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Title: The Delectable Mountains
Author: Colton, Arthur
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Delectable Mountains" ***

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THE DELECTABLE MOUNTAINS

By Arthur Colton

Charles Scribner’s Sons

1901



DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF

MY SISTER, MABEL COLTON



|So they went up to the Mountains, to behold the Gardens, and Orchards,
the Vineyards, and Fountains of water.... Now there was on the tops of
these Mountains, Shepherds feeding their flocks, and they stood by the
high-way side. The Pilgrims therefore went to them, and leaning upon
their staves, (as is common with weary Pilgrims, when they stand to
talk with any by the way,) they asked, Whose delectable Mountains are
these?... When the Shepherds perceived that they were way-faring men,
they also put questions to them, as, Whence came you? and, How got you
into the way? and, By what means have you so persevered therein?... Then
said the Shepherds one to another, Let us here shew to the Pilgrims the
Gates of the Coelestial City, if they have skill to look through our
Perspective Glass.... Then they essayed to look, but... they could not
look steadily through the Glass; yet they thought they saw something
like the Gate.

_The Pilgrim’s Progress_.



CONTENTS:

     1. The Place of Abandoned Gods
     2. The Leather Hermit
     3. Black Pond Clearing
     4. Joppa
     5. The Elders’ Seat
     6. The Romance of the Institute
     7. Nausicaa
     8. Sanderson of Back Meadows
     9. Two Roads that meet in Salem
     10. A Visible Judgment
     11. The Emigrant East
     12. Tobin’s Monument



THE PLACE OF THE ABANDONED GODS

|The hut was built two sides and the roof of sodded poles; the roof
had new clapboards of birch bark, but the rest had once belonged to a
charcoal burner; the front side was partly poled and partly open, the
back was the under-slope of a rock. For it stood by a cliff, one of the
many that show their lonely faces all over the Cattle Ridge, except that
this was more tumultuous than most, and full of caves made by the clumsy
leaning bowlders; and all about were slim young birch trees in white and
green, like the demoiselles at Camelot. Old pines stood above the cliff,
making a soft, sad noise in the wind. In one of the caves above the
leafage of the birches we kept the idols, especially Baal, whom we
thought the most energetic; and in front of the cave was the altar-stone
that served them all, a great flat rock and thick with moss, where ears
of com were sacrificed, or peas or turnips, the first-fruits of the
field; or of course, if you shot a chipmunk or a rabbit, you could
have a burnt offering of that kind. Also the altar-stone was a council
chamber and an outlook.

It was all a secret place on the north side of the Cattle Ridge, with
cliffs above and cliffs below. Eastward half a mile lay the Cattle Ridge
Road, and beyond that the Ridge ran on indefinitely; southward, three
miles down, the road took you into Hagar; westward the Ridge, after all
its leagues of length and rigor of form, broke down hurriedly to the
Wyantenaug River, at a place called the Haunted Water, where stood
the Leather Hermit’s hut and beyond which were Bazilloa Armitage’s
bottom-lands and the Preston Plains railroad station. The road from
the station across the bridge came through Sanderson Hollow, where the
fields were all over cattle and lively horses, and met the Cattle Ridge
Road to Hagar. And last, if you looked north from the altar-stone, you
saw a long, downward sweep of woodland, and on and on miles and miles to
the meadows and ploughed lands toward Wimberton, with a glimpse of the
Wyantenaug far away to the left. Such were the surroundings of the place
of abandoned gods. No one but ourselves came there, unless possibly the
Hermit. If any one had come it was thought that Baal would pitch him
over the cliffs in some manner, mystically. We got down on our hands and
knees, and said, “O Baal!” He was painted green, on a shingle; but
his eyes were red. The place was reached from the Cattle Ridge Road by
trail, for the old wood-road below was grown up to blackberry brambles,
which made one scratched and bloody and out of patience, unless it were
blackberry time.

And on the bank, where the trail drops into the climbing highway, there
Aaron and Silvia were sitting in the June afternoon, hand in hand, with
the filtered green light of the woods about them. We came up from Hagar,
the three of us, and found them. They were strangers, so far as we knew.
Strangers or townsmen, we never took the trail with any one in sight;
it was an item in the Vows. But we ranged up before them and stared
candidly. There was nothing against that. Her eyes were nice and blue,
and at the time they contained tears. Her cheeks were dimpled and pink,
her brown dress dusty, and her round straw hat cocked a bit over one
tearful blue eye. He seemed like one who had been growing fast of late.
His arms swung loosely as if fastened to his shoulders with strings. The
hand that held her small hand was too large for its wrist, the wrist too
large for the arm, the arm too long for the shoulder. He had the first
growth of a downy mustache, a feeble chin, a humorous eye, and wore a
broad-brimmed straw hat and a faded black coat, loose and flopping to
his knees. A carpet bag lay at his feet, only half full and fallen over
with an air of depression. He seemed depressed in the same way.

“What’s she crying for?” asked Moses Durfey, stolidly.

Aaron peered around at her shyly.

“She’s scared to go home. I ain’t, but I mote be ‘fore I got there.”

“What’s your name?”

“We-ell--”

He hesitated. Then, with loud defiance:

“It’s Mr. and Mrs. Bees.”

A red squirrel clambered down a low-hanging branch overhead, and
chattered sharply, scattering flakes of bark. Aaron, still holding
Silvia’s hand, leaned back on the bank and looked up. All lines of
trouble faded quickly from his face. He smiled, so that his two front
teeth stood out startlingly, and held up a long forefinger.

“Cherky little cuss, ain’t he?”

The squirrel became more excited. Aaron’s finger seemed to draw him
like a loadstone. He slid down nearer and nearer, as far as the branch
allowed, to a foot or two away, chattering his teeth fearfully. We knew
that any one who could magnetize so flighty and malicious a person as a
red squirrel, must be a magician, however simple he might be otherwise.
Aaron snapped his finger and the squirrel fled. “We’d better be movin’,
Silvy.”

Silvia’s tears flowed the faster, and the lines of trouble returned to
Aaron’s face.

“Why don’t she want to go home?” persisted Moses, stolidly.

We drew close beside them now and sat on the bank, Moses and I by Aaron,
Chub Leroy by Silvia. Chub was thoughtful. Silvia dried her eyes and
said with a gulp:

“It’s pa.”

“That’s it.” Aaron nodded and rubbed his sharp nose. “Old man Kincard,
it’s him.”

They both looked at us trustfully. Moses saw no light in the matter.

“Who’s he?”

“He’s my father-in-law. He ain’t goin’ to like it. He’s a sneezer. What
he don’t like generally gets out of the way. My snakes! He ‘ll put Silvy
up the chimney and me in the stove, and he ‘ll light the fire.”

He chuckled and then relapsed into trouble. His emotions seemed to flit
across his face like sunbeams and shadows on a wall, leaving no trace
behind them, or each wiped out by the next.

“Snakes! We might just as well sit here.”

Silvia wept again. Moses’s face admitted a certain surprise.

“What’ll he do that for?”

While Aaron told their story, Silvia sometimes commented tearfully
on his left, Moses stolidly on his right, and the red squirrel with
excitement overhead; Chub and I were silent; the woods for the most part
kept still and listened too, with only a little sympathetic murmur of
leaves and tremble of sunbeam and shadow.

The Kincard place, it seemed, lay five miles away, down the north side
till you cleared the woods, and then eastward among the foothills. Old
Kincard’s first name was James. And directly across the road stood the
four-roomed house where the Bees family once lived. It was “rickety
now and rented to rats.” The Bees family had always been absent-minded,
given to dying off and leaving things lying around. In that way Aaron
had begun early to be an orphan and to live with the Kincards. He was
supposed to own the old house and the dooryard in front of it, but the
rats never paid their rent, unless they paid it to the old man or the
cat; and Mr. Kincard had a low opinion of Aaron, as being a Bees, and
because he was built lengthwise instead of sidewise and knew more about
foxes than cows. It seemed to Aaron that a fox was in himself a more
interesting person; that this raising more potatoes than you could eat,
more tobacco than you could smoke, this making butter and cheese and
taking them to Wimberton weekly, and buying little except mortgages
and bank accounts, somewhere involved a mistake. A mortgage was an
arrangement by which you established strained relations with a neighbor,
a bank account something that made you suspicious of the bank. Now in
the woods one dealt for direct usefulness, comfort, and freedom of mind.
If a man liked to collect mortgages rather than fox-skins, it was the
virtue of the woods to teach tolerance; but Mr. Kincard’s opinion of
Aaron was low and active. There was that difference between a Kincard
and a Bees point of view.

Aaron and Silvia grew up a few years apart on the old spread-out farm,
with the wooded mountainside heaving on the south and stretching east
and west. It was a neighborhood of few neighbors, and no village within
many miles, and the old man was not talkative commonly, though he’d open
up sometimes. Aaron and Silvia had always classed themselves together in
subdued opposition to their grim ruler of destiny. To each other they
called him “the old man,” and expressed by it a reverential but opposed
state of mind. To Aaron the undoubted parts of life were the
mountain-side of his pleasures and the level fields of his toil.
Wimberton was but a troubled glimpse now and then, an improbable memory
of more people and houses than seemed natural. Silvia tended to see
things first through Aaron’s eyes, though she kept a basal judgment of
her own in reserve.

“He always licked us together since we was little,” said Aaron, looking
at Silvia with softly reminiscent eye. “It was two licks to me for
Silvy’s one. That was square enough, and the old man thought so. When he
got set in a habit he’d never change. It was two to me for Silvy’s one.”

Aaron told him, but a week now gone, that himself and Silvia would wish
to be married, and he seemed surprised. In fact he came at Aaron with
the hoe-handle, but could not catch him, any more than a lonesome
rabbit. Then he opened up astonishingly, and told Aaron of his low
opinion of him, which was more spread-out and full of details than you’d
expect. He wasn’t going to give Aaron any such “holt on him as that,”
 with a guaranty deed, whatever that was, on eternity to loaf in, and he
set him the end of the week to clear out, to go elsewhere forever. To
Aaron’s mind that was an absurd proposal. He wasn’t going to do any
such foolishness. The rather he sold his collection of skins to a farmer
named Shore, and one morning borrowed a carpet bag and came over the
Cattle Ridge hand in hand with Silvia.

From Preston Plains they hired a team, drove over the line into York
State, and were married. The farmer named Shore laid that out for them.
He had a back score of trouble with the old man.

“And Silvy’s got a cat,” added Aaron, “and she catches rats to please
herself. Silvy thinks she ought to catch rats to be obligin’. Folks that
live up these trees don’t act that way. No more did Shore.”

Here Aaron looked shrewd and wise.

“I wish Sammy was here,” murmured Silvia, lovingly.

“First-rate cat,” Aaron admitted. “Now, we didn’t marry to oblige each
other. Each of us obliged himself. Hey?”

Silvia opened her eyes wide. The idea seemed a little complicated. They
clasped hands the tighter.

“Now,” said Aaron, “Silvy’s scared. I ain’t, but I mote be when I got
there.”

A blue-jay flew shrieking down the road. Aaron looked after it with a
quick change of interest.

“See him! Yes, sir. You can tell his meanness the way he hollers. Musses
folks’ eggs.”

Aaron no longer surprised us now, nor did Silvia. We accepted them.
We had standards of character and conduct, of wisdom and of things
possible, but they were not set for us by the pulpit, the statute book,
or the market-place. We had often gone forth on expeditions into the
mystical beyond, always with a certain purpose to achieve there, and at
some point it had been necessary to come home and face the punishment,
if there were any, to have supper, and go to bed. Home could not be left
permanently and another existence arranged, any more than the feet could
be taken from the earth permanently. It had been found impractical.
Aaron and Silvia were like ourselves. They might conceive of living away
from the farmhouse under the mountain-side a few days. They shrank from
facing old Kincard with his hoe-handle or horse-whip, but one must
go back eventually. We recognized that their adventure was bold and
peculiar; we judged the price likely to be appalling; we gave them
frank admiration for both. None of us had ever run away to be definitely
married, or suffered from a hoe-handle or a horse-whip, and yet all
these were things to be conceived of and sympathized with.

“I knew a blue-jay,” went on Aaron, thoughtfully, “that lived near the
end of Shore’s land, and he never appeared to like anything agreeable.
He used to hang around other folks’ nests and holler till they were
distracted.”

Silvia’s snuffling caught his ear, and once more the rapid change passed
over his face.

“We-ell,” he said, “the old man’ll be lively, that’s sure. I’d stay
in the woods, if it was me, but women”--with a large air of
observation--“have to have houses.”.

“We’ve got a house,” broke in Chub, suddenly. We exchanged looks
furtively.

“They’ll have to take the Vows,” I objected. “We’ve took ‘em,” said
Aaron. “Parson--”

“You’ll have to solemn swear,” said Moses. “Will you solemn swear?”

“I guess so.”

“And if you tell, you hope you drop dead.”

The blue-jay flew up the road again, shrieking scornfully. The red
squirrel trembled and chattered his teeth on the branch overhead. All
else in the woods was silent while Aaron and Silvia took the Vows.

And so we brought them, in excitement and content, to the place of the
abandoned gods. Baal lurked far back in his cave, the cliff looked down
with lonely forehead, the distant prospect was smooth and smoky. Neither
the gods nor the face of the world offered any promise or threat. But
Aaron and Silvia seemed to believe in the kindness of not human things.
Silvia fell to chattering, laughing, in unforeboding relief from sudden
and near-by evil.

Aaron had a surprising number of silver dollars, due to Shore and the
fox-skins, by means of which we should bring them supplies from Hagar;
and so we left them to the whispering gossip of leaves, the lonely
cliff, the lurking Baal, and the smooth, smoky prospect.

No doubt there were times to Aaron and Silvia of trembling awe,
dumb delight, conversations not to the point, so that it seemed more
successful merely to sit hand in hand and let the moon speak for them,
pouring light down silvery gulfs out of the abundant glory within her.
There could be seen, too, the dawn, as pink as Silvia’s cheeks, but,
after all, not so interesting. A hermit-thrush sang of things holy at
dawn, far down the woodland, while the birch leaves trembled delicately
and the breeze was the sigh of a world in love; and of things quietly
infinite at sunset in the growth of rosy gloom.

“It’s nice,” Silvia might whisper, leaning to Aaron.

“That’s a hermit-thrush down there, Silvy. He opens his mouth, and oh!
Kingdom’s comin’.”

“Yes.”

“Little brown chap with a scared eye. You don’t ever see him hardly.”

“You don’t want to, do you, Aaron?” after a long silence.

“Don’t know as you do.”

There would be a tendency, at least, to look at things that way,
and talk duskily as the dusk came on, and we would leave them on the
altar-stone to take the trail below.

But early in the afternoon it would be lively enough, except that Silvia
had a prejudice against Baal, which might have been dangerous if Baal
had minded it; but he did her no harm. She referred to Elijah and those
prophets of Baal, and we admitted he had been downed that time, for it
took him when he was not ready, and generally he was low in his luck
ever since. But we had chosen him first for an exiled dignity, who must
needs have a deadly dislike for the other dignity who had once conquered
him vaingloriously, and so must be in opposition to much that we
opposed, such as Sunday-school lessons, sermons, and limitations of
liberty. It might be that our reasonings were not so concrete and
determined, but the sense of opposition was strong. We put it to Silvia
that she ought to respect people’s feelings, and she was reasonable
enough.

Old Kincard, it seemed, was an interesting and opinionated heathen, and
Silvia had not experienced sermons and Sunday-schools. That explained
much. But she had read the Bible, which her mother had owned, before
she died; and we could follow her there, knowing it to be a book of
naturally strong points, as respects David for instance, Joseph, and
parts of Revelation.

Aaron did not care for books, and had no prejudice toward any being
or supposition that might find place in the woods. The altar-stone was
common to many gods and councils, and we offered it to Silvia, to use as
she liked. I judge she used it mostly to sit there with Aaron, and hear
the hermit-thrush, or watch the thick moonlight pour down the scoop of
the mountain.

That stretch of the Wyantenaug which is called the Haunted Water is
quiet and of slow current, by reason of its depth, and dark in color, by
reason of the steep fall of the Cattle Ridge and the pines which crowd
from it to the water’s edge. The Leather Hermit’s hut stood up from the
water in the dusk of the pines.

He came to the valley in times within the memories of many who would
speak if they were asked, but long enough ago to have become a settled
fact; and if any did not like him, neither did they like the Wyantenaug
to flood the bottom-lands in spring. The pines and the cliffs belonged
to the Sandersons, who cared little enough for either phenomenon.

We often met him on the Cattle Ridge, saw him pass glowering through the
thicket with shaggy gray beard and streaming hair. Sometimes he wore
a horse-blanket over his leathern vestment. He was apt to be there
Sundays, wandering about, and maybe trying to make out in what respect
he differed from Elijah the Tishbite; and although we knew this, and
knew it was in him to cut up roughly if he found out about Baal, being
a prophet himself both in his looks and his way of acting, still he went
to and fro for the most part on the other side of the crest, where he
had a trail of his own; and you could not see the altar-stone from
the top of the cliff, but had to climb down till you came to a jam of
bowlders directly over it.

We did not know how long he may have stood there, glowering down on us.
The smoke of the sacrifice was beginning to curl up. Baal was
backed against a stone, looking off into anywhere and taking things
indifferently. Silvia sat aside, twirled her hat scornfully, and said we
were “silly.” Aaron chewed a birch twig, and was very calm.

We got down on our hands and knees, and said, “O Baal!”

And the Hermit’s voice broke over us in thunder and a sound as of
falling mountains. It was Sunday, June 26, 1875.

He denounced us under the heads of “idolaters, gone after the
abornination of the Assyrians; babes and sucklings, old in sin, setting
up strange gods in secret places; idle mockers of holy things, like the
little children of Bethel, whereby they were cursed of the prophet and
swallowed of she-bears”; three headings with subdivisions.

Then he came down thumping on the left. Silvia shrieked and clung to
Aaron, and we fled to the right and hid in the rocks. He fell upon Baal,
cast him on the altar-fire, stamping both to extinction, and shouted:

“I know you, Aaron Bees and Silvia Kincard!”

“N-no, you don’t,” stammered Aaron. “It’s Mrs. Bees.”

The Hermit stood still and glared on them.

“Why are you here, Aaron and Silvia Bees?”

Aaron recovered himself, and fell to chewing his birch twig.

“We-ell, you see, it’s the old man.”

“What of him?”

“He’d lick us with a hoe-handle, wouldn’t he? And maybe he’d throw
us out, after all. What’d be the use? Might as well stay away,” Aaron
finished, grumbling. “Save the hoe.”

The Hermit’s glare relaxed. Some recollection of former times may have
passed through his rifted mind, or the scent of a new denunciation drawn
it away from the abornination of Assyria, who lay split and smoking
in the ashes. He leaped from the altar-stone, and vanished under the
leafage of the birches. We listened to him crashing and plunging,
chanting something incoherent and tuneless, down the mountain, till the
sound died away.

Alas, Baal-Peor! Even to this day there are twinges of shame, misgivings
of conscience, that we had fled in fear and given him over to his enemy,
to be trampled on, destroyed and split through his green jacket and red
eye. He never again stood gazing off into anywhere, snuffing the fumes
of sacrifice and remembering Babylon. The look of things has changed
since then. We have doubted Baal, and-found some restraints of liberty
more grateful than tyrannous. But it is plain that in his last defeat
Baal-Peor did not have a fair chance.

Concerning the Hermit’s progress from this point, I can only draw upon
guesses and after report. He struck slantingwise down the mountain, left
the woods about at the Kincard place, and crossed the fields.

Old Kincard sat in his doorway smoking his pipe, thick-set,
deep-chested, long-armed, with square, rough-shaven jaws, and steel-blue
eyes looking out of a face like a carved cliff for length and edge. The
Hermit stood suddenly before and denounced him under two heads--as a
heathen unsoftened in heart, and for setting up the altar of lucre and
pride against the will of the Lord that the children of men should marry
and multiply. Old Kincard took his pipe from his mouth.

“Where might them marriers and multipliers be just now?”

The Hermit pointed to the most westward cliff in sight from the doorway.

“If you have not in mind to repent, James Kincard, I shall know it.”

“Maybe you’d put them ideas of yours again?”

The Hermit restated his position accurately on the subject of heathen
hearts and the altar of lucre.

“Ain’t no mistake about that, Hermit? We-ell, now--”

The Hermit shook his head sternly, and strode away. Old Kincard gave a
subterranean chuckle, such as a volcano might give purposing eruptions,
and fixed his eyes on the western cliff, five miles away, a grayish spot
in the darker woods.

Alas, Baal-Peor!

Yet he was never indeed a wood-god. He was always remembering how fine
it had been in Babylon. He had not cared for these later devotions. He
had been bored and weary. Since he was gone, split and dead, perhaps it
was better so. He should have a funeral pyre.

“And,” said Chub Leroy, “we’ll keep his ashes in an urn. That’s the way
they always did with people’s ashes.”

We came up the Cattle Ridge Road Monday afternoon, talking of these
things. Chub carried the urn, which had once been a pickle-jar. Life
still was full of hope and ideas. The Hermit must be laid low in his
arrogance. Apollo, now, had strong points. Consider the pythoness
and the oracle. The Hermit couldn’t prophesy in the same class with a
pythoness. The oracle might run,

               “He who dwells by the Haunted Water alone,

               He shall not remain, but shall perish.”

We came then to the hut, but Silvia would have, nothing to do with
Baal’s funeral, so that she and Aaron wandered away among the birches,
that were no older than they, young birches, slim and white, coloring
the sunlight pale green with their leaves. And we went up to the
altar-stone, and made ready the funeral, and set the urn to receive the
ashes, decently, in order. The pyre was built four-square, of chosen
sticks. We did not try to fit Baal together much; we laid him on as he
came. And when the birch bark was curling up and the pitchy black smoke
of it was pouring upward, we fell on our faces and cried: “Alas, Baal!
Woe’s me, Baal!”

It was a good ceremony. For when you are doing a ceremony, it depends on
how much your feelings are worked up, of course, and very few, if any,
of those we had done--and they were many--had ever reached such a point
of efficiency as the funeral of Baal-Peor. Moses howled mournfully,
as if it were in some tooth that his sorrow lay. The thought of that
impressiveness and luxury of feeling lay mellow in our minds long after.
“Alas, Baal!”

Somebody snorted near by. We looked up. Over our heads, thrust out
beyond the edge of the bowlders, was a strange old face, with heavy
brows and jaws and grizzled hair.

The face was distorted, the jaws working. It disappeared, and we sat up,
gasping at one another across the funeral pyre, where the black smoke
was rolling up faster and faster.

In a moment the face came out on the altar-stone, and looked at us with
level brows.

“What ye doin’?”

“My goodness!” gasped Moses. “You aren’t another hermit?”

“What ye doin’?”

Chub recovered himself.

“It’s Baal’s funeral.”

“Just so.”

He sat down on a stone and wiped his face, which was heated. He carried
a notable stick in his hand. “Baal! We-ell, what ailed him?”

“Are you Silvia’s old man?” asked Chub.

“Just so--er--what ailed Baal?”

Then we told him--seeing Baal was dead and the Vows would have to be
taken over again--we told him about Baal, and about the Leather Hermit,
because he seemed touched by it, and worked his face and blinked his
sharp hard eyes uncannily. Some hidden vein of grim ideas was coming to
a white heat within him, like a suppressed molten stratum beneath the
earth, unsuspected on its surface, that suddenly heaves and cracks the
faces of stone cliffs. He gave way at last, and his laughter was the
rending tumult of an earthquake.

Aaron and Silvia came up through the woods hastily to the altar-stone.

“I say,” cried Chub. “Are you going to lick them? It’s two to Aaron for
one to Silvia.”

“Been marryin’ and multiplying have ye?”

He suppressed the earthquake, but still seemed mainly interested in
Baal’s funeral.

Aaron said, “She’s Mrs. Bees, anyhow.”

“Just so. Baal’s dead. That hermit’s some lively.”

“We’ll get an oracle on him,” said Moses. “What you going to do to Aaron
and Silvia?”

Here Silvia cast herself on the old man suddenly and wept on his
shoulder. One often noticed how girls would start up and cry on a
person.

Maybe the earthquake had brought up subsoils and mellowed things; at
least Kincard made no motion to lick some one, though he looked bored,
as any fellow might.

“Oh, we-ell, I don’t know--er--what’s that oracle?”

               “He who dwells hy the Haunted Water alone,

               He shall not remain, but shall perish.”

“It’s going to be like that,” said Chub. “Won’t it fetch him, don’t you
think?”

“It ought to,” said the old man, working his jaw. “It ought to.”

The black smoke had ceased, and flames were crackling and dancing all
over the funeral pyre. The clearer smoke floated up against the face of
the lonesome cliff. Aaron and Silvia clasped hands unfrightened. The
old man now and then rumbled subterraneously in his throat. Peace was
everywhere, and presently Baal-Peor was ashes.



THE LEATHER HERMIT

|To know the Wyantenaug thoroughly is to be wise in rivers; which if any
one doubts, let him follow it from its springs to the sea--a possible
fortnight--and consider then how he is a changed man with respect to
rivers. Not that by any means it is the epitome of rivers. It is no
spendthrift flood-stream to be whirling over the bottom-lands in April
and scarcely able to wet its middle stones in August, but a shrewd and
honest river, a canny river flowing among a canny folk, a companionable
river, loving both laughter and sentiment, with a taste for the
varieties of life and a fine vein of humor. Observe how it dances and
sputters down the rapids--not really losing its temper, but pretending
to be nervous--dives into that sloping pass where the rocks hang high
and drip forever, runs through it like a sleuth-hound, darkly and
savagely, and saunters out into the sunlight, as who should say in a
guileless manner, “You don’t happen to know where I’m going?” Then
it wanders about the valley, spreads out comfortably and lies quiet a
space, “But it really makes no difference, you know”; and after that
gives a chuckle, rounds a bunch of hills and goes scampering off, quite
taken up with a new idea. And so in many ways it is an entertaining and
friendly river, with a liking for a joke and a pretty notion of dramatic
effect.

