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Title: Atlantic Narratives - Modern Short Stories; Second Series
Author: Ashe, Elizabeth, Comer, Cornelia A. P., Wyatt, Edith, 1873-1958, Portor, Laura Spencer, Eastman, Rebecca Hooper, Carman, Kathleen, Kemper, S. H., Townsend, Charles Haskins, Antin, Mary, 1881-1949, Montague, Margaret Prescott, Krysto, Christina, Ganoe, William Addleman, Pratt, Lucy, Mackubin, Ellen, Nicholson, Meredith, 1866-1947, Husband, Joseph, Huffaker, Lucy, Mirrielees, Edith Ronald, Singmaster, Elsie, Norris, Kathleen Thompson, 1880-1966, Dunning, James Edmund, Donnell, Annie Hamilton, 1862-, Morlae, E., De la Roche, Mazo, 1879-1961
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, Cleveland School of Education
Lecturer in the Harvard Summer School_

SECOND SERIES

[Illustration: colophon]

The Atlantic Monthly Press

BOSTON

_Copyright, 1918, by_

THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY PRESS, INC.



CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION                                                         vii

THE LIE                       _Mary Antin_                             1

BLUE REEFERS                  _Elizabeth Ashe_                        29

THE DEBT                      _Kathleen Carman_                       40

SETH MILES AND THE SACRED
FIRE                          _Cornelia A. P. Comer_                  50

BURIED TREASURE               _Mazo De La Roche_                      69

THE PRINCESS OF MAKE-BELIEVE  _Annie Hamilton Donnell_                94

THE TWO APPLES                _James Edmund Dunning_                 100

THE PURPLE STAR               _Rebecca Hooper Eastman_               105

RUGGS--R.O.T.C.               _William Addleman Ganoe_               125

THE WAY OF LIFE               _Lucy Huffaker_                        145

A YEAR IN A COAL-MINE         _Joseph Husband_                       159

WOMAN’S SPHERE                _S. H. Kemper_                         181

BABANCHIK                     _Christina Krysto_                     190

ROSITA                        _Ellen Mackubin_                       207

PERJURED                      _Edith Ronald Mirrielees_              222

WHAT MR. GREY SAID            _Margaret Prescott Montague_           237

A SOLDIER OF THE LEGION       _E. Morlae_                            249

THE BOULEVARD OF ROGUES       _Meredith Nicholson_                   274

WHAT HAPPENED TO ALANNA       _Kathleen Norris_                      282

SPENDTHRIFTS                  _Laura Spencer Portor_                 298

CHILDREN WANTED               _Lucy Pratt_                           323

THE SQUIRE                    _Elsie Singmaster_                     339

GREGORY AND THE SCUTTLE       _Charles Haskins Townsend_             350

IN NOVEMBER                   _Edith Wyatt_                          357

BIOGRAPHICAL AND INTERPRETATIVE NOTES                                369



INTRODUCTION


FOR those readers who have from early childhood been taught that the
best things are the old things, it is oftentimes difficult to revert in
imagination to the times when such classics as _Paradise Lost_,
_Pilgrim’s Progress_, and _Robinson Crusoe_, new and unread, were just
beginning to make their first tentative steps in the march toward the
unknown and unseen goal of enduring fame. Yet the intrinsic literary
worth of these classics was obviously just as firm in those far-off days
of their initial appearance as in these present days of their acquired
renown.

But in these present days, with the improved printing-presses moving at
high speed and pouring forth everywhere their improvident and unsifted
store, the best is too liable to be lost within the swift current of a
vast and turbid abundance. It is, therefore, worth while for us--for
those of us who have an abiding love of literature--to endeavor to
rescue and place in more permanent form the choicest bits of this modern
efflux of writing, and make it easily available for a more leisurely and
intelligent perusal.

With this thought in mind, I have for several months been reading widely
in the files of the _Atlantic Monthly_, with the idea of republishing
the best of the recent stories in book form. A partial result of my
labors is seen in _Atlantic Narratives_ (First Series), published by the
Atlantic Monthly Press in March of the current year. In selecting the
twenty-three stories for that volume, I had the college student and the
mature reader more definitely in mind. Some of these stories,
accordingly, were perhaps a trifle too subtle and analytical for the
younger student, though it is interesting to note that the volume
immediately found an interested audience, not only among college
students and the reading public, but also within the classrooms of some
of our best schools and academies.

Several of the more prominent English teachers, however, expressed a
wish for a group of narratives simpler, more direct, and filled with
incidents of a commoner and more elemental experience--such as would
make an immediate appeal to a younger class of readers. I have
accordingly made the selections for this second volume of _Atlantic
Narratives_ with this particular request in mind. At the same time that
I have discarded the subtler and more analytical themes, I have held
rigorously to the demand for genuine literary excellence and artistic
technique. Discriminating critics will agree that for a writer to limit
himself to the narrower confines of the simple and the commonplace and
the elemental, may, in particular cases, demand even a finer grace and a
higher technique.

The stories here gathered together, while possessing the attributes and
range which the English teachers have suggested, are widely varying in
appeal and in centres of interest. Miss Mary Antin’s story, 'The Lie,'
for example, reveals, in significant portrayal, a unique attitude of
mind among the patriotic foreigners; Miss Elizabeth Ashe, Miss Kathleen
Norris, and S. H. Kemper have, in their several manners, pleasantly
revealed their appreciation of the humorous; Mrs. Comer and Miss Eastman
and Mr. Meredith Nicholson have lent a note of idealism; Mr. Joseph
Husband and Mr. E. Morlae have contributed true accounts of their
personal experiences; and the remaining writers on the list have, in
their various individual ways, found still other moods and themes
appropriate to their individualities. The net result is a literary
variety that merges appropriately, I trust, into a unit of genuine and
abiding worth.

For helpful aid in the preparation of this volume, I am indebted to many
English teachers, more particularly to Miss Anna Shaughnessy, of the
English department in the Newton High School. Houghton Mifflin Company
has generously granted me permission to use Mr. Husband’s 'The Story of
a Coal-Mine.' Mr. George B. Ives, expert critic and proof-reader, of the
_Atlantic Monthly_ staff, has read and revised the proofs. Most of all,
however, I am indebted to Mr. Ellery Sedgwick, editor of the _Atlantic
Monthly_, whose friendly counsel and literary acumen have been of
constant service.

C. S. T.

BOSTON, MASS.
_July, 1918_



ATLANTIC NARRATIVES



THE LIE

BY MARY ANTIN


I

THE first thing about his American teachers that struck David Rudinsky
was the fact that they were women, and the second was that they did not
get angry if somebody asked questions. This phenomenon subverted his
previous experience. When he went to _heder_ (Hebrew school), in Russia,
his teachers were always men, and they did not like to be interrupted
with questions that were not in the lesson. Everything was different in
America, and David liked the difference.

The American teachers, on their part, also made comparisons. They said
David was not like other children. It was not merely that his mind
worked like lightning; those neglected Russian waifs were almost always
quick to learn, perhaps because they had to make up for lost time. The
quality of his interest, more than the rapidity of his progress, excited
comment. Miss Ralston, David’s teacher in the sixth grade, which he
reached in his second year at school, said of him that he never let go
of a lesson till he had got the soul of the matter. 'I don’t think
grammar is grammar to him,' she said, 'or fractions mere arithmetic. I’m
not satisfied with the way I teach these things since I’ve had David. I
feel that if he were on the platform instead of me, geography and
grammar would be spliced to the core of the universe.'

One difficulty David’s teachers encountered, and that was his extreme
reserve. In private conversation it was hard to get anything out of him
except 'yes, ma’am' and 'no, ma’am,' or, 'I don’t understand, please.'
In the classroom he did not seem to be aware of the existence of anybody
besides Teacher and himself. He asked questions as fast as he could
formulate them, and Teacher had to exercise much tact in order to
satisfy him without slighting the rest of her pupils. To advances of a
personal sort he did not respond, as if friendship were not among the
things he hungered for.

It was Miss Ralston who found the way to David’s heart. Perhaps she was
interested in such things; they sometimes are, in the public schools.
After the Christmas holidays, the children were given as a subject for
composition, 'How I spent the Vacation.' David wrote in a froth of
enthusiasm about whole days spent in the public library. He covered
twelve pages with an account of the books he had read. The list included
many juvenile classics in American history and biography; and from his
comments it was plain that the little alien worshiped the heroes of war.

When Miss Ralston had read David’s composition, she knew what to do. She
was one of those persons who always know what to do, and do it. She
asked David to stay after school, and read to him, from a blue book with
gilt lettering, 'Paul Revere’s Ride' and 'Independence Bell.' That hour
neither of them ever forgot. To David it seemed as if all the heroes he
had dreamed of crowded around him, so real did his teacher’s reading
make them. He heard the clash of swords and the flapping of banners in
the wind. On the blackboard behind Miss Ralston troops of faces appeared
and vanished, like the shadows that run across a hillside when clouds
are moving in the sky. As for Miss Ralston, she said afterwards that she
was the first person who had ever seen the real David Rudinsky. That was
a curious statement to make, considering that his mother and father,
and sundry other persons in the two hemispheres, had had some
acquaintance with David previous to the reading of 'Paul Revere’s Ride.'
However, Miss Ralston had a way of saying curious things.

There were many readings out of school hours, after that memorable
beginning. Miss Ralston did not seem to realize that the School Board
did not pay her for those extra hours that she spent on David. David did
not know that she was paid at all. He thought Teacher was born on
purpose to read and tell him things and answer his questions, just as
his mother existed to cook his favorite soup and patch his trousers. So
he brought his pet book from the library, and when the last pupil was
gone, he took it from his desk and laid it on Miss Ralston’s, without a
word; and Miss Ralston read, and they were both happy. When a little
Jewish boy from Russia goes to school in America, all sorts of things
are likely to happen that the School Board does not provide for. It
might be amusing to figure out the reasons.

David’s reserve slowly melted in the glowing intimacy of these happy
half-hours; still, he seldom made any comment on the reading at the
time; he basked mutely in the warmth of his teacher’s sympathy. But what
he did not say orally he was very likely to say on paper. That also was
one of Miss Ralston’s discoveries. When she gave out the theme, 'What I
Mean to Do When I Grow Up,' David wrote that he was going to be an
American citizen, and always vote for honest candidates, and belong to a
society for arresting illegal voters. You see David was only a
greenhorn, and an excitable one. He thought it a very great matter to be
a citizen, perhaps because such a thing was not allowed in the country
he came from. Miss Ralston probably knew how it was with him, or she
guessed. She was great at guessing, as all her children knew. At any
rate, she did not smile as she read of David’s patriotic ambitions. She
put his paper aside until their next quiet hour, and then she used it so
as to get a great deal out of him that he would not have had the courage
to tell if he had not believed that it was an exercise in composition.

This Miss Ralston was a crafty person. She learned from David about a
Jewish restaurant where his father sometimes took him; a place where a
group of ardent young Russians discussed politics over their inexpensive
dinner. She heard about a mass meeting of Russian Jews to celebrate the
death of Alexander III, 'because he was a cruel tyrant, and was very bad
to Jewish people.' She even tracked some astonishing phrases in David’s
vocabulary to their origin in the Sunday orations he had heard on the
Common, in his father’s company.

Impressed by these and other signs of paternal interest in her pupil’s
education, Miss Ralston was not unprepared for the visit which David’s
father paid her soon after these revelations. It was a very cold day,
and Mr. Rudinsky shivered in his thin, shabby overcoat; but his face
glowed with inner warmth as he discovered David’s undersized figure in
one of the front seats.

'I don’t know how to say it what I feel to see my boy sitting and
learning like this,' he said, with a vibration in his voice that told
more than his words. 'Do you know, ma’am, if I didn’t have to make a
living, I’d like to stay here all day and see my David get educated. I’m
forty years old, and I’ve had much in my life, but it’s worth nothing so
much as this. The day I brought my children to school, it was the best
day in my life. Perhaps you won’t believe me, ma’am, but when I hear
that David is a good boy and learns good in school, I wouldn’t change
places with Vanderbilt the millionaire.'

He looked at Miss Ralston with the eyes of David listening to 'Paul
Revere’s Ride.'

'What do you think, ma’am,' he asked, as he got up to leave, 'my David
will be a good American, no?'

'He ought to be,' said Miss Ralston, warmly, 'with such a father.'

Mr. Rudinsky did not try to hide his gratification.

'I am a citizen,' he said, unconsciously straightening. 'I took out
citizen papers as soon as I came to America, four years ago.'

So they came to the middle of February, when preparations for
Washington’s Birthday were well along. One day the class was singing
'America,' when Miss Ralston noticed that David stopped and stared
absently at the blackboard in front of him. He did not wake out of his
reverie till the singing was over, and then he raised his hand.

'Teacher,' he asked, when he had permission to speak, 'what does it
mean, "Land where my fathers died"?'

Miss Ralston explained, wondering how many of her pupils cared to
analyze the familiar words as David did.

A few days later, the national hymn was sung again. Miss Ralston watched
David. His lips formed the words 'Land where my fathers died,' and then
they stopped, set in the pout of childish trouble. His eyes fixed
themselves on the teacher’s, but her smile of encouragement failed to
dispel his evident perplexity.

Anxious to help him over his unaccountable difficulty, Miss Ralston
detained him after school.

'David,' she asked him, when they were alone, 'do you understand
"America" now?'

'Yes, ma’am.'

'Do you understand "Land where my fathers died"?'

'Yes, ma’am.'

'You didn’t sing with the others.'

'No, ma’am.'

Miss Ralston thought of a question that would rouse him.

'Don’t you like "America," David?'

The boy almost jumped in his place.

'Oh, yes, ma’am, I do! I like "America." It’s--fine.'

He pressed his fist nervously to his mouth, a trick he had when excited.

'Tell me, David, why you don’t sing it.'

David’s eyes fixed themselves in a look of hopeless longing. He answered
in a whisper, his pale face slowly reddening.

'My fathers didn’t die here. How can I sing such a lie?'

Miss Ralston’s impulse was to hug the child, but she was afraid of
startling him. The attention she had lavished on the boy was rewarded at
this moment, when her understanding of his nature inspired the answer to
his troubled question. She saw how his mind worked. She realized, what a
less sympathetic witness might have failed to realize, that behind the
moral scruple expressed in his words, there was a sense of irreparable
loss derived from the knowledge that he had no share in the national
past. The other children could shout the American hymn in all the pride
of proprietorship, but to him the words did not apply. It was a flaw in
his citizenship, which he was so jealous to establish.

The teacher’s words were the very essence of tact and sympathy. In her
voice were mingled the yearning of a mother and the faith of a comrade.

'David Rudinsky, you have as much a right to those words as I or anybody
else in America. Your ancestors did not die on our battlefields, but
they would have if they’d had a chance. You used to spend all your time
reading the Hebrew books, in Russia. Don’t you know how your
people--your ancestors, perhaps!--fought the Roman tyrants? Don’t you
remember the Maccabean brothers, and Bar Kochba, and--oh, you know
about them more than I! I’m ashamed to tell you that I haven’t read much
Jewish history, but I’m sure if we begin to look it up, we’ll find that
people of your race--people like your father, David--took part in the
fight for freedom, wherever they were allowed. And even in this
country--David, I’m going to find out for you how many Jews there were
in the armies of the Revolution. We don’t think about it here, you see,
because we don’t ask what a man’s religion is, as long as he is brave
and good.'

David’s eyes slowly lost their look of distress as his teacher talked.
His tense little face, upturned to hers, reminded her of a withered
blossom that revives in the rain. She went on with increasing
earnestness, herself interested in the discoveries she was making, in
her need.

'I tell you the truth, David, I never thought of these things before,
but I do believe that the Pilgrim Fathers didn’t all come here before
the Revolution. Isn’t your father just like them? Think of it, dear, how
he left his home, and came to a strange land, where he couldn’t even
speak the language. That was a great trouble, you know; something like
the fear of the Indians in the old days. And wasn’t he looking for the
very same things? He wanted freedom for himself and his family, and a
chance for his children to grow up wise and brave. You know your father
cares more for such things than he does for money or anything. It’s the
same story over again. Every ship that brings your people from Russia
and other countries where they are ill-treated is a Mayflower. If I were
a Jewish child like you, I would sing "America" louder than anybody
else!'

David’s adoring eyes gave her the thanks which his tongue would not
venture to utter. Never since that moment, soon after his arrival from
Russia, when his father showed him his citizenship papers, saying,
'Look, my son, this makes you an American,' had he felt so secure in
his place in the world.

Miss Ralston studied his face in silence while she gathered up some
papers on her desk, preparatory to leaving. In the back of her mind she
asked herself to how many of the native children in her class the Fourth
of July meant anything besides fire-crackers.

'Get your things, David,' she said presently, as she locked her desk.
'It’s time we were going. Think if we should get locked up in the
building!'

David smiled absently. In his ears ran the familiar line, 'Land where my
fathers died--my fathers died--fathers died.'

'It’s something like the Psalms!' he said suddenly, himself surprised at
the discovery.

'What is like the Psalms, dear?'

He hesitated. Now that he had to explain, he was not sure any more. Miss
Ralston helped him out.

'You mean "America," sounds like the Psalms to you?' David nodded. His
teacher beamed her understanding. How did she guess wherein the
similarity lay? David had in mind such moments as this when he said of
Miss Ralston, 'Teacher talks with her eyes.'

Miss Ralston went to get her coat and hat from the closet.

'Get your things, David,' she repeated. 'The janitor will come to chase
us out in a minute.'

He was struggling with the torn lining of a coat-sleeve in the
children’s dressing-room, when he heard Miss Ralston exclaim,--

'Oh, David! I had almost forgotten. You must try this on. This is what
you’re going to wear when you speak the dialogue with Annie and Raymond.
We used it in a play a few years ago. I thought it would do for you.'

She held up a blue-and-buff jacket with tarnished epaulets. David
hurried to put it on. He was to take the part of George Washington in
the dialogue. At sight of the costume, his heart started off on a
gallop.

Alas for his gallant aspirations! Nothing of David was visible outside
the jacket except two big eyes above and two blunt boot-toes below. The
collar reached to his ears; the cuffs dangled below his knees. He
resembled a scarecrow in the cornfield more than the Father of his
Country.

Miss Ralston suppressed her desire to laugh.

'It’s a little big, isn’t it?' she said cheerily, holding up the
shoulders of the heroic garment. 'I wonder how we can make it fit. Don’t
you think your mother would know how to take up the sleeves and do
something to the back?'

She turned the boy around, more hopeless than she would let him see.
Miss Ralston understood more about little boys' hearts than about their
coats.

'How old are you, David?' she asked, absently, wondering for the
hundredth time at his diminutive stature. 'I thought the boy for whom
this was made was about your age.'

David’s face showed that he felt reproved. 'I’m twelve,' he said,
apologetically.

Miss Ralston reproached herself for her tactlessness, and proceeded to
make amends.

'Twelve?' she repeated, patting the blue shoulders. 'You speak the lines
like a much older boy. I’m sure your mother can make the coat fit, and
I’ll bring the wig--a powdered wig--and the sword, David! You’ll look
just like George Washington!'

Her gay voice echoed in the empty room. Her friendly eyes challenged
his. She expected to see him kindle, as he did so readily in these days
of patriotic excitement. But David failed to respond. He remained
motionless in his place, his eyes blank and staring. Miss Ralston had
the feeling that behind his dead front his soul was running away from
her.

This is just what was happening. David was running away from her, and
from himself, and from the image of George Washington, conjured up by
the scene with the military coat. Somewhere in the jungle of his
consciousness a monster was stirring, and his soul fled in terror of its
clutch. What was it--what was it that came tearing through the
wilderness of his memories of two worlds? In vain he tried not to
understand. The ghosts of forgotten impressions cackled in the wake of
the pursuing monster, the breath of whose nostrils spread an odor of
evil sophistries grafted on his boyish thoughts in a chimerical past.

His mind reeled in a whirlwind of recollection. Miss Ralston could not
have understood some of the things David reviewed, even if he had tried
to tell her. In that other life of his, in Russia, had been monstrous
things, things that seemed unbelievable to David himself, after his
short experience of America. He had suffered many wrongs,--yes, even as
a little boy,--but he was not thinking of past grievances as he stood
before Miss Ralston, seeing her as one sees a light through a fog. He
was thinking of things harder to forget than injuries received from
others. It was a sudden sense of his own sins that frightened David, and
of one sin in particular, the origin of which was buried somewhere in
the slime of the evil past. David was caught in the meshes of a complex
inheritance; contradictory impulses tore at his heart. Fearfully he
dived to the bottom of his consciousness, and brought up a bitter
conviction: David Rudinsky, who called himself an American, who
worshiped the names of the heroes, suddenly knew that he had sinned,
sinned against his best friend, sinned even as he was planning to
impersonate George Washington, the pattern of honor.

His white forehead glistened with the sweat of anguish. His eyes
sickened. Miss Ralston caught him as he wavered and put him in the
nearest seat.

'Why, David! what’s the matter? Are you ill? Let me take this off--it’s
so heavy. There, that’s better. Just rest your head on me, so.'

This roused him. He wriggled away from her support, and put out a hand
to keep her off.

'Why, David! what _is_ the matter? Your hands are so cold--'

David’s head felt heavy and wobbly, but he stood up and began to put on
his coat again, which he had pulled off in order to try on the uniform.
To Miss Ralston’s anxious questions he answered not a syllable, neither
did he look at her once. His teacher, thoroughly alarmed, hurriedly put
on her street things, intending to take him home. They walked in silence
through the empty corridors, down the stairs, and across the school
yard. The teacher noticed with relief that the boy grew steadier with
every step. She smiled at him encouragingly when he opened the gate for
her, as she had taught him, but he did not meet her look.

At the corner where they usually parted David paused, steeling himself
to take his teacher’s hand; but to his surprise she kept right on,
taking _his_ crossing.

It was now that he spoke, and Miss Ralston was astonished at the alarm
in his voice.

'Miss Ralston, where are you going? You don’t go this way.'

'I’m going to see you home, David,' she replied firmly. 'I can’t let you
go alone--like this.'

'Oh, teacher, don’t, please don’t! I’m all right--I’m not sick,--it’s
not far--Don’t, Miss Ralston, _please_!'

In the February dusk, Miss Ralston saw the tears rise to his eyes.
Whatever was wrong with him, it was plain that her presence only made
him suffer the more. Accordingly she yielded to his entreaty.

'I hope you’ll be all right, David,' she said, in a tone she might have
used to a full-grown man. 'Good-bye.' And she turned the corner.


II

All the way home Miss Ralston debated the wisdom of allowing him to go
alone, but as she recalled his look and his entreating voice, she felt
anew the compulsion that had made her yield. She attributed his sudden
breakdown entirely to overwrought nerves, and remorsefully resolved not
to subject him in the future to the strain of extra hours after school.

Her misgivings were revived the next morning, when David failed to
appear with the ringing of the first gong, as was his habit. But before
the children had taken their seats, David’s younger brother, Bennie,
brought her news of the missing boy.

'David’s sick in bed,' he announced in accents of extreme importance.
'He didn’t come home till awful late last night, and he was so frozen,
his teeth knocked together. My mother says he burned like a fire all
night, and she had to take little Harry in her bed, with her and papa,
so’s David could sleep all alone. We all went downstairs in our bare
feet this morning, and dressed ourselves in the kitchen, so David could
sleep.'

'What is the matter with him? Did you have the doctor?'

'No, ma’am, not yet. The dispensary don’t open till nine o’clock.'

Miss Ralston begged him to report again in the afternoon, which he did,
standing before her, cap in hand, his sense of importance still
dominating over brotherly concern.

'He’s sick, all right,' Bennie reported. 'He don’t eat at all--just
drinks and drinks. My mother says he cried the whole morning, when he
woke up and found out he’d missed school. My mother says he tried to get
up and dress himself, but he couldn’t anyhow. Too sick.'

'Did you have the doctor?' interrupted Miss Ralston, suppressing her
impatience.

'No, ma’am, not yet. My father went to the dispensary but the doctor
said he can’t come till noon, but he didn’t. Then I went to the
dispensary, dinner time, but the doctor didn’t yet come when we went
back to school. My mother says you can die ten times before the
dispensary doctor comes.'

'What does your mother think it is?'

'Oh, she says it’s a bad cold; but David isn’t strong, you know, so
she’s scared. I guess if he gets worse I’ll have to stay home from
school to run for the medicines.'

'I hope not Bennie. Now you’d better run along, or you’ll be late.'

'Yes, ma’am. Good-bye.'

'Will you come again in the morning and tell me about your brother?'

'Yes, ma’am. Good-bye.--Teacher.'

'Yes, Bennie?'

'Do you think you can do something--something--about his _record_? David
feels dreadful because he’s broke his record. He never missed school
before, you know. It’s--it’s too bad to see him cry. He’s always so
quiet, you know, kind of like grown people. He don’t fight or tease or
anything. Do you think you can, teacher?'

Miss Ralston was touched by this tribute to her pupil, but she could not
promise to mend the broken record.

'Tell David not to worry. He has the best record in the school, for
attendance and everything. Tell him I said he must hurry and get well,
as we must rehearse our pieces for Washington’s Birthday.'

The next morning Bennie reeled off a longer story than ever. He
described the doctor’s visit in great detail, and Miss Ralston was
relieved to gather that David’s ailment was nothing worse than grippe;
unless, as the doctor warned, his run-down condition caused
complications. He would be in bed a week or more, in any case, 'and he
ought to sleep most of the time, the doctor said.'

'I guess the doctor don’t know our David!' Bennie scoffed. 'He never
wants at all to go to sleep. He reads and reads when everybody goes to
bed. One time he was reading all night, and the lamp went out, and he
was afraid to go downstairs for oil, because he’d wake somebody, so he
lighted matches and read little bits. There was a heap of burned matches
in the morning.'

'Dear me!' exclaimed Miss Ralston. 'He ought not to do that. Your father
ought not--Does your father allow him to stay up nights?'

'Sure. My father’s proud because he’s going to be a great man; a doctor,
maybe.' He shrugged his shoulders, as if to say, 'What may not a David
become?'

'David is funny, don’t you think, teacher?' the boy went on. 'He asks
such funny questions. What do you think he said to the doctor?'

'I can’t imagine.'

'Well, he pulled him by the sleeve when he took out the--the thing he
puts in your mouth, and said kind of hoarse, "Doctor, did you ever tell
a lie?" Wasn’t that funny?'

Miss Ralston did not answer. She was thinking that David must have been
turning over some problem in his mind, to say so much to a stranger.

'Did you give him my message?' she asked finally.

'Yes’m! I told him about rehearsing his piece for Washington’s
Birthday.' Bennie paused.

'Well?'

'He acted so funny. He turned over to the wall, and cried and cried
without any noise.'

'The poor boy! He’ll be dreadfully disappointed not to take his part in
the exercises.'

Bennie shook his head.

'That isn’t for what he cries,' he said oracularly.

Miss Ralston’s attentive silence invited further revelations.

'He’s _worrying_ about something,' Bennie brought out, rolling his head
ominously.

'Why? How do you know?'

'The doctor said so. He told my father downstairs. He said, "Make him
tell, if you can, it may help to pull him off"--no, "pull him up."
That’s what the doctor said.'

Miss Ralston’s thoughts flew back to her last interview with David, two
days before, when he had broken down so suddenly. Was there a mystery
there? She was certain the boy was overwrought, and physically run down.
Apparently, also, he had been exposed to the weather during the evening
when he was taken ill; Bennie’s chatter indicated that David had
wandered in the streets for hours. These things would account for the
grippe, and for the abnormal fever of which Bennie boasted. But what was
David worrying about? She resolved to go and see the boy in a day or
two, when he was reported to be more comfortable.

On his next visit Bennie brought a message from the patient himself.

'He said to give you this, teacher,' handing Miss Ralston a journal.
'It’s yours. It has the pieces in it for Washington’s Birthday. He said
you might need it, and the doctor didn’t say when he could go again to
school.'

Miss Ralston laid the journal carelessly on a pile of other papers.
Bennie balanced himself on one foot, looking as if his mission were not
yet ended.

'Well, Bennie?' Miss Ralston encouraged him. She was beginning to
understand his mysterious airs.

'David was awful careful about that book,' the messenger said
impressively. 'He said over and over not to lose it, and not to give it
to nobody only you.'


III

It was not till the end of the day that Miss Ralston took up the journal
Bennie had brought. She turned the leaves absently, thinking of David.
He would be so disappointed to miss the exercises! And to whom should
she give the part of George Washington in the dialogue? She found the
piece in the journal. A scrap of paper marked the place. A folded paper.
Folded several times. Miss Ralston opened out the paper and found some
writing.

     'DEAR TEACHER MISS RALSTON,--

     'I can’t be George Washington any more because I have lied to you.
     I must not tell you about what, because you would blame somebody
     who didn’t do wrong.

     'Your friend,

     'DAVID RUDINSKY.'

Again and again Miss Ralston read the note, unable to understand it.
David, her David, whose soul was a mirror for every noble idea, had lied
to her! What could he mean? What had impelled him? _Somebody who didn’t
do wrong._ So it was not David alone; there was some complication with
another person. She studied the note word for word and her eyes slowly
filled with tears. If the boy had really lied--if the whole thing were
not a chimera of his fevered nights--then what must he have suffered of
remorse and shame! Her heart went out to him even while her brain was
busy with the mystery.

She made a swift resolution. She would go to David at once. She was sure
he would tell her more than he had written, and it would relieve his
mind. She did not dread the possible disclosures. Her knowledge of the
boy made her certain that she would find nothing ignoble at the bottom
of his mystery. He was only a child, after all--an overwrought,
sensitive child. No doubt he exaggerated his sin, if sin there were. It
was her duty to go and put him at rest.

She knew that David’s father kept a candy shop in the basement of his
tenement, and she had no trouble in finding the place. Half the children
in the neighborhood escorted her to the door, attracted by the
phenomenon of a teacher loose on their streets.

The tinkle of the shop-bell brought Mr. Rudinsky from the little kitchen
in the rear.

'Well, well!' he exclaimed, shaking hands heartily. 'This is a great
honor--a great honor.' He sounded the initial _h_. 'I wish I had a
palace for you to come in, ma’am. I don’t think there was such company
in this house since it was built.'

His tone was one of genuine gratification. Ushering her into the
kitchen, he set a chair for her, and himself sat down at a respectful
distance.

'I’m sorry,' he began, with a wave of his hand around the room. 'Such
company ought not to sit in the kitchen, but you see--'

He was interrupted by Bennie, who had clattered in at the visitor’s
heels, panting for recognition.

'Never mind, teacher,' the youngster spoke up, 'we got a parlor
upstairs, with a mantelpiece and everything, but David sleeps up
there--the doctor said it’s the most air--and you dassn’t wake him up
till he wakes himself.'

Bennie’s father frowned, but the visitor smiled a cordial smile.

'I like a friendly kitchen like this,' she said quietly. 'My mother did
not keep any help when I was a little girl and I was a great deal in the
kitchen.'

Her host showed his appreciation of her tact by dropping the subject.

'I’m sure you came about David,' he said.

'I did. How is he?'

'Pretty sick, ma’am. The doctor says it’s not the sickness so much, but
David is so weak and small. He says David studies too much altogether.
Maybe he’s right. What do you think, ma’am?'

Miss Ralston answered remorsefully.

'I agree with the doctor. I think we are all to blame. We push him too
much when we ought to hold him back.'

Here Bennie made another raid on the conversation.

'He’s going to be a great man, a doctor maybe. My mother says--'

Mr. Rudinsky did not let him finish. He thought it time to insure the
peace of so important an interview.

'Bennie,' said he, 'you will go mind the store, and keep the kitchen
door shut.'

Bennie’s discomfiture was evident in his face. He obeyed, but not
without a murmur.

'Let us make a covenant to take better care of David in the future.'

Miss Ralston was speaking when Mrs. Rudinsky appeared in the doorway.
She was flushed from the exertions of a hasty toilet, for which she had
fled upstairs at the approach of 'company.' She came forward timidly,
holding out a hand on which the scrubbing brush and the paring knife had
left their respective marks.

'How do you do, ma’am?' she said, cordially, but shyly. 'I’m glad to see
you. I wish I can speak English better, I’d like to say how proud I am
to see David’s teacher in my house.'

'Why, you speak wonderfully!' Miss Ralston exclaimed, with genuine
enthusiasm. 'I don’t understand how you pick up the language in such a
short time. I couldn’t learn Russian so fast, I’m sure.'

'My husband makes us speak English all the time,' Mrs. Rudinsky replied.
'From the fust day he said to speak English. He scolds the children if
he hears they speak Jewish.'

'Sure,' put in her husband, 'I don’t want my family to be greenhorns.'

Miss Ralston turned a glowing face to him.

'Mr. Rudinsky, I think you’ve done wonders for your family. If all
immigrants were like you, we wouldn’t need any restriction laws.' She
threw all possible emphasis into her cordial voice. 'Why, you’re a
better American than some natives I know!'

Mrs. Rudinsky sent her husband a look of loving pride.

'He wants to be a Yankee,' she said.

Her husband took up the cue in earnest.

'Yes, ma’am,' he said, 'that’s my ambition. When I was a young man, in
the old country, I wanted to be a scholar. But a Jew has no chance in
the old country; perhaps you know how it is. It wasn’t the Hebrew books
I wanted. I wanted to learn what the rest of the world learned, but a
poor Jew had no chance in Russia. When I got to America, it was too late
for me to go to school. It took me all my time and strength to make a
living--I’ve never been much good in business, ma’am--and when I got my
family over, I saw that it was the children would go to school for me.
I’m glad to be a plain citizen, if my children will be educated
Americans.'

People with eyes and hands like Mr. Rudinsky’s can say a great deal in a
few words. Miss Ralston felt as if she had known him all his life, and
followed his strivings in two worlds.

'I’m glad to know you, Mr. Rudinsky,' she said in a low voice. 'I wish
more of my pupils had fathers like David’s.'

Her host changed the subject very neatly.

'And I wish the school children had more teachers like you. David likes
you so much.'

'Oh, he liked you!' the wife confirmed. 'Please stay till he veks up.
He’ll be sorry to missed your vis_it_.'

While his wife moved quietly around the stove, making tea, Mr. Rudinsky
entertained their guest with anecdotes of David’s Hebrew-school days,
and of his vain efforts to get at secular books.

'He was just like me,' he said. 'He wanted to learn everything. I
couldn’t afford a private teacher, and they wouldn’t take him in the
public school. He learned Russian all alone, and if he got a book from
somewhere--a history or anything--he wouldn’t eat or drink till he read
it all.'

Mrs. Rudinsky often glanced at David’s teacher, to see how her husband’s
stories were impressing her. She was too shy with her English to say
more than was required of her as hostess, but her face, aglow with
motherly pride, showed how she participated in her husband’s enthusiasm.

'You see yourself, ma’am, what he is,' said David’s father, 'but what
could I make of him in Russia? I was happy when he got here, only it was
a little late. I wished he started in school younger.'

'He has time enough,' said Miss Ralston. 'He’ll get through grammar
school before he’s fourteen. He’s twelve now, isn’t he?'

'Yes, ma’am--no, ma’am! He’s really fourteen now, but I made him out
younger on purpose.'

Miss Ralston looked puzzled. Mr. Rudinsky explained.

'You see, ma’am, he was twelve years when he came, and I wanted he
should go to school as long as possible, so when I made his school
certificate, I said he was only ten. I have seven children, and David is
the oldest one, and I was afraid he’d have to go to work, if business
was bad, or if I was sick. The state is a good father to the children in
America, if the real fathers don’t mix in. Why should my David lose his
chance to get educated and be somebody, because I am a poor business
man, and have too many children? So I made out that he had to go to
school two years more.'

He narrated this anecdote in the same simple manner in which he had told
a dozen others. He seemed pleased to rehearse the little plot whereby he
had insured his boy’s education. As Miss Ralston did not make any
comment immediately, he went on, as if sure of her sympathy.

'I told you I got my citizen papers right away when I came to America. I
worked hard before I could bring my family--it took me four years to
save the money--and they found a very poor home when they got here, but
they were citizens right away. But it wouldn’t do them much good, if
they didn’t get educated. I found out all about the compulsory
education, and I said to myself that’s the policeman that will keep me
from robbing my David if I fail in business.'

He did not overestimate his visitor’s sympathy. Miss Ralston followed
his story with quick appreciation of his ideals and motives, but in her
ingenuous American mind one fact separated itself from the others:
namely, that Mr. Rudinsky had falsified his boy’s age, and had recorded
the falsehood in a public document. Her recognition of the fact carried
with it no criticism. She realized that Mr. Rudinsky’s conscience was
the product of an environment vastly different from hers. It was merely
that to her mind the element of deceit was something to be accounted
for, be it ever so charitably, whereas in Mr. Rudinsky’s mind it
evidently had no existence at all.

'So David is really fourteen years old?' she repeated incredulously.
'Why, he seems too little even for twelve! Does he know?--Of course he
would know! I wonder that he consented--'

She broke off, struck by a sudden thought. 'Consented to tell a lie' she
had meant to say, but the unspoken words diverted her mind from the
conversation. It came upon her in a flash that she had found the key to
David’s mystery. His note was in her pocketbook, but she knew every word
of it, and now everything was plain to her. The lie was this lie about
his age, and the person he wanted to shield was his father. And for that
he was suffering so!

She began to ask questions eagerly.

'Has David said anything about--about a little trouble he had in school
the day he became ill?'

Both parents showed concern.

'Trouble? what trouble?'

'Oh, it was hardly trouble--at least, I couldn’t tell myself.'

'David is so hard to understand sometimes,' his father said.

'Oh, I don’t think so!' the teacher cried. 'Not when you make friends
with him. He doesn’t say much, it’s true, but his heart is like a
crystal.'

'He’s too still,' the mother insisted, shaking her head. 'All the time
he’s sick, he don’t say anything, only when we ask him something. The
doctor thinks he’s worrying about something, but he don’t tell.'

The mother sighed, but Miss Ralston cut short her reflections.

'Mrs. Rudinsky--Mr. Rudinsky,' she began eagerly, '_I_ can tell you what
David’s troubled about.'

And she told them the story of her last talk with David, and finally
read them his note.

'And this lie,' she ended, 'you know what it is, don’t you? You’ve just
told me yourself, Mr. Rudinsky.'

She looked pleadingly at him, longing to have him understand David’s
mind as she understood it. But Mr. Rudinsky was very slow to grasp the
point.

'You mean--about the certificate? Because I made out that he was
younger?'

Miss Ralston nodded.

'You know David has such a sense of honor,' she explained, speaking
slowly, embarrassed by the effort of following Mr. Rudinsky’s train of
thought and her own at the same time. 'You know how he questions
everything--sooner or later he makes everything clear to himself--and
something must have started him thinking of this old matter lately--Why,
of course! I remember I asked him his age that day, when he tried on the
costume, and he answered as usual, and then, I suppose, he suddenly
_realized_ what he was saying. I don’t believe he ever _thought_ about
it since--since you arranged it so, and now, all of a sudden--'

She did not finish, because she saw that her listeners did not follow
her. Both their faces expressed pain and perplexity. After a long
silence, David’s father spoke.

'And what do _you_ think, ma’am?'

Miss Ralston was touched by the undertone of submission in his voice.
Her swift sympathy had taken her far into his thoughts. She recognized
in his story one of those ethical paradoxes which the helpless Jews of
the Pale, in their search for a weapon that their oppressors could not
confiscate, have evolved for their self-defence. She knew that to many
honest Jewish minds a lie was not a lie when told to an official; and
she divined that no ghost of a scruple had disturbed Mr. Rudinsky in his
sense of triumph over circumstances, when he invented the lie that was
to insure the education of his gifted child. With David, of course, the
same philosophy had been valid. His father’s plan for the protection of
his future, hingeing on a too familiar sophistry, had dropped innocuous
into his consciousness, until, in a moment of spiritual sensitiveness,
it took on the visage of sin.

'And what do _you_ think, ma’am?'

David’s father did not have to wait a moment for her answer, so readily
did her insight come to his defense. In a few eager sentences she made
him feel that she understood perfectly, and understood David perfectly.

'I respect you the more for that lie, Mr. Rudinsky. It was--a _noble_
lie!' There was the least tremor in her voice. 'And I love David for the
way _he_ sees it.'

Mr. Rudinsky got up and paced slowly across the room. Then he stopped
before Miss Ralston.

'You are very kind to talk like that, Miss Ralston,' he said, with
peculiar dignity. 'You see the whole thing. In the old country we had to
do such things so many times that we--got used to them. Here--here we
don’t have to.' His voice took on a musing quality. 'But we don’t see it
right away when we get here. I meant nothing, only just to keep my boy
in school. It was not to cheat anybody. The state is willing to educate
the children. I said to myself I will tie my own hands, so that I can’t
pull my child after me if I drown. I did want my David should have the
best chance in America.'

Miss Ralston was thrilled by the suppressed passion in his voice. She
held out her hand to him, saying again, in the low tones that come from
the heart, 'I am glad I know you, Mr. Rudinsky.'

There was unconscious chivalry in Mr. Rudinsky’s next words. Stepping to
his wife’s side, he laid a gentle hand on her shoulder, and said
quietly, 'My wife has been my helper in everything.'

Miss Ralston, as we know, was given to seeing things. She saw now, not a
poor immigrant couple in the first stage of American respectability,
which was all there was in the room to see, but a phantom procession of
men with the faces of prophets, muffled in striped praying-shawls, and
women radiant in the light of many candles, and youths and maidens with
smouldering depths in their eyes, and silent children who pushed away
joyous things for--for--

Dreams don’t use up much time. Mr. Rudinsky was not aware that there had
been a pause before he spoke again.

'You understand so well, Miss Ralston. But David'--he hesitated a
moment, then finished quickly. 'How can he respect me if he feels like
that?'

His wife spoke tremulously from her corner.

'That’s what I think.'

'Oh, don’t think that!' Miss Ralston cried. 'He does respect you--he
understands. Don’t you see what he says: _I can’t tell you--because you
would blame somebody who didn’t do wrong._ He doesn’t blame you. He only
blames himself. He’s afraid to tell me because he thinks _I_ can’t
understand.'

The teacher laughed a happy little laugh. In her eagerness to comfort
David’s parents, she said just the right things, and every word summed
up an instantaneous discovery. One of her useful gifts was the ability
to find out truths just when she desperately needed them. There are
people like that, and some of them are school-teachers hired by the
year. When David’s father cried, 'How can he respect me?' Miss Ralston’s
heart was frightened while it beat one beat. Only one. Then she knew all
David’s thoughts between the terrible, 'I have lied,' and the generous,
'But my father did no wrong.' She guessed what the struggle had cost to
reconcile the contradictions; she imagined his bewilderment as he tried
to rule himself by his new-found standards, while seeking excuses for
his father in the one he cast away from him as unworthy of an American.
Problems like David’s are not very common, but then Miss Ralston was
good at guessing.

'Don’t worry, Mr. Rudinsky,' she said, looking out of her glad eyes.
'And you, Mrs. Rudinsky, don’t think for a moment that David doesn’t
understand. He’s had a bad time, the poor boy, but I know--Oh, I must
speak to him! Will he wake soon, do you think?'

Mr. Rudinsky left the room without a word.

'It’s all right,' said David’s mother, in reply to an anxious look from
Miss Ralston. 'He sleeps already the whole afternoon.'

It had grown almost dark while they talked. Mrs. Rudinsky now lighted
the lamps, apologizing to her guest for not having done so sooner, and
then she released Bennie from his prolonged attendance in the store.

Bennie came into the kitchen chewing his reward, some very gummy
confection. He was obliged to look the pent-up things he wanted to say,
until such time as he could clear his clogged talking-gear.

'Teacher,' he began, before he had finished swallowing, 'What for did
you say--'

'Bennie!' his mother reproved him, 'You must shame yourself to listen by
the door.'

'Well, there wasn’t any trade, ma,' he defended himself, 'only Bessie
Katz, and she brought back the peppermints she bought this morning, to
change them for taffy, but I didn’t because they were all dirty, and one
was broken--'

Bennie never had a chance to bring his speeches to a voluntary stop:
somebody always interrupted. This time it was his father, who came down
the stairs, looking so grave that even Bennie was impressed.

'He’s awake,' said Mr. Rudinsky. 'I lighted the lamp. Will you please
come up, ma’am?'

He showed her to the room where David lay, and closed the door on them
both. It was not he, but Miss Ralston, the American teacher, that his
boy needed. He went softly down to the kitchen, where his wife smiled at
him through unnecessary tears.

Miss Ralston never forgot the next hour, and David never forgot. The
woman always remembered how the boy’s eyes burned through the dusk of
the shadowed corner where he lay. The boy remembered how his teacher’s
voice palpitated in his heart, how her cool hands rested on his, how the
lamplight made a halo out of her hair. To each of them the dim room with
its scant furnishings became a spiritual rendezvous.

What did the woman say, that drew the sting of remorse from the child’s
heart, without robbing him of the bloom of his idealism? What did she
tell him that transmuted the offense of ages into the marrow and blood
of persecuted virtue? How did she weld in the boy’s consciousness the
scraps of his mixed inheritance, so that he saw his whole experience as
an unbroken thing at last? There was nobody to report how it was done.
The woman did not know nor the child. It was a secret born of the boy’s
need and the woman’s longing to serve him; just as in nature every want
creates its satisfaction.

When she was ready to leave him, Miss Ralston knelt for a moment at
David’s bedside, and once more took his small hot hands in hers.

'And I have made a discovery, David,' she said, smiling in a way of her
own. 'Talking with your parents downstairs I saw why it was that the
Russian Jews are so soon at home here in our dear country. In the hearts
of men like your father, dear, is the true America.'



BLUE REEFERS

BY ELIZABETH ASHE


'THE child will have to have a new dress if she’s to take part in the
Christmas entertainment.'

My mother spoke very low, so as not to wake me, but I heard her. I had
been too excited to fall asleep.

'Of course,' said my father in his big voice that never could get down
to a whisper.

'S-sh,' warned my mother; and then added, 'But we shouldn’t get it,
George. You know what the last doctor’s bill amounted to.'

'Oh, let the little thing have it. It’s her first chance to show off.'

'S-sh,' my mother warned again. After a moment I heard her say, 'Well,
perhaps it won’t cost so very much, and as you say it’s the first time.'

I turned over in bed and prayed, 'Dear Lord, please help my mother to
get me a new dress.' For a new dress was one of the chief joys of taking
part, and I had longed so to take part.

Although I had been a member of our Sunday school in good and regular
standing ever since I was three weeks old, and had been put on the
Cradle Roll, that being in the eyes of my parents the nearest approach
to dedication allowable to Baptists, I was taking part for the first
time, and I was seven. There had been numerous occasions in these seven
years for taking part: our Sunday school celebrated Easter, Children’s
Day, Anniversary Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, with quite
appropriate exercises. But it was a large school, and I had freckles and
what Aunt Emma, my cousin Luella’s mother, called 'that child’s jaw.'
Aunt Emma meant my front teeth, which were really most dreadfully
prominent: in fact they stuck out to such an extent that Aunt Emma
seldom failed to see them when she saw me.

Aunt Emma wasn’t used to children with jaws. Her little Luella had the
prettiest teeth imaginable: she was pretty all over, pretty golden hair,
pretty blue eyes, pretty pink cheeks,--not a freckle,--and pretty arms
very plump and white. She was just my age, and she was invariably asked
to take part. It seemed reasonable that she should, and yet I felt that
if they only knew that I had a mind,--a mind was what an uncle once said
I had, after hearing me recite the one hundred and third Psalm, the
fifty-second chapter of Isaiah, and the thirteenth chapter of First
Corinthians, with only one mistake,--they would ask me too. A mind
should count for something, I thought, but it didn’t seem to with Miss
Miriam.

Miss Miriam was the assistant superintendent. She was a tall, thin,
youngish-looking woman, with fair hair and a sweet, rather white face.
She always wore very black dresses and a little gold cross, which one of
the Big Girls told us was left to her by her mother, who was an
Episcopalian. Miss Miriam got up all the entertainments, and it was she
who made out the list of the people who were to take part in them. Three
or four Sundays before an entertainment was to be given, Miss Miriam
would come from the Big Room to our Primary Department with a lot of
little white slips in her hand and a pad and pencil. While we were
having the closing exercises, she would walk very quietly from class to
class distributing the little white slips. The slips said, 'Please meet
me after Sunday school in the Ladies' Parlor.' If you were given a slip,
it meant you were chosen to take part.

Once I confided my longing to my mother.

'What makes you want to so much, Martha? You’re not a forward little
girl, I hope.'

Forwardness in my elders' opinion was the Eighth Deadly Sin, to be
abhorred by all little girls, especially those who had heard it said
that they had a mind. Little girls who had heard that might so easily,
from sheer pride of intellect, become 'forward.'

'I’m not forward,' I assured her. 'I--I, oh, mother, it’s so nice to be
in things.'

And now at last I was in things. I could still feel the touch of the
white slip which had been put into my hand only that afternoon; and I
turned over in my bed on my other side and prayed with even more fervor.

'O Lord, please help my mother to get me a new dress.'

He did. A week later my mother went to town. She brought back white
Persian lawn, the softest, sheerest stuff I had ever felt. I could see
the pink of my skin through it when I laid it over my hand.

'I’m going to have a new dress for the entertainment,' I told Luella on
my way to rehearsal. 'Are you?'

'Why, of course. I always do. Mine’s going to have five rows of lace
insertion in the skirt and tiny tucks too.'

'Mine’s to have tucks, but it won’t have but one row of lace in the
skirt. Mother says little girls' dresses don’t need much lace.'

'I like lots of lace,' said Luella; but her tone of finality did not
disturb my happiness. I was disturbed only when, at another rehearsal,
Luella told me that her mother was making a blue-silk slip to wear under
her white dress. Almost everyone wore slips when they spoke pieces.

I gave my mother this information.

'Isn’t the white dress pretty enough, Martha?'

I fingered the soft material she was sewing. 'It’s beautiful,' I said,
hiding my face in her neck. Then I whispered, 'I don’t mind if Luella
has a slip, mother.'

I did mind, but I knew I oughtn’t.

My mother raised my head and adjusted the bow on one of my skimpy little
pigtails. She looked as she did sometimes after my Aunt Emma had just
gone.

'We’ll see if you can have a slip. What color would you like--supposing
you can?'

'Pink,' I answered promptly, 'like my best hair-ribbons.'

Pink china silk was bought. When I tried it under the Persian lawn it
matched the ribbons exactly. I jiggled up and down on my toes--my only
way of expressing great joy.

The dress, when my mother was not working on it, lay in the spare room
on the bed. I made countless pilgrimages to the spare room. Once I
slipped the dress on by myself. I wanted to see how I looked. But the
mirror of the spare-room bureau was very small; so I inserted a
hair-brush. With the mirror tipped I could see quite all of me--only I
didn’t see quite all. I didn’t see my freckles, or my jaw, or my very
thin legs. I saw a glory of pink and white, and I grinned from sheer
rapture.

The spare room had no heat: there was a register, but unless we had
company the register was closed. My mother found me one day kneeling by
the bed, shivering, but in ecstatic contemplation of my dress, which I
had not dared to try on a second time. She gave me ginger tea. I gulped
it down meekly. I felt even then that as a punishment ginger tea is
exquisitely relevant. It chastens the soul but at the same time it warms
the stomach you’ve allowed to get cold.

I had been very much afraid that before the night of the
entertainment,--it was to be given the twenty-third of December,--something
would surely happen to my dress or to me; but the night arrived and
both were in a perfect state of preservation. To expedite matters, as
the Sunday school was to assemble at a quarter past seven, my mother
dressed me before supper. Just as the last button was fastened, we heard
footsteps on the front porch.

'There, Martha! Go show your father.'

I ran down into the hall and took up my position in the centre of it;
but when I heard the key turn in the latch of the inside door I wanted
to run away and hide. I had never felt so beautiful.

My father stopped short when he saw me. 'By the Lord!' he ejaculated.

'Why, George!'

My mother was on the stairs.

'Well, by the Great Guns then--you’re a--a vision, Marty.' I could only
grin.

'Here’s some more pinkness for you to wear,' he said, producing a long
tissue-paper package that he had been holding behind his back. He
chuckled as he unwrapped it. 'Twelve, Marty; twelve solid pink
carnations. What do you say to 'em? Show your mother.'

I said nothing. I only jiggled on my toes.

'George, dear, what made you? A little child like that can’t wear
flowers--and they’re seventy-five cents a dozen!'

All the chuckle went out of my father’s eyes: he looked at me, then at
the carnations, then at my mother, just like a little boy who finds that
after all he’s done the wrong thing. I wanted to run and take his hand;
but while I stood, wanting and not daring, my mother had crossed the
hall and was putting her arms around his neck.

'They’re beautiful, George dear. She can wear three or four of them,
anyway. They will make her so happy, and the rest we’ll put in her room.
Her room is pink too.'

'So it is.' He kissed my mother and then me. 'Say your piece,
Marty--quick! Before we have supper.'

I had learned my piece so thoroughly that the order was like turning on
a spigot. Four verses, four lines in each, gushed forth.

My father clapped. 'Now for something to eat,' he said.

Immediately after supper my mother and I set out, leaving my father to
shave and come later. It was a cold night with a great many bright
stars. At the corner we met Luella and her mother. Luella’s mother was
carrying over her arm Luella’s spring coat, her everyday one, a dark
blue reefer.

'Martha ought to have hers along, too,' said my Aunt Emma. 'If the
church should be chilly they’ll catch their death sitting in thin
dresses.'

My mother thought it was probable we would. So I was sent back to hunt
for my little reefer. It was like Luella’s, dark blue with tarnished
gilt anchors on the corners of the sailor collar, and like hers it was
second-best and outgrown.

Luella and I parted with our mothers at the door of the Sunday school
room.

'Don’t forget to take your reefers when you march in,' admonished my
Aunt Emma.

'Must we carry them while we march?' I almost wailed.

My mother came to the rescue. 'Hold them down between you and the little
girl you march with. Then no one will see.'

'Yes’m.' I was much relieved.

The Sunday school was a hubbub of noise and pink and blue hair-ribbons.
In among the ribbons, and responsible for some of the noise, were
close-cropped heads and white collars and very new ties, but you didn’t
notice them much. There were so many pink and blue ribbons. After a
while the room quieted down and we formed in line. Miss Miriam, who even
that night wore a black dress and her little gold cross, distributed
among us the eight silk banners which, when we weren’t marching, always
hung on the walls of the Sunday school rooms. There were subdued
whispers and last prinkings. Then the piano, which had been moved into
the church, gave the signal and we marched in.

We marched with our banners and our pink and blue hair-ribbons up and
down the aisles so that all the
Mothers-and-Fathers-and-Friends-of-the-School could see us. Whenever we
recognized our own special mother or father, we beamed. The marching
finally brought us to the pews assigned to our respective classes.
Luella’s class and mine were to sit together that night. I turned
round--almost every little girl, after she was seated and had
sufficiently smoothed out skirts and sash, turned round--and saw that my
mother and aunt were only two pews behind us. I grinned delightedly at
them, and they both nodded back. Then I told Luella. After that I
settled down.

The church was decorated with ropes of green and with holly wreaths. At
either side of the platform was a Christmas tree with bits of
cotton-batting scattered over it to represent snow. I had heard that
there were to be two Christmas trees, and I had looked forward to a
dazzling glitter of colored balls and tinsel and candles, maybe. The
cotton-batting was a little disappointing. It made you feel that it was
not a real Christmas tree, but just a church Christmas tree. Church
things were seldom real. The Boys Brigade of our church carried
interesting-looking cartridge-boxes, that made them look like real
soldiers; but when they drilled you found out that the cartridge-boxes
were only make-believe. They held Bibles. Still, the cotton-batting did
make you think of snow.

After what seemed like a very long wait the entertainment began. The
minister, of course, opened it with prayer. Then we all sang a carol. As
we were sitting down I felt some one poke my shoulder.

'Your mother says you must put on your jacket. She says you’ll take
cold,' whispered the little girl behind me.

I had not felt cold, but the command passed along over two church pews
had the force of a Thus-saith-the-Lord. While I was slipping the jacket
carefully over my ruffles, some one poked Luella and whispered to her.
Luella looked at me, then put on her jacket.

The superintendent was making a speech to the
Fathers-and-Mothers-and-Friends-of-the-School. When he finished, we rose
to sing another carol, and as we rose, quite automatically Luella and I
slipped off our jackets. I was very excited. After the carol there would
be a piece by one of the Big Girls; then the Infant Class would do
something; then I was to speak. I wondered if people would see the pink
of my slip showing through my dress as I spoke my piece. I bent my head
to get a whiff of carnation.

We were just seated when there came another poke and another whisper.

'Your mother says to keep on your jacket.

I looked back at my mother. She smiled and nodded, and Aunt Emma pointed
to Luella. We put on our jackets again. This time I buttoned it tight;
so did Luella. I felt the carnations remonstrate, but when one is very
excited one is very obedient: one obeys more than the letter of the law.

The Big Girl was speaking her piece. I didn’t hear the words; the words
of my own piece were saying themselves through my head; but I was aware
that she stopped suddenly, that she looked as though she were trying to
remember, that someone prompted her, that she went on. Suppose I should
forget that way, before my father and mother and the friends of the
school and Miss Miriam! It was a dreadful thought. I commenced
again,--with my eyes shut,--

    'Some children think that Christmas day
     Should come two times a year.'

I went through my verses five times, while the Infant Class individually
and collectively were holding up gilt cardboard bells and singing about
them. I was beginning the sixth time,--

    'Some children think,--'

when the superintendent read out,--

'The next number on the programme will be a recitation by Martha Smith.'

I had been expecting this announcement for four weeks, but now that it
came, it gave me a queer feeling in my heart and stomach, half-fear,
half-joy. Conscious only that I was actually taking part, I rose from my
seat and made my way over the little girls in the pew, who scrunched up
themselves and their dresses into a small space so that I might pass.

As I started down the aisle I thought I heard my name frantically called
behind me; but not dreaming that any one would wish to have speech with
a person about to speak a piece, I kept on down, way, way down to the
platform, walking in a dim hot maze which smelled insistently of
carnations.

But the poor carnations warned in vain. I ascended the platform steps
with my reefer still buttoned tightly over my chest.

The reefer, as I have said, was dark blue, adorned with tarnished
anchors, and outgrown. Being outgrown, it showed several inches of my
thin little wrists, and being a reefer and tightly buttoned, it showed
of my pink and white glory a little more than the hem.

Still in that dim hot maze, I made my bow and gave the title of my
piece, 'Christmas Twice a Year,' and recited it from beginning to end,
and heard them clap, all the teachers and scholars and
Fathers-and-Mothers-and-Friends-of-the-School. Then, quite dizzied with
happiness, I hurried down off the platform and up the aisle. People
smiled as I passed them and I smiled back, for once quite unconscious of
my jaw. As I neared my seat I prepared to smile upon my mother, but for
a moment she didn’t see me. Aunt Emma was saying something to her,
something that I didn’t hear, something that made two red spots flame in
my mother’s face.

'Isn’t it just like Martha to be a little fool! She’s always doing
things like that.'

Aunt Emma was one of those people who assume that you always do the
particular foolish thing you have just finished doing.

The red spots died out when my mother saw me. She smiled as though she
were very proud--and I was proud too. But before I could settle down to
enjoy my satisfaction, Luella’s name had been called and Luella was
starting down the aisle. Luella’s golden curls bobbed as she walked:
they bobbed over her blue reefer jacket which was buttoned snugly over
her plump body.

There was a suppressed exclamation from some one behind me, but Luella
kept on. Luella’s jacket was not short in the sleeves, but it was very
very tight. Only the hem of her blue and white glory peeped from beneath
it, and a little piece of ruffle she had not quite tucked in peeped out
from above it.

Luella bowed and spoke her piece. All the teachers and scholars, all the
Fathers-and-Mothers-and-Friends-of-the-School applauded.

A queer sound made me look round at my mother and aunt. Their heads were
bowed upon the pew in front. Their shoulders were shaking. When I turned
around again they were sitting up, wiping their eyes as if they had been
crying.

I could not understand then, nor did I understand late that night when
my father’s laugh woke me up.

'Poor Emma!' he chuckled. 'What did she say?'

And my mother answered, her voice curiously smothered, 'Why, you see,
she couldn’t very well say anything after what she had just said
before.'

'I suppose not. Poor Emma, I suppose not.'

My father’s laugh broke out again.

'S-sh, George--you’ll wake Martha.'



THE DEBT

BY KATHLEEN CARMAN


THE convent was a large square building of red brick, harsh of outline,
unlovely in its proportions. It stood on the rise of a barren hill,
unfriended by the trees of the little valley below, unsoftened by the
pleasant landscape above which its ugly bulk arose, stern and
domineering. To the south and west lay fertile fields and huddling
farm-buildings; to the east, beyond the little valley, rose many closely
wooded hills; while to the north,--ah, the north!--one of the greatest
wonders of all this wonderful world lay there; for if one climbed to the
highest story of the convent and looked out of any window to the north,
one beheld that never-ceasing miracle--the sea!

Sister Anne had known no other home but the convent for nearly half a
century, but the sight of those unresting waves never failed to set her
spirit free: free of unknown and enchanted worlds, worlds of wonder, of
mystery, and of heart-stirring beauty. She was merely a plain, silent,
hard-working, rather stupid old woman, who had never been in all her
life admired or considered, or even loved, unless one counts the tepid
affection of those with whom she lived. She had been brought here as a
young girl from the orphanage where she had passed her childhood; and
since she had been one of those who are always willing to do what is
asked of them, no matter how unpleasant or hard it may be, there had
fallen to her share all the humblest and meanest of the household tasks,
all the petty drudgeries which must be done and which no one wishes to
do. Her place was always in the kitchen or the laundry. She would have
liked to cook, but that had never been suggested. She had always been
put to washing dishes. Here again she had a preference: she would have
liked to wash the glassware, which came out of the hot suds like bubbles
and must be polished on the softest and cleanest of towels; or even the
clumsy plated forks and spoons, which to her were very beautiful. There
was nothing delicate or lovely about the great iron soup-kettles which
her patient hands must cleanse, or about the greasy roasting pans. And
it was the same way in the laundry. Only the coarsest, heaviest of the
washing was given to her: the rag mats that lay beside the beds in the
dormitories, the big aprons that the working sisters wore, the cloths
that were used in cleaning the lamps. Not for her the intricacies of
starching and skillful ironing and fluting.

Yet all the years of toil had not saddened Sister Anne. If any one had
questioned her and she had been able to express herself, she might have
said that the forces which had formed her sturdy body had given her also
a spirit capable of sustaining itself on the most meagre happiness. But
no one questioned her, and she was at all times slow and scant of
speech.

The sources of her contentment lay all without the convent walls; and
being there, it was strange that she should have discovered them. As a
matter of fact she had not discovered them. They had come, through a
slow and unconscious process, to be a part of her life. It had begun,
humbly enough, in the kitchen garden. When first she came to the convent
she had not been very well, and they had set her to weeding the
vegetables in order that she might be out of doors as much as possible.
Her simple, kindly nature had turned in solicitude and affection to this
springing life that responded to her tendance. No great and lovely lady
in her garden ever looked with more pride and admiration on her roses
and lilies than did Sister Anne on her beans and cabbages and early
peas. Through them she had come to watch with interest every change in
the weather, anxious for the needed rain, fearful of the early frost,
rejoicing when sun and air and moisture did their kindly best.

And thus it was, through a process simple, gradual, inevitable, that her
heart had wakened to the wonder and the beauty of the world about her.
At first she saw no farther than the garden, finding joy in the clear
green of the new shoots, pleasure in the sturdy growth of some robust
plant, or a still ecstasy in the dew-crowned freshness of the bean
flowers in the early morning. But soon that morning magic lay before her
marveling eyes upon the near-by fields and the distant hills, and in
time she beheld the wonderful pageant from mystic dawn to dawn, and that
still more wonderful pageant of the changing months.

No one knew or guessed the joy that filled her life from this dumb
intercourse with flying cloud or snow-hung cherry tree, or from the deep
stillness of a green-clad hill in a summer noon. When she was younger,
she used sometimes to speak of these things to her companions; but she
had early learned that they neither understood nor cared to understand
the feelings which she would have shared with them. But this did not
disturb her. She felt for those with whom she lived good-will and a mild
affection, but hers was not a nature to expect or need sympathy. She had
a profound and sincere humility which rendered her incapable of envy.
She felt herself, without bitterness, to be the inferior of all with
whom she came in contact. The fact that they were indifferent to what
were to her the purest sources of happiness never seemed to her a lack
in them, but only an accentuation of the fact that she was less clever
than they. To read, to embroider, to converse, to make long devotions,
were all beyond her powers. She was not 'spiritual-minded.' Prayers were
to her a tedious and difficult task, to be fulfilled conscientiously but
always finished with relief. This indeed came by slow degrees to be a
source of pain and anxiety to her. She felt herself a sinner. In the
laborious and inarticulate processes of her mind there gradually took
form the knowledge that she would rather do any kind of work than pray;
that she would rather, far rather, sit in idleness, looking out upon the
familiar, beloved landscape, than pray. This seemed to her inexplicably
wicked, but it never occurred to her to change, although she sometimes
felt that she would go to hell because of it.

Such thoughts were, however, neither frequent nor enduring with her.
When she made her preparation for confession, she used sometimes to
endeavor to formulate this general sense of wrongdoing; but the matter
was too subtle for her limited powers of expression, and she never got
beyond the specific instance, as when she neglected the kettles so that
she might watch a storm coming up across the hills, or walked five miles
on a singing May morning to get a not indispensable supply of fresh eggs
from a farmhouse. Not for many penances would she have foregone the
clean joy of that walk. Spring came late and slowly to this bit of world
beside the sea, but came none the less surely, none the less with magic
and enchantment in its wings; the new color on field and hill, the
wonderful smell of the earth and of the budding shoots, the divine air,
that now blew chill and austere as from the cave of winter itself and
now touched the cheek with a shyness, a softness, a warmth, like early
love.

Sister Anne had no imagery. She was sixty years old, ignorant, unread,
unimaginative, slow and dull of wit. Yet walking through this
newly-created world, she felt that joy more keen than pain--that
wordless ecstasy whose channel is the senses, but which sends the spirit
groping back toward God who gave it life. Although she felt that this
marvelous universe came from the beneficent hand of some supreme Good,
she never identified it with the Deity to whom she made her difficult
devotions. Deep in her heart there grew a strong sense of gratitude, of
obligation, a wish vague and unformed, yet compelling, that in some way
she might make return for the happiness which life had brought her.

She tried to spend more time in the chapel and to say an extra number of
Aves; but this did not satisfy her, and even her unseeking mind felt
some doubt as to the worth of such mechanical and joyless prayers.

So the placid months and years slipped by, and at last there came to
Sister Anne, as does not come to all of us, her great hour.

It was a cloudless, windless, intolerably hot day in midsummer. Sister
Anne had been on an errand to a fisherman’s hut at some distance from
the convent. As she walked slowly home through the woods, she reached a
place in the path which led near the shore and from which a few steps
brought her out upon a little promontory. Never, it seemed to her, had
the sea looked so blue or the sails of the distant ships so white. She
stood for a long time gazing out toward the horizon before she saw
anything nearer; but when she did see, she hurried down to where she
could get out on the beach. On a tiny rocky islet some two hundred feet
or so from the shore lay the figure of a man in a swimming-suit. It was
evident that he was either dead or unconscious.

Sister Anne considered for a while and then without even removing her
shoes, waded out to him. He was not dead, she found at once, but stunned
by a blow on the head, apparently from one of the sharp rocks on which
he lay. Sister Anne cleansed and bound the wound with her kerchief, and
then sat for a few moments, her face grave and perplexed. Her bit of
human wreckage was only a boy of sixteen or so, tall, slender, with
thick, rough blond hair and skin fair as a child’s. Sister Anne, by
putting forth her whole strength, had been able to move him only a few
inches so that it was manifestly impossible for her to get him to the
shore. The fisherman’s hut from which she had just come was deserted,
its owner off on a cruise; there was not even a boat there. The convent
was a good three quarters of an hour away, make what haste she would,
and it would take as much longer to return with help. In an hour, she
well knew, the islet would be submerged by the rising tide. She knew of
no other fishing-hut and of no farmhouse nearer than the convent.

The water had been nearly to her waist in one place as she came, and she
could see that it had risen a little, even in this short time. She took
off her black robe and did what she could with its aid to put the
helpless lad in a more comfortable position; then, desperately, by every
means at her command, she set about restoring him to consciousness. For
a long time she met no response to her efforts. Indeed, more than once
she anxiously leaned her ear against his chest, to be sure that his
heart still beat. At last, when she had almost given up, discouraged, he
made a slight sound, and a moment later tried to sit up, only to sink
back into coma again. In a few minutes more, however, he opened his eyes
and looked at her with manifest intelligence. Instantly she spoke to him
with all the urgency she could summon.

'You must swim ashore as soon as you can. The tide is coming in and if
you stay here you will be drowned, unless you are able to swim. If you
can start now you will be able to walk part of the way between here and
the beach; but part you must swim, even now.'

Again he struggled to sit up and this time succeeded, although for a
moment he had to lean against Sister Anne’s shoulder.

'As soon as you are able,' she reiterated anxiously, 'you must swim
ashore.'

He shifted himself and gazed at her in considerable perplexity.

'Do you know how I hurt my head?' he asked. 'I must have fallen as I was
climbing up here. And how did you come here?'

'I was passing,' Sister Anne explained, 'and I saw you lying here. I
waded out to you. The water was not as deep then. Now--'

She paused, and a look of fear and anguish grew in her dull eyes.

'You cannot swim?' asked the boy.

'Oh, no, no!' she answered, her head sinking on her breast.

'Yet you stayed here to help me when you might have got safe ashore if
you had left me? Did you know that you would be caught by the tide?'

'I am old,' she answered; 'it must come to me before many years in any
case. But you are so young. I could not leave you. Your mother--'

The boy looked at her a moment with shining eyes and flushing face. Then
he rose cautiously, and tentatively flexed the muscles of his legs and
arms.

'Will you take off your shoes?' he said gently.

She gazed at him in bewilderment, and he explained to her carefully what
he would do and what she must do. It took some time to make her
understand, for her slow mind had not compassed such a possibility; but
when once it was clear to her what was to be done, she was docility
itself. Well for Sister Anne now that the strongest habit of her life
was obedience. But for that, the lad, strong swimmer as he was, could
not have brought her safe to shore.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night the placid life of the convent throbbed and thrilled with an
excitement unknown in its history. Sister Anne, for the first time in
her existence, was the centre of a storm of solicitude, of attention, of
agitation. She herself was unmoved. She came back from death as
unemotionally as she had gone to meet it. She sat by the window of her
room, wishing that she might be left alone to watch the moon rise above
the quiet hills.

