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Title: Henry Is Twenty - A Further Episodic History of Henry Calverly, 3rd
Author: Merwin, Samuel
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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HENRY IS TWENTY

A Further Episodic History of Henry Calverly, 3rd

By Samuel Merwin

Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd.

London and Glasgow

1921



OF PATTERNS AND PERSONS

|It would be ungracious to let this book go out into a preoccupied world
without some word of gratitude to those who have written regarding the
young Henry as he has appeared from month to month in a magazine. The
letters have been the kindliest and most stimulating imaginable; and
have surprised me, for I have never found it easy to picture Henry as a
popular hero of fiction.

He isn't, of course, a hero at all. His weaknesses are too plain--the
little evidences of vanity in him, his selfcentred moments, his errant
susceptibilities--and heroes can't have weaknesses. And heroes--in any
well-regulated pattern-story--must 'turn out well.' Henry, in this book,
doesn't really turn out at all. His success in Episode X is a rather
alarming accident. I think he'll do well enough, when he's forty or so.
At twenty, no. He has huge doses of life's medicine yet to swallow. And
all his problems are complicated by the touch of genius that is in him.

Another thing: there couldn't have been a Mamie Wilcox in our
pattern-story. And certainly not a Corinne. Hardly even a Martha. For
a 'divided love interest' destroys your pattern. Yet Marthas, Corinnes,
Mamies occur everywhere. So I can't very well apologise for their
presence here.

We might, of course, have had Henry overthrow the Old Cinch in Sunbury;
clean up the town. But he didn't happen to be a St George that summer.
And then, so many heroes of pattern-stories, these two decades, have
slain municipal dragons!

He might have listened in a deeper humility to the worldly wisdom of
Uncle Arthur. But he didn't. He had to live his own life, not Uncle
Arthur's. His way was the harder, but he couldn't help that.

I would have liked to pursue further the Mildred-Humphrey romance;
including Arthur V. and the curious triangle that resulted; but the
crisis didn't come in that year.

And against the temptation to dwell with Madame Watt and her husband I
have had, here, to set my face. Though something of that story will be
told in a book yet to come, dealing with an older, changed Henry.
The richly dramatic career of _Madame_ underlay the irony of Henry's
marriage; and we shall have to deal with that, or at least with the
events that grew out of it.

I have said that Henry would turn out well enough in time. From the
angle of the pattern-story this obviously couldn't be. It would be said
that if he _was_ ever to succeed he should have got started by this time
in habits of industry and so forth.

I won't say that this is nonsense, but instead will quote from the
autobiography of Charles Francis Adams (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1916).
Mr Adams, from his fifteenth to his twenty-fifth year, kept a diary.
Then he sealed the volumes in a package. Thirty years later he opened
the package and read every word. He says:--

'The revelation of myself to myself was positively shocking.... It
wasn't that the thing was bad or that my record was discreditable; it
was worse! It was silly. That it was crude, goes without saying.
_That_ I didn't mind! But I did blush and groan and swear over its
unmistakable, unconscious immaturity and ineptitude, its conceit, its
weakness and its cant.... As I finished each volume it went into the
fire; and I stood over it until the last leaf was ashes.... I have never
felt the same about myself since. I now humbly thank fortune that I have
got almost through life without making a conspicuous ass of myself.'

Mr Adams, immediately after the period covered by the diary, plunged
into the Civil War, and emerged with the well-earned brevet rank
of brigadier-general. He was later eminent as publicist, author,
administrator, a recognised leader of thought in a troublous time. He
became president of the Union Pacific Railroad. And at the last he was
the subject of a memorial address by the Honorable Henry Cabot Lodge.

As Henry is still several years short of twenty-five perhaps there is
hope for him.

Concord, Mass.

S. M.



I--THE IRRATIONAL ANIMAL


1


|It was late May in Sunbury, Illinois, and twenty minutes past eight in
the morning.

The spacious lawns and the wide strips of turf between sidewalk and
roadway in every avenue and street were lush with crowding young blades
of green. The maples, oaks, and elms were vivid with the exuberant youth
of the year.

Throughout the village, brisk young men, care-worn men of middle age,
a few elderly men were hurrying toward the old red-brick station whence
the eight-twenty-nine would shortly carry them into the dust and sweat
and smoke of a business day in Chicago. The swarms of sleepy-eyed
clerks, book-keepers, office boys and girl stenographers had gone in on
the seven-eleven and the seven-thirty-two.

Along Simpson Street the grocers, in their aprons, already had out
their sidewalk racks heaped with seasonable vegetables and fruits
(out-of-season delicacies had not then become commonplaces of life in
Sunbury; strawberries appeared when the local berries were ripe,
not sooner). The two butcher shops were decorated with red and buff
carcasses hung in rows. A whistling, coatless youth had just swept out
Donovan's drug store and was wiping off the marble counter before the
marble and glass soda fountain. Through the windows of the Sunbury
National Bank Alfred Knight could be seen filling the inkwells and
putting out fresh blotters and pens. The neat little restaurant known as
'Stanley's' (the Stanleys were a respectable coloured couple) was
still nearly full of men who ate ham and eggs, pounded beefsteak, fried
potatoes, and buckwheat cakes, and drank huge cups of gray-brown coffee;
with, at the rear tables, two or three family groups. And from numerous
boarding-houses and dormitories in the northern section of the overgrown
village students of both sexes were converging on the oak-shaded campus
by the lake.

All of Sunbury appeared to be up and about the business of the day; all,
perhaps, except Henry Calverly, 3rd, who sat, dressed except for his
coat, heavy-eyed, a hair brush in either hand, hands resting limp
on knees, on the edge of his narrow iron bed. This, in Mrs Wilcox's
boardinghouse in Douglass Street, one block south of Simpson; top floor.

If the present reader has, by chance, had earlier acquaintance with
Henry, it should be explained that he is now to be pictured not as a
youth of eighteen going on nineteen but as a young man of twenty going
on twenty-one.

That figure, twenty-one, of significance in the secret thoughts of any
growing boy, was of peculiar, stirring significance to the sensitive,
imaginative Henry. It marked the beginning of what is sometimes termed
Life. It suggested alarming but interesting responsibilities. On that
day, beginning with the stroke of the midnight hour, guardians ceased
to function and independence set in. One was a citizen. One voted. In
Henry's case, the crowning symbol of manhood would be deferred a year,
as Election Day was to fall on the fifth of November and his birthday
was the seventh; but that so trivial a mere fact bore small weight in
the face of potential citizenship might have been indicated by the faint
blonde fringe along his upper lip. This fringe was a new venture. He
stroked it much of the time, and stole glances at it in mirrors. He
could twist it up a little at the ends.

The rest of him indicated a taste that was hardly bent on the
inexpensive as such. His duck trousers (this was the middle nineties)
were smartly creased and rustled with starch. His white canvas shoes
were not 'sneakers' but had heavy soles and half-heels of red rubber.
His coat, lying now across the iron tube that marked the foot of the
bed, was a double-breasted blue serge, unlined, well-tailored. The hat,
hung on a mirror post above the 'golden oak' bureau, was of creamy white
felt. He had given up spectacles for nose glasses with a black silk
cord.

Nearly two years earlier his mother had died. He had lived on, caught in
a drift of time and circumstance, keeping, without any particular plan,
this little room with its sloping ceiling. The price was an item, of
course--six dollars a week for room and board. You couldn't do better
in Sunbury, even then. Memories haunted the place, naturally enough.
Loneliness had dwelt close with him.

His mother's picture, in a silver frame, stood at the right of the
pincushion; at the left, in hammered brass ('repoussé work') was a
'cabinet size' photograph of Martha Caldwell. A woven-wire rack on the
wall held half a hundred snapshots of girls, boys, and groups, in about
a third of which figured Martha's smiling, sensible, pleasantly freckled
face. A guitar in an old green bag leaned against the wall behind his
mother's old trunk; it had not been out of the bag in more than a year.
An assortment of neck-ties hung over the gas-jet by the bureau. Tacked
about on the wall were six or eight copies of Gibson girls; rather good
copies, barringva certain stiffness of line. On the seat in the one
dormer window reposed two cushions, one covered with college pennants,
the other with cigar bands laboriously cross-stitched together; both
from, the hands of Martha.

Henry's little bookcase was not uninteresting. It contained the
following books: Daily Strength for Daily Needs, Browning, Trollope,
and Hawthorne in sets, Sonnets, from the Portuguese, Words often
Mispronounced, Longfellow, complete in one fat volume. Red Line Edition,
and Six Thousand Puzzles, all of which had been his mother's; Green's
History of the English People, Boswell's Johnson, both largely uncut,
and the Discourses of Epictetus, which three had come as Christmas or
birthday gifts; and exactly one volume, a work by an obscure author
(who was pictured in the frontispiece with a bristling moustache and
intensely knit brows) entitled Will Power and Self Mastery, which
offered the only clue as to Henry's own taste in book buying.

His taste in reading was another matter. The novels and romances he had
devoured during certain periods of his teens had mostly come from the
Sunbury Free Public Library. Lately, however, apart from thrilling
moments with The Prisoner of Zenda, Under the Red Rose, and The Princess
Aline, he had found difficulty in reading at all. Something was stirring
within him, something restlessly positive, an impulse to give out rather
than take in. Though he had, at intervals, lunged with determination
at the Green and the Boswell. This effort, indeed, had been repeated so
many times that he occasionally caught himself speaking of these authors
as if he had read them exhaustively.

The bottom drawer of the bureau was a third full of unfinished
manuscripts--attempts at novels, short stories, poems, plays--each
faithfully reflecting its immediate source of inspiration. There were
paragraphs that might have been written by a little Dickens; there
were thinly diluted specimens of Dumas, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Richard
Harding Davis, Thackeray. The rest was all Kipling, prose and verse.
Everybody was writing Kipling then.

A step sounded in the hall. The knob turned softly; the door opened a
little way; and the thinnish, moderately pretty face of Mamie Wilcox
appeared--pale blue eyes with the beginnings of hollows beneath them,
fair skin, straight hay-coloured hair, wisps of it straying down across
forehead and cheek, thin nose, soft but rather sulky mouth. She was
probably twenty-two or twenty-three at this time.

All she said was, 'Oh!'--very low.

'Wonder you wouldn't knock!' said he.

'Wonder you wouldn't get up before noon!' she responded smartly, but
still in that cautious voice; then added, 'Here, I'll leave the towels,
and come back.' And she slipped into the room, a heavier and more
shapely figure of a girl than was suggested by the face, a girl in a
full-length gingham apron and little shoes with unexpectedly high heels;
not 'French' heels, but the sloping style known then as 'military.'


2


Henry's colour was rising a little. He cleared his throat, and said,
mumbling, 'Leave anything you like.'

'I'll do just that,'--she turned, with a flirt of her apron and stood,
between washstand and door, surveying him--'what I like, and nothing
more.'... Her eyes wandered now from him to the picture at the left of
the pincushion, then to the snapshots on the wall, and she smiled, very
self-contained, very knowing, with the expression that the young call
'sarcastic.' The adjective came to mind. Henry's colour was mounting
higher.

'Pretty snappy to-day, ain't we?' said he.

'Yes, when we're snapped at,' said she.

There was a silence that ran on into seconds and tens of seconds.

Then, acting on an impulse of astonishing suddenness, he sprang toward
her.

With almost equal agility she stepped away. But he caught one hand.

She had the door-knob in her other hand. She drew the door open, then,
indecisively, pushed it nearly to.

'Be careful!' she whispered. 'They'll hear!'

She made a small effort to free her hand. For a moment they stood
tugging at each other.

When Henry spoke, in an effort to appear the off-hand man of the world
he assuredly was not, his voice sounded weak and husky.

'Whew--strong!'

'Suppose I slapped.'

'Slap all you like.'

'What would Martha Caldwell say?'

There was a gloomy sort of anger on Henry's red face. He jerked her
violently toward him.

'Stop! You're hurting my wrist!' With which she yielded a little.
He found himself about to take her in his arms. He heard her
whispering--'For Heaven's sake be careful! They'll surely hear!'

He was most unhappy. He pushed her roughly away, and rushed to the
window.,

He knew from the silence that she was lingering. He hated her. And
himself.

She said: 'Well, you needn't get mad.'

Then, slowly, cautiously, she let herself out. He heard her moving
composedly along the hall.

He felt weak. And deeply guilty. For a long time this moment had been a
possibility; now it had taken place. What if some one had seen her come
in! What if she should come again! What if she should tell!...

He found one hair brush on the floor, the other on the bed, and brushed
his hair; donned his coat, buttoning it and smoothing it down about
his shapely torso with a momentary touch of complacency; glanced at the
mirror; twisted up his moustache; then stood waiting for his colour to
go down.

Suddenly, with one of his quick impulses, he sprang at the bookcase,
drew out the _Epictetus_--it was a little book, bound in 'ooze' calf of
an olive-green colour--and read these words (the book opened there):--

'To the rational animal only is the irrational intolerable.

He lowered the book and repeated the phrase aloud.


3


A little later--red about the ears, and given to sudden starts when the
swinging pantry doors opened to let a student waiter in or out--he sat,
quite erect, in the dining room and bolted a boarding-house breakfast of
stewed prunes, oatmeal, fried steak, fried potatoes, fried mush swimming
in brown sugar syrup, and coffee. The _Discourses of Epictetus_ lay at
his elbow.

After this he walked--stiffly self-conscious, book under arm--over to
Simpson Street, and took a chair and an _Inter Ocean_ at Schultz and
Schwartz's, among the line of those waiting to be shaved.

This accomplished he paused outside, on the curb, to pencil this entry
in a red pocket account-book:--

'Shave--10 c.'

He wavered when passing Donovan's; stepped in and consumed a frosted
maple shake. Which necessitated the further entry in the red book:--

'Soda--10 c.'

In front of Berger's grocery he met Martha Caldwell. They walked
together to the corner.

Martha was a sizable girl, about as tall as Henry, with large blue eyes,
an attractively short nose, abundant brown hair coiled away under her
flat straw hat, and a general air of good sense. Martha was really a
goodlooking young woman, and would have been popular had not Henry stood
in her light. She had a small gift at drawing (the Gibson copies
in Henry's room were hers) and danced gracefully enough. Monday and
Thursday evenings were his regular calling times; and there were so many
other evenings when he was expected to take her to this house or that
with 'the crowd' that the other local 'men' had long since given up
calling at her house. But they were not engaged.

On this occasion there was constraint between them. They spoke of
the lovely weather. She, knowing Henry pretty well, looked with some
curiosity at his book. Henry glanced sidelong at her across a wide
bottomless gulf, and stroked his moustache. He was groping desperately
for words. He began to resent her. He presented an outer front of stem
self-control.

At the corner they stopped and stood in a silence that grew rapidly
embarrassing.

She lowered her eyes and dug with the point of her parasol in the turf
by the stone walk.

He thrust both hands into his trousers' pockets, spread his feet, and
stared across at the long veranda of the Sunbury House. It seemed to him
that he had never been so unhappy.

'Are you'--Martha began; hesitated; went on--'were you thinking of
coming around this evening?'

'Why--it's Thursday, ain't it?'

'Yes,' she said, 'it's Thursday.'

'Listen, Martha!' Was it possible that she suspected something? But how
could she! His ears were getting red again. He knew it. She must never,
never know about Mamie!... 'Listen, I may have to go down to Mrs Arthur
V. Henderson's.'

'Oh,' she murmured, 'that musicale.'

'Yes.' Eagerness was creeping into his voice. 'Anne Mayer Stelton.
She's been over studying with Marchesi, you know. Mrs Henderson asked
specially to have me cover it.'

'Why don't you go?'

'Well--you see how it is. Of course, I'd hate----'

'You'd better go.' Saying which Martha turned away down Filbert Avenue,
and left him standing there.

He bit his lip; pulled at his moustache. 'I ought to do something for
her,' he thought. 'Buy some flowers--or a box of Devoe's.'

This was an idle thought; for the day, Thursday, lay much too close to
the financially lean end of the week to permit of flowers or candy. And
he hadn't asked anywhere for a dollar of credit these nearly two years.
Still, he felt faintly the warmth of his kindly intention.

It didn't seem altogether right to let her go like that. They had not
before drifted so near a quarrel. On the farther side of the street he
paused, and glanced down the avenue.

A smart trap that he had never seen before had pulled up, midway of the
block. An impeccable coachman sat stiffly upon an indubitable box. A man
who appeared to have reddish hair, dressed in a brown cutaway suit and
Derby hat, a man with a pronounced if close-cropped red moustache and
a suggestively interesting band of mourning about his left sleeve, was
leaning out, gracefully, graciously, talking to--Martha. And Martha was
listening.

Henry moved on, little confused pangs of quite unreasonable jealousy
stabbing at his heart, and entered the business-and-editorial office of
_The Weekly Voice of Sunbury_, where he worked.

Here he laid down the _Discourses of Epictetus_ and asked Humphrey
Weaver, untitled editor of the paper (old man Boice, the owner, would
never permit any one but himself to be known by that title), for the
galley proofs of the week's 'Personal Mention.'

He found this item:--

Mr James B. Merchant, Jr., of Greggs, Merchant & Co., was a guest of Mr
and Mrs Ames at the Country Club on Saturday evening. Mr Merchant has
leased for the summer the apartment of M. B. Wills, on Lower Filbert
Avenue.

That was the man! James B. Merchant was a bachelor, rich, a famous
cotillion leader on the South Side, Chicago, an only son of the original
James B. Merchant.

And Martha had gone to the Country Club Saturday with the Ameses. This
curious tension between himself and Martha had then first bordered on
the acute. Mr Ames disapproved of Henry; he felt that Martha shouldn't
have gone. And now, of course, her lack of consideration for himself was
leading her into new complications.

He sat moodily fingering the papers on the littered, ink-stained
table that served him for a desk. He was disturbed, uncomfortable, but
couldn't settle on what seemed a proper mental attitude. He was jealous;
but he mustn't let his jealousy carry him to the point of taking a
definite stand with Martha, because--well...

Life seemed very difficult.


4


The _Voice_ office occupied what had once been a shop, opposite the
hotel. The show window of plate glass now displayed the splintery rear
panels of old Mr Boice's rolltop desk, that was heaped, on top, with
back numbers of the _Voice_, the _Inter Ocean_ and the _Congressional
Record_, and a pile of inky zinc etchings mounted on wood blocks.

Within, back of a railing, were Humphrey Weaver's desk and Henry
Calverly's table.

Humphrey was tall, rather thin and angular, with a long face, long nose,
long chin, swarthy complexion, and quick, quizzical brown eyes with
innumerable fine wrinkles about them. When he smiled, his whole face
seemed to wrinkle back, displaying many large teeth in a cavernous
mouth.

Humphrey might have been twenty-five or six. He was a reticent young
man, with no girl or women friends that one ever saw, a fondness for
the old corn-cob that he was always scraping, filling, or smoking, and a
secret passion for the lesser known laws of physics. He lived alone, in
a barn back of the old Parmenter place. He had divided the upper story
into living and sleeping rooms, and put in hardwood floors and simple
furniture and a piano. Downstairs, in what he called his shop, were
lathes, a workbench, innumerable wood-and-metal working tools, a dozen
or more of heavy metal wheels set, at right angles, in circular frames,
and several odd little round machines suspended from the ceiling at the
ends of twisted cords. In one corner stood a number of box kites, very
large ones. And there were large planes of silk on spruce frames. He was
an alumnus of the local university, but had made few friends, and had
never been known in the town. Henry hadn't heard of him before the
previous year, when he had taken the desk in the _Voice_ office.

'Say, Hen,'--Henry looked up from his copy paper--; 'Mrs Henderson
looked in a few minutes ago, and left a programme and a list of guests
for her show to-night. She wants to be sure and have you there. You can
do it, can't you?'

Henry nodded listlessly.

'It seems there's to be a contralto, too--somebody that's visiting her.
She--Sister Henderson--appears to take you rather seriously, my
boy. Wants you particularly to hear the new girl. One Corinne Doag.
We,'--Humphrey smoked meditatively, then finished his sentence--'we
talked you over, the lady and I. I promised you'd come.'

At noon, the editorial staff of two lunched at Stanley's.

'Wha'd you and Mrs Henderson say about me?' asked Henry, over the pie.

'She says,' remarked Humphrey, the wrinkles multiplying about his eyes,
'that you have temperament. She thinks it's a shame.'

'What's a shame?' muttered Henry.

'Whatever has happened to you. I told her you were the steadiest boy
I ever knew. Don't drink, smoke, or flirt. I didn't add that you enter
every cent you spend in that little red book; but I've seen you doing it
and been impressed. But I mentioned that you're the most conscientious
reporter I ever saw. That started her. It seems that you're nothing of
the sort. My boy, she set you before me in a new light. You begin to
appear complex and interesting.'

Still muttering, Henry said, 'Nothing so very interesting about me.'

'It seems that you put on an opera here--directed it, or sang it, or
something. Before my time.'

'That was _Iolanthe_,' said Henry, with a momentarily complacent memory.

'And you sang--all over the place, apparently. Why don't you sing now?'

'It's too,'--Henry was mumbling, flushing, and groping for a word--'too
physical.'

Then, with a sudden movement that gave Humphrey a little start, the boy
leaned over the table, pulled at his moustache, and asked, gloomily:
'Listen! Do you think a man can change his nature?'

Humphrey considered this without a smile. 'I don't see exactly how,
Hen.'

'I mean if he's been heedless and reckless--oh, you know, girls, debts,
everything. Just crazy, sorta.'

'Well, I suppose a man can reform. Were you a very bad lot?' The
wrinkled smile was reassuring.

'That depends on what you--I wasn't exactly sporty, but--oh, you don't
know the trouble I've had, Humphrey. Then my mother died, and I hadn't
been half-decent to her, and I was left alone, and my uncle had to pay
my debts out of the principal--it was hundreds of dollars----'

His voice died out.

There was an element of pathos in the picture before him that Humphrey
recognised with some sympathy--the gloomy lad of twenty, with that
absurd little moustache that he couldn't let alone. After all, he _had_
been rather put to it. It began to appear that he had suppressed himself
without mercy. There would doubtless be reactions. Perhaps explosions.

Henry went on:--

'I don't know what's happened to me. I don't feel right about things.
I'--he hesitated, glanced up, then down, and his ears reddened--'I've
been going with Martha Caldwell, you know. For a long time.'

Humphrey nodded.

'Mondays and Thursdays I go over there, and other times. I don't seem to
want to go any more. But I get mixed up about it. I--I don't want them
to say I'm fickle. They used to say it.'

'You've evidently got gifts,' observed Humphrey, as if thinking aloud.
'You've got some fire in you. The trouble with you now, of course, is
that you're stale.' Humphrey deliberately considered the situation, then
remarked: 'You asked me if a man can change his nature. I begin to see
now. You've been trying to do that to yourself, for quite a while.'

Henry nodded.

'Well, I suppose you'll find that you can't do it. Not quite that. The
fire that's in you isn't going to stop burning just because you tell it
to.'

'But what's a fellow to do?'

'I don't know. Just stick along, I suppose, gradually build up
experience until you find work you can let yourself go in. Some way, of
course, you've got to let yourself go, sooner or later.'

Henry, his eyes nervously alert now, his slim young body tense, was
drawing jerkily with his fork on the coarse table-cloth.

'Yes,' he broke out, with the huskiness in his voice that came when his
emotions pressed--'yes, but what if you can't let yourself go without
letting everything go? What if the fire bums you!'

Humphrey found it difficult to frame a reply. He got no further, this as
they were leaving the restaurant, than to say, 'Of course, one man can't
advise another.'


5


As they were turning into the _Voice_ office, Henry caught sight of
Mamie Wilcox, in a cheap pink dress and flapping pink-and-white hat,
loitering by the hotel. He fell back behind Humphrey. Mamie beckoned
with her head. He nodded, and entered the office; and she moved slowly
on around the corner of the avenue.

He mumbled a rather unnecessary excuse to Humphrey, and slipped out,
catching up with her on the avenue. She was unpleasantly attractive. She
excited him.

'What is it?' he asked, walking with her. 'Did you want to speak to me?'

'Stuck up, aren't we!'

'Well?'

She pouted. 'Take a little walk with me. I do want to talk with you.'

'Haven't time. Got to get right back to the office.'

'Well--listen, meet me to-night. I can get out by eight. It's pretty
important. Maybe serious.'

'Is it---did anybody----'

She nodded. 'Mrs MacPherson. She was right in her door when I came out
of your room.'

'Did she say anything?'

'She looked a lot.'

'Well, say--I'll see you for a few minutes to-night. Say about eight.'
This was best. It would be dark, or near it. He simply mustn't be seen
strolling with Mamie Wilcox along Filbert Avenue in broad daylight.
'What do you say to Douglass Street and the Lake Shore Drive?'

'All right. Tell you what--bring a tandem along and take me for a ride.'

'Oh, I can't.' But his will was weak. 'Got to report a concert. I don't
know, though. I s'pose I could get around at half-past nine' or ten and
hear the last numbers.'

He had often done this. Besides, he could probably manage it earlier. He
knew he could rent a tandem at Murphy's cigar store down by the tracks.
A quite wild, wholly fascinating stir of adventure was warming his
breast and bringing that huskiness into his voice. He was letting go.
He felt daring and a little mad. He hadn't realised, before to-day, that
Mamie had such a lure about her.

Before returning to the office he got his bank-book and brazenly drew
from the bank, savings department, his entire account, amounting to ten
dollars forty-six cents. He also bespoke the tandem.

These were the great days of bicycling. The first highwheeled, rattling
horseless carriage was not to appear in the streets of Sunbury for a
year or two yet. Bicycle clubs flourished. Memorial Day each year (they
called it Decoration Day) was a mad rush of excursion and road races.
Every Sunday witnessed a haggard-eyed humpbacked horde of 'Scorchers' in
knickerbockers or woollen tights. Many of the young men one met on train
and street wore medals with a suspended chain of gold bars, one for each
'century run.'

And these were the first great days of the bloomer girl. She was
legion. Sometimes her bloomers were bloomers, sometimes they were
knickerbockers, sometimes little more than the tights of the racing
breed. She was dusty, sweaty, loud. She was never the sort of girl you
knew; but always appeared from the swarming, dingy back districts of the
city. Sometimes she rode a single wheel, sometimes tandem with some
male of the humpbacked breed and of the heavily muscled legs and the
grotesquely curved handle bars. The bloomer girl was looked at askance
by the well-bred folk of the shaded suburbs. Ministers thumped pulpits
and harangued half-empty pews regarding this final moral, racial
disaster while she rode dustily by the very doors.

Henry, as he pedalled the long machine through back streets to the
rendezvous, was glad that the twilight was falling fast. In his breast
pocket were copy paper and pencils, in an outer pocket his little
olive-green book. His white trousers were caught about the ankles with
steel dips.

Mamie kept him waiting. He hid both himself and the wheel in the shadows
of the tall lilac bushes in the little village park.

She came at length, said 'Hello!' and with a little deft unhooking,
coolly stepped out of her skirt, rolled up that garment, thrust it under
a bush, and stood before him in the sort of wheeling costume rarely seen
in Sunbury save on Saturdays and Sundays when the Chicago crowds were
pouring through.

Henry stood motionless, silent, in the dusk.

'Well,' said she, smartly, 'are we riding?'

Without a word he wheeled out the bicycle and they rolled away.

She was very close, there before him. She bent over the handle bars like
an old-timer, and pedalled with something more than the abandon of a
boy. It was going to be hard to talk to her... If he could only blot
this day out of his life. 'She started it,' he thought fiercely, staring
out ahead over her rhythmically moving shoulder. 'I never asked her to
come in!'

'I didn't know you rode a wheel,' said he, after a time, dismally.

'I ride Sundays with the boys from Pennyweather Point. But you needn't
tell that at home.'

'I'm not telling anything at home,' muttered Henry. Then she flung back
at him the one word.

'Surprised?'

'Well--why, sorta.'

'You thought I was satisfied to do the room work and wash dishes, I
suppose!'

'I don't know as I thought anything.'

'What's the matter, anyway? Scared at my bloomers?'

'That's what you call'em, is it?'

'I must say you're grand company.'

He made no reply.

They pedalled past the university buildings, the athletic field, the
lighthouse, up a grade between groves of oak, out along the brink of a
clay bluff overlooking the steely dark lake--horizonless, still, a light
or two twinkling far out.

'Shall we go to Hoffman's?' she asked.

'I don't care where we go,' said he.


6


_The Weekly Voice of Sunbury_ was put to press every Friday evening, was
printed during that night, and appeared in the first mail on Saturday
mornings.

Friday, therefore, was the one distractingly busy day for Humphrey
Weaver. And it was natural enough that he should snatch at Henry's
pencilled report of the musicale at Mrs Henderson's with the briefest
word of greeting, and give his whole mind, blue copy-editing pencil
posed in air, to reading it. But he did note that the boy looked rather
haggard, as if he hadn't slept much. He heard his mumbled remark that
he had been over at the public library, writing the thing; and perhaps
wondered mildly and momentarily why the boy should be writing at the
library and not at home, and why he should speak of the fact at all.
And now and again during the day he was aware of Henry, pale, dog-eyed,
inclined to hang about as if confidences were trembling on his tongue.
And he was carrying a little olive-green book around; drew it from
his pocket every now and then and read or turned the pages with an
ostentatious air of concentration, as if he wanted to be noticed.
Humphrey decided to ask him what the trouble was; later, when the paper
was put away. When he might have spoken, old man Boice was there, at his
desk. And Humphrey never got out to meals on Fridays. Henry got all his
work in on time: the 'Real Estate Notes' for the week and the last items
for 'Along Simpson Street.'

The report of the musicale would have brought a smile or two on another
day. There was nearly a column of it. Henry had apparently been deeply
moved by the singing of Anne Mayer Stelton. He dwelt on the 'velvet
suavity' of her legato passages, her firmness of attack and the
'delicate lace work of her colourature.' 'Mme. Stelton's art,' he wrote,
'has deepened and broadened appreciably since she last appeared in
Sunbury. Always gifted with a splendid singing organ, always charming in
personality and profoundly rhythmically musical in temperament, she now
has added a superstructure of technical authority, which gives to each
passage, whether bravura or pianissimo, a quality and distinction seldom
heard in this country. Miss Corinne Doag also added immeasurably to
the pleasure of the select audience by singing a group of songs. Miss
Corinne Doag has a contralto voice of fine _verve_ and _timbre_. She is
a guest of Mrs Henderson, who herself accompanied delightfully. Among
those present were:--'

Henry's writing always startled you a little. Words fairly flowed
through his pencil, long words, striking words. He had the word sense;
this when writing. In speech he remained just about where he had been
all through his teens, loose of diction, slurring and eliding and using
slang as did most of the Middle-Westerners among whom he had always
lived, and, like them, swallowing his tongue down his throat.

Humphrey initialed the copy, tossed it into the devil's basket, turned
to a pile of proofs, paused as if recollecting something, picked up the
copy again, glanced rapidly through it, and turned on his assistant.

'Look here, Hen,' he remarked, 'you don't tell what they sang, either of
'em. Or who _were_ among those present.'

Henry was reading his little book at the moment, and fumbling at his
moustache. A mournful object.

He turned now, with a start, and stared, wide-eyed, at Humphrey. His
lips parted, but he didn't speak. A touch of colour appeared in his
cheeks.

Then, as abruptly, he went limp in his chair.

'I thought she left a list here and a programme,' he said, eyes now on
the floor.

Humphrey's practised eye ran swiftly over the double row of pigeonholes
before him. 'Right you are!' he exclaimed.

It was a quarter past eleven that night when Humphrey scrawled his last
'O.K.'; stretched out his long form in his swivel chair; yawned; said,
'Well, _that's_ done, thank God!'; and hummed and tapped out on his bare
desk the refrain of a current song:--=

```'But you'd look sweet