But, of all times and places, I think it most beautiful in the twilight
and along that stretch, called of late the Haunted Water, opposite the
village of Preston Plains. The Cattle Ridge with its long heaving spine
comes down on the valley from the east, seeming to have it very much in
mind to walk over and do something to Preston Plains three miles beyond;
but it thought better of that long ago. The Wyantenaug goes close
beneath it in sheer bravado: “You try to cross me and you get jolly
wet”; for the Wyantenaug is very deep and broad just here. The Cattle
Ridge, therefore, merely wrinkles its craggy brows with a puzzled air,
and Preston Plains is untroubled save of its own inhabitants. As to that
matter the people of the village of Hagar have opinions. The valley
road goes on the other side of the river--naturally, for there are the
pastures, the feeding cattle, the corn-fields, and farmhouses--and the
Cattle Ridge side is steep, and threaded by a footpath only, for a mile
or more, up to Hants Corby’s place. Hants Corby’s is not much of a place
either.

In old times the footpath was seldom used, except by the Leather Hermit.
No boy in Hagar would go that way for his life, though we often went up
and down on the river, and saw the Leather Hermit fishing. The minister
in Hagar visited him once or twice, and probably went by the footpath.
I remember distinctly how he shook his head and said that the Hermit
sought salvation at any rate by a narrow way, and how the miller’s wife
remonstrated with him for seeming to take the Hermit seriously.

“You don’t mean to say he ain’t crazy,” she said, in anxious defence of
standard reason.

“Oh, I suppose so, yes.”

The minister sighed and rubbed his chin uneasily, and Mrs. Mather
recovered her ordinary state of mind, which was a state of suppressed
complaint.

I was saying that the footpath was seldom used. Hants Corby would have
used it--for he was too shiftless to be afraid--if the river had run
the other way. As it was, he preferred to drift down in his boat and
row back when he had to. He found that easier, being very shiftless. The
Hermit himself went on the river, except in the spring when the current
below was too strong.

The opinions of the Leather Hermit may be shown in this way. If you came
on him, no matter suddenly, and asked whose land that was across the
river, he would answer promptly, “The devil’s”; whereas it belonged
to Bazilloa Armitage, a pillar of the church in Preston Plains, who
quarrelled zealously with the other pillars; so that, as one sees, the
Leather Hermit was not in sympathy with the church in Preston Plains.

The people of the valley differed about him according to humor, and he
used strong language regarding the people of the valley according
to opportunity, especially regarding Bazilloa Armitage. He denounced
Bazilloa Armitage publicly in Preston Plains as a hypocrite, a
backbiter, and a man with a muck rake--with other language stronger
still. Bazilloa Armitage felt hurt, for he was, in fact, rather close,
and exceedingly respectable. Besides it is painful to be damned by a man
who means exactly what he says.

To speak particularly, this was in the year 1875; for the next year we
camped near the spot, and Hants Corby tried to frighten us into seeing
the Hermit’s ghost. Bazilloa Armitage was denounced in June, and Hants
Corby on the second Friday in August, as Hants and the Hermit fished
near each other on the river. The Hermit denounced him under three
heads--sluggard, scoffer, and beast wallowing in the sty of his own
lustful contentment. On Saturday the Hermit rowed up to Hants Corby’s
place in the rain and denounced him again.

Sunday morning the Hermit rose early, turned his back on the Wyantenaug,
and climbed the cliff, onward and up through the pines. The prophets of
old went into high places when they prayed; and it was an idea of his
that those who would walk in the rugged path after them could do no
better. Possibly the day was an anniversary, for it was of an August
day many years gone--before ever a charcoal pit was built on the Cattle
Ridge--that the Hermit first appeared on the Wyantenaug, with his
leather clothes in a bundle on his back, and perhaps another and
invisible burden beneath it. A third burden he took up immediately, that
of denouncing the sins of Wyantenaug Valley, as I have said.

All that Sabbath day the river went its way, and late in the afternoon
the sunlight stretched a thin finger beneath the hemlocks almost to the
Hermit’s door. Across the river the two children of Bazilloa Armitage,
boy and girl, came down to the water’s edge. The boy pulled a pole
and line out of some mysterious place in the bank. The little girl sat
primly on the grass, mindful of her white pinafore.

“You better look out, Cis,” he said. “Any fish you catch on Sunday
is devils. You don’t touch him. You cut the line and let him dry till
Monday.”

“Oh, Tad!” gasped the little girl, “won’t the Leather Hermit tell?”

“Well,” said Tad, sturdily, “father said he’d get even, if it took
a month of Sundays, and that’s six Sundays by this time. There ain’t
anything bothers the Hermit like catching the fish on Sundays, specially
if you catch a lot of ‘em. Blamed old fool!” grumbled Tad.

“Oh, Tad,” gasped the little girl again, in awed admiration, “that’s
swearing.”

But Tad did not mind. “There’s Hants Corby,” he exclaimed; “he’s going
to fish, too.”

Hants Corby floated down in his old boat, dropped anchor opposite the
children, and grinned sociably.

“He daren’t touch his boat to-day,” he said in a husky whisper. “He’ll
raise jinks in a minute. You wait.”

“Fishes is devils on Sunday, aren’t they, Hants?”

“Trout,” returned Hants, decisively, “is devils any time.”

Both Tad Armitage and Hants Corby ought to have known that the Leather
Hermit sometimes went up the Cattle Ridge on Sundays to wrestle with
an angel, like Jacob, who had his thigh broken. We knew that much in
Hagar--and it shows what comes of living in Preston Plains instead of
Hagar.

Hants Corby motioned with his thumb toward the Hermit’s hut.

“Him,” he remarked, “he don’t let folks alone. He wants folks to let him
alone particular. That ain’t reasonable.”

“Father says he’s a fernatic,” ventured Tad. “What’s a fernatic, Hants?”

“Ah,” said Hants, thoughtfully, “that’s a rattlin’ good word.”

Time dragged on, and yet no denouncing voice came from the further
shore. The door of the hut was a darker hole in the shade of the
hemlocks. Hants Corby proposed going over to investigate.

“If he ain’t there, we’ll carry off his boat.”

Tad fell into Hants’s boat quite absorbed in the greatness of the
thought. It was not a good thing generally to follow Hants Corby, who
was an irresponsible person, apt to take much trouble to arrange a bad
joke and shiftlessly slip out from under the consequences. If he left
you in a trap, he thought that a part of the joke, as I remember very
well.

“A-a-a-ow!” wailed Cissy Armitage from the bank; for it dawned on her
that something tremendous was going forward, in which Tad was likely
to be suddenly obliterated. She sat on the bank with her stubby shoes
hanging over, staring with great frightened blue eyes, till she saw
them at last draw silently away from the further shore--and behold, the
Hermit’s boat was in tow. Then she knew that there was no one in the
world so brave or so grandly wicked as Tad.

Cissy Armitage used to have fluffy yellow hair and scratches on her
shins. She was a sunny little soul generally, but she had a way of
imagining how badly other people felt, which interfered with her
happiness, and was not always accurate. Tad seldom felt so badly as she
thought he did. Tad thought he could imagine most things better on the
whole, but when it came to imagining how badly other people felt,
he admitted that she did it very well. Therefore when she set about
imagining how the Hermit felt, on the other side of the river, with no
boat to come across in, to where people were cosy and comfortable, where
they sang the Doxology and put the kittens to bed, she quite forgot that
the Hermit had always before had a boat, that he never yet had taken
advantage of it to make the acquaintance of the Doxology or the kittens,
and imagined him feeling very badly indeed.

Bazilloa Armitage held family prayers at six o’clock on Sunday
afternoons; and all through them Cissy considered the Hermit.

“I sink in deep waters,” read Bazilloa Armitage with a rising
inflection. “The billows go over my head, all his waves go over me,
Selah,” and Cissy in her mind saw the Hermit sitting on the further
shore, feeling very badly, calling Tad an “evil generation,” and saying:
“The billows go over my head, Selah,” because he had no boat. She
thought that one must feel desperately in order to say: “Selah,
the billows go over me.” And while Bazilloa Armitage prayed for the
President, Congress, the Governor, and other people who were in trouble,
she plotted diligently how it might be avoided that the Hermit should
feel so badly as to say “Selah,” or call Tad an “evil generation”; how
she might get the boat back, in order that the Hermit should feel better
and let bygones be; and how it might be done secretly, in order that Tad
should not make a bear of himself. Afterwards she walked out of the back
door in her sturdy fashion, and no one paid her any attention.

The Hermit muttered in the dusk of his doorway.

Leather clothes are stiff after a rain and bad for the temper; moreover,
other things than disordered visions of the heavens rolling away as a
scroll and the imperative duty of denouncing some one were present in
his clouded brain,--half memories, breaking through clouds, of a time
when he had not as yet begun to companion daily with judgment to come,
nor had those black spots begun to dance before his eyes, which black
spots were evidently the sins of the world. He muttered and shifted his
position uneasily.

There was once a little white house somewhere in the suburbs of a city.
It stood near the end of a half-built street, with a sandy road in
front. There was a child, too, that rolled its doll down the steps,
rolled after it, wept aloud and laughed through its tears.

The stiff leather rasped the Hermit’s skin. The clouds closed in again;
he shook himself, and raised his voice threateningly in words familiar
enough to the denounced people of the Wyantenaug: “It is written, ‘Thou
shalt have no other gods before me’; and your gods are multitudes.”
 He stared with dazed eyes across the dusky river. The little ripples
chuckled, sobbed and gurgled in a soft, human way. Something seemed to
steal in upon him, like a gentle hand, pleading and caressing. He
made an angry motion to thrust it away, and muttered: “Judgment to
come--judgment to come.” He seemed to hear a sobbing and whispering,
and then two infinite things came together in his shattered brain with a
crash, leaving him stunned and still.

There was a syringa bush before the little white house, a picket fence,
too, white and neat. Who was it that when he would cry, “Judgment to
come!” would whisper and sob? That was not a child. That was--no--well,
there was a child. Evidently it rolled its doll down the steps and
rolled after it. There was a tan-yard, too, and the dressing of hides.
He dressed hides across a bench. The other men did not take much
interest in judgment to come. They swore at him and burned sulphur under
his bench. After that the child rolled its doll down the steps again,
and bumped after it pitifully.

The Hermit groaned and hid his face. He could almost remember it all, if
it were not for the black spots, the sins of the world. Something surely
was true--whether judgment to come or the child bumping down the steps
he could not tell, but he thought, “Presently I shall forget one of the
two.”

The sun had set, and the dusk was creeping from the irregular hills
beyond, over the village of Preston Plains, over the house of Bazilloa
Armitage. Dark storm-clouds were bearing down from the north. A glitter
sprang once more into the Hermit’s eyes, and he welcomed the clouds,
stretching out his hands toward them. Suddenly he dropped his hands, and
the glitter died out in a dull stare. Across the last red reflection of
the water glided a boat, his own boat, or one like it. A little child in
white rose up and stood in the prow, and, as though she were a spirit,
the light in the west passed into her hair. It was not the right way for
judgment to come. The dark clouds bearing down from the north--that
was judgment to come; but the spirit in the boat, that--could not be
anything--it was false--unless--unless it rolled down the steps. And
then once more the two infinite things came together with a crash. He
leaped to his feet; for a moment his hands went to and fro over his
head; he babbled mere sounds, and fell forward on his face, groaning.

Cissy Armitage achieved the top of the bank with difficulty, and
adjusted her pinafore. The Hermit lay on his face very still. It was
embarrassing.

“I--I brought back your boat, so you needn’t feel bad. I--I feel bad.”

She stopped, hearing the Hermit moan once softly, and then for a time
the only sound was the lapping of the water. It was growing quite dark.
She thought that he must feel even worse than she had imagined.

“I’m sorry. It’s awful lonesome. I--want to go home.”

The Hermit made no motion. Cissy felt that it was a bad case. She
twisted her pinafore and blinked hard. The lumps were rising in her
throat, and she did not know what to say that would show the Hermit how
badly she felt--unless she said “Selah.” It was strong language, but she
ventured it at last.

“I feel awful bad. The--the billows go over my head, Selah!” Then she
wished that she had let “Selah” quite alone.

The Hermit lifted his face. It was very white; his eyes were fixed and
dead-looking, and he got his feet under him, as if he intended to creep
forward. Cissy backed against a tree, swallowed lumps very fast, and
decided to kick if he came near. But he only looked at her steadily.

“What is your name?” he said in a slow, plaintive tone, as a man speaks
who cannot hear his own voice. Cissy thought it silly that he should not
know her name, having seen her often enough,--and this gave her courage.
“Cecilia Armitage. I want to go home.”

“No!” shouted the Hermit. He sat up suddenly and glared at her, so that
the lumps began climbing her throat again faster than ever. “That isn’t
the name.” Then he dropped his head between his knees and began sobbing.
Cissy did not know that men ever cried. It seemed to tear him up, and
was much worse than “The billows go over me, Selah.” On the whole there
seemed to be no point in staying longer. She walked to the bank and
there hesitated diffidently.

“I want to go home. I--I want you to row me.”

There was a long silence; the Hermit’s head was still hidden between his
knees. Then he came over and got into the boat, not walking upright, but
almost creeping, making no noise, nor lifting his head. He took the oars
and rowed, still keeping his head down, until the boat came under the
old willow, where the bank runs low on the edge of Bazilloa Armitage’s
ten-acre lot. It struck the bank, but he sat still, with his head down.
Cissy Armitage scrambled up the roots of the willow, looked back, and
saw him sitting with his head down.

Cissy Armitage was the last to see the Leather Hermit alive, for Hants
Corby found him Monday afternoon in shallow water, about a rod from
shore. The anchor stone was clasped in his arms, and the anchor rope
wound around his waist, which would seem to imply that he was there
with a purpose. If that purpose was to discover which of two things
were true--judgment to come, or the child that rolled its doll down
the steps--every one is surely entitled to an opinion on its success or
failure. There was a copy-book, such as children use, found in his
hut. On the cover was written, “The Book of Judgment.” It contained
the record of his denunciations, with other odd things. The people of
Wyantenaug Valley still differ, according to humor; but any one of them
will give his or her opinion, if you ask it.



BLACK POND CLEARING

|In those days I knew Hamilton only by the light in the south; for in
Hagar men said, “That light in the south is Hamilton,” as they would
say, “The sunrise in the east, the sunset in the west, the aurora in the
north,” illuminations that were native in their places. Hamilton was a
yellow glimmer on clear nights, and on cloudy nights a larger glow. It
crouched low in the sky, pale, secret, enticing.

Also I knew that Hamilton was twenty miles away, like Sheridan’s ride.
How great and full of palaces and splendors that must be which shone so
far! How golden its streets, and jewelled its gates, like the Celestial
City, which is described in Revelations and “The Progress” in an
unmistakable manner, if not as one would wish in the matter of some
details. Yet to speak justly, “The Progress” was considered a passable
good story, though not up to the “Arabian Nights”; and Revelations had
its points, though any one could see the writer was mixed in his mind,
and upset probably by the oddness of his adventures, and rather stumped
how to relate them plainly.

But this story does not include the city of Hamilton, although touching
on the lights in the south. It left its mark upon me and cast a shadow
over many things that did not seem connected with it, being a kind of
introduction for me to what might be called the Greater Melancholies.

There are four roads that meet in Hagar: the Cattle Ridge, the Salem,
the Windless Mountain, and the Red Rock. The Salem is broad, level,
and straight; the Windless sweeps around the mountain, deep through
the pines, the jungle of other woods, and the gorge of the falling Mill
Stream; the Red Rock is a high, clean hill road, open and bare; the
Cattle Ridge Road comes down from highest of all, from far up on the
windy brows of the Ridge, and dips and courtesies all the way into
Hagar. Some time I would like to make more plain the nature and
influence of the Four Roads. But the adventure began on the Cattle Ridge
Road with a wide-armed chestnut tree, where certain red squirrels lived
who were lively and had thin tails. I went out over the road on a long
limb with Moses Durfey and Chub Leroy, seeing Mr. Cummings driving a
load of hay down from the Cattle Ridge: it seemed desirable to drop on
the hay when it passed beneath. Mr. Cummings was sleepy. He sat nodding
far down in front, while we lit softly on the crest and slid over
behind.

And next you are to know that Chub Leroy’s feet came down thump on the
head of a monstrous man, half buried in the hay, who sat up and looked
around, vast, shaggy, black-bearded, smoking a corncob pipe, composed,
and quite ragged in his clothes.

“Humph!” he said mildly, and rubbed his head.

After a few moments looking us over, he pointed with his thumb through
the hay at Mr. Cummings, and leaned toward us and winked.

“Same as me,” he whispered, and shook all over his fatness, silently,
with the laughter and pleasure he was having inside.

It is a good thing in this world to have adventures, and it is only a
matter of looking around a bit in country or city. For each fellow
his quest is waiting at the street corner, or hides in the edge of the
woods, peering out of green shadows. On all highways it is to be met
with and is seldom far to seek--though no harm if it were--because the
world is populous with men and animals, and no moment like another. It
may be, if you drop on a hay-load, you will have a row with the driver,
or you will thump on the head such a free traveller as ours, vast,
shaggy, primeval, pipe-smoking, of wonderful fatness.

He seemed a sleepy, contented man, not in point of fact minding thumps
on the head. The hay-cart rolled on gently in the dust. Mr. Cummings
drowsed in front, unaware, and the Free Traveller drowsed behind,
smoking listlessly. The rest of us grew sleepy too and liked everything.
For it was odd but pleasant in a way to look down from the secrecy of
the hay on familiar things, on the village dooryards and the tops of
hats. We seemed to fall into silent league with the Free Traveller, to
be interested in things, but not anxious, observing the hats of labor
and ambition, careless of appearance, primitive, easy, seeing little
importance in where the cart might go, because anywhere was good enough.

Instead of turning east at the cross-roads, Mr. Cummings drove drowsily
ahead on the Windless Road, although the Cummings place is east on the
Salem; so that the hay was plainly going to the little pasture barn,
three miles off, all one to us, and better for the Free Traveller, as it
appeared after. But he was not interested then, being in a fair way to
sleep. We lay deep in the hay and looked up at the blue of the sky and
the white of the creeping clouds, till the pine trees closed suddenly
over the road, the cliffs of Windless Mountain on one side and the Mill
Stream on the other, deep under its bank. A strong south wind came under
the pines, skirting the corner of the mountain, hissed through the pine
needles, and rumpled the hay.

And there was a great smoke and blaze about us. “Humph!” said the Free
Traveller.

He went off the back of the hay-cart into the middle of the road, and we
too fell off immediately, each in his own way, on the pine needles.
Mr. Cummings came up over the top of the load with a tumult of mixed
language, and the horses ran away.

The great load sped down the green avenue smoking, crackling, blazing,
taking with it Mr. Cummings to unknown results, and leaving the Free
Traveller sitting up in the middle of the road and looking after it
mildly. He heaved himself up puffing. “There!” he said. “There goes my
pipe.”

“It’s all your fault,” shouted Moses Durfey. “You shouldn’t smoke on
hay-loads.”

“Maybe Mr. Cummings is a deader,” said Chub Leroy, thoughtfully.

The Free Traveller rubbed his leg.

“You’re same as me. If he ain’t dead he’ll come back with a strap and
lam some of us. That ain’t me. I’m going to light out.”

He slid under the rail and down the bank to the stream, handling himself
wonderfully for so weighty a man; for he seemed to accommodate himself
to obstacles like a jellyfish, and somehow to get around them. So he was
over the bowlders and across the stream, which there divides Windless
Mountain from the Great South Woods.

We were indignant that he should leave us to be “lammed” for his
carelessness. We shouted after, and Moses Durfey said he was a “chump.”

“You might come along,” retorted the Free Traveller with an injured
manner. “What’s hindering? I lugs nobody. I lets folks alone.”

He was at the wood’s edge by this time, where a dim green path went in,
looked over his shoulder a moment, and then disappeared. We scrambled
down the bank and over the bowlders, for it was not desirable to wait
for Mr. Cummings, and Hagar itself would be no refuge. Hagar was a place
where criticisms were made, while the green woods have never a comment
on any folly, but are good comrades to all who have the temper to like
them. We caught up with him by dint of running and followed silently.
It grew dusky with the lateness of the afternoon, the pale green light
turning dark, and we were solemn and rather low in our minds. The Free
Traveller seemed to grow more vast in outline. Being short of wind he
wheezed and moaned and what with his swaying as he walked, and his great
humpy shoulders and all, he looked less and less like a man, and more
and more like a Thing. Sometimes a tree would creak suddenly near at
hand, and I fancied there were other people in the woods, whispering and
all going the way we went, to see what would come to us in the end.

So it went on till we came on a little clearing, between the forest and
a swamp. A black pond, tinted a bit with the sunset, lay below along
the edge of the swamp; and we knew mainly where we were, for there was
a highway somewhere beyond the swamp, connecting the valleys of the
Wyantenaug and the Pilgrim. But none the less for the highway it seemed
a lonely place, fit for congregations of ghosts. The pond was unknown to
me, and it looked very still and oily. The forest seemed to crowd about
and overhang the clearing. On the western side was a heap of caverned
bowlders, and a fire burned in front with three persons sitting beside
it.

The Free Traveller slid along the wood’s edge noiselessly but without
hesitation, and coming to the fire was greeted. One of those who sat
there was a tall old man with very light blue eyes and prominent, his
beard white and long. As we came to know, he was called the “Prophet.”
 He said:

“How do, Humpy?” so that we knew the Free Traveller was called Humpy,
either for the shape of his shoulders or for the word he used to express
himself. There was a younger man, with a retreating chin, and a necktie,
but no collar, and there was a silent woman with a shawl over her head.

“These are friends o’ mine,” said the Free Traveller to the older man.
“Make you acquainted. That’s Showman Bobby, and that’s the Prophet.”

A vast chuckle of mirth started then from deep within him and surged
through his throat,--such a laugh as would naturally come from a whale
or some creature of a past age, whose midriff was boundless.

“Ho!” he said. “Bloke with a hay-load lit under him. Ho, Ho!”

“Gen’leman,” said the Prophet with a fluent wave of his hand. “Friends
of Humpy’s. That’s enough. Any grub, Humpy?”

The Free Traveller brought out a round loaf and some meat done up in
a newspaper. He might have carried a number of such things about him
without making any great difference in his contour. The Prophet did not
ask about the hay-load, or where the bread and meat came from.

The daylight was fading now in the clearing, and presently a few thin
stars were out. It might have occurred to persons of better regulated
fancies than ours that they were due at supper long since with other
friends of staider qualities, and that now the wood-paths were too dark
to follow. Perhaps it did; but it could not have seemed a fair reason to
be troubled, that we were last seen in company with the Free Traveller,
so fat and friendly a man. I remember better that the Black Pond
reflected no stars, that the gleams from the fire played fearful games
along the wood’s edge and the bowlders, and how, beyond the Black Pond,
the swamp and the close-cuddled hills, the lights of Hamilton crouched
low under the sky. Opposite us across the fire sat that woman who said
nothing, and her face was shadowed by her shawl.

Showman Bobby and the Free Traveller went to sleep, Bobby on his face
and the Free Traveller accommodating himself. The Prophet sat up and
kept us company; for we asked him questions naturally, and he seemed
interested to answer, and was fluent and striking in his speech. They
were a runout Company and very low in their luck; and it seemed that
Bobby was the manager, a tumbler himself by profession and in that
way of life since childhood; and the Free Traveller was apt to be an
Australian giant now, but in earlier years had been given to footing
from place to place and living as he might. The Prophet called him a
skilful man at getting things out of women, partly by experience, and
partly by reason of his size and the mildness of his manners. As for the
Black Pond Clearing, it was well known to people of the road, even to
orange-men and pack-peddlers, being a hidden place with wood and water
and shelter in the caves from rain.

“That light in the south is Hamilton,” said Chub Leroy.

The Prophet started and looked anxiously across the fire, but the woman
did not move. Then he drew nearer us and spoke lower.

“You look out,” he said. “She ain’t right in her head. Bobby painted the
kid for a pappoose. It took the shakes and died queer. You’d better lie
down, Cass,” speaking across the fire to the woman, who turned her head
and stared at him directly. “You’d better lie down.”

She drew back from the fire noiselessly and lay down, wrapping her shawl
about her head.

“I ain’t been a circus heeler all my time,” began the Prophet. “I been a
gentleman. Neither has Humpy, I reckon. When I met Bobby it was West and
he ran a dime museum. He took me in for being a gifted talker, and I
was that low in my luck. She and Bobby was married sometime, and she did
acts like the Circassian Beauty, and the Headless Woman, and the Child
of the Aztecs. Humpy’s gifts lies in his size, and he’s a powerful
strong man, too, more than you’d think, and he can get himself up for a
savage to look like a loose tornado. Look at him now. Ain’t he a heap?
There was a three-eyed dog in the show that you could n’t tell that the
extra eye was n’t so hardly, and a snake that was any kind of a snake
according as you fixed him, his natural color being black. We came
East with Forepaugh’s. Bobby bought a tent in Chicago, and we came to
Hamilton a fortnight ago. Now there’s Hamilton that’s a-shining off
there with its lights. And we run away from it in the night a week come
to-morrow, or next day, I forget. We left the tent and outfit which was
come down on by a Dutch grocer for debt, and Cassie’s baby was dead
in the tent. Bobby painted him too thick. And there was a lot of folks
looking for us with sticks. Now, that was n’t right. Think Bobby’d have
poisoned his own kid if he’d known better about painting him, a kid
that was a credit to the show! That’s what they said. Think folks coming
round with sticks and a-howling blasphemous is going to help out any
family mourning! That ain’t my idea.

“Then a fellow says, ‘I don’t know anything about it,’ he says, ‘and I
don’t want to, but I know you get out of here quick.’

“And they drove us out of Hamilton that night ten miles in a covered
cart, and left us in the road. And the Dutch grocer got the outfit. I
reckon the circus and the city has buried the kid between ‘em. Hey?
Sh! She’s got a quirk. All I know is Fore-paugh’s shook us as if we was
fleas.”

