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´╗┐Title: Henry Is Twenty - A Further Episodic History of Henry Calverly, 3rd
Author: Merwin, Samuel
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Henry Is Twenty - A Further Episodic History of Henry Calverly, 3rd" ***

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HENRY IS TWENTY

A Further Episodic History of Henry Calverly, 3rd

By Samuel Merwin

Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd.

London and Glasgow

1921



OF PATTERNS AND PERSONS

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

He isn\x92t, of course, a hero at all. His weaknesses are too plain--the
little evidences of vanity in him, his selfcentred moments, his errant
susceptibilities--and heroes can\x92t have weaknesses. And heroes--in any
well-regulated pattern-story--must \x91turn out well.\x92 Henry, in this book,
doesn\x92t really turn out at all. His success in Episode X is a rather
alarming accident. I think he\x92ll do well enough, when he\x92s forty or so.
At twenty, no. He has huge doses of life\x92s medicine yet to swallow. And
all his problems are complicated by the touch of genius that is in him.

Another thing: there couldn\x92t have been a Mamie Wilcox in our
pattern-story. And certainly not a Corinne. Hardly even a Martha. For
a \x91divided love interest\x92 destroys your pattern. Yet Marthas, Corinnes,
Mamies occur everywhere. So I can\x92t very well apologise for their
presence here.

We might, of course, have had Henry overthrow the Old Cinch in Sunbury;
clean up the town. But he didn\x92t happen to be a St George that summer.
And then, so many heroes of pattern-stories, these two decades, have
slain municipal dragons!

He might have listened in a deeper humility to the worldly wisdom of
Uncle Arthur. But he didn\x92t. He had to live his own life, not Uncle
Arthur\x92s. His way was the harder, but he couldn\x92t help that.

I would have liked to pursue further the Mildred-Humphrey romance;
including Arthur V. and the curious triangle that resulted; but the
crisis didn\x92t come in that year.

And against the temptation to dwell with Madame Watt and her husband I
have had, here, to set my face. Though something of that story will be
told in a book yet to come, dealing with an older, changed Henry.
The richly dramatic career of _Madame_ underlay the irony of Henry\x92s
marriage; and we shall have to deal with that, or at least with the
events that grew out of it.

I have said that Henry would turn out well enough in time. From the
angle of the pattern-story this obviously couldn\x92t be. It would be said
that if he _was_ ever to succeed he should have got started by this time
in habits of industry and so forth.

I won\x92t say that this is nonsense, but instead will quote from the
autobiography of Charles Francis Adams (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1916).
Mr Adams, from his fifteenth to his twenty-fifth year, kept a diary.
Then he sealed the volumes in a package. Thirty years later he opened
the package and read every word. He says:--

\x91The revelation of myself to myself was positively shocking.... It
wasn\x92t that the thing was bad or that my record was discreditable; it
was worse! It was silly. That it was crude, goes without saying.
_That_ I didn\x92t mind! But I did blush and groan and swear over its
unmistakable, unconscious immaturity and ineptitude, its conceit, its
weakness and its cant.... As I finished each volume it went into the
fire; and I stood over it until the last leaf was ashes.... I have never
felt the same about myself since. I now humbly thank fortune that I have
got almost through life without making a conspicuous ass of myself.\x92

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

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

Concord, Mass.

S. M.



I--THE IRRATIONAL ANIMAL


1


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

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

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

Along Simpson Street the grocers, in their aprons, already had out
their sidewalk racks heaped with seasonable vegetables and fruits
(out-of-season delicacies had not then become commonplaces of life in
Sunbury; strawberries appeared when the local berries were ripe,
not sooner). The two butcher shops were decorated with red and buff
carcasses hung in rows. A whistling, coatless youth had just swept out
Donovan\x92s drug store and was wiping off the marble counter before the
marble and glass soda fountain. Through the windows of the Sunbury
National Bank Alfred Knight could be seen filling the inkwells and
putting out fresh blotters and pens. The neat little restaurant known as
\x91Stanley\x92s\x92 (the Stanleys were a respectable coloured couple) was
still nearly full of men who ate ham and eggs, pounded beefsteak, fried
potatoes, and buckwheat cakes, and drank huge cups of gray-brown coffee;
with, at the rear tables, two or three family groups. And from numerous
boarding-houses and dormitories in the northern section of the overgrown
village students of both sexes were converging on the oak-shaded campus
by the lake.

All of Sunbury appeared to be up and about the business of the day; all,
perhaps, except Henry Calverly, 3rd, who sat, dressed except for his
coat, heavy-eyed, a hair brush in either hand, hands resting limp
on knees, on the edge of his narrow iron bed. This, in Mrs Wilcox\x92s
boardinghouse in Douglass Street, one block south of Simpson; top floor.

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

That figure, twenty-one, of significance in the secret thoughts of any
growing boy, was of peculiar, stirring significance to the sensitive,
imaginative Henry. It marked the beginning of what is sometimes termed
Life. It suggested alarming but interesting responsibilities. On that
day, beginning with the stroke of the midnight hour, guardians ceased
to function and independence set in. One was a citizen. One voted. In
Henry\x92s case, the crowning symbol of manhood would be deferred a year,
as Election Day was to fall on the fifth of November and his birthday
was the seventh; but that so trivial a mere fact bore small weight in
the face of potential citizenship might have been indicated by the faint
blonde fringe along his upper lip. This fringe was a new venture. He
stroked it much of the time, and stole glances at it in mirrors. He
could twist it up a little at the ends.

The rest of him indicated a taste that was hardly bent on the
inexpensive as such. His duck trousers (this was the middle nineties)
were smartly creased and rustled with starch. His white canvas shoes
were not \x91sneakers\x92 but had heavy soles and half-heels of red rubber.
His coat, lying now across the iron tube that marked the foot of the
bed, was a double-breasted blue serge, unlined, well-tailored. The hat,
hung on a mirror post above the \x91golden oak\x92 bureau, was of creamy white
felt. He had given up spectacles for nose glasses with a black silk
cord.

Nearly two years earlier his mother had died. He had lived on, caught in
a drift of time and circumstance, keeping, without any particular plan,
this little room with its sloping ceiling. The price was an item, of
course--six dollars a week for room and board. You couldn\x92t do better
in Sunbury, even then. Memories haunted the place, naturally enough.
Loneliness had dwelt close with him.

His mother\x92s picture, in a silver frame, stood at the right of the
pincushion; at the left, in hammered brass [\x91repouss\xE9 work\x92) was a
\x91cabinet size\x92 photograph of Martha Caldwell. A woven-wire rack on the
wall held half a hundred snapshots of girls, boys, and groups, in about
a third of which figured Martha\x92s smiling, sensible, pleasantly freckled
face. A guitar in an old green bag leaned against the wall behind his
mother\x92s old trunk; it had not been out of the bag in more than a year.
An assortment of neck-ties hung over the gas-jet by the bureau. Tacked
about on the wall were six or eight copies of Gibson girls; rather good
copies, barringva certain stiffness of line. On the seat in the one
dormer window reposed two cushions, one covered with college pennants,
the other with cigar bands laboriously cross-stitched together; both
from, the hands of Martha.

Henry\x92s little bookcase was not uninteresting. It contained the
following books: Daily Strength for Daily Needs, Browning, Trollope,
and Hawthorne in sets, Sonnets, from the Portuguese, Words often
Mispronounced, Longfellow, complete in one fat volume. Red Line Edition,
and Six Thousand Puzzles, all of which had been his mother\x92s; Green\x92s
History of the English People, Boswell\x92s Johnson, both largely uncut,
and the Discourses of Epictetus, which three had come as Christmas or
birthday gifts; and exactly one volume, a work by an obscure author
(who was pictured in the frontispiece with a bristling moustache and
intensely knit brows) entitled Will Power and Self Mastery, which
offered the only clue as to Henry\x92s own taste in book buying.

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

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

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

All she said was, \x91Oh!\x92--very low.

\x91Wonder you wouldn\x92t knock!\x92 said he.

\x91Wonder you wouldn\x92t get up before noon!\x92 she responded smartly, but
still in that cautious voice; then added, \x91Here, I\x92ll leave the towels,
and come back.\x92 And she slipped into the room, a heavier and more
shapely figure of a girl than was suggested by the face, a girl in a
full-length gingham apron and little shoes with unexpectedly high heels;
not \x91French\x92 heels, but the sloping style known then as \x91military.\x92


2


Henry\x92s colour was rising a little. He cleared his throat, and said,
mumbling, \x91Leave anything you like.\x92

\x91I\x92ll do just that,\x92--she turned, with a flirt of her apron and stood,
between washstand and door, surveying him--\x91what I like, and nothing
more.\x92... Her eyes wandered now from him to the picture at the left of
the pincushion, then to the snapshots on the wall, and she smiled, very
self-contained, very knowing, with the expression that the young call
\x91sarcastic.\x92 The adjective came to mind. Henry\x92s colour was mounting
higher.

\x91Pretty snappy to-day, ain\x92t we?\x92 said he.

\x91Yes, when we\x92re snapped at,\x92 said she.

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

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

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

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

\x91Be careful!\x92 she whispered. \x91They\x92ll hear!\x92

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

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

\x91Whew--strong!\x92

\x91Suppose I slapped.\x92

\x91Slap all you like.\x92

\x91What would Martha Caldwell say?\x92

There was a gloomy sort of anger on Henry\x92s red face. He jerked her
violently toward him.

\x91Stop! You\x92re hurting my wrist!\x92 With which she yielded a little.
He found himself about to take her in his arms. He heard her
whispering--\x91For Heaven\x92s sake be careful! They\x92ll surely hear!\x92

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

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

She said: \x91Well, you needn\x92t get mad.\x92

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

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

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

Suddenly, with one of his quick impulses, he sprang at the bookcase,
drew out the _Epictetus_--it was a little book, bound in \x91ooze\x92 calf of
an olive-green colour--and read these words (the book opened there):--

\x91To the rational animal only is the irrational intolerable.

He lowered the book and repeated the phrase aloud.


3


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

After this he walked--stiffly self-conscious, book under arm--over to
Simpson Street, and took a chair and an _Inter Ocean_ at Schultz and
Schwartz\x92s, among the line of those waiting to be shaved.

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

\x91Shave--10 c.\x92

He wavered when passing Donovan\x92s; stepped in and consumed a frosted
maple shake. Which necessitated the further entry in the red book:--

\x91Soda--10 c.\x92

In front of Berger\x92s grocery he met Martha Caldwell. They walked
together to the corner.

Martha was a sizable girl, about as tall as Henry, with large blue eyes,
an attractively short nose, abundant brown hair coiled away under her
flat straw hat, and a general air of good sense. Martha was really a
goodlooking young woman, and would have been popular had not Henry stood
in her light. She had a small gift at drawing (the Gibson copies
in Henry\x92s room were hers) and danced gracefully enough. Monday and
Thursday evenings were his regular calling times; and there were so many
other evenings when he was expected to take her to this house or that
with \x91the crowd\x92 that the other local \x91men\x92 had long since given up
calling at her house. But they were not engaged.

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

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

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

He thrust both hands into his trousers\x92 pockets, spread his feet, and
stared across at the long veranda of the Sunbury House. It seemed to him
that he had never been so unhappy.

\x91Are you\x92--Martha began; hesitated; went on--\x91were you thinking of
coming around this evening?\x92

\x91Why--it\x92s Thursday, ain\x92t it?\x92

\x91Yes,\x92 she said, \x91it\x92s Thursday.\x92

\x91Listen, Martha!\x92 Was it possible that she suspected something? But how
could she! His ears were getting red again. He knew it. She must never,
never know about Mamie!... \x91Listen, I may have to go down to Mrs Arthur
V. Henderson\x92s.\x92

\x91Oh,\x92 she murmured, \x91that musicale.\x92

\x91Yes.\x92 Eagerness was creeping into his voice. \x91Anne Mayer Stelton.
She\x92s been over studying with Marchesi, you know. Mrs Henderson asked
specially to have me cover it.\x92

\x91Why don\x92t you go?\x92

\x91Well--you see how it is. Of course, I\x92d hate----\x92

\x91You\x92d better go.\x92 Saying which Martha turned away down Filbert Avenue,
and left him standing there.

He bit his lip; pulled at his moustache. \x91I ought to do something for
her,\x92 he thought. \x91Buy some flowers--or a box of Devoe\x92s.\x92

This was an idle thought; for the day, Thursday, lay much too close to
the financially lean end of the week to permit of flowers or candy. And
he hadn\x92t asked anywhere for a dollar of credit these nearly two years.
Still, he felt faintly the warmth of his kindly intention.

It didn\x92t seem altogether right to let her go like that. They had not
before drifted so near a quarrel. On the farther side of the street he
paused, and glanced down the avenue.

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

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

Here he laid down the _Discourses of Epictetus_ and asked Humphrey
Weaver, untitled editor of the paper (old man Boice, the owner, would
never permit any one but himself to be known by that title), for the
galley proofs of the week\x92s \x91Personal Mention.\x92

He found this item:--

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

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

And Martha had gone to the Country Club Saturday with the Ameses. This
curious tension between himself and Martha had then first bordered on
the acute. Mr Ames disapproved of Henry; he felt that Martha shouldn\x92t
have gone. And now, of course, her lack of consideration for himself was
leading her into new complications.

He sat moodily fingering the papers on the littered, ink-stained
table that served him for a desk. He was disturbed, uncomfortable, but
couldn\x92t settle on what seemed a proper mental attitude. He was jealous;
but he mustn\x92t let his jealousy carry him to the point of taking a
definite stand with Martha, because--well...

Life seemed very difficult.


4


The _Voice_ office occupied what had once been a shop, opposite the
hotel. The show window of plate glass now displayed the splintery rear
panels of old Mr Boice\x92s rolltop desk, that was heaped, on top, with
back numbers of the _Voice_, the _Inter Ocean_ and the _Congressional
Record_, and a pile of inky zinc etchings mounted on wood blocks.

Within, back of a railing, were Humphrey Weaver\x92s desk and Henry
Calverly\x92s table.

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

Humphrey might have been twenty-five or six. He was a reticent young
man, with no girl or women friends that one ever saw, a fondness for
the old corn-cob that he was always scraping, filling, or smoking, and a
secret passion for the lesser known laws of physics. He lived alone, in
a barn back of the old Parmenter place. He had divided the upper story
into living and sleeping rooms, and put in hardwood floors and simple
furniture and a piano. Downstairs, in what he called his shop, were
lathes, a workbench, innumerable wood-and-metal working tools, a dozen
or more of heavy metal wheels set, at right angles, in circular frames,
and several odd little round machines suspended from the ceiling at the
ends of twisted cords. In one corner stood a number of box kites, very
large ones. And there were large planes of silk on spruce frames. He was
an alumnus of the local university, but had made few friends, and had
never been known in the town. Henry hadn\x92t heard of him before the
previous year, when he had taken the desk in the _Voice_ office.

\x91Say, Hen,\x92--Henry looked up from his copy paper--; \x91Mrs Henderson
looked in a few minutes ago, and left a programme and a list of guests
for her show to-night. She wants to be sure and have you there. You can
do it, can\x92t you?\x92

Henry nodded listlessly.

\x91It seems there\x92s to be a contralto, too--somebody that\x92s visiting her.
She--Sister Henderson--appears to take you rather seriously, my
boy. Wants you particularly to hear the new girl. One Corinne Doag.
We,\x92--Humphrey smoked meditatively, then finished his sentence--\x91we
talked you over, the lady and I. I promised you\x92d come.\x92

At noon, the editorial staff of two lunched at Stanley\x92s.

\x91Wha\x92d you and Mrs Henderson say about me?\x92 asked Henry, over the pie.

\x91She says,\x92 remarked Humphrey, the wrinkles multiplying about his eyes,
\x91that you have temperament. She thinks it\x92s a shame.\x92

\x91What\x92s a shame?\x92 muttered Henry.

\x91Whatever has happened to you. I told her you were the steadiest boy
I ever knew. Don\x92t drink, smoke, or flirt. I didn\x92t add that you enter
every cent you spend in that little red book; but I\x92ve seen you doing it
and been impressed. But I mentioned that you\x92re the most conscientious
reporter I ever saw. That started her. It seems that you\x92re nothing of
the sort. My boy, she set you before me in a new light. You begin to
appear complex and interesting.\x92

Still muttering, Henry said, \x91Nothing so very interesting about me.\x92

\x91It seems that you put on an opera here--directed it, or sang it, or
something. Before my time.\x92

\x91That was _Iolanthe_,\x92 said Henry, with a momentarily complacent memory.

\x91And you sang--all over the place, apparently. Why don\x92t you sing now?\x92

\x91It\x92s too,\x92--Henry was mumbling, flushing, and groping for a word--\x91too
physical.\x92

Then, with a sudden movement that gave Humphrey a little start, the boy
leaned over the table, pulled at his moustache, and asked, gloomily:
\x91Listen! Do you think a man can change his nature?\x92

Humphrey considered this without a smile. \x91I don\x92t see exactly how,
Hen.\x92

\x91I mean if he\x92s been heedless and reckless--oh, you know, girls, debts,
everything. Just crazy, sorta.\x92

\x91Well, I suppose a man can reform. Were you a very bad lot?\x92 The
wrinkled smile was reassuring.

\x91That depends on what you--I wasn\x92t exactly sporty, but--oh, you don\x92t
know the trouble I\x92ve had, Humphrey. Then my mother died, and I hadn\x92t
been half-decent to her, and I was left alone, and my uncle had to pay
my debts out of the principal--it was hundreds of dollars----\x92

His voice died out.

There was an element of pathos in the picture before him that Humphrey
recognised with some sympathy--the gloomy lad of twenty, with that
absurd little moustache that he couldn\x92t let alone. After all, he _had_
been rather put to it. It began to appear that he had suppressed himself
without mercy. There would doubtless be reactions. Perhaps explosions.

Henry went on:--

\x91I don\x92t know what\x92s happened to me. I don\x92t feel right about things.
I\x92--he hesitated, glanced up, then down, and his ears reddened--\x91I\x92ve
been going with Martha Caldwell, you know. For a long time.\x92

Humphrey nodded.

\x91Mondays and Thursdays I go over there, and other times. I don\x92t seem to
want to go any more. But I get mixed up about it. I--I don\x92t want them
to say I\x92m fickle. They used to say it.\x92

\x91You\x92ve evidently got gifts,\x92 observed Humphrey, as if thinking aloud.
\x91You\x92ve got some fire in you. The trouble with you now, of course, is
that you\x92re stale.\x92 Humphrey deliberately considered the situation, then
remarked: \x91You asked me if a man can change his nature. I begin to see
now. You\x92ve been trying to do that to yourself, for quite a while.\x92

Henry nodded.

\x91Well, I suppose you\x92ll find that you can\x92t do it. Not quite that. The
fire that\x92s in you isn\x92t going to stop burning just because you tell it
to.\x92

\x91But what\x92s a fellow to do?\x92

\x91I don\x92t know. Just stick along, I suppose, gradually build up
experience until you find work you can let yourself go in. Some way, of
course, you\x92ve got to let yourself go, sooner or later.\x92

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

\x91Yes,\x92 he broke out, with the huskiness in his voice that came when his
emotions pressed--\x91yes, but what if you can\x92t let yourself go without
letting everything go? What if the fire bums you!\x92

Humphrey found it difficult to frame a reply. He got no further, this as
they were leaving the restaurant, than to say, \x91Of course, one man can\x92t
advise another.\x92


5


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

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

\x91What is it?\x92 he asked, walking with her. \x91Did you want to speak to me?\x92

\x91Stuck up, aren\x92t we!\x92

\x91Well?\x92

She pouted. \x91Take a little walk with me. I do want to talk with you.\x92

\x91Haven\x92t time. Got to get right back to the office.\x92

\x91Well--listen, meet me to-night. I can get out by eight. It\x92s pretty
important. Maybe serious.\x92

\x91Is it---did anybody----\x92

She nodded. \x91Mrs MacPherson. She was right in her door when I came out
of your room.\x92

\x91Did she say anything?\x92

\x91She looked a lot.\x92

\x91Well, say--I\x92ll see you for a few minutes to-night. Say about eight.\x92
This was best. It would be dark, or near it. He simply mustn\x92t be seen
strolling with Mamie Wilcox along Filbert Avenue in broad daylight.
\x91What do you say to Douglass Street and the Lake Shore Drive?\x92

\x91All right. Tell you what--bring a tandem along and take me for a ride.\x92

\x91Oh, I can\x92t.\x92 But his will was weak. \x91Got to report a concert. I don\x92t
know, though. I s\x92pose I could get around at half-past nine\x92 or ten and
hear the last numbers.\x92

He had often done this. Besides, he could probably manage it earlier. He
knew he could rent a tandem at Murphy\x92s cigar store down by the tracks.
A quite wild, wholly fascinating stir of adventure was warming his
breast and bringing that huskiness into his voice. He was letting go.
He felt daring and a little mad. He hadn\x92t realised, before to-day, that
Mamie had such a lure about her.

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

These were the great days of bicycling. The first highwheeled, rattling
horseless carriage was not to appear in the streets of Sunbury for a
year or two yet. Bicycle clubs flourished. Memorial Day each year (they
called it Decoration Day) was a mad rush of excursion and road races.
Every Sunday witnessed a haggard-eyed humpbacked horde of \x91Scorchers\x92 in
knickerbockers or woollen tights. Many of the young men one met on train
and street wore medals with a suspended chain of gold bars, one for each
\x91century run.\x92

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

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

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

She came at length, said \x91Hello!\x92 and with a little deft unhooking,
coolly stepped out of her skirt, rolled up that garment, thrust it under
a bush, and stood before him in the sort of wheeling costume rarely seen
in Sunbury save on Saturdays and Sundays when the Chicago crowds were
pouring through.

Henry stood motionless, silent, in the dusk.

\x91Well,\x92 said she, smartly, \x91are we riding?\x92

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

She was very close, there before him. She bent over the handle bars like
an old-timer, and pedalled with something more than the abandon of a
boy. It was going to be hard to talk to her... If he could only blot
this day out of his life. \x91She started it,\x92 he thought fiercely, staring
out ahead over her rhythmically moving shoulder. \x91I never asked her to
come in!\x92

\x91I didn\x92t know you rode a wheel,\x92 said he, after a time, dismally.

\x91I ride Sundays with the boys from Pennyweather Point. But you needn\x92t
tell that at home.\x92

\x91I\x92m not telling anything at home,\x92 muttered Henry. Then she flung back
at him the one word.

\x91Surprised?\x92

\x91Well--why, sorta.\x92

\x91You thought I was satisfied to do the room work and wash dishes, I
suppose!\x92

\x91I don\x92t know as I thought anything.\x92

\x91What\x92s the matter, anyway? Scared at my bloomers?\x92

\x91That\x92s what you call\x92em, is it?\x92

\x91I must say you\x92re grand company.\x92

He made no reply.

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

\x91Shall we go to Hoffman\x92s?\x92 she asked.

\x91I don\x92t care where we go,\x92 said he.


6


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

Friday, therefore, was the one distractingly busy day for Humphrey
Weaver. And it was natural enough that he should snatch at Henry\x92s
pencilled report of the musicale at Mrs Henderson\x92s with the briefest
word of greeting, and give his whole mind, blue copy-editing pencil
posed in air, to reading it. But he did note that the boy looked rather
haggard, as if he hadn\x92t slept much. He heard his mumbled remark that
he had been over at the public library, writing the thing; and perhaps
wondered mildly and momentarily why the boy should be writing at the
library and not at home, and why he should speak of the fact at all.
And now and again during the day he was aware of Henry, pale, dog-eyed,
inclined to hang about as if confidences were trembling on his tongue.
And he was carrying a little olive-green book around; drew it from
his pocket every now and then and read or turned the pages with an
ostentatious air of concentration, as if he wanted to be noticed.
Humphrey decided to ask him what the trouble was; later, when the paper
was put away. When he might have spoken, old man Boice was there, at his
desk. And Humphrey never got out to meals on Fridays. Henry got all his
work in on time: the \x91Real Estate Notes\x92 for the week and the last items
for \x91Along Simpson Street.\x92

The report of the musicale would have brought a smile or two on another
day. There was nearly a column of it. Henry had apparently been deeply
moved by the singing of Anne Mayer Stelton. He dwelt on the \x91velvet
suavity\x92 of her legato passages, her firmness of attack and the
\x91delicate lace work of her colourature.\x92 \x91Mme. Stelton\x92s art,\x92 he wrote,
\x91has deepened and broadened appreciably since she last appeared in
Sunbury. Always gifted with a splendid singing organ, always charming in
personality and profoundly rhythmically musical in temperament, she now
has added a superstructure of technical authority, which gives to each
passage, whether bravura or pianissimo, a quality and distinction seldom
heard in this country. Miss Corinne Doag also added immeasurably to
the pleasure of the select audience by singing a group of songs. Miss
Corinne Doag has a contralto voice of fine _verve_ and _timbre_. She is
a guest of Mrs Henderson, who herself accompanied delightfully. Among
those present were:--\x92

Henry\x92s writing always startled you a little. Words fairly flowed
through his pencil, long words, striking words. He had the word sense;
this when writing. In speech he remained just about where he had been
all through his teens, loose of diction, slurring and eliding and using
slang as did most of the Middle-Westerners among whom he had always
lived, and, like them, swallowing his tongue down his throat.

Humphrey initialed the copy, tossed it into the devil\x92s basket, turned
to a pile of proofs, paused as if recollecting something, picked up the
copy again, glanced rapidly through it, and turned on his assistant.

\x91Look here, Hen,\x92 he remarked, \x91you don\x92t tell what they sang, either of
\x91em. Or who _were_ among those present.\x92

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

He turned now, with a start, and stared, wide-eyed, at Humphrey. His
lips parted, but he didn\x92t speak. A touch of colour appeared in his
cheeks.

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

\x91I thought she left a list here and a programme,\x92 he said, eyes now on
the floor.

Humphrey\x92s practised eye ran swiftly over the double row of pigeonholes
before him. \x91Right you are!\x92 he exclaimed.

It was a quarter past eleven that night when Humphrey scrawled his last
\x91O.K.\x92; stretched out his long form in his swivel chair; yawned; said,
\x91Well, _that\x92s_ done, thank God!\x92; and hummed and tapped out on his bare
desk the refrain of a current song:--

               \x91But you\x92d look sweet

                   On the seat

               Of a bicycle built for two.\x92

He turned on Henry with a wrinkly, comfortable grin.

\x91Well, my boy, it\x92s too late for Stanley\x92s but what do you say to a bite
at Ericson\x92s, over by the tracks?\x92

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

\x91What on earth is the matter with you!\x92

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

\x91I\x92m in trouble, Humphrey.\x92

\x91Oh, come, not so bad as all--\x92

He was silenced by the sudden plaintive appeal on Henry\x92s face. Mr
Boice, a huge-slow-moving figure of a man with great white whiskers, was
coming in from the press room.

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

There Humphrey drew out something of the story. It was difficult at
first. Henry could babble forth his most sacred inner feelings with an
ingenuous volubility that would alarm a naturally reticent man, and he
could be bafflingly secretive. To-night he was both, and neither. He
was full of odd little spiritual turnings and twistings--vague as to the
clock, intent on justifying himself, submerged in a boundless bottomless
sea of self-pity. Humphrey, touched, even worried, finally went at him
with direct questions, and managed to piece out the incident of the
Thursday morning in the boy\x92s room.

\x91But I never asked her in,\x92 he hurried to explain. \x91She came in. Maybe
after that it was my fault, but I didn\x92t ask her in.\x92

\x91But as far as I can see, Hen, it wasn\x92t so serious. You didn\x92t make
love to her.\x92

\x91I tried to.\x92

\x91Oh yes. She doubtless expected that. But she got away.\x92

\x91But don\x92t you see, Hump, Mrs MacPherson saw her coming out. She\x92d been
snooping. Musta heard some of it. That\x92s why Mamie hung around for me
yesterday noon.\x92

\x91Oh, she hung around?\x92

Henry swallowed, and nodded. \x91That\x92s why I slipped out again after lunch
yesterday. I didn\x92t want to tell you.\x92

\x91Naturally. A man\x92s little flirtations----\x92

\x91But wait, Hump! She was excited about it. And she seemed to think it
was up to me, somehow. I couldn\x92t get rid of her.\x92

\x91Well, of course----\x92

\x91She made me promise to see her last night----\x92

\x91But--wait a minute!--last night----\x92

\x91This was the first part of the evening. She made me promise to rent
Murphy\x92s tandem----\x92

\x91Hm! you _were_ going it!\x92

\x91And we rode up the shore a ways.\x92

\x91Then you didn\x92t hear all of the musicale?\x92

\x91No. She wanted to go up to Hoffmann\x92s Garden. So we went there----\x92

\x91But good lord, that\x92s six miles---\x92

\x91Eight. You can do it pretty fast with a tandem. The place was jammed. I
felt just sick about it. The waiter made us walk clear through, past all
the tables. I coulda died. You see, Mamie, she--but I had to be a sport,
sorta.\x92

\x91Oh, you had to go through with it, of course.\x92

\x91Sure! I _had_ to. It was awful.\x92

\x91Anybody there that knew you?\x92

Henry\x92s colour rose and rose. He gazed down intently at the remnant of
a cream puff; pushed it about with his fork. Then his lips formed the
word, \x91Yes.\x92

Humphrey considered the problem. \x91Well,\x92 he finally observed, \x91after
all, what\x92s the harm? It may embarrass you a little. But most fellows
pick up a girl now and then. It isn\x92t going to kill anybody.\x92

\x91Yes, but\x92--Henry\x92s emotions seemed to be all in his throat to-night; he
swallowed--\x91but it--well, Martha was there.\x92

\x91Oh--Martha Caldwell?\x92

\x91Yes. And Mary Ames and her mother. They were with Mr Merchant\x92s party.\x92

\x91James B., Junior?\x92

\x91Yes. They drove up in a trap. I saw it outside. We weren\x92t but three
tables away from them. They saw everything. Mamie, she----\x92

\x91After all, Hen. It\x92s disturbing and all that, but you were getting
pretty tired of Martha----\x92

\x91It isn\x92t that, Hump 1 I don\x92t know that I was. I get mixed. But it\x92s
the shame, the disgrace. The Ameses have been down on me anyway,
for something that happened two years ago. And now...! And Martha,
she\x92s--well, can\x92t you see, Hump? It\x92s just as if there\x92s no use of my
trying to stay in this town any longer. They\x92ll all be down on me now.
They\x92ll whisper about me. They\x92re doing it now. I feel it when I walk
up Simpson Street. They\x92re going to mark me for that kind of fellow, and
I\x92m not.\x92

His face sank into his hands.

Humphrey considered him; said, \x91Of course you\x92re not;\x92 considered him
further. Then he said, reflectively: \x91It\x92s unpleasant, of course, but
I\x92ll confess I can\x92t see that what you\x92ve told me justifies the words
\x93shame\x94 and \x93disgrace.\x94 They\x92re strong words, my boy. And as for leaving
town... See here, Hen | Is there anything you haven\x92t told me?\x92

The bowed head inclined a little farther.

\x91Hadn\x92t you better tell me? Did anything happen afterward? Has the girl
got--well, a real hold on you?\x92 The head moved slowly sidewise. \x91We
fought afterward, all the way home. Rowed. Jawed at each other like a
pair of little muckers. No, it isn\x92t that. I hated her all the time. I
told her I was through with her. She tried to catch me in the hall this
morning, up on the third floor. Came sneaking to my room again. With
towels. That\x92s why I wrote in the library.\x92

\x91But you aren\x92t telling me what the rest of it was.\x92

\x91She--oh, she drank beer, and----\x92

\x91That\x92s what most everybody does at Hoffmann\x92s. The beer\x92s good there.\x92

\x91I don\x92t know. I don\x92t like the stuff.\x92

\x91Come, Hen, tell me. Or drop it. Either.\x92

\x91I\x92ll tell you. But I get so mad. It\x92s--she--well, she wore pants.\x92

Humphrey\x92s sympathy and interest were real, and he did not smile as he
queried: \x91Bloomers?\x92

\x91No, pants. Britches. I never saw anything so tight. Nothing else like
\x91em in the whole place. People nudged each other and laughed and said
things, right out loud. Hump, it was terrible. And we walked clear
through--past hundreds of tables--and away over in the corner--and there
were the Ameses, and Martha, and----\x92

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

\x91Hump, she\x92s tough. She rides with that crowd from Pennyweather Point.
She smokes cigarettes. She--she leads a double life.\x92

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

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

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

Henry always came in between half-past eleven and twelve Saturdays to
clip his contributions from the paper and paste them, end to end, in a
\x91string.\x92 Then Humphrey would measure the string with a two-foot rule
and fill out an order on the _Voice_ Company for payment at the rate of
a dollar and a quarter a column, or something less than seven cents an
inch. Henry despairing of a raise from nine dollars a week had, months
back, elected to work \x91on space.\x92

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

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

At Stanley\x92s, the food ordered, he leaned on his lank elbows and
surveyed the dejected young man before him.

\x91Hen,\x92 he remarked dryly, \x91do you really think Anne Mayer Stelton\x92s
voice has a velvet suavity?\x92

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

\x91Why not?\x92 said he.

\x91You feel, do you, that her art has deepened and broadened appreciably
since she last appeared in Sunbury?\x92

Henry centred all his attention on the soup.

\x91You feel that she has really added a superstructure of technique during
her study abroad?\x92

Henry\x92s ears were scarlet now.

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

For a moment longer Henry went on eating. But then he quietly laid
down his spoon, sank rather limply back in his chair, and wanly met
Humphrey\x92s gaze.

\x91There was a moment this morning, Hen, when I could have wrung your
neck. A moment.\x92

Henry\x92s voice was colourless. His expression was that of a man who has
absorbed his maximum of punishment, to whom nothing more matters much.
\x91What is it?\x92 he asked. \x91What happened?\x92

\x91Madame Stelton fell in the Chicago station, hurrying for the train, and
sprained her ankle. Miss Doag gave the entire programme.\x92

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

\x91Hump,\x92 he said, \x91I don\x92t know that I\x92m sorry. I\x92m rather glad you
caught me, I think.\x92

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

\x91You had an unlucky day,\x92 he said.

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

\x91Mrs Henderson was in,\x92 Humphrey added. \x91I don\x92t care what they say
about her, she\x92s a really pretty woman and bright as all get out.\x92

\x91Was she mad, Hump?\x92

\x91I--well, yes, I gathered the impression that you\x92d better not try to
talk to her for a while. There she was, you see--came straight down
to the office or stopped on her way to the train. Had Miss Doag along.
Unusual dark brown eyes--almost black. A striking girl. But you won\x92t
meet her--not this trip. Though she couldn\x92t help laughing once or
twice. Over your phrases. You see you laid it on unnecessarily thick.
_Verve. Timbre_. It puts you--I won\x92t say in a Bad light--but certainly
in a rather absurd light.\x92

\x91Yes,\x92 said Henry, gently, meekly, \x91it does. It sorta completes the
thing. I picked up some of the town talk this morning. They\x92re laughing
at me. And Martha cut me dead, not an hour ago. I\x92ve lost my friends.
I\x92m sort of an outcast, I suppose. A--a pariah.\x92

There was a long silence.

\x91You\x92d better eat some food,\x92 said Humphrey.

\x91I can\x92t.\x92 Henry was brooding, a tired droop to his mouth, a look of
strain about the eyes. He began thinking aloud, rather aimlessly. \x91It
ain\x92t as if I did that sort of thing. I never asked her to come in. I
couldn\x92t very well refuse to talk with her. She suggested the tandem. It
did seem like a good idea to get her out of town, if I had to risk being
seen with her. I\x92ll admit I got mixed--awfully. I don\x92t suppose I knew
just what I was doing. But it was the first time in two years. Hump, you
don\x92t know how hard I\x92ve----\x92

\x91It\x92s the first-time offenders that get most awfully caught,\x92 observed
Humphrey. \x91But never mind that now. You\x92re caught, Hen. No good
explaining. You\x92ve just got to live it down.\x92

\x91That\x92s what I\x92ve been doing for two years--living things down. And look
where it\x92s brought me. I\x92m worse off than ever.\x92

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

\x91Mustn\x92t let the kid sink this way,\x92 he thought. Then, aloud: \x91Here\x92s a
little plan I want to suggest, Hen. You\x92re stale. You\x92re taking this too
hard. You need a change.\x92

\x91I don\x92t like to leave town, exactly, Hump--as if I was licked. I\x92ve
changed about that.\x92

\x91You\x92re not going to leave town. You\x92re coming over to live with me.
Move this afternoon.\x92

Henry seemed to find difficulty in comprehending this. Humphrey,
suddenly a victim of emotion, pressed on, talking fast. \x91I\x92ll be through
by four. You be packing up. Get an expressman and fetch your things.
Here\x92s my key. I\x92ll let you pay something. We\x92ll get our breakfasts.\x92

He had to stop. It struck him as silly, letting this forlorn youth
touch him so deeply. He gulped down a glass of water. \x91Come on,\x92 he said
brusquely, \x91let\x92s get out.\x92 And on the street he added, avoiding those
bewildered dog eyes--\x91I\x92m going to reshuffle you and deal you out
fresh.\x92 That\x92s all you need, a new deal.\x92

But to himself he added: \x91It won\x92t be easy. He is taking it hard. He\x92s
unstrung. I\x92ll have to work it out slowly, head him around, build up
his confidence. Teach him to laugh again. It\x92ll take time, but it can be
done. He\x92s good material. Get him out of that dam boardinghouse to start
with.\x92


7


It was nearly five o\x92clock when Humphrey reached his barn at the rear of
the Parmenter place. He found the outside door ajar.

\x91Hen\x92s here now,\x92 he thought.

He stepped within the dim shop, that had once been a carriage room,
called, \x91Hello there!\x92 and crossed to the narrow stairway. There was no
answer. He went on up.

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

The polished oak post at the head of the stairs was chipped, where
they had pushed the trunk around. Humphrey fingered the spot; found
the splinter on the floor; muttered, \x91I\x92ll glue it on, and rub over the
cracks.\x92

He looked again at the disorderly heap in the centre of the room. \x91It
didn\x92t occur to him to stow\x92em away,\x92 he mused. \x91Probably didn\x92t know
where to put \x91em.\x92

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

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

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

\x91Hen shouldn\x92t have left the door open like that,\x92 he mused.

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

\x91Well,\x92 he thought, \x91needn\x92t be a hog. It\x92s my chance to do a fairly
decent turn. The boy hasn\x92t a soul. Not yet.

He isn\x92t the sort you can safely leave by himself. Got to be organised.
Very likely I\x92ve got to build him over from the ground up. Might try
making him read history. God knows he needs background. It\x92ll take time.
And patience. All I\x92ve got. Help him, little by little, to get hold of
his self-esteem. Teach the kid to laugh again. That\x92s it. I\x92ve taken it
on. Can\x92t quit. It seems to be my job.\x92 And he sighed again. \x91Have to
get him a key of his own.\x92

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

\x91I put your things in there,\x92 Humphrey pointed. \x91We\x92ll move the box
couch in for you to-night.\x92

\x91That\x92ll be fine,\x92 said Henry, aimless of eye, weak of voice.

Humphrey\x92s eyes followed him as he passed into the improvised bedroom;
and he compressed his lips and shook his head.

Shortly Henry came out and sank mournfully on a chair. It was time for
the first lesson. \x91There\x92s simply no life in the boy,\x92 thought Humphrey.
He cleared his throat, and said aloud:--

\x91Tell you what, Hen. We\x92ll celebrate a little, this first evening. I\x92ve
got a couple of chafing dishes and some odds and ends of food. And I
make excellent drip coffee. If you\x92ll go over to Berger\x92s and get a
pound or so of cheese for the rabbit, I\x92ll look the situation over and
figure out a meal. Charge it to me. I have an account there.\x92

Henry, without change of expression, got slowly up, said, \x91All right,\x92
hung around for a little time, wandering about the room, and finally
wandered off down the stairs and out.

He returned at twenty minutes past midnight.

Humphrey was abed, reading Smith\x92 on Torsion. He put down the book and
waited. He had left lights on downstairs and in the living-room. Since
six o\x92clock he had passed through many and extreme states of feeling;
at present he was in a state of suspense between worry and strongly
suppressed wrath.

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

\x91Well, where--on--earth....

Henry waved a light hand. \x91Queerest thing happened. But say, I guess
I owe you an apology, sorta. I ought to have sent word or something.
Everything happened so quickly. You know how it is. When you\x92re sorta
swept off your feet like that----\x92

\x91Like what!\x92

\x91Oh--well, it was like this. I went over to get the cheese.... Funny, it
doesn\x92t seem as if it could have been to-day! Seems as if it was
weeks ago that I moved my things over.\x92 His eyes roved about the room;
lingered on the books; followed out the details of the neat surface
wiring with sudden interest.

\x91Go on!\x92 From Humphrey, this, with grim emphasis that was wholly lost on
the self-absorbed youth.

\x91Oh yes! Well, you see, I went over to Berger\x92s and got the cheese; and
just as I was coming out I ran into Mrs Henderson and Corinne.\x92

\x91Who!\x92

\x91Corinne Doag. You know. She\x92s visiting there. Well, sir, I could have
died right there. Fussed me so I turned around and was going back
into the store. I was just plain rattled. And you were right about Mrs
Henderson. She was kinda mad. She made me stand right up and take a
scolding. Shook her finger at me right, there in front of Berger\x92s. That
fussed me worse. Gee! I was red all over. But you see it sorta fussed
Corinne Doag too--she was standing right there--and she got a little
red. Wasn\x92t it a scene, though! Sorta made us acquainted right off. You
know, threw us together. Then she--Mrs Henderson--said I didn\x92t deserve
to meet a girl with verve and timbre, but just to show she wasn\x92t the
kind to harbour angry feelings she\x92d introduce us. And--and--I walked
along home with\x92em.\x92

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

\x91Say, Hump, you don\x92t mean to say you really read all those!\x92

\x91You walked home with them. Go on.\x92

\x91Oh, well, they asked me to stay to supper, and I did, and some folks
came in, and we sang and things, and then we--oh, yes, how much was the
cheese?\x92

\x91How in thunder do I know?\x92

\x91Well--there was a pound of it--Mrs Henderson made a rabbit.

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

Then, unexpectedly, he chuckled aloud, and said, \x91She\x92s a wonderful
girl. At first she seems quiet, but when you get to know her... going to
take a walk with me to-morrow morning. She was going to church with Mrs
H., but I told her we\x92d worship in God\x92s great outdoor temple.\x92

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

\x91Well,\x92 said he, \x91it\x92s late as all get out. I suppose you want to go to
sleep.\x92 He got as far as the door, then leaned confidingly against the
wall. \x91Look here, Hump, I don\x92t want you to think I don\x92t appreciate
your taking me in like this. It\x92s dam nice of you. Don\x92t know what I\x92d
have done if it wasn\x92t for you. Well, good-night.\x92

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

\x91Do you know what was the matter with me?\x92 he broke out. \x91It was just
what you said. I was taking things too hard. The great thing is to be
rational, normal. Thing with me was I used to go to one extreme and now
these last two years I\x92ve been going with all my might to the other.
Of course it wouldn\x92t work... Do you know who\x92s helped me a whole lot?
You\x92d never guess.\x92 Rather shamefaced, he drew from his pocket a
little book bound in olive-green \x91ooze\x92 leather. \x91It\x92s this old fellow.
Epictetus. Listen to what he says--\x93To the rational animal only is the
irrational intolerable.\x94 That was the trouble with me. I just wasn\x92t a
rational animal. I _wasn\x92t_... Well, I\x92ve got to say good-night.\x92

This time he went.

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

The minute hand of the alarm clock on Humphrey\x92s bureau crept up to
twelve, the hour hand to one. Then came a single resonant, reverberating
boom from the big clock up at the university.

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

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

\x91Of all the----\x92 he muttered inconclusively. \x91Why it\x92s--he\x92s a---- Good
God! It\x92s the limit! It\x92s--it\x92s intolerable.\x92

The word, floating from his own lips, caught his ear. His frown began,
very slowly, to relax. A dry, grudging smile wrinkled its way across his
mobile face. And he nodded, deliberately. \x91Epictetus,\x92 he remarked, \x91was
right.\x92



II--IN SAND-FLY TIME


1


|It was half-past nine of a Sabbath morning at the beginning of June.
The beneficent sunshine streamed down on the dark-like streets, on the
shingled roofs of the many decorous but comfortable homes, on the wide
lawns, on the hundreds of washed and brushed little boys and starched
little girls that were marching meekly to the various Sunday schools,
Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, Congregational, Baptist. Above the
new cement sidewalk on Simpson Street--where all the stores were closed
except two drug stores and Swanson\x92s flower shop--the sunshine quivered
and wavered, bringing oppressive promise of the first really warm day
of the young summer. Slow-swinging church bells sent out widening,
reverberating circles of mellow tone through the still air.

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

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

Within, in Humphrey\x92s room, the bed was neatly made, clothes hung in a
corner, shoes and slippers stood in a row.

In Henry\x92s room the couch bed was a rumpled heap, a suit-case lay on the
floor half-unpacked, a trunk was in the same condition, clothes, shoes,
neckties, photographs were scattered about on table, chairs and floor, a
box of books by the bed, the guitar in its old green woollen bag leaning
against the door.

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

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

Henry, however, could see only the lean back. And he looked at that only
momentarily. He was busy smoothing the fringe along his upper lip
and twisting it up at the ends. Too, he leaned slightly on his bamboo
walking stick, staring down at it, watching it bend. Despite his white
ducks and shoes, serge coat, creamy white felt hat on the back of his
shapely head, despite the rather noticeable nose glasses with the
black silk cord hanging from them to his lapel, he presented a forlorn
picture. He wished Humphrey would say something. That long back was
hostile. Henry was helpless before hostility, as before logic. Already
they weren\x92t getting on. Little things like washing dishes and making
beds and--dusting! Humphrey was proving an old fuss-budget. And Henry
couldn\x92t think what to do about it. He could never:--never in the
world--do those fussy things, use his hands. He couldn\x92t even flounder
through the little mental processes that lead up to doing things with
your hands. He wasn\x92t that sort of person. Humphrey was.

\x91Oh, thunder--Hump!\x92 Thus Henry, weakly. \x91Let the old dishes slide a
little while. I\x92ll be back. It ain\x92t my fault that I\x92ve got a date now.\x92

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

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

He was aware that Henry moved over, all hesitation, and with words, to
shut the door of that hopelessly littered bedroom. The boy appeared to
have no intention of picking up his things; he wasn\x92t even unpacking!
Leaving his clothes that way 1... The words he was so confusedly
uttering were the absurdest excuses: \x91Just shut the door--fix it all up
when I get back--an hour or so...

It was in a wave of unaccustomed sentimentalism that Humphrey had
gathered him in. Humphrey had few visitors. You couldn\x92t work with
aimless youths hanging around. He knew all about that. Humphrey\x92s
evenings were precious. His time was figured out, Monday morning to
Saturday night, to the minute. And the Sundays were always an orgy
of work. But this youth, to whom he had opened his quarters and his
slightly acid heart, was the most aimless being he had ever known. An
utter surprise; a shock. Yet here he was, all over the place.

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

\x91I\x92m late now,\x92 he was saying.\x92What else can I do, Hump? I promised.
She\x92ll be looking for me now. If you just wouldn\x92t be in such a
thundering hurry about those darn dishes... I can\x92t live like a machine.
I just can\x92t!\x92

\x91You could have cleaned up your room while you\x92ve been standing there,\x92
said Humphrey, in a rumbling voice.

\x91No, I couldn\x92t! Put up all my pictures and books and things! I\x92m not
like you. You don\x92t understand!\x92 Humphrey wheeled on him, pipe in hand,
a cold light in his eyes, a none-too-agreeable smile wrinkling the lower
part of his face.

\x91I\x92m not asking much of you,\x92 he said.

\x91Oh, thunder, Hump! Do you think I don\x92t appreciate--\x92

\x91I\x92d be glad to help you. But you\x92ve got to do a _little_ on your own
account. For God\x92s sake show some spine!\x92 Sand-fly! Damn it, this is
more than I can stand! It smothers me! How can I work! How can I think!\x92
He stopped short; bit his lip; turned back to the window and thrust his
pipe into his mouth.

Humphrey knew without looking that the boy was fussing endlessly at
that absurd moustache. And sighing--he heard that. He bit hard on his
pipe-stem. The day was wrecked already. He would be boiling up every few
moments; tripping over Henry\x92s things; regretting his perhaps too harsh
words. Yes, they were too harsh, of course.

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

\x91I don\x92t see why you asked me to come here. I suppose I... Of course,
if you don\x92t want me to stay here with you, I suppose I... Oh, well! I
guess I ain\x92t much good....\x92

The voice trailed huskily off into silence.

After all, there didn\x92t seem to be any place the boy could stay, if not
here. Living alone in a boarding-house hadn\x92t worked at all. To send him
out into the world would be like condemning him.

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

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

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


2


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

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

Martha saw him. No doubt about that.

For the moment, in Henry\x92s abasement of spirit, he half forgot that she
had cut him dead, publicly, on Simpson Street on the Saturday. Or if it
was not a forgetting it was a vagueness. Henry was full to brimming of
himself. Not in years had he craved sympathy as he craved it to-day.
The word \x91craved,\x92 though, isn\x92t strong enough. It was an utter need.
An outcast, perhaps literally homeless; for how could he go back to
Humphrey\x92s after what had occurred! He must pack his things, of course.

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

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

Henry\x92s hand hung suspended a moment, then sank to his side.

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

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

There was a chance--a pretty good chance, it seemed, as he recalled the
pleasant Saturday evening over a rabbit--that he might find sympathy
at Mrs Arthur V. Henderson\x92s. That was one place, where, within twelve
hours, Henry Calverley, 3rd, had had some standing. They had seemed to
like him. Mrs Henderson had unquestionably played up to him. And her
guest was a peach!

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


3


Corinne Doag was a big girl with blue-black hair and a profile like the
Goddess of Liberty on the silver quarter of the period. Her full face
rather belied the profile; it was an easy, good-natured face, though
with a hint of preoccupation about the dark eyes. Her smile was almost
a grin. She had the great gift of health. She radiated it. You couldn\x92t
ignore her you felt her.

Though not a day older than Henry, Corinne was a singer of promise. At
Mrs Henderson\x92s musicale, she had managed groups of Schumann, Schubert,
Franz and Wolff, an Italian aria or two and some quaint French folk
songs with ample evidence of sound training and coaching. Her voice
had faults. It was still a little too big for her. It was a contralto
without a hollow note in it, firm and strong, with a good upper range.
There was in it more than a hint of power. It moved you, even in her
cruder moments. Her speaking voice--slow, lazy, strongly sensuous--gave
Henry thrills.

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

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

He was leading her to a secluded breakwater, between the lighthouse and
Pennyweather Point, where, under the clay bluff, the shell of an old
boat-house gave you a back as you sat on a gray timber and shielded you
at once from morning sun and from the gaze of casual strollers up the
beach. Henry knew the place well, had guided various girls there. Martha
had often spoken of it as \x91our\x92 breakwater. But no twinge of memory
disturbed him now. His nervous intentness on this immediate, rather
desperate task of conquering Corinne\x92s sympathy fully occupied his
turbulent thoughts.

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

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

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

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

\x91The shade does feel good,\x92 said she.

Still he groped for words, or for a mental attitude that might result in
words. None came. Here she was, at his feet, and he couldn\x92t even speak.

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

\x91I like to skip stones,\x92 he managed to say, with husky
self-consciousness. He hunted flat stones; threw them hard and far,
until his face shone with sweat and a damp spot appeared in his shirt
between his shoulders.

To her, \x91Better let me hold your glasses,\x92 he responded with an
irritable shake of the head.

But such physical violence couldn\x92t go on indefinitely. Not in this
heat. He threw less vigorously. He wondered in something of a funk, why
he couldn\x92t grasp his opportunity.

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

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

He stole a glance. She wasn\x92t even looking at him. She had sunk back
on an elbow, her long frame stretched comfortably out, and seemed to be
observing the gulls, rather absently.

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

\x91I skipped that last one seven times,\x92 said he.

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

\x91She doesn\x92t know I\x92m here,\x92 he mused, with bitterness. \x91I don\x92t count.
Nobody wants me.\x92 And added, \x91She\x92s selfish.\x92

Suddenly he broke out, tragically: \x91You don\x92t know what I\x92ve been
through. I wouldn\x92t tell you.\x92

The tune came to an end. Still watching the gulls, still absently, she
asked, after a pause, \x91Why not?\x92

\x91You\x92d be like the others. You\x92d despise me.\x92

\x91I doubt that. Mildred Henderson certainly doesn\x92t. You ought to hear
her talk about you.\x92

\x91She\x92ll be like the others too. My life has been very hard. Living alone
with my way to make. Wha\x92d she say about me?\x92

\x91That you\x92re a genius. She can\x92t make out why you\x92ve been burying
yourself, working for a little country paper.\x92

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

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

\x91So she says I\x92m a genius, eh! Well, maybe it\x92s true. Maybe I am. I\x92m
something. Or there\x92s something in me. Sometimes I feel it. I get all on
fire with it. I\x92ve done a few things. I put on _Iolanthe_ here. When I
was only eighteen. Chorus of fifty, and big soloists. I ran it--drilled
\x91em----\x92

\x91I know. Mildred told me. Mildred really did say you were wonderful.\x92

\x91I\x92ll do something else one of these days.\x92

\x91I\x92m sure you will,\x92 she murmured politely.

It was going none too well. She wasn\x92t really interested. He hadn\x92t
touched her. Perhaps he had better not talk about himself. He thought it
over, and decided another avenue of approach would be better.

\x91That\x92s an awfully pretty brooch,\x92 he ventured.

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

\x91It was a present,\x92 she said. \x91From one of the nicest men I ever knew.\x92

This chilled Henry\x92s heart. His own emotions were none too stable. Out
of his first-hand experience he had been able at times, in youthfully
masculine company, to expound general views regarding the sex that might
be termed cynical. But confronted with the particular girl, the new
girl, Henry was an incorrigible idealist.

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

\x91That\x92s it,\x92 these ran now. \x91Presents! Money! That\x92s what girls want.
Keep you dancing. String you. Make you spend a lot on \x91em. That\x92s what
they\x92re after!\x92

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

When he came gloomily over, she remarked:--

\x91We must be starting back.\x92

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

\x91Oh, come on, don\x92t go yet,\x92 he begged. \x91Why, we\x92ve only just got here.\x92

\x91It\x92s a long walk. And it\x92s hot. We\x92ll never get back for dinner if we
don\x92t start. I mustn\x92t keep Mildred waiting.\x92

He thought, \x91A lot she\x92d care if she wanted to be with me!\x92

He said, \x91What you doing to-night?\x92

\x91Oh, a couple of Chicago men are coming out.\x92

\x91Oh!\x92 It was between a grunt and a snort. He struck out at such a gait
that she finally said:--

\x91If you want to walk at that pace I\x92m afraid you\x92ll have to walk alone.\x92

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

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

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


4


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

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

\x91It\x92s really a cold lunch,\x92 she said, as they gathered at the
table--\x91chicken and salad and things. But there\x92s plenty for you,
Henry. Do have some iced tea. I know they starve you at that old
boarding-house. We\x92ve all had our little term at Mrs Wilcox\x92s.\x92

\x91I--I\x92m not living there any more. I\x92ve moved.\x92

\x91Not to Mrs Black\x92s?\x92

\x91No... you see I work with Humphrey Weaver at the _Voice_ office and he
asked me to come and live with him.\x92

\x91With him? And where does he live?\x92

\x91Why, just back of the old Parmenter place.\x92

\x91But there\x92s nothing back of the Parmenter place!\x92

\x91Yes--you see, the barn----\x92

\x91Not that old red----\x92

\x91Yes. You\x92d be surprised! Humphrey\x92s put in hardwood and electricity and
things. He\x92s really a wonderful person. Did the wiring himself. And the
water pipes. You ought to see his books--and his shop downstairs. He\x92s
an inventor, you know. Going to be. Don\x92t you think for a minute that
he\x92s just a country editor. That\x92s just while he\x92s feeling his way. Oh,
Hump\x92s a smart fellow. Mighty decent of him to take me in that way, too;
because he\x92s busy and I know he\x92d rather live alone. You see, he\x92s quiet
and orderly about things, and I--well, I\x92m different.\x92

\x91Offhand,\x92 mused Mrs Henderson, \x91I shouldn\x92t suspect Humphrey Weaver of
temperament. But tell me--how on earth do you live? Who cooks and cleans
up?\x92

\x91Well, Hump gets breakfast and--and we\x92ll probably take turns cleaning
up.\x92

\x91You remember Humphrey Weaver, Corinne,\x92 the little hostess breezed on.
\x91You\x92ve met him. Tall, thin, face wrinkles up when he smiles or speaks
to you.\x92 She added, as if musing aloud, \x91He _has_ nice eyes.\x92 Then, to
Henry:

\x91But do you mean to say that so fascinating a man as that lives
undiscovered, right under our noses, in this bourgeois town.\x92

Henry was rather vague about the meaning of \x91bourgeois,\x92 but he nodded
gravely.

\x91You must bring him down here, Henry. I can\x92t imagine what I\x92ve been
thinking of to overlook him.