The Mother Superior, the curé himself, had visited her, had said strange
and wonderful things to her which she scarcely understood. The whole
Sisterhood buzzed about her like a hive, for it seemed that the
fair-skinned lad of her adventure was the heir of a house whose name was
famous in many lands, and the father was even now standing at her
threshold.

Sister Anne was not embarrassed by the great presence, fame and wealth
and high birth and all the glories of this world being indeed less than
words to her. Moreover, her visitor brought to this interview with an
old unlettered woman all the charm and suavity and tact of which he was
so well the master. The tale his son had told had seemed to him
incredible and touching, and he felt a desire to understand the impulses
which had made possible so singular an episode. He soon found that she
had indeed faced death in full knowledge of what she did; that she had
wittingly given up her chance of escape that the boy might have his. But
to find the motive was not so simple. Delicately he probed one channel
after another: duty, heroism, religious training, in none of these could
he find the clue. Her life, he reflected, could hardly have been so
full of happiness as to have attached her very strongly to this world,
and deftly he pursued that trail, still unsuccessfully.

Baffled for the moment, he was silent, watching her unrevealing face.
The late summer twilight was darkening into deep shadows on the
hillside, but the eastern sky was still clear yellow from the sunset.
Just beyond that bank of clouds, Sister Anne thought, the moon would
rise before long. The man beside her, still pondering his problem, made
some comment on the clustering trees in the valley below.

She turned to him at once with a changed look.

'They are at their thickest now,' was all she said; but he saw that at
last he had opened the closed door.

In a few moments more, under his skillful touch, were revealed to him
the simple and profound sources of happiness on which her spirit fed. In
sentences so incomplete, in thoughts so inarticulate as to be mere
suggestion, he comprehended her, and at length, with infinite
gentleness, drew forth the thread of explanation which he had sought so
patiently.

She had felt for long, he gathered, that she owed a heavy debt in return
for all the joy in life that had been hers. She felt that her life had
held more happiness than she deserved, happiness for which she had made,
it seemed to her, but inadequate return. When she had found the helpless
lad, she had found also, it seemed, her chance of payment. If she might
save his life or at least give her own in the effort, this debt that she
owed the world would be lessened.

When she had managed in some fashion to convey this much to her
sympathetic listener, she paused and looked at him wistfully.

'A human life,' he said, in instant response, 'is worth more than words
can measure. You gave the greatest gift in your power. Be content. When
you behold the sunlight on the sea to-morrow, say to yourself, "But for
me there is one on whom the sun would not shine to-day."'

She looked at him in silence, and he saw her breast rise and fall in one
slow breath as if of relief.

A little longer he sat, considering, in strange humility, this old and
humble woman toward whom he had had such generous intentions. What of
the many gifts in his power might he offer that could enrich her life?
Nothing! Nothing to give to this poor, lonely, ignorant, toil-worn being
who in her starved existence had found more joy than she could make
return for!

Once more he thanked her in his son’s name and his own, and with as
careful a courtesy as if she had been his sovereign, bade her farewell.

The moon had climbed above the bank of clouds now, and the hillside lay
transfigured in its light. Sister Anne leaned her head against the
window-casing and looked for a while into the still summer night; then
presently, being very weary, she slept, a dreamless sleep.



SETH MILES AND THE SACRED FIRE

BY CORNELIA A. P. COMER


I

'RICHARD,' said my dad about a week after Commencement, 'life is real.
You have had your education and your keep, and you’re a pleasant enough
lad around the house. But the time has come to see what’s in you, and I
want you to begin to show it right away. If you go to the coast with the
family, it will mean three months fooling around with the yacht and the
cars and a bunch of pretty girls. There’s nothing in that for you any
longer.'

Of course, this rubbed me the wrong way.

'Now you’ve got your degree, it’s time we started something else. You
say you want to be a scholar--I suppose that means a college professor.
Of course scholarship doesn’t pay, but if I leave you a few good bonds,
probably you can clip the coupons while you last. I don’t insist that
you make money, but I do insist that you work. My son must be able to
lick his weight in wild-cats, whatever job he’s on. Do you get me?'

I looked out of the window and nodded, somewhat haughtily. Of course I
couldn’t explain to dad the mixture of feelings that led me to choose
scholarship. For, while I am keen on philology, and really do love the
classics so that my spirit seems to swim, if you know what I mean, in
the atmosphere that upheld Horace and the wise Cicero of 'De Senectute,'
I also thought there was money enough in the family already. Wasn’t it a
good thing for the Bonniwells to pay tribute to the humanities in my
person? Didn’t we, somehow, owe it to the world to put back in culture
part of what we took out in cash? But how could I get that across to
dad?

He looked at me as if he, too, were trying to utter something difficult.

'There are passions of the head as well as of the heart,' he said
finally. I opened my eyes, for he didn’t often talk in such fashion.
'The old Greeks knew that. I always supposed a scholar, a teacher, had
to feel that way if he was any good--that it was the mark of his
calling. Perhaps you’ve been called; but, if so, you keep it pretty
dark.'

He stopped and waited for an appropriate response, but I just couldn’t
get it out. So I remarked, 'If I’m not on the boat this summer, you’ll
need another man when you cruise.'

'That’s my affair,' said he, looking disappointed. 'Yours will be to
hold down your job. I’ve got one ready for you. If you don’t like it,
you can get another. We’ll see about a Ph.D. and Germany later on. But
for this season, I had influence enough to get you the summer school in
the Jericho district beyond Garibaldi, and you can board with Seth
Miles.'

When I was a child, before we moved to Chicago, we lived in Oatesville,
at the back of beyond. Garibaldi is an Indiana cross-roads about five
miles farther on the road to nowhere.

'_O dad!_' I said; but I put everything I thought into those two words.

He instantly began to look as much like the heavy father on the stage as
is possible to a spare man with a Roman nose. So I shrugged my
shoulders.

'Oh, very well!' I said. 'If you find me a fossil in the fall, pick out
a comfortable museum to lend me to, won’t you?'

'Richard.' said my dad, 'God only knows how a boy should be dealt with.
I don’t. If I could only tell you the things I know so you would
believe them, I’d set a match to half my fortune this minute. I want you
to _touch life_ somewhere, but I don’t know how to work it in. I’m doing
this in sheer desperation.'

I could see he meant it, too, for his eyes were shiny and the little
drops came out on his forehead.

'I don’t happen to know anybody fitter than old Miles to inspire a
scholar and a gentleman. So, if the summer doesn’t do you any good, it
can’t do you any harm. I shall label your season’s work "Richard
Bonniwell, Jr. on His Own Hook. Exhibit A."--Don’t forget that. Your
mother and I may seem to be in Maine, but I guess in our minds we’ll be
down at Jericho schoolhouse looking on, most of the time.'

You 'd think a man might buck up in response to that, wouldn’t you? But
I didn’t particularly. It made me feel superior toward dad because he
didn’t know any better than to arrange such a summer, thinking it would
teach me anything. I suspected this indulgent attitude of mine might
break down later, and it did.

It was a blazing hot summer for one thing. One of those occasional
summers of the Middle West when the cattle pant in the fields and the
blades of corn get limp on their stalks.

Mr. Miles, who was a benign bachelor, lived in a brick farmhouse with
one long wing, and a furnace of which he was very proud. He put up his
own ice, too, which was more to the point in July. His widowed sister
kept house for him, and, if the meat was usually tough, the cream and
vegetables were beyond praise. He owned the store at Garibaldi as well
as this large farm; so he was a man of means, and important in his own
sphere. To look at, he was rather wonderful. I don’t know how to
describe him. He had keen, kind blue eyes; wavy, white hair; strong,
regular features. There was a kind of graciousness and distinction about
him that didn’t fit his speech and dress. It was as if you always saw
the man he might be in the shadow of the man he was. Put him into
evening clothes and take away his vernacular, and he’d be one of the
loveliest old patriarchs you ever met.

The schoolhouse was brick, too; set back from the road in a field of
hard-trodden clay, decorated with moth-eaten patches of grass. For
further adornment, there was a row of box-alders out in front. As a
temple of learning, it fell short. As its ministrant, I did the same.

There were forty scholars: squirmy, grimy little things that I found it
hard to tell apart at first. I knew this was not the right attitude, but
how could I help it? I had never tried to teach anybody anything before
in my life. The bigger girls blushed and giggled; the little boys made
faces and stuck out their tongues. As it was a summer session, there
were no big boys to speak of.

To go in for scholarship does not at all imply the teacher’s gift or the
desire for it. At Oxford, you know, they are a bit sniffy about the
lecturers who arouse enthusiasm. Such are suspected of being 'popular,'
and that, really, is quite awful. Some of our men have a similar notion,
and, no doubt, it colored my views. Yet, deep down, I knew that if I was
a teacher, it was up to me to teach. I really did try, but it takes time
to get the hang of anything.

I was homesick, too. Mildred and Millicent, my kid sisters, are great
fun, and the house is full of young people all summer long at home. When
I shut my eyes I could see the blue, sparkling waters of the inlet, and
the rocking of our float with its line of gay canoes.

How can I describe the rising tide of sick disgust at my surroundings
that began to flood my spirit? Now that it’s all in the past, I’d like
to think it was purely my liver,--I didn’t get enough exercise, really
I didn’t, for it was too hot to walk much,--but perhaps part of it was
just bad temper.

You see, it takes a good deal of a fellow to stand such a complete
transplanting. I hated the paper shades in my bedroom, tied up with a
cord, and the Nottingham curtains, and the springs that sank in the
middle. I hated the respectable Brussels carpet in the best room, and
the red rocking-chairs on the porch. I hated the hot, sleepless nights
and the blazing, drowsy days.

Oh, I tell you, I had a glorious grouch!

I didn’t exactly hate the squirming children, for some of them began to
show signs of almost human intelligence after they got used to me, and
that did win me; but I hated that little schoolroom where the flies
buzzed loudly all day long on the streaky panes. With deadly hatred I
hated it.

I got to feeling very badly treated. What did my father suppose such
commonplace discomforts were going to do for _me_? What part had a
summer like this in the life and work that were to be mine? I lost that
comfortable little feeling of advantage over life. I mislaid my
consciousness of the silver spoon. In about three weeks it seemed as if
I’d always taught summer-school at Jericho, and might have to keep on.

Oh, well!--I was hot and sore. Everybody has been hot and sore some time
or other, I suppose. The minute description can be omitted. But I don’t
know whether everybody with a grievance gets so badly twisted up in it
as I do.

These emotions reached their climax one muggy, sultry July day as I
plodded, moist and unhappy, back from the schoolhouse. I wiped my
forehead, gritted my teeth, and vowed I would not stand the whole
situation another twenty-four hours. I’d resign my position, wire dad,
and take a train for somewhere out West in the mountains. If I had to
make good on my own hook in three months, I’d at least do it in a cool
place, at work of my selecting. The challenged party ought to have the
choice of weapons.

My room was intolerably stuffy, so I came downstairs reluctantly and sat
on the front steps. There was a wide outlook, for the house stood on a
ridge of land that broke the flat prairie like a great welt. Old Miles
was there, watching a heavy cloud-bank off in the southwest. Those
clouds had been fooling around every evening for a week, but nothing
ever came of it. The longer the drought, the harder it is to break.

I made some caustic remark about the weather as I sat down. Probably I
looked cross enough to bite the poker.

Miles looked at me and then looked away quickly, as if it really was not
decent to be observing a fellow in such a rage. I knew the look, for
I’ve felt that way myself about other men.

'Yes, bad weather,' he said. 'When it gets too hot and dry for corn,
it’s too hot and dry for folks. And then--it always rains. It’ll rain
to-night. You wait and see.'

I mumbled something disparaging to the universe.

'Richard!' said Mr. Miles suddenly and strongly, 'I know what ails you.
It ain’t the weather, it’s your teaching. You’re discouraged because you
can’t make 'em sense things. But it ain’t time yet for you to get
discouraged. I hate to see it, for it ain’t necessary.'

This made me feel a little ashamed of myself.

'Did you ever teach, Mr. Miles?' I asked, for the sake of seeming civil.

'Yes, I did. So I know there’s a secret to teachin' you prob’ly ain’t
got yet. I dunno as I could help you to it. It ain’t likely. An’ yet--'

Unlikely indeed! I thought. Aloud, I said politely, 'I’d be glad to hear
your views.'

'I know what you feel!' he said with extraordinary energy. 'My Lord!
Don’t I know what you feel? You want to make 'em sense things as you
sense 'em. You want to make 'em work as you can work. You won’t be
satisfied until you’ve given 'em the thirst to know and the means of
knowing. Yes, I know what you feel!'

I stared at him, dumbfounded. I knew what I felt, too, but it wasn’t
much like this.

'There are pictures in your brain that you must show 'em. There’s a
universe to cram inside their heads. God has been workin' for a billion
years at doing things--and just one little life to learn about 'em in!
To feel you’re on His trail, a-following fast, and got to pass the
feeling on--I guess there’s no wine on earth so heady, is there, boy?'

I couldn’t pretend I didn’t understand him. I have had it too--that
wonderful sensation we pack away into two dry words and label
'intellectual stimulus.' But it hadn’t come to me that I could, or
should, pass it on. I thought it was an emotion designed for my private
encouragement and delight. And what was old Seth Miles doing with
intellectual stimulus? I would as soon expect to unearth a case of
champagne in his cellar. But, however he got it, undeniably it was the
real thing.

A dozen questions rushed to my tongue, but I held them back, for he was
looking me up and down with a wistful tenderness that seemed to prelude
further revelation.

'I’m going to tell you the whole story now,' he said with an effort. 'I
promised your father I would. He told me to. And I’d better get it over.
Mebbe there’s something in it for you--and mebbe not. But here it is.'


II

'I’ve lived right here since I was a little shaver. My father cleared
this land on the Ridge, and as I grew up, I helped him. We were a small
family for those days. I was the only boy. There was one sister, Sarah,
who keeps house for me now--and Cynthy. Cynthy was an orphan my folks
took to raise for company to Sarah. My father was her guardeen and she
had two thousand dollars, so it wasn’t charity, you understand. She was
the prettiest child, an’ the gentlest, I ever see, with her big brown
eyes, her curly bronze hair, an’ her friendly little ways. I made it my
business to look after Cynthy, the way a bigger boy will, from the time
she come to us. Sometimes Sarah, being larger an’ self-willed, would
pick on her a little--an’ then I’d put Sarah in her place mighty sudden.
P’raps Cynthy was my romance, for she was a little finer stuff than we
were. But I wasn’t a sentimental boy. Quite the other way. Mostly I was
counted a handful. You ain’t got anybody in your school as hard to
handle as I was when I was a cub.

'When I went to school, I went for the fun of it, and to torment the
teacher. I hadn’t another thought in my head. If I didn’t get a lickin'
once a week, I thought I was neglected. When I was sixteen, I’d been
through Dayboll’s Arithmetic, and I could read and spell a little for my
own use, but my spelling wasn’t much good to anybody else. That was all
I knew and all I wanted to know. You see, the little I learned was all
plastered on the outside, so to speak. It hadn’t called to anything
inside me then.

'One fall there come a new teacher to our school, a young fellow earnin'
money to get through college. He got on the right side of me somehow. I
can’t tell how he did it, because I don’t know. But first he set me
studying and then he set me thinking. And I began to work at books _from
the inside_. They weren’t tasks any more. He made me feel like I had a
mind and could use it, just like I knew I had strong muscles and could
use them. Seemed 's if when I once got started, I couldn’t stop. I got
up mornings to study. I studied nights an’ I studied Sundays. There
couldn’t nothing stop me. I thought I’d found the biggest thing on earth
when I found out how to make my mind work! Jerusalem! Those were days! I
was happy then! Sometimes I wonder what the Lord’s got saved up for us
in the next world as good as that tasted in this.'

He stopped, threw back his head and drew in a long, ecstatic breath, as
though he would taste again the sharp, sweet flavor of that draught.

'I studied like that for nigh two years. Then a new idea struck me. It
was one spring day. I remember father and I was ploughing for corn. I
said, "Father, if I could get a school, I guess I could teach." He
hadn’t no more idea I could teach than that I could go to Congress, not
a bit; but I finally drilled it into him I was in earnest, and that fall
he helped me get a school near home.

'I never did any work as hard as that. It was against me that I was so
near home, and everybody knew I’d never studied until just lately. I
could tell you stories from now till bedtime about the times I had with
the big boys and girls. But I never let go my main idea for a
minute--that it wasn’t just so much grammar and 'rithmetic I was tryin'
to cram into them, but that I had to show 'em how to sense it all. By
and by, one after another found out what I was after. The bright ones
took to it like ducks to water. It was just wonderful the work they’d do
for me, once they understood.

'A notion took shape in my head. For all I could see, the things to
learn were endless. They stretched ahead of me like a sun-path on the
water. I thought, "Mebbe I can go on learning all my days. Mebbe I can
teach as I learn, so young folks will say of me as I said of my teacher,
_He showed me how to sense things for myself._" That notion seemed
wonderful good to me! It grew stronger an’ stronger. It seemed as if I’d
fit into such a life the way a key fits in its lock. And I couldn’t see
no reason why I shouldn’t put it through.

'So I spoke to father. He didn’t say much, but I noticed he didn’t seem
keen about it. He’d bought the store at the Corners two years before,
and it seemed to me it would work out pretty well if he sold the farm
and just tended store and had a little house in Garibaldi, as he and
mother got along in years.

'I thought likely Sarah would marry, and anybody might be sure Cynthy
would. She an’ Sarah had had two years' schooling in Oatesville by this
time, and they held themselves a bit high. Cynthy was grown up that
pretty and dainty you caught your breath when you looked at her. There’s
some young girls have that dazzling kind of a look. When you lay eyes on
them, it hardly seems as if it could be _true_ they looked like that.
Cynthy was one of that kind.

'My plans took shape in my mind the second winter I taught. I set my
heart on teaching one more year and then going to school somewhere
myself. I got the State University catalogue and began to plan the
studying I did nights so it would help me enter.

'It was just then that I ran against the proposition of teaching Greek.
A boy from York State come out to spend the winter with an uncle whose
farm joined ours. He’d lost his father, and I guess his mother didn’t
know what to do with him. I don’t mean Dick wasn’t a good boy, but
likely he was a handful for a woman.

'Living so near, we saw a lot of him. He was always coming in evenings
to see the girls, and he pretended to go to school, too. He was sort of
uppish in his ways, and I knew he made fun of me and my teaching, all
around among the neighbors. What did he do one day but bring me some
beginning Greek exercises to look over, with his head in the air as if
he was sayin', "Guess I’ve got you now!"

'I took his exercises and looked at 'em, awful wise, and said those was
all right, that time. Bless you, I didn’t know Alphy from Omegy, but I
meant to, mighty quick! I walked seven miles an’ back that evening to
borrow some Greek books of a man I knew had 'em, and sat up till two
o’clock, tryin' to get the hang of the alphabet.

'Well, sir! I just pitched into those books an’ tore the innards out of
'em, and then I pitched into that fellow. You’d ought to have seen him
open his eyes when he found I knew what I was talkin' about! He got
tired of his Greek inside of two weeks. But I held him to it. I made him
keep right on, and I did the same, and kept ahead of him.

'It interested me awfully, that Greek. I borrowed some more books and
got me some translations. I don’t say I got so I could read it easy, but
I got on to a lot of new ideas. There was one book about a fellow who
was strapped to a rock for a thousand years for bringing the fire of the
gods to mortals. Probably you’ve heard of it. I liked that.'

All this sounded to me a good deal like a fairy-tale the old gentleman
was telling. Of course, all education is so much more rigid nowadays,
that the idea of anybody pitching in that way, and grabbing the heart
out of any form of knowledge was novel to me. Yet I’d read in the
biographies of great men that such things had really been done.
Only--Mr. Miles wasn’t a great man. How, then, had he come to
accomplish what I understood was essentially an achievement of genius?
The thing staggered me.

'"Prometheus Bound,"' said Seth Miles meditatively. 'That’s the one. You
may think I was conceited, but it seemed to me I knew how that man felt.
To make them look up! To kindle the flame! Didn’t I know how a man could
long to do that? Wouldn’t I, too, risk the anger of the gods if I could
fire those children’s minds the way my own was fired?

'You see, it’s this way, Richard: a feeling is a feeling. There are only
just so many of 'em in the world, and if you know what any one of 'em is
like, you do. That’s all.

'When I spoke to father about my plans again, he looked as if I’d hurt
him. A pitiful, caught look came in his eyes, and he said, "Don’t let’s
talk about it now, Seth. I--I reelly ain’t up to it to-day."

'There was something in what he said, or the way he said it, that just
seemed to hit my heart a smashing blow. I felt like I’d swallowed a
pound of shot, and yet I didn’t know why. I couldn’t see anything wrong,
nor any reason why my plans wasn’t for the best, for all of us. But
those few words he said, and the way he looked, upset me so that I went
off to the barn after school that afternoon and climbed into the hay-mow
to find a quiet place to figure the thing out. I hadn’t been there long
before I heard voices down below, and Cynthy’s laugh, and somebody
climbing the ladder. It was Cynthy and Dick. Sarah had sent 'em out to
hunt more eggs for a cake she was bakin'.

'I didn’t think they’d stay long, and I wanted to be let alone, so I
just kept quiet.

'Now I want to say before I go any further that Dick would have been a
great deal more no-account than he was if he hadn’t admired Cynthy, and
it wasn’t any wonder she liked him. Besides what there was to him, there
was plenty of little reasons, like the kind of neckties he wore and the
way he kept his shoes shined. There was always a kind of style about
Dick.

'They rustled round, laughing and talking, till they got the five eggs
they was sent for, and then Cynthy made as if she started down the
ladder. Dick held her back.

'"Not till you’ve kissed me!" said he.

'"I’m ashamed of you," said she.

'"I’m proud of myself," said he, "to think I know enough to want it.
Why, Cynthy, I ain’t never had one, but I’d swear a kiss of yours would
be like the flutter of an angel’s wing across my lips."

'"That’s foolishness," said she; but she said it softly, as if she liked
foolishness.

'Mebbe you wonder how I remember every little thing they said. It’s like
it was burned into my brain with fire. For I no sooner heard 'em foolin'
with one another that soft little way than something seemed to wring my
heart with such a twist that it stopped beating.--Dick kiss Cynthy?
Why--why, Cynthy was mine! She’d always been as close to me as the beat
of my own heart. From the minute I first laid eyes on her I’d known it,
in the back of my mind. I’d never put it into words, not even to myself.
But that was the way it _was_. So now my soul just staggered. Nobody
could kiss Cynthy but me. That was all.

'"Foolishness!" said Dick; his voice was sort of thick and blurry, and,
of a sudden, I could hear him breathing hard. "Foolishness! I guess it’s
the only wisdom that there is!--My God!--My God!--_O Cynthy, just one
kiss!_"

'"Dick! Why, Dick!"

'Her little voice sounded like the birds you sometimes hear in the
middle of the night, just that soft, astonished, questioning note.

'I suppose I was across that mow and beside 'em in five seconds, but it
seemed to me I took an hour to cross it. I never traveled so long and
hard a road, nor one so beset with terror and despair.

'They turned and faced me as I came. Dick’s face was red, and in his
eyes was agony--no less. Cynthy was very white, her little head held
high on her slender neck. Her eyes was brave and clear. Mebbe I was
excited, but it seemed to me that she was shinin' from head to foot. You
see, to her it was so wonderful.

'We stood there silent for a long minute, lookin' clean into one
another’s souls. Dick’s eyes and mine met and wrestled. I never fought a
fight like that,--without a word nor a blow,--and yet we were fighting
for more than our lives.

'His eyes didn’t fall. He didn’t look shamefaced. Oh, he too had pluck!

'As my brain cleared of the queer mist, that cry of his seemed to sound
pitifully in my ears.

'"_O Cynthy, just one kiss!_"

'I don’t suppose there’s a man on earth that ain’t said that from once
to fifty times, just as much in earnest as Dick, and just as little
thinkin' them words are the key in the Door--the door that gives on the
road runnin' down to Hell or up to Heaven. You’ve got to move one way or
the other if you open that door. It ain’t a road to linger on. Love
marches.

'That was the way it come to me then. For most men, love marches.--But
me. How about me? The love that come to me had been silent and patient.
It’d sat in my heart like a bird on its nest. Was I different from other
men? Did I ask less, give more? I was just a boy--how was I to know?

'It was Cynthy broke the tension. She was always a bit of a mischief.
Suddenly she smiled an’ dimpled like the sun comin' out from a cloud.
She caught Dick’s finger-tips quick an’ brushed 'em across her lips.

'"Well, Seth!" she says to me, cheerful and confident again.

'"Is he your choice, Cynthy?" said I. "Dare you leave us--_all_ of
us--an’ go to him forever?" I asked her, steadying my voice.

'She looked a little hurt and a little puzzled.

'"Has it come to that?" she asked me.

'"Mebbe it hasn’t with you," I answered, "but it has with Dick--an’ with
me, Cynthy."

'She looked at me as if she didn’t know what I meant, and then the color
rushed up into her face in a glorious flood.

'"Not--not you too, Seth?" she cried. "Oh--not you too!"

'"Yes, Cynthy,--now and always."

'She looked from me to Dick an’ back to me again. In her face I saw she
was uncertain.

'"Why didn’t you tell me before?" she cried out sharply. "Why
didn’t--_you_--teach me? O Seth, he needs me most!"

'Dick’s eyes and mine met and clashed again like steel on steel. But it
was mine that fell at last.

'We all went back to the house together without saying any more.

'It come to me just like this. Dick was tangled in his feelings, and the
feelings are the strongest cords that ever bind a boy like him. Cynthy
was drawn to him, because to her Dick was a thing of splendor and it was
so wonderful he needed her! I needn’t tell you what it was tied me. I
still had a fighting chance to get her away from him, but was it fair of
me to make the fight?

'Every drop of blood in my body said, Yes! Every cell in my brain said,
No! For, you see, life had us in a net--but I was the strong one and _I
could break the net_.

'I went off and walked by myself. Sundown come, and milking-time, and
supper. But I forgot to eat or work. I walked.

'No man can tell you what he thinks and feels in hours like them. There
ain’t no words for the awful hopes or the black despairs or the gleams
that begin like lightning-flashes and grow to something like the
breaking dawn. I couldn’t get away from it anyhow I turned. It wasn’t a
situation I _dared_ leave alone, not with Dick at white heat and Cynthy
so confident of herself and so pitiful. It wasn’t safe to let things be.
I must snatch her from him or give her to him.--It was my turn now to
cry out, _O my God_!

''T was long after dark when I come back. My mind was made up. They
should have each other. I’d do what I could to make the thing easy.
"After all," I told myself, "you ain’t completely stripped. Don’t think
it! You have the other thing. You can carry the torch. You can bring
down the flame. Folks will thank you yet for the sacred fire!"

'I laid that thought to my heart like something cool and comforting. And
it helped me to come through.

'When I got back to the house, it was late and everybody was abed but my
father. He was sitting right here where we are, waiting up for me. There
was a moon, some past the full, rising yonder. I sat down on the step
below him and put it to him straight.

'"Father," said I, "Dick’s in love with Cynthy. She’s eighteen an’ he’s
twenty. I judge we’d better help 'em marry."

'He give a heartbroken kind of groan. "Don’t I know she’s eighteen?" he
said. "Ain’t it worryin' the life right out of me?"

'"Whatever do you mean?" I asked pretty sharp, for I sensed bad trouble
in his very voice.

'"It’s her two thousand dollars," he said. "She’s due to have it. If she
marries, she’s got to have it right away. And I ain’t got it to give
her, that’s all!"

'"Where is it? What’s become of it?"

'"I bought the store at the Crossroads with it, and give her my note.
But I hadn’t no business to do it that way. And the store ain’t done
well, and the farm ain’t done well. The summer’s been so cold and wet,
corn ain’t more 'n a third of a crop, and I put in mainly corn this
year. I can’t sell the store. I dunno’s I can mortgage the farm. I dunno
what _to_ do. If you leave home like you talk of, I shall go under.
Somebody’s got to take hold an’ help me. I can’t carry my load no
longer."

'So--there was that! And I had to face it alone.

'I didn’t despair over the money part of it, like father did. I knew
he’d neglected the farm for the store, and the store for the farm. If
I’d been with him either place, instead of teaching, things would have
gone on all right. I thought Dick could have his choice of the store or
a part of the land to clear up the debt to Cynthy. But, whichever he
took, father’d need me to help out. I could see he was beginning to
break. And Dick would need me too, till he got broke in to work and
earnin'. So--now it was me that life had in the net, and there was no
way I could break out.

'Father went off to bed a good deal happier after I told him I’d stand
by. He even chippered up so he said this: "You’re all right, Seth, and
teachin''s all right. But I’ve thought it all over and I’ve come to the
conclusion that teachin' and studyin''s like hard cider. It goes to your
head and makes you feel good, but after all, there ain’t nothing
nourishing about it. I’d like to see you make some money."

'I sat on those steps the rest of the night, I guess, while that waning
moon climbed up the sky and then dropped down again. 'T ain’t often a
man is called on to fight two such fights in a single day. I ain’t been
able to look at a moon past the full since that night.

'And yet--toward morning there come peace. I saw it this way at last. To
help is bigger yet than to teach. If Prometheus could be chained to that
rock a thousand years while the vultures tore his vitals just so that
men might _know_, couldn’t I bear the beaks an’ the claws a little
lifetime so that father and Cynthy and Dick might _live_? I thought I
could--an’ I have.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Miles stopped short. Something gripped my throat. I shall never see
again such a luminous look as I caught on his face when he turned it
toward the darkening west. The black clouds had rolled up rapidly while
we were talking and, if you’ll believe me, when he had finished, it
thundered on the right!

'Is--is that all?' I said chokily.

'Cynthy’s had a happy life,' he said. 'Dick made good in the store, and
he’s made good out yonder in the world. Dick has gone very far. And as
for me, there’s only one thing more I want in this world. If--if I could
see her boy and his pick up the torch I dropped, and carry on that
sacred fire--'

It was mighty queer, but I found I was shaking all over with an
excitement I hardly understood. Something that had been hovering in the
air while he talked came closer and suddenly showed me its face.

'But,' I said thick and fast, 'but--why, _mother’s_ name is Cynthia!'

'Yes, Richard.'

'And father--_father_--?'

'Yes, Richard.'

It was my turn to feel something squeeze my heart as in two hands. I’ll
never tell you how I felt! For I saw a thousand things at once. I saw
what dad meant by my touching life. And I saw the meaning of the path I
had chosen blindly. Before me, like a map, were spread their lives and
mine, to-day and yesterday. I shook with the passions that had created
me. I vibrated with the sacrifices that had gone to make me possible.
For the first time in all my days I got a glimpse of what the young
generation means to the elder. On my head had descended all their hopes.
I was the laden ship that carried their great desires. Mine to lift the
torch for all of them--and thank God for the chance!

I struck my tears away and reached out blindly to grasp Seth Miles’s
bony hand. I guess he knew I meant it.



BURIED TREASURE

BY MAZO DE LA ROCHE


I

IT was Saturday morning, and we three were together in Mrs.
Handsomebody’s parlor--Angel, and The Seraph, and I.

No sooner had the front door closed upon the tall, angular figure of
that lady, bearing her market basket, than we shut our books with a
snap, ran on tiptoe to the top of the stairs, and, after a moment’s
breathless listening, cast our young forms on the smooth walnut
banister, and glided gloriously to the bottom.

Regularly on a Saturday morning Mrs. Handsomebody went to market, and
with equal regularity we, her pupils, instantly cast off the yoke of her
restraint, slid down the banisters, and entered the forbidden precincts
of the Parlor.

On other week-days the shutters of this grim apartment were kept closed,
and an inquisitive eye, applied to the keyhole, could just faintly
discern the portrait in crayon of the late Mr. Handsomebody, presiding,
like some whiskered ghost, over the revels of the stuffed birds in the
glass case below him.

But on a Saturday morning Mary Ellen swept and dusted there. The
shutters were thrown open, and the thin-legged piano and the haircloth
furniture were furbished up for the morrow.

Moreover, Mary Ellen liked our company. She had a spooky feeling about
the parlor. Mr. Handsomebody gave her the creeps, she said; and once
when she had turned her back she had heard one of the stuffed birds
twitter. It was a gruesome thought.

When we bounded in on her, Mary Ellen was dragging the broom feebly
across the gigantic green-and-red lilies of the carpet, her bare red
arms moving like listless antennæ. She could, when she willed, work
vigorously and well; but no one knew when a heavy mood might seize her,
and render her as useless as was compatible with retaining her
situation.

'Och, byes!' she groaned, leaning on her broom. 'This spring weather do
be makin' me as wake as a blind kitten! Sure, I feel this mornin' like
as if I’d a stone settin' on my stomach, an’ me head feels as light as
thistledown. I wisht the missus’d fergit to come home an’ I could take a
day off--but there’s no such luck for Mary Ellen!'

She made a few more passes with her broom and then sighed.

'I think I’ll soon be leavin' this place,' she said.

A vision of the house without the cheering presence of Mary Ellen rose
blackly before us. We crowded round her.

'Now, see here,' said Angel masterfully, putting his arms about her
stout waist. 'You know perfectly well that father’s coming back from
South America soon to make a home for us, and that you are to come and
be our cook, and make apple-dumplings, and have all the followers you
like.'

Now Angel knew whereof he spoke, for Mary Ellen’s 'followers' were a
bone of contention between her and her mistress.

'Aw, Master Angel,' she expostulated, 'what a tongue ye have in yer head
to be sure! Followers, is it? Sure, they’re the bane o' me life! Now git
out o' the way o' the dust, all of yez, or I’ll put a tin ear on ye!'
And she began to swing her broom vigorously.

We ran to the window and looked out; but no sooner had we looked out
than we whistled with astonishment at what we saw.

But first, I must tell you that the street on which we lived ran east
and west. On the corner to the west of Mrs. Handsomebody’s house was the
gray old cathedral; next to it was the Bishop’s house, of gray stone
also; then a pair of dingy, white brick houses exactly alike. In one of
these we lived with Mrs. Handsomebody, and the other was the home of Mr.
and Mrs. Mortimer Pegg and their three servants.

To us they seemed very elegant, if somewhat uninteresting people. Mrs.
Mortimer Pegg frequently had carriage callers, and not seldom sallied
forth herself in a sedate victoria from the livery stables. But beyond
an occasional flutter of excitement when their horses stopped at our
very gate, there was little in this prim couple to interest us. So neat
and precise were they as they tripped down the street together, that we
called them (out of Mrs. Handsomebody’s hearing) Mr. and Mrs. 'Cribbage
Pegg.'

Now, on this morning in early spring when we looked out of the window,
our eyes discovered an object of such compelling interest in the Peggs'
front garden that we rubbed them again to make sure that we were broad
awake.

Striding up and down the small enclosure was a tall old man wearing a
brilliant-hued, flowered dressing-gown that hung open at the neck,
disclosing his long brown throat and hairy chest, and flapped
negligently about his heels as he strode.

He had bushy iron-gray hair and moustache, and tufts of curly gray beard
grew around his chin and ears. His nose was large and sunburned; and
every now and again he would stop in his caged-animal walk and sniff the
air as though he liked it.

I liked the old gentleman from the start.

'Oo-o! See the funny old man!' giggled The Seraph. 'Coat like Jacob an’
his bwethern!'

Angel and I plied Mary Ellen with questions. Who was he? Did he live
with the Peggs? Did she think he was a foreigner?

Mary Ellen, supported by her broom, stared out of the window.

'For th' love of Hiven!' she ejaculated. 'If that ain’t a sight now!
Byes, it’s Mr. Pegg’s own father come home from somewheres in th'
Indies. Their cook was tellin' me of the time they have wid him. He’s a
bit light-headed, y' see, an’ has all his meals in his own room--th'
quarest dishes iver--an’ a starlin' for a pet, mind ye!'

At that moment the old gentleman perceived that he was watched, and
saluting Mary Ellen gallantly, he called out,--

'Good morning, madam!'

Mary Ellen, covered with confusion, drew back behind the curtain. I was
about to make a suitable reply when I saw Mrs. Mortimer Pegg, herself,
emerge from her house with a very red face, and resolutely grasp her
father-in-law’s arm. She spoke to him in a rapid undertone, and, after a
moment’s hesitation, he followed her meekly into the house.

How I sympathized with him! I knew only too well the humiliation
experienced by the helpless male when overbearing woman drags him
ignominiously from his harmless recreation. A bond of understanding
seemed to be established between us at once.

The voice of Mary Ellen broke in on my reverie. She was teasing Angel to
sing.

'Aw, give us a chune, Master Angel, before th' missus gets back! There’s
a duck! I 'll give ye a pocketful of raisins as sure’s fate!'

Angel was the possessor of a flute-like treble, and he could strum some
sort of accompaniment on the piano to any song. It was Mary Ellen’s
delight on a Saturday morning to pour forth her pent-up feelings in one
of the popular songs, with Angel to keep her on the tune and thump a
chord or two.

It was a risky business. But The Seraph mounted guard at the window
while I pressed my nose against the glass case which held the stuffed
birds, and wondered if by chance any of them had come from South America
where father was.

Tum-te-tum-te-tum, strummed Angel.

    'Casey would waltz with the strawberry blonde,
        And the--band--played--on.'

His sweet reedy tones thrilled the April air.

And Mary Ellen’s voice, robust as the whistle of a locomotive, bursting
with health and spirits, shook the very cobwebs that she had not swept
down.

    'Casey would waltz wid th' strawberry blonde,
        And--the--band--play--don!'

Generally we had a faithful subordinate in The Seraph. He had a rather
sturdy sense of honor. On this spring morning, however, I think that the
singing of Mary Ellen must have dulled his sensibilities, for, instead
of keeping a bright lookout up the street for the dreaded form of Mrs.
Handsomebody, he lolled across the window-sill, dangling a piece of
string, with the April sunshine warming his rounded back.

And as he dangled the string, Mrs. Handsomebody drew nearer and nearer.
She entered the gate--she entered the house--she was in the parlor!

Angel and Mary Ellen had just given their last triumphant shout, when
Mrs. Handsomebody said in a voice of cold fury,--

'Mary Ellen, kindly cease that ribald screaming. David [David is Angel’s
proper name], get up instantly from that piano stool and face me! John,
Alexander, face me!'

We did so tremblingly.

'Now,' said Mrs. Handsomebody, 'you three boys go up to your
bedroom--not to the schoolroom, mind--and don’t let me hear another
sound from you to-day! You shall get no dinner. At four I will come and
discuss your disgraceful conduct with you. Now march!'

She held the door open for us while we filed sheepishly under her arm.
Then the door closed behind us with a decisive bang, and poor Mary Ellen
was left in the torture-chamber with Mrs. Handsomebody and the stuffed
birds.


II

Angel and I scurried up the stairway. We could hear The Seraph panting
as he labored after us.

Once in the haven of our little room, we rolled in a confused heap on
the bed, scuffling indiscriminately. Such a punishment was not new to
us. It was a favorite one with Mrs. Handsomebody, and we had a suspicion
that she relished the fact that so much food was saved when we went
dinnerless. At any rate, we were not allowed to make up the deficiency
at tea-time.

We always passed the hours of our confinement on the bed, for the room
was very small and the one window stared blankly at the window of an
unused room in the Peggs' house, which blankly returned the stare.

But these were not dull times for us. As Elizabethan actors, striding
about their bare stage, conjured up brave pictures of gilded halls or
leafy forest glades, so we little fellows made a castle stronghold of
our bed; or better still, a gallant frigate that sailed beyond the
barren walls into unknown seas of adventure, and anchored at last off
some rocky island where treasure lay hidden among the hills.

What brave fights with pirates there were, when Angel as captain, I as
mate, with The Seraph for a cabin-boy, fought the bloody pirate gangs on
those surf-washed shores, and gained the fight, though far outnumbered!

They were not dull times in that small back room, but gay-colored,
lawless times, when our fancy was let free, and we fought on empty
stomachs, and felt only the wind in our faces, and heard the creak of
straining cordage. What if we were on half-rations!

On this particular morning, however, there was something to be disposed
of before we got to business: to wit, the rank insubordination of The
Seraph. It was not to be dealt with too lightly. Angel sat up with a
disheveled head.

'Get up!' he commanded The Seraph, who obeyed wonderingly.

'Now, my man,' continued Angel, with the scowl that had made him dreaded
the South Seas over, 'have you anything to say for yourself?'

The Seraph hung his head.

'I was on’y danglin' a bit o' stwing,' he murmured.

'String!' repeated Angel, the scowl deepening; 'dangling a bit of
string! You may be dangling yourself at the end of a rope before the sun
sets, my hearty! Here we are without any dinner, all along of you. Now
see here, you’ll go right over into that corner by the window with your
face to the wall and stand there all the time John and I play! An’--an’
you won’t know what we’re doing nor where we’re going nor anything--so
there!'

The Seraph went, weeping bitterly. He hid his face in the dusty lace
window-curtain. He looked very small. I could not help remembering how
father had said we were to take care of him and not make him cry.

Somehow that morning things went ill with the adventure. The savor had
gone out of our play. Two were but a paltry company after all. Where was
the cabin-boy with his trusty dirk, eager to bleed for the cause? Though
we kept our backs rigorously turned to the window, and spoke only in
whispers, neither of us was quite able to forget the presence of that
dejected little figure.

After a bit The Seraph’s whimpering ceased, and what was our surprise to
hear the chuckling laugh with which he was wont to signify his pleasure!

We turned to look at him. His face was pressed to the window, and again
he giggled rapturously.

'What’s up, kid?' we demanded.

'Ole Joseph-an’-his-bwethern,' he sputtered, 'winkin' an’ wavin' hands
wiv me!'

We were at his side like a shot, and there, in the hitherto blank window
of the Peggs' house, stood the old gentleman of the flowered
dressing-gown, laughing and nodding at The Seraph. When he saw us he
made a sign to us to open our window, and at the same instant raised his
own.

It took the three of us to accomplish it, for the window moved
unreadily, being seldom raised, as Mrs. Handsomebody regarded fresh air
much as she regarded a small boy, as something to be kept in its place.

At last the window rose, protesting and creaking, and the next moment we
were face to face with our new acquaintance.

'Hello!' he said, in a loud, jovial voice.

'Hello!' said we; and stared.

He had a strong, weather-beaten face, and wide-open, light eyes, blue
and wild as the sea.

'Hello, boy!' he repeated, looking at Angel. 'What’s your name?'

Now Angel was shy with strangers, so I usually answered questions.

'His name,' I replied then, 'is David Curzon; but mother called him
Angel, so we jus' keep on doing it.'

'Oh,' said the old gentleman. Then he fixed The Seraph with his eye.
'What’s the bantling’s name?'

The Seraph, mightily confused at being called a bantling, giggled
inanely, so I replied again.

'His name is Alexander Curzon, but mother called him The Seraph, so we
jus' keep on doing it too.'

'Um-hm,' assented the old gentleman; 'and you--what’s your name?'

'John,' I replied.

'Oh,' he said, with an odd little smile, 'and what do they keep on
calling _you_?'

'Just John,' I answered firmly, 'nothing else.'

'Who’s your father?' came the next question.

'He’s David Curzon, senior,' I said proudly, 'and he’s in South America
building a railroad, an’ Mrs. Handsomebody used to be his governess when
he was a little boy, so he left us with her; but some day, pretty soon,
I think, he’s coming back to make a really home for us with rabbits an’
puppies an’ pigeons an’ things.'

Our new friend nodded sympathetically. Then, quite suddenly, he asked,--

'Where’s your mother?'

'She’s in heaven,' I answered simply. 'She went there two years ago.'

'Yes,' broke in The Seraph eagerly, 'but she’s comin' back some day to
make a _weally_ home for us.'

'Shut up!' said Angel gruffly, poking him with his elbow.

'The Seraph’s very little,' I explained apologetically; 'he doesn’t
understand.'

The old gentleman put his hand in the pocket of his dressing-gown.

'Bantling,' he said with his droll smile, 'do you like peppermint
bull’s-eyes?'

'Yes,' said The Seraph, 'I like them--one for each of us.'

Whereupon this extraordinary man began throwing us peppermints as fast
as we could catch them. It was surprising how we began to feel at home
with him, as though we had known him for years.

He had traveled all over the world, it seemed, and he brought many
curious things to the window to show us. One of these was a starling,
whose wicker cage he placed on the sill where the sunlight fell.

He had got the bird, he said, from one of the crew of a trading vessel
off the coast of Java. The sailor had brought it all the way from Devon
for company; and he added, 'The brute had put out both its eyes so that
it would learn to talk more readily; so now, you see, the poor little
fellow is quite blind.'

'Blind--blind--blind!' echoed the starling
briskly,--'blind--blind--blind!'

He took it from its cage on his finger. It hopped up his arm till it
reached his cheek, and there it began to peck at his whiskers, crying
all the while in its shrill, lonely tones, 'Blind--blind--blind!'

We three were entranced; and an idea that was swiftly forming in my mind
struggled for expression.

If this wonderful old man had, as he said, sailed the seas from Land’s
End to Ceylon, was it not possible that he had seen, even fought with,
real pirates? Might he not have followed hot on the trail of hidden
treasure? My cheeks burned as I tried to put the question.

'Did you,' I began,--'did you--'

'Well?' he encouraged. 'Did I what, John?'

'Oh, did you,' I burst out, 'ever see a pirate ship, an’ pirates--real
ones?'

His face lit up.

'Surely,' he replied casually, 'many an one.'

'Praps,' ventured Angel, with an excited laugh, 'praps you’re one
yourself!'

The old gentleman searched our eager faces with his wide-open, sea-blue
eyes; then he looked cautiously into the room behind him, and, being
apparently satisfied that no one could overhear, he put his hand to the
side of his mouth, and said in a loud, hoarse whisper,--

'That I am. Pirate as ever was!'

I think you could have knocked me down with a feather. I know my knees
shook and the room reeled. The Seraph was the first to recover, piping
cheerfully,--

'I yike piwates!'

'Yes,' repeated the old gentleman, reflectively, 'pirate as ever was.
The things I’ve seen and done would fill the biggest book you ever saw,
and it’d make your hair stand on end to read it--what with fights, and
murders, and hangings, and storms, and shipwreck, and the hunt for gold!
Many a sweet schooner or frigate I’ve sunk, or taken for myself, and
there isn’t a port on the South Seas where women don’t hush their
children’s crying with the fear of Captain Pegg!'

Then he added hastily, as though he feared he had gone too far,--

'But I’m a changed man, mark you--a reformed man. If things suit me
pretty well here, I don’t think I shall break out again. It is just that
you chaps seem so sympathetic, makes me tell you all this; but you must
swear never to breathe a word of it, for no one knows but you. My son
and daughter-in-law think I’m an archæologist. It’d be an awful shock to
them to find that I’m a pirate.'

We swore the blackest secrecy, and were about to ply him with a hundred
questions, when we saw a maid carrying a large tray enter the room
behind him.

Captain Pegg, as I must now call him, gave us a gesture of warning and
began to lower his window. A pleasant aroma of roast beef came across
the alley. The next instant the flowered dressing-gown had disappeared
and the window opposite stared blankly as before.

Angel drew a deep breath. 'Did you notice,' he said, 'how different he
got once he had told us he was a pirate--wilder and rougher, and used
more sailor words?'

'However did you guess it first?' I asked admiringly.

'I think I know a pirate when I see one,' he returned loftily. 'But oh,
I say, wouldn’t Mrs. Handsomebody be waxy if she knew?'

'An’ wouldn’t Mary Ellen be scared stiff if _she_ knew?'

'An’ won’t we have fun? Hurray!'

We rolled in ecstasy on the much-enduring bed.

We talked excitedly of the possibilities of such a wonderful and
dangerous friendship. And as it turned out, none of our imaginings
equaled what really happened.

The afternoon passed quickly. As the hands of our alarm clock neared the
hour of four we obliterated the traces of our sojourn on the bed as well
as we could; and when Mrs. Handsomebody entered, she found us sitting in
a row in the three cane-bottomed chairs on which we hung our clothes at
night.

The scolding she gave us was even longer and more humiliating to our
manhood than usual. She shook her hard white finger near our faces, and
said that for very little she would write to our father and complain of
our actions.

'Now,' she said, in conclusion, 'give your faces and hands a thorough
washing, and comb your hair, which is disgraceful; then come quietly
down to tea.'

The door closed behind her.

'What beats me,' said Angel, lathering his hands, 'is why that one white
hair on her chin wiggles so when she jaws us. I can’t keep my eyes off
it.'

'It wiggles,' piped The Seraph, as he dragged a brush over his curls,
''cos it’s nervous, an’ I wiggle when she scolds, too, 'cos _I’m_
nervous.'

'Don’t you worry, old man,' Angel responded gayly, 'we’ll take care of
you.'

We were in fine spirits despite our scolding. Indeed, we almost pitied
Mrs. Handsomebody for her ignorance of the wonders among which she had
her being.

Here she was, fussing over some stuffed birds in a glass case, when a
live starling, who could talk, had perched near her very window-sill!
She spent hours in conversation with her Unitarian minister, while a
real pirate lived next door!

It was pitiful, and yet it was very funny. We found it hard to go
quietly down to tea with such thoughts in our minds, and after five
hours in our bedroom.


III

The next day was Sunday.

As we sat at dinner with Mrs. Handsomebody after Morning Service, we
were scarcely conscious of the large white dumplings, that bulged before
us, with a delicious sticky, sweet sauce trickling down their dropsical
sides. We plied our spoons with languid interest around their outer
edges, as calves nibble around a straw stack. Our vagrant minds scoured
the Spanish Main with Captain Pegg.

Suddenly The Seraph spoke in that cocksure way of his.

'There’s a piwate at Pegg’s.'

Mrs. Handsomebody looked at him sharply.

'What’s that?' she demanded.

At the same instant Angel and I kicked him under cover of the
dining-table.

'What did you say?' repeated Mrs. Handsomebody, sternly.

'Funny ole gennelman at the Cwibbage Peggs',' replied The Seraph with
his mouth full.

Mrs. Handsomebody greatly respected Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer Pegg, and this
play of words on the name incensed her.

'Am I to understand, Alexander,' she gobbled, 'that you are making
_game_ of the Mortimer Peggs?'

'Yes,' giggled the wretched Seraph, 'it’s a cwibbage game. You play it
wiv Peggs.'

'Leave the table instantly!' ordered Mrs. Handsomebody. 'You are
becoming unbearable.'

The Seraph cast one anguished look at his dumpling and burst into tears.
We could hear his wails growing ever fainter as he plodded up the
stairs.

'Mary Ellen, remove that dumpling!' commanded Mrs. Handsomebody.

Angel and I began to eat very fast. There was a short silence; then Mrs.
Handsomebody said didactically,--

'The elder Mr. Pegg is a much traveled gentleman, and one of the most
noted archæologists of the day. A trifle eccentric in his manner,
perhaps, but a deep thinker. David, can you tell me what an archæologist
is?'

'Something you pretend you are,' said Angel, 'and you ain’t.'

'Nonsense!' snapped Mrs. Handsomebody. 'Look it up in your Johnson’s
when you go upstairs, and let me know the result. I will excuse you
now.'

We found The Seraph lounging in a chair in the schoolroom.

'Too bad about the dumpling, old boy,' I said consolingly.

'Oh, not too bad,' he replied. 'Mary Ellen fetched it up the back stairs
to me. I’m vewy full.'

That afternoon we saw Captain Pegg go for a walk with his son and
daughter-in-law. He looked quite altered in a long gray coat and tall
hat. Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer Pegg seemed proud to walk with him.

The following day was warm and sunny. When lessons were over we rushed
to our bedroom window, and to our joy we found that the window opposite
was wide open, the wicker cage on the sill, with the starling inside
swelling up and preening himself in the sunshine, while just beyond sat
Captain Pegg smoking a long pipe.

He seemed delighted to see us.

'Avast, my hearties!' he cried. 'It’s glorious sailing weather, but I’ve
just been lying at anchor here, on the chance of sighting you. It does
my heart good, y' see, to talk with some of my own kind, and leave off
pretending to be an archæologist--to stretch my mental legs, as it were.
Well--have you taken your bearings this morning?'

'Captain Pegg,' I broke out with my heart tripping against my blouse,
'you said something the other day about buried treasure. Did you really
find some? And would you mind telling us how you set about it?'

'Yes,' he replied meditatively, 'many a sack of treasure trove I’ve
unearthed. But the most curious find of all, I got without searching and
without blood being spilt. I was lying quiet those days, about forty
years ago, off the north of the Orkney Islands. Well, one morning I took
a fancy to explore some of the outlying rocks and little islands dotted
here and there. So I started off in a yawl with four seamen to row me;
and not seeing much but barren rocks and stunted shrubs about, I bent
over the stern and stared into the sea. It was as clear as crystal.

'As we were passing through a narrow channel between two rocky islands,
I bade the men rest on their oars, for something strange below had
arrested my attention. I now could see plainly, in the green depths, a
Spanish galleon, standing upright, held as in a vice by the grip of the
two great rocks. She must have gone down with all hands, when the
greater part of the Spanish Armada was wrecked on the shores of Britain.

"'Shiver my timbers, lads!" I cried, "here 'll be treasure in earnest!
Back to the ship for our diving-suits! Booty for every one, and plum
duff for dinner!"

'Well, to make a long story short, I and four of the trustiest of the
crew put on our diving-suits, and soon we were walking the slippery
decks once trodden by Spanish grandees and soldiers, and the scene of
many a bloody fight, I’ll be bound. Their skeletons lay about the deck,
wrapped in sea-tangle, and from every crevice of the galleon tall red
and green and yellow and purple weeds had sprung, that waved and
shivered with the motion of the sea. Her decks were strewn with shells
and sand, and in and out of her rotted ribs frightened fish darted at
our approach. It was a gruesome sight.

'Three weeks we worked, carrying the treasure to our own ship, and I
began to feel as much at home under water as above it. At last we set
sail without mishap, and every man on board had his share, and some of
them gave up pirating and settled down as innkeepers and tradesmen.'

As the sound of his deep voice ceased, we three were silent also, gazing
longingly into his eyes, that were so like the sea.

Then--'Captain Pegg,' said Angel, in a still small voice, 'I
don’t--s’pose--you’d know of any hidden treasure hereabouts? We’d most
awfully like to find some. It’d be a jolly thing to write and tell
father!'

A droll smile flickered over the bronzed features of Captain Pegg. He
brought down his fist on the window-sill.

'Well, if you aren’t chaps after my own heart!' he cried. 'Treasure
about here? I was just coming to that--and a most curious happening it
is! There was a cabin-boy,--name of Jenks,--a lad that I trusted and
loved like my own son, who stole the greater part of my share of the
treasure, and though I scoured the globe for him,'--the captain’s eyes
rolled fiercely,--'I found neither trace of him nor the treasure, till
two years ago. It was in Madagascar that I received a message from a
dying man, confessing that, shaken by remorse, he had brought what was
left of the plunder and buried it in Mrs. Handsomebody’s back yard.'

'Mrs. Handsomebody’s back yard!' We chanted the words in utter
amazement.

'Just that,' affirmed Captain Pegg solemnly. 'Jenks found out that I
owned the house next door, but he dared not bury the treasure there
because the yard was smoothly sodded, and would show up any disturbance;
while Mrs. H.'s yard, being covered with planks, was just the thing. So
he simply raised one of the planks, dug a hole, and deposited the sack
containing the last of the treasure, and wrote me his confession. And
there you are!'

He smiled benignly on us. I longed to hug him.

The wind swooped and whistled down the alley, and the starling gave
little sharp twittering noises and cocked his head.

'When, oh, when?' we burst out; 'to-night? May we search for it
to-night, Captain Pegg?'

He reflected. 'No-o. Not to-night. Jenks, you see, sent me a plan of the
yard, with a cross to mark where the treasure lies, and I’ll have to
hunt it up so as not to waste our time turning up the whole yard. But
to-morrow night--yes, to-morrow at midnight we’ll start the search!'


IV

At dinner that day the rice-pudding had the flavor of ambrosia. By
night-fall preparations were already on foot.

First, the shovel had been smuggled from the coal-cellar and secreted in
a corner of the yard behind the ash-barrel, together with an iron
crowbar to use as a lever, and an empty sack to aid in the removal of
the treasure.

I scarcely slept that night; and when I did, my mind was filled with
wild imaginings. The next morning we were heedless scholars indeed, and
at dinner I ate so little that Mrs. Handsomebody was moved to remark
jocularly that somebody not a thousand miles away was shaping for a
bilious bout.

At four o’clock Captain Pegg appeared at his window, looking the picture
of cheerful confidence. He said it warmed his heart to be at his old
profession again, and indeed I never saw a merrier twinkle in any one’s
eyes. He had found the plan of the yard sent by Jenks, and he had no
doubt that we should soon be in possession of the Spanish treasure.

'But there’s one thing, my lads,' he said solemnly: 'I make no claim
whatever to any share in this booty. Let that be understood. Anything we
find is to be yours entirely. If I were to take any such goods into my
son’s house, his wife would get suspicious, and uncomfortable questions
would be asked, and it’d be all up with this archæologist business.'

'Couldn’t you hide it under your bed?' I suggested.

'Oh, she’d be sure to find it,' he replied sadly. 'She’s into
everything. And even if they didn’t locate it till I am dead, they’d
feel disgraced to think their father had been a pirate. You’ll have to
take it.'

We agreed, therefore, to ease him of the responsibility of his strangely
gotten gain. We then parted, with the understanding that we were to meet
him in the alley between the two houses promptly at midnight, and that
in the meantime, we were to preserve a calm and commonplace demeanor.

With the addition of four crullers and a slab of cold bread pudding
filched from the pantry, our preparations were now complete.

We were well-disciplined little animals; we always went to bed without a
murmur, but on this night we literally flew there. The Seraph ended his
prayers with--'And for this piwate tweasure make us twuly thankful.
Amen.'

The next moment we had dived under the bedclothes and snuggled there in
wild expectancy.

From half-past seven to twelve is a long stretch. The Seraph slept
peacefully. Angel or I rose every little while and struck a match to
look at the clock. At nine we were so hungry that we ate all four
crullers. At eleven we ate the slab of cold bread pudding. After that we
talked less, and I think Angel dozed, but I lay staring in the direction
of the window, watching for the brightness which would signify that
Captain Pegg was astir and had lighted his gas.

At last it came--a pale and trembling messenger, that showed our little
room to me in a new aspect--one of mystery and grotesque shadows.

I was on my feet in an instant. I shook Angel’s shoulder.

'Up with you!' I whispered, hoarsely. 'The hour has come!'

I knew that drastic measures must be taken with The Seraph, so I just
grasped him under the armpits and stood him on his feet without a word.
He wobbled for a space, digging his knuckles in his eyes.

The hands of the clock pointed to ten minutes to twelve.

Angel and I hastily pulled on our trousers; and he, who liked to dress
the part, stuck a knife in his belt and twisted a scarlet silk
handkerchief (borrowed from Mary Ellen) round his head. His dark eyes
glistened under its folds.

The Seraph and I went unadorned, save that he girt his trusty sword
about his stout middle and I carried a toy bayonet.

Down the inky-black stairs we crept, scarcely breathing. The lower hall
seemed cavernous. I could smell the old carpets and the haircloth
covering of the chairs. We sidled down the back hall among goloshes,
umbrellas, and Turk’s-head dusters. The back door had a key like that of
a jail.

Angel tried it with both hands, but though it grated horribly, it stuck.
Then I had a try, and could not resist a triumphant click of the tongue
when it turned, for Angel was a vain fellow and took a rise out of being
the elder.

And when the moonlight shone upon us in the yard!--oh, the delicious
freedom of it! We hopped for joy.

In the alley we awaited our leader. Between the houses we could see the
low half-moon, hanging like a tilted bird’s nest in the dark-blue sky,
while a group of stars fluttered near it like young birds. The cathedral
chimes sounded the hour of midnight.

Soon we heard the stealthy steps of Captain Pegg, and we gasped as we
saw him; for in place of his flowered dressing-gown he wore breeches and
top boots, a loose shirt with a blue neckerchief knotted at the throat,
and, gleaming at his side, a cutlass.

He smiled broadly when he saw us.

'Well, if you aren’t armed--every man-jack of you--even to the
bantling!' he cried. 'Capital!'

'My sword, she’s _weal_,' said The Seraph with dignity. 'Sometimes I
fight giants.'

Captain Pegg then shook hands with each of us in turn, and we thrilled
at being treated as an equal by such a man.

'And now to work!' he said, heartily. 'Here is the plan of the yard as
sent by Jenks.'

We could see it plainly by the moonlight, all neatly drawn out, even to
the ash-barrel and the clothes-dryer, and there, on the fifth plank from
the end, was a cross in red ink, and beside it the magic
word--'Treasure'!

Captain Pegg inserted the crowbar in a wide crack between the fourth and
fifth boards, then we all pressed our full weight upon it with a 'Yo
heave ho, my hearties!' from our chief.

The board flew up and we flew down, sprawling on the ground. Somehow the
captain, being versed in such matters, kept his feet, though he
staggered a bit.

Then, in an instant, we were pulling wildly at the plank to dislodge it.
This we accomplished after much effort, and a dark, dank recess was
disclosed.

Captain Pegg dropped to his knees, and with his hand explored cautiously
under the planks. His face fell.

'Shiver my timbers if I can find it!' he muttered.

'Let me try!' I cried eagerly.

Both Angel and I thrust our hands in also and fumbled among the moist
lumps of earth.

Captain Pegg now lighted a match and held it in the aperture. It cast a
glow upon our tense faces.

'Hold it closer!' implored Angel. 'This way--right here--don’t you see?'

At the same moment we both had seen the heavy metal ring that projected,
ever so little, above the surface of the earth. We grasped it
simultaneously and pulled. Captain Pegg lighted another match. It was
heavy--oh, so heavy!--but we got it out: a fair-sized leather bag bound
with thongs. To one of these was attached the ring we had first caught
sight of.

Now, kneeling as we were, we stared up in Captain Pegg’s face. His wide
blue eyes had somehow got a different look.

'Little boys,' he said gently, 'open it!

There in the moonlight, we unloosed the fastening of the bag and turned
its contents out upon the bare boards. The treasure lay disclosed then,
a glimmering heap, as if, out of the dank earth, we had digged a patch
of moonshine.

We squatted on the boards around it, our heads touching, our wondering
eyes filled with the magic of it.

'It is treasure,' murmured Angel, in an awe-struck voice, 'real treasure
trove. Will you tell us, Captain Pegg, what all these things are?'

Captain Pegg, squatting like the rest of us, ran his hands meditatively
through the strange collection.

'Why, strike me purple,' he growled, 'if that scamp Jenks hasn’t kept
most of the gold coins and left us only the silver! But here’s three
golden doubloons, all right, one apiece for ye! And here’s ducats and
silver florins, and pieces of eight--and some I can’t name till I get
the daylight on them. It’s a pretty bit of treasure all told; and see
here--'

He held up two old Spanish watches, just the thing for gentlemen
adventurers.

We boys were now delving into the treasure on our own account, and
brought to light a brace of antiquated pistols, an old silver flagon, a
compass, a wonderful set of chessmen carved from ivory, and some curious
shells, that delighted The Seraph. And other quaint things there were
that we handled reverently, and coins of different countries, square and
round, and some with holes bored through.

We were so intent upon our discovery that none of us heard the
approaching footsteps till they were fair upon us. Then, with a start,
we turned, and saw to our horror Mrs. Handsomebody and Mary Ellen, with
her hair in curl-papers, and close behind them, Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer
Pegg, scantily attired, the gentleman carrying a revolver.

'David! John! Alexander!' gobbled Mrs. Handsomebody.

'Now what d’ye think of that!' came from Mary Ellen.

'Father! Have you gone quite mad?' cried Mrs. Pegg. And--'Oh, I say,
governor,' stammered the gentleman with the revolver.

Captain Pegg rose to his feet with dignity.

'These young gentlemen,' he said, simply, 'have with my help been able
to locate some buried treasure, which was stolen from me years ago by a
man named Jenks, and has lain hidden here since two decades. I hereby
renounce all claim to it in favor of my three brave friends!'

Mr. Pegg was bent over the treasure.

'Now, look here, sir,' he said, rather sharply, 'some of this seems to
be quite valuable stuff--'

'I know the value of it to a penny,' replied his father, with equal
asperity, 'and I intend that it shall belong solely and wholly to these
boys.'

'Whatever are you rigged up like that for?' demanded his
daughter-in-law.

'As gentlemen of spirit,' replied Captain Pegg, patiently, 'we chose to
dress the part. We do what we can to keep a little glamour and gayety in
the world. Some folk'--he looked at Mrs. Handsomebody--'would like to
discipline it all away.'

'I think,' said our governess, 'that considering it is _my_ back yard, I
have some claim to--'

'None at all, madam--none at all!' interrupted Captain Pegg. 'By all the
rules of treasure-hunting, the finder keeps the treasure.'

Mrs. Handsomebody was silenced. She did not wish to quarrel with the
Peggs.

Mrs. Pegg moved closer to her.

'Mrs. Handsomebody,' she said, winking her white eyelashes very fast, 'I
really do not think that you should allow your pupils to accept
this--er--treasure. My father-in-law has become very eccentric of late,
and I am positive that he himself buried these things very recently.
Only day before yesterday, I saw that set of ivory chessmen on his
writing-table.'

'Hold your tongue, Sophia!' shouted Captain Pegg loudly.

Mr. Mortimer Pegg looked warningly at his wife.

'All right, governor! Don’t you worry,' he said, taking his father’s
arm. 'It shall be just as you say; but one thing is certain, you’ll take
your death of cold if you stay out in this night air.'

As he spoke, he turned up the collar of his coat.

Captain Pegg shook hands with a grand air with Angel and me, then he
lifted The Seraph in his arms and kissed him.

'Good-night, bantling!' he said, softly. 'Sleep tight!'

He turned then to his son.

'Mort,' said he, 'I haven’t kissed a little boy like that since you were
just so high.'

Mr. Pegg laughed and shivered, and they went off quite amiably, arm in
arm, Mrs. Pegg following, muttering to herself.

Mrs. Handsomebody looked disparagingly at the treasure. 'Mary Ellen,'
she ordered, 'help the children to gather up that rubbish, and come in
at once! Such an hour it is!'

Mary Ellen, with many exclamations, assisted in the removal of the
treasure to our bedroom. Mrs. Handsomebody, after seeing it deposited
there, and us safely under the bedclothes, herself extinguished the gas.

'I shall write to your father,' she said, severely, 'and tell him the
whole circumstance. _Then_ we shall see what is to be done with _you_,
and with the _treasure_.'

With this veiled threat she left us. We snuggled our little bodies
together. We were cold.

'I’ll write to father myself, to-morrow, an’ ’splain everything,' I
announced.

'D’ you know,' mused Angel, 'I b’lieve I’ll be a pirate, ’stead of a
civil engineer like father. I b’lieve there’s more in it.'

'I’ll be an engineer just the same,' said I.

'I fink,' murmured The Seraph, sleepily, 'I fink I’ll jus’ be a bishop,
an’ go to bed at pwoper times an’ have poached eggs for tea.'



THE PRINCESS OF MAKE-BELIEVE

ANNIE HAMILTON DONNELL


THE Princess was washing dishes. On her feet she would barely have
reached the rim of the great dish-pan, but on the soap-box she did very
well. A grimy calico apron trailed to the floor.

'Now this golden platter I must wash _extry_ clean,' the Princess said.
'The Queen is ve-ry particular about her golden platters. Last time,
when I left one o' the corners,--it’s such a nextremely heavy platter to
hold,--she gave me a scold,--oh, I mean,--I mean she tapped me a little
love pat on my cheek with her golden spoon.'

It was a great brown-veined stoneware platter, and the arms of the
Princess ached with holding it. Then, in an unwary instant, it slipped
out of her soapsudsy little fingers and crashed to the floor. Oh! oh!
the Queen! the Queen! She was coming! The Princess heard her shrill,
angry voice, and felt the jar of her heavy steps. There was the space of
an instant--an instant is so short!--before the storm broke.

'You little limb o' Satan! That’s my best platter, is it? Broke all to
bits, eh? I’ll break'--But there was a flurry of dingy apron and dingier
petticoats, and the little Princess had fled. She did not stop till she
was in her Secret Place among the willows. Her small lean face was pale,
but undaunted.

'Th-the Queen isn’t feeling very well to-day,' she panted. 'It’s
wash-day up at the Castle. She never enjoys herself on wash-days. And
then that golden platter--I’m sorry I smashed it all to flinders! When
the Prince comes I shall ask him to buy another.'

The Prince had never come, but the Princess waited for him patiently.
She sat with her face to the west and looked for him to come through the
willows with the red sunset light filtering across his hair. That was
the way the Prince was coming, though the time was not set. It might be
a good while before he came, and then again--you never could tell!

'But when he does, and we’ve had a little while to get acquainted, then
I shall say to him, "Hear, O Prince, and give ear to my--my petition!
For verily, verily, I have broken many golden platters and jasper cups
and saucers, and the Queen, long live her! is sore--sore--"'

The Princess pondered for the forgotten word. She put up a little lean
brown hand and rubbed a tingling spot on her temple--ah, not the Queen!
It was the Princess--long live her!--who was 'sore.'

'"I beseech thee, O Prince," I shall say, "buy new golden platters and
jasper cups and saucers for the Queen, and then shall I verily, verily
be--be--"'

Oh, the long words--how they slipped out of reach! The little Princess
sighed rather wearily. She would have to rehearse that speech so many
times before the Prince came. Suppose he came to-night! Suppose she
looked up now, this minute, toward the golden west, and he was there,
swinging along through the willow canes toward her!

But there was no one swinging along through the willows. The yellow
light flickered through--that was all. Somewhere, a long way off,
sounded the monotonous hum of men’s voices. Through the lace-work of
willow twigs there showed the faintest possible blur of color. Down
beyond, in the clearing, the Castle Guards in blue jean blouses were
pulling stumps. The Princess could not see their dull, passionless
faces, and she was glad of it. The Castle Guards depressed her. But they
were not as bad as the Castle Guardesses. _They_ were mostly old women
with bleared, dim eyes, and they wore such faded--silks.

'_My_ silk dress is rather faded,' murmured the little Princess
wistfully.

She smoothed down the scant calico skirt with her brown little fingers.
The patch in it she would not see.

'I shall have to have the Royal Dressmaker make me another one soon. Let
me see--what color shall I choose? I’d _like_ my gold-colored velvet
made up. I’m tired of wearing royal purple dresses all the time, though
of course I know they’re appropriater. I wonder what color the Prince
would like best? I should rather choose that color.'