````On the seat

```Of a bicycle built for two.'=

He turned on Henry with a wrinkly, comfortable grin.

'Well, my boy, it's too late for Stanley's but what do you say to a bite
at Ericson's, over by the tracks?'

Then he became fully aware of the woebegone look of the boy, fiddling
eternally with that moustache, fingering the leaves of his little book,
and added:--

'What on earth is the matter with you!'

Henry gazed long at his book, swallowed, and said weakly:--

'I'm in trouble, Humphrey.'

'Oh, come, not so bad as all--'

He was silenced by the sudden plaintive appeal on Henry's face. Mr
Boice, a huge-slow-moving figure of a man with great white whiskers, was
coming in from the press room.

They walked down to the little place by the tracks. Humphrey had a
roast-beef sandwich and coffee; Henry gloomily devoured two cream puffs.

There Humphrey drew out something of the story. It was difficult at
first. Henry could babble forth his most sacred inner feelings with an
ingenuous volubility that would alarm a naturally reticent man, and he
could be bafflingly secretive. To-night he was both, and neither. He
was full of odd little spiritual turnings and twistings--vague as to the
clock, intent on justifying himself, submerged in a boundless bottomless
sea of self-pity. Humphrey, touched, even worried, finally went at him
with direct questions, and managed to piece out the incident of the
Thursday morning in the boy's room.

'But I never asked her in,' he hurried to explain. 'She came in. Maybe
after that it was my fault, but I didn't ask her in.'

'But as far as I can see, Hen, it wasn't so serious. You didn't make
love to her.'

'I tried to.'

'Oh yes. She doubtless expected that. But she got away.'

'But don't you see, Hump, Mrs MacPherson saw her coming out. She'd been
snooping. Musta heard some of it. That's why Mamie hung around for me
yesterday noon.'

'Oh, she hung around?'

Henry swallowed, and nodded. 'That's why I slipped out again after lunch
yesterday. I didn't want to tell you.'

'Naturally. A man's little flirtations----'

'But wait, Hump! She was excited about it. And she seemed to think it
was up to me, somehow. I couldn't get rid of her.'

'Well, of course----'

'She made me promise to see her last night----'

'But--wait a minute!--last night----'

'This was the first part of the evening. She made me promise to rent
Murphy's tandem----'

'Hm! you _were_ going it!'

'And we rode up the shore a ways.'

'Then you didn't hear all of the musicale?'

'No. She wanted to go up to Hoffmann's Garden. So we went there----'

'But good lord, that's six miles---'

'Eight. You can do it pretty fast with a tandem. The place was jammed. I
felt just sick about it. The waiter made us walk clear through, past all
the tables. I coulda died. You see, Mamie, she--but I had to be a sport,
sorta.'

'Oh, you had to go through with it, of course.'

'Sure! I _had_ to. It was awful.'

'Anybody there that knew you?'

Henry's colour rose and rose. He gazed down intently at the remnant of
a cream puff; pushed it about with his fork. Then his lips formed the
word, 'Yes.'

Humphrey considered the problem. 'Well,' he finally observed, 'after
all, what's the harm? It may embarrass you a little. But most fellows
pick up a girl now and then. It isn't going to kill anybody.'

'Yes, but'--Henry's emotions seemed to be all in his throat to-night; he
swallowed--'but it--well, Martha was there.'

'Oh--Martha Caldwell?'

'Yes. And Mary Ames and her mother. They were with Mr Merchant's party.'

'James B., Junior?'

'Yes. They drove up in a trap. I saw it outside. We weren't but three
tables away from them. They saw everything. Mamie, she----'

'After all, Hen. It's disturbing and all that, but you were getting
pretty tired of Martha----'

'It isn't that, Hump 1 I don't know that I was. I get mixed. But it's
the shame, the disgrace. The Ameses have been down on me anyway,
for something that happened two years ago. And now...! And Martha,
she's--well, can't you see, Hump? It's just as if there's no use of my
trying to stay in this town any longer. They'll all be down on me now.
They'll whisper about me. They're doing it now. I feel it when I walk
up Simpson Street. They're going to mark me for that kind of fellow, and
I'm not.'

His face sank into his hands.

Humphrey considered him; said, 'Of course you're not;' considered him
further. Then he said, reflectively: 'It's unpleasant, of course, but
I'll confess I can't see that what you've told me justifies the words
"shame" and "disgrace." They're strong words, my boy. And as for leaving
town... See here, Hen | Is there anything you haven't told me?'

The bowed head inclined a little farther.

'Hadn't you better tell me? Did anything happen afterward? Has the girl
got--well, a real hold on you?' The head moved slowly sidewise. 'We
fought afterward, all the way home. Rowed. Jawed at each other like a
pair of little muckers. No, it isn't that. I hated her all the time. I
told her I was through with her. She tried to catch me in the hall this
morning, up on the third floor. Came sneaking to my room again. With
towels. That's why I wrote in the library.'

'But you aren't telling me what the rest of it was.'

'She--oh, she drank beer, and----'

'That's what most everybody does at Hoffmann's. The beer's good there.'

'I don't know. I don't like the stuff.'

'Come, Hen, tell me. Or drop it. Either.'

'I'll tell you. But I get so mad. It's--she--well, she wore pants.'

Humphrey's sympathy and interest were real, and he did not smile as he
queried: 'Bloomers?'

'No, pants. Britches. I never saw anything so tight. Nothing else like
'em in the whole place. People nudged each other and laughed and said
things, right out loud. Hump, it was terrible. And we walked clear
through--past hundreds of tables--and away over in the corner--and there
were the Ameses, and Martha, and----'

His head was up now; there was fire in his eyes; his voice trembled with
the passion of a profound moral indignation.

'Hump, she's tough. She rides with that crowd from Pennyweather Point.
She smokes cigarettes. She--she leads a double life.'

And neither did it occur to Humphrey, looking at the blazing youth
before him, to smile at that last remark.

Humphrey had reached a point of real concern over Henry. He thought
about him the last thing that night--pictured him living a lonely,
spasmodically ascetic life, in the not over cheerful boarding-house of
Mrs Wilcox--and the first thing the next morning.

The curious revelation of the later morning nettled him, perhaps, as a
responsible editor, but, if anything, deepened his concern. He had the
boy on his conscience, that was the size of it. He thought him over
all the morning, before and after the revelation. After it he smoked
steadily and hard, and knit his brows, and shook his head gravely, and
chuckled.

Henry always came in between half-past eleven and twelve Saturdays to
clip his contributions from the paper and paste them, end to end, in a
'string.' Then Humphrey would measure the string with a two-foot rule
and fill out an order on the _Voice_ Company for payment at the rate of
a dollar and a quarter a column, or something less than seven cents an
inch. Henry despairing of a raise from nine dollars a week had, months
back, elected to work 'on space.'

That the result had not been altogether happy--he was averaging
something less than nine dollars a week now--does not concern us here.

Humphrey contrived to keep busy until the string was made and measured;
then proposed lunch.

At Stanley's, the food ordered, he leaned on his lank elbows and
surveyed the dejected young man before him.

'Hen,' he remarked dryly, 'do you really think Anne Mayer Stelton's
voice has a velvet suavity?'

Henry glanced up from his barley soup, coloured perceptibly, then
dropped his eyes and consumed several spoonfuls of the tepid fluid.

'Why not?' said he.

'You feel, do you, that her art has deepened and broadened appreciably
since she last appeared in Sunbury?'

Henry centred all his attention on the soup.

'You feel that she has really added a superstructure of technique during
her study abroad?'

Henry's ears were scarlet now.

Humphrey, his soup turning cold between his elbows, looked steadily at
his deeply unhappy friend.

For a moment longer Henry went on eating. But then he quietly laid
down his spoon, sank rather limply back in his chair, and wanly met
Humphrey's gaze.

'There was a moment this morning, Hen, when I could have wrung your
neck. A moment.'

Henry's voice was colourless. His expression was that of a man who has
absorbed his maximum of punishment, to whom nothing more matters much.
'What is it?' he asked. 'What happened?'

'Madame Stelton fell in the Chicago station, hurrying for the train, and
sprained her ankle. Miss Doag gave the entire programme.'

Henry sat a little time considering this. Finally he raised his eyes.

'Hump,' he said, 'I don't know that I'm sorry. I'm rather glad you
caught me, I think.'

It was a difficult speech to meet. Humphrey even found it a moving
speech.

'You had an unlucky day,' he said.

Henry nodded. The roast beef and potato were before them now; but Henry
pushed his aside. He ate nothing more.

'Mrs Henderson was in,' Humphrey added. 'I don't care what they say
about her, she's a really pretty woman and bright as all get out.'

'Was she mad, Hump?'

'I--well, yes, I gathered the impression that you'd better not try to
talk to her for a while. There she was, you see--came straight down
to the office or stopped on her way to the train. Had Miss Doag along.
Unusual dark brown eyes--almost black. A striking girl. But you won't
meet her--not this trip. Though she couldn't help laughing once or
twice. Over your phrases. You see you laid it on unnecessarily thick.
_Verve. Timbre_. It puts you--I won't say in a Bad light--but certainly
in a rather absurd light.'

'Yes,' said Henry, gently, meekly, 'it does. It sorta completes the
thing. I picked up some of the town talk this morning. They're laughing
at me. And Martha cut me dead, not an hour ago. I've lost my friends.
I'm sort of an outcast, I suppose. A--a pariah.'

There was a long silence.

'You'd better eat some food,' said Humphrey.

'I can't.' Henry was brooding, a tired droop to his mouth, a look of
strain about the eyes. He began thinking aloud, rather aimlessly. 'It
ain't as if I did that sort of thing. I never asked her to come in. I
couldn't very well refuse to talk with her. She suggested the tandem. It
did seem like a good idea to get her out of town, if I had to risk being
seen with her. I'll admit I got mixed--awfully. I don't suppose I knew
just what I was doing. But it was the first time in two years. Hump, you
don't know how hard I've----'

'It's the first-time offenders that get most awfully caught,' observed
Humphrey. 'But never mind that now. You're caught, Hen. No good
explaining. You've just got to live it down.'

'That's what I've been doing for two years--living things down. And look
where it's brought me. I'm worse off than ever.'

There was a slight quivering in his voice that conveyed an ominous
suggestion to Humphrey.

'Mustn't let the kid sink this way,' he thought. Then, aloud: 'Here's a
little plan I want to suggest, Hen. You're stale. You're taking this too
hard. You need a change.'

'I don't like to leave town, exactly, Hump--as if I was licked. I've
changed about that.'

'You're not going to leave town. You're coming over to live with me.
Move this afternoon.'

Henry seemed to find difficulty in comprehending this. Humphrey,
suddenly a victim of emotion, pressed on, talking fast. 'I'll be through
by four. You be packing up. Get an expressman and fetch your things.
Here's my key. I'll let you pay something. We'll get our breakfasts.'

He had to stop. It struck him as silly, letting this forlorn youth
touch him so deeply. He gulped down a glass of water. 'Come on,' he said
brusquely, 'let's get out.' And on the street he added, avoiding those
bewildered dog eyes--'I'm going to reshuffle you and deal you out
fresh.' That's all you need, a new deal.'

But to himself he added: 'It won't be easy. He is taking it hard. He's
unstrung. I'll have to work it out slowly, head him around, build up
his confidence. Teach him to laugh again. It'll take time, but it can be
done. He's good material. Get him out of that dam boardinghouse to start
with.'


7


It was nearly five o'clock when Humphrey reached his barn at the rear of
the Parmenter place. He found the outside door ajar.

'Hen's here now,' he thought.

He stepped within the dim shop, that had once been a carriage room,
called, 'Hello there!' and crossed to the narrow stairway. There was no
answer. He went on up.

On the rug in the centre of the living-room floor was a heap consisting
of an old trunk, a suit-case, a guitar in an old green woollen bag, two
canes, an umbrella, and various loose objects--books, a small stand of
shelves, two overcoats, hats, and a wire rack full of photographs.

The polished oak post at the head of the stairs was chipped, where
they had pushed the trunk around. Humphrey fingered the spot; found
the splinter on the floor; muttered, 'I'll glue it on, and rub over the
cracks.'

He looked again at the disorderly heap in the centre of the room. 'It
didn't occur to him to stow'em away,' he mused. 'Probably didn't know
where to put 'em.'

He set to work, hauling the trunk into a little unfinished room next
to his own bedroom. He had meant to make a kitchen of this some day.
He carried in the other things; then got a dust-pan and brushed off the
rug.

The rooms were clean and tidy. Humphrey was a born bachelor; he had the
knack of living, alone in comfort. His books occupied all one wall of
his bedroom, handy for night reading. He had running water there, and
electric lights placed conveniently by the books, beside his mirror, and
at the head of his bed.

He stood now in the living-room, humming softly and looking around with
knit brows. After a few moments he stopped humming. He was struggling
against a slight but definite depression. He had known it would be hard
to give up room in his comfortable quarters to another; he had not known
it would be as hard as it was now plainly to be. He started humming
again, and moved about, straightening the furniture. This oddly pleasant
home was his citadel. He had himself evolved it, in every detail, from a
dusty, cobwebby old bam interior. He had run the wires and installed the
water pipes and fixtures with his own hands. He seldom even asked his
acquaintances in. There seemed no strong reason why he should do so.

'Hen shouldn't have left the door open like that,' he mused.

He thrust his hands into his pockets and whistled a little. Then he
sighed.

'Well,' he thought, 'needn't be a hog. It's my chance to do a fairly
decent turn. The boy hasn't a soul. Not yet.

He isn't the sort you can safely leave by himself. Got to be organised.
Very likely I've got to build him over from the ground up. Might try
making him read history. God knows he needs background. It'll take time.
And patience. All I've got. Help him, little by little, to get hold of
his self-esteem. Teach the kid to laugh again. That's it. I've taken it
on. Can't quit. It seems to be my job.' And he sighed again. 'Have to
get him a key of his own.'

There were footsteps below. Henry, his arms full of personal treasures
and garments he had overlooked in packing, came slowly up the stairs.

'I put your things in there,' Humphrey pointed. 'We'll move the box
couch in for you to-night.'

'That'll be fine,' said Henry, aimless of eye, weak of voice.

Humphrey's eyes followed him as he passed into the improvised bedroom;
and he compressed his lips and shook his head.

Shortly Henry came out and sank mournfully on a chair. It was time for
the first lesson. 'There's simply no life in the boy,' thought Humphrey.
He cleared his throat, and said aloud:--

'Tell you what, Hen. We'll celebrate a little, this first evening. I've
got a couple of chafing dishes and some odds and ends of food. And I
make excellent drip coffee. If you'll go over to Berger's and get a
pound or so of cheese for the rabbit, I'll look the situation over and
figure out a meal. Charge it to me. I have an account there.'

Henry, without change of expression, got slowly up, said, 'All right,'
hung around for a little time, wandering about the room, and finally
wandered off down the stairs and out.

He returned at twenty minutes past midnight.

Humphrey was abed, reading Smith' on Torsion. He put down the book and
waited. He had left lights on downstairs and in the living-room. Since
six o'clock he had passed through many and extreme states of feeling;
at present he was in a state of suspense between worry and strongly
suppressed wrath.

Henry came into the room--a little flushed, bright of eye, the sensitive
corners of his mouth twitching nervously, alertly, happily upward. He
even actually chuckled.

'Well, where--on--earth....

Henry waved a light hand. 'Queerest thing happened. But say, I guess
I owe you an apology, sorta. I ought to have sent word or something.
Everything happened so quickly. You know how it is. When you're sorta
swept off your feet like that----'

'Like what!'

'Oh--well, it was like this. I went over to get the cheese.... Funny, it
doesn't seem as if it could have been to-day! Seems as if it was
weeks ago that I moved my things over.' His eyes roved about the room;
lingered on the books; followed out the details of the neat surface
wiring with sudden interest.

'Go on!' From Humphrey, this, with grim emphasis that was wholly lost on
the self-absorbed youth.

'Oh yes! Well, you see, I went over to Berger's and got the cheese; and
just as I was coming out I ran into Mrs Henderson and Corinne.'

'Who!'

'Corinne Doag. You know. She's visiting there. Well, sir, I could have
died right there. Fussed me so I turned around and was going back
into the store. I was just plain rattled. And you were right about Mrs
Henderson. She was kinda mad. She made me stand right up and take a
scolding. Shook her finger at me right, there in front of Berger's. That
fussed me worse. Gee! I was red all over. But you see it sorta fussed
Corinne Doag too--she was standing right there--and she got a little
red. Wasn't it a scene, though! Sorta made us acquainted right off. You
know, threw us together. Then she--Mrs Henderson--said I didn't deserve
to meet a girl with verve and timbre, but just to show she wasn't the
kind to harbour angry feelings she'd introduce us. And--and--I walked
along home with'em.'

He was looking again at the solid ranks of books that extended, floor to
ceiling, across the end wall.

'Say, Hump, you don't mean to say you really read all those!'

'You walked home with them. Go on.'

'Oh, well, they asked me to stay to supper, and I did, and some folks
came in, and we sang and things, and then we--oh, yes, how much was the
cheese?'

'How in thunder do I know?'

'Well--there was a pound of it--Mrs Henderson made a rabbit.

The none too subtle chill in the atmosphere about Humphrey seemed at
last to be meeting and somewhat subduing the exuberant good cheer that
radiated from Henry. He fell to fingering his moustache, and studying
the bed-posts. Once or twice, he looked up, hesitated on the brink of
speech, only to lower his eyes again.

Then, unexpectedly, he chuckled aloud, and said, 'She's a wonderful
girl. At first she seems quiet, but when you get to know her... going to
take a walk with me to-morrow morning. She was going to church with Mrs
H., but I told her we'd worship in God's great outdoor temple.'

He yawned now. And stretched, deliberately, luxuriously like a healthy
animal, his arms above his head.

'Well,' said he, 'it's late as all get out. I suppose you want to go to
sleep.' He got as far as the door, then leaned confidingly against the
wall. 'Look here, Hump, I don't want you to think I don't appreciate
your taking me in like this. It's dam nice of you. Don't know what I'd
have done if it wasn't for you. Well, good-night.'

He got part way out the door this time; then, brushed by a wave of
his earlier moody self-consciousness, turned back. He even came in and
leaned over the foot of the bed, and flushed a little. It occurred to
Humphrey that the boy appeared to be momentarily ashamed of his present
happiness.

'Do you know what was the matter with me?' he broke out. 'It was just
what you said. I was taking things too hard. The great thing is to be
rational, normal. Thing with me was I used to go to one extreme and now
these last two years I've been going with all my might to the other.
Of course it wouldn't work... Do you know who's helped me a whole lot?
You'd never guess.' Rather shamefaced, he drew from his pocket a
little book bound in olive-green 'ooze' leather. 'It's this old fellow.
Epictetus. Listen to what he says--"To the rational animal only is the
irrational intolerable." That was the trouble with me. I just wasn't a
rational animal. I _wasn't_... Well, I've got to say good-night.'

This time he went.

Humphrey heard him getting out of his clothes and into the bed that
Humphrey himself had made up on the box couch. It seemed only a moment
later that he was snoring--softly, slowly, comfortably, like a rational
animal.

The minute hand of the alarm clock on Humphrey's bureau crept up to
twelve, the hour hand to one. Then came a single resonant, reverberating
boom from the big clock up at the university.

Slowly, lips compressed, Humphrey got up, and in his pyjamas and
slippers went downstairs and switched off the door light he found
burning there. The stair light could be turned off upstairs.

Then, instead of going up, he opened the door and stood looking out on
the calm village night.

'Of all the----' he muttered inconclusively. 'Why it's--he's a---- Good
God! It's the limit! It's--it's intolerable.'

The word, floating from his own lips, caught his ear. His frown began,
very slowly, to relax. A dry, grudging smile wrinkled its way across his
mobile face. And he nodded, deliberately. 'Epictetus,' he remarked, 'was
right.'



II--IN SAND-FLY TIME


1


|It was half-past nine of a Sabbath morning at the beginning of June.
The beneficent sunshine streamed down on the dark-like streets, on the
shingled roofs of the many decorous but comfortable homes, on the wide
lawns, on the hundreds of washed and brushed little boys and starched
little girls that were marching meekly to the various Sunday schools,
Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, Congregational, Baptist. Above the
new cement sidewalk on Simpson Street--where all the stores were closed
except two drug stores and Swanson's flower shop--the sunshine quivered
and wavered, bringing oppressive promise of the first really warm day
of the young summer. Slow-swinging church bells sent out widening,
reverberating circles of mellow tone through the still air.

The sun shone too on the old barn back of the Parmenter place.

The barn presented an odd appearance; the red paint of an earlier
decade in the nineteenth century here faded to brown, there flaked off
altogether, but the upstairs part, once the haymow, embellished with
neat double windows. Below, giving on the alley, was a white-painted
door with a single step and an ornamental boot scraper.

Within, in Humphrey's room, the bed was neatly made, clothes hung in a
corner, shoes and slippers stood in a row.

In Henry's room the couch bed was a rumpled heap, a suit-case lay on the
floor half-unpacked, a trunk was in the same condition, clothes, shoes,
neckties, photographs were scattered about on table, chairs and floor, a
box of books by the bed, the guitar in its old green woollen bag leaning
against the door.

In a corner of the living-room the doors of an ingeniously contrived
cupboard stood open, disclosing a sink, shelves of dishes, and a small
ice-box.

Humphrey, in shirt, trousers and slippers, stood washing the breakfast
things. He was smoking his cob pipe. His long, wrinkly, usually
quizzical face, could Henry have seen it, was deathly sober.

Henry, however, could see only the lean back. And he looked at that only
momentarily. He was busy smoothing the fringe along his upper lip
and twisting it up at the ends. Too, he leaned slightly on his bamboo
walking stick, staring down at it, watching it bend. Despite his white
ducks and shoes, serge coat, creamy white felt hat on the back of his
shapely head, despite the rather noticeable nose glasses with the
black silk cord hanging from them to his lapel, he presented a forlorn
picture. He wished Humphrey would say something. That long back was
hostile. Henry was helpless before hostility, as before logic. Already
they weren't getting on. Little things like washing dishes and making
beds and--dusting! Humphrey was proving an old fuss-budget. And Henry
couldn't think what to do about it. He could never:--never in the
world--do those fussy things, use his hands. He couldn't even flounder
through the little mental processes that lead up to doing things with
your hands. He wasn't that sort of person. Humphrey was.

'Oh, thunder--Hump!' Thus Henry, weakly. 'Let the old dishes slide a
little while. I'll be back. It ain't my fault that I've got a date now.'

Humphrey set down a cup rather hard, rolled the dish-towel into a ball
and threw it, with heat, after the cup, then strode to the window,
nursing his pipe and staring out at the gooseberry and currant bushes in
the back yard of the First Presbyterian parsonage across the alley.

Humphrey liked order. It was the breath of his life. Combined with
solitude it spelled peace to his bachelor soul. But here it was only the
second day and the place was a pigsty. What would it be in a week!

He was aware that Henry moved over, all hesitation, and with words, to
shut the door of that hopelessly littered bedroom. The boy appeared to
have no intention of picking up his things; he wasn't even unpacking!
Leaving his clothes that way 1... The words he was so confusedly
uttering were the absurdest excuses: 'Just shut the door--fix it all up
when I get back--an hour or so...

It was in a wave of unaccustomed sentimentalism that Humphrey had
gathered him in. Humphrey had few visitors. You couldn't work with
aimless youths hanging around. He knew all about that. Humphrey's
evenings were precious. His time was figured out, Monday morning to
Saturday night, to the minute. And the Sundays were always an orgy
of work. But this youth, to whom he had opened his quarters and his
slightly acid heart, was the most aimless being he had ever known. An
utter surprise; a shock. Yet here he was, all over the place.

Humphrey was trying, by a mighty effort of will, to get himself back
into that maudlin state of pity which had brought on all this trouble.
If he could only manage again to feel sorry for the boy, perhaps he
could stand him. But he could only bite his pipe-stem. He was afraid
he might say something he would be sorry for. No good in that, of
course.... No more peaceful study, all alone, propped up in bed, with a
pipe and reading light! No more wonderful nights in the shop downstairs!
No more holding to a delicately fresh line of thought--balancing along
like a wire-walker over a street! The boy was over by the stairs now,
all apologies, mumbling useless words. But he was going--no doubt
whatever as to that.

'I'm late now,' he was saying.'What else can I do, Hump? I promised.
She'll be looking for me now. If you just wouldn't be in such a
thundering hurry about those darn dishes... I can't live like a machine.
I just can't!'

'You could have cleaned up your room while you've been standing there,'
said Humphrey, in a rumbling voice.

'No, I couldn't! Put up all my pictures and books and things! I'm not
like you. You don't understand!' Humphrey wheeled on him, pipe in hand,
a cold light in his eyes, a none-too-agreeable smile wrinkling the lower
part of his face.

'I'm not asking much of you,' he said.

'Oh, thunder, Hump! Do you think I don't appreciate--'

'I'd be glad to help you. But you've got to do a _little_ on your own
account. For God's sake show some spine!' Sand-fly! Damn it, this is
more than I can stand! It smothers me! How can I work! How can I think!'
He stopped short; bit his lip; turned back to the window and thrust his
pipe into his mouth.

Humphrey knew without looking that the boy was fussing endlessly at
that absurd moustache. And sighing--he heard that. He bit hard on his
pipe-stem. The day was wrecked already. He would be boiling up every few
moments; tripping over Henry's things; regretting his perhaps too harsh
words. Yes, they were too harsh, of course.

Henry was muttering, mumbling, tracing out the pattern in the rug-border
with his silly little stick. These words were audible:--

'I don't see why you asked me to come here. I suppose I... Of course,
if you don't want me to stay here with you, I suppose I... Oh, well! I
guess I ain't much good....'

The voice trailed huskily off into silence.

After all, there didn't seem to be any place the boy could stay, if not
here. Living alone in a boarding-house hadn't worked at all. To send him
out into the world would be like condemning him.

Henry moved off down the stairs, slowly, pausing once as if he had not
yet actually determined to go.

Walking more briskly, he emerged from the alley and swung around into
Filbert Avenue. The starched and shining children were pouring in an
intermittent stream into the First Presbyterian chapel, behind the big
church.

Gloom in his eyes, striking in a savage aimlessness with his cane at
the grass, he passed the edifice. Walking thus, he felt a presence and
lifted his eyes.


2


Approaching was a pleasant-looking young woman of twenty, of a good
figure, a few girlish freckles across the bridge of her nose, abundant
hair tucked in under her Sunday hat.

It was Martha Caldwell. She had a class in the Sunday-school.

Martha saw him. No doubt about that.

For the moment, in Henry's abasement of spirit, he half forgot that she
had cut him dead, publicly, on Simpson Street on the Saturday. Or if it
was not a forgetting it was a vagueness. Henry was full to brimming of
himself. Not in years had he craved sympathy as he craved it to-day.
The word 'craved,' though, isn't strong enough. It was an utter need.
An outcast, perhaps literally homeless; for how could he go back to
Humphrey's after what had occurred! He must pack his things, of course.

He raised his hand--slowly, a thought stiffly--toward his hat.

Martha moved swiftly by, staring past him, fixedly, her lips compressed,
her colour rising.

Henry's hand hung suspended a moment, then sank to his side.

Henry himself was capable of any sort of heedlessness, but never of
unkindness or of cutting a friend.

The colour surged hotly over his face and reddened his ears.

There was a chance--a pretty good chance, it seemed, as he recalled the
pleasant Saturday evening over a rabbit--that he might find sympathy
at Mrs Arthur V. Henderson's. That was one place, where, within twelve
hours, Henry Calverley, 3rd, had had some standing. They had seemed to
like him. Mrs Henderson had unquestionably played up to him. And her
guest was a peach!

At a feverish pace, almost running, he went there.


3


Corinne Doag was a big girl with blue-black hair and a profile like the
Goddess of Liberty on the silver quarter of the period. Her full face
rather belied the profile; it was an easy, good-natured face, though
with a hint of preoccupation about the dark eyes. Her smile was almost
a grin. She had the great gift of health. She radiated it. You couldn't
ignore her you felt her.

Though not a day older than Henry, Corinne was a singer of promise. At
Mrs Henderson's musicale, she had managed groups of Schumann, Schubert,
Franz and Wolff, an Italian aria or two and some quaint French folk
songs with ample evidence of sound training and coaching. Her voice
had faults. It was still a little too big for her. It was a contralto
without a hollow note in it, firm and strong, with a good upper range.
There was in it more than a hint of power. It moved you, even in her
cruder moments. Her speaking voice--slow, lazy, strongly sensuous--gave
Henry thrills.

She and Henry strolled up the lake, along the bluff through and beyond
the oak-clad campus, away up past the lighthouse. She seemed not to mind
the increasing heat. She had the careless vitality of a young mountain
lion, and the grace.

Henry himself minded no external thing. Corinne Doag was, at the moment,
the one person in the world who could help him in his hour of deep
trouble. It was not clear how she could help him, but somehow she could.
He was blindly sure of it. If he could just impress himself on her, make
her forget other men, other interests! He had started well, the night
before. Things had gone fine.

He was leading her to a secluded breakwater, between the lighthouse and
Pennyweather Point, where, under the clay bluff, the shell of an old
boat-house gave you a back as you sat on a gray timber and shielded you
at once from morning sun and from the gaze of casual strollers up the
beach. Henry knew the place well, had guided various girls there. Martha
had often spoken of it as 'our' breakwater. But no twinge of memory
disturbed him now. His nervous intentness on this immediate, rather
desperate task of conquering Corinne's sympathy fully occupied his
turbulent thoughts.

When they arrived at the spot he was stilted in manner, though atremble
within. He ostentatiously took off his coat, spread it for her,
overpowering her protests.

It had been thought by a number of girls and by a few of his elders
that Henry had charm. He was aware of quality they called charm he could
usually turn on and off like water at a faucet.

Now, of all occasions, was the time to turn it on. But he was
breathlessly unequal to it.

Perversity seized his tongue. He had seen himself lying easily, not
ungracefully beside her, saying (softly) the things she would most like
to hear. Speak of her voice, of course. And sing with her (softly) while
they idly watched the streaky, sparkling lake and the swooping, creaking
gulls above it. But he did none of these. Instead he stood over her,
glaring down rather fiercely, and saying nothing at all.

'The shade does feel good,' said she.

Still he groped for words, or for a mental attitude that might result in
words. None came. Here she was, at his feet, and he couldn't even speak.

He fell back, in pertubation, on physical display, became the prancing
male.

'I like to skip stones,' he managed to say, with husky
self-consciousness. He hunted flat stones; threw them hard and far,
until his face shone with sweat and a damp spot appeared in his shirt
between his shoulders.

To her, 'Better let me hold your glasses,' he responded with an
irritable shake of the head.

But such physical violence couldn't go on indefinitely. Not in this
heat. He threw less vigorously. He wondered in something of a funk, why
he couldn't grasp his opportunity.

He became aware of a sound. A sound that in a more felicitous moment
would have thrilled him.

She was singing, softly. Something French, apparently. Once she stopped,
and did a phrase over, as if she were practising.

He stole a glance. She wasn't even looking at him. She had sunk back
on an elbow, her long frame stretched comfortably out, and seemed to be
observing the gulls, rather absently.

Henry came over; sat on a spile; glared at her.

'I skipped that last one seven times,' said he.

She gave him an indulgent little smile, and hummed on.

'She doesn't know I'm here,' he mused, with bitterness. 'I don't count.
Nobody wants me.' And added, 'She's selfish.'

Suddenly he broke out, tragically: 'You don't know what I've been
through. I wouldn't tell you.'

The tune came to an end. Still watching the gulls, still absently, she
asked, after a pause, 'Why not?'

'You'd be like the others. You'd despise me.'

'I doubt that. Mildred Henderson certainly doesn't. You ought to hear
her talk about you.'

'She'll be like the others too. My life has been very hard. Living alone
with my way to make. Wha'd she say about me?'

'That you're a genius. She can't make out why you've been burying
yourself, working for a little country paper.'

Henry considered this. It was pleasing. But he might have wished for
a less impersonal manner in Corinne. She kept following those gulls;
speaking most casually, as if it was nothing or little to her what
anybody thought about anybody.

Still--it was pleasing. He sat erect. A light glimmered in his eye;
glimmered and grew. When he spoke, his voice took on body.

'So she says I'm a genius, eh! Well, maybe it's true. Maybe I am. I'm
something. Or there's something in me. Sometimes I feel it. I get all on
fire with it. I've done a few things. I put on _Iolanthe_ here. When I
was only eighteen. Chorus of fifty, and big soloists. I ran it--drilled
'em----'

'I know. Mildred told me. Mildred really did say you were wonderful.'

'I'll do something else one of these days.'

'I'm sure you will,' she murmured politely.

It was going none too well. She wasn't really interested. He hadn't
touched her. Perhaps he had better not talk about himself. He thought it
over, and decided another avenue of approach would be better.

'That's an awfully pretty brooch,' he ventured.

She glanced down; touched it with her long fingers. The brooch was a
cameo, white on onyx, set in beaded old gold.

'It was a present,' she said. 'From one of the nicest men I ever knew.'

This chilled Henry's heart. His own emotions were none too stable. Out
of his first-hand experience he had been able at times, in youthfully
masculine company, to expound general views regarding the sex that might
be termed cynical. But confronted with the particular girl, the new
girl, Henry was an incorrigible idealist.

It had only vaguely occurred to him that Corinne had men friends. It
hurt, just to think of it. And presents--things like that, gold in
it--the thing had cost many a penny! His bitterness swelled; blackened
his thoughts.

'That's it,' these ran now. 'Presents! Money! That's what girls want.
Keep you dancing. String you. Make you spend a lot on 'em. That's what
they're after!'

The situation was so painful that he got up abruptly and again skipped
stones. Until the fact that she let him do it, amused herself practising
songs and drinking in the beauty of the place and the day, became quite
too much for him.

When he came gloomily over, she remarked:--

'We must be starting back.'

He stood motionless; even let her get up, with an amused expression
throw his coat over her arm, and take a few steps along the beach.

'Oh, come on, don't go yet,' he begged. 'Why, we've only just got here.'

'It's a long walk. And it's hot. We'll never get back for dinner if we
don't start. I mustn't keep Mildred waiting.'

He thought, 'A lot she'd care if she wanted to be with me!'

He said, 'What you doing to-night?'

'Oh, a couple of Chicago men are coming out.'

'Oh!' It was between a grunt and a snort. He struck out at such a gait
that she finally said:--

'If you want to walk at that pace I'm afraid you'll have to walk alone.'

So far a failure. Just as with Humphrey, the situation had given him
no opportunity to display his own kind of thing. The picturesque slang
phrase had not then been coined; but Henry was in wrong and knew it. It
was defeat.

The first faint hope stirred when Mrs Henderson rose from a hammock and
came to the top step to clasp his hand. She thought him a genius. Well,
she had been accompanist through all those rehearsals for _Iolanthe._
She ought to know.

She asked him now, in her alertly offhand way, to stay to dinner. He
accepted instantly.


4


Mildred Henderson was little, slim, quick, with tiny feet and hands.
Despite these latter she was the most accomplished pianist in Sunbury.
She had snappy little eyes, and a way of smiling quickly and brightly.
The Hendersons had lived four or five years in Sunbury. They had no
children. They had no servant at this time--but she possessed the gift
of getting up pleasant little meals without apparent effort.

After the arrival of Corinne and Henry she disappeared for a few
moments, then called them to the dining-room.

'It's really a cold lunch,' she said, as they gathered at the
table--'chicken and salad and things. But there's plenty for you,
Henry. Do have some iced tea. I know they starve you at that old
boarding-house. We've all had our little term at Mrs Wilcox's.'

'I--I'm not living there any more. I've moved.'

'Not to Mrs Black's?'

'No... you see I work with Humphrey Weaver at the _Voice_ office and he
asked me to come and live with him.'

'With him? And where does he live?'

'Why, just back of the old Parmenter place.'

'But there's nothing back of the Parmenter place!'

'Yes--you see, the barn----'

'Not that old red----'

'Yes. You'd be surprised! Humphrey's put in hardwood and electricity and
things. He's really a wonderful person. Did the wiring himself. And the
water pipes. You ought to see his books--and his shop downstairs. He's
an inventor, you know. Going to be. Don't you think for a minute that
he's just a country editor. That's just while he's feeling his way. Oh,
Hump's a smart fellow. Mighty decent of him to take me in that way, too;
because he's busy and I know he'd rather live alone. You see, he's quiet
and orderly about things, and I--well, I'm different.'

'Offhand,' mused Mrs Henderson, 'I shouldn't suspect Humphrey Weaver of
temperament. But tell me--how on earth do you live? Who cooks and cleans
up?'

'Well, Hump gets breakfast and--and we'll probably take turns cleaning
up.'

'You remember Humphrey Weaver, Corinne,' the little hostess breezed on.
'You've met him. Tall, thin, face wrinkles up when he smiles or speaks
to you.' She added, as if musing aloud, 'He _has_ nice eyes.' Then, to
Henry:

'But do you mean to say that so fascinating a man as that lives
undiscovered, right under our noses, in this bourgeois town.'

Henry was rather vague about the meaning of 'bourgeois,' but he nodded
gravely.

'You must bring him down here, Henry. I can't imagine what I've been
thinking of to overlook him.

Tell you what, we'll have a little rabbit to-morrow night. We four.
We'll devote an evening to drawing Mr Humphrey Weaver out of his shell.'

Her quick eyes caught a doubtful look in Corinne's eyes. 'Oh,' she said,
'we did speak of letting Will and Fred take us in town, didn't we?'

Corinne nodded.

It seemed to Henry that he ought to take the situation in hand. As
regarded his relations with Humphrey he was sailing under false colours.
Among his confused thoughts he sought, gropingly, a way out. The speech
he did make was clumsy.

'I don't know whether I could make him come. He likes to read evenings,
or work in his shop.'

Mrs Henderson took this in, then let her eyes rest a moment,
thoughtfully, on Henry's ingenuous countenance. An intent look crept
into her eyes.

'Do you mean that you two sweep and make beds and wash dishes and dust?'

'Well'--Henry's voice faltered--'you see, I haven't been--I just moved
over there yesterday afternoon.'

'Hm!' There was a bright, flash in Mrs Henderson's eyes. She chuckled
abruptly. It was a sharp little chuckle that had the force of an
interruption. 'I'd like to see the corners of those rooms. There ought
to be some woman that could take care of you.' She turned again on
Henry. 'Be sure and bring him down to-morrow. Come in about six for a
picnic supper. Or no--let me think----'

Henry's eyes were on Corinne. She was eating now, composedly, like an
accomplished feminine fatalist, leaving the disposition of matters to
her more aggressive hostess. The food he had eaten rested comfortably
on his long ill-treated but still responsive young stomach. His
nervous concern of the morning was giving place to a glow of snug
inner well-being. Ice-cream was before him now, a heaping plate of
it--vanilla, with hot chocolate sauce--and a huge slice of chocolate
layer cake. He blessed Mrs Henderson for the rich cream as he let
heaping spoonfuls slip down his throat and followed them with healthy
bites of the cake. What a jolly little woman she was. No fuss.

Nothing stuck up about her. And he knew she was on his side.

She had sympathy. Even if she hadn't yet heard--when she did hear--it
wouldn't matter. She would be on his side; he was sure of it.

Corinne's hair, a loose curl of it, curved down over her ear and part
of her cheek. She reached up a long hand and brushed it back. The motion
thrilled him. He was quiveringly responsive to the faint down on her
cheek, to the slight ebbing and flowing of the colour under her skin, to
the whiteness of her temple, the curve of her rather heavy eyebrow, even
to the 'waist' she wore--a simple garment, with an open throat and a
wide collar that suggested the sea.

Mrs Henderson was talking about something or other, in her brisk way.

Henry only partly heard. He was day-dreaming, weaving an imaginative
web of irridescent fancy about the healthy, rather matter-of-fact girl
before him. And eating rapidly his second large helping of ice-cream,
and his second piece of cake.

Little resentments were still popping up among his thoughts, taunting
him. But tentative little hopes were struggling with these now. A sense
of power, even, was stirring to life in his breast. This brought new
thrills. It was a long, long time since he had felt as he was now
beginning to feel. Life had dealt pretty harshly with him these two
years. But he wasn't beaten yet. Not even if nice men did give cameo
brooches mounted on beaded gold.

He felt in his pocket. Nearly all of the week's pay was there--about
eight dollars. It wasn't much. It wouldn't buy gold brooches.
Space-reporting on a country weekly at a dollar and a quarter a column,
as a means of livelihood, was pretty hard sledding. He would have to
scheme out something. There would be seventeen dollars more on the
fifteenth from his Uncle Arthur, executor of his mother's estate and
guardian to Henry, but that had been mentally pledged to the purchase of
necessary summer underwear and things. Still, he might manage somehow.
You had to do a lot for girls, of course. They expected it. Expensive
business.

He indulged himself a moment, shading his eyes with one hand and eating
steadily on, in a momentary wave of bitterness against well-to-do young
men who could lavish money on girls.

Corinne was speaking now, and he was answering. He even laughed at
something she said. But the train of his thoughts rumbled steadily on.

After the coffee they all carried out the dishes and washed them. Henry
amused them by wearing a full-length kitchen apron. Corinne tied the
strings around his waist. He found an excuse to reach back, and for an
instant his hands covered hers. She laughed a little. He danced about
the kitchen and sang comic songs as he wiped dishes and took them to the
china closet in the butler's pantry.

This chore finished, they went to the living-room.

Mrs Henderson said: 'Oh, Corinne, you must hear Henry sing "When Britain
Really Ruled" from _Iolanthe_.' She found the score and played for him.
He sang lustily, all three verses.

'Too much dinner,' he remarked, beaming with pleasure, at the close.
'Voice is rotten.'

'It's a good organ,' said Corinne. 'You ought to work at it.'

'Perfect shame he won't study,' said Mrs Henderson. Henry found _The
Geisha_ on the piano.

'Come on, Corinne,' he cried. 'Do the "Jewel of Asia." Mrs Henderson'll
transpose it.'

Corinne leaned carelessly against the piano and sang the pleasant little
melody with an ease and a steady flow of tone that brought a shine to
Henry's eyes. He had to hide it, dropping on the big couch and resting
his head on his hand. He could look nowhere but at her. He ordered her
to sing 'The Amorous Goldfish.'

She fell into the spirit of it, and moved away from the piano, looking
provocatively at Henry, gesturing, making an audience of him. She even
danced a few steps at the end.

Henry sprang up. The power was upon him. Obstacles, difficulties, the
little scene with Humphrey, while not forgotten, were swept aside. He
was irresistible.

'Tell you what,' he said gaily, with supreme ease--'w'e'll send
those Chicago men a box of poisoned candy to-morrow, and--oh, yes w-e
will!--and then we'll have a party at the rooms. You'll be chaperon, Mrs
Henderson and Hump'll cook things in the chafing dish, and----'

'What a perfectly lovely idea!' said Mrs Henderson in a surprisingly
calm voice. 'I'll bring the cold chicken, and a vegetable salad...

Henry watched Corinne.

For an instant--she was rummaging through the music--her eyes met his.
'It'll be fun,' she said.

Henry felt a shock as if he had plunged unexpectedly, headlong, into
ice-water; then a glow.

He was a daring soul. They didn't understand him in Sunbury. He had
temperament, a Bohemian nature. The thing was, he'd wasted two years
trying to make another sort of himself. Kept account of every penny in a
red book! All that! Book was in his pocket now.

He decided to tear it up. He wouldn't be a coward another day. That
plodding self-discipline hadn't got him anywhere. Now really, had it?

Little inner voices were protesting weakly. People might find out about
it. Have to be pretty quiet. And keep the shades down. It wouldn't
do for the folks in the parsonage, across the alley, to know that Mrs
Arthur V. Henderson and her guest were in the Parmenter barn. Have to
find some tactful way of suggesting that they come after dark...

As if she could read his thoughts, Mrs Henderson remarked calmly: 'You
come for us, Henry. Say about eight.'

Still the little voices of doubt and confusion. Even of fear. He
mentally shouted them down; fixing his eyes on the disturbingly radiant
Corinne, then glancing for moral support at the really pretty little Mrs
Henderson who gave out such a reassuring air of knowing precisely what
she was about, of being altogether in the right. Funny, knowing her all
these years, he hadn't realised she was so nice!

He had turned defeat into victory. Single-handed. Will and Fred could go
sit on the Wells Street bridge and eat bananas. He had settled _their_
hash.


5


To this lofty mood there came, promptly? an opposite and fully equal
reaction.

Difficulties having arisen in connection with the problem of breaking
the news to Humphrey, he couldn't very well go back to the rooms.

The thing would have to be put right before Humphrey. He decided to
think it over. That was the idea--think it over. Humphrey would be
eating his supper, if not at the rooms, then at Stanley's little
restaurant on Simpson Street. So he could hardly go to Stanley's. There
was another little lunch room down by the tracks, but Humphrey had
been known to go there. And of course it was impossible to return for a
transient meal to Mrs Wilcox. For one thing, the student waiters would
be off and Mamie Wilcox on duty in the dining-room. He didn't want Mamie
back in his life. Not if he could help it. He even went so far as to
wonder, with a paralysing sense of helplessness in certain conceivable
contingencies, if he _could_ help it... So instead of eating supper he
sat on a breakwater, alone, unobserved, while the golden sunset glow
faded from lake and sky and darkness claimed him for her own.

Later, handkerchief over face, rushing and pawing his way through the
myriads of sand-flies that swarmed about each corner light, he walked
into the neighbourhood of Martha Caldwell's house. He walked backhand
forth for a time on the other side of the street, and stood motionless
by trees. He found the situation trying, as he didn't know why he had
come, whether he wanted to see Martha or what he could say to her.

He could hear voices from the porch. And he thought he could see one
white dress.

Then, because it seemed to be the next best thing to do, he crossed over
and mounted the familiar front steps.

He found himself touching the non-committal hand of James B. Merchant,
Jr., who carried the talk along glibly, ignoring the gloomy youth with
the glasses and the tiny moustache who sat in a shadow and sulked.
Finally, after deliberately, boldly arranging a driving party of two for
Monday evening, the cotillion leader left.

Martha, when he had disappeared beyond the swirling, illuminated
sand-flies at the corner, settled back in her chair and stared, silent,
at the maples.

Henry struggled for speech.

'Martha, look here,' came from him, in a tired voice, 'you've cut me
dead. Twice. Now it seems to me----'

'I don't want to talk about that,' said Martha.

'But it isn't fair not to----'

'Please don't try to tell me that you weren't at Hoffmann's with that
horrid girl.'

'I'm not trying to. But----'

'You took her there, didn't you?'

'Yes, but she----'

'She didn't make you. You knew her pretty well. While you were going
with me, too.'

'Oh, well,' he muttered. Then, 'Thunder! If you're just determined not
to be fair----

'I won't let you say that to me.' The snap in her voice stung him.

'You're not fair! You won't even let me talk!'

'What earthly good is talk!'

'Oh, if you're going to take that attitude----'

She rose. So did he.

'I can't and I won't talk about a thing like that,' she said quickly,
unevenly.

'Then I suppose I'd better go,' said he, standing motionless.

She made no reply.

They stood and stood there. Across the street, at B. F. Jones's, a porch
full of young people were singing _Louisiana Lou_. Henry, out of sheer
nervousness, hummed it with them; then caught himself and turned to the
steps.

'Well,' he remarked listlessly, 'I'll say good-night, then.'

Still she was silent. He lingered, but she gave him no help. He hadn't
believed that she could be as angry as this. He waited and waited. He
even felt and weighed the impulses to go right to her and make her sit
in the hammock with him and bring back something of the old time
feeling.

But he found himself moving off down the steps and heading for the
yellow cloud at the corner.

He hated the sand-flies. Their dead bodies formed a soft crunchy carpet
on pavement and sidewalk. You couldn't escape them. They came for a week
or two in June. They were less than an inch long, pale yellow with gauzy
wings. They had neither sting nor pincers. They overwhelmed these lake
towns by their mere numbers. Down by the bright lights on Simpson Street
they literally covered everything. You couldn't see through a square
inch of Donovan's wide plateglass front. Mornings it was sometimes
necessary to clear the sidewalks with shovels.

It was two or three hours later when Henry crept cautiously into
Humphrey's shop and ascended the stairs.

Humphrey had left lights for him. He was awake, too; there was a crack
of light at the bottom of his bedroom door. But the door was shut tight.

Henry put out all the lights and shut himself in his own disorderly
room.

He stood for a time looking at the mess; everything he owned, strewed
about on chairs, table and floor. Everything where it had fallen.

He considered finishing unpacking the suit-case. Pushed it with his
foot.

'Just have to get at these things,' he muttered aloud. 'Make a job of
it. Do it the first thing to-morrow, before I go to the office.'

Then he dug out the box of books that stood beside the bed, the volume
entitled _Will Power and Self Mastery_.

He sat on the bed for an hour, reading one or another of the vehemently
pithy sentences, then gazing at the wall, knitting his brows, and
mumbling the words over and over until the small meaning they had ever
possessed was lost.


6


He came almost stealthily into the office of _The Weekly Voice of
Sunbury_ on the Monday morning. He had not fallen really asleep until
the small hours. When he awoke, Humphrey was long gone and the breakfast
things stood waiting on the centre table. And there they were now. He
hadn't so much as rinsed them in the sink.

Humphrey sat behind his roll-top desk, back of the railing. Old Mr
Boice, the proprietor, was at his own desk, out in front. At the first
glimpse of his massive head and shoulders with the heavy white whiskers
falling down on his shirt front, Henry, hesitating on the sill, gave
a little quick sigh of relief. He let himself, moving with the
self-consciousness that somewhat resembled dignity, through the gate in
the railing and took his chair at the inkstained pine table that served
him for a desk.

He felt Humphrey's eyes on him, and said 'Goodmorning!' stiffly, without
looking round. He looked through the papers on the table for he knew
not what; snatched at a heap of copy paper, bit his pencil and made a
business of writing nothing whatever.

At eleven Mr Boice, who was also postmaster, lumbered out and along
Simpson Street toward the post office. Henry, discovering himself alone
with Humphrey, rushed, muttering, to the press room and engaged Jim
Smith, the foreman, in talk which apparently made it necessary for that
blonde little man, whose bare forearms were elaborately tattooed and who
chewed tobacco, to come in, sit on Henry's table, and talk further.

Noon came.

Humphrey pushed back his chair, tapped on the edge of his desk, and
thoughtfully wrinkled his long face. The natural thing was for Henry to
come along with him for lunch at Stanley's. He didn't mind for himself.
It was quite as pleasant to eat alone. In the present circumstances,
more pleasant. It was awkward.

He got up; stood a moment.

He could feel the boy there, bending over proofs of the programmes
for the Commencement 'recital' of the Music School, pencil poised,
motionless, almost inert.

Suddenly Henry muttered again, sprang up, rushed to the press room,
proof in hand; and Humphrey went to lunch alone.

Henry did not appear again at the office. This was not unusual. Monday
was a slack day, and much of Henry's work consisted in scouting along
Simpson Street, looking up new real estate permits at the village
office, new volumes at the library and other small matters.

The unusual thing was the note on Humphrey's desk. Henry had put it on
top of his papers and weighted it down conspicuously with the red ink
bottle.

'I've had to ask Mrs Henderson and Corinne Doag to the rooms to-night
for a little party. I'll bring them about eight.' Pinned to the paper
was a five-dollar banknote.

At supper-time, Humphrey, eating alone in Stanley's, saw a familiar
figure outside the wide front window. It was Henry, dressed in his
newest white ducks, his blue coat newly pressed (while he waited, at the
Swede tailor's down the street), standing stiffly on the curb.

Occasionally he glanced around, peering into the restaurant.

The light was failing in the rear of the store. Mrs Stanley came from
her desk by the door and lighted two gas-jets.

Henry again glanced around. He saw Humphrey and knew that Humphrey saw
him.

A youth on a bicycle paused at the curb.

Through the screen door Humphrey heard this conversation:--

'Hallo, Hen!'

'Hallo, Al!'

'Doing anything after?'

'Why--yeah. Got a date.'

And as the other youth rode off, Henry glanced around once more,
nervously.

He was carrying the bamboo stick he affected. He twirled this for a
moment, and then wandered out of view.

But soon he reappeared, entered the restaurant and marched straight back
to Humphrey's table. His sensitive lips were compressed.

He said, 'Hallo, Hump!' and with only a moment's hesitation took the
chair opposite.

Humphrey buried his nose in his coffee cup.

Henry cleared his throat, twice; then, in a husky, weak voice,
remarked:--

'Get my note?'

There was a painfully long silence.

'Yes,' Humphrey replied then, 'I did.' And went at the pie.

Henry picked up a corner of the threadbare table-cloth and twisted it.
He had been pale, but colour was coming now, richly.

'Well,' he mumbled, 'I s'pose we've gotta say something about it.'

'Not necessary,' Humphrey observed briskly.

'Well, but--we'll have to plan----'

'Not at all.'

'You mean--you----' Henry's voice broke and faltered.

'I mean----' Humphrey's voice was clear, sharp.

'Ssh! Not so loud, Hump.'

'I mean that since you've done this extraordinary thing without so much
as consulting me, I will see it through. I don't want you for one minute
to think that I like it. God knows what it's going to mean--having women
running in there! My privacy was the only thing I had. You've chosen to
wreck it without a by-your-leave. I'll be ready at eight. And I'll see
that the door of your room is shut.'

With which he rose, handed his ticket to Mrs Stanley to be punched, and
left the restaurant.

Henry walked the streets, through gathering clouds of sand-flies, until
it was time to call at Mrs Henderson's.


7


They stood on the threshold.

'This is the shop,' Henry explained, 'where Hump works.'

'How perfectly fascinating!' exclaimed Mrs Henderson. Her quick eyes
took in lathes, kites, models of gliders, tools. 'Bring him 'straight
down here. I won't stir from this room till he's explained everything.'

'Hump!' called Henry, with austere politeness, up the stairway: 'Would
you mind coming down?'

He came--tall, stooping under the low lintel, in spotless white, distant
in manner, but courteous, firmly courteous.

Mrs Henderson, prowling about, lifted a wheel in a frame.

'What on earth is this thing?' she asked.

'A gyroscope.'

'What do you do with it?'

Humphrey wound a long twine about the handle and set the wheel spinning
like a top.

'Hold it by the handle,' said he. 'Now try to wave it around.'

The apparently simple machine swung itself back to the horizontal with
a jerk so violent that Mrs Henderson nearly lost her footing. Humphrey,
with evident hesitation, caught her elbow and steadied her. She turned
her eyes up to his, laughing, all interest.

'Sit right down in that chair and explain it to me,' she cried. 'How
on earth did it do that? It's uncanny.' And she seated herself on a
work-bench, with a light little spring.

When Henry showed Corinne up the stairs, Humphrey was talking with
an eager interest that had not before been evident in him. And Mrs
Henderson was listening, interrupting him where his easy flow of
scientific terms and mechanical axioms ran too fast for her.

Henry's pulse beat faster. Suddenly the pleasantly arranged old
barn looked, felt different. Charm had entered it. And the exciting
possibility of fellowship--a daring fellowship. He was up in the
living-room now. Corinne was moving lazily, comfortably about, humming
a song by the sensational new Richard Strauss who was upsetting all
settled musical tradition just then, and prying into corners and
shelves. She wore a light, shimmery, silky dress that gave out a faint
odour of violets. It drugged Henry, that odour. He felt for the first
time as if he belonged in these rooms himself.

Corinne found the kitchen cupboard', and exclaimed.

'Mildred!' she called down the stairs, in her rich drawling voice, 'come
right up here--the cutest thing!'

To which Mildred Henderson coolly replied:--

'Don't bother me with cute things now. Play with Henry and keep quiet.'

And Humphrey's voice droned on down there.

Henry dropped on the piano stool. Corinne was certainly less
indifferent. A little.

He struck chords; all he knew. He hummed a phrase of the Colonel's song
in _Patience_.

Corinne drew a chair to the end of the keyboard and settled herself
comfortably. 'Sing something,' she said. 'I love your voice.'

'It's no good,' said he, flushing with delight.

Surely her interest was growing. He added:--

'I'd a lot rather hear you.' But then, when she smilingly shook her
head, promptly broke into--=

``'If you want a receipt for that popular mystery