Tell you what, we\x92ll have a little rabbit to-morrow night. We four.
We\x92ll devote an evening to drawing Mr Humphrey Weaver out of his shell.\x92

Her quick eyes caught a doubtful look in Corinne\x92s eyes. \x91Oh,\x92 she said,
\x91we did speak of letting Will and Fred take us in town, didn\x92t we?\x92

Corinne nodded.

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

\x91I don\x92t know whether I could make him come. He likes to read evenings,
or work in his shop.\x92

Mrs Henderson took this in, then let her eyes rest a moment,
thoughtfully, on Henry\x92s ingenuous countenance. An intent look crept
into her eyes.

\x91Do you mean that you two sweep and make beds and wash dishes and dust?\x92

\x91Well\x92--Henry\x92s voice faltered--\x91you see, I haven\x92t been--I just moved
over there yesterday afternoon.\x92

\x91Hm!\x92 There was a bright, flash in Mrs Henderson\x92s eyes. She chuckled
abruptly. It was a sharp little chuckle that had the force of an
interruption. \x91I\x92d like to see the corners of those rooms. There ought
to be some woman that could take care of you.\x92 She turned again on
Henry. \x91Be sure and bring him down to-morrow. Come in about six for a
picnic supper. Or no--let me think----\x92

Henry\x92s eyes were on Corinne. She was eating now, composedly, like an
accomplished feminine fatalist, leaving the disposition of matters to
her more aggressive hostess. The food he had eaten rested comfortably
on his long ill-treated but still responsive young stomach. His
nervous concern of the morning was giving place to a glow of snug
inner well-being. Ice-cream was before him now, a heaping plate of
it--vanilla, with hot chocolate sauce--and a huge slice of chocolate
layer cake. He blessed Mrs Henderson for the rich cream as he let
heaping spoonfuls slip down his throat and followed them with healthy
bites of the cake. What a jolly little woman she was. No fuss.

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

She had sympathy. Even if she hadn\x92t yet heard--when she did hear--it
wouldn\x92t matter. She would be on his side; he was sure of it.

Corinne\x92s hair, a loose curl of it, curved down over her ear and part
of her cheek. She reached up a long hand and brushed it back. The motion
thrilled him. He was quiveringly responsive to the faint down on her
cheek, to the slight ebbing and flowing of the colour under her skin, to
the whiteness of her temple, the curve of her rather heavy eyebrow, even
to the \x91waist\x92 she wore--a simple garment, with an open throat and a
wide collar that suggested the sea.

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

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

Little resentments were still popping up among his thoughts, taunting
him. But tentative little hopes were struggling with these now. A sense
of power, even, was stirring to life in his breast. This brought new
thrills. It was a long, long time since he had felt as he was now
beginning to feel. Life had dealt pretty harshly with him these two
years. But he wasn\x92t beaten yet. Not even if nice men did give cameo
brooches mounted on beaded gold.

He felt in his pocket. Nearly all of the week\x92s pay was there--about
eight dollars. It wasn\x92t much. It wouldn\x92t buy gold brooches.
Space-reporting on a country weekly at a dollar and a quarter a column,
as a means of livelihood, was pretty hard sledding. He would have to
scheme out something. There would be seventeen dollars more on the
fifteenth from his Uncle Arthur, executor of his mother\x92s estate and
guardian to Henry, but that had been mentally pledged to the purchase of
necessary summer underwear and things. Still, he might manage somehow.
You had to do a lot for girls, of course. They expected it. Expensive
business.

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

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

After the coffee they all carried out the dishes and washed them. Henry
amused them by wearing a full-length kitchen apron. Corinne tied the
strings around his waist. He found an excuse to reach back, and for an
instant his hands covered hers. She laughed a little. He danced about
the kitchen and sang comic songs as he wiped dishes and took them to the
china closet in the butler\x92s pantry.

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

Mrs Henderson said: \x91Oh, Corinne, you must hear Henry sing \x93When Britain
Really Ruled\x94 from _Iolanthe_.\x92 She found the score and played for him.
He sang lustily, all three verses.

\x91Too much dinner,\x92 he remarked, beaming with pleasure, at the close.
\x91Voice is rotten.\x92

\x91It\x92s a good organ,\x92 said Corinne. \x91You ought to work at it.\x92

\x91Perfect shame he won\x92t study,\x92 said Mrs Henderson. Henry found _The
Geisha_ on the piano.

\x91Come on, Corinne,\x92 he cried. \x91Do the \x93Jewel of Asia.\x94 Mrs Henderson\x92ll
transpose it.\x92

Corinne leaned carelessly against the piano and sang the pleasant little
melody with an ease and a steady flow of tone that brought a shine to
Henry\x92s eyes. He had to hide it, dropping on the big couch and resting
his head on his hand. He could look nowhere but at her. He ordered her
to sing \x91The Amorous Goldfish.\x92

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

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

\x91Tell you what,\x92 he said gaily, with supreme ease--\x91w\x92e\x92ll send
those Chicago men a box of poisoned candy to-morrow, and--oh, yes w-e
will!--and then we\x92ll have a party at the rooms. You\x92ll be chaperon, Mrs
Henderson and Hump\x92ll cook things in the chafing dish, and----\x92

\x91What a perfectly lovely idea!\x92 said Mrs Henderson in a surprisingly
calm voice. \x91I\x92ll bring the cold chicken, and a vegetable salad...

Henry watched Corinne.

For an instant--she was rummaging through the music--her eyes met his.
\x91It\x92ll be fun,\x92 she said.

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

He was a daring soul. They didn\x92t understand him in Sunbury. He had
temperament, a Bohemian nature. The thing was, he\x92d wasted two years
trying to make another sort of himself. Kept account of every penny in a
red book! All that! Book was in his pocket now.

He decided to tear it up. He wouldn\x92t be a coward another day. That
plodding self-discipline hadn\x92t got him anywhere. Now really, had it?

Little inner voices were protesting weakly. People might find out about
it. Have to be pretty quiet. And keep the shades down. It wouldn\x92t
do for the folks in the parsonage, across the alley, to know that Mrs
Arthur V. Henderson and her guest were in the Parmenter barn. Have to
find some tactful way of suggesting that they come after dark...

As if she could read his thoughts, Mrs Henderson remarked calmly: \x91You
come for us, Henry. Say about eight.\x92

Still the little voices of doubt and confusion. Even of fear. He
mentally shouted them down; fixing his eyes on the disturbingly radiant
Corinne, then glancing for moral support at the really pretty little Mrs
Henderson who gave out such a reassuring air of knowing precisely what
she was about, of being altogether in the right. Funny, knowing her all
these years, he hadn\x92t realised she was so nice!

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


5


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

Difficulties having arisen in connection with the problem of breaking
the news to Humphrey, he couldn\x92t very well go back to the rooms.

The thing would have to be put right before Humphrey. He decided to
think it over. That was the idea--think it over. Humphrey would be
eating his supper, if not at the rooms, then at Stanley\x92s little
restaurant on Simpson Street. So he could hardly go to Stanley\x92s. There
was another little lunch room down by the tracks, but Humphrey had
been known to go there. And of course it was impossible to return for a
transient meal to Mrs Wilcox. For one thing, the student waiters would
be off and Mamie Wilcox on duty in the dining-room. He didn\x92t want Mamie
back in his life. Not if he could help it. He even went so far as to
wonder, with a paralysing sense of helplessness in certain conceivable
contingencies, if he _could_ help it... So instead of eating supper he
sat on a breakwater, alone, unobserved, while the golden sunset glow
faded from lake and sky and darkness claimed him for her own.

Later, handkerchief over face, rushing and pawing his way through the
myriads of sand-flies that swarmed about each corner light, he walked
into the neighbourhood of Martha Caldwell\x92s house. He walked backhand
forth for a time on the other side of the street, and stood motionless
by trees. He found the situation trying, as he didn\x92t know why he had
come, whether he wanted to see Martha or what he could say to her.

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

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

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

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

Henry struggled for speech.

\x91Martha, look here,\x92 came from him, in a tired voice, \x91you\x92ve cut me
dead. Twice. Now it seems to me----\x92

\x91I don\x92t want to talk about that,\x92 said Martha.

\x91But it isn\x92t fair not to----\x92

\x91Please don\x92t try to tell me that you weren\x92t at Hoffmann\x92s with that
horrid girl.\x92

\x91I\x92m not trying to. But----\x92

\x91You took her there, didn\x92t you?\x92

\x91Yes, but she----\x92

\x91She didn\x92t make you. You knew her pretty well. While you were going
with me, too.\x92

\x91Oh, well,\x92 he muttered. Then, \x91Thunder! If you\x92re just determined not
to be fair----

\x91I won\x92t let you say that to me.\x92 The snap in her voice stung him.

\x91You\x92re not fair! You won\x92t even let me talk!\x92

\x91What earthly good is talk!\x92

\x91Oh, if you\x92re going to take that attitude----\x92

She rose. So did he.

\x91I can\x92t and I won\x92t talk about a thing like that,\x92 she said quickly,
unevenly.

\x91Then I suppose I\x92d better go,\x92 said he, standing motionless.

She made no reply.

They stood and stood there. Across the street, at B. F. Jones\x92s, a porch
full of young people were singing _Louisiana Lou_. Henry, out of sheer
nervousness, hummed it with them; then caught himself and turned to the
steps.

\x91Well,\x92 he remarked listlessly, \x91I\x92ll say good-night, then.\x92

Still she was silent. He lingered, but she gave him no help. He hadn\x92t
believed that she could be as angry as this. He waited and waited. He
even felt and weighed the impulses to go right to her and make her sit
in the hammock with him and bring back something of the old time
feeling.

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

He hated the sand-flies. Their dead bodies formed a soft crunchy carpet
on pavement and sidewalk. You couldn\x92t escape them. They came for a week
or two in June. They were less than an inch long, pale yellow with gauzy
wings. They had neither sting nor pincers. They overwhelmed these lake
towns by their mere numbers. Down by the bright lights on Simpson Street
they literally covered everything. You couldn\x92t see through a square
inch of Donovan\x92s wide plateglass front. Mornings it was sometimes
necessary to clear the sidewalks with shovels.

It was two or three hours later when Henry crept cautiously into
Humphrey\x92s shop and ascended the stairs.

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

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

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

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

\x91Just have to get at these things,\x92 he muttered aloud. \x91Make a job of
it. Do it the first thing to-morrow, before I go to the office.\x92

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

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


6


He came almost stealthily into the office of _The Weekly Voice of
Sunbury_ on the Monday morning. He had not fallen really asleep until
the small hours. When he awoke, Humphrey was long gone and the breakfast
things stood waiting on the centre table. And there they were now. He
hadn\x92t so much as rinsed them in the sink.

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

He felt Humphrey\x92s eyes on him, and said \x91Goodmorning!\x92 stiffly, without
looking round. He looked through the papers on the table for he knew
not what; snatched at a heap of copy paper, bit his pencil and made a
business of writing nothing whatever.

At eleven Mr Boice, who was also postmaster, lumbered out and along
Simpson Street toward the post office. Henry, discovering himself alone
with Humphrey, rushed, muttering, to the press room and engaged Jim
Smith, the foreman, in talk which apparently made it necessary for that
blonde little man, whose bare forearms were elaborately tattooed and who
chewed tobacco, to come in, sit on Henry\x92s table, and talk further.

Noon came.

Humphrey pushed back his chair, tapped on the edge of his desk, and
thoughtfully wrinkled his long face. The natural thing was for Henry to
come along with him for lunch at Stanley\x92s. He didn\x92t mind for himself.
It was quite as pleasant to eat alone. In the present circumstances,
more pleasant. It was awkward.

He got up; stood a moment.

He could feel the boy there, bending over proofs of the programmes
for the Commencement \x91recital\x92 of the Music School, pencil poised,
motionless, almost inert.

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

Henry did not appear again at the office. This was not unusual. Monday
was a slack day, and much of Henry\x92s work consisted in scouting along
Simpson Street, looking up new real estate permits at the village
office, new volumes at the library and other small matters.

The unusual thing was the note on Humphrey\x92s desk. Henry had put it on
top of his papers and weighted it down conspicuously with the red ink
bottle.

\x91I\x92ve had to ask Mrs Henderson and Corinne Doag to the rooms to-night
for a little party. I\x92ll bring them about eight.\x92 Pinned to the paper
was a five-dollar banknote.

At supper-time, Humphrey, eating alone in Stanley\x92s, saw a familiar
figure outside the wide front window. It was Henry, dressed in his
newest white ducks, his blue coat newly pressed (while he waited, at the
Swede tailor\x92s down the street), standing stiffly on the curb.

Occasionally he glanced around, peering into the restaurant.

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

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

A youth on a bicycle paused at the curb.

Through the screen door Humphrey heard this conversation:--

\x91Hallo, Hen!\x92

\x91Hallo, Al!\x92

\x91Doing anything after?\x92

\x91Why--yeah. Got a date.\x92

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

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

But soon he reappeared, entered the restaurant and marched straight back
to Humphrey\x92s table. His sensitive lips were compressed.

He said, \x91Hallo, Hump!\x92 and with only a moment\x92s hesitation took the
chair opposite.

Humphrey buried his nose in his coffee cup.

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

\x91Get my note?\x92

There was a painfully long silence.

\x91Yes,\x92 Humphrey replied then, \x91I did.\x92 And went at the pie.

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

\x91Well,\x92 he mumbled, \x91I s\x92pose we\x92ve gotta say something about it.\x92

\x91Not necessary,\x92 Humphrey observed briskly.

\x91Well, but--we\x92ll have to plan----\x92

\x91Not at all.\x92

\x91You mean--you----\x92 Henry\x92s voice broke and faltered.

\x91I mean----\x92 Humphrey\x92s voice was clear, sharp.

\x91Ssh! Not so loud, Hump.\x92

\x91I mean that since you\x92ve done this extraordinary thing without so much
as consulting me, I will see it through. I don\x92t want you for one minute
to think that I like it. God knows what it\x92s going to mean--having women
running in there! My privacy was the only thing I had. You\x92ve chosen to
wreck it without a by-your-leave. I\x92ll be ready at eight. And I\x92ll see
that the door of your room is shut.\x92

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

Henry walked the streets, through gathering clouds of sand-flies, until
it was time to call at Mrs Henderson\x92s.


7


They stood on the threshold.

\x91This is the shop,\x92 Henry explained, \x91where Hump works.\x92

\x91How perfectly fascinating!\x92 exclaimed Mrs Henderson. Her quick eyes
took in lathes, kites, models of gliders, tools. \x91Bring him \x91straight
down here. I won\x92t stir from this room till he\x92s explained everything.\x92

\x91Hump!\x92 called Henry, with austere politeness, up the stairway: \x91Would
you mind coming down?\x92

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

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

\x91What on earth is this thing?\x92 she asked.

\x91A gyroscope.\x92

\x91What do you do with it?\x92

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

\x91Hold it by the handle,\x92 said he. \x91Now try to wave it around.\x92

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

\x91Sit right down in that chair and explain it to me,\x92 she cried. \x91How
on earth did it do that? It\x92s uncanny.\x92 And she seated herself on a
work-bench, with a light little spring.

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

Henry\x92s pulse beat faster. Suddenly the pleasantly arranged old
barn looked, felt different. Charm had entered it. And the exciting
possibility of fellowship--a daring fellowship. He was up in the
living-room now. Corinne was moving lazily, comfortably about, humming
a song by the sensational new Richard Strauss who was upsetting all
settled musical tradition just then, and prying into corners and
shelves. She wore a light, shimmery, silky dress that gave out a faint
odour of violets. It drugged Henry, that odour. He felt for the first
time as if he belonged in these rooms himself.

Corinne found the kitchen cupboard\x92, and exclaimed.

\x91Mildred!\x92 she called down the stairs, in her rich drawling voice, \x91come
right up here--the cutest thing!\x92

To which Mildred Henderson coolly replied:--

\x91Don\x92t bother me with cute things now. Play with Henry and keep quiet.\x92

And Humphrey\x92s voice droned on down there.

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

He struck chords; all he knew. He hummed a phrase of the Colonel\x92s song
in _Patience_.

Corinne drew a chair to the end of the keyboard and settled herself
comfortably. \x91Sing something,\x92 she said. \x91I love your voice.\x92

\x91It\x92s no good,\x92 said he, flushing with delight.

Surely her interest was growing. He added:--

\x91I\x92d a lot rather hear you.\x92 But then, when she smilingly shook her
head, promptly broke into--

          \x91If you want a receipt for that popular mystery

               Known to the world as a Heavy Dragoon,

          Take all the remarkable people of history,

               Rattle them off to a popular tune.\x92

It is the trickiest and most brilliant patter song ever written, I
think, not even excepting the Major General\x92s song in _The Pirates_.
Which, by the way, Henry sang next.

\x91How on earth can you remember all those words!\x92 Corinne murmured. \x91And
the way you get your tongue around them. I could never do it.\x92

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

\x91I know hundreds of \x91em,\x92 he said expansively, and sang on.

It was an opportunity he had not foreseen during this dreadful day. But
here it was, and he seized it. The stage was set for his kind of things;
all at once, as if by the merest accident. For the first time since
the awkward Sunday morning on the beach he was able to turn on full the
faucet that controlled his \x91charm.\x92 And he turned it on full. He had
parlour tricks. Out of amateur opera experience he had picked up a
superficial knack at comedy dancing. He did all he knew. He taught an
absurd little team song and dance to Corinne, with Mrs Henderson (who
had at last come up) improvising at the piano. And Corinne, flushed and
pretty, clung to his hand and laughed herself speechless. Once in her
desperate confusion over the steps she sank to the floor and sat in a
merry heap until Henry lifted her up. Then Henry imitated Frank Daniels
singing \x91The man with an elephant on his hands,\x92 and H. C. Bamabee
singing _The Sheriff of Nottingham_, and De Wolf Hopper doing _Casey
at the Bat_. All were clever bits; the \x91Casey\x92 exceptionally so. They
applauded him. Even Humphrey, silent now, leaning on an end of the
piano, watching Mrs Henderson\x92s flashing little hands, clapped a little.

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

Mrs Henderson followed him; slipped her hand through his arm; asked
quietly, \x91Who lives across the alley?\x92

\x91It\x92s the Presbyterian parsonage,\x92 he replied, slightly grim.

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

\x91These sand-flies are fierce,\x92 said Henry. \x91You girls better take our
handkerchiefs.\x92

They circled on lawns to avoid the swirling, crunching, softly
suffocating clouds of insects. Nearer the lake it grew worse. At the
corner of Chestnut and Simpson they stopped short. Mrs Henderson,
pressing the handkerchief to her face, clung in humorous helplessness to
Humphrey\x92s arm.

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

Henry, running with Corinne pressing close on his arm, caught a glimpse
of his face. The expression on it added a touch of alarm to the p\xE6an of
joy in Henry\x92s brain.

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

\x91Let\x92s do something to-morrow night--walk or go biking or row on the
lake,\x92 said Mrs Henderson. \x91You two had better come down for dinner. Any
time after six.\x92

\x91How about you?\x92 Henry whispered to Corinne. \x91Do you want me to come...
Will and Fred...\x92

Corinne\x92s firm long hand slipped for a moment into his. He gripped it.
The pressure was returned.

\x91Don\x92t be silly!\x92 she breathed, close to his ear.


8


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

Humphrey scraped and lighted his pipe.

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

\x91Tell me,\x92 said Humphrey gruffly, slowly, \x91where is Mister Arthur V.
Henderson?\x92

\x91He travels for the Camman Company, reapers and binders and ploughs.\x92

Humphrey very deliberately lighted his pipe.

Henry moved on toward the closed door. Emotions were stirring
uncomfortably within him. And conflicting impulses. Suddenly he shot out
a muffled \x91Good-night,\x92 and entered the bedroom, shutting the door after
him.

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

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

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

\x91What\x92s all this?\x92 Humphrey waved his pipe.

\x91Well--I just thought I\x92d go in the morning.\x92

\x91Don\x92t be a dam\x92 fool.\x92

\x91But--but\x92--Henry threw out protesting hands--\x91I know I\x92m no good at all
these fussy things. I\x92d just spoil your----\x92

The pipe waved again. \x91That\x92s all disposed of, Hen.\x92 A somewhat
wry smile wrinkled the long face. \x91Mildred Henderson\x92s running it,
apparently. There\x92s a certain Mrs Olson who is to come in mornings and
clean up. And--oh yes, I\x92ve got a lot of change for you. Your share was
only eight-five cents.\x92

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

\x91We\x92re different kinds,\x92 said Humphrey. \x91About as different as they
make\x92em. But that, in itself, isn\x92t a bad thing.\x92

He thrust out his hand.

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

Humphrey stalked back to his room.

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



III--THE STIMULANT


1


|Miss Wombast looked up from her desk in the Sunbury Public Library and
beheld Henry Calverly, 3rd. Then with a slight fluttering of her pale,
blue-veined eyelids and a compression of her thin lips she looked down
again and in a neat practised librarian\x92s hand finished printing out a
title on the-catalogue card before her.

For Henry Calverly was faintly disconcerting to her. Though it was only
eleven o\x92clock, and a Tuesday, he was attired in blue serge coat,
snow white trousers and (could she have seen through the desk) white
stockings and shoes. His white _n\xE9glig\xE9_ shirt was decorated at the neck
with a \x91four-in-hand\x92 of shimmering foulard, blue and green. In his
left hand was a rolled-up creamy-white felt hat and the crook of a thin
bamboo stick. With his right he fussed at the fringe on his upper lip,
which was somewhat nearer the moustache stage than it had been last
week. Behind his nose glasses and their pendant silk cord his face was
sober; the gray-blue eyes that (Miss Wombast knew) could blaze with
primal energy were gloomy, or at least tired; there was a furrow between
his blond eyebrow\x92s. He had the air of a youth who wants earnestly to
concentrate without knowing quite how.

Miss Wombast was a distinctly \x91literary\x92 person. She read Meredith,
Balzac, De Maupassant, Flaubert, Zola, and Howells. She was living her
way into the developing later manner of Henry James. She talked, on
occasion, with an icy enthusiasm that many honest folk found irritating,
of Stevenson\x92s style and of Walter Pater.

It was Miss Wombast\x92s habit to look in her books for complete
identification of the living characters she met. She studied all of
them, coolly, critically, at boardinghouse and library. Naturally, when
a living individual refused to take his place among her gallery of book
types, she was puzzled. One such was Henry Calverly.

She had known something of his checkered career in high school, where
he had directed the glee club, founded and edited _The Boys\x92 Journal_,
written a rather bright one-act play for the junior class. Indeed the
village in general had been mildly aware of Henry. He had stood out, and
Miss Wombast herself had sung a modest alto in the _Iolanthe_ chorus,
two years back, under Henry\x92s direction and had found him impersonally,
ingenuously masterful and a subtly pleasing factor in her thought-world.
He had made a success of that mob. The big men of the village gave him a
dinner and a purse of gold. After all of which, his mother had died,
he had run, apparently, through his gifts and his earnings, and settled
down to a curiously petty reporting job, trotting up and down Simpson
Street collecting useless little items for _The Weekly Voice of
Sunbury_. Other young fellows of twenty either went to college or
started laying the foundations of a regular job in Chicago. Those that
amounted to anything. You could see pretty plainly ahead of each his
proper line of development. Yet here was Henry, who _had_ stood out,
working half-heartedly at the sort of job you associated with the
off-time of poor students, dressing altogether too conspicuously,
wasting hours--daytimes, when a young fellow ought to be working--with
this girl and that. For a long time it had been the Caldwell girl.
Lately she had seen him with that strikingly pretty but, she felt,
rather \x91physical\x92 young singer who was visiting the gifted but
whispered-about Mrs Arthur V. Henderson, of Lower Chestnut Avenue. Name
of Doge, or Doag, or something like that.

Henry himself had been whispered about. Very recently. He had been
seen at Hoffmann\x92s Garden, up the shore, with a vulgar young woman in
extremely tight bloomers. Of the working girl type. Had her out on a
tandem. Drinking beer.

So it was, unable to forget those secretly stirring _Iolanthe_ days,
that Miss Wombast had looked about among her book types for a key to
Henry, but without success. He didn\x92t appear to be in De Maupassant. Nor
in Balzac. In Meredith and James there was no one who said \x91Yeah\x92 and
\x91Gotta\x92 and spoke with the crude if honest throat \x91r\x92 of the Middle West
and went with nice girls and vulgar girls and carried that silly cane
and wore the sillier moustache; who had, or had had, gifts of creation
and command, yet now, month in, month out, hung about Donovan\x92s soda
fountain; who never smoked and, apart from the Hoffmann\x92s Garden
incident, wasn\x92t known to drink; and who, when you faced him, despite
the massed evidence, gave out an impression of earnest endeavour. Even
of moral purpose.

Had she known him better Miss Wombast would have found herself the more
puzzled. For Miss Wombast, despite her rather complicated reading,
still clung in some measure to the moralistic teachings of her youth,
believing that people either had what she thought of as character or
else didn\x92t have it, that people were either industrious or lazy, bright
or stupid, vulgar or nice. Therefore the fact that Henry, while still
wrecking his stomach with fountain drinks and (a recently acquired
habit) with lemon meringue pie between meals, had not touched candy for
two years--not a chocolate cream, not even a gum drop!--and this by
sheer force of character, would have been confusing.

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

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

He was concerned because his sudden little flirtation with Corinne Doag,
after a flashing start, had lost its glow. Only the preceding evening.
He hadn\x92t held her interest. The thrill had gone. Which plunged him into
moods and brought to his always unruly tongue the sarcastic words
that made matters worse. He was lunching down there to-day--he and
Humphrey--and dreaded it, with moments of a rather futile, flickering
hope. Deep intuition informed him that the one sure solution was money.
You couldn\x92t get on with a girl without it. Just about so far, then
things dragged. And this, of course, brought him around the circle, back
to the main topic.

He was thinking about his clothes. They, at least, should move Corinne.
Along with the moustache, the cane, the cord on his glasses. He didn\x92t
see how people could help being a little impressed. Miss Wombast, even,
who didn\x92t matter. It seemed to him that she _was_ impressed.

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

He was wondering, with the dread that the prospect of mental effort
always roused in him, how on earth he was ever to write three whole
columns about the Annual Business Men\x92s Picnic of the preceding
afternoon. Describing in humorous yet friendly detail the three-legged
race, the ball game between the fats and the leans, the dinner in the
grove, the concert by Foote\x92s full band of twenty pieces, the purse
given to Charlie Waterhouse as the most popular man on Simpson Street.
He had a thick wad of notes up at the rooms, but his heart was not in
the laborious task of expanding them. He knew precisely what old
man Boice expected of him--plenty of \x91personal mention\x92 for all the
advertisers, giving space for space. Each day that he put it off
would make the task harder. If he didn\x92t have the complete story in by
Thursday night, Humphrey would skin him alive; yet here it was Wednesday
morning, and he was planning to spend as much of the day as possible
with the increasingly unresponsive Corinne. Life was difficult!

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

A corner of his mind dwelt unceasingly on queer difficult feelings that
came. These had flared out in the unpleasant incident of Mamie Wilcox
and the tandem; and again in the present flirtation with Corinne. In a
way that he found perplexing, this stir of emotion was related to
his gifts. He couldn\x92t let one go without the other. There had been
moments--in the old days--when a feeling of power had surged through
him. It was a wonderful, irresistible feeling. Riding that wave, he
was equal to anything. But it had frightened him. The memory of it
frightened him now. He had put _Iolanthe_ through, it was true, but he
had also nearly eloped with Ernestine Lambert. He had completely lost
his head--debts, everything!

Yes, it was as well that Miss Wombast couldn\x92t read his thoughts. She
wouldn\x92t have known how to interpret them. She hadn\x92t the capacity to
understand the wide swift stream of feeling down which an imaginative
boy floats all but rudderless into manhood. She couldn\x92t know of his
pitifully inadequate little attempts to shape a course, to catch this
breeze and that, even to square around and breast the current of life.

Henry said politely:--

\x91Good-morning, Miss Wombast. I just looked in for the notes of new
books.\x92

\x91Oh,\x92 she replied quickly. \x91I\x92m sorry you troubled. Mr Boice asked me
to mail it to the office at the end of the month. I just sent it--this
morning.\x92

She saw his face fall. He mumbled something that sounded like, \x91Oh--all
right! Doesn\x92t matter.\x92 For a moment he stood waving his stick in jerky,
aimless little circles. Then went off down the stairs.


2


Emerging from Donovan\x92s drug store Henry encountered the ponderous
person of old Boice--six feet an inch and a half, head sunk a little
between the shoulders, thick yellowish-white whiskers waving down over a
black bow tie and a spotted, roundly protruding vest, a heavy old
watch chain with insignia of a fraternal order hanging as a charm;
inscrutable, washed-out blue eyes in a deeply lined but nearly
expressionless face.

Henry stopped short; stared at his employer.

Mr Boice did not stop. But as he moved deliberately by, his faded eyes
took in every detail of Henry\x92s not unremarkable personal appearance.

Henry was thinking: \x91Old crook. Wish I had a paper of my own here and
I\x92d get back at him. Run him out of town, that\x92s what!\x92 And after he had
nodded and rushed by, his colouring mounting: \x91Like to know why I should
work my head off just to make money for _him_. No sense in that!\x92

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

The sighs were directed at Humphrey, who sat bent over his desk, cob
pipe in mouth, writing very rapidly. \x91He\x92s got wonderful concentration,\x92
thought Henry, his mind wandering a brief moment from his unhappy self.

Humphrey spoke without looking up. \x91Don\x92t let that Business Men\x92s Picnic
get away from you, Hen. Really ought to be getting it in type now. Two
compositors loafing out there.\x92

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

\x91Old man say anything to you about the \x93Library Notes\x94?\x92

Humphrey glanced up and removed his pipe. His swarthy long face wrinkled
thoughtfully. \x91Yes. Just now. He\x92s going to have Miss Wombast send \x91em
in direct every month.\x92

\x91And I don\x92t have \x91em any more.\x92

Humphrey considered this fact. \x91It doesn\x92t amount to very much, Hen.\x92

\x91Oh, no--works out about sixty cents to a dollar. It ain\x92t that
altogether--it\x92s the principle. I\x92m getting tired of it!\x92

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

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

\x91Do you know what\x92s he done to me--that old doubleface? Took me in here
two years ago at eight a week with a promise of nine if I suited. Well,
I did suit. But did I get the nine? Not until I\x92d rowed and begged for
seven months. A year of that, a lot more work--You know! \x93Club Notes,\x94
 this library stuff, \x93Real Estate Happenings,\x94 \x93Along Simpson Street,\x94
 reading proof--\x92

Humphrey slowly nodded as he smoked.

\x91--And I asked for ten a week. Would he give it? No! I knew I was worth
more than that, so I offered to take space rates instead. Then what does
he do? You know, Hump. Been clipping me off, one thing after another,
and piling on the proof and the office work. Here\x92s one thing more gone
to-day. Last week my string was exactly seven dollars and forty-six
cents. Dam it, it ain\x92t fair! I can\x92t _live!_ I won\x92t stand it. Gotta be
ten a week or I--I\x92ll find out why. Show-down.\x92

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

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

\x91Look here, Hen, I don\x92t like it any more than you do. I\x92ve seen what he
was doing. I\x92ve tried to forestall him once or twice----\x92

\x91I know it, Hump.\x92 Henry turned. He was quite listless now. \x91He\x92s a
tricky old fox. If I only knew of something else I could do--or that we
could do together----\x92

\x91But--this was what I was going to say--no matter how we feel, I\x92m going
to be really in trouble if I don\x92t get that picnic story pretty soon. Mr
Boice asked about it this morning.\x92

Henry leaned against Mr Boice\x92s desk, up by the window; dropped his chin
into one hand.

\x91I\x92ll do it, Hump. This afternoon. Or to-night. We\x92re going down to
Mildred\x92s this noon, of course.\x92

\x91That\x92s part of what\x92s bothering me. God knows how soon after that
you\x92ll break away from Corinne.\x92

\x91Pretty dam soon,\x92 remarked Henry sullenly, \x91the way things are going
now.... I\x92ll get at it, Hump. Honest I will. But right now\x92--he moved
a hand weakly through the air--\x91I just couldn\x92t. You don\x92t know how I
feel. I _couldn\x92t!_\x92

\x91Where you going now?\x92

\x91I don\x92t know.\x92 The hand moved again. \x91Walk around. Gotta be by myself.
Sorta think it out. This is one of the days... I\x92ve been thinking--be
twenty-one in November. _Then_ I\x92ll show him, and all the rest of \x91em.
Have a little money then. I\x92ll show this hypocritical old town a few
things--a few things....\x92

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

\x91I\x92ll be ready quarter or twenty minutes past twelve,\x92 Humphrey called
after him as he moved mournfully out to the street.


3


Mr Boice moved heavily along, inclining his massive head, without a
smile, to this acquaintance and that, and turned in at Schultz and
Schwartz\x92s.

The spectacle of Henry Calverly--in spotless white and blue, with the
moustache, and the stick--had irritated him. Deeply. A boy who couldn\x92t
earn eight dollars a week parading Simpson Street in that rig, on a
week-day morning! He felt strongly that Henry had no business sticking
out that way, above the village level. Hitting you in the eyes. Young
Jenkins was bad enough, but at least his father had the money. Real
money. And could let his son waste it if he chose. But a conceited young
chump like Henry Calverly! Ought to be chucked into a factory somewhere.
Stoke a furnace. Carry boxes. Work with his hands. Get down to brass
tacks and see if he had any stuff in him. Doubtful.

Mr Boice made a low sound, a wheezy sound between a grunt and a hum, as
he handed his hat to the black, muscular, bullet-headed, grinning Pinkie
Potter, who specialised in hats and shoes in Sunbury\x92s leading barber
shop.

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

Heinie Schultz, who was straw-coloured, thin, listlessly patient (Bill
Schwartz was the noisy fat one), knew that the thick, yellowish gray
hair was to be cut round in the back and the neck shaved beneath it.
The beard was to be trimmed delicately, reverently--\x91not cut, just the
rags taken off\x92--and combed out. Heinie had attended to this hair and
beard for sixteen years.

\x91Heard a good one,\x92 murmured Heinie, close to his patron\x92s ear. \x91There
was a bride and groom got on the sleeping car up to Duluth--\x92

A thin man of about thirty-five entered the shop, tossed his hat to
Pinkie, and dropped into Bill Schwartz\x92s chair next the window. The
new-comer had straight brown hair, worn a little long over ears and
collar. His face was freckled, a little pinched, nervously alert. Behind
his gold rimmed spectacles his small sharp eyes appeared to be darting
this way and that, keen, penetrating through the ordinary comfortable
surfaces of life.

This was Robert A. McGibbon, editor and proprietor of the _Sunbury
Weekly Gleaner_. He had appeared in the village hardly six months back
with a little money--enough, at least, to buy the presses, give a little
for good will, assume the rent and the few business debts that Nicholas
Simms Godfrey had been able to contract before his health broke, and to
pay his own board at the Wombasts\x92 on Filbert Avenue. His appearance
in local journalism had created a new tension in the village and his
appearance now in the barber shop created tension there. Heinie\x92s
vulgar little anecdote froze on his lips. Mr Boice, impassive, heavily
deliberate, after one glimpse of the fellow in the long mirror before
him, lay back in the chair, gazed straight upward at the fly-specked
ceiling.

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

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

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

The experience of withstanding vulgar attacks was new to the
triumvirate. (McGibbon referred to them always as the \x91Old Cinch.\x92) The
_Gleaner_ had come out for annexation to Chicago. It demanded an
audit of Charlie Waterhouse\x92s town accounts by a new, politically
disinterested group. It accused the bank of withholding proper support
from men of whom old Boice disapproved. It demanded a share of the
village printing.

The \x91Old Cinch\x92 were taking these attacks in silence, as beneath their
notice. They took pains, however, in casual mention of the new force in
town, to refer to him always as a \x91Democrat.\x92 This damned him with many.
He called himself an \x91Independent.\x92 Which amused Charlie Waterhouse
greatly. Everybody knew that a man who wasn\x92t a decent Republican had to
be a Democrat. In the nature of things.

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

Bill Schwartz took McGibbon\x92s spectacles, tucked the towel around his
scrawny neck, lathered chin and cheeks, and seizing his head firmly in a
strong right hand turned it sidewise on the head-rest.

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

\x91How are you, Mr Boice?\x92 McGibbon observed, quite cheerfully.

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

\x91Quite a story you had last week about the musicale at Mrs Arthur V.
Henderson\x92s.\x92

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

\x91Who wrote it?\x92

No answer.

\x91Henry Calverly?\x92

A grunt.

\x91Thought so!\x92 McGibbon chuckled.

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

\x91Got it here. Hand me my glasses, Bill, will you. Thanks.\x92 McGibbon was
sitting up, his face all lather, digging in his pocket. He produced a
clipping. Read aloud with gusto:--

\x91\x93Mrs Stelton\x92s art has deepened and broadened appreciably since she
last appeared in Sunbury. Always gifted with a splendid singing organ,
always charming in personality and profoundly, rhythmically musical in
temperament, she now has added a superstructure of technical authority
which gives to each passage, whether bravura or pianissimo, a quality
and distinction.\x94\x92

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

\x91Great stuff that!\x92 observed McGibbon cautiously, under the razor.
\x91\x93Profoundly, rhythmically musical in temperament \x93! \x93A superstructure
of technical authority\x94! Great! Fine! That boy\x92ll do something yet.
Handled right. Wish he was working for me.\x92

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

\x91Well,\x92 he roared huskily, \x91what in hell\x92s the matter with that!\x92

Just then Bill turned McGibbon\x92s head the other way. He too raised his
voice. But cheerfully.

\x91Nothing much. Nice lot o\x92 words. Only Mrs Stelton wasn\x92t there.
Sprained her ankle in the Chicago station on the way out.\x92

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

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

Pinkie Potter laughed convulsively, and beat out an intricate rag-time
tattoo on his bootblack\x92s stand with his brush.


4


It was Mr Boice\x92s fixed habit to go on, toward noon, to the post-office.
Instead, to-day, he returned to the _Voice_ office.

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

Finally he reached out for the two-foot rule that always lay on his
desk, and carefully measured a certain article in last week\x92s paper.
Then did a little figuring.

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

\x91Take fifteen inches off Henry\x92s string this week, Weaver. A dollar \x91n\x92
five cents. Be at the post-office if anybody wants me.\x92 And went out.

Humphrey himself measured Henry\x92s article on the musicale. Old Boice had
been accurate enough; it came to an even fifteen inches. Which at seven
cents an inch, would be a dollar and five cents.

When Henry reappeared and together they set out for Lower Chestnut
Avenue, Humphrey found he hadn\x92t the heart to break this fresh
disappointment to his friend. He decided to let it drift until the
Saturday. Something might turn up.

Henry\x92s mood had changed. He had left the office, an hour earlier,
looking like a discouraged boy. Now he was serious, silent, hard to
talk to. He seemed three years older. With certain of Henry\x92s rather
violently contrasted phases Humphrey was familiar; but he had never seen
him look quite like this. Henry was strung up. Plainly. He walked very
fast, striding intently forward. At least once in each block he found
himself a yard ahead of his companion, checked himself, muttered a
few words that sounded vaguely like an apology and then repeated the
process.

At Mrs Henderson\x92s Henry was grave and curiously attractive. He had
charm, no doubt of it--a sort of charm that women, older women, felt.
Mildred Henderson distinctly played up to him. And Corinne, Humphrey
noted, watched him now and then; the quietly observant keenness in her
big dark eyes masked by her easy, lazy smile.

Toward the close of luncheon Henry\x92s evident inner tension showed signs
of taking the form of gaiety. He acted like a young man wholly sure of
himself. Humphrey\x92s net impression, after more than a year and a half
of close association with the boy, was that he couldn\x92t ever be sure of
himself. Not for one minute. Yet, when they threw down their napkins and
pushed back their chairs, it was Henry who said, with an apparently easy
arrogance back of his grain:--

\x91Hump, you\x92ve got to be going back so soon, we\x92re going to give you and
Mildred the living-room. We\x92ll wash the dishes.\x92

Humphrey noted the quick little snap of amusement in Mrs Henderson\x92s
eyes (Henry had not before openly used her first name) and the
demure, expressionless look that came over Corinne\x92s face. Neither was
displeased.

To Mrs Henderson\x92s, \x91You\x92ll do no such thing!\x92 Henry responded
smilingly:--

\x91I won\x92t be contradicted. Not to-day.\x92

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

\x91Why the to-day, Henry?\x92

\x91Oh, I don\x92t know. Just the way I feel,\x92 said he; and ushered her
with mock politeness into the front room, then, gallantly, almost
nonchalantly, took the elbow of the unresisting Corinne and led her
toward the kitchen.

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

It will be evident to the reader that among these four young persons,
rather casually thrown together in the first instance, something of an
\x91understanding\x92 had grown up.

There had been a furtive delight about their first gathering at
Humphrey\x92s rooms, a sense of exciting variety in humdrum village life,
the very real and lively pleasure of exploring fresh personalities.

Of late years, looking back, it has seemed to me that Mildred Henderson
never really belonged in Sunbury, where a woman\x92s whole duty lay in
keeping house economically and as pleasantly as might be for the husband
who spent his days in Chicago. And in bearing and rearing his children.
I never knew anything of her earlier life, before Arthur V. Henderson
brought her to the modest house on Chestnut Avenue. I never could figure
why she married him at all. Marriages are made in so many places besides
Heaven! He used to like to hear her play.

In those days, and a little later, I judged her much as the village
judged her--peering out at her through the gun-ports in the armour
plate of self-righteousness that is the strong defence of every suburban
community. But now I feel that her real mistake lay in waiting so long
before drifting to her proper environment in New York. Like all of us,
she had, sooner or later, to work out her life in its own terms or die
alive of an atrophied spirit. She had gifts, and needed, doubtless,
to express them. I can see her now as she was in Sunbury during those
years--little, trim, slim, with a quick alert smile and snappy eyes.
Not a beautiful woman, perhaps not even an out-and-out pretty one, but
curiously attractive. She had much of what men call \x91personality.\x92 And
she was efficient, in her own way. She never let her musical gift rust;
practised every day of her life, I think. Including Sundays. Which was
one of the things Sunbury held against her.

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

Corinne Doag was distinctly a city person. And she was a real singer,
with ambition and a firm, even hard purpose, I can see now, back of the
languorous dusky eyes and the wide slow smile that Henry was not then
man enough to understand. In those days, more than in the present, a
girl with a strong sense of identity was taught to hide it scrupulously.
It was still the century of Queen Victoria. The life of any live girl
had to be a rather elaborate pretence of something it distinctly was
not. For which we, looking back, can hardly blame her. Besides, Corinne
was young, healthy, glowing with a quietly exuberant sense of life. I
imagine she found a sort of pure joy, an animal joy, in playing with men
and life. She wasn\x92t dishonest. She certainly liked Henry. Particularly
to-day. But this was the summer time. She was playing. And she liked to
be, thrilled.

An hour later, could Humphrey have glanced into the butler\x92s pantry, he
would have concluded that he knew Henry Calverly not at all. And
Miss Wombast, could she have looked in, would have been thrilled and
frightened, perhaps to the point of never speaking to Henry again. And
of never, never forgetting him.

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

They stood in the butler\x92s pantry, Henry and Corinne. The shards of a
shattered coffee cup lay unobserved at their feet. Out in the kitchen
sink all the silver and the other cups and saucers lay in the rinsing
rack, the soapsuds dry on them. Henry held Corinne in his arms.

\x91Henry,\x92 she whispered, \x91we _must_ finish the dishes! What on earth will
Mildred think?\x92

\x91Let her think!\x92 said Henry.

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

\x91Henry, I never thought----\x92

\x91Never thought what?\x92

\x91Wait! My hair\x92s all down again. They might come out here. I mean you
seemed----\x92

\x91How did I seem? Say it!\x92

\x91Oh well--_Henry_!--I mean sort of--well, reserved. I thought you were
shy.\x92

\x91Think so now!\x92

\x91I--well, no. Not exactly. Wait now, you silly boy! Really, Henry, you
musn\x92t be so--so intense.\x92

\x91But I _am_ intense. I\x92m not the way I look. Nobody knows----\x92 Here he
interrupted himself.

\x91Oh, Henry,\x92 she breathed, her head on his shoulder now, her arm
clinging about his neck. He felt very manly. Life, real life, whirled,
glowed, sparkled about him. He was exultant. \x91You dear boy--I\x92m afraid
you\x92ve made love to lots of girls.\x92

\x91I _haven\x92t!_\x92 he protested, with unquestionable sincerity. \x91Not to
lots.\x92

\x91Silly!\x92 A silence. Then he felt her draw even closer to him.
\x91Henry, talk to me! Make love to me! Tell me you\x92ll take me away with
you--to-day!--now! Make me feel how wonderful it would be! Say it,
anyway--even if--oh, Henry, _say_ it!\x92

For an instant Henry\x92s mind went cold and clear. He was a little
frightened. He found himself wondering if this tempestuous young woman
who clung so to him could possibly be the easy, lazy, comfortably
smiling Corinne. He thought of Carmen--the Carmen of Calv\xE9. He had suped
once in that opera down at the Auditorium. He had paid fifty cents to
the supe captain.

The thrill of the conqueror was his. But he was beginning to feel that
this was enough, that he had best rest his case, perhaps, at this\x92
point.

As for asking her to fly away with him, he couldn\x92t conscientiously so
much as ask her to have dinner with him in Chicago. Not in the present
state of his pocket.

One fact, however, emerged. He must propose something. He could at least
have it out with old Boice. Settle that salary business. He\x92d _have_ to.

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

The door from dining-room to kitchen opened, rather slowly. There was a
light step in the kitchen, and Mildred Henderson\x92s musical little voice
humming the theme of the Andante in the Fifth Symphony.

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

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

\x91Hate to disturb you two,\x92 she called, a reassuring if slightly humorous
sympathy in her voice, \x91but I promised Humphrey I\x92d get after you,
Henry. He says you simply must get some work done to-day.\x92

Henry stood motionless, trying to think.\x92

\x91Do your work here,\x92 Corinne whispered. \x91Stay.\x92

He shook his head. \x91A lot I\x92d get done--here with you. Now.\x92

\x91I\x92ll help you. Couldn\x92t I be just a little inspiration to you?\x92

\x91It ain\x92t inspiring work.\x92

\x91Henry--write something for me! Write me a poem!

\x91All right. Not to-day, though. Gotta do this Business Men\x92s Picnic.

Then he said, \x91Wait a minute;\x92 went into the kitchen.

\x91Going over town,\x92 he remarked, offhand, to Mrs Henderson.

At the outer door, Corinne murmured: \x91You\x92ll come back, Henry?\x92

With a vague little wave of one hand, and a perplexed expression, he
replied: \x91Yes, of course.\x92 And hurried off.


6


Mr Boice wasn\x92t at his desk at the _Voice_ sanctum. Henry could see that
much through the front window.

He didn\x92t go in. He felt that he couldn\x92t talk with Humphrey--or
anybody--right now. Except old Boice. He was gunning for him. Equal to
him, too. Equal to anything. Blazing with determination. Could lick a
regiment.

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

Once again on this eventful day that conservative member of the village
triumvirate found himself forced to gaze at the dressy if now slightly
rumpled youth with a silly little moustache that he couldn\x92t seem to
let go of, and the thin bamboo stick with a crook at the end. The youth
whose time was so valuable that he couldn\x92t arrange to do his work. And
once again irritation stirred behind the spotted, rounded-out vest and
the thick, wavy, yellowish-white whiskers.

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

\x91Mr Boice,\x92 said Henry, \x91I--I want to speak with you. It\x92s--it\x92s this
way. I don\x92t feel that you\x92re doing quite the right thing by me.\x92

Another sound from the editor-postmaster. Then silence.

\x91You gave me to understand that I\x92d get better pay if I suited. Well,
the way you\x92re doing it, I don\x92t even get as much. It ain\x92t right! It
ain\x92t square! Now--well--you see, I\x92ve about come to the conclusion that
if the work I do ain\x92t worth ten a week--well----\x92

It is to be remembered of Norton P. Boice that he was a village
politician of something like forty years\x92 experience. As such he put no
trust whatever in words. Once to-day he had raised his voice, and
the fact was disturbing. He had weathered a thousand little storms
by keeping his mouth shut, sitting tight. He never criticised or
quarrelled. He disbelieved utterly in emotions of any sort. He hadn\x92t
written a letter in twenty-odd years. And he was not likely to lose his
temper again this day--week--or month.

Henry didn\x92t dream that at this moment he was profoundly angry.
Though Henry was too full of himself to observe the other party to the
controversy.

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

Henry chafed.

After a time Mr Boice asked, \x91Have you done the story of the Business
Men\x92s Picnic?\x92

Henry shook his head.

\x91Better get it done, hadn\x92t you?\x92

Henry shook his head again.

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

\x91Suppose,\x92 he remarked, \x91you go ahead and get the story in. Then we can
have a little talk if you like. I\x92m rather busy this afternoon.\x92

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

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

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

\x91Mr Boice,\x92 he said, firmly if huskily, and a good deal louder than was
desirable, here in the post-office, within ear-shot of the moneyorder
window--\x91Mr Boice, what I want from you won\x92t take two minutes of your
time. You\x92d better tell me, right now, whether I\x92m worth ten dollars a
week to the _Voice_. Beginning this week. If I\x92m not--I\x92ll hand in my
string Saturday and quit. Think I can\x92t do better\x92n this! I wonder! You
wait till about next November. Maybe I\x92ll show the whole crowd of you a
thing or two! Maybe----\x92

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

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

\x91Get out of here!\x92 he roared. \x91And stay out!\x92

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

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

Shortly he wandered out. An overpowering restlessness was upon him. He
wanted desperately to do something, but didn\x92t know what it could be. It
was as if a live wild animal, caged within his breast, was struggling to
get out.

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

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

He knew now that he wanted to write. But he didn\x92t know what. The wild
animal was a story. Or a play. Or a poem. Perhaps the poem Corinne had
begged for. He stood in the middle of the room, closed his eyes, and
saw and felt Corinne close to him. It was a mad but sweet reverie. Yes,
surely it was the poem!

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

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


7


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

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

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

It was a decade or more since the \x91editor\x92 of the Voice had done any
actual work. Every day he dropped quiet suggestions, whispered a word of
guidance to this or that lieutenant, and listened to assorted ideas and
opinions. He was a power in the village, no doubt about that. But to
compose and write out three columns of his own paper was hopelessly
beyond him. It called for youth, or for the long habit of a country
hack. The deep permanent grooves in his mind were channels for another
sort of thinking.

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

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

Humphrey raised his head; removed his pipe.

\x91Guess you better fix up a little account of the Business Men\x92s Picnic,
Weaver,\x92 he remarked.

\x91Henry\x92s doing that.\x92

Mr Boice\x92s massive head moved slowly, sidewise. \x91No,\x92 he said, \x91he won\x92t
be doing it.\x92

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

Mr Boice got up and moved toward the door.

\x91I\x92ve let Henry go,\x92 he said.

Humphrey went on rubbing his pipe; squinting at it.

Mr Boice paused in the door; looked back.

\x91I\x92ll ask you to attend to it, Weaver.\x92

Humphrey shook his head.

Mr Boice stood looking at him.

\x91No,\x92 said Humphrey. \x91Afraid I can\x92t help you out.\x92

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

\x91I wasn\x92t there.\x92

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

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

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


8


Humphrey let himself into Mrs Henderson\x92s front hall, closed the screen
door gently behind him, and looked about the dim interior. There
seemed to be no one in the living-room. The girls were in the kitchen,
doubtless, getting supper. Mildred had faithfully promised not to bother
cooking anything hot. He hung up his hat.

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

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

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

\x91Seen Henry?\x92 he asked. \x91Old Boice fired him to-day, and he\x92s
disappeared. Not at the rooms. And I looked in at the Y.M.C.A.\x92

\x91He\x92s here,\x92 said Mildred. \x91A very interesting thing is happening,
Humphrey. I\x92ve always told you he was a genius.\x92

\x91But what\x92s up?\x92

\x91We\x92ve got him upstairs at my desk. He\x92s writing something.

I think it\x92s a poem for Corinne.\x92

\x91A poem! But----\x92

\x91It\x92s really quite wonderful. Now don\x92t you go and throw cold water on
it, Humphrey.\x92 She came over, very trim and pretty in her long apron,
her face flushed with the heat of the stove, slipped her hand through
his arm, and looked up at him. \x91It\x92s really very exciting. I haven\x92t
seen the boy act this way for two years. He came in here, all out of
breath, and said he had to write. He didn\x92t seem to know what. He\x92s
quite wild I never in my life saw such concentration. It seems that he\x92s
promised Corinne a poem.\x92

\x91Wonder what\x92s got into him,\x92 Humphrey mused.

Mildred returned to her salad dressing. \x91Genius has got into him,\x92 she
said, a bright little snap in her eyes. \x91And it\x92s coming out. He\x92s been
up there nearly two hours now. Corinne\x92s guarding. She\x92d kill you if you
disturbed him. She peeked in a little while ago. She says there\x92s a lot
of it--all over the floor--and he was writing like mad. She couldn\x92t see
any of it. As soon as he saw her he yelled at her and waved her out.\x92

\x91Hm!\x92 said Humphrey.

\x91Humphrey, my dear,\x92 said Mildred then, \x91I\x92m really afraid we\x92ve got to
watch those two a little. Something\x92s been happening to-day. Corinne has
gone perfectly mad over him--to-day--all of a sudden. She fretted every
minute he was away. Henry doesn\x92t know it, but Corinne is a pretty
self-willed girl. And just now she\x92s got her mind on him.\x92

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

\x91I\x92ve really been worrying a little about them. About Henry
particularly, for some reason.\x92 She gave a soft little laugh, and
pressed his arm. \x91They\x92re so young, Humphrey--such green little things.
Or he is, at least. I\x92ve been impatient for you to come.\x92

\x91I got down as soon as I could,\x92 said Humphrey, looking down at her.

\x91Of course, I know.\x92

\x91I\x92ve been worrying about him, too.\x92

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

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

\x91He won\x92t eat,\x92 she explained. \x91He\x92s still at it. I wish you could see
my room. It\x92s a sight.\x92

\x91Corinne coming down?\x92

\x91Not she. She won\x92t budge from the stairs. And she flared up when I
suggested bringing up a tray. I never thought that Corinne was romantic,
but... Well, it gives us a nice little _t\xE9te-\xE0-t\xEAte_ supper. I\x92ve made
iced coffee, Humphrey. Just dip into the salad, won\x92t you!\x92 After supper
they went out to the hall. Corinne, still on the top step, had switched
on the light and was sorting out a pile of loose sheets. She beckoned to
them. They came tiptoeing up the stairs.

\x91I can\x92t make it out,\x92 she whispered. \x91It isn\x92t poetry. And he doesn\x92t
number his pages.\x92

\x91How did you ever get them?\x92 asked Mildred.

\x91Went in and gathered them up. He didn\x92t hear me. He\x92s still at it.\x92

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

\x91What is it?\x92 they asked.

He chuckled softly. \x91Well, it isn\x92t poetry.\x92

\x91I saw that much,\x92 Corinne murmured, rather mournfully. \x91It\x92s--wait a
minute! I couldn\x92t believe it at first. It--no--yes, that\x92s what it is.\x92

\x91_What!_\x92

Then Humphrey dropped down at Mildred\x92s feet, and laughed, softly at
first, then with increasing vigour.

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

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

\x91Here,\x92 said Humphrey, when he could speak, \x91let\x92s get into this.\x92

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

Once he muttered, \x91What on earth!\x92 And shortly after: \x91Why, the young
devil!\x92

\x91Please--\x92 said Corinne. \x91Please! I want to know what it is.\x92,

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

\x91Well,\x92 he remarked, \x91it is certainly an account of the Business Men\x92s
Picnic. And it certainly was _not_ written for _The Weekly Voice of
Sunbury_. I\x92ll start in a minute and read it through. But from what I\x92ve
seen---- Well, while it may be a little Kiplingesque--naturally--still
it comes pretty close to being a work of art.

