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´╗┐Title: Waifs and Strays - Part 1
Author: Henry, O., 1862-1910
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Waifs and Strays - Part 1" ***

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Waifs and Strays


by

O Henry



PART I

TWELVE STORIES



CONTENTS

  The Red Roses of Tonia
  Round The Circle
  The Rubber Plant's Story
  Out of Nazareth
  Confessions of a Humorist
  The Sparrows in Madison Square
  Hearts and Hands
  The Cactus
  The Detective Detector
  The Dog and the Playlet
  A Little Talk About Mobs
  The Snow Man



THE RED ROSES OF TONIA

A trestle burned down on the International Railroad.  The south-bound
from San Antonio was cut off for the next forty-eight hours. On that
train was Tonia Weaver's Easter hat.

Espirition, the Mexican, who had been sent forty miles in a buckboard
from the Espinosa Ranch to fetch it, returned with a shrugging shoulder
and hands empty except for a cigarette.  At the small station, Nopal,
he had learned of the delayed train and, having no commands to wait,
turned his ponies toward the ranch again.

Now, if one supposes that Easter, the Goddess of Spring, cares any more
for the after-church parade on Fifth Avenue than she does for her loyal
outfit of subjects that assemble at the meeting-house at Cactus, Tex.,
a mistake has been made.  The wives and daughters of the ranchmen of
the Frio country put forth Easter blossoms of new hats and gowns as
faithfully as is done anywhere, and the Southwest is, for one day, a
mingling of prickly pear, Paris, and paradise. And now it was Good
Friday, and Tonia Weaver's Easter hat blushed unseen in the desert air
of an impotent express car, beyond the burned trestle.  On Saturday
noon the Rogers girls, from the Shoestring Ranch, and Ella Reeves, from
the Anchor-O, and Mrs. Bennet and Ida, from Green Valley, would convene
at the Espinosa and pick up Tonia.  With their Easter hats and frocks
carefully wrapped and bundled against the dust, the fair aggregation
would then merrily jog the ten miles to Cactus, where on the morrow
they would array themselves, subjugate man, do homage to Easter, and
cause jealous agitation among the lilies of the field.

Tonia sat on the steps of the Espinosa ranch house flicking gloomily
with a quirt at a tuft of curly mesquite.  She displayed a frown and a
contumelious lip, and endeavored to radiate an aura of disagreeableness
and tragedy.

"I hate railroads," she announced positively.  "And men.  Men pretend
to run them.  Can you give any excuse why a trestle should burn?  Ida
Bennet's hat is to be trimmed with violets.  I shall not go one step
toward Cactus without a new hat.  If I were a man I would get one."

Two men listened uneasily to this disparagement of their kind. One was
Wells Pearson, foreman of the Mucho Calor cattle ranch.  The other was
Thompson Burrows, the prosperous sheepman from the Quintana Valley.
Both thought Tonia Weaver adorable, especially when she railed at
railroads and menaced men.  Either would have given up his epidermis to
make for her an Easter hat more cheerfully than the ostrich gives up
his tip or the aigrette lays down its life.  Neither possessed the
ingenuity to conceive a means of supplying the sad deficiency against
the coming Sabbath.  Pearson's deep brown face and sunburned light hair
gave him the appearance of a schoolboy seized by one of youth's
profound and insolvable melancholies.  Tonia's plight grieved him
through and through.  Thompson Burrows was the more skilled and
pliable.  He hailed from somewhere in the East originally; and he wore
neckties and shoes, and was made dumb by woman's presence.

"The big water-hole on Sandy Creek," said Pearson, scarcely hoping to
make a hit, "was filled up by that last rain."

"Oh!  Was it?" said Tonia sharply.  "Thank you for the information. I
suppose a new hat is nothing to you, Mr. Pearson.  I suppose you think
a woman ought to wear an old Stetson five years without a change, as
you do.  If your old water-hole could have put out the fire on that
trestle you might have some reason to talk about it."

"I am deeply sorry," said Burrows, warned by Pearson's fate, "that you
failed to receive your hat, Miss Weaver--deeply sorry, indeed. If there
was anything I could do--"

"Don't bother," interrupted Tonia, with sweet sarcasm.  "If there was
anything you could do, you'd be doing it, of course.  There isn't."

Tonia paused.  A sudden sparkle of hope had come into her eye.  Her
frown smoothed away.  She had an inspiration.

"There's a store over at Lone Elm Crossing on the Nueces," she said,
"that keeps hats.  Eva Rogers got hers there.  She said it was the
latest style.  It might have some left.  But it's twenty-eight miles to
Lone Elm."

The spurs of two men who hastily arose jingled; and Tonia almost
smiled.  The Knights, then, were not all turned to dust; nor were their
rowels rust.

"Of course," said Tonia, looking thoughtfully at a white gulf cloud
sailing across the cerulean dome, "nobody could ride to Lone Elm and
back by the time the girls call by for me to-morrow.  So, I reckon I'll
have to stay at home this Easter Sunday."

And then she smiled.

"Well, Miss Tonia," said Pearson, reaching for his hat, as guileful as
a sleeping babe.  "I reckon I'll be trotting along back to Mucho Calor.
There's some cutting out to be done on Dry Branch first thing in the
morning; and me and Road Runner has got to be on hand.  It's too bad
your hat got sidetracked.  Maybe they'll get that trestle mended yet in
time for Easter."

"I must be riding, too, Miss Tonia," announced Burrows, looking at his
watch.  "I declare, it's nearly five o'clock!  I must be out at my
lambing camp in time to help pen those crazy ewes."

Tonia's suitors seemed to have been smitten with a need for haste. They
bade her a ceremonious farewell, and then shook each other's hands with
the elaborate and solemn courtesy of the Southwesterner.

"Hope I'll see you again soon, Mr. Pearson," said Burrows.

"Same here," said the cowman, with the serious face of one whose friend
goes upon a whaling voyage.  "Be gratified to see you ride over to
Mucho Calor any time you strike that section of the range."

Pearson mounted Road Runner, the soundest cow-pony on the Frio, and let
him pitch for a minute, as he always did on being mounted, even at the
end of a day's travel.

"What kind of a hat was that, Miss Tonia," he called, "that you ordered
from San Antone?  I can't help but be sorry about that hat."

"A straw," said Tonia; "the latest shape, of course; trimmed with red
roses.  That's what I like--red roses."

"There's no color more becoming to your complexion and hair," said
Burrows, admiringly.

"It's what I like," said Tonia.  "And of all the flowers, give me red
roses.  Keep all the pinks and blues for yourself.  But what's the use,
when trestles burn and leave you without anything?  It'll be a dry old
Easter for me!"

Pearson took off his hat and drove Road Runner at a gallop into the
chaparral east of the Espinosa ranch house.

As his stirrups rattled against the brush Burrows's long-legged sorrel
struck out down the narrow stretch of open prairie to the southwest.

Tonia hung up her quirt and went into the sitting-room.

"I'm mighty sorry, daughter, that you didn't get your hat," said her
mother.

"Oh, don't worry, mother," said Tonia, coolly.  "I'll have a new hat,
all right, in time to-morrow."


When Burrows reached the end of the strip of prairie he pulled his
sorrel to the right and let him pick his way daintily across a sacuista
flat through which ran the ragged, dry bed of an arroyo. Then up a
gravelly hill, matted with bush, the hoarse scrambled, and at length
emerged, with a snort of satisfaction into a stretch of high, level
prairie, grassy and dotted with the lighter green of mesquites in their
fresh spring foliage.  Always to the right Burrows bore, until in a
little while he struck the old Indian trail that followed the Nueces
southward, and that passed, twenty-eight miles to the southeast,
through Lone Elm.

Here Burrows urged the sorrel into a steady lope.  As he settled
himself in the saddle for a long ride he heard the drumming of hoofs,
the hollow "thwack" of chaparral against wooden stirrups, the whoop of
a  Comanche; and Wells Pearson burst out of the brush at the right of
the trail like a precocious yellow chick from a dark green Easter egg.

Except in the presence of awing femininity melancholy found no place in
Pearson's bosom.  In Tonia's presence his voice was as soft as a summer
bullfrog's in his reedy nest.  Now, at his gleesome yawp, rabbits, a
mile away, ducked their ears, and sensitive plants closed their fearful
fronds.

"Moved your lambing camp pretty far from the ranch, haven't you,
neighbor?" asked Pearson, as Road Runner fell in at the sorrel's side.

"Twenty-eight miles," said Burrows, looking a little grim.  Pearson's
laugh woke an owl one hour too early in his water-elm on the river
bank, half a mile away.

"All right for you, sheepman.  I like an open game, myself.  We're two
locoed he-milliners hat-hunting in the wilderness.  I notify you. Burr,
to mind your corrals.  We've got an even start, and the one that gets
the headgear will stand some higher at the Espinosa."

"You've got a good pony," said Burrows, eyeing Road Runner's
barrel-like body and tapering legs that moved as regularly as the
pistonrod of an engine.  "It's a race, of course; but you're too much
of a horseman to whoop it up this soon.  Say we travel together till we
get to the home stretch."

"I'm your company," agreed Pearson, "and I admire your sense.  If
there's hats at Lone Elm, one of 'em shall set on Miss Tonia's brow
to-morrow, and you won't be at the crowning.  I ain't bragging, Burr,
but that sorrel of yours is weak in the fore-legs."

"My horse against yours," offered Burrows, "that Miss Tonia wears the
hat I take her to Cactus to-morrow."

"I'll take you up," shouted Pearson.  "But oh, it's just like
horse-stealing for me!  I can use that sorrel for a lady's animal
when--when somebody comes over to Mucho Calor, and--"

Burrows' dark face glowered so suddenly that the cowman broke off his
sentence.  But Pearson could never feel any pressure for long.

"What's all this Easter business about, Burr?" he asked, cheerfully.
"Why do the women folks have to have new hats by the almanac or bust
all cinches trying to get 'em?"

"It's a seasonable statute out of the testaments," explained Burrows.
"It's ordered by the Pope or somebody.  And it has something to do with
the Zodiac I don't know exactly, but I think it was invented by the
Egyptians."

"It's an all-right jubilee if the heathens did put their brand on it,"
said Pearson; "or else Tonia wouldn't have anything to do with it.  And
they pull it off at church, too.  Suppose there ain't but one hat in
the Lone Elm store, Burr!"

"Then," said Burrows, darkly, "the best man of us'll take it back to
the Espinosa."

"Oh, man!" cried Pearson, throwing his hat high and catching it again,
"there's nothing like you come off the sheep ranges before. You talk
good and collateral to the occasion.  And if there's more than one?"

"Then," said Burrows, "we'll pick our choice and one of us'll get back
first with his and the other won't."

"There never was two souls," proclaimed Pearson to the stars, "that
beat more like one heart than yourn and mine.  Me and you might be
riding on a unicorn and thinking out of the same piece of mind."

At a little past midnight the riders loped into Lone Elm. The half a
hundred houses of the big village were dark.  On its only street the
big wooden store stood barred and shuttered.

In a few moments the horses were fastened and Pearson was pounding
cheerfully on the door of old Sutton, the storekeeper.

The barrel of a Winchester came through a cranny of a solid window
shutter followed by a short inquiry.

"Wells Pearson, of the Mucho Calor, and Burrows, of Green Valley," was
the response.  "We want to buy some goods in the store.  Sorry to wake
you up but we must have 'em.  Come on out, Uncle Tommy, and get a move
on you."

Uncle Tommy was slow, but at length they got him behind his counter
with a kerosene lamp lit, and told him of their dire need.

"Easter hats?" said Uncle Tommy, sleepily.  "Why, yes, I believe I have
got just a couple left.  I only ordered a dozen this spring. I'll show
'em to you."

Now, Uncle Tommy Sutton was a merchant, half asleep or awake.  In dusty
pasteboard boxes under the counter he had two left-over spring hats.
But, alas! for his commercial probity on that early Saturday morn--they
were hats of two springs ago, and a woman's eye would have detected the
fraud at half a glance.  But to the unintelligent gaze of the
cowpuncher and the sheepman they seemed fresh from the mint of
contemporaneous April.

The hats were of a variety once known as "cart-wheels."  They were of
stiff straw, colored red, and flat brimmed.  Both were exactly alike,
and trimmed lavishly around their crowns with full blown, immaculate,
artificial white roses.

"That all you got, Uncle Tommy?" said Pearson.  "All right. Not much
choice here, Burr.  Take your pick."

"They're the latest styles" lied Uncle Tommy.  "You'd see 'em on Fifth
Avenue, if you was in New York."

Uncle Tommy wrapped and tied each hat in two yards of dark calico for a
protection.  One Pearson tied carefully to his calfskin saddle-thongs;
and the other became part of Road Runner's burden.  They shouted thanks
and farewells to Uncle Tommy, and cantered back into the night on the
home stretch.

The horsemen jockeyed with all their skill.  They rode more slowly on
their way back.  The few words they spoke were not unfriendly. Burrows
had a Winchester under his left leg slung over his saddle horn.
Pearson had a six shooter belted around him.  Thus men rode in the Frio
country.

At half-past seven in the morning they rode to the top of a hill and
saw the Espinosa Ranch, a white spot under a dark patch of live-oaks,
five miles away.

The sight roused Pearson from his drooping pose in the saddle. He knew
what Road Runner could do.  The sorrel was lathered, and stumbling
frequently; Road Runner was pegging away like a donkey engine.

Pearson turned toward the sheepman and laughed.  "Good-bye, Burr," he
cried, with a wave of his hand.  "It's a race now.  We're on the home
stretch."

He pressed Road Runner with his knees and leaned toward the Espinosa.
Road Runner struck into a gallop, with tossing head and snorting
nostrils, as if he were fresh from a month in pasture.

Pearson rode twenty yards and heard the unmistakable sound of a
Winchester lever throwing a cartridge into the barrel.  He dropped flat
along his horse's back before the crack of the rifle reached his ears.

It is possible that Burrows intended only to disable the horse--he was
a good enough shot to do that without endangering his rider. But as
Pearson stooped the ball went through his shoulder and then through
Road Runner's neck.  The horse fell and the cowman pitched over his
head into the hard road, and neither of them tried to move.

Burrows rode on without stopping.

In two hours Pearson opened his eyes and took inventory. He managed to
get to his feet and staggered back to where Road Runner was lying.

Road Runner was lying there, but he appeared to be comfortable. Pearson
examined him and found that the bullet had "creased" him. He had been
knocked out temporarily, but not seriously hurt.  But he was tired, and
he lay there on Miss Tonia's hat and ate leaves from a mesquite branch
that obligingly hung over the road.

Pearson made the horse get up.  The Easter hat, loosed from the
saddle-thongs, lay there in its calico wrappings, a shapeless thing
from its sojourn beneath the solid carcass of Road Runner.  Then
Pearson fainted and fell head long upon the poor hat again, crumpling
it under his wounded shoulders.

It is hard to kill a cowpuncher. In half an hour he revived--long
enough for a woman to have fainted twice and tried ice-cream for a
restorer. He got up carefully and found Road Runner who was busy with
the near-by grass. He tied the unfortunate hat to the saddle again, and
managed to get himself there, too, after many failures.

At noon a gay and fluttering company waited in front of the Espinosa
Ranch.  The Rogers girls were there in their new buckboard, and the
Anchor-O outfit and the Green Valley folks--mostly women.  And each and
every one wore her new Easter hat, even upon the lonely prairies, for
they greatly desired to shine forth and do honor to the coming festival.

At the gate stood Tonia, with undisguised tears upon her cheeks. In her
hand she held Burrow's Lone Elm hat, and it was at its white roses,
hated by her, that she wept.  For her friends were telling her, with
the ecstatic joy of true friends, that cart-wheels could not be worn,
being three seasons passed into oblivion.

"Put on your old hat and come, Tonia," they urged.

"For Easter Sunday?" she answered.  "I'll die first."  And wept again.

The hats of the fortunate ones were curved and twisted into the style
of spring's latest proclamation.

A strange being rode out of the brush among them, and there sat his
horse languidly.  He was stained and disfigured with the green of the
grass and the limestone of rocky roads.

"Hallo, Pearson," said Daddy Weaver.  "Look like you've been breaking a
mustang.  What's that you've got tied to your saddle--a pig in a poke?"

"Oh, come on, Tonia, if you're going," said Betty Rogers.  "We mustn't
wait any longer.  We've saved a seat in the buckboard for you.  Never
mind the hat.  That lovely muslin you've got on looks sweet enough with
any old hat."

Pearson was slowly untying the queer thing on his saddle.  Tonia looked
at him with a sudden hope.  Pearson was a man who created hope.  He got
the thing loose and handed it to her.  Her quick fingers tore at the
strings.

"Best I could do," said Pearson slowly.  "What Road Runner and me done
to it will be about all it needs."

"Oh, oh! it's just the right shape," shrieked Tonia.  "And red roses!
Wait till I try it on!"

She flew in to the glass, and out again, beaming, radiating, blossomed.

"Oh, don't red become her?" chanted the girls in recitative.  "Hurry
up, Tonia!"

Tonia stopped for a moment by the side of Road Runner.

"Thank you, thank you, Wells," she said, happily.  "It's just what I
wanted.  Won't you come over to Cactus to-morrow and go to church with
me?"

"If I can," said Pearson.  He was looking curiously at her hat, and
then he grinned weakly.

Tonia flew into the buckboard like a bird.  The vehicles sped away for
Cactus.

"What have you been doing, Pearson?" asked Daddy Weaver.  "You ain't
looking so well as common."

"Me?" said Pearson.  "I've been painting flowers.  Them roses was white
when I left Lone Elm.  Help me down, Daddy Weaver, for I haven't got
any more paint to spare."



ROUND THE CIRCLE

[This story is especially interesting as an early treatment (1902) of
the theme afterward developed with a surer hand in The Pendulum.]


"Find yo' shirt all right, Sam?" asked Mrs. Webber, from her chair
under the live-oak, where she was comfortably seated with a paper-back
volume for company.

