crumpled her wet handkerchief. 'Ollie, you're the most
beautiful thing that ever happened--except my father. He was beautiful,
too; indeed, indeed, he was. I'll never think differently. I can't. He
tried so hard.'

All the latent manliness in the boy came to the surface and showed
itself.

'Ruth, darling, I don't want you to think differently. It's right for
you to be loyal and feel as you do. You see, you know, and the world
doesn't. I'll take what you say and do as you wish. You mustn't think
I'm on the other side. I'm not. I'm on your side, wherever that is. When
the time comes I'll show you. You may trust me, Ruth.'

He was eager, pleading, earnest. He looked at the moment so good, so
loving and sincere, that the girl, out of her darker experience of life,
wondered wistfully if it were really true that Providence ever let
people just live their lives out like that--being good, and prosperous,
and generous, advancing from happiness to happiness, instead of stubbing
along painfully as she felt she had done, from one bitter experience to
another, learning to live by failures.

It must be beautiful to learn from successes instead, as it seemed to
her Oliver had done. How could any one refuse to share such a radiant
life when it was offered? As for loving Oliver, that was a foregone
conclusion. Still, she hesitated.

'You're awfully dear and good to me, Ollie,' she said. 'But I want you
to see father. I want you to go and talk to him about this, and know him
for yourself. I know I'm asking a hard thing of you, but, truly, I
believe it's best. If _he_ says it's all right for me to marry you, I
will--if your family want me, of course,' she added as an afterthought.

'Oughtn't I to speak to your mother?' hesitated Oliver.

'Oh,--mother? Yes, I suppose she'd like it,' said Ruth, absent-mindedly.
'Mother has views about getting married, Ollie. I dare say she'll want
to tell you what they are. You mustn't think they're my views, though.'

'I'd rather hear yours, Ruth.'

She flashed a look at him that opened for him the heavenly deeps that
lie before the young and the loving, and he had a sudden vision of their
life as a long sunlit road, winding uphill, winding down, but sunlit
always--because looks like that illumine any dusk.

'I'll tell you my views--some day,' Ruth said softly. 'But first--'

'First I must talk to my father, your mother, your father.' Oliver
checked them off on his fingers. 'Three of them. Seems to me that's a
lot of folks to consult about a thing that doesn't really concern
anybody but you and me!'


II

After the fashion of self-absorbed youth, Oliver had never noticed Mrs.
Lannithorne especially. She had been to him simply a sallow little
figure in the background of Ruth's vivid young life; someone to be
spoken to very politely, but otherwise of no particular moment.

If his marital negotiations did nothing else for him, they were at least
opening his eyes to the significance of the personalities of older
people.

The things Ruth said about her mother had prepared him to find that
lady querulous and difficult, but essentially negligible. Face to face
with Mrs. Lannithorne, he had a very different impression. She received
him in the upstairs sitting-room to which her semi-invalid habits
usually confined her. Wrapped in a white wool shawl and lying in a long
Canton lounging-chair by a sunshiny window, she put out a chilly hand in
greeting, and asked the young man to be seated.

Oliver, scanning her countenance, received an unexpected impression of
dignity. She was thin and nervous, with big dark eyes peering out of a
pale, narrow face; she might be a woman with a grievance, but he
apprehended something beyond mere fretfulness in the discontent of her
expression. There was suffering and thought in her face, and even when
the former is exaggerated and the latter erroneous, these are impressive
things.

'Mrs. Lannithorne, have you any objection to letting Ruth marry me?'

'Mr. Pickersgill, what are your qualifications for the care of a wife
and family?'

Oliver hesitated. 'Why, about what anybody's are, I think,' he said, and
was immediately conscious of the feebleness of this response. 'I mean,'
he added, flushing to the roots of his blond hair, 'that my prospects in
life are fair. I am in my father's office, you know. I am to have a
small share in the business next year. I needn't tell you that the firm
is a good one. If you want to know about my qualifications as a
lawyer--why, I can refer you to people who can tell you if they think I
am promising.'

'Do your family approve of this marriage?'

'I haven't talked to them about it yet.'

'Have you ever saved any money of your own earning, or have you any
property in your own name?'

Oliver thought guiltily of his bank account, which had a surprising way
of proving, when balanced, to be less than he expected.

'Well,--not exactly.'

'In other words, then, Mr. Pickersgill, you are a young and absolutely
untried man; you are in your father's employ and practically at his
mercy; you propose a great change in your life of which you do not know
that he approves; you have no resources of your own, and you are not
even sure of your earning capacity if your father's backing were
withdrawn. In these circumstances you plan to double your expenses and
assume the whole responsibility of another person's life, comfort, and
happiness. Do you think that you have shown me that your qualifications
are adequate?'

All this was more than a little disconcerting. Oliver was used to being
accepted as old Pickersgill's only son--which meant a cheerfully
accorded background of eminence, ability, and comfortable wealth. It had
not occurred to him to detach himself from that background and see how
he looked when separated from it. He felt a little angry, and also a
little ashamed of the fact that he did not bulk larger as a personage,
apart from his environment. Nevertheless, he answered her question
honestly.

'No, Mrs. Lannithorne, I don't think that I have.'

She did not appear to rejoice in his discomfiture. She even seemed a
little sorry for it, but she went on quietly:--

'Don't think I am trying to prove that you are the most ineligible young
man in the city. But it is absolutely necessary that a man should stand
on his own feet, and firmly, before he undertakes to look after other
lives than his own. Otherwise there is nothing but misery for the woman
and children who depend upon him. It is a serious business, getting
married.'

'I begin to think it is,' muttered Oliver blankly.

'I don't _want_ my daughters to marry,' said Mrs. Lannithorne. 'The life
is a thousand times harder than that of the self-supporting
woman--harder work, fewer rewards, less enjoyment, less security. That
is true even of an ordinarily happy marriage. And if they are not
happy--Oh, the bitterness of them!'

She was speaking rapidly now, with energy, almost with anguish. Oliver,
red in the face, subdued, but eager to refute her out of the depths and
heights of his inexperience, held himself rigidly still and listened.

'Did you ever hear that epigram of Disraeli--that all men should marry,
but no women? That is what I believe! At least, if women must marry, let
others do it, not my children, not my little girls!--It is curious, but
that is how we always think of them. When they are grown they are often
uncongenial. My daughter Ruth does not love me deeply, nor am I greatly
drawn to her now, as an individual, a personality,--but Ruth was such a
dear baby! I can't bear to have her suffer.'

Oliver started to protest, hesitated, bit his lip, and subsided. After
all, did he dare say that his wife would never suffer? The woman
opposite looked at him with hostile, accusing eyes, as if he incarnated
in his youthful person all the futile masculinity in the world.

'Do you think a woman who has suffered willingly gives her children over
to the same fate?' she demanded passionately. 'I wish I could make you
see it for five minutes as I see it, you, young, careless, foolish! Why,
you know nothing--nothing! Listen to me. The woman who marries gives up
everything, or at least jeopardizes everything: her youth, her health,
her life perhaps, certainly her individuality. She acquires the
permanent possibility of self-sacrifice. She does it gladly, but she
does not know what she is doing. In return, is it too much to ask that
she be assured a roof over her head, food to her mouth, clothes to her
body? How many men marry without being sure that they have even so much
to offer? You yourself, of what are you sure? Is your arm strong? Is
your heart loyal? Can you shelter her soul as well as her body? I know
your father has money. Perhaps you can care for her creature needs, but
that isn't all. For some women life is one long affront, one slow
humiliation. How do I know you are not like that?'

'Because I'm not, that's all!' said Oliver Pickersgill abruptly, getting
to his feet.

He felt badgered, baited, indignant, yet he could not tell this frail,
excited woman what he thought. There were things one didn't say,
although Mrs. Lannithorne seemed to ignore the fact. She went on
ignoring it.

'I know what you are thinking,' she said, 'that I would regard these
matters differently if I had married another man. That is not wholly
true. It is because Peter Lannithorne was a good man at heart, and tried
to play the man's part as well as he knew how, and because it was partly
my own fault that he failed so miserably, that I have thought of it all
so much. And the end of all my thinking is that I don't want my
daughters to marry.'

Oliver was white now, and a little unsteady. He was also confused. There
was the note of truth in what she said, but he felt that she said it
with too much excitement, with too great facility. He had the justified
masculine distrust of feminine fluency as hysterical. Nothing so
presented could carry full conviction. And he felt physically bruised
and battered, as if he had been beaten with actual rods instead of
stinging words; but he was not yet defeated.

'Mrs. Lannithorne, what do you wish me to understand from all this. Do
you forbid Ruth and me to marry--is that it?'

She looked at him dubiously. She felt so fiercely the things she had
been saying that she could not feel them continuously. She, too, was
exhausted.

Oliver Pickersgill had a fine head, candid eyes, a firm chin, strong
capable hands. He was young, and the young know nothing, but it might be
that there was the making of a man in him. If Ruth must marry, perhaps
him as well as another. But she did not trust her own judgment, even of
such hands, such eyes, and such a chin. Oh, if the girls would only
believe her, if they would only be content to trust the wisdom she had
distilled from the bitterness of life! But the young know nothing, and
believe only the lying voices in their own hearts!

'I wish you would see Ruth's father,' she said suddenly. 'I am
prejudiced. I ought not to have to deal with these questions. I tell
you, I pray Heaven none of them may marry--ever; but, just the same,
they will! Go ask Peter Lannithorne if he thinks his daughter Ruth has a
fighting chance for happiness as your wife. Let him settle it. I have
told you what I think. I am done.'

'I shall be very glad to talk with Ruth's father about the matter,' said
Oliver with a certain emphasis on _father_. 'Perhaps he and I shall be
able to understand each other better. Good-morning, Mrs. Lannithorne!'


III

Oliver Pickersgill Senior turned his swivel-chair about, bit hard on the
end of his cigar, and stared at his only son.

'What's that?' he said abruptly. 'Say that again.'

Oliver Junior winced, not so much at the words as at his father's face.

'I want to marry Ruth Lannithorne,' he repeated steadily.

There was a silence. The elder Pickersgill looked at his son long and
hard from under lowered brows. Oliver had never seen his father look at
him like that before: as if he were a rank outsider, some detached
person whose doings were to be scrutinized coldly and critically, and
judged on their merits. It is a hard hour for a beloved child when he
first sees that look in heretofore indulgent parental eyes. Young Oliver
felt a weight at his heart, but he sat the straighter, and did not
flinch before the appraising glance.

'So you want to marry Peter Lannithorne's daughter, do you? Well, now
what is there in the idea of marrying a jail-bird's child that you find
especially attractive?'

'Of course I might say that I've seen something of business men in this
town, Ross, say, and Worcester, and Jim Stone, and that if it came to a
choice between their methods and Lannithorne's, his were the squarer,
for he settled up, and is paying the price besides. But I don't know
that there's any use saying that. I don't want to marry any of their
daughters--and you wouldn't want me to. You know what Ruth Lannithorne
is as well as I do. If there's a girl in town that's finer-grained, or
smarter, or prettier, I'd like to have you point her out! And she has a
sense of honor like a man's. I don't know another girl like her in that.
She knows what's fair,' said the young man.

Mr. Pickersgill's face relaxed a little. Oliver was making a good
argument with no mushiness about it, and he had a long-settled habit of
appreciating Ollie's arguments.

'She knows what's fair, does she? Then what does she say about marrying
you?'

'She says she won't marry anybody who doesn't respect her father as she
does!'

At this the parent grinned a little, grimly it is true, but
appreciatively. He looked past Oliver's handsome, boyish head, out of
the window, and was silent for a time. When he spoke, it was gravely,
not angrily.

'Oliver, you're young. The things I'm as sure of as two and two, you
don't yet believe at all. Probably you won't believe 'em if I put them
to you, but it's up to me to do it. Understand, I'm not getting angry
and doing the heavy father over this. I'm just telling you how some
things are in this world,--facts, like gravitation and atmospheric
pressure. Ruth Lannithorne is a good girl, I don't doubt. This world is
chuck full of good girls. It makes _some_ difference which one of 'em
you marry, but not nearly so much difference as you think it does. What
matters, from forty on, for the rest of your life, is the kind of
inheritance you've given your children. You don't know it yet, but the
thing that's laid on men and women to do is to give their children as
good an inheritance as they can. Take it from me that this is Gospel
truth, can't you? Your mother and I have done the best we can for you
and your sisters. You come from good stock, and by that I mean honest
blood. You've got to pass it on untainted. Now--hold on!' he held up a
warning hand as Oliver was about to interrupt hotly. 'Wait till I'm
through--and then think it over. I'm not saying that Peter Lannithorne's
blood isn't as good as much that passes for untainted, or that Ruth
isn't a fine girl. I'm only telling you this: when first you look into
your son's face, every failing of your own will rise up to haunt you
because you will wish for nothing on God's earth so much as that that
boy shall have a fair show in life and be a better man than you. You
will thank Heaven for every good thing you know of in your blood and in
your wife's, and you will regret every meanness, every weakness, that he
may inherit, more than you knew it was in you to regret anything. Do you
suppose when that hour comes to you that you'll want to remember his
grandfather was a convict? How will you face that down?'

Young Oliver's face was pale. He had never thought of things like this.
He made no response for a while. At last he asked,--

'What kind of a man is Peter Lannithorne?'

'Eh? What kind of--? Oh, well, as men go, there have been worse ones.
You know how he came to get sent up. He speculated, and he borrowed some
of another man's money without asking, for twenty-four hours, to protect
his speculation. He didn't lose it, either! There's a point where his
case differs from most. He pulled the thing off and made enough to keep
his family going in decent comfort, and he paid the other money back;
but they concluded to make an example of him, so they sent him up. It
was just, yes, and he said so himself. At the same time there are a
great many more dishonest men out of prison than Peter Lannithorne,
though he is in it. I meet 'em every day, and I ought to know. But
that's not the point. As you said yourself, you don't want to marry
their daughters. Heaven forbid that you should! You want to marry his
daughter. And he was weak. He was tempted and fell--and got found out.
He is a convict, and the taint sticks. The Lord knows why the stain of
unsuccessful dishonesty should stick longer than the stain of successful
dishonesty. I don't. But we know it does. That is the way things are.
Why not marry where there is no taint?'

'Father--?'

'Yes, Ollie.'

'Father, see here. He was weak and gave way--_once_! Are there any men
in the world who haven't given way at least _once_ about something or
other?--are there, father?'

There was a note of anguish in the boy's voice. Perhaps he was being
pushed too far. Oliver Pickersgill Senior cleared his throat, paused,
and at last answered sombrely,--

'God knows, Ollie. I don't. I won't say there are.'

'Well, then--'

'See here!' his father interrupted sharply. 'Of course I see your
argument. I won't meet it. I shan't try. It doesn't change my mind even
if it is a good argument. We'll never get anywhere, arguing along those
lines. I'll propose something else. Suppose you go ask Peter Lannithorne
whether you shall marry his daughter or not. Yes, ask him. He knows
what's what as well as the next man. Ask Peter Lannithorne what a man
wants in the family of the woman he marries.'

There was a note of finality in the older man's voice. Ollie recognized
it drearily. All roads led to Lannithorne, it seemed. He rose, oppressed
with the sense that henceforward life was going to be full of unforeseen
problems; that things which, from afar, looked simple, and easy, and
happy, were going to prove quite otherwise. Mrs. Lannithorne had angered
rather than frightened him, and he had held his own with her; but this
was his very own father who was piling the load on his shoulders and
filling his heart with terror of the future. What was it, after all,
this adventure of the married life whereof these seasoned travelers
spoke so dubiously? Could it really be that it was not the divine thing
it seemed when he and Ruth looked into each other's eyes?

He crossed the floor dejectedly, with the step of an older man, but at
the door he shook himself and looked back.

'Say, dad!'

'Yes, Ollie.'

'Everybody is so terribly depressing about this thing, it almost scares
me. Aren't there really any happy times for married people, ever? You
and Mrs. Lannithorne make me feel there aren't; but somehow I have a
hunch that Ruth and I know best! Own up now! Are you and mother
miserable? You never looked it!'

His father surveyed him with an expression too wistful to be complacent.
Ah, those broad young shoulders that must be fitted to the yoke! Yet for
what other end was their strength given them? Each man must take his
turn.

'It's not a soft snap. I don't know anything worth while that is. But
there are compensations. You'll see what some of them are when your boys
begin to grow up.'


IV

Across Oliver's young joy fell the shadow of fear. If, as his heart told
him, there was nothing to be afraid of, why were his elders thus
cautious and terrified? He felt himself affected by their alarms all the
more potently because his understanding of them was vague. He groped his
way in fog. How much ought he to be influenced by Mrs. Lannithorne's
passionate protests and his father's stern warnings? He realized all at
once that the admonitory attitude of age to youth is rooted deep in
immortal necessity. Like most lads, he had never thought of it before
save as an unpleasant parental habit. But fear changes the point of
view, and Oliver had begun to be afraid.

Then again, before him loomed the prospect of his interview with Peter
Lannithorne. This was a very concrete unpleasantness. Hang it all! Ruth
was worth any amount of trouble, but still it was a tough thing to have
to go down to the state capital and seek one's future father-in-law in
his present boarding-place! One oughtn't to have to plough through that
particular kind of difficulty on such an errand. Dimly he felt that the
path to the Most Beautiful should be rose-lined and soft to the feet of
the approaching bridegroom. But, apparently, that wasn't the way such
paths were laid out. He resented this bitterly, but he set his jaws and
proceeded to make his arrangements.

It was not difficult to compass the necessary interview. He knew a man
who knew the warden intimately. It was quickly arranged that he was to
see Peter Lannithorne in the prison library, quite by himself.

Oliver dragged himself to that conference by the sheer strength of his
developing will. Every fibre of his being seemed to protest and hold
back. Consequently he was not in the happiest imaginable temper for
important conversation.

The prison library was a long, narrow room, with bookcases to the
ceiling on one side and windows to the ceiling on the other. There were
red geraniums on brackets up the sides of the windows, and a canary's
cage on a hook gave the place a false air of domesticity, contradicted
by the barred sash. Beneath, there was a window-seat, and here Oliver
Pickersgill awaited Lannithorne's coming.

Ollie did not know what he expected the man to be like, but his
irritated nerves were prepared to resent and dislike him, whatever he
might prove. He held himself rigidly as he waited, and he could feel the
muscles of his face setting themselves into hard lines.

When the door opened and some one approached him, he rose stiffly and
held out his hand like an automaton.

'How do you do, Mr. Lannithorne? I am Oliver Pickersgill, and I have
come--I have come--'

His voice trailed off into silence, for he had raised his eyes
perfunctorily to Peter Lannithorne's face, and the things printed there
made him forget himself and the speech he had prepared.

He saw a massive head topping an insignificant figure. A fair man was
Peter Lannithorne, with heavy reddish hair, a bulging forehead, and
deep-set gray eyes with a light behind them. His features were irregular
and unnoticeable, but the sum-total of them gave the impression of
force. It was a strong face, yet you could see that it had once been a
weak one. It was a tremendously human face, a face like a battle-ground,
scarred and seamed and lined with the stress of invisible conflicts.
There was so much of struggle and thought set forth in it that one
involuntarily averted one's gaze. It did not seem decent to inspect so
much of the soul of a man as was shown in Peter Lannithorne's
countenance. Not a triumphant face at all, and yet there was peace in
it. Somehow, the man had achieved something, arrived somewhere, and the
record of the journey was piteous and terrible. Yet it drew the eyes in
awe as much as in wonder, and in pity not at all!

These things were startlingly clear to Oliver. He saw them with a
vividness not to be overestimated. This was a prison. This might be a
convict, but he was a man. He was a man who knew things and would share
his knowledge. His wisdom was as patent as his suffering, and both
stirred young Oliver's heart to its depths. His pride, his irritation,
his rigidity vanished in a flash. His fears were in abeyance. Only his
wonder and his will to learn were left.

Lannithorne did not take the offered hand, yet did not seem to ignore
it. He came forward quietly and sat down on the window-seat, half
turning so that he and Oliver faced each other.

'Oliver Pickersgill?' he said. 'Then you are Oliver Pickersgill's son.'

'Yes, Mr. Lannithorne. My father sent me here--my father, and Mrs.
Lannithorne, and Ruth.'

At his daughter's name a light leaped into Peter Lannithorne's eyes
that made him look even more acutely and painfully alive than before.

'And what have you to do with Ruth, or her mother?' the man asked.

Here it was! The great moment was facing him. Oliver caught his breath,
then went straight to the point.

'I want to marry your daughter, Mr. Lannithorne. We love each other very
much. But--I haven't quite persuaded her, and I haven't persuaded Mrs.
Lannithorne and my father at all. They don't see it. They say
things--all sorts of dreadful things,' said the boy. 'You would think
they had never been young and--cared for anybody. They seem to have
forgotten what it means. They try to make us afraid--just plain afraid.
How am I to suppose that they know best about Ruth and me?'

Lannithorne looked across at the young man long and fixedly. Then a
great kindliness came into his beaten face, and a great comprehension.

Oliver, meeting his eyes, had a sudden sense of shelter, and felt his
haunting fears allayed. It was absurd and incredible, but this man made
him feel comfortable, yes, and eager to talk things over.

'They all said you would know. They sent me to you.'

Peter Lannithorne smiled faintly to himself. He had not left his sense
of humor behind him in the outside world.

'They sent you to me, did they, boy? And what did they tell you to ask
me? They had different motives, I take it.'

'Rather! Ruth said you were the best man she had ever known, and if you
said it was right for her to marry me, she would. Mrs. Lannithorne said
I should ask you if you thought Ruth had a fighting chance for happiness
with me. She doesn't want Ruth to marry anybody, you see. My father--my
father'--Oliver's voice shook with his consciousness of the cruelty of
what was to follow, but he forced himself to steadiness and got the
words out--'said I was to ask you what a man wants in the family of the
woman he marries. He said you knew what was what, and I should ask you
what to do.'

Lannithorne's face was very grave, and his troubled gaze sought the
floor. Oliver, convicted of brutality and conscience-smitten, hurried
on, 'And now that I've seen you, I want to ask you a few things for
myself, Mr. Lannithorne. I--I believe you know.'

The man looked up and held up an arresting hand. 'Let me clear the way
for you a little,' he said. 'It was a hard thing for you to come and
seek me out in this place. I like your coming. Most young men would have
refused, or come in a different spirit. I want you to understand that if
in Ruth's eyes, and my wife's, and your father's, my counsel has value,
it is because they think I see things as they are. And that means, first
of all, that I know myself for a man who committed a crime, and is
paying the penalty. I am satisfied to be paying it. As I see justice, it
is just. So, if I seem to wince at your necessary allusions to it, that
is part of the price. I don't want you to feel that you are blundering
or hurting me more than is necessary. You have got to lay the thing
before me as it is.'

Something in the words, in the dry, patient manner, in the endurance of
the man's face, touched Oliver to the quick and made him feel all manner
of new things: such as a sense of the moral poise of the universe,
acquiescence in its retributions, and a curious pride, akin to Ruth's
own, in a man who could meet him after this fashion, in this place.

'Thank you, Mr. Lannithorne,' he said. 'You see, it's this way, sir.
Mrs. Lannithorne says--

And he went on eagerly to set forth his new problems as they had been
stated to him.

'Well, there you have it,' he concluded at last. 'For myself, the things
they said opened chasms and abysses. Mrs. Lannithorne seemed to think I
would hurt Ruth. My father seemed to think Ruth would hurt me. _Is_
married life something to be afraid of? When I look at Ruth, I am sure
everything is all right. It may be miserable for other people, but how
could it be miserable for Ruth and me?'

Peter Lannithorne looked at the young man long and thoughtfully again
before he answered. Oliver felt himself measured and estimated, but not
found wanting. When the man spoke, it was slowly and with difficulty, as
if the habit of intimate, convincing speech had been so long disused
that the effort was painful. The sentences seemed wrung out of him, one
by one.

'They haven't the point of view,' he said. 'It is life that is the great
adventure. Not love, not marriage, not business. They are just chapters
in the book. The main thing is to take the road fearlessly,--to have
courage to live one's life.'

'Courage?'

Lannithorne nodded.

'That is the great word. Don't you see what ails your father's point of
view, and my wife's? One wants absolute security in one way for Ruth;
the other wants absolute security in another way for you. And
security--why, it's just the one thing a human being can't have, the
thing that's the damnation of him if he gets it! The reason it is so
hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven is that he has that
false sense of security. To demand it just disintegrates a man. I don't
know why. It does.'

Oliver shook his head uncertainly.

'I don't quite follow you, sir. Oughtn't one to try to be safe?'

'One ought to try, yes. That is common prudence. But the point is that,
whatever you do or get, you aren't after all secure. There is no such
condition, and the harder you demand it, the more risk you run. So it is
up to a man to take all reasonable precautions about his money, or his
happiness, or his life, and trust the rest. What every man in the world
is looking for is the sense of having the mastery over life. But I tell
you, boy, there is only one thing that really gives it!'

'And that is--?'

Lannithorne hesitated perceptibly. For the thing he was about to tell
this undisciplined lad was his most precious possession; it was the
piece of wisdom for which he had paid with the years of his life. No man
parts lightly with such knowledge.

'It comes,' he said, with an effort, 'with the knowledge of our power to
endure. That's it. _You are safe only when you can stand everything that
can happen to you._ Then and then only! Endurance is the measure of a
man.'

Oliver's heart swelled within him as he listened, and his face shone,
for these words found his young soul where it lived. The chasms and
abysses in his path suddenly vanished, and the road lay clear again,
winding uphill, winding down, but always lit for Ruth and him by the
light in each other's eyes. For surely neither Ruth nor he could ever
fail in courage!

'Sometimes I think it is harder to endure what we deserve, like me,'
said Lannithorne, 'than what we don't. I was afraid, you see, afraid for
my wife and all of them. Anyhow, take my word for it. Courage is
security. There is no other kind.'

'Then--Ruth and I--'

'Ruth is the core of my heart!' said Lannithorne thickly. 'I would
rather die than have her suffer more than she must. But she must take
her chances like the rest. It is the law of things. If you know yourself
fit for her, and feel reasonably sure you can take care of her, you have
a right to trust the future. Myself, I believe there is Some One to
trust it to. As for the next generation, God and the mothers look after
that! You may tell your father so from me. And you may tell my wife I
think there is the stuff of a man in you. And Ruth--tell Ruth--'

He could not finish. Oliver reached out and found his hand and wrung it
hard.

'I'll tell her, sir, that I feel about her father as she does! And that
he approves of our venture. And I'll tell myself, always, what you've
just told me. Why, it _must_ be true! You needn't be afraid I'll
forget--when the time comes for remembering.'

Finding his way out of the prison yard a few minutes later, Oliver
looked, unseeing, at the high walls that soared against the blue spring
sky. He could not realize them, there was such a sense of light, air,
space, in his spirit.

Apparently, he was just where he had been an hour before, with all his
battles still to fight, but really he knew they were already won, for
his weapon had been forged and put in his hand. He left his boyhood
behind him as he passed that stern threshold, for the last hour had made
a man of him, and a prisoner had given him the master-key that opens
every door.



BUTTERCUP-NIGHT

BY JOHN GALSWORTHY


Why is it that in some places there is such a feeling of life being all
one; not merely a long picture-show for human eyes, but a single
breathing, glowing, growing thing, of which we are no more important a
part than the swallows and magpies, the foals and sheep in the meadows,
the sycamores and ash trees and flowers in the fields, the rocks and
little bright streams, or even the long fleecy clouds and their
soft-shouting drivers, the winds?

True, we register these parts of being, and they--so far as we know--do
not register us; yet it is impossible to feel, in such places as I speak
of, the busy, dry, complacent sense of being all that matters, which in
general we humans have so strongly.

In these rare spots, that are always in the remote country, untouched by
the advantages of civilization, one is conscious of an enwrapping web or
mist of spirit, the glamorous and wistful wraith of all the vanished
shapes which once dwelt there in such close comradeship.

It was Sunday of an early June when I first came on one such, far down
in the West country. I had walked with my knapsack twenty miles; and,
there being no room at the tiny inn of the very little village, they
directed me to a wicket gate, through which by a path leading down a
field I would come to a farmhouse where I might find lodging. The moment
I got into that field I felt within me a peculiar contentment, and sat
down on a rock to let the feeling grow. In an old holly tree rooted to
the bank about fifty yards away, two magpies evidently had a nest, for
they were coming and going, avoiding my view as much as possible, yet
with a certain stealthy confidence which made one feel that they had
long prescriptive right to that dwelling-place.

Around, as far as one could see, there was hardly a yard of level
ground; all was hill and hollow, that long ago had been reclaimed from
the moor; and against the distant folds of the hills the farmhouse and
its thatched barns were just visible, embowered amongst beeches and some
dark trees, with a soft bright crown of sunlight over the whole. A
gentle wind brought a faint rustling up from those beeches, and from a
large lime tree that stood by itself; on this wind some little snowy
clouds, very high and fugitive in that blue heaven, were always moving
over. But what struck me most were the buttercups. Never was field so
lighted up by those tiny lamps, those little bright pieces of flower
china out of the Great Pottery. They covered the whole ground, as if the
sunlight had fallen bodily from the sky, in tens of millions of gold
patines; and the fields below as well, down to what was evidently a
stream, were just as thick with the extraordinary warmth and glory of
them.

Leaving the rock at last, I went toward the house. It was long and low
and rather sad, standing in a garden all mossy grass and buttercups,
with a few rhododendrons and flowery shrubs, below a row of fine old
Irish yews. On the stone verandah a gray sheep-dog and a very small
golden-haired child were sitting close together, absorbed in each other.
A pleasant woman came in answer to my knock, and told me, in a soft,
slurring voice, that I might stay the night; and dropping my knapsack, I
went out again.

Through an old gate under a stone arch I came on the farmyard, quite
deserted save for a couple of ducks moving slowly down a gutter in the
sunlight; and noticing the upper half of a stable-door open, I went
across, in search of something living. There, in a rough loose-box, on
thick straw, lay a long-tailed black mare with the skin and head of a
thoroughbred. She was swathed in blankets, and her face, all cut about
the cheeks and over the eyes, rested on an ordinary human's pillow, held
by a bearded man in shirt-sleeves; while, leaning against the
whitewashed walls, sat fully a dozen other men, perfectly silent, very
gravely and intently gazing. The mare's eyes were half closed, and what
could be seen of them dull and blueish, as though she had been through a
long time of pain. Save for her rapid breathing, she lay quite still,
but her neck and ears were streaked with sweat, and every now and then
her hind-legs quivered spasmodically. Seeing me at the door, she raised
her head, uttering a queer half-human noise, but the bearded man at once
put his hand on her forehead, and with a 'Woa, my dear--woa, my pretty!'
pressed it down again, while with the other hand he plumped up the
pillow for her cheek. And, as the mare obediently let fall her head, one
of the men said in a low voice, 'I never see anything so like a
Christian!' and the others echoed, in chorus, 'Like a Christian--like a
Christian!'

It went to one's heart to watch her, and I moved off down the farm lane
into an old orchard, where the apple trees were still in bloom, with
bees--very small ones--busy on the blossoms, whose petals were dropping
on the dock leaves and buttercups in the long grass. Climbing over the
bank at the far end, I found myself in a meadow the like of which--so
wild and yet so lush--I think I have never seen. Along one hedge of its
meandering length was a mass of pink mayflower; and between two little
running streams grew quantities of yellow water-iris--'daggers,' as they
call them; the 'print-frock' orchid, too, was everywhere in the grass,
and always the buttercups. Great stones coated with yellowish moss were
strewn among the ash trees and dark hollies; and through a grove of
beeches on the far side, such as Corot might have painted, a girl was
running, with a youth after her, who jumped down over the bank and
vanished. Thrushes, blackbirds, yaffles, cuckoos, and one other very
monotonous little bird were in full song; and this, with the sound of
the streams and the wind, and the shapes of the rocks and trees, the
colors of the flowers, and the warmth of the sun, gave one a feeling of
being lost in a very wilderness of nature. Some ponies came slowly from
the far end,--tangled, gypsy-headed little creatures,--stared, and went
off again at speed. It was just one of those places where any day the
Spirit of all Nature might start up in one of those white gaps that
separate the trees and rocks. But though I sat a long time
waiting--hoping--She did not come.

They were all gone from the stable when I went back up to the farm,
except the bearded nurse and one tall fellow, who might have been the
'Dying Gaul' as he crouched there in the straw; and the mare was
sleeping--her head between her nurse's knees.

That night I woke at two o'clock to find it almost as bright as day,
with moonlight coming in through the flimsy curtains. And, smitten with
the feeling that comes to us creatures of routine so rarely,--of what
beauty and strangeness we let slip by without ever stretching out hand
to grasp it,--I got up, dressed, stole downstairs, and out.

Never was such a night of frozen beauty, never such dream-tranquillity.
The wind had dropped, and the silence was such that one hardly liked to
tread even on the grass. From the lawn and fields there seemed to be a
mist rising--in truth, the moonlight caught on the dewy buttercups; and
across this ghostly radiance the shadows of the yew trees fell in dense
black bars.

Suddenly I bethought me of the mare. How was she faring, this marvelous
night? Very softly opening the door into the yard, I tiptoed across. A
light was burning in her box. And I could hear her making the same
half-human noise she had made in the afternoon, as if wondering at her
feelings; and instantly the voice of the bearded man talking to her as
one might talk to a child: 'Oover, my darlin'; yu've a-been long enough
o' that side. Wa-ay, my swate--yu let old Jack turn yu, then!' Then came
a scuffling in the straw, a thud, that half-human sigh, and his voice
again: 'Putt your 'ead to piller, that's my dandy gel. Old Jack wouldn'
'urt yu; no more'n if yu was the Queen!' Then only her quick breathing
could be heard, and his cough and mutter, as he settled down once more
to his long vigil.

I crept very softly up to the window, but she heard me at once; and at
the movement of her head the old fellow sat up, blinking his eyes out of
the bush of his grizzled hair and beard. Opening the door, I said,--

'May I come in?'

'Oo ay! Come in, zurr, if yu'm a mind tu.'

I sat down beside him on a sack. And for some time we did not speak,
taking each other in. One of his legs was lame, so that he had to keep
it stretched out all the time; and awfully tired he looked, gray-tired.

'You're a great nurse!' I said at last. 'It must be tiring work,
watching out here all night.'

His eyes twinkled; they were of that bright gray kind through which the
soul looks out.

'Aw, no!' he said. 'Ah, don't grudge it vur a dumb animal. Poor things
they can't 'elp theirzelves. Many's the naight ah've zat up with 'orses
and beasts tu. 'T es en me--can't bear to zee dumb creatures zuffer.'
And laying his hand on the mare's ears, 'They zay 'orses 'aven't no
souls. 'T es my belief they've souls zame as us. Many's the Christian
ah've seen ain't got the soul of an 'orse. Same with the beasts--an' the
ship; 't es only they'm can't spake their minds.'

'And where,' I said, 'do you think they go to when they die?'

He looked at me a little queerly, fancying perhaps that I was leading
him into some trap; making sure, too, that I was a real stranger,
without power over his body or soul--for humble folk must be careful in
the country; then, reassured, and nodding in his beard, he answered
knowingly,--

'Ah don't think they goes so very far!'

'Why? Do you ever see their spirits?'

'Naw, naw; I never zeen none; but, for all they zay, ah don't think none
of us goes such a brave way off. There's room for all, dead or alive.
An' there's Christians ah've zeen--well, ef they'm not dead for gude,
then neither aren't dumb animals, for sure.'

'And rabbits, squirrels, birds, even insects? How about them?'

He was silent, as if I had carried him a little beyond the confines of
his philosophy; then shook his head.

''T es all a bit dimsy. But you watch dumb animals, even the laste
littlest one, an' yu'll zee they knows a lot more'n what we du; an' they
du's things tu that putts shame on a man 's often as not. They've a got
that in them as passes show.' Not noticing my stare at that unconscious
plagiarism, he went on,'Ah'd zooner zet up of a naight with an 'orse
than with an 'uman--they've more zense, and patience.' And stroking the
mare's forehead, he added, 'Now, my dear, time for yu t' 'ave yure
bottle.'

I waited to see her take her draft, and lay her head down once more on
the pillow. Then, hoping he would get a sleep, I rose to go.

'Aw, 't es nothin' much,' he said, 'this time o' year; not like in
winter. 'T will come day before yu know, these buttercup-nights.'

And twinkling up at me out of his kindly bearded face, he settled
himself again into the straw.

I stole a look back at his rough figure propped against the sack, with
the mare's head down beside his knee, at her swathed black body, and the
gold of the straw, the white walls, and dusky nooks and shadows of that
old stable illumined by the dimsy light of the old lantern. And with the
sense of having seen something holy, I crept away up into the field
where I had lingered the day before, and sat down on the same halfway
rock.

Close on dawn it was, the moon still sailing wide over the moor, and the
flowers of this 'buttercup-night' fast closed, not taken in at all by
her cold glory! Most silent hour of all the twenty-four--when the soul
slips half out of sheath, and hovers in the cool; when the spirit is
most in tune with what, soon or late, happens to all spirits; hour when
a man cares least whether or no he be alive, as we understand the word.

'None of us goes such a brave way off--there's room for all, dead or
alive.' Though it was almost unbearably colorless, and quiet, there was
warmth in thinking of those words of his; in the thought, too, of the
millions of living things snugly asleep all round; warmth in realizing
that unanimity of sleep. Insects and flowers, birds, men, beasts, the
very leaves on the trees--away in slumberland.

Waiting for the first bird to chirrup, one had perhaps even a stronger
feeling than in daytime of the unity and communion of all life, of the
subtle brotherhood of living things that fall all together into
oblivion, and, all together, wake. When dawn comes, while moonlight is
still powdering the world's face, quite a long time passes before one
realizes how the quality of the light has changed; so it was day before
I knew it. Then the sun came up above the hills; dew began to sparkle,
and color to stain the sky. That first praise of the sun from every bird
and leaf and blade of grass, the tremulous flush and chime of dawn! One
has strayed so far from the heart of things, that it comes as something
strange and wonderful! Indeed, I noticed that the beasts and birds gazed
at me as if I simply could not be there, at this hour that so belonged
to them. And to me, too, they seemed strange and new--with that in them
'that passed show,' and as of a world where man did not exist, or
existed only as just another form of life, another sort of beast. It was
one of those revealing moments when we see our proper place in the
scheme; go past our truly irreligious thought: 'Man, hub of the
Universe!' which has founded most religions. One of those moments when
our supreme importance will not wash either in the bath of purest
spiritual ecstasy, or in the clear fluid of scientific knowledge; and
one sees clear, with the eyes of true religion, man playing his little,
not unworthy, part in the great game of Perfection.

But just then began the crowning glory of that dawn--the opening and
lighting of the buttercups. Not one did I actually see unclose, yet, all
of a sudden, they were awake, the fields once more a blaze of gold.



HEPATICAS

BY ANNE DOUGLAS SEDGWICK


I

Other people's sons were coming home for the three or four days' leave.
The first gigantic struggle--furious onslaught and grim resistance--was
over. Paris, pale, and slightly shuddering still, stood safe. Calais was
not taken, and, dug into their trenches, it was evident that the
opposing armies would lie face to face, with no decisive encounter
possible until the spring.

There was, with all their beauty and terror, an element of the facetious
in these unexpected holidays, of the matter-of-factness, the freedom
from strain or sentiment that was the English oddity and the English
strength. Men who had known the horrors of the retreat from Mons or the
carnage of Ypres, who had not taken off their clothes for ten days at a
stretch or slept for four nights, came home from trenches knee-deep in
mud, from battlefields heaped with unburied dead, and appeared
immaculate and cheerful at breakfast; a little sober and preoccupied,
perhaps; touched, perhaps, with strangeness; but ready for the valorous
family jest, and alluding to the war as if, while something too solemn
for adequate comment, it were yet something that lent itself to
laughter. One did such funny things, and saw them; of the other things
one did not speak; and there was the huge standing joke of an enemy who
actually hated one. These grave and cheerful young men hated nobody; but
they were very eager to go back again; and they were all ready, not only
to die but to die good-humoredly. From the demeanor of mothers and
wives and sisters it was evident that nothing would be said or done to
make this readiness difficult; but Mrs. Bradley, who showed serenity to
the world and did not, even when alone, allow herself to cry, suspected
that the others, beneath their smiles, carried hearts as heavy with
dread as her own.

It had been heavy, with hope now as well as with dread, for the past
week. It was a week since she had last heard from Jack. Mrs. Crawley,
over the hill, had had her wire, and her husband was now with her; and
Lady Wrexham expected her boy to-morrow. There was no certainty at all
as regarded herself; yet at any moment she might have a wire; and
feeling to-day the stress of waiting too great to be borne in passivity,
she left her books and letters, and put on her gardening shoes and
gloves, and went out to her borders.

For weeks now the incessant rain had made the relief and solace of
gardening almost an impossibility; but to-day was mild and clear. There
was no radiance in the air; curtains of pearly mist shut out the sky;
yet here and there a soft opening in the white showed a pale, far blue,
gentle and remote as the gaze of a wandering goddess, and the hills
seemed to smile quietly up at the unseen sun. Mrs. Bradley, as she went
along the river-path, could look across at the hills; the river-path and
the hills were the great feature of Dorrington--the placid, comely red
brick house to which she and Jack had come fifteen years ago, after the
death of her husband in India. Enclosed by woods, and almost catching
sight of the road,--from its upper windows and over its old brick
wall,--the house could have seemed to her too commonplace and almost
suburban, in spite of the indubitably old oak-paneling of the
drawing-room, had it not been for the river and the hills. Stepping out
on to the lawn from the windows of the drawing-room, she and Jack, on
that April day, had found themselves confronting both--the limpid, rapid
little stream, spanned near the house by its mossy bridge, and the
hills, beyond the meadows, streaked with purple woodlands and rising,
above the woods, to slopes russet, fawn, and azure. Jack, holding her by
the hand, had pointed at once with an eager 'Isn't it pretty,
mummy!'--even at eight he had cared almost as much as she, and
extraordinarily in the same way, for the sights of the country; and if
the hills had not settled the question, it was settled, quite finally,
ten minutes later, by the white hepaticas.

They had come upon them suddenly, after their tour of the walled kitchen
garden and their survey of the lawn with its ugly shrubberies,--now long
forgotten,--penetrating a thicket of hazels and finding themselves in an
opening under trees where neighboring woods looked at them over an old
stone wall, and where, from an old stone bench, one could see the river.
The ground was soft with the fallen leaves of many an autumn; a narrow
path ran, half obliterated, down to the river; and among the faded
brown, everywhere, rose the thick clusters, the dark leaves, and the
snowy flowers--poignant, amazing in their beauty.

She and Jack had stopped short to gaze. She had never seen such white
hepaticas, or so many, or so placed. And Jack, presently, lifting his
dear nut-brown head and nut-brown eyes, had said, gazing up at her as he
had gazed at the flowers, 'They are just like you, mummy.'

She had felt at once that they were like her; more like than the little
boy's instinct could grasp. He had thought of the darkness and
whiteness; her widow's weeds and pale face had suggested that; but he
could not know the sorrow, the longing, the earthly sense of irreparable
loss, the heavenly sense of a possession unalterably hers, that the
dark, melancholy leaves and celestial whiteness of the flowers
expressed to her. Tears had risen to her eyes and she had stooped and
kissed her child,--how like her husband's that little face!--and had
said, after a moment, 'We must never leave them, Jack.'

They had never left them. Dorrington had been their home for fifteen
years, and the hepaticas the heart of it, it had always seemed to them
both; the loveliest ritual of the year that early spring one when, in
the hazel copse, they would find the white hepaticas again in flower.
And of all the autumnal labors none were sweeter than those which
cherished and divided and protected the beloved flowers.

Mrs. Bradley, to-day, worked in her long border, weeding, troweling,
placing belated labels. She was dressed in black, her straw hat bound
beneath her chin by a ribbon and her soft gardening gloves rolling back
from her firm, white wrists. Her gestures expressed a calm energy, an
accurate grace. She was tall, and when she raised herself to look over
the meadows at the hills, she showed small, decisive features, all
marked, in the pallor of her face, as if with the delicate, neutral
emphasis of an etching: the gray, scrutinizing eyes, the charming yet
ugly nose, the tranquil mouth which had, at the corners, a little drop,
half sweet, half bitter, as if with tears repressed or a summoned smile.
Squared at brow and chin, it would, but for the mildness of the gaze,
have been an imperious face; and her head, its whitened hair drawn back
and looped in wide braids behind, had an air at once majestic and
unworldly.

She had worked for over an hour and the last label was set beside a
precious clump of iris. The hazel copse lay near by; and gathering up
her tools, drawing off her wet gloves, she followed the path under the
leafless branches and among the hepaticas to the stone bench, where,
sinking down, she knew that she was very tired. She could see, below the
bank, the dark, quick stream; a pale, diffused light in the sky showed
where the sun was dropping toward the hills.

Where was Jack at this moment, this quiet moment of a monotonous English
winter day?--so like the days of all the other years that it was
impossible to think of what was happening a few hours' journey away
across the Channel. Impossible to think of it; yet the thick throb of
her heart spoke to the full of its significance. She had told herself
from the beginning,--passionate, rebellious creature as, at bottom, she
knew herself to be, always in need of discipline and only in these later
years schooled to a control and submission that, in her youth, she would
have believed impossible to her,--she had told herself, when he had gone
from her, that, as a soldier's widow, she must see her soldier son go to
death. She must give him to that; be ready for it; and if he came back
to her it would be as if he were born again--a gift, a grace, unexpected
and unclaimed. She must feel, for herself as well as for her country,
that these days of dread were also days of a splendor and beauty
unmatched by any in England's history, and that a soldier's widow must
ask for no more glorious fate for her son than death in such a cause.
She had told herself all this many times; yet, as she sat there, her
hands folded on her lap, her eyes on the stream below, she felt that she
was now merely motherhood, tense, huddled, throbbing and longing,
longing for its child.

Then, suddenly, she heard Jack's footsteps. They came, quick and light,
along the garden path; they entered the wood; they were near, but
softened by the fallen leaves. And, half rising, afraid of her own joy,
she hardly knew that she saw him before she was in his arms; and it was
better to meet thus, in the blindness and darkness of their embrace, her
cheek pressed against his hair, his head buried close between her neck
and shoulder.

'Jack!--Jack!' she heard herself say.

He said nothing, holding her tightly to him, with quick breaths; and
even after she had opened her eyes and could look down at him,--her own,
her dear, beautiful Jack,--could see the nut-brown head, the smooth
brown cheek, the firm brown hand which grasped her, he did not for a
long time raise his head and look at her. When, at last, he did look up,
she could not tell, through her tears, whether, like herself, he was
trying to smile.

They sat down together on the bench. She did not ask him why he had not
wired. That question pressed too sharply on her heart; to ask might seem
to reproach.

'Darling, you are so thin,--so much older,--but you look--strong and
well.'

'We're all of us extraordinarily fit, mummy. It's wholesome, living in
mud.'

'And wholesome living among bursting shells? I had your last letter
telling of that miraculous escape.'

'There have been a lot more since then. Every day seems a miracle--that
one's alive at the end of it.'

'But you get used to it?'

'All except the noise. That always seems to daze me still. Some of our
fellows are deaf from it.--You heard of Toppie, mother?' Jack asked.

Toppie was Alan Thorpe, Jack's nearest friend. He had been killed ten
days ago.

'I heard it, Jack. Were you with him?'

'Yes. It was in a bayonet charge. He didn't suffer. A bullet went right
through him. He just gave a little cry and fell.' Jack's voice had the
mildness of a sorrow which has passed beyond the capacity for emotion.
'We found him afterwards. He is buried out there.'

'You must tell Frances about it, Jack. I went to her at once.' Frances
was Toppie's sister. 'She is bearing it so bravely.'

'I must write to her. She would be sure to be plucky.'

He answered all her questions, sitting closely against her, his arm
around her; looking down, while he spoke, and twisting, as had always
been his boyish way, a button on her coat. He was at that enchanting
moment of young manhood when the child is still apparent in the man. His
glance was shy, yet candid; his small, firm lips had a child's gravity.
With his splendid shoulders, long legs, and noble little head, he was
yet as endearing as he was impressive. His mother's heart ached with
love and pride and fear as she gazed at him.

And a question came, near the sharp one, yet hoping to evade it:--

'Jack, dearest, how long will you be with me? How long is the leave?'

He raised his eyes then and looked at her; a curious look. Something in
it blurred her mind with a sense of some other sort of fear.

'Only till to-night,' he said.

It seemed confusion rather than pain that she felt. 'Only till to-night,
Jack? But Richard Crawley has been back for three days already. I
thought they gave you longer?'

'I know, mummy.' His eyes were dropped again and his hand at the
button--did it tremble?--twisted and untwisted. 'I've been back for
three days already.--I've been in London.'

'In London?' Her breath failed her. The sense of alien fear became a
fog, horrible, suffocating. 'But--Jack--why?'

'I didn't wire, mummy, because I knew I'd have to be there for most of
my time. I felt that I couldn't wire and tell you. I felt that I had to
see you when I told you. Mother--I'm married.--I came back to get
married.--I was married this morning.--O mother, can you ever forgive
me?'

His shaking hands held her and his eyes could not meet hers.

She felt the blood rush, as if her heart had been divided with a sword,
to her throat, to her eyes, choking her, burning her; and as if from far
away she heard her own voice saying, after a little time had passed,
'There's nothing I couldn't forgive you, Jack. Tell me. Don't be afraid
of hurting me.'

He held her tightly, still looking down as he said, 'She is a dancer,
mother, a little dancer. It was in London, last summer. A lot of us came
up from Aldershot together. She was in the chorus of one of those
musical comedies. Mother, you can never understand. But it wasn't just
low and vulgar. She was so lovely,--so very young,--with the most
wonderful golden hair and the sweetest eyes.--I don't know.--I simply
went off my head when I saw her. We all had supper together afterwards.
Toppie knew one of the other girls, and Dollie was there. That's her
name--Dollie Vaughan--her stage name. Her real name was Byles. Her
people, I think, were little tradespeople, and she'd lost her father and
mother, and an aunt had been very unkind. She told me all about it that
night. Mother, please believe just this: it wasn't only the obvious
thing.--I know I can't explain. But you remember, when we read _War and
Peace_,'--his broken voice groped for the analogy,--'you remember
Natacha, when she falls in love with Anatole, and nothing that was real
before seems real, and she is ready for anything. It was like that. It
was all fairyland, like that. No one thought it wrong. It didn't seem
wrong. Everything went together.'

She had gathered his hand closely in hers and she sat there, quiet,
looking at her hopes lying slain before her. Her Jack. The wife who was,
perhaps, to have been his. The children that she, perhaps, should have
seen. All dead. The future blotted out. Only this wraith-like present;
only this moment of decision; Jack and his desperate need the only real
things left.

And after a moment, for his laboring breath had failed, she said, 'Yes,
dear?' and smiled at him.

He covered his face with his hands. 'Mother, I've ruined your life.'

He had, of course, in ruining his own; yet even at that moment of
wreckage she was able to remember, if not to feel, that life could mend
from terrible wounds, could marvelously grow from compromises and
defeats. 'No, dearest, no,' she said. 'While I have you, nothing is
ruined. We shall see what can be done. Go on. Tell me the rest.'

He put out his hand to hers again and sat now a little turned away from
her, speaking on in his deadened, bitter voice.

'There wasn't any glamour after that first time. I only saw her once or
twice again. I was awfully sorry and ashamed over the whole thing. Her
company left London, on tour, and then the war came, and I simply forgot
all about her. And the other day, over there, I had a letter from her.
She was in terrible trouble. She was ill and had no money, and no work.
And she was going to have a child--my child; and she begged me to send
her a little money to help her through, or she didn't know what would
become of her.'

The fog, the horrible confusion, even the despair, had passed now. The
sense of ruin, of wreckage almost irreparable, was there; yet with it,
too, was the strangest sense of gladness. He was her own Jack,
completely hers, for she saw now why he had done it; she could be glad
that he had done it; she could be glad that he had done it. 'Go on,
dear,' she said. 'I understand; I understand perfectly.'

'O mother, bless you!' He put her hand to his lips, bowing his head upon
it for a moment. 'I was afraid you couldn't. I was afraid you couldn't
forgive me. But I had to do it. I thought it all over--out there.
Everything had become so different after what one had been through. One
saw everything differently. Some things didn't matter at all, and other
things mattered tremendously. This was one of them. I knew I couldn't
just send her money. I knew I couldn't bear to have the poor child born
without a name and with only that foolish little mother to take care of
it. And when I found I could get this leave, I knew I must marry her.
That was why I didn't wire. I thought I might not have time to come to
you at all.'

'Where is she, Jack?' Her voice, her eyes, her smile at him, showed him
that, indeed, she understood perfectly.

'In lodgings that I found for her; nice and quiet, with a kind landlady.
She was in such an awful place in Ealing. She is so changed, poor little
thing. I should hardly have known her. Mother, darling, I wonder, could
you just go and see her once or twice? She's frightfully lonely; and so
very young.--If you could--if you would just help things along a little
till the baby comes, I should be so grateful. And, then, if I don't come
back, will you, for my sake, see that they are safe?'

'But, Jack,' she said, smiling at him, 'she is coming here, of course. I
shall go and get her to-morrow.'

He stared at her and his color rose. 'Get her? Bring her here, to stay?'

'Of course, darling. And if you don't come back, I will take care of
them, always.'

'But, mother,' said Jack, and there were tears in his eyes, 'you don't
know, you don't realize. I mean--she's a dear little thing--but you
couldn't be happy with her. She'd get most frightfully on your nerves.
She's just--just a silly little dancer who has got into trouble.'

Jack was clear-sighted. Every vestige of fairyland had vanished. And she
was deeply thankful that they should see alike, while she answered,
'It's not exactly a time for considering one's nerves, is it, Jack? I
hope I won't get on hers. I must just try and make her as happy as I
can.'

She made it all seem natural and almost sweet. The tears were in his
eyes, yet he had to smile back at her when she said, 'You know that I am
good at managing people. I'll manage her. And perhaps when you come
back, my darling, she won't be a silly little dancer.'

They sat now for a little while in silence. While they had talked, a
golden sunset, slowly, had illuminated the western sky. The river below
them was golden, and the wintry woodlands bathed in light. Jack held her
hands and gazed at her. Love could say no more than his eyes, in their
trust and sorrow, said to her; she could never more completely possess
her son. Sitting there with him, hand in hand, while the light slowly
ebbed and twilight fell about them, she felt it to be, in its accepted
sorrow, the culminating and transfiguring moment of her maternity.

When they at last rose to go it was the hour for Jack's departure, and
it had become almost dark. Far away, through the trees, they could see
the lighted windows of the house which waited for them, but to which she
must return alone.

With his arms around her shoulders, Jack paused a moment, looking about
him. 'Do you remember that day--when we first came here, mummy?' he
asked.

She felt in him suddenly a sadness deeper than any he had yet shown
her. The burden of the past she had lifted from him; but he must bear
now the burden of what he had done to her, to their life, to all the
future. And, protesting against his pain, her mother's heart strove
still to shelter him while she answered, as if she did not feel his
sadness, 'Yes, dear, and do you remember the hepaticas on that day?'

'Like you,' said Jack in a gentle voice. 'I can hardly see the plants.
Are they all right?'

'They are doing beautifully.'

'I wish the flowers were out,' said Jack. 'I wish it were the time for
the flowers to be out, so that I could have seen you and them together,
like that first day.' And then, putting his head down on her shoulder,
he murmured, 'It will never be the same again. I've spoiled everything
for you.'

But he was not to go from her uncomforted. She found the firmest voice
in which to answer him, stroking his hair and pressing him to her with
the full reassurance of her resolution. 'Nothing is spoiled, Jack,
nothing. You have never been so near me--so how can anything be spoiled?
And when you come back, darling, you'll find your son, perhaps, and the
hepaticas may be in flower, waiting for you.'


II

Mrs. Bradley and her daughter-in-law sat together in the drawing-room.
They sat opposite each other on the two chintz chesterfields placed at
right angles to the pleasantly blazing fire, the chintz curtains drawn
against a rainy evening. It was a long, low room, with paneled walls;
and, like Mrs. Bradley's head, it had an air at once majestic,
decorated, and old-fashioned. It was a rather crowded room, with many
deep chairs and large couches, many tables with lamps and books and
photographs upon them, many porcelains, prints, and pots of growing
flowers. Mrs. Bradley, her tea-table before her, was in her evening
black silk; lace ruffles rose about her throat; she wore her accustomed
necklace of old enamel, blue, black, and white, set with small diamonds,
and the enamel locket which had within it Jack's face on one side and
his father's on the other; her white hands, moving gently among the
teacups, showed an ancient cluster of diamonds above the slender
wedding-ring.

From time to time she lifted her eyes and smiled quietly over at her
daughter-in-law. It was the first time that she had really seen Dollie,
that is, in any sense that meant contemplative observation. Dollie had
spent her first week at Dorrington in bed, sodden with fatigue rather
than ill. 'What you need' Mrs. Bradley had said, 'is to go to sleep for
a fortnight'; and Dollie had almost literally carried out the
prescription.

Stealing carefully into the darkened room, with its flowers and opened
windows and steadily glowing fire, Mrs. Bradley had stood and looked for
long moments at all that she could see of her daughter-in-law,--a
flushed, almost babyish face lying on the pillow between thick golden
braids, sleeping so deeply, so unconsciously,--her sleep making her
mother-in-law think of a little boat gliding slowly yet steadily on and
on, between new shores; so that, when she was to awake and look about
her, it would be as if, with no bewilderment or readjustment, she found
herself transformed, a denizen of an altered world. That was what Mrs.
Bradley wanted, that Dollie should become an inmate of Dorrington with
as little effort or consciousness for any of them as possible; and the
drowsy days and nights of infantine slumbers seemed indeed to have
brought her very near.

She and Pickering, the admirable woman who filled so skillfully the
combined positions of lady's maid and parlormaid in her little
establishment, had braided Dollie's thick tresses, one on either
side--Mrs. Bradley laughing a little and both older women touched,
almost happy in their sense of something so young and helpless to take
care of. Pickering understood, nearly as well as Jack's mother, that
Master Jack, as he had remained to her, had married very much beneath
him; but at this time of tragic issues and primitive values, she, nearly
as much as Jack's mother, felt only the claim, the pathos of youth and
helplessness. It was as if they had a singularly appealing case of a
refugee to take care of: social and even moral appraisals were
inapplicable to such a case, and Mrs. Bradley felt that she had never so
admired Pickering as when seeing that for her, too, they were in
abeyance. It was a comfort to feel so fond of Pickering at a time when
one was in need of any comfort one could get; and to feel that, creature
of codes and discriminations as she was, to a degree that had made her
mistress sometimes think of her as a sort of Samurai of service, a
function rather than a person, she was even more fundamentally a kind
and Christian woman. Between them, cook intelligently sustaining them
from below and the housemaids helpful in their degree, they fed and
tended and nursed Dollie, and by that eighth day she was more than ready
to get up and go down and investigate her new surroundings.

She sat there now, in the pretty tea-gown her mother-in-law had bought
for her, leaning back against her cushions, one arm lying along the back
of the couch and one foot in its patent-leather shoe, with its sparkling
buckle and alarming heel, thrusting forward a carefully arched instep.
The attitude made one realize, however completely tenderer
preoccupations held the foreground of one's consciousness, how often and
successfully she must have sat to theatrical photographers. Her way of
smiling, too, very softly, yet with the effect of a calculated and
dazzling display of pearly teeth, was impersonal, and directed, as it
were, to the public via the camera rather than to any individual
interlocutor. Mrs. Bradley even imagined, unversed as she was in the
methods of Dollie's world, that of allurement in its conscious and
determined sense, she was almost innocent. She placed herself, she
adjusted her arm and her foot, and she smiled gently; intention hardly
went further than that wish to look her best.