```Known to the world as a Heavy Dragoon,

``Take all the remarkable people of history,

```Rattle them off to a popular tune.'=

It is the trickiest and most brilliant patter song ever written, I
think, not even excepting the Major General's song in _The Pirates_.
Which, by the way, Henry sang next.

'How on earth can you remember all those words!' Corinne murmured. 'And
the way you get your tongue around them. I could never do it.'

She tried it, with him; but broke down with laughter.

'I know hundreds of 'em,' he said expansively, and sang on.

It was an opportunity he had not foreseen during this dreadful day. But
here it was, and he seized it. The stage was set for his kind of things;
all at once, as if by the merest accident. For the first time since
the awkward Sunday morning on the beach he was able to turn on full the
faucet that controlled his 'charm.' And he turned it on full. He had
parlour tricks. Out of amateur opera experience he had picked up a
superficial knack at comedy dancing. He did all he knew. He taught an
absurd little team song and dance to Corinne, with Mrs Henderson (who
had at last come up) improvising at the piano. And Corinne, flushed and
pretty, clung to his hand and laughed herself speechless. Once in her
desperate confusion over the steps she sank to the floor and sat in a
merry heap until Henry lifted her up. Then Henry imitated Frank Daniels
singing 'The man with an elephant on his hands,' and H. C. Bamabee
singing _The Sheriff of Nottingham_, and De Wolf Hopper doing _Casey
at the Bat_. All were clever bits; the 'Casey' exceptionally so. They
applauded him. Even Humphrey, silent now, leaning on an end of the
piano, watching Mrs Henderson's flashing little hands, clapped a little.

Once Humphrey went rather moodily to a window and peered out.

Mrs Henderson followed him; slipped her hand through his arm; asked
quietly, 'Who lives across the alley?'

'It's the Presbyterian parsonage,' he replied, slightly grim.

It was after midnight when they set out, whispering, giggling a little
in the alley, for Chestnut Avenue.

'These sand-flies are fierce,' said Henry. 'You girls better take our
handkerchiefs.'

They circled on lawns to avoid the swirling, crunching, softly
suffocating clouds of insects. Nearer the lake it grew worse. At the
corner of Chestnut and Simpson they stopped short. Mrs Henderson,
pressing the handkerchief to her face, clung in humorous helplessness to
Humphrey's arm.

He looked down at her. Suddenly he stooped, gathered her up in his arms
as if she were a child, and carried her clear through the plague into
the shadows of Chestnut Avenue.

Henry, running with Corinne pressing close on his arm, caught a glimpse
of his face. The expression on it added a touch of alarm to the pæan of
joy in Henry's brain.

They stepped within the Henderson screen door to say good-night.

'Let's do something to-morrow night--walk or go biking or row on the
lake,' said Mrs Henderson. 'You two had better come down for dinner. Any
time after six.'

'How about you?' Henry whispered to Corinne. 'Do you want me to come...
Will and Fred...'

Corinne's firm long hand slipped for a moment into his. He gripped it.
The pressure was returned.

'Don't be silly!' she breathed, close to his ear.


8


The sand-flies served as an excuse for silence between Humphrey and
Henry on the walk back. Nevertheless, the silence was awkward. It held
until they were up in the curiously, hauntingly empty living-room.

Humphrey scraped and lighted his pipe.

Henry, rather surprisingly unhappy again, was moving toward a certain
closed door.

'Tell me,' said Humphrey gruffly, slowly, 'where is Mister Arthur V.
Henderson?'

'He travels for the Camman Company, reapers and binders and ploughs.'

Humphrey very deliberately lighted his pipe.

Henry moved on toward the closed door. Emotions were stirring
uncomfortably within him. And conflicting impulses. Suddenly he shot out
a muffled 'Good-night,' and entered the bedroom, shutting the door after
him.

An hour later Humphrey--a gaunt figure in nightgown and slippers, pipe
in mouth--tapped at that door.

Henry, only half undressed, flushed of face, dripping with sweat,
quickly opened it.

Humphrey looked down in surprise at a fully packed trunk and suit-case
and a heap of bundles tied with odd bits of twine--sofa cushions, old
clothes, what not.

'What's all this?' Humphrey waved his pipe.

'Well--I just thought I'd go in the morning.'

'Don't be a dam' fool.'

'But--but'--Henry threw out protesting hands--'I know I'm no good at all
these fussy things. I'd just spoil your----'

The pipe waved again. 'That's all disposed of, Hen.' A somewhat
wry smile wrinkled the long face. 'Mildred Henderson's running it,
apparently. There's a certain Mrs Olson who is to come in mornings and
clean up. And--oh yes, I've got a lot of change for you. Your share was
only eight-five cents.'

There was a long silence. Henry looked at his feet; moved one of them
slowly about on the floor.

'We're different kinds,' said Humphrey. 'About as different as they
make'em. But that, in itself, isn't a bad thing.'

He thrust out his hand.

Henry clasped it; gulped down an all but uncontrollable uprush of
feeling; looked down again.

Humphrey stalked back to his room.

Thus began the odd partnership of Weaver and Calverly. Though is not
every partnership a little odd?



III--THE STIMULANT


1


|Miss Wombast looked up from her desk in the Sunbury Public Library and
beheld Henry Calverly, 3rd. Then with a slight fluttering of her pale,
blue-veined eyelids and a compression of her thin lips she looked down
again and in a neat practised librarian's hand finished printing out a
title on the-catalogue card before her.

For Henry Calverly was faintly disconcerting to her. Though it was only
eleven o'clock, and a Tuesday, he was attired in blue serge coat,
snow white trousers and (could she have seen through the desk) white
stockings and shoes. His white _négligé_ shirt was decorated at the neck
with a 'four-in-hand' of shimmering foulard, blue and green. In his
left hand was a rolled-up creamy-white felt hat and the crook of a thin
bamboo stick. With his right he fussed at the fringe on his upper lip,
which was somewhat nearer the moustache stage than it had been last
week. Behind his nose glasses and their pendant silk cord his face was
sober; the gray-blue eyes that (Miss Wombast knew) could blaze with
primal energy were gloomy, or at least tired; there was a furrow between
his blond eyebrow's. He had the air of a youth who wants earnestly to
concentrate without knowing quite how.

Miss Wombast was a distinctly 'literary' person. She read Meredith,
Balzac, De Maupassant, Flaubert, Zola, and Howells. She was living her
way into the developing later manner of Henry James. She talked, on
occasion, with an icy enthusiasm that many honest folk found irritating,
of Stevenson's style and of Walter Pater.

It was Miss Wombast's habit to look in her books for complete
identification of the living characters she met. She studied all of
them, coolly, critically, at boardinghouse and library. Naturally, when
a living individual refused to take his place among her gallery of book
types, she was puzzled. One such was Henry Calverly.

She had known something of his checkered career in high school, where
he had directed the glee club, founded and edited _The Boys' Journal_,
written a rather bright one-act play for the junior class. Indeed the
village in general had been mildly aware of Henry. He had stood out, and
Miss Wombast herself had sung a modest alto in the _Iolanthe_ chorus,
two years back, under Henry's direction and had found him impersonally,
ingenuously masterful and a subtly pleasing factor in her thought-world.
He had made a success of that mob. The big men of the village gave him a
dinner and a purse of gold. After all of which, his mother had died,
he had run, apparently, through his gifts and his earnings, and settled
down to a curiously petty reporting job, trotting up and down Simpson
Street collecting useless little items for _The Weekly Voice of
Sunbury_. Other young fellows of twenty either went to college or
started laying the foundations of a regular job in Chicago. Those that
amounted to anything. You could see pretty plainly ahead of each his
proper line of development. Yet here was Henry, who _had_ stood out,
working half-heartedly at the sort of job you associated with the
off-time of poor students, dressing altogether too conspicuously,
wasting hours--daytimes, when a young fellow ought to be working--with
this girl and that. For a long time it had been the Caldwell girl.
Lately she had seen him with that strikingly pretty but, she felt,
rather 'physical' young singer who was visiting the gifted but
whispered-about Mrs Arthur V. Henderson, of Lower Chestnut Avenue. Name
of Doge, or Doag, or something like that.

Henry himself had been whispered about. Very recently. He had been
seen at Hoffmann's Garden, up the shore, with a vulgar young woman in
extremely tight bloomers. Of the working girl type. Had her out on a
tandem. Drinking beer.

So it was, unable to forget those secretly stirring _Iolanthe_ days,
that Miss Wombast had looked about among her book types for a key to
Henry, but without success. He didn't appear to be in De Maupassant. Nor
in Balzac. In Meredith and James there was no one who said 'Yeah' and
'Gotta' and spoke with the crude if honest throat 'r' of the Middle West
and went with nice girls and vulgar girls and carried that silly cane
and wore the sillier moustache; who had, or had had, gifts of creation
and command, yet now, month in, month out, hung about Donovan's soda
fountain; who never smoked and, apart from the Hoffmann's Garden
incident, wasn't known to drink; and who, when you faced him, despite
the massed evidence, gave out an impression of earnest endeavour. Even
of moral purpose.

Had she known him better Miss Wombast would have found herself the more
puzzled. For Miss Wombast, despite her rather complicated reading,
still clung in some measure to the moralistic teachings of her youth,
believing that people either had what she thought of as character or
else didn't have it, that people were either industrious or lazy, bright
or stupid, vulgar or nice. Therefore the fact that Henry, while still
wrecking his stomach with fountain drinks and (a recently acquired
habit) with lemon meringue pie between meals, had not touched candy for
two years--not a chocolate cream, not even a gum drop!--and this by
sheer force of character, would have been confusing.

And to read his thoughts, as he stood there before her desk, would have
carried her confusion on into bewilderment.

Mostly these thoughts had to do with money, and bordered on the
desperate. Tentative little schemes for getting money--even a few
dollars--were forming and dissolving rapidly in his mind.

He was concerned because his sudden little flirtation with Corinne Doag,
after a flashing start, had lost its glow. Only the preceding evening.
He hadn't held her interest. The thrill had gone. Which plunged him into
moods and brought to his always unruly tongue the sarcastic words
that made matters worse. He was lunching down there to-day--he and
Humphrey--and dreaded it, with moments of a rather futile, flickering
hope. Deep intuition informed him that the one sure solution was money.
You couldn't get on with a girl without it. Just about so far, then
things dragged. And this, of course, brought him around the circle, back
to the main topic.

He was thinking about his clothes. They, at least, should move Corinne.
Along with the moustache, the cane, the cord on his glasses. He didn't
see how people could help being a little impressed. Miss Wombast, even,
who didn't matter. It seemed to him that she _was_ impressed.

He was thinking about Martha Caldwell., She was pretty frankly going
with James B. Merchant, Jr., now. Henry was jealous of James B.
Merchant, Jr. And about Martha his thoughts hovered with a tinge of
romantic sadness. He would like her to see him to-day, in these clothes,
with his moustache and cane.

He was wondering, with the dread that the prospect of mental effort
always roused in him, how on earth he was ever to write three whole
columns about the Annual Business Men's Picnic of the preceding
afternoon. Describing in humorous yet friendly detail the three-legged
race, the ball game between the fats and the leans, the dinner in the
grove, the concert by Foote's full band of twenty pieces, the purse
given to Charlie Waterhouse as the most popular man on Simpson Street.
He had a thick wad of notes up at the rooms, but his heart was not in
the laborious task of expanding them. He knew precisely what old
man Boice expected of him--plenty of 'personal mention' for all the
advertisers, giving space for space. Each day that he put it off
would make the task harder. If he didn't have the complete story in by
Thursday night, Humphrey would skin him alive; yet here it was Wednesday
morning, and he was planning to spend as much of the day as possible
with the increasingly unresponsive Corinne. Life was difficult!

He was aware of a morbid craving in his digestive tract. He decided to
get an ice-cream soda on the way back to the office. He would have liked
about half a pound of chocolate creams. The Italian kind, with all the
sweet in the white part. But here character intervened.

A corner of his mind dwelt unceasingly on queer difficult feelings that
came. These had flared out in the unpleasant incident of Mamie Wilcox
and the tandem; and again in the present flirtation with Corinne. In a
way that he found perplexing, this stir of emotion was related to
his gifts. He couldn't let one go without the other. There had been
moments--in the old days--when a feeling of power had surged through
him. It was a wonderful, irresistible feeling. Riding that wave, he
was equal to anything. But it had frightened him. The memory of it
frightened him now. He had put _Iolanthe_ through, it was true, but he
had also nearly eloped with Ernestine Lambert. He had completely lost
his head--debts, everything!

Yes, it was as well that Miss Wombast couldn't read his thoughts. She
wouldn't have known how to interpret them. She hadn't the capacity to
understand the wide swift stream of feeling down which an imaginative
boy floats all but rudderless into manhood. She couldn't know of his
pitifully inadequate little attempts to shape a course, to catch this
breeze and that, even to square around and breast the current of life.

Henry said politely:--

'Good-morning, Miss Wombast. I just looked in for the notes of new
books.'

'Oh,' she replied quickly. 'I'm sorry you troubled. Mr Boice asked me
to mail it to the office at the end of the month. I just sent it--this
morning.'

She saw his face fall. He mumbled something that sounded like, 'Oh--all
right! Doesn't matter.' For a moment he stood waving his stick in jerky,
aimless little circles. Then went off down the stairs.


2


Emerging from Donovan's drug store Henry encountered the ponderous
person of old Boice--six feet an inch and a half, head sunk a little
between the shoulders, thick yellowish-white whiskers waving down over a
black bow tie and a spotted, roundly protruding vest, a heavy old
watch chain with insignia of a fraternal order hanging as a charm;
inscrutable, washed-out blue eyes in a deeply lined but nearly
expressionless face.

Henry stopped short; stared at his employer.

Mr Boice did not stop. But as he moved deliberately by, his faded eyes
took in every detail of Henry's not unremarkable personal appearance.

Henry was thinking: 'Old crook. Wish I had a paper of my own here and
I'd get back at him. Run him out of town, that's what!' And after he had
nodded and rushed by, his colouring mounting: 'Like to know why I should
work my head off just to make money for _him_. No sense in that!'

Henry came moodily into the _Voice_ office, dropped down at his
inkstained, littered table behind the railing, and sighed twice. He
picked up a pencil and fell to outlining ink spots.

The sighs were directed at Humphrey, who sat bent over his desk, cob
pipe in mouth, writing very rapidly. 'He's got wonderful concentration,'
thought Henry, his mind wandering a brief moment from his unhappy self.

Humphrey spoke without looking up. 'Don't let that Business Men's Picnic
get away from you, Hen. Really ought to be getting it in type now. Two
compositors loafing out there.'

Henry sighed again; let his pencil fall on the table; gazed heavily,
helplessly at the wall...

'Old man say anything to you about the "Library Notes"?'

Humphrey glanced up and removed his pipe. His swarthy long face wrinkled
thoughtfully. 'Yes. Just now. He's going to have Miss Wombast send 'em
in direct every month.'

'And I don't have 'em any more.'

Humphrey considered this fact. 'It doesn't amount to very much, Hen.'

'Oh, no--works out about sixty cents to a dollar. It ain't that
altogether--it's the principle. I'm getting tired of it!'

The press-room door was ajar, Humphrey reached out and closed it.

Henry raised his voice; got out of his chair and sat on the edge of the
table. His eyes brightened sharply. Emotion crept into his voice and
shook it a little.

'Do you know what's he done to me--that old doubleface? Took me in here
two years ago at eight a week with a promise of nine if I suited. Well,
I did suit. But did I get the nine? Not until I'd rowed and begged for
seven months. A year of that, a lot more work--You know! "Club Notes,"
this library stuff, "Real Estate Happenings," "Along Simpson Street,"
reading proof--'

Humphrey slowly nodded as he smoked.

'--And I asked for ten a week. Would he give it? No! I knew I was worth
more than that, so I offered to take space rates instead. Then what does
he do? You know, Hump. Been clipping me off, one thing after another,
and piling on the proof and the office work. Here's one thing more gone
to-day. Last week my string was exactly seven dollars and forty-six
cents. Dam it, it ain't fair! I can't _live!_ I won't stand it. Gotta be
ten a week or I--I'll find out why. Show-down.'

He rushed to the door. Then, as if his little flare of indignation had
burnt out, fingered there, knitting his brows and looking up and down
the street and across at the long veranda of the Sunbury House, where
people sat in a row in yellow rocking chairs.

Humphrey smoked and considered him. After a little he remarked
quietly:--

'Look here, Hen, I don't like it any more than you do. I've seen what he
was doing. I've tried to forestall him once or twice----'

'I know it, Hump.' Henry turned. He was quite listless now. 'He's a
tricky old fox. If I only knew of something else I could do--or that we
could do together----'

'But--this was what I was going to say--no matter how we feel, I'm going
to be really in trouble if I don't get that picnic story pretty soon. Mr
Boice asked about it this morning.'

Henry leaned against Mr Boice's desk, up by the window; dropped his chin
into one hand.

'I'll do it, Hump. This afternoon. Or to-night. We're going down to
Mildred's this noon, of course.'

'That's part of what's bothering me. God knows how soon after that
you'll break away from Corinne.'

'Pretty dam soon,' remarked Henry sullenly, 'the way things are going
now.... I'll get at it, Hump. Honest I will. But right now'--he moved
a hand weakly through the air--'I just couldn't. You don't know how I
feel. I _couldn't!_'

'Where you going now?'

'I don't know.' The hand moved again. 'Walk around. Gotta be by myself.
Sorta think it out. This is one of the days... I've been thinking--be
twenty-one in November. _Then_ I'll show him, and all the rest of 'em.
Have a little money then. I'll show this hypocritical old town a few
things--a few things....'

His voice died to a mumble. He felt with limp fingers at his moustache.

'I'll be ready quarter or twenty minutes past twelve,' Humphrey called
after him as he moved mournfully out to the street.


3


Mr Boice moved heavily along, inclining his massive head, without a
smile, to this acquaintance and that, and turned in at Schultz and
Schwartz's.

The spectacle of Henry Calverly--in spotless white and blue, with the
moustache, and the stick--had irritated him. Deeply. A boy who couldn't
earn eight dollars a week parading Simpson Street in that rig, on a
week-day morning! He felt strongly that Henry had no business sticking
out that way, above the village level. Hitting you in the eyes. Young
Jenkins was bad enough, but at least his father had the money. Real
money. And could let his son waste it if he chose. But a conceited young
chump like Henry Calverly! Ought to be chucked into a factory somewhere.
Stoke a furnace. Carry boxes. Work with his hands. Get down to brass
tacks and see if he had any stuff in him. Doubtful.

Mr Boice made a low sound, a wheezy sound between a grunt and a hum, as
he handed his hat to the black, muscular, bullet-headed, grinning Pinkie
Potter, who specialised in hats and shoes in Sunbury's leading barber
shop.

He made another sound that was quite a grunt as he sank into the red
plush barber chair of Heinie Schultz. His massive frame was clumsy, and
the twinges of lumbago, varied by touches of neuritis, that had come
steadily upon him since middle life, added to the difficulties of moving
it about. He always made these sounds. He would stop on the street, take
your hand non-committally in his huge, rather limp paw, and grunt before
he spoke, between phrases, and when moving away.

Heinie Schultz, who was straw-coloured, thin, listlessly patient (Bill
Schwartz was the noisy fat one), knew that the thick, yellowish gray
hair was to be cut round in the back and the neck shaved beneath it.
The beard was to be trimmed delicately, reverently--'not cut, just the
rags taken off'--and combed out. Heinie had attended to this hair and
beard for sixteen years.

'Heard a good one,' murmured Heinie, close to his patron's ear. 'There
was a bride and groom got on the sleeping car up to Duluth--'

A thin man of about thirty-five entered the shop, tossed his hat to
Pinkie, and dropped into Bill Schwartz's chair next the window. The
new-comer had straight brown hair, worn a little long over ears and
collar. His face was freckled, a little pinched, nervously alert. Behind
his gold rimmed spectacles his small sharp eyes appeared to be darting
this way and that, keen, penetrating through the ordinary comfortable
surfaces of life.

This was Robert A. McGibbon, editor and proprietor of the _Sunbury
Weekly Gleaner_. He had appeared in the village hardly six months back
with a little money--enough, at least, to buy the presses, give a little
for good will, assume the rent and the few business debts that Nicholas
Simms Godfrey had been able to contract before his health broke, and to
pay his own board at the Wombasts' on Filbert Avenue. His appearance
in local journalism had created a new tension in the village and his
appearance now in the barber shop created tension there. Heinie's
vulgar little anecdote froze on his lips. Mr Boice, impassive, heavily
deliberate, after one glimpse of the fellow in the long mirror before
him, lay back in the chair, gazed straight upward at the fly-specked
ceiling.

Mr Boice, when face to face with Robert A. McGibbon on the street,
inclined his head to him as to others. But up and down the street his
barely expressed disapproval of the man was felt to have a root
in feelings and traditions infinitely deeper than the mere natural
antagonism to a fresh competitor in the local field.

For McGibbon was--the term was a new one that had caught the popular
imagination and was worming swiftly into the American language--a yellow
journalist. He had worked, he boasted openly, on a sensationally new
daily in New York. In the once staid old _Gleaner_ he used boldfaced
headlines, touched with irritating acumen on scandal, assailed the
ruling political triumvirate, and made the paper generally fascinating
as well as disturbing. As a result, he was picking up subscribers
rapidly. Advertising, of course, was another matter. And Boice had all
the village and county printing.

The political triumvirate mentioned above was composed of Boice himself,
Charles H. Waterhouse, town treasurer, and Mr Weston of the Sunbury
National Bank. For a decade their rule had not been questioned along the
street. The other really prominent men of Sunbury all had their business
interests in Chicago, and at that time used the village merely for
sleeping and as a point of departure for the very new golf links. Such
men, I mean, as B. L. Ames, John W. MacLouden, William B. Snow, and J.
E. Jenkins.

The experience of withstanding vulgar attacks was new to the
triumvirate. (McGibbon referred to them always as the 'Old Cinch.') The
_Gleaner_ had come out for annexation to Chicago. It demanded an
audit of Charlie Waterhouse's town accounts by a new, politically
disinterested group. It accused the bank of withholding proper support
from men of whom old Boice disapproved. It demanded a share of the
village printing.

The 'Old Cinch' were taking these attacks in silence, as beneath their
notice. They took pains, however, in casual mention of the new force in
town, to refer to him always as a 'Democrat.' This damned him with many.
He called himself an 'Independent.' Which amused Charlie Waterhouse
greatly. Everybody knew that a man who wasn't a decent Republican had to
be a Democrat. In the nature of things.

And they were waiting for his money and his energy to give out. Giving
him, as Charlie Waterhouse jovially put it, the rope to hang himself
with.

Bill Schwartz took McGibbon's spectacles, tucked the towel around his
scrawny neck, lathered chin and cheeks, and seizing his head firmly in a
strong right hand turned it sidewise on the head-rest.

McGibbon lay there a moment, studying the yellowish-white whiskers
that waved upward above the towels in the next chair. Bill stropped his
razor.

'How are you, Mr Boice?' McGibbon observed, quite cheerfully.

Mr Boice made a sound, raised his head an inch. Heinie promptly pushed
it down.

'Quite a story you had last week about the musicale at Mrs Arthur V.
Henderson's.'

Mr Boice lay motionless. What was up! Distinctly odd that either journal
should be mentioned between them. Bad taste. He made another sound.

'Who wrote it?'

No answer.

'Henry Calverly?'

A grunt.

'Thought so!' McGibbon chuckled.

Mr Boice twisted his head around, trying to see the fellow in the
mirror. Heinie pulled it back.

'Got it here. Hand me my glasses, Bill, will you. Thanks.' McGibbon was
sitting up, his face all lather, digging in his pocket. He produced a
clipping. Read aloud with gusto:--

'"Mrs Stelton's art has deepened and broadened appreciably since she
last appeared in Sunbury. Always gifted with a splendid singing organ,
always charming in personality and profoundly, rhythmically musical in
temperament, she now has added a superstructure of technical authority
which gives to each passage, whether bravura or pianissimo, a quality
and distinction."'

McGibbon was momentarily choked by his own almost noiseless laughter.
Bill pushed his head down and went swiftly to work on his right cheek.
Two other customers had come in.

'Great stuff that!' observed McGibbon cautiously, under the razor.
'"Profoundly, rhythmically musical in temperament "! "A superstructure
of technical authority"! Great! Fine! That boy'll do something yet.
Handled right. Wish he was working for me.'

Mr Boice, from whom sounds had been coming for several moments, now
raised his voice. It was the first time Heinie had ever heard him raise
it. Bill paused, razor in air, and glanced around. Pinkie Potter looked
up from the shoes he was polishing.

'Well,' he roared huskily, 'what in hell's the matter with that!'

Just then Bill turned McGibbon's head the other way. He too raised his
voice. But cheerfully.

'Nothing much. Nice lot o' words. Only Mrs Stelton wasn't there.
Sprained her ankle in the Chicago station on the way out.'

Bill Schwartz had a trumpet-like Prussian voice. The situation seemed to
him to contain the elements of humour. He laughed boisterously.

Heinie Schultz, more politic, tittered softly, shears against mouth.

Pinkie Potter laughed convulsively, and beat out an intricate rag-time
tattoo on his bootblack's stand with his brush.


4


It was Mr Boice's fixed habit to go on, toward noon, to the post-office.
Instead, to-day, he returned to the _Voice_ office.

He seated himself at his desk for a quarter of an hour, doing nothing.
He had the faculty of sitting still, ruminating.

Finally he reached out for the two-foot rule that always lay on his
desk, and carefully measured a certain article in last week's paper.
Then did a little figuring.

He rose, moved toward the door; turned, and remarked to the wondering
Humphrey:--

'Take fifteen inches off Henry's string this week, Weaver. A dollar 'n'
five cents. Be at the post-office if anybody wants me.' And went out.

Humphrey himself measured Henry's article on the musicale. Old Boice had
been accurate enough; it came to an even fifteen inches. Which at seven
cents an inch, would be a dollar and five cents.

When Henry reappeared and together they set out for Lower Chestnut
Avenue, Humphrey found he hadn't the heart to break this fresh
disappointment to his friend. He decided to let it drift until the
Saturday. Something might turn up.

Henry's mood had changed. He had left the office, an hour earlier,
looking like a discouraged boy. Now he was serious, silent, hard to
talk to. He seemed three years older. With certain of Henry's rather
violently contrasted phases Humphrey was familiar; but he had never seen
him look quite like this. Henry was strung up. Plainly. He walked very
fast, striding intently forward. At least once in each block he found
himself a yard ahead of his companion, checked himself, muttered a
few words that sounded vaguely like an apology and then repeated the
process.

At Mrs Henderson's Henry was grave and curiously attractive. He had
charm, no doubt of it--a sort of charm that women, older women, felt.
Mildred Henderson distinctly played up to him. And Corinne, Humphrey
noted, watched him now and then; the quietly observant keenness in her
big dark eyes masked by her easy, lazy smile.

Toward the close of luncheon Henry's evident inner tension showed signs
of taking the form of gaiety. He acted like a young man wholly sure of
himself. Humphrey's net impression, after more than a year and a half
of close association with the boy, was that he couldn't ever be sure of
himself. Not for one minute. Yet, when they threw down their napkins and
pushed back their chairs, it was Henry who said, with an apparently easy
arrogance back of his grain:--

'Hump, you've got to be going back so soon, we're going to give you and
Mildred the living-room. We'll wash the dishes.'

Humphrey noted the quick little snap of amusement in Mrs Henderson's
eyes (Henry had not before openly used her first name) and the
demure, expressionless look that came over Corinne's face. Neither was
displeased.

To Mrs Henderson's, 'You'll do no such thing!' Henry responded
smilingly:--

'I won't be contradicted. Not to-day.'

Corinne was still silent. But Mrs Henderson, now frankly amused,
asked:--

'Why the to-day, Henry?'

'Oh, I don't know. Just the way I feel,' said he; and ushered her
with mock politeness into the front room, then, gallantly, almost
nonchalantly, took the elbow of the unresisting Corinne and led her
toward the kitchen.

Humphrey lighted a cigarette and watched them go. Then with a slight
heightening of his usually sallow colour, followed his hostess into the
living-room.

It will be evident to the reader that among these four young persons,
rather casually thrown together in the first instance, something of an
'understanding' had grown up.

There had been a furtive delight about their first gathering at
Humphrey's rooms, a sense of exciting variety in humdrum village life,
the very real and lively pleasure of exploring fresh personalities.

Of late years, looking back, it has seemed to me that Mildred Henderson
never really belonged in Sunbury, where a woman's whole duty lay in
keeping house economically and as pleasantly as might be for the husband
who spent his days in Chicago. And in bearing and rearing his children.
I never knew anything of her earlier life, before Arthur V. Henderson
brought her to the modest house on Chestnut Avenue. I never could figure
why she married him at all. Marriages are made in so many places besides
Heaven! He used to like to hear her play.

In those days, and a little later, I judged her much as the village
judged her--peering out at her through the gun-ports in the armour
plate of self-righteousness that is the strong defence of every suburban
community. But now I feel that her real mistake lay in waiting so long
before drifting to her proper environment in New York. Like all of us,
she had, sooner or later, to work out her life in its own terms or die
alive of an atrophied spirit. She had gifts, and needed, doubtless,
to express them. I can see her now as she was in Sunbury during those
years--little, trim, slim, with a quick alert smile and snappy eyes.
Not a beautiful woman, perhaps not even an out-and-out pretty one, but
curiously attractive. She had much of what men call 'personality.' And
she was efficient, in her own way. She never let her musical gift rust;
practised every day of her life, I think. Including Sundays. Which was
one of the things Sunbury held against her.

Humphrey, too, was using Sunbury as little more than a stop gap. We knew
that sooner or later he would strike his gait as an inventor. He was
quiet about it. Much thought, deep plans, lay back of that long wrinkly
face. While he kept at it he was a conscientious country editor. But his
heart was in his library of technical books, and in his workshop in
the old Parmenter barn. He must have put just about all of his little
inheritance into the place.

Corinne Doag was distinctly a city person. And she was a real singer,
with ambition and a firm, even hard purpose, I can see now, back of the
languorous dusky eyes and the wide slow smile that Henry was not then
man enough to understand. In those days, more than in the present, a
girl with a strong sense of identity was taught to hide it scrupulously.
It was still the century of Queen Victoria. The life of any live girl
had to be a rather elaborate pretence of something it distinctly was
not. For which we, looking back, can hardly blame her. Besides, Corinne
was young, healthy, glowing with a quietly exuberant sense of life. I
imagine she found a sort of pure joy, an animal joy, in playing with men
and life. She wasn't dishonest. She certainly liked Henry. Particularly
to-day. But this was the summer time. She was playing. And she liked to
be, thrilled.

An hour later, could Humphrey have glanced into the butler's pantry, he
would have concluded that he knew Henry Calverly not at all. And
Miss Wombast, could she have looked in, would have been thrilled and
frightened, perhaps to the point of never speaking to Henry again. And
of never, never forgetting him.

As the scene has a bearing on the later events of the day, we will take
a look.

They stood in the butler's pantry, Henry and Corinne. The shards of a
shattered coffee cup lay unobserved at their feet. Out in the kitchen
sink all the silver and the other cups and saucers lay in the rinsing
rack, the soapsuds dry on them. Henry held Corinne in his arms.

'Henry,' she whispered, 'we _must_ finish the dishes! What on earth will
Mildred think?'

'Let her think!' said Henry.

Corinne leaned back against the shelves, disengaged her hands long
enough to smooth her flying blue-black hair.

'Henry, I never thought----'

'Never thought what?'

'Wait! My hair's all down again. They might come out here. I mean you
seemed----'

'How did I seem? Say it!'

'Oh well--_Henry_!--I mean sort of--well, reserved. I thought you were
shy.'

'Think so now!'

'I--well, no. Not exactly. Wait now, you silly boy! Really, Henry, you
musn't be so--so intense.'

'But I _am_ intense. I'm not the way I look. Nobody knows----' Here he
interrupted himself.

'Oh, Henry,' she breathed, her head on his shoulder now, her arm
clinging about his neck. He felt very manly. Life, real life, whirled,
glowed, sparkled about him. He was exultant. 'You dear boy--I'm afraid
you've made love to lots of girls.'

'I _haven't!_' he protested, with unquestionable sincerity. 'Not to
lots.'

'Silly!' A silence. Then he felt her draw even closer to him.
'Henry, talk to me! Make love to me! Tell me you'll take me away with
you--to-day!--now! Make me feel how wonderful it would be! Say it,
anyway--even if--oh, Henry, _say_ it!'

For an instant Henry's mind went cold and clear. He was a little
frightened. He found himself wondering if this tempestuous young woman
who clung so to him could possibly be the easy, lazy, comfortably
smiling Corinne. He thought of Carmen--the Carmen of Calvé. He had suped
once in that opera down at the Auditorium. He had paid fifty cents to
the supe captain.

The thrill of the conqueror was his. But he was beginning to feel that
this was enough, that he had best rest his case, perhaps, at this'
point.

As for asking her to fly away with him, he couldn't conscientiously so
much as ask her to have dinner with him in Chicago. Not in the present
state of his pocket.

One fact, however, emerged. He must propose something. He could at least
have it out with old Boice. Settle that salary business. He'd _have_ to.

Another fact is that he was by no means so cool as he, for the moment,
fancied himself.

The door from dining-room to kitchen opened, rather slowly. There was a
light step in the kitchen, and Mildred Henderson's musical little voice
humming the theme of the Andante in the Fifth Symphony.

Henry and Corinne leaped apart. She smoothed her hair again, and patted
her cheeks. Then she took a black hair from his shoulder.

They heard Mildred at the sink. Rinsing the dishes and the silver,
doubtless.

'Hate to disturb you two,' she called, a reassuring if slightly humorous
sympathy in her voice, 'but I promised Humphrey I'd get after you,
Henry. He says you simply must get some work done to-day.'

Henry stood motionless, trying to think.'

'Do your work here,' Corinne whispered. 'Stay.'

He shook his head. 'A lot I'd get done--here with you. Now.'

'I'll help you. Couldn't I be just a little inspiration to you?'

'It ain't inspiring work.'

'Henry--write something for me! Write me a poem!

'All right. Not to-day, though. Gotta do this Business Men's Picnic.

Then he said, 'Wait a minute;' went into the kitchen.

'Going over town,' he remarked, offhand, to Mrs Henderson.

At the outer door, Corinne murmured: 'You'll come back, Henry?'

With a vague little wave of one hand, and a perplexed expression, he
replied: 'Yes, of course.' And hurried off.


6


Mr Boice wasn't at his desk at the _Voice_ sanctum. Henry could see that
much through the front window.

He didn't go in. He felt that he couldn't talk with Humphrey--or
anybody--right now. Except old Boice. He was gunning for him. Equal to
him, too. Equal to anything. Blazing with determination. Could lick a
regiment.

He found his employer down at the post-office. In his little den behind
the money-order window. He asked Miss Hemple, there, if he could please
speak to Mr Boice.

Once again on this eventful day that conservative member of the village
triumvirate found himself forced to gaze at the dressy if now slightly
rumpled youth with a silly little moustache that he couldn't seem to
let go of, and the thin bamboo stick with a crook at the end. The youth
whose time was so valuable that he couldn't arrange to do his work. And
once again irritation stirred behind the spotted, rounded-out vest and
the thick, wavy, yellowish-white whiskers.

He sat back in his swivel chair; looked at Henry with lustreless eyes;
made sounds.

'Mr Boice,' said Henry, 'I--I want to speak with you. It's--it's this
way. I don't feel that you're doing quite the right thing by me.'

Another sound from the editor-postmaster. Then silence.

'You gave me to understand that I'd get better pay if I suited. Well,
the way you're doing it, I don't even get as much. It ain't right! It
ain't square! Now--well--you see, I've about come to the conclusion that
if the work I do ain't worth ten a week--well----'

It is to be remembered of Norton P. Boice that he was a village
politician of something like forty years' experience. As such he put no
trust whatever in words. Once to-day he had raised his voice, and
the fact was disturbing. He had weathered a thousand little storms
by keeping his mouth shut, sitting tight. He never criticised or
quarrelled. He disbelieved utterly in emotions of any sort. He hadn't
written a letter in twenty-odd years. And he was not likely to lose his
temper again this day--week--or month.

Henry didn't dream that at this moment he was profoundly angry.
Though Henry was too full of himself to observe the other party to the
controversy.

Mr Boice clasped his hands on his stomach and sat still.

Henry chafed.

After a time Mr Boice asked, 'Have you done the story of the Business
Men's Picnic?'

Henry shook his head.

'Better get it done, hadn't you?'

Henry shook his head again.

Mr Boice continued to sit--motionless, expressionless. His thoughts ran
to this effect:--The article on the picnic was by far the most important
matter of the whole summer. Every advertiser on Simpson Street looked
for whole paragraphs about himself and his family. Henry was supposed to
cover it. He had been there. It would be by no means easy, now, to work
up a proper story from any other quarter.

'Suppose,' he remarked, 'you go ahead and get the story in. Then we can
have a little talk if you like. I'm rather busy this afternoon.'

He tried to say it ingratiatingly, but it sounded like all other sounds
that passed his lips--colourless, casual.

Henry stood up very stiff; drew in a deep breath or two; His fingers
tightened about his stick. His colour rose.

He leaned over; rested a hand on the corner of the desk.

'Mr Boice,' he said, firmly if huskily, and a good deal louder than was
desirable, here in the post-office, within ear-shot of the moneyorder
window--'Mr Boice, what I want from you won't take two minutes of your
time. You'd better tell me, right now, whether I'm worth ten dollars a
week to the _Voice_. Beginning this week. If I'm not--I'll hand in my
string Saturday and quit. Think I can't do better'n this! I wonder! You
wait till about next November. Maybe I'll show the whole crowd of you a
thing or two! Maybe----'

For the second time on this remarkable day the unexpected happened to
and through Norton P. Boice.

Slowly, with an effort and a grunt, he got to his feet. Colour appeared
in his face, above the whiskers. He pointed a huge, knobby finger at the
door.

'Get out of here!' he roared. 'And stay out!'

Henry hesitated, swung away, turned back to face him; finally obeyed.

Jobless, stirred by a rather fascinating sense of utter catastrophe,
thinking with a sudden renewal of exultation about Corinne, Henry
wandered up to the Y.M.C.A. rooms and idly, moodily, practise shooting
crokinole counters.

Shortly he wandered out. An overpowering restlessness was upon him. He
wanted desperately to do something, but didn't know what it could be. It
was as if a live wild animal, caged within his breast, was struggling to
get out.

He walked over to the rooms; threw off his coat; tried fooling at the
piano; gave it up and took to pacing the floor.

There were peculiar difficulties here, in the big living-room. Corinne
had spent an evening here. She had sat in this chair and that, had
danced over the hardwood floor, had smiled on him. The place, without
Her, was painfully empty.

He knew now that he wanted to write. But he didn't know what. The wild
animal was a story. Or a play. Or a poem. Perhaps the poem Corinne had
begged for. He stood in the middle of the room, closed his eyes, and
saw and felt Corinne close to him. It was a mad but sweet reverie. Yes,
surely it was the poem!

He found pencil and paper--a wad of copy paper, and curled up in the
window-seat.

Things were not right. Not yet. He was the victim of wild forces. They
were tearing at him. It was no longer restlessness--it was a mighty
passion. It was uncomfortable and thrilling. Queer that the impulse to
write should come so overwhelmingly without giving him, so far, a hint
as to what he was to write. Yet it was not vague. He had to do it. And
at once. Find the right place and go straight at it. It would come out.
It would have to come out.


7


Mr Boice came heavily into the Voice office and sank into his creaking
chair by the front window.

Humphrey went swiftly, steadily through galley after galley of proof.
Humphrey had the trained eye that can pick out an inverted _u_ in a page
of print at three feet. He smoked his cob pipe as he worked.

Mr Boice drew a few sheets of copy paper from a pigeonhole, took up a
pencil in his stiff fingers, and gazed down over his whiskers.

It was a decade or more since the 'editor' of the Voice had done any
actual work. Every day he dropped quiet suggestions, whispered a word of
guidance to this or that lieutenant, and listened to assorted ideas and
opinions. He was a power in the village, no doubt about that. But to
compose and write out three columns of his own paper was hopelessly
beyond him. It called for youth, or for the long habit of a country
hack. The deep permanent grooves in his mind were channels for another
sort of thinking.

For an hour he sat there. Gradually Humphrey became aware of him. It was
odd anyway that he should be here. He seldom returned in the afternoon.

Finally he looked over at the younger man, and made sounds.

Humphrey raised his head; removed his pipe.

'Guess you better fix up a little account of the Business Men's Picnic,
Weaver,' he remarked.

'Henry's doing that.'

Mr Boice's massive head moved slowly, sidewise. 'No,' he said, 'he won't
be doing it.'

Humphrey leaned back in his chair. His face wrinkled reflectively; his
brows knotted. He held up his pipe; rubbed the worn cob with the palm
of his hand.

Mr Boice got up and moved toward the door.

'I've let Henry go,' he said.

Humphrey went on rubbing his pipe; squinting at it.

Mr Boice paused in the door; looked back.

'I'll ask you to attend to it, Weaver.'

Humphrey shook his head.

Mr Boice stood looking at him.

'No,' said Humphrey. 'Afraid I can't help you out.'

Mr Boice stood motionless. There was no expression on his face, but
Humphrey knew what the steady look meant. He added:--

'I wasn't there.'

Still Mr Boice stood. Humphrey took a fresh galley proof from the hook
and fell to work at it. After a little Mr Boice moved back to his desk
and creaked down into his chair. Again he reached for the copy paper.

Humphrey, in a merciful moment when he was leaving for the day, thought
of suggesting that Murray Johnston, local man for the City Press
Association, might be called on in the emergency. He had been at the
picnic. He could write the story easily enough, if he could spare the
time. A faint smile flitted across his face at the reflection that it
would cost old Boice five or six times what he was usually willing to
pay in the _Voice_.

But Mr Boice, bending over the desk, a pencil gripped in his fingers, a
sentence or two written and crossed out on the top sheet of copy paper,
did not so much as lift his eyes. And Humphrey went on out.


8


Humphrey let himself into Mrs Henderson's front hall, closed the screen
door gently behind him, and looked about the dim interior. There
seemed to be no one in the living-room. The girls were in the kitchen,
doubtless, getting supper. Mildred had faithfully promised not to bother
cooking anything hot. He hung up his hat.

Then he saw a feminine figure up the stairs, curled on the top-step,
against the wall.

It was Corinne. She was pressing her finger to her lips and shaking her
head.

She motioned him out toward the kitchen. There he found his hostess.

'Seen Henry?' he asked. 'Old Boice fired him to-day, and he's
disappeared. Not at the rooms. And I looked in at the Y.M.C.A.'

'He's here,' said Mildred. 'A very interesting thing is happening,
Humphrey. I've always told you he was a genius.'

'But what's up?'

'We've got him upstairs at my desk. He's writing something.

I think it's a poem for Corinne.'

'A poem! But----'

'It's really quite wonderful. Now don't you go and throw cold water on
it, Humphrey.' She came over, very trim and pretty in her long apron,
her face flushed with the heat of the stove, slipped her hand through
his arm, and looked up at him. 'It's really very exciting. I haven't
seen the boy act this way for two years. He came in here, all out of
breath, and said he had to write. He didn't seem to know what. He's
quite wild I never in my life saw such concentration. It seems that he's
promised Corinne a poem.'

'Wonder what's got into him,' Humphrey mused.

Mildred returned to her salad dressing. 'Genius has got into him,' she
said, a bright little snap in her eyes. 'And it's coming out. He's been
up there nearly two hours now. Corinne's guarding. She'd kill you if you
disturbed him. She peeked in a little while ago. She says there's a lot
of it--all over the floor--and he was writing like mad. She couldn't see
any of it. As soon as he saw her he yelled at her and waved her out.'

'Hm!' said Humphrey.

'Humphrey, my dear,' said Mildred then, 'I'm really afraid we've got to
watch those two a little. Something's been happening to-day. Corinne has
gone perfectly mad over him--to-day--all of a sudden. She fretted every
minute he was away. Henry doesn't know it, but Corinne is a pretty
self-willed girl. And just now she's got her mind on him.'

She came over again, took his arm, and looked up at Humphrey. She was at
once sophisticating and confiding. There was a touch of something that,
might have been tenderness, even wistfulness, in her voice as about her
eyes.

'I've really been worrying a little about them. About Henry
particularly, for some reason.' She gave a soft little laugh, and
pressed his arm. 'They're so young, Humphrey--such green little things.
Or he is, at least. I've been impatient for you to come.'

'I got down as soon as I could,' said Humphrey, looking down at her.

'Of course, I know.'

'I've been worrying about him, too.'

When the supper was ready, Mildred made Humphrey sit at the table and
herself tiptoed up the stairs.

She came back, still on tiptoe, smiling as if at her own thoughts.

'He won't eat,' she explained. 'He's still at it. I wish you could see
my room. It's a sight.'

'Corinne coming down?'

'Not she. She won't budge from the stairs. And she flared up when I
suggested bringing up a tray. I never thought that Corinne was romantic,
but... Well, it gives us a nice little _téte-à-tête_ supper. I've made
iced coffee, Humphrey. Just dip into the salad, won't you!' After supper
they went out to the hall. Corinne, still on the top step, had switched
on the light and was sorting out a pile of loose sheets. She beckoned to
them. They came tiptoeing up the stairs.

'I can't make it out,' she whispered. 'It isn't poetry. And he doesn't
number his pages.'

'How did you ever get them?' asked Mildred.

'Went in and gathered them up. He didn't hear me. He's still at it.'

Humphrey reached for the sheets; held them to the light; read bits of
this sheet and that; found a few that went together and read them in
order; finally turned a wrinkled astonished face to the two young women.

'What is it?' they asked.

He chuckled softly. 'Well, it isn't poetry.'

'I saw that much,' Corinne murmured, rather mournfully. 'It's--wait a
minute! I couldn't believe it at first. It--no--yes, that's what it is.'

'_What!_'

Then Humphrey dropped down at Mildred's feet, and laughed, softly at
first, then with increasing vigour.

Mildred clapped her hand over his mouth and ran him down the stairs and
through into the living-room. There they dropped side by side on the
sofa and laughed until tears came.

Corinne, laughing a little herself now, but perplexed, followed them.

'Here,' said Humphrey, when he could speak, 'let's get into this.'

They moved, to the table. Humphrey spread out the pages, and skimmed
them over with a practised eye, arranging as he read.

Once he muttered, 'What on earth!' And shortly after: 'Why, the young
devil!'

'Please--' said Corinne. 'Please! I want to know what it is.',

Humphrey stacked up the sheets, and laid them on the table.

'Well,' he remarked, 'it is certainly an account of the Business Men's
Picnic. And it certainly was _not_ written for _The Weekly Voice of
Sunbury_. I'll start in a minute and read it through. But from what I've
seen---- Well, while it may be a little Kiplingesque--naturally--still
it comes pretty close to being a work of art.

'Tell you what the boy's done. He's gone at that little community outing
just about as an artistic god would have gone at it. As if he'd never
seen any of these Simpson Street folks before. Berger, the grocer, and
William F. Donovan, and Mr Wombast, and Charlie Waterhouse, and Weston
of the bank, and--and, here, the little Dutchman that runs the lunch
counter down by the tracks, and Heinie Schultz and Bill Schwartz, and
old Boice! It's a crime what he's done to Boice. If this ever appears,
Sunbury will be too small for Henry Calverly. But, oh, it's
grand writing.... He's got'em all in, their clothes, their little
mannerisms--their tricks of speech... Wait, I'll read it.'

Forty minutes later the three sat back in their chairs, weak from
laughter, each in his own way excited, aware that a real performance
was taking place, right here in the house.

'One thing I don't quite understand,' said Mildred. 'It's a lovely bit
of writing--he makes you see it and feel it--where Mr Boice and Charles
Waterhouse were around behind the lemonade stand, and Mr Waterhouse is
upset because the purse they're going to surprise him with for being
the most popular man in town isn't large enough. What _is_ all that,
anyway?'

'I know,' said Humphrey. 'I was wondering about that. It's funny as the
dickens, those two birds out there behind the lemonade stand quarrelling
about it. It's--let's see--oh, yes! And Boice says, "It won't help you
to worry, Charlie. We're doing what we can for you. But it'll take time.
And it's a chance!"... Funny!'

He lowered the manuscript, and stared at the wall. 'Hm!' he remarked
thoughtfully. 'Mildred, got any cigarettes?'

'Yes, I have, but I don't care to be mystified like this. Take one, and
tell me exactly what you're thinking.'

'I'm thinking that Bob McGibbon would give a hundred dollars for this
story as it stands, right now.'

'Why?'

'Because he's gunning for Charlie. And for Boice.'

'And what's this?'

'Evidence.' Humphrey was grave now. 'Not quite it. But warm. Very warm.'

'He's really stumbled on something. How perfectly lovely!'

'And he doesn't know it. Sees nothing but the story value of it. But it
may be serious. They'd duck him in the lake. They'd drown him.'

'But how lovely if Henry, by one stroke of his pencil, should really
puncture the frauds in this smug town.'

'There is something in that,' mused Humphrey.

'Ssh!' From Mildred.

They heard a slow step on the stairs.

A moment, and Henry appeared in the doorway. He stopped short when he
saw them. His glasses hung dangling against his shirt front. He was
coatless, but plainly didn't know it. His straight brown hair was
rumpled up on one side and down in a shock over the farther eye. He
was pale, and looked tired about the eyes. He carried more of the
manuscript.

He stared at them as if he couldn't quite make them out, or as if not
sure he had met them. Then he brushed a hand across his forehead and
slowly, rather wanly, smiled.

'I had no idea it was so late,' he said.

Mildred and Corinne fed him and petted him while Humphrey drew a big
chair into the dining-room, smoked cigarette after cigarette, and
studied the brightening, expanding youth before him. He reflected, too,
on the curious, instant responsiveness that is roused in the imaginative
woman at the first evidence of the creative impulse in a man. As if the
elemental mother were moved.

'That's probably it,' he thought. 'And it's what the boy has needed.
Martha Caldwell couldn't give it to him--never in the world! He was
groping to find it in that tough little Wilcox girl. It wouldn't do to
tell him--no, I mustn't tell him; got to steady him down all I can--but
I rather guess he's been needing a Mildred and a Corinne. These two
years.'


9

Humphrey stood up then, said he was going out for half an hour, and
picked up the manuscript from the living-room table as he passed.

He went straight to Boice's house on Upper Chestnut Avenue.

'What has all this to do with me?' asked Mr Boice, behind closed doors
in his roomy library. 'Let him write anything he likes.'

Humphrey sat back; slowly turned the pages of the manuscript.

'This,' he said, 'is a real piece of writing. It's the best picture of a
community outing I ever read in my life. It's vivid. The characters
are so real that a stranger, after reading this, could walk up Simpson
Street and call fifteen people by name. He'd know how their voices
sound, what their weaknesses are, what they're really thinking about
Sunday mornings in church. It is humour of the finest kind. But they
won't know it on Simpson Street. They'll be sore as pups, every man.
He's taken their skulls off and looked in. He's as impersonal, as cruel,
as Shakespeare.'

This sounded pretty highfalutin' to Mr Boice. He made a reflective
sound; then remarked:--

'You think the advertisers wouldn't like it,'

'They'd hate it. They'd fight. It would raise Ned in the town. But
McGibbon wouldn't mind. Or if he didn't have the nerve to print it, any
Sunday editor in Chicago would eat it alive.'

'Well, what----'

Humphrey quietly interrupted.

'Little scenes, all through. Funny as Pickwick. There really is a touch
of genius in it. Handles you pretty roughly. But they'd laugh. No doubt
about that. All sorts of scenes--you and Charlie Waterhouse behind the
lemonade stand--Bill Parker's little accident in the tug-of-war.' He
read on, to himself. But he knew that Mr Boice sat up stiffly in his
chair, with a grunt. He heard him rise, ponderously, and move down the
room; then come back.

When he spoke, Humphrey, aware of his perturbation, was moved to
momentary admiration by his apparent calmness. He sounded just as usual.

'What are you getting at?' he asked. 'You want something.'

'I want you to take Hemy back at--say, twelve a week.'

'Hm. Have him re-write this?'

'No. Henry won't be able to write another word this week. He's empty.
My idea is, Mr Boice, that you'll want to do the cutting yourself. When
you've done that, I'll pitch in on the re-write. We can get our three
columns out of it all right.'

'Hm!'

'There's one thing you may be sure of. Henry doesn't know what he's
written. No idea. It's a flash of pure genius.'

'Don't know that we've got much use for a genius on the _Voice_,'
grunted Mr Boice. 'He ought to go to Chicago or New York.'

'He will, some day.' Humphrey rose. 'Will you send for him in the
morning?'

There was a long silence. Then a sound. Then:--'Tell him to come
around.'

'Twelve a week, including this week?'

The massive yellowish-gray head inclined slowly.

'Very well, I'll tell him.'

'You can leave the manuscript here, Weaver.'

'No.' Humphrey deliberately folded it and put it in an inside pocket.
'Henry will have to give it to you himself. It's his. Good-night.'

Out on the street, Humphrey reflected, with a touch of exuberance rare
in his life:--

'We won't either of us be long on the _Voice_. Not now. But it's great
going while it lasts.'

And he wondered, with a little stir of excitement, just why that purse
wasn't enough for Charlie Waterhouse... just what old Boice knew... Why
it was a chance! Curious! Something back of it, something that McGibbon
was eternally pounding at--hinting--insinuating. Something real there;
something that might never be known.


10


Humphrey felt that the little triumph--though it might indeed prove
temporary; any victory over old Boice in Sunbury affairs was likely
to be that--called for celebrating in some special degree. He had, it
seemed, a few bottles of beer at the rooms.

So thither they adjourned; Mildred and Humphrey strolling slowly ahead,
Corinne and Henry strolling still more slowly behind.

Henry seemed fagged. At least he was quiet.

Corinne, stirred with a sympathetic interest not common to her sort of
nature, stole hesitant glances at him, even, finally, slipped her hand
through his arm.

She hung back. Mildred and Humphrey disappeared in the shadows of the
maples a block ahead.

'I suppose you're pretty tired, aren't you?' Corinne murmured.

Her voice seemed to waken him out of a dream.

'I--I--what was that? Oh--tired? Why, I don't know. Sorta.'

Her hand slipped down his forearm, within easy reach of his hand; but he
was unaware.

'I'm frightfully excited,' he said, brightening. 'If you knew what this
meant to me! Feeling like this. The Power--but you wouldn't know what
that meant. Only it lifts me up. I know I'm all right now. It's been an
awful two years. You've no idea. Drudgery. Plugging along. But I'm up
again now. I can do it any time I want. I'm free of this dam' town. They
can't hold me back now.'

'You'll do big things,' she said, a mournful note in her voice.

'I know. I feel that.'

And now she stopped short. In a shadow.

'What is it?' he asked casually. 'What's the matter?'

She glanced at his face; then down.

'Do you think you'll write--a poem?' she asked almost sullenly.

'Maybe. I don't know. It's queer--you get all stirred up inside, and
then something comes. You can't tell what it's going to be. It's as if
it came from outside yourself. You know. Spooky.'

She moved on now, bringing him with her.

'Mildred and Humphrey'll wonder where we are,' she said crossly.

Henry glanced down at her; then at the shadowy arch of maples ahead.
He wondered what was the matter with her. Girls were, of course,
notoriously difficult. Never knew their own minds. He was exultantly
happy. It had been a great day. Twelve a week now, and going up! Hump
was a good old soul.... He recalled, with a recurrence of both the
thrill and the conservatism that had come then, that he had had a great
time with Corinne in the early afternoon. Mustn't go too far with that
sort of thing, of course. But she was sure a peach. And she didn't seem
the sort that would be for ever trying to pin you down. He took her hand
now. It was great to feel her there, close beside him.'

Corinne walked more rapidly. He didn't know that she was biting her
lip. Nor did he perceive what she saw clearly, bitterly; that she
had unwittingly served a purpose in his life, which he would never
understand. And she saw, too, that the little job was, for the present,
at least, over and done with.

She stole another sidelong glance at him. He was twisting up the ends of
his moustache. And humming.



IV--THE WHITE STAR


1


|From the university clock, up in the north end of Sunbury village,
twelve slow strokes boomed out.

Henry Calverly, settled comfortably in the hammock on Mrs Arthur V.
Henderson's front porch, behind the honeysuckle vine, listened dreamily.

Beside him in the hammock was Corinne Doag.

At the corner, two houses away, a sizzing, flaring, sputtering arc lamp
gave out the only sound and the only light in the neighbourhood. Lower
Chestnut Avenue was sound asleep.

The storage battery in the modern automobile will automatically cut
itself off from the generator when fully charged. Henry's emotional,
nature was of similar construction. Corinne had overcharged him, and
automatically he cut her off.

The outer result of this action and reaction was a rather bewildering
quarrel.

Early in the present evening, shortly after Humphrey Weaver and Mrs
Henderson left the porch for a little ramble to the lake--'Back in a few
minutes,' Mildred had remarked--the quarrel had been made up. Neither
could have told how. Each felt relieved to be comfortably back on a
hammock footing.

Henry, indeed, was more than relieved. He was quietly exultant. The
thrill of conquest was upon him. It was as if she were an enemy whom he
had defeated and captured. He was experiencing none of the sensations
that he supposed were symptoms of what is called love. Yet what he
was experiencing was pleasurable. He could even lie back here and think
coolly about it, revel in it.

Corinne's head stirred.

'That was midnight,' she murmured.

'What of it?'

'I suppose I ought to be thinking about going in.'

'I don't see that your chaperon's in such a rush.'

'I know. They've been hours. They might have walked around to the
rooms.'

Henry was a little shocked at the thought.

'Oh, no,' he remarked. 'They'd hardly have gone _there_--without us.'

'Mildred would if she wanted to. It has seemed to me lately...'

'What?'

'I don't know--but once or twice--as if she might be getting a little
too fond of Humphrey.'

'Oh'--there was concern in Henry's voice--'do you think so?'

'I wonder if you know just how fascinating that man is, Henry.'

'He's never been with girls--not around here. You've no idea--he just
lives with his books, and in his shop.'

'Perhaps that's why,' said she. 'Partly. Mildred ought to be careful.'

Henry, soberly considering this new light on his friend, looked off
toward the corner.

He sat up abruptly.

'Henry' For goodness' sake! Ouch--my hair!'

'Ssh! Look--that man coming across! Wait. There now--with a suit-case!'

'Oh, Henry, you scared me! Don't be silly. He's way out in... Henry! How
awful! It _is!_'

'What'll we do?'

'I don't know. Get up. Sit over there,' She was working at her hair; she
smoothed her 'waist,' and pulled out the puff sleeves.

The man came rapidly nearer. His straw hat was tipped back. They could
see the light of a cigar. A mental note of Henry's was that Arthur V.
Henderson had been a football player at the state university. And a
boxer. Even out of condition he was a strong man.

'Quick--think of something to tell him! It'll have to be a lie.
Henry--_think!_'

Then, as he stood motionless, helpless, she got up, thrust his hat and
bamboo stick into his hands, and led him on tiptoe around the corner of
the house.

'We've got to do something. Henry, for goodness' sake--'

'We've got to find her, I think.'

'I know it. But----'

'If she came in with Hump, and he--you know, this time' of night--why,
something awful might happen. There might be murder. Mr Henderson----'

'Don't talk such stuff! Keep your head. Well--he's coming! Here!'

She gripped his hand, dragged him down the side steps, and ran lightly
with him out past the woodshed to the alley. They walked to the side
street and, keeping in the shadows, out to the Chestnut Avenue corner.
From this spot they commanded the house.

Mr Henderson had switched on lights in front hall, dining-room, and
kitchen. The parlour was still dark. Next he had gone upstairs, for
there were lights in the upper windows. After a brief time he appeared
in the front doorway. He lighted a fresh cigar, then opened the screen
door and came out on the porch. He stood there, looking up and down the
street. Then he seated himself on the top step, elbows on knees, like a
man thinking.

'Henry!'

'Yes.'

'Listen! You go over to the rooms and see.'

'But they might be down at the lake.'

'Not all this time. Mildred doesn't like sitting on beaches. If you find
them, bring her back. We'll go in together, she and I. We'll patch up a
story. It's all right. Just keep your head.'

'What'll you do?'

'Wait here.'

'I don't like to leave you.'

'You'll see me again.'

'I know, but----'

'Well... Now hurry!'


2


The old barn was dark.

'Hm!' mused Henry, pulling at his soft little moustache. 'Hm! Certainly
aren't here. Take a look though.'

With his latch-key he softly opened the alley door; felt his way through
machinery and belting to the stairs. At the top he stood a moment,
peering about for the electric switch. He hadn't lived here long enough
to know the place as he had come to know his old room in Wilcox's
boarding-house.

A voice--Humphrey's--said:--

'Don't turn the light on.' Then, 'Is it you, Hen?'

There they were--over in the farther window-seat--sitting very still,
huddled together--a mere faint shape against the dim outside light. He
felt his way around the centre table, toward them.

'Looking for you,' he said. His voice was husky. There was a throbbing
in his temples. And he was curiously breathless.

He stood. It was going to be hard to tell them. He hadn't thought of
this; had just rushed over here, headlong.

'I suppose it's pretty late,' said Mildred. There was a dreamy quality
in her voice that Henry had not heard there before. He stood silent.

'Well'--Humphrey's voice had the dry, even slightly acid quality that
now and then crept into it--'anything special, Hen? Here we are!'

Henry cleared his throat. That huskiness seemed unconquerable. And his
over-vivid imagination was playing fantastic tricks on him. Hideous
little pictures, very clear. Wives murdering husbands; husbands
murdering lovers; dragged-out, soul-crushing scenes in dingy,
high-ceiled court-rooms.

Humphrey got up, drew down the window shade behind Mrs Henderson, and
turned on the light. She shielded her eyes with a slim hand.

Henry, staring at her, felt her littleness; paused in the rush of his
thoughts to dwell on it. She looked prettier to-night, too. The softness
that had been in her voice was in her face as well, particularly about
the half-shadowed mouth. She was always pretty, but in a trim, neat,
brisk way. Now, curled up there in the window-seat, her feet under
her very quiet', she seemed like a little girl that you would have to
protect from the world and give toys to.

Henry, to his own amazement--and chagrin--covered his face and sobbed.

'Good lord!' said Humphrey. 'What's all this? What's the matter?'

The long silence that followed was broken by Mildred. Still shielding
her eyes, without stirring, she asked, quietly:--

'Has my husband come home?'

Henry nodded.

'Where's Corinne?'

'She--she's waiting on the corner, in case you....

Mildred moved now; dropped her chin into her hand, pursed her lips a
little, seemed to be studying out the pattern of the rug.

'Did he--did he see either of you?'

Henry shook his head.

Mildred pressed a finger to her lips.

'We mustn't leave Corinne waiting out there,' she said.

Humphrey dropped down beside her and took her hand. His rather sombre
gaze settled on her face and hair. Thus they sat until, slowly, she
raised her head and looked into his eyes. Then his lips framed the
question:--

'Stay here?'

Her eyes widened a little, and slowly filled. She gave him her other
hand. But she shook her head.

A little later he said.

'Come then, dear. We'll go down there.'

From the top of the stairs he switched on a light in the shop. Mildred,
very palet went down. Henry was about to follow. But he saw Humphrey
standing, darting glances about the room, softly snapping his bony
fingers. The long, swarthy face was wrinkled into a scowl. His eyes
rested on Henry. He gave a little sigh; threw out his hands.

'It's--it's the limit!' he whispered. 'You see--my hat....'

That seemed to be all he could say. His face was twisted with emotion.
His mouth even moved a little. But no sound came.

Henry stood waiting. At the moment his surging, uncontrollable emotion
took the form of embarrassment. It seemed to him that in this crisis
he ought to be polite toward his friend. But they couldn't stand here
indefinitely without speaking. There was need, particular need, of
politeness toward Mildred Henderson. So, mumbling, he followed her
downstairs and out through the shop to the deserted alley.

Then they went down to Chestnut Avenue. Mildred and Humphrey were
silent, Walking close together, arm in arm. Henry, in some measure
recovered from his little breakdown, or relieved by it, tried to make
talk. He spoke of the stillness of the night. He said, 'It's the only
time I like the town--after midnight. You don't have to see the people
then.'

Then, as they offered no reply, he too fell still.

Corinne, when they found her leaning against a big maple, was in a
practical frame of mind.

'There he is,' she whispered. 'Been sitting right there all the time.
This is his third cigar. Now listen, Mildred. I've figured it all out.
No good in letting ourselves get excited. It's all right. You and I will
walk up with Henry. Just take it for granted that you've been down to
the lake with us. We needn't even explain.'

Mildred, still nestling close to Humphrey's arm, seemed to be looking at
her.

Then they heard her draw in her breath rather sharply, and her hand
groped up toward Humphrey's shoulder.

'Wait!' she said breathlessly. 'I can't go in there now. Not right now.
Wait a little. I can't!'

Humphrey led her away into the shadows.

Corinne looked at Henry. 'Hm!' she murmured--'serious!'

The university clock struck one.

Again Henry felt that pressure in the temples and dryness in the throat.
His thoughts, most of them, were whirling again. But one corner of his
mind was thinking clearly, coldly:--

'This is the real thing. Drama! Life! Maybe tragedy! And I'm seeing it!
I'm in it, part of it!'


3


Corinne was peering into the shadows.

'Where'd they go?' she said. 'We've got to find them. This thing's
getting worse every minute.'

Mildred and Humphrey were sitting on a horse block, side by side, very
still. It was in front of the B. L. Ames place. Corinne stood over them.
But Henry hung back; leaned weakly against a tree.

The Ames place brought up memories of other years and other girls. An
odd little scene had occurred here, with Clemency Snow, on one of the
lawn seats. And a darker mass of shadow in the gnarled, low-spreading
oak, over by the side fence, was a well-remembered platform with seats
and a ladder to the ground. Ernestine Lambert had been the girl with him
up there.

Two long years back! He was eighteen then--a mere boy, with illusions
and dreams. He wasn't welcome to Mary Ames's any more. She didn't
approve of him. Her mother, too. And he had sunk into a rut of
small-town work on Simpson Street. They weren't fair to him. He didn't
drink; smoked almost none; let the girls alone more than many young
fellows--in spite of a few little things. If he had money... of course.
You had to have money.

He felt old. And drab of spirit. Those little affairs, even the curious
one with Clem Snow, had been, it seemed now, on a higher plane of
feeling than this present one with Corinne. Life had been at the spring
then, the shrubs dew-pearled, God in his Heaven. And the affair with
Ernestine had not been so little. It had shaken him. He wondered where
Ernie was now. They hadn't written for a year and a half. And Clem was
Mrs Jefferson Jenkins, very rich (Jeff Jenkins was in a bond house on
La Salle Street) living in Chicago, on the Lake Shore Drive, intensely
preoccupied with a girl baby. People--women and girls--said it was a
beautiful baby. Girls were gushy.

He pressed a hand to his eyes. Corinne was right; the situation was
getting worse every minute. During one or two of the minutes, while his
memory was active, it had seemed like an unpleasant dream from which he
would shortly waken. But it wasn't a dream. He felt again the tension
of it. It was a tension that might easily become unbearable. First thing
they knew the university clock would be striking two. He began listening
for it; trying absurdly to strain his ears.

He had recently seen Minnie Maddem play _Tess of the D'Urbervilles_, and
had experienced a painful tension much like this--a strain too great for
his sensitive imagination. He had covered his face. And he hadn't gone
back for the last act.

But there was to be no running out of this.

'Well,' said Corinne, almost briskly, 'we're not getting anywhere.'

Humphrey threw out his hand irritably.

'Just--just wait a little,' he said. 'Can't you see....'

'It's past one.'

Corinne's manner jarred a little on all three of the others. Mildred
seemed to sink even closer toward Humphrey.

Henry felt another sob coming. Desperately he swallowed it down.

Humphrey, holding Mildred's head against his shoulder, looked up at
Corinne. His face was not distinctly visible; but he seemed to be
studying the tall, easy-going, unexpectedly practical girl.

'I don't think you understand,' he finally said. 'It's very, very
awkward. My hat is in there.'

'Where?'

'In the parlour. On the piano, I think.'

'I don't think he lighted the parlour. We three can go up just the same.
Now listen. Henry can leave his hat here with you, and get yours when he
comes away.'

'It has my initials in it,' said Humphrey.

Corinne walked on the grass to the corner; came swiftly back.

'Well,' she remarked dryly, 'he's been in there. The parlour's lighted.'

Mildred stirred. 'Please!' she murmured. 'Just give me a minute or two.
I'm going with you.'

'Suppose,' said Corinne, 'he _has_ seen the initials.'

Mildred's eyes sought Humphrey's. For a long instant, her head back
on his shoulder, she gazed at him with an intensity that Henry had not
before seen on a woman's face. It was as if she had forgotten himself
and Corinne. And then Humphrey's arm tightened about her, as if he, too,
had forgotten every one and everything else.

Henry had to turn away.

He walked to the corner. Neither Humphrey nor Mildred knew whether he
went or stayed. Corinne was frowning down at them; thinking desperately.

Henry stared at the house, at the dim solitary figure on the top step,
at the little red light of the cigar that came and went with the puffs.

Henry was breathing hard. His face was burning hot. He hated conflicts,
fights; hated them so deeply, felt so inadequate when himself
involved, that emotion usually overcame him. Therefore he fought rather
frequently, and, on occasions, rather effectively. Emotion will win a
fight as often as reason.

He considered getting Humphrey to one side, making him listen to reason.
He dwelt on the phrase. The mere thought of Mildred being driven back
into that house, into the hands of her legal husband, stirred that
tendency to sob. He set his teeth on it. They could take her back to
the rooms. He would move out. For that matter, if it would save her
reputation, they could both move out. At once. But would it save her
reputation?

He took off his hat; pressed a hand to his forehead; then fussed with
his little moustache. Then, as a new thought was born in his brain, born
of his emotions, he gave a little start. He looked back at the shadowy
group about the Ames's horse block. Apparently they hadn't moved. He
looked at his shoes, tennis shoes with rubber soles.

He laid hat and stick on the ground by a tree; went little way up the
street, past the circle of the corner light and slipped across; moved
swiftly, keeping on the grass, around to the alley, came in at the
Henderson's back gate, made his way to the side steps.

There was a door here that led into an entry. There were doors to
kitchen and dining-room on right and left, and the back stairs. Henry
knew the house. Kitchen and dining-room were both dark now, but the
lights were on in parlour and hall.

He got the screen door open without a sound and felt his way into and
through the dining-room. It seemed to him that there were a great many
chairs in that diningroom. His shins bumped them. They met his outspread
hands. Between this room and the parlour the sliding doors were shut.

He stood a moment by these doors, wondering if Arthur V. Henderson was
still sitting on the top step with his back to the front screen door.
Probably. He couldn't very well move without some noise. But it would be
impossible to see him out there, with the parlour light on.

'Deliberately, with extreme caution, her slid back one of the doors.
It rumbled a little. He waited, keeping back in the dark, and listened.
There was no sound from the porch.

The piano stood against the side wall, near the front. On it lay
Humphrey's straw hat. Any one by merely looking into it could have seen
the initials. And the man on the steps had only to turn his head and
look in through the bay window to see piano, hat, and any one who stood
near, any one, in fact, in that diagonal half of the room.

Henry held his breath and stepped in, nearly to the centre of the room.
Here he hesitated.

Then beginning slowly, not unlike the sound of a wagon rolling over a
distant bridge, a rumbling fell on his ears. It grew louder. It ended in
a little bang.


4


Henry glanced behind him. The sliding door had closed. There was a
scuffling of feet on the steps.

Henry reached up and switched off the electric lamp in the chandelier.

Then he stepped forward, found the piano, felt along the top, closed his
fingers on the hat, and stood motionless. His first thought was that he
would probably be shot.

There were steps on the porch. The front door opened and closed. Mr
Henderson was standing in the hall now, but not in the parlour doorway.
Probably just within the screen door. The hall light put him at a
disadvantage; and he couldn't turn it out without crossing that parlour
doorway.

'Who's there!' Mr Henderson's voice was quiet enough. It sounded tired,
and nervous. 'Come out o' there quick! Whoever you are!'

Henry was silent. He wasn't particularly frightened. Not now. He even
felt some small relief. But he was confronted with some difficulty in
deciding what he ought to do.

'Come out O' there!'

Then Henry replied: 'All right.' And came to the hall doorway.

Mr Henderson was leaning a little forward, fists clenched, ready for a
spring. He still had the cigar in his mouth. But he dropped back now and
surveyed the youth who stood, white-faced, clasping a straw hat tightly
under his left arm. He seemed to find it difficult to speak; shifted the
cigar about his mouth with mobile lips. He even thrust his hands into
his pockets and looked the youth up and down.

'I came for this hat,' said Henry. 'It was on the piano.'

Still Mr Henderson's eyes searched him up, and down. Eyes that would
be sleepy again as soon as this little surprise was over. And they
were red, with puffs under them. He was a tall man, with big athletic
shoulders and deep chest, but with signs of a beginning corpulence, the
physical laxity that a good many men fall into who have been athletes in
their teens and twenties but are now getting on into the thirties.

It was understood here and there in Sunbury that he had times of
drinking rather hard. Indeed, the fact had been dwelt on by one or two
tolerant or daring souls who ventured to speak a word for his wife. She
had always quickly and willingly given her services as pianist at local
entertainments. Perhaps because, with all her brisk self-possession, she
must have been hungry for friends. She played exceptionally well, with
some real style and with an almost perverse touch of humour. She was
quick, crisp, capable. She disliked banality. To the initiated her
playing of Chopin was a joy. The sentimentalists said that she had
technique but no feeling. She could really play Bach. And I think
she was the most accomplished accompanist that ever lived in Sunbury;
certainly the best within my memory.

'Say'--thus Mr Henderson now--'you're Henry Calverly, aren't you?'

'Yes.'

'Well, I'd like to know what you're doing here.'

'I told you. I came for this hat.'

'Your hat?'

'Didn't you see the initials?'

'No. I noticed the hat there. Why didn't you come in the front way?
What's all this burglar business?'

Henry didn't answer.

'I'll have to ask you to answer that question. You seem to forget that
this is my house.'

'No, I don't forget that.'

Mr Henderson took out his cigar; turned it in his fingers. Colour came
to his face. He spoke abruptly, in a suddenly rising voice.

'Seems to me there's some mighty queer goings-on around here. Sneaking
in at two in the morning!'

'It isn't two in the morning.'

'Dam' near it.'

'It isn't half-past one. I tell you----' Henry paused.

His position seemed rather weak.

Mr Henderson studied his cigar again. He drew a cigar case from an
inside pocket.

'I don't know's I offered you one,' he said. He almost muttered it.

'I don't smoke,' said Henry shortly.

Mr Henderson resumed the excited tone. It was curious coming in that
jumpy way. Even Henry divined the weakness back of it and grew calmer.

'I've been out on----' He paused. Mildred had trained him not to use the
phrase, 'on the road.' He resumed with, '--on a business trip. More'n a
month. I swan, I'm tired out. Way trains and country hotels. Fierce!
If I seem nervous.... Look here, you seem pretty much at home! Perhaps
you'll tell me where my wife is!'

Henry considered this. Shook his head.

'Trying to make me think you don't know, eh!'

'I do know.'

Mr Henderson knit his brows over this. Then, instead of immediately
pressing the matter, he took out a fresh cigar and lighted it with the
butt of the old one.

'Seems to me you ought to tell me,' he said then.

'I can't.'

'That's queer, ain't it?'

'Well, it's true. I can't.'

'She wrote me that she had Corinne Doag visiting here.'

'Yes. She's here.'

'With my wife? Now?'

Henry bowed. He felt confused, and more than a little tired. And he
disliked this man, deeply. Found him depressing. But outwardly--he
didn't himself dream this--he presented a picture of austere dignity. An
effect that was intensified, if anything, by his youth.

'Anybody else with her and Corinne?'

Henry bowed again.

'A man?'

'Yes.' Henry was finding him disgusting now. But he must be extremely
careful. An unnecessary word might hurt Mildred or Humphrey. Good old
Hump!

Mr Henderson turned the fresh cigar round and round, looking intently at
it. In a surprisingly quiet manner he asked:--

'Why doesn't she come home?'

Henry looked at the man. Anger swelled within him.

'Because you're here?' He bit the sentence off.

He felt stifled. He wanted to run out, past the man, and breathe in the
cool night air.

Mr Henderson looked up, then down again at the cigar. Then he pushed
open the screen door.

'May as well sit down and talk this over,' he said. 'Cooler on the
porch. Dam' queer line o' talk. You're young, Calverly. You don't know
life. You don't understand these things. My God! When I think... Well,
what is it? You seem to be in on this. Speak out! Tell me what she
wants. That's one thing about me--I'm straight out. Fair and square.
Give and take. I'm no hand for beating about the bush. Come on with it.
What does she think I ought to do?'

'I can't tell you what she thinks.' Henry was downright angry now.

'Oh, yes! It's easy for you! You haven't been through...' His face
seemed to be working. And his voice had a choke in it. 'But how could
a kid like you understand I How could you know the way you get tied
up and... all the little things... My God, man! It hurts. Can you
understand that. It's tough.' He subsided. Finally, after a long
silence, he said huskily but quietly, with resignation, 'You'd say I
ought to go.'

Henry was silent.

Mr Henderson got up.

'I guess I know how to be a sport,' he said.

He went into the house, and in a few minutes returned with his
suit-case.

'It's--it's sorta like leaving things all at loose ends,' he remarked.
'But then--of course...'

He went down two or three steps; then paused and looked up at Henry, who
had risen now.

'You'--his voice was husky again--'you staying here?'

'No,' said Henry; and walked a way up the street with him.

Mr Henderson said, rather stiffly, that the hot spell really seemed
to be over. Been fierce. Especially through Iowa and Missouri. No lake
breeze, or anything like that. Muggy all the time. That was the thing
here in Sunbury--the lake breeze.'


5


They were still in front of the Ames place. But Mildred had risen. They
stood watching him as he came, carrying the hat.

'Where on earth have you been?' asked Corinne.

Henry met with difficulty in replying. He was embarrassed, caught in an
uprush of self-consciousness. He couldn't see why there need be talk. He
gave Humphrey his hat.

'How'd you get this?'

'In there.'

'You went in?' This from Mildred. He felt her eyes on him.

'Yes.'

'But you--you must have...'

'He's gone.'

'Gone!'

'Yes.'

'But where?'

'I don't know.'

'What did you tell him?' asked Corinne sharply'.

'Nothing. I don't think I did. Nothing much.'

'But what?'

'Well, he acted funny. I wouldn't tell him where Mildred was. Then he
asked why you didn't come home and I said because he was there.'

Mildred and Corinne looked at each other.

'But what made him go?' asked Corinne.

'I don't know. He wanted to know what you wanted him to do, Mildred. Of
course I couldn't say anything to that. And then he said he guessed he
knew how to be a sport, and went and got his suit-case.'

'Hope he had sense enough not to go to the hotel,' Corinne mused, aloud.
'They'd talk so.'

'There's a train back to Chicago at two-something,' said Humphrey.

They moved slowly toward the house. At the steps they paused.

The university clock struck two.

They listened. The reverberations of the second stroke died out. The
maple leaves overhead rustled softly. From the beach, a block away, came
the continuous low sound of little waves on shelving sand. The great
lake that washes and on occasions threatens the shore at Sunbury had
woven, from Henry's birth, a strand of colour in the fibre of his being.
He felt the lake as deeply as he felt the maples and oaks of Sunbury;
memories of its bars of crude' wonderful colour at sunset and sunrise,
of its soft mists, its yellow and black November storms, its reaches of
glacier-like ice-hills in winter, of moonlit evenings with a girl on the
beach when the romance of youth shimmered in boundless beautiful mystery
before half-closed eyes--these were an ever-present element in the
undefined, moody ebb and flow of impulse, memory, hope, desire and
spasmodic self-restraint that Henry would have referred to, if at all,
as his mind.

'It's late enough,' said Corinne, with a little laugh.

Mildred turned away, placed a tiny foot on the bottom step, sighed, then
murmured, very low, 'Hardly worth while going in.'

'Let's not,' muttered Humphrey.

'Listen.' Thus Corinne. She was leaning against the railing, with an
extraordinarily graceful slouch. She had never looked so pretty, Henry
thought. A little of the corner light reached her face, illuminating
her velvet clear skin and shining on her blue black hair where it curved
over her forehead. She made you think of health and of wild things. And
she could, even at this time, earn her living. There was an offer now to
tour the country forty weeks with a lyceum concert company. The letter
had come to-day; Henry had seen it. She thought she wouldn't accept.
Her idea was another year to study, then two or three years abroad and,
possibly, a start in the provincial opera companies of Italy, Austria,
and Germany. Yes, she had character of the sort that looks coolly ahead
and makes deliberate plans. Despite her wide, easy-smiling mouth and her
great languorous black eyes and her lazy ways, eyen Henry could now see
this strength in her face, in its solid, squared-up framework. More than
any girl Henry had ever known she could do what she chose. Men pursued
her, of course. All the time. There were certain extremely persistent
ones. And it came quietly through, bit by bit, that she knew them pretty
well, knocked around the city with them, as she liked. But now she had
chosen himself. No doubt about it.

She said:--

'Listen. Let's go down to the shore and watch for the sunrise. We
couldn't sleep a wink after--after this--anyway.'

'Nobody'd ever know,' breathed Mildred.

Humphrey took her arm. They moved slowly down the walk toward the
street.

Corinne, still leaning there, looked at Henry.

He reached toward her, but she evaded him and waltzed slowly away over
the grass, humming a few bars of the _Myosotis_.

Henry's eyes followed her. He felt the throbbing again in his temples,
and his cheeks burned. He compressed his lips. He moved after her. He
was in a state of all but ungovernable excitement, but the elation
of two hours back had gone, flattened out utterly. He felt deeply
uncomfortable. It was the sort of ugly moment in which he couldn't have
faced himself in a looking-glass. For Henry had such moments, when,
painfully bewildered by the forces that nature implants in the
vigorously young, he loathed himself. Life opened, a black precipice,
before him, yet Life, in other guise, drove him on. As if intent on his
destruction.

He hung back; let Corinne glide on just ahead of him, still slowing
revolving, swaying, waltzing to the soft little tune she was so
musically humming. He wanted to watch her; however great his discomfort
of the spirit, to exult in her physical charm.

On the earlier occasion when she had overtaxed his emotional capacity he
had got out of it by using the forces she stirred in him as a stimulant.
But now he wasn't stimulated. Not, at least, in that way. His spirit
seemed to be dead. Only his body was alive. All the excitement of the
evening had played with cumulative force on his nerves. He had arrived
at an emotional crisis; and was facing it sullenly but unresistingly.

The picture of Mildred and Humphrey lost in each other's gaze--in the
window-seat at the rooms, on the Ames's horse block--kept coming up in
his mind. He could see them in the flesh, walking on ahead, arm in arm,
but still more vividly he could see them as they had been before he
went back to Mildred's house. He knew that love had come to them. He
wondered, trembling with the excitement of the mere thought, how it
would seem to live through that miracle. No such magic had fallen upon
him.. Not since the days of Ernestine. And that had been pretty youthful
business. This matter of Corinne was quite different. He sighed. Then he
hurried up to her, gripped her arm, walked close beside her.

At the beach they paired off as a matter of course. Henry and Corinne
sat in the shadow of a breakwater. Humphrey and Mildred walked on to
another breakwater.

Corinne made herself comfortable with her head resting on Henry's arm.

He was thinking, 'Sort of thing you dream of without ever expecting it
really. Ain't a fellow' in town that wouldn't envy me.' But gloom was
settling over his spirit like a fog. It seemed to him that he ought
to be whispering skilful little phrases, close to her ear. He couldn't
think of any.

He bent over her face; looked into it; smoothed her dusky hair away
from her temples.

He began humming: 'I arise from dreams of thee.' She picked it up, very
softly, in a floating, velvety pianissimo.

His own voice died out. He couldn't sing.

He felt almost despondent. What was the matter with him! Time passed.
Now and then she hummed other songs--bits of Schumann and Franz.
Schubert's _Serenade_ she sang through.

'Sing with me,' she murmured.

He shook his head. 'Sometimes I feel like singing, and sometimes I
don't.'

'Don't I make you feel like singing, Henry?'

'Oh yes, sure!'

'You're a moody boy, Henry.'

'Oh yes, I'm moody.'

She closed her eyes. He watched the dim vast lake for a while; then
finding her almost limp in his arms, bent again over her face. 'I'm
a fool,' he thought. He could have sobbed again. He bit his lip. Then
kissed her. It was the first moment he had been able to. Her hand
slipped over his shoulder; her arm tightened about his neck.

Abruptly he stopped; raised his head, a bitter question in his eyes.


6


A faint light was creeping over the bowl-like sky. And a fainter colour
was spreading upward from the eastern horizon. The thousands of night
stars had disappeared, leaving only one, the great star of the morning.
It sent out little points of light, like the Star of the East in Sunday
school pictures. It seemed to stir with white incandescence.

Henry straightened up; gently placed Corinne against the breakwater;
covered his face.

She considered him from under lowered eyelids. Her face was
expressionless. She didn't smile. And she wasn't singing now. She
smoothed out her skirt, rather deliberately and thoughtfully.

'Think of it!' Henry broke out with a shudder. 'It's a dreadful thing
that's happened!'

'It might be,' said Corinne very quietly, 'if Arthur didn't have the
sense to take that train.'

'And we're sitting here as if----'

'Listen! What on earth made you go back to the house?'

'I can't tell you. I don't know. I _had_ to.'

'Hm! You certainly did it. You're not lacking courage, Henry.'

He said nothing to this. He didn't feel brave.

'Mildred was foolish. She shouldn't have let herself get so stirred up.
She ought to have gone back.'

'How can you say that! Don't you see that she _couldn't_!'

'Yes, I saw that she couldn't. But it was a mistake.' Henry was up on
his knees, now, digging sand and throwing it.

'It was love,' he said hotly--'real love.'

'It's a wreck,' said she.

'It can't be. If they love each other!'

'This town won't care how much they love each other. And there are other
things. Money.'

'Bah! What's money!'

'It's a lot. You've got to have it.'

'Haven't you any ideals, Corinne?'

She reflected. Then said, 'Of course.' And added: 'She had Arthur where
she wanted him. That's why he went away, of course. He thought she'd
caught him. Now she's lost her head and let him get away. Dished
everything. No telling what he'll do when he finds out.'

'He mustn't find out.' Henry was not aware of any inconsistency within
himself.

'He will if she's going to lose her head like this. There are some
things you have to stand in this world. One of the things Mildred had to
stand was a husband.'

'But how could she go back to him--to-night--feeling this way?'

'She should have.'

'You're cynical.'

'I'm practical. Do you want her to go through a divorce, and then marry
Humphrey? That'll take money. It's a luxury. For rich folks.'

'Don't say such things, Corinne!'

'Why not. She's made the break with Arthur. Now the next thing's got to
happen. What's it to be?'

Henry got to his feet. He gazed a long time at the morning star.

The university clock struck three.

Henry shivered..

'Come,' he said. 'Let's get back.' It didn't occur to him to help her
up.

The four of them lingered a few moments at Mildred's door. Humphrey
finally led Mildred in. For a last goodnight, plainly.

Corinne smiled at Henry. It was an odd, slightly twisted smile.

'After all,' she murmured, 'there's no good in taking things too
seriously.'

He threw out his hands.

'You think I'm hard,' she said, still with that smile.

'Don't! Please!'

'Well--good-night. Or good-morning.'

She gave him her hand. He took it. It gripped his firmly, lingeringly.
He returned the pressure; coloured; gripped her hand hotly; moved toward
her, then sprang away and dropped her hand.

'Why--Henry!'

'I'm sorry. I don't know what's the matter with me. I was looking at
that star----'

'I saw you looking at it.'

'I was thinking how white it was. And bright. And so far away. As if
there wasn't any use trying to reach it. And then--oh, I don't know--Mr
Henderson made me blue, the way he looked to-night. And Humphrey and
Mildred--the awful fix they're in. And you and me--I just can't tell
you!'

'You're telling me plainly enough,' she said wearily.

'Do you ever hate, yourself?'

She didn't answer this. Or look up.

'Did you ever feel that you might turn out just--oh well, no good? Mr
Henderson made me think that.'

'He isn't much good,' said she.

'As if your life wasn't worth making anything out of? Your friends
ashamed of you? They talk about me here now. And I haven't been bad. Not
yet. Just one or two little things.'

Her lips formed the words, in the dark, 'You're not bad.'

Then she said, rather sharply: 'Don't stand there looking like a whipped
dog, Henry.'

'I'll go,' he said; and turned.

'You re the strangest person I ever knew,' she said. 'Maybe you _are_
a genius. Considering that Mildred completely lost her nerve, your
handling of Arthur came pretty near being it. I wonder.'

Humphrey and Mildred came out.

She came straight to him; gave him both her hands. 'You've settled
everything for us. Humphrey, I want to kiss Henry. I'm going to.'

Henry received the kiss like an image. Then he and Humphrey went away
together into the dawn.

'No good going to the rooms now,' Humphrey remarked. 'Let's walk the
beach.'

Henry nodded dismally.


7


The sky out over the lake was a luminous vault of deep rose shading
off into the palest pink. The flat surface of the water, as far as they
could see, was like burnished metal.

Henry flung out a trembling arm.

'Look!' he said huskily. 'That star.'

It was still incandescent, still radiating its little points of light.

'Hump,' he said, a choke in his voice--'I'm shaken. I'm beginning life
again to-night, to-day.'

'I'm shaken too, Hen. The real thing has come. At last. It's got me.
It'll be a fight, of course. But we're going through with it. I want
you to come to know her better, Hen. Even you--you don't know. She's
wonderful. She's going to help with my work in the shop, help me do the
real things, creative work, get away from grubbing jobs.'

It was a moment of flashing insight for Henry. He couldn't reply;
couldn't even look at his friend. His misgivings were profound. Yet the
thing was done. Humphrey's life had taken irrevocably a new course.
No good even wasting regrets on it. So he fell, in a tumbling rush of
emotion, to talking about himself.

'I'm beginning again. I--I let go a little. Hump, I can't do it.
It's too strong for me. I go to pieces. You don't know. I've got to
fight--all the time. Do the things I used to do--make myself work hard,
hard. Keep accounts. Every penny. Leave girls alone. It means grubbing.

I can't bear to think of it.' He spread out his hands. 'In some ways it
seems to help to let go. You know--stirs me. Brings the Power. Makes me
want to write, create things. But it's too much like burning the candle
at both ends.'

Humphrey got out his old cob pipe, and carefully scraped it.

'That's probably just what it is,' he remarked.

'Oh, Hump, what is it makes us feel this way! You know--girls, and all
that.'

Humphrey lighted his pipe.

'You don't know how it makes me feel to see you and Mildred. Just the
way she looks. And you. Corinne and I don't look like that. We were
flirting. I didn't mean it. She didn't, either. It's been beastly. But
still it didn't seem beastly all the time.'

'It wasn't,' said Humphrey, between puffs. 'Don't be too hard on
yourself. And you haven't hurt Corinne. She likes you. But just the
same, she's only flirting. She'd never give up her ambitions for you.'

'There's something I want to feel. Something wonderful. I've been
thinking of it, looking at that star. I want to love like--like that. Or
nothing.'

Humphrey leaned on the railing over the beach, and smoked reflectively.
The rose tints were deepening into scarlet and gold. The star was
fading.

'Hen,' said Humphrey, speaking out of a sober reverie, 'I don't know
that I've ever seen anybody reach a star. Our lives, apparently, are
passed right here on this earth.'

Henry couldn't answer this. But he felt himself in opposition to it. His
hands were clenched at his side.

'I begin my life to-day,' he thought.

But back of this' determination, like a dark current that flowed
silently but irresistibly out of the mists of time into the mists of
other time, he dimly, painfully knew that life, the life of this earth,
was carrying him on. And on. As if no resolution mattered very much. As
if you couldn't help yourself, really.

He set his mouth. And thrust out his chin a little. He had not read
Henley's _Invictus_. It would have helped him, could he have seen it
just then.

'Let's walk,' he said.

They breakfasted at Stanley's.

Here there was a constant clattering of dishes and a smell of food.
People drifted in and out--men who worked along Simpson Street, and a
few family groups--said 'Good-morning. Looks like a warm day.' Picked
their teeth. Paid their checks to Mrs Stanley at the front table, or had
their meal tickets punched.

They walked slowly up the street as far as the Sunbury House corner, and
crossed over to the _Voice_ office. Each glanced soberly at the hotel as
they passed.

They went in through the railing that divided front and rear offices.
Humphrey took off his coat and dropped into his swivel chair before
the roll-top desk. Henry took off his and dropped on the kitchen chair
before the littered pine table. Jim Smith, the foreman, came in, his
bare arms elaborately tattooed, chewing tobacco, and told 'a new one,'
sitting on the corner of Henry's table. Henry sat there, pale of face,
toying with a pencil, and wincing.

After Jim had gone, Henry sat still, gazing at the pencil, wondering
weakly if the rough stuff of life was too much for him.

He glanced over toward the desk. Humphrey, pipe in mouth, was already
at work. Hump had the gift of instant concentration. Even this morning,
after all that had happened, he was hard at it. Though he had something
to work for.

A sob was near. Henry had to close his eyes for a moment. His sensitive
lips quivered.

Humphrey would be, seeing his Mildred again at the close of the
day. Henry found himself entertaining the possibility of crawling
shamefacedly around to Corinne.

Then he sat up stiffly. Felt in one pocket after another until he found
a little red account-book. He hadn't made an entry for a week. Before
Corinne came into his life he hadn't missed an entry for nearly two
years.

He sat staring at it, pencil in hand.

His mouth set again.

He wrote:--

'Bkfst. Stanleys... 20c.'

He slipped the book into his pocket; compressed his lips for an instant;
then reached for a wad of copy paper.

And gave a little sigh of relief. It was to be a long, perhaps an
endless battle with self. But he had started.



V--TIGER, TIGER!


1


|Miss Amelia Dittenhoefer was a figure in Sunbury. She had taught two
generations of its young in the old Filbert Avenue school. And during
more than ten years, since relinquishing that task, she had supplied
the 'Society,' 'Church Doings,' 'Woman's Realm,' and 'Personal Mention'
departments of the _Voice_ with their regular six to eight columns of
news and gossip.

And as several hundred Sunbury men and women had once been her boys
and girls, this sort of personal news came to her from every side. Her
'children,' of whatever present age, accepted her as an institution,
like the university building, General Grant, or Lake Michigan. She never
had a desk in the _Voice_ office, but worked at home or moving
briskly about the town. Home, to her, was the rather select, certainly
high-priced boarding-house of Mrs Clark on Simpson Street, over by the
lake, where she had lived, at this time, for twenty-one or twenty-two
years. She was little, neat, precise, and doubtless (as I look back
on those days) equipped for much more important work than any she ever
found to do in Sunbury. But Woman's sun had hardly begun to rise then.

As Henry had been, at the age of six, one of her boys, and during the
past two years had shared with her the reporting work of the _Voice_,
it was not unnatural that she should stop him as he was hurrying, airily
twirling his thin bamboo stick, over to Stanley's restaurant. It was
noontime. Simpson Street was quiet. They walked along past Donovan's
drug store and Jackson's book store (formerly B. F. Jones's) and turned
the corner. Here, in front of an unfrequented photographer's studio,
Miss Dittenhoefer stated her problem. She looked, though her trim little
person was erect as always, rather beaten down.

'Mr Boice has taken half my work, Henry--"Church Doings" and "Society."
He sent me a note. I gather that you're to do it.'

'Me?' Henry spoke in honest amazement.

'Doubtless. He's cutting down expenses. I mind, of course, after all
these years. I've worked very hard. And on the money side, I shall mind
a little.'

'You don't mean----'

'Oh, yes. Half the former wage. And they don't pension old teachers in
Sunbury. But this is what I want to tell you----'

'Oh, but Miss Dittenhoefer, I don't----'

'Never mind, Henry; it's done. Of course I shouldn't have said as much
as this. Though perhaps I had to say it to somebody. Forget what you can
of it. But now--I wanted to give you this list. There's a good lot of
society for summer. Never knew the old town to be so gay. Two or three
things in South Sunbury that are important. They feel that we've been
slighting them down there this year. I've noted everything down. And
I've written the church societies, asking them to send announcements
direct to the office after this.'

'I don't want your work,' said Henry, colouring up. 'It
ain't--isn't--square.'

'But it's business, Henry. Mr. Boice explained that in his note. You'll
find I've written everything out in detail--all my plans and the right
ladies to see. Good-bye now.'

Henry, pained, unable to believe that Miss Dittenhoefer's day could pass
so abruptly, walked moodily back to Stanley's and, as usual, bolted his
lunch. The unkindness to Miss Dittenhoefer directly affected himself. It
meant still more of the routine desk-work and more running around town.

Then, slowly, as he sat there staring at the pink mosquito-bar that was
gathered round the chandelier, his eyes filled. It was hard to believe
that even Mr Boice could do a thing like that to Miss Dittenhoefer.
Coolly cutting her pay in half! It seemed to Henry wanton cruelty. It
suggested to his sensitive mind other tales of cruelty--tales of the
boys who had gone into Chicago wholesale houses for their training and
had found their fresh young dream-ideals harshly used in the desperate
struggle of business.

Henry, I am certain, thought of Mr Boice at this moment with about
as much sympathy as a native of a jungle village might feel for a
man-eating tiger. That look about Miss Dittenhoefer's mouth when she
smiled! It was a world, this of placid-appearing Sunbury and the big
city, just below the town line, in which men fought each other to the
death, in which young boys were hardened and coarsened and taught to
kill or be killed, in which women were tortured by hard masters until
their souls cried out.

Boice, I am sure, sensed nothing of this somewhat morbid hostility. No;
until Robert A. McGibbon turned up in Sunbury, Mr Boice had some reason
to feel settled and complacent in his years. His private funds were
secure in his wife's name. And he had every reason to believe that,
before many months more, it would be his privilege and pleasure to
run McGibbon out of town for good. If the matter of Miss Dittenhoefer
should, for a little while, stir up sentimental criticism, why--well,
it was business. Sound business. And you couldn't go back of sound
business.

Henry sighed, got slowly up, had his meal ticket punched at the desk by
Mrs Stanley, went back to the office.

2

The sunny, listless July day was at its lowest ebb--when men who had the
time dawdled and smoked late over their lunch, when ladies took naps.

Flies crawled languidly about the speckled walls of the _Voice_ office.
Outside the screen door and the plate-glass front window, the hot air,
rising from the cement sidewalk, quivered so that the yellow outlines
of the Sunbury House across the street wavered unstably, and the dusty
trees over there wavered, and the men sitting coatless, suspendered, in
the yellow rocking chairs on the long veranda, wavered. Through the
open press-room door came the sound of one small job-press rumbling at
a handbill job; the other presses were still. The compositors worked or
idled without talking.

Here in the office, Henry, tipped back in his kitchen chair before the
inkstained, cluttered pine table by the end wall, coat off, limp wet
handkerchief tucked carefully around his neck inside the collar, chewed
a pencil, gazing now at the little pile of blank copy paper before
him, now at a discouraged fly on the wall. Gradually the fly took on
a perverse interest among his wandering, unhappy thoughts. Prompted,
doubtless, by a sense of inner demoralisation that was now close to
recklessness, he reached for a pen, filled it with ink, and shot a
scattering volley at the slow-moving insect.

At the roll-top desk by the press-room door, Humphrey Weaver, also
coatless, cob pipe in mouth, long lean face wrinkled in the effort to
keep his usually docile mind on its task, elbow on desk and long fingers
spread through damp hair, was correcting proof.

Mr Boice's desk, up in the front window, outside the railing, stood
vacant. The proprietor might or might not stop in on the early-afternoon
trip from his house on Upper Chestnut Avenue to the post-office. Mr
Boice could do as he liked. His time was his own. He lived on the labour
of others. A fact which often stirred up in Henry's breast a rage that
was none the less bitter because it was impotent. It was the sort of
thing, he felt, in his more nearly lucid moments, that you have to
stand--the wall against which you must beat your head year after year.

Henry, victorious over the fly, settled back. He tried to work. Then sat
for a time brooding. Then, finally, turned to his friend.

'Hump,' he said, 'I--I know you wouldn't think I had much to do--I mean
the way you get work done--I don't know what it is--but I wish I could
see a way to begin on all this new work. I know I'm no good, but----'

'I wouldn't say that.' Humphrey, glad of a brief respite, settled back
in his swivel chair. 'I could never have written that picnic story.
Never in the world. We're different, that's all. You're a racer; I'm a
work-horse. I don't know just what it's coming to. He isn't handling you
right.'

'That's it!' Henry cried, softly, eagerly. 'He _isn't!_'

'I suppose you know now about Miss Dittenhoefer.' Henry's head bowed in
assent. 'I didn't have the heart to tell you myself, Hen.' He picked up
his proofs, then looked up and out of the window. 'There,' he remarked
unexpectedly, 'is a pretty girl!'

Henry turned with the quickness of long habit. 'Where?' he asked, then
discovered the young person in question standing on the hotel veranda
talking with Mrs B. L. Ames and Mary Ames.

She was a new girl. Even now, though Henry had given up girls for good,
she caused a quickening of his pulse. She _was_ pretty--rather slender,
in a blue skirt and a trim white shirt-waist, and an unusual amount
of darkish hair that massed effectively about a face, the principal
characteristics of which, at this distance and through the screen door,
was a bright, almost eager smile.

It is a not uninteresting fact, to those who know something of Henry's
susceptibility on previous occasions, that his gaze wandered moodily
back to his table. He sighed. His hand strayed up and began pulling at
his little moustache.

'You haven't told me what I'm to do about it, Hump. This society thing
really stumps me.'

'I haven't known quite what to say. That's all, Hen. The old man is
riding you, of course. I didn't think, when he raised you to twelve a
week, that he'd just lie down and pay it. Meekly. Not he! He's a crafty
old duck. Very, very crafty--Cheese it; here he comes!'

The shadow of Norton P. Boice fell across the door-step. The screen door
opened with a squeak, and ponderously the quietly dominating force of
Simpson Street, came in, inclined his massive head in an impersonal
greeting, and lowered his huge bulk into his chair.

'Henry!' called Mr Boice in his quietly husky voice.

The young man quivered slightly, but sat motionless.

'Henry!' came the husky voice again.

There could be no pretending not to hear. Henry went over there.
Mr Boice sat still--he could; do that--great hands resting on his
barrel-like thighs.

'I am rearranging the work of the paper--' he began.

'Yes,' muttered Henry, not without sullenness; 'I know.'

'Oh, you know!'

'Yes.'

'There's a little more for you to do. You'll have to get it cleaned up
well ahead of time this week. Thursday is the fiftieth anniversary of
the founding of Sunbury. You'll have to cover that. Take down what you
can of the speeches.'

That seemed to be all. Henry moved slowly back to the table. After a
little shuffling about of the papers on his desk, Mr Boice moved heavily
out and headed toward the post-office.

Then, and not before, Henry rummaged under a pile of exchanges at the
rear of the table until he found a book. This he held close to his body,
where it would not be seen should Humphrey turn unexpectedly.

The book was entitled _Will Power and Self Mastery_. Opposite the title
page was a half-tone reproduction of the author--a face with a huge
moustache and intensely knit brows. Henry studied it, speculating in a
sort of despair as to whether he could ever bring himself to look like
that. He knit his own brows. His hand strayed again to his own downy
moustache.

He turned the pages. Read a sentence here and there. The book, though
divided under various chapter headings, was really made up of hundreds
of more or less pithy little paragraphs. These paragraphs--their
substance mainly a rehandling of the work of Samuel Smiles, James
Parton, and the Christian and Mental Scientists (though Henry didn't
know this)--might easily have been shuffled about and arranged in
other sequence, so little continuity of thought did they represent. One
paragraph ran:--

The express train of Opportunity stops but once at your station. If you
miss it, it will never again matter that you almost caught it.

Another was--

Practise concentration. Fix your mind on the job in hand. Aim to do it
a little better than such a job was ever done before. It is related of
Thomas Alva Edison that, at the early age of seven, he----

And this:--

Oh, how many a young man, standing at the parting of life's main roads,
has lost for ever the golden opportunity because he stopped to light a
cigarette!'

Henry replaced the book under the pile of exchanges. A copy of last
week's _Voice_ lay there.

It was the first time he had let an issue of the paper go by without
reading and re-reading every line of his own work. But he had, during
these five days, passed through one of life's great revolutions.
Besides, he had been put on a salary basis. When on space-rates, it had
been necessary to cut everything out and paste it up into a 'string' for
measurement. It came to him now, with a warm little uprush of memory,
that the best piece of writing he had ever done would be in this issue.

He opened the paper. There was his story, occupying all of page three
that wasn't given up to advertisements. This was better than working.
Besides, he ought to go over it. He settled down to it.


3


The sound that caused Humphrey to start up in surprise was the first
outbreak of profanity he had ever heard from the lips of Henry Calverly.

Henry was sitting up stiffly, holding last week's _Voice_ with hands
that distinctly trembled. When Humphrey first looked, he was white, but
after a moment the colour began flowing back to his face and continued
flowing until his face was red. His lips were clamped tight, as if the
small verbal explosion that had just passed them had proved even more
startling to himself than to Humphrey. 'What is it?' asked the editor.

Henry stared at the outspread paper.

'This!' he got out. 'This--this!'

'What's the matter, Hen?'

'Don't you _know?_'

'Oh, your picnic story! Yes--but--what on earth is the matter with you?'

'You _know_, Hump! You never told me!'

'You mean the cuts?'

'Oh--yes!' This 'Oh' was a moan of anguish.

'Good heavens, Hen--you didn't for a minute think we could print it as
you wrote it?' Henry's facial muscles moved, but he got no words
out. Humphrey, touched, went on. 'I don't mind telling you--between
ourselves--that the thing as you wrote it, every word, is the best
bit of descriptive writing I've seen this year. But you wrote the
real story, boy. You painted the whole Simpson Street bunch as they
are--every wart. It's a savage picture. Why, we'd have dropped seventy
per cent, of our advertising between Saturday and Monday! And the queer
little picture of Charlie Waterhouse out behind the lemonade stand----
Why, boy, that's enough to bust open the town!

With Bob McGibbon gunning for Charlie and demanding an accounting of the
town money! Gee!'

Henry seemed hardly to hear this.

'Who--who re-wrote it?'

'I did some. The old man polished it off himself.'

'It's ruined!'

'Of course. But it brought you a raise to twelve a week. That's
something.'

'You don't understand. It was my work. And it was true. I wrote the
truth.'

'That's why.'

'Then they don't want the truth?'

'Good lord--no!'

Henry considered this, bent over as if to read further, twisted his
flushed face as if in pain, then abruptly sprang up.

'What's become of it--the piece I wrote?'

'Well, Hen--I didn't feel that we had a right to destroy the thing. Too
dam good! In a sense, it's the old man's property; in another sense,
it's yours----'

'It's mine!'

'In a sense. At any rate, I took it on myself to have a copy made
confidentially. Then I turned the original over to Mr Boice. He doesn't
know.'

'Where's the copy?'

'Here in my desk.'

'Give it to me!'

'Just hold your horses a minute, Hen----'

'You give it----'

Humphrey threw up a hand, then opened a drawer. He handed over the
typewritten manuscript.

'Who made this?'

'Gertie Wombast. I warned her to keep her mouth shut.'

'How much did it cost?'

'Oh, see here, Hen--I won't talk to you! Not till you get over this
excitement.'

'I'm not excited. Or, at least----'

Humphrey gave a shrug. Henry, gripping the roll of manuscript, started
out.

'Wait a minute, Hen! What do you think you're going to do?'

'What do you s'pose? Only one thing I _can_ do!'

'Going after the old man?'

'Of course! You would yourself, if----'

'No, I wouldn't. Not in any such rush as that. It's upsetting to have
your good work pawed over and cut to pieces, but twelve a week is----'

'Oh, Hump, it's everything! He's made it impossible for me. I could
stand some of it, but not all this. He ain't fair! He _wants_ to make it
hard for me! He's just thinking up ways to be mean. And he's spoiled my
work--best thing I've ever done in my life! And now people will never
know how well I can write.'

'Oh, yes, they will!'

'No, they won't. I'll never feel just that way again. It's a feeling
that comes. And then it goes. You can't do anything about it. It was
Corinne and the way I felt about her. And a lot o' things. Seemed to
make me different. Lifted me up. I was red-hot.' He reached out and
struck the paper from the table to the floor. 'You bet I'll go to old
Boice! 'I'll tell him a thing or two I He'll know something's happened
before he gets through with me. I've had something to say to him for a
good while. Going to say it now. Guess he don't know I'll be twenty-one
in November. Have a little money then. He can't put it over me. I'll buy
his old paper. Or start another one. I'll make the town too hot for him.
Thinks he owns all Sunbury. But he _don't!_'

'Hen,' said Humphrey bravely, when the irate youth paused for breath,
'you simply must not try to talk to him while you're mad as this.'

'But don't you see, Hump,' cried Henry, his face working with vexation,
tears close to his eyes; 'it's just the time! When I'm mad. If I wait,
I'll never say a word.'

He rolled the manuscript tightly in his hand, bit his lip, then abruptly
rushed out.

'Look here,' cried Humphrey. 'Don't you go showing that----'

But the only reply was the noisy slam of the screen door.

Face set, eyes wild behind their glasses, Henry hurried down Simpson
Street toward the post-office.

Miss Hemple, at the money-order window, said that Mr Boice was having a
talk with Mr Waterhouse in the back office and wasn't to be disturbed.

Henry turned away. For a little time he studied the weather-chart
hanging on the wall. He went to the wide front window and gazed out on
the street. His determination was already oozing away. He found himself
slouching and straightened up. Repeatedly he had to do this. Four times
he went back to the money-order window; four times Miss Hemple smiled
and shook her head.

Martha Caldwell walked by with the two Smith girls. He thought she saw
him. If so, she carefully avoided a direct glance. They still weren't
speaking. At least, Martha wasn't. And to think that during three long
years, except for another episode now and than, she had been his girl!

Heigh-ho! No more girls! He was through!

The Ames's carriage rolled fly. Mary Ames was in it. And--apparently,
unmistakably--the new girl. The girl of the Sunbury House veranda. She
was chatting brightly. She _was_ pretty.

He turned mournfully away. She was not for him. Once it might have been
possible--back in his gay big days. But not now. Not now.

He approached the window for the sixth time. For the sixth time, Miss
Hemple shook her head.

He wandered out to the door.

His chance had passed. If the old man should, at this moment, and alone,
come walking out, he would say meekly, 'Good-afternoon, Mr Boice,' and
hurry away. He would even try to look busy and earnest. There was shame
in the thought. His mouth was drooping at the corners. All of him--body,
mind, spirit--was sagging now. He moved, slowly down toward the tracks,
entered the little lunch-counter place there and ate a thick piece of
lemon-meringue pie. Which was further weakness. He knew it. It completed
his depression.

He felt that he must think. He ordered another piece of pie. He wished
he hadn't said so much to Humphrey. Would he ever learn to control the
spoken word? Probably not. He sighed. And ate. He couldn't very well go
back to the office. Not like this--in defeat. All that work, too I
Life, work, friendship, all the realities seemed to be slipping from
his grasp. His thoughts were drifting off into a haze. It was an old
familiar mood. It had come often during his teens. Not so much lately;
but he was as helpless before it as he had been at eighteen, when he
finally drifted aimlessly out of his class at the high school.

In those days, it had been his habit to wander along the beach, sit on
a breakwater, let life and love and duty drift by beyond his reach.
Thither he headed now by a back street. Too many people he knew along
Simpson Street. Besides, he might be thrown face to face with the old
man.

At the corner of Filbert Avenue he met the editor and proprietor of the
_Gleaner_. He inclined his head with unconscious severity and would have
passed on.

But Robert A. McGibbon came to a halt, smiled in a thin strained
fashion, and glanced curiously from Henry's face to the tightly rolled
manuscript in his hand and back to the face.

'Well,' he remarked, 'how's things?'

Henry wanted to be let alone. But he had never deliberately snubbed
anybody in his life. He couldn't. So he, too, came to a stop.

'Oh, pretty good,' he replied.


4


He found himself, in his turn, looking Mr McGibbon over. The man was
just a little seedy. He had a hand up, rubbing the back of his head
under the tipped-down straw hat, and Henry noted the shiny black surface
of his sleeve. He had a freckled, thinly alert face, a little pinched.
His hair was straight and came down raggedly about ears and collar.
Behind his gold-rimmed spectacles, small, sharp eyes, very keen,
appeared to be darting this way and that, restlessly noting everything
within their range of vision.

'Things going well over at the _Voice_ office?' Henry was silent. He
couldn't lie. 'Not going so well, eh? That's too bad. Anything special
up?'

'No,' said Henry, finding his voice untrustworthy; 'nothing special.'

'What you doing now? Anything much?' Henry shook his head. 'Taking a
little walk, perhaps.'

'Why--yes.'

'Mind if I walk along with you?'

'Why--no.'

They fell into step.

'Been thinking a little about you lately. Wondering if you were happy
in your work over there.' Henry compressed his lips. 'Did you write
the Business Men's Picnic story?' Henry was silent. 'Pretty fair job, I
thought.'

'It was terrible!'

'Oh, no--not terrible. You're too hard on yourself.'

'I'm not hard on myself. It's _his_ fault. He spoiled it.'

'Who--Boice? I shouldn't wonder. He could spoil _The New York Sun_ in
two days, with just a little rope.'

'He tore it all to pieces. I've got the real story here. I couldn't let
you see it, of course.'

McGibbon glanced down at the roll of paper.

'You like to write, don't you?' Henry nodded shortly. 'Boice won't let
you do it, I suppose.' Henry shook his head. 'He wouldn't. You
know, there isn't really any reason why a country paper shouldn't
be interesting. Play to the subscriber, you know. Boice plays to the
advertiser and the county printing. Other way takes longer, takes a
little more money at first, but once you get your subscriber hooked, the
advertiser has to follow. Better for the long game.'

Henry was only half listening. They were crossing the Lake Shore Drive
now. They stopped at the railing and looked out over the lake. Henry's
thoughts were darting this way and that, searching instinctively for a
weak spot in the wall of fate that had closed in on him.

'I've got a little money,' he said.

McGibbon smiled.

'Well, it has its uses.'

'I haven't quite got it. I get the interest. And they'll have to give
me all of it in November. The seventh. I'll be twenty-one then.' These
words seemed to reassure. Henry. 'Yes; I'll be twenty-one. It's quite a
little, too. Over four thousand dollars. It was my mother's.'

'It's not to be sneezed at,' said McGibbon reflectively. 'If I had four
thousand right now--or one thousand, for that matter--I could make sure
of turning my corner and landing the old _Gleaner_ on Easy Street.
I've had a fight with that paper. Been through a few things these eight
months. But I'm gaining circulation in chunks now. Six months more, and
I'll nail that gang.'

'You know'--McGibbon threw a knee up on the railing and lighted a
cigar--'it takes money to make money.'

'Oh, yes--of course,' said Henry.

'A thousand dollars now on the _Gleaner_ would be worth ten thousand
ten years from now.' He smoked thoughtfully. 'I've been watching you,
Calverly. And if it wasn't so tough on you, I could laugh at old Boice.
He's got a jewel in you, and he doesn't know it. I suppose he keeps you
grinding--correcting proof, running around----'

'Oh, you've no idea!' Henry burst out. 'Everything! Just an awful grind!
And now he expects me to cover all the "Society" and "Church Doings."'

'What! How's that? Has he come down on Miss Dittenhoefer?'

Henry swallowed convulsively and nodded.

'He's piling it all on me, and I won't stand for it. It ain't right! It
'ain't fair! And you bet your life he's going to hear a few things from
me before this day's much older! I'm going to tell him a thing or two!'

'That's right!' said McGibbon. 'He won't respect you any the less for
it.'

A silence followed. Henry stood, flushed, breathing hard through set
teeth, staring out at the horizon.

'I'm going to tell you something, Calverly. And it's because I feel that
you and I are going to be friends. I've known about you, of course. I
know you can write. You'd do a lot to make a paper readable. Which is
what a paper has got to be. But now I can see that we're going to be
friends. You've confided in me. I'm going to confide in you.' He paused,
blew out a long, meditative arrow of smoke, then added, 'I know a little
about that story you wrote.'

'_You_ do!' McGibbon slowly nodded. 'But how?'

'You must remember, Calverly, that I'm not like these small-town folks
around here. I've worked at this game in New York, and I know a thing or
two.'

'I've been in New York,' said Henry.

'Great town! But I don't spend my time here in daydreams. I have my
lines out all over town. There's mighty little going on that I don't
know.'

'You seem to know a lot about Charlie Waterhouse.'

McGibbon smiled like a sphinx, then said:--

'I've nearly got him. Not quite, but nearly.'

'But I don't see how you could know about----'

'I told you I was going to confide in you. It's simple enough. Gert
Wombast let her sister read it--the one that works at the library.
Swore her to secrecy. And--well, I board at the Wombasts'--Look here,
Calverly: you'd better let me read it.'

Henry promptly surrendered it.

McGibbon laid the manuscript on his knee, lighted a fresh cigar, and
gazed at the lake. Henry, all nerves, was clasping and unclasping his
hands.

'Of course,' he said, 'this ain't really a finished thing, you
understand. It's just as I wrote it off--fast, you know--and I haven't
had a chance to correct it or----'

McGibbon raised his hand.

'No, Calverly--none of that. This is literature. Of course, old Boice
couldn't print it. Never in the world. But it's sweet stuff. It's a
perfect, merciless pen-picture of life on Simpson Street. And those two
old crooks behind the lemonade stand--you've opened a jack-pot there. If
you only knew it, son, that's evidence. Evidence! You walked right into
it. Charlie Waterhouse is short in his town accounts. I know that. Boice
and Weston are covering up for him. They work up this neat little
purse and give it to Charlie. Why? Because he's the most popular man
in Sunbury? Rot! Because they're helping him pay back. Making the town
help.'

'Oh, do you really think----'

'"Think?" I know. This completes the picture. Tell me--what is Boice
paying you?'

'Twelve a week, now.'

'Hm! That's quite a little for a country weekly. I could meet it,
though, if--see here: What chance is there of your getting, say, a
thousand of your money free and investing in the _Gleaner?_ Now, wait!
I want to put this thing before you. It's the turning-point. If we act
without delay, we've got 'em. We've got everything. We own the town.
Here we are! The _Gleaner_ is just at the edge of success. I take you
over from the _Voice_ at the same salary--twelve a week. I'll give you
lots of rope. I won't expect routine from you. I'll expect genius. Stuff
like this. The real thing. Just when it comes to you, and you feel
you can't help writing. With this new evidence I can go after Charlie
Waterhouse and break him. I'll finish Boice and Weston at the same time.
Show up the whole outfit! Whatever'll be left of the _Voice_ by that
time, Boice can have and welcome. The _Gleaner_ will be the only paper
in Sunbury.'

'My Uncle Arthur is executor of my mother's estate.'

'You go right after him. No time to lose. We must drive this right
through.'

'I'll see him to-morrow.'

'Couldn't you find him to-night?'


5


Uncle Arthur lived in Chicago, out on the West Side. It was a long
ride--first by suburban train into the city, then by cable-car
through miles upon miles of gray wooden tenements and dingy gray-brick
tenements. You breathed in odours of refuse and smoke and coal-gas all
the way.

Uncle Arthur was as thin as McGibbon, but wholly without the little
gleam in the eyes that advertised the proprietor of the _Gleaner_ as an
eager and perhaps dangerous man. Uncle Arthur was a man of method who
had worked through long years into a methodical but fairly substantial
prosperity.

His thin nose was long, and prominent. His brow was deeply furrowed.
His gaze was critical. He believed firmly that life is a disciplinary
training for some more important period of existence after death.
He didn't smoke or drink. Nor would he keep in his employ those who
indulged in such practices. He was an officer of several organisations
aiming at civic and social reform.

Uncle Arthur laid a pedantic stress, in all business matters, on what
he called 'putting the thing right end to.' It was not unnatural,
therefore, that he should receive a distinctly unfavourable impression
when Henry began, with a foolish little gesture and a great deal of
fumbling at his moustache, slouching in his chair, by saying 'There's
a little chance come up--oh, nothing much, of course--for me to make
a little money, sort of on the side--and you see I'll be twenty-one in
November; so it's just a matter of three or four months, anyway--and I
was figuring--oh, just talking the thing over----'

His voice trailed off into a mumble.

'If you would take your hand away from your mouth, Henry,' said his
uncle sharply, 'perhaps I could make out what you're trying to say.'

Henry sat up with a jerk.

'Why, you see, Uncle Arthur, there's a fellow bought the old Sunbury
_Gleaner_ and he's awfully smart--got his training in New York--and he's
brought the paper already--why, it ain't eight months!--to where he's
right on the point of turning his corner. You see, a thousand dollars
now may easily be worth ten thousand in a few years. The _Voice_ is a
rotten paper. Nobody reads the darned thing. And I can't work for old
Boice, anyhow. He drives me crazy. If he'd just give me half a chance to
do the kind of thing I can do best once in a while; but this----'

'Henry, are you asking me to advance you a thousand dollars of your
principal?'

'Why--well, yes, if----'

'Most certainly not!'

'But, you see, it's so close to November seventh, anyway, that I
thought----'

'You thought that on your twenty-first birthday I would at once close
out the investments I have made with the money your mother left and hand
you the principal in cash?'

Henry stared at him, his thoughts for the moment frozen stiff. In Uncle
Arthur's obstructionist attitude, so suddenly revealed, lay the promise
of a new, wholly undreamed-of disappointment. It was crushing. Then,
almost in the same second, it was stimulating. Henry's eyes blazed.

'You mean to say----' he began, shouting.

'I mean to say that I haven't the slightest intention of letting you
squander the money your mother so painfully--'

'That's my money!'

'But I'm your uncle and your guardian----'

'You needn't think you're going to keep that one minute after November
seventh!'

'I will use my judgment. I won't be dictated to by a boy who----'

'But you gotta!'

'I have not got to!'

'I won't stand for----'

'Henry, I won't have such talk here. I think you had better go.'

Henry, with a good deal of mumbling, went. He was bewildered. And the
little storm of indignant anger had shaken him. He returned, during the
ride back past the tenements on the jerky cable-car, through streets
that swarmed with noisy, ragged children and frowsy adults and all the
smells, to depression. McGibbon said that Uncle Arthur's threat to hold
the money after the seventh of November was a distinct point.

'In these matters, unfortunately, where a relative or family friend has
for years had charge of money belonging to others, little temptations
are bound to come up. Now, your uncle may be the most scrupulously
honest of men, but----'

'He has a bad eye,' Henry put in.

'I don't doubt it. Calverly, let me tell you--never forget this--a man
who hesitates for one instant to account freely, fully for money is
never to be trusted.'

'But what can I do?'

'Do? Everything! Just what I'm doing with Charlie Waterhouse, for one
thing--insist on a full statement.'

'They framed a letter--or McGibbon framed it--demanding an accounting,
'in order that further legal measures may not become necessary.'
McGibbon said he would send it early in the morning, registered, and
with a special-delivery stamp. 'Later, they decided to add emphasis by
means of a telegram demanding immediate consideration of the letter.

Late that night, when Humphrey came upstairs into a pitch-dark
living-room and switched on the light, he discovered a pale youth
sitting stiffly on a window-seat wide-awake, eyes staring nervously,
hands clasped.

'Well, what on earth?' said he, in mild surprise.

'Oh, Hump, I've wondered what you'd think--leaving you in the lurch with
all that work!

Humphrey threw out a lean hand.

'I can manage. Get some help from one of the students. And Gertie
Wombast is usually available---- Oh, say; how about the old man? Did you
tell him what's what?'

Henry's burning eyes stared out of that white face. Suddenly--so
suddenly that Humphrey himself started--he sprang up, cried out; 'No!
No! No!' and rushed into his bedroom, slamming the door after him.

Humphrey looked soberly at the door, shook his head, filled his pipe.

That 'No! No! No!' still rang in his ears It was a cry of pain.

Humphrey had suffered; but he had never known a turbulence of the sort
that every now and then seemed to tear Henry to pieces.

'Must be fierce,' he thought. 'But it works up as well as down. Runs to
extremes. Creative faculty, I suppose. Well, he's got it--that's all.
And he's only a kid. Thing to do's to stand by and try to steady him up
a little when he comes out of it.'

And the philosophical Humphrey went to bed.


6


At noon, no word had come from Uncle Arthur. Henry, all the morning, had
flitted back and forth between McGibbon's rear office and the telegraph
office in the 'depot.'

At twelve-thirty, they sent a peremptory message, demanding a reply by
three o'clock. An ultimatum.

The reply came unexpectedly, with startling effect, at twenty-five
minutes past two, requesting Henry to come directly into his uncle's
Chicago office.

He caught the two-forty-seven. McGibbon, who had missed nothing of the
concern on Henry's face at this brisk counter-offensive on the part of
Uncle Arthur, was with him.

McGibbon waited in the corner drug store while Henry-went up in one of
the elevators of the great La Salle Street office-building.

Uncle Arthur led the way into his inner office, closed the door, seated
himself, and with austerity surveyed the youth before him, taking in
with deliberate thought the far-from-inexpensive blue-serge suit, the
five-dollar straw hat, the bamboo stick (which Henry carried anything
but airily now), and the hopelessly futile little moustache.

'Sit down,' said Uncle Arthur.

Henry sat down.

Uncle Arthur opened a drawer, took up two slips of paper, deliberately
laid them before his nephew.

'There,' he said, 'is my cheque for one thousand forty-six dollars and
twenty-nine cents. It is the value, with interest to this morning, of
one bond which I am buying from you, at the price given in to-day's
quotations. Kindly sign the receipt. Right there.'

He dipped a pen and Henry signed, then, with shaky fingers, picked up
the cheque, fingered it, laid it down again.

'I want no misunderstandings about this, Henry. I am doing it because I
regard you as a young fool. Perhaps you will be less of a fool after you
have lost this money. Henry heard the words through a mist of confused
feelings. 'I will have no more letters and telegrams like these.' He
indicated the little sheaf of papers on his desk. 'And I won't have my
character assailed either by you or by any cheap scoundrel whose advice
you may be taking.'

'But--but he's _not_ a cheap scoundrel!'

Uncle Arthur raised his eyebrows. His eyes, Henry felt, would burn holes
in him if he stayed here much longer.

'You're hard on me, Uncle Arthur. You're not fair I'm _not_ going to
lose----'

The older man abruptly got up.

'If you care for any advice at all from me, I suggest that you insist
on a note from this man--a demand note, or, at the very outside, a
three-months' one. Don't put money unsecured into a weak business. Make
it a personal obligation on the part of the proprietor. And now, Henry,
that is all. I really don't care to talk to you further.

Henry stood still.

His uncle turned brusquely away.

'But--but--' Henry said unsteadily, 'Uncle Arthur--really! Money isn't
everything!'

His uncle turned on him as if about to speak; but on second thought
merely raised his eyebrows again.

And then came the final humiliation, the little climax that was always
to stand out with particular vividness in Henry's memory of the scene.
He turned to go. He had reached the door when he heard his uncle's
voice, saying, with a rasp:--

'You have forgotten the cheque, Henry'

And he had to go back for it.


7


One effect of the scene was a slight coolness toward McGibbon.

'I shall want your note,' he said.

McGibbon turned his head away at this and looked out of the car window.
Then, a moment later, he replied:--

'Sure! Of course! It's just as I told you--always watch a man who
hesitates a minute in money matters.'

'Three months,' said Henry.

'And we can arrange renewals in a friendly spirit between ourselves,'
said McGibbon.

At the Sunbury station, Henry drew a little red book from his pocket,
knit his brows, and said:--

'I owe you for those car fares. Two; wasn't it? Or three?'

'Oh, shucks! Don't think of that!'

'Was it two or three?'

'Well--if you really--two.'

Henry gave him a dime. Then entered the item in the small book.

'What's that?' asked McGibbon. 'Keep accounts?'

'Oh, yes,' Henry replied; 'I'm very careful about money.'

'It's a good way to be,' said McGibbon.

The _Gleaner_ office was over Hemple's meat-market on Simpson Street, up
a long flight of stairs. Here they paused.

'Come up,' said McGibbon jovially, 'and pick out the place for your
desk.'

'No,' said Henry; 'not now. Got to hurry. But I'll be right over.'

He had to hurry, because it was nearly five o'clock, and Mr Boice might
be gone. And it seemed to Henry to be important that he should have the
cheque still in his pocket at the moment.

His eyes were burning again. And his brain was racing.

'Say!' he cried abruptly. 'Look here! Miss Dittenhoefer----'

Their eyes met. I think McGibbon, for the first time, really felt the
emotional power that was unquestionably in Henry. His own quick eyes now
took on some of that fire.

'Great!' he answered. And would have talked on, but Henry had already
torn away, almost running.

He rushed past the _Gleaner_ office without a glance. It suddenly didn't
matter whether Mr Boice had gone or not. Henry was a firebrand now. He
would unhesitatingly trail the man to his home, to the Sunbury Club, to
Charlie Waterhouse's, even to Mr Weston's. The Power was on him!

Mr Boice had not gone. Even twenty minutes later, when Henry came into
the office, he was still at his desk. Over it, between the dusty pile
of the _Congressional Record_ and the heap of ancient zinc etchings, his
thick gray hair could be seen.

Henry entered, head erect, tread firm, marched in through the gate in
the railing to his table, rummaged through the heaps of old exchanges,
proofs, hand-bills, and programmes for a book that was there, and
certain other little personal possessions. The two pencils and one
penholder were his. Also, a small glass inkstand. He gathered these up,
made a parcel in a newspaper. He felt Humphrey's eyes on him. He heard
old Boice move.

Then came the husky voice.

'Henry!' He went on tying the parcel. 'Henry--come here!'

He turned to his friend.

'Gotta do it, Hump. Tell you later.'

Then he moved deliberately to the desk out front, rested an elbow on it,
looked down at the bulky, motionless figure sitting there.

'Where've you been?' asked Mr Boice.

'Been attending to my own affairs.'

'How do you expect your work to be done? The fiftieth anniversary
of----'

'I haven't any work here.'

'Oh, you haven't?'

'No. Through with you. You owe me a little for this week, but I don't
want it. Wouldn't take it as a gift.' His voice was rising. He could
feel Humphrey's eyes over the top of his desk. And a stir by the
press-room door told him that Jim Smith was listening there, with two
or three compositors crowding pip behind him. 'Not as a gift. It's dirty
money. I'm through with you. You and your crooked crowd!'

'Oh, you are?'

'Yes. Through with you. I'm on a decent paper now. A paper that ain't
afraid to print the truth.'

Mr Boice, still motionless, indulged his only nervous affection, making
little sounds.'

'Mmm!' he remarked. 'Hmm! Ump! Mmm!' Then he said, 'Meaning the
_Gleaner_, I presume.'

'Meaning the _Gleaner_.'

'I suppose you know that McGibbon's slated to fail within the month. He
can't so much as meet his pay-roll.'

'I know more'n that!' cried Henry, laughing nervously. 'I know he's got
money because I put some in to-day. Miss Dittenhoefer's quitting you
this week, too. She's enthusiastic about us. I've just seen her. We're
going to have a big property there. We'll buy you out one o' these days
for a song. Then it'll be the _Gleaner and Voice_. See? But, first,
we're going to clean up the town. You and Charlie Waterhouse and
that-old whited sepulchre in the bank! I'll show you you can't fool with
me!'

It was very youthful. Henry wished, in a swift review, that he had
thought up something better and rehearsed it.

Then he saw the eyes of the huge, still man waver down to his desk. And
his heart bounded.

'He's afraid of me!' ran his thoughts. 'I've licked him!'

It was the time to leave. Parcel under arm, he strode out.

Out on the sidewalk, he laughed aloud. Which wouldn't do. He was a
business man now. With investments. He mustn't go grinning down Simpson
Street.

But it was worth a thousand dollars. Just to feel this way once.

Jim Smith? out of breath, came sidling up to the corner. He had run
around through the alley.

He wrung Henry's hand.

'Great!' he cried. 'Soaked it to the old boy, you did! Makes me think of
a story. Maybe you've heard this one. If you have, just----'

A hand fell on Henry's shoulder.

It was Humphrey, hatless. He must have walked out right past Mr Boice.
His face wrinkled into a grin.

'My boy,' he said, 'right here and now I thank you for the joy you've
brought into my young life. The impossible has happened. The beautifully
impossible. It was great.'

'Well,' cried Henry, beaming, unstrung, a touch of nervous aggression in
his voice, 'I said it!'

'Oh, you said it' cried Humphrey.

Thus Henry closed a door behind him. And treading the air, trying
desperately to control the upward-twitching corners of his mouth,
humming the wedding-march from _Lohengrin_ to the familiar words:--=