The Princess’s little brown hands were clasped about one knee, and she
was rocking herself slowly back and forth, her eyes, wistful and wide,
on the path the Prince would come. She was tired to-day and it was
harder to wait.

'But when he comes I shall say, "Hear, O Prince. Verily, verily, I did
not know which color you would like to find me dressed--I mean
arrayed--in, and so I beseech thee excuse--_pardon_, I mean, mine
infirmity."'

The Princess was not sure of 'infirmity,' but it sounded well. She could
not think of a better word.

'And then--I _think_ then--he will take me in his arms, and his face
will be all sweet and splendid like the Mother o' God’s in the picture,
and he will whisper,--I don’t think he will say it out loud,--oh, I’d
rather not!--"Verily, Princess," he will whisper, "oh, verily, _verily_,
thou hast found favor in my sight!" And that will mean that he doesn’t
care what color I am, for he--loves--me.'

Lower and lower sank the solemn voice of the Princess. Slower and slower
rocked the little lean body. The birds themselves stopped singing at the
end. In the Secret Place it was very still.

'Oh, no, no, no,--not _verily_!' breathed the Princess, in soft awe.
For the wonder of it took her breath away. She had never in her life
been loved, and now, at this moment, it seemed so near! She thought she
heard the footsteps of the Prince.

They came nearer. The crisp twigs snapped under his feet. He was
whistling.

'Oh, I can’t look!--I can’t!' gasped the little Princess, but she turned
her face to the west,--she had always known it would be from the
west,--and lifted closed eyes to his coming. When he got to the Twisted
Willow she might dare to look--to the Little Willow Twins, anyway.

'And I shall know when he does,' she thought. 'I shall know the minute!'

Her face was rapt and tender. The miracle she had made for herself,--the
gold she had coined out of her piteous alloy,--was it not come true at
last?--Verily, verily?

Hush! Was the Prince not coming through the willows? And the sunshine
was trickling down on his hair! The Princess knew, though she did not
look.

'He is at the Twisted Willow,' she thought. '_Now_ he is at the Little
Willow Twins.'

But she did not open her eyes. She did not dare. This was a little
different, she had never counted on being afraid.

The twigs snapped louder and nearer--now very near. The merry whistle
grew clearer, and then it stopped.

'Hullo!'

Did princes say 'Hullo!'

The Princess had little time to wonder, for he was there before her. She
could feel his presence in every fibre of her trembling little being,
though she would not open her eyes for very fear that it might be
somebody else. No, no, it was the Prince! It was his voice, clear and
ringing, as she had known it would be. She put up her hands suddenly and
covered her eyes with them to make surer. It was not fear now, but a
device to put off a little longer the delight of seeing him.

'I say, hullo! Haven’t you got any tongue?'

'Oh, verily, verily,--I mean hear, O Prince, I beseech,' she panted.

The boy’s merry eyes regarded the shabby small person in puzzled
astonishment. He felt an impulse to laugh and run away, but his royal
blood forbade either. So he waited.

'You are the Prince,' the little Princess cried. 'I’ve been waiting the
longest time,--but I knew you’d come,' she added simply. 'Have you got
your velvet an’ gold buckles on? I’m goin' to look in a minute, but I’m
waiting to make it spend.'

The Prince whistled softly. 'No,' he said then, 'I didn’t wear _them_
clo’es to-day. You see, my mother--'

'The Queen,' she interrupted; 'you mean the Queen?'

'You bet I do! She’s a reg’lar-builter! Well, she don’t like to have me
wearin' out my best clo’es every day,' he said gravely.

'No,' eagerly, 'nor mine don’t. Queen, I mean,--but she isn’t a mother,
mercy, no! I only wear silk dresses every day, not my velvet ones. This
silk one is getting a little faded.'

She released one hand to smooth the dress wistfully. Then she remembered
her painfully practiced little speech and launched into it hurriedly.

'Hear, O Prince. Verily, verily, I did not know which color you 'd like
to find me dressed in--I mean _arrayed_. I beseech thee to excuse--oh,
_pardon_, I mean--'

But she got no further. She could endure the delay no longer, and her
eyes flew open.

She had known his step; she had known his voice. She knew his face. It
was terribly freckled, and she had not expected freckles on the face of
the Prince. But the merry, honest eyes were the Prince’s eyes. Her gaze
wandered downward to the home-made clothes and bare, brown legs, but
without uneasiness. The Prince had explained about his clothes.
Suddenly, with a shy, glad little cry, the Princess held out her hands
to him.

The royal blood flooded the face of the Prince and filled in all the
spaces between its little gold-brown freckles. But the Prince held out
his hand to her. His lips formed for words and she thought he was going
to say, 'Verily, Princess, thou hast found favor--'

'Le’ ’s go fishin',' the Prince said.



THE TWO APPLES

JAMES EDMUND DUNNING


WHEN the morning of the sixteenth day broke out from the gray
battlements to the east’ard, only two live men remained on the raft
which more than two weeks before had left the splintered side of the
barkentine; besides, there was one dead man, and his body counted three
out of a dozen who had clung to the raft until ten starved to death
because they could not live on red apples and brine.

Zadoc roused as much as a man can when every morning he wakens less and
less until some day he does not waken at all. Jeems lay staring at the
sun as at a stranger’s face.

'Turn out, Jeems,' said Zadoc, when he had worked some life back into
his thickening tongue, 'till we put him over.'

They rolled the body into the sea with no words or ceremonials to mark
the end, except that Jeems, when some part of the splash stung his face,
struck off the drops with trembling, horrified hands.

'Two apples left,' said Zadoc, not in any tentative sounding of
possibilities, but with finality forced home by a fact so plain and near
as to render evasion needless.

'One for to-day,' said Jeems, 'the--the other one for to-morrow.'

'The _last_ one for to-morrow!' returned Zadoc, bold as ever. 'Let us
wait as long as we can before breakfast!'

The raft drifted many hours, following the sun around the fatal, empty
bowl. Jeems broke that vast silence.

'Zadoc, I must eat something. My head is--you know--my head!'

'So does mine,' said Zadoc. 'Cut the first apple in two.'

It takes so little to satisfy, when one is starving, and that little
goes so very fast! When Zadoc put his furred teeth into half the first
apple, it was as if he had not tasted such since he left Cape Cod a
dozen years before. His mind, strained with a long, unrealized hope,
forgot the timbers on which his bent muscles clung, and went back to an
orchard he had known--where such apples always grew. The cool air from
the shadows underneath the tree-rows seemed interlaid with waves of heat
and the loved odors of the sunlit seaside farm,--that long slope from
the meadow land up, up and up beneath the slant uncertain fence to where
the white top-sides of the house were vividly set off in green,--till
Zadoc came to himself and understood that the smell was only the damp
breath of the Atlantic, and the heat the plunging agony which flowed
from his own tense heart. The first apple was gone.

The two men’s eyes conversed in brief. Then Zadoc said,--

'I’m going to sleep again, if it _is_ sleep. Anyway, I’m tired. Can you
stay up a while?'

'It’s my trick,' consented Jeems.

Neither spoke of the approaching end, but when they had sat staring at
each other a time,--for mad men’s minds move with but a mock agility,
Zadoc said,--

'Put the second apple under the tin cup in the middle of the raft, and
keep it there.'

When the apple was safe, Zadoc held out his right hand.

'Until I wake, Jeems!' he said.

'It is safe there,' was the answer.

And Zadoc lay down on the soggy timbers, satisfied, with faith in the
honor of his starving mate.

To Jeems, who watched, the sea looked as never in his life before. For
years he had enslaved it. As a tough Mount Desert fisher-boy, he had
bound it to his childish will; and in many later years afloat had thrown
back its innumerable challenges with all contempt until the Last Time.
In sailors' lives, birth and the marriage-day bow down to the Last Time.
It always comes, when Fortune or the years have made them blindly bold.

His courage fled before the onslaught of these terrible seas which, high
above the level of his blurring eyes, swept up in a torturous parade, as
if Death maddened his victims by passing his grand divisions in review.

Besides, the pain of hunger so outgrew all reason! It cut through the
man’s thin body like the blade of a great and sudden sorrow in one’s
heart, through and through, ever returning, never going!

A greater sea than the others rolled underneath the raft, and shook the
loose boards so that the tin dipper rolled on its inverted rim, and then
fell tinkling back again. Jeems crawled to where he could lift the
dipper and see beneath. The second apple lay secure, its plump sides a
shocking contrast to the terrors of the raft. Jeems looked hard. A cruel
pain shot from his throat to his heels in a tearing red-hot spiral. The
first apple had so cooled his mouth! Water began running off Jeems’s
chin. If he could only run his fingers down those rounding sides, maybe
they would catch some of the orchard smell.

Jeems clapped the dipper down with a sudden muscular fury, and kicked
Zadoc into sense with such vigor that he fell exhausted from the effort.

'I was so lonesome, I thought I might go off,' he explained, adding,
'Zadoc, what’s your family?'

'Five and the wife, God help 'em,' said Zadoc, not dramatically either,
but just dully, as if it was what his mind had grown to know very much
better than anything else. 'Have you?'

'No,' said Jeems. 'Years ago, I called on a pretty girl over to
Somesville, but nothing came of it.'

'Just as well now,' said Zadoc coldly; adding, half in dream, 'I
recollect _all_ them Somesville girls was pretty. 'Lizabeth come from
there.'

'Who?' asked Jeems.

''Lizabeth,--the wife,--why, she was your sister, Jeems!'

'So she was! I forgot!'

Many madmen speak in the past tense at the stage where they seem to look
back on their proper selves.

The sun neared the west.

'Lie down again,' said Jeems; 'I’ll watch.'

'Any sail--that time before?'

'No sail, Zadoc.'

The wind dropped near night, and Jeems lay on the raft with eyes that
glowed back the red reflection of the setting sun. As it moved toward
the liquid line of sea, its brilliance fell into the smother of a cloud
through which its sides shone with the softened, satin polish of the
second apple as Jeems last saw it. The thought struck him in the middle
of his heart, which began leaping as when, at nineteen, a girl’s smooth
fingers lingered on his own. He hungered for sight of the second apple
as for nothing else in the whole of the world before. He wished the raft
might roll so violently as to throw off the dipper, and then, before he
realized, his own foot had kicked it into the ocean and the apple smiled
before him, securely laid between two great planks at the bottom of the
raft. Zadoc slept. Jeems was alone with the second apple!

He looked at it between caked lids and let his eyes rove over and over
its rare beauties. For the first time since he was born, his whole
being--the knotted body whose abundant energies had been quite absorbed
by the arduous doings of his roving life, and the big heart of him
where the rich red of the blood was pent and packed with never a bit of
an outlet for relief--thrilled with the keen, delicious mystery of
Desire. His meagre lips, crackling like snake-skin, repeated in
monotone, as if to hold his conscience under some mesmeric charm, 'I
must! I must!'

The mere thought of the cool heart of the fruit made his pulse spring as
if whipped. To imagine the exquisite satisfaction which would follow his
teeth as they sank slowly, slowly--sank farther and farther through
those moistening walls until, at the very acme of delight, they met!
Christ! He was on it in an instant, holding it with both hands and not
lifting it, but just putting his face down and keeping it so in a
passionate embrace. He _would_ eat, if he died for it. He _must_--

''Lizabeth!' It was Zadoc, dreaming.

''Lizabeth! Good old girl. Good girl. Bye-bye, home at sundown. Good
old, good--ah-h-h-h!'

The voice fell away in an idiotic sigh. Jeems sprang to his feet and
stood swaying with the raft, the image of his sister in his eyes. Off
east, where the gray shades grew, he saw her walking on the sea, her
long hair blown before, like a cloud of jet-black flame, and her face
all lovely.

''Lizabeth!' Jeems spread his arms; but she did not see him, for she
looked at Zadoc as he lay there at her brother’s feet, and her eyes
rained love, which calmed the sea like oil.

And then Jeems saw himself as if from far. ''Lizabeth!' he cried; but
she did not hear, so he held his two arms up toward the sky and
whispered, 'God, God, _God_! Forgive Jeems Harbutt, a wicked
sinner,--and take him,'--his voice sank to a low, unhuman key,--'and
lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the
kingdom and the power and the glory, forever--O God!'

And with arms still raised in suppliance for his great unselfish soul,
he sprang out backward to the darkening sea.



THE PURPLE STAR

BY REBECCA HOOPER EASTMAN


I

WHEN the Fifth Graders returned in the fall, they knew, to a boy and a
girl, that they were to go to Room H, and they knew, too, that by
passing over the threshold they would automatically become the elderly
and dignified Sixth Grade. Proud and disdainful were Sixth Graders, in
that they carried the largest geographies made; highly pedantic, too,
were they, because they coped with mysterious institutions called
fractions, which occupied the clean, unexplored back part of one’s
arithmetic. Fearsomely learned were they in words of seven, eight, and
nine syllables. To be one of such was to be indeed Grown Up. When the
new class, half-timorous, and wholly suspicious, entered Room H, they
were startled to find their thirty names already written in a neat
column on the blackboard, with an imperative 'DO NOT ERASE' underneath.
How on earth had Miss Prawl found out their names?

It was hard for Theodora Bowles to take her seat inconspicuously, as if
she were no better than stupid Freddy Beal; as if, in fact, she had not
been for five years the leader of the class. Theodora, however, was not
nearly so obscure as she supposed; for Miss Prawl, in secret session
with the Fifth-Grade teacher, had been informed that Theodora was so
quick-witted that she usually called out the answer before the teacher
had finished putting the question. Furthermore, whenever the class was
asked to recite in concert, she invariably shouted the answer first, and
then the rest of the class repeated what Theodora had said, and were
therefore always right. The fact that she knew more than any one but the
teacher had made Theodora’s life one delightful arrogance of
intellectual supremacy. Pretending that she was royalty in disguise,
Theodora gazed impatiently at Miss Prawl, and wondered how long it would
be before the new teacher found out how bright she was.

After all the children were located at desks corresponding to the ones
they had occupied in Grades Five, Four, Three, Two, and One, Miss Prawl
opened a drawer of her shiny, spotless desk, and took out a box which
proved to contain six new pieces of different-colored chalk, lying side
by side. The combination of the bright colors was so alluring that every
child immediately resolved to save up for just such an outfit, in order
to play hopscotch in colors. With every eager eye riveted upon her, Miss
Prawl took out the piece of pink chalk, and made a very beautiful pink
star on the blackboard, directly after Stella Appleton’s name. Stella,
it may be said, always had a good deal of undeserved prominence, because
her name began with an A.

'If, at the end of the week, Stella or any one of the rest of you is
perfect in spelling, that person will get a pink star after his name,'
announced Miss Prawl. And she put away the pink chalk, and drew a
blue-chalk star after Freddy Beal’s name. 'You will all receive blue
stars if you are perfect in arithmetic,' she continued. 'And yellow--'
she drew a yellow star--'yellow is for perfect geography. Green'--she
made a green star--'green is for perfect reading; and red--'Miss Prawl
paused impressively--'red is for perfect deportment.'

After this entrancing monologue, Miss Prawl rubbed out the explanatory
stars, replaced the chalk carefully in the box, and waited. Theodora’s
hand at once shot up into the air.

'Well?' asked Miss Prawl.

'My-name’s-Theodora-Bowles,' said Theodora. 'And there’s a piece of
purple chalk in your box, Miss Prawl, that you didn’t say anything
about. And so I wondered if you hadn’t forgotten to tell us about purple
stars.'

The whole class leaned forward in breathless expectancy, proud of their
discerning Theodora.

'I am very glad that you asked me this question, Theodora,' said Miss
Prawl. 'I keep the purple chalk for a very special, wonderful
reason.'Thirty pairs of glistening eyes grew rounder. 'The purple star,'
said Miss Prawl, in a hushed voice, 'is the greatest reward that I can
bestow on any girl or boy. It is given only for some very great deed:
for some deed which shall show that the girl or boy is either very brave
or very kind, or both. Although I have seen a great many fine girls and
boys, it has never happened that I felt that the right time had come to
give any one a purple star. But perhaps this will be purple-star year.'

Theodora listened with a great dawning worship in her eyes. How exciting
it was of Miss Prawl to set up such an impossibly high standard! And how
altogether interesting Miss Prawl was, too! Her eyes seemed much given
to dancing and twinkling; her voice was sweet and pleasant, being
especially persuasive when she said 'boy' or 'girl'; and her smile was a
blended maternal-siren affair which nobody of either sex had ever been
able to resist. Miss Prawl made one feel a little ashamed, as if one had
never before appreciated what a privilege and a responsibility it was to
be a boy or a girl. The new teacher’s dress was a soft, pretty brown,
dainty and fresh. Yes, Theodora resolved that she must attain the purple
star, and thus forever become famous.

Just as she had arrived at this engrossing decision, the hall door
opened, and Mr. Wadsmore, the adored, portly principal, strode
energetically in, leading a new boy. This person, this upstart, this
unidentified stranger, this perfect nobody of a new boy faced the
critical, penetrating eyes of the assembled class with an almost
superhuman ease.

'Miss Prawl, this young man is Charley Starr,' said Mr. Wadsmore. 'Can
you make a place for him?'

Beside Theodora there was an empty seat, the only one in the room. As it
was on the 'girls' side,' the male aspirants for education with
difficulty smothered their roars of laughter at the idea of a boy’s
sitting, debased, among the girls. Observing this ill-concealed
hilarity, Miss Prawl at once led Charley to the empty seat beside
Theodora.

'If you’ll sit here to-day, Charley, I will rearrange the seating
to-morrow,' she said.

As Charley sank into the place assigned, Theodora blushed painfully.
Being nearest to the unwelcome masculine stranger embarrassed her
frightfully. Her hand flew up into the air.

'MayIgwoutandgettadrink?' she asked.

'Yes, Theodora,' replied Miss Prawl evenly.

She had heard of Theodora’s continuous and unquenchable thirst, and had
been advised by no less a person than Mr. Wadsmore that the best course
was to allow Theodora to drink as much and as often as she wished.

After a copious raid on the water-cooler, Theodora returned, feeling a
little bloated, but much more composed and natural.

'Five minutes for whispering,' announced Miss Prawl, at eleven o’clock.

A deafening hubbub immediately arose.

'Say,' began Charley Starr to Theodora, from behind his desk cover, 'how
do you like _her_?' He nodded toward Miss Prawl, and winked.

Theodora was unwilling to indulge in the intimacies of gossip on so
slight an acquaintance.

'Where’d you come from, anyway?' she icily inquired.

'Skipped up from the Fourth Grade.'

'You did!' Hauteur was drowned in awe.

'You bet. It’s the second time I’ve skipped in this school, too.'

Theodora studied Charley with detached, incipient dislike. Charley must
be very bright indeed to have skipped two classes. She herself, with all
her brains, had never arrived at the pinnacle of skipping. And she had
so much wanted to feel the importance of marching into chapel with the
class next higher up, and of smiling back at her old mates with
condescending tolerance. Theodora did not know that she might have
skipped several times, but for the fact that her parents, who believed
in the slow unfolding of her almost too brilliant mind, had begged to
have her kept back.

All unconscious of this parental duplicity, Theodora was having some
very uncomfortable minutes. If Charley Starr had skipped two classes, it
looked as if the impossible were true--that there actually existed on
the earth a person who was brighter than she. It could not be, and yet,
and yet--Charley looked disturbingly intelligent. But there, of course
he had not studied last year’s subjects in detail, so he could not
possibly compete with her. And when she received the purple star, she
would be entirely safe. Star--why, the new boy’s name was Star.

'Is your name spelled plain _S-t-a-r_?' she asked.

'_S-t-a-double r_,' replied Charley. 'I’m Charles Augustus Starr,
Junior,' he said, in a bragging tone.

Theodora gave a shriek of delight, and punched the girl in front of her.

'Say, Laura, the new boy’s father is Coal-Cart Starr!' she cried.

Laura immediately shrieked, too, and so did all the other girls when
they heard the news. Bewildered at so much noise, Miss Prawl rang the
bell, and asked Theodora, who seemed to be a sort of cheer-leader, to
look up the word 'whisper' in the large dictionary, and write the
definition on the blackboard.

The cause of all the undue commotion was the fact that Charles Augustus
Starr, Senior, was in the coal business, and that daily, all day long,
up and down the city went huge coal carts labeled 'C. A. Starr.' At
Theodora’s instigation, the girls in her class had formed the 'C. A.
Starr Club,' which was a very original organization. There were no dues,
and the responsibilities were light. They consisted of merely looking
upward into the sky, and of pointing upward simultaneously with the
index finger of the right hand every time one met a coal cart. C. A.
Starr was thus cunningly interpreted as 'See a star!' It rather spoiled
things that there were no stars to be seen in the daytime, and that the
club members never met any coal carts at night. Still, it was extremely
good fun, when you caught sight of a coal cart, to point up and look up
suddenly, and to have the vulgar, uninitiated outsider ask, 'What are
you doing?' and then to explain that you belonged to a secret order, and
that there were times when it was necessary to give the high sign.

As Theodora was president of the See-A-Star Club, she at once called a
meeting, to be held at the noon hour, for the purpose of considering
whether or not club members ought to give the high sign in the presence
of C. A. Starr, Junior. It was at length decided by the president, who
did all the talking, that they would point up and look up when they met
C. A. Starr, Junior, outside the school grounds. Otherwise, with Charley
Starr right there in the same room, they would have to be pointing up
and looking up all the time, and Miss Prawl might with reason object.

'Say,' said Charley Starr to Theodora, in the afternoon whispering
period, 'did you hear about the purple star?'

Theodora nodded. She was speechless, because she had just crammed an
entire licorice 'shoe-string' into her mouth.

'Well, I’m laying all my plans to get that star,' proclaimed Charley.

'So’m I,' said Theodora, thickly, with black lips. 'So there’s no use in
your trying. I’d give up the idea, if I was you.'

'Not much I won’t. I’d like to see a girl get ahead of _me_,' retorted
Charles, witheringly.

Violent sex-antagonism sprang up full grown within the soul of Theodora.
This insignificant upstart who casually skipped must be taught the
lesson, once and for all, that school was one of the places where girls
excelled.

'Let us refresh our memories by reviewing some of last year’s
geography,' said Miss Prawl, ringing the dinner-bell which called the
class to order.

'Aha!' thought Theodora, swallowing the last of the shoe-string
whole,--clearing the decks for action, as it were,--'I guess I’ll
surprise C. A. Starr, Junior, _now_!'

'Recite in concert. What is the capital of Maine?' asked Miss Prawl.

'Augusta-on-the-Kennebec!' shouted Theodora Bowles and Charley Starr, as
in one voice. 'Ter-ron-the-Kennebec!' echoed the rest of the class.

'What is the capital of New Hampshire?'

Again the two brilliant ones roared the right answer, and the rest
recited, 'Curd-on-the-Merrimac!'

'Vermont?' continued Miss Prawl.

'Montpelier-on-the-Winooski!' yelled the rivals.

'She’s going straight through the United States in order,' decided
Theodora. 'I know 'em all, backwards and forwards, and I guess Charley
Starr will get left long before we get to the Dakotas.'

'What is the capital of Rhode Island?' asked the wily Miss Prawl, who
had noted the absent look on Theodora’s face, and purposely omitted
Massachusetts. And she caught everybody in the class.

'Boston-on-Massachusetts-Bay!' the leaders cried. And the parrots
mimicked them.

Miss Prawl paused so long that Theodora recalled her question.

'Providence-and-Newport-on-Narragansett-Bay!' howled Charles Starr,
_ahead_ of Theodora, and in a voice that could be heard all over the
building.

Theodora could scarcely keep back the flood of her tears. Charley Starr
had thought quicker than she! It was the first time in all her life that
she had been worsted, and--well, those smarting tears were already
spilling over and showing.

'MayIgwoutandgettadrink?' she asked. And from the depths of the
dressing-room, where she was sobbing into the heart of the roller towel,
she could hear Charles, the usurper, yelling,--

'Harrisburg-on-the-Susquehanna!'

When Theodora felt able to return to society, the color which was
usually in her cheeks seemed to have concentrated at the end of her
nose, and her eyes looked sopping wet. Her intense little being,
however, was all afire with determination to win the purple star.


II

At the end of the week, Theodora and Charles had each a pink, blue,
yellow, green, and red star. So had several of the other children, for
that matter, but Theodora well knew that these others would have an
intellectual slump by the third or fourth week. She was right, for at
the end of the month, the names of Theodora Bowles and Charles Augustus
Starr, Junior, were the only ones that had a complete set of stars after
them.

'Miss Prawl, now, about what kind of a deed would a person have to do,
to get a purple star?' queried Charley, one day when he had stayed after
school for the express purpose of extracting some inside information
from Miss Prawl.

'That’s just exactly what Theodora asked me yesterday,' said Miss Prawl.
'The trouble is, I shan’t know, myself until the deed is done.'

'Miss Prawl, now, if I saved the President of the United States from a
runaway horse that wanted to stamp on him, would that deed get me a
purple star?'

'It might,' admitted Miss Prawl. 'That would be a brave, kind act.'

'If he would only move to Brooklyn, I might stand some show,' yearned
Charles.

'Now, Miss Prawl,' began Theodora excitedly, the day after the
Thanksgiving recess, 'if I discovered something that nobody had ever
discovered before, would that be a purple-star deed?'

'It would depend upon the nature of your discovery, Theodora. Of course,
while the world could not progress without discoveries, they are not
primarily brave, or kind.'

'That’s just the trouble,' sighed Theodora. But she still looked
hopeful. 'Miss Prawl, now, would it be a purple-star deed, if I
discovered that there was another sun up in the sky besides the one we
are already using?'

'If you discovered anything as remarkable as that, Theodora, I should
feel entirely justified in giving you a purple star,' replied Miss
Prawl, reveling in Theodora’s imagination. 'But you mustn’t worry about
it,' she advised. 'And you mustn’t try too hard, dear.'

Theodora could hardly believe her ears. Dear! A schoolteacher had called
her _dear_. How romantic she felt! She took her seat with such an
expression of ecstasy on her face that Miss Prawl wondered what she
could be thinking about now.

Although Miss Prawl had asked her not to try too hard, Theodora, under
the impelling flattery of 'dear,' resolved that she would work more than
ever to do something kindly brave or bravely kind. As there didn’t seem
to be any deeds of that sort lying round loose waiting to be done,
Theodora worked up a bitter grudge against George Washington and Abraham
Lincoln, who, before she was born, had taken a mean advantage of her by
saving the country and freeing the slaves. Still, by thinking constantly
of the purple star, and kind bravery, she hoped to keep in the proper
frame of mind to recognize the great deed when it came along just aching
to be done. Meanwhile, she practised brave kindness, by smiling lovingly
and saying sweetly 'Good morning!' to the school janitor, who was a
faithful, glowering old dog of a Scotchman--one of the few human beings
who are impervious to blandishments. If any one ever spoke to him
unnecessarily, this janitor fixed a murderous gaze on the offender, as
if he would deeply relish killing him, if he weren’t too busy mopping or
washing blackboards. All those who were not practising bravery avoided
him as much as possible.

It gets on one’s nerves to try to live in perpetual exaltation, and
Theodora was very often cross. Especially was she irritated at the sight
of Charley Starr being driven home from school by a coxcombical groom,
in a large, gleaming, red-wheeled cart, drawn by a nobby bob-tailed
horse. Theodora herself lived just one block away from the school, and
walked humbly to and from the halls of learning. She was not jealous of
Charles, but he annoyed her, because he completely upset her theory that
all very rich children were correspondingly stupid. Usually one could
work out the law of compensation very pleasantly, and in a way that was
extremely complimentary to one’s self. The only way in which she could
revenge herself on her wealthy, fortunate, scintillating rival was to
call meetings of the See-A-Star Club on a certain street-corner past
which Charley and his liveried groom invariably drove. And when Charles
was conveyed by, self-consciously,--he hated the pomp and polish which
his mother prided herself upon,--the See-A-Star Club raised eyes and
right hands, and gave its ear-piercing, steam-whistle 'yell.'

Charles always blushed deeply, being much embarrassed before the groom,
and tried to wheedle Theodora into an explanation of her acts. She was,
however, iron-heartedly uncommunicative, and continued her persecutions.


III

On a certain March afternoon, when it was snowing most unseasonably
hard, and the children were drowsy and listless, Miss Prawl dismissed
her class early, with instructions to go straight home, and to change
their shoes and stockings the minute they got there. On account of the
deep, blinding snow, Theodora reluctantly called off the meeting of the
See-A-Star Club, and as she plunged home through the biting icy flakes,
she mused on the futility of even trying to get a purple star. There was
no use in hoping to excel Charley Starr in the matter of ordinary stars,
because he was always perfect. Neither he nor she had so far been absent
or late, and neither had failed in anything. The only solution,
therefore, was to invent some way of being more than perfect.

As the snow continued to fall all night, and was still coming down the
next morning, Theodora, besides her usual wraps, wore a pair of shiny,
unused rubber boots, a Christmas present from her grandmother, who had
always worn rubber boots to school when _she_ was little, and thought
that girls ought to now. With a somewhat lumbering gait, Theodora waded
to school, and arrived just in time to see Charles Augustus Starr,
Junior, being magnificently driven up in a regal sleigh with great
accompanying jingling of bells, and waving in the wind of red and yellow
plumes. Besides Charley and Theodora, very few of the class were
present; and as for chapel--well, it looked desolate and emptily bleak,
instead of being hot and crowded as usual.

Miss Prawl went through the lessons rapidly, and at eleven o’clock, Mr.
Wadsmore put his head in the door, and said that school must be
dismissed at once. There was a high gale, and the children were to go
home as quickly as they could get there.

The next morning, the snowstorm had become a blizzard, a dangerous
monster of a blizzard, in fact the one great historic blizzard--the
blizzard of 1888. And the milkman left no milk at Theodora’s house that
morning. And the rooms were so dark that all the gas in the house had to
be lit. And the choreman couldn’t come to fix the furnace, and the fire
went out. Everything was cold, shivery, and unreal. Outside, the great
banks of snow were impenetrable. From the downstairs rooms, you couldn’t
have seen people on the other side of the street--supposing that there
had been any people to see. A policeman went by on a floundering horse,
but there were no wagons, and there was nobody walking--no red-faced
jocose postman, no iceman, no sedate business men, no scurrying,
scampering children.

As she pulled on her rubber boots, Theodora, who always planned to get
to school before the doors were opened, decided to allow ten minutes
extra that morning. At exactly half-past eight, the Scotch janitor
always took down the big bar which held the double doors in place, and
Theodora was invariably the first one in. It was not necessary for her
to get there until ten minutes of nine, but she never ran the slightest
risk of being tardy. In all her life, she had never been tardy or
absent.

'Don’t worry about me, mother, if I’m late to luncheon,' said Theodora,
as she appeared in the dining-room door. 'It’s so snowy that it will
take me longer than usual.'

'Theodora, child,' remonstrated Mrs. Bowles, 'surely you don’t think
that I’m going to allow you to go to school?'

'Why, yes, mother,' said Theodora, with horrible misgiving none the
less.

'You couldn’t get there alive,' declared her mother. 'There’s no one on
the street. It would be positively suicidal.'

Theodora began with tears, and just the usual methods of teasing; then,
finding these trusty old friends unavailing, she launched forth into
impromptu diplomatic schemes for extracting a 'yes.' She tried to trap
her mother by means of a system of cross-questioning, and she endeavored
to weary her, until she should impatiently exclaim, 'Oh, for mercy’s
sake, _go_!'

But her mother, for once, was relentless. Her father had given up all
idea of going to his office, and while Theodora was arguing with her
mother, Mr. Bowles went down cellar to build a furnace fire. He very
rarely visited the cellar, and when he did, he always returned
tremendously upset about something or other. Consequently, Theodora
teased in a low voice so that her father shouldn’t hear her through the
registers. She hoped to win her mother’s consent and get away before
her father wrathfully returned. Mrs. Bowles, however, seemed to get more
flinty-hearted every minute. When ten minutes of nine came, and then
nine minutes of nine, Theodora realized that never again, in all her
life, could she say, 'I have never been tardy.'

She still hoped, however, that some higher power would intervene, and
see to it that she got to school at nine. To be tardy was disgraceful
enough, but to be absent was a crime that could never be expiated.
Suddenly she ran into the library, and knelt rigidly on a rug which she
had heard her mother refer to as a 'prayer rug.' And she all but prayed
the soul out of her body that the rug would change into a magic carpet
on which she could be transported to school. She must have invoked the
wrong deity, for the rug did not stir even a hair’s breadth. But perhaps
kneeling was not enough; perhaps one ought to lie prone on the rug and
pray.

She had just stretched out, full-length, face down, when the hall clock
boomed the fatal nine. Now she was both tardy and absent. She was just
like any other ordinary human child--she was undistinguished in any way.
Well, there was really no use in continuing to live, and oh, for a
convenient way to die! How badly her mother and father would feel when
they found her stretched dead on the piano bench, and how they would
blame themselves for not allowing her to have her way!

Weeping miserably from self-pity, Theodora pulled off her things, and
sat down to look out at the storm, and plan her end.

'Come, Pussy, don’t mope!' exclaimed her father. He had just finished a
bitter dissertation on the short life of the modern coal-shovel when
handled by the choreman of to-day, and was beginning to feel very
good-natured again. 'Let’s play backgammon.'

'I’m tardy, and I’m absent!' moaned Theodora, who had about abandoned
the idea of dying, in favor of disappearing forever.

'There won’t be any school on such a day as this,' said Mr. Bowles,
consolingly. 'Even the teachers couldn’t get there and live.'

This happy suggestion made Theodora decidedly less pensive. Maybe--and
oh, how she prayed that it might be so!--_maybe_ her father was right,
and maybe, after all, she was still a supreme being--one who had never
been tardy or absent. As the day wore on, she became more and more
hopeful. Her greatest comfort of all was the thought that Charles
Augustus Starr, Junior, who lived over two miles from school, was even
more surely a prisoner than herself.

It kept right on snowing that night. There was no discussion about any
one’s going out the following day, for the whole city seemed destined to
be buried in the snow which fell unceasingly from low, inexhaustible
clouds. Finally, after several days, when people were becoming seriously
alarmed, and some of them were hungry, the snow stopped, and the sky
turned into a dazzling blue from which a blinding sun again looked down
on a new white city. And then men began to open their front doors again,
and shovel and pant, and pant and shovel, as they dug their way out into
the world. Gradually there began to be postmen and butcher-boys and
milk-men and horsecars and newspaper-boys and policemen. And when
Theodora’s father started for his office, the long-pent-up Theodora was
permitted to go to school.


IV

Although the small paths on the sidewalk were so slippery that the most
nimble-footed kept tumbling down, Theodora was, as usual, the first
child against the school door. And she was the first to burst into the
silent building when the Scotch janitor took down the bar, and the first
to dash up the creaky wooden stairs. Racing down the echoing hall, she
tore off her things in the dressing room, and rushed into Room H,
fearing she knew not what. And the sight that she saw on the blackboard
made her blood run cold. During her enforced absence, the very worst had
happened. At the end of the long line of stars which followed the name
of Charles Augustus was a prominent, unmistakably new star. It was
larger than any of the pink or blue or red or green or yellow stars, and
there was no doubt about it, for the sun shone warmly on the blackboard:
the new star opposite her rival’s name was--purple. The new boy,
Coal-Cart Starr’s son, the skipper of classes, the groom-escorted,
never-absent, late, or wrong Charley Starr, had attained the
unattainable.

Slowly Theodora put her books into her desk, and sat in her place,
waiting grimly for Miss Prawl. It was only a few minutes later that the
teacher came in, rosy from her short run through the snowy street,--she
lived only three doors from the school,--and said cheerfully, without
looking the least bit guilty,--

'Good morning, Theodora.'

Theodora could not reply. All the while the other children were bouncing
in with shiny, apple-red cheeks, and a great flourishing of clean white
pocket handkerchiefs, Theodora sat as still as a little China image. In
the midst of her chagrin, she dreaded meeting the exultant look which
she knew would be in the eyes of the winner of the purple star. Every
time any one came in from the hall, Theodora jumped from nervousness.
But she jumped in vain, because Charley Starr failed to appear. Even
when it was ten minutes of nine, Charley Starr had not come. With a
triumphant lilt of the heart, Theodora thought, 'Charley Starr is late!'

At nine o’clock, it dawned upon her that Charley Starr was not coming to
school at all. And at the same time, an unexplained lump of
uncomfortable bigness suddenly developed in her throat. She was
afraid--afraid that something had happened to Charley Starr. She did not
know why, but a panic of terror seized her. It was the first big real
fear of her life. The purple star on the blackboard became the sign of
some heroic tragedy. Where, where, where was Charley Starr?

'Well, girls and boys,' began Miss Prawl, 'we have all been taking a
very unexpected vacation. And there has been no school at all since you
were all here before.'

Theodora’s heart flippety-flopped with relief. All her sufferings had
been in vain: she was still a supreme being. But what was the thing in
Miss Prawl’s face which made one sit so deadly still, and grasp the
desk-cover so tight?

'I came to school on the first morning of the blizzard, because I live
so near. And one other person came, too.' Her little audience began to
look frightened. 'The only child who came that morning was brought in
unconscious.'

Charley Starr was dead--Theodora had known it all along.

'At six o’clock on the first morning of the blizzard, Charley Starr,
without any one’s knowing he was awake, went out to his father’s stable,
and managed to saddle one of the horses. And in order not to be late to
school, he left home at half-past six, and rode through the blinding
snow, until, at nine o’clock, he reached the school. And when he finally
got here, he was so exhausted that he tumbled off the horse into a
snow-drift. If the janitor hadn’t happened to see him, there would be no
Charley Starr in our class, or in the world to-day. But the janitor did
see him; and so, although Charley is pretty sick, he’s going to get
better and come back to us again. It seemed to me that it was very brave
of Charles to try to come to school, and so I gave him the purple star.
He doesn’t know it yet, but I am going to write to him to-day. And I
want every girl and every boy who thinks I was right in giving him the
star to clap with all his might.'

The spontaneous applause that at once shook the walls was due in part to
enthusiasm for Charley Starr. Most of the noise, however, was caused by
the exuberant joy of being allowed, for once, to make as much racket as
one could within the sacred precincts of Room H. Every one set to work
to blister his hands; every one but Theodora, who sat with folded arms
and with burning, accusing eyes fixed on Miss Prawl. Holding up her hand
for silence, Miss Prawl, with an inexplicable sinking of heart, said,--

'Well, Theodora?'

Theodora rose, white-lipped.

'Miss Prawl, if I’d disobeyed my parents, or stolen out when they didn’t
know it, _I_ might have come to school and had a purple star. I wasn’t
scared. _I_ wanted to come. I _prayed_ to come.' She knew this last
statement would have to be lived down later, but at this hazardous
moment, she cared not for that. 'I’d have walked till I died, if they’d
let me.'

Before she had time to sit down again, an unexpected adherent suddenly
sprang to his feet in the person of Freddy Beal, the class dunce.

'So would I!' shouted Freddy, desirous to support the distinguished
Theodora, and at the same time to win a little unaccustomed prominence
for himself. 'They caught me just as I was shinnying over the back
fence, and they had to lock me up to keep me home. I ain’t "gone" on
school, but it would have been fun to come _that_ day! It was the only
day I ever wanted to come to school. Charley Starr hadn’t ought to get
no purple star. That stunt of his wa’n’t brav’ry.'

The greatest and the least having been heard from, every one in the
class then felt called upon to rise up and say that his soul had been
sick within him because he was not permitted to come to school the first
day of the blizzard. Miss Prawl was devoutly wishing that she had
abolished the purple star before such zealots as the critical Theodora
and her followers had darkened the door of Room H, when, as if drawn
into the discussion by Fate, Mr. Wadsmore entered, with a brilliant
smile for the class and a rather serious look for Miss Prawl. He handed
her a note, and said mysteriously,--

'From an I. P. And I’m afraid I think he’s right.'

To the great delight of everyone, Mr. Wadsmore turned to the class, and
joked about an impossible, prehistoric period when he was a small
boy,--he now weighed nearly two hundred,--while Miss Prawl, with damask
cheeks and too brilliant eyes read the note from the Irate Parent. This
note was written with violet ink on heavily perfumed paper with a gold
coat of arms and a gold border, and it read:--

     936 Clinton Avenue

     MY DEAR MR. WADSMORE,--

     On close questioning, I find that my son Charles was actuated in
     his dare-devil adventure of leaving for school at six-thirty
     o’clock on the first morning of the blizzard by a desire to win a
     purple-chalk star. He knows that he very nearly lost his life, and
     he is hoping that his rash act may be rewarded in the foolish way I
     mentioned above. He considers that he is a hero, unappreciated at
     home, and he is working himself into a fever over the whole thing.

     I am a plain man [Miss Prawl’s eyes wandered to the coat of arms]
     and I greatly disapprove of such methods in education. Unless you
     can do away with your purple-star system immediately, I shall be
     obliged to transfer Charles to another private school which is
     nearer, and therefore more convenient.

     Awaiting your reply, I am

     Very truly yours,

     CHARLES AUGUSTUS STARR.

Miss Prawl read the note in a flash, snatched up the eraser, rubbed out
the purple star, opened the chalk box, and dropped the purple chalk in
the wastebasket.

'What Theodora said about the purple star is quite true,' she said,
soberly. 'And I shall never give any one a purple star. Never!'

As Mr. Wadsmore left the room with an approving smile at Miss Prawl,
Theodora’s eyes grew soft and bright, and she sighed with pathetic
relief. For the first time since she had heard of the purple star, the
world seemed altogether right.



RUGGS--R.O.T.C.

BY WILLIAM ADDLEMAN GANOE


I

IT was only because it was the middle of the night that the barracks of
Company Number 1 lay quiet. Even at that solitary hour the squares of
moonlight from its sliding windows revealed two long huddled rows of
Gold Medal cots creaking with the turnings of one hundred and sixty
restless sleepers.

Down toward the end of Squad 15, Joseph Morley Ruggs lay wrapped in
dreams more troubled than was his wont. The 'Meter' was standing before
him, writing with a feathered sword in a giant book, 'Thou art weighed
in the balance and _found_--' The words kept spreading until the _d_ was
crushed against the edge of the page. The Meter’s eyes became flaming
nozzles, which shot waves of gas into Ruggs’s unmasked face. There was a
crashing sound of many bands, playing mostly upon cymbals.

All at once the 'U.S.' on the Meter’s collar and the silver bars on his
shoulders became incandescent, his body lengthened out like Aladdin’s
genie, and he slowly disappeared upward in a whirl of smoke, mounted on
the shaft of a rifle grenade--and Ruggs was left alone, holding in his
hand a rectangular parchment headed, 'Honorable Discharge from the
service of the United States.'

When he raised his head Alice, with sorrowful eyes, was looking him
through and through--Alice, whom he had left a month before with the
trembling words of acquiescence on her lips and a kiss of hope at his
departure. There she stood, shaking a finger of scorn at the paper of
Failure in his hand.

The earth was giving way under him. As he sank lower and lower, voices
grew abundant about him; and there arose a continuous clatter of
rifle-bolts, bayonets, and mess-tins. A bugle somewhere was sounding the
assembly. The company in the dusky distance was falling in under arms;
the corporals were about to report, and he, Candidate Ruggs, would be
absent.

He tried to hurry over dressing himself; but his arms worked in jerks,
and when he attempted to run, his legs merely pulled and pushed back and
forth heavily in one spot. Frantically he struggled to make headway
against the solid air, but in vain. With a supreme effort he lunged
forward--and came down at the side of his cot on both feet, with a
resounding shock that made the boards of the flimsy barracks rattle.

'For Gawd’s sake,' growled the Duke of Squad 15, rising on his elbow,
'don’t you get enough settin'-up stuff in the daytime without jarrin'
your muscles when decent folks sleep?'

'Who fell into the trench?' inquired Naughty, his legal mind going to
the bottom of the matter.

'No use tryin' to sleep around here,' continued the Duke with a groan.
'Got to get a pass and lock yourself in a hotel over Saturday and
Sunday.'

Some one in the middle of barracks was attempting to search out with a
pocket-flash the cause of the excitement.

'Use of--star--shells--specially successful--'gainst active enemy--in No
Man’s Land,' droned the great voice of small Squirmy in a far corner.

And the disturbance subsided with several chuckles, allowing Ruggs to
dispose himself upon his rumpled sheets without further fire upon him.

In the morning, as he stood in ranks at reveille, he was secretly
relieved to note the Meter’s normal appearance, and his life-sized
pencil, though that active instrument was spelling out death to some
career possibly at that moment. Degradation to the name of Ruggs had not
yet come; the chance to be included among the commissioned few at the
end of camp lay before him as a possibility.

He was wakened smartly from his musings. 'Dress up, put up your arm! you
still asleep?'

The Duke, who had been a sergeant in the National Guard for six years,
realized that, since the Meter was near at hand, it was a fortunate time
to make penetrating corrections. The awe and respect which had bestowed
on him the name of Duke on account of his knowledge of the rudiments,
were now, in the squad over which he had tyrannized as acting corporal,
beginning to wane.

Ruggs put up his arm, every bristling hair of his mouse-colored head
erect with fury. It was difficult for a man fifteen years out of
college, who had by dint of energy and foresight worked his way to the
superintendency of one of the largest banking houses in the East, to
take orders from a grocery clerk much younger and of slight education.
'Every kind of military communication should be impersonal.' These words
of the Meter came to him opportunely. He fastened his mind on the
details for the following day which the first sergeant was then reading
out, and was rewarded.

'For company commander to-morrow--Ruggs!'

'He-re!' His voice came all cracked and husky.

'You’d better get onto those drill regs and get up that company stuff,'
admonished the Duke at breakfast. 'I always find I can get along better
after givin' it a once-over, no matter how well I know it.'

Ruggs made no reply. He was lost in the thought of the chance he had
waited for through thirty-five days of slavery. His opportunity had
come.

It was a red-letter day because of another circumstance. For the first
time he had been called by name by the Meter at the morning conference.

The elation was so great that, when a note from Alice in the noon mail
told him that she would spend the week-end near the camp, he had only
time to reflect on what joy his success in handling the company would
bring her. Every spare minute during the afternoon and evening he
concentrated on close-order drill. Not satisfied with the snatches thus
taken, he disappeared after taps, with his books and a small improvised
stool, into the lavatory, where there was still a faint light from two
badly arranged bulbs. There he delved into combat work and reviewed the
company drill. It was one o’clock before he crawled dizzily into bed,
with reveille before him at five-thirty.

He woke at five with a start. This was the day of his trial. Although he
had stood at the head of ventures involving millions, no day of his life
had seemed to him so full of hazard. The fact that he had made good in
civil life, he understood, meant nothing in his favor in a military way.
For only the previous week Cyrus Long, an industrial manager, with a
salary of fifteen thousand a year, had been told plainly by the Meter
that he could not make good. And Cy had left with the first failure of a
lifetime in his wake.

When Ruggs, making every inch of his five feet eleven count as the Meter
approached, commanded 'Company, attention!' his accent was very unlike
the ideal one he had planned to use. He noted the men in ranks eyeing
him as much as to say, 'Well, how are you going to handle us this
morning?'

'Give the company ten minutes' close-order drill, after which proceed
with fifteen minutes of extended order under battle conditions.'

The Meter shot the words out in two definite explosions.

It was the first time that such instructions had been issued, but Ruggs
asked no questions.

'Squads right!' he sang out (meaning secretly squads left); then added,
'March!' in a surprised and subdued tone that he had not intended.

On the whole the first of the drill went along fairly well, except that
at times some of the men were unable to hear his commands, and _he_ knew
that _they_ knew that he continually meant _right_ when he said _left_,
and vice versa--which did not add to his authority. But he was too
honest to 'bluff' the matter before the Meter, each time admitting the
error by a loud 'As you were!' and setting them straight without delay.

When the extended order part of the drill began, he inadvertently made
his deployment so that one flank fanned out across the commanding
officer’s lawn.

'Halt your company!' roared the Meter. 'Company commander report here!'

Ruggs yelled a demoralized 'Halt!' and ran to the captain.

'Who’s in command of this company?'

'I am, sir.'

'It doesn’t appear so; or possibly you wanted them to dance over the
colonel’s lawn?'

'No, sir.'

'Then why did you put them there?'

'I didn’t mean to, sir.'

'You didn’t mean _not_ to, did you?'

'No, sir.'

'You lead your command out over a fire-swept zone, and after it is
decimated, you make a report that you didn’t mean to place it there.
How will that look when the dead are counted?'

'Not very well, sir.'

'Go place your company where it belongs.'

Ruggs saluted and ran toward the centre of the line, yelling at the top
of his lungs, 'Assemble, _assemble_, ASSEMBLE _over here_!'

'Come back!' shouted the Meter.

But Ruggs was so intent on gathering up the tramplers of the colonel’s
lawn that he did not hear.

'Company commander--Mr. Ruggs!' repeated the Meter, putting all his
power against his diaphragm.

Ruggs returned, his thick chest heaving, his hair matted, and a drop of
perspiration clinging to the end of his big Roman nose.

'How was this drill to be conducted?' snapped his torturer.

'Under battle conditions, sir.'

'Do you suppose that the company stretched over a space of two hundred
yards, while the barrage fire was going on, could hear such caterwauling
as you’ve been attempting? What should you do?'

'Use whistle and signal, sir.'

'Have I not directed you to do so heretofore?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Either malicious or wooden--take your choice! Proceed with your drill.'

Cut to the quick, Ruggs thought hard what to do in his predicament. The
studious, sleepless night was beginning to tell on him, but he called to
his memory the signal for 'Assemble' and blew a stout blast on his
whistle. He felt the Meter behind his back making damaging notes in the
book, and the glances of his fellows before him betraying pity and
superiority. The number of errors increased with the length of the
drill. Each time the Meter summoned him, the criticisms were more
caustic. At last he waved his arms in unknown combinations and
directions. But whenever the Meter stopped him, he was able, with much
teeth-gritting that made his jaw muscles swell his cheeks, to set the
movement straight without excitement.

In the afternoon, during a march along the road, the Meter directed the
company to be halted and its commander to report to him.

'Mr. Ruggs, you see that little bluff about four hundred yards to the
left of this road?'

'Yes, sir.'

'You have been marching along here as the advance party to your advance
guard, when suddenly you receive a burst of fire from that bluff, which
you estimate to be directed by about a platoon. What do you do?'

'I’d tell them to--'

'I didn’t ask you what you’d tell. I asked you what you’d do.'

'I’d put them, sir--'

'Put who?'

'I’d put the company--'

'You speak of the company as if it were a bird-cage or a jack-knife.'

'Sir, I just wanted--'

'I just asked you what YOU would do--do you get it?'

By this time Ruggs was so aroused that every fibre of his mind was
alert. Instead of being more confused, he was able to concentrate more
acutely than before. He pulled his whistle from his pocket and blew it
almost in the Meter’s face, at the same time signaling to the company to
deploy and lie down.

'That will do.' snorted the Meter. 'March your company back to
barracks!'

Ruggs replaced his whistle in his pocket in a hang-dog way which showed
that he was convinced that his doom was sealed.

'Squads right!' he commanded. 'As you were! I mean, squads left!--Oh,
steady! Squads right about! March!'

The company, at route step, had become a ripple of mirth from end to
end.

'O Ruggsie!' shouted the Duke, 'I know a good civilian tailor!'

The remark brought on a quantity of local laughter, and Naughty did not
help matters much by starting, 'Keep the home fires burning.'

That evening the flank of Company Number 1 individually condoled with
Ruggs, who was trying to decipher how he could be so full of so many
different kinds of mistakes.

'He’s got the raspberry all right,' commented the Duke, before a large
group, including Ruggs.

The 'raspberry,' be it said, was the name applied to the Sword of
Damocles suspended by the Meter. When he called a failing candidate into
the orderly room and implied that a resignation would be in order, that
lost soul was known the company over as 'getting the raspberry,' or
'rasp.'


II

Just before taps, after life had become subdued through study, the small
red-headed form of Squirmy was observed making its way to the centre of
the long room. He was dressed in a black overcoat fished from the bottom
of a trunk. A white tie torn from a stricken sheet made a flaring bow at
his neck, and goggles and an old cap-cover served as headgear. He
carried in his hand a Webster’s Unabridged, which he placed on an old
box previously used for the same purpose.

'_St!_ The Exhorter of Squad 21!' came in whispers from a dozen throats;
and the room became still.

Squirmy searched his half-dressed congregation witheringly over the tops
of his spectacles. Then from his small body proceeded slow tones of
thunder,--

'And the Lord said unto Moses, "Squads right!" (Dramatic pause.)

'But Moses--not being a military man--commanded, "Squads left!" (Longer
pause.)

'And great--was the confusion--among the candidites.

'Peace be with you,' he concluded, pointing an accusing finger at Ruggs;
and the company went to bed holding their abdomens.

After the last drill on Saturday Alice arrived with her machine,
chauffeur, and chaperone. When she spied Ruggs across the parade, with
twenty-two pounds of office flabbiness gone, his hardened muscles
holding his shoulders and neck erect underneath his khaki, an
unmistakable admiration filled her wide hazel eyes.

For a moment his gladness was unalloyed, and the disappointments of
crowded barracks and tangled drills faded utterly away. But as the day
wore on, the pleasure grew limp in the face of the bleak future. His
mind was repeatedly met with the question, 'Shall I tell her?' and he
always turned on himself with the reply, 'I am not yet through.'

The unacknowledged dullness between them finally drove them into the
distraction of a movie theatre. There, in the darkness, she caught
stealthy glimpses of his tightened jaw and distressed face.

'It’s going to be very hard on him; he’ll be so disappointed,' she said
to herself.

At the same time, while apparently following the antics of Mary
Pickford, he was thinking, 'It’s going to be so hard on her! She’ll be
so disappointed in me!'

When she had gone, and he found himself once more seated on his bunk in
desolation, he berated himself violently:--

'I must have treated her badly. This will not do. I’ve never given up
before. I’ve got to pull myself up to my best if it’s only a corporal’s
job. It’s better to be a _man_ than a higher-up anyway. Good God, I can
serve better by going where I’m put than where I want to _be put_! True
patriotism, after all, is filling the niche, whatever--'

'Say, Ruggsie,' burst in the Duke from the side door, 'big doin’s here
Monday. Big review for a Russian general. This company is goin' to be
divided into two--A and B companies.'

Ruggsie was silent.

'Don’t you care anything about it?' continued the Duke.

'I’m not interested in reviews--to be frank.'

'Say, old fellow, you don’t need to get so down because you tied up that
drill the other day. Course, there’s a great deal to know about this
military game. At first I was pretty green myself. May be in a second
camp you can get onto the stuff.'

Ruggs was not desirous of discussing the matter with the Duke, who,
having been given the natural opportunity, filled the gap with
conversation.

'You know the Meter called me and that Reserve Lieutenant Sullivan into
the orderly room and told us we were goin' to be in command of the two
companies. He went over with us just how we were goin' to do. He’s a
first-rate chap--the Meter is. First we line up along the road near the
gate, and then we march to the parade-ground and review. I know every
command I’m goin' to give right down in order--could say 'em off
backwards. That’s the way to know your drill.'

At supper the Duke leaned over the table toward Vance, a broker from
Wall Street who had spent the previous summer at Plattsburg, and
observed confidentially,--

'Do you know, Vance, I’d like to have you as my first lieutenant when
I’m a captain. You suit me O.K. I like the way you drill.'

Vance, immaculately neat and clean-shaven, acknowledged the remark with
a bow and went on eating. Mortimer, just out of Dartmouth, aged
twenty-two, gazed at the Duke with that deference with which Gareth
first looked upon Lancelot.

At three o’clock Monday afternoon the twenty companies of the training
camp were drawn up ready to display themselves to the Russian general.
Automobiles were parked thickly on the roadways, making a black, gray,
and brown banded circle around the parade-ground. Under the dense fringe
of trees, the many-colored gowns of the women edged the green like a
thick hedge of sweet peas. The heat and stillness had settled down over
the camp tensely.

The dignitary, eagerly awaited, was overdue. The Duke, as he wiped the
perspiration from his hat-band in front of the long column of companies
standing at ease, congratulated himself on the certainty with which he
would give the appropriate commands at various points before him on the
level stretch of grass. Conscious fingering of his pistol-holster
indicated his belief in the Meter’s choice.

A half-hour passed and the general had not arrived. All at once, the
band, contrary to plan, started to move diagonally across the
parade-ground. A mounted orderly popped out from a group of regular
officers and galloped straight toward the Duke.

'The major’s compliments,' he announced. 'The ceremony along the
road-side will be dispensed with. You are to march your company to the
line for review at once, sir.'

The field music struck up adjutant’s call, which was the signal for the
first company to form line.

'Squads left!' shouted the Duke in most military fashion.

It was the command that he had rehearsed to start the company from the
roadway to the ceremony proper--the opposite direction from the one
toward the spot where the line should now be formed.

'March!' he added, without seeing his error. And the company wheeled off
toward the woods away from the visitors, away from the band, away from
everybody.

'Damn me!' he muttered, looking back over his shoulder at the vanishing
goal. Then he roared, 'Column left! March!'

Again he had steered the head of the column in an opposite direction
from the one intended. B and C companies were now directly between his
objective and his organization, which was marching farther away with
every step. He realized that he had taken time enough to be well on the
way toward, instead of away from, the spot where the adjutant was
waiting for him.

'Squadsleftmarch!' he bellowed desperately.

The company, in the shape of an L, not having completed the turn in
column, now accordioned its flanks toward each other, intermingling
inextricably. The organization became at once a crowd of fellows with
rifles.

'Halt! Halt! Halt!' the Duke exploded; and immediately fell into
helpless bewilderment.

There was a dreadful pause, during which beads of perspiration dropped
from his face, making black spots on his starched clothing. His arm and
fingers twitched and he blinked horribly.

'What a steadying influence he’ll have on Vance!' whispered some one
near Ruggs, who, through compassion, was unable to feel mirthful.

The same orderly galloped up for the second time and delivered an
ultimatum from the major in no uncertain language. Several platoon
leaders sprang forward and succeeded in getting the company started in
the right direction. But the strain had weakened the Duke’s nerve to
such an extent that he was slow in dressing his company and failed to
give 'Eyes right' in time, when actually passing in review under the
scrutiny of the general himself.

And all this time the Meter had been hovering about, using his eyes
mightily and his mouth not at all.

Back in barracks when ranks were broken, there were no remarks made
openly on the leadership of the Duke. He had been a trusty drill-master
and, it was reported, had a 'stand-in' with the Meter. It was not
discreet to taunt him.

Indeed, it had been such a soakingly hot proceeding--the whole
review--that most of the men were glad enough to grasp what little
comfort they could without more ado. The extra marching beforehand had
not helped to cool them off, mentally or physically. Under the single
thin roof that separated them from the sun, the atmosphere, besides
being hot, was excessively oppressive. As soon as they could get rid of
their rifles, belts, and coats, they tossed them away in any direction.
Those who arrived inside first, and consequently had a chance for the
shower-bath, peeled off every soggy garment.

They were in this chaotic state of dishabille when a cry rose from the
first squad, 'Man the port-holes!' Immediately one hundred and sixty
male beings struggled for a view from the eastern windows.

'It’s the general--the whole party!' exclaimed one of the first.

'They’re coming in here,' volunteered another.

The crowd surged back and the voice of the acting first sergeant could
be heard in an effort to prepare the company for inspection. They hurled
their belongings into place with the speed and accuracy of postal
clerks. Two nude unfortunates were without ceremony ejected into the
cold world on the side of barracks farthest from the Russian advance.
History does not record what ever became of them. A bather clad only in
a scant towel and a scanter piece of soap, while making his entrance
from the shower where he had splashed in ignorance of the coming
invasion, was, to his amazement and resentment, forced suddenly into the
lavatory, where, he was given to understand, he must remain. Ruggs, most
incompletely dressed, coiled himself up underneath his cot behind two
lusty suitcases.

When the general came down the aisle, the candidates standing fully clad
at the foot of their bunks, at 'attention,' gave the impression of
having waited for him nonchalantly in that position ever since the
review. Mattress-covers were smoothed, bedding folded, clothing hung
neatly, and all evidence of hurry or confusion effaced.

But the Meter smiled a Mona Lisa smile as the door closed upon generals,
colonels, aides-de-camp, and himself.

'Rest,' shouted the acting first sergeant, and the company collapsed
into tumultuous laughter. Wet under-clothing, matches, and cigarettes,
were hauled from beneath mattresses, equipment from behind pillows, and
knick-knacks from yawning shoe-tops.

In the midst of all this turmoil one of the doors reopened and the Meter
stepped inside. Some one near him murmured a half-hearted 'Attention!'
and all who were within earshot arose--all except one. At that moment
Ruggs found himself halfway up from between the cots, his head and body
upright and his legs fast asleep under him.

'Mr. Ruggs, I seem to see more of you than I did a moment ago.'

If the Meter had returned for a purpose, all idea of it vanished now,
for he turned and disappeared, leaving Ruggs to bear his chagrin and to
blush down as far as his legs.

That night Squirmy took his text from the book of Currussians, and gave
a splendid and inspiriting talk on how Moses, although he had been found
by the King’s daughter in the bulrushes, had nothing on Ruggs, who was
discovered by the King himself among the valises. 'And be it said,'
concluded the exhorter, 'that both foundlings wore the same uniform.'


III

The first of August was close at hand. Rumors kept coming up like the
dawn 'on the road to Mandalay.' The 'makes' (those recommended for
commissions), it was said, had already had their names sent to
Washington. Before and after drills, members of the company were being
constantly summoned into the orderly room for interviews, the purport of
which was leaking out through the camp. A reserve captain had been given
his walking papers. Squirmy was to be a second lieutenant; Naughty, a
first lieutenant; and Vance, a captain.

The Duke had just been summoned. As he made his way up the aisle to the
front of barracks, hushed whispers ran around from circle to circle:
'Will he get a captaincy or just a lieutenancy out of it?' And many a
covetous eye followed his retreating figure.

At dinner he had not returned. In the afternoon and during the next day
his place in the squad was vacant. It began to be rumored that he had
been sent away on some special detail, perhaps to France.

In the evening Ruggs, having finished his supper early, was surprised to
find the Duke in civilian attire sitting on the cot he had occupied,
which was now divested of all its former accompaniments.

'Good-bye,' began the Duke, extending a cold hand rather ungraciously.
'Jus' turned in all my stuff.'

'Leaving?' queried Ruggs.

'Yep, got the rasp all right!'

There was an awkward pause, which was filled by the Duke’s interest in
the lock of his suitcase, after which he continued haltingly,--

'Meter called me in and told me no use to stay here--said my experience
was all right--but because I’d had so much, he expected more. Told me
any man that got fussed up and couldn’t get out of an easy hole without
help after six years' trainin' was no good for leadin' men. Said he
couldn’t trust men’s lives to me, and so he couldn’t give me a
commission. Gave me a lot of guff like that, with no sense to it. He’s a
hell of a man!'

'Do you mean to say you’re discharged--and that’s all?' Ruggs was
plainly astounded.

'You bet; that’s the end of the little Duke of Squad 15. Be good to
yourself. Say good-bye to the fellows for me, will you?'

Several men strolled back from supper. The Duke casting a furtive glance
in their direction as much as to say, 'I don’t care to meet any of them
any more,' added a 'So long,' and disappeared, suitcase in hand, through
the side door.

'What chance for me,' thought Ruggs, 'if the Duke gets the raspberry?'

That night he carefully smoothed out a civilian suit and placed it on a
hanger at the head of his cot. He also wrote several letters to business
friends at home. He did not write to Alice.

Excitement for the next few days was severe. Some were not eating their
meals, few were sleeping much, and all were stale. The physical training
had truly been intensive, but the mental strain had been breaking.
Friends greeted each other in a preoccupied way, and the nightly singing
had grown feeble.

As for Ruggs, he looked forward to the acceptance of his discharge with
as much grace as possible. He had striven honestly, and had apparently
made of himself only an object for laughter, but he was far from giving
up. Several candidates had confided to him their disappointment, as they
would have liked, they said, to see him gain a commission. Indeed they
had felt all along that he was going to make good.

Yet the day of his reckoning seemed never to materialize. Men went into
the orderly room, and came out with hectic smiles of relief or sickly
efforts at cheerfulness, while he watched and waited.

One day, after the first drill, Vance was sitting on his bunk talking
finances, when a voice from the other end of the barracks called out,--

'The following men report in the orderly room at once!'

The silence was crisp. Then the voice continued with a list of about ten
names, toward the end of which was Ruggs.

'Good-bye, Vance,' said he, rising. He put on his coat and brushed his
clothing and shoes carefully.

Vance eyed him narrowly and pityingly during the operation, as much as
to say, 'There’s no use taking any more pains with those clothes; you’ll
never need them again.'

Ruggs caught the look and understood.

'You see I can’t get out of the habit,' he confessed. 'It’s not so much
the clothes as--as--myself.'

At the orderly room door he waited a small eternity before his name was
called.

Once inside he found himself for the first time alone with the Meter.
Under his scrutiny heretofore Ruggs had felt himself to be merely number
one of the rear rank needful of correction. And yet the victim felt that
he could part from the captain with no feeling of resentment at the blow
he was about to receive.

'Mr. Ruggs!'

The Estimator of Destinies wheeled in his chair and cast a look of
brotherly frankness into Ruggs’s eyes.

'Yes, sir.'

'Mr. Ruggs, you’ve been here almost three months.'

'Yes, sir.'

'I haven’t time to mince matters with you. You have one great failing
which I’m going to dwell upon. You attempt to do too many things at
once. In the military service you are compelled to consider what is best
for the moment. Nothing changes so fast or furiously as a military
situation. Don’t forecast what you’ll do next so much as figure what
you’ll do _now_. Make your men be of the greatest use in the team right
_now_--understand? What you’d be liable to do would be a certain amount
of banking in the trenches. While you’d be speculating on how much
interest your venture would bring you to-morrow, a gas wave comes over
to-day and finds your men without masks. Be ready for the thing at
issue. You’ve got to take this matter in hand at once and overcome it.'

Ruggs acknowledged to himself that his difficulties were all too plainly
exposed. He had tried to compass the whole of drill regulations in a
single night. He had been so interested in what he was going to do to
the enemy after he reached the bluff, that he had forgotten to give the
proper signals to start the company on its mission. If only he had
understood the correct method of approach at the beginning!

'That,' went on the Meter, as if in continuation of Ruggs’s thoughts,
'has been your downfall.'

There was a knock at the door. In answer to the captain’s 'Come in,' a
thick official document was handed him.

'Be seated, Mr. Ruggs. Pardon me while I read this!'

It took some time for the perusal, during which Ruggs saw light in the
shape of a new plan.

'Captain,' he inquired, as the Meter looked up, 'is there any chance for
me to get into another camp or couldn’t you recommend me?'

'Second camp!' cried the Meter, staring at Ruggs as if the candidate
were bereft of reason. 'Second camp! You’ll get all the second camp
that’s coming to you. The whole purpose of this camp is to pick out the
proper wood-pulp--that’s all. None of you is capable of being an officer
now; but the men I’ve chosen, I hope have the makings. You yourself have
two assets: first, a knowledge of men, and second, the power to think
under stress. In another month you’ll be training rookies from the
draft. What I wanted to tell you was, you’d better look out for your
failing when you’re the first lieutenant, instead of the captain, of
that company of yours. Do you understand?'

Ruggs understood and managed to retire. Once outside, he leaned against
the building to steady his knees, and pressed his hands into his
pockets to keep his fingers from trembling.

'Sorry about it, old chap!' spoke up one of those waiting near the
entry.

Ruggs realized how the shock must have affected his features. The
incident gave him an idea.

When he had recovered sufficiently to go back to his bunk, Vance, in a
rather conventional and perfunctory tone, inquired about the outcome.

'Oh,' the dissembling Ruggs declared, 'the Meter said he’d let me stay
on till the end of camp for the training I’d get, if I wanted to.'

It was enough for Vance, and those standing about refrained from asking
embarrassing questions. For the next four days Ruggs was treated as one
who has just lost his entire family in a wreck. On the evening of the
fifth day, after supper, a reserve officer from headquarters appeared in
barracks with a list, the substance of which he said could be disclosed
to the public. When he had finished reading the first lieutenants every
eye glared at Ruggs; and when the list was completed there was a rush
for blankets and the victim. How many times Ruggs’s feet hit the
ceiling, he never quite remembered.

Later, Squirmy gave a very helpful talk on Joseph, who was sold by his
brothers down into Egypt after they had hidden him under a bushel. 'Ah!
gentlemen,' he exhorted, '_this_ time little Joey sold his brothers.
Little Joey Ruggs is going to have a coat of many colors and be ruler
over many!'

And again the fun turned on Ruggs, but he stole away and wired Alice.



THE WAY OF LIFE

BY LUCY HUFFAKER


THERE was a heavy odor in the little house which quite blighted the soft
spring air as it blew in through the half-open window. For supper there
had been onions and sausage, and the fried potatoes had burned. The
smells which had risen from the kitchen stove had mingled with the raw,
soapy fumes which gave testimony that Monday was wash-day in the Black
family. Now the smoking of the kerosene lamp on the centre-table seemed
to seal in hermetical fashion the oppressive room against the gentle
breeze of the May evening.

The woman, bending over a pair of trousers which she was patching, stuck
the needle in the cloth, pulled the thimble from her fat, red finger,
and rubbed her hands over her eyes.

'Bed-time, Billy,' she said to the nine-year-old boy who was playing
with a picture-puzzle on the other side of the table.

'Aw, ma, let me stay up, till pa and the boys get home.'

The woman shook her head.

'I’ll get up in plenty of time to feed the chickens, anyhow. Honest, I
will.'

'You ought to be glad to go to bed,' the mother sighed in answer. 'I’d
be. Seems to me I’d be tickled to death if I could drop into bed without
my supper any night.'

'I’ll go if you’ll go, too. I just hate to go to bed knowing all the
rest of you are up.'

'Me go to bed! Why these trousers of yours aren’t finished yet and I’ve
got to mend Tom’s shirt and your father’s coat, and then there’s the
bread to set. Much chance I have to go to bed for a couple of hours,
yet! Now you run along. If you go like a good boy, you can have a
cooky.'

She put the thimble on her finger and bent over her mending again. She
sewed steadily on until an hour later, when she heard the buggy drive
into the yard and one of the boys came running in to ask her if she knew
where the barn-lantern was. It was in the cellar, and there was barely
enough oil to make a dim light while the horse was being unharnessed.
The boys were sent to bed immediately, with an injunction to be quiet so
Billy would not be awakened. She heard the heavy tread of her husband in
the kitchen, as he hunted for the dipper to get a drink of water. Then
he came into the sitting-room, sat down in a chair, and began pulling
off his shoes. He groaned as he did it.

'Say, Em,' he said, 'guess who I saw in town to-night?'