Pink and white and gold as she was, and draped there on the chesterfield
in a profusion of youth and a frivolity that was yet all passivity, she
made her mother-in-law think, and with a certain sinking of the heart,
of a Dorothy Perkins rose, a flower she had never cared for; and Dollie
carried on the analogy in the sense she gave that there were such
myriads more just like her. On almost every page of every illustrated
weekly paper, one saw the ingenuous, limpid eyes, the display of
eyelash, the lips, their outline emphasized by just that touch of rouge,
those copious waves of hair. Like the Dorothy Perkins roses on their
pergolas, so these pretty faces seemed--looped, draped, festooned--to
climb over all the available spaces of the modern press.

But this, Mrs. Bradley told herself, was to see Dollie with a dry, hard
eye, was to see her superficially, from the social rather than from the
human point of view. Under the photographic creature must lie the young,
young girl--so young, so harmless that it would be very possible to
mould her, with all discretion, all tenderness, into some suitability as
Jack's wife. Dollie, from the moment that she had found her, a sodden,
battered rose indeed, in the London lodging-house, had shown herself
grateful, even humble, and endlessly acquiescent. She had not shown
herself at all abashed or apologetic, and that had been a relief; had
counted for her, indeed, in her mother-in-law's eyes, as a sort of
innocence, a sort of dignity. But if Dollie were contented with her new
mother, and very grateful to her, she was also contented with herself;
Mrs. Bradley had been aware of this at once; and she knew now that, if
she were being carefully and commendingly watched while she poured out
the tea, this concentration did not imply unqualified approval. Dollie
was the type of young woman to whom she herself stood as the type of the
'perfect lady'; but with the appreciation went the proviso of the sharp
little London mind,--versed in the whole ritual of smartness as it
displayed itself at theatre or restaurant,--that she was a rather dowdy
one. She was a lady, perfect but not smart, while, at the same time, the
quality of her defect was, she imagined, a little bewildering and
therefore a little impressive. Actually to awe Dollie and to make her
shy, it would be necessary to be smart; but it was far more pleasant and
perhaps as efficacious merely to impress her, and it was as well that
Dollie should be impressed; for anything in the nature of an advantage
that she could recognize would make it easier to direct, protect, and
mould her.

She asked her a good many leisurely and unstressed questions on this
first evening, and drew Dollie to ask others in return; and she saw
herself stooping thoughtfully over a flourishing young plant which yet
needed transplanting, softly moving the soil about its roots, softly
finding out if there were any very deep tap-root that would have to be
dealt with. But Dollie, so far as tastes and ideas went, hardly seemed
to have any roots at all; so few that it was a question if any change of
soil could affect a creature so shallow. She smiled, she was at ease;
she showed her complete assurance that a young lady so lavishly endowed
with all the most significant gifts, need not occupy herself with
mental adornments.

'You're a great one for books, I see,' she commented, looking about the
room. 'I suppose you do a great deal of reading down here to keep from
feeling too dull'; and she added that she herself, if there was 'nothing
doing,' liked a good novel, especially if she had a box of sweets to eat
while she read it.

'You shall have a box of sweets to-morrow,' Mrs. Bradley told her, 'with
or without the novel, as you like.'

And Dollie thanked her, watching her cut the cake, and, as the rain
lashed against the windows, remarking on the bad weather and cheerfully
hoping that 'poor old Jack' wasn't in those horrid trenches. 'I think
war's a wicked thing, don't you, Mrs. Bradley?' she added.

When Dollie talked in this conventionally solicitous tone of Jack, her
mother-in-law could but wish her upstairs again, merely young, merely
the tired and battered refugee. She had not much tenderness for Jack,
that was evident, nor much imaginativeness in regard to the feelings of
Jack's mother. But she soon passed from the theme of Jack and his
danger. Her tea was finished and she got up and went to the piano,
remarking that there was one thing she could do. 'Poor mother used to
always say I was made of music. From the time I was a mere tot I could
pick out anything on the piano.' And placing herself, pressing down the
patent-leather shoe on the loud pedal, she surged into a waltz as
foolish and as conventionally alluring as her own eyes. Her inaccuracy
was equaled only by her facility. Smiling, swaying over the keys with
alternate speed and languor, she addressed her audience with altogether
the easy mastery of a music-hall artiste: 'It's a lovely thing--one of
my favorites. I'll often play, Mrs. Bradley, and cheer us up. There is
nothing like music for that, is there? it speaks so to the heart.' And,
whole-heartedly indeed, she accompanied the melody by a passionate
humming.

The piano was Jack's and it was poor Jack who was made of music. How was
he to bear it, his mother asked herself, as she sat listening. Dollie,
after that initiation, spent many hours at the piano every day--so many
and such noisy hours, that her mother-in-law, unnoticed, could shut
herself in the little morning-room that overlooked the brick wall at the
front of the house and had the morning sun.

It was difficult to devise other occupations for Dollie. She earnestly
disclaimed any wish to have proper music lessons; and when her
mother-in-law, patiently persistent, arranged for a skillful mistress to
come down twice a week from London, Dollie showed such apathy and
dullness that any hope of developing such musical ability as she
possessed had to be abandoned. She did not like walking, and the sober
pageant of the winter days was a blank book to her. Sewing, she said,
had always given her frightful fidgets; and it was with the strangest
sense of a privilege, a joy unhoped-for and now thrust upon her, that
Mrs. Bradley sat alone working at the little garments which meant all
her future and all Jack's. The baby seemed already more hers than
Dollie's.

Sometimes, on a warm afternoon, Dollie, wrapped in her fur cloak, would
emerge for a little while and watch her mother-in-law at work in her
borders. The sight amused and surprised, but hardly interested her, and
she soon went tottering back to the house on the preposterous heels
which Mrs. Bradley had, as yet, found no means of tactfully banishing.
And sometimes, when the piano again resounded, Mrs. Bradley would leave
her borders and retreat to the hazel copse, where, as she sat on the
stone bench, she could hear, through the soft sound of the running
water, hardly more than the distant beat and hum of Dollie's waltzes;
and where, with more and more the sense of escape and safety, she could
find a refuge from the sight and sound and scent of Dollie--the thick,
sweet, penetrating scent which was always to be indelibly associated in
her mother-in-law's mind with this winter of foreboding, of hope, and of
growing hopelessness.

In her letters to Jack, she found herself, involuntarily at first, and
then deliberately, altering, suppressing, even falsifying. While Dollie
had been in bed, when so much hope had been possible of a creature so
unrevealed, she had written very tenderly, and she continued, now, to
write tenderly, and it was not false to do that; she could feel no
hardness or antagonism against poor Dollie. But she continued to write
hopefully, as, every day, hope grew less.

Jack, himself, did not say much of Dollie, though there was always the
affectionate message and the affectionate inquiry. But what was
difficult to deal with were the hints of his anxiety and fear that stole
among the terse, cheerful descriptions of his precarious days. What was
she doing with herself? How were she and Dollie getting on? Did Dollie
care about any of the things she cared about?

She told him that they got on excellently well, that Dollie spent a good
deal of time at the piano, and that when they went out to tea people
were perfectly nice and understanding. She knew, indeed, that she could
depend on her friends to be that. They accepted Dollie on the terms she
asked for her. From friends so near as Mrs. Crawley and Lady Wrexham she
had not concealed the fact that Dollie was a misfortune; but if others
thought so, they were not to show it. She still hoped, by degrees, to
make Dollie a figure easier to deal with at such neighborly gatherings.
She had abandoned any hope that Dollie would grow: anything so feeble
and so foolish could not grow; there was no other girl under the little
dancer; she was simply no more and no less than she showed herself to
be; but, at this later stage of their relationship, Mrs. Bradley
essayed, now and then, a deliberate if kindly severity--as to heels, as
to scents, as to touches of rouge.

'Oh, but I'm as careful, just as careful, Mrs. Bradley!' Dollie
protested. 'I can't walk in lower heels. They hurt my instep. I've a
very high instep and it needs support.' She was genuinely amazed that
any one could dislike her scent and that any one could think the rouge
unbecoming. She seemed to acquiesce, but the acquiescence was followed
by moods of mournfulness and even by tears. There was no capacity in her
for temper or rebellion, and she was all unconscious of giving a warning
as she sobbed, 'It's nothing--really nothing, Mrs. Bradley. I'm sure you
mean to be kind. Only--it's rather quiet and lonely here. I've always
been used to so many people--to having everything so bright and jolly.'

She was not rapacious; she was not dissolute; she could be kept
respectable and even contented if she were not made too aware of the
contrast between her past existence and her present lot. With an air
only of pensive pride she would sometimes point out to Mrs. Bradley, in
the pages of those same illustrated weeklies with which her
mother-in-law associated her, the face of some former companion. One of
these young ladies had recently married the son of a peer. 'She _is_ in
luck, Floss,' said Dollie. 'We always thought it would come to that.
He's been gone on her for ages, but his people were horrid.'

Mrs. Bradley felt that, at all events, Dollie had no ground for thinking
her 'horrid'; yet she imagined that there lay drowsing at the back of
her mind a plaintive little sense of being caught and imprisoned. Floss
had stepped, triumphant, from the footlights to the registrar's office,
and apparently had succeeded in uniting the radiance of her past and
present status. No, Dollie could be kept respectable and contented only
if the pressure were of the lightest. She could not change, she could
only shift; and although Mrs. Bradley felt that for herself, her life
behind her, her story told, she could manage to put up with a merely
shifted Dollie, she could not see how Jack was to manage it. What was
Jack to do with her? was the thought that pressed with a growing weight
on her mother's heart. She could never be of Jack's life; yet here she
was, in it, planted there by his own generous yet inevitable act, and by
hers--in its very centre, and not to be evaded or forgotten.

And the contrast between what Jack's life might have been and what it
now must be was made more poignantly apparent to her when Frances Thorpe
came down to stay from a Saturday to Monday: Frances in her black, tired
and thin from Red-Cross work in London; bereaved in more, her old friend
knew, than dear Toppie's death; yet with her leisurely, unstressed
cheerfulness almost unaltered, the lightness that went with so much
tenderness, the drollery that went with so much depth. Dearest, most
charming of girls,--but for Jack's wretched stumble into 'fairyland'
last summer, destined obviously to be his wife,--could any presence have
shown more disastrously, in its contrast with poor Dollie, how Jack had
done for himself?

She watched the two together that evening--Frances with her thick,
crinkled hair and clearly curved brow and her merry, steady eyes,
leaning, elbow on knee, to talk and listen to Dollie; and Dollie, poor
Dollie, flushed, touched with an unbecoming sulkiness, aware, swiftly
and unerringly, of a rival type. Frances was of the type that young men
married when they did not 'do for themselves.' There was now no gulf of
age or habit to veil from Dollie her disadvantage. She answered shortly,
with now and then a dry, ironic little laugh; and, getting up at last,
she went to the piano and loudly played.

'He couldn't have done differently. It was the only thing he could do,'
Frances said that night before her bedroom fire. She did not hide her
recognition of Jack's plight, but she was staunch.

'I wouldn't have had him do differently. But it will ruin his life,'
said the mother. 'If he comes back, it will ruin his life.'

'No, no,' said Frances, looking at the flames. 'Why should it? A man
does n't depend on his marriage like that. He has his career.'

'Yes. He has his career. A career is n't a life.'

'Is n't it?' The girl gazed down. 'But it's what so many people have to
put up with. And so many have n't even a career.' Something came into
her voice and she turned from it quickly. 'He's crippled, in a sense, of
course. But you are here. He will have you to come back to always.'

'I shall soon be old, dear, and she will always be here. That's
inevitable. Some day I shall have to leave her to Jack to bear with
alone.'

'She may become more of a companion.'

'No; no, she won't.'

The bitterness of the mother's heart expressed itself in the dry, light
utterance. It was a comfort to express bitterness, for once, to
somebody.

'She is a harmless little thing,' Frances offered after a moment.

'Harmless?' Mrs. Bradley turned it over dryly and lightly.' I can't feel
her that. I feel her blameless if you like. And it will be easy to keep
her contented. That is really the best that one can say of poor Dollie.
And then, there will be the child. I am pinning all my hopes to the
child, Frances.'

Frances understood that.

Dollie, as the winter wore on, kept remarkably well. She had felt it the
proper thing to allude to Jack and his danger; and so, now, she more and
more frequently felt it the proper thing to allude, humorously, if with
a touch of melancholy, to 'baby.' Her main interest in baby, Mrs.
Bradley felt, was an alarmed one. She was a good deal frightened, poor
little soul, and in need of constant reassurances; and it was when one
need only pet and pity Dollie that she was easier to deal with. Mrs.
Bradley tried to interest her in plans for the baby; what it should be
named, and how its hair should be done if it were a little girl--for
only on this assumption could Dollie's interest be at all vividly
roused; and Mrs. Bradley hoped more than ever for a boy when she found
Dollie's idle yet stubborn thoughts fixed on the name of Gloria.

She was able to evade discussion of this point, and when the baby came,
fortunately and robustly, into the world on a fine March morning, she
could feel it as a minor but very real cause for thanksgiving that
Dollie need now never know what she thought of Gloria as a name. The
baby was a boy, and now that he was here, Dollie seemed as well pleased
that he should be a commonplace Jack, and that there should be no
question of tying his hair with cockades of ribbon over each ear.
Smiling and rosy and languid, she lay in her charming room, not at all
more maternal,--though she showed a bland satisfaction in her child and
noted that his eyes were just like Jack's,--yet subtly more wifely.
Baby, she no doubt felt, with the dim instinct that did duty for thought
with her, placed and rooted her and gave her final rights. She referred
now to Jack with the pensive but open affection of their shared
complacency, and made her mother-in-law think, as she lay there, of a
soft and sleepy and tenacious creeper, fixing tentacle after tentacle in
the walls of Jack's house of life.

If only one could feel that she had furnished it with a treasure.
Gravely, with a sad fondness, the grandmother studied the little face,
so unfamiliar, for signs of Jack. She was a helplessly clear-sighted
woman, and remembrance was poignantly vivid in her of Jack's face at a
week old. Already she loved the baby since its eyes, indubitably, were
his; but she could find no other trace of him. It was not a Bradley
baby; and in the dreamy, foreboding flickers of individuality that pass
uncannily across an infant's features, her melancholy and steady
discernment could see only the Byles ancestry.

She was to do all she could for the baby: to save him, so far as might
be, from his Byles ancestry, and to keep him, so far as might be, Jack's
and hers. That was to be her task. But with all the moulding that could,
mercifully, be applied from the very beginning, she could not bring
herself to believe that this was ever to be a very significant human
being.

She sent Jack his wire: 'A son. Dollie doing splendidly.' And she had
his answer: 'Best thanks. Love to Dollie.' It was curious, indeed, this
strange new fact they had now, always, to deal with; this light little
'Dollie' that must be passed between them. The baby might have made Jack
happy, but it had not solved the problem of his future.


III

A week later the telegram was brought to her telling her that he had
been killed in action.

It was a beautiful spring day, just such a day as that on which she and
Jack had first seen Dorrington, and she had been working in the garden.
When she had read, she turned and walked down the path that led to the
hazel copse. She hardly knew what had happened to her; there was only an
instinct for flight, concealment, secrecy; but, as she walked, there
rose in her, without sound, as if in a nightmare, the terrible cry of
her loneliness. The dark wet earth that covered him seemed heaped upon
her heart.

The hazel copse was tasseled thickly with golden green, and as she
entered it she saw that the hepaticas were in flower. They seemed to
shine with their own celestial whiteness, set in their melancholy green
among the fallen leaves. She had never seen them look so beautiful.

She followed the path, looking down at them, and she seemed to feel
Jack's little hand in hers and to see, at her side, his nut-brown head.
It had been on just such a morning. She came to the stone bench; but the
impulse that had led her here was altered. She did not sink down and
cover her face, but stood looking around her at the flowers, the
telegram still open in her hand; and slowly, with stealing calm, the
sense of sanctuary fell about her.

She had lost him, and with him went all her life. He was dead, his youth
and strength and beauty. Yet what was this strange up-welling of relief,
deep, deep relief, for Jack; this gladness, poignant and celestial, like
that of the hepaticas? He was dead and the dark earth covered him; yet
he was here, with her, safe in his youth and strength and beauty
forever. He had died the glorious death, and no future, tangled,
perplexed, fretful with its foolish burden, lay before him. There was no
loss for Jack--no fading, no waste. The burden was for her, and he was
free.

Later, when pain should have dissolved thought, her agony would come to
her unalleviated; but this hour was hers, and his. She heard the river
and the soft whisperings of spring. A bird dropped lightly, unafraid,
from branch to branch of a tree near by. From the woods came the rapid,
insistent tapping of a woodpecker; and, as in so many springs, she
seemed to hear Jack say, 'Hark, mummy,' and his little hand was always
held in hers. And, everywhere, telling of irreparable loss, of a
possession unalterable, the tragic, the celestial hepaticas.

She sat down on the stone bench now and closed her eyes for a little
while, so holding them more closely--Jack and the hepaticas--together.



POSSESSING PRUDENCE

BY AMY WENTWORTH STONE


I

'A lie's an abomination unto the Lord a hundred and twenty-four, a lie's
an abomination unto the Lord a hundred and twenty-five, a lie's an
abomination unto the Lord a hundred and twenty-six,' recited Prudence
Jane, and paused.

'Go on,' said Aunt Annie, looking up from her sewing and fixing her eyes
severely on the small blue back across the room.

Prudence Jane, with the heels of her little ankle-ties together and her
hands clasped tightly behind her, was standing in the corner, saying
what was known in the family as her punish-sentence. Whenever she had
been unusually naughty she had to say one four hundred times up in Aunt
Annie's room. It was, no doubt, a silly sort of punishment, but it was
one that Prudence Jane strongly objected to--and that, after all, is the
essence of a punishment. Prudence Jane had seven teasing, mimicking
brothers, and whenever one of them caught her saying a punish-sentence
it was days before she heard the last of it. Already in the garden below
there was audible a shrill voice singing, 'A _lie_ is an
a_bom_-i-_na_-tion _un_-to the _Lord_,' to the tune of 'Has anybody here
seen Kelly?' And out of the corner of her eye, which was supposed to be
fastened on the rosebuds of Aunt Annie's wall-paper, Prudence Jane could
see an impudent little person in corduroys, straddling the gravel walk
and squinting up at the window.

'Is "a lie's an abomination" in the Bible?' inquired Prudence Jane.

'Yes,' said Aunt Annie, 'go on.'

'Where?' demanded Prudence Jane.

'Where?' repeated Aunt Annie a little blankly. 'Why--why--in the middle
of the Bible. Don't you listen to the minister, Prudence Jane?'

'The middle of the minister's Bible?' pursued Prudence Jane.

'Yes, of course,' said Aunt Annie, 'Prudence Jane, if you don't go on at
once I shall have you say it five hundred times.

'A lie's an abomination unto the Lord a hundred and twenty-seven,'
resumed Prudence Jane hastily.

Prudence Jane's sentences varied from day to day, it being Aunt Annie's
idea to fit the sentence to the crime whenever possible. Thus, for being
late to school it was, naturally, 'Procrastination is the thief of
time.' While for telling Lena, the cook, that Uncle Arthur had said she
was more of a lady than Aunt Annie, the sentence had been nothing less
than, 'Truth crushed to earth will rise again.'

This particular fib had been very disastrous in its consequences. We
will not dwell upon them here. They make a story in themselves. Suffice
it to say that there was no possible excuse for Prudence Jane.

It was otherwise with the fib for which she was this morning serving a
sentence up in Aunt Annie's room. Those who also have been named after
their two grandmothers will at once forgive Prudence Jane for telling
the new minister, the very first time she met him, that her name was
Imogen Rose. It was, to be sure, a stupid little fib, and was therefore
quite unworthy of Prudence Jane. For Prudence Jane almost never told
stupid little fibs. The fibs of Prudence Jane were little masterpieces,
with a finish and distinction all their own. Her brother Will, who
adored her, and had a large mind, declared when he came home from
college that she was the greatest mistress of imaginative fiction since
George Eliot. Her Aunt Annie, who had not had the advantages of a
college course, and who roomed with Prudence Jane, said that she was a
'simple little liar.'

Now this was unfair of Aunt Annie, for whatever else Prudence Jane might
be, she was _not_ simple. Even her looks belied her. With her big
confiding eyes, as round and blue as two forget-me-nots, and her pale
yellow hair held demurely back from her forehead by a blue ribbon
fillet, she gave an impression of gentle innocence that was altogether
misleading.

'She is so like little Bertie,' dear old Grandma Piper would say; 'that
same frail, flower-like look that he had toward the last. I almost
tremble sometimes. Haven't you noticed a transparency about her lately,
Annie?'

But Aunt Annie never had.

It may be said in passing that there was only one person to whom
Prudence Jane was really transparent, and that was her youngest brother,
Peter. Peter was a square, solid little person, with a vacant
countenance; but nothing important that Prudence Jane did escaped him.

'Just to look into that sweet little face is enough for me,' Grandma
Goodwin would declare; 'I don't want anybody to tell _me_ that Prudence
Jane is untruthful. No child could look straight at you out of her
little soul as she always does, and tell a fib. The trouble is they
don't understand her at home. I've always said Annie Piper had a
suspicious nature.'

To do Aunt Annie justice, it should be said that rooming with Prudence
Jane did not tend to cultivate in one a nature that was trustful and
confiding. And yet at heart Prudence Jane was really not at all the
incorrigible little fibber that she seemed. She told fibs, not because
she wished to deceive, but because the dull facts of life were so much
less interesting than the lively little romances which she could make up
out of her own head. When one is a creative genius one naturally rebels
at being shackled to anything so tedious as a fact. Prudence Jane,
looking back over a day, could rarely separate the things which had
really happened from those she had invented.

Her brother Horace, who was studying law, said that he would give a
hundred dollars to see Prudence Jane on the witness stand. This was one
night at supper when she was being cross-examined by Aunt Annie. For
five minutes she had kept the family spellbound by a circumstantial
account of how that afternoon she had seen an automobile truck, loaded
with a thousand boxes of eggs, go over the embankment. With eggs at
sixty-five cents a dozen this was really a very shocking tale.

'Prudence Jane,' said Aunt Annie, who had private sources of
information, 'you know well enough that no truck went over the
embankment. Whatever do you mean by telling such an outrageous fib?'

Prudence Jane looked across the supper table at her aunt out of two
round candid eyes.

'That wasn't a fib; that was just a story' she explained.

'Well, it wasn't true; and stories that aren't true are very wicked,'
said Aunt Annie with decision.

'Are all the stories in books true?' inquired Prudence Jane, the picture
of innocence behind her bowl of bread and milk.

'No,' Aunt Annie was forced to admit, 'but stories written in books are
different. The writers don't mean for us to believe them.'

'Do they say so in the books?' went on Prudence Jane relentlessly.

'Of course not,' said Aunt Annie; 'we know their stories aren't true, so
they don't deceive us.'

'But you always know _my_ stories aren't true, too,' objected Prudence
Jane; 'so I don't deceive you, either.'

'Prudence Jane,' said Aunt Annie, 'I shan't argue with you. You are a
very naughty little girl. I sometimes think that you don't belong to us
at all; you're so different from your brothers.'

This was true. All the other little Pipers had been simple, virtuous
children, with imaginations under perfect control--'a remarkable family'
everybody had said, until the Pipers became quite complacent about
themselves. This was why Prudence Jane seemed like such a judgment upon
them. They had waited long and patiently, as Aunt Annie put it, for
Providence to see fit to send them a dear little girl to inherit her
grandmothers' names--and they received Prudence Jane. Had she appeared
at an earlier date, or had there been another girl in the family, she
might have escaped either the Prudence or the Jane. But for fifteen
years little masculine Pipers had arrived in the household with unbroken
regularity, and been named, one by one, after all the available
grandfathers and uncles. For the last one, indeed, there had not been
even a cousin left, and he had been christened by common consent Peter
Piper. And still the grandmothers waited.

From the moment, therefore, when bluff old Doctor Jones looked in upon a
parlor full of aunts, and announced that it was 'a girl at last, by
Jove,' there had been no choice left for Prudence Jane. The only point
discussed in the solemn family conclave was as to whether she should not
be Jane Prudence.

'Oh, for mercy's sake, call the poor little kid Jurisprudence, and be
done with it,' said a flippant uncle--and that had settled it. Prudence
Jane was duly entered at the end of the list in the middle of the Family
Bible, and her career began.

Through eight years she was just unmitigated Prudence Jane,--not a
syllable of it could ever be omitted lest one grandmother or the other
be slighted,--and then suddenly one day she decided that it was a
combination no longer to be borne. She hated her name with all her
little soul; therefore she would discard it and take another. This
sounded simple, but there were, in fact, several complications. The most
important was Aunt Annie. Never a really progressive spirit, in this
matter of names Aunt Annie showed herself to be an out-and-out
stand-patter.

'You wish that you had been called Gwendolin?' she echoed in horror, as
she combed out the pale yellow hair at bed-time. 'Why, Prudence Jane,
I'm ashamed of you. Gwendolin is a very silly name indeed, and you have
two such noble ones. I only hope that you will grow up to be like the
beautiful grandmammas who gave them to you'--which was a truly lovely
little bit of optimism on Aunt Annie's part.


II

Prudence Jane did not consult Aunt Annie further. That very night,
however, staring up into the darkness from her little white bed, she
decided upon a new combination. And when the Reverend Mr. Sanders came
up to her the next day after Sunday School, and inquired kindly what
little girl this was, Prudence Jane was quite prepared to tell him, with
the transparent look which so frightened dear old Grandma Piper, that it
was Imogen Rose.

She fully meant to inform her family of this interesting change as soon
as she got home from Sunday School, but when she tiptoed into the parlor
Aunt Annie, in all the majesty of her plum-colored satin, was sitting in
a straight-backed chair reading _The Christian Word and Work_, and
looked unreceptive to new ideas. So Prudence Jane tiptoed out again, to
await a more favorable moment.

Unfortunately, before that moment arrived she had a falling-out with her
brother Peter. This was a mistake, for it was the part of prudence
always to make an ally of Peter Piper. He had discovered Prudence Jane
flat on the floor in a corner of the library, scratching her name out of
the Family Bible with an ink-eraser.

'Did the minister tell you to write Imogen in?' he inquired blandly, as
he stood in the doorway with his hands in his corduroys.

'None of your business,' retorted Prudence Jane, closing the Bible with
a bang and sitting down upon it.

The result was that Peter Piper, from whom nothing was ever hidden, went
off and told Aunt Annie all about Imogen Rose and the minister.
Whereupon Aunt Annie, with her usual limited point of view, had
pronounced it a very monstrous fib indeed, and had sent Prudence Jane
instantly into the corner.

'A lie's an abomination unto the Lord three hundred and ninety-eight, a
lie's an abomination unto the Lord three hundred and ninety-nine, a
lie's an abomination unto the Lord four hundred,' finished Prudence Jane
at a canter, and whisked around from her corner.

Aunt Annie beckoned with solemn finger.

'To-morrow, Prudence Jane,' she said, looking across the sewing-table,
'I am going to take you to see the minister and you must tell him
yourself what your real name is, and what a dreadful story you have told
him. I shall ask him what he thinks should be done with a little girl
who cannot speak the truth. I'm sure I don't know what he will say. But
we can't deceive a minister. They always know when they hear a fib.'

'Do they?' asked Prudence Jane, openly interested, her round eyes
fastened upon her aunt.

'Always,' replied Aunt Annie rashly.

'Then why do I have to go and tell him?' asked Prudence Jane.

'Prudence Jane,' said Aunt Annie, 'you are a very saucy little girl, and
I'm sure I don't know what is going to become of you.'

Prudence Jane walked slowly out of the room. She was considering what
Aunt Annie had said about ministers, and she wondered if it were true.
As she went tripping down the stairs she decided to put the Reverend Mr.
Sanders to a test the very next time she met him. And that was why it
was so surprising, when she peeked through the hall window at the foot
of the stairs, to behold him diligently wiping his feet on the door-mat.

'How do you do?' said Prudence Jane politely, as she opened the door.

'Why, good afternoon, Imogen,' said the minister, shaking hands
cordially.

Prudence Jane made the little knix that she had learned at German
school. It was always the finishing touch to Prudence Jane. The Reverend
Mr. Sanders looked down upon it with a most friendly smile.

'Is your aunt at home?' he asked, placing his hat on the table and
following Prudence Jane into the parlor.

'Yes,' she said with simple candor. A fib of that sort was quite beneath
Prudence Jane.

Then she sat down on a velvet sofa, spread out her little blue skirt,
folded her hands in her lap and crossed her ankle-ties. She had never in
her life looked so much like little Bertie. The Reverend Mr. Sanders,
regarding her from an opposite chair, waited for her to open her lips
and say, 'Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.' Instead, this is what
she said:--

'Is Eliza Anna Bomination your grandmother?'

'I beg pardon,' said the Reverend Mr. Sanders.

'Is she dead and gone to heaven, and that's why you say "unto the
Lord"?' continued Prudence Jane.

'I wonder, Imogen,' he said, 'if you would mind beginning over again.'

'I say, is Eliza Anna Bomination your grandmother?' repeated Prudence
Jane. 'Aunt Annie says she's written down in the middle of your Bible
where all people's relations are, and she sounded like a grandmother;
they always have such horrid names.'

The minister looked across at the velvet sofa with eyes that entirely
contradicted the gravity of his face.

'No,' he said, 'I'm sorry, but she isn't. I wish she were. I never heard
of such a jolly grandmother.'

'Is she an aunt?' pursued his small interlocutor.

'I'm afraid that she's not even related by marriage,' he replied.

'Isn't she written down in the middle of your Bible at all?' said
Prudence Jane.

The minister shook his head.

'No,' he said, 'I'm afraid not.'

'Then Aunt Annie told a whopper,' announced Prudence Jane with
satisfaction.

'We should not malign the absent,' said the Reverend Mr. Sanders. 'And
that being the case, suppose you go up at this point, Imogen, and tell
your Aunt Annie that I am here.'

Prudence Jane wondered what 'maligning the absent' was. She distrusted
gentlemen who made cryptic remarks of this sort. It was a way her
brother Horace had. She saw that the moment had now arrived to test Aunt
Annie's theory about ministers and fibs!

'She can't come down,' she replied.

'Can't come down?' repeated the minister.

'No,' said Prudence Jane, looking at him out of the depths of her
forget-me-not eyes, 'she's washed her hair.'

'Oh,' said the Reverend Mr. Sanders, in the tone of one who finds the
conversation getting definitely beyond him.

At this moment an apparition with a round face and a pair of corduroy
shoulders suddenly darkened the open window.

'A _lie_ is an a-_bom_-i-_na_-tion _un_-to the _Lord_,' it sang; and,
catching sight of the clerical back, vanished hastily.

'Interesting chorus,' observed the Reverend Mr. Sanders.

Prudence Jane paid no heed to this interruption.

'It's hanging down her back now,' she pursued, launching upon the
details with her usual aplomb. 'It comes clear down to here.' And
standing up, she indicated a point halfway between her ankle-ties and
the bottom of her ridiculous skirt.

The minister gazed fascinated. Prudence Jane sat down again.

'She washed it with Packer's Tar Soap,' she said, her eyes fixed upon
her victim.

She was quite unable to make out whether Aunt Annie was right about
ministers or not. The Reverend Mr. Sanders looked like the Sphinx.

'She gave a piece to a gentleman once,' went on Prudence Jane, warming
to her work. 'He wasn't a very nice gentleman. He was a--a--' she
hesitated a moment over a fitting climax,--'a--a Piskerpalyan,' she
finished.

'Mercy!' said the Reverend Mr. Sanders, finding his voice at last. 'And
what, may I ask, are you?'

Prudence Jane looked faintly surprised.

'I,' she said, with pride and composure, 'am an Orthy Dox Congo
Gationist.'

'Yes,' said the Reverend Mr. Sanders, 'so I suspected from the first.'

And now _what_ did he mean by that, thought Prudence Jane to herself.
She could no longer see his face. He had turned abruptly in his chair
and was watching something through the aperture in the portières.

Prudence Jane heard the thump of a pair of shoes plodding up the stairs
and along the upper hall. She knew that it was Peter Piper going to find
Aunt Annie. There was a stir in the room overhead, then the muffled
sound of a rocking-chair suddenly abandoned, followed by the swish of
skirts coming along the passage and down the stairs.

Prudence Jane sat with parted lips on the edge of the sofa.

The Reverend Mr. Sanders looked decidedly nervous, but he rose and
presented a bold front to whatever might be coming to him through those
portières. In another is moment they were pushed hastily aside, and Aunt
Annie, crowned with a quite faultless coiffure, hurried into the room.

'Why, Mr. Sanders,' she said, 'I did not know until this minute that you
were here.'

Then her eye fell upon her niece. Prudence Jane was now standing in
front of the sofa, tracing the pattern of the carpet with the toe of an
ankle-tie.

'Why didn't you tell me that Mr. Sanders was waiting?' demanded Aunt
Annie sternly.

Prudence Jane continued to gaze at the carpet.

'Mr. Sanders,' said Aunt Annie, who never postponed a disagreeable
duty, 'we have a little girl here who cannot speak the truth, and we are
going to ask you to tell us what becomes of people who tell wrong
stories.'

The Reverend Mr. Sanders looked ill at ease.

'Come here,' continued Aunt Annie, holding out her hand toward the
velvet sofa.

Prudence Jane moved reluctantly across the room.

'And now,' went on the voice of the accuser, 'she has even deceived her
minister, and she has come to make her little confession. Tell Mr.
Sanders,' directed Aunt Annie, 'the truth about that wicked fib.'

'Which one?' inquired Prudence Jane meekly.

'You know very well which,' answered her exasperated aunt; 'the last
one.'

Prudence Jane lifted her blue eyes from the carpet and looked straight
at the unfortunate Mr. Sanders.

'She didn't give any of it to the Piskerpalyan,' she said.

Then she turned and walked discreetly through the portières. She felt
that it was no moment to stay and learn what became of little girls who
told whoppers.

'Didn't give who what?' she could hear Aunt Annie saying vaguely on the
other side of the curtains.

But Prudence Jane decided to let her minister explain.



THE GLORY-BOX

BY ELIZABETH ASHE


I

In Southern Ohio a girl's wedding chest is her Glory-Box. If, like Mabel
Bennet, you are the daughter of a successful druggist, the box is of
cedarwood, delivered free of charge by the Dayton department stores; but
if, like Eunice Day, you are the daughter of an unsuccessful bookkeeper
who has left a life insurance inadequate even when supplemented by the
salary you earn teaching primary children, then the box is just a box,
covered with gay cretonne, and serving the purpose very nicely.

When Eunice Day's engagement became known, Mabel, remembering the
scalloped guest-towels which Eunice had given her some months before,
brought over one afternoon an offering wrapped in tissue paper.

'I hope you'll like this, Eunice,' she said. 'It's just a sack,--what
they call a matinée. I've found them very useful.'

Mabel spoke with the slightly complacent air of the three months' bride.

'Why, it's ever so dear of you to go to so much trouble,' said Eunice,
taking the package into her hands. She was a tall, slender girl, with
dark eyes and a pretty dignity of bearing. 'I'll have to open it right
now, I guess. You aren't in a hurry, are you?'

'Oh, no, not especially. Harry doesn't get home until quarter past six,
and I've fixed the vegetables. Just you go ahead.'

Eunice untied the white ribbon. 'Why, Mabel, it's beautiful, and such a
delicate shade of pink!'

She held the sack at arm's length.

'I'm glad you like it. It's nothing wonderful, of course.'

'It couldn't be more pretty, and Stephen loves pink. I wrote him the
other day that I had made a pink kimono and I hoped he would like it. He
wrote back that pink was--was the color of dawn and apple-blossoms.'

Mabel laughed. 'Stephen has a funny way of saying things, hasn't he?'

'Why, I don't know,' said Eunice, flushing.

'Oh, well,' went on Mabel good-naturedly, 'I do think you look nice in
pink with your dark hair. Harry always tells me to stick to blue. It's
the color for blondes. Don't you want to show me your things? I won't
mind if the ribbons aren't all run in yet.'

'I'd like to show them to you, of course. Come upstairs. They'll look
nicer though when they are all pressed out,' said Eunice, laying the
sack carefully back in its paper wrappings. She carried it on
outstretched palms.

'Do you know when you're going to be married?' asked Mabel as she
reached the top of the narrow stairs.

'We haven't made plans yet. Probably Stephen won't want to for another
year. It depends on so many things.'

'I suppose so,' said Mabel, following Eunice into her bedroom. It was a
small room but pretty. Eunice had recently put four coats of white paint
on her oak set. 'Lawyers,' continued Mabel sympathetically, 'have to
wait so much longer. Now Harry knew to a cent what salary he was getting
when he proposed to me, and he knew what his raise would probably be for
the next two years. The Wire Company is a square concern. There's your
Glory-Box! It looks awfully nice. You made it, didn't you?'

'Stephen made it when he was on for his vacation last summer. We
happened to have the cretonne in the house. Mother wanted me to buy a
cedar chest but I thought this would do.'

'Oh, one doesn't really need a cedar chest,' said Mabel cheerfully, 'and
they're terribly expensive, you know.'

'Yes, I do know.' Eunice's face twinkled. 'I'll lay this sack on the bed
so it won't get mussed while I'm showing you the things.'

She raised the lid of the Glory-Box, then glanced shyly at the other
girl. 'You're the first person I've shown them to. I hope you'll think
they're dainty. There isn't much lace on them, but mother put in a lot
of handwork--feather-stitching.'

'Lace is a bother to do up,' Mabel said amiably. 'I've been almost
distracted doing up mine.'

'Your things were beautiful, though.' Eunice was laying piles of
carefully folded garments on the edge of the box.

'There, I've got it now,' she said, getting up from the floor. 'This is
my prettiest set. I've kept it wrapped in dark blue paper. Mother said
it would keep white longer.'

'Why, they are sweet, Eunice!' Mabel touched the soft white stuff with
appraising fingers. 'And all made by hand. My, what a lot of work! Your
mother must have spent hours on them.'

'She did. She said she wanted to do it, though. The other things are
plainer.' Eunice took them up one by one and showed them. 'I won't let
you see the table linen to-day. I've done a lot of initialing, but they
don't look really well until they have been washed.'

'No, they don't. Anyway I have to be going. You certainly have nice
things, Eunice. That kimono is awfully pretty.'

'I like it,' said Eunice simply.

'Well, I can't stay another minute. Don't you come down to the door now.
You have to put away everything. I'll just run along. Come and see me.
I've got the flat all settled.'

'I shall love to, Mabel. Just a moment! You must let me go to the door
with you. The Glory-Box can wait.'

Eunice found her mother standing by the bed when she came back. She was
a meagre-looking woman with a thin mouth. Her eyes had once been soft
and dark like Eunice's, but the glow had gone out of them, leaving them
a little hard.

'I've been looking at the sack Mabel brought you. It's a nice pattern.
That sort of lace looks almost like real val. What did she say to your
things?'

'She said they were sweet, mother.'

'Well, I suppose they are as nice as any one could have without spending
money. You didn't show her the tablecloth I gave you?'

'No, I thought I'd wait to show the linen until it was all done up.'

Her mother fingered the lace on the sack.

'I don't believe she has a much better tablecloth than that one, Eunice.
Do you suppose so?'

'No,' answered Eunice, 'probably not. It's very beautiful.' She laid
down the garment she was folding and looked up, troubled, into her
mother's face. 'Oh, it seems so selfish for me to have it all. You've
always wanted nice fine linen, mother.'

'I've given up wanting, I guess. I don't care as long as you have them.
You had better lay tissue paper in that sleeve, Eunice, the way I showed
you. I'll start supper so that you can put these things away. They won't
look like anything if you leave them about.'

When her mother was gone, Eunice took up the pink kimono and spread it
out on the bed. She could fold it more carefully that way. She touched
it with caressing fingers. 'Dawn and apple-blossoms,' she repeated
softly. Then she smiled, remembering Mabel's remark: 'Stephen has a
funny way of saying things.'

Stephen was different somehow from Harry, from any of the men whom her
friends had married. They were nice young men, of course, all of them.
One was superintendent of the Sunday School, besides getting a good
salary in the Cash Register Company; another had gone to college, had
been in Stephen's class at the Ohio State University in fact, and was
now doing well as part owner of the garage on Main Street; still another
was paying-teller in the bank next to the garage; he wore very
'good-looking' suits, usually with a tiny line of white at the edge of
the waistcoat. Still Stephen was different.

When he had got his B.A. degree at Ohio, he decided that he wanted to be
a lawyer, and that he would go to one of the best schools in the
country. He chose Columbia. He had worked his way through college, but
he considered that it would not pay to work his way through Law School.
He wanted the time to get something out of New York. His father was
unable to advance the money, so Stephen went to a friend of his
father's, a prosperous coal-dealer in the town, and asked that he lend
him enough to put him through economically, but not, he plainly said,
too economically. He would give the coal-dealer notes, payable with
interest four years after he was admitted to the bar.

The coal-dealer, taking into consideration the fact that the young man
had broken every record at the university in scholarship, and two other
facts, the young man's forehead and mouth, lent him the money. He said
that the interest need not begin until he was admitted.

Stephen thanked him and went to Columbia. One of the professors there
took a great fancy to him. He introduced him to his sister, a maiden
lady living in Washington Square, who, finding him very likable,
introduced him to other people living in the Square.

Stephen was very happy. He wrote to Eunice,--he had been engaged to her
since the end of his second year at the Law School,--'Washington Square
is rather terrifying from the outside, but once inside you feel
beautifully at home. I think it's the perfect breeding you find there.
I've met women more intellectual, greater perhaps, than Professor
Lansing's sister, but never one who gives such an impression of
completion. There are no loose ends. You will like her, Eunice.'

In another letter he said, 'We won't have much money to start with, of
course, but if we put a little dignity into our kitchenette apartment,
it will be a home that people will love to come to. It's partly the
dignity of their living that makes these Washington Square people so
worth while to be with.'

And last week he had written, 'You won't find New York lonely. They will
love you, dear. You belong. You have not only charm but the dignity that
belongs. I wonder if I'm foolish to care so much for that word dignity.
Perhaps it's because I associate it with you, or perhaps--I love you
because you have it.'

And Eunice too was happy and proud: happy that Stephen was coming into
his own, and proud that he should think her equal to the occasion. It
would not be an easy task, being equal to Stephen. Stephen was a great
man, or would be a great man. She knew it and Stephen knew it. 'We are
going to be great, you and I,' he had said more than once. And yet one
day when she had answered, 'You and I, Stephen?' his eyes, which had
been alight with the glorious vision of the future, softened, and he had
come and knelt beside her and had laid his head down. 'Oh, Eunice,' he
had whispered, 'I've got brains; I'm pretty sure to be successful; but
if I'm worth while, it will be because of you. You are a great woman,
dear.'

And Eunice had mothered him and had hoped--so fervently that the hope
was a prayer--that she would really be great enough to meet his needs.

Sometimes she doubted. She had dignity; Stephen had said so; but inside
she was deprecating and shy. People like Mabel Ashley made her shy, and
most of the people she knew were like Mabel. They thought Stephen's way
of saying and thinking things 'funny.' There was only one woman whom she
could talk with, a High-School teacher who had come to board next door.
She and the High-School teacher took long walks together.

The High-School teacher had been to Europe twice. She knew how people
lived outside of this little Ohio town--outside of the United States
even. She was full of shrewd comment. Eunice talked to her about the
books that she and Stephen were reading, and sometimes about Stephen
himself. Several times the High-School teacher had said, 'He is
splendid, Eunice.'

Eunice thought about her this afternoon as she put the last things away
in the Glory-Box. She hoped that, if the Washington Square people were
like this teacher, she would get along. And there came another
encouraging thought. The people in the Square were sure of themselves of
course, but perhaps they were sure because they had things and had
always had things. She would one day have the things in her Glory-Box,
and she would have Stephen. After she was quite used to having them and
to having a person like Stephen, she would be sure of herself too.

'Supper will be ready in five minutes, Eunice.'

'I'm coming in a moment.'

The room had grown quite dark. Eunice lighted two candles standing on
her bureau. They were in common glass candlesticks which she had bought
at the Ten Cent store: she had wanted to have brass; but then, Stephen
and she were going to have brass candlesticks in every room of their
house. They both loved candle-light.

Eunice smoothed her dark hair. Then she washed her hands very carefully.
Stephen had said once that they were not wonderfully pretty hands, but
that they had distinction. He had kissed them.

'I guess I'm all right now,' said Eunice, glancing into the mirror. She
picked up a photograph of Stephen from the bureau and laid her face
against it. Then she blew out the candles and went downstairs.


II

Stephen's letter that awaited her when she came home from school the
next afternoon was a one-page scrawl. 'My head is ringing so with the
quinine I've taken that I can't write to-night. By to-morrow I shall
probably be rid of this beastly cold. I want to tell you about a book
I've just read. It's great stuff.' He added a postscript: 'Don't ask me,
dear, if I wore my rubbers day before yesterday. You know I didn't.'

In Eunice's eyes was a smile of amused tenderness as she put the letter
back in its envelope. If the cold were 'beastly,' perhaps he might
remember next time. She was afraid though that only married men wore
rubbers.

No letter came the next day, or the next.

'If I don't hear to-morrow, I'll telegraph.'

'He's probably busy,' said her mother.

'I'm afraid he's sick.'

Eunice waited for the postman on Saturday morning, but he brought her
no letter. She put on her hat and coat.

'I'll be back in a half hour, mother.'

As she went down the steps a boy riding a bicycle stopped at the curb.
He handed her a telegram. It was from Stephen's landlady. Stephen had
died that morning at two o'clock--of pneumonia.

Eunice was conscious of being very collected and calm as she went back
into the house; quite wonderfully calm. Her mother was in the kitchen.
Eunice went to her and told her--very gently. She had the feeling that
it was her mother's sorrow. Her mother's dry, hard sobs and bowed figure
brought the tears to her eyes. She laid her hand on the thin convulsed
shoulders. 'Mother, don't--don't, dear, it's all right, you know.' She
stood by her chair until the sobs ceased.

'I'm going around to--to Stephen's, mother. I'll not be gone long.'

Mrs. Day followed her to the steps; her face was pitifully pinched,
almost old. At the gate Eunice turned and saw her.

'Poor mother!' She wanted to go back and kiss her but she dared not.

Stephen's home was on the other side of the town. It was a small frame
house painted light gray, with a gable back and front, and a narrow
porch running across it. This morning the shades in the parlor were
drawn down.

Eunice had to wait some moments before the door was opened by Stephen's
young sister--a slip of a thing but a capable housekeeper. Her eyes were
swollen with crying. 'She's so little,' thought Eunice, and took her in
her arms.

When the girl was able to speak, she told Eunice that her father had
gone to New York, and that he would bring Stephen home. Eunice stayed an
hour, comforting, talking, planning. Then she left her.

'I'm so quiet. I didn't know it could be like this.'

The March wind blew the dust into her face. The grit irritated her. She
wished there were snow on the ground and then wondered that she should
care. That was how it was the next two days: she went on thinking and
acting, with every now and then this strange awareness of being alive.

But on Monday afternoon when they came home from the cemetery, Eunice
went upstairs to her room.

'I'm going to lie down a while, mother.'

Her mother made no answer as she turned into the kitchen.

Eunice lay down on the bed. A pale yellow sunset gleamed through the
branches of the tree outside her window. She had seen the yellow streak
in the sky as they had left the cemetery. She closed her eyes to shut it
out. Her heart was no longer numb. It was waking to its misery. She lay
very still with clenched hands. She had learned to bear physical pain
that way. She thought perhaps she could bear this if she lay very still.

'I want to tell you about a book I've just read. It's great stuff.'

'O Stephen, Stephen, laddie!'

The tears came, and great sobs that shook and twisted her rigid body.
Once she thought her mother came up the stairs and stopped outside her
door. She buried her face in the pillow. Her mother must not hear. By
and by,--she had been quiet for an hour,--her mother came in with a
tray.

'I've made you some toast and tea, Eunice. You must keep up your
strength.'

Her tone was flat and emotionless. She set the tray down by her in the
darkness. Then she lighted the gas.

Eunice swallowed the tea obediently, she was so very tired. As she put
the cup down her eyes fell on the cretonne-covered box in the window.

'Mother, my Glory-Box! Don't let me see it! Oh, don't let me see my
Glory-Box!'

Mrs. Day came up to the bed. I'll take it out to-morrow while you are at
school. I meant to do that.' Her face worked as she left the room.

When the door closed, Eunice sat up and pushed her tumbled hair back
from her face. She wanted to look at the Glory-Box. To-morrow her mother
was going to take it away. She clasped her hands tightly about her
drawn-up knees and stared at the box with hot, miserable eyes. Of course
it would have to be taken away, but she wanted to look at it now because
it was her Glory-Box and because it was Stephen's. Stephen had made it.

'That's a decent job for just a lawyer,' he had said, when the last nail
was driven in and they were taking a critical survey of it.

Stephen had laughed when she regretted that the roses in the cretonne
were yellow, because the things to go into the box very likely would be
pink. He had laughed and kissed her and told her she had better get a
pair of pink specs, then the roses would be pink enough.

And Stephen had taken such an interest in what she had written about the
things she was embroidering for household use. When she had reported a
whole dozen napkins hemmed and initialed, he had thought it would be
jolly to have nice linen. They would probably be short on silver at
first, but good linen made you feel respectable. He remembered his
mother taking so much pride in what had been left of hers. For a moment
the words of that letter were so vividly recalled that she forgot that
Stephen was dead. For quite a moment she was happy. Then she
remembered, but the realization brought no tears, only a swelling wave
of misery.

'I can't bear it, oh, I can't!'

But even as she moaned she knew that she would bear it, that she would
go on living for years and years and years. Other girls she had known or
heard about--in her own town--had gone on living: little Sadie Smith
whose lover had been killed three days before her wedding, and even
Milly Petersen, who had been engaged for five years when the man asked
to be released because he wanted to marry the girl who had recently
moved to Milly's street. These girls had lived; they had grown pale and
faded, or hard. People felt very sorry for them: they were spoken of as
'poor Milly,' or 'Sadie Smith, poor child'; but they had lived. Eunice
saw herself moving among her little circle, brave and sad-eyed like
these girls.

Suddenly--she never remembered just how it came about--suddenly her
humor flashed a white light over the vision. This sad-eyed Self seemed
something not to pity but to scorn. It was grotesque standing in your
friend's parlor with clenched hands, as it were, and compressed lips,
saying, 'Don't mind me, please. I'm bearing it.' If one were going to
live one must live happily. Stephen was such a happy person. He was
happy when he was working or playing or just loving. Even hurdy-gurdys
made him happy.

'When I hear one grinding away in the morning,' he had written, 'I have
to kick a few Law Journals about just to keep in tune with the darn
thing.'

It had been a delightful surprise to her, his overflowing happiness, for
Stephen's face in repose was very grave. She herself only occasionally
had his joy in mere living, but she had always thought that Stephen's
joyfulness would prove infectious. Suppose, now, without Stephen she
should make the experiment of being happy. It would be a wonderful
experiment to see,--she spoke the words aloud, deliberately,--to see if
she could kill this terrible thing, Sorrow, and keep Stephen to love and
to remember.

Eunice was still staring at the Glory-Box, but it was more than her
Glory-Box. It was part of the problem that she was trying to think out
clearly. For perhaps sorrow was a problem that you could work out like
other problems, if only you could see it, not as one solid, opaque mass,
but as something made up of pieces that you could deal with one at a
time. The Glory-Box was a piece. She had wanted it taken away because it
was a thing so filled with pain that she could not bear to have it
about. If--Eunice got up in her excitement and walked up and down the
room--if the Glory-Box could become a box again, just a box covered with
cretonne, and the things in it become things, then a great piece of
misery would disappear. Love, a girl's love, was like--she groped a
moment for words--like a vine that puts forth little shoots and
tendrils; love even went into things. When Death trampled on the vine,
the shoots and tendrils were crushed with it. But if you cut them off,
these poor bruised pieces of the vine, the vine itself would perhaps
have a chance to become strong and beautiful.

Eunice played with the idea, her cheeks flushed, her eyes very bright.
She felt as she did sometimes when talking on paper with Stephen.

She went over to the Glory-Box and raised the cover. On top lay the
matinée that Mabel had brought on that day not quite a week ago. She
unfolded it and touched it. 'This isn't--Stephen,' she said aloud, quite
firmly. 'It's cotton voile and val lace. It's cotton voile.'

She took out garment after garment. When she came to the pink kimono her
eyes blinded with tears. 'It's a lovely shade. Pink is pretty with dark
hair.' Her quivering lips could scarcely frame the words. 'It's not
Stephen. It's--it's just a kimono.'

She put the things back and closed the box. 'I'll look at the rest in a
day or two. I'll keep looking at them. Probably I shall never be able to
use them, but I'll keep looking until I get accustomed to seeing them.
Mother will get used to seeing the box here. If she put it in the
storeroom she would always dread going in.'

Mrs. Day was getting breakfast the next morning when Eunice came down.
She went on mechanically with her preparation, avoiding looking at her.
At the table she glanced up. Eunice's face was white and haggard, but
her eyes, strangely big, were shining. Eunice's mother watched her
furtively throughout the meal. As they left the table Eunice put her
arms about her.

'Don't take the box out, mother. It's better to get used to it. I'm
trying to get used to things. Don't you worry about me. You'll see.'

She kissed her and hurried to school. In her exalted mood the
sympathetic attentions of the other teachers seemed almost surprising.
They were dear and kind, but why should they be so kind? She was going
to be happy. At the end of the day, however, Eunice let herself softly
into the house, too wretched to want to meet her mother. She carried to
her room the letters of condolence that were on the dining-room table.
She read them impassively, even the kindly one from Miss Lansing,
wondering why they did not touch her. 'It's because I'm tired,' she
concluded, and knelt down by the Glory-Box, bowing her head on her
outstretched arms.

'Stephen, dear,' she prayed, 'I can't look at the things to-night. I'm
too tired.'

But the next day she took them all out. And on a Saturday afternoon
three weeks later she startled her mother by coming into her room
dressed in the suit and hat that were her 'best.' Her mother laid down
the skirt on which she was putting a new braid.

'Why, where are you going, Eunice?'

'I thought I'd call on Mabel. I've never been to see her since she
started housekeeping. I promised to, long ago.'

Mrs. Day looked at her keenly, her mouth tightening. 'You're foolish to
go and see all her wedding presents about the house. You won't be able
to stand it.'

'I shall, mother. That's why I'm going to stand it. I shan't mind
calling there after I've been this once. I've thought it out.'

'You're a queer girl, Eunice. I don't understand you. But I suppose you
know your--your own business best,' she ended, taking up her work again.

Eunice felt quite sure that she did, and yet there were days when the
experiment seemed a failure, or at least only just begun: days when she
would read in a paper of brilliant social events in New York, in
Stephen's New York. Stephen might have been there at that dinner, his
eyes, which looked so gravely from his picture, lighted with the
joyfulness of the occasion, his splendid head towering above the other
men as he joined in the toasts--Stephen had told her they always made
toasts at these dinners; she could hear his laugh, his hearty boyish
laugh. And those other days in early spring, when a hurdy-gurdy would
play 'Turkey in the Straw,' and she could see Stephen pitching his Law
Journals about, exulting in the glorious fact that he was alive. Oh, how
she longed for him, wanted him these days--with a passionate yearning
that for moments maddened her. But as the months went by the times of
overwhelming wanting came less and less frequently. 'I shall soon be
happy,' Eunice told herself. And on a morning of June loveliness, a
morning of very blue sky, white clouds, and butter-cups, Eunice knew
that she was happy.

'I'm glad to-day, Stephen, I'm glad, just because it's all so
beautiful.'

She wondered now and again why, since she herself was so surely leaving
the sorrow behind her, her mother should still droop under its weight.
They seldom talked about Stephen. They had agreed at the beginning not
to do that often, but there was bitterness in her mother's face and
bitterness on occasion in her words. 'I've got used to seeing your box
around, but don't ever ask me to look inside.' It occurred to Eunice
that perhaps it was because to her mother had come only the grief. She
was not having Stephen to love.


III

One afternoon late in February, Eunice was met in the hall by her
mother. 'A letter came for you this morning. It's from New York.' She
stood watching her as Eunice opened it with unsteady fingers.

Eunice looked up in a few moments, very white. 'It's from Professor
Lansing's sister,' she faltered. 'Miss Lansing is coming on to Chicago
this week. She says she would like to see me. She'll stop off in Dayton
over night, Saturday probably, and will come out for lunch if it's
convenient for us to have her. She can make connections by doing that.
Oh, mother, it's beautiful of her to want to come.'

'I don't know that it will do you much good to see her. You'll probably
get upset.'

'No, I won't be upset because I'll be so glad. Stephen said she was a
wonderful woman, and--we can talk about him. He was at her house only a
few days before he--caught cold.'

'Well, I don't know,' said her mother. 'You had better come into the
kitchen where it's warm. You look like a ghost, Eunice. I'll give you a
cup of soup to drink. It's on the stove now.' She laid nervous
compelling fingers on Eunice's arm. 'I suppose,' Mrs. Day was pouring
out the soup as she spoke, 'I suppose that Miss Lansing hasn't any idea
of the way we live. Even the front stoop looks a sight. It's needed a
coat of paint for years.'

'I know,' Eunice answered, her face clouding. 'I wish things were
different for Stephen's sake. But we can't help it.'

'No,' said her mother harshly, 'we can't help it. But I wish she wasn't
coming for a meal. The last decent tablecloth was cut up into napkins a
month ago. I was ashamed of the one we set Mabel Bennet down to the
other night.'

Eunice walked to the window. She looked out upon the backyard, upon the
snow that was reflecting the sunset, a sentence of one of Stephen's
letters in her mind. 'It's the dignity of their living that makes these
Washington Square people so worth while.' And then she recalled that
other letter. 'It will be jolly to have nice linen. Good linen makes you
feel respectable.'

It pained her that they must offer this friend of Stephen's what they
had been ashamed to offer Mabel Bennet. Stephen's pride would be hurt,
Stephen who had loved that word 'dignity'; and Stephen's pride was her
own pride just as much as if she were his wife, as if he were living.

Eunice stood a long time looking out upon the snow, until the rose of
the sunset had gone from it, leaving it blue and cold. She turned from
the window.

'Mother,'--she was glad that in the darkening kitchen she could not see
her mother's face distinctly,--'mother, don't you think we had better
use that very fine cloth you gave me, and the napkins, to make the table
look nice? Hadn't we better use them?'

'Use your things out of your Glory-Box, Eunice!'

'Yes, they are just pretty things, now, mother. All the pain is out of
them. I'm going to wear the best set you made me. I think if I have on
those nice clothes under my dress I won't be so shy with Miss Lansing. I
want--O, mother, I want Stephen to--to feel proud of me.'

Mrs. Day bent to rake the fire, then straightened up. 'If you can stand
wearing that set, I've nothing to say. You have a right to your own
notions. But I don't see how I can bear to look at the cloth.'

'After it's been done up and on the table once, you'll forget there was
anything sad connected with it. I know you will,' said Eunice, with her
brave, pleading eyes fixed on her mother's set face.

'I don't know; maybe I could forget. But I don't see how I could bring
myself to use something out of your own Glory-Box. It seems almost
indelicate. They're all your things.'

Eunice crossed the room and laid her face down on her mother's shoulder.
'You gave me the things, mother, and you've had so little of what you've
always wanted. Can't it be our Glory-Box, for us both to use on special
occasions--like this?' Her arms tightened about her mother's neck.
'Can't we use them this time for Stephen's sake?'

After a moment's silence Mrs. Day pushed her gently away.

'If they are to be washed you'll have to bring them down to-morrow. I'll
want to get them on the line while this good weather lasts. Saturday is
only four days off.'

Saturday evening Eunice lighted the candles on her bureau; lighting the
candles seemed like another ceremony of this perfect day. She had got up
early so as to put her room and the rest of the house in order. While
her mother was finishing in the kitchen she had set the table. It had
been a joy to do that, to spread the cloth so that the creases would
come in just the right place, and the large initial 'D' show without
being too conspicuous, and to fold the napkins prettily and arrange the
dishes. At the last moment she had decided that it would not be too
extravagant to buy a little plant of some sort for a centrepiece. So
there was just time for her to slip into the clothes that had been
spread out on the bed, and do over her hair, before Miss Lansing
arrived.