````Here comes the bride--

````Get on to her stride!=

--he marched, a conqueror, down Simpson Street. Yes, it was worth a
thousand.

Back in the old _Voice_ office, Mr Boice sat motionless, big hands
sprawling across his thighs, making little sounds.

I think he was trying, in his deliberate way, to figure out what had
happened. But he never succeeded in figuring it out. Not this particular
incident. He couldn't know that it is as well to face a tigress as an
artist whose mental offspring you have injured.

No; to him, Henry, the boy of the silly little cane and the sillier
moustache, had stepped out of character. He couldn't know that Henry,
the drifting, helpless youth, and Henry the blazing artist were two
quite different persons. In Mr Boice's familiar circles they played
duplicate whist and talked business, but they were not acquainted with
the mysteries of dual personality such as appear in the case of any
genius, great or small.

Nor (for the excellent reason that he had never heard of William Blake
or his works) did the immortal line come to mind;--=


```Did He who made the lamb make thee?=

Mr Boice was obliged to give it up.



VI--ALADDIN ON SIMPSON STREET


1


|Elberforce Jenkins was the most accomplished very young man-about-town
in Sunbury. He appeared to have, even at twenty-one, the bachelor gift.
He danced well. His golf was more than promising. He had lately taken
up polo with the Dexter Smith boys and young de Casselles. He owned two
polo ponies, a schooled riding horse, and a carriage team which he
drove to a high cart. His allowance from his father by far overcame the
weakness of his salary (he was with his brother, Jefferson, in a bond
house on La Salle Street). His aptitude at small talk amounted to a
gift. He liked, inevitably, the play that was popular and (though he
read little) the novel that was popular. His taste in girls pointed him
unerringly toward the most desirable among the newest.

He and Henry had been together in high school (Sunbury was democratic
then). They had played together in the football team. They had--during
one hectic month--been rivals for the hand of Ernestine Lambert.

In that instance, in so far as success had come, it had come to Henry.
But those were Henry's big days, when he was directing _Iolanthe_, the
town at his feet. Life, these two years, had flowed swiftly on. The long
dangling figure of Elbow Jenkins had filled out. His crude boyishness
had given way to a smiling reserve. He was a young man of the
world--self-assured, never indiscreet of tongue, always well-mannered,
never individual or interesting.

While Henry still worked on Simpson Street. He hadn't struck his gait.
He was--if you bothered, these days, to think about him--a little
queer. He wore that small moustache and a heavy cord hanging from his
nose-glasses, and dressed a thought too conspicuously. As if impelled
by some inner urge to assert a personality that might otherwise be
overlooked.... As I glance back upon the Henry of this period, it seems
to me that there was more than a touch of pathos about that moustache.
It was such a soft little thing. He fussed with it so much, and kept
trying to twist it up at the ends. He didn't seem to know that they
weren't twisting moustaches up at the ends that year. In fact, I think
he lacked almost utterly the gift of conformity which was the strongest,
element in Elbow Jenkins's nature. And he never acquired it. In
education, in work and preparation for life, he went it alone,
stumbling, blundering, doing apparently stupid things, acting from
baffling obscure motives, then suddenly coming through with an
unexpected flash of insight and power.