"It balances perfeckly, Marthy," answered Sam, with a suspicious
pleasantness in his tone.  "At first I was about ter be a little
reckless and kick 'cause ther buttons was all off, but since I diskiver
that the button holes is all busted out, why, I wouldn't go so fur as
to say the buttons is any loss to speak of."

"Oh, well," said his wife, carelessly, "put on your necktie--that'll
keep it together."

Sam Webber's sheep ranch was situated in the loneliest part of the
country between the Nueces and the Frio.  The ranch house--a two-room
box structure--was on the rise of a gently swelling hill in the midst
of a wilderness of high chaparral.  In front of it was a small clearing
where stood the sheep pens, shearing shed, and wool house. Only a few
feet back of it began the thorny jungle.

Sam was going to ride over to the Chapman ranch to see about buying
some more improved merino rams.  At length he came out, ready for his
ride.  This being a business trip of some importance, and the Chapman
ranch being almost a small town in population and size, Sam had decided
to "dress up" accordingly.  The result was that he had transformed
himself from a graceful, picturesque frontiersman into something much
less pleasing to the sight.  The tight white collar awkwardly
constricted his muscular, mahogany-colored neck.  The buttonless shirt
bulged in stiff waves beneath his unbuttoned vest. The suit of
"ready-made" effectually concealed the fine lines of his straight,
athletic figure.  His berry-brown face was set to the melancholy
dignity befitting a prisoner of state.  He gave Randy, his
three-year-old son, a pat on the head, and hurried out to where Mexico,
his favorite saddle horse, was standing.

Marthy, leisurely rocking in her chair, fixed her place in the book
with her finger, and turned her head, smiling mischievously as she
noted the havoc Sam had wrought with his appearance in trying to "fix
up."

"Well, ef I must say it, Sam," she drawled, "you look jest like one of
them hayseeds in the picture papers, 'stead of a free and independent
sheepman of the State o' Texas."

Sam climbed awkwardly into the saddle.

"You're the one ought to be 'shamed to say so," he replied hotly.
"'Stead of 'tendin' to a man's clothes you're al'ays setting around
a-readin' them billy-by-dam yaller-back novils."

"Oh, shet up and ride along," said Mrs. Webber, with a little jerk at
the handles of her chair; "you always fussin' 'bout my readin'.  I do
a-plenty; and I'll read when I wanter.  I live in the bresh here like a
varmint, never seein' nor hearin' nothin', and what other 'musement kin
I have?  Not in listenin' to you talk, for it's complain, complain, one
day after another.  Oh, go on, Sam, and leave me in peace."

Sam gave his pony a squeeze with his knees and "shoved" down the wagon
trail that connected his ranch with the old, open Government road.  It
was eight o'clock, and already beginning to be very warm. He should
have started three hours earlier.  Chapman ranch was only eighteen
miles away, but there was a road for only three miles of the distance.
He had ridden over there once with one of the Half-Moon cowpunchers,
and he had the direction well-defined in his mind.

Sam turned off the old Government road at the split mesquite, and
struck down the arroyo of the Quintanilla.  Here was a narrow stretch
of smiling valley, upholstered with a rich mat of green, curly mesquite
grass; and Mexico consumed those few miles quickly with his long, easy
lope.  Again, upon reaching Wild Duck Waterhole, must he abandon
well-defined ways.  He turned now to his right up a little hill,
pebble-covered, upon which grew only the tenacious and thorny prickly
pear and chaparral.  At the summit of this he paused to take his last
general view of the landscape for, from now on, he must wind through
brakes and thickets of chaparral, pear, and mesquite, for the most part
seeing scarcely farther than twenty yards in any direction, choosing
his way by the prairie-dweller's instinct, guided only by an occasional
glimpse of a far distant hilltop, a peculiarly shaped knot of trees, or
the position of the sun.

Sam rode down the sloping hill and plunged into the great pear flat
that lies between the Quintanilla and the Piedra.

In about two hours he discovered that he was lost.  Then came the usual
confusion of mind and the hurry to get somewhere.  Mexico was anxious
to redeem the situation, twisting with alacrity along the tortuous
labyrinths of the jungle.  At the moment his master's sureness of the
route had failed his horse had divined the fact. There were no hills
now that they could climb to obtain a view of the country.  They came
upon a few, but so dense and interlaced was the brush that scarcely
could a rabbit penetrate the mass.  They were in the great, lonely
thicket of the Frio bottoms.

It was a mere nothing for a cattleman or a sheepman to be lost for a
day or a night.  The thing often happened.  It was merely a matter of
missing a meal or two and sleeping comfortably on your saddle blankets
on a soft mattress of mesquite grass.  But in Sam's case it was
different.  He had never been away from his ranch at night. Marthy was
afraid of the country--afraid of Mexicans, of snakes, of panthers, even
of sheep.  So he had never left her alone.

It must have been about four in the afternoon when Sam's conscience
awoke.  He was limp and drenched, rather from anxiety than the heat or
fatigue.  Until now he had been hoping to strike the trail that led to
the Frio crossing and the Chapman ranch.  He must have crossed it at
some dim part of it and ridden beyond.  If so he was now something like
fifty miles from home.  If he could strike a ranch--a camp--any place
where he could get a fresh horse and inquire the road, he would ride
all night to get back to Marthy and the kid.

So, I have hinted, Sam was seized by remorse.  There was a big lump in
his throat as he thought of the cross words he had spoken to his wife.
Surely it was hard enough for her to live in that horrible country
without having to bear the burden of his abuse.  He cursed himself
grimly, and felt a sudden flush of shame that over-glowed the summer
heat as he remembered the many times he had flouted and railed at her
because she had a liking for reading fiction.

"Ther only so'ce ov amusement ther po' gal's got," said Sam aloud, with
a sob, which unaccustomed sound caused Mexico to shy a bit. "A-livin'
with a sore-headed kiote like me--a low-down skunk that ought to be
licked to death with a saddle cinch--a-cookin' and a-washin' and
a-livin' on mutton and beans and me abusin' her fur takin' a squint or
two in a little book!"

He thought of Marthy as she had been when he first met her in
Dogtown--smart, pretty, and saucy--before the sun had turned the roses
in her cheeks brown and the silence of the chaparral had tamed her
ambitions.

"Ef I ever speaks another hard word to ther little gal," muttered Sam,
"or fails in the love and affection that's coming to her in the deal, I
hopes a wildcat'll t'ar me to pieces."

He knew what he would do.  He would write to Garcia & Jones, his San
Antonio merchants where he bought his supplies and sold his wool, and
have them send down a big box of novels and reading matter for Marthy.
Things were going to be different.  He wondered whether a little piano
could be placed in one of the rooms of the ranch house without the
family having to move out of doors.

In nowise calculated to allay his self-reproach was the thought that
Marthy and Randy would have to pass the night alone.  In spite of their
bickerings, when night came Marthy was wont to dismiss her fears of the
country, and rest her head upon Sam's strong arm with a sigh of
peaceful content and dependence.  And were her fears so groundless? Sam
thought of roving, marauding Mexicans, of stealthy cougars that
sometimes invaded the ranches, of rattlesnakes, centipedes, and a dozen
possible dangers.  Marthy would be frantic with fear.  Randy would cry,
and call for dada to come.

Still the interminable succession of stretches of brush, cactus, and
mesquite.  Hollow after hollow, slope after slope--all exactly
alike--all familiar by constant repetition, and yet all strange and
new. If he could only arrive _somewhere_.

The straight line is Art.  Nature moves in circles.  A straightforward
man is more an artificial product than a diplomatist is.  Men lost in
the snow travel in exact circles until they sink, exhausted, as their
footprints have attested.  Also, travellers in philosophy and other
mental processes frequently wind up at their starting-point.

It was when Sam Webber was fullest of contrition and good resolves that
Mexico, with a heavy sigh, subsided from his regular, brisk trot into a
slow complacent walk.  They were winding up an easy slope covered with
brush ten or twelve feet high.

"I say now, Mex," demurred Sam, "this here won't do.  I know you're
plumb tired out, but we got ter git along.  Oh, Lordy, ain't there no
mo' houses in the world!"  He gave Mexico a smart kick with his heels.

Mexico gave a protesting grunt as if to say:  "What's the use of that,
now we're so near?"  He quickened his gait into a languid trot.
Rounding a great clump of black chaparral he stopped short.  Sam
dropped the bridle reins and sat, looking into the back door of his own
house, not ten yards away.

Marthy, serene and comfortable, sat in her rocking-chair before the
door in the shade of the house, with her feet resting luxuriously upon
the steps.  Randy, who was playing with a pair of spurs on the ground,
looked up for a moment at his father and went on spinning the rowels
and singing a little song.  Marthy turned her head lazily against the
back of the chair and considered the arrivals with emotionless eyes.
She held a book in her lap with her finger holding the place.

Sam shook himself queerly, like a man coming out of a dream, and slowly
dismounted.  He moistened his dry lips.

"I see you are still a-settin'," he said, "a-readin' of them
billy-by-dam yaller-back novils."

Sam had traveled round the circle and was himself again.



THE RUBBER PLANT'S STORY

We rubber plants form the connecting link between the vegetable kingdom
and the decorations of a Waldorf-Astoria scene in a Third Avenue
theatre.  I haven't looked up our family tree, but I believe we were
raised by grafting a gum overshoe on to a 30-cent table d'hote stalk of
asparagus.  You take a white bulldog with a Bourke Cockran air of
independence about him and a rubber plant and there you have the fauna
and flora of a flat.  What the shamrock is to Ireland the rubber plant
is to the dweller in flats and furnished rooms.  We get moved from one
place to another so quickly that the only way we can get our picture
taken is with a kinetoscope.  We are the vagrant vine and the flitting
fig tree.  You know the proverb: "Where the rubber plant sits in the
window the moving van draws up to the door."

We are the city equivalent to the woodbine and the honeysuckle.  No
other vegetable except the Pittsburg stogie can withstand as much
handling as we can.  When the family to which we belong moves into a
flat they set us in the front window and we become lares and penates,
fly-paper and the peripatetic emblem of "Home Sweet Home." We aren't as
green as we look.  I guess we are about what you would call the
soubrettes of the conservatory.  You try sitting in the front window of
a $40 flat in Manhattan and looking out into the street all day, and
back into the flat at night, and see whether you get wise or not--hey?
Talk about the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden of
Eden--say! suppose there had been a rubber plant there when Eve--but I
was going to tell you a story.

The first thing I can remember I had only three leaves and belonged to
a member of the pony ballet.  I was kept in a sunny window, and was
generally watered with seltzer and lemon.  I had plenty of fun in those
days.  I got cross-eyed trying to watch the numbers of the automobiles
in the street and the dates on the labels inside at the same time.

Well, then the angel that was molting for the musical comedy lost his
last feather and the company broke up.  The ponies trotted away and I
was left in the window ownerless.  The janitor gave me to a refined
comedy team on the eighth floor, and in six weeks I had been set in the
window of five different flats I took on experience and put out two
more leaves.

Miss Carruthers, of the refined comedy team--did you ever see her cross
both feet back of her neck?--gave me to a friend of hers who had made
an unfortunate marriage with a man in a store.  Consequently I was
placed in the window of a furnished room, rent in advance, water two
flights up, gas extra after ten o'clock at night.  Two of my leaves
withered off here.  Also, I was moved from one room to another so many
times that I got to liking the odor of the pipes the expressmen smoked.

I don't think I ever had so dull a time as I did with this lady. There
was never anything amusing going on inside--she was devoted to her
husband, and, besides leaning out the window and flirting with the
iceman, she never did a thing toward breaking the monotony.

When the couple broke up they left me with the rest of their goods at a
second-hand store.  I was put out in front for sale along with the
jobbiest lot you ever heard of being lumped into one bargain.  Think of
this little cornucopia of wonders, all for $1.89:  Henry James's works,
six talking machine records, one pair of tennis shoes, two bottles of
horse radish, and a rubber plant--that was me!

One afternoon a girl came along and stopped to look at me.  She had
dark hair and eyes, and she looked slim, and sad around the mouth.

"Oh, oh!" she says to herself.  "I never thought to see one up here."

She pulls out a little purse about as thick as one of my leaves and
fingers over some small silver in it.  Old Koen, always on the lockout,
is ready, rubbing his hands.  This girl proceeds to turn down Mr. James
and the other commodities.  Rubber plants or nothing is the burden of
her song.  And at last Koen and she come together at 39 cents, and away
she goes with me in her arms.

She was a nice girl, but not my style.  Too quiet and sober looking.
Thinks I to myself:  "I'll just about land on the fire-escape of a
tenement, six stories up.  And I'll spend the next six months looking
at clothes on the line."

But she carried me to a nice little room only three flights up in quite
a decent street.  And she put me in the window, of course.  And then
she went to work and cooked dinner for herself.  And what do you
suppose she had?  Bread and tea and a little dab of jam!  Nothing else.
Not a single lobster, nor so much as one bottle of champagne. The
Carruthers comedy team had both every evening, except now and then when
they took a notion for pig's knuckle and kraut.

After she had finished her dinner my new owner came to the window and
leaned down close to my leaves and cried softly to herself for a while.
It made me feel funny.  I never knew anybody to cry that way over a
rubber plant before.  Of course, I've seen a few of 'em turn on the
tears for what they could get out of it, but she seemed to be crying
just for the pure enjoyment of it.  She touched my leaves like she
loved 'em, and she bent down her head and kissed each one of 'em. I
guess I'm about the toughest specimen of a peripatetic orchid on earth,
but I tell you it made me feel sort of queer.  Home never was like that
to me before.  Generally I used to get chewed by poodles and have
shirt-waists hung on me to dry, and get watered with coffee grounds and
peroxide of hydrogen.

This girl had a piano in the room, and she used to disturb it with both
hands while she made noises with her mouth for hours at a time. I
suppose she was practising vocal music.

One day she seemed very much excited and kept looking at the clock. At
eleven somebody knocked and she let in a stout, dark man with towsled
black hair.  He sat down at once at the piano and played while she sang
for him.  When she finished she laid one hand on her bosom and looked
at him.  He shook his head, and she leaned against the piano.  "Two
years already," she said, speaking slowly--"do you think in two
more--or even longer?"

The man shook his head again.  "You waste your time," he said, roughly
I thought.  "The voice is not there."  And then he looked at her in a
peculiar way.  "But the voice is not everything," he went on.  "You
have looks.  I can place you, as I told you if--"

The girl pointed to the door without saying anything, and the dark man
left the room.  And then she came over and cried around me again. It's
a good thing I had enough rubber in me to be water-proof.

About that time somebody else knocked at the door.  "Thank goodness," I
said to myself.  "Here's a chance to get the water-works turned off.  I
hope it's somebody that's game enough to stand a bird and a bottle to
liven things up a little."  Tell you the truth, this little girl made
me tired.  A rubber plant likes to see a little sport now and then.  I
don't suppose there's another green thing in New York that sees as much
of gay life unless it's the chartreuse or the sprigs of parsley around
the dish.

When the girl opens the door in steps a young chap in a traveling cap
and picks her up in his arms, and she sings out "Oh, Dick!" and stays
there long enough to--well, you've been a rubber plant too, sometimes,
I suppose.

"Good thing!" says I to myself.  "This is livelier than scales and
weeping.  Now there'll be something doing."

"You've got to go back with me," says the young man.  "I've come two
thousand miles for you.  Aren't you tired of it yet. Bess?  You've kept
all of us waiting so long.  Haven't you found out yet what is best?"

"The bubble burst only to-day," says the girl.  "Come here, Dick, and
see what I found the other day on the sidewalk for sale."  She brings
him by the hand and exhibits yours truly.  "How one ever got away up
here who can tell?  I bought it with almost the last money I had."

He looked at me, but he couldn't keep his eyes off her for more than a
second.  "Do you remember the night, Bess," he said, "when we stood
under one of those on the bank of the bayou and what you told me then?"

"Geewillikins!" I said to myself.  "Both of them stand under a rubber
plant!  Seems to me they are stretching matters somewhat!"

"Do I not," says she, looking up at him and sneaking close to his vest,
"and now I say it again, and it is to last forever.  Look, Dick, at its
leaves, how wet they are.  Those are my tears, and it was thinking of
you that made them fall."

"The dear old magnolias!" says the young man, pinching one of my
leaves.  "I love them all."

Magnolia!  Well, wouldn't that--say! those innocents thought I was a
magnolia!  What the--well, wasn't that tough on a genuine little old
New York rubber plant?



OUT OF NAZARETH

Okochee, in Georgia, had a boom, and J. Pinkney Bloom came out of it
with a "wad."  Okochee came out of it with a half-million-dollar debt,
a two and a half per cent. city property tax, and a city council that
showed a propensity for traveling the back streets of the town.  These
things came about through a fatal resemblance of the river Cooloosa to
the Hudson, as set forth and expounded by a Northern tourist.  Okochee
felt that New York should not be allowed to consider itself the only
alligator in the swamp, so to speak.  And then that harmless, but
persistent, individual so numerous in the South--the man who is always
clamoring for more cotton mills, and is ready to take a dollar's worth
of stock, provided he can borrow the dollar--that man added his deadly
work to the tourist's innocent praise, and Okochee fell.

The Cooloosa River winds through a range of small mountains, passes
Okochee and then blends its waters trippingly, as fall the mellifluous
Indian syllables, with the Chattahoochee.

Okochee rose, as it were, from its sunny seat on the post-office stoop,
hitched up its suspender, and threw a granite dam two hundred and forty
feet long and sixty feet high across the Cooloosa one mile above the
town.  Thereupon, a dimpling, sparkling lake backed up twenty miles
among the little mountains.  Thus in the great game of municipal
rivalry did Okochee match that famous drawing card, the Hudson.  It was
conceded that nowhere could the Palisades be judged superior in the way
of scenery and grandeur.  Following the picture card was played the ace
of commercial importance.  Fourteen thousand horsepower would this dam
furnish.  Cotton mills, factories, and manufacturing plants would rise
up as the green corn after a shower. The spindle and the flywheel and
turbine would sing the shrewd glory of Okochee.  Along the picturesque
heights above the lake would rise in beauty the costly villas and the
splendid summer residences of capital.  The naphtha launch of the
millionaire would spit among the romantic coves; the verdured hills
would take formal shapes of terrace, lawn, and park.  Money would be
spent like water in Okochee, and water would be turned into money.