The Prophet looked over to where Cassie lay, but she did not stir.
Anyway, if she heard, it was the Prophet’s fault. “They’re awful poor
company,” he said plaintively, “Bobby and Cass. She takes on terrible.
She’s took a notion that baby ain’t buried right. She thinks--well, I
don’t know. Now that ain’t my way of looking at things, but I did n’t
own the outfit. It was Bobby’s outfit, and the Dutch grocer got it.”

He was silent for a moment. We could hear the Free Traveller asleep and
rumbling in his throat.

“Where might you chaps come from?” asked the Prophet, suddenly. “Not
that it’s my business. Maybe there might be a town over there? Hey?
Yes.”

He grumbled in his beard a few moments more, and then lay down to sleep.
We drew together and whispered. The three men slept, and the woman said
nothing.

It is seen that sometimes your most battered and world-worn of men is
the simplest in his way of looking at things. Or else it was because the
Prophet was a talker by nature, and Bobby and Cass such poor company,
that he fell into speech with us on such equal terms. I have set down
but little of what he said, only enough for the story of the Company,
and as I happen to recollect it.

It should have been something earlier than nine o’clock when the Prophet
lay down to sleep, and half an hour later when we first noticed that
the woman, Cass, was sitting up. She had her back to us and was looking
toward the lights of Hamilton. There was no moon and the stars only
shone here and there between clouds that hurried across the sky, making
preparations for the storm that came in the morning. The fire burned
low, but there was no need of it for warmth. The outlines of the hills
could be seen. The swamp, the pond, and most of the clearing were dark
together.

Presently she looked cautiously around, first at the three sleepers, and
then at us. She crept nearer slowly and crouched beside the dull fire,
throwing back her shawl. Her hair was black and straggled about her
face, and her eyes were black too, and glittering. The glow of the
embers, striking upward, made their sockets cavernous, but the eyes
stood out in the midst of the caverns. One knows well enough that
tragedies walk about and exchange agreeable phrases with each other.
Your tragedy is yours, and mine is mine, and in the meanwhile see to
it that we look sedate, and discuss anything, provided it is of no
importance to either. One does not choose to be an inscribed monument to
the fame of one’s private affair. But Cassie had lost that instinct of
reserve, and her desolation looked out of her eyes with dreadful candor.
The lines of her face, the droop of her figure and even little motions
of the hand, signified but one thought. I suppose all ideas possible
to the world had become as one to her, so that three boys cowering away
from her seemed only a natural enough part of the same subject. It was
all one; namely, a baby painted brown, who died queerly in a side tent
in Hamilton Fair Grounds.

We stared at her breathlessly.

“You tell ‘em I’m going,” she whispered.

“Where?” asked Chub.

“They ain’t no right to--to--Who are you?”

But this was only in passing. She did not wait to be answered.

“You tell ‘em I’m going.”

“What for?” persisted Chub.

“It’s six days. Maybe they throwed him where the tin cans are. You tell
‘em I’m going.”

And she was gone. She must have slipped along the edge of the woods
where the shadows were densest.

We listened a moment or two stupidly. Then we sprang up. It seems as if
the three men were on their feet at the same instant, wakened by some
common instinct or pressure of fear. It was a single sound of splashing
we heard off in the darkness. Bobby was gone, then the Free Traveller,
then the Prophet. We fell into hollows, over rocks and stumps, and came
to the pond. The reflection of a star or two glimmered there. The water
looked heavy, like melted lead, and any ripple that had been was gone,
or too slight to see. The Free Traveller and Bobby went in and waded
about.

“Don’t you step on her,” said Bobby, hoarsely.

The bottom seemed to shelve steeply from the shore. They moved along
chest-deep, feeling with their feet, and we heard them whispering. The
Prophet sat down and whimpered softly. They waded a distance along the
shore, and back. They came close in, whispered together, and went out
again.

“Here! I got it,” said the Free Traveller. They came out, carrying
something large and black, and laid it on the ground.

“It ain’t Cassie!” whimpered the Prophet. “It ain’t Cassie, is it?”

They all stood about it. The face was like a dim white patch on the
ground.

“Hold your jaw,” said Bobby. “Hark!”

There were voices in the woods above, and a crashing of the branches.
They were coming nearer and lights were twinkling far back in the
wood-path, where we had entered the clearing. I do not know what thought
it was--some instinct to flee and hide--that seized the outcasts. They
slid away into the darkness together, swiftly and without speaking. The
Free Traveller had Cassie’s body on his shoulder, carrying it as a child
carries a rag doll. The darkness swallowed them at a gulp, and we
stood alone by the Black Pond. Several men came into the clearing with
lanterns, villagers from Hagar, Harvey Cummings, the minister, and
others, who swung their lanterns and shouted.

Now, I suppose that Cassie lies buried to-day somewhere in the South
Woods, and it may be that no man alive knows where. For none of the
Company were ever seen again in that part of the country, nor have
been heard of anywhere now these many years. We can see the lights of
Hamilton from Hagar as of old, but we seldom think of the Celestial
City, or any palaces and splendors, but of the multitude of various
people who go to and fro, each carrying a story.

The coming and going of aliens made little difference with Hagar. I
suppose it was more important there, that Harvey Cummings’s hay-load
went up lawlessly in smoke and flame, and never came to the little
pasture barn on the Windless Mountain Road.



JOPPA

|On Friday afternoon, the twenty-eighth of June, Deacon Crockett’s
horse ran away. It was not a suitable thing, not at all what a settled
community had a right to expect of a horse with stubby legs and no mane
to speak of, who had grown old in the order of decent conduct. He ran
into Mrs. Cullom Sanderson’s basket phaeton and spilled Mrs. Cullom on
the ground, which was taking a grave responsibility. It was done in the
midst of Hagar. Harvey Cummings jumped out of the way and said, “Deb
it!” There was no concealment about it. Everybody heard of it and said
it was astonishing.

The name of the deacon’s horse was Joppa. The deacon’s father-in-law,
Captain David Brett, had an iron-gray named Borneo. Borneo and Joppa did
not agree, on account of Borneo’s kicking Joppa in the ribs to show his
contempt. It was natural that he should have this contempt, being sleek
and spirited himself, with a nautical gait that every one admitted to be
taking; and Joppa did not think it unnatural in him to show it. Without
questioning the justice of Borneo’s position, he disliked being kicked
in the ribs.

Borneo had been eating grass by the roadside; Joppa stood harnessed in
front of the horse-block; Mrs. Crockett stood on the horse-block; Borneo
came around and kicked Joppa in the ribs; Joppa ran away; Mrs. Crockett
shrieked; Harvey Cummings said “Deb it!” and Mrs. Cullom Sanderson was
spilled. She weighed two hundred pounds and covered a deal of ground
when she was spilled.

He crossed the bridge and tore along the Salem Road, his stubby legs
pattering under him, and a great fear in his soul of the shouting
village behind. Angelica and Willy Flint saw him coming.

“It’s a runaway!” shouted Angelica.

Willy Flint continued swinging on the gate. He thought it his place to
be self-contained and accurate.

“It’s Joppa,” he said calmly.

But Angelica did not care for appearances. She shied a clam-shell at
Joppa, said “Hi there!” and jumped around.

Joppa swerved sharply, the deacon’s buggy turned several sides up,
if that is possible, bobbed along behind, and then broke loose at the
thills. Joppa fled madly up the side road that leads to Scrabble Up and
Down, and disappeared over the crest of the hill, leaving Angelica and
Willy Flint to gloat over the wreck of the buggy. It gratified a number
of their instincts.

The region called Scrabble Up and Down, as well as the road which leads
to it, is distinguished by innumerable small steep hills and hollows.
For the rest, it is a sandy and ill-populated district, and a lonely
road. Westward of it lies a wilderness of underbrush and stunted trees,
rising at last into exultant woods and billowing over the hills mile
upon mile to the valley of the Wyantenaug. The South Woods do not belong
to Scrabble Up and Down. They are put there to show Scrabble Up and Down
what it cannot do.

The road winds around hillocks and down hollows in an aimless fashion;
and for that reason it is not possible to see much of it at a time.
When the villagers of Hagar reached the top of the first hill, Joppa
was nearly a mile away, his stubby legs rather tired, his spirit more
tranquil, and himself out of sight of the villagers of Hagar. He saw
no point in turning back. Hagar gave him but a dull and unideal
life, plodding between shafts before the austere and silent deacon,
unaccountably smacked with a whip, and in constant contrast with
Borneo’s good looks. Joppa had not many ideas and little imagination.
He did not feel drawn to go back. Moreover he smelt something damp and
fresh in the direction of the woods which absorbed him. He stopped,
sniffed, and looked around. The fence was broken here and there, as
fences generally were in Scrabble Up and Down. The leaves were budding;
there was a shimmer of green on the distant woods; and presently Joppa
was wandering through the brush and scrub trees westward. The broken
shafts dragged quietly beside him. He lifted his head a little higher
than usual and had an odd feeling, as if he were enjoying himself.

A tumult, row, or excitement of any kind was considered by the children
of Hagar a thing to be desired, assisted, and remembered gratefully.
Some of the elders were much of the same mind. Joppa’s action was
therefore popular in Hagar, the more so that it was felt to be
incongruous; and, when by no search that Friday afternoon nor the
following Saturday could he be found, his reputation rose in leaps. He
had gone over the hill and vanished like a ghost, commonplace, homely,
plodding, downcast Joppa, known to Hagar in that fashion these dozen
or more years and suddenly become the loud talk of the day. The road
to Scrabble Up and Down and the roads far beyond were searched. Inquiry
spread to Salem and to Gilead. On Saturday night notices were posted
here and there by happy jokers relating to Joppa, one on the church door
of Hagar requesting the prayers of the congregation. Mr. Atherton Bell
thought the deacon’s horse like “the deacon’s one-hoss shay,” in that he
had lasted an extraordinary time intact, and then disintegrated. Joppa
had become a mystery, an excitement, a cause of wit. A definite addition
had been made to the hoarded stock of tradition and jest; the lives of
all seemed the richer. An atmosphere of deep and tranquil mirth pervaded
the village, a kind of mellow light of humor, in the focus of which
stood Deacon Crockett, and writhed.

It was hoped that the minister would preach on Joppa. He preached on
“human insignificance,” and read of the war-horse, “Hast thou clothed
his neck with thunder?” but it was thought not to refer to Joppa.

As for the children of Hagar, did they not dream of him, and hear him
thumping and blundering by in the winds of the dim night? They saw no
humor in him, nor in the deacon. Rather it was a serious mystery, and
they went about with the impression of it on their faces, having faith
that the outcome would be worthy of the promise.

Harvey Cummings thought that the war-horse did not refer to Joppa, and
said so on the steps of the church. “There wan’d no thudder aboud him.
He was the meekest hoss in Hamilton County. He run away on accound of
his shyness.”

Mr. Cummings had no palate to speak of, and his consonants were
uncertain. Mr. Atherton Bell threw out his chest, as an orator should,
put his thumbs in the armholes of his vest, and gazed at Mr. Cummings
with a kindling eye.

“For a meek horse,” he said impressively, “he showed--a--great
resolution when he spilled Mrs. Cullom Sanderson. I declare to you,
Harvey, I give you my word, sir, I would not have missed seeing Mrs.
Cullom spilled for a government contract.”

“Oh, indeed, Mr. Bell!” said Mrs. Cullom Sanderson, rustling past,
“clothed with thunder” and black silk. Mr. Atherton Bell recovered
himself slowly and moved to a greater distance from the church door.
He was a politician and a legislator, but he found diplomacy difficult.
Several others gathered around, desiring to hear the statesman. “Now
suppose, Harvey, suppose the deacon too should take a notion to run
away, knock over Mrs. Cullom, you know, and--a--disappear. Imagine it,
Harvey.”

Mr. Cummings shook his head.

“Can’t do it.”

Mr. Bell took off his hat and smiled expansively.

“It’s a pleasing thought, ha! He might be translated--a--Elijah, you
know. He might leave his mantle to--to me. Hitherto the deacon has
lacked dramatic interest. Contact between Mrs. Cullom and Deacon
Crockett would--” (here his hearers stirred appreciatively) “would have
dramatic interest--Ah, good morning, deacon, good morning, sir. We were
speaking of your loss. We--a--trust it will not be permanent.”

The deacon moved on without answering. Mr. Atherton Bell’s spirit fell
again, and he wiped his forehead nervously.

It would be a painful thing if a man were suddenly to enter into full
sight of himself as others see him; it is a measure of distress even
to have a passing glimpse--not so much because he sees a worse man, but
because he sees a stranger.

Deacon Crockett had never asked himself how others saw him. He was not a
flexible man. The grooves in which his life ran had been worn slowly
in a hard substance. Its purports and ends had always seemed to him
accurately measured and bounded. He exacted his rights, paid his dues,
and had no doubts about either; held his conscience before him as a
sword, dividing truth from falsehood. He stood by the faith of his
forefathers, gave up no jot or tittle of it; there were no hazy outlying
regions in that faith.

When a man observes himself to be a well-defined thing in certain
relations with other well-defined things, has no more doubt of the
meaning of his presence on the earth than of the function of a cogwheel
in his watch, his footing seems singularly secure; the figure he makes
in his own eyes not only grows rigid with habit, but seems logically
exact to begin with. To doubt the function of the cog-wheel is to put in
question the watch, which is impossible and a sufficient demonstration.
Other men’s opinions, if worth anything or considered at all, are
assumed to be respectful; and the assumption seems just.

Why should he not feel impregnable in his personal dignity, who sees
himself sufficiently fulfilling his function in an ordered scheme, a
just man, elected to become perfect? Personal dignity is at least not a
vulgar ambition. It was the deacon’s ambition, the thing which he wished
to characterize his life.

The deacon walked down the path from the church. He walked quietly and
stiffly as usual, but the spirit within him was worse than angry; it
was confused. The whole neighborhood seemed to be laughing at him; his
fingers tingled at the thought.

But that was not the source of his confusion. It was, strangely, that
there seemed to be no malice in the laughter, only a kind of amused
friendliness. An insult and a resentment can be understood by a man of
function, within his function; his resentment maintains his equilibrium.
But, quite the contrary, his neighbors seemed timidly to invite him into
the joke. Of all the hidden ways of laughter one comes last to that in
which he may walk and be amused with himself; although it is only there
that he is for the first time entirely comfortable in the world. Tim
Rae, the town drunkard, met him where the path across the Green joins
the road. It was Tim’s habit to flee from the deacon’s approach with
feeble subterfuges, not because the deacon ever lectured him, but
because the deacon’s presence seemed to foreshorten his stature, and
gave him a chill in the stomach, where he preferred “something warm.”
 Yet he ambled amiably across the road, and his air of good-fellowship
could not have been greater if they had met in a ditch on equal terms of
intoxication.

“What think, deacon,” he gurgled. “I was dream-in’ las’ night, ‘bout
Joppa comin’ down my chimney, damned if he did n’t.”

The deacon stopped and faced him.

“You may be drunk, sir,” he said slowly, “on Saturday night, and you may
curse on the Sabbath; but you _may not_ expect me to sympathize with
you--in either.”

Then Tim Rae slunk away foreshortened of stature and cold in the
stomach.

Monday morning was the first of May; and on May-day, unless the season
were backward and without early flowers, the children of Hagar would go
after ground-pine for the May-baskets, and trailing arbutus to fill them
with. They would hang the baskets on the door-handles of those who were
thought worthy, popular persons such as the minister and Sandy Campbell;
on Mr. Atherton Bell’s door-handle on account of Bobby Bell, who was a
gentleman but not allowed to be out nights because of his inferior age.

Ground-pine grows in many places, but early arbutus is a whimsical
flower, as shy as first love. It is nearly always to be found somewhere
in the South Woods. And the South Woods are to be reached, not by
Scrabble Up and Down, but along the Windless Mountain Road, across the
Mill Stream, and by cart-paths which know not their own minds.

The deacon drove home from Gilead Monday afternoon, and saw the children
noisily jumping the Mill Stream where the line of bowlders dams up the
stream and makes deep quiet water above. Their voices, quarrelling and
laughing, fell on his ear with an unfamiliar sound. Somehow they seemed
significant, at least suggesting odd trains of thought. He found himself
imagining how it would seem to go Maying; and the incongruity of it
brought a sudden frown of mental pain and confusion to his forehead. And
so he drove into Hagar.

But if he had followed the May-day revellers, as he had oddly imagined
himself doing, he would have gone by those winding cart-paths, fragrant
with early growth, and might have seen the children break from the woods
with shouts into a small opening above a sunken pond; he might even have
heard the voice of Angelica Flint rise in shrill excitement:

“_Why, there’s Joppa!_”

Some minutes after six, the first shading of the twilight being in the
air, the villagers of Hagar, whose houses lay along the north and south
road, rose on one impulse and came forth into the street. And standing
by their gates and porches, they saw the children go by with lost
Joppa in their midst. Around his neck was a huge flopping wreath of
ground-pine and arbutus. The arbutus did not stay in very well, and
there was little of it--only bits stuck in here and there. Joppa hung
his head low, so that the wreath had to be held on. He did not seem
cheerful; in fact, the whole cortège had a subdued though important air,
as if oppressed by a great thought and conscious of ceremony.

The minister and the other neighbors along the street came out and
followed. Some dozen or more at last stood on the brow of the slight
hill looking down to the deacon’s house; and they too felt conscious of
something, of a ceremony, a suspense.

Mr. Atherton Bell met the children and drove his buggy into the ditch,
stood up and gazed over the back of it with an absorbed look.

“I feel curious how the deacon will take it,” said the minister. “I--I
feel anxious.”

Mr. Atherton Bell said, it got him. He said something too about
“dramatic interest” and “a good betting chance he’ll cut up rough”; but
no one answered him.

The procession halted outside the deacon’s gate. A tendency to giggle
on the part of certain girls was sternly suppressed by Angelica Flint.
Willy Flint led Joppa cautiously up the board walk and tied him to a
pillar of the porch; the company began to retreat irregularly.

Suddenly the deacon, tall and black-coated, stood in the doorway, Mrs.
Crockett at his elbow pouring forth exclamations; and the retreat became
a flight. Little Nettie Paulus fell behind; she stood in the middle of
the road and wailed piteously.

The deacon glared at Joppa and Joppa’s grotesque necklace, looked after
the fleeing children and saw on the brow of the hill the group of his
fellow-townsmen. His forehead flushed and he hesitated. At last he took
the wreath awkwardly from Joppa’s neck, went into the house and shut
the door. The wreath hung in his front window seven months, and fell to
pieces about the end of November. Joppa died long after of old age and
rheumatism.



THE ELDER’ SEAT

|Between the mill and the miller’s house in Hagar the Mill Stream made
a broad pool with a yellow bottom of pebbles and sand. It was sometimes
called the Mediterranean. If you wished to cross the Mill Stream, there
was a plank below, which was good to jounce on also, though apt to tip
you into the water. The pool was shallow, about twenty feet across and
as long as you might care to go upstream,--as far as the clay bank,
anyway, where Chub Leroy built the city of Alexandria. Jeannette Paulus
walked all over Alexandria to catch a frog, and made a mess of it,
and did not catch the frog. That is the way of things in this world.
Alexandria fell in a moment, with all her palaces and towers. But there
were other cities, and commerce was lively on the Mediterranean.

On the nearer side, against the gray, weatherbeaten flank of the
miller’s house was a painted bench, for convenience of the morning sun
and afternoon shade; and I call it now the Elders’ Seat, because Captain
David Brett and others were often to be seen sitting there in the sun
or shade. I remember the minister was there, and Job Mather, the miller,
whenever his grist ran low, so that he let his stem millstones cease
to grind. These were the three to whom the Elders’ Seat seemed to us to
belong by right of continuance, because our short memories ran not to
the contrary. Captain David was well in his seventies, the miller not
far behind, and Mr. Royce already gray-haired. They sat and watched the
rise and fall of cities, the growth and decay of commerce, the tumult of
conquests, and the wreck of high ambition. They noticed that one thing
did not change nor cease, namely, the ripple of the stream; just as
if, in history, there really were a voice distinguishable that went
murmuring forever.

After the fall of Alexandria Damascus was built, but inland, so that it
had to be reached by caravan; and Moses Durfey laid the foundations of
Byzantium where the pool narrowed into rushing water, and Venice was
planted low in a marshy place hard by the seven hills of Rome. But you
must know that Bobby Bell built the city of Rome absurdly, and filled it
with pot-holes to keep frogs in and floating black bugs, so that it
was impossible to hold it against the Carthaginians. There were wars in
those days. These were the main marts of trade, but there were quays
and fortresses elsewhere; and it should be told sometime how the Barbary
pirates came down. Rome was in a bad way, for Bobby had one aquarium in
the Campus Martius, and another where the Forum should have been. There
was nothing flourishing but the aqueducts.

The three Elders would sit leaning forward, watching the changes of
fortune and event that went on from hour to hour by the Mediterranean.
The captain smoked his pipe; the minister rested his chin on his cane;
the miller’s hands were on his knees, his large white face stolid,
his heavy lips seldom moving. He was a thinking man, the miller,--a
slow-moving, slow-speaking, persistent man, and a fatalist in his way of
thinking, though he used no such term; it was his notion of things.

They talked of old history out of Gibbon and Grote and the Seven
Monarchies, and they talked of things that had happened to them as
men in the world; but the things which they thought of most often, in
watching the children and the Mill Stream, they said little about, for
these had not happened a thousand or two thousand years before, nor
twenty or thirty, but just sixty or seventy. And this was why they came
so often to the Elders’ Seat, because something dim and happy seemed to
come up to them, like a mist, from the Mill Stream, where the children
quarrelled and contrived.

“I’ll tell ye what ailed Rome,” said Captain David. “She needed to be
keeled and scraped. She fouled her bottom!”

The minister answered slowly: “No, she was rotten within. She lost the
faith in God and in man that keeps a people sound.”

“Ho! Well, then she wa’n’t handled right.”

The miller rubbed his thumb slowly on the palm of his hand. “She was
grinded out,” he said. “She couldn’t help it. Corn can’t keep itself
from meal when the stones gets at it. No more a man can’t keep his bones
from dust, nor a people, either, I’m thinking, when its time comes.”

The minister shook his head. “I don’t like that.”

“I don’t know as I do, either. And I don’t know as that makes any
difference.”

“Ho!” said the captain. “Bobby’s got a new frog!”

And Chub Leroy cried out in despair: “Look out, Bobby! You’re stepping
on the Colosseum!”

I would not pretend to say how long the Elders’ Seat had stood there, or
how many years the Elders had come to it now and again; but I remember
that it seemed to us very permanent, in a world of shifting empires,
where Alexandria was suddenly walked upon and deserted, and Venice went
down the current in a rainy night, and was spoken of no more. We could
not remember when it had not stood in its place. It was a kind of
Olympus to us, or Delphi, where we went for oracles on shipping and
other matters.

Afterward we grew up, and became too old to dabble and make beautiful
things of gray clay, except Chub Leroy, who is still doing something
of that kind, cutting and building with clay and stone. But the Elders’
Seat remained, and the Elders watched other children, as if nothing had
happened. Only, Captain David had trouble to keep his pipe in his mouth.
So that when the Elders’ Seat took its first journey, it seemed very
difficult for us to understand,--even for those who were too old to
dabble in gray clay.

It was not more than a quarter of a mile from the mill, past the drug
store, the Crocketts’ house, where Captain David lived, and so on by
the crossroads, to the minister’s, with the graveyard just beyond. I
remember how very yellow and dusty the road was in the summer of ‘86, so
that the clay bottom cracked off in flat pieces, which could be gathered
up; and then, if you climbed the wall with care enough, you could scale
them at woodchucks. August was sultry and still. The morning-glories
drooped on Captain David’s porch, and the pigeons on the roof went to
sleep more than was natural.

The minister and Job Mather sat, one afternoon, in the Elders’ Seat;
for Captain David, he had not gone out through his gate those many days.
There was history enough in process on the Mediterranean. The Americans
and Carthaginians were preparing to have a battle, on account of docks
that ran too near together. The Elders discovered that they did not care
about it.

The miller got to his feet, and lifted one end of the bench. “Come,” he
said gruffly. “Let’s move it.”

“Hey!” said the minister, looking troubled and a bit lost. Then his lips
trembled. “Yes, Job. That’s so, Job. We’d better move it.”

The children came up from the Mediterranean in a body, and stared. It
was much to them as if, in Greece, the gods had risen up and gone away,
for unknown reasons, taking Olympus with them. The old men went along
the yellow, dusty road with very shuffling steps, carrying the Elders’
Seat, one at each end, till they turned into Captain David’s garden and
put it down against the porch. Mrs. Crockett came to the door, and held
up her hands in astonishment. Captain David was helped out. He was faded
and worn with pain. He settled himself in the Elders’ Seat. It did not
seem possible to say anything. The captain smoked his pipe; the minister
rested his chin on his cane; the miller’s hands were on his knees, his
large white face stolid and set.

“I’m goin’ to shell those peas to-morrow,” began the captain at last.
Then his voice broke, and a mist came into his eyes.

“I bet ye the Americans are licking the Carthaginians.”

On the contrary, the Americans and Carthaginians, with other nations,
were hanging over the picket fence, staring and bewildered. What was the
use of mere human wars, if primeval things could be suddenly changed?
The grass might take a notion to come up pink or the seas to run out at
the bottom, and that sort of thing would make a difference.

The sun dropped low in the west, and presently Chub Leroy, who built the
city of Alexandria ten years before, came slowly along in the shadow
of the maples, and St. Agnes Macree was with him. She was old Caspar
Macree’s granddaughter, and he was a charcoal-burner on the Cattle Ridge
long ago. They were surprised to see the Elders’ Seat, and stopped a
moment. St. Agnes looked up at him and smiled softly, and Chub’s eyes
kept saying, “Sweetheart, sweetheart,” all the time. Then they went on.

“I remember--” said Captain David, and stopped short.

“Eh! So do I,” said the minister.

“You do! Well, Job, do you remember? Ain’t it the remarkablest thing!”

The miller’s heavy face was changed with a slow, embarrassed smile. And
all these three sat a long time very still, while the sunlight slanted
among the morning-glories and the pigeons slept on the roof.