From the period of Ernestine Lambert to the time of the present story
Elbow Jenkins had been on Henry's nerves. Whenever they met, that is;
or when Henry saw him driving the newest, prettiest, best-dressed
girl about in his cart. Two years earlier he would have had two ponies
hitched tandem. But now, a little older, less willing to be conspicuous
except in strict conformity with the conventions, he drove his carefully
matched team side by side. His scat, his hold of the reins, the very
turning-back of his tan gloves, all were correct. These, indeed, were
details in the problem of living and moving about with success among
one's fellows that Elberforce Jenkins regarded as really important. Like
one's stance at golf, and cultivating the favour of men who could be
influential in a business or social way.

Yes, Elbow was on Henry's nerves.

But Elbow had long since forgotten Henry, except for a chance nod now
and then. And occasionally a moment's annoyance that Henry should insist
on keeping alive a nickname that had with years and the beginnings of
dignity become undesirable.


2


The blow fell on Henry at half-past five on the Tuesday.

I mark the time thus precisely because it perhaps adds a touch of
interest to the consideration of what happened between then and Friday
night, when McGibbon first saw what he had done. Of the importance of
the blow in Henry's life there is no doubt. It turned him sharply Not
until he was approaching middle life could he look back on the occasion
without wincing. And while wincing, he would say that it was what he had
needed. Plainly. That it made a man of him, or started the process.

As to that, I can't say. Perhaps it did. Life is not so simple as Henry
had been taught it was. I am fatalist enough to believe that Henry would
have become what he was to become in any event, because it was in him. I
doubt if he could have been given any other direction. Though of course
he might have gone under simply through a failure to get aroused.
Something had to start him, of course.

The practical difficulty with Henry's life was, of course, that he was
strong. He didn't know this himself. He thought he was weak. Some who
observed him thought the same. There were reasons enough. But Mildred
always declared flatly that he was a genius, that he was too good for
Sunbury, against the smugness of which community she was inclined to
rail. A debate on this point between Mrs Henderson and, say, William F.
Donovan, the drug store man, would have been interesting. Mr Donovan's
judgments of human character were those of Simpson Street.

I say Henry was strong, because I can't interpret his rugged
nonconformity in any other way. A weaker lad would long since have given
up, gone into Smith Brothers' wholesale, taken his spiritual beating
and fallen into step with his generation. But Henry's resistance was
so strong and so deep that he didn't even know he was resisting. He was
doing the only thing he could do, being what he was, feeling what he
felt. And when instinct failed to guide, when 'the Power' lay quiescent,
he was simply waiting and blundering along; but never falling into step.
He had to wait until the Power should rise with him and take him out and
up where he belonged.

There was a little scene the Monday evening before.

It was in the rooms. Mildred was there.

Henry stumbled in on the two of them, Mildred and Humphrey. They were
at the piano, seated side by side. They had been studying _Tristan and
Isolde_ together for a week or so; Mildred playing out the motifs. She
often played the love duet from the second act for him, too. Henry heard
him, mornings, trying to hum it while he shaved.

They insisted that he take a chair. He, with a sense of intrusion, took
the arm of one, and kept hat and stick (his thin bamboo) in his hands.

Mildred said reflectively:--

'Corinne writes that she'll be back for a week late in August.' Then,
noting the touch of dismay on Henry's ingenuous countenance, she added,
'But you mustn't have her on your conscience, Henry.'

'It isn't that----'

'I'm fond of Corinne. But I can see now that you two would never get on
long together. In a queer way you're too much alike. At least, you
both have positive qualities. Corinne will some day find a nice little
husband who'll look after the business side of her concerts. And
you--well, Henry, you've got to have some one to mother you.' She smiled
at him thoughtfully. 'Some one you can make a lot of.'

'No.' Henry's colour was up. He was shaking his head. 'You don't
understand. I'm through with girls. They're nothing in my life.
Nothing!'

She slowly shook her head. 'That's absurd, Henry. You're particularly
the kind. You'll never be able to live without idealising some woman.'

'I tell you they're nothing to me. My life is different now. I've
changed. I've put money--a lot of money--into the _Gleaner_. It means
big responsibilities. You've no idea----'

'If I hadn't, seen you writing,' she mused aloud.... 'No, Henry. You
won't change. You'll grow, but you won't change. You're going to write,
Henry. And you'll always write straight at a woman.'

'No! No!' Henry was sputtering. He appeared to be struggling. 'Life
means work to me. I'm through with----'

She took down the _Tristan_ score from the piano and turned the pages in
her lap.

'Love is the great vitaliser, Henry,' she said.

'No--it's the mind. Thinking. We have to learn to think
clearly--objectively.'

'Objectively? No. Not you. And I'm glad, in a way. Because I know we're
going to be proud of you. But it's love that makes the world go round.
They don't teach you that in the colleges, but it's the truth... Take
Wagner--and _Tristan_. He wrote it straight at a woman. And it's the
greatest opera ever written. And the greatest love story. It's that
because he was terribly in love when he wrote it. Do you Suppose, for
one minute that if Wagner had never seen Mathilde Wesendonck we should
have had _Tristan?_'

She paused, pursed her lips, studied the book with eyes that seemed to
grow misty, then looked up at Humphrey.

He--tall, angular, very sober--met her gaze; then his swarthy face
wrinkled up about the eyes and he hurriedly drew his cob pipe from his
pocket and began filling it.

Henry stared at the rug; traced out the pattern with his stick. He
couldn't answer this last point, because he had never heard of Mathilde
Wesendonck. And as he was supposed to be 'musical' it seemed best to
keep quiet.

He made an excuse of some sort and went out for a walk. Down by the lake
he thought of several strong arguments. Mildred was wrong. She had to be
wrong. For he had cut girls out.

It was like Mildred to speak out in that curiously direct way. She was
fond of Henry. And she had divined, out of her various, probably rather
vivid contacts with life, certain half-truths that were not accepted in
Sunbury.

I think she saw Henry pretty clearly, saw that he was driven by an
emotional dynamo that was to bring him suffering and success both....
Mildred, of course, never really belonged in a small town.

It was at the close of the following afternoon that Henry came in and
found Humphrey's long figure stretched out on the window-seat--he was
smoking, of course--of all things, blowing endless rings up at the
curtains Mildred had made and hung for him. His dark skin looked gray.
There were deep lines in his face. He couldn't speak at first. But he
stared at Henry.

That young man put away hat and stick, had his coat off, and was rolling
back his shirt sleeves for a wash, humming the refrain of _Kentucky
Babe_. Then, through a slow moment, the queer silence about him,
Humphrey's attitude--that fact, for that matter, that Hump was here,
at all; he was a great hand to work until six or after at the _Voice_
office--these things worked in on him like a premonition. The little
song died out. He went on, a few steps, toward the bathroom, then came
to a stop, turned toward the silent figure on the window-seat, came
slowly over.

Now he saw his friend clearly. As he sank on the arm of a chair--it was
where he had sat the evening before--he caught his breath.

'Wha--what is it?' he asked. His voice was suddenly husky. His mind
went blank. There was sensation among the roots of his hair. 'What's the
matter, Hump?'

Finally Humphrey took out his pipe and spoke. His voice, too, was low
and uncertain. But he gathered control of it as he went on.

'Where've you been?' he asked.

'Me? Why, over at Rockwell Park. Bob McGibbon wanted me to see about a
regular correspondent for the "Rockwell Park Doings."'

'Heard anything?'

'Me? No. Why?... Hump, what is it? What you getting at?'

'Then I've got to tell you.' He swung his feet around; sat up; emptied
his pipe, then filled it.

'Is it--is it--about me, Hump?'

'Yes. It is.'

'Well--then--hadn't you better tell me?'

'I'm trying to, Hen. It's dam' unpleasant. You remember--you told me
once--early in the summer--' Humphrey, usually most direct, was having
difficulty in getting it out--'you told me you rode a tandem up to
Hoffmann's Garden with that little Wilcox girl.'

'Oh, that! That was nothing. Why all the time I lived at Mrs Wilcox's I
never----'

'Yes, I know. Let me try to tell this, Hen. It's hard enough. She's in a
scrape. That girl. There's a big row on. I'm not going into the details,
so far as I've heard 'em. There ugly. They wouldn't help. But her
mother's collapsed. Her uncle and aunt have turned up and taken the girl
off somewhere. He's a butcher on the North Side.' Henry was pale but
attentive.

'In all the time I lived there,' he began again...

'Please, Hen! Wait! It is one of those mean scandals that tear up a town
like this every now and then. Boils up through the crust and has to be
noticed. It's a beastly thing. The number of men involved... some older
ones... and young Bancroft Widdicombe has left town. There's some queer
talk about her marrying him. And they say one or two others have run
away. Widdicombe got out before the storm broke. Jim Smith says he's
been heard from at San Francisco.'

'But they can't say of me----'

'Hen, they can and they do.'

'But I can prove----'

'What can you prove? What chance will you have to prove anything?
You were disturbed when Martha Caldwell and the party with Charles H.
Merchant caught you with her up at Hoffmann's----'

'But, Hump, I didn't _want_ to take her out that night! And it's the
only time I ever really talked to her except once or twice in the
boarding-house.'

He was speaking with less energy now. He felt the blow. Not as he would
feel it a few hours later; but he felt it.

Humphrey watched him.

'It has brought things home to me,' he said uncertainly. 'The sort of
thing that can happen. When you're caught in a drift, you don't think,
of course... Now, Hen, listen! This is real trouble. It's going to hit
you about to-morrow--full force. It's got to be faced. I don't want to
think that you'd run----'

'Oh, no,' Henry put in mechanically, 'I won't run.'

'I'm sure you won't. But it's got to be faced. You're hit especially.'

'But why, when I----'

'Because you lived alone there, in the boarding-house, for two years.
And you were caught with her at Hoffmann's, she in bloomers, drinking
beer. Just a cheap little tough. And there isn't a thing you can do but
live it down. Nobody will say a direct word to you.'

'That's what I'll do,' said Henry, 'live it down.'

'It'll be hard, Hen.'

Henry sighed. 'I've faced hard things, Hump.'

'Yes, you have, in a way.'

'I'll wash up. Where we going to eat? Stanley's?'

'I suppose. I don't feel like eating much.'

It was not until they had started out that Henry gave signs of a deeper
reaction.

On the outer doorstep he stood motionless.

'Coming along?' asked Humphrey, trying to hide his anxiety.

'Why--yes. In a minute... Say, Hump, do you suppose they'll--you know, I
ain't afraid'--an uprush of feeling coloured his voice, brought a shake
to it--'I don't know. Perhaps I _am_ afraid. All those people--you know,
at Stanley's...'

Humphrey did an unusual thing; laid his hand on Henry's shoulder
affectionately; then took his arm and led him along the alley, saying:--

'We'll go down to the lunch counter. It's just as well, Hen. Better get
sure of yourself first.'

He wondered, as they walked rapidly on--Henry had a tendency to walk
fast and faster when brooding or excited--whether the boy would ever get
sure of himself. There were queer, bitter, profoundly confusing thoughts
in his own mind, and an emotional tension, but back of all this, coming
through it and softening him, his feeling for Henry. It was something
of an elder brother's feeling, I think. Henry seemed very young. It was
wicked that he had to suffer with all those cynical older men. It might
mark the boy for life. Such things happened.

He decided to watch him closely. Sooner or later the thing would hit him
full. He would have to be protected then. Even from himself, perhaps.
In a way it oughtn't to be worse for him than it had been after the
Hoffmann's Garden incident.

But it was worse. The other had been, after all, no more than an
incident. This, now, was an overpowering fact. The town didn't have
to notice the other. And despite the gossiping instinct, your small
community is rather glad to edge away from unpleasant surmises that are
not established facts. Facts are so uncompromising. And so disrupting.
And sometimes upsetting to standardised thought.

'That's it,' thought Humphrey--he was reduced to thought Henry was
striding on in white silence--'it's a fact. They can't evade it. Only
thing they can do, if they're to keep comfortable about their dam' town,
is to kill everybody connected with the mess. Have to revise party and
dinner lists. And it'll raise Ned with the golf tournament. They'll
resent all that. And they'll have to show outsiders that the thing is an
amazing exception. Nothing else going on like it. They'll have to show
that.'


3


The next morning Henry--stiff, distrait, his eyes wandering a little now
and then and his sensitive mouth twitching nervously--breakfasted with
Humphrey at Stanley's.

People--some people--spoke to him. But he winced at every greeting.
Humphrey watched him narrowly. He was ablaze with self-consciousness.
But he held his head up pretty well.

He was all shut up within himself. Since their talk of the evening he
hadn't mentioned the subject. It was clear that he couldn't mention
it. He spoke of curiously irrelevant things. The style of Robert Louis
Stevenson, for one. During the walk from the rooms to Stanley's. And
then he brought up Bob McGibbon's theory that even with a country
weekly, if you made your paper interesting enough you would get readers
and the readers would bring the advertising He asked if Humphrey thought
it would work out. 'It's important to me, you know, Hump. I've got a
cool thousand up on the _Gleaner_. It's like betting on Bob McGibbon's
idea to win.' His voice trembled a little. There were volcanoes of
feeling stirring within the boy. He would erupt of course, sooner or
later. Humphrey found the experience moving to the point of pain.

When he entered the _Gleaner_ office, Bob McGibbon, looking up at him
anxiously, said good-morning, then pursed his lips in thought.

He found occasion to say, later:--

'Henry, how are you taking this thing?'

Henry swallowed, glanced out of the window, then threw out one hand with
an expressive gesture and raised his eyes.

'Oh,' he said, 'all right. I--it's not true, Bob. Not about me.'

'That's just what I tell 'em,' said McGibbon eagerly. 'What you going to
do? Go right on?'

'Well--why, yes! I can't run away.'

'Of course not. These things are mean. In a small town. Hypocrisy all
round. I was thinking it over this morning, and it occurred to me you
might like to get off by yourself and do some real writing for the
paper. That's what we need, you know. Sketches. Snappy poetry. Little
pictures of life-like George Ade's stuff in the _Record_. Or a bit of
the 'Gene Field touch. Something they'd have to read. Make the _Gleaner_
known. Put it on every centre table in Sunbury. That's what we really
need from you, you know. Your own stuff, not ours. Take this reception
to-night at the Jenkins'. Anybody can cover that. I'll go myself.'

Henry, pale, lips compressed, shook his head.

'No,' said he, after a pause, 'I'll cover it.'

McGibbon considered this, then moved irresolutely back to his desk.
Here, for a time, he sat, with knit brows, and stabbed at flies with his
pen.

It would be walking into the lion's den, that was all. He wished he
could think of a way to hold the boy back. There were complications.
The _Gleaner_, just, lately, had been going pretty violently after what
McGibbon called the 'Old Cinch.' Without quite enough evidence, they
were now virtually accusing Waterhouse of embezzlement, and the others
of connivance. Mr Weston was among the most respected in Sunbury, rich,
solid, a supporter of all good things'. Though Boice and Waterhouse were
unknown to local society, the Westons were intimate with the Jenkinses
and their crowd. They all regarded the _Gleaner_ as a scurrilous,
libellous sheet, and McGibbon himself as an intruder in the village
life. And there was another trouble; very recent. He couldn't speak of
it with the boy in this state of mind. Not at the moment. He couldn't
see his way... And now, with the realest-scandal Sunbury had known in a
decade piled freshly on the paper's bad name. But he couldn't think of
a way to keep him from going. The boy was, in a way, his partner. There
were little delicacies between them.

Henry went.

The reception given by Mr and Mrs Jenkins to Senator and Madame William
M. Watt, was the most important social event of the summer.

The Jenkins's home, a square mansion of yellow brick, blazed with light
at every window. Japanese lanterns were festooned from tree to tree
about the lawn. An awning had been erected all the way from the front
steps to the horse block, and a man in livery stood out there assisting
the ladies from their carriages. It was felt by some, it was even
remarked in undertones, that the Jenkinses were spreading it on pretty
thick, even considering that it was the first really public appearance
of the Watts in Sunbury.

The Senator was known principally as titular sponsor for the Watt
Currency Act, of fifteen years back... In those days his fame had
overspread the boundaries of his own eastern state clear to California
and the Mexican border. Older readers will recall that the Watt Bill
nearly split a nation in its day. After his defeat for re-election, in
the earlier nineties, he had slipped quietly into the obscurity in which
he regained until his rather surprising marriage with the very rich,
extremely vigorous American woman from abroad who called herself the
Comtesse de la Plaine. At the time of his disappearance from public life
various reasons had been dwelt on. One was drink. His complexion--the
part of it not covered by his white beard--might have been regarded as
corroborative evidence. But it was generally understood that he was 'all
right' now; a meek enough little man, well past seventy, with an air of
life-weariness and a suppressed cough that was rather disagreeable in
church. His slightly unkempt beard grew a little to one side, giving
his face a twisted appearance. On his occasional appearances about
the streets he was always chewing an unlighted cigar. To the growing
generation he was a mildly historic myth, like Thomas Buchanan or James
G. Blaine.

Mrs Watt--who during her brief residence in Sunbury (they had bought the
Dexter Smith place, on Hazel Avenue, in May) had somehow attached firmly
to her present name the foreign-sounding prefix, 'Madame'--was a head
taller than her husband, with snappy black eyes, a strongly hooked nose
and an indomitable mouth. She was not beautiful, but was of commanding
presence. The fact that she had lived long in France naturally raised
questions. But there appeared to be no questioning either her earlier
title or her wealth. If she seemed to lack a few of the refinements of
a lady--it was whispered among the younger people that she swore at
her servants--still, a rich countess, married to the self-effacing
but indubitable author of the Watt Act, was, in the nature of things,
equipped to stir Sunbury to the depths.

But the member of this interesting family with whom we are now concerned
was the Madame's niece, a girl of eighteen or nineteen who had been
reared, it was said, in a convent in France, then educated at a school
in the eastern states, and was now living with her aunt for the first
time.

Her name fell oddly on ears accustomed to the Bessies, Marys, Fannies,
Marthas, Louises, Alices, and Graces of Sunbury. It was Cicely--Cicely
Hamlin. It was clearly an English name. It proved, at first, difficult
to pronounce, and led to joking among the younger set. The girl herself
was rather foreign in appearance. Distinctly French some said. She was
slimly pretty, with darkish hair and a quick, brisk, almost eager way
of speaking and smiling and bobbing her hair. She used her hands, too,
more than was common in Sunbury, a point for the adherents of the French
theory. The quality that perhaps most attracted young and old alike
was her sensitive responsiveness. Sometimes it was nearly timidity. She
would listen in her eager way; then talk, all vivacity--head and hands
moving, on the brink of a smile-every moment--then seem suddenly to
recede a little, as if fearful that she had perhaps said too much, as
if a delicate courtesy demanded that she be merely the attentive, kindly
listener. She could play and be merry with the younger crowd. But she
had read books that few of them had ever heard of. Plainly--though
nothing so complex was plain to Henry at this period--she was a girl of
delicate nervous organisation, strung a little tightly; a girl who could
be stirred to almost naïve enthusiasms and who could perhaps be cruelly
hurt.

Henry had seen her--once on the hotel veranda talking brightly with Mary
Ames, who seemed almost stodgy beside her, once on the Chicago train,
once or twice driving with Elberforce Jenkins in his high cart. The
sight of her had stirred him. Already he had had to fight thoughts of
her--tantalisingly indistinct mental visions--during the late night
hours between staring wakefulness and sleep. And it was impossible
wholly to escape bitterness over the thought that he hadn't met her.
He oughtn't to care. He couldn't admit to himself that it mattered. A
couple of years back, in his big days, they would have met all right.
First thing. Everybody would have seen to it. They would have told her
about him. Now... oh well!

He stood in the shadow, out by the carriage entrance, pulling at his
moustache. There had been a sort of rushing of the spirit, almost a
fervour, in his first determination to face the town bravely. Now for
the first time he began to see that the thing couldn't be rushed at.
It might take years to build up a new good name--years of slights
and sneers, of dull hours and slack nerves. For Henry did know that
emotional climaxes pass.

He chose a time, between carriages, when the sheltered walk was empty,
to move up toward the house. Everybody here was dressed up--'Wearing
everything they've got!' he muttered. He himself had on his blue suit
and straw hat and carried his bamboo stick. A thick wad of copy paper
protruded from a side pocket. A vest pocket bulged with newly sharpened
pencils. It had seemed best not to dress. He wasn't a guest; just the
representative of a country weekly.

By the front steps there were arched openings in the canvas. Up there in
the light were music and rustling, continuous movement and the unearthly
cackling sound that you hear when you listen with a detached mind to
many chattering voices in an enclosed space. Mrs Jenkins was up there,
doubtless, at the head of a reception line. He knew now, with despair
in his heart, that he couldn't mount those steps. Nearly everybody there
would know him. He couldn't do it.

He looked around. At one side stood a jolly little group, under the
Japanese lanterns. Young people. Two detached themselves and came toward
the steps. A third joined them; a girl.

'Here,' said this girl--Mary Ames's voice--'you two wait here. I'll find
her.'

Mary came right past him and ran up the steps. Henry drew back, very
white, curiously breathless.

The other two stood close at hand. Henry wondered if he could slip
away. New carriages had arrived; new people were coming up the walk. He
stepped off on the grass. He found difficulty in thinking.

The girl, just across the walk, was Cicely Hamlin. The fellow was Alfred
Knight. He worked in the bank; a colourless youth. He plainly didn't
know what to say to this very charming new girl. He stood there,
shifting his feet.

Henry thought: 'Has he heard yet? Does he know?... Does _she_ know?'

Then Alfred's wandering eye rested on him, hailed him with relief.

'Oh, hallo. Hen;' he said. Then, after a long silence, 'Like you to meet
Miss Hamlin. Mr Henry Calverly.'

Al Knight never could remember whether you said the girl's name first or
the man's.

But he hadn't heard yet. Evidently. Henry sighed. Since it had to come,
it would be almost better...

Miss Cicely Hamlin moved a hesitant step forward; murmured his name.

He had to step forward too.

In sheer miserable embarrassment he raised his hand a little way.

In responsive confusion she raised hers.

But his had dropped.

Hers moved downward as his came up again.

She smiled at this and extended her hand again frankly.

He took it. He didn't know that he was gripping it in a strong nervous
clasp.

'I've heard of you,' she said. He liked her voice. 'You write, don't
you?'

'Oh yes,' said he huskily, 'I write some.'

She didn't know.

He wondered dully who could have told her of him. It sounded like the
old days. It was almost, for a moment, encouraging.

Al Knight drifted away to speak to one of the new-comers.

'Do you write stories?' she asked politely.

'I try to, sometimes. It's awfully hard.'

'Oh yes, I know.'

'Do _you_ write?'

'Why--oh no! But I've wished I could. I've tried a little.'

So far as words went they might as well have been mentioning the
weather. It was not an occasion in which words had any real part.
He saw, felt, the presence of a girl unlike any he had known--slimly
pretty, alive with a quick eager interest, and subtly friendly. She saw,
and felt, a white tragic face out of which peered eyes with a gloomy
fire in them.

Before Alfred Knight drifted back she asked him to call. Then, at the
sight of them, Alfred drifted away again.

'Perhaps,' she added shyly, 'you'd bring some of your stories.'

'I haven't anything I could bring,' he replied, still with that burning
look. 'Nothing 'that's any good. If I had...' Then this blazed from him
in a low shaky voice: 'You haven't heard what they're saying about me. I
can see that. If you had you wouldn't ask me to call.'

'Oh, I'm sure I would,' she murmured, greatly confused.

'You wouldn't. You really couldn't. But I want to say this--quick,
before they come!'--for he saw Mary Ames in the doorway--'I've _got_
to say it! They'll tell you something about me. Something dreadful. It
isn't true. It--is--not true!'

'She isn't in there,' said Mary, joining them. Then 'Oh!' She looked
at Henry with a hint of alarm in her face; said, 'How do you do!' in a
voice that chilled him, brought the despair back; then said to Cicely,
ignoring him: 'We'd better tell them.' And moved a step toward the group
under the lanterns.

Cicely hesitated.

It was happening, right there; and in the cruellest manner. Henry
couldn't speak. He felt as if a fire were burning in his brain.

Al Knight, seeing Mary, drifted back.

The group, over yonder, was breaking up. Or coming this way.

Another moment and Elberforce Jenkins--tall, really good-looking in his
perfect-fitting evening clothes--stood before them.

He glanced at Henry. Gave him the cut direct.

'All right,' said Elbow Jenkins, addressing Cicely now, 'we'll go
without her. She won't mind.'

Still Cicely hesitated. For a moment, standing there, lips parted a
little, looking from one to another. Then, with an air of shyness,
apparently still confused, she gave Henry her hand.

'Do come,' she said, with a quick little smile. 'And bring the stories.
I'm sure I'd like them.'

She went with them, then.

Henry stared after her with wet eyes. Then for a while he wandered
alone among the trees. His thoughts, like his pulse, were racing
uncontrollably.

It is to be noted that he returned a while later, faced Mrs Jenkins,
wrote down the names of all the guests he recognised, and walked,
very fast, with a stiff dignity, lips compressed, eyes and brain still
burning, down to the _Gleaner_ office.


5


The story had to be written. Not at the rooms, though; Mildred might be
there with Humphrey. Sometimes he worked at the Y.M.C.A.

But there was a light in the windows of the _Gleaner_ office, over
Hemple's.

McGibbon was up there, bent over his desk in his shirtsleeves, a hand
sprawling through his straight ragged hair.

Henry acknowledged his partner's greeting with a grunt; dropped down at
his own desk; plunged at the story.

McGibbon looked up once or twice, saw that Henry was unaware of him;
continued his own work. His thin face looked worn. He bit his lip a good
deal.

'There,' said Henry, finally, with a grim look--'there's the reception
story.'

'Oh, all right.' McGibbon came over; took the pencilled script; then sat
on the edge of the table beside Henry's desk.

'Haven't got some good filler stuff?' he queried wearily, brushing a
hand across his forehead. 'We're going to have a lot of extra space this
week.'

He watched Henry, to see if this remark had an effect. It had none. He
nibbed his hand slowly back and forth across his forehead.

'The fact is,' he remarked, 'they've landed on us. Pretty hard. The
advertisers. Just about all Simpson Street. It's a sort of boycott,
apparently. Takes out two-thirds of our advertising. And Weston called
my note--that two hundred and forty-eight--for paper. Simply charged it
up against our account. Pretty dam' high-handed, I call it!'

His voice was rising. He sprang up, paced the floor.

'They're showing fight,' he ran on. 'We've got to lick 'em. That's my
way--start at the drop of the hat. What's a little advertising! Get
readers--that's the real trick of it. We'll lick 'em with circulation,
that's what we'll do!'

He stood over Henry's desk; even pounded it. The boy didn't seem to get
it, even now. He was hardly listening. With his own money at stake. But
McGibbon was finding him like that; queer gaps on the practical side. No
money sense whatever!

'Henry,' he was crying now, 'it's up to you. You're a genius. It's sheer
waste to use you on fool receptions. _Write_, man! WRITE! Let yourself
go. Anything--sketches, verse, stories! Let's give 'em what they don't
look for in a country paper. Like the old Burlington _Hawkeye_ and that
fellow Brann. And the paper in Lahore that nobody would ever have heard
of if Kipling hadn't written prose and verse to fill in, here and there.
He was a kid, too. There's always, somewhere, a little paper that's
famous because a man can _write_. Why shouldn't it be us! Us! Right up
here over the meat-market. Why, we can make the little old _Gleaner_
known from coast to coast. We can put Sunbury on the map. Just with your
pen, my boy! With your pen! And then where'll old Weston be! Where'll
these little two-bit advertisers be!'

He spread his thin hands in a gesture of triumph. Henry looked up now;
slowly pushed back his chair; said, in a weak voice, 'I'm tired. Guess
I'd better get along;' and walked out.

McGibbon stared after him, his mouth literally open.


6


Back of the old Parmenter place the barn was dark. Henry felt relief.
He was tingling with excitement. He couldn't move slowly. His fists were
clenched. Every nerve in his body was strung tight.

He was thinking hopelessly, 'I must relax.'

He crept through the dim shop, among Humphrey's lathes, belts, benches
of tools, big kites and rows of steel wheels mounted in frames. There
were large planes, too, parts of the gliders Humphrey had been puttering
with for a long time. Three years, he had once said.

Henry lingered on the stairs and looked about the ghostly rooms. Beams
of moonlight came in through the windows and touched this and that
machine. He felt himself attuned to all the trouble, the disaster, in
the universe. Life was a tragic disappointment. Nothing ever came right.
People didn't succeed; they struggled and struggled to breast a mighty,
tireless current that swept them ever backward.

Poor old Hump! He had put money into this shop. All the little he had;
or nearly all. And into the technical library that lined his bedroom
walls upstairs. His daily work at the _Voice_ office was just a grind,
to keep body and soul together while the experiments were working out.
Hump was patient.

'Until I moved in here,' Henry thought, with a disturbingly passive
sort of' bitterness, 'and brought girls and things. He doesn't have his
nights and Sundays for work any more. Hump could do big things, too.'

He went on up the stairs and switched on the lights in the living-room.

He caught sight of his face in a mirror. It was white.

There was a look of strain about the eyes. The little moustache, turned
up at the ends, mocked him.

'I'll shave it off,' he said aloud.

He even got out his razor and began nervously stropping it.

He was alarmed to discover that his control of his hands was none too
good. They moved more quickly than he meant them to, and in jerks.

Too, the notion of shaving his moustache struck him weakness, an impulse
to be resisted. Too much like retreating. Subtly like that.

He put the razor back in its drawer.

In the centre of the living-room rug, standing there, stiffly, he
said:--

'I'll face them. I'll go down fighting. They shan't say I surrendered.'

He walked round and round the room.

He had never in his life felt anything like this jerky nervousness. A
restlessness that wouldn't permit him so much as to sit down.

While in the _Gleaner_ office he had hardly been aware of McGibbon. He
certainly hadn't listened to him.

But now, like a blow, everything McGibbon had said came to him. Every
syllable. Suddenly he could see the man, towering ever him, pounding
his desk. Talking--talking--full of fresh hopes while the world crumbled
around him. More disaster! It was the buzzing song of the old globe as
it spun endlessly on its axis. Disaster!... The advertisers had at last
combined against the paper. Old Weston had called McGibbon's note. That
must have taken about the last of Henry's thousand. They were broke.

His hand brushed his coat pocket. It bulged with copy paper. He must
have thrust it back there absently, at the office.

He drew it out and gazed at it.

It was curious; he seemed to see it as a printed page, with a title at
the top, and his name. He couldn't see what the title was. Yet it was
there, and it was good.

His restlessness grew. Again he walked round and round the room. There
was a glow in his breast. Something that burned and fired his nerves and
drove him as one is driven in a dream. Either he must rush outdoors and
wander at a feverish pace around the town and up the lake shore--walk
all night--or he must sit down and write.

He sat down. Picked up an atlas of Humphrey's and wrote on his lap. And
he wrote, from the beginning, as he would have walked had he gone out,
in a fever of energy, gripping the pencil tightly, holding his knees up
a little, heels off the floor. The colour reappeared about his forehead
and temples, then on his cheeks.

When Humphrey came in, after midnight, he was in just this posture,
writing at a desperate rate. The floor all about him was strewn with
sheets of paper. One or two had drifted off to the centre of the
room. He didn't hear his friend come up the stairs.' When he saw him,
standing, looking down, something puzzled, he cried out excitedly':--

'Don't Hump!'

Humphrey resisted the impulse to reply with a 'Don't what?'

'Go on! Don't disturb me!'

'You seem to be hitting it up.'

'I am. I can't talk! Please--go away! Go to bed. You'll make me lose
it!'

Humphrey obeyed.

Later--well along in the night--he awoke.

There was a crack of light about his door. He turned on his own light.
It was quarter to three.

'Here!' he called. 'What on earth are you up to, Hen?' A chair scraped.
Then Henry came to the door and burst it open. His coat was off now,
and his vest open. He had unbuttoned his collar in front so that the
two ends and the ends of his tie hung down. His hair was straggling down
over his forehead.

'Do you know what time it is, Hen?'

'No. Say--listen to this! Just a few sentences. You liked the piece I
did about the Business Men's Picnic, remember. Well, this has sorta
grown out of it. It's just the plain folks along Simpson Street. Say!
There's a title for the book.'

'For the what!'

'The book. Oh, there'll be a lot of them. Sorta sketches. Or maybe
they're stories. I can't tell yet. Plain folks of Simpson Street. Yes,
that's good. Wait a second, while I write it down. The thing struck me
all at once--to-night!--Queer, isn't it!--thinking about the folks
along the street--Bill Hemple, and Jim Smith in your press room with
the tattooed arms, and old Boice and Charlie Waterhouse, and the way Bob
McGibbon blew into town with a big dream, and the barber shop--Schultz
and Schwartz's--and Donovan's soda fountain, and Izzy Bloom and the
trouble about his boys in the high school, and all his fires, and Mr
Draine, the Y.M.C.A. secretary that's been in the British Mounted Police
in Mashonaland--think of it! In Africa--and----'

'Would you mind'--Humphrey was on an elbow, blinking sleepy eyes--'would
you mind talking a little more slowly. Good lord! I can't----'

'All right, Hump. Only I'm excited, sorta. You see, it just struck me
that there's as much romance right here on Simpson Street as there is in
Kipling's Hills or Bagdad or Paris. Just the way people's lives go. And
what old Berger's really thinking about when he tells you the vegetables
were picked yesterday.'

Humphrey gazed--wider awake now--at the wild figure before him. And a
thrill stirred his heart. This boy was supposed to be crushed.

'How much have you done?' he asked soberly.

'Most finished this first one. It's about old Boice and Charlie
Waterhouse and Mr Weston----'

'Gee!' said Humphrey.

'I call it, _The Caliph of Simpson Street_.'

'Well--see here, you're going to bed, aren't you?'

'Oh, yes. But listen.' And he began reading aloud.

Humphrey waved his arms.

'No, no! For heaven's sake, go to bed, Hen!'

'Well, but--oh, say! Just thought of something!' And he went out,
chuckling.

Humphrey awoke again at eight. Through his open door came a light that
was not altogether of the sun.

The incident of the earlier morning came to him in confused form, like a
dream.

He sprang out of bed.

There, still bending over the atlas, was Henry. The sheets of paper lay
like drifts of snow about him now. His pencil was flying.

He looked up. His face was white and red in spots now. He was grinning,
apparently out of sheer happiness.

'Say,' he cried, 'listen to this! It's one I call, _The Cauliflowers
of the Caliph_. Oh, by the way, I've changed the title of the book to
_Satraps of the Simple_.

'The whole book'll be sort of imaginary, like that. It's queer. Just as
if it came to be out of the air. Things I never thought of in my life.
Only everything I ever knew's going into it. Things I'd forgotten.'

'Hen,' said Humphrey, 'are you stark mad?'

'Me? Why--why no, Hump!' The grin was a thought sheepish now.
'But--well, Bob McGibbon said we needed stuff for the paper.'

'How many stories have you written already?'

'Just three.'

'_Three!_ In one night!'

'But they're short, Hump. I don't believe-they average over two or three
thousand words. I think they're good. You know, just the way they made
me feel. Funny idea--Bagdad and Simpson Street, all mixed up together.'

'One thing's certain, Hen. You're an extremely surprising youth, but
right here's where you quit. I don't propose to have a roaring maniac
here in the rooms. On my hands.'

'Oh, Hump, I can't quit now! You don't understand. It's wonderful. It
just comes. Like taking dictation.'

'Dictation is what you're going to take. Right now. From me. Brush up
your clothes, and pick up all that mess while I dress. We'll go out for
some breakfast.'

'Not now, Hump! Wait--I promise I'll go out a little later.'

'You'll go now. Get up.'

Henry obeyed. But he nearly fell back again.

'Gosh!' he murmured.

'Stiff, eh?'

'I should smile. And sorta weak.'

'No wonder. Come on, now! And I want your promise that after breakfast
you'll go straight to bed.'

'Hump, I can't.'

This, apparently, was the truth. He couldn't.

He stopped in at Jackson's Book Store (formerly B. F. Jones's) and
bought paper and pencils: Then, in a thrill of fresh importance, he
bought penholders, large desk blotters, a flannel pen-wiper with a
bronze dog seated in the centre, a cut-glass inkstand, a ruler, half
a dozen pads of a better paper, a partly abridged dictionary, Roget's
_Thesaurus_, (for years he had casually wondered what a Thesaurus was),
a round glass paperweight with a gay butterfly imprisoned within, four
boxes of wire clips, assorted sizes, and, because he saw it, Crabb's
_Synonyms_. Then he saw an old copy of _The Thousand and One Nights_ and
bought that.

It seemed to him that he ought to be equipped for his work. Before he
went out he asked the prices of the better makes of typewriters.

And for the first time in two years, he uttered the magic but too often
fatal words:--

'Just charge it, if you don't mind.'


7


He was back at the rooms by nine-fifteen. Before the university clock
boomed out the hour of noon, he had written that elusive, extraordinary
little classic, _A Kerbstone Barmecide_, and had jotted down suggestive
notes for the story that was later to be known as _The Printer and the
Pearls_.

By this time all thoughts of civic reform had faded out. Charlie
Waterhouse, now that _The Caliph of Simpson Street_ was done and, in
a surface sense, forgotten, no longer appeared to him as a crook who
should be ousted from the local political triumvirate and from town
office; he was but a bit of ore in the rich lode of human material
with which Henry's fancy was playing. The important fact about the new
Waterhouse store-and-office building in South Sunbury, was not that
there was reason to believe Charlie had built it with town money but
that he had put a medallion bas-relief of himself in terra cotta in the
front wall.

Charlie figured, though, unquestionably, in _Sinbad the Treasurer_.

At noon, deciding that he would stroll out after a little and eat a
bite, Henry stretched out on the lounge. Here he dozed, very lightly for
an hour or two.

Humphrey stole in, found him tossing there, fully dressed, mumbling in
his sleep, and stole out.

But early in the afternoon Henry leaped up. His brain, or his emotions,
or whatever the source of his ideas, was a glowing, boiling, seething
crater of tantalising, obscurely associated concepts and scraps of
characterisation and queerly vivid, half-glimpsed dramatic moments,
situations, contrasts. They amounted to a force that dragged him on. The
thought that some bit might escape before he could catch it and get it
written down kept his pulse racing.

At about half-past four he finished that curious fantasy, _Roc's Eggs,
Strictly Fresh_.

This accomplishment brought a respite. He could see his book clearly
now. The cover, the title page and particularly the final sentence.
He knew that the concluding story was to be called _The Old Man of the
Street_. He printed out this title; printed, too, several titles of
others yet to be written--_Ali Anderson and the Four Policemen_ and
_Scheherazade in a Livery Stable_, and one or two more.

His next performance I find particularly interesting in retrospect.
During the long two years of his extreme self-suppression in the vital
matters of candy, girls, and charge-accounts, Henry had firmly refused
to sing. Without a murmur he had foregone the four or five dollars
a Sunday he could easily have picked up in church quartet work, the
occasional sums from substituting in this or that male quartet and
singing at funerals. It was even more extraordinary that he should
have given up, as he did, his old habit of singing to girls. The only
explanation he had ever offered of this curious stand was the rather
obscure one he gave Humphrey that singing was 'too physical.' Whatever
the real complex of motives, it had been a rather violent, or at least a
complete reaction.

But now he strode about the room, chin up, chest expanded, brows
puckered, roaring out scales and other vocalisings in his best voice.
The results naturally were somewhat disappointing, after the long
silence, but he kept at it.

He was still roaring, half an hour later, when McGibbon came anxiously
in.

'Saw Humphrey Weaver down-town,' said the editor of the _Gleaner_, 'and
he said I'd better look you up.'

An hour later McGibbon--red spots in his cheeks, a nervous glitter
in his eyes--hurried down to the _Gleaner_ office with the pencilled
manuscripts of four of the 'Caliph' stories. He was hurrying because
it seemed to him highly important to get them into type. For one thing,
something might happen to them--fire, anything. For another, it might
occur to Henry to sell them to an eastern magazine.

When Humphrey came in, just before six, Henry was already well into
_Scheherazade in a Livery Stable_, and was chuckling out loud as he
wrote.

Friday night was press night at the _Gleaner_ office. Henry strolled
in about ten o'clock and carelessly dropped a thick roll of script on
McGibbon's desk.

That jaded editor leaned back, ran thin fingers through his tousled
hair, and wearily looked over the dishevelled, yawning, exhausted,
grinning youth before him. Never in his life had he seen an expression
of such utter happiness on a human face.

'How many stories is this?' he asked.

'Ten.'

'Good Lord! That's a whole book!'

'No--hardly. I've thought of some more. There'll be fifteen or twenty
altogether. I just thought of one, coming over here. Think I'll call it.
_The Story of the Man from Jerusalem_. It's about the life of a little
Jew storekeeper in a town like this. Struck me all of a sudden--you
know, how he must feel. I don't think I'll write it to-night--just make
a few notes so it won't get away from me.'

Bob McGibbon rose up, put on coat and hat, took, Henry firmly by the
arm, and marched him, protesting, home.

'Now,' he said, 'you go to bed.'

'Sure, Bob! What's the matter with you! I'm just going to jot down a few
notes------'

'You're going to bed!' said McGibbon.

And he stood there, earnest, even grim, until Henry was undressed and
stretched out peacefully asleep.'

Henry slept until nearly three o'clock Saturday afternoon.


8


Senator Watt laid down the _Gleaner_, took off his glasses, removed an
unlighted cigar from his mouth, and said, in his low, slightly husky
voice:--

'A really remarkable piece of work. Quite worthy of Kipling.' The
nineties, as we have already remarked, belong to Kipling. Outright. He
had to be mentioned. 'It is fresh, vivid, and remarkably condensed. The
author produces his effects with a sure swift stroke of the brush.'

The Senator rarely spoke. When he did it was always in these measured,
solid sentences, as if his words might be heard round the world and
therefore must be chosen with infinite care. After delivering himself
of this opinion he resumed his 'dry smoke' and reached for the _Evening
Post_, which lay folded back to the financial page.

'I was sure you would think so,' said Cicely Hamlin, glancing first at
the Senator then at her aunt. 'I wish you would read it, Aunt Eleanor.'

'Hm!' remarked that formidable person, planting her own gold-rimmed
glasses firmly astride her rugged nose just above the point where it
bent sharply downward, picking up the paper, then lowering it to gaze
with a hint of habitual, impersonal severity at her niece.

'Even so,' she said. 'Suppose the young man has gifts. That will hardly
make it necessary for you to cultivate him. I gather he's a bad lot.'

'I have no intention of cultivating him,' replied Cicely, moving toward
the door, but pausing by the mantel to pat her dark ample hair into
place. She wore it low on her shapely neck. Cicely was wearing a
simple-appearing, far from inexpensive blue frock.

Madame Watt read the opening sentence of _The Caliph of Simpson Street_,
then lowered the paper again.

'Are you going out, Cicely?'

'No, I expect company here.'

'Who is coming?'

The girl compressed her lips for an instant, then:--

'Elberforce Jenkins.'

'Hm!' said Madame, and raised the paper.

An electric bell rang.

Cicely came back into the room; stood by a large bowl of roses;
considered them.

The butler passed through the wide hall. A voice sounded in the
distance. The butler appeared.

'Mr Henry Calverly calling,' he said.

Madame Watt raised her head so abruptly that her glasses fell, brought
up with a jerk at the end of a thin gold chain, and swung there.

Cicely stood motionless by the roses.

The Senator glanced up, then shifted his cigar and resumed his study of
the financial page.

'You will hardly----' began Madame.

'Show him into the drawing-room,' said Cicely with dignity.

The butler wavered.

Then, as if to settle all such small difficulties, Henry himself
appeared behind him, smiling naively, eagerly.

Cicely hurried forward. Her quick smile came, and the little bob of her
head.

'How do you do?' she said brightly. 'Mr Calverly--my aunt, Madame Watt!
And my uncle, Senator Watt!'

Madame Watt arose, deliberately, not without a solid sort of majesty.
She was a presence; no other such ever appeared in Sunbury. She fixed an
uncompromising gaze on Henry.

So uncompromising was it that Cicely covered her embarrassment by moving
hurriedly toward the drawingroom, with a quick:--

'Come right in here.'

There was no one living on this erratic earth who could have cowed Henry
on this Saturday evening. A week later, yes. But not to-night. He never
even suspected that Madame meant to cow him. In such moments as these
(and there were a good many of them in his life) Henry was incapable of
perceiving hostility toward himself. The disaster that on Tuesday had
seemed the end of the world was to-night a hazy memory of another epoch.
There were few grown or half-grown persons in Sunbury that were not
thinking on this evening of the meanest scandal in the known history of
the town and, incidentally, among others involved, of Henry Calverly;
but Henry himself was of those few.

He marched straight on Madame with cordial smile and outstretched hand.
He wrung the hand of the impassive Senator.

That worthy said, now:--

'I have just read this first of your new series of sketches. Allow me to
tell you that I think it admirable. In the briefest possible compass
you have pictured a whole community in its petty relationships, at once
tragic and comic. There is caustic satire in this sketch, yet I
find deep human sympathy as well. It is a pleasure to make your
acquaintance.'

When, after a rather amazing outpouring of words--the thing didn't
amount to much; just a rough draft really; he hoped they'd like the next
one; it was about cauliflowers--he had disappeared into the front room,
the Senator remarked:--

'The young man makes an excellent impression.'

'The young man,' remarked Madame, 'is all right.'

Half an hour later the noise of the front door opening, and a voice,
caused the two young people to start up out of a breathless absorption
in the story called _A Kerbstone Barmecide_, which Henry was reading
from long strips of galley proof. He had already finished _The
Cauliflowers of the Caliph_.

For a moment Cicely's face went blank.

The butler announced:--

'Mr Jenkins calling, Miss Cicely.'

The one who was not equal to the situation was Elbow. He stood in the
doorway, staring.

Cicely was only a moment late with her smile.

Henry, with an open sigh of regret, nodded at his old acquaintance and
folded up the long strips of galley proof.

Elbow came into the room now, and took Cicely's hand. But his small
talk had gone with his wits. He barely returned Henry's nod. Cicely,
nervously active, suggested a chair, asked if there was going to be a
Country Club dance this week, thanked him for the beautiful roses.

Then silence fell upon them; an awkward silence, that seemed to announce
when it set in its intention of making itself increasingly awkward and
very, very long. It was confirmed as a hopeless silence by the sudden
little catchings of breath, the slight leaning forward, followed by
nothing at all--first on the part of Cicely, then of Elbow.

Henry sat still.

Once he raised his eyes. They met squarely the eyes of Elbow. For a long
moment each held the gaze. It was war.

Cicely said now, greatly confused:--

'I know that you sing, Mr Calverly. Please do sing something.'

There, now, was an idea! It appealed warmly to Henry. He went straight
to the piano, twisted up the stool, struck his three chords in turn,
and plunged into that old song of Samuel's Lover's that has quaint charm
when delivered with spirit and humour, _Kitty of Coleraine_.

After which he sang, _Rory O'More_. He had spirit and humour aplenty
to-night.

The Senator came quietly in, bowed to Elbow, and asked for _The Low-Back
Car_.

Elbow left.

'Why did you tell me you hadn't any stories you could bring?' Cicely
asked, a touch of indignation in her voice.

'It was so. I didn't.'

'You had these.'

'No. I didn't. That's just it!'

'But you don't mean----'

'Yes! Just since I met you!'

'Ten stories, you said. It seems--I can't----'

'But it's true. Three days. And nights, of course. I've been so
excited!'

'I never heard of such a thing! Though, of course, Stevenson wrote _Dr
Jekyll and Mr Hyde_ in three days. But ten different stories.'... She
sat quiet, her hands folded in her lap, very thoughtful, flatteringly
thoughtful. 'It sounds a little like magic.'

She was delicately pretty, sitting so still in her big chair.

'I wrote them straight at you,' he said, low, earnest. 'Every word.'

Even Henry caught the extreme emphasis of this, and hurried to
elaborate.

'You see I was just sick Tuesday night. Everything had gone wrong with
me. And then that horrible story that wasn't true. I knew I shouldn't
have spoken of it to you, but--well, it was just driving me crazy, and I
couldn't bear to think you might despise me like the others without
ever knowing the truth. And... You see I must have felt the inspiration
you... Even then, I mean...'

He was red. He seemed to be getting himself out of breath. And he was
tugging at the roll of proofs in his pocket.

'Shall I--finish--this?'

'Oh, _yes!_' She sank into a great leather chair; looked up at him with
glowing eyes. 'I want you to read me all of them. Please!'

She said it almost shyly.

Henry drew up a chair, found his place, and read on. And on. And on.

It was victory.



VII--THE BUBBLE, REPUTATION


1


|There is nothing more unsettling than a sudden uncalculated,
incalculable success. It at once thrills, depresses, confuses. People
attack with the most unexpected venom. Others, the most unexpected
others, defend with vehemence, One feels queerly out of it, yet
forlornly conspicuous. As if it were some one else, or a dream. Innocent
effort dragged to the public arena, quarrelled over, misunderstood. One
boasts and apologises in a breath; dreads the thing will keep up and
fears it will stop; finds one day it has stopped and ever after thinks
back in sentimental retrospect to the good old days, the great days,
when one did stir them up a bit.

Henry awoke on this Saturday morning to a sense of trouble that hung
heavily over him during the walk with Humphrey from the rooms to
Stanley's. Nothing of the stir reached them here. They were so late that
the restaurant was about empty. Humphrey did hear a faint, distant voice
booming, but gave no particular thought to it at the moment. And the
Stanleys went quietly about their business as usual. Henry, indeed, was
deep in his personal concern.

This found words over the oatmeal. He drew a rumpled paper from his
pocket and submitted it to his room mate.

'Got this last night,' Henry explained moodily.

Humphrey read the following pencilled communication:--

'Henry Calverly, can't you see that your attentions are making it hard
for a certain young lady? Do you want to injure her reputation along
with yours? Why don't you do the decent thing and leave town!

'_A Round Robin of People Who Know You_.'

Humphrey pursed his lips over it.

'It's the Mamie Wilcox trouble, of course,' he said finally.

Henry nodded. His mouth drooped at the corners. There was a shine in his
eyes.

Humphrey folded the paper; handed it back.

'Do you know who did it?'

Henry shook his head. 'They printed it out. Oh, I can make guesses, of
course. It's about Cicely Hamlin and me.'

'You can't do anything.'

'I know.'

'And maybe you're going to be so successful that it won't matter. Laugh
at 'em.'

'I don't believe that, Hump. I can't even imagine it.'

'At that, it may be jealousy.'

'I've thought of that. Even if it is...' they're partly right. I didn't
do what they think, but... Don't you see, Hump?'

'Oh, yes, I see clearly enough.'

'I've felt it. When I was all stirred up over my work, I went there
to call. Last Saturday night. Then I got to thinking.' His voice was
unsteady, but he kept on. Rather doggedly. 'I've stayed away all this
week. Just worked. You know. You've seen how I've kept at it. Until
Thursday night. I sorta slipped up then and went around there. She was
out. And that's all. I've thought I--I've felt... Hump, do you believe
in love--you know--at first sight?'

Humphrey's long face wrinkled into a rather wry smile, then sobered.

'I ought to,' he replied. 'In a way it was like that--with me.'


2


The first of Henry's meaty, fantastic little stories of the plain folk
of the village, that one called _The Caliph of Simpson Street_, had
appeared in the _Gleaner_ of the preceding Saturday. It had made a
distinct stir.

The second story was out on this the Saturday of our present narrative.
In the order of writing, and in Henry's plans, it should have been _The
Cauliflowers of the Caliph_. But Bob McGibbon, hanging wearily over the
form in the press room late Friday night, suddenly hit on the notion of
putting _Sinbad the Treasurer_ in its place. He had all but the last one
or two in type by that time. There were no mechanical difficulties; and
he didn't consult the author. He could hit Charlie Waterhouse harder
this way. _The Cauliflowers_ was quietly humorous; while _Sinbad the
Treasurer_ had a punch. That was how McGibbon put it to the foreman,
Jimmy Albers. The word 'punch' was fresh slang then. McGibbon himself
introduced it into Sunbury.

Henry had Charlie and the town money in the back of his head, of course,
when he wrote _Sinbad_. Probably more than he himself knew. McGibbon
sniffed a sensation in the brief, vivid narrative. And a sensation of
some sort he had to have. It was now or never with McGibbon.... He was
able even to chuckle at the way Charlie would froth. He couldn't admit
that the coat fitted, of course. He would just have to froth. It was
Henry's _naïveté_ that made the thing so perfect. An older man wouldn't
have dared. Henry had just naturally rushed in. Yes, it was perfect.

Bob McGibbon was a hustler. And his nervous quickness of perception had
brought him a few small successes and was to bring him larger ones. His
Sunbury disaster was perhaps later to be charged to education.

The roots of that particular failure went deep. From first to last his
attitude was that of a New Yorker in a small town. He outraged every
local prejudice; he alienated, one by one, each friendly influence.
He couldn't understand that any such village as Sunbury resents the
outsider who insists on pointing out its little human failings. It was
recognised here and there as possible that old man Boice and Mr Weston
of the bank might be covering up something in the matter of the genial
town treasurer; but there was reason enough to believe that Mr Boice and
Mr Weston knew pretty well what they were about. That, at least, was
the rather equivocal position into which McGibbon by his very energy and
assertiveness, drove many a ruffled citizen.

And it had needed very little urging on the part of the three leading
citizens (McGibbon had a trick of referring to them in his paper as 'the
Old Cinch') to bring about the boycott on the part of the Simpson Street
and South Sunbury advertisers. As Charlie Waterhouse himself put it:--

'It ain't what he says about me. I can stand it. Man to man I can attend
to him. The thing is, he's hurtin' the town. That's it--he's hurtin' the
town.'


3


I have spoken of McGibbon's perception. He knew before reading three
paragraphs that Henry had a touch of genius. Before finishing _A
Kerbstone Barmecide_ he knew--knew with a mental grasp that was
pitifully wasted on the petty business of a country weekly--that nothing
comparable had appeared anywhere in the English-speaking world since
_Plain Tales from the Hills and Soldiers Three_. He knew, further, what
no Sunbury seems ever able to recognise, that it is your occasional
Henry who, as he mentally put it, 'rings the bell.' A queer young man,
slightly dudish in dress, unable to fit in any conventional job,
unable really to fall into step with his generation, blunderingly
but incorrigibly a non-conformist, a moodily earnest yet absurdly
susceptible young man, slightly self-conscious, known here and there
among those of his age as 'sarcastic,' brilliant occasionally, dogged
some of the time, dreamy and irresponsible the rest, yet with charm. A
youth who not infrequently was guilty of queer, rather unsocial acts;
not of meanness or unkindness, rather of an inability to feel with and
for others, to fit. A youth destined to work out his salvation, if at
all, alone.

Yes, McGibbon read the signs shrewdly. For which Sunbury owes that
erratic editor a small debt that remains unpaid and unrecorded to-day.
No doubt that McGibbon brought him out. Encouraged him, spurred him,
held him to it.

It was tradition in Sunbury that the two weekly papers should come
decorously into the world each Saturday morning for the first delivery
of mail. A small pile of each, toward noon was put on sale in Jackson's
book store (formerly B. F. Jones's). That was all.

And that was why McGibbon was able, on this Saturday of our story, to
shake the town.

Poor old Sunbury was shaken heavily and often that summer. First by the
Mamie Wilcox scandal. The sort of thing that didn't, couldn't happen.
Men leaving town, and all that. A miserable, hastily contrived marriage.
Henry's name dragged in, unjustly (as it happened), but convincingly.
Though Henry always worked best after some sort of a blow. He had to be
shaken out of himself. I think. It isn't likely that he could or would
have written _Satraps of the Simple_ if this particular blow hadn't
fallen. It was a feverish job. He was stung, quivering, helpless. And
then his great gift functioned.

Then Madame Watt happened to Sunbury. And shook the village to its
roots.

And then came Bob McGibbon's last and mightiest effort.