'Who?' was the unimaginative response.

'You’d never guess in a hundred years. You’d never guess what she did,
either. She sent you these.'

He drew from his pocket a package and a sheet of notepaper. The woman
looked at them for a moment, but she didn’t touch them.

'Hurry up, Em,' said the man. 'They won’t bite you.'

'But what--' she faltered.

'The best way to find out about 'em is to open 'em.'

She opened the package first. It was a cheap colored print of St.
Cecilia at the Organ. It was in a bright gilt frame. Then she opened the
note. She read it through once, with a little frown puckering her
forehead. Then, more slowly, she read it the second time.

'Minnie Jackson!' she murmured. 'I haven’t seen her for nearly ten
years. I don’t know when I’ve thought about her, even. You read it,
Jake?'

'Yes. She didn’t seal it.' He waited a minute, then said, 'I couldn’t
just make out what it was all about. What day is this?'

'It’s our birthday--Minnie’s and mine. We used to call ourselves twins,
but she’s a year older than I am. I’ve been so busy all day I never
thought about it. What does Minnie look like?'

'Oh, she looks about the same, I guess, as the last time she was home.
She’s getting fatter, though. Guess the climate out in California must
agree with her.'

'Is she as fat as I am?'

'Just about, I guess.'

'Did she look as if they were well off? What kind of a dress did she
have on?'

'I don’t know. Good enough, I guess. I didn’t see anything wrong with
it. While she ran into the store to get this picture and write this note
to you, old Jackson was bragging to me about how well Elmer had done. He
said Min had married about as well as any girl round here.'

'Did he say anything about whether she ever paints any?'

'Paints? What ever are you talking about, Em?'

She had bent over her sewing again, and he could not see her face as she
answered, 'When Minnie and I were little girls, I reckon we never had
any secrets from each other, at all. I know I talked about things to her
I never could have told anybody else. She was that way with me, too.
Well, she always said she wanted to paint, and I wanted to play. She was
always copying every picture she saw. I remember she did one picture
called A yard of Roses, from a calendar. It was so good you couldn’t
have told the difference. Don’t you remember the time she took the prize
at the art exhibit at the country fair, with a picture she had copied,
called The Storm? One of the judges said it just made him shiver to
look at it, it was so real.'

'Come to think of it, I believe I do recollect something about Min
having queer notions. I know us boys used to think she was stuck-up.
What did she mean about the vow and about this picture being of you, by
her?'

For a moment there was only the little click of her thimble against the
needle. Then she said, 'I guess I can’t make it clear to you, Jake.
Minnie always did have her own way of putting things. We had lots of
fancies, as we used to call them. But I suppose she was thinking about
our old dreams. If they’d come true, she might have painted me, sitting
like that.'

'It don’t look much like you, even when you was young,' was the reply of
the man, not given to 'fancies'; 'but what is it about the vow?'

'I don’t know,' said his wife shortly.

It was one of the few lies she had ever told her husband. Just why,
having told him so much, she couldn’t tell him that Minnie Jackson and
she had promised each other that, no matter what happened, nothing
should keep them from realizing their ambitions, and that each year they
would give a report to each other on their birthday, she could not have
said. But suddenly her throat contracted and she could not see the patch
on the coat.

'How this lamp does smoke!' she said, as she brushed her hand over her
eyes.

'Well,' yawned her husband, 'I guess most folks, leastwise most girls,
have silly notions when they’re young. Who’d ever think to see you now,
that you ever had any such ideas? You’re a good wife for a farmer, Em.
There ain’t a better woman anywhere, than you.'

It was one of the few times in all the years of their marriage that he
had praised her. Jacob Black had never been one to question life or to
marvel at its wonders. For him, it held no wonders. The spell of life
had caught him when he was young. He had 'fallen in love' with Emmeline
Mead and he had married her. She had borne him eight children. Five of
them had lived. If Jacob Black had thought about it at all, which he did
not, he would have said that was the way life went. One was young. Then
one grew old. When one was young, one married, and probably there were
children.

The wing of romance had brushed him so lightly in its passing, that at
the time it had brought to him no yearning for an unknown rapture, no
wonder at the mystery of life. After twenty-one years, if he had given
it any thought whatsoever, he would have said that their marriage 'had
turned out well.' Em had been a good wife; she had risen at daylight and
worked until after dark. She wasn’t foolish about money. She never went
to town unless there was something to take her there. She went to
church, of course, and when it was her turn, she entertained the Ladies'
Aid. Such recreations were to be expected. Yes, Em had been a good wife.
But then, he had been a good husband. He never drank. He was a church
member. He always hired a woman to do the housework, for two weeks, when
there was a new baby. He let Em have the butter and chicken money.

The clock struck nine.

'I’m going to bed,' he said, 'there’s lots to do to-morrow. Nearly
through your mending?'

'No. Anyhow, I guess I’ll wait up for John and Victoria to come home.'

'Better not, if you’re tired. John may get in early, but probably Vic
will be mooning along.'

'What?' she cried. 'What do you mean by that, Jake Black?'

'Say, Em, are you blind? Can’t you see there’s something between her and
Jim? Haven’t you noticed that it isn’t John he comes to see now? Haven’t
you seen how Vic spruces up nights when, he’s coming over?'

The woman dropped her sewing in her lap. The needle ran into her thumb.
Mechanically, she pulled it out. She was so intent, looking at him,
trying to grasp his meaning, that she did not notice the drops of blood
which fell on her mending. When she spoke, it was with difficulty.

'O Jake, it can’t be. It just can’t be.'

'Why can’t it?'

'Why, he’s not good enough for Victoria.'

'Not good enough? Why, what’s the matter with Jim? I never heard a word
against him and I’ve known him ever since he was a little shaver. He’s
steady as can be, and a hard worker.'

'I know all that. I wasn’t thinking about such things. I was thinking
about--oh, about--other things.'

'Other things? Well, what on earth is the matter with the other things?
Forman’s place is as good as any hereabouts, and it’s clear, and only
three children to be divided among. There’s money in the bank, too, I’ll
bet.'

'But Victoria is so young, Jake. Why, she’s just a girl!'

'She’s old as you was, when we got married, Em.'

He went into the kitchen for another drink of water. When he came
through the room, he bent over to pick up his shoes.

'Say, Em,' he said, 'you surely don’t mean what you’ve been saying, do
you, about Jim not being good enough for Vic? 'Cause it ain’t likely
that she’ll ever get another chance as good.'

She did not answer. The man looking at her, the man who had lived with
her for more than twenty years, did not know that a sudden rage against
life was in her heart. He did not know that the lost dreams of her
youth were crying out in her against the treachery of life. He did not
know that the bandage which the years had mercifully bound across her
eyes had fallen away, and that she was seeing the everlasting tragedy of
the conflict between dreams and life. He did not know that, in that
moment, she was facing the supreme sorrow of motherhood in the knowledge
that the beloved child cannot be spared the disillusions of the years.
He only knew that she was worried.

'Don’t you be giving Vic any of your queer notions,' he said, in a voice
which was almost harsh.

Jacob Black was an easygoing man. But he had set his heart on seeing his
daughter the wife of Jim Forman. Did not the Forman farm join his on the
southeast?

Until she heard him walking around in their bedroom overhead, she sewed
on. Then she laid down her work. She picked up the picture. It was
small, but she held it clutched in both hands, as though it were heavy.
It would not have mattered to her if she had known that critics of art
scoffed at the picture. To her it was more than a masterpiece; it was a
miracle. Had she not felt like the pictured saint, when she had sat at
the organ, years ago? She, too, had raised her eyes in just that way;
and if actual roses had not fallen on the keys, the mystical ones of
hopes too fragile for words, and beauties only dreamed of, had fallen
all about her. There was a time when she had played the little organ in
church. How her soul had risen on the chords which she struck for the
Doxology, which always came just before the benediction! Even after
Victoria was born, she had played the organ for a time. Then the babies
came fast, and when one has milking to do and dishes to wash and one’s
fingers are needle-pricked, it is hard to find the keys. Also, when one
works from daylight till dark, one wants only rest. There is a sleep too
deep for dreams.

It was years since Emmeline Black had dreamed except in the terms of her
motherhood. For herself, the dream had gone. She did not rebel. She
accepted. It was the way of life with women like her. She would not have
said her life was hard. Jacob Black had been a good husband to her. Only
a fool, having married a poor farmer, could expect that the dreams of a
romantic girl would ever come true. Once she had expected it, of course.
That was when Jacob Black had seemed as a prince to Emmeline Mead. She
had felt the wing of romance as it brushed past her. But that was long
ago. She did not like the routine of her life. But neither did she hate
it. For herself, it had come to seem the natural, the expected thing.
But for Victoria--

Her dreams had not all gone when Victoria was born. That first year of
her marriage, it had seemed like playing at being a housekeeper to do
the work for Jacob and herself. She had loved her garden, and often,
just because she had loved to be with him and because she loved the
smell of the earth and the growing things which came from it, she had
gone into the fields with her husband. Then, when the year was almost
gone, her baby was born. She had loved the other children as they came,
and she had grieved for the girls and the boy who had died; but Victoria
was the child of her dreams. The other children had been named for aunts
and uncles and grandfathers, and so had satisfied family pride. But that
first baby had been named for a queen.

None of the boys cared for music. They 'took after' the Black family.
But Victoria, so Emmeline felt, belonged to her. She had always been
able to play by ear, and her voice was sweet and true. The
butter-and-egg money for a long time had gone for music lessons for
Victoria. When the girl was twelve, her mother had begun a secret fund.
Every week she pilfered a few pennies from her own small income and put
them away. Some time Victoria was to go to the city and have lessons
from the best teacher there. For five years she did not purchase a thing
for herself to wear, except now and then a dress pattern of calico. That
was no real sacrifice to her. The hard thing was to deny pretty clothes
to Victoria.

Then a year of sickness came. She tried to forget the little sum of
money hidden away. Surely their father could pay the bills. If she had
spent the butter-and-egg money, as he had thought she had done, he would
have had to pay them alone. But when the doctor said that Henry must be
taken to the county seat for an operation, there was no thought of
questioning her duty. Her husband had been surprised and relieved when
she gave him her little hoard. It was another proof that he had a good
wife, and one who was not foolish about money.

At last, her sewing was finished. She went into the kitchen and began to
set the bread. But her thoughts were not on it. She was thinking of
Emmeline Mead and her dreams, and how they had failed her. She had
expected Victoria Black to redeem those dreams. And now Victoria was to
marry and go the same hard way toward drab middle-age. She heard some
one step on the front porch. There was a low murmur of voices for a
moment and a little half-stifled laugh. Then the door opened.

'Mother, is that you?' came something which sounded half-whisper,
half-laugh from the door.

She raised her eyes from the bread-pan. She smiled. But she could not
speak. It seemed as if the fingers of some world-large hand had fastened
around her heart. To her Victoria had always been the most beautiful,
the most wonderful being, on earth. But she had never seen this Victoria
before. The girl was standing in the door--eyes shining, lips
trembling, her slim young body swaying as if to some hidden harmony.
Then she leaped across the kitchen, and threw her strong arms round her
mother.

'I’m so glad you’re up and alone! O mother, I had to see you to-night. I
couldn’t have gone to bed without talking to you. I was thinking it was
a blessed thing father always sleeps so hard, for I could tip-toe in and
get you and he’d never know the difference.' She stifled a little laugh
and went on, 'Come on, outdoors. It is too lovely to stay inside.' She
drew her mother, who had not yet spoken, through the door. 'I guess,
mother,' she said, as if suddenly shy when the confines of the kitchen
were left behind for the star-lighted night, 'that you know what it is,
don’t you?'

For answer, Emmeline Black sobbed.

'Don’t, mother, don’t. You mustn’t mind. Just think how near home I’ll
be! Isn’t that something to be glad about?'

Her mother nodded her head as she wiped her eyes on her gingham apron.

'I wondered if you saw it coming?' the girlish voice went on. 'You never
let on, and the kids never teased me any. So I thought perhaps you told
'em not to. I haven’t felt like being teased about Jim, some way. It’s
been too wonderful, you know.'

Not until that moment did Emmeline Black acknowledge the defeat of her
dreams. Wonderful! To love and be loved by Jim Forman, of whom the most
that could be said was that he was steady and a hard worker, and that
there were only two other children to share his father’s farm!

'Don’t cry, mother,' implored Victoria, 'though I know why you’re doing
it. I feel like crying, too, only something won’t let me cry to-night. I
guess I’m just too happy ever to cry again.'

Still her mother had not spoken. She had stopped crying and stood
twisting her apron with nervous fingers.

'Mother,' said Victoria, suddenly, 'you like Jim, don’t you?'

She said it as if the possibility of any one’s not liking Jim was
preposterous. But, nevertheless, there was anxiety in her voice.

Her mother nodded her head.

'Then why aren’t you really glad? I thought you would be, mother.'

There was no resisting that appeal in Victoria’s voice. Never in her
life had she failed her daughter. Was she to fail her in this hour?

'You seem like a little girl to me, Victoria,' she found voice to say,
at last. 'I guess all mothers feel like this when their daughters tell
them they are going to leave them. I reckon I never understood until
just now, why my mother acted just like she did when I told her your
father and I were going to be married.'

Victoria laughed joyously. 'I’m not a little girl. I’m a woman. And,
mother, Jim is so good. He wants to be married right away. He says he
can’t bear to think of waiting. But he said I was to tell you that if
you couldn’t spare me for a while, it would be all right.'

There was pride in her lover’s generosity. But deeper than that was the
woman’s pride in the knowledge that he could not 'bear to think of
waiting.'

'It isn’t that I can’t spare you, dear,' said her mother. 'But, O
Victoria, I’d wanted to have you go off and study to be a fine musician.
I’ve dreamed of it ever since you were born.'

'But I couldn’t go even if it wasn’t for Jim. Where would we ever get
the money? Anyway, mother, Jim is going to buy me a piano. What do you
think of that?'

'A piano?'

'Yes. He has been saving money for it for years. He says I play too well
for an old-fashioned organ. And on our wedding trip we’re going to
Chicago, and we’re going to pick it out there, and we’re going to a
concert and to a theatre and to some show that has music in it.'

In spite of herself, Emmeline Black was dazzled. In all her life she
never had gone to the city except in her dreams. Until that far-off day
of magic when Victoria should be a fine musician, she had never hoped to
replace the squeaky little organ with a piano.

'He says he has planned it ever since he loved me, and that has been
nearly always. He says he can just see me sitting at the piano playing
to him nights when he comes in from work. I guess, mother, we all have
to have our dreams. And now Jim’s and mine are coming true.'

'Have you always dreamed things, too?' asked her mother.

It did not seem strange to her that she and this beloved child of hers
had never talked about the things which were in their hearts until this
night. Mothers and daughters were like that. But there was a secret
jealousy in knowing that they would not have found the way to those
hidden things if it had not been for Jim Forman. It was he, and not she,
who had unlocked the secrets of Victoria’s heart.

'Why, yes, of course, mother. Don’t you remember how you used to ask me
what was the matter when I was a little girl, and would go off sometimes
by myself and sit and look across the fields? I didn’t know how to tell
you. I didn’t know just what it was. And don’t you remember asking me
sometimes if I was sick or if somebody had hurt my feelings, because
you’d see tears in my eyes? I’d tell you no. But some way I couldn’t
tell you it was because the red of the sunset or the apple trees in
blossom or the crescent moon, or whatever it happened to be, made me
feel so queer inside.' She laughed, but there was a hint of a sob in her
voice. 'Isn’t it strange, mother, that we don’t seem able to tell folks
any of these things? I couldn’t tell you even now, except that I always
had an idea you’d felt just the same way, yourself. I seemed to know I
got the dreams from you.'

'Hush,' warned her mother. 'There’s some one coming. Oh, John, is that
you?'

'Yes. Why don’t you two go to bed?' answered the boy. 'It’s getting
late, and there’s lot to do to-morrow.'

'It is bed-time, I guess,' said his mother. 'Run along, Victoria. And
sweet dreams.'

She cautioned John and his sister not to wake the others, as they
prepared for bed. She walked into the house. She tried the clock. Yes,
Jake had wound it. She locked the door. She folded her mending neatly
and put it away. She placed Minnie Jackson’s letter in the drawer of the
table. She took the picture of St. Cecilia and balanced it on the little
shelf above the organ, where had been a china vase with dried grasses in
it. She stood off and looked at it critically. She decided that was the
very place for the picture. She looked around the room for a place to
put the vase, and made room for it on top of the little pine book-case.
She walked to the table and hunted in the drawer until she found pen and
ink and a piece of ruled paper.

'Dear Minnie,' she wrote in her cramped, old-fashioned hand, 'I was so
glad to get your note and the picture. I want to thank you for it. Can’t
you come out right away and spend the day with me? I have so much to
tell you, and I want that you should tell me all about yourself, too.
You see I’m keeping the vow, just as you did, although we had forgotten
it for so long. Isn’t it strange, Minnie, about things? Here I’d thought
for years that my dreams were gone. And now it seems Victoria had them,
all the time. It’s a secret yet, but I want to tell you, and I know she
won’t mind, that Victoria is going to be married. You know Jim Forman,
don’t you? Anyway, you knew Cy Forman and Milly Davis, and he’s their
eldest child. I hope Victoria can keep the dreams for herself better
than I did. Perhaps she can. She’s going to have things easier than I
have, I hope. But if she can’t, surely she can keep them until she has a
child to give them to, just as I gave mine to her. I never thought of it
before, but it seems to me to-night that perhaps that is the surest way
there is of having our dreams last. I don’t see how I’m going to stand
it to see my girl growing fat and tired and old from hard work, like
I’ve done. But there is another side to it. You’re a mother, too,
Minnie, so I guess I don’t need to tell you that all the music and all
the pictures in the world wouldn’t make up to me, now, for my children.
We didn’t know that when we had our "fancies," did we? But we know it
now. Come out soon, Minnie. We’ll have so much to talk about, and I want
that you and Victoria should know each other.'

She folded the paper and slipped it into an envelope which she addressed
and stamped. Then she blew out the light.



A YEAR IN A COAL-MINE

BY JOSEPH HUSBAND


TEN days after my graduation from Harvard I took my place as an
unskilled workman in one of the largest of the great soft-coal mines
that lie in the Middle West. It was with no thought of writing my
experiences that I chose my occupation, but with the intention of
learning by actual work the 'operating end' of the great industry, in
the hope that such practical knowledge as I should acquire would fit me
to follow the business successfully. That this mine was operated in
direct opposition to the local organization of union labor, and had won
considerable notoriety by successfully mining coal in spite of the most
active hostility, gave an added interest to the work. The physical
conditions of the mine were the most perfect that modern engineering has
devised: the 'workings' were entirely electrified; the latest inventions
in coal-mining machinery were everywhere employed, and every precaution
for the safety of the men was followed beyond the letter of the law.


I

It was half-past six on a July morning when the day-shift began
streaming out of the wash-house: some four hundred men,--white, black,
and of perhaps twenty-eight nationalities,--dressed in their tattered,
black, and greasy mine-clothes. The long stream wound out of the
wash-house door, past the power-house where the two big generators that
feed the arteries of the great mine all day long with its motive power
were screaming in a high, shrill rhythm of sound,--past the tall
skeleton structure of the tipple-tower, from which the light morning
breeze blew black clouds of coal-dust as it eddied around the skeleton
of structural iron-work,--to a small house at the mine-mouth, sheathed
in corrugated iron, where the broken line formed a column, and the men,
one by one, passed through a gate by a small window and gave their
numbers to a red-faced man, who checked down in a great book the men who
were entering the mine.

From the window we passed along to a little inclosure directly above the
mouth of the main hoisting-shaft. Sheer above it the black tower of the
tipple pointed up into the hot, blue morning sky; and the dull, dry heat
of the flat Illinois country seemed to sink down around it. But from the
square, black mouth of the shaft a strong, steady blast of cool air
struck the faces of the men who stood at the head of the little column
waiting for the next hoist. On the one side of the shaft-mouth, long
lines of empty railroad cars stretched out beyond into the flat country,
each waiting its turn to be filled some time during the day with coal
that would come pouring down over the great screens in the tipple; and
on the other side of the shaft-mouth, under the seamed roof of the
building where the checker wrote down the numbers of the day-shift, sat
the hoisting engineer--a scrawny, hard-faced man with a mine-cap pushed
back from his forehead.

Beside him was the great drum on which the long steel cables that lifted
and lowered the hoisting-cage were rapidly unwinding, and in his hand he
held a lever by which he controlled the ascent or descent of the 'cage.'
The first cage had been lowered, and as I watched him and the dial
before him, I saw his hand follow his eye, and as the white arrow passed
the 300-foot level, the hand drew back a notch and the long, lithe wire
began to uncoil more slowly. Three hundred and fifty feet,--and another
notch,--and as the arrow reached near the 400-foot mark, his foot came
down hard on the brake, and a minute later a bell at his elbow sounded
the signal of the safe arrival of the hoist. A minute, and another
signal; and then, releasing his foot from the brake, and pulling another
lever toward him, the drums, reversed, began to rewind; and as the arrow
flew backwards, I realized that the cage was nearing the top--the cage
on which a minute later I was to make my descent as a 'loader' into one
of the largest, and perhaps most famous, of the vast soft-coal mines
that lie in our Middle States.

As the thin cables streamed upward and over the sheave-wheels above the
shaft and down to the reeling-drums, I looked at the men about me and
felt a sudden mortification at the clean blue of my overalls, and the
bright polish on my pick and shovel. A roar at the shaft-mouth, the
grind of the drums as the brakes shot in, and the cage lifted itself
suddenly from the shaft.

The cage, or elevator, in which the men were lowered into the mine, was
a great steel box divided into four superimposed compartments, each
holding ten men; and I stood, with nine others, crowded on the first or
lowest deck. As the last man pushed into his place and we stood shoulder
to shoulder, the hoisting engineer slowly slipped his lever again toward
him, and as slowly the cage sank. Then, in an instant, the white-blue of
the sky was gone, except for a thin crack below the deck above us,
through which a sheet of white light sliced in and hung heavily in the
dusty air of our compartment. The high song of the generators in the
power-house, the choking puffs of the switch-engine in the yards, and
the noise of men and work which I had not noticed before, I now suddenly
missed in the absence of sound.

There was a shuffling of feet on the deck above, and again we sank, and
this time all was darkness, while we paused for the third deck to fill.
Once more--and again for the fourth. Then, as the cage started and the
roar of the shoes on the guide-rails struck my ears, I looked at the men
about me. They were talking in a whirr of foreign words; and in the
greasy yellow light of their pit-lamps, which hung like miniature
coffee-pots in the brims of their caps, the strong, hard lines of their
faces deepened. The working day was begun.

As the cage shot down, the wall of the shaft seemed to slip up, and from
its wet, slimy surface an occasional spatter of mud shot in on the faces
of the miners. Strong smells of garlic, of sweat, and of burning oil
filled the compartment, and the air, which sucked up through the cracks
beneath our feet as though under the force of a piston, fanned and
pulled the yellow flames in the men’s caps into smoking streaks. Then I
felt the speed of the 'hoist' diminish. A pressure came in my ears and I
swallowed hard; and a second later, a soft yet abrupt pause in our
descent brought me down on my heels. The black wall of the shaft before
me suddenly gave way, and we came to a stop on the bottom of the mine.

It was cool, and after the heat of a July morning, the damp freshness of
the air chilled me. With dinner-pails banging against our knees, we
pushed out of the hoist; and as the men crowded past, I stood with my
back against a great timber and looked around me. Behind, the hoist had
already sunk into the 'sump' or pit, at the bottom of the shaft, in
order that the men on the second compartment might pass out into the
mine; and a second later they swarmed by me--and still I stood,
half-dazed by the roar of unknown sounds, my eyes blanketed by the
absence of light, and my whole mind smothered and crushed.

I was standing just off the main entry or tunnel of the mine, which
began on my left hand out of blackness and passed again, on my right,
into a seeming wall of darkness. The low, black roof, closely beamed
with great timbers, was held by long lines of great whitewashed
tree-trunks. A few electric lights shone dimly through their dust-coated
globes, and the yellow flames from the men’s pit-lamps, which had flared
so bright in the compartment of the hoisting-cage, seemed now but thin
tongues of flame that marked rather than disclosed the men.

Out of the blackness on the left, two tracks passed over a great pit and
stretched on into the blackness on the right, as though into the wall of
the coal itself. Then, far off, a red signal-light winked out and made
distance visible; and beyond it came the sound of grinding wheels; there
was the gleam of a headlight on the steel rails. The ray grew larger and
two yellow sparks above it flamed out into pit-lights. A train was
coming out of the entry and I waited until it should pass. With a grind
of brakes it suddenly loomed out of the blackness and into the dull haze
of light at the shaft-bottom. With a roar it passed by. The locomotive,
a great iron box, was built like a battering-ram, the headlight set in
its armor-plated bow, and behind, on two low seats, as in a racing
automobile, sat the motorman and the 'trip-rider' or helper, the
motorman with one hand on the great iron brake-wheel, the other on his
controller, and the trip-rider swinging on his low seat, half on the
motor and half over the coupling of the rocking car behind, clinging to
the pole of the trolley. Their faces were black with the
coal-dust,--black as the motor and their clothing,--and from their
pit-lamps the flames bent back in the wind and streamed out straight
along their cap-tops.

Low above the head of the trip-rider, the wheel on the trolley streaked
out sudden bursts of greenish-white sparks along the wire; and as the
train passed by, the roar of the locomotive gave place to the clattering
of the couplings of the long string of stocky cars, each heaped high
with its black load of coal. Some one seized me by the elbow.

'What’s yer number?' he asked.

'419.'

'Loader? New man?'

I nodded.

'Then come along with me.'

He was a tall, thin man, who walked with his head thrown forward and his
chin against his chest as if in constant fear of striking the low beams
overhead. I followed him, stumbling rather clumsily over the broken coal
beside the track. The train had come to a stop over the pit between the
rails, and men with iron bars were beating loose the frogs and releasing
the hopper-bottoms of the cars. Heavy clouds of fine coal-dust poured up
from the cars as the coal roared down into the bins; and the clanking of
metal, the crash of falling coal, and the unintelligible shouting of the
foreigners, filled the entry with a dull tumult of sounds.

Dodging the low trolley-wire which hung about five feet above the rails,
we crawled across the coupling between two of the cars to the other side
of the entry, and walked to the left, past the locomotive where the
motorman was still sitting in his low seat, waiting to pull out his
train of empty cars into the sudden darkness of the tunnel beyond. Then,
for the first time, I learned that mines are echoless, and that
sound--like light--is absorbed by the blotter-like walls of the tunnels.

We walked down the entry between the rails, and after a hundred yards
turned with the switch in the track sharply to the right, and again on.
Sense of direction or angles was lost, and, like the faces in a foreign
race of people, where one can see little or no individuality, so here,
each corner seemed the same, and in a hundred yards I was utterly lost.
Above was the smooth, black roof; below, the ties and the rails; and on
either side, behind the two long rows of props, the face of the
coal-seam, which glittered and sparkled in the light from our pit-lamps
like a dull diamond.

We talked a little. My companion asked me where I had worked before, how
much I knew of mines, and a few other questions; and still we walked on,
dodging the low wire that comes level with one’s ear, and stumbling over
the layer of broken coal that lay strewn here and there between the
rails.

The silence was like the darkness--a total absence of sound, rather than
stillness, as my first impression of the mine had been that of an
absence of light, rather than of darkness. The smoking lights in our
caps seemed to press out through the blackness twenty feet around us,
where the light disappeared and was gone. And always in front of us, out
of the black darkness, the two long lines of props on either side of the
track stepped one by one into the yellow haze of light and sank again
into darkness behind us as we walked.

The air was cool and damp, but as we turned the last corner, the
dampness seemed suddenly gone from it. It was warmer and closer. Here
the track swerved up from one of the main tunnels into a 'room'; and at
the end, or 'heading' of this room, which we reached a few minutes
later, empty and waiting for its first load, stood one of the square
cars which I had seen before at the mine-bottom and which we passed
several times on sidings by the track. The car was pushed up to the end
of the track and its wheels 'spragged' by two blocks of coal. Here the
tunnel suddenly ended, and from the blank back 'face' a rough, broken
pile of coal streamed down on both sides of the car and reared up before
it against the roof.

'Just shovel 'er full, then wait till the motor takes her out and sends
in an empty, and fill that one. I’ll look in on you once in a while and
see how you’re getting along.'

Then he turned and walked down the track and left me in the dim light of
my single pit-lamp.


II

In the first days of coal-mining--as in many mines to-day where modern
methods have not superseded those of old-time miners--a man did all the
work. With his hand-drill he bored into the face of the coal at the head
of his room, or entry, and from his keg of powder he made long
cartridges and inserted them into his drill-holes. Then, when the coal
was blasted down, and he had broken it with a pick, he loaded it with
his shovel into a car; and trimming square the face of the tunnel,
propping when necessary, he pushed on and on until he broke through and
joined the next tunnel or completed the required length of that single
entry.

But to-day these conditions are, in most instances, changed. The work
begins with the 'machine-men,' who operate the 'chain-machines.' In
order that the blast may dislodge by gravity an even block of coal, of
the dimensions of the cross-section of the tunnel, these men cut with
their machines a 'sump-cut,' or, in other words, carve out an opening
level with the floor, about six inches high and six feet deep, at the
end of the tunnel. The machines--which are propelled by
electricity--consist of a motor and a large oblong disk, about which
travels an endless chain containing sharp steel 'bits' or picks. The
machine is braced, the current turned on, and the disk advanced against
the coal, automatically advancing as the bits grind out the coal. As
soon as the machine has entered to the full six feet, the disk is
withdrawn and the cut continued until it extends across the entire face.

In the evening the drillers, with their powerful air-drills, bore a
series of five or six six-foot 'shot-holes,' four along the roof, and
two on each side for the 'rib-shots.' Then a third crew of men, the
'shot-firers,' fill the deep drill-hole with long cartridges of coarse
black powder, and blast down the coal, which falls broken and crumbled
into the cut prepared by the machine-men. In the morning, when the
ever-moving current of air, forced into the mine by the fan at the mouth
of the air-shaft, has cleared away the dust and smoke, the loaders enter
the mine, and all day long load into the ever-ready cars the coal that
has been blasted down, until the 'place' is cleaned up, and their work
is done. Then they move on to another 'place'; and so the work goes on
in a perfect system of rotation.

My companion had told me, as we walked from the mine-bottom, that his
name was Billy Wild. 'Call me Billy,' he said; and as we walked down the
track to the main entry, he turned and called over his shoulder, 'You’re
in Room 27, third west-south. That’s where you are, if you want to
know.'

The light in my lamp was burning low, and I sat down on a pile of coal
beside the track, lifted it out of the socket in my cap, and pried up
the wick with a nail which one of the men 'on top' had given me for the
purpose. Then I stripped to the waist and began to load, shovelful after
shovelful, each lifted four feet and turned over into the waiting car,
for two long hours, sometimes stopping to break with my pick great
blocks of coal that were too large to lift, even with my hands. Then,
finally, lumps of coal began to show above the edge of the car, and I
'trimmed' it, lifting some of the larger pieces to my knees, then
against my chest, and then throwing them up on the top of the pile.

The noise of the shovel scraping against the floor and the clatter of
the coal as the great pile slid down and filled each hole that I dug out
at its foot, filled the tunnel with friendly sounds; but when the car
was loaded and I slipped on my coat and sat down on a pile of fine
coal-dust beside the track to wait, silence suddenly submerged me. I
could hear my heart beat, and curious noises sang in my ears. Up in the
roof, under the stratum of slate above the coal, came a trickling sound
like running water--the sound of gas seeping out through the crevices in
the coal. I was wet with sweat, and my face, hands, and body were black
where the great cloud of dust which my shovel had created had smeared my
wet skin. Dull pains in the small of my back caught me when I moved, and
every muscle in my body ached. (In a week my hands had blistered, the
blisters had broken, and over the cracked flesh ingrained with coal-dust
healing callouses had begun to form.)

Then, far off in the distance, came a muffled, grinding sound that grew
louder and louder--a sound that almost terrified. A dull, yellow light,
far down in the mouth of the room, outlined the square of the tunnel;
and then, around the corner came the headlight of the electric
'gathering' or switching locomotive, and above it, the bobbing yellow
flames of two pit-lamps. With a grinding roar, the motor struck the
upgrade and came looming up the tunnel, filling it with its bulk. There
was sound, and the silence was gone. The coupling of the locomotive
locked with the coupling of the waiting car, and they rumbled away.

Once more the locomotive came, this time with an 'empty' to be filled.
In the old days, mules were used to 'gather' the loaded cars, and, in
fact, are still employed in most mines to-day; but electricity permits
bigger loads, and the dozen or two of mules that lived in the mine were
used only where it was impossible to run the locomotives.

At the end of the week I was given a companion, or 'buddy.' Our lockers
in the wash-house were near together, and we usually went down on the
same hoist; but some mornings I would find Jim ahead of me, waiting by
the scale-house. Jim rarely took the full benefit of the wash-house
privileges, and morning found him with the dirt and grime of the work of
the previous day still on his face. He was a Greek, short, with a thin,
black moustache, which drooped down into two 'rat-tail' points. Around
each eye a heavy black line of coal-dust was penciled, as though by an
actor’s crayon. His torn black working clothes, greasy with oil dripped
from his pit-lamp, hung on him like rags on a scarecrow.

From the scale-house we walked up the now familiar entries in 'third
west-south' to the room where we worked, and dug out our picks and
shovels from under a pile of coal where we had hidden them the night
before. Then, in the still, close air of the silent room, we began each
morning to fill the first car.

Down in the scale-house, where the cars were hauled over the scales set
in the track, before being dumped into the bins between the rails, Old
Man Davis took the weights; and when the loader’s number--a small brass
tag with his number stamped upon it--was given to him, he marked down
opposite it the pounds of coal to the loader’s credit; and so each day
on the great sheet, smooched with his dusty hands, stood a record of
each man’s strength measured in tons of coal.

When Jim and I worked together, we took turns hanging our numbers inside
the car; and each night we remembered to whose credit the last car had
been; and the next morning, if my number had been hung in the last car
of the day before, Jim would pull one of his tags out of his pocket and
hang it on the hook just inside the edge of the empty car. Then, he on
one side and I on the other, we worked, shovelful after shovelful, until
the coal showed above the edge. And then came the 'trimming' with the
great blocks that had to be lifted and pushed with our chests and arms
up on the top of the filled car.

Time went slowly then, for we could load a car together in less than an
hour; and sometimes it took an hour and a half before the 'gathering'
motor would come grinding up into the room to give us an 'empty.' In
those long half-hours we would sit together on a pile of coal-dust
beside the track and try to talk to each other.

Jim was a Greek, and from what I was able to gather, he came from
somewhere in the southern part of the peninsula. I remembered a little
Homer, and I often tried stray words on him; but my pronunciation of the
Greek of ancient Athens was not the Greek of Jim Bardas; and although he
recognized attempts at his own tongue and oftentimes the meaning of the
words, it was not until we discovered a system of writing that we began
to get along. Mixed in with the coal that had been blasted down by the
shot-firers the night before, we occasionally found strips of white
paper from the cartridges. We always saved these and laid them beside
our dinner-pails; and when the car was filled and we had sat down again
in the quiet beside the track, we would take our pit-lamps out of our
caps and, rubbing our fingers in the greasy gum of oil and coal-dust
that formed under the lamp-spout, we would write Greek words with our
fingers on the white strips of paper.

Jim knew some English: the word for coal, car, loader--and he learned
that my name was Joe, and called me 'My friend,' and 'buddie.' Then
sometimes, after the fascination of writing words had worn away, we
would sit still and listen to the gas or for the approach of the motor;
and sometimes, when the wicks in our lamps had burned low, I would take
out of my pocket the round ball of lamp-wick, and, like old women with a
skein of yarn, we would wind back and forth, from his fingers to my own,
sixteen strands of lamp-wick; and then, tying the end in a rude knot and
breaking it off, stick the skein of wick down the spout of the lamp
until only the end remained in sight. Next, lifting the little lid on
the top, we would fill the body with oil, shaking it until the wick was
thoroughly soaked so that it would burn.


III

To the ear accustomed to the constant sound of a living world, the
stillness of a coal-mine, where the miles of cross-cuts and entries and
the unyielding walls swallow up all sounds and echo, is a silence that
is complete; but, as one becomes accustomed to the silence through long
hours of solitary work, sounds become audible that would escape an ear
less trained. The trickling murmur of the gas; the spattering fall of a
lump of coal, loosened by some mysterious force from a cranny in the
wall; the sudden knocking and breaking of a stratum far up in the rock
above; or the scurry of a rat off somewhere in the darkness--strike on
the ear loud and startlingly. The eye, too, becomes trained to penetrate
the darkness; but the darkness is so complete that there is a limit, the
limit of the rays cast by the pit-lamp.

There is a curious thing that I have noticed, and as I have never heard
it mentioned by any of the other men, perhaps it is an idea peculiar to
myself; but on days when I entered the mine, with the strong yellow
sunlight and the blue sky as a last memory of the world above, I carried
with me a condition of fair weather that seemed to penetrate down into
the blackness of the entries and make my pit-lamp burn a little more
brightly. On days when we entered the mine with a gray sky above, or
with a cold rain beating in our faces, there was a depression of spirits
that made the blackness more dense and unyielding, and the lights from
the lamps seemed less cheerful.

Sometimes the roof was bad in the rooms, and I soon learned from the
older miners to enter my room each morning testing gingerly with my
pit-lamp for the presence of gas, and reaching far up with my pick,
tapping on the smooth stone roof to test its strength. If the steel rang
clean against the stone, the roof was good; but if it sounded dull and
drummy, it might be dangerous. Sometimes, when the roof was weak, we
would call for the section boss and prop up the loosened stone; but more
often, the men ran their risk. We worked so many days in safety that it
seemed strange that death could come; and when it did come, it came so
suddenly that there was a surprise, and the next day we began to forget.

I had heard much of the dangers that the miner is exposed to, but little
has been said of the risks to which the men through carelessness subject
themselves. Death comes frequently to the coal-miners from a 'blown-out
shot.' When the blast is inserted in the drill-hole, several dummy
cartridges are packed in for tamping. If these are properly made and
tamped, the force of the explosion will tear down the coal properly; but
if the man has been careless in his work, the tamps will blow out like
shot from a gun-barrel, and igniting such gas or coal-dust as may be
present, kill or badly burn the shot-firers. The proper tamping is wet
clay, but it is impossible to convince the men of it, and nine out of
ten will tamp their holes with dummies filled with coal-dust (itself a
dangerous explosive) scooped up from the side of the track. Again,
powder-kegs are sometimes opened in a manner which seems almost the act
of an insane man. Rather than take the trouble to unscrew the cap in the
head of the tin powder-keg and pour out the powder through its natural
opening, the miner will drive his pick through the head of the keg and
pour the powder from the jagged square hole he has punched. And these
are but two of the many voluntary dangers which a little care on the
part of the men themselves would obviate.

A mine always seems more or less populated when the day-shift is down;
for during the hours of the working day, in every far corner, at the
head of every entry and room, there are men drilling, loading, and ever
pushing forward its boundaries. At five o’clock the long line of
blackened miners which is formed at the foot of the hoisting-shaft
begins to leave the mine; and by six o’clock, with the exception of a
few inspectors and fire-bosses, the mine is deserted.

The night-shift began at eight, and it was as though night had suddenly
been hastened forward, to step from the soft evening twilight on the
hoist, and, in a brief second, leave behind the world and the day and
plunge back into the darkness of the mine.

We were walking up the track from the mine-bottom toward six
west-south--Billy Wild, Pat Davis, two track-repairers, and I. As we
turned the corner by the run-around, there came suddenly from far off in
the thick stillness a faint tremor and a strong current of air. The
'shooters' were at work. For a quarter of a mile we walked on, stopping
every once in a while to listen to the far-off 'boom' of the blasts that
came through the long tunnels, faint and distant, as though muffled by
many folds of heavy cloth. We pushed open the big trappers' door just
beyond where First and Second Right turn off from the main entry, and
came into the faint yellow glow of a single electric lamp that hung from
the low beamed roof.

Beside the track, in a black niche cut in the wall of coal, two men were
working. A safe twenty feet from them their lighted pit-lamps flared
where they were hung by the hooks from one of the props. Round, black
cans of powder tumbled together in the back of the alcove, a pile of
empty paper tubes and great spools of thick, white fuse lay beside them.
We sat down on the edge of the track, at a safe distance from the open
powder, and watched them as they blew open the long, white tubes and
with a battered funnel poured in the coarse grains of powder, until the
smooth, round cartridge was filled, a yard or two of white fuse hanging
from its end. In fifteen minutes they had finished, and one of the men
gathered in his arms the pile of completed cartridges and joined us in
the main entry.

A few minutes later, as we neared the heading, a sudden singing 'boom'
came down strongly against the air-current and bent back the flames in
our pit-lamps. Far off in the blackness ahead, a point of light marked
the direction of the tunnel; another appeared. Suddenly, from the thick
silence, came the shrill whine of the air-drills. A couple of lamps,
like yellow tongues of flame, shone dimly in the head of the tunnel, and
the air grew thick with a flurry of fine coal-dust. Then, below the
bobbing lights appeared the bodies of two men, stripped to the waist,
the black coating of dust that covered them moist with gleaming streaks
of sweat.

'How many holes have you drilled?' yelled Wild, his voice drowned by the
scream of the long air-drill as the writhing bit tore into the coal.

There was a final convulsive grind as the last inch of the six-foot
drill sank home, then the sudden familiar absence of sound save for the
hiss of escaping air.

'All done here.'

Slowly the two men pulled the long screw blade from the black breast of
the coal, the air-hose writhing like a wounded snake about their ankles.
The driller who had spoken wiped his sweaty face with his hands, his
eyes blinking with the dust. He picked up his greasy coat from beside
the track and wrapped it around his wet shoulders.

'Look out for the gas!' he shouted. 'There is a bit here, up high.'

He raised his lamp slowly to the jagged roof. A quick blue flame
suddenly expanded from the lamp and puffed down at him as he took away
his hand.

In the black end of the tunnel six small holes, each an inch and a half
in diameter and six feet deep, invisible in the darkness and against the
blackness of the coal, marked where the blasts were to be placed. On the
level floor, stretching from one wall of the entry to the other, the
undercut had been ground out with the chain-machines by the machine-men
during the afternoon; and as soon as the blasts were in and the fuses
lighted, the sudden wrench of these charges would tear down a solid
block of coal six feet deep by the height and depth of the entry, to
fall crushed and broken into the sump-cut, ready for the loaders on the
following morning.

Selecting and examining each cartridge, the shooters charged the
drill-holes. Two cartridges of black powder, tamped in with a long
copper-headed rod; then dummies of clay for wads, leaving hanging like a
great white cord from each charged drill-hole a yard of the long, white
fuse.

We turned and tramped down the tunnel and squatted on the track a safe
fifty yards away. Down at the end of the tunnel we had just deserted,
bobbed the tiny flames of the lights in the shooters' pit-caps. There
was a faint glow of sparks. 'Coming!' they yelled out through the
darkness, and we heard them running as we saw their lights grow larger.

For a minute we silently waited. Then, from the far end of the tunnel,
muffled and booming like the breaking of a great wave in some vast cave,
came a singing roar, now like the screech of metal hurled through the
air, and the black end of the tunnel flamed suddenly defiant; a solid
square of crimson flames, like the window of a burning house; and a roar
of flying air drove past us, putting out our lights and throwing us back
against the rails.

'It’s a windy one,' yelled Wild. 'Look out for the rib-shots.'

Like a final curtain in a darkened theatre, a slow pall of heavy smoke
sank down from the roof, and as it touched the floor, a second burst of
flame tore it suddenly upward, and far down the entry, the trappers'
door banged noisily in the darkness. Then we crept back slowly,
breathing hard in an air thick with dust and the smell of the burnt
black powder, to the end of the tunnel, where the whole face had been
torn loose--a great pile of broken coal against the end of the entry.

Often, bits of paper from the cartridges, lighted by the blast, will
start a fire in the piles of coal-dust left by the machine-men; and
before the shooters leave a room that has been blasted, an examination
must be made in order to prevent the possibility of fire.

All night long we moved from one entry to another, blasting down in each
six feet more of the tunnel, which would be loaded out on the following
day; and it was four in the morning before the work was finished.

It was usually between four and five in the morning when we left the
mine. As we stepped from the hoist and left behind us the confining
darkness, the smoky air, and the sense of oppression and silence of the
mine below, the soft, fresh morning air in the early dawn, or sometimes
the cool rain, seemed never more refreshing. One does not notice the
silence of a mine so much upon leaving the noise of the outer world and
entering the maze of tunnels on the day’s work, as when stepping off the
hoist in the early morning hours, when the world is almost still: the
sudden sense of sound and of living things emphasizes, by contrast, the
silence of the underworld. There is a noise of life, and the very motion
of the air seems to carry sounds. A dog barking half a mile away in the
sleeping town sounds loud and friendly, and there seems to be a sudden
clamor that is almost bewildering.


IV

It is natural that a mine should have its superstitions. The darkness of
the underworld, the silence, the long hours of solitary work, are all
conditions ideal to the birth of superstition; and when the workmen are
drawn from many nationalities, it is again but natural that the same
should be true of their superstitions.

One night when Carlson, the general manager, was sitting in his office,
there was a knock at the door, and two loaders, from the Hartz
Mountains, came into the room, talking excitedly, with Little Dick, the
interpreter. Their story was disconnected, but Carlson gathered the main
facts. They had been working in the northwest corner of the mine, in an
older part of the workings, and on their way out that afternoon, as they
were passing an abandoned room, they had noticed several lights far up
at its heading. Knowing that the room was no longer being worked, and
curious as to who should be there, they had walked up quietly toward the
lights. Here their story became more confused. There were two men, they
insisted, and they were certain that they were dwarfs. They had noticed
them carefully, and described them as little men, with great picks, who
were digging or burying something in the clay floor at the foot of one
of the props. A sudden terror had seized them, and they had not delayed
to make further investigation; but on the way out they had talked
together and had decided that these two strange creatures had been
burying some treasure: 'a pot of gold,' one of them argued.

Carlson was interested. The questions and answers grew more definite and
more startling. The two men whom they had seen were certainly
hump-backed. They were wielding enormous picks, and one of the loaders
believed that he had seen them put something into the hole. Then came
their request that they might be allowed to go back that night into the
mine, and with their own tools go to this abandoned room and dig for the
buried treasure. It was against precedent to allow any but the
night-shift into the mine; but superstitions are demoralizing, and the
best remedy seemed to be to allow them to prove themselves mistaken. An
hour later they were lowered on the hoist; and all that night, alone in
the silence of the mine, they dug steadily in the heading of the
abandoned room; but no treasure was discovered. All the next night they
dug; and it was not until seven nights' labor had turned over a foot and
a half of the hard clay of the entire heading that they abandoned their
search.

It is the custom of the men, when they leave the mine at the close of
the shift, to hide their tools; and the imaginations of the loaders,
worked upon by eight hours of solitary work, had doubtless seen in the
forms of two of their companions who were hiding their shovels the
traditional gnomes of their own Hartz Mountains.

In another part of the mine another superstition was given birth that
led to a more unfortunate result. This time it happened among the
Croatians, and, unfortunately, the story was told throughout the
boarding-houses before the bosses learned of it, so that one morning a
great section of the mine was abandoned by the men.

Up in the headings of one of the entries--so the story went--lived the
ghost of a white mule. As the men worked with the coal before them, and
the black emptiness of the tunnel behind, this phantom mule would
materialize silently from the wall of the entry, and with the most
diabolical expression upon its face, creep quietly down behind its
intended victim, who--all unconscious of its presence--would be occupied
in loading his car. If the man turned, and for even a fraction of a
second his eyes rested upon the phantom, the shape would suddenly
disappear; but if he were less fortunate, and that unconscious feeling
of a presence behind him did not compel him to turn his eyes, the
phantom mule would sink his material teeth deep into the miner’s
shoulder; and death would follow. It was fortunate, indeed, that the
only two men who had been visited by this unpleasant apparition had
turned and observed him.

Perhaps it had been the sudden white glare cast from the headlight of a
locomotive far down the entry, or perhaps it had been entirely the
imagination, but, at all events, a man had come from his work early one
afternoon inspired with this strange vision, and the next day another
man also had seen it. The story was noised around, and two days later
the men stuck firmly to their determination that they would not enter
that part of the mine.

Fortunately for the superintendent, a crowd of Bulgarians had just
arrived from East St. Louis, seeking employment. The Croatians were sent
into another part of the mine to work, a mile from the haunted entries,
where there were no unpleasant ghosts of white mules to disturb their
labors; and so long as the mine remained in operation, there is no
further record of the unpleasant ramblings of this fantastical animal;
at least, none of the Bulgarians ever saw it.

With the mule came the ghost of a little white dog; but for some curious
reason, although the dog was reported by many to have run out from
abandoned rooms and barked at the men as they stumbled up the entry, but
little attention was paid to it, and it seemed to possess no
particularly disturbing influence.

There were many Negroes in the mine and they, too, had their 'h’ants'
and superstitions; but these were of a more ordinary nature. In Room 2,
third west-south, a sudden fall of rock from the roof had caught two
miners. Tons of stone had followed, and in a second, two men had been
crushed, killed, and buried. Death must have been instantaneous, and
months of labor would have been required to recover the bodies, which
were probably crushed out of human resemblance; but even years after
this happened, Room 2 was one that was carefully avoided by all the
Negroes, and if it ever became necessary for one of them to pass it
alone, he would always go by on the run; for back under the tons of
white shale that came down straight across the room-mouth the ghosts of
Old Man Gleason and another, whose name was forgotten, still
remained--immortal.

It was to prevent the establishment of such superstitions that the shift
was always called off for the day if a man was killed in the mine; and
in the morning, when the men returned to their work, the boss of the
section in which the unfortunate miner had met his death took particular
care to place several men together at that place, in order that no
superstition might grow up around it.



WOMAN’S SPHERE

BY S. H. KEMPER


'WILBUR, dear,' said Aunt Susan, 'Rosa is very busy with the washing
this morning, and if you will go down into the garden and gather this
basket full of peas and then shell them for her to cook for dinner, I
will--' Aunt Susan paused to reflect a moment, then continued, 'I will
give you a new ball for a birthday present.'

Aunt Susan smiled kindly at the flashing look of intense joy that Wilbur
lifted to her face as he seized the basket she was holding out to him.

'I--I’d just love to have it!' he exclaimed.

He was quite overcome with emotion, and tore away toward the garden at
top speed.

Wilbur’s mother was ill, and Wilbur had been sent to visit Aunt Susan in
order that the house might be quiet. Aunt Susan was really Wilbur’s
father’s aunt. She was grandma’s sister, and she was very old. Grandma
was not old. Her hair was white, but it went in nice squiggles around
her face, and she wore big hats with plumes and shiny, rustly dresses,
and high-heeled shoes. And when she kissed you she clasped you in a
powerful embrace against her chest. Grandma was not old. But Aunt Susan,
with her smooth gray hair and her wrinkled face and spectacles, her
plain black dress and little shawl, and her funny cloth shoes, seemed to
Wilbur a being inconceivably stricken of old. You felt intensely sorry
for her for being so old. You were so sorry that you felt it inside of
you; it was almost as if your stomach ached. And she was always kind and
gentle. You felt that it would be a grievous thing to hurt her feelings
or trouble her in any way.

Wilbur’s birthday came on Thursday and this was only Monday. A long time
to wait. Wilbur needed a ball very badly. He had made friends with a
number of boys here in Aunt Susan’s town, and the baseball season was at
its height. Wilbur’s friends owned several perfectly worthy bats and two
or three gloves, but there was a serious lack of balls.

That afternoon, joining the boys on the vacant lot where they played,
Wilbur informed them with great satisfaction of Aunt Susan’s promise.

'My aunt is going to give me a new ball on my birthday,' he said to
them.

They were more than pleased with the news. Wilbur found himself the
centre of flattering interest. He told them that he guessed it would be
a regular league ball.

Wilbur exerted himself earnestly to be helpful to Aunt Susan and Rosa
all day on Tuesday and Wednesday. He felt that he could not do enough
for Aunt Susan, and also that it would be well to remind her of her
promise by constant acts of courtesy and service, for it was a long time
before Thursday. But it did not seem possible that any one could really
forget an affair so important and so agreeable as the purchase of a
ball.

Wilbur knew where Aunt Susan would get the ball: at Reiter’s store, of
course. Reiter kept a store where books and magazines and athletic goods
were sold. He kept all the standard things; the ball would be of a good
make, Wilbur was sure.

Aunt Susan did not often go down town. Except when busy about her
housekeeping, she was likely to spend the time rocking in her
old-fashioned rocker on the front porch, with a work-basket beside her,
occupying herself with needlework or knitting. She knitted a great deal.
There were many bright-colored wools in her work-basket.

On Wednesday afternoon Wilbur’s heart gave an excited jump when he saw
Aunt Susan coming downstairs tying her little bonnet over her gray hair.
Her black silk shopping-bag hung on her arm. Wilbur did not doubt that
she was going down town with an eye single to Reiter’s store. He assumed
an unconscious air, just as one did when mother went shopping before
Christmas. He watched Aunt Susan out of sight, and afterward hung about
the front yard till he saw her returning. He ran to open the gate for
her and took her parasol and bag, looking up at her with bright,
trustful eyes. The bag seemed quite full of small parcels as he carried
it for Aunt Susan.

Wilbur fell asleep that night wondering whether Aunt Susan would put the
ball on the breakfast-table next morning, where he would see it when he
entered the dining-room. Perhaps she would bring it after he was asleep,
and place it on the chair beside his bed, or perhaps on the
old-fashioned bureau. There were many happy possibilities.

When the window opposite his bed began to grow bright with the pink and
gold of sunrise, Wilbur woke and sat up, looking first at the chair,
then at the bureau. No, it was not in the room. It would be in the
dining-room, then. When he went downstairs he was surprised to find that
Aunt Susan had not yet left her room. In the kitchen Rosa was only
beginning her preparations for breakfast. Wilbur spent a long time, a
restless but happy hour, waiting, idling about the dewy garden and the
front yard, feeding the chickens and playing with the cat.

At last Rosa rang the bell and Wilbur went into the house. Aunt Susan,
seated at the breakfast table, greeted him affectionately.

'Many happy returns, dear!' she said, holding out her hand.

She drew him to her and kissed his cheek. Now, surely-- But the ball
was not on the table beside his plate. He could not see it anywhere in
the room.

The breakfasts at Aunt Susan’s were always good. There would be fried
chicken and waffles, or muffins, and squashy corn bread. Indeed all
meal-times at Aunt Susan’s would have been periods of unmixed joy if
Aunt Susan had not felt obliged to keep up a steady conversation. Aunt
Susan made small talk laboriously. It distracted your mind. She had a
strange delusion that one was avidly interested in one’s schoolbooks.
She constantly dwelt upon the subject of school. It made things
difficult, for school was over now and all its rigors happily forgotten.
This morning, what with Aunt Susan’s talk and his excitement, Wilbur
could hardly eat anything.

Breakfast was over. Aunt Susan and Rosa were in the pantry consulting on
housekeeping matters. Wilbur sat down in a rocking-chair on the front
porch and waited. He waited and waited, rocking violently. And then at
last he heard Aunt Susan calling him.

He was out of his chair and in the hall like a flash.

'Yes’m,' he answered. 'Yes’m. What is it, Aunt Susan?'

Aunt Susan was coming down the stairs.

'Here is the ball I promised you, dear,' she said. She placed in his
outstretched hand--

Wilbur had visualized it so vividly, had imagined the desired thing with
such intensity, that it was as if a strange transformation had taken
place before his eyes. He was holding, not the hard, heavy, white ball
he had seemed actually to see, with its miraculously perfect stitching
and the trim lettering of the name upon it: a curious, soft thing lay in
his hand, a home-made ball constructed of wools. There seemed to be
millions of short strands of bright-colored wools, all held together in
the centre by some means and sticking out in every direction. Their
smoothly clipped ends formed the surface of the ball.

It was the kind of thing you would give a baby in a go-cart.

Wilbur stood and gazed at it. The kind of thing you would give a baby in
a go-cart! Then he looked up at Aunt Susan, and suddenly the sense of
his great disappointment was lost in that immense, aching pity for her.
She was so old, and she had made it herself, thinking it would please
him.

'It’s--it’s awful pretty!' Wilbur stammered.

He felt inexpressibly sorry for Aunt Susan. How could any one be so
utterly without comprehension!

Aunt Susan patted his cheek.

'You have been a good boy,' she said. 'I hope you will enjoy playing at
ball with your little friends.'

Wilbur went cold. The other fellows! He foresaw well enough their
attitude toward his misfortune. To them it would seem a subject for
unsparing derision. The kind of thing you would give a baby in a
go-cart! And he had said, 'I guess it will be a regular league ball.'

Aunt Susan went away upon her housekeeping activities, and Wilbur, after
standing for a while turning the woolly ball in his hands, went upstairs
to his room. He hid the ball under the neatly folded garments in the
upper drawer of the bureau. It was a relief to get it out of sight. He
had a heavy, sickish feeling in his chest. The more he thought over his
trouble, the greater it seemed. A great dread of having the other boys
know about it possessed him. He felt that he could not possibly bear the
ignominy.

The morning dragged itself heavily away. Wilbur remained indoors. He
could not go out for fear the other fellows might see him. He winced
painfully at the thought of meeting them.

Rosa baked a fine cake for him, decorating it tastefully with nine pink
candles, but Wilbur regarded it wanly.

At dinner Aunt Susan noticed his lack of appetite and fussed over him
anxiously, dismaying his soul with dark hints of doses of medicine.

'I don’t feel a bit sick, Aunt Susan,' he protested; 'honest, I don’t.'

He felt almost desperate. He was heavy-hearted with his disappointment,
oppressed with the fear of discovery; and now he must be harried and
pursued with threats of medicine.

It was a miserable afternoon. Wilbur undertook to write a letter to his
mother. Usually Aunt Susan was obliged to urge him to his duty, but
to-day it offered an excuse to remain indoors, and Wilbur seized it
gladly. Writing a letter was a business that took time and effort. After
a while, as Wilbur sat in the attitude of composition, with his legs
wrapped around the legs of his chair and his shoulders hunched over the
table, Aunt Susan’s anxious eye detected the fact that he was not
writing but was absently chewing his pencil.

'Wilbur, dear,' Aunt Susan said, 'you are staying in the house too much.
Put your letter away now and run out of doors. I think you need the
fresh air. You can finish your letter to-morrow.'

'Oh, I would rather finish it now, please,' Wilbur said; 'you know poppa
is coming to see us this evening, and if I get it done I can give it to
him to take to mamma.'

He hastily stuck out his tongue and, breathing heavily, began to write.

Throughout the afternoon Wilbur contrived by one excuse or another to
remain in the house. After the early tea Aunt Susan sat down in one of
the porch rockers with her knitting and Wilbur sedately took another.
With great effort he sustained the conversation which Aunt Susan
considered necessary. Presently, with a throb of alarm, Wilbur saw
Henry, the boy who lived next door, climbing the fence dividing the two
yards. With fascinated dread Wilbur watched him approach. He stood still
at the foot of the porch steps.

'Hello,' he said in his deep and husky voice.

'Hello,' Wilbur replied coldly.

'Good evening, Henry,' said Aunt Susan; 'sit down and make us a visit.
How is your father? How is your mother? When is your married sister
coming home for a visit?' And so on.

Henry sat down on the steps, answering Aunt Susan with weary civility.
Wilbur rocked and rocked with nervous violence. Sitting in a chair like
a grown person, he felt a certain aloofness from Henry on the steps. It
was a poor enough security, but he clung to it. And then suddenly Aunt
Susan was saying,--

'Wilbur, get the ball I gave you and play a game of ball with Henry.'

The moment of discovery had come. And Wilbur found himself wondering
dully what Aunt Susan’s idea of a ball game could be like. His mind
seemed to fumble stiffly with the unimportant thought. He rose heavily.
Henry had snapped up briskly from his place on the steps as Aunt Susan
spoke.

'That’s right!' he said. 'Let’s get out there in the road and warm up.'

Wilbur turned to enter the house.

'I’ll go with you,' Henry said.

They ascended the stairs, Wilbur lagging on every step and Henry
breasting forward like a homeward-bound horse. They crossed the little
upstairs hall and stood at the door of Wilbur’s room. The woolly ball
lay on the bureau, its many colors garish in the sunset. Wilbur had
left it in the drawer, but Rosa had been in the room putting away his
freshly ironed clothes, and had taken it out and placed it on top of the
bureau for all the world to see.

Wilbur shut his eyes and waited for a bitter outcry from Henry. There
was, however, a moment of silence, and then Henry demanded
impatiently,--

'Well, where is it at?'

Wilbur opened his eyes and regarded Henry stupidly. Henry then did not
even recognize the strange, bright object on the bureau as a ball.
Probably he took it for a pincushion. The shock of the unexpected
reprieve made Wilbur feel faint and confused.

'It’s here--it’s right in this room,' he stammered.

'In the bruy-yo?' Henry asked, pointing toward the old-fashioned bureau.

'I--I left it in the top drawer of the bruy-yo.'

Henry went and opened the drawers one by one and rummaged in them.

'It ain’t here!' he exclaimed; 'I bet somebody’s stolen it from you! The
colored girl! I bet she’s stolen it!'

'Aw, she wouldn’t steal! She’s nice!' Wilbur exclaimed; but even as he
spoke, he saw his mistake. Henry had made the descent to a course of
deceit, of hideous disloyalty to a dear friend, fearfully easy! Wilbur
descended. 'Maybe,' he faltered,' maybe she needed a ball awfully and
just had to take it! Maybe she needed it awfully!'

'Well, ain’t you going to try to get it back from her?'

'Oh, no!' Wilbur cried in horror. 'I won’t say a word about it. It would
hurt her feelings. She’s nice--'

'Well, I bet if it was my ball and anybody stole it I would raise an
awful row!'

'I won’t say anything about it,' Wilbur repeated. 'It would hurt her
feelings. And I guess you better go home now, Henry. Maybe your mother
is wondering where you are.'

Wilbur adopted the formula with which other boys' mothers were wont to
put him on the social inclined plane. He felt a desperate need to be rid
of Henry. Henry departed without resentment.

A little later Wilbur’s father came. It was a comfort to have poppa
there. Wilbur’s tired spirit leaned against his big, quiet strength. In
the dusk Aunt Susan and poppa sat on the porch and talked. Wilbur stood
beside poppa’s chair. It was peaceful and cool in the late evening.
Wilbur liked to hear the noise the katydids made in the trees. It went
on, over and over and over--

Suddenly, as if recollecting something he had forgotten, poppa put his
hand into his coat pocket and drew out--It was the ball of Wilbur’s
dreams. Poppa, still talking to Aunt Susan, was holding it out to him.
He saw it in all its utterly desirable excellence, its natty charms,
hard and heavy and smooth and gleaming white. Wilbur’s small brown
fingers curved themselves feebly upon its taut sides. He did not speak,
but his long-lashed eyes, brooding upon the perfection within his grasp,
lifted for a moment to his father’s face a deep look of such intensity
that poppa was startled.

'It’s your birthday, old chap,' he said, putting his arm around Wilbur.
'I thought you might like a new ball.'

He felt Wilbur trembling slightly and wondered whether, in spite of the
little fellow’s seemingly perfect health, he could be an over-strung and
nervous child.

'Now you have two balls,' Aunt Susan said fatuously, rocking herself in
her old rocker.

'Yes’m,' said Wilbur.

From the security of his immense felicity he smiled at her kindly, very
kindly, very indulgently, for how could she understand?



BABANCHIK

BY CHRISTINA KRYSTO


I

IT was my smallest brother who called him that, because, at the time of
their meeting, he could not manage the whole of his very long name. But
his friends took it up presently, liking the ridiculous yet oddly
caressing sound of it, until all who knew him well knew him only as
Babanchik.

I remember him first as a chance guest in my father’s house by the side
of the Black Sea--a big, deep-chested man in a badly wrinkled pongee
suit, who missed his train because we children had drawn him into a game
of hide-and-seek. I can still hear his laughter-filled voice demanding
fiercely, 'Where are they? Where are they?' as he flung himself about
the room, making wide détours to avoid our feet, which protruded from
under the cloth-hung table, while the train, with his car attached,
paused a moment at the 'half station' at the far end of the pasture and
went roaring on along the shore. He stayed the night with us, and our
child-world changed forthwith.

During the two years which followed, the play-times of Babanchik and his
children were inextricably bound with ours, and the distance between our
homes grew very short. At Christmas we danced around the scintillating
tree in his spacious Tiflis house, and at Easter he helped us with the
beating of the innumerable eggs which go into the Easter bread of
Russia, spattering the kitchen wall most dreadfully.

Business brought him often to Batum, which lay just over the hill from
us--so often that we fell into the habit of racing down to the
pasture-bars every Saturday to wait for the afternoon train. It was long
and wearying, that walk back, on the days when the train clattered by
without pausing. But on other days, when, just this side of the cliff,
the engine whistled to announce the stop,--when we listened, breathless,
for the setting of the brakes, when we saw his huge figure swing lightly
from the steps, coat-pockets bulging with mysteries, and heard the gay
voice shouting that his own car would not come by until Monday,--the
walk home was a march of triumph. Two summers we spent together in a
half-starved Georgian village high in the Caucasus Mountains, where we
lived on bread and eggs, both reeking with the wild garlic which grew
thick among the wheat; ran, bare of head and foot, over the pine-grown
canons; and loved every moment of it.

It was in those two summers that we came to know Babanchik best and to
adore him accordingly. We might emulate the manners of Manya, his
young-lady daughter of twelve; we might acknowledge the leadership of
his harum-scarum son Kolya; but it was Babanchik who really counted. It
was he who led our marvelous expeditions to the neighboring peaks, his
clothes steaming with the effort of that leadership--he who showed us
where to look for mushrooms, and later fried those mushrooms for us,
surreptitiously, lest mother begrudge us the butter where no new supply
was to be had. His mind it was which settled, wisely and fairly, all our
momentous quarrels, and invented countless new and fascinating games
when we had tired of the everlasting croquet. But for him we should
never have bathed in the yellow water of the mad Kura, water so muddy
that it left great streaks across the bath-towels; but for him we should
never have been forgiven for robbing the little forest church of candles
with which to rub the porch floor whenever we wanted to dance.

That the merry existence of his vacations was but a small part of his
life, we knew, even as we guessed that the man who frolicked with us
lived only in the hours of play. For often at tea-time on the porch we
came upon the other Babanchik, a bitter and fearsome man who talked to
father in a voice which, to us, was the voice of a stranger. They made
us very wretched, those tea-times, when from an obscure porch corner we
watched him striding up and down along the railing, the smile gone from
his eyes, his cheeks flushed, his arms waving wildly. For we could never
understand why the man who taught us that it was cruel to step on ants,
seemed so ready and eager, at those times, to throttle some one, we knew
not whom, unless it were the terrible creature he called the Russian
government. It all hurt us inexpressibly. Yet hour after hour we watched
him and listened to his long, involved denunciations of oppression and
dishonesty and selfishness and class-distinction and many other long
words which we could not grasp. And most difficult to fathom was his
oft-repeated assertion that he was doing all that talking in behalf of
us.

'It is for the children that I fight!' he would shout, stamping
feverishly up and down the long porch; 'for my Manya and Kolya, and for
your boys and girls and all the countless thousands of others whose lot
has been cast with this accursed country! I must fight, for I know what
will come to them! Their souls will be dwarfed and crippled by our
stupid schools and our stupid laws, and their minds poisoned and
embittered by suspicion and hatred and the damning sense of their
impotence, as long as conditions here remain what they are! Our lives
are behind us, yours and mine. But we must make theirs different for
them, must keep them away from strait-jacket regulations, must keep them
happy and trustful and brave! It is for this that I fight! And I would
fight if I knew that I could not change a word of our laws and our
statutes!'

He did fight. Unceasingly, along with his rouad, work,--he was one of
the managers of a Caucasian railrotine--went the bigger work of making
his corner of the world a better place for those who came behind him. He
fought in the ranks of his employees, that the least of these might
claim justice and equality; pleaded with school boards and schoolmasters
for patience and generosity toward their charges; and fought--and this
was the most bitter fight of all--against those who held in their hands
the destinies of his city.

In all this he was severely handicapped. An Armenian by birth, which in
itself matters even in cosmopolitan Caucasus, he had inherited the
ungovernable temper and unbridled tongue of his people; and this,
coupled with his love for truth, worked him unceasing woe among the
hidebound conservatism of his associates.

All this Babanchik knew. And yet, in spite of the knowledge, he had a
dream of becoming a member of the city Duma, that he might have a real
voice in the direction of the city’s fortunes. It should not have been a
thing so difficult of attainment. Time after time his name was proposed
for the city ballot; time after time hordes of enthusiastic friends made
his election a certainty; and time after time, as the deciding day drew
near, his candidature was suppressed, his name withheld from the ballot,
his adherents silenced--and the dream remained a dream. No one knew just
when it happened, or just how: he was an Armenian and a revolutionist, a
freethinker and an enemy of the government, marked '_neblagonadejny_'
(not to be depended upon) in the police-books of the city--and no
country knows so well as does Russia how best to curtail the activities
of such men.

What he could do in spite of these drawbacks, he did. Was he not our
undauntable Babanchik? If he could not insure fair play for the men of
his railroad, he could give them of his advice and sympathy, and they
forgot to ask for more. If additional factory windows did not come into
being at his command, he could still lend his money to those of the
workers who fell victims to the foul air; and how beautifully he lost
his temper when a borrower spoke of interest! And if school boards and
schoolmasters remained unyielding in their demands upon the children he
loved, at least the holidays were his, when he could take those children
on long walks in the open and teach them to respect their souls and not
to step on ants.

All of which we learned much later. At the time, he was merely our
Babanchik, without whom the world could no longer be imagined; who came
in the evening to blow out our candles because he had guessed that the
memory of his good-night laugh cheated the dark of its dangers; whose
rumbling shout awakened us in the morning and opened up for us a new day
of unsuspected possibilities.


II

The third summer we did not go to the mountains. Some one else was
sharing Babanchik’s cottage in the Georgian village; he was leading a
band of new children in search of mushrooms and adventure. But we were
too excited to care, even in the face of this.

A new unrest hung over our house. All the day long father was showing
strangers about the place, pointing out to them the value of the
untouched forest, the richness of the pasture land, the clearness of the
drinking water, the glories of the mountains and the sea. In the
sun-filled glass room which served as library mother was superintending
the sorting and packing of books. And a placid-faced woman with the
patience of a saint was fitting our squirming bodies into trim,
tight-fitting clothes, which, after the loose, shapeless things we had
always worn, vexed us endlessly. We were going to America.