\x91Tell you what the boy\x92s done. He\x92s gone at that little community outing
just about as an artistic god would have gone at it. As if he\x92d never
seen any of these Simpson Street folks before. Berger, the grocer, and
William F. Donovan, and Mr Wombast, and Charlie Waterhouse, and Weston
of the bank, and--and, here, the little Dutchman that runs the lunch
counter down by the tracks, and Heinie Schultz and Bill Schwartz, and
old Boice! It\x92s a crime what he\x92s done to Boice. If this ever appears,
Sunbury will be too small for Henry Calverly. But, oh, it\x92s
grand writing.... He\x92s got\x92em all in, their clothes, their little
mannerisms--their tricks of speech... Wait, I\x92ll read it.\x92

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

\x91One thing I don\x92t quite understand,\x92 said Mildred. \x91It\x92s a lovely bit
of writing--he makes you see it and feel it--where Mr Boice and Charles
Waterhouse were around behind the lemonade stand, and Mr Waterhouse is
upset because the purse they\x92re going to surprise him with for being
the most popular man in town isn\x92t large enough. What _is_ all that,
anyway?\x92

\x91I know,\x92 said Humphrey. \x91I was wondering about that. It\x92s funny as the
dickens, those two birds out there behind the lemonade stand quarrelling
about it. It\x92s--let\x92s see--oh, yes! And Boice says, \x93It won\x92t help you
to worry, Charlie. We\x92re doing what we can for you. But it\x92ll take time.
And it\x92s a chance!\x94... Funny!\x92

He lowered the manuscript, and stared at the wall. \x91Hm!\x92 he remarked
thoughtfully. \x91Mildred, got any cigarettes?\x92

\x91Yes, I have, but I don\x92t care to be mystified like this. Take one, and
tell me exactly what you\x92re thinking.\x92

\x91I\x92m thinking that Bob McGibbon would give a hundred dollars for this
story as it stands, right now.\x92

\x91Why?\x92

\x91Because he\x92s gunning for Charlie. And for Boice.\x92

\x91And what\x92s this?\x92

\x91Evidence.\x92 Humphrey was grave now. \x91Not quite it. But warm. Very warm.\x92

\x91He\x92s really stumbled on something. How perfectly lovely!\x92

\x91And he doesn\x92t know it. Sees nothing but the story value of it. But it
may be serious. They\x92d duck him in the lake. They\x92d drown him.\x92

\x91But how lovely if Henry, by one stroke of his pencil, should really
puncture the frauds in this smug town.\x92

\x91There is something in that,\x92 mused Humphrey.

\x91Ssh!\x92 From Mildred.

They heard a slow step on the stairs.

A moment, and Henry appeared in the doorway. He stopped short when he
saw them. His glasses hung dangling against his shirt front. He was
coatless, but plainly didn\x92t know it. His straight brown hair was
rumpled up on one side and down in a shock over the farther eye. He
was pale, and looked tired about the eyes. He carried more of the
manuscript.

He stared at them as if he couldn\x92t quite make them out, or as if not
sure he had met them. Then he brushed a hand across his forehead and
slowly, rather wanly, smiled.

\x91I had no idea it was so late,\x92 he said.

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

\x91That\x92s probably it,\x92 he thought. \x91And it\x92s what the boy has needed.
Martha Caldwell couldn\x92t give it to him--never in the world! He was
groping to find it in that tough little Wilcox girl. It wouldn\x92t do to
tell him--no, I mustn\x92t tell him; got to steady him down all I can--but
I rather guess he\x92s been needing a Mildred and a Corinne. These two
years.\x92


9

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

He went straight to Boice\x92s house on Upper Chestnut Avenue.

\x91What has all this to do with me?\x92 asked Mr Boice, behind closed doors
in his roomy library. \x91Let him write anything he likes.\x92

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

\x91This,\x92 he said, \x91is a real piece of writing. It\x92s the best picture of a
community outing I ever read in my life. It\x92s vivid. The characters
are so real that a stranger, after reading this, could walk up Simpson
Street and call fifteen people by name. He\x92d know how their voices
sound, what their weaknesses are, what they\x92re really thinking about
Sunday mornings in church. It is humour of the finest kind. But they
won\x92t know it on Simpson Street. They\x92ll be sore as pups, every man.
He\x92s taken their skulls off and looked in. He\x92s as impersonal, as cruel,
as Shakespeare.\x92

This sounded pretty highfalutin\x92 to Mr Boice. He made a reflective
sound; then remarked:--

\x91You think the advertisers wouldn\x92t like it,\x92

\x91They\x92d hate it. They\x92d fight. It would raise Ned in the town. But
McGibbon wouldn\x92t mind. Or if he didn\x92t have the nerve to print it, any
Sunday editor in Chicago would eat it alive.\x92

\x91Well, what----\x92

Humphrey quietly interrupted.

\x91Little scenes, all through. Funny as Pickwick. There really is a touch
of genius in it. Handles you pretty roughly. But they\x92d laugh. No doubt
about that. All sorts of scenes--you and Charlie Waterhouse behind the
lemonade stand--Bill Parker\x92s little accident in the tug-of-war.\x92 He
read on, to himself. But he knew that Mr Boice sat up stiffly in his
chair, with a grunt. He heard him rise, ponderously, and move down the
room; then come back.

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

\x91What are you getting at?\x92 he asked. \x91You want something.\x92

\x91I want you to take Hemy back at--say, twelve a week.\x92

\x91Hm. Have him re-write this?\x92

\x91No. Henry won\x92t be able to write another word this week. He\x92s empty.
My idea is, Mr Boice, that you\x92ll want to do the cutting yourself. When
you\x92ve done that, I\x92ll pitch in on the re-write. We can get our three
columns out of it all right.\x92

\x91Hm!\x92

\x91There\x92s one thing you may be sure of. Henry doesn\x92t know what he\x92s
written. No idea. It\x92s a flash of pure genius.\x92

\x91Don\x92t know that we\x92ve got much use for a genius on the _Voice_,\x92
grunted Mr Boice. \x91He ought to go to Chicago or New York.\x92

\x91He will, some day.\x92 Humphrey rose. \x91Will you send for him in the
morning?\x92

There was a long silence. Then a sound. Then:--\x91Tell him to come
around.\x92

\x91Twelve a week, including this week?\x92

The massive yellowish-gray head inclined slowly.

\x91Very well, I\x92ll tell him.\x92

\x91You can leave the manuscript here, Weaver.\x92

\x91No.\x92 Humphrey deliberately folded it and put it in an inside pocket.
\x91Henry will have to give it to you himself. It\x92s his. Good-night.\x92

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

\x91We won\x92t either of us be long on the _Voice_. Not now. But it\x92s great
going while it lasts.\x92

And he wondered, with a little stir of excitement, just why that purse
wasn\x92t enough for Charlie Waterhouse... just what old Boice knew... Why
it was a chance! Curious! Something back of it, something that McGibbon
was eternally pounding at--hinting--insinuating. Something real there;
something that might never be known.


10


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

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

Henry seemed fagged. At least he was quiet.

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

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

\x91I suppose you\x92re pretty tired, aren\x92t you?\x92 Corinne murmured.

Her voice seemed to waken him out of a dream.

\x91I--I--what was that? Oh--tired? Why, I don\x92t know. Sorta.\x92

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

\x91I\x92m frightfully excited,\x92 he said, brightening. \x91If you knew what this
meant to me! Feeling like this. The Power--but you wouldn\x92t know what
that meant. Only it lifts me up. I know I\x92m all right now. It\x92s been an
awful two years. You\x92ve no idea. Drudgery. Plugging along. But I\x92m up
again now. I can do it any time I want. I\x92m free of this dam\x92 town. They
can\x92t hold me back now.\x92

\x91You\x92ll do big things,\x92 she said, a mournful note in her voice.

\x91I know. I feel that.\x92

And now she stopped short. In a shadow.

\x91What is it?\x92 he asked casually. \x91What\x92s the matter?\x92

She glanced at his face; then down.

\x91Do you think you\x92ll write--a poem?\x92 she asked almost sullenly.

\x91Maybe. I don\x92t know. It\x92s queer--you get all stirred up inside, and
then something comes. You can\x92t tell what it\x92s going to be. It\x92s as if
it came from outside yourself. You know. Spooky.\x92

She moved on now, bringing him with her.

\x91Mildred and Humphrey\x92ll wonder where we are,\x92 she said crossly.

Henry glanced down at her; then at the shadowy arch of maples ahead.
He wondered what was the matter with her. Girls were, of course,
notoriously difficult. Never knew their own minds. He was exultantly
happy. It had been a great day. Twelve a week now, and going up! Hump
was a good old soul.... He recalled, with a recurrence of both the
thrill and the conservatism that had come then, that he had had a great
time with Corinne in the early afternoon. Mustn\x92t go too far with that
sort of thing, of course. But she was sure a peach. And she didn\x92t seem
the sort that would be for ever trying to pin you down. He took her hand
now. It was great to feel her there, close beside him.\x92

Corinne walked more rapidly. He didn\x92t know that she was biting her
lip. Nor did he perceive what she saw clearly, bitterly; that she
had unwittingly served a purpose in his life, which he would never
understand. And she saw, too, that the little job was, for the present,
at least, over and done with.

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



IV--THE WHITE STAR


1


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

Henry Calverly, settled comfortably in the hammock on Mrs Arthur V.
Henderson\x92s front porch, behind the honeysuckle vine, listened dreamily.

Beside him in the hammock was Corinne Doag.

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

The storage battery in the modern automobile will automatically cut
itself off from the generator when fully charged. Henry\x92s emotional,
nature was of similar construction. Corinne had overcharged him, and
automatically he cut her off.

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

Early in the present evening, shortly after Humphrey Weaver and Mrs
Henderson left the porch for a little ramble to the lake--\x91Back in a few
minutes,\x92 Mildred had remarked--the quarrel had been made up. Neither
could have told how. Each felt relieved to be comfortably back on a
hammock footing.

Henry, indeed, was more than relieved. He was quietly exultant. The
thrill of conquest was upon him. It was as if she were an enemy whom he
had defeated and captured. He was experiencing none of the sensations
that he supposed were symptoms of what is called love. Yet what he
was experiencing was pleasurable. He could even lie back here and think
coolly about it, revel in it.

Corinne\x92s head stirred.

\x91That was midnight,\x92 she murmured.

\x91What of it?\x92

\x91I suppose I ought to be thinking about going in.\x92

\x91I don\x92t see that your chaperon\x92s in such a rush.\x92

\x91I know. They\x92ve been hours. They might have walked around to the
rooms.\x92

Henry was a little shocked at the thought.

\x91Oh, no,\x92 he remarked. \x91They\x92d hardly have gone _there_--without us.\x92

\x91Mildred would if she wanted to. It has seemed to me lately...\x92

\x91What?\x92

\x91I don\x92t know--but once or twice--as if she might be getting a little
too fond of Humphrey.\x92

\x91Oh\x92--there was concern in Henry\x92s voice--\x91do you think so?\x92

\x91I wonder if you know just how fascinating that man is, Henry.\x92

\x91He\x92s never been with girls--not around here. You\x92ve no idea--he just
lives with his books, and in his shop.\x92

\x91Perhaps that\x92s why,\x92 said she. \x91Partly. Mildred ought to be careful.\x92

Henry, soberly considering this new light on his friend, looked off
toward the corner.

He sat up abruptly.

\x91Henry\x92 For goodness\x92 sake! Ouch--my hair!\x92

\x91Ssh! Look--that man coming across! Wait. There now--with a suit-case!\x92

\x91Oh, Henry, you scared me! Don\x92t be silly. He\x92s way out in... Henry! How
awful! It _is!_\x92

\x91What\x92ll we do?\x92

\x91I don\x92t know. Get up. Sit over there,\x92 She was working at her hair; she
smoothed her \x91waist,\x92 and pulled out the puff sleeves.

The man came rapidly nearer. His straw hat was tipped back. They could
see the light of a cigar. A mental note of Henry\x92s was that Arthur V.
Henderson had been a football player at the state university. And a
boxer. Even out of condition he was a strong man.

\x91Quick--think of something to tell him! It\x92ll have to be a lie.
Henry--_think!_\x92

Then, as he stood motionless, helpless, she got up, thrust his hat and
bamboo stick into his hands, and led him on tiptoe around the corner of
the house.

\x91We\x92ve got to do something. Henry, for goodness\x92 sake--\x92

\x91We\x92ve got to find her, I think.\x92

\x91I know it. But----\x92

\x91If she came in with Hump, and he--you know, this time\x92 of night--why,
something awful might happen. There might be murder. Mr Henderson----\x92

\x91Don\x92t talk such stuff! Keep your head. Well--he\x92s coming! Here!\x92

She gripped his hand, dragged him down the side steps, and ran lightly
with him out past the woodshed to the alley. They walked to the side
street and, keeping in the shadows, out to the Chestnut Avenue corner.
From this spot they commanded the house.

Mr Henderson had switched on lights in front hall, dining-room, and
kitchen. The parlour was still dark. Next he had gone upstairs, for
there were lights in the upper windows. After a brief time he appeared
in the front doorway. He lighted a fresh cigar, then opened the screen
door and came out on the porch. He stood there, looking up and down the
street. Then he seated himself on the top step, elbows on knees, like a
man thinking.

\x91Henry!\x92

\x91Yes.\x92

\x91Listen! You go over to the rooms and see.\x92

\x91But they might be down at the lake.\x92

\x91Not all this time. Mildred doesn\x92t like sitting on beaches. If you find
them, bring her back. We\x92ll go in together, she and I. We\x92ll patch up a
story. It\x92s all right. Just keep your head.\x92

\x91What\x92ll you do?\x92

\x91Wait here.\x92

\x91I don\x92t like to leave you.\x92

\x91You\x92ll see me again.\x92

\x91I know, but----\x92

\x91Well... Now hurry!\x92


2


The old barn was dark.

\x91Hm!\x92 mused Henry, pulling at his soft little moustache. \x91Hm! Certainly
aren\x92t here. Take a look though.\x92

With his latch-key he softly opened the alley door; felt his way through
machinery and belting to the stairs. At the top he stood a moment,
peering about for the electric switch. He hadn\x92t lived here long enough
to know the place as he had come to know his old room in Wilcox\x92s
boarding-house.

A voice--Humphrey\x92s--said:--

\x91Don\x92t turn the light on.\x92 Then, \x91Is it you, Hen?\x92

There they were--over in the farther window-seat--sitting very still,
huddled together--a mere faint shape against the dim outside light. He
felt his way around the centre table, toward them.

\x91Looking for you,\x92 he said. His voice was husky. There was a throbbing
in his temples. And he was curiously breathless.

He stood. It was going to be hard to tell them. He hadn\x92t thought of
this; had just rushed over here, headlong.

\x91I suppose it\x92s pretty late,\x92 said Mildred. There was a dreamy quality
in her voice that Henry had not heard there before. He stood silent.

\x91Well\x92--Humphrey\x92s voice had the dry, even slightly acid quality that
now and then crept into it--\x91anything special, Hen? Here we are!\x92

Henry cleared his throat. That huskiness seemed unconquerable. And his
over-vivid imagination was playing fantastic tricks on him. Hideous
little pictures, very clear. Wives murdering husbands; husbands
murdering lovers; dragged-out, soul-crushing scenes in dingy,
high-ceiled court-rooms.

Humphrey got up, drew down the window shade behind Mrs Henderson, and
turned on the light. She shielded her eyes with a slim hand.

Henry, staring at her, felt her littleness; paused in the rush of his
thoughts to dwell on it. She looked prettier to-night, too. The softness
that had been in her voice was in her face as well, particularly about
the half-shadowed mouth. She was always pretty, but in a trim, neat,
brisk way. Now, curled up there in the window-seat, her feet under
her very quiet\x92, she seemed like a little girl that you would have to
protect from the world and give toys to.

Henry, to his own amazement--and chagrin--covered his face and sobbed.

\x91Good lord!\x92 said Humphrey. \x91What\x92s all this? What\x92s the matter?\x92

The long silence that followed was broken by Mildred. Still shielding
her eyes, without stirring, she asked, quietly:--

\x91Has my husband come home?\x92

Henry nodded.

\x91Where\x92s Corinne?\x92

\x91She--she\x92s waiting on the corner, in case you....

Mildred moved now; dropped her chin into her hand, pursed her lips a
little, seemed to be studying out the pattern of the rug.

\x91Did he--did he see either of you?\x92

Henry shook his head.

Mildred pressed a finger to her lips.

\x91We mustn\x92t leave Corinne waiting out there,\x92 she said.

Humphrey dropped down beside her and took her hand. His rather sombre
gaze settled on her face and hair. Thus they sat until, slowly, she
raised her head and looked into his eyes. Then his lips framed the
question:--

\x91Stay here?\x92

Her eyes widened a little, and slowly filled. She gave him her other
hand. But she shook her head.

A little later he said.

\x91Come then, dear. We\x92ll go down there.\x92

From the top of the stairs he switched on a light in the shop. Mildred,
very palet went down. Henry was about to follow. But he saw Humphrey
standing, darting glances about the room, softly snapping his bony
fingers. The long, swarthy face was wrinkled into a scowl. His eyes
rested on Henry. He gave a little sigh; threw out his hands.

\x91It\x92s--it\x92s the limit!\x92 he whispered. \x91You see--my hat....\x92

That seemed to be all he could say. His face was twisted with emotion.
His mouth even moved a little. But no sound came.

Henry stood waiting. At the moment his surging, uncontrollable emotion
took the form of embarrassment. It seemed to him that in this crisis
he ought to be polite toward his friend. But they couldn\x92t stand here
indefinitely without speaking. There was need, particular need, of
politeness toward Mildred Henderson. So, mumbling, he followed her
downstairs and out through the shop to the deserted alley.

Then they went down to Chestnut Avenue. Mildred and Humphrey were
silent, Walking close together, arm in arm. Henry, in some measure
recovered from his little breakdown, or relieved by it, tried to make
talk. He spoke of the stillness of the night. He said, \x91It\x92s the only
time I like the town--after midnight. You don\x92t have to see the people
then.\x92

Then, as they offered no reply, he too fell still.

Corinne, when they found her leaning against a big maple, was in a
practical frame of mind.

\x91There he is,\x92 she whispered. \x91Been sitting right there all the time.
This is his third cigar. Now listen, Mildred. I\x92ve figured it all out.
No good in letting ourselves get excited. It\x92s all right. You and I will
walk up with Henry. Just take it for granted that you\x92ve been down to
the lake with us. We needn\x92t even explain.\x92

Mildred, still nestling close to Humphrey\x92s arm, seemed to be looking at
her.

Then they heard her draw in her breath rather sharply, and her hand
groped up toward Humphrey\x92s shoulder.

\x91Wait!\x92 she said breathlessly. \x91I can\x92t go in there now. Not right now.
Wait a little. I can\x92t!\x92

Humphrey led her away into the shadows.

Corinne looked at Henry. \x91Hm!\x92 she murmured--\x91serious!\x92

The university clock struck one.

Again Henry felt that pressure in the temples and dryness in the throat.
His thoughts, most of them, were whirling again. But one corner of his
mind was thinking clearly, coldly:--

\x91This is the real thing. Drama! Life! Maybe tragedy! And I\x92m seeing it!
I\x92m in it, part of it!\x92


3


Corinne was peering into the shadows.

\x91Where\x92d they go?\x92 she said. \x91We\x92ve got to find them. This thing\x92s
getting worse every minute.\x92

Mildred and Humphrey were sitting on a horse block, side by side, very
still. It was in front of the B. L. Ames place. Corinne stood over them.
But Henry hung back; leaned weakly against a tree.

The Ames place brought up memories of other years and other girls. An
odd little scene had occurred here, with Clemency Snow, on one of the
lawn seats. And a darker mass of shadow in the gnarled, low-spreading
oak, over by the side fence, was a well-remembered platform with seats
and a ladder to the ground. Ernestine Lambert had been the girl with him
up there.

Two long years back! He was eighteen then--a mere boy, with illusions
and dreams. He wasn\x92t welcome to Mary Ames\x92s any more. She didn\x92t
approve of him. Her mother, too. And he had sunk into a rut of
small-town work on Simpson Street. They weren\x92t fair to him. He didn\x92t
drink; smoked almost none; let the girls alone more than many young
fellows--in spite of a few little things. If he had money... of course.
You had to have money.

He felt old. And drab of spirit. Those little affairs, even the curious
one with Clem Snow, had been, it seemed now, on a higher plane of
feeling than this present one with Corinne. Life had been at the spring
then, the shrubs dew-pearled, God in his Heaven. And the affair with
Ernestine had not been so little. It had shaken him. He wondered where
Ernie was now. They hadn\x92t written for a year and a half. And Clem was
Mrs Jefferson Jenkins, very rich (Jeff Jenkins was in a bond house on
La Salle Street) living in Chicago, on the Lake Shore Drive, intensely
preoccupied with a girl baby. People--women and girls--said it was a
beautiful baby. Girls were gushy.

He pressed a hand to his eyes. Corinne was right; the situation was
getting worse every minute. During one or two of the minutes, while his
memory was active, it had seemed like an unpleasant dream from which he
would shortly waken. But it wasn\x92t a dream. He felt again the tension
of it. It was a tension that might easily become unbearable. First thing
they knew the university clock would be striking two. He began listening
for it; trying absurdly to strain his ears.

He had recently seen Minnie Maddem play _Tess of the D\x92Urbervilles_, and
had experienced a painful tension much like this--a strain too great for
his sensitive imagination. He had covered his face. And he hadn\x92t gone
back for the last act.

But there was to be no running out of this.

\x91Well,\x92 said Corinne, almost briskly, \x91we\x92re not getting anywhere.\x92

Humphrey threw out his hand irritably.

\x91Just--just wait a little,\x92 he said. \x91Can\x92t you see....\x92

\x91It\x92s past one.\x92

Corinne\x92s manner jarred a little on all three of the others. Mildred
seemed to sink even closer toward Humphrey.

Henry felt another sob coming. Desperately he swallowed it down.

Humphrey, holding Mildred\x92s head against his shoulder, looked up at
Corinne. His face was not distinctly visible; but he seemed to be
studying the tall, easy-going, unexpectedly practical girl.

\x91I don\x92t think you understand,\x92 he finally said. \x91It\x92s very, very
awkward. My hat is in there.\x92

\x91Where?\x92

\x91In the parlour. On the piano, I think.\x92

\x91I don\x92t think he lighted the parlour. We three can go up just the same.
Now listen. Henry can leave his hat here with you, and get yours when he
comes away.\x92

\x91It has my initials in it,\x92 said Humphrey.

Corinne walked on the grass to the corner; came swiftly back.

\x91Well,\x92 she remarked dryly, \x91he\x92s been in there. The parlour\x92s lighted.\x92

Mildred stirred. \x91Please!\x92 she murmured. \x91Just give me a minute or two.
I\x92m going with you.\x92

\x91Suppose,\x92 said Corinne, \x91he _has_ seen the initials.\x92

Mildred\x92s eyes sought Humphrey\x92s. For a long instant, her head back
on his shoulder, she gazed at him with an intensity that Henry had not
before seen on a woman\x92s face. It was as if she had forgotten himself
and Corinne. And then Humphrey\x92s arm tightened about her, as if he, too,
had forgotten every one and everything else.

Henry had to turn away.

He walked to the corner. Neither Humphrey nor Mildred knew whether he
went or stayed. Corinne was frowning down at them; thinking desperately.

Henry stared at the house, at the dim solitary figure on the top step,
at the little red light of the cigar that came and went with the puffs.

Henry was breathing hard. His face was burning hot. He hated conflicts,
fights; hated them so deeply, felt so inadequate when himself
involved, that emotion usually overcame him. Therefore he fought rather
frequently, and, on occasions, rather effectively. Emotion will win a
fight as often as reason.

He considered getting Humphrey to one side, making him listen to reason.
He dwelt on the phrase. The mere thought of Mildred being driven back
into that house, into the hands of her legal husband, stirred that
tendency to sob. He set his teeth on it. They could take her back to
the rooms. He would move out. For that matter, if it would save her
reputation, they could both move out. At once. But would it save her
reputation?

He took off his hat; pressed a hand to his forehead; then fussed with
his little moustache. Then, as a new thought was born in his brain, born
of his emotions, he gave a little start. He looked back at the shadowy
group about the Ames\x92s horse block. Apparently they hadn\x92t moved. He
looked at his shoes, tennis shoes with rubber soles.

He laid hat and stick on the ground by a tree; went little way up the
street, past the circle of the corner light and slipped across; moved
swiftly, keeping on the grass, around to the alley, came in at the
Henderson\x92s back gate, made his way to the side steps.

There was a door here that led into an entry. There were doors to
kitchen and dining-room on right and left, and the back stairs. Henry
knew the house. Kitchen and dining-room were both dark now, but the
lights were on in parlour and hall.

He got the screen door open without a sound and felt his way into and
through the dining-room. It seemed to him that there were a great many
chairs in that diningroom. His shins bumped them. They met his outspread
hands. Between this room and the parlour the sliding doors were shut.

He stood a moment by these doors, wondering if Arthur V. Henderson was
still sitting on the top step with his back to the front screen door.
Probably. He couldn\x92t very well move without some noise. But it would be
impossible to see him out there, with the parlour light on.

\x91Deliberately, with extreme caution, her slid back one of the doors.
It rumbled a little. He waited, keeping back in the dark, and listened.
There was no sound from the porch.

The piano stood against the side wall, near the front. On it lay
Humphrey\x92s straw hat. Any one by merely looking into it could have seen
the initials. And the man on the steps had only to turn his head and
look in through the bay window to see piano, hat, and any one who stood
near, any one, in fact, in that diagonal half of the room.

Henry held his breath and stepped in, nearly to the centre of the room.
Here he hesitated.

Then beginning slowly, not unlike the sound of a wagon rolling over a
distant bridge, a rumbling fell on his ears. It grew louder. It ended in
a little bang.


4


Henry glanced behind him. The sliding door had closed. There was a
scuffling of feet on the steps.

Henry reached up and switched off the electric lamp in the chandelier.

Then he stepped forward, found the piano, felt along the top, closed his
fingers on the hat, and stood motionless. His first thought was that he
would probably be shot.

There were steps on the porch. The front door opened and closed. Mr
Henderson was standing in the hall now, but not in the parlour doorway.
Probably just within the screen door. The hall light put him at a
disadvantage; and he couldn\x92t turn it out without crossing that parlour
doorway.

\x91Who\x92s there!\x92 Mr Henderson\x92s voice was quiet enough. It sounded tired,
and nervous. \x91Come out o\x92 there quick! Whoever you are!\x92

Henry was silent. He wasn\x92t particularly frightened. Not now. He even
felt some small relief. But he was confronted with some difficulty in
deciding what he ought to do.

\x91Come out O\x92 there!\x92

Then Henry replied: \x91All right.\x92 And came to the hall doorway.

Mr Henderson was leaning a little forward, fists clenched, ready for a
spring. He still had the cigar in his mouth. But he dropped back now and
surveyed the youth who stood, white-faced, clasping a straw hat tightly
under his left arm. He seemed to find it difficult to speak; shifted the
cigar about his mouth with mobile lips. He even thrust his hands into
his pockets and looked the youth up and down.

\x91I came for this hat,\x92 said Henry. \x91It was on the piano.\x92

Still Mr Henderson\x92s eyes searched him up, and down. Eyes that would
be sleepy again as soon as this little surprise was over. And they
were red, with puffs under them. He was a tall man, with big athletic
shoulders and deep chest, but with signs of a beginning corpulence, the
physical laxity that a good many men fall into who have been athletes in
their teens and twenties but are now getting on into the thirties.

It was understood here and there in Sunbury that he had times of
drinking rather hard. Indeed, the fact had been dwelt on by one or two
tolerant or daring souls who ventured to speak a word for his wife. She
had always quickly and willingly given her services as pianist at local
entertainments. Perhaps because, with all her brisk self-possession, she
must have been hungry for friends. She played exceptionally well, with
some real style and with an almost perverse touch of humour. She was
quick, crisp, capable. She disliked banality. To the initiated her
playing of Chopin was a joy. The sentimentalists said that she had
technique but no feeling. She could really play Bach. And I think
she was the most accomplished accompanist that ever lived in Sunbury;
certainly the best within my memory.

\x91Say\x92--thus Mr Henderson now--\x91you\x92re Henry Calverly, aren\x92t you?\x92

\x91Yes.\x92

\x91Well, I\x92d like to know what you\x92re doing here.\x92

\x91I told you. I came for this hat.\x92

\x91Your hat?\x92

\x91Didn\x92t you see the initials?\x92

\x91No. I noticed the hat there. Why didn\x92t you come in the front way?
What\x92s all this burglar business?\x92

Henry didn\x92t answer.

\x91I\x92ll have to ask you to answer that question. You seem to forget that
this is my house.\x92

\x91No, I don\x92t forget that.\x92

Mr Henderson took out his cigar; turned it in his fingers. Colour came
to his face. He spoke abruptly, in a suddenly rising voice.

\x91Seems to me there\x92s some mighty queer goings-on around here. Sneaking
in at two in the morning!\x92

\x91It isn\x92t two in the morning.\x92

\x91Dam\x92 near it.\x92

\x91It isn\x92t half-past one. I tell you----\x92 Henry paused.

His position seemed rather weak.

Mr Henderson studied his cigar again. He drew a cigar case from an
inside pocket.

\x91I don\x92t know\x92s I offered you one,\x92 he said. He almost muttered it.

\x91I don\x92t smoke,\x92 said Henry shortly.

Mr Henderson resumed the excited tone. It was curious coming in that
jumpy way. Even Henry divined the weakness back of it and grew calmer.

\x91I\x92ve been out on----\x92 He paused. Mildred had trained him not to use the
phrase, \x91on the road.\x92 He resumed with, \x91--on a business trip. More\x92n a
month. I swan, I\x92m tired out. Way trains and country hotels. Fierce!
If I seem nervous.... Look here, you seem pretty much at home! Perhaps
you\x92ll tell me where my wife is!\x92

Henry considered this. Shook his head.

\x91Trying to make me think you don\x92t know, eh!\x92

\x91I do know.\x92

Mr Henderson knit his brows over this. Then, instead of immediately
pressing the matter, he took out a fresh cigar and lighted it with the
butt of the old one.

\x91Seems to me you ought to tell me,\x92 he said then.

\x91I can\x92t.\x92

\x91That\x92s queer, ain\x92t it?\x92

\x91Well, it\x92s true. I can\x92t.\x92

\x91She wrote me that she had Corinne Doag visiting here.\x92

\x91Yes. She\x92s here.\x92

\x91With my wife? Now?\x92

Henry bowed. He felt confused, and more than a little tired. And he
disliked this man, deeply. Found him depressing. But outwardly--he
didn\x92t himself dream this--he presented a picture of austere dignity. An
effect that was intensified, if anything, by his youth.

\x91Anybody else with her and Corinne?\x92

Henry bowed again.

\x91A man?\x92

\x91Yes.\x92 Henry was finding him disgusting now. But he must be extremely
careful. An unnecessary word might hurt Mildred or Humphrey. Good old
Hump!

Mr Henderson turned the fresh cigar round and round, looking intently at
it. In a surprisingly quiet manner he asked:--

\x91Why doesn\x92t she come home?\x92

Henry looked at the man. Anger swelled within him.

\x91Because you\x92re here?\x92 He bit the sentence off.

He felt stifled. He wanted to run out, past the man, and breathe in the
cool night air.

Mr Henderson looked up, then down again at the cigar. Then he pushed
open the screen door.

\x91May as well sit down and talk this over,\x92 he said. \x91Cooler on the
porch. Dam\x92 queer line o\x92 talk. You\x92re young, Calverly. You don\x92t know
life. You don\x92t understand these things. My God! When I think... Well,
what is it? You seem to be in on this. Speak out! Tell me what she
wants. That\x92s one thing about me--I\x92m straight out. Fair and square.
Give and take. I\x92m no hand for beating about the bush. Come on with it.
What does she think I ought to do?\x92

\x91I can\x92t tell you what she thinks.\x92 Henry was downright angry now.

\x91Oh, yes! It\x92s easy for you! You haven\x92t been through...\x92 His face
seemed to be working. And his voice had a choke in it. \x91But how could
a kid like you understand I How could you know the way you get tied
up and... all the little things... My God, man! It hurts. Can you
understand that. It\x92s tough.\x92 He subsided. Finally, after a long
silence, he said huskily but quietly, with resignation, \x91You\x92d say I
ought to go.\x92

Henry was silent.

Mr Henderson got up.

\x91I guess I know how to be a sport,\x92 he said.

He went into the house, and in a few minutes returned with his
suit-case.

\x91It\x92s--it\x92s sorta like leaving things all at loose ends,\x92 he remarked.
\x91But then--of course...\x92

He went down two or three steps; then paused and looked up at Henry, who
had risen now.

\x91You\x92--his voice was husky again--\x91you staying here?\x92

\x91No,\x92 said Henry; and walked a way up the street with him.

Mr Henderson said, rather stiffly, that the hot spell really seemed
to be over. Been fierce. Especially through Iowa and Missouri. No lake
breeze, or anything like that. Muggy all the time. That was the thing
here in Sunbury--the lake breeze.\x92


5


They were still in front of the Ames place. But Mildred had risen. They
stood watching him as he came, carrying the hat.

\x91Where on earth have you been?\x92 asked Corinne.

Henry met with difficulty in replying. He was embarrassed, caught in an
uprush of self-consciousness. He couldn\x92t see why there need be talk. He
gave Humphrey his hat.

\x91How\x92d you get this?\x92

\x91In there.\x92

\x91You went in?\x92 This from Mildred. He felt her eyes on him.

\x91Yes.\x92

\x91But you--you must have...\x92

\x91He\x92s gone.\x92

\x91Gone!\x92

\x91Yes.\x92

\x91But where?\x92

\x91I don\x92t know.\x92

\x91What did you tell him?\x92 asked Corinne sharply\x92.

\x91Nothing. I don\x92t think I did. Nothing much.\x92

\x91But what?\x92

\x91Well, he acted funny. I wouldn\x92t tell him where Mildred was. Then he
asked why you didn\x92t come home and I said because he was there.\x92

Mildred and Corinne looked at each other.

\x91But what made him go?\x92 asked Corinne.

\x91I don\x92t know. He wanted to know what you wanted him to do, Mildred. Of
course I couldn\x92t say anything to that. And then he said he guessed he
knew how to be a sport, and went and got his suit-case.\x92

\x91Hope he had sense enough not to go to the hotel,\x92 Corinne mused, aloud.
\x91They\x92d talk so.\x92

\x91There\x92s a train back to Chicago at two-something,\x92 said Humphrey.

They moved slowly toward the house. At the steps they paused.

The university clock struck two.

They listened. The reverberations of the second stroke died out. The
maple leaves overhead rustled softly. From the beach, a block away, came
the continuous low sound of little waves on shelving sand. The great
lake that washes and on occasions threatens the shore at Sunbury had
woven, from Henry\x92s birth, a strand of colour in the fibre of his being.
He felt the lake as deeply as he felt the maples and oaks of Sunbury;
memories of its bars of crude\x92 wonderful colour at sunset and sunrise,
of its soft mists, its yellow and black November storms, its reaches of
glacier-like ice-hills in winter, of moonlit evenings with a girl on the
beach when the romance of youth shimmered in boundless beautiful mystery
before half-closed eyes--these were an ever-present element in the
undefined, moody ebb and flow of impulse, memory, hope, desire and
spasmodic self-restraint that Henry would have referred to, if at all,
as his mind.

\x91It\x92s late enough,\x92 said Corinne, with a little laugh.

Mildred turned away, placed a tiny foot on the bottom step, sighed, then
murmured, very low, \x91Hardly worth while going in.\x92

\x91Let\x92s not,\x92 muttered Humphrey.

\x91Listen.\x92 Thus Corinne. She was leaning against the railing, with an
extraordinarily graceful slouch. She had never looked so pretty, Henry
thought. A little of the corner light reached her face, illuminating
her velvet clear skin and shining on her blue black hair where it curved
over her forehead. She made you think of health and of wild things. And
she could, even at this time, earn her living. There was an offer now to
tour the country forty weeks with a lyceum concert company. The letter
had come to-day; Henry had seen it. She thought she wouldn\x92t accept.
Her idea was another year to study, then two or three years abroad and,
possibly, a start in the provincial opera companies of Italy, Austria,
and Germany. Yes, she had character of the sort that looks coolly ahead
and makes deliberate plans. Despite her wide, easy-smiling mouth and her
great languorous black eyes and her lazy ways, eyen Henry could now see
this strength in her face, in its solid, squared-up framework. More than
any girl Henry had ever known she could do what she chose. Men pursued
her, of course. All the time. There were certain extremely persistent
ones. And it came quietly through, bit by bit, that she knew them pretty
well, knocked around the city with them, as she liked. But now she had
chosen himself. No doubt about it.

She said:--

\x91Listen. Let\x92s go down to the shore and watch for the sunrise. We
couldn\x92t sleep a wink after--after this--anyway.\x92

\x91Nobody\x92d ever know,\x92 breathed Mildred.

Humphrey took her arm. They moved slowly down the walk toward the
street.

Corinne, still leaning there, looked at Henry.

He reached toward her, but she evaded him and waltzed slowly away over
the grass, humming a few bars of the _Myosotis_.

Henry\x92s eyes followed her. He felt the throbbing again in his temples,
and his cheeks burned. He compressed his lips. He moved after her. He
was in a state of all but ungovernable excitement, but the elation
of two hours back had gone, flattened out utterly. He felt deeply
uncomfortable. It was the sort of ugly moment in which he couldn\x92t have
faced himself in a looking-glass. For Henry had such moments, when,
painfully bewildered by the forces that nature implants in the
vigorously young, he loathed himself. Life opened, a black precipice,
before him, yet Life, in other guise, drove him on. As if intent on his
destruction.

He hung back; let Corinne glide on just ahead of him, still slowing
revolving, swaying, waltzing to the soft little tune she was so
musically humming. He wanted to watch her; however great his discomfort
of the spirit, to exult in her physical charm.

On the earlier occasion when she had overtaxed his emotional capacity he
had got out of it by using the forces she stirred in him as a stimulant.
But now he wasn\x92t stimulated. Not, at least, in that way. His spirit
seemed to be dead. Only his body was alive. All the excitement of the
evening had played with cumulative force on his nerves. He had arrived
at an emotional crisis; and was facing it sullenly but unresistingly.

The picture of Mildred and Humphrey lost in each other\x92s gaze--in the
window-seat at the rooms, on the Ames\x92s horse block--kept coming up in
his mind. He could see them in the flesh, walking on ahead, arm in arm,
but still more vividly he could see them as they had been before he
went back to Mildred\x92s house. He knew that love had come to them. He
wondered, trembling with the excitement of the mere thought, how it
would seem to live through that miracle. No such magic had fallen upon
him.. Not since the days of Ernestine. And that had been pretty youthful
business. This matter of Corinne was quite different. He sighed. Then he
hurried up to her, gripped her arm, walked close beside her.

At the beach they paired off as a matter of course. Henry and Corinne
sat in the shadow of a breakwater. Humphrey and Mildred walked on to
another breakwater.

Corinne made herself comfortable with her head resting on Henry\x92s arm.

He was thinking, \x91Sort of thing you dream of without ever expecting it
really. Ain\x92t a fellow\x92 in town that wouldn\x92t envy me.\x92 But gloom was
settling over his spirit like a fog. It seemed to him that he ought
to be whispering skilful little phrases, close to her ear. He couldn\x92t
think of any.

He bent over her face; looked into it; smoothed her dusky hair away
from her temples.

He began humming: \x91I arise from dreams of thee.\x92 She picked it up, very
softly, in a floating, velvety pianissimo.

His own voice died out. He couldn\x92t sing.

He felt almost despondent. What was the matter with him! Time passed.
Now and then she hummed other songs--bits of Schumann and Franz.
Schubert\x92s _Serenade_ she sang through.

\x91Sing with me,\x92 she murmured.

He shook his head. \x91Sometimes I feel like singing, and sometimes I
don\x92t.\x92

\x91Don\x92t I make you feel like singing, Henry?\x92

\x91Oh yes, sure!\x92

\x91You\x92re a moody boy, Henry.\x92

\x91Oh yes, I\x92m moody.\x92

She closed her eyes. He watched the dim vast lake for a while; then
finding her almost limp in his arms, bent again over her face. \x91I\x92m
a fool,\x92 he thought. He could have sobbed again. He bit his lip. Then
kissed her. It was the first moment he had been able to. Her hand
slipped over his shoulder; her arm tightened about his neck.

Abruptly he stopped; raised his head, a bitter question in his eyes.


6


A faint light was creeping over the bowl-like sky. And a fainter colour
was spreading upward from the eastern horizon. The thousands of night
stars had disappeared, leaving only one, the great star of the morning.
It sent out little points of light, like the Star of the East in Sunday
school pictures. It seemed to stir with white incandescence.

Henry straightened up; gently placed Corinne against the breakwater;
covered his face.

She considered him from under lowered eyelids. Her face was
expressionless. She didn\x92t smile. And she wasn\x92t singing now. She
smoothed out her skirt, rather deliberately and thoughtfully.

\x91Think of it!\x92 Henry broke out with a shudder. \x91It\x92s a dreadful thing
that\x92s happened!\x92

\x91It might be,\x92 said Corinne very quietly, \x91if Arthur didn\x92t have the
sense to take that train.\x92

\x91And we\x92re sitting here as if----\x92

\x91Listen! What on earth made you go back to the house?\x92

\x91I can\x92t tell you. I don\x92t know. I _had_ to.\x92

\x91Hm! You certainly did it. You\x92re not lacking courage, Henry.\x92

He said nothing to this. He didn\x92t feel brave.

\x91Mildred was foolish. She shouldn\x92t have let herself get so stirred up.
She ought to have gone back.\x92

\x91How can you say that! Don\x92t you see that she _couldn\x92t_!\x92

\x91Yes, I saw that she couldn\x92t. But it was a mistake.\x92 Henry was up on
his knees, now, digging sand and throwing it.

\x91It was love,\x92 he said hotly--\x91real love.\x92

\x91It\x92s a wreck,\x92 said she.

\x91It can\x92t be. If they love each other!\x92

\x91This town won\x92t care how much they love each other. And there are other
things. Money.\x92

\x91Bah! What\x92s money!\x92

\x91It\x92s a lot. You\x92ve got to have it.\x92

\x91Haven\x92t you any ideals, Corinne?\x92

She reflected. Then said, \x91Of course.\x92 And added: \x91She had Arthur where
she wanted him. That\x92s why he went away, of course. He thought she\x92d
caught him. Now she\x92s lost her head and let him get away. Dished
everything. No telling what he\x92ll do when he finds out.\x92

\x91He mustn\x92t find out.\x92 Henry was not aware of any inconsistency within
himself.

\x91He will if she\x92s going to lose her head like this. There are some
things you have to stand in this world. One of the things Mildred had to
stand was a husband.\x92

\x91But how could she go back to him--to-night--feeling this way?\x92

\x91She should have.\x92

\x91You\x92re cynical.\x92

\x91I\x92m practical. Do you want her to go through a divorce, and then marry
Humphrey? That\x92ll take money. It\x92s a luxury. For rich folks.\x92

\x91Don\x92t say such things, Corinne!\x92

\x91Why not. She\x92s made the break with Arthur. Now the next thing\x92s got to
happen. What\x92s it to be?\x92

Henry got to his feet. He gazed a long time at the morning star.

The university clock struck three.

Henry shivered..

\x91Come,\x92 he said. \x91Let\x92s get back.\x92 It didn\x92t occur to him to help her
up.

The four of them lingered a few moments at Mildred\x92s door. Humphrey
finally led Mildred in. For a last goodnight, plainly.

Corinne smiled at Henry. It was an odd, slightly twisted smile.

\x91After all,\x92 she murmured, \x91there\x92s no good in taking things too
seriously.\x92

He threw out his hands.

\x91You think I\x92m hard,\x92 she said, still with that smile.

\x91Don\x92t! Please!\x92

\x91Well--good-night. Or good-morning.\x92

She gave him her hand. He took it. It gripped his firmly, lingeringly.
He returned the pressure; coloured; gripped her hand hotly; moved toward
her, then sprang away and dropped her hand.

\x91Why--Henry!\x92

\x91I\x92m sorry. I don\x92t know what\x92s the matter with me. I was looking at
that star----\x92

\x91I saw you looking at it.\x92

\x91I was thinking how white it was. And bright. And so far away. As if
there wasn\x92t any use trying to reach it. And then--oh, I don\x92t know--Mr
Henderson made me blue, the way he looked to-night. And Humphrey and
Mildred--the awful fix they\x92re in. And you and me--I just can\x92t tell
you!\x92

\x91You\x92re telling me plainly enough,\x92 she said wearily.

\x91Do you ever hate, yourself?\x92

She didn\x92t answer this. Or look up.

\x91Did you ever feel that you might turn out just--oh well, no good? Mr
Henderson made me think that.\x92

\x91He isn\x92t much good,\x92 said she.

\x91As if your life wasn\x92t worth making anything out of? Your friends
ashamed of you? They talk about me here now. And I haven\x92t been bad. Not
yet. Just one or two little things.\x92

Her lips formed the words, in the dark, \x91You\x92re not bad.\x92

Then she said, rather sharply: \x91Don\x92t stand there looking like a whipped
dog, Henry.\x92

\x91I\x92ll go,\x92 he said; and turned.

\x91You re the strangest person I ever knew,\x92 she said. \x91Maybe you _are_
a genius. Considering that Mildred completely lost her nerve, your
handling of Arthur came pretty near being it. I wonder.\x92

Humphrey and Mildred came out.

She came straight to him; gave him both her hands. \x91You\x92ve settled
everything for us. Humphrey, I want to kiss Henry. I\x92m going to.\x92

Henry received the kiss like an image. Then he and Humphrey went away
together into the dawn.

\x91No good going to the rooms now,\x92 Humphrey remarked. \x91Let\x92s walk the
beach.\x92

Henry nodded dismally.


7


The sky out over the lake was a luminous vault of deep rose shading
off into the palest pink. The flat surface of the water, as far as they
could see, was like burnished metal.

Henry flung out a trembling arm.

\x91Look!\x92 he said huskily. \x91That star.\x92

It was still incandescent, still radiating its little points of light.

\x91Hump,\x92 he said, a choke in his voice--\x91I\x92m shaken. I\x92m beginning life
again to-night, to-day.\x92

\x91I\x92m shaken too, Hen. The real thing has come. At last. It\x92s got me.
It\x92ll be a fight, of course. But we\x92re going through with it. I want
you to come to know her better, Hen. Even you--you don\x92t know. She\x92s
wonderful. She\x92s going to help with my work in the shop, help me do the
real things, creative work, get away from grubbing jobs.\x92

It was a moment of flashing insight for Henry. He couldn\x92t reply;
couldn\x92t even look at his friend. His misgivings were profound. Yet the
thing was done. Humphrey\x92s life had taken irrevocably a new course.
No good even wasting regrets on it. So he fell, in a tumbling rush of
emotion, to talking about himself.

\x91I\x92m beginning again. I--I let go a little. Hump, I can\x92t do it.
It\x92s too strong for me. I go to pieces. You don\x92t know. I\x92ve got to
fight--all the time. Do the things I used to do--make myself work hard,
hard. Keep accounts. Every penny. Leave girls alone. It means grubbing.

I can\x92t bear to think of it.\x92 He spread out his hands. \x91In some ways it
seems to help to let go. You know--stirs me. Brings the Power. Makes me
want to write, create things. But it\x92s too much like burning the candle
at both ends.\x92

Humphrey got out his old cob pipe, and carefully scraped it.

\x91That\x92s probably just what it is,\x92 he remarked.

\x91Oh, Hump, what is it makes us feel this way! You know--girls, and all
that.\x92

Humphrey lighted his pipe.

\x91You don\x92t know how it makes me feel to see you and Mildred. Just the
way she looks. And you. Corinne and I don\x92t look like that. We were
flirting. I didn\x92t mean it. She didn\x92t, either. It\x92s been beastly. But
still it didn\x92t seem beastly all the time.\x92

\x91It wasn\x92t,\x92 said Humphrey, between puffs. \x91Don\x92t be too hard on
yourself. And you haven\x92t hurt Corinne. She likes you. But just the
same, she\x92s only flirting. She\x92d never give up her ambitions for you.\x92

\x91There\x92s something I want to feel. Something wonderful. I\x92ve been
thinking of it, looking at that star. I want to love like--like that. Or
nothing.\x92

Humphrey leaned on the railing over the beach, and smoked reflectively.
The rose tints were deepening into scarlet and gold. The star was
fading.

\x91Hen,\x92 said Humphrey, speaking out of a sober reverie, \x91I don\x92t know
that I\x92ve ever seen anybody reach a star. Our lives, apparently, are
passed right here on this earth.\x92

Henry couldn\x92t answer this. But he felt himself in opposition to it. His
hands were clenched at his side.

\x91I begin my life to-day,\x92 he thought.

But back of this\x92 determination, like a dark current that flowed
silently but irresistibly out of the mists of time into the mists of
other time, he dimly, painfully knew that life, the life of this earth,
was carrying him on. And on. As if no resolution mattered very much. As
if you couldn\x92t help yourself, really.

He set his mouth. And thrust out his chin a little. He had not read
Henley\x92s _Invictus_. It would have helped him, could he have seen it
just then.

\x91Let\x92s walk,\x92 he said.

They breakfasted at Stanley\x92s.

Here there was a constant clattering of dishes and a smell of food.
People drifted in and out--men who worked along Simpson Street, and a
few family groups--said \x91Good-morning. Looks like a warm day.\x92 Picked
their teeth. Paid their checks to Mrs Stanley at the front table, or had
their meal tickets punched.

They walked slowly up the street as far as the Sunbury House corner, and
crossed over to the _Voice_ office. Each glanced soberly at the hotel as
they passed.

They went in through the railing that divided front and rear offices.
Humphrey took off his coat and dropped into his swivel chair before
the roll-top desk. Henry took off his and dropped on the kitchen chair
before the littered pine table. Jim Smith, the foreman, came in, his
bare arms elaborately tattooed, chewing tobacco, and told \x91a new one,\x92
sitting on the corner of Henry\x92s table. Henry sat there, pale of face,
toying with a pencil, and wincing.

After Jim had gone, Henry sat still, gazing at the pencil, wondering
weakly if the rough stuff of life was too much for him.

He glanced over toward the desk. Humphrey, pipe in mouth, was already
at work. Hump had the gift of instant concentration. Even this morning,
after all that had happened, he was hard at it. Though he had something
to work for.

A sob was near. Henry had to close his eyes for a moment. His sensitive
lips quivered.

Humphrey would be, seeing his Mildred again at the close of the
day. Henry found himself entertaining the possibility of crawling
shamefacedly around to Corinne.

Then he sat up stiffly. Felt in one pocket after another until he found
a little red account-book. He hadn\x92t made an entry for a week. Before
Corinne came into his life he hadn\x92t missed an entry for nearly two
years.

He sat staring at it, pencil in hand.

His mouth set again.

He wrote:--

\x91Bkfst. Stanleys... 20c.\x92

He slipped the book into his pocket; compressed his lips for an instant;
then reached for a wad of copy paper.

And gave a little sigh of relief. It was to be a long, perhaps an
endless battle with self. But he had started.



V--TIGER, TIGER!


1


|Miss Amelia Dittenhoefer was a figure in Sunbury. She had taught two
generations of its young in the old Filbert Avenue school. And during
more than ten years, since relinquishing that task, she had supplied
the \x91Society,\x92 \x91Church Doings,\x92 \x91Woman\x92s Realm,\x92 and \x91Personal Mention\x92
departments of the _Voice_ with their regular six to eight columns of
news and gossip.

And as several hundred Sunbury men and women had once been her boys
and girls, this sort of personal news came to her from every side. Her
\x91children,\x92 of whatever present age, accepted her as an institution,
like the university building, General Grant, or Lake Michigan. She never
had a desk in the _Voice_ office, but worked at home or moving
briskly about the town. Home, to her, was the rather select, certainly
high-priced boarding-house of Mrs Clark on Simpson Street, over by the
lake, where she had lived, at this time, for twenty-one or twenty-two
years. She was little, neat, precise, and doubtless (as I look back
on those days) equipped for much more important work than any she ever
found to do in Sunbury. But Woman\x92s sun had hardly begun to rise then.

As Henry had been, at the age of six, one of her boys, and during the
past two years had shared with her the reporting work of the _Voice_,
it was not unnatural that she should stop him as he was hurrying, airily
twirling his thin bamboo stick, over to Stanley\x92s restaurant. It was
noontime. Simpson Street was quiet. They walked along past Donovan\x92s
drug store and Jackson\x92s book store (formerly B. F. Jones\x92s) and turned
the corner. Here, in front of an unfrequented photographer\x92s studio,
Miss Dittenhoefer stated her problem. She looked, though her trim little
person was erect as always, rather beaten down.

\x91Mr Boice has taken half my work, Henry--\x93Church Doings\x94 and \x93Society.\x94
 He sent me a note. I gather that you\x92re to do it.\x92

\x91Me?\x92 Henry spoke in honest amazement.

\x91Doubtless. He\x92s cutting down expenses. I mind, of course, after all
these years. I\x92ve worked very hard. And on the money side, I shall mind
a little.\x92

\x91You don\x92t mean----\x92

\x91Oh, yes. Half the former wage. And they don\x92t pension old teachers in
Sunbury. But this is what I want to tell you----\x92

\x91Oh, but Miss Dittenhoefer, I don\x92t----\x92

\x91Never mind, Henry; it\x92s done. Of course I shouldn\x92t have said as much
as this. Though perhaps I had to say it to somebody. Forget what you can
of it. But now--I wanted to give you this list. There\x92s a good lot of
society for summer. Never knew the old town to be so gay. Two or three
things in South Sunbury that are important. They feel that we\x92ve been
slighting them down there this year. I\x92ve noted everything down. And
I\x92ve written the church societies, asking them to send announcements
direct to the office after this.\x92

\x91I don\x92t want your work,\x92 said Henry, colouring up. \x91It
ain\x92t--isn\x92t--square.\x92

\x91But it\x92s business, Henry. Mr. Boice explained that in his note. You\x92ll
find I\x92ve written everything out in detail--all my plans and the right
ladies to see. Good-bye now.\x92

Henry, pained, unable to believe that Miss Dittenhoefer\x92s day could pass
so abruptly, walked moodily back to Stanley\x92s and, as usual, bolted his
lunch. The unkindness to Miss Dittenhoefer directly affected himself. It
meant still more of the routine desk-work and more running around town.

Then, slowly, as he sat there staring at the pink mosquito-bar that was
gathered round the chandelier, his eyes filled. It was hard to believe
that even Mr Boice could do a thing like that to Miss Dittenhoefer.
Coolly cutting her pay in half! It seemed to Henry wanton cruelty. It
suggested to his sensitive mind other tales of cruelty--tales of the
boys who had gone into Chicago wholesale houses for their training and
had found their fresh young dream-ideals harshly used in the desperate
struggle of business.

Henry, I am certain, thought of Mr Boice at this moment with about
as much sympathy as a native of a jungle village might feel for a
man-eating tiger. That look about Miss Dittenhoefer\x92s mouth when she
smiled! It was a world, this of placid-appearing Sunbury and the big
city, just below the town line, in which men fought each other to the
death, in which young boys were hardened and coarsened and taught to
kill or be killed, in which women were tortured by hard masters until
their souls cried out.

Boice, I am sure, sensed nothing of this somewhat morbid hostility. No;
until Robert A. McGibbon turned up in Sunbury, Mr Boice had some reason
to feel settled and complacent in his years. His private funds were
secure in his wife\x92s name. And he had every reason to believe that,
before many months more, it would be his privilege and pleasure to
run McGibbon out of town for good. If the matter of Miss Dittenhoefer
should, for a little while, stir up sentimental criticism, why--well,
it was business. Sound business. And you couldn\x92t go back of sound
business.

Henry sighed, got slowly up, had his meal ticket punched at the desk by
Mrs Stanley, went back to the office.

2

The sunny, listless July day was at its lowest ebb--when men who had the
time dawdled and smoked late over their lunch, when ladies took naps.

Flies crawled languidly about the speckled walls of the _Voice_ office.
Outside the screen door and the plate-glass front window, the hot air,
rising from the cement sidewalk, quivered so that the yellow outlines
of the Sunbury House across the street wavered unstably, and the dusty
trees over there wavered, and the men sitting coatless, suspendered, in
the yellow rocking chairs on the long veranda, wavered. Through the
open press-room door came the sound of one small job-press rumbling at
a handbill job; the other presses were still. The compositors worked or
idled without talking.

Here in the office, Henry, tipped back in his kitchen chair before the
inkstained, cluttered pine table by the end wall, coat off, limp wet
handkerchief tucked carefully around his neck inside the collar, chewed
a pencil, gazing now at the little pile of blank copy paper before
him, now at a discouraged fly on the wall. Gradually the fly took on
a perverse interest among his wandering, unhappy thoughts. Prompted,
doubtless, by a sense of inner demoralisation that was now close to
recklessness, he reached for a pen, filled it with ink, and shot a
scattering volley at the slow-moving insect.

At the roll-top desk by the press-room door, Humphrey Weaver, also
coatless, cob pipe in mouth, long lean face wrinkled in the effort to
keep his usually docile mind on its task, elbow on desk and long fingers
spread through damp hair, was correcting proof.

Mr Boice\x92s desk, up in the front window, outside the railing, stood
vacant. The proprietor might or might not stop in on the early-afternoon
trip from his house on Upper Chestnut Avenue to the post-office. Mr
Boice could do as he liked. His time was his own. He lived on the labour
of others. A fact which often stirred up in Henry\x92s breast a rage that
was none the less bitter because it was impotent. It was the sort of
thing, he felt, in his more nearly lucid moments, that you have to
stand--the wall against which you must beat your head year after year.

Henry, victorious over the fly, settled back. He tried to work. Then sat
for a time brooding. Then, finally, turned to his friend.

