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Title: Short Sixes - Stories to be Read While the Candle Burns
Author: Bunner, H. C. (Henry Cuyler)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:

—Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.

—Bold text has been rendered as =bold text=



                            “SHORT SIXES.”

[Illustration: _LOUISE._]



                             “SHORT SIXES”

               STORIES TO BE READ WHILE THE CANDLE BURNS

                                  BY

                             H. C. BUNNER

            _Author of “Airs from Arcady” “The Midge” etc._

                            ILLUSTRATED BY

               C. JAY TAYLOR, F. OPPER AND S. B. GRIFFIN

                                 PUCK
                         KEPPLER & SCHWARZMANN
                               NEW YORK
                                 1891



              Copyright, 1890, by KEPPLER & SCHWARZMANN.

[Illustration: LOGO]



TO

A. L. B.



CONTENTS.


                                                                    PAGE

                  I. The Tenor                                         1
  _Illustrated by C. Jay Taylor._

                 II. Col. Brereton’s Aunty                            23
  _Illustrated by C. Jay Taylor._

                III. A Round–Up                                       39
  _Illustrated by C. Jay Taylor._

                 IV. The Two Churches of ’Quawket                     55
  _Illustrated by F. Opper._

                  V. The Love–Letters of Smith                        71
  _Illustrated by C. Jay Taylor._

                 VI. Zenobia’s Infidelity                             89
  _Illustrated by S. B. Griffin._

                VII. The Nine Cent–Girls                             111
  _Illustrated by S. B. Griffin._

               VIII. The Nice People                                 129
  _Illustrated by C. Jay Taylor._

                 IX. Mr. Copernicus and the Proletariat              147
  _Illustrated by C. Jay Taylor._

                  X. Hector                                          165
  _Illustrated by C. Jay Taylor._

                 XI. A Sisterly Scheme                               181
  _Illustrated by C. Jay Taylor._

                XII. Zozo                                            199
  _Illustrated by C. Jay Taylor._

               XIII. An Old, Old Story                               217
  _Illustrated by C. Jay Taylor._



THE TENOR.

[Illustration: _“‘I kill hare! give me my knife—give me my
rivvolvare!’”_]



THE TENOR.


It was a dim, quiet room in an old–fashioned New York house, with
windows opening upon a garden that was trim and attractive, even in its
Winter dress—for the rose–bushes were all bundled up in straw ulsters.
The room was ample, yet it had a cosy air. Its dark hangings suggested
comfort and luxury, with no hint of gloom. A hundred pretty trifles
told that it was a young girl’s room: in the deep alcove nestled her
dainty white bed, draped with creamy lace and ribbons.

[Illustration]

“I was _so_ afraid that I’d be late!”

The door opened, and two pretty girls came in, one in hat and furs,
the other in a modest house–dress. The girl in the furs, who had been
afraid that she would be late, was fair, with a bright color in her
cheeks, and an eager, intent look in her clear brown eyes. The other
girl was dark–eyed and dark–haired, dreamy, with a soft, warm, dusky
color in her face. They were two very pretty girls indeed—or, rather,
two girls about to be very pretty, for neither one was eighteen years
old. The dark girl glanced at a little porcelain clock.

“You are in time, dear,” she said, and helped her companion to take off
her wraps.

Then the two girls crossed the room, and with a caressing and almost
a reverent touch, the dark girl opened the doors of a little carven
cabinet that hung upon the wall, above a small table covered with a
delicate white cloth. In its depths, framed in a mat of odorous double
violets, stood the photograph of the face of a handsome man of forty—a
face crowned with clustering black locks, from beneath which a pair of
large, mournful eyes looked out with something like religious fervor in
their rapt gaze. It was the face of a foreigner.

[Illustration]

“O Esther!” cried the other girl, “how beautifully you have dressed him
to–day!”

“I wanted to get more,” Esther said; “but I’ve spent almost all my
allowance—and violets do cost so shockingly. Come, now—” with another
glance at the clock—“don’t let’s lose any more time, Louise dear.”

She brought a couple of tiny candles in Sèvres candlesticks, and two
little silver saucers, in which she lit fragrant pastilles. As the
pale gray smoke arose, floating in faint wreaths and spirals before
the enshrined photograph, Louise sat down and gazed intently upon
the little altar. Esther went to her piano and watched the clock. It
struck two. Her hands fell softly on the keys, and, studying a printed
programme in front of her, she began to play an overture. After the
overture she played one or two pieces of the regular concert stock.
Then she paused.

“I can’t play the Tschaikowski piece.”

“Never mind,” said the other. “Let us wait for him in silence.”

The hands of the clock pointed to 2:29. Each girl drew a quick breath,
and then the one at the piano began to sing softly, almost inaudibly,
“les Rameaux” in a transcription for tenor of Faure’s great song. When
it was ended, she played and sang the _encore_. Then, with her fingers
touching the keys so softly that they awakened only an echo–like sound,
she ran over the numbers that intervened between the first tenor solo
and the second. Then she sang again, as softly as before.

The fair–haired girl sat by the little table, gazing intently on
the picture. Her great eyes seemed to devour it, and yet there was
something absent–minded, speculative, in her steady look. She did not
speak until Esther played the last number on the programme.

“He had three encores for that last Saturday,” she said, and Esther
played the three encores.

Then they closed the piano and the little cabinet, and exchanged an
innocent girlish kiss, and Louise went out, and found her father’s
coupé waiting for her, and was driven away to her great, gloomy,
brown–stone home near Central Park.

Louise Laura Latimer and Esther Van Guilder were the only children
of two families which, though they were possessed of the three “Rs”
which are all and more than are needed to insure admission to New York
society—Riches, Respectability and Religion—yet were not in Society;
or, at least, in the society that calls itself Society. This was not
because Society was not willing to have them. It was because they
thought the world too worldly. Perhaps this was one reason—although
the social horizon of the two families had expanded somewhat as the
girls grew up—why Louise and Esther, who had been playmates from their
nursery days, and had grown up to be two uncommonly sentimental,
fanciful, enthusiastically morbid girls, were to be found spending a
bright Winter afternoon holding a ceremonial service of worship before
the photograph of a fashionable French tenor.

It happened to be a French tenor whom they were worshiping. It might as
well have been anybody or any thing else. They were both at that period
of girlish growth when the young female bosom is torn by a hysterical
craving to worship something—any thing. They had been studying music,
and they had selected the tenor who was the sensation of the hour in
New York for their idol. They had heard him only on the concert stage;
they were never likely to see him nearer. But it was a mere matter of
chance that the idol was not a Boston Transcendentalist, a Popular
Preacher, a Faith–Cure Healer, or a ringleted old maid with advanced
ideas of Woman’s Mission. The ceremonies might have been different in
form: the worship would have been the same.

M. Hyppolite Rémy was certainly the musical hero of the hour. When
his advance notices first appeared, the New York critics, who are a
singularly unconfiding, incredulous lot, were inclined to discount his
European reputation.

When they learned that M. Rémy was not only a great artist, but a man
whose character was “wholly free from that deplorable laxity which is
so often a blot on the proud escutcheon of his noble profession;” that
he had married an American lady; that he had “embraced the Protestant
religion”—no sect was specified, possibly to avoid jealousy—and that
his health was delicate, they were moved to suspect that he might have
to ask that allowances be made for his singing. But when he arrived,
his triumph was complete. He was as handsome as his pictures, if he
_was_ a trifle short, a shade too stout.

He was a singer of genius, too; with a splendid voice and a sound
method—on the whole. It was before the days of the Wagner autocracy,
and perhaps his tremolo passed unchallenged as it could not now; but he
was a great artist. He knew his business as well as his advance–agent
knew his. The Rémy Concerts were a splendid success. Reserved seats,
$5. For the Series of Six, $25.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the following Monday, Esther Van Guilder returned her friend’s
call, in response to an urgent invitation, despatched by mail.
Louise Latimer’s great bare room was incapable of transmutation into
a cosy nest of a boudoir. There was too much of its heavy raw silk
furniture—too much of its vast, sarcophagus–like bed—too much of its
upholsterer’s elegance, regardless of cost—and taste. An enlargement
from an ambrotype of the original Latimer, as he arrived in New York
from New Hampshire, and a photograph of a “child subject” by Millais,
were all her works of art. It was not to be doubted that they had
climbed upstairs from a front parlor of an earlier stage of social
development. The farm–house was six generations behind Esther; two
behind Louise.

Esther found her friend in a state of almost feverish excitement. Her
eyes shone; the color burned high on her clear cheeks.

“You never would guess what I’ve done, dear!” she began, as soon as
they were alone in the big room. “I’m going to see _him_—to speak to
him—_Esther_!” Her voice was solemnly hushed, “to _serve_ him!”

“Oh, Louise! what _do_ you mean?”

“To serve him—with my own hands! To—to—help him on with his coat—I
don’t know—to do something that a servant does—any thing, so that I can
say that once, once only, just for an hour, I have been near him, been
of use to him, served him in one little thing, as loyally as he serves
OUR ART.”

[Illustration]

Music was THEIR art, and no capitals could tell how much it was theirs
or how much of an art it was.

“Louise,” demanded Esther, with a frightened look, “are you crazy?”

“No. Read this!” She handed the other girl a clipping from the
advertising columns of a newspaper.

[Illustration:
    CHAMBERMAID AND WAITRESS.—WANTED, A NEAT
    and willing girl, for light work. Apply to Mme. Rémy, The
    Midlothian, .... Broadway.]

“I saw it just by accident, Saturday, after I left you. Papa had left
his paper in the coupé. I was going up to my First Aid to the Injured
Class—it’s at four o’clock now, you know. I made up my mind right
off—it came to me like an inspiration. I just waited until it came to
the place where they showed how to tie up arteries, and then I slipped
out. Lots of the girls slip out in the horrid parts, you know. And
then, instead of waiting in the ante–room, I put on my wrap, and pulled
the hood over my head and ran off to the Midlothian—it’s just around
the corner, you know. And I saw his wife.”

“What was she like?” queried Esther, eagerly.

“Oh, I don’t know. Sort of horrid—actressy. She had a pink silk wrapper
with swansdown all over it—at four o’clock, think! I was _awfully_
frightened when I got there; but it wasn’t the least trouble. She
hardly looked at me, and she engaged me right off. She just asked me if
I was willing to do a whole lot of things—I forget what they were—and
where I’d worked before. I said at Mrs. Barcalow’s.”

“‘Mrs. Barcalow’s?’”

“Why, yes—my Aunt Amanda, don’t you know—up in Framingham. I always
have to wash the teacups when I go there. Aunty says that everybody has
got to do _something_ in _her_ house.”

“Oh, Louise!” cried her friend, in shocked admiration; “how can you
think of such things?”

“Well, I did. And she—his wife, you know—just said: ‘Oh, I suppose
you’ll do as well as any one—all you girls are alike.’”

“But did she really take you for a—_servant_?”

“Why, yes, indeed. It was raining. I had that old ulster on, you know.
I’m to go at twelve o’clock next Saturday.”

“But, Louise!” cried Esther, aghast, “you don’t truly mean to go!”

“I do!” cried Louise, beaming triumphantly.

“_Oh, Louise!_”

“Now, listen, dear, said Miss Latimer, with the decision of an
enthusiastic young lady with New England blood in her veins. ‘Don’t say
a word till I tell you what my plan is. I’ve thought it all out, and
you’ve got to help me.’”

Esther shuddered.

“You foolish child!” cried Louise. Her eyes were sparkling: she was
in a state of ecstatic excitement; she could see no obstacles to the
carrying out of her plan. “You don’t think I mean to _stay_ there, do
you? I’m just going at twelve o’clock, and at four he comes back from
the matinée, and at five o’clock I’m going to slip on my things and run
downstairs, and have you waiting for me in the coupé, and off we go.
Now do you see?”

It took some time to bring Esther’s less venturesome spirit up to the
point of assisting in this bold undertaking; but she began, after a
while, to feel the delights of vicarious enterprise, and in the end the
two girls, their cheeks flushed, their eyes shining feverishly, their
voices tremulous with childish eagerness, resolved themselves into
a committee of ways and means; for they were two well–guarded young
women, and to engineer five hours of liberty was difficult to the
verge of impossibility. However, there is a financial manœuvre known as
“kiting checks,” whereby A exchanges a check with B and B swaps with
A again, playing an imaginary balance against Time and the Clearing
House; and by a similar scheme, which an acute student of social
ethics has called “kiting calls,” the girls found that they could make
Saturday afternoon their own, without one glance from the watchful eyes
of Esther’s mother or Louise’s aunt—Louise had only an aunt to reckon
with.

“And, oh, Esther!” cried the bolder of the conspirators, “I’ve thought
of a trunk—of course I’ve got to have a trunk, or she would ask me
where it was, and I couldn’t tell her a fib. Don’t you remember the
French maid who died three days after she came here? Her trunk is up in
the store–room still, and I don’t believe anybody will ever come for
it—it’s been there seven years now. Let’s go up and look at it.”

The girls romped upstairs to the great unused upper story, where heaps
of household rubbish obscured the dusty half–windows. In a corner,
behind Louise’s baby chair and an unfashionable hat–rack of the old
steering–wheel pattern, they found the little brown–painted tin trunk,
corded up with clothes–line.

“Louise!” said Esther, hastily, “what did you tell her your name was?”

“I just said ‘Louise’.”

Esther pointed to the name painted on the trunk,

 =Louise Lévy.=

“It is the hand of Providence,” she said. “Somehow, now, I’m _sure_
you’re quite right to go.”

And neither of these conscientious young ladies reflected for one
minute on the discomfort which might be occasioned to Madame Rémy by
the defection of her new servant a half–hour before dinner–time on
Saturday night.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Oh, child, it’s you, is it?” was Mme. Rémy’s greeting at twelve
o’clock on Saturday. “Well, you’re punctual—and you look clean. Now,
are you going to break my dishes or are you going to steal my rings?
Well, we’ll find out soon enough. Your trunk’s up in your room. Go up
to the servants’ quarters—right at the top of those stairs there. Ask
for the room that belongs to apartment 11. You are to room with their
girl.”

[Illustration]

Louise was glad of a moment’s respite. She had taken the plunge; she
was determined to go through to the end. But her heart _would_ beat
and her hands _would_ tremble. She climbed up six flights of winding
stairs, and found herself weak and dizzy when she reached the top and
gazed around her. She was in a great half–story room, eighty feet
square. The most of it was filled with heaps of old furniture and
bedding, rolls of carpet, of canvas, of oilcloth, and odds and ends of
discarded or unused household gear—the dust thick over all. A little
space had been left around three sides, to give access to three rows of
cell–like rooms, in each of which the ceiling sloped from the very door
to a tiny window at the level of the floor. In each room was a bed, a
bureau that served for wash–stand, a small looking–glass, and one or
two trunks. Women’s dresses hung on the whitewashed walls. She found
No. 11, threw off, desperately, her hat and jacket, and sunk down on
the little brown tin trunk, all trembling from head to foot.

[Illustration]

“Hello,” called a cheery voice. She looked up and saw a girl in a dirty
calico dress.

“Just come?” inquired this person, with agreeable informality. She was
a good–looking large girl, with red hair and bright cheeks. She leaned
against the door–post and polished her finger–nails with a little
brush. Her hands were shapely.

“Ain’t got onto the stair–climbing racket yet, eh? You’ll get used to
it. ‘Louise Lévy,’” she read the name on the trunk. “You don’t look
like a sheeny. Can’t tell nothin’ ’bout names, can you? My name’s
Slattery. You’d think I was Irish, wouldn’t you? Well, I’m straight Ne’
York. I’d be dead before I was Irish. Born here. Ninth Ward an’ next to
an engine–house. How’s that? There’s white Jews, too. I worked for one,
pickin’ sealskins down in Prince Street. Most took the lungs out of me.
But that wasn’t why I shook the biz. It queered my hands—see? I’m goin’
to be married in the Fall to a German gentleman. He ain’t so Dutch when
you know him, though. He’s a grocer. Drivin’ now; but he buys out the
boss in the Fall. How’s that? He’s dead stuck on my hooks, an’ I have
to keep ’em lookin’ good. I come here because the work was light. I
don’t have to work—only to be doin’ somethin’, see? Only got five halls
and the lamps. You got a fam’ly job, I s’pose? I wouldn’t have that. I
don’t mind the Sooprintendent; but I’d be dead before I’d be bossed by
a woman, see? Say, what fam’ly did you say you was with?”

This stream of talk had acted like a nerve–tonic on Louise. She was
able to answer:

“M—Mr. Rémy.”

“Ramy?—oh, lord! Got the job with His Tonsils? Well, you won’t keep it
long. They’re meaner ’n three balls, see? Rent their room up here and
chip in with eleven. Their girls don’t never stay. Well, I got to step,
or the Sooprintendent’ll be borin’ my ear. Well—so long!”

But Louise had fled down the stairs. “His Tonsils” rang in her ears.
What blasphemy! What sacrilege! She could scarcely pretend to listen to
Mme. Rémy’s first instructions.

The household _was_ parsimonious. Louise washed the caterer’s dishes—he
made a reduction in his price. Thus she learned that a late breakfast
took the place of luncheon. She began to feel what this meant. The
beds had been made; but there was work enough. She helped Mme. Rémy to
sponge a heap of faded finery—_her_ dresses. If they had been _his_
coats! Louise bent her hot face over the tawdry silks and satins,
and clasped her parboiled little finger–tips over the wet sponge. At
half–past three Mme. Rémy broke the silence.

“We must get ready for Musseer,” she said. An ecstatic joy filled
Louise’s being. The hour of her reward was at hand.

Getting ready for “Musseer” proved to be an appalling process. First
they brewed what Mme. Rémy called a “teaze Ann.” After the _tisane_, a
host of strange foreign drugs and cosmetics were marshalled in order.
Then water was set to heat on a gas–stove. Then a little table was
neatly set.

“Musseer has his dinner at half–past four,” Madame explained. “I don’t
take mine till he’s laid down and I’ve got him off to the concert.
There, he’s coming now. Sometimes he comes home pretty nervous. If he’s
nervous, don’t you go and make a fuss, do you hear, child?”

The door opened, and Musseer entered, wrapped in a huge frogged
overcoat. There was no doubt that he was nervous. He cast his hat
upon the floor, as if he were Jove dashing a thunderbolt. Fire flashed
from his eyes. He advanced upon his wife and thrust a newspaper in her
face—a little pinky sheet, a notorious blackmailing publication.

“Zees,” he cried, “is your work!”

“What _is_ it, now, Hipleet?” demanded Mme. Rémy.

“Vot it ees?” shrieked the tenor. “It ees ze history of how zey have
heest me at Nice! It ees all zair—how I have been heest—in zis sacré
sheet—in zis hankairchif of infamy! And it ees you zat have told it to
zat devil of a Rastignac—_traitresse_!”

[Illustration]

“Now, Hipleet,” pleaded his wife, “if I can’t learn enough French
to talk with you, how am I going to tell Rastignac about your being
hissed?”

This reasoning silenced Mr. Rémy for an instant—an instant only.

“You _vood_ have done it!” he cried, sticking out his chin and
thrusting his face forward.

“Well, I didn’t,” said Madame, “and nobody reads that thing, any way.
Now, don’t you mind it, and let me get your things off, or you’ll be
catching cold.”

Mr. Rémy yielded at last to the necessity of self–preservation, and
permitted his wife to remove his frogged overcoat, and to unwind
him from a system of silk wraps to which the Gordian knot was a
slip–noose. This done, he sat down before the dressing–case, and Mme.
Rémy, after tying a bib around his neck, proceeded to dress his hair
and put brilliantine on his moustache. Her husband enlivened the
operation by reading from the pinky paper.

“It ees not gen–air–al–lee known—zat zees dees–tin–guished tenor vos
heest on ze pob–lic staidj at Nice—in ze year—“

Louise leaned against the wall, sick, faint and frightened, with a
strange sense of shame and degradation at her heart. At last the
tenor’s eye fell on her.

“Anozzair eediot?” he inquired.

“She ain’t very bright, Hipleet,” replied his wife; “but I guess she’ll
do. Louise, open the door—there’s the caterer.”

Louise placed the dishes upon the table mechanically. The tenor sat
himself at the board, and tucked a napkin in his neck.

“And how did the Benediction Song go this afternoon?” inquired his wife.

“Ze Bénédiction? Ah! One _encore_. One on–lee. Zese pigs of Américains.
I t’row my pairls biffo’ swine. _Chops once more!_ You vant to mordair
me? Vat do zis mean, madame? You ar–r–r–re in lig wiz my enemies. All
ze vorlt is against ze ar–r–r–teest!”

The storm that followed made the first seem a zephyr. The tenor
exhausted his execratory vocabulary in French and English. At last, by
way of a dramatic finale, he seized the plate of chops and flung it
from him. He aimed at the wall; but Frenchmen do not pitch well. With
a ring and a crash, plate and chops went through the broad window–pane.
In the moment of stricken speechlessness that followed, the sound of
the final smash came softly up from the sidewalk.

“Ah–a–a–a–a–a–a–a–a–a–ah!”

The tenor rose to his feet with the howl of an anguished hyena.

“Oh, good gracious!” cried his wife; “he’s going to have one of his
creezes—his creezes de nare!”

He did have a _crise de nerfs_. “Ten dollair!” he yelled, “for ten
dollair of glass!” He tore his pomaded hair; he tore off his bib and
his neck–tie, and for three minutes without cessation he shrieked
wildly and unintelligibly. It was possible to make out, however, that
“arteest” and “ten dollair” were the themes of his improvisation.
Finally he sank exhausted into the chair, and his white–faced wife
rushed to his side.

[Illustration]

“Louise!” she cried, “get the foot–tub out of the closet while I spray
his throat, or he can’t sing a note. Fill it up with warm water—102
degrees—there’s the thermometer—and bathe his feet.”

Trembling from head to foot, Louise obeyed her orders, and brought the
foot–tub, full of steaming water. Then she knelt down and began to
serve the maestro for the first time. She took off his shoes. Then she
looked at his socks. Could she do it?

“Eediot!” gasped the sufferer, “make haste! I die!”

“Hold your mouth open, dear,” said Madame, “I haven’t half sprayed you.”

“Ah! _you_!” cried the tenor. “Cat! Devil! It ees you zat have killed
me!” And moved by an access of blind rage, he extended his arm, and
thrust his wife violently from him.

Louise rose to her feet, with a hard, set, good old New England look on
her face. She lifted the tub of water to the level of her breast, and
then she inverted it on the tenor’s head. For one instant she gazed at
the deluge, and at the bath–tub balanced on the maestro’s skull like a
helmet several sizes too large—then she fled like the wind.

Once in the servants’ quarters, she snatched her hat and jacket. From
below came mad yells of rage.

“I kill hare! give me my knife—give me my rivvolvare! Au secours!
Assassin!”

Miss Slattery appeared in the doorway, still polishing her nails.

“What have you done to His Tonsils?” she inquired. “He’s pretty hot,
this trip.”

“How can I get away from here?” cried Louise.

Miss Slattery pointed to a small door. Louise rushed down a long
stairway—another—and yet others—through a great room where there was
a smell of cooking and a noise of fires—past white–capped cooks and
scullions—through a long stone corridor, and out into the street. She
cried aloud as she saw Esther’s face at the window of the coupé.

She drove home—cured.

  +----------------------–+
  |     Owing to the      |
  | Sudden Indisposition  |
  |          of           |
  |       M. Rémy,        |
  |   There will be no    |
  |        Concert        |
  |     This Evening.     |
  | Money Refunded at the |
  |      Box Office.      |
  +----------------------–+

[Illustration]



COL. BRERETON’S AUNTY.

[Illustration: _“‘I will promise you nothing, seh!’ thundered the
Colonel.”_]



COL. BRERETON’S AUNTY.


The pleasant smell of freshly turned garden–mould and of young growing
things came in through the open window of the Justice of the Peace. His
nasturtiums were spreading, pale and weedy—I could distinguish their
strange, acrid scent from the odor of the rest of the young vegetation.
The tips of the morning–glory vines, already up their strings to the
height of a man’s head, curled around the window–frame, and beckoned
to me to come out and rejoice with them in the freshness of the mild
June day. It was pleasant enough inside the Justice’s front parlor,
with its bright ingrain carpet, its gilt clock, and its marble–topped
centre–table. But the Justice and the five gentlemen who were paying
him a business call—although it was Sunday morning—looked, the whole
half dozen of them, ill in accord with the spirit of the Spring day.
The Justice looked annoyed. The five assembled gentlemen looked stern.

“Well, as you say,” remarked the fat little Justice, who was an
Irishman, “if this divilment goes on—“

“It’s not a question of going on, Mr. O’Brien,” broke in Alfred
Winthrop; “it has gone on too long.”

Alfred is a little inclined to be arrogant with the unwinthropian
world; and, moreover, he was rushing the season in a very grand suit of
white flannels. He looked rather too much of a lord of creation for a
democratic community. Antagonism lit the Justice’s eye.

“I’m afraid we’ve got to do it, O’Brien,” I interposed, hastily. The
Justice and I are strong political allies. He was mollified.

“Well, well,” he assented; “let’s have him up and see what he’s got to
say for himself. Mike!” he shouted out the window; “bring up Colonel
Brereton!”

Colonel Brereton had appeared in our village about a year before that
Sunday. Why he came, whence he came, he never deigned to say. But he
made no secret of the fact that he was an unreconstructed Southron.
He had a little money when he arrived—enough to buy a tiny one–story
house on the outskirts of the town. By vocation he was a lawyer, and,
somehow or other, he managed to pick up enough to support him in his
avocation, which, we soon found out, was that of village drunkard. In
this capacity he was a glorious, picturesque and startling success.
Saturated with cheap whiskey, he sat all day long in the bar–room or
on the porch of the village groggery, discoursing to the neighborhood
loafers of the days befo’ the wah, when he had a vast plantation in
“Firginia”—“and five hundred niggehs, seh.”

So long as the Colonel’s excesses threatened only his own liver, no
one interfered with him. But on the night before we called upon the
Justice, the Colonel, having brooded long over his wrongs at the hands
of the Yankees, and having made himself a reservoir of cocktails,
decided to enter his protest against the whole system of free colored
labor by cutting the liver out of every negro in the town; and he had
slightly lacerated Winthrop’s mulatto coachman before a delegation
of citizens fell upon him, and finding him unwilling to relinquish
his plan, placed him for the night in the lock–up in Squire O’Brien’s
cellar.

We waited for the Colonel. From under our feet suddenly arose a sound
of scuffling and smothered imprecations. A minute later, Mike, the
herculean son of the Justice, appeared in the doorway, bearing a very
small man hugged to his breast as a baby hugs a doll.

“Let me down, seh!” shouted the Colonel. Mike set him down, and he
marched proudly into the room, and seated himself with dignity and
firmness on the extreme edge of a chair.

The Colonel was very small indeed for a man of so much dignity. He
could not have been more than five foot one or two; he was slender—but
his figure was shapely and supple. He was unquestionably a handsome
man, with fine, thin features and an aquiline profile—like a miniature
Henry Clay. His hair was snow–white—prematurely, no doubt—and at the
first glance you thought he was clean shaven. Then you saw that there
was scarcely a hair on his cheeks, and that only the finest imaginable
line of snowy white moustaches curled down his upper lip. His skin was
smooth as a baby’s and of the color of old ivory. His teeth, which he
was just then exhibiting in a sardonic smile, were white, small, even.
But if he was small, his carriage was large, and military. There was
something military, too, about his attire. He wore a high collar, a
long blue frock coat, and tight, light gray trousers with straps. That
is, the coat had once been blue, the trousers once light gray, but they
were now of many tints and tones, and, at that exact moment, they had
here and there certain peculiar high lights of whitewash.

The Colonel did not wait to be arraigned. Sweeping his black, piercing
eye over our little group, he arraigned us.

“Well, _gentlemen_,” with keen irony in his tone, “I reckon you think
you’ve done a right smart thing, getting the Southern gentleman in a
hole? A pro–_dee_–gious fine thing, I reckon, since it’s kept you away
from chu’ch. _Baptis_’ church, I believe?” This was to poor Canfield,
who was suspected of having been of that communion in his youth, and
of being much ashamed of it after his marriage to an aristocratic
Episcopalian. “Nice Sunday mo’ning to worry a Southern gentleman!
Gentleman who’s owned a plantation that you could stick this hyeh
picayune town into one co’neh of! Owned mo’ niggehs than you eveh saw.
Robbed of his land and his niggehs by you Yankee gentlemen. Drinks a
little wine to make him fo’get what he’s suffehed. Gets ovehtaken.
Tries to avenge an insult to his honah. Put him in a felon’s cell and
whitewash his gyarments. And now you come hyeh—you come hyeh—” here
his eye fell with deep disapproval upon Winthrop’s white flannels—“you
come hyeh in youh underclothes, and you want to have him held fo’
Special Sessions.”