Babanchik came to us often in those last weeks, inexpressibly saddened
by our impending departure; and his discussions, to which father
listened a bit abstractedly now, grew ever more violent. Though their
invariable ending filled us with an unexpected hope:--

'When my work is done here, I will come to you, in the United States. I
cannot, now--there is still so much to be done for my weaker friends.
But when I am very tired, so tired that I can no longer endure it, I
shall take my children and come to you--to forget the Russia that I
hate.'

So we parted. We leaned over the rail of an Odessa steamer, our arms
overflowing with the packages he had brought us; and he stood on the
edge of the wharf, waving his hat and smiling. But tears were running
down his brown cheeks and losing themselves in his beard.

The new life, the new language, new interests, caught us. From the first
Russia seemed very far behind. Several letters followed us. Kolya wrote
three or four in his uneven round hand--funny little letters which
began, 'We have two ducks and two puppies. How many dogs have you?' and
which were properly answered in kind. After that, we forgot very
quickly.

But Babanchik did not forget. Once every month we found in our mail-box
a fat, square, carelessly addressed envelope, which held a letter for
father and a folded note for each of us. The notes were full of gay
nonsense, stories and rhymes and caricatures; but father grew very
thoughtful over the letters.

Life was pressing Babanchik hard. He was still without thought of
defeat. But his enemies were bringing more stringent methods into the
combat; he was now being constantly watched. Other troubles were even
harder to bear. The government was consciously setting the hot-headed
Georgians and Armenians at each other’s throats, that neither might have
time to think of greater issues. And Babanchik could but stand by and
watch the suffering of his people. Manya was in school, in the hands of
narrow and incompetent teachers, teachers selected for their political
views. Kolya’s turn would soon come. After that, so ran the letters, his
children would have the choice between becoming power-seeking sycophants
of the government, and going, as he had gone, into battle with it,
knowing beforehand of their certain defeat. He could not take them away
from it--yet. But he realized, he said, that each day, besides giving to
him its measure of sorrow, brought a little nearer the fulfillment of
his new dream. He was beginning to study English.

The years marched on. The square envelopes came less often, but they
came, still full of their old-time warmth for us--full, too, of
increasing enmity toward the country which we had left. Manya had gone
to Petrograd to attend women’s 'courses.' Two years later Kolya followed
her, and entered the University in the same city at the time I was
enrolled in mine. And when, a care-free sophomore, I was working off
surplus energy in basket-ball and dramatics, a new alarm crept into
Babanchik’s letters. Manya and Kolya were becoming involved in the
revolutionary movement.

It is hard, in these clean war days, to remember the murky chaos of the
Russia of 1904-06. If a revolution could have come at all, it would have
come in those years, and it would have been led by students. The younger
minds were afire with visions of freedom,--irrepressible combinations
of deep conviction and the ardor of youth,--visions which took no
cognizance of the wide and weary space which lies between desire and
accomplishment. Class-rooms were hotbeds of revolutionary plots,--mad,
illogical, glorious plots,--for which their authors, usually still in
their teens, paid so heavily. Too heavily, for the government, alarmed,
was losing its head a bit.

The heart of Babanchik beat fearfully. 'I am proud of the trend of their
convictions,' he wrote, 'but sometimes I am a little afraid. They can so
easily be led into a spectacular prank, a bit of mischief for which the
government might take it into its head to punish them too harshly. And
though we have all become accustomed to that sort of thing, it would
hurt me sorely to have them spend two or three months in prison.'

He conjectured mildly. There was news one day, in our American
newspapers, of the attempted assassination of a Petrograd official. We
passed it by--attempted assassinations were no rare events just
then--until the next letter came from Babanchik, a letter of two brief
paragraphs. Both Manya and Kolya were implicated in the crime. Manya had
waved her handkerchief from a window which commanded a view of the
official’s residence; Kolya had passed the signal to twenty fellow
conspirators. All had been caught and all had confessed. The official
was unhurt and there was hope of a light sentence. Still--the two or
three months of prison lengthened into a prospective two or three years.

Once more he conjectured mildly. Manya was sentenced to be hanged.
Kolya, because of extreme youth, was punished by life-imprisonment. We
read the story of it, scarce believing, page after anguished page in a
handwriting we did not recognize. We never knew--no one ever did know,
save Babanchik himself--all that went after that. His letters no longer
came regularly, and, when they did come, were so incoherent with rage
and despair that we gathered little information from them. We learned,
however, that by some superhuman means he had obtained a stay in the
execution of the sentence, had taken a leave of absence from his office
in Tiflis, had called in all the money which he had loaned, borrowed
what additional money he could, and had gone to Petrograd. At the end of
eighteen months there was a new trial, and we were left to guess of much
that went between.

It was not difficult to guess, in part. His way to that new trial had
lain along the ways of personal influence, and the men who possessed
that influence were the officials whom all his life he had hated and who
knew him only as one 'not to be depended upon.' Could he have abandoned
to their fate the twenty whom he did not even know, and worked for his
children alone, his task would have been less difficult; but then he
would not have been Babanchik.

So for eighteen months he worked; seeking audience in the studies of his
enemies, humbling himself before their insolent eyes, accepting from
them what taunts they chose to give, holding in calm control the hot
temper which was hourly made less manageable by the strain under which
he lived, pleading where he longed to curse, smiling where he would
kill--and knowing, with a knowledge which made all these things
possible, that a careless word on his part would take forever from
twenty-two youngsters the one hope to which they clung. And so he
accomplished the inconceivable. Somehow the new trial was held, somehow
the twenty-two sentences were made lighter, unbelievably lighter. For
Manya was sent into a far province and given hard labor for life, and
Kolya would be free in ten years. But what those eighteen months did to
the loving big soul of Babanchik can best be told in the barely legible
words of the letter which brought us the news.

'It has finished us at last, this country! It has strangled my children
and torn my heart to shreds! I burn with shame at the thought of being
its subject, and there is no wretchedness which I hold too great for it,
no plague which I would not send upon it if I could! I long to take the
first steamer away from it.'

But he had his lost fortune to recover before he could go. There were
his debts, too; and the children needed money, even in prison. He went
back to his work with redoubled energy. But as he fought for the money
which would bring him to America, he found himself fighting against a
new enemy. The splendid body had not been able to with-stand the ravages
upon his mind; he remembered suddenly that he was nearly seventy. He
spoke little of this,--perhaps he would not believe it, quite,--but
there was dejection in every word he wrote. And we began to wonder
whether we should ever see our Babanchik again.

Yet in the winter of 1913 he came to us, a tired and feeble old man.
There was a burned-out look in his eyes, and his wrinkled pongee suit
hung limp from stooping shoulders. The journey across Siberia had been
hard, that across the Pacific still more trying; there had been an
alarming wireless from the nurse who accompanied him. But he reached us,
and as I remember the sound of his laugh on that first day twenty years
ago, so shall I never forget the ineffable happiness in his face when he
stood, a few days after his coming, and looked out over our sunlit
valley.

'Peace,' he said, 'and joy. And the end of Russia forever. God has been
good.'

He built for himself a tiny bungalow in a corner of our garden,--one
that could be moved when Kolya should have come to him,--and was soon
deeply engrossed in the simple tasks in which erstwhile busy men
sometimes find such keen delight. All day long he spaded and raked and
planted, wrote letters home, and went on ever-lengthening walks; but
evening brought him to our living-room where, beside the humming
samovar, we swung the conversation round to his wild Caucasian tales.

The stories he told were not new; we had heard them all many times
before. Accounts of his own trips in pathless mountains, adventures of
the danger-loving Georgians, legends of his own people, the
Armenians--they had lost not a shade of their interest in the years
which had gone since those other winter evenings, when the sea raged
just beyond the pasture-bars and made us crowd close to the fireplace
and to him. Often, too, he talked of his children, but always it was of
their life before Manya had waved her handkerchief from a window. Only
of Russia itself he would not speak, nor would he read our Russian
newspapers.

'Let her be,' he once said, 'the vampire! I ask only to forget.'

And we thought that he did forget, for the months brought to him an
ever-deepening contentment. His shoulders were squaring themselves into
old accustomed lines, the illness which had menaced gave no sign. Spring
found him searching for a plot of land which would be his own, for Kolya
had but two more years to serve.


III

And then, in the summer, came the war.

We translated the news to Babanchik--he had never finished learning his
English. A smile twisted his mouth.

'Retribution!' he said; and there was something very dreadful in his
uplifted hand. 'I pray that Germany will destroy all Russia.'

We turned upon him in indignation. Under our accusing eyes his arm came
down and hung limp by his side. He swung on his heel and left us,
muttering as he went,--

'Nothing but German shells will ever break down her prisons.'

There followed the weeks and months of tense living. The Russian papers
were filled with opportunities for the new work; names of old friends
appeared in committee lists. As for us, we could but talk of it
endlessly, and dream of it, wait for the morning paper, and talk again.
We still saw Babanchik every day, but, every day, he mattered less. We
could, and did, accept without comment his attitude toward the country
which still held our affection, but, somehow, we had lost interest in
his stories.

The war went on. The enemy was halted before Paris; the Russians swarmed
over Prussia and were promptly driven back, far over their own boundary.
Riga began to figure in the dispatches, and life seemed a solemn
thing--so solemn that we had no time at all for noticing that something
was very much amiss with Babanchik, until he said one evening,
diffidently,--

'If you could ask your doctor to stop in--some day.'

We stared at him curiously. Why did he have that ghastly look about him?
He was perfectly well only the day before--or was it last week--or was
it a month ago? When was it that we had really looked at him? What had
checked so suddenly the straightening of his shoulders? We could not
say. But we were vaguely ashamed.

The doctor was terse and explicit.

'There is nothing wrong, chronically, save a general hardening of the
arteries and a very high blood-pressure. He must have had bad news
recently, a sorrow of some sort.'

'Nothing new,' I contradicted. 'He has been perfectly happy until now.'

'The war perhaps? or Russian reverses?'

'Oh,' I answered lightly, 'he cares nothing for the war, and Russian
reverses would cause him no sorrow.'

The doctor left no medicine.

'Keep him amused,' he ordered, 'and don’t let him grow excited. That is
the only remedy.'

Keep him amused! With no thought in our minds, no word on our tongues
which did not deal with the war, the war of which he never spoke, with
which he had no concern!

It was the youngest brother who broke through our quandary.

'I think we have all been blind--and stupid! Babanchik never asks for
war news. But why does he always happen to be about when the paper comes
in the morning? Why does he never change the subject as long as we talk
of the battles? Haven’t you seen the embarrassed look on his face when
Germany claims victory? And why didn’t he need the doctor until Warsaw
was endangered?'

Thus did we chance upon the truth. Though even then we were not
certain--not until a letter, six months delayed, came to him from Kolya.
Babanchik’s hands shook when he laid it down.

'The little rat! What do you think he has done? He has sent a petition
to the Tsar, the Tsar himself! To beg to be released from prison that he
may join the army. He promises to go to the most dangerous position, to
do the hardest work, if the Tsar will only set him free and let him
fight. The blessed little rat!'

'Fight?' I asked, and looked Babanchik straight in the face, 'fight for
Russia?'

The embarrassed look came into his eyes. But, even then, he did not at
once capitulate.

'O my dear,' he replied, 'youth forgets so easily!'

After that it was not difficult to keep him amused. But to keep him from
growing excited was not a task for human minds. Already he was fighting
with Kolya. At night he lay awake, gleefully devising a thousand sly
schemes whereby, single-handed, Kolya should take captive a hundred
Germans; the days he spent in filling his letters to the boy with a
detailed description of these schemes. Each morning we were introduced
to marvels of unheard-of strategy, and called upon to translate from the
newspaper every word of the long and conflicting dispatches. He was
forgetting to eat, he had no time for exercise. An alarming shortness of
breath followed, and we sent for the doctor again. The latter’s visit
was short, his opinion no less so:--

'If he continues to live at this tension he will not last until winter.
Keep him quiet.'

And he left some pills.

And then came another letter from Kolya. I stepped into Babanchik’s room
a few minutes after he had read it and found him at his open window,
staring out at the sky. He brushed his hands across his eyes before he
turned and held out the letter to me.

'Read it, my dear.'

The uneven round handwriting was pathetically reminiscent of the letters
which used to deal with ducks and puppies, and there was boyish
heartbreak in every word of the curt, matter-of-fact sentences. Kolya’s
petition had not been granted.

'And now, father,' the letter ran on, 'you will have to come back. We
are the men of our family. And, since the Tsar has decided that I must
not help, the honor of that family rests with you. For, if you fail, I
also fail.'

I looked up over the page. What could he do, a sick old man, in a
country which was calling forth the finest of its young strength? He
answered my unspoken question, hastily.

'There is much for me. The wounded are coming home; I could read to them
in the hospitals, and tell stories--you know how well I tell stories.
And I can count cars--that is the logical work for one who had been so
long with the road. Right in Tiflis I can count them,--supply-trains go
out from there,--and release a younger man for the front. Will you get
me a schedule of the sailings of Japanese steamers, my dear?'

So came his decision. At dinner-time he could not eat. Morning found him
with a newspaper in his hand. Out of his meagre knowledge of English he
was trying to decipher the flaming headlines. He waved away the
suggestion of breakfast. Food interfered with his breathing, he said;
but would we not bring in his trunks and suitcases? By afternoon he was
shivering, and the tea I made for him failed to warm his hands. And once
more we called the doctor.

He fought with all the strength which was left him, our gentle
Babanchik, fought with tears of helpless fury coursing down his face,
when we took him from the chaos of his packing and put him to bed. And a
hard three months began for all of us.

It was a cold and cheerless autumn of early rains. The doctor came every
day. And every day I sat at the bedside, translating to him Babanchik’s
entreaties and commands. I had procured for him the schedule of Japanese
steamers, and he had marked the dates of their sailing with red ink.

'Tell him,' he would say, his unsteady forefinger on the first of these,
'that I must be fit for travel by this date. Tell him to give me more
medicine--I shall take two pills every half hour. Tell him I cannot
wait.'

And again, two or three days later, his finger back on the page,--

'There is no use in trying to catch this boat now. But tell him that the
next one goes two weeks later. Surely he can cure me in two weeks; tell
him that that’s fourteen days.'

The weeks crept by and, one after another, the Japanese steamers sailed
without him; but in his mind, which was slowly losing its clearness, a
new hope dawned each day. I began to dread the hours beside his bed. It
was hard to listen to the plans for his work which, under the stress of
mounting fever, often trailed off to incoherent muttering, and to watch
the thin profile of his face showing an ever sharper line against the
pillow; hard to follow the doctor to his car and hear his passionless,
hopeless words; harder still to go back and face the crazily bright eyes
of Babanchik and, in response to his questions, lie cheerfully and so
extravagantly that it seemed that only a madman could believe.

Yet he believed. For, one morning, I found him ruling a sheet of paper
on a lapboard--he had fumed until the nurse had given him his pen. The
vertical lines cut unsteadily across the page, and at the top of the
columns he had written:--

'Date.'--'Car Number.'--'Destination.'--'Cargo.'

'You see, my dear,' he explained eagerly, 'there will be a great deal of
purely mechanical work, such as this, to be done, and much of it I can
do beforehand. For I shall be too busy, in Tiflis, and I cannot expect
an assistant at this time.'

On that day I did not go back to his room. The doctor’s words had been
fewer than usual, and there are times when one does not lie.

But, before bedtime, seeing his light burning, I tiptoed in. He stared
dully.

'You have been talking long--I fell asleep waiting. And I wanted you to
tell your doctor that I am losing all patience. If he cannot make me
well enough to go at once, I shall find some other way to go--without
his help. Keeping me in a warm room, the rain shut out, while my boys
are lying in trenches! When I could be counting cars--' His breath
failed him and he closed his eyes. Only when I looked back at him, with
my hand on the door-knob, did he finish the sentence--'for Russia.'

When again I saw him he was neither old nor feeble nor ill. By some
untold magic he had become the undauntable Babanchik of twenty years
ago. Only, his pongee suit had been very carefully pressed, and this,
together with his unsmiling mouth, made him look strange--strange and a
little forbidding, as if the way for which he had been searching was one
with which we could have no concern. And, presently, one of the Japanese
steamers was taking him back to Russia.



ROSITA

ELLEN MACKUBIN


THERE are secrets which are never told, mysteries which are never
revealed, and questions which are never answered, even nowadays, when
the press and the police so vigorously supplement the public and private
interest in everybody’s affairs. It is another evidence of the superior
force of the natural human instincts to the mechanism of civilization,
that in country villages or isolated garrisons, unpermeated by press or
police, such phenomena are most rare. Yet even there they exist.

Fort Lawrence is a three-company post, possessing no neighbor, except a
few scattered ranches, within a radius of several hundred miles. Thus
thrown upon their own resources for amusement, the garrison’s knowledge
of one another’s business is exhaustive, and events in these dull,
peaceful days are picked as bare of detail as any bone acquired by some
long-hungry dog. Yet at Lawrence occurred the following events, the
inner relation of whose outward facts has never been fully understood.

A couple of years ago, Lawrence had been occupied for many months by
three companies from the---- th Cavalry, though the chances of army
promotion had recently brought it a commanding officer from another
regiment. Major Pryor, a middle-aged man, who sheltered shyness behind a
rampart of sternness, became immediately unpopular by tightening the
reins of government, which his predecessor had held somewhat slackly.
But the garrison and its feminine belongings were inclined to forgive
him when they perceived that he had fallen seriously in love with
Rosita. Now, nobody had ever considered Rosita seriously before; not
even her father, old Lawless the post-trader, in regard to whom the
suspicion that he was a rascal had been condoned by the certainty that
he was the jolliest of companions.

Old Lawless maintained complete silence as to his past; and as Rosita’s
mother formed part of that doubtful darkness when he, and his child, and
his stock in trade installed themselves at Lawrence, he had never been
heard to refer to her. That she had belonged to some mixed breed, part
Spanish, part Indian, was, however, written on each feature of her
daughter’s body and mind--if Rosita could be said to have a mind.

'Every woman, savage or civilized, will love some day to her own
sorrow,' her father had declared, with a cynical laugh. 'But Rosita’s
future is tolerably safe. Chocolate bonbons are her ruling passion, and
as she has the digestion of an ostrich, many years will elapse before
she is likely to suffer for her devotion!'

She was exceedingly pretty, with the beauty of bright eyes, lithe
figure, and a complexion so transparent that the most enthusiastic
admirer of fairness would not have wished her less dusky. Since she was
fifteen she had held gay and undisputed sway among the younger officers;
for Lawrence was so distant a post that feminine visitors were seldom
seen there, and in those days the garrison families possessed only
daughters in the nursery. The fame of her pretty looks and ways had
become widespread among the frontier forts; yet it was noticeable that
her admirers, while ransacking the realms of nature in eulogy of this
gazelle, this kitten, this lark, never called her an angel, or even
ascended high enough in the spiritual scale to compare her to a fairy,
though there was nothing known of her at which the sternest army matron
could take umbrage. She was as ignorant of evil as any of the wild
creatures with whose names she had been rebaptized, and Lawless kept a
keen though seemingly careless eye upon her amusements.

With this girl Duncan Pryor did not flirt. Plain, prosaic, and forty, he
loved her; while Rosita, instinctively discerning the difference between
his behavior and that of her other admirers, appeared rather repelled
than gratified--an attitude which became more obvious the more her
father encouraged this serious suitor, and was presently explained, to
the increasing interest of the spectators of the little drama, by the
discovery that Rosita had developed another love than that for
chocolates, and one which she concealed as slightly.

Gerald Breton, or 'Jerry,' as he was familiarly known, had, upon his
first coming to Lawrence, devoted to Rosita’s society every moment which
he could spare from military duties that were not numerous; but in so
doing he only fulfilled the manifest destiny of all his compeers at the
post. He was a big, fair young fellow, with jovial Irish blood in his
veins, and a smile which was perhaps more eloquent than he knew.
Certainly, when he returned from a two months' 'leave,' he announced his
engagement to the most adorable of women, met and won during his
absence, with a frank assurance of congratulation which bespoke a
conscience void of reproach.

Neither did Rosita reproach him. She preferred him to his brethren in a
manner flattering to masculine vanity. And Jerry, having placed the
colors of his _fiancée_ in his helmet, did not hesitate to enjoy such
amusement as was provided for him in a post that would have been dull
without Rosita. She was comrade as charmingly as coquette. She rode
hurdle-races, and shot at targets, and smoked cigarettes, as keenly as
Jerry himself, while she could sing a love-song to her guitar, or dance
to her castanets, with a grace and a fervor that no music-hall star of
a much-regretted civilization could surpass.

How soon Jerry guessed what it was that looked at him from under her
long lashes, which was absent when she bestowed her fearless glances
upon the other officers, is not made quite plain to his conscience yet.
But he was promptly aware of Major Pryor’s determination to prevent him
from keeping engagements which brought him into the society of Rosita.
No position of authority lends itself so readily to petty tyranny as
that of a post-commander, when the incumbent is thus disposed; and that
Pryor was thus disposed toward Lieutenant Breton, not only the victim,
but Rosita particularly, and the garrison generally, quickly perceived.
The adjutant, indeed, though a submissive person, ventured an occasional
remonstrance concerning orders manifestly over-exacting, but won nothing
by his presumption.

Was picnic or dinner arranged, at the last moment an orderly appeared,
presenting the major’s compliments and a special detail which required
Lieutenant Breton’s attention. When a much-talked-of fishing expedition,
involving several nights' camping, was about to set forth, Jerry was
appointed to the escort of some wagons just starting en route to the
nearest river-town for supplies; while reproofs, irritably delivered and
flagrantly undeserved, were a daily occurrence. Rosita’s wrath, the
jocular condolences of his chums, and the no less evident though
wordless sympathy of his superiors added fuel to the smouldering fire of
Jerry’s resentment. Upon a certain radiant June afternoon this fire
blazed.

A full-dress parade had been commanded, for the sole purpose, it was
growled, of giving scope to the major’s restless energies. Some trifling
fault in the demeanor of Jerry’s troop brought on him a scathing rebuke
in the presence of his men, of his comrades, and of the ladies who had
gathered to watch such small display of military pomp as their position
permitted. Temper conquered discipline. Instead of the silent salute
which was his duty, Lieutenant Breton began an angry expostulation, and
was sternly ordered to his quarters, under arrest for disrespect to the
commanding officer.

Lawrence reveled in its sensation across that evening’s supper-tables.
Pryor was right, of course: Jerry had been guilty of grave misbehavior
before the whole garrison. Yet love of justice is strong, even in the
strictest enforcer of discipline--when the enforcer is Anglo-Saxon. If
Jerry should refuse to apologize, or if Pryor should refuse to be thus
appeased, the two captains resolved that private statements of the case
should go to Washington before further complications should arise for
the victim of a personal prejudice.

Jerry, however, in the solitary confinement of his own sitting-room,
knew nothing of these plans, and faced a gloomy future through an
infuriating present. Dear as his career was to him, he determined to
sacrifice it rather than apologize to a man who, whatever his rank, was
egregiously wrong. But even if his resignation were accepted under the
circumstances of his breach of discipline, and he escaped court-martial,
how could he justify to his home people the enmity of his commanding
officer? Only by a story regarding its cause which he should feel
himself a cad in the telling. And would his proud sweetheart accept the
allegiance of the hero of such a story as unstained and unshaken?

When his wrath had cooled and his solitude remained undisturbed, Jerry
began to feel forsaken as well as ill used. Tired of the perpetual
turning which pacing his tiny quarters involved, he dropped
disconsolately into a chair, and covered his face with his hands.

There was a rustle of petticoats, and, with dismayed assurance, he
lifted his head. Yes, it was she, the pretty cause of his troubles,
gazing at him with eyes that glowed through tears.

'Rosita!' he muttered, in a tone instinctively lowered, even in his
surprise, for the sentry posted outside his door was probably within
hearing. 'How did you get here?'

'By that window,' she answered, her white teeth gleaming as she nodded
toward an open window that looked upon a rear veranda--a veranda which
extended the length of 'officers' row,' where the post-trader had rented
an unused set of quarters.

Suddenly she sank to her knees beside his chair, clasping both hands
over one of his.

'He is a wicked man!' she cried passionately. 'I hate him!'

Jerry rose hurriedly, lifting her as he did so.

'Speak lower. You should not have come,' he said.

'Why shouldn’t I come?' Rosita faltered, tears on her long lashes, her
lips quivering like a child’s. 'You are alone and in trouble.'

'Beastly trouble! It is awfully kind of you. By Jove!' he exclaimed, his
outraged sense of propriety yielding place to a yet more wounded sense
of his friends' desertion in this time of need; 'you are the only one of
the lot who cares what happens to any fellow after he is down.'

'It isn’t "any fellow." I care for you, Jerry,' she murmured wistfully.
'But he cannot hurt you, really? Just for to-night?'

'To-night!' he repeated, while discretion fled the field, routed by the
rush of a vision of the probable consequences of his wrongs which swept
over his soul. 'He intends to destroy my whole career. And he will do
it, too, for I shall never apologize to him!'

Sympathy is none the less sweet when it shines in brilliant eyes, and he
was not much more than a boy--a boy aghast in the presence of his first
trouble. He grew eloquent while he described the gloomy future which
Pryor’s tyranny stretched before him.

'The long and short of it is that I am ruined through his confounded
jealousy'--

He broke off his peroration abruptly, coloring hotly.

'You shall not be ruined! It is for my sake he hates you! But I will
save you!' she panted.

'Nonsense!' he exclaimed, half touched, half anxious. 'You cannot get
rid of Pryor; and as I cannot remain under his command without apology,
I must resign--which will mean ruin for me,' he ended, with almost a
groan of despondency.

She caught his hand, and pressed it to her breast, to her lips.

'Wait! Trust me!' she cried, running to the open window. 'He shall do
you no more harm!'

Jerry, his pulses thrilling to those trembling kisses, followed her.

'Rosita! Sweetest--truest'--he gasped, 'you must not interfere! This
matter concerns only Pryor and me. I forbid you!'

She turned when she had crossed the low ledge, and flashed a smile back
to him--a smile which both bewildered and repelled him.

'You shall forbid me anything--except to serve you,' she said, and
vanished among the shadows of the veranda.

For an instant he meditated pursuit, but gave it up as he remembered the
complications which would ensue should he be seen in apparent attempt to
evade his arrest.

Rosita was a dear little ignoramus, embarrassingly fond of him, he told
himself, grasping at his usual common sense, which was perplexed by
vague alarm. Yet surely she could intend nothing more than to make a
pretty scene as special pleader for his cause with Pryor--a pleader who,
unless that officer had utterly lost dignity, would produce no other
effect than to embitter the jealousy which was the foundation of this
persecution.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fort Lawrence goes to bed early. By eleven o’clock sleep apparently
possessed the garrison, with the exception of the widely scattered
sentinels who cried the hour. But the clear calls had scarcely died upon
the vast surrounding stillness of the prairie night when they were
succeeded by the sharp, unmistakable report of a pistol-shot.

Jerry Breton, lounging, half-awake, beside the veranda window of his
sitting-room, was roused to full consciousness and a pang of foreboding.

The report came from a path which skirted the rampart immediately
beneath the veranda, at a point where the bluff beyond descended so
abruptly into the Yellowstone River, hundreds of feet below, that the
sentry rarely patrolled it, ingress or egress being impossible to any
one in a sane mood. Jerry sprang down the veranda steps, assuring
himself that there might be a dozen comparatively harmless reasons for
the shot, and that his terror was merely nightmare. Yet when he beheld
the body of a man prostrate, face forward, across the path, he knew him,
with a knowledge that anticipated sight. Shrinkingly he bent over him,
uttered a half-strangled cry, which was dismayed, not surprised, and
picked up a pistol, a tiny silver-mounted toy, horribly incongruous
beside that ghastly, motionless figure--a dainty, deadly thing that
Jerry had given months before to the 'best markswoman in the Northwest.'

There was a swift rush of footsteps from various directions: the sentry
to whose beat this stretch of rampart belonged, another sentry from his
station before the door of Jerry’s quarters, and three or four partly
clad officers roused out of their slumbers.

Jerry stood upright--a slight, erect figure, whose silhouette was
distinct against the blue moonlit sky. He swung his arm above his head,
and flung the pistol far over the edge of the bluff.

The next instant he was surrounded by a crowd; a tumult of exclamation
and question arose, as Pryor’s inanimate body was recognized, and
carefully examined for some sign of life. In the midst of the tumult he
leaned against the rampart, neither speaking nor apparently hearing,
until Blount, the captain of his troop, laid an admonitory hand on his
shoulder.

'You were here first--Don’t stare like an idiot! Tell us what you saw.'

'Is he dead?'

'We cannot be sure until the surgeon comes. Did you see any one?'

Jerry shuddered visibly.

'I saw nobody!'

'The major has been queer lately, poor chap. Perhaps he shot himself,'
Blount suggested eagerly.

'Was not that a pistol you threw away?' another officer asked sharply.

Jerry lifted his eyes. Those familiar faces were pale and stern.

'You saw'--he faltered.

'Speak, lad!' Blount entreated.

'I cannot talk. I must have time to think.'

'The truth doesn’t need thinking. It requires plain telling.'

There ensued a silence, through which creaked the hurried approach of
the surgeon’s boots.

Jerry’s fair head drooped; he caught uncertainly at Blount’s arm.

'I have nothing to say,' he muttered faintly.

Blount, who, as senior captain, succeeded to Pryor’s command in case of
that officer’s death or incapacity, turned from his young subordinate.

'Sergeant Jackson,' he said, in a voice that was not quite steady, 'take
Lieutenant Breton to his quarters. You will be responsible for him until
further instructions.' Then he knelt beside Pryor, over whom the surgeon
was bending. 'Is there life in him?' he asked.

There was life in him--life that lingered after they had carried him to
his bed and his wound had been dressed; a mere spark of life, which
might flicker out at any moment, although, the major being a healthy
man, in the prime of years, it might yet blaze up again into strength.
Such was the surgeon’s unchanging report during the next two days to the
post, where horror of the tragedy in its midst had silenced gossip, and
where even conjecture held its breath.

There is thus much resemblance between a small garrison and a family,
that the befalling of a calamity to one of their number softens all
judgments; quarrels, criticisms, envyings, are the corrupted fruit of a
too brilliant sunshine. Pryor had been unpopular, but only kindness was
spoken of him now that it seemed probable that he lay dying. If there
was a manifest desire, especially among the ladies, to foster a
suspicion that his evident wretchedness had led him to attempt suicide,
the desire merely expressed their hope that Jerry Breton’s innocence
might be proved, in spite of the young fellow’s stunned passiveness and
his strange flinging away of the pistol.

Proof either of guilt or of innocence depended vitally on Pryor’s
recovery, as no inquiry had elicited any of the facts which preceded
the catastrophe of that night. Shortly after ten o’clock the commanding
officer had passed the sentry for a solitary stroll along the rampart,
which was a daily habit with him; nobody else had been seen, and nothing
unusual had been heard until the pistol-shot.

Depression, black as the shadow of death which over-hung them, possessed
the little post which was wont to be so cheery. No one was surprised to
hear that Rosita had been added to the number of the surgeon’s patients,
nor did any one doubt the cause of the nervous collapse from which he
declared her to be suffering, and which forced him to veto Mrs. Blount’s
offer of a visit to her. Lawless, he said, had miraculously developed
into the most perfect of nurses, and Rosita, with the tendency to
delirium that belongs to volatile and undisciplined temperaments, was
better off under his undisturbed attendance.

Closely confined to his quarters, Jerry Breton knew nothing of her
illness, and each hour of her silence, after he believed that she must
be aware of his position, buried deeper his hope that she would confess
when she discovered that he had assumed the suspicion of her mad crime.
With bitterness he reflected that the devotion of so fantastic a
creature was no more to be trusted than her moral principles; and bound
though he felt himself to shelter her, he yearned for the happiness and
honor she alone could restore to him.

Whether Pryor lived or died, his own career must end in a darkness whose
varying degrees seemed to Jerry scarcely worth remark. This story of
treacherous vengeance would be told to his own people, and to the woman
he loved. Oh, God! How his soul adored her purity, her pride, the
girlish exaltation for which he had used to profess a tender ridicule!
Had he been cruelly unjust to her, and to those others who were dear to
him? Yet would he not have been unutterably base had he crawled to
safety across the condemnation of Rosita, whose crime had resulted from
misguided love for him?

Like most of his compeers, Jerry had a character which was one of action
rather than of thought. In the sleepless thought of those forty-eight
hours his boyishness slipped from him forever, and he attained the full
stature of his manhood--God help us!--as most of humanity does so attain
in the forcing-house of suffering!

Twilight had come the second time when Captain Blount knocked at the
door of Jerry’s quarters.

'I think the lieutenant is asleep--and it’s the first rest he has had,
sir'--Jackson hesitated.

'I’ve news for him that he will like better than sleeping! His arrest is
over!' Blount cried, entering.

Jerry lay back, unawakened, in the only armchair the unluxurious room
possessed. Blount stared down at the haggard young face, with a blending
of affection and resentment which made a very complete perplexity. Not
until he touched the sleeper’s shoulder did the heavy lids lift slowly.

'I’ve nothing to say,' Jerry murmured half consciously.

'I am sure of it, you donkey! Pryor, however, has said something, and
the whole crowd of us must beg your pardon, though you have yourself to
blame that we suspected you.'

'Pryor has spoken? What does he say?'

'The surgeon will not let him talk; but he insisted on hearing who was
accused, and he acquitted you at once. Now I want you to tell me what
confounded quixotism kept you silent, at such cost, if, as seems
probable from his despondency, he attempted his own life.'

Jerry frowned, and looked away into the gathering shadows.

'Despondent is he, poor chap?' he asked presently.

'Even less thankful to be alive than you seem to be free again.'

Jerry sat upright, his pale face flushing, his eyes shining.

'I? Not thankful?' he cried in a voice shaken to the verge of an utter
breakdown. 'I have been in hell these two days, and you have brought me
out--but--but--go away, Blount, or I shall make a fool of myself!'

Lieutenant Breton was breakfasting late the next morning, when Pryor’s
orderly appeared with an immediate summons to the commanding officer’s
presence. War, armed _cap-à-pie_, sprang into existence in Jerry’s heart
at this summons. He had proved Pryor capable of tyranny without reason,
and could not hope, when the spirit of such a man had been as cruelly
wounded as his body, that he would incline to mercy. But in the
blessedness of his own safety he forgave Rosita her silence, and, while
aware of the perplexities that would beset him, he vowed that no
admission of her guilt should be extorted from him.

There was, however, neither wrath nor challenge in the hollow eyes which
confronted him when he stood beside Pryor’s bed, and a gaunt hand feebly
moved across the counterpane toward him.

'You are a fine fellow, Breton,' the major murmured. 'I beg your
pardon!'

Jerry dumbly clasped the quivering fingers.

'They have told me that you flung a pistol over the bluffs,' Pryor
continued slowly. 'Of course I know whose pistol it was. But I wish you
to understand that the shooting was my fault, like the whole affair. I
provoked her with words I had no right to speak; I denied her the mere
justice she demanded. Except for your courage I should have brought
disgrace upon her, as I have brought death.'

'Death? Rosita?'

'She died last night.'

Jerry dropped into a chair. Death! Rosita!--a creature so instinct with
the life of this world that it was impossible to conceive her in the
life of which death is the portal.

'Did she--' He shuddered.

'No! She never rallied from the shock of that night. Her father has been
here to ask me to forgive the dead. My God! I shall not forgive myself!'
Pryor cried, with an anguish none the less intense for the faintness of
the voice which uttered it.

Jerry had covered his face, and the other stared enviously at the tears
that slipped through his fingers.

'Time is up!' the surgeon exclaimed from outside the closed door.

The eyes of the two men met wistfully.

'I have deserved no favor from you,' Pryor muttered; 'neither is it for
my sake that I entreat you to continue silent. There will be no further
inquiry into the matter, as the surgeon tells me that I shall recover.
So the garrison must be satisfied only with conjecture as to my
temporary madness and your magnanimity.'

'It is you who are magnanimous!'

'I loved her; I persecuted her! The death she desired for me was mercy
compared to the life which is all the atonement I can make to her
memory.'

With which exceeding bitter whisper Pryor turned himself to the wall.

Out on the parade, the radiant freshness of the prairie morning thrilled
Jerry’s young veins with an ecstasy of living, and a sharp pang of
compassion stabbed his heart.

Misguided, bewitching,--ah, yes, and loving,--Rosita lay dead in the
midst of the summer gladness that seemed akin to her. He pulled his cap
over his eyes, and, ignoring some cordial greetings, walked hurriedly
to the post-trader’s quarters. Presently Lawless came to him in the
little drawing-room, which was unfamiliarly dark and still.

'God bless you!' he said, laying a hand on Jerry’s shoulder. 'Those
words do not mean much to me. I’ve wished they did since last night. But
you will understand from them that I am grateful. Hush! I have nothing
to forgive you. Nor had she. Will you come to see her? She never knew
that you were shielding her, or she would have confessed; and she wished
you to see her--if she looked pretty.'

Pretty, indeed! Poor flower of a people Christianized just enough to
suffer for the savage instincts they do not learn to control! She lay
with a crucifix between the hands which seemed so childish, and were so
guilty.

'Remember her like this,' Lawless continued. Remember, too, that she
loved you; not as the women of our race love, when nature is subdued by
civilization and ruled by religion, but with the limitless love of a
squaw for her chief, knowing neither right nor wrong in her devotion to
him. For under her daintiness and her sweetness Rosita was a squaw.'

Across her grave three men kept silence. There is another regiment at
Lawrence now, and when the ----th Cavalry remember what they beheld of
this story, they glance at their quiet major with wonder for his
fleeting madness. Only the surgeon and one or two ladies murmur to their
own thoughts, 'Rosita?'



PERJURED

BY EDITH RONALD MIRRIELEES

A lie well stuck to--


IT began with no more than a word, such as a man might speak and forget
he had spoken. At the time of speaking, Robbins Nelson was standing with
a group of other youths--lads in their late 'teens and early
twenties--on the Sutro Station platform. All their eyes were on the
approaching train, and all their tongues were busy with a single topic.

Robbins was the youngest member of the group--barely turned sixteen.
Usually he hung somewhat unregarded on its edge, but to-day, bold in the
possession of first-hand knowledge, he thrust himself into the heart of
the talk.

'I looked right down on him, close as I am to you. I was walking along
over that cut where the train comes through. Gee, his head looked
three-cornered! I yelled, but the engineer didn’t know what I meant.
Anyhow, they wouldn’t have stopped--nothing but a hobo.'

'No good if they had,' an older speaker took up the words. 'He was done
for. Didn’t speak but once after they got him off. "Don’t hit me," he
says. I s’pose when they run into the tunnel and whatever it was jammed
into him--'

'He didn’t get hurt in any tunnel,' Robbins asserted. The color flared
into his face with the intensity of his conviction. The horrid memory of
the man set him to blinking. 'He couldn’t get hurt if he was lying down,
could he? And if he was standing up, it’d knock him off, wouldn’t it? It
wasn’t any tunnel--'

He broke off, aware suddenly of the smiling ridicule in the faces round
him. Grotend, brother-in-law to the coroner who had held the inquest,
laughed good-temperedly.

'Go it, William J. Burns, Junior! I s’pose some fancy murderer crawled
up on top between stations. Or he got jolted down out of an air-ship.
It’d take something like that--'

Grotend was popular with the group. Their ready laughter rewarded the
attack. And the younger boy’s crimson misery was an invitation to
further teasing.

'You hadn’t ought to be stingy with bright ideas like that, Nelse. He
sent you an anonymous letter, didn’t he? Or maybe you saw a man in a
black mask beating him up--'

'No, I didn’t!' said Robbins loudly. He cast about desperately in his
mind for a means of escape. 'I didn’t see anybody beating him up, but I
saw Jim Whiting coming down off the end of the car.'

A hush followed his statement--a tribute to the weight of it. Grotend,
his lips parted for a fresh jibe, drew in his breath sharply as though
in the shock of a cold douche. Then,--

'You saw Jim Whiting?' he reiterated.

Jim Whiting was brakeman on the local freight, a figure familiar enough
to all of them.

'Getting deaf, aren’t you?' Robbins retorted.

He turned his back upon his tormentors and walked away across the
platform.

He was not much impressed with the importance of his lie. Chiefly, he
was elated that there had come to him a lie suitable to turn the tables.
Half-way home his elation lasted, to be crowded out only by the
recurring memory of the injured tramp. The boy had never before seen
violent death. The picture of the man as he sped past, bloody and
misshapen, on the swaying car-top; the later picture of him borne up the
street on the improvised stretcher, came back upon him hideously. That
for such destruction, for such wanton suffering, there should be no
punishable agent, seemed intolerable. And the idea once presented, who
so likely as Whiting--

He heard the beat of footsteps behind him, and Grotend, breathing
quickly, swung into pace at his side.

'I been trying to catch up with you,' he explained unnecessarily. 'Say,
when Jim come out on the platform, I spoke to him. I says, "One of the
fellows says he saw you up on top that day the tramp got hurt." And
you’d ought to seen him. I guess he knew--'

'What’d he say?' Robbins interrupted.

'All he says was, "You tell that fellow he’s a liar"; but if you’d seen
the look on him--,'

'Don’t you tell him I said it,' the younger boy cautioned. 'I don’t want
him down on me.' A belated stir of conscience set him to hedging.
'Anyhow, I didn’t say I saw him up on the car. All I saw was when he was
just there on those iron steps on the side. I don’t know if he was going
up or down.'

They stood at the Nelson gate for a little, talking. It was full dark
when Robbins went up the shrub-lined path to the porch. In the lighted
dining-room his mother and the younger children were already at supper.

'Late, Robbins,' Mrs. Nelson admonished as he slid into his place. Then,
catching sight of his face, 'Tired out? If it’s that accident that’s
worrying you--'

'It’s not,' the boy denied. He felt his cheeks grow hot with a sudden
flush of annoyance. 'I don’t see what I’d worry about that for. Only,
Charlie Grotend told Mr. Whiting I saw him on the car that day, and it
made Whiting mad. I was wishing he hadn’t.'

'You didn’t say anything more than that--that he could have helped it,
or anything like that? Well, then!' She put the discussion aside with a
gesture. 'Merle Williams telephoned to see if you’d come over there
to-night. You might as well. There’s no use brooding--'

'I’m _not!_' Robbins flung back angrily.

His spirits lightened somewhat in the process of dressing for his
outing. They lightened still more when, on his way to the place of
entertainment, he came up with three or four of his mates similarly
bound, and went on with them, easily the hero of the little group.
Sutro, though a county seat, was a place of few excitements. The finding
of the injured tramp, his death, the inquest, which had been held that
day, were topics of surpassing interest, and Robbins, by virtue of his
momentary contact, found his importance measurably enhanced. Before the
evening was over, he had told his story a half-dozen times, each time
with less repulsion, with a keener sense of its dramatic value.

'I was walking along the cut--you know, there where the train goes under
you--and I saw him and yelled at the engineer to stop. I thought he was
dead already--he looked like it. I don’t know what I yelled for, only I
thought he’d roll off. No, I didn’t say I saw Whiting up on top,--' He
adhered scrupulously to the form of his first telling,--'I saw him on
those steps on the side. I’d called to him, too, if I’d seen him in
time, but I didn’t.'

'I bet he’d have understood,' suggested one of the listeners.

There was something cynical, something appalling, in the fashion in
which their untempered youth seized upon the idea of guilt as the
concomitant of injury. Robbins, tramping home a half-hour after
midnight, felt all round him the concurrence of his mates--a warm
supporting wave. He was committed beyond retreat now to his theory.
Almost he was self-deceived. Visualizing the scene, he could scarcely
have said whether, actually, he saw Whiting’s big body flattened against
the side of the car, or whether he himself had superimposed the detail.

He slept late next morning, and emerging, discovered his mother,
red-eyed, moving restlessly between kitchen and dining-room. She called
to him as he came out, but it was not until he was seated before his
oven-dried breakfast that, with a long breath, as though she braced
herself,--

'Mrs. Cartwright was here this morning,' she observed.

The words were indifferent, but the tone was so full of significance
that instinctively the boy stopped eating to listen.

'She’d been sitting up last night with Mrs. Morgan. Robbins, that
boy--that poor boy--wasn’t a tramp at all. He was Charlie Morgan, trying
to beat his way back home.'

'How’d they know?' Robbins asked.

'Something about the body. There was some mark. It’s dreadful for his
mother. And it’s worse because she thinks--Mrs. Cartwright says a good
many people think--it wasn’t an accident at all. The wound don’t look
like it. And then your seeing Mr. Whiting--'

'What’d you tell her that for?' Robbins muttered.

He pushed back his chair, his hunger vanished as if from feasting.

'I didn’t. She told me. She says that man who has the
truck-garden--Emerson, isn’t it?--is saying he saw Mr. Whiting on the
car-roof and recognized him. But, of course, a man like that--'

Her tone disposed effectually of the second witness. She got to her feet
and began to gather up the dishes from the table.

'Mrs. Cartwright says Mr. Cartwright’s looking into the thing. In his
position, he’d have to. I told her you’d go up to his office.' She was
passing behind Robbins’s chair as she spoke. To his amazement, she
stooped and laid her cheek for an instant against his shoulder. 'Don’t
you let him worry you, Robbie. You just stick to your story,' she
counseled.

'I’m not going near him,' Robbins declared defiantly.

More than the hush of appreciation at his first statement, more than the
news of Whiting’s anger, his mother’s unexpected caress impressed upon
him the seriousness of his position.

When he left the house, breakfast ended, he was fixed in his
determination neither to get within reach of Cartwright, who was county
attorney, nor to repeat his story. But once upon the street he found to
his consternation that the story no longer needed his repetition. It
traveled on every tongue, growing as it went. Nor was there lacking
other evidence to support it. The examining physician shook his head
over the shape and nature of the fatal wound; the helpers who had
carried the man were swift to recollect his dying words. From somewhere
there sprang the rumor of long-standing feud between Whiting and Charlie
Morgan. Then it was no more a rumor but an established fact--time,
place, and enhancing circumstances all known and repeated.

'Enough to hang anybody,' Grotend summed up the evidence, following with
his coterie the trend of gossip. 'Only thing is, it’s funny the sort of
people that do all the hearing and seeing.' He put his arm round
Robbins’s shoulders. 'There’s Nelse here and Doc. Simpson--they’re all
right; but look at the rest of 'em--If they said it was a nice day, I’d
know it was raining. Take that Emerson fellow--'

'Well, if Nelse saw him on the side, I don’t see why Emerson couldn’t
see him up on top; he must 'a' been there,' a listener protested. And
Robbins, his throat constricted, drew out of hearing.

For the most part, however, he found a lively satisfaction in the
increase of rumor. In such a mass of testimony, he reasoned, his own bit
of spurious evidence was wholly unimportant. When that day and a second
and still a third had passed with no demand upon him, his oppression
vanished. Even the news of Whiting’s arrest did not greatly disturb him.
There was now and then a minute of sick discomfort,--once when the
truck-gardener attempted to hob-nob with him on the strength of their
common information; once and more acutely when an overheard conversation
warned him that the accused man was depending on an alibi,--but for the
most part he put the danger of discovery resolutely out of his mind.
Even should the alibi be forthcoming and his own story go thereby to the
ground, 'They can’t be sure about it,' he comforted himself. 'They can’t
know I didn’t--' Even in his thought he left the phrase unfinished.

It was the fourth day after Whiting’s arrest that, going toward home in
the early evening, he heard his name spoken from behind, and turning,
saw the county attorney. His first barely inhibited impulse was toward
flight, but it was already too late for that. The elder man’s greeting
detained him as by a hand upon his arm. He halted reluctantly, and they
went on side by side.

The county attorney was a man in his early sixties--a tall stooping
figure, gray-haired, with an habitual courtesy of manner which, more
than irascibility, intimidated his younger neighbors. It was a part of
his courtesy, now, to begin far-off from the subject at hand, in an
effort, foredoomed to failure, to put his auditor at ease.

'I often watch you tall boys going past, and remind myself that I am
getting old. I can remember most of you in your carriages. Indeed, with
you, your father and I were law students together. And now you’re in
high school, your mother tells me.' And with hardly a shift of tone,
'She tells me, too,--or rather my wife does,--that you were unfortunate
enough to see Mr. Whiting on the day of poor Morgan’s death. I am
sorry--'

'I--didn’t see him do anything,' Robbins protested. His tongue was
suddenly thick and furry, and the words came with difficulty. 'Nothing I
could swear to. He was just--there.'

He was staring straight ahead; he could not see how shrewd were the
kindly eyes which measured him.

'Timid,' the lawyer was labeling his witness. 'Sensitive.
Over-scrupulous. He’d scruple his testimony out of existence.'

Aloud he spoke with grave reassurance. 'Your merely seeing Mr. Whiting
can do him no harm. Indeed, you may not be needed at all. The
preliminary examination having been waived--' He paused for a moment
before the Nelson gate, his thin-featured old face remote and serious.
'In any case, remember this, my boy. Nothing is ever required of you on
the witness stand except to tell your story exactly as you have told it
off the stand. In the end the truth will come out and no innocent man be
harmed.'

He congratulated himself as he went on up the street that he had
reassured the lad, put before him his irresponsibility in its true
light. Had he looked back, he might have seen the reassured witness
staring after him in a kind of horror of amazement. To Robbins it was as
if, astoundingly, an outsider had voiced the thought of his own heart.
That truth must prevail, that false witnesses would be brought to
confusion--it was a belief ingrained into the fibre of his being. He
was sick with a premonition of disgrace.

'Only, they can’t _know_,' he tried to hearten himself. 'I can stick to
it I did.' He stood still a moment, the line of his sensitive chin grown
suddenly hard. 'And I’ve got to stick to it,' he warned himself. 'I’ve
got to stick it out as long as I live.'

It did not need the county attorney’s advice to keep him away from the
court-room during the opening days of the trial. With all the youthful
masculinity of Sutro crowding the courthouse steps, Robbins sat at home
in the hot, darkened parlor, reading from books pulled down at random,
seeing always, no matter what he read, a room set thick with eyes--eyes
scornful, eyes reproachful, eyes speculative.

When at last the ordeal came, it was so much less dreadful than his
anticipation of it that he was conscious of an immediate relief. There
was, indeed, a minute of blind confusion as he made his way toward the
stand--voices singing in his ears, a blue mist before his eyes. Then,
somehow, he was sworn and seated, and all round him were the friendly
faces of neighbors. He could see the judge nod encouragement to him over
his desk; he could see the bracing kindness of the county attorney’s
glance. Whiting he could not see, the bowed shoulders of a reporter
intervening.

He was scarcely nervous after the first moments. His story flowed from
him without effort, almost without volition. 'I was walking along the
track--I’d been fishing--' It seemed to him that he had said the words a
million times.

There were interruptions now and then; objections; questions from a
round-faced, deep-voiced youngster, who, Robbins divined presently, was
Whiting’s lawyer; but all of it--the narrative, the pauses, the
replies--came with the regular, effortless movement of well-oiled
machinery. He could have laughed at the puerile efforts of the defense
to break down his story.--'Was he sure that he knew James Whiting?' Was
there a resident of Sutro who did not know him? 'Could he swear,--taking
thought that he was under oath,--could he _swear_ that the man on the
side of the car was James Whiting and not some other man resembling him?
If, on a moving train, another man resembling James Whiting, of about
James Whiting’s size--'

'He knows he can’t touch me,' Robbins was thinking triumphantly. 'He
knows it!'

The question of truth or falsehood was quite removed from him now. He
came down from the stand finely elated, and in the afternoon went back
of his own accord to the court-room. Emerson, the truck-gardener, was
under examination and faring badly. One by one, the damaging facts of
his past came out against him--an arrest for theft, a jail sentence for
vagrancy, a quarrel with the prisoner, proved threats. The victim
emerged limp from the ordeal, and slunk away from the room, wholly
discredited.

'Serves him right, though,' Robbins quenched his momentary pity. 'I knew
all the time he was lying.' He started suddenly, so violently that the
listener seated next him turned in irritation. 'And,' it had flashed
through his mind, 'and he knew I was!'

His eyes sought the prisoner--the man who also knew--where he sat
hunched heavily forward in his chair, his arms upon the table. For an
instant, pity, like some racking physical pain, shot through Robbins. To
be caught in such a web! To be caught through no fault of his own! It
was the first time the purely personal side had broken its way past his
own selfish concern. It stifled him and, forcing his eyes from the man’s
brooding face, he got up and stumbled out of the room.

But he could not stay out. An indefinite dread dragged him back
presently. An indefinite dread held him bound to his place during the
examination of the witnesses who followed, during the days of argument,
and the judge’s inconclusive charge. He lay awake on the night following
the jury’s retirement, picturing over and over in his own mind the scene
of their return--just what degree of astonishment his face should show
in listening to their verdict, with just what proud reticence and
conscious wrong he should make his way out from the crowd. He had never
said that Whiting was guilty--he reminded himself of that. All he had
ever said was that on one certain day, in one certain place-- He rolled
over on his face and, hands across his eyes, tried vainly to sleep.

Half of Sutro was loafing about the court-house lawn next morning,
pushing its way into the corridors at every rumor, drifting back to the
freer outer air. When at last the rumor proved a true one, Robbins found
himself far in the back of the room, the wall behind him, on three sides
a packed, jostling crowd. There was a blur of unintentional noise in the
place--heavy breathing, the creaking of a door. Through the noise
pierced at intervals the accustomed voice of the judge, and set between
the intervals the mumble of the foreman’s reply.

'--Agreed, all of you?'

'Do you find the prisoner guilty or not guilty?'

The mumble dropped lower still. A stir swept over the front of the room,
a wave of voiceless interest passing from front to back.

'What--what--' Robbins stammered, straining higher on tiptoe.

'Guilty. Manslaughter,' said the man beside him. He brought his hand
down heavily on the boy’s shoulder. 'Suits you all right. Everybody
knew--'

The gavel sounded and he broke off, bending forward to listen.

But Robbins did not listen. It was as though the foundations of his
world crumbled round him. That truth should fail, that innocent men
should suffer-- He fumbled at the sleeve of the man on the other side.

'I--didn’t hear. They said--'

'Sh-h!' the man warned him, and then, behind his sheltering hand,
'Guilty.'

The judge’s voice dropped, and the speaker began moving with others
toward the door. Robbins moved, too--as one dazed, uncertain what he
did. Some one stopped him in the outer passage. He was conscious of
congratulatory sentences. He heard his own voice speaking words which,
seemingly, were not without meaning. And all the while his mind waited,
awed, for the impending catastrophe.

Mercifully, the house was empty when he reached home. He tiptoed into
his own room, and there, the door closed behind him, stood for a moment,
listening. Then, with an exclamation, he dropped to his knees beside the
bed and buried his face against it.

For an hour he knelt there, bodily quiet, his mind beating, circling,
thrusting desperately against its surrounding cage of falsehood. At
first it was all fear--how the exposure would come, how best he might
sustain himself against it. Then, imperceptibly, a deeper terror crept
into his thinking. Suppose it should not come? Suppose-- But that was
unthinkable. For a lie to blast a man’s whole life, for a lie to brand
him. Stealthily, as if his very stirring might incense the devil-god of
such a world, he slid down, sitting beside the bed, his distended,
horror-fascinated eyes hard on the wall. In these minutes his young
faith in God and justice fought to the death with the injustice before
him--fought and won.

'He’ll be sentenced Friday,' he found himself thinking, drawing on some
half-heard scrap of conversation. 'That’s four days. There’s time
enough--'

He dragged himself up and lay down at full length. Something hot smarted
upon his face; he put up his hand to find his cheeks wet with tears.
They flowed quietly for a long time--soothingly. He fell asleep at last,
his lashes still heavy with them.

He was very early at the court-house Friday morning. Cartwright, coming
in at nine to his office, crossed the corridor to speak to
him--cheerily.

'Well, we got our man, Robbins. You made a good witness--I meant to tell
you so before; no confusing you. Look here, my boy, you’re not fretting
over this? If it hadn’t been you, it would have been some one else.
There’s no covering a crime like that.'

'Not--ever?' said Robbins thickly.

His secret was at his tongue’s end. A glance of interrogation would have
brought it spilling out. But there was no interrogation in his
companion’s eyes--only an abstracted kindness. He looked away from the
lad toward the stragglers along the corridor.

'You came up to hear the sentence? Come in through my office and we’ll
find you a seat. The place will be packed.'

'There’s nothing new?' Robbins asked unwillingly. 'No--new evidence?'

'Why, no! The case will be closed in another half-hour. And then I hope
it will be a long time before you have any thing to do with a criminal
charge again. Now if you want to come in--'

Robbins followed, silent. It did not trouble him to find himself placed
conspicuously in the front row. His whole attention was set upon holding
fast to the one strand of hope extended to him. In half an hour it
would be over. In half an hour the hideous thing would be folded into
the past. But it would _not!_ The case against Whiting would be ended,
the arraignment of God would be but just begun! To go on living in a
world so guardianed--

The judge entered and took his place; the lawyers on either side filed
in to their stations about the long table; the prisoner was brought in,
in the custody of a deputy sheriff. There was a little bustle of
curiosity to herald his coming. Then the packed room settled to
attention.

Robbins leaned forward in his seat. He heard vaguely the opening
interchanges of speech. He saw the prisoner rise. The man was
clay-colored; his teeth scraped back and forth continually on his dry
lower lip. There was no resource in him, no help. And suddenly the
watcher knew that help was nowhere. The voice of the judge reached him,
low-pitched and solemn, as befitted the occasion.

'--Having been found guilty--decree that you be confined--'

'_No!_' said Robbins suddenly almost in a scream.

All at once the thing was clear to him. It was not Whiting who was being
sentenced: it was God who was on trial, it was truth, good faith, the
right to hope.

The impulse of his cry had wrenched him from his chair. He stood flung
forward against the rail.

'You can’t! I never saw him! They were tormenting me and I said I did.
He wasn’t there--'

Behind him the court-room rang with excitement. He was aware of startled
exclamations. He was aware of Cartwright, tragic-eyed, beside him,
half-sheltering him, calling to him.

'Robbins! What’s wrong? He’s not speaking under oath. He’s been
brooding--'

'It’s _so!_' said the boy.

For a moment he held himself erect among them, high-headed, joyous,
splendid with the exaltation of the martyr. Then, suddenly, his eyes met
the eyes of the prisoner. He dropped back into his seat, his shaking
hands before his face.

It had lasted a second, less than a second, that frank, involuntary
revelation; but in that second, his guard beaten down by sheer
amazement, the prisoner’s guilt stood plain in his face. In that second,
reading the craven record of it, Robbins saw the glory of martyrdom
snatched from him forever--knew himself, now and now only, irrevocably
perjured.



WHAT MR. GREY SAID

BY MARGARET PRESCOTT MONTAGUE


HE was the smallest blind child at Lomax, the State school for deaf and
blind children. Even Jimmie Little, who looked like a small gray mouse,
and who had always been regarded by the teachers as not much bigger than
a minute, appeared large beside Stanislaus. He was so small, in fact,
that Mr. Lincoln, the Superintendent, had declined at first to admit
him.

'We don’t take children under six,' he had said to Stanislaus’s father
when the latter had brought him to Lomax, 'and your little boy doesn’t
look five yet.'

'He’ll be five the twenty-second of March,' the father said.

'I’ll be five ve twenty-second of March,' Stanislaus echoed.

He was sitting holding his cap politely between his knees, swinging his
fat legs with a gay serenity, while his blind eyes stared away into the
dark. He had not been paying much attention to the conversation, being
occupied with the working out of a little silent bit of rhythm by an
elaborate system of leg-swings: twice out with the right foot; twice
with the left; then twice together. He had found that swinging his legs
helped to pass the time when grown-ups were talking. The mention of his
birthday, however, brought him at once to the surface. That was because
Mr. Grey had told him of a wonderful thing which would happen the day he
was five. Thereafter his legs swung to the accompaniment of a happy
unheard chant:--

    'I’ll be five years old' (right leg out),
    'I’ll be five years old' (left leg out),
    'I’ll be five years old on my _birf_-day!'

(Both legs in ecstatic conjunction.)

Stanislaus’s father, a sad-eyed man, who, though he spoke with no
accent, was evidently of emigrant extraction, looked troubled.

'My wife’s dead,' he said, 'an’ I’m workin' in the coalmines, an’ you
know that ain’t no place for a little blind child. Every one told me
sure you’d take him here.'

Mr. Lincoln hesitated. 'Well,' he said at length, 'I’ll send for Miss
Lyman,--she’s the matron for the blind boys,--and if she consents to
take him, I’ll make no objection.'

Miss Lyman appeared presently, and Mr. Lincoln explained the situation.

'But he is such a little chap,' he concluded, 'it seems hardly possible
for us to take him.'

Here, however, Stanislaus gave over his leg-swinging and took it upon
himself to remonstrate.

'I _ain’t_ little,' he said firmly. Slipping off his chair, he drew
himself up very straight, and began patting himself all over. 'Feel me,'
he urged, 'dest feel me, I’m weally big. Feel my arms,' he held these
chubby members out to Miss Lyman. 'An’ my _legs_,--' he patted
them,--'why ve’re _aw_-ful big!' His serious little mouth rounded itself
to amazement at the bigness of his legs.

It was beyond human nature, or at least beyond Miss Lyman’s nature, to
resist the appeal of his eager voice and patting baby hands. Obediently
she ran an inquiring touch over his soft body, which was still plump
babyhood, not having as yet thinned to boyhood.

'Why,' she said, turning gravely to Mr. Lincoln, 'he does _look_ rather
small, but when you _feel_ him, you find he is really quite big.'

'Does he feel big enough for us to take?' Mr. Lincoln demanded.

'Oh, I think so!' she answered quickly, one arm slipping about the
little boy’s shoulders.

'An’ I’ll be five ve twenty-second of March,' Stanislaus threw in to
overbalance the argument in his favor.

He snuggled himself confidingly against Miss Lyman, and fell to playing
with the many jingling attachments of her chatelaine.

'I heard vese tinkly fings when you was comin’ ’w-a-y a-w-a-y outside,
'fore you o-pened ve door,' he murmured softly.

'His mother’s dead,' the man explained.

'Little sister’s dead, too,' Stanislaus supplemented him. 'S’e token a
awful bad cold so s’e couldn’t b’eave. I take awful bad colds, but I
don’t die, do I?' he demanded.

'Yes,' said the man, 'my baby’s dead, too. I had a woman lookin' after
both kids, but she let the baby git the pneumonia.'

'I fink I like you better van vat other lady,' Stanislaus confided to
Miss Lyman.

'Of course we can take him,' Miss Lyman said hastily to Mr. Lincoln.

And thus it was that Stanislaus came to Lomax.

As has been said, he was the youngest child at school. This in itself
was sufficient to set him apart from the thirty or so other blind boys;
but there were other things that served to distinguish him as well. His
thoughts, for instance, were so different--so unexpected and whimsical;
so entirely off the beaten track.

Witness Mr. Grey, for instance. At his best Mr. Grey was a delightful
person; but as he was of a retiring disposition, he never flowered into
being, save in a sympathetic atmosphere. Miss Julia, for example, never
met Mr. Grey. She was one of the older teachers, whose boast it was
that she never stood for any foolishness. In her not doing so, however,
she was apt to walk with a heavy foot over other folks' most cherished
feelings. For which reason, sensitive people were inclined in her
presence to retreat within themselves, sailing, as it were, with their
lights blanketed. This was the reason, no doubt, why she and Mr. Grey
never met.

Indeed, Mr. Grey was of such an extremely shy nature that he had to be
observed with the greatest delicacy. Looked at too closely, he was apt
to go out like a blown candle. He lived apparently in an empty closet in
the blind boys' clothes room. It is probable that he had taken up his
abode there for the sake of being near Stanislaus, for as the latter was
too small to be in school all the morning, he spent the rest of his time
with Miss Lyman in the clothes room, where she sat and sewed on buttons,
mended rips, and put on patches, in a desperate endeavor to keep her
army of blind boys mended up. When the other children were about, as
they usually were on Saturdays, Mr. Grey kept discreetly to himself, and
his presence in the closet would not have been suspected. On the long
school mornings, however, when Miss Lyman sat quietly sewing, with
Stanislaus playing about, no one could be more unbending than Mr. Grey.
Stanislaus would go over to the closet and open it a crack, and then he
and Mr. Grey would fall into pleasant conversation. Miss Lyman, of
course, could hear only Stanislaus’s side of it, but he constantly
repeated his friend’s remarks for her benefit.

From hints which Stanislaus let fall, Miss Lyman gathered that there had
once been a real Mr. Grey in the past, from which beginning, the
interesting personality of the closet had developed.

Mr. Grey’s comments upon things and people, as repeated by Stanislaus,
showed a unique turn of mind. He seemed to have a poor opinion of
mankind in general, coupled with an excellent one of himself in
particular; for, retiring as he was before strangers, in the presence of
friends he blossomed into an incorrigible braggart. If any one failed to
do anything, Mr. Grey could always have done it, and never hesitated to
say so. There was, for instance, the time when Mr. Beverly, one of the
supervisors, was thrown from his horse and rather severely bruised. When
informed of the incident by Stanislaus, who always gave his friend the
news of the day, Mr. Grey was very scornful.

'Gwey says,' Stanislaus, over by the half-open closet door, turned to
announce to Miss Lyman, ''at _he_ never had no horse to frow _him_
yet--an’ he’s wid all kinds of horses. Horses wif four legs, an’ horses
wif five legs,--' Stanislaus had been learning to count lately,--'an’
horses wif _six_ legs.'

Again, when Miss Lyman sighed over a particularly disreputable pair of
Edward Stone’s trousers, remarking that she really did not think she
could patch those, she was met by the assertion, 'Gwey says _he_ could
patch 'em. He says he ain’t erfwaid to patch nobody’s pants. He could
patch Eddy Stone’s, a-a-n' he could patch Jimmie Nickle’s, a-a-a-n' Sam
Black’s, an’--an’'--this last all in a hurry, and as a supreme evidence
of proficiency in the art of patching--'he dest b’ieves he could patch
Mr. _Lincoln’s_ pants!'

But this was more than Miss Lyman could stand. 'No, he couldn’t either,
for Mrs. Lincoln wouldn’t let him,' she declared, stung to retort by
such unbridled claims on the part of Mr. Grey.

It is sad to relate also that Mr. Grey was a skeptic as well as a
braggart, and had had, apparently, a doubtful past. This was revealed
the morning after the Sunday on which Stanislaus had first encountered
the Flood, the Ark, and Noah. After giving Mr. Grey on Monday morning a
graphic account of the affair,--'An’ Noah him went into ve ark, an’
token all ve animals wif him, an’ ven all ve wicked people was
dwown-ed,'--Stanislaus appeared to listen a moment, after which he
turned to Miss Lyman.

'Gwey says,' he reported, ''at he doesn’t b’ieve all ve wicked people
was dwown-ed, 'cause he was a-livin' ven, an’ he was a very wicked man,
an’ he didn’t go into ve Ark, an’ _he_ wasn’t dwown-ed.'

Miss Lyman might have forgiven Mr. Grey’s skepticism, but he showed a
tendency to incite Stanislaus to a recklessness which could not be
overlooked.

None of the children were allowed to leave the school grounds without
permission, but time and again Stanislaus slipped out of the gate, and
was caught marching straight down the middle of the road leading to the
village. This was a particularly alarming proceeding, because at this
point in the road automobiles were apt to put on their last crazy burst
of speed, before having to slow down to the sober ten miles an hour of
the village limits. Indeed, one day, he was returned to the school by a
white and irate automobilist.

'What do you suppose this little scoundrel did?' the man stormed. 'Why,
he ran out from the side of the road and barked at my car!'

'I was dest pertendin' I was a little puppy dog,' Stanislaus murmured
softly.

'Pretending you were a _puppy_ dog!' roared the man. 'Well, if I hadn’t
ditched my machine--! A _puppy dog_, indeed!'

Stanislaus was turned over to Miss Lyman for very severe chastisement.
He shed bitter tears, and in the midst of them his instigator’s name
came out.

'G-gwey said he al’us barked at aut’mobiles--dest barked an’ barked at
'em--dest whenever he got weady,' he sobbed.

'If you ever do such a dreadful thing again, I shall give you the very
worst whipping you ever had,' Miss Lyman scolded. 'Little blind boys
have got to learn to be careful where they walk.'

To which Stanislaus made the astonishing reply:--

'Gwey says he dest walked anywhere he got weady when he was
little--'fore he got _his_ eyes open.'

That was the first hint that Miss Lyman got of it. Afterwards she and
Miss Cynthia--Stanislaus’s teacher--caught constant glimpses of a
curious idea that dodged in and out of the little boy’s flow of talk. A
queer, elusive, will-o'-the-wisp idea, caught one minute, gone the next,
yet informing all the child’s dreams and happy castles of the future.

At first they compared notes on the subject.

'What do you suppose Stanny has got into his head?' Miss Lyman demanded
of Miss Cynthia. 'When I told him that Kent Woodward had a little
sister, he said, "Has s’e got her eyes open yet?"

'Yes,' agreed Miss Cynthia; 'and when I happened to say that Jimmie
Nickle was the biggest blind boy in school, he said he must be awful
stupid not to have got his eyes open yet.'

But afterwards they both by common consent avoided the subject. This was
because each dreaded that the other might confirm a fear that was
shaping itself in their minds.

It is probable that these two loved Stanislaus better than any one else
loved him in all the world. Certainly if his father cared more for him,
he did not take the trouble to show it, having seemingly washed his
hands of the little fellow after turning him over to the school. It was
partly his delightful trick of individualizing people in general, and
his friends in particular, that had so endeared him to these two. 'I
al’us know when it’s you,' he confided to Miss Lyman, as he played with
her chatelaine, ''cause I hear vese tinkly fings coming way and away,
'fore you gits here.' While to Miss Cynthia he said, 'I al’us knows you
by vat sweet smell.' And often he surprised them by such remarks as 'You
don’t like wainy days, do you, Miss Lyman? I heard you tell Miss
Cyn-fee-ia vat wainy days de-de-depwessed you.' He got the big word out
after a struggle. 'I fink,' he added, 'vat wainy days de-depwess me
too.'

This last remark was simply an extra flourish of politeness on his part.
Nothing ever really depressed him, and when he said, 'Miss Cyn-fee-ia
says s’e likes to laugh; I fink I like to laugh too,' he came much
nearer the truth. He did like to laugh, and he loved life and all it had
to offer him. Each morning was a wonderful gift to him, and his days
went by like a chain of golden beads strung together on a thread of
delight.