\x91Hump,\x92 he said, \x91I--I know you wouldn\x92t think I had much to do--I mean
the way you get work done--I don\x92t know what it is--but I wish I could
see a way to begin on all this new work. I know I\x92m no good, but----\x92

\x91I wouldn\x92t say that.\x92 Humphrey, glad of a brief respite, settled back
in his swivel chair. \x91I could never have written that picnic story.
Never in the world. We\x92re different, that\x92s all. You\x92re a racer; I\x92m a
work-horse. I don\x92t know just what it\x92s coming to. He isn\x92t handling you
right.\x92

\x91That\x92s it!\x92 Henry cried, softly, eagerly. \x91He _isn\x92t!_\x92

\x91I suppose you know now about Miss Dittenhoefer.\x92 Henry\x92s head bowed in
assent. \x91I didn\x92t have the heart to tell you myself, Hen.\x92 He picked up
his proofs, then looked up and out of the window. \x91There,\x92 he remarked
unexpectedly, \x91is a pretty girl!\x92

Henry turned with the quickness of long habit. \x91Where?\x92 he asked, then
discovered the young person in question standing on the hotel veranda
talking with Mrs B. L. Ames and Mary Ames.

She was a new girl. Even now, though Henry had given up girls for good,
she caused a quickening of his pulse. She _was_ pretty--rather slender,
in a blue skirt and a trim white shirt-waist, and an unusual amount
of darkish hair that massed effectively about a face, the principal
characteristics of which, at this distance and through the screen door,
was a bright, almost eager smile.

It is a not uninteresting fact, to those who know something of Henry\x92s
susceptibility on previous occasions, that his gaze wandered moodily
back to his table. He sighed. His hand strayed up and began pulling at
his little moustache.

\x91You haven\x92t told me what I\x92m to do about it, Hump. This society thing
really stumps me.\x92

\x91I haven\x92t known quite what to say. That\x92s all, Hen. The old man is
riding you, of course. I didn\x92t think, when he raised you to twelve a
week, that he\x92d just lie down and pay it. Meekly. Not he! He\x92s a crafty
old duck. Very, very crafty--Cheese it; here he comes!\x92

The shadow of Norton P. Boice fell across the door-step. The screen door
opened with a squeak, and ponderously the quietly dominating force of
Simpson Street, came in, inclined his massive head in an impersonal
greeting, and lowered his huge bulk into his chair.

\x91Henry!\x92 called Mr Boice in his quietly husky voice.

The young man quivered slightly, but sat motionless.

\x91Henry!\x92 came the husky voice again.

There could be no pretending not to hear. Henry went over there.
Mr Boice sat still--he could; do that--great hands resting on his
barrel-like thighs.

\x91I am rearranging the work of the paper--\x92 he began.

\x91Yes,\x92 muttered Henry, not without sullenness; \x91I know.\x92

\x91Oh, you know!\x92

\x91Yes.\x92

\x91There\x92s a little more for you to do. You\x92ll have to get it cleaned up
well ahead of time this week. Thursday is the fiftieth anniversary of
the founding of Sunbury. You\x92ll have to cover that. Take down what you
can of the speeches.\x92

That seemed to be all. Henry moved slowly back to the table. After a
little shuffling about of the papers on his desk, Mr Boice moved heavily
out and headed toward the post-office.

Then, and not before, Henry rummaged under a pile of exchanges at the
rear of the table until he found a book. This he held close to his body,
where it would not be seen should Humphrey turn unexpectedly.

The book was entitled _Will Power and Self Mastery_. Opposite the title
page was a half-tone reproduction of the author--a face with a huge
moustache and intensely knit brows. Henry studied it, speculating in a
sort of despair as to whether he could ever bring himself to look like
that. He knit his own brows. His hand strayed again to his own downy
moustache.

He turned the pages. Read a sentence here and there. The book, though
divided under various chapter headings, was really made up of hundreds
of more or less pithy little paragraphs. These paragraphs--their
substance mainly a rehandling of the work of Samuel Smiles, James
Parton, and the Christian and Mental Scientists (though Henry didn\x92t
know this)--might easily have been shuffled about and arranged in
other sequence, so little continuity of thought did they represent. One
paragraph ran:--

The express train of Opportunity stops but once at your station. If you
miss it, it will never again matter that you almost caught it.

Another was--

Practise concentration. Fix your mind on the job in hand. Aim to do it
a little better than such a job was ever done before. It is related of
Thomas Alva Edison that, at the early age of seven, he----

And this:--

Oh, how many a young man, standing at the parting of life\x92s main roads,
has lost for ever the golden opportunity because he stopped to light a
cigarette!\x92

Henry replaced the book under the pile of exchanges. A copy of last
week\x92s _Voice_ lay there.

It was the first time he had let an issue of the paper go by without
reading and re-reading every line of his own work. But he had, during
these five days, passed through one of life\x92s great revolutions.
Besides, he had been put on a salary basis. When on space-rates, it had
been necessary to cut everything out and paste it up into a \x91string\x92 for
measurement. It came to him now, with a warm little uprush of memory,
that the best piece of writing he had ever done would be in this issue.

He opened the paper. There was his story, occupying all of page three
that wasn\x92t given up to advertisements. This was better than working.
Besides, he ought to go over it. He settled down to it.


3


The sound that caused Humphrey to start up in surprise was the first
outbreak of profanity he had ever heard from the lips of Henry Calverly.

Henry was sitting up stiffly, holding last week\x92s _Voice_ with hands
that distinctly trembled. When Humphrey first looked, he was white, but
after a moment the colour began flowing back to his face and continued
flowing until his face was red. His lips were clamped tight, as if the
small verbal explosion that had just passed them had proved even more
startling to himself than to Humphrey. \x91What is it?\x92 asked the editor.

Henry stared at the outspread paper.

\x91This!\x92 he got out. \x91This--this!\x92

\x91What\x92s the matter, Hen?\x92

\x91Don\x92t you _know?_\x92

\x91Oh, your picnic story! Yes--but--what on earth is the matter with you?\x92

\x91You _know_, Hump! You never told me!\x92

\x91You mean the cuts?\x92

\x91Oh--yes!\x92 This \x91Oh\x92 was a moan of anguish.

\x91Good heavens, Hen--you didn\x92t for a minute think we could print it as
you wrote it?\x92 Henry\x92s facial muscles moved, but he got no words
out. Humphrey, touched, went on. \x91I don\x92t mind telling you--between
ourselves--that the thing as you wrote it, every word, is the best
bit of descriptive writing I\x92ve seen this year. But you wrote the
real story, boy. You painted the whole Simpson Street bunch as they
are--every wart. It\x92s a savage picture. Why, we\x92d have dropped seventy
per cent, of our advertising between Saturday and Monday! And the queer
little picture of Charlie Waterhouse out behind the lemonade stand----
Why, boy, that\x92s enough to bust open the town!

With Bob McGibbon gunning for Charlie and demanding an accounting of the
town money! Gee!\x92

Henry seemed hardly to hear this.

\x91Who--who re-wrote it?\x92

\x91I did some. The old man polished it off himself.\x92

\x91It\x92s ruined!\x92

\x91Of course. But it brought you a raise to twelve a week. That\x92s
something.\x92

\x91You don\x92t understand. It was my work. And it was true. I wrote the
truth.\x92

\x91That\x92s why.\x92

\x91Then they don\x92t want the truth?\x92

\x91Good lord--no!\x92

Henry considered this, bent over as if to read further, twisted his
flushed face as if in pain, then abruptly sprang up.

\x91What\x92s become of it--the piece I wrote?\x92

\x91Well, Hen--I didn\x92t feel that we had a right to destroy the thing. Too
dam good! In a sense, it\x92s the old man\x92s property; in another sense,
it\x92s yours----\x92

\x91It\x92s mine!\x92

\x91In a sense. At any rate, I took it on myself to have a copy made
confidentially. Then I turned the original over to Mr Boice. He doesn\x92t
know.\x92

\x91Where\x92s the copy?\x92

\x91Here in my desk.\x92

\x91Give it to me!\x92

\x91Just hold your horses a minute, Hen----\x92

\x91You give it----\x92

Humphrey threw up a hand, then opened a drawer. He handed over the
typewritten manuscript.

\x91Who made this?\x92

\x91Gertie Wombast. I warned her to keep her mouth shut.\x92

\x91How much did it cost?\x92

\x91Oh, see here, Hen--I won\x92t talk to you! Not till you get over this
excitement.\x92

\x91I\x92m not excited. Or, at least----\x92

Humphrey gave a shrug. Henry, gripping the roll of manuscript, started
out.

\x91Wait a minute, Hen! What do you think you\x92re going to do?\x92

\x91What do you s\x92pose? Only one thing I _can_ do!\x92

\x91Going after the old man?\x92

\x91Of course! You would yourself, if----\x92

\x91No, I wouldn\x92t. Not in any such rush as that. It\x92s upsetting to have
your good work pawed over and cut to pieces, but twelve a week is----\x92

\x91Oh, Hump, it\x92s everything! He\x92s made it impossible for me. I could
stand some of it, but not all this. He ain\x92t fair! He _wants_ to make it
hard for me! He\x92s just thinking up ways to be mean. And he\x92s spoiled my
work--best thing I\x92ve ever done in my life! And now people will never
know how well I can write.\x92

\x91Oh, yes, they will!\x92

\x91No, they won\x92t. I\x92ll never feel just that way again. It\x92s a feeling
that comes. And then it goes. You can\x92t do anything about it. It was
Corinne and the way I felt about her. And a lot o\x92 things. Seemed to
make me different. Lifted me up. I was red-hot.\x92 He reached out and
struck the paper from the table to the floor. \x91You bet I\x92ll go to old
Boice! \x91I\x92ll tell him a thing or two I He\x92ll know something\x92s happened
before he gets through with me. I\x92ve had something to say to him for a
good while. Going to say it now. Guess he don\x92t know I\x92ll be twenty-one
in November. Have a little money then. He can\x92t put it over me. I\x92ll buy
his old paper. Or start another one. I\x92ll make the town too hot for him.
Thinks he owns all Sunbury. But he _don\x92t!_\x92

\x91Hen,\x92 said Humphrey bravely, when the irate youth paused for breath,
\x91you simply must not try to talk to him while you\x92re mad as this.\x92

\x91But don\x92t you see, Hump,\x92 cried Henry, his face working with vexation,
tears close to his eyes; \x91it\x92s just the time! When I\x92m mad. If I wait,
I\x92ll never say a word.\x92

He rolled the manuscript tightly in his hand, bit his lip, then abruptly
rushed out.

\x91Look here,\x92 cried Humphrey. \x91Don\x92t you go showing that----\x92

But the only reply was the noisy slam of the screen door.

Face set, eyes wild behind their glasses, Henry hurried down Simpson
Street toward the post-office.

Miss Hemple, at the money-order window, said that Mr Boice was having a
talk with Mr Waterhouse in the back office and wasn\x92t to be disturbed.

Henry turned away. For a little time he studied the weather-chart
hanging on the wall. He went to the wide front window and gazed out on
the street. His determination was already oozing away. He found himself
slouching and straightened up. Repeatedly he had to do this. Four times
he went back to the money-order window; four times Miss Hemple smiled
and shook her head.

Martha Caldwell walked by with the two Smith girls. He thought she saw
him. If so, she carefully avoided a direct glance. They still weren\x92t
speaking. At least, Martha wasn\x92t. And to think that during three long
years, except for another episode now and than, she had been his girl!

Heigh-ho! No more girls! He was through!

The Ames\x92s carriage rolled fly. Mary Ames was in it. And--apparently,
unmistakably--the new girl. The girl of the Sunbury House veranda. She
was chatting brightly. She _was_ pretty.

He turned mournfully away. She was not for him. Once it might have been
possible--back in his gay big days. But not now. Not now.

He approached the window for the sixth time. For the sixth time, Miss
Hemple shook her head.

He wandered out to the door.

His chance had passed. If the old man should, at this moment, and alone,
come walking out, he would say meekly, \x91Good-afternoon, Mr Boice,\x92 and
hurry away. He would even try to look busy and earnest. There was shame
in the thought. His mouth was drooping at the corners. All of him--body,
mind, spirit--was sagging now. He moved, slowly down toward the tracks,
entered the little lunch-counter place there and ate a thick piece of
lemon-meringue pie. Which was further weakness. He knew it. It completed
his depression.

He felt that he must think. He ordered another piece of pie. He wished
he hadn\x92t said so much to Humphrey. Would he ever learn to control the
spoken word? Probably not. He sighed. And ate. He couldn\x92t very well go
back to the office. Not like this--in defeat. All that work, too I
Life, work, friendship, all the realities seemed to be slipping from
his grasp. His thoughts were drifting off into a haze. It was an old
familiar mood. It had come often during his teens. Not so much lately;
but he was as helpless before it as he had been at eighteen, when he
finally drifted aimlessly out of his class at the high school.

In those days, it had been his habit to wander along the beach, sit on
a breakwater, let life and love and duty drift by beyond his reach.
Thither he headed now by a back street. Too many people he knew along
Simpson Street. Besides, he might be thrown face to face with the old
man.

At the corner of Filbert Avenue he met the editor and proprietor of the
_Gleaner_. He inclined his head with unconscious severity and would have
passed on.

But Robert A. McGibbon came to a halt, smiled in a thin strained
fashion, and glanced curiously from Henry\x92s face to the tightly rolled
manuscript in his hand and back to the face.

\x91Well,\x92 he remarked, \x91how\x92s things?\x92

Henry wanted to be let alone. But he had never deliberately snubbed
anybody in his life. He couldn\x92t. So he, too, came to a stop.

\x91Oh, pretty good,\x92 he replied.


4


He found himself, in his turn, looking Mr McGibbon over. The man was
just a little seedy. He had a hand up, rubbing the back of his head
under the tipped-down straw hat, and Henry noted the shiny black surface
of his sleeve. He had a freckled, thinly alert face, a little pinched.
His hair was straight and came down raggedly about ears and collar.
Behind his gold-rimmed spectacles, small, sharp eyes, very keen,
appeared to be darting this way and that, restlessly noting everything
within their range of vision.

\x91Things going well over at the _Voice_ office?\x92 Henry was silent. He
couldn\x92t lie. \x91Not going so well, eh? That\x92s too bad. Anything special
up?\x92

\x91No,\x92 said Henry, finding his voice untrustworthy; \x91nothing special.\x92

\x91What you doing now? Anything much?\x92 Henry shook his head. \x91Taking a
little walk, perhaps.\x92

\x91Why--yes.\x92

\x91Mind if I walk along with you?\x92

\x91Why--no.\x92

They fell into step.

\x91Been thinking a little about you lately. Wondering if you were happy
in your work over there.\x92 Henry compressed his lips. \x91Did you write
the Business Men\x92s Picnic story?\x92 Henry was silent. \x91Pretty fair job, I
thought.\x92

\x91It was terrible!\x92

\x91Oh, no--not terrible. You\x92re too hard on yourself.\x92

\x91I\x92m not hard on myself. It\x92s _his_ fault. He spoiled it.\x92

\x91Who--Boice? I shouldn\x92t wonder. He could spoil _The New York Sun_ in
two days, with just a little rope.\x92

\x91He tore it all to pieces. I\x92ve got the real story here. I couldn\x92t let
you see it, of course.\x92

McGibbon glanced down at the roll of paper.

\x91You like to write, don\x92t you?\x92 Henry nodded shortly. \x91Boice won\x92t let
you do it, I suppose.\x92 Henry shook his head. \x91He wouldn\x92t. You
know, there isn\x92t really any reason why a country paper shouldn\x92t
be interesting. Play to the subscriber, you know. Boice plays to the
advertiser and the county printing. Other way takes longer, takes a
little more money at first, but once you get your subscriber hooked, the
advertiser has to follow. Better for the long game.\x92

Henry was only half listening. They were crossing the Lake Shore Drive
now. They stopped at the railing and looked out over the lake. Henry\x92s
thoughts were darting this way and that, searching instinctively for a
weak spot in the wall of fate that had closed in on him.

\x91I\x92ve got a little money,\x92 he said.

McGibbon smiled.

\x91Well, it has its uses.\x92

\x91I haven\x92t quite got it. I get the interest. And they\x92ll have to give
me all of it in November. The seventh. I\x92ll be twenty-one then.\x92 These
words seemed to reassure. Henry. \x91Yes; I\x92ll be twenty-one. It\x92s quite a
little, too. Over four thousand dollars. It was my mother\x92s.\x92

\x91It\x92s not to be sneezed at,\x92 said McGibbon reflectively. \x91If I had four
thousand right now--or one thousand, for that matter--I could make sure
of turning my corner and landing the old _Gleaner_ on Easy Street.
I\x92ve had a fight with that paper. Been through a few things these eight
months. But I\x92m gaining circulation in chunks now. Six months more, and
I\x92ll nail that gang.\x92

\x91You know\x92--McGibbon threw a knee up on the railing and lighted a
cigar--\x91it takes money to make money.\x92

\x91Oh, yes--of course,\x92 said Henry.

\x91A thousand dollars now on the _Gleaner_ would be worth ten thousand
ten years from now.\x92 He smoked thoughtfully. \x91I\x92ve been watching you,
Calverly. And if it wasn\x92t so tough on you, I could laugh at old Boice.
He\x92s got a jewel in you, and he doesn\x92t know it. I suppose he keeps you
grinding--correcting proof, running around----\x92

\x91Oh, you\x92ve no idea!\x92 Henry burst out. \x91Everything! Just an awful grind!
And now he expects me to cover all the \x93Society\x94 and \x93Church Doings.\x94\x92

\x91What! How\x92s that? Has he come down on Miss Dittenhoefer?\x92

Henry swallowed convulsively and nodded.

\x91He\x92s piling it all on me, and I won\x92t stand for it. It ain\x92t right! It
\x91ain\x92t fair! And you bet your life he\x92s going to hear a few things from
me before this day\x92s much older! I\x92m going to tell him a thing or two!\x92

\x91That\x92s right!\x92 said McGibbon. \x91He won\x92t respect you any the less for
it.\x92

A silence followed. Henry stood, flushed, breathing hard through set
teeth, staring out at the horizon.

\x91I\x92m going to tell you something, Calverly. And it\x92s because I feel that
you and I are going to be friends. I\x92ve known about you, of course. I
know you can write. You\x92d do a lot to make a paper readable. Which is
what a paper has got to be. But now I can see that we\x92re going to be
friends. You\x92ve confided in me. I\x92m going to confide in you.\x92 He paused,
blew out a long, meditative arrow of smoke, then added, \x91I know a little
about that story you wrote.\x92

\x91_You_ do!\x92 McGibbon slowly nodded. \x91But how?\x92

\x91You must remember, Calverly, that I\x92m not like these small-town folks
around here. I\x92ve worked at this game in New York, and I know a thing or
two.\x92

\x91I\x92ve been in New York,\x92 said Henry.

\x91Great town! But I don\x92t spend my time here in daydreams. I have my
lines out all over town. There\x92s mighty little going on that I don\x92t
know.\x92

\x91You seem to know a lot about Charlie Waterhouse.\x92

McGibbon smiled like a sphinx, then said:--

\x91I\x92ve nearly got him. Not quite, but nearly.\x92

\x91But I don\x92t see how you could know about----\x92

\x91I told you I was going to confide in you. It\x92s simple enough. Gert
Wombast let her sister read it--the one that works at the library.
Swore her to secrecy. And--well, I board at the Wombasts\x92--Look here,
Calverly: you\x92d better let me read it.\x92

Henry promptly surrendered it.

McGibbon laid the manuscript on his knee, lighted a fresh cigar, and
gazed at the lake. Henry, all nerves, was clasping and unclasping his
hands.

\x91Of course,\x92 he said, \x91this ain\x92t really a finished thing, you
understand. It\x92s just as I wrote it off--fast, you know--and I haven\x92t
had a chance to correct it or----\x92

McGibbon raised his hand.

\x91No, Calverly--none of that. This is literature. Of course, old Boice
couldn\x92t print it. Never in the world. But it\x92s sweet stuff. It\x92s a
perfect, merciless pen-picture of life on Simpson Street. And those two
old crooks behind the lemonade stand--you\x92ve opened a jack-pot there. If
you only knew it, son, that\x92s evidence. Evidence! You walked right into
it. Charlie Waterhouse is short in his town accounts. I know that. Boice
and Weston are covering up for him. They work up this neat little
purse and give it to Charlie. Why? Because he\x92s the most popular man
in Sunbury? Rot! Because they\x92re helping him pay back. Making the town
help.\x92

\x91Oh, do you really think----\x92

\x91\x93Think?\x94 I know. This completes the picture. Tell me--what is Boice
paying you?\x92

\x91Twelve a week, now.\x92

\x91Hm! That\x92s quite a little for a country weekly. I could meet it,
though, if--see here: What chance is there of your getting, say, a
thousand of your money free and investing in the _Gleaner?_ Now, wait!
I want to put this thing before you. It\x92s the turning-point. If we act
without delay, we\x92ve got \x91em. We\x92ve got everything. We own the town.
Here we are! The _Gleaner_ is just at the edge of success. I take you
over from the _Voice_ at the same salary--twelve a week. I\x92ll give you
lots of rope. I won\x92t expect routine from you. I\x92ll expect genius. Stuff
like this. The real thing. Just when it comes to you, and you feel
you can\x92t help writing. With this new evidence I can go after Charlie
Waterhouse and break him. I\x92ll finish Boice and Weston at the same time.
Show up the whole outfit! Whatever\x92ll be left of the _Voice_ by that
time, Boice can have and welcome. The _Gleaner_ will be the only paper
in Sunbury.\x92

\x91My Uncle Arthur is executor of my mother\x92s estate.\x92

\x91You go right after him. No time to lose. We must drive this right
through.\x92

\x91I\x92ll see him to-morrow.\x92

\x91Couldn\x92t you find him to-night?\x92


5


Uncle Arthur lived in Chicago, out on the West Side. It was a long
ride--first by suburban train into the city, then by cable-car
through miles upon miles of gray wooden tenements and dingy gray-brick
tenements. You breathed in odours of refuse and smoke and coal-gas all
the way.

Uncle Arthur was as thin as McGibbon, but wholly without the little
gleam in the eyes that advertised the proprietor of the _Gleaner_ as an
eager and perhaps dangerous man. Uncle Arthur was a man of method who
had worked through long years into a methodical but fairly substantial
prosperity.

His thin nose was long, and prominent. His brow was deeply furrowed.
His gaze was critical. He believed firmly that life is a disciplinary
training for some more important period of existence after death.
He didn\x92t smoke or drink. Nor would he keep in his employ those who
indulged in such practices. He was an officer of several organisations
aiming at civic and social reform.

Uncle Arthur laid a pedantic stress, in all business matters, on what
he called \x91putting the thing right end to.\x92 It was not unnatural,
therefore, that he should receive a distinctly unfavourable impression
when Henry began, with a foolish little gesture and a great deal of
fumbling at his moustache, slouching in his chair, by saying \x91There\x92s
a little chance come up--oh, nothing much, of course--for me to make
a little money, sort of on the side--and you see I\x92ll be twenty-one in
November; so it\x92s just a matter of three or four months, anyway--and I
was figuring--oh, just talking the thing over----\x92

His voice trailed off into a mumble.

\x91If you would take your hand away from your mouth, Henry,\x92 said his
uncle sharply, \x91perhaps I could make out what you\x92re trying to say.\x92

Henry sat up with a jerk.

\x91Why, you see, Uncle Arthur, there\x92s a fellow bought the old Sunbury
_Gleaner_ and he\x92s awfully smart--got his training in New York--and he\x92s
brought the paper already--why, it ain\x92t eight months!--to where he\x92s
right on the point of turning his corner. You see, a thousand dollars
now may easily be worth ten thousand in a few years. The _Voice_ is a
rotten paper. Nobody reads the darned thing. And I can\x92t work for old
Boice, anyhow. He drives me crazy. If he\x92d just give me half a chance to
do the kind of thing I can do best once in a while; but this----\x92

\x91Henry, are you asking me to advance you a thousand dollars of your
principal?\x92

\x91Why--well, yes, if----\x92

\x91Most certainly not!\x92

\x91But, you see, it\x92s so close to November seventh, anyway, that I
thought----\x92

\x91You thought that on your twenty-first birthday I would at once close
out the investments I have made with the money your mother left and hand
you the principal in cash?\x92

Henry stared at him, his thoughts for the moment frozen stiff. In Uncle
Arthur\x92s obstructionist attitude, so suddenly revealed, lay the promise
of a new, wholly undreamed-of disappointment. It was crushing. Then,
almost in the same second, it was stimulating. Henry\x92s eyes blazed.

\x91You mean to say----\x92 he began, shouting.

\x91I mean to say that I haven\x92t the slightest intention of letting you
squander the money your mother so painfully--\x92

\x91That\x92s my money!\x92

\x91But I\x92m your uncle and your guardian----\x92

\x91You needn\x92t think you\x92re going to keep that one minute after November
seventh!\x92

\x91I will use my judgment. I won\x92t be dictated to by a boy who----\x92

\x91But you gotta!\x92

\x91I have not got to!\x92

\x91I won\x92t stand for----\x92

\x91Henry, I won\x92t have such talk here. I think you had better go.\x92

Henry, with a good deal of mumbling, went. He was bewildered. And the
little storm of indignant anger had shaken him. He returned, during the
ride back past the tenements on the jerky cable-car, through streets
that swarmed with noisy, ragged children and frowsy adults and all the
smells, to depression. McGibbon said that Uncle Arthur\x92s threat to hold
the money after the seventh of November was a distinct point.

\x91In these matters, unfortunately, where a relative or family friend has
for years had charge of money belonging to others, little temptations
are bound to come up. Now, your uncle may be the most scrupulously
honest of men, but----\x92

\x91He has a bad eye,\x92 Henry put in.

\x91I don\x92t doubt it. Calverly, let me tell you--never forget this--a man
who hesitates for one instant to account freely, fully for money is
never to be trusted.\x92

\x91But what can I do?\x92

\x91Do? Everything! Just what I\x92m doing with Charlie Waterhouse, for one
thing--insist on a full statement.\x92

\x91They framed a letter--or McGibbon framed it--demanding an accounting,
\x91in order that further legal measures may not become necessary.\x92
McGibbon said he would send it early in the morning, registered, and
with a special-delivery stamp. \x91Later, they decided to add emphasis by
means of a telegram demanding immediate consideration of the letter.

Late that night, when Humphrey came upstairs into a pitch-dark
living-room and switched on the light, he discovered a pale youth
sitting stiffly on a window-seat wide-awake, eyes staring nervously,
hands clasped.

\x91Well, what on earth?\x92 said he, in mild surprise.

\x91Oh, Hump, I\x92ve wondered what you\x92d think--leaving you in the lurch with
all that work!

Humphrey threw out a lean hand.

\x91I can manage. Get some help from one of the students. And Gertie
Wombast is usually available---- Oh, say; how about the old man? Did you
tell him what\x92s what?\x92

Henry\x92s burning eyes stared out of that white face. Suddenly--so
suddenly that Humphrey himself started--he sprang up, cried out; \x91No!
No! No!\x92 and rushed into his bedroom, slamming the door after him.

Humphrey looked soberly at the door, shook his head, filled his pipe.

That \x91No! No! No!\x92 still rang in his ears It was a cry of pain.

Humphrey had suffered; but he had never known a turbulence of the sort
that every now and then seemed to tear Henry to pieces.

\x91Must be fierce,\x92 he thought. \x91But it works up as well as down. Runs to
extremes. Creative faculty, I suppose. Well, he\x92s got it--that\x92s all.
And he\x92s only a kid. Thing to do\x92s to stand by and try to steady him up
a little when he comes out of it.\x92

And the philosophical Humphrey went to bed.


6


At noon, no word had come from Uncle Arthur. Henry, all the morning, had
flitted back and forth between McGibbon\x92s rear office and the telegraph
office in the \x91depot.\x92

At twelve-thirty, they sent a peremptory message, demanding a reply by
three o\x92clock. An ultimatum.

The reply came unexpectedly, with startling effect, at twenty-five
minutes past two, requesting Henry to come directly into his uncle\x92s
Chicago office.

He caught the two-forty-seven. McGibbon, who had missed nothing of the
concern on Henry\x92s face at this brisk counter-offensive on the part of
Uncle Arthur, was with him.

McGibbon waited in the corner drug store while Henry-went up in one of
the elevators of the great La Salle Street office-building.

Uncle Arthur led the way into his inner office, closed the door, seated
himself, and with austerity surveyed the youth before him, taking in
with deliberate thought the far-from-inexpensive blue-serge suit, the
five-dollar straw hat, the bamboo stick (which Henry carried anything
but airily now), and the hopelessly futile little moustache.

\x91Sit down,\x92 said Uncle Arthur.

Henry sat down.

Uncle Arthur opened a drawer, took up two slips of paper, deliberately
laid them before his nephew.

\x91There,\x92 he said, \x91is my cheque for one thousand forty-six dollars and
twenty-nine cents. It is the value, with interest to this morning, of
one bond which I am buying from you, at the price given in to-day\x92s
quotations. Kindly sign the receipt. Right there.\x92

He dipped a pen and Henry signed, then, with shaky fingers, picked up
the cheque, fingered it, laid it down again.

\x91I want no misunderstandings about this, Henry. I am doing it because I
regard you as a young fool. Perhaps you will be less of a fool after you
have lost this money. Henry heard the words through a mist of confused
feelings. \x91I will have no more letters and telegrams like these.\x92 He
indicated the little sheaf of papers on his desk. \x91And I won\x92t have my
character assailed either by you or by any cheap scoundrel whose advice
you may be taking.\x92

\x91But--but he\x92s _not_ a cheap scoundrel!\x92

Uncle Arthur raised his eyebrows. His eyes, Henry felt, would burn holes
in him if he stayed here much longer.

\x91You\x92re hard on me, Uncle Arthur. You\x92re not fair I\x92m _not_ going to
lose----\x92

The older man abruptly got up.

\x91If you care for any advice at all from me, I suggest that you insist
on a note from this man--a demand note, or, at the very outside, a
three-months\x92 one. Don\x92t put money unsecured into a weak business. Make
it a personal obligation on the part of the proprietor. And now, Henry,
that is all. I really don\x92t care to talk to you further.

Henry stood still.

His uncle turned brusquely away.

\x91But--but--\x92 Henry said unsteadily, \x91Uncle Arthur--really! Money isn\x92t
everything!\x92

His uncle turned on him as if about to speak; but on second thought
merely raised his eyebrows again.

And then came the final humiliation, the little climax that was always
to stand out with particular vividness in Henry\x92s memory of the scene.
He turned to go. He had reached the door when he heard his uncle\x92s
voice, saying, with a rasp:--

\x91You have forgotten the cheque, Henry\x92

And he had to go back for it.


7


One effect of the scene was a slight coolness toward McGibbon.

\x91I shall want your note,\x92 he said.

McGibbon turned his head away at this and looked out of the car window.
Then, a moment later, he replied:--

\x91Sure! Of course! It\x92s just as I told you--always watch a man who
hesitates a minute in money matters.\x92

\x91Three months,\x92 said Henry.

\x91And we can arrange renewals in a friendly spirit between ourselves,\x92
said McGibbon.

At the Sunbury station, Henry drew a little red book from his pocket,
knit his brows, and said:--

\x91I owe you for those car fares. Two; wasn\x92t it? Or three?\x92

\x91Oh, shucks! Don\x92t think of that!\x92

\x91Was it two or three?\x92

\x91Well--if you really--two.\x92

Henry gave him a dime. Then entered the item in the small book.

\x91What\x92s that?\x92 asked McGibbon. \x91Keep accounts?\x92

\x91Oh, yes,\x92 Henry replied; \x91I\x92m very careful about money.\x92

\x91It\x92s a good way to be,\x92 said McGibbon.

The _Gleaner_ office was over Hemple\x92s meat-market on Simpson Street, up
a long flight of stairs. Here they paused.

\x91Come up,\x92 said McGibbon jovially, \x91and pick out the place for your
desk.\x92

\x91No,\x92 said Henry; \x91not now. Got to hurry. But I\x92ll be right over.\x92

He had to hurry, because it was nearly five o\x92clock, and Mr Boice might
be gone. And it seemed to Henry to be important that he should have the
cheque still in his pocket at the moment.

His eyes were burning again. And his brain was racing.

\x91Say!\x92 he cried abruptly. \x91Look here! Miss Dittenhoefer----\x92

Their eyes met. I think McGibbon, for the first time, really felt the
emotional power that was unquestionably in Henry. His own quick eyes now
took on some of that fire.

\x91Great!\x92 he answered. And would have talked on, but Henry had already
torn away, almost running.

He rushed past the _Gleaner_ office without a glance. It suddenly didn\x92t
matter whether Mr Boice had gone or not. Henry was a firebrand now. He
would unhesitatingly trail the man to his home, to the Sunbury Club, to
Charlie Waterhouse\x92s, even to Mr Weston\x92s. The Power was on him!

Mr Boice had not gone. Even twenty minutes later, when Henry came into
the office, he was still at his desk. Over it, between the dusty pile
of the _Congressional Record_ and the heap of ancient zinc etchings, his
thick gray hair could be seen.

Henry entered, head erect, tread firm, marched in through the gate in
the railing to his table, rummaged through the heaps of old exchanges,
proofs, hand-bills, and programmes for a book that was there, and
certain other little personal possessions. The two pencils and one
penholder were his. Also, a small glass inkstand. He gathered these up,
made a parcel in a newspaper. He felt Humphrey\x92s eyes on him. He heard
old Boice move.

Then came the husky voice.

\x91Henry!\x92 He went on tying the parcel. \x91Henry--come here!\x92

He turned to his friend.

\x91Gotta do it, Hump. Tell you later.\x92

Then he moved deliberately to the desk out front, rested an elbow on it,
looked down at the bulky, motionless figure sitting there.

\x91Where\x92ve you been?\x92 asked Mr Boice.

\x91Been attending to my own affairs.\x92

\x91How do you expect your work to be done? The fiftieth anniversary
of----\x92

\x91I haven\x92t any work here.\x92

\x91Oh, you haven\x92t?\x92

\x91No. Through with you. You owe me a little for this week, but I don\x92t
want it. Wouldn\x92t take it as a gift.\x92 His voice was rising. He could
feel Humphrey\x92s eyes over the top of his desk. And a stir by the
press-room door told him that Jim Smith was listening there, with two
or three compositors crowding pip behind him. \x91Not as a gift. It\x92s dirty
money. I\x92m through with you. You and your crooked crowd!\x92

\x91Oh, you are?\x92

\x91Yes. Through with you. I\x92m on a decent paper now. A paper that ain\x92t
afraid to print the truth.\x92

Mr Boice, still motionless, indulged his only nervous affection, making
little sounds.\x92

\x91Mmm!\x92 he remarked. \x91Hmm! Ump! Mmm!\x92 Then he said, \x91Meaning the
_Gleaner_, I presume.\x92

\x91Meaning the _Gleaner_.\x92

\x91I suppose you know that McGibbon\x92s slated to fail within the month. He
can\x92t so much as meet his pay-roll.\x92

\x91I know more\x92n that!\x92 cried Henry, laughing nervously. \x91I know he\x92s got
money because I put some in to-day. Miss Dittenhoefer\x92s quitting you
this week, too. She\x92s enthusiastic about us. I\x92ve just seen her. We\x92re
going to have a big property there. We\x92ll buy you out one o\x92 these days
for a song. Then it\x92ll be the _Gleaner and Voice_. See? But, first,
we\x92re going to clean up the town. You and Charlie Waterhouse and
that-old whited sepulchre in the bank! I\x92ll show you you can\x92t fool with
me!\x92

It was very youthful. Henry wished, in a swift review, that he had
thought up something better and rehearsed it.

Then he saw the eyes of the huge, still man waver down to his desk. And
his heart bounded.

\x91He\x92s afraid of me!\x92 ran his thoughts. \x91I\x92ve licked him!\x92

It was the time to leave. Parcel under arm, he strode out.

Out on the sidewalk, he laughed aloud. Which wouldn\x92t do. He was a
business man now. With investments. He mustn\x92t go grinning down Simpson
Street.

But it was worth a thousand dollars. Just to feel this way once.

Jim Smith? out of breath, came sidling up to the corner. He had run
around through the alley.

He wrung Henry\x92s hand.

\x91Great!\x92 he cried. \x91Soaked it to the old boy, you did! Makes me think of
a story. Maybe you\x92ve heard this one. If you have, just----\x92

A hand fell on Henry\x92s shoulder.

It was Humphrey, hatless. He must have walked out right past Mr Boice.
His face wrinkled into a grin.

\x91My boy,\x92 he said, \x91right here and now I thank you for the joy you\x92ve
brought into my young life. The impossible has happened. The beautifully
impossible. It was great.\x92

\x91Well,\x92 cried Henry, beaming, unstrung, a touch of nervous aggression in
his voice, \x91I said it!\x92

\x91Oh, you said it\x92 cried Humphrey.

Thus Henry closed a door behind him. And treading the air, trying
desperately to control the upward-twitching corners of his mouth,
humming the wedding-march from _Lohengrin_ to the familiar words:--

                   Here comes the bride--

                   Get on to her stride!

--he marched, a conqueror, down Simpson Street. Yes, it was worth a
thousand.

Back in the old _Voice_ office, Mr Boice sat motionless, big hands
sprawling across his thighs, making little sounds.

I think he was trying, in his deliberate way, to figure out what had
happened. But he never succeeded in figuring it out. Not this particular
incident. He couldn\x92t know that it is as well to face a tigress as an
artist whose mental offspring you have injured.

No; to him, Henry, the boy of the silly little cane and the sillier
moustache, had stepped out of character. He couldn\x92t know that Henry,
the drifting, helpless youth, and Henry the blazing artist were two
quite different persons. In Mr Boice\x92s familiar circles they played
duplicate whist and talked business, but they were not acquainted with
the mysteries of dual personality such as appear in the case of any
genius, great or small.

Nor (for the excellent reason that he had never heard of William Blake
or his works) did the immortal line come to mind;--


               Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Mr Boice was obliged to give it up.



VI--ALADDIN ON SIMPSON STREET


1


|Elberforce Jenkins was the most accomplished very young man-about-town
in Sunbury. He appeared to have, even at twenty-one, the bachelor gift.
He danced well. His golf was more than promising. He had lately taken
up polo with the Dexter Smith boys and young de Casselles. He owned two
polo ponies, a schooled riding horse, and a carriage team which he
drove to a high cart. His allowance from his father by far overcame the
weakness of his salary (he was with his brother, Jefferson, in a bond
house on La Salle Street). His aptitude at small talk amounted to a
gift. He liked, inevitably, the play that was popular and (though he
read little) the novel that was popular. His taste in girls pointed him
unerringly toward the most desirable among the newest.

He and Henry had been together in high school (Sunbury was democratic
then). They had played together in the football team. They had--during
one hectic month--been rivals for the hand of Ernestine Lambert.

In that instance, in so far as success had come, it had come to Henry.
But those were Henry\x92s big days, when he was directing _Iolanthe_, the
town at his feet. Life, these two years, had flowed swiftly on. The long
dangling figure of Elbow Jenkins had filled out. His crude boyishness
had given way to a smiling reserve. He was a young man of the
world--self-assured, never indiscreet of tongue, always well-mannered,
never individual or interesting.

While Henry still worked on Simpson Street. He hadn\x92t struck his gait.
He was--if you bothered, these days, to think about him--a little
queer. He wore that small moustache and a heavy cord hanging from his
nose-glasses, and dressed a thought too conspicuously. As if impelled
by some inner urge to assert a personality that might otherwise be
overlooked.... As I glance back upon the Henry of this period, it seems
to me that there was more than a touch of pathos about that moustache.
It was such a soft little thing. He fussed with it so much, and kept
trying to twist it up at the ends. He didn\x92t seem to know that they
weren\x92t twisting moustaches up at the ends that year. In fact, I think
he lacked almost utterly the gift of conformity which was the strongest,
element in Elbow Jenkins\x92s nature. And he never acquired it. In
education, in work and preparation for life, he went it alone,
stumbling, blundering, doing apparently stupid things, acting from
baffling obscure motives, then suddenly coming through with an
unexpected flash of insight and power.

From the period of Ernestine Lambert to the time of the present story
Elbow Jenkins had been on Henry\x92s nerves. Whenever they met, that is;
or when Henry saw him driving the newest, prettiest, best-dressed
girl about in his cart. Two years earlier he would have had two ponies
hitched tandem. But now, a little older, less willing to be conspicuous
except in strict conformity with the conventions, he drove his carefully
matched team side by side. His scat, his hold of the reins, the very
turning-back of his tan gloves, all were correct. These, indeed, were
details in the problem of living and moving about with success among
one\x92s fellows that Elberforce Jenkins regarded as really important. Like
one\x92s stance at golf, and cultivating the favour of men who could be
influential in a business or social way.

Yes, Elbow was on Henry\x92s nerves.

But Elbow had long since forgotten Henry, except for a chance nod now
and then. And occasionally a moment\x92s annoyance that Henry should insist
on keeping alive a nickname that had with years and the beginnings of
dignity become undesirable.


2


The blow fell on Henry at half-past five on the Tuesday.

I mark the time thus precisely because it perhaps adds a touch of
interest to the consideration of what happened between then and Friday
night, when McGibbon first saw what he had done. Of the importance of
the blow in Henry\x92s life there is no doubt. It turned him sharply Not
until he was approaching middle life could he look back on the occasion
without wincing. And while wincing, he would say that it was what he had
needed. Plainly. That it made a man of him, or started the process.

As to that, I can\x92t say. Perhaps it did. Life is not so simple as Henry
had been taught it was. I am fatalist enough to believe that Henry would
have become what he was to become in any event, because it was in him. I
doubt if he could have been given any other direction. Though of course
he might have gone under simply through a failure to get aroused.
Something had to start him, of course.

The practical difficulty with Henry\x92s life was, of course, that he was
strong. He didn\x92t know this himself. He thought he was weak. Some who
observed him thought the same. There were reasons enough. But Mildred
always declared flatly that he was a genius, that he was too good for
Sunbury, against the smugness of which community she was inclined to
rail. A debate on this point between Mrs Henderson and, say, William F.
Donovan, the drug store man, would have been interesting. Mr Donovan\x92s
judgments of human character were those of Simpson Street.

I say Henry was strong, because I can\x92t interpret his rugged
nonconformity in any other way. A weaker lad would long since have given
up, gone into Smith Brothers\x92 wholesale, taken his spiritual beating
and fallen into step with his generation. But Henry\x92s resistance was
so strong and so deep that he didn\x92t even know he was resisting. He was
doing the only thing he could do, being what he was, feeling what he
felt. And when instinct failed to guide, when \x91the Power\x92 lay quiescent,
he was simply waiting and blundering along; but never falling into step.
He had to wait until the Power should rise with him and take him out and
up where he belonged.

There was a little scene the Monday evening before.

It was in the rooms. Mildred was there.

Henry stumbled in on the two of them, Mildred and Humphrey. They were
at the piano, seated side by side. They had been studying _Tristan and
Isolde_ together for a week or so; Mildred playing out the motifs. She
often played the love duet from the second act for him, too. Henry heard
him, mornings, trying to hum it while he shaved.

They insisted that he take a chair. He, with a sense of intrusion, took
the arm of one, and kept hat and stick (his thin bamboo) in his hands.

Mildred said reflectively:--

\x91Corinne writes that she\x92ll be back for a week late in August.\x92 Then,
noting the touch of dismay on Henry\x92s ingenuous countenance, she added,
\x91But you mustn\x92t have her on your conscience, Henry.\x92

\x91It isn\x92t that----\x92

\x91I\x92m fond of Corinne. But I can see now that you two would never get on
long together. In a queer way you\x92re too much alike. At least, you
both have positive qualities. Corinne will some day find a nice little
husband who\x92ll look after the business side of her concerts. And
you--well, Henry, you\x92ve got to have some one to mother you.\x92 She smiled
at him thoughtfully. \x91Some one you can make a lot of.\x92

\x91No.\x92 Henry\x92s colour was up. He was shaking his head. \x91You don\x92t
understand. I\x92m through with girls. They\x92re nothing in my life.
Nothing!\x92

She slowly shook her head. \x91That\x92s absurd, Henry. You\x92re particularly
the kind. You\x92ll never be able to live without idealising some woman.\x92

\x91I tell you they\x92re nothing to me. My life is different now. I\x92ve
changed. I\x92ve put money--a lot of money--into the _Gleaner_. It means
big responsibilities. You\x92ve no idea----\x92

\x91If I hadn\x92t, seen you writing,\x92 she mused aloud.... \x91No, Henry. You
won\x92t change. You\x92ll grow, but you won\x92t change. You\x92re going to write,
Henry. And you\x92ll always write straight at a woman.\x92

\x91No! No!\x92 Henry was sputtering. He appeared to be struggling. \x91Life
means work to me. I\x92m through with----\x92

She took down the _Tristan_ score from the piano and turned the pages in
her lap.

\x91Love is the great vitaliser, Henry,\x92 she said.

\x91No--it\x92s the mind. Thinking. We have to learn to think
clearly--objectively.\x92

\x91Objectively? No. Not you. And I\x92m glad, in a way. Because I know we\x92re
going to be proud of you. But it\x92s love that makes the world go round.
They don\x92t teach you that in the colleges, but it\x92s the truth... Take
Wagner--and _Tristan_. He wrote it straight at a woman. And it\x92s the
greatest opera ever written. And the greatest love story. It\x92s that
because he was terribly in love when he wrote it. Do you Suppose, for
one minute that if Wagner had never seen Mathilde Wesendonck we should
have had _Tristan?_\x92

She paused, pursed her lips, studied the book with eyes that seemed to
grow misty, then looked up at Humphrey.

He--tall, angular, very sober--met her gaze; then his swarthy face
wrinkled up about the eyes and he hurriedly drew his cob pipe from his
pocket and began filling it.

Henry stared at the rug; traced out the pattern with his stick. He
couldn\x92t answer this last point, because he had never heard of Mathilde
Wesendonck. And as he was supposed to be \x91musical\x92 it seemed best to
keep quiet.

He made an excuse of some sort and went out for a walk. Down by the lake
he thought of several strong arguments. Mildred was wrong. She had to be
wrong. For he had cut girls out.

It was like Mildred to speak out in that curiously direct way. She was
fond of Henry. And she had divined, out of her various, probably rather
vivid contacts with life, certain half-truths that were not accepted in
Sunbury.

I think she saw Henry pretty clearly, saw that he was driven by an
emotional dynamo that was to bring him suffering and success both....
Mildred, of course, never really belonged in a small town.

It was at the close of the following afternoon that Henry came in and
found Humphrey\x92s long figure stretched out on the window-seat--he was
smoking, of course--of all things, blowing endless rings up at the
curtains Mildred had made and hung for him. His dark skin looked gray.
There were deep lines in his face. He couldn\x92t speak at first. But he
stared at Henry.

That young man put away hat and stick, had his coat off, and was rolling
back his shirt sleeves for a wash, humming the refrain of _Kentucky
Babe_. Then, through a slow moment, the queer silence about him,
Humphrey\x92s attitude--that fact, for that matter, that Hump was here,
at all; he was a great hand to work until six or after at the _Voice_
office--these things worked in on him like a premonition. The little
song died out. He went on, a few steps, toward the bathroom, then came
to a stop, turned toward the silent figure on the window-seat, came
slowly over.

Now he saw his friend clearly. As he sank on the arm of a chair--it was
where he had sat the evening before--he caught his breath.

\x91Wha--what is it?\x92 he asked. His voice was suddenly husky. His mind
went blank. There was sensation among the roots of his hair. \x91What\x92s the
matter, Hump?\x92

Finally Humphrey took out his pipe and spoke. His voice, too, was low
and uncertain. But he gathered control of it as he went on.

\x91Where\x92ve you been?\x92 he asked.

\x91Me? Why, over at Rockwell Park. Bob McGibbon wanted me to see about a
regular correspondent for the \x93Rockwell Park Doings.\x94\x92

\x91Heard anything?\x92

\x91Me? No. Why?... Hump, what is it? What you getting at?\x92

\x91Then I\x92ve got to tell you.\x92 He swung his feet around; sat up; emptied
his pipe, then filled it.

\x91Is it--is it--about me, Hump?\x92

\x91Yes. It is.\x92

\x91Well--then--hadn\x92t you better tell me?\x92

\x91I\x92m trying to, Hen. It\x92s dam\x92 unpleasant. You remember--you told me
once--early in the summer--\x92 Humphrey, usually most direct, was having
difficulty in getting it out--\x91you told me you rode a tandem up to
Hoffmann\x92s Garden with that little Wilcox girl.\x92

\x91Oh, that! That was nothing. Why all the time I lived at Mrs Wilcox\x92s I
never----\x92

\x91Yes, I know. Let me try to tell this, Hen. It\x92s hard enough. She\x92s in a
scrape. That girl. There\x92s a big row on. I\x92m not going into the details,
so far as I\x92ve heard \x91em. There ugly. They wouldn\x92t help. But her
mother\x92s collapsed. Her uncle and aunt have turned up and taken the girl
off somewhere. He\x92s a butcher on the North Side.\x92 Henry was pale but
attentive.

\x91In all the time I lived there,\x92 he began again...

\x91Please, Hen! Wait! It is one of those mean scandals that tear up a town
like this every now and then. Boils up through the crust and has to be
noticed. It\x92s a beastly thing. The number of men involved... some older
ones... and young Bancroft Widdicombe has left town. There\x92s some queer
talk about her marrying him. And they say one or two others have run
away. Widdicombe got out before the storm broke. Jim Smith says he\x92s
been heard from at San Francisco.\x92

\x91But they can\x92t say of me----\x92

\x91Hen, they can and they do.\x92

\x91But I can prove----\x92

\x91What can you prove? What chance will you have to prove anything?
You were disturbed when Martha Caldwell and the party with Charles H.
Merchant caught you with her up at Hoffmann\x92s----\x92

\x91But, Hump, I didn\x92t _want_ to take her out that night! And it\x92s the
only time I ever really talked to her except once or twice in the
boarding-house.\x92

He was speaking with less energy now. He felt the blow. Not as he would
feel it a few hours later; but he felt it.

Humphrey watched him.

\x91It has brought things home to me,\x92 he said uncertainly. \x91The sort of
thing that can happen. When you\x92re caught in a drift, you don\x92t think,
of course... Now, Hen, listen! This is real trouble. It\x92s going to hit
you about to-morrow--full force. It\x92s got to be faced. I don\x92t want to
think that you\x92d run----\x92

\x91Oh, no,\x92 Henry put in mechanically, \x91I won\x92t run.\x92

\x91I\x92m sure you won\x92t. But it\x92s got to be faced. You\x92re hit especially.\x92

\x91But why, when I----\x92

\x91Because you lived alone there, in the boarding-house, for two years.
And you were caught with her at Hoffmann\x92s, she in bloomers, drinking
beer. Just a cheap little tough. And there isn\x92t a thing you can do but
live it down. Nobody will say a direct word to you.\x92

\x91That\x92s what I\x92ll do,\x92 said Henry, \x91live it down.\x92

\x91It\x92ll be hard, Hen.\x92

Henry sighed. \x91I\x92ve faced hard things, Hump.\x92

\x91Yes, you have, in a way.\x92

\x91I\x92ll wash up. Where we going to eat? Stanley\x92s?\x92

\x91I suppose. I don\x92t feel like eating much.\x92

It was not until they had started out that Henry gave signs of a deeper
reaction.

On the outer doorstep he stood motionless.

\x91Coming along?\x92 asked Humphrey, trying to hide his anxiety.

\x91Why--yes. In a minute... Say, Hump, do you suppose they\x92ll--you know, I
ain\x92t afraid\x92--an uprush of feeling coloured his voice, brought a shake
to it--\x91I don\x92t know. Perhaps I _am_ afraid. All those people--you know,
at Stanley\x92s...\x92

Humphrey did an unusual thing; laid his hand on Henry\x92s shoulder
affectionately; then took his arm and led him along the alley, saying:--

\x91We\x92ll go down to the lunch counter. It\x92s just as well, Hen. Better get
sure of yourself first.\x92

He wondered, as they walked rapidly on--Henry had a tendency to walk
fast and faster when brooding or excited--whether the boy would ever get
sure of himself. There were queer, bitter, profoundly confusing thoughts
in his own mind, and an emotional tension, but back of all this, coming
through it and softening him, his feeling for Henry. It was something
of an elder brother\x92s feeling, I think. Henry seemed very young. It was
wicked that he had to suffer with all those cynical older men. It might
mark the boy for life. Such things happened.

He decided to watch him closely. Sooner or later the thing would hit him
full. He would have to be protected then. Even from himself, perhaps.
In a way it oughtn\x92t to be worse for him than it had been after the
Hoffmann\x92s Garden incident.

But it was worse. The other had been, after all, no more than an
incident. This, now, was an overpowering fact. The town didn\x92t have
to notice the other. And despite the gossiping instinct, your small
community is rather glad to edge away from unpleasant surmises that are
not established facts. Facts are so uncompromising. And so disrupting.
And sometimes upsetting to standardised thought.

\x91That\x92s it,\x92 thought Humphrey--he was reduced to thought Henry was
striding on in white silence--\x91it\x92s a fact. They can\x92t evade it. Only
thing they can do, if they\x92re to keep comfortable about their dam\x92 town,
is to kill everybody connected with the mess. Have to revise party and
dinner lists. And it\x92ll raise Ned with the golf tournament. They\x92ll
resent all that. And they\x92ll have to show outsiders that the thing is an
amazing exception. Nothing else going on like it. They\x92ll have to show
that.\x92


3


The next morning Henry--stiff, distrait, his eyes wandering a little now
and then and his sensitive mouth twitching nervously--breakfasted with
Humphrey at Stanley\x92s.

People--some people--spoke to him. But he winced at every greeting.
Humphrey watched him narrowly. He was ablaze with self-consciousness.
But he held his head up pretty well.

He was all shut up within himself. Since their talk of the evening he
hadn\x92t mentioned the subject. It was clear that he couldn\x92t mention
it. He spoke of curiously irrelevant things. The style of Robert Louis
Stevenson, for one. During the walk from the rooms to Stanley\x92s. And
then he brought up Bob McGibbon\x92s theory that even with a country
weekly, if you made your paper interesting enough you would get readers
and the readers would bring the advertising He asked if Humphrey thought
it would work out. \x91It\x92s important to me, you know, Hump. I\x92ve got a
cool thousand up on the _Gleaner_. It\x92s like betting on Bob McGibbon\x92s
idea to win.\x92 His voice trembled a little. There were volcanoes of
feeling stirring within the boy. He would erupt of course, sooner or
later. Humphrey found the experience moving to the point of pain.

When he entered the _Gleaner_ office, Bob McGibbon, looking up at him
anxiously, said good-morning, then pursed his lips in thought.

He found occasion to say, later:--

\x91Henry, how are you taking this thing?\x92

Henry swallowed, glanced out of the window, then threw out one hand with
an expressive gesture and raised his eyes.

\x91Oh,\x92 he said, \x91all right. I--it\x92s not true, Bob. Not about me.\x92

\x91That\x92s just what I tell \x91em,\x92 said McGibbon eagerly. \x91What you going to
do? Go right on?\x92

\x91Well--why, yes! I can\x92t run away.\x92

\x91Of course not. These things are mean. In a small town. Hypocrisy all
round. I was thinking it over this morning, and it occurred to me you
might like to get off by yourself and do some real writing for the
paper. That\x92s what we need, you know. Sketches. Snappy poetry. Little
pictures of life-like George Ade\x92s stuff in the _Record_. Or a bit of
the \x91Gene Field touch. Something they\x92d have to read. Make the _Gleaner_
known. Put it on every centre table in Sunbury. That\x92s what we really
need from you, you know. Your own stuff, not ours. Take this reception
to-night at the Jenkins\x92. Anybody can cover that. I\x92ll go myself.\x92

Henry, pale, lips compressed, shook his head.

\x91No,\x92 said he, after a pause, \x91I\x92ll cover it.\x92

McGibbon considered this, then moved irresolutely back to his desk.
Here, for a time, he sat, with knit brows, and stabbed at flies with his
pen.

It would be walking into the lion\x92s den, that was all. He wished he
could think of a way to hold the boy back. There were complications.
The _Gleaner_, just, lately, had been going pretty violently after what
McGibbon called the \x91Old Cinch.\x92 Without quite enough evidence, they
were now virtually accusing Waterhouse of embezzlement, and the others
of connivance. Mr Weston was among the most respected in Sunbury, rich,
solid, a supporter of all good things\x92. Though Boice and Waterhouse were
unknown to local society, the Westons were intimate with the Jenkinses
and their crowd. They all regarded the _Gleaner_ as a scurrilous,
libellous sheet, and McGibbon himself as an intruder in the village
life. And there was another trouble; very recent. He couldn\x92t speak of
it with the boy in this state of mind. Not at the moment. He couldn\x92t
see his way... And now, with the realest-scandal Sunbury had known in a
decade piled freshly on the paper\x92s bad name. But he couldn\x92t think of
a way to keep him from going. The boy was, in a way, his partner. There
were little delicacies between them.

Henry went.

The reception given by Mr and Mrs Jenkins to Senator and Madame William
M. Watt, was the most important social event of the summer.

The Jenkins\x92s home, a square mansion of yellow brick, blazed with light
at every window. Japanese lanterns were festooned from tree to tree
about the lawn. An awning had been erected all the way from the front
steps to the horse block, and a man in livery stood out there assisting
the ladies from their carriages. It was felt by some, it was even
remarked in undertones, that the Jenkinses were spreading it on pretty
thick, even considering that it was the first really public appearance
of the Watts in Sunbury.