When all commuting Sunbury converged on the old red brick 'depot' that
morning for the seven-eleven and the seven forty-six and the eight-three
and the eight-twenty-nine, hoarsely bellowing newsboys held the two ends
of the platform. They wore cotton caps with 'The Weekly Gleaner' printed
around the front. They were big, deep-throated roughs, the sort that
shout 'extras' through the cities. They crowded the local newsdealer,
little Mr Beamer, back into one of the waiting-rooms.

They fairly intimidated the town. People bought the _Gleaner_ in
self-defence, even boarded trains and rode off to Chicago without their
regular _Tribune_ or _Record_ or _Inter Ocean_.

Other newsmen roamed the shady, pleasant residence streets, bellowing.
Housewives, old gentlemen, servants, hurried out to buy.

There were posters on the fences, and, along the billboards from
Rockwell Park on the south to Borea on the north. McGibbon actually
rented the space from the Northern Billboard Company. And there
were newsmen with caps, in the afternoon, attacking the North Shore
home-comers in the Chicago station, the very heart of things. All
this--posters screaming like the news-men; big wood type, red and
black--to advertise _Sinbad the Treasurer_ and the rest of the long
series and Henry Calverly.

'Attack' is the word. McGibbon was assaulting the town and the region as
it had hardly been assaulted before. If it was his last, it was surely
his most outrageous act from the local point of view. People talked,
boiled, raged. The blatancy of the thing irritated them to the point of
impotent mutterings. They were helpless. McGibbon was breaking no laws.
He was stirring them, however feverish his condition of mind, with
deliberate intent. It was his notion of advertising. Reaching the
mark, regardless of obstacles, indifference, difficulties. And had
his personal circumstances been less harrowing he could have chuckled
happily at the result.

The noise fell upon the ear drums of Charlie Waterhouse as he walked
down-town. A ragged, red-faced pirate thrust a _Gleaner_ into his hand,
snatched his nickel, and rushed off, bellowing.

Charlie began reading _Sinbad the Treasurer_ as he walked. He finished
it standing on the turf by the sidewalk, ignoring passing acquaintances,
nervously biting and mouthing a cigar that had gone out. In the same
condition he read bits of it again. He stood for a while, wavering; then
went back home, and spoke roughly to Mrs Waterhouse when she asked him
why. He hid the paper from her, to no particular purpose. He didn't
appear at the town hall all day, but caught a trolley into Chicago and
went to a dime museum. Later in the day he was seen by two venturesome
youths sitting alone in the rear of a stage box at Sam T. Jack's.

Norton P. Boice became aware of the sensation on his familiar way to the
_Voice_ office.

Humphrey, at his own editorial desk behind the railing, waited,
apparently buried in galley proofs, for the explosion. He had caught it
all after leaving Henry at Stanley's door, and had prowled a bit, taking
it in.

But Mr Boice simply made little sounds--'Hmm!' and 'mmp!' and 'Hmm!'
again. Then, slowly lifting his ponderous figure, the upper half of his
face expressionless as always above his long yellowish-white beard, went
out.

For an hour he was shut up with Mr Weston in the director's room at the
bank; his huge bulk disposed in an armchair; little, low-voiced, neatly
bearded Mr Weston standing by the mantel. It came down to this:--

'Could throw him into bankruptcy. He must be about broke.'

Thus Boice. 'We'd get the stories that way. Suppress 'em.'

The old gentleman was still wincing from the artlessly subtle stabs he
had suffered a week back in _The Caliph of Simpson Street_. Everybody
within four miles of the postoffice knew who the Caliph was. He had
caught people hiding their smiles. Mentally he was considering a new
drawn head for the _Voice_, with the phrase 'And _The Weekly Gleaner_'
neatly printed just below. There never had been room for two papers in
Sunbury anyway.

Mr Weston was shaking his head. 'May as well sit tight, Nort. What
harm's to be done, is done already. He'll have to come down. We'll get
him then.'

'You haven't got any of his paper here, have you?'

'There was one note. I called that some time ago.'

'Wha'd he do?'

'Paid it. He seems still to have a little something. But he can't last.
Not without advertising.'

'But he's selling his paper fast. If he can keep that up maybe he'll
begin to pick up a little along the street.'

Mr Weston was still shaking his head. 'Better wait, Nort.'

'No, I'll offer him a few hundred. The old _Gleaner_ plant's worth
something.'

'Of course, there's no harm in that.'

So Mr Boice crossed the street to Hemple's market and laboriously
lifted his great body up the stairway beside it to the quarters of the
_Gleaner_ upstairs, where a coatless, rumpled, rather wild-eyed
McGibbon listened to him and then, with suspiciously, alert and smiling
politeness, showed him out and down again.


4


The sensation struck Henry, full face, in the barber shop, Schütz and
Schwartz's, whither he went from Stanley's. Professor Hennis, of the
English department at the university, met him at the door and insisted
on shaking hands.

'These sketches of yours, Calverly--the two I have read--are remarkable.
There is a freshness of characterisation that suggests Chaucer to me.
Sunbury will live to be proud of you.'

This left Henry red and mumbling, rather dumbfounded.

Then, in the chair, Bill Schwartz--fat, exuberant--said, bending over
him:--

'Well, how does it feel to be famous, Henry?' And added, 'You've got 'em
excited along the street here. Henry Berger says Charlie Waterhouse'll
punch your head before night. Says he'll have to. Can't sue very well.'

It was after this and a few other evidences of the stir he was causing
that Henry, as Humphrey had done a half-hour earlier, went prowling. He
watched and followed the bellowing newsmen. He observed the lively scene
at the depot when the nine-three train pulled out, from the cluttered-up
window of Murphy's cigar store.

Then, keeping off Simpson Street, which was by this time crowded with
the Saturday morning shopping, he slipped around Hemple's corner and up
the stairs.

McGibbon sat alone in the front office--coat off, vest open, longish
hair tousled, a lock straggling down across his high forehead, eyes
strained and staring. He was deep in his swivel chair; long legs
stretched out under the desk, smoking a five-cent cigar, hands deep in
pockets.

He greeted Henry with a wry, thin-lipped smile, and waved his cigar.

'Great days!' he remarked dryly. 'Gee!' Henry dropped into a chair, laid
his bamboo stick on the table, mopped a glistening face. 'Gee! You do
know how to get'em going!'

The cigar waved again.

'Sure! Stir'em up! Soak it to'em! Only way.'

'Everybody's buying it.'

'Rather! You're a hit, son!'

'Oh, I don't know's I'd say that.'

'Rats! You're a knockout. Never been anything like it. Two months of it
and they'd be throwing your name around in Union Square, N.Y. If we only
had the two months.' He sighed.

'Why!' Henry, all nerves, caught his expression. 'What's the matter?'

'We're-out of paper.'

'You mean to print on?'

A nod. 'And we're out of money to buy more.'

'But with this big sale--'

'Costing four 'n' one-half times what we take in.'

'But I don't see----'

'Don't you? That's business, Hen. That's this world. You pour your money
in--whip up your sales--drive, drive, _drive!_ After a while it goes of
itself and you get your money back. Scads of it. You're rich. That's the
way with every young business. Takes nerve I tell you, and vision! Why,
I know stories of the early days of--look here, what we need is money.
Got to have it. Right now, while they're on the run. If we can't get it,
and get it quick, well'--he reached deliberately forward, picked up a
copy of the _Gleaner_ and waved it high--'that--that, my son, is the
last copy of the _Gleaner!_'

Henry stared with burning eyes out of a white face.

'But my stories!' he cried.

'They go to the man that gets the paper. If we land in bankruptcy, as we
doubtless shall, they will be held by the court as assets.'

'But they're mine!' A note of bewilderment that was despair was in
Henry's voice.

McGibbon shook his head.

'No, Hen. We're known to have them. They're in type here. You're
helpless. We're both helpless. The thousand dollars you put in, too. You
hold my note for that. You'll get so many cents on the dollar when the
plant is sold at auction. Or if Boice buys it. He was up here just
now. Offered me five hundred dollars. Think of it--five hundred for our
plant, the big press and everything.'

'Wha--wha'd you say?'

'Showed him out. Laughed at him. Of course! But it was just a play.
Never. Now look here, Hen, you've got a little more, haven't you? Your
uncle----'

Henry had reached the limits of his emotional capacity.' He was far
beyond the familiar mental process known as thinking. He was sitting on
the edge of his chair, knees drawn up, hands clasped tightly, temples
drumming, a flush spreading down over his cheeks.

But even in this condition, thoughts came.

One of these--or perhaps it was just a feeling, a manifestation of a
sort of instinct--was of hostility to Bob here. It. brought a touch
of guilty discomfort--hostility came hard, with Henry--yet it was
distinctly there. Bob was doubtless right. All his experience. And his
wonderful fighting nerve. Yet somehow he wouldn't do.

'No!' said Henry. And again, 'No! Not a cent from my uncle!'

McGibbon's hand still held up the paper. He brought it down now with a
bang. On the desk. And sprang up, speaking louder, with quick, intense
gestures.

'You don't seem to get it, Hen!' he cried. 'We're through--broke!' He
glanced around at the press-room door and controlled his voice. 'No
pay-roll--nothing! Nothing for the boys out there--or me--or you. I've
been sitting here wondering how I can tell'em. Got to.'

'Nothing!' Henry echoed weakly, fumbling at his Little moustache--'for
me?'

'Not a cent.'

'But--but----' Henry's earthly wealth at the moment was about forty
cents. His rough estimate of immediate expenditures was considerable.

'Got to have money now, Hen! To-day. Before night. Can't you get hold
of that fact? Even a hundred--the pay-roll's only ninety-six-fifty. If
I could handle that, likely I could make a turn next week and get our
paper stock in time.'

Henry heard his own voice saying:--

'But don't business men borrow----'

'Borrow! Me? In this town? They wouldn't lend me the rope to hang myself
with... Hold on there, Hen--'

For the young man had picked up his stick and was moving toward the
door. And as he hurried out he was saving, without looking back:--

'No... No!'

He said it on the stairs, where none could hear. He rushed around the
corner, around the block. Anything to keep off Simpson Street. He had
a really rather desperate struggle to keep from talking his heart
out--aloud--in the street--angrily--attacking Boice, Weston, and
McGibbon in the same breath. His feeling against McGibbon amounted
to bitterness now. But his feeling against old Boice had risen to the
borders of rage. He thought of that silent, ponderous old man, sitting
at his desk in the post-office, like a spider weaving his subtle web
about the town, where helpless little human flies crawled innocently
about their uninspired daily tasks.

So Mr Boice had offered five hundred for plant, good will, and the
stories!

No mere legal, technical claim on those stories as property, as assets,
held the slightest interest for Henry. He couldn't understand that.
They were his. He had created them, made them out of nothing--just a
few one-cent lead pencils and a lot of copy paper. Bob had snatched them
away to print them in the _Gleaner_. But they weren't Bob's.

'They're mine!' he said aloud. 'They're mine! Old Boice shan't have
them! Never!' He caught himself then; looked about sharply, all hot
emotion and tingling nerves.


5


A little later--it was getting on toward noon--he found himself on
Filbert Avenue approaching Simpson Street. Without plan or guidance, he
was heading northward, toward the rooms. It would be necessary to cross
Simpson Street. He was fighting down the impulse to go several blocks
to the east, toward the lake, where the stores and shops gave place to
homes and lawns and shade trees, where he could slip across unnoticed;
but his feet were leading him straight toward the corner of Filbert and
Simpson, the busiest, most conspicuous corner in town, where were the
hotel and Berger's grocery and, only a few doors off, Donovan's drug
store and Swanson's flower shop and Duneen's general store and the
_Voice_ office. It had come down, the warfare within him, to a question
of proving to himself that he wasn't a coward, that he could face
disaster, even the complete disaster that seemed now to be upon him. It
was like the end of the world.

In a pocket his fingers were tightly clasped about the anonymous note
that had been the cloud over his troubled sleep of the night and his
gloomy awakening of the morning. The note was now but a detail in the
general crash. He decided to press on, march straight across Simpson
Street, head high. He even brought out the note from his pocket; held it
in his hand as he walked stiffly on. It was a somewhat bitter touch of
bravado, but I find I like Henry none the less for it.

A little way short of the corner, it must be recorded, he faltered. It
was by Berger's rear door. There was a gate in the fence here, that now
stood open. Two of the Berger delivery wagons were backed in there. And
right by the gate Henry Berger himself, his ample person enveloped in a
long white apron, was opening a crate.

Henry sensed him there; flushed (for it seemed that he could not speak
to any human being now) and wrestled, in painful impotence of will, with
the idea of moving on.

But then, through a slow moment after Mr Berger said, 'How are you,
Henry!' he sensed something further; a note of good nature in the voice,
a feeling that the man was smiling, a suggestion that all the genial
quality had not, after all, been hardened out of life.

He turned; pulled at his moustache (paper in hand), and flicked at weeds
with his stick.

Mr Berger _was_ smiling. He drew his hand across a sweaty brow; shook
the hand; then leaned on his hatchet.

'Getting hot,' he remarked.

Henry tried to reply, but found himself still inarticulate.

'Old Boice is getting after you. Plenty.'

Henry winced; but felt slightly reassured when Mr Berger chuckled. All
intercourse with Mr Berger was tempered, however, by the memory that
Henry had been caught, within the decade, stealing fruit from the cases
out front.

'He was just here. Don't mind telling you that he's trying to get
McGibbon's creditors together and throw him into bankruptcy. Doesn't
look as if there was enough out against him, though. Got to be five
hundred. It ain't as if he had a family and was running up bills. Just
living alone at the Wombasts, like he does. But old Boice is out gunning
for fair. Never saw him quite like this. First it was the advertising
boycott...'

Henry was shifting his weight from foot to foot.

'Well,' he said now, 'I guess I'd better be getting along.'

'I was just going to say, Henry, that you've give me a good laugh.
Keep on like this and you'll be famous some day.... And say! Hold on a
minute! I don't know's you're in a position to do anything about it,
but I was just going to say, I rather guess the old _Gleaner_ could be
picked up for next to nothing right now. And there's folks here that
ain't so anxious to see Boice get the market all to hisself. Not so dam
anxious.... Wait a minute! I mean, I guess once McGibbon was got rid of
the Old Boy'd find it wouldn't be so easy to hold this boycott together.
There's folks that would break away---- Well, that's about all that was
on my mind. Only I'd sorta hate to see your yarns suppressed. They're
grand reading, Henry. My wife like to 'a' died over that one last
week--_The Sultan of Simpson Street_.'

'"Caliph!"' said Henry, with a nervous eagerness. '_The Caliph of
Simpson Street_.'

'Touched up old Norton P. for fair. Made him sorer 'n a goat. My wife's
literary, and she says it's worthy of Poe. And you ought to hear the
people talking to-day about this new one.'

'_Sinbad the Treasurer!_' said Henry quickly, fearing another
misquotation:

'Yay-ah. That. Ain't had time to read it yet myself. They say it's
great.'

'Well--good-bye,' said Henry, and moved stiffly away toward the corner.

'Funny!' mused the grocer,' looking after him. 'These geniuses never
have any business sense. I give him a real opening there.'


6


Simpson Street was always crowded of a Saturday morning with thoughtful
housewives. The grocers and butchers bustled about. The rows of display
racks along the sidewalk were heaped with fresh vegetables and fruits.

The majority of the shoppers came afoot, but the kerb was lined with
buggies, surries, neat station wagons and dog-carts, crowded in between
the delivery wagons. Sunbury boasted, as well, a number of Stanhopes,
a barouche or two, and several landaus. The Jenkins family, among its
several members, had a stable full of horses and ponies. William B. Snow
owned a valuable chestnut team with silver-mounted harness. Here and
there along the street one might have seen, on this occasion, several
vehicles that might well have been described as smart.

But Sunbury had never seen anything like the equipage that, at a quarter
to twelve--a little late for selective shopping in those days--came
rolling smoothly, silently, on its rubber-shod wheels across the tracks
and past the post-office, Nelson's bakery, the Sunbury National Bank,
Duneen's and Donovan's to Swanson's flower shop.

Never, never had Sunbury seen anything quite like that. Mr Berger,
hurrying through to the front of his store, stopped short, stared out
across the street and after a breathless moment breathed the words,
'Holy Smoke!' Women stood motionless, holding heads of lettuce, boxes
of raspberries and what not, and gazed in an amazement that was actually
long minutes in reaching the normal mental state of critical appraisal.

The carriage was a Victoria, hung very low, varnished work glistening
brilliantly in the sunshine. It was upholstered conspicuously in plum
colour. The horses were jet black, glossy, perfectly matched, checked
up so high that the necks arched prettily if uncomfortably; and they had
docked tails. The harness they wore was mounted with a display of silver
that made the silver on William B. Snow's team, standing just below
Donovan's, look outright inconspicuous.

Leaning back in luxurious comfort as the carriage came so softly along
the street, holding up a parasol of black lace, overshadowing her niece,
pretty little Cicely Hamlin, who sat beside her, Madame Watt, her large
person dressed with costly simplicity in black with a touch of colour
at the throat, square of face, with an emphatic chin, a strongly hooked
nose, penetrating black eyes, surveyed the street with a commanding
dignity, an assertive dignity, if the phrase may be used. Or it may have
been that a touch of self-consciousness within her showed through the
enveloping dignity and made you think about it. Certainly there was a
final outstanding reason for self-consciousness, even in the case of
Madame Watt; for on the high box in front visible for blocks above the
traffic of the street, sat, in wooden perfection as in plum-coloured
livery, side by side, a coachman and a footman.

At Swanson's the footman leaped nimbly down and stood rigid by the step
while Madame heavily descended and passed across the walk and into the
shop.

The street lifted. Women's tongues moved briskly. Trade was resumed.

A pretty girl in the most wonderful carriage ever seen--a new girl, at
that, bringing a stir of quickened interest to the younger set--is a
magnet of considerable attracting power. Young people appeared--from
nowhere, it seemed--and clustered about the carriage. Two couples
hurried from the soda fountain in Donovan's. The de Casselles boys were
passing on their way from the Country Club courts (which were still on
the old grounds, down near the lake) in blazer coats and with expensive
rackets in wooden presses. Alfred Knight was out collecting for the
bank, and happened to be near. Mary Ames and Jane Bellman came over from
Berger's, where Mary was scrutinising cauliflowers with a cool eye.

It was at this moment that Henry reached the corner by Berger's, paused,
hopelessly, confused and torn in the swirl of success and disaster that
marked this painful day, fighting down that mad impulse to talk out loud
his resentments in a passionate torrent of words, saw the carriage, the
girl in it and the crowd about it in one nervous glance, then, suddenly
pale, lips tightly compressed, moved doggedly forward across the street.

He had nearly reached the opposite kerb--not turning; with the ugly
little note that was clasped in his left hand, he could not trust
himself to bow, he felt a miserable sort of relief that the distance
might excuse his appearing not to see; and there had to be an excuse,
or it would look to some like cowardice--when an errant summer breeze
wandered around the corner and seized on his straw hat.

He felt it lifting; dropped his stick; reached then after both hat and
stick and in doing so nearly dropped the paper. In another moment he was
to be seen, desperately white, stick in one hand, a slip of paper in
the other, running straight down Simpson Street after his hat, which
whirled, sailed, rolled, sailed again, circled, and settled in the
dust not two rods from the Watt carriage. The street, as streets, will,
turned to look.

Henry lunged for the hat. It lifted, and rolled a little way on. He
lunged again. It whirled over and over, then rolled rapidly straight
down the street, just missing the hoofs of a delivery horse, passing
under Mr George F. Smith's buggy without touching either horse or
wheels, and sailed on.

Henry fell to one knee in his second plunge. And his pallor gave place
to a hot flush.

Laughter came to his ears--jeering laughter. And it came unquestionably
from the group about the Watt carriage. The first voices were masculine.
Before he could get to his feet one or two of the girls had joined in.
In something near despair of the spirit, helplessly, he looked up.

The whole group, still laughing, turned away. All, that is, but one.
Cicely was not laughing. She was leaning a little forward, looking right
at him, not even smiling, her lips parted slightly. He was too far gone
even to speculate as to what her expression meant. It fell upon him
as the final blow. He ran on and on. In front of Hemple's market a boy
stopped the hat with his foot. Henry, trembling with rage, took it from
him, muttered a word of thanks, and rushed, followed by curious eyes,
around the corner to the north.


7


Humphrey found him, a little before one, at the rooms, and thought he
looked ill. He was sitting on the edge of his bed, staring at a small
newspaper clipping. He looked up, through his doorway, saw his friend
standing in the living-room, mumbled a colourless greeting, and let his
heavy eyes fall again.

'What's all this?' asked Humphrey, with a rather weary, wrinkly smile.

Henry got up then and came slowly into the living-room.

'It's this,' he explained, in a voice that was husky and light, without
its usual body. 'This thing. I've had it quite a while.'

Humphrey read:--

Positively No Commission HEIRS CAN BORROW On or sell their individual
estate, income or future inheritance; lowest rates; strictly
confidential Heirs' Loan Office.

And an address.

'What on earth are you doing with this, Hen?'

'Well, Hump, there's still a little more'n three thousand dollars in my
legacy. I got a thousand this summer, you know, and lent it to McGibbon
for my interest in the paper. But my uncle said he wouldn't give me a
cent more until I'm twenty-one, in November. And so I was wondering...
Look here! How much do you suppose I could get out of it from these
people. They're all right, you see?

They've got a regular office and----'

'You'd just about get out with your underwear and shoes, Hen. They might
leave you a necktie. What do you want it for--throw it in after the
thousand?'

'Well, McGibbon's broke----'

'Yes, I know. They're saying on the street that Boice has got the
_Gleaner_ already. Two compositors and your foreman were in our place
half an hour ago asking for work. Boice went right down there. I saw him
start climbing the stairs.'

'That's his second trip this morning, then, Hump. He offered Bob five
hundred.'

'But it ought to be worth a few thousand.'

'Sure. And except for there not being any money it's going great. You'd
be surprised! You know it's often that way. Bob says many a promising
business has gone under just because they didn't have the money to tide
it over a tight place. But he's getting the circulation. You've no idea!
And when you get that you're bound to get the advertisers. Sooner or
later. Bob says they just have to fall in line.'

Humphrey appeared to be only half listening to this eager little torrent
of words. He deliberately filled his pipe; then moved over to a window
and gazed soberly out at the back yard of the parsonage.

Henry, moody again, was staring at the advertisement, fairly hypnotising
himself with it.

'Great to think of the Old Man having to climb those stairs twice,'
Humphrey remarked, without turning. Then: 'Even with all the trouble
you're going through, Hen, you're lucky not to be working for Boice. He
does wear on one.'

He smoked the pipe out. Then, brow's knit, his long swarthy face
wrinkled deeply with thought, he walked slowly over to the door of his
own bedroom and leaned there, studying the interior.

'There's three thousand dollars' worth of books in here,' he remarked.
'Or close to it. Even at second hand they'd fetch something. You see,
it's really a well built, pretty complete little scientific library. Now
come downstairs.'

He had to say it again: 'Come on downstairs.'

Henry followed, then; hardly aware of the oddity of Humphrey's actions.

In the half-light that sifted dustily in through the high windows, the
metal lathes, large and small, the tool benches, the two large reels of
piano wire, the rows of wall boxes filled with machine jars, the round
objects that might have been electric motors hanging by twisted strings
or wires from the ceiling joists, the heavy steel wheels of various
sizes mounted in frames, some with wooden handles at one side, the big
box kites and the wood-and-silk planes stacked at one end of the room,
the gas engine mounted at the other end, the water motor in a corner,
the wheels, shafts and belting overhead--all were indistinct, ghostly.
And all were covered with dust.

'See!' Humphrey waved his pipe. 'I've done no work here for six
weeks. And I shan't do any for a good while. I can't. It takes
leisure--long-evenings--Sundays when you aren't disturbed by a soul.
And at that it means years and years, working as I've had to. You know,
getting out the _Voice_ every week. You know how it's been with me, Hen.
People are going to fly some day, Hen. As sure as we're walking now.
Pretty soon. Chanute--Langley--they know! Those are Chanute gliders
over there. By the kites. I've never told you; I've worked with 'em,
moonlight nights, from the sand-dunes away up the beach. I've got some
locked in an old boat-house up there, Hen'--he stood, very tall, a
reminiscent, almost eager light in eyes that had been dull of late, a
gaunt strong hand resting affectionately on a gyroscope--'I've flown
over six hundred feet! Myself! Gliding, of course. Got an awful ducking,
but I did it.

'But it takes money, Hen. I've thought I could be an inventor and do my
job besides. Maybe I could. Maybe some day I'll succeed at it. But I've
just come to see what it needs. Material, workmen, time--Hen, you've got
to have a real shop and a real pay-roll to do it right. And...

'Oh, I'm not telling you the truth, Hen! Not the real truth!'

He took to walking around now, making angular gestures. Henry, watching
him, coming slowly alive now to the complex life that was flowing around
him, found himself confronted by a new, disturbed Humphrey. He had,
during the year and more of their friendship, taken him for granted as
an older, steadier influence, had leaned on him more than he knew. He
had been a rock for the erratic Henry to cling to in the confusing,
unstable swirl of life.

'Hen'--Humphrey turned on him--'you don't know, but I'm going to be
married.'

Henry's jaw sagged.

'It's Mildred, of course.

'It's going to be hard on the little woman, Hen. She's got to get her
divorce. She can't take money from her husband, of course; and she's
only got a little. She'll need me.' His voice grew a thought unsteady;
he waved his pipe, as if to indicate and explain the machinery. 'We've
got to strike out--take the plunge--you know, make a little money. It's
occurred to me... This machinery's worth more than the library, in
a pinch. And I've got two bonds left. Just two. They're money, of
course...... Hen, you said you _lent_ that thousand to McGibbon?'

Henry nodded. 'He gave me his note.'

'Let's see it.'

Henry ran up the stairs, and returned with a pasteboard box file, which,
not without a momentary touch of pride in his quite new business sense,
he handed to his friend.

Humphrey glanced at the carefully printed-out phrase on the back--'Henry
Calverly, 3rd. Business Affairs'--but did not smile. He opened it and
ran through the indexed leaves. It appeared to be empty.

'Look under "Me,"' said Henry.

The note was there. 'For three months,' Humphrey mused aloud.

Then he smiled. There was a whimsical touch in Humphrey that his few
friends knew and loved. Even in this serious crisis it did not desert
him. I believe it was even stronger then.

'Hen,' he said, 'got a quarter?'

The smile seemed to restore the rock that Henry had lately clung to. He
found himself returning the smile, faintly but with a growing warmth. He
replied, 'Just about.'

'Match me!' cried Humphrey.

'What for?'

'To settle a very important point. Somebody's name has got to come
first. Best two out of three.'

'But I don't----'

'Match me! No--it's mine!... Now I'll match you--mine again! I win.
Well--that's settled!'

'What's settled? I don't-----'

Humphrey sat on a tool bench; swung his legs; grinned. 'Life moves on,
Hen,' he said. 'It's a dramatic old world.'

And Henry, puzzled, looking at him, laughed excitedly.


8


It was two o'clock in the afternoon. Simpson Street was quiet after the
brisk business of the morning. The air quivered up from the pavement in
the still heat. The occasional people about the street moved slowly. The
collars of the few visible tradesmen were soft rags around their necks
and they mopped red faces with saturated handkerchiefs. The morning
breeze had died; the afternoon breeze would drift in at four o'clock or
so; until which time Sunbury ladies took their naps and Sunbury business
men dozed at their desks. Saturday closing had not made much headway at
this period, though the still novel game of golf was beginning to work
its mighty change in small-town life.

Through this calm scene, absorbed in their affairs, unaware of the heat,
strode Humphrey and Henry--down past the long hotel veranda, where the
yellow rocking chairs stood in endless empty rows, past Swanson's and
Donovan's and Jackson's book store to the meat market and then, rapidly,
up the long stairway.

They found McGibbon with his long legs stretched out under his desk,
hands deep in pockets, thin face lined and weary, but eyes nervously
bright as always. He was in his shirt-sleeves, of course. His drab brown
hair seemed a little longer and even more ragged than usual where it met
his wilted collar.

But he grinned at them, and waved a long hand.

'My God!' he cried, 'but it's good to see a human face. Look!' His
hand swept around, indicating the dusty, deserted desks and the open
press-room door. It was still out there; not a man hummed or whistled as
he clicked type into his stick, not one of the four job presses rumbled
out its cheerful drone of industry.

'Rats all gone!' McGibbon added. 'But the Caliph was up again.'

'Yes,' Henry, who found himself suddenly and deeply moved, breathed
softly, 'we know.'

'Came up a hundred. He'll pay six hundred now. For all this. An actual
investment of more'n four thousand.' The hand waved again. 'It's
amusing. He doesn't know I'm on to him. You see the old fox's been
nosing around to get up a petition to throw me into involuntary
bankruptcy, but he can't find any creditors. Has to be five hundred
dollars, you know.'

'What did you say to him?' asked Humphrey, thoughtfully.

'Showed him out. Second time to-day. It was a hard climb for him, too.
He did puff some.'

Humphrey slowly drew a large envelope from an inner pocket and laid it
on the table at his elbow.

McGibbon eyed it alertly.

'Here!' he said, his hand moving up toward the row of four or five
cigars that projected from a vest pocket, 'smoke up, you fellows.'

Henry shook his head. Humphrey drew out his pipe; then raised his head,
and said quietly:--

'Listen!'

There came the unmistakable sound of heavy feet on the stairs. Steadily,
step by step, a slowly moving body mounted.

Then, framed in the doorway, stood the huge bulk of Norton P. Boice,
breathless, red, and wet of face, his old straw hat pushed back, his
yellowish-white, wavy beard covering his necktie and the upper part of
his roundly protruding, slightly spotted vest, against which the heavy
watch chain with its dangling fraternal insignia stood out prominently.

Boice's eyes, nearly expressionless, finally settled on Humphrey.

'What are you doing here?' he asked, between puffs.

Humphrey's only reply was a slight impatient gesture.

'You oughta be at your desk.'

Then he came into the room. Of the three men seated there Humphrey was
the only one who knew by certain small external signs, that the Caliph
of Simpson Street was blazing with wrath. For here was his own hired
lieutenant hobnobbing with the boy whose agile, irresponsible pen had
made him the laughing stock of the township and with the intemperate
rival who had first attacked and then defied him. And then he had just
climbed the stairs for the third and what he meant to be the last time.

He came straight to business.

'Have you decided to accept my offer?'

'Sit down,' said McGibbon, pushing a chair over with his foot.

Boice ignored this final bit of insolence.

'Have you decided to accept my offer?'

'Well'--McGibbon shrugged; spread out his hands--'I've decided nothing,
but as it looks now I may find myself forced to accept it.'

'Then I suggest that you accept it now.'

'Well----' the hands went out again.

'Wait a moment,' said Humphrey.

'I think you had better go back to the office,' Boice broke in.

'Shortly. I have no intention of leaving you in the lurch, Mr Boice. But
first I have business here.'

'_You_ have business!'

'Yes.' Humphrey opened the large envelope. 'Here, McGibbon, is your note
to Henry for one thousand dollars, due in November.'

Before their eyes, deliberately, he tore it up, leaned over McGibbon's
legs with an, 'I beg your pardon!' and dropped the pieces in the
waste-basket. Next he produced a folded document engraved in green and
red ink. 'Here,' he concluded, 'is a four per cent, railway bond that
stands to-day at a hundred two and a quarter in the market. That's our
price for the _Gleaner_.'

McGibbon's nervous eyes followed the movements of Humphrey's hands as
if fascinated. During the hush that followed he sat motionless, chin on
breast. Then, slowly, he drew in his legs, straightened up, reached for
the bond, turned it over, opened it and ran his eye over the coupons,
looked up and remarked:--

'The paper's yours.'

'Then, Mr Boice,' said Humphrey, 'the next issue of the _Gleaner_ will
be published by Weaver and Calverly, and the stories you object to will
run their course.'

But Mr Boice, creaking deliberately over the floor, was just
disappearing through the doorway.'


9


The sunlight was streaming in through the living-room of the barn back
of the old Parmenter place. Outside the maple leaves were rustling
gently. Through the quiet air came the slow booming of the First
Presbyterian bell across the block. From greater distances came the
higher pitched bell of the Baptist Church, down on Filbert Avenue,
and the faint note from the Second Presbyterian over on the West Side,
across the tracks.

Humphrey had made coffee and toast. They sat at an end of the centre
table. Humphrey in bath-robe and slippers, Henry fully dressed in his
blue serge suit, neat silk four-in-hand tie, stiff white collar and
carefully polished shoes.

'Where are you going with all that?' Humphrey asked.

Henry hesitated; flushed a little.

'To church,' he finally replied.

Humphrey's surprise was real. There had been a time, before they came to
know each other, when the boy had sung bass in the quartet at the Second
Presbyterian. But since that period he had not been a church-goer. Henry
had been quiet all evening, and now this morning. He seemed all boxed up
within himself. Preoccupied. As if the triumph over old Boice had merely
opened up the way to new responsibilities. Which, for that matter, was
just what it had done--done to both of them. Humphrey, not being given
to prying, would have let the subject drop here, had not Henry surprised
him by breaking hotly forth into words.

'It's my big fight, Hump!' he was saying now. 'Don't you see! This town.
All they say. Look here!' He laid a rumpled bit of paper on the table.
As if he had been holding it ready in his hand.'

'Oh, that letter,' said Humphrey.

'Yes. It's what I've got to fight. And I've got to win. Don't you see?'

'Yes,' Humphrey replied gravely, 'I see.'

'I think,' said Henry, 'it's being in love that's going to help me.
We've got to hold our heads up, you and I. Build the _Gleaner_ into a
real property. Win confidence. And there mustn't be any doubt. The way
we step out and fight, you know. I've got to stand with you.'

Humphrey's eyes strayed to the sunlit window. He suppressed a little
sigh.

'This note's right enough, in a way,' Henry went on. 'It wouldn't be
fair to compromise her.' He leaned earnestly over the table. 'It's
really a hopeless love. I know that, Hump. But it isn't like the
others.' It makes me feel ashamed of them. All of them. I've got to show
her, or at least show myself, that it's this love that has made a man of
me. Without asking anything, you know.'

Humphrey listened in silence as the talk ran on. The boy was changing,
no question about that. Even back of the romantic strain that was
colouring his attitude, the suggestion of pose in it, there was real
evidence of this change. At least his fighting blood was up. And he was
taking punishment.

Sitting there sipping his coffee, Humphrey, half listening, soberly
considered his younger friend. Henry was distinctly odd, a square peg in
a round world. He was capable of curiously outrageous acts, yet most
of them seemed to arise from a downright inability to sense the common
attitude, to feel with his fellows. He could be heedless, neglectful,
self-centred; but Humphrey had never found meanness or unkindness in
him. And he was capable of a passionate generosity. He had, indeed,
for Humphrey, the fascination that an erratic and ingenuous but gifted
person often exerts on older, steadier natures. You could be angry at
him; but you couldn't get over the feeling that you had to take care of
him. And it always seemed, even when he was out and out exasperating,
that the thing that was the matter with him was the very quality that
underlay his astonishing gifts; that he was really different from
others; the difference ran all through, from his unexpected, rather
self-centred ways of acting and reacting clear up to the fact that he
could write what other people couldn't write. 'If they could,' thought
Humphrey now, shrewdly, 'very likely they'd be different too.' Take this
business of dressing up like a born suburbanite and going to church.
It was something of a romantic gesture, But that wasn't all it was. The
fight was real, whatever unexpected things it might lead him to do from
day to day.

Herbert de Casselles, wooden-faced, dressed impeccably in frock coat,
heavy 'Ascot' tie, gray striped trousers perfectly creased, (Henry had
never owned a frock coat) ushered him half-way down the long aisle to
a seat in Mrs Ellen F. Wilson's pew. He felt eyes on him as he walked,
imagined whispers, and set his face doggedly against them all. He had
set out in a sort of fervor; but now the thing was harder to do than he
had imagined. The people looked cold and hostile. It was to be a long
fight. He might never win. The more successful he might come to be, the
more some of them would hate him and fight him down... It was queer,
Herb de Casselles ushering him.

The organist slid on to his seat, up in the organ loft behind the
pulpit; spread out his music and turned up the corners; pulled and
pushed on stops and couplers; glanced up into his narrow mirror;
adjusted his tie; fussed again with the stops; began to play.

Henry sat up stiffly, even boldly, and looked about. Across the church,
in a pew near the front, sat the Watts: the Senator, on the aisle,
looking curiously insignificant with his meek, red face and his little,
slightly askew chin beard; Madame Watt sitting wide and high over him,
like a stout hawk, chin up, nose down, beady eyes fixed firmly on the
pulpit; Cicely Hamlin almost fragile beside her, eyes downcast--or was
she looking at the hymns?

When Cicely was talking, with her nervous eagerness, her quick smile,
her almost Frenchy gestures, she seemed gay. When in repose, as now, her
delicate sensitiveness, her slightly sad expression, were evident, even
to Henry.

Made him feel in the closing scene of _The Prisoner of Zenda_, where
he was bidding the Princess who could never be his a last farewell; the
mere sight of her thrilled him with a deep romantic sorrow.

Through the prayers, the announcements, the choir numbers and
collection, his sacrificial mood grew more and more intense. It was
something of a question whether he could hide his emotion before all
these hostile people. The long fight ahead to rebuild his name in the
village loomed larger and larger, began to take on an aspect that was
almost terrifying. For the first time to-day he felt weakness but she
made him feel something as Sothem had made in his heart. He sat very
quiet, hands clenched on his knees, and unconsciously thrust out his
chin a little.

When the doxology was sung and his head was bowed for the benediction,
he had to struggle with a mad impulse to rush out, run down the aisle
while people were picking up their hats and things. The thing to do, of
course, was to take his time, be natural, move out with the rest. This
he did, blazing with self-consciousness, his chin forward.

It was difficult. Several persons--older persons, who had known his
mother--stopped him and congratulated him on the brilliant work he was
doing. This in the midst of the unuttered hostility that seemed like
hundreds of little barbed darts penetrating his skin from every side.
He could only blush and mumble. Elderly, innocent Mrs Bedford of Filbert
Avenue actually introduced him to her nieces from Boston as a young man
of whom all Sunbury was proud. He had to blush and mumble here for a
long time, while the line of people crowded decorously past.

At last he got to the door. Stiffly raising his hat as one or two groups
of young people recognised him, he moved out to the sidewalk. There he
raised his eyes. They met, for a fleeting instant, but squarely, over
Herb de Casselles' shoulder, the dark eyes of Cicely Hamlin.

She was sitting on the little forward seat in the black-and-plum
Victoria. Madame Watt was settling herself in the back seat. The
Senator was stepping in. The plum-coloured footman stood stiffly by. The
plum-coloured driver sat stiffly on the box.

Herb de Casselles turned, with a wry smile.

Henry raised his hat, bit his lip, hesitated, hurried on.

Then he heard her voice.

'Oh, Mr Calverly!'

He had to turn back. He knew he was fiery red. He knew, too, that in
this state of tortured bewilderment he couldn't trust his tongue for a
moment.

Cicely leaned out, with outstretched hand.

He had to take it. The thrill the momentary touch of it gave, him but
added a wrench to the torture. Then the Senator's hand had to be taken;
finally Madame's.

His pulse was racing; pounding at his temples. What did all this mean!

Cicely, her own colour up a little, speaking quickly, her face lighting
up, her hands moving, cried:--

'Oh, Mr Calverly! We heard this morning that the _Gleaner_ has failed
and that Mr Boice has it and we aren't to see your stories any more.'

'No,' said Henry, a faint touch of assurance appearing in his heart,
mind, voice, 'that isn't so. Mr Boice hasn't got it. We've got
it--Humphrey Weaver and I.'

'You mean you have purchased it?' This from the Senator.

'Yay-ah, We bought it yesterday.'

'No!' cried Cicely. 'Really?'

'Yay-ah. We bought it.'

'Then,' commented the Senator, 'you must permit me indeed to
congratulate you. It is unusual to find business acumen and enterprise
combined with such a literary talent as yours.'

This was pleasing, if stilted. It was beginning to be possible for Henry
to smile.

Then Cicely clinched matters.

'You promised to come and read me the others, Mr Calverly. Oh, but
you did! You must come. Really! Let me see--I know I shall be at home
to-morrow evening.'

Then, for a moment, Cicely seemed to falter. She turned questioningly to
her aunt.

Madame Watt certainly knew the situation. She had heard Henry discussed
in relation to the Mamie Wilcox incident. She knew how high feeling
was running in the village. Just what her motives were, I cannot say.
Perhaps it was her tendency to make her own decisions and if possible to
make different decisions from those of the folk about her. The instinct
to stand out aggressively in all matters was strong within her. And she
liked Henry. The flare of extreme individuality in him probably reached
her and touched a curiously different strain of extreme individuality
within herself. She hated sheep. Henry was not a sheep.

As for Cicely's part of it, I know she had been thrilled when Henry read
her the first ten stories. She had read more than the Sunbury girls; and
she saw more in his oddities than they were capable of seeing. To fail
in any degree to conform to the prevailing customs and thought was to be
ridiculous in Sunbury. But she had no more forgotten the jeers that had
followed Henry from this very carriage as he chased his hat down Simpson
Street the preceding day than had Henry himself. Nor had she forgotten
that Herbert de Casselles had been one of that unkind group. And as she
certainly knew what she was about, despite her impulsiveness, I prefer
to think that her action was deliberately kind and deliberately brave.

'Come to dinner,' said Madame Watt shortly but with a sort of rough
cordiality. 'Seven o'clock. To-morrow evening. Informal dress. All
right, Watson.'

Cicely settled back, her eyes bright; but gave Henry only the same
suddenly impersonal little nod of good-bye that she gave Herbert de
Casselles.

The footman leaped to the box. The remarkable carriage rolled
luxuriously away on its rubber tyres.

Henry turned, grinning in foolish happiness, on the young man in the
frock coat who had not been asked to dinner.

'Walking up toward Simpson, Herb?' he asked.

'Me--why--no, I'm going this way.' And Herb pointed hurriedly southward.

'Well--so long!' said Henry, and headed northward.

The warm sunlight filtered down through the dense foliage. Birds
twittered up there. The church procession moving slowly along was
brightly dressed; pleasant to see. Henry, head up, light of foot,
smiling easily when this or that person, after a moment's hesitation,
bowed to him, listened to the birds, expanded his chest in answer to
the mellowing sunshine, and gave way, with a fresh little thrill, to the
thought:--

'I must buy a frock coat for to-morrow night.'



VIII--THIS BUD OF LOVE


1

|It was mid-August and twenty minutes to eight in the evening. The
double rows of maples threw spreading shadows over the pavement,
sidewalk and lawns of Hazel Avenue. From dim houses, set far back amid
trees and shrubs, giving a homy village quality to the darkness, came
through screened doors and curtained 'bay' windows the yellow glow of
oil lamps and the whiter shine of electric lights. Here and there a
porch light softly illuminated a group of young people; their chatter
and laughter, with perhaps a snatch of song, floating pleasantly out
on the soft evening air. Around on a side street, sounding faintly,
a youthful banjoist with soft fingers and inadequate technique was
struggling with _The March Past_.

Moving in a curious, rather jerky manner along the street, now walking
swiftly, nervously, now hesitating, even stopping, in some shadowy spot,
came a youth of twenty (going on twenty-one). He wore--though all these
details were hardly distinguishable even in the patches of light at the
street corners, where arc lamps sputtered whitely--neatly pressed white
trousers, a 'sack' coat of blue serge, a five-dollar straw hat, silk
socks of a pattern and a silken 'four-in-hand' tie. He carried a cane of
thin bamboo that he whipped and flicked at the grass and rattled lightly
along the occasional picket fence except when he was fussing at the
light growth on his upper lip. Under his left arm was a square package
that any girl of Sunbury would have recognised instantly, even in the
shadows, as a two-pound box of Devoe's chocolates.

If you had chanced to be a resident of Sunbury at this period you would
have known that the youth was Henry Calverly, 3rd. Though you might have
had no means of knowing that he was about to 'call' on Cicely Hamlin.
Or, except perhaps from his somewhat spasmodic locomotion, that he was
in a state of considerable nervous excitement.

Not that Henry hadn't called on many girls in his day. He had. But he
had called only once before on Cicely (the other time had been that
invitation to dinner for which her aunt was really responsible) and had
then, in a burning glow of temperament, read her his stories!

How he had read! And read! And read! Until midnight and after. She had
been enthusiastic, too.

But he wasn't in a glow now. Certain small incidents had lately brought
him to the belief that Cicely Hamlin lacked the pairing-off instinct so
common among the young of Sunbury. She had been extra nice to him; true.
But the fact stood that she was not 'going with' him. Not in the
Sunbury sense of the phrase. A baffling, disturbing aura of impersonally
pleasant feeling held him at a distance.

So he was just a young fellow setting forth, with chocolates, to call on
a girl. A girl who could be extra nice to you and then go out of her
way to maintain pleasant acquaintance with the others, your rivals, your
enemies. Almost as if she felt she had been a little too nice and wished
to strike a balance; at least he had thought of that. A girl who had
been reared strangely in foreign convents; who didn't know _The Spanish
Cavalier_ or _Seeing Nellie Home_ or _Solomon Levi_, yet did know,
strangely, that the principal theme in Dvorak's extremely new 'New
World' symphony was derived from _Swing Low, Sweet Chariot_ (which
illuminating fact had stirred Henry to buy, regardless, the complete
piano score of that symphony and struggle to pick out the themes on
Humphrey's piano at the rooms). A girl who had never seen De Wolf Hopper
in _Wang_, or the Bostonians in _Robin Hood_, or Sothem in The Prisoner
of Zenda, or Maude Adams or Ethel Barrymore or _anything_. A girl who
had none of the direct, free and easy ways of the village young; you
couldn't have started a rough-house with her--mussed her hair, or
galloped her in the two-step. A girl who wasn't stuck up, or anything
like that, who seemed actually shy at times, yet subtly repressed you,
made you wish you could talk like the fellow's that had gone to Harvard.

In view of these rather remarkable facts I think it really was a tribute
to Cicely Hamlin that the many discussions of her as a conspicuous
addition to the youngest set had boiled down to the single descriptive
adjective, 'tactful.' Though the characterisation seems not altogether
happy; for the word, to me, connotes something of conscious skill
and management--as my Crabb put it: 'TACTFUL. See Diplomatic'--and
Cicely was not, certainly not in those days, a manager.

Henry, muttered softly, as he walked.

'I'll hand it to her when she comes in.

'No, she'll shake hands and it might get in the way.

'Put it on the table--that's the thing!--on a corner where she'll see
it.

'Then some time when we can't think of anything to talk about, I'll
say--"Thought you might like a few chocolates." Sorta offhand. Prevent
there being a lull in the conversation.

'Better begin calling her Cicely.'

'Why not? Shucks! Can't go on with "You" and "Say!" Why can't I just do
it naturally? The way Herb would, or Elbow, or those fellows.

'"How'd' you do, Cicely! Come on, let's take a walk."

'No. "Good-evening, Cicely. I thought maybe you'd like to take a walk.
There's a moonrise over the lake about half-past eight." That's better.

'Wonder if Herb'll be there. He'd hardly think to come so early, though.
Be all right if I can get her away from the house by eight.'

He paused, held up his watch to the light from the corner, then rushed
on.

'Maybe she'd ask me to sit him out, anyway.'

But his lips clamped shut on this. It was just the sort of thing Cicely
wouldn't do. He knew it.

'What if she won't go out!'

This sudden thought brought bitterness. A snicker had run its course
about town--in his eager self-absorption he had wholly forgotten--when
Alfred Knight, confident in an engagement to call, had hired a horse and
buggy at McAllister's. The matter of an evening drive _a deux_ had
been referred to Cicely's aunt. As a result the horse had stood hitched
outside more than two hours only to be driven back to the livery, stable
by the gloomy Al.

'Shucks, though! Al's a fish! Don't blame her!'

He walked stiffly in among the trees and shrubs of the old Dexter Smith
place and mounted the rather imposing front steps.

That purchase of the Dexter Smith place was typical of Madame Watt at
the time. She was riding high. She had money. Two acres of lawn, fine
old trees, a great square house of Milwaukee brick, high spacious rooms
with elaborately moulded plaster ceilings and a built-on conservatory
and a barn that you could keep half a dozen carriages in! It was one of
only four or five houses in Sunbury that the _Voice_ and the _Gleaner_
rejoiced to call 'mansions.' And it was the only one that could have
been bought. The William B. Snows, like the Jenkinses and the de
Casselles (I don't know if it has been explained before that the
accepted local pronunciation was Dekasells,) lived in theirs. And even
after the elder Dexter Smith died Mrs Smith would hardly have sold the
place if the children hadn't nagged her into it. Young Dex wanted to
go to New York. And at that it was understood that Madame Watt paid two
prices.


2


A uniformed butler showed Henry into the room that he would have called
the front parlour. Though there was another much like it across the wide
hall. There was a 'back parlour,' with portières between. Out there, he
knew, between centre table and fireplace, the Senator and Madame might
even now be sitting.

He listened, on the edge of a huge plush and walnut chair, for the
rustle of the Senator's paper, or Madame's deep, always startling voice.

There was no sound. Save that somewhere upstairs, far off, a door
opened; then footsteps very faint. And silence again.

Henry looked, fighting down misgivings, at the heavily framed
oil paintings on the wall. One, of a life-boat going out through
mountainous waves to a wreck, he had always heard was remarkably fine.
Fastened over the bow of the boat was a bit of real rope that had
provoked critical controversy when the picture was first exhibited in
Chicago.

He glanced down, discovered the box of chocolates on his knees, and
hurriedly placed it on the corner of the inevitable centre table. Then
he fussed nervously with his moustache; adjusted his tie, wondering
if the stick pin should be higher; pulled down his cuffs; and sat up
stiffly again.

'Maybe she ain't home,' he thought weakly. 'That fella said he'd see.'

'Maybe I oughta've asked if she'd be in.'

The silence deepened, spread, settled about him. He wished she would
come down. There was danger, he knew, that his few painfully thought-out
conversational openings would leave him. He would be an embarrassed,
quite speechless young man. For he was as capable, even now, at twenty,
almost at twenty-one, of speechlessness as of volubility. Either might
happen to him, at any moment, from the smallest, least foreseeable of
causes.

And there was something oppressive about the stillness of this cavernous
old house with its sound-proof partitions and its distances. And that
silent machine of a butler. It wasn't like calling at Martha Caldwell's,
in the old days, where you could hear the Swedish cook crashing around
in the kitchen and Martha moving around upstairs before she came down.
Here you wouldn't so much as know there was a kitchen.

Then, suddenly, sharp as a blow out of the stillness came a series of
sounds that froze the marrow in his bones, made him rigid on the edge of
that plush chair, his lips parted, his eyes staring, wrestling with
an impulse to dash out of the house; with another impulse to cough,
or shout, or play the piano, in some mad way to announce himself, yet
continuing to sit like a carved idol, in the grip of a paralysis of the
faculties.

There is nothing more painful to the young than the occasional
discovery, through the mask of social reticence, that the old have their
weak or violent moments.

Gossip, yes! But gossip rests lightly and briefly in young ears. Henry
had heard the Watts slyly ridiculed. There were whispers, of course.
Madame's career as a French countess--well, naturally Sunbury wondered.
And the long obscurity from which she had rescued Senator Watt raised
questions about that very quiet little man. So often men in political
life were tempted off the primly beaten track. And Henry, like the other
young people, had grinned in awed delight over the tale that Madame
swore at her servants. That was before he had so much as spoken to her
niece. And it had little or no effect on his attitude toward Madame
herself when he met her. She had at once taken her place in the
compartment of his thoughts reserved from earliest memory for his
elders, whose word was (at least in honest theory) law and to whom one
looked up with diffidence and a genuine if somewhat automatic respect.

The first of the disturbing sounds was Madame's voice, far-off but
ringing strong. Then a door opened--it must have been the dining-room
door; not the wide one that opened into the great front hall, but the
other, at the farther end of the 'back parlour.'

There was a brief lull. A voice could be heard, though--a man's voice,
low-pitched, deprecatory.

Then Madame's again. And stranger noises. The man's voice cried out in
quick protest; there was a rustle and then a crash like breaking china.

The Senator, hurrying a little, yet with a sort of dignity, walked out
into the hall. Henry could see him, first between the portières as he
left the room, then as he passed the hall door.

There was a rush and a torrent of passionately angry words from
the other room. An object--it appeared to be a paper weight or
ornament--came hurtling out into the hall. The Senator, who had
apparently gone to the closet by the door for his hat and stick--for he
came back into the hall with them--stepped back just in time to avoid
being struck. The object fell on the stair, landing with the sound of
solid metal.

'You come back here!' Madame's voice.

'I will not come back until you have had time to return to your senses,'
replied the Senator. He looked very small. He was always stilted
in speech; Humphrey had said that he talked like the _Congressional
Record_. 'This is a disgraceful scene. If you have the slightest regard
for my good name or your own you will at least make an effort to compose
yourself. Some one might be at the door at this moment. You are a
violent, ungoverned woman, and I am ashamed of you.'

'And you'--she was almost screaming now--'are the man who was glad to
marry me.'

He ignored this. 'If any one asks for me, I shall be at the Sunbury
Club.'

'Going to drink again, are you?'

'I think not.'

'If you do, you needn't come back. Do you hear? You needn't come back!'

He turned, and with a sort of strut went out the front door.

She started to follow. She did come as far as the portières. Henry had a
glimpse of her, her face red and distorted.

She turned back then, and seemed to be picking up the room. He could
hear sniffing and actually snorting as she moved about. There was a
brief silence. Then she crossed the hall, a big imposing person--even
in her tantrums she had presence--and went up the stairs, pausing on the
landing to pick up the object she had thrown. Her solid footfalls died
out on the thick carpets of the upper hall. A door opened, and slammed
faintly shut.

Silence again.

Henry found that he was clutching the arms of the chair.

'I must relax,' he thought vacantly; and drew a slow deep breath, as he
had been taught in a gymnasium class at the Y.M.C.A.

He brushed a hand across his eyes. Now that it was over, his temples
were pounding hotly, his nerves aquiver.

It was incredible. Yet it had happened. Before his eyes. A vulgar brawl;
a woman with a red face throwing things. And he was here in the house
with her. He might have to try to talk with her.

He considered again the possibility of slipping out. But that butler
had taken his name up. Cicely would be coming down any moment. Unless
she knew.

Did she know? Had she heard? Possibly not.

Henry got slowly, indecisively up and wandered to the piano; stood
leaning on it.

His eyes filled. All at once, in his mind's eye, he could see Cicely.
Particularly the sensitive mouth. And the alert brown eyes. And
the pretty way her eyebrows moved when she spoke or smiled or
listened--always with a flattering attention--to what you were saying.

He brought a clenched fist down softly on the piano.


3


'Oh,' cried the voice of Cicely--'there you are! How nice of you to
come!'

She was standing--for a moment--in the doorway.

White of face, eyes burning, his fist still poised on the piano, he
stared at her.

She didn't know! Surely she didn't--not with that bright smile. __

She wore the informal, girlish costume of the moment--neatly fitting
dark skirt; simple shirt-waist with the ballooning sleeves that were
then necessary; stiff boyish linen collar propping the chin high, and
little bow tie; darkish, crisply waving hair brought into the best order
possible, parted in the middle and carried around and down over the ears
to a knot low on the neck.

'I brought some candy,' he cried fiercely. 'There! On the table!'

She knit her brows for a brief moment. Then opened the box.

'How awfully nice of you... You'll have some?'

'No. I don't eat candy. I was thinking of--I want to get you out--Come
on, let's take a walk!'

She smiled a little, around a chocolate. Surely she didn't know!

She had seemed, during her first days in Sunbury, rather timid at
times. But there was in this smile more than a touch of healthy
self-confidence. No girl, indeed, could find herself making so definite
a success as Cicely had made here from her first day without acquiring
at least the beginnings of self-confidence. It was a success that had
forced Elbow Jenkins and Herb de Casselles to ignore small rebuffs and
persist in fighting over her. It permitted her, even in a village where
social conformity was the breath of life, to do odd, unexpected things.
Such as allowing herself to be interested, frankly, in Henry Calverly.