The fate of the good town is quickly told.  Capital decided not to
invest.  Of all the great things promised, the scenery alone came to
fulfilment.  The wooded peaks, the impressive promontories of solemn
granite, the beautiful green slants of bank and ravine did all they
could to reconcile Okochee to the delinquency of miserly gold.  The
sunsets gilded the dreamy draws and coves with a minting that should
charm away heart-burning.  Okochee, true to the instinct of its blood
and clime, was lulled by the spell.  It climbed out of the arena,
loosed its suspender, sat down again on the post-office stoop, and took
a chew.  It consoled itself by drawling sarcasms at the city council
which was not to blame, causing the fathers, as has been said, to seek
back streets and figure perspiringly on the sinking fund and the
appropriation for interest due.

The youth of Okochee--they who were to carry into the rosy future the
burden of the debt--accepted failure with youth's uncalculating joy.
For, here was sport, aquatic and nautical, added to the meagre round of
life's pleasures.  In yachting caps and flowing neckties they pervaded
the lake to its limits.  Girls wore silk waists embroidered with
anchors in blue and pink.  The trousers of the young men widened at the
bottom, and their hands were proudly calloused by the oft-plied oar.
Fishermen were under the spell of a deep and tolerant joy.  Sailboats
and rowboats furrowed the lenient waves, popcorn and ice-cream booths
sprang up about the little wooden pier.  Two small excursion steamboats
were built, and plied the delectable waters. Okochee philosophically
gave up the hope of eating turtle soup with a gold spoon, and settled
back, not ill content, to its regular diet of lotus and fried hominy.
And out of this slow wreck of great expectations rose up J. Pinkney
Bloom with his "wad" and his prosperous, cheery smile.

Needless to say J. Pinkney was no product of Georgia soil.  He came out
of that flushed and capable region known as the "North."  He called
himself a "promoter"; his enemies had spoken of him as a "grafter";
Okochee took a middle course, and held him to be no better nor no worse
than a "Yank."

Far up the lake--eighteen miles above the town--the eye of this
cheerful camp-follower of booms had spied out a graft.  He purchased
there a precipitous tract of five hundred acres at forty-five cents per
acre; and this he laid out and subdivided as the city of Skyland--the
Queen City of the Switzerland of the South.  Streets and avenues were
surveyed; parks designed; corners of central squares reserved for the
"proposed" opera house, board of trade, lyceum, market, public schools,
and "Exposition Hall."  The price of lots ranged from five to five
hundred dollars.  Positively, no lot would be priced higher than five
hundred dollars.

While the boom was growing in Okochee, J. Pinkney's circulars, maps,
and prospectuses were flying through the mails to every part of the
country.  Investors sent in their money by post, and the Skyland Real
Estate Company (J. Pinkney Bloom) returned to each a deed, duly placed
on record, to the best lot, at the price, on hand that day. All this
time the catamount screeched upon the reserved lot of the Skyland Board
of Trade, the opossum swung by his tail over the site of the exposition
hall, and the owl hooted a melancholy recitative to his audience of
young squirrels in opera house square.  Later, when the money was
coming in fast, J. Pinkney caused to be erected in the coming city half
a dozen cheap box houses, and persuaded a contingent of indigent
natives to occupy them, thereby assuming the role of "population" in
subsequent prospectuses, which became, accordingly, more seductive and
remunerative.

So, when the dream faded and Okochee dropped back to digging bait and
nursing its two and a half per cent. tax, J. Pinkney Bloom (unloving of
checks and drafts and the cold interrogatories of bankers) strapped
about his fifty-two-inch waist a soft leather belt containing eight
thousand dollars in big bills, and said that all was very good.

One last trip he was making to Skyland before departing to other salad
fields.  Skyland was a regular post-office, and the steamboat, _Dixie
Belle_, under contract, delivered the mail bag (generally empty) twice
a week.  There was a little business there to be settled--the
postmaster was to be paid off for his light but lonely services, and
the "inhabitants" had to be furnished with another month's homely
rations, as per agreement.  And then Skyland would know J. Pinkney
Bloom no more.  The owners of these precipitous, barren, useless lots
might come and view the scene of their invested credulity, or they
might leave them to their fit tenants, the wild hog and the browsing
deer.  The work of the Skyland Real Estate Company was finished.

The little steamboat _Dixie Belle_ was about to shove off on her
regular up-the-lake trip, when a rickety hired carriage rattled up to
the pier, and a tall, elderly gentleman, in black, stepped out,
signaling courteously but vivaciously for the boat to wait.  Time was
of the least importance in the schedule of the _Dixie Belle_; Captain
MacFarland gave the order, and the boat received its ultimate two
passengers.  For, upon the arm of the tall, elderly gentleman, as he
crossed the gangway, was a little elderly lady, with a gray curl
depending quaintly forward of her left ear.

Captain MacFarland was at the wheel; therefore it seemed to J. Pinkney
Bloom, who was the only other passenger, that it should be his to play
the part of host to the boat's new guests, who were, doubtless, on a
scenery-viewing expedition.  He stepped forward, with that translucent,
child-candid smile upon his fresh, pink countenance, with that air of
unaffected sincerity that was redeemed from bluffness only by its
exquisite calculation, with that promptitude and masterly decision of
manner that so well suited his calling--with all his stock in trade
well to the front; he stepped forward to receive Colonel and Mrs.
Peyton Blaylock.  With the grace of a grand marshal or a wedding usher,
he escorted the two passengers to a side of the upper deck, from which
the scenery was supposed to present itself to the observer in increased
quantity and quality.  There, in comfortable steamer chairs, they sat
and began to piece together the random lines that were to form an
intelligent paragraph in the big history of little events.

"Our home, sir," said Colonel Blaylock, removing his wide-brimmed,
rather shapeless black felt hat, "is in Holly Springs--Holly Springs,
Georgia.  I am very proud to make your acquaintance, Mr. Bloom. Mrs.
Blaylock and myself have just arrived in Okochee this morning, sir, on
business--business of importance in connection with the recent rapid
march of progress in this section of our state."

The Colonel smoothed back, with a sweeping gesture, his long, smooth,
locks.  His dark eyes, still fiery under the heavy black brows, seemed
inappropriate to the face of a business man.  He looked rather to be an
old courtier handed down from the reign of Charles, and re-attired in a
modern suit of fine, but raveling and seam-worn, broadcloth.

"Yes, sir," said Mr. Bloom, in his heartiest prospectus voice, "things
have been whizzing around Okochee.  Biggest industrial revival and
waking up to natural resources Georgia ever had.  Did you happen to
squeeze in on the ground floor in any of the gilt-edged grafts,
Colonel?"

"Well, sir," said the Colonel, hesitating in courteous doubt, "if I
understand your question, I may say that I took the opportunity to make
an investment that I believe will prove quite advantageous--yes, sir, I
believe it will result in both pecuniary profit and agreeable
occupation."

"Colonel Blaylock," said the little elderly lady, shaking her gray curl
and smiling indulgent explanation at J. Pinkney Bloom, "is so devoted
to businesss.  He has such a talent for financiering and markets and
investments and those kind of things.  I think myself extremely
fortunate in having secured him for a partner on life's journey--I am
so unversed in those formidable but very useful branches of learning."

Colonel Blaylock rose and made a bow--a bow that belonged with silk
stockings and lace ruffles and velvet.

"Practical affairs," he said, with a wave of his hand toward the
promoter, "are, if I may use the comparison, the garden walks upon
which we tread through life, viewing upon either side of us the flowers
which brighten that journey.   It is my pleasure to be able to lay out
a walk or two.  Mrs. Blaylock, sir, is one of those fortunate higher
spirits whose mission it is to make the flowers grow. Perhaps, Mr.
Bloom, you have perused the lines of Lorella, the Southern poetess.
That is the name above which Mrs. Blaylock has contributed to the press
of the South for many years."

"Unfortunately," said Mr. Bloom, with a sense of the loss clearly
written upon his frank face, "I'm like the Colonel--in the walk-making
business myself--and I haven't had time to even take a sniff at the
flowers.  Poetry is a line I never dealt in.  It must be nice,
though--quite nice."

"It is the region," smiled Mrs. Blaylock, "in which my soul dwells. My
shawl, Peyton, if you please--the breeze comes a little chilly from yon
verdured hills."

The Colonel drew from the tail pocket of his coat a small shawl of
knitted silk and laid it solicitously about the shoulders of the lady.
Mrs. Blaylock sighed contentedly, and turned her expressive eyes--still
as clear and unworldly as a child's--upon the steep slopes that were
slowly slipping past.  Very fair and stately they looked in the clear
morning air.  They seemed to speak in familiar terms to the responsive
spirit of Lorella.  "My native hills!" she murmured, dreamily.  "See
how the foliage drinks the sunlight from the hollows and dells."

"Mrs. Blaylock's maiden days," said the Colonel, interpreting her mood
to J. Pinkney Bloom, "were spent among the mountains of northern
Georgia.  Mountain air and mountain scenery recall to her those days.
Holly Springs, where we have lived for twenty years, is low and flat. I
fear that she may have suffered in health and spirits by so long a
residence there.  That is one portent reason for the change we are
making.  My dear, can you not recall those lines you wrote--entitled, I
think, 'The Georgia Hills'--the poem that was so extensively copied by
the Southern press and praised so highly by the Atlanta critics?"

Mrs. Blaylock turned a glance of speaking tenderness upon the Colonel,
fingered for a moment the silvery curl that drooped upon her bosom,
then looked again toward the mountains.  Without preliminary or
affectation or demurral she began, in rather thrilling and more deeply
pitched tones to recite these lines:

  "The Georgia hills, the Georgia hills!--
    Oh, heart, why dost thou pine?
  Are not these sheltered lowlands fair
    With mead and bloom and vine?
  Ah! as the slow-paced river here
    Broods on its natal rills
  My spirit drifts, in longing sweet,
    Back to the Georgia hills.

  "And through the close-drawn, curtained night
    I steal on sleep's slow wings
  Back to my heart's ease--slopes of pine--
    Where end my wanderings.
  Oh, heaven seems nearer from their tops--
    And farther earthly ills--
  Even in dreams, if I may but
    Dream of my Georgia hills.

  The grass upon their orchard sides
    Is a fine couch to me;
  The common note of each small bird
    Passes all minstrelsy.
  It would not seem so dread a thing
    If, when the Reaper wills,
  He might come there and take my hand
    Up in the Georgia hills."


"That's great stuff, ma'am," said J. Pinkney Bloom, enthusiastically,
when the poetess had concluded.  "I wish I had looked up poetry more
than I have.  I was raised in the pine hills myself."

"The mountains ever call to their children," murmured Mrs. Blaylock. "I
feel that life will take on the rosy hue of hope again in among these
beautiful hills.  Peyton--a little taste of the currant wine, if you
will be so good.  The journey, though delightful in the extreme,
slightly fatigues me."  Colonel Blaylock again visited the depths of
his prolific coat, and produced a tightly corked, rough, black bottle.
Mr. Bloom was on his feet in an instant.

"Let me bring a glass, ma'am.  You come along, Colonel--there's a
little table we can bring, too.  Maybe we can scare up some fruit or a
cup of tea on board.  I'll ask Mac."

Mrs. Blaylock reclined at ease.  Few royal ladies have held their royal
prerogative with the serene grace of the petted Southern woman. The
Colonel, with an air as gallant and assiduous as in the days of his
courtship, and J. Pinkney Bloom, with a ponderous agility half
professional and half directed by some resurrected, unnamed,
long-forgotten sentiment, formed a diversified but attentive court.
The currant wine--wine home made from the Holly Springs fruit--went
round, and then J. Pinkney began to hear something of Holly Springs
life.

It seemed (from the conversation of the Blaylocks) that the Springs was
decadent.  A third of the population had moved away.  Business--and the
Colonel was an authority on business--had dwindled to nothing. After
carefully studying the field of opportunities open to capital he had
sold his little property there for eight hundred dollars and invested
it in one of the enterprises opened up by the book in Okochee.

"Might I inquire, sir," said Mr. Bloom, "in what particular line of
business you inserted your coin?  I know that town as well as I know
the regulations for illegal use of the mails.  I might give you a hunch
as to whether you can make the game go or not."

J. Pinkney, somehow, had a kindly feeling toward these unsophisticated
representatives of by-gone days.  They were so simple, impractical, and
unsuspecting.  He was glad that he happened not to have a gold brick or
a block of that western Bad Boy Silver Mine stock along with him.  He
would have disliked to unload on people he liked so well as he did
these; but there are some temptations toe enticing to be resisted.

"No, sir," said Colonel Blaylock, pausing to arrange the queen's wrap.
"I did not invest in Okochee.  I have made an exhaustive study of
business conditions, and I regard old settled towns as unfavorable
fields in which to place capital that is limited in amount.  Some
months ago, through the kindness of a friend, there came into my hands
a map and description of this new town of Skyland that has been built
upon the lake.  The description was so pleasing, the future of the town
set forth in such convincing arguments, and its increasing prosperity
portrayed in such an attractive style that I decided to take advantage
of the opportunity it offered.  I carefully selected a lot in the
centre of the business district, although its price was the highest in
the schedule--five hundred dollars--and made the purchase at once."

"Are you the man--I mean, did you pay five hundred dollars for a lot in
Skyland" asked J. Pinkney Bloom.

"I did, sir," answered the Colonel, with the air of a modest
millionaire explaining his success; "a lot most excellently situated on
the same square with the opera house, and only two squares from the
board of trade.  I consider the purchase a most fortuitous one. It is
my intention to erect a small building upon it at once, and open a
modest book and stationery store.  During past years I have met with
many pecuniary reverses, and I now find it necessary to engage in some
commercial occupation that will furnish me with a livelihood.  The book
and stationery business, though an humble one, seems to me not inapt
nor altogether uncongenial.  I am a graduate of the University of
Virginia; and Mrs. Blaylock's really wonderful acquaintance with
belles-lettres and poetic literature should go far toward insuring
success.  Of course, Mrs. Blaylock would not personally serve behind
the counter.  With the nearly three hundred dollars I have remaining I
can manage the building of a house, by giving a lien on the lot.  I
have an old friend in Atlanta who is a partner in a large book store,
and he has agreed to furnish me with a stock of goods on credit, on
extremely easy terms.  I am pleased to hope, sir, that Mrs. Blaylock's
health and happiness will be increased by the change of locality.
Already I fancy I can perceive the return of those roses that were once
the hope and despair of Georgia cavaliers."

Again followed that wonderful bow, as the Colonel lightly touched the
pale cheek of the poetess.  Mrs. Blaylock, blushing like a girl, shook
her curl and gave the Colonel an arch, reproving tap.  Secret of
eternal youth--where art thou?  Every second the answer comes--"Here,
here, here."  Listen to thine own heartbeats, O weary seeker after
external miracles.

"Those years," said Mrs. Blaylock, "in Holly Springs were long, long,
long.  But now is the promised land in sight.  Skyland!--a lovely name."

"Doubtless," said the Colonel, "we shall be able to secure comfortable
accommodations at some modest hotel at reasonable rates.  Our trunks
are in Okochee, to be forwarded when we shall have made permanent
arrangements."

J. Pinkney Bloom excused himself, went forward, and stood by the
captain at the wheel.

"Mac," said he, "do you remember my telling you once that I sold one of
those five-hundred-dollar lots in Skyland?"

"Seems I do," grinned Captain MacFarland.

"I'm not a coward, as a general rule," went on the promoter, "but I
always said that if I ever met the sucker that bought that lot I'd run
like a turkey.  Now, you see that old babe-in-the-wood over there?
Well, he's the boy that drew the prize.  That was the only
five-hundred-dollar lot that went.  The rest ranged from ten dollars to
two hundred.  His wife writes poetry.  She's invented one about the
high grounds of Georgia, that's way up in G.  They're going to Skyland
to open a book store."

"Well," said MacFarland, with another grin, "it's a good thing you are
along, J. P.; you can show 'em around town until they begin to feel at
home."

"He's got three hundred dollars left to build a house and store with,"
went on J. Pinkney, as if he were talking to himself.  "And he thinks
there's an open house up there."

Captain MacFarland released the wheel long enough to give his leg a
roguish slap.

"You old fat rascal!" he chuckled, with a wink.

"Mac, you're a fool," said J. Pinkney Bloom, coldly.  He went back and
joined the Blaylocks, where he sat, less talkative, with that straight
furrow between his brows that always stood as a signal of schemes being
shaped within.

"There's a good many swindles connected with these booms," he said
presently.  "What if this Skyland should turn out to be one--that is,
suppose business should be sort of dull there, and no special sale for
books?"

"My dear sir," said Colonel Blaylock, resting his hand upon the back of
his wife's chair, "three times I have been reduced to almost penury by
the duplicity of others, but I have not yet lost faith in humanity. If
I have been deceived again, still we may glean health and content, if
not worldly profit.  I am aware that there are dishonest schemers in
the world who set traps for the unwary, but even they are not
altogether bad.  My dear, can you recall those verses entitled 'He
Giveth the Increase,' that you composed for the choir of our church in
Holly Springs?"

"That was four years ago," said Mrs. Blaylock; "perhaps I can repeat a
verse or two.

  "The lily springs from the rotting mould;
    Pearls from the deep sea slime;
  Good will come out of Nazareth
    All in God's own time.

  "To the hardest heart the softening grace
    Cometh, at last, to bless;
  Guiding it right to help and cheer
    And succor in distress.

"I cannot remember the rest.  The lines were not ambitious.  They were
written to the music composed by a dear friend."

"It's a fine rhyme, just the same," declared Mr. Bloom.  "It seems to
ring the bell, all right.  I guess I gather the sense of it.  It means
that the rankest kind of a phony will give you the best end of it once
in a while."

Mr. Bloom strayed thoughtfully back to the captain, and stood
meditating.

"Ought to be in sight of the spires and gilded domes of Skyland now in
a few minutes," chirruped MacFarland, shaking with enjoyment.