There came a day in September when the minister and the miller were
alone again on the Elders’ Seat, but Captain David lay in his bed near
the window. He slept a great deal, and babbled in his half dreams:
sometimes about ships and cordage, anchorage in harbors and whaling in
the south seas; and at times about some one named “Kitty.” I never heard
who Kitty was. He said something or other “wasn’t right.” He took the
trouble and the end of things all in good part, and bore no grudge to
any one for it; it seemed only natural, like coming to anchor at last.

“When a man gets legs like mine,” he said, “it’s time he took another
way of getting round. Something like a fish’d be my notion. Parson, a
man gets the other side of somewhere, he can jump round lively-like,
same as he was a boy, eh?”

The minister murmured something about “our Heavenly Father,” and Captain
David said softly: “I guess he don’t call us nothing but boys. He says,
‘Shucks! it ain’t natural for ‘em to behave.’ Don’t ye think, parson?
Him, he might see an old man like me and tell him, ‘Glad to see ye,
sonny’; same as Harrier in Doty’s Slip. The boys come in after a year
out, or maybe three years, and old man Harrier, he says, ‘Glad to see
ye, sonny’; and the boys gets terrible drunk. He kept a junk-shop,
Harrier.”

The minister tried to answer, but could not make it out.

“I saw a ship go down sudden-like. It was in ‘44. It was inside Cape
Cod. Something blowed her up inside. Me, I’ve took my time, I have. What
ye grumbling about, parson?”

In the morning the shutters were closed, and all about the house was
still. The pigeons were cooing on the roof of the porch; and Captain
David was dead, without seeing any reason to grumble. Down at the mill
the miller watched his monotonous millstones grinding slowly.

The Elders’ Seat was moved once more after Captain David died, not
back to the Mediterranean, but further up the yellow road and into the
minister’s yard, facing westward. From there the captain’s white slab
could be seen through the cemetery gate. The two Elders occupied the
seat some years, and then went in through the gate.

But the Elders’ Seat and its journeys from place to place seemed to
have some curious meaning, hardly to be spelled. I imagine this far, at
least: that at a certain point it became to the two more natural, more
quiet and happy, to turn their eyes in the direction the captain had
gone than in the direction they had all come. It pleased them then to
move the Elders’ Seat a little nearer to the gate. And when the late
hour came, it was rather a familiar matter. The minister went in to look
for his Master, and the miller according to his’ notion of things.



THE ROMANCE OF THE INSTITUTE

|Not quite two centuries of human life have gone quietly in Wimberton,
and for the most part it has been on Main and Chester Streets. Main
Street is a quarter of a mile long and three hundred feet wide, with
double roads, and between them a clean lawn shaded by old elms. Chester
Street is narrow and crowded with shops, and runs from the middle of
Main down-hill to the railway and the river. It is the business street
for Wimberton and the countryside of fifteen miles about. Main Street
is surrounded by old houses of honorable frontage, two churches, and the
Solley Institute, which used to be called “Solley’s Folly” by frivolous
aliens.

Mr. Solley, who owned the mines up the river and the foundries that have
been empty and silent these many years, founded it in 1840. At the time
I remember best the Institute had twenty-one trustees, lady patronesses,
matrons, and nurses; and three beneficiaries, or representatives of the
“aged, but not destitute, of Hamilton County.” That seemed odd to the
alien.

Mr. Solley need not have been so rigid about the equipment and
requirements of admission, except that he had in mind an institution of
dignity. It stood at the head of Main Street, with wide piazzas like a
hotel. The aristocracy of old Wimberton used to meet there and pass the
summer afternoons. The young people gave balls in the great parlors, and
the three beneficiaries looked on, and found nothing to complain of in
the management. What matter if it were odd? True Wimberton folk never
called the Institute a folly, but only newcomers, before years of
residence made them endurable and able to understand Wimberton. Failure
is a lady of better manners than Success, who is forward, complacent,
taking herself with unpleasant seriousness. Imagine the Institute
swarming with people from all parts of the county, a staring success in
beneficence!

Mr. Solley’s idea was touched with delicacy. It was not a home for
Hamilton County poor, but for those who, merely lingering somewhat on
the slow descent, found it a lonely road. For there is a period in
life, of varying length, when, one’s purposes having failed or been
unfulfilled, the world seems quite occupied by other people who are busy
with themselves. Life belongs at any one time to the generation which
is making the most of it. A beneficiary was in a certain position of
respectable humility. But I suppose it was not so much Mr. Solley’s
discrimination as that in 1840 his own house was empty of all but a
few servants; and so out of his sense of loneliness grew his idea of a
society of the superannuated. That was the Solley Institute.

It is not so difficult to recreate old Wimberton of seventy years back,
for the same houses stood on Main Street, and the familiar names were
then heard--Solley, Gore, Cutting, Gilbert, Cass, Savage. The elms were
smaller, with fewer lights under them at night, and gravel paths instead
of asphalt.

One may even call up those who peopled the street, whom time has
disguised or hidden away completely. Lucia Gore has dimples,--instead of
those faded cheeks one remembers at the Institute,--and quick movements,
and a bewildering prettiness, in spite of the skirts that made women
look like decanters or tea-bells in 1830. She is coming down the gravel
sidewalk with a swift step, a singular fire and eagerness of manner,
more than one would suppose Miss Lucia to have once possessed.

And there is the elder Solley, already with that worn, wintry old face
we know from his portrait at the Institute, and John Solley, the son,
both with high-rolled collars, tall hats, and stiff cravats. Women said
that John Solley was reckless, but one only notices that he is very
tall.

“I’m glad to see you are in a hurry, too, my dear. We might hurry up the
wedding among us all,” says the elder Solley, with a grim smile and a
bow. “Ha! Glad to see you in a hurry;” and he passes on, leaving the two
together. Lucia flushes and seems to object.

Is not that Mrs. Andrew Cutting in the front window of the gabled house
directly behind them? Then she is thinking how considerate it is, how
respectful to Main Street, that John and Lucia are to marry.

The past springs up quickly, even to little details. Mrs. Cutting wears
a morning cap, has one finger on her cheek, and is wondering why John
looks amused and Lucia in a temper. “He will have to behave himself,”
 thinks Mrs. Cutting. “Lucia is--dear me, Lucia is very decided. I don’t
really know that John likes to behave himself.” And all these people of
1830 are clearly interested in their own affairs, and care little for
those who will look back at them, seventy years away.

Love climbs trees in the Hesperides, day in and out, very busy with
their remarkable fruit, the dragon lying beneath with indifferent jaws.
Do we observe how recklessly the young man reaches out, and how slightly
he knows the nature of his footing? The branches of such apple trees as
bear golden fruit are notoriously brittle. He might drop into the lazy
throat of Fate by as easy an accident as the observer into figures of
speech, and the dragon care little about the matter. That indifference
of Fate is hard, for it seems an expense for no value received by any
one. We are advised to be as little melancholy as possible, and charge
it to profit and loss.

It is well known that John Solley left Wimberton late one night in
October, 1830. In the morning the two big stuccoed houses of Gore and
Solley looked at each other across the street under the yellow arch of
leaves with that mysterious expression which they ever after seemed to
possess to the dwellers on Main Street. And the Gores’ housemaid picked
up a glittering something from the fell of the bearskin rug on the
parlor floor.

“Land! It’s Miss Lucia’s engagement ring. She’s a careless girl!”
 Plannah was a single woman of fifty, and spoke with strong moral
indignation.

Some mornings later Mr. Solley came stiffly down his front steps,
crossed the street under the yellow elms, and went in between the white
pillars of the Gore house. Mr. Gore was a middle-aged man, chubby,
benevolent, gray-haired, deliberate. He sank back in his easy-chair in
fat astonishment.

“Oh, dear me! I don’t know.”

Lucia was called.

“Mr. Solley wishes to ask you--a--something.”

“I wish to ask if my son has treated you badly,” said Mr. Solley, most
absurdly.

“Not at all, Mr. Solley.”

Lucia’s eyes were suddenly hot and shining.

“I beg your pardon, but if John is a scoundrel, you will do me a favor
by telling me so.”

“Where is he? I shall do nothing of the kind.”

“I am about to write to my son.”

“And that’s nothing to me,” she cried, and went swiftly out of the room.

“Oh, I suppose he’s only a fool,” said Mr. Solley, grimly. “I knew that.
Spirited girl, Gore, very. Good morning.”

“Dear me!” said Mr. Gore, mildly, rubbing his glasses. “How quickly they
do things!”

Elderly gentlemen whose wives are dead and children adventuring in the
Hesperides should take advice. Mrs. Cutting might have advised against
this paragraph in Mr. Solley’s letter:

“I have taken the trouble to inquire whether you have been acting as a
gentleman should. Inasmuch as Miss Lucia seemed to imply that the matter
no longer interests her, I presume she has followed her own will, which
is certainly a woman’s right. With respect to the Michigan lands, I
inclose surveys. You will do well,” etc.

But Mr. Solley had not for many years thought of the Hesperides as a
more difficult piece of property to survey than another. Men and women
followed their own wills there as elsewhere, and were quite right, so
long as they did business honorably. And Mr. Gore had been a managed and
advised man all his wedded life, and had not found, that it increased
his happiness. That advice had always tended to embark him on some
enterprise that was fatiguing.

“A good woman, Letitia,” often ran Mr. Gore’s reflections; and then,
with a sense of furtiveness, as if Letitia somewhere in the spiritual
universe might overhear his thought, “a little masterful--a--spirited,
very.”

But it was hard for Wimberton people to have a secret shut up among
them. It was not respectful to Main Street, with John Solley fleeing
mysteriously in the night and coming no more to Wimberton, and Lucia
going about with her nose in the air, impossible to sympathize with.
Some months passed, and Lucia seemed more subdued, then very quiet
indeed, with a liking to sit by her father’s side, to Mr. Gore’s slight
uneasiness. She might wish him to do something.

He knew no more than Wimberton what had happened to send John westward
and Lucia to sitting beside him in unused silence; but he differed from
Wimberton in thinking it perhaps not desirable to know. He would pat
her hand furtively, and polish his glasses, without seeming to alter the
situation. Once he asked timidly if it were not dull for her.

“No, father.”

“I’ve thought sometimes--sometimes--a--I don’t remember what I was going
to say.”

Lucia’s head went down till it almost rested on his knee.

“Father--do you know--where John is?”

“Why--a--of course, Mr. Solley--”

“No, no, father! No!”

“Well, I might inquire around--a--somewhere.”

“No! Oh, promise me you won’t ask any one! Promise!”

“Certainly, my dear,” said Mr. Gore, very much confused.

“It is no matter,” said Lucia, eagerly.

Mr. Gore thought for several minutes, but no idea seemed to occur to
him, and it relieved him to give it up.

Months have a way of making years by a rapid arithmetic, and years that
greet us with such little variety of expression are the more apt to
step behind with faint reproach and very swiftly. Mr. Solley founded
the Institute in 1840, and died. The Solley house stood empty, and Miss
Lucia Gore by that time was living alone, except for the elderly maiden,
Hannah. Looking at the old elms of Wimberton, grave and orderly, there
is much to be said for a vegetable life. There is no right dignity but
in the slow growths of time.

The elms increased their girth; the railway crept up the river; the
young men went to Southern battle-fields, and some of them returned;
children of a second generation walked in the Hesperides; the Institute
was reduced to three beneficiaries; Main Street smelled of tar from the
asphalt sidewalks; Chester Street was prosperous. Banks failed in ‘73,
and “Miss Lucia has lost everything,” said Wimberton gossip.

The Solley house was alternately rented and empty, the Gore house was
sold, Miss Lucia went up to the Institute, and gossip in Wimberton woke
again.

“Of course the Institute is not like other places, but then--”

“Miss Lucia was such a lady.”

“But it’s a charity, after all.”

“Very sensible of Miss Lucia, I’m sure.”

“She was engaged to old Institute Solley’s son once, but it ended with a
bump.”

“Then Miss Lucia goes to the Institute who might have gone to the Solley
house.”

“Oh, that is what one doesn’t know.”

“Miss Lucia a beneficiary! But isn’t that rather embarrassing?”

“I wonder if she--”

“My dear, it was centuries ago. One does n’t think of love-affairs fifty
years old. They dry up.”

“Respectable, and you pay a little.”

“But a charity really.”

That year the public library was built on Main and Gilbert Streets, the
great elm fell down in the Institute yard, Mrs. Andrew Cutting died
at ninety-eight, with good sense and composure, and here is a letter
written by Miss Lucia to Babbie Cutting. Babbie Cutting, I remember, had
eyes like a last-century romance, never fancy-free, and her dolls loved
and were melancholy, when we were children together under the elms in
Wimberton. The letter is written in thin, flowing lines on lavender
paper.

_My dear Child_: I am afraid you thought that your question offended me,
but it did not, indeed. I was engaged to Mr. John Solley many years ago.
I think I had a very hasty temper then, which I think has quite wasted
away now, for I have been so much alone. But then I sometimes fell into
dreadful rages. Mr. Solley was a very bold man, not easily influenced or
troubled, who laughed at my little faults and whims more than I thought
he should.

You seemed to ask what sudden and mysterious thing happened to us, but,
my dear, one’s life is chiefly moved by trifles and little accidents and
whims. Mr. Solley came one night, and I fancied he had been neglecting
me, for I was very proud, more so than ordinary life permits women to
be. I remember that he stood with his hands behind him, smiling. He
looked so easy and strong, so impossible to disturb, and said, “You’re
such a little spitfire, Lucia,” and I was so angry, it was like hot
flames all through my head.

I cried, “How dare you speak to me so!”

“I don’t know,” he said, and laughed. “It seems perilous.”

I tore his ring from my finger and threw it in his face. It struck his
forehead and fell to the floor without any sound. There was a tiny red
cut on his forehead.

“That is your engagement ring,” he said.

“Take it away. I want nothing more to do with you,” I cried--very
foolishly, for I did, and my anger was going off in fright. He turned
around and went from the house. The maid found the ring in the morning.
Mr. Solley had left Wimberton that night. Well, my dear, that is all. I
thought he would have come back. It seemed as if he might. I am so old
now that I do not mind talking, but I was proud then, and women are not
permitted to be very proud. Do your romances tell you that women are
foolish and men are sometimes hard on them?

That is not good romance at all, but if you will come to see me again
I will tell you much better romances than mine that I have heard, for
other people’s lives are interesting, even if mine has been quite dull.

Will you put this letter away to remember me by? But do not think of me
as a complaining old woman, for I have had a long life of leisure and
many friends. I do not think any one who really cares for me will do so
the less for my living at the Institute, and only those we love are of
real importance to us. It is kind of you to visit me.

_Your Affectionate Friend._

So half a century is put lightly aside; Miss Lucia has found it quite
dull; and here is the year 1885, when, as every one knows, John Solley
came back to Wimberton, a tall old man with a white mustache, heavy
brows, and deep eyes. Men thought it an honor to the town that the great
and rich Mr. Solley, so dignified a man, should return to spend his last
days in Wimberton. He would be its ornamental citizen, the proper leader
of its aristocracy. But Babbie Cutting thought of another function. What
matter for the melancholy waste of years, fifty leagues across? Love
should walk over it triumphant, unwearied, and find a fairer romance
at the end. Were there not written in the books words to that effect?
Babbie moved in a world of dreams, where knights were ever coming home
from distant places, or, at least, where every one found happiness after
great trouble. She looked up into Mr. Solley’s eyes and thought them
romantic to a degree. When she heard he had never married the thing
seemed as good as proved. And the little old lady at the Institute with
the old-fashioned rolled curls above her ears--what a sequel!

It was a white winter day. The elms looked so cold against the sky that
it was difficult to remember they had ever been green, or believe it was
in them to put forth leaves once more. The wind drove the sharp-edged
particles of snow directly in Babbie’s face, and she put her head down,
covering her mouth with her furs. She turned in at the Solley house,
and found herself in the drawing-room, facing that tall, thin,
military-looking old man, and feeling out of breath and troubled what to
do first. But Mr. Solley was not a man to let any girl whatever be ill
at ease, and surely not one with cheeks and eyes and soft hair like
Babbie Cutting. Presently they were experienced friends. Babbie sat in
Mr. Solley’s great chair and stretched her hands toward the fire. Mr.
Solley was persuaded to take up his cigar again.

“I had not dared to hope,” he said, “that my native place would welcome
me so charmingly. I have made so many new friends, or rather they seemed
to be friends already, though unknown to me, that I seem to begin life
again. I seem to start it all over. I should have returned sooner.”

“Oh, I’m sure you should have,” said Babbie, eagerly. “And do you know
who is living at the Institute now?”

“The Institute? I had almost forgotten the Institute, and I am a
trustee, which is very neglectful of duty. Who is living at the
Institute now?”

“Miss Lucia Gore.”

Mr. Solley was silent, and looked at Babbie oddly under his white
eyebrows, so that her cheeks began to burn, and she was not a little
frightened, though quite determined and eager.

“Miss Lucia lost all her money when the banks failed, and she sold the
Gore house, and got enough interest to pay her dues and a little more;
but it seems so sad for Miss Lucia, because people will patronize her,
not meaning to. But they ‘re so stupid--or, at least, it doesn’t seem
like Miss Lucia.”

“I did not know she was living,” said Mr. Solley, quietly.

“Oh, how could you--be that way!”

Mr. Solley looked steadily at Babbie, and it seemed to him as if her
face gave him a clue to something that he had groped for in the darkness
of late, as if some white mist were lifted from the river and he could
see up its vistas and smoky cataracts. How could he be that way? It is
every man’s most personal and most unsolved enigma--how he came to be
that way, to be possible as he is. Up the river he saw a face somewhat
like Babbie’s, somewhat more imperious, but with the same pathetic
eagerness and desire for abundance of life. How could young John Solley
become old John Solley? Looking into Babbie’s eyes, he seemed able to
put the two men side by side.

“At one time, Miss Barbara,” he said, “--you will forgive my saying
so,--I should have resented your reference. Now I am only thinking how
kind it is of you to forget that I am old.”

Babbie did not quite understand, and felt troubled, and not sure of her
position.

“Mr. Solley,” she said, “I--I have a letter from Miss Lucia. Do you
think I might show it to you?”

“It concerns me?”

“Y-yes.”

He walked down the room and back again.

“I don’t know that you ought, but you have tempted me to wish that you
would. Thank you.” He put on his glasses and read it slowly. Babbie
thought he read it like a business letter.

“He ought to turn pale or red,” she thought. “Oh, he oughtn’t to wear
his spectacles on the end of his nose!”

Mr. Solley handed back the letter.

“Thank you, Miss Barbara,” he said, and began to talk of her
great-grandmother Cutting.

Babbie blinked back her sudden tears. It was very different from
a romance, where the pages will always turn and tell you the story
willingly, where the hero always shows you exactly how he feels. She
thought she would like to cry somewhere else. She stood up to go.

“I’m sorry I’m so silly,” she said, with a little gulp and trying to be
dignified.

Mr. Solley looked amused, so far as that the wrinkles deepened about his
eyes.

“Will you be a friend of mine?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Babbie, plaintively, but she did not think she would. How
could she, and he so cold, so prosaic! She went out into the snow, which
was driving down Main Street from the Institute. It was four by the town
clock.

They said in Wimberton that Mr. Solley left his house at seven o’clock
in the evening, and that Stephen, the gardener, held an umbrella in
front of him to keep off the storm all the way up the hill to the
Institute. And they said, too, that the lights were left burning in
the Solley house, and the fire on the hearth, and that the book he
was reading when Babbie went in lay open on the table. The fire burned
itself out. Stephen came in late, closed the book, and put out the
lights, and in the morning went about town saying that Mr. Solley was to
enter the Institute as a beneficiary.

But it is a secret that on that snowy evening Mr. Solley and Miss Lucia
sat in the great east parlor of the Institute, with a lamp near by,
but darkness in all the distances about them. His hands were on his
gold-headed cane; Miss Lucia’s rolls of white curls were very tidy over
her ears, and her fingers were knitting something placidly. She was
saying it was “quite impossible. One doesn’t want to be absurd at
seventy-five.”

“I suppose not,” said Mr. Solley. “I shouldn’t mind it. What do you
think of the other plan?”

“If you want my permission to be a beneficiary,” said Miss Lucia, with
her eyes twinkling, “I think it would be a proper humiliation for you. I
think you deserve it.”

“It would be no humiliation.”

“It was for me--some.”

“It shall be so no more. I’ll make them wish they were all old enough to
do the same--hem--confound them!”

“Did you think of it that way, John?”

Mr. Solley was silent for some moments.

“Do you know, I have been a busy man,” he said at last, “but there was
nothing in it all that I care to think over now. And to-day, for the
first time, that seemed to me strange. It was shown to me--that is, I
saw it was strange. We have only a few years left, and you will let
me be somewhat near you while they pass. Isn’t that enough? It seems a
little vague. Well, then, yes. I thought of it that way, as you say. Do
you mind my thinking of it that way?”

Miss Lucia’s eyes grew a little tearful, but she managed to hide it
by settling her glasses. Seventy-five years in a small town make the
opinions of one’s neighbors part of the structure of existence. It was
bitter, the thought that Main Street tacitly patronized her.

“Why, no, I don’t mind.”

She dropped her knitting and laughed suddenly.

“I think, John,” she said, “that I missed marrying a very nice man.”

Mr. Solley’s glasses fell off with surprise. He put them on again and
chuckled to himself.

“My father used to call me a--hem--a fool. He used to state things more
accurately than you did.”

After all, there was no other institute like Wimberton’s. The standards
of other places were no measure for our conduct, and the fact that such
things were not seen elsewhere was a flattering reason why they should
be seen in Wimberton; namely, only five beneficiaries, and one of them
a rich man and a trustee. It was singular, but it suited Wimberton to
be singular. One thing was plain to all, that if Mr. Solley was a
beneficiary, then to be a beneficiary was a dignified, well-bred, and
suitable thing. But one thing was not plain to all, why he chose to be
a beneficiary. Babbie Cutting went up to the Institute, and coming back,
wept for pure sentiment in her white-curtained room, with the picture on
the wall of Sir Lancelot riding down by the whirling river, the island,
and the gray-walled castle of Shalott.

I remember well the great ball and reception that Mr. Solley gave at the
Institute to celebrate his entry, and how we all paid our respects
to the five beneficiaries, four old men, who were gracious, but
patronizing,--one with gold eye-glasses and gold-headed cane,--and Miss
Lucia, with the rolled curls over her ears. The Institute, from that
time on, looked down on Main Street with a different air, and never lost
its advantage. It seemed to many that the second Solley had refounded it
for one of those whims that are ornamental in the rich. Babbie Cutting
said to her heart, “He refounded it for Miss Lucia.”

There was nowhere in Wimberton such dignified society as at the
Institute. Even so that the last visitor of all seemed only to come
by invitation, and to pay his respects with proper ceremony: “Sir, or
madam, I hope it is not an inconvenient time,” or similar phrase.

“Oh, not at all. It seems very dark around.”

“Will you take my arm? The path is steep and worn, and here is a small
matter of a river, as you see. I regret that the water is perhaps a
trifle cold. Yes, one hears so much talk about the other side that one
hardly knows what to think. There is no hurry. But at this point I say
good night and leave you. When you were young you often heard good night
said when the morning was at hand. May it be so. Good night.”



NAUSICAA

|The Fourteenth Infantry, volunteers, were mustered out on the last day
of April. Sandy Cass and Kid Sadler came that night into the great city
of the river and the straits with their heads full of lurid visions
which they set about immediately to realize. Little Irish was with them,
and Bill Smith, who had had other names at other times. And Sandy woke
the next morning in a room that had no furniture but a bed, a washstand,
a cracked mirror, and a chair. He did not remember coming there. Some
one must have put him to bed. It was not Kid Sadler or Little Irish;
they were drunk early, with bad judgment. It must have been Bill Smith.
A hat with a frayed cord lay on the floor. “That’s Bill’s hat,” he said.
“He’s got mine.”

The gray morning filled the window, and carts rattled by in the street.
He rose and drank from the pitcher to clear the bitterness from his
mouth, and saw himself in the glass, haggard and holloweyed. It was a
clean-cut face, with straight, thin lips, straight eyebrows, and brown
hair. The lips were white and lines ran back from the eyes. Sandy did
not think he looked a credit to himself.

“Some of it’s yellow fever,” he reflected, “and some of it’s jag. About
half and half. The squire can charge it to the yellow.”

He wondered what new thing Squire Cass would find to say to his
“rascally nephew, that reprobate Ulysses.” Squire Cass was a red-faced
gentleman and substantial citizen of that calm New England town of
Wimberton, which Sandy knew very well and did not care for. It was too
calm. But it would be good for his constitution to go there now. He
wondered if his constitution would hold out for another night equally
joyful; “Maybe it might;” then how much of his eighty dollars’ back pay
was blown in. He put on his clothes slowly, feeling through the pockets,
collected two half-dollars on the way, came to the last and stopped.

“Must have missed one;” and began again. But that crumpled wad of bills
was gone altogether. “Well, if I ain’t an orphan!”

He remembered last a place with bright glass chandeliers, a gilt cupid
over the bar, a girl in a frowzy hat, laughing with large teeth, and Kid
Sadler singing that song he had made up and was so “doggone stuck on”:

                   “Sandy Cass! A-alas!

                   We ‘ll be shut up

                   In the lockup

                   If this here keeps on.”

It got monotonous, that song.

                   “Sandy Cass! A-alas!

                   A comin’ home,

                   A bummin home--”

He liked to make poetry, Kid Sadler. You would not have expected it, to
look at his sloppy mustache, long dry throat, and big hands. The poetry
was generally accurate. Sandy did not see any good in it, unless it was
accurate.

               “Little Irish is a Catholic, he come from I-er-land;

               He ain’t a whole cathedral, nor a new brass band;

               He got religion in ‘is joints from the hoonin of a shell,

               An ‘is auburn hair’s burned bricky red from leanin over

                        hell’’

That was accurate enough, though put in figures of speech, but the Kid
was still more accurate regarding Bill Smith:

                   “Nobody knows who Bill Smith is,

                   His kin nor yet his kith,

                   An nobody cares who Bill Smith is,

                   An neither does Bill Smith;”

which was perfectly true. Anyhow the Kid could not have taken the wad,
nor Little Irish. It must have been Bill Smith.