“You are mistaken, Colonel Brereton,” Winthrop interposed; “if we can
have your promise—“

“I will promise you nothing, seh!” thundered the Colonel, who had a
voice like a church–organ, whenever he chose to use it; “I will make no
conventions with you! I will put no restrictions on my right to defend
my honah. Put me in youh felon’s cell. I will rot in youh infehnal
dungeons; but I will make no conventions with you. You can put me in
striped breeches, but you cyan’t put my honah in striped breeches!”

“That settles it,” said the justice.

“And all,” continued the Colonel, oratorically, “and all this hyeh fuss
and neglect of youh religious duties, fo’ one of the cheapest and most
o’nery niggehs I eveh laid eyes on. Why, I wouldn’t have given one
hundred dollahs fo’ that niggeh befo’ the wah. No, seh, I give you my
wo’d, that niggeh ain’t wo’th ninety dollahs!”

“Mike!” said the Justice, significantly. The Colonel arose promptly, to
insure a voluntary exit. He bowed low to Winthrop.

“Allow me to hope, seh,” he said, “that you won’t catch cold.” And with
one lofty and comprehensive salute he marched haughtily back to his
dungeon, followed by the towering Mike.

The Justice sighed. An elective judiciary has its trials, like the rest
of us. It is hard to commit a voter of your own party for Special
Sessions. However—“I’ll drive him over to Court in the morning,” said
the little Justice.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was sitting on my verandah that afternoon, reading. Hearing my name
softly spoken, I looked up and saw the largest and oldest negress I had
ever met. She was at least six feet tall, well–built but not fat, full
black, with carefully dressed gray hair. I knew at once from her neat
dress, her well–trained manner, the easy deference of the curtsey she
dropped me, that she belonged to the class that used to be known as
“house darkeys”—in contradistinction to the field hands.

[Illustration]

“I understand, seh,” she said, in a gentle, low voice, “that you
gentlemen have got Cunnle Bre’eton jailed?”

She had evidently been brought up among educated Southerners, for her
grammar was good and her pronunciation correct, according to Southern
standards. Only once or twice did she drop into negro talk.

I assented.

“How much will it be, seh, to get him out?” She produced a fat roll
of twenty and fifty dollar bills. “I do fo’ Cunnle Bre’eton,” she
explained: “I have always done fo’ him. I was his Mammy when he was a
baby.”

I made her sit down—when she did there was modest deprecation in her
attitude—and I tried to explain the situation to her.

“You may go surety for Colonel Brereton,” I said; “but he is certain to
repeat the offense.”

“No, seh,” she replied, in her quiet, firm tone; “the Cunnle won’t make
any trouble when I’m here to do fo’ him.”

“You were one of his slaves?”

“No, seh. Cunnle Bre’eton neveh had any slaves, seh. His father, Majah
Bre’eton, he had slaves one time, I guess, but when the Cunnle was
bo’n, he was playing kyards fo’ a living, and he had only me. When the
Cunnle’s mother died, Majah Bre’eton he went to Mizzoura, and he put
the baby in my ahms, and he said to me, ‘Sabrine,’ he sez, ‘you do fo’
him.’ And I’ve done fo’ him eveh since. Sometimes he gets away from
me, and then he gets kind o’ wild. He was in Sandusky a year, and in
Chillicothe six months, and he was in Tiffin once, and one time in a
place in the state of Massachusetts—I disremembeh the name. This is the
longest time he eveh got away from me. But I always find him, and then
he’s all right.”

“But you have to deal with a violent man.”

“The Cunnle won’t be violent with me, seh.”

“But you’re getting old, Aunty—how old?”

“I kind o’ lost count since I was seventy–one, seh. But I’m right spry,
yet.”

“Well, my good woman,” I said, decisively, “I can’t take the
responsibility of letting the Colonel go at large unless you give me
some better guarantee of your ability to restrain him. What means have
you of keeping him in hand?”

She hesitated a long time, smoothing the folds of her neat alpaca skirt
with her strong hands. Then she said:

“Well, seh, I wouldn’t have you say any thing about it, fo’ feah of
huhting Cunnle Bre’eton’s feelings; but when he gets that way, I jes’
nachully tuhn him up and spank him. I’ve done it eveh since he was a
baby,” she continued, apologetically, “and it’s the only way. But you
won’t say any thing about it, seh? The Cunnle’s powerful sensitive.”

I wrote a brief note to the Justice. I do not know what legal
formalities he dispensed with; but that afternoon the Colonel was free.
Aunt Sabrine took him home, and he went to bed for two days while
she washed his clothes. The next week he appeared in a complete new
outfit—in cut and color the counterpart of its predecessor.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here began a new era for the Colonel. He was no longer the town
drunkard. Aunty Sabrine “allowanced” him—one cocktail in the “mo’ning:”
a “ho’n” at noon, and one at night. On this diet he was a model of
temperance. If occasionally he essayed a drinking bout, Aunty Sabrine
came after him at eve, and led him home. From my window I sometimes
saw the steady big figure and the wavering little one going home over
the crest of the hill, equally black in their silhouettes against the
sunset sky.

What happened to the Colonel we knew not. No man saw him for two days.
Then he emerged—with unruffled dignity. The two always maintained
genuine Southern relations. He called her his damn black nigger—and
would have killed any man who spoke ill of her. She treated him with
the humble and deferential familiarity of a “mammy” toward “young
mahse.”

For herself, Aunty Sabrine won the hearts of the town. She was an ideal
washerwoman, an able temporary cook in domestic _interregna_, a tender
and wise nurse, and a genius at jam and jellies. The Colonel, too, made
money in his line, and put it faithfully into the common fund.

In March of the next year, I was one of a Reform Town Committee,
elected to oust the usual local ring. We discharged the inefficient
Town Counsel, who had neglected our interests in a lot of suits brought
by swindling road–contractors. Aunty Sabrine came to me, and solemnly
nominated Colonel Brereton for the post. “He is sho’ly a fine loyyeh,”
she said.

I know not whether it was the Great American sense of humor, or
the Great American sense of fairness, but we engaged the Colonel,
conditionally.

He was a positive, a marvelous, an incredible success, and he won every
suit. Perhaps he did not know much law; but he was the man of men for
country judges and juries. Nothing like his eloquence had ever before
been heard in the county. He argued, he cajoled, he threatened, he
pleaded, he thundered, he exploded, he confused, he blazed, he fairly
dazzled—for silence stunned you when the Colonel ceased to speak, as
the lightning blinds your eyes long after it has vanished.

The Colonel was utterly incapable of seeing any but his own side of
the case. I remember a few of his remarks concerning Finnegan, the
contractor, who was suing for $31.27 payments withheld.

[Illustration]

“Fohty yahds!” the Colonel roared: “fohty yahds! This hyeh man
Finnegan, this hyeh cock–a–doodle–doo, he goes along this hyeh road,
and he casts his eye oveh this hyeh excavation, and he comes hyeh and
sweahs it’s fohty yahds good measure. Does he take a tape measure and
measure it? NO! Does he even pace it off with those hyeh corkscrew
legs of his that he’s trying to hide under his chaiah? NO!! He says,
‘I’m Finnegan, and this hyeh’s fohty yahds,’ and off he sashays up the
hill, wondering wheah Finnegan’s going to bring up when he’s walked off
the topmost peak of the snow–clad Himalayas of human omniscience! And
this hyeh man, this hyeh insult to humanity in a papeh collah, he comes
hyeh, to this august tribunal, and he asks you, gentlemen of the jury,
to let him rob you of the money you have earned in the sweat of youh
brows, to take the bread out of the mouths of the children whom youh
patient and devoted wives have bohne to you in pain _and_ anguish—but I
say to you, _gen_—_tel_—_men_—(_suddenly exploding_) HIS PAPEH COLLAH
SHALL ROAST IN HADES BEFO’ I WILL BE A PAHTY TO THIS HYEH INFAMY!”

Finnegan was found in hiding in his cellar when his counsel came to
tell him that he could not collect his $31.27. “Bedad, is _that_ all?”
he gasped; “I t’ought I’d get six mont’s.”

People flocked from miles about to hear the Colonel. Recalcitrant
jurymen were bribed to service by the promise of a Brereton case on the
docket. His performances were regarded in the light of a free show, and
a verdict in his favor was looked upon as a graceful gratuity.

He made money—and he gave it meekly to Aunty Sabrine.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the night of the great blizzard; but there was no sign of cold
or wind when I looked out, half–an–hour after midnight, before closing
my front door. I heard the drip of water from the trees, I saw a faint
mist rising from the melting snow. At the foot of my lawn I dimly saw
the Colonel’s familiar figure marching homeward from some political
meeting preliminary to Tuesday’s election. His form was erect, his step
steady. He swung his little cane and whistled as he walked. I was proud
of the Colonel.

[Illustration]

An hour later the storm was upon us. By noon of Monday, Alfred
Winthrop’s house, two hundred yards away, might as well have been two
thousand, so far as getting to it, or even seeing it, was concerned.
Tuesday morning the snow had stopped, and we looked out over a still
and shining deluge with sparkling fringes above the blue hollows of its
frozen waves. Across it roared an icy wind, bearing almost invisible
diamond dust to fill irritated eyes and throats. The election was held
that day. The result was to be expected. All the “hard” citizens were
at the polls. Most of the reformers were stalled in railroad trains.
The Reform Ticket failed of re–election, and Colonel Brereton’s term of
office was practically at an end.

I was outdoors most of the day, and that night, when I awoke about
three o’clock, suddenly and with a shock, thinking I had heard Aunty
Sabrine’s voice crying: “Cunnle! wheah are you, Cunnle?” my exhausted
brain took it for the echo of a dream. I must have dozed for an hour
before I sprang up with a certainty in my mind that I had heard her
voice in very truth. Then I hurried on my clothes, and ran to Alfred
Winthrop’s. He looked incredulous; but he got into his boots like a
man. We found Aunty Sabrine, alive but unconscious, on the crest of
the hill. When we had secured an asylum for her, we searched for the
Colonel. The next day we learned that he had heard the news of the
election and had boarded a snow–clearing train that was returning to
the Junction.

It was a week before Aunty Sabrine recovered. When I asked her if she
was going to look for the Colonel, she answered with gentle resignation:

“No, seh. I’m ’most too old. I’ll stay hyeh, wheah he knows wheah to
find me. He’ll come afteh me, sho’.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Sixteen months passed, and he did not come. Then, one evening, a Summer
walk took me by the little house. I heard a voice I could not forget.

“Hyeh, you black niggeh, get along with that suppeh, or I come in theah
and cut youh damn haid off!”

Looking up, I saw Colonel Brereton, a little the worse for wear, seated
on the snake fence. No ... he was not seated; he was hitched on by the
crook of his knees, his toes braced against the inside of the lower
rail. His coat–tails hung in the vacant air.

[Illustration]

He descended, a little stiffly, I thought, and greeted me cordially,
with affable dignity. His manner somehow implied that it was _I_ who
had been away.

He insisted on my coming into his front yard and sitting down on the
bench by the house, while he condescendingly and courteously inquired
after the health of his old friends and neighbors. I stayed until
supper was announced. The Colonel was always the soul of hospitality;
but on this occasion he did not ask me to join him. And I reflected, as
I went away, that although he had punctiliously insisted on my sitting
down, the Colonel had remained standing during our somewhat protracted
conversation.

[Illustration]



A ROUND–UP.

[Illustration: “_She was beautiful as the Queen of Sheba was
beautiful._”]



A ROUND–UP.


I.

When Rhodora Boyd—Rhodora Pennington that was—died in her little house,
with no one near her but one old maid who loved her, the best society
of the little city of Trega Falls indulged in more or less complacent
reminiscence.

Except to Miss Wimple, the old maid, Rhodora had been of no importance
at all in Trega for ten long years, and yet she had once given Trega
society the liveliest year it had ever known. (I should tell you that
Trega people never mentioned the Falls in connection with Trega. Trega
was too old to admit any indebtedness to the Falls.)

Rhodora Pennington came to Trega with her invalid mother as the guest
of her uncle, the Commandant at the Fort—for Trega was a garrison town.
She was a beautiful girl. I do not mean a pretty girl: there were
pretty girls in Trega—several of them. She was beautiful as the Queen
of Sheba was beautiful—grand, perfect, radiantly tawny of complexion,
without a flaw or a failing in her pulchritude—almost too fine a being
for family use, except that she had plenty of hot woman’s blood in her
veins, and was an accomplished, delightful, impartial flirt.

All the men turned to her with such prompt unanimity that all the girls
of Trega’s best society joined hands in one grand battle for their
prospective altars and hearths. From the June day when Rhodora came, to
the Ash Wednesday of the next year when her engagement was announced,
there was one grand battle, a dozen girls with wealth and social
position and knowledge of the ground to help them, all pitted against
one garrison girl, with not so much as a mother to back her—Mrs.
Pennington being hopelessly and permanently on the sick–list.

Trega girls who had never thought of doing more than wait at their
leisure for the local young men to marry them at _their_ leisure now
went in for accomplishments of every sort. They rode, they drove, they
danced new dances, they read Browning and Herbert Spencer, they sang,
they worked hard at archery and lawn–tennis, they rowed and sailed and
fished, and some of the more desperate even went shooting in the Fall,
and in the Winter played billiards and—penny ante. Thus did they, in
the language of a somewhat cynical male observer, back Accomplishments
against Beauty.

The Shakspere Club and the Lake Picnic, which had hitherto divided
the year between them, were submerged in the flood of social
entertainments. Balls and parties followed one another. Trega’s square
stone houses were lit up night after night, and the broad moss–grown
gardens about them were made trim and presentable, and Chinese lanterns
turned them into a fairy–land for young lovers.

[Illustration]

It was a great year for Trega! The city had been dead, commercially,
ever since the New York Central Railroad had opened up the great West;
but the unprecedented flow of champagne and Apollinaris actually
started a little business boom, based on the inferable wealth of Trega,
and two or three of Trega’s remaining firms went into bankruptcy
because of the boom. And Rhodora Pennington did it all.

Have you ever seen the end of a sham–fight? You have been shouting
and applauding, and wasting enough enthusiasm for a foot–ball match.
And now it is all finished, and nothing has been done, and you go
home somewhat ashamed of yourself, and glad only that the blue–coated
participants must feel more ashamed of themselves; and the smell of the
villainous saltpetre, that waked the Berserker in your heart an hour
ago, is now noisome and disgusting, and makes you cough and sneeze.

Even so did the girls of Trega’s best society look each in the face of
the other, when Ash Wednesday ended that nine months of riot, and ask
of each other, “What has it all been about?”

True, there were nine girls engaged to be married, and engagement meant
marriage in Trega. Alma Lyle was engaged to Dexter Townsend, Mary Waite
to John Lang, Winifred Peters to McCullom McIntosh, Ellen Humphreys to
George Lister, Laura Visscher to William Jans, (Oranje boven!—Dutch
blood stays Dutch,) Millicent Smith to Milo Smith, her cousin, Olive
Cregier to Aleck Sloan, Aloha Jones, (niece of a Sandwich Islands
missionary,) to Parker Hall, and Rhodora Pennington to Charley Boyd.

But all of these matches, save the last, would have been made in the
ordinary course of things. The predestination of propinquity would
have settled that. And even if Ellen Humphreys had married John Lang
instead of George Lister, and George Lister had wedded Mary Waite—why,
there would have been no great difference to admire or to deplore.
The only union of the nine which came as a surprise to the community
was the engagement of Rhodora to Charley Boyd. The beauty of the
season had picked up the one crooked stick in the town—a dissolute,
ne’er–do–well hanger–on of Trega’s best society, who would never have
seen a dinner–card if he had not been a genius at amateur theatricals,
an artist on the banjo, and a half–bred Adonis.

[Illustration]

There the agony ended for the other girls, and there it began for
Rhodora Boyd. In less than a year, Boyd had deserted her. The
Commandant was transferred to the Pacific Coast. Rhodora moved, with
her mother, bed–ridden now, into a little house in the unfashionable
outskirts of Trega. There she nursed the mother until the poor
bed–ridden old lady died. Rhodora supported them both by teaching
music and French at the Trega Seminary, down by the Falls. Morning and
evening she went out and back on that weary, jingling horse–car line.
She received the annual visits that her friends paid her, inspired by
something between courtesy and charity, with her old stately simplicity
and imperturbable calm; and no one of them could feel sure that she
was conscious of their triumph or of her degradation. And she kept
the best part of her stately beauty to the very last. In any other
town she would have been taught what divorce–courts were made for; but
Trega society was Episcopalian, and that communion is healthily and
conservatively monogamous.

And so Rhodora Boyd, that once was Rhodora Pennington, died in her
little house, and her pet old maid closed her eyes. And there was an
end of Rhodora. Not quite an end, though.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration]


II.

SCENE.—_The Public Library of Trega._ MRS. GEORGE LISTER _and_ MRS.
JOHN LANG _are seated in the Rotunda_. MR. LIBRIVER, _the Librarian,
advances to them with books in his hands_.

MRS. LISTER.—Ah, here comes Mr. Libriver, with my “Intellectual Life.”
Thank you, Mr. Libriver—you are always so kind!

MRS. LANG.—And Mr. Libriver has brought me my “Status of Woman.” Oh,
thank you, Mr. Libriver.

MR. LIBRIVER, _a thin young man in a linen duster, retires, blushing_.

MRS. LISTER.—Mr. Libriver does _so_ appreciate women who are free from
the bondage of the novel. Did you hear about poor Rhodora’s funeral?

MRS. LANG (_with a sweeping grasp at the intellectual side of the
conversation_).—Oh, I _despise_ love–stories. In the church? Oh,
yes, I heard. (_Sweetly_). Dr. Homly told me. Doesn’t it seem just a
little—ostentatious?

MRS. LISTER.—Ostentatious—but, do you know, my dear, there are to be
eight pall–bearers!

MRS. LANG (_turning defeat into victory_).—No, I did _not_ know. I
don’t suppose that ridiculous old maid, that Miss Wimple, who seems to
be conducting the affair, _dared_ to tell _that_ to Dr. Homly. And who
are they?

MRS. LISTER (_with exceeding sweetness_).—Oh, I don’t know, dear. Only
I met Mr. Townsend, and he told me that Dr. Homly had just told _him_
that he was one of the eight.

MRS. LISTER.—Dexter Townsend! Why, it’s scandalous. Everybody knows
that he proposed to her three times and that she threw him over. It’s
an insult to—to—

MRS. LANG.—To poor dear Alma Townsend. I quite agree with you. I should
like to know how she feels—if she understands what it means.

MRS. LISTER.—Well, if I were in her place—

_Enter_ MRS. DEXTER TOWNSEND.

  MRS. LANG.  }
  MRS. LISTER.} Why, Alma!

MRS. TOWNSEND.—Why, Ellen! Why, Mary! Oh, I’m so glad to meet you both.
I want you to lunch with me to–morrow at one o’clock. I do so _hate_
to be left alone. And poor Rhodora Pennington—Mrs. Boyd, I mean—her
funeral is at noon, and our three male protectors will have to go to
the cemetery, and Mr. Townsend is just going to take a cold bite before
he goes, and so I’m left to lunch—

MRS. LANG (_coldly_).—I don’t think Mr. Lang will go to the cemetery—

MRS. LISTER.—There is no reason why Mr. Lister—

MRS. TOWNSEND.—But, don’t you know?—They’re all to be pall–bearers!
They can’t refuse, of course.

MRS. LANG (_icily_).—Oh, no, certainly not.

MRS. LISTER (_below zero_).—I suppose it is an unavoidable duty.

MRS. LANG.—Alma, is that your _old_ Surah? What _did_ you do to it?

MRS. LISTER.—They _do_ dye things so wonderfully nowadays!

       *       *       *       *       *

SCENE.—_A Verandah in front of_ MR. MCCULLOM MCINTOSH’S _house_. MRS.
MCCULLOM MCINTOSH _seated, with fancy work. To her, enter_ MR. WILLIAM
JANS _and_ MR. MILO SMITH.

MRS. MCINTOSH (_with effusion_).—Oh, Mr. Jans, I’m so delighted to see
you! And Mr. Smith, too! I never expect to see you busy men at this
time in the afternoon. And how is Laura?—and Millicent? Now _don’t_
tell me that you’ve come to say that you can’t go fishing with Mr.
McIntosh to–morrow! He’ll be _so_ disappointed!

MR. JANS.—Well, the fact is—

MRS. MCINTOSH.—You haven’t been invited to be one of poor Rhodora
Boyd’s pall–bearers, have you? That would be _too_ absurd. They say
she’s asked a regular party of her old conquests. Mr. Libriver just
passed here and told me—Mr. Lister and John Lang and Dexter Townsend—

MR. JANS.—Yes, and me.

MRS. MCINTOSH.—Oh, _Mr._ Jans! And they do say—at least Mr. Libriver
says—that she hasn’t asked a man who hadn’t proposed to her.

MR. JANS (_Dutchily_).—I d’no. But I’m asked, and—

MRS. MCINTOSH.—You don’t mean to tell me that Mr. Smith is asked, too?
Oh, that would be _too_ impossible. You don’t mean to tell me, Mr.
Smith, that you furnished one of Rhodora’s scalps ten years ago?

MR. SMITH.—You ought to know, Mrs. McIntosh. Or—no—perhaps not. You and
Mac were to windward of the centre–board on Townsend’s boat when _I_
got the mitten. I suppose you couldn’t hear us. But we were to leeward,
and Miss Pennington said she hoped _all_ proposals didn’t echo.

MRS. MCINTOSH.—The wretched c—— but she’s dead. Well, I’m thankful
Mac—Mr. McIntosh never _could_ abide that girl. He always said she was
horribly bad form—poor thing, I oughtn’t to speak so, I suppose. She’s
been punished enough.

MR. SMITH.—I’m glad you think so, Mrs. McIntosh. I hope you won’t feel
it necessary to advise Mac to refuse her last dying request.

[Illustration]

MRS. MCINTOSH.—What—

MR. SMITH.—Oh, well, the fact is, Mrs. McIntosh, we only stopped
in to say that as McIntosh and all the rest of us are asked to be
pall–bearers at Mrs. Boyd’s funeral, you might ask Mac if it wouldn’t
be just as well to postpone the fishing party for a week or so. If you
remember—will you be so kind? Thank you, good afternoon.

MR. JANS.—Good afternoon, Mrs. McIntosh.

       *       *       *       *       *

SCENE.—_The Linen Closet, at the end of a sunny corridor in_ MR.
ALEXANDER SLOAN’S _house._ MRS. SLOAN _inspecting her sheets and
pillow–cases. To her, enter_ BRIDGET, _her housemaid, with a basket
full of linen, the Trega Evening Eagle on the top, folded._

MRS. SLOAN.—Why, that surely isn’t one of the new napkins!—oh, it’s the
evening paper. Dear me! how near–sighted I am getting! (_Takes it and
opens it._) You may put those linen sheets on the top shelf, Bridget.
We’ll hardly need them again this Fall. Oh, Bridget—here’s poor Mrs.
Boyd’s obituary. You used to live at Colonel Pennington’s before she
was married, didn’t you?

BRIDGET.—I did that, Mum.

MRS. SLOAN (_reading_).—“Mrs. Boyd’s pall–bearers are fitly chosen
from the most distinguished and prominent citizens of Trega.” I’m sure
I don’t see why they should be. (_Reads._) “Those invited to render the
last honors to the deceased are Mr. George Lister—“

BRIDGET.—’Tis he was foriver at the house.

[Illustration]

MRS. SLOAN (_reads_).—“Mr. John Lang—“

BRIDGET.—And him.

MRS. SLOAN (_reads_).—“Mr Dexter Townsend—“

BRIDGET.—And him, too.

MRS. SLOAN (_reads_).—“Mr. McIntosh, Mr. William Jans, Mr. Milo Smith—“

BRIDGET.—And _thim_. Mr. Smith was her siventh.

MRS. SLOAN.—Her _what_?

BRIDGET.—Her sivinth. There was eight of thim proposed to her in the
wan week.

MRS SLOAN.—Why, Bridget! How can you possibly know _that_?

BRIDGET.—Sure, what does it mean whin a gintleman calls twice in th’
wake an’ thin stops like he was shot. An’ who is the eight’ gintleman
to walk wid the corpse, Mum?

MRS. SLOAN.—That is all, Bridget. And those pillow–cases look
shockingly! I never _saw_ such ironing! (_Exit, hastily and sternly._)

BRIDGET (_sola_).—Only siven of thim. Saints bless us! The pore lady’ll
go wan–sided to her grave!

SCENE.—_The Private Office of_ MR. PARKER HALL. MR. HALL _writing. To
him, enter_ MR. ALECK SLOAN.

MR. SLOAN.—Ah, there, Parker!

MR. HALL.—Ah, there, Aleck! What brings _you_ around so late in the day?

MR. SLOAN.—I just thought you might like to hear the names of the
fellows Rhodora Pennington chose for her pall–bearers. (_Produces
list._)

MR. HALL (_sighs_).—Poor Rhodora! Too bad! Fire ahead.

[Illustration]

MR. SLOAN (_reads list_).—“George Lister.”

MR. HALL.—_Ah!_

MR. SLOAN (_reads_).—“John Lang.”

MR. HALL.—Oh!

MR. SLOAN (_reads_).—“Dexter Townsend.”

MR. HALL.—Well!

MR. SLOAN (_reads_).—“McCullom McIntosh.”

MR. HALL.—Say!—

MR. SLOAN (_reads_).—“William Jans.”

MR. HALL.—The Deuce!

MR. SLOAN (_reads_).—“Milo Smith.”

MR. HALL.—Great Cæsar’s ghost! This is getting very personal!

MR. SLOAN—Yes. (_Reads, nervously._) “Alexander Sloan.”

MR. HALL.—Whoo–o–o–o–up! You too?

MR. SLOAN (_reads_).—“_Parker Hall._”

(_A long silence._)

MR. HALL (_faintly_).—Oh, lord, she rounded us up, didn’t she? Say,
Parker, can’t this thing be suppressed, somehow?

MR. SLOAN.—It’s in the evening paper.

(_Another long silence._)

MR. HALL (_desperately_).—Come out and have a bottle with me?

MR. SLOAN.—I can’t. I’m going down to Bitts’s stable to buy that pony
that Mrs. Sloan took such a shine to a month or so ago.

MR. HALL.—If _I_ could get out of this for a pony—Oh, lord!

[Illustration]



  THE TWO CHURCHES OF
  ’QUAWKET.

[Illustration: “_’Read it!’ commanded Brother Joash. The minister grew
pale._”]



THE TWO CHURCHES OF ’QUAWKET.


[Illustration]

The Reverend Colton M. Pursly, of Aquawket, (commonly pronounced
’Quawket,) looked out of his study window over a remarkably pretty New
England prospect, stroked his thin, grayish side–whiskers, and sighed
deeply. He was a pale, sober, ill–dressed Congregationalist minister of
forty–two or three. He had eyes of willow–pattern blue, a large nose,
and a large mouth, with a smile of forced amiability in the corners. He
_was_ amiable, perfectly amiable and innocuous—but that smile sometimes
made people with a strong sense of humor want to kill him. The smile
lingered even while he sighed.

Mr. Pursly’s house was set upon a hill, although it was a modest abode.
From his window he looked down one of those splendid streets that are
the pride and glory of old towns in New England—a street fifty yards
wide, arched with grand Gothic elms, bordered with houses of pale
yellow and white, some in the homelike, simple yet dignified colonial
style, some with great Doric porticos at the street end. And above the
billowy green of the tree–tops rose two shapely spires, one to the
right, of granite, one to the left, of sand–stone. It was the sight of
these two spires that made the Reverend Mr. Pursly sigh.

With a population of four thousand five hundred, ’Quawket had an
Episcopal Church, a Roman Catholic Church, a Presbyterian Church,
a Methodist Church, a Universalist Church, (very small,) a Baptist
Church, a Hall for the “Seventh–Day Baptists,” (used for secular
purposes every day but Saturday,) a Bethel, and—“The Two Churches”—as
every one called the First and Second Congregational Churches. Fifteen
years before, there had been but one Congregational Church, where a
prosperous and contented congregation worshiped in a plain little
old–fashioned red brick church on a side–street. Then, out of this
very prosperity, came the idea of building a fine new free–stone
church on Main Street. And, when the new church was half–built, the
congregation split on the question of putting a “rain–box” in the
new organ. It is quite unnecessary to detail how this quarrel over
a handful of peas grew into a church war, with ramifications and
interlacements and entanglements and side–issues and under–currents and
embroilments of all sorts and conditions. In three years there was a
First Congregational Church, in free–stone, solid, substantial, plain,
and a Second Congregational Church in granite, something gingerbready,
but showy and modish—for there are fashions in architecture as there
are in millinery, and we cut our houses this way this year and that way
the next. And these two churches had half a congregation apiece, and
a full–sized debt, and they lived together in a spirit of Christian
unity, on Capulet and Montague terms. The people of the First Church
called the people of the Second Church the “Sadduceeceders,” because
there was no future for them, and the people of the Second Church
called the people of the First Church the “Pharisee–mes”. And this
went on year after year, through the Winters when the foxes hugged
their holes in the ground within the woods about ’Quawket, through the
Summers when the birds of the air twittered in their nests in the great
elms of Main Street.