"Go to the devil," said Mr. Bloom, still pensive.

And now, upon the left bank, they caught a glimpse of a white village,
high up on the hills, smothered among green trees.  That was Cold
Branch--no boom town, but the slow growth of many years.  Cold Branch
lay on the edge of the grape and corn lands.  The big country road ran
just back of the heights.  Cold Branch had nothing in common with the
frisky ambition of Okochee with its impertinent lake.

"Mac," said J. Pinkney suddenly, "I want you to stop at Cold Branch.
There's a landing there that they made to use sometimes when the river
was up."

"Can't," said the captain, grinning more broadly.  "I've got the United
States mails on board.  Right to-day this boat's in the government
service.  Do you want to have the poor old captain keelhauled by Uncle
Sam?  And the great city of Skyland, all disconsolate, waiting for its
mail?  I'm ashamed of your extravagance, J. P."

"Mac," almost whispered J. Pinkney, in his danger-line voice, "I looked
into the engine room of the _Dixie Belle_ a while ago.  Don't you know
of somebody that needs a new boiler?  Cement and black Japan can't hide
flaws from me.  And then, those shares of building and loan that you
traded for repairs--they were all yours, of course.  I hate to mention
these things, but--"

"Oh, come now, J. P.," said the captain.  "You know I was just fooling.
I'll put you off at Cold Branch, if you say so."

"The other passengers get off there, too," said Mr. Bloom.

Further conversation was held, and in ten minutes the _Dixie Belle_
turned her nose toward a little, cranky wooden pier on the left bank,
and the captain, relinquishing the wheel to a roustabout, came to the
passenger deck and made the remarkable announcement:  "All out for
Skyland."

The Blaylocks and J. Pinkney Bloom disembarked, and the _Dixie Belle_
proceeded on her way up the lake.  Guided by the indefatigable
promoter, they slowly climbed the steep hillside, pausing often to rest
and admire the view.  Finally they entered the village of Cold Branch.
Warmly both the Colonel and his wife praised it for its homelike and
peaceful beauty.  Mr. Bloom conducted them to a two-story building on a
shady street that bore the legend, "Pine-top Inn."  Here he took his
leave, receiving the cordial thanks of the two for his attentions, the
Colonel remarking that he thought they would spend the remainder of the
day in rest, and take a look at his purchase on the morrow.

J. Pinkney Bloom walked down Cold Branch's main street.  He did not
know this town, but he knew towns, and his feet did not falter.
Presently he saw a sign over a door:  "Frank E. Cooly, Attorney-at-Law
and Notary Public."  A young man was Mr. Cooly, and awaiting business.

"Get your hat, son," said Mr. Bloom, in his breezy way, "and a blank
deed, and come along.  It's a job for you."

"Now," he continued, when Mr. Cooly had responded with alacrity, "is
there a bookstore in town?"

"One," said the lawyer.  "Henry Williams's."

"Get there," said Mr. Bloom.  "We're going to buy it."

Henry Williams was behind his counter.  His store was a small one,
containing a mixture of books, stationery, and fancy rubbish. Adjoining
it was Henry's home--a decent cottage, vine-embowered and cosy.  Henry
was lank and soporific, and not inclined to rush his business.

"I want to buy your house and store," said Mr. Bloom.  "I haven't got
time to dicker--name your price."

"It's worth eight hundred," said Henry, too much dazed to ask more than
its value.

"Shut that door," said Mr. Bloom to the lawyer.  Then he tore off his
coat and vest, and began to unbutton his shirt.

"Wanter fight about it, do yer?" said Henry Williams, jumping up and
cracking his heels together twice.  "All right, hunky--sail in and cut
yer capers."

"Keep your clothes on," said Mr. Bloom.  "I'm only going down to the
bank."

He drew eight one-hundred-dollar bills from his money belt and planked
them down on the counter.  Mr. Cooly showed signs of future promise,
for he already had the deed spread out, and was reaching across the
counter for the ink bottle.  Never before or since was such quick
action had in Cold Branch.

"Your name, please?" asked the lawyer.

"Make it out to Peyton Blaylock," said Mr. Bloom.  "God knows how to
spell it."

Within thirty minutes Henry Williams was out of business, and Mr. Bloom
stood on the brick sidewalk with Mr. Cooly, who held in his hand the
signed and attested deed.

"You'll find the party at the Pinetop Inn," said J. Pinkney Bloom. "Get
it recorded, and take it down and give it to him.  He'll ask you a
hell's mint of questions; so here's ten dollars for the trouble you'll
have in not being able to answer 'em.  Never run much to poetry, did
you, young man?"

"Well," said the really talented Cooly, who even yet retained his right
mind, "now and then."

"Dig into it," said Mr. Bloom, "it'll pay you.  Never heard a poem,
now, that run something like this, did you?--

  A good thing out of Nazareth
    Comes up sometimes, I guess,
  On hand, all right, to help and cheer
    A sucker in distress."

"I believe not," said Mr. Cooly.

"It's a hymn," said J. Pinkney Bloom.  "Now, show me the way to a
livery stable, son, for I'm going to hit the dirt road back to Okochee."



CONFESSIONS OF A HUMORIST

There was a painless stage of incubation that lasted twenty-five years,
and then it broke out on me, and people said I was It.

But they called it humor instead of measles.

The employees in the store bought a silver inkstand for the senior
partner on his fiftieth birthday.  We crowded into his private office
to present it.  I had been selected for spokesman, and I made a little
speech that I had been preparing for a week.

It made a hit.  It was full of puns and epigrams and funny twists that
brought down the house--which was a very solid one in the wholesale
hardware line.  Old Marlowe himself actually grinned, and the employees
took their cue and roared.

My reputation as a humorist dates from half-past nine o'clock on that
morning.  For weeks afterward my fellow clerks fanned the flame of my
self-esteem.  One by one they came to me, saying what an awfully clever
speech that was, old man, and carefully explained to me the point of
each one of my jokes.

Gradually I found that I was expected to keep it up.  Others might
speak sanely on business matters and the day's topics, but from me
something gamesome and airy was required.

I was expected to crack jokes about the crockery and lighten up the
granite ware with persiflage.  I was second bookkeeper, and if I failed
to show up a balance sheet without something comic about the footings
or could find no cause for laughter in an invoice of plows, the other
clerks were disappointed.  By degrees my fame spread, and I became a
local "character."  Our town was small enough to make this possible.
The daily newspaper quoted me.  At social gatherings I was
indispensable.

I believe I did possess considerable wit and a facility for quick and
spontaneous repartee.  This gift I cultivated and improved by practice.
And the nature of it was kindly and genial, not running to sarcasm or
offending others.  People began to smile when they saw me coming, and
by the time we had met I generally had the word ready to broaden the
smile into a laugh.

I had married early.  We had a charming boy of three and a girl of
five.  Naturally, we lived in a vine-covered cottage, and were happy.
My salary as bookkeeper in the hardware concern kept at a distance
those ills attendant upon superfluous wealth.

At sundry times I had written out a few jokes and conceits that I
considered peculiarly happy, and had sent them to certain periodicals
that print such things.  All of them had been instantly accepted.
Several of the editors had written to request further contributions.

One day I received a letter from the editor of a famous weekly
publication.  He suggested that I submit to him a humorous composition
to fill a column of space; hinting that he would make it a regular
feature of each issue if the work proved satisfactory.  I did so, and
at the end of two weeks he offered to make a contract with me for a
year at a figure that was considerably higher than the amount paid me
by the hardware firm.

I was filled with delight.  My wife already crowned me in her mind with
the imperishable evergreens of literary success.  We had lobster
croquettes and a bottle of blackberry wine for supper that night. Here
was the chance to liberate myself from drudgery.  I talked over the
matter very seriously with Louisa.  We agreed that I must resign my
place at the store and devote myself to humor.

I resigned.  My fellow clerks gave me a farewell banquet.  The speech I
made there coruscated.  It was printed in full by the Gazette.  The
next morning I awoke and looked at the clock.

"Late, by George!" I exclaimed, and grabbed for my clothes.  Louisa
reminded me that I was no longer a slave to hardware and contractors'
supplies.  I was now a professional humorist.

After breakfast she proudly led me to the little room off the kitchen.
Dear girl!   There was my table and chair, writing pad, ink, and pipe
tray.  And all the author's trappings--the celery stand full of fresh
roses and honeysuckle, last year's calendar on the wall, the
dictionary, and a little bag of chocolates to nibble between
inspirations.  Dear girl!

I sat me to work.  The wall paper is patterned with arabesques or
odalisks or--perhaps--it is trapezoids.  Upon one of the figures I
fixed my eyes.  I bethought me of humor.

A voice startled me--Louisa's voice.

"If you aren't too busy, dear," it said, "come to dinner."

I looked at my watch.  Yes, five hours had been gathered in by the grim
scytheman.  I went to dinner.

"You mustn't work too hard at first," said Louisa.  "Goethe--or was it
Napoleon?--said five hours a day is enough for mental labor.  Couldn't
you take me and the children to the woods this afternoon?"

"I am a little tired," I admitted.  So we went to the woods.

But I soon got the swing of it.  Within a month I was turning out copy
as regular as shipments of hardware.

And I had success.  My column in the weekly made some stir, and I was
referred to in a gossipy way by the critics as something fresh in the
line of humorists.  I augmented my income considerably by contributing
to other publications.

I picked up the tricks of the trade.  I could take a funny idea and
make a two-line joke of it, earning a dollar.  With false whiskers on,
it would serve up cold as a quatrain, doubling its producing value.  By
turning the skirt and adding a ruffle of rhyme you would hardly
recognize it as _vers de societe_ with neatly shod feet and a
fashion-plate illustration.

I began to save up money, and we had new carpets, and a parlor organ.
My townspeople began to look upon me as a citizen of some consequence
instead of the merry trifler I had been when I clerked in the hardware
store.

After five or six months the spontaniety seemed to depart from my
humor.  Quips and droll sayings no longer fell carelessly from my lips.
I was sometimes hard run for material.  I found myself listening to
catch available ideas from the conversation of my friends.  Sometimes I
chewed my pencil and gazed at the wall paper for hours trying to build
up some gay little bubble of unstudied fun.

And then I became a harpy, a Moloch, a Jonah, a vampire, to my
acquaintances.  Anxious, haggard, greedy, I stood among them like a
veritable killjoy.  Let a bright saying, a witty comparison, a piquant
phrase fall from their lips and I was after it like a hound springing
upon a bone.  I dared not trust my memory; but, turning aside guiltily
and meanly, I would make a note of it in my ever-present memorandum
book or upon my cuff for my own future use.

My friends regarded me in sorrow and wonder. I was not the same man.
Where once I had furnished them entertainment and jollity, I now preyed
upon them.  No jests from me ever bid for their smiles now. They were
too precious.  I could not afford to dispense gratuitously the means of
my livelihood.

I was a lugubrious fox praising the singing of my friends, the crow's,
that they might drop from their beaks the morsels of wit that I coveted.

Nearly every one began to avoid me.  I even forgot how to smile, not
even paying that much for the sayings I appropriated.

No persons, places, times, or subjects were exempt from my plundering
in search of material.  Even in church my demoralized fancy went
hunting among the solemn aisles and pillars for spoil.

Did the minister give out the long-meter doxology, at once I began:
"Doxology--sockdology--sockdolager--meter--meet her."

The sermon ran through my mental sieve, its precepts filtering
unheeded, could I but glean a suggestion of a pun or a _bon mot_. The
solemnest anthems of the choir were but an accompaniment to my thoughts
as I conceived new changes to ring upon the ancient comicalities
concerning the jealousies of soprano, tenor, and basso.

My own home became a hunting ground.  My wife is a singularly feminine
creature, candid, sympathetic, and impulsive.  Once her conversation
was my delight, and her ideas a source of unfailing pleasure.  Now I
worked her.  She was a gold mine of those amusing but lovable
inconsistencies that distinguish the female mind.

I began to market those pearls of unwisdom and humor that should have
enriched only the sacred precincts of home.  With devilish cunning I
encouraged her to talk.  Unsuspecting, she laid her heart bare.  Upon
the cold, conspicuous, common, printed page I offered it to the public
gaze.

A literary Judas, I kissed her and betrayed her.  For pieces of silver
I dressed her sweet confidences in the pantalettes and frills of folly
and made them dance in the market place.

Dear Louisa!  Of nights I have bent over her cruel as a wolf above a
tender lamb, hearkening even to her soft words murmured in sleep,
hoping to catch an idea for my next day's grind.  There is worse to
come.

God help me!  Next my fangs were buried deep in the neck of the
fugitive sayings of my little children.

Guy and Viola were two bright fountains of childish, quaint thoughts
and speeches.  I found a ready sale for this kind of humor, and was
furnishing a regular department in a magazine with "Funny Fancies of
Childhood."  I began to stalk them as an Indian stalks the antelope. I
would hide behind sofas and doors, or crawl on my hands and knees among
the bushes in the yard to eavesdrop while they were at play. I had all
the qualities of a harpy except remorse.

Once, when I was barren of ideas, and my copy must leave in the next
mail, I covered myself in a pile of autumn leaves in the yard, where I
knew they intended to come to play.  I cannot bring myself to believe
that Guy was aware of my hiding place, but even if he was, I would be
loath to blame him for his setting fire to the leaves, causing the
destruction of my new suit of clothes, and nearly cremating a parent.

Soon my own children began to shun me as a pest.  Often, when I was
creeping upon them like a melancholy ghoul, I would hear them say to
each other:  "Here comes papa," and they would gather their toys and
scurry away to some safer hiding place.  Miserable wretch that I was!

And yet I was doing well financially.  Before the first year had passed
I had saved a thousand dollars, and we had lived in comfort.

But at what a cost!  I am not quite clear as to what a pariah is, but I
was everything that it sounds like.  I had no friends, no amusements,
no enjoyment of life.  The happiness of my family had been sacrificed.
I was a bee, sucking sordid honey from life's fairest flowers, dreaded
and shunned on account of my stingo.

One day a man spoke to me, with a pleasant and friendly smile. Not in
months had the thing happened.  I was passing the undertaking
establishment of Peter Heffelbower.  Peter stood in the door and
saluted me.  I stopped, strangely wrung in my heart by his greeting. He
asked me inside.

The day was chill and rainy.  We went into the back room, where a fire
burned, in a little stove.  A customer came, and Peter left me alone
for a while.  Presently I felt a new feeling stealing over me--a sense
of beautiful calm and content, I looked around the place. There were
rows of shining rosewood caskets, black palls, trestles, hearse plumes,
mourning streamers, and all the paraphernalia of the solemn trade.
Here was peace, order, silence, the abode of grave and dignified
reflections.  Here, on the brink of life, was a little niche pervaded
by the spirit of eternal rest.

When I entered it, the follies of the world abandoned me at the door. I
felt no inclination to wrest a humorous idea from those sombre and
stately trappings.  My mind seemed to stretch itself to grateful repose
upon a couch draped with gentle thoughts.

A quarter of an hour ago I was an abandoned humorist.  Now I was a
philosopher, full of serenity and ease.  I had found a refuge from
humor, from the hot chase of the shy quip, from the degrading pursuit
of the panting joke, from the restless reach after the nimble repartee.

I had not known Heffelbower well.  When he came back, I let him talk,
fearful that he might prove to be a jarring note in the sweet,
dirgelike harmony of his establishment.

But, no.  He chimed truly.  I gave a long sigh of happiness.  Never
have I known a man's talk to be as magnificently dull as Peter's was.
Compared with it the Dead Sea is a geyser.  Never a sparkle or a
glimmer of wit marred his words.  Commonplaces as trite and as
plentiful as blackberries flowed from his lips no more stirring in
quality than a last week's tape running from a ticker.  Quaking a
little, I tried upon him one of my best pointed jokes.  It fell back
ineffectual, with the point broken.  I loved that man from then on.

Two or three evenings each week I would steal down to Heffelbower's and
revel in his back room.  That was my only joy.  I began to rise early
and hurry through my work, that I might spend more time in my haven.
In no other place could I throw off my habit of extracting humorous
ideas from my surroundings.  Peter's talk left me no opening had I
besieged it ever so hard.

Under this influence I began to improve in spirits.  It was the
recreation from one's labor which every man needs.  I surprised one or
two of my former friends by throwing them a smile and a cheery word as
I passed them on the streets.  Several times I dumfounded my family by
relaxing long enough to make a jocose remark in their presence.

I had so long been ridden by the incubus of humor that I seized my
hours of holiday with a schoolboy's zest.

Mv work began to suffer.  It was not the pain and burden to me that it
had been.  I often whistled at my desk, and wrote with far more fluency
than before.  I accomplished my tasks impatiently, as anxious to be off
to my helpful retreat as a drunkard is to get to his tavern.

My wife had some anxious hours in conjecturing where I spent my
afternoons.  I thought it best not to tell her; women do not understand
these things.  Poor girl!--she had one shock out of it.

One day I brought home a silver coffin handle for a paper weight and a
fine, fluffy hearse plume to dust my papers with.

I loved to see them on my desk, and think of the beloved back room down
at Heffelbower's.  But Louisa found them, and she shrieked with horror.
I had to console her with some lame excuse for having them, but I saw
in her eyes that the prejudice was not removed.  I had to remove the
articles, though, at double-quick time.

One day Peter Heffelbower laid before me a temptation that swept me off
my feet.  In his sensible, uninspired way he showed me his books, and
explained that his profits and his business were increasing rapidly.
He had thought of taking in a partner with some cash.  He would rather
have me than any one he knew.  When I left his place that afternoon
Peter had my check for the thousand dollars I had in the bank, and I
was a partner in his undertaking business.

I went home with feelings of delirious joy, mingled with a certain
amount of doubt.  I was dreading to tell my wife about it.  But I
walked on air.  To give up the writing of humorous stuff, once more to
enjoy the apples of life, instead of squeezing them to a pulp for a few
drops of hard cider to make the pubic feel funny--what a boon that
would be!

At the supper table Louisa handed me some letters that had come during
my absence.  Several of them contained rejected manuscript.  Ever since
I first began going to Heffelbower's my stuff had been coming back with
alarming frequency.  Lately I had been dashing off my jokes and
articles with the greatest fluency.  Previously I had labored like a
bricklayer, slowly and with agony.