“It was Bill,” he decided.

He did not make any special comments. Some thing or other happens to a
man every day. He went down-stairs, through a dim narrow hallway.

“Hope there don’t any one want something of me. I don’t believe they ‘ll
get it.”

There were sounds in the basement, but no one met him. In the street the
Ninth Avenue car rolled by, a block away. He saw a restaurant sign which
said fearlessly that a stew cost ten cents, went in and breakfasted for
fifteen, waited on by a thin, weary woman, who looked at his blue coat
and braided hat with half-roused interest.

The cobble-stones on Sixth Avenue were shining and wet. Here and there
some one in the crowd turned to look after him. It might have been the
uniform, the loafer’s slouch of the hat, taken with the face being young
and too white.

The hands of the station clock stood at ten. He took a ticket to the
limit of eighty-five cents, heard dimly the name of a familiar junction;
and then the rumble of the train was under him for an hour. Bill Smith
had left him his pipe and tobacco. Bill had good points. Sandy was
inclined to think kindly of Bill’s thoughtfulness, and envy him his
enterprise. The roar of the car-wheels sounded like Kid Sadler’s voice,
hoarse and choky, “A-alas, a-alas!”

It was eleven o’clock at the junction. The mist of the earlier morning
had become a slow drizzle. Trains jangled to and fro in the freight
yards. He took a road which led away from the brick warehouses, streets
of shady trees and lawns, and curved to the north, along the bank of a
cold, sleepy river.

There was an unpainted, three-room house somewhere, where a fat woman
said “Good land!” and gave him a plate full of different things, on a
table covered with oil-cloth. He could not remember afterward what he
ate, or what the woman said further. He remembered the oil-cloth, which
had a yellow-feverish design of curved lines, that twisted snakily, and
came out of the cloth and ran across the plate. Then out in the gray
drizzle again.

All the morning his brain had seemed to grow duller and duller, heavy
and sodden; but in the afternoon red lights began dancing in the
mist. It might have been five miles or twenty he had gone by dusk; the
distinction between miles and rods was not clear--they both consisted
of brown mud and gray mist. Sometimes it was a mile across the road. The
dusk, and then the dark, heaved, and pulsed through blood-red veins, and
peeled, and broke apart in brilliant cracks, as they used to do nights
in the field hospital. There seemed to be no hope or desire in him,
except in his feet, which moved on. The lights that travelled with him
got mixed with lights on each side of a village street, and his feet
walked in through a gate. They had no reason for it, except that the
gate stood open and was painted white. He pushed back the door of a
little garden tool-house beside the path, and lay down on the floor.
He could not make out which of a number of things were happening. The
Fourteenth Infantry appeared to be bucking a steep hill, with the smoke
rolling down over it; but on the other hand Kid Sadler was singing
hoarsely, but distinctly, “A-alas, a-alas!” and moreover, a dim light
shone through a white-curtained window somewhere between a rod and a
mile away, and glimmered down the wet path by the tool-house. Some one
said, “Some of it’s jag and some of it’s the yellow. About half and
half.” He might have been making the remark himself, except that he
appeared to be elsewhere. The rain kept up a thin whisper on the roof
of the tool-house. Gasps, shouts, thumping of feet, clash of rifle and
canteen. The hill was as steep as a wall. Little Irish said, “His legs
was too short to shtep on the back av his neck wid the shteepness av the
hill.”

“A-alas! A comin’ home.”

“Oh, shut up, Kid!”

“A-alas, a-alas!” The dark was split with red gashes, as it used to be
in the field hospital. The rain whispered on the roof and the wet path
glimmered like silk.

It was the village of Zoar, which lies far back to the west of
Wyantenaug Valley, among low waves of hills, the house the old Hare
Place, and Miss Elizabeth Hare and Gracia lived there behind the white
gateway.

That gateway had once been an ancient arch overhead, with a green wooden
ball topping it. Some one cut a face on the ball, that leered into the
street. It did not in the least resemble Miss Elizabeth, whose smile
was gentle and cool; but it was taken down from its station of half a
century; and Gracia cried secretly, because everything would needs be
disconsolate without an arch and a proper wooden ball on top of it,
under which knights and witch ladies might come and go, riding and
floating. It seemed to break down the old garden life. Odd flowers would
not hold conversations any more, tiger-lilies and peonies bother
each other, the tigers being snappish and the peonies fat, slow, and
irritating. Before Gracia’s hair had abandoned yellow braids and become
mysterious, when she learned neat sewing and cross-stitch, she used to
set the tigers and peonies quarrelling to express her own feelings about
neat sewing and cross-stitch. Afterward she found the memory of that
wickedness too heavy, and confessed it to Miss Elizabeth, and added the
knights and witch ladies. Miss Elizabeth had said nothing, had seemed
disinclined to blame, and, going out into the garden, had walked to and
fro restlessly, stopping beside the tigers and peonies, and seeming to
look at the arched gateway with a certain wistfulness.

Miss Elizabeth had now a dimly faded look, the charm of a still
November, where now and then an Indian summer steals over the chill. She
wore tiny white caps, and her hair was singularly smooth; while Gracia’s
appeared rather to be blown back, pushed by the delicate fingers of a
breeze, that privately admired it, away from her eager face, with its
gray-blue eyes that looked at you as if they saw something else as well.
It kept you guessing about that other thing, and you got no further than
to wonder if it were not something, or some one, that you might be,
or might have been, if you had begun at it before life had become so
labelled and defined, so plastered over with maxims.

The new gateway was still a doubtful quantity in Gracia’s mind. It was
not justified. It had no connections, no consecrations; merely a white
gate against the greenery.

It was the whiteness which caught Sandy Cass’s dulled eyes, so that he
turned through, and lay down in the tool-house, and wondered which of a
number of incongruous things was really happening: Little Irish crying
plaintively that his legs were too short--“A-alas, a-alas!”--or the
whisper of the rain on the roof.

Gracia lifted the white curtains, looked out, and saw the wet path
shining.

“Is it raining, Gracia?”

“It drizzles like anything, and the tool-house door is open, and, oh,
aunty! the path shines quite down to the gate.”

“It generally shines in the rain, dear.”

“Oh!” said Gracia, thoughtfully. She seemed to be examining a sudden
idea, and began the pretence of a whistle which afterward became a true
fact.

“I wish it wouldn’t be generally, don’t you? I wish things would all be
specially.”

“I wouldn’t wi--I wouldn’t whistle, if I were you,” said Miss Elizabeth,
gently.

“Oh!” Gracia came suddenly with a ripple and coo of laughter, and
dropped on her knees by Miss Elizabeth. “You couldn’t, you poor aunty,
if you tried. You never learned, did you?”

Miss Elizabeth hesitated.

“I once tried to learn--of your father. I used to think it sounded
cheerful. But my mother would n’t allow it. What I really started to say
was, that I wouldn’t, if I were you, I wouldn’t wish so many things to
be other than they are. I used to wish for things to be different, and
then, you know, when they stay quite the same, it’s such a number of
troubles.”

Gracia clasped her fingers about one knee, studied the neatly built fire
and the blue and white tiles over it, and thought hard on the subject of
wishes. She thought that she had not wished things to be different, so
much as to remain the same as of old, when one wore yellow braids, and
could whistle with approval, and everything happened specially. Because
it is sad when you begin to suspect that the sun and moon and the
growths of spring do not care about you, but only act according to
habits they have fallen into, and that the shining paths, which seem
to lead from beyond the night, are common or accidental and not meant
specially. The elder romancers and the latest seers do insist together
that they are, that such highways indeed as the moon lays on the water
are translunary and come with purposes from a celestial city. The
romancers have a simple faith, and the seers an ingenious theory about
it. But the days and weeks argue differently. They had begun to trouble
the fealty that Gracia held of romance, and she had not met with the
theory of the seers.

Sandy Cass went through experiences that night which cannot be written,
for there was no sequence in them, and they were translunary and
sub-earthly; some of them broken fragments of his life thrown up at him
out of a kind of smoky red pit, very much as it used to be in the field
hospital. His life seemed to fall easily into fragments. There had not
been much sequence in it, since he began running away from the house of
the squire at fifteen. It had ranged between the back and front doors of
the social structure these ten years. The squire used to storm, because
it came natural to him to speak violently; but privately he thought
Sandy no more than his own younger self, let loose instead of tied down.
He even envied Sandy. He wished he would come oftener to entertain him.
Sandy was a periodical novel continued in the next issue, an irregular
and barbarous Odyssey, in which the squire, comparing with his Pope’s
translation, recognized Scylla and Charybdis, Cyclops and Circe, and
the interference of the quarrelling gods. But that night the story went
through the Land of Shadows and Red Dreams. Sandy came at last to the
further edge of the Land; beyond was the Desert of Dreamless Sleep; and
then something white and waving was before his eyes, and beyond was a
pale green shimmer. He heard a gruff voice:

“Hm--Constitution, Miss Hare. That chap had a solid ancestry. He ought
to have had a relapse and died, and he ‘ll be out in a week.”

Another voice said in an awed whisper:

“He’s like my Saint George!”

“Hm--Legendary? This St. G. looks as if he’d made up with his devil.
Looks as if they’d been tolerably good friends.”

A third voice remonstrated:

“Doctor!”

“Hm, hm--My nonsense, Miss Gracia, my nonsense.”

The two ladies and the doctor went out.

It was a long, low room, white, fragrant, and fresh. Soft white curtains
waved in open windows, and outside the late sunlight drifted shyly
through the pale green leaves of young maples. There were dainty things
about, touches of silk and lace, blue and white china on bureau and
dressing-table, a mirror framed with gilded pillars at the sides and a
painted Arcadia above.

“Well, if I ain’t an orphan!” grumbled Sandy, feebly.

An elderly woman with a checked apron brought him soup in a bowl. She
was quite silent and soon went out.

“It’s pretty slick,” he thought, looking around. “I could n’t have done
better if I’d been a widow.”

The drifting quiet of the days that Sandy lay there pleased him for the
time. It felt like a cool poultice on a wound. The purity and fragility
of objects was interesting to look at, so long as he lay still and did
not move about among them. But he wondered how people could live
there right along. They must keep everything at a distance, with a
feather-duster between. He had an impression that china things always
broke, and white things became dirty. Then it occurred to him that there
might be some whose nature, without any worry to themselves, was to keep
things clean and not to knock them over, to touch things in a feathery
manner, so that they did not have to stay behind a duster. This subject
of speculation lasted him a day or two, and Miss Elizabeth and Gracia
began to interest him as beings with that special gift. He admired
any kind of capability. Miss Elizabeth he saw often, the woman in the
checked apron till he was tired of her. But Gracia was only now and then
a desirable and fleeting appearance in the doorway, saying:

“Good morning, Saint George.”

She never stayed to tell him why “Saint George.” It came to the point
that the notion of her yellow hair would stay by him an hour or more
afterward. He began to wake from his dozes, fancying he heard “Good
morning, Saint George,” and finally to watch the doorway and fidget.

“This lying abed,” he concluded, “is played out.” He got up and hunted
about for his clothes. His knees and fingers trembled. The clothes hung
in the closet, cleaned and pressed, in the extraordinary neighborhood of
a white muslin dress. Sandy sat down heavily on the bed. Things seemed
to be whizzing and whimpering all about him. He waited for them to
settle, and pulled on his clothes gradually. At the end of an hour he
thought he might pass on parade, and crept out into the hall and down
the stairs. The sunlight was warm in the garden and on the porch, and
pale green among the leaves. Gracia sat against a pillar, clasping one
knee. Miss Elizabeth sewed; her work-basket was fitted up inside on an
intricate system. Gracia hailed him with enthusiasm, and Miss Elizabeth
remonstrated. He looked past Miss Elizabeth to find the yellow hair.

“This lying abed,” he said feebly, “is played out.”

Sitting in the sunlight, Sandy told his story gradually from day to day.
It was all his story, being made up of selections. He was skilful
from practice on the squire, but he saw the need of a new principle
of selection and combination. His style of narrative was his own. It
possessed gravity, candor, simplicity, an assumption that nothing could
be unreasonable or surprising which came in the course of events, that
all things and all men were acceptable. Gracia thought that simplicity
beautiful, that his speech was like the speech of Tanneguy du Bois,
and that he looked like Saint George in the picture which hung in her
room--a pale young warrior, such as painters once loved to draw, putting
in those keen faces a peculiar manhood, tempered and edged like a sword.
Sandy looked oddly like him, in the straight lines of brow and mouth.
Saint George is taking a swift easy stride over the dead dragon, a kind
of level-eyed daring and grave inquiry in his face, as if it were Sandy
himself, about to say, “You don’t happen to have another dragon? This
one wasn’t real gamy. I’d rather have an average alligator.” She laughed
with ripples and coos, and struggled with lumps in her throat, when
Sandy through simplicity fell into pathos. It bewildered her that the
funny things and pathetic things were so mixed up and run together, and
that he seemed to take no notice of either of them. But she grew
stern and indignant when Bill Smith, it was but probable, robbed the
unsuspecting sleep of his comrade.

“You see,” said Sandy, apologetically, “Bill was restless, that was the
reason. It was his enterprise kept bothering him. Likely he wanted
it for something, and he could n’t tell how much I might need without
waking me up to ask. And he couldn’t do that, because that’d have been
ridiculous, would n’t it? Of course, if he’d waked me up to ask how
much I wanted, because he was going to take the rest with him, why, of
course, I’d been obliged to get up and hit him, to show how ridiculous
it was. Of course Bill saw that, and what could he do? Because there
wasn’t any way he could tell, don’t you see? So he left the pipe and
tobacco, and a dollar for luck, and lit out, being--a--restless.”

And Gracia wondered at and gloried in the width of that charity, that
impersonal and untamed tolerance.

Then Sandy took up the subject of Kid Sadler. He felt there was need of
more virtue and valor. He took Kid Sadler and decorated him. He fitted
him with picturesque detail. The Kid bothered him with his raucous
voice, froth-dripped mustache, lean throat, black mighty hands, and
smell of uncleanness. But Sandy chose him as a poet. It seemed a good
start. Gracia surprised him by looking startled and quite tearful, where
the poet says:

                   “Nobody cares who Bill Smith is,

                   An neither does Bill Smith;”

which had seemed to Sandy only an accurate statement.

But the Kid’s poetry needed expurgation and amendment. Sandy did it
conscientiously, and spent hours searching for lines of similar rhyme,
which would not glance so directly into byways and alleys that were
surprising.

                   “A comin’ home,

                   A roamin’ home--”

“I told the Kid,” he added critically, “roamin’ wasn’t a good rhyme, but
he thought it was a pathetic word.”

               “Oh, when I was a little boy ‘t was things I did n’t know,

               An when I growed I knowed a lot of things that was n’t so;

               An now I know a few things that’s useful an selected:

               As how to put hard liquor where hard liquor is expected--”

and so on, different verses, which the Kid called his “Sing Song.”
 Sandy’s judgment hung in doubt over this whether the lines were
objectionable. He tempered the taste of the working literary artist
for distinct flavor, and his own for that which is accurate, with the
cautions of a village library committee, and decided on,

               “An puts them things in moral verse to uses onexpected.”

“I don’t know what he meant by ‘onexpected,’” Sandy commented with a
sense of helplessness, “but maybe he meant that he didn’t know what he
did mean. Because poets,” getting more and more entangled, “poets are
that kind they can take a word and mean anything in the neighborhood, or
something that’ll occur to ‘em next week.”

Gracia admired the Kid, though Miss Elizabeth thought she ought to refer
to him as Mr. Sadler, which seemed a pity. And she declared a violent
love for Little Irish, because “his auburn hair turned bricky red with
falling down a well,” and because he wished to climb hills by stepping
on the back of his neck. It was like Alice’s Adventures, and especially
like the White Knight’s scheme to be over a wall by putting his head on
top and standing on his head.

After all humors and modifications, Sandy’s story was a wild and strange
thing. It took new details from day to day, filling in the picture.
To Gracia’s imagination it spread out beyond romance, full of glooms,
flashes, fascinations, dangers of cities, war and wilderness, and
in spite of Sandy’s self-indifference, it was he who dominated the
pilgrimage, coloring it with his comment. The pilgrim appeared to be a
person to whom the Valley of the Shadow of Death was equally interesting
with Vanity Fair, and who entering the front gate of the Celestial City
with rejoicing would presently want to know whither the back gate would
take him. It seemed a pilgrimage to anywhere in search of everything,
but Gracia began to fancy it was meant to lead specially to the new
garden gate that opened so broadly on the street, and so dreamed the
fancy into belief. She saw Sandy in imagination coming out of the
pit-black night and lying down in the tool-house by the wet shining
path. The white gate was justified.

Sandy’s convalescence was not a finished thing, but he was beginning to
feel energy starting within him. Energy! He knew the feeling well. It
was something that snarled and clawed by fits.

“I’m a wildcat,” he said to himself reflectively, “sitting on eggs.
Why don’t he get off? Now,” as if addressing a speculative question for
instance to Kid Sadler, “he could n’t expect to hatch anything, could
he?”

It was such a question as the Kid would have been pleased with, and have
considered justly. “Has he got the eggs?”

“I don’t know. It’s a mixed figure, Kid.”

“Does he feel like he wanted to hatch ‘em?”

“What’d he do with ‘em hatched? That’s so, Kid.”

“_Is_ he a wildcat?”

“Yep.”

“He is. Can a wildcat hatch eggs? No, he can’t.”

“A wildcat”--the Kid would have enjoyed following this figure--“ain’t
an incubator. There ain’t enough peacefulness in him. He’d make a yaller
mess of ‘em an’ take to the woods with the mess on his whiskers. It
stands to reason, don’t it? He ain’t in his own hole on a chickadee’s
nest.”

Sandy stood looking over the gate into the village street, which was
shaded to dimness by its maples, a still, warm, brooding street.

“Like an incubator,” he thought, and heard Gracia calling from up the
path:

“Saint George!”

Sandy turned. She came down the path to the gate.

“Aren’t you going to fix the peony bed?”

“Not,” said Sandy, “if you stay here by the gate.”

Gracia looked away from him quickly into the street.

“It’s warm and quiet, isn’t it? It’s like--”

Zoar was not to her like anything else.

“Like an incubator,” said Sandy, gloomily, and Gracia looked up and
laughed.

“Oh, I shouldn’t have thought of that.”

“Kid Sadler would have said it, if he’d been here.”

“Would he?”

“Just his kind of figure. And he’d be saying further it was time Sandy
Cass took to the woods.”

He had an irritating spasm of desire to touch the slim white fingers
on the gate. Gracia moved her hands nervously. Sandy saw the fingers
tremble, and swore at himself under his breath.

“Why, Saint George?”

“Thinking he was a wildcat and he’d make a yel--a--Maybe thinking he
didn’t look nat--I mean,” Sandy ended very lamely, “the Kid’d probably
use figures of speech and mean something that’d occur to him by and by.”

“You’re not well yet. You’re not going so soon,” she said, speaking
quite low.

Sandy meditated a number of lies, and concluded that he did not care for
any of them. He seemed to dislike them as a class.

This kind of internal struggle was new and irritating. He had never
known two desires that would not compromise equably, or one of them
recognize its place and get out of the road. The savage restlessness in
his blood, old, well-known, expected, something in brain and bone, had
always carried its point and always would. He accounted for all things
in all men by reference to it, supposing them to feel restless, the
inner reason why a man did anything. But here now was another thing,
hopelessly fighting it, clinging, exasperating; somewhere within him it
was a kind of solemn-eyed sorrow that looked outward and backward over
his life, and behold, the same was a windy alkali desert that bore
nothing and was bitter in the mouth; and at the ends of his fingers
it came to a keen point, a desire to touch Gracia’s hair and the slim
fingers on the gate.

Gracia looked up and then away.

“You’re not well yet.”

“You’ve been uncommonly good to me, and all--”

“You mustn’t speak of it that way. It spoils it.” It seemed to both as
if they were swaying nearer together, a languid, mystical atmosphere
thickening about them. Only there was the drawback with Sandy of an
inward monitor, with a hoarse voice like Kid Sadler’s, who would be
talking to him in figures and proverbs.

“Keep away from china an’ lace; they break an’ stain; this thing has
been observed. Likewise is love a bit o’ moonlight, sonny, that’s all,
an’ a tempest, an’ a sucked orange. Come out o’ that, Sandy, break away;
for, in the words o’ the prophet, ‘It’s no square game,’ an’ this here
girl, God bless her! but she plays too high, an’ you can’t call her,
Sandy, you ain’t got the chips. Come away, come away.”

“And that,” Sandy concluded the council, “is pretty accurate. I’m broke
this deal.”

He stood up straight and looked at Gracia with eyes drawn and narrowed.

She felt afraid and did not understand.

“You don’t know me. If you knew me, you’d know I have to go.”

The wind rose in the afternoon, and blew gustily through street and
garden. The windows of Miss Elizabeth’s sitting-room were closed. The
curtains hung in white, lifeless folds. But in Gracia’s room above the
windows were open, and the white curtains shook with the wind. Delicate
and tremulous, they clung and moulded themselves one moment to the
casement, and then broke out, straining in the wind that tossed the
maple leaves and went up and away into the wild sky after the driving
clouds.

Sandy turned north up the village street, walking irresolutely. It might
be thirty miles to Wimberton. The squire had sent him money. He could
reach the railroad and make Wimberton that night, but he did not seem to
care about it.

Out of the village, he fell into the long marching stride, and the
motion set his blood tingling. Presently he felt better; some burden was
shaken off; he was foot-loose and free of the open road, looking to the
friction of event. At the end of five miles he remembered a saying of
Kid Sadler’s, chuckled over it, and began humming other verses of the
“Sing Song,” so called by the outcast poet.

               “Oh, when I was a little boy, I laughed an then I cried,

               An ever since I done the same, more privately, inside.

               There’s a joke between this world an me ‘n it’s tolerable grim,

               An God has got his end of it, an some of it’s on him.


               For he made a man with his left han, an the rest o’ things

                        with his right;

               An the right knew not what the left han did, for he hep

                        it out o’ sight.

               It’s maybe a Wagner opery, it ain’t no bedtime croon,

               When the highest note in the universe is a half note out

                        o’ tune’’

“That appears to be pretty accurate,” he thought. “Wonder how the Kid
comes to know things.”

He swung on enjoying the growth of vigor, the endless, open, travelled
road, and the wind blowing across his face.



SANDERSON OF BACK MEADOWS

|Back Meadows lies three miles to the northwest of Hagar, rich
bottom-lands in Sanderson Hollow, and the Cattle Ridge shelters it on
the north. Five generations of Sandersons have added to the Sanderson
accumulation of this world’s goods, without sensible interference on
the part of moths or rust or thieves that break through and steal. Cool,
quiet men, slow of speech and persistent of mood, they prospered
and lived well where other families, desiring too many things or not
desiring anything enough, found nothing at all desirable and drifted
away. The speculative traveller, hunting “abandoned farms,” or studying
the problem of the future of New England’s outlying districts, who
should stand on the crest of the Cattle Ridge overlooking the sheltered
valley, would note it as an instance of the problem satisfactorily
solved and of a farm which, so far from abandonment, smiled over all its
comfortable expanse in the consciousness of past and certainty of future
occupancy. These were ready illustrations for his thesis, if he had one:
the smooth meadows, square stone walls and herds of fawn-colored cattle,
large bams and long stables of the famous Sanderson stud; also the
white gabled house among the maples with spreading ells on either side,
suggesting a position taken with foresight and carefully guarded and
secured--a house that, recognizing the uncertainties and drifting
currents of the world, had acted accordingly, and now could afford to
consider itself complacently. The soul of any individual Sanderson might
be required of him, and his wisdom relative to eternity be demonstrated
folly, but the policy of the Sanderson family had not so far been
considered altogether an individual matter. Even individually, if the
question of such inversion of terms ever occurred to a Sanderson, it
only led to the conclusion that it was strictly a Pickwickian usage,
and, in the ordinary course of language, the policy of building barns,
stowing away goods and reflecting complacently thereon, still came under
the head of wisdom.

Mrs. Cullom Sanderson, sister of Israel Sanderson of the last generation
and married into a distant branch of the Sanderson family, carried her
materialism with an unconscious and eccentric frankness that prevented
the family from recognizing in her a peculiar development of its own
quality. When Israel’s gentle wife passed from a world which she had
found too full of unanswered questions, it was Mrs. Cullom who plunged
bulkily into the chamber of the great mystery and stopped, gulping with
astonishment.

“I just made her some blanc-mange,” she gasped. “Isn’t that too bad!
Why, Israel!”

Israel turned from the window and contemplated her gravely with his
hands clasped behind him.

“I think you had better move down to the Meadows, Ellen,” he said. “If
you will contrive to say as little as possible to me about Marian, and
one or two other matters I will specify, we shall get along very well.”

He went out with slow step and bent head, followed by Mrs. Cullom trying
vainly to find an idea on the subject suggested, which she was quite
positive she had somewhere about her. What Israel may have thought of
the thing that had whispered within his doors in an unknown tongue, and
had taken away what was his without receipt or equivalent exchange, it
were hard to say; equally hard even to say what he had thought of Marian
these twenty years. If her cloistral devotions and visionary moods
had seemed to him, in uninverted terms, folly, he had never said so.
Certainly he had liked her quiet, ladylike ways, and possibly respected
a difference of temperament inwardly as well as outwardly. At any rate,
tolerance was a consistent Sanderson policy and philosophy of life.