If the First Church had a revival, the Second Church had a fair. If the
pastor of the First Church exchanged with a distinguished preacher from
Philadelphia, the organist of the Second Church got a celebrated tenor
from Boston and had a service of song. This system after a time created
a class in both churches known as “the floats,” in contradistinction to
the “pillars.” The floats went from one church to the other according
to the attractions offered. There were, in the end, more floats than
pillars.

The Reverend Mr. Pursly inherited this contest from his predecessor. He
had carried it on for three years. Finally, being a man of logical and
precise mental processes, he called the head men of his congregation
together, and told them what in worldly language might be set down thus:

There was room for one Congregational Church in ’Quawket, and for one
only. The flock must be reunited in the parent fold. To do this a
master stroke was necessary. They must build a Parish House. All of
which was true beyond question—and yet—the church had a debt of $20,000
and a Parish House would cost $15,000.

And now the Reverend Mr. Pursly was sitting at his study window,
wondering why all the rich men _would_ join the Episcopal Church. He
cast down his eyes, and saw a rich man coming up his path who could
readily have given $15,000 for a Parish House, and who might safely
be expected to give $1.50, if he were rightly approached. A shade of
bitterness crept over Mr. Pursly’s professional smile. Then a look of
puzzled wonder took possession of his face. Brother Joash Hitt was
regular in his attendance at church and at prayer–meeting; but he kept
office–hours in his religion, as in everything else, and never before
had he called upon his pastor.

Two minutes later, the minister was nervously shaking hands with
Brother Joash Hitt.

“I’m very glad to see you, Mr. Hitt,” he stammered, “very glad—I’m—I’m—“

“S’prised?” suggested Mr. Hitt, grimly.

“Won’t you sit down?” asked Mr. Pursly.

Mr. Hitt sat down in the darkest corner of the room, and glared at
his embarrassed host. He was a huge old man, bent, heavily–built,
with grizzled dark hair, black eyes, skin tanned to a mahogany brown,
a heavy square under–jaw, and big leathery dew–laps on each side of
it that looked as hard as the jaw itself. Brother Joash had been all
things in his long life—sea–captain, commission merchant, speculator,
slave–dealer even, people said—and all things to his profit. Of late
years he had turned over his capital in money–lending, and people said
that his great claw–like fingers had grown crooked with holding the
tails of his mortgages.

A silence ensued. The pastor looked up and saw that Brother Joash had
no intention of breaking it.

“Can I do any thing for you, Mr. Hitt?” inquired Mr. Pursly.

“Ya–as,” said the old man. “Ye kin. I b’leeve you gin’lly git sump’n’
over ’n’ above your sellery when you preach a fun’l sermon?”

“Well, Mr. Hitt, it—yes—it is customary.”

“How much?”

“The usual honorarium is—h’m—ten dollars.”

“The—_whut_?”

“The—the fee.”

“Will you write me one for ten dollars?”

“Why—why—” said the minister, nervously; “I didn’t know that any one
had—had died—“

“There hain’t no one died, ez I know. It’s _my_ fun’l sermon I want.”

“But, my dear Mr. Hitt, I trust you are not—that you won’t—that—“

“Life’s a rope of sand, parson—you’d ought to know that—nor we don’t
none of us know when it’s goin’ to fetch loost. I’m most ninety now,
’n’ I don’t cal’late to git no younger.”

“Well,” said Mr. Pursly, faintly smiling; “when the time _does_ come—“

“No, _sir_!” interrupted Mr. Hitt, with emphasis; “when the time
_doos_ come, I won’t have no use for it. Th’ ain’t no sense in the way
most folks is berrid. Whut’s th’ use of puttin’ a man into a mahog’ny
coffin, with a silver plate big’s a dishpan, an’ preachin’ a fun’l
sermon over him, an’ costin’ his estate good money, when he’s only
a poor deef, dumb, blind fool corpse, an’ don’t get no good of it?
_Naow_, I’ve be’n to the undertaker’s, an’ hed my coffin made under my
own sooperveesion—good wood, straight grain, no knots—nuthin’ fancy,
but doorable. I’ve hed my tombstun cut, an’ chose my text to put onto
it—’we brung nuthin’ into the world, an’ it is certain we can take
nuthin’ out’—an’ now I want my fun’l sermon, jes’ as the other folks is
goin’ to hear it who don’t pay nuthin’ for it. Kin you hev it ready for
me this day week?”

“I suppose so,” said Mr. Pursly, weakly.

“I’ll call fer it,” said the old man. “Heern some talk about a Perrish
House, didn’t I?”

“Yes,” began Mr. Pursly, his face lighting up.

“‘Tain’t no sech a bad _i_dee,” remarked Brother Joash. “Wal, good
day.” And he walked off before the minister could say any thing more.

       *       *       *       *       *

One week later, Mr. Pursly again sat in his study, looking at Brother
Joash, who had a second time settled himself in the dark corner.

It had been a terrible week for Mr. Pursly. He and his conscience, and
his dream of the Parish House, had been shut up together working over
that sermon, and waging a war of compromises. The casualties in this
war were all on the side of the conscience.

“Read it!” commanded Brother Joash. The minister grew pale. This was
more than he had expected. He grew pale and then red and then pale
again.

“Go ahead!” said Brother Joash.

“Brethren,” began Mr. Pursly, and then he stopped short. His pulpit
voice sounded strange in his little study.

“Go ahead!” said Brother Joash.

“We are gathered together here to–day to pay a last tribute of respect
and affection—“

“Clk!” There was a sound like the report of a small pistol. Mr. Pursly
looked up. Brother Joash regarded him with stern intentness.

“—to one of the oldest and most prominent citizens of our town, a
pillar of our church, and a monument of the civic virtues of probity,
industry and wisdom, a man in whom we all took pride, and—“

“Clk!” Mr. Pursly looked up more quickly this time, and a faint
suggestion of an expression just vanishing from Mr. Hitt’s lips
awakened in his unsuspicious breast a horrible suspicion that Brother
Joash had chuckled.

“—whose like we shall not soon again see in our midst. The children on
the streets will miss his familiar face—“

“Say!” broke in Brother Joash, “how’d it be for a delegation of child’n
to foller the remains, with flowers or sump’n’? They’d volunteer if you
give ’em the hint, wouldn’t they?”

“It would be—unusual,” said the minister.

“All right,” assented Mr. Hitt, “only an _i_dee of mine. Thought they
might like it. Go ahead!”

Mr. Pursly went ahead, haunted by an agonizing fear of that awful
chuckle, if chuckle it was. But he got along without interruption until
he reached a casual and guarded allusion to the widows and orphans
without whom no funeral oration is complete. Here the metallic voice of
Brother Joash rang out again.

“Say! Ef the widders and orphans send a wreath—or a Gates–Ajar—_ef_
they do, mind ye!—you’ll hev it put a–top of the coffin, where folks’ll
see it, wun’t ye?”

“Certainly,” said the Reverend Mr. Pursly, hastily; “his charities were
unostentatious, as was the whole tenor of his life. In these days of
spendthrift extravagance, our young men may well—“

“Say!” Brother Joash broke in once more. “Ef any one wuz to git
up right there, an’ say that I wuz the derndest meanest, miserly,
penurious, parsimonious old hunks in ’Quawket, you wouldn’t let him
talk like that, would ye?”

“Unquestionably not, Mr. Hitt!” said the minister, in horror.

“Thought not. On’y thet’s whut I heern one o’ your deacons say about
me the other day. Didn’t know I heern him, but I did. I thought you
wouldn’t allow no such talk as that. Go ahead!”

“I must ask you, Mr. Hitt,” Mr. Pursly said, perspiring at every pore,
“to refrain from interruptions—or I—I really—can not continue.”

“All right,” returned Mr. Hitt, with perfect calmness. “Continner.”

Mr. Pursly continued to the bitter end, with no further interruption
that called for remonstrance. There were soft inarticulate sounds that
seemed to him to come from Brother Joash’s dark corner. But it might
have been the birds in the _Ampelopsis Veitchii_ that covered the house.

Brother Joash expressed no opinion, good or ill, of the address. He
paid his ten dollars, in one–dollar bills, and took his receipt. But as
the anxious minister followed him to the door, he turned suddenly and
said:

“You was talkin’ ’bout a Perrish House?”

“Yes—“

“Kin ye keep a secret?”

“I hope so—yes, certainly, Mr. Hitt.”

“The’ ’ll be one.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“I feel,” said the Reverend Mr. Pursly to his wife, “as if I had
carried every stone of that Parish House on my shoulders and put it in
its place. Can you make me a cup of tea, my dear?”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration]

The Summer days had begun to grow chill, and the great elms of ’Quawket
were flecked with patches and spots of yellow, when, early one
morning, the meagre little charity–boy whose duty it was to black Mr.
Hitt’s boots every day—it was a luxury he allowed himself in his old
age—rushed, pale and frightened, into a neighboring grocery, and cried:

“Mist’ Hitt’s dead!”

“Guess not,” said the grocer, doubtfully. “Brother Hitt’s gut th’ Old
Nick’s agency for ’Quawket, ’n’ I ain’t heerd th’t he’s been discharged
for inattention to dooty.”

“He’s layin’ there smilin’,” said the boy.

“Smilin’?” repeated the grocer. “Guess I’d better go ’n’ see.”

In very truth, Brother Joash lay there in his bed, dead and cold, with
a smile on his hard old lips, the first he had ever worn. And a most
sardonic and discomforting smile it was.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Reverend Mr. Pursly read Mr. Hitt’s funeral address for the second
time, in the First Congregational Church of ’Quawket. Every seat was
filled; every ear was attentive. He stood on the platform, and below
him, supported on decorously covered trestles, stood the coffin that
enclosed all that was mortal of Brother Joash Hitt. Mr. Pursly read
with his face immovably set on the line of the clock in the middle of
the choir–gallery railing. He did not dare to look down at the sardonic
smile in the coffin below him; he did not dare to let his eye wander to
the dark left–hand corner of the church, remembering the dark left–hand
corner of his own study. And as he repeated each complimentary,
obsequious, flattering platitude, a hideous, hysterical fear grew
stronger and stronger within him that suddenly he would be struck dumb
by the “clk!” of that mirthless chuckle that had sounded so much like a
pistol–shot. His voice was hardly audible in the benediction.

       *       *       *       *       *

The streets of ’Quawket were at their gayest and brightest when the
mourners drove home from the cemetery at the close of the noontide
hour. The mourners were principally the deacons and elders of the First
Church. The Reverend Mr. Pursly lay back in his seat with a pleasing
yet fatigued consciousness of duty performed and martyrdom achieved. He
was exhausted, but humbly happy. As they drove along, he looked with
a speculative eye on one or two eligible sites for the Parish House.
His companion in the carriage was Mr. Uriel Hankinson, Brother Joash’s
lawyer, whose entire character had been aptly summed up by one of his
fellow–citizens in conferring on him the designation of “a little Joash
for one cent.”

[Illustration]

“Parson,” said Mr. Hankinson, breaking a long silence, “that was a
fust–rate oration you made.”

“I’m glad to hear you say so,” replied Mr. Pursly, his chronic smile
broadening.

“You treated the deceased right handsome, considerin’,” went on the
lawyer Hankinson.

“Considering what?” inquired Mr. Pursly, in surprise.

“Considerin’—well, _considerin’_—“ replied Mr. Hankinson, with a wave
of his hand. “You must feel to be reel disapp’inted ’bout the Parish
House, I sh’d s’pose.”

“The Parish House?” repeated the Reverend Mr. Pursly, with a cold chill
at his heart, but with dignity in his voice. “You may not be aware, Mr.
Hankinson, that I have Mr. Hitt’s promise that we should have a Parish
House. And Mr. Hitt was—was—a man of his word.” This conclusion sounded
to his own ears a trifle lame and impotent.

“Guess you had his promise that there _should_ be a Parish House,”
corrected the lawyer, with a chuckle that might have been a faint echo
of Brother Joash’s.

“Well?”

“Well—the Second Church gits it. I draw’d his will. Good day, parson,
I’ll ’light here. Air’s kind o’ cold, ain’t it?”

[Illustration]



  THE LOVE–LETTERS
  OF SMITH.

[Illustration: “_A peculiar gritting noise made her look down._”]



THE LOVE–LETTERS OF SMITH.


When the little seamstress had climbed to her room in the story over
the top story of the great brick tenement house in which she lived, she
was quite tired out. If you do not understand what a story over a top
story is, you must remember that there are no limits to human greed,
and hardly any to the height of tenement houses. When the man who owned
that seven–story tenement found that he could rent another floor, he
found no difficulty in persuading the guardians of our building laws to
let him clap another story on the roof, like a cabin on the deck of a
ship; and in the southeasterly of the four apartments on this floor the
little seamstress lived. You could just see the top of her window from
the street—the huge cornice that had capped the original front, and
that served as her window–sill now, quite hid all the lower part of the
story on top of the top–story.

The little seamstress was scarcely thirty years old, but she was
such an old–fashioned little body in so many of her looks and ways
that I had almost spelled her sempstress, after the fashion of our
grandmothers. She had been a comely body, too; and would have been
still, if she had not been thin and pale and anxious–eyed.

She was tired out to–night because she had been working hard all day
for a lady who lived far up in the “New Wards” beyond Harlem River,
and after the long journey home, she had to climb seven flights of
tenement–house stairs. She was too tired, both in body and in mind, to
cook the two little chops she had brought home. She would save them
for breakfast, she thought. So she made herself a cup of tea on the
miniature stove, and ate a slice of dry bread with it. It was too much
trouble to make toast.

But after dinner she watered her flowers. She was never too tired
for that: and the six pots of geraniums that caught the south sun
on the top of the cornice did their best to repay her. Then she sat
down in her rocking chair by the window and looked out. Her eyry was
high above all the other buildings, and she could look across some
low roofs opposite, and see the further end of Tompkins Square, with
its sparse Spring green showing faintly through the dusk. The eternal
roar of the city floated up to her and vaguely troubled her. She was
a country girl, and although she had lived for ten years in New York,
she had never grown used to that ceaseless murmur. To–night she felt
the languor of the new season as well as the heaviness of physical
exhaustion. She was almost too tired to go to bed.

She thought of the hard day done and the hard day to be begun after the
night spent on the hard little bed. She thought of the peaceful days in
the country, when she taught school in the Massachusetts village where
she was born. She thought of a hundred small slights that she had to
bear from people better fed than bred. She thought of the sweet green
fields that she rarely saw nowadays. She thought of the long journey
forth and back that must begin and end her morrow’s work, and she
wondered if her employer would think to offer to pay her fare. Then she
pulled herself together. She must think of more agreeable things, or
she could not sleep. And as the only agreeable things she had to think
about were her flowers, she looked at the garden on top of the cornice.

A peculiar gritting noise made her look down, and she saw a cylindrical
object that glittered in the twilight, advancing in an irregular and
uncertain manner toward her flower–pots. Looking closer, she saw that
it was a pewter beer–mug, which somebody in the next apartment was
pushing with a two–foot rule. On top of the beer–mug was a piece of
paper, and on this paper was written, in a sprawling, half–formed hand:

  _porter_
  _pleas excuse the libberty And_
  _drink it_

The seamstress started up in terror, and shut the window. She
remembered that there was a man in the next apartment. She had seen
him on the stairs, on Sundays. He seemed a grave, decent person;
but—he must be drunk. She sat down on her bed, all a–tremble. Then she
reasoned with herself. The man was drunk, that was all. He probably
would not annoy her further. And if he did, she had only to retreat
to Mrs. Mulvaney’s apartment in the rear, and Mr. Mulvaney, who was
a highly respectable man and worked in a boiler–shop, would protect
her. So, being a poor woman who had already had occasion to excuse—and
refuse—two or three “libberties” of like sort, she made up her mind to
go to bed like a reasonable seamstress, and she did. She was rewarded,
for when her light was out, she could see in the moonlight that the
two–foot rule appeared again, with one joint bent back, hitched itself
into the mug–handle, and withdrew the mug.

The next day was a hard one for the little seamstress, and she hardly
thought of the affair of the night before until the same hour had come
around again, and she sat once more by her window. Then she smiled at
the remembrance. “Poor fellow,” she said in her charitable heart, “I’ve
no doubt he’s _awfully_ ashamed of it now. Perhaps he was never tipsy
before. Perhaps he didn’t know there was a lone woman in here to be
frightened.”

Just then she heard a gritting sound. She looked down. The pewter pot
was in front of her, and the two–foot rule was slowly retiring. On the
pot was a piece of paper, and on the paper was:

  _porter_
  _good for the helth_
  _it makes meet_

This time the little seamstress shut her window with a bang of
indignation. The color rose to her pale cheeks. She thought that she
would go down to see the janitor at once. Then she remembered the seven
flights of stairs; and she resolved to see the janitor in the morning.
Then she went to bed and saw the mug drawn back just as it had been
drawn back the night before.

The morning came, but, somehow, the seamstress did not care to complain
to the janitor. She hated to make trouble—and the janitor might
think—and—and—well, if the wretch did it again she would speak to him
herself, and that would settle it.

And so, on the next night, which was a Thursday, the little seamstress
sat down by her window, resolved to settle the matter. And she had not
sat there long, rocking in the creaking little rocking–chair which she
had brought with her from her old home, when the pewter pot hove in
sight, with a piece of paper on the top.

This time the legend read:

  _Perhaps you are afrade i will_
  _adress you_
  _i am not that kind_

The seamstress did not quite know whether to laugh or to cry. But she
felt that the time had come for speech. She leaned out of her window
and addressed the twilight heaven.

“Mr.—Mr.—sir—I—will you _please_ put your head out of the window so
that I can speak to you?”

The silence of the other room was undisturbed. The seamstress drew
back, blushing. But before she could nerve herself for another attack,
a piece of paper appeared on the end of the two–foot rule.

  _when i Say a thing i_
  _mene it_
  _i have Sed i would not_
  _Adress you and i_
  _Will not_

What was the little seamstress to do? She stood by the window and
thought hard about it. Should she complain to the janitor? But the
creature was perfectly respectful. No doubt he meant to be kind.
He certainly was kind, to waste these pots of porter on her. She
remembered the last time—and the first—that she had drunk porter.
It was at home, when she was a young girl, after she had had the
diphtheria. She remembered how good it was, and how it had given her
back her strength. And without one thought of what she was doing, she
lifted the pot of porter and took one little reminiscent sip—two little
reminiscent sips—and became aware of her utter fall and defeat. She
blushed now as she had never blushed before, put the pot down, closed
the window, and fled to her bed like a deer to the woods.

And when the porter arrived the next night, bearing the simple appeal:

  _Dont be afrade of it_
  _drink it all_

the little seamstress arose and grasped the pot firmly by the handle,
and poured its contents over the earth around her largest geranium. She
poured the contents out to the last drop, and then she dropped the pot,
and ran back and sat on her bed and cried, with her face hid in her
hands.

[Illustration]

“Now,” she said to herself, “you’ve done it! And you’re just as nasty
and hard–hearted and suspicious and mean as—as pusley!”

And she wept to think of her hardness of heart. “He will never give me
a chance to say I am sorry,” she thought. And, really, she might have
spoken kindly to the poor man, and told him that she was much obliged
to him, but that he really mustn’t ask her to drink porter with him.

“But it’s all over and done now,” she said to herself as she sat at her
window on Saturday night. And then she looked at the cornice, and saw
the faithful little pewter pot traveling slowly toward her.

She was conquered. This act of Christian forbearance was too much for
her kindly spirit. She read the inscription on the paper:

  _porter is good for Flours_
  _but better for Fokes_

and she lifted the pot to her lips, which were not half so red as her
cheeks, and took a good, hearty, grateful draught.

[Illustration]

She sipped in thoughtful silence after this first plunge, and presently
she was surprised to find the bottom of the pot in full view.

On the table at her side a few pearl buttons were screwed up in a bit
of white paper. She untwisted the paper and smoothed it out, and wrote
in a tremulous hand—she _could_ write a very neat hand—

  _Thanks._

This she laid on the top of the pot, and in a moment the bent
two–foot–rule appeared and drew the mail–carriage home. Then she sat
still, enjoying the warm glow of the porter, which seemed to have
permeated her entire being with a heat that was not at all like the
unpleasant and oppressive heat of the atmosphere, an atmosphere heavy
with the Spring damp. A gritting on the tin aroused her. A piece of
paper lay under her eyes.

  _fine groing weather_
              _Smith_

it said.

Now it is unlikely that in the whole round and range of conversational
commonplaces there was one other greeting that could have induced
the seamstress to continue the exchange of communications. But this
simple and homely phrase touched her country heart. What did “_groing
weather_” matter to the toilers in this waste of brick and mortar? This
stranger must be, like herself, a country–bred soul, longing for the
new green and the upturned brown mould of the country fields. She took
up the paper, and wrote under the first message:

  _Fine_

But that seemed curt; _for_ she added: “_for_” what? She did not know.
At last in desperation she put down _potatos_. The piece of paper was
withdrawn and came back with an addition:

  _Too mist for potatos._

And when the little seamstress had read this, and grasped the fact
that _m–i–s–t_ represented the writer’s pronunciation of “moist,”
she laughed softly to herself. A man whose mind, at such a time, was
seriously bent upon potatos, was not a man to be feared. She found a
half–sheet of note–paper, and wrote:

_I lived in a small village before I came to New York, but I am afraid
I do not know much about farming. Are you a farmer?_

The answer came:

  _have ben most Every thing_
  _farmed a Spel in Maine_
                       _Smith_

As she read this, the seamstress heard a church clock strike nine.

“Bless me, is it so late?” she cried, and she hurriedly penciled _Good
Night_, thrust the paper out, and closed the window. But a few minutes
later, passing by, she saw yet another bit of paper on the cornice,
fluttering in the evening breeze. It said only _good nite_, and after
a moment’s hesitation, the little seamstress took it in and gave it
shelter.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration]

After this, they were the best of friends. Every evening the pot
appeared, and while the seamstress drank from it at her window, Mr.
Smith drank from its twin at his; and notes were exchanged as rapidly
as Mr. Smith’s early education permitted. They told each other their
histories, and Mr. Smith’s was one of travel and variety, which he
seemed to consider quite a matter of course. He had followed the
sea, he had farmed, he had been a logger and a hunter in the Maine
woods. Now he was foreman of an East River lumber yard, and he was
prospering. In a year or two he would have enough laid by to go home
to Bucksport and buy a share in a ship–building business. All this
dribbled out in the course of a jerky but variegated correspondence,
in which autobiographic details were mixed with reflections, moral and
philosophical.

A few samples will give an idea of Mr. Smith’s style:

  _i was one trip to van demens_
  _land_

To which the seamstress replied:

  _It must have been very interesting._

But Mr. Smith disposed of this subject very briefly:

  _it wornt_

[Illustration]

Further he vouchsafed:

  _i seen a chinese cook in hong kong could cook flapjacks like your
  Mother_

  _a mishnery that sells Rum is the menest of Gods crechers_

  _a bulfite is not what it is cract up to Be_

  _the dagos are wussen the  brutes_

  _i am 6 1¾ but my Father was 6 foot 4_

The seamstress had taught school one Winter, and she could not refrain
from making an attempt to reform Mr. Smith’s orthography. One evening,
in answer to this communication:

_i killd a Bare in Maine 600 lbs waight_

she wrote:

_Isn’t it generally spelled Bear?_

but she gave up the attempt when he responded:

_a bare is a mene animle any way you spel him_

The Spring wore on, and the Summer came, and still the evening drink
and the evening correspondence brightened the close of each day for
the little seamstress. And the draught of porter put her to sleep each
night, giving her a calmer rest than she had ever known during her stay
in the noisy city; and it began, moreover, to make a little “_meet_”
for her. And then the thought that she was going to have an hour of
pleasant companionship somehow gave her courage to cook and eat her
little dinner, however tired she was. The seamstress’s cheeks began to
blossom with the June roses.

And all this time Mr. Smith kept his vow of silence unbroken, though
the seamstress sometimes tempted him with little ejaculations and
exclamations to which he might have responded. He was silent and
invisible. Only the smoke of his pipe, and the clink of his mug as he
set it down on the cornice, told her that a living, material Smith was
her correspondent. They never met on the stairs, for their hours of
coming and going did not coincide. Once or twice they passed each other
in the street—but Mr. Smith looked straight ahead of him, about a foot
over her head. The little seamstress thought he was a very fine–looking
man, with his six feet one and three–quarters and his thick brown
beard. Most people would have called him plain.

[Illustration]

Once she spoke to him. She was coming home one Summer evening, and a
gang of corner–loafers stopped her and demanded money to buy beer,
as is their custom. Before she had time to be frightened, Mr. Smith
appeared—whence, she knew not—scattered the gang like chaff, and,
collaring two of the human hyenas, kicked them, with deliberate,
ponderous, alternate kicks, until they writhed in ineffable agony.
When he let them crawl away, she turned to him and thanked him warmly,
looking very pretty now, with the color in her cheeks. But Mr. Smith
answered no word. He stared over her head, grew red in the face,
fidgeted nervously, but held his peace until his eyes fell on a rotund
Teuton, passing by.

“Say, Dutchy!” he roared.

The German stood aghast.

“I ain’t got nothing to write with!” thundered Mr. Smith, looking him
in the eye. And then the man of his word passed on his way.

And so the Summer went on, and the two correspondents chatted silently
from window to window, hid from sight of all the world below by the
friendly cornice. And they looked out over the roof, and saw the green
of Tompkins Square grow darker and dustier as the months went on.

[Illustration]

Mr. Smith was given to Sunday trips into the suburbs, and he never came
back without a bunch of daisies or black–eyed Susans or, later, asters
or golden–rod for the little seamstress. Sometimes, with a sagacity
rare in his sex, he brought her a whole plant, with fresh loam for
potting.

He gave her also a reel in a bottle, which, he wrote, he had “_maid_”
himself, and some coral, and a dried flying–fish, that was somewhat
fearful to look upon, with its sword–like fins and its hollow eyes. At
first, she could not go to sleep with that flying–fish hanging on the
wall.

But he surprised the little seamstress very much one cool September
evening, when he shoved this letter along the cornice:

[Illustration: HANDWRITING

Respected and Honored Madam:

Having long and vainly sought an opportunity to convey to you the
expression of my sentiments, I now avail myself of the privilege
of epistolary communication to acquaint you with the fact that the
Emotions, which you have raised in my breast, are those which should
point to Connubial Love and Affection rather than to simple Friendship.
In short, Madam, I have the Honor to approach you with a Proposal, the
acceptance of which will fill me with ecstatic Gratitude, and enable
me to extend to you those Protecting Cares, which the Matrimonial Bond
makes at once the Duty and the Privilege of him, who would, at no
distant date, lead to the Hymeneal Altar one whose charms and virtues
should suffice to kindle its Flames, without extraneous Aid

  I remain, Dear Madam,
  Your Humble Servant and
  Ardent Adorer, J. Smith.]

[Illustration]

The little seamstress gazed at this letter a long time. Perhaps she was
wondering in what Ready Letter–Writer of the last century Mr. Smith
had found his form. Perhaps she was amazed at the results of his first
attempt at punctuation. Perhaps she was thinking of something else, for
there were tears in her eyes and a smile on her small mouth.

But it must have been a long time, and Mr. Smith must have grown
nervous, for presently another communication came along the line where
the top of the cornice was worn smooth. It read:

  _If not understood will you mary me_

The little seamstress seized a piece of paper and wrote:

  _If I say Yes, will you speak to me?_

Then she rose and passed it out to him, leaning out of the window, and
their faces met.

[Illustration]



ZENOBIA’S INFIDELITY.

[Illustration: “_’That there elephant’s been like my own child,’
groaned the keeper._”]



ZENOBIA’S INFIDELITY.


[Illustration]

Dr. Tibbitt stood on the porch of Mrs. Pennypepper’s boarding–house,
and looked up and down the deserted Main Street of Sagawaug with a
contented smile, the while he buttoned his driving–gloves. The little
doctor had good cause to be content with himself and with everything
else—with his growing practice, with his comfortable boarding–house,
with his own good–looks, with his neat attire, and with the world in
general. He could not but be content with Sagawaug, for there never was
a prettier country town. The Doctor looked across the street and picked
out the very house that he proposed to buy when the one remaining
desire of his soul was gratified. It was a house with a hip–roof and
with a long garden running down to the river.

There was no one in the house to–day, but there was no one in any of
the houses. Not even a pair of round bare arms was visible among the
clothes that waved in the August breeze in every back–yard. It was
Circus Day in Sagawaug.

The Doctor was climbing into his gig when a yell startled him. A
freckled boy with saucer eyes dashed around the corner.

“Doctor!” he gasped, “come quick! The circus got a–fire an’ the trick
elephant’s most roasted!”

“Don’t be silly, Johnny,” said the Doctor, reprovingly.

“Hope to die—Honest Injun—cross my breast!” said the boy. The Doctor
knew the sacredness of this juvenile oath.

“Get in here with me,” he said, “and if I find you’re trying to be
funny, I’ll drop you in the river.”