Stephen had said, 'You will like her, Eunice.' Like her!--she was the
most wonderful woman she had ever met. She was elderly, but strangely
enough you did not wonder whether she had been pretty or beautiful when
she was young. She was wonderful just as she was now. You could not
think of her as being different. She was tall, a little taller than
Eunice herself. Her face was finely cut, the sort of face you saw in
engravings of old portraits; there were not many lines in it. Her eyes
were dark and young too, though she had quite gray hair and evidently
didn't care to be in the fashion, for her black silk fell all around in
ample lengths. Eunice had watched her hands. They were not small, but
long and slender and very white; the two rings she wore seemed made for
them.

And Eunice had not felt shy. At first she had thought she was going to,
Miss Lansing had seemed at first so like a personage; but the thought of
Stephen, and of the featherstitched best set she was wearing made her
forget that Washington Square was, as Stephen had said, rather
terrifying on the outside. It was Stephen's friend whom they were
entertaining, and Stephen's friend was not a personage really, but a
wonderful woman who had loved Stephen too.

After lunch they talked together in the parlor while her mother was
clearing things away. Miss Lansing said that she had seen a great deal
of Stephen that last year. He had seemed to enjoy coming to the house.
He had come to dinner sometimes, but more often he had dropped in on
Saturday or Sunday afternoons for tea. One afternoon he had not been
quite himself. She had questioned him a little and he had confessed with
a laugh that he was homesick for Ohio.

'That was the time he talked for two hours about you, my dear,' Miss
Lansing said, smiling. 'Fortunately no one else came in, so he was
uninterrupted. I liked to listen to his talk; he had charm.' But Eunice
saw her eyes kindle. 'He was more than charming. He was great.'

'Yes,' Eunice answered very low. 'He would have been a great man, Miss
Lansing. I always knew he would.'

At that Miss Lansing put out both hands and covered Eunice's that were
clasped tightly in her lap. 'He would have been a great man,' she
repeated, 'and you, my dear, would have made him a great wife.'

Eunice felt that never, unless she should hear Stephen's voice again,
should she listen to such wonderful words as those. Ever since Miss
Lansing had gone they had sung themselves in her heart like a sacred
refrain. She was glad that it was night now so that she could fall
asleep repeating them.

'Getting ready for bed, Eunice?'

'I'm beginning to.' Eunice opened the door to her mother, who stood
outside winding the clock.

'Do you know,' said Mrs. Day as she set the alarm, 'I've been thinking
again what a good idea it was to open that can of peas. They did make
the chops look so tasty, and they were almost as tender as the French.
I helped Miss Lansing twice.'

Eunice kissed her as she turned away.

'It was a nice dinner throughout, mother, and the table looked lovely.'

'Well, I saw Miss Lansing look at the cloth. She was too much of a lady
to say anything, of course, but I could tell she noticed it.'

'Yes,' said Eunice, 'I think she did.'

Mrs. Day was closing her door.

'Put out the light in the hall before you go to bed, Eunice.'

'Yes, mother,' said Eunice, softly closing her own door.

She stood still a moment in the centre of the candle-lighted room. Then
she went over to the Glory-Box and took out the kimono and laid it over
the footboard so that the pink folds could catch the light. When she had
undressed, she put it on. 'It will be a beautiful ending to the day,'
she said, as she stood before the mirror braiding her hair.

Her eyes rested on Stephen's picture.

'I think you would have been proud to-day, dear, and I think you would
have liked this.'

She turned to the mirror, and looked at the girl reflected there, at the
dark eyes and hair and at the kimono draping her soft white gown.

'Dawn and apple-blossoms,' she whispered and then stretched out her
arms.

'Stephen, my dear! O Stephen.'



THE SPIRIT OF THE HERD[7]

BY DALLAS LORE SHARP


I

We were trailing the 'riders' of P Ranch across the plains to a hollow
in the hills called the 'Troughs,' where they were to round up a lot of
cattle for a branding. On the way we fell in behind a bunch of some
fifty cows and yearlings which one of the riders had picked up; and,
while he dashed off across the desert for a 'stray,' we tenderfeet drove
on the herd. It was hot, and the cattle lagged, so we urged them on. All
at once I noticed that the whole herd was moving with a swinging,
warping gait, with switching tails, and heads thrown round from side to
side as if every steer were watching us. We were not near enough to see
their eyes, but the rider, far across the desert, saw the movement and
came cutting through the sage, shouting and waving his arms to stop us.
We had pushed the driving too hard. Mutiny was spreading among the
cattle, already manifest in a sullen ugly temper that would have brought
the herd charging us in another minute, had not the cowboy galloped in
between us just as he did--so untamed, unafraid, and instinctively
savage is the spirit of the herd.

It is this herd-spirit that the cowboy, on his long, cross-desert drives
to the railroad, most fears. The herd is like a crowd, easily led,
easily excited, easily stampeded,--when it becomes a mob of frenzied
beasts, past all control,--the spirit of the city 'gang' at riot in the
plains.

If one would know how thin is the coat of domestication worn by the
tamest of animals, let him ride with the cattle across the rim-rock
country of southeastern Oregon. No better chance to study the spirit of
the herd could possibly be had. And in contrast to the cattle, how
intelligent, controlled, almost human, seems the plainsman's horse!

I share all the tenderfoot's admiration for the cowboy and his 'pony.'

Both of them are necessary in bringing four thousand cattle through from
P Ranch to Winnemucca; and of both is required a degree of daring and
endurance, as well as a knowledge of the wild-animal mind, which lifts
their hard work into the heroic, and makes of every drive a sage-brush
epic--so wonderful is the working together of man and horse, a kind of
centaur of the plains.

From P Ranch to Winnemucca is a seventeen-day drive through a desert of
rim-rock and greasewood and sage, which, under the most favorable
conditions, is beset with difficulty, but which, in the dry season, and
with anything like four thousand cattle, becomes an unbroken hazard.
More than all else on such a drive is feared the wild herd-spirit, the
quick, black temper which, by one sign or another, ever threatens to
break the spell of the riders' power and sweep the maddened or
terrorized herd to destruction. The handling of the herd to keep this
spirit sleeping is ofttimes a thrilling experience.


II

Some time before my visit to P Ranch, in the summer of 1912, the riders
had taken out a herd of four thousand steers on what proved to be one of
the most difficult drives ever made to Winnemucca. For the first two
days on the trail the cattle were strange to each other, having been
gathered from widely separated grazing grounds,--from Double-O and the
Home Ranch,--and were somewhat clannish and restive under the driving.
At the beginning of the third day signs of real trouble appeared. A
shortage of water and the hot weather together began to tell on the
temper of the herd.

The third day was long and exceedingly hot. The line started forward at
dawn, and all day kept moving, with the sun cooking the bitter smell of
the sage into the air, and with sixteen thousand hoofs kicking up a
still bitterer smother of alkali dust which inflamed eyes and nostrils
and coated the very lungs of the cattle. The fierce desert thirst was
upon the herd long before it reached the creek where it was to bed for
the night. The heat and the dust had made slow work of the driving, and
it was already late when they reached the creek, only to find it dry.

This was bad. The men were tired, but the cattle were thirsty, and Wade,
the 'boss of the buckaroos,' pushed the herd on toward the next
rim-rock, hoping to get down to the plain below before the end of the
slow desert twilight. Anything for the night but a dry camp.

They had hardly started on when a whole flank of the herd, suddenly
breaking away as if by prearrangement, tore off through the brush. The
horses were as tired as the men, and, before the chase was over, the
twilight was gray in the sage, making it necessary to halt at once and
camp where they were. They would have to go without water.

The runaways were brought up and the herd closed in till it formed a
circle nearly a mile around. This was as close as it could be drawn, for
the cattle would not bed--lie down. They wanted water more than they
wanted rest. Their eyes were red, their tongues raspy with thirst. The
situation was a difficult one.

But camp was made. Two of the riders were sent back along the trail to
bring up the 'drags' while Wade, with his other men, circled the uneasy
cattle, closing them in, quieting them, and doing everything possible to
make them bed.

They were thirsty; and instead of bedding, the herd began to 'growl'--a
distant mutter of throats, low, rumbling, ominous, as when faint thunder
rolls behind the hills. Every plainsman fears the growl, for it too
often is a prelude to the 'milling,' as it proved to be now, when the
whole vast herd began to stir--slowly, singly at first and without
direction, till at length it moved together, round and round a great
compact circle, the multitude of clicking hoofs, of clashing horns and
chafing sides, like the sound of rushing rain across a field of corn.

Nothing could be worse for the cattle. The cooler twilight was falling,
but, mingling with it, rose and thickened and spread a choking dust from
their feet which soon covered them, and shut from sight all but the wall
of the herd. Slowly, evenly, swung the wall, round and round, without a
break. Only one who has watched a milling herd can know its suppressed
excitement. To keep that excitement in check was the problem of Wade and
his men. And the night had not yet begun.

When the riders had brought in the drags, and the chuckwagon had
lumbered up with supper, Wade set the first watch.

Along with the wagon had come the fresh horses--among them Peroxide Jim,
a supple, powerful, clean-limbed buckskin, that had, I think, as fine
and intelligent an animal-face as any creature I ever saw. And why
should he not have been saved fresh for just such a need as this? Are
there not superior horses as well as superior men--a Peroxide Jim to
complement a Wade?

The horse plainly understood the situation, Wade told me; and though
there was nothing like sentiment for horse-flesh about the boss of the
P Ranch riders, his faith in Peroxide Jim was absolute.

The other night-horses were saddled and tied to the wheels of the wagon.
It was Wade's custom to take his turn with the second watch; but
shifting his saddle to Peroxide Jim, he rode out with the four of the
first watch, who, evenly spaced, were quietly circling the herd.

The night, for this part of the high desert, was unusually warm. It was
close, still, and without a sky. The near, thick darkness blotted out
the stars. There is usually a breeze at night over these highest
rim-rock plains which, no matter how hot the day may have been, crowds
the cattle together for warmth. To-night not a breath stirred the sage
as Wade wound in and out among the bushes, the hot dust stinging his
eyes and caking rough on his skin.

Round and round moved the weaving shifting forms, out of the dark and
into the dark, a gray spectral line like a procession of ghosts, or some
morris dance of the desert's sheeted dead. But it was not a line, it was
a sea of forms; not a procession, but the even surging of a maelstrom of
hoofs a mile around.

Wade galloped out on the plain for a breath of air and a look at the
sky. A quick cold rain would quiet them; but there was not a feel of
rain in the darkness, no smell of it on the air. Only the powdery taste
of the bitter sage.

The desert, where the herd was camped, was one of the highest of a
series of table-lands, or benches; it lay as level as a floor, rimmed by
a sheer wall of rock from which there was a drop to the bench of sage
below. The herd had been headed for a pass, and was now halted within a
mile of the rim-rock on the east, where there was a perpendicular fall
of about three hundred feet.

It was the last place an experienced plainsman would have chosen for a
camp; and every time Wade circled the herd, and came in between the
cattle and the rim, he felt the nearness of the precipice. The darkness
helped to bring it near. The height of his horse brought it near--he
seemed to look down from his saddle over it, into its dark depths. The
herd in its milling was surely warping slowly in the direction of the
rim. But this was all fancy, the trick of the dark and of nerves--if a
plainsman has nerves.

At twelve o'clock the first guard came in and woke the second watch.
Wade had been in the saddle since dawn, but this was his regular watch.
More than that, his trained ear had timed the milling hoofs. The
movement of the herd had quickened.

If now he could keep them going, and could prevent their taking any
sudden fright! They must not stop until they stopped from utter
weariness. Safety lay in their continued motion. So the fresh riders
flanked them closely, paced them, and urged them quietly on. They must
be kept milling and they must be kept from fright.

In the taut silence of the stirless desert night, with the tension of
the herd at the snapping-point, any quick, unwonted sight or sound would
stampede them; the sneezing of a horse, the flare of a match, would be
enough to send the whole four thousand headlong--blind, frenzied,
trampling--till spent and scattered over the plain.

And so, as he rode, Wade began to sing. The rider ahead of him took up
the air and passed it on until, above the stepping stir of the hoofs,
rose the faint voices of the men, and all the herd was bound about by
the slow plaintive measures of some old song. It was not to soothe their
savage breasts that the riders sang to the cattle, but to prevent the
shock of their hearing any loud and sudden noise.

So they sang and rode and the night wore on to one o'clock, when Wade,
coming up on the rim-rock side, felt a cool breeze fan his face, and
caught a breath of fresh, moist wind with the taste of water in it.

He checked his horse instantly, listening as the wind swept past him
over the cattle. But they must already have smelled it, for they had
ceased their milling. The whole herd stood motionless, the indistinct
forms close to him in the dark, showing their bald faces lifted to drink
the sweet wet breath that came over the rim. Then they started again,
but faster, and with a rumbling from their hoarse throats that tightened
Wade's grip on the reins.

The sound seemed to come out of the earth, a low, rumbling mumble, as
dark as the night and as wide as the plain, a thick inarticulate bellow
that stood every rider stiff in his stirrups.

The breeze caught the dust and carried it back from the gray-coated,
ghostly shapes, and Wade saw that the animals were still moving in a
circle. If he could keep them going! He touched his horse to ride on
with them, when across the black sky flashed a vivid streak of
lightning.

There was a snort from the steers, a quick clap of horns and hoofs from
far within the herd, a tremor of the plain, a roar, a surging mass--and
Wade was riding the flank of a wild stampede. Before him, behind him,
beside him, pressing hard upon his horse, galloped the frenzied steers,
and beyond them a multitude, borne on, and bearing him on, by the heave
of the galloping herd.

Wade was riding for his life. He knew it. His horse knew it. He was
riding to turn the herd, too, back from the rim, as the horse also knew.
The cattle were after water--water-mad--ready to go over the precipice
to get it, carrying horse and rider with them. Wade was the only rider
between the herd and the rim. It was black as death. He could see
nothing in the sage, could scarcely discern the pounding, panting
shadows at his side; but he knew by the swish of the brush and the
plunging of the horse that the ground was growing stonier, that they
were nearing the rocks.

To outrun the stampede was his only chance. If he could come up with the
leaders he might yet head them off upon the plain and save the herd.
There were cattle still ahead of him; how many, what part of the herd,
he could not tell. But the horse knew. The reins hung on his straight
neck, while Wade, yelling and firing into the air, gave him the race to
win, to lose.

Suddenly they veered and went high in the air, as a steer plunged
headlong into a draw almost beneath their feet. They cleared the narrow
ravine, landed on bare rock and reeled on.

They were riding the rim. Close to their left bore down the flank of the
herd, and on their right, under their very feet, was a precipice, so
close that they felt its blackness--its three hundred feet of fall!

A piercing, half-human bawl of terror told where a steer had been
crowded over. Would the next leap carry them after him? Then Wade found
himself racing neck and neck with a big white steer, which the horse,
with marvelous instinct, seemed to pick from a bunch, and to cling to,
forcing him gradually ahead till, cutting him free from the bunch
entirely, he bore him off into the sage.

The group coming on behind followed its leader, and in, after them,
swung others. The tide was turning. Within a short time the whole herd
had veered, and, bearing off from the cliffs, was pounding over the open
plains.

Whose race was it? Peroxide Jim's, according to Wade, for not by word or
by touch of hand or knee had he been directed in the run. From the flash
of the lightning the horse had taken the bit, and covered an
indescribably perilous path at top speed, had outrun the herd and
turned it from the edge of the rim-rock, without a false step or a
tremor.

Bred on the desert, broken at the round-up, trained to think steer as
his rider thinks it, the horse knew as swiftly, as clearly as his rider,
the work before him. But that he kept himself from fright, that none of
the wild herd-madness passed into him, is a thing for wonder. He was as
thirsty as any animal of the herd; he knew his own peril, I believe, as
none of the herd had ever known anything; and yet, such coolness,
courage, wisdom, and power!

Was it training? Was it more intimate association with the man on his
back, and so, a further remove from the wild thing which domestication
does not seem to touch? Or was it all suggestion, the superior
intelligence above riding--not the flesh, but the spirit?



IN THE PASHA'S GARDEN

A STAMBOUL NIGHT'S ENTERTAINMENT

BY H. G. DWIGHT


I

As the caïque glided up to the garden gate the three boatmen rose from
their sheepskins and caught hold of iron clamps set into the marble of
the quay. Shaban, the grizzled gatekeeper, who was standing at the top
of the water-steps with his hands folded respectfully in front of him,
came salaaming down to help his master out.

'Shall we wait, my Pasha?' asked the head _kaïkji_.

The Pasha turned to Shaban, as if to put a question. And as if to answer
it, Shaban said,--

'The madama is up in the wood, in the kiosque. She sent down word to ask
if you would go up too.'

'Then don't wait.' Returning the boatmen's salaam, the Pasha stepped
into his garden. 'Is there company in the kiosque or is madama alone?'
he inquired.

'I think no one is there--except Zümbül Agha,' replied Shaban, following
his master up the long central path of black and white pebbles.

'Zümbül Agha!' exclaimed the Pasha. But if it had been in his mind to
say anything else he stopped instead to sniff at a rosebud. And then he
asked, 'Are we dining up there, do you know?'

'I don't know, my Pasha, but I will find out.'

'Tell them to send up dinner anyway, Shaban. It is such an evening! And
just ask Mustafa to bring me a coffee at the fountain, will you? I will
rest a little before climbing that hill.'

'On my head!' said the Albanian, turning off to the house.

The Pasha kept on to the end of the walk. Two big horse-chestnut trees,
their candles just starting alight in the April air, stood there at the
foot of a terrace, guarding a fountain that dripped in the ivied wall. A
thread of water started mysteriously out of the top of a tall marble
niche into a little marble basin, from which it overflowed by two flat
bronze spouts into two smaller basins below. From them the water dripped
back into a single basin still lower down, and so tinkled its broken
way, past graceful arabesques and reliefs of fruit and flowers, into a
crescent-shaped pool at the foot of the niche.

The Pasha sank down into one of the wicker chairs scattered hospitably
beneath the horse-chestnut trees, and thought how happy a man he was to
have a fountain of the period of Sultan Ahmed III, and a garden so full
of April freshness, and a view of the bright Bosphorus and the opposite
hills of Europe and the firing West. How definitely he thought it, I
cannot say, for the Pasha was not greatly given to thought. Why should
he be, as he possessed without that trouble a goodly share of what men
acquire by taking thought? If he had been lapped in ease and security
all his days, they numbered many more, did those days, than the Pasha
would have chosen. Still, they had touched him but lightly, merely
increasing the dignity of his handsome presence and taking away nothing
of his power to enjoy his little walled world.

So he sat there, breathing in the air of the place and the hour, while
gardeners came and went with their watering-pots, and birds twittered
among the branches, and the fountain plashed beside him, until Shaban
reappeared carrying a glass of water and a cup of coffee in a swinging
tray.

'Eh, Shaban! It is not your business to carry coffee!' protested the
Pasha, reaching for a stand that stood near him.

'What is your business is my business, my Pasha. Have I not eaten your
bread and your father's for thirty years?'

'No! Is it as long as that? We are getting old, Shaban.'

'We are getting old,' assented the Albanian simply.

The Pasha thought, as he took out his silver cigarette-case, of another
pasha who had complimented him that afternoon on his youthfulness. And,
choosing a cigarette, he handed the case to his gatekeeper. Shaban
accepted the cigarette and produced matches from his gay girdle.

'How long is it since you have been to your country, Shaban?'

The Pasha, lifting his little cup by its silver zarf, realized that he
would not sip his coffee quite so noisily had his French wife been
sitting with him under the horse-chestnuts. But with his old Shaban he
could still be a Turk.

'Eighteen months, my Pasha.'

'And when are you going again?'

'It is not apparent. Perhaps in Ramazan, if God wills. Or perhaps next
Ramazan. We shall see.'

'Allah Allah! How many times have I told you to bring your people here,
Shaban? We have plenty of room to build you a house somewhere, and you
could see your wife and children every day instead of once in two or
three years.'

'Wives, wives--a man will not die if he does not see them every day!
Besides, it would not be good for the children. In Constantinople they
become rascals. There are too many Christians.' And he added hastily,
'It is better for a boy to grow up in the mountains.'

'But we have a mountain here, behind the house,' laughed the Pasha.

'Your mountain is not like our mountains,' objected Shaban gravely,
hunting in his mind for the difference he felt but could not express.

'And that new wife of yours,' went on the Pasha. 'Is it good to leave a
young woman like that? Are you not afraid?'

'No, my Pasha. I am not afraid. We all live together, you know. My
brothers watch, and the other women. She is safer than yours. Besides,
in my country it is not as it is here.'

'I don't know why I have never been to see this wonderful country of
yours, Shaban. I have so long intended to, and I never have been. But I
must climb my mountain or they will think that I have become a rascal
too.' And, rising from his chair, he gave the Albanian a friendly pat.

'Shall I come too, my Pasha? Zümbül Agha sent word--'

'Zümbül Agha!' interrupted the Pasha irritably. 'No, you needn't come. I
will explain to Zümbül Agha.'

With which he left Shaban to pick up the empty coffee cup.


II

From the upper terrace a bridge led across the public road to the wood.
If it was not a wood it was at all events a good-sized grove, climbing
the steep hillside very much as it chose. Every sort and size of tree
was there, but the greater number of them were of a kind to be sparsely
trimmed in April with a delicate green, and among them were so many
twisted Judas trees as to tinge whole patches of the slope with their
deep rose bloom. The road which the Pasha slowly climbed, swinging his
amber beads behind him as he walked, zigzagged so leisurely back and
forth among the trees that a carriage could have driven up it. In that
way, indeed, the Pasha had more than once mounted to the kiosque, in the
days when his mother used to spend a good part of her summer up there,
and when he was married to his first wife. The memory of the two, and of
their old-fashioned ways, entered not too bitterly into his general
feeling of well-being, ministered to by the budding trees and the spring
air and the sunset view. Every now and then an enormous plane tree
invited him to stop and look at it, or a semi-circle of cypresses.

So at last he came to the top of the hill, where in a grassy clearing a
small house looked down on the valley of the Bosphorus through a row of
great stone pines. The door of the kiosque was open, but his wife was
not visible. The Pasha stopped a moment, as he had done a thousand times
before, and looked back. He was not the man to be insensible to what he
saw between the columnar trunks of the pines, where European hills
traced a dark curve against the fading sky, and where the sinuous
waterway far below still reflected a last glamour of the day. The beauty
of it, and the sharp sweetness of the April air, and the infinitesimal
sounds of the wood, and the half-conscious memories involved with it
all, made him sigh. He turned and mounted the steps of the porch.

The kiosque looked very dark and unfamiliar as the Pasha entered it. He
wondered what had become of Hélène--if by any chance he had passed her
on the way. He wanted her. She was the expression of what the evening
roused in him. He heard nothing, however, but the splash of water from a
half-invisible fountain. It reminded him for an instant, of the other
fountain, below, and of Shaban. His steps resounded hollowly on the
marble pavement as he walked into the dim old saloon, shaped like a T,
with the cross longer than the leg. It was still light enough for him to
make out the glimmer of windows on three sides and the square of the
fountain in the centre, but the painted domes above were lost in shadow.

The spaces on either side of the bay by which he entered, completing the
rectangle of the kiosque, were filled by two little rooms opening into
the cross of the T. He went into the left-hand one, where Hélène usually
sat--because there were no lattices. The room was empty. The place
seemed so strange and still in the twilight that a sort of apprehension
began to grow in him, and he half wished he had brought up Shaban. He
turned back to the second, the latticed room--the harem, as they called
it. Curiously enough it was Hélène who would never let him Europeanize
it, in spite of the lattices. Every now and then he discovered that she
liked some Turkish things better than he did. As soon as he opened the
door he saw her sitting on the divan opposite. He knew her profile
against the checkered pallor of the lattice. But she neither moved nor
greeted him. It was Zümbül Agha who did so, startling him by suddenly
rising beside the door and saying in his high voice,--

'Pleasant be your coming, my Pasha.'

The Pasha had forgotten about Zümbül Agha; and it seemed strange to him
that Hélène continued to sit silent and motionless on her sofa.

'Good evening,' he said at last. 'You are sitting very quietly here in
the dark. Are there no lights in this place?'

It was again Zümbül Agha who spoke, turning one question by another:--

'Did Shaban come with you?'

'No,' replied the Pasha shortly. 'He said he had had a message, but I
told him not to come.'

'A-ah!' ejaculated the eunuch in his high drawl. 'But it does not
matter--with the two of us.'

The Pasha grew more and more puzzled, for this was not the scene he had
imagined to himself as he came up through the park in response to his
wife's message. Nor did he grow less puzzled when the eunuch turned to
her and said in another tone,--

'Now will you give me that key?'

The Frenchwoman took no more notice of this question than she had of the
Pasha's entrance.

'What do you mean, Zümbül Agha?' demanded the Pasha sharply. 'That is
not the way to speak to your mistress.'

'I mean this, my Pasha,' retorted the eunuch: 'that some one is hiding
in this chest and that madama keeps the key.'

That was what the Pasha heard, in the absurd treble of the black man, in
the darkening room. He looked down and made out, beside the tall figure
of the eunuch, the chest on which he had been sitting. Then he looked
across at Hélène, who still sat silent in front of the lattice.

'What are you talking about?' he asked at last, more stupefied than
anything else. 'Who is it? A thief? Has any one--?' He left the vague
question unformulated, even in his mind.

'Ah, that I don't know. You must ask madama. Probably it is one of her
Christian friends. But at least if it were a woman she would not be so
unwilling to unlock her chest for us!'

The silence that followed, while the Pasha looked dumbly at the chest,
and at Zümbül Agha, and at his wife, was filled for him with a stranger
confusion of feelings than he had ever experienced before. Nevertheless,
he was surprisingly cool, he found. His pulse quickened very little. He
told himself that it wasn't true and that he really must get rid of old
Zümbül after all, if he went on making such preposterous gaffes and
setting them all by the ears. How could anything so baroque happen to
him, the Pasha, who owed what he was to the honorable fathers and who
had passed his life honorably and peaceably until this moment? Yet he
had had an impression, walking into the dark old kiosque and finding
nobody until he found these two sitting here in this extraordinary way,
as if he had walked out of his familiar garden, which he knew like his
hand, into a country he knew nothing about, where anything might be
true. And he wished, he almost passionately wished, that Hélène would
say something, would cry out against Zümbül Agha, would lie even, rather
than sit there so still and removed and different from other women.

Then he began to be aware that if it were true--if!--he ought to do
something. He ought to make a noise. He ought to kill somebody. That was
what they always did. That was what his father would have done--or
certainly his grandfather. But he also told himself that it was no
longer possible for him to do what his father and grandfather had done.
He had been unlearning their ways too long. Besides, he was too old.

A sudden sting pierced him at the thought of how old he was, and how
young Hélène. Even if he lived to be seventy or eighty, she would still
have a life left when he died. Yes, it was as Shaban said. They were
getting old. He had never really felt the humiliation of it before. And
Shaban had said, strangely, something else--that his own wife was safer
than the Pasha's. Still he felt an odd compassion for Hélène,
too--because she was young, and it was Judas-tree time, and she was
married to gray hairs. And although he was a pasha, descended from great
pashas, and she was only a little French girl _quelconque_, he felt more
afraid than ever of making a fool of himself before her--when he had
promised her that she should be as free as any other European woman,
that she should live her life. Besides, what had the black man to do
with their private affairs?

'Zümbül Agha,' he suddenly heard himself harshly saying, 'is this your
house or mine? I have told you a hundred times that you are not to
trouble the madama, or follow her about, or so much as guess where she
is and what she is doing. I have kept you in the house because my father
brought you into it; but if I ever hear of your speaking to madama
again, or spying on her, I will send you into the street. Do you hear?
Now get out!'

'_Aman_, my Pasha! I beg you!' entreated the eunuch. There was something
ludicrous in his voice, coming as it did from his height.

The Pasha wondered if he had been too long a person of importance in the
family to realize the change in his position, or whether he really--

All of a sudden a checkering of lamplight flickered through the dark
window, touched the negro's black face for a moment, traveled up the
wall. Silence fell again in the little room--a silence into which the
fountain dropped its silver patter. Then steps mounted the porch and
echoed in the other room, which lighted in turn, and a man came in
sight, peering this way and that, with a big white accordeon lantern in
his hand. Behind the man two other servants appeared, carrying on their
heads round wooden trays covered by figured silks, and a boy tugging a
huge basket. When they discovered the three in the little room they
salaamed respectfully.

'Where shall we set the table?' asked the man with the lantern.

For the Pasha the lantern seemed to make the world more like the place
he had always known. He turned to his wife apologetically.

'I told them to send dinner up here. It has been such a long time since
we came. But I forgot about the table. I don't believe there is one
here.'

'No,' uttered Hélène from her sofa, sitting with her head on her hand.

It was the first word she had spoken. But, little as it was, it
reassured him, like the lantern.

'There is the chest,' hazarded Zümbül Agha.

The interruption of the servants had for the moment distracted them all.
But the Pasha now turned on him so vehemently that the eunuch salaamed
in haste and went away.


III

'Why not?' asked Hélène, when he was gone. 'We can sit on cushions.'

'Why not?' echoed the Pasha. Grateful as he was for the interruption, he
found himself wishing, secretly, that Hélène had discouraged his idea of
a picnic dinner. And he could not help feeling a certain constraint as
he gave the necessary orders and watched the servants put down their
paraphernalia and pull the chest into the middle of the room. There was
something unreal and stage-like about the scene, in the uncertain light
of the lantern. Obviously the chest was not light. It was an old
cypress-wood chest that they had always used in the summer, to keep furs
in, polished a bright brown, with a little inlaid pattern of dark brown
and cream color running around the edge of each surface, and a more
complicated design ornamenting the centre of the cover. He vaguely
associated his mother with it. He felt a distinct relief when the men
spread the cloth. He felt as if they had covered up more things than he
could name. And when they produced candlesticks and candles, and set
them on the improvised table and in the niches beside the door, he
seemed to come back again into the comfortable light of common sense.

'This is the way we used to do when I was a boy,' he said with a smile,
when he and Hélène established themselves on sofa cushions on opposite
sides of the chest. 'Only then we had little tables six inches high,
instead of big ones like this.'

'It is rather a pity that we have spoiled all that,' she said. 'Are we
any happier for perching on chairs around great scaffoldings and piling
the scaffoldings with so many kinds of porcelain and metal? After all,
they knew how to live--the people who were capable of imagining a place
like this. And they had the good taste not to fill a room with things.
Your grandfather, was it?'

He had had a dread that she would not say anything, that she would
remain silent and impenetrable, as she had been before Zümbül Agha, as
if the chest between them were a barrier that nothing could surmount.
His heart lightened when he heard her speak. Was it not quite her
natural voice?

'It was my great-grandfather, the Grand Vizier. They say he did know how
to live--in his way. He built the kiosque for a beautiful slave of his,
a Greek, whom he called Pomegranate.'

'Madame Pomegranate? What a charming name! And that is why her cipher is
everywhere. See?' She pointed to the series of cupboards and niches on
either side of the door, dimly painted with pomegranate blossoms, and to
the plaster reliefs around the hooded fireplace, and the cluster of
pomegranates that made a centre to the gilt and painted lattice-work of
the ceiling. 'One could be very happy in such a little house. It has an
air--of being meant for moments. And you feel as if they had something
to do with the wonderful way it has faded.' She looked as if she had
meant to say something else, which she did not. But after a moment she
added, 'Will you ask them to turn off the water in the fountain? It is a
little chilly, now that the sun has gone, and it sounds like rain--or
tears.'

The dinner went, on the whole, not so badly. There were dishes to be
passed back and forth. There were questions to be asked or comments to
be made. There were the servants to be spoken to. Yet, more and more,
the Pasha could not help wondering. When a silence fell, too, he could
not help listening. And least of all could he help looking at Hélène. He
looked at her, trying not to look at her, with an intense curiosity, as
if he had never seen her before, asking himself if there were anything
new in her face, and how she would look if--Would she be like this?

She made no attempt to keep up a flow of words, as if to distract his
attention. She was not soft either; she was not trying to seduce him:
And she made no show of gratitude toward him for having sent Zümbül Agha
away. Neither did she by so much as an inflection try to insinuate or
excuse or explain. She was what she always was, perfect--and evidently a
little tired. She was indeed more than perfect, she was prodigious, when
he asked her once what she was thinking about and she said Pandora,
tapping the chest between them. He had never heard the story of that
Greek girl and her box, and she told him gravely about all the
calamities that came out of it, and the one gift of hope that remained
behind.

'But I cannot be a Turkish woman long!' she added inconsequently with a
smile. 'My legs are asleep. I really must walk about a little.'

When he had helped her to her feet she led the way into the other room.
They had their coffee and cigarettes there. Hélène walked slowly up and
down the length of the room, stopping every now and then to look into
the square pool of the fountain and to pat her hair.

The Pasha sat down on the long low divan that ran under the windows. He
could watch her more easily now. And the detachment with which he had
begun to look at her grew in spite of him into the feeling that he was
looking at a stranger. After all, what did he know about her? Who was
she? What had happened to her, during all the years that he had not
known her, in that strange free European life which he had tried to
imitate, and which at heart he secretly distrusted? What had she ever
really told him, and what had he ever really divined of her? For perhaps
the first time in his life he realized how little one person may know of
another, particularly a man of a woman. And he remembered Shaban again,
and that phrase about his wife being safer than Hélène. Had Shaban
really meant anything? Was Hélène 'safe'? He acknowledged to himself at
last that the question was there in his mind, waiting to be answered.

Hélène did not help him. She had been standing for some time at an odd
angle to the pool, looking into it. He could see her face there, with
the eyes turned away from him.

'How mysterious a reflection is!' she said. 'It is so real that you
can't believe it disappears for good. How often Madame Pomegranate must
have looked into this pool, and yet I can't find her in it. But I feel
she is really there, all the same--and who knows who else.'

'They say mirrors do not flatter,' the Pasha did not keep himself from
rejoining, 'but they are very discreet. They tell no tales?'

Hélène raised her eyes. In the little room the servants had cleared the
improvised table and had packed up everything again except the candles.

'I have been up here a long time,' she said, 'and I am rather tired. It
is a little cold, too. If you do not mind, I think I will go down to the
house now, with the servants. You will hardly care to go so soon, for
Zümbül Agha has not finished what he has to say to you.'

'Zümbül Agha!' exclaimed the Pasha. 'I sent him away.'

'Ah, but you must know him well enough to be sure he would not go. Let
us see.' She clapped her hands. The servant of the lantern immediately
came out to her. 'Will you ask Zümbül Agha to come here?' she said. 'He
is on the porch.'

The man went to the door, looked out, and said a word. Then he stood
aside with a respectful salaam, and the eunuch entered. He negligently
returned the salute and walked forward until his air of importance
changed to one of humility at sight of the Pasha. Salaaming in turn, he
stood with his hands folded in front of him.

'I will go down with you,' said the Pasha to his wife, rising. 'It is
too late for you to go through the woods in the dark.'

'Nonsense!' She gave him a look that had more in it than the tone in
which she added, 'Please do not. I shall be perfectly safe with four
servants. You can tell them not to let me run away.' Coming nearer, she
put her hand into the bosom of her dress, then stretched out the hand
toward him. 'Here is the key--the key of Pandora's box. Will you keep it
for me please? Au revoir.'

And making a sign to the servants she walked out of the kiosque.


IV

The Pasha was too surprised, at first, to move--and too conscious of the
eyes of servants, too uncertain of what he should do, too fearful of
doing the wrong, the un-European, thing. And afterwards it was too late.
He stood watching until the flicker of the lantern disappeared among the
dark trees. Then his eyes met the eunuch's.

'Why don't you go down too?' suggested Zümbül Agha. The variable climate
of a great house had made him too perfect an opportunist not to take the
line of being in favor again. 'It might be better. Give me the key and I
will do what there is to do. But you might send up Shaban.'

Why not? the Pasha secretly asked himself. Might it not be the best way
out? At the same time he experienced a certain revulsion of feeling, now
that Hélène was gone, in the way she had gone. She really was
prodigious! And with the vanishing of the lantern which had brought him
a measure of reassurance he felt the weight of an uncleared situation,
fantastic but crucial, heavy upon him. And the Negro annoyed him
intensely.

'Thank you, Zümbül Agha,' he replied, 'but I am not the nurse of madama,
and I will not give you the key.'

If he only might, though, he thought to himself again!

'You believe her, this Frank woman whom you had never seen five years
ago, and you do not believe me who have lived in your house longer than
you can remember!'

The eunuch said it so bitterly that the Pasha was touched in spite of
himself. He had never been one to think very much about minor personal
relations, but even at such a moment he could see--was it partly because
he wanted more time to make up his mind?--that he had never liked Zümbül
Agha as he liked Shaban, for instance. Yet more honor had been due, in
the old family tradition, to the former. And he had been associated even
longer with the history of the house.

'My poor Zümbül,'he uttered musingly, 'you have never forgiven me for
marrying her.'

'My Pasha, you are not the first to marry an unbeliever, nor the last.
But such a marriage should be to the glory of Islam, and not to its
discredit. Who can trust her? She is still a Christian. And she is too
young. She has turned the world upside down. What would your father have
said to a daughter-in-law who goes shamelessly into the street without a
veil, alone, and who receives in your house men who are no relation to
you or her? It is not right. Women only understand one thing, to make
fools of men. And they are never content to fool one.'

The Pasha, still waiting to make up his mind, let his fancy linger about
Zümbül Agha. It was really rather absurd, after all, what a part women
played in the world, and how little it all came to in the end! Did the
black man, he wondered, walk in a clearer, cooler world, free of the
clouds, the iridescences, the languors, the perfumes, the strange
obsessions, that made others walk so often like madmen? Or might some
tatter of preposterous humanity still work obscurely in him? Or a
bitterness of not being like other men? That perhaps was why the Pasha
felt friendlier toward Shaban. They were more alike.

'You are right, Zümbül Agha,' he said, 'the world is upside down. But
neither the madama nor any of us made it so. All we can do is try and
keep our heads as it turns. Now, will you please tell me how you
happened to be up here? The madama never told you to come. You know
perfectly well that the customs of Europe are different from ours, and
that she does not like to have you follow her about.'

'What woman likes to be followed about?' retorted the eunuch with a sly
smile. 'I know you have told me to leave her alone. But why was I
brought into this house? Am I to stand by and watch dishonor brought
upon it simply because you have eaten the poison of a woman?'

'Zümbül Agha,' replied the Pasha sharply, 'I am not discussing old and
new or this and that, but I am asking you to tell me what all this
speech is about.'

'Give me that key and I will show you what it is about,' said the
eunuch, stepping forward.

But the Pasha found that he was not ready to go so directly to the
point.

'Can't you answer a simple question?' he demanded irritably, retreating
to the farther side of the fountain.

The reflection of the painted ceiling in the pool made him think of
Hélène--and Madame Pomegranate. He stared into the still water as if to
find Hélène's face there. Was any other face hidden beside it, mocking
him?

But Zümbül Agha had begun again, doggedly:--

'I came here because it is my business to be here. I went to town this
morning. When I got back they told me that you were away and that the
madama was up here, alone. So I came. Is this a place for a woman to be
alone in--a young woman, with men working all about, and I don't know
who, and a thousand ways of getting in and out from the hills, and ten
thousand hiding-places in the woods?'

The Pasha made a gesture of impatience, and turned away. But after all,
what could one do with old Zümbül? He had been brought up in his
tradition. The Pasha lighted another cigarette to help himself think.

'Well, I came up here,' continued the eunuch, 'and as I came I heard
madama singing. You know how she sings the songs of the Franks.'

The Pasha knew. But he did not say anything. As he walked up and down,
smoking and thinking, his eye caught in the pool a reflection from the
other side of the room, where the door of the latticed room was, and
where the cypress-wood chest stood as the servants had left it in the
middle of the floor. Was that what Hélène had stood looking at so long?
he asked himself. He wondered that he could have sat beside it so
quietly. It seemed now like something dark and dangerous crouching there
in the shadow of the little room.

'I sat down, under the terrace,' he heard the eunuch go on, 'where no
one could see me, and I listened. And after she had stopped I heard--'

'Never mind what you heard,' broke in the Pasha. 'I have heard enough.'

He was ashamed--ashamed and resolved. He felt as if he had been playing
the spy with Zümbül Agha. And after all, there was a simple way to
answer his question for himself. He threw away his cigarette, went into
the little room, bent over the chest, and fitted the key into the lock.

Just then a nightingale burst out singing, but so near and so loud that
he started and looked over his shoulder. In an instant he collected
himself, feeling the black man's eyes upon his. Yet he could not
suppress the train of association started by the impassioned trilling of
the bird, even as he began to turn the key of the chest where his mother
used to keep her quaint old furs and embroideries. The irony of the
contrast paralyzed his hand for a strange moment, and of the difference
between this spring night and other spring nights when nightingales had
sung. And what if, after all, only calamity were to come out of the
chest, and he were to lose his last gift of hope? Ah! He knew at last
what he would do! He quickly withdrew the key from the lock, stood up
straight again, and looked at Zümbül Agha.

'Go down and get Shaban,' he ordered, 'and don't come back.'

The eunuch stared. But if he had anything to say, he concluded not to
say it. He saluted silently and went away.


V

The Pasha sat down on the divan and lighted a cigarette. Almost
immediately the nightingale stopped singing. For a few moments Zümbül
Agha's steps could be heard outside. Then it became very still. The
Pasha did not like it. Look which way he would, he could not help seeing
the chest--or listening. He got up and went into the big room, where he
turned on the water of the fountain. The falling drops made company for
him, and kept him from looking for lost reflections. But they presently
made him think of what Hélène had said about them. He went out to the
porch and sat down on the steps. In front of him the pines lifted their
great dark canopies against the stars. Other stars twinkled between the
trunks, far below, where the shore lights of the Bosphorus were.

It was so still that water sounds came faintly up to him, and every now
and then he could even hear nightingales on the European side. Another
nightingale began singing in his own woods--the same one that had told
him what to do, he said to himself. What other things the nightingales
had sung to him, years ago! And how long the pines had listened there,
still strong and green and rugged and alive, while he, and how many
before him, sat under them for a little while and then went away!

Presently he heard steps on the drive and Shaban came, carrying
something dark in his hand.

'What is that?' asked the Pasha, as Shaban held it out.

'A revolver, my Pasha. Zümbül Agha told me you wanted it.'

The Pasha laughed curtly.

'Zümbül made a mistake. What I want is a shovel, or a couple of them.
Can you find such a thing without asking any one?'

'Yes, my Pasha,' replied the Albanian promptly, laying the revolver on
the steps and disappearing again. And it was not long before he was back
with the desired implements.

'We must dig a hole, somewhere, Shaban,' said his master in a low voice.
'It must be in a place where people are not likely to go, but not too
far from the kiosque.'

Shaban immediately started toward the trees at the back of the house.
The Pasha followed him silently into a path that wound through the wood.
A nightingale began to sing again, very near them--_the_ nightingale,
thought the Pasha.

'He is telling us where to go,' he said.

Shaban permitted himself a low laugh.

'I think he is telling his mistress where to go. However, we will go
too.'

And they did, bearing away to one side of the path till they came to the
foot of the tall cypress.

'This will do,' said the Pasha, 'if the roots are not in the way.'

Without a word Shaban began to dig. The Pasha took the other spade. To
the simple Albanian it was nothing out of the ordinary. What was
extraordinary was that his master was able to keep it up, soft as the
loam was under the trees. The most difficult thing about it was that
they could not see what they were doing, except by the light of an
occasional match. But at last the Pasha judged the ragged excavation of
sufficient depth. Then he led the way back to the kiosque.

They found Zümbül Agha in the little room, sitting on the sofa with a
revolver in either hand.

'I thought I told you not to come back!' exclaimed the Pasha sternly.

'Yes,' faltered the old eunuch, 'but I was afraid something might happen
to you. So I waited below the pines. And when you went away into the
woods with Shaban, I came here to watch.' He lifted a revolver
significantly. 'I found the other one on the steps.'

'Very well,' said the Pasha at length, more kindly. He even found it in
him at that moment to be amused at the picture the black man made, in
his sedate frock coat, with his two weapons. And Zümbül Agha found no
less to look at, in the appearance of his master's clothes. 'But now
there is no need for you to watch any longer,' added the latter. 'If you
want to watch, do it at the bottom of the hill. Don't let any one come
up here.'

'On my head,' said the eunuch.

He saw that Shaban, as usual, was trusted more than he. But it was not
for him to protest against the ingratitude of masters. He salaamed and
backed out of the room.

When he was gone the Pasha turned to Shaban.

'This box, Shaban--you see this box? It has become a trouble to us, and
I am going to take it out there.'

The Albanian nodded gravely. He took hold of one of the handles, to
judge the weight of the chest. He lifted his eyebrows.

'Can you help me put it on my back?' he asked.

'Don't try to do that, Shaban. We will carry it together.'

The Pasha took hold of the other handle. When they got as far as the
outer door he let down his end. It was not light.

'Wait a minute, Shaban. Let us shut up the kiosque, so that no one will
notice anything.'

He went back to blow out the candles. Then he thought of the fountain.
He caught a last play of broken images in the pool as he turned off the
water. When he had put out the lights and groped his way to the door,
he found that Shaban was already gone with the chest. A drop of water
made a strange echo behind him in the kiosque. He locked the door and
hurried after Shaban, who had succeeded in getting the chest on his
back. Nor would Shaban let the Pasha help him till they came to the edge
of the wood. There, carrying the chest between them, they stumbled
through the trees to the place that was ready.

'Now we must be careful,' said the Pasha. 'It might slip or get stuck.'

'But are you going to bury the box too?' demanded Shaban, for the first
time showing surprise.

'Yes,' answered the Pasha. And he added, 'It is the box I want to get
rid of.'

'It is a pity,' remarked Shaban regretfully. 'It is a very good box.
However, you know. Now then!'

There was a scraping and a muffled thud, followed by a fall of earth and
small stones on wood. The Pasha wondered if he would hear anything else.
But first one and then another nightingale began to fill the night with
their April madness.

'Ah, there are two of them,' remarked Shaban. 'She will take the one
that says the sweetest things to her.'

The Pasha's reply was to throw a spadeful of earth on the chest. Shaban
joined him with such vigor that the hole was soon very full.

'We are old, my Pasha, but we are good for something yet,' said Shaban.
'I will hide the shovels here in the bushes,' he added, 'and early in
the morning I will come again, before any of those lazy gardeners are
up, and fix it so that no one will ever know.'

There at least was a person of whom one could be sure! The Pasha
realized that gratefully, as they walked back through the park. He did
not feel like talking, but at least he felt the satisfaction of having
done what he had decided to do. He remembered Zümbül Agha as they neared
the bottom of the hill. The eunuch had taken his commission more
seriously than it had been given, however, or he preferred not to be
seen. Perhaps he wanted to reconnoitre again on top of the hill.

'I don't think I will go in just yet,' said the Pasha as they crossed
the bridge into the lower garden. 'I am rather dirty. And I would like
to rest a little under the chestnut trees. Would you get me an overcoat
please, Shaban, and a brush of some kind? And you might bring me a
coffee, too.'

How tired he was! And what a short time it was, yet what an eternity,
since he last dropped into one of the wicker chairs! He felt for his
cigarettes. As he did so he discovered something else in his pocket,
something small and hard that at first he did not recognize. Then he
remembered the key--the key.--He suddenly tossed it into the pool beside
him. It made a sharp little splash, which was reëchoed by the dripping
basins. He got up and felt in the ivy for the handle that shut off the
water. At the end of the garden the Bosphorus lapped softly in the dark.
Far away, up in the wood, the nightingales were singing.



LITTLE SELVES

BY MARY LERNER


Margaret O'brien, a great-aunt and seventy-five, knew she was near the
end. She did not repine, for she had had a long, hard life and she was
tired. The young priest who brought her communion had administered the
last rites--holy oils on her eyelids (Lord, forgive her the sins of
seeing!); holy oils on her lips (Lord, forgive her the sins of
speaking!), on her ears, on her knotted hands, on her weary feet. Now
she was ready, though she knew the approach of the dread presence would
mean greater suffering. So she folded quiet hands beneath her heart,
there where no child had ever lain, yet where now something grew and
fattened on her strength. And she seemed given over to pleasant revery.

Neighbors came in to see her, and she roused herself and received them
graciously, with a personal touch for each.--'And has your Julia gone to
New York, Mrs. Carty? Nothing would do her but she must be going, I
suppose. 'Twas the selfsame way with me, when I was coming out here from
the old country. Full of money the streets were, I used to be thinking.
Well, well; the hills far away are green.'

Or to Mrs. Devlin: 'Terence is at it again, I see by the look of you.
Poor man! There's no holding him? Eh, woman dear! Thirst is the end of
drinking and sorrow is the end of love.'

If her visitors stayed longer than a few minutes, however, her attention
wandered; her replies became cryptic. She would murmur something about
'all the seven parishes,' or the Wicklow hills, or 'the fair cove of
Cork tippy-toe into the ocean'; then fall into silence, smiling, eyes
closed, yet with a singular look of attention. At such times, her
callers would whisper: 'Glory b't' God! she's so near it there's no fun
in it,' and slip out soberly into the kitchen.

Her niece, Anna Lennan, mother of a fine brood of children, would stop
work for the space of a breath and enjoy a bit of conversation.

'Ain't she failing, though, the poor afflicted creature!' Mrs. Hanley
cried one day. 'Her mind is going back on her already.'

'Are you of that opinion? I'm thinking she's mind enough yet, when she
wants to attend; but mostly she's just drawn into herself, as busy as a
bee about something, whatever it is that she's turning over in her head
day in, day out. She sleeps scarce a wink for all she lies there so
quiet, and, in the night, my man and I hear her talking to herself. "No,
no," she'll say. "I've gone past. I must be getting back to the start."
Or, another time, "This is it, now. If I could be stopping!"'

'And what do you think she is colloguing about?'

'There's no telling. Himself does be saying it's in an elevator she is,
but that's because he puts in the day churning up and down in one of the
same. What else can you expect? 'Tis nothing but "Going up! going down!"
with him all night as it is. Betune the two of them they have me fair
destroyed with their traveling. "Are you lacking anything, Aunt
Margaret?" I call out to her. "I am not," she answers, impatient-like.
"Don't be ever fussing and too-ing, will you?"

'Tch! tch!'

'And do you suppose the children are a comfort to her? Sorra bit. Just a
look at them and she wants to be alone. "Take them away, let you," says
she, shutting her eyes. "The others is realer."'

'And you think she's in her right mind all the same?'

'I do. 'Tis just something she likes to be thinking over--something
she's fair dotty about. Why, it's the same when Father Flint is here.
Polite and riverintial at the first, then impatient, and, if the poor
man doesn't be taking the hint, she just closes up shop and off again
into her whimsies. You'd swear she was in fear of missing something?'

The visitor, being a young wife, had an explanation to hazard. 'If she
was a widow woman, now, or married--perhaps she had a liking for
somebody once. Perhaps she might be trying to imagine them young days
over again. Do you think could it be that?'

Anna shook her head. 'My mother used to say she was a born old maid. All
_she_ wanted was work and saving her bit of money, and to church every
minute she could be sparing.'

'Still, you can't be telling. 'Tis often that kind weeps sorest when
'tis too late. My own old aunt used to cry, "If I could be twenty-five
again, wouldn't I do different!"'

'Maybe, maybe, though I doubt could it be so.'

Nor was it so. The old woman, lying back so quietly among her pillows,
with closed eyes, yet with that look of singular intentness and
concentration, was seeking no lover of her youth; though, indeed, she
had had one once, and from time to time he did enter her revery, try as
she would to prevent him. At that point, she always made the singular
comment, 'Gone past! I must be getting back to the beginning,' and,
pressing back into her earliest consciousness, she would remount the
flooding current of the years. Each time, she hoped to get
further,--though remoter shapes were illusive, and, if approached too
closely, vanished,--for, once embarked on her river of memories, the
descent was relentlessly swift. How tantalizing that swiftness! However
she yearned to linger, she was rushed along till, all too soon, she
sailed into the common light of day. At that point, she always put
about, and laboriously recommenced the ascent.

To-day, something her niece had said about Donnybrook Fair--for Anna,
too, was a child of the old sod--seemed to swell out with a fair wind
the sails of her visionary bark. She closed her mind to all familiar
shapes and strained back--way, way back, concentrating all her powers in
an effort of will. For a bit she seemed to hover in populous space. This
did not disturb her; she had experienced the same thing before. It
simply meant that she had mounted pretty well up to the fountain-head.
The figures, when they did come, would be the ones she most desired.

At last, they began to take shape, tenuously at first, then of fuller
body, each bringing its own setting, its own atmospheric
suggestion--whether of dove-feathered Irish cloud and fresh greensward,
sudden downpour, or equally sudden clearing, with continual leafy drip,
drip, drip, in the midst of brilliant sunshine.

For Margaret O'Brien, ardent summer sunlight seemed suddenly to pervade
the cool, orderly little bed-chamber. Then, 'Here she is!' and a wee
girl of four danced into view, wearing a dress of pink print, very tight
at the top and very full at the bottom. She led the way to a tiny new
house whence issued the cheery voice of hammers. Lumber and tools were
lying round; from within came men's voices. The small girl stamped up
the steps and looked in. Then she made for the narrow stair.

'Where's Margaret gone to?' said one of the men. 'The upper floor's not
finished. It's falling through the young one will be.'

'Peggy!' called the older man. 'Come down here with you.'

There was a delighted squeal. The pink dress appeared at the head of the
stairs. 'Oh, the funny little man, daddy! Such a funny little old man
with a high hat! Come quick, let you, and see him.'

The two men ran to the stairs.

'Where is he?'

She turned back and pointed. Then her face fell. 'Gone! the little man
is gone!'

Her father laughed and picked her up in his arms. 'How big was he, Peg?
As big as yourself, I wonder?'

'No, no! Small.'

'As big as the baby?'

She considered a moment. 'Yes, just as big as that. But a man, da.'

'Well, why aren't you after catching him and holding him for ransom?
'Tis pots and pots o' gold they've hidden away, the little people, and
will be paying a body what he asks to let them go.'

She pouted, on the verge of tears. 'I want him to come back.'

'I mistrust he won't be doing that, the leprechaun. Once you take your
eye away, it's off with him for good and all.'

Margaret O'Brien hugged herself with delight. _That_ was a new one; she
had never got back that far before. Yet how well she remembered it all!
She seemed to smell the woody pungency of the lumber, the limey odor of
white-wash from the field-stone cellar.

The old woman's dream went on. Out of the inexhaustible storehouse of
the past, she summoned, one by one, her much-loved memories. There was a
pig-tailed Margaret in bonnet and shawl, trudging to school one wintry
day. She had seen many wintry school-days, but this one stood out by
reason of the tears she had shed by the way. She saw the long benches,
the slates, the charts, the tall teacher at his desk. With a swelling of
the throat, she saw the little girl sob out her declaration: 'I'm not
for coming no more, Mr. Wilde.'

'What's that, Margaret? And why not? Haven't I been good to you?'

Tears choked the child. 'Oh, Mr. Wilde, it's just because you're so
terrible good to me. They say you are trying to make a Protestant out of
me. So I'll not be coming no more.'

The tall man drew the little girl to his knee and reassured her.
Margaret O'Brien could review that scene with tender delight now. She
had not been forced to give up her beloved school. Mr. Wilde had
explained to her that her brothers were merely teasing her because she
was so quick and such a favorite.

A little Margaret knelt on the cold stone floor at church and stared at
the pictured saints or heard the budding branches rustle in the orchard
outside. Another Margaret, a little taller, begged for a new sheet of
ballads every time her father went to the fair.--There were the long
flimsy sheets, with closely printed verses. These you must adapt to
familiar tunes. This Margaret, then, swept the hearth and stacked the
turf and sang from her bench in the chimney-corner. Sometimes it was
something about 'the little old red coat me father wore,' which was 'All
buttons, buttons, buttons, buttons; all buttons down before'; or another
beginning,--

    'O, dear, what can the matter be?
       Johnnie's so long at the fair!
     He promised to buy me a knot of blue ribbon
       To tie up my bonny brown hair.'

Then there was a picture of the time the fairies actually bewitched the
churn, and, labor as you might, no butter would form, not the least tiny
speck. Margaret and her mother took the churn apart and examined every
part of it. Nothing out of the way. ''Tis the fairies is in it,' her
mother said. 'All Souls' Day a-Friday. Put out a saucer of cream the
night for the little people, let you.' A well-grown girl in a blue
cotton frock, the long braids of her black hair whipping about her in
the windy evening, set out the cream on the stone flags before the low
doorway, wasting no time in getting in again. The next day, how the
butter 'came'! Hardly started they were, when they could feel it
forming. When Margaret washed the dasher, she 'kept an eye out' for the
dark corners of the room, for the air seemed thronged and murmurous.

After this picture, came always the same tall girl still in the same
blue frock, this time with a shawl on her head. She brought in potatoes
from the sheltered heaps that wintered out in the open. From one pailful
she picked out a little flat stone, rectangular and smoother and more
evenly proportioned than any stone she had ever seen.

'What a funny stone!' she said to her mother.

Her mother left carding her wool to look. 'You may well say so. 'Tis one
of the fairies' tables. Look close and you'll be turning up their little
chairs as well.'

It was as her mother said. Margaret found four smaller stones of like
appearance, which one might well imagine to be stools for tiny dolls.

'Shall I be giving them to little Bee for playthings?'

'You will not. You'll be putting them outside. In the morning, though
you may be searching the countryside, no trace of them will you find,
for the fairies will be taking them again.'

So Margaret stacked the fairy table and chairs outside. Next morning,
she ran out half reluctantly, for she was afraid she would find them and
that would spoil the story. But, no! they were gone. She never saw them
again, though she searched in all imaginable places. Nor was that the
last potato heap to yield these mysterious stones.

Margaret, growing from scene to scene, appeared again in a group of
laughing boys and girls.

'What'll we play now?'

'Let's write the ivy test.'

'Here's leaves.'

Each wrote a name on a leaf and dropped it into a jar of water. Next
morning, Margaret, who had misgivings, stole down early and searched for
her leaf. Yes, the die was cast! At the sight of its bruised surface,
ready tears flooded her eyes. She had written the name of her little
grandmother, and the condition of the leaf foretold death within the
year. The other leaves were unmarred. She quickly destroyed the
ill-omened bit of ivy and said nothing about it, though the children
clamored. 'There's one leaf short. Whose is gone?' 'Mine is there!' 'Is
it yours, John?' 'Is it yours, Esther?' But Margaret kept her counsel,
and, within the year, the little grandmother was dead. Of course, she
was old, though vigorous; yet Margaret would never play that game again.
It was like gambling with fate.

And still the girls kept swinging past. Steadily, all too swiftly,
Margaret shot up to a woman's stature; her skirts crept down, her braids
ought to have been bobbed up behind. She let them hang, however, and
still ran with the boys, questing the bogs, climbing the apple trees,
storming the wind-swept hills. Her mother would point to her sister
Mary, who, though younger, sat now by the fire with her 'spriggin''
[embroidery] for 'the quality.' Mary could crochet, too, and had a fine
range of 'shamrogue' patterns. So the mother would chide Margaret.

'What kind of a girl are you, at all, to be ever lepping and tearing
like a redshanks [deer]? 'Tis high time for you to be getting sensible
and learning something. Whistles and scouting-guns is all you're good
for, and there's no silver in them things as far as I can see.'

What fine whistles she contrived out of the pithy willow shoots in the
spring! And the scouting-guns hollowed out of elder-stalks, which they
charged with water from the brook by means of wadded sticks, working
piston-wise! They would hide behind a hedge and bespatter enemies and
friends alike. Many's the time they got their ears warmed in consequence
or went supperless to bed, pretending not to see the table spread with
baked potatoes,--'laughing potatoes,' they called them, because they
were ever splitting their sides,--besides delicious buttermilk,
freshly-laid eggs, oat-cakes and fresh butter. 'A child without supper
is two to breakfast,' their mother would say, smiling, when she saw them
'tackle' their stirabout the next day.