The Senator was known principally as titular sponsor for the Watt
Currency Act, of fifteen years back... In those days his fame had
overspread the boundaries of his own eastern state clear to California
and the Mexican border. Older readers will recall that the Watt Bill
nearly split a nation in its day. After his defeat for re-election, in
the earlier nineties, he had slipped quietly into the obscurity in which
he regained until his rather surprising marriage with the very rich,
extremely vigorous American woman from abroad who called herself the
Comtesse de la Plaine. At the time of his disappearance from public life
various reasons had been dwelt on. One was drink. His complexion--the
part of it not covered by his white beard--might have been regarded as
corroborative evidence. But it was generally understood that he was \x91all
right\x92 now; a meek enough little man, well past seventy, with an air of
life-weariness and a suppressed cough that was rather disagreeable in
church. His slightly unkempt beard grew a little to one side, giving
his face a twisted appearance. On his occasional appearances about
the streets he was always chewing an unlighted cigar. To the growing
generation he was a mildly historic myth, like Thomas Buchanan or James
G. Blaine.

Mrs Watt--who during her brief residence in Sunbury (they had bought the
Dexter Smith place, on Hazel Avenue, in May) had somehow attached firmly
to her present name the foreign-sounding prefix, \x91Madame\x92--was a head
taller than her husband, with snappy black eyes, a strongly hooked nose
and an indomitable mouth. She was not beautiful, but was of commanding
presence. The fact that she had lived long in France naturally raised
questions. But there appeared to be no questioning either her earlier
title or her wealth. If she seemed to lack a few of the refinements of
a lady--it was whispered among the younger people that she swore at
her servants--still, a rich countess, married to the self-effacing
but indubitable author of the Watt Act, was, in the nature of things,
equipped to stir Sunbury to the depths.

But the member of this interesting family with whom we are now concerned
was the Madame\x92s niece, a girl of eighteen or nineteen who had been
reared, it was said, in a convent in France, then educated at a school
in the eastern states, and was now living with her aunt for the first
time.

Her name fell oddly on ears accustomed to the Bessies, Marys, Fannies,
Marthas, Louises, Alices, and Graces of Sunbury. It was Cicely--Cicely
Hamlin. It was clearly an English name. It proved, at first, difficult
to pronounce, and led to joking among the younger set. The girl herself
was rather foreign in appearance. Distinctly French some said. She was
slimly pretty, with darkish hair and a quick, brisk, almost eager way
of speaking and smiling and bobbing her hair. She used her hands, too,
more than was common in Sunbury, a point for the adherents of the French
theory. The quality that perhaps most attracted young and old alike
was her sensitive responsiveness. Sometimes it was nearly timidity. She
would listen in her eager way; then talk, all vivacity--head and hands
moving, on the brink of a smile-every moment--then seem suddenly to
recede a little, as if fearful that she had perhaps said too much, as
if a delicate courtesy demanded that she be merely the attentive, kindly
listener. She could play and be merry with the younger crowd. But she
had read books that few of them had ever heard of. Plainly--though
nothing so complex was plain to Henry at this period--she was a girl of
delicate nervous organisation, strung a little tightly; a girl who could
be stirred to almost na\xEFve enthusiasms and who could perhaps be cruelly
hurt.

Henry had seen her--once on the hotel veranda talking brightly with Mary
Ames, who seemed almost stodgy beside her, once on the Chicago train,
once or twice driving with Elberforce Jenkins in his high cart. The
sight of her had stirred him. Already he had had to fight thoughts of
her--tantalisingly indistinct mental visions--during the late night
hours between staring wakefulness and sleep. And it was impossible
wholly to escape bitterness over the thought that he hadn\x92t met her.
He oughtn\x92t to care. He couldn\x92t admit to himself that it mattered. A
couple of years back, in his big days, they would have met all right.
First thing. Everybody would have seen to it. They would have told her
about him. Now... oh well!

He stood in the shadow, out by the carriage entrance, pulling at his
moustache. There had been a sort of rushing of the spirit, almost a
fervour, in his first determination to face the town bravely. Now for
the first time he began to see that the thing couldn\x92t be rushed at.
It might take years to build up a new good name--years of slights
and sneers, of dull hours and slack nerves. For Henry did know that
emotional climaxes pass.

He chose a time, between carriages, when the sheltered walk was empty,
to move up toward the house. Everybody here was dressed up--\x91Wearing
everything they\x92ve got!\x92 he muttered. He himself had on his blue suit
and straw hat and carried his bamboo stick. A thick wad of copy paper
protruded from a side pocket. A vest pocket bulged with newly sharpened
pencils. It had seemed best not to dress. He wasn\x92t a guest; just the
representative of a country weekly.

By the front steps there were arched openings in the canvas. Up there in
the light were music and rustling, continuous movement and the unearthly
cackling sound that you hear when you listen with a detached mind to
many chattering voices in an enclosed space. Mrs Jenkins was up there,
doubtless, at the head of a reception line. He knew now, with despair
in his heart, that he couldn\x92t mount those steps. Nearly everybody there
would know him. He couldn\x92t do it.

He looked around. At one side stood a jolly little group, under the
Japanese lanterns. Young people. Two detached themselves and came toward
the steps. A third joined them; a girl.

\x91Here,\x92 said this girl--Mary Ames\x92s voice--\x91you two wait here. I\x92ll find
her.\x92

Mary came right past him and ran up the steps. Henry drew back, very
white, curiously breathless.

The other two stood close at hand. Henry wondered if he could slip
away. New carriages had arrived; new people were coming up the walk. He
stepped off on the grass. He found difficulty in thinking.

The girl, just across the walk, was Cicely Hamlin. The fellow was Alfred
Knight. He worked in the bank; a colourless youth. He plainly didn\x92t
know what to say to this very charming new girl. He stood there,
shifting his feet.

Henry thought: \x91Has he heard yet? Does he know?... Does _she_ know?\x92

Then Alfred\x92s wandering eye rested on him, hailed him with relief.

\x91Oh, hallo. Hen;\x92 he said. Then, after a long silence, \x91Like you to meet
Miss Hamlin. Mr Henry Calverly.\x92

Al Knight never could remember whether you said the girl\x92s name first or
the man\x92s.

But he hadn\x92t heard yet. Evidently. Henry sighed. Since it had to come,
it would be almost better...

Miss Cicely Hamlin moved a hesitant step forward; murmured his name.

He had to step forward too.

In sheer miserable embarrassment he raised his hand a little way.

In responsive confusion she raised hers.

But his had dropped.

Hers moved downward as his came up again.

She smiled at this and extended her hand again frankly.

He took it. He didn\x92t know that he was gripping it in a strong nervous
clasp.

\x91I\x92ve heard of you,\x92 she said. He liked her voice. \x91You write, don\x92t
you?\x92

\x91Oh yes,\x92 said he huskily, \x91I write some.\x92

She didn\x92t know.

He wondered dully who could have told her of him. It sounded like the
old days. It was almost, for a moment, encouraging.

Al Knight drifted away to speak to one of the new-comers.

\x91Do you write stories?\x92 she asked politely.

\x91I try to, sometimes. It\x92s awfully hard.\x92

\x91Oh yes, I know.\x92

\x91Do _you_ write?\x92

\x91Why--oh no! But I\x92ve wished I could. I\x92ve tried a little.\x92

So far as words went they might as well have been mentioning the
weather. It was not an occasion in which words had any real part.
He saw, felt, the presence of a girl unlike any he had known--slimly
pretty, alive with a quick eager interest, and subtly friendly. She saw,
and felt, a white tragic face out of which peered eyes with a gloomy
fire in them.

Before Alfred Knight drifted back she asked him to call. Then, at the
sight of them, Alfred drifted away again.

\x91Perhaps,\x92 she added shyly, \x91you\x92d bring some of your stories.\x92

\x91I haven\x92t anything I could bring,\x92 he replied, still with that burning
look. \x91Nothing \x91that\x92s any good. If I had...\x92 Then this blazed from him
in a low shaky voice: \x91You haven\x92t heard what they\x92re saying about me. I
can see that. If you had you wouldn\x92t ask me to call.\x92

\x91Oh, I\x92m sure I would,\x92 she murmured, greatly confused.

\x91You wouldn\x92t. You really couldn\x92t. But I want to say this--quick,
before they come!\x92--for he saw Mary Ames in the doorway--\x91I\x92ve _got_
to say it! They\x92ll tell you something about me. Something dreadful. It
isn\x92t true. It--is--not true!\x92

\x91She isn\x92t in there,\x92 said Mary, joining them. Then \x91Oh!\x92 She looked
at Henry with a hint of alarm in her face; said, \x91How do you do!\x92 in a
voice that chilled him, brought the despair back; then said to Cicely,
ignoring him: \x91We\x92d better tell them.\x92 And moved a step toward the group
under the lanterns.

Cicely hesitated.

It was happening, right there; and in the cruellest manner. Henry
couldn\x92t speak. He felt as if a fire were burning in his brain.

Al Knight, seeing Mary, drifted back.

The group, over yonder, was breaking up. Or coming this way.

Another moment and Elberforce Jenkins--tall, really good-looking in his
perfect-fitting evening clothes--stood before them.

He glanced at Henry. Gave him the cut direct.

\x91All right,\x92 said Elbow Jenkins, addressing Cicely now, \x91we\x92ll go
without her. She won\x92t mind.\x92

Still Cicely hesitated. For a moment, standing there, lips parted a
little, looking from one to another. Then, with an air of shyness,
apparently still confused, she gave Henry her hand.

\x91Do come,\x92 she said, with a quick little smile. \x91And bring the stories.
I\x92m sure I\x92d like them.\x92

She went with them, then.

Henry stared after her with wet eyes. Then for a while he wandered
alone among the trees. His thoughts, like his pulse, were racing
uncontrollably.

It is to be noted that he returned a while later, faced Mrs Jenkins,
wrote down the names of all the guests he recognised, and walked,
very fast, with a stiff dignity, lips compressed, eyes and brain still
burning, down to the _Gleaner_ office.


5


The story had to be written. Not at the rooms, though; Mildred might be
there with Humphrey. Sometimes he worked at the Y.M.C.A.

But there was a light in the windows of the _Gleaner_ office, over
Hemple\x92s.

McGibbon was up there, bent over his desk in his shirtsleeves, a hand
sprawling through his straight ragged hair.

Henry acknowledged his partner\x92s greeting with a grunt; dropped down at
his own desk; plunged at the story.

McGibbon looked up once or twice, saw that Henry was unaware of him;
continued his own work. His thin face looked worn. He bit his lip a good
deal.

\x91There,\x92 said Henry, finally, with a grim look--\x91there\x92s the reception
story.\x92

\x91Oh, all right.\x92 McGibbon came over; took the pencilled script; then sat
on the edge of the table beside Henry\x92s desk.

\x91Haven\x92t got some good filler stuff?\x92 he queried wearily, brushing a
hand across his forehead. \x91We\x92re going to have a lot of extra space this
week.\x92

He watched Henry, to see if this remark had an effect. It had none. He
nibbed his hand slowly back and forth across his forehead.

\x91The fact is,\x92 he remarked, \x91they\x92ve landed on us. Pretty hard. The
advertisers. Just about all Simpson Street. It\x92s a sort of boycott,
apparently. Takes out two-thirds of our advertising. And Weston called
my note--that two hundred and forty-eight--for paper. Simply charged it
up against our account. Pretty dam\x92 high-handed, I call it!\x92

His voice was rising. He sprang up, paced the floor.

\x91They\x92re showing fight,\x92 he ran on. \x91We\x92ve got to lick \x91em. That\x92s my
way--start at the drop of the hat. What\x92s a little advertising! Get
readers--that\x92s the real trick of it. We\x92ll lick \x91em with circulation,
that\x92s what we\x92ll do!\x92

He stood over Henry\x92s desk; even pounded it. The boy didn\x92t seem to get
it, even now. He was hardly listening. With his own money at stake. But
McGibbon was finding him like that; queer gaps on the practical side. No
money sense whatever!

\x91Henry,\x92 he was crying now, \x91it\x92s up to you. You\x92re a genius. It\x92s sheer
waste to use you on fool receptions. _Write_, man! WRITE! Let yourself
go. Anything--sketches, verse, stories! Let\x92s give \x91em what they don\x92t
look for in a country paper. Like the old Burlington _Hawkeye_ and that
fellow Brann. And the paper in Lahore that nobody would ever have heard
of if Kipling hadn\x92t written prose and verse to fill in, here and there.
He was a kid, too. There\x92s always, somewhere, a little paper that\x92s
famous because a man can _write_. Why shouldn\x92t it be us! Us! Right up
here over the meat-market. Why, we can make the little old _Gleaner_
known from coast to coast. We can put Sunbury on the map. Just with your
pen, my boy! With your pen! And then where\x92ll old Weston be! Where\x92ll
these little two-bit advertisers be!\x92

He spread his thin hands in a gesture of triumph. Henry looked up now;
slowly pushed back his chair; said, in a weak voice, \x91I\x92m tired. Guess
I\x92d better get along;\x92 and walked out.

McGibbon stared after him, his mouth literally open.


6


Back of the old Parmenter place the barn was dark. Henry felt relief.
He was tingling with excitement. He couldn\x92t move slowly. His fists were
clenched. Every nerve in his body was strung tight.

He was thinking hopelessly, \x91I must relax.\x92

He crept through the dim shop, among Humphrey\x92s lathes, belts, benches
of tools, big kites and rows of steel wheels mounted in frames. There
were large planes, too, parts of the gliders Humphrey had been puttering
with for a long time. Three years, he had once said.

Henry lingered on the stairs and looked about the ghostly rooms. Beams
of moonlight came in through the windows and touched this and that
machine. He felt himself attuned to all the trouble, the disaster, in
the universe. Life was a tragic disappointment. Nothing ever came right.
People didn\x92t succeed; they struggled and struggled to breast a mighty,
tireless current that swept them ever backward.

Poor old Hump! He had put money into this shop. All the little he had;
or nearly all. And into the technical library that lined his bedroom
walls upstairs. His daily work at the _Voice_ office was just a grind,
to keep body and soul together while the experiments were working out.
Hump was patient.

\x91Until I moved in here,\x92 Henry thought, with a disturbingly passive
sort of\x92 bitterness, \x91and brought girls and things. He doesn\x92t have his
nights and Sundays for work any more. Hump could do big things, too.\x92

He went on up the stairs and switched on the lights in the living-room.

He caught sight of his face in a mirror. It was white.

There was a look of strain about the eyes. The little moustache, turned
up at the ends, mocked him.

\x91I\x92ll shave it off,\x92 he said aloud.

He even got out his razor and began nervously stropping it.

He was alarmed to discover that his control of his hands was none too
good. They moved more quickly than he meant them to, and in jerks.

Too, the notion of shaving his moustache struck him weakness, an impulse
to be resisted. Too much like retreating. Subtly like that.

He put the razor back in its drawer.

In the centre of the living-room rug, standing there, stiffly, he
said:--

\x91I\x92ll face them. I\x92ll go down fighting. They shan\x92t say I surrendered.\x92

He walked round and round the room.

He had never in his life felt anything like this jerky nervousness. A
restlessness that wouldn\x92t permit him so much as to sit down.

While in the _Gleaner_ office he had hardly been aware of McGibbon. He
certainly hadn\x92t listened to him.

But now, like a blow, everything McGibbon had said came to him. Every
syllable. Suddenly he could see the man, towering ever him, pounding
his desk. Talking--talking--full of fresh hopes while the world crumbled
around him. More disaster! It was the buzzing song of the old globe as
it spun endlessly on its axis. Disaster!... The advertisers had at last
combined against the paper. Old Weston had called McGibbon\x92s note. That
must have taken about the last of Henry\x92s thousand. They were broke.

His hand brushed his coat pocket. It bulged with copy paper. He must
have thrust it back there absently, at the office.

He drew it out and gazed at it.

It was curious; he seemed to see it as a printed page, with a title at
the top, and his name. He couldn\x92t see what the title was. Yet it was
there, and it was good.

His restlessness grew. Again he walked round and round the room. There
was a glow in his breast. Something that burned and fired his nerves and
drove him as one is driven in a dream. Either he must rush outdoors and
wander at a feverish pace around the town and up the lake shore--walk
all night--or he must sit down and write.

He sat down. Picked up an atlas of Humphrey\x92s and wrote on his lap. And
he wrote, from the beginning, as he would have walked had he gone out,
in a fever of energy, gripping the pencil tightly, holding his knees up
a little, heels off the floor. The colour reappeared about his forehead
and temples, then on his cheeks.

When Humphrey came in, after midnight, he was in just this posture,
writing at a desperate rate. The floor all about him was strewn with
sheets of paper. One or two had drifted off to the centre of the
room. He didn\x92t hear his friend come up the stairs.\x92 When he saw him,
standing, looking down, something puzzled, he cried out excitedly\x92:--

\x91Don\x92t Hump!\x92

Humphrey resisted the impulse to reply with a \x91Don\x92t what?\x92

\x91Go on! Don\x92t disturb me!\x92

\x91You seem to be hitting it up.\x92

\x91I am. I can\x92t talk! Please--go away! Go to bed. You\x92ll make me lose
it!\x92

Humphrey obeyed.

Later--well along in the night--he awoke.

There was a crack of light about his door. He turned on his own light.
It was quarter to three.

\x91Here!\x92 he called. \x91What on earth are you up to, Hen?\x92 A chair scraped.
Then Henry came to the door and burst it open. His coat was off now,
and his vest open. He had unbuttoned his collar in front so that the
two ends and the ends of his tie hung down. His hair was straggling down
over his forehead.

\x91Do you know what time it is, Hen?\x92

\x91No. Say--listen to this! Just a few sentences. You liked the piece I
did about the Business Men\x92s Picnic, remember. Well, this has sorta
grown out of it. It\x92s just the plain folks along Simpson Street. Say!
There\x92s a title for the book.\x92

\x91For the what!\x92

\x91The book. Oh, there\x92ll be a lot of them. Sorta sketches. Or maybe
they\x92re stories. I can\x92t tell yet. Plain folks of Simpson Street. Yes,
that\x92s good. Wait a second, while I write it down. The thing struck me
all at once--to-night!--Queer, isn\x92t it!--thinking about the folks
along the street--Bill Hemple, and Jim Smith in your press room with
the tattooed arms, and old Boice and Charlie Waterhouse, and the way Bob
McGibbon blew into town with a big dream, and the barber shop--Schultz
and Schwartz\x92s--and Donovan\x92s soda fountain, and Izzy Bloom and the
trouble about his boys in the high school, and all his fires, and Mr
Draine, the Y.M.C.A. secretary that\x92s been in the British Mounted Police
in Mashonaland--think of it! In Africa--and----\x92

\x91Would you mind\x92--Humphrey was on an elbow, blinking sleepy eyes--\x91would
you mind talking a little more slowly. Good lord! I can\x92t----\x92

\x91All right, Hump. Only I\x92m excited, sorta. You see, it just struck me
that there\x92s as much romance right here on Simpson Street as there is in
Kipling\x92s Hills or Bagdad or Paris. Just the way people\x92s lives go. And
what old Berger\x92s really thinking about when he tells you the vegetables
were picked yesterday.\x92

Humphrey gazed--wider awake now--at the wild figure before him. And a
thrill stirred his heart. This boy was supposed to be crushed.

\x91How much have you done?\x92 he asked soberly.

\x91Most finished this first one. It\x92s about old Boice and Charlie
Waterhouse and Mr Weston----\x92

\x91Gee!\x92 said Humphrey.

\x91I call it, _The Caliph of Simpson Street_.\x92

\x91Well--see here, you\x92re going to bed, aren\x92t you?\x92

\x91Oh, yes. But listen.\x92 And he began reading aloud.

Humphrey waved his arms.

\x91No, no! For heaven\x92s sake, go to bed, Hen!\x92

\x91Well, but--oh, say! Just thought of something!\x92 And he went out,
chuckling.

Humphrey awoke again at eight. Through his open door came a light that
was not altogether of the sun.

The incident of the earlier morning came to him in confused form, like a
dream.

He sprang out of bed.

There, still bending over the atlas, was Henry. The sheets of paper lay
like drifts of snow about him now. His pencil was flying.

He looked up. His face was white and red in spots now. He was grinning,
apparently out of sheer happiness.

\x91Say,\x92 he cried, \x91listen to this! It\x92s one I call, _The Cauliflowers
of the Caliph_. Oh, by the way, I\x92ve changed the title of the book to
_Satraps of the Simple_.

\x91The whole book\x92ll be sort of imaginary, like that. It\x92s queer. Just as
if it came to be out of the air. Things I never thought of in my life.
Only everything I ever knew\x92s going into it. Things I\x92d forgotten.\x92

\x91Hen,\x92 said Humphrey, \x91are you stark mad?\x92

\x91Me? Why--why no, Hump!\x92 The grin was a thought sheepish now.
\x91But--well, Bob McGibbon said we needed stuff for the paper.\x92

\x91How many stories have you written already?\x92

\x91Just three.\x92

\x91_Three!_ In one night!\x92

\x91But they\x92re short, Hump. I don\x92t believe-they average over two or three
thousand words. I think they\x92re good. You know, just the way they made
me feel. Funny idea--Bagdad and Simpson Street, all mixed up together.\x92

\x91One thing\x92s certain, Hen. You\x92re an extremely surprising youth, but
right here\x92s where you quit. I don\x92t propose to have a roaring maniac
here in the rooms. On my hands.\x92

\x91Oh, Hump, I can\x92t quit now! You don\x92t understand. It\x92s wonderful. It
just comes. Like taking dictation.\x92

\x91Dictation is what you\x92re going to take. Right now. From me. Brush up
your clothes, and pick up all that mess while I dress. We\x92ll go out for
some breakfast.\x92

\x91Not now, Hump! Wait--I promise I\x92ll go out a little later.\x92

\x91You\x92ll go now. Get up.\x92

Henry obeyed. But he nearly fell back again.

\x91Gosh!\x92 he murmured.

\x91Stiff, eh?\x92

\x91I should smile. And sorta weak.\x92

\x91No wonder. Come on, now! And I want your promise that after breakfast
you\x92ll go straight to bed.\x92

\x91Hump, I can\x92t.\x92

This, apparently, was the truth. He couldn\x92t.

He stopped in at Jackson\x92s Book Store (formerly B. F. Jones\x92s) and
bought paper and pencils: Then, in a thrill of fresh importance, he
bought penholders, large desk blotters, a flannel pen-wiper with a
bronze dog seated in the centre, a cut-glass inkstand, a ruler, half
a dozen pads of a better paper, a partly abridged dictionary, Roget\x92s
_Thesaurus_, (for years he had casually wondered what a Thesaurus was),
a round glass paperweight with a gay butterfly imprisoned within, four
boxes of wire clips, assorted sizes, and, because he saw it, Crabb\x92s
_Synonyms_. Then he saw an old copy of _The Thousand and One Nights_ and
bought that.

It seemed to him that he ought to be equipped for his work. Before he
went out he asked the prices of the better makes of typewriters.

And for the first time in two years, he uttered the magic but too often
fatal words:--

\x91Just charge it, if you don\x92t mind.\x92


7


He was back at the rooms by nine-fifteen. Before the university clock
boomed out the hour of noon, he had written that elusive, extraordinary
little classic, _A Kerbstone Barmecide_, and had jotted down suggestive
notes for the story that was later to be known as _The Printer and the
Pearls_.

By this time all thoughts of civic reform had faded out. Charlie
Waterhouse, now that _The Caliph of Simpson Street_ was done and, in
a surface sense, forgotten, no longer appeared to him as a crook who
should be ousted from the local political triumvirate and from town
office; he was but a bit of ore in the rich lode of human material
with which Henry\x92s fancy was playing. The important fact about the new
Waterhouse store-and-office building in South Sunbury, was not that
there was reason to believe Charlie had built it with town money but
that he had put a medallion bas-relief of himself in terra cotta in the
front wall.

Charlie figured, though, unquestionably, in _Sinbad the Treasurer_.

At noon, deciding that he would stroll out after a little and eat a
bite, Henry stretched out on the lounge. Here he dozed, very lightly for
an hour or two.

Humphrey stole in, found him tossing there, fully dressed, mumbling in
his sleep, and stole out.

But early in the afternoon Henry leaped up. His brain, or his emotions,
or whatever the source of his ideas, was a glowing, boiling, seething
crater of tantalising, obscurely associated concepts and scraps of
characterisation and queerly vivid, half-glimpsed dramatic moments,
situations, contrasts. They amounted to a force that dragged him on. The
thought that some bit might escape before he could catch it and get it
written down kept his pulse racing.

At about half-past four he finished that curious fantasy, _Roc\x92s Eggs,
Strictly Fresh_.

This accomplishment brought a respite. He could see his book clearly
now. The cover, the title page and particularly the final sentence.
He knew that the concluding story was to be called _The Old Man of the
Street_. He printed out this title; printed, too, several titles of
others yet to be written--_Ali Anderson and the Four Policemen_ and
_Scheherazade in a Livery Stable_, and one or two more.

His next performance I find particularly interesting in retrospect.
During the long two years of his extreme self-suppression in the vital
matters of candy, girls, and charge-accounts, Henry had firmly refused
to sing. Without a murmur he had foregone the four or five dollars
a Sunday he could easily have picked up in church quartet work, the
occasional sums from substituting in this or that male quartet and
singing at funerals. It was even more extraordinary that he should
have given up, as he did, his old habit of singing to girls. The only
explanation he had ever offered of this curious stand was the rather
obscure one he gave Humphrey that singing was \x91too physical.\x92 Whatever
the real complex of motives, it had been a rather violent, or at least a
complete reaction.

But now he strode about the room, chin up, chest expanded, brows
puckered, roaring out scales and other vocalisings in his best voice.
The results naturally were somewhat disappointing, after the long
silence, but he kept at it.

He was still roaring, half an hour later, when McGibbon came anxiously
in.

\x91Saw Humphrey Weaver down-town,\x92 said the editor of the _Gleaner_, \x91and
he said I\x92d better look you up.\x92

An hour later McGibbon--red spots in his cheeks, a nervous glitter
in his eyes--hurried down to the _Gleaner_ office with the pencilled
manuscripts of four of the \x91Caliph\x92 stories. He was hurrying because
it seemed to him highly important to get them into type. For one thing,
something might happen to them--fire, anything. For another, it might
occur to Henry to sell them to an eastern magazine.

When Humphrey came in, just before six, Henry was already well into
_Scheherazade in a Livery Stable_, and was chuckling out loud as he
wrote.

Friday night was press night at the _Gleaner_ office. Henry strolled
in about ten o\x92clock and carelessly dropped a thick roll of script on
McGibbon\x92s desk.

That jaded editor leaned back, ran thin fingers through his tousled
hair, and wearily looked over the dishevelled, yawning, exhausted,
grinning youth before him. Never in his life had he seen an expression
of such utter happiness on a human face.

\x91How many stories is this?\x92 he asked.

\x91Ten.\x92

\x91Good Lord! That\x92s a whole book!\x92

\x91No--hardly. I\x92ve thought of some more. There\x92ll be fifteen or twenty
altogether. I just thought of one, coming over here. Think I\x92ll call it.
_The Story of the Man from Jerusalem_. It\x92s about the life of a little
Jew storekeeper in a town like this. Struck me all of a sudden--you
know, how he must feel. I don\x92t think I\x92ll write it to-night--just make
a few notes so it won\x92t get away from me.\x92

Bob McGibbon rose up, put on coat and hat, took, Henry firmly by the
arm, and marched him, protesting, home.

\x91Now,\x92 he said, \x91you go to bed.\x92

\x91Sure, Bob! What\x92s the matter with you! I\x92m just going to jot down a few
notes------\x92

\x91You\x92re going to bed!\x92 said McGibbon.

And he stood there, earnest, even grim, until Henry was undressed and
stretched out peacefully asleep.\x92

Henry slept until nearly three o\x92clock Saturday afternoon.


8


Senator Watt laid down the _Gleaner_, took off his glasses, removed an
unlighted cigar from his mouth, and said, in his low, slightly husky
voice:--

\x91A really remarkable piece of work. Quite worthy of Kipling.\x92 The
nineties, as we have already remarked, belong to Kipling. Outright. He
had to be mentioned. \x91It is fresh, vivid, and remarkably condensed. The
author produces his effects with a sure swift stroke of the brush.\x92

The Senator rarely spoke. When he did it was always in these measured,
solid sentences, as if his words might be heard round the world and
therefore must be chosen with infinite care. After delivering himself
of this opinion he resumed his \x91dry smoke\x92 and reached for the _Evening
Post_, which lay folded back to the financial page.

\x91I was sure you would think so,\x92 said Cicely Hamlin, glancing first at
the Senator then at her aunt. \x91I wish you would read it, Aunt Eleanor.\x92

\x91Hm!\x92 remarked that formidable person, planting her own gold-rimmed
glasses firmly astride her rugged nose just above the point where it
bent sharply downward, picking up the paper, then lowering it to gaze
with a hint of habitual, impersonal severity at her niece.

\x91Even so,\x92 she said. \x91Suppose the young man has gifts. That will hardly
make it necessary for you to cultivate him. I gather he\x92s a bad lot.\x92

\x91I have no intention of cultivating him,\x92 replied Cicely, moving toward
the door, but pausing by the mantel to pat her dark ample hair into
place. She wore it low on her shapely neck. Cicely was wearing a
simple-appearing, far from inexpensive blue frock.

Madame Watt read the opening sentence of _The Caliph of Simpson Street_,
then lowered the paper again.

\x91Are you going out, Cicely?\x92

\x91No, I expect company here.\x92

\x91Who is coming?\x92

The girl compressed her lips for an instant, then:--

\x91Elberforce Jenkins.\x92

\x91Hm!\x92 said Madame, and raised the paper.

An electric bell rang.

Cicely came back into the room; stood by a large bowl of roses;
considered them.

The butler passed through the wide hall. A voice sounded in the
distance. The butler appeared.

\x91Mr Henry Calverly calling,\x92 he said.

Madame Watt raised her head so abruptly that her glasses fell, brought
up with a jerk at the end of a thin gold chain, and swung there.

Cicely stood motionless by the roses.

The Senator glanced up, then shifted his cigar and resumed his study of
the financial page.

\x91You will hardly----\x92 began Madame.

\x91Show him into the drawing-room,\x92 said Cicely with dignity.

The butler wavered.

Then, as if to settle all such small difficulties, Henry himself
appeared behind him, smiling naively, eagerly.

Cicely hurried forward. Her quick smile came, and the little bob of her
head.

\x91How do you do?\x92 she said brightly. \x91Mr Calverly--my aunt, Madame Watt!
And my uncle, Senator Watt!\x92

Madame Watt arose, deliberately, not without a solid sort of majesty.
She was a presence; no other such ever appeared in Sunbury. She fixed an
uncompromising gaze on Henry.

So uncompromising was it that Cicely covered her embarrassment by moving
hurriedly toward the drawingroom, with a quick:--

\x91Come right in here.\x92

There was no one living on this erratic earth who could have cowed Henry
on this Saturday evening. A week later, yes. But not to-night. He never
even suspected that Madame meant to cow him. In such moments as these
(and there were a good many of them in his life) Henry was incapable of
perceiving hostility toward himself. The disaster that on Tuesday had
seemed the end of the world was to-night a hazy memory of another epoch.
There were few grown or half-grown persons in Sunbury that were not
thinking on this evening of the meanest scandal in the known history of
the town and, incidentally, among others involved, of Henry Calverly;
but Henry himself was of those few.

He marched straight on Madame with cordial smile and outstretched hand.
He wrung the hand of the impassive Senator.

That worthy said, now:--

\x91I have just read this first of your new series of sketches. Allow me to
tell you that I think it admirable. In the briefest possible compass
you have pictured a whole community in its petty relationships, at once
tragic and comic. There is caustic satire in this sketch, yet I
find deep human sympathy as well. It is a pleasure to make your
acquaintance.\x92

When, after a rather amazing outpouring of words--the thing didn\x92t
amount to much; just a rough draft really; he hoped they\x92d like the next
one; it was about cauliflowers--he had disappeared into the front room,
the Senator remarked:--

\x91The young man makes an excellent impression.\x92

\x91The young man,\x92 remarked Madame, \x91is all right.\x92

Half an hour later the noise of the front door opening, and a voice,
caused the two young people to start up out of a breathless absorption
in the story called _A Kerbstone Barmecide_, which Henry was reading
from long strips of galley proof. He had already finished _The
Cauliflowers of the Caliph_.

For a moment Cicely\x92s face went blank.

The butler announced:--

\x91Mr Jenkins calling, Miss Cicely.\x92

The one who was not equal to the situation was Elbow. He stood in the
doorway, staring.

Cicely was only a moment late with her smile.

Henry, with an open sigh of regret, nodded at his old acquaintance and
folded up the long strips of galley proof.

Elbow came into the room now, and took Cicely\x92s hand. But his small
talk had gone with his wits. He barely returned Henry\x92s nod. Cicely,
nervously active, suggested a chair, asked if there was going to be a
Country Club dance this week, thanked him for the beautiful roses.

Then silence fell upon them; an awkward silence, that seemed to announce
when it set in its intention of making itself increasingly awkward and
very, very long. It was confirmed as a hopeless silence by the sudden
little catchings of breath, the slight leaning forward, followed by
nothing at all--first on the part of Cicely, then of Elbow.

Henry sat still.

Once he raised his eyes. They met squarely the eyes of Elbow. For a long
moment each held the gaze. It was war.

Cicely said now, greatly confused:--

\x91I know that you sing, Mr Calverly. Please do sing something.\x92

There, now, was an idea! It appealed warmly to Henry. He went straight
to the piano, twisted up the stool, struck his three chords in turn,
and plunged into that old song of Samuel\x92s Lover\x92s that has quaint charm
when delivered with spirit and humour, _Kitty of Coleraine_.

After which he sang, _Rory O\x92More_. He had spirit and humour aplenty
to-night.

The Senator came quietly in, bowed to Elbow, and asked for _The Low-Back
Car_.

Elbow left.

\x91Why did you tell me you hadn\x92t any stories you could bring?\x92 Cicely
asked, a touch of indignation in her voice.

\x91It was so. I didn\x92t.\x92

\x91You had these.\x92

\x91No. I didn\x92t. That\x92s just it!\x92

\x91But you don\x92t mean----\x92

\x91Yes! Just since I met you!\x92

\x91Ten stories, you said. It seems--I can\x92t----\x92

\x91But it\x92s true. Three days. And nights, of course. I\x92ve been so
excited!\x92

\x91I never heard of such a thing! Though, of course, Stevenson wrote _Dr
Jekyll and Mr Hyde_ in three days. But ten different stories.\x92... She
sat quiet, her hands folded in her lap, very thoughtful, flatteringly
thoughtful. \x91It sounds a little like magic.\x92

She was delicately pretty, sitting so still in her big chair.

\x91I wrote them straight at you,\x92 he said, low, earnest. \x91Every word.\x92

Even Henry caught the extreme emphasis of this, and hurried to
elaborate.

\x91You see I was just sick Tuesday night. Everything had gone wrong with
me. And then that horrible story that wasn\x92t true. I knew I shouldn\x92t
have spoken of it to you, but--well, it was just driving me crazy, and I
couldn\x92t bear to think you might despise me like the others without
ever knowing the truth. And... You see I must have felt the inspiration
you... Even then, I mean...\x92

He was red. He seemed to be getting himself out of breath. And he was
tugging at the roll of proofs in his pocket.

\x91Shall I--finish--this?\x92

\x91Oh, _yes!_\x92 She sank into a great leather chair; looked up at him with
glowing eyes. \x91I want you to read me all of them. Please!\x92

She said it almost shyly.

Henry drew up a chair, found his place, and read on. And on. And on.

It was victory.



VII--THE BUBBLE, REPUTATION


1


|There is nothing more unsettling than a sudden uncalculated,
incalculable success. It at once thrills, depresses, confuses. People
attack with the most unexpected venom. Others, the most unexpected
others, defend with vehemence, One feels queerly out of it, yet
forlornly conspicuous. As if it were some one else, or a dream. Innocent
effort dragged to the public arena, quarrelled over, misunderstood. One
boasts and apologises in a breath; dreads the thing will keep up and
fears it will stop; finds one day it has stopped and ever after thinks
back in sentimental retrospect to the good old days, the great days,
when one did stir them up a bit.

Henry awoke on this Saturday morning to a sense of trouble that hung
heavily over him during the walk with Humphrey from the rooms to
Stanley\x92s. Nothing of the stir reached them here. They were so late that
the restaurant was about empty. Humphrey did hear a faint, distant voice
booming, but gave no particular thought to it at the moment. And the
Stanleys went quietly about their business as usual. Henry, indeed, was
deep in his personal concern.

This found words over the oatmeal. He drew a rumpled paper from his
pocket and submitted it to his room mate.

\x91Got this last night,\x92 Henry explained moodily.

Humphrey read the following pencilled communication:--

\x91Henry Calverly, can\x92t you see that your attentions are making it hard
for a certain young lady? Do you want to injure her reputation along
with yours? Why don\x92t you do the decent thing and leave town!

\x91_A Round Robin of People Who Know You_.\x92

Humphrey pursed his lips over it.

\x91It\x92s the Mamie Wilcox trouble, of course,\x92 he said finally.

Henry nodded. His mouth drooped at the corners. There was a shine in his
eyes.

Humphrey folded the paper; handed it back.

\x91Do you know who did it?\x92

Henry shook his head. \x91They printed it out. Oh, I can make guesses, of
course. It\x92s about Cicely Hamlin and me.\x92

\x91You can\x92t do anything.\x92

\x91I know.\x92

\x91And maybe you\x92re going to be so successful that it won\x92t matter. Laugh
at \x91em.\x92

\x91I don\x92t believe that, Hump. I can\x92t even imagine it.\x92

\x91At that, it may be jealousy.\x92

\x91I\x92ve thought of that. Even if it is...\x92 they\x92re partly right. I didn\x92t
do what they think, but... Don\x92t you see, Hump?\x92

\x91Oh, yes, I see clearly enough.\x92

\x91I\x92ve felt it. When I was all stirred up over my work, I went there
to call. Last Saturday night. Then I got to thinking.\x92 His voice was
unsteady, but he kept on. Rather doggedly. \x91I\x92ve stayed away all this
week. Just worked. You know. You\x92ve seen how I\x92ve kept at it. Until
Thursday night. I sorta slipped up then and went around there. She was
out. And that\x92s all. I\x92ve thought I--I\x92ve felt... Hump, do you believe
in love--you know--at first sight?\x92

Humphrey\x92s long face wrinkled into a rather wry smile, then sobered.

\x91I ought to,\x92 he replied. \x91In a way it was like that--with me.\x92


2


The first of Henry\x92s meaty, fantastic little stories of the plain folk
of the village, that one called _The Caliph of Simpson Street_, had
appeared in the _Gleaner_ of the preceding Saturday. It had made a
distinct stir.

The second story was out on this the Saturday of our present narrative.
In the order of writing, and in Henry\x92s plans, it should have been _The
Cauliflowers of the Caliph_. But Bob McGibbon, hanging wearily over the
form in the press room late Friday night, suddenly hit on the notion of
putting _Sinbad the Treasurer_ in its place. He had all but the last one
or two in type by that time. There were no mechanical difficulties; and
he didn\x92t consult the author. He could hit Charlie Waterhouse harder
this way. _The Cauliflowers_ was quietly humorous; while _Sinbad the
Treasurer_ had a punch. That was how McGibbon put it to the foreman,
Jimmy Albers. The word \x91punch\x92 was fresh slang then. McGibbon himself
introduced it into Sunbury.

Henry had Charlie and the town money in the back of his head, of course,
when he wrote _Sinbad_. Probably more than he himself knew. McGibbon
sniffed a sensation in the brief, vivid narrative. And a sensation of
some sort he had to have. It was now or never with McGibbon.... He was
able even to chuckle at the way Charlie would froth. He couldn\x92t admit
that the coat fitted, of course. He would just have to froth. It was
Henry\x92s _na\xEFvet\xE9_ that made the thing so perfect. An older man wouldn\x92t
have dared. Henry had just naturally rushed in. Yes, it was perfect.

Bob McGibbon was a hustler. And his nervous quickness of perception had
brought him a few small successes and was to bring him larger ones. His
Sunbury disaster was perhaps later to be charged to education.

The roots of that particular failure went deep. From first to last his
attitude was that of a New Yorker in a small town. He outraged every
local prejudice; he alienated, one by one, each friendly influence.
He couldn\x92t understand that any such village as Sunbury resents the
outsider who insists on pointing out its little human failings. It was
recognised here and there as possible that old man Boice and Mr Weston
of the bank might be covering up something in the matter of the genial
town treasurer; but there was reason enough to believe that Mr Boice and
Mr Weston knew pretty well what they were about. That, at least, was
the rather equivocal position into which McGibbon by his very energy and
assertiveness, drove many a ruffled citizen.

And it had needed very little urging on the part of the three leading
citizens (McGibbon had a trick of referring to them in his paper as \x91the
Old Cinch\x92) to bring about the boycott on the part of the Simpson Street
and South Sunbury advertisers. As Charlie Waterhouse himself put it:--

\x91It ain\x92t what he says about me. I can stand it. Man to man I can attend
to him. The thing is, he\x92s hurtin\x92 the town. That\x92s it--he\x92s hurtin\x92 the
town.\x92


3


I have spoken of McGibbon\x92s perception. He knew before reading three
paragraphs that Henry had a touch of genius. Before finishing _A
Kerbstone Barmecide_ he knew--knew with a mental grasp that was
pitifully wasted on the petty business of a country weekly--that nothing
comparable had appeared anywhere in the English-speaking world since
_Plain Tales from the Hills and Soldiers Three_. He knew, further, what
no Sunbury seems ever able to recognise, that it is your occasional
Henry who, as he mentally put it, \x91rings the bell.\x92 A queer young man,
slightly dudish in dress, unable to fit in any conventional job,
unable really to fall into step with his generation, blunderingly
but incorrigibly a non-conformist, a moodily earnest yet absurdly
susceptible young man, slightly self-conscious, known here and there
among those of his age as \x91sarcastic,\x92 brilliant occasionally, dogged
some of the time, dreamy and irresponsible the rest, yet with charm. A
youth who not infrequently was guilty of queer, rather unsocial acts;
not of meanness or unkindness, rather of an inability to feel with and
for others, to fit. A youth destined to work out his salvation, if at
all, alone.

Yes, McGibbon read the signs shrewdly. For which Sunbury owes that
erratic editor a small debt that remains unpaid and unrecorded to-day.
No doubt that McGibbon brought him out. Encouraged him, spurred him,
held him to it.

It was tradition in Sunbury that the two weekly papers should come
decorously into the world each Saturday morning for the first delivery
of mail. A small pile of each, toward noon was put on sale in Jackson\x92s
book store (formerly B. F. Jones\x92s). That was all.

And that was why McGibbon was able, on this Saturday of our story, to
shake the town.

Poor old Sunbury was shaken heavily and often that summer. First by the
Mamie Wilcox scandal. The sort of thing that didn\x92t, couldn\x92t happen.
Men leaving town, and all that. A miserable, hastily contrived marriage.
Henry\x92s name dragged in, unjustly (as it happened), but convincingly.
Though Henry always worked best after some sort of a blow. He had to be
shaken out of himself. I think. It isn\x92t likely that he could or would
have written _Satraps of the Simple_ if this particular blow hadn\x92t
fallen. It was a feverish job. He was stung, quivering, helpless. And
then his great gift functioned.

Then Madame Watt happened to Sunbury. And shook the village to its
roots.

And then came Bob McGibbon\x92s last and mightiest effort.

When all commuting Sunbury converged on the old red brick \x91depot\x92 that
morning for the seven-eleven and the seven forty-six and the eight-three
and the eight-twenty-nine, hoarsely bellowing newsboys held the two ends
of the platform. They wore cotton caps with \x91The Weekly Gleaner\x92 printed
around the front. They were big, deep-throated roughs, the sort that
shout \x91extras\x92 through the cities. They crowded the local newsdealer,
little Mr Beamer, back into one of the waiting-rooms.

They fairly intimidated the town. People bought the _Gleaner_ in
self-defence, even boarded trains and rode off to Chicago without their
regular _Tribune_ or _Record_ or _Inter Ocean_.

Other newsmen roamed the shady, pleasant residence streets, bellowing.
Housewives, old gentlemen, servants, hurried out to buy.

There were posters on the fences, and, along the billboards from
Rockwell Park on the south to Borea on the north. McGibbon actually
rented the space from the Northern Billboard Company. And there
were newsmen with caps, in the afternoon, attacking the North Shore
home-comers in the Chicago station, the very heart of things. All
this--posters screaming like the news-men; big wood type, red and
black--to advertise _Sinbad the Treasurer_ and the rest of the long
series and Henry Calverly.

\x91Attack\x92 is the word. McGibbon was assaulting the town and the region as
it had hardly been assaulted before. If it was his last, it was surely
his most outrageous act from the local point of view. People talked,
boiled, raged. The blatancy of the thing irritated them to the point of
impotent mutterings. They were helpless. McGibbon was breaking no laws.
He was stirring them, however feverish his condition of mind, with
deliberate intent. It was his notion of advertising. Reaching the
mark, regardless of obstacles, indifference, difficulties. And had
his personal circumstances been less harrowing he could have chuckled
happily at the result.

The noise fell upon the ear drums of Charlie Waterhouse as he walked
down-town. A ragged, red-faced pirate thrust a _Gleaner_ into his hand,
snatched his nickel, and rushed off, bellowing.

Charlie began reading _Sinbad the Treasurer_ as he walked. He finished
it standing on the turf by the sidewalk, ignoring passing acquaintances,
nervously biting and mouthing a cigar that had gone out. In the same
condition he read bits of it again. He stood for a while, wavering; then
went back home, and spoke roughly to Mrs Waterhouse when she asked him
why. He hid the paper from her, to no particular purpose. He didn\x92t
appear at the town hall all day, but caught a trolley into Chicago and
went to a dime museum. Later in the day he was seen by two venturesome
youths sitting alone in the rear of a stage box at Sam T. Jack\x92s.

Norton P. Boice became aware of the sensation on his familiar way to the
_Voice_ office.

Humphrey, at his own editorial desk behind the railing, waited,
apparently buried in galley proofs, for the explosion. He had caught it
all after leaving Henry at Stanley\x92s door, and had prowled a bit, taking
it in.

But Mr Boice simply made little sounds--\x91Hmm!\x92 and \x91mmp!\x92 and \x91Hmm!\x92
again. Then, slowly lifting his ponderous figure, the upper half of his
face expressionless as always above his long yellowish-white beard, went
out.

For an hour he was shut up with Mr Weston in the director\x92s room at the
bank; his huge bulk disposed in an armchair; little, low-voiced, neatly
bearded Mr Weston standing by the mantel. It came down to this:--

\x91Could throw him into bankruptcy. He must be about broke.\x92

Thus Boice. \x91We\x92d get the stories that way. Suppress \x91em.\x92

The old gentleman was still wincing from the artlessly subtle stabs he
had suffered a week back in _The Caliph of Simpson Street_. Everybody
within four miles of the postoffice knew who the Caliph was. He had
caught people hiding their smiles. Mentally he was considering a new
drawn head for the _Voice_, with the phrase \x91And _The Weekly Gleaner_\x92
neatly printed just below. There never had been room for two papers in
Sunbury anyway.

Mr Weston was shaking his head. \x91May as well sit tight, Nort. What
harm\x92s to be done, is done already. He\x92ll have to come down. We\x92ll get
him then.\x92

\x91You haven\x92t got any of his paper here, have you?\x92

\x91There was one note. I called that some time ago.\x92

\x91Wha\x92d he do?\x92

\x91Paid it. He seems still to have a little something. But he can\x92t last.
Not without advertising.\x92

\x91But he\x92s selling his paper fast. If he can keep that up maybe he\x92ll
begin to pick up a little along the street.\x92

Mr Weston was still shaking his head. \x91Better wait, Nort.\x92

\x91No, I\x92ll offer him a few hundred. The old _Gleaner_ plant\x92s worth
something.\x92

\x91Of course, there\x92s no harm in that.\x92

So Mr Boice crossed the street to Hemple\x92s market and laboriously
lifted his great body up the stairway beside it to the quarters of the
_Gleaner_ upstairs, where a coatless, rumpled, rather wild-eyed
McGibbon listened to him and then, with suspiciously, alert and smiling
politeness, showed him out and down again.


4


The sensation struck Henry, full face, in the barber shop, Sch\xFCtz and
Schwartz\x92s, whither he went from Stanley\x92s. Professor Hennis, of the
English department at the university, met him at the door and insisted
on shaking hands.

\x91These sketches of yours, Calverly--the two I have read--are remarkable.
There is a freshness of characterisation that suggests Chaucer to me.
Sunbury will live to be proud of you.\x92

This left Henry red and mumbling, rather dumbfounded.

Then, in the chair, Bill Schwartz--fat, exuberant--said, bending over
him:--

\x91Well, how does it feel to be famous, Henry?\x92 And added, \x91You\x92ve got \x91em
excited along the street here. Henry Berger says Charlie Waterhouse\x92ll
punch your head before night. Says he\x92ll have to. Can\x92t sue very well.\x92

It was after this and a few other evidences of the stir he was causing
that Henry, as Humphrey had done a half-hour earlier, went prowling. He
watched and followed the bellowing newsmen. He observed the lively scene
at the depot when the nine-three train pulled out, from the cluttered-up
window of Murphy\x92s cigar store.

Then, keeping off Simpson Street, which was by this time crowded with
the Saturday morning shopping, he slipped around Hemple\x92s corner and up
the stairs.

McGibbon sat alone in the front office--coat off, vest open, longish
hair tousled, a lock straggling down across his high forehead, eyes
strained and staring. He was deep in his swivel chair; long legs
stretched out under the desk, smoking a five-cent cigar, hands deep in
pockets.

He greeted Henry with a wry, thin-lipped smile, and waved his cigar.

\x91Great days!\x92 he remarked dryly. \x91Gee!\x92 Henry dropped into a chair, laid
his bamboo stick on the table, mopped a glistening face. \x91Gee! You do
know how to get\x92em going!\x92

The cigar waved again.

\x91Sure! Stir\x92em up! Soak it to\x92em! Only way.\x92

\x91Everybody\x92s buying it.\x92

\x91Rather! You\x92re a hit, son!\x92

\x91Oh, I don\x92t know\x92s I\x92d say that.\x92

\x91Rats! You\x92re a knockout. Never been anything like it. Two months of it
and they\x92d be throwing your name around in Union Square, N.Y. If we only
had the two months.\x92 He sighed.

\x91Why!\x92 Henry, all nerves, caught his expression. \x91What\x92s the matter?\x92

\x91We\x92re-out of paper.\x92

\x91You mean to print on?\x92

A nod. \x91And we\x92re out of money to buy more.\x92

\x91But with this big sale--\x92

\x91Costing four \x91n\x92 one-half times what we take in.\x92

\x91But I don\x92t see----\x92

\x91Don\x92t you? That\x92s business, Hen. That\x92s this world. You pour your money
in--whip up your sales--drive, drive, _drive!_ After a while it goes of
itself and you get your money back. Scads of it. You\x92re rich. That\x92s the
way with every young business. Takes nerve I tell you, and vision! Why,
I know stories of the early days of--look here, what we need is money.
Got to have it. Right now, while they\x92re on the run. If we can\x92t get it,
and get it quick, well\x92--he reached deliberately forward, picked up a
copy of the _Gleaner_ and waved it high--\x91that--that, my son, is the
last copy of the _Gleaner!_\x92

Henry stared with burning eyes out of a white face.

\x91But my stories!\x92 he cried.

\x91They go to the man that gets the paper. If we land in bankruptcy, as we
doubtless shall, they will be held by the court as assets.\x92

\x91But they\x92re mine!\x92 A note of bewilderment that was despair was in
Henry\x92s voice.

McGibbon shook his head.

\x91No, Hen. We\x92re known to have them. They\x92re in type here. You\x92re
helpless. We\x92re both helpless. The thousand dollars you put in, too. You
hold my note for that. You\x92ll get so many cents on the dollar when the
plant is sold at auction. Or if Boice buys it. He was up here just
now. Offered me five hundred dollars. Think of it--five hundred for our
plant, the big press and everything.\x92

\x91Wha--wha\x92d you say?\x92

\x91Showed him out. Laughed at him. Of course! But it was just a play.
Never. Now look here, Hen, you\x92ve got a little more, haven\x92t you? Your
uncle----\x92

Henry had reached the limits of his emotional capacity.\x92 He was far
beyond the familiar mental process known as thinking. He was sitting on
the edge of his chair, knees drawn up, hands clasped tightly, temples
drumming, a flush spreading down over his cheeks.

But even in this condition, thoughts came.

One of these--or perhaps it was just a feeling, a manifestation of a
sort of instinct--was of hostility to Bob here. It. brought a touch
of guilty discomfort--hostility came hard, with Henry--yet it was
distinctly there. Bob was doubtless right. All his experience. And his
wonderful fighting nerve. Yet somehow he wouldn\x92t do.

\x91No!\x92 said Henry. And again, \x91No! Not a cent from my uncle!\x92

McGibbon\x92s hand still held up the paper. He brought it down now with a
bang. On the desk. And sprang up, speaking louder, with quick, intense
gestures.

\x91You don\x92t seem to get it, Hen!\x92 he cried. \x91We\x92re through--broke!\x92 He
glanced around at the press-room door and controlled his voice. \x91No
pay-roll--nothing! Nothing for the boys out there--or me--or you. I\x92ve
been sitting here wondering how I can tell\x92em. Got to.\x92

\x91Nothing!\x92 Henry echoed weakly, fumbling at his Little moustache--\x91for
me?\x92

\x91Not a cent.\x92

\x91But--but----\x92 Henry\x92s earthly wealth at the moment was about forty
cents. His rough estimate of immediate expenditures was considerable.

\x91Got to have money now, Hen! To-day. Before night. Can\x92t you get hold
of that fact? Even a hundred--the pay-roll\x92s only ninety-six-fifty. If
I could handle that, likely I could make a turn next week and get our
paper stock in time.\x92

Henry heard his own voice saying:--

\x91But don\x92t business men borrow----\x92

\x91Borrow! Me? In this town? They wouldn\x92t lend me the rope to hang myself
with... Hold on there, Hen--\x92

For the young man had picked up his stick and was moving toward the
door. And as he hurried out he was saving, without looking back:--

\x91No... No!\x92

He said it on the stairs, where none could hear. He rushed around the
corner, around the block. Anything to keep off Simpson Street. He had
a really rather desperate struggle to keep from talking his heart
out--aloud--in the street--angrily--attacking Boice, Weston, and
McGibbon in the same breath. His feeling against McGibbon amounted
to bitterness now. But his feeling against old Boice had risen to the
borders of rage. He thought of that silent, ponderous old man, sitting
at his desk in the post-office, like a spider weaving his subtle web
about the town, where helpless little human flies crawled innocently
about their uninspired daily tasks.

So Mr Boice had offered five hundred for plant, good will, and the
stories!

No mere legal, technical claim on those stories as property, as assets,
held the slightest interest for Henry. He couldn\x92t understand that.
They were his. He had created them, made them out of nothing--just a
few one-cent lead pencils and a lot of copy paper. Bob had snatched them
away to print them in the _Gleaner_. But they weren\x92t Bob\x92s.

\x91They\x92re mine!\x92 he said aloud. \x91They\x92re mine! Old Boice shan\x92t have
them! Never!\x92 He caught himself then; looked about sharply, all hot
emotion and tingling nerves.


5


A little later--it was getting on toward noon--he found himself on
Filbert Avenue approaching Simpson Street. Without plan or guidance, he
was heading northward, toward the rooms. It would be necessary to cross
Simpson Street. He was fighting down the impulse to go several blocks
to the east, toward the lake, where the stores and shops gave place to
homes and lawns and shade trees, where he could slip across unnoticed;
but his feet were leading him straight toward the corner of Filbert and
Simpson, the busiest, most conspicuous corner in town, where were the
hotel and Berger\x92s grocery and, only a few doors off, Donovan\x92s drug
store and Swanson\x92s flower shop and Duneen\x92s general store and the
_Voice_ office. It had come down, the warfare within him, to a question
of proving to himself that he wasn\x92t a coward, that he could face
disaster, even the complete disaster that seemed now to be upon him. It
was like the end of the world.

In a pocket his fingers were tightly clasped about the anonymous note
that had been the cloud over his troubled sleep of the night and his
gloomy awakening of the morning. The note was now but a detail in the
general crash. He decided to press on, march straight across Simpson
Street, head high. He even brought out the note from his pocket; held it
in his hand as he walked stiffly on. It was a somewhat bitter touch of
bravado, but I find I like Henry none the less for it.

A little way short of the corner, it must be recorded, he faltered. It
was by Berger\x92s rear door. There was a gate in the fence here, that now
stood open. Two of the Berger delivery wagons were backed in there. And
right by the gate Henry Berger himself, his ample person enveloped in a
long white apron, was opening a crate.

Henry sensed him there; flushed (for it seemed that he could not speak
to any human being now) and wrestled, in painful impotence of will, with
the idea of moving on.

But then, through a slow moment after Mr Berger said, \x91How are you,
Henry!\x92 he sensed something further; a note of good nature in the voice,
a feeling that the man was smiling, a suggestion that all the genial
quality had not, after all, been hardened out of life.