So she smiled as she nibbled a chocolate.

He said it again, breathlessly:--

'I was thinking of asking you to take a walk.'

'Well'--still that smile--'why don't you?'

But he was still in a daze, and pressed stupidly on.

'It's a fine evening. And the moon'll be coming up.'

'I'll get my sweater,' she said quietly, and went out to the hall.

She was just turning away from the hall closet with the sweater--he, hat
and stick in hand, was fighting back the memory of how Senator Watt
had marched stiffly to that same closet--when Madame Watt came down the
stairs, scowling intently, still breathing hard.

She saw them; came toward them; stood, pursing her lips, finally forcing
a sort of smile.

'Oh, howdadoo!' she remarked, toward Henry.

Her black eyes focused pointedly on him. And while he was mumbling a
greeting, she broke in on him with this:--'I didn't know you were here.
Did you just come?' Henry's eyes lowered. Then, as utter silence fell,
the colour surging to his face, he raised them. They met her black,
alarmed stare. He felt that he ought to lie about this, lie like a good
one. But he didn't know how.

Slowly, all confusion, he shook his head.

During a long moment they held that gaze, the vigorous, strangely
interesting woman of wealth and of what must have been a violent past,
and the gifted, sensitive youth of twenty. When she turned away, they
had a secret.

'We thought of taking a little walk,' said Cicely.

Madame moved briskly away into the back parlour, merely throwing back
over her shoulder, in a rather explosive voice: 'Have a good time!'

The remark evidently struck Cicely as somewhat out of character. She
even turned, a little distrait, and looked after, her aunt.

Then, as they were passing out the door, Madame's voice boomed after
them. She was hurrying back through the hall.

'By the way,' she said, with a frowning, determined manner, 'we are
having a little theatre party Saturday night. A few of Cicely's friends.
Dinner here at six. Then we go in on the seven-twenty. I know Cicely'll
be glad to have you. Informal--don't bother to dress.'

'Oh, yes!' cried Cicely, looking at her aunt.

'I--Im sure I'd be delighted,' said Henry heavily.

Then they went out, and strolled in rather oppressive quiet toward the
lake.

There was a summer extravaganza going, at the Auditorium. That must be
the theatre. They hadn't meant to ask him, of course. Not at this late
hour. It hurt, with a pain that, a day or so back, would have filled
Henry's thoughts. But Cicely's smile, as she stood by the table,
nibbling a chocolate, the poise of her pretty head--the picture stood
out clearly against a background so ugly, so unthinkably vulgar, that it
was like a deafening noise in his brain.


4


He glanced sidewise at Cicely. They were walking down Douglass Street.
Just ahead lay the still, faintly shimmering lake, stretching out to the
end of the night and beyond. Already the whispering sound reached their
ears of ripples lapping at the shelving beach. And away out, beyond the
dim horizon, a soft brightness gave promise of the approaching moonrise.

He stole another glance at Cicely. He could just distinguish her
delicate profile.

He thought: 'How could she ask me? They wouldn't like it, her friends.
Mary Ames mightn't want to come. Martha Caldwell, even. She's been
nice to me. I mustn't make it hard for her. And she mustn't know about
tonight. Not ever.'

Then a new thought brought pain. If there had been one such scene, there
would be others. And she would have to live against that background,
keeping up a brave face before the prying world of Sunbury. Perhaps she
had already lived through something of the sort. That sad look about her
mouth; when she didn't know you were looking.

They had reached the boulevard now, and were standing at the railing
over the beach. A little talk had been going on, of course, about this
and that--he hardly knew what.

He clenched his fist again, and brought it down on the iron rail.

'Oh,' he broke out--'about Saturday. I forgot. I can't come.'

'Oh, but please----'

'No. Awfully busy. You've no idea. You see Humphrey Weaver and I bought
the _Gleaner_. I told you, didn't I? It's a big responsibility--getting
the pay-roll every week, and things like that. Things I never knew
about before. I don't believe I was made to be a business man. Lots of
accounts and things. Hump's at it all the time--nights and everything.
You see we've got to make the paper pay. We've _got_ to! It was losing,
when Bob McGibbon had it. People hated him, and they wouldn't advertise.
And now we have to get the advertising back.' If we fail in that, we'll
go under, just as he did...'

Words! Words! A hot torrent of them! He didn't know how transparent he
was.

She stood, her two hands resting lightly on the rail, looking out at the
slowly spreading glow in the east.

'I'm so glad aunt asked you,' she said gravely. 'I wanted you to come. I
want you to know. Won't you, please?'

He looked at her, but she didn't turn. There was more behind her words.
Even Henry could see that. He had been discussed. As a problem. But she
didn't say the rest of it.

Then his clumsy little artifice broke down, and the crude feeling rushed
to the surface.

'You know I mustn't come!' he cried.

'No,' said she, with that deliberate gravity. 'I don't know that. I
think you should.'

'I can't. You don't understand. They wouldn't like it, my being there.
They talk about me. They don't speak to me, even.'

'Then oughtn't you to come? Face them? Show them that it isn't true?'

'But that will just make it hard for you.'

She was slow in answering this; seemed to be considering it. Finally she
replied with:--

'I don't think I care about that. People have been awfully nice to me
here. I'm having a lovely time. But it isn't as if I had always lived
here and expected to stay for the rest of my life. My life has been
different. I've known a good many different kinds of people, and I've
had to think for myself a good deal. No, I'd like you to come. If you
don't come---don't you see?--you're putting me with them. You're making
me mean and petty. I don't want to be that way. If--if I'm to see you at
all, they must know it.'

'Perhaps, then,' he muttered, 'you'd better not see me at all.'

'Please!'

'Well, I know; but--'

'No. I want to see you. If you want to come. I love your stories. You're
more interesting than any of them.'

At this, he turned square around; stared at her. But she, very quietly,
finished what she had to say. 'I think you're a genius. I think you're
going to be famous. It's--it's exciting to see the way you write
stories.... Wait, please! I'm going to tell you the rest of it. Now that
we're talking it out, I think I've got to. It was aunt who didn't want
to ask you. She likes you, but she thought--well, she thought it might
be awkward, and--and hard for you. I told her what I've told you, that
I've either got to be your friend before all of them or not at all. And
now that she has asked you--don't you see, it's the way I wanted it all
along.'

There wasn't another girl in Sunbury who could have, or would have, made
quite that speech.

She looked delicately beautiful in the growing light. Her hair was a
vignetted halo about her small head.

Henry, staring, his hands clenched at his sides, broke out with:--

'I love you!'

'Oh--h!' she breathed. 'Please!'

Words came from him, a jumble of words. About his hopes, the few
thousand dollars that would be his on the seventh of November, when he
would be twenty-one, the wonderful stories he would write, with her for
inspiration.

Inwardly he was in a panic. He hadn't dreamed of saying such a thing.
Never before, in all his little philanderings had he let go like this,
never had he felt the glow of mad catastrophe that now seemed to be
consuming him. Oh, once perhaps--something of it--years back--when he
had believed he was in love with Ernestine Lambert. But that had been in
another era. And it hadn't gone so deep as this.

'Anyway'--he heard her saying, in a rather tired voice--'anyway--it
makes it hard, of course--you shouldn't have said that--'

'Oh, I _am_ making it hard! And I meant to----'

'--anyway, I think you'd better come. Unless it would be too hard for
you.'

There was a long silence. Then Henry, his forehead wet with sweat, his
feet braced apart, his hands gripping the rail as if he were holding
for his life, said, with a sudden quiet that she found a little
disconcerting:--

'All right. I'll come.... Your aunt said a quarter past six, didn't
she?'

'No, six.'


5


Madame Watt appropriated Henry the moment he entered her door
on Saturday evening. She was, despite her talk of offhand summer
informality, clad in an impressive costume with a great deal of lace and
the shimmer of flowered silk.

At her elbow, Henry moved through the crowd in the front hall. He felt
cool eyes on him. He stood very straight and stiff. He was pale. He
bowed to the various girls and fellows--Mary, Martha, Herb, Elbow, and
the rest, with reserve. It was, from moment to moment, a battle.

Nobody but Madame Watt would have thought of giving such a party. It
was so expensive--the dinner for twenty-two, to begin with; then all
the railway fares; a bus from the station in Chicago to the theatre and
back. The theatre tickets alone came to thirty-three dollars (these were
the less expensive days of the dollar and a half seat). Sunbury still,
at the time, was inclined to look doubtfully on ostentation.

You felt, too, in the case of Madame, that she was likely to speak, at
any moment rather--well, broadly. All that Paris experience, whatever
it was, seemed to be hovering about the snapping black eyes and the
indomitable mouth. You sensed in her none of the reserve of movement, of
speech, of mind, that were implied in the feminine standards of Sunbury.
Yet she was unquestionably a person. If she laughed louder than the
ladies of Sunbury, she had more to say.

To-night she was a dominantly entertaining hostess. She talked of the
theatre, in Paris, London and New York--of the Coquelins, Gallipaux,
Bernhardt, of Irving and Terry and Willard and Grossmith. Some of these
she had met. She knew Sothem, it appeared. Even the extremely worldly
Elbow and Herb were impressed.

She had Henry at her right. Boldly placed him there. At his right was a
girl from Omaha who was visiting the Smiths and who made several efforts
to be pleasant to the pale gloomy youth with the little moustache and
the distinctly interesting gray-blue eyes.

By the time they were settled on the train Henry found himself grateful
to the certainly strong, however coarse-fibred woman.

Efforts to identify her as she seemed now, with the woman of that
hideous scene with the Senator brought only bewilderment. He had to give
it up.

This woman was rapidly winning his confidence; even, in a curious sense,
his sympathy.

At the farther end of the table the little Senator, all dignity and calm
stilted sentences, made himself remotely agreeable to several girls at
once.

At one side of the table sat Cicely, in lacy white with a wonderful
little gauzy scarf about her shoulders. She looked at him only now and
then, and just as she looked at the others. He wondered how she could
smile so brightly.

Herb and Elbow made a great joke of fighting over her. Elbow had her at
dinner; Herb on the train; Elbow again at the theatre.

Henry was fairly clinging to Madame by that time.

I think, among the confused thoughts and feelings that whirled
ceaselessly around and around in his brain, the one that came up
oftenest and stayed longest was a sense of stoical heroism. For Cicely's
sake he must bear his anguish. For her he must be humble, kindly,
patient. He had read, somewhere in his scattered acquaintance with
books, that Abraham Lincoln had once been brought to the point of
suicide through a disappointment in love. And to-night he thought much
and deeply of Lincoln. He had already decided, during an emotionally
turbulent two days, not to shoot himself.

During the first intermission the Senator stayed quietly in his seat.

When the curtain went down for the second time, he stroked his beard
with a small, none-too-steady hand, coughed in the suppressed way he
had, and glanced once or twice at Madame.

The young men were, apparently all of them, moving out for a smoke in
the lobby.

Henry, with a tingling sense of defiance, a little selfconscious about
staying alone with the girls, followed them.

And after him, walking up the aisle with his odd strutting air of
importance, came the Senator.

He gathered the young men together in the lobby; pulled at his twisted
beard; said, 'It will give me pleasure to offer you young gentlemen a
little refreshment;' and led the way out to a convenient bar. It was a
large, high-panelled room. There were great mirrors; rows and rows
of bottles and shiny glasses; alcoves with tables; and enormous oil
paintings in still more enormous gilt frames and lighted by special
fixtures built out from the wall. The one over the bar exhibited an
undraped female figure reclining on a couch.

They stood, a jolly group, naming their drinks.

Henry, who had no taste for liquor, stood apart, pale, sober, struggling
to exhibit a _savoir faire_ that had no existence in his mercurial
nature.

'I'll take ginger ale,' he said, in painful self-consciousness.

The Senator, his somewhat jaunty straw hat thrust back a little way off
his forehead, took Scotch; drank it neat. It seemed to Henry incongruous
when the prim little man tossed the liquor back against his palate with
a long-practised flourish.

Back in his seat, between Madame and the girl from Omaha, Henry noted
that the Senator had not returned with the others.

Madame turned and looked up the aisle.

The lights were dimmed. The curtain rose.

Cicely was in the row ahead, Herb on one side, Elbow on the other.

Elbow was calm, casual, humorous in a way, whispering phrases that had
been found amusing by many girls.

Herb, the only man in what Henry still thought of as a 'full dress
suit,' had a way of turning his head and studying Cicely's hair and
profile whenever she turned toward Elbow, that stirred Henry to anguish.

'He's rich,' thought Henry, twisting in his chair, clasping and
unclasping his hands. 'He's rich. He can do everything for her. And he
loves her. He couldn't look that way if he didn't.'

A comedian was singing and dancing on the stage. Cicely watched him, her
eyes alight, her lips parted in a smile of sheer enjoyment.

'How can she!' he thought. 'How _can_ she!' Then: 'I could do that. If
I'd kept it up. If she'd seen me in _Iolanthe_ maybe she'd care.'

The curtain fell on a glittering finale.

With a great chattering the party moved up the aisle. Cicely told her
two escorts that she didn't know when she had enjoyed anything so much.
She was merry about it. Care free as a child.

Henry stopped short in the foyer; standing aside, half behind a framed
advertisement on an easel; his hands clenched in his coat pockets; white
of face; biting his lip.

'I can't go with them!' he was thinking. 'It's too much. I can't! I
can't trust myself. I'd say something. But what'll they think?

'She won't know. She won't care. She's happy--my suffering is nothing to
her.' This was youthful bitterness, of course. But it met an immediate
counter in the following thought, which, to any one who knew the often
selfcentred Henry would have been interesting. 'But that's the way it
ought to be. She mustn't know how I suffer. It isn't her fault. A great
love just comes to you. Nobody can help it. It's tragedy, of course.
Even if I have to--to'--his lip was quivering now--'to shoot myself, I
must leave a note telling her she wasn't to blame. Just that I loved her
too much to live without her. But I haven't any money. I couldn't make
her happy.'

His eyes, narrow points of fire, glanced this way and that. Almost
furtively. Passion--a grown man's passion--was or seemed to him to be
tearing him to pieces. And he hadn't a grown man's experience of life,
the background of discipline and self-control, that might have helped
him weather the storm. All he could do was to wonder if he had spoken
aloud or only thought these words. He didn't know. Somebody might have
heard. The crowd was still pouring slowly out past him. It seemed to him
incredible that all the world shouldn't know about it.

The others of the party were somewhere out on the street now. They were
going to a restaurant; then, in their bus, to the twelve-fourteen, the
last train for Sunbury until daylight.

What could he do if he didn't take that train? He might hide up forward,
in the smoker. But there were a hundred chances that he would be seen.
No, that wouldn't do. He must hurry after them.

But he flatly couldn't. Why, the tears were coming to his eyes. A little
weakness, whenever he was deeply moved, for which he despised himself.
There was no telling what he might do--cry like a girl, break out into
an impossible torrent of words. A scene. Anywhere; on the street, in the
restaurant.

No, however awkward, whatever the cost, he couldn't rejoin them, he
couldn't look at Cicely and Elbow and Herb and the others.

He felt in his pocket. Not enough money, of course. He never had enough.
He couldn't ever plan intelligently. Yet he was earning twelve dollars a
week!... He had a dollar, and a little change. Perhaps it was enough.
He could go to a cheap hotel. He had seen them advertised--fifty or
seventy-five cents for the night. And then an early morning train for
Sunbury.

He would be worse off then than ever, of course. The people who had
talked, would have fresh material. Running away from the party! They
might say that he had got drunk. Though in a way he would welcome that.
It was a sort of way out.

The crowd was nearly gone. They would be closing the doors soon. Then he
would have to go--somewhere.

A big woman was making her way inward against the human current. But
Henry, though he saw her and knew in a dreamy way that it was Madame
Watt, still couldn't, for the moment, find place for her in his madly
surging thoughts.

She passed him; looked into the darkened theatre; came back; stood
before him.

Then came this brief conversation:--

'You haven't seen him, Henry?'

'No, I haven't.'

'Hm! Awkward--he took the pledge--he swore it--I am counting on you to
help me.'

'Of course. Anything!'

'Were you out with him between the acts?'

'Why--yes.'

'Did he drink anything then?'

'Yes. He took Scotch.'

'Oh, he did?'

'Yes'm.'

'It's all off, then. See here, Henry, will you look? The same place?
Be very careful. People mustn't know. And I must count on you. There's
nobody else. We'll manage it, somehow. We've got to keep him quiet and
get him out home. I'll be at the restaurant. You can send word in to
me--have a waiter say I'm wanted at the telephone. Do that. And...'

It is to be doubted if Henry heard more than half of this speech. She
was still speaking when he shot out to the street, dodged back of the
waiting groups by the kerb and disappeared among the night traffic of
the street in the direction of a certain bar.


6


The Senator's cheeks and forehead and nose were shining redly above the
little white beard, which, for itself, looked more than ever askew.
The straw hat was far back on his head. He waved a limp hand toward the
enormous, brightly lighted painting that hung over the bar.

Henry, a painfully set look on his face, sat opposite, across the
alcove, leaned heavily on the table, and watched him.

The passion had gone out of him. He was wishing, in a state near
despair, that he had listened more attentively to what Madame Watt had
said. Something about getting word to her--at the restaurant. But how
could he? If it had seemed disastrously difficult before, full of his
own trouble, to face that merry party, it was now, with this really
tragic problem on his hands, flatly impossible.

And there wasn't a soul in the world to help him. He must work it out
alone. Even if he might get word to Madame, what could she do? She
couldn't leave her party. And she couldn't bring this pitiable object in
among those young people.

Henry's lips pressed together. The world looked to him just now a savage
wilderness.

'Consider women, for instance!' The Senator's hand waved again toward
the picture. It was surprising to Henry that he could speak with such
distinctness. 'Consider women! They toil not, neither do they spin. Yet
at the last, they bite like a serpent and sting like an adder.'

Henry held his watch under the table; glanced down. It was five minutes
past twelve. For nearly an hour he had been sitting there, helpless,
beating his brain for schemes that wouldn't present themselves. The
twelve-fourteen was as good as gone, of course. Though it had not for a
minute been possible. He thought vaguely, occasionally, of a hotel. But
stronger and more persistent was the feeling that he ought to get him
out home if he could.

'Women...!' The Senator drooped in his chair. Then looked up; braced
himself; shouted, 'Here, boy! A bit more of the same!' When the glass
was before him he drank, brightened a little, and resumed. 'Woman, my
boy, is th' root--No, I will go farther! I will state that woman is th'
root 'n' branch of all evil.'

Henry, with a muttered, 'Excuse me, Senator!' got out of the alcove and
stepped outside the door. He stood on the door-step; took off his hat
and pressed a hand to his forehead.

Across the street, near the side door of the hotel, stood an
old-fashioned closed hack. The driver lay curled up across his seat,
asleep. The horses stood with drooping heads.

Henry gazed intently at the dingy vehicle. Slowly his eyes narrowed. He
looked again at his watch. Then he moved deliberately across the way and
woke the cabman.

'Hey!' he cried, as the man fumblingly put on his hat and blinked up the
street and down. 'Hey, you! What'll you take to drive to Sunbury?'

'Sunbury? Oh, that's a long way. And it's pretty late at night.'

'I know all that! How much'll you take?'

The cabman pondered.

'How many?'

'Two.'

'Fifteen dollars.'

'Oh, say I, that's twice too much! Why----'

'Fifteen dollars.'

'But-----'

'Fifteen dollars.'

Henry swallowed. He felt very daring. He had heard of fellows and girls
missing the late train and driving out. But the amount usually mentioned
was ten dollars. However...

'All right. Drive across here.'

He bent over the Senator, who was talking, still on the one topic, to a
small picture just above Henry's empty seat.

'We're going home now, Senator. You'd better come with me.'

'Going home? No, not there. Not there. Back to the Senate, yes. Tha's
different. But not home. If you knew what I've----'

Henry led him out. But first the Senator, with some difficulty in the
managing, paid his check. Henry would have paid it, but hadn't nearly
enough. It had never occurred to him that a single individual could
spend so large a sum on himself within the space of less, considerably
less, than three hours.

The cabman and Henry together got him into the hack.

'They are pop--popularly known as the weaker sex. All a ter'ble mistake,
young man. They're stronger. Li'l do you dream how stronger--how
great--how more stronger they are. Curious about words. At times one
commands them with ease. Other times they elude one. Words are more
tricky--few suspect--but women allure us only to destroy us. Women....'

Before the cab rolled across the Rush Street Bridge on its long journey
to the northward he was asleep.


7


It was half-past two in the morning when a hack drawn by weary horses
on whose flanks the later glistened, drew up at the porte cochère of the
old Dexter Smith place in Sunbury.

The cabman lumbered down and opened the door. A youth, nervously wide
awake, leaped out. Then followed this brief conversation.

'Help me carry him up, please.'

'You'd better pay me first. Fifteen dollars!

'I'll do that afterward.'

'I'll take it now.'

'I tell you I'm going to get it----'

'You mean you haven't got it?'

'Not on me.'

'Well, look here----'

'Ssh! You'll wake the whole house up! You've simply got to wait until I
get home. You needn't worry. I'm going to pay you.'

'You'd better. Say, he'd ought to have it on him.'

'We're not going into his pockets. Now you do as I tell you.'

Together they lifted him out.

Henry looked up at the door. Madame Watt, somebody, had left this
outside light burning. Doubtless the thing to do was just to ring the
bell.

He brushed the cabman aside. The Senator was such a little man, so
pitifully slender and light! And Henry himself was supple and strong.
He took the little old gentleman up in his arms and carried him up
the steps. And once again in the course of this strange night his eyes
filled.

But not for himself this time. Henry's gift of insight, while it was now
and for many years to come would be fitful, erratic, coming and going
with his intensely varied moods, was none the less a real, at times a
great, gift. And I think he glimpsed now, through the queer confusing
mists of thought, something of the grotesque tragedy that runs, like a
red and black thread, through the fabric of many human lives.

The Senator had been a famous man. Through nearly two decades, as even
Henry dimly knew, he had stood out, a figure of continuous national
importance. And now he was just--this. Here in Henry's arms; inert.

'Ring the bell, will you!' said Henry shortly.

The cabman moved.

There was a light step within. The lock turned. The door swung open, and
Cicely stood there.

She was wrapped about in a wonderful soft garment of blue. She was pale.
And her hair was all down, rippling about her shoulders and (when she
stepped quickly back out of the cabman's vision) down her back below the
waist.

Henry carried his burden in, and she quickly closed the door.

'Has anybody seen? Does anybody know?' she asked, in a whisper.

He leaned back against the wall.

'No. Nobody. But you----'

'I've been sitting up, watching. I was so afraid aunt might----'

'Then you know?'

'Know? Why--Tell me, do you think you can carry him to his room?'

'Me? Oh, easy! Why he doesn't weigh much of anything. Just look!'

'Then come. Quickly. Keep very quiet.'

Slowly, painstakingly, he followed her up the stairs and along the upper
hall to an open door.

'Wait!' she whispered. 'I'll have to turn on the light.' He laid the
limp figure on the bed.

Outside, in the still night, the horses stirred and stamped. A
voice--the cabman's--cried,--

'Whoa there, you! Whoa!'

Cicely turned with a start.

'Oh, why can't he keep still!... You--you'd better go. I don't know why
you're so kind. Those others would never----'

'Please!--You _do_ know!'

This remark appeared to add to her distress. She made a quick little
gesture.

'Oh, no, I don't mean--not that I want you to----'

'Not so loud! Quick! Please go!'

'But it's so terribly hard for you. I can't bear--I can't bear to think
of your having to--people just mustn't know about it, that's all! We've
got to do something. She mustn't--You see, I love you, and....

Their eyes met.

A deep dominating voice came from the doorway.

'You had better go to your room, Cicely,' it said.

They turned like guilty children.

Cicely flushed, then quietly went.

Madame was a strange spectacle. She wore a quilted maroon robe, which
she held clutched together at her throat. Most of the hair that was
usually piled and coiled about her head had vanished; what little
remained was surprisingly gray and was twisted up in front and over the
ears in curl papers of the old-fashioned kind.

Henry lowered his gaze; it seemed indelicate to look at her. He
discovered then that he was still wearing his hat, and took it off with
a low, wholly nervous laugh that was as surprising to himself as it
certainly was, for a moment, to Madame Watt, who surveyed him under knit
brows before centring her attention on the unconscious figure on the
bed.

'We owe you a great deal,' she said then. 'It was awkward enough. But it
might have been a disaster. You've saved us from that.'

'Oh, it was nothing,' murmured Henry, blushing.

'Are you sure no one saw? You didn't take him to the station?'

'No. We drove straight out.'

'Hm! When you came did you ring our bell?'

'Me? Why, no. I was going to. But----'

'Yes?'

'She--your--Miss----'

'Do you mean Cicely?'

'Yes. She opened the door.'

Madame frowned again.

'But what on earth----'

Henry interrupted, looking up at her now.

'I'll tell you. I know. I can see it. And somebody's got to tell you.'

Madame looked mystified.

'She couldn't bear to have you know. She was afraid you----'

Madame raised her free hand. 'We won't go into that.'

'But we _must_. It was your temper she was----'

'We wont----'

'You _must_ listen! Can't you see the dread she lives under--the fear
that you'll forget yourself and people will know! And can't you see
what it drives--him--to? I heard him talk when he was telling his real
thoughts. I know.'

'Oh, you do!'

'Yes, I know. And I know this town. They're very conservative. They
watch new people. They're watching you. Like cats. And they'll gossip. I
know that too. I've suffered from it. Things that aren't so. But what
do they care? They'd spoil your whole life--like that!--and go to the
Country Club early to get the best dances. Oh, I know, I tell you.
You've got to be careful. It isn't what I say, but you've _got_ to! Or
they'll find out, and they won't stop till they've hounded you out
of town, and driven him to--this--for good, and broken her--your
niece's--heart.'

He stopped, out of breath.

The fire that had flamed from his eyes died down, leaving them like gray
ashes. Confusion smote him. He shifted his feet; turned his hat round
and round between his hands. What--_what_--had he been saying!

Then he heard her voice, saying only this:--

'In a way--in a way--you have a right.... God knows it won't.... So much
at stake.... Perhaps it had to be said.'

He felt that he had better retreat. Emotions were rising, and he was
gulping them down. He knew now that he couldn't speak again; not a word.

She stood aside.

'It was very good of you,' she said.

But he rushed past her and down the stairs.

Humphrey, when he awoke in the morning, remembered dimly his
temperamental young partner, a dishevelled, rather wild figure, bending
over him, shaking him and saying, 'Gimme fifteen dollars! I'll explain
to-morrow. Gosh, but I'm a wreck! You've no idea!'

And he remembered drawing to him the chair on which his clothes were
piled and fumbling in various pockets for money.


8


When Henry awoke, at ten, he found himself alone in the rooms. The warm
sunshine was streaming in, the university clock was booming out the
hour. Then the mellow church bells set up their stately ringing.

He lay for a time drowsily listening. Then the bells brought
recollections. Madame Watt, and Cicely, and often the Senator attended
the First Presbyterian Church. Right across the alley, facing on Filbert
Avenue. By merely turning his head, Henry could see the rear gable of
the chapel and the windows of the Sunday-school room.

He sprang out of bed.

His blue serge coat was spotted. From the table in that bar-room,
doubtless. He found a bottle of ammonia and sponged. It was also in need
of a pressing, but he could do nothing about that now. He had to go to
church.

No other course was thinkable. If only to sit where he could catch a
glimpse now and then of her profile.

He heard a knock downstairs, but at first ignored it. No one would be
coming here of a Sunday morning.

Finally he went down.

There, on the step, immaculately dressed, rather weary looking with dark
areas under red eyes, stood Senator Watt.

'How do you do,' said he, with dignity.

'Won't you come in?' said Henry.

They mounted the stairs. The Senator sat stiffly on a small chair. Henry
took the piano stool.

'I understand that you did me a very great service last night, Mr
Calverly.'

'Oh, no,' Henry managed to say, in a mumbling voice, throwing out his
hands. 'No, it wasn't really anything at all.'

'You will please tell me what it cost.'

'Oh--why--well, fifteen dollars.'

The Senator counted out the money.

'You have placed me greatly in your debt, Mr Calverly. I hope that I may
some day repay you.'

'Oh, no! You see...'

Silence fell upon them.

The Senator rose to go.

'Drink,' he remarked then, 'is an unmitigated evil. Never surrender to
it.'

'I really don't drink at all, Senator.'

'Good! Don't do it. Life is more complex than a young man of your
age can perceive. At best it is a bitter struggle. Evil habits are a
handicap. They aggravate every problem. Good day. We shall see you soon
again at the house, I trust.'

Henry, moved, looked after him as he walked almost briskly away--an
erect, precise little man.

Then Henry went to church.

Herb de Casselles ushered him to a seat. He could just see Cicely. He
thought she looked very sad. Yet she sang brightly in the hymns. And
after the benediction when Herb and Elbow and Dex Smith crowded about
her in the aisle, she smiled quite as usual, and made her quick, eager
Frenchy gestures.

He brushed his hand across his eyes Had he been living through a
dream--a tragic sort of dream?

He made his way, between pews, to a side door, and hurried out. He
couldn't speak to a soul; not now. He walked blindly, very fast, down to
Chestnut Avenue, over to Simpson Street, then up toward the stores and
shops.

Humphrey had a way of working at the office Sundays. He decided to go
there. There was the matter of the fifteen dollars. And Humphrey would
expect him for their usual Sunday dinner at Stanley's.

He was passing Stanley's now. Next came Donovan's drug store. Next
beyond that, Swanson's flower shop.

A carriage--a Victoria--rolled softly by on rubber tyres. Silver jingled
on the harness of the two black horses. Two men in plum-coloured livery
sat like wooden things on the box. On the rear seat were Madame Watt and
Cicely.

The carriage drew up before Swanson's. Madame Watt got heavily out and
went into the shop.

Cicely had turned. She was waving her hand.

Henry found his vision suddenly blurred. Then he was standing by the
carriage, and Cicely was speaking, leaning over close to him so that the
men couldn't hear.

'It was dreadful the way I let you go! I didn't even say good-night. And
all the time I wanted you to know....'

He couldn't speak. He stared at her, lips compressed; temples pounding.

She seemed to be smiling faintly.

'We--we might say good-night now.'

He heard her say that.

She thought he shivered. Then he said huskily:--

'I--I've wanted to call you--to call you--'

'Yes?'

'--Cicely.'.

There was a silence. She whispered, 'I think I've wanted you to.'

He had rested a hand on the plum upholstery beside her. In some way it
touched hers; clasped it; gripped it feverishly.

The colour came rushing to his face. And to hers.

He saw, through a blinding mist, that there were tears in her eyes.

'Ci--Cicely, you don't, you can't mean--that you--too....'

'Please, Henry! Not here! Not now!'

They glanced up the street; and down.

'Come this afternoon,' she breathed.

'They'll be there.'

'Come early. Two o'clock. We'll take a walk.'

'Oh--Cicely!'

'Henry!'

Their hands were locked together until Madame came out.

The carriage rolled away.

Henry--it seemed to himself--reeled dizzily along Simpson Street to the
stairway that you climbed to get to the _Gleaner_ office.

And all along this street of his struggles, his failures, his one or two
successes, his dreams, the dingy, two-story buildings laughed and danced
and cheered about him, with him, for him--Hemple's meat-market, Berger's
grocery, Swanson's, Donovan's, Schultz and Schwartz's barber shop,
Stanley's, the Sunbury National Bank, the postoffice--all reeled
jubilantly with him in the ecstasy of young love!



IX--WHAT'S MONEY!


1


|Henry paused on the sill. The door he held open bore the legend,
painted in black and white on a rectangle of tin:--

THE SUNBURY WEEKLY GLEANER

By Weaver and Calverly

'How late you going to stay, Hump?' he asked.

Humphrey raised his eyes, listlessly thrust his pencil back of his ear,
and looked rather thoughtfully at the youth in the doorway; a dapper
youth, in an obviously new 'Fedora' hat, a conspicuous cord of black
silk hanging from his glasses, his little bamboo cane, caught by its
crook in the angle of his elbow.

Humphrey's gaze wandered to the window; settled on the roof of the
Sunbury National Bank opposite. He suppressed a sigh.

'I may want to talk with you, Hen. I've been figuring----'

The youth in the doorway shifted his position with a touch of
impatience.

'See here, Hump, you know I can't make head or tail out of figures!'

Humphrey looked down at the desk.

'Anyway I'll see you at supper,' Henry added defensively.

'Mildred expects me down there for supper,' said Humphrey. The sigh came
now. He pushed up the eyeshade and slowly rubbed his eyes. 'But I may
not be able to get away. There are times, Hen, when you have to look
figures in the face.'

The youth flushed at this, and replied, rather explosively;--

'A fellow has to do the sorta thing he _can_ do, Hump!'

'Well--will you be at the rooms this evening?' Humphrey's eyes were
again taking in the natty costume. And surveying him, Humphrey answered
his own question; dryly. 'I imagine not.'

'Well--I was going over to the Watts.'

There was a long silence:

Finally Henry let himself slowly out and closed the door.

Outside, on the landing, he paused again; but this time to button his
coat and pull up the blue-bordered handkerchief in his breast pocket
until a corner showed.

He looked too, by the fading light--it was mid-September, and the sun
would be setting shortly, out over the prairie--at the tin legend on the
door.

The sight seemed to reassure him somewhat. As did the other, similar
tin legends that were tacked up between the treads of the long flight of
stairs that led to Simpson Street, at each of which he turned to look.

Humphrey had before him a pile of canvas-bound account books, a spindle
of unpaid bills, a little heap of business letters, and a pad covered
with pencilled columns. He rested an elbow among the papers, turned his
chair, and looked through the window down into the street.

A moment passed, then he saw Henry walking diagonally across toward
Donovan's drug store.

For an ice-cream soda, of course; or one of those thick, 'frosted'
fluids of chocolate or coffee flavour that he affected. And it was now
within an hour of supper time.

Humphrey leaned forward. Yes, there he stood, on the kerb before
Donovan's, looking, with a quick nervous jerking of the head, now up
Simpson Street, now down. Yes, that was his hurry--the usual thing.
Madame Watt made a point of driving down to meet the five-twenty-nine
from town. Senator Watt always came out then. And usually Cicely Hamlin
came along with her.

Humphrey sighed, rose, stood looking down at the bills and letters and
canvas books; pressed a hand again against his eyes; wandered to the
press-room door and looked, pursing his lips, knitting his brows, at
the row of job presses, at the big cylinder press that extended nearly
across the rear end of the long room, at the row of type cases on their
high stands, at imposing-stones on heavy tables. He sniffed the odour
of ink, damp paper, and long, respected dust that hung over the whole
establishment. He smiled, moodily, as his eye rested on the gray
and black roller towel that hung above the iron sink, recalling Bob
Burdette's verses. He returned to the office, and stood for a few
moments before the file of the _Gleaner_ on the wall desk by the door,
turning the pages of recent issues. From each number a story by Henry
Calverly, 3rd, seemed to leap out at his eyes and his brain. _The Caliph
of Simpson Street, Sinbad the Treasurer, A Kerbstone Barmecide, The
Cauliflowers of the Caliph, The Printer and the Pearls, Ali Anderson
and the Four Policemen_--the very titles singing aloud of the boy's
extraordinary gift.

'And it's all we've got here,' mused Humphrey, moving back to his own
desk. 'That mad child makes us, or we break. I've got to humour him,
protect him. Can't even show him these bills. Like getting all your
light and heat from a candle that may get blown out any minute.' And
before dropping heavily into his chair, glancing at his watch, drawing
his eye-shade down, and plunging again at the heavy problem of keeping
a country weekly alive without sufficient advertising revenue, he added,
aloud, with a wry, wrinkly smile that yet gave him a momentary whimsical
attractiveness: 'That's the devil of it!'

There was a step on' the stairs.

The door opened slowly. A red face appeared, under a tipped-down Derby
hat; a face decorated with a bristling red moustache and a richly
carmine nose.

Humphrey peered; then considered. It was Tim Niernan, one-time fire
chief, now village constable.

'Young Calverly here?' asked the official in a husky voice.

Humphrey shook his head. His thoughts, momentarily disarranged, were
darting this way and that.

'What is it, Tim? What do you want of him?'

Tim seemed embarrassed.

'Why----' he began, 'why----'

'Some trouble?'

'Why, you see Charlie Waterhouse's suing him.'

Humphrey tried to consider this.

'What for?'

'Well--libel. One o' them stories o' his. I liked 'em myself. My folks
all say he's a great kid. But Charlie's pretty sore.'

'Suing for a lot, I suppose?'

'Why yes. Well--ten thousand.'

'Hm!'

'He lives with you, don't he--back of the Parmenter place?'

'Yes.' Humphrey's answer was short. At the moment he was not inclined to
make Tim's task easy.

The constable went out. Humphrey watched him from the window. He passed
Donovan's on the other side of the street and kept on toward the lake.

Humphrey returned to the wall file, and, standing there, read _Sinbad
the Treasurer_ through.

There was an extraordinarily fresh, naive power in the story. Simpson
Street was mentioned by name. There was but the one town treasurer,
whether you called him 'Sinbad' or Waterhouse.

'He certainly did cut loose,' mused Humphrey. 'Charlie's got a case. Got
his nerve, too.'

Then he dropped into his chair and sat, for a long time, very quiet,
tapping out little tunes on his hollowed cheek with a pencil.


2


Henry turned away from Donovan's soda fountain, wiping froth from his
moustache, and sauntered to the nearer of the two doors. His brows were
knit in a slight frown that suggested anxiety. There was earnestness,
intensity, in the usually pleasant gray-blue eyes as he peered now up
the street, now down.

A low-hung Victoria, drawn by a glossy team in harness that glittered
with silver, swung at a dignified pace around the corner of Filbert
Avenue, two wooden men in plum-coloured livery on the box, two
dignified figures on the rear seat, one middle-aged, large, formidable,
commanding, sitting erect and high, the other slighter and not
commanding.

Instantly, at the sight, Henry's frown gave place to a nervously eager
smile, returned, went again. When the carriage at length drew up before
Berger's grocery, across the way, however, he had both frown and smile
under reasonable control and was a presentable if deadly serious young
man.

The footman leaped down and stood at attention. The formidable one
stepped out and entered Berger's. And the slight, fresh-faced girl,
leaned out to welcome the youth who rushed across the street.

In Sunbury, in the nineties, a youth and a maiden could 'go together'
without a thought of the future. The phrase implied frank pairing off,
perhaps an occasionally shyly restrained sentimental passage, in general
a monopoly of the other's spare time. An 'understanding,' on the other
hand, was a. distinctly transitive state, leading to engagement and
marriage as soon as the youth was old enough or could earn a living or
the opposition of parents could be overcome.

The relationship between Cicely and Henry had lately hovered delicately
between the two states. If it seemed, after each timid advance, to
recede from the 'understanding' point; that was because of the burdens
and the heavy responsibility that instantly claimed their thoughts at
the mere suggestion of engagement and marriage:

There were among the parents of Henry's boyhood friends, couples that
had married at twenty or even younger, and on no greater income than
Henry's rather doubtful twelve dollars a week. But that day had gone by.
An 'understanding' meant now, at the very least, that you were saving
for a diamond. You could hardly ask a nice girl to become engaged
without one.

And marriage meant good clothes for parties, receptions and Sundays, and
the street; it meant membership in the Country Club, a reasonably priced
pew in church, a rented house, at least, preferably not in South Sunbury
and distinctly not out on the prairie or too near the tracks, a certain
amount invested in furniture, dishes and other house fittings, and
reasonable credit with the grocer and at the meat-market. You could
hardly ask a nice girl to go in for less than that. You really couldn't
afford to let her go in for less.

So they were marrying later now; six or eight or ten years later. And
the girls were turning to older men. Here in Sunbury, Clemency Snow had
married a man seven or eight years older whose younger brother had been
among her playmates. Jane Bellman had married a shy little doctor of
thirty-one or two. And Martha Caldwell, whom Henry had 'gone with' for
two or three years, was permitting the rich, really old bachelor,
James B. Merchant, Jr., to devote about all his time to her. He was
thirty-eight if a day.

It was a disturbing condition for the town boys. Thoughts of it cast
black shadows on Henry's undisciplined brain as he looked at the girl in
the Victoria, felt, in the very air about them, her quick, bright
smile, the delicately responsive liftings of her eyebrows, her marked
desirability.

'Oh, Henry,' she was saying, 'I've just been hearing the most wonderful
things about you! You can't imagine! At Mrs MacLouden's tea. There was a
man there----'

Henry sniffed. A man at a tea! And talking to Cicely! Making up to her,
doubtless.

'--a friend of Mr Merchant's, from New York. And what do you think? Mr
Merchant showed him your stories. The ones that have come out. He's been
keeping them. Isn't that remarkable? They read them aloud. And this man
says that you are more promising than Richard Harding Davis was at your
age. Henry--just _think!_'

But Henry was scowling. He was thinking with hot, growing concern, of
the man. A rich old fellow, of course! One of the dangerous ones.

He leaned over the wheel.

'Cicely--you--you're expecting me to-night?'

'Oh! Why yes, Henry, of course I'd like to have you come.'

'But weren't you _expecting_ me?'

'Why--yes, Henry.

'Of course'--stiffly--'if you'd rather I wouldn't come...'

'Please, Henry! You mustn't. Not here on the street!' He stood, flushing
darkly, swallowing down the emotion that threatened to choke him.'

She murmured:--

'You know I want you to come.'

This was unsatisfactory. Indeed he hardly heard it. He was full of his
thoughts about her, about the older men, about those tremendous
burdens that he couldn't even pretend to assume. And then came a mad
recklessness.

'Oh, Cicely--this is awful--I just can't stand it! Why can't we have an
understanding? Call it that? Stop all this uncertainty! I--I--I've just
got to speak to your aunt----'

'Henry! Please! Don't say those things---'

'That's it! You won't let me say them.'

'Not here----'

'Oh, please, Cicely! Please! I know I'm not earning much; but I'll be
twenty-one on the seventh of November and then I'll have more'n three
thousand dollars. Please let me tell her that, Cicely. Oh, I know it
wouldn't do to spend all the principal,--but it would go a long way
toward setting us up--you know--' his voice trembled, dropped even
lower, as with awe--'get the things we'd need when we were--you
know--well, married.'

He felt, as he poured out this mumbled torrent of words, that he
was rushing to a painful failure. Cicely had drawn back. She looked
bewildered, and tired. And he had fetched up in a black maze of
despairing thoughts.

The footman must have heard part of it. He was standing very straight.
And the coachman was staring out over the horses. He had probably heard
too.

Then Madame Watt came sailing out Of Berger's; fixed her hawk eyes on
him with a curious interest.

He knew that he lifted his hat. He saw, or half saw, that Cicely tried
to smile. She did bob her head in the bright quick way she had.

Then the Victoria rolled away, and he was standing, one foot in the
street, the other on the kerb, gazing after them through a mist of
something so near tears that he was reduced to a painful struggle to
gain even the appearance of self-control.

And then, for a quarter-hour, mood followed mood so fast that they
almost maddened him.

He thought of old Hump, up there in the office, fighting out their
common battle. Perhaps he ought to go back; do his best to understand
the accounts. Figures always depressed him. No matter. He would go back.
He would show Hump that he could at least be a friend. Yes, he could at
least show that. Thing to do was to keep thinking of the other fellow.
Forget yourself. That was the thing!

But what he did, first, was to cross over to Swanson's flower shop and
sternly order violets. Paid cash for them.

'Miss Cicely Hamlin?' asked the Swanson-girl.

'Yes,' growled Henry, 'for Miss Hamlin. Send them right over, please.'

Then he walked around the block; muttering aloud; starting;
glancing-about; muttering again. He could hardly go to Cicely's. Not
this evening! Not when she had been willing to leave it like that.

He meant to go, of course. Too early. By seven-thirty or so. But he told
himself he wouldn't do it. She would have to write him. Or lose him. He
would wait in dignified silence.

The early September twilight was settling down on Sunbury.

Lights came on, here and there. The dusk was a relief.

He had wrecked everything. It wasn't so much that he had proposed an
understanding. In the circumstances she couldn't altogether object to
that. It was risking the vital, final decision, of course. But that,
sooner or later, would have to be risked. That was something a man had
to face, and go through, and be a sport about. No, the trouble seemed
to be that he had lost himself. He had made it awkward, impossible,
for both of them. Through his impatience he had created an impossible
situation. And in losing himself he had lost her, and lost her in the
worst way imaginable. He had contrived to make an utterly ridiculous
figure of himself, and, in a measure, of her. He had to set his teeth
hard on that thought, and compress his lips.

He was on Simpson Street again. Yellow gas-light shone out of the
windows of the _Gleaner_ offices, over Hemple's. Old Hump was hard at
it.

He went up there.


3


Humphrey was sitting there, chin on chest, long legs stretched under the
desk. He didn't look up; only a slight start and a movement of one hand
indicated that he heard.

Henry stood, confused, a thought alarmed, looking at him; moved
aimlessly to his own desk and stirred papers about; came, finally,
and sat on a corner of the exchange table, tapping his cane nervously
against his knee.

'Aren't going to stay here all night, are you, Hump?' he asked, rather
huskily.

Humphrey's hand moved again; he didn't speak.

'Hump! What's the matter? Anything happened?'

Still no answer.

'But you know we're picking up in advertising, Hump?'

'Not near enough.' This was a non-committal growl.

'And see the way our circulation's been----'

'Losing money on it. Can't carry it.'

'But--but, Hump----'

The senior partner waved his hand. His face was gray and grim, his voice
restrained. He even smiled as he deliberately filled his pipe.

'It's bad, Hen. Very, very bad. I've tried to keep you from worrying,
but you've got to know now. We paid a little over two thousand for this
plant and the good will.

'Cheap enough, wasn't it?' cried Henry.

'If we'd really got her for that, yes. But look at the capital it takes.
Building up. I had just a thousand more, a bond. Threw that in last
month, you know.'

'Oh'--breathed Henry, fright in his eyes--'I forgot about that.'

'And you can't raise a cent.'

Henry tried to think this over. He started to speak; swallowed; slipped
off the table; stood there; lifted his cane and sighted along it out the
window.

'I can--November seventh,' he finally remarked.

Humphrey blew a smoke-ring; followed it with his eyes.

'My boy, nations, worlds, constellations, may crash between now and
November seventh.'

'I--I could tackle my uncle again,' murmured Henry, out of a despairing
face.

There was at times an acid quality in Humphrey. Henry felt it in him
now, as he said dryly:--

'As I recall your last transaction with your uncle, Hen, he told
you finally that you couldn't have one cent of your principal before
November seventh.'

'He--well, yes, he did say that.'

'Meant it, didn't he?'

'Y--yes. He meant it.'

'He's a business man, I believe.' Humphrey smoked for a moment; then
added, with that same biting quality in his voice, 'And unless
he's insane he would hardly put money into this business now. As it
stands--or doesn't stand. And I presume he's not insane. No, we'll drop
that subject.'

Henry felt Humphrey's eyes on him. Sombre cold eyes. And he fell again,
in his misery, to sighting along his cane. It seemed to Henry that the
world was reeling to disaster. His young, over keen imagination was
painting ugly, inescapable pictures of a savage world in which all
effort seemed to fail.

Between Humphrey and himself a gulf had opened. It was growing wider
every minute. Nothing he could say would help; words were no good. He
was afraid he might try to talk. It would be like him; floods of talk,
meaningless, mere words, really mere nerves. He clamped his lips on that
fear.

If I understand Henry, the thing that had brought him to despair--and he
was in despair--was neither the sorry condition of the business, nor
the trouble with Cicely. These had confused and saddened him. But the
hopelessness had come after he saw Humphrey's face and eyes and caught
that cool note in his voice. To the day of his death Henry couldn't
endure hostility in those close about him. He had to have friendly
sympathy, an easy give and take of the spirit in which his _naïveté_
would not be misunderstood. This sort of atmosphere provided,
apparently, the only soil in which his faculties could take root and
grow. Hostility in those he had been led to trust disarmed him, crushed
him.

'Hump,' he ventured now, weakly, 'I think--maybe--you'd better show me
those figures. I--I'll try to understand 'em. I will.'

Humphrey gave a little snort; brushed the idea away with a sweep of a
long hand.

'No use!' he said brusquely. He rolled down the desktop and locked it
with a snap. 'Getting stale myself. Sleep on it. Not a thing you can do,
Hen!' He knocked the ashes from his pipe, gloomily. Buttoned his vest.
Suddenly he broke out with this:--

'You're a lucky brute, Hen!'

Henry started; glanced up; fumbled at his moustache. 'You're wondering
why I said that. But, man, you're a genius--Yes, you are! I have to plug
for it. But you've got the flare. You know well enough what's loaded all
this circulation on us. Your stories! Not a thing else. You'll do more
of 'em. You'll be famous.'

'Oh, no, Hump I You don't know how I've----'

'Yes, you'll be famous. I won't. It's a gift--fame, success. It's a sort
of edge God--or something--puts on a man. A cutting edge. You've simply
got it. I simply haven't.'

Henry pulled and pulled at his moustache.

'And you've got a girl--a lovely girl. She's mad about you--oh, yes she
is! I know. I've seen her look at you.'

'But, Hump, you don't just know what----'

'She doesn't have to hide her feelings. Not seriously, not with a lying
smile. And you don't have to hide yours. You haven't got this furtive
rope around your neck, strangling the breath of decent morality out of
your soul. Thank God you don't know what it means--that struggle. She'll
be announcing her engagement one of these days.

'There'll be presents and flowers. You'll get stirred up and write
something a thousand times better than you know how to write. Money will
come--oh, yes it will! It'll roll to you, Hen. For a time. Or at times.
And you'll marry--a nice clean wedding. God, just to think of it is like
the May winds off the lake!'

He threw out his long arms. Henry thought, perversely enough, that he
looked like Lincoln.

'But the greatest thing of all is that you're twenty. Think of it!
Twenty!... Hen, when I was twenty I put my life on a schedule for five
years. They were up last month.

'I was to be flying at twenty-four. Think of it--flying! Through the
air, man! Like a gull! At twenty-five I was to be famous and rich. A
conqueror! I slaved for that. Worked days and nights and Sundays for
that. Sweated for the Old Man there on the _Voice_; put up with his
stupid little insults.'

He sprang up; got into his coat; looked at his watch.

'I'm late. Got to stop at the rooms too. Mildred'll be wondering. You
can stay here if you like.'

But Henry clung to him. Around the back street they went. And Humphrey
talked on.

'Well, I'm twenty-five! And where've I got? I love a woman. Hen, I hope
you'll never be torn as I'm torn now. You think you've been through
things. Why, you're an innocent babe. I've got a woman's name--and
that's a woman's life, Hen!--in my hands. It's a muddle. Maybe there's
tragedy in it. May never work out. Sometimes I feel as if we were going
straight over a precipice, she and I. It goes dark. It suffocates me....
It's costing me everything. It'll take money--a lot of it--money I
haven't got. If the paper goes, my last hopes go with it. If we can't
turn that corner. Everything comes down bang. No use.'

Henry tried to say, 'Oh, I guess we'll turn our corner all right;' but
if the words passed his lips at all it was only as a whisper.

They were a hundred feet from the alley back of Parmenter's. It was dark
now, there in the shade of the double row of maples. Humphrey stopped
short; pressed his hands to his eyes; then looked at Henry.

'You coming to the rooms, too?' he asked.

Henry nodded.

'I don't know's I--I was forgetting, so many things--Oh well, come
along. It hardly matters.'

At the alley entrance a man intercepted them; said, 'This is Henry
Calverly, ain't it?' Struck a match and read an extraordinary mumble
of words. He struck other matches, and read hurriedly on. Then he moved
apologetically away, leaving Henry backed limply against a board fence.

Humphrey stood waiting, a tall shadow of a man. To him Henry turned,
feeling curiously weak in the legs and gone at the stomach.

'What is it?' he asked, weakly, meekly. 'I couldn't understand. Did he
ar--arrest me or something?'

'Charlie Waterhouse has sued you for libel. Ten thousand dollars. Come
on. I can't wait.'

'But--but--but that's foolish. He can't----'

'That's how it is.' Humphrey was grim.

They walked in silence up the alley. Henry stood by while his partner
unlocked the neat front door to the old barn, a white door, with one
white step and an iron scraper. He could just make them out in the dusk.
He wondered if he mightn't presently wake up and find it a dream.... Old
Hump!

They stood in the shop. Humphrey had switched on one light; he looked
now, his face deeply seamed, his eyes a little sunken, at the dim
shadowy metal lathes, the huge reels of copper wire, the tool benches,
the rows of wall boxes filled with machine parts, the small electric
motors hanging by twisted strings or wires from the ceiling joists, the
heavy steel wheels in frames, the great box kites and the spruce and
silk planes, in sections, the gas engine, the water motor, the wheels,
shafts, and belting overhead.

He bent his sombre eyes on Henry.

That youth, aching at heart, bruised of spirit, unaware of the figure he
made, was too far gone to be further puzzled by the weary, mocking smile
that flitted across Humphrey's face.

'Hump!' he cried out: 'What'll we do!'

'Do? Sleep over it. Raise some more money?'

'But how?'

Humphrey waved a hand at the machinery. 'All this. And my library
upstairs. They've stood me more'n four thousand, altogether. Ought to
fetch something.'

'But--but--ten thousand!' Henry whispered the amount with awe as well as
misery.

'Oh, _that!_ Your trouble! Why, you'll sleep over that, too, and
to-morrow I suppose you'll talk to Harry Davis's father.' The senior
Davis, Arthur P., was a Simpson Street lawyer. 'They'll sting you. But
they don't expect any ten thousand.'

'But what I said is _true!_ Charlie Waterhouse is a----'

'What's that got to do with it. You can't prove it. And we aren't strong
enough to hire counsel and detectives and run him to earth. Doesn't look
as if we had the barest breath of life in us. Charlie'll think of your
uncle next, and attach your mother's estate.'

He said this with unusual roughness. Then he went upstairs; stamped
around for a brief time; came hurrying down.

Henry, now, was sitting dejectedly on a work-bench.

'Hump--please!--you don't know how I feel. I----'

'And,' replied the senior partner, 'I don't care. I don't care how I
feel, either. We either save the paper this week or we don't. That's
what I care about right now.'

'I--I won't let you sell your things, Hump.' An unconvincing assertion,
from the limp figure on the bench.

'You?' Humphrey stared at him with something near contempt--stared at
the moustache and the cane. 'You? You won't let me?... For God's sake,
_shut up!_'

With which he went out, slamming the door.

For a time Henry continued to sit there. Then he dragged himself
upstairs, went to his bookcase and got the book entitled _Will Power and
Self Mastery_.

He turned the pages until he hit upon these paragraphs:--'Every machine,
every cathedral, every great ship was a thought before it could become a
fact. Build in your brain.

'Through the all-enveloping ether drifts the invisible electricity that
is all life, all energy. Open yourself to it. Make yourself a conductor.
Stupidity and fear are resistants; cast these out. Make your brain a
dynamo and drive the world.'

This seemed a good idea.


4


Arthur P. Davis was just rising from the supper table when the door-bell
rang. He answered it himself; found young Calverly there, in a state of
haggard but vigorous youthful intensity. He contrived, after a slight
initial difficulty, to draw out of the curiously verbose youth the
essential facts. He considered the matter with a deliberation and
caution that appeared irritating to the boy. But he had read and (in
the bosom of his family) chuckled over _Sinbad the Treasurer_. He had
wondered a little, though he didn't mention the fact to Henry, whether
Charlie wouldn't sue. Charlie had a case.

When Henry left, clearly still in a confused condition, it was Mr
Davis's impression that Henry had placed the matter in his hands as
counsel and further had distinctly agreed to shut his head.

Henry apparently understood it differently. Or, more likely, he didn't
understand at all. Henry was, at the moment, a storm centre with
considerable emotional disturbance still to come. Any one who has
followed Henry, who knows him at all, will understand that such
disturbance within him led directly and always to action. Whatever he
may have said to Mr Davis, he was helpless. He had to function in his
own way. Probably Mr Davis's use in the situation was to stimulate
Henry's already overactive brain. Hardly more.