How full of verve and life were all these figures! That glancing
creature grow old? How could such things be! The sober pace of maturity
even seemed out of her star. Yet here she was, growing up, for all her
reluctance. An awkward gossoon leaned over the gate in the moonlight,
though she was indoors, ready to hide. But nobody noticed her alarm.

'There's that long-legged McMurray lad again; scouting after Mary, I'll
be bound,' said her mother, all unawares.

But it was not Mary that he came for, though she married him just the
same, and came out to America with their children some years after her
sister's lone pilgrimage.

The intrusion of Jerry McMurray signaled the grounding of her dream-bark
on the shoals of reality. Who cared about the cut-and-dried life of a
grown woman? Enchantment now lay behind her, and, if the intervals
between periods of pain permitted, she again turned an expectant face
toward the old childish visions. Sometimes she could make the trip twice
over without being overtaken by suffering. But her intervals of comfort
grew steadily shorter; frequently she was interrupted before she could
get rightly launched on her delight. And always there seemed to be one
vision more illusive than the rest which she particularly longed to
recapture. At last, chance words of Anna's put her on its trail in this
wise.

When she was not, as her niece said, 'in her trance, wool-gathering'
Anna did her best to distract her, sending the children in to ask 'would
she have a sup of tea now,' or a taste of wine jelly. One day, after the
invalid had spent a bad night, she brought in her new long silk coat for
her aunt's inspection, for the old woman had always been 'tasty' and
'dressy,' and had made many a fine gown in her day. The sharp old eyes
lingered on the rich and truly striking braid ornament that secured the
loose front of the garment.

'What's that plaster?' she demanded, disparagingly.

Anna, inclined to be wroth, retorted: 'I suppose you'd be preferring one
o' them tight ganzy [sweater] things that fit the figger like a jersey,
all buttoned down before.'

A sudden light flamed in the old face. 'I have it!' she cried. 'Tis what
I've been seeking this good while. 'Twill come now--the red coat! I must
be getting back to the beginning.'

With that, she was off, relaxing and composing herself, as if
surrendering to the spell of a hypnotist.

To reach any desired picture in her gallery, she must start at the
outset. Then they followed on, in due order--all that procession of
little girls: pink clad, blue-print clad, bare-legged or brogan-shod;
flirting their short skirts, plaiting their heavy braids. About half way
along, a new figure asserted itself--a girl of nine or ten, who twisted
this way and that before a blurred bit of mirror and frowned at the red
coat that flapped about her heels,--bought oversize, you may be sure, so
that she shouldn't grow out of it too soon. The sleeves swallowed her
little brown hands, the shoulders and back were grotesquely sack-like,
the front had a puss [pout] on it.

''Tis the very fetch of Paddy the gander I am in it. I'll not be wearing
it so.' She frowned with sudden intentness. 'Could I be fitting it a
bit, I wonder, the way mother does cut down John's coats for Martin?'

With needle, scissors and thread, she crept up to her little chamber
under the eaves. It was early in the forenoon when she set to work
ripping. The morning passed, and the dinner hour.

'Peggy! Where's the girl gone to, I wonder?'

'To Aunt Theresa's, I'm thinking.'

'Well, it's glad I am she's out o' my sight, for my hands itched to be
shaking her. Stand and twist herself inside out she did, fussing over
the fit of the good coat I'm after buying her. The little fustherer!'

For the small tailoress under the roof, the afternoon sped on winged
feet: pinning, basting, and stitching; trying on, ripping out again, and
re-fitting. 'I'll be taking it in a wee bit more.' She had to crowd up
to the window to catch the last of the daylight. At dusk, she swept her
dark hair from her flushed cheeks and forced her sturdy body into the
red coat. It was a 'fit,' believe you me! Modeled on the lines of the
riding-habit of a full-figured lady she had seen hunting about the
country-side, it buttoned up tight over her flat, boyish chest and
bottled up her squarish little waist. About her narrow hips, it rippled
out in a short 'frisk.' Beneath, her calico skirt, and
bramble-scratched brown legs.

Warmed with triumph, she flew downstairs. Her mother and a neighbor were
sitting in the glow of the peat fire. She tried to meet them with
assurance, but at sight of their amazed faces, misgiving clutched her.
She pivoted before the mirror.

'Holy hour!' cried her mother. 'What sausage-skin is that you've got
into?' Then, as comprehension grew: 'Glory b' t' God, Ellen! 'tis the
remains of the fine new coat, I'm after buying her, large enough to last
her the next five years!'

''Twas too large!' the child whimpered. 'A gander I looked in it!' Then,
cajolingly, 'I'm but after taking it in a bit, ma. 'Twill do grand now,
and maybe I'll not be getting much fatter. Look at the fit of it, just!'

'Fit! God save the mark!' cried her mother.

'Is the child after making that jacket herself?' asked the neighbor.

'I am,' Margaret spoke up, defiantly. 'I cut it and shaped it and put it
together. It has even a frisk to the tail.'

'Maggie,' said the neighbor to Margaret's mother. ''Tis as good a piece
o' work for a child of her years as ever I see. You ought not to be
faulting her, she's done that well. And,' bursting into irrepressible
laughter, 'it's herself will have to be wearing it, woman dear! All she
needs now is a horse and a side-saddle to be an equeestrieen!'

So the wanton destruction of the good red coat--in that house where good
coats were sadly infrequent--ended with a laugh after all. How long she
wore that tight jacket, and how grand she felt in it, let the other
children laugh as they would!

What joy the old woman took in this incident! With its fullness of
detail, it achieved a delicious suggestion of permanence, in contrast to
the illusiveness of other isolated moments. Margaret O'Brien _saw_ all
these other figures, but she really _was_ the child with the red coat.
In the long years between, she had fashioned many fine dresses--gowned
gay girls for their conquests and robed fair brides for the altar. Of
all these, nothing now remained; but she could feel the good stuff of
the red kersey under her little needle-scratched fingers, and see the
glow of its rich color against her wind-kissed brown cheek.

'To the life!' she exclaimed aloud, exultantly. 'To the very life!'

'What life, Aunt Margaret?' asked Anna, with gentle solicitude. 'Is it
afraid of the end you are, darling?'

'No, no, asthore. I've resigned myself long since, though 'twas bitter
knowledge at the outset. Well, well, God is good and we can't live
forever.'

Her eyes, opening to the two flaring patent gas-burners, winked as if
she had dwelt long in a milder light. 'What's all this glare about?' she
asked, playfully. 'I guess the chandler's wife is dead. Snuff out the
whole of them staring candles, let you. 'Tis daylight yet; just the time
o' day I always did like the best.'

Anna obeyed and sat down beside the bed in the soft spring dusk. A
little wind crept in under the floating white curtains, bringing with it
the sweetness of new grass and pear-blossoms from the trim yard. It
seemed an interval set apart from the hurrying hours of the busy day for
rest and thought and confidences--an open moment. The old woman must
have felt its invitation, for she turned her head and held out a shy
hand to her niece.

'Anna, my girl, you imagine 'tis the full o' the moon with me, I'm
thinking. But, no, never woman was more in her right mind than I. Do you
want I should be telling you what I've been hatching these many long
days and nights? 'Twill be a good laugh for you, I'll go bail.'

And, as best she could, she gave the trend of her imaginings.

Anna did not laugh, however. Instead--with the ever-ready sympathy and
comprehension of the Celt--she showed brimming eyes. ''Tis a thought
I've often myself, let me tell you,' she admitted. 'Of all the little
girls that were me, and now can be living no longer.'

'You've said it!' cried the old woman, delighted at her unexpected
responsiveness. 'Only with me, 'tis fair pit'yus. There's all those poor
dear lasses there's nobody but me left to remember, and soon there'll
not be even that. Sometimes they seem to be pleading just not to be
forgotten, so I have to be keeping them alive in my head. I'm
succeeding, too, and, if you'll believe me, 'tis them little whips seem
to be the real ones, and the live children here the shadders.' Her voice
choked with sudden tears. 'They're all the children ever I had. My
grief! that I'll have to be leaving them! They'll die now, for no man
lives who can remember them any more.'

Anna's beauty, already fading with the cares of house and children,
seemed to put on all its former fresh charm. She leaned forward with
girlish eagerness. 'Auntie Margaret,' she breathed, with new tenderness,
'there's many a day left you yet. I'll be sitting here aside of you
every evening at twilight just, and you can be showing me the lasses you
have in mind. Many's the time my mother told me of the old place, and I
can remember it well enough myself, though I was the youngest of the
lot. So you can be filling it with all of our people--Mary and Margaret,
John, Martin and Esther, Uncle Sheamus and the rest. I'll see them just
as clear as yourself, for I've a place in my head where pictures come as
thick and sharp as stars on a frosty night, when I get thinking. Then,
with me ever calling them up, they'll be dancing and stravaging about
till doomsday.'

So the old woman had her heart's desire. She re-created her earlier
selves and passed them on, happy in the thought that she was saving them
from oblivion. 'Do you mind that bold lass clouting her pet bull, now?'
she would ask, with delight, speaking more and more as if of a third
person. 'And that other hussy that's after making a ganzy out of her
good coat? I'd admire to have the leathering of that one.'

Still the old woman lingered, a good month beyond her allotted time. As
spring ripened, the days grew long. In the slow-fading twilights, the
two women set their stage, gave cues for entrances and exits. Over the
white counterpane danced the joyous figures, so radiant, so incredibly
young, the whole cycle of a woman's girlhood. Grown familiar now, they
came of their own accord, soothing her hours of pain with their laughing
beauty, or, suddenly contemplative, assisting with seemly decorum at her
devotional ecstasies.

'A saintly woman,' the young priest told Anna on one of the last days.
'She will make a holy end. Her meditations must be beautiful, for she
has the true light of Heaven on her face. She looks as if she heard
already the choiring of the angels.'

And Anna, respectfully agreeing, kept her counsel. He was a good and
sympathetic man and a priest of God, but, American-born, he was, like
her stolid, kindly husband, outside the magic circle of comprehension.
'He sees nothing, poor man,' she thought, indulgently. 'But he does mean
well.' So she set her husband to 'mind' the young ones, and, easily
doffing the sordid preoccupations of every day, slipped back into the
enchanted ring.



THE FAILURE

BY CHARLES CALDWELL DOBIE


I

At an unearthly hour in the morning John Scidmore sat up suddenly in his
bed and remembered Julia Norris's telephone message. He rose at once,
switched on the shaded light on the bureau, and looked at his watch: the
minute hand had just swung past three o'clock.

Undisturbed by her husband's nocturnal prowling, Kitty Scidmore slept
with almost childish naturalness. He plunged the room into darkness
again and felt his way out into the hall and down the short flight of
stairs to the dining-room.

The night was unusually warm. As he opened the garden window, pungent
odors of dry stubble wet with a late October dew floated toward him. He
leaned out and drew in a deep breath, but his attempts at calmness
failed utterly.

He knew that it was absurd to fret; he might just as well go back to bed
and sleep peacefully. One could not place a line of insurance at three
o'clock in the morning. Upon what day had Julia Norris telephoned? Was
it last Friday? Yes, he remembered now, perfectly. He had been busy with
a peevish customer who haggled about a twenty-five-cent overcharge. In
the midst of the controversy, in her characteristically impulsive way,
Julia Norris had rung up:--

'O John! is that you, John? Place ten thousand dollars with the Falcon
Insurance Company on my flats in the Richmond District.'

He had recognized her voice even before she gave her name. And he had
been _so sure_ he would not forget. Why, he had been so _very_ sure that
he had not troubled to make a memorandum. And to think that the
excitement of arguing a twenty-five-cent overcharge should have so
completely put to rout Julia Norris's order!

A sudden rage at his carelessness seized him. How he loathed his life,
his work, and the soul-killing routine and cramped vision of the
figurative counting-house! He switched on the light and peered into the
mirror over the mantel, smiling satirically at the reflection greeting
him,--the reflection of plain Johnny Scidmore, insurance broker's clerk,
a commonplace, rather undersized, law-abiding citizen just turning
forty, whose face showed the lack of that forceful ability necessary to
convert opportunity into success.

As he drew back from the glass with a shrug of disgust, the futility of
his life flashed over him. He still could remember the time when he went
blithely to the day's work, buoyed by youth's intangible hope of better
things. But the years soon took their toll of enthusiasm, and there were
days when John Scidmore went through his paces like a trick horse urged
by the whip of necessity. Lately he had been worried to find how easily
he was forgetting things--telephone messages, instructions from his
chief, orders to place insurance. So far nothing very important had
slipped by him, but now he felt quite sure that he could never trust
himself again. There were many reasons why he should have remembered
Julia Norris's orders. First, because she was his wife's friend; second,
because a ten-thousand-dollar order to his credit was not an everyday
occurrence; and third, because the circumstance that had overshadowed it
was relatively of so little importance.

For over a week, then, Julia Norris's property had gone without
insurance protection. What if it had burned up? What if it were burning
up at this very moment? He sat down suddenly.

He got up again, fumbled about, and found cigarettes and a box of
matches. Two cigarettes quieted him. He began to think that he was a
silly fool, mooning about when he should have been sleeping. In the
morning he would take an early train to San Francisco and place the line
without further ado. Yes, after all, he was as silly and notional as a
young schoolgirl. He put down the window, turned off the lights, and
crawled upstairs to bed.


II

True to his resolve, John Scidmore took an early train to San Francisco
next morning, although he could not have said why. It was as impossible
to place insurance at eight-thirty as it was at three A.M., since no
self-respecting insurance office opened until nine. Still there is a
certain comfort in even futile activity when one has the fidgets.

It was a beautiful October morning such as often veils the Berkeley
hills in faint purple and draws a soft glamour over the city of San
Francisco; and as Scidmore walked briskly down the elm-shaded streets of
Berkeley toward the train, he felt elusively happy, notwithstanding the
ripples below the surface of his content.

The office-boy was taking books out of the safe when he arrived at the
office. In a corner by the wash-basin one of the stenographers stood,
fluffing up her hair. A janitor dusted the desks with casual attention.

As Scidmore entered he noticed a woman sitting near the counter. She
rose instantly, lifting her veil, smiling a welcome at him. He crossed
over to her--it was Julia Norris. His heart began to beat violently, but
the next moment he had recovered himself and was able to smile back at
her in perfect self-control.

'You are early,' he said, offering her his hand.

'Yes, and I'm in trouble. You know those flats I insured last week--they
burned down early this morning. They tell me there isn't a stick left
standing.'

His hand fell as if a blow had wilted it. 'The flats you insured last
week--' he echoed, sparring for time. 'I don't believe I--understand.'

'Why, didn't you get my telephone message? I 'phoned last Tuesday. I
thought I talked to _you_. I was sure it was your voice. Could I have
rung up the wrong office?'

Her uncertainty steadied him. Unconsciously she opened a door of escape.
Scidmore laid his hat on the counter. Julia Norris fluttered back to her
seat and he sat down beside her.

'I suppose I've bungled things again,' she went on. 'Usually I leave
everything to Mr. Rice, but this insurance matter I took into my own
hands. I wanted you to have the business, so I left positive
instructions with Mr. Rice to let me know when the next insurance policy
expired. That was last Friday. I 'phoned you at once. I can't imagine--'

As she rattled on, pointing an accusing finger at herself, John Scidmore
grew surer and surer of his next step. There was not the faintest note
of calculation in his attitude; confused and dazed he merely followed
her lead.

'And you never received any policy?' he questioned. 'Not after a week?
You must have thought we were rather inattentive--or slow.'

She shook her head. 'I forgot the whole transaction--until this morning.
Rice 'phoned me at eight o'clock.'

'But there may still be a chance,' Scidmore suggested, shamed by the
very ease with which he was escaping. 'Perhaps another clerk got the
message. I'll question them all. Or--maybe you rang up the Falcon's
office direct.'

She laid a gloved hand on his arm as she shrugged.

He shook his head. 'You can't imagine how this bothers me,' he went on.
He began to feel a certain boldness, such as thieves feel when they put
over a sharp trick. He wanted to prolong the discussion, to dally with
danger. 'To think that in trying to be of service to me you should have
gone astray. I wouldn't have had it happen for--Let me see, what was the
amount of your order?'

'Ten thousand dollars.'

'_Ten thousand dollars!_ That's a lot of money.'

'Yes,' she admitted slowly, as she moved toward the door. 'I'm pretty
comfortable, but nobody likes to throw money into the street.'

He thrust his hands into his pockets in an effort at nonchalance. He
could feel his temples throbbing. But his confusion cleared before Julia
Norris's unruffled smile, deepening a growing sense of irritation. She
was not greatly concerned, first, because she did not have to be, and
second, because her faith in his integrity was unshaken. Her complacency
and trustfulness enraged him. What was ten thousand dollars to her?

In the midst of his musings, her voice, curiously remote, roused him.

'I'm going to have lunch with Kitty,' she said, almost gayly.

'Lunch with Kitty?' he echoed. Then, floundering with mingled
consternation and embarrassment, he finished, 'Oh, yes,--won't that be
fine! Yes, by all means do!'

And yet, unnerved as he was, he went through the conventional motions of
courtesy, bowing her to the door, pressing her hand cordially, sweeping
her a good-bye with exaggerated warmth. Even when she was gone her
unperturbed smile mocked him. She did not have the slightest suspicion
of his unworthiness, and therein lay the essence of the sudden and
unqualified hate he began to feel for her.

John Scidmore questioned all the clerks as they entered the office. Had
any one received a telephone message about a week ago from Mrs. Julia
Norris? He was playing his game so earnestly that he would not have been
surprised to find somebody acknowledging the transaction. The manager
came in at ten o'clock; Scidmore even presented the case to _him_: Mrs.
Julia Norris, a client of his, had telephoned an order for insurance
over a week ago. Nobody remembered it. The property to be insured had
burned up. Of course, Mrs. Norris might have been mistaken (she admitted
as much), but there was just a chance--

The manager, instantly interested, adjusted his glasses. A
ten-thousand-dollar line neglected! Incredible! He began to investigate
personally, calling up one clerk after another, while Scidmore listened
like a highwayman, tempting chance from a spirit of sheer bravado.
Nobody remembered, even under the most searching cross-examination. The
private exchange operator, who was usually very keen about such matters,
could not place the call.

Then came a discussion as to how to prevent such a lapse should one
occur. Scidmore sat at the manager's desk, quite the hero of the hour--a
very important personage, whose ten-thousand-dollar client had come to
grief. It was years since he had figured in a question of office policy.
Gradually the uniqueness of his position pushed Julia Norris and her
loss into a hazy background.

He returned to his routine work with a gay spirit. Several times during
the morning the manager called him for further conference and inquiry.
Finally a letter was drafted to Mrs. Julia Norris, to the effect that
the California Insurance Brokers' Company regretted exceedingly to
inform her that upon closer examination no trace could be found of her
telephone message. They could only conclude that she inadvertently had
rung up the wrong office. Inquiry at the Falcon Company's office,
however, developed that no such insurance had been placed, even by a
rival firm. They hoped that this unfortunate occurrence would not stand
in the way of other favors at her hands, and so forth.

John Scidmore signed the letter with a flourish.

All morning the fiction of Julia Norris's mistake still persisted. Why
had she not taken greater precautions? The idea of telephoning in a line
of insurance and not inquiring the name of the person who took the
message! Common sense would dictate such a course. He began to feel
abused, as if Julia Norris had betrayed him in some way.


III

It was not until John Scidmore had scrambled aboard the ferryboat on his
way home and had seated himself in his usual place, under the
pilot-house, that his inflated spirits began to collapse. The afternoon
had been spent in a mad rush of business,--an avalanche of petty orders
and details such as periodically afflicts an insurance broker's office.

The sense of security which had enveloped him all day fell away before a
vague uneasiness. Before an audience, he had played his part spiritedly;
without the spur of interested auditors his performance lagged. There
was an element of excitement in serving moral fiction to unsuspecting
listeners, but hoodwinking himself proved a boresome task. The boldest
highwayman had a cleaner record: at least such an outlaw made bold
plays and took great chances. He had not risked so much as his little
finger on his enterprise, and his victim's cheek was still warm with the
kiss of betrayal. Lies, thievery, murder--one by one these suggestions
of outlawry mentally passed in review and sank into insignificance
before this sinister word--_betrayal_. In all the calendar of human
weaknesses, John Scidmore could recall none that served so contemptible
an end as betrayal. And he, John Scidmore, had been guilty of this
crowning meanness.

If the memory of Julia Norris's confidence stabbed him, what of the
attitude of his superiors at the office? _They_ had never even thought
of questioning him. As he looked back on the events of the morning he
was appalled. It seemed that all these years he had built up barriers of
moral responsibility only to see them swept away before a freshet of
fears.

A tramping of feet warned him that the boat was swinging into the slip.
He rose mechanically. The exertion of following the scrambling crowd and
finding himself a seat on the train interrupted his self-accusation. By
the time he was comfortably settled again, he mentally had begun his
defense.

Why should he make such an absurd fuss over confessing his fault to
Julia Norris? She was rich; her husband had left her a cool million. Ten
thousand dollars didn't matter, and besides, she was Kitty's friend. Had
he the right to purchase a quiet conscience at the expense of Kitty's
pride?

What had he given Kitty in the fifteen years of their wedded life? Had
he played the game boldly and well? Did she hold her head high at the
mention of his name? No, he had fallen short of his own standards. How
much more must he have fallen short of her hopes for him! And now he
was lacking the courage to swallow his medicine. He was ready to whimper
and whine at the load which his own inefficiency had forced upon his
conscience. He argued that strong men made bold plays and damned the
consequence; in other words, they took a chance. But his soul was
tricking itself out in a dramatic subterfuge. What he really had
discovered was something to excuse his weakness, and this something
loomed up conveniently in the person of Kitty Scidmore, his wife.

When Scidmore arrived home, he went directly to his room and closed the
door. The thought of meeting Kitty troubled him. But after he had
slipped on an old coat and freshened up, he felt better.

At the dinner table he noticed a tired, pinched look about his wife's
mouth. Julia Norris was every day as old as his wife, but time had dealt
kindly with her. Her face was still fresh and rosy; there was not even a
glint of gray in her hair. Resentment began to move him, resentment at
Julia Norris, at her fortune, at her friendship for his wife, at every
detail connected with his memory of her.

Kitty began to talk. Scidmore sat silent, crumbling his bread. Finally
the dread subject came to life. Kitty looked up and said,--

'Julia was late to-day, as usual. Poor dear Julia, what a generous soul
she is!'

Scidmore began to fidget. 'Late? How did that happen? She left our
office long before ten o'clock.'

'Oh, but you don't know Julia! She did a thousand and one things before
she arrived here. And such a disheveled creature as she was! And so full
of apologies and troubles! Nothing to speak of--she laughed them all
away in five minutes.'

'Then she didn't tell--'

'About the insurance? I should say she did. She was so worried for fear
you'd be distressed about it all. She admitted that _she_ was to blame.
But she knows how conscientious you are, and she was afraid--'

Scidmore impatiently interrupted his wife. 'Julia Norris ought to have
some business sense, Kitty; upon my word she should. And it _has_
worried me. A woman like that--one never can be sure of just what she
does think. It's an even chance that deep down she believes that she
delivered the message to me, and that _I_ neglected it.'

He could feel his face flushing with mingled indignation and disapproval
as he voiced his displeasure.

Kitty got up to pour a glass of water.

'Why, John,' she half chided, 'I'm sure Julia wouldn't be guilty of such
a thought. You don't know her--generous--impulsive. Why, she'd forgive
you for neglecting, if you really had neglected anything. As a matter of
fact she said very decidedly, "If I'd been dealing with anybody but John
Scidmore, I do believe I'd be inconsistent enough to try to blame the
other fellow, but of course I know--"

'Yes,' he broke in excitedly, 'that's just it. That's the way she puts
it, to you. But such a remark as that just bears out what I say--she's
not altogether satisfied. I know what she thinks; I saw it in her face
this morning--_this is what comes of trying to help one's poor
friends._'

His wife stopped pouring water and laid down the pitcher.

'Nonsense. Julia Norris has perfect faith in you.'

'Why should she have?' he persisted hotly. 'Isn't it just as possible
for me to forget, to overlook a telephone message, as the other fellow?
I'm not infallible any more than she is.'

'No,' Kitty returned very quietly. 'I don't think she imagines that you
are infallible. But she knows that if you took her message and forgot
it, you'd admit it.'

He rallied from this blow with a feeling of fierce antagonism.

'Well,' he sneered sarcastically, 'if she's silly enough to have any
such notions, she _does_ need a guardian! As a matter of fact, I'd
conceal my mistakes as quickly as any one else would.'

Kitty began to laugh, a full-throated, indulgent laugh, that made him
bite his lips.

'What a lot of foolish brag you're indulging in, Johnny Scidmore. Well,
after all, let's forget about it; Julia herself laughed it off.'

He crumpled the napkin in his hand. 'Yes, that's just it. _She_ can
laugh over it, while we--why, if we lost ten thousand it would be a
tragedy. I couldn't help thinking to-day after she'd left the office,
suppose, just suppose, I _had_ received Julia Norris's 'phone
message--and forgotten it. The very thought made me sick all over.'

He paused, frightened at the lengths to which his uneasiness had forced
him. His wife's smile gave way to a puzzled look as she returned very
quietly,--

'Do you really think it worth while to face these imaginary situations?'

His resentment flared again at the comfortable evenness of her tone.
'Yes, I do,' he snapped back. 'It helps one to exercise one's morals. I
wanted to know just how I would act in such an emergency. And I've found
out. The very thought frightens me too much. I know that I should feel
morally bound to confess, but I'd never have the courage of my
convictions. Now, what do you suppose you would advise me to do in a
situation like that? What would you tell me to do?'

Kitty Scidmore looked straight at her husband. He dropped his eyes.

'I would not advise you, John,' she said, distinctly. He glanced up at
her. 'You'd not say a word?'

She shook her head. 'No, it wouldn't be necessary.'

He began to stir his tea. His hand was shaking, and his spoon rattled
noisily against the teacup.


IV

After he had helped Kitty with the dishes, John Scidmore left the house
for a walk. It was a calm, beautiful night, lit by a slender moon hung
high in the heavens and stars twinkling cheerily. As he went along the
elm-shaded streets, he drew in deep breaths, striving to steady the
tumult within him.

Kitty's words hummed themselves into his inner consciousness. 'No, John,
it wouldn't be necessary.' What did she really mean? Did she think he
had the courage to settle such a question decisively--righteously?
Did--He stopped, turning the phrase over in his mind. He knew that
materially he had been a failure. People called him a nice fellow and
let it go at that. Was it possible for his wife, the wife who had lived
so close to all his weaknesses, to glorify him with so large a hope? The
thought began to thrill him.

He heard the Old Library clock on the University campus chime nine. He
began to walk slowly in the direction of the chiming clock. He was still
undecided, still battling with his cowardice. The shrill whistle of an
incoming train arrested him. This same train would swing back to San
Francisco in ten minutes. He retraced his steps. In ten minutes--His
legs seemed weighted. He wondered whether he would really catch it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Standing before the massive façade of the Hotel Fairmont, John Scidmore
had a fleeting hope that Julia Norris would not be at home. But almost
as instantly he felt a desperate need to clear himself at once. If he
waited even an hour he could not vouch for the outcome. He walked
rapidly into the lobby, gave his name to the hotel clerk, and awaited
the reply with beating heart. Mrs. Norris _was_ in. A bell-boy,
answering the clerk's summons, showed him to her apartments.

A maid ushered him into a reception room. He sank into one of the
luxurious chairs, drumming upon its arms with nervous fingers.

A lamp on the centre table threw a rich, golden light over the
surroundings. Thrown over a chair a lace scarf fell with the undulating
softness of a cascade. Near a vase of blood-red roses a long white glove
had been dropped carelessly.

He did not wait long. Julia Norris came toward him with her usual warm
smile, and a hand outstretched in welcome. He stood up. She was very
simply dressed, in white, and a band of velvet at her throat set off a
fine cameo ringed with pearls, but her air of quiet elegance caught and
held his resentful eyes.

A fierce, unreasoning hate began to sway him; for a moment his vision
blurred.

As she stepped back to pick up her lace scarf from the chair, John
Scidmore recovered his poise.

'I was afraid you would be out,' he began inadequately.

She threw the scarf about her shoulders. 'I was preparing to drift
downstairs to watch the dancing,' she answered. 'You caught me just in
time.'

He stood irresolutely, almost awkwardly, watching her dainty
manipulations of the filmy lace. Then quite suddenly, so suddenly as to
surprise even himself, he blurted out,--

'I lied to you this morning. I took your order for insurance. I forgot
to place it.'

She stood for a moment in silence.

'What made you--'

John Scidmore shrugged. His vision was clearing. He felt quite calm.

'You suggested the idea yourself. You were so ready to take the blame. I
suppose it was self-preservation. I began to strike blindly--as any
desperate man would. I'm not what they call a success--I never have
been. You know how it is, some people--Oh, well! Some of us don't get
by, that's all.'

He turned away. Julia Norris touched him on the shoulder.

'John, can't you see that the ten thousand dollars doesn't matter to me?
But you and Kitty--you and Kitty _do_ matter.'

He began to crush his hat between his clasped hands.

She threw the scarf from her shoulders. 'Look here, John--'

He stopped her with an abrupt gesture. 'I've won this victory for
Kitty's sake,' he said. 'This is the first time in my life I've lived up
to her hope of me. If you were a failure you'd realize how much that
means.'

She was standing by the vase of roses, scattering petals with ruthless
fingers. She crossed over to him and put both her hands in his.

'You're not a failure, John Scidmore,' she said simply.

The rose-petals were dropping in a steady shower on the table. He saw
them lying lightly on the white glove. He felt a great relief as he put
his clenched hand to his eyes.


V

As John Scidmore rode home he felt desperately tired. He could not
remember a day which had seemed longer.

He dragged up the elm-shaded street, down which he had whistled his
confident way twelve hours before, a shuffling, ineffectual figure. As
he opened the front door his hand shook.

He lingered in the hall, hanging his hat with unnecessary care, twisting
his necktie into shape, smoothing the thin wisps of hair about his
temples.

He found Kitty in the living-room. A tiny fire crackled in the grate.
Standing in the doorway he watched the needle which Kitty deftly plied
slipping about its task with fascinating gleams. Her face was happily
flushed and she was humming softly to herself. The elegant memory of
Julia Norris rose before him. He saw again the golden shower of light
from the huge table-lamp, the vase of American Beauty roses, the lace
scarf thrown carelessly across a brocade chair. He pressed his lips
together and entered the room.

Kitty looked up.

He stopped short. 'Something new?' he ventured.

She gave a little laugh. 'New? I should say not. Just freshening up a
bit for to-morrow.'

'To-morrow?' he echoed dully. 'What's on for to-morrow?'

'Guest day at the club. Mrs. Wiley has asked me to pour tea. What kept
you out so late, Johnny?'

He crossed over to the fire, pulling his easy chair into place.

'I went over to the city--to see Julia Norris.'

He stood a moment, undecided, his back turned toward Kitty, his hand
upon the chair. He was waiting for Kitty to question him. Finding that
she did not answer, he turned and looked at her. She was intent on her
sewing, but he fancied that the flush of happiness suddenly had fled her
cheeks.

'I went over to see Julia Norris,' he repeated desperately. 'You said
your advice wouldn't be necessary.'

He sank into a chair. Across the room he heard the monotonous ticking of
a clock.

He was wondering what Kitty would say. Of course she understood; the
whiteness of her face told him that her feminine intuition had bridged
the gaps in his explanation. He began to have a terror lest she would
come up to him, or speak--perhaps even weep. The fire in the grate
flared up suddenly, turned faintly blue, and died. Still Kitty said
nothing; still the clock ticked rhythmically.

He leaned back, closed his eyes, and drew a long breath. Kitty was
stirring. She came over and dropped gently before the fire, leaning her
head against him.

'I forgot to tell you,' she said slowly. 'I asked Julia Norris over for
Sunday dinner. She's so awfully stuffed up in that horrible hotel.'

Her bravery smote him more than tears could have. He did not answer, but
he just put out his hand and touched her hair caressingly, as she
finished,--

'It's very grand, I know, and all that. But, after all, it isn't home,
Johnny, is it?'



BUSINESS IS BUSINESS

BY HENRY SEIDEL CANBY

I


Six hours on the train had nearly exhausted Joseph Cargan. He had read
all the available magazines, looked up his connections twice in the
railway guide, and even gazed for an hour out of the window. But there
were only woods and farms to be seen, scarcely a bill-board, and no
automobiles. He dropped his cigar wearily into the spittoon by his chair
in the club car and relapsed into lethargy. With dull iteration he ran
over the plans for the deal in prairie land that he hoped to put through
to-morrow, and guessed lazily at whether $6000 would purchase the tract
of which they had written him. He thought of his wife, and hoped that
his telegram would be telephoned over to the Runkles' so that she might
meet him at the station with the clean shirt he had asked for.
Afterwards he cut his nails, yawned loudly, and was just going to sleep
when they stopped at Joline and a boy came in with papers.

Cargan turned first, as usual, to the stock-market reports. There were
only two items of interest since he had left the tape. Montana Pacific
had gone off a little more. But 200 shares of Benningham Common had sold
at 17, a drop of ten points! His eye caught an explanatory note: the
dividend on the preferred had been cut; the surplus was heavily reduced.
His mind, searching rapidly over their business, fixed upon two marginal
accounts--Jim Smith's and Waldron's. In each case the collateral
deposited had already been insufficient. Drawing out his note-book he
swiftly figured. 'That old gambler Smith's always on the edge,' he
reflected. 'We can hold him a little longer. Gotta sell Waldron out.
Must have made a thousand dollars out of that account first and last.
Too bad.' A momentary sense of Waldron's calamity swept over him, but
quickly evaporated. 'Business is business,' he thought, and remembered,
with a little angry satisfaction, Anita Waldron's coming-out dance and
how the Runkles, who were invited, kept talking about it all winter.
'Old Waldron won't be so darn particular next year.'

As the train pulled into his home town he hurried out upon the station
platform, and saw with pride and pleasure that his wife was just
stepping out of the Runkles' motor. Looking about to see who might be
there to note the company she was keeping, his eye fell on a tall and
stooping gentleman with a trimmed beard and eyeglasses, who was
searching with weary eyes the train windows; but even while he frowned
at the recognition, his wife had seized him by the shoulder, caroling,
'Hello, Jimmy. Give me a kiss, dear, and take your old shirt.' She was a
graceful woman, stiffened by an obvious corset, and faintly powdered. A
long yellow feather dangled from her orange hat, big pearls were set in
her ears, and her shoe-buckles glittered as she walked.

He kissed her admiringly. 'Say, Martha, you look great,' he chuckled. 'I
hate to have to go right on. You tell the kids I'll bring 'em something
when I get back.'

The train was starting; indeed he had just time to dash up the steps of
his car. 'Good-bye, dear,' she caroled. 'Good-bye, dee-ar,' hummed the
brakeman, and slammed down the swinging floor of the vestibule. Cargan
was already balancing himself along the corridor of the club car. A
lurch of the train swung him heavily out among the chairs; to save
himself he caught a shoulder and dropped into a seat. His neighbor had
but just sat down. It was Waldron.

They shook hands as if nothing were in the air, and then compared
watches to see if the train were on time. This done, Waldron took off
his glasses, swung them on their black cord, and began to polish them
nervously, blinking with short-sighted eyes into the space that hurried
past the car windows. Cargan offered him a cigar, but he put it aside
quickly.

'No, thank you; no, thank you--Well--they cut the dividend.' He looked
at Cargan with a wan smile. 'What'll I do, Cargan? They told me I'd find
you on the train, and I thought I'd ask your advice.'

Cargan was relieved. 'Sell, Mr. Waldron,' he answered earnestly, 'sell
right off. That Brogan crowd's runnin' the company now, and they're no
good, sell quick.'

Waldron looked at him in doubt. 'How much do I lose?' he asked feebly.

''Bout six thousand'--against his will Cargan made the tone apologetic.
'Say, put up only five thousand more collateral and we'll carry you till
better luck.'

The old man blinked rapidly, then conquered his pride. With punctilious
care he unbuttoned his gray cutaway, took out a wallet from under the
button of the Society of Colonial Wars, drew forth a sheet of note
paper, and with a pencil inscribed a broad O. 'There's my collateral,
Mr. Cargan,' he said whimsically.

He was so helpless, and so elegant in his helplessness, that the bully
awoke in Cargan. With an effort he broke through the nervous deference
with which Waldron always inspired him and spoke roughly:--

'We don't do business without either collateral or cash, Waldron.'

The gentleman put his wallet back hurriedly as if some one had laughed
at it, and cast a quick, hurt look at his broker.

'You haven't been thinking of selling me out--after all the business
I've given you?'

Cargan nodded.

Incredulity, horror, resolve, passed over Waldron's face. 'You cannot!
It's impossible!' he said firmly.

The assertion in his tone was irritating. 'What's goin' to stop us?'
Cargan asked coolly; shoved his hands into his pockets, and puffed
clouds from his cigar.

Different worlds of imagination revolved in the two men's minds.
Theophilus Waldron thought of the children, and of his father the
governor, and of the family pride. Sudden poverty was as bad as
disgrace. 'I didn't mean it that way,' he answered hurriedly. 'I'm in
temporary difficulties. My house is mortgaged. I've borrowed money from
my wife--and other places.'--He was too proud to add, 'This is
confidential.'--'My boy's just entered college, my girl's just come out.
It isn't just the money--' a gush of emotion reddened his face--'You've
got to pull me through, Cargan. It's impossible; it's out of the
question for me to break now!'

But Cargan was remembering how he lost his job in the department store
and couldn't pay the rent. When he was kicked out, nobody said it was
impossible! Nobody said it was impossible when they went into the top of
a tenement! The contrast made him bitter; but it was the thought that he
had never felt it to be impossible, the inescapable inferiority always
forced upon him in the presence of Waldron, which roused his temper.

'Business is business, Mr. Waldron,' he said curtly. 'Ab-so-lute-ly, we
won't take the risk.'

They were rattling through coal-sheds and grain-elevators at the edge
of a town. Waldron got up stiffly and carefully brushed the cinders from
his coat.

'This is Bloomfield, I think,' he said coldly. 'I'm meeting my family
here. Mr. Cargan, there are considerations above business.' His voice
failed a little. 'This is a matter of life and death.'

Cargan had heard that bluff before. 'What d' you mean?' he grunted.

Mr. Waldron was staring fixedly out of the window. 'I mean,' he
faltered, 'that I may not be able to stand up under it.' And then his
voice resumed its desperate certainty. 'I mean, sir, that what you
propose is impossible. I mean that ab-so-lute-ly you cannot sell me
out.'

He bowed and felt his way down the corridor.

'I can't, can't I!' Cargan flung after him; then jerked a sheet from the
telegraph pad in the rack beside him and wrote: 'Sell out Waldron at
noon to-morrow unless 5000 collateral.' 'Something'll drop for you, old
boy,' he growled, addressed the telegram to his partner, and gave it to
the porter.

Outside, Cargan heard a burst of merry voices and saw Waldron hurried
away by two laughing girls to an automobile waiting with a trunk
strapped behind it. Mrs. Waldron followed. She was a stiff woman, a
little faded, quietly dressed. Her face was troubled, and when they
reached the motor, she caught her husband's elbow gently as if to ask
him something, but he merely nodded and turned her glance toward
Cargan's window. She bowed and smiled very sweetly in his direction, and
Cargan smiled sourly in return. Then the children hustled the old folks
into the tonneau and they were off, just as the train started.

Cargan felt hardly used. 'A man's got to look out for himself,' he
thought angrily. 'Business is business--that's the thing for him to
remember. "It's impossible!" Nevertheless, in self-defense he began to
calculate what it might have cost to carry the account, until the
appalling magnitude of the risk shut off the discussion. 'The darned old
self-confident aristocrat!' he murmured, working himself up into a fury.
'Thinks he can bluff me, but he'll find out what's impossible, believe
_me_!' Then he dispelled his irritation by a cocktail and hurried into
the diner.

He snored in his berth while the train ran out farther and farther upon
the great Kansas plain; slept while signs of culture disappeared one by
one, and arose in the midst of an endless, unfamiliar world of grass.
When he sat down in the diner for his morning meal, the great wheel of
the horizon rimmed round his little train without a notch on the perfect
circle; over night the outer world had changed, but he was absorbed in
fitting his choices into a sixty-cent breakfast.

The train stopped quickly and firmly, and lay dead upon the prairie.

'Eccentrics or hot-box,' said the man who jumped off the step beside
him. 'Nothing much else goes wrong with an engine nowadays. What is it,
Bill?'

And the conductor, looking about him to see that no more passengers were
within earshot, answered, 'Eccentrics--two hours anyway.'

Cargan flung his cigarette on the ground. 'I'll miss my connection at
Hay Junction!' he protested. 'I've gotta be in Hamden this afternoon.'

'Walk then,' said the conductor stolidly. 'It's only ten miles from here
straight across.'

There was no house in sight, no road, nothing but the dead train, the
new land of endless shimmering prairies, and, beyond the ditch, a single
horseman looking curiously at the long cars and the faces strained
against the glass of the windows.

'Say, you!' Cargan called, 'can you get an auto anywhere here?'

The figure looked at him impassively, then shook its dusty head.

'Or a team?'

It shook its head again.

'Or a--horse?' Cargan hesitated. He had never ridden a horse.

A sudden gleaming idea shot across the man's solemn features. He slid
off his pony and led him nearer the ditch.

'Say'--he suddenly became voluble,--'you said you wanted to get to
Hamden. Well, if you'll make it five plunks, and give me your ticket,
you can take this horse, an' I'll go round by train. Say--do you want
to?'

Cargan was tempted. All you had to do was to stick on.

'What'll I do with my suit-case?'

'Gimme it to take for you. I guess it ain't worth more'n my horse.'


II

They helped him on, and pointed out the dim line of telephone poles
which marked a road a mile beyond. He walked his horse onward, not
daring to trot, struck the dusty highway, rode on over an imperceptible
roll of the plains, and was alone on a vast bare earth, naked as when
born from the womb of time.

Plover swung up before him with melancholy cries. A soft haze rose from
the plains. They grew more vast, more endless. In the north, a white
cloud-mass piled itself up and up until it seemed as if it might topple
over upon the flat world beneath. He had never before looked at the
country except as real estate, never seen the plains, and a curious new
sense of the bigness of the earth oppressed him. He felt very small and
very mean. The humiliation of his spirits was a novel feeling and an
unpleasant one; he tried to hum it away:--

    'Just wait till I strike Broadway
       And watch me with the girls,
     For I'm the man that invented it--
       The hair that always curls.'

His harsh voice in the stillness was ridiculous,--even to him,--but when
he stopped singing, the silence flowed over him as a stream that had
been held back. The sky was enormous; he was only a speck on the vast
floor. As he plodded on and on and on through the dust, he began to grow
dizzy from the glare and the heat. He could not collect his thoughts for
business. A curious sense of weakened identity perplexed him, and his
head was full of drifting pictures--Waldron's face among them. That face
lingered. He saw him looking vaguely out of the car window--saying that
he couldn't stand up under it--that it was 'impossible.' He wondered if
it was a bluff, after all. The face faded away leaving a dull pity
behind it, a struggling remorse. Cargan shifted uneasily in his saddle,
and tried to think of business. But instead of business queer childish
ideas began floating in and out of his mind, accompanied by words
remembered from Sundays in his boyhood. He was alone with God. God saw
into his heart. A little nervous shiver ran over him, and when he
checked it with a laugh there followed a wave of superstitious emotion.

A low wave of the prairies had hidden from him a little house and barn
standing crudely new against the sky in the distance. Tiny figures were
moving behind the buildings, and a dust-cloud rose from the highway in
front. Cargan suddenly became conscious of his appearance--his serge
suit, his straw hat, his awkward seat in the saddle. The loneliness of
the plains had shaken his usual self-assurance.

'Maybe they'll think I stole this horse. Guess I'll go round,' he said
aloud. He jerked his steed from the road into the grass, and urged him
into a trot. Instantly he found himself beaten and jolted like a ship in
a tempest. He lost a stirrup, he slipped sidewise on the saddle; then in
a panicky fright he began to shout and saw at the bit. Frightened by the
voice and the thunder of hoofs, a chaparral cock darted from beneath the
horse's nose. It was enough to make the beast swerve, then toss his
head, and in a panic madder than his rider's, break into a run and dash
unrestrainably onward. Cargan, numb with fright, leaned over his neck
and wound his hands in the mane. The speed sickened him. The flat earth
swung beneath, the sky swam dizzily. He dared not pull on the reins; he
could only hold on grimly and shut his eyes. Once he slipped, and,
screaming, saw for an instant a blur of grass before he could pull
himself back to safety. And then the speed increased, the sweaty
shoulders labored beneath him, and his senses whirled.

He did not note how far they ran; but at last came a slower motion, a
gallop, and then a trot. Weak from exhaustion, he was bumped from the
saddle, and found himself clutching and kicking with both arms around
his horse's neck. Flinging himself outward, he rolled over on the soft
ground, and lay groaning on the prairie. The well-trained horse stopped
and began to graze; he too was quivering with fatigue, but his fright
was over. The sun was burning near the zenith. The world again was
empty, and this time there was no road.

Cargan was lost.

When he recovered a little, he caught the horse, and, too shaken to
mount him, limped on, leading him by the bridle, in what direction he
did not know. Pangs of hunger and faintness assailed him. The awful
loneliness chilled him through in spite of the blaze of heat and light.
He remembered stories of men who had wandered on the prairie, round and
round in an endless circle, until they had gone crazy and blown out
their brains. A profound pity for himself stirred him. Never had he so
felt the need of humanity, of human aid. He would have given a hundred
dollars to be walking up Main Street, with the boys calling to him from
Rooney's cigar store, and the world where it was yesterday.

Just in front a little calf stumbled to its feet and ran toward them,
mooing piteously. It, too, was lost. Cargan stroked its nostrils, and a
sympathy for all suffering things flowed through his heart. He thought
with a shudder of Waldron, pacing somewhere like himself, alone, lost,
helpless, his pride gone. In his awakened imagination, he saw him
wandering nearer and nearer the fatal act. 'He'll shoot himself. I ought
to done something,' he whispered, with a sudden rush of unfamiliar
emotion; and all the sentiment in his nature heaved and struggled to the
light.

A cow lowed somewhere beyond them; his horse pricked up his ears, and
the calf ambled off in the direction of the sound. Cargan limped after
hurriedly, leading his horse. A hundred yards brought them to the edge
of a slight bowl in the plains, with a little moisture around which
pewees were flying, and his heart leaped to see beside it a tiny house
of unpainted boards. Wires stretched from one window, along the
depression which led westward, until they disappeared in the endless
horizon; and, as he paused to survey, a sharp bell rang.

'Hello, is that Annie?' came faintly across the silence.

He looked at his watch, and saw that it was only eleven. 'I'll talk to
Casey about Waldron,' he said guiltily. Relief for his escape, and still
more the hush of that enormous plain, the solemnity of the great and
shining sky, filled him with high and noble thoughts.

'Say, is Hamden near here?' he asked of a slim woman in a gingham dress
who appeared at the door.

She nodded.

'And say, can I use your telephone?'

She hesitated, looking him over, then motioned him incuriously to the
stool behind the pine table. Solitude seemed to have made her unready of
speech. He called Cargan & Casey, then waited, fidgeting. Silence
invaded the little kitchen. The clock ticked in a hush; the chickens
droned in whispers; the woman herself worked over the stove with slow
fingers, moving the kettles gently. Cargan & Casey were 'busy.' He fumed
for an instant, then gave his own home number.

'It's Jim,' he said, and heard his wife's carol of surprise. He could
see her tiptoeing at their telephone. 'I'm all right,' he shouted in
response to her eager words; and the thought of their little
sitting-room, and the kids playing behind her, warmed his blood. 'I got
run away with on the plains, but I'm all right--' Her frightened
ejaculation thrilled him with loving pride--'honest I am.' And then
suddenly a wave of generous emotion mounted to his head. 'Martha,' he
called quickly,--'tell Casey not to sell out Waldron--tell him right
away. I'll explain to-morrow.'

The connection roared and failed. He hung up the instrument. The quiet
room, the gently moving woman, the immensity without, rushed back on his
sight. Exhilarated, clear-hearted, looking heaven in the face, he asked
the necessary questions, mounted his horse, and pushed onward.

Hamden was already a blotch upon the horizon. 'Say, it's great to get
into a _big_ country,' he murmured, lifted his bare head to the free
air, and in a curious exaltation of mind rode on dreamily. He noticed
the flowers in the coarse grass, watched the wild doves flying with
their quick, strong wing-beats, and swung his eye joyfully around the
blue horizons that receded until one felt the curve and pitch of the
world.

The mood lasted until Cargan reached the first straggling houses of the
village street, so that he entered upon the rutty highway between dirt
sidewalks with regret, as one whose holiday was ending. He scarcely
noticed the loiterers who stared at him, or thought of his streaked
face, his trousers split at the knee, his hat lost on the wild ride.

But as he plodded onward the atmosphere of town had its effect. His eye
began to take note of the size of the shops glittering under their false
fronts, the new houses behind rows of stiff young trees, the number and
make of automobiles. His subconsciousness grasped the financial level of
Hamden, although his thoughts were still in the wide spaces of the
plains. A boy ran out from the side-walk to sell him a paper. He stuck
it in his side pocket, and suddenly began to feel like a man of this
world again.

'Say, sonny,' he called; 'who sells land in this burg?--Dubell--John
Dubell?--Thanks.'

He went more and more slowly.

A drug-store, blazing with marble and onyx in the afternoon sun, made
Cargan's dry throat wrinkle with thirst. He pulled his horse toward that
side of the street. There was a row of customers along the soda-water
counter, and through the open windows came scraps of conversation: two
boys were teasing each other about a girl; a group of men were talking
auctions, options, prices, real estate. He drank their talk in greedily,
with a pang of homesickness and a rush of returning common sense.
Dismounting stiffly, he tied his horse, and stood for an instant on the
cement pavement, feeling his dirt and tatters, wondering if they would
throw him out for a bum. Then he slid inside the door, and ordered a
chocolate soda.

The clerk was reading the paper while he juggled the milk-shakes.
Cargan, carefully concealing his torn trousers, climbed a stool, and
began to look back upon the vagaries of the day with sullen wonder. He
brushed furtively at the caked dust on his legs, remembering, irritably,
the elegance of Waldron, whom he had saved. In the mirror of the soda
fountain he saw himself, torn, dirty, shrinking, and the sight filled
him with disgust and anger. He felt as ridiculous as when he had come
out with a glass too much from the Stoneham bar, and tripped over the
steps of the main entrance. 'Gimme a cigar,' he called to the boy at the
magazine counter; bit off the end, lit it, and began to think business.

The clerk, swirling a cataract of milk from glass to glass, revealed the
inner sheet of the paper propped before him. Cargan read beneath his arm
the full-page advertisement of a land sale--the land sale he had come
through all this tomfoolery to reach. His eyes bulged as he saw that
they were going to throw a thousand acres on the market. 'Good gosh,' he
gulped inwardly, 'what a chance!' It was a sure thing for the man with
the money.

The last of his fine sentiments evaporated. Except for Waldron he could
have scooped it all in; but now four hundred was all he dared
touch,--and perhaps not that. Raging against his softness back there on
the plains, which seemed a hardly recognizable world, he ground his
teeth, and coughed and choked over his soda. Soft-headed donkey! The
reaction was complete.

Suddenly a little thought no bigger than a minute rose in one corner of
his brain, and spread, and spread. He looked furtively at the clock over
the clerk's head, and saw that it was only half-past two. With guilty
deliberation he rose and walked slowly toward the door of the telephone
booth, keeping back from full consciousness just what he was about to
do. Then he slammed himself within, and shouted Casey's address to the
operator. As he waited, his wrath mounted. 'What in heck was the matter
with me anyway!' He smoked furiously in the stifling box.

'Go ahead,' said the operator,--and, at the word, 'Hey there, Casey,' he
yelled at the dim voice on the wires, 'I've gotta have five thousand
quick! Sell that Benningham Common--yes, Waldron's.' At the name his
anger broke loose. 'The old high-brow tried to bluff me. What!!--' The
connection failed and left him gasping.

'What! Sold it! He told you to!--No, I dunno anything about a court
decision. Up 15 points on a merger! Well what do you think--' He gulped
down the sudden reversal and felt for words. 'Say, tell him,--' he
licked his lips,--'tell him I'm sure glad I saved him. I'm sure glad.'

The wires roared again,--and Cargan, putting down the receiver grinned
shamefacedly into the dirty mirror. But gradually a sense of conscious
virtue began to trickle pleasantly through his veins. 'I'm sure glad,'he
repeated more vigorously; 'carryin' him to-day was what did it.' A
vision of Mrs. Waldron's happy face rose to bless him; the exhilaration
of the morning coursed back into his heart, with a comfortable feeling
of good business about it. He felt better and better. From somewhere a
saying floated into his head: 'Doing good unto others is the only
happiness.' 'By heck, that's true,' he commented aloud, and sat smoking
peacefully, his mind aglow with pleasant thoughts.

The bell whirred raucously. He saw that he had forgotten to replace the
receiver, and putting it to his ear caught Casey's voice again:--

'Say, Carg, Jim Smith's in the office, and won't leave till he's heard
from you. Montana Pacific's off two points more. Say, do you want to
carry _him_? He says he's done for if you sell him out.'

A fire of indignation rushed through Cargan. 'What d' you think I am--a
damned philanthropist?' he yelled. 'Sell out the old gambler! Sell him
out!' And he hung up.



NOTHING

BY ZEPHINE HUMPHREY


This is not going to be an easy story to write. Its theme is precisely
that which I have chosen for my title; and naturally its positive
significance is not obvious. But I must somehow get the thing into
words. The spiritual value which I found in the experience may come home
to some reader. At any rate, it is good for us all to stop now and then
and challenge the conventional standards of our lives.

To begin with, I presume that there are few sympathetic students of
humanity who will not agree with me that the strain of mysticism which
sometimes appears in the New England character is one of the most
interesting and touching of all the manifestations of our human nature.
It is so unexpected! The delicate pearl in the rough oyster is not more
apparently incongruous, rarer, or more priceless. Nay, it is more than
that. The development is so impossible as to be always a miracle,
freshly wrought by the finger of God.

There are all sorts of elements in it which do not appear in other kinds
of mysticism: humor (that unfailing New England salt!), reserve, and a
paradoxical mixture of independence and deference. It knows how
inexplicable it must seem to its environment, how it must fret its
oyster; so it effaces itself as much as possible. But it yields not one
jot of its integrity. It holds a hidden, solitary place apart--like a
rare orchid in the woods, like a hermit thrush. Even to those who love
it, it will not lightly or often reveal itself. But when it does--well,
I would take a weary, barefoot pilgrimage for the sake of the
experience which I had last summer. And here I may as well begin my
narrative.


I

I sat behind her in the little country church; and when I had studied
her profile for a few moments, I was glad of a chance to rise and sing
the Doxology. She was a woman of fifty-odd, a typical Vermonter, with
the angular frame and features peculiar to her class. Her mouth was
large, her cheek-bones high; her thin, dark hair, streaked with gray,
was drawn smoothly down behind her ears. But her expression!--that gave
her away. Not flagrantly, of course. To discover her one had to be
temperamentally on the watch for her. Apparently, like all the rest of
us, she was looking at the flowers before the pulpit; but I was sure
that her wide blue eyes were really intent on something behind and
beyond. Her mouth brooded, her forehead dreamed, her whole face pondered
grave and delectable matters. I am afraid that I did not hear much of
the sermon that morning.

When church was over, I followed her out, and waited to see in what
direction she turned her homeward steps. Then I made up my mind to
devote the next week to taking walks in that same direction. The
minister's wife saw me looking after her, and approached me with a smile
which I understood. She was about to say, 'That is one of our native
oddities, a real character. I see that she interests you. Shall I take
you to see her? You will find her a curious and amusing study.' But I
headed her off by letting the wind blow my handkerchief away. Nobody
should tell me anything about my mystic--not even what her name was, or
where she lived!

I was fully prepared not to find her for several days. I went forth in
quest of her in the spirit in which I always start out to find a hermit
thrush--ready to be disappointed, to wait, humbly aware that the best
rewards demand and deserve patience. But she was not so securely hidden
as the thrush. Her little house gave her away to my seeking, as her
expression, the day before, had given her away to my sympathy.

It was just the house for her: low and white, under a big tree, on the
side of a brook-threaded hill, a little apart from the village. I
recognized it the instant I saw it; and when I had read the
name--'Hesper Sherwood'--on the mailbox by the side of the road, I
confidently turned in at the gate.

She was working in her garden, clad in a blue-checked gingham apron and
a blue sunbonnet. When she heard my footsteps, she looked up slowly,
turning in my direction, and, for the first time, I saw her full face.

It was even better than her profile. Oh! when human features can be
moulded to such quietness and confidence, what an inexplicable pity it
is that they ever learn the trick of fretfulness! In Hesper Sherwood,
humanity for once looked like a child of God.

I was not sure at first that she saw me distinctly. Perhaps the sun
dazzled her shaded eyes. Her expectant expression held itself poised a
little uncertainly, as if she were doubtful of the exact requirements of
the situation. But when I said something--commonplace enough and yet
heartful--about the beauty of the view from her gate, her face lighted
and she came forward.

'It's better from the house,' she said, shyly, yet eagerly. 'Won't you
come up and see?'

It was indeed as fair a prospect as threshold ever opened out upon.
Close at hand was the green hillside, dropping down to the smiling
summer valley; and beyond were the mountains, big and blue, with their
heads in the brilliant sky and with cloud-shadows trailing slowly over
them. Directly across the way, they were massive; in the distance, where
the valley opened out to the south, they were hazy and tender. One of
them loomed above the little house, and held it in its hand. Everywhere,
they were commanding presences; and it was clear that the house had
taken up its position wholly on their account.

Plain enough in itself it was, that house. Its three small rooms were
meagrely furnished; and its windows were curtainless, inviting the eyes
beyond themselves. It was utterly restful. It made me want to go home
and burn up half the things I possess. Later, as I came to know it and
its owner better, I understood what perfect counterparts they were. She,
too, invited the gaze beyond herself.

It is, of course, not my intention to trace the development of our
friendship. Though we trusted each other from the beginning, we took the
whole summer to feel our way into each other's lives. It was a beautiful
experience. I would not have hurried it. But now I want to proceed at
once to the conversation in which she finally told me explicitly what
had not happened to her. It was but the definite statement of what I had
known all along: that here was a life which God had permitted Himself
the luxury of keeping apart for his own delectation.

We were sitting out on the front steps, in the face of the mountains and
valley; and we had said nothing for a long time. Our silence had brought
us so close that when she began to speak, my ear ignored the uttered
words and I felt as if my thoughts were reading hers.

'It's queer about folks' lives isn't it?' she said thoughtfully--though
I am not sure that she was any more aware of her lips than I was of my
ears. 'How they follow one line; how the same things keep happening to
them, over and over. I suppose it's what people call Fate. There's no
getting away from it.

'Take my brother Silas. As a boy, he was always making the luckiest
trades; couldn't seem to help it. Then when he married and moved to his
new farm, he began to get rich; and now he couldn't stop his money if he
wanted to. He must be worth fifteen thousand dollars.

'Take my sister Persis. She's had eleven children.

'Take my uncle Rufus. He's been around the world three times, and is
just starting again.

'Take--'

She paused and hesitated.

'You,' I supplied softly.

'Well, yes, take me.' She turned and flashed a sudden smile at me. 'I've
always wanted everything, and I've had--nothing.'

She spoke the word as if it were the pot of gold at the foot of the
rainbow.

'It took me a long time to understand,' she went on quietly, as I made
no comment. 'I suppose that was natural. I was young; and I had never
happened to hear of a case like mine. At first, I thought that, just
because I wanted a thing, I was bound to have it. There was my mother.'

Again she paused, and a tender, glowing light appeared in her face, like
the quickening of a latent fire. It was eloquent of all sorts of
passionate, youthful, eager things.

'I guess I worshiped my mother,' she submitted simply. 'Maybe you think
that, anyway, I had her. But, no, I hadn't. She liked me well enough.
Mothers do. But we had a big family, and we lived in a big house, and
she was very busy. It bothered her to have me get in her way with my
huggings and kissings. Why in the world couldn't I wait until bedtime?
Poor mother! She never did seem to know what to make of my devotion.
People don't like to be loved too well; it embarrasses them.