There was a slight movement in the chamber, after the silence which
followed the departing footsteps of Israel and Mrs. Cullom. A small
person in pinafores crept stealthily from under the bed and peered
over the edge. It was a hard climb but he persisted, and at last
seated himself on it panting, with his elbows on his knees, gravely
considering. A few hours since, the silent lips had whispered, among
many things that came back to his memory in after years like a distant
chime of bells, only this that seemed of any immediate importance: “I
shall be far away to-night, Joe, but when you say your prayers I shall
hear.” The problem that puckered the small brow was whether prayers out
of regular hours were real prayers. Joe decided to risk it and, getting
on his knees, said over all the prayers he knew. Then he leaned over
and patted the thin, cold cheek (Joe and his mother always tacitly
understood each other), slid off the bed with a satisfied air, and
solemnly trotted out of the room.

Mrs. Cullom Sanderson was a widow; “Which,” Israel remarked, “is a pity.
Cullom would have taken comfort in outliving you, Ellen.”

“Well,” remonstrated Mrs. Cullom, “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,
Israel. I’ve always respected his memory.”

Israel, gravely regarding her, observed, “You’d better not try to train
Joe,” and departed, leaving her to struggle with the idea that
between Joe and Cullom’s comfort Israel was getting very disconnected.
Disconnection of remark did not imply any changeableness in Israel’s
temperament. He observed a silent sequence of character, and possibly
a sequence of thought of which he did not care to give evidence, on
matters which he found no profit in discussing. Twelve years later the
mystery again whispered within his doors, and he rose and followed it in
his usual deliberate and taciturn way, without disclosing any opinion on
the question of the inversion of terms. The story of each generation
is put away when its time comes with a more or less irrelevant epitaph,
whether or not its threads be gathered into a satisfactory finale. The
Spirit-of-things-moving-on is singularly indifferent to such matters.
Its only literary principle seems to be, to move on. The new Sanderson
of Back Meadows grew up a slight, thin-faced young fellow. The Sanderson
men were always slight of build, saving a certain breadth of shoulders.
A drooping mustache in course of time hid the only un-Sanderson feature,
a sensitive mouth. The cool gray eyes, slightly drawling speech, and
deliberate manner were all Sanderson, indicating “a chip of the old
block,” as Mr. Durfey remarked to the old Scotchman who kept the drag
store in Hagar. If the latter had doubts, he kept them to himself.

The Sanderson stud sprang from a certain red mare, Martha, belonging
to Blake Sanderson of Revolutionary times. They were a thin-necked,
generally bad-tempered breed, with red veins across the eyes, of high
repute among “horsey” men. Blake Sanderson was said to have ridden the
red mare from Boston in some astonishingly quick time on some
mysterious errand connected with the evacuation of New York, whereby her
descendants were at one time known as the Courier breed; but as no one
seemed to know what the errand was, it was possibly not a patriotic one.
Three of these red, thinnecked mares and a stallion were on exhibition
at the Hamilton County Fair of ‘76. Notable men of the county were
there, mingled with turfmen of all shades of notoriety; several
immaculately groomed gentlemen, tall-hatted, long-coated, and saying
little, but pointed out with provincial awe as coming from New York and
worth watching; a few lean Kentuckians, the redness of whose noses was
in direct ratio with their knowledge of the business, and whose artistic
profanity had a mercantile value in expressing contempt for Yankee
horse-flesh. There was the Honorable Gerald and the some-say
Dishonorable Morgan Map, originally natives of Hagar, with young Jacob
Lorn between them undergoing astute initiation into the ways of the
world and its manner of furnishing amusement to young men of wealth;
both conversing affably with Gypsy John of not even doubtful reputation,
at present booming Canadian stock in favor of certain animals that
may or may not have seen Canada. Thither came the manager of the opera
troupe resident in Hamilton during the Fair, and the Diva, popularly
known as Mignon, a brown-haired woman with a quick Gallic smile and a
voice, “By gad, sir, that she can soak every note of it in tears, the
little scamp,” quoth Cassidy, observing from a distance. Cassidy was a
large fleshy man with a nickel shield under his coat.

                   “A face to launch a thousand ships,

                   And burn the topless towers of Ilium’’

misquoted a tall, thin personage with an elongated face and sepulchral
voice. “The gods made you poetical, Mr. Cassidy. Do you find your gift
of sentiment of use on the force?”

“Yes, sir,” shouted Cassidy, inadvertently touched on one of innumerable
hobbies and beginning to pound one hand excitedly with the fist of the
other. “In fine cases, sir, the ordinary detective slips up on just that
point. Now let me tell you, Mr. Mavering--”

“Tell me whether that is not Mignon’s ‘mari.’ What sort of a man is he?”

“Mignon’s what? Oh--Manager Scott. He isn’t married, further than that
he’s liable to rows on account of Mignon, who--has a face to upset
things as you justly observe, not to speak of a disposition according.
At least, I don’t know but what they may be married. If they are,
they’re liable to perpetuate more rows than anything else.”

“‘Does something smack, something grow to, has a kind of taste?”’

“Eh?” said Cassidy, inquiringly.

Sanderson, standing silently by, as silently turned and walked toward
the crowd drifting back and forth in front of the stables. Portly Judge
Carter of Gilead, beaming through gold-rimmed glasses, side-whiskered
and rubicund, stopped him to remark tremendously that he had issued an
injunction against the stallion going out of the state. “A matter of
local patriotism, Joe, eh?”

“Hear, hear,” commented the Honorable Gerald Map. A crowd began to
gather anticipating a conference of notables. Sanderson extricated
himself and walked on, and two small boys eventually smacked each
other over the question whether Judge Carter was as great a man as Mr.
Sanderson.

Mavering’s eyes followed him speculatively.

“What’s the particular combination that troubles the manager’s rest?”

“Eh?” said Cassidy. “Oh, I don’t know. Bob Sutton mostly. He’s here
somewhere. Swell young fellow in a plush vest, fashionable proprietor of
thread mills.”

The yellow, dusty road ran between the stables and a battle line of
sycamores and maples. Over the stables loomed the brick wall of the
theatre, and at the end of them a small green door for the private use
of exhibitors gave exit from the Fair Grounds. Sanderson stopped near a
group opposite it, where Mignon stood slapping her riding-boot with her
whip.

“Mr. Sanderson,” said Mignon, liquidly, “how can I get out through that
door?”

Sanderson considered and suggested opening it.

“But it’s locked! Ciel! It’s locked!”

Sanderson considered again. “Here’s a key,” he said hopefully.

“There!” shouted the plush vest. “I knew there’d be some solution. You
see, mademoiselle, what Ave admire in Sanderson is his readiness of
resource. Mademoiselle refused to melt down the fence with a smile or
climb over it on a high C, and we were quite in despair.”

Outside the gate, in the paved courtyard between the theatre and the
hotel, Mignon lifted her big brown eyes which said so many things,
according to Cassidy, that were not so, and observed demurely, “If you
were to leave me that key, Mr. Sanderson, well, I should steal in here
after the performance tonight and ride away on the little red mare,
certainly.”

Sanderson gravely held out the key, but Mignon drew back in sudden alarm
and clasped her hands tragically.

“Oh, no! You would be on guard and, what! cut up? Yes. Ah, dreadfully!
You are so wise, Mr. Sanderson, and secret.”

And Jack Mavering, following slowly after, chuckled sepulchrally to
himself. “Pretty cool try sting. Peace to the shades of Manager Scott. I
couldn’t have done it better myself.”

The Fair Grounds were as dark and lonely at eleven o’clock as if
the lighted street were not three hundred feet away with its gossipy
multitude going up and down seeking some new thing. The stands yawned
indifferently from a thousand vacant seats and the race-track had
forgotten its excitement. Horses stamped and rustled spectrally in their
stalls. The shadow under the maples was abysmal and the abyss gave forth
a murmur of dialogue, the sound of a silken voice.

“Oh,” it sighed in mock despair, “but Americans, they are so very
impassive. Look! They make love in monosyllables. They have no passion,
no action. They pull their mustachios, say ‘Damn!’--so, and it is
tragedy. They stroke their chins, so, very grave. They say ‘It is not
bad, and it is comedy. Ah, please, Joe, be romantique!”

“Why,” drawled the other voice, “I’ll do whatever you like, except have
spasms.”

“Indifferent! Bah! That’s not romantique. How would I look in the house
of your fathers?”

“You’d look like thunder.”

“Would I?” The silken voice sank low and was quiet for a moment. “Well
then, listen. This shall you do. You shall give me that key and an order
to your man that I ride the little mare of a Sunday morning, which is
to-morrow, because she is the wind and because you are disagreeable. Is
it not so?”

A ripple of low laughter by the green door, and “There then. You drive a
hard bargain in love, monsieur.” The door opened and she stepped with
a rustle of skirts into and through the paved courtyard, now unlit by
lamps at the theatre entrance, dark enough for the purposes of Manager
Scott, in an angle of the entrance pulling his mustache and speaking
after the manner described by Mignon as tragedy.

In the valley of the Wyantenaug many stopped and listened breathlessly
by barn-yard and entry door to a voice that floated along the still air
of the Sabbath morning, now carolling like a bobolink, now fluting
like a wood-thrush, now hushed in the covert of arching trees, and now
pealing over the meadows by the river bank; others only heard a rush of
hoofs and saw a little red horse and its rider go by with the electric
stride of a trained racer. Each put his or her interpretation thereon,
elaborately detailed after the manner of the region, and approximated
the fact of Mignon and her purposes as nearly as might be expected.
Delight in the creation of jewelled sounds as an end in itself; delight
in the clear morning air of autumn valleys, the sight of burnished
leaves and hills in mad revelry of color; delight in following vagrant
fancies with loose rein, happy, wine-lipped elves that rise without
reason and know no law; delight in the thrill and speed of a sinewy
horse compact of nerves; however all these may have entered in the
purposes of Mignon, they are not likely to have entered the conjectures
of the inhabitants of Wyantenaug Valley, such pleasures of the flesh.
Mignon let the mare choose her road, confining her own choice to odd
matters of going slow or fast or not at all, pausing by the river bank
to determine the key and imitate the quality of its low chuckle, and
such doings; all as incomprehensible to the little red mare as to the
inhabitants of Wyantenaug Valley.

The valley is broad with cup-shaped sides, save where the crowding of
the hills has thrust one forward to stand in embarrassed projection.
Some twenty miles above Hamilton rises Windless Mountain on the right,
guarding from the world the village of Hagar behind it. Northward
from Windless lie irregular hills, and between them and the long
westward-inclining tumulus of the Cattle Ridge a narrow gorge with a
tumbling brook comes down. Up this gorge goes a broad, well-kept road,
now bridging the brook, now slipping under shelving ledges, everywhere
carpeted with the needles of pines, secret with the shadows of pines,
spicy and strong with the scent of pines, till at the end of half a mile
it emerges from beneath the pines into Sanderson Hollow. The little red
mare shot from the gloom into the sunlight with a snort and shake of the
head that seemed to say: “Oh, my hoofs and fetlocks! Deliver me from a
woman who makes believe to herself she is n’t going where she is, or if
she is that it’s only accidental.”

Mrs. Cullom Sanderson ponderously made ready for church, not with a
mental preparation of which the minister would have approved unless
he had seen as clearly as Mrs. Cullom the necessity of denouncing in
unmeasured terms the iniquity of Susan. Susan was a maid who tried to
do anything that she was told, and bumped her head a great deal. Her
present iniquity lay in her fingers and consisted in tying and buttoning
Mrs. Cullom and putting her together generally so that she felt as if
she had fallen into her clothes from different directions. A ring at the
door-bell brought Mrs. Cullom down from heights of sputtering invective
like an exhausted sky-rocket, and she plumped into a chair whispering
feebly, “Goodness, Susan, who’s that?” Susan vaguely disclaimed all
knowledge of “that.”

“You might find out,” remonstrated Mrs. Cullom, the reaction precluding
anything but a general feeling of injury. Susan went down-stairs and
bumped her head on the chandelier, opened the door and bumped it on the
door.

“Ouch,” she remarked in a matter-of-fact tone. “Please, ma’am, Miss
Sanderson wants to know, who’s that?”

“Ah,” said the trim little lady in riding-habit, “will you so kindly ask
Miss Sanderson that I may speak to her?”

But Mrs. Cullom was already descending the stairs, each step appearing
to Mignon to have the nature of a plunge. “My goodness, yes. Come in.”
 Mignon carried her long skirt over the lintel.

“I am quite grieved to intrude, mademoi--” Mrs. Cullom’s matronly
proportions seemed to discountenance the diminutive, “a--madame. Mr.
Sanderson permitted me to ride one of his horses. He is so generous.
And the horse brought me here, oh, quite decisively,” and Mignon laughed
such a soft, magical laugh that Susan grinned in broad delight. “It is
such a famous place, this, is it not,--Back Meadows? I thought I might
be allowed to--to pay tribute to its fame.”

Mrs. Cullom’s cordiality was such that if, strictly speaking, two
hundred pounds can flutter, she may be said to have fluttered. She
plunged through two sombre-curtained parlors, Mignon drifting serenely
in the wake of her tumult. Something in the black, old colonial
furniture sent a feeling of cold gruesomeness into her sunny veins, and
she was glad when Mrs. Cullom declared it chilly and towed her into the
dining-room, where a warm light sifted through yellow windows of
modern setting high over a long, irregular sideboard, and mellowed the
portraits of departed Sandersons on the walls: honorables numerous of
colonial times (Blake, first of the horse-breeding Sandersons, booted
and spurred but with too much thinness of face and length of jaw for a
Squire Western type), all flanked by dames, with a child here and there,
above or below--all but the late Israel, whose loneliness in his gilt
frame seemed to have a certain harmony with his expression.

“That was Joseph’s father, my brother Israel,” said Mrs. Cullom, as
Mignon’s eyes travelled curiously along and rested on the last. “Joseph
keeps his mother hung up in his den.”

“Hung up? Den?” cried Mignon, with a recurrence of the gruesome feeling
of the parlors. “Oh, ciel! What does he keep there? Bones?”

“Bones! Goodness no. Books.”

Mrs. Cullom pushed open a door to the right and entered a long, low room
piled to the ceiling and littered with books, which, together with the
leathern chair and red-shaded lamp before the fireplace, gave a decided
air of studious repose, nothing suggesting a breeder of fancy stock. An
oil painting of a lady hung over the mantel, and near it some mediæval
Madonna, not unresembling the portrait in its pale cheeks, unworldly
eyes, and that faint monastic air of vigil and vision and strenuous
yearning of the soul to throw its dust aside. Nevertheless the face of
the lady was a sweet face, quiet and pure, such as from many a Madonna
of the Old World in tawdry regalia looks pityingly down over altar and
winking tapers, seeming to say with her tender eyes, “Is it very hard,
my dear, the living? Come apart then and rest awhile.” Mignon turned to
Mrs. Cullom. “You are dressed for going out, madame,” she said, looking
at that lady’s well-to-do black silk. “Am I not detaining you?”

“Oh, I was going to church. Goodness, are n’t you going to church?”
 A sudden thought struck her and she added severely: “And you’ve been
riding that wicked little mare on Sunday. And she might have thrown you,
and how’d you look pitched headfirst into heaven dressed so everybody ud
know you weren’t going to church!”

“Oh,” cried Mignon, “but I was good when I was a child. Yes! I went to
mass every day, and had a little prie-dieu, oh, so tiny!”

“Mass!” gasped Mrs. Cullom. “Well, I declare. What’s a pray-do?”

Mignon surveyed her riding-skirt regretfully. “Would it not be
appropriate, madame? I should so like to go with you,” she said
plaintively.

“Goodness! I’ll risk it if you will. I’d like to see the woman who’d
tell me what to wear to church.” She plunged suddenly out of the room,
leaving Mignon thinking that she would not like to be the woman referred
to. She listened to the ponderous footsteps of Mrs. Cullom climbing
the stairs, and then sank into the leathern chair facing the picture.
Possibly the living and the dead faced each other on a point at issue;
they seemed to debate some matter gravely and gently, as is seldom done
where both are living. Possibly it was Mignon’s dramatic instinct
which caused her to rise at last, gathering up her riding-skirt, at
the approaching footsteps of Mrs. Cullom, and bow with Gallic grace and
diminutive stateliness to the pure-faced lady with the spiritual eyes.
“C’est vrai, madame,” she said, and passed out with her small head in
the air.

The congregation that day in the little church of the bended
weather-vane, where Hagar’s cross-roads meet, heard certain ancient
hymns sung as never before in the church of the bended weather-vane.
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,” pleaded the silken voice, like a visitant
invisible, floating from fluted pillar to fluted pillar, calling at
some unseen door, “Let me in! Ah, let me in!” Somewhat too much of
rose leaves and purple garments in the voice for that simple, steadfast
music. The spirit seemed pleading rather for gratification than
rest. The congregation stopped singing, save Mrs. Cullom, who flatted
comfortably on unnoticed. Deacon Crockett frowned ominously over his
glasses at a scandalous scene and a woman too conspicuous; Captain David
Brett showed all the places where he had no teeth; Mr. Royce looked down
from the pulpit troubled with strange thoughts, and Miss Hettie Royce
dropped her veil over her face, remembering her youth.

How should Mignon know she was not expected to be on exhibition in that
curious place? Of course people should be silent and listen when an
artist sings. Mignon hardly remembered a time when she was not more or
less on exhibition. That volatile young lady cantered along the Windless
Mountain Road somewhat after twelve o’clock not in a very good humor.
She recognized the ill humor, considered ill humor a thing both
unpleasant and unnecessary and attributed it to an empty stomach;
dismounted before an orchard and swung herself over the wall reckless of
where her skirts went or where they did not.

“Them apples is mine,” growled a gray-bearded person behind a barn-yard
fence.

“Then why didn’t you get them for me, pig?” returned Mignon sharply,
and departed with more than her small hands could conveniently carry,
leaving the gray-bearded person turning the question over dubiously in
his mind.

It happened to have occurred to Sanderson that certain business of his
own pointed to Back Meadows that Sunday morning. The up-train on Sunday
does not leave till after eleven, and he took the valley road on the red
stallion of uncertain temper. The inhabitants of Wyantenaug Valley heard
no more carolling voices, or fitful rush and clatter of hoofs. The red
stallion covered his miles with a steady stride and the rider kept his
emotions, aesthetic or otherwise, to himself. The twain swung into the
Hollow about eleven o’clock, and Sanderson presently found himself in
his leathern chair debating a question at issue with the lady of the
spiritual eyes. What passed between them is their own secret, quite
hopeless of discovery, with one end of it on the other side of the
“valley of the shadow,” and the other buried in close coverts of
Sanderson reserve. When the door-bell rang and Susan appearing bumped
her head against the casing and announced, “Mr. Joe, it’s a red-haired
gentleman,” having no dramatic instinct, he passed into the dining-room
without salutation to the lady of the spiritual eyes.

“How are you, Scott? Sit down,” he drawled placidly.

“I suppose you know what I’m here for,” said the other, with evident
self-restraint.

“Can’t say I do,” returned Sanderson, cheerfully. “It needn’t be
anything in particular, need it?” He sat down, stretched his legs under
the dining-room table and his arms on top of it. Manager Scott paced the
floor nervously. Suddenly he stooped, picked up something and flung it
on the table--a strip of thin gray veil. “You can save yourself a lie,
Mr. Sanderson.”

Sanderson gravely regarded the delicate article which seemed to be put
forth both as an accusation and a proof of something. Then he leaned
forward and rang the bell. “I will overlook that implication for the
present, Mr. Scott,” he remarked. “If it’s a bluff, it’s a good one. I
take it it is n’t. Susan, has any one been here this morning?” as that
maiden tumbled into the room in a general tangle of feet.

“Yes, sir, and she’s gone. My! She ain’t comin’ back to dinner! Lady
rode the little mare and she went to church with Miss Sanderson.”

“Mademoiselle Mignon,” drawled Sanderson, turning to Manager Scott,
“asked permission to ride the mare this morning. I was not aware she
intended making an excursion to Back Meadows or I should have asked
permission to attend her. It seems she went to Hagar with my aunt and
proposes to ride back to Hamilton from there. It’s my turn now, old man,
and I’d like to know what was the necessity of making your visit so very
tragic.”

“Oh, I presume I’m an ass,” returned the other, with a noticeable
nervous twitching of the mouth and fingers, “and I presume I owe you an
apology. I shall probably shoot the man that comes between Mignon and
me, if he doesn’t shoot first, which is all very asinine.”

“Quite irrespective of what mademoiselle may think about it?”

“Oh, quite.”

“Well,” said Sanderson, after a pause, “I rather sympathize with your
way of looking at it. I shouldn’t wonder if I had some of that primeval
brutality myself.”

“Look here, Sanderson,” said the manager. “Without going into
humiliating details as to how I came by the fact, which I don’t know
why you take so much pains to conceal, I know as well as you do that the
issue is between you and me.”

“You don’t mean to threaten, do you, Scott?”

“Oh, no. I’m going back to Hamilton. I was looking for a row, and you
don’t give me enough to go on.”

“Can’t do it just now, old man,” said Sanderson, gently, shaking hands
with him at the door. “I’ll let you know when I can. In that case we ‘ll
have it out between us.”

The manager strode off across the Hollow and down the Gorge to the
valley station, and Sanderson mounted and took the road to Hagar. He
passed the village about one. The red stallion thundered through the
pine avenues at the foot of Windless and swept around the curve into
Wyantenaug Valley, but it was not till within a few miles of Hamilton
that the speedy little mare, even bothered as she was by her rider’s
infirmity of purpose, allowed herself to be overtaken. The road there
turned away from the river and went covered with crisp autumn leaves
through chestnut woods. Mignon looked up and laughed, and the two horses
fell sympathetically into a walk.

“Don’t you think you owe me an explanation?” asked Sanderson, in a low
tone.

“Indeed, sir, I owe you nothing, not even for this ride. It was paid
for,” rippled the silken voice, and stopped suddenly in a little sob.
Sanderson turned quickly and bent over her.

“By the living God,” he said solemnly, “I swear I love you. What barrier
is strong enough to face that?”

“It is because you do not know me, that. Listen, Joe. I have not been
what you call good nor pure in the past and shall not in the future. No,
hush. I know what I am and what I shall be always. If I swore by
your living God that I loved you now, it would not mean that I should
to-morrow, and the next day, oh, not at all. There are no deeps in me,
nor what you call a faith or principle in life. Listen, Joe. That lady
whose portrait I saw is your guardian angel. Look, I reverence now.
To-morrow I shall mock both her and you. This that I speak now is only
a mood. The wind is now one thing and then quite another, Joe. It has no
centre and no soul. I am an artist, sir. I have moods but no character.
Morals! I have none. They go like the whiff of the breeze. Nothing that
I do lowers or lifts me. It passes through me and that is all. Do you
not understand?” which indeed was hard to do, for the brown eyes were
very soft and deep.

“If any one else had told me this,” said Sanderson, between his teeth,
“man or woman, it would never have been said but once.”

“It is harder for you than for me, for to-morrow I shall not care and
you, you will care perhaps a long time. You are fast like these hills.
Listen. Now, sir, this is our last ride together. We are a cavalier and
his lady. They are gallant and gay. They wear life and love and death
in their hair like flowers. They smile and will not let their hearts
be sad, for they say, ‘It is cowardly to be sad: it is brave only to
smile.’ Is it not so?”

Sanderson’s New England reserve fled far away, and he bent over her
hand.

“It shall be as you say.”

And to-morrow seemed far enough away, and an hour had its eternal value.
But the steady old hills could not understand that kind of chronology.



TWO ROADS THAT MEET IN SALEM

|The Salem Road is a dusty road. Perhaps it is not really any dustier
than other roads, but it is straighter than most roads about Hagar. You
can see more of it at a time, and in that way you can see more dust.
Along this road one day many years ago came Dr. Wye of Salem in his
buggy, which leaned over on one side; and the dust was all over the
buggy-top, all over the big, gray, plodding horse, and all over the
doctor’s hat and coat. He was tired and drowsy, but you would not have
suspected it; for he was a red-faced, sturdy man, with a beard cut
square, as if he never compromised with anything. He sat up straight and
solid, so as not to compromise with the tipping of the buggy.

“Come, Billy,” said the doctor, “no nonsense, now.”

He prided himself on being a strict man, who would put up with no
nonsense, but every one knew better. Billy, the gray horse, knew as well
as any one.

“Come now, Billy, get along.”

A tall, dusty, black-bearded man rose up beside the road, and Billy
stopped immediately.

A large pack lay against the bank.

“You ain’t seen a yeller dog?”

“No,” said the doctor, gruffly. He was provoked with Billy. “There
aren’t any yellow dogs around here.”

“He hadn’t no tail,” persisted the stranger, wistfully. “And there were
a boy a-holdin’ him. He chopped it off when he were little.”

“Who chopped it off?”

“Hey? He’s a little cuss, but the dog’s a good dog.”

“Get up, Billy,” growled the doctor. “All boys are little cusses. I have
n’t seen any yellow dog. Nonsense! I wonder he did n’t ask if I’d seen
the tail.”

But somehow the doctor could not get rid of the man’s face, and he found
himself looking along the roadside for boys that were distinctly “little
cusses” and yellow dogs without tails, all the rest of the day.

In the evening twilight he drove into Salem village. Very cool and
pleasant looked the little white house among the trees. Mother Wye
stood on the porch in her white apron and cap, watching for him. She
was flying signals of distress--if the word were not too strong--she was
even agitated. He tramped up the steps reassuringly.

“Oh,” whispered Mother Wye, “you’ve no idea, Ned! There’s a boy and a
dog, a very large dog, my dear, on the back steps.”

“Well,” said the doctor, gallantly, “they’ve no business to be anywhere
frightening my little mother. We’ll tell them to do something else.” The
doctor tramped sturdily around to the back steps, Mother Wye following
much comforted.

The dog was actually a yellow dog without any tail to speak of--a large,
genial-looking dog, nevertheless; the boy, a black-eyed boy, very grave
and indifferent, with a face somewhat thin and long. “Without doubt,”
 thought the doctor, “a little cuss. Hullo,” he said aloud, “I met a man
looking for you.”

The boy scrutinized him with settled gravity. “He’s not much account,”
 he said calmly. “I’d rather stay here.”

“Oh, you would!” grumbled the doctor. “Must think I want somebody around
all the time to frighten this lady. Nice folks you are, you and your
dog.”