As they drove toward the outskirts of the town, Johnny told his tale.

“Now,” he began, “the folks was all out of the tent after the show was
over, and one of the circus men, he went to the oil–barrel in the green
wagon with Dan’l in the Lion’s Den onto the outside of it, an’ he took
in a candle an’ left it there, and fust thing the barrel busted, an’
he wasn’t hurted a bit, but the trick elephant she was burned awful,
an’ the ring–tailed baboon, he was so scared he had a fit. Say, did you
know baboons had fits?”

When they reached the circus–grounds, they found a crowd around a small
side–show tent. A strong odor of burnt leather confirmed Johnny’s
story. Dr. Tibbitt pushed his way through the throng, and gazed upon
the huge beast, lying on her side on the grass, her broad shoulder
charred and quivering. Her bulk expanded and contracted with spasms
of agony, and from time to time she uttered a moaning sound. On her
head was a structure of red cloth, about the size of a bushel–basket,
apparently intended to look like a British soldier’s forage–cap. This
was secured by a strap that went under her chin—if an elephant has a
chin. This scarlet cheese–box every now and then slipped down over her
eye, and the faithful animal patiently, in all her anguish, adjusted it
with her prehensile trunk.

[Illustration]

By her side stood her keeper and the proprietor of the show, a large
man with a dyed moustache, a wrinkled face, and hair oiled and frizzed.
These two bewailed their loss alternately.

“The boss elephant in the business!” cried the showman. “Barnum never
had no trick elephant like Zenobia. And them lynes and Dan’l was
painted in new before I took the road this season. Oh, there’s been a
hoodoo on me since I showed ag’inst the Sunday–school picnic!”

“That there elephant’s been like my own child,” groaned the keeper, “or
my own wife, I may say. I’ve slep’ alongside of her every night for
fourteen damn years.”

The Doctor had been carefully examining his patient.

“If there is any analogy—” he began.

“Neuralogy!” snorted the indignant showman; “‘t ain’t neuralogy, you
jay pill–box, she’s _cooked_!”

“If there is any analogy,” repeated Dr. Tibbitt, flushing a little,
“between her case and that of a human being, I think I can save your
elephant. Get me a barrel of linseed oil, and drive these people away.”

The Doctor’s orders were obeyed with eager submission. He took off
his coat, and went to work. He had never doctored an elephant, and
the job interested him. At the end of an hour, Zenobia’s sufferings
were somewhat alleviated. She lay on her side, chained tightly to the
ground, and swaddled in bandages. Her groans had ceased.

“I’ll call to–morrow at noon,” said the Doctor—“good gracious, what’s
that?” Zenobia’s trunk was playing around his waistband.

“She wants to shake hands with you,” her keeper explained. “She’s a
lady, she is, and she knows you done her good.”

“I’d rather not have any thing of the sort,” said the Doctor,
decisively.

When Dr. Tibbitt called at twelve on the morrow, he found Zenobia’s
tent neatly roped in, an amphitheatre of circus–benches constructed
around her, and this amphitheatre packed with people.

“Got a quarter apiece from them jays,” whispered the showman, “jest
to see you dress them wownds.” Subsequently the showman relieved his
mind to a casual acquaintance. “He’s got a heart like a gun–flint, that
doctor,” he said; “made me turn out every one of them jays and give ’em
their money back before he’d lay a hand to Zenobia.”

But if the Doctor suppressed the clinic, neither he nor the showman
suffered. From dawn till dusk people came from miles around to stare
a quarter’s worth at the burnt elephant. Once in a while, as a rare
treat, the keeper lifted a corner of her bandages, and revealed the
seared flesh. The show went off in a day or two, leaving Zenobia to
recover at leisure; and as it wandered westward, it did an increased
business simply because it had had a burnt trick elephant. Such, dear
friends, is the human mind.

[Illustration]

The Doctor fared even better. The fame of his new case spread far and
wide. People seemed to think that if he could cure an elephant he could
cure any thing. He was called into consultation in neighboring towns.
Women in robust health imagined ailments, so as to send for him and ask
him shuddering questions about “that _wretched_ animal.” The trustees
of the orphan–asylum made him staff–physician—in this case the Doctor
thought he could trace a connection of ideas, in which children and a
circus were naturally associated. And the local newspaper called him a
_savant_.

He called every day upon Zenobia, who greeted him with trumpetings
of joyful welcome. She also desired to shake hands with him, and
her keeper had to sit on her head and hold her trunk to repress the
familiarity. In two weeks she was cured, except for extensive and
permanent scars, and she waited only for a favorable opportunity to
rejoin the circus.

The Doctor had got his fee in advance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Upon a sunny afternoon in the last of August, Dr. Tibbitt jogged slowly
toward Sagawaug in his neat little gig. He had been to Pelion, the next
town, to call upon Miss Minetta Bunker, the young lady whom he desired
to install in the house with the garden running down to the river.
He had found her starting out for a drive in Tom Matson’s dog–cart.
Now, the Doctor feared no foe, in medicine or in love; but when a
young woman is inscrutable as to the state of her affections, when the
richest young man in the county is devoting himself to her, and when
the young lady’s mother is backing the rich man, a young country doctor
may well feel perplexed and anxious over his chance of the prize.

The Doctor was so troubled, indeed, that he paid no heed to a heavy,
repeated thud behind him, on the macadamized road. His gentle little
mare heard it, though, and began to curvet and prance. The Doctor was
pulling her in, and calming her with a “Soo—Soo—down, girl, down!” when
he interrupted himself to shout:

“Great Cæsar! get off me!”

Something like a yard of rubber hose had come in through the side of
the buggy, and was rubbing itself against his face. He looked around,
and the cold sweat stood out on him as he saw Zenobia, her chain
dragging from her hind–foot, her red cap a–cock on her head, trotting
along by the side of his vehicle, snorting with joy, and evidently bent
on lavishing her pliant, serpentine, but leathery caresses upon his
person.

[Illustration]

His fear vanished in a moment. The animal’s intentions were certainly
pacific, to put it mildly. He reflected that if he could keep his horse
ahead of her, he could toll her around the block and back toward her
tent. He had hardly guessed, as yet, the depth of the impression which
he had made upon Zenobia’s heart, which must have been a large organ,
if the size of her ears was any indication—according to the popular
theory.

He was on the very edge of the town, and his road took him by a house
where he had a new and highly valued patient, the young wife of old
Deacon Burgee. Her malady being of a nature that permitted it, Mrs.
Burgee was in the habit of sitting at her window when the Doctor made
his rounds, and indicating the satisfactory state of her health by
a bow and a smile. On this occasion she fled from the window with a
shriek. Her mother, a formidable old lady under a red false–front, came
to the window, shrieked likewise, and slammed down the sash.

[Illustration]

The Doctor tolled his elephant around the block without further
misadventure, and they started up the road toward Zenobia’s tent,
Zenobia caressing her benefactor while shudders of antipathy ran over
his frame. In a few minutes the keeper hove in sight. Zenobia saw
him first, blew a shrill blast on her trumpet, close to the Doctor’s
ear, bolted through a snake fence, lumbered across a turnip–field,
and disappeared in a patch of woods, leaving the Doctor to quiet his
excited horse and to face the keeper, who advanced with rage in his eye.

“What do you mean, you cuss,” he began, “weaning a man’s elephant’s
affections away from him? You ain’t got no more morals than a Turk, you
ain’t. That elephant an’ me has been side–partners for fourteen years,
an’ here you come between us.”

“I don’t want your confounded elephant,” roared the Doctor; “why don’t
you keep it chained up?”

“She busted her chain to git after you,” replied the keeper. “Oh, I
seen you two lally–gaggin’ all along the road. I knowed you wa’n’t no
good the first time I set eyes on yer, a–sayin’ hoodoo words over the
poor dumb beast.”

The Doctor resolved to banish “analogy” from his vocabulary.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning, about four o’clock, Dr. Tibbitt awoke with a
troubled mind. He had driven home after midnight from a late call,
and he had had an uneasy fancy that he saw a great shadowy bulk
ambling along in the mist–hid fields by the roadside. He jumped out
of bed and went to the window. Below him, completely covering Mrs.
Pennypepper’s nasturtium bed, her prehensile trunk ravaging the early
chrysanthemums, stood Zenobia, swaying to and fro, the dew glistening
on her seamed sides beneath the early morning sunlight. The Doctor
hastily dressed himself and slipped downstairs and out, to meet this
Frankenstein’s–monster of affection.

There was but one thing to do. Zenobia would follow him wherever he
went—she rushed madly through Mrs. Pennypepper’s roses to greet him—and
his only course was to lead her out of the town before people began
to get up, and to detain her in some remote meadow until he could get
her keeper to come for her and secure her by force or stratagem. He
set off by the least frequented streets, and he experienced a pang of
horror as he remembered that his way led him past the house of his one
professional rival in Sagawaug. Suppose Dr. Pettengill should be coming
home or going out as he passed!

[Illustration]

He did not meet Dr. Pettengill. He did meet Deacon Burgee, who stared
at him with more of rage than of amazement in his wrinkled countenance.
The Deacon was carrying a large bundle of embroidered linen and
flannel, that must have been tied up in a hurry.

“Good morning, Deacon,” the Doctor hailed him, with as much ease of
manner as he could assume. “How’s Mrs. Burgee?”

“She’s doin’ fust rate, no thanks to no circus doctors!” snorted the
Deacon. “An’ if you want to know any thing further concernin’ her
health, you ask Dr. Pettengill. _He_’s got more sense than to go
trailin’ around the streets with a parboiled elephant behind him,
a–frightening women–folks a hull month afore the’r time.”

“Why, Deacon!” cried the Doctor, “what—what is it?”

“It’s a boy,” responded the Deacon, sternly; “and it’s God’s own mercy
that ’twa’n’t born with a trunk and a tail.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The Doctor found a secluded pasture, near the woods that encircled the
town, and there he sat him down, in the corner of a snake–fence, to
wait until some farmer or market–gardener should pass by, to carry his
message to the keeper. He had another message to send, too. He had
several cases that must be attended to at once. Unless he could get
away from his pachydermatous familiar, Pettengill must care for his
cases that morning. It was hard—but what was he to do?

Zenobia stood by his side, dividing her attention between the caresses
she bestowed on him and the care she was obliged to take of her
red cap, which was not tightly strapped on, and slipped in various
directions at every movement of her gigantic head. She was unmistakably
happy. From time to time she trumpeted cheerily. She plucked up tufts
of grass, and offered them to the Doctor. He refused them, and she
ate them herself. Once he took a daisy from her, absent–mindedly, and
she was so greatly pleased that she smashed his hat in her endeavors
to pet him. The Doctor was a kind–hearted man. He had to admit that
Zenobia meant well. He patted her trunk, and made matters worse. Her
elephantine ecstasy came near being the death of him.

Still the farmer came not, nor the market–gardener. Dr. Tibbitt began
to believe that he had chosen a meadow that was _too_ secluded. At
last two boys appeared. After they had stared at him and at Zenobia
for half–an–hour, one of them agreed to produce Dr. Pettengill and
Zenobia’s keeper for fifty cents. Dr. Pettengill was the first to
arrive. He refused to come nearer than the furthest limit of the
pasture.

“Hello, Doctor,” he called out, “hear you’ve been seeing elephants.
Want me to take your cases? Guess I can. Got a half–hour free. Brought
some bromide down for you, if you’d like to try it.”

To judge from his face, Zenobia was invisible. But his presence
alarmed that sensitive animal. She crowded up close to the fence, and
every time she flicked her skin to shake off the flies she endangered
the equilibrium of the Doctor, who was sitting on the top rail, for
dignity’s sake. He shouted his directions to his colleague, who shouted
back professional criticisms.

[Illustration]

“Salicylate of soda for that old woman? What’s the matter with
salicylate of cinchonidia? Don’t want to kill her before you get out of
this swamp, do you?”

Dr. Tibbitt was not a profane man; but at this moment he could not
restrain himself.

“_Damn you!_” he said, with such vigor that the elephant gave a
convulsive start. The Doctor felt his seat depart from under him—he was
going—going into space for a brief moment, and then he scrambled up out
of the soft mud of the cow–wallow back of the fence on which he had
been sitting. Zenobia had backed against the fence.

The keeper arrived soon after. He had only reached the meadow when
Zenobia lifted her trunk in the air, emitted a mirthful toot, and
struck out for the woods with the picturesque and cumbersome gallop of
a mastodon pup.

“Dern _you_,” said the keeper to Dr. Tibbitt, who was trying to fasten
his collar, which had broken loose in his fall; “if the boys was here,
and I hollered ‘Hey Rube!’—there wouldn’t be enough left of yer to
spread a plaster fer a baby’s bile!”

The Doctor made himself look as decent as the situation allowed, and
then he marched toward the town with the light of a firm resolve
illuminating his face. The literature of his childhood had come to his
aid. He remembered the unkind tailor who pricked the elephant’s trunk.
It seemed to him that the tailor was a rather good fellow.

“If that elephant’s disease is gratitude,” thought the Doctor, “I’ll
give her an antidote.”

He went to the drug–store, and, as he went, he pulled out a blank pad
and wrote down a prescription, from mere force of habit. It read thus:

[Illustration: PESSELS & MORTON,

DRUGGISTS,

_Commercial Block, Main Street, Sagawaug._

[Index]PRESCRIPTIONS CAREFULLY COMPOUNDED.[Index]

[Rx symbol] Calcium sul 3g ij

Calcium chl 3g xrj

Capsicum pulv 3g zi

sig. Take at once.

Tibbitt]

When the druggist looked at it, he was taken short of breath.

“What’s this?” he asked—“a bombshell?”

“Put it up,” said the Doctor, “and don’t talk so much.” He lingered
nervously on the druggist’s steps, looking up and down the street. He
had sent a boy to order the stable–man to harness his gig. By–and–by,
the druggist put his head out of the door.

“I’ve got some asafœtida pills,” he said, “that are kind o’ tired, and
half a pound of whale–oil soap that’s higher’n Haman—“

“Put ’em in!” said the Doctor, grimly, as he saw Zenobia coming in
sight far down the street.

She came up while the Doctor was waiting for the bolus. Twenty–three
boys were watching them, although it was only seven o’clock in the
morning.

[Illustration]

“Down, Zenobia!” said the Doctor, thoughtlessly, as he might have
addressed a dog. He was talking with the druggist, and Zenobia was
patting his ear with her trunk. Zenobia sank to her knees. The Doctor
did not notice her. She folded her trunk about him, lifted him to her
back, rose, with a heave and a sway, to her feet, and started up the
road. The boys cheered. The Doctor got off on the end of an elm–branch.
His descent was watched from nineteen second–story windows.

His gig came to meet him at last, and he entered it and drove rapidly
out of town, with Zenobia trotting contentedly behind him. As soon
as he had passed Deacon Burgee’s house, he drew rein, and Zenobia
approached, while his perspiring mare stood on her hind–legs.

“Zenobia—pill!” said the Doctor.

As she had often done in her late illness, Zenobia opened her mouth
at the word of command, and swallowed the infernal bolus. Then they
started up again, and the Doctor headed for Zenobia’s tent.

But Zenobia’s pace was sluggish. She had been dodging about the woods
for two nights, and she was tired. When the Doctor whipped up, she
seized the buggy by any convenient projection, and held it back.
This damaged the buggy and frightened the horse; but it accomplished
Zenobia’s end. It was eleven o’clock before Jake Bumgardner’s
“Half–Way–House” loomed up white, afar down the dusty road, and the
Doctor knew that his round–about way had at length brought him near to
the field where the circus–tent had been pitched.

He drove on with a lighter heart in his bosom. He had not heard Zenobia
behind him, for some time. He did not know what had become of her, or
what she was doing, but he learned later.

The Doctor had compounded a pill well calculated to upset Zenobia’s
stomach. That it would likewise give her a consuming thirst he had not
considered. But chemistry was doing its duty without regard to him.
A thirst like a furnace burned within Zenobia. Capsicum and chloride
of lime were doing their work. She gasped and groaned. She searched
for water. She filled her trunk at a wayside trough and poured the
contents into her mouth. Then she sucked up a puddle or two. Then she
came to Bumgardner’s, where a dozen kegs of lager–beer and a keg of
what passed at Bumgardner’s for gin stood on the sidewalk. Zenobia’s
circus experience had taught her what a water–barrel meant. She applied
her knowledge. With her forefoot she deftly staved in the head of one
keg after another, and with her trunk she drew up the beer and the gin,
and delivered them to her stomach. If you think her taste at fault,
remember the bolus.

[Illustration]

Bumgardner rushed out and assailed her with a bung–starter. She turned
upon him and squirted lager–beer over him until he was covered with an
iridescent lather of foam from head to foot. Then she finished the kegs
and went on her way, to overtake the Doctor.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Doctor was speeding his mare merrily along, grateful for even a
momentary relief from Zenobia’s attentions, when, at one and the same
time, he heard a heavy, uncertain thumping on the road behind him,
and the quick patter of a trotter’s hoofs on the road ahead of him.
He glanced behind him first, and saw Zenobia. She swayed from side to
side, more than was her wont. Her red cap was far down over her left
eye. Her aspect was rakish, and her gait was unsteady. The Doctor did
not know it, but Zenobia was drunk.

Zenobia was sick, but intoxication dominated her sickness. Even
sulphide of calcium withdrew courteously before the might of beer and
gin. Rocking from side to side, reeling across the road and back,
trumpeting in imbecile inexpressive tones, Zenobia advanced.

[Illustration]

The Doctor looked forward. Tom Matson sat in his dog–cart, with Miss
Bunker by his side. His horse had caught sight of Zenobia, and he was
rearing high in air, and whinnying in terror. Before Tom could pull
him down, he made a sudden break, overturned the dog–cart, and flung
Tom and Miss Minetta Bunker on a bank by the side of the road. It was
a soft bank, well–grown with mint and stinging–nettles, just above a
creek. Tom had scarce landed before he was up and off, running hard
across the fields.

Miss Minetta rose and looked at him with fire in her eyes.

“Well!” she said aloud; “I’d like Mother to see you _now_!”

The Doctor had jumped out of his gig and let his little mare go
galloping up the road. He had his arm about Miss Minetta’s waist when
he turned to face his familiar demon—which may have accounted for the
pluck in his face.

But Zenobia was a hundred yards down the road, and she was utterly
incapable of getting any further. She trumpeted once or twice, then she
wavered like a reed in the wind; her legs weakened under her, and she
sank on her side. Her red cap had slipped down, and she picked it up
with her trunk, broke its band in a reckless swing that resembled the
wave of jovial farewell, gave one titanic hiccup, and fell asleep by
the roadside.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour later, Dr. Tibbitt was driving toward Pelion, with Miss Bunker
by his side. His horse had been stopped at the toll–gate. He was
driving with one hand. Perhaps he needed the other to show how they
could have a summer–house in the garden that ran down to the river.

       *       *       *       *       *

But it was evening when Zenobia awoke to find her keeper sitting on her
head. He jabbed a cotton–hook firmly and decisively into her ear, and
led her homeward down the road lit by the golden sunset. That was the
end of Zenobia’s infidelity.

[Illustration]



THE NINE CENT–GIRLS. [Illustration: “_He had an uneasy feeling that
they were noticed._”]

THE NINE CENT–GIRLS.

[Illustration]

Miss Bessie Vaux, of Baltimore, paid a visit to her aunt, the wife of
the Commandant at old Fort Starbuck, Montana. She had at her small feet
all the garrison and some two dozen young ranch–owners, the flower
of the younger sons of the best society of New York, Boston, and
Philadelphia. Thirty–seven notches in the long handle of her parasol
told the story of her three months’ stay. The thirty–seventh was final.
She accepted a measly Second–Lieutenant, and left all the bachelors
for thirty miles around the Fort to mourn her and to curse the United
States Army. This is the proem.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. John Winfield, proprietor of the Winfield Ranch, sat a–straddle a
chair in front of the fire in his big living room, and tugged at his
handsome black beard as he discussed the situation with his foreman,
who was also his confidant, his best friend and his old college mate.
Mr. Richard Cutter stood with his back to the fire, twirled a very
blonde moustache and smoked cigarettes continually while he ministered
to his suffering friend, who was sore wounded in his vanity, having
been notch No. 36 on Miss Vaux’s parasol. Dick had been notch No. 1;
but Dick was used to that sort of thing.

“By thunder,” said Mr. Winfield, “I’m going to get married this year,
if I have to marry a widow with six children. And I guess I’ll have to.
I’ve been ten years in this girlless wilderness, and I never did know
any girls to speak of, at home. Now _you_, you always everlastingly
knew girls. What’s that place you lived at in New York State—where
there were so many girls?”

“Tusculum,” replied Mr. Cutter, in a tone of complacent reminiscence.
“Nice old town, plastered so thick with mortgages that you can’t grow
flowers in the front yard. All the fellows strike for New York as soon
as they begin to shave. The crop of girls remains, and they wither on
the stem. Why, one Winter they had a hump–backed man for their sole
society star in the male line. Nice girls, too. Old families. Pretty,
lots of them. Good form, too, for provincials.”

“Gad!” said Jack Winfield, “I’d like to live in Tusculum for a year or
so.”

“No, you wouldn’t. It’s powerful dull. But the girls were nice. Now,
there were the Nine Cent–Girls.”

“The Nine–cent Girls?”

“No, the Nine Cent–Girls. Catch the difference? They were the daughters
of old Bailey, the civil engineer. Nine of ’em, ranging from
twenty–two, when I was there—that’s ten years ago—down to—oh, I don’t
know—a kid in a pinafore. All looked just alike, barring age, and every
one had the face of the Indian lady on the little red cent. Do you
remember the Indian lady on the little red cent?”

“Hold on,” suggested Jack, rising; “I’ve got one. I’ve had it ever
since I came.” He unlocked his desk, rummaged about in its depths, and
produced a specimen of the neatest and most artistic coin that the
United States government has ever struck.

“That’s it,” said Dick, holding the coppery disk in his palm. “It would
do for a picture of any one of ’em—only the Bailey girls didn’t wear
feathers in their hair. But there they were, nine of ’em, nice girls,
every way, and the whole lot named out of the classics. Old Bailey
was strong on the classics. His great–grandfather named Tusculum, and
Bailey’s own name was M. Cicero Bailey. So he called all his girls
by heathen names, and had a row with the parson every christening.
Let me see—there was Euphrosyne, and Clelia, and Lydia, and Flora
and Aurora—those were the twins—I was sweet on one of the twins—and
Una—and, oh, I can’t remember them all. But they were mighty nice
girls.”

“Probably all married by this time,” Jack groaned. “Let me look at that
cent.” He held it in the light of the fire, and gazed thoughtfully upon
it.

“Not a one,” Dick assured him. “I met a chap from Tusculum last time
I was in Butte City, and I asked him. He said there’d been only one
wedding in Tusculum in three years, and then the local paper had a wire
into the church and got out extras.”

“What sort of girls were they?” Winfield asked, still regarding the
coin.

“Just about like that, for looks. Let me see it again.” Dick
examined the cent critically, and slipped it into his pocket, in an
absent–minded way. “Just about like that. First rate girls. Old man
was as poor as a church mouse; but you would never have known it, the
way that house was run. Bright girls, too—at least, my twin was. I’ve
forgotten which twin it was; but she was too bright for me.”

“And how old did you say they were? How old was the youngest?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” replied Dick, with a bachelor’s vagueness on the
question of a child’s age, “five—six—seven, may be. Ten years ago, you
know.”

“Just coming in to grass,” observed Mr. Winfield, meditatively.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two months after the evening on which this conversation took place,
Mr. Richard Cutter walked up one of the quietest and most eminently
respectable of the streets of Tusculum.

Mr. Cutter was nervous. He was, for the second time, making up his mind
to attempt a difficult and delicate task. He had made up his mind to
it, or had had it made up for him; but now he felt himself obliged to
go over the whole process in his memory, in order to assure himself
that the mind was really made up.

The suggestion had come from Winfield. He remembered with what a dazed
incomprehension he had heard his chum’s proposition to induce Mr.
Bailey and all his family to migrate to Montana and settle at Starbuck.

“We’ll give the old man all the surveying he wants. And he can have
Ashford’s place on the big dam when Ashford goes East in August. Why,
the finger of Providence is pointing Bailey straight for Starbuck.”

[Illustration]

With a clearer remembrance of Eastern conventionalities than Mr.
Winfield, Dick Cutter had suggested various obstacles in the way
of this apparently simple scheme. But Winfield would hear of no
opposition, and he joined with him eight other young ranchmen, who
entered into the idea with wild Western enthusiasm and an Arcadian
simplicity that could see no chance of failure. These energetic youths
subscribed a generous fund to defray the expenses of Mr. Cutter as a
missionary to Tusculum; and Mr. Cutter had found himself committed to
the venture before he knew it.

Now, what had seemed quite feasible in Starbuck’s wilds wore a
different face in prim and proper Tusculum. It dawned on Mr. Cutter
that he was about to make a most radical and somewhat impudent
proposition to a conservative old gentleman. The atmosphere of
Tusculum weighed heavy on its spirits, which were light and careless
enough in his adopted home in Montana.

Therefore Mr. Cutter found his voice very uncertain as he introduced
himself to the young lady who opened, at his ring, the front door
of one of the most respectable houses in that respectable street of
Tusculum.

“Good morning,” he said, wondering which one of the Nine Cent–Girls he
saw before him; and then, noting a few threads of gray in her hair, he
ventured:

“It’s Miss—Miss Euphrosyne, isn’t it? You don’t remember me—Mr. Cutter,
Dick Cutter? Used to live on Ovid Street. Can I see your father?”

“My father?” repeated Miss Euphrosyne, looking a little frightened.

“Yes—I just want—“

[Illustration]

“Why, Mr. Cutter—I do remember you now—didn’t you know that Papa died
nine years ago—the year after you left Tusculum?”

Dick Cutter leaned against the door–jamb and stared speechlessly at
Euphrosyne. He noted vaguely that she looked much the same as when he
had last seen her, except that she looked tired and just a shade sad.
When he was able to think, he said that he begged her pardon. Then she
smiled, faintly.

“We couldn’t expect you to know,” she said, simply. “Won’t you come in?”

“N–N–No,” stuttered Dick. “I–I–I’ll call later—this evening, if you
don’t mind. Ah—ah—_good_ day.” And he fled to his hotel, to pull
himself together, leaving Miss Euphrosyne smiling.

He sat alone in his room all the afternoon, pondering over the
shipwreck of his scheme. What should he tell the boys? What would the
boys say? Why had he not thought to write before he came? Why on earth
had Bailey taken it into his head to die?

After supper, he resolved to call as he had promised. Mrs. Bailey,
he knew, had died a year after the appearance of her ninth daughter.
But, he thought, with reviving hope, there might be a male head to the
family—an uncle, perhaps.

The door was opened by Clytie, the youngest of the nine. She ushered
him at once into a bright little parlor, hung around with dainty things
in artistic needlework and decorative painting. A big lamp glowed on a
centre–table, and around it sat seven of the sisters, each one engaged
in some sort of work, sewing, embroidering or designing. Nearest, the
lamp sat Euphrosyne, reading Macaulay aloud. She stopped as he entered,
and welcomed him in a half–timid but wholly friendly fashion.

[Illustration]

Dick sat down, very much embarrassed, in spite of the greeting. It was
many years since he had talked to nine ladies at once. And, in truth,
a much less embarrassed man might have found himself more or less
troubled to carry on a conversation with nine young women who looked
exactly like each other, except for the delicate distinctions of age
which a masculine stranger might well be afraid to note. Dick looked
from one to the other of the placid classic faces, and could not help
having an uneasy idea that each new girl that he addressed was only the
last one who had slipped around the table and made herself look a year
or two older or younger.

But after a while the pleasant, genial, social atmosphere of the room,
sweet with a delicate, winning virginity, thawed out his awkward
reserve, and Dick began to talk of the West and Western life until the
nine pairs of blue eyes, stretched to their widest, fixed upon him as a
common focus. It was eleven when he left, with many apologies for his
long call. He found the night and the street uncommonly dark, empty and
depressing.

“Just the outfit!” he observed to himself. “And old Bailey dead and the
whole scheme busted.”

For he had learned that the Nine Cent–Girls had not a relative in the
world. Under these circumstances, it was clearly his duty to take the
morning train for the West. And yet, the next evening, he presented
himself, shamefaced and apologetic, at the Bailey’s door.

He thought that he wanted to make some sort of explanation to Miss
Euphrosyne. But what explanation could he make? There was no earthly
reason for his appearance in Tusculum. He talked of the West until
eleven o’clock, and then he took a hesitating leave.

[Illustration]

The next day he made a weak pretense of casually passing by when he
knew that Miss Euphrosyne was working in the garden; but he found it
no easier to explain across the front fence. The explanation never
would have been made if it had not been for Miss Euphrosyne. A curious
nervousness had come over her, too, and suddenly she spoke out.

“Mr. Cutter—excuse me—but what has brought you here? I mean is it any
thing that concerns us—or—or—Papa’s affairs! I thought everything was
settled—I had hoped—“

There was nothing for it now but to tell the whole story, and Dick told
it.