He turned; pulled at his moustache (paper in hand), and flicked at weeds
with his stick.

Mr Berger _was_ smiling. He drew his hand across a sweaty brow; shook
the hand; then leaned on his hatchet.

\x91Getting hot,\x92 he remarked.

Henry tried to reply, but found himself still inarticulate.

\x91Old Boice is getting after you. Plenty.\x92

Henry winced; but felt slightly reassured when Mr Berger chuckled. All
intercourse with Mr Berger was tempered, however, by the memory that
Henry had been caught, within the decade, stealing fruit from the cases
out front.

\x91He was just here. Don\x92t mind telling you that he\x92s trying to get
McGibbon\x92s creditors together and throw him into bankruptcy. Doesn\x92t
look as if there was enough out against him, though. Got to be five
hundred. It ain\x92t as if he had a family and was running up bills. Just
living alone at the Wombasts, like he does. But old Boice is out gunning
for fair. Never saw him quite like this. First it was the advertising
boycott...\x92

Henry was shifting his weight from foot to foot.

\x91Well,\x92 he said now, \x91I guess I\x92d better be getting along.\x92

\x91I was just going to say, Henry, that you\x92ve give me a good laugh.
Keep on like this and you\x92ll be famous some day.... And say! Hold on a
minute! I don\x92t know\x92s you\x92re in a position to do anything about it,
but I was just going to say, I rather guess the old _Gleaner_ could be
picked up for next to nothing right now. And there\x92s folks here that
ain\x92t so anxious to see Boice get the market all to hisself. Not so dam
anxious.... Wait a minute! I mean, I guess once McGibbon was got rid of
the Old Boy\x92d find it wouldn\x92t be so easy to hold this boycott together.
There\x92s folks that would break away---- Well, that\x92s about all that was
on my mind. Only I\x92d sorta hate to see your yarns suppressed. They\x92re
grand reading, Henry. My wife like to \x91a\x92 died over that one last
week--_The Sultan of Simpson Street_.\x92

\x91\x93Caliph!\x94\x92 said Henry, with a nervous eagerness. \x91_The Caliph of
Simpson Street_.\x92

\x91Touched up old Norton P. for fair. Made him sorer \x91n a goat. My wife\x92s
literary, and she says it\x92s worthy of Poe. And you ought to hear the
people talking to-day about this new one.\x92

\x91_Sinbad the Treasurer!_\x92 said Henry quickly, fearing another
misquotation:

\x91Yay-ah. That. Ain\x92t had time to read it yet myself. They say it\x92s
great.\x92

\x91Well--good-bye,\x92 said Henry, and moved stiffly away toward the corner.

\x91Funny!\x92 mused the grocer,\x92 looking after him. \x91These geniuses never
have any business sense. I give him a real opening there.\x92


6


Simpson Street was always crowded of a Saturday morning with thoughtful
housewives. The grocers and butchers bustled about. The rows of display
racks along the sidewalk were heaped with fresh vegetables and fruits.

The majority of the shoppers came afoot, but the kerb was lined with
buggies, surries, neat station wagons and dog-carts, crowded in between
the delivery wagons. Sunbury boasted, as well, a number of Stanhopes,
a barouche or two, and several landaus. The Jenkins family, among its
several members, had a stable full of horses and ponies. William B. Snow
owned a valuable chestnut team with silver-mounted harness. Here and
there along the street one might have seen, on this occasion, several
vehicles that might well have been described as smart.

But Sunbury had never seen anything like the equipage that, at a quarter
to twelve--a little late for selective shopping in those days--came
rolling smoothly, silently, on its rubber-shod wheels across the tracks
and past the post-office, Nelson\x92s bakery, the Sunbury National Bank,
Duneen\x92s and Donovan\x92s to Swanson\x92s flower shop.

Never, never had Sunbury seen anything quite like that. Mr Berger,
hurrying through to the front of his store, stopped short, stared out
across the street and after a breathless moment breathed the words,
\x91Holy Smoke!\x92 Women stood motionless, holding heads of lettuce, boxes
of raspberries and what not, and gazed in an amazement that was actually
long minutes in reaching the normal mental state of critical appraisal.

The carriage was a Victoria, hung very low, varnished work glistening
brilliantly in the sunshine. It was upholstered conspicuously in plum
colour. The horses were jet black, glossy, perfectly matched, checked
up so high that the necks arched prettily if uncomfortably; and they had
docked tails. The harness they wore was mounted with a display of silver
that made the silver on William B. Snow\x92s team, standing just below
Donovan\x92s, look outright inconspicuous.

Leaning back in luxurious comfort as the carriage came so softly along
the street, holding up a parasol of black lace, overshadowing her niece,
pretty little Cicely Hamlin, who sat beside her, Madame Watt, her large
person dressed with costly simplicity in black with a touch of colour
at the throat, square of face, with an emphatic chin, a strongly hooked
nose, penetrating black eyes, surveyed the street with a commanding
dignity, an assertive dignity, if the phrase may be used. Or it may have
been that a touch of self-consciousness within her showed through the
enveloping dignity and made you think about it. Certainly there was a
final outstanding reason for self-consciousness, even in the case of
Madame Watt; for on the high box in front visible for blocks above the
traffic of the street, sat, in wooden perfection as in plum-coloured
livery, side by side, a coachman and a footman.

At Swanson\x92s the footman leaped nimbly down and stood rigid by the step
while Madame heavily descended and passed across the walk and into the
shop.

The street lifted. Women\x92s tongues moved briskly. Trade was resumed.

A pretty girl in the most wonderful carriage ever seen--a new girl, at
that, bringing a stir of quickened interest to the younger set--is a
magnet of considerable attracting power. Young people appeared--from
nowhere, it seemed--and clustered about the carriage. Two couples
hurried from the soda fountain in Donovan\x92s. The de Casselles boys were
passing on their way from the Country Club courts (which were still on
the old grounds, down near the lake) in blazer coats and with expensive
rackets in wooden presses. Alfred Knight was out collecting for the
bank, and happened to be near. Mary Ames and Jane Bellman came over from
Berger\x92s, where Mary was scrutinising cauliflowers with a cool eye.

It was at this moment that Henry reached the corner by Berger\x92s, paused,
hopelessly, confused and torn in the swirl of success and disaster that
marked this painful day, fighting down that mad impulse to talk out loud
his resentments in a passionate torrent of words, saw the carriage, the
girl in it and the crowd about it in one nervous glance, then, suddenly
pale, lips tightly compressed, moved doggedly forward across the street.

He had nearly reached the opposite kerb--not turning; with the ugly
little note that was clasped in his left hand, he could not trust
himself to bow, he felt a miserable sort of relief that the distance
might excuse his appearing not to see; and there had to be an excuse,
or it would look to some like cowardice--when an errant summer breeze
wandered around the corner and seized on his straw hat.

He felt it lifting; dropped his stick; reached then after both hat and
stick and in doing so nearly dropped the paper. In another moment he was
to be seen, desperately white, stick in one hand, a slip of paper in
the other, running straight down Simpson Street after his hat, which
whirled, sailed, rolled, sailed again, circled, and settled in the
dust not two rods from the Watt carriage. The street, as streets, will,
turned to look.

Henry lunged for the hat. It lifted, and rolled a little way on. He
lunged again. It whirled over and over, then rolled rapidly straight
down the street, just missing the hoofs of a delivery horse, passing
under Mr George F. Smith\x92s buggy without touching either horse or
wheels, and sailed on.

Henry fell to one knee in his second plunge. And his pallor gave place
to a hot flush.

Laughter came to his ears--jeering laughter. And it came unquestionably
from the group about the Watt carriage. The first voices were masculine.
Before he could get to his feet one or two of the girls had joined in.
In something near despair of the spirit, helplessly, he looked up.

The whole group, still laughing, turned away. All, that is, but one.
Cicely was not laughing. She was leaning a little forward, looking right
at him, not even smiling, her lips parted slightly. He was too far gone
even to speculate as to what her expression meant. It fell upon him
as the final blow. He ran on and on. In front of Hemple\x92s market a boy
stopped the hat with his foot. Henry, trembling with rage, took it from
him, muttered a word of thanks, and rushed, followed by curious eyes,
around the corner to the north.


7


Humphrey found him, a little before one, at the rooms, and thought he
looked ill. He was sitting on the edge of his bed, staring at a small
newspaper clipping. He looked up, through his doorway, saw his friend
standing in the living-room, mumbled a colourless greeting, and let his
heavy eyes fall again.

\x91What\x92s all this?\x92 asked Humphrey, with a rather weary, wrinkly smile.

Henry got up then and came slowly into the living-room.

\x91It\x92s this,\x92 he explained, in a voice that was husky and light, without
its usual body. \x91This thing. I\x92ve had it quite a while.\x92

Humphrey read:--

Positively No Commission HEIRS CAN BORROW On or sell their individual
estate, income or future inheritance; lowest rates; strictly
confidential Heirs\x92 Loan Office.

And an address.

\x91What on earth are you doing with this, Hen?\x92

\x91Well, Hump, there\x92s still a little more\x92n three thousand dollars in my
legacy. I got a thousand this summer, you know, and lent it to McGibbon
for my interest in the paper. But my uncle said he wouldn\x92t give me a
cent more until I\x92m twenty-one, in November. And so I was wondering...
Look here! How much do you suppose I could get out of it from these
people. They\x92re all right, you see?

They\x92ve got a regular office and----\x92

\x91You\x92d just about get out with your underwear and shoes, Hen. They might
leave you a necktie. What do you want it for--throw it in after the
thousand?\x92

\x91Well, McGibbon\x92s broke----\x92

\x91Yes, I know. They\x92re saying on the street that Boice has got the
_Gleaner_ already. Two compositors and your foreman were in our place
half an hour ago asking for work. Boice went right down there. I saw him
start climbing the stairs.\x92

\x91That\x92s his second trip this morning, then, Hump. He offered Bob five
hundred.\x92

\x91But it ought to be worth a few thousand.\x92

\x91Sure. And except for there not being any money it\x92s going great. You\x92d
be surprised! You know it\x92s often that way. Bob says many a promising
business has gone under just because they didn\x92t have the money to tide
it over a tight place. But he\x92s getting the circulation. You\x92ve no idea!
And when you get that you\x92re bound to get the advertisers. Sooner or
later. Bob says they just have to fall in line.\x92

Humphrey appeared to be only half listening to this eager little torrent
of words. He deliberately filled his pipe; then moved over to a window
and gazed soberly out at the back yard of the parsonage.

Henry, moody again, was staring at the advertisement, fairly hypnotising
himself with it.

\x91Great to think of the Old Man having to climb those stairs twice,\x92
Humphrey remarked, without turning. Then: \x91Even with all the trouble
you\x92re going through, Hen, you\x92re lucky not to be working for Boice. He
does wear on one.\x92

He smoked the pipe out. Then, brow\x92s knit, his long swarthy face
wrinkled deeply with thought, he walked slowly over to the door of his
own bedroom and leaned there, studying the interior.

\x91There\x92s three thousand dollars\x92 worth of books in here,\x92 he remarked.
\x91Or close to it. Even at second hand they\x92d fetch something. You see,
it\x92s really a well built, pretty complete little scientific library. Now
come downstairs.\x92

He had to say it again: \x91Come on downstairs.\x92

Henry followed, then; hardly aware of the oddity of Humphrey\x92s actions.

In the half-light that sifted dustily in through the high windows, the
metal lathes, large and small, the tool benches, the two large reels of
piano wire, the rows of wall boxes filled with machine jars, the round
objects that might have been electric motors hanging by twisted strings
or wires from the ceiling joists, the heavy steel wheels of various
sizes mounted in frames, some with wooden handles at one side, the big
box kites and the wood-and-silk planes stacked at one end of the room,
the gas engine mounted at the other end, the water motor in a corner,
the wheels, shafts and belting overhead--all were indistinct, ghostly.
And all were covered with dust.

\x91See!\x92 Humphrey waved his pipe. \x91I\x92ve done no work here for six
weeks. And I shan\x92t do any for a good while. I can\x92t. It takes
leisure--long-evenings--Sundays when you aren\x92t disturbed by a soul.
And at that it means years and years, working as I\x92ve had to. You know,
getting out the _Voice_ every week. You know how it\x92s been with me, Hen.
People are going to fly some day, Hen. As sure as we\x92re walking now.
Pretty soon. Chanute--Langley--they know! Those are Chanute gliders
over there. By the kites. I\x92ve never told you; I\x92ve worked with \x91em,
moonlight nights, from the sand-dunes away up the beach. I\x92ve got some
locked in an old boat-house up there, Hen\x92--he stood, very tall, a
reminiscent, almost eager light in eyes that had been dull of late, a
gaunt strong hand resting affectionately on a gyroscope--\x91I\x92ve flown
over six hundred feet! Myself! Gliding, of course. Got an awful ducking,
but I did it.

\x91But it takes money, Hen. I\x92ve thought I could be an inventor and do my
job besides. Maybe I could. Maybe some day I\x92ll succeed at it. But I\x92ve
just come to see what it needs. Material, workmen, time--Hen, you\x92ve got
to have a real shop and a real pay-roll to do it right. And...

\x91Oh, I\x92m not telling you the truth, Hen! Not the real truth!\x92

He took to walking around now, making angular gestures. Henry, watching
him, coming slowly alive now to the complex life that was flowing around
him, found himself confronted by a new, disturbed Humphrey. He had,
during the year and more of their friendship, taken him for granted as
an older, steadier influence, had leaned on him more than he knew. He
had been a rock for the erratic Henry to cling to in the confusing,
unstable swirl of life.

\x91Hen\x92--Humphrey turned on him--\x91you don\x92t know, but I\x92m going to be
married.\x92

Henry\x92s jaw sagged.

\x91It\x92s Mildred, of course.

\x91It\x92s going to be hard on the little woman, Hen. She\x92s got to get her
divorce. She can\x92t take money from her husband, of course; and she\x92s
only got a little. She\x92ll need me.\x92 His voice grew a thought unsteady;
he waved his pipe, as if to indicate and explain the machinery. \x91We\x92ve
got to strike out--take the plunge--you know, make a little money. It\x92s
occurred to me... This machinery\x92s worth more than the library, in
a pinch. And I\x92ve got two bonds left. Just two. They\x92re money, of
course...... Hen, you said you _lent_ that thousand to McGibbon?\x92

Henry nodded. \x91He gave me his note.\x92

\x91Let\x92s see it.\x92

Henry ran up the stairs, and returned with a pasteboard box file, which,
not without a momentary touch of pride in his quite new business sense,
he handed to his friend.

Humphrey glanced at the carefully printed-out phrase on the back--\x91Henry
Calverly, 3rd. Business Affairs\x92--but did not smile. He opened it and
ran through the indexed leaves. It appeared to be empty.

\x91Look under \x93Me,\x94\x92 said Henry.

The note was there. \x91For three months,\x92 Humphrey mused aloud.

Then he smiled. There was a whimsical touch in Humphrey that his few
friends knew and loved. Even in this serious crisis it did not desert
him. I believe it was even stronger then.

\x91Hen,\x92 he said, \x91got a quarter?\x92

The smile seemed to restore the rock that Henry had lately clung to. He
found himself returning the smile, faintly but with a growing warmth. He
replied, \x91Just about.\x92

\x91Match me!\x92 cried Humphrey.

\x91What for?\x92

\x91To settle a very important point. Somebody\x92s name has got to come
first. Best two out of three.\x92

\x91But I don\x92t----\x92

\x91Match me! No--it\x92s mine!... Now I\x92ll match you--mine again! I win.
Well--that\x92s settled!\x92

\x91What\x92s settled? I don\x92t-----\x92

Humphrey sat on a tool bench; swung his legs; grinned. \x91Life moves on,
Hen,\x92 he said. \x91It\x92s a dramatic old world.\x92

And Henry, puzzled, looking at him, laughed excitedly.


8


It was two o\x92clock in the afternoon. Simpson Street was quiet after the
brisk business of the morning. The air quivered up from the pavement in
the still heat. The occasional people about the street moved slowly. The
collars of the few visible tradesmen were soft rags around their necks
and they mopped red faces with saturated handkerchiefs. The morning
breeze had died; the afternoon breeze would drift in at four o\x92clock or
so; until which time Sunbury ladies took their naps and Sunbury business
men dozed at their desks. Saturday closing had not made much headway at
this period, though the still novel game of golf was beginning to work
its mighty change in small-town life.

Through this calm scene, absorbed in their affairs, unaware of the heat,
strode Humphrey and Henry--down past the long hotel veranda, where the
yellow rocking chairs stood in endless empty rows, past Swanson\x92s and
Donovan\x92s and Jackson\x92s book store to the meat market and then, rapidly,
up the long stairway.

They found McGibbon with his long legs stretched out under his desk,
hands deep in pockets, thin face lined and weary, but eyes nervously
bright as always. He was in his shirt-sleeves, of course. His drab brown
hair seemed a little longer and even more ragged than usual where it met
his wilted collar.

But he grinned at them, and waved a long hand.

\x91My God!\x92 he cried, \x91but it\x92s good to see a human face. Look!\x92 His
hand swept around, indicating the dusty, deserted desks and the open
press-room door. It was still out there; not a man hummed or whistled as
he clicked type into his stick, not one of the four job presses rumbled
out its cheerful drone of industry.

\x91Rats all gone!\x92 McGibbon added. \x91But the Caliph was up again.\x92

\x91Yes,\x92 Henry, who found himself suddenly and deeply moved, breathed
softly, \x91we know.\x92

\x91Came up a hundred. He\x92ll pay six hundred now. For all this. An actual
investment of more\x92n four thousand.\x92 The hand waved again. \x91It\x92s
amusing. He doesn\x92t know I\x92m on to him. You see the old fox\x92s been
nosing around to get up a petition to throw me into involuntary
bankruptcy, but he can\x92t find any creditors. Has to be five hundred
dollars, you know.\x92

\x91What did you say to him?\x92 asked Humphrey, thoughtfully.

\x91Showed him out. Second time to-day. It was a hard climb for him, too.
He did puff some.\x92

Humphrey slowly drew a large envelope from an inner pocket and laid it
on the table at his elbow.

McGibbon eyed it alertly.

\x91Here!\x92 he said, his hand moving up toward the row of four or five
cigars that projected from a vest pocket, \x91smoke up, you fellows.\x92

Henry shook his head. Humphrey drew out his pipe; then raised his head,
and said quietly:--

\x91Listen!\x92

There came the unmistakable sound of heavy feet on the stairs. Steadily,
step by step, a slowly moving body mounted.

Then, framed in the doorway, stood the huge bulk of Norton P. Boice,
breathless, red, and wet of face, his old straw hat pushed back, his
yellowish-white, wavy beard covering his necktie and the upper part of
his roundly protruding, slightly spotted vest, against which the heavy
watch chain with its dangling fraternal insignia stood out prominently.

Boice\x92s eyes, nearly expressionless, finally settled on Humphrey.

\x91What are you doing here?\x92 he asked, between puffs.

Humphrey\x92s only reply was a slight impatient gesture.

\x91You oughta be at your desk.\x92

Then he came into the room. Of the three men seated there Humphrey was
the only one who knew by certain small external signs, that the Caliph
of Simpson Street was blazing with wrath. For here was his own hired
lieutenant hobnobbing with the boy whose agile, irresponsible pen had
made him the laughing stock of the township and with the intemperate
rival who had first attacked and then defied him. And then he had just
climbed the stairs for the third and what he meant to be the last time.

He came straight to business.

\x91Have you decided to accept my offer?\x92

\x91Sit down,\x92 said McGibbon, pushing a chair over with his foot.

Boice ignored this final bit of insolence.

\x91Have you decided to accept my offer?\x92

\x91Well\x92--McGibbon shrugged; spread out his hands--\x91I\x92ve decided nothing,
but as it looks now I may find myself forced to accept it.\x92

\x91Then I suggest that you accept it now.\x92

\x91Well----\x92 the hands went out again.

\x91Wait a moment,\x92 said Humphrey.

\x91I think you had better go back to the office,\x92 Boice broke in.

\x91Shortly. I have no intention of leaving you in the lurch, Mr Boice. But
first I have business here.\x92

\x91_You_ have business!\x92

\x91Yes.\x92 Humphrey opened the large envelope. \x91Here, McGibbon, is your note
to Henry for one thousand dollars, due in November.\x92

Before their eyes, deliberately, he tore it up, leaned over McGibbon\x92s
legs with an, \x91I beg your pardon!\x92 and dropped the pieces in the
waste-basket. Next he produced a folded document engraved in green and
red ink. \x91Here,\x92 he concluded, \x91is a four per cent, railway bond that
stands to-day at a hundred two and a quarter in the market. That\x92s our
price for the _Gleaner_.\x92

McGibbon\x92s nervous eyes followed the movements of Humphrey\x92s hands as
if fascinated. During the hush that followed he sat motionless, chin on
breast. Then, slowly, he drew in his legs, straightened up, reached for
the bond, turned it over, opened it and ran his eye over the coupons,
looked up and remarked:--

\x91The paper\x92s yours.\x92

\x91Then, Mr Boice,\x92 said Humphrey, \x91the next issue of the _Gleaner_ will
be published by Weaver and Calverly, and the stories you object to will
run their course.\x92

But Mr Boice, creaking deliberately over the floor, was just
disappearing through the doorway.\x92


9


The sunlight was streaming in through the living-room of the barn back
of the old Parmenter place. Outside the maple leaves were rustling
gently. Through the quiet air came the slow booming of the First
Presbyterian bell across the block. From greater distances came the
higher pitched bell of the Baptist Church, down on Filbert Avenue,
and the faint note from the Second Presbyterian over on the West Side,
across the tracks.

Humphrey had made coffee and toast. They sat at an end of the centre
table. Humphrey in bath-robe and slippers, Henry fully dressed in his
blue serge suit, neat silk four-in-hand tie, stiff white collar and
carefully polished shoes.

\x91Where are you going with all that?\x92 Humphrey asked.

Henry hesitated; flushed a little.

\x91To church,\x92 he finally replied.

Humphrey\x92s surprise was real. There had been a time, before they came to
know each other, when the boy had sung bass in the quartet at the Second
Presbyterian. But since that period he had not been a church-goer. Henry
had been quiet all evening, and now this morning. He seemed all boxed up
within himself. Preoccupied. As if the triumph over old Boice had merely
opened up the way to new responsibilities. Which, for that matter, was
just what it had done--done to both of them. Humphrey, not being given
to prying, would have let the subject drop here, had not Henry surprised
him by breaking hotly forth into words.

\x91It\x92s my big fight, Hump!\x92 he was saying now. \x91Don\x92t you see! This town.
All they say. Look here!\x92 He laid a rumpled bit of paper on the table.
As if he had been holding it ready in his hand.\x92

\x91Oh, that letter,\x92 said Humphrey.

\x91Yes. It\x92s what I\x92ve got to fight. And I\x92ve got to win. Don\x92t you see?\x92

\x91Yes,\x92 Humphrey replied gravely, \x91I see.\x92

\x91I think,\x92 said Henry, \x91it\x92s being in love that\x92s going to help me.
We\x92ve got to hold our heads up, you and I. Build the _Gleaner_ into a
real property. Win confidence. And there mustn\x92t be any doubt. The way
we step out and fight, you know. I\x92ve got to stand with you.\x92

Humphrey\x92s eyes strayed to the sunlit window. He suppressed a little
sigh.

\x91This note\x92s right enough, in a way,\x92 Henry went on. \x91It wouldn\x92t be
fair to compromise her.\x92 He leaned earnestly over the table. \x91It\x92s
really a hopeless love. I know that, Hump. But it isn\x92t like the
others.\x92 It makes me feel ashamed of them. All of them. I\x92ve got to show
her, or at least show myself, that it\x92s this love that has made a man of
me. Without asking anything, you know.\x92

Humphrey listened in silence as the talk ran on. The boy was changing,
no question about that. Even back of the romantic strain that was
colouring his attitude, the suggestion of pose in it, there was real
evidence of this change. At least his fighting blood was up. And he was
taking punishment.

Sitting there sipping his coffee, Humphrey, half listening, soberly
considered his younger friend. Henry was distinctly odd, a square peg in
a round world. He was capable of curiously outrageous acts, yet most
of them seemed to arise from a downright inability to sense the common
attitude, to feel with his fellows. He could be heedless, neglectful,
self-centred; but Humphrey had never found meanness or unkindness in
him. And he was capable of a passionate generosity. He had, indeed,
for Humphrey, the fascination that an erratic and ingenuous but gifted
person often exerts on older, steadier natures. You could be angry at
him; but you couldn\x92t get over the feeling that you had to take care of
him. And it always seemed, even when he was out and out exasperating,
that the thing that was the matter with him was the very quality that
underlay his astonishing gifts; that he was really different from
others; the difference ran all through, from his unexpected, rather
self-centred ways of acting and reacting clear up to the fact that he
could write what other people couldn\x92t write. \x91If they could,\x92 thought
Humphrey now, shrewdly, \x91very likely they\x92d be different too.\x92 Take this
business of dressing up like a born suburbanite and going to church.
It was something of a romantic gesture, But that wasn\x92t all it was. The
fight was real, whatever unexpected things it might lead him to do from
day to day.

Herbert de Casselles, wooden-faced, dressed impeccably in frock coat,
heavy \x91Ascot\x92 tie, gray striped trousers perfectly creased, (Henry had
never owned a frock coat) ushered him half-way down the long aisle to
a seat in Mrs Ellen F. Wilson\x92s pew. He felt eyes on him as he walked,
imagined whispers, and set his face doggedly against them all. He had
set out in a sort of fervor; but now the thing was harder to do than he
had imagined. The people looked cold and hostile. It was to be a long
fight. He might never win. The more successful he might come to be, the
more some of them would hate him and fight him down... It was queer,
Herb de Casselles ushering him.

The organist slid on to his seat, up in the organ loft behind the
pulpit; spread out his music and turned up the corners; pulled and
pushed on stops and couplers; glanced up into his narrow mirror;
adjusted his tie; fussed again with the stops; began to play.

Henry sat up stiffly, even boldly, and looked about. Across the church,
in a pew near the front, sat the Watts: the Senator, on the aisle,
looking curiously insignificant with his meek, red face and his little,
slightly askew chin beard; Madame Watt sitting wide and high over him,
like a stout hawk, chin up, nose down, beady eyes fixed firmly on the
pulpit; Cicely Hamlin almost fragile beside her, eyes downcast--or was
she looking at the hymns?

When Cicely was talking, with her nervous eagerness, her quick smile,
her almost Frenchy gestures, she seemed gay. When in repose, as now, her
delicate sensitiveness, her slightly sad expression, were evident, even
to Henry.

Made him feel in the closing scene of _The Prisoner of Zenda_, where
he was bidding the Princess who could never be his a last farewell; the
mere sight of her thrilled him with a deep romantic sorrow.

Through the prayers, the announcements, the choir numbers and
collection, his sacrificial mood grew more and more intense. It was
something of a question whether he could hide his emotion before all
these hostile people. The long fight ahead to rebuild his name in the
village loomed larger and larger, began to take on an aspect that was
almost terrifying. For the first time to-day he felt weakness but she
made him feel something as Sothem had made in his heart. He sat very
quiet, hands clenched on his knees, and unconsciously thrust out his
chin a little.

When the doxology was sung and his head was bowed for the benediction,
he had to struggle with a mad impulse to rush out, run down the aisle
while people were picking up their hats and things. The thing to do, of
course, was to take his time, be natural, move out with the rest. This
he did, blazing with self-consciousness, his chin forward.

It was difficult. Several persons--older persons, who had known his
mother--stopped him and congratulated him on the brilliant work he was
doing. This in the midst of the unuttered hostility that seemed like
hundreds of little barbed darts penetrating his skin from every side.
He could only blush and mumble. Elderly, innocent Mrs Bedford of Filbert
Avenue actually introduced him to her nieces from Boston as a young man
of whom all Sunbury was proud. He had to blush and mumble here for a
long time, while the line of people crowded decorously past.

At last he got to the door. Stiffly raising his hat as one or two groups
of young people recognised him, he moved out to the sidewalk. There he
raised his eyes. They met, for a fleeting instant, but squarely, over
Herb de Casselles\x92 shoulder, the dark eyes of Cicely Hamlin.

She was sitting on the little forward seat in the black-and-plum
Victoria. Madame Watt was settling herself in the back seat. The
Senator was stepping in. The plum-coloured footman stood stiffly by. The
plum-coloured driver sat stiffly on the box.

Herb de Casselles turned, with a wry smile.

Henry raised his hat, bit his lip, hesitated, hurried on.

Then he heard her voice.

\x91Oh, Mr Calverly!\x92

He had to turn back. He knew he was fiery red. He knew, too, that in
this state of tortured bewilderment he couldn\x92t trust his tongue for a
moment.

Cicely leaned out, with outstretched hand.

He had to take it. The thrill the momentary touch of it gave, him but
added a wrench to the torture. Then the Senator\x92s hand had to be taken;
finally Madame\x92s.

His pulse was racing; pounding at his temples. What did all this mean!

Cicely, her own colour up a little, speaking quickly, her face lighting
up, her hands moving, cried:--

\x91Oh, Mr Calverly! We heard this morning that the _Gleaner_ has failed
and that Mr Boice has it and we aren\x92t to see your stories any more.\x92

\x91No,\x92 said Henry, a faint touch of assurance appearing in his heart,
mind, voice, \x91that isn\x92t so. Mr Boice hasn\x92t got it. We\x92ve got
it--Humphrey Weaver and I.\x92

\x91You mean you have purchased it?\x92 This from the Senator.

\x91Yay-ah, We bought it yesterday.\x92

\x91No!\x92 cried Cicely. \x91Really?\x92

\x91Yay-ah. We bought it.\x92

\x91Then,\x92 commented the Senator, \x91you must permit me indeed to
congratulate you. It is unusual to find business acumen and enterprise
combined with such a literary talent as yours.\x92

This was pleasing, if stilted. It was beginning to be possible for Henry
to smile.

Then Cicely clinched matters.

\x91You promised to come and read me the others, Mr Calverly. Oh, but
you did! You must come. Really! Let me see--I know I shall be at home
to-morrow evening.\x92

Then, for a moment, Cicely seemed to falter. She turned questioningly to
her aunt.

Madame Watt certainly knew the situation. She had heard Henry discussed
in relation to the Mamie Wilcox incident. She knew how high feeling
was running in the village. Just what her motives were, I cannot say.
Perhaps it was her tendency to make her own decisions and if possible to
make different decisions from those of the folk about her. The instinct
to stand out aggressively in all matters was strong within her. And she
liked Henry. The flare of extreme individuality in him probably reached
her and touched a curiously different strain of extreme individuality
within herself. She hated sheep. Henry was not a sheep.

As for Cicely\x92s part of it, I know she had been thrilled when Henry read
her the first ten stories. She had read more than the Sunbury girls; and
she saw more in his oddities than they were capable of seeing. To fail
in any degree to conform to the prevailing customs and thought was to be
ridiculous in Sunbury. But she had no more forgotten the jeers that had
followed Henry from this very carriage as he chased his hat down Simpson
Street the preceding day than had Henry himself. Nor had she forgotten
that Herbert de Casselles had been one of that unkind group. And as she
certainly knew what she was about, despite her impulsiveness, I prefer
to think that her action was deliberately kind and deliberately brave.

\x91Come to dinner,\x92 said Madame Watt shortly but with a sort of rough
cordiality. \x91Seven o\x92clock. To-morrow evening. Informal dress. All
right, Watson.\x92

Cicely settled back, her eyes bright; but gave Henry only the same
suddenly impersonal little nod of good-bye that she gave Herbert de
Casselles.

The footman leaped to the box. The remarkable carriage rolled
luxuriously away on its rubber tyres.

Henry turned, grinning in foolish happiness, on the young man in the
frock coat who had not been asked to dinner.

\x91Walking up toward Simpson, Herb?\x92 he asked.

\x91Me--why--no, I\x92m going this way.\x92 And Herb pointed hurriedly southward.

\x91Well--so long!\x92 said Henry, and headed northward.

The warm sunlight filtered down through the dense foliage. Birds
twittered up there. The church procession moving slowly along was
brightly dressed; pleasant to see. Henry, head up, light of foot,
smiling easily when this or that person, after a moment\x92s hesitation,
bowed to him, listened to the birds, expanded his chest in answer to
the mellowing sunshine, and gave way, with a fresh little thrill, to the
thought:--

\x91I must buy a frock coat for to-morrow night.\x92



VIII--THIS BUD OF LOVE


1

|It was mid-August and twenty minutes to eight in the evening. The
double rows of maples threw spreading shadows over the pavement,
sidewalk and lawns of Hazel Avenue. From dim houses, set far back amid
trees and shrubs, giving a homy village quality to the darkness, came
through screened doors and curtained \x91bay\x92 windows the yellow glow of
oil lamps and the whiter shine of electric lights. Here and there a
porch light softly illuminated a group of young people; their chatter
and laughter, with perhaps a snatch of song, floating pleasantly out
on the soft evening air. Around on a side street, sounding faintly,
a youthful banjoist with soft fingers and inadequate technique was
struggling with _The March Past_.

Moving in a curious, rather jerky manner along the street, now walking
swiftly, nervously, now hesitating, even stopping, in some shadowy spot,
came a youth of twenty (going on twenty-one). He wore--though all these
details were hardly distinguishable even in the patches of light at the
street corners, where arc lamps sputtered whitely--neatly pressed white
trousers, a \x91sack\x92 coat of blue serge, a five-dollar straw hat, silk
socks of a pattern and a silken \x91four-in-hand\x92 tie. He carried a cane of
thin bamboo that he whipped and flicked at the grass and rattled lightly
along the occasional picket fence except when he was fussing at the
light growth on his upper lip. Under his left arm was a square package
that any girl of Sunbury would have recognised instantly, even in the
shadows, as a two-pound box of Devoe\x92s chocolates.

If you had chanced to be a resident of Sunbury at this period you would
have known that the youth was Henry Calverly, 3rd. Though you might have
had no means of knowing that he was about to \x91call\x92 on Cicely Hamlin.
Or, except perhaps from his somewhat spasmodic locomotion, that he was
in a state of considerable nervous excitement.

Not that Henry hadn\x92t called on many girls in his day. He had. But he
had called only once before on Cicely (the other time had been that
invitation to dinner for which her aunt was really responsible) and had
then, in a burning glow of temperament, read her his stories!

How he had read! And read! And read! Until midnight and after. She had
been enthusiastic, too.

But he wasn\x92t in a glow now. Certain small incidents had lately brought
him to the belief that Cicely Hamlin lacked the pairing-off instinct so
common among the young of Sunbury. She had been extra nice to him; true.
But the fact stood that she was not \x91going with\x92 him. Not in the
Sunbury sense of the phrase. A baffling, disturbing aura of impersonally
pleasant feeling held him at a distance.

So he was just a young fellow setting forth, with chocolates, to call on
a girl. A girl who could be extra nice to you and then go out of her
way to maintain pleasant acquaintance with the others, your rivals, your
enemies. Almost as if she felt she had been a little too nice and wished
to strike a balance; at least he had thought of that. A girl who had
been reared strangely in foreign convents; who didn\x92t know _The Spanish
Cavalier_ or _Seeing Nellie Home_ or _Solomon Levi_, yet did know,
strangely, that the principal theme in Dvorak\x92s extremely new \x91New
World\x92 symphony was derived from _Swing Low, Sweet Chariot_ (which
illuminating fact had stirred Henry to buy, regardless, the complete
piano score of that symphony and struggle to pick out the themes on
Humphrey\x92s piano at the rooms). A girl who had never seen De Wolf Hopper
in _Wang_, or the Bostonians in _Robin Hood_, or Sothem in The Prisoner
of Zenda, or Maude Adams or Ethel Barrymore or _anything_. A girl who
had none of the direct, free and easy ways of the village young; you
couldn\x92t have started a rough-house with her--mussed her hair, or
galloped her in the two-step. A girl who wasn\x92t stuck up, or anything
like that, who seemed actually shy at times, yet subtly repressed you,
made you wish you could talk like the fellow\x92s that had gone to Harvard.

In view of these rather remarkable facts I think it really was a tribute
to Cicely Hamlin that the many discussions of her as a conspicuous
addition to the youngest set had boiled down to the single descriptive
adjective, \x91tactful.\x92 Though the characterisation seems not altogether
happy; for the word, to me, connotes something of conscious skill
and management--as my Crabb put it: \x91TACTFUL. See Diplomatic\x92--and
Cicely was not, certainly not in those days, a manager.

Henry, muttered softly, as he walked.

\x91I\x92ll hand it to her when she comes in.

\x91No, she\x92ll shake hands and it might get in the way.

\x91Put it on the table--that\x92s the thing!--on a corner where she\x92ll see
it.

\x91Then some time when we can\x92t think of anything to talk about, I\x92ll
say--\x93Thought you might like a few chocolates.\x94 Sorta offhand. Prevent
there being a lull in the conversation.

\x91Better begin calling her Cicely.\x92

\x91Why not? Shucks! Can\x92t go on with \x93You\x94 and \x93Say!\x94 Why can\x92t I just do
it naturally? The way Herb would, or Elbow, or those fellows.

\x91\x93How\x92d\x92 you do, Cicely! Come on, let\x92s take a walk.\x94

\x91No. \x93Good-evening, Cicely. I thought maybe you\x92d like to take a walk.
There\x92s a moonrise over the lake about half-past eight.\x94 That\x92s better.

\x91Wonder if Herb\x92ll be there. He\x92d hardly think to come so early, though.
Be all right if I can get her away from the house by eight.\x92

He paused, held up his watch to the light from the corner, then rushed
on.

\x91Maybe she\x92d ask me to sit him out, anyway.\x92

But his lips clamped shut on this. It was just the sort of thing Cicely
wouldn\x92t do. He knew it.

\x91What if she won\x92t go out!\x92

This sudden thought brought bitterness. A snicker had run its course
about town--in his eager self-absorption he had wholly forgotten--when
Alfred Knight, confident in an engagement to call, had hired a horse and
buggy at McAllister\x92s. The matter of an evening drive _a deux_ had
been referred to Cicely\x92s aunt. As a result the horse had stood hitched
outside more than two hours only to be driven back to the livery, stable
by the gloomy Al.

\x91Shucks, though! Al\x92s a fish! Don\x92t blame her!\x92

He walked stiffly in among the trees and shrubs of the old Dexter Smith
place and mounted the rather imposing front steps.

That purchase of the Dexter Smith place was typical of Madame Watt at
the time. She was riding high. She had money. Two acres of lawn, fine
old trees, a great square house of Milwaukee brick, high spacious rooms
with elaborately moulded plaster ceilings and a built-on conservatory
and a barn that you could keep half a dozen carriages in! It was one of
only four or five houses in Sunbury that the _Voice_ and the _Gleaner_
rejoiced to call \x91mansions.\x92 And it was the only one that could have
been bought. The William B. Snows, like the Jenkinses and the de
Casselles (I don\x92t know if it has been explained before that the
accepted local pronunciation was Dekasells,) lived in theirs. And even
after the elder Dexter Smith died Mrs Smith would hardly have sold the
place if the children hadn\x92t nagged her into it. Young Dex wanted to
go to New York. And at that it was understood that Madame Watt paid two
prices.


2


A uniformed butler showed Henry into the room that he would have called
the front parlour. Though there was another much like it across the wide
hall. There was a \x91back parlour,\x92 with porti\xE8res between. Out there, he
knew, between centre table and fireplace, the Senator and Madame might
even now be sitting.

He listened, on the edge of a huge plush and walnut chair, for the
rustle of the Senator\x92s paper, or Madame\x92s deep, always startling voice.

There was no sound. Save that somewhere upstairs, far off, a door
opened; then footsteps very faint. And silence again.

Henry looked, fighting down misgivings, at the heavily framed
oil paintings on the wall. One, of a life-boat going out through
mountainous waves to a wreck, he had always heard was remarkably fine.
Fastened over the bow of the boat was a bit of real rope that had
provoked critical controversy when the picture was first exhibited in
Chicago.

He glanced down, discovered the box of chocolates on his knees, and
hurriedly placed it on the corner of the inevitable centre table. Then
he fussed nervously with his moustache; adjusted his tie, wondering
if the stick pin should be higher; pulled down his cuffs; and sat up
stiffly again.

\x91Maybe she ain\x92t home,\x92 he thought weakly. \x91That fella said he\x92d see.\x92

\x91Maybe I oughta\x92ve asked if she\x92d be in.\x92

The silence deepened, spread, settled about him. He wished she would
come down. There was danger, he knew, that his few painfully thought-out
conversational openings would leave him. He would be an embarrassed,
quite speechless young man. For he was as capable, even now, at twenty,
almost at twenty-one, of speechlessness as of volubility. Either might
happen to him, at any moment, from the smallest, least foreseeable of
causes.

And there was something oppressive about the stillness of this cavernous
old house with its sound-proof partitions and its distances. And that
silent machine of a butler. It wasn\x92t like calling at Martha Caldwell\x92s,
in the old days, where you could hear the Swedish cook crashing around
in the kitchen and Martha moving around upstairs before she came down.
Here you wouldn\x92t so much as know there was a kitchen.

Then, suddenly, sharp as a blow out of the stillness came a series of
sounds that froze the marrow in his bones, made him rigid on the edge of
that plush chair, his lips parted, his eyes staring, wrestling with
an impulse to dash out of the house; with another impulse to cough,
or shout, or play the piano, in some mad way to announce himself, yet
continuing to sit like a carved idol, in the grip of a paralysis of the
faculties.

There is nothing more painful to the young than the occasional
discovery, through the mask of social reticence, that the old have their
weak or violent moments.

Gossip, yes! But gossip rests lightly and briefly in young ears. Henry
had heard the Watts slyly ridiculed. There were whispers, of course.
Madame\x92s career as a French countess--well, naturally Sunbury wondered.
And the long obscurity from which she had rescued Senator Watt raised
questions about that very quiet little man. So often men in political
life were tempted off the primly beaten track. And Henry, like the other
young people, had grinned in awed delight over the tale that Madame
swore at her servants. That was before he had so much as spoken to her
niece. And it had little or no effect on his attitude toward Madame
herself when he met her. She had at once taken her place in the
compartment of his thoughts reserved from earliest memory for his
elders, whose word was (at least in honest theory) law and to whom one
looked up with diffidence and a genuine if somewhat automatic respect.

The first of the disturbing sounds was Madame\x92s voice, far-off but
ringing strong. Then a door opened--it must have been the dining-room
door; not the wide one that opened into the great front hall, but the
other, at the farther end of the \x91back parlour.\x92

There was a brief lull. A voice could be heard, though--a man\x92s voice,
low-pitched, deprecatory.

Then Madame\x92s again. And stranger noises. The man\x92s voice cried out in
quick protest; there was a rustle and then a crash like breaking china.

The Senator, hurrying a little, yet with a sort of dignity, walked out
into the hall. Henry could see him, first between the porti\xE8res as he
left the room, then as he passed the hall door.

There was a rush and a torrent of passionately angry words from
the other room. An object--it appeared to be a paper weight or
ornament--came hurtling out into the hall. The Senator, who had
apparently gone to the closet by the door for his hat and stick--for he
came back into the hall with them--stepped back just in time to avoid
being struck. The object fell on the stair, landing with the sound of
solid metal.

\x91You come back here!\x92 Madame\x92s voice.

\x91I will not come back until you have had time to return to your senses,\x92
replied the Senator. He looked very small. He was always stilted
in speech; Humphrey had said that he talked like the _Congressional
Record_. \x91This is a disgraceful scene. If you have the slightest regard
for my good name or your own you will at least make an effort to compose
yourself. Some one might be at the door at this moment. You are a
violent, ungoverned woman, and I am ashamed of you.\x92

\x91And you\x92--she was almost screaming now--\x91are the man who was glad to
marry me.\x92

He ignored this. \x91If any one asks for me, I shall be at the Sunbury
Club.\x92

\x91Going to drink again, are you?\x92

\x91I think not.\x92

\x91If you do, you needn\x92t come back. Do you hear? You needn\x92t come back!\x92

He turned, and with a sort of strut went out the front door.

She started to follow. She did come as far as the porti\xE8res. Henry had a
glimpse of her, her face red and distorted.

She turned back then, and seemed to be picking up the room. He could
hear sniffing and actually snorting as she moved about. There was a
brief silence. Then she crossed the hall, a big imposing person--even
in her tantrums she had presence--and went up the stairs, pausing on the
landing to pick up the object she had thrown. Her solid footfalls died
out on the thick carpets of the upper hall. A door opened, and slammed
faintly shut.

Silence again.

Henry found that he was clutching the arms of the chair.

\x91I must relax,\x92 he thought vacantly; and drew a slow deep breath, as he
had been taught in a gymnasium class at the Y.M.C.A.

He brushed a hand across his eyes. Now that it was over, his temples
were pounding hotly, his nerves aquiver.

It was incredible. Yet it had happened. Before his eyes. A vulgar brawl;
a woman with a red face throwing things. And he was here in the house
with her. He might have to try to talk with her.

He considered again the possibility of slipping out. But that butler
had taken his name up. Cicely would be coming down any moment. Unless
she knew.

Did she know? Had she heard? Possibly not.

Henry got slowly, indecisively up and wandered to the piano; stood
leaning on it.

His eyes filled. All at once, in his mind\x92s eye, he could see Cicely.
Particularly the sensitive mouth. And the alert brown eyes. And
the pretty way her eyebrows moved when she spoke or smiled or
listened--always with a flattering attention--to what you were saying.

He brought a clenched fist down softly on the piano.


3


\x91Oh,\x92 cried the voice of Cicely--\x91there you are! How nice of you to
come!\x92

She was standing--for a moment--in the doorway.

White of face, eyes burning, his fist still poised on the piano, he
stared at her.

She didn\x92t know! Surely she didn\x92t--not with that bright smile. __

She wore the informal, girlish costume of the moment--neatly fitting
dark skirt; simple shirt-waist with the ballooning sleeves that were
then necessary; stiff boyish linen collar propping the chin high, and
little bow tie; darkish, crisply waving hair brought into the best order
possible, parted in the middle and carried around and down over the ears
to a knot low on the neck.

\x91I brought some candy,\x92 he cried fiercely. \x91There! On the table!\x92

She knit her brows for a brief moment. Then opened the box.

\x91How awfully nice of you... You\x92ll have some?\x92

\x91No. I don\x92t eat candy. I was thinking of--I want to get you out--Come
on, let\x92s take a walk!\x92

She smiled a little, around a chocolate. Surely she didn\x92t know!

She had seemed, during her first days in Sunbury, rather timid at
times. But there was in this smile more than a touch of healthy
self-confidence. No girl, indeed, could find herself making so definite
a success as Cicely had made here from her first day without acquiring
at least the beginnings of self-confidence. It was a success that had
forced Elbow Jenkins and Herb de Casselles to ignore small rebuffs and
persist in fighting over her. It permitted her, even in a village where
social conformity was the breath of life, to do odd, unexpected things.
Such as allowing herself to be interested, frankly, in Henry Calverly.

So she smiled as she nibbled a chocolate.

He said it again, breathlessly:--

\x91I was thinking of asking you to take a walk.\x92

\x91Well\x92--still that smile--\x91why don\x92t you?\x92

But he was still in a daze, and pressed stupidly on.

\x91It\x92s a fine evening. And the moon\x92ll be coming up.\x92

\x91I\x92ll get my sweater,\x92 she said quietly, and went out to the hall.

She was just turning away from the hall closet with the sweater--he, hat
and stick in hand, was fighting back the memory of how Senator Watt
had marched stiffly to that same closet--when Madame Watt came down the
stairs, scowling intently, still breathing hard.

She saw them; came toward them; stood, pursing her lips, finally forcing
a sort of smile.

\x91Oh, howdadoo!\x92 she remarked, toward Henry.

Her black eyes focused pointedly on him. And while he was mumbling a
greeting, she broke in on him with this:--\x91I didn\x92t know you were here.
Did you just come?\x92 Henry\x92s eyes lowered. Then, as utter silence fell,
the colour surging to his face, he raised them. They met her black,
alarmed stare. He felt that he ought to lie about this, lie like a good
one. But he didn\x92t know how.

Slowly, all confusion, he shook his head.

During a long moment they held that gaze, the vigorous, strangely
interesting woman of wealth and of what must have been a violent past,
and the gifted, sensitive youth of twenty. When she turned away, they
had a secret.

\x91We thought of taking a little walk,\x92 said Cicely.

Madame moved briskly away into the back parlour, merely throwing back
over her shoulder, in a rather explosive voice: \x91Have a good time!\x92

The remark evidently struck Cicely as somewhat out of character. She
even turned, a little distrait, and looked after, her aunt.

Then, as they were passing out the door, Madame\x92s voice boomed after
them. She was hurrying back through the hall.

\x91By the way,\x92 she said, with a frowning, determined manner, \x91we are
having a little theatre party Saturday night. A few of Cicely\x92s friends.
Dinner here at six. Then we go in on the seven-twenty. I know Cicely\x92ll
be glad to have you. Informal--don\x92t bother to dress.\x92

\x91Oh, yes!\x92 cried Cicely, looking at her aunt.

\x91I--Im sure I\x92d be delighted,\x92 said Henry heavily.

Then they went out, and strolled in rather oppressive quiet toward the
lake.

There was a summer extravaganza going, at the Auditorium. That must be
the theatre. They hadn\x92t meant to ask him, of course. Not at this late
hour. It hurt, with a pain that, a day or so back, would have filled
Henry\x92s thoughts. But Cicely\x92s smile, as she stood by the table,
nibbling a chocolate, the poise of her pretty head--the picture stood
out clearly against a background so ugly, so unthinkably vulgar, that it
was like a deafening noise in his brain.


4


He glanced sidewise at Cicely. They were walking down Douglass Street.
Just ahead lay the still, faintly shimmering lake, stretching out to the
end of the night and beyond. Already the whispering sound reached their
ears of ripples lapping at the shelving beach. And away out, beyond the
dim horizon, a soft brightness gave promise of the approaching moonrise.

He stole another glance at Cicely. He could just distinguish her
delicate profile.

He thought: \x91How could she ask me? They wouldn\x92t like it, her friends.
Mary Ames mightn\x92t want to come. Martha Caldwell, even. She\x92s been
nice to me. I mustn\x92t make it hard for her. And she mustn\x92t know about
tonight. Not ever.\x92

Then a new thought brought pain. If there had been one such scene, there
would be others. And she would have to live against that background,
keeping up a brave face before the prying world of Sunbury. Perhaps she
had already lived through something of the sort. That sad look about her
mouth; when she didn\x92t know you were looking.

They had reached the boulevard now, and were standing at the railing
over the beach. A little talk had been going on, of course, about this
and that--he hardly knew what.

He clenched his fist again, and brought it down on the iron rail.

\x91Oh,\x92 he broke out--\x91about Saturday. I forgot. I can\x92t come.\x92

\x91Oh, but please----\x92

\x91No. Awfully busy. You\x92ve no idea. You see Humphrey Weaver and I bought
the _Gleaner_. I told you, didn\x92t I? It\x92s a big responsibility--getting
the pay-roll every week, and things like that. Things I never knew
about before. I don\x92t believe I was made to be a business man. Lots of
accounts and things. Hump\x92s at it all the time--nights and everything.
You see we\x92ve got to make the paper pay. We\x92ve _got_ to! It was losing,
when Bob McGibbon had it. People hated him, and they wouldn\x92t advertise.
And now we have to get the advertising back.\x92 If we fail in that, we\x92ll
go under, just as he did...\x92

Words! Words! A hot torrent of them! He didn\x92t know how transparent he
was.

She stood, her two hands resting lightly on the rail, looking out at the
slowly spreading glow in the east.

\x91I\x92m so glad aunt asked you,\x92 she said gravely. \x91I wanted you to come. I
want you to know. Won\x92t you, please?\x92

He looked at her, but she didn\x92t turn. There was more behind her words.
Even Henry could see that. He had been discussed. As a problem. But she
didn\x92t say the rest of it.

Then his clumsy little artifice broke down, and the crude feeling rushed
to the surface.

\x91You know I mustn\x92t come!\x92 he cried.

\x91No,\x92 said she, with that deliberate gravity. \x91I don\x92t know that. I
think you should.\x92

\x91I can\x92t. You don\x92t understand. They wouldn\x92t like it, my being there.
They talk about me. They don\x92t speak to me, even.\x92

\x91Then oughtn\x92t you to come? Face them? Show them that it isn\x92t true?\x92

\x91But that will just make it hard for you.\x92

She was slow in answering this; seemed to be considering it. Finally she
replied with:--

\x91I don\x92t think I care about that. People have been awfully nice to me
here. I\x92m having a lovely time. But it isn\x92t as if I had always lived
here and expected to stay for the rest of my life. My life has been
different. I\x92ve known a good many different kinds of people, and I\x92ve
had to think for myself a good deal. No, I\x92d like you to come. If you
don\x92t come---don\x92t you see?--you\x92re putting me with them. You\x92re making
me mean and petty. I don\x92t want to be that way. If--if I\x92m to see you at
all, they must know it.\x92

\x91Perhaps, then,\x92 he muttered, \x91you\x92d better not see me at all.\x92

\x91Please!\x92

\x91Well, I know; but--\x92

\x91No. I want to see you. If you want to come. I love your stories. You\x92re
more interesting than any of them.\x92

At this, he turned square around; stared at her. But she, very quietly,
finished what she had to say. \x91I think you\x92re a genius. I think you\x92re
going to be famous. It\x92s--it\x92s exciting to see the way you write
stories.... Wait, please! I\x92m going to tell you the rest of it. Now that
we\x92re talking it out, I think I\x92ve got to. It was aunt who didn\x92t want
to ask you. She likes you, but she thought--well, she thought it might
be awkward, and--and hard for you. I told her what I\x92ve told you, that
I\x92ve either got to be your friend before all of them or not at all. And
now that she has asked you--don\x92t you see, it\x92s the way I wanted it all
along.\x92

There wasn\x92t another girl in Sunbury who could have, or would have, made
quite that speech.

She looked delicately beautiful in the growing light. Her hair was a
vignetted halo about her small head.

Henry, staring, his hands clenched at his sides, broke out with:--

\x91I love you!\x92

\x91Oh--h!\x92 she breathed. \x91Please!\x92

Words came from him, a jumble of words. About his hopes, the few
thousand dollars that would be his on the seventh of November, when he
would be twenty-one, the wonderful stories he would write, with her for
inspiration.

Inwardly he was in a panic. He hadn\x92t dreamed of saying such a thing.
Never before, in all his little philanderings had he let go like this,
never had he felt the glow of mad catastrophe that now seemed to be
consuming him. Oh, once perhaps--something of it--years back--when he
had believed he was in love with Ernestine Lambert. But that had been in
another era. And it hadn\x92t gone so deep as this.

\x91Anyway\x92--he heard her saying, in a rather tired voice--\x91anyway--it
makes it hard, of course--you shouldn\x92t have said that--\x92

\x91Oh, I _am_ making it hard! And I meant to----\x92

\x91--anyway, I think you\x92d better come. Unless it would be too hard for
you.\x92

There was a long silence. Then Henry, his forehead wet with sweat, his
feet braced apart, his hands gripping the rail as if he were holding
for his life, said, with a sudden quiet that she found a little
disconcerting:--

\x91All right. I\x92ll come.... Your aunt said a quarter past six, didn\x92t
she?\x92

\x91No, six.\x92


5


Madame Watt appropriated Henry the moment he entered her door
on Saturday evening. She was, despite her talk of offhand summer
informality, clad in an impressive costume with a great deal of lace and
the shimmer of flowered silk.

At her elbow, Henry moved through the crowd in the front hall. He felt
cool eyes on him. He stood very straight and stiff. He was pale. He
bowed to the various girls and fellows--Mary, Martha, Herb, Elbow, and
the rest, with reserve. It was, from moment to moment, a battle.

Nobody but Madame Watt would have thought of giving such a party. It
was so expensive--the dinner for twenty-two, to begin with; then all
the railway fares; a bus from the station in Chicago to the theatre and
back. The theatre tickets alone came to thirty-three dollars (these were
the less expensive days of the dollar and a half seat). Sunbury still,
at the time, was inclined to look doubtfully on ostentation.

You felt, too, in the case of Madame, that she was likely to speak, at
any moment rather--well, broadly. All that Paris experience, whatever
it was, seemed to be hovering about the snapping black eyes and the
indomitable mouth. You sensed in her none of the reserve of movement, of
speech, of mind, that were implied in the feminine standards of Sunbury.
Yet she was unquestionably a person. If she laughed louder than the
ladies of Sunbury, she had more to say.

To-night she was a dominantly entertaining hostess. She talked of the
theatre, in Paris, London and New York--of the Coquelins, Gallipaux,
Bernhardt, of Irving and Terry and Willard and Grossmith. Some of these
she had met. She knew Sothem, it appeared. Even the extremely worldly
Elbow and Herb were impressed.

She had Henry at her right. Boldly placed him there. At his right was a
girl from Omaha who was visiting the Smiths and who made several efforts
to be pleasant to the pale gloomy youth with the little moustache and
the distinctly interesting gray-blue eyes.

By the time they were settled on the train Henry found himself grateful
to the certainly strong, however coarse-fibred woman.