The boy turned quickly and took off his cap. “I beg your pardon, madam,”
 he said with a smile that was singularly sudden and winning. The action
was so elderly and sedate, so very courtly, surprising, and incongruous,
that the doctor slapped his knee and laughed uproariously; and Mother
Wye went through an immediate revulsion, to feel herself permeated with
motherly desires. The boy went on unmoved.

“He’s an easy dog, ma’am. His name’s Poison, but he never does
anything;”--which started the doctor off again.

“They said you wanted a boy.”

“Ah,” said the doctor, growing grave, “that’s true; but you’re not the
boy.”

The boy seemed to think him plainly mistaken. “Stuff!” growled the
doctor, “I want a boy I can send all around the country. I know a dozen
boys that know the country, and that I know all about. I don’t want you.
Besides,” he added, “he said you were a little cuss.”

The boy paid no attention to the last remark. “I’ll find it out. Other
boys are thick-headed.”

“That’s true,” the doctor admitted; “they are thick-headed.” Indeed
this young person’s serenity and confidence quite staggered him. A new
diplomatic idea seemed to occur to the young person. He turned to Mother
Wye and said gravely: “Will you pull Poison’s ear, ma’am, so he’ll know
it’s all right?”

Mother Wye, with some trepidation, pulled Poison’s ear, and Poison
wagged the whole back end of himself to make up for a tail, signifying
things that were amicable, while the doctor tugged at his beard and
objected to nonsense.

“Well, young man, we’ll see what you have to say for yourself. Tut!
tut! mother,”--to Mrs. Wye’s murmur of remonstrance,--“we’ll have no
nonsense. This is a practical matter;” and he tramped sturdily into the
house, followed by the serious boy, the amicable dog, and the appeased,
in fact the quite melted, Mother Wye.

“Now, boy,” said the doctor, “what’s your name?”

“Jack.”

“Jack what? Is that other fellow your father?”

“I reckon maybe he is,” returned Jack, with a gloomy frown. “His name’s
Baker. He peddles.”

The doctor tugged at his beard and muttered that “at any rate there
appeared to be no nonsense about it. But he’s looking for you,” he said.
“He’ll take you away.”

“He’s looking for the dog,” said Jack, calmly. “He can’t have him.”

The East End Road, which circles the eastern end of the Cattle Ridge,
is not at all like the Salem Road. It is wilder and crookeder, to begin
with, but that is a superficial matter. It passes through thick woods,
dips into gullies, and changes continually, while along the Salem Road
there is just the smoky haze on the meadows and dust in the chalices
of the flowers; there too the distance blinks stupidly and speculation
comes to nothing. But the real point is this: the Salem Road leads
straight to Hagar and stops there; the East End Road goes over somewhere
among the northern hills and splits up into innumerable side roads,
roads that lead to doorways, roads that run into footpaths and dwindle
away in despair, roads of which it must be said with sorrow that there
was doubt in Salem whether they ever ended or led anywhere. Hence arose
the tale that all things which were strange and new, at least all things
which were to be feared, came into Salem over the East End Road; just as
in Hagar they came down from the Cattle Ridge and went away to the south
beyond Windless Mountain.

Along this road, a month later than the last incident, came the
black-bearded peddler with his pack, whistling; and indeed his pack,
though large, seemed to weigh singularly little; also the peddler seemed
to be in a very peaceful frame of mind. And along this road too came the
plodding gray horse, with the serious boy driving, and the yellow dog
in the rear; all at a pace which slowly but surely overtook the peddler.
The peddler, reaching a quiet place where a bank of ferns bordered the
brushwood, sat down and waited, whistling. The dog, catching sight of
him, came forward with a rush, wagging the back end of himself; and
Billy, the gray horse, came gently to a standstill.

“How goes it?” said the peddler, pausing a moment in his whistling.
“Pretty good?”

“Mostly.”

The peddler took a cigar-case from his pocket, a cigar wrapped in
tin-foil from the case, and lay back lazily among the ferns, putting his
long thin hands behind his head. “My notion was,” he murmured,
“that it would take a month, a month would be enough.”

The serious boy said nothing, but sat with his chin on his fists looking
down the road meditatively.

“My notion was,” went on the peddler, “that a doctor’s boy, particularly
that doctor’s boy, would get into all the best houses around--learn the
lay of things tolerably neat. That was my notion. Good notion, wasn’t
it, Jack?” Jack muttered a subdued assent. The peddler glanced at him
critically. “For instance now, that big square house on the hill north
of Hagar.”

Jack shook his head. “Nothing in it. Old man, name Map, rich enough,
furniture done up in cloth, valuables stored in Hamilton; clock or two
maybe; nothing in it.”

“Ah,” said the other, “just so;” and again he glanced critically through
his half-closed eyes. “But there are others.” Again Jack muttered a
subdued assent.

“Good?”

“Good enough.”

The apparent peddler smoked, quite at his ease among the ferns, and
seemed resolved that the boy should break the silence next.

“Are you banking on this business, dad?” said the latter, finally.

“Ah--why, no, Jack, not really. It’s a sort of notion, I admit.” He
lifted one knee lazily over the other. “I’m not shoving you, Jack. State
the case.” A long silence followed, to which the conversation of the two
seemed well accustomed.

“I never knew anything like that down there,” nodding in the direction
of Salem. “Those people.--It’s different.”

“That’s so,” assented the apparent peddler, critically. “I reckon it
is. We make a point not to be low. Polish is our strong point, Jack.
But we’re not in society. We are not, in a way, on speaking terms with
society.”

“It ain’t that.”

“Isn’t,” corrected the other, gently. “Isn’t, Jack. But I rather think
it is.”

“Well,” said Jack, “it’s different, and”--with gloomy decision--“it’s
better.”

The apparent peddler whistled no more, but lay back among the ferns and
gazed up at the drooping leaves overhead. The gray horse whisked at the
wood-gnats and looked around now and again inquiringly. The yellow dog
cocked his head on one side as if he had an opinion worth listening to
if it were only called for.

“I suppose now,” said the apparent peddler, softly, “I suppose now
they’re pretty cosy. I suppose they say prayers.”

“You bet.”.

“You mean that they do, Jack. I suppose,” he went on dreamily, “I
suppose the old lady has white hair and knits stockings.”

“She does that,” said Jack, enthusiastically, “and pincushions and
mats.”

“And pincushions and mats. That’s so.”

The lowing of cattle came up to them from hidden meadows below; for the
afternoon was drawing near its close and the cattle were uneasy. The
chimney and roof of a farmhouse were just visible through a break in the
sloping woods. The smoke that mounted from the chimney seemed to linger
lovingly over the roof, like a symbol of peace, blessing the hearth
from which it came. The sentimental outcast puffed his excellent cigar
meditatively, now and again taking it out to remark, “Pincushions and
mats!” indicating the constancy of his thoughts.

The serious boy motioned in the direction of Salem. “I think I’ll stay
there,” he said. “It’s better.”

“Reckon I know how you feel, Jack,--know how you feel. Give me my lowly
thatched cottage, and that sort of thing.” After a longer silence
still, he sat up and threw away his cigar. “Well, Jack, if you see your
way--a--if I were you, Jack,” he said slowly, “I wouldn’t go half and
half; I’d go the whole bill. I’d turn on the hose and inquire for the
ten commandments, that’s what I’d do.” He came and leaned lazily on
the carriage wheel. “That isn’t very plain. It’s like this. You don’t
exactly abolish the old man; you just imagine him comfortably buried;
that’s it, comfortably buried, with an epitaph,--flourishy, Jack,
flourishy, stating”--here his eyes roamed meditatively along Billy’s
well-padded spine--“stating, in a general way, that he made a point of
polish.”

The serious boy’s lip trembled slightly. He seemed to be seeking some
method of expression. Finally he said: “I’ll trade knives with you, dad.
It’s six blades”; and the two silently exchanged knives.

Then Billy, the gray horse, plodded down the hill through the woods, and
the apparent peddler plodded up. At one turn in the road can be seen the
white houses of Salem across the valley; and here he paused, leaning on
the single pole that guarded the edge. After a time he roused himself
again, swung his pack to his shoulder, and disappeared over the crest of
the hill whistling.

The shadows deepened swiftly in the woods; they lengthened in the open
valley, filling the hollows, climbed the hill to Salem, and made dusky
Dr. Wye’s little porch and his tiny office duskier still. The office
was so tiny that portly Judge Carter of Gilead seemed nearly to fill it,
leaving small space for the doctor. For this or some other reason
the doctor seemed uncomfortable, quite oppressed and borne down, and
remonstrating with the oppression. The judge was a man of some splendor,
with gold eye-glasses and cane.

“There really is no doubt about it,” he was saying, with a magnificent
finger on the doctor’s knee, “no doubt at all.”

The conversation seemed to be most absorbing. The doctor pulled his
beard abstractedly and frowned.

The serious boy drove by outside in the dusk, and after a while came up
from the bam. He sat down on the edge of the porch to think things over,
and the judge’s voice rolled on oracularly. Jack hardly knew yet
what his thoughts were; and this was a state of mind that he was not
accustomed to put up with, because muddle-headedness was a thing that
he especially despised. “You don’t exactly abolish the old man,” he kept
hearing the peddler say; “you just imagine him comfortably buried--with
an epitaph--flourishy--stating--”

“Clever, very,” said the judge. “Merriwether was telling me--won’t
catch him, too clever--Merri-wether says--remarkable--interesting scamp,
very.” The doctor growled some inaudible objection.

“Why did he show himself!” exclaimed the judge. “Why, see here. Observe
the refined cleverness of it! It roused your interest, didn’t it? It was
unique, amusing. Chances are ten to one you would n’t have taken the boy
without it. Why, look here--”

“Stuff!”--Here the doctor raised his voice angrily. “The boy ran away
from him, of course.”

“Maybe, doctor, maybe,” said the judge, soothingly. “But there are
other things--looks shady--consider the man is known. Dangerous, doctor,
dangerous, very. You ought to be careful.” Then the words were a mere
murmur.

Jack sat still on the porch, with his chin on his hands. Overhead
the night-hawks called, and now and then one came down with a whiz of
swooping wings. Presently he heard the chairs scrape; he rose, slipped
around to the back porch and into the kitchen.

The little bronze clock in the dining-room had just told its largest
stint of hours,--and very hard work it made of it. It was a great trial
to the clock to have to rouse itself and bluster so. It did not mind
telling time in a quiet way. But then, every profession has its trials.
It settled itself again to stare with round, astonished face at the
table in the centre of the room.

Jack sat at the table by a dim lamp, the house dark and silent all
around him, writing a letter. He leaned his head down almost on a level
with the paper.

“I herd him and you,” he wrote in a round hand with many blots. “I lied
and so did he I mean dad. I can lie good. Dad sed I must learn the ten
comandments. The ten comandments says diferent things. You neednt be
afrad. There dont anithing happen cep to me. I do love Mother Wye tru.”
 The clock went on telling the time in the way that it liked to do,
tick-tick-tick. Overhead the doctor slept a troubled sleep, and in
Gilead Judge Carter slept a sound sleep of good digestion.

Far off the Salem Road led westward straight to Hagar, and stopped, and
the moonlight lay over it all the way; but the East End Road led through
the shadows and deep night over among the northern hills, and split
up into many roads, some of which did not seem ever to end, or lead
anywhere.

Jack dropped from the window skilfully, noiselessly, and slid away in
the moonlight. At the Corners he did not hesitate, but took the East End
Road.



A VISIBLE JUDGMENT

|He bore the name of Adam Wick. There seemed to be something primitive
in his temperament to fit it. By primitive we mean of such times as may
have furnished single-eyed passions that did not argue. He was a small,
thin, stooping man, with a sharp nose and red-lidded eyes. Sarah Wick,
his daughter, was a dry-faced woman of thirty, and lived with him.

His house stood on a hill looking over the village of Preston
Plains, which lay in a flat valley. In the middle of the village the
church-steeple shot up tapering and tall.

It was a bickering community. The church was a centre of interest. The
outlines of the building were clean and shapely, but in detail it stood
for a variety of opinions. A raised tracery ran along the pseudo-classic
frieze of its front, representing a rope of flowers with little cupids
holding up the loops. They may have been cherubs. The community had
quarrelled about them long ago when the church was building, but that
subject had given way to other subjects.

The choir gallery bulged over the rear seats, as if to dispute the
relative importance of the pulpit. That was nothing. But it needed
bracing. The committee decided against a single pillar, and erected two,
one of them in the middle of Adam Wick’s pew.

Adam looked at things simply. It seemed to his simplicity that the
community had conspired to do him injustice. The spirit of nonconformity
stirred within him. He went to the minister.

“Andrew Hill, nor any other man, nor committeeman’s got no rights in my
pew.”

The minister was dignified.

“The pew, Mr. Wick, belongs to the church.”

“No such thing! I sat twenty-four years in that pew.”

“But that, though very creditable--”

“No such thing! I’ll have no post in my pew, for Andrew Hill nor no
minister neither.”

“Mr. Wick--”

“You take that post out o’ my pew.”

He stumped out of the minister’s green-latticed doorway and down the
gravel path. His eyes on either side of his sharp nose were like
those of an angry hawk, and his stooping shoulders, seen from behind,
resembled the huddled back of the hawk, caged and sullen.

The minister watched him. Properly speaking, a primitive nature is an
unlimited monarchy where ego is king, but the minister’s reflections did
not run in these terms. He did not even go so far as to wonder whether
such primitive natures did not render the current theory of a church
inaccurate. He went so far as to wonder what Adam Wick would do.

One dark, windy night, near midnight, Adam Wick climbed in at the
vestibule window of the church, and chopped the pillar in two with an
axe. The wind wailed in the belfry over his head. The blinds strained,
as if hands were plucking at them from without. The sound of his blows
echoed in the cold, empty building, as if some personal devil were
enjoying the sacrilege. Adam was a simple-minded man; he realized that
he was having a good time himself.

It was three days before the church was opened. What may have been
Adam’s primitive thoughts, moving secretively among his townsmen? Then
a sudden rumor ran, a cry went up, of horror, of accusation, of the
lust of strife. Before the accusation Adam did not hesitate to make his
defiance perfect. The primitive mind was not in doubt. With a blink of
his red eyelids, he answered:

“You tell Andrew Hill, don’t you put another post in my pew.”

A meeting was held; a majority voted enthusiastically to strike his name
from the rolls for unchristian behavior and to replace the pillar. A
minority declared him a wronged man. That was natural enough in Preston
Plains. But Adam Wick’s actions at this point were thought original and
effective by every one.

He sat silently through the proceedings in the pew with the hacked
pillar, his shoulders hunched, his sharp eyes restless.

“Mr. Wick,” said the minister, sternly, “have you anything to say?”

Adam rose.

“I put fifty-six dollars into this meetin’-house. Any man deny that?”

No man denied it.

“Humph!” said Adam.

He took the hymn-book from the rack, lifted the green cushion from the
seat, threw it over his shoulder, and walked out.

No man spoke against it.

“There’s no further business before this meeting,” said Chairman Hill.

It was a Sunday in August and nearly noon. From the side porch of Adam
Wick’s house on the hill the clustered foliage of the village below was
the centre of the landscape. The steeple and ridgepole of the church
rose out of the centre of the foliage.

The landscape could not be fancied without the steeple. The dumb
materials of the earth, as well as the men who walk upon it, acquire
habits. You could read on the flat face of the valley that it had grown
accustomed to Preston Plains steeple.

On the side porch stood a long, high-backed bench. It was a close
imitation of the pews in the church below among the foliage, with the
long green cushion on the seat and a chair facing it with a hymn-book
on it. Adam sat motionless on the bench. His red-lidded eyes were fixed
intently on the steeple.

A hen with a brood of downy yellow chickens pecked about the path.
A turkey strutted up and down. The air was sultry, oppressive. A low
murmur of thunder mingled with the sleepy noises of creaking crickets
and clucking hen.

Adam Wick’s bench and rule of Sabbath observance had been common talk in
Preston Plains. But it had grown too familiar, for subjects of dispute
ever gave way there to other subjects. Some one said it was pathetic.
The minority thought it a happy instance to throw in the face of
the bigoted majority, that they had driven from the church a man
of religious feeling. The minister had consulted Andrew Hill, that
thick-set man with the dry mouth and gray chin-beard.

“Not take out that pillar!” said Andrew Hill. “Ah,” said the minister,
“I’m afraid that wouldn’t do. It would seem like--”

“I wouldn’t move that pillar if the whole town was sidin’ with him.”

“Oh, now--”

“Not while I’m alive. Adam Wick, he’s obstinate.” Mr. Hill shut his
mouth grimly.

“Religious! Humph! Maybe he is.”

The minister moved away. They were a stiff-necked people, but after all
he felt himself to be one of them. It was his own race. He knew how
Andrew Hill felt, as if something somewhere within him were suddenly
clamped down and riveted. He understood Adam too, in his private pew on
the side porch, the hymn-book on the chair, his eyes on Preston Plains
steeple, fixed and glittering. He thought, “We don’t claim to be
altogether lovely.”

Adam was in his own eyes without question a just man suffering
injustice. His fathers in their Genesis and Exodus had so suffered,
faced stocks, pillory, the frowning edge of the wilderness, and
possessed their souls with the same grim congratulation. No generation
ever saw visions and sweat blood, and left a moderate-minded posterity.
Such martyrs were not surer that the God of Justice stood beside them
than Adam was sure of the injustice of that pillar in that pew, nor
more resolved that neither death nor hell should prevail against the
faithfulness of their protest.

And the turkey strutted in the yard, the chickens hurried and peeped,
the thunder muttered at intervals as if the earth were breathing heavily
in its hot sleep.

The church-bell rang for the end of the morning service. It floated up
from the distance, sweet and plaintive.

Adam rose and carried the cushion, chair, and hymn-book into the house.

The storm was rising, darkening. It crouched on the hills. It seemed to
gather its garments and gird its loins, to breathe heavily with crowded
hate, to strike with daggers of lightning right and left.

Adam came out again and sat on the bench. The service being over, it was
no longer a pew.

Carriages, one after another, drove out of the foliage below, and along
the five roads that ran out of Preston Plains between zigzag fences and
low stone walls. They were hurrying, but from that distance they seemed
to crawl.

The Wick carriage came up the hill and through the gate--creaking
wheels, a shambling white horse, Sarah jerking the reins with monotonous
persistence. She stepped down and dusted off her cotton gloves. Adam
walked out to take the horse.

“Wherefore do ye harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh
hardened their hearts?”

Adam seemed puzzled, blinked his eyes, seemed to study carefully the
contents of his own mind.

“I do’ know,” he said at last.

“First Samuel, seven, six,” said Sarah.

Adam led the horse away despondently. Halfway to the bam he stopped and
called out:

“Did he preach at me?”

“No.”

The minister had chosen a text that Adam did not know, and made no
reference to him, although the text was a likely one. Adam felt both
slights in a dim way, and resented them. He came back to the house and
sat in the front room before the window.

The valley was covered with a thick veil of gray rain. The black cloud
above it cracked every moment with sudden explosions, the echoes of them
tumbling clumsily among the hills. Preston Plains steeple faded away
and the foliage below it became a dim blot. A few drops struck the
window-pane at Adam’s face, then a rush and tumult of rain. Dimmer still
the valley, but the lightning jabbed down into it incessantly, unseen
batteries playing attack and defence over Preston Plains steeple.

It was a swift, sudden storm, come and gone like a burst of passion. The
imminent crack and crash of the thunder ceased, and only rumblings were
heard, mere memories, echoes, or as if the broken fragments of the
sky were rolling to and fro in some vast sea-wash. The valley and the
village trees came slowly into view.

“Dinner’s ready,” said Sarah, in the next room.

She had a strident voice, and said dinner was ready as if she expected
Adam to dispute it. There was no answer from the window.

“Pa! Aren’t you comin’?”

No answer. Sarah came to the door.

“Pa!”

His face was close to the rain-washed window-pane. Something rattled in
his throat. It seemed like a suppressed chuckle. He rested his chin on
his hand and clawed it with bony fingers.

“Pa!”

He turned on her sternly.

“You needn’t be shoutin’ on the Lord’s day. Meetin’-house steeple’s
a-fire.”

From Adam Wick’s nothing could be seen but the slow column of smoke
rising and curling around the slender steeple. But under the foliage
Preston Plains was in tumult.

By night the church was saved, but the belfry was a blackened ruin
within. The bell had fallen, through floor, cross-beams, and ceiling,
and smashed the front of the choir gallery, a mass of fallen pillar,
railing, and broken plaster on the floor.

Andrew Hill called a meeting. Adam Wick came, entered his cluttered pew
and sat on the pillar that lay prostrate across it. He perched on it
like a hawk, with huddled back and red-lidded eyes blinking. It was the
sense of the meeting that modern ideas demanded the choir should sit
behind the minister. The ruined gallery must be removed. Adam Wick rose.

“You’ve got no place in this meetin’,” said Andrew Hill. “Set down.”

Adam kept his place scornfully.

“Can’t I subscribe twenty dollars to this church?” The chairman stroked
his beard and a gleam of acrid humor lit his face for a moment.

“Well,” he said slowly, “I suppose you can.”

And the eyes of all present looked on Adam Wick favorably.

The minister rose to speak the last word of peace.

“My friends, the Lord did it. He is righteous--”

“That’s my idea!” said Adam Wick, like a hawk on his fallen pillar,
red-lidded, complacent. “He did what was right.”

The minister coughed, hesitated, and sat down. Andrew Hill glowered from
his chair.

“There’s no further business before this meetin’.”



THE EMIGRANT EAST

|The old book-shop on Cripple Street in the city of Hamilton was walled
to its dusky ceiling with books. Books were stacked on the floor like
split wood, with alleys between. The long table down the centre was
piled with old magazines and the wrecks of paper-covered novels.
School arithmetics and dead theologies; Annuals in faded gilt, called
“Keepsake,” or “Friendship’s Offering”; little leathern nubbins of books
from the last century, that yet seemed less antique than the Annuals
which counted no more than forty years--so southern and early-passing
was the youth of the Annual; Bohn’s translations, the useful and
despised; gaudy, glittering prints of the poets and novelists; all were
crowded together without recognition of caste, in a common Bohemia.
Finding a book in that mystical chaos seemed to establish a right to it
of first discovery. The pretty girl, who sat in one of the dim windows
and kept the accounts, looked Oriental but not Jewish, and wore crimson
ribbons in her black hair and at her throat. She read one of the
Annuals, or gazed through the window at Cripple Street. A show-case
in the other window contained stamp collections, Hindoo, Chinese, and
Levantine coinage.

Far back in the shop a daring explorer might come upon a third window,
gray, grimy, beyond which lay the unnamable backyards between Cripple
and Academy Streets. It could not be said to “open on” them, for it was
never opened, or “give a view” of them, being thick with gray dust. But
if one went up to it and looked carefully, there in the dim corner
might be seen an old man with a long faded black coat, rabbinical
beard, dusky, transparent skin, and Buddha eyes, blue, faint, far away,
self-abnegating, such as under the Bo-tree might have looked forth
in meek abstraction on the infinities and perceived the Eightfold
Principle. It was always possible to find Mr. Barria by steering for the
window. So appeared the old bookshop on Cripple Street, Mr. Barria, the
dealer, and his granddaughter, Janey.

Nature made Cripple Street to be calm and dull; for the hand of man,
working through generations, is the hand of nature, as surely as in
nature the oriole builds its nest or the rootlets seek their proper
soil. Cripple Street ran from Coronet to Main Street and its paving was
bad. There were a few tailors and bookbinders, a few silent, clapboarded
houses.

But two doors from the corner on Coronet Street stood Station No. 4, of
the Fire Brigade, and Cripple Street was the nearest way to Main Street,
whither No. 4 was more likely to be called than elsewhere. So that,
though nature made Cripple Street to be calm and dull, No. 4, Fire
Brigade, sometimes passed it, engine, ladder, and hose, in the splendor
of the supernatural, the stormy pageantry of the gods; and one Tommy
Durdo drove the engine.

Durdo first came into Mr. Barria’s shop in search of a paper-covered
novel with a title promising something wild and belligerent. It was a
rainy, dismal day, and Janey sat among the dust and refuse of forgotten
centuries.

“My eyes!” he thought. “She’s a peach.”

He lost interest in any possible belligerent novel, gazed at her with
the candor of his youthfulness, and remarked, guilefully:

“I bet you’ve seen me before now.”

“You drive the engine,” said Janey, with shining eyes.

“Why, this is my pie,” thought Durdo, and sat down by her on a pile
of old magazines. He was lank, muscular, with a wide mouth, lean jaws,
turn-up nose, and joyful eyes. The magazines contained variations on the
loves of Edwards, Eleanors, and other people, well-bred, unfortunate,
and possessed of sentiments. Durdo was not well-bred, and had not a
presentable sentiment in his recollection. He had faith in his average
luck, and went away from Mr. Barria’s shop at last with a spot in the
tough texture of his soul that felt mellow.

“J. Barria, bookdealer,” he read from the sign. “J! That’s Janey, ain’t
it? Hold on. She ain’t the bookdealer. She ain’t any ten-cent novel
either. She’s a Rushy bound, two dollar and a half a copy, with
a dedication on the fly-leaf, which”--Tommy stopped suddenly and
reflected--“which it might be dedicated to Tommy.”

It came near to being a sentiment. The possibility of such a thing
rising from within him seemed impressive. He walked back to No. 4
thoughtfully, and thrust himself into a fight with Hamp Sharkey, in
which it was proved that Hamp was the better man. Tommy regained his
ordinary reckless cheerfulness. But when a man is in a state of mind
that it needs a stand-up and knock-down fight to introduce cheerfulness,
he cannot hope to conceal his state of mind.

Cripple Street drowsed in the sunshine one August afternoon. A small boy
dug bricks out of the sidewalk with a stick. It seemed to emphasize the
indifferent calm that no one took that interest in Cripple Street to
come and stop him. The clangor of the fire-bells broke across the city.
For a moment the silence in Cripple Street seemed more deathly than
before. Then the doors of the tailors and bookbinders flew open. The
Fire Company came with leap and roar, ladder, engine, and hose, rattle
of wheels and thud of steam. Passing Mr. Barria’s Durdo turned his head,
saw Janey in the door, and beamed on her.