“I suppose you’ll think we’re a pack of barbarians,” he said, when he
had come to the end, “and, of course, it’s all impracticable _now_.”

But Miss Euphrosyne did not seem to be offended—only thoughtful.

“Can you call here to–morrow at this time, Mr. Cutter?” she inquired.

       *       *       *       *       *

Miss Euphrosyne blushed faintly when Dick presented himself to hear
judgement pronounced.

“I suppose you will think it strange,” she said, “but if your plan
is feasible, I should wish to carry it out. Frankly, I _do_ want to
see the girls married. Clelia and Lydia and I are past the time when
women think about such things—but Clytie—and the rest. And, you know, I
can remember how Papa and Mama lived together, and sometimes it seems
cruelly hard that those dear girls should lose all that happiness—I’m
sure it’s the best happiness in the world. And it can never be, _here_.
Now, if I could get occupation—you know that I’m teaching school, I
suppose—and if the rest of the girls could keep up their work for the
New York people—why—don’t you know, if I didn’t tell—if I put it on
business grounds, you know—I think they would feel that it was best,
after all, to leave Tusculum....”

Her voice was choked when she recommenced.

[Illustration]

“It seems awful for me to talk to you in this cold–blooded way about
such a thing; but—what _can_ we do, Mr. Cutter? You don’t know how
poor we are. There’s nothing for my little Clytie to do but to be a
dressmaker—and you know what _that_ means, in Tusculum. Oh, _do_ you
think I could teach school out in Star—Star—Starbuckle?”

Miss Euphrosyne was crying.

Dick’s census of possible pupils in the neighborhood of Starbuck
satisfied Miss Euphrosyne. It troubled Dick’s conscience a bit, as he
walked back to the hotel. “But they’ll all be married off before she
finds it out, so I guess it’s all right,” he reflected.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next week Dick went to New York. This was in pursuance of an idea
which he had confided to Winfield, on the eve of his forth–setting.

“Why,” Winfield had said to him, “you are clean left out of this deal,
aren’t you?”

“Of course I am,” said Dick. “How am I going to marry a poor girl on a
hundred dollars a month?”

“I might set you up for yourself—” began his employer.

“Hold on!” broke in Dick Cutter, with emphasis. “You wouldn’t talk that
way if you’d ever been hungry yourself. I ’most starved that last time
I tried for myself; and I’d starve next trip, sure. You’ve been a good
friend to me, Jack Winfield. Don’t you make a damn fool of yourself and
spoil it all.”

“But,” he added, after a pause, “I _have_ a little racket of my own.
There’s a widow in New York who smiled on yours affectionately once,
ere she wed Mammon. I’m going just to see if she feels inclined to
divide the late lamented’s pile with a blonde husband.”

So, the business at Tusculum being determined, and preparations for the
hegira well under way, Dick went to look after his own speculation.

He reached New York on Tuesday morning, and called on the lady of his
hopes that afternoon. She was out. He wrote to her in the evening,
asking when he might see her. On Thursday her wedding–cards came to his
hotel by special messenger. He cursed his luck, and went cheerfully
about attending to a commission which Miss Euphrosyne, after much
urging, had given him, trembling at her own audacity. The size of
it had somewhat staggered him. She asked him to take an order to a
certain large dry–goods house for nine traveling ulsters, (ladies’,
medium weight, measurements enclosed,) for which he was to select the
materials.

“Men have so much taste,” said Miss Euphrosyne. “Papa _always_ knew
when we were well dressed.”

Dick had to wait while another customer was served. He stared at her in
humble admiration. It was a British actress, recently imported.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Mr. Richard Cutter sat on the platform of Tusculum station and saw
his nine charges approach, ready for the long trip to the Far West,
it struck him that the pinky–dun ulsters with the six–inch–square
checks of pale red and blue did not look, on these nine virgins, as
they looked on the British actress. It struck him, moreover, that the
nine “fore–and–aft,” or “deer–stalker” caps which he had thrown in as
Friendship’s Offering only served to more accentuate a costume already
accentuated.

But it was too late for retreat. The Baileys had burned their bridges
behind them. The old house was sold. Their lot was cast in Montana.
He had his misgivings; but he handed them gallantly into the train—it
was not a vestibule express, for economy forbade—and they began their
journey.

He had an uneasy feeling that they were noticed; that the nine ladies
in the ulsters of one pattern—and of the pattern of his choosing—were
attracting more attention than any ladies not thus uniformed would
have attracted; but he was not seriously disturbed until a loquacious
countryman sat down beside him.

“Runnin’ a lady base–ball nine, be ye?” he inquired. “I seen one,
wunst, down to Ne’ York. They can’t play ball not to speak of; but it’s
kinder fun lookin’ at ’em. Couldn’t ye interdooce me to the pitcher?”

[Illustration]

Mr. Cutter made a dignified reply, and withdrew to the smoking–car.
There a fat and affable stranger tapped him on the back and talked in
his ear from the seat behind.

“It don’t pay, young man,” he said. “I’ve handled ’em. Female minstrels
sounds first rate; but they don’t give the show that catches the
people. You’ve gotter have reel talent kinder mixed in with them if you
want to draw.”

“Them ladies in your comp’ny, where do they show?” inquired the
Conductor, as he examined the ten tickets that Dick presented.

“What do you mean?” asked the irritated pioneer.

“If they show in Cleveland, I’d like to go, first rate,” the Conductor
explained.

“Those ladies,” Dick thundered, at the end of his patience, “are not
actresses!”

“Hmf! What be they then?” asked the Conductor.

       *       *       *       *       *

They had arrived at Buffalo. They had gone to the Niagara Hotel, and
had been told that there were no rooms for them; and to the Tifft
House, where there were no rooms; and to the Genesee, where every room
was occupied. Finally they had found quarters in a very queer hotel,
where the clerk, as he dealt out the keys, said:

“One for Lily, and one for Daisy and one for Rosie—here, Boss, sort out
the flower–bed yourself,” as he handed over the bunch.

Dick was taking a drink in the dingy bar–room, and trying to forget the
queer looks that had been cast at his innocent caravan all the day,
when the solitary hall–boy brought a message summoning him to Miss
Euphrosyne’s room. He went, with his moral tail between his mental legs.

“Mr. Cutter,” said Miss Euphrosyne, firmly, “we have made a mistake.”

“It looks that way,” replied Dick, feebly; “but may be it’s only
the—the ulsters.”

“No,” said Miss Euphrosyne. “The ulsters are a part of it; but the
whole thing is wrong, Mr. Cutter; and I see it all now. I didn’t
realize what it meant. But my eyes have been opened. Nine young
unmarried women can not go West with a young man—if you had heard what
people were saying all around us in the cars—you don’t know. We’ve got
to give up the idea. Oh, but it was awful!”

Miss Euphrosyne, trembling, hid her face in her hands. Her tears
trickled out through her thin fingers.

“And the old house is sold! _What_ shall we do? _Where_ shall we go?”
she cried, forgetting Dick utterly, lost and helpless.

Dick was stalking up and down the room.

“It would be all right,” he demanded, “if there was a married woman to
lead the gang, and if—if—if we caught on to something new in the ulster
line?”

“It might be different,” Miss Euphrosyne admitted, with a sob. Speaking
came hard to her. She was tired: well nigh worn out.

“_THEN_,” said Dick, with tremendous emphasis, “what’s the matter with
my marrying one of you?”

“_Why_, Mr. Cutter!” Miss Euphrosyne cried, “I had no idea that
you—you—ever—thought of—is it Clytie?”

“No,” said Mr. Cutter, “it isn’t Clytie.”

“Is it—is it—” Miss Euphrosyne’s eyes lit up with hope long since
extinguished, “is it Aurora?”

“No!”

Dick Cutter could have been heard three rooms off.

“No!” he said, with all his lungs. “It ain’t Clytie, nor it ain’t
Aurora, nor it ain’t Flora, nor Melpomene nor Cybele nor Alveolar
Aureole nor none of ’em. It’s _YOU_—Y–O–U! I want to marry _you_, and
what’s more, I’m going to!”

“Oh! oh! oh! oh!” said poor Miss Euphrosyne, and hid her face in her
hands. She had never thought to be happy, and now she was happy for one
moment. That seemed quite enough for her modest soul. And yet more was
to come.

For once in his life, Dick Cutter seized the right moment to do the
right thing. One hour later, Miss Euphrosyne Bailey was Mrs. Richard
Cutter. She did not know quite how it happened. Clytie told her she had
been bullied into it. But oh! such sweet bullying!

       *       *       *       *       *

“No,” said Mr. Richard Cutter one morning in September of the next
year, to Mr. Jack Winfield and his wife, (Miss Aurora Bailey that was,)
“I can’t stop a minute. We’re too busy up at the ranch. The Wife has
just bought out Wilkinson; and I’ve got to round up all his stock. I’ll
see you next month, at Clytie’s wedding. Queer, she should have gone
off the last, ain’t it? Euphrosyne and I are going down to Butte City
Monday, to buy her a present. Know anybody who wants to pay six per
cent. for a thousand?”

[Illustration]



THE NICE PEOPLE.

[Illustration: “_We looked off from the brow of the mountain over
fifteen miles of billowing green._”]



THE NICE PEOPLE.


“They certainly are nice people,” I assented to my wife’s observation,
using the colloquial phrase with a consciousness that it was any thing
but “nice” English, “and I’ll bet that their three children are better
brought up than most of—“

“_Two_ children,” corrected my wife.

“Three, he told me.”

“My dear, she said there were _two_.”

“He said three.”

“You’ve simply forgotten. I’m _sure_ she told me they had only two—a
boy and a girl.”

“Well, I didn’t enter into particulars.”

“No, dear, and you couldn’t have understood him. Two children.”

“All right,” I said; but I did not think it was all right. As a
near–sighted man learns by enforced observation to recognize persons at
a distance when the face is not visible to the normal eye, so the man
with a bad memory learns, almost unconsciously, to listen carefully and
report accurately. My memory is bad; but I had not had time to forget
that Mr. Brewster Brede had told me that afternoon that he had three
children, at present left in the care of his mother–in–law, while he
and Mrs. Brede took their Summer vacation.

“Two children,” repeated my wife; “and they are staying with his aunt
Jenny.”

“He told me with his mother–in–law,” I put in. My wife looked at me
with a serious expression. Men may not remember much of what they are
told about children; but any man knows the difference between an aunt
and a mother–in–law.

“But don’t you think they’re nice people?” asked my wife.

“Oh, certainly,” I replied. “Only they seem to be a little mixed up
about their children.”

“That isn’t a nice thing to say,” returned my wife.

I could not deny it.

       *       *       *       *       *

And yet, the next morning, when the Bredes came down and seated
themselves opposite us at table, beaming and smiling in their natural,
pleasant, well–bred fashion, I knew, to a social certainty, that
they _were_ “nice” people. He was a fine–looking fellow in his neat
tennis–flannels, slim, graceful, twenty–eight or thirty years old, with
a Frenchy pointed beard. She was “nice” in all her pretty clothes, and
she herself was pretty with that type of prettiness which outwears most
other types—the prettiness that lies in a rounded figure, a dusky skin,
plump, rosy cheeks, white teeth and black eyes. She might have been
twenty–five; you guessed that she was prettier than she was at twenty,
and that she would be prettier still at forty.

[Illustration]

And nice people were all we wanted to make us happy in Mr. Jacobus’s
Summer boarding–house on top of Orange Mountain. For a week we had come
down to breakfast each morning, wondering why we wasted the precious
days of idleness with the company gathered around the Jacobus board.
What joy of human companionship was to be had out of Mrs. Tabb and
Miss Hoogencamp, the two middle–aged gossips from Scranton, Pa.—out
of Mr. and Mrs. Biggle, an indurated head–bookkeeper and his prim and
censorious wife—out of old Major Halkit, a retired business man, who,
having once sold a few shares on commission, wrote for circulars of
every stock company that was started, and tried to induce every one to
invest who would listen to him? We looked around at those dull faces,
the truthful indices of mean and barren minds, and decided that we
would leave that morning. Then we ate Mrs. Jacobus’s biscuit, light
as Aurora’s cloudlets, drank her honest coffee, inhaled the perfume
of the late azaleas with which she decked her table, and decided to
postpone our departure one more day. And then we wandered out to take
our morning glance at what we called “our view;” and it seemed to us as
if Tabb and Hoogencamp and Halkit and the Biggleses could not drive us
away in a year.

I was not surprised when, after breakfast, my wife invited the Bredes
to walk with us to “our view.” The Hoogencamp–Biggle–Tabb–Halkit
contingent never stirred off Jacobus’s verandah; but we both felt that
the Bredes would not profane that sacred scene. We strolled slowly
across the fields, passed through the little belt of woods, and as I
heard Mrs. Brede’s little cry of startled rapture, I motioned to Brede
to look up.

“By Jove!” he cried, “heavenly!”

We looked off from the brow of the mountain over fifteen miles of
billowing green, to where, far across a far stretch of pale blue lay
a dim purple line that we knew was Staten Island. Towns and villages
lay before us and under us; there were ridges and hills, uplands and
lowlands, woods and plains, all massed and mingled in that great
silent sea of sunlit green. For silent it was to us, standing in the
silence of a high place—silent with a Sunday stillness that made us
listen, without taking thought, for the sound of bells coming up from
the spires that rose above the tree–tops—the tree–tops that lay as far
beneath us as the light clouds were above us that dropped great shadows
upon our heads and faint specks of shade upon the broad sweep of land
at the mountain’s foot.

“And so that is _your_ view?” asked Mrs. Brede, after a moment; “you
are very generous to make it ours, too.”

Then we lay down on the grass, and Brede began to talk, in a gentle
voice, as if he felt the influence of the place. He had paddled a
canoe, in his earlier days, he said, and he knew every river and creek
in that vast stretch of landscape. He found his landmarks, and pointed
out to us where the Passaic and the Hackensack flowed, invisible to us,
hidden behind great ridges that in our sight were but combings of the
green waves upon which we looked down. And yet, on the further side of
those broad ridges and rises were scores of villages—a little world of
country life, lying unseen under our eyes.

“A good deal like looking at humanity,” he said: “there is such a thing
as getting so far above our fellow–men that we see only one side of
them.”

Ah, how much better was this sort of talk than the chatter and gossip
of the Tabb and the Hoogencamp—than the Major’s dissertations upon his
everlasting circulars! My wife and I exchanged glances.

“Now, when I went up the Matterhorn,” Mr. Brede began.

“Why, dear,” interrupted his wife; “I didn’t know you ever went up the
Matterhorn.”

“It—it was five years ago,” said Mr. Brede, hurriedly. “I—I didn’t
tell you—when I was on the other side, you know—it was rather
dangerous—well, as I was saying—it looked—oh, it didn’t look at all
like this.”

A cloud floated overhead, throwing its great shadow over the field
where we lay. The shadow passed over the mountain’s brow and reappeared
far below, a rapidly decreasing blot, flying eastward over the golden
green. My wife and I exchanged glances once more.

Somehow, the shadow lingered over us all. As we went home, the Bredes
went side by side along the narrow path, and my wife and I walked
together.

“_Should you think_,” she asked me, “that a man would climb the
Matterhorn the very first year he was married?”

“I don’t know, my dear,” I answered, evasively; “this isn’t the first
year I have been married, not by a good many, and I wouldn’t climb
it—for a farm.”

“You know what I mean,” she said.

I did.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration]

When we reached the boarding–house, Mr. Jacobus took me aside.

“You know,” he began his discourse, “my wife, she used to live in N’
York!”

I didn’t know; but I said “Yes.”

“She says the numbers on the streets runs criss–cross like.
Thirty–four’s on one side o’ the street an’ thirty–five on t’ other.
How’s that?”

“That is the invariable rule, I believe.”

“Then—I say—these here new folk that you ’n’ your wife seem so mighty
taken up with—d’ ye know any thing about ’em?”

“I know nothing about the character of your boarders, Mr. Jacobus,” I
replied, conscious of some irritability. “If I choose to associate
with any of them—“

“Jess so—jess so!” broke in Jacobus. “I hain’t nothin’ to say ag’inst
yer sosherbil’ty. But do ye _know_ them?”

“Why, certainly not,” I replied.

“Well—that was all I wuz askin’ ye. Ye see, when _he_ come here to take
the rooms—you wasn’t here then—he told my wife that he lived at number
thirty–four in his street. An’ yistiddy _she_ told her that they lived
at number thirty–five. He said he lived in an apartment–house. Now
there can’t be no apartment–house on two sides of the same street, kin
they?”

“What street was it?” I inquired, wearily.

“Hunderd ’n’ twenty–first street.”

“May be,” I replied, still more wearily. “That’s Harlem. Nobody knows
what people will do in Harlem.”

I went up to my wife’s room.

“Don’t you think it’s queer?” she asked me.

“I think I’ll have a talk with that young man to–night,” I said, “and
see if he can give some account of himself.”

“But, my dear,” my wife said, gravely, “_she_ doesn’t know whether
they’ve had the measles or not.”

“Why, Great Scott!” I exclaimed, “they must have had them when they
were children.”

“Please don’t be stupid,” said my wife. “I meant _their_ children.”

       *       *       *       *       *

After dinner that night—or rather, after supper, for we had dinner in
the middle of the day at Jacobus’s—I walked down the long verandah to
ask Brede, who was placidly smoking at the other end, to accompany me
on a twilight stroll. Half way down I met Major Halkit.

[Illustration]

“That friend of yours,” he said, indicating the unconscious figure at
the further end of the house, “seems to be a queer sort of a Dick.
He told me that he was out of business, and just looking round for
a chance to invest his capital. And I’ve been telling him what an
everlasting big show he had to take stock in the Capitoline Trust
Company—starts next month—four million capital—I told you all about
it. ‘Oh, well,’ he says, ‘let’s wait and think about it.’ ‘Wait!’ says
I, ‘the Capitoline Trust Company won’t wait for _you_, my boy. This is
letting you in on the ground floor,’ says I ‘and it’s now or never.’
‘Oh, let it wait,’ says he. I don’t know what’s in–_to_ the man.”

“I don’t know how well he knows his own business, Major,” I said as I
started again for Brede’s end of the verandah. But I was troubled none
the less. The Major could not have influenced the sale of one share of
stock in the Capitoline Company. But that stock was a great investment;
a rare chance for a purchaser with a few thousand dollars. Perhaps
it was no more remarkable that Brede should not invest than that I
should not—and yet, it seemed to add one circumstance more to the other
suspicious circumstances.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I went upstairs that evening, I found my wife putting her hair to
bed—I don’t know how I can better describe an operation familiar to
every married man. I waited until the last tress was coiled up, and
then I spoke.

[Illustration]

“I’ve talked with Brede,” I said, “and I didn’t have to catechize him.
He seemed to feel that some sort of explanation was looked for, and he
was very out–spoken. You were right about the children—that is, I must
have misunderstood him. There are only two. But the Matterhorn episode
was simple enough. He didn’t realize how dangerous it was until he had
got so far into it that he couldn’t back out; and he didn’t tell her,
because he’d left her here, you see, and under the circumstances—“

“Left her here!” cried my wife. “I’ve been sitting with her the whole
afternoon, sewing, and she told me that he left her at Geneva, and came
back and took her to Basle, and the baby was born there—now I’m sure,
dear, because I asked her.”

“Perhaps I was mistaken when I thought he said she was on this side of
the water,” I suggested, with bitter, biting irony.

“You poor dear, did I abuse you?” said my wife. “But, do you know, Mrs.
Tabb said that _she_ didn’t know how many lumps of sugar he took in his
coffee. Now that seems queer, doesn’t it.”

It did. It was a small thing. But it looked queer. Very queer.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning, it was clear that war was declared against the
Bredes. They came down to breakfast somewhat late, and, as soon as they
arrived, the Biggleses swooped up the last fragments that remained on
their plates, and made a stately march out of the dining–room. Then
Miss Hoogencamp arose and departed, leaving a whole fish–ball on her
plate. Even as Atalanta might have dropped an apple behind her to tempt
her pursuer to check his speed, so Miss Hoogencamp left that fish–ball
behind her, and between her maiden self and Contamination.

We had finished our breakfast, my wife and I, before the Bredes
appeared. We talked it over, and agreed that we were glad that we had
not been obliged to take sides upon such insufficient testimony.

[Illustration]

After breakfast, it was the custom of the male half of the Jacobus
household to go around the corner of the building and smoke their
pipes and cigars where they would not annoy the ladies. We sat under
a trellis covered with a grape–vine that had borne no grapes in the
memory of man. This vine, however, bore leaves, and these, on that
pleasant Summer morning, shielded from us two persons who were in
earnest conversation in the straggling, half–dead flower–garden at the
side of the house.

“I don’t want,” we heard Mr. Jacobus say, “to enter in no man’s
_pry_–vacy; but I do want to know who it may be, like, that I hev in my
house. Now what I ask of _you_, and I don’t want you to take it as in
no ways _personal_, is—hev you your merridge–license with you?”

[Illustration]

“No,” we heard the voice of Mr. Brede reply. “Have you yours?”

I think it was a chance shot; but it told all the same. The Major (he
was a widower), and Mr. Biggle and I looked at each other; and Mr.
Jacobus, on the other side of the grape–trellis, looked at—I don’t know
what—and was as silent as we were.

Where is _your_ marriage–license, married reader? Do you know? Four
men, not including Mr. Brede, stood or sate on one side or the other of
that grape–trellis, and not one of them knew where his marriage–license
was. Each of us had had one—the Major had had three. But where were
they? Where is _yours_? Tucked in your best–man’s pocket; deposited
in his desk—or washed to a pulp in his white waistcoat (if white
waistcoats be the fashion of the hour), washed out of existence—can you
tell where it is? Can you—unless you are one of those people who frame
that interesting document and hang it upon their drawing–room walls?

Mr. Brede’s voice arose, after an awful stillness of what seemed like
five minutes, and was, probably, thirty seconds:

“Mr. Jacobus, will you make out your bill at once, and let me pay it? I
shall leave by the six o’clock train. And will you also send the wagon
for my trunks?”

“I hain’t said I wanted to hev ye leave—” began Mr. Jacobus; but Brede
cut him short.

“Bring me your bill.”

“But,” remonstrated Jacobus, “ef ye ain’t—“

“Bring me your bill!” said Mr. Brede.

       *       *       *       *       *

My wife and I went out for our morning’s walk. But it seemed to us,
when we looked at “our view,” as if we could only see those invisible
villages of which Brede had told us—that other side of the ridges
and rises of which we catch no glimpse from lofty hills or from the
heights of human self–esteem. We meant to stay out until the Bredes had
taken their departure; but we returned just in time to see Pete, the
Jacobus darkey, the blacker of boots, the brusher of coats, the general
handy–man of the house, loading the Brede trunks on the Jacobus wagon.

And, as we stepped upon the verandah, down came Mrs. Brede, leaning on
Mr. Brede’s arm, as though she were ill; and it was clear that she had
been crying. There were heavy rings about her pretty black eyes.

My wife took a step toward her.

“Look at that dress, dear,” she whispered; “she never thought any thing
like this was going to happen when she put _that_ on.”

It was a pretty, delicate, dainty dress, a graceful, narrow–striped
affair. Her hat was trimmed with a narrow–striped silk of the same
colors—maroon and white—and in her hand she held a parasol that matched
her dress.

[Illustration]

“She’s had a new dress on twice a day,” said my wife; “but that’s the
prettiest yet. Oh, somehow—I’m _awfully_ sorry they’re going!”

But going they were. They moved toward the steps. Mrs. Brede looked
toward my wife, and my wife moved toward Mrs. Brede. But the ostracised
woman, as though she felt the deep humiliation of her position, turned
sharply away, and opened her parasol to shield her eyes from the sun.
A shower of rice—a half–pound shower of rice—fell down over her pretty
hat and her pretty dress, and fell in a spattering circle on the floor,
outlining her skirts—and there it lay in a broad, uneven band, bright
in the morning sun.

Mrs. Brede was in my wife’s arms, sobbing as if her young heart would
break.

“Oh, you poor, dear, silly children!” my wife cried, as Mrs. Brede
sobbed on her shoulder, “why _didn’t_ you tell us?”

“W–W–W–We didn’t want to be t–t–taken for a b–b–b–b–bridal couple,”
sobbed Mrs. Brede; “and we d–d–didn’t _dream_ what awful lies we’d have
to tell, and all the aw–aw–ful mixed–up–ness of it. Oh, dear, dear,
dear!”

       *       *       *       *       *

“Pete!” commanded Mr. Jacobus, “put back them trunks. These folks stays
here’s long’s they wants ter. Mr. Brede—” he held out a large, hard
hand—“I’d orter’ve known better,” he said. And my last doubt of Mr.
Brede vanished as he shook that grimy hand in manly fashion.

The two women were walking off toward “our view,” each with an arm
about the other’s waist—touched by a sudden sisterhood of sympathy.

“Gentlemen,” said Mr. Brede, addressing Jacobus, Biggle, the Major and
me, “there is a hostelry down the street where they sell honest New
Jersey beer. I recognize the obligations of the situation.”

We five men filed down the street. The two women went toward the
pleasant slope where the sunlight gilded the forehead of the great
hill. On Mr. Jacobus’s verandah lay a spattered circle of shining
grains of rice. Two of Mr. Jacobus’s pigeons flew down and picked up
the shining grains, making grateful noises far down in their throats.

[Illustration]



MR. COPERNICUS AND

THE PROLETARIAT.

[Illustration: “_’Gentlemen,’ he drawled, ‘you’ll excuse my not
gig–gig–getting up.’_”]



MR. COPERNICUS AND THE PROLETARIAT.


The old publishing house of T. Copernicus & Son was just recovering
from the rush of holiday business—a rush of perhaps a dozen purchasers.
Christmas shoppers rarely sought out the dingy building just around the
corner from Astor Place, and T. C. & Son had done no great business
since young T. C., the “Son,” died, fifteen years before. The house
lived on two or three valuable copyrights; and old Mr. Copernicus kept
it alive just for occupation’s sake, now that Tom was dead. But he
liked to maintain the assumption that his queer old business, with its
publication of half–a–dozen scientific or theological works per annum,
was the same flourishing concern that it had been in his prime. That it
did not flourish was nothing to him. He was rich, thanks to himself;
his wife was rich, thanks to her aunt; his daughter was rich, thanks
to her grandmother. So he played at business, and every Christmas–time
he bought a lot of fancy stationery and gift–books that nobody called
for, and hired a couple of extra porters for whom the head–porter did
his best to find some work. Then, the week after New Year’s, he would
discharge his holiday hands, and give each of them a dollar or two
apiece out of his own pocket.

“Barney,” he said to the old porter, “you don’t need those two extra
men any longer?”

“‘Deed an’ we do not, sorr!” said Barney; “th’ wan o’ thim wint off av
himself the mornin’, an’ t’ other do be readin’ books the whole day
long.”

“Send him to me,” Mr. Copernicus ordered, and Barney yelled
unceremoniously, “Mike!”

The figure of a large and somewhat stout youth, who might have
been eighteen or twenty–eight years old, appeared, rising from the
sub–cellar. His hair was black, his face was clean–shaven, and although
he held in his hand the evidence of his guilt, a book kept partly
open with his forefinger, he had an expression of imperturbable calm,
and placid, ox–like fixity of purpose. He wore a long, seedy, black
frock–coat, buttoned up to the neck–band of his collarless shirt.

[Illustration]

“How’s this?” inquired Mr. Copernicus. “I’m told that you spend your
time reading my books.” The young man slowly opened his mouth and
answered in a deliberate drawl, agreeably diversified by a peculiar
stutter.

“I haven’t been reading _your_ b–b–books, sir; I’ve been reading my
own. All I had to do was to hand up boxes of fuf–fuf–fancy stationery,
and—“

“I see,” interposed Mr. Copernicus, hurriedly, “there hasn’t been any
very great call for fancy stationery this year.”

“And when there wasn’t any c–c–call for it, I read. I ain’t going to be
a pip–pip–porter all my life. Would _you_?”

“Why, of course, my boy,” said Mr. Copernicus, “if you are reading to
improve your mind, in your leisure time—let’s see your book.”

The young man handed him a tattered duodecimo.

“Why, it’s Virgil!” exclaimed his employer. “You can’t read this.”

“Some of it I kik–kik–can,” returned the employee, “and some of it I
kik–kik–can’t.”

Mr. Copernicus sought out “Arma virumque” and “Tityre, tu patulæ,” and
one or two other passages he was sure of, and the studious young porter
read them in the artless accent which the English attribute to the
ancient Romans, and translated them with sufficient accuracy.

“Where did you learn to read Latin?”

“I p–p–picked it up in odd hours.”

“What else have you studied?”

“A little Gig–Gig–Greek.”

“Any thing else?”

“Some algebra and some Fif–Fif–French.”

“Where do you come from?”

“From Baltimore,” drawled the prodigy, utterly unmoved by his
employer’s manifest astonishment. “I was janitor of a school there, and
the principal lent me his bib–bib–books.”

“What is your name?”