'She died when I was fourteen. And I thought I'd die too.'

There was no shadow on Hesper's face as she remembered her young,
far-away anguish; rather, there was a strange deepening of peace. But
she was silent for two or three minutes; and I noticed that she put out
her hand and caressed an old-fashioned, crocheted tidy that lay on the
arm of a chair which she had brought out on the porch. When she resumed
her story, she spoke somewhat more rapidly.

'I was sick a long time. If I hadn't been, I think I might have gone
crazy. But pain took my attention, and weakness made me sleep a good
deal; and when I came to get up again, I was quieter. I spent lots of
time in the fields and woods. I had always loved them, and now they
seemed to help me more than anything else. There was something about
them so big that it was willing to let me love it as much as I wanted
to. That was comforting. When I was in the woods, I felt as if I had
hold of an endless thread. You know how it is?'

She appealed to me.

'Indeed, yes!' I answered her. And I quoted William Blake,--

    'Only wind it into a ball,--
     It will lead you in at heaven's gate,
     Built in Jerusalem's wall.'

She nodded soberly, yet glowingly, and pondered the words for a moment.
Then, 'That's very good,' she said. 'Please say it again.

'Well, by and by,' she continued, touching her finger as if she were
half unconsciously enumerating the points of a discourse,--there was
something indescribably simple and downright in her manner of unfolding
her experience,--'by and by, somebody gave me a card to the village
library, and I began to read. Of course I had always gone to school, but
the pieces in the readers didn't interest me particularly, and I hadn't
followed them up. A reader isn't a book, anyway; it's a crazy quilt. I
guess I shan't ever forget that summer. I couldn't do anything but read.
I read stories and poems and books about travel and history and peoples'
lives. I had a hiding-place up in the woods, where I used to go and stay
for hours, sometimes whole days. My older sister couldn't get anything
out of me in the way of housework. It was wonderful.' Her voice rose a
little, and something of the old exultation came flooding back into her
face. 'Isn't it silly to talk of books as if they were just print and
paper, when they are really stars and seas and cities and pictures and
people and everything! There was nothing my books didn't give me that
summer; and yet, on the other hand, there was nothing they didn't make
me want. I wanted to travel, to go everywhere, to see and hear
everything; above all, by way of a beginning, I wanted to go to school.

'I was always an impatient child; and it did seem as if I couldn't wait
till autumn, when the schools opened. There's a good school at
Fieldsborough, over the mountain. I coaxed my father to let me go there;
and, after a while, he consented. On the day he wrote to enter my name,
I ran up in the woods and lay in a bed of ferns and cried for joy. I
hugged every tree that came in my way. I tried to hug the brook. Dear
me!' Again she broke off, and the light which had begun to burn in her
eyes softened into a smile. 'That's the way I was then. I was so
hot-hearted. I didn't understand.'

'But you went?' I inquired, my sympathetic eagerness suddenly breaking
bounds. It seemed to me that I could not stand it if she had been
disappointed. 'Oh! why not?' My voice faltered, for she shook her head.

'My eyes,' she said briefly. 'They had always bothered me; and, before
he let me go to school, father had them examined by a city doctor who
was boarding in the village. He said I'd surely be blind some day; and
that, of course, the more books I read, the sooner the end would come.'

She spoke as if she referred to the wearing out of an umbrella or a pair
of shoes; and, fortunately for us both, my distress kept me dumb.

'It was pretty hard at first--a real blow. But I was sixteen years old,
and I had suffered once. Then, too, I thought I had to make a choice,
and I needed all my wits about me. So I held on to myself, and went off
to the woods to think. Should I go to school, or should I keep my eyes
as long as I could? As soon as I had put my mind to it, however, I found
that there wasn't any real question there. Of course I'd got to keep my
eyes, and the school must go. There were all sorts of reasons. I wanted
to see the woods and mountains as long as possible. I didn't want to
become dependent on any one. My memory wasn't very good; and I knew,
most likely, if I went to school and stuffed my mind full that year, I'd
soon forget everything, and there I'd be--worse off than ever. So I gave
over thinking about it, and just lay in the ferns all the afternoon.

'Maybe you'll hardly believe me when I tell you that I was happy that
day. I don't know what it was. Something moved in the treetops and in
the shadows. I watched it closely; and, by and by, when I was just on
the point of seeing it, I realized that both my eyes were closed. If I
hadn't been so surprised by that discovery and so taken up with
wondering how I had happened to shut my eyes without knowing it, I
believe I'd have seen--'

Her voice trailed off into silence; and I presently found myself
wondering if she had left that sentence unfinished also without knowing
it.


II

'My father died the next year,' she continued, after a few thoughtful
minutes, 'and my sister married, and I came to live in this little
house. I had it fixed over to suit me, so that it was as simple and
convenient as possible; and I set myself to learn it by heart. I did a
lot of my housework after dark. Inside a year, I was so independent that
I knew I need never worry about having to get anybody to help me. By
taking plenty of time, I managed to learn some books by heart too; and I
found it was much more interesting to sit and think about one paragraph
for an hour than to read twenty pages. Even a few words are enough.
Take, "Be still, and know that I am God"; or, "Acquaint now thyself with
Him, and be at peace." There's no end to those sentences.

'Well,'--She touched her third finger, and then, for the first time, she
came to a full pause, as if she were not sure about going on. Her face
grew shy and reserved and reluctant.

I looked away--not for anything would I have urged her further
confidence. But she went on presently. She had committed herself to the
stream of this confession, and she would not refuse to be carried by it
wherever it might wind.

'After a while I had a lover. He was a man from the city, and I met him
in the woods. We were never introduced; and, for a long time, I didn't
know anything about him--except that I loved him and he loved me. We
couldn't help it, for we felt the same way about the woods. I had never
known any one like him before, and never expected to, because I'm so
different from most folks. He made me understand how lonely it is to be
different. I--we--'

But, after all, she could not dwell on this experience, and I did not
want her to. The poignant beauty of the relation was already
sufficiently apparent to my imagination.

'One day he told me that he had a wife at home,' she concluded; 'and I
never saw him again. I think it was then that I really knew and
understood.'

Knew what? Understood what? She had an air of having said all that was
necessary, of having come to the end of her story; and I shrank from
putting any crude questions to her. But it seemed to me that, if she did
not tell me something more of her secret, I should just miss the most
significant revelation I had ever caught a glimpse of.

Perhaps she read my suspense. At any rate, she said presently,--

'It was very simple. If it hadn't been, I couldn't have understood it;
for I was never a good hand at trying to reason things out. It was just
that I wasn't ever to have anything I wanted. When I once knew and
accepted that, I felt as if I'd slipped out into a great, wide, quiet
sea.'

This was, to her own mind, so definitely the end of her narrative, that,
after sitting a moment in silence, she half rose as if to go into the
house and attend to some domestic task. But I put out my hand and held
her apron's hem.

'You mean--' I stammered.

Really, she must tell me a little more!

A look of perplexity, almost of distress, came into her tranquil face,
and she shook her head.

'I told you I was no hand at working things out,' she said. 'It's better
just to know.'

'Please!' I insisted.

It was crass in me; but I felt that something as precious as life itself
depended on my grasping the full significance of this story.

Gently, but very resolutely, she stooped and released her apron from my
clutch.

'I've some bread in the oven,' she said, and disappeared.


III

She was gone so long that I had time to do what I would with the
fragments of the story which she had so non-committally delivered to me.
Since analysis was my way, I should have full scope for it. I sat with
my head in my hands, my elbows on my knees. The sunset deepened and
glowed around me, but I paid no attention to it. The cloudy abstraction
which hovered before my inner vision, and let me grasp here a fringe,
there a fold, was all-absorbing to me.

Souls that want greatly, like Hesper, are doomed to failure or
disappointment. No earthly having can possibly satisfy them. For what
they really want is simply God, and earth represents Him very
imperfectly. Hesper had not been happy with the thing she had come
nearest having--her mother. Would she have been happy with her lover?
Would he have let her love him 'too well'? Books and education and
travel are all finite and fragmentary means to an end which never
arrives. Only adventurous spirits can escape the torment in them. And,
with all her eagerness, Hesper was not adventurous. She was too earnest
and humble, she was too direct. Fate had been good to her; and, in
giving her nothing, had really given her everything. Everything: that
was God. Well, her story had not once referred to Him, but it had been
as instinct with Him as a star with light. It was He who had beckoned
and lured her by lurking in her three definite interests, and then had
shattered them before her in order that she might find Him. She had Him
fast at last, and He had her. There was no mistaking the heavenly
surrender of her face. I was awed with the apprehension of the
passionate seeking and finding between a human soul and its Maker. Did
she recognize and acknowledge the situation? Or, here again, did she
prefer a blind certainty?

Blind! The word had dogged me for several weeks, but I had evaded it.
Now, when it suddenly confronted me, I was all but staggered by it. I
think I groaned slightly; I know I pressed my hand closely over my eyes.
Then my own action admonished me. Here was I, deliberately shutting
myself away from the sight of the outer world in order that I might hold
and marshal my thoughts in the presence of reality. The hills and sky
are distracting; the whole flying glory of creation is a perpetual
challenge and disturbance to the meditative spirit. How supremely
excellent it would be if one could only look long and hard and adoringly
enough at it to see through it once; and then never see it again, for
the rapt contemplation of That which lies behind!

I had come to this point in my revery when Hesper softly returned and
stood in the doorway behind me. I looked up at her. She returned my
smile, but I thought that her eyes did not quite fix me. Neither did she
glance at the sky when I commented on the beauty of the sunset--although
she assented to the comment convincingly. As she sat down beside me, her
hands and feet made a deft groping. I said nothing; and I have never
known whether she or any one else knew that she was blind.

The minister's wife waylaid me, as I passed her house that evening on my
way back to my room.

'You've been to see Hesper Sherwood again?' she remarked, with a
righteous, tolerant air of ignoring a slight. 'I'm so glad! Her life is
so empty that any little attention means riches to her.'

'Empty!'

The expostulation was a mistake, but I really could not help it.

'I have never known such a brimming life,' I added, still more
foolishly.

The minister's wife stared at me.

'Why, she has nothing at all,' she said.

'Precisely!' I commented, and went on my way.



A MOTH OF PEACE

BY KATHARINE FULLERTON GEROULD


Anne Marmont, of old the pupil of the nuns, had told her about Andecy:
an ancient place, half-manor, half-farm, in the Marne valley, whence you
could walk over a wind-swept plain to the battlefields of the Hundred
Days.

'The nuns, being exiled, of course can't keep it up any longer, and no
one wants to buy. I remember it as a place of heavenly peace--though in
my day they used to make the oldest and crossest nun in the order
superior at Andecy. However, Madame Françoise de Paule is dead now, and
there aren't any nuns anyhow. Do take it, dear. If you want quiet'--Anne
Marmont swept her arms out as if to embrace illimitable horizons.
'Nothing but a church-spire or a clump of trees to be seen from edge to
edge of the plain. The unstable ocean is nothing to it. And if you want
variety, you can walk over to Champaubert and look at the house where
Napoleon stayed, the night before the battle. Riddled with bullet-holes
it is. There used to be a foolish ancient there who remembered the
Hundred Days. He's dead now, I suppose--but then, so is Madame Françoise
de Paule, thank Heaven, and her cane, too. I hope they buried the cane.
Do take it, darling. It's dirt cheap, and my dear nuns would be so
pleased. They'd probably send the money to the new Nicaragua convent.'

And Miss Stanley had gone to Andecy, had been conquered by the
insuperable peace of the plain, and had set up her little household. No
place that she had ever seen seemed so good to wait in. When Edmund Laye
came back from the Argentine to marry her, she would submit to London;
but already she had hopes of enticing him to Andecy for the honeymoon.
The chill of the slow spring warmed her northern blood; she liked the
reluctance of the season's green, the roaring fire that met her in the
_salon_, the sharp cold click of her boots on the brick-paved corridor.

She was well cared for: a Protestant and a foreigner, who was, none the
less, a mysterious well-wisher of 'ces dames,' she found a shy
allegiance springing up about her steps as she traversed the plain.
There was always a hot _galette_ for her at 'la vieille Andecy,' an
obsequious curtsy at Congy château from the housekeeper, who showed with
mumbling pride the bed where Henri Quatre had slept; and a welcoming
smile from St. Eloi, that holy humorist, in the Champaubert chapel. She
sat until twilight, often, on the sinister shore of l'Etang des Loups.
Even the legended 'Croix Jeanne,' leaning against its pine thicket,
seemed glad of her awkward Protestant dip. It was a good place--and all
for the price of a second-rate hotel splotched with Baedekers.

Loneliness, in the sense of removal from the social scene, did not
afflict her. She who shrank almost morbidly from human encounters, had
no fear of the peasants. Slim, shy, timorous, she felt safe here. Her
terrors were all of people and what people could do to her. The plain
ignored her self-distrust. Letters came from Edmund, regularly, if you
granted the delay of driving to Sézanne to fetch them. The months
rounded slowly, punctually, to winter and her marriage. So might a
châtelaine have waited, powerless but trusting.

Then, in full summer-time, the lightning struck, choosing again the
Montmirail plain, after a hundred years' respite. The first rumors were
vague and vivid--all detail and no substance, like news in the Middle
Ages. There was war, and she scarcely knew more. Jacques or Étienne
turned over night into a reservist, and departed; but had it not been
for that, she would hardly have known. The two maid-servants whom she
had brought with her clamored for Paris; she gave them money and had
them driven to Sézanne. After the mobilization they must have got
through, for she never heard again. It did not occur to her to strike
out, herself, for the capital; for her common sense told her she was
better off where she was until Paris had cleared the decks for action.
Besides, Paris frightened her. She hated being jostled in streets; she
resented even a curious stare.

Old Marie and her husband, with their grandchild, came up from their
cottage to the manor to sleep; and with the son and nephew gone, there
was nothing for them to do but potter about rheumatically in her behalf.
For many days, the click of the rosary was never stilled among the
corridors of Andecy.

And still the rumors grew, terror capping terror, until it seemed that
even at Andecy blood might rain down at any moment from the arched
heaven. At first Miss Stanley forced herself to drive the fat donkey
into Sézanne for news--a half-day's trip with only more terror at the
end. The feeble crowds beset the bulletins posted outside the _mairie_,
and scattered, murmuring their own comments on the laconic messages.
Sometimes crones and half-grown children on the edge of the crowd got
her to report to them, as she emerged from the denser group in front of
the mairie wall. She did so as gently as she could, for they were all
involved: fathers, husbands, sweethearts, brothers, sons, were facing
the enemy at some point or other that only the War Office knew. If some
creatures had had nothing to give, it was only because the Prussians
had taken all they had, in '70.

There was no insane terror; the people were strangely calm; yet they and
theirs had been, of all time, the peculiar food of the enemy, and there
was pessimism afloat. The plain was as defenseless as they: its mild
crops as fore-ordained to mutilation by feet and hoofs and wheels as
they to splintering shells.

Miss Stanley, who was so shy of unfamiliar action, felt Sézanne too much
for her. She stopped going, after a week, and resigned herself to not
knowing. She chafed under the censorship, though she knew that Edmund
Laye would tell her that it was well done of the 'Powers that Were' to
stanch the leakage of news as you would stanch blood from an artery. The
General Staff was better off not drained of its vital facts. To be sure,
Miss Stanley never read newspapers. Even less, did she subscribe to
them. But she longed now for a neutral America, where the extras came
hot and hot, where experts of every kind fought out the battles on the
front page, and good journalese stimulated the lax imagination.

Her determination to go no more to Sézanne led her for exercise to other
quarters of the plain. She would walk quickly, tensely, for an hour, her
eyes fixed on a clump of trees or a church-spire far ahead of her at the
end of the unswerving road, until the clump and the spire rose up to
match her height and she came to the first whitewashed cottage.
Champaubert church was never empty, these days, of worshipers who gazed
up at gaudy St. Eloi as if he could help. The crops that waved on the
old Montmirail battlefield were thinly harvested by women and an
impeding fry of children. The steep little streets of Congy were dirtier
than ever, and the ducks and the infants plashed about more
indiscriminately in the common mud-puddles. No more galettes at 'la
vieille Andecy': the old woman was prostrated by the loss of her
reservist grandson.

Finally she gave up the plain too, and withdrew into Andecy itself,
waiting, always waiting, for word of Edmund Laye. There had been a touch
of loyalty to him in her staying on without plan of escape. News of him
would reach her here sooner than elsewhere. If she left, she would be
lost in a maelstrom, and might lose some precious word. Until she heard
from Edmund of his sailing, or of a change of plan, she would stay where
he thought of her as being. When she heard, she would go.

Some atavistic sense in Miss Stanley caused her to look, all through
early August, to the provisioning of the manor--some dim instinct to
hoard food, that might have sprung from the heart of a colonial
ancestress behind a stockade of logs: premonition against death and
savages. She sent old Marie to buy thriftily, making it clear that her
fortress was not for herself alone, but for all who might be in need.
Together, she and Marie and the granddaughter piled provisions in the
empty rooms and the dark cellars; and they lived frugally on milk and
eggs and _soupe aux choux_.

Sometimes she wondered whether the danger was not a mere fixed idea of
the foolish peasants who had all been touched in the wits by '70. True,
the able-bodied men were gone, but the reports these people brought her
made no sense. Their quality verged on folk-lore. Something gigantic was
going on, somewhere, but it had nothing to do with Edmund Laye in the
Argentine, or with her at Andecy. Paris in danger? Perhaps: but how to
take it on their word? Belgium flowing with blood? Just what did it
mean? An aeroplane over Sézanne at dawn? It must often have happened,
_allez_! The air was never free, nowadays. The Germans in France? They
had been seeing Germans behind every bush for forty years. So she talked
with old Marie, scarcely sure whether she or old Marie were the fool.

Since the household no longer drove the fat donkey to Sézanne, none of
them knew even what the War Office said--unless what old Séraphine from
the next farm reported that her granddaughter had heard in Champaubert
from a woman whose married daughter had been to Sézanne two days before,
could be called a War Office report. And never, from the first, on the
plain of Andecy, had anyone understood _why_. According to the plain,
all things were to be believed of the German Emperor, who was usually
drunk; but, on the other hand, who could trust an atheist government?
The soil of the Hundred Days had never recovered from Bonapartist
tendencies, Miss Stanley had often noted; and even old Marie would
sometimes mix up '15 and '70. The White Paper--which Miss Stanley had
never heard of--would have been wasted on Champaubert and Montmirail.

Wonder stirred at last even in old Marie's fatalistic mind at the lack
of panic in this shy young foreigner--who could not chaffer, who could
not bully, who could not endure even the mimic urbanity of Sézanne.
Strange that she should be willing to stay quietly pacing up and down
the cobbled courtyard of Andecy for sole exercise! Past mid-August,
Marie put a vague question.

'When I hear from him, I shall go, Marie,' Miss Stanley answered. 'But I
leave everything here to you and Théophile. The British fleet holds the
sea, they say, and I shall be better off in England. I shall surely come
back when the war is over, and perhaps I shall bring my husband with
me.'

Some dim muscular effort deepened the wrinkles in the old woman's face.
It was as if a knife had cut them in the living flesh.

'I hope so--if Théophile and I are here. To be sure, you must go where
it is your duty. We will keep such of the provisions as can be kept--'

'Keep nothing. It is all for you who have been so kind to me--you and
yours. Not a child, not a creature, for a dozen miles about that I would
not wish to share with, as you know. But--listen, Marie.' Miss Stanley
blushed faintly as she bent her head nearer Marie's good ear.

'It _is_ my duty. My first duty, that is, must be to my future husband.
When he returns from America' (she had long ago learned the futility of
distinguishing, for Marie, between 'l'Amérique du nord' and 'l'Amérique
du sud'; and was patient with her belief that New York was a suburb of
Cayenne) 'he will wish me there. He was to have sailed last month. A
letter--a telegram--must have gone astray in the confusion. When I hear,
he will doubtless be in England. And when he reached England, I was to
go to my friends and be married to him. My heart bleeds for France; but
I am not French, and my duty is not here. I am American, you see, dear
Marie, and my _fiancé_ is English.'

'Ah!' Marie shook her head. 'My old head is turned with all they tell
me, and the buzzing in my bad ear is like cannon. But I had thought that
the English, for some reason I do not understand, were fighting with us.
They have been telling us for ten years that we do not hate the
English--that we love them. And Théophile thought that an English army
was against the Germans. But perhaps I am wrong. _Monsieur votre fiancé_
will not have to fight, then? I congratulate you, mademoiselle.'

'The English are fighting with the French, Marie. But all Englishmen
are not soldiers. Monsieur Laye is not a soldier. He is an engineer.'

'He is perhaps past the age.'

'There is no conscription in England, Marie. No man is a soldier unless
he chooses.'

'No service to make?'

'None.'

'_C'est beau, ça!_ All Frenchmen must fight. So England may go to war,
and still have men to till the fields. But where do their armies come
from?'

'Any man who wishes may go. But none are compelled--except the soldiers
by profession. There will be enough, never fear. England will not desert
France.'

The old woman nodded. 'I am not afraid of that. And you are not afraid
that _monsieur le fiancé_ will fight? I do not understand these things.
As Théophile says, what I comprehend I do not hear, and what I hear I do
not comprehend. I go to fetch mademoiselle's soup. They are lucky, all
the same, to get the crops in, in time of war.' She clattered from the
room.

Miss Stanley felt her heart grow heavy, she did not know precisely why.
If only word would come! Perhaps she was a fool to stay. There must be
trains through to Paris now. Anything to get nearer Edmund, away from
this historic, war-bound plain! She crouched by the window to eat her
_soupe aux choux_ and stale bread. If only some boy would come riding
into the courtyard with a letter for her! She had bribed half the
urchins who loitered by the mairie in Sézanne to rush to her hot-foot
with anything that came.

The lightning that had struck once at Champaubert and Montmirail was to
strike again before she heard from Edmund Laye. Suddenly, with no
warning, the heavens opened with that reiterant flash, Frightened
stragglers over the plain, refugees from the north pushing on from
beyond Sézanne in a blind stumbling dash to the southward; rumors that
sprang up out of the ground so that she had but to stand still to hear
the world move; indescribable distant noises, commotions less seen than
sensed, on the far horizon; a casual smudge of aeroplanes on the great
blue round of heaven; an earth, for no visible reason, tumultuously
vibrating beneath her,--and then, at last, one hot noon, a frightened
boy falling exhausted at her feet. She gave him the piece of gold which
for many days had been waiting for him in her pocket, and bade him rest
where he lay until he was ready for food. Marie and Théophile crouched
beside him, listening to his winded babbling.

Armies, armies, fighting, men riding on horses, guns and wounded--like
'15, like '70, like Hell. People like themselves leaving their cottages
and farms, making, with such portable treasures as they had (food,
relics, poultry, babes in arms), for the shelter of a town. No town
could avail them, for in the towns sat the officers, and the marketplace
offered only a bigger, a more organized destruction. But the hope of
shelter would take them far afield. Anything was better than to see
sabres splintering your walls, and a greasy flame replacing all that had
been ancestral and intimate. Better to die in the open with friends--not
smoked out of your own cellar to fall on a bayonet. They knew the
secular ways of war: the dwellers on the plain were the foredoomed type
of the refugee, the world over. Once in so often men fought, and poor
people were homeless. And now none of the '_vieux de la vieille_' were
there to guard.

These were the visions that assembled in Miss Stanley's brain while
Marie, her lean fists clenched, reported the boy's wild talk. The lumps
of fat hardened on her congealing soup; and still her mind went
painfully, shuttle-wise, back and forth from her telegram--infinitely
delayed, but clearly authentic--to the apocalyptic events surrounding
her. Like most Americans perpetually defended by two oceans, Miss
Stanley had no conception of invasion as a reality. The insult of an
enemy on your own ground was one which she had never steeled herself to
meet. There was no weapon in her little arsenal for a literal foe. Her
knees trembled under her as she rose to look out of the window, after
Marie, spent with eloquence, had left her.

Edmund Laye, by this, was with his regiment--even she might not know
where. No point in trying to break through to London: his telegram,
dated the day of his arrival in England, was already too old. The letter
he promised her would go the way of all the letters he must have
written, that she had never had. And she herself was caught: she had
waited too long on that predestined plain. The noises she heard seemed
rumblings of the earth and cracklings of the inflamed sky. Andecy manor
had not yet seen one soldier, unless you reckoned the pilots of those
soaring monoplanes. But their hours were numbered: soon--any moment,
now--all that hidden rumor would break forth into visible fruit of
fighting men--men with rifles, men with lances, men with mitrailleuses
or howitzers. She was trapped. To try, even with no luggage, to make the
miles to Sézanne, would be not so much to take her life in her hands as
to kick it from her. Caught; and her nervous nostrils feigned for her a
subtle odor of smoke. She turned from the window and went to the quiet
room that had once been the chapel. Out of those windows she could not
look, thank Heaven! The life of the Virgin, in villainous stained glass,
barred her vision.

She was absolutely alone. Old Marie and Théophile were not people: they
were strangers, creatures, animals--what not. She scarcely knew.
'Allies' meant nothing to her at the moment but marching men. Even
Edmund--who would be killed unless they hid in caves and let their
beauty rot in the dark. Fool that she had been not to go to England
while there was time! Fool that she had been to forget that Edmund Laye,
landing in England, would be first of all a Territorial--one of the
thousands of slim reeds on which Kitchener was so heavily leaning. She
had been obsessed with peace: sure that war could not touch her or what
was privately, supremely, hers. She was a creature of peace; a little
doctrinaire who supposed that, in the inverted moral world in which she
walked, right made might. There was a deal of most logical self-pity in
her tears. How did any of it concern her, that she should be cooped in a
country manor to await horrors from unknown people? Why should Edmund
Laye, who had chosen an antipodal career, be dragged back to present
himself as a mark for some Prussian shell? The senselessness of it
angered her. Nations meant little to her; the cosmos nothing. Alone in
the chapel, she treated herself to a vivid personal rage. And still the
strange tumult, that was more than half made of vibrations too slow for
sound-waves, beat upon her nerves like an injury to the internal ear.

By twilight, the physical need of action came to her. She felt, in the
subtler fibres of her mind, that if she stayed longer there half prone
in her worm-eaten arm-chair, groveling mentally in this welter of
concrete alarms, she should sink into a pit whence reason could not
rescue her. She had been so calm in her folly, so lulled by the sense of
her sacred detachment from this bloody business, so sure that
neutrality protected you from fire and steel even in the thickest
_mêlée_--she could not have been more ridiculous if she had worn a dress
cut out of the Stars and Stripes. Now, some obscure inhibition told her,
she must act. She must move her hands and feet, limber her cramped
muscles, set the blood flowing properly in her veins, make herself
physically normal, or her worthless mind would let her go mad. She must
not think of death or outrage or torture.

She must forget the things she had heard those first days at Sézanne.
She must forget the gossip of Marie and Théophile and Séraphine,
inventing, inventing, with a mediæval prolixity and a racial gift for
the _macabre_, on chill evenings by the fire. They had no need of news.
They dug up out of the bloody deeps of the past things the like of which
she had never expected to hear. She must forget--shut her staring mouth
and forget. Whatever visited itself on Andecy must not find a gibbering
mistress there. Perhaps, if she pretended that Edmund knew, moment by
moment, what she was doing, she could master her faltering flesh and her
undisciplined mind. She had lost him forever, but she would try to be
some of the things he thought her. Edmund Laye had called her
flower-like. Well: flowers were broken, but they did not go mad. She
must be--decent.

Her brisk pacing of the chapel did not allay her fears, but it brought
back to her a sense of decorum. Her body had never lent itself to an
immodest gesture; what--she caught at the notion--could be more immodest
than visible fear? So gradually, by artificial means, she brought
herself back into some dignity; scolding and shaking herself into a
trooper's demeanor. She could not trust her mind, but perhaps she could
get her instincts into fighting form. Cautiously she tried them--as you
try a crazy foothold to see if it will bear your weight. Her muscles
seemed to respond: suppleness, strength, coordination, were reported
satisfactory. She thought she could promise not to fall a-shivering
again. The noise in her ears faded; the vibrations ceased to rock her
nerves. Miss Stanley flung open the chapel door, and walked firmly,
ignoring echoes, down the brick-paved corridor to the kitchen.

Marie, Théophile, and little Jeanne watched, in a kind of apathy, the
pot on the fire. In the dim corners of the big kitchen, Miss Stanley
thought she saw strange figures. Inspection revealed a few frightened
women and children from farms that had once been dependencies of Andecy.
Here was something to do--more blessed exercise for hands and feet.

'You, Françoise? and the little ones? And you, Mathilde? and the girl?
Good! It is time the children had food and went to bed. We must
economize candles, so we will all eat here. The dining-room, in half an
hour, will be a dormitory. Jeanne shall sleep in my room. Milk and gruel
for the little ones, Marie, and _soupe aux choux_ for the rest of us.
Milk we will use while we have it. Eggs also. We cannot expect to keep
the livestock forever. Bread we have not--until I bake it in my own
fashion. It may come to that. Jeanne, you will eat with us older ones.
Come and help me make beds for the children. Luckily, there are cots for
a whole community. In half an hour'--she took out her watch--'the babies
sup and say their prayers. To-morrow, I prepare the chapel and the
pupils' old dormitory for wounded. Wounded there will be, if what we
hear from Sézanne--though they are all fools in Sézanne, from the fat
mayor down--be true. My fiancé is at the front. We wait here for our
men, hein?' And she beckoned to Jeanne.

She had made her speech blindly, recklessly planning as she spoke,
thinking that if she could convince her hearers she could perhaps
convince herself. She looked for the effect on them when she had done.
The speech had worked. If it worked for them, it must work for her, too.
It could not be madness, if it had lighted up those sodden faces. And as
she looked from one to another, she saw a flicker of pride, of
patriotism, reflected in their eyes. Reflected from what? From her,
without doubt. There must have been pride in her voice and glance when
she spoke of Edmund Laye. Good! That was the line to take. There should
be a brave show: she would work her muscles to death to keep it going.
Every due emotion should be cultivated in each limb and feature; every
surface inch of skin should play its part. The drum and fife should play
all the more bravely because her heart was hollow. Perhaps, if she got a
fair start, a fine physical impetus toward courage, she could keep it up
to the end.

'Come, Jeanne.' She beckoned the child.

The women stirred, and the children huddled against their skirts crept
out upon the floor.

'Théophile, is the great gate locked?'

The old man shook his head vaguely. He had gone near to losing his few
wits with the rumors from Sézanne which his ears had drunk up so
greedily. His shaken mind was wandering windily about in reminiscences
of '70 and legends of '15.

'It had best be locked at once. The lantern, Jeanne. Come.'

The child looked at her piteously.

'Oh, very well!' Miss Stanley pushed her gently aside. 'I shall not need
it. There is still light enough. Fetch the bowls for the babies, Jeanne.
We must all get to bed, and be up with the dawn.'

Alone, she left the house and crossed the innumerable cobblestones of
the huge courtyard to the outer gate. She knew the way of the heavy
bolts and bars, for she had often escorted Théophile on his rounds
before the official _coucher_ of the household; but her shaking fingers
tapped the rusty iron ineffectually. She loathed her fingers:
insubordinate little beasts! She struck her right hand smartly with her
left, her left with her right, to punish them with real pain. The
fingers steadied; she drove the foolish, antiquated bolts home.

Something white fluttered about her feet in the twilight: the hens had
not been shut up. Miss Stanley was very angry, for a moment, with
Théophile; then angry with herself for her anger. Théophile was
frightened because he _knew_: '70 had been the moment of his prime. She
did not know; she had no right to be frightened. Tales of the Civil War,
she remembered now, had always bored her; she had never listened to
them. Her duty now was to secure the poultry. They must have eggs while
they could, and chicken broth for the children. Mathilde's little girl
was a weakling. So she ran hither and yon, trying to drive the silly
handful toward the little grange where they were kept. With traditional
idiocy, they resisted; and the last stragglers she lifted and imprisoned
ruthlessly in her skirt. She hated the creatures; to touch them made her
flesh crawl; but at last she got them all in, squawking, and fastened
the door upon them. How like the stupid things, to make extra trouble
because there was a war! Her anger against them was quite serious, and
sank into proper insignificance only when her task was done.

A stone wall, continuing the house wall all the way round, bounded the
courtyard; but through the grille she could see rocket-like sputters of
flame far off on the horizon, and here and there a patch of light in the
sky which meant fires burning steadily beneath. The pounding vibrations
had ceased. There was trouble, a mighty trouble, upon them all; and with
the dawn, perhaps, all the things those chattering fools by the fire had
spent their phrases on.

Strangest of all to her was the sudden thought that Edmund, separated
from her now by the innumerable leagues of destiny, might be, as the
crow flies, not so far away. A few fatal miles might be replacing, even
now, the friendly, familiar ocean whose division of the lovers had been
a mere coquetry of Time. On that thought she must not dwell;
besides--irony returned to her at last--did she not gather from those
idiots within that all soldiers one ever saw were Germans? One's own
armies were routed somewhere; but one encountered, one's self, only the
victors, ever. Then the jealous captain to whom she had given the
command reminded her that such reflections meant mutiny.

Slim, straight, hollowed out with fear, but walking delicately ahead,
she went back to the house and superintended the babies' supper. Then
the grown-ups ate--standing about the table as at the Passover, faces
half-averted toward the door--and she marshaled them all to their
appointed sleeping-places. Marie and Théophile abdicated their dominion
with an uncouth relief. If mademoiselle, so shy, so small, could be so
sure of what they ought to do--doubtless hers was a great brain in a
frail form. After prayers, in which Miss Stanley herself joined,
borrowing a _chapelet_, they went off to snore peacefully in the
guardianship of that great brain so opportunely discovered.

'You have not an American flag?' old Marie asked, as she shuffled off.

Théophile, past any coherent reflections, was mumbling over the dying
fire.

'No, nothing of the sort. I am sorry. I should use it if I had.'

'You could not make one?'

'Impossible, to-night. To-morrow I will see.'

Marie apologetically offered a last suggestion to the great brain. 'A
white flag? It would do no harm to have it ready. Françoise swears they
are in Sézanne to-night.'

'I will see. _Allez vous coucher._'

And Miss Stanley turned on her heel and sought the little room where
Jeanne was already restlessly dreaming.

Save the babies, Andecy found no deep sleep that night. The old people
napped and woke and napped again, according to their habit. The mothers
rose and walked beside their children's cots, then fell limply back and
dozed. Miss Stanley slept from sheer exhaustion until an hour before
dawn. Then she rose and dressed herself, and, when dressed, sent Jeanne
to wake her grandparents. Whatever the day might bring, it should not
find them either asleep or fasting. They would eat, if it was to be
their last meal.

Alone in her room, by candle-light, Miss Stanley made a white flag out
of a linen skirt. She sewed hastily but firmly, that it might be no
flimsier than she could help. By the first streaks of daylight, she
groped for and found, in a lumber-room, a long stick to fasten it
to--probably, it flashed across her, Madam Françoise de Paule's cane,
never buried, as Anne Marmont had hoped. When the flag was finished, she
loathed it: loathed its symbolism, loathed its uselessness. No: whatever
happened, she would have nothing to do with that. What could be more
humiliating than to hold up a white flag in vain? Another idea came to
her; and while breakfast was preparing and the children were being
dressed, she carried it swiftly into execution. Slashing a great cross
out of a scarlet cape, she sewed it firmly to the white ground. _That_
she might hang to the dove-cot, after breakfasting.

She carried it martially with her into the great kitchen, and placed it
in a corner. The sun itself was hardly up, but the children brought the
flag out into the firelight and old Marie was jubilant. The wonderful
idea! The great brain of mademoiselle! She fussed almost happily over
the simmering skillet of milk. But the great brain was pondering apart
in the lessening shadows. Better the American flag, if she could manage
it. She would beg an old blue smock of Théophile's, for she had nothing
herself. Those wretched stars! It would take her a long morning; and she
felt convinced that this day's sun would not rise peacefully to the
zenith. This thing she had made was a lie. Incalculable harm could be
done by assuming a badge you had no right to--incalculable harm to those
who had the right. She was mortally afraid; but she would not do
anything in pure panic. That would make it worse for every one in the
end.

An American flag: it must be made. How many states were there? She had
no notion, but she fancied they were as the sands of the sea. It would
take a woman all day to cut out those stars and sew them to a blue field
hacked out of Théophile's smock. And what a makeshift banner, in the
end! Even if the enemy politely waited for her to finish it, would they
not detect it at once? Was not that the kind of thing every German knew
better than she--how many little silly stars there were, safe and far
away, sending senators to Washington? A sullen tide of mirth was let
loose in her far below the surface. Here she was, quivering with terror,
with a lot of foolish livestock on her hands--livestock that she could
not give up to slaughter as if they had been the sheep that they really
were.

Miss Stanley caught up one of the children to her lap and fed it great
spoonfuls of warm milk--choking it hopelessly. Luckily the mother was
too apathetic to reproach her. She could not even feed a child without
wetting it all over! Disgusted, she put the child down again. It
whimpered, and the mother, roused, moved over to it. Miss Stanley looked
at her cup. Chocolate--no coffee, for the coffee was gone. Coffee might
have cleared her brain, but this mess would do nothing for her. Still,
she drank it. And gradually, as their hunger was appeased, they crept
about her. Even those who did not move their chairs turned and faced
her. She could not meet so many eyes. She had nothing to do with
them--these tellers of old wives' tales, who expected her to deliver
them from the horrors their own lips had fabricated. Why did they stare
at her as if she might have an idol's power over events? Whispering,
almost inaudibly, their strung and beaded prayers, yet blasphemously
looking to her!

The shadows still lessened in the great kitchen. The sun lay in level
streaks on the centre of the stone floor, and even the twilight in the
corners was big with noon. The women sat in a helpless huddle, not
knowing how to go about the abnormal tasks of the abnormal day. The
far-off thunders of the plain began again: vibrations as of earthquake
first, then explicit sounds, unmistakable and portentous. To-day, you
could distinguish among those clamors. Miss Stanley, with the first
sounds, expected to have a tiny mob to quell; but their apathy did not
leave them. Even the children turned that steady, hypnotized stare on
her. And then Jeanne--how could she not have missed Jeanne from the
assembly?--ran down the corridor with a sharp clatter.

'They are there! Soldiers--on horseback--at the gate!'

And indeed now, in the sudden tragic hush, Miss Stanley could hear the
faint metallic thrill and tinkle of iron bars, at a distance, struck
sharply. Old Théophile roused himself as if by unconscious antediluvian
habit, but Marie plucked him back and ran for the flag with the scarlet
cloth cross. This she thrust into the American girl's hand. No one else
moved, except that Mathilde flung her heavy skirt over her little girl's
head.

For one moment, Miss Stanley stood irresolute. She had never dreamed of
such a tyranny of irrelevant fact. She must, for life or death,--for
honor, at all events,--respond to a situation for which nothing, since
her birth, had prepared her. Peace had been to her as air and
sunlight--the natural condition of life. This was like being flung into
a vacuum; it was death to her whole organism. Yet, somehow, she was
still alive.

Irony took her by the throat; and then the thought of Edmund
Laye--linked, himself, with events like these, riding or marching
beneath just such skies, on just such a planet, under just such a law.
Never had there been, really, immunity like that which she had fancied
to be the very condition of human existence. It was all human, with a
wild inclusiveness that took her breath. And, whatever happened,
paralysis like that which even now crept slowly up her limbs, was of the
devil. Against that last ignominy she braced herself.

Her muscles responded miraculously to her call for help, and she felt
her feet moving across the floor. If feet could move, hands could. She
rolled up the little banner and threw it in the very centre of the fire.
It occurred to her as a last insult that she did not know enough German
even to proclaim her nationality; but she did not falter again. Some
residuum of human courage out of the past kept her body loyal--some
archaic fashion of the flesh that dominated the newness of the mind.
Past generations squared her shoulders for her, and gave her lips a
phrase to practice.

As she passed down the corridor, she flung each door wide open. She
paused, a mere fraction of an instant, in the big front door of the
house; but from there she could see only a confusion of helmets, and
horses nosing at the grille. Almost immediately she passed through the
door and walked, hatless, her arms hanging stiffly at her sides, across
the innumerable cobblestones, to the gate.



IN NO STRANGE LAND

BY KATHARINE BUTLER


He was in the heart of the crowd, in it, and of it--the crowd of late
afternoon whose simultaneous movement is the expression of a common wish
to cease to be a crowd. His was one of the thousand faces that are
almost tragical with weariness, tragical without thought. At five
o'clock the sparkle of the morning is forgotten. There is no seeking of
hidden treasure in the face opposite, for the face opposite, whosesoever
it may be, has become too hatefully intrusive with its own burden to
yield any light of recognition.

He was running down the Elevated stairs at the appointed minute, when
his foot slipped and he fell. It seemed hardly a second before he was up
again, angered by the sudden congestion about him. One white-cheeked
woman put her hand to her mouth and gave a cry.

'Let me by!' he exclaimed, straining to break through the fast-pressing
barrier. The very throng of which he had been an undistinguishable
member had suddenly closed round him, focusing its Argus glance upon
him, nearer and nearer, and it was only by extreme struggle that he was
able to push away and be free.

He sat down in the train, breathless from his final sprint. He felt as
if the incident had roused him from some deep lethargy of which he had
hitherto been unaware. With his quickened pulse, his thoughts ran more
quickly, more crystally onward. He felt as if a wonderful but unknown
piece of luck had befallen him. An ecstatic sense of fortune made him
wonder at himself.

'What am I so damned happy about, all of a sudden?' he thought.

He made an indifferent survey of his fellow passengers, and as he noted
the familiar heads and shoulders, he had a most curious sensation of
utter bliss, and thanked heaven that his lot was not theirs.

'Am I dreaming?' he asked himself. 'Am I about to discover a gold-mine,
or what?'

As the train moved out he sank comfortably back into his seat, and with
his chin on his hand he took up his accustomed nightly gaze on the outer
landscape. His thoughts ran back to the morning. He saw the room where
he had gone to wake his children. It was a large, square room, with
colored nursery pictures on the walls and a collection of battered toys
in the corner. The place was fresh and cool with the sparkling air of
early May, and through the open windows he had seen the lawn thick
spread with cobwebs. And in each of the three small beds a pretty child
of his lay stretched in a childish attitude of sleep. Very tender they
looked, very lovable, in their naïve curlings-up, a young, shapely arm
flung out in the restlessness of approaching day, lips and nostrils just
stirred by the tiny motion of their breathing, and an unbelievable,
blossomy hand spread in fairy gesture across a pillow. As he walked
through the room, he heard the boy John murmur in his waking dreams.
Alicia sat up suddenly, as thin and straight as a new reed in her prim
nightgown. Her eyelashes were black and her eyes were heather-purple.

'Father!' she had cried, 'I know what day it is!' And in a moment three
small whirlwinds stood up on the floor, dropped their nightgowns, and
began to fling their arms and legs into their morning apparel, and there
was a great deal of loud conversation full of the presage of festivity.
Their father had forgotten that he had a birthday until his wife and
children had recovered it from obscurity and made it a day of days.

As he left the house he had looked at Maggie, his fragile, high-hearted
wife, and urged her not to get tired with the nonsense. She had looked
back at him with mock haughtiness and warned him not to be late to
supper, or make light of feast days. He did not notice her words; he was
curiously unable to grow accustomed to her face. The more he saw it, the
more unbelievably beautiful, the more eloquent in delicate and gentle
meanings, it became to him. She looked into his eyes quickly, with a
question for his sudden absent-mindedness.

'Because your face is so heavenly,' he answered reverently.

As the train moved on, he saw that a fresh, green haze had begun to veil
and adorn the landscape which through the cold months had been so gaunt
and ugly to his daily observation. The hint of fever was in the air--the
slight madness that accompanies the pangs of seasonal change.

Love glowed in his heart and touched all the veins of his body with its
winelike warmth, its inimitable winelike bouquet. 'Life is sweet! Life
is sweet!' his body said, echoing and reëchoing through all the channels
of his being. And as the train carried him on through the fields and
woods outside the city, something almost like the fervor of genius took
hold of him, plucking at his heart for words, crying to him out of the
silent fields and woods for words, words!

A slight rain was in the air, darkening the twilight, when he stepped
down from the train. He was grateful for the darkness, for the soft air
on his face, grateful indeed for the silence. Evening had brought him
back to his obscure town, a small station marked by one lantern swung in
the stiff grasp of an ancient man. The usual handful of three or four
passengers alighted, and exchanging remarks up and down the village
street, quickly disappeared within the generous portals of their
hereditary houses. The sound of a door opening and shutting, the
pleasant light of lamps, the brief glimpse of a shining supper-table,
the departing whistle of the train as it shot away through field and
thicket, and the remote town was undisturbed again.

He was grateful indeed for the nightly renascence of his spirit in the
clear air and gracious heaven of the place. On this May night of mist
and darkness he took up again the thread of his real existence. Only
to-night it seemed more golden, more palpitating with hope and
mystery--a still moment wherein one could only half distinguish between
the future and the past. He was thirty years old to-day, he told
himself, and he had a wife and three children. A short swift time it had
been! Had he them then, or was it a dream? Where were his footsteps
taking him down the empty street? To Babylon, or some lost coast of gods
and visions? He turned a familiar corner. A fresh breeze struck his face
with a sudden shower of drops, and he saw in the dim light the heads of
crocuses shaking in the grass beside the walk. He flung open the door
and heard Maggie's voice in the dining-room and the laughter of Alicia.

'Hallo!' he called; and getting no answer, he walked into the
dining-room. There was a circle of candles on the table, unlighted as
yet, and a bowl of flowers.

Maggie was sitting by the fire, cracking nuts, and telling a story to
the children who sat about her in white frocks, the firelight on their
faces. The boy John was staring into the flame with the look that made
his mother believe that she had given habitation to a poet's soul, and
that inspired her to tell the most extravagant tales of wonder that her
brain could conjure. Vibrant mystery rang in the low monotony of her
voice.

Their father checked himself at the doorway, thinking that he had done
violence to the etiquette of birthdays by allowing himself to view the
preparation. He laughed and stepped out again.

'Oh, I see you don't want me. I really didn't look at a thing!' And he
called back from the stair, 'How soon _may_ I come?'

He heard nothing but the cracking of nuts, Maggie's enchanting tone, and
the short laughter of Alicia.

'O Maggie, dear!' he called again.

No reply,--only the soft continuance of the magic tale in the inner
room.

'By the way,'--He stepped down a stair. 'By the way, Maggie, may I see
you a second?'

The story had ceased, but Maggie neither answered nor came. He stepped
to the dining-room door with a curious sense of apprehension. There was
a touch of surprise in his tone.

'Maggie!'

She looked round and on her face was the quick and strange reflection of
his bewilderment. Yet she looked beyond him, through him, as if he had
not been there. The boy John was still staring into the fire, folded
deep in the robe of enthrallment his mother had made. As if from the
hushed heart of it, he said,--

'What did you hear, mother?'

She gave him a startled glance, and then she smiled upon him, tenderly,
warmly.

'Only the wind outside, dear child. It is a rainy and windy night.'

She looked again toward the door of the room.

'Maggie!'

Such was the sudden torture and fear in his breast, he could scarcely
lift his voice. He put one hand to his head and stepped nearer his wife.

As if to find tranquillity in a moment of nervousness, she rested her
soft glance on Alicia, the child of delicate hands and delicate
thoughts.

Robbie, the importunate youngest, leaned against his mother with heavy
and troubled eyes.

'I thought I heard something, mother,' he said.

She bent over him, visibly trembling.

'What did you think it was, darling?' she asked.

'I thought it was the rain hitting the window and trying to get in.'

She laughed and rose uneasily from her chair, and taking the child in
her arms, she walked up and down before the friendly fire. For a long
time there was no sound in the room except the vague sound of wind, of
flame, and of Maggie's footsteps.

Suddenly Robbie gave a little cry from her shoulder.

'Why doesn't father come?'

The man rushed toward his wife to clasp her and the child in his arms,
crying,--

'O Maggie!'

She sank to her chair, trembling and stroking the head of her child with
fearful compassion.

'O heavy mystery! Is this life,' he cried, 'or death?' He stretched out
his arms in vain. The impassable gulf lay between them. Then, as he
turned away from her, the walls of the house grew heavy upon him, the
fire sent forth a smothering heat, and incomprehensible, unendurable
became the spectacle of human grief.

He went toward the door. Hesitating he looked back again. Robbie's face
was buried in her breast; her eyes were deep and dark with the
half-guessed truth.

There came a sound at the door, that caused Maggie to start piteously.
He forgot his desire to be free in his desire to clasp her again and
console her.

She left the children and went unhesitating and pale to answer the
summons, he hovering beside her. What a flower she looked and how
fragilely shaken, like the rain-beaten crocuses in the grass!

As the door opened he saw two men standing in the dark and wet. For a
moment neither spoke. One looked at the other, and broke out,--

'You tell her, for God's sake!'

This came to him dimly as if he were a thousand miles away. He heard no
more. He had gone out into the wind and rain. It struck his breast again
with its incomparable sweetness. He saw dark hills lying before him.
Gateways long barred within him rushed open with a sound of singing and
triumph. He felt no more sorrow, no more pity,--only incredible freedom
and joy. The stone had been rolled away.

'Death is sweet! Death is sweet!' echoed and reëchoed through all the
passages of his being. He smelt the icy breath of mountains, and he knew
the vast solitude of the plains of the sea. The veins of his body were
the great rivers of the earth, sparkling in even splendor. His head was
among the stars, he saw the sun and the moon together, and the four
seasons were marshaled about him. The clouds of the sky parted and fell
away, and across the blue sward of heaven he saw the procession of
glowing, gracious figures whose broken shadow is cast with such vague
majesty across the face of the earth.



LITTLE BROTHER

BY MADELEINE Z. DOTY


It was a warm summer's day in late August. No men were visible in the
Belgian hamlet. The women reaped in the fields; the insects hummed in
the dry warm air; the house doors stood open. On a bed in a room in one
of the cottages lay a woman. Beside her sat a small boy. He was still,
but alert. His eyes followed the buzzing flies. With a bit of paper he
drove the intruders from the bed. His mother slept. It was evident from
the pale, drawn face that she was ill.

Suddenly the dreaming, silent summer day was broken by the sound of
clattering hoofs. Some one was riding hurriedly through the town.

The woman moved uneasily. Her eyes opened. She smiled at the little boy.

'What is it, dear?'

The boy went to the window. Women were gathering in the street. He told
his mother and hurried from the room. Her eyes grew troubled. In a few
minutes the child was back, breathless and excited.

'O, mother, mother, the Germans are coming!'

The woman braced herself against the shock. At first she hardly grasped
the news. Then her face whitened, her body quivered and became
convulsed. Pain sprang to her eyes, driving out fear; beads of
perspiration stood on her forehead; a little animal cry of pain broke
from her lips. The boy gazed at her paralyzed, horrified; then he flung
himself down beside the bed and seized his mother's hand.

'What is it, mother, what is it?'

The paroxysm of pain passed; the woman's body relaxed, her hand reached
for the boy's head and stroked it. 'It's all right, my son.' Then as the
pain began again, 'Quick, sonny, bring auntie.'

The boy darted from the room. Auntie was the woman doctor of B. He found
her in the Square. The townspeople were wildly excited. The Germans were
coming. But the boy thought only of his mother. He tugged at auntie's
sleeve. His frenzied efforts at last caught her attention. She saw he
was in need and went with him.

Agonizing little moans issued from the house as they entered. In an
instant the midwife understood. She wanted to send the boy away, but she
must have help. Who was there to fetch and carry? The neighbors,
terrified at their danger, were making plans for departure. She let the
boy stay.

Through the succeeding hour a white-faced little boy worked manfully.
His mother's cries wrung his childish heart. Why did babies come this
way? He could not understand. Would she die? Had his birth given such
pain? If only she would speak! And once, as if realizing his necessity,
his mother did speak.

'It's all right, my son; it will soon be over.'

That message brought comfort; but his heart failed when the end came. He
rushed to the window and put his little hands tight over his ears. It
was only for a moment. He was needed. His mother's moans had ceased and
a baby's cry broke the stillness.

The drama of birth passed, the midwife grew restless. She became
conscious of the outer world. There were high excited voices; wagons
clattered over stones; moving day had descended on the town. She turned
to the window. Neighbors with wheelbarrows and carts piled high with
household possessions hurried by. They beckoned to her.

For a moment the woman hesitated. She looked at the mother on the bed,
nestling her babe to her breast; then the panic of the outside world
seized her. Quickly she left the room.

The small boy knelt at his mother's bedside, his little face against
hers. Softly he kissed the pale cheek. The boy's heart had become a
man's. He tried by touch and look to speak his love, his sympathy, his
admiration. His mother smiled at him as she soothed the baby, glad to be
free from pain. But presently the shouted order of the departing
townspeople reached her ears. She stirred uneasily. Fear crept into her
eyes. Passionately she strained her little one to her.

'How soon, little son, how soon?'

The lad, absorbed in his mother, had forgotten the Germans. With a
start, he realized the danger. His new-born manhood took command. His
father was at the front. He must protect his mother and tiny sister. His
mother was too ill to move, but they ought to get away. Who had a wagon?
He hurried to the window, but already even the stragglers were far down
the road. All but three of the horses had been sent to the front. Those
three were now out of sight with their overloaded wagons. The boy stood
stupefied and helpless. The woman on the bed stirred.

'My son,' she called. 'My son.'

He went to her.

'You must leave me and go on.'

'I can't, mother.'

The woman drew the boy down beside her. She knew the struggle to come.
How could she make him understand that his life and the baby's meant
more to her than her own. Lovingly she stroked the soft cheek. It was a
grave, determined little face with very steady eyes.

'Son, dear, think of little sister. The Germans won't bother with
babies. There isn't any milk. Mother hasn't any for her. You must take
baby in your strong little arms and run--run with her right out of this
land into Holland.'

But he could not be persuaded. The mother understood that love and a
sense of duty held him. She gathered the baby in her arms and tried to
rise, but the overtaxed heart failed and she fell back half-fainting.
The boy brought water and bathed her head until the tired eyes opened.

'Little son, it will kill mother if you don't go.'

The boy's shoulders shook. He knelt by the bed. A sob broke from him.
Then there came the faint far-distant call of the bugle. Frantically the
mother gathered up her baby and held it out to the boy.

'For mother's sake, son, for mother.'

In a flash, the boy understood. His mother had risked her life for the
tiny sister. She wanted the baby saved more than anything in the world.
He dashed the tears from his eyes. He wound his arms about his mother in
a long passionate embrace.

'I'll take her, mother; I'll get her there safely.'

The bugle grew louder. Through the open window on the far-distant road
could be seen a cloud of dust. There was not a moment to lose. Stooping,
the boy caught up the red squirming baby. Very tenderly he placed the
little body against his breast and buttoned his coat over his burden.

The sound of marching feet could now be heard. Swiftly he ran to the
door. As he reached the threshold he turned. His mother, her eyes
shining with love and hope, was waving a last good-bye. Down the
stairs, out the back door, and across the fields sped the child. Over
grass and across streams flew the sure little feet. His heart tugged
fiercely to go back, but that look in his mother's face sustained him.

He knew the road to Holland: it was straight to the north. But he kept
to the fields. He didn't want the baby discovered. Mile after mile,
through hour after hour he pushed on, until twilight came. He found a
little spring and drank thirstily. Then he moistened the baby's mouth.
The little creature was very good. Occasionally she uttered a feeble
cry, but most of the time she slept. The boy was intensely weary. His
feet ached. He sat down under a great tree and leaned against it. Was it
right to keep a baby out all night? Ought he to go to some farmhouse? If
he did, would the people take baby away? His mother had said, 'Run
straight to Holland.' But Holland was twenty miles away. He opened his
coat and looked at the tiny creature. She slept peacefully.

The night was very warm. He decided to remain where he was. It had grown
dark. The trees and bushes loomed big. His heart beat quickly. He was
glad of the warm, soft, live little creature in his arms. He had come on
this journey for his mother, but suddenly his boy's heart opened to the
tiny clinging thing at his breast. His little hand stroked the baby
tenderly. Then he stooped, and softly his lips touched the red wrinkled
face. Presently his little body relaxed and he slept. He had walked
eight miles. Through the long night the deep sleep of exhaustion held
him. He lay quite motionless, head and shoulders resting against the
tree-trunk, and the new-born babe enveloped in the warmth of his body
and arms slept also. The feeble cry of the child woke him. The sun was
coming over the horizon and the air was alive with the twitter of
birds.

At first he thought he was at home and had awakened to a long happy
summer's day. Then the fretful little cries brought back memory with a
rush. His new-born love flooded him. Tenderly he laid the little sister
down. Stretching his stiff and aching body, he hurried for water. Very
carefully he put a few drops in the little mouth and wet the baby's lips
with his little brown finger. This proved soothing and the cries ceased.
The tug of the baby's lips on his finger clutched his heart. The
helpless little thing was hungry, and he too was desperately hungry.
What should he do? His mother had spoken of milk. He must get milk.
Again he gathered up his burden and buttoned his coat. From the rising
ground on which he stood he could see a farmhouse with smoke issuing
from its chimney. He hurried down to the friendly open door. A kindly
woman gave him food. She recognized him as a little refugee bound for
Holland. He had some difficulty in concealing the baby, but fortunately
she did not cry. The woman saw that he carried something, but when he
asked for milk, she concluded he had a pet kitten. He accepted this
explanation. Eagerly he took the coveted milk and started on.

But day-old babies do not know how to drink. When he dropped milk into
the baby's mouth she choked and sputtered. He had to be content with
moistening her mouth and giving her a milk-soaked finger.

Refreshed by sleep and food, the boy set off briskly. Holland did not
now seem so far off. If only his mother were safe! Had the Germans been
good to her? These thoughts pursued and tormented him. As before, he
kept off the beaten track, making his way through open meadows, and
patches of trees. But as the day advanced, the heat grew intense. His
feet ached, his arms ached, and, worst of all, the baby cried fretfully.

At noon he came to a little brook sheltered by trees. He sat down on the
bank and dangled his swollen feet in the cool, fresh stream. But his
tiny sister still cried. Suddenly a thought came to him. Placing the
baby on his knees he undid the towel that enveloped her. There had been
no time for clothes. Then he dipped a dirty pocket handkerchief in the
brook and gently sponged the hot, restless little body. Very tenderly he
washed the little arms and legs. That successfully accomplished, he
turned the tiny creature and bathed the small back. Evidently this was
the proper treatment, for the baby grew quiet. His heart swelled with
pride. Reverently he wrapped the towel around the naked little one, and
administering a few drops of milk, again went on.

All through that long hot afternoon he toiled. His footsteps grew slower
and slower; he covered diminishing distances. Frequently he stopped to
rest, and now the baby had begun again to cry fitfully. At one time his
strength failed. Then he placed the baby under a tree and rising on his
knees uttered a prayer:--

'O God, she's such a little thing, help me to get her there.'

Like a benediction came the cool breeze of the sunset hour, bringing
renewed strength.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the afternoon of the following day, a wagon stopped before a Belgian
Refugee camp in Holland. Slowly and stiffly a small boy slid to the
ground. He had been picked up just over the border by a friendly farmer
and driven to camp. He was dirty, dedraggled, and footsore. Very kindly
the ladies' committee received him. He was placed at a table and a bowl
of hot soup was set before him. He ate awkwardly with his left hand.
His right hand held something beneath his coat, which he never for a
moment forgot. The women tried to get his story, but he remained
strangely silent. His eyes wandered over the room and back to their
faces. He seemed to be testing them. Not for an hour, not until there
was a faint stirring in his coat, did he disclose his burden. Then,
going to her whom he had chosen as most to be trusted, he opened his
jacket. In a dirty towel lay a naked, miserably thin, three-days-old
baby.

Mutely holding out the forlorn object, the boy begged help. Bit by bit
they got his story. Hurriedly a Belgian Refugee mother was sent for. She
was told what had happened, and she took the baby to her breast.
Jealously the boy stood guard while his tiny sister had her first real
meal. But the spark of life was very low.