Presently I opened a letter from the editor of the weekly with which I
had a regular contract.  The checks for that weekly article were still
our main dependence.  The letter ran thus:


DEAR SIR:

As you are aware, our contract for the year expires with the present
month.  While regretting the necessity for so doing, we must say that
we do not care to renew same for the coming year.  We were quite
pleased with your style of humor, which seems to have delighted quite a
large proportion of our readers.  But for the past two months we have
noticed a decided falling off in its quality.  Your earlier work showed
a spontaneous, easy, natural flow of fun and wit.  Of late it is
labored, studied, and unconvincing, giving painful evidence of hard
toil and drudging mechanism.

Again regretting that we do not consider your contributions available
any longer, we are, yours sincerely,

THE EDITOR.


I handed this letter to my wife.  After she had read it her face grew
extremely long, and there were tears in her eyes.

"The mean old thing!" she exclaimed indignantly.  "I'm sure your pieces
are just as good as they ever were.  And it doesn't take you half as
long to write them as it did."  And then, I suppose, Louisa thought of
the checks that would cease coming.  "Oh, John," she wailed, "what will
you do now?"

For an answer I got up and began to do a polka step around the supper
table.  I am sure Louisa thought the trouble had driven me mad; and I
think the children hoped it had, for they tore after me, yelling with
glee and emulating my steps.  I was now something like their old
playmate as of yore.

"The theatre for us to-night!" I shouted; "nothing less.  And a late,
wild, disreputable supper for all of us at the Palace Restaurant.
Lumpty-diddle-de-dee-de-dum!"

And then I explained my glee by declaring that I was now a partner in a
prosperous undertaking establishment, and that written jokes might go
hide their heads in sackcloth and ashes for all me.

With the editor's letter in her hand to justify the deed I had done, my
wife could advance no objections save a few mild ones based on the
feminine inability to appreciate a good thing such as the little back
room of Peter Hef--no, of Heffelbower & Co's. undertaking establishment.

In conclusion, I will say that to-day you will find no man in our town
as well liked, as jovial, and full of merry sayings as I.  My jokes are
again noised about and quoted; once more I take pleasure in my wife's
confidential chatter without a mercenary thought, while Guy and Viola
play at my feet distributing gems of childish humor without fear of the
ghastly tormentor who used to dog their steps, notebook in hand.

Our business has prospered finely. I keep the books and look after the
shop, while Peter attends to outside matters.  He says that my levity
and high spirits would simply turn any funeral into a regular Irish
wake.



THE SPARROWS IN MADISON SQUARE

The young man in straitened circumstances who comes to New York City to
enter literature has but one thing to do, provided he has studied
carefully his field in advance.  He must go straight to Madison Square,
write an article about the sparrows there, and sell it to the _Sun_ for
$15.

I cannot recall either a novel or a story dealing with the popular
theme of the young writer from the provinces who comes to the
metropolis to win fame and fortune with his pen in which the hero does
not get his start that way.  It does seem strange that some author, in
casting about for startlingly original plots, has not hit upon the idea
of having his hero write about the bluebirds in Union Square and sell
it to the _Herald_.  But a search through the files of metropolitan
fiction counts up overwhelmingly for the sparrows and the old Garden
Square, and the _Sun_ always writes the check.

Of course it is easy to understand why this first city venture of the
budding author is always successful.  He is primed by necessity to a
superlative effort; mid the iron and stone and marble of the roaring
city he has found this spot of singing birds and green grass and trees;
every tender sentiment in his nature is baffling with the sweet pain of
homesickness; his genius is aroused as it never may be again; the birds
chirp, the tree branches sway, the noise of wheels is forgotten; he
writes with his soul in his pen--and he sells it to the _Sun_ for $15.

I had read of this custom during many years before I came to New York.
When my friends were using their strongest arguments to dissuade me
from coming, I only smiled serenely.  They did not know of that sparrow
graft I had up my sleeve.

When I arrived in New York, and the car took me straight from the ferry
up Twenty-third Street to Madison Square, I could hear that $15 check
rustling in my inside pocket.

I obtained lodging at an unhyphenated hostelry, and the next morning I
was on a bench in Madison Square almost by the time the sparrows were
awake.  Their melodious chirping, the benignant spring foliage of the
noble trees and the clean, fragrant grass reminded me so potently of
the old farm I had left that tears almost came into my eyes.

Then, all in a moment, I felt my inspiration.  The brave, piercing
notes of those cheerful small birds formed a keynote to a wonderful,
light, fanciful song of hope and joy and altruism.  Like myself, they
were creatures with hearts pitched to the tune of woods and fields; as
I was, so were they captives by circumstance in the discordant, dull
city--yet with how much grace and glee they bore the restraint!

And then the early morning people began to pass through the square to
their work--sullen people, with sidelong glances and glum faces,
hurrying, hurrying, hurrying.  And I got my theme cut out clear from
the bird notes, and wrought it into a lesson, and a poem, and a
carnival dance, and a lullaby; and then translated it all into prose
and began to write.

For two hours my pencil traveled over my pad with scarcely a rest. Then
I went to the little room I had rented for two days, and there I cut it
to half, and then mailed it, white-hot, to the _Sun_.

The next morning I was up by daylight and spent two cents of my capital
for a paper.  If the word "sparrow" was in it I was unable to find it.
I took it up to my room and spread it out on the bed and went over it,
column by column.  Something was wrong.

Three hours afterward the postman brought me a large envelope
containing my MS. and a piece of inexpensive paper, about 3 inches by
4--I suppose some of you have seen them--upon which was written in
violet ink, "With the _Sun's_ thanks."

I went over to the square and sat upon a bench.  No; I did not think it
necessary to eat any breakfast that morning.  The confounded pests of
sparrows were making the square hideous with their idiotic "cheep,
cheep."  I never saw birds so persistently noisy, impudent, and
disagreeable in all my life.

By this time, according to all traditions, I should have been standing
in the office of the editor of the _Sun_.  That personage--a tall,
grave, white-haired man--would strike a silver bell as he grasped my
hand and wiped a suspicious moisture from his glasses.

"Mr. McChesney," he would be saying when a subordinate appeared, "this
is Mr. Henry, the young man who sent in that exquisite gem about the
sparrows in Madison Square.  You may give him a desk at once.  Your
salary, sir, will be $80 a week, to begin with."

This was what I had been led to expect by all writers who have evolved
romances of literary New York.

Something was decidedly wrong with tradition.  I could not assume the
blame, so I fixed it upon the sparrows.  I began to hate them with
intensity and heat.

At that moment an individual wearing an excess of whiskers, two hats,
and a pestilential air slid into the seat beside me.

"Say, Willie," he muttered cajolingly, "could you cough up a dime out
of your coffers for a cup of coffee this morning?"

"I'm lung-weary, my friend," said I.  "The best I can do is three
cents."

"And you look like a gentleman, too," said he.  "What brung you
down?--boozer?"

"Birds," I said fiercely.  "The brown-throated songsters carolling
songs of hope and cheer to weary man toiling amid the city's dust and
din.  The little feathered couriers from the meadows and woods chirping
sweetly to us of blue skies and flowering fields.  The confounded
little squint-eyed nuisances yawping like a flock of steam pianos, and
stuffing themselves like aldermen with grass seeds and bugs, while a
man sits on a bench and goes without his breakfast. Yes, sir, birds!
look at them!"

As I spoke I picked up a dead tree branch that lay by the bench, and
hurled it with all my force into a close congregation of the sparrows
on the grass.  The flock flew to the trees with a babel of shrill
cries; but two of them remained prostrate upon the turf.

In a moment my unsavory friend had leaped over the row of benches and
secured the fluttering victims, which he thrust hurriedly into his
pockets.  Then he beckoned me with a dirty forefinger.

"Come on, cully," he said hoarsely.  "You're in on the feed."

Thank you very much!

Weakly I followed my dingy acquaintance.  He led me away from the park
down a side street and through a crack in a fence into a vacant lot
where some excavating had been going on.  Behind a pile of old stones
and lumber he paused, and took out his birds.

"I got matches," said he.  "You got any paper to start a fire with?"

I drew forth my manuscript story of the sparrows, and offered it for
burnt sacrifice.  There were old planks, splinters, and chips for our
fire.  My frowsy friend produced from some interior of his frayed
clothing half a loaf of bread, pepper, and salt.

In ten minutes each of us was holding a sparrow spitted upon a stick
over the leaping flames.

"Say," said my fellow bivouacker, "this ain't so bad when a fellow's
hungry.  It reminds me of when I struck New York first--about fifteen
years ago.  I come in from the West to see if I could get a job on a
newspaper.  I hit the Madison Square Park the first mornin' after, and
was sitting around on the benches.  I noticed the sparrows chirpin',
and the grass and trees so nice and green that I thought I was back in
the country again.  Then I got some papers out of my pocket, and--"

"I know," I interrupted.  "You sent it to the _Sun_ and got $15."

"Say," said my friend, suspiciously, "you seem to know a good deal.
Where was you?  I went to sleep on the bench there, in the sun, and
somebody touched me for every cent I had--$15."



HEARTS AND HANDS

At Denver there was an influx of passengers into the coaches on the
eastbound B. & M. express.  In one coach there sat a very pretty young
woman dressed in elegant taste and surrounded by all the luxurious
comforts of an experienced traveler.  Among the newcomers were two
young men, one of handsome presence with a bold, frank countenance and
manner; the other a ruffled, glum-faced person, heavily built and
roughly dressed.  The two were handcuffed together.

As they passed down the aisle of the coach the only vacant seat offered
was a reversed one facing the attractive young woman.  Here the linked
couple seated themselves.  The young woman's glance fell upon them with
a distant, swift disinterest; then with a lovely smile brightening her
countenance and a tender pink tingeing her rounded cheeks, she held out
a little gray-gloved hand.  When she spoke her voice, full, sweet, and
deliberate, proclaimed that its owner was accustomed to speak and be
heard.

"Well, Mr. Easton, if you _will_ make me speak first, I suppose I must.
Don't you ever recognize old friends when you meet them in the West?"

The younger man roused himself sharply at the sound of her voice,
seemed to struggle with a slight embarrassment which he threw off
instantly, and then clasped her fingers with his left hand.

"It's Miss Fairchild," he said, with a smile.  "I'll ask you to excuse
the other hand; it's otherwise engaged just at present."

He slightly raised his right hand, bound at the wrist by the shining
"bracelet" to the left one of his companion.  The glad look in the
girl's eyes slowly changed to a bewildered horror.  The glow faded from
her cheeks.  Her lips parted in a vague, relaxing distress. Easton,
with a little laugh, as if amused, was about to speak again when the
other forestalled him.  The glum-faced man had been watching the girl's
countenance with veiled glances from his keen, shrewd eyes.

"You'll excuse me for speaking, miss, but, I see you're acquainted with
the marshall here.  If you'll ask him to speak a word for me when we
get to the pen he'll do it, and it'll make things easier for me there.
He's taking me to Leavenworth prison.  It's seven years for
counterfeiting."

"Oh!" said the girl, with a deep breath and returning color.  "So that
is what you are doing out here?  A marshal!"

"My dear Miss Fairchild," said Easton, calmly, "I had to do something.
Money has a way of taking wings unto itself, and you know it takes
money to keep step with our crowd in Washington.  I saw this opening in
the West, and--well, a marshalship isn't quite as high a position as
that of ambassador, but--"

"The ambassador," said the girl, warmly, "doesn't call any more.  He
needn't ever have done so.  You ought to know that.  And so now you are
one of these dashing Western heroes, and you ride and shoot and go into
all kinds of dangers.  That's different from the Washington life. You
have been missed from the old crowd."

The girl's eyes, fascinated, went back, widening a little, to rest upon
the glittering handcuffs.

"Don't you worry about them, miss," said the other man.  "All marshals
handcuff themselves to their prisoners to keep them from getting away.
Mr. Easton knows his business."

"Will we see you again soon in Washington?" asked the girl.

"Not soon, I think," said Easton.  "My butterfly days are over, I fear."

"I love the West," said the girl irrelevantly.  Her eyes were shining
softly.  She looked away out the car window.  She began to speak truly
and simply without the gloss of style and manner: "Mamma and I spent
the summer in Denver.  She went home a week ago because father was
slightly ill.  I could live and be happy in the West.  I think the air
here agrees with me.  Money isn't everything. But people always
misunderstand things and remain stupid--"

"Say, Mr. Marshal," growled the glum-faced man.  "This isn't quite
fair.  I'm needing a drink, and haven't had a smoke all day.  Haven't
you talked long enough?  Take me in the smoker now, won't you?  I'm
half dead for a pipe."

The bound travelers rose to their feet, Easton with the same slow smile
on his face.

"I can't deny a petition for tobacco," he said, lightly.  "It's the one
friend of the unfortunate.  Good-bye, Miss Fairchild.  Duty calls, you
know."  He held out his hand for a farewell.

"It's too bad you are not going East," she said, reclothing herself
with manner and style.  "But you must go on to Leavenworth, I suppose?"

"Yes," said Easton, "I must go on to Leavenworth."

The two men sidled down the aisle into the smoker.

The two passengers in a seat near by had heard most of the
conversation.  Said one of them:  "That marshal's a good sort of chap.
Some of these Western fellows are all right."

"Pretty young to hold an office like that, isn't he?" asked the other.

"Young!" exclaimed the first speaker, "why--Oh! didn't you catch on?
Say--did you ever know an officer to handcuff a prisoner to his _right_
hand?"



THE CACTUS

The most notable thing about Time is that it is so purely relative. A
large amount of reminiscence is, by common consent, conceded to the
drowning man; and it is not past belief that one may review an entire
courtship while removing one's gloves.

That is what Trysdale was doing, standing by a table in his bachelor
apartments.  On the table stood a singular-looking green plant in a red
earthen jar.  The plant was one of the species of cacti, and was
provided with long, tentacular leaves that perpetually swayed with the
slightest breeze with a peculiar beckoning motion.

Trysdale's friend, the brother of the bride, stood at a sideboard
complaining at being allowed to drink alone.  Both men were in evening
dress.  White favors like stars upon their coats shone through the
gloom of the apartment.

As he slowly unbuttoned his gloves, there passed through Trysdale's
mind a swift, scarifying retrospect of the last few hours.  It seemed
that in his nostrils was still the scent of the flowers that had been
banked in odorous masses about the church, and in his ears the
lowpitched hum of a thousand well-bred voices, the rustle of crisp
garments, and, most insistently recurring, the drawling words of the
minister irrevocably binding her to another.

From this last hopeless point of view he still strove, as if it had
become a habit of his mind, to reach some conjecture as to why and how
he had lost her.  Shaken rudely by the uncompromising fact, he had
suddenly found himself confronted by a thing he had never before
faced--his own innermost, unmitigated, arid unbedecked self.   He saw
all the garbs of pretence and egoism that he had worn now turn to rags
of folly.  He shuddered at the thought that to others, before now, the
garments of his soul must have appeared sorry and threadbare. Vanity
and conceit?  These were the joints in his armor.  And how free from
either she had always been--But why--

As she had slowly moved up the aisle toward the altar he had felt an
unworthy, sullen exultation that had served to support him.  He had
told himself that her paleness was from thoughts of another than the
man to whom she was about to give herself.  But even that poor
consolation had been wrenched from him.  For, when he saw that swift,
limpid, upward look that she gave the man when he took her hand, he
knew himself to be forgotten.  Once that same look had been raised to
him, and he had gauged its meaning.  Indeed, his conceit had crumbled;
its last prop was gone.  Why had it ended thus?  There had been no
quarrel between them, nothing--

For the thousandth time he remarshalled in his mind the events of those
last few days before the tide had so suddenly turned.

She had always insisted upon placing him upon a pedestal, and he had
accepted her homage with royal grandeur.  It had been a very sweet
incense that she had burned before him; so modest (he told himself); so
childlike and worshipful, and (he would once have sworn) so sincere.
She had invested him with an almost supernatural number of high
attributes and excellencies and talents, and he had absorbed the
oblation as a desert drinks the rain that can coax from it no promise
of blossom or fruit.

As Trysdale grimly wrenched apart the seam of his last glove, the
crowning instance of his fatuous and tardily mourned egoism came
vividly back to him.  The scene was the night when he had asked her to
come up on his pedestal with him and share his greatness.  He could
not, now, for the pain of it, allow his mind to dwell upon the memory
of her convincing beauty that night--the careless wave of her hair, the
tenderness and virginal charm of her looks and words.  But they had
been enough, and they had brought him to speak.  During their
conversation she had said:

"And Captain Carruthers tells me that you speak the Spanish language
like a native.  Why have you hidden this accomplishment from me?  Is
there anything you do not know?"

Now, Carruthers was an idiot.  No doubt he (Trysdale) had been guilty
(he sometimes did such things) of airing at the club some old, canting
Castilian proverb dug from the hotchpotch at the back of dictionaries.
Carruthers, who was one of his incontinent admirers, was the very man
to have magnified this exhibition of doubtful erudition.

But, alas! the incense of her admiration had been so sweet and
flattering.  He allowed the imputation to pass without denial. Without
protest, he allowed her to twine about his brow this spurious bay of
Spanish scholarship.  He let it grace his conquering head, and, among
its soft convolutions, he did not feel the prick of the thorn that was
to pierce him later.

How glad, how shy, how tremulous she was!  How she fluttered like a
snared bird when he laid his mightiness at her feet!  He could have
sworn, and he could swear now, that unmistakable consent was in her
eyes, but, coyly, she would give him no direct answer.  "I will send
you my answer to-morrow," she said; and he, the indulgent, confident
victor, smilingly granted the delay.  The next day he waited,
impatient, in his rooms for the word.  At noon her groom came to the
door and left the strange cactus in the red earthen jar.  There was no
note, no message, merely a tag upon the plant bearing a barbarous
foreign or botanical name.  He waited until night, but her answer did
not come.  His large pride and hurt vanity kept him from seeking her.
Two evenings later they met at a dinner.  Their greetings were
conventional, but she looked at him, breathless, wondering, eager. He
was courteous, adamant, waiting her explanation.  With womanly
swiftness she took her cue from his manner, and turned to snow and ice.
Thus, and wider from this on, they had drifted apart.  Where was his
fault?  Who had been to blame?  Humbled now, he sought the answer amid
the ruins of his self-conceit.  If--

The voice of the other man in the room, querulously intruding upon his
thoughts, aroused him.