“M–M–Michael Quinlan.”

“And what was your father’s business?”

“He was a bib–bib–bricklayer,” the young man replied calmly, adding,
reflectively, “when he wasn’t did–did–drunk.”

“Bless my old soul!” said Mr. Copernicus to himself, “this is most
extraordinary! I’ll see you again, young man. Barney!” he called to the
head porter, “this young man will remain with us for the present.”

[Illustration]

A couple of days later, Mr. Copernicus sent for Michael Quinlan, and
invited him to call at the Copernican residence on Washington Square,
that evening.

“I want to have Professor Barcalow talk with you,” he explained.

At the hour appointed, Mr. M. Quinlan presented himself at the basement
door of the old house, and was promptly translated to the library,
where Professor Barcalow, once President of Clear Creek University,
Indiana, rubbed his bald head and examined the young man at length.

Quinlan underwent an hour’s ordeal without the shadow of discomposure.

He drawled and stuttered with a placid face, whether his answers were
right or wrong. At the end of the hour, the Professor gave his verdict.

“Our young friend,” he said, “has certainly done wonders for himself
in the way of self–tuition. He is _almost_ able—mind, I say _almost_—to
pass a good Freshman examination. Of course, he is not thorough. There
is just the same difference, Mr. Copernicus, between the tuition you
do for yourself and the tuition that you receive from a competent
teacher as there is between the carpentering you do for yourself and
the carpentering a regular carpenter does for you. I can see the marks
of self–tuition all over this young man’s conversation. He has never
met a competent instructor in his life. But he has done very well
for himself—wonderfully well. He in entitled to great credit. Try
to remember, Quinlan, what I told you about the use of the ablative
absolute.”

[Illustration]

Quinlan said he would, and made his exit by the basement door.

“If he works hard,” remarked the Professor, “he will be able to enter
Clear Creek by June, and work his way through.”

“And as it happens,” said Mr. Copernicus, “I’m going to lose my
night–watchman next week, and I think I’ll put Quinlan in. And then
I’ve been thinking—there are all poor Tom’s books that he had when he
went to Columbia. I’ll let the boy come here and borrow them, and I can
keep an eye on him and see how he’s getting along.”

“H’m! yes, of course,” the Professor assented hesitatingly, dubious of
Mr. Copernicus’s classics.


       *       *       *       *       *

“Well, Barney,” Mr. Copernicus hailed his head–porter a month or two
later, “how does our new night–watchman do?”

“Faith, I’ve seen worse than him,” said Barney. “He’s a willing lad.”

Barney’s heart had been won. He came down to the store each morning and
found that Quinlan had saved him the trouble of taking off the long
sheets of cotton cloth that protected the books on the counters from
the dust.

       *       *       *       *       *

Every week thereafter, Quinlan presented himself at the basement door,
shabby, but no longer collarless, was admitted to the library, by way
of the back–stairs, and received from Mrs. Copernicus the books that
Mr. Copernicus had set aside for him. But one day Mr. Copernicus
forgot the books, and Mrs. Copernicus asked the young man into the
parlor to explain to him how it had happened. When she had explained,
being a kindly soul, she made a little further conversation, and asked
Quinlan some questions about his studies. Greek was Greek indeed to
her; but when he spoke of French, she felt as though she had a sort of
second–hand acquaintance with the language.

“Floretta,” she said to her daughter, “talk to Mr. Quinlan in French,
and find out how much he knows.”

Floretta blushed. She was a wren–like little thing, with soft brown
hair, rather pretty, and yet the sort of girl whom men never notice.
To address this male stranger was an agony to her. But she knew that
her French had been bought at a fashionable boarding–school, and bought
for show, and her mother had a right to demand its exhibition. She
asked M. Quinlan how he portrayed himself, and M. Quinlan, with no more
expression on his face than a Chinese idol, but with a fluency checked
only by his drawl and his stutter, poured forth what sounded to Mrs.
Copernicus like a small oration.

“What did he say then, Floretta?” she demanded.

“He said how grateful he was to Papa for giving him such a chance, and
how he wants to be a teacher when he knows enough. And, oh, Mama, he
speaks _ever_ so much better than _I_ do.”

“Where did you learn to speak so well?” inquired Mrs. Copernicus,
incredulously.

“I lived for some years in a French house, Ma’am. At least, the lady
of the house was French, and she never spoke any thing else.”

[Illustration]

Beneficence is quick to develop into an insidious habit. When Mr.
Copernicus heard this new thing of his prodigy and protegé, a new idea
came to him.

“Old Haverhill, down at the office, speaks French like a native. I’ll
let him feel Quinlan’s teeth, and if he is as good as you say he is,
he’d better come once a week and talk French to Floretta for an hour.
You can sit in the room. She ought to keep up her French.”

And every Wednesday, from four to five, Mr. Quinlan and Miss Floretta
conversed, Floretta blushing ever, Quinlan retaining his idol–like
stolidity. Sometimes the dull monotony of his drawl, broken only by his
regular and rhythmic stutter, lulled Mrs. Copernicus into a brief nap
over her book or her fancy work.

       *       *       *       *       *

Spring had come. The trees had brought out their pale and gauzy green
veils, the beds of tulips and Alpine daisies made glad spots in the
parks, and Quinlan, at his employer’s suggestion, had purchased a ready
made Spring suit, in which he looked so presentable that Mr. Copernicus
was half minded to ask him to dinner.

For Mrs. Copernicus had said something to Mr. Copernicus that had set
him to thinking of many things. The Chinese idol had abated no jot of
his stolidity, and yet—perhaps—he had found a worshiper. Floretta began
blushing of Wednesdays, a full hour before the lesson.

What was to come of it? On the face of it, it seemed impossible. A
Quinlan and a Copernicus! And yet—great–grandfather Copernicus, who
founded the family in America—was not he a carpenter? And did not
his descendants point with pride to his self–made solidity? And here
was native worth; high ambition; achievement that promised more. And
Floretta was twenty–four, and had never had an offer. “What,” inquired
Mr. Copernicus of himself, “is my duty toward the proletariat?”

One thing was certain. If the question was not settled in the negative
at once, Quinlan must be educated. So, instead of inviting Quinlan
to dinner, he invited Mr. Joseph Mitts, the traveling agent of the
Hopkinsonian Higher Education Association, who, by a rare chance, was
in town.

[Illustration]

Cynical folk said that the Hopkinsonian Association existed only to
sell certain textbooks and curious forms of stationery which were
necessary to the Hopkinsonian system. But no such idea had ever entered
the head of Mr. Mitts. He roamed about the land, introducing the
System wherever he could, and a brisk business agent followed him and
sold the Hopkinsonian Blackboards and the Hopkinsonian Ink and the
Hopkinsonian Teachers’ Self–Examination Blanks, on commission.

As they smoked their cigars in the Library after dinner, Mr. Copernicus
told Mr. Mitts about Quinlan. Mr. Mitts was interested. He knew a
Professor at a fresh–water college who would put Quinlan through his
studies during the vacation.

“Well, that’s settled,” Mr. Copernicus said, and he beamed with
satisfaction. “I knew you’d help me out, Mitts. Only it’s so hard ever
to get a sight of you—you are always traveling about.”

“We don’t often meet,” Mr. Mitts assented. “And it is curious that this
visit should have been the means of giving me sight of a man in whom I
want to interest _you_. His name is Chester—Dudley Winthrop Chester. He
is the son of my old clergyman, and he has given his parents a deal of
trouble. I don’t know that Dud ever was vicious or dissolute. But he
was the most confirmed idler and spendthrift I ever knew. He couldn’t
even get through college, and he never would do a stroke of work. He
made his father pay his debts half a dozen times, and when that was
stopped, he drifted away, and his family quite lost sight of him. I met
him in Baltimore last year, and lent him money to come to New York. He
said he was going to work. And just as I came in your front door, I
saw him going out of your basement door with a package under his arm,
so I infer he is employed by one of your trades–people—your grocer,
perhaps.”

“Just as you came in? Why—a large, dark–haired young man?”

“Yes; clean–shaven.”

“Why, that was Quinlan!”

“No,” said Mr. Mitts, with the smile of superior knowledge. “It was
Chester, and if I’m not mistaken, he was kissing the cook.”

“Then you _are_ mistaken!” cried Mr. Copernicus; “my cook is as black
as the ace of spades. There isn’t a white servant in the house.”

“Why, that’s so!” Mr. Mitts was staggered for the moment. “But—wait a
minute—does your man Quinlan speak with a drawl, and just one stutter
to the sentence?”

“I think he does,” replied his host; “but—“

“Dudley Chester!” said Mr. Mitts.

“But, my dear Mitts, where did he get the Latin and Greek?”

“He had to learn _something_ at Yale.”

“And the French?”

“His mother was a French Canadian. That’s where he gets his French—and
his laziness.”

Mr. Copernicus made one last struggle.

“But he has been most industrious and faithful in my employ.”

“What is he?”

“My—my night–watchman.”

“Mr. Copernicus,” inquired Mr. Mitts, “have you a watchman’s clock in
your building?”

“No, sir,” said Mr. Copernicus, indignantly. “I have none of those
degrading new–fangled machines. I prefer to trust my employees.”

“Then Dudley Chester is asleep in your store at this minute.”

       *       *       *       *       *

A soft, moist breeze, with something of the sea in it, blew gently in
at an open window of the second floor of the business establishment
of T. Copernicus & Son. Near the window a gas–jet flickered. Under
the gas–jet, on, or rather in, a bed ingeniously constructed of the
heaped–up covering–cloths from the long counters, lay Mr. Michael
Quinlan, half–supported on his left elbow. In his other hand he held,
half–open, a yellow–covered French novel. Between his lips was a
cigarette. A faint shade of something like amusement lent expression
to his placid features as he listened to Mr. Copernicus puffing his
way up the stairs, followed by Mr. Mitts and Barney. The hands on the
clock pointed to eleven. Mr. Quinlan’s attire was appropriate to the
hour. He wore only a frayed cotton night–shirt. His other clothes were
carelessly disposed about his couch.

He waited calmly until his visitors had appeared before him, and then
he greeted them with a gracious wave of his hand—an easy gesture that
seemed to dismiss Quinlan and announce Chester.

“Gentlemen,” he drawled, “you’ll excuse my not gig–gig–getting up to
welcome you. Ah, Joseph! I saw you this evening, and I supposed the
j–j–jig was up.”

Mr. Copernicus was purple and speechless for the better part of a
minute. Then he demanded, in a husky whisper:

“_Who are you?_”

Mr. Chester, with nothing of the Quinlan left about him, waved his hand
once more.

“Mr. Joseph Mitts is a gentleman of irre–pip–pip–proachable veracity,”
he said. “I can kik–kik–confidently confirm any statements he has made
about me.”

“And why—” Mr. Copernicus had found his voice—“why have you humbugged
me in this iniquitous—infamous way?”

The late Quinlan gazed at him with blank surprise.

“My dear sir, did–did–don’t you see? If I’d told you who I was, you’d
have thought I was a did–did–damn fool not to know more than I did.
Whereas, don’t you see? you thought I was a did–did–devil of a fellow.”

“Get up and dress yourself and get out of here!” said his employer.

“The jig, then,” inquired Mr. Dudley Chester, slowly rising, “is
did–did–definitely up? No more Fif–Fif–French lessons? No? Well,”
he continued, as he leisurely pulled on his trousers, “that’s the
kik–kik–cussèd inconsistency. The j–j–jig is up for the gentleman;
but when you thought I was a did–did–damn Mick, I was right in the
bib–bib–bosom of the blooming family.”

“Here are your week’s wages,” said Mr. Copernicus, trembling with rage.
“Now, get out!”

“Not exactly,” responded the unperturbed sinner: “a ticket to Chicago!”

“I’m afraid you had best yield,” whispered Mr. Mitts. “Your family, you
know. It wouldn’t do to have this get out.”

Mr. Copernicus had a minute of purple rage. Then he handed the money to
Mr. Mitts.

“Put him on the train,” he said. “There’s one at twelve.”

“We can make it if we hurry,” said the obliging Mr. Mitts. “Where’s
your lodging–house, Chester?”

Chester opened his eyes inquiringly. “Why, this is all I’ve got,” he
said; “what’s the mim–mim–matter with this?”

“But your—your luggage?” inquired Mr. Mitts.

Mr. Chester waved a much–worn tooth–brush in the air.

“Man wants but lil–lil–little here below,” he remarked.

       *       *       *       *       *

“You see,” explained Mr. Dudley Winthrop Chester, formerly Quinlan,
as he stepped out into the night air with Mr. Mitts, “the scheme is
bib–bib–busted here, but I’ve got confidence in it. It’s good—it’ll
gig–gig–go. Chicago’s the pip–pip–place for me. I suppose if you flash
up ‘amo, amas’ to a Chicago man, he thinks you’re Elihu Burritt, the
learned bib–bib–blacksmith.”

[Illustration]

“Aren’t you tired of this life of false pretences?” asked Mr. Mitts,
sternly.

“You can bib–bib–bet I am,” responded Chester, frankly; “I haven’t
said a cuss–word in six months. Did–did–did–damn—damn—damn—damn!” he
vociferated into the calm air of night, by way of relieving his pent–up
feelings. “How long is it, Dudley,” pursued the patient Mitts, “since
your parents heard from you?”

[Illustration]

“Two years, I gig–gig–guess,” said Chester. “By Jove,” he added, as his
eye fell on the blue sign of a telegraph office, “did–did–damn if I
don’t telegraph them right now.”

Mr. Mitts was deeply gratified. “That’s a good idea,” he said.

“Lend me a kik–kik–quarter,” said Dudley Chester.

       *       *       *       *       *

At midnight sharp, Mr. Mitts saw his charge ascend the rear platform
of the Chicago train just as it moved out of the gloomy Jersey City
station of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

A young woman of slight figure, with a veil about her face, emerged
from the interior of the car and threw her arms around the neck of Mr.
Chester, late Quinlan.

“I thought I wasn’t mistaken,” said Mr. Mitts to himself.

The next week he received an envelope containing a scrap roughly torn
out of a daily paper. It read as follows:

[Illustration:

MARRILL

SCHOFF.—At the by the Rev. Dr. Kroiel, BISCHOFF, daughter of off. to
THEODORE BREUSING, of Osnabruen, many.

CHESTER—COPERNICUS.—At the rectory of the Church of St. James the
Greater, by the Rev. Dr. Wilson Wilson. D. D., FLORETTA, daughter
of Thomas Copernicus, of New York, to DUDLEY WINTHROP CHESTER, of
Baltimore. Md. No cards.

Marriage o h noti ad, without extra char then the London

v Re ter.]

       *       *       *       *       *

And yet, within six months, Mr. Mitts received cards. They bade him to
a reception given by Mr. and Mrs. Chester at the house of Mr. Thomas
Copernicus.

“_I_ couldn’t have done that,” said Mr. Mitts to himself.

[Illustration]



HECTOR.

[Illustration: “_Three slats!—and a vast black body leaped high in the
air._”]



HECTOR.


It was such a quiet old home, so comfortably covered with wistaria from
basement to chimney–tops, and it stood on the corner of two such quiet,
old–fashioned streets on the East side of New York that you would never
have imagined that it held six of the most agitated and perturbed women
in the great city. But the three Miss Pellicoes, their maid, their
waitress and their cook, could not have been more troubled in their
feminine minds had they been six exceptionally attractive Sabines with
the Roman soldiery in full cry.

[Illustration]

For twenty years—ever since the death of old Mr. Pellicoe—these six
women had lived in mortal fear of the marauding man, and the Man had
come at last. That very evening, at a quarter past eight o’clock, a
creature who called himself a book–agent had rung the front door bell.
Honora, the waitress, had opened the door a couple of inches, inquired
the stranger’s business, learned it, told him to depart, tried to close
the door, and discovered that the man had inserted his toe in the
opening. She had closed the door violently, and the man had emitted a
single oath of deep and sincere profanity. He had then kicked the door
and departed, with a marked limp.

At least this was the story as Honora first related it. But as she
stood before the assembled household and recounted it for the seventh
time, it had assumed proportions that left no room for the charitable
hypothesis that an innocent vendor of literature had been the hapless
victim of his own carelessness or clumsiness.

“And whin he had the half of his big ugly body in the crack o’ th’
dure,” she said, in excited tones and with fine dramatic action, “and
him yellin’ an’ swearin’ and cussin’ iv’ry holy name he could lay his
black tongue to, and me six years cook in a convent, and I t’rew th’
whole weight o’ me on th’ dure, an’—“

“That will do, Honora,” said Miss Pellicoe, who was the head of the
household. She perceived that the combat was deepening too rapidly.
“You may go. We will decide what is to be done.”

And Miss Pellicoe had decided what was to be done.

“Sisters,” she said to her two juniors, “we must keep a dog.”

“A dog!” cried Miss Angela, the youngest; “oh, how nice!”

“I do not think it is nice at all,” said Miss Pellicoe, somewhat
sternly, “nor would you, Angela, if you had any conception of what it
really meant. I do not propose to keep a lap–dog, or a King Charles
spaniel, but a _dog_—a mastiff, or a bloodhound, or some animal of that
nature, such as would spring at the throat of an invader, and bear him
to the ground!”

“Oh, dear!” gasped Miss Angela. “I should be afraid of him!”

“You do not understand as yet, Angela,” Miss Pellicoe explained,
knitting her brows. “My intention is to procure the animal as a—in
fact—a puppy, and thus enable him to grow up and to regard us with
affection, and be willing to hold himself at all times in readiness to
afford us the protection we desire. It is clearly impossible to have a
man in the house. I have decided upon a mastiff.”

When Miss Pellicoe decided upon a thing, Miss Angela Pellicoe and her
other sister promptly acquiesced. On this occasion they did not, even
in their inmost hearts, question the wisdom of the decision of the
head of the house. A man, they knew, was not to be thought of. For
twenty years the Pellicoe house had been a bower of virginity. The only
men who ever entered it were the old family doctor, the older family
lawyer, and annually, on New Year’s Day, in accordance with an obsolete
custom, Major Kitsedge, their father’s old partner, once junior of the
firm of Pellicoe & Kitsedge. Not ever the butcher or the baker or the
candlestick–maker forced an entrance to that innocent dovecote. They
handed in their wares through a wicket–gate in the back yard and were
sent about their business by the chaste Honora.

The next morning, having awakened to find themselves and the silver
still safe, Miss Pellicoe and Miss Angela set out for a dog store which
they had seen advertised in the papers. It was in an unpleasantly low
and ill–bred part of the town, and when the two ladies reached it, they
paused outside the door, and listened, with lengthened faces, to the
combined clamor and smell that emanated from its open door.

[Illustration]

“This,” said Miss Pellicoe, after a brief deliberation, “is not a place
for _us_. If we are to procure a dog, he must be procured in some other
way. It need not entail a loss of self–respect.”

“I have it!” she added with a sudden inspiration. “I will write to
Hector.”

Hector was the sole male representative of the Pellicoe family. He was
a second cousin of the Misses Pellicoe. He lived out West—his address
varying from year to year. Once in a long while Miss Pellicoe wrote
to him, just to keep herself in communication with the Man of the
family. It made her feel more secure, in view of possible emergencies.
She had not seen Hector since he was nineteen. He was perhaps the last
person of any positive virility who had had the freedom of the Pellicoe
household. He had used that freedom mainly in making attempts to kiss
Honora, who was then in her buxom prime, and in decorating the family
portraits with cork moustaches and whiskers. Miss Pellicoe clung to the
Man of the family as an abstraction; but she was always glad that he
lived in the West. Addressing him in his capacity of Man of the family,
she wrote to him and asked him to supply her with a young mastiff, and
to send her bill therefor. She explained the situation to him, and made
him understand that the dog must be of a character to be regarded as a
male relative.

Hector responded at once. He would send a mastiff pup within a week.
The pup’s pedigree was, unfortunately, lost, but the breed was high.
Fifty dollars would cover the cost and expenses of transportation. The
pup was six months old.

For ten days the Pellicoe household was in a fever of expectation.
Miss Pellicoe called in a carpenter, and, chaperoned by the entire
household, held an interview with him, and directed him how to
construct a dog–house in the back–yard—a dog–house with one door about
six inches square, to admit the occupant in his innocent puphood, and
with another door about four feet in height to emit him, when, in the
pride of his mature masculinity, he should rush forth upon the burglar
and the book–agent. The carpenter remarked that he “never seen no such
a dorg as that;” but Miss Pellicoe thought him at once ignorant and
ungrammatical, and paid no heed to him.

In conclave assembled, the Misses Pellicoe decided to name the dog
Hector. Beside the consideration of the claims of gratitude and family
affection, they remembered that Hector was a classical hero.

The ten days came to an end when, just at dusk of a dull January
day, two stalwart expressmen, with much open grumbling and smothered
cursing, deposited a huge packing–case in the vestibule of the Pellicoe
house, and departed, slamming the doors behind them. From this box
proceeded such yelps and howls that the entire household rushed
affrighted to peer through the slats that gridironed the top. Within
was a mighty black beast, as high as a table, that flopped itself
wildly about, clawed at the sides of the box, and swung in every
direction a tail as large as a policeman’s night–club.

It was Hector. There was no mistake about it, for Mr. Hector Pellicoe’s
card was nailed to a slat. It was Hector, the six–months–old pup, for
whose diminutive proportions the small door in the dog–house had been
devised; Hector, for whom a saucer of lukewarm milk was even then
waiting by the kitchen range.

“Oh, Sister!” cried Miss Angela, “we _never_ can get him out! You’ll
have to send for a _man_!”

“I certainly shall not send for a _man_ at this hour of the evening,”
said Miss Pellicoe, white, but firm; “and I shall not leave the poor
creature imprisoned during the night.” Here Hector yawped madly.

“I shall take him out,” concluded Miss Pellicoe, “_myself_!”

They hung upon her neck, and entreated her not to risk her life; but
Miss Pellicoe had made up her mind. The three maids shoved the box
into the butler’s pantry, shrieking with terror every time that Hector
leaped at the slats, and at last, with the two younger Pellicoes
holding one door a foot open, and the three maids holding the other
door an inch open, Miss Pellicoe seized the household hatchet, and
began her awful task. One slat! Miss Pellicoe was white but firm. Two
slats! Miss Pellicoe was whiter and firmer. Three slats!—and a vast
black body leaped high in the air. With five simultaneous shrieks,
the two doors were slammed to, and Miss Pellicoe and Hector were left
together in the butler’s pantry.

The courage of the younger Pellicoes asserted itself after a moment,
and they flung open the pantry door. Miss Pellicoe, looking as though
she needed aromatic vinegar, leaned against the wall. Hector had his
fore–paws on her shoulders, and was licking her face in exuberant
affection.

“Sisters,” gasped Miss Pellicoe, “will you kindly remove him? I should
like to faint.”

[Illustration]

But Hector had already released her to dash at Miss Angela, who
frightened him by going into such hysterics that Miss Pellicoe was
obliged to deny herself the luxury of a faint. Then he found the
maids, and, after driving them before him like chaff for five minutes,
succeeded in convincing Honora of the affectionate purpose of his
demonstrations, and accepted her invitation to the kitchen, where he
emptied the saucer of milk in three laps.

“I think, Honora,” suggested Miss Pellicoe, who had resumed command,
“that you might, perhaps, give him a slice or two of last night’s leg
of mutton. Perhaps he needs something more sustaining.”

Honora produced the mutton–leg. It was clearly what Hector wanted. He
took it from her without ceremony, bore it under the sink and ate all
of it except about six inches of the bone, which he took to bed with
him.

[Illustration]

The next day, feeling the need of masculine advice, Miss Pellicoe
resolved to address herself to the policeman on the beat, and she
astonished him with the following question:

“Sir,” she said, in true Johnsonian style, “what height should a
mastiff dog attain at the age of six months?”

The policeman stared at her in utter astonishment.

“They do be all sizes, Mum,” he replied, blankly, “like a piece of
cheese.”

“My relative in the West,” explained Miss Pellicoe, “has sent me a
dog, and I am given to understand that his age is six months. As he is
phenomenally large, I have thought it best to seek for information.
Has my relative been imposed upon?”

“It’s har–r–rd to tell, Mum,” replied the policeman, dubiously. Then
his countenance brightened. “Does his feet fit him?” he inquired.

“What—what do you mean?” asked Miss Pellicoe, shrinking back a little.

“Is his feet like blackin’–boxes on th’ ind of his legs?”

“They are certainly very large.”

“Thin ’tis a pup. You see, Mum, with a pup, ’tis this way. The feet
starts first, an’ the pup grows up to ’em, like. Av they match him,
he’s grown. Av he has arctics on, he’s a pup.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Hector’s growth in the next six months dissipated all doubts as to
his puphood. He became a four–legged Colossus, martial toward cats,
aggressive toward the tradesmen at the wicket–gate, impartially
affectionate toward all the household, and voracious beyond all
imagining. But he might have eaten the gentle ladies out of house and
home, and they would never have dreamed of protesting. The house had
found a Head—even a Head above Miss Pellicoe.

The deposed monarch gloried in her subjection. She said “Hector
likes this,” or “Hector likes that,” with the tone of submissive
deference in which you may hear a good wife say, “Mr. Smith _will not_
eat cold boiled mutton,” or “Mr. Smith is very particular about his
shirt–bosoms.”

As for Miss Angela, she never looked at Hector, gamboling about the
back–yard in all his superabundance of strength and vitality, without
feeling a half–agreeable nervous shock, and a flutter of the heart.
He stood for her as the type of that vast outside world of puissant
manhood of which she had known but two specimens—her father and Cousin
Hector. Perhaps, in the old days, if Cousin Hector had not been so
engrossed in frivolity and making of practical jokes, he might have
learned of something to his advantage. But he never did.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the first time in her life, Miss Angela found herself left to
watch the house through the horrors of the Fourth of July. This had
always been Miss Pellicoe’s duty; but this year Miss Pellicoe failed
to come back from the quiet place in the Catskills, where no children
were admitted, and where the Pellicoe family, two at a time, spent the
Summer in the society of other old maids and of aged widows.

[Illustration]

“I feel that you are safe with Hector,” she wrote.

Alack and alack for Miss Pellicoe’s faith in Hector! The first
fire–cracker filled him with excitement, and before the noises of the
day had fairly begun, he was careering around the yard, barking in
uncontrollable frenzy. At twelve o’clock, when the butcher–boy came
with the chops for luncheon, Hector bounded through the open wicket,
right into the arms of a dog–catcher. Miss Angela wrung her hands as
she gazed from her window and saw the Head of the House cast into the
cage with a dozen curs of the street and driven rapidly off.

In her lorn anguish she sought the functionary who was known in the
house as “Miss Pellicoe’s policeman.”

“Be aisy, Miss,” he said. “Av the dog is worth five dollars, say, to
yez, I have a friend will get him out for th’ accommodation.”

“Oh, take it, take it!” cried Miss Angela, trembling and weeping.

       *       *       *       *       *

After six hours of anxious waiting, Miss Angela received Hector at the
front door, from a boy who turned and fled as soon as his mission was
accomplished. Hector was extremely glad to be at home, and his health
seemed to be unimpaired; but to Miss Angela’s delicate fancy, contact
with the vulgar of his kind had left a vague aroma of degradation about
him. With her own hands she washed him in tepid water and sprinkled him
with eau de cologne. And even then she could not help feeling that to
some extent the bloom had been brushed from the peach.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hector was ill—very ill. The family conclave assembled every night and
discussed the situation with knit brows and tearful eyes. They could
not decide whether the cause of his malady was the unwholesomeness of
the Summer air in the city, or whether it was simply over–feeding. He
was certainly shockingly fat, and much indisposed to exertion. He had
lost all his activity; all his animal spirits. He spent most of the
time in his house. Even his good–nature was going. He had actually
snapped at Honora. They had tried to make up their minds to reduce his
rations; but their hearts had failed them. They had hoped that the cool
air of September would help him; but September was well nigh half gone;
and Hector grew worse and worse.

“Sisters,” said Miss Pellicoe, at last, “we shall have to send for a
Veterinary!” She spoke as though she had just decided to send for an
executioner. And even as the words left her lips there came from Hector
such a wail of anguish that Miss Pellicoe’s face turned a ghastly white.

“He is going mad!” she cried.

There was no sleep in the Pellicoe household that night, although
Hector wailed no more. At the break of day, Miss Pellicoe led five
other white–faced women into the back yard.

Hector’s head lay on the sill of his door. He seemed too weak to rise,
but he thrashed his tail pleasantly against the walls, and appeared
amiable and even cheerful. The six advanced.

Miss Pellicoe knelt down and put her hand in to pet him. Then a strange
expression came over her face.

[Illustration]

“Sister,” she said, “I _think_—a cat has got in and bitten him.”

She closed her hand on something soft, lifted it out and laid it on the
ground. It was small, it was black, it was dumpy. It moved a round head
in an uncertain, inquiring way, and tried to open its tightly–closed
eyes. Then it squeaked.

Thrice more did Miss Pellicoe thrust her hand into the house. Thrice
again did she bring out an object exactly similar.