Efforts to identify her as she seemed now, with the woman of that
hideous scene with the Senator brought only bewilderment. He had to give
it up.

This woman was rapidly winning his confidence; even, in a curious sense,
his sympathy.

At the farther end of the table the little Senator, all dignity and calm
stilted sentences, made himself remotely agreeable to several girls at
once.

At one side of the table sat Cicely, in lacy white with a wonderful
little gauzy scarf about her shoulders. She looked at him only now and
then, and just as she looked at the others. He wondered how she could
smile so brightly.

Herb and Elbow made a great joke of fighting over her. Elbow had her at
dinner; Herb on the train; Elbow again at the theatre.

Henry was fairly clinging to Madame by that time.

I think, among the confused thoughts and feelings that whirled
ceaselessly around and around in his brain, the one that came up
oftenest and stayed longest was a sense of stoical heroism. For Cicely\x92s
sake he must bear his anguish. For her he must be humble, kindly,
patient. He had read, somewhere in his scattered acquaintance with
books, that Abraham Lincoln had once been brought to the point of
suicide through a disappointment in love. And to-night he thought much
and deeply of Lincoln. He had already decided, during an emotionally
turbulent two days, not to shoot himself.

During the first intermission the Senator stayed quietly in his seat.

When the curtain went down for the second time, he stroked his beard
with a small, none-too-steady hand, coughed in the suppressed way he
had, and glanced once or twice at Madame.

The young men were, apparently all of them, moving out for a smoke in
the lobby.

Henry, with a tingling sense of defiance, a little selfconscious about
staying alone with the girls, followed them.

And after him, walking up the aisle with his odd strutting air of
importance, came the Senator.

He gathered the young men together in the lobby; pulled at his twisted
beard; said, \x91It will give me pleasure to offer you young gentlemen a
little refreshment;\x92 and led the way out to a convenient bar. It was a
large, high-panelled room. There were great mirrors; rows and rows
of bottles and shiny glasses; alcoves with tables; and enormous oil
paintings in still more enormous gilt frames and lighted by special
fixtures built out from the wall. The one over the bar exhibited an
undraped female figure reclining on a couch.

They stood, a jolly group, naming their drinks.

Henry, who had no taste for liquor, stood apart, pale, sober, struggling
to exhibit a _savoir faire_ that had no existence in his mercurial
nature.

\x91I\x92ll take ginger ale,\x92 he said, in painful self-consciousness.

The Senator, his somewhat jaunty straw hat thrust back a little way off
his forehead, took Scotch; drank it neat. It seemed to Henry incongruous
when the prim little man tossed the liquor back against his palate with
a long-practised flourish.

Back in his seat, between Madame and the girl from Omaha, Henry noted
that the Senator had not returned with the others.

Madame turned and looked up the aisle.

The lights were dimmed. The curtain rose.

Cicely was in the row ahead, Herb on one side, Elbow on the other.

Elbow was calm, casual, humorous in a way, whispering phrases that had
been found amusing by many girls.

Herb, the only man in what Henry still thought of as a \x91full dress
suit,\x92 had a way of turning his head and studying Cicely\x92s hair and
profile whenever she turned toward Elbow, that stirred Henry to anguish.

\x91He\x92s rich,\x92 thought Henry, twisting in his chair, clasping and
unclasping his hands. \x91He\x92s rich. He can do everything for her. And he
loves her. He couldn\x92t look that way if he didn\x92t.\x92

A comedian was singing and dancing on the stage. Cicely watched him, her
eyes alight, her lips parted in a smile of sheer enjoyment.

\x91How can she!\x92 he thought. \x91How _can_ she!\x92 Then: \x91I could do that. If
I\x92d kept it up. If she\x92d seen me in _Iolanthe_ maybe she\x92d care.\x92

The curtain fell on a glittering finale.

With a great chattering the party moved up the aisle. Cicely told her
two escorts that she didn\x92t know when she had enjoyed anything so much.
She was merry about it. Care free as a child.

Henry stopped short in the foyer; standing aside, half behind a framed
advertisement on an easel; his hands clenched in his coat pockets; white
of face; biting his lip.

\x91I can\x92t go with them!\x92 he was thinking. \x91It\x92s too much. I can\x92t! I
can\x92t trust myself. I\x92d say something. But what\x92ll they think?

\x91She won\x92t know. She won\x92t care. She\x92s happy--my suffering is nothing to
her.\x92 This was youthful bitterness, of course. But it met an immediate
counter in the following thought, which, to any one who knew the often
selfcentred Henry would have been interesting. \x91But that\x92s the way it
ought to be. She mustn\x92t know how I suffer. It isn\x92t her fault. A great
love just comes to you. Nobody can help it. It\x92s tragedy, of course.
Even if I have to--to\x92--his lip was quivering now--\x91to shoot myself, I
must leave a note telling her she wasn\x92t to blame. Just that I loved her
too much to live without her. But I haven\x92t any money. I couldn\x92t make
her happy.\x92

His eyes, narrow points of fire, glanced this way and that. Almost
furtively. Passion--a grown man\x92s passion--was or seemed to him to be
tearing him to pieces. And he hadn\x92t a grown man\x92s experience of life,
the background of discipline and self-control, that might have helped
him weather the storm. All he could do was to wonder if he had spoken
aloud or only thought these words. He didn\x92t know. Somebody might have
heard. The crowd was still pouring slowly out past him. It seemed to him
incredible that all the world shouldn\x92t know about it.

The others of the party were somewhere out on the street now. They were
going to a restaurant; then, in their bus, to the twelve-fourteen, the
last train for Sunbury until daylight.

What could he do if he didn\x92t take that train? He might hide up forward,
in the smoker. But there were a hundred chances that he would be seen.
No, that wouldn\x92t do. He must hurry after them.

But he flatly couldn\x92t. Why, the tears were coming to his eyes. A little
weakness, whenever he was deeply moved, for which he despised himself.
There was no telling what he might do--cry like a girl, break out into
an impossible torrent of words. A scene. Anywhere; on the street, in the
restaurant.

No, however awkward, whatever the cost, he couldn\x92t rejoin them, he
couldn\x92t look at Cicely and Elbow and Herb and the others.

He felt in his pocket. Not enough money, of course. He never had enough.
He couldn\x92t ever plan intelligently. Yet he was earning twelve dollars a
week!... He had a dollar, and a little change. Perhaps it was enough.
He could go to a cheap hotel. He had seen them advertised--fifty or
seventy-five cents for the night. And then an early morning train for
Sunbury.

He would be worse off then than ever, of course. The people who had
talked, would have fresh material. Running away from the party! They
might say that he had got drunk. Though in a way he would welcome that.
It was a sort of way out.

The crowd was nearly gone. They would be closing the doors soon. Then he
would have to go--somewhere.

A big woman was making her way inward against the human current. But
Henry, though he saw her and knew in a dreamy way that it was Madame
Watt, still couldn\x92t, for the moment, find place for her in his madly
surging thoughts.

She passed him; looked into the darkened theatre; came back; stood
before him.

Then came this brief conversation:--

\x91You haven\x92t seen him, Henry?\x92

\x91No, I haven\x92t.\x92

\x91Hm! Awkward--he took the pledge--he swore it--I am counting on you to
help me.\x92

\x91Of course. Anything!\x92

\x91Were you out with him between the acts?\x92

\x91Why--yes.\x92

\x91Did he drink anything then?\x92

\x91Yes. He took Scotch.\x92

\x91Oh, he did?\x92

\x91Yes\x92m.\x92

\x91It\x92s all off, then. See here, Henry, will you look? The same place?
Be very careful. People mustn\x92t know. And I must count on you. There\x92s
nobody else. We\x92ll manage it, somehow. We\x92ve got to keep him quiet and
get him out home. I\x92ll be at the restaurant. You can send word in to
me--have a waiter say I\x92m wanted at the telephone. Do that. And...\x92

It is to be doubted if Henry heard more than half of this speech. She
was still speaking when he shot out to the street, dodged back of the
waiting groups by the kerb and disappeared among the night traffic of
the street in the direction of a certain bar.


6


The Senator\x92s cheeks and forehead and nose were shining redly above the
little white beard, which, for itself, looked more than ever askew.
The straw hat was far back on his head. He waved a limp hand toward the
enormous, brightly lighted painting that hung over the bar.

Henry, a painfully set look on his face, sat opposite, across the
alcove, leaned heavily on the table, and watched him.

The passion had gone out of him. He was wishing, in a state near
despair, that he had listened more attentively to what Madame Watt had
said. Something about getting word to her--at the restaurant. But how
could he? If it had seemed disastrously difficult before, full of his
own trouble, to face that merry party, it was now, with this really
tragic problem on his hands, flatly impossible.

And there wasn\x92t a soul in the world to help him. He must work it out
alone. Even if he might get word to Madame, what could she do? She
couldn\x92t leave her party. And she couldn\x92t bring this pitiable object in
among those young people.

Henry\x92s lips pressed together. The world looked to him just now a savage
wilderness.

\x91Consider women, for instance!\x92 The Senator\x92s hand waved again toward
the picture. It was surprising to Henry that he could speak with such
distinctness. \x91Consider women! They toil not, neither do they spin. Yet
at the last, they bite like a serpent and sting like an adder.\x92

Henry held his watch under the table; glanced down. It was five minutes
past twelve. For nearly an hour he had been sitting there, helpless,
beating his brain for schemes that wouldn\x92t present themselves. The
twelve-fourteen was as good as gone, of course. Though it had not for a
minute been possible. He thought vaguely, occasionally, of a hotel. But
stronger and more persistent was the feeling that he ought to get him
out home if he could.

\x91Women...!\x92 The Senator drooped in his chair. Then looked up; braced
himself; shouted, \x91Here, boy! A bit more of the same!\x92 When the glass
was before him he drank, brightened a little, and resumed. \x91Woman, my
boy, is th\x92 root--No, I will go farther! I will state that woman is th\x92
root \x91n\x92 branch of all evil.\x92

Henry, with a muttered, \x91Excuse me, Senator!\x92 got out of the alcove and
stepped outside the door. He stood on the door-step; took off his hat
and pressed a hand to his forehead.

Across the street, near the side door of the hotel, stood an
old-fashioned closed hack. The driver lay curled up across his seat,
asleep. The horses stood with drooping heads.

Henry gazed intently at the dingy vehicle. Slowly his eyes narrowed. He
looked again at his watch. Then he moved deliberately across the way and
woke the cabman.

\x91Hey!\x92 he cried, as the man fumblingly put on his hat and blinked up the
street and down. \x91Hey, you! What\x92ll you take to drive to Sunbury?\x92

\x91Sunbury? Oh, that\x92s a long way. And it\x92s pretty late at night.\x92

\x91I know all that! How much\x92ll you take?\x92

The cabman pondered.

\x91How many?\x92

\x91Two.\x92

\x91Fifteen dollars.\x92

\x91Oh, say I, that\x92s twice too much! Why----\x92

\x91Fifteen dollars.\x92

\x91But-----\x92

\x91Fifteen dollars.\x92

Henry swallowed. He felt very daring. He had heard of fellows and girls
missing the late train and driving out. But the amount usually mentioned
was ten dollars. However...

\x91All right. Drive across here.\x92

He bent over the Senator, who was talking, still on the one topic, to a
small picture just above Henry\x92s empty seat.

\x91We\x92re going home now, Senator. You\x92d better come with me.\x92

\x91Going home? No, not there. Not there. Back to the Senate, yes. Tha\x92s
different. But not home. If you knew what I\x92ve----\x92

Henry led him out. But first the Senator, with some difficulty in the
managing, paid his check. Henry would have paid it, but hadn\x92t nearly
enough. It had never occurred to him that a single individual could
spend so large a sum on himself within the space of less, considerably
less, than three hours.

The cabman and Henry together got him into the hack.

\x91They are pop--popularly known as the weaker sex. All a ter\x92ble mistake,
young man. They\x92re stronger. Li\x92l do you dream how stronger--how
great--how more stronger they are. Curious about words. At times one
commands them with ease. Other times they elude one. Words are more
tricky--few suspect--but women allure us only to destroy us. Women....\x92

Before the cab rolled across the Rush Street Bridge on its long journey
to the northward he was asleep.


7


It was half-past two in the morning when a hack drawn by weary horses
on whose flanks the later glistened, drew up at the porte coch\xE8re of the
old Dexter Smith place in Sunbury.

The cabman lumbered down and opened the door. A youth, nervously wide
awake, leaped out. Then followed this brief conversation.

\x91Help me carry him up, please.\x92

\x91You\x92d better pay me first. Fifteen dollars!

\x91I\x92ll do that afterward.\x92

\x91I\x92ll take it now.\x92

\x91I tell you I\x92m going to get it----\x92

\x91You mean you haven\x92t got it?\x92

\x91Not on me.\x92

\x91Well, look here----\x92

\x91Ssh! You\x92ll wake the whole house up! You\x92ve simply got to wait until I
get home. You needn\x92t worry. I\x92m going to pay you.\x92

\x91You\x92d better. Say, he\x92d ought to have it on him.\x92

\x91We\x92re not going into his pockets. Now you do as I tell you.\x92

Together they lifted him out.

Henry looked up at the door. Madame Watt, somebody, had left this
outside light burning. Doubtless the thing to do was just to ring the
bell.

He brushed the cabman aside. The Senator was such a little man, so
pitifully slender and light! And Henry himself was supple and strong.
He took the little old gentleman up in his arms and carried him up
the steps. And once again in the course of this strange night his eyes
filled.

But not for himself this time. Henry\x92s gift of insight, while it was now
and for many years to come would be fitful, erratic, coming and going
with his intensely varied moods, was none the less a real, at times a
great, gift. And I think he glimpsed now, through the queer confusing
mists of thought, something of the grotesque tragedy that runs, like a
red and black thread, through the fabric of many human lives.

The Senator had been a famous man. Through nearly two decades, as even
Henry dimly knew, he had stood out, a figure of continuous national
importance. And now he was just--this. Here in Henry\x92s arms; inert.

\x91Ring the bell, will you!\x92 said Henry shortly.

The cabman moved.

There was a light step within. The lock turned. The door swung open, and
Cicely stood there.

She was wrapped about in a wonderful soft garment of blue. She was pale.
And her hair was all down, rippling about her shoulders and (when she
stepped quickly back out of the cabman\x92s vision) down her back below the
waist.

Henry carried his burden in, and she quickly closed the door.

\x91Has anybody seen? Does anybody know?\x92 she asked, in a whisper.

He leaned back against the wall.

\x91No. Nobody. But you----\x92

\x91I\x92ve been sitting up, watching. I was so afraid aunt might----\x92

\x91Then you know?\x92

\x91Know? Why--Tell me, do you think you can carry him to his room?\x92

\x91Me? Oh, easy! Why he doesn\x92t weigh much of anything. Just look!\x92

\x91Then come. Quickly. Keep very quiet.\x92

Slowly, painstakingly, he followed her up the stairs and along the upper
hall to an open door.

\x91Wait!\x92 she whispered. \x91I\x92ll have to turn on the light.\x92 He laid the
limp figure on the bed.

Outside, in the still night, the horses stirred and stamped. A
voice--the cabman\x92s--cried,--

\x91Whoa there, you! Whoa!\x92

Cicely turned with a start.

\x91Oh, why can\x92t he keep still!... You--you\x92d better go. I don\x92t know why
you\x92re so kind. Those others would never----\x92

\x91Please!--You _do_ know!\x92

This remark appeared to add to her distress. She made a quick little
gesture.

\x91Oh, no, I don\x92t mean--not that I want you to----\x92

\x91Not so loud! Quick! Please go!\x92

\x91But it\x92s so terribly hard for you. I can\x92t bear--I can\x92t bear to think
of your having to--people just mustn\x92t know about it, that\x92s all! We\x92ve
got to do something. She mustn\x92t--You see, I love you, and....

Their eyes met.

A deep dominating voice came from the doorway.

\x91You had better go to your room, Cicely,\x92 it said.

They turned like guilty children.

Cicely flushed, then quietly went.

Madame was a strange spectacle. She wore a quilted maroon robe, which
she held clutched together at her throat. Most of the hair that was
usually piled and coiled about her head had vanished; what little
remained was surprisingly gray and was twisted up in front and over the
ears in curl papers of the old-fashioned kind.

Henry lowered his gaze; it seemed indelicate to look at her. He
discovered then that he was still wearing his hat, and took it off with
a low, wholly nervous laugh that was as surprising to himself as it
certainly was, for a moment, to Madame Watt, who surveyed him under knit
brows before centring her attention on the unconscious figure on the
bed.

\x91We owe you a great deal,\x92 she said then. \x91It was awkward enough. But it
might have been a disaster. You\x92ve saved us from that.\x92

\x91Oh, it was nothing,\x92 murmured Henry, blushing.

\x91Are you sure no one saw? You didn\x92t take him to the station?\x92

\x91No. We drove straight out.\x92

\x91Hm! When you came did you ring our bell?\x92

\x91Me? Why, no. I was going to. But----\x92

\x91Yes?\x92

\x91She--your--Miss----\x92

\x91Do you mean Cicely?\x92

\x91Yes. She opened the door.\x92

Madame frowned again.

\x91But what on earth----\x92

Henry interrupted, looking up at her now.

\x91I\x92ll tell you. I know. I can see it. And somebody\x92s got to tell you.\x92

Madame looked mystified.

\x91She couldn\x92t bear to have you know. She was afraid you----\x92

Madame raised her free hand. \x91We won\x92t go into that.\x92

\x91But we _must_. It was your temper she was----\x92

\x91We wont----\x92

\x91You _must_ listen! Can\x92t you see the dread she lives under--the fear
that you\x92ll forget yourself and people will know! And can\x92t you see
what it drives--him--to? I heard him talk when he was telling his real
thoughts. I know.\x92

\x91Oh, you do!\x92

\x91Yes, I know. And I know this town. They\x92re very conservative. They
watch new people. They\x92re watching you. Like cats. And they\x92ll gossip. I
know that too. I\x92ve suffered from it. Things that aren\x92t so. But what
do they care? They\x92d spoil your whole life--like that!--and go to the
Country Club early to get the best dances. Oh, I know, I tell you.
You\x92ve got to be careful. It isn\x92t what I say, but you\x92ve _got_ to! Or
they\x92ll find out, and they won\x92t stop till they\x92ve hounded you out
of town, and driven him to--this--for good, and broken her--your
niece\x92s--heart.\x92

He stopped, out of breath.

The fire that had flamed from his eyes died down, leaving them like gray
ashes. Confusion smote him. He shifted his feet; turned his hat round
and round between his hands. What--_what_--had he been saying!

Then he heard her voice, saying only this:--

\x91In a way--in a way--you have a right.... God knows it won\x92t.... So much
at stake.... Perhaps it had to be said.\x92

He felt that he had better retreat. Emotions were rising, and he was
gulping them down. He knew now that he couldn\x92t speak again; not a word.

She stood aside.

\x91It was very good of you,\x92 she said.

But he rushed past her and down the stairs.

Humphrey, when he awoke in the morning, remembered dimly his
temperamental young partner, a dishevelled, rather wild figure, bending
over him, shaking him and saying, \x91Gimme fifteen dollars! I\x92ll explain
to-morrow. Gosh, but I\x92m a wreck! You\x92ve no idea!\x92

And he remembered drawing to him the chair on which his clothes were
piled and fumbling in various pockets for money.


8


When Henry awoke, at ten, he found himself alone in the rooms. The warm
sunshine was streaming in, the university clock was booming out the
hour. Then the mellow church bells set up their stately ringing.

He lay for a time drowsily listening. Then the bells brought
recollections. Madame Watt, and Cicely, and often the Senator attended
the First Presbyterian Church. Right across the alley, facing on Filbert
Avenue. By merely turning his head, Henry could see the rear gable of
the chapel and the windows of the Sunday-school room.

He sprang out of bed.

His blue serge coat was spotted. From the table in that bar-room,
doubtless. He found a bottle of ammonia and sponged. It was also in need
of a pressing, but he could do nothing about that now. He had to go to
church.

No other course was thinkable. If only to sit where he could catch a
glimpse now and then of her profile.

He heard a knock downstairs, but at first ignored it. No one would be
coming here of a Sunday morning.

Finally he went down.

There, on the step, immaculately dressed, rather weary looking with dark
areas under red eyes, stood Senator Watt.

\x91How do you do,\x92 said he, with dignity.

\x91Won\x92t you come in?\x92 said Henry.

They mounted the stairs. The Senator sat stiffly on a small chair. Henry
took the piano stool.

\x91I understand that you did me a very great service last night, Mr
Calverly.\x92

\x91Oh, no,\x92 Henry managed to say, in a mumbling voice, throwing out his
hands. \x91No, it wasn\x92t really anything at all.\x92

\x91You will please tell me what it cost.\x92

\x91Oh--why--well, fifteen dollars.\x92

The Senator counted out the money.

\x91You have placed me greatly in your debt, Mr Calverly. I hope that I may
some day repay you.\x92

\x91Oh, no! You see...\x92

Silence fell upon them.

The Senator rose to go.

\x91Drink,\x92 he remarked then, \x91is an unmitigated evil. Never surrender to
it.\x92

\x91I really don\x92t drink at all, Senator.\x92

\x91Good! Don\x92t do it. Life is more complex than a young man of your
age can perceive. At best it is a bitter struggle. Evil habits are a
handicap. They aggravate every problem. Good day. We shall see you soon
again at the house, I trust.\x92

Henry, moved, looked after him as he walked almost briskly away--an
erect, precise little man.

Then Henry went to church.

Herb de Casselles ushered him to a seat. He could just see Cicely. He
thought she looked very sad. Yet she sang brightly in the hymns. And
after the benediction when Herb and Elbow and Dex Smith crowded about
her in the aisle, she smiled quite as usual, and made her quick, eager
Frenchy gestures.

He brushed his hand across his eyes Had he been living through a
dream--a tragic sort of dream?

He made his way, between pews, to a side door, and hurried out. He
couldn\x92t speak to a soul; not now. He walked blindly, very fast, down to
Chestnut Avenue, over to Simpson Street, then up toward the stores and
shops.

Humphrey had a way of working at the office Sundays. He decided to go
there. There was the matter of the fifteen dollars. And Humphrey would
expect him for their usual Sunday dinner at Stanley\x92s.

He was passing Stanley\x92s now. Next came Donovan\x92s drug store. Next
beyond that, Swanson\x92s flower shop.

A carriage--a Victoria--rolled softly by on rubber tyres. Silver jingled
on the harness of the two black horses. Two men in plum-coloured livery
sat like wooden things on the box. On the rear seat were Madame Watt and
Cicely.

The carriage drew up before Swanson\x92s. Madame Watt got heavily out and
went into the shop.

Cicely had turned. She was waving her hand.

Henry found his vision suddenly blurred. Then he was standing by the
carriage, and Cicely was speaking, leaning over close to him so that the
men couldn\x92t hear.

\x91It was dreadful the way I let you go! I didn\x92t even say good-night. And
all the time I wanted you to know....\x92

He couldn\x92t speak. He stared at her, lips compressed; temples pounding.

She seemed to be smiling faintly.

\x91We--we might say good-night now.\x92

He heard her say that.

She thought he shivered. Then he said huskily:--

\x91I--I\x92ve wanted to call you--to call you--\x92

\x91Yes?\x92

\x91--Cicely.\x92.

There was a silence. She whispered, \x91I think I\x92ve wanted you to.\x92

He had rested a hand on the plum upholstery beside her. In some way it
touched hers; clasped it; gripped it feverishly.

The colour came rushing to his face. And to hers.

He saw, through a blinding mist, that there were tears in her eyes.

\x91Ci--Cicely, you don\x92t, you can\x92t mean--that you--too....\x92

\x91Please, Henry! Not here! Not now!\x92

They glanced up the street; and down.

\x91Come this afternoon,\x92 she breathed.

\x91They\x92ll be there.\x92

\x91Come early. Two o\x92clock. We\x92ll take a walk.\x92

\x91Oh--Cicely!\x92

\x91Henry!\x92

Their hands were locked together until Madame came out.

The carriage rolled away.

Henry--it seemed to himself--reeled dizzily along Simpson Street to the
stairway that you climbed to get to the _Gleaner_ office.

And all along this street of his struggles, his failures, his one or two
successes, his dreams, the dingy, two-story buildings laughed and danced
and cheered about him, with him, for him--Hemple\x92s meat-market, Berger\x92s
grocery, Swanson\x92s, Donovan\x92s, Schultz and Schwartz\x92s barber shop,
Stanley\x92s, the Sunbury National Bank, the postoffice--all reeled
jubilantly with him in the ecstasy of young love!



IX--WHAT\x92S MONEY!


1


|Henry paused on the sill. The door he held open bore the legend,
painted in black and white on a rectangle of tin:--

THE SUNBURY WEEKLY GLEANER

By Weaver and Calverly

\x91How late you going to stay, Hump?\x92 he asked.

Humphrey raised his eyes, listlessly thrust his pencil back of his ear,
and looked rather thoughtfully at the youth in the doorway; a dapper
youth, in an obviously new \x91Fedora\x92 hat, a conspicuous cord of black
silk hanging from his glasses, his little bamboo cane, caught by its
crook in the angle of his elbow.

Humphrey\x92s gaze wandered to the window; settled on the roof of the
Sunbury National Bank opposite. He suppressed a sigh.

\x91I may want to talk with you, Hen. I\x92ve been figuring----\x92

The youth in the doorway shifted his position with a touch of
impatience.

\x91See here, Hump, you know I can\x92t make head or tail out of figures!\x92

Humphrey looked down at the desk.

\x91Anyway I\x92ll see you at supper,\x92 Henry added defensively.

\x91Mildred expects me down there for supper,\x92 said Humphrey. The sigh came
now. He pushed up the eyeshade and slowly rubbed his eyes. \x91But I may
not be able to get away. There are times, Hen, when you have to look
figures in the face.\x92

The youth flushed at this, and replied, rather explosively;--

\x91A fellow has to do the sorta thing he _can_ do, Hump!\x92

\x91Well--will you be at the rooms this evening?\x92 Humphrey\x92s eyes were
again taking in the natty costume. And surveying him, Humphrey answered
his own question; dryly. \x91I imagine not.\x92

\x91Well--I was going over to the Watts.\x92

There was a long silence:

Finally Henry let himself slowly out and closed the door.

Outside, on the landing, he paused again; but this time to button his
coat and pull up the blue-bordered handkerchief in his breast pocket
until a corner showed.

He looked too, by the fading light--it was mid-September, and the sun
would be setting shortly, out over the prairie--at the tin legend on the
door.

The sight seemed to reassure him somewhat. As did the other, similar
tin legends that were tacked up between the treads of the long flight of
stairs that led to Simpson Street, at each of which he turned to look.

Humphrey had before him a pile of canvas-bound account books, a spindle
of unpaid bills, a little heap of business letters, and a pad covered
with pencilled columns. He rested an elbow among the papers, turned his
chair, and looked through the window down into the street.

A moment passed, then he saw Henry walking diagonally across toward
Donovan\x92s drug store.

For an ice-cream soda, of course; or one of those thick, \x91frosted\x92
fluids of chocolate or coffee flavour that he affected. And it was now
within an hour of supper time.

Humphrey leaned forward. Yes, there he stood, on the kerb before
Donovan\x92s, looking, with a quick nervous jerking of the head, now up
Simpson Street, now down. Yes, that was his hurry--the usual thing.
Madame Watt made a point of driving down to meet the five-twenty-nine
from town. Senator Watt always came out then. And usually Cicely Hamlin
came along with her.

Humphrey sighed, rose, stood looking down at the bills and letters and
canvas books; pressed a hand again against his eyes; wandered to the
press-room door and looked, pursing his lips, knitting his brows, at
the row of job presses, at the big cylinder press that extended nearly
across the rear end of the long room, at the row of type cases on their
high stands, at imposing-stones on heavy tables. He sniffed the odour
of ink, damp paper, and long, respected dust that hung over the whole
establishment. He smiled, moodily, as his eye rested on the gray
and black roller towel that hung above the iron sink, recalling Bob
Burdette\x92s verses. He returned to the office, and stood for a few
moments before the file of the _Gleaner_ on the wall desk by the door,
turning the pages of recent issues. From each number a story by Henry
Calverly, 3rd, seemed to leap out at his eyes and his brain. _The Caliph
of Simpson Street, Sinbad the Treasurer, A Kerbstone Barmecide, The
Cauliflowers of the Caliph, The Printer and the Pearls, Ali Anderson
and the Four Policemen_--the very titles singing aloud of the boy\x92s
extraordinary gift.

\x91And it\x92s all we\x92ve got here,\x92 mused Humphrey, moving back to his own
desk. \x91That mad child makes us, or we break. I\x92ve got to humour him,
protect him. Can\x92t even show him these bills. Like getting all your
light and heat from a candle that may get blown out any minute.\x92 And
before dropping heavily into his chair, glancing at his watch, drawing
his eye-shade down, and plunging again at the heavy problem of keeping
a country weekly alive without sufficient advertising revenue, he added,
aloud, with a wry, wrinkly smile that yet gave him a momentary whimsical
attractiveness: \x91That\x92s the devil of it!\x92

There was a step on\x92 the stairs.

The door opened slowly. A red face appeared, under a tipped-down Derby
hat; a face decorated with a bristling red moustache and a richly
carmine nose.

Humphrey peered; then considered. It was Tim Niernan, one-time fire
chief, now village constable.

\x91Young Calverly here?\x92 asked the official in a husky voice.

Humphrey shook his head. His thoughts, momentarily disarranged, were
darting this way and that.

\x91What is it, Tim? What do you want of him?\x92

Tim seemed embarrassed.

\x91Why----\x92 he began, \x91why----\x92

\x91Some trouble?\x92

\x91Why, you see Charlie Waterhouse\x92s suing him.\x92

Humphrey tried to consider this.

\x91What for?\x92

\x91Well--libel. One o\x92 them stories o\x92 his. I liked \x91em myself. My folks
all say he\x92s a great kid. But Charlie\x92s pretty sore.\x92

\x91Suing for a lot, I suppose?\x92

\x91Why yes. Well--ten thousand.\x92

\x91Hm!\x92

\x91He lives with you, don\x92t he--back of the Parmenter place?\x92

\x91Yes.\x92 Humphrey\x92s answer was short. At the moment he was not inclined to
make Tim\x92s task easy.

The constable went out. Humphrey watched him from the window. He passed
Donovan\x92s on the other side of the street and kept on toward the lake.

Humphrey returned to the wall file, and, standing there, read _Sinbad
the Treasurer_ through.

There was an extraordinarily fresh, naive power in the story. Simpson
Street was mentioned by name. There was but the one town treasurer,
whether you called him \x91Sinbad\x92 or Waterhouse.

\x91He certainly did cut loose,\x92 mused Humphrey. \x91Charlie\x92s got a case. Got
his nerve, too.\x92

Then he dropped into his chair and sat, for a long time, very quiet,
tapping out little tunes on his hollowed cheek with a pencil.


2


Henry turned away from Donovan\x92s soda fountain, wiping froth from his
moustache, and sauntered to the nearer of the two doors. His brows were
knit in a slight frown that suggested anxiety. There was earnestness,
intensity, in the usually pleasant gray-blue eyes as he peered now up
the street, now down.

A low-hung Victoria, drawn by a glossy team in harness that glittered
with silver, swung at a dignified pace around the corner of Filbert
Avenue, two wooden men in plum-coloured livery on the box, two
dignified figures on the rear seat, one middle-aged, large, formidable,
commanding, sitting erect and high, the other slighter and not
commanding.

Instantly, at the sight, Henry\x92s frown gave place to a nervously eager
smile, returned, went again. When the carriage at length drew up before
Berger\x92s grocery, across the way, however, he had both frown and smile
under reasonable control and was a presentable if deadly serious young
man.

The footman leaped down and stood at attention. The formidable one
stepped out and entered Berger\x92s. And the slight, fresh-faced girl,
leaned out to welcome the youth who rushed across the street.

In Sunbury, in the nineties, a youth and a maiden could \x91go together\x92
without a thought of the future. The phrase implied frank pairing off,
perhaps an occasionally shyly restrained sentimental passage, in general
a monopoly of the other\x92s spare time. An \x91understanding,\x92 on the other
hand, was a. distinctly transitive state, leading to engagement and
marriage as soon as the youth was old enough or could earn a living or
the opposition of parents could be overcome.

The relationship between Cicely and Henry had lately hovered delicately
between the two states. If it seemed, after each timid advance, to
recede from the \x91understanding\x92 point; that was because of the burdens
and the heavy responsibility that instantly claimed their thoughts at
the mere suggestion of engagement and marriage:

There were among the parents of Henry\x92s boyhood friends, couples that
had married at twenty or even younger, and on no greater income than
Henry\x92s rather doubtful twelve dollars a week. But that day had gone by.
An \x91understanding\x92 meant now, at the very least, that you were saving
for a diamond. You could hardly ask a nice girl to become engaged
without one.

And marriage meant good clothes for parties, receptions and Sundays, and
the street; it meant membership in the Country Club, a reasonably priced
pew in church, a rented house, at least, preferably not in South Sunbury
and distinctly not out on the prairie or too near the tracks, a certain
amount invested in furniture, dishes and other house fittings, and
reasonable credit with the grocer and at the meat-market. You could
hardly ask a nice girl to go in for less than that. You really couldn\x92t
afford to let her go in for less.

So they were marrying later now; six or eight or ten years later. And
the girls were turning to older men. Here in Sunbury, Clemency Snow had
married a man seven or eight years older whose younger brother had been
among her playmates. Jane Bellman had married a shy little doctor of
thirty-one or two. And Martha Caldwell, whom Henry had \x91gone with\x92 for
two or three years, was permitting the rich, really old bachelor,
James B. Merchant, Jr., to devote about all his time to her. He was
thirty-eight if a day.

It was a disturbing condition for the town boys. Thoughts of it cast
black shadows on Henry\x92s undisciplined brain as he looked at the girl in
the Victoria, felt, in the very air about them, her quick, bright
smile, the delicately responsive liftings of her eyebrows, her marked
desirability.

\x91Oh, Henry,\x92 she was saying, \x91I\x92ve just been hearing the most wonderful
things about you! You can\x92t imagine! At Mrs MacLouden\x92s tea. There was a
man there----\x92

Henry sniffed. A man at a tea! And talking to Cicely! Making up to her,
doubtless.

\x91--a friend of Mr Merchant\x92s, from New York. And what do you think? Mr
Merchant showed him your stories. The ones that have come out. He\x92s been
keeping them. Isn\x92t that remarkable? They read them aloud. And this man
says that you are more promising than Richard Harding Davis was at your
age. Henry--just _think!_\x92

But Henry was scowling. He was thinking with hot, growing concern, of
the man. A rich old fellow, of course! One of the dangerous ones.

He leaned over the wheel.

\x91Cicely--you--you\x92re expecting me to-night?\x92

\x91Oh! Why yes, Henry, of course I\x92d like to have you come.\x92

\x91But weren\x92t you _expecting_ me?\x92

\x91Why--yes, Henry.

\x91Of course\x92--stiffly--\x91if you\x92d rather I wouldn\x92t come...\x92

\x91Please, Henry! You mustn\x92t. Not here on the street!\x92 He stood, flushing
darkly, swallowing down the emotion that threatened to choke him.\x92

She murmured:--

\x91You know I want you to come.\x92

This was unsatisfactory. Indeed he hardly heard it. He was full of his
thoughts about her, about the older men, about those tremendous
burdens that he couldn\x92t even pretend to assume. And then came a mad
recklessness.

\x91Oh, Cicely--this is awful--I just can\x92t stand it! Why can\x92t we have an
understanding? Call it that? Stop all this uncertainty! I--I--I\x92ve just
got to speak to your aunt----\x92

\x91Henry! Please! Don\x92t say those things---\x92

\x91That\x92s it! You won\x92t let me say them.\x92

\x91Not here----\x92

\x91Oh, please, Cicely! Please! I know I\x92m not earning much; but I\x92ll be
twenty-one on the seventh of November and then I\x92ll have more\x92n three
thousand dollars. Please let me tell her that, Cicely. Oh, I know it
wouldn\x92t do to spend all the principal,--but it would go a long way
toward setting us up--you know--\x92 his voice trembled, dropped even
lower, as with awe--\x91get the things we\x92d need when we were--you
know--well, married.\x92

He felt, as he poured out this mumbled torrent of words, that he
was rushing to a painful failure. Cicely had drawn back. She looked
bewildered, and tired. And he had fetched up in a black maze of
despairing thoughts.

The footman must have heard part of it. He was standing very straight.
And the coachman was staring out over the horses. He had probably heard
too.

Then Madame Watt came sailing out Of Berger\x92s; fixed her hawk eyes on
him with a curious interest.

He knew that he lifted his hat. He saw, or half saw, that Cicely tried
to smile. She did bob her head in the bright quick way she had.

Then the Victoria rolled away, and he was standing, one foot in the
street, the other on the kerb, gazing after them through a mist of
something so near tears that he was reduced to a painful struggle to
gain even the appearance of self-control.

And then, for a quarter-hour, mood followed mood so fast that they
almost maddened him.

He thought of old Hump, up there in the office, fighting out their
common battle. Perhaps he ought to go back; do his best to understand
the accounts. Figures always depressed him. No matter. He would go back.
He would show Hump that he could at least be a friend. Yes, he could at
least show that. Thing to do was to keep thinking of the other fellow.
Forget yourself. That was the thing!

But what he did, first, was to cross over to Swanson\x92s flower shop and
sternly order violets. Paid cash for them.

\x91Miss Cicely Hamlin?\x92 asked the Swanson-girl.

\x91Yes,\x92 growled Henry, \x91for Miss Hamlin. Send them right over, please.\x92

Then he walked around the block; muttering aloud; starting;
glancing-about; muttering again. He could hardly go to Cicely\x92s. Not
this evening! Not when she had been willing to leave it like that.

He meant to go, of course. Too early. By seven-thirty or so. But he told
himself he wouldn\x92t do it. She would have to write him. Or lose him. He
would wait in dignified silence.

The early September twilight was settling down on Sunbury.

Lights came on, here and there. The dusk was a relief.

He had wrecked everything. It wasn\x92t so much that he had proposed an
understanding. In the circumstances she couldn\x92t altogether object to
that. It was risking the vital, final decision, of course. But that,
sooner or later, would have to be risked. That was something a man had
to face, and go through, and be a sport about. No, the trouble seemed
to be that he had lost himself. He had made it awkward, impossible,
for both of them. Through his impatience he had created an impossible
situation. And in losing himself he had lost her, and lost her in the
worst way imaginable. He had contrived to make an utterly ridiculous
figure of himself, and, in a measure, of her. He had to set his teeth
hard on that thought, and compress his lips.

He was on Simpson Street again. Yellow gas-light shone out of the
windows of the _Gleaner_ offices, over Hemple\x92s. Old Hump was hard at
it.

He went up there.


3


Humphrey was sitting there, chin on chest, long legs stretched under the
desk. He didn\x92t look up; only a slight start and a movement of one hand
indicated that he heard.

Henry stood, confused, a thought alarmed, looking at him; moved
aimlessly to his own desk and stirred papers about; came, finally,
and sat on a corner of the exchange table, tapping his cane nervously
against his knee.

\x91Aren\x92t going to stay here all night, are you, Hump?\x92 he asked, rather
huskily.

Humphrey\x92s hand moved again; he didn\x92t speak.

\x91Hump! What\x92s the matter? Anything happened?\x92

Still no answer.

\x91But you know we\x92re picking up in advertising, Hump?\x92

\x91Not near enough.\x92 This was a non-committal growl.

\x91And see the way our circulation\x92s been----\x92

\x91Losing money on it. Can\x92t carry it.\x92

\x91But--but, Hump----\x92

The senior partner waved his hand. His face was gray and grim, his voice
restrained. He even smiled as he deliberately filled his pipe.

\x91It\x92s bad, Hen. Very, very bad. I\x92ve tried to keep you from worrying,
but you\x92ve got to know now. We paid a little over two thousand for this
plant and the good will.

\x91Cheap enough, wasn\x92t it?\x92 cried Henry.

\x91If we\x92d really got her for that, yes. But look at the capital it takes.
Building up. I had just a thousand more, a bond. Threw that in last
month, you know.\x92

\x91Oh\x92--breathed Henry, fright in his eyes--\x91I forgot about that.\x92

\x91And you can\x92t raise a cent.\x92

Henry tried to think this over. He started to speak; swallowed; slipped
off the table; stood there; lifted his cane and sighted along it out the
window.

\x91I can--November seventh,\x92 he finally remarked.

Humphrey blew a smoke-ring; followed it with his eyes.

\x91My boy, nations, worlds, constellations, may crash between now and
November seventh.\x92

\x91I--I could tackle my uncle again,\x92 murmured Henry, out of a despairing
face.

There was at times an acid quality in Humphrey. Henry felt it in him
now, as he said dryly:--

\x91As I recall your last transaction with your uncle, Hen, he told
you finally that you couldn\x92t have one cent of your principal before
November seventh.\x92

\x91He--well, yes, he did say that.\x92

\x91Meant it, didn\x92t he?\x92

\x91Y--yes. He meant it.\x92

\x91He\x92s a business man, I believe.\x92 Humphrey smoked for a moment; then
added, with that same biting quality in his voice, \x91And unless
he\x92s insane he would hardly put money into this business now. As it
stands--or doesn\x92t stand. And I presume he\x92s not insane. No, we\x92ll drop
that subject.\x92

Henry felt Humphrey\x92s eyes on him. Sombre cold eyes. And he fell again,
in his misery, to sighting along his cane. It seemed to Henry that the
world was reeling to disaster. His young, over keen imagination was
painting ugly, inescapable pictures of a savage world in which all
effort seemed to fail.

Between Humphrey and himself a gulf had opened. It was growing wider
every minute. Nothing he could say would help; words were no good. He
was afraid he might try to talk. It would be like him; floods of talk,
meaningless, mere words, really mere nerves. He clamped his lips on that
fear.

If I understand Henry, the thing that had brought him to despair--and he
was in despair--was neither the sorry condition of the business, nor
the trouble with Cicely. These had confused and saddened him. But the
hopelessness had come after he saw Humphrey\x92s face and eyes and caught
that cool note in his voice. To the day of his death Henry couldn\x92t
endure hostility in those close about him. He had to have friendly
sympathy, an easy give and take of the spirit in which his _na\xEFvet\xE9_
would not be misunderstood. This sort of atmosphere provided,
apparently, the only soil in which his faculties could take root and
grow. Hostility in those he had been led to trust disarmed him, crushed
him.

\x91Hump,\x92 he ventured now, weakly, \x91I think--maybe--you\x92d better show me
those figures. I--I\x92ll try to understand \x91em. I will.\x92

Humphrey gave a little snort; brushed the idea away with a sweep of a
long hand.

\x91No use!\x92 he said brusquely. He rolled down the desktop and locked it
with a snap. \x91Getting stale myself. Sleep on it. Not a thing you can do,
Hen!\x92 He knocked the ashes from his pipe, gloomily. Buttoned his vest.
Suddenly he broke out with this:--

\x91You\x92re a lucky brute, Hen!\x92

Henry started; glanced up; fumbled at his moustache. \x91You\x92re wondering
why I said that. But, man, you\x92re a genius--Yes, you are! I have to plug
for it. But you\x92ve got the flare. You know well enough what\x92s loaded all
this circulation on us. Your stories! Not a thing else. You\x92ll do more
of \x91em. You\x92ll be famous.\x92

\x91Oh, no, Hump I You don\x92t know how I\x92ve----\x92

\x91Yes, you\x92ll be famous. I won\x92t. It\x92s a gift--fame, success. It\x92s a sort
of edge God--or something--puts on a man. A cutting edge. You\x92ve simply
got it. I simply haven\x92t.\x92

Henry pulled and pulled at his moustache.

\x91And you\x92ve got a girl--a lovely girl. She\x92s mad about you--oh, yes she
is! I know. I\x92ve seen her look at you.\x92

\x91But, Hump, you don\x92t just know what----\x92

\x91She doesn\x92t have to hide her feelings. Not seriously, not with a lying
smile. And you don\x92t have to hide yours. You haven\x92t got this furtive
rope around your neck, strangling the breath of decent morality out of
your soul. Thank God you don\x92t know what it means--that struggle. She\x92ll
be announcing her engagement one of these days.

\x91There\x92ll be presents and flowers. You\x92ll get stirred up and write
something a thousand times better than you know how to write. Money will
come--oh, yes it will! It\x92ll roll to you, Hen. For a time. Or at times.
And you\x92ll marry--a nice clean wedding. God, just to think of it is like
the May winds off the lake!\x92

He threw out his long arms. Henry thought, perversely enough, that he
looked like Lincoln.

\x91But the greatest thing of all is that you\x92re twenty. Think of it!
Twenty!... Hen, when I was twenty I put my life on a schedule for five
years. They were up last month.

\x91I was to be flying at twenty-four. Think of it--flying! Through the
air, man! Like a gull! At twenty-five I was to be famous and rich. A
conqueror! I slaved for that. Worked days and nights and Sundays for
that. Sweated for the Old Man there on the _Voice_; put up with his
stupid little insults.\x92

He sprang up; got into his coat; looked at his watch.

\x91I\x92m late. Got to stop at the rooms too. Mildred\x92ll be wondering. You
can stay here if you like.\x92

But Henry clung to him. Around the back street they went. And Humphrey
talked on.

\x91Well, I\x92m twenty-five! And where\x92ve I got? I love a woman. Hen, I hope
you\x92ll never be torn as I\x92m torn now. You think you\x92ve been through
things. Why, you\x92re an innocent babe. I\x92ve got a woman\x92s name--and
that\x92s a woman\x92s life, Hen!--in my hands. It\x92s a muddle. Maybe there\x92s
tragedy in it. May never work out. Sometimes I feel as if we were going
straight over a precipice, she and I. It goes dark. It suffocates me....
It\x92s costing me everything. It\x92ll take money--a lot of it--money I
haven\x92t got. If the paper goes, my last hopes go with it. If we can\x92t
turn that corner. Everything comes down bang. No use.\x92

Henry tried to say, \x91Oh, I guess we\x92ll turn our corner all right;\x92 but
if the words passed his lips at all it was only as a whisper.

They were a hundred feet from the alley back of Parmenter\x92s. It was dark
now, there in the shade of the double row of maples. Humphrey stopped
short; pressed his hands to his eyes; then looked at Henry.

\x91You coming to the rooms, too?\x92 he asked.

Henry nodded.

\x91I don\x92t know\x92s I--I was forgetting, so many things--Oh well, come
along. It hardly matters.\x92

At the alley entrance a man intercepted them; said, \x91This is Henry
Calverly, ain\x92t it?\x92 Struck a match and read an extraordinary mumble
of words. He struck other matches, and read hurriedly on. Then he moved
apologetically away, leaving Henry backed limply against a board fence.

Humphrey stood waiting, a tall shadow of a man. To him Henry turned,
feeling curiously weak in the legs and gone at the stomach.

\x91What is it?\x92 he asked, weakly, meekly. \x91I couldn\x92t understand. Did he
ar--arrest me or something?\x92

\x91Charlie Waterhouse has sued you for libel. Ten thousand dollars. Come
on. I can\x92t wait.\x92

\x91But--but--but that\x92s foolish. He can\x92t----\x92

\x91That\x92s how it is.\x92 Humphrey was grim.

They walked in silence up the alley. Henry stood by while his partner
unlocked the neat front door to the old barn, a white door, with one
white step and an iron scraper. He could just make them out in the dusk.
He wondered if he mightn\x92t presently wake up and find it a dream.... Old
Hump!

They stood in the shop. Humphrey had switched on one light; he looked
now, his face deeply seamed, his eyes a little sunken, at the dim
shadowy metal lathes, the huge reels of copper wire, the tool benches,
the rows of wall boxes filled with machine parts, the small electric
motors hanging by twisted strings or wires from the ceiling joists, the
heavy steel wheels in frames, the great box kites and the spruce and
silk planes, in sections, the gas engine, the water motor, the wheels,
shafts, and belting overhead.

He bent his sombre eyes on Henry.

That youth, aching at heart, bruised of spirit, unaware of the figure he
made, was too far gone to be further puzzled by the weary, mocking smile
that flitted across Humphrey\x92s face.

\x91Hump!\x92 he cried out: \x91What\x92ll we do!\x92

\x91Do? Sleep over it. Raise some more money?\x92

\x91But how?\x92

Humphrey waved a hand at the machinery. \x91All this. And my library
upstairs. They\x92ve stood me more\x92n four thousand, altogether. Ought to
fetch something.\x92

\x91But--but--ten thousand!\x92 Henry whispered the amount with awe as well as
misery.

\x91Oh, _that!_ Your trouble! Why, you\x92ll sleep over that, too, and
to-morrow I suppose you\x92ll talk to Harry Davis\x92s father.\x92 The senior
Davis, Arthur P., was a Simpson Street lawyer. \x91They\x92ll sting you. But
they don\x92t expect any ten thousand.\x92

\x91But what I said is _true!_ Charlie Waterhouse is a----\x92

\x91What\x92s that got to do with it. You can\x92t prove it. And we aren\x92t strong
enough to hire counsel and detectives and run him to earth. Doesn\x92t look
as if we had the barest breath of life in us. Charlie\x92ll think of your
uncle next, and attach your mother\x92s estate.\x92

He said this with unusual roughness. Then he went upstairs; stamped
around for a brief time; came hurrying down.

Henry, now, was sitting dejectedly on a work-bench.

\x91Hump--please!--you don\x92t know how I feel. I----\x92

\x91And,\x92 replied the senior partner, \x91I don\x92t care. I don\x92t care how I
feel, either. We either save the paper this week or we don\x92t. That\x92s
what I care about right now.\x92

\x91I--I won\x92t let you sell your things, Hump.\x92 An unconvincing assertion,
from the limp figure on the bench.

\x91You?\x92 Humphrey stared at him with something near contempt--stared at
the moustache and the cane. \x91You? You won\x92t let me?... For God\x92s sake,
_shut up!_\x92

With which he went out, slamming the door.

For a time Henry continued to sit there. Then he dragged himself
upstairs, went to his bookcase and got the book entitled _Will Power and
Self Mastery_.

He turned the pages until he hit upon these paragraphs:--\x91Every machine,
every cathedral, every great ship was a thought before it could become a
fact. Build in your brain.

\x91Through the all-enveloping ether drifts the invisible electricity that
is all life, all energy. Open yourself to it. Make yourself a conductor.
Stupidity and fear are resistants; cast these out. Make your brain a
dynamo and drive the world.\x92

This seemed a good idea.


4


Arthur P. Davis was just rising from the supper table when the door-bell
rang. He answered it himself; found young Calverly there, in a state of
haggard but vigorous youthful intensity. He contrived, after a slight
initial difficulty, to draw out of the curiously verbose youth the
essential facts. He considered the matter with a deliberation and
caution that appeared irritating to the boy. But he had read and (in
the bosom of his family) chuckled over _Sinbad the Treasurer_. He had
wondered a little, though he didn\x92t mention the fact to Henry, whether
Charlie wouldn\x92t sue. Charlie had a case.

When Henry left, clearly still in a confused condition, it was Mr
Davis\x92s impression that Henry had placed the matter in his hands as
counsel and further had distinctly agreed to shut his head.

Henry apparently understood it differently. Or, more likely, he didn\x92t
understand at all. Henry was, at the moment, a storm centre with
considerable emotional disturbance still to come. Any one who has
followed Henry, who knows him at all, will understand that such
disturbance within him led directly and always to action. Whatever he
may have said to Mr Davis, he was helpless. He had to function in his
own way. Probably Mr Davis\x92s use in the situation was to stimulate
Henry\x92s already overactive brain. Hardly more.

Certainly it was hardly later than a quarter or twenty minutes past
seven when Henry appeared at Charlie Waterhouse\x92s place on Douglass
Street.

The town treasurer was on the lawn, shifting his sprinkler by the light
of the arc lamp on the corner and smoking his after-supper cigar.

The conversation took place across the picket fence, one of the few
surviving in Sunbury at this time.

Henry said, fiercely:--

\x91I want to talk to you about that libel suit.\x92

\x91Can\x92t talk to me, Henry. You\x92ll have to see my lawyer.\x92

\x91Yay-ah, I know. I\x92ve got a lawyer too.\x92

\x91All right. Let \x91em talk to each other.\x92

\x91You know you can\x92t get any ten thousand dollars.\x92

\x91Can\x92t talk about that.\x92

\x91Yes, you can. You gotta.\x92

\x91Oh, I\x92ve gotta, have I?\x92

\x91Yes, you bet you have. Some people seem to think you\x92ve got a case.\x92

\x91Guess there ain\x92t much doubt about that.\x92

\x91Mebbe there ain\x92t. Even if what I said was true.\x92

\x91Look here, Henry, I don\x92t care to have this kind o\x92 talk going on
around here. You better go along.\x92

\x91Go along nothing! I\x92ll say every word of it. And what\x92s more, you\x92ll
listen. No, don\x92t you go. You stand right there.\x92

Charlie, a stoutish man in an alpaca coat, with a florid countenance
and a huge moustache, gave a moment\x92s consideration to the blazing young
crusader before him. The boy wasn\x92t going to be any too easy to handle.
He had no need to see him clearly to become aware of that fact. Charlie
shifted his cigar.

\x91Lemme put it this way. S\x92pose you could sting me. You\x92d never get ten
thousand. But s\x92pose, after I get through talking, you decide to go
ahead and push the case-----\x92

\x91Push the case? Well, rather!\x92

\x91Wait a minute! All right, let\x92s say you\x92re going ahead and fight for
part o\x92 that ten thousand. What you think you could get. Then what\x92m I
going to do?\x92

\x91Do you suppose I care what----\x92

\x91Oh, yes you do! Now listen! I want you to get this straight. You----\x92

\x91_You_ want _me_ to----\x92

\x91Keep still! Now here\x92s----\x92

\x91Look here, I won\x92t have you----\x92

\x91Yes, you will! Listen. If you fight, I\x92ll fight. I\x92ll go straight after
you. I\x92ll run you to earth. I\x92ll hire detectives to shadow you. I _know_
you ain\x92t straight, and I\x92ll show you up before the whole dam town. I\x92m
right and I tell you right here I\x92m going to _prove_ it! I\x92ll put you in
prison! I\x92ll----\x92

During most of this speech Charlie was talking too. But in so low a tone
that he could hardly miss what Henry was saving. He broke in now with a
loud:--

\x91Shut up!\x92

Henry stopped really because he was out of breath. It gratified him
to see that neighbours were appearing in their lighted windows. And a
youthful chorus on a porch across the way was suddenly hushed.

\x91Came here to make a scene, did you? Well, I\x92ll----\x92

\x91No, I didn\x92t come here to make a scene. I came here to make you listen
to reason and I\x92m going to do it.\x92

\x91Well, drop your voice a little, can\x92t you! No sense in yelling our
private affairs.\x92

\x91Sure I\x92ll drop my voice. You\x92re the one that started the yelling.\x92

\x91Well, I don\x92t say you couldn\x92t make it hard for any man in my position
if you want to be nasty--fight that way.\x92

\x91You wait!\x92

\x91But what I\x92d like to know is--what I\x92d like to know... Where you goin\x92
to get the money to hire all those detectives?\x92

\x91Where\x92m I going to get the money to pay you if you win the suit?\x92

Though Charlie came back with, \x91Oh, I\x92ll win the suit all right,
all right!\x92 this was clearly a facer. He added, pondering, \x91I guess
Munson\x92ll manage to attach anything you\x92ve got.\x92 But he was at sea.
\x91Fine dirty idea o\x92 yours, hounding a decent man, with detectives.\x92 And
finally, \x91Well, what do you want?\x92

\x91Listen! S\x92pose you did win. You\x92d never get ten thousand.\x92

\x91I\x92d get five.\x92

\x91No, you wouldn\x92t. Why don\x92t you act sensible and tell me what you\x92ll
take to stop it.\x92

\x91I\x92d have to think that over.\x92

\x91You tell me now or I\x92ll bust this town open.\x92

\x91No good talking that way, Henry. Can you get any money?\x92

\x91Tell you for sure in twenty-four hours.\x92

\x91But it ain\x92t the money. You\x92ve assailed my character. That\x92s what
you\x92ve done. Will you retract in print?\x92

\x91No, I won\x92t. But if you\x92ll come down to a decent price and promise to
call off the boycott----\x92

\x91What boycott?\x92

\x91Advertising. You know. You do that, and I\x92ll agree to leave you alone.
Somebody else\x92ll have to find you out, that\x92s all. I\x92ve gotta help Hump
Weaver pull the _Gleaner_ out. I guess that\x92s my job now.\x92

He said this last sadly. He had read stories of wonderful young
St Georges who slew a dozen political dragons at a time. Who never
compromised or gave hostages to fortune. But there was only one chance
for the paper and for old Hump. That chance was here and now.

He was sorry he couldn\x92t see Charlie Waterhouse\x92s face. \x91What\x92ll you
give?\x92 asked that worthy, after thoughtfully chewing, his cigar.