For two days the camp concentrated its attention on the tiny creature.
The boy never left his sister's side. But her ordeal had been too great.
It was only a feeble flicker of life at best, and during the third night
the little flame went out. The boy was utterly crushed. He had now but
one thought--to reach his mother. It was impossible to keep the news
from him longer. He would have gone in search. Gently he was told of the
skirmish that had destroyed the Belgian hamlet. There were no houses or
people in the town that had once been his home.

       *       *       *       *       *

'That is his story,' ended the friendly little Dutch woman.

'And his father?' I inquired.

'Killed at the front,' was the reply.

I rose to go, but I could not get the boy out of my mind. What a world!
What intolerable suffering! Was there no way out? Then the
ever-recurring phrase of the French and Belgian soldiers came to me.
When I had shuddered at ghastly wounds, at death, at innumerable white
crosses on a bloody battlefield, invariably, in dry, cynical, hopeless
tones, the soldier would make one comment,--

'C'est la guerre; que voulez-vous?'



WHAT ROAD GOETH HE?

BY F. J. LOURIET


A smoky lantern, suspended from the roof by a piece of spun-yarn,
described intricate curves in the obscurity of the forecastle. Black
chasms gaped on every side. Oil-skins and sodden clothing slapped
against the walls. The air was impure, saturated with moisture, and
vibrant with the muffled roar of the storm outside. A thin sheet of
water washed over the floor as the ship rolled.

A sea-chest broke from its lashings, and carried away to leeward. The
deck rose, and the chest slipped aft, amid a raffle of wet boots and
sou'westers; it sank, and the heavy chest shot forward across the
slippery floor, to fetch up sharply against one of the bunks. Again the
ship rolled, and the chest glided to leeward. Mutterings came from the
chasms, and pale faces, distorted with yawns, appeared above the bunk
boards. The owner of the chest awoke and crept stiffly from his bunk;
the ship rolled, the water splashed about his feet, and the chest
swooped toward him. He made it fast and climbed into his bunk again
without drying his feet. The faces had disappeared. The ship rose and
fell, the lantern swung, the hanging clothes bulged and flattened and
bulged again; gloomy shadows wavered and seemed ever threatening to
advance from the walls. The sound of the storm outside was dull and
persistent.

Boom! A solemn stroke of the bell on the forecastle-head woke one of the
sleepers. He sat up, expectant, for a moment, and then sank back. As he
did so the door slid open, the storm bellowed as a man stepped through,
and was deadened again as he forced the door to behind him. He vanished
into the starboard forecastle, and reappeared with a short pipe that
gurgled as he smoked. He seated himself on a chest, and the man who had
awakened looked down on him.

'What time is it?' he asked.

The smoker looked up. 'That you, Bill? It's gone six bells.'

The other grumbled. 'I heard one bell from the fo'c's'le-head.'

'She rolled bad just now. Tolled the bell herself.'

'Humph!' said the man in the bunk thoughtfully.

'Shut up!' called a voice. 'I want to sleep.'

Bill lowered his voice. 'How's the weather?' he inquired, looking down
anxiously at the smoker's glistening oilskins.

'Heavy. The Old Man hain't left the deck for a minute.'

After that the man in the bunk could not sleep again. He heard the other
leave the forecastle, and swear as the flying spray struck his face; he
heard a great body of water come over the bows and wash aft; he heard
the heavy breathing about him. He lay in his clothing (it was wet and
his blankets were wet--'Warm wet, anyhow,' he thought), and shivered at
the sound of the water washing about in the darkness below him, and at
the thought of the weather outside. He counted the minutes grudgingly,
and lay dreading the sound of the opening door. Wide-eyed, he watched
the lantern swinging in the gloom, the pendulous clothing on the wall,
the starting shadows, until some one beat frantically on the door, and,
staggering into the forecastle, turned up the light and called the
watch.

'A-a-all hands! Eight bells there! D' ye hear the news, you port watch?
Eight bells there!'

Men stirred and yawned. Tired men kicked off blankets and sat up,
swearing. Cramped men eased themselves from their bunks, and pulled on
sodden boots. They stumbled about the heaving deck, cursing their cold
oilskins, cursing the ship, cursing the sea.

'Come, shake a leg, bullies!' continued the inexorable voice. 'Weather
bad an' goin' to be worse! Get a move on you, or the mate 'll be for'ard
with a belayin'-pin!'

'Anything up?' inquired one.

'Heard the Old Man tell the mate to take in the fore-lower tops'l.'

Thereupon they fell anew to cursing the captain, his seamanship, and,
above all, his want of knowledge of the weather.

The watch went out into the tumult of the night, out into a chaos of
smashing seas and howling wind, out into a furious abyss of darkness and
uproar.

They collided blindly with other men; they called out angrily. Great
seas crashed over the bulwarks and smothered them; invisible torrents
poured off the forecastle-head and washed aft, beating them down,
stunning them. From somewhere out of the darkness came the voice of the
mate, bawling orders. They felt for the clewlines, making the most of
the intervals between the boarding seas. High above them they knew a man
was making his way aloft in the darkness to ease up the chain sheets.
They hauled and swore, arching their backs against the seas that tore at
their gripping fingers and washed their feet from under them. And always
the mate's voice sounded, cheerful, threatening, dauntless. Then up into
the black night, ratline by ratline, panting, clutching, and climbing;
out upon the invisible yard, along invisible foot-ropes, grasping
invisible jack-stays; swaying in the darkness, spat upon by the storm,
beating the stiff canvas with bleeding hands; unheeding the tumult of
the sea, the pounding wind, the lurching yard; with no thought save for
the mate's voice below, and the lashing canvas under their hands. From
the foretop, as they descended, they looked far down on the narrow hull,
rolling, pitching, and shivering, beneath them. Out from the darkness
pale seas rushed, roaring, toward the ship; and, roaring, passed to
leeward. Seething masses of water rose over the bows, smashed down on
the deck, and surged aft, forward, and over the side. Hissing foam
creamed about the lee chains; vicious rain-squalls drove across the
flooded decks; the cold was penetrating.

In the empty forecastle the lantern swung, the shadows rose and
crouched, the voice of the storm sounded deep and steady. Ends of
blankets dangled from the deserted bunks and flicked at the murmuring
water on the floor. The deck soared and swooped, soared and swooped,
minute after minute, hour after hour, and still the lantern swung, and
the shadows moved and waited.

The door slid back, the storm bellowed, and three men staggered into the
forecastle, bearing another. They laid him awkwardly in one of the lower
bunks, and stood for a moment looking down at him. The ship rolled, and
the shadows on the wall started as if they, too, would gather around
that gloomy berth. Again the deck dropped, the shadows retreated, and
the three men turned and left the forecastle.

The man in the bunk lay inert, as they had left him. His body sagged
lumpishly to the roll of the ship. A dark stain appeared and spread
slowly on the thin pillow.

A little later another man entered. He came to the edge of the bunk and
gazed for a few minutes, then deliberately removed his dripping oilskin
coat and sou'wester. The man in the bunk began to moan, and the other
leaned over him. The moans continued, and the watcher sat down on a
chest beside the bunk. Soon the sufferer's eyes opened and he spoke.

'What time is it?' he asked.

'Lie quiet, Bill,' the other cautioned. 'It's gone six bells.'

'My head hurts,' complained Bill. He tried to raise it, and moaned a
little.

The elder man placed a hand gently on his shoulder. 'Don't you worry,'
he said. 'You got hurted a little when the spar carried away. That's
all.'

'Spar!' repeated Bill, and pondered. 'What watch is it?'

'Middle watch.'

'I thought I been on deck,' said Bill. 'It was blowin'.' His hands were
groping about. 'Who bandaged my head?'

'The steward. They carried ye down into the cabin, first. Want a drink,
Bill?'

Bill assented, and the other, bracing himself against the chest, lifted
the injured man's head slightly and he drank.

'I may as well go to sleep,' he said, and closed his eyes. Instantly he
reopened them. 'Why ain't you on deck, Jansen?' he asked.

'The Old Man sent me in to sit by you.' Jansen fingered his long gray
beard, and the bright eyes under the shaggy brows blinked uneasily. 'You
see, it's this way, Bill. You was hurt, an' the Old Man thought mebbe
you'd want something.' He looked at the swinging lantern as if seeking
inspiration. 'Anything I can do for ye, Bill?' he asked at last.

The other stirred. 'I can't move me legs,' he complained.

'Mebbe the spar hurt your back a little,' suggested Jansen timidly. 'You
remember, don't ye, Bill?'

Again the injured man pondered. 'Me back's broke?' he said finally, and
Jansen nodded.

'Me back's broke, an' me head's broke,' Bill went on, 'an' there's a
pain in me side like Dago knives.'

'D' ye want another drink?' asked Jansen.

'It's eight bells, an' my watch below for me,' said Bill; and again
Jansen nodded.

Silence fell. The muffled roar of the storm, the plunging forecastle,
the waiting man on the chest, the dim light, the swinging lantern, the
pendulous clothing, and the shadows, all seemed accessory to the great
event about to take place.

'The pain in me side is awful!' groaned Bill; and Jansen shivered.

'The Old Man said he'd come for'ard as soon as he could leave the poop,'
he said, as if hoping there might be comfort in the thought.

'I don't need him,' gasped the sufferer. 'I'm goin', I think.'

Old Jansen folded his hands, and repeated the Lord's Prayer. Then he
leaned forward. 'Is--is there anybody ashore you'd want me to write to?'
he asked.

'No,' answered Bill between his moans. 'Me mother's dead, an' there's
nobody else that matters. I never was no good to any of 'em.'

After a time the moans ceased. A great sea boomed on the deck outside,
and washed aft. The lantern swung violently, and the ship's bell tolled.
Jansen looked into the bunk; Bill's eyes were fixed on him.

'I want to ask you, Jansen,' he said in a low voice. 'D'ye think there
is any chance for me?'

The other hesitated. 'I--I'm afraid not,' he stammered.

'I don't mean a chance to live,' explained Bill. 'I mean, d'ye think
I've got to go to hell?'

Jansen's tone grew positive. 'No,' he said, 'I don't.'

'I wisht there was a parson here,' muttered the man in the bunk. 'There
used to be a old chap that come regular to the Sailors' Home--gray
whiskers, he had, an' a long coat--I wisht he was here. He'd tell me.'

The man on the chest listened, his elbows on his knees, his head on his
hands.

'I shook hands with him many a time,' continued Bill. 'He'd tell me--'

Jansen started, and looked up. His bright, deep-set eyes had taken on a
look intent, glowing.

'Shall I read to ye a bit?' he asked. 'I've got a book--it might strike
ye--now.'

'All right,' said Bill indifferently.

The old man crossed the forecastle, opened his chest, and, delving deep
into its contents, brought forth a small, thin book.

It had seen much usage; the binding was broken, the leaves were stained
and torn. The old man handled it tenderly. He held it high before him
that the light from the swinging lantern might fall upon the text, and
read stumblingly, pausing when the light swung too far from him, and
making grotesque blunders over some of the long words.

'What is that book?' asked Bill after a time. 'It ain't the Bible?'

'No,' said Jansen. 'It ain't the Bible.'

'Then who is it says them things?' demanded Bill. 'He talks like he was
Everything.'

Jansen lowered the book. 'I don't exactly understand what they call
him,' he answered, 'they give him so many names. But I reckon nobody but
God talks like that, whatever they call him.'

'Where did you get it? the book, I mean,' persisted Bill.

'I was cleanin' out a passenger's cabin, two voyages back, an' I found
it under the bunk. I've been readin' it ever since. It's all full o'
strange, forrin names, worse 'n the ones in the Bible.'

'Well, neither of 'em stands to help me much,' commented Bill. 'I ain't
never been good. I've been a sailor-man. That book'--he broke off to
groan as the ship rolled heavily, but resumed--'that book says same as
the Bible, that a man's got to be pious an' do good an' have faith, an'
all that, else he don't have no show at all.'

'Listen!' said Jansen. He turned the pages, and read a few lines as
impressively as he could.

'That sounds easy,' said Bill. 'But I ought to ha' knowed about that
before. It's no good desirin' anything now. It's too late. He'd know I
was doin' it just to save my own skin--my soul, I mean.'

'Bill,' said Jansen. 'I'm goin' to ask you something.' He closed the
little book over one finger, and leaned toward the bunk. 'Do you
remember how you come to be hurted this way?'

'The spare spar that was lashed to starboard fetched loose, an' I tried
to stop it,' answered Bill readily. 'I see it comin'.'

'Why did you try to stop it?'

'Well, a big sea had just washed the Old Man down in the lee scuppers,
an' if the spar had struck him it would ha' killed him.'

'It's killed you, Bill,' said Jansen. 'Didn't you think o' that?'

'Me!' exclaimed Bill scornfully. 'Who's me?'

'But why did you want to save his life?' insisted Jansen.

'The ship 'ud stand a likely chance in a blow like this without a
skipper, wouldn't she?'

'Then you thought--'

'Thought nothin'! There was no time to think. I see the spar comin' an'
I says, "Blazes! That'll kill the skipper!" an' I tried to stop it.'

'You ain't sorry you did it?'

'Sorry nothin. What's done's done.'

'See here, Bill,' said old Jansen earnestly. 'I'll tell you what you
did. You did your duty! An' you laid down your life for another. You
saved the captain's life, an' mebbe the ship, an' all our lives through
him. An' you did it without thought o' reward. Don't you s'pose you'll
get a little credit for that?'

'I'm thinkin',' said Bill. He lay silent for a minute. 'Read that
again,' he requested.

Old Jansen did so, and after a pause he added, 'Now, if I was you I
wouldn't worry no more about hell. Just make your mind as easy as you
can. That's a better way to go.'

'I've got that,'said Bill. 'It's all right. Go on; read to me some
more.'

Jansen lifted the book and resumed his reading. He turned the pages
frequently, choosing passages with which he was familiar. The other
moaned at intervals. With every roll of the ship, water plashed faintly
underneath the bunks. The lantern swung unwearied, and sodden clothing
slapped against the walls. Dark shadows rose and stooped and rose again
as if longing and afraid to peer into the narrow berth. The sound of the
storm outside was grave and insistent.

The reader came to the end of a passage, and laid the book on his knee.
Suddenly he realized that the moans had ceased. He leaned over and
looked at the man in the bunk. He was dead.

Old Jansen sat motionless, deep in thought. At length he reopened the
little book, and read once more the lines which he had already repeated
at the dying man's request:--

    He is not lost, thou son of Prithâ! No!
    Nor earth, nor heaven is forfeit, even for him,
    Because no heart that holds one right desire
    Treadeth the road of loss!

He closed the book and again meditated. Later, he rose, replaced the
book in his chest, drew the dead man's blanket over his face, and went
out on deck.



THE CLEARER SIGHT

BY ERNEST STARR


Noakes leaned over a stand in one of the Maxineff laboratories and
looked intently into a crucible, while he advanced the lever of a
control-switch regulating the furnace beneath it. He held a steady hand
on the lever, so that he might push it back instantly if he saw in the
crucible too sudden a transformation. As he watched, the dull saffron
powder took on a deeper hue about the edge, the body of it remaining
unchanged. For several minutes he peered with keen intentness at the
evil, inert little mass. No further change appeared. He leaned closer
over it, regardless of the thin choking haze that spread about his face.
In his attitude there was a rigidity of controlled excitement out of
keeping with the seeming harmlessness of the experiment. He was as a man
attuned to a tremendous hazard, anticipation and mental endurance taut,
all his force focused on one throbbing desire. He bent closer, and the
hand on the lever trembled in nervous premonition. The deepened hue
touched only the edge, following regularly the contour of the vessel; it
made no advance toward the centre of the substance.

'It shall!' Noakes breathed; and as if conning an oft-repeated formula,
he said, 'The entire mass should deepen in color, regularly and evenly.
Heat! Heat!'

His glance shifted to the control-switch under his hand. Its metal
knobs, marking the degrees of intensity of the current it controlled,
caught the light and blinked like so many small, baleful eyes.
Particularly one, that which would be capped next in the orbit of the
lever, held him fascinated; the winking potentiality of it thralled
him, as the troubled crystal devours the gaze of the Hindu magi.

He jerked back his head decisively; he would increase the current. The
thought burned before him like a live thing; and in the light of it he
saw many pictures--heliographs of happenings in and about the
laboratories: flame, smoke dense and turgid, splintered wood, metal
hurtling through air, bleeding hands, lacerated breasts, sightless eyes.

'That's the trouble with high explosives,' he half groaned.

He turned away from the stand and went to the single window that lit the
room. Through it he saw shops, store-houses, and small buildings similar
to his own, all a part of the plant of Maxineff. He thought of each
small laboratory as a potential inferno, each experimenter a bondman to
ecstasy, the whole frenzied, gasping scheme a furtherance of the fame
and power of Henry Maxineff, already world-known, inventor of the
deadliest high explosives. One of the buildings had been turned into a
temporary hospital. He thought of the pitiful occupant--his face
scarred, one socket eyeless--and shivered.

'It isn't that I want to hedge,' he said. 'I shall take the chance; but
having risked everything, I will go to her able and whole, offering it
all without an apology.'

His gaze was drawn back to the crucible. In the thin haze above it a
face seemed to shine. Avidly he gave himself to the spell his
tight-strung imagination had conjured--a face oval and delicately
tinted; lips joyously curved; gray eyes not large, but brimming with
enthusiasm, fearlessness, and truth; a white brow beneath simply
arranged light hair.

'Let me bring with an avowal all that you have now, more!--for in your
life there can't be anything bigger than my love. And it's that which
makes the deal right. Don't judge me yet! Wait until I've finished, and
grant me that it's worth while.'

He whispered to the face, and his breath made little swirls and eddies
in the haze about it. The filmy curves wafted toward him, bringing it
close to his lips. The lids fluttered. Then an acrid odor filled his
throat and nostrils. The face vanished. He started back, distraught.

A rushing recollection of Maxineff's tragedies came to him, more vivid
even than the face. Halsey, who jarred the nitro, had been annihilated.
Ewell was mad from the violent termination of an experiment similar to
that now in development.

'A year ago!' Noakes said, 'and still Ewell lives and raves!'

How alike the cases were! The difference lay in the crucible. If the
mixture there were properly prepared, added heat would metamorphose it
calmly from its present harmlessness into something new, wonderful,
deadly. It would become imbued with marvelous possibility, a thing for
which royal military bureaus, imperial navies, would pay a great price.

A twist of the lever would do it. Yet how alike--And Ewell was mad,
injured gruesomely, living dead.

Again the blinking switch caught him, but he shrugged away its evil
suggestiveness. He sought to flee the strain of the moment, to make it
seem natural and like the smaller risks of his daily occupation. He
assumed a tottering bravado, and as he put his hand to the lever, he
smiled crookedly.

A light, quick tread sounded on the walk outside, on the double step; as
the knob turned, a voice said,'May I come, Mr. Alchemist?'

His hand left the lever as if it pricked him.

'You!'

'Am I a wraith?'

Noakes looked at her silently. In the moment's abstraction her presence
seemed a manifestation of some psychic conduction which he tried lamely
to understand--here, now, in a moment of danger of which she unknowingly
was the moving force.

'Then exorcise me quickly, but don't sprinkle me with acid; it would be
fatal to my clothes.'

Noakes warmed to the aura of light and cheer about her.

'There isn't an alkali in the shop; I won't endanger you,' he replied
easily.

She moved into the room and paused a moment near the stand.

'Mrs. Max says you are confining yourself too closely. I've been with
her all morning.'

While she spoke she took off her hat and smoothed her hair.

'I'm blown to pieces. I drove Cornish this morning; he got by everything
on the way. He acted like a _première danseuse_ when I passed the
cooper's shop.'

His joy at seeing her was discountenanced by his fear for her; and he
was afraid of her. Her insinuated trust in him threw into murky relief
the affair which occupied him. When she turned to him a flushed, joyful
face, and gray eyes clear and unsullied, it flashed into his soul, as
formedly as a _Mene Tekel_, that she would unhesitatingly brush out of
her life-path the dust of doubt; that equivocation and willingness to
balance motives were no part of her. He knew that in her were no dim
angles of cross-grained purpose, no shadowy intersections of the lines
of good and evil.

'I say I'm blown to wisps; couldn't you find me a mirror, please?'

'What would I do with a mirror here? But see--'

He lifted the window sash, pulled in one shutter, and with a gesture of
presentation, said, 'As others see us!'

She turned her back while she arranged her hair before the makeshift
mirror. Relieved from her direct gaze, he stepped quickly to the stand,
and looked into the crucible. There was no change. He had expected none,
but he could not be sure. Maxineff himself could not be sure of this new
mixture. A run of the same temperature might bring about the change he
looked for as readily as an increase. The suspense was unbearable.

'Well, Cagliostro!' she called. 'You alchemists are capable of the
utterest abstraction, aren't you?'

'Why have you come?' he said quickly, frowning at her.

'To take you driving,' with an enticing smile.

'Will you not go? Please, at once?'

Her manner lost something of its verve.

'It isn't safe, you know, really,' he added.

'And won't you come?'

'I cannot; not this morning.'

'Well,'she said, with a little sigh, as she thrust in her hat-pins,
'Mrs. Max will be disappointed. On her command I came to break up this
seclusion of yours. None of us have seen you for--'

'A week, seven days!'

'What are you doing?'

'Oh--I've been working out some ideas.'

'But you are so quiet about it! What are the ideas?'

Noakes hesitated, and she laughed merrily as she went toward the door.

'We laity are hopeless, aren't we? You are thinking that I couldn't
possibly understand?'

'No, I wasn't, because I scarcely understand myself.'

'Of course, some secret formula Mr. Max has you on.'

'Indeed, no,' he said. 'Mr. Max knows nothing about it--that is,' he
continued hurriedly, 'it's the sort of thing--At any rate, I'll soon be
through.'

She stood in the doorway, outlined against the bright incoming
mid-daylight, her face turned back to him.

'And then you will come out into the world again? Mrs. Max and Cornish
and I shall be honored.'

'Then I shall be free.'

He spoke the words with singular feeling.

'Truly, though, Mr. Noakes,' she said in a straightforward manner, 'you
are too busy. Mrs. Max says you are to break out, break out with the
measles if nothing else will interrupt you, and you are to have tea with
her this afternoon.'

Noakes looked doubtful. She went down the steps and turned again.

'Oh, I almost forgot--here's a letter for you.'

'Where--'

'It came in the Maxineffs' mail this morning. Mrs. Max suggested my
bringing it to you.'

Noakes took the long, foreign-stamped envelope. The typed superscription
was noncommittal, but at the Berlin postmark his eyes narrowed and the
knuckles of the hand by his side whitened. He drew a quick breath and
looked keenly at the girl.

'Was Mr. Maxineff at home this morning?' he asked quietly.

'No; I believe he is in the city.'

'Oh!' he breathed. 'Thank you very much.'

He slipped the letter into his pocket.

'Well, I can't stay any longer.'

Noakes pressed her hand.

'And, Cagliostro, when the puzzle's solved, come to see me. I'll sing
away the worries, Good-bye.'

'Good-bye, Miss Becky. Excuse my untractableness, won't you?'

With a pat to her hat and a smile to Noakes, she was gone.

He watched her a moment, then strode rapidly to the stand. Looking
through the faint haze, he saw her pass down the straight path which led
to the great gate of the Maxineff work-yard. When she was close to it he
grasped the switch-lever with cramped fingers. His face was colorless.
He moved the lever forward with a jerk, and lifting his eyes, saw her
pass out of the gate.

Beyond reach of time he waited. Evenly, insistently, a dull brown
suffused the mass. Still he waited, fearfully wondering at the stability
of this new thing. It kept its even coloring. He pushed back the lever,
watched again, and waited.

He was afire with joy. He had succeeded; he had created a thing new to
the world, an explosive which would be more powerful than the deadliest
in existence; he had perfected the work of a week's exquisite danger; he
had won.

'I am glad, glad!' he said faintly.

As he straightened up he found himself suddenly weak. The strain had
been galling, and the madness of gratification consumed his strength. He
moved toward the door, stepping very gently, for he knew not how slight
a vibration might shatter the delicate affinity in his discovery.

He remembered the foreign letter, and taking it from his pocket, tore
open the envelope.

He looked through the open door, conscious for the first time of the
perfectness of the day. It was good to be alive, he thought, free,
something accomplished, with leave to tell a girl--

A tall man entered the gate and took the walk toward the laboratory.
Noakes looked at him in a moment of amazement, almost of stupefaction.
The necessity of instant action startled him to movement. As quickly as
he thought, he pushed the door three-quarters shut, replaced the jars
from which he had taken his materials, filled a second crucible with a
harmless haphazard mixture, and placed it over a dead furnace in a stand
in the corner behind the door. He lifted the window-sash. With all his
strength he hurled his priceless crucible. By a marvel of speed he had
the sash lowered, and was behind the door, when the building was shaken
by an explosion.

'What is that, Mr. Noakes?' came in deep, calm tones from the door.

'Good morning, Mr. Maxineff,' said Noakes, turning slowly. 'The racket?
Some half-baked fulminate I put in the ditch out there an hour ago.'

'So long since?' said the older man, advancing toward the window.

'Yes, sir. I think the jarring of the wagon you see leaving the chemical
house caused it.'

A hole several feet in diameter marked the spot where the crucible fell.
The stuff had delayed not an instant in working its havoc. Noakes was
glad there was too little of it to cause a suspicious deal of damage.

Maxineff looked reflectively about the yard, while Noakes nervously eyed
his chief's expressive profile. His eyes wandered to the fine gray head
of this tall, straight man. He could not fail to be impressed afresh by
the forceful exterior, significant of the inner attitude which had won
for Henry Maxineff a name honored among nations.

'What of your work?' he said.

Noakes was glad those seeing eyes were not on him.

'I'm beat,' he said. 'I've gone at it every way I know, and I have been
consistently and finally unsuccessful.'

In the ensuing pause Noakes realized that this was the first admission
of failure he had ever made to his chief. The surprise it called forth
was grateful to him.

'What's the trouble? But I think the trouble with you is that you have
overreached yourself, Noakes.'

'Oh, no; the idea is a fine, tremendous one. Sheer stupidity is my
trouble, I think.'

His humility seemed real, and perhaps the unusualness of it brought a
curious expression to Maxineff's face, and into his eyes a contemplative
light that Noakes did not care to meet.

'I met Miss Hallam as I entered,' Maxineff said carelessly.

The remark may have meant much, or it may have had merely an intentional
indication of the intimacy accorded Noakes above the other assistants in
the laboratories.

'Yes? She came to tell me that Mrs. Max will permit me to have tea with
her this afternoon.'

'You are coming, I hope?'

'Indeed, yes. I confess I am tired out. I gave up the experiment early
this morning. I understood the fulminate was running low, and spent my
morning blundering over making some. I couldn't do that even, familiar
as I am with the process.'

'Well, leave it all and come with me over the yard. I am inspecting this
morning. Be my secretary for a while.'

Five o'clock had passed when they emerged upon the New England town's
stolid main street. They walked beneath the venerable flanking trees
toward the Maxineff villa, which surmounted a wooded continuation of the
street.

In a high gray-and-white room they found Mrs. Maxineff. She touched a
bell as she said in an odd manner of inflecting, 'But you are late!'

Moving to one end of the spindle-legged sofa, she made place at her
side for Maxineff, and motioned Noakes to a chair near them.

'Ah, I see it: you will be a second Max--all science, all absence, and a
woman waiting at home! Immolation, you call it?' she continued, her
hands moving quickly among the appurtenances of the tea-table. 'That is
what you prefer, my young Mr. Noakes.'

'I am under orders, you know, Mrs. Max,' said Noakes, with a deferential
inclination of the head toward Maxineff.

A servant brought in buttered rusks, and served the men with tea.

'Orders! For orders do you permit circles about your eyes as dark as
they themselves are? Then you are easily immolate!'

Over his cup Maxineff smiled encouragement to his wife.

'You are practical, my friend. Confess now, there is a reason for
your--your application?'

Noakes's attitude was uncompromising. He placed his cup on the table
before he spoke.

'The reason you are thinking of, Mrs. Max, is not for a poor man.'

Mrs. Maxineff lifted her shoulders and displayed her palms in a manner
that marked her nationality.

'So! Science has made your dark skin white; love for this business of
killing men has kept you hid a week.'

'Of saving men,' Maxineff corrected, while his wife smiled as at the
recurrence of a customary witticism.

'And you gave the orders, Max! You are to be blamed for this display of
energy.'

'Don't scold, dear. It will be a wonderful thing!'

'A new explosive?' she interrupted.

'Do you remember the day we motored from Stoneham? I first thought of it
then. I have been too busy to work on it, so I turned the idea over to
Noakes.'

'And I have made application to a home for the feeble-minded, Mrs. Max,'
Noakes said. 'Mr. Max will never commission me again.'

'I'll be with you to-morrow, and we shall see wherein is the
difficulty.'

'But, Max, another? Now I see your scheme of universal peace quite
puffed away!'

'This will bring it nearer!' Maxineff said enthusiastically.

Mrs. Maxineff shrugged her shoulders as she walked toward the long
windows.

'Stay to dinner, will you?' she said to Noakes.

'Thanks, but I couldn't with propriety. I forgot to have luncheon
to-day, and your tea has given me a keen anticipation for dinner; my
zest would be embarrassing to you, and past my control. Besides, I shall
take a half-mile walk to-night.'

'Lucky Becky! Then come again soon. Max, dear,' she said, turning to her
husband, 'I cannot hear that again. I shall be on the porch.'

When she passed through the window, Noakes seated himself to listen to a
new exposition of the subject which chiefly aroused Maxineff's interest
and loosed his speech. Frequently he bent his head in acquiescence, and
occasionally interjected a pertinent question under the guidance of his
secondary mind; but his thoughts moved in a circle of smaller radius.

What to him was a policy of world-peace? He cared not a jot what scheme
of universal pacification men dreamed over. Maxineff's argument was not
new to him; when he gave it serious attention he doubted its
practicability.

The older man's voice seemed far away, as it said, 'Each new explosive
deals a blow at war,--war!'

Noakes had heard the same thing when his chief concluded with the
government an agreement which secured to it the exclusive use of his
latest product.

'This new thing will make war too dreadful a course for the least
humanitarian nation to pursue. That the variance of nations tends toward
equilibrium is incontrovertible. Granted then--'

Noakes was practical. He placed before himself a definite goal. He
exerted every power to attain it, and used the means at his disposal. If
he encompassed it, he put it to the use for which it was intended. He
gave no thought to the extraneous influence it exerted on other phases
upon which his life touched. He had made a great discovery--not a
fortunate accident like that of the man who discovered nitro. With great
danger to himself, he had followed a line of reasoning to its proximate
end; the resulting discovery he would use to his individual advantage.
He did not accord to himself the godlike privilege of casting discord
among the nations, and he did not care what peaceful zoo the lion, the
bear, and the various species of eagle found as common refuge.

'On the other hand, if to each is given coextensive power--' The voice
slipped away, as Noakes humorously wondered why Maxineff had never been
a delegate to a Peace conference.

The great man's argument was advanced step by step. The light faded.
Secure in the dusk, Noakes no longer maintained a semblance of
attention. He weighed the chances of the present and actualized his
long-time dreams.

A servant clicked soft light from the wall, and removed the tea-table.

Noakes rose, uttered a commonplace, and bade his chief good-night.

Soon he was descending the village street, keeping pace with his rapid
thoughts.

From the exchange he dispatched a messenger to the house a half-mile
away.

He dressed quickly, the while reading repeatedly his foreign letter.
When dressed, he sat on the bed, chin in his palms, and looked at the
blank bedroom wall. A frown hung between his brows. Later he sat before
the shelves in his study, absently scanning the backs of the books.

'When? When?' he said aloud.

In the morning Maxineff would come to search for that which he had
found. He might be there for weeks, from morning till night. In that
case the work must be delayed and misguided. The proportions were finely
calculated; the method could not be bettered. He could duplicate it in
an hour. If only he could repeat the experiment before--

'To-night!' he said, and left the room with a firm step.

He dined well, though with few words for the kindly lady in whose home
he lived.

He took the path by the side of the road which led in the opposite
direction from the Maxineff place. He lit his first pipe since morning.
How good life was! The town, the plant, Maxineff, were all behind him.
Ahead was a goal toward which he bore with increasing lightness of
heart. Clearly defined decisions, unregretted, faded into the brightness
of anticipation. His pack of problems dropped from him. One day more and
he could speak--one evening of companionable friendship.

Her yard was a gnomish alternation of unsullied light and alluring
shade. The moon utilized impartially natural and artificial features of
landscape as detail for the picture of gray, black, and silver. Noakes
traversed less rapidly the curved driveway, pausing where it was cut by
a paved way to the door.

Through a window he saw her seated on the piano-bench, her head bent
forward, her mellow-tinted hair coiled low. She was singing softly.

She came to the door to meet him.

'Will duty call you back before you have been with me just a little
while?' she asked as they entered the room.

'No, duty has lost her voice at present.'

She dropped into a big arm-chair. He turned his back to the light, and
sat facing her.

'What have you been doing this week?'

'Singing mostly.'

'Sing now, please.'

'No, let's talk first.'

'Well, how did Cornish behave on your way back?'

'Quite as well as if you had been with us, Noakes.'

He leaned forward quickly.

'Do you know, that's the first time you've called me "Noakes"?'

'It slipped. Mrs. Max says it, you know; I am weak about taking on
colloquialisms.'

'And you are sorry you have been so easily influenced?' Noakes asked in
ponderous aggrievement.

'You do not seem to be overjoyed.'

'I am,' he said gently.

'Don't be hilarious over it.'

'I will; I wish--'

'Well, certainly; "Noakes" it shall be.'

'Thanks, Miss Beck.'

'Haven't you done anything but work these days?'

'I have thought more or less.'

'Strange; what about?'

'You, of course.'

'Steady! Spring has passed.'

'And to-night I heard a queer thing about you.'

'What?' she asked in an engaging manner of invitation to confidence.

'That you are to be married. I have it on the word of my landlady.'

'I?'

'So it is rumored in the village.'

'I am glad my family is not so anxious to thrust me off as my friends
are.'

'And you are unwilling to be thrust off, as you put it?'

'Married? No, not unwilling; unprepared. It is so very final, you know.
A woman gives up everything.'

'Not necessarily.'

'Oh, yes she does: freedom, family, associations.'

'And in return?'

'From the right man she gets--a sort of compensation.'

'Not a high valuation.'

'A true one; she knows she cares more than he does.'

'No, no!' Noakes spoke from a full heart.

'She does; and knowing it, she need not expect equal return--only part
compensation. But how good he ought to be!'

'Good?' he asked doubtfully.

'Yes, everything she thinks he is.'

'No man loved of woman is that.'

'Noakes, you are disillusioning, and incorrect, and moreover traitorous
to your kind.'

'Not a bit of it; you overpraise my kind.'

'But--let's be definite--you know he may be all--'

'And may not always have been; in which connection he may not be
expected to enlighten the dreaming lady, may he?'

'I think he may.'

'But he may possess a certain masculine trait, a kind of
secretiveness.'

'Secretive,' she mused. 'Then he is a bit of a coward, I think.'

'He would be a cad,' Noakes said quickly, 'to tell her things that would
pain her.'

'Understanding will come sooner or later,' she said oracularly. 'It is
better to become accustomed to a thing than have it come as a
revelation.'

'I see,' Noakes said; 'like taking a tonic in midwinter to fend off
spring fever. You forget,' he continued in a different tone, looking at
her speculatively, 'that understanding may never come.'

'Then he has put her on a lower intellectual plane; he has withheld from
her, as he might from a child.'

'No, he has loved her too well to hurt her.'

'Loved her so ill that he has deceived her from the beginning.'

'To my mind there is something active in deception; this would be rather
an omission.'

'An omission that is an insult to her.'

'Not at all!' Noakes spoke somewhat vehemently.

'Don't think I mean,' she said, 'that there should be a detailed
interchange of trivial confidence. That would be tiresome. If, however,
there were one big thing in his life that might influence her feeling
toward him, he should tell it, and let her judge.'

'Not smooth over a disagreeable occurrence?'

'Never! It would be cruel.'

Noakes sat very still.

'If I were the girl,--' she began, and checked the speech with a faint
laugh. 'But we will not be dramatic, nor personal.'

Noakes told himself he had always known that this was her thought; she
was too clear-hearted to feel anything else. The understanding of which
she had half-seriously spoken must never come, and the only means of
avoiding it was to-night's silence, the silence of all the days to
follow. He foresaw the revelation which might come, and realized that
any abnegation was worthless except the sacrifice of his love. Alive,
aware of its possible fulfillment, he could not condemn himself to the
sacrifice. She had not asked it of him, and he would not face that which
she might ask if he obeyed the weak voice which counseled a surrender to
her judgment. To the last intoxicating drop he would drink, in reverent
loving-thankfulness for the draught vouchsafed him. He would care, not
in fearful accumulation of credit against a day of reckoning, but in
surrender to the brimming abundance of their store. He would secure to
her freedom from that possible pain by following the inevitable trend.

His regard was a compelling force with which he had lived and grown
since he had known Becky. He had not spoken of it to her, silenced by
the piteous bane of insufficient income; but now almost he was free.
When he spoke, the breadth and depth of the thing it was would induce
her assent. Of this he was so sure that he did not consider the
possibility of refusal. His failure to anticipate such a chance was by
no means due to an under-estimation of her powers of will,
determination, or selection; rather to the feeling which, with the beat
of his heart, knocked for freedom to go out, out, about the world, and
with its sweeping lines converged again, to enter and permeate a heart
attuned to reception and response.

He sat beside her on the piano-bench, and placed before her the songs he
liked best.

Her voice was a pure soprano, of an expressive sweetness which affected
Noakes as nothing else he had known. It seemed to him that her clarity
of soul found expression in her exquisitely pure singing tones.

With hands tight-clasped between his knees, fearing to look at her,
Noakes listened while she sang him into a half-visualized dream, as
obsessing as it was immanent, which he clung to and enjoyed to the full
in order that he might ignore the longing then to speak his thought. His
dream keyed him to a responsiveness which made his throat throb in
sympathy with the vibration of her tones.

Presently he went away.

Alone in the silver-splotched yard, the spell yet held him; but when the
white road pointed a way back to what he had left behind, a fog of
uncertainty encircled him, dissipating the glow of his dream, checking
his anticipation, crushing his problem close to him in the narrow circle
of his vision, so close that, although a thing solved and set aside, it
loomed ominous and insistent.

He followed the road back to what he had left behind.

In the laboratory Noakes bent over a crucible. The room was still. Not
even the night-sounds penetrated the shut door and closed window. The
light from a single bulb played upon the set lines of his jaw, and upon
the still hand which lay on the switch-lever. He drew a deep breath that
quivered through the room with startling distinctness. He bent closer to
the tiny quantity of powder in the bottom of the vessel.

Suddenly he stood erect and looked about him. His glance slowly circled
the room, and fell to the hand on the switch-lever. Then he advanced the
lever.

It came as a burst of light taken up and radiated by clouds of fume and
gas with which the air was instantly impregnated. Around Noakes was a
white-hot brilliance which he could not face, and could not escape. His
eyes pained horribly. He heard a crescendo roaring as of a billow
breaking on the shore; as suddenly as it had come, the light went out.
He was in darkness. He trained his gaze into the void and succeeded only
in augmenting the pain back of his eyes. The darkness was impenetrable.
He began to realize what had happened. With a low moan he crumpled and
sank to the floor.

Late in the afternoon of the next day, behind a livery horse, two men
were covering the roadway between town and the Hallam place. To one the
way seemed long. He leaned back wearily and pulled a soft hat down over
his bandaged eyes.

'Where are we?' he asked.

'At the gate,' the driver replied.

Noakes stiffened. The gate closed behind them, and the wheels rumbled on
the driveway.

'Is--is any one in front?'

'Miss Hallam is on the porch, sir.'

The vehicle came to a stop.

'Afternoon, Miss Beck,' Noakes called.

He tried to make it sound pleasant and commonplace, and knew that he
failed.

Grasping the side of the vehicle, he descended clumsily.

Becky took his hand and pressed it warmly. She turned and took a step
toward the house, still holding his hand. He withdrew it.

'I--don't, please; I know the way.'

With the shuffling tread of the blind he ascended the walk, stopping
uncertainly at the foot of the steps. He heard Becky, at his side, draw
a quick breath, as if about to speak. He half-turned to her, and hearing
nothing more, mounted the steps heavily.

'Do you know,' he said, as he paused at the top, 'I've never counted
these steps before. I didn't know there were so many. Let's sit inside,
if you don't mind.'

He went a little way, and Becky put her hand on his arm.

'It's this way, Noakes,' she said gently, as she guided him into the
room in which they were the night before.

'Thank you. It's a bit hard to be led,' Noakes said huskily.

They sat on a deep couch.

'Noakes, was it wise to come? I am glad you are here, but won't it hurt
you, retard your recovery?' Becky asked anxiously.

'I had to come.'

'Mr. Max told me--both he and the doctor telephoned me early this
morning--that in spite of all they said to you, you insisted on coming.'

'I am fit, sound except for my eyes; that's the shame of it,' he said
bitterly. 'They couldn't persuade me that I should rest now, rest to
recover from a shock that will last a lifetime.'

'I thought--I was afraid you might add fresh danger by coming out so
soon.'

'I tell you I had to come!' he said with level forcefulness. 'As for my
eyes, the harm is done.'

'Is it irremediable?'

'I am blind.'

'But soon--some day, surely--'

'No. The doctor gives me banalities for answers. I suppose he thinks I
would go to pieces if he told me the truth.'

'Yes, perhaps he thinks you could not bear the truth,' Becky assented
very gently.

Her low, feeling tones brought a lump to Noakes's throat. He felt the
sympathy which quivered in her voice, and it nearly unmanned him; but he
misunderstood her meaning. He thought that she felt with him the sting
of being deprived of full knowledge of his condition, the hurt of their
doubting his strength. That Becky meant something far different, he
might have known from her humble acquiescence, and the sudden touch of
her hand on his arm.

'I've been trying to think it out,' Noakes said, his voice low at first,
roughening and increasing in volume as he spoke, 'but here I am,
unweakened in mind and body, and put aside--Not to see, never to see for
myself the beautiful things about me; shut out from everything; with
power to do, and ability to appreciate, yet put out in darkness; never
to--O Becky, you, I can't ever see you again!'

'Don't! You mustn't, please!'

'I didn't intend to speak so to you. I haven't the right. You must
pardon me.' He was silent a moment. 'I came to say something else.'

He turned his head about impatiently, calling upon his bandaged eyes to
perform their function.

'Is it dark yet?' he asked.

'We are in the gloaming,' Becky answered softly.

Noakes shut his lips, taking counsel of his powers of control before he
spoke.

'Becky,' he began, and gave a tired little sigh. 'Let me call you
"Becky" to-day.'

'Yes,' she acquiesced quietly.

'Becky,' he continued, lingering over the word, thinking of the
privilege of its use as an accolade conferred by her, 'you need not
speak when I have finished; I'll go away then.'

'What is it?' Becky asked. 'Tell me.'

Noakes leaned forward, pressing his temples; then sat erect and turned
his face toward her.

'I love you,' he said. 'I think it has been through more lifetimes than
this; I know I shall always love you. I could no more grow away from it
than I could add a cubit to my stature by taking thought. I kept silent
because I was poor. Don't think of this as a bit of sordidness creeping
in. My love would not ask of you any sacrifice. I could not give you the
things you are accustomed to, so I said nothing. I planned and worked
for a time when I would be privileged to speak.'

He heard an inarticulate sound at his side, and quickly continued:--

'Last night I thought the time was close at hand. I thought in a few
days I could come to you, and ask you for your love. Success of a
certain kind was about to crown an effort of a despicable kind. Of that
I must tell you. To-night I am confessing a wrong I have done you.
That's what it is. O, Becky, the explosion last night took away my
sight, made me a useless blind man, but it opened my eyes too! It is as
if a scroll were outspread before me, on which is a record of all my
tendencies and crucial acts. I can see my failures at the crises of my
life, and I can trace them back to causes, can see wherein a lightly
taken determination has later borne bitter fruit. Last night I thought I
had reached the pinnacle of attainment; in reality I had fallen lower
than ever before. The success which was to be the beginning of all good
things was stolen. I robbed Maxineff of it. He gave me an idea to work
out. I followed his instructions to a point where I knew a different
treatment might bring about a fine result. I saw great possibilities in
the experiment and determined to keep for myself the benefits of it.
From that point I followed my own ideas, and called the thing mine. I
opened correspondence with the representatives of a foreign government.
They agreed to buy the secret in case of a successful test. It was an
excellent bargain I made--I put a high price on the betrayal of my
benefactor! The experiment was successful. I was forced to destroy the
result, why it is needless to say. Last night, when I left you, I went
back to repeat the experiment, intending to make a small quantity to be
used in the test which would have taken place to-morrow. Something went
wrong with the unstable stuff,--and you know the rest.'

In relief from the tension of his confession, his voice dropped lower as
he said, 'Now you know me!'

He shifted his position, stretching out his hands toward her. He touched
her face, started, and drew back.

'And Becky, do you realize that it was after I left you last night that
I went back? After what you told me? O Becky, I am glad I cannot see you
now!'

His voice quivered off to a whisper.

'It is poor consolation that I know myself for what you judge me. I know
bitterly well; I see much now. I could not come to the weakest agreement
with the self I want to be, until I had told you of the wrong I have
done you. And let me think my love is not distasteful to you. I know I
am past your caring for, and I'll never ask it of you, but let me keep
on loving you. Won't you, Becky?'

He paused and listened. He heard Becky's uneven breathing.

'I don't offer any excuse; there is none to offer. I want only the
comparative peace of the assurance that those I have wronged understand
now. I have talked with Mr. Maxineff. He was with me afterwards, when
the pain--He hushed me far too gently, but he will not forget. You will
not forget either, Becky, and you will not excuse. If, though, you
should ask me why, I would say again, I love you. It is the only reason.
I was thinking of you while I was making myself unfit for you to think
of me.'

'Do you care so much?' Becky asked softly.

'Yes. May I keep on caring?'

'To what good?'

'For the sake of the little good in me, which love of you will keep
alive and growing.'

'You ask nothing of me. What will you find in caring for me?'

'There will be a constant joy in knowing that you permit me to care.'

Becky was silent.

'If you won't let me, I am afraid it will make no difference, because I
cannot help it, you know. I don't want to help it; you don't mind my
saying so?'

For a moment neither of them spoke. Noakes rose.

'I--Becky, I thank you for hearing me out.'

He went a step away from her.

'I'm going.'

She did not rise.

'I am glad you have not spoken of my--my mistake; and somehow I am
sorry. I know what you--'

'How do you know what I think?'

'I know; that's all.'

'Don't go, please,' Becky said.

'Hadn't I better? I'm tired, and the doctor--A last acknowledgment: I am
afraid to hear you.'

'But I don't want you to go,' she said softly.

Something in her tone made Noakes turn sharply.

'Becky!'

'Yes, Noakes?'

'You don't--'

'Yes!'

'You love me, and blind?'

'You are brave!'

Her hands were in his when he sat by her side.

'I talked with the doctor this morning,' she said.

'As I did.'

'No. He gave me a message for you.'

'A message from the doctor?'

'It was Mr. Max's notion that I should tell you.'

'What is it?' Noakes asked quickly.

'Your eyes--they will be well in time, if you are very careful.'

As Noakes breathed deep in relief and gratitude, one of his hands
engaged two of Becky's, and he found a different use for the other.

'Noakes,' Becky said, 'I'll take care of the eyes.'



THE GARDEN OF MEMORIES

BY C. A. MERCER


The garden looked dreary and desolate in spite of the afternoon
sunshine. The lilac and lavender bushes were past their prime; their
wealth of sweetness had been squandered by riotous offshoots. The wind
played among the branches, and cast changing sun-flecked shadows on the
grass-grown paths, narrowed by the encroachment of the box borders that
had once lined the way with the stiff precision of troops before a royal
progress.

The flowers had the air of being overburdened with the monotony of their
existence. They could never have had that aspect if they had been only
wild flowers and had never experienced human care and companionship.
That made the difference.

The gate hung on rusty hinges; it answered with a long-drawn-out
creaking, as it was pushed open by a man who had been a stranger to the
place for nearly twenty years.

Yes, the garden was certainly smaller than it had been pictured by his
memory. There had been a time when it had appeared as a domain of
extensive proportions, and the wood beyond of marvelous depth and
density.

He was conscious of a sense of disappointment. The property would
scarcely realize as high a price in the market as he had hoped; and it
was incumbent upon him to part with it, if he would be released from the
narrow circumstances that hemmed him in.

He had arranged to meet the lawyer there that afternoon. One of the
latter's clients had already made a bid for the estate. The timber, at
all events, would add to the value.

The house faced southward upon the garden. It was here the man had been
brought up by an old great-aunt. He guessed later that she had grudged
him any of the endearments that death had denied her bestowing upon her
own children. Her affections had all been buried before he was born.
Besides, he took after the wrong branch of the family.

She must have possessed a strong personality. It was difficult to bring
to mind that it was no longer an existent force. Every one, from the
parson to the servants, had stood a little in awe of her. He remembered
the unmoved manner in which she had received the news of the death of a
near relative. It had overwhelmed him with a sudden chill, that so she
would have received tidings of his own. It had taken all the sunshine in
the garden to make him warm again.

In the mood that was growing upon him, it would not have much surprised
him to find her sitting bolt upright in her carved high-back chair, as
she had sat in the time of his earliest recollections,--the thin, yellow
hands, on which the rings stood out, folded in her lap. On one occasion
she had washed his small hands between hers. The hard lustre of the
stones acquired a painful association with the ordeal. The blinds would
be partially drawn in the musk-scented parlor, to save the carpet from
further fading, for there had been a tradition of thrift in the family
from the time of its settlement,--a tradition that had not been
maintained by its latest representative.

Like the atmosphere of a dream, the years grew dim and misty between now
and the time when summer days were longer and sunnier, and it had been
counted to him for righteousness if he had amused himself quietly and
not given trouble.

A stream that he had once dignified with the name of river formed a
boundary between the garden and the wood. Although it had shrunk into
shallow insignificance,--with much beside,--a faint halo of the romance
with which he had endued this early scene of his adventures still clung
to the spot.

As he came to the stream, he saw the reflection of a face in the
water--not his own, but that of one much younger.

It was so he met the boy. The child had been placing stepping-stones to
bridge the stream, and now came across, balancing himself on the
slippery surfaces to test his work. It was odd that he had remained
unobserved until this moment, but that was due to the fact of the
water-rushes on the brink being as tall as he.

The boy's eyes met those of the man with a frank, unclouded gaze. He did
not appear astonished. That is the way when one is young enough to be
continually viewing fresh wonders; one takes everything for granted. He
saw at a glance that this other was not alien to him; his instinct
remained almost as true as those of the wild nature around.

For his own part, he had an unmistakable air of possession about him. He
appeared to belong to the place as much as the hollyhocks and
honeysuckle; and yet, how could that be?

'Probably a child of the caretaker,' the man told himself.

He had authorized the agent to do what was best about keeping the house
in order. He had not noticed what signs it had to show of habitation.
Now he saw from the distance that it had not the unoccupied appearance
he had expected of it; nor the windows, the dark vacant stare of those
that no life behind illumines.

'Do you live here?' he asked of the boy.

'Yes.' The boy turned proudly toward the modest gray pile in the manner
of introducing it, forgetting himself in his subject. 'It's a very old
house. There's a picture over the bureau in the parlor of the man who
built it, and planted the trees in the wood. Hannah says--

'Hannah!'

It was a foolish repetition of the name. Of course there were other
Hannahs in the world. The old servant of that name, who had told the man
stories in his boyhood, had been dead more years than the child could
number.

'Yes,--don't you know Hannah? She'll come and call me in presently, and
then you'll see her. Hannah says they--the trees--have grown up with the
family' (he assumed a queer importance, evidently in unconscious mimicry
of the one who had repeated the tradition to him), 'and that with them
the house will stand or fall. Do you think the roots really reach so
far?'

There was an underlying uneasiness in the tone, which it was impossible
altogether to disguise.

As the other expressed his inability to volunteer an opinion on this
point, the boy went on, seeing that his confidences were treated with
due respect:

'I dug up one myself once--I wished I hadn't afterwards--to make myself
a Christmas tree like I'd read about. I just had to hang some old things
I had on it. It was only a tiny fir, small enough to go in a flower-pot;
but that night the house shook, and the windows rattled as if all the
trees in the forest were trying to get in. I heard them tapping their
boughs ever so angrily against the pane. As soon as it was light, I went
out and planted the Christmas tree again. I hadn't meant to keep it out
of the ground long: they might have known that.'

'Have you no playfellows here?'

The boy gave a comprehensive glance around. 'There are the trees; they
are good fellows. I wouldn't part with one of them. It's fine to hear
them all clap their hands when we are all jolly together. There are
nests in them, too, and squirrels. We see a lot of one another.'

This statement was not difficult to believe: the Holland overalls bore
evident traces of fellowship with mossy trunks.

The boy did most of the talking. He had more to tell of the founder of
the family whose portrait hung in the parlor, and of how, when he--the
child--grew up, he rather thought of writing books, as that same
ancestor had done, and making the name great and famous again. He had
not decided what kind of books he should write yet. Was it very hard to
find words to rhyme, if one tried poetry? He was at no pains to hide
such fancies and ambitions, of which his kind are generally too
sensitive or too ashamed to speak to their elders, and which are as a
rule forgotten as soon as outgrown.

'Shall we go in the wood now?' said the boy. 'It's easy enough to cross
over the stepping-stones.'

'Yes, let us go.' The man was beginning to see everything through the
boy's eyes. The garden was again much as he had remembered it, inclosed
in a world of beautiful mystery. Nothing was really altered. What
alteration he had imagined had been merely a transitory one in himself.
The child had put a warm, eager hand into his; together they went into
the wood, as happy as a pair of truant school boys; they might have been
friends of long standing.

'So this is your enchanted forest?' said the man.

'Not really enchanted,' replied the boy seriously. 'I once read of one,
but of course it was only in a fairy tale. That one vanished as soon as
one spoke the right word. It would be a very wrong word that could make
this vanish.' He had a way of speaking of the wood as if it were some
sacred grove.

His companion suddenly felt guilty, not quite knowing why.

'Of course some one might cut them down.' The boy lowered his voice; it
seemed shameful to mention the perpetration of such a deed aloud. 'It
would be terrible to hear them groan when the axe struck them. The young
ones mightn't mind so much; but it would be bad for the grandfather
trees who've been here from the beginning. Hannah says one would still
hear them wailing on stormy nights.'

'Even if they had been felled and carted away?'

'Yes, even then; though, to be sure, there would be no one to hear the
wailing if it's true that the house must fall, too, at the same time.
But we needn't trouble about that; none of it is likely to happen. You
see, if it did, where should I be?'

He laughed merrily. This last argument appeared to him to be quite
conclusive. Such an important consideration placed the awful contingency
quite out of the question, and transformed it into nothing more than a
joke.

The child's laughter died away as they both stood still to listen. Each
thought he had heard his own name called.

'It's Hannah,' said the boy; and off he raced toward the house, barely
saving himself from running into the arms of another person who had
turned in at the gate.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Who was the boy who ran round by the espaliers a minute ago? One would
scarcely have judged him to be a child of the caretaker.'

The man's heart sank with a dull thud: something had told him the answer
before it came.

'Child!' The lawyer looked puzzled. 'I did not see one. No children have
any business in this garden; neither is there any caretaker here. The
house has been shut up altogether since the old servant you called
Hannah died, eleven years ago.'

They had reached the veranda. The westering sun had faded off the
windows. It was easy to see that the house was empty. The shutters were
up within, and the panes dark and weather-stained. Birds had built their
nests undisturbed about the chimney stacks. The hearthstones had long
been cold.

'My client is willing to purchase the property on the terms originally
proposed,' the lawyer was saying. 'He contemplates investing in it as a
building site. Of course the timber would have to be felled--'

A breeze passed through the treetops like a shudder. The younger man
interposed:--

'I am sorry you should have had the trouble of coming here, but I have
decided to keep the old place after all--stick and stone. It is not
right it should go out of the family. I must pull my affairs together as
well as I can without that.'

The little phantom of his dead boyhood was to suffer no eviction.



THE CLEAREST VOICE

BY MARGARET SHERWOOD


The little business frown which John Wareham usually wore only at his
office, and put off as he put on his hat in starting for home, lingered
that evening, persisting through the long street-car ride, the walk past
rows of suburban houses, and even to the brook at the foot of the hill
below his home. Here it vanished, for the brook marked the spot where
the world stopped, and Alice began. He watched with a meditative happy
smile the rough stone fence which bordered this bit of meadow land, with
the trailing woodbine and clematis that made it a thing of beauty; and,
as he climbed the hill, the deepening color in the sunset clouds, and
the notes of a wood thrush from the forest edge not far away, became
part of a deep sense of harmony, breaking a mood of anxiety and fear.

Then came the comforting glimpse of the red brick house through the
encompassing green, with its white daintiness of porch, fan-window, and
window-facings. It all looked like her; in its serene and simple
distinction it seemed to embody her; her creative touch was everywhere.
The bay window, about which they had disagreed when the house was
planned, had, surprisingly, turned out to the liking of both. As he
fumbled at the latch of the gate, and pinched his finger as he always
did, a vexed sense of triumph came to him, for it surely would have
worked better if he had insisted on having his own way! Everywhere were
traces of little worries and little triumphs, the latter predominating.
It was the very soul of home, from the threshold to the branches of the
tall elm which touched the roof protectingly; it was wholly
desirable,--and it might have to go.

As he followed the brick walk, in bitterness he closed his eyes that he
might not see, and so ran into a porch pillar, the one on which Alice's
red roses were blossoming; the queer little groan that he gave in some
strange way took on the sound of 'Railroads!' and again 'Railroads!' as
he beat his head against the pillar once or twice purposely; and his
voice had a note of contempt. He had not felt that way about railroads
when he had invested his savings, partly in the stock of a new railroad
in the West, partly in the stock of an old railroad in the East that was
doing wild things in the way of improvements. Then there had been
nothing too good for him to say about the earning power of railroads,
the wise management of railroads, the net profits of railroads. Now,
both railroads were in trouble; dividends were cut, and the stock which
he had hoped to sell at a profit had dropped almost to zero; the
mortgage loan on his house was due in a month; and he, a man earning
only a moderate salary in a real-estate office, had nothing in the world
wherewith to meet the emergency. Even the savings-bank deposit had gone
into railroad stock, in order that the mortgage might be paid off more
quickly.

But his face lighted up with a smile both sad and bright which made
quite a different face of it as he crossed the threshold, that threshold
on which Alice had stopped to kiss him the day he had married her and
brought her home. There was something here that shut out all the trouble
in the universe: about the doorway his wife's laughter seemed to be
always floating,--that laughter, merry, touched with tenderness, made up
of mirth and sorrow, as all wise laughter is. Just then came little Jack
to meet him, speeding madly down the baluster; and John, as he picked up
his boy, kissed him, and reproved him for coming downstairs that way,
had nothing to answer, when his son averred that it was lots better than
a railroad, save 'That might well be.'

'There's ice-cream for dinner,' the boy exploded; and the father,
roughly smoothing Jack's tousled hair, started as he caught a sound of
chatter from the living-room, and stood still in dismay. That to-day of
all days should be the time of the family gathering which brought two
uncles, two aunts, and three cousins to the house! How completely he had
forgotten! He hung up his hat and grasped little Jack's hand; he would
tell them nothing about his troubles, nothing; he would be the ideal
host, concealing his personal vexations under a cordial smile.

But hardly had he opened the door, with his office bag still held
absent-mindedly in his hand, when they were upon him. The cordial smile
did not deceive them for a minute. Aunt Janet, who was sitting by the
fireplace, looked the most troubled of all, though she said nothing. It
was 'Why, John, what's the matter?' from Aunt Mary, and 'Well, John, how
goes it?' from Uncle Philip, who looked as if he knew that it went very
badly indeed; and 'What makes you look so worried? With a home like
this, no man ought to look worried,' from his Cousin Austin, who had
recently become engaged and was thinking about homes. He nodded
approvingly at the room, which was simply furnished, soft in coloring,
with English chintzes, a few pictures of trees and of water,--all
out-of-door things,--and a fireplace that showed signs of constant use.