“Hooray,” he shouted.

“It’s Tommy’s girl,” thundered Hamp Sharkey, from the top of his
jingling ladders. Fire Brigade No. 4 cheered, waved its helmet, wherever
it had a hand free, and in a moment was gone, leaving the drift of its
smoke in the air, the tremble of its passing, and Janey flushed and
thrilled. Hook and ladder and all had hailed her with honor as Tommy’s
girl. A battalion of cavalry, with her lover at the head, dashing up to
salute, say, her battlemented or rose-embowered window--both terms occur
in the Annuals--and galloping away to the wars, might have been better
theoretically, but Janey was satisfied. She had no defence against such
battery. Power, daring, and danger were personified in Tommy. He had
brought them all to her feet. This it was to live and be a woman. She
turned back into the dim shop, her eyes shining. The backs of the dusty
books seemed to quiver and glow, even those containing arithmetic,
dead philosophies, and other cool abstractions, as if they forgot their
figures and rounded periods, and thought of the men who wrote them, how
these once were young.

Durdo found it possible, by spending his off hours in Mr. Barria’s shop,
to keep cheerful without fighting Hamp Sharkey. A row now and then with
a smaller man than Hamp was enough to satisfy the growing mellowness of
his soul. His off hours began at four. He passed them among the Annuals
and old magazines in a state of puzzled and flattered bliss. He fell so
far from nature as to read the Annuals where Janey directed, to conclude
that what was popularly called “fun” was vanity and dust in the mouth;
that from now on he would be decent, and that any corner or hole in the
ground which contained Janey and Tommy would suit him forever. No doubt
he was wrong there.

Mr. Barria’s memories of all that had befallen him within or without, in
the journey of this life, before his entry on the Path of Quietness, and
his consciousness of all external objects and occurrences since, were
clear enough, but only as little white clouds in the open sky are clear,
whose business it is to be far away and trouble us with no insistent
tempest. They never entered the inner circle of his meditation. They
appeared to be distant things. He had no sense of contact with them.
His abstractions had formed a series of concentric spheres about him.
In some outer sphere lay a knowledge of the value of books as bought and
sold, which enabled him to buy and sell them with indifferent profit,
but it entered his central absorption no more than the putting on and
off of his coat.

He was not absorbed in books. He did not seem to care for them, beyond
the fourscore or more worn volumes that were piled about his table by
the gray window, many of them in tattered paper covers bearing German
imprints, some lately rebound by a Cripple Street bookbinder. He did not
care for history or geography, not even his own. He did not care where
he was born or when, where he was now, or how old.

Once--whether forty years gone or four hundred, would have seemed to him
a question of the vaguest import--he had taught Arabic and Greek in a
university town, which looks off to mountains that in their turn look
off to the Adriatic Sea. There was a child, a smaller Julian Barria.
Somewhere about this time and place he began explorations in more
distant Eastern languages. The date was unnoted, obscure, traditional.
The interest in language soon disappeared. It was a period of wonder and
searching. After the moral fierceness of the Arab and Mohammedan, the
Hindoo’s and Buddhist’s calm negations and wide mental spaces first
interested him by contrast, then absorbed him. He began to practise the
discipline, the intense and quiet centring on one point, till the sense
of personality should slip away and he and that point be one. There was
no conviction or conversion, for the question never seemed put to him,
or to be of any value, whether one thing was true and another not true.
But the interest gradually changed to a personal issue. All that he now
heard and saw and spoke to, objects in rest or in motion, duties that
called for his performance, became not so much vaguer in outline as more
remote in position. In comparison with his other experiences they were
touched with a faint sense of unreality. The faces of other men were
changed in his eyes. He sometimes noticed and wondered, passingly, that
they seemed to see no change in him, or if any change, it was one that
drew them more than formerly to seek his sympathy. He observed himself
listening to intimate confessions with a feeling of patient benevolence
that cost him no effort, and seemed to him something not quite belonging
to him as a personal virtue, but which apparently satisfied and quieted
the troubled souls that sought him.

About this later time--a reference to the histories would fix the date
at 1848--a civil war swept the land, and the University was closed. The
younger Julian Barria was involved in the fall of the revolutionists and
fled from the country. The late teacher of Greek and Arabic crossed
the ocean with him. It was a matter of mild indifference. He gave his
sympathy to all, gently and naturally, but felt no mental disturbance.
Neither did the change of scene affect him. Everywhere were earth
beneath and sky above, and if not it were no matter. Everywhere were
men and women and children, busy with a multitude of little things,
trembling, hurrying, crying out among anxieties. It was all one, clear
enough, but remote, touched with the same sense of unreality, and like
some sad old song familiar in childhood and still lingering in the
memory.

The book-shop on Cripple Street at one time dealt also in newspapers and
cigars. They were more to the younger Barria’s talent, more to his
taste the stirring talk of men who live in their own era and congregate
wherever there are newspapers and tobacco. Afterward he went away into
the West, seeking a larger field for his enterprise than Cripple Street,
and the newspaper and cigar business declined and passed away. The
show-case fell to other uses. The elder Barria sat by the square rear
window, and the gray dust gathered and dimmed it. Ten years flowed like
an unruffled stream; of their conventional divisions and succeeding
events he seemed but superficially conscious. Letters came now and
then from the West, announcing young Barria’s journeys and schemes, his
marriage in the course of enterprise, finally his death. The last was in
a sprawling hand, and said:

“Jules missus is ded to an thars a kid. Jules sez take her to the ol man
Jake when ye go est in the spring. I am Jake. He is wooly in his hed
sez he but he is a good man sez he. He got a soul like Mondays washin
on Tewsday mornin sez he spekin in figgers an menin you. Them was Jules
last word.”

The large, bony person called Jake, slouch-hatted and rough-bearded,
brought the child in time, and departed, muttering embarrassment. She
stood among the Annuals and old magazines with a silver dollar from
Jake clasped in each hand, and a roll of fifty-dollar bills in her
tiny pocket, probably representing young Barria’s estate and the end of
Jake’s duties as executor. She might have been two or three years old.
That was not a matter of interest to Mr. Barria, in whose conception the
soul of every creature was, in a way, more ancient than the hills.

She seemed to believe in his good intentions and came to him gravely.
She did not remember any mother, and for her own name it had apparently
been “chicken” when her father had wanted her, and “scat” when he did
not. Mr. Barria envied a mind so untrammelled with memories, and named
her Jhana, which means a state of mystical meditation, of fruitful
tranquillity, out of which are said to come six kinds of supernatural
wisdom and ten powers. The name sometimes appeared to him written
Dhyana, when his meditations ran in Sanskrit instead of Pali. Cripple
Street called her Janey, and avoided the question with a wisdom of
its own. It had grown used to Mr. Barria. Scholars came from near-by
universities to consult him, and letters from distant countries to Herr,
Monsieur, or Signor Doctor Julian Barria, but Cripple Street, if it
knew of the matter, had no stated theory to explain it and was little
curious. His hair and beard grew white and prophetic, his skin more
transparent. A second decade and half a third glided by, and Janey and
Tommy Durdo sat hand in hand among the Annuals.

“You must ask him, Tommy,” Janey insisted, “because lovers always ask
parents.”

“An’ the parents is horty and they runs away hossback. Say, Janey, if
his whiskers gets horty, I ‘ll faint. Say, Janey, you got to go ‘n ask
my ma if you can have me.”

“Would she be haughty?”

Janey always bubbled with pleasure, like a meadow spring, when Tommy
“got on a string,” as he called it, fell to jesting circumstantially.
“You bet. She’d trun you down. An’ yet she’s married second time, she
has,” he went on, thoughtfully, “an’ she didn’t ask my consent, not
either time. I would n’t a given it the first, if she had, ‘cause dad
was no good. I’d a been horty. I’d a told her he wa’n’t worthy to come
into any family where I was comin’, which he wa’n’t.”

“Oh, Tommy!”

“Yep. Dad was more nuisance’n mosquitoes.”

Mr. Barria came out of the distant retreat of his meditation slowly, and
looked up. It did not need all the subtle instinct of a pundit to read
the meaning of the two standing hand in hand before him.

Tommy looked and felt as one asking favors of a spectre, and Mr. Barria
had fallen into a silent habit of understanding people.

“Little Jhana iss a woman so soon?” he said softly. “She asks of her
birthright.”

He rose and looked quietly, steadily at Tommy, who felt himself growing
smaller inside, till his shoes seemed enormous, even his scalp loose and
his skull empty.

“Mr.--”

“It’s Tommy Durdo,” said Janey.

“You will always remember to be a little kinder than seems necessary,
Mr. Durdo? It iss a good rule and very old.”

“He didn’t ask whether I was a burglar or a lunatic by profesh,”
 grumbled Tommy, later. “Ain’t a reasonable interest. He might a asked
which.”

“Never mind,” said Janey. “I’ll tell that.”

There were four rooms over the shop, where the three lived in great
peace. Tommy never made out whether Mr. Barria thought him a burglar or
a lunatic. As regards Janey he felt more like a burglar, as regards Mr.
Barria more like a lunatic. He dodged him reverentially. Only at the
station, where his duties kept him for the most part, did he feel like
a natural person and a fireman. He confided in Hamp Sharkey, and brought
him to the shop and the little up-stairs sitting-room for the purpose
of illustration. Hamp’s feelings resembled Tommy’s. They fell into naïve
sympathy. Hamp admired Tommy for his cleverness, his limber tongue,
the reckless daring of his daily contact with Mr. Barria and Janey, two
mysteries, differing but both remote. She was not like the shop-girls on
Main Street. Hamp would carry away the memory of her shining eyes lifted
to Tommy’s irregular, somewhat impish face, and growl secretly over his
mental bewilderment. Tommy admired Hamp for his height and breadth and
dull good-nature.

On an afternoon in the early summer the fire-bells rang call after call.
Engine No. 4 went second. The freight houses by the harbor were burning,
and the tall furniture factory that backed them. About dusk the north
wall of the factory fell into the street with a roar and rattle of
flying bricks.

The book-shop was dark in the centre. The two lamps in the front windows
were lit, and Mr. Barria’s lamp in his hidden corner.

It came upon Mr. Barria in his absorption that there had been a moment
before the sound of the trampling of heavy feet in the front of the
shop, and a sudden cry. The trampling continued and increased. He came
forward with his lamp. Men were crowding up the narrow stairs that began
in the opposite corner. One of them swung a lantern overhead.

“‘Twere a brick,” said some one in the dark centre of the shop. “Took
him over the ear. Dented him in like a plug hat.”

“Where’s some water?”

“Knocked her over quicker ‘n the brick.”

“Sh! What’s that?”

“It’s the old man.”

The light of the lamp, lifted in Mr. Barria’s hand, fell over his
head with its flowing white hair, rabbinical beard, and spectral face.
Three-men, one of them a policeman, drew back to one side of the shop,
looking startled and feebly embarrassed. On the other side the window
lamp shone on Janey, where she lay fallen among the old Annuals.

He lifted her head and muttered:

“Jhana, Jhana.”

The three men slipped through the door; those above came down; a doctor
bustled in, satchel in hand, and after him several women; Janey was
carried up; the shop was empty, except for Mr. Barria sitting by his
lamp and muttering softly.

“She could not find it, the peace that is about, and her little
happiness it would not stay beside her.”

Presently the doctor spoke over him.

“I think Mrs. Durdo should be taken to the hospital. St. James, you
know. It’s not far.”

“You think--”

“She is approaching confinement, and the shock, you know.”

“Whatever iss desirable, Herr Doctor. There iss no need, sir, of the
economy in respect to--to whatever iss desirable.”

“Quite right, Mr. Barria. Quite right.”

This was in June. Late in the fall Janey came back from St. James’s
Hospital, pale, drooping, and alone.

She sat in a black dress by the front window and kept the accounts as
before, gazed through the dim panes at Cripple Street, which was made
by nature to be dull, but read the Annuals no more, which was perhaps a
pity.

Mr. Barria from the rear of the shop watched Janey, sitting among the
Annuals and looking out on Cripple Street. He had not entered on the
Path himself as a cure for sorrow and suffering; he had come to it from
another direction. Yet the first purpose of its system had been the
solution of these. It was written:

“Sorrow and suffering will be overcome when this thirst for life is
quenched, which makes for continuance, and that desire of separateness
and hunger after selfhood are put aside. They will fall away as drops
from a lotus leaf.”

And Janey was a type of them as they walk abroad. The measure of her
trouble was the measure of the yearning and attainment that had been
hers.

“Desire not more then of yearning or attainment, of sight or touch,
of life in variety or abundance, but desire none at all, and turning
within, the dwelling you build there dwell in it, until both desire and
separateness shall in turn disappear.”

He went forward and drew a chair beside her.

“Little Jhana,” he said, “there wass once a woman and young who brought
her dead child to the wisest of men, and asked so of him, ‘Do you know
one medicine that will be good for this child?’ It was the custom then
for the patients or their friends to provide the herbs which the
doctors require, so that when she asked what herbs he would wish, and
he answered, ‘Mustard-seed,’ she promised with haste to bring it, for it
wass a common herb. ‘And it must come,’ he said, ‘only from some house
where no child, no hussband, no wife, no parent, no friend hass died.’
Then she went in great hope, carrying the dead child; but everywhere
they said, ‘I have lost,’ and again, ‘We have lost,’ and one said, ‘What
iss this you say; the living are few but the dead are many.’ She found
so no house in that place from which she might take the mustard-seed.
Therefore she buried the child, and came, and she said, ‘I have not
found it; they tell me the living are few and the dead many.’ And he
showed her how that nothing endured at all, but changed and passed into
something else, and each wass but a changing part of a changing whole,
and how, if one thought more of the whole, one so ceased to be troubled
much of the parts, and sorrow would fade away quietly.” Janey stared at
him with wide, uncomprehending eyes. There was a certain comfort always
in Mr. Barria himself, however oddly he might talk. She dropped her head
on his knee and whispered:

“I don’t know about all that. I want Tommy and the baby.”

He touched her hair with thin fingers gently. “Then I wonder, little
Jhana,” he said, looking to the magazines and Annuals, “if you have
found among these one, a poet of the English, who calls it to be better
to love and lose than not to love.”

“I don’t know. I don’t remember.”

He smoothed her hair again and went away. The winter passed and the
spring came with a scatter of sunshine and little showers. Janey still
sat by the window. If she had been able to generalize, to see that Tommy
and the baby represented hunger after life, and that this was the root
of sorrow, it would perhaps have still seemed to her that love and loss
were the better choice. Perhaps not. But she could not generalize. Her
thoughts were instincts, fancies, and little shining points of belief.
She could not see herself in any figure of speech; that she was one of a
multitude of discordant notes in the universe, whose business it was to
tune themselves to the key of a certain large music and disappear in its
harmony, where alone was constant happiness. It did not seem to mention
Tommy or the baby, and if not there was no point in it.

Spring slipped away. Cripple Street was filled to the brim with bland
summer. Janey went every day to the cemetery with flowers. In September
she began to come back with flowers in her belt.

It was a rainy, dismal day in October. Mr. Barria had a remote sense of
hearing Janey’s laugh. It seemed to him there was a strange presence
in the shop. He peered out, and saw Hamp Sharkey outlined against the
window, large, slow-moving, and calm, a man who seemed to avoid all
troubles of the flesh by virtue of having enough flesh, and solid bone
beneath. Janey looked up at him and laughed. Around her were the old
Annuals, containing the loves of Edwards and Eleanors.

Mr. Barria leaned back in his chair. Some untraced suggestion led him
to counting his years idly. He made them out to be nearly eighty.
They seemed suddenly to rest on his shoulders like a weight. If one
considered them at all, they were heavy, the years. And for this human
life, it was only intelligible in the abstract. Of its details there
were too many.

The shop grew duskier, and the rain beat on the windows with an
incessant pattering, a multitude of tiny details, sounding accordingly
as one might listen. For either it would seem a cheerful, busy sound of
the kindly water, humble and precious and clean, needful in households,
pleasant in the fulness of rivers, comfortable, common, familiar; or it
was the low sigh of the driven rain, the melancholy iteration and murmur
of water circling like everything else its wheel of change, earth and
ocean and sky, earth and ocean and sky, and weary to go back to its
vague, elemental vapor, as before the worlds were shaped.

Mr. Barria turned back to his volume, bound in gray paper with a German
imprint. To his ears the sound of the two voices talking became as
abstract as the rain. Hamp Sharkey’s laugh was like the lowing of a
contented ox, and Janey’s, as of old, like the ripple of a brook in a
meadow.



TOBIN’S MONUMENT

|I was a student then and lived on the second floor of a brick dormitory
with foot-worn stones and sagging casements. The windows looked across
one end of the campus on ivy-covered walls of other buildings, on
a bronze statue whose head was bent to indicate that the person
represented had taken life seriously in his day. Near at hand was a
street of unacademic noises, horse-cars, shops, German bands, newsboys,
people who bought and sold without higher mathematics and seldom
mentioned Horatius Flaccus.

But there were drifts and eddies of the street that would turn aside and
enter the dormitories commercially. Tobin was one of these. He came to
my door by preference, because of the large crack in the panel. For,
if one entered the dormitory commercially and knocked at the doors, one
never knew--it might be Horatius Flaccus, a volume of size and weight.
But with a crack in the panel one could stand outside at ease and
dignity, looking through it, and crying, “_M’las ca-andy!_ Peanuts!”
 Then, if anything arrived, without doubt it arrived. A man might throw
what he chose at his own door.

He was thin in the legs and shoulders, but round of face and marked
there with strange designs that were partly a native complexion; but, if
one is a candy boy, in constant company with newsboys, shiners, persons
who carry no such merchandise but are apt to wish for it violently,
one’s complexion of course varies from day to day.

“Say, but I hit _him!_ He bled on his clo’s.” Tobin sometimes made this
comment, “him” meaning different persons. There was a vein of fresh
romance in him. Did not Sir Balin, or his like, smite Sir Lanceor, so
that the blood flowed over his hauberk, and afterward speak of it with
enthusiasm?

It was a cold December day in the year 188-, when the snow whirled
without rest from morning chapel till the end of the day was signified
by the first splutter of gas-jets. Among the hills where I was born that
office was left to the sunsets and twilights, who had a manner of doing
it, a certain broad nobility, a courtesy and grace. “One of God’s days
is over. This is our sister, the night.” The gas-jets were fretful,
coquettish, affected. “It is an outrage! One is simply turned on and
turned off!” Horatius Flaccus was social and intimate with me that day.
“_Exegi monumentum_,” he remarked. “You will find it not easy to forget
me.”

Monuments! At the University we lived among commemorative buildings;
many a silent dusty room was dim with accumulation of thought; and there
men labored for what but to make a name?

The statue outside represented one who took life seriously in his day,
now with the whirling snow about it, the gas-jet in front snapping
petulantly. “One is simply turned on and turned off!”

“_Exegi monumentum_,” continued Horatius Flac-cus. “This is my work, and
it is good. I shall not all die, _non omnis moriar_.” It seemed natural
to feel so. But how honorably the sunsets and twilights used to go their
ways among the hills, contented and leaving not a wrack behind.

It was a better attitude and conduct, that serene security of clouds in
their absolute death. “_Non omnis moriar_” was not only a boast, but a
complaint and a protest.

Still, as to monuments, one would rather be memorialized by one’s own
work than by the words of other men, or the indifferent labor of their
chisels.

“_M’las ca-andy!_”

“Come in, Tobin!”

He opened the door and said, tentatively, “Peanuts.”

He always spoke in a more confident tone of the candy than of the
peanuts. There was no good reason for his confidence in either.

“Tobin,” I said, “you don’t want a monument?”

He kicked his feet together and murmured again, “Peanuts.”

His shoes were cracked at the sides. The cracks were full of snow.

The remark seemed to imply that he did not expect a monument, having no
confidence in his peanuts. As a rule they were soggy and half-baked.

Tobin’s life, I thought, was too full of the flux of things; candy
melted, peanuts decayed, complexion changed from day to day, his private
wars were but momentary matters. I understood him to have no artificial
desires. Death would be too simple an affair for comment. He would
think of no comment to make. Sunsets and twilights went out in silence;
Tobin’s half of humanity nearly as dumb. It was the other half that was
fussy on the subject.

“Your feet are wet, Tobin. Warm them. Your shoes are no good.”

Tobin picked the easiest chair with good judgment, and balanced his feet
over the coals of the open stove, making no comment.

“I won’t buy your peanuts. They’re sloppy. I might buy you another pair
of shoes. What do you think?”

He looked at me, at the shoes, at the wet basket on his knees, but
nothing elaborate seemed to occur to him. He said:

“A’right.” He had great mental directness. I had reached that point in
the progress of young philosophy where the avoidance of fussiness takes
the character of a broad doctrine: a certain Doric attitude was desired.
Tobin seemed to me to have that attitude.

“If I give you the money, will you buy shoes or cigarettes?”

“Shoes.”

“Here, then. Got anything to say?”

He put the bill into his pocket, and said:

“Yep, I’ll buy ‘em.”

His attitude was better than mine. The common wish to be thanked was
pure fussiness.

“Well, look here. You bring me back the old ones.”

Even that did not disturb him. The Doric attitude never questions other
men’s indifferent whims.

“A’right.”

I heard him presently on the lower floor, crying, “_M’las ca-andy!_
Peanuts.”

“I shall be spoken of,” continued Horatius Flaccus, calmly, “by that
wild southern river, the Aufidus, and in many other places. I shall be
called a pioneer in my own line, _princeps Æolium carmen deduxisse_.”

The night was closing down. The gas-light flickered on the half-hidden
face of the statue, so that its grave dignity seemed changed to a
shifty, mocking smile.

I heard no more of Tobin for a month, and probably did not think of him.
There were Christmas holidays about, and that week which is called of
the Promenade, when one opens Horatius Flaccus only to wonder what might
have been the color of Lydia’s hair, and to introduce comparisons that
are unfair to Lydia.

It was late in January. Some one came and thumped on the cracked panel.
It was not Tobin, but a stout woman carrying Tobin’s basket, who said in
an expressionless voice:

“Oi! Them shoes.”

“What?”

“You give ‘im some shoes.”

“Tobin. That’s so.”

“I’m Missus Tobin.”

She was dull-looking, round-eyed, gray-haired. She fumbled in the
basket, dropped something in wet paper on a chair, and seemed placidly
preparing to say more. It seemed to me that she had much of Tobin’s
mental directness, the Doric attitude, the neglect of comment. I asked:
“How’s Tobin?”

“Oi! He’s dead.”

“I am very sorry, Mrs. Tobin. May I--”

“Oi! Funeral’s this afternoon. He could’n’ be round. He was sick. Five
weeks three days.”

She went out and down the stair, bumping back and forth between the wall
and the banister.

On the misty afternoon of that day I stood on that corner where more than
elsewhere the city and the University meet; where hackmen and newsboys
congregate; where a gray brick hotel looks askance at the pillared
and vaulted entry of a recitation hall. The front of that hall is a
vainglorious thing. Those who understand, looking dimly with halfshut
eyes, may see it change to a mist, and in the mist appear a worn fence,
a grassless, trodden space, and four tall trees.

The steps of the hall were deserted, except for newsboys playing tag
among the pillars. I asked one if he knew where Tobin lived.

“He’s havin’ a funeral,” he said.

“Where?”

“10 Clark Street.”

“Did you know him?”

The others had gathered around. One of them said:

“Tobin licked him.”

The first seemed to think more than ordinary justice should be done a
person with a funeral, and admitted that Tobin had licked him.

No. 10 Clark Street was a door between a clothing shop and a livery
stable. The stairway led up into darkness. On the third landing a door
stood open, showing a low room. A painted coffin rested on two chairs.
Three or four women sat about with their hands on their knees. One of
them was Mrs. Tobin.

“Funeral’s over,” she said, placidly.

The clergyman from the mission had come and gone. They were waiting for
the city undertaker. But they seemed glad of an interruption and looked
at me with silent interest.

“I want to ask you to tell me something about him, Mrs. Tobin.”

Mrs. Tobin reflected. “There ain’t nothin’.”

“He never ate no candy,” said one of the women, after a pause.

Mrs. Tobin sat stolidly. Two large tears appeared at length and rolled
slowly down.

“It made him dreadful sick when he was little. That’s why.”

The third woman nodded thoughtfully.

“He said folks was fools to eat candy. It was his stomach.”

“Oi!” said Mrs. Tobin.

I went no nearer the coffin than to see the common grayish pallor of the
face, and went home in the misty dusk.

The forgotten wet bundle had fallen to the floor and become undone.

By the cracks in the sides, the down-trodden heels, the marks of keen
experience, they were Tobin’s old shoes, round-toed, leather-thonged,
stoical, severe.

Mrs. Tobin had not commented. She had brought them merely, Tobin having
stated that they were mine.

They remained with me six months, and were known to most men, who came
to idle or labor, as “Tobin’s Monument.” They stood on a book-shelf,
with other monuments thought to be _aere perennius_, more enduring than
brass, and disappeared at the end of the year, when the janitor reigned
supreme. There seemed to be some far-off and final idea in the title,
some thesis which never got itself rightly stated. Horatius Flaccus was
kept on the shelf beside them in the notion that the statement should
somehow be worked out between them. And there was no definite result;
but I thought he grew more diffident with that companionship.

“_Exegi monumentum_. I suppose there is no doubt about that,” he would
remark. “_Ære perennius_. It seems a trifle pushing, so to trespass on
the attention of posterity. I would rather talk of my Sabine farm.”



THE CONCLUSION BY THE WAYFARERS


               All honest things in the world we greet

                   With welcome fair and free;

               A little love by the way is sweet,

                   A friend, or two, or three;


               Of the sun and moon and stars are glad,

                   Of the waters of river and sea;

               We thank thee, Lord, for the years we’ve had,

                   For the years that yet shall be.


               These are our brothers, the winds of the airs;

                   These are our sisters, the flowers.

               Be near us at evening and hear our.prayers.,

                   O God, in the late gray hours.





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