\x91A thousand.\x92

\x91Lord, no. Four thousand.\x92

\x91That\x92s impossible.\x92

\x91Three, then.\x92

\x91No, I won\x92t pay anything like three.\x92

\x91I wouldn\x92t go a cent under two.\x92

\x91Well--two thousand then. All right. I\x92ll let you know by to-morrow
night.\x92

\x91You understand, Henry, it ain\x92t the money. It\x92s for the good o\x92 the
town I\x92m doing it. To keep peace, y\x92 understand. That\x92s why I\x92m doing
it. Y\x92 understand that, Henry.\x92 He actually reached over the fence and
hung to the boy\x92s arm.

\x91We\x92d better shake hands on it,\x92 said Henry.

\x91Sure! I\x92ll stand by it, if you will.\x92

\x91I will. Good-bye, now.\x92

And Henry, somewhat confused regarding his ethical position, depressed
at the thought that you couldn\x92t rise altogether out of this hard world,
that you had to live right in it, compromise with it, let yourself be
soiled by it--Henry, his eyes down to beads, flushed about the temples,
caught the eight-six to Chicago.

He rode out to the West Side on a cable-car. It is an interesting item
to note in the rather zig-zag development of Henry\x92s highly emotional
nature that he never once weakened during that long ride. He was burning
up, of course. It was like that wonderful week when he had written day
and night, night and day, the Simpson Street stories. But it was, in a
way, glorious. That ethereal electricity was flowing right through him.
The Power was on him. He knew, not in his surface mind but in the deeper
seat of all belief, in his feelings, that he couldn\x92t be stopped or
headed. Not to-night.


5


\x91You are not altogether clear, Henry. Let me understand this.\x92

The scene was Uncle Arthur\x92s \x91den.\x92

Henry had run the gauntlet of his cousins. Rich young cousins, brought
up to respect their parents and think themselves poor. It was a proper
home, with order, cleanliness, method shining out. He resented it. He
resented them all.

Uncle Arthur was thin, and penetrating. His eyes bored at you. His nose
was sharp, his brow furrowed. It seemed to Henry that he was always
scowling a little.

His light sharp voice was going on, stating a disentangled, re-arranged
version of Henry\x92s extraordinary outbursts:--

\x91This man, the town treasurer, is suing you for libel, and you are
advised that he has a case? But he will settle for two thousand
dollars?\x92

\x91Yes. He will.\x92

\x91And you have come to me with the idea that I will pay over your
mother\x92s money for the purpose?\x92

\x91Well, I\x92ll be twenty-one anyway in less\x92n two months. But that
ain\x92t--isn\x92t--it exactly, not all of it. I\x92ve really got to have the
whole three thousand.\x92

\x91Oh, you have?\x92

\x91Yes. It\x92s like this. We bought the _Gleaner_, Hump Weaver and I. And
we got it cheap, too. Two thousand--for plant, good will, the big press,
everything.\x92

\x91Hmm!\x92

\x91Then I wrote those stories. They jumped our circulation way up. More\x92n
we can afford. Queer about that. Because the paper\x92d been attacking
Charlie Waterhouse, they got the advertiser\x92s to boycott us.\x92

\x91Oh!\x92

\x91Now Charlie\x92s promised me, if I pay him, to call off the boycott. It\x92ll
give us all the Simpson Street advertising. And Hump says we\x92ll fail in
a week if we don\x92t get it.\x92

\x91Henry!\x92 Uncle Arthur\x92s voice rang out with unpleasant clarity. \x91You got
from me a thousand dollars of your mother\x92s estate. You sank it in this
paper. I let you have that thinking it would bring you to your senses.

It has not brought you to your senses. That is evident.... Now I am
going to tell you something extremely serious.

I tell you this because I believe that you are not, for one thing,
dishonest. I have discovered that when I gave you that sum and took
your receipt I was not protected. You are a minor. You cannot, in law,
release me from my obligation as your guardian. After you have come of
age you could collect it again from me.\x92

\x91Oh, Uncle Arthur, I wouldn\x92t do _that!_\x92

\x91I am sure you wouldn\x92t. But you can readily see, now, that it is
utterly impossible for me to make any further advances to you. Even if I
were willing. And I am distinctly not willing.\x92

\x91But listen, Uncle Arthur! You\x92ve got to!\x92

The scowl of this narrow-faced man deepened.

\x91I don\x92t care for impudence, Henry. We will not talk further about
this.\x92

\x91But we must, Uncle Arthur! Don\x92t you see, I\x92ve got to pay Charlie, and
have Mr Davis get his receipt and the papers signed before they learn
about you, or they\x92ll attach the estate. Why, Charlie might get all of
it, and more too. They might just wreck me. I mustn\x92t lose a minute.\x92

Uncle Arthur sat straight up at this. Henry thought he looked even more
deeply annoyed. But he spoke, after a long moment, quite calmly.

\x91You are right there. That is a point. Putting it aside for a moment,
what were you proposing to do with the other thousand dollars?\x92

Henry felt the sharp eyes focusing on him. He sprang up. His words came
hotly.

\x91Because Hump has put in a thousand more\x92n I have now. He said to-night
he\x92d have to sell his library and his--his own things. I can\x92t let him
do that. I _won\x92t_ let him. I\x92ve got to stand with him.\x92 Henry choked up
a little now.

\x91Hump\x92s my friend, Uncle Arthur. He\x92s steady and honest and----\x92 He
faltered momentarily; Uncle Arthur was peculiarly the sort of person you
couldn\x92t tell about Humphrey\x92s love affair; he wouldn\x92t be able then to
see his strong points.... \x91He edits the paper and gets the pay-roll and
goes out after the ads. And he _hates_ it! But he\x92s a wonderful fighter.
I won\x92t desert him. I won\x92t! I can\x92t!... Uncle Arthur, why won\x92t you
come out and see our place and meet Hump and let him show you our books
and how our circulation\x92s jumped and...\x92

His voice trailed off because Uncle Arthur too had sprung to his feet
and was pacing the room. Henry\x92s arguments, his earnestness and young
energy, something, was telling on him. Finally he turned and said, in
that same quiet voice:--

\x91All right, Henry. I\x92ll run out to-morrow and put this thing through for
you. But----\x92

\x91Oh, no, Uncle Arthur! You mustn\x92t do that! Not to-morrow! Charlie\x92d get
wise. Or some of that gang. Everybody in town\x92d know you were there. No,
_that_ wouldn\x92t do!\x92

Uncle Arthur took another turn about the room.

\x91Just what is it that you want, Henry?\x92 he asked, in that same quiet
voice.

\x91Why, let\x92s see! You\x92d better give me two thousand in one cheque and one
thousand in another. Mr Davis can fix it so your cheque doesn\x92t go to
Charlie. I don\x92t want to put it in the bank. Charlie\x92s crowd\x92d get on.
But I\x92ll fix it. Mr Davis\x92ll know.\x92

At the door Uncle Arthur looked severely at the dapper, excited youth on
the steps.

\x91It may make a man of you. It will certainly throw you on your own
resources. I shall have to trust you to release me formally from all
responsibility after your birthday. And\x92--sharply--\x91understand, you are
never to come to me for help. You have your chance. You have chosen your
path.\x92


6


Eleven at night. The Country Club was bright; Henry passed it on the
farther side of the street. He could hear music and laughter there. They
choked him. With averted face he rushed by.

Henry entered at the gate before the old Dexter Smith mansion; then
slipped off among the trees.

His throat was dry. He was giddy and hot about the head. He wondered,
miserably, if he had a fever. Very likely.

There were lights here, too; downstairs.

Some one calling, perhaps--that friend of James B. Merchant\x92s.

Henry gritted his teeth.

It was too late to call. Yet he had had to come, had been drawn
irresistibly to the spot.

What mattered it after all, who might be calling. He told himself that
his life was to be, hereafter, one of sorrow, of frustration. He must
be dignified about it. He must make it a life worthy of his love and his
great sacrifice.

The front door opened.

A man and a woman came down the steps. An elderly couple. He stood very
still, behind a tree, while they walked past him.

A sign of uncontrollable relief escaped him. It was something. Cicely
had at last spared him a stab.

Lights went out in the front room. Lights came on upstairs.

Still he lingered.

Then, after a little, his nervous ears caught a sound that tingled
through his body.

The front door opened.

And standing in the opening behind the screen door, silhouetted against
the light, he saw a slim girl.

His temples were pounding. His throat went dry.

The girl came out. Paused. Called over her shoulder in a voice that to
Henry was velvet and gold--\x91In a few minutes\x92--and then seated herself
midway down the steps and leaned her head against the railing. He could
see her only faintly now.

Henry moved forward, curiously dazed, tiptoeing over the turf, slipping
from tree to tree. Drew near.

She lifted her head.

There was a breathless pause. Then, \x91What is it?\x92 she called. \x91What is
it? Who\x92s there?... O--oh! Why, _Henry!_ You frightened me... What is
it? Why do you stand there like that. You aren\x92t ill, Henry?... Where
on earth have you been? I\x92ve waited and waited for you. I couldn\x92t think
what had happened, not having any word.... What is the matter, Henry?
You act all tired out. Do sit down here.\x92

\x91No,\x92--the queer breathy voice, Henry knew, must be his own. He was
thinking, wildly, of dead souls\x92 standing at the Judgment Seat. He felt
like that.... \x91No, I can\x92t sit down.\x92

\x91Henry! What is it?\x92

Henry stood mournfully staring at her. Finally in the manner of one who
has committed a speech to memory, he said this:--

\x91Cicely, I asked you this afternoon if we couldn\x92t have an
\x93understanding.\x94 You know! It seemed fair to me, if--if--if you, well,
cared--because I had three thousand dollars, and all that.\x92

She made a rather impatient little gesture. He saw her hands move; but
pressed on:--

\x91Since then everything has changed. I have no right to ask you now.\x92

There was a long silence. As on other occasions, in moments of grave
emergency, Henry had recourse to words.

\x91There was trouble at the office. I couldn\x92t leave Hump to carry all the
burden alone. And I was being sued for libel. My stories... So I\x92ve had
to make a very quick turn\x92--he had heard that term used by real
business men; it sounded rather well, he felt; it had come to him on
the train--\x91I\x92ve had to make a very quick turn--use every cent, or most
every cent, of the money. Of course, without any money at all--while I
might have some chance as a writer--still--well, I have no right to ask
such a thing of you, and I--I withdraw it. I feel that I--I can\x92t do
less than that.\x92 Then, after another silence, Henry swayed, caught at
the railing, sank miserably to the steps.

\x91It\x92s all right,\x92 he heard himself saying. \x91I just thought--everything\x92s
been in such a mid rush--I didn\x92t have my supper. I\x92ll be all right...\x92

\x91Henry,\x92 he heard her saying now, in what seemed to him, as he reflected
on it later that night, at his room, in bed, an extraordinarily
matter-of-fact voice; girls were complicated creatures--\x91Henry, you must
be starved to death. You come right in with me.\x92

He followed her in through the great hall, the unlighted living-room,
a dark passage where she found his hand and led him along, a huge place
that must have been the kitchen, and then an unmistakable pantry.

\x91Stand here till I find the light,\x92 she murmured.

It _was_ the pantry.

She opened the ice-box, produced milk and cold meat. In a tin box was
chocolate cake.

\x91I oughtn\x92t to let you,\x92 he said weakly. \x91I knew you were angry to-day
there----\x92

\x91But, Henry, they could _hear_ you! Thomas and William. Don\x92t you
see----\x92

\x91That wasn\x92t all,\x92 he broke in excitedly. \x91It was my asking for an
understanding.\x92

She was bending over a drawer, rummaging for knife and fork.

\x91No, it wasn\x92t that,\x92 she said.

\x91I\x92d like to know what it was, then!\x92

\x91It was--oh, please, Henry, don\x92t ever talk that way about money again.\x92

\x91But, Cicely, don\x92t you see----\x92

She straightened up now, knife in one hand, fork in the other; looked
directly at him; slowly shook her head.

\x91What,\x92 she asked, \x91has money to do with--with you and me?\x92

\x91But, Cicely, you don\x92t mean----\x92

He saw the sudden sparkle in her dark eyes, the slow slight smile that
parted her lips.

She turned away then.

\x91Oh,\x92 she remarked, rather timidly, \x91you\x92ll want these,\x92 and gave him
the knife and fork.

He laid them on the table.

They stood for a little time without speaking; she fingering the
fastener of the cake box, he pulling at his moustache. Finally, very
softly, she said this:--

\x91Of course, Henry, you know, we _would_ really have to be very patient,
and not say anything about it to people until--well, until we _could_,
you know....\x92

And then, his trembling arm about her shoulders, his lips reverently
brushing her forehead in their first kiss--until now the restraint of
youth (which is quite as remarkable as its excesses) had kept them just
short of any such sober admission of feeling--her cheek resting lightly
against his coat, she said this:--

\x91I shouldn\x92t have let myself be disturbed. I don\x92t really care about
Thomas and William. But what you said made me seem like that sort of
girl. Henry, you--you hurt me a little.\x92 His eyes filled. He stood
erect, looking out over the dark mass of her hair, looking down the long
vista of the years. He compressed his lips.

\x91Of course,\x92 he said bravely. \x91We don\x92t care about money We\x92ve got all
our lives. I guess I can work. Prob\x92ly I\x92ll write better for not having
any. You know--it\x92ll spur me. And I\x92ll be working for you.\x92

He heard her whisper:--

\x91I\x92ll be so _proud_, Henry.\x92

\x91What\x92s money to us!\x92 He seemed at last to be getting hold of this
tremendous thought, to be approaching belief. He repeated it, with a
ring in his voice: \x91What\x92s money to us!\x92

After all what _is_ money to Twenty?



X--LOVE LAUGHS


1


|A squat locomotive, bell ringing, dense clouds of black smoke pouring
from the flaring smoke-stack, came rumbling and clanking in between the
platforms and stopped just beyond the old red brick depot.

The crowd of ladies converged swiftly toward the steps of the four dingy
yellow cars that made up, traditionally, the one-ten train. These
ladies were bound for the shops, the matin\xE9es (it was a Wednesday, and
October), the lectures and concerts of Chicago.

Henry Calverly, 3rd, avoided the press by swinging his slimly athletic
person aboard the smoker. He stepped within and for a moment stood
sniffing the thick blend of coal gases and poor tobacco, then turned
back and made his way against the incoming current of men. Bad air on a
train made him car-sick. He stood considering the matter, clinging to a
sooty brake wheel, while the train started. Then he plunged at the
door of the car next behind, in among an enormous number of dressed-up,
chattering ladies. He wondered why they all talked at once; it was
like a tea. He was afraid of them. Apparently they filled the car; he
couldn\x92t, from the door, see one empty seat. Well, nothing for it but
to run the gauntlet. And not without a faintly stirring sense of
conspicuousness that was at once pleasing and confusing he started down
the aisle, clutching at seat-backs for support.

Near the farther end of the car there was one vacant half-seat. A girl
occupied the other half. She was leaning forward, talking to the
women in front. These latter, on close inspection--he had paused
midway--proved to be Mrs B. L. Ames and her daughter, Mary.

This was awkward. He could hardly, as he felt, drop into the seat just
behind them. Besides, who was the girl in the other half of that seat?
The hat was unfamiliar; yet something in the way it moved about came to
him as ghosts come.

He weakly considered returning to the smoker; even turned; but a lady
caught his sleeve. It was Mrs John W. MacLouden.

\x91I wanted to tell you how much we are enjoying your stories in the
_Gleaner_,\x92 she said. \x91Mr MacLouden says they\x92re worthy of Stevenson.
His _New Arabian Nights_ you know. Mr MacLouden met Stevenson once. In
London.\x92

Henry blushed; mumbled; edged away.

Mary Ames looked up.

Her cool eyes rested on him. But she didn\x92t bow, or smile. He wasn\x92t
sure that she even inclined her head.

His blush became a flush. He forgot Mrs MacLouden. It seemed now that
he couldn\x92t retreat. Not after that. He must face that girl. Walk coolly
by. He couldn\x92t take that seat, of course; but to walk deliberately
by and on into the car behind would help a little. At least in his
feelings; and these were what mattered.... Who _was_ the girl under that
unfamiliar hat? Some one the Ameses knew well, clearly.

He moved on, straight toward the enemy. Dignity, he felt, was the thing.
Yes, you had to be dignified. Though it was a little hard to carry with
the car lurching like this. He wished his face wouldn\x92t burn so.

The girl beneath that hat raised her head, and exhibited the blue eyes
and the pleasantly, even prettily freckled face of Martha Caldwell!

Henry stood, in a sense fascinated, staring down. He had put Martha out
of his life for ever. But here she was! He had believed, now and then
during the summer, that he hated her. To-day it was interesting--indeed,
enough of the old emotional tension fingered within him to make it
momentarily, slightly thrilling--to discover that he liked her. He
saw her now with an unexpected detachment. He even saw that she was
prettier. The smile that was just fading when their eyes met had a touch
of radiance in it.

Beside Martha, on the unoccupied half of the seat, lay her shopping bag.

In a preoccupied manner, as the smile died, she reached out to pick it
up and make room. But the little action which had begun impersonally,
brought up memories. Her hand stopped abruptly in air; her colour rose.

Then, as Henry, very red, lips compressed, was about to plunge on along
the aisle, the hand came down on the bag.

She said, half audibly--it was a question:--

\x91Sit here?\x92

Henry was gripping the seat-corner just back of Mrs Ames\x92s shoulder;
a rigid shoulder. Mary had turned stiffly round. He couldn\x92t stop
his whirling mind long enough to decide anything. Why hadn\x92t he gone
straight by? What could they talk about? Unless they were to talk low,
confidentially, Mary and her mother would hear most of it. And they
couldn\x92t talk confidentially. Not very well.

He took the seat.

What _could_ they say?

But the surprising fact stood out that Martha was a nice girl, a
likeable girl. Even if she had believed the stories about him. Even
if... No, it hadn\x92t seemed like Martha.

Henry was staring at Mrs Ames\x92s tortoise-shell comb. Martha was looking
out the window, tapping on the sill with a white-gloved hand.

A moment of the old sense of proprietorship over Martha came upon him.

\x91Silly,\x92 he remarked, muttering it rather crossly, \x91wearing white gloves
into Chicago! Be black in ten minutes. Women-folks haven\x92t got much
sense.\x92

Martha gave this remark the silence it deserved. She dropped her eyes,
studied the shopping bag. Then, very quietly, she said this:--

\x91Henry--it hasn\x92t been very easy--but I _have_ wanted to tell you about
your stories....

\x91What about\x92em?\x92 he asked, ungraciously enough. And he dug with his cane
at the grimy green plush of the seat-back before him.

\x91Oh, they\x92re so good, Henry! I didn\x92t know--I didn\x92t realise--just
everybody\x92s talking about them! _Everybody!_ You\x92ve no idea! It\x92s been
splendid of you to--you know, to answer people that way.\x92

I don\x92t think Martha meant to touch on the one most difficult topic.
They both reddened again.

After a longer pause, she tried it again.

\x91I just _love_ reading them myself. And I wish you could hear the things
Jim--Mr Merchant--says....\x92

She was actually dragging him in!

... He\x92s really a judge. You\x92ve no idea, Henry!\x92 He met Kipling at a
tea in New York. He knows lots of people like--you know, editors and
publishers, people like that. And he crossed the ocean once with Richard
Harding Davis. He says you\x92re doing a very remarkable thing...
original note.... Sunbury is going to be proud of you. He wouldn\x92t
let anything--you know, personal--influence his judgment. He\x92s very
fair-minded.\x92

Henry dug and dug at the plush.

She was pulling at her left glove.

What on earth!...

She had it off.

\x91I want you to know, Henry. Such a wonderful thing has happened to me.
See!\x92

On her third finger glittered a diamond in a circlet of gold.

\x91He wanted to give me a cluster, Henry. I wouldn\x92t let him. I just
didn\x92t want him to be too extravagant. I love this stone.. I picked it
out myself. At Welding\x92s. And then he wished it on. And, Henry, I\x92m so
happy! I can\x92t bear to think that you and I--anybody--you know....\x92

Henry was critically, moodily, appraising the diamond.

\x91Can\x92t we be friends, Henry?\x92

\x91Sure we can! Of course!\x92

\x91I just can\x92t tell you how wonderful it is. I want everybody else to be
happy.\x92

\x91I\x92m happy!\x92 he announced, explosively, between set teeth.

She thought this over.

\x91I\x92ve heard a little talk, of course. I\x92ve been interested, too. Yes, I
have! Cicely\x92s a perfectly dandy girl. And she\x92s--you know, _that_
way. Knows so much about books and things. I didn\x92t realise--that you
were--you know, really--well, engaged?\x92

There was a long pause. Henry dug and dug with his stick.

Finally, eyes wandering a little but mouth still set, he said huskily:--

\x91Yes, we\x92re engaged.\x92

\x91What was that, Henry?\x92

\x91I said, \x93Yes, we\x92re engaged.\x94\x92

\x91O--o--oh, Henry, I\x92m so glad!\x92

\x91Don\x92t say anything about it, Martha.\x92

\x91Oh, of _course_ not!... You\x92ve no idea how nice people are being to me.
They\x92re giving me a party to-night, down on the South Side. We\x92re coming
back to-morrow.\x92

Mr Merchant met her in the Chicago depot. Henry had excused himself
before Mrs Ames and Mary got up. He would have hurried off into the
grimy city, but the crowd held him back. Martha saw him and dragged the
rich and important man of her choice toward him.

Henry thought him very old, and not particularly goodlooking. He was a
stocky, sandy-complexioned man; dressed now, as always, in brown, even
to a brown hat. He looked strong enough--Henry knew that he played polo,
and that sort of thing--but gossip put him at thirty-eight. He certainly
couldn\x92t be under thirty-five. Henry wondered how Martha could...

Then he found himself taking the man\x92s hand and listening to more of the
familiar praise. But on this occasion it had, he felt, a condescension,
a touch of patronage, that irritated him.

\x91I\x92d like to talk with you, Calverly. There\x92s a chance that--I\x92ll tell
you! I may be able to arrange it this evening. They\x92re not letting me
come to the party. Got to do something. I\x92ll try it. Come around to my
place between eight and half-past, and I\x92ll explain more fully. There\x92s
a classmate of mine in town that can help us, maybe. You\x92ll do that?
Good! I\x92ll expect you.\x92

He was gone.

Slowly, moodily, Henry wandered through the station and up the long
stairway to the street.

He felt deeply uncomfortable. It wasn\x92t this Mr Merchant, though he
wished he had known how to show his resentment of the man\x92s offhand
manner. But he hadn\x92t known; he wouldn\x92t again; before age and
experience he was helpless. No, his trouble lay deeper. He shouldn\x92t
have told Martha that he was engaged. Why had he done such a thing? What
on earth had he meant by it? It was a rather dreadful break.

He paused on the Wells Street bridge; hung over the dirty wooden
railing; watched a tug come through the opaque, sluggish water, pouring
out its inevitable black smoke, a great rolling cloud of it, that set
him coughing. He perversely welcomed it.

Cicely expected him in the evening. He would have to drop in on his way
to Mr Merchant\x92s. Could he tell her what he had done? Dared he tell her?

Martha and the Ameses would be gone overnight. That was something. And
people didn\x92t get up early after parties. At least, girls didn\x92t.
It would be afternoon before they would reappear in Sunbury. Say
twenty-four hours. But immediately after that, certainly by evening, all
Sunbury would have the news that the popular Cicely Hamlin was engaged.
To young Henry Calverly. The telephone would ring. Congratulations would
be pouring in.

He stared fixedly at the water. He wondered what made him do these
things, lose control of his tongue. It wasn\x92t his first offence; nor,
surely, his last. An unnerving suggestion, that last! He asked himself
how bad a man had to feel before jumping down there and ending it all.
It happened often enough. You saw it in the papers.


3


Welding\x92s jewellery store occupied the best corner on the proper side of
State Street. In its long series of show window\x92s, resting on velvet of
appropriate colours, backed by mirrors, were bracelets, lockets, rings,
necklaces, \x91dog-collars\x92 of matched pearls, diamond tiaras, watches,
chests of silverware, silver bowls, cups and ornaments, articles in
cut glass, statuettes of ebony, bronze and jade, and here and there,
in careless little heaps, scattered handfuls of unmounted gems--rubies,
emeralds, yellow, white and blue diamonds, and rich-coloured
semi-precious stones.

But all this without over-emphasis. There were no built-up, glittering
pyramids, no placards, no price-tags even. There was instead, despite
the luxury of the display, a restraint; as if it were more a concession
to the traditions of sound shop-keeping than an appeal for custom. For
Welding\x92s was known, had been known through a long generation, from
Pittsburg to Omaha. Welding\x92s, like the Art Institute, Hooley\x92s Theatre,
Devoe\x92s candy store, Field\x92s buses, Central Music Hall, was a Chicago
institution, playing its inevitable part at every well-arranged wedding
as in every properly equipped dining-room. You couldn\x92t give any one you
really cared about a present of jewellery in other than a Welding box.
Not if you were doing the thing right! Oh, you _could_, perhaps....

And Welding\x92s, from the top-booted, top-hatted doorman (such were not
common in Chicago then) to the least of the immaculately clad salesmen,
was profoundly, calmly, overpoweringly aware of its position.

Before the section of the window that was devoted to rings stood Henry.

About him pressed the throng of early-afternoon shoppers--sharp-faced
women, brisk business men, pretty girls in pretty clothes, messenger
boys, loiterers and the considerable element of foreign-appearing,
rather shabby men and women, boys and girls that were always an item in
the Chicago scene. Out in the wide street the traffic, a tangle of it
(this was before the days of intelligent traffic regulation anywhere in
America) rolled and rattled and thundered by--carriages, hacks, delivery
wagons, two-horse and three-horse trucks, and trains of cable-cars, each
with its flat wheel or two that pounded rhythmically as it rolled.
And out of the traffic--out of the huge, hive-like stores and
office-buildings, out of the very air as breezes blew over from other,
equally busy streets, came a noise that was a blend of noises, a steady
roar, the nervous hum of the city.

But of all this Henry saw, heard, nothing; merely pulled at his
moustache and tapped his cane against his knee.

A wanly pretty girl, with short yellow hair curled kinkily against her
head under a sombrero hat, loitered toward him, close to the window;
paused at his side, brushing his elbow; glanced furtively up under her
hat brim; smiled mechanically, showing gold teeth; moved around him and
lingered on the other side; spoke in a low tone; finally, with a glance
toward the fat policeman who stood, in faded blue, out in the thick of
things by the car tracks, drifted on and away.

Henry had neither seen nor heard her.

Brows knit, lips compressed, eyes nervously intent, he marched
resolutely into Welding\x92s.

\x91Look at some rings!\x92 he said, to a distrait salesman.

He indicated, sternly, a solitaire that looked, he thought, about like
Martha\x92s.

\x91How much is that?\x92

\x91That? Not a bad stone. Let me see... Oh, three hundred dollars.\x92

Henry, huskily, in a dazed hush of the spirit, repeated the words:--

\x91Three--hundred--dollars!\x92

The salesman tapped with manicured fingers on the showcase.

\x91Have you--have you--have you...

The salesman raised his eyebrows.

\x91... any others?\x92

\x91Oh, yes, we have others.\x92 He drew out a tray from the wall behind him.
\x91I can show fairly good stones as low as sixty or eighty dollars. Here\x92s
one that\x92s really very good at a hundred.\x92

There was a long silence. The glistening finger nails fell to tapping
again.

\x91This one, you say is--one hundred?\x92

\x91One hundred.\x92

Another silence. Then:--

\x91Thank you. I--I was just sorta looking around.\x92

The salesman began replacing the trays.

Henry moved away; slowly, irresolutely, at first; then, as he passed out
the door, with increasing speed. At the corner of Randolph he was racing
along. He caught the two-fourteen for Sunbury by chasing it the length
of the platform. Henry could do the hundred yards under twelve seconds
at any time with all his clothes on. He could do it under eleven on a
track.

By a quarter to three he was walking swiftly, with dignity, up Simpson
Street. He turned in at the doorway beside Hemple\x92s meat-market and ran
up the long stairway to the offices above.

Humphrey strolled in from the composing room.

\x91Seen those people already, Hen?\x92

\x91I--you see--well, no. I\x92m going right back in. On the three-eight.\x92

\x91Going back? But----\x92

\x91It\x92s this way, Hump. I--it\x92ll seem sorta sudden, I know--you see, I
want to get an engagement ring. There\x92s one that would do all right, I
think, for--well, a hundred dollars--and I was wondering....\x92

Humphrey stared at him; grinned.

\x91So you\x92ve gone and done it! You don\x92t say! You are a bit rapid, Henry.
The lady must have been on the train.\x92

\x91No--not quite--you see...\x92

\x91Got to be done right now, eh? All in a rush?\x92

\x91Well, Hump...

\x91Wait a minute! Let me collect my scattered faculties. If you\x92ve got to
this point it\x92s no good trying to reason----\x92

\x91But, Hump, I\x92ll be reasonable----\x92

\x91Yes, I know. Now listen to me! This appears to come under the general
head of emergencies. We\x92re not quite in such bad shape as we were a
month back. There\x92s a little advertising revenue coming in. An----\x92

\x91Yes, I thought----\x92

\x91And you\x92ve certainly sunk enough in this old property--\x92

\x91No more than you, Hump----\x92

\x91Just wait, will you! I don\x92t see but what we\x92ve got to stand back of
you. Perhaps we\x92d better enter it as a loan from the business to you
until I can think up a better excuse. Or no, I\x92ll tell you--call it a
salary advance. Well, something! I\x92ll work it out. Never you mind now.
And if you\x92re going to stop at the bank and catch the three-eight you\x92ll
have to step along.\x92

It would have interested a student of psychophysics, I think, to slip a
clinical thermometer in under Henry\x92s tongue as he sat, erect, staring,
with nervously twitching hands and feet, on the three-eight train.


4


To Cicely\x92s house Henry hurried after bolting a supper at Stanley\x92s
restaurant and managing to evade Humphrey\x92s amused questions when he
heard them.

It was early, barely half-past seven. The Watt household had dinner (not
supper) at seven. They would hardly be through. He couldn\x92t help that.
He had waited as long as he could.

He rang the bell. The butler showed him in. He sat on the piano stool in
the spacious, high-ceiled parlour, where he had waited so often before.

To-night it looked like a strange room.

He told himself that it was absurd to feel so nervous. He and Cicely
understood each other well enough. She cared for him. She had said so,
more than once.

Of course, the little matter of facing Madame Watt... though, after all,
what could she do?

He tried to control the tingling of his nerves.

\x91I must relax,\x92 he thought.

With this object he moved over to the heavily upholstered sofa and
settled himself on it; stretched out his legs; thrust his hands into his
pockets.

But there was an extraordinary pressure in his temples; a pounding.

He snatched a hand from one pocket and felt hurriedly in another to
see if the precious little box was there; the box with the magical name
embossed on the cover, \x91Weldings.\x92

He reflected, exultantly, \x91I never bought anything there before.\x92

Then: \x91She\x92s a long time. They must be at the table still.\x92 He sat up;
listened. But the dining-room in the Dexter Smith place was far back
behind the \x91back parlour.\x92 The walls were thick. There were heavy
hangings and vast areas of soft carpet. You couldn\x92t hear. \x91Gee!\x92 his
thoughts raced on, \x91think of owning all this! Wonder how people ever get
so much money. Wonder how it would seem.\x92

He caught himself twisting his neck nervously within his collar. And his
hands were clenched; his toes, even, were drawn up tightly in his shoes.

\x91Gotta relax,\x92 he told himself again.

Then he felt for the little box. This time he transferred it to a
trousers pocket; held it tight in his hand there.

A door opened and closed. There was a distant rustling. Henry, paler,
sprang to his feet.

\x91I must be cool,\x92 he thought. \x91Think before I speak. Everything depends
on my steadiness now.\x92

But the step was not Cicely\x92s. She was slim and light. This was a solid
tread.

He gripped the little box more tightly. He was meeting with a curious
difficulty in breathing.

Then, in the doorway, appeared the large person, the hooked nose, the
determined mouth, the piercing, hawklike eyes of Madame Watt.

\x91How d\x92do, Henry,\x92 she said, in her deep voice. \x91Sit down. I want to
talk to you. About Cicely. I\x92m going to tell you frankly--I like you,
Henry; I believe you\x92re going to amount to something one of these
days--but I had no idea--now I want you to take this in the spirit I say
it in--I had no idea things were going along so fast between Cicely and
you. I\x92ve trusted you. I\x92ve let you two play together all you liked. And
I won\x92t say I\x92d stand in the way, a few years from now----

\x91A few years!...\x92

\x91Now, Henry, I\x92m not going to have you getting all stirred up. Let\x92s
admit that you\x92re fond of Cicely. You are, aren\x92t you? Yes? Well, now
we\x92ll try to look at it sensibly. How old are you?\x92

\x91I\x92m twenty, but----\x92

\x91When will you be twenty-one?\x92

\x91Next month. You see----\x92

\x91Now tell me--try to think this out clearly--how on earth could you
expect to take care of a girl who\x92s been brought up as Cicely has. Even
if she were old enough to know her own mind, which I can\x92t believe she
is.\x92

\x91Oh, but she does!\x92

\x91Fudge, Henry! She couldn\x92t. What experience has she had? Never mind
that, though. Tell me, what is your income now. You\x92ll admit I have a
right to ask.\x92

\x91Twelve a week, but----\x92

\x91And what prospects have you? Be practical now! How far do you expect to
rise on the _Gleaner!_\x92

\x91Not very high, but our circulation----\x92

\x91What earthly difference can a little more or less circulation make when
it\x92s a country weekly! No, Henry, believe me, I have a great deal of
confidence in you--I mean that you\x92ll keep on growing up and forming
character--but this sort of thing can not--simply can not--go on now.
Why, Henry, you haven\x92t even begun your man\x92s life yet! Very likely
you\x92ll write. It may be that you\x92re a genius. But that makes it all the
more a problem. Can\x92t you see----\x92

\x91Yes, of course, but----\x92

\x91No, listen to me! I asked Cicely to-day why you were coming so often.
I wasn\x92t at all satisfied with her answers to my questions. And when I
forced her to admit that she has been as good as engaged to you----\x92

\x91But we _aren\x92t_ engaged! It\x92s only an understanding.\x92

\x91Understanding! Pah! Don\x92t excite me, Henry. I want to straighten this
out just as pleasantly as I can. I _am_ fond of you, Henry. But I never
dreamed---- Tell me, you and that young Weaver own the _Gleaner_, I
think.\x92

\x91Yes\x92m we own it. But----\x92

\x91Just what does that mean? That you have paid money--actual money--for
it?\x92

\x91Yes\x92m. It\x92s cost us about four thousand.\x92

\x91Four thousand! Hmm!\x92

\x91And then Charlie Waterhouse--he\x92s town treasurer--he sued me for
libel--ten thousand dollars\x92--Henry seemed a thought proud of this--\x91and
I had to give him two thousand to settle. It was something in one of
my stories--the one called _Sinbad the Treasurer_. Mr Davis--he\x92s my
lawyer--he said Charlie had a case, but----\x92

\x91Wait a minute, Henry! Where did you get that money. It\x92s--let me
see--about four thousand dollars--your share--\x92

\x91Yes\x92m four thousand. It was my mother\x92s. She left it to me. But----\x92

\x91I see. Your mother\x92s estate. How much is left of it--outside what you
lost in this suit and the two thousand you\x92ve invested in the paper.\x92

\x91Nothing. But----\x92

\x91Nothing! Now, Henry\x92--no, don\x92t speak! I want you to listen to me a few
minutes longer. And I want you to take seriously to heart what I\x92m going
to say. First, about this paper, the _Gleaner_. It\x92s a serious question
whether you\x92ll ever get your two thousand dollars back. If you ever
_have_ to sell out you won\x92t get anything like it. If you were older,
and if you were by nature a business man--which you aren\x92t!--you might
manage, by the hardest kind of work to build it up to where you could
get twenty or thirty dollars a week out of it instead of twelve. But
you\x92ll never do it. You aren\x92t fitted for it. You\x92re another sort of
boy, by nature. And I\x92m sorry to say I firmly believe this money, or
the most of it is certain to go after the other two thousand, that Mr
Charlie Waterhouse got. But even considering that you boys _could_ make
the paper pay for itself, Cicely couldn\x92t be the wife of a struggling
little country editor. I wouldn\x92t listen to that for a minute! No, my
advice to you, Henry, is to take your losses as philosophically as you
can, call it experience, and go to work as a writer. It\x92ll take you
years----\x92

\x91_Years!_ But----\x92

\x91Yes, to establish yourself. A success in a country town isn\x92t a New
York success. Remember that. No, it\x92s a long road you\x92re going to
travel. After you\x92ve got somewhere, when you\x92ve become a man, when
you\x92ve found yourself, with some real prospects--it isn\x92t that I\x92d
expect you to be rich, Henry, but I\x92d _have_ to be assured that you were
a going concern--why, then you might come to me again. But not now. I
want you to go now----\x92

\x91Without seeing Cicely?\x92

\x91Certainly. Above all things. I want you to go, and promise that you
won\x92t try to see her. To-morrow she goes away for a long visit.\x92

\x91For--a--long... But she\x92d see other men, and--Oh!...\x92

\x91Exactly. I mean that she shall. Best way in the world to find out
whether you two are calves or lovers. One way or the other, we\x92ll prove
it. And now you must go! Remember you have my best wishes. I hope you\x92ll
find the road one of these days and make a go of it.\x92

A moment more and the front door had closed on him. He stood before
the house, staring up through the maple leaves at the starry sky,
struggling, for the moment vainly, toward sanity. It was like the end of
the world. If was unthinkable. It was awful.

But after waiting a while he went to Mr Merchant\x92s. There was nothing
else to do.


5


Mr Merchant himself opened the door to Henry. He lived in one of the
earliest of the apartment buildings that later were to work a deep
change in the home life of Sunbury. \x91How are you, Calverly!\x92 he said, in
his offhand, superior way. Then in a lower and distinctly less superior
tone, almost friendly indeed, he added, \x91Got a bit of a surprise for
you. Come in.\x92

The living-room was lighted by a single standing lamp with a red shade.
Beneath it, curled up like a boy in a cretonne-covered wing chair, his
shock of faded yellow hair mussed where his fingers had been, his
heavy faded yellow moustache bushing out under a straight nose and pale
cheeks, his old gray suit sadly wrinkled, sat a stranger reading from a
handful of newspaper clippings.

Henry paused in the door. The man looked up, so quickly that Henry
started, and fixed on him eyes that while they were a rather pale blue
yet had an uncanny fire in them.

The man frowned as he cried, gruffly:--

\x91Oh, come in! Needn\x92t be afraid of me!\x92 And coolly read on.

Henry stepped just inside the door. Turned mutely to his host. What a
queer man! Had he had it within him at the moment to resent anything, he
would have stiffened. But he was crushed to begin with.

The newspaper clippings had a faintly familiar look. From across the
room he thought it the type and paper of the _Gleaner_. His stories,
doubtless. Mr Merchant was making the man read them. Well, what of it!
What was the good, if they made him so cross.

\x91Calverly, if Mr Galbraith would stop reading for a minute--\x92

\x91I won\x92t. Don\x92t interrupt me!\x92

\x91--I would introduce him.\x92

Galbraith! The name brought colour to Henry\x92s cheek. Not... It couldn\x92t
be!....

\x91But whether you care to know it or not, this is Mr Calverly, the author
of----\x92

\x91So I gathered. Keep still!\x92

Then the extraordinary gentleman, muttering angrily, gathered up the
clippings and went abruptly off down the hall, apparently to one of the
bedrooms.

\x91That--that isn\x92t _the_ Mr Galbraith?\x92 asked Henry, in voice tinged with
awe.

\x91That\x92s who it is. The creator of the modern magazine. We\x92ll have to
wait till he\x92s finished now, or he\x92ll eat us alive.\x92

\x91Henry tried to think. This sputtery little man! He was famous, and he
wasn\x92t even dignified. Henry would have expected a frock coat; or at
least a manner of businesslike calm.

Mr Merchant was talking, good-humoredly. Henry heard part of it. He
even answered questions now and then. But all the time he was
trying--trying--to think. He thrust his hands into his pockets. One hand
closed on the little box. He winced; closed his eyes; fought desperately
for some sort of a mental footing.

\x91Calverly! What\x92s the matter with you? You look ill. Let me get you a
drink.\x92

And Henry heard his own voice saying weakly:--

\x91Oh, no, thank you. I never take anything. I just don\x92t feel very well.
It\x92s been a--a hard day.\x92

\x91Lie down on the sofa then. Rest a little while. For I\x92m afraid you\x92ve
got a bit of excitement coming.\x92

Henry did this.

Shortly the great little Mr Galbraith returned. He came straight
to Henry; stood over\x92 him; glared--angrily, Henry thought, with a
fluttering of his wits--down at him.

It seemed to Henry that it would be politer to sit up. He did this, but
the editor caught his shoulder and pushed him down again.

\x91No,\x92 he cried, \x91stay as you were. If you\x92re tired, rest! Nothing so
important--nothing! If I had learned that one small lesson twenty years
ago, I\x92d be sole owner of my business to-day. Rest--that\x92s the thing!
And the stomach. Two-thirds of our troubles are swallowed down our
throats. What do you eat?\x92

\x91I--I don\x92t know\x92s I----\x92

\x91For breakfast, say! What did you eat this morning for breakfast?\x92

\x91Well, I had an orange, and some oatmeal, and----\x92

\x91Wait! Stop right there! Wrong at the beginning. I don\x92t doubt you had
cream on the oatmeal?\x92

\x91Well--milk, sorta.\x92

\x91Exactly! Orange and milk! Now really--think that over--orange and milk!
Isn\x92t that asking a lot of your stomach, right at the beginning of the
day?\x92

Mr Merchant broke in here.

\x91Galbraith, for heaven\x92s sake! Don\x92t bulldoze him.\x92

\x91But this is important. It\x92s health! We\x92ve got to look out for that.
Right from the start! Here, Calverly--how old are you?\x92

\x91I\x92m--well--most--twenty-one.\x92

\x91Most twenty-one! And you have to lie down before nine o\x92clock! Good
God, boy, don\x92t you see----\x92

\x91Oh, come, Galbraith!\x92

\x91Well, I\x92ll put it this way:--Here\x92s a young man that can work magic.
Magic!\x92 He waved the bundle of clippings. \x91Nothing like it since Kipling
and Stevenson! First thing\x92s to take care of him, isn\x92t it?\x92

Mr Merchant winked at the staring, crushed youth on the sofa.

\x91Then you like the stories, Galbraith?\x92

\x91Like\x92em! Of course I like \x91em. What do you think I\x92m talking about?...
Like \x91em! Hmpf! Tell you what I\x92m going to do. A new thing in American
publishing. But they\x92re a new kind of stories. I\x92m going to reprint
\x91em, as they stand, in _Galbraith\x92s_. What do you think o\x92 that? A bit
original, eh? I\x92ll advertise that they\x92ve been printed before. Play it
up. Tell how I found \x91em. Put over my new author.\x92 He shook his finger
again at the author in question. \x91Understand, I\x92m going to pay you just
as if you\x92d submitted the script to me. That\x92s how I work. Cut out all
the old editorial nonsense. Red tape. If I like a thing I print it. I
edit _Galbraith\x92s_ to suit myself.

I succeed because there are a million and a half others like me. And I
print the best. I\x92m the editor of _Galbraith\x92s_ Oh, I keep a few desk
men down there at the office. For the details. One of \x91em thought he
was the editor. Little short fellow. I stood him a month. Had to go to
England. The day I landed I walked in on him and said, \x93Frank, pack up!
Get out! Take a month\x92s pay. I\x92m the editor.\x94\x92

He snorted at the memory, and paced down the room, waving the clippings.
Henry sat up, following him with anxious eyes.

When the extraordinary little man came back he said, shortly: \x91All
tyrants have short legs.\x92 And walked off again.

\x91Who\x92s Calverly?\x92 he asked, the next time around.

\x91It\x92s on the paper here--\x93Weaver and Calverly\x94? Father? Uncle?\x92

\x91No,\x92 Henry managed to reply, \x91it\x92s--it\x92s me.\x92

\x91You? Good heavens! We must stop that.\x92 He tapped Henry\x92s shoulder.
\x91Don\x92t be a desk man! You\x92re an artist! You don\x92t seem to understand
what we\x92re getting at. Man, I\x92m going to make you! You\x92re going to be
famous in a year.\x92

He stopped short; took another swing around the room.

\x91How many of these stories are there, Calverly?\x92

\x91Twenty.\x92

\x91Fine. Short, snappy, and enough of \x91em to make a very neat book. By the
way, I\x92m starting a book department in the spring. \x91What do you want for
\x91em?\x92

Henry could only look appealingly at his host.

\x91I\x92ll pay liberally. I tell you frankly I mean to hold you. Make it
worth your while. You\x92re going to be my author? Henry Calverly, a
Galbraith author. What do you say to a hundred apiece. That\x92s two
thousand.\x92

Henry would have gasped had he not felt utterly spent.

He sat motionless, hands limp on his knees, chin down.

\x91Not enough,\x92 said Merchant.

Henry shifted one hand in ineffectual protest. He was frightened.

\x91It\x92s pretty near enough. After all, Merchant, it\x92s a case of a new
writer. I\x92ve got to make him. It\x92ll cost money.\x92

\x91True. But I should think----\x92

\x91Say a hundred and fifty. That\x92s three thousand. Will you take that,
Calverly?

\x91What for?\x92 asked Merchant. \x91What are you buying exactly?\x92

\x91Oh, serial rights. Pay a reasonable royalty on the book, of course.
But I\x92ve got to publish the book, too. And I want a long-term contract.
Here!\x92 He sat down and figured with a pencil on the edge of the evening
paper. \x91How about this? I\x92m to have exclusive control of the Henry
Calverly matter for five years----\x92

\x91Too long,\x92 said Mr Merchant.

\x91Well--three years. I\x92m to see every word before he offers it elsewhere.
And for what I accept I\x92d pay at the same rate per word as for these
stories. And books at the same royalty as we agree on for this.\x92

\x91Fine for you. Guarantees your control of him. But he gets nothing. No
guarantee.\x92

\x91What would be right then? I\x92d do the fair thing. He\x92ll never regret
tying up with me.\x92

\x91You\x92d better agree to pay him something--say twenty-five a week--as a
minimum, to be charged against serial payments. That is, if you want to
tie him up. I\x92m not sure I\x92d advise him to do even that, now.\x92

\x91I\x92m going to tie him up, all right. I\x92d go the limit. Twenty-five
a week, minimum, for three years. That\x92s agreed... How\x92re you fixed,
Calverly? Want any money now?\x92

Henry looked again at his cool, accomplished host. \x91Yes. Better advance
a little. He could use it. Couldn\x92t you, Calverly?\x92

\x91Why---why----\x92

\x91What do you say to five hundred. That\x92d clinch the bargain.
Here--wait!\x92

He produced a pocket cheque-book and a fountain pen, and wrote out the
cheque.

\x91Here you are, Calverly. That\x92d take care of you for the present.
Mustn\x92t forget to send the stub to Miss Peters to-morrow. You\x92d better
go now. Go home. Get a good night\x92s sleep. And watch that stomach.
Cereal\x92s good, at your age. But cut out the orange.... I\x92m going to bed,
Merchant. Been travelling hard. Tired out myself.... Calverly, I\x92ll send
you the contract from New York.\x92

\x91First, though\x92--this from Mr Merchant--\x91I think you\x92d better write a
letter--here, to-night--confirming the arrangement. You and I can do
that. We\x92ll let Mr Calverly go.\x92

Mr Galbraith didn\x92t say good-night. Henry thought he was about to, and
stood up, expectantly; but the little man suddenly dropped his
eyes; looked hurriedly about; muttered--\x91Where\x92d I lay that fountain
pen?\x92--found it; and rushed off down the hall, trailing the clippings
behind him.

Out in the hall, Mr Merchant pulled the door to.

\x91Calverly,\x92 he said, \x91I congratulate you. And I shall congratulate
Galbraith.\x92

Henry looked at him out of wan eyes.

Then suddenly he giggled aloud.

\x91I know how you feel,\x92 said the older man kindly. \x91It is pleasant to
succeed.\x92

\x91I felt a little bad about--you know, what you said about making him
write that letter. He might think I----\x92

\x91Don\x92t you worry about that. I\x92ll have the letter for you in the
morning. I\x92m going to pin him right to it. He\x92ll never get out of this.\x92

\x91You--you don\x92t mean that he\x92d--he\x92d----\x92

\x91Oh, he might forget it.\x92

\x91Nor after he _promised!_\x92

\x91Galbraith\x92s a genius. He gets excited. Over-cerebrates at times.
Sometimes he offers young fellows more than he can deliver. Then he
wakes up to it and takes a sudden trip to Europe.\x92

\x91He acts very strange,\x92 said Henry critically. \x91I wonder if all geniuses
are that way.\x92

\x91They\x92re apt to be queer. But never forget that he\x92s a real one.
No matter how mad he may seem to you, no matter how irresponsible,
Galbraith is a great editor. He is wild about you. When he said he\x92d
make you, I believe he meant it. And I believe he\x92ll do it. You\x92re on
the high road now, Calverly. Through a lucky accident. But that\x92s how
most men hit the high road. They happen to be where it is. They stumble
on it. Within a year you\x92ll be known everywhere.... Well, good-night!\x92


6


The immediate effect of this experience on Henry was acute depression.
Perhaps because his excitement had passed its bearable summit. Though
great good fortune always did depress him, even in his later life.
It had the effect of suddenly delimiting the boundaries of his widely
elastic imagination. It brought him sharply down to the actual.

He hadn\x92t enjoyed the bargaining for him. And the actual Galbraith was
a shock from which he didn\x92t recover for years, an utter destruction of
cherished illusions.

He walked down to Lake Shore Drive, struggling with these thoughts and
with himself. The problem was to get himself able to think at all, about
anything. His nerves were bow-strings, his mind a race-track. He was
frightened for himself. Over and over he told himself that this amazing
adventure was not a dream; that he had seen Galbraith, _the_ Galbraith;
that he had sold his stories, the work of a few weeks--he recalled how
he had written the first ten during three mad days and nights; they had
come tumbling out of his brain faster than he could write them down, as
if an exuberant angel were dictating to him--had sold them for thousands
of dollars; that an income, of a sort, was assured for three years.
The stories, even now, seemed an accident. They were a thing that had
happened to him. Such a thing might or might not happen again. Though he
knew it would. But between times he wasn\x92t a genius; he wasn\x92t anything;
just Henry Calverly, of Sunbury.... He pushed back his hat; rubbed his
blazing forehead; pressed his thumping temples.

\x91I\x92ve got congestion,\x92 he muttered.

He stood at the railing and stared out ever the lake. It was lead black
out there, with a tossing light or two; ore freighters or lumber boats
headed for Chicago harbour. Beneath him, down the beach, great waves
were pounding in, quickly, endlessly, tirelessly, one after the other.
He could see the ghostly foam of each. He could feel the spindrift
cutting at his face. The wind was so strong he had to lean against it.
A gust tore off his glasses; he let them hang over his shoulder. He
welcomed the rush and roar of it in his stormy soul.

After a time, having decided nothing, he hurried across town to the
Dexter Smith place.

It was dark, upstairs and down.

He slipped in among the trees; drew near the great house. All the time
the little box from Welding\x92s was gripped in his burning hand.

He stood by a large soft maple. He loved the trees of Sunbury; every
year he budded, flowered, and died with them. He looked up; the great
straight branches were bending before the wind. Leaves were falling
about him; the bright yellow leaves of October. He caught at one; missed
it. Caught at another. And another.

He laid a hand on the bark; then rested his cheek against it. It was
cool to the touch. He stood thus, his arm about the tree, looking up at
the dark house. Tears came; blinded him.

\x91They\x92ve shut her up,\x92 he said. \x91They\x92re going to take her away. Because
she loves me. They\x92re breaking her heart--and mine. Martha\x92ll be back
to-morrow. And Mary\x92n\x92 her mother. It\x92ll be out then--what--what I
did. Everybody\x92ll be talking. I\x92ll have to go away too. I can\x92t live
here--not after that.\x92

A new and fascinating thought came.

\x91The watchman\x92ll be coming around. Pretty soon, maybe. He\x92ll find me
here. I s\x92pose he\x92ll shoot me. I don\x92t care. Let him. In the morning
they\x92ll find my body. And the ring\x92ll be in my pocket. And Mr
Galbraith\x92s cheque. And in the morning Mr Merchant\x92ll have that letter.
Maybe they\x92ll discover I was some good after all. Maybe they\x92ll be sorry
then.\x92

But on second thought this notion lost something of its appealing
quality. He went away; after hours more appeared in the rooms and kept
his long-suffering partner awake during much of the night.

At half-past eight the next morning he mounted the front steps of the
Smith place and rang the bell. A mildly surprised butler showed him into
the spacious parlour.

He waited, fiercely.

A door opened and closed. He heard a heavy step. Madame Watt entered the
room, frowning a little. \x91What is it, Henry? Why did you come?\x92

\x91I want you to see this,\x92 he said, thrusting the cheque into her hand.
Then, before she could more than glance at the figures, he was forcing
another paper on her. \x91And this!\x92 he cried. \x91Please read it!\x92

She, still frowning, turned the pages.

\x91But what\x92s all this, Henry?\x92

\x91Can\x92t you see? I went around this morning. Mr Merchant had it all ready
for me. It\x92s _Galbraith\x92s Magazine_. They\x92re going to print my stories
and pay me three thousand. That cheque\x92s for part of it. I get book
royalties besides. And twenty-five a week for three years against the
price of new work. That\x92s just so I won\x92t write for anybody else. And
Mr Galbraith himself promised me he\x92d make me famous. He\x92s going to
advertise me all over the country. Right away. This year. He says
there\x92s been nothing like me since Kipling and Stevenson!\x92 Printed here,
coldly, this impassioned outburst may seem to border on absurdity. But
shrewd, strong-willed Madame Watt, taking it in, studying him, found it
far from absurd. The egotism in it, she perceived, was that of youth as
much as of genius. And the blazing eyes, the working face, the emotional
uncertainty in the voice, these were to be reckoned with. They were
youth--gifted, uncontrolled, very nearly irresistible youth. And as she
said, brusquely--\x91Sit down, Henry!\x92--and herself dropped heavily into
a chair and began deliberately reading the document of the great
Galbraith, she knew, in her curiously storm-beaten old heart, that she
was sparring for time. Before her, still on his feet, apparently unaware
that she had spoken, unaware of everything on earth outside of his own
turbulent breast, stood an incarnation of primal energy.

She sighed, as she turned the page. Once she shook her head. She found
momentary relief in the thought, so often the only comfort of weary old
folk, that youth, at least, never knows its power.

I think he was talking all the time--pouring out an incoherent,
tremulous torrent of words. Once or twice she moved her hand as if to
brush him away.

When she finally raised her head, he was taking the wrappings from a
little box.

\x91Well, Henry? Just what do you want? Where are we getting, with all
this?\x92

\x91I want you to let me see Cicely. Just one minute. Let her say. I
can\x92t--I _can\x92t_--leave it like this!\x92

\x91You promised----\x92

\x91That I wouldn\x92t try to see her. But I can come to you can\x92t I? That\x92s
fair, isn\x92t it?\x92

Madame Watt sighed again.

Suddenly Henry leaped forward; caught himself; stepped back; cried out,
in a passionately suppressed voice:--

\x91There she is! Now!\x92

Cicely was crossing the hall toward the stairs. They could see her
through the doorway.

She went up as far as the first landing, a few steps up; then, a hand on
the railing, she hesitated and slowly turned her head.

\x91Will you ask her to come!\x92 Henry moaned. \x91Ask her! Let her say! Don\x92t
break our hearts like this!\x92

Madame raised her hand.

Cicely, slowly, pale and gentle of face, came across the wide hall and
into the room. She stopped then, hands hanging at her sides, her head
bent forward a little, glancing from one to the other.

She looked unexpectedly frail. Henry knew, as his eyes dwelt on her,
that she, too, was suffering.

She seemed about to speak; but instead threw out her hands in a little
questioning gesture and raised her mobile eyebrows. But she didn\x92t
smile.

Henry glanced again at Madame. She was re-reading the Galbraith letter.
He waited for her to look up.

Then, all at once, he knew that she meant not to look up. Youth is
unerringly keen in its own interest. She was evading the issue. He had
beaten her.

He dropped the little box on a chair; stepped forward, ring in hand. He
saw Cicely gazing at it, fascinated.

Then his own voice came out--a shy, even polite, if breathless, little
voice:--

\x91I was just wondering, Cicely, if you\x92d let me give you this ring.\x92

She lifted very slowly her left hand; still gazing intently at the ring.

He held it out.

Then she said:--

\x91No, Henry.... I mean, hadn\x92t you better wish it on?\x92

\x91Oh, yes,\x92 said he. \x91Funny! I didn\x92t think of that.\x92

Madame Watt turned a page, rustling the paper.

\x91Wait, Henry! Don\x92t let go! Have you wished?\x92

\x91Unhuh! Have you?\x92

\x91Yes. I wished the first thing.\x92

\x91Well--\x92 Henry had to stop. He found himself swallowing rather
violently. \x91Well--I s\x92pose I\x92d better step down to the office. I might
come back this afternoon, if--if you\x92d like me to.\x92

\x91Henry,\x92 said Madame now, \x91don\x92t be silly! Come to lunch!\x92





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