It was because of his delight in life, and because they loved him, and
could not bear that Fate should prick any of his rainbow bubbles, that
both Miss Lyman and Miss Cynthia avoided the subject after they had once
discovered what tragic little hope his mind was fostering.

Miss Julia, however, was different. Her sensibilities did not lead her
into by-paths of pathos; therefore, when she chanced upon Stanislaus’s
little secret, she joyfully proclaimed it.

'Well, if that little Stanislaus isn’t the funniest child I ever _did_
see!' she began one evening in the teachers' hall. 'Why, if you’ll
believe me, he thinks that children are like kittens and puppies, and
are all born blind, and after a while they get their eyes open just like
cats and dogs. He thinks he is big enough now to have his eyes open
'most any day. Well, I didn’t tell him any better, but I thought I
should die laughing.'

Here Miss Lyman and Miss Cynthia rose with one accord, and left the
teachers' hall. Upstairs in Miss Lyman’s room they faced each other.

'You knew?' Miss Cynthia half questioned, half asserted.

'How can I help knowing!' Miss Lyman cried passionately. 'He’s always
telling me what he’s going to do when "I’m big an’ can see." It _isn’t_
a foolish idea! It’s a perfectly natural one. Some one has told him
about puppies and kittens, and of _course_ he thought children were the
same way. It isn’t foolish, it’s--'

'You’ve got to tell him the truth,' Miss Cynthia interposed.

'I won’t,' Miss Lyman declared. 'All his dreams and hopes are centred on
that idea.'

'If you don’t tell him, the other boys will find it out soon and laugh
at him, and that will be worse.'

'Well, why have I got to tell him? Why don’t you?'

'He loves you best,' Miss Cynthia evaded.

'I don’t believe any one will have to tell him,' Miss Lyman took her up,
hopefully. 'I believe it will just drop out of his mind as he gets
older. He’ll just cease to believe it without any shock, without ever
really knowing when he found out it wasn’t so.'

But she reckoned without Mr. Grey. He, it appeared, had fixed a date for
the great event.

'Gwey says,' Stanislaus announced, 'vat he got _his_ eyes open ve day he
was five, an’ he dest bets I’ll get mine open ven too.'

Thereafter, all his dreams and plays were inspired by the magic words,
'When I’m five an’ can see.' The sentence served as a mental
spring-board to jump his imagination off into a world of wonder where
he could see, 'dest--dest as good as big folks' or 'dest as good as
Gwey.'

Every day his fifth birthday drew nearer, and Miss Cynthia’s eyes said,
You’ve got to tell; and everyday Miss Lyman avoided them.

At last it was the day before his birthday. He waked with the words,
'To-mowwow is my birfday,' on his tongue, and scrambled out of bed, a
little night-shirted figure of ecstasy. His dressing that morning--the
putting on of his shoes, the scrubbing of his fingers, the rather
uncertain brushing of his hair--all went off to the happy refrain of--

'To-mowwow is my birfday, my birfday, my birfday!'

Some deep wisdom kept him from letting the other boys suspect what Mr.
Grey had foretold for his birthday; but when he came to Miss Lyman that
she might look him over before he went to school, he pulled her down
close to whisper, 'I’m goin' to look at _you_ de very first one of all.'
And to seal the matter he deposited a kiss in the palm of her hand, and
shut her fingers upon it.

'Keep vat till I come back,' he commanded, and went jauntily off to
school, where in all probability he made the same engaging promise to
Miss Cynthia, and sealed it with the same token. But if he did, one may
be certain he hid the token safe away in her hand. He was always shy
about kisses, not being quite sure but that they might be visible. You
could certainly feel the things, so why mightn’t they be seen as well,
sticking right out on one’s cheek, for seeing people to stare at? For
this reason, he refused them on his own account, ''cause vey might
show'; and those that he gave were always bestowed in the palm of the
hand, where the fingers could be closed hastily upon them.

Miss Lyman sat in the clothes room that morning, and sewed and waited.
Her needle blurred, and her thread knotted, and the patches seemed more
difficult than ever, and all because she had told herself that
presently she must take a little boy up in her lap and shatter his
dearest hope with truth. She had made up her mind that, when he came
from school that morning, she would have to tell him. Therefore she sat
and sewed, her whole being tense for the sound of his footsteps. She
knew just how he would come--with a sudden scamper up the steps outside.
He always ran as soon as his fingers were sure of the rail, because much
of his time he was an engine, 'An’ vats ve way twains come up steps.'
Then he would whisk around the corner, fumble an instant for the
door-handle, and burst in upon her.

But after all, none of these sounds came. Instead, there was suddenly
the trampling of grown-up feet, the rush of skirts, and Miss Cynthia
threw the door open.

'Oh, come--come quick!' she panted. 'Stanny is hurt--He ran away--Oh, I
_told_ him to come straight to you! But he ran away down the road, and a
motor--'

Together they sped down the long corridors to the hospital. They had
brought Stanny there and laid him on one of the very clean little beds.
Such a tiny crushed morsel of humanity in the centre of the big bare
room! But his hand moved and he found Miss Lyman’s chatelaine as she
bent over him.

'I knowed you was comin' by ve tinkly fings,' he whispered. Then--'I was
dest playin' it was my birfday an’ I could see.--Gwey said to.--Is
you--is you goin' to punish me vis time?' he quavered.

'No, lovey, no--not this time,' she faltered, for she had caught the
look on the doctor’s face.

'Gwey said he al’us dest barked an’ barked at aut’mobiles.--Let me hold
ve tinkly fings so’s I will know you is vere.' And by and by he
murmured, 'It’ll be my birfday soon--_weal_ soon now, won’t it?'

'Very, very soon now,' she answered, and clinched her hand tight to keep
her voice steady.

'Why,' he said, his restless fingers chancing upon her clinched ones,
'why, you is still got my kiss all tight in you hand. I’d fink it would
be all melted by now.' A little startled moan cut him short. 'I hurts!'
he cried. 'Oh, I _hurts_!'

'Yes,' she answered breathlessly, 'yes, my darling, it will hurt a
little.'

'Is it--is it 'cause my eyes is openin'?' he gasped.

'Yes, lovey, that’s the reason.' Her hand held his tight. 'But it won’t
hurt long.'

'Gwey never--never said it would hurt like vis,' he sobbed.

The doctor stooped down and made a tiny prick in the baby arm, and after
a little Stanislaus lay still.

'He may be conscious again before the end,' the doctor said, 'but I
hardly think it is likely.'

He was not. He tossed a little, and murmured broken snatches of words,
but he was too busy going along this new exciting path to turn back to
the old ways, even to speak to his friends.

Miss Lyman sat beside him all through the bright afternoon, through the
tender dusk, and through the dark. Late in the night, he stirred, and
cried out with a little happy breath,--

'My _birfday_! It’s _come_!'

And by the time it was morning he had gone.

Miss Lyman closed the eyes that had opened so wide upon another world,
drew up all the curtains, that the room might be flooded with the
dancing light of his birthday morning, said a little prayer, committing
him to his angel, and stole softly away.



A SOLDIER OF THE LEGION

BY E. MORLAE


IT was almost daylight, and things were visible at two to three metres.
The bombardment had died down, and the quiet was hardly disturbed by
occasional shots. Our captain marched ahead of the second section,
swinging a cane and contentedly puffing on his pipe. Nearly everybody
was smoking. As we marched along we noticed that new trenches had been
dug during the night from sixty to a hundred metres in rear of the
position we had held, and were filled by the Twenty-ninth Chasseur
Regiment, which replaced us.

Very cunningly these trenches were arranged. They were deep and narrow,
fully seven feet deep and barely a yard wide. At every favorable point,
on every little rise in the ground, a salient had been constructed,
projecting out from the main trench ten to fifteen metres, protected by
heavy logs, corrugated steel sheets, and two to three feet of dirt. Each
side of the salients bristled with machine-guns. Any attack upon this
position would be bound to fail, owing to the intense volume of fire
that could be brought to bear upon the flanks of the enemy.

To make assurance doubly sure, the Engineer Corps had dug rows of
cup-shaped bowls, two feet in diameter, two feet deep, leaving but a
narrow wedge of dirt between each two; and in the centre of each bowl
was placed a six-pointed twisted steel 'porcupine.' This instrument,
however it is placed, always presents a sharp point right at you. Five
rows of these man-traps I counted, separated by a thin wall of dirt not
strong enough to maintain the weight of a man, so that any one who
attempted to rush past would be thrown against the 'porcupine' and be
spitted like a pigeon. As an additional precaution a mass of barbed wire
lay in rolls, ready to be placed in front of this ouvrage, to make it
safe against any surprise.

We marched along, talking and chatting, discussing this and that,
without a care in the world. Every one hoped we were going to the rear
to recuperate and enjoy a good square meal and a good night’s rest.
Seeger[A] wanted a good wash, he said. He was rather dirty, and so was
I. My puttees dangled in pieces round my calves. It seems I had torn
them going through the German wire the day before. I told Haeffle to
keep his eyes open for a good pair on some dead man. He said he would.

    [A] Alan Seeger, the poet, who was later killed in battle.

The company marched round the hill we descended so swiftly yesterday
and, describing a semi-circle, entered again the _Schützengraben
Spandau_ and marched back in the direction we had come from. The trench,
however, presented a different appearance. The bad places had been
repaired, the loose dirt had been shoveled out, and the dead had
disappeared. On the east side of the trench an extremely high parapet
had been built. This parapet was complete even to loop-holes--rather
funny-looking loop-holes, I thought; and when I looked closer, I saw
that they were framed in by boots! I reached my hand into several of
them as we walked along, and touched the limbs of dead men. The
engineers, it seems, in need of material, had placed the dead Germans on
top of the ground, feet flush with the inside of the ditch, leaving from
six to seven inches between two bodies, and laying another body
cross-wise on top of the two, spanning the gap between them. Then they
had shoveled the dirt on top of them, thus killing two birds with one
stone.

The discovery created a riot of excitement among the men. Curses
intermingled with laughter came from ahead of us. Everybody was tickled
by the ingenuity of our génie. 'They are marvelous!' we thought. Dowd’s
face showed consternation, yet he could not help smiling. Little King
was pale around the mouth, yet his lips were twisted in a grin. It was
horribly amusing.

Every 200 metres we passed groups of the One Hundred and Seventieth, on
duty in the trench. The front line, they told us, was twelve hundred
metres farther east, and this trench formed the second line for their
regiment. We entered the third-line trench of the Germans, from which
they ran yesterday to surrender, and continued marching in the same
direction--always east. Here we had a chance to investigate the
erstwhile German habitations.

Exactly forty paces apart, doorways opened into the dirt bank, and from
each of them fourteen steps descended at about forty-five degrees into a
cellar-like room. The stairs were built of wood and the sides of the
stairways and the chambers below were lined with one-inch pine boards.
These domiciles must have been quite comfortable and safe, but now they
were choked with bodies. As we continued our leisurely way, we met some
of our trench-cleaners, and they recited their experiences with gusto.
The Germans, they told us, pointing down into the charnel-houses,
refused to come and give up, and even fired at them when summoned to
surrender. 'Then what did you do?' I asked. 'Very simple,' answered one.
'We stood on the top of the ground right above the door and hurled
grenade after grenade through the doorway until all noise gradually
ceased down below. Then we went to the next hole and did the same thing.
It wasn’t at all dangerous,' he added, 'and it was very effective.'

We moved but slowly along the trench, and every once in a while there
was a halt while some of the men investigated promising 'prospects'
where the holes packed with dead Germans held out some promise of loot.
Owing to the order of march, the first company was the last one in line,
and my section at the very end. The head of the column was the fourth
company, then the third, then the second, and then we. By the time my
section came to any hole holding out hopes of souvenirs, there was
nothing left for us. Yet I did find a German officer with a new pair of
puttees, and, hastily unwinding them, I discarded my own and put on the
new ones. As I bound them on I noticed the name on the tag--'Hindenburg.'
I suppose that name stands for quality with the Boches.

We left the trench and swung into another communication trench, going to
the left, still in an easterly direction, straight on toward the Butte
de Souain. That point, we knew, was still in the hands of the Germans,
and very quickly they welcomed us. Shells came shrieking down--105mm.,
150, 210, and 250. It’s very easy to tell when you are close to them,
even if you can’t see a thing. When a big shell passes high, it sounds
like a white-hot piece of iron suddenly doused in cold water; but when
it gets close, the sw-i-ish suddenly rises in a high crescendo, a shriek
punctuated by a horrible roar. The uniformity of movement as the men
ducked was beautiful--and they all did it! One moment there was a line
of gray helmets bobbing up and down the trenches as the line plodded on;
and the next instant one could see only a line of black canvas close to
the ground, as every man ducked and shifted his shoulder-sack over his
neck. My sack had been blown to pieces when I was buried, and I felt
uncomfortably handicapped, with only my _musette_ for protection against
steel splinters.

About a mile from where we entered this boyau we came to a temporary
halt, then went on once more. The fourth company had come to a halt,
and we squeezed past them as we marched along. Every man of them had his
shovel out and had commenced digging a niche for himself. We passed the
fourth company, then the third, then the second, and finally the first,
second, and third sections of our own company. Just beyond, we ourselves
came to a halt and, lining up one man to the metre, started to organize
the trench for defensive purposes. From the other side of a slight
ridge, east of us and about six hundred metres away, came the sound of
machine-guns. Between us and the ridge the Germans were executing a very
lively _feu de barrage_, a screen of fire prohibiting any idea of
sending reinforcements over to the front line.

Attached for rations to my section were the major of the battalion, a
captain, and three sergeants of the état-major. Two of the sergeants
were at the trench telephone, and I could hear them report the news to
the officers. 'The Germans' they reported, 'are penned in on three sides
and are prevented from retreating by our artillery.' Twice they had
attempted to pierce our line between them and the Butte de Souain, and
twice they were driven back. Good news for us!

At 10 A.M. we sent three men from each section to the rear for the soup.
At about eleven they reappeared with steaming _marmites_ of soup, stew,
coffee, and buckets of wine. The food was very good, and disappeared to
the last morsel.

After eating, the captains granted me permission to walk along the ditch
back to the fourth company. The trench being too crowded for comfort, I
walked alongside to the second company, and searched for my friend,
Sergeant Velte. Finally I found him lying in a shell-hole, side by side
with his adjutant and Sergeant Morin. All three were dead, torn to
pieces by one shell shortly after we had passed them in the morning. At
the third company they reported that Second Lieutenant Sweeny had been
shot through the chest by a lost ball that morning. Hard luck for
Sweeny! The poor devil had just been nominated _sous-lieutenant_ at the
request of the French Embassy in Washington; and when he was attached as
supernumerary to the third company we all had hopes that he would have a
chance to prove his merit.

In the fourth company also the losses were severe. The part of the
trench occupied by the three companies was directly enfiladed by the
German batteries on the Butte de Souain, and every little while a shell
would fall square into the ditch and take toll from the occupants. Our
company was fully a thousand metres nearer to these batteries, but the
trenches we occupied presented a three-quarter face to the fire, and
consequently were ever so much harder to hit. Even then, when I got back
I found four men _hors de combat_ in the fourth section. In my section
two niches were demolished without any one being hit.

Time dragged slowly until four in the afternoon, when we had soup again.
Many of the men built little fires, and with the _Erbsenwurst_ they had
found on dead Germans prepared a very palatable soup by way of extra
rations.

At four o’clock sentries were posted and everybody fell asleep. A steady
rain was falling, and to keep dry we hooked one edge of our tent-sheet
on the ground above the niche and put dirt on top of it to hold. Then we
pushed cartridges through the buttonholes of the tent, pinning them into
the side of the trench, and forming a good cover for the occupant of the
hole. Thus we rested until the new day broke, bringing a clear sky and
sunshine. This day, the 27th,--the third of the battle,--passed without
mishap to my section. We spent our time eating and sleeping, mildly
distracted by an intermittent bombardment.

Another night spent in the same cramped quarters! We were getting weary
of inactivity, and it was rather hard work to keep the men in the ditch.
They sneaked off singly and in pairs, always heading back to the German
dug-outs, all bent on turning things upside down in the hope of finding
something of value to carry as a keepsake.

Haeffle came back once with three automatic pistols, but no cartridges;
from another trip he returned with an officer’s helmet; and the third
time he brought triumphantly back a string three feet long of dried
sausages. Haeffle always did have a healthy appetite, and it transpired
that on the way back he had eaten a dozen sausages, more or less. The
dried meat had made him thirsty and he had drunk half a canteen of water
on top of it. The result was, he swelled up like a poisoned pup, and for
a time he was surely a sick man.

Zinn found two shiny German bayonets, a long thin one, and one short and
heavy, and swore he would pack them for a year if he had to. Zinn hailed
from Battle Creek and wanted to use them as brush-knives on camping
trips in the Michigan woods; but alas, in the sequel they got too heavy
and were dropped along the road. One man found a German pipe with a
three-foot soft-rubber stem, which he intended sending to his brother as
a souvenir. Man and pipe are buried on the slopes of the Butte de
Souain. He died that same evening.

At the usual time--4 P.M.--we had soup, and just after that, came the
order to get ready. Looking over the trench, we watched the fourth
company form in the open back of the ditch and, marching past us in an
oblique direction, disappear round a spur of wooded hill. The third
company followed at four hundred metres distance, then the second; and
as they passed out of sight around the hill, we jumped out, and, forming
in line sections at thirty-metre intervals, each company four hundred
metres in the rear of the one ahead, we followed, _arme à la bretelle_.

We were quite unobserved by the enemy, and marched the length of the
hill for three fourths of a kilometre, keeping just below the crest.
Above us sailed four big French battle-planes and some small aero
scouts, on the lookout for enemy aircraft. For a while it seemed as if
we should not be discovered, and the command was given to lie down. From
where we lay we could observe clearly the ensuing scrap in the air, and
it was worth watching. Several German planes had approached close to our
lines, but were discovered by the swift-flying scouts. Immediately the
little fellows returned with the news to the big planes, and we watched
the monster biplanes mount to the combat. In a wide circle they swung,
climbing, climbing higher and higher, and then headed in a bee-line
straight toward the German _Tauben_. As they approached within range of
each other, we saw little clouds appear close to the German planes, some
in front, some over them, and others behind; and then, after an
interval, the report of the 32mm. guns mounted on our battle-planes
floated down to us, immediately followed like an echo by the crack of
the bursting shell. Long before the Germans could get within effective
range for their machine-guns, they were peppered by our planes and
ignominiously forced to beat a retreat. One Albatross seemed to be hit.
He staggered from one side to the other, then dipped forward, and,
standing straight on his nose, dropped like a stone out of sight behind
the forest crowning the hill.

Again we moved on, and shortly arrived at the southern spur of the hill.
Here the company made a quarter turn to the left, and in the same
formation began the ascent of the hill. The second company was just
disappearing into the scrubby pine forest on top. We entered also,
continued on to the top, and halted just below the crest. The captain
called the officers and sergeants, and, following him, we crawled on our
stomachs up to the highest point and looked over.

Never shall I forget the panorama that spread before us! The four thin
ranks of the second company seemed to stagger drunkenly through a sea of
green fire and smoke. One moment gaps showed in the lines, only to be
closed again as the rear files spurted. Undoubtedly they ran at top
speed, but to us watchers they seemed to crawl, and at times almost to
stop. Mixed in with the dark green of the grass covering the valley were
rows of lighter color, telling of the men who fell in that mad sprint.
The continuous bombardment sounded like a giant drum beating an
incredibly swift _rataplan_. Along the whole length of our hill this
curtain of shells was dropping, leveling the forest and seemingly
beating off the very face of the hill itself, clean down to the bottom
of the valley. Owing to the proximity of our troops to the enemy’s
batteries, we received hardly any support from our own big guns, and the
rôle of the combatants was entirely reversed. The Germans had their
innings then, and full well they worked.

As the company descended into the valley the pace became slower, and at
the beginning of the opposite slope they halted and faced back. Owing to
the height of the Butte de Souain, they were safe, and they considered
that it was their turn to act as spectators.

As our captain rose, we followed and took our places in front of our
sections. Again I impressed upon the minds of my men the importance of
following in a straight line and as close behind one another as
possible. '_Arme à la main_!' came the order, and slowly we moved to the
crest and then immediately broke into a dog-trot. Instantly we were
enveloped in flames and smoke. Hell kissed us welcome! Closely I
watched the captain for the sign to increase our speed. I could have run
a mile in record time, but he plugged steadily along, one, two, three,
four, one, two, three, four,--at a tempo of a hundred and eighty steps
per minute, three to the second,--the regulation tempo. Inwardly I
cursed his insistence upon having things _réglementaires_.

As I looked at the middle of his back, longing for him to hurry, I
caught sight, on my right, of a shell exploding directly in the centre
of the third section. Out of the tail of my eye I saw the upper part of
Corporal Keraudy’s body rise slowly into the air. The legs had
disappeared, and with arms outstretched the trunk sank down on the
corpse of Varma, the Hindu, who had marched behind him. Instinctively, I
almost stopped in my tracks: Keraudy was a friend of mine; but at the
instant Corporal Mettayer, running behind me, bumped into my back, and
shoved me again into life and action.

We were out of the woods then, and running down the bare slope of the
hill. A puff of smoke, red-hot, smote me in the face, and at the same
moment intense pain shot up my jaw. I did not think I was hit seriously,
since I was able to run all right. Some one in the second section
intoned the regimental march, '_Allons, giron_.' Others took it up; and
there, in that scene of death and hell, this song portraying the lusts
and vices of the _Légion Étrangère_ became a very pæan of enthusiasm and
courage.

Glancing to the right, I saw that we were getting too close to the
second section, so I gave the signal for a left oblique. We bore away
from them until once again at our thirty paces distance. All at once my
feet tangled up in something and I almost fell. It was long grass! Just
then it seemed to grow upon my mind that we were down in the valley and
out of range of the enemy. Then I glanced ahead, and not over a hundred
metres away I saw the second company lying in the grass and watching us
coming. As we neared, they shouted little pleasantries at us and
congratulated us upon our speed.

'Why this unseemly haste?' one wants to know.

'You go to the devil!' answers Haeffle.

'_Merci, mon ami_!' retorts the first; 'I have just come through his
back kitchen.'

Counting my section, I missed Dubois, St. Hilaire, and Schueli.
Collette, Joe told me, was left on the hill.

The company had lost two sergeants, one corporal, and thirteen men
coming down that short stretch! We mustered but forty-five men, all
told. One, Sergeant Terisien, had commanded my section, the 'American
Section,' for four months, but was transferred to the fourth. From where
we rested we could see him slowly descending the hill, bareheaded and
with his right hand clasping his left shoulder. He had been severely
wounded in the head, and his left arm was nearly torn off at the
shoulder. Poor devil! He was a good comrade and a good soldier. Just
before the war broke out he had finished his third enlistment in the
Legion, and was in line for a discharge and pension when he died.

Looking up the awful slope we had just descended, we could see the
bodies of our comrades, torn and mangled and again and again kicked up
into the air by the shells. For two days and nights the hellish hail
continued to beat upon that blood-soaked slope, until we finally
captured the Butte de Souain and forced an entire regiment of Saxons to
the left of the butte to capitulate.

Again we assembled in column of fours, and this time began the climb up
hill. Just then I happened to think of the blow I had received under the
jaw, and, feeling of the spot, discovered a slight wound under my left
jaw-bone. Handing my rifle to a man, I pressed slightly upon the sore
spot and pulled a steel splinter out of the wound. A very thin, long
sliver of steel it was, half the diameter of a dime and not more than a
dime’s thickness, but an inch and a half long. The metal was still hot
to the touch. The scratch continued bleeding freely, but I did not
bandage it at the time because I felt sure of needing my emergency
dressing farther along.

Up near the crest of the hill we halted in an angle of the woods and lay
down alongside the One Hundred and Seventy-Second Regiment of infantry.
They had made the attack in this direction on the 25th, but had been
severely checked at this point. Infantry and machine-gun fire sounded
very close, and lost bullets by the hundreds flicked through the
branches overhead. The One Hundred and Seventy-Second informed us that a
battalion of the _Premier Étranger_ had entered the forest and was at
that moment storming a position to our immediate left. Through the trees
showed lights, brighter than day, cast from hundreds of German magnesium
candles shot into the air.

Our officers were grouped with those of the other regiment, and after a
very long conference they separated, each to his command. Our captain
called the officers and subalterns of the company together, and in terse
sentences explained to us our positions and the object of the coming
assault. It was to be a purely local affair, and the point was the
clearing of the enemy from the hill we were on. On a map drawn to scale
he pointed out the lay of the land.

It looked to me a hard proposition. Imagine a tooth-brush about a mile
long and three eighths to one half a mile wide. The back is formed by
the summit of the hill, which is densely wooded, and the hairs of the
brush are represented by four little ridges rising from the valley we
had just crossed, each one crowned with strips of forest and uniting
with the main ridge at right angles. Between each two lines of hair are
open spaces, from one hundred to one hundred and fifty metres wide. We,
of the second regiment, were to deliver the assault parallel with the
hairs and stretching from the crest down to the valley.

The other column was to make a demonstration from our left, running a
general course at right angles to ours. The time set was eight o’clock
at night.

Returning to our places, we informed the men of what they were in for.
While we were talking, we noticed a group of men come from the edge of
the woods and form into company formation, and we could hear them answer
to the roll-call. I went over and peered at them. On their coat-collars
I saw the gilt No. 1. It was the _Premier Étranger_.

As the roll-call proceeded, I wondered. The sergeant was deciphering
with difficulty the names from his little _carnet_, and response after
response was, 'Mort.' Once in a while the answer changed to 'Mort sur le
champ d’honneur,' or a brief 'Tombé.' There were twenty-two men in line,
not counting the sergeant and a corporal, who in rear of the line
supported himself precariously on two rifles which served him as
crutches. Two more groups appeared back of this one, and the same
proceeding was repeated. As I stood near the second group I could just
catch the responses of the survivors. 'Duvivier': 'Present.'--'Selonti':
'Present.'--'Boismort': 'Tombé.'--'Herkis': 'Mort.'--Carney':
'Mort.'--'MacDonald': 'Present.'--'Farnsworth': 'Mort sur le champ
d’honneur,' responded MacDonald. Several of the men I had known,
Farnsworth among them. One officer, a second lieutenant, commanded the
remains of the battalion. Seven hundred and fifty men, he informed me,
had gone in an hour ago, and less than two hundred came back.

'Ah, mon ami,' he told me, 'c’est bien chaud dans le bois.'

Quietly they turned into column of fours and disappeared in the
darkness. Their attack had failed. Owing to the protection afforded by
the trees, our aerial scouts had failed to gather definite information
of the defenses constructed in the forest, and owing also to the same
cause, our previous bombardment had been ineffective.

It was our job to remedy this. One battalion of the One Hundred and
Seventy-Second was detached and placed in line with us, and at eight
P.M. sharp the major’s whistle sounded, echoed by that of our captain.

Quietly we lined up at the edge of the forest, shoulder to shoulder,
bayonets fixed. Quietly each corporal examined the rifles of his men,
inspected the magazines, and saw that each chamber also held a cartridge
with firing-pin down. As silently as possible we entered between the
trees, and carefully kept in touch with each other. It was dark in
there, and we had moved along some little distance before our eyes were
used to the blackness. As I picked my steps I prepared myself for the
shock every man experiences at the first sound of a volley. Twice I fell
down into shell-holes and cursed my clumsiness and that of some other
fellows to my right. 'The "Dutch" must be asleep,' I thought, 'or else
they beat it.' Hopefully the latter!

We were approaching the farther edge of the tooth-brush 'bristle,' and
breathlessly we halted at the edge of the little open space before us.
About eighty metres across loomed the black line of another 'row of
hairs.'

The captain and second section to our right moved on and we kept in
line, still slowly and cautiously, carefully putting one foot before the
other. Suddenly from the darkness in front of us came four or five heavy
reports like the noise of a shot-gun, followed by a long hiss. Into the
air streamed trails of sparks. Above our heads the hiss ended with a
sharp crack, and everything stood revealed as if it were broad daylight.

At the first crash, the major, the captains--everybody, it seemed to
me--yelled at the same time, 'En avant! Pas de charge!'--and in full
run, with fixed bayonets, we flew across the meadow. As we neared the
woods, we were met by solid sheets of steel balls. Roar upon roar came
from the forest; the volleys came too fast, it shot into my mind, to be
well aimed. Then something hit me on the chest and I fell sprawling.
Barbed wire! Everybody seemed to be on the ground at once, crawling,
pushing, struggling through. My rifle was lost and I grasped my
_parabellum_. It was a German weapon, German charges, German cartridges.
This time the Germans were to get a taste of their own medicine, I
thought. Lying on my back, I wormed through the wire, butting into the
men in front of me and getting kicked in the head by Mettayer. As I
crawled I could hear the _ping-ping_ of balls striking the wire, and the
shrill moan as they glanced off and continued on their flight.

Putting out my hand, I felt loose dirt, and, lying flat, peered over the
parapet. 'Nobody home,' I thought; and then I saw one of the Collette
brothers in the trench come running toward me, and ahead of him a burly
Boche. I could see Joe make a one-handed lunge with the rifle, and the
bayonet showed fully a foot in front of the German’s chest.

Re-forming, we advanced toward the farther fringe of the little forest.
Half-way through the trees, we lay down flat on our stomachs, rifle in
right hand, and slowly, very slowly, wormed our way past the trees into
the opening between us and our goal. Every man had left his knapsack in
front, or else hanging on the barbed wire, and we were in good shape for
the work that lay ahead. But the sections and companies were
inextricably mixed. On one side of me crawled a lieutenant of the One
Hundred and Seventy-Second and on the other a private I had never seen
before. Still we were all in line, and when some one shouted, 'Feu de
quatre cartouches!' we fired four rounds, and after the command all
crawled again a few paces nearer.

Several times we halted to fire, aiming at the sheets of flame spurting
toward us. Over the Germans floated several parachute magnesium rockets,
sent up by our own men, giving a vivid light and enabling us to shoot
with fair accuracy. I think now that the German fire was too high.
Anyway, I did not notice any one in my immediate vicinity getting hit.
Though our progress was slow, we finally arrived at the main wire
entanglement.

All corporals in the French Army carry wire-nippers, and it was our
corporals' business to open a way through the entanglement. Several men
to my right I could see one--he looked like Mettayer--lying flat on his
back and, nippers in hand, snipping away at the wire overhead, while all
of us behind kept up a murderous and constant fire at the enemy. Mingled
with the roar of the rifles came the stuttering rattle of the
machine-guns, at moments drowned by the crash of hand-grenades. Our
grenadiers had rather poor success with their missiles, however, most of
them hitting trees in front of the trench. The lieutenant on my left had
four grenades. I could see him plainly. With one in his hand, he crawled
close to the wire, rolled on his back, rested an instant with arms
extended, both hands grasping the grenade, then suddenly he doubled
forward and back and sent the bomb flying over his head. For two, three
seconds--it seemed longer at the time--we listened, and then came the
roar of the explosion. He smiled and nodded to me, and again went
through the same manœuvre.

In the meantime I kept my _parabellum_ going. I had nine magazines
loaded with dum-dum balls I had taken from some dead Germans, and I
distributed the balls impartially between three _créneaux_ in front of
me. On my right, men were surging through several breaks in the wire.
Swiftly I rolled over and over toward the free lane and went through
with a rush. The combat had become a hand-grenade affair. Our grenadiers
crawled alongside the parapet and at regular intervals tossed one of
their missiles into it, while the others, shooting over their heads,
potted the Germans as they ran to the rear.

Suddenly the fusillade ceased, and with a crash, it seemed, silence and
darkness descended upon us. The sudden cessation of the terrific
rifle-firing and of the constant rattling of the machine-guns struck one
like a blow. Sergeant Altoffer brought me some information about one of
my men, and almost angrily I asked him not to shout! 'I’m not deaf yet,'
I assured him. 'Mon vieux,' he raged, 'it’s you who are shouting!'

I realized my fault and apologized, and in return accepted a drink of
wine from his canteen.

Finding the captain, we were ordered to assemble the men and maintain
the trench, and after much searching I found a few men of the section.
The little scrap had cost us three more men. Subiron, Dowd, and Zinn
were wounded and sent to the rear. The One Hundred and Seventy-Second
sent a patrol toward the farthest, the last hair of the tooth-brush,
with orders to reconnoitre thoroughly. An hour passed and they had not
returned. Twenty minutes more went by, still no patrol. Rather curious,
we thought. No rifle-shots had come from that direction, nor any noise
such as would be heard during a combat with the bayonet. The major’s
patience gave way, and our captain received orders to send another
patrol. He picked me and I chose King, Delpeuch, and Birchler. All
three had automatics--King a parabellum, Delpeuch and Birchler,
Brownings. They left rifles, bayonets, and cartridge-boxes behind, and
in Indian file followed me at a full run in an oblique direction past
the front of the company, and, when half way across the clearing,
following my example, fell flat on the ground. We rested a while to
regain our wind and then began to slide on our stomachs at right angles
to our first course.

We were extremely careful to remain silent. Every little branch and twig
we moved carefully out of our way; with one hand extended we felt of the
ground before us as we hitched ourselves along. So silent was our
progress that several times I felt in doubt about any one being behind
me and rested motionless until I felt the touch of Delpeuch’s hand upon
my foot. After what seemed twenty minutes, we again changed direction,
this time straight toward the trees looming close to us. We arrived
abreast of the first row of trees, and lying still as death listened for
sounds of the enemy. All was absolutely quiet; only the branches rustled
overhead in a light breeze.

A long time we lay there, but heard no sound. We began to feel somewhat
creepy, and I was tempted to pull my pistol and let nine shots rip into
the damnable stillness before us. However, I refrained, and touching my
neighbor, started crawling along the edge of the wood. Extreme care was
necessary, owing to the numberless branches littering the ground. The
sweat was rolling down my face.

Again we listened and again we were baffled by that silence. I was angry
then and started to crawl between the trees. A tiny sound of metal
scratching upon metal and I almost sank into the ground! Quickly I felt
reassured. It was my helmet touching a strand of barbed wire. Still no
sound!

Boldly we rose and, standing behind trees, scanned the darkness. Over to
our right we saw a glimmer of light and, walking this time, putting one
foot carefully before the other, moved toward it. When opposite we
halted and--I swore. From the supposed trench of the enemy came the
hoarse voice of an apparently drunken man, singing the _chanson_ 'La
Riviera.' Another voice offered a toast to 'La Légion.'

Carelessly we made our way through the barbed wire, crawling under and
stepping over the strands, jumped over a ditch, and looked down into
what seemed to be an underground palace. There they were,--the six men
of the One Hundred and Seventy-Second,--three of them lying stiff and
stark on benches, utterly drunk. Two were standing up disputing, and the
singer sat in an armchair, holding a long-stemmed glass in his hand.
Close by him were several unopened bottles of champagne on the table.
Many empty bottles littered the floor.

The singer welcomed us with a shout and an open hand, to which we,
however, did not immediately respond. The heartbreaking work while
approaching this place rankled in our minds. The sergeant and corporal
were too drunk to be of any help, while two of the men were crying,
locked in each others' arms. Another was asleep, and our friend the
singer absolutely refused to budge. So, after I had stowed two bottles
inside my shirt (an example punctiliously followed by the others), we
returned.

Leaving Birchler at the wire, I placed King in the middle of the
clearing, Delpeuch near the edge of the wood held by us, and then
reported. The captain passed the word along to the major, and on the
instant we were ordered to fall in, and in column of two marched over to
the abandoned trench, following the line marked by my men.

As we entered and disposed ourselves therein, I noticed all the
officers, one after the other, disappear in the palace. Another patrol
was sent out by our company, and, after ranging the country in our
front, returned safely. That night it happened to be the second
company’s turn to mount outposts, and we could see six groups of men,
one corporal and five men in each, march out into the night and
somewhere, each in some favorable spot, they placed themselves at a
distance of about one hundred metres away to watch, while we slept the
sleep of the just.

Day came, and with it the _corvée_ carrying hot coffee and bread. After
breakfast another corvée was sent after picks and shovels, and the men
were set to work remodeling the trench, shifting the parapet to the
other side, building little outpost trenches and setting barbed wire.
The latter job was done in a wonderfully short time, thanks to German
thoroughness, since for the stakes to which the wire is tied the Boches
had substituted soft iron rods, three quarters of an inch thick, twisted
five times in the shape of a great corkscrew. This screw twisted into
the ground exactly like a cork-puller into a cork. The straight part of
the rod, being twisted upon itself down and up again every ten inches,
formed six or seven small round loops in a height of about five feet.
Into these eyes the barbed wire was laid and solidly secured with short
lengths of tying wire. First cutting the tying wire, we lifted the
barbed wire out of the eyes, shoved a small stick through one, and,
turning the rod with the leverage of the stick, unscrewed it out of the
ground and then, reversing the process, screwed it in again. The
advantage of this rod is obvious. When a shell falls in the midst of
this wire protection, the rods are bent and twisted, but unless broken
off short they always support the wire, and even after a severe
bombardment present a serious obstacle to the assaulters. In such cases
wooden posts are blown to smithereens by the shells, and when broken
off let the wire fall flat to the ground.

As I was walking up and down, watching the work, I noticed a large box,
resting bottom up in a deep hole opening from the trench. Dragging the
box out and turning it over, I experienced a sudden flutter of the
heart. There, before my astonished eyes, resting upon a little platform
of boards, stood a neat little centrifugal pump painted green, and on
the base of it in raised iron letters I read the words, 'Byron Jackson,
San Francisco.' I felt queer at the stomach for an instant. San
Francisco! my home town! Before my eyes passed pictures of Market Street
and the 'Park.' In fancy I was again one of the Sunday crowd at the
Cliff House. How came this pump so far from home? Many times I had
passed the very place where it was made. How, I wonder, did the Boche
get this pump? Before the war, or through Holland? A California-built
pump to clean water out of German trenches, in France! It was
astonishing! With something like reverence I put the pump back again,
and, going to my place in the trench, dug out one of my bottles of
champagne and stood treat to the crowd. Somehow, I felt almost happy.

As I continued my rounds I came upon a man sitting on the edge of the
ditch, surrounded by naked branches, busy cutting them into two-foot
lengths and tying them together in the shape of a cross. I asked him how
many he was making, and he told me that he expected to work all day to
supply the crosses needed along one battalion front. French and German
were treated alike, he assured me. There was absolutely no difference in
the size of the crosses.

As we worked, soup arrived, and when that was disposed of, the men
rested for some hours. We were absolutely unmolested except by our
officers.

But at one o’clock that night we were again assembled in marching kit,
each man with an extra pick or shovel, and marched along parallel with
our trench to the summit of the butte. There we installed ourselves in
the main line, out of which the Germans were driven by the One Hundred
and Seventy-Second. There was no work of any kind to be done, and
quickly we found some dry wood, built small fires, and with the material
found in dug-outs brewed some really delightful beverages. Mine was a
mixture of wine and water out of Haeffle’s canteen, judiciously blended
with chocolate.

The weather was delightful, and we spent the afternoon lying in sunny
spots, shifting once in a while out of the encroaching shade into the
warm rays. We had no idea where the Germans were--somewhere in front, of
course, but just how far or how near mattered little to us. Anyhow, the
One Hundred and Seventy-Second was fully forty metres nearer to them
than we were, and we could see and hear the first-line troops picking
and shoveling their way into the ground.

Little King was, as usual, making the round of the company, trying to
find some one to build a fire and get water if he, King, would furnish
the chocolate. He found no takers and soon he laid himself down,
muttering about the laziness of the outfit.

Just as we were dozing deliciously, an agonized yell brought every
soldier to his feet. Rushing toward the cry, I found a man sitting on
the ground, holding his leg below the knee with both hands, and moaning
as he rocked back and forth, 'Je suis blesse! Je suis blesse!' Brushing
his hands aside, I examined his leg. There was no blood. I took off the
puttee, rolled up his trousers, and discovered no sign of a wound. On my
asking the man again where the wound was, he passed his hand over a
small red spot on his shin. Just then another man picked up a small
piece of shell, and then the explanation dawned upon me. The Germans
were shooting at our planes straight above us; a bit of shell had come
down and hit our sleeper on the shin-bone. Amid a gale of laughter he
limped away to a more sympathetic audience.

Several more pieces of iron fell near us. Some fragments were no joking
matter, being the entire rear ends of three-inch shells, weighing, I
should think, fully seven pounds.

At 4 P.M. the soup corvée arrived. Besides the usual soup we had roast
mutton, one small slice per man, and a mixture of white beans, rice, and
string beans. There was coffee, and one cup of wine per man, and, best
of all, tobacco. As we munched our food, our attention was attracted to
the sky above by an intense cannonade directed against several of our
aeroplanes sailing east. As we looked, more and more of our war-birds
appeared. Whipping out my glasses, I counted fifty-two machines. Another
man counted sixty. Haeffle had it a hundred. The official report next
day stated fifty-nine. They were flying very high and in very open
formation, winging due east. The shells were breaking ahead of them and
between them. The heaven was studded with hundreds upon hundreds of
beautiful little round grayish clouds, each one the nimbus of a bursting
shell. With my prismatics glued to my eyes, I watched closely for one
falling bird. Though it seemed incredible at the moment, not one
faltered or turned back. Due east they steered, into the red painted
sky. For several minutes after they had sailed out of my sight I could
still hear the roar of the guns. Only one machine, the official report
said, was shot down, and that one fell on the return trip.

Just before night fell, we all set to work cutting pine branches, and
with the tips prepared soft beds for ourselves. Sentries were placed,
one man per section, and we laid ourselves down to sleep. The night
passed quietly; again the day started with the usual hot coffee and
bread. Soup and stew at 10 A.M., and the same again at 4 P.M. One more
quiet night, and quiet the following day. We were becoming somewhat
restless with the monotony, but were cheered by the captain. That night,
he told us, we should return to Suippes, and there reform the regiment
and rest. The programme sounded good, but I felt very doubtful, we had
heard the same tale so many times and so many times we had been
disappointed. Each day the corvées had brought the same news from the
kitchen. At least twenty times different telephonists and _agents de
liaison_ had brought the familiar story. The soup corvées assured us
that the drivers of the rolling kitchens had orders to hitch up and pull
out toward Souain and Suippes. The telephonists had listened to the
order transmitted over the wires. The _agents de liaison_ had overheard
the major telling other officers that he had received marching orders,
and, '_ma foi!_ each time each one was wrong!' So, after all, I was not
much disappointed when the order came to unmake the sacks.

We stayed that night and all day, and when the order to march the next
evening came, all of us were surprised, including the captain. I was
with the One Hundred and Seventy-Second, having some fun with a little
Belgian. I had come upon him in the dark and had watched him, in growing
wonder at his actions. There he was, stamping up and down, every so
often stopping, shaking clenched fists in the air, and spouting curses.
I asked him what was the matter. 'Rien, mon sergent,' he replied. 'Je
m’excite.' 'Pourquoi?' I demanded. 'Ah,' he told me, 'look,'--pointing
out toward the German line,--'out there lies my friend, dead, with three
pounds of my chocolate in his _musette_, and when I’m good and mad, I’m
going out to get it!' I hope he got it!

That night at seven o’clock we left the hill, marched through Souain
four miles to Suippes, and sixteen miles farther on, at St. Hilaire, we
camped. A total of twenty-six miles for the day.

At Suippes the regiment passed in parade march before some officer of
the staff, and we were counted: eight hundred and fifty-two in the
entire regiment, out of three thousand two hundred who entered the
attack on the 25th of September!



THE BOULEVARD OF ROGUES

BY MEREDITH NICHOLSON


NOTHING was ever funnier than Barton’s election to the City Council.
However, it occurs to me that, if I’m going to speak of it at all, I may
as well tell the whole story.

At the University Club, where a dozen of us have met for luncheon every
business day for many years, Barton’s ideas on the subject of municipal
reform were always received in the most contumelious fashion. We shared
his rage that things were as they were, but as practical business men we
knew that there was no remedy. A city, Barton held, should be conducted
like any other corporation. Its affairs are so various, and touch so
intimately the comfort and security of all of us, that it is imperative
that they be administered by servants of indubitable character and
special training. He would point out that a citizen’s rights and
privileges are similar to those of a stockholder, and that taxes are in
effect assessments to which we submit only in the belief that the sums
demanded are necessary to the wise handling of the public business; that
we should be as anxious for dividends in the form of efficient and
economical service as we are for cash dividends in other corporations.

There is nothing foolish or unreasonable in these notions; but most of
us are not as ingenious as Barton, or as resourceful as he in finding
means of realizing them.

Barton is a lawyer and something of a cynic. I have never known a man
whose command of irony equaled his. He usually employed it, however,
with perfect good-nature, and it was impossible to ruffle him. In the
court-room I have seen him the target for attacks by a formidable array
of opposing counsel, and have heard him answer an hour’s argument in an
incisive reply compressed into ten minutes. His suggestions touching
municipal reforms we dismissed as impractical, which was absurd, for
Barton is essentially a practical man, as his professional successes
clearly proved before he was thirty.

He maintained that one capable man, working alone, could revolutionize a
city’s government if he set about it in the right spirit; and he
manifested the greatest scorn for 'movements,' committees of one
hundred, and that sort of thing. He had no great confidence in the mass
of mankind or in the soundness of the majority. His ideas were, we
thought, often fantastic, but it could never be said that he lacked the
courage of his convictions. He once assembled round a mahogany table the
presidents of the six principal banks and trust companies in our town,
and laid before them a plan by which, through the smothering of the
city’s credit, a particularly vicious administration might be brought to
terms. The city finances were in a bad way, and, as the result of a
policy of wastefulness and shortsightedness, the administration was
constantly seeking temporary loans, which the local banks were expected
to carry. Barton dissected the municipal budget before the financiers,
and proposed that, as another temporary accommodation was about to be
asked, they put the screws on the mayor and demand that he immediately
force the resignations of all his important appointees and replace them
with men to be designated by three citizens to be named by the bankers.
Barton had carefully formulated the whole matter, and he presented it
with his usual clarity and effectiveness; but rivalry between the banks
for the city’s business, and fear of incurring the displeasure of some
of their individual depositors who were closely allied with the bosses
of the bi-partisan machine, caused the scheme to be rejected. Our
lunch-table strategy board was highly amused by Barton’s failure, which
was just what we had predicted.

Barton accepted his defeat with equanimity and spoke kindly of the
bankers as good men but deficient in courage. But in the primaries the
following spring he got himself nominated for city councilman. No one
knew just how he had accomplished this. Of course, as things go in our
American cities, no one qualified for membership in a university club is
eligible for any municipal office, and no man of our acquaintance had
ever before offered himself for a position soiled through many years by
ignoble use.

Even more amazing than Barton’s nomination was Barton’s election. Our
councilmen are elected at large, and we had assumed that any strength he
might develop in the more prosperous residential districts would be
overbalanced by losses in industrial neighborhoods. The results proved
to be quite otherwise. Barton ran his own campaign. He made no speeches,
but spent the better part of two months personally appealing to
mechanics and laborers, usually in their homes or on their doorsteps. He
was at pains to keep out of the newspapers, and his own party
organization (he is a Republican) gave him only the most grudging
support.

We joked him a good deal about his election to an office that promised
nothing to a man of his character but annoyance and humiliation. His
associates on the Council were machine men, who had no knowledge
whatever of enlightened methods of conducting cities. The very
terminology in which municipal government is discussed by the informed
was as strange to them as Sanskrit. His Republican colleagues cheerfully
ignored him, and shut him out of their caucuses; the Democrats resented
his appearance in the Council chamber as an unwarranted
intrusion--'almost an indelicacy,' to use Barton’s own phrase.

The biggest joke of all was Barton’s appointment to the chairmanship of
the Committee on Municipal Art. That this was the only recognition his
associates accorded to the keenest lawyer in the state,--a man
possessing a broad knowledge of municipal methods, gathered in every
part of the world,--was ludicrous, it must be confessed; but Barton was
not in the least disturbed, and continued to suffer our chaff with his
usual good humor.

Barton is a secretive person, but we learned later that he had meekly
asked the president of the Council to give him this appointment. And it
was conferred upon him chiefly because no one else wanted it, there
being, obviously 'nothing in' municipal art discernible to the bleared
eye of the average councilman.

About that time old Sam Follonsby died, bequeathing half a million
dollars--twice as much as anybody knew he had--to be spent on fountains
and statues in the city parks and along the boulevards.

The many attempts of the administration to divert the money to other
uses; the efforts of the mayor to throw the estate into the hands of a
hungry trust company in which he had friends--these matters need not be
recited here. Suffice it to say that Barton was equal to all the demands
made upon his legal genius. When the estate was settled at the end of a
year, Barton had won every point. Follonsby’s money was definitely set
aside by the court as a special fund for the objects specified by the
testator, and Barton, as the Chairman of the Committee on Municipal Art,
had so tied it up in a legal mesh of his own ingenious contriving that
it was, to all intents and purposes, subject only to his personal check.

It was now that Barton, long irritated by the indifference of our
people to the imperative need of municipal reform, devised a plan for
arousing the apathetic electorate. A philosopher, as well as a
connoisseur in the fine arts, he had concluded that our whole idea of
erecting statues to the good and noble serves no purpose in stirring
patriotic impulses in the bosoms of beholders. There were plenty of
statues and not a few tablets in our town, commemorating great-souled
men, but they suffered sadly from public neglect. And it must be
confessed that the average statue, no matter how splendid the
achievements of its subject, is little regarded and serves only
passively as a reminder of public duty.

With what has seemed to me a sublime cynicism, Barton proceeded to spend
Follonsby’s money in a manner at once novel and arresting. He
commissioned one of the most distinguished sculptors in the country to
design a statue; and at the end of his second year in the Council (he
had been elected for four years), it was set up on the new boulevard
that parallels the river.

His choice of a subject had never been made known, so that curiosity was
greatly excited on the day of the unveiling. Barton had brought the
governor of an adjoining state, who was just then much in the public eye
as a fighter of grafters, to deliver the oration. It was a speech with a
sting to it, but our people had long been hardened to such lashings. The
mayor spoke in praise of the civic spirit which had impelled Follonsby
to make so large a bequest to the public; and then, before five thousand
persons, a little schoolgirl pulled the cord, and the statue, a splendid
creation in heroic bronze, was exposed to the amazed populace.

I shall not undertake to depict the horror and chagrin of the assembled
citizens when they beheld, instead of the statute of Follonsby, which
they were prepared to see, or a symbolic representation of the city
itself as a flower-crowned maiden, the familiar pudgy figure,
reproduced with the most cruel fidelity, of Mike O’Grady, known as
'Silent Mike,' a big bi-partisan boss who had for years dominated
municipal affairs, and who had but lately gone to his reward. The
inscription in itself was an ironic masterstroke:--

                     To
              MICHAEL P. O’GRADY
       PROTECTOR OF SALOONS, FRIEND OF CROOKS
           FOR TEN YEARS A CITY COUNCILMAN
      DOMINATING THE AFFAIRS OF THE MUNICIPALITY
            THIS STATUE IS ERECTED
          BY GRATEFUL FELLOW-CITIZENS
      IN RECOGNITION OF HIS PUBLIC SERVICES

The effect of this was tremendously disturbing, as may be imagined.
Every newspaper in America printed a picture of the O’Grady statue; our
rival cities made merry over it at our expense. The Chamber of Commerce,
incensed at the affront to the city’s good name, passed resolutions
condemning Barton in the bitterest terms; the local press howled; a mass
meeting was held in our biggest hall to voice public indignation. But
amid the clamor Barton remained calm, pointing to the stipulation in
Follonsby’s will that his money should be spent in memorials of men who
had enjoyed most fully the confidence of the people. And as O’Grady had
been permitted for years to run the town about as he liked, with only
feeble protests and occasional futile efforts to get rid of him, Barton
was able to defend himself against all comers.

Six months later Barton set up on the same boulevard a handsome tablet
commemorating the services of a mayor whose venality had brought the
city to the verge of bankruptcy, and who, when his term of office
expired, had betaken himself to parts unknown. This was greeted with
another outburst of rage, much to Barton’s delight. After a brief
interval another tablet was placed on one of the river bridges. The
building of that particular bridge had been attended with much scandal,
and the names of the councilmanic committee who were responsible for it
were set forth over these figures:--

  _Cost to the People_,     $49,000.00
  _Cost to the Council_,     31,272.81
                                 ----------
  _Graft_,                  $17,727.19

The figures were exact and a matter of record. An impudent prosecuting
attorney who had broken with the machine had laid them before the public
some time earlier; but his efforts to convict the culprits had been
frustrated by a judge of the criminal court who took orders from the
bosses. Barton broke his rule against talking through the newspapers by
issuing a caustic statement imploring the infuriated councilmen to sue
him for libel as they threatened to do.

The city was beginning to feel the edge of Barton’s little ironies. At
the club we all realized that he was animated by a definite and high
purpose in thus flaunting in enduring bronze the shame of the city.

'It is to such men as these,' said Barton, referring to the gentlemen he
had favored with his statue and tablets, 'that we confide all our
affairs. For years we have stupidly allowed a band of outlaws to run our
town. They spend our money; they hitch the saloons and brothels to the
city hall, and manage in their own way large affairs that concern all of
us. These scoundrels are our creatures, and we encourage and foster
them; they represent us and our ideals, and it’s only fitting that we
should publish their merits to the world.'

While Barton was fighting half a dozen injunction suits brought to
thwart the further expenditure of Follonsby’s money for memorials of
men of notorious misfeasance or malfeasance, another city election
rolled round. By this time there had been a revulsion of feeling. The
people began to see that after all there might be a way of escape. Even
the newspapers that had most bitterly assailed Barton declared that he
was just the man for the mayoralty, and he was fairly driven into office
at the head of a non-partisan municipal ticket.

The Boulevard of Rogues we called it for a time. But after Barton had
been in the mayor’s office a year he dumped the O’Grady statue into the
river, destroyed the tablets, and returned to the Follonsby Fund out of
his own pocket the money he had paid for them. Three noble statues of
honest patriots now adorn the boulevard, and half a dozen beautiful
fountains have been distributed among the parks.

The Barton plan is, I submit, worthy of all emulation. If every
boss-ridden, machine-managed American city could once visualize its
shame and folly as Barton compelled us to do, there would be less
complaint about the general failure of local government. There is, when
you come to think of it, nothing so preposterous in the idea of
perpetuating in outward and visible forms the public servants we humbly
permit to misgovern us. Nothing could be better calculated to quicken
the civic impulse in the lethargic citizen than the enforced
contemplation of a line of statues erected to the men he has allowed to
govern him and spend his money.

I am a little sorry, though, that Barton never carried out one of his
plans, which looked to the planting in the centre of a down-town park of
a symbolic figure of the city, felicitously expressed by a bar-room
loafer dozing on a beer-keg. I should have liked it; and Barton
confessed to me the other day that he was a good deal grieved himself
that he had not pulled it off!



WHAT HAPPENED TO ALANNA

BY KATHLEEN NORRIS


A CAPPED and aproned maid, with a martyred expression, had twice sounded
the dinner-bell in the stately halls of Costello, before any member of
the family saw fit to respond to it.

Then they all came at once, with a sudden pounding of young feet on the
stairs, an uproar of young voices, and much banging of doors. Jim and
Danny, twins of fourteen, to whom their mother was wont proudly to
allude as 'the top o' the line,' violently left their own sanctum on the
fourth floor, and coasted down such banisters as lay between that and
the dining-room. Teresa, an angel-faced twelve-year-old in a blue frock,
shut _The Wide, Wide World_ with a sigh, and climbed down from the
window-seat in the hall.

Teresa’s pious mother, in moments of exultation, loved to compare and
commend her offspring to such of the saints and martyrs as their
youthful virtues suggested. And Teresa at twelve had, as it were,
graduated from the little saints, Agnes and Rose and Cecilia, and was
now compared, in her mother’s secret heart, to the gracious Queen of all
the Saints. 'As she was when a little girl,' Mrs. Costello would add, to
herself, to excuse any undue boldness in the thought.

And indeed, Teresa, as she was to-night, her blue eyes still clouded
with Ellen Montgomery’s sorrows, her curls tumbled about her hot cheeks,
would have made a pretty foil in a picture of old Saint Anne.

But this story is about Alanna of the black eyes, the eight years, the
large irregular mouth, the large irregular features.

Alanna was outrunning lazy little Leo--her senior, but not her match at
anything--on their way to the dining-room. She was rendering desperate
the two smaller boys, Frank X., Jr., and John Henry Newman Costello, who
staggered hopelessly in her wake. They were all hungry, clean, and
good-natured, and Alanna’s voice led the other voices, even as her feet,
in twinkling patent leather, led their feet.

Following the children came their mother, fastening the rich silk and
lace at her wrists as she came. Her handsome kindly face and her big
shapely hands were still moist and glowing from soap and warm water, and
the shining rings of black hair at her temples were moist, too.

'This is all my doin', dad,' said she comfortably, as she and her flock
entered the dining-room. 'Put the soup on, Alma. I’m the one that was
goin' to be prompt at dinner, too!' she added, with a superintending
glance for all the children, as she tied on little John’s napkin.

F. X. Costello, Senior, undertaker by profession, and mayor by an
immense majority, was already at the head of the table.

'Late, eh, mommie?' said he, good-naturedly.

He threw his newspaper on the floor, cast a householder’s critical
glance at the lights and the fire, and pushed his neatly placed knives
and forks to right and left carelessly with both his fat hands.

The room was brilliantly lighted and warm. A great fire roared in the
old-fashioned black-marble grate, and electric lights blazed everywhere.
Everything in the room, and in the house, was costly, comfortable,
incongruous, and hideous. The Costellos were very rich, and had been
very poor; and certain people were fond of telling of the queer,
ridiculous things they did, in trying to spend their money. But they
were very happy, and thought their immense, ugly house was the finest in
the city, or in the world.

'Well, an’ what’s the news on the Rialter?' said the head of the house,
busy with his soup.

'You’ll have the laugh on me, dad,' his wife assured him placidly.
'After all my sayin' that nothing’d take me to Father Crowley’s
meetin'!'

'Oh, that was it?' said the mayor. 'What’s he goin' to have--a concert?'

'--_And_ a fair, too!' supplemented Mrs. Costello. There was an interval
devoted on her part to various bibs and trays, and a low aside to the
waitress. Then she went on: 'As you know, I went, meanin' to beg off. On
account of baby bein' so little, and Leo’s cough, and the paperers bein'
upstairs--and all! I thought I’d just make a donation, and let it go at
that. But the ladies all kind of hung back--there was very few
there--and I got talkin'--'

'Well, 't is but our dooty, after all,' said the mayor, nodding
approval.

'That’s all, Frank. Well! So finally Mrs. Kiljohn took the coffee, and
the Lemmon girls took the grab-bag. The Guild will look out for the
concert, and I took one fancy-work booth, and of course, the Children of
Mary’ll have the other, just like they always do.'

'Oh, was Grace there?' Teresa was eager to know.

'Grace was, darlin'.'

'And we’re to have the fancy-work! You’ll help us, won’t you, mother?
Goody--I’m in that!' exulted Teresa.

'I’m in that, too!' echoed Alanna quickly.

'A lot you are, you baby!' said Leo unkindly.

'You’re not a Child of Mary, Alanna,' Teresa said, promptly and
uneasily.

'Well--well--I can help!' protested Alanna, putting up her lip. '_Can’t
I_, mother? Can’t I, mother?'

'You can help me, dovey,' said her mother absently. 'I’m not goin' to
work as I did for Saint Patrick’s Bazaar, dad, and I said so! Mrs.
O’Connell and Mrs. King said they’d do all the work, if I’d just be the
nominal head. Mary Murray will do us some pillers--leather--with Gibsons
and Indians on them. And I’ll have Lizzie Bayne up here for a month,
makin' me aprons and little Jappy wrappers, and so on.'

She paused over the cutlets and the chicken pie, which she had been
helping with an amazing attention to personal preference. The young
Costellos chafed at the delay, but their mother’s fine eyes saw them
not.

'Kelley & Moffat ought to let me have materials at half price,' she
reflected aloud. 'My bill’s six or seven hundred a month!'

'You always say you’re not going to do a thing, and then get in and make
more than any other booth!' said Dan proudly.

'Oh, not this year, I won’t,' his mother assured him. But in her heart
she knew she would.

'Aren’t you glad it’s fancy-work?' said Teresa. 'It doesn’t get all
sloppy and mussy like ice-cream, does it, mother?'

'Gee, don’t you love fairs!' burst out Leo rapturously.

'Sliding up and down the floor before the dance begins, Dan, to work in
the wax?' suggested Jimmy, in pleasant anticipation. 'We go every day
and every night, don’t we, mother?'

'Ask your father,' said Mrs. Costello discreetly.

But the mayor’s attention just then was taken by Alanna, who had left
her chair to go and whisper in his ear.

'Why, here’s Alanna’s heart broken!' said he cheerfully, encircling her
little figure with a big arm.

Alanna shrank back suddenly against him, and put her wet cheek on his
shoulder.

'Now, whatever is it, darlin'?' wondered her mother, sympathetically but
without concern. 'You’ve not got a pain, have you, dear?'

'She wants to help the Children of Mary!' said her father tenderly. 'She
wants to do as much as Tessie does!'

'Oh, but, dad, she _can’t_!' fretted Teresa. 'She’s not a Child of Mary!
She oughtn’t to want to tag that way. Now all the other girls' sisters
will tag!'

'They haven’t got sisters!' said Alanna, red-cheeked of a sudden.

'Why, Mary Alanna Costello, they have too! Jean has, and Stella has, and
Grace has her little cousins!' protested Teresa triumphantly.

'Never mind, baby,' said Mrs. Costello hurriedly. 'Mother’ll find you
something to do. There now! How’d you like to have a raffle-book on
something--a chair or a piller? And you could get all the names
yourself, and keep the money in a little bag--'

'Oh, my! I wish I could!' said Jim artfully. 'Think of the last night,
when the drawing comes! You’ll have the fun of looking up the winning
number in your book and calling it out in the hall.'

'Would I, dad?' said Alanna softly, but with dawning interest.

'And then, from the pulpit, when the returns are all in,' contributed
Dan warmly, 'Father Crowley will read out your name,--"With Mrs. Frank
Costello’s booth--raffle of sofa cushion, by Miss Alanna Costello,
twenty-six dollars and thirty-five cents!"

'Oo--would he, dad?' said Alanna, won to smiles and dimples by this
charming prospect.

'Of course he would!' said her father. 'Now go back to your seat,
machree, and eat your dinner. When mommer takes you and Tess to the
matinée to-morrow, ask her to bring you in to me first, and you and I’ll
step over to Paul’s, and pick out a table or a couch, or something. Eh,
mommie?'

'And what do you say?' said that lady to Alanna, as the radiant little
girl went back to her chair.

Whereupon Alanna breathed a bashful 'Thank you, dad,' into the ruffled
yoke of her frock, and the matter was settled.

The next day she trotted beside her father to Paul’s big furniture
store, and after long hesitation selected a little desk of shining brass
and dull oak.

'Now,' said her father, when they were back in his office, and Teresa
and Mrs. Costello were eager for the matinée, 'here’s your book of
numbers, Alanna. And here, I’ll tie a pencil and a string to it. Don’t
lose it. I’ve given you two hundred numbers, at two bits each, and mind,
the minute any one pays for one, you put their name down on the same
line!'

'Oo,--oo!' said Alanna, in pride. 'Two hundred! That’s lots of money,
isn’t it, dad? That’s eleven or fourteen dollars, isn’t it, dad?'

'That’s fifty dollars, goose!' said her father, making a dot with the
pencil on the tip of her upturned little nose.

'Oo!' said Teresa, awed. Hatted, furred, and muffed, she leaned on her
father’s shoulder.

'Oo--dad!' whispered Alanna, with scarlet cheeks.

'So _now_!' said her mother, with a little nod of encouragement and
warning. 'Put it right in your muff, lovey. Don’t lose it. Dan or Jim
will help you count your money, and keep things straight.'

'And to begin with, we’ll all take a chance!' said the mayor, bringing
his fat palm, full of silver, up from his pocket. 'How old are you,
mommie?'

'I’m thirty-seven--all but, as well you know, Frank!' said his wife
promptly.

'Thirty-six and thirty-seven for you, then!' He wrote her name opposite
both numbers. 'And here’s the mayor on the same page--forty-four! And
twelve for Tessie, and eight for this highbinder on my knee, here! And
now we’ll have one for little Gertie!'

Gertrude Costello was not yet three months old, her mother said.

'Well, she can have number one, any way!' said the mayor. 'You make a
rejooced rate for one family, I understand, Miss Costello?'

'I _don’t_!' chuckled Alanna, locking her thin little arms about his
neck, and digging her chin into his eye.

So he gave her full price, and she went off with her mother in a state
of great content, between rows and rows of coffins, and cases of plumes,
and handles and rosettes, and designs for monuments.

'Mrs. Church will want some chances, won’t she, mother?' she said
suddenly.

'Let Mrs. Church alone, darlin',' advised Mrs. Costello. 'She’s not a
Catholic, and there’s plenty to take chances without her!'

Alanna reluctantly assented; but she need not have worried. Mrs. Church
voluntarily took many chances, and became very enthusiastic about the
desk.

She was a pretty, clever young woman, of whom all the Costellos were
very fond. She lived with a very young husband, and a very new baby, in
a tiny cottage near the big Irish family, and pleased Mrs. Costello by
asking her advice on all domestic matters, and taking it. She made the
Costello children welcome at all hours in her tiny, shining kitchen, or
sunny little dining-room. She made them candy and told them stories. She
was a minister’s daughter, and wise in many delightful, girlish,
friendly ways.

And in return Mrs. Costello did her many a kindly act, and sent her
almost daily presents in the most natural manner imaginable.

But Mrs. Church made Alanna very unhappy about the raffled desk. It so
chanced that it matched exactly the other furniture in Mrs. Church’s
rather bare little drawing-room, and this made her eager to win it.
Alanna, at eight, long familiar with raffles and their ways, realized
what a very small chance Mrs. Church stood of getting the desk. It
distressed her very much to notice that lady’s growing certainty of
success.

She took chance after chance. And with every chance she warned Alanna of
the dreadful results of her not winning; and Alanna, with a worried line
between her eyes, protested her helplessness afresh.

'She _will_ do it, dad!' the little girl confided to him one evening,
when she and her book and her pencil were on his knee. 'And it _worries_
me so.'

'Oh, I hope she wins it,' said Teresa ardently. 'She 's not a Catholic,
but we’re praying for her. And you know people who aren’t Catholics,
dad, are apt to think that our fairs are pretty--pretty money-making,
you know!'

'And if only she could point to that desk,' said Alanna, 'and say that
she won it at a Catholic fair.'

'But she won’t,' said Teresa, suddenly cold.

'I’m _praying_ she will,' said Alanna suddenly.

'Oh, I don’t think you ought, do you, dad?' said Teresa gravely. 'Do you
think she ought, mommie? That’s just like her pouring her holy water
over the kitten. You oughtn’t to do those things.'

'I ought to,' said Alanna, in a whisper that reached only her father’s
ear.

'You suit me, whatever you do,' said Mayor Costello, 'and Mrs. Church
can take her chances with the rest of us.'

Mrs. Church seemed to be quite willing to do so. When at last the great
day of the fair came, she was one of the first to reach the hall, in the
morning, to ask Mrs. Costello how she might be of use.

'Now wait a minute, then!' said Mrs. Costello cordially. She
straightened up as she spoke, from an inspection of a box of fancy-work.
'We could only get into the hall this hour gone, my dear, and 't was a
sight, after the Native Sons' Banquet last night. It’ll be a miracle if
we get things in order for to-night. Father Crowley said he’d have three
carpenters here this morning at nine, without fail; but not one’s come
yet. That’s the way!'

'Oh, we’ll fix things,' said Mrs. Church, shaking out a dainty little
apron.

Alanna came briskly up, and beamed at her. The little girl was driving
about on all sorts of errands for her mother, and had come in to report.

'Mother, I went home,' she said, in a breathless rush, 'and told Alma
four extra were coming to lunch, and here are your big scissors, and I
told the boys you wanted them to go out to Uncle Dan’s for greens, they
took the buckboard, and I went to Keyser’s for the cheesecloth, and he
had only eighteen yards of pink, but he thinks Kelley’s have more, and
there are the tacks, and they don’t keep spool-wire, and the electrician
will be here in ten minutes.'

'Alanna, you’re the pride of me life,' said her mother, kissing her.
'That’s all now, dearie. Sit down and rest.'

'Oh, but I 'd rather go round and see things,' said Alanna, and off she
went.

The immense hall was filled with the noise of voices, hammers, and
laughter. Groups of distracted women were forming and dissolving
everywhere around chaotic masses of boards and bunting. Whenever a
carpenter started for the door, or entered it, he was waylaid, bribed,
and bullied by the frantic superintendents of the various booths.
Messengers came and went, staggering under masses of evergreen, carrying
screens, rope, suit-cases, baskets, boxes, Japanese lanterns, freezers,
rugs, ladders, and tables.

Alanna found the stage fascinating. Lunch and dinner were to be served
there, for the five days of the fair, and it had been set with many
chairs and tables, fenced with ferns and bamboo. Alanna was charmed to
arrange knives and forks, to unpack oily hams and sticky cakes, and
great bowls of salad, and to store them neatly away in a green room.

The grand piano had been moved down to the floor. Now and then an
audacious boy or two banged on it for the few moments that it took his
mother’s voice or hands to reach him. Little girls gently played 'The
Carnival of Venice' or 'Echoes of the Ball,' with their scared eyes
alert for reproof. And once two of the 'big' Sodality girls came up,
assured and laughing and dusty, and boldly performed one of their
convent duets. Some of the tired women in the booths straightened up and
clapped, and called, '_Encore_!'

Teresa was not one of these girls. Her instrument was the violin;
moreover, she was busy and absorbed at the Children of Mary’s booth,
which by four o’clock began to blossom all over its white-draped pillars
and tables with ribbons and embroidery and tissue paper, and cushions
and aprons and collars, and all sorts of perfumed prettiness.

The two priests were constantly in evidence, their cassocks and hands
showing unaccustomed dust.

And over all the confusion, Mrs. Costello shone supreme. Her brisk, big
figure, with skirts turned back, and a blue apron still further
protecting them, was everywhere at once; laughter and encouragement
marked her path. She wore a paper of pins on the breast of her silk
dress, she had a tack-hammer thrust in her belt. In her apron-pockets
were string, and wire, and tacks. A big pair of scissors hung at her
side, and a pencil was thrust through her smooth black hair. She advised
and consulted and directed; even with the priests it was to be observed
that her mild, 'Well, Father, it seems to me,' always won the day. She
led the electricians a life of it; she became the terror of the
carpenters' lives.