“Wee–e–e–e!” squeaked the four objects. Hector thrashed her tail
about and blinked joyfully, all unconscious of the utter wreck of her
masculinity, looking as though it were the most natural thing in the
world for her to have a litter of pups—as, indeed, it was.

Honora broke the awful silence,—Miss Angela was sobbing so softly you
could scarcely hear her.

“Be thim Hector’s?” Honora inquired.

“Honora!” said Miss Pellicoe, rising, “never utter that name in my
presence again.”

“An’ fwat shall I call the dog?”

“Call _it_”—and Miss Pellicoe made a pause of impressive severity,
“call _it_—Andromache.”

[Illustration]



A SISTERLY SCHEME.

[Illustration: “_The young man looked up and saw a saucy face laughing
at him._”]



A SISTERLY SCHEME.


Away up in the very heart of Maine there is a mighty lake among the
mountains. It is reached after a journey of many hours from the place
where you “go in.” That is the phrase of the country, and when you
have once “gone in,” you know why it is not correct to say that you
have gone _through_ the woods, or, simply, _to_ your destination. You
find that you have plunged into a new world—a world that has nothing
in common with the world that you live in; a world of wild, solemn,
desolate grandeur, a world of space and silence; a world that oppresses
your soul—and charms you irresistibly. And after you have once “come
out” of that world, there will be times, to the day of your death, when
you will be homesick for it, and will long with a childlike longing to
go back to it.

Up in this wild region you will find a fashionable Summer–hotel, with
electric bells and seven–course dinners, and “guests” who dress three
times a day. It is perched on a little flat point, shut off from the
rest of the mainland by a huge rocky cliff. It is an impertinence in
that majestic wilderness, and Leather–Stocking would doubtless have
had a hankering to burn such an affront to Nature; but it is a good
hotel, and people go to it and breathe the generous air of the great
woods.

[Illustration]

On the beach near this hotel, where the canoes were drawn up in line,
there stood one Summer morning a curly–haired, fair young man—not so
very young, either—whose cheeks were uncomfortably red as he looked
first at his own canoe, high and dry, loaded with rods and landing–net
and luncheon–basket, and then at another canoe, fast disappearing down
the lake, wherein sat a young man and a young woman.

“Dropped again, Mr. Morpeth?”

The young man looked up and saw a saucy face laughing at him. A girl
was sitting on the string–piece of the dock. It was the face of a girl
between childhood and womanhood. By the face and the figure, it was a
woman grown. By the dress, you would have judged it a girl.

And you would have been confirmed in the latter opinion by the fact
that the young person was doing something unpardonable for a young
lady, but not inexcusable in the case of a youthful tomboy. She had
taken off her canvas shoe, and was shaking some small stones out of
it. There was a tiny hole in her black stocking, and a glimpse of her
pink toe was visible. The girl was sunburnt, but the toe was prettily
pink.

“Your sister,” replied the young man with dignity, “was to have gone
fishing with me; but she remembered at the last moment that she had a
prior engagement with Mr. Brown.”

“She hadn’t,” said the girl. “I heard them make it up last evening,
after you went upstairs.”

The young man clean forgot himself.

“She’s the most heartless coquette in the world!” he cried, and
clinched his hands.

“She is all that,” said the young person on the string–piece of the
dock, “and more too. And yet, I suppose, you want her all the same?”

“I’m afraid I do,” said the young man, miserably.

“Well,” said the girl, putting her shoe on again, and beginning to tie
it up, “I’ll tell you what it is, Mr. Morpeth. You’ve been hanging
around Pauline for a year, and you are the only one of the men she
keeps on a string who hasn’t snubbed me. Now, if you want me to, I’ll
give you a lift.”

“A—a—_what_?”

“A lift. You’re wasting your time. Pauline has no use for devotion.
It’s a drug in the market with her—has been for five seasons. There’s
only one way to get her worked up. Two fellows tried it, and they
nearly got there; but they weren’t game enough to stay to the bitter
end. I think you’re game, and I’ll tell you. You’ve got to make her
jealous.”

“Make her jealous of me?”

“No!” said his friend, with infinite scorn; “make her jealous of the
other girl. _Oh!_ but you men are stupid!”

The young man pondered a moment.

“Well, Flossy,” he began, and then he became conscious of a sudden
change in the atmosphere, and perceived that the young lady was
regarding him with a look that might have chilled his soul.

“Miss Flossy—Miss Belton—” he hastily corrected himself. Winter
promptly changed to Summer in Miss Flossy Belton’s expressive face.

“Your scheme,” he went on, “is a good one. Only—it involves the
discovery of another girl.”

“Yes,” assented Miss Flossy, cheerfully.

“Well,” said the young man, “doesn’t it strike you that if I were to
develop a sudden admiration for any one of these other young ladies
whose charms I have hitherto neglected, it would come tardy off—lack
artistic verisimilitude, so to speak?”

“Rather,” was Miss Flossy’s prompt and frank response; “especially as
there isn’t one of them fit to flirt with.”

“Well, then, where am I to discover the girl?”

Miss Flossy untied and retied her shoe. Then she said, calmly:

“What’s the matter with—” a hardly perceptible hesitation—“_me?_”

“With _you?_” Mr. Morpeth was startled out of his manners.

“Yes!”

Mr. Morpeth simply stared.

“Perhaps,” suggested Miss Flossy, “I’m not good–looking enough?”

“You are good–looking enough,” replied Mr. Morpeth, recovering himself,
“for _anything_—” and he threw a convincing emphasis into the last word
as he took what was probably his first real inspection of his adored
one’s junior—“but—aren’t you a trifle—young?”

“How old do you suppose I am?”

“I know. Your sister told me. You are sixteen.”

“Sixteen!” repeated Miss Flossy, with an infinite and uncontrollable
scorn, “yes, and I’m the kind of sixteen that stays sixteen till your
elder sister’s married. I was eighteen years old on the third of last
December—unless they began to double on me before I was old enough to
know the difference—it would be just like Mama to play it on me in some
such way,” she concluded, reflectively.

“Eighteen years old!” said the young man. “The deuce!” Do not think
that he was an ill–bred young man. He was merely astonished, and he had
much more astonishment ahead of him. He mused for a moment.

“Well,” he said, “what’s your plan of campaign? I am to—to discover
you.”

“Yes,” said Miss Flossy, calmly, “and to flirt with me like fun.”

“And may I ask what attitude you are to take when you are—discovered?”

“Certainly,” replied the imperturbable Flossy. “I am going to dangle
you.”

“To—to dangle me?”

“As a conquest, don’t you know. Let you hang round and laugh at you.”

“Oh, indeed?”

“There, don’t be wounded in your masculine pride. You might as well
face the situation. You don’t think that Pauline’s in love with you, do
you?”

“No!” groaned the young man.

“But you’ve got lots of money. Mr. Brown has got lots more. You’re
eager. Brown is coy. That’s the reason that Brown is in the boat and
you are on the cold, cold shore, talking to Little Sister. Now if
Little Sister jumps at you, why, she’s simply taking Big Sister’s
leavings; it’s all in the family, any way, and there’s no jealousy,
and Pauline can devote her whole mind to Brown. There, _don’t_ look so
limp. You men are simply childish. Now, after you’ve asked me to marry
you—“

“Oh, I’m to ask you to marry me?”

“Certainly. You needn’t look frightened, now. I won’t accept you. But
then you are to go around like a wet cat, and mope, and hang on worse
then ever. Then Big Sister will see that she can’t afford to take that
sort of thing from Little Sister, and then—there’s your chance.”

“Oh, there’s my chance, is it?” said Mr. Morpeth. He seemed to have
fallen into the habit of repetition.

“There’s your _only_ chance,” said Miss Flossy, with decision.

Mr. Morpeth meditated. He looked at the lake, where there was no longer
sign or sound of the canoe, and he looked at Miss Flossy, who sat calm,
self–confident and careless, on the string–piece of the dock.

“I don’t know how feasible—” he began.

“It’s feasible,” said Miss Flossy, with decision. “Of course Pauline
will write to Mama, and of course Mama will write and scold me. But
she’s got to stay in New York, and nurse Papa’s gout; and the Miss
Redingtons are all the chaperons we’ve got up here, and they don’t
amount to any thing—so I don’t care.”

“But why,” inquired the young man; and his tone suggested a complete
abandonment to Miss Flossy’s idea: “why should you take so much trouble
for _me_?”

“Mr. Morpeth,” said Miss Flossy, solemnly, “I’m two years behind the
time–table, and I’ve got to make a strike for liberty, or die. And
besides,” she added, “if you are _nice_, it needn’t be such an _awful_
trouble.”

Mr. Morpeth laughed.

“I’ll try to make it as little of a bore as possible,” he said,
extending his hand. The girl did not take it.

[Illustration]

“Don’t make any mistake,” she cautioned him, searching his face with
her eyes; “this isn’t to be any little–girl affair. Little Sister
doesn’t want any kind, elegant, supercilious encouragement from Big
Sister’s young man. It’s got to be a _real_ flirtation—devotion no end,
and ten times as much as ever Pauline could get out of you—and you’ve
got to keep your end ’way—’—’way up!”

The young man smiled.

“I’ll keep my end up,” he said; “but are you certain that you can keep
yours up?”

“Well, I think so,” replied Miss Flossy. “Pauline will raise an awful
row; but if she goes too far, I’ll tell my age, _and hers, too_.”

Mr. Morpeth looked in Miss Flossy’s calm face. Then he extended his
hand once more.

“It’s a bargain, so far as I’m concerned,” he said.

This time a soft and small hand met his with a firm, friendly, honest
pressure.

“And I’ll refuse you,” said Miss Flossy.

       *       *       *       *       *

Within two weeks, Mr. Morpeth found himself entangled in a flirtation
such as he had never dreamed of. Miss Flossy’s scheme had succeeded
only too brilliantly. The whole hotel was talking about the outrageous
behavior of “that little Belton girl” and Mr. Morpeth, who certainly
ought to know better.

Mr. Morpeth had carried out his instructions. Before the week was out,
he found himself giving the most life–like imitation of an infatuated
lover that ever delighted the old gossips of a Summer–resort. And yet
he had only done what Flossy told him to do.

He got his first lesson just about the time that Flossy, in the privacy
of their apartments, informed her elder sister that if she, Flossy,
found Mr. Morpeth’s society agreeable, it was nobody’s concern but her
own, and that she was prepared to make some interesting additions to
the census statistics if any one thought differently.

The lesson opened his eyes.

“Do you know,” she said, “that it wouldn’t be a bit of a bad idea to
telegraph to New York for some real nice candy and humbly present it
for my acceptance? I _might_ take it—if the bonbonnière was pretty
enough.”

He telegraphed to New York and received, in the course of four or five
days, certain marvels of sweets in a miracle of an upholstered box. The
next day he found her on the verandah, flinging the bonbons on the lawn
for the children to scramble for.

[Illustration]

“Awfully nice of you to send me these things,” she said languidly,
but loud enough for the men around her to hear—she had men around her
already: she had been discovered—“but I never eat sweets, you know.
Here, you little mite in the blue sash, don’t you want this pretty box
to put your doll’s clothes in?”

And Maillard’s finest bonbonnière went to a yellow–haired brat of three.

But this was the slightest and lightest of her caprices. She made him
send for his dog–cart and his horses, all the way from New York, only
that he might drive her over the ridiculous little mile–and–a–half of
road that bounded the tiny peninsula. And she christened him “Muffets,”
a nickname presumably suggested by “Morpeth”; and she called him
“Muffets” in the hearing of all the hotel people.

And did such conduct pass unchallenged? No. Pauline scolded, raged,
raved. She wrote to Mama. Mama wrote back and reproved Flossy. But Mama
could not leave Papa. His gout was worse. The Miss Redingtons must act.
The Miss Redingtons merely wept, and nothing more. Pauline scolded;
the flirtation went on; and the people at the big hotel enjoyed it
immensely.

And there was more to come. Four weeks had passed. Mr. Morpeth
was hardly on speaking terms with the elder Miss Belton; and with
the younger Miss Belton he was on terms which the hotel gossips
characterized as “simply scandalous.” Brown glared at him when they
met, and he glared at Brown. Brown was having a hard time. Miss Belton
the elder was not pleasant of temper in those trying days.

“And now,” said Miss Flossy to Mr. Morpeth, “it’s time you proposed to
me, Muffets.”

[Illustration]

They were sitting on the hotel verandah, in the evening darkness. No
one was near them, except an old lady in a Shaker chair.

“There’s Mrs. Melby. She’s pretending to be asleep, but she isn’t.
She’s just waiting for us. Now walk me up and down and ask me to marry
you so that she can hear it. It’ll be all over the hotel inside of half
an hour. Pauline will just _rage_.”

With this pleasant prospect before him, Mr. Morpeth marched Miss Flossy
Belton up and down the long verandah. He had passed Mrs. Melby three
times before he was able to say, in a choking, husky, uncertain voice:

“Flossy—I—I—I _love_ you!”

Flossy’s voice was not choking nor uncertain. It rang out clear and
silvery in a peal of laughter.

“Why, of course you do, Muffets, and I wish you didn’t. That’s what
makes you so stupid half the time.”

“But—” said Mr. Morpeth, vaguely; “but I—“

“But you’re a silly boy,” returned Miss Flossy; and she added in a
swift aside: “_You haven’t asked me to marry you!_”

“W–W–W–Will you be my wife?” stammered Mr. Morpeth.

“No!” said Miss Flossy, emphatically, “I will not. You are too utterly
ridiculous. The idea of it! No, Muffets, you are charming in your
present capacity; but you aren’t to be considered seriously.”

They strolled on into the gloom at the end of the great verandah.

“That’s the first time,” he said, with a feeling of having only the
ghost of a breath left in his lungs, “that I ever asked a woman to
marry me.”

“I should think so,” said Miss Flossy, “from the way you did it. And
you were beautifully rejected, weren’t you. Now—look at Mrs. Melby,
will you? She’s scudding off to spread the news.”

And before Mr. Morpeth went to bed, he was aware of the fact that
every man and woman in the hotel knew that he had “proposed” to Flossy
Belton, and had been “beautifully rejected.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Two sulky men, one sulky woman, and one girl radiant with triumphant
happiness started out in two canoes, reached certain fishing–grounds
known only to the elect, and began to cast for trout. They had
indifferent luck. Miss Belton and Mr. Brown caught a dozen trout; Miss
Flossy Belton and Mr. Morpeth caught eighteen or nineteen, and the day
was wearing to a close. Miss Flossy made the last cast of the day, just
as her escort had taken the paddle. A big trout rose—just touched the
fly—and disappeared.

“It’s this wretched rod!” cried Miss Flossy; and she rapped it on
the gunwale of the canoe so sharply that the beautiful split–bamboo
broke sharp off in the middle of the second–joint. Then she tumbled it
overboard, reel and all.

“I was tired of that rod, any way, Muffets,” she said; “row me home,
now; I’ve got to dress for dinner.”

Miss Flossy’s elder sister, in the other boat, saw and heard this
exhibition of tyranny; and she was so much moved that she stamped her
small foot, and endangered the bottom of the canoe. She resolved that
Mama should come back, whether Papa had the gout or not.

Mr. Morpeth, wearing a grave expression, was paddling Miss Flossy
toward the hotel. He had said nothing whatever, and it was a noticeable
silence that Miss Flossy finally broke.

“You’ve done pretty much everything that I wanted you to do, Muffets,”
she said; “but you haven’t saved my life yet, and I’m going to give you
a chance.”

[Illustration]

It is not difficult to overturn a canoe. One twist of Flossie’s supple
body did it, and before he knew just what had happened, Morpeth was
swimming toward the shore, holding up Flossy Belton with one arm, and
fighting for life in the icy water of a Maine lake.

The people were running down, bearing blankets and brandy, as he
touched bottom in his last desperate struggle to keep the two of them
above water. One yard further, and there would have been no strength
left in him.

He struggled up on shore with her, and when he got breath enough, he
burst out:

“Why did you do it? It was wicked! It was cruel!”

“There!” she said, as she reclined composedly in his arms, “that will
do, Muffets. I don’t want to be scolded.”

A delegation came along, bringing blankets and brandy, and took her
from him.

       *       *       *       *       *

At five o’clock of that afternoon, Mr. Morpeth presented himself at the
door of the parlor attached to the apartments of the Belton sisters.
Miss Belton, senior, was just coming out of the room. She received his
inquiry after her sister’s health with a white face and a quivering lip.

“I should think, Mr. Morpeth,” she began, “that you had gone far enough
in playing with the feelings of a m–m–mere child, and that—oh! I have
no words to express my _contempt_ for you!”

And in a most unladylike rage Miss Pauline Belton swept down the hotel
corridor.

She had left the door open behind her. Morpeth heard a voice, weak, but
cheery, addressing him from the far end of the parlor.

“You’ve got her!” it said. “She’s crazy mad. She’ll make up to you
to–night—see if she don’t.”

Mr. Morpeth looked up and down the long corridor. It was empty. He
pushed the door open, and entered. Flossy was lying on the sofa, pale,
but bright–eyed.

[Illustration]

“You can get her,” she whispered, as he knelt down beside her.

“Flossy,” he said, “don’t you know that that is all ended? Don’t you
know that I love you and you only? Don’t you know that I haven’t
thought about any one else since—since—oh, Flossy, don’t you—is it
possible that you don’t understand?”

Flossy stretched out two weak arms, and put them around Mr. Morpeth’s
neck.

“Why have I had you in training all Summer?” said she. “Did you think
it was for Pauline?”

[Illustration]



ZOZO.

[Illustration: “_‘Yes, Mother, you’d oughter’ve seen that place
burn’._”]



ZOZO.


[Illustration]

Through a thickly falling snow, on the outskirts of one of New York’s
suburban towns, (a hamlet of some two hundred thousand population,)
walked a man who had but one desire in the world ungratified. His name
was Richard Brant, and he was a large, deep–chested, handsome man—a
man’s man; hardly a woman’s man at all: and yet the sort of man that is
likely to make a pretty serious matter of it if he loves a woman, or if
a woman loves him.

Mr. Richard Brant came from the West, the Western–born child of
Eastern–born parents. He made his fortune before he was thirty–five,
and for five years he had been trying to find out what he wanted to do
with that fortune. He was a man of few tastes, of no vices, and of a
straight–forward, go–ahead spirit that set him apart from the people
who make affectation the spice of life. He wanted only one thing in the
world, and that one thing money would not buy for him. So he was often
puzzled as to how he might best spend his money; and he often spent it
foolishly. As he walked through the suburban streets of the suburban
city, this sharp Winter’s night, he was reflecting on the folly of
spending money on a fur coat. He was wearing the coat—a magnificent
affair of bearskin and sable.

[Illustration]

“South of Canada,” he said to himself, “this sort of thing is vulgar
and unnecessary. _I_ don’t need it, any more than a cow needs a
side–pocket. It’s too beastly hot for comfort at this moment. I’d carry
it over my arm, only that I should feel how absurdly heavy it really
is.”

Then he looked ahead through the thick snow, and, although he was a man
of strong nerves, he started and stepped back like a woman who sees a
cow.

“Great Cæsar’s Ghost!” said he.

He was justified in calling thus upon the most respectable spook of
antiquity. The sight he saw was strange enough in itself: seen in the
squalid, commonplace sub–suburban street, it was bewildering. There,
ahead of him, walked Mephistopheles—Mephistopheles dressed in a red
flannel suit, trimmed with yellow, all peaks and points; and on the
head of Mephistopheles was an old, much worn, brown Derby hat.

Brant caught Mephisto by the shoulder and turned him around. He was a
slight, undersized man of fifty, whose moustache and goatee, dyed an
impossible black, served only to accentuate the meagre commonness of
his small features.

[Illustration]

“Who are you?” demanded Brant.

“Sh–h–h!” said the shivering figure, “lemme go! I’m Zozo!”

Brant stared at him in amazement. What was it? A walking
advertisement—for an automatic toy or a new tooth–powder?

“It’s all right,” said the slim man, his teeth chattering, “lemme
get along. I’m most freezing. I’m Zozo—the astrologer. Why—don’t you
know?—on Rapelyea Street?”

Brant dimly remembered that there was a Rapelyea Street, through which
he sometimes passed on his way to the railroad station, and he had some
faint memory of a gaudily painted shanty decked out with the signs of
the zodiac in gilt _papier maché_.

“My orfice got a–fire this evening,” explained Zozo, “from the bakery
next door. And I had to light out over the back fence. Them people
in that neighborhood is kinder superstitious. They ain’t no idea of
astrology. They don’t know it’s a Science. They think it’s some kind of
magic. And if they’s to see me drove out by a common, ordinary fire,
they’d think I was no sort of an astrologer. So I lit out quiet.”

His teeth chattered so that he made ten syllables out of “quiet.”

“They don’t understand the Science of it,” he continued, “and the fire
got at my street clo’es before I knew it, and so I had to light out
mighty quick. Now, jes’ lemme get home, will you? This here flannel
ain’t no fur coat.”

Brant’s coat came off his shoulders in an instant.

“Put this on,” he said. “Confound you!—” as the man resisted,—“_put it
on!_”

The astrologer slipped into the coat with a gasp of relief.

“Cracky!” he cried, “but I was freezin’!”

“Do you live far from here?” Brant inquired.

“Just a bit up the road. I’m ’most home, now,” replied Zozo, still
chattering as to his teeth.

As they walked along the half–built street, Zozo told his tale. He had
been in the astrology business for thirty years, and it had barely
yielded him a living. Yet he had been able, by rigorous economy, to
save up enough money to build himself a house—“elegant house, sir,” he
said; “‘tain’t what you may call _large_; but it’s an elegant house. I
got the design out of a book that cost a dollar, sir, a dollar. There
ain’t no use in trying to do things cheap when you’re going to build a
house.”

But his joy in his house was counterbalanced by his grief for the loss
of his “orfice.” He had taken the ground–rent of the city lot, and had
erected the “orfice” at his own cost. Three hundred and twenty–seven
dollars he had spent on that modest structure. No, he had not insured
it. And now the bakery had caught fire, and his “orfice” was burned to
the ground, and his best suit of street–clothes with it—his only suit,
as he owned after a second’s hesitation.

In ten minutes’ walk they arrived at Zozo’s house. It was quite the
sort of house that might have come out of a dollar book, with a great
deal of scroll–work about it, and with a tiny tower, adorned with
fantastically carved shingles. As they stood on the porch—nothing
would content Zozo but that his new friend should come in and warm
himself—Mr. Brant looked at the name on the door–plate.

“Zozo’s only my name in the Science,” the astrologer explained. “My
real name—my born name—is Simmons. But I took Zozo for my business
name. ‘Zs’ seem to kinder go with the astrology business, somehow—I
don’t know why. There’s Zadkiel, and Zoroaster, and—oh, I don’t
know—they’re ‘Zs’ or ‘Xs’, most of ’em; and it goes with the populace.
I don’t no more like humoring their superstition than you would; but
a man’s got to live; and the world ain’t up to the Science yet. Oh,
that’s you, Mommer, is it?” he concluded, as the door was opened by a
bright, buxom, rather pretty woman. “Mother ain’t to bed yet, is she?
Say, Mommer, the orfice is burnt down!”

“Oh, Popper!” cried the poor woman; “you don’t reelly say!”

“True’s I live,” said the astrologer, “and my street–clo’es, too.”

“Oh, Popper!” his wife cried, “what’ll we do?”

“I don’t know, Mommer, I don’t know. We’ll have to think. Jes’ let this
here gentleman in, though. I’d most ’a’ froze if he hadn’t lent me the
loan of his overcoat. My sakes!” he broke out, as he looked at the
garment in the light of the hall–lamp, “but that cost money. Mommer,
this here’s Mr.—— I ain’t caught your name, sir.”

“Brant,” said the owner of the name.

“Band. And a reel elegant gentleman he is, Mommer. I’d ‘a’ froze
stiff in my science clo’es if’t hadn’t been for this coat. My sakes!”
he exclaimed, reverently, “never _see_ the like! That’d keep a
corpse warm. Shut the door, Mommer, an’ take the gentleman into the
dining–room. He must be right cold himself. Is Mother there?”

“Yes,” said Zozo’s wife, “and so’s Mamie. You was so late we all got a
kinder worried, and Mamie come right down in her nighty, just before
you come in. ‘Where’s Popper?’ sez she; ‘ain’t he came in yet to kiss
me good night? ’Tain’t mornin’, is it?’ sez she. _And_ the orfice
burned down! Oh, my, Popper! I thought our troubles was at an end. Come
right in, Mr.—Mr.—I ain’t rightly got your name; but thank you kindly
for looking after Popper, and if you had an _i_dee how easy he takes
cold on his chist, you’d know how thankful I am. Come right into the
dinin’–room. Mother, this is Mr. Band, and he lent Simmons the loan of
his coat to come home with. Wa’n’t it awful?”

“What’s that?” croaked a very old woman in the corner of the
dining–room. It was a small dining–room, with a small extension–table
covered with a cheap red damask cloth.

“Simmons’s orfice is burned up, and his best suit with it,” explained
Mrs. Simmons. “Ain’t it awful!”

“It’s a jedgement,” said the old lady, solemnly. She was a depressing
old lady. And yet she evidently was much revered in the family. A
four–year–old child hung back in a corner, regarding her grandmother
with awe. But when her father entered, she slipped up to his knee, and
took his kisses silently, but with sparkling eyes.

“Only one we’ve got,” said Zozo, as he sat down and took her on his
knee. “Born under Mercury and Jupiter—if that don’t mean that she’ll
be on top of the real–estate boom in this neighborhood, I ain’t no
astrologer. Yes, Ma,” he went on, addressing the old woman, who gave no
slightest sign of interest, “the orfice burned down, and I had to get
home quick. Wouldn’t ’a’ done for them Rapelyea Street folks to see me,
scuttin’ off in my orfice clo’es.”

He had shed Brant’s huge overcoat, and his wife was passing her hand
over his thin flannel suit.

“Law, Simmons!” she said, “you’re all wet!”

“I’ll dry all right in these flannels,” said Zozo. “Don’t you bother to
get no other clo’es.”

He had forgotten that he had told Brant that the suit in his office was
his only suit. Or perhaps he wished to spare his wife the humiliation
of such an admission.

“I’m dryin’ off first–rate,” he said, cheerfully; “Mamie, Popper ain’t
wet where you’re settin’, is he? No. Well, now, Mommer, you get out
the whiskey and give Mr.—Mr. Band—a glass, with some hot water, and
then he won’t get no chill. We’re all pro’bitionists here,” he said,
addressing Brant, “but we b’lieve in spirits for medicinal use. Yes,
Mother, you’d oughter’ve seen that place burn. Why, the flames was on
me before I know’d where I was, and I jist thought to myself, thinks I,
if these here people see me a–runnin’ away from a fire, I won’t cast
no horoscope in Rapelyea Street after _this_; and I tell _you_, the
way I got outer the back window and over the back fence was a caution!
There’s your whiskey, sir: you’ll excuse me if I don’t take none
myself. We ain’t in the habit here.”

Brant did not greatly wonder at their not being in the habit when he
tasted the whiskey. It was bad enough to wean a toper on. But he sipped
it, and made overtures to the baby. And after a while she showed an
inclination to come and look at his wonderful watch, that struck the
hour when you told it to. Before long she was sitting on his knee. Her
father was telling the female members of the family about the fire, and
she felt both sleepy and shut out. She played with Brant’s watch for a
while, and then fell asleep on his breast. He held her tenderly, and
listened to the astrologer as he told his pitiful tale over and over
again, trying to fix the first second when he had smelled smoke.

He was full of the excitement of the affair: too full of the
consciousness of his own achievement to realize the extent of the
disaster. But his wife suddenly broke down, crying out:

“Oh, Simmons! where’ll you get three hundred dollars to build a new
orfice?”

Brant spoke up, but very softly, lest he might wake the baby, who was
sleeping with her head on his shoulder.

“I’ll be happy to—to advance the money,” he said.

Zozo looked at him almost sourly.

“I ain’t got no security to give you. This is a Building Society house,
and there’s all the mortgage on it that it’s worth. I couldn’t do no
better,” he concluded, sullenly.

Brant had been poor enough himself to understand the quick suspicion of
the poor. “Your note will do, Mr. Simmons,” he said; “I think you will
pay me back. I sha’n’t worry about it.”

But it was some time before the Simmons family could understand that a
loan of the magnitude of three hundred dollars could be made so easily.
When the glorious possibility did dawn upon them, nothing would do but
that Mr. Brant should take another drink of whiskey. It was not for
medicinal purposes this time; it was for pure conviviality; and Brant
was expected, not being a prohibitionist, to revel vicariously for the
whole family. He drank, wondering what he had at home to take the taste
out of his mouth.

Then he handed the baby to her mother, and started to go. But Simmons
suddenly and unexpectedly turned into Zozo, and insisted on casting his
benefactor’s horoscope. His benefactor told him the day of his birth,
and guessed at the hour. Zozo figured on a slate, drawing astronomical
characters very neatly indeed, and at last began to read off the
meaning of his stellar stenography, in a hushed, important voice.