"I say, Trysdale, what the deuce is the matter with you?  You look
unhappy as if you yourself had been married instead of having acted
merely as an accomplice.  Look at me, another accessory, come two
thousand miles on a garlicky, cockroachy banana steamer all the way
from South America to connive at the sacrifice--please to observe how
lightly my guilt rests upon my shoulders.  Only little sister I had,
too, and now she's gone.  Come now! take something to ease your
conscience."

"I don't drink just now, thanks," said Trysdale.

"Your brandy," resumed the other, coming over and joining him, "is
abominable.  Run down to see me some time at Punta Redonda, and try
some of our stuff that old Garcia smuggles in.  It's worth the trip.
Hallo! here's an old acquaintance.  Wherever did you rake up this
cactus, Trysdale?"

"A present," said Trysdale, "from a friend.  Know the species?"

"Very well.  It's a tropical concern.  See hundreds of 'em around Punta
every day.  Here's the name on this tag tied to it.  Know any Spanish,
Trysdale?"

"No," said Trysdale, with the bitter wraith of a smile--"Is it Spanish?"

"Yes.  The natives imagine the leaves are reaching out and beckoning to
you.  They call it by this name--Ventomarme. Name means in English,
'Come and take me.'"



THE DETECTIVE DETECTOR

I was walking in Central Park with Avery Knight, the great New York
burglar, highwayman, and murderer.

"But, my dear Knight," said I, "it sounds incredible.  You have
undoubtedly performed some of the most wonderful feats in your
profession known to modern crime.  You have committed some marvellous
deeds under the very noses of the police--you have boldly entered the
homes of millionaires and held them up with an empty gun while you made
free with their silver and jewels; you have sandbagged citizens in the
glare of Broadway's electric lights; you have killed and robbed with
superb openness and absolute impunity--but when you boast that within
forty-eight hours after committing a murder you can run down and
actually bring me face to face with the detective assigned to apprehend
you, I must beg leave to express my doubts--remember, you are in New
York."

Avery Knight smiled indulgently.

"You pique my professional pride, doctor," he said in a nettled tone.
"I will convince you."

About twelve yards in advance of us a prosperous-looking citizen was
rounding a clump of bushes where the walk curved.  Knight suddenly drew
a revolver and shot the man in the back.  His victim fell and lay
without moving.

The great murderer went up to him leisurely and took from his clothes
his money, watch, and a valuable ring and cravat pin.  He then rejoined
me smiling calmly, and we continued our walk.

Ten steps and we met a policeman running toward the spot where the shot
had been fired.  Avery Knight stopped him.

"I have just killed a man," he announced, seriously, "and robbed him of
his possessions."

"G'wan," said the policeman, angrily, "or I'll run yez in!  Want yer
name in the papers, don't yez?  I never knew the cranks to come around
so quick after a shootin' before.  Out of th' park, now, for yours, or
I'll fan yez."

"What you have done," I said, argumentatively, as Knight and I walked
on, "was easy.  But when you come to the task of hunting down the
detective that they send upon your trail you will find that you have
undertaken a difficult feat."

"Perhaps so," said Knight, lightly.  "I will admit that my success
depends in a degree upon the sort of man they start after me.  If it
should be an ordinary plain-clothes man I might fail to gain a sight of
him.  If they honor me by giving the case to some one of their
celebrated sleuths I do not fear to match my cunning and powers of
induction against his."

On the next afternoon Knight entered my office with a satisfied look on
his keen countenance.

"How goes the mysterious murder?" I asked.

"As usual," said Knight, smilingly. "I have put in the morning at the
police station and at the inquest.  It seems that a card case of mine
containing cards with my name and address was found near the body. They
have three witnesses who saw the shooting and gave a description of me.
The case has been placed in the hands of Shamrock Jolnes, the famous
detective.  He left Headquarters at 11:30 on the assignment. I waited
at my address until two, thinking he might call there."

I laughed, tauntingly.

"You will never see Jolnes," I continued, "until this murder has been
forgotten, two or three weeks from now.  I had a better opinion of your
shrewdness, Knight.  During the three hours and a half that you waited
he has got out of your ken.  He is after you on true induction theories
now, and no wrongdoer has yet been known to come upon him while thus
engaged.  I advise you to give it up."

"Doctor," said Knight, with a sudden glint in his keen gray eye and a
squaring of his chin, "in spite of the record your city holds of
something like a dozen homicides without a subsequent meeting of the
perpetrator, and the sleuth in charge of the case, I will undertake to
break that record.  To-morrow I will take you to Shamrock Jolnes--I
will unmask him before you and prove to you that it is not an
impossibility for an officer of the law and a manslayer to stand face
to face in your city."

"Do it," said I, "and you'll have the sincere thanks of the Police
Department."

On the next day Knight called for me in a cab.

"I've been on one or two false scents, doctor," he admitted.  "I know
something of detectives' methods, and I followed out a few of them,
expecting to find Jolnes at the other end.  The pistol being a
.45-caliber, I thought surely I would find him at work on the clue in
Forty-fifth Street.  Then, again, I looked for the detective at the
Columbia University, as the man's being shot in the back naturally
suggested hazing.  But I could not find a trace of him."

"--Nor will you," I said, emphatically.

"Not by ordinary methods," said Knight.  "I might walk up and down
Broadway for a month without success.  But you have aroused my pride,
doctor; and if I fail to show you Shamrock Jolnes this day, I promise
you I will never kill or rob in your city again."

"Nonsense, man," I replied.  "When our burglars walk into our houses
and politely demand, thousands of dollars' worth of jewels, and then
dine and bang the piano an hour or two before leaving, how do you, a
mere murderer, expect to come in contact with the detective that is
looking for you?"

Avery Knight, sat lost in thought for a while.  At length he looked up
brightly.

"Doc," said he, "I have it.  Put on your hat, and come with me.  In
half an hour I guarantee that you shall stand in the presence of
Shamrock Jolnes."

I entered a cab with Avery Knight.  I did not hear his instructions to
the driver, but the vehicle set out at a smart pace up Broadway,
turning presently into Fifth Avenue, and proceeding northward again. It
was with a rapidly beating heart that I accompanied this wonderful and
gifted assassin, whose analytical genius and superb self-confidence had
prompted him to make me the tremendous promise of bringing me into the
presence of a murderer and the New York detective in pursuit of him
simultaneously.  Even yet I could not believe it possible.

"Are you sure that you are not being led into some trap?" I asked.
"Suppose that your clue, whatever it is, should bring us only into the
presence of the Commissioner of Police and a couple of dozen cops!"

"My dear doctor," said Knight, a little stiffly. "I would remind you
that I am no gambler."

"I beg your pardon," said I.  "But I do not think you will find Jolnes."

The cab stopped before one of the handsomest residences on the avenue.
Walking up and down in front of the house was a man with long red
whiskers, with a detective's badge showing on the lapel of his coat.
Now and then the man would remove his whiskers to wipe his face, and
then I would recognize at once the well-known features of the great New
York detective.  Jolnes was keeping a sharp watch upon the doors and
windows of the house.

"Well, doctor," said Knight, unable to repress a note of triumph in his
voice, "have you seen?"

"It is wonderful--wonderful!" I could not help exclaiming as our cab
started on its return trip.  "But how did you do it?  By what process
of induction--"

"My dear doctor," interrupted the great murderer, "the inductive theory
is what the detectives use.  My process is more modern.  I call it the
saltatorial theory.  Without bothering with the tedious mental
phenomena necessary to the solution of a mystery from slight clues, I
jump at once to a conclusion.  I will explain to you the method I
employed in this case.

"In the first place, I argued that as the crime was committed in New
York City in broad daylight, in a public place and under peculiarly
atrocious circumstances, and that as the most skilful sleuth available
was let loose upon the case, the perpetrator would never be discovered.
Do you not think my postulation justified by precedent?"

"Perhaps so," I replied, doggedly.  "But if Big Bill Dev--"

"Stop that," interrupted Knight, with a smile, "I've heard that several
times.  It's too late now.  I will proceed.

"If homicides in New York went undiscovered, I reasoned, although the
best detective talent was employed to ferret them out, it must be true
that the detectives went about their work in the wrong way. And not
only in the wrong way, but exactly opposite from the right way.  That
was my clue.

"I slew the man in Central Park.  Now, let me describe myself to you.

"I am tall, with a black beard, and I hate publicity.  I have no money
to speak of; I do not like oatmeal, and it is the one ambition of my
life to die rich.  I am of a cold and heartless disposition.  I do not
care for my fellowmen and I never give a cent to beggars or charity.

"Now, my dear doctor, that is the true description of myself, the man
whom that shrewd detective was to hunt down.  You who are familiar with
the history of crime in New York of late should be able to foretell the
result.  When I promised you to exhibit to your incredulous gaze the
sleuth who was set upon me, you laughed at me because you said that
detectives and murderers never met in New York. I have demonstrated to
you that the theory is possible."

"But how did you do it?" I asked again.

"It was very simple," replied the distinguished murderer.  "I assumed
that the detective would go exactly opposite to the clues he had.  I
have given you a description of myself.  Therefore, he must necessarily
set to work and trail a short man with a white beard who likes to be in
the papers, who is very wealthy, is fond 'of oatmeal, wants to die
poor, and is of an extremely generous and philanthropic disposition.
When thus far is reached the mind hesitates no longer.  I conveyed you
at once to the spot where Shamrock Jolnes was piping off Andrew
Carnegie's residence."

"Knight," said I, "you're a wonder.  If there was no danger of your
reforming, what a rounds man you'd make for the Nineteenth Precinct!"



THE DOG AND THE PLAYLET

[This story has been rewritten and published in "Strictly Business"
under the title, The Proof of the Pudding.]


Usually it is a cold day in July when you can stroll up Broadway in
that month and get a story out of the drama.  I found one a few
breathless, parboiling days ago, and it seems to decide a serious
question in art.

There was not a soul left in the city except Hollis and me--and two or
three million sunworshippers who remained at desks and counters. The
elect had fled to seashore, lake, and mountain, and had already begun
to draw for additional funds.  Every evening Hollis and I prowled about
the deserted town searching for coolness in empty cafes, dining-rooms,
and roofgardens.  We knew to the tenth part of a revolution the speed
of every electric fan in Gotham, and we followed the swiftest as they
varied.  Hollis's fiancee. Miss Loris Sherman, had been in the
Adirondacks, at Lower Saranac Lake, for a month.  In another week he
would join her party there.  In the meantime, he cursed the city
cheerfully and optimistically, and sought my society because I suffered
him to show me her photograph during the black coffee every time we
dined together.

My revenge was to read to him my one-act play.

It was one insufferable evening when the overplus of the day's heat was
being hurled quiveringly back to the heavens by every surcharged brick
and stone and inch of iron in the panting town.  But with the cunning
of the two-legged beasts we had found an oasis where the hoofs of
Apollo's steed had not been allowed to strike.  Our seats were on an
ocean of cool, polished oak; the white linen of fifty deserted tables
flapped like seagulls in the artificial breeze; a mile away a waiter
lingered for a heliographic signal--we might have roared songs there or
fought a duel without molestation.

Out came Miss Loris's photo with the coffee, and I once more praised
the elegant poise of the neck, the extremely low-coiled mass of heavy
hair, and the eyes that followed one, like those in an oil painting.

"She's the greatest ever," said Hollis, with enthusiasm.  "Good as
Great Northern Preferred, and a disposition built like a watch.  One
week more and I'll be happy Jonny-on-the-spot.  Old Tom Tolliver, my
best college chum, went up there two weeks ago.  He writes me that
Loris doesn't talk about anything but me.  Oh, I guess Rip Van Winkle
didn't have all the good luck!"

"Yes, yes," said I, hurriedly, pulling out my typewritten play. "She's
no doubt a charming girl.  Now, here's that little curtain-raiser you
promised to listen to."

"Ever been tried on the stage?" asked Hollis.

"Not exactly," I answered.  "I read half of it the other day to a
fellow whose brother knows Robert Edeson; but he had to catch a train
before I finished."

"Go on," said Hollis, sliding back in his chair like a good fellow.
"I'm no stage carpenter, but I'll tell you what I think of it from a
first-row balcony standpoint.  I'm a theatre bug during the season, and
I can size up a fake play almost as quick as the gallery can. Flag the
waiter once more, and then go ahead as hard as you like with it.  I'll
be the dog."

I read my little play lovingly, and, I fear, not without some
elocution.  There was one scene in it that I believed in greatly. The
comedy swiftly rises into thrilling and unexpectedly developed drama.
Capt. Marchmont suddenly becomes cognizant that his wife is an
unscrupulous adventuress, who has deceived him from the day of their
first meeting.  The rapid and mortal duel between them from that
moment--she with her magnificent lies and siren charm, winding about
him like a serpent, trying to recover her lost ground; he with his
man's agony and scorn and lost faith, trying to tear her from his
heart.  That scene I always thought was a crackerjack.  When Capt.
Marchmont discovers her duplicity by reading on a blotter in a mirror
the impression of a note that she has written to the Count, he raises
his hand to heaven and exclaims:  "O God, who created woman while Adam
slept, and gave her to him for a companion, take back Thy gift and
return instead the sleep, though it last forever!"

"Rot," said Hollis, rudely, when I had given those lines with proper
emphasis.

"I beg your pardon!" I said, as sweetly as I could.

"Come now," went on Hollis, "don't be an idiot.  You know very well
that nobody spouts any stuff like that these days.  That sketch went
along all right until you rang in the skyrockets.  Cut out that
right-arm exercise and the Adam and Eve stunt, and make your captain
talk as you or I or Bill Jones would."

"I'll admit," said I, earnestly (for my theory was being touched upon),
"that on all ordinary occasions all of us use commonplace language to
convey our thoughts.  You will remember that up to the moment when the
captain makes his terrible discovery all the characters on the stage
talk pretty much as they would, in real life. But I believe that I am
right in allowing him lines suitable to the strong and tragic situation
into which he falls."

"Tragic, my eye!" said my friend, irreverently.  "In Shakespeare's day
he might have sputtered out some high-cockalorum nonsense of that sort,
because in those days they ordered ham and eggs in blank verse and
discharged the cook with an epic.  But not for B'way in the summer of
1905!"

"It is my opinion," said I, "that great human emotions shake up our
vocabulary and leave the words best suited to express them on top.  A
sudden violent grief or loss or disappointment will bring expressions
out of an ordinary man as strong and solemn and dramatic as those used
in fiction or on the stage to portray those emotions."

"That's where you fellows are wrong," said Hollis.  "Plain, every-day
talk is what goes.  Your captain would very likely have kicked the cat,
lit a cigar, stirred up a highball, and telephoned for a lawyer,
instead of getting off those Robert Mantell pyrotechnics."

"Possibly, a little later," I continued.  "But just at the time--just
as the blow is delivered, if something Scriptural or theatrical and
deep-tongued isn't wrung from a man in spite of his modern and
practical way of speaking, then I'm wrong."

"Of course," said Hollis, kindly, "you've got to whoop her up some
degrees for the stage.  The audience expects it.  When the villain
kidnaps little Effie you have to make her mother claw some chunks out
of the atmosphere, and scream: "Me chee-ild, me chee-ild!"  What she
would actually do would be to call up the police by 'phone, ring for
some strong tea, and get the little darling's photo out, ready for the
reporters.  When you get your villain in a corner--a stage corner--it's
all right for him to clap his hand to his forehead and hiss: "All is
lost!"  Off the stage he would remark:  "This is a conspiracy against
me--I refer you to my lawyers.'"

"I get no consolation," said I, gloomily, "from your concession of an
accentuated stage treatment.  In my play I fondly hoped that I was
following life.  If people in real life meet great crises in a
commonplace way, they should do the same on the stage."

And then we drifted, like two trout, out of our cool pool in the great
hotel and began to nibble languidly at the gay flies in the swift
current of Broadway.  And our question of dramatic art was unsettled.

We nibbled at the flies, and avoided the hooks, as wise trout do; but
soon the weariness of Manhattan in summer overcame us.  Nine stories
up, facing the south, was Hollis's apartment, and we soon stepped into
an elevator bound for that cooler haven.

I was familiar in those quarters, and quickly my play was forgotten,
and I stood at a sideboard mixing things, with cracked ice and glasses
all about me.  A breeze from the bay came in the windows not altogether
blighted by the asphalt furnace over which it had passed. Hollis,
whistling softly, turned over a late-arrived letter or two on his
table, and drew around the coolest wicker armchairs.

I was just measuring the Vermouth carefully when I heard a sound. Some
man's voice groaned hoarsely:  "False, oh, God!--false, and Love is a
lie and friendship but the byword of devils!"

I looked around quickly.  Hollis lay across the table with his head
down upon his outstretched arms.  And then he looked up at me and
laughed in his ordinary manner.

I knew him--he was poking fun at me about my theory.  And it did seem
so unnatural, those swelling words during our quiet gossip, that I half
began to believe I had been mistaken--that my theory was wrong.

Hollis raised himself slowly from the table.

"You were right about that theatrical business, old man," he said,
quietly, as he tossed a note to me.

I read it.

Loris had run away with Tom Tolliver.



A LITTLE TALK ABOUT MOBS

"I see," remarked the tall gentleman in the frock coat and black slouch
hat, "that another street car motorman in your city has narrowly
excaped lynching at the hands of an infuriated mob by lighting a cigar
and walking a couple of blocks down the street."

"Do you think they would have lynched him?" asked the New Yorker, in
the next seat of the ferry station, who was also waiting for the boat.

"Not until after the election," said the tall man, cutting a corner off
his plug of tobacco.  "I've been in your city long enough to know
something about your mobs.  The motorman's mob is about the least
dangerous of them all, except the National Guard and the Dressmakers'
Convention.