Where was the young lady that played the violin going to stay? Send her
up to Mrs. Costello’s.--Heavens! We were short a tablecloth! Oh, but
Mrs. Costello had just sent Dan home for one.--How on earth could the
Male Quartette from Tower Town find its way to the hall? Mrs. Costello
had promised to tell Mr. C. to send a carriage for them.

She came up to the Children of Mary’s booth about five o’clock.

'Well, if you girls ain’t the wonders!' she said to the tired little
Sodalists, in a tone of unbounded admiration and surprise. 'You make me
ashamed of me own booth. This is beautiful.'

'Oh, do you think so, mother?' said Teresa wistfully, clinging to her
mother’s arm.

'I think it’s grand!' said Mrs. Costello, with conviction. There was a
delighted laugh. 'I’m going to bring all the ladies up to see it.'

'Oh, I’m so glad!' said all the girls together, reviving visibly.

'An’ the pretty things you got!' went on the cheering matron. 'You’ll
clear eight hundred if you’ll clear a cent. And now put me down for a
chance or two; don’t be scared, Mary Riordan; four or five! I’m goin' to
bring Mr. Costello over here to-night, and don’t you let him off too
easy.'

Everyone laughed joyously.

'Did you hear of Alanna’s luck?' said Mrs. Costello. 'When the Bishop
got here, he took her all around the hall with him, and between this one
and that, every last one of her chances is gone. She couldn’t keep her
feet on the floor for joy. The lucky girl! They’re waitin' for you,
Tess, darlin', with the buckboard. Go home and lay down a while before
dinner.'

'Aren’t you lucky!' said Teresa, as she climbed a few minutes later into
the back seat with Jim, and Dan pulled out the whip.

Alanna, swinging her legs, gave a joyful assent. She was too happy to
talk, but the other three had much to say.

'Mother thinks we’ll make eight hundred dollars,' said Teresa.

'_Gee_!' said the twins together; and Dan added, 'If only Mrs. Church
wins that desk, now!'

'Who’s going to do the drawing of numbers?' Jimmy wondered.

'Bishop,' said Dan; 'and he’ll call down from the platform, "Number
twenty-six wins the desk." And then Alanna’ll look in her book, and pipe
up and say, "Daniel Ignatius Costello, the handsomest fellow in the
parish, wins the desk."'

'Twenty-six is Harry Plummer,' said Alanna seriously, looking up from
her chance-book; at which they all laughed.

'But take care of that book,' warned Teresa, as she climbed down.

'Oh, I will!' responded Alanna fervently.

And through the next four happy days she did, and took the precaution of
tying it by a stout cord to her arm.

Then on Saturday, the last afternoon, quite late, when her mother had
suggested that she go home with Leo and Jack and Frank and Gertrude and
the nurses, Alanna felt the cord hanging loose against her hand, and
looking down, saw that the book was gone.

She was holding out her arms for her coat when this took place, and she
went cold all over. But she did not move, and Minnie buttoned her in
snugly, and tied the ribbons of her hat with cold, hard knuckles,
without suspecting anything.

Then Alanna disappeared, and Mrs. Costello sent the maids and babies on
without her. It was getting dark and cold for the small Costellos.

But the hour was darker and colder for Alanna. She searched and she
hoped and she prayed in vain. She stood up, after a long hands-and-knees
expedition under the tables where she had been earlier, and pressed her
right hand over her eyes, and said aloud in her misery, 'Oh, I can’t
have lost it! I _can’t_ have. Oh, don’t let me have lost it!'

She went here and there as if propelled by some mechanical force, a
wretched, restless little figure. And when the dreadful moment came when
she must give up searching, she crept in beside her mother in the
carriage, and longed only for some honorable death.

When they all went back at eight o’clock, she recommenced her search
feverishly, with that cruel alternation of hope and despair and
weariness that everyone knows. The crowds, the lights, the music, the
laughter, and the noise, and the pervading odor of popcorn were not
real, when a shabby brown little book was her whole world, and she could
not find it.

'The drawing will begin,' said Alanna, 'and the Bishop will call out the
number! And what’ll I say? Everyone will look at me; and how can I say
I’ve lost it! Oh, what a baby they’ll call me!'

'Father’ll pay the money back,' she said, in sudden relief. But the
impossibility of that swiftly occurred to her, and she began hunting
again with fresh terror.

'But, he can’t! How can he? A hundred names; and I don’t know them, or
half of them.'

Then she felt the tears coming, and she crept in under some benches, and
cried.

She lay there a long time, listening to the curious hum and buzz above
her. And at last it occurred to her to go to the Bishop, and tell this
old, kind friend the truth.

But she was too late. As she got to her feet, she heard her own name
called from the platform, in the Bishop’s voice.

'Where’s Alanna Costello? Ask her who has number eighty-three on the
desk. Eighty-three wins the desk! Find little Alanna Costello!'

Alanna had no time for thought. Only one course of action occurred to
her. She cleared her throat.

'Mrs. Will Church has that number, Bishop,' she said.

The crowd about her gave way, and the Bishop saw her, rosy, embarrassed,
and breathless.

'Ah, there you are!' said the Bishop. 'WHO has it?'

'Mrs. Church, your Grace,' said Alanna, calmly this time.

'Well, did you _ever_!' said Mrs. Costello to the Bishop.

She had gone up to claim a mirror she had won--a mirror with a gold
frame, and lilacs and roses painted lavishly on its surface.

'Gee, I bet Alanna was pleased about the desk!' said Dan in the
carriage.

'Mrs. Church nearly cried,' Teresa said. 'But where’d Alanna go to? I
couldn’t find her until just a few minutes ago, and then she was so
queer!'

'It’s my opinion she was dead tired,' said her mother. 'Look how sound
she’s asleep! Carry her up, Frank. I’ll keep her in bed in the morning.'

       *       *       *       *       *

They kept Alanna in bed for many mornings, for her secret weighed on her
soul, and she failed suddenly in color, strength, and appetite. She grew
weak and nervous, and one afternoon, when the Bishop came to see her,
worked herself into such a frenzy that Mrs. Costello wonderingly
consented to her entreaty that he should not come up.

She would not see Mrs. Church, or go to see the desk in its new house,
or speak of the fair in any way. But she did ask her mother who swept
out the hall after the fair.

'I did a good deal meself,' said Mrs. Costello, dashing one hope to the
ground.

Alanna leaned back in her chair, sick with disappointment.

One afternoon, about a week after the fair, she was brooding over the
fire. The other children were at the matinée, Mrs. Costello was out, and
a violent storm was whirling about the nursery windows.

Presently, Annie, the laundress, put her frowsy head in at the door. She
was a queer, warm-hearted Irish girl; her big arms were still steaming
from the tub, and her apron was wet.

'Ahl alone?' said Annie with a broad smile.

'Yes; come in, won’t you, Annie?' said little Alanna.

'I cahn’t. I’m at the toobs,' said Annie, coming in nevertheless. 'I was
doin' all the tableclot’s and napkins, an’ out drops your little buke!'

'My--what did you say?' said Alanna, very white.

'Your little buke,' said Annie.

She laid the chance-book on the table, and proceeded to mend the fire.

Alanna sank back in her chair. She twisted her fingers together, and
tried to think of an appropriate prayer.

'Thank you, Annie,' she said weakly, when the laundress went out. Then
she sprang for the book. It slipped twice from her cold little fingers
before she could open it.

'Eighty-three!' she said hoarsely. 'Sixty--seventy--eighty-three!'

She looked and looked and looked. She shut the book and opened it again,
and looked. She laid it on the table, and walked away from it, and then
came back suddenly, and looked. She laughed over it, and cried over it,
and thought how natural it was, and how wonderful it was, all in the
space of ten blissful minutes.

And then, with returning appetite and color and peace of mind, her eyes
filled with pity for the wretched little girl who had watched this same
sparkling, delightful fire so drearily a few minutes ago.

Her small soul was steeped in gratitude. She crooked her arm and put her
face down on it, and sank to her knees.



SPENDTHRIFTS

BY LAURA SPENCER PORTOR


I

THE story I am about to tell I have never told before. The events in it
took place when I was a child of fifteen, an oldish child of fifteen. I
had a taste for books and dreams, and a kind of adoring love of older
people; a predilection, too, for romance and wonderment. There were many
things I meant to do some day.

Among my lesser resolves was one that I had held for a good many years:
I mean the resolve some day to be a passenger in the absurd
old-fashioned 'bus that had made its daily journey, ever since I could
remember, from my home town to a small town quite off the railroad, and
some twelve miles away, the county-seat of that county in which my home
was situated.

The 'bus was an extraordinary-looking vehicle. It had the air of a huge
beetle. It creaked and rattled when it was in action. It had enormous
dipping springs. It lunged and rolled a bit from side to side as it
went. Its top bulged and had ribs across it and a low iron railing
around it, convenient for the lashing of ropes to hold the packages of
all kinds and sizes with which it usually went laden. There was a door
at the back and there were two steps by which to enter. It had the air
of being a distinguished character, even among the antiquated and
entirely individual types of vehicle still common then in the little
old-fashioned town.

This air was, no doubt, due chiefly to the large oval pictures painted,
not without some skill, on its sides. One of these depicted the rescue
of Daniel Boone by Kenton, who with the butt of a large musket was
perpetually about to brain a murderous Indian; the other dealt with
Smith’s unchanging obligation to Pocahontas.

I hardly think Keats had more lasting enjoyment of his Grecian urn with
'brede of marble men and maidens overwrought' than I of those pictures,
where, not less than in the more classic example, I saw perpetually
preserved what I took to be the most thrilling and desirable of moments,
death forever arrested by unending loyalty and undying affection.

But, interesting as all this was, it was by no means the heart of that
strange fascination with which, for so many years, I contemplated the
old beetling vehicle. Its fascination lay for me in its daily journey to
parts beyond the bounds of my narrow horizon. It plied faithfully every
week-day of the year, an envoy extraordinary, ambassador
plenipotentiary, between another world and mine. Some day I should see
that world and know it.

It must not be supposed, however, that I had in mind only the town to
which the 'bus journeyed, the mere inconsiderable county seat.
Children’s imaginations, especially when the child is just emerging into
all the glorious possibilities of womanhood, deal, not in towns, but in
worlds. The world outside my own narrow bounds of life--that was what I
meant to see and experience.

I can think of only one thing, besides the old 'bus, which roused my
fancy to an equal degree, namely, the herds of dumb cattle which were
driven past my home always once, and sometimes twice a week, to the
stockyards which lay somewhere on the outskirts of my home town. If I
close my eyes, I can still hear on hot afternoons the dark herds
trampling past, a mass of broad backs and spreading horns and wide
foreheads,--and dull or occasionally frightened eyes,--and the hurrying
hoofs, scuffling the dust.

I had never seen the stockyards. I was never informed very particularly
about them, and by some instinct, I suppose, I never inquired too
carefully. But I knew this for another world also, and dread as it was,
it fascinated me. I believe the hurrying herds stood to me for a kind of
world of fearful reality that I meant some day to look into, and the old
picture-painted 'bus for a world of romance, yonder, yonder over the dip
of the horizon, which not less, some day, I was determined to know.

Just how I came to take my resolve, and the events which precipitated
it--all this has no bearing on the story. The story begins just where I
stood that hot day in June waiting for the 'bus by the dusty mullens
beside the pike. I had walked a good mile outside the town so that none
of the townspeople would see the beginning of my adventure.

The 'bus was late, I think, even allowing for my anxiety. It came in
sight at last, at a slow beetling pace. I held up a slim finger. But not
until he was alongside did the driver begin to draw in the long reins. I
ran after the 'bus a few paces, opened the door, climbed the high steps
with a beating heart, and got in.

The driver peeked through the little peek-hole in the roof to make sure
I was safe; then he called to his horses, and the vehicle lunged ahead.

The only other passengers were an old man, unknown to me, who carried a
basket of eggs, and an old woman who lived somewhere outside the town
and whom I recognized as one we called the 'horse-radish woman.' She
stood always on a Saturday at one corner of our town market, grinding
and selling horse-radish roots, blinking with red eyes, and always
wiping the tears from them before she could make you your change. I
recognized her of course at once, but whether she knew me, I do not
know. If she did, she gave not the least evidence of it, but looked out
absently with squinted red-lidded eyes at the country as we jogged
along.

The lovely rolling Kentucky land began to spread out on all sides. Long
white curves of the pike flowed slowly behind us and were seen in
glimpses through the open front windows ahead of us. Dust rose and
settled over us.

A little while before we got to Latonia, the old horse-radish woman,
with a tin cup she carried, knocked on the ceiling of the 'bus near the
driver’s peep-hole, to warn him that she wished to get out. When we
arrived at Latonia and the horses were having water at the big trough,
the old man with the basket of eggs also left.

But I was going all the way to the county seat and I considered these
passengers much below my own level as travelers. They were merely making
a convenience of the 'bus, you see, which just happened to go past their
homes; whereas I was off for adventure, my home quite in the other
direction, and the world spread wide before me.

It was with a tourist’s pleasure, then, that I looked at that little
grouping of houses and the elm-and poplar-shaded pike, which in those
days was called, and I believe is still called, Latonia; and at the old
Latonia Springs Hotel. It was a typical relic of Southern before-the-war
hotel architecture, with its white pillars, its long verandas, its wide
doorway, its large lawn sombred by very old shade trees.

I had known something of travel. I had lived in France for two years, at
school; but there I had always had some one to go about with me. Here,
on the contrary, I was alone. I liked the flavor of the adventure; it
was novel, and very stimulating. This journey, however poor a thing it
might seem to others, had Audrey’s superlative virtue: it was mine own.
The old hotel, then, already romantic enough, took on an additional
romance in my eyes.

The driver came around now from sponging his horses' heads and noses at
the trough.

'Going all the way, are you?'

I nodded.

'Well, you can get out and stretch your legs if you like, for we’ll be
here ten minutes.'

But I did not 'like.' In the 'bus I felt safe enough; but if I got
out--adventurous spirit though I was--I knew with unconquerable shyness
that everybody would be staring at me.

I contented myself with watching the lazy coming and going of a few
people; a dog snapping at flies; some chickens taking dust-baths in the
road.

What a still, lazy place it was! Some one asked the time. The driver’s
watch had stopped. Nobody knew; it appeared not to matter. This seemed
no place for clocks. A stout lame man, having the look of a Southern war
veteran, stopped on his cane in the middle of the road, looked around
carefully at the outlying country and the shadows, then took a
calculating glance at the heavens.

'Well, I should reckon, colonel,' he said, addressing the stage-driver,
'it mout be about twenty-two minutes past two. You gen’lly get here
about two, but you was a bit late to-day, a leetle bit late, I should
say maybe to the amount of about twelve minutes.'

He leaned on his cane again and began dotting his way slowly and heavily
through the dust toward the hotel.

I could not have told whether he was in jest or earnest. But as I look
back on it now, it seems to me curiously fitting that the little town
should have had so scant dependence on timepieces, for it lay away from
all the world, and there was so little to occupy the attention, that the
houses, the dusty pike, with its slowly lengthening and slowly
shortening shadows, the fields beyond, with their great sycamores and
maples, and the sky so little interrupted from edge to edge, must each,
indeed, have been to those who had so long observed them, a sundial to
make clocks seem mere bustling contrivances.

A big fly sailed in one of the 'bus windows, round and round, droning,
and then out; it went with every effect of careful choice and
deliberation, to settle on the nose of the old dog that lay, alternately
napping and snapping, four feet in the sun.

I can give you no idea of the keen enjoyment with which I noted all
these details. I take pleasure now in remembering that, despite the fact
that I had lived in Paris, among its thrilling boulevards and monuments,
and had seen some stagey Swiss villages and dramatic little French
towns, this little cluster of houses known as Latonia, on a dusty pike
in Kentucky, only a few miles from my own home,--this village which
never a tourist would have gone to see,--was to me in that droning,
incredibly quiet afternoon a very piece of romance; the air itself,--I
beg you to have patience with me, for really, I tell you only the
truth,--the very air itself being 'ambient' for me; the green fields
'amburbial'; the white clouds, so nearly at rest in the blue sky, 'huge
symbols of a high romance'; the silver poplars and elms not less than
'immemorial'; and the old hotel a thing made of dreams, haunted with
green and shaded memories of before-the-war days, across whose veranda
might have stepped at any moment, before my unastonished eyes, the
actors in some noble human drama.

I remember, too, that my eye found some dusty marigolds, their blooms
leaning through a low paling fence of one of the houses. My eye must
have passed over many a marigold before that; I probably never saw one
until then. I remember noting their singularity and softness of color,
so individual and particular compared with the more customary reds and
yellows of commoner flowers, so far more memorable and desirable and
foreign; a part they seemed, too, of the quietness and strangeness and
romance in the midst of which I found myself.

The 'bus driver was making ready to leave.

The lame war veteran,--for I still take him to have been such,--having
got as far as the gate of the Latonia Hotel, was met by a long,
lazy-legged darkey coming down the walk, carrying two traveling
satchels. Noticeably new-looking they were, and handsome, for that part
of the world. He had one under his arm, the other dangling from the same
hand, which left his other hand free to manipulate a long piece of
ribbon-grass which he was chewing lazily. The veteran held the gate
open, the weight of his body leaning against it.

'Going away, are they?'

'Yassuh.'

There emerged from the hotel at this moment a man and a woman.

The darkey crossed the road and put the two satchels in the 'bus--and
stood with his hand on the handle of the door, holding it wide open,
waiting.


II

I watched the two strangers as they approached. When they reached the
'bus the man assisted the woman, in a somewhat formal yet indifferent
way. She entered and took her seat nearly diagonally opposite to me. The
man plunged his hand in his pocket, brought out a coin, and put it in
the darkey’s hand, and stooping, for he was tall, entered the 'bus after
her. It swayed a little perilously with his weight, and rocked quite a
bit before he finally comfortably seated himself directly across from
me.

The driver meanwhile had swung himself up on the high driver’s seat. He
opened the peep-hole and looked down, then gathered the reins, and
clucked to his horses, and the 'bus drove off.

If the town had interested me before, I forgot it now--forgot it quite
in the attention, direct and indirect, which I gave to my fellow
passengers.

The man was faultlessly dressed. Such clothes were not customary in that
corner of the world. The neat derby, the band of which he was even now
wiping with a lavender-edged silk handkerchief, was a thing foreign to
those parts at that season, cheap straw hats being rather the rule. The
tips of the fingers of a pair of new tan gloves were to be seen just
looking out from the left breast-pocket of his well-buttoned light gray
suit. I could see that he wore a white vest, and his shirt had a little
hair-line of purple in it. His hands were large and very white and well
kept, the fingers close fitted together. On one of them a conspicuous
Mexican opal smouldered in a massive, very dark gold setting.

I have no words, even to this day, to describe the woman who sat a foot
or two from him and to whom he addressed his remarks in an indifferently
possessive manner.

She was slight; her hair was of a light brown, her eyes of a distinct
orange color. Her face sloped delicately from the forehead, which was
low enough to be beautiful, and high enough to suggest nobility of
thought, down to the lovely line of chin. Her throat was slender and
very white, rising from a turned-down Puritan collar. A Puritan cloak of
dust-colored linen, with strappings of orange, fell away under the
collar in soft and cool lines. Her brown veil had at its edge a line of
orange color also. The brown was a shade lighter than her hair; the
orange a shade darker than her eyes. The veil carried with it I cannot
say what manner of ethereal graciousness, and fell into a wave or
floating line of loveliness as she turned her head. Once, as we dipped
into a shaded hollow and across a running stream, a little breeze of
coolness came in at the windows. The veil, lifted by it, floated and
clung like a living thing to her throat and lips, until her delicate
hand put it away gently.

I watched her, very fascinated. She was a creature of another world.
That she and the horse-radish woman could live on the same planet spoke
volumes for the infinite scale of life.

At first these two new passengers spoke hardly at all. Once the man bent
his massive figure to get a better look at the landscape from the window
opposite him, and called the attention of his companion to some point in
it.

'There! As I recollect it, the property is not unlike that, Louise. It
rolls that way, I mean; and Felton’s line comes into it just as that
snake fence comes across there. It is on the other side that the vein of
coal is said to begin.'

Though she gave a courteous hearing, I had the impression that she was
not really interested.

She watched the country with a kind of well-bred inattentive glance. For
myself I could not take my eyes off her. I watched her with that hunger
for beauty which is native to the heart of a child. Above all I watched
her eyes. The strange, unusual color of them was in itself a kind of
romance. She gave one the impression of being a woman unique; something
rare and choice, not to be found again or elsewhere.

Once she turned her head and met my full gaze. I was embarrassed, but I
need not have been. She set the matter right by addressing me with a
gentle courtesy.

'Do you live out here?'

I shook my head. I meant to reply more fully in a moment when I had
recovered myself; but the man spoke.

'Never heard of Thomas Felton, I suppose, did you? Used to live once in
Owen County not far from here.'

I shook my head again and formed the word 'No.'

The woman gave him a gentle glance; nothing reproving, but he took it in
the manner of reproof.

'Well, I did not know but she might have,' he explained. Then he settled
back a little. 'Maybe some one else will get in later who does know. I
thought them confoundedly stupid at the hotel. Didn’t seem anxious to
give any information either. Nobody knows anything in a place like
that.'

There was silence again. The fields at one side of the road climbed now,
here and there. Low pastures rose to be foothills. Around one of these
hills a rocky road appeared sloping down to the pike. Up the road, at a
little distance, was a rustic archway like an entrance to a private
property. Waiting by the side of the road, stood a figure strange to me,
in the garb of some monastic order.

The woman did not notice him. Her glance was far off at the horizon at
the other side. The man did. He regarded the stranger with a stolid bold
curiosity. Then some idea of his own occurred to him, suddenly. As the
'bus stopped to take on this new passenger, the heavy man rose, to take
advantage of its steadiness, no doubt, and stooping so as not to knock
his derby against the ceiling of the vehicle, tapped imperatively on the
lid of the little peep-hole, and when it was raised, spoke to the
driver.

'This road leading up at the side here doesn’t happen to be the Chorley
road, does it, that leads into Felton’s woods? They said there was a
road at the foot of a hill that led into some timber lands belonging to
a man named Felton.'

The driver did not understand. The question had to be repeated. While
the man repeated it, the Franciscan--though I am not entirely sure he
was of that order--opened the door of the 'bus. The woman turned her
head now. I saw her orange-colored eyes grow wide and large as they
noted him. With habitually bent head and regarding none of us, he
entered. As he seated himself in the corner, he looked up, however, and
his eyes met hers. I saw him start really violently. His color, which
was a dark olive, with a too bright crimson under it at the cheek-bones,
became suddenly ashy.

There was just that one look between them. The next instant she had
turned to the other, returning from his questions with the driver. He
had not seen the look that I had noted.

The Franciscan now drew his eyes away from the woman’s face, fumbled in
the skirt of his habit, and brought out a prayer-book which he opened
with fingers that shook.

The heavy man seated himself, exactly opposite the woman, and beside me
and within touch of the Franciscan. He addressed the woman.

'I just thought that that might be Chorley’s road. They said it ran up a
slope. It wasn’t, though. I thought I’d like to get a sight of the
timber. We may try to make him throw that in, in payment.'

He glanced around at the Franciscan, whose eyes were now entirely on his
book; took him in, as it were; then let his glance glide off out one of
the windows. After a sufficient time, a kind of courteous pause, he
leaned forward a little, raised his derby the least bit, and said,
'Excuse me, but I suppose you live here?'

The Franciscan looked up, but answered nothing. The color came surging
back suddenly into his face, which was haggard. There was a noncommittal
look in his eyes, as though his lips were to say, 'I beg your pardon.'

'I supposed you lived here,' the other said, 'and I thought you might
just happen to know a man named Felton. He came originally from Owen
County. We are on here from New York. We are strangers and we know
nothing of this country. You don’t happen to know'--

The Franciscan gave a gentle smile, raised one slim hand, which yet
trembled visibly--a fine deprecating gesture.

'Pardon, m 'sieu!'

'Oh, I see.' The other touched his hat with a little motion of
withdrawal and clumsy apology. 'I see. I didn’t know you were French. I
don’t speak French myself. Wish I did! Excuse me. Excuse me.'

Here was an occasion! The adventure was turning squarely toward me. I
knew French; I was proud of it and eager to offer my services. I could
perfectly well act as translator, interpreter for these two. Moreover,
it would give me that greatly to be desired thing, the attention of this
beautiful woman. Yet I did not dare all this at once. I would wait a
moment. How should I break into the conversation? A child of fifteen,
however oldish, is shy. Would it be proper for me to say, 'Excuse me,
but--?'

As I was thinking of it with a kind of tumult of pride and shyness, the
man turned to the woman.

'Look here, Louise; that’s a fact! You speak French! Ask him if he knows
Thomas Felton’s property. Tell him it’s Felton who lived over in Owen
County and used to be a wealthy man.'

She turned her clear eyes to the Franciscan and spoke in a pure Parisian
French.

'This man, my husband, wishes me to ask if you know a Thomas Felton who
has property out here in this direction.' In the same tone exactly, she
added, 'Do not let him suspect that you know me.'

'Let him think'--the reply came in pure French also--'that I speak no
English. In this way you and I can converse together.'

Her wonderful orange-colored eyes quivered the least bit as she drew
them away from the Franciscan and met the waiting eyes of her husband.

She spoke with perfect composure, however.

'He says he believes there was such a man hereabout some years ago.'

Her husband turned quickly as if he himself would further address the
Franciscan; then, recollecting that he knew no French, he appealed to
her again.

'Now Louise, look here. Try to get it straight. As I told you, there are
two men of that name, a nephew and an uncle. It’s the uncle I want to
get hold of. He is the man who owns the property we want. Ask this man
how old this Felton is, this man he knows; I can tell by that.'

She turned again to the Franciscan, and spoke again in French. Indeed
they spoke nothing else but that sweet and flowing language, a knowledge
of which put me, without my will, in league with them.

'How do you happen to be here?' she questioned.

'I joined the order after I left you,' he said. 'That is, they simply
allow me to live with them, chiefly on account of my name, I think;
that, and, I think, as an act of mercy. As a kind of lay brother--it is
simple. But, this man--he is your husband?'

'Yes, I have been married to him eight months.'

'In God’s name!' he said, but in a perfectly even conversational tone.
'And you have suffered. Of course you have suffered.'

They used throughout their conversation, as I have not indicated here,
because it sounds forced in English, the familiar and gentle tutoiement,
the thee-and-thouing of the French.

The husband, understanding nothing of what they said, was watching the
two with interest; his small eyes were eager in his heavy face; he was
waiting for his answer.

'Do not let us talk too long,' the Franciscan said, and turned with a
faintly courteous smile, as though to include the heavy man in the
conversation. 'Ask me some more questions,' he said to the woman; 'get
him to ask some more questions, I mean. In that way we shall have a
little time to talk together.'

She addressed her husband.

'He is not quite sure. He thinks, however, the man he has in mind has a
gray beard.'

Her husband drew his large flat fingers down his heavy chin twice, as if
stroking an imaginary beard of his own, thoughtfully; his eyes narrowed
even more, very speculatively.

'I see, I see! Well now, like as not it’s the same one.' Then he put his
hands on his knees and leaned forward as though really addressing
himself to the business. 'Look here, Louise, you ask him if this man he
knows ever had anything to do with a railway--a railway out West and
coal lands out there.'

'You must give me time. Let me see! How does one say all that? My French
is not so fluent as it once was. I shall have to get at it in a
roundabout way. Have patience.'

'Take your time,' he said, leaning back, 'only get at it if you can.
It’s important.'

She turned now to the Franciscan. But it was he rather who addressed
her.

'But what are you going to do about this horrible marriage?'

'Nothing, nothing at all.'

'But, good God, it is desecration! It is like defiling the bread and
wine of communion. Does this man kiss you?'

'He owns the better part of two railroads,' she said, with a kind of
pitiful look in her eyes. 'He is here now to push to the wall--if he
can--a man already overtaken by mischance and misfortune.'

'Why do you evade?' said the other. 'He does of course touch you, he
owns you, along with the better part of two railroads. He fondles you at
his pleasure. I would not have thought it possible. Not you; not you.'

'You forget,' she said, and still her voice kept the strangely even
tone. 'My sister was ill, dying, I thought. I could give her everything
by this means. I did give her everything. She is better now, as well as
she will ever be. She could not bear poverty; it was killing her. She
never could. She is better.'

'But at what horrible, what hellish cost!' he replied. 'She was selfish
always, and complaining; one of the useless ones; and moreover, answer
me, does one buy a cracked pitcher, doomed to be broken at any rate,
with the most exquisite pearl in the world, priceless above ten sultans'
ransoms? Were it not so horrible it would be ridiculous. Does one, I ask
you, do a thing like that?'

She turned to her husband.

'He says he believes the man you ask about was once engaged in a large
coal-mining deal in the West.'

'Yes,' said the heavy man eagerly, leaning forward again to listen to
what he could not understand, but with as keen attention as though he
comprehended fully.

'Wait and I will ask him more.'

Again she turned to the other.

'But you, you also have bought unworthy things at fearful cost?'

'What? In God’s name, what have I bought? I who renounced everything,
who have nothing left in this world but the memory of your face and the
certainty of death?'

'You bought for yourself the approval of what you may choose to call
your conscience,' she said in the same almost monotonous, even voice.
'You bought freedom from the world’s censure, freedom from what the
world would have said had you married me.'

He flung out a trembling hand. I thought it would have betrayed him.

'That! Will you bring up that old mad folly of yours? Would you hope to
persuade me it was not my duty to renounce you? They told me I could not
possibly get well. You see for yourself. You see now how I am changed. I
shall last now, perhaps, six months. You had nothing. I had nothing.
What would have become of you, not to speak of all the horror? It was
clearly my duty. I leave it to any man.'

'Yes; always that. The opinion of others,' she said, but even still
without emotion. 'I do not care for the opinion of a worldful. I accept
the fact that you could not get well. I tell you it does not matter. It
was for each other God made us; without any regard to circumstance.'

'A woman’s reason is not reason,' he said. 'Any man would tell you it
was my duty to give you up. The world is not made as you would have it.'

'Listen,' she said. (She interrupted herself to glance with a smile at
her husband, and said to him in English, 'I am trying to explain to him.
He is a little dull. He does not understand.') 'Listen'--she spoke again
to the other. 'Be reasonable. See it as it is. Do not cheat yourself
into thinking this horrible failure of ours was a virtue. Review the
facts with me and face them. These are they: we compromised with life,
and in a cowardly fashion. I married, to buy my sister health, because I
had not the courage to see her suffer. You renounced me and went away,
so that you might have a certain peace of mind, and because you had not
the courage to go counter to tradition and the world’s approval. What
would the world have said--a man as ill as you were, to accept the life
and devotion of a woman? It was that that tormented and swayed you. You
left me, and went away to escape that. We both bought a certain worldly
peace of mind, and a kind of conventional self-approval. And with what?
With what did we buy these trifling things? What price did we pay for
them? We bought them with the entire wealth and treasure God had given
us--the most precious in his treasuries, beside which kings' ransoms are
as nothing. We bought these trifles, these worthless baubles, with the
priceless love we had for each other. He gave it to us in such ample
measure, you remember. And what did we do with it? What have we to show
for it now? In God’s world are there to be found, do you think, two such
spendthrifts?'

'There! It is your old way,' he replied. 'You speak always in figures,
like a poet. It is misleading. Deal only with the facts. I leave them to
any one. I was to die of a lingering illness. I had no money. I had only
a wealth of horrors to drag you through. A slow death it was to be. You
would have had two years of that.'

'Two years,' she repeated. 'I have been married eight months; and I
think those eight months have been twice eight years. And two years, two
years together, you and I! But oh, if it had been one year only; if we
had had but one year together! Only one year!' There was a kind of
pleading in her voice. 'Only one year! It is as if one were to say "only
springtime"--"only love,"--"only heaven,"--"only God!"'

'What does he say?' said her husband. Perhaps he was curious at the tone
of her voice; or merely impatient at the length of their conversation.

'Tell him anything,' said the other, 'We must converse at any cost.
Tell him anything you like; only do not cease to speak to me.'

She turned to her husband.

'He is quite interesting. He thinks he used to know this man when he was
a child; that his father had some dealings with him in that very coal
affair in Illinois. Let me question him a little more. I will tell you
by and by. We must not seem to be too curious. Do not interrupt me; just
let me lead him on. It may take a few moments.'

The other began now, without waiting for her to take up the
conversation.

'But I tell you, you do not see the thing as it is. It would have been a
criminal thing for a man doomed as I was, to link his life with a woman
like you, frail, exquisite, young, beautiful, the very rose of the
world. Is it permissible for a man to drag a woman with him to the
scaffold, even for love? I leave it to any man.'

'Yes, to any man,'--her reply was quick on his,--'but you dare not leave
it to a woman. Any man would tell you it is not permissible that one
about to die should lay his hand in that of the woman he loves. And any
man would grant you, that if the woman is his wife,--if that tradition
has bound them,--then it is his right and her duty that they should
share fatality, even though they have not the high calling of love. If
this man who is my husband were stricken, you, even you, would expect
me--'

The sentence broke and she left it as though there could be no need of
making the truth plainer. Instead, she folded her hands tensely.

'But, oh, let us not argue. We have squandered God’s treasure, you and
I. We have squandered it for the sake of convention, for old precedents,
for men’s opinions; just as this man, my husband, buys railway shares
and mining properties at the fearful price of his honor, his human
kindness, his soul. You despise him and shrink from him. Truly, I
cannot, except when he lays his hand upon me; for we are no better than
he. That is the horrible part of it. We are all three spendthrifts, the
three of us, here in this little space. But oh, what new folly! Only
think of our spending these precious, precious moments in argument!
Shall we never have done being wasteful!'

He fell in with her thought immediately.

'You love me still, then.'

'Yes, always.'

'Yet I have not the right, even now, to so much as touch your hand.'

'No; yet my hand lies in yours by the hour. These are things one cannot
keep from God.'

'Do you know,'--his voice was even,--'I cannot help wondering if the
little girl over there in the corner just might possibly understand.'

'No; I think not,' she said gently; 'besides, if she did, it would not
matter.'

'No, perhaps not. I think she would say nothing. I notice that her eyes
are shaped somewhat like yours. Some day some man will love her also.'

'Yes, without doubt. But it is of ourselves I would talk. If there is a
heaven, there, there, you shall some day possess me!'

Her husband broke in now:--

'Are you finding out anything?'

'Yes, quite a little!' She smiled palely, then turned back to the other.

'How can you lie to him like that?' he said. 'And I also.'

'We waste time,' she urged. 'A carriage meets us at the next town. From
there he and I are to drive over to the adjoining county. You and I have
only a few moments more left at the most in this world together.'

'Yes.' His fingers interlaced tightly, resting in his lap. 'Let us not
argue any more. You remember the night by the river, O my beloved?'

'As though it were the only night in the world.'

'I remember that at first I dared not even be near you; I sat on the
bank a little away from you,' he continued; 'but by and by the moon came
up and all around us was stillness and beauty; the sheep slept in the
pasture; the hills were all cool with the light of the moon; I have not
forgotten; I can never forget--I dared just to lay the tips of my
fingers on the hem of your gown. You did not notice that. It was as
though I had dared lay my hand on the garment of God, but sweeter,
sweeter even than that.'

'Oh yes, I saw. I saw and felt. And it was exactly as if by that token
God had chosen me among women, as he chose the Virgin; only, he chose me
there in the moonlight, not for glory and suffering as he chose her, but
just for love. He chose and called me for that. I was to love you; was
chosen by that touch to love you; only you, among a thousand; only you
in all the world of many men. And then, just then, the nightingale, like
some little feathered angel of annunciation, broke into song in the
trees near by.'

'Yes; and to me it was as if white fire were all about you--as about
some altar; and I was afraid to touch you. I dared not. You were too
beautiful, too glorious. The night was too still, too holy. And then, at
last, I reached out my hand and dared, as if one were to try a miracle.
I laid it on yours. And still I lived. And then, the whole scenery of
earth and heaven shifted, after that--as you know. You leaned and kissed
me. Everything was changed forever.'

'Yes; I know. After that there was nothing but the night and the
silence, and thou and I. Even the nightingale did not sing.'

'Yes.'

'And since that night there has been no one else in the world but only
thou and I. Other people, do they not seem like shadows, myriads of
shadows, like the inconsiderable leaves of a forest that shall fade and
fall and be renewed--but only leaves and shadows?'

'Only thou and I,' he assented, 'in the wide forest, in the woods of the
world. And soon, soon, soon, I shall walk the woods no more.'

'Since you must go, do not be discomfited,' she replied; 'nor trouble at
all this. If as a kind of lasting torment, to match my own, you were
permitted, after death, to be near, to see this man kiss and possess me,
you have but to remember the night by the river in the moonlight. You
are but to remember that this is the only night in the world; that there
are no others; that the rest are dreams; that no lips but yours have
ever really touched mine.' Her voice was beautiful, rich; a kind of
farewell in itself. 'You must promise me this.'

Her husband leaned forward a little impatiently.

'We are nearly there. Can’t you find out, Louise, what I want you to?
The thing I want to know is whether he still has an interest in the coal
lands. If he has it will be worth a good many thousands. Now do your
best. Try.'

'But you must have patience,' she said, 'I am trying to find out
something.'

'I cannot quite get it out of my head,' said the other, 'that we deserve
to be damned for this. Does not your conscience misgive you?'

'No; rather my honor. I have a hatred of deception. It is the only time
in my life that I have deceived. And you?'

'I might do penance.'

He smiled, I thought. He drew the cord of his habit through his slim
transparent fingers until one of the knots rested in his palms.

'You could not really mean anything so horrible! And your body, so slim,
so beautiful, that I have loved!'

His voice, though it was low, rang also, now--quivered almost.

'You forget that the stripes might be sweet, my well-beloved,'--I could
see that his lips trembled,--'something still suffered for your sake.'

She put her hand to her brow, a little lovely gesture, as though all
this troubled her, perhaps dazed her; or perhaps it was some old
recollection in his voice.

'How absurd we are! We shall be parting soon.'

'Yes,' he said, 'for always. What can I say to you that you will
remember?'

'Only say that you can never forget the night by the river.'

'I can never forget it.'

Something in his words fell final, like a fate.

She turned now to her husband. The stage was already slowing up.

'Is this the county seat? I have found out quite a great deal. I will
tell you more about the coal lands as we drive. He is an interesting
man.'

Suddenly, from having been intently upon them, my attention became aware
of a familiar sound, the thudding hundred-hoofed sound of an approaching
herd; I had been so absorbed in the strange world of the other happening
that I had not known of their approach. Almost suddenly they were about
us, black and brown backs, spreading horns, broad wet noses, massive
foreheads.

The driver looked down through the little hole reassuringly.

'Just wait till they get past. They’re on their way to the stockyards!'

We waited, the four of us, huddled together, with a strange kind of
intimacy, it seemed, in the 'bus, while the trampling mass of driven
dumb creatures surged and swayed around us, and finally struggled
painfully by, each crowding the other, on their way to death. The woman
watched them with eyes in which there met fear and pity.

With the last of the herd past, the driver was already opening the stage
door. The woman’s husband rose, stooping.

'If you’ll allow me, I’ll get out first with these.'

He took the satchels and got out of the 'bus, heavily.

He turned to assist the woman. She did not give him her hand at once.
The Franciscan drew back a little to let her pass. She paused the
fraction of a moment and gave her hand to him.

'Good-bye.'

When she was beside the large man on the road, he also offered his hand
to the Franciscan.

'Thank you; thank you very much indeed.'

He turned. 'Guess that’s our surrey over there, Louise.' The darkey
driver of the surrey hurried toward him. 'Yes; take these.'

The woman followed him. She did not look back. He assisted her into the
surrey and followed, himself, his weight bending it heavily to one side
as he entered.

I saw them drive away, along a broad cross-road into the lovely rolling
country, her brown veil floating a little, unknown to her, but like a
living thing, with a little wild waving of its folds. The Franciscan I
saw follow a road in another direction. The curve of it soon hid him. I
did not see him again.

I remained in the 'bus. We were to stay only a little while at the
county seat, for we were already late. New horses were put to the pole,
and within twenty minutes we were driving over the same road by which we
had come.

An old gentleman who, I think, was a lawyer returning from county court,
was the only other occupant, and he was soon dozing. It was a strange
ride back. When we came to Latonia the light was so altered as to make a
new and lovely adventure of it. The sun was not yet set, but the
sunlight had withdrawn to the tops of the tall trees. Below, the hotel
lawn was cool, almost twilit, mysterious in shadows. It was there only a
little while ago that I had first seen these two coming down the path to
enter the 'bus. The last few hours had changed life for me entirely.
Though I did not know it at the time, I know now that the two worlds of
reality and of romance--before that distinct and separate in my mind and
all untried--were forever mingled with each other now, for me, and were
one with my own life. I shall never henceforth be able to see a herd of
cattle on a dusty road without seeing those two in their last meeting;
nor shall I ever see any who remind me of him or her without a sense of
love and death and the inevitable.

       *       *       *       *       *

This is a true story. I have never told it before. I have kept it locked
away as something too cherished, too intimate to share with any one.
There always seemed to me a finality about it beyond any story I could
ever read. Yet I am telling it now, partly from a sense of honor, partly
from a hidden hope; because it was not, after all, finished that day.
She may still be living. This may chance to meet her eye. If so, I would
have her know that the dark-eyed child who rode with them that day came
in time, by that strange chance, so much more strange in life than in
any story, to meet just what she had met: to meet Love, the glorious
and radiant presence, only to find that there walked beside
Love,--road-companions of the way,--Poverty, and one whose face had all
the likeness of Death. And I would have her know that, because of that
day, and because of the memory of her in my heart, so long cherished, I,
at the chosen moment, laid my hand in that of the shining
Presence,--despite those other presences,--to go with it, in what paths
soever it might lead me.

It is so, I take it, life deals with us more largely than we know. Fools
in our folly; spendthrifts though we may be, throwing priceless wisdom
away to the winds, as these two had done; wasting our wealth and our
substance of joy irretrievably; careless of God’s treasure intrusted to
us; squandering gold worth the ransom of all the kings of the earth, and
this for some trifling thing, some inconsiderable bauble; yet God,
unknown to us, does most usually, no doubt, save from our wrecked
fortunes and our lost argosies something--something precious still, and
above price--with which, at a future day, with merciful largesse of
wisdom and of love, some other soul may yet be blest and may yet be
enriched, as it were by all the treasure of the earth.



CHILDREN WANTED

BY LUCY PRATT


THEY were sitting at the breakfast table when the morning mail came in.
There was something for Mr. Henry Tarbell--there was always something
for him; there was something for Mrs. Henry Tarbell--there was usually
something for her. The only thing at all unusual was that there was
something for Master Crosby Tarbell. It was rather a strange-looking
document, too. Beside the address was a picture of a pony with a long,
sweeping tail, and just under the pony were some words. Crosby was
learning to read in a school which was proud of its 'phonetic method,'
and he read the words slowly, with many little lip sounds to help him
on.

'Would you like a pony for your vacation? You can have her free.'

His father’s glance fell on the picture.

'Hullo, where does all that come from?'

'It says I can have her free,' began Crosby, with a characteristic pause
in the middle of his sentence, which always gave the effect of steadying
the inclination to a slight tremble in his small, earnest voice; 'it
says--I can have her free.' His face flushed. 'Can I--have her, father?'

'Where would you keep her?' inquired his father casually, opening a
letter. 'In the kitchen?'

'No, in the--in the barn! They used to keep a horse there--before we
lived here! I--I could keep her in the barn!'

'M--m, barn? I’m afraid she wouldn’t recognize it.'

'But there’s a stall there! A nice stall! _Couldn’t_ I have her?'

His father looked up again.

'What’s this? A prize contest? Oh, I see.' He smiled absently as he went
on with his mail. 'Yes, it’s safe to say you can have her--if you can
get her.'

Crosby’s face flushed slowly again, and his eyes looked very bright.

'If you can get her,' repeated his father, pushing his chair back and
looking at his watch; 'but you can’t, Crosby. There isn’t a chance in a
thousand that you could.' He put his watch in his pocket and looked at
his wife. 'Well, I must go. Come on, old man. Better take your pony
correspondence outside! Too good a day for the house.'

From the low porch-steps Crosby waved an absent good-bye, his eyes still
on the pictured pony. As he tore away some yellow seals, a letter fell
out, and he creased the big folder again and cautiously sat down on it
so that it would not blow away. Then he spread the letter across his
knees.

It was more than half an hour later that he looked up and drew a long
breath of relief. It was the first really full-sized breath that he had
taken since he began the letter--and he had just finished it. His eyes
dwelt on the last sentences again, and as he pulled the folder from
under him, they traveled back to the beginning.

'I have some good news for you!' It read more easily this time. 'What
would make you happier than anything else you can think of? To have me
tell you that you can have a pony of _your own?_' The characteristic,
slow flush came into his cheeks. 'Well, that is just what I _am_ going
to tell you! Because on the twentieth of August we are going to give
away to some boy or girl, one of the prettiest little Indian ponies you
ever saw. Her name is "Lightfoot," and _you can have her if you get
started right away_. The thing is to start right out--'

Oh, he understood the rest perfectly! He was simply to get subscriptions
for the _most delicious breakfast food that had ever been boxed for the
public market!_ Its name? Buttercup Crisps! He was simply to get the
names of people who were willing to put their names down for one order
or more of Buttercup Crisps!

'Buttercup Crisps!' he whispered, and caught another deep breath at the
mere sound of it, as he opened up the big folder. _'A Prize for Every
Contestant!'_ It stared at him in huge letters, and his eyes traveled
swiftly from the shining bicycle to the little mahogany writing-desk, to
the violin, to the beautiful gold watch--then rested again gently,
lingeringly, on THE PONY. Just once again his glance shifted to the
sentence which seemed to shine out from all the others. _'Her name is
"Lightfoot," and you can have her if you get started right away.'_

He gathered up all his papers and went in.

'Mother--' he began; but he found that he needed a steadying pause at
the very beginning. 'Mother--can I go out--for a little while? I want
to--do something.'

She looked at the folded sheets in his hand.

'O Crosby, that’s so foolish!' she protested. 'You know you couldn’t get
that pony, no matter how hard you tried.'

'Well, can I go?' he repeated, sticking characteristically to the
original question.

'Oh, yes, I suppose so. But I wouldn’t waste my time over _that_, if I
were you. It’s too warm a day.'

He was already storing all the papers and pictures inside his waist for
safe keeping, and as he marched steadily down town toward 'the centre,'
he kept one hand of protection upon them and made out a careful plan of
campaign. He must go to every house in town, beginning with the one
right there, next the post-office. But it wasn’t a house. It was a
store. Never mind, he would begin with the store. He felt very strange,
though, as he stood before the counter, while the man behind it waited,
flirting some string which hung down from a suspended ball, and
evidently quite ready for business.

'Would you like,' began Crosby, his voice growing so faint that he had
to swallow to get it back again; 'would you like--some Buttercup
Crisps?'

'Like some _what?_' bawled the man.

Crosby had an idea that he might get arrested if he asked that again, at
least if he didn’t make some variation, so he launched desperately into
another construction.

'It’s something--to eat! For breakfast! Buttercup Crisps! It comes--in
boxes.'

'Well, what about it?' questioned the man behind the counter
distractedly.

'I--do you--do you want some?' continued Crosby bravely.

'No, I don’t,' declared the man behind the counter with both strength
and finality. '’Twouldn’t make any difference _what_ it came in! I’m so
overrun now with these breakfast concoctions that there ain’t room left
for anything else!'

'Yes, sir,' returned Crosby politely, and walked out to the street
again.

It was not a very promising beginning, to be sure, but it was a relief
to have that first dreadful plunge over. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad
after that. And he marched on to the next house, which _was_ a house and
not a store. A middle-aged colored woman, in an ample white apron, came
to the door and stood smiling at him while he screwed his courage into
words again.

'Would you like--would you like--to try a few Buttercup Crisps?' he
asked, with a fleeting consciousness that he had made a really elegant
effort.

'W’at’s dat, chile?' inquired the woman of color in kindly tones.

'Buttercup Crisps!' stammered Crosby. '_Crisps!_ A few--'

'One o' dese yere breakfus' fancies, I s’pose?' came the kindly
encouragement. 'An’ it soun' good, too, doan’t it? But'--she lowered her
voice to a note of confidential intimacy--'dey doan’t 'low me ter
transac' no business at de do', chile, no matter _w’at_ yer offers. Dey
wouldn’t trus' it!'

'Yes’m,' returned Crosby faintly, and walked down the steps.

It made him positively dizzy to think of asking that question again. But
his hand rose mechanically to the folded papers under his waist, and
once more a vision of a beautiful, long-tailed pony swept before his
eyes.

'It said I could have her if I got started right away,' he reasoned
steadily, 'and I have got started right away, so I--I guess I better
keep right on.'

He looked so hot and tired when he came in to dinner, that his mother
glanced at him questioningly.

'Why, Crosby, where _have_ you been? You look perfectly roasted. Is is
so hot in the sun? Well, don’t go out again this afternoon until it’s
cooler.'

'I’m not--so very hot,' he assured her.

But he thought, himself, that he wouldn’t go out again right away. He
had been to a good many houses that morning, but for some reason he had
not a real name to show for it. He had not seen the right people! Most
of them had been servants, and of course they couldn’t have bought
Buttercup Crisps--if they had wanted to. No--he must begin asking for
'the lady of the house.' And he must become more familiar with the
literature of his folder. Its advertising value was his chief asset.

He set forth the next morning with new hope and confidence. And
something very exhilarating soon happened. The very first 'lady of the
house' who smiled down at him from her doorway, as he explained with
conscientious, steadying pauses, the full meaning of his call, and then,
pointing to the pictured pony, explained, with even longer steadying
pauses, that he wanted to get her for a prize--why, that very first
generous lady decided that she would give him her name for six boxes of
Buttercup Crisps! Crosby fairly tottered with the monstrous significance
of it. But as he drew more papers out from under his waist and found the
page where subscribers' names were to be written, she glanced it hastily
over.

'Yes, now I am to give you seventy-five cents,' she explained kindly, as
she wrote her name, 'and it tells you in this little notice here that
that counts you one point. It says, too, I see, that it takes six points
to become a contestant.'

'Everybody gets a prize,' explained Crosby; and he unfolded the
beautiful folder again with its large and frequent letters of assurance
still staring joyously.

'Yes, but--' She looked down at his small, upturned face, and flushed
with a kind of helpless shame,--'but don’t you see, dear child--it tells
you here, in fine print, that it takes _six points_ to become a
contestant?'

Crosby looked puzzled. 'Every contestant gets--a prize,' he repeated
slowly. 'Does that mean that if you work--and get names--that perhaps
you won’t get a prize either?'

'That’s just what it means, and I wouldn’t bother with it if I were you.
You see it means so much work for you--and it’s so uncertain.'

'But the letter--was written to me,' explained Crosby. 'And the Pony Man
says--I can’t lose!'

'Well, then he’s saying what isn’t so. Because you can lose very easily,
and I’m very much afraid that you will. But if you want to keep
trying,'--she just touched his cheek with her hands,--'I--I hope that
you will be successful!'

He went down the steps with a troubled face, tying three silver quarters
into the corner of his handkerchief. So he did not yet understand all
those printed documents! He looked up and down the warm, tree-lined
street, and sat down under the first tree, spreading them all carefully
out upon the grass. When he got up and started on again, he still looked
troubled, but there was, too, a look of patient determination about
him--entirely characteristic. He understood it all now. He understood
about the points.

At dinner-time his eyes looked very bright. He had six names on his list
for varying and assorted orders of Buttercup Crisps! As he brought out
all his money and showed it to his mother, she smiled at him and told
him that he was wasting his time. But he looked back at her with bright,
confident eyes, as he went out again, his precious papers still buttoned
under his waist.

As his campaign went on with steadily growing success, he trudged off as
regularly as possible every morning, back again at noon and again at
night. His mother listened and smiled at explanations of wonderful
progress, at the growing list of names, and occasionally his father half
listened, and smiled too.

After perhaps three weeks of it, there came a day when Crosby’s most
confident hope, at all times unwavering, became a thing which seemed to
soar away with him into a kind of pony heaven, where he heard only the
word 'Lightfoot,' and saw only one beautiful animal with a long,
sweeping tail, because it kept flashing so continuously before his eyes.
That was the day when he was obliged to send for a new subscription
blank. That was the day when his hope, if it had ever in the past
wavered even unconsciously, became a thing of absolute fixedness. And
when there were seven new names on the new blank, and his little bag of
money was so fat and heavy that he doubted whether it would hold any
more, anyway, he had a conference with his mother about dates, and
decided that it was time--it was the _day_ to send everything--all the
returns--to the Pony Man.

She helped him, with the same smile of forbearance, about the
money-order, made out with such dashing effect by the man at the
post-office, and together they got off an impressive-looking envelope
full of impressive-looking matter. It gave just the last touch of safety
and surety to it all to have his mother helping, and Crosby looked up at
her with shining eyes.

'You can ride in the pony-cart,--after the pony comes,--can’t you?'

It took longer pauses than usual to keep things steady that time, and
her glance wandered to his bright eyes.

'Would you be very much disappointed if it didn’t come?'

A puzzled reproach crept over his face. She felt guilty of an
unwarrantable suspiciousness of nature as he looked back at her--and
then hurried off to the old stall in the barn. It seemed so strange not
to have to think about names any more. He could give all his time to the
barn now. He wished that it was a nicer one, but with a little
well-spent labor he thought he might make it very presentable, after
all.

It was the next morning, after he had been working there with a fixed,
concentrated pucker between his eyes for almost three hours, that a
small boy from the next house appeared.

'Say, Crosby.' he began, 'there’s a lady lives up there on the hill
road--you know, after you’ve crossed the long bridge and turned up on
the hill road?' Crosby nodded. 'Well, there’s a lady lives up there says
she’ll be glad to help you. You know, for the pony you’re trying to get.
I was telling her about it yesterday, and she said she didn’t know
anything about the breakfast food, but she’d be glad to help you just
the same.'

'But I’ve sent the names already,' explained Crosby, looking perplexed
with fortune’s almost immoderate favors.

'Well, send hers alone. Can’t you do that?'

Crosby meditated. 'What house did you say she lived in?'

'It’s the only house up there on the hill road. You know! The big, white
house. You couldn’t miss it.'

'I guess I better go up there then.'

He glanced out to the street, where the sun simmered on the white, hot
road, and wiped some little beads of perspiration from his forehead.
Then he walked slowly out through the yard.

When, what seemed a long time afterwards, he dragged himself in from the
simmering, white street again, his legs pulling listlessly behind him,
he even forgot, for the time being, what the walk had all been about,
and sat down vacantly on the cool step in the shade, his cheeks burning
a deep, dull red. Then he remembered and pulled himself up again. And
that evening another letter started on its way to the Pony Man.

The next morning he waked up with a confused consciousness that
something important was hanging over him. Gradually it came back quite
clearly. It was the twentieth. And then, for the first time, he became
aware of facing a quite unheralded question of challenge. _Was there
any doubt about the pony’s coming?_ His long list of subscription names
flashed before his eyes, his big, shining pile of money, his mother’s
smile, the post-office man’s 'whew!' of admiration before he made out
the money-order, the promises in the letter if he began 'right away' and
worked--and he had worked all the time ever since! There was but one
possible answer to that question. The pony would come--to-day--before
night.

He stumbled gayly down the stairs as he thought of all that he was going
to do that morning in the barn. It was such a strange, rickety little
affair, that barn; it did seem to look so much more like a shed than
anything else, that he was continually haunted by his father’s words:
'Barn? I’m afraid she wouldn’t recognize it.' But he could make it
clean, anyway, if it wasn’t new. He looked up at the battered manger,
from his kneeling position on the floor, as he scrubbed with soap and
water, and wondered what he could do about that. Something he was sure.
Why, there were plenty of ways to do things if you only had sense. He
thought he must be mistaken when he heard his mother calling him to
dinner; but then, when he stopped and looked around, he felt a tired
glow of satisfaction. The walls and floor of the old stall had not
changed color, as he had hoped they would by washing, but they looked
damp, and clean, too. Across the battered front of the manger was tacked
a shining but crooked piece of clean, brown paper, and inside was a
fresh little pile of grass and three large, round ginger-cakes beside
it. But Crosby’s eyes traveled most lovingly to a small row of
implements which hung down from the wall, at one side, from nails which
he had pounded in. Of course ponies had to be groomed, and he looked up
proudly at the small, clean brush, hanging by a string and suggestive no
longer of the sink; at the worn whisk-broom next; at the broken comb;
and finally at a little, shrunken last winter’s glove, with its fingers
cut off evenly, which completed the line. He would wear that glove when
he did his daily grooming.

'I’ll finish everything after dinner,' he meditated, and went in.

When he came back, a saucer of milk trembled dangerously in one hand,
and with a faint, half-conscious smile flickering about his mouth, he
put it down on the floor in the corner.

'She’ll be thirsty when she gets here,' he reasoned; and then, half
apologetically, he glanced down at a big, loose bunch of summer
goldenrod, supported by the other hand. Standing high on his toes, he
propped it very jauntily over a time-worn beam just opposite the door.
'To look nice when she comes in,' he whispered; and then he cast round a
final look, sighed a tired sigh of satisfaction--and went out and closed
the door.

He wandered about restlessly that afternoon, and finally, with a queer,
light feeling in his head, that he associated dimly with the long walk
on the hill road the day before, he turned out of the yard and struck
off across the street in the direction of the railroad station. He
wanted to inquire about trains and the station was near. Besides, he
knew the station-master, and he would tell him just what he wanted to
know.

To be sure! The station-master was both alert and intelligent.

'A pony from New York?' he echoed. 'You’re expecting a pony from New
York? Well, now I hope you aren’t going to be disappointed about it! You
say it was to leave New York to-day? Well, there’s a New York-Boston
train that gets in here at half-past six. That’s the last one there is.
So if there’s any pony coming, she’ll be on that train, won’t she? Yes,
if she’s coming at all, she’ll be on that train.'

'Half-past six? What time is it--now?' questioned Crosby.

'It’s just half-past four. Now, you don’t want to hang round here for
two hours. No, you run home and make yourself easy. I pass your place on
my way home to supper, and if you’re outside I’ll let you know whether
there’s anything for you. But I wouldn’t get my hopes up too high.'

Crosby looked up gratefully. He had not even heard the last sentence. He
was already making his way out of the station and back home again,
wondering just how he could spend all that time.

Two hours later, his father came swinging up the walk. Crosby, sitting
on the grass close to the sidewalk, hardly saw him. He thought he saw
some one else--away down the walk--moving slowly towards him.

'Hullo, Crosby,' began his father cheerfully. 'What you doing? Looking
at the view?'

Crosby smiled faintly, but his eyes were straining away down the walk.

'You look pale, son; what’s the matter? You’d better come in to supper.'

'No, it isn’t going to be ready--quite yet, mother said.'

His father gave him another questioning look and went on into the house.

'What’s the matter with Crosby?' he asked inside. 'He looks as if he’d
been frightened half to death.'

'Oh, he’s worrying himself to pieces about that pony. He’s been fussing
round in the barn all day long. He really thinks he’s going to get it, I
suppose.'

'Pony? What pony? Has he been working himself to death over _that_
business? What’s he been doing in the barn?'

He walked through the house and down the back steps and crossed the
yard. Then he opened the door which led directly into the old stall and
stopped.

'Oh, Lord above us!' he whispered.

Never, since he was a child, a child like the one who had just looked up
at him from the grass, had such an over-mastering desire swept over him
to sit down, right where he was, and drop his head down into his
hands--and cry.

'Oh, Lord above us!' he whispered again faintly, pushing his hand up to
his eyes.

It was all just as it had been left, the old walls and floor with great
splinters scoured out of them everywhere; the manger with its shining,
crooked front of clean, brown paper; the little hanging row of grooming
implements: the small brush, the worn whisk-broom, the comb, the little
old glove, the pile of grass in the manger, and the three ginger-cakes,
the saucer of milk in the corner--and the jaunty bunch of goldenrod
nodding down upon it all from the beam just opposite the door.

He pushed his hands blindly to his eyes again; then he went out, closed
the door, and walked down the yard where Crosby was sitting--no, he was
standing, standing and looking dumbly after a man who was walking away
and blowing his nose.

'Crosby,' began his father huskily, 'Crosby,--come into the house, come
in to supper,--I want to see you.'

Crosby looked up with dry, hunted-looking eyes, and his chin trembled
just perceptibly.

'I’m coming--in just a minute,' he began, with a quivering appeal in the
dry, hunted eyes to be left--to be left alone--just for a minute!

His father turned and went up the steps, while Crosby’s gaze shifted
mechanically back to the man who was going on up the street. But he
turned, too, slowly, and crossed the yard to the barn and opened the
door and went in. He hoped no one had seen it, and he pulled off the
brown paper from the manger and wrapped it round the pile of
ginger-cakes. Then he reached up for the little row of grooming
implements and took them down one by one.

When Crosby was three, he had tumbled down on a brick walk one day, and
had sat up winking vaguely while drops of blood ran down his face--and
tried to smile at his mother. It had never been just natural for Crosby
to cry when he was hurt; but as he came slowly back into the old stall
and stooped down to take up the saucer of milk, something dropped with a
splashing sound into the milk, making rings away out to the edge. He
raised his arm and dragged his hand across his eyes, and then he reached
up for the jaunty bunch of flowers on the beam. But that strange, light
feeling in his head, dimly associated with the hill road, seemed to
confuse him again--and he could not just remember what he was going to
do next. As he pushed open the door, he tripped over some scattered
goldenrod, and then went stumbling along to the house.

'He said--I could have her--if I got started right off--he said--I could
have her--if I got started right off--he said--he said--he said I could
have her--if I got started--'

His mother met him at the door.

'Come in--Crosby--' she began brokenly, 'come in--'

'He said--_I could have her--if I got started right off!_' he shrieked
out in a high, quivering, babyish wail, 'and--I _did_--get
started--right--off--'

'Hush--hush! You have worked--so hard! You are so tired!' She looked,
with frightened eyes, at his dully burning cheeks.

'Take him up to bed--let me take him up,' came a husky voice behind
them; and he was lifted in his father’s arms and carried upstairs.

As they undid the straining buttons of the well-filled little waist,
some papers dropped down to the floor and the man stooped and picked
them up. He looked at them and put them in his pocket.

'I’m going to call up the doctor,' he whispered.

But after the doctor had come and gone, he went upstairs again and sat
down by the bed, while his shocked eyes sought the small, still upturned
face. It was so characteristic of the boy that, in a high fever, he
should not chatter in delirium, that he should not scream wild things
about a pony, that he should only lie there quietly, with his eyes
closed and his face turned upwards. For a long time the watcher by the
bed looked down in the flickering half-light, and then he went
downstairs to his study and shut the door. When he had read the papers,
which he took from his pocket, from beginning to end, he placed a clean
sheet sharply on the desk before him, and with his mouth closed into a
taut, straight line which relaxed into no curve of compromise as his pen
marched down the sheet, Mr. Henry Tarbell wrote a letter to the Pony
Man.

He sealed and directed it--and walked out of the house, with long
strides, to the post-box.

It was many days later that he hung over the bed where a child lay tired
out with fever, and gently said something that he thought might bring a
little light back into the white face.

'They did send you a prize, Crosby, after all! A first-class little
prize that has just come this morning! Look!' And he held up a small but
crisply ticking watch upon a cheaply shining chain.

Crosby reached up his hand. 'I don’t believe--it would keep the--right
time--would it?' he asked slowly, with a suspiciousness quite new. And
his unwavering eyes sought his father’s.

'_Why_ did they--write such a--lie to me--about the pony?' he challenged
faintly.

'Forget it, boy!' returned his father gayly. 'We’ll have a pony yet!
We’ll have to have one to get the color back into your face, I’m
thinking! Say, sonny, I’m glad you got the old stall fixed up for it,
aren’t you?'

The unwavering eyes were still upon his father, and the first entirely
unresisted tears that any one had ever seen in them since he stepped out
of his baby’s dresses and marched forth to life, with brave but
unaccustomed feet, and steadying pauses, slipped quietly down the white
cheeks.

'_You--you_ wouldn’t--talk that way--unless you meant it!' whispered
Crosby.



THE SQUIRE

BY ELSIE SINGMASTER


THE squire was a bachelor, and lived alone in his house; therefore he
was able to use the parlor and dining-room for offices. The parlor
contained only a pine desk, a map, hanging 'at' the wall, as Millerstown
would have said, and a dozen or so plain pine chairs. The law was
administered with scant ceremony in Millerstown.

The squire sat now in the twilight in his 'back' office, which was
furnished with another pine table, two chairs, and a large old-fashioned
iron safe. He was clearly of a geographical turn of mind, for table,
safe, and floor were littered with railroad maps and folders. The squire
was about sixty years old; he had all the grave beauty which the Gaumer
men acquired. Their hair did not thin as it turned gray, their
smooth-shaven faces did not wrinkle. They all looked stern, but their
faces brightened readily at sight of a little child or an old friend, or
with amusement over some untold thought.

The squire’s face glowed. He was going--his age, his inexperience, the
certain disapproval of Millerstown notwithstanding--he was going round
the world! He would start in a month, and thus far he had told no one
but Edwin Seem, an adventurous young Millerstonian who was to leave that
night for a ranch in Kansas, and whom the squire was to visit on his own
journey. For thirty years he had kept Millerstown straight; there was no
possible case for which his substitute would not find a precedent.
Fortunately there were no trusts to be investigated and reproved, and no
vote-buyers or bribers to be imprisoned or fined. There were disputes
of all kinds, dozens of them. There was one waiting for the squire now
in the outer office; he shook his head solemnly at thought of it, as he
gathered up his maps and thrust them back into the safe, that precious
old safe which held the money for his journey. He had been thirty years
gathering the money together.

The law might be administered in Millerstown without formality, but it
was not administered without the eager attention of the citizens. Every
one in the village was on hand when simple-minded Venus Stuber was
indicted for stealing, or when the various dramatic scenes of the
Miller-Weitzel feud were enacted. This evening’s case, Sula Myers vs.
Adam Myers for non-support, might be considered part of the
Miller-Weitzel feud, since the two real principals, Sula’s mother and
Adam’s mother, had been respectively Sally Miller and Maria Weitzel.

The air was sultry, and rain threatened. The clouds seemed to rest on
the tops of the maple trees; it was only because the Millerstonians knew
the rough brick pavements as they knew the palms of their hands that
there were no serious falls in the darkness. They laughed as they
hurried to the hearing: it was seldom that a dispute promised so richly.
There was almost no one in the village who could not have been
subpœnaed as a witness, so thorough was every one’s knowledge of the
case.

Already the real principals faced each other, glaring, under the
blinding light of the squire’s hanging lamp. It made no difference that
Millerstown listened and chuckled or that the squire had taken his seat
behind the pine desk.

'When it don’t give any religion, it don’t give any decent behaving. But
God trieth the hearts of the righteous,' said Mrs. Myers meaningly.

She was a large, commanding woman, who had been converted in middle life
to the fervent sect of the new Mennonites, and young Adam had been
brought up in that persuasion. Except for his marriage, young Adam had
been thus far his mother’s creature, body and soul.

Sula’s mother, Mrs. Hill, was large also. She took off her sunbonnet,
and folded her arms as tightly as possible across her broad bosom.

'There is sometimes too much religion' she said.

'Not in your family, Sally,' rejoined Mrs. Myers, her glance including
not only Mrs. Hill and Sula, but all their sympathizers, and even Caleb
Stemmel, who was supposed to be neutral.

Caleb Stemmel belonged in the same generation with the squire; his
interest could be only general. Caleb did not see Mrs. Myers’s scornful
glance; he was watching pretty Sula, who sat close by her mother’s side.

Sula looked at nobody, neither at her angry mother beside her, nor at
her angry mother-in-law opposite, nor even at Adam her husband, sitting
close by his mother. She wore her best clothes, her pretty summer hat,
the white dress in which she had been married a year before. Even her
wedding handkerchief was tucked into her belt.

Sula had been strangely excited when she dressed in the bedroom of her
girlhood for the hearing. There was the prospect of getting even with
her mother-in-law, with whom she had lived for a year and whom she
hated; there was the prospect of seeing Adam’s embarrassment; there was
another reason, soothing to her pride, and as yet almost unacknowledged,
even to herself.

Now, however, the glow had begun to fade, and she felt uncomfortable and
distressed. She heard only dimly Mrs. Myers’s attack and her mother’s
response. Immediately Mrs. Myers told Mrs. Hill to be quiet, and Mrs.
Hill replied with equal elegance.

'You will both be quiet' said the squire sternly. 'The court will come
to order. Now, Sula, you are the one that complains; you will tell us
what you want.'

Sula did not answer; she was tugging at her handkerchief. The
handkerchief had been pinned fast, its loosening took time.

'It was this way,' began Mrs. Myers and Mrs. Hill, together.

The squire lifted his hand. 'We will wait for Sula.' He looked sternly
at Mrs. Hill. 'No whispering, Sally!'

Sula’s complaint came out with a burst of tears.

'He won’t support me. For three months already I didn’t have a cent.'

'All this time I supported her,' said her mother.

'She had a good home and wouldn’t stay in it,' said Mrs. Myers.

The squire commanded silence again.

'Sula, you were willing to live with Adam’s mother when you were
married. Why aren’t you now?'

'She--she wouldn’t give me no peace. She wouldn’t let him take me for a
wedding-trip, not even to the Fair.' She repeated it as though it were
the worst of all her grievances: 'Not even a wedding-trip to the Fair
would he dare to take.'

Mrs. Hill burst forth again. She would have spoken if decapitation had
followed.

'He gave all his money to his mom.'

'He is yet under age,' said Mrs. Myers.

Again Mrs. Hill burst forth:--

'She wanted that Sula should convert herself to the Mennonites.'

'I wanted to save her soul,' declared Mrs. Myers.

'You needn’t to worry yourself about her soul,' answered Mrs. Hill.
'When you behave as well as Sula when you’re young, you needn’t to worry
yourself about other people’s souls when you get old.'

Mrs. Myers’s youth had not been as strait-laced as her middle age; there
was a depth of reminiscent innuendo in Mrs. Hill’s remark. Millerstown
laughed. It was one of the delights of these hearings that no allusion
failed to be appreciated.

'Besides, I did give her money,' Mrs. Myers hastened to say.

'Yes; five cents once in a while, and I had to ask for it every time,'
said Sula. 'I might as well stayed at home with my mom as get married
like that.' Sula’s eyes wandered about the room, and suddenly her face
brightened. Her voice hardened as though some one had waved her an
encouraging sign. 'I want him to support me right. I must have four
dollars a week. I can’t live off my mom.'