He told Brant everything that had happened to him, (only none of it
_had_ happened; but Brant did not say him nay.) Then he told him
various things that were to happen to him; and Zozo cheered up greatly
when his impassive and sleepy guest sighed as he spoke of a blonde
woman who was troubling his heart, and who would be his, some day.
There was a blonde woman troubling Brant’s heart; but there was small
probability of her being his some day or any day. And then Zozo went on
to talk about a dark woman who would disturb the course of true love;
but only temporarily and as a side issue, so to speak.

“She ain’t serious,” he said. “She may make a muss; but she ain’t reel
serious.”

“Good night!” said Brant.

“You don’t b’lieve in the Science,” said Zozo, in a voice of genuine
regret. “But you jist see if it don’t come true. Good night. Look out
you don’t trip over the scraper.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The blonde woman in Mr. Brant’s case was Madame la Comtesse de Renette.
No, she was not a French woman: she was a loyal American. She was the
daughter of an American millionaire; she had lived for many years in
France, and her parents had married her, at the age of eighteen, to a
title. The title was owned by a disagreeable and highly immoral old
spendthrift, who had led her a wretched life for two weary years, and
then had had the unusual courtesy and consideration to die. Then she
took what he had left of her millions, went home to the town of her
birth, bought a fine estate on its outskirts, and settled down to enjoy
a life wherein she could awake each morning to feel that the days would
never more bring her suffering and humiliation.

Then Mr. Richard Brant disturbed her peace of mind by falling in love
with her, and what was worse, asking her to marry him. That, she said,
she could not do. He was her best, her dearest friend: she admired and
esteemed him more than any man in the world. If she ever _could_ marry
a man, she would marry him. But she never, never could. He must not ask
her.

Of course, he did ask her. And he asked her more than once. And there
matters stood, and there they seemed likely to stay.

But Richard Brant was a man who, when he wanted a thing, wanted it
with his whole heart and his whole soul, and to the exclusion of every
other idea from his mind. After eighteen months of waiting, he began to
find the situation intolerable. He had no heart in his business—which,
for the matter of that, took care of itself—and he found it, as he
said to himself, “a chore to exist.” And what with dwelling on the
unattainable, and what with calling on the unattainable once or twice
every week, he found that he was getting into a morbid state of mind
that was the next thing to a mild mania.

“This has got to stop,” said Richard Brant. “I will put an end to it.
I will wait till an even two years is up, and then I will go away
somewhere where I _can’t_ get back until—until I’ve got over it.”

Opportunity is never lacking to a man in this mood. Some scientific
idiot was getting up an Antarctic expedition, to start in the coming
June. Brant applied for a berth.

“That settles it,” he said.

[Illustration]

Of course, it didn’t settle it. He moped as much as ever and found it
just as hard as ever to occupy his mind. If it had not been for the
astrologer, he would hardly have known what to do.

It amused him to interest himself in Zozo and his affairs. He watched
the building of the new “orfice”, and discussed with Zozo the color
of the paint and the style of the signs. Zozo tried to convert him to
astrology, and that amused him. The little man’s earnest faith in this
“science” was an edifying study.

Then, when the “orfice” was completed, and Zozo began business again,
he took great pleasure in sitting hid in Zozo’s back room, listening
to Zozo’s clients, who were often as odd as Zozo himself. He had many
clients now. Had he not miraculously evanished from a burning building,
and come back unscathed?

       *       *       *       *       *

But there are two sides to every friendship. Brant took an amused
interest in Zozo. Zozo worshiped Brant as his preserver and benefactor.
Zozo’s affairs entertained Brant. Brant’s affairs were a matter of
absorbing concern to Zozo. Zozo would have died for Brant.

So it came about that Zozo found out all about the blonde lady in
Brant’s case. How? Well, one is not an astrologer for nothing. Brant’s
coachman and Mme. de Renette’s maid were among Zozo’s clients. No
society gossip knew so much about the Brant–Renette affair as Zozo
knew, inside of two months.

       *       *       *       *       *

“It’s perfectly ridiculous, Annette! I _can’t_ see the man!”

“Madame knows best,” said Annette, wiping away a ready tear. “It is
only that I love Madame. And it is not well to anger those who have the
power of magic. If they can bring good luck, they can bring bad. And he
is certainly a great magician. Fire can not burn him.”

Mme. de Renette toyed with a gorgeously–printed card that read:

[Illustration:

  +-------------------------------+
  |             ZOZO,             |
  |                               |
  |   Astrologer & Fire Monarch   |
  |                               |
  | Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. |
  |                               |
  |        27 Rapelyea St.        |
  +-------------------------------+
]

“Well,” she said at last, “show him in, Annette. But it’s perfectly
absurd!”

[Illustration]

Zozo, in a very ready–made suit, with no earthly idea what to do with
his hat, profuse of bows and painfully flustered, did not inspire awe.

“You wish to see me?” inquired Mme. de Renette, somewhat sternly.

“Madam,” began her visitor, in a tremulous voice, “I come with a
message from the stars.”

“Very well,” said Mme. de Renette, “will you kindly deliver your
message? I do not wish to detain you—from your stars.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a flushed, but a self–complacent, beaming, happy Zozo who
stopped Richard Brant on the street an hour later.

“If you please, Mr. Brant, sir,” he said; “I’d like a few minutes of
your time.”

“Certainly,” said Mr. Brant, wondering if Zozo wanted to borrow any
more money.

“You’ve been a great good friend to me, Mr. Brant,” Zozo began, “and I
hope you b’lieve, sir, that me and Mommer and Ma Simmons and Mamie are
jist as grateful as—well, as anything.”

“Oh, that’s all right, Simmons—“

“Yes, sir. Well, now you’ll pardon me for seeming to interfere, like,
in your business. But knowin’ as I done how your affairs with the
blonde lady was hangin’ fire, so to speak—“

[Illustration]

“‘The blonde lady!’” broke in Brant.

“Madam dee Rennet,” explained Zozo.

“The devil!” said Brant.

“Well, sir, knowin’ that, as I done, and knowin’ that there couldn’t be
nothin’ _to_ it—no lady would chuck you over her shoulder, Mr. Brant,
sir—but only jist that her mind wasn’t at ease with regard to the dark
lady—whereas the stars show clear as ever they showed _any thin’_ that
the dark lady was only temporary and threatened, and nothin’ reel
serious—why, I made so free as jist to go right straight to Madam dee
Rennet and ease her mind on that point—and I did.”

“Great heavens!” Brant yelled. “You infernal meddler! what have you
done? I don’t know a dark woman in the world! What have you said?—oh,
curse it!” he cried, as he realized, from the pain of its extinction,
that hope had been alive in his heart, “what _have_ you done?—you
devil!”

He turned on his heel and rushed off toward Madame de Renette’s house.

“This _does_ settle it,” he thought. “There’s no getting an idea like
that out of a woman’s head.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“I understand,” he said, as he hurriedly presented himself to the lady
of his love, “that a madman has been here—“

“Yes,” said Mme. de Renette, severely.

“You didn’t pay any attention to his nonsense?”

“About the dark woman?” inquired Mme. de Renette.

“Why, there’s no other woman dark or light—“

“I don’t know whether there is or not, Richard,” said Mme. de Renette,
with icy distinctness; “but I know that there won’t be, after—well,
sir, could you break your June engagement for—me?”

And Zozo was justified.

[Illustration]



AN OLD, OLD STORY.

[Illustration: “‘_Sophronia—’tain’t you!_’”]



AN OLD, OLD STORY.


[Illustration]

I suppose the Tullingworth–Gordons were good Americans at heart; but
the Tullingworth–Gordons were of English extraction, and, as somebody
once said, the extraction had not been completely successful—a great
deal of the English soil clung to the roots of the family tree.

They lived on Long Island, in a very English way, in a manor–house
which was as English as they could make it, among surroundings quite
respectably English for Americans of the third or fourth generation.

They had two English servants and some other American “help”; but they
called the Americans by their last names, which anglified them to some
extent. They had a servants’ hall, and a butler’s pantry, and a page
in buttons, and they were unreasonably proud of the fact that one of
their Tory ancestors had been obliged to leave New York for Halifax,
in 1784, having only the alternative of a more tropical place of
residence. I do not know whether they really held that the signers of
the Declaration of Independence committed a grave error; but I do know
that when they had occasion to speak of Queen Victoria, they always
referred to her as “Her Majesty.”

[Illustration]

“I see by the _Mail_ to–night,” Mr. Tullingworth–Gordon would say to
his wife, “that Her Majesty has presented the poor bricklayer who saved
seventeen lives and lost both arms at the Chillingham–on–Frees disaster
with an India shawl and a copy of the Life of the Prince Consort.”

“Her Majesty is always _so_ generous!” Mrs. Tullingworth–Gordon would
sigh; “and _so_ considerate of the common people!”

Mr. Tullingworth–Gordon was a rich man, and he was free to indulge the
fancy of his life, and to be as English as his name; and he engaged
those two English servants to keep up the illusion.

It is the tale of the menials that I have to tell—the tale of the loves
of Samuel Bilson, butler, and Sophronia Huckins, “which ’Uckins it ever
was an’ so it were allays called, and which ’Uckins is good enough for
me, like it was good enough for my parents now departed, and there is
’ope for ’eaven for chapel–goers, though a Church–of–England woman I am
myself.”

Sophronia Huckins was lady’s maid to Mrs. Tullingworth–Gordon,
housekeeper to Mr. and Mrs. Tullingworth–Gordon, and, in a way,
autocrat and supreme ruler over the whole house of Tullingworth–Gordon.
There were other servants, as I have said, but, in their several
departments, Bilson and Sophronia were king and queen. Of course, at
the first, there was some friction between these two potentates. For
ten years they scratched and sparred and jostled; for ten years after
that they lived in comfortable amity, relieving their feelings by
establishing a reign of terror over the other servants; and then—ah,
then—began the dawn of another day. Bilson was careless about the wine;
Sophronia took to the wearing of gowns unbefitting a maid of forty
years. It broke upon the Tullingworth–Gordon mind that something was in
the wind, and that the conservative quiet of their domestic service was
likely to be troubled.

Meanwhile, Nature, unconscious of the proprieties of the situation, was
having her own way in the little passage back of the butler’s pantry.

“You say”—the housekeeper spoke with a certain sternness—“as how you
have loved me for ten long years. But I say as how it would ’ave been
more to your credit, Samuel Bilson, to ’ave found it out afore this,
when, if I do say it myself, there was more occasion.”

“It’s none the wuss, Sophronia, for a–bein’ found out now,” rejoined
the butler, sturdily: “what you was, you is to me, an’ I don’t noways
regret that you ain’t what you was, in point of beauty, to ’ave young
men an’ sich a–comin’ between us, as an engaged pair.”

“‘Oo’s an engaged pair?” demanded Sophronia, with profound dignity.

“Us,” said Mr. Bilson, placidly: “or to be considered as sich.”

“I ain’t considered us as sich,” said Sophronia, coquettishly: “not as
yet.”

Mr. Bilson was stacking up dishes on the shelves in the passageway.
He paused in his labors; put his hands on his hips, and faced his
tormenting charmer with determination in his eye.

[Illustration]

“Sophronia ’Uckins!” he said: “you’re forty, this day week; that much
I know. Forty’s forty. You’ve kep’ your looks wonderful, an’ you ’ave
your teeth which Providence give you. But forty’s forty. If you mean
Bilson, you mean Bilson now, ’ere in this ’ere cupboard–extension, your
’and an’ your ’art, to love, honor, an’ obey, so ’elp you. Now, ’ow
goes it?”

It went Mr. Bilson’s way. Sophronia demurred, and for a space of some
few weeks she was doubtful; then she said “No”—but in the end she
consented.

Why should she not? Bilson had been a saving man. No luxurious
furniture beautified his little room over the stables. His character
was above reproach. He allowed himself one glass of port each day from
Mr. Tullingworth–Gordon’s stock; but there he drew the line. Such as it
was, the master of the house had his own wine, every drop, except that
solitary glass of port—save on one occasion.

And Sophronia Huckins was the occasion of that occasion. Smooth and
decorous ran the course of true love for four months on end. Mrs.
Tullingworth–Gordon had been made acquainted with the state of affairs;
had raged, had cooled, and had got to that point where the natural
woman arose within her, and she began to think about laying out a
trousseau for the bride. Fair was the horizon; cloudless the sky. Then
came the heavy blow of Fate.

When Cupid comes to you at forty years, he is likely to be something
wrinkled, more or less fat and pursy, a trifle stiff in the joints.
You must humor him a little; you must make believe, and play that he
is young and fair. It takes imagination to do this, and in imagination
Sophronia was deficient. Her betrothal was not two months old when she
suddenly realized that there was something grotesque and absurd about
it. How did she get the idea? Was it an echo of the gossip of the
other servants? Did she see the shop–keepers, quick to catch all the
local gossip, smiling at her as she went about the little town on her
domestic errands? Was there something in Bilson’s manners that told her
that he felt, in his inmost heart, that he had got to the point where
he had to take what he could get, and that he held her lucky to have
been conveniently accessible at that critical juncture?

We can not know. Perhaps Bilson was to blame. A man may be in love—over
head and ears in love—and yet the little red feather of his vanity will
stick out of the depths, and proclaim that his self–conceit is not yet
dead.

Perhaps it was Bilson: perhaps it was some other cause. It matters not.
One dull November day, Sophronia Huckins told Samuel Bilson that she
could not and would not marry him.

“It was my intent, Samuel; but I ’ave seen it was not the thing for
neither of us. If you had ’a’ seen your way clear five or ten or may
befifteen years ago, I don’t say as it wouldn’t ’a’ been different.
But as to sich a thing _now_, I may ’ave been foolish a–listenin’ to
you last July; but what brains I ’ave is about me now, an’ I tell you
plain, Samuel Bilson, it can’t never be.”

To Bilson this came like a clap of thunder out of the clearest and
sunniest of skies. If the Cupid within him had grown old and awkward,
he was unaware of it. To his dull and heavily British apprehension, it
was the same Cupid that he had known in earlier years. The defection of
his betrothed was a blow from which he could not recover.

“Them women,” he said, “is worse’n the measles. You don’t know when
they’re comin’ out, an’ you don’t know when they’re goin’ in.”

The blow fell upon him late one evening, long after dinner; when
everything had been put to rights. He was sitting in the butler’s
pantry, sipping his one glass of port, when Sophronia entered and
delivered her dictum.

She went out and left him—left him with the port. She left him with
the sherry; she left him with the claret, with the old, old claret,
with the comet year, with the wine that had rounded the Cape, with
the Cognac, with the Chartreuse, with the syrupy Curaçoa and the Eau
de Dantzic, and with the Scotch whiskey that Mr. Tullingworth–Gordon
sometimes drank in despite of plain American Rye.

[Illustration]

She left him with the structure of a lifetime shattered; with the love
of twenty years nipped in its late–bourgeoning bud. She left him alone,
and she left him with a deadly nepenthe at hand.

He fell upon those bottles, and, for once in his quiet, steady,
conservative life, he drank his fill. He drank the soft, sub–acid
claret; he drank the nutty sherry; he drank the yellow Chartreuse and
the ruddy Curaçoa. He drank the fiery Cognac, and the smoky Scotch
whiskey. He drank and drank, and as his grief rose higher and higher,
high and more high he raised the intoxicating flood.

At two o’clock of that night, a respectable butler opened a side–door
in the mansion of Mr. Tullingworth–Gordon, and sallied forth to cool
his brow in the midnight air.

He was singing as they brought him back on a shutter, in the early
morning; but it was not wholly with drunkenness, for delirium had hold
of him. Down to the south of the house were long stretches of marsh,
reaching into the Great South Bay, and there he had wandered in his
first intoxication. There he had stepped over the edge of a little dyke
that surrounded Mr. Tullingworth–Gordon’s pike–pond—where all the pike
died, because the water was too salt for them—and there they found him
lying on his back, with one of the most interesting cases of compound
fracture in his right leg that has yet been put on record, and with the
flat stones that topped the dyke lying over him.

They took him to his room over the stable, and put him to bed, and sent
for the doctor. The doctor came, and set the leg. He also smelt of Mr.
Bilson’s breath, and gazed upon Mr. Bilson’s feverish countenance, and
said:

“Hard drinker, eh? We’ll have trouble with him, probably. Hasn’t he got
anybody to look after him?”

This query found its way up to the manor–house of the
Tullingworth–Gordons. It came, in some way, to the ears of Sophronia.
Shortly after dinner–time she appeared in the chamber of Bilson.

Bilson was “coming out of it.” He was conscious, he was sore; he was
heavy of heart and head. He looked up, as he lay on his bed, and saw
a comely, middle–aged Englishwoman, sharp of feature, yet somehow
pleasant and comforting, standing by his bed.

“Sophronia!” he exclaimed.

“Hush!” she said; “the medical man said you wasn’t to talk.”

“Sophronia—’tain’t you!”

“P’r’aps it ain’t,” said Sophronia, sourly; “p’r’aps it’s a cow, or
a ’orse or a goat, or anythin’ that is my neighbor’s. But the best I
know, it’s me, an’ I’ve come to ’ave an eye on you.”

“Sophronia!” gasped the sufferer; “‘tain’t noways proper.”

“‘T’s goin’ to be proper, Samuel Bilson. You wait, an’ you’ll see what
you’ll see. ’Ere ’e comes.”

[Illustration]

Mr. Bilson’s room was reached by a ladder, coming up through a hole in
the floor. Through this hole came a peculiarly shaped felt hat; then a
pale youthful face; then a vest with many buttons.

“To ’ave and to ’old,” said Sophronia. “‘Ere ’e is.”

The head came up, and a long, thin body after it. Pale and gaunt,
swaying slightly backward and forward, like a stiff cornstalk in a mild
breeze, the Reverend Mr. Chizzy stood before them and smiled vaguely.

The Reverend Mr. Chizzy was only twenty–four, and he might have passed
for nineteen; but he was so high a churchman that the mould of several
centuries was on him. He was a priest without a cure; but, as some
of his irreverent friends expressed it, he was “in training” for the
Rectorship of St. Bede’s the Less, a small church in the neighborhood,
endowed by Mr. Tullingworth–Gordon and disapproved of by his Bishop,
who had not yet appointed a clergyman. The Bishop had been heard to say
that he had not yet made up his mind whether St. Bede’s the Less was
a church or some new kind of theatre. Nevertheless, Mr. Chizzy was on
hand, living under the wing of the Tullingworth–Gordons, and trying to
make the good Church–of–England people of the parish believe that they
needed him and his candles and his choir–boys.

Behind Mr. Chizzy came two limp little girls, hangers–on of the
Tullingworth–Gordon household by grace of Mrs. Tullingworth–Gordon’s
charity. In New England they would have been called “chore–girls.” The
Tullingworth–Gordons called them “scullery maids.”

Bilson half rose on his elbow in astonishment, alarm and indignation.

“Sophronia ’Uckins,” he demanded, “what do this ’ere mean? I ain’t
a–dyin’, and I ain’t got no need of a clergyman, thank ’eaven. And no
more this ain’t a scullery, Mrs. ’Uckins.”

“This,” said Sophronia, pointing at the clergyman as though he were a
wax–figure in a show, “this is to wed you and me, Samuel Bilson, and
_them_” (she indicated the scullery maids,) “them witnesses it.”

[Illustration]

“Witnesses _wot_?” Mr. Bilson inquired, in a yell.

“Witnesses our marriage, Samuel Bilson. Nuss you I can not, both bein’
single, and nussed you must and shall be. Now set up and be marri’d
quiet.”

Mr. Bilson’s physical condition forbade him to leap from the bed; but
his voice leaped to the rafters above him.

“Marri’d!” he shouted: “I’ll die fust!”

“Die you will,” said Sophronia, calmly but sternly, “if married you
ain’t, and that soon.”

“Sophronia!” Bilson’s voice was hollow and deeply reproachful; “you
’ave throwed me over.”

“I ’ave,” she assented.

“And ’ere I am.”

“And there you are.”

“Sophronia, you ’ave not treated me right.”

“I ’ave not, Samuel Bilson,” Miss Huckins cheerfully assented; “I might
’ave known as you was not fit to take care of yourself. But I mean to
do my dooty now, so will you ’ave the kindness to button your clo’es at
the neck, and sit up?”

Mr. Bilson mechanically fastened the neck–band of his night–shirt and
raised himself to the sitting posture.

“Mrs. Huckins,” Mr. Chizzy interrupted, in an uncertain way; “I didn’t
understand—you did not tell me—there does not appear to have been the
usual preliminary arrangement for this most sacred and solemn ceremony.”

Sophronia turned on him with scorn in her voice and bearing.

“Do I understand, sir, as you find yourself in a ’urry?”

“I am not in a hurry—oh, no. But—dear me, you know, I can’t perform the
ceremony under these circumstances.”

Miss Huckins grew more profoundly scornful.

“Do you know any himpediment w’y we should not be lawfully joined
together in matrimony?”

“Why,” said the perturbed cleric, “he doesn’t want you.”

“‘E doesn’t know what ’e wants,” returned Sophronia, grimly; “if women
waited for men to find out w’en they wanted wives, there’d be more old
maids than there is. If you’ll be good enough to take your book in your
’and, sir, I’ll see to ’im.”

Bilson made one last faint protest.

“‘Twouldn’t be right, Sophronia,” he wailed; “I ain’t wot I was; I’m a
wuthless and a busted wreck. I can’t tie no woman to me for life. It
ain’t doin’ justice to neither.”

“If you’re what you say you are,” said Sophronia, imperturbably, “and
you know better than I do, you should be glad to take wot you can get.
If I’m suited, don’t _you_ complain.”

“Mrs. Huckins,” the young clergyman broke in, feebly asserting himself,
“this is utterly irregular.”

“I know it is,” said Sophronia; “and we’re a–waitin’ for you to set it
straight.”

The two chore–girls giggled. A warm flush mounted to Mr. Chizzy’s pale
face. He hesitated a second; then nervously opened his book, and began
the service. Sophronia stood by the bedside, clasping Bilson’s hand in
a grasp which no writhing could loosen.

“Dearly beloved,” Mr. Chizzy began, addressing the two chore–girls; and
with a trembling voice he hurried on to the important question:

“Wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife?—“

“N—yah!”

Bilson had begun to say “No;” but Sophronia’s firm hand had tightened
on his with so powerful a pressure that his negative remonstrance ended
in a positive yell.

“Ah, _really_,” broke in Mr. Chizzy; “I can not proceed, M—M—Miss—ah,
what’s your name?—I positively can’t!”

“_Mrs. Bilson_,” returned the unmoved Sophronia. “Are you intending
for to part ’usband and wife at this point, sir? Excuse me; but we’re
a–waitin’ of your convenience.”

Mr. Chizzy was a deep red in the face. His pallor had given place to
a flush quite as ghastly in its way. The blood was waltzing in giddy
circles through his brain as he read on and on.

No church—no candles—no robes—no choiring boys. Only this awful woman,
stern as death, commanding him and Bilson. Why had he yielded to her?
Why had he permitted himself to be dragged hither? Why was he meekly
doing her bidding? Mr. Chizzy felt as though he were acting in some
ghastly, nightmarish dream.

“_Then shall the Minister say_: Who giveth this Woman to be married to
this Man?”

That roused Mr. Chizzy from his trance. It came late; but it seemed to
open a way out of the horribly irregular business. He paused and tried
to fix an uncertain eye on Sophronia.

“Have you a Father or a Friend here?” he demanded.

“Jim!” said Sophronia, loudly.

“Ma’am?” came a voice from the lower story of the stable.

[Illustration]

“Say ‘I do.’”

“Ma’am?”

“Say ‘I do’—an’ say it directly!”

“Say—say?—what do you want, Miss Huckins?”

“_Jim!_” said Sophronia, sternly, “open your mouth an’ say ‘I do’ out
loud, or I come down there immejit!”

“I do!” came from the floor below.

“‘Ere’s the ring,” said Sophronia, promptly; “‘I, M., take thee, N.’—if
you’ll ’ave the kindness to go on, sir, we won’t detain you any longer
than we can ’elp. I’m give away, I believe; an’ I’ll take ’im, M.”

“Forasmuch as,” began the Reverend Mr. Chizzy, a few minutes later,
addressing the chore–girls, “Samuel and Sophronia have consented
together in holy wedlock—“

He stopped suddenly. Up through the opening in the floor arose the
head of a youthful negro, perhaps fourteen years of age. Mr. Chizzy
recognized him as the stable–boy, a jockey of some local fame.

“What you want me to say I done do?” he inquired.

“Mrs.—Mrs.—Bilson!” said Mr. Chizzy, with a tremulous indignation in
his voice; “did this negro infant act as your parent or friend, just
now?”

“‘E give me away,” replied the unabashed bride.

Mr. Chizzy looked at her, at Bilson, at Jim, and at the chore–girls.
Then he opened his book again and finished the ceremony.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Tullingworth–Gordons were angry when they heard of the marriage.
They missed the two mainstays of their domestic system. But—well,
Bilson was growing old, and Sophronia was growing tyrannical. Perhaps
it was better as it was. And, after all, they had always wanted a
Lodge, and a Lodge–keeper, and the old ice–house stood near the gate—a
good two hundred feet from the house.

It was nearly a year before Bilson could walk around with comfort.
Indeed, eighteen months later, he did not care to do more than sit in
the sun and question Fate, while Mrs. Bilson tried to quiet a noisy
baby within the Lodge.

“‘Ere I am laid up, as I should be,” said Bilson; “an there’s an active
woman a–goin’ around with a baby, and a–nussin’ of him. If things was
as they should be, in the course of nachur, we’d ’ave exchanged jobs,
we would.”

[Illustration]



“THE RUNAWAY BROWNS,”


by H. C. Bunner, illustrations by C. J. Taylor; publishers, Keppler &
Schwarzmann. The experiences of Paul Brown and his wife, who escape
a tame, adventureless life, with a view of having “things happen to
them,” and to this end leave a pleasant home to be gone a year and a
day, are just the reading for a Summer’s afternoon, and there is still
enough of Summer in the air to make it enjoyable to its fullest. How
the Browns fell in with a band of barn–storming professionals; how they
became tin peddlers; how they took charge of a lone hotel, and how they
finally and gladly reached their trim cottage, is told in these clever
and amusing pages, and will bring more than one hearty laugh even from
those unused to smile.

  —_N., P. & S. Bulletin._


  _In Boards, $1.00._      _In Paper, 50 Cents._
  _All Booksellers._
  _By Mail, from the Publishers, on Receipt of Price._



“MADE IN FRANCE.”


Under the title of “Made in France” H. C. Bunner has gathered a number
of short stories, all founded on tales by De Maupassant. Several have
suffered so great a sea change, however, that the original writer, if
he were alive, would not recognize them. In these about all that Bunner
has borrowed from the brilliant Frenchman is what he calls the “ethical
situations.” Others bear evident traces of their French origin. Mr.
Bunner explains the motive of his novel scheme in these words:

 “I have selected a few ethical situations from among the brightest
 of Maupassant’s inventions, and have tried to reproduce them, not as
 translations, but as English or American stories based on a Frenchman’s
 inspiration, and I have done this with the sole hope of making that
 inspiration clear to people who will not or can not read Maupassant in
 the original. If through the new climes, the new times, the new changes,
 the new worlds, indeed, into which I have moved his people and their
 adventures, you catch a better glimpse of the best fancies of M. Guy
 de Maupassant than you can get through the misleading mechanism of a
 literal translation, I shall be glad, indeed.”

There is no question of his success, for nine out of ten of his readers
would find De Maupassant less amusing than Bunner. The volume is very
cleverly illustrated by Taylor.

  —_San Francisco Chronicle._


  _In Boards, $1.00._      _In Paper, 50 Cents._
  _All Booksellers._
  _By Mail, from the Publishers, on Receipt of Price._



  _PUCK’S
  OPPER BOOK_

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         *       *       *


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  SEES IT._

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  Frederick Opper._

  _30 cts. By Mail, 35 cts._

         *       *       *


  _PICKINGS
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         *       *       *       *       *


  _PUCK’S_
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  _Published on the
  15th of Each Month._

  _Being Puck’s Best Things About Everything.  Illustrated Catalogue on
  Application._

  _10 cts. per Copy. $1.20 per Year._

         *       *       *       *       *

  _The above are for sale by all Booksellers and Newsdealers
  and mailed by the Publishers on receipt of price_

  _Address_: PUCK, _N. Y._



  NO POLITICS!      PURE FUN!

[Illustration: Puck’s Library]

  An Illustrated
  Humorous Magazine.

  PUBLISHED
  ON THE 15TH OF EACH MONTH.

  10 Cents per Copy.      $1.20 per Year.


In PUCK’S LIBRARY are reprinted the best things of lasting interest,
classified after their kind, that have appeared in PUCK.

By this arrangement the reader who wishes what PUCK has to give him
outside of politics and daily happenings, can have it here in monthly
feasts of dainty tidbits.


32 Pages, Loaded with Pictures.

 Send 10 cents to the “Publishers of PUCK’S LIBRARY, New York,” and
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