"You see, when little Willie Goldstein is sent by his mother for pigs'
knuckles, with a nickel tightly grasped in his chubby fist, he always
crosses the street car track safely twenty feet ahead of the car; and
then suddenly turns back to ask his mother whether it was pale ale or a
spool of 80 white cotton that she wanted.  The motorman yells and
throws himself on the brakes like a football player.  There is a
horrible grinding and then a ripping sound, and a piercing shriek, and
Willie is sitting, with part of his trousers torn away by the fender,
screaming for his lost nickel.

"In ten seconds the car is surrounded by 600 infuriated citizens,
crying, 'Lynch the motorman!  Lynch the motorman!' at the top of their
voices.  Some of them run to the nearest cigar store to get a rope; but
they find the last one has just been cut up and labelled. Hundreds of
the excited mob press close to the cowering motorman, whose hand is
observed to tremble perceptibly as he transfers a stick of pepsin gum
from his pocket to his mouth.

"When the bloodthirsty mob of maddened citizens has closed in on the
motorman, some bringing camp stools and sitting quite close to him, and
all shouting, 'Lynch him!' Policeman Fogarty forces his way through
them to the side of their prospective victim.

"'Hello, Mike,' says the motorman in a low voice, 'nice day.  Shall I
sneak off a block or so, or would you like to rescue me?'

"'Well, Jerry, if you don't mind,' says the policeman, 'I'd like to
disperse the infuriated mob singlehanded.  I haven't defeated a
lynching mob since last Tuesday; and that was a small one of only 300,
that wanted to string up a Dago boy for selling wormy pears. It would
boost me some down at the station.'

"'All right, Mike,' says the motorman, 'anything to oblige.  I'll turn
pale and tremble.'

"And he does so; and Policeman Fogarty draws his club and says, 'G'wan
wid yez!' and in eight seconds the desperate mob has scattered and gone
about its business, except about a hundred who remain to search for
Willie's nickel."

"I never heard of a mob in our city doing violence to a motorman
because of an accident," said the New Yorker.

"You are not liable to," said the tall man.  "They know the motorman's
all right, and that he wouldn't even run over a stray dog if he could
help it.  And they know that not a man among 'em would tie the knot to
hang even a Thomas cat that had been tried and condemned and sentenced
according to law."

"Then why do they become infuriated and make threats of lynching?"
asked the New Yorker.

"To assure the motorman," answered the tall man, "that he is safe. If
they really wanted to do him up they would go into the houses and drop
bricks on him from the third-story windows."

"New Yorkers are not cowards," said the other man, a little stiffly.

"Not one at a time," agreed the tall man, promptly.  "You've got a fine
lot of single-handed scrappers in your town.  I'd rather fight three of
you than one; and I'd go up against all the Gas Trust's victims in a
bunch before I'd pass two citizens on a dark corner, with my watch
chain showing.  When you get rounded up in a bunch you lose your nerve.
Get you in crowds and you're easy.  Ask the 'L' road guards and George
B. Cortelyou and the tintype booths at Coney Island.  Divided you
stand, united you fall.  _E pluribus nihil_. Whenever one of your mobs
surrounds a man and begins to holler, 'Lynch him!' he says to himself,
"Oh, dear, I suppose I must look pale to please the boys, but I will,
forsooth, let my life insurance premium lapse to-morrow.  This is a
sure tip for me to play Methuselah straight across the board in the
next handicap.'

"I can imagine the tortured feelings of a prisoner in the hands of New
York policemen when an infuriated mob demands that he be turned over to
them for lynching.  'For God's sake, officers,' cries the distracted
wretch, 'have ye hearts of stone, that ye will not let them wrest me
from ye?'

"'Sorry, Jimmy,' says one of the policemen, 'but it won't do.  There's
three of us--me and Darrel and the plain-clothes man; and there's only
sivin thousand of the mob.  How'd we explain it at the office if they
took ye?  Jist chase the infuriated aggregation around the corner,
Darrel, and we'll be movin' along to the station.'"

"Some of our gatherings of excited citizens have not been so harmless,"
said the New Yorker, with a faint note of civic pride.

"I'll admit that," said the tall man.  "A cousin of mine who was on a
visit here once had an arm broken and lost an ear in one of them."

"That must have been during the Cooper Union riots," remarked the New
Yorker.

"Not the Cooper Union," explained the tall man--"but it was a union
riot--at the Vanastor wedding."

"You seem to be in favor of lynch law," said the New Yorker, severely.

"No, sir, I am not.  No intelligent man is.  But, sir, there are
certain cases when people rise in their just majesty and take a
righteous vengeance for crimes that the law is slow in punishing. I am
an advocate of law and order, but I will say to you that less than six
months ago I myself assisted at the lynching of one of that race that
is creating a wide chasm between your section of country and mine, sir."

"It is a deplorable condition," said the New Yorker, "that exists in
the South, but--"

"I am from Indiana, sir," said the tall man, taking another chew; "and
I don't think you will condemn my course when I tell you that the
colored man in question had stolen $9.60 in cash, sir, from my own
brother."



THE SNOW MAN

EDITORIAL NOTE.--_Before the fatal illness of William Sydney Porter
(known through his literary work as "O. Henry") this American master of
short-story writing had begun for Hampton's Magazine the story printed
below.  Illness crept upon him rapidly and he was compelled to give up
writing about at the point where the girl enters the story._

_When he realized that he could do no more (it was his lifelong habit
to write with a pencil, never dictating to a stenographer), O. Henry
told in detail the remainder of The Snow Man to Harris Merton Lyon,
whom he had often spoken of as one of the most effective short-story
writers of the present time.  Mr. Porter had delineated all of the
characters, leaving only the rounding out of the plot in the final
pages to Mr. Lyon._


Housed and windowpaned from it, the greatest wonder to little children
is the snow.  To men, it is something like a crucible in which their
world melts into a white star ten million miles away. The man who can
stand the test is a Snow Man; and this is his reading by Fahrenheit,
Reaumur, or Moses's carven tablets of stone.

Night had fluttered a sable pinion above the canyon of Big Lost River,
and I urged my horse toward the Bay Horse Ranch because the snow was
deepening.  The flakes were as large as an hour's circular tatting by
Miss Wilkins's ablest spinster, betokening a heavy snowfall and less
entertainment and more adventure than the completion of the tatting
could promise.  I knew Ross Curtis of the Bay Horse, and that I would
be welcome as a snow-bound pilgrim, both for hospitality's sake and
because Ross had few chances to confide in living creatures who did not
neigh, bellow, bleat, yelp, or howl during his discourse.

The ranch house was just within the jaws of the canyon where its
builder may have fatuously fancied that the timbered and rocky walls on
both sides would have protected it from the wintry Colorado winds; but
I feared the drift.  Even now through the endless, bottomless rift in
the hills--the speaking tube of the four winds--came roaring the voice
of the proprietor to the little room on the top floor.

At my "hello," a ranch hand came from an outer building and received my
thankful horse.  In another minute, Ross and I sat by a stove in the
dining-room of the four-room ranch house, while the big, simple welcome
of the household lay at my disposal.  Fanned by the whizzing norther,
the fine, dry snow was sifted and bolted through the cracks and
knotholes of the logs.  The cook room, without a separating door,
appended.

In there I could see a short, sturdy, leisurely and weather-beaten man
moving with professional sureness about his red-hot stove. His face was
stolid and unreadable--something like that of a great thinker, or of
one who had no thoughts to conceal.  I thought his eye seemed
unwarrantably superior to the elements and to the man, but quickly
attributed that to the characteristic self-importance of a petty chef.
"Camp cook" was the niche that I gave him in the Hall of Types; and he
fitted it as an apple fits a dumpling.

Cold it was in spite of the glowing stove; and Ross and I sat and
talked, shuddering frequently, half from nerves and half from the
freezing draughts.  So he brought the bottle and the cook brought
boiling water, and we made prodigious hot toddies against the attacks
of Boreas.  We clinked glasses often.  They sounded like icicles
dropping from the eaves, or like the tinkle of a thousand prisms on a
Louis XIV chandelier that I once heard at a boarder's dance in the
parlor of a ten-a-week boarding-house in Gramercy Square.  _Sic
transit_.

Silence in the terrible beauty of the snow and of the Sphinx and of the
stars; but they who believe that all things, from a without-wine table
d'hote to the crucifixion, may be interpreted through music, might have
found a nocturne or a symphony to express the isolation of that
blotted-out world.  The clink of glass and bottle, the aeolian chorus
of the wind in the house crannies, its deeper trombone through the
canyon below, and the Wagnerian crash of the cook's pots and pans,
united in a fit, discordant melody, I thought.  No less welcome an
accompaniment was the sizzling of broiling ham and venison cutlet
indorsed by the solvent fumes of true Java, bringing rich promises of
comfort to our yearning souls.

The cook brought the smoking supper to the table.  He nodded to me
democratically as he cast the heavy plates around as though he were
pitching quoits or hurling the discus.  I looked at him with some
appraisement and curiosity and much conciliation.  There was no prophet
to tell us when that drifting evil outside might cease to fall; and it
is well, when snow-bound, to stand somewhere within the radius of the
cook's favorable consideration.  But I could read neither favor nor
disapproval in the face and manner of our pot-wrestler.

He was about five feet nine inches, and two hundred pounds of
commonplace, bull-necked, pink-faced, callous calm.  He wore brown duck
trousers too tight and too short, and a blue flannel shirt with sleeves
rolled above his elbows.  There was a sort of grim, steady scowl on his
features that looked to me as though he had fixed it there purposely as
a protection against the weakness of an inherent amiability that, he
fancied, were better concealed.  And then I let supper usurp his brief
occupancy of my thoughts.

"Draw up, George," said Ross.  "Let's all eat while the grub's hot."

"You fellows go on and chew," answered the cook.  "I ate mine in the
kitchen before sun-down."

"Think it'll be a big snow, George?" asked the ranchman.

George had turned to reenter the cook room.  He moved slowly around
and, looking at his face, it seemed to me that he was turning over the
wisdom and knowledge of centuries in his head.

"It might," was his delayed reply.

At the door of the kitchen he stopped and looked back at us.  Both Ross
and I held our knives and forks poised and gave him our regard. Some
men have the power of drawing the attention of others without speaking
a word.  Their attitude is more effective than a shout.

"And again it mightn't," said George, and went back to his stove.

After we had eaten, he came in and gathered the emptied dishes.  He
stood for a moment, while his spurious frown deepened.

"It might stop any minute," he said, "or it might keep up for days."

At the farther end of the cook room I saw George pour hot water into
his dishpan, light his pipe, and put the tableware through its required
lavation.  He then carefully unwrapped from a piece of old saddle
blanket a paperback book, and settled himself to read by his dim oil
lamp.

And then the ranchman threw tobacco on the cleared table and set forth
again the bottles and glasses; and I saw that I stood in a deep channel
through which the long dammed flood of his discourse would soon be
booming.  But I was half content, comparing my fate with that of the
late Thomas Tucker, who had to sing for his supper, thus doubling the
burdens of both himself and his host.

"Snow is a hell of a thing," said Ross, by way of a foreword.  "It
ain't, somehow, it seems to me, salubrious.  I can stand water and mud
and two inches below zero and a hundred and ten in the shade and
medium-sized cyclones, but this here fuzzy white stuff naturally gets
me all locoed.  I reckon the reason it rattles you is because it
changes the look of things so much.  It's like you had a wife and left
her in the morning with the same old blue cotton wrapper on, and rides
in of a night and runs across her all outfitted in a white silk evening
frock, waving an ostrich-feather fan, and monkeying with a posy of lily
flowers.  Wouldn't it make you look for your pocket compass?  You'd be
liable to kiss her before you collected your presence of mind."

By and by, the flood of Ross's talk was drawn up into the clouds (so it
pleased me to fancy) and there condensed into the finer snowflakes of
thought; and we sat silent about the stove, as good friends and bitter
enemies will do.  I thought of Boss's preamble about the mysterious
influence upon man exerted by that ermine-lined monster that now
covered our little world, and knew he was right.

Of all the curious knickknacks, mysteries, puzzles, Indian gifts,
rat-traps, and well-disguised blessings that the gods chuck down to us
from the Olympian peaks, the most disquieting and evil-bringing is the
snow.  By scientific analysis it is absolute beauty and purity--so, at
the beginning we look doubtfully at chemistry.

It falls upon the world, and lo! we live in another.  It hides in a
night the old scars and familiar places with which we have grown
heart-sick or enamored.  So, as quietly as we can, we hustle on our
embroidered robes and hie us on Prince Camaralzaman's horse or in the
reindeer sleigh into the white country where the seven colors converge.
This is when our fancy can overcome the bane of it.

But in certain spots of the earth comes the snow-madness, made known by
people turned wild and distracted by the bewildering veil that has
obscured the only world they know.  In the cities, the white fairy who
sets the brains of her dupes whirling by a wave of her wand is cast for
the comedy role.  Her diamond shoe buckles glitter like frost; with a
pirouette she invites the spotless carnival.

But in the waste places the snow is sardonic.  Sponging out the world
of the outliers, it gives no foothold on another sphere in return. It
makes of the earth a firmament under foot; it leaves us clawing and
stumbling in space in an inimical fifth element whose evil outdoes its
strangeness and beauty, There Nature, low comedienne, plays her tricks
on man.  Though she has put him forth as her highest product, it
appears that she has fashioned him with what seems almost incredible
carelessness and indexterity.  One-sided and without balance, with his
two halves unequally fashioned and joined, must he ever jog his
eccentric way.  The snow falls, the darkness caps it, and the
ridiculous man-biped strays in accurate circles until he succumbs in
the ruins of his defective architecture.

In the throat of the thirsty the snow is vitriol.  In appearance as
plausible as the breakfast food of the angels, it is as hot in the
mouth as ginger, increasing the pangs of the water-famished.  It is a
derivative from water, air, and some cold, uncanny fire from which the
caloric has been extracted.  Good has been said of it; even the poets,
crazed by its spell and shivering in their attics under its touch, have
indited permanent melodies commemorative of its beauty.

Still, to the saddest overcoated optimist it is a plague--a corroding
plague that Pharaoh successfully side-stepped.  It beneficently covers
the wheat fields, swelling the crop--and the Flour Trust gets us by the
throat like a sudden quinsy.  It spreads the tail of its white kirtle
over the red seams of the rugged north--and the Alaskan short story is
born.  Etiolated perfidy, it shelters the mountain traveler burrowing
from the icy air--and, melting to-morrow, drowns his brother in the
valley below.

At its worst it is lock and key and crucible, and the wand of Circe.
When it corrals man in lonely ranches, mountain cabins, and forest
huts, the snow makes apes and tigers of the hardiest.  It turns the
bosoms of weaker ones to glass, their tongues to infants' rattles,
their hearts to lawlessness and spleen.  It is not all from the
isolation; the snow is not merely a blockader; it is a Chemical Test.
It is a good man who can show a reaction that is not chiefly composed
of a drachm or two of potash and magnesia, with traces of Adam,
Ananias, Nebuchadnezzar, and the fretful porcupine.

This is no story, you say; well, let it begin.

There was a knock at the door (is the opening not full of context and
reminiscence oh, best buyers of best sellers?).

We drew the latch, and in stumbled Etienne Girod (as he afterward named
himself).  But just then he was no more than a worm struggling for
life, enveloped in a killing white chrysalis.

We dug down through snow, overcoats, mufflers, and waterproofs, and
dragged forth a living thing with a Van Dyck beard and marvellous
diamond rings.  We put it through the approved curriculum of
snow-rubbing, hot milk, and teaspoonful doses of whiskey, working him
up to a graduating class entitled to a diploma of three fingers of rye
in half a glassful of hot water.  One of the ranch boys had already
come from the quarters at Ross's bugle-like yell and kicked the
stranger's staggering pony to some sheltered corral where beasts were
entertained.

Let a paragraphic biography of Girod intervene.

Etienne was an opera singer originally, we gathered; but adversity and
the snow had made him _non compos vocis_.  The adversity consisted of
the stranded San Salvador Opera Company, a period of hotel second-story
work, and then a career as a professional palmist, jumping from town to
town.  For, like other professional palmists, every time he worked the
Heart Line too strongly he immediately moved along the Line of Least
Resistance.  Though Etienne did not confide this to us, we surmised
that he had moved out into the dusk about twenty minutes ahead of a
constable, and had thus encountered the snow.  In his most sacred blue
language he dilated upon the subject of snow; for Etienne was
Paris-born and loved the snow with the same passion that an orchid does.

"Mee-ser-rhable!" commented Etienne, and took another three fingers.

"Complete, cast-iron, pussy-footed, blank... blank!" said Ross, and
followed suit.

"Rotten," said I.

The cook said nothing.  He stood in the door weighing our outburst; and
insistently from behind that frozen visage I got two messages (via the
M. A. M wireless).  One was that George considered our vituperation
against the snow childish; the other was that George did not love
Dagoes.  Inasmuch as Etienne was a Frenchman, I concluded I had the
message wrong.  So I queried the other: "Bright eyes, you don't really
mean Dagoes, do you?" and over the wireless came three deathly, psychic
taps:  "Yes."  Then I reflected that to George all foreigners were
probably "Dagoes."  I had once known another camp cook who had thought
Mons., Sig., and Millie (Trans-Mississippi for Mlle.) were Italian
given names; this cook used to marvel therefore at the paucity of
Neo-Roman precognomens, and therefore why not--

I have said that snow is a test of men.  For one day, two days, Etienne
stood at the window, Fletcherizing his finger nails and shrieking and
moaning at the monotony.  To me, Etienne was just about as unbearable
as the snow; and so, seeking relief, I went out on the second day to
look at my horse, slipped on a stone, broke my collarbone, and
thereafter underwent not the snow test, but the test of
flat-on-the-back.  A test that comes once too often for any man to
stand.

However, I bore up cheerfully.  I was now merely a spectator, and from
my couch in the big room I could lie and watch the human interplay with
that detached, impassive, impersonal feeling which French writers tell
us is so valuable to the litterateur, and American writers to the
faro-dealer.