John's face brightened as he caught this look of admiration; not all the
confusion of greeting and inquiries in regard to health, not all the
business worries in the world could check the sense of peace that always
came to him in entering this room, which, more perfectly than any other
spot, expressed the personality of Alice. He managed to make his way
through the little crowd of sympathetic wrinkled faces, and wondering
smooth faces. There were, it was discovered, comfortable chairs enough
for all, and John found himself, as host, the centre of a little group
bent on probing his affairs, in friendly fashion, to the bottom.

It was his sister Emily who finally started the flood of questioning
that led to the betrayal of the secret he had meant to keep for the
present. She came bustling in through the door leading to the
dining-room, looking anxious as soon as she glanced at her brother; and
from the brass bowl of yellow roses held unsteadily in her hand, a few
drops spattered to the floor.

'Are you ill, John,' she asked, 'or have you lost--'

Among all the many voices of inquiry, comment, question whereby she was
interrupted, the voice of Alice was the clearest, making the others, no
matter how near the speakers stood, seem to come from far away. Little
Jack came and climbed upon his father's knee, a curious reproduction of
the family look of worry appearing on his chubby face. John the elder
leaned his head back in the chintz-covered chair, shutting his eyes for
a minute with a sense of warmth and satisfaction, and the nearness of
the cuddling body of his son.

'Everything's the matter,' he said wearily, 'everything'; and he had a
momentary twinge of conscience, realizing that he was not being the
ideal host.

They all watched him anxiously, sympathetically, in silence; and Aunt
Mary, near the window, went on drawing her needle in and out with
exquisite precision, her gray head bent over a centrepiece which she
intended to present to the house.

'Oh no, I'm not ill,' said John Wareham, suddenly sitting upright; 'but
the Long Gorge Railroad has gone into a receiver's hands, and three
days ago the New York and Nineveh cut its dividend. I'm done for.'

Emily gave a little gasp, and said nothing. 'You will pull through all
right,' asserted Uncle Philip, stirring up the fire in order to hide his
face. And Cousin Austin slapped John's shoulder, saying facetiously,
'Take courage, Jeremiah. The worst is yet to come.'

John laughed in spite of himself, and struck his fist upon the knee not
occupied by Jack.

'Every dollar I had in the world I had drawn out and put into those two
cursed things. Now I've nothing, no capital, no credit. The place has
got to go.'

'No, no!' cried the women-folk.

'The place has got to go,' repeated John Wareham, his face in little
Jack's hair. 'And I feel as if I could rob a bank or a jewelry store to
prevent that.'

Jack burst into a delighted giggle, through which John heard, 'You
wouldn't do any such thing, and you mustn't talk that way before Jack.'
It was Alice who spoke, with a little catch in her voice that sometimes
came, half way between a laugh and a sob; and it was echoed by the two
aunts.

'Railroads!' growled John, with supreme contempt. 'It would have been a
great deal better if railroads had never been invented. Jack, we shall
have to get a prairie schooner, and trek to the West.'

Jack's eyes shone like stars, but he got no chance to say anything, for,
with that outburst, the springs of speech were loosened. There was the
clamor, the chorus clamor, of relatives, indignant, inquisitive,
sympathetic relatives, all eager to help, and all uneasily conscious
that their own small measure of prosperity would hardly stand the
strain. He shook his head sadly in answer to the inquiry as to whether
he could not borrow: he had no security. Aunt Mary did not fail to
remind him that she had warned him at the time; Aunt Janet, in a thin
but affectionate voice, admitted that she had suffered in the same way
heavily. And then the clock ticked through a brief silence.

'Why don't you read your letters?' asked Emily suddenly. She stood,
absent-mindedly arranging the flowers with one finger, busy already with
plans for the future.

There was a small pile of letters on the centre table, quite within
John's reach; he began tearing open the envelopes in mechanical fashion,
throwing them untidily upon the floor. As each one fell, Jack slid down
and picked it up, climbing back to his father's knee. One was a wedding
announcement; one was a plumber's bill; at the third, John paused, read,
looked up bewildered, and read again.

'Why, Emily!' he exploded, boyishly. 'This can't be. Read that, will
you, and tell me if I have lost my mind.'

Emily put down the roses, and read the letter slowly, wonderingly,
smiling even as her brother had smiled.

'Not Uncle John! And we were always so afraid of him!'

'Twenty thousand dollars!' murmured John.

Open-mouthed silence waited upon them, until Cousin Austin broke the
spell with,--

'I say, would you mind if I looked over your shoulder?'

And John flung him the letter with a little whoop of joy.

'Is this plain living, or is this a fairy story?' he demanded
quizzically. 'I never thought of myself as a dark-eyed hero with a
fortune dropping into my hands just in the nick of time! A title ought
to go with it.'

The vibrant energy of the man was back again; the dry humor which, in
sunny seasons, quivered about his mouth, was once more there; the
mocking incredulity of his words belied the growing look of peace and
security in his face. The years seemed slipping from him, bringing him a
mellow boyhood.

'Twenty thousand dollars isn't exactly a fortune, John.'

'It will buy the place twice over,' exulted the man, 'and we shan't have
to start for the West in a prairie schooner right away!'

'Shan't we, papa?' asked little Jack, in hungry disappointment.

But the child's shrill voice had little chance where everybody was
speaking at once. Aunt Mary's 'Well, I hope you hang on to this, and not
be foolish again,' and Cousin Austin's 'You deserve it, John,' and Uncle
Howard's 'Well, I _am_ glad. Shake!' and several other congratulatory
remarks all came at once.

'The poor old fellow; the poor old fellow,' said John to himself softly,
rubbing his hands. 'I suppose he died out in Oklahoma all alone. How he
happened to will this to me, I give up; he didn't like me very well.'

The very atmosphere of the room had changed; once more a feeling of
quiet pleasure pervaded it. The full sense of home, peace, security came
back, with a suggestion of a kettle singing on the hearth, though there
was no kettle nearer than the kitchen.

'But there's Frank--' It must have been Alice who suggested this, and a
something disturbing, questioning, crept into the air.

'Frank!' said John Wareham suddenly. 'Why, I'd forgotten all about
Frank! We haven't heard of him for more than fifteen years or so, have
we?'

'More than that,' answered Emily. 'He was in Mexico, the last we knew.'

'He may be living,' suggested John. 'Mexico is always in such a state--I
suppose the mails can't be trusted.'

'We ought to find out,' said Alice.

'Uncle John had cast him off,' suggested Emily tentatively, anxiously.

'But he was Uncle John's own son,' said Alice, earnestly, compellingly;
'and wasn't Uncle John in the wrong?'

'Uncle John was a queer customer,' said John hastily. 'He was cranky, no
doubt about it, but he wasn't crazy; and if this lawyer's statement is
correct, I've got a good legal right to the twenty thousand, haven't I?'

'Of course you have!' said Aunt Mary.

'But the moral right?' whispered Alice.

'What was the quarrel about, anyway?' asked Austin. 'Frank's marriage,
wasn't it? I never heard much about it.'

'That was part of it,' said Aunt Janet. 'Frank, you know, fell in love
with a little country girl whom his father did not want him to marry,
but he insisted on having his way, and married her.'

'Good for him,' nodded Austin approvingly.

Little Jack, glancing from one to another with wide blue eyes, was
silently weaving his philosophy of life, and his interpretation of
humanity.

'Religion was mixed up in it in some way,' contributed John. 'Uncle grew
to be something of a fanatic, and he wanted them both to believe what he
believed, and they wouldn't, or didn't, or couldn't. It was
incompatibility of temper all round, I dare say.'

'Frank was a good son,' reminded Alice. 'He was patient with his father,
and he all but gave up his life for Uncle John, nursing him through
diphtheria.'

More and more the sweet, persistent voice brought trouble and question
into the atmosphere from which trouble and question had so suddenly
cleared. The new security began to seem unstable; the new-found joy a
stolen thing. Even in the pauses, the personality of the woman spoke
from curtain and cushion and fireplace of this room of her devising. She
dominated the whole, seeming the only presence there; brother and
sister and guests shrank in the radiance of her.

'Do you really think I ought to hunt Frank up?' asked the man.

Emily shook her head, but doubtfully.

'You probably couldn't find him, after all these years.'

'I could try,' admitted John.

'Nonsense!' cried Aunt Mary, over her embroidery. 'You stay right where
you are, and pay off your mortgage. A man who has worked as hard as you
have, and has had as much trouble, ought to take a bit of good luck when
it comes.'

'Think how much good you could do with it,' murmured Aunt Janet.

'As the pickpocket said when he put the stolen dime in the collection
plate,' said Austin; but fortunately Aunt Janet did not understand.

'Uncle had a right to do what he pleased with his own,' said John
defiantly. 'If he chose to cast off his son, for reasons which he
considered sufficient, he had the right.'

'But you cannot cast off your son,' persisted Alice. 'John, we have a
boy of our own. You know that the obligation is one of all eternity; you
cannot get rid of fatherhood.'

'O papa, papa, you hurt me,' squealed little John, suddenly interrupted
in his philosophy-weaving.

'Confound it all!' cried John with sudden irritation. 'Isn't this just
like life! To hold out the rope, just to grab it away again with a
grin--I won't, I say. What is mine is mine.'

'But it isn't yours.'

'Did Frank have any children?' he asked.

'Several, I believe,' admitted Emily reluctantly.

'And he never got on?'

'He never got on.'

'And the twenty thousand might save their pesky little Mexican souls.'

The child's laughter rippled out across the shocked silence of the
elders.

'Maybe Uncle John left them something,' suggested Emily. 'For a man who
tried such big things this doesn't seem much money.'

Her brother shook his head.

'"The entire sum of which he stands possessed,"' he read from the
lawyer's letter.

'You might make a few inquiries through the post. I rather imagine the
Mexican mail service isn't very trustworthy,' suggested Aunt Mary,
hopefully.

He looked at her, but in abstracted fashion, as if it were not to Aunt
Mary that he was listening.

'I'll write to this Oklahoma lawyer, and then I must go to Mexico.'

'Isn't it a little quixotic?'

'It's most likely all kinds of foolishness, like everything else I do,'
groaned the man. 'But it's what I'd want done for my little chap if I
were dead and he alive, and I had quarreled with him. I suppose I could
keep this money and save my skin, but--'

'You couldn't keep it without finding out,' murmured Alice, 'because you
are you, and the real you is incapable of doing a mean thing.'

'You must do as you think best,' said Emily at last. 'Maybe, if you find
Frank, he won't want it all, but will divide, knowing that his father
willed it to you.'

'That may be as it may be,' said the man, leaning back in his chair with
the face of one listening. 'But I go to Mexico. It's a queer game we
play here, and I'll be dashed if I can understand it, but I'm going to
play it as fairly as I know how.'

       *       *       *       *       *

So the voice of Alice won, of Alice, who had been dead for five long
years.



THE MARBLE CHILD

BY E. NESBIT


All over the pavement of the church spread the exaggerated
cross-hatching of the old pews' oak, a Smithfield market of intersecting
lines such as children made with cards in the old days when kings and
knaves had fat legs bulging above their serviceable feet, and queens had
skirts to their gowns and were not cut across their royal middles by
mirrors reflecting only the bedizened torso of them and the
charge--heart, trefoil, or the like--in the right-hand top corner of the
oblong that framed them.

The pew had qualities: tall fat hassocks, red cushions, a comparative
seclusion, and, in the case of the affluent, red curtains drawn at
sermon-time.

The child wearied by the spectacle of a plump divine, in black gown and
Geneva bands, thumping the pulpit-cushions in the madness of
incomprehensible oratory, surrendered his ears to the noise of
intonations which, in his own treble, would have earned the reprimand,
'Naughty temper.' His eyes, however, were, through some oversight of the
gods of his universe, still his own. They found their own pasture: not,
to be sure, the argent and sable of gown and bands, still less the gules
of flushed denunciatory gills.

There is fair pasture in an old church which, when Norman work was
broken down, men loved and built again as from the heart, with pillars
and arches, which, to their rude time, symbolized all that the heart
desires to materialize, in symbolic stone. The fretted tombs where the
effigies of warrior and priest lay life-like in dead marble, the
fretted canopies that brooded above their rest. Tall pillars like the
trunks of the pine woods that smelt so sweet, the marvel of the timbered
roof--turned upside down it would be like a ship. And what could be
easier than to turn it upside down? Imagination shrank bashfully from
the pulpit already tightly tenanted, but the triforium was plainly and
beautifully empty; there one could walk, squeezing happily through the
deep thin arches and treading carefully by the unguarded narrow ledge.
Only if one played too long in the roof aunts nudged, and urgent
whispers insisted that one must not look about like that in church. When
this moment came it came always as a crisis foreseen, half dreaded, half
longed-for. After that the child kept his eyes lowered, and looked only
at the faded red hassocks from which the straw bulged, and in brief,
guarded, intimate moments, at the other child.

The other child was kneeling, always, whether the congregation knelt or
stood or sat. Its hands were clasped. Its face was raised, but its back
bowed under a weight--the weight of the font, for the other child was of
marble and knelt always in the church, Sundays and week-days. There had
been once three marble figures holding up the shallow basin, but two had
crumbled or been broken away, and now it seemed that the whole weight of
the superimposed marble rested on those slender shoulders.

The child who was not marble was sorry for the other. He must be very
tired.

The child who was not marble,--his name was Ernest,--that child of weary
eyes and bored brain, pitied the marble boy while he envied him.

'I suppose he doesn't really feel, if he's stone,' he said. 'That's what
they mean by the stony-hearted tyrant. But if he does feel--How jolly it
would be if he could come out and sit in my pew, or if I could creep
under the font beside him. If he would move a little there would be
just room for me.'

The first time that Ernest ever saw the marble child move was on the
hottest Sunday in the year. The walk across the fields had been a
breathless penance, the ground burned the soles of Ernest's feet as
red-hot ploughshares the feet of the saints. The corn was cut, and stood
in stiff yellow stooks, and the shadows were very black. The sky was
light, except in the west beyond the pine trees, where blue-black clouds
were piled.

'Like witches' feather-beds,' said Aunt Harriet, shaking out the folds
of her lace shawl.

'Not before the child, dear,' whispered Aunt Emmeline.

Ernest heard her, of course. It was always like that: as soon as any one
spoke about anything interesting, Aunt Emmeline intervened. Ernest
walked along very melancholy in his starched frill. The dust had
whitened his strapped shoes, and there was a wrinkle in one of his white
socks.

'Pull it up, child, pull it up,' said Aunt Jessie; and shielded from the
world by the vast silk-veiled crinolines of three full-sized aunts, he
pulled it up.

On the way to church, and indeed, in all walks abroad, you held the hand
of an aunt; the circumferent crinolines made the holding an arm's-length
business, very tiring. Ernest was always glad when, in the porch, the
hand was dropped. It was just as the porch was reached that the first
lonely roll of thunder broke over the hills.

'I knew it,' said Aunt Jessie, in triumph; 'but you would wear your blue
silk.'

There was no more thunder till after the second lesson, which was hardly
ever as interesting as the first, Ernest thought. The marble child
looked more tired than usual, and Ernest lost himself in a dream-game
where both of them got out from prison and played hide-and-seek among
the tombstones. Then the thunder cracked deafeningly right over the
church. Ernest forgot to stand up, and even the clergyman waited till it
died away.

It was a most exciting service, well worth coming to church for, and
afterwards people crowded in the wide porch and wondered whether it
would clear, and wished they had brought their umbrellas. Some went back
and sat in their pews till the servants should have had time to go home
and return with umbrellas and cloaks. The more impetuous made clumsy
rushes between the showers, bonnets bent, skirts held well up. Many a
Sunday dress was ruined that day, many a bonnet fell from best to
second-best.

And it was when Aunt Jessie whispered to him to sit still and be a good
boy and learn a hymn, that he looked to the marble child with, 'Isn't it
a shame?' in his heart and his eyes, and the marble child looked back,
'Never mind, it will soon be over,' and held out its marble hands.
Ernest saw them come toward him, reaching well beyond the rim of the
basin under which they had always, till now, stayed.

'Oh!' said Ernest, quite out loud; and, dropping the hymn-book, held out
his hands, or began to hold them out. For before he had done more than
sketch the gesture, he remembered that marble does not move and that one
must not be silly. All the same, marble _had_ moved. Also Ernest had
'spoken out loud' in church. Unspeakable disgrace!

He was taken home in conscious ignominy, treading in all the puddles to
distract his mind from his condition.

He was put to bed early, as a punishment, instead of sitting up and
learning his catechism under the charge of one of the maids while the
aunts went to evening church. This, while it was terrible to Ernest, was
in the nature of a reprieve to the housemaid, who found means to modify
her own consequent loneliness. Far-away whispers and laughs from the
back or kitchen windows assured Ernest that the front or polite side of
the house was unguarded. He got up, simulated the appearance of the
completely dressed, and went down the carpeted stairs, through the
rosewood-furnished drawing-room, rose-scented and still as a deathbed,
and so out through the French windows to the lawn, where already the
beginnings of dew lay softly.

His going out had no definite aim. It was simply an act of rebellion
such as, secure from observation, the timid may achieve; a demonstration
akin to putting the tongue out behind people's backs.

Having got himself out on the lawn, he made haste to hide in the
shrubbery, disheartened by a baffling consciousness of the futility of
safe revenges. What is the tongue put out behind the back of the enemy
without the applause of some admirer?

The red rays of the setting sun made splendor in the dripping shrubbery.

'I wish I hadn't,' said Ernest.

But it seemed silly to go back now, just to go out and to go back. So he
went farther into the shrubbery and got out at the other side where the
shrubbery slopes down into the wood, and it was nearly dark there--so
nearly that the child felt more alone than ever.

And then quite suddenly he was not alone. Hands parted the hazels and a
face he knew looked out from between them.

He knew the face, and yet the child he saw was not any of the children
he knew.

'Well,' said the child with the face he knew; 'I've been watching you.
What did you come out for?'

'I was put to bed.'

'Do you not like it?'

'Not when it's for punishment.'

'If you'll go back now,' said the strange child, 'I'll come and play
with you after you're asleep.'

'You daren't. Suppose the aunts catch you?'

'They won't,' said the child, shaking its head and laughing. 'I'll race
you to the house!'

Ernest ran. He won the race. For the other child was not there at all
when he reached the house.

'How odd!' he said. But he was tired and there was thunder again and it
was beginning to rain, large spots as big as pennies on the step of the
French window. So he went back to bed, too sleepy to worry about the
question of where he had seen the child before, and only a little
disappointed because his revenge had been so brief and inadequate.

Then he fell asleep and dreamed that the marble child had crept out from
under the font, and that he and it were playing hide-and-seek among the
pews in the gallery at church. It was a delightful dream and lasted all
night, and when he woke he knew that the child he had seen in the wood
in yesterday's last light was the marble child from the church.

This did not surprise him as much as it would surprise you: the world
where children live is so full of amazing and incredible-looking things
that turn out to be quite real. And if Lot's wife could be turned into a
pillar of salt, why should not a marble child turn into a real one? It
was all quite plain to Ernest, but he did not tell any one: because he
had a feeling that it might not be easy to make it plain to them.

'That child doesn't look quite the thing,' said Aunt Emmeline at
breakfast. 'A dose of Gregory's, I think, at eleven.'

Ernest's morning was blighted. Did you ever take Gregory's powder? It is
worse than quinine, worse than senna, worse than anything except castor
oil.

But Ernest had to take it--in raspberry jam.

'And don't make such faces,' said Aunt Emmeline, rinsing the spoon at
the pantry sink. 'You know it's all for your own good.'

As if the thought that it is for one's own good ever kept any one from
making faces!

The aunts were kind in their grown-up crinolined way. But Ernest wanted
some one to play with. Every night in his dreams he played with the
marble child. And at church on Sunday the marble child still held out
its hands, farther than before.

'Come along then,' Ernest said to it, in that voice with which heart
speaks to heart; 'come and sit with me behind the red curtains. Come!'

The marble child did not look at him. Its head seemed to be bent farther
forward than ever before.

When it came to the second hymn Ernest had an inspiration. All the rest
of the churchful, sleepy and suitable, were singing,--

    'The roseate hues of early dawn,
       The brightness of the day,
     The crimson of the sunset sky,
       How fast they fade away.'

Ernest turned his head towards the marble child and softly mouthed,--you
could hardly call it singing,--

    'The rosy tews of early dawn,
       The brightness of the day;
     Come out, come out, come out, come out,
       Come out with me and play.'

And he pictured the rapture of that moment when the marble child should
respond to this appeal, creep out from under the font, and come and sit
beside him on the red cushions beyond the red curtains. The aunts would
not see, of course. They never saw the things that mattered. No one
would see except Ernest. He looked hard at the marble child.

'You must come out,' he said; and again, 'You must come, you must.'

And the marble child did come. It crept out and came to sit by him,
holding his hand. It was a cold hand certainly, but it did not feel like
marble.

And the next thing he knew, an aunt was shaking him and whispering with
fierceness tempered by reverence for the sacred edifice,--

'Wake up, Ernest. How can you be so naughty?'

And the marble child was back in its place under the font.

When Ernest looks back on that summer it seems to have thundered every
time he went to church. But of course this cannot really have been the
case.

But it was certainly a very lowering purple-skied day which saw him
stealthily start on the adventure of his little life. He was weary of
aunts--they were kind yet just; they told him so and he believed them.
But their justice was exactly like other people's nagging, and their
kindness he did not want at all. He wanted some one to play with.

'May we walk up to the churchyard?' was a request at first received
graciously as showing a serious spirit. But its reiteration was
considered morbid, and his walks took the more dusty direction of the
County Asylum.

His longing for the only child he knew, the marble child, exacerbated by
denial, drove him to rebellion. He would run away. He would live with
the marble child in the big church porch; they would eat berries from
the wood near by, just as children did in books, and hide there when
people came to church.

So he watched his opportunity and went quietly out through the French
window, skirted the side of the house where all the windows were blank
because of the old window-tax, took the narrow strip of lawn at a
breathless run, and found safe cover among the rhododendrons.

The church-door was locked, of course, but he knew where there was a
broken pane in the vestry window, and his eye had marked the lop-sided
tombstone underneath it. By climbing upon that and getting a knee in the
carved water-spout--He did it, got his hand through, turned the catch of
the window, and fell through upon the dusty table of the vestry.

The door was ajar and he passed into the empty church. It seemed very
large and gray now that he had it to himself. His feet made a loud
echoing noise that was disconcerting. He had meant to call out, 'Here I
am!' But in the face of these echoes he could not.

He found the marble child, its head bent more than ever, its hands
reaching out quite beyond the edge of the font; and when he was quite
close he whispered,--

'Here I am.--Come and play!'

But his voice trembled a little. The marble child was so plainly marble.
And yet it had not always been marble. He was not sure. Yet--

'I _am_ sure,' he said. 'You did talk to me in the shrubbery, didn't
you?'

But the marble child did not move or speak.

'You did come and hold my hand last Sunday,' he said, a little louder.

And only the empty echoes answered him.

'Come out,' he said then, almost afraid now of the church's insistent
silence. 'I've come to live with you altogether. Come out of your
marble, do come out!'

He reached up to stroke the marble cheek. A sound thrilled him, a loud
everyday sound. The big key turning in the lock of the south door. The
aunts!

'Now they'll take me back,' said Ernest; 'you might have come.'

But it was not the aunts. It was the old pew-opener, come to scrub the
chancel. She came slowly in with pail and brush; the pail slopped a
little water on to the floor close to Ernest as she passed him, not
seeing.

Then the marble child moved, turned toward Ernest with speaking lips and
eyes that saw.

'You can stay with me forever if you like,' it said, 'but you'll have to
see things happen. I have seen things happen.'

'What sort of things?' Ernest asked.

'Terrible things.'

'What things shall I have to see?'

'_Her_,'--the marble child moved a free arm to point to the old woman on
the chancel steps,--'and your aunt who will be here presently, looking
for you. Do you hear the thunder? Presently the lightning will strike
the church. It won't hurt us, but it will fall on them.'

Ernest remembered in a flash how kind Aunt Emmeline had been when he was
ill, how Aunt Jessie had given him his chessmen, and Aunt Harriet had
taught him how to make paper rosettes for picture-frames.

'I must go and tell them,' he said.

'If you go, you'll never see me again,' said the marble child, and put
its arms round his neck.

'Can't I come back to you when I've told them?' Ernest asked, returning
the embrace.

'There will be no coming back,' said the marble child.

'But I want you. I love you best of everybody in the world,' Ernest
said.

'I know.'

'I'll stay with you,' said Ernest.

The marble child said nothing.

'But if I don't tell them I shall be the same as a murderer,' Ernest
whispered. 'Oh! let me go, and come back to you.'

'I shall not be here.'

'But I must go. I must,' said Ernest, torn between love and duty.

'Yes.'

'And I shan't have you any more?' the living child urged.

'You'll have me in your heart,' said the marble child--'that's where I
want to be. That's my real home.'

They kissed each other again.

'It was certainly a direct Providence,' Aunt Emmeline used to say in
later years to really sympathetic friends, 'that I thought of going up
to the church when I did. Otherwise nothing could have saved dear
Ernest. He was terrified, quite crazy with fright, poor child, and he
rushed out at me from behind our pew shouting, "Come away, come away,
auntie, come away!" and dragged me out. Mrs. Meadows providentially
followed, to see what it was all about, and the next thing was the
catastrophe.'

'The church was struck by a thunder-bolt was it not?' the sympathetic
friend asks.

'It was indeed--a deafening crash, my dear--and then the church slowly
crumbled before our eyes. The south wall broke like a slice of cake when
you break it across--and the noise and the dust! Mrs. Meadows never had
her hearing again, poor thing, and her mind was a little affected too.
I became unconscious, and Ernest--well, it was altogether too much for
the child. He lay between life and death for weeks. Shock to the system,
the physician said. He had been rather run down before. We had to get a
little cousin to come and live with us afterwards. The physicians said
that he required young society.'

'It must indeed have been a shock,' says the sympathetic friend, who
knows there is more to come.

'His intellect was quite changed, my dear,' Aunt Emmeline resumes; 'on
regaining consciousness he demanded the marble child! Cried and raved,
my dear, always about the marble child. It appeared he had had fancies
about one of the little angels that supported the old font, not the
present font, my dear. We presented that as a token of gratitude to
Providence for our escape. Of course we checked his fancifulness as well
as we could, but it lasted quite a long time.'

'What became of the little marble angel?' the friend inquires as in
friendship bound.

'Crushed to powder, dear, in the awful wreck of the church. Not a trace
of it could be found. And poor Mrs. Meadows! So dreadful those
delusions.'

'What form did her delusions take?' the friend, anxious to be done with
the old story, hastily asks.

'Well, she always declared that _two_ children ran out to warn me and
that one of them was very unusual looking. "It wasn't no flesh and
blood, ma'am," she used to say in her ungrammatical way; "it was a
little angel a-taking care of Master Ernest. It 'ad 'old of 'is 'and.
And I say it was 'is garden angel, and its face was as bright as a lily
in the sun."'

The friend glances at the India cabinet, and Aunt Emmeline rises and
unlocks it.

'Ernest must have been behaving in a very naughty and destructive way in
the church--but the physician said he was not quite himself probably,
for when they got him home and undressed him they found this in his
hand.'

Then the sympathizing friend polishes her glasses and looks, not for the
first time, at the relic from the drawer of the India cabinet. It is a
white marble finger.

Thus flow the reminiscences of Aunt Emmeline. The memories of Ernest run
as this tale runs.



THE ONE LEFT

BY E. V. LUCAS


I

HE had become very ill--could hardly move from where he lay; and she,
who loved him, and was to have married him, and spent all her waking
hours in thinking what she could do for him, persuaded him to have a
telephone installed and brought to his bedside so that he and she could
talk, and he could talk with others, too. Every night he rang her up and
they had a long conversation; many times in the day also. Nothing, as it
happened, could have saved his life, but this modern device lightened
his last weeks.

His death, although it blasted her hopes, made no difference to her
devotion. She merely installed his memory in the place of his rich
personality and loved that. He, almost more than ever, was her standard.
What he would have liked, she did; what he would have disliked, she left
undone. Although dead, he swayed her utterly, and under his dominion she
was equable and gentle, although broken at heart. She took all things as
they came, since how could anything matter now that everything that
mattered was over?

One perplexity only had power to trouble her, and that was the wonder,
the amazement, the horror, not only that so much knowledge and
kindliness and sympathy and all that made for the world's good and
happiness should be so wantonly extinguished; but that no touch of the
vanished hand should be permitted to the one soul (now left behind) with
whom his soul had been fused. This she could neither understand nor
forgive. Religious she had never been in the ordinary sense, although
such religion as must sway a true idealistic lover was hers; but now she
broke even from such slender ties as had held her to orthodoxy. She
threw off the creed of her parents as naturally and simply as if it were
a borrowed garment, and sank into her sorrow, which was also her joy,
without another thought of here or hereafter.

So it went on for a year or so, during which time his house had remained
empty, save for a caretaker,--for she (who was rich) could not bear that
any one else should live there,--and his room exactly as he had died in
it.


II

One evening she dined out. Her next neighbor on one side was a young
American engineer, and in their conversation they came in time to the
topic of invention and the curious aptitude for inventiveness shown by
the American race. It was a case, said the engineer, of supply following
demand; all Americans required time--and labor-saving appliances, and
they obtained them. Where servants abounded and there was no servant
problem, as in England and on the Continent, the need for such
contrivances was not acute. And so on. The conversation thus begun
reached at last specific inventions, and the engineer told of a
remarkable one which had come under his notice just before he left New
York.

'You will probably not believe me,' he said; 'the thing sounds
incredible; but then who would have believed once that there could be a
telegraph, and still less a telephone? Who would have believed that the
camera would ever be anything but a dream? I will tell you what this is.
It is a machine in which you insert a portion, no matter how small, of
a telephone wire, and by turning a handle you compel this piece of wire
to give back every message that has ever passed over it.'

She held her heart. 'This really exists?' she forced herself to ask.

'Actually,' said the engineer. 'But when I left home the inventor was in
a difficulty. All the messages were coming out all right, but backwards.
Naturally the reproduction would be from the most recent to the less
recent. By writing down the words and then reversing them the
investigator could of course get at what he was wanting,--I may say that
the invention is for the New York police--but my friend is convinced
that he can devise some mechanical system of reversing at the time which
will make the messages read forward as they should. Just think of the
excitement of the detective, listening through all the voices and
ordinary conversations on the wire for the one voice and the one
sentence that will give him his long desired clue!--But are you ill?'

'No, no,' she said, although her face was a ghastly white, 'no, it is
nothing. The room is a little hot. Tell me some more about your
inventive friend. Is he wealthy?'

'Indeed, no,' said the engineer. 'That is his trouble. If he had more
money, or if he had some rich backers who believed in him, he might do
wonders.'

'I should like to help him,' she said. 'This kind of work interests me.
Could you not cable him to come over and bring the thing with him? I
would gladly finance him. I want some sporting outlet like that for my
money.'

'Cable?'

'Yes, cable. There are things that one does by impulse or not at all.
The butler here will get you a form.'


III

She had been to the empty house that day with an employee of the
telephone company, and they had extracted a foot of the precious wire. A
few minutes ago she had held it in her trembling fingers and placed it
in the machine. Now she carefully locked the door and drew the heavy
curtain over it and carried the machine to the farthest corner of the
room. There, with a sigh of relief and tense and almost terrible
anticipation, she sat down and placed her ear to the receiver and began
to turn the handle.

His voice sounded at once: 'Are you there?' It was quite clear, so clear
and unmistakable and actual that her hand paused on the handle and she
bowed her throbbing head. She turned on; 'Are you there?' the familiar
tones repeated. And then the reply, 'Yes, who is it?' in a woman's
voice. Then he spoke again: 'Ernest,' he said. 'Is it Helen?' Again her
hand paused. Helen--that rubbishy little woman he had known all his life
and was on such good terms with. She remembered now, that she had been
away when the telephone was installed and others had talked on it before
her. It could not be helped: she had meant to be the first, but
circumstances prevented. There must be many conversations before she
came to her own; she would have to listen to them all. She turned on,
and the laughing, chaffing conversation with this foolish little Helen
person repeated itself out of the past now so tragic.

To other talks with other friends, and now and then with a tradesman,
she had to listen; but at last came her hour.

'Is that you?' she heard her own voice saying, knowing it was her own
rather by instinct than by hearing. 'Is that you? But I know it is. How
distinctly you speak!'

'Yes, it's me'--and his soft vibrant laugh.

'How are you, dear?'

'Better, I hope.'

'Have you missed me?'

'Missed you!'

And then the endearments, the confidences, the hopes and fears, the
plans for the morrow, the plans for all life. As she listened, the tears
ran down her face, but still she turned on and on. Sometimes he was so
hopeful and bright, and again so despairing.

She remembered the occasion of every word. Once she had dined out and
had gone to the theatre. It was an engagement she could not well refuse.
It was an amusing play and she was in good spirits. She rang him up
between the acts and found him depressed. Hurrying home she had settled
down to talk to him at her ease. How it all came back to her now!

'Are you there, my dearest?'

'Yes, but oh, so tired, so old!'

'It is a bad day. Every one has been complaining of tiredness to-day.'

'You say that because you are kind. Just to comfort me. It's no use. I
can see so clearly, sometimes, I shall never get well--to-night I know
it.'

'My darling, no.'

And then silence,--complete, terrifying.

She had rung up without effect. He had fainted, she thought, and had
dropped the receiver. She was in a fever of agony. She leaped into a cab
and drove to his house. The nurse reassured her; he had begun to sob and
did not want her to know it, and now he was asleep.

But there was no sleep for her that night. What if he were right--if he
really knew? In her heart she feared that he did; with the rest of her
she fought that fear.

As she listened, the tears ran down her face, but still she turned on
and on. She sat there for hours before the last words came, the last he
was ever to speak over the wire.

It was to make an engagement. He had rallied wonderfully at the end and
was confident of recovery. She was to bring her modiste to his room at
eleven o'clock the next morning with her patterns, that he might help in
choosing her new dress. He had insisted on it--the dress she was to wear
on his first outing.

'At eleven,' he had said. 'Mind you don't forget. But then you never
forget anything. Good-night once more, my sweet.'

'Good-night.'

She had never seen him again alive. He died before the morning.

She put the machine away and looked out of the window. The sun had
risen. The sky was on fire with the promise of a beautiful day. Worn
out, she fell asleep; to wake--to what? To such awakening as there is
for those who never forget anything.


IV

Every night found her bending over the machine. She had learned now when
not to listen. She had timed the reproduction absolutely, and watch in
hand she waited until the other messages were done, and her own voice
began. There was no condensing possible; one must either each time have
every conversation or stop it. But how could she stop it before the end?

Locking the door and drawing the heavy curtain, she would sit down in
the far corner and begin to turn. She knew just how fast to turn for
others; so slowly for herself. When the watch gave her the signal she
would begin to listen.

'Is that you? Is that you? But I know it is. How distinctly you speak!'

'Yes, it's me,'--and the soft vibrant laugh.

'How are you, dear?'

'Better, I hope.'

'Have you missed me?'

'Missed you!'



THE LEGACY OF RICHARD HUGHES

BY MARGARET LYNN


I

Rachel Marquis paused a moment with her hand on the library-door. She
had had John placed in here because it was the room she herself loved
best, and she knew that it was here she would prefer to sit beside him
in these last hours of waiting. Yet she had hesitated to come down, and
even now, with her hand on the door-knob, she lingered again to
re-strengthen herself before entering. The very unusualness of an
unfamiliar sight in the familiar room would add, she knew, to the sharp
strangeness of the whole event. She almost hoped, as she waited this
moment, for another practical duty of some sort, which would postpone
again her entrance to the room.

But no sound came from any part of the silenced house, and she opened
the door and entered. The long casket stood awkwardly across the blank
fireplace, for she had chosen to give no direction to the undertaker and
he had followed his own professional judgment. Everything was arranged,
however, with a sort of intention which indicated the intrusion of the
professional into the private. In spite of the stronger feeling of the
moment, Rachel Marquis noticed this, with sharp disapproval. But she
went directly to the chair which had been placed beside the casket and
seated herself, bowing her head long on her folded arms before she
looked on the familiar face beside her.

It was now only twenty-four hours since the strange accident had
happened, and she had not yet adjusted herself, even so far as to
determine her fundamental emotion. It was grief, of course, but the
kind or degree of that grief was still undefined. The hours since they
had brought him home had been so full of the unfamiliar practical things
which arise at such a time, of the sudden necessities and small
perplexities which muddle and chafe sorrow, that there had been scarcely
a moment for her to look consciously at the great fact. Even now, as she
covered her eyes, to be the more alone with herself, she felt rather a
welcoming of momentary inactivity, than the relaxation of grief. She
realized, with a sort of pang of disapproval, that she did not need to
relax from any tension of anguish. She did not know what she wished to
say to herself in this communion. She was sorry, bitterly sorry; but
what elements went into the making of that grief?--She could not yet
tell.

So she leaned with covered eyes, almost as if she were waiting for
something outside of herself to give her a cue. As the minutes passed,
however, the great simple fact that John was dead and that his place
beside her would now be empty, engrossed all supplementary feelings, and
her genuine regret had its way. She wept long, and ever more bitterly,
absorbed, as one may be, in a mere physical expression of grief. The
activity of sorrow overcame thought for the time, and left her no energy
for analysis of feeling. Death alone seemed enough to weep over, and her
tears still fell.

At last, as if having reached a natural period, she rose and moved away
to the window and sat down there, in a quiet reverie of sadness. She was
sorry for the life cut off, shocked at the abruptness and completeness
of the tragedy,--John himself, she was sure, the assertive, energizing
John, would have hated this sudden subduing of himself, and she
sympathized with such revolt,--sorry, sorry for it all.

As she thought, she looked gravely out across the garden, the gay
stretch to which John had given so much time. She had never understood
his devotion to that garden. He had not been ready to spend money on
things to give æsthetic pleasure in the house, although in practical
matters he had been willing enough to make outlays, ever since his
business had been secure. She thought of their new car, of the signs of
prosperity in their living. 'Poor John!' she said at last with a deep
sigh, when, aware of the nodding line of rare dahlias on which her eyes
were resting, she thought of all the pains he had taken in the
propagation and selection of them. She had come to recognize this
lavishness of care and money as a sort of blind expression of the one
æsthetic element in his nature, and had felt a quiet approval of it.
'Poor John!' she sighed again, and turned from the window to go.

But even as she did so, the simplicity of her mood passed, and the old
complexity of feeling returned with a keenness which was for the moment
bewildering. As she left the window, the long black shape across the
fireplace confronted her again, and she paused, startled anew; it was so
strange and so tremendous a thing in her room.

For the library was, above everything else in the world, hers. It was
such a room as shows it has been taking on character through succeeding
decades, cumulative of its type, slowly drawing to itself an atmosphere
of fineness and greatness. The credit of it belonged only remotely to
Rachel Marquis. She was the possessor, but not the maker of it. She had
kept it and loved it, but her own contribution to it had been slight. A
few shelves of new books not yet mellowed down to the tone of the
others, standing as if waiting to be proved, and a bit of renewing of
texture here and there, whose freshness showed need of the softening of
time, were the only marks of her hand or taste. But it was such a room
as any lover of the long effects of books would cherish.

In the midst of its harmonies, the heavy black box undoubtedly looked
harsh and intrusive. Rachel recognized, as a sort of confidence with
herself, that bringing it here was an invasion. Because she loved the
room herself she had placed John here, without thought of the
inappropriateness of the act. But now the incongruity of the choice
struck her. Why should he be brought here, she thought pitifully, to the
room he never frequented, where she scarcely welcomed him, she
acknowledged? Why should she sit beside him here, when she had so seldom
done so before? She remembered very well the manner with which he
occasionally sought her here, tentative, unfamiliar, and yet assertive.
She had resented every element of that manner. Anywhere else in the
house he was more nearly himself; here everything she did not desire in
him was accentuated.

It had been, she thought, with an instinctive desire to do the best for
him in every way, that she had directed that he should be placed here;
just as she had ordered everything of the choicest and had given her
most careful attention and taste to every detail. But this thought had
been a failure.

'Poor John!' she said gently once more, with a pity in her thought all
the greater for this very incongruity, as she came over and stood beside
him. But as her eyes rested on his face, she felt almost compelled to
withdraw the phrase. The dead man seemed to allow no such pity. The
unfamiliar in the familiar, which is stranger than a new thing, held her
startled attention as she looked. She had thought that she knew John
Marquis to the last shred of his character, but death seemed to have
laid a fineness she had never known over the stubbornness and
taciturnity of the face. The dignity of the last great experience of
his life seemed to mark him. He seemed to be gathering himself away from
her pitying kindness. Very soon she went out again and closed the door.


II

When Richard Hughes, the last of his family, left his mother's old home
to John and Rachel Marquis, no one had wondered. Rachel was a sort of
cousin and John, too, a distant connection by somebody's marriage. And
they lived in the town and nothing was more natural than that he should
give them a home there, and whatever else he had to leave.

What no one knew but Rachel was that Richard Hughes had wished to marry
her, and that she had refused him and chosen John Marquis instead.
Richard Hughes, fifteen years her senior, quiet and inexpressive, shut
in with books and remote from life, was far less to her mind than John
Marquis, who was of her own generation, with whom she went to parties
and talked the light talk of youth, and had a thousand things in common,
as she thought. John was bright and jolly, and played tennis and danced
with her and took her out in a canoe, and was sweet-tempered and loved
to laugh, and between times talked seriously about the business he was
starting and the money he expected to make. John belonged to the whole
format of her life at that time, and it was perfectly natural to choose
to marry him, with the expectation that life would go on as she and John
had both known it and liked it in other homes, comfortable, sensible,
ambitious of practical things, real, as their kind would call it. It
seemed an impossible thing for her not to marry John.

In the first years of their marriage she was proud of coming quickly to
understand John's business. She was proud of her management and her
well-timed economies, proud that John could talk affairs over with her
with satisfaction, that she was beginning to take the place her mother
and other successful women had taken in practical life. But after two or
three years had passed, the space taken by practical things in her life
began to shrink; her familiarity with them detracted from their interest
and allowed her to dispose of them more readily. She began to feel a
restlessness which called for new interests.

At the same time John's affairs were not prospering. Difficulties he
could not manage hampered him. All Rachel's advice and economies were of
little help among the inevitable conditions of the time. She was
becoming tired of the continual effort to acquire, and impatient of the
atmosphere of practical things. But she made a show of readiness when he
suggested that they give up the cheerful modern home they had fitted
about themselves, with the conventions of comfort and the furnishings
and decorations to which they had been adapted.

It was just at this time that Richard Hughes left them his home and the
little money he owned. Nothing could have been more opportune for them.
Whatever other feelings John may have had were absorbed in sheer relief
at the assistance the bequest brought him. The money, with that from the
sale of their own house, tided him over his difficulties and even helped
to develop his business further. Rachel concealed her reluctance at
moving into the out-of-date old house with its antiquated furnishings,
and made a show of welcoming their fortune as a good partner should.

She could hardly tell when her consciousness of the house began to have
its influence upon her. From the first, John, absorbed in business, left
all practical things to her, feeling that the house was more hers than
his anyway. She, in a mood of vague compunction and desire to
compensate for she hardly knew what, made it a point of honor to dispose
of all their own furniture, chosen with such satisfaction and
complacency, and settled among the dull tones and quiet spaces of the
old house.

'Gay old place, isn't it?' said John, walking through the house after
they were established.

Rachel assented with a cheerful smile.

'Oh, well,' he went on, settling down with his trade-journals, which
looked sadly out of place in the dim library, 'we can stand it for a
while. Some time we can have what we want again.'

It was months before he recurred to the subject directly. Then, one
Sunday, he looked about him as he sat stretched in an old easy-chair,
and said abruptly, 'We are getting pretty well settled down here. I
didn't think the old place would be so comfortable.'

'It is more than comfortable,' said Rachel quietly.

'I wonder why Richard ever left it to us. Have you ever figured it out?'

'Oh, he had no nearer relatives that he knew.' Rachel tried to speak in
a matter-of-fact way, but instead she hesitated and flushed a little.

John looked at her closely. 'Do you know any other reason?' he asked
curiously.

Rachel hesitated again. Mere reticence on past affairs was one thing;
positively keeping a secret from her husband was another. 'Richard
wanted to marry me once,' she said. 'But I don't think that had anything
to do with it,' she added hastily.

'When was that?'

'Oh--before I was engaged to you,' said Rachel, and smiled at him.

John said nothing more, but sat tapping his knee with his folded
newspaper, as was his habit when in thought. Presently he rose and
strolled away.

Rachel could not help resenting his silence, which left her in
discomfort. When so much had been said he should have said more, if only
to put her at her ease. For days afterwards she expected him to return
to the subject, and when he did not do so, she continued to resent the
implication he seemed to be making.

At this time the house itself had already begun to have its effect upon
her. Rachel could hardly tell when she stopped looking wistfully at the
sectional bookcases and mission furniture of her acquaintances. But soon
after she moved into it, the house had ceased to be to her merely a
house. With her conventionally modern notions of beauty in furnishings,
she had first been surprised to find how at rest and how satisfied she
was in this house, which had met in a generous way the needs and tastes
of another generation, but met few of those to which she had been
trained. She had not known that it was in her to find a charm in such a
house. But from the time when she first became aware of a positive
quality in the place, she became more and more awake to its existence;
she wondered at it, but it held her attention constantly more firmly.

At last she found that behind the entity of the house lay that which had
made it--the personality of the generations gone and especially of its
last owner. The quality of the whole place, with its solidity of walls
and generosity of room, along with its plain sincerity in every detail,
seemed to indicate praiseworthiness, not only in the first builder, but
in all later possessors. It became a meritorious thing to have and to
keep a house like this. She remembered something of the sacrifices that
Richard Hughes had made to retain it, and warmed with pride of him at
the recollection.

The whole place reflected him and the people who had made him. Gradually
Rachel grew in pride of the house and of her heritage. As she lived
there month by month she found herself enveloped in its atmosphere and
growing toward its proportions. At first she entered the library with
timidity and an uncomfortable strangeness. Even one who had only very
superficial intellectual tastes must have felt a sort of awe before its
accumulation of books and their accompaniments. When Rachel and John had
first begun to make a home, they had placed the making of a library
among their ambitions, for it, and had taken pleasure in adding a few
gayly bound novels each year to the small united collection with which
they had begun. They had enjoyed seeing their few shelves grow, and
knowing that they had so many of the popular books of which their
friends talked. When they came to the Hughes home, Rachel had crowded
their parti-colored collection into the shelves of the library there,
weeding out others to make room for their own.

But on a later day, as she reëntered the room, she felt a shock at the
incongruity presented and, to John's puzzlement, gathered their own
books into a corner by themselves where a curtain safely hid them. Their
garish triviality had no place among these mellowed, long-tried volumes.
John, however, had looked the old volumes over and pronounced them a dry
lot--give him something fresher.

But Rachel perceived that there had been something in the choosing of
these books which she had never really known. To her, books had been an
accessory, an incidental thing, hypothetically an enrichment of life,
but not an essential. She had thought of intellectual exercise as an
intermittent thing, to be taken up or laid down as suited the mood of
the time. But here was a people who chose books not merely as a
desirable possession, an ornamental furnishing, but as an unquestioned
necessity.

Gradually, as she continued to handle and to know their books, she
evoked for herself the earlier presences of the house, most of all
Richard Hughes. In the long hours which she now spent alone about the
house, she found herself living more constantly in a companionship with
those minds. They were not only an atmosphere, but sometimes almost a
positive presence. It entertained her to go over the books one by one,
sometimes, deciding who had chosen this one and that one, and for what
reason, and picturing the occasion of its coming to his hand. As her
knowledge of the library grew, she took more and more pleasure in this,
tracing the taste of one owner or another in the recurrence of a subject
or in successive accretions. She, as she learned, glowed over her
collection of first editions of modern works, since they had been
chosen, not as first editions, but, in their own time, as works for
which an appreciative hand was eagerly waiting.

And since Richard Hughes was the only one of her predecessors in the
library whom she had known, she found herself embodying all the others
in him. She knew him now better than she had ever known him. She could
detect his additions to the treasures of the house, and, as her own
knowledge increased, could trace his using of the resources which had
been handed down to him. She began to take pleasure in following what
she thought had been his path in taste and knowledge, gradually matching
her mind to his own.

Her pride in the room went through successive stages. In her first days
of satisfaction in mere proprietorship of so respectable and worthy a
possession, she took pleasure in unostentatious exhibition of it. She
liked to take guests there, in a natural sort of way, and to be found
sitting there, by unexpected callers. She liked the eminently admirable
background of the rows of books, for social episodes. But as her
knowledge of the library grew, that stage passed. As she went from
familiarity to intimacy, she began to desire that it should be an
exclusive intimacy. She no longer took callers to the room, and when
familiar acquaintances found their way there, she was uneasy at their
handling of the books and impatient of their discussion of them. She now
seldom spontaneously took strangers there. In time she had come to group
John with all the others. The only companionship that she desired in the
library was an imagined one.

John's attitude had more and more set her apart in this companionship.
His dislike for the house had grown steadily more obvious as the months
and years passed. It showed itself in a lack of home-pride, in open
contempt for the old-fashioned elements of the place, in reluctance to
make even necessary expenditure upon it.

But Rachel herself had hardly guessed the strength of his feeling until
one day when she discovered among Richard Hughes's papers what seemed to
be a memorandum for a codicil to his will, which would make a gift of a
thousand dollars to the little public library of the town.

She took the note directly to John. 'I think we ought to do this,' she
said.

John looked at the paper and laid it down. 'I don't see that we are
obliged to,' he answered shortly.

'It is what he intended to do--and we got the money,' she said, with too
patient a manner, as if explaining the moral point to him. 'We should
give it in his name.'

'It is enough to have to live in Richard Hughes's house. I don't care to
set up a memorial for him besides.'

'But John,' she urged herself to argue, 'is it honest?'

'There is more than one kind of honesty,' said John shortly, in a tone
which checked further answer. 'I can't afford it,' he added after a
moment, as the final word.

She left him in an anger which it seemed to her she would feel all her
life. But gradually it became less an active feeling than a part of all
her unformulated opinion of him. He had not followed her a single step
in the development which had resulted from her awakening to the spirit
of the house. In time he came to ignore the library altogether as part
of the house, and by degrees fitted up an incongruous little
lounging-place upstairs. Rachel came to regard his whole attitude toward
the place and the man who had owned it as belonging to his mental and
æsthetic plane; his jealous ingratitude seemed not a separate feeling,
but only an element in his character.

Richard Hughes, she now understood very well, had known her very little,
and had loved only her prettiness and light girlishness, charms which
were different from anything in his own life. The recollection of that
episode did not flatter her now, or even afford her any special
gratification. But she loved to live side by side with the embodiment
she had re-created for herself, and was proud to feel her spirit
matching its spirit. She sometimes felt, with her growing imagination,
that she was living in the house, not with John, but with these
presences of the past--most of all with Richard Hughes.

But in the mean time the matter of the bequest assumed for her
constantly greater proportions. After some time had passed she ventured
to mention it again. He answered as before, 'I can't afford it!' She
knew that he could afford it. About the same time he bought a strip of
ground lying beside them and began his garden. Rachel suggested that he
take a piece of their own grounds, but he bluntly rejected the proposal.
A growing taciturnity marked his manner, and often a willful crudeness
of phrase and speech, which annoyed her almost to the point of reproof.
So far as was possible, however, she kept the recognition of all this
far in the background of her thought and forebore any conscious
criticism of him, even to herself. But her warmest feeling for him was
tinged with pity.

Yesterday he had been taken. This accident, sudden as a lightning-flash
and more unforeseen, had ended the relation between them--though not the
puzzle. Rachel had never been one to revise her opinion of a man because
he was dead. Her tears had fallen now, but she had no compunctious
self-deception, and her long-framed feelings were only complicated, not
really altered. She saw as clearly as ever the incongruity of her
husband's presence in this room where Richard Hughes had had his life,
and where she now had her own.


III

All waited for the coming of John's brother, David Marquis. David was an
elder brother, retired from business on some pretext or other, now
loitering his way profitably and pleasantly through the later half of
his life. It had been his custom to visit them frequently, spending
weeks at a time idling about the house, quiet, keen of look, ready to
talk with interest on any general topic, but incommunicative of opinion
on any personal matter. Rachel had always felt, as she saw his observant
eye first upon John and then upon her, that he saw the difference
between them and sympathized with her. For this reason, although she had
never criticized John to him, she had sometimes spoken freely of herself
and of her own tastes and wishes; and he had listened, quietly as ever,
but responsively.

She had a sort of feeling now that she would find her poise through him
when he came. A sympathetic eye would help her to adjust the degree of
her grief to the limits of her previous feeling.

It was eight o'clock when he arrived. The pretext of dinner in the house
was over, and even the neighborly and professional attentions of the day
were withdrawn. Rachel descended from her room in the quiet house at the
sound of his entrance, and met gratefully the brotherly kindliness of
his manner. They sat a few minutes in the hall, in question and answer
of his journey and of the accident and all the circumstantial things
which cluster about death itself. Rachel answered freely and fully,
discovering a relief in breaking the instinctive repression of the day,
and finding the sort of rest she had hoped for from his presence. David
listened to her quietly, as he had always done, with his ready eye upon
her.

At last he rose, turning away from her with a comprehensive look about
him.

'Where is he?' he asked abruptly.

'In the library,' said Rachel, with a movement to lead the way for him.

'In there?' exclaimed David, with the emphasis of surprise. Then he
closed his lips again and followed her, without meeting her questioning
look.

But inside the door he paused again. Rachel had, constrained by long
habit, looked first at the room, as she entered, and then at the casket,
as a separate thing. The room had so long served to give her poise that
she felt a sort of appeal to it even now. David's eyes rested first on
the casket and then swept the room in a disapproving look.

'Why is he here?' he asked, with a curtness in his easy voice which
Rachel had never heard from him before.

'Why--' she began hesitatingly, and then added vaguely, 'It seemed
best.'

'Best for him?' responded David with the same curtness.

Then he turned and dropped his head slowly over the figure in the
coffin, and Rachel slipped away. David's manner seemed to put her
entirely outside of the occasion.

Later he joined her where she waited in the dim parlor. The still
chilliness of the room was stiffening and depressing, but she had not
made a fire because its open cheerfulness would not have seemed
appropriate. David walked up and down the long room a few minutes in a
silence which Rachel, not knowing his mood, did not break.

Then he said, as abruptly as before, 'Can you have him moved in the
morning?'

'Moved?--Where?'

Rachel had not supposed that her brother-in-law would have the same
feeling of incongruity that she had.

'Anywhere but there. Here--I don't know--there is no place in the house
that seems to belong to him. The hall might do--at least he went through
there every day,' he finished with an irony none too subtle.

He began to walk up and down the length of the room, alternately facing
her with a challenging air, and turning abruptly away again when he had
neared her seat. But Rachel, absorbed still in her mood, was
unappreciative of his manner.

'John never fitted into the house very well, anywhere,' she said, with
reserved regret.

'Fitted into it!' exclaimed David, as he turned toward her at the end of
the room. 'My--Did the house ever fit into him? It is the business of a
house to suit the people that live in it,' he flung over his shoulder as
he wheeled away again.

Rachel was silent, puzzled at this surprising change of manner in David,
and not knowing how much of his emotion was merely the impatience of
grief.

'Is there a corner of the house where it is appropriate for him to lie
now, except that little cubby-hole of his upstairs?' demanded David,
continuing, but as one who knows that an answer is impossible.

He suddenly abandoned his walk and came over and sat down opposite her,
in front of the empty fireplace. He sat silent a moment, his gray figure
drooping in a big chair. Rachel, looking carefully at him for the first
time, noted with a kind of surprise the mark of brokenness and
relaxation upon him, of submission to tremendous grief. It had not
occurred to her that John could be mourned in that way. After a moment
he said quietly, 'This house has never been a home for John.'

'I was always hoping,' said Rachel, as if this subject were one which
they had discussed before and agreed upon, 'that he would feel more at
home here in time.'

'What would have been necessary to bring that about?' asked David
quietly.

'Well,' said Rachel, with reluctance in criticism even greater than
usual, 'he would have had to change in many ways.'

'In what ways?' persisted David.

Rachel hesitated again. The thing, when baldly said, seemed so much
harsher than when it was merely held in thought.

'John's taste was different from that of the people who made the house,'
she said.

'Yes, I know. These pictures, and the old books in the library, and so
on. Is that what you mean?'

'Well, the insides of the books, and other pictures which we don't
have--and so on,' she finished indefinitely.

'Yes. You thought John was crude and rather coarse in feeling.'

'Oh, no--not that indeed!'

'You wouldn't call it just that, of course. But the difference between
you was the same, whether it put you up high or him down low. Isn't that
so? You were sorry for yourself because John was not on your level?'

'Yes,' admitted Rachel, reluctantly voicing the word.

'Were you ever sorry enough for John because you were not on his
level?--There are different kinds of lonesomeness,' he added after a
pause. 'I never saw a worse case than John's.'

Rachel sat upright, looking at him in a sort of amazement, as much at
himself as at the idea. She had never dreamed that behind his apparently
sympathetic observation of her lay any condemnation of her attitude.

He met her look with one as direct, and asked, in a way which made the
question a sort of arraignment, 'Did it ever occur to you what a tragedy
John's life was?'

Rachel merely shook her head slowly as she tried to connect, in an
impersonal sort of way, the notion of tragedy with John--John the
successful, the obstinate, the simple in desire, the objective. There
had been no real disappointment in all his life. She looked back
half-indignantly at David, rejecting the suggestion.

David rose and took a turn up and down the parlor again, pausing in the
shadows at the farther end of the room. Then he came back to his seat
and faced her determinedly.

'What _I_ had always hoped was that you would come to understand John
without any outside interference. I came back over and over to see, but
I always kept from butting in.' He paused again. 'I wouldn't say
anything now, only your tone, your "Poor John" way, shows you are just
the same as ever. I won't have him buried without your knowing something
more about him--if I can show you,' he added more gently.

'Please tell me,' said Rachel quietly. Her mind was still half as much
on David as on what he was going to say.

'There is nothing to tell that you should not have seen for yourself.
You were his wife and you lived with him. From the time you came to this
house one side of John's life ended. In a way he had no home and
no--wife. A man wants a companion.'

Rachel almost spoke, in startled contradiction. It was she who had been
uncompanioned.

'You were proud, I know, of never finding fault with John. Don't you
know that he would have been glad if you had openly found fault with
him? As it was, it seemed as if you thought him hopeless. When he said
things about the house or anything in it, he really wanted you to
contradict him and argue with him, and give him a way to come to the
same place where you were--don't you see?'

'Did he tell you?'

'No. But of course I used to sit round with him a good deal. And I had
always been used to understanding him,' he added, with a drop in his
voice. 'John had a lot of imagination,' he went on.

Rachel looked up in real surprise.

'I could see every year how the house was getting more on his nerves.
Sometimes when he was feeling it more than usual he would say little
things that I understood. For him it was like living with some one who
didn't want him round. But he might have liked it.'

'You don't understand,' said Rachel, as if pricked into coming to her
own defense. 'John didn't like the way the house came to us in the first
place. You didn't know--'

'Yes, I did,' he responded as she hesitated, 'I found out.'

'And yet,' she went on, 'we used the house and the money--'

'You haven't known much about the business for several years, have you?
Of course you do know that the house has been in your name from the
beginning, almost. But you don't know that the few thousands Richard
Hughes left have been invested for you ever since two years after he
died. It crippled John for a while after he took it out of the business.
But he always took good care of that money--it amounts to quite a little
now.'

'John didn't like it because Richard--' Rachel hesitated again.

'You thought he was jealous. He did that after one day when you weeded
out a lot of his books and put them away in some corner. And it was
after he had those New York electric men here that evening and you
seemed not to want to have them in the library, that he bought that
corner of ground over there and made his garden. Don't you understand?'