The squire turned for the first time to the defendant.

'Well, Adam, what have you to say?'

Adam had not glanced toward his wife. He sat with bent head, staring at
the floor, his face crimson. He was a slender fellow, he looked even
younger than his nineteen years.

'I did my best,' he said miserably.

'Can’t you make a home for her alone, Adam?'

'No.'

'How much do you earn?'

'About seven dollars a week. Sometimes ten.'

'Other people in Millerstown live on that.'

'But I have nothing to start, no furniture or anything.'

'Your mother will surely give you something, and Sula’s mother.' The
squire looked commandingly at Mrs. Myers and Mrs. Hill. 'It is better
for young ones to begin alone.'

'I have nothing to spare,' said Mrs. Myers stiffly.

'I wouldn’t take any of your things,' blazed Sula. 'I wouldn’t use any
of your things, or have any of your things.'

'You knew how much he had when you married him,' said Mrs. Myers
calmly. 'You needn’t have run after him.'

'Run after him!' cried Sula.

It was the climax of sordid insult. They had been two irresponsible
children mating as birds mate, with no thought for the future. It was
not true that she had run after him. She burst into loud crying.

'If you and your son begged me on your knees to come back, I wouldn’t.'

'Run after him!' echoed Sula’s mother. 'I had almost to take the broom
to him at ten o’clock to get him to go home!'

Adam looked up quickly. For the moment he was a man. He spoke as hotly
as his mother; his warmth startled even his pretty wife.

'It isn’t true; she--never ran after me.'

He looked down again; he could not quarrel, he had heard nothing but
quarreling for months. It made no difference to him what happened. A
plan was slowly forming in his mind. Edwin Seem was going West; he would
go too, away from mother and wife alike.

'She can come and live in the home I can give her or she can stay away,'
he said sullenly, knowing that Sula would never enter his mother’s
house.

The squire turned to Sula once more. He had been staring at the back of
the room, where Cabel Stemmel’s keen, selfish face moved now into the
light, now back into the shadow. On it was a strange expression, a
hungry gleam of the eyes, a tightening of the lips, an eager watching of
the girlish figure in the white dress. The squire knew all the gossip of
Millerstown, and he knew many things which Millerstown did not know. He
had known Caleb Stemmel for fifty years. But it was incredible that
Caleb Stemmel with all his wickedness should have any hand in this.

The squire bent forward.

'Sula, look at me. You are Adam’s wife. You must live with him. Won’t
you go back?'

Sula looked about the room once more. Sula would do nothing wrong--yet.
It was with Caleb Stemmel that her mother advised, it was Caleb Stemmel
who came evening after evening to sit on the porch. Caleb Stemmel was a
rich man even if he was old enough to be her father, and it was many
months since any one else had told Sula that her hat was pretty or her
dress becoming.

Now, with Caleb’s eyes upon her, she said the little speech which had
been taught her, the speech which set Millerstown gasping, and sent the
squire leaping to his feet, furious anger on his face. Neither
Millerstown nor the squire, English as they had become, was yet entirely
of the world.

'I will not go back,' said pretty Sula lightly. 'If he wants to apply
for a divorce, he can.'

'Sula!' cried the squire.

He looked about once more. On the faces of Sula’s mother and Caleb
Stemmel was complacency, on the face of Mrs. Myers astonished approval,
on the faces of the citizens of Millerstown--except the very
oldest--there was amazement, but no dismay. There had never been a
divorce in Millerstown; persons quarreled, sometimes they separated,
sometimes they lived in the same house without speaking to each other
for months and years, but they were not divorced. Was this the beginning
of a new order?

If there were to be a new order, it would not come during the two months
before the squire started on his long journey! He shook his fist, his
eyes blazing.

'There is to be no such threatening in this court,' he cried; 'and no
talking about divorce while I am here. Sula! Maria! Sally! Are you out
of your heads?'

'There are higher courts,' said Mrs. Hill.

Millerstown gasped visibly at her defiance. To its further amazement,
the squire made no direct reply. Instead he went toward the door of the
back office.

'Adam,' he commanded, 'come here.'

Adam rose without a word, to obey. He had some respect for the majesty
of the law.

'Sula, you come, too.'

For an instant Sula held back.

'Don’t you do it, Sula,' said her mother.

'Sula!' said the squire; and Sula, too, rose.

'Don’t you give up,' commanded her mother. Then she got to her feet.
'I’m going in there, too.'

Again the squire did not answer. He presented instead the effectual
response of a closed and locked door.

The back office was as dark as a pocket. The squire took a match from
the safe, and lit the lamp. Behind them the voices of Mrs. Myers and
Mrs. Hill answered each other with antiphonal regularity. Adam stood by
the window; Sula advanced no farther than the door. The squire spoke
sharply.

'Adam!'

Adam turned from the window.

'Sula!'

Sula looked up. She had always held the squire in awe; now, without the
support of her mother’s elbow and Caleb Stemmel’s eyes, she was badly
frightened. Moreover, it seemed to her suddenly that the thing she had
said was monstrous. The squire frightened her no further. He was now
gentleness itself.

'Sula,' he said, 'you didn’t mean what you said in there, did you?'

Sula burst into tears, not of anger but of wretchedness.

'You’d say anything, too, if you had to stand the things I did.'

'Sit down, both of you,' commanded the squire. 'Now, Adam, what are you
going to do?'

Adam hid his face in his hands. The other room had been a
torture-chamber. 'I don’t know.' Then, at the squire’s next question, he
lifted his head suddenly. It seemed as if the squire had read his soul.

'When is Edwin Seem going West?'

'To-night.'

'How would you like to go with him?'

'He wanted me to. He could get me a place with good wages. But I
couldn’t save even the fare in half a year.'

'Suppose,'--the squire hesitated, then stopped, then went on
again,--'suppose I should give you the money?'

'Give me the money!'

'Yes, lend it to you?'

A red glow came into Adam’s face. 'I would go to-night.'

'And Sula?' said the squire.

'I would--' The boy was young, too young to have learned despair from
only one bitter experience. Besides, he had not seen Caleb Stemmel’s
eyes. 'I would send for her when I could.'

The squire made a rapid reckoning. He did not dare to send the boy away
with less than a hundred dollars, and it would take a long while to
replace it. He could not, could not send Sula, too, no matter how much
he hated divorce, no matter how much he feared Caleb Stemmel’s influence
over her, no matter how much he loved Millerstown and every man, woman,
and child in it. If he sent Sula, it would mean that he might never
start on his own journey. He looked down at her, as she sat drooping in
her chair.

'What do you say, Sula?'

Sula looked up at him. It might have been the thought of parting which
terrified her, or the recollection of Caleb Stemmel.

'Oh, I would try,' she said faintly; 'I would try to do what is right.
But they are after me all the time--and--and--' Her voice failed, and
she began to cry.

The squire swung open the door of the old safe.

'You have ten minutes to catch the train,' he said gruffly. 'You must
hurry.'

Adam laid a shaking hand on the girl’s shoulder. It was the first time
he had been near her for weeks.

'Sula,' he began wretchedly.

The squire straightened up. He had pulled out from the safe a roll of
bills. With it came a mass of brightly colored pamphlets which drifted
about on the floor.

'Here,' he said, 'I mean both of you, of course.'

'I am to go, too?' cried Sula.

'Of course,' said the squire. 'Edwin will look after you.'

'In this dress?' said Sula.

'Yes, now run.'

For at least ten minutes more the eager company in the next room heard
the squire’s voice go on angrily. Each mother was complacently certain
that he was having no effect on her child.

'He is telling her she ought to be ashamed of herself,' said Mrs. Myers.

'He is telling him he is such a mother-baby,' responded Mrs. Hill. 'She
will not go back to him while the world stands.'

'The righteous shall be justified, and the wicked shall be condemned,'
said Mrs. Myers.

Suddenly the squire’s monologue ended with a louder burst of oratory.
The silence which followed frightened Mrs. Hill.

'Let me in!' she demanded, rapping on the door.

'This court shall be public, not private,' cried Mrs. Myers.

She thrust Mrs. Hill aside and knocked more loudly, at which imperative
summons the squire appeared. He stood for an instant with his back to
the door, the bright light shining on his handsome face. Seeing him
appear alone, the two women stood still and stared.

'Where is he?' asked Mrs. Myers.

'Where is she?' demanded Mrs. Hill.

The squire’s voice shook.

'There is to be no divorcing in Millerstown yet awhile,' he announced.

'Where is he?' cried Mrs. Myers.

'Where is she?' shrieked Mrs. Hill.

The squire smiled. The parting blast of the train whistle, screaming as
if in triumph, echoed across the little town. They had had abundance of
time to get aboard.

'He is with her, where he should be,' he answered Mrs. Myers, 'and she
is with him, where she should be,' he said to Mrs. Hill, 'and both are
together.' This time it seemed that he was addressing all of
Millerstown. In reality he was looking straight at Caleb Stemmel.

'You m-m-mean that--' stammered Mrs. Myers.

'What _do_ you mean?' demanded Mrs. Hill.

'I mean,'--and now the squire was grinning broadly,--'I mean they are
taking a wedding-trip.'



GREGORY AND THE SCUTTLE

BY CHARLES HASKINS TOWNSEND


THIS is a tale of the warm sea-tides that daily and nightly flood the
channels among the Bermuda Islands. I had almost written it 'The Scuttle
and Gregory,' but it was Gregory who carried on the campaign
aggressively and finally triumphed with the trap-net, so that the
sea-monster was dragged away into captivity.

At our first meeting, when I described the creature whose subjection I
wished to accomplish, Gregory said, 'That’s the scuttle.' I suggested
the word cuttle, as, perhaps, more appropriate, but it was not
appreciated. The scuttle by any other name could never be satisfactory
to him. Quibbling over a mere title seemed unnecessary, so I made an
effort to get down to essentials and adopted Gregory’s word. As a result
of our conference, Gregory took certain implements of capture and sailed
out of the bay; only to return, after a considerable absence, with an
empty boat.

He had, however, matured certain plans which it seemed reasonable to
follow out. It appeared that a combination of forces was desirable, so I
contracted for the services of both Gregory and his boat, and we set
about the circumvention of the scuttle by fair measure or foul.

As we sailed away in the light morning breeze, Gregory expatiated upon
the subtlety of the scuttle and the labors of the black toilers of the
sea, who had sought to capture him.

'How big is he?' I inquired.

'Not too big, sir,' said Gregory, holding up a short oar by way of
suggesting dimensions.

I was interested, for I had read, in a book by one Hugo, how a man had
once entered a sea-cave, and had had a fearful struggle with the
creature. Respecting the truth of this, however, there is reasonable
doubt, although I know of the capture of an octopus of the seas about
Vancouver Island, which actually measured several oars' lengths across
its outspread arms. But all this is not telling the story of Gregory’s
search.

The scuttle eluded us for many days, artfully removing choice foods from
the snares we set for him; but we sometimes caught faint glimpses of him
down under the over-hanging borders of coral reefs, where he sat in
shadowy caverns, thrusting forth his horrifying arms to seize the unwary
sea-people.

While Gregory with great caution moved the boat close by the rocks, I
peered constantly through the water-glass into the grayish depths where
the fierce-jawed moray has his hunting-grounds, and where the
sharp-stinging medusa drifts along, moving out of the way of no creature
whatsoever. It was an enchanted world that lay beneath us, and I saw
many strange things which cannot be described here.

But I must explain about the water-glass, an article with which all
fishermen of the Bermudas are familiar. Like many another indispensable
thing, it is of simple construction, being nothing more than a wooden
bucket with a bottom of glass. By placing it on the surface of the water
and inserting one’s face in the open top, it is possible to see
distinctly whatever may be beneath.

We worked our way at times into small bays where green sea-lettuce lay
in the shallow water in masses. These we overturned with our oar and
boat-hook, hoping to come upon the wily object of our pursuit.

The lair of the scuttle, according to Gregory, may be discovered by
certain unmistakable signs. It is the accustomed way of the creature to
drag his prey to his hiding-place, there to devour it at leisure. Crafty
in the capture of his victims, and wily in the concealment of himself
from observation, he makes no attempt to hide the débris of his feasts.
He thrusts his garbage forth from his stronghold, unconcerned as to
where it fall, provided the entrance be clear for his own movements. If
he has feasted high on lobster or oyster, crab or clam, a mountain of
shells proclaims his lair. The heap may grow until it would fill a
basket as large as a man could lift.

Knowing his weakness for these dainties, Gregory gathered a supply,
hoping to lure the scuttle into his power. He did, in fact, nearly
succeed on one occasion by lowering a tempting morsel near where the
creature lay concealed. A long arm snatched and held the bait until the
sharp, hidden hook tore loose, and Gregory almost fell over as he jerked
the stout line.

This method might have succeeded if I had not been anxious to take my
departure from the islands and so urged haste. Whereupon Gregory, who
was big and powerful and did not fear a personal encounter with the
scuttle, became more aggressive.

On the following day, when the tide was motionless and the water glassy,
he saw the scuttle disappear under a narrow ledge a couple of fathoms
down in the clear, greenish channel. He was overboard in an instant, and
with a few quick strokes reached the bottom. Looking down through the
water-glass I could see the whitish soles of his bare feet as he made
tremendous upward thrusts with his legs.

The scuttle was disturbed by the suddenness of the attack, and as he had
not selected a favorable place for concealment, decided to make off, and
lost no time in doing so. He may have caught sight of the whites of
Gregory’s determined eyes. He was barely quicker, however, than the
quick arm of the man, and might have been seized had he not played a
scurvy trick: the water suddenly turned black--black as Gregory’s own
face.

It appears that the creature always bears a sac of inky fluid ready in
an instant to darken the water all about him, and can dart away under an
impenetrable cloud of his own conjuring. This characteristic, which I
had hitherto read of, I now saw verified. By magic the scuttle had
disappeared, and a moment later there was a porpoise-like snort as
Gregory’s head popped above the surface.

Later, we had proof also of the scuttle’s mysterious power of suddenly
changing his color. Like the chameleon, he may appear conspicuously dark
at one moment and inconspicuously pale at another, against the grayish,
ragged wall of the coral reef. This I made sure of as our boat came
close to another of his hiding-places. Although he was in full sight, it
took me some minutes to realize that the ghostly outlines pointed out to
me were not a part of the gray background of jagged rock. He can,
moreover, instantly turn brown or become spotted, as I later saw with my
own eyes after we had got him into our power.

It was clear that there was nothing more to be done in that locality; so
Gregory clambered aboard and we held counsel together as the boat
drifted broadside up the channel with the tide; and the earnestness of
the black man made so profound an impression on me that when we parted
in the evening I was not without hope that my mission would eventually
be crowned with success.

But the next day we were again disappointed. Gregory dived and had the
scuttle in his arms almost before I could brush from my eyes the salt
water his splash threw over me. As he came up alongside, however,
trouble began, for the scuttle got a grip on the bottom of the boat with
his many sucker-covered arms, and, while Gregory was getting his
breath, his hold slipped, and again the creature was off. Just how he
managed to disappear so suddenly remains a mystery; neither Gregory, who
went under again, nor I, who promptly reached for the water-glass, got
the faintest glimpse of him. Doubtless he shot away body foremost, after
the manner of his kind, every one of his eight arms contributing to the
haste of his departure.

Failing in all these manœuvres, I began to scout among lonely pools
under the cliffs, where, if cautious, one may see strange sea-folk when
the tide is out. Gregory, left alone with his stratagems, disappeared
for a few days. The last glimpse I had of him was of a very black man
with a very earnest face, loading a huge wicker contrivance into a boat.
I had considerable faith in his resourcefulness, for he knew the reefs
and caves as well as did the scuttle himself.

But my solitary patrol of the rocky shore proved fruitless, and I was
glad, two days later, to find Gregory sitting on a stone wall down by
the little dock, swinging his bare feet and enjoying the hot sunshine,
but not much inclined to talk. He told me that he had gone to a distant
island village in search of a large trap-device used for catching fish.
This, with the help of another fisherman, he had lowered into a deep
cleft among the reefs two or three miles to the westward. I was to go
with him the next day to see if by any possibility the scuttle had been
deluded into entering it, for it was baited with something which the
always hungry monster was pretty sure to investigate.

We were off early in the morning, but made slow progress, as there was
little wind. It was fully three hours before we arrived at the sunken
trap, which Gregory located by the bearings of certain distant cliffs,
for there were few portions of the reef showing at high tide. The breeze
being light, the stone killick with line attached was thrown overboard
without lowering the sail. Through the water-glass we made out the
framework of the big trap on the bottom. I let out more anchor-line, the
sloop drifting astern until we were nearly over the trap, when Gregory
yelled that the scuttle was ours.

He let down a grapple, and after some heaving and hauling we dragged the
cumbersome contrivance on board. The hatch over the water-filled well of
the sloop was shoved back to make ready for the entrance of our captive.
I kept a firm grip on the trap while Gregory, all the while shouting
instructions to me and abuse at the scuttle, undid the fastenings at one
corner. It took a deal of punching with an oar to dislodge the creature,
whose eight arms were reaching in all directions. When one of them
thrust through an opening and took a turn around Gregory’s bare arm, the
whites of the man’s eyes were even more conspicuous than his white
teeth. There was a ripping sound as he tore the arm away from that
sucker-covered arm of the scuttle, but no harm was done to either
combatant.

What with the lurching of the sloop, the rocking of the big unsteady
trap, the resistance of our captive, and Gregory’s shouting, there was
considerable turmoil for so limited an area as that we occupied on our
small craft. The scuttle was gradually crowded down, and was presently
forced to take refuge in the well to escape the black man’s oar. In the
bottom of the trap lay the empty shell of the great crayfish which had
tempted the creature to his undoing. With the hatch back in place, and
the trap lashed against the windward side of the mast, our work was
done.

After a pull on the sheet, I took the tiller and my companion rested
from his labors; but his tongue was loosened, and by the time we came to
anchor in the twilight, he had said more about the scuttle than I have
been able to recall, and a good deal that I am not hopeful of being able
to verify. Nevertheless, he had earned his reward, and as the lights
were beginning to glimmer around the harbor, he went to his home with a
comfortable jingle of coins in his pocket.

When the steamer sailed away to the north, the scuttle was a captive on
board, staring with unwinking eyes at the passengers who came to gaze at
him. He escaped from confinement twice during the voyage, and we had no
small difficulty in getting him properly secured. We learned that a
large prisoner, if he is persistent enough, may take flight through a
comparatively small hole, and we were therefore unremitting in our
watchfulness until the captive was landed securely within the walls of
the ancient fortress at the Battery.

And that is how the octopus came to the Aquarium.



IN NOVEMBER

BY EDITH WYATT


THEY had pitched camp in the shelter of a great buff-colored dune, with
two up-turned canoes, and a small tent with a flap staked over it.

Lake Michigan, all green and mist-blown, banded the whole north horizon,
to break along the curving beach in little hoary crowns of foam and
bubbles. Southwest, southeast, and south, the broad, full contours of
the dunes purled far away, beneath the gray and purple sky of the late
autumn. They were grown with red-oak and yellow poplar-brush toward the
west. Toward the southeast and south their long pure curves,
low-swooping like a swallow’s flight, ran nude and pale, in shadows
exquisitely changing in the rising afternoon.

Beside a smoky fire, between the tent and the lake, a sunburned young
woman with roughly blown hair, in corduroy skirt and a boy’s overcoat,
dark and shabby, now hid her eyes from the smoke, in the crook of her
arm, and now rubbed vaseline on a stiff shoe in her lap.

These occupations so closely engaged her attention that she did not at
first observe, across the beach, the approach of a little sandy woman
between fifty and sixty, in a short walking-skirt and a felt walking-hat
tied down with a veil. Her shoes looked damp. She glanced rather shyly,
but with a sort of liking and friendliness, at the tent and the fire.

'Come and dry your shoes,' said the girl hospitably, lifting her eyes.
She was a rather pretty blonde girl, with a good-humored, quiet
expression.

'Are you folks camping out here?' said the visitor, still looking with
an air of satisfaction and pleasure at the camp. 'You’re from Chicago,
relatives to Mrs. Horick in South Laketown, ain’t you? So I heard. I’ve
sewed some for her. Oh, I just wisht I was you. Few cares enough for
camping to do it this time of year. Your folks come here to fish?'

'No,' said the girl quietly. 'One of my cousins was taken sick this
fall, and told to live outdoors. So he decided to come out here and camp
with his wife and little boy and me. For a while.'

'You have a nice place for it.'

'My cousins have gone to the station on some errands,' said the girl
reflectively, polishing her shoe. She could not very well say to her
relative’s dressmaker, that the camp had feared the visit of Mrs. Horick
on that very afternoon.

Mrs. Horick was a pretty, competent, hard-edged young woman, who enjoyed
such things in life as tight face-veils, high traps, and docked horses.
The adult campers had drawn lots to select her victim for the afternoon.
The lot had fallen to Jim Paine. But Jim took so unbridled a pleasure in
displeasing Mrs. Horick that it was decided such a fate would be too
cruel to her. The lots were drawn again. This time the lot fell to Alice
Paine. But Mrs. Horick depressed Alice, sometimes for several hours
after her departure. The lots were drawn again. This time the lot fell
to Elsie Norris. With whoops, it was determined Elsie must remain. She
would not care a fig what Mrs. Horick said or thought, would be entirely
amiable with her, and, besides, had no shoes to walk to the station in.
One pair was wet. The other was too stiff to put on. After dressing
Elsie in the most handsome garments the camp afforded, the others had
left her, early in the afternoon, with Shep, Rabbie’s collie, wandering
around within call, and occasionally barking at imaginary wolves in the
brush.

'Perhaps you met my cousins on your way,' said Elsie.

'No. I didn’t come from that direction. I came from Gary. It ain’t much
of a place to live. But I got a real good airy room, with a back-porch
of my own, in a carpenter’s family there. Miss Brackett’s my name. I’m
about the only dressmaker in the place, so’s I get plenty of custom,
more 'n all that I can do; and well-paid, too, you can say in a way,'
she added with a sigh; 'and in a way, not; because I hate sewing. But
then I walk a good deal around here. There’s some fine walks through the
oaks and in the dunes; just as fine as any one could wish,' she said
with a look of content. 'It makes me just about homesick to see your
camp. I was camping myself six years ago.'

'Were you? Here?'

'No,' said Miss Brackett, with a little hesitation. In response to
Elsie’s invitation, she had seated herself on a log, near the fire.
There was evidently something very stirring in their little camp to her.
For a moment she even looked as if she were going to cry. 'It was on the
plains,' she said finally, with a certain pride. 'A long wagon-trip, a
whole year long.'

'How fine!'

'Yes,' said Miss Brackett, looking at the dunes and the surging lake.
'It was, as you might say, a great experience. You hardly would believe
me, but before that time, why, I hardly knew there was such a place as
outdoors; not till I was forty-six years old; and that’s a fact.'

Elsie glanced up at her inquiringly. She had heard of persons who
acquired Spanish at ninety, or who experienced a passionate personal
infatuation for the first time at sixty, but never of an adult creature,
devoted to an indoor existence, who suddenly felt in middle age a real
response to the great inarticulate voices of the earth.

'Up to then, I lived on the West Side, in Chicago, with my married
sister. My father left the place to her and to me. Most of the rest of
the property went to my young half-brother Kip. But when Nettie’s
children were nearly grown, it seemed as though there wasn’t any room
left in the house for me; and yet they needed me, you see, to sew for
them, right straight along. I used to sew, sew, sew till midnight and
past, often, tucking on the girls' summer dresses, especially that last
spring when I was at home; and I began to cough then and get so dreadful
tired. That winter Nettie thought each of the girls ought to have their
own room. It was no more than right, either. Nettie and me, we each had
our own room when we was young girls. So I used to sleep just on two
chairs with quilts in the back parlor, and couldn’t seem to rest very
good, and, besides, had to get up and get dressed and the room fixed,
real early, so Will could come there and read his morning paper. Well, I
used to keep all my things in shoe-boxes, up in the attic, so they’d be
out of the way. They used to laugh, and laugh, about those boxes; and
one night we was all sitting on the steps, and they were laughing, and
my youngest niece, Baby, she got real mad. She 's so warm-hearted and
she never wanted to take my room, and only did because it provoked
Nettie so, for her not to. Babe turned real white, and she said all of a
sudden, "The reason why Aunt Min hasn’t anything but shoe-boxes to keep
her things in is just because we’ve turned her out of everything," she
said. "You ought to be ashamed of yourselves." And she jumped up and ran
into the house.

'That night my brother Kip happened to be there. He’d been West ever
since he was fifteen. He’s a lot younger than Nettie and me--only
twenty-five, then. We thought Kip was an awful wild, queer sort of
fellow, then; we didn’t know him at all. I felt just like the rest. He’d
run through all that was left him long ago; and he’d married an actress
and was separated from her. He was a sort of a Socialist too, and even
had tramped some. But he seemed to be real kind in some ways. When Babe
said that, he looked at me quite hard. When he went home he says to me,
"You look sick, Min," he says, and he took hold of my hand. "You’ve got
fever. Why don’t you see a doctor?"

'Well, I don’t know what got into me. After they was all gone that
night, I just broke down, and cried and cried. I did feel dreadful sick
and feverish, and I hadn’t no money of my own to see a doctor, and felt
just all gone really. I managed to get up and fix the room before any of
them come down. But then I had to lie on the sofa, and couldn’t get to
breakfast. And after breakfast--would you believe it?--a doctor come.
Kip sent him, himself. But he frightened Nettie to death. I felt
dreadfully sorry for her.'

'He told your sister how ill you were,' said Elsie gravely.

'Oh, yes. But it wasn’t so much that, as she was so afraid some of the
children might catch my trouble. She was all right though as soon as
they got me to the hospital, though she was provoked too, because it
took so much of her time to come there to see me. She come twice before
I went away. The doctor said that going away was my only chance. For all
that I was up and around, he thought I couldn’t live a year.'

Neither of them spoke for a moment, looking away at the dunes.

'Then--what do you think--Kip had an intimate friend, quite a rich young
man, Will Bronson, who was sick the same way I was. That’s how Kip come
to notice my sickness so. The doctors wanted him kept out of doors, and
he and Kip was going on this wagon-trip. But his mother was nearly crazy
worrying over it, and worrying the young man and crying all day and
night. She thought Kip never could take care of him. Well, those boys
wanted me to go off with them on the wagon-trip. They said I could cook
for them, and it would relieve the mother. And it did. They took me to
see her. And she thought if a person like me could go on a wagon-trip it
couldn’t be so awful after all. Well, the short and the long of it was,
we went to Fort Leavenworth, and the boys got a wagon and provisions and
blankets and thick shoes and things for me, and they got two good mules
from the government post, and we started off.'

Miss Brackett sat erect. A look of elation burned in her violet eyes.

Elsie drew a deep breath and laughed.

'Yes. I didn’t like the idea at first: all the rough clothes, and our
being alone on the plains, and after a while going to be right in the
desert--it seemed to me terrible. But it was the only thing there was
for me to do. I just kep' my mouth shut tight through all that time. And
then, I don’t know, more and more, oh, I just come to love it!'

After a moment Elsie said, 'And did you really have any hardships?'

'What do you call hardship? The rainy reason was bad. But I’ve been lots
wetter longer at a time, through whole winters, when I’d lend my rubbers
to the children. Sometimes it was terrible cold. But then we always had
a good fire. I’ve been lots colder in the back parlor and on crowded
street-car platforms, and lots and lots more uncomfortable. Once we got
off the trail. Once we had a bad time about finding water. One night,
after the mules was hobbled they jumped along so far, even hobbled, that
we couldn’t get them for hours. Kip and Will Bronson was gone six hours
in different directions; and I was afraid they was lost. But I’ve had
more hardship, you might say, and not that I want to complain either, in
one week on the West Side at home, than in a whole year of what they
called roughing it. And for hard feelings, and real mean bad ways of
acting, I’ve seen more of them over getting out one shirt-waist in a
dressmaker’s shop, than in that whole time on the wagon-trip. Even
though once we had a man in our camp that we heard afterwards was a
criminal and fugitive from justice,' she added with a laugh.

'What sort of a man was he?'

'A very considerate, pleasant sort of man. He was a short, thick-set
fellow from Missouri, with a hard sort of chin. He come riding up near
the Baton Pass, and asked to stay the night and get supper and breakfast
with us. Well, it so happened I had caught cold and wasn’t feeling
extra. The boys was worried and sort of mad,--that was the worst trouble
we had,--because I would mend and cook just the same. The boys cooked
terrible, and it seemed as though I couldn’t have no peace of mind,
unless I did it. It made me feel so as though I was no use to them and
not paying my share by what I did, you know. Well, this man from
Missouri was a fine cook. He stayed with us three days, and by the time
he went I was all right again. He was real helpful. They never got him.
When we come to Trinidad, we was good and surprised to find he was a
cattle thief that shot a sheriff that tried to arrest him.'

The lake was paler now. White clouds plumed on the horizon, and an
evening glow, green and faintly flushing, was reflected delicately from
the west. The dunes were browner and darker. The visitor sat thinking,
evidently, of her long, free wandering days. Elsie, putting on her
shoes, sat thinking of her wayfaring companion’s mean and hateful life
in the very midst of what is called civilization and respectability; of
her struggle for existence--a struggle in which she had been all but
killed by the greedinesses around her; a struggle just as sharp as any
of the nail-and-claw-depredations commonly attributed exclusively to
wilder-nesses. They watched the sky change, in an unspoken
friendliness.

'And now, you are much better?' said Elsie quietly.

'Yes. Now I’m well, thank God! And the Bronson boy as sound as a bell.
That was the most lucky illness you can imagine for me. I couldn’t go
back after that to the way I lived before. I always would live
different--more outdoors, and just looking after myself better. Since
that time, I’ve been lots more use to myself and everybody else. After
we got to California, I sewed here and there for the people where we
boarded first, and they liked my sewing so much, and I made so much
money, that when Kip got a job to Gary, engineering for the electric
plant, and I come too, to keep house for him, I put up a sign and
gradually I’d worked up a good trade, before he was married. Why I’m
going to be able to send Babe to Vassar, and plenty for me to take a
trip west, too, next summer. Kip married such a nice girl.' She rose.
'I’ve talked you to death. But when you spoke about your cousin, it
brought everything right out of my lips some way. I hope he’s not so
very sick.'

'No. He will be well again. He has a splendid constitution.'

Miss Brackett shook hands with her. 'I wish you would come in for a
minute and see me, if you ever have time some day when you’re in Gary.'

'I will.'

'Good-night.'

'Good-night.'

As her visitor disappeared over the rounded ridge of the dune, Elsie
heard the home-coming voices of the campers. They had brought
peanut-taffy to her, and they praised her none the less highly for her
intended sacrifice to the Moloch of Mrs. Horick and the dullness of the
world that she had not needed to make this sacrifice.

For some reason, she could not have explained to them about her chance
guest. But she was still thinking of her, as she walked from the shore a
little later to gather firewood for supper. The sun dropped long-ribbed
level beams over the russet oak-brush and buff shadows of the dunes.
Crimson rifts broke in the amber ether of the west. Rich, rich, soft,
and deep, the fragrance of some far autumnal bonfire breathed in the
cool air.

'Where are the songs of spring? oh, where are they? Mourn not for them,
thou hast thy music, too,' rang silently in the girl’s fancy as she
stood looking around her. And she wondered that she never till that day
had realized how deeply wild creation is the birthright of every
creature, not only for the power of tooth and fang, the strength of the
marauder, but for the vitality of speed and sensitiveness,
ground-squirrel, deer, and cricket; and how Nature’s most profound
magnificence might sing, perhaps, not in her thrilling melody to April
pulses, but in her proud cadence to November hearts.



BIOGRAPHICAL AND INTERPRETATIVE NOTES


THE LIE

MARY ANTIN, ever since _The Promised Land_ first appeared in the
_Atlantic Monthly_, has come to mark the highest standard of literary
excellence and political idealism possible for the best and most gifted
of our foreigners to attain. Born in Russia, educated in Boston and New
York, her influence has been widely exerted by her books and by her
public addresses.

One of the chief points of interest in Mary Antin’s story lies in the
conflict of ideas about truth. David had learned that in America a good
patriotic citizen should learn to tell the truth, the whole truth and
nothing but the truth. The demand for this strictness, he came to learn,
was more particularly severe when assertions were recorded in writing on
public documents. The little boy understood equally well that the
training which his father had received in Russia made it seem right in
certain cases to swear falsely and deceive the government. David
therefore saw the tragical significance of his father’s false record on
the American public school document. In David’s conception Mr. Rudinsky
had done no wrong in telling the lie; yet that lie nevertheless stood
out as a bold contrast to George Washington’s idea of truth. How could
the little boy be loyal to both ideas, when the ideas were diametrically
opposed to each other?


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. What are some of the differences suggested between life for the
Jewish person in Russia and in America?

2. How does the author indicate her own feelings in regard to the
problems that confront David and his father?

3. What does citizenship mean to Mr. Rudinsky? What are some of the more
concrete forms by which he makes his ideas of freedom evident? Does his
conception of Americanism coincide with that of the average American?

4. Has the literalness of David’s interpretation of "America" any real
connection with the time of the story? Was it necessary to give so much
general detail before the question of David’s age came up?

5. Why is Bennie introduced into the story? Do you find any other
characters contributing to the humor or acting as foils?

6. How does the author reveal Miss Ralston’s competence to reconcile the
two ideals of truth?


STUDENT’S COMMENT ON 'THE LIE'

To me the chief interest in _The Lie_ centres in the portrayal of
character. Naturally I was most interested in David, and I found myself
contrasting David’s habitually serious devotion to his studies with my
own rather fitful habits of attack. The contrast was not comforting.
Little Bennie I liked, too. Indeed, I think that for everyday living, I
should find him the more agreeable companion of the two. He bubbles over
so easily and charms us with his frankness and unconscious humor. Mr.
Rudinsky’s ambition for David is splendid--so splendid that we can
pretty readily excuse the lie he told about David’s age. I was not so
much interested in Mrs. Rudinsky, but I nevertheless felt that if I were
grading her on her proficiency in motherhood, I’d have to give her an
A-,--or at least a B+. And Miss Ralston was wonderful. Wouldn’t it be
splendid if every teacher could have such a sympathetic understanding of
children’s hearts!

The second item that interested me was the patriotic note. In these war
days everything even remotely connected with the patriotic ideal stirs
us. I was proud that I could think of America as the land where my
fathers had freely died in order that I might live in freedom. And I
rather guiltily questioned whether I have been showing by my own service
any real appreciation of the sacrifice which these fathers had made. And
I felt a bit ashamed when I thought that David’s admiration for George
Washington somehow seemed loftier and more deeply personal than my own
had been.

Another characteristic struck me: Miss Antin portrayed her separate
scenes with such graphic power. I am sure that I shall always remember
the whimsical figure of David in the George Washington coat that was so
much too big for the tiny figure. But I was almost afraid to laugh for
fear of hurting David’s feelings, for David somehow seemed so very near.
This touch of reality is equally strong in the passage which describes
Mrs. Rudinsky and her hasty toilet, and her hands on which the scrubbing
brush and paring knife had left their unmistakable marks.

I, of course, find that I was interested in the plot. Indeed, I read
stories principally for the fun of seeing how the events shape
themselves at the close. It doesn’t matter here that we are not told
exactly what happened in that conversation between Miss Ralston and
David. We know that the trouble was all smoothed out. Personally, I feel
quite sure that David finally took part in that school entertainment.


BLUE REEFERS

ELIZABETH ASHE is the pen name of Georgiana Pentlarge, a young and
promising story-writer, living in Boston.

A reefer properly belongs in the category useful. Even in its second or
third season of usefulness, it retains certain warm and comforting
qualities. How its sphere of endeavor may be extended to include a
divine mission of poetic justice, Miss Ashe unfolds in a delightfully
humorous experience of two little girls--one very pretty and habitually
urbane, the other very homely and rather crude. With reefers smothering
all glories of Persian lawn and fine silk slips, we have two little
girls arrived at the height of ecstatic self-forgetfulness in the
excitement of giving a recitation for the Christmas entertainment.

Complete satisfaction, too, is the reader’s. What a delightful chuckle
he gives over Aunt Emma’s chagrin at discovering that, in the matter of
little girls, golden hair and pink cheeks, or freckles and a 'jaw,' make
very little difference! Yet his chuckle, after all, is only an echo from
an adult world, a world suggested to Martha by the vague whisperings of
Father and Mother after she has gone to bed. Far more real is the world
Miss Ashe has created, where Miss Miriam’s black dress and gold cross
present a charming but insoluble mystery; where one is forced, however
regretfully, to reconcile cotton-batting with a Sunday-School Christmas
tree, and where 'it is so nice to be in things.'


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. Comment on the author’s use of detail. Does it create a real
atmosphere?

2. Is the author successful in her interpretation of the mind of the
small girl? Is the author’s own personality ever intruded? How is she
able to secure the larger view of the events that take place?

3. Is the climax made more or less effective by the children’s
unconsciousness of their act? Would you have preferred a more startling
dénouement?

4. Why is Luella sketched so lightly? Is the contrast only between the
two little girls?

5. How does Miss Miriam contribute to the interest in the story?

6. Comment on the skillful ending of the story.


THE DEBT

KATHLEEN CARMAN (Mrs. L. N. Dodge), a writer of interesting short
stories, lives in Evanston, Illinois. _The Debt_ is her first
contribution to _The Atlantic_.

Certain of the old Flemish painters present a canvas which seems to
suggest that a peaceful meadow-land, a winding river, or a distant
mountain-slope, exists only as a background for the figure in which they
are interested. The relative importance is indicated by the proportions
that make the figure loom large and masterful within the scene. Miss
Carman, too, has cleared her canvas for the presentation of her figure;
but her heroine is very small, very insignificant, in the presence of
greater realities of expansive sea, cloud-fancies, or the rising moon.
The interest of the story centres in the relation between Nature--more
exactly God in Nature--and patient, plodding Sister Anne.

Nothing else matters. The problem itself is clear to Sister Anne; only
the solution is difficult. To one whose life has seen all the
unloveliness of heavy manual labor, there exists a pressing necessity to
pay for the joy of living that is in her: a strange, absorbing joy in
the beauty that God has created. Praise and prayer are not her
instruments. A loving attendance at chapel and early matins cannot
translate her feelings. Love and worship must be transmuted into the
thing she knows--service.

The time comes. Simply, consciously, unquestioning, she risks her life
to return another’s to God--a small payment for what He has given her.
The problem is between them. Her devout companions may admire, the
wealthy landowner wonder; nothing can be given to this 'poor, lonely,
ignorant, toil-worn being, who in her starved existence had found more
joy than she could make return for.'


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. The reader will find it interesting to contrast the ways in which
Sister Anne and The Princess, in Miss Donnell’s story of _The Princess
of Make-Believe_, reconcile themselves to the drudgery of dish-washing
and similar tasks of kitchen routine.

2. What various manifestations of nature especially impressed Sister
Anne? What appeal did these make to her companions?

3. Do you regard the author’s prolonged analytical method of
characterization--as employed in the first part of the story--as the
most effective means of bringing the reader into an understanding of
the deeper personality of Sister Anne?

4. What special detail in this analysis most strongly impresses you?

5. What other method might have been adopted?

6. Characterize fully the spirit and the motive which impel Sister
Anne’s final deed of sacrifice. What impresses you as the finest element
in her act?

7. Comment upon the author’s way of ending the story.


SETH MILES AND THE SACRED FIRE

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.

There are really three stories in one: Cynthia’s and Dick’s we put
together from suggestions; that of Seth Miles we know from his own
detailed narrative; Richard’s remains for our forming. All the details
are woven into a tale of one day. A day hot and sultry in itself is made
to coincide with the grumblings and self-pitying of a pampered son; both
day and character are cleared without the arrival of the threatened
storm, and duty is made as splendid and beautiful as the sun emerging
from a darkened sky. A dilettante, conceiving in his cultured self an
appropriate offering from Mammon to the Muses, learns that even the heir
of millions has work to do. The place and the teacher emphasize the
greatness of the lesson. There is little doubt in the reader’s mind that
Seth Miles’s sacrifice has been worth while. To him comes a double
reward: the realization that Cynthia and Dick have lived lives worth his
self-denial, and the satisfaction that to their son, through his own
wise teachings, has come the ability to 'sense things.'


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. Comment upon the advantages secured by opening the story with direct
quotations.

2. What light do these quotations throw upon the character of Richard’s
father?

3. Note how quickly the transfer is made from the office of Mr.
Bonniwell, Senior, to Seth Miles’s farm house. Such compression is
necessary in a short story.

4. How do you explain Richard’s first attitude toward his teaching and
toward all his surroundings at Garibaldi?

5. What was the first surprise Richard received concerning the character
of Seth Miles?

6. What, according to Mr. Miles, was the marked change which the young
teacher, 'Earnin' money to get through college,' effected?

7. Was Seth Miles’s sacrifice--the sacrifice he made when he gave up
Cynthia--a natural one under the circumstances? Why? What helped to
console him for his loss?

8. What was the second sacrifice, and in what spirit was it met?

9. Contrast Seth Miles’s spirit with the spirit of Sister Anne in Miss
Carman’s The Debt.


BURIED TREASURE

MISS MAZO DE LA ROCHE has attained her most notable literary success in
_Buried Treasure_. So apparent is this success, that a moving-picture
company has recently asked the privilege of producing this story.

One suspects that Mrs. Mortimer Pegg never was a little girl; one is
surprised to learn that Mr. Mortimer Pegg was, in a mysterious long ago,
'just so high'; that Mrs. Handsomebody issued from some unnamable
monstrosity a fullfledged, much-starched governess, is beyond doubt. If
not, how could they fail to enter with zest into the midnight
treasure-hunt? What a wonderful scene it is: a burly old pirate in
leather jerkin, breeches, and top-boots, not to mention a gleaming
cutlass, surrounded by an Angel, a Seraph, and 'just John,' with as
bloodthirsty appointments, all intent on the treasure-trove mysteriously
located in Mrs. Handsomebody’s back yard. And then come the Grown-Ups!
Poor Mr. Pegg must return to the disguise of an archæologist and the
realms of respectable age.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. Divide the story into scenes for a motion-picture production. What
would be the most regrettable loss in such a representation?

2. What do the names of the characters contribute to the charm of the
story? Are they any help to your interpretation of the characters?

3. Comment on the characterization of Mary Ellen. Is she a type? Are
there any other characters that you recognize as types? Do the presence
of these detract from the real interest of the story?

4. Discuss the author’s power of word-selection and striking
comparisons. What does this power add to her style?


THE PRINCESS OF MAKE-BELIEVE

ANNIE HAMILTON DONNELL was born in Maine, where much of her life has
been spent. She has, however, lived in the Middle West, and her present
home is in Framingham, Massachusetts. She has been a frequent
contributor to many of our best periodicals.

It is the charm of perfect understanding that lifts Annie Hamilton
Donnell’s story, out of the many, into that enchanting region inhabited
by such bewildering creatures as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Anne of
the famed Green Gables. To the author must be attributed that same
responsive gift that makes the Prince really a Prince. For the Princess
there is no evil to her who will not see it; so there is no harsh
stepmother or horrid witch--only a Queen who 'never enjoys herself on
wash-days.' The author’s delightful touches of humor make an easy and
comfortable medium from Make-Believe to a no less interesting world of
Little Willow Twins and fishing pools.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. What is the most marked characteristic of the Princess?

2. What foils are introduced to bring this characteristic into bolder
view?

3. In what particular items is the author’s sense of humor best
displayed?

4. Where is the emotion of the Princess most intense?

5. Is this emotion suddenly or gradually destroyed?

6. What are the points of strongest contrast between the imagined Prince
and the real little neighbor-boy?

7. Comment on the sudden ending of the story.


THE TWO APPLES

JAMES EDWARD DUNNING, journalist and publicist, is the author of many
reviews, government reports, essays, and short stories. He has had a
long and honorable connection with the Department of State at
Washington.

What has happened before the sixteenth day, what ship it was, what its
destination, who its crew, how they had been wrecked, we are not told;
nor are we particularly concerned with the history of those preceding
events. We are intent on one man living with half-mad intensity a whole
life in a single day. It is not so much that he knows the pain of
diminishing vitality, the scorchings of hunger and thirst, as it is the
spiritual tortures he undergoes. Everything that treacherous Desire can
mean, he feels. It is only an apple, but as he, in his hungered,
famished state, gazes upon it, every sense is alive with an intense
elemental desire. At the moment of severest trial, with the clearness of
vision of those near death, he sees himself, knows his sin, feels the
mercy of God. And as the day closes, he experiences the happiness of
sacrifice. Beside him Zadoc sleeps, perhaps drifts off into the Unknown.


Suggested Points for Study and Comment

1. If the author had wished to make a much longer story of this, what
episode or episodes could he have greatly elaborated? Can you surmise
why he did not do this, but preferred rather to develop the situation he
had selected?

2. What artistic effect is created by the description of the Cape Cod
farm? Analyze the sensory imagery.

3. Why does Zadoc command that the last apple be placed 'under the tin
cup in the middle of the raft'?

4. What had previously been Jeems’s attitude toward the sea? Has his
attitude now changed? Why, or why not?

5. From the standpoint of mere sense-impression, what is the most
significant moment in the story?

6. What is the point of highest spiritual interest?


THE PURPLE STAR

MRS. REBECCA HOOPER EASTMAN, a magazine writer of distinction, lives in
Brooklyn, New York. Her father, the late Dr. Hooper, was for many years
president of the Brooklyn Institute.

The judgment of his peers proved fatal to the glory of Charley Starr.
Miss Prawl, the sixth-grade teacher, learned, too, with surprise, that
if one is a dutiful child who neither disobeys nor deceives, he thereby
lessens his opportunity to achieve the heroic. The literalness of
Theodora and her zealots destroys any romantic impulse to make reckless
synonymous with brave. One is reminded that the youthful escapades which
brighten the biographies of certain national heroes--always making
notable exception of the Father of Our Country--would not have met the
rigorous demands of Theodora’s approval. The conclusion is obvious: it
is difficult to become a hero and at the same time retain all the
virtues--particularly the much-desired charity. And who would be judge?
Let the order of the Purple Star be abolished!


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. What is the author’s purpose in writing this story?

2. What are the chief points of interest, besides this well-defined
purpose?

3. Are you satisfied with the outcome of the story? Could you suggest
any other way of meeting the problem?

4. Do you find the characters real? Is Theodora typical?

5. Why is it necessary to make character and setting somewhat
subordinate?

6. Do you like the introduction? What is the basis of its charm?

7. Do you find the author critical of other things outside the immediate
purpose of the story?


RUGGS--R. O. T. C.

WILLIAM A. GANOE, now stationed at West Point, is a captain in the
Regular Army. When _Ruggs--R. O. T. C._ was printed in the _Atlantic_,
it was immediately tried out in the class-room, where it won the instant
favor of high-school pupils. It was the first story to be issued in the
series of _Atlantic Readings_.

Amusing situations, with lively dialogue a-plenty, in this training-camp
story of Mr. Ganoe, are the conveyances for a splendid lesson in pluck.
Ruggs, the successful bank-manager, knew that only the best in the
individual is worthy of recognition when it comes to government service.
He meant to give that best. The trial came. Despite the confusion and
the jeers, Ruggs came through; brains and thorough-going effort counted.
To Ruggs it meant a first lieutenancy for his pluck, something to tell
Alice, and a ride in a blanket for the glorious 'sell' he had practised
on his jeering comrades. Underneath the fun and the hazing, there is, on
all sides, sincere appreciation of merit.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. What purpose does the opening dream serve, besides that of arousing
immediate interest?

2. Besides his ability for quick decision, what is the outstanding
feature of Ruggs’s character?

3. How is the character of the Meter drawn? Is there any advantage in
not naming him?

4. Are you prepared for the Meter’s decision in regard to the Duke? Is
the latter introduced into the story for any purpose other than to
amuse?

5. What are the author’s chief means of keeping suspense?

6. What ends do Squirmy’s nightly exercises serve?

7. Would it have added to the interest of the study to have Alice more
fully characterized? Why is she introduced?


THE WAY OF LIFE

LUCY HUFFAKER is a short-story writer of distinction, who has recently
been devoting her principal interest to the drama. She is connected with
the Washington Square players in New York City.

In the short space of a May evening, Emmeline Black, mother of eight
children, a good wife for a farmer, careful and industrious, lives
through her girlhood aspirations and the complete shattering of her
dreams. Finally, there comes to her the greater tragedy of the
realization that, in spite of what she can do, her daughter faces the
same career of fantasy and disillusionment. For the first time in
twenty-one years, Jake Black finds his wife different, almost a bit
untractable. Yet he can find no solution for the problem. 'Em' has been
a good wife, their marriage has been successful, his daughter’s possible
engagement augurs well for the future; but 'Em' is worried about
something. It is the daughter herself who sets their small world aright.
Her gratitude for the dreams her mother has given her brings to Emmeline
the realization of the value of inspiration where accomplishment proves
impossible. The years of hard work before her, and the prospect of a
similar life for her daughter, grow insignificant before the new
consciousness that dreams do last.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. Comment on the general atmosphere produced by the opening paragraphs.

2. What descriptive details contribute particularly to the realism of
the scene?

3. How is this realism more fully brought out in the conversation
between the wife and husband?

4. What feelings prompted the lie which Mrs. Black told? What can be
said in extenuation of this lapse?

5. What contrasts were prominent in her mind?

6. What in Victoria’s character, makes the strongest appeal?

7. Do we feel that Victoria is more likely than her mother to keep the
youthful dreams and visions?

8. What is Mrs. Black’s greatest consolation?

9. Comment on the author’s way of ending her story.


A YEAR IN A COAL MINE

JOSEPH HUSBAND has, since his graduation from Harvard in 1907, been
engaged in industrial pursuits. He has, however, found time to
contribute frequently to The _Atlantic Monthly_. At present Mr. Husband
is an ensign in the United States Navy. The first account of his naval
experience is published in the May (1918) _Atlantic_.

For vividness of sense-suggestion--color, sound, smell, feeling--Joseph
Husband’s smooth-flowing narration of a year’s experience in a soft-coal
mine is worthy of study. The blackness which is 'absence of light rather
than darkness,' the submerging silence, the seeping gas-vapors, the
nervous consciousness of lurking danger--all these give indisputable
atmosphere. What grim tragedy, awful in its heavy brutality, might not
here be grimly enacted! Instead, there is work--the grimy, sweating work
of the underground; hard muscles, and senses not too alive to material
forces. An occasional superstition gives life to the blackness--a
strange white phantom that dazzles the sight and blinds the
understanding with unreasoning fear. But most vivid of all is the
blackness and the work.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. How does the author’s preface add to the interest in his narrative?
Are your expectations of his added power borne out?

2. Do you find Mr. Husband more able in his descriptions of large
scenes, masses of buildings, groups of people,--or in the
individualizing of the single person or thing?

3. Is the setting for the work, or the work itself, the chief purpose of
the narrative? Which do you find the more interesting?

4. Can you explain the author’s feelings of mortification as he first
enters upon his duties?

5. What are some of the elements that make for the vividness of the
scenes?

6. Why is the occasional mention of color so effective?

7. Contrast the mental occupations during a period of temporary leisure
in a coal mine with a similar rest hour in the upper world?

8. From reading this narrative, can you offer any reasons why the
ancient peoples believed mines to be inhabited by a race of gnomes?


WOMAN’S SPHERE

S. H. KEMPER’S short stories reveal a genuinely sympathetic
understanding of child-life. Mr. Kemper’s present home is in Scranton,
Pennsylvania.

The plot itself is slight: the presentation of a ball--a _worsted
ball_--as a birthday present to a boy of nine! The comic element
immediately suggests itself; Wilbur discovers that it may come very near
tragedy--not for him, but for Aunt Susan. To be so inconceivably old
that one cannot understand what a ball of gay worsted would mean to a
boy who had already practised imaginary curves with a magnificent white
sphere bearing the proud blue label of the American League! All Wilbur’s
chivalric nature is called out to keep his great aunt from knowing how
great is her misunderstanding, and how keen his aching pity that age
could be so terrible.

Is there, perhaps, a suggestion here of refined propaganda?--Education
for women--higher, broader, what you will?


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. Contrast Aunt Susan with Wilbur’s grandmother.

2. Mention certain significant items that contribute to the realism of
the various situations.

3. Comment on the way in which Wilbur’s fancy works, as he views the
ball in anticipation.

4. What was there in Aunt Susan’s conversation that reveals her lack of
understanding of boy nature?

5. Is there any element of surprise in the way Wilbur takes his
disappointment? Comment fully upon his varied emotions.

6. What is the marked contrast between Aunt Susan and Wilbur’s father?

7. Which paragraph is most interesting from the point of view of
setting? Why?

8. Comment on the aptness of the title.


BABANCHIK

CHRISTINA KRYSTO lived the first nine years of her life, from 1887 to
1896, in Russia. She then came with her father’s family to America,
settling on a ranch. Her vocation is ranch-work; her avocation is
writing. Miss Krysto’s _The Mother of Stasya_ is published in the June
(1918) _Atlantic_.

An Armenian, a Revolutionist, a voluntary exile, desiring in his old age
nothing so much as the privilege of serving Russia, whose government,
institutions, and rulers he had fought all his seventy years--such is
Babanchik. Russia had driven his twenty-year-old daughter into an exile
of hard labor, had imprisoned his son for the best ten years of his
life; and Babanchik died because his strength was too weak to carry him
back to serve her. Shall you call it patriotism in a man who cursed his
native land with a hymn of everlasting hate? racial instinct in one
whose Armenian birth made him an object of official suspicion? Here
there could be no overpowering conviction that his country’s
civilization must be protected against the dreaded Kultur. Yet the
desire comes--not only his own, but the command of his imprisoned son,
that he serve Russia.

There are other beautiful things in Christina Krysto’s story, not the
least of which are the suggestive bits of description of the life in the
Georgian village. Yet Babanchik, of the caressing name, product of that
strange country whose people grow more incomprehensible as the Great War
progresses, interesting as he is, directing the summer play in the
Caucasian Mountains, is a thousand times more wonderful when swayed by
the unnamed power that returns him dead to Russia.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. What are the characteristics in Babanchik that make him a favorite
with the children?

2. Contrast the Babanchik who played with the children with the
Babanchik who talked with the father.

3. What were Babanchik’s most serious interests?

4. What circumstances of his birth hampered his influence with the
Russian government?

5. How was his ambition to become a member of the city Duma crushed?

6. In spite of government intervention, what were some of the beneficial
influences which Babanchik found that he could exert?

7. What was there in the government of Russia that was particularly
distasteful to a man of Babanchik’s nature?

8. What strong traits of Babanchik are brought out in that long furious
fight for his children in the Russian prison?

9. What effect did the war have upon Babanchik’s view of Russia?

10. What hastened the old man’s desire to return?

11. Comment upon the author’s artistic close.


ROSITA

ELLEN MACKUBIN was, several years ago, a frequent contributor to the
_Atlantic_. Nearly all her stories are tinged with the military spirit
with which she was thoroughly familiar.

The cause of the deed is never revealed to the garrison; its
consequences can only be surmised. Indeed the true standing of the
affair as tragedy is only guessed. The instigator of the quarrel between
Major Prior and Jerry Breton, the perpetrator, and the victim of the
tragedy unite in the person of one christianized just enough to suffer
for the savage instincts she had never learned to control. We see her
just once, Rosita, the beautiful, the impulsive, the passionate; the
next time she is dead. It is the feeling of repressed power that makes
Ellen Mackubin’s story grip the attention. In a few short pages,
three--possibly four--characters are made to live, and a tragedy wrecks
two lives.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. Discuss which of the common elements of story--setting, plot,
character, theme, or style--is here most prominent.

2. Discuss the way in which the separate characters are introduced and
the complication arranged.

3. How can Jerry’s treatment of the commanding officer on the day of the
dress parade be condoned?

4. How does the reader feel regarding Rosita’s vague declaration that
she will rid Jerry of Prior’s unfairness?

5. On the night of the shooting, what motive prompted Jerry to fling the
pistol far over the edge of the bluff?

6. Describe the effects which the tragedy produced upon the garrison.

7. What were Jerry’s feelings during the days immediately succeeding the
tragedy?

8. How does the reader decide the question as to who is the really
guilty person?


PERJURED

EDITH RONALD MIRRIELEES is a member of the English Department of Leland
Stanford Junior University.

It was a useless lie. Robbins knew that, as soon as he had spoken it.
But it stopped the boys' teasing. Once spoken, events followed in too
rapid succession for him to do more than qualify his statement; the bald
accusation remained. Repetition had done more than confirm the story in
Sutro; it had benumbed Robbins’s own sense of exactness. His reputation
for truth constantly confronted him; sometimes it made it easier for
him, but increasingly often he saw the difficulty of reconciling the lie
with himself. On the other hand, time and self-torture strengthened the
conviction that truth must prevail and that no innocent man could suffer
by the law. And so it proved. Robbins, the boy who had tried to save
himself from momentary discomfiture, who had deliberately placed a man
in direct accusation for murder, found himself, not a self-righteous
person who by a last act of grace redeems the innocent and places
himself on a martyr’s pedestal; instead, he found himself a perjured
youth, no better than the truck-gardener Emerson in whom truth itself
lost credence.

That a malignant fate had placed the name of the guilty man in the boy’s
mouth, comes with no shock; the author has so carefully prepared our
minds for that very verdict, that we are merely surprised that we could
have forgotten the bits of telling evidence. The interest begins and
ends with a boy of sixteen who in weakness was forsworn.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. Comment on the appropriateness of the direct opening. Is such a
method more appropriate to one type of story than another?

2. Describe the steps by which the author prepares for, without
explaining, his climax.

3. How does the author focus attention, not on the murderer and
criminal, but on the individual problem of Robbins? Would you have
preferred a more detailed explanation of the cause of the crime?

4. Why is Emerson introduced?

5. Is the enormity of the injury he is doing ever clear to Robbins?

6. What other stories are included, but left untold, in this one?

7. What, to you, is the most significant thing in the author’s handling
of the narrative? Why would such a story not lend itself to scenic
production?


WHAT MR. GREY SAID

MARGARET PRESCOTT MONTAGUE, living among the West Virginia mountains,
has written many successful stories of the Hill people whom she knows so
well.

To make of the little blind child of the coal-miner a compellingly human
little soul, yet to touch him with a warmth and beauty of imagination so
exquisite that it pains the heart; to do all this so deftly, so tenderly
that one draws a quick breath of wonder--these are only bare suggestions
of the power that created Margaret Prescott Montague’s _What Mr. Grey
Said_.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. Contrast the richness of sense-perceptions of Stanislaus with his
poverty of all things else.

2. Analyze the elements that make up the charm of Stanislaus. Aside from
the pathetic, what is the strongest interest?

3. How does Miss Julia help to prolong the suspense?

4. Would the story have been as powerful if it were entirely tragic?

5. Would the story have gained if Stanislaus were presented in direct
contrast to the other blind children? Why would a longer story have been
weaker?

6. Does the dialect contribute to the charm of the story? What is the
real function of dialect?

7. Does the ending seem a makeshift to avoid a difficulty? How has the
author succeeded in making the ending not only possible but probable?


A SOLDIER OF THE LEGION

E. MORLAE was an American who, in the early days of the Great War,
enlisted in the French Army and became a Soldier of the Legion. Many of
his war experiences are graphically told in his various articles in _The
Atlantic Monthly_.

'We spent our time eating and sleeping, mildly distracted by an
intermittent bombardment': these were the breathing spells; active work
found analogy only in the regions below. Yet either adventure was told
with equal calm. That is what impresses one in Sergeant Morlae’s
narrative. It is so grimly calm, almost impersonal. There is no careless
enthusiasm, excited hilarity, or mad vengeance--simply a job to be done.
The enemy alive present a target; dead, a source of added comfort for
one’s self, a souvenir for one’s brother, or, if need be, material for a
parapet. One’s life before and after has nothing to do with the present.
And this is even more terrible for what it leaves unsaid.

There is, however, no lack of vividness in _A Soldier of the Legion_.
The matter-of-factness of the telling deceives us only for a time, until
the intrusion of a crisp, 'Hell kissed us welcome'; or, more significant
still, 'And we were counted: eight hundred and fifty-two in the entire
regiment, out of three thousand two hundred who entered the attack on
the 25th of September.'


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. Does the conversational tone of the narrative make it any the less
vivid?

2. When is the author’s power of vivid portrayal most apparent?

3. What ideas do you get of the Legion’s views of the enemy? Contrast it
with other war stories you have read. Could it be accounted for by the
type of men who entered the Foreign Legion?

4. What in the author’s account suggests the general morale of the
troops?

5. What does the grimness of the occasional bits of humor convey as to
the mental state of the men? What do these occasional jokes gain by
their very scarcity?

6. What new ideas of war come to you from Sergeant Morlae’s account?


THE BOULEVARD OF ROGUES

MEREDITH NICHOLSON has won most of his popularity as a novelist. He is,
however, an accomplished essayist, a poet of distinction, and a keen
critic of current literary and political matters. More recently, he has
become interested in the writing of short stories. His home is in
Indianapolis, where he was privileged to enjoy for many years an
intimate friendship with James Whitcomb Riley, whose character Mr.
Nicholson has sympathetically portrayed in his novel, _The Poet_, and in
an illuminating essay in _The Atlantic Monthly_ for October, 1916.

Propaganda in such disguise needs no apology. Not only can we appreciate
the cleverness of the trick as well as the earnestness of its author,
but we relish what a very good thing a similar lesson would be for our
own or for our neighboring cities.

At the same time, there is a worth-while character-study to be made of
the Chairman of the Committee on Art, who presents a type almost as rare
in fiction as it is in life.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. The student will find it interesting to make a thorough study of
Barton’s character--his cynicism, his practical good sense, and all his
other prominent traits. A composition discussing all these could be made
very interesting and enlightening.

2. Discuss the general political attitude of the average city
councilman.

3. In an examination of the plot, what incident seems to you to mark the
point of highest interest? Discuss fully.

4. How is Barton’s character relieved from any final censure for the
spending of money for a statue of a rogue?


WHAT HAPPENED TO ALANNA

KATHLEEN NORRIS, a Californian by birth, has been a voluminous writer of
magazine fiction since 1910, when she contributed two stories to the
_Atlantic_--_What Happened to Alanna_ and _The Tide Marsh_.

To those who know Kathleen Norris’s _Mother_, nothing more need be said
of this author’s ability to depict the wholesome sentiment of family
life, without the sentimentality that clings to many of the ordinary
short stories and novels. The less fortunate may make valuable
acquaintance in the halls of Costello. F. X., Senior, 'undertaker by
profession and mayor by an immense majority,' shares his position of
importance by reason of the charms of his numerous offspring. Mrs.
Costello is, of course, the centre of interest, as she is of the
Costello circle, which means all who come within range of her generous
hand and kindly word. Yet no one remains unindividualized. A few vivid
strokes, and the picture is complete. If an artistic hand adds another
touch now and then, we are never made conscious of technique. Especially
is this true in the case of young Mrs. Church. And what more delightful
could there be than the family conversations, which are quite as
revealing in points of character as they are delightful in their flashes
of humor?


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. What purpose does the detailed description of family life serve?
Comment on the choice of detail.

2. Besides the plot, what are the most interesting elements in the
story?

3. Could you suggest another climax?

4. What is gained by having Alanna solve her problem alone? How does the
author arrange that the solution shall be thus accomplished?

5. Is Mrs. Church introduced for any reason other than her slight
connection with the plot?

6. Is Mr. Costello as well portrayed as his wife? Can you suggest any
reasons why he typifies the Irish-American rather than the native
Irishman of the same rank?

7. How does Miss Norris achieve the atmosphere that she does?

8. Could the story be criticized as being sentimental?


SPENDTHRIFTS

LAURA SPENCER PORTOR (Mrs. Francis Pope) has long been engaged in
literary work. Her essays and stories 'give proof of a versatility of
experience as Protean as her talents.' Mrs. Pope is now connected with
the editorial staff of one of the prominent New York magazines.

Perhaps that which impresses the reader most in _Spendthrifts_ is the
production of an atmosphere that makes the strange seem real, and the
commonplace take on a suggestion of the fanciful. Not half so wonderful
is it that the woman of the orange-colored eyes should meet the lover of
her youth, now a lay Franciscan, and live again with him the story of
their love before a smilingly complacent husband, as that this story
should have been unfolded before the eyes of a romantic little girl who
went out to see the world in a rambling old coach. The author, like the
successful playwright, completely transfers us to another world. The
careful preparation of atmosphere is followed by a swift march of events
to a climax the more powerful by the necessity of its restraint. The
gradual trailing off into the dim romantic atmosphere out of which the
story grew, calls for a curtain that may be raised again only on the
author’s epilogue.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. What can you say by way of comment on the somewhat leisurely
beginning of this story?

2. What do you like best in the description of the old-fashioned 'bus?

3. Justify the author’s early paragraphs on the herds of dumb cattle.

4. Can you analyze the method by which the author makes even her most
trivial details of the trip seem vital and interesting?

5. Is it true that most of these details--both narrative and
descriptive--assume greater importance because they are seen through a
child’s vision?

6. What items bring out the disturbed feelings of the Franciscan soon
after he enters the 'bus?

7. Trace the details that very gradually portray the character of
Louise’s husband.

8. What part does the description of the various costumes play in the
portrayal of character?

9. As Louise analyzes to the Franciscan the past relations existing
between them, do we find ourselves sympathizing with one or the other,
or with neither?

10. What is the intended symbolism of the title, _Spendthrifts_?

11. What is symbolized by the herd of cattle?


CHILDREN WANTED

LUCY PRATT, a frequent contributor to magazines, lives in Cambridge,
Massachusetts.

So slight is the plot in _Children Wanted_ that one might on reflection
question whether there is a plot. In the actual reading, one becomes too
absorbed in the very real situation that Miss Pratt presents to become
coldly analytical. The vividness of Master Crosby Tarbell’s particular
adventure with life is reflected, not only in the letter Mr. Henry
Tarbell dispatches to a certain Pony Man, but in the reader’s own warm
indignation at the carelessness, the cowardice, of compromising
grown-ups in general. At the same time, Miss Pratt’s masterly use of
commonplace detail, fully as much as the poignant bits of character
delineation, such as that which ends the story, makes of _Children
Wanted_ as effective a bit of narrative technique as it is a striking
example of the propagandist’s art.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. Is the chief interest of the story in the principal character or in
the underlying theme?

2. Would the experience have meant as much to any child?

3. Why is the 'lady on the hill road' added to the list of customers?

4. What does Crosby’s father add to the story that Crosby’s mother could
not? Would you have preferred to be told more about Mrs. Tarbell?

5. Do you find any explanations for the climax in the previous
characterization of Crosby? How has the detailed description of the barn
helped to reveal the lad’s sensitiveness?


THE SQUIRE

ELSIE SINGMASTER (Mrs. H. Lewars), a Pennsylvanian by birth and
residence, has been writing at more or less irregular intervals ever
since her first story was published in _Scribner’s Magazine_ twelve or
thirteen years ago. Her reputation has been largely won by her
sympathetic portrayal of the Pennsylvania Dutch character.

How adequately, how finally, a person can be characterized by his own
conversations, all the principals in this little Millerstown drama
demonstrate. Weakness, crudeness, selfishness, speak out their own
existence. And, to shine by contrast in the midst of all this pettiness,
is the figure of a man who makes the title 'Squire' mean what it has
meant to certain English townships, and whatever more comes from
responsibility assumed without force of precedent or hope of recompense.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. What are the elements which produce the atmosphere of crudity that
stands for Millerstown? Could any description of the town produce a like
effect?

2. Would it have detracted from the story if Stemmel had been more
elaborately portrayed?

3. How is the solution of the case prevented from appearing
melodramatic?

4. Would the Squire’s sacrifice have gained or lost power if Adam and
Sula were less irresponsible?

5. How do the Squire’s actions correspond to the tradition of his title?
How different are they from what might have happened in a like situation
in England?

6. Do you think Adam and Sula worthy of the Squire’s interest?

7. What stories growing out of this one remain to be told? Which would
be the most interesting?


GREGORY AND THE SCUTTLE

CHARLES HASKINS TOWNSEND, an ichthyologist of international reputation,
has been a member of many U. S. government commissions. His present
address is The Aquarium, New York.

_Gregory and the Scuttle_, translated into the literal, means 'How the
octopus came to the Aquarium.' In the literal version, the account might
have been buried easily and unregretfully in the dry-as-dust records of
the American Aquarium Society, or some such august receptacle of
information; as it is, it becomes the easy, chatty adventure of one who
proves himself human as well as scientific. Moreover, it behooves the
practical investigator of the educative process to note that, by this
sugar-coated method, various capsules of information slip down without
violent contraction on the part of him who will be only entertained.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. How is the title of the story indicative of its general tone?

2. Would Gregory’s vision of the adventure have been an interesting one?
What would it lack that the scientist’s has?

3. When, if ever, does the scientist take the place of the story-teller?

4. What is the chief charm of the account? Would a series of such
adventures--with all necessary variation--be altogether as delightful?


IN NOVEMBER

EDITH WYATT was born in Wisconsin, and educated at Chicago and Bryn
Mawr. She has for years been a frequent contributor to the best of our
American magazines. Her present home is in Chicago.

While listening to Miss Brackett’s naïve recital of her personal
narrative, we somehow never lose consciousness of the interesting
environment created in the beginning paragraphs. In most stories where
the interest in surroundings is strong, we are chiefly concerned with
the setting in which the incidents of the plot take place. In this
instance, however, we are chiefly interested in the autumnal atmosphere
in which Miss Brackett’s ingenuous tale is told. Here is Lake Michigan,
all green and mist-blown, banding the whole horizon. There, in the broad
southward, lie the full contours of the forest-covered dunes. And over
all is the gray and purple sky of the late autumn. In the inner circle
of all this is the camp, with Elsie Norris vividly portrayed in the
centre. Her isolation is broken by the chance guest, who tells the
intimate personal episodes, so charmingly marked by the artless notes of
unselfishness. When the guest leaves and the other campers return, and
Miss Norris wanders off alone to gather firewood for supper, the
brooding influence of the pervading November scene is felt to be even
more profound and impressive.


_Suggested Points for Study and Comment_

1. What are the three or four most graphic touches in the story?

2. What, aside from the setting, is the most impressive element in the
story?

3. What comment can you make on Miss Wyatt’s feeling for style? What
effects does she produce?

4. Comment on the slight but suggestive glimpse of Baby’s character.
What other personages in the story show their sympathy for Miss
Brackett?

5. Was it worth while to say anything about Mrs. Horick? Why is she
mentioned? Do the slight details contribute to the interest of the
story?

6. Mention three or four items which might have been elaborated into
important incidents in the narrative.





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