Certainly it was hardly later than a quarter or twenty minutes past
seven when Henry appeared at Charlie Waterhouse's place on Douglass
Street.

The town treasurer was on the lawn, shifting his sprinkler by the light
of the arc lamp on the corner and smoking his after-supper cigar.

The conversation took place across the picket fence, one of the few
surviving in Sunbury at this time.

Henry said, fiercely:--

'I want to talk to you about that libel suit.'

'Can't talk to me, Henry. You'll have to see my lawyer.'

'Yay-ah, I know. I've got a lawyer too.'

'All right. Let 'em talk to each other.'

'You know you can't get any ten thousand dollars.'

'Can't talk about that.'

'Yes, you can. You gotta.'

'Oh, I've gotta, have I?'

'Yes, you bet you have. Some people seem to think you've got a case.'

'Guess there ain't much doubt about that.'

'Mebbe there ain't. Even if what I said was true.'

'Look here, Henry, I don't care to have this kind o' talk going on
around here. You better go along.'

'Go along nothing! I'll say every word of it. And what's more, you'll
listen. No, don't you go. You stand right there.'

Charlie, a stoutish man in an alpaca coat, with a florid countenance
and a huge moustache, gave a moment's consideration to the blazing young
crusader before him. The boy wasn't going to be any too easy to handle.
He had no need to see him clearly to become aware of that fact. Charlie
shifted his cigar.

'Lemme put it this way. S'pose you could sting me. You'd never get ten
thousand. But s'pose, after I get through talking, you decide to go
ahead and push the case-----'

'Push the case? Well, rather!'

'Wait a minute! All right, let's say you're going ahead and fight for
part o' that ten thousand. What you think you could get. Then what'm I
going to do?'

'Do you suppose I care what----'

'Oh, yes you do! Now listen! I want you to get this straight. You----'

'_You_ want _me_ to----'

'Keep still! Now here's----'

'Look here, I won't have you----'

'Yes, you will! Listen. If you fight, I'll fight. I'll go straight after
you. I'll run you to earth. I'll hire detectives to shadow you. I _know_
you ain't straight, and I'll show you up before the whole dam town. I'm
right and I tell you right here I'm going to _prove_ it! I'll put you in
prison! I'll----'

During most of this speech Charlie was talking too. But in so low a tone
that he could hardly miss what Henry was saving. He broke in now with a
loud:--

'Shut up!'

Henry stopped really because he was out of breath. It gratified him
to see that neighbours were appearing in their lighted windows. And a
youthful chorus on a porch across the way was suddenly hushed.

'Came here to make a scene, did you? Well, I'll----'

'No, I didn't come here to make a scene. I came here to make you listen
to reason and I'm going to do it.'

'Well, drop your voice a little, can't you! No sense in yelling our
private affairs.'

'Sure I'll drop my voice. You're the one that started the yelling.'

'Well, I don't say you couldn't make it hard for any man in my position
if you want to be nasty--fight that way.'

'You wait!'

'But what I'd like to know is--what I'd like to know... Where you goin'
to get the money to hire all those detectives?'

'Where'm I going to get the money to pay you if you win the suit?'

Though Charlie came back with, 'Oh, I'll win the suit all right,
all right!' this was clearly a facer. He added, pondering, 'I guess
Munson'll manage to attach anything you've got.' But he was at sea.
'Fine dirty idea o' yours, hounding a decent man, with detectives.' And
finally, 'Well, what do you want?'

'Listen! S'pose you did win. You'd never get ten thousand.'

'I'd get five.'

'No, you wouldn't. Why don't you act sensible and tell me what you'll
take to stop it.'

'I'd have to think that over.'

'You tell me now or I'll bust this town open.'

'No good talking that way, Henry. Can you get any money?'

'Tell you for sure in twenty-four hours.'

'But it ain't the money. You've assailed my character. That's what
you've done. Will you retract in print?'

'No, I won't. But if you'll come down to a decent price and promise to
call off the boycott----'

'What boycott?'

'Advertising. You know. You do that, and I'll agree to leave you alone.
Somebody else'll have to find you out, that's all. I've gotta help Hump
Weaver pull the _Gleaner_ out. I guess that's my job now.'

He said this last sadly. He had read stories of wonderful young
St Georges who slew a dozen political dragons at a time. Who never
compromised or gave hostages to fortune. But there was only one chance
for the paper and for old Hump. That chance was here and now.

He was sorry he couldn't see Charlie Waterhouse's face. 'What'll you
give?' asked that worthy, after thoughtfully chewing, his cigar.

'A thousand.'

'Lord, no. Four thousand.'

'That's impossible.'

'Three, then.'

'No, I won't pay anything like three.'

'I wouldn't go a cent under two.'

'Well--two thousand then. All right. I'll let you know by to-morrow
night.'

'You understand, Henry, it ain't the money. It's for the good o' the
town I'm doing it. To keep peace, y' understand. That's why I'm doing
it. Y' understand that, Henry.' He actually reached over the fence and
hung to the boy's arm.

'We'd better shake hands on it,' said Henry.

'Sure! I'll stand by it, if you will.'

'I will. Good-bye, now.'

And Henry, somewhat confused regarding his ethical position, depressed
at the thought that you couldn't rise altogether out of this hard world,
that you had to live right in it, compromise with it, let yourself be
soiled by it--Henry, his eyes down to beads, flushed about the temples,
caught the eight-six to Chicago.

He rode out to the West Side on a cable-car. It is an interesting item
to note in the rather zig-zag development of Henry's highly emotional
nature that he never once weakened during that long ride. He was burning
up, of course. It was like that wonderful week when he had written day
and night, night and day, the Simpson Street stories. But it was, in a
way, glorious. That ethereal electricity was flowing right through him.
The Power was on him. He knew, not in his surface mind but in the deeper
seat of all belief, in his feelings, that he couldn't be stopped or
headed. Not to-night.


5


'You are not altogether clear, Henry. Let me understand this.'

The scene was Uncle Arthur's 'den.'

Henry had run the gauntlet of his cousins. Rich young cousins, brought
up to respect their parents and think themselves poor. It was a proper
home, with order, cleanliness, method shining out. He resented it. He
resented them all.

Uncle Arthur was thin, and penetrating. His eyes bored at you. His nose
was sharp, his brow furrowed. It seemed to Henry that he was always
scowling a little.

His light sharp voice was going on, stating a disentangled, re-arranged
version of Henry's extraordinary outbursts:--

'This man, the town treasurer, is suing you for libel, and you are
advised that he has a case? But he will settle for two thousand
dollars?'

'Yes. He will.'

'And you have come to me with the idea that I will pay over your
mother's money for the purpose?'

'Well, I'll be twenty-one anyway in less'n two months. But that
ain't--isn't--it exactly, not all of it. I've really got to have the
whole three thousand.'

'Oh, you have?'

'Yes. It's like this. We bought the _Gleaner_, Hump Weaver and I. And
we got it cheap, too. Two thousand--for plant, good will, the big press,
everything.'

'Hmm!'

'Then I wrote those stories. They jumped our circulation way up. More'n
we can afford. Queer about that. Because the paper'd been attacking
Charlie Waterhouse, they got the advertiser's to boycott us.'

'Oh!'

'Now Charlie's promised me, if I pay him, to call off the boycott. It'll
give us all the Simpson Street advertising. And Hump says we'll fail in
a week if we don't get it.'

'Henry!' Uncle Arthur's voice rang out with unpleasant clarity. 'You got
from me a thousand dollars of your mother's estate. You sank it in this
paper. I let you have that thinking it would bring you to your senses.

It has not brought you to your senses. That is evident.... Now I am
going to tell you something extremely serious.

I tell you this because I believe that you are not, for one thing,
dishonest. I have discovered that when I gave you that sum and took
your receipt I was not protected. You are a minor. You cannot, in law,
release me from my obligation as your guardian. After you have come of
age you could collect it again from me.'

'Oh, Uncle Arthur, I wouldn't do _that!_'

'I am sure you wouldn't. But you can readily see, now, that it is
utterly impossible for me to make any further advances to you. Even if I
were willing. And I am distinctly not willing.'

'But listen, Uncle Arthur! You've got to!'

The scowl of this narrow-faced man deepened.

'I don't care for impudence, Henry. We will not talk further about
this.'

'But we must, Uncle Arthur! Don't you see, I've got to pay Charlie, and
have Mr Davis get his receipt and the papers signed before they learn
about you, or they'll attach the estate. Why, Charlie might get all of
it, and more too. They might just wreck me. I mustn't lose a minute.'

Uncle Arthur sat straight up at this. Henry thought he looked even more
deeply annoyed. But he spoke, after a long moment, quite calmly.

'You are right there. That is a point. Putting it aside for a moment,
what were you proposing to do with the other thousand dollars?'

Henry felt the sharp eyes focusing on him. He sprang up. His words came
hotly.

'Because Hump has put in a thousand more'n I have now. He said to-night
he'd have to sell his library and his--his own things. I can't let him
do that. I _won't_ let him. I've got to stand with him.' Henry choked up
a little now.

'Hump's my friend, Uncle Arthur. He's steady and honest and----' He
faltered momentarily; Uncle Arthur was peculiarly the sort of person you
couldn't tell about Humphrey's love affair; he wouldn't be able then to
see his strong points.... 'He edits the paper and gets the pay-roll and
goes out after the ads. And he _hates_ it! But he's a wonderful fighter.
I won't desert him. I won't! I can't!... Uncle Arthur, why won't you
come out and see our place and meet Hump and let him show you our books
and how our circulation's jumped and...'

His voice trailed off because Uncle Arthur too had sprung to his feet
and was pacing the room. Henry's arguments, his earnestness and young
energy, something, was telling on him. Finally he turned and said, in
that same quiet voice:--

'All right, Henry. I'll run out to-morrow and put this thing through for
you. But----'

'Oh, no, Uncle Arthur! You mustn't do that! Not to-morrow! Charlie'd get
wise. Or some of that gang. Everybody in town'd know you were there. No,
_that_ wouldn't do!'

Uncle Arthur took another turn about the room.

'Just what is it that you want, Henry?' he asked, in that same quiet
voice.

'Why, let's see! You'd better give me two thousand in one cheque and one
thousand in another. Mr Davis can fix it so your cheque doesn't go to
Charlie. I don't want to put it in the bank. Charlie's crowd'd get on.
But I'll fix it. Mr Davis'll know.'

At the door Uncle Arthur looked severely at the dapper, excited youth on
the steps.

'It may make a man of you. It will certainly throw you on your own
resources. I shall have to trust you to release me formally from all
responsibility after your birthday. And'--sharply--'understand, you are
never to come to me for help. You have your chance. You have chosen your
path.'


6


Eleven at night. The Country Club was bright; Henry passed it on the
farther side of the street. He could hear music and laughter there. They
choked him. With averted face he rushed by.

Henry entered at the gate before the old Dexter Smith mansion; then
slipped off among the trees.

His throat was dry. He was giddy and hot about the head. He wondered,
miserably, if he had a fever. Very likely.

There were lights here, too; downstairs.

Some one calling, perhaps--that friend of James B. Merchant's.

Henry gritted his teeth.

It was too late to call. Yet he had had to come, had been drawn
irresistibly to the spot.

What mattered it after all, who might be calling. He told himself that
his life was to be, hereafter, one of sorrow, of frustration. He must
be dignified about it. He must make it a life worthy of his love and his
great sacrifice.

The front door opened.

A man and a woman came down the steps. An elderly couple. He stood very
still, behind a tree, while they walked past him.

A sign of uncontrollable relief escaped him. It was something. Cicely
had at last spared him a stab.

Lights went out in the front room. Lights came on upstairs.

Still he lingered.

Then, after a little, his nervous ears caught a sound that tingled
through his body.

The front door opened.

And standing in the opening behind the screen door, silhouetted against
the light, he saw a slim girl.

His temples were pounding. His throat went dry.

The girl came out. Paused. Called over her shoulder in a voice that to
Henry was velvet and gold--'In a few minutes'--and then seated herself
midway down the steps and leaned her head against the railing. He could
see her only faintly now.

Henry moved forward, curiously dazed, tiptoeing over the turf, slipping
from tree to tree. Drew near.

She lifted her head.

There was a breathless pause. Then, 'What is it?' she called. 'What is
it? Who's there?... O--oh! Why, _Henry!_ You frightened me... What is
it? Why do you stand there like that. You aren't ill, Henry?... Where
on earth have you been? I've waited and waited for you. I couldn't think
what had happened, not having any word.... What is the matter, Henry?
You act all tired out. Do sit down here.'

'No,'--the queer breathy voice, Henry knew, must be his own. He was
thinking, wildly, of dead souls' standing at the Judgment Seat. He felt
like that.... 'No, I can't sit down.'

'Henry! What is it?'

Henry stood mournfully staring at her. Finally in the manner of one who
has committed a speech to memory, he said this:--

'Cicely, I asked you this afternoon if we couldn't have an
"understanding." You know! It seemed fair to me, if--if--if you, well,
cared--because I had three thousand dollars, and all that.'

She made a rather impatient little gesture. He saw her hands move; but
pressed on:--

'Since then everything has changed. I have no right to ask you now.'

There was a long silence. As on other occasions, in moments of grave
emergency, Henry had recourse to words.

'There was trouble at the office. I couldn't leave Hump to carry all the
burden alone. And I was being sued for libel. My stories... So I've had
to make a very quick turn'--he had heard that term used by real
business men; it sounded rather well, he felt; it had come to him on
the train--'I've had to make a very quick turn--use every cent, or most
every cent, of the money. Of course, without any money at all--while I
might have some chance as a writer--still--well, I have no right to ask
such a thing of you, and I--I withdraw it. I feel that I--I can't do
less than that.' Then, after another silence, Henry swayed, caught at
the railing, sank miserably to the steps.

'It's all right,' he heard himself saying. 'I just thought--everything's
been in such a mid rush--I didn't have my supper. I'll be all right...'

'Henry,' he heard her saying now, in what seemed to him, as he reflected
on it later that night, at his room, in bed, an extraordinarily
matter-of-fact voice; girls were complicated creatures--'Henry, you must
be starved to death. You come right in with me.'

He followed her in through the great hall, the unlighted living-room,
a dark passage where she found his hand and led him along, a huge place
that must have been the kitchen, and then an unmistakable pantry.

'Stand here till I find the light,' she murmured.

It _was_ the pantry.

She opened the ice-box, produced milk and cold meat. In a tin box was
chocolate cake.

'I oughtn't to let you,' he said weakly. 'I knew you were angry to-day
there----'

'But, Henry, they could _hear_ you! Thomas and William. Don't you
see----'

'That wasn't all,' he broke in excitedly. 'It was my asking for an
understanding.'

She was bending over a drawer, rummaging for knife and fork.

'No, it wasn't that,' she said.

'I'd like to know what it was, then!'

'It was--oh, please, Henry, don't ever talk that way about money again.'

'But, Cicely, don't you see----'

She straightened up now, knife in one hand, fork in the other; looked
directly at him; slowly shook her head.

'What,' she asked, 'has money to do with--with you and me?'

'But, Cicely, you don't mean----'

He saw the sudden sparkle in her dark eyes, the slow slight smile that
parted her lips.

She turned away then.

'Oh,' she remarked, rather timidly, 'you'll want these,' and gave him
the knife and fork.

He laid them on the table.

They stood for a little time without speaking; she fingering the
fastener of the cake box, he pulling at his moustache. Finally, very
softly, she said this:--

'Of course, Henry, you know, we _would_ really have to be very patient,
and not say anything about it to people until--well, until we _could_,
you know....'

And then, his trembling arm about her shoulders, his lips reverently
brushing her forehead in their first kiss--until now the restraint of
youth (which is quite as remarkable as its excesses) had kept them just
short of any such sober admission of feeling--her cheek resting lightly
against his coat, she said this:--

'I shouldn't have let myself be disturbed. I don't really care about
Thomas and William. But what you said made me seem like that sort of
girl. Henry, you--you hurt me a little.' His eyes filled. He stood
erect, looking out over the dark mass of her hair, looking down the long
vista of the years. He compressed his lips.

'Of course,' he said bravely. 'We don't care about money We've got all
our lives. I guess I can work. Prob'ly I'll write better for not having
any. You know--it'll spur me. And I'll be working for you.'

He heard her whisper:--

'I'll be so _proud_, Henry.'

'What's money to us!' He seemed at last to be getting hold of this
tremendous thought, to be approaching belief. He repeated it, with a
ring in his voice: 'What's money to us!'

After all what _is_ money to Twenty?



X--LOVE LAUGHS


1


|A squat locomotive, bell ringing, dense clouds of black smoke pouring
from the flaring smoke-stack, came rumbling and clanking in between the
platforms and stopped just beyond the old red brick depot.

The crowd of ladies converged swiftly toward the steps of the four dingy
yellow cars that made up, traditionally, the one-ten train. These
ladies were bound for the shops, the matinées (it was a Wednesday, and
October), the lectures and concerts of Chicago.

Henry Calverly, 3rd, avoided the press by swinging his slimly athletic
person aboard the smoker. He stepped within and for a moment stood
sniffing the thick blend of coal gases and poor tobacco, then turned
back and made his way against the incoming current of men. Bad air on a
train made him car-sick. He stood considering the matter, clinging to a
sooty brake wheel, while the train started. Then he plunged at the
door of the car next behind, in among an enormous number of dressed-up,
chattering ladies. He wondered why they all talked at once; it was
like a tea. He was afraid of them. Apparently they filled the car; he
couldn't, from the door, see one empty seat. Well, nothing for it but
to run the gauntlet. And not without a faintly stirring sense of
conspicuousness that was at once pleasing and confusing he started down
the aisle, clutching at seat-backs for support.

Near the farther end of the car there was one vacant half-seat. A girl
occupied the other half. She was leaning forward, talking to the
women in front. These latter, on close inspection--he had paused
midway--proved to be Mrs B. L. Ames and her daughter, Mary.

This was awkward. He could hardly, as he felt, drop into the seat just
behind them. Besides, who was the girl in the other half of that seat?
The hat was unfamiliar; yet something in the way it moved about came to
him as ghosts come.

He weakly considered returning to the smoker; even turned; but a lady
caught his sleeve. It was Mrs John W. MacLouden.

'I wanted to tell you how much we are enjoying your stories in the
_Gleaner_,' she said. 'Mr MacLouden says they're worthy of Stevenson.
His _New Arabian Nights_ you know. Mr MacLouden met Stevenson once. In
London.'

Henry blushed; mumbled; edged away.

Mary Ames looked up.

Her cool eyes rested on him. But she didn't bow, or smile. He wasn't
sure that she even inclined her head.

His blush became a flush. He forgot Mrs MacLouden. It seemed now that
he couldn't retreat. Not after that. He must face that girl. Walk coolly
by. He couldn't take that seat, of course; but to walk deliberately
by and on into the car behind would help a little. At least in his
feelings; and these were what mattered.... Who _was_ the girl under that
unfamiliar hat? Some one the Ameses knew well, clearly.

He moved on, straight toward the enemy. Dignity, he felt, was the thing.
Yes, you had to be dignified. Though it was a little hard to carry with
the car lurching like this. He wished his face wouldn't burn so.

The girl beneath that hat raised her head, and exhibited the blue eyes
and the pleasantly, even prettily freckled face of Martha Caldwell!

Henry stood, in a sense fascinated, staring down. He had put Martha out
of his life for ever. But here she was! He had believed, now and then
during the summer, that he hated her. To-day it was interesting--indeed,
enough of the old emotional tension fingered within him to make it
momentarily, slightly thrilling--to discover that he liked her. He
saw her now with an unexpected detachment. He even saw that she was
prettier. The smile that was just fading when their eyes met had a touch
of radiance in it.

Beside Martha, on the unoccupied half of the seat, lay her shopping bag.

In a preoccupied manner, as the smile died, she reached out to pick it
up and make room. But the little action which had begun impersonally,
brought up memories. Her hand stopped abruptly in air; her colour rose.

Then, as Henry, very red, lips compressed, was about to plunge on along
the aisle, the hand came down on the bag.

She said, half audibly--it was a question:--

'Sit here?'

Henry was gripping the seat-corner just back of Mrs Ames's shoulder;
a rigid shoulder. Mary had turned stiffly round. He couldn't stop
his whirling mind long enough to decide anything. Why hadn't he gone
straight by? What could they talk about? Unless they were to talk low,
confidentially, Mary and her mother would hear most of it. And they
couldn't talk confidentially. Not very well.

He took the seat.

What _could_ they say?

But the surprising fact stood out that Martha was a nice girl, a
likeable girl. Even if she had believed the stories about him. Even
if... No, it hadn't seemed like Martha.

Henry was staring at Mrs Ames's tortoise-shell comb. Martha was looking
out the window, tapping on the sill with a white-gloved hand.

A moment of the old sense of proprietorship over Martha came upon him.

'Silly,' he remarked, muttering it rather crossly, 'wearing white gloves
into Chicago! Be black in ten minutes. Women-folks haven't got much
sense.'

Martha gave this remark the silence it deserved. She dropped her eyes,
studied the shopping bag. Then, very quietly, she said this:--

'Henry--it hasn't been very easy--but I _have_ wanted to tell you about
your stories....

'What about'em?' he asked, ungraciously enough. And he dug with his cane
at the grimy green plush of the seat-back before him.

'Oh, they're so good, Henry! I didn't know--I didn't realise--just
everybody's talking about them! _Everybody!_ You've no idea! It's been
splendid of you to--you know, to answer people that way.'

I don't think Martha meant to touch on the one most difficult topic.
They both reddened again.

After a longer pause, she tried it again.

'I just _love_ reading them myself. And I wish you could hear the things
Jim--Mr Merchant--says....'

She was actually dragging him in!

... He's really a judge. You've no idea, Henry!' He met Kipling at a
tea in New York. He knows lots of people like--you know, editors and
publishers, people like that. And he crossed the ocean once with Richard
Harding Davis. He says you're doing a very remarkable thing...
original note.... Sunbury is going to be proud of you. He wouldn't
let anything--you know, personal--influence his judgment. He's very
fair-minded.'

Henry dug and dug at the plush.

She was pulling at her left glove.

What on earth!...

She had it off.

'I want you to know, Henry. Such a wonderful thing has happened to me.
See!'

On her third finger glittered a diamond in a circlet of gold.

'He wanted to give me a cluster, Henry. I wouldn't let him. I just
didn't want him to be too extravagant. I love this stone.. I picked it
out myself. At Welding's. And then he wished it on. And, Henry, I'm so
happy! I can't bear to think that you and I--anybody--you know....'

Henry was critically, moodily, appraising the diamond.

'Can't we be friends, Henry?'

'Sure we can! Of course!'

'I just can't tell you how wonderful it is. I want everybody else to be
happy.'

'I'm happy!' he announced, explosively, between set teeth.

She thought this over.

'I've heard a little talk, of course. I've been interested, too. Yes, I
have! Cicely's a perfectly dandy girl. And she's--you know, _that_
way. Knows so much about books and things. I didn't realise--that you
were--you know, really--well, engaged?'

There was a long pause. Henry dug and dug with his stick.

Finally, eyes wandering a little but mouth still set, he said huskily:--

'Yes, we're engaged.'

'What was that, Henry?'

'I said, "Yes, we're engaged."'

'O--o--oh, Henry, I'm so glad!'

'Don't say anything about it, Martha.'

'Oh, of _course_ not!... You've no idea how nice people are being to me.
They're giving me a party to-night, down on the South Side. We're coming
back to-morrow.'

Mr Merchant met her in the Chicago depot. Henry had excused himself
before Mrs Ames and Mary got up. He would have hurried off into the
grimy city, but the crowd held him back. Martha saw him and dragged the
rich and important man of her choice toward him.

Henry thought him very old, and not particularly goodlooking. He was a
stocky, sandy-complexioned man; dressed now, as always, in brown, even
to a brown hat. He looked strong enough--Henry knew that he played polo,
and that sort of thing--but gossip put him at thirty-eight. He certainly
couldn't be under thirty-five. Henry wondered how Martha could...

Then he found himself taking the man's hand and listening to more of the
familiar praise. But on this occasion it had, he felt, a condescension,
a touch of patronage, that irritated him.

'I'd like to talk with you, Calverly. There's a chance that--I'll tell
you! I may be able to arrange it this evening. They're not letting me
come to the party. Got to do something. I'll try it. Come around to my
place between eight and half-past, and I'll explain more fully. There's
a classmate of mine in town that can help us, maybe. You'll do that?
Good! I'll expect you.'

He was gone.

Slowly, moodily, Henry wandered through the station and up the long
stairway to the street.

He felt deeply uncomfortable. It wasn't this Mr Merchant, though he
wished he had known how to show his resentment of the man's offhand
manner. But he hadn't known; he wouldn't again; before age and
experience he was helpless. No, his trouble lay deeper. He shouldn't
have told Martha that he was engaged. Why had he done such a thing? What
on earth had he meant by it? It was a rather dreadful break.

He paused on the Wells Street bridge; hung over the dirty wooden
railing; watched a tug come through the opaque, sluggish water, pouring
out its inevitable black smoke, a great rolling cloud of it, that set
him coughing. He perversely welcomed it.

Cicely expected him in the evening. He would have to drop in on his way
to Mr Merchant's. Could he tell her what he had done? Dared he tell her?

Martha and the Ameses would be gone overnight. That was something. And
people didn't get up early after parties. At least, girls didn't.
It would be afternoon before they would reappear in Sunbury. Say
twenty-four hours. But immediately after that, certainly by evening, all
Sunbury would have the news that the popular Cicely Hamlin was engaged.
To young Henry Calverly. The telephone would ring. Congratulations would
be pouring in.

He stared fixedly at the water. He wondered what made him do these
things, lose control of his tongue. It wasn't his first offence; nor,
surely, his last. An unnerving suggestion, that last! He asked himself
how bad a man had to feel before jumping down there and ending it all.
It happened often enough. You saw it in the papers.


3


Welding's jewellery store occupied the best corner on the proper side of
State Street. In its long series of show window's, resting on velvet of
appropriate colours, backed by mirrors, were bracelets, lockets, rings,
necklaces, 'dog-collars' of matched pearls, diamond tiaras, watches,
chests of silverware, silver bowls, cups and ornaments, articles in
cut glass, statuettes of ebony, bronze and jade, and here and there,
in careless little heaps, scattered handfuls of unmounted gems--rubies,
emeralds, yellow, white and blue diamonds, and rich-coloured
semi-precious stones.

But all this without over-emphasis. There were no built-up, glittering
pyramids, no placards, no price-tags even. There was instead, despite
the luxury of the display, a restraint; as if it were more a concession
to the traditions of sound shop-keeping than an appeal for custom. For
Welding's was known, had been known through a long generation, from
Pittsburg to Omaha. Welding's, like the Art Institute, Hooley's Theatre,
Devoe's candy store, Field's buses, Central Music Hall, was a Chicago
institution, playing its inevitable part at every well-arranged wedding
as in every properly equipped dining-room. You couldn't give any one you
really cared about a present of jewellery in other than a Welding box.
Not if you were doing the thing right! Oh, you _could_, perhaps....

And Welding's, from the top-booted, top-hatted doorman (such were not
common in Chicago then) to the least of the immaculately clad salesmen,
was profoundly, calmly, overpoweringly aware of its position.

Before the section of the window that was devoted to rings stood Henry.

About him pressed the throng of early-afternoon shoppers--sharp-faced
women, brisk business men, pretty girls in pretty clothes, messenger
boys, loiterers and the considerable element of foreign-appearing,
rather shabby men and women, boys and girls that were always an item in
the Chicago scene. Out in the wide street the traffic, a tangle of it
(this was before the days of intelligent traffic regulation anywhere in
America) rolled and rattled and thundered by--carriages, hacks, delivery
wagons, two-horse and three-horse trucks, and trains of cable-cars, each
with its flat wheel or two that pounded rhythmically as it rolled.
And out of the traffic--out of the huge, hive-like stores and
office-buildings, out of the very air as breezes blew over from other,
equally busy streets, came a noise that was a blend of noises, a steady
roar, the nervous hum of the city.

But of all this Henry saw, heard, nothing; merely pulled at his
moustache and tapped his cane against his knee.

A wanly pretty girl, with short yellow hair curled kinkily against her
head under a sombrero hat, loitered toward him, close to the window;
paused at his side, brushing his elbow; glanced furtively up under her
hat brim; smiled mechanically, showing gold teeth; moved around him and
lingered on the other side; spoke in a low tone; finally, with a glance
toward the fat policeman who stood, in faded blue, out in the thick of
things by the car tracks, drifted on and away.

Henry had neither seen nor heard her.

Brows knit, lips compressed, eyes nervously intent, he marched
resolutely into Welding's.

'Look at some rings!' he said, to a distrait salesman.

He indicated, sternly, a solitaire that looked, he thought, about like
Martha's.

'How much is that?'

'That? Not a bad stone. Let me see... Oh, three hundred dollars.'

Henry, huskily, in a dazed hush of the spirit, repeated the words:--

'Three--hundred--dollars!'

The salesman tapped with manicured fingers on the showcase.

'Have you--have you--have you...

The salesman raised his eyebrows.

'... any others?'

'Oh, yes, we have others.' He drew out a tray from the wall behind him.
'I can show fairly good stones as low as sixty or eighty dollars. Here's
one that's really very good at a hundred.'

There was a long silence. The glistening finger nails fell to tapping
again.

'This one, you say is--one hundred?'

'One hundred.'

Another silence. Then:--

'Thank you. I--I was just sorta looking around.'

The salesman began replacing the trays.

Henry moved away; slowly, irresolutely, at first; then, as he passed out
the door, with increasing speed. At the corner of Randolph he was racing
along. He caught the two-fourteen for Sunbury by chasing it the length
of the platform. Henry could do the hundred yards under twelve seconds
at any time with all his clothes on. He could do it under eleven on a
track.

By a quarter to three he was walking swiftly, with dignity, up Simpson
Street. He turned in at the doorway beside Hemple's meat-market and ran
up the long stairway to the offices above.

Humphrey strolled in from the composing room.

'Seen those people already, Hen?'

'I--you see--well, no. I'm going right back in. On the three-eight.'

'Going back? But----'

'It's this way, Hump. I--it'll seem sorta sudden, I know--you see, I
want to get an engagement ring. There's one that would do all right, I
think, for--well, a hundred dollars--and I was wondering....'

Humphrey stared at him; grinned.

'So you've gone and done it! You don't say! You are a bit rapid, Henry.
The lady must have been on the train.'

'No--not quite--you see...'

'Got to be done right now, eh? All in a rush?'

'Well, Hump...

'Wait a minute! Let me collect my scattered faculties. If you've got to
this point it's no good trying to reason----'

'But, Hump, I'll be reasonable----'

'Yes, I know. Now listen to me! This appears to come under the general
head of emergencies. We're not quite in such bad shape as we were a
month back. There's a little advertising revenue coming in. An----'

'Yes, I thought----'

'And you've certainly sunk enough in this old property--'

'No more than you, Hump----'

'Just wait, will you! I don't see but what we've got to stand back of
you. Perhaps we'd better enter it as a loan from the business to you
until I can think up a better excuse. Or no, I'll tell you--call it a
salary advance. Well, something! I'll work it out. Never you mind now.
And if you're going to stop at the bank and catch the three-eight you'll
have to step along.'

It would have interested a student of psychophysics, I think, to slip a
clinical thermometer in under Henry's tongue as he sat, erect, staring,
with nervously twitching hands and feet, on the three-eight train.


4


To Cicely's house Henry hurried after bolting a supper at Stanley's
restaurant and managing to evade Humphrey's amused questions when he
heard them.

It was early, barely half-past seven. The Watt household had dinner (not
supper) at seven. They would hardly be through. He couldn't help that.
He had waited as long as he could.

He rang the bell. The butler showed him in. He sat on the piano stool in
the spacious, high-ceiled parlour, where he had waited so often before.

To-night it looked like a strange room.

He told himself that it was absurd to feel so nervous. He and Cicely
understood each other well enough. She cared for him. She had said so,
more than once.

Of course, the little matter of facing Madame Watt... though, after all,
what could she do?

He tried to control the tingling of his nerves.

'I must relax,' he thought.

With this object he moved over to the heavily upholstered sofa and
settled himself on it; stretched out his legs; thrust his hands into his
pockets.

But there was an extraordinary pressure in his temples; a pounding.

He snatched a hand from one pocket and felt hurriedly in another to
see if the precious little box was there; the box with the magical name
embossed on the cover, 'Weldings.'

He reflected, exultantly, 'I never bought anything there before.'

Then: 'She's a long time. They must be at the table still.' He sat up;
listened. But the dining-room in the Dexter Smith place was far back
behind the 'back parlour.' The walls were thick. There were heavy
hangings and vast areas of soft carpet. You couldn't hear. 'Gee!' his
thoughts raced on, 'think of owning all this! Wonder how people ever get
so much money. Wonder how it would seem.'

He caught himself twisting his neck nervously within his collar. And his
hands were clenched; his toes, even, were drawn up tightly in his shoes.

'Gotta relax,' he told himself again.

Then he felt for the little box. This time he transferred it to a
trousers pocket; held it tight in his hand there.

A door opened and closed. There was a distant rustling. Henry, paler,
sprang to his feet.

'I must be cool,' he thought. 'Think before I speak. Everything depends
on my steadiness now.'

But the step was not Cicely's. She was slim and light. This was a solid
tread.

He gripped the little box more tightly. He was meeting with a curious
difficulty in breathing.

Then, in the doorway, appeared the large person, the hooked nose, the
determined mouth, the piercing, hawklike eyes of Madame Watt.

'How d'do, Henry,' she said, in her deep voice. 'Sit down. I want to
talk to you. About Cicely. I'm going to tell you frankly--I like you,
Henry; I believe you're going to amount to something one of these
days--but I had no idea--now I want you to take this in the spirit I say
it in--I had no idea things were going along so fast between Cicely and
you. I've trusted you. I've let you two play together all you liked. And
I won't say I'd stand in the way, a few years from now----

'A few years!...'

'Now, Henry, I'm not going to have you getting all stirred up. Let's
admit that you're fond of Cicely. You are, aren't you? Yes? Well, now
we'll try to look at it sensibly. How old are you?'

'I'm twenty, but----'

'When will you be twenty-one?'

'Next month. You see----'

'Now tell me--try to think this out clearly--how on earth could you
expect to take care of a girl who's been brought up as Cicely has. Even
if she were old enough to know her own mind, which I can't believe she
is.'

'Oh, but she does!'

'Fudge, Henry! She couldn't. What experience has she had? Never mind
that, though. Tell me, what is your income now. You'll admit I have a
right to ask.'

'Twelve a week, but----'

'And what prospects have you? Be practical now! How far do you expect to
rise on the _Gleaner!_'

'Not very high, but our circulation----'

'What earthly difference can a little more or less circulation make when
it's a country weekly! No, Henry, believe me, I have a great deal of
confidence in you--I mean that you'll keep on growing up and forming
character--but this sort of thing can not--simply can not--go on now.
Why, Henry, you haven't even begun your man's life yet! Very likely
you'll write. It may be that you're a genius. But that makes it all the
more a problem. Can't you see----'

'Yes, of course, but----'

'No, listen to me! I asked Cicely to-day why you were coming so often.
I wasn't at all satisfied with her answers to my questions. And when I
forced her to admit that she has been as good as engaged to you----'

'But we _aren't_ engaged! It's only an understanding.'

'Understanding! Pah! Don't excite me, Henry. I want to straighten this
out just as pleasantly as I can. I _am_ fond of you, Henry. But I never
dreamed---- Tell me, you and that young Weaver own the _Gleaner_, I
think.'

'Yes'm we own it. But----'

'Just what does that mean? That you have paid money--actual money--for
it?'

'Yes'm. It's cost us about four thousand.'

'Four thousand! Hmm!'

'And then Charlie Waterhouse--he's town treasurer--he sued me for
libel--ten thousand dollars'--Henry seemed a thought proud of this--'and
I had to give him two thousand to settle. It was something in one of
my stories--the one called _Sinbad the Treasurer_. Mr Davis--he's my
lawyer--he said Charlie had a case, but----'

'Wait a minute, Henry! Where did you get that money. It's--let me
see--about four thousand dollars--your share--'

'Yes'm four thousand. It was my mother's. She left it to me. But----'

'I see. Your mother's estate. How much is left of it--outside what you
lost in this suit and the two thousand you've invested in the paper.'

'Nothing. But----'

'Nothing! Now, Henry'--no, don't speak! I want you to listen to me a few
minutes longer. And I want you to take seriously to heart what I'm going
to say. First, about this paper, the _Gleaner_. It's a serious question
whether you'll ever get your two thousand dollars back. If you ever
_have_ to sell out you won't get anything like it. If you were older,
and if you were by nature a business man--which you aren't!--you might
manage, by the hardest kind of work to build it up to where you could
get twenty or thirty dollars a week out of it instead of twelve. But
you'll never do it. You aren't fitted for it. You're another sort of
boy, by nature. And I'm sorry to say I firmly believe this money, or
the most of it is certain to go after the other two thousand, that Mr
Charlie Waterhouse got. But even considering that you boys _could_ make
the paper pay for itself, Cicely couldn't be the wife of a struggling
little country editor. I wouldn't listen to that for a minute! No, my
advice to you, Henry, is to take your losses as philosophically as you
can, call it experience, and go to work as a writer. It'll take you
years----'

'_Years!_ But----'

'Yes, to establish yourself. A success in a country town isn't a New
York success. Remember that. No, it's a long road you're going to
travel. After you've got somewhere, when you've become a man, when
you've found yourself, with some real prospects--it isn't that I'd
expect you to be rich, Henry, but I'd _have_ to be assured that you were
a going concern--why, then you might come to me again. But not now. I
want you to go now----'

'Without seeing Cicely?'

'Certainly. Above all things. I want you to go, and promise that you
won't try to see her. To-morrow she goes away for a long visit.'

'For--a--long... But she'd see other men, and--Oh!...'

'Exactly. I mean that she shall. Best way in the world to find out
whether you two are calves or lovers. One way or the other, we'll prove
it. And now you must go! Remember you have my best wishes. I hope you'll
find the road one of these days and make a go of it.'

A moment more and the front door had closed on him. He stood before
the house, staring up through the maple leaves at the starry sky,
struggling, for the moment vainly, toward sanity. It was like the end of
the world. If was unthinkable. It was awful.

But after waiting a while he went to Mr Merchant's. There was nothing
else to do.


5


Mr Merchant himself opened the door to Henry. He lived in one of the
earliest of the apartment buildings that later were to work a deep
change in the home life of Sunbury. 'How are you, Calverly!' he said, in
his offhand, superior way. Then in a lower and distinctly less superior
tone, almost friendly indeed, he added, 'Got a bit of a surprise for
you. Come in.'

The living-room was lighted by a single standing lamp with a red shade.
Beneath it, curled up like a boy in a cretonne-covered wing chair, his
shock of faded yellow hair mussed where his fingers had been, his
heavy faded yellow moustache bushing out under a straight nose and pale
cheeks, his old gray suit sadly wrinkled, sat a stranger reading from a
handful of newspaper clippings.

Henry paused in the door. The man looked up, so quickly that Henry
started, and fixed on him eyes that while they were a rather pale blue
yet had an uncanny fire in them.

The man frowned as he cried, gruffly:--

'Oh, come in! Needn't be afraid of me!' And coolly read on.

Henry stepped just inside the door. Turned mutely to his host. What a
queer man! Had he had it within him at the moment to resent anything, he
would have stiffened. But he was crushed to begin with.

The newspaper clippings had a faintly familiar look. From across the
room he thought it the type and paper of the _Gleaner_. His stories,
doubtless. Mr Merchant was making the man read them. Well, what of it!
What was the good, if they made him so cross.

'Calverly, if Mr Galbraith would stop reading for a minute--'

'I won't. Don't interrupt me!'

'--I would introduce him.'

Galbraith! The name brought colour to Henry's cheek. Not... It couldn't
be!....

'But whether you care to know it or not, this is Mr Calverly, the author
of----'

'So I gathered. Keep still!'

Then the extraordinary gentleman, muttering angrily, gathered up the
clippings and went abruptly off down the hall, apparently to one of the
bedrooms.

'That--that isn't _the_ Mr Galbraith?' asked Henry, in voice tinged with
awe.

'That's who it is. The creator of the modern magazine. We'll have to
wait till he's finished now, or he'll eat us alive.'

'Henry tried to think. This sputtery little man! He was famous, and he
wasn't even dignified. Henry would have expected a frock coat; or at
least a manner of businesslike calm.

Mr Merchant was talking, good-humoredly. Henry heard part of it. He
even answered questions now and then. But all the time he was
trying--trying--to think. He thrust his hands into his pockets. One hand
closed on the little box. He winced; closed his eyes; fought desperately
for some sort of a mental footing.

'Calverly! What's the matter with you? You look ill. Let me get you a
drink.'

And Henry heard his own voice saying weakly:--

'Oh, no, thank you. I never take anything. I just don't feel very well.
It's been a--a hard day.'

'Lie down on the sofa then. Rest a little while. For I'm afraid you've
got a bit of excitement coming.'

Henry did this.

Shortly the great little Mr Galbraith returned. He came straight
to Henry; stood over' him; glared--angrily, Henry thought, with a
fluttering of his wits--down at him.

It seemed to Henry that it would be politer to sit up. He did this, but
the editor caught his shoulder and pushed him down again.

'No,' he cried, 'stay as you were. If you're tired, rest! Nothing so
important--nothing! If I had learned that one small lesson twenty years
ago, I'd be sole owner of my business to-day. Rest--that's the thing!
And the stomach. Two-thirds of our troubles are swallowed down our
throats. What do you eat?'

'I--I don't know's I----'

'For breakfast, say! What did you eat this morning for breakfast?'

'Well, I had an orange, and some oatmeal, and----'

'Wait! Stop right there! Wrong at the beginning. I don't doubt you had
cream on the oatmeal?'

'Well--milk, sorta.'

'Exactly! Orange and milk! Now really--think that over--orange and milk!
Isn't that asking a lot of your stomach, right at the beginning of the
day?'

Mr Merchant broke in here.

'Galbraith, for heaven's sake! Don't bulldoze him.'

'But this is important. It's health! We've got to look out for that.
Right from the start! Here, Calverly--how old are you?'

'I'm--well--most--twenty-one.'

'Most twenty-one! And you have to lie down before nine o'clock! Good
God, boy, don't you see----'

'Oh, come, Galbraith!'

'Well, I'll put it this way:--Here's a young man that can work magic.
Magic!' He waved the bundle of clippings. 'Nothing like it since Kipling
and Stevenson! First thing's to take care of him, isn't it?'

Mr Merchant winked at the staring, crushed youth on the sofa.

'Then you like the stories, Galbraith?'

'Like'em! Of course I like 'em. What do you think I'm talking about?...
Like 'em! Hmpf! Tell you what I'm going to do. A new thing in American
publishing. But they're a new kind of stories. I'm going to reprint
'em, as they stand, in _Galbraith's_. What do you think o' that? A bit
original, eh? I'll advertise that they've been printed before. Play it
up. Tell how I found 'em. Put over my new author.' He shook his finger
again at the author in question. 'Understand, I'm going to pay you just
as if you'd submitted the script to me. That's how I work. Cut out all
the old editorial nonsense. Red tape. If I like a thing I print it. I
edit _Galbraith's_ to suit myself.

I succeed because there are a million and a half others like me. And I
print the best. I'm the editor of _Galbraith's_ Oh, I keep a few desk
men down there at the office. For the details. One of 'em thought he
was the editor. Little short fellow. I stood him a month. Had to go to
England. The day I landed I walked in on him and said, "Frank, pack up!
Get out! Take a month's pay. I'm the editor."'

He snorted at the memory, and paced down the room, waving the clippings.
Henry sat up, following him with anxious eyes.

When the extraordinary little man came back he said, shortly: 'All
tyrants have short legs.' And walked off again.

'Who's Calverly?' he asked, the next time around.

'It's on the paper here--"Weaver and Calverly"? Father? Uncle?'

'No,' Henry managed to reply, 'it's--it's me.'

'You? Good heavens! We must stop that.' He tapped Henry's shoulder.
'Don't be a desk man! You're an artist! You don't seem to understand
what we're getting at. Man, I'm going to make you! You're going to be
famous in a year.'

He stopped short; took another swing around the room.

'How many of these stories are there, Calverly?'

'Twenty.'

'Fine. Short, snappy, and enough of 'em to make a very neat book. By the
way, I'm starting a book department in the spring. 'What do you want for
'em?'

Henry could only look appealingly at his host.

'I'll pay liberally. I tell you frankly I mean to hold you. Make it
worth your while. You're going to be my author? Henry Calverly, a
Galbraith author. What do you say to a hundred apiece. That's two
thousand.'

Henry would have gasped had he not felt utterly spent.

He sat motionless, hands limp on his knees, chin down.

'Not enough,' said Merchant.

Henry shifted one hand in ineffectual protest. He was frightened.

'It's pretty near enough. After all, Merchant, it's a case of a new
writer. I've got to make him. It'll cost money.'

'True. But I should think----'

'Say a hundred and fifty. That's three thousand. Will you take that,
Calverly?

'What for?' asked Merchant. 'What are you buying exactly?'

'Oh, serial rights. Pay a reasonable royalty on the book, of course.
But I've got to publish the book, too. And I want a long-term contract.
Here!' He sat down and figured with a pencil on the edge of the evening
paper. 'How about this? I'm to have exclusive control of the Henry
Calverly matter for five years----'

'Too long,' said Mr Merchant.

'Well--three years. I'm to see every word before he offers it elsewhere.
And for what I accept I'd pay at the same rate per word as for these
stories. And books at the same royalty as we agree on for this.'

'Fine for you. Guarantees your control of him. But he gets nothing. No
guarantee.'

'What would be right then? I'd do the fair thing. He'll never regret
tying up with me.'

'You'd better agree to pay him something--say twenty-five a week--as a
minimum, to be charged against serial payments. That is, if you want to
tie him up. I'm not sure I'd advise him to do even that, now.'

'I'm going to tie him up, all right. I'd go the limit. Twenty-five
a week, minimum, for three years. That's agreed... How're you fixed,
Calverly? Want any money now?'

Henry looked again at his cool, accomplished host. 'Yes. Better advance
a little. He could use it. Couldn't you, Calverly?'

'Why---why----'

'What do you say to five hundred. That'd clinch the bargain.
Here--wait!'

He produced a pocket cheque-book and a fountain pen, and wrote out the
cheque.

'Here you are, Calverly. That'd take care of you for the present.
Mustn't forget to send the stub to Miss Peters to-morrow. You'd better
go now. Go home. Get a good night's sleep. And watch that stomach.
Cereal's good, at your age. But cut out the orange.... I'm going to bed,
Merchant. Been travelling hard. Tired out myself.... Calverly, I'll send
you the contract from New York.'

'First, though'--this from Mr Merchant--'I think you'd better write a
letter--here, to-night--confirming the arrangement. You and I can do
that. We'll let Mr Calverly go.'

Mr Galbraith didn't say good-night. Henry thought he was about to, and
stood up, expectantly; but the little man suddenly dropped his
eyes; looked hurriedly about; muttered--'Where'd I lay that fountain
pen?'--found it; and rushed off down the hall, trailing the clippings
behind him.

Out in the hall, Mr Merchant pulled the door to.

'Calverly,' he said, 'I congratulate you. And I shall congratulate
Galbraith.'

Henry looked at him out of wan eyes.

Then suddenly he giggled aloud.

'I know how you feel,' said the older man kindly. 'It is pleasant to
succeed.'

'I felt a little bad about--you know, what you said about making him
write that letter. He might think I----'

'Don't you worry about that. I'll have the letter for you in the
morning. I'm going to pin him right to it. He'll never get out of this.'

'You--you don't mean that he'd--he'd----'

'Oh, he might forget it.'

'Nor after he _promised!_'

'Galbraith's a genius. He gets excited. Over-cerebrates at times.
Sometimes he offers young fellows more than he can deliver. Then he
wakes up to it and takes a sudden trip to Europe.'

'He acts very strange,' said Henry critically. 'I wonder if all geniuses
are that way.'

'They're apt to be queer. But never forget that he's a real one.
No matter how mad he may seem to you, no matter how irresponsible,
Galbraith is a great editor. He is wild about you. When he said he'd
make you, I believe he meant it. And I believe he'll do it. You're on
the high road now, Calverly. Through a lucky accident. But that's how
most men hit the high road. They happen to be where it is. They stumble
on it. Within a year you'll be known everywhere.... Well, good-night!'


6


The immediate effect of this experience on Henry was acute depression.
Perhaps because his excitement had passed its bearable summit. Though
great good fortune always did depress him, even in his later life.
It had the effect of suddenly delimiting the boundaries of his widely
elastic imagination. It brought him sharply down to the actual.

He hadn't enjoyed the bargaining for him. And the actual Galbraith was
a shock from which he didn't recover for years, an utter destruction of
cherished illusions.

He walked down to Lake Shore Drive, struggling with these thoughts and
with himself. The problem was to get himself able to think at all, about
anything. His nerves were bow-strings, his mind a race-track. He was
frightened for himself. Over and over he told himself that this amazing
adventure was not a dream; that he had seen Galbraith, _the_ Galbraith;
that he had sold his stories, the work of a few weeks--he recalled how
he had written the first ten during three mad days and nights; they had
come tumbling out of his brain faster than he could write them down, as
if an exuberant angel were dictating to him--had sold them for thousands
of dollars; that an income, of a sort, was assured for three years.
The stories, even now, seemed an accident. They were a thing that had
happened to him. Such a thing might or might not happen again. Though he
knew it would. But between times he wasn't a genius; he wasn't anything;
just Henry Calverly, of Sunbury.... He pushed back his hat; rubbed his
blazing forehead; pressed his thumping temples.

'I've got congestion,' he muttered.

He stood at the railing and stared out ever the lake. It was lead black
out there, with a tossing light or two; ore freighters or lumber boats
headed for Chicago harbour. Beneath him, down the beach, great waves
were pounding in, quickly, endlessly, tirelessly, one after the other.
He could see the ghostly foam of each. He could feel the spindrift
cutting at his face. The wind was so strong he had to lean against it.
A gust tore off his glasses; he let them hang over his shoulder. He
welcomed the rush and roar of it in his stormy soul.

After a time, having decided nothing, he hurried across town to the
Dexter Smith place.

It was dark, upstairs and down.

He slipped in among the trees; drew near the great house. All the time
the little box from Welding's was gripped in his burning hand.

He stood by a large soft maple. He loved the trees of Sunbury; every
year he budded, flowered, and died with them. He looked up; the great
straight branches were bending before the wind. Leaves were falling
about him; the bright yellow leaves of October. He caught at one; missed
it. Caught at another. And another.

He laid a hand on the bark; then rested his cheek against it. It was
cool to the touch. He stood thus, his arm about the tree, looking up at
the dark house. Tears came; blinded him.

'They've shut her up,' he said. 'They're going to take her away. Because
she loves me. They're breaking her heart--and mine. Martha'll be back
to-morrow. And Mary'n' her mother. It'll be out then--what--what I
did. Everybody'll be talking. I'll have to go away too. I can't live
here--not after that.'

A new and fascinating thought came.

'The watchman'll be coming around. Pretty soon, maybe. He'll find me
here. I s'pose he'll shoot me. I don't care. Let him. In the morning
they'll find my body. And the ring'll be in my pocket. And Mr
Galbraith's cheque. And in the morning Mr Merchant'll have that letter.
Maybe they'll discover I was some good after all. Maybe they'll be sorry
then.'

But on second thought this notion lost something of its appealing
quality. He went away; after hours more appeared in the rooms and kept
his long-suffering partner awake during much of the night.

At half-past eight the next morning he mounted the front steps of the
Smith place and rang the bell. A mildly surprised butler showed him into
the spacious parlour.

He waited, fiercely.

A door opened and closed. He heard a heavy step. Madame Watt entered the
room, frowning a little. 'What is it, Henry? Why did you come?'

'I want you to see this,' he said, thrusting the cheque into her hand.
Then, before she could more than glance at the figures, he was forcing
another paper on her. 'And this!' he cried. 'Please read it!'

She, still frowning, turned the pages.

'But what's all this, Henry?'

'Can't you see? I went around this morning. Mr Merchant had it all ready
for me. It's _Galbraith's Magazine_. They're going to print my stories
and pay me three thousand. That cheque's for part of it. I get book
royalties besides. And twenty-five a week for three years against the
price of new work. That's just so I won't write for anybody else. And
Mr Galbraith himself promised me he'd make me famous. He's going to
advertise me all over the country. Right away. This year. He says
there's been nothing like me since Kipling and Stevenson!' Printed here,
coldly, this impassioned outburst may seem to border on absurdity. But
shrewd, strong-willed Madame Watt, taking it in, studying him, found it
far from absurd. The egotism in it, she perceived, was that of youth as
much as of genius. And the blazing eyes, the working face, the emotional
uncertainty in the voice, these were to be reckoned with. They were
youth--gifted, uncontrolled, very nearly irresistible youth. And as she
said, brusquely--'Sit down, Henry!'--and herself dropped heavily into
a chair and began deliberately reading the document of the great
Galbraith, she knew, in her curiously storm-beaten old heart, that she
was sparring for time. Before her, still on his feet, apparently unaware
that she had spoken, unaware of everything on earth outside of his own
turbulent breast, stood an incarnation of primal energy.

She sighed, as she turned the page. Once she shook her head. She found
momentary relief in the thought, so often the only comfort of weary old
folk, that youth, at least, never knows its power.

I think he was talking all the time--pouring out an incoherent,
tremulous torrent of words. Once or twice she moved her hand as if to
brush him away.

When she finally raised her head, he was taking the wrappings from a
little box.

'Well, Henry? Just what do you want? Where are we getting, with all
this?'

'I want you to let me see Cicely. Just one minute. Let her say. I
can't--I _can't_--leave it like this!'

'You promised----'

'That I wouldn't try to see her. But I can come to you can't I? That's
fair, isn't it?'

Madame Watt sighed again.

Suddenly Henry leaped forward; caught himself; stepped back; cried out,
in a passionately suppressed voice:--

'There she is! Now!'

Cicely was crossing the hall toward the stairs. They could see her
through the doorway.

She went up as far as the first landing, a few steps up; then, a hand on
the railing, she hesitated and slowly turned her head.

'Will you ask her to come!' Henry moaned. 'Ask her! Let her say! Don't
break our hearts like this!'

Madame raised her hand.

Cicely, slowly, pale and gentle of face, came across the wide hall and
into the room. She stopped then, hands hanging at her sides, her head
bent forward a little, glancing from one to the other.

She looked unexpectedly frail. Henry knew, as his eyes dwelt on her,
that she, too, was suffering.

She seemed about to speak; but instead threw out her hands in a little
questioning gesture and raised her mobile eyebrows. But she didn't
smile.

Henry glanced again at Madame. She was re-reading the Galbraith letter.
He waited for her to look up.

Then, all at once, he knew that she meant not to look up. Youth is
unerringly keen in its own interest. She was evading the issue. He had
beaten her.

He dropped the little box on a chair; stepped forward, ring in hand. He
saw Cicely gazing at it, fascinated.

Then his own voice came out--a shy, even polite, if breathless, little
voice:--

'I was just wondering, Cicely, if you'd let me give you this ring.'

She lifted very slowly her left hand; still gazing intently at the ring.

He held it out.

Then she said:--

'No, Henry.... I mean, hadn't you better wish it on?'

'Oh, yes,' said he. 'Funny! I didn't think of that.'

Madame Watt turned a page, rustling the paper.

'Wait, Henry! Don't let go! Have you wished?'

'Unhuh! Have you?'

'Yes. I wished the first thing.'

'Well--' Henry had to stop. He found himself swallowing rather
violently. 'Well--I s'pose I'd better step down to the office. I might
come back this afternoon, if--if you'd like me to.'

'Henry,' said Madame now, 'don't be silly! Come to lunch!'





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