Rachel dropped her face upon her hands, partly for relief from David's
serious face, which forebore to rebuke her and yet of necessity did so,
partly to close herself in with her own bewilderment. To reconstruct
John's life meant to take a new view of her own also.

David leaned suddenly toward her. 'If John had been jealous, wouldn't he
have had reason, Rachel? I know you weren't--untrue to him. But still--'
He felt the formulation of the thought with her.

'I haven't judged you harshly, Rachel,' he went on in a moment, 'but it
is not right that a man's brother should know him better than his wife
does. I had to make you know, even at the last.'

Then, as if he were compelled to say the final hard thing, he added,
'Wasn't there something you had already thought you should do when
everything was in your hands?'

Rachel, startled and flushing, faced him again, in involuntary
confession. 'I had always thought it would be right to carry out a plan
of Richard Hughes's.'

'Yes, I know. I am sure that was only a momentary notion of his. He had
a great habit of making notes of things. His will was made only a few
days before he died, and that idea was probably earlier. I was an
executor, you remember. But anyway, several years ago John made a large
gift to the library of Richard's college, in Richard's name. He took no
chances on being unfair. He should have told you,' he added, 'but John
had a hard sort of pride to manage, and I suppose he never did.'

'No,' said Rachel, 'he never did.'

She rose, with a sudden dropping of her hands at her sides, as if
relinquishing something they had held, and moved vaguely toward the
door.

'Don't you think,' pursued David, 'that he might be brought in here--or
somewhere?'

Rachel hesitated, her hand faltering on the door-frame. 'No,' she said
at last, 'let him stay there now.' And she herself went out through the
dim chill hall. She lingered a moment at the closed library door, and
then went slowly on up to her own empty room.



OF WATER AND THE SPIRIT[8]

BY MARGARET PRESCOTT MONTAGUE


'I WANT to tell you--I _must_ tell you all about it.'

With a kind of grave finality, the little woman in the deck chair next
to mine snapped together the collapsible drinking-cup with which she had
been playing, and sat up, laying a small eager hand on my arm. It was as
if her groping thoughts had suddenly pushed open a door into action. I
wondered if she guessed that I had been peeping at her from under
dropped lids. She had the colorless make-up of a small middle-aged
mouse, but her expression was amazing. It startled and arrested one. All
the old lines of the face were set to small ambitions and sordid
desires, but the look which should have accompanied these lines was
clean gone--wiped into something big and still and simple--and her
manner was that of an earnest child.

'I was in Belgium when it commenced,' she began. 'But I guess I better
go back and tell it all right from the beginning,' she broke off.

'Please do,' I begged.

I did my best to speak naturally, but my voice seemed to break some
spell, for her face blurred suddenly to self-consciousness.

'I--I reckon I ought to apologize for speaking to a stranger,' she
stammered primly. And now her words exactly matched all the old small
lines of her face. It was as if her little self, aware of something big
and overwhelming that threatened to sweep her out of her depth, made a
desperate clutch at conventionality.

'But I want to hear,' I protested eagerly. 'Please tell me.'

She must have seen that I was in earnest, for the little conventional
self disappeared at that, and she answered simply, 'And I want to tell
you--it seems like I've just _got_ to tell you.'

It was September, 1914. We homing Americans were churning through an
extraordinarily blue ocean toward New York and peace, while back there,
just over our shoulders, a mad world was running red.

'It was like bein' torn all to pieces and put together again different,'
she said. 'But I'll go back like I said, and start right from the
beginning.'

For a moment she was silent, staring thoughtfully down at the cheap
little metal cup, screwing the rings softly round and round, and
drawing, as it were, inspiration from the sight of it.

'I come from Johnson's Falls,' she began at length. 'You wouldn't know
where that is. It's just a little place down in West Virginia, but it's
right close to the Virginia state line, and we have some mighty nice
people in town. Why,' she exclaimed, 'I reckon we have some of the very
best blood in the South there! But--but that isn't what I set out to
tell you,' she caught herself up.

She fell into such a prolonged silence, turning the little cup, and
looking at it, that at last I ventured a question to start her again.

'And I suppose,' I said, 'you belong to one of the oldest families
there.'

I was sorry as soon as I had said it.

'No, I don't,' she answered simply, looking straight up at me. 'That was
how it all commenced. My father kept the livery stable. But of course it
wouldn't matter--keepin' a livery, I mean--if your family was all
right. Jeff Randolph kept the grocery. Being a Randolph, of course he
could. But my name's Smithson--Sadie Virginia Smithson--and my
grandfather was a carpenter. I'm a dressmaker myself. That's the reason
they didn't elect me to the Laurel Literary Society.' She paused a
moment. 'I reckon you wouldn't understand about the Laurel Literary
Society?' she questioned a trifle wistfully.

'Perhaps not,' I admitted.

'Well, it's a literary society, of course. The members read papers, and
all like that, but it's a heap more'n that. Belonging to it kind of
marks a person out in Johnson's Falls and gives 'em the--the--well, I
reckon you'd call it the _entray_ to all the best homes in town. If you
don't belong--well, I reckon it came kinder harder on me, not belonging,
than it did on some of the others. Why, I'd have said the girls that
started it were my very best friends. We'd played together as children,
and I called 'em all by their first names, and they _knew_ I was just as
smart, an' liked readin' an' all that just as well as any of 'em did. So
when I wasn't asked to join--well, it just seemed to knock me right out.
I wasn't but nineteen then, an' when you're young things hurt more, I
reckon. Anyhow the slight of it got just fixed in my mind, an' I made a
kind of a vow that I'd belong to that society some day if I _died_ for
it. And then, after a while it came to me, maybe if I could just save
money enough to go abroad, they'd ask me to read a paper before the
society when I got back, 'cause mighty few people have traveled much
from our town.--Well,' she looked thoughtfully away at the blue water,
many an' many a night I've put myself to sleep thinking how it would be
when I read that paper. You know, when you're young and kind of unhappy
and slighted, how you make up things to sort of comfort yourself?'

I nodded.

'Well, I could just see the whole thing, me standing there reading an'
all, and when I'd get through I could almost hear the applause. They'd
some of 'em have on gloves, you know, so it would sound softer an' more
genteel-like than just common bare-hand clapping. Well, it takes time
for a country dressmaker to save. It took me twenty years. I did have
most enough once, but then my sister was taken sick an' what I'd saved
had to go for her. But I just gritted my teeth an' commenced again, and
at last this spring I had enough, an' I joined a party and went. Ours
wasn't a regular party. It was just a professor an' his wife who were
goin' anyhow, an' would take a couple of ladies with them, so there were
just the four of us. Well, we traveled for a month or more, an' you
better b'lieve I stretched my eyes to see all there was to see. An'
then, all at once, the world just tipped itself right over an' went
crazy.

'We were in Brussels when it came. The professor was sure everything
would quiet down in a little bit, an' he said we'd better stay right
there. And anyhow, it wasn't easy to get away. It was all just awful,
with one country after another slipping in. Only things came so quick a
person didn't hardly have time to catch their breath an' think "how
awful," 'fore something worse was jumping right on top of it. Well, we
stayed and stayed, till at last the Germans came. It certainly was a
sight to see 'em--but I ain't goin' to tell about that, I'm just goin'
to skip right along to what I set out to tell.

'The professor and his wife had left their only child, a mighty sickly
little thing, with her grandmother in Paris, and when things got so bad
they were pretty near distracted to get to her. Well, one morning the
professor came in and told us he'd run across a young American, a Mr.
Grenville, who was being sent to Paris on some special diplomatic
business. He had a big automobile, and he thought maybe he could get it
fixed to take us all, too. It looked like a mighty crazy thing to do,
but there wasn't any holdin' the professor an' his wife on account of
their child, and me and the other lady, we was afraid to be left behind.
Well, after a lot of runnin' around from one official to another, they
did finally get it all fixed for us to go, an' the next day we started
out with an American flag on the front of our car. Of course we were
stopped a lot of times and all our papers gone through and everything,
but each time they let us go on account of Mr. Grenville bein' a United
States official. We'd started early, an' by noon we'd come a right smart
piece, an' about that time we began to hear firing on in front. Did you
ever hear them big guns?' she broke off to ask, her childlike eyes
questioning me.

I shook my head.

'Well, you needn't never want to hear 'em,' she said. 'When they
commenced we all kind of looked at one another, an' I reckon we was all
scared. Anyhow, I know _I_ was. Why, at home I'm 'fraid of a
thunderstorm. But still we kept on. The sound of the firin' got louder
an' louder, but it was never very close, and along late in the afternoon
it sort of died off, an' we commenced to draw breath again, and think
everything was goin' to be all right. I'm 'most sure now we must have
missed the way, for just about that time we ran upon a piece of road
that was all tore up. There were big holes in it from the shells, an'
those tall poplars alongside were all snapped off, an' their branches
stripped down like a child peels a switch. You could smell the fresh sap
like you can in lumber camps at home. Well, we had to slow up an' kind
of pick our way, and on round the very next turn we ran right up on
them.'

'On the fighting!' I gasped.

'No--no; the fightin' was all over then. Just for a flash, comin' on 'em
so quick like, I didn't know what they were. They looked like little
sprawled brown heaps. But in the second I was wonderin', one of 'em
flung up an arm and groaned.'

'How _awful_!' I cried aghast.

'Yes,' she assented simply, 'it certainly _was_ awful. My words ain't
big enough to tell you how awful. Runnin' up on 'em so unexpected like
that, kind of cut my breath right off an' choked me. There they were,
layin' all about acrost the road, an' in a wheat-field alongside, with
the sun just shining down like it was any kind of a summer day. A good
many of 'em were dead, but there were a plenty that weren't. They
blocked the road so we had to stop, an' right where we stopped there was
a young man layin' flung over on his back. He'd snatched his shirt open
at the breast, an' the blood had all dripped down into the dust of the
road. He opened his eyes, an' stared right up in my face, an' cried,
"Water, for God's sake!" He said it over an' over in the awfullest
voice, an' like it was one word--"Water-for-God's-sake,
water-for-God's-sake"--like that. I had this little drinkin' cup, an'
there was a good-sized creek just a piece across the field, so I grabbed
my hand-bag an' jumped out. Well, at that all of 'em in the car
commenced to holler an' scream at me to get back, that we couldn't
stop--it wouldn't be safe--an' we couldn't do anything, an' anyhow the
stretcher-bearers would be along d'rectly. But I just said, "He wants
water, an' I've got my cup here, an' there's the branch, an' anyhow," I
says, "he looks kind of like my sister's oldest boy," an' with that I
started on to the creek.

'Well, the professor an' Mr. Grenville jumped out of the car an' came
runnin' after me, but I just turned 'round an' looked at 'em. "You all
go on," I says. "He asked me for water for God's sake, an' if you try to
put me back in that car I'll fight you like a wildcat." I never did
anything like that,--fightin', I mean,'--she broke off to explain
earnestly, 'but I would have, an' I reckon they knew it. The professor
tried to argue. "You'll be a raving maniac if you stay here," he says.
"Well," I says, "look what's here now--what difference does it make if I
am?" Somehow that was the way I felt. Everything was so awful it didn't
seem to matter whether anything awful happened to me or not. So I just
kept on to the creek, and Mr. Grenville said, "For Heaven's sake, let
her stay if she can do anything. I wish to God I could stay too." But he
couldn't, he was carryin' some mighty important dispatches that he just
_had_ to get on with. An' then he calls out to me, "Good luck and God
bless you, Miss Smithson!" An' when I looked back he was standin' with
his hat off. He was a mighty nice young man. But all the time the other
ladies in the car was screamin' an' hollerin' for them to come on, so
they had to go.'

'They left you all alone!' I cried.

'They had to,' she returned. 'Mr. Grenville had to get on with his
dispatches, an' it was the last chance the professor an' his wife had of
gettin' through to their child. An' the other lady--Well, she couldn't
do nothin' but scream anyhow. By the time I was comin' back from the
creek the car was just pullin' out of sight. Somehow, to see it go like
that gave me a kind of funny feelin'. I was scared, I reckon, but all
the same I felt kind of still too. It seemed like for the last few weeks
I'd been hustled along in a wild kind of a torrent, but now I'd touched
bottom an' got my feet under me. I reckon a woman does touch bottom when
there's anything she can do--anyhow, one raised to work like I've been
does. But, oh, my Lord!' she cried suddenly, dropping her face to her
hands, 'I wish I could keep from seein' it all still--an' hearin' it
too! Did you ever hear a _man_ scream?' she demanded. 'Not just groan,
but shriek, an' scream?'

'In hospitals,' I said, uncertainly, 'I've heard people screaming when
they were coming out of ether.'

She shook her head. 'That's different. You knew there were people,
nurses and doctors, to do things for 'em; but out there there wasn't
anything but the trampled wheat, an' the big empty sky. There was plenty
of 'em who wanted water, an' begged an' cried for it; but I just said,
"I'll be back to you all presently," an' went on to the first one. He
was kind of delirious, but he could drink the water, an' was mighty glad
to get it. I brushed the flies all away, an' spread a clean handkerchief
over his wound,--he was too far gone to try an' do anything else for
him,--an' went on back to the creek. Water, that was the main thing they
wanted. The most of 'em that could be were bandaged already. Some of the
medical outfit had been around an' got 'em tied up, but after that, I
reckon the fightin' must of changed an' cut 'em off from their friends,
for the stretcher-bearers didn't come, an' didn't come.

'It was all so strange an' kind of shut away there, like destruction had
lit for a spell an' then flown on to the next place. The wheat was all
laid over an' tramped, and lumpy with khaki bodies, an' with caps an'
guns an' things flung around in it, an' the red sun sailin' down an'
down in the West, an' every here an' there awful splatters of blood in
the wheat. But I didn't have time to look an' think too much--an' it was
mighty lucky I didn't have. They were all English an' had run upon a
German battery an' been shot to pieces 'fore they hardly knew what was
happenin.' I guess some of 'em must have got away, but there was a
plenty that didn't. They'd been layin' there since dawn, an'--an' they
were _hungry_--' her voice broke. 'An' I didn't have anything to give
'em,' she whispered.

'They say after a while you get kind of numb to things,' she went on
presently, with her grave simplicity. 'I don't know how that is, but I
know the things I saw made me stop every now an' then down by the creek
out of sight, an' just wring an' wring my hands together in a kind of
rage of pity. Once, goin' through the wheat, I tramped on something
soft, an' when I looked, it was--it was just a piece of a man. I thought
I'd lay right down then an' die, but I says to myself, "They want water,
they want water"--an' that way I kind of drove myself on. But all the
time I could see my heart under my waist just jumpin' up an' down, like
it was fightin' to jump out an' run away. An' then another time--' But
she broke off. 'No,' she said, 'I won't tell about that. It's so
peaceful here with that blue water an' sunshine an' all, I reckon I
oughtn't to tell what it's like underneath when Hell takes the lid off.
An' maybe some day the Lord'll let me forget.

'But it's funny,' she went on again presently, 'how your mind grabs
ahold of any foolish thing to steady you.' She paused, staring down at
the little cup as though she drew remembrance from it. 'I recollect as I
went back and forth, back and forth, weaving out paths through the
wheat, a silly song that we used to sing to a game at school kept
runnin' in my head:--

    I don't want none of your weevily wheat,
    An' I don't want none of your barley;
    An' I don't want none of your weevily wheat
    To bake a cake for Charley.

'I was mighty glad it did. For all it was so silly, it kept me from
flyin' right off the handle. An' so I kept on an' on, carryin' 'em
water. Some of the men thought it was funny I should be there, an' they
wanted to talk an' ask me questions; but the most of 'em were sufferin'
too bad to care, an' some of 'em were busy goin' along into the next
world, an' were done with bein' surprised over anything in this. Most of
'em called me "Nurse" or "Sister," an' some way I liked to have 'em do
it. Some of 'em certainly were brave, too. Why, I saw one young fella
jump straight up to his feet an' fling his arms out wide, an' holler
right up at the sky, "Are we downhearted?--No!" an' pitch over dead. You
know,' she paused to explain simply, her extraordinarily childlike eyes
lifted to mine for understanding and sympathy, 'it just seems to snatch
the heart right out of you to see a person stand up to death like
that--'specially when they're so young, like that little fella.'

'Of course,' she went on after a moment, 'I didn't just give 'em water.
I'd do any other little thing I could besides. An' every time I could do
anything, I certainly was glad. Doing things seemed to ease up a little
that terrible rage of pity I felt. I took my skirt off an 'rolled it up
for a pillow for a little fella who couldn't move an' was layin' with
his head in a kind of a sink-hole. He tried to thank me but he
couldn't,--he just sobbed,--but he caught ahold of my hand an' kissed
it. That made me cry. It was so sort of young an' pretty of him. After
that I went on for a spell with the tears just pourin' down my cheeks.
But presently I found the one who couldn't drink the water, an' I quit
cryin' then. My tears weren't big enough; only God's would have been big
enough for that.

'The man's face was all gone,--eyes, mouth, everything,--an' still he
was alive. He must have heard me an' known somebody was there, for he
commenced to scream an' moan, tryin' to say things down in his throat,
an' to reach out his hands an' flop about--O my God! It was like a
chicken with its head off! I thought I'd _have_ to run. But I didn't. I
just sort of fell down beside him, an' caught ahold of his hands, an'
patted them an' talked to him like you do to a child in a nightmare. I
don't know what I said at first. Just a crazy jumble of pity, I reckon;
but after a little bit I found I was prayin'. I know _I_ needed it, an'
it seemed to help him too, for after a little bit, he stopped that awful
tryin' to speak down in his throat, an' lay still just grippin' my
hands. I was so crazy I couldn't think of a thing to say but "God bless
us an' keep us an' make his face to shine upon us an' be merciful unto
us." An' I just said that over an' over.

'I guess it wasn't the words that he wanted, it was the feelin' of
havin' God there in all that awful dark and blood, an' some human bein'
beside him who was sorry. Anyhow, every time I'd stop he'd snatch at my
wrists so hard it would hurt; look.' She broke off to push up her gray
sleeve, and there on her thin wrist, still vividly black and blue, were
the bruised prints of fingers. 'But I was glad to be hurt--I _wanted_ to
be hurt. I wanted to have a share in all the sufferin'. It just seemed
like my heart would break. An',' she added with great simplicity, 'I
reckon that's just what it did do, for I know I broke through into
something bigger than I ever had been.

'Well, after a while, God did have mercy on that poor soul, for he quit
pullin' at my hands, and began to die, an' when I came 'round again to
him he was gone. But that got me started, an' I left off sayin' that
foolishness about the weevily wheat, an' said the little prayer instead.
I said it to myself first, but after a little bit, I found I was sayin'
it out loud. I don't know why, but it seemed like I _had_ to say it
every time I gave one of 'em water. Just "God bless us an' keep us an'
make his face to shine upon us and be merciful unto us." It was somehow
like a child's game--like havin' to touch every tree-box goin' along
the street, or steppin' over every crack. Each one of 'em had to have
the water an' the little prayer, an' then on to the next, or back down
to the creek for more. Most of 'em didn't seem to notice, but some of
'em laughed, an' some stared like I was crazy,--an' maybe I was a
little,--an' again some of 'em were glad of it.

'So I kep' on an' on, an' the sun went down, an' the dark came, an' it
seemed like a kind of a lid had shut us away from all the world. It
wasn't right dark, for the stars were shinin'. It was about that time
that I found the little officer. He was dyin', off in the wheat all to
himself, an' he got me to take down some messages for his folks. I wrote
'em in my diary. I had a pocket flashlight in my bag, an' it made a
round eye of light that stared out at every word I wrote. They were the
simplest kind of words. Just love, love to mother, and love to father,
and Snippy and Peg, an' good-bye to 'em all, an' how he was glad to die
for England. But they look mighty strange jumpin' out there in my diary
alongside of travel notes about Brussels. It's like something big an'
terrible had smashed its fist right through all the little fancy things.

'But it was funny,' she went on after a minute, 'how sort of like
children so many of the men were, so trusting an' helpless. There was
one little fella always said the same thing to me every time I came
'round. "They'll sure be around for us soon now, won't they, sister?"
he'd say. An' I'd always answer, "Oh, yes, just in a little bit now."
An' he'd settle back again, so trusting an' satisfied, an' like I really
knew. That was the way they all seemed to me--just children. Even the
ones that cursed an' screamed at me. An' another funny thing,' she added
lifting her grave child's eyes to mine: 'I've never been married--never
known what it was to have children--but that night all those men were
my children, even the biggest an' roughest of 'em. I felt 'em all
_here_'--She held her hands tight against her breast. 'An' I b'lieve I
would have _died_ for any one of 'em. I reckon bein' so crazy with pity
had stretched me up out of bein' a scary old maid into bein' a mother.

'I recollect there was two loose horses gallopin' about. They were wild
with fear, an' they'd gallop as hard as ever they could in one
direction, an' then they'd wheel 'round an' come to a stand with their
heads up, an' their tails cocked, an' nicker, an' snort over what they
smelt, an' then take out again. Well, once they came chargin' right down
on us, an' I thought sure they were goin' right over the men. I never
stopped to think: I ran straight out in front of 'em wavin' my arms an'
hollerin'. They just missed gallopin' right over me. But I didn't care;
I b'lieve I'd almost have been glad. It was like I said--I _wanted_ to
be hurt too. That was because it was all so lonesome for 'em. Death an'
sufferin' is a lonesome thing,' she stated gravely. 'When they'd scream,
I felt like I'd tear my heart out to help 'em. But all I could do was
just to stand on the outside like, an' watch 'em sufferin' an' maybe
dryin' inside there all alone. That's why it seemed like bein' hurt too
would make it easier.

'Well, along late in the night, the guns broke out again awful loud, an'
presently off against the sky I saw red streaks of flame go up in two
places, an' I knew they were towns on fire. I just stopped still an'
looked, an' thought what it was like with the folks scurryin' 'round
like rats, an' the fire an' the shells rainin' down on 'em. "That's
Hell--right over there," I says out loud to myself, an' then I went on
down to the creek faster than ever. Maybe I was gettin' kind of
lightheaded then, an' God knows it was enough to make anybody so;
anyhow, I felt like I had to hold Hell back. It was loose right over
there, an' the only thing that held it off was the cup of water an' the
little prayer. So I kept on back an' forth, back an' forth from the
creek, faster an' faster. I thought if I missed one of 'em it would let
Hell in on all the rest, so I kept on an' on. The guns were boomin', an'
the flames goin' up into the sky, an' all Hell was loose, but the little
prayer an' the cup of water was holdin' it back. An' then at last, when
it commenced to freshen for dawn, I knew I'd won.'

She drew a deep breath, and paused, looking up at me with clear,
far-away eyes.

'That was because I knew He was there,' she said.

'_He?_' I questioned, awestruck by her tone.

She nodded. 'Yes, God,' she answered simply. 'An' after that, that
terrible lonesomeness melted all away. I knew that though I had to stand
outside an' see 'em suffer, He was inside there with 'em--closer to 'em
even than they was to themselves. So I knew it wasn't really lonesome
for 'em, even if they were sufferin' an' dyin'. An' I'm right sure that
a good many of 'em got to know that, too--anyhow, the faces of some of
the ones that had died looked that way when I saw 'em in the mornin'.
Maybe it was because I cared so much myself that I kind of broke through
into knowin' how much more God cared. Folks always talk like He was a
father 'way off in the sky, but I got to know that night that what was
really God was something big an' close right in your own heart, that was
a heap more like a big mother.

'An' it was all bigger an' sort of simpler than I'd ever thought it
would be. Right over there was Hell an' big guns, an' men killin' each
other, but here where we were, were just stars overhead, an' folks that
you could do things for, an' God. I reckon that's the way,' she said
with her grave simplicity, 'when things get too awful you suffer
through to God, an' He turns you back to the simplest things--just the
little prayer, an' the cup of water for men that were like sick
children. This is the cup,' she added, holding it out for my inspection.
'An'--an' that's all, I reckon,' she concluded. 'When daylight came, the
stretcher-bearers did get through to us. There was a sort of doctor
officer with them, an' I never in my life saw any one look so tired.

'"Who are you, an' what in thunder are you doing here?" he stormed out
at me--only I don't say it as strong as he did.

'I reckon I must have looked like a wild woman. I had lost my hat and my
hair was all falling down, an' I only had on my short alpaca underskirt,
'cause I'd taken off my dress skirt to make a pillow like I said; but I
just stood right up in the midst of all those poor bodies, an' says,
"I'm Miss Smithson--Sadie Virginia Smithson--an' I've been holdin' Hell
back all night."

'I knew I was talkin' crazy but I didn't care--like the way you do
comin' out of ether.

'He stared at me for a spell, an' then he says, kind of funny, "Well,
Miss Sadie Virginia, I'm glad you held some of it back, for everybody
else in the world was letting it loose last night."

'He was mighty kind to me, though, an' helped get me to one of the base
hospitals, an' from there over to England. But I don't know what
happened to the professor an' his party.'

'Well,' I ventured after a long pause, and not knowing quite what to
say, 'the Laurel Literary Society will be glad enough to have you belong
to it now.'

She flashed bolt upright at that, her eyes staring at me.

'But--but you don't understand,' she cried breathlessly. 'I've been face
to face with war an' death an' Hell an' God,--I've been born again,--do
you reckon any of them little old things matter now?'

I was stunned by the white look of her face.

'What does matter--_now_?' I whispered at last.

'Nothin',' she answered, 'nothin' but God an' love an' doin' things for
folks. That was why I had to tell you.'



MR. SQUEM

BY ARTHUR RUSSELL TAYLOR


'Why do we go on perpetuating an uncomfortable breed?'

The man who was shaving at the mirror-paneled door of the Pullman
smoking compartment looked at his questioner on the leather seat
opposite.

'Give it up,' he answered. 'Why is a hen?'

The first man rapped his pipe empty on the edge of a cuspidor.

'You answer the question,' he said, 'in the only possible way--by asking
another.'

'Right,' answered the shaver; and began to run the hot water.

A closely built man, in a suit so heavily striped as to seem stripes
before it was a suit, lurched into the compartment and settled himself
to his paper and cigar.

'That monkey-on-a-stick,' he presently broke out, 'is still taking good
money away from the asses who go to hear him rant about God and Hell and
all the rest, up in Boston. I am so _damn_ tired of him, and of that
rich rough-neck Freeze. It's the limit.'

'Pretty much,' said the man with the pipe. 'I was reading about the
Belgians just before you came in, and when I jumped away from them I lit
on some things about Poland. Then I wondered aloud to this gentleman why
we go on multiplying--increasing such an uncomfortable breed. Modoc gods
and degenerate millionaires make one wonder more.'

'What is your line, may I ask?' inquired the stripe-suited man.

'Religion.'

'The hell--I beg your pardon. If you mean that you're a preacher or
something like that, all I've got to say is, you're a funny one. It's
your job, isn't it, to be dead sure that everything's all right, or
somehow going to be all right--no matter about all the mussed-upness?
Yes, that's certainly your job. Yet here you are, asking why we go on
stocking the world with kids. _I_ might ask that,--I'm in rubber
tires,--but not you. Yes, I might--only I don't.'

The man who had been shaving had resumed his tie, collar, and coat, and
now lighted a cigarette.

'I lay my money,' he said, 'on one thing: that, if men let themselves
go, they wind up shortly with God--or with what would be God if there
were any. You've come to it early--through the _Ledger_. You'd have got
to it sooner or later, though, if you'd been talking about
hunting-dogs--provided you'd have let yourselves go.'

'Well, now,' asked the closely built man, 'what is _your_ line?'

'Education.'

'High-brow company! Seems to me the pair of you ought to be silencers
for a plain business man like me. Rubber is my line--not how the world
is run. My opinion on that is small change, sure. Yet I think it ought
to be run,--the world, I mean,--even if it's mussed-up to the limit, and
I think it's up to us to keep it running. The parson here--if he is a
parson--asks why we should; that is, if I get him. And then I think
there's a manager of it all in the central office--a manager,
understand, though he never seems to show up around the works, and
certainly does seem to have some of the darnedest ways. The professor
here--if he is a professor--doesn't sense any manager; that is, if I get
him straight, with his "if there were any." That was what you said,
wasn't it? I'm a picked chicken on religion and education, but, honest,
both those ideas would mean soft tires for me--yes, sir, soft tires.'

'Broad Street, gentlemen,' said the porter at the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Reverend Allan Dare walked away from the train and down the street.
He was Episcopally faced and Episcopally trim, and he was having
considerable difficulty in holding his universe together. This is not
pleasant at forty-two, when you want your universe held together and
things settled and calm. He had an uncomfortable sense that this
difficulty had jolted into plain sight on the car.

'Ass!' he addressed himself briefly. 'To let your sag and unsettlement
loose in that way! To say such a thing as you said, and in such a place!
To parade your momentary distrust of life! Ass--oh, ass!'

He said--or thought--a Prayer-Book collect, one which seemed rather
suited to asses, and continued,--

'I suppose I'm three-tenths sag--no more; and "He knoweth whereof we are
made," and what a devil of a world it is to be in just now. But that
rubber man on the car--he isn't sag at all. Heavens, his crudeness! His
beastly clothes, and the bare shaved welt around the back of his neck,
and that awful seal ring! But he's fastened. Life is worth pushing at
and cheering for--and there's a manager, if he _has_ "the darnedest
ways." I'd give something for an every-minute mood like that--a carrying
night-and-day sureness like that. He's not illuminated--lucky dog!'

Professor William Emory Browne had changed cars and was continuing his
journey. In his lap lay a volume of essays just put forth by a member of
his craft, a college professor. He opened it,--it chanced at page
27,--and his eye was caught by the name of his own specialty. He read:--

'Philosophy is the science which proves that we can know nothing of the
soul. Medicine is the science which tells that we know nothing of the
body. Political Economy is that which teaches that we know nothing of
the laws of wealth; and Theology the critical history of those errors
from which we deduce our ignorance of God.'

'Confound it!' ejaculated Professor Browne, and closed the book.

'Room for one more?' inquired a voice, and the rubber-tire man slid into
the seat.

'I just pulled off a little thing out here,' he said, 'that ought to put
a small star in my crown. A down-and-out--a tough looker--says to me,
"_Please_, mister, give me a dime. I'm hungry." And I says to him, "Get
out! What you want is a good drink--go get it," and slips him a quarter.
Talk about gratitude! To think there are men--you know it and I know it
and he was afraid of it--who'd have steered him to a quick-lunch and put
him against soft-boiled eggs!'

'"Man's inhumanity to man"'--

'Sure! Nothing but that ever makes me any trouble about things. Tear
ninety, George,'--this to the conductor,--'and burn this panetella some
time. You said you were in education,' he went on. 'I've just blown
myself to a Universal History--five big volumes, with lots of maps and
pictures and flags of all nations and hanging gardens of Babylon and
such things. Gave down thirty-five for it, and my name is printed--Peter
B. Squem--on the first page of every book. Now,'--Mr. Squem grew quite
earnest,--'you'd say, wouldn't you, that if a man could take those books
down,--chew them up, you understand, and take them down,--he'd have an
education? Not the same, of course, as normal school or college, and yet
an education.'

'I think, if you know what's good for you, you will steer clear of what
you call an education. I think I should stick to rubber tires, and a few
comfortable certainties--and peace.'

Mr. Squem stared. 'How's that?' he inquired. 'Education is your line,
you were saying, and yet you queer your stuff. I'd get quick word from
the house, if I handled Mercury tires that way.'

'But you wouldn't,' rejoined Professor Browne, 'you wouldn't, because
tires mean something. Tires are your life-preserver--they are shaped
like life-preservers, aren't they?'

'You've got me going,' said Mr. Squem, 'and no mistake. I don't mind
telling you I'd hoped to get some hunch from you--on education. You see,
my clothes are right, I always have a room with bath, and I get two
hundred a month and fifty on the side. I read the papers--and the
magazine section on Sunday--and I got through four books last year. And
yet there's something not there--by Keefer, not there! I'd give
something to _get_ it there--to slide it under, somehow, and bring the
rest of me up to regular manicuring and ice-cream forks and the way my
clothes fit!'

Mr. Squem was interrupted in the expression of this craving. There was a
tremendous jar; the car tore and bumped with an immense pounding over
the ties, then careened and sprawled down a short bank and settled on
its side. People who have been through such an experience will require
no description. To others none can be given. In the bedlam chaos and
jumble, and chorus of shrieks and smashing glass, Professor Browne,
struggling up through the bodies which had been hurled upon him, was
conscious of a pain almost intolerably sharp in his leg, and then of a
sort of striped whirlwind which seemed to be everywhere at once,
extricating, calming, ordering, comforting--and swearing. It was like a
machine-gun:--

'_Keep_ your clothes on, nothing's going to bite you--just a little
shake-up--Yes, chick, we'll find your ma--No, you _don't_ climb over
those people; sit down or I'll help you--To hell with your valise, pick
up that child!--There go the axes; everybody quiet now, just where he
is--You with the side-whiskers get back, _back_, hear me!--Now, children
first, hand 'em along--women next, so--men last--Why didn't you _say_
you was a doctor? Get out there quick; some of those people have got
broke and need you!'

Professor Browne was one of these last. Lifted by Peter Squem and a very
scared brakeman, he lay on two Pullman mattresses at the side of the
track, waiting for the rabbit-faced country doctor to reach him. He was
suffering very much,--it seemed to him that he had never really known
pain before,--but his attention went to a white-haired lady near by--a
slight, slender woman, with breeding written all over her. She had made
her way from the drawing-room of the Pullman, and leaned heavily upon
her maid, in a state approaching collapse. Professor Browne was
impressed by her air of distinction even in the midst of his pain. Then
he saw a striped arm supportingly encircle her, and a hand dominated by
an enormous seal ring press to her lips an open bottle of Scotch.

'Let it trickle down, auntie--right down. It's just what you need,' said
Peter B. Squem.

       *       *       *       *       *

'What did you think of when the car stopped rolling?'

Professor Browne, lying in his bed, asked this question of Mr. Squem,
sitting at its side. The latter had got the professor home to his house
and his housekeeper after the accident the day before, had found the
best surgeon in town and stood by while he worked, had in a dozen ways
helped a bad business to go as well as possible, and now, having
remained over night, was awaiting the hour of his train.

'Think of? Nothing. No time. I was that cross-eyed boy you've heard
about--the one at the three-ringed circus. _Did_ you see that newly-wed
rooster,--I'll bet he was that,--the one with the celluloid collar?
"Good-bye, Maude!" he yells, and then tries to butt himself through the
roof. He wouldn't have left one sound rib in the car if I hadn't pinned
him. No, I hadn't any time to think.'

He produced and consulted a watch--one that struck the professor as
being almost too loud an ornament for a Christmas tree. An infant's face
showed within as the case opened.

'Your baby?' inquired Professor Browne.

'Never. Not good enough. This kid I found--where do you suppose? On a
picture-postal at a news-stand. The picture was no good--except the kid;
and I cut him out, you see. Say, do you know the picture was painted by
a man out in Montana? Yes, sir, Montana. They had the cards made over in
Europe somewhere,--Dagoes, likely,--and when they put his name on it,
they didn't do a thing to that word Montana. Some spelling!'

'Why, what you have there,' said the professor, taking the watch with
interest, 'is the Holy Child of Andrea Mantegna's Circumcision,--it's in
the Uffizi at Florence. Singularly good it is, too. I'm very much
wrapped up in the question, raised in a late book, of Mantegna's
influence upon Giovanni Bellini. There's a rather fine point made in
connection with another child in this same picture--a larger one,
pressing against his mother's knees.'

Mr. Squem was perfectly uncomprehending. 'Come again,' he remarked. 'No,
you needn't, either, for I don't know anything about the rest of the
picture. I told you it was no good. There was an old party in a funny
bathrobe and with heavy Belshazzars, I remember--but the picture was
_this_.'

He rose and began to get into his overcoat.

'There's one thing about this kid,' he said, in a casual tone which
somehow let earnestness through. 'I know a man,--he travels out of
Phillie, and he's some booze-artist and other things that go
along,--who's got one of those little "Josephs." You know, those little
dolls that Catholics tote around? Separate him from it? Not on your
life. Why, he missed it one night on a sleeper, and he cussed and reared
around, and made the coon rout everybody out till he found it. It's
luck, you see. Now this kid'--Mr. Squem was pulling on his
gloves--'isn't luck, but he works like luck. He talks to me, understand,
and'--here a pause--'he puts all sorts of cussedness on the blink. You
can't look at him and be an Indian. I was making the wrong sort of date
in Trenton one day, and I saw him just in time--sent the girl word I'd
been called out of town. I was figuring on the right time to pinch a man
in the door,--he'd done me dirty,--and I saw _him_ again. Good-night!
I'm never so punk that he doesn't ginger me--doesn't look good to me.
The management is mixed up with him--and I hook up to him. Here's the
taxi. So long, professor.--Rats! I haven't done one little thing. Good
luck to your game leg!'

       *       *       *       *       *

It was Sunday morning, and service was under way in the Church of the
Holy Faith. For the thousandth time the Reverend Allan Dare had
dearly-beloved his people, assembled to the number of four hundred
before him, exhorting them in such forthright English as cannot be
written nowadays, not to dissemble nor cloak their sins before God, and
to accompany him unto the throne of the heavenly grace. He had had a
sick feeling, as he read this exhortation, so full of pound, rhythm,
heart-search, and splendid good sense, to the courteous abstractedness
in the pews.

'Heavens!' he had thought, 'once this burnt in!' He had wanted to
shriek,--or fire a pistol in the air,--and then crush the meaning into
his people; crush God into them, yes, and into himself.

He was four-tenths sag that morning--the Rev. Allan Dare. In the
_Jubilate_, a small choir-boy--a phenomenon who was paid a thousand a
year, and was responsible for the presence of not a few of the four
hundred--had sung 'Be sure ye that the Lord he is God,' to the
ravishment of the congregation--not of the rector, who stood looking
dead ahead. The First Lesson had been all about Jonadab, the son of
Rechab, and drinking no wine--frightful ineptness! What could it mean to
any one? how help any one? Here was Life, with all its cruel tangles,
tighter and more choking every day. Here was Arnold's darkling plain,
and the confused alarms and the ignorant armies clashing by night.

There came back to Dare the creed he had heard in the smoking
compartment: 'I think it ought to be run,--the world,--even if it's
mussed-up to the limit, and I think it's up to us to keep it running. I
think there's a manager of it all in the central office--a manager,
understand, though he never seems to show up around the works, and
certainly does seem to have some of the darnedest ways.'

'O God!' breathed Allan Dare, 'there are so many things--so many
things!'

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the same Sunday. Professor William Emory Browne was for the first
time on crutches, and stood supported by them at his window.

'Back again,' he ruminated. 'I can probably drive to my classes in
another week. Then the same old grind, showing ingenuous youth--who
fortunately will not see it--how "the search hath taught me that the
search is vain." Ho, hum! How very kind, that Mr. Squem,--he did so much
for me,--and how very funny! I should like to produce him at the
seminar--with his just-right clothes, his dream of culture via his
Universal History, his approach to reality through a picture
postal-card!'

He turned on himself almost savagely. Then,--

'What the devil are you patronizing him for? Don't you see that he is
hooked to something and you are not, that he is warm and you are
freezing, that he is part of the wave,--the wave, man,--and that you are
just a miserable, tossing clot?'

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the same Sunday. Mr. Squem sat in his room--extremely dennish,
smitingly red as to walls, oppressive with plush upholstery. A huge
deerhead, jutting from over the mantel, divided honors with a
highly-colored September Morn, affrontingly framed. On a shelf stood a
small bottle. It contained a finger of Mr. Squem, amputated years
before, in alcohol.

On the knees of the owner of the room was Volume One of the Universal
History--Number 32, so red-ink figures affirmed, of a limited edition of
five hundred sets. Mr. Squem's name was displayed, in very large Old
English, on the fly-leaf, and above was an empty oval wherein his
portrait might be placed.

'No use,' soliloquized the owner of this treasure, 'no use. If I _could_
chew it up and get it down,--or two of it,--_that_ wouldn't slide under
the thing that isn't there. Nothing will ever put me in the class of
Professor Browne or that preacher on the car, or bring the rest of me up
to my clothes.'

He rose and stretched.

'Maybe,' he said, addressing a huge chocolate-colored bust of an Indian
lady, 'maybe I can catch up to those fellows some time--but not here.
Noon, I bet,'--looking at his watch,--'and it is to eat.'

He contemplated the Mantegna baby.

'So long,' he said, 'you're running things,' and snapped his watch.



BIOGRAPHICAL AND INTERPRETATIVE

NOTES


THE PRELIMINARIES

Cornelia A. P. Comer, accomplished critic, essayist, and writer of short
stories, was educated at Vassar, and afterwards engaged in journalistic
work in the Middle West and California. She now lives in Seattle.

The plot of _The Preliminaries_ might readily be told in a single
paragraph. Its significance lies in its lucid and austere psychology.
The young Mr. Oliver Pickersgill appears in four distinct situations;
and as we watch him in company with the four dominating and diverse
personalities in turn, we are engrossed in the swift and poignant play
of his feelings--feelings which finally deepen into a sincere and
settled consciousness of attained truth and a confident loyalty to an
imprisoned convict. The verisimilitude of both situation and
conversation is complete; and in the process there is no exhaustion of
emotional values. Henry James would not have treated the situations with
more clarity.

The author's further treatment of the problems connected with marriage
is seen in two other noteworthy Atlantic stories--_The Kinzer Portraits
and The Long Inheritance._


BUTTERCUP-NIGHT

JOHN GALSWORTHY, an English 'novelist of much distinction, and a
playwright who has proved that the possession of ideas is not
incompatible with popular success. Endowed with an exquisite sense of
pity, he has put that sentiment to many chivalrous uses, and since the
war he has written in the public service on behalf of various patriotic
and humanitarian objects.' Thus Mr. Galsworthy was described in the
_London Gazette_ as a recipient of the honor of knighthood in the list
of New Year (1918) Honors, his declination not having been received in
time to forestall the publication.

_Buttercup-Night_ is hardly a story at all. In company with Mr.
Galsworthy we live out the quiet but impressive experience of a single
evening, night, and morning, all the while breathing the atmosphere of a
rare June beauty that completely wins us to its æsthetic favor and
repose. The incident of the sick horse, so gently cared for by the
faithful keeper, secures our sympathy but does not draw us away from the
more insistent wooing of the charms of the buttercup-night and the
morning radiance of a suddenly awakened glow of blooming yellow. The
commonplace writer would use the scene for romantic effect; Galsworthy
enhances the beauty of the setting by a homely but sincere realism. The
significant merits of the style are its purity, its restraint, and its
complete adaptability to the hoveringly quiescent mood.


HEPATICAS

Anne Douglas Sedgwick (Madame Basil de Sélincourt) is of American birth,
but has lived in England since her childhood. For many years she has
found an admiring audience as a writer of novels and short stories. In
1908 she was married to M. de Sélincourt.

The title of the story hints at a reliance upon mere setting. And the
hepatica bed, with all that its associations signify, certainly makes
its generous atmospheric contribution to the charm of the narrative. But
as domestic entanglements begin to ensue, our interest in the flowers is
soon shifted to plot and theme. Our sustained sympathy rests with the
mother--the mother who has created in her home an atmosphere of the
truest and most sensibly refined culture. The promising son, sharing
this atmosphere and even enriching it, yields while at Aldershot before
the war to the superficial charm of a chorus girl, and marries her. Her
loud and garish presence in the home of quiet beauty and repose provides
an interesting but tragic study in contrast, and makes us continually
more anxious as we watch its influence upon the mother, yearning
pityingly for her absent son, yet plaintively relieved when news comes
that he has been killed in the war. Death has released him from the grim
necessity of living his mismated life and caring for the child born of
parents of such divergent types. The supreme merit of the mother's
character lies in her willing acceptance of the burdening problem. The
strength of the story, as we view it in its entirety, rests in a
skillful merging of effects which allows final emphasis upon character
portrayal and thematic situation.


POSSESSING PRUDENCE

Amy Wentworth Stone is a resident of Boston, who combines a pleasant
sense of the ludicrous with a rare understanding of the spirit of
childhood.

This miniature sketch of Amy Wentworth Stone's is admirably handled, and
sparkles with the best and kindliest humor--a humor that is in no sense
spoiled by the sins that rest so lightly upon the imaginative soul of
little Prudence Jane. Her sins hark quickly back to the childhood
periods of each reader who sympathetically remembers the world of fancy
which conflicted so loudly with dull realism. The charm of this humorous
tracery will invite a rereading of Miss Stone's similar triumph in
_Capital Punishments_, published in the _Atlantic_ for November, 1913.


THE GLORY-BOX

Elizabeth Ashe is the pen name of Georgiana Pentlarge, a young and
promising story-writer living in Boston.

_The Glory-Box_ is an unforgettable story. Its accuracy in the matter of
minor household details and commonplace neighborliness creates an
atmosphere of intimate realism which readily wins our sympathetic
credence in situation and event. We grow easily familiar with the three
or four characters who are introduced, and then we discover our interest
centering in two of these--Eunice, the sweetheart, and Stephen, the
lover--as, in their separated lives, each in fancy penetrates the daily
routine and comes fondly to rest in thoughts and plans of marriage. The
story interest is enhanced by the contrast of their daily routine.
Eunice's time is spent in teaching, relieved by friendly village
companionship; Stephen's in the arduous work of the Columbia Law School,
relieved by glimpses of fashionable life in Washington Square. All this
routine and hope and relaxation end in the tragedy that the earlier
realism of the story grimly accentuates and intensifies. The art of the
story lies in the author's quiet control of situations which might so
easily, in the hands of a lesser craftsman, run a riotous course in the
field of pseudo-sentiment.


THE SPIRIT OF THE HERD

Dallas Lore Sharp, well known as a keen observer both of nature and of
human nature, is Professor of English at Boston University.

I have asked permission to extract this episode from a longer article.
Professor Sharp was as generous in this as he has been helpful in other
matters relating to selections which make up this volume of narratives.

The paragraphs which precede the present beginning are expository in
nature, and while they bear interestingly upon the incident, they are
not a necessary part of the narrative. The selection breathes the very
atmosphere of highly hazardous adventure; and even though the writer
quickly generates in us a feeling of confidence in the superior powers
of Ranchman Wade and Peroxide Jim, we nevertheless restlessly live
through the moments of the wild stampede as it makes its mad and
frightened way along the perilous edge of the rim-rock.


IN THE PASHA'S GARDEN

H. G. Dwight is the son of an American missionary to the Near East, and
lived for many years in Constantinople. Being compelled to leave Turkey
after her entrance into the war, he returned to the United States and is
now in the government service.

Mr. Dwight in this Stamboul romance has invested his scenes with the
languorous and mystical spirit of the orientalism in which his
characters so naturally move. We are here far away from the O. Henry
type of story, with its startling cleverness, crisp humor, and ingenious
surprise. We share instead the leisure and luxury of this eastern way of
living--felt all the more strongly because of the presence of the French
wife whose independent customs and bearing offend the servants of the
easy-going Pasha. The interest, however, is not confined to the
atmosphere. We are soon breathing the mystery of the kiosque--a mystery
which the author never fully solves, but leaves silently merged in the
intangible charm of the pervading orientalism.


LITTLE SELVES

Mary Lerner, a story-writer of Cambridge, Massachusetts, first won
attention by the publication of 'Little Selves' in the _Atlantic
Monthly_.

I have included this selection because it reveals so delicately and so
immediately that quality which we may somewhat paradoxically call
_romantic realism_. The scenes which Miss Lerner's old Irish woman so
intimately recalls are all peopled by the real creatures of a remembered
past, principally her little selves as they lived through their childish
joys and sorrows and swiftly sequent perplexities. But each of these
experiences, so intimately and realistically portrayed, is seen through
memories tinged with the charm of a happy Celtic romance.


THE FAILURE

Charles Caldwell Dobie is a young writer living in San Francisco.

Mr. Dobie has in this story shown himself more than a mere realist. The
realistic details of John Scidmore's home, the early-morning routine of
the insurance office, the evening splendor of Julia Norris's hotel
apartments,--all are graphically re-created. But the central idea is an
ethical one--John Scidmore's wavering action in the midst of a business
situation where a frank admission of gross neglect was morally
imperative. His immediate failure to meet the situation is grimly
contrasted with his wife's expressed faith in his honesty. The story
presents a graphic instance of a righteous act silently directed by a
strongly influencing personality. It closes with this particular problem
solved; but we end the reading with many interesting and conflicting
surmises concerning the future domestic life in the Scidmore home.


BUSINESS IS BUSINESS

Henry Seidel Canby, essayist and critic and occasional writer of
stories, is a Professor of English at the Sheffield Scientific School at
Yale University. His books include several volumes on the short story.

The commercial theme has been freely exploited by the popular magazine
writers. When it is written merely for the sake of getting in line with
a popular trend, it is likely to be empty and blusterous. In Mr. Canby's
story we are, of course, interested in the business atmosphere; but we
are more deeply interested in the portrayal of character. Cargan is
most fully drawn, and we watch him with increasing keenness as we see
him dominated by the various moods which the other personalities and the
shifting incidents and the changing environment engender. The skill
shown in the rapid but graphic sketching of Mrs. Cargan and Mrs. Waldron
is equally engaging. The story is perfect in its mastery of narrative
technique.


NOTHING

Zephine Humphrey (Mrs. Fahnestock), long a contributor of essays and
stories to the _Atlantic_, is the author of a novel entitled
_Grail-Fire_.

In this and other contributions to the _Atlantic_ Miss Humphrey has
shown an acute sensitiveness to atmosphere and personality. We are here
charmingly led into an intimate understanding of the surroundings and
character of the little blind woman who lives her lonely life in the
simple cottage where, in preparation for the imminent affliction, she
had long ago learned to do her work in the silent dark. The story has
almost no plot interest, for we trace no significant movement of
events--except the few which are fragmentarily imparted in confidential
retrospect. The quietness of the style is in thorough keeping with the
secured tone--one of those happy revelations so difficult to accomplish,
yet when once accomplished suggesting, by its inevitable touch, the easy
process of mastership.


A MOTH OF PEACE

Mrs. Katharine Fullerton Gerould, distinguished as a writer of essays
and stories and novels, is the wife of Gordon Hall Gerould, Professor at
Princeton.

Aside from the unusually strong and flowing style here so impressively
revealed, we have a story marked by a sympathetic penetration into the
atmosphere of Andecy--an atmosphere, when first felt, richly laden with
the languor of a lonely and pervading provincial peace. This peace is
suddenly broken by the rumors and processes of war, and we feel the
dread of the impending German attack and the personal solicitude of Miss
Stanley, the American heroine lovingly anxious for the fate of her
English fiancé. Nearer and nearer comes the threatened danger. Finally
the heroine goes out to meet the troop of enemy soldiers without the
gates--whether to meet a tragic end, the author does not say.

There is little dialogue and little haste in the action. The narrative
is continuously guided by the controlling spirit of Miss Stanley, who
grimly triumphs over the fear and dread of the perilous situation. Her
body may have suffered defeat; her soul is splendidly victorious. The
author's skill at the end is finely revealed in the graphic portrayal of
the psychology of the situation.


IN NO STRANGE LAND

Katharine Butler, a young writer of few and distinctive stories, lives
at Danvers, Massachusetts.

The significant merit of this story is the mystical creation of a man's
experience with death. The things of earth and heaven become
perplexingly intermingled. Realism becomes strongly blended with the
thoughts that move in weird circles on the tenuous wings of wanton
fancy, and we live a puzzled moment as we try to visualize the man's
experiences in his new realm of consciousness with its 'incredible
freedom and joy.' The whole narrative is wrought in the delicate tracery
of one whose temperament is obviously the temperament of a poet.


LITTLE BROTHER

Madeleine Z. Doty, of New York, learned the true story of 'Little
Brother' when at The Hague, in the summer of 1915, as a delegate to the
Woman's International Congress. Miss Doty is a lawyer by profession; by
practice, a writer, investigator, and traveler.

With terrible concreteness _Little Brother_ weights our soul-sense with
the horror and tragedy of war. The story is told with a bared realism
which the poignancy of the occasion freely extenuates. In short crisp
sentences the opening scene is exposed. There follow in dizzy succession
and in the same quick-breathing style the little tragic ordeals that
fill the story with a terrible passion. It penetrates the very essence
of our being and starkly confronts us with the bleak mystery of the
existing condition of world-carnage--a carnage that wantonly wreaks its
unselected vengeance on little sufferers unskilled and unschooled in
squaring their strength to ill-proportioned trials.


WHAT ROAD GOETH HE?

'F. J. Louriet' is a pseudonym representing the dual authorship of
Captain and Mrs. F. J. Green, long of Australia and now of Honolulu.

By the free but not too lavish use of sea terms and common sailor talk,
we are brought into immediate and intimate knowledge of the affairs of a
ship floundering in a storm. Through graphic sensory images, with their
vivid and varied appeals, the whole perilous situation is wonderfully
intensified. Seldom indeed are details better massed to secure an
intended effect. But the interest later comes to centre in the great
theme of sacrifice--a sacrifice all the more significant because it is
performed with such absolute spontaneity. The story is a noteworthy
example of strong effect secured with great economy of time and
material.


THE CLEARER SIGHT

Ernest Starr, a writer of occasional stories, lives in North Carolina.

The most interesting element in Mr. Ernest Starr's narrative is the
dramatic conflict of emotions. Placed first in the gnomish atmosphere of
a chemical laboratory, the tone soon changes from scientific to
ethical--each interest being intensified and directed by the deep
emotion of romantic love. A serious accident in the laboratory creates
the crisis; it reveals to Noakes, the young scientist, the inexcusable
baseness in his character--a baseness which allowed him to act with
direct disloyalty to his employer and with somewhat obvious disloyalty
to the ideals cherished by the girl whom he loved. The situation is
finally relieved by his confessions and by the physician's hope that the
young scientist's physical blindness is not necessarily permanent.

The author shows unusual skill in dialogue, in analysis, and in the
handling of both conventional and dramatic situations.


THE GARDEN OF MEMORIES

C. A. Mercer is an American author who has, unfortunately, been
altogether silent of late years.

In this story the traditions and influence of Hawthorne are
picturesquely revived. The experience is one which is a bit fragile and
tenuous, but to readers who reproduce in their fancy the more delicate
picturings of their childhood, who delight in the re-creation of mood,
who frequently re-live their childhood sentiments--to all such will come
a sense of pleasure in the contemplation of the tracery here so
artistically etched.


THE CLEAREST VOICE

Margaret Sherwood, a singularly sincere and graceful writer, is
Professor of English Literature at Wellesley College.

The clear voice which here speaks under Miss Sherwood's guidance is the
voice of the absent. And, individually, as we read the story, we listen
sympathetically to the separate messages of those voices which have
entered sympathetically into our past experiences and wisely guided or
wisely thwarted our separate deeds.

A Harvard graduate who had taken Professor Charles Eliot Norton's course
in fine arts was years afterward selecting a cravat pin in a jeweler's
shop in Paris. As he finally decided upon one of plain, simple, and
silently impressive design, he said, 'I think Professor Norton would
have chosen this.' In decisions minor and in decisions major, we are
almost invariably influenced by the unconscious thought of those whose
counsel we value. This significant truth Miss Sherwood has impressively
revealed in _The Clearest Voice_.


THE MARBLE CHILD

E. Nesbit (Mrs. Hubert Bland) is an English writer who for many years
has enjoyed widespread and deserved popularity as a writer of children's
books.

'The world where children live is so full of amazing and
incredible-looking things that turn out to be quite real.' This sentence
from the story supplies us with the theme the wording of the bald
analyst requires. For him who simply reads for the mere narrative, no
such analyzing is really necessary--provided there still linger with him
the manifold fancies that peopled his childhood. Of course Ernest was an
extraordinary child--like Shelley or William Blake, it may be. Just such
a child as Hawthorne would adore. To appreciate the story in all its
fineness, we must ourselves have something of that abnormality. Else we
shall be as impervious as the crinolined aunts, and as unsympathetic
toward Ernest's experience as are some readers to Hawthorne's fanciful
_Snow Image_.


THE ONE LEFT

E. V. Lucas is an English essayist, a lover and biographer of Lamb,
known for many delicate and appreciative essays, and for books of travel
in familiar places. It is semi-occasionally only that Mr. Lucas
addresses himself to fiction.

This admirably written story--so brief as to be little more than a
sketch--is rich in emotional values which are safely held within the
bonds of restraint. Scientifically, I am told there is nothing wrong in
the description of the ingenious device which provides the means for the
expression of the emotion, though readers unfamiliar with such devices
may question the verisimilitude of the action. It is but one instance
among thousands which provide modern literature with a broadened range
within the field of realism.


THE LEGACY OF RICHARD HUGHES

Margaret Lynn, member of the English Department of the State University
of Kansas, at Lawrence, is best known for her sympathetic appreciation
of prairie life.

This story is a tragedy--the tragedy of a wife's failure to understand
the finer side of her husband's nature. She learns her misjudgment all
too late--when the husband lies dead. The emotional values are the
greater because the reader inevitably contemplates the long years they
lived together in their isolation. The psychology of the situation is
portrayed with remarkable clarity. The method is very different from the
method of such writers as de Maupassant. De Maupassant's analysis and
dissecting is usually done with cold and relentless indifference; Miss
Lynn's processes are here carried out determinedly, but with full and
lingering sympathy.


OF WATER AND THE SPIRIT

Margaret P. Montague, living among the West Virginia mountains, has
written many successful stories of the Hill people whom she knows so
well.

The chain of incidents narrated by the simple-hearted Virginia
dressmaker is of absorbing interest, and seems to be the real
experiences of one who had actually endured the tragedy of having lived
in the horror of the aftermath of battle. But even more interesting than
these scenes of pitiful suffering is the effect produced upon the woman
who endures it all. Her whole attitude toward life was changed. What
matters it now that her father was not an aristocratic Virginian? What
if she were a poor dressmaker at the little village of Johnson's Falls?
What though she was not elected a member of the Laurel Literary Society?
She had been face to face with war and death and Hell and God. The
little things of life had unconsciously sunk away and the great enduring
themes had boldly emerged to re-create her spiritual self.


MR. SQUEM

Reverend Arthur Russell Taylor, Rector of the Episcopal Church at York,
Pennsylvania, whose career as a writer of fiction opened so auspiciously
with 'Mr. Squem' and a few companion stories, died very suddenly early
in January, 1918.

Here the central interest is in character. In creating such a personage
as Mr. Squem, the writer of this story has boldly penetrated the veneer
of culture and shown us that the character elements which are of
enduring worth may be far aloof from any knowledge of art or religion or
philosophy, or any form of polite learning.

It is interesting to note the part which the railroad wreck plays in
this story. While there is enough in the situation to have made the
wreck a point of central objective interest, it is utilized here simply
as the background for the display of Mr. Squem--genial, direct,
efficient, ingenuous, dominating, interestingly crude.

In the February, 1918, _Atlantic_ Mr. Squem is equally interesting in a
different environment.

Soon after the death of Reverend Arthur Russell Taylor, Bishop James
Henry Darlington sent to the Atlantic office an interesting appreciation
of Dr. Taylor's work and character. From Bishop Darlington we learn that
Dr. Taylor 'had for years been suffering from a tumor on the brain which
had totally destroyed the sight of one eye and which by its pressure
caused him constant pain, sleepless nights, and the gradual failing of
the other eye. Like Robert Louis Stevenson, he was cheerful and
brightened the lives of others until the very last, and almost his final
writings were sent to _The Atlantic_.'

       *       *       *       *       *

The following corrections were made by the etext transcriber:

the chops looks so tasty=>the chops look so tasty

had never critized=>had never criticized

       *       *       *       *       *

FOOTNOTES:

[1] _The Atlantic Monthly_, vol. 113, p. 733.

[2] _The Atlantic Monthly_, vol. 86, p. 180.

[3] Atlantic stories.

[4] Atlantic stories.

[5] Atlantic stories.

[6] Atlantic stories.

[7] Published also in Professor Sharp's book, _Where Rolls the Oregon_,
and here reprinted through the courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Company.

[8] Published also in book form and here republished through the
courtesy of E. P. Dutton & Co.





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