"I shall go crazy in this abominable, mee-ser-rhable place!" was
Etienne's constant prediction.

"Never knew Mark Twain to bore me before," said Ross, over and over. He
sat by the other window, hour after hour, a box of Pittsburg stogies of
the length, strength, and odor of a Pittsburg graft scandal deposited
on one side of him, and "Roughing It," "The Jumping Frog," and "Life on
the Mississippi" on the other.  For every chapter he lit a new stogy,
puffing furiously.  This in time, gave him a recurrent premonition of
cramps, gastritis, smoker's colic or whatever it is they have in
Pittsburg after a too deep indulgence in graft scandals. To fend off
the colic, Ross resorted time and again to Old Doctor Still's
Amber-Colored U. S. A. Colic Cure.  Result, after forty-eight
hours--nerves.

"Positive fact I never knew Mark Twain to make me tired before.
Positive fact."  Ross slammed "Roughing It" on the floor.  "When you're
snowbound this-away you want tragedy, I guess.  Humor just seems to
bring out all your cussedness.  You read a man's poor, pitiful attempts
to be funny and it makes you so nervous you want to tear the book up,
get out your bandana, and have a good, long cry."

At the other end of the room, the Frenchman took his finger nails out
of his mouth long enough to exclaim:  "Humor!  Humor at such a time as
thees!  My God, I shall go crazy in thees abominable--"

"Supper," announced George.

These meals were not the meals of Rabelais who said, "the great God
makes the planets and we make the platters neat."  By that time, the
ranch-house meals were not affairs of gusto; they were mental
distraction, not bodily provender.  What they were to be later shall
never be forgotten by Ross or me or Etienne.

After supper, the stogies and finger nails began again.  My shoulder
ached wretchedly, and with half-closed eyes I tried to forget it by
watching the deft movements of the stolid cook.

Suddenly I saw him cock his ear, like a dog.  Then, with a swift step,
he moved to the door, threw it open, and stood there.

The rest of us had heard nothing.

"What is it, George?" asked Ross.

The cook reached out his hand into the darkness alongside the jamb.
With careful precision he prodded something.  Then he made one careful
step into the snow.  His back muscles bulged a little under the arms as
he stooped and lightly lifted a burden.  Another step inside the door,
which he shut methodically behind him, and he dumped the burden at a
safe distance from the fire.

He stood up and fixed us with a solemn eye.  None of us moved under
that Orphic suspense until,

"A woman," remarked George.


Miss Willie Adams was her name.  Vocation, school-teacher.  Present
avocation, getting  lost  in  the  snow.  Age, yum-yum (the Persian for
twenty).  Take to the woods if you would describe Miss Adams. A willow
for grace; a hickory for fibre; a birch for the clear whiteness of her
skin; for eyes, the blue sky seen through treetops; the silk in cocoons
for her hair; her voice, the murmur of the evening June wind in the
leaves; her mouth, the berries of the wintergreen; fingers as light as
ferns; her toe as small as a deer track.  General impression upon the
dazed beholder--you could not see the forest for the trees.

Psychology, with a capital P and the foot of a lynx, at this juncture
stalks into the ranch house.  Three men, a cook, a pretty young
woman--all snowbound.  Count me out of it, as I did not count, anyway.
I never did, with women.  Count the cook out, if you like.  But note
the effect upon Ross and Etienne Girod.

Ross dumped Mark Twain in a trunk and locked the trunk.  Also, he
discarded the Pittsburg scandals.  Also, he shaved off a three days'
beard.

Etienne, being French, began on the beard first.  He pomaded it, from a
little tube of grease Hongroise in his vest pocket.   He combed it with
a little aluminum comb from the same vest pocket. He trimmed it with
manicure scissors from the same vest pocket.  His light and Gallic
spirits underwent a sudden, miraculous change.  He hummed a blithe San
Salvador Opera Company tune; he grinned, smirked, bowed, pirouetted,
twiddled, twaddled, twisted, and tooralooed.  Gayly, the notorious
troubadour, could not have equalled Etienne.

Ross's method of advance was brusque, domineering.  "Little woman," he
said, "you're welcome here!"--and with what he thought subtle double
meaning--"welcome to stay here as long as you like, snow or no snow."

Miss Adams thanked him a little wildly, some of the wintergreen berries
creeping into the birch bark.  She looked around hurriedly as if
seeking escape.  But there was none, save the kitchen and the room
allotted her.  She made an excuse and disappeared into her own room.

Later I, feigning sleep, heard the following:

"Mees Adams, I was almost to perish-die-of monotony w'en your fair and
beautiful face appear in thees mee-ser-rhable house."  I opened my
starboard eye.  The beard was being curled furiously around a finger,
the Svengali eye was rolling, the chair was being hunched closer to the
school-teacher's.  "I am French--you see--temperamental--nervous! I
cannot endure thees dull hours in thees ranch house; but--a woman
comes!  Ah!"  The shoulders gave nine 'rahs and a tiger.  "What a
difference!  All is light and gay; ever'ting smile w'en you smile. You
have 'eart, beauty, grace.  My 'eart comes back to me w'en I feel your
'eart.  So!"  He laid his hand upon his vest pocket.  From this vantage
point he suddenly snatched at the  school-teacher's own hand, "Ah!
Mees Adams, if I could only tell you how I ad--"

"Dinner," remarked George.  He was standing just behind the Frenchman's
ear.  His eyes looked straight into the school-teacher's eyes.  After
thirty seconds of survey, his lips moved, deep in the flinty, frozen
maelstrom of his face:  "Dinner," he concluded, "will be ready in two
minutes."

Miss Adams jumped to her feet, relieved.  "I must get ready for
dinner," she said brightly, and went into her room.

Ross came in fifteen minutes late.  After the dishes had been cleaned
away, I waited until a propitious time when the room was temporarily
ours alone, and told him what had happened.

He became so excited that he lit a stogy without thinking.
"Yeller-hided, unwashed, palm-readin' skunk," he said under his breath.
"I'll shoot him full o' holes if he don't watch out--talkin' that way
to my wife!"

I gave a jump that set my collarbone back another week.  "Your wife!" I
gasped.

"Well, I mean to make her that," he announced.

The air in the ranch house the rest of that day was tense with pent-up
emotions, oh, best buyers of best sellers.

Ross watched Miss Adams as a hawk does a hen; he watched Etienne as a
hawk does a scarecrow, Etienne watched Miss Adams as a weasel does a
henhouse.  He paid no attention to Ross.

The condition of Miss Adams, in the role of sought-after, was feverish.
Lately escaped from the agony and long torture of the white cold, where
for hours Nature had kept the little school-teacher's vision locked in
and turned upon herself, nobody knows through what profound feminine
introspections she had gone.  Now, suddenly cast among men, instead of
finding relief and security, she beheld herself plunged anew into other
discomforts.  Even in her own room she could hear the loud voices of
her imposed suitors.  "I'll blow you full o' holes!" shouted Ross.
"Witnesses," shrieked Etienne, waving his hand at the cook and me.  She
could not have known the previous harassed condition of the men,
fretting under indoor conditions.  All she knew was, that where she had
expected the frank freemasonry of the West, she found the subtle tangle
of two men's minds, bent upon exacting whatever romance there might be
in her situation.

She tried to dodge Ross and the Frenchman by spells of nursing me. They
also came over to help nurse.  This combination aroused such a natural
state of invalid cussedness on my part that they were all forced to
retire.  Once she did manage to whisper:  "I am so worried here.  I
don't know what to do."

To which I replied, gently, hitching up my shoulder, that I was a
hunch-savant and that the Eighth House under this sign, the Moon being
in Virgo, showed that everything would turn out all right.

But twenty minutes later I saw Etienne reading her palm and felt that
perhaps I might have to recast her horoscope, and try for a dark man
coming with a bundle.

Toward sunset, Etienne left the house for a few moments and Ross, who
had been sitting taciturn and morose, having unlocked Mark Twain, made
another dash.  It was typical Ross talk.

He stood in front of her and looked down majestically at that cool and
perfect spot where Miss Adams' forehead met the neat part in her
fragrant hair.  First, however, he cast a desperate glance at me.  I
was in a profound slumber.

"Little woman," he began, "it's certainly tough for a man like me to
see you bothered this way.  You"--gulp--"you have been alone in this
world too long.  You need a protector.  I might say that at a time like
this you need a protector the worst kind--a protector who would take a
three-ring delight in smashing the saffron-colored kisser off of any
yeller-skinned skunk that made himself obnoxious to you.  Hem. Hem.  I
am a lonely man, Miss Adams.  I have so far had to carry on my life
without the"--gulp--"sweet radiance"--gulp--"of a woman around the
house.  I feel especially doggoned lonely at a time like this, when I
am pretty near locoed from havin' to stall indoors, and hence it was
with delight I welcomed your first appearance in this here shack.
Since then I have been packed jam full of more different kinds of
feelings, ornery, mean, dizzy, and superb, than has fallen my way in
years."

Miss Adams made a useless movement toward escape.  The Ross chin stuck
firm.  "I don't want to annoy you, Miss Adams, but, by heck, if it
comes to that you'll have to be annoyed.  And I'll have to have my say.
This palm-ticklin' slob of a Frenchman ought to be kicked off the place
and if you'll say the word, off he goes.  But I don't want to do the
wrong thing.  You've got to show a preference.  I'm gettin' around to
the point, Miss--Miss Willie, in my own brick fashion.  I've stood
about all I can stand these last two days and somethin's got to happen.
The suspense hereabouts is enough to hang a sheepherder. Miss
Willie"--he lassooed her hand by main force--"just say the word. You
need somebody to take your part all your life long.  Will you mar--"

"Supper," remarked George, tersely, from the kitchen door.

Miss Adams hurried away.

Ross turned angrily.  "You--"

"I have been revolving it in my head," said George.

He brought the coffee pot forward heavily. Then bravely the big platter
of pork and beans.  Then somberly the potatoes.  Then profoundly the
biscuits.  "I have been revolving it in my mind. There ain't no use
waitin' any longer for Swengalley.  Might as well eat now."

From my excellent vantage-point on the couch I watched the progress of
that meal.  Ross, muddled, glowering, disappointed; Etienne, eternally
blandishing, attentive, ogling; Miss Adams, nervous, picking at her
food, hesitant about answering questions, almost hysterical; now and
then the solid, flitting shadow of the cook, passing behind their backs
like a Dreadnaught in a fog.

I used to own a clock which gurgled in its throat three minutes before
it struck the hour.  I know, therefore, the slow freight of
Anticipation.  For I have awakened at three in the morning, heard the
clock gurgle, and waited those three minutes for the three strokes I
knew were to come.  _Alors_.  In Ross's ranch house that night the slow
freight of  Climax whistled in the distance.

Etienne began it after supper.  Miss Adams had suddenly displayed a
lively interest in the kitchen layout and I could see her in there,
chatting brightly at George--not with him--the while he ducked his head
and rattled his pans.

"My fren'," said Etienne, exhaling a large cloud from his cigarette and
patting Ross lightly on the shoulder with a bediamonded hand which,
hung limp from a yard or more of bony arm, "I see I mus' be frank with
you.  Firs', because we are rivals; second, because you take these
matters so serious. I--I am Frenchman.  I love the women"--he threw
back his curls, bared his yellow teeth, and blew an unsavory kiss
toward the kitchen.  "It is, I suppose, a trait of my nation.  All
Frenchmen love the women--pretty women.  Now, look: Here I am!"  He
spread out his arms.  "Cold outside!  I detes' the col-l-l!  Snow!  I
abominate the mees-ser-rhable snow!  Two men! This--" pointing to
me--"an' this!"  Pointing to' Ross.  "I am distracted!  For two whole
days I stan' at the window an' tear my 'air!  I am nervous, upset,
pr-r-ro-foun'ly distress inside my 'ead! An' suddenly--be'old!  A
woman, a nice, pretty, charming, innocen' young woman!  I, naturally,
rejoice.  I become myself again--gay, light-'earted, 'appy.  I address
myself to mademoiselle; it passes the time.  That, m'sieu', is wot the
women are for--pass the time! Entertainment--like the music, like the
wine!

"They appeal to the mood, the caprice, the temperamen'.  To play with
thees woman, follow her through her humor, pursue her--ah! that is the
mos' delightful way to sen' the hours about their business."

Ross banged the table.  "Shut up, you miserable yeller pup!" he roared.
"I object to your pursuin' anything or anybody in my house. Now, you
listen to me, you--"  He picked up the box of stogies and used it on
the table as an emphasizer.  The noise of it awoke the attention of the
girl in the kitchen.  Unheeded, she crept into the room.  "I don't know
anything about your French ways of lovemakin' an' I don't care.  In my
section of the country, it's the best man wins. And I'm the best man
here, and don't you forget it!  This girl's goin' to be mine.  There
ain't going to be any playing, or philandering, or palm reading about
it.  I've made up my mind I'll have this girl, and that settles it.  My
word is the law in this neck o' the woods. She's mine, and as soon as
she says she's mine, you pull out."  The box made one final, tremendous
punctuation point.

Etienne's bravado was unruffled.  "Ah! that is no way to win a woman,"
he smiled, easily.  "I make prophecy you will never win 'er that way.
No.  Not thees woman.  She mus' be played along an' then keessed, this
charming, delicious little creature.  One kees!  An' then you 'ave
her."  Again he displayed his unpleasant teeth.  "I make you a bet I
will kees her--"

As a cheerful chronicler of deeds done well, it joys me to relate that
the hand which fell upon Etienne's amorous lips was not his own. There
was one sudden sound, as of a mule kicking a lath fence, and
then--through the swinging doors of oblivion for Etienne.

I had seen this blow delivered.  It was an aloof, unstudied, almost
absent-minded affair.  I had thought the cook was rehearsing the proper
method of turning a flapjack.

Silently, lost in thought, he stood there scratching his head.  Then he
began rolling down his sleeves.

"You'd better get your things on, Miss, and we'll get out of here," he
decided.  "Wrap up warm."

I heard her heave a little sigh of relief as she went to get her cloak,
sweater, and hat.

Ross jumped to his feet, and said:  "George, what are you goin' to do?"

George, who had been headed in my direction, slowly swivelled around
and faced his employer.  "Bein' a camp cook, I ain't over-burdened with
hosses," George enlightened us.  "Therefore, I am going to try to
borrow this feller's here."

For the first time in four days my soul gave a genuine cheer.  "If it's
for Lochinvar purposes, go as far as you like," I said, grandly.

The cook studied me a moment, as if trying to find an insult in my
words.  "No," he replied.  "It's for mine and the young lady's
purposes, and we'll go only three miles--to Hicksville.  Now let me
tell you somethin', Ross." Suddenly I was confronted with the cook's
chunky back and I heard a low, curt, carrying voice shoot through the
room at my host.  George had wheeled just as Ross started to speak.
"You're nutty.  That's what's the matter with you.  You can't stand the
snow. You're getting nervouser, and nuttier every day.  That and this
Dago"--he jerked a thumb at the half-dead Frenchman in the corner--"has
got you to the point where I thought I better horn in. I got to
revolving it around in my mind and I seen if somethin' wasn't done, and
done soon, there'd be murder around here and maybe"--his head gave an
imperceptible list toward the girl's room--"worse."

He stopped, but he held up a stubby finger to keep any one else from
speaking.  Then he plowed slowly through the drift of his ideas. "About
this here woman.  I know you, Ross, and I know what you reely think
about women.  If she hadn't happened in here durin' this here snow,
you'd never have given two thoughts to the whole woman question.
Likewise, when the storm clears, and you and the boys go hustlin' out,
this here whole business 'll clear out of your head and you won't think
of a skirt again until Kingdom Come.  Just because o' this snow here,
don't forget you're living in the selfsame world you was in four days
ago.  And you're the same man, too.  Now, what's the use o' getting all
snarled up over four days of stickin' in the house?  That there's what
I been revolvin' in my mind and this here's the decision I've come to."

He plodded to the door and shouted to one of the ranch hands to saddle
my horse.

Ross lit a stogy and stood thoughtful in the middle of the room.  Then
he began:  "I've a durn good notion, George, to knock your confounded
head off and throw you into that snowbank, if--"

"You're wrong, mister.  That ain't a durned good notion you've got.
It's durned bad.  Look here!"  He pointed steadily out of doors until
we were both forced to follow his finger.  "You're in here for more'n a
week yet." After allowing this fact to sink in, he barked out at Ross:
"Can you cook?"  Then at me:  "Can you cook?"  Then he looked at the
wreck of Etienne and sniffed.

There was an embarrassing silence as Ross and I thought solemnly of a
foodless week.

"If you just use hoss sense," concluded George, "and don't go for to
hurt my feelin's, all I want to do is to take this young gal down to
Hicksville; and then I'll head back here and cook fer you."

The horse and Miss Adams arrived simultaneously, both of them very
serious and quiet.  The horse because he knew what he had before him in
that weather; the girl because of what she had left behind.

Then all at once I awoke to a realization of what the cook was doing.
"My God, man!" I cried, "aren't you afraid to go out in that snow?"

Behind my back I heard Ross mutter, "Not him."

George lifted the girl daintily up behind the saddle, drew on his
gloves, put his foot in the stirrup, and turned to inspect me leisurely.

As I passed slowly in his review, I saw in my mind's eye the algebraic
equation of Snow, the equals sign, and the answer in the man before me.

"Snow is my last name," said George.  He swung into the saddle and they
started cautiously out into the darkening swirl of fresh new currency
just issuing from the Snowdrop Mint.  The girl, to keep her place,
clung happily to the sturdy figure of the camp cook.

I brought three things away from Ross Curtis's ranch house--yes, four.
One was the appreciation of snow, which I have so humbly tried here to
render; (2) was a collarbone, of which I am extra careful; (3) was a
memory of what it is to eat very extremely bad food for a week; and (4)
was the cause of (3) a little note delivered at the end of the week and
hand-painted in blue pencil on a sheet of meat paper.

"I cannot come back there to that there job.  Mrs. Snow say no, George.
I been revolvin' it in my mind; considerin' circumstances she's right."





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