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

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MOTHERS TO MEN

[Illustration: Logo]

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO
SAN FRANCISCO

MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED

LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA
MELBOURNE

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.

TORONTO



MOTHERS TO MEN

BY

ZONA GALE

AUTHOR OF "FRIENDSHIP VILLAGE," "FRIENDSHIP VILLAGE
LOVE STORIES," "THE LOVES OF PELLEAS
AND ETARRE," ETC.

New York
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
1911

_All Rights Reserved_


COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY THE BUTTERICK PUBLISHING COMPANY, THE RIDGEWAY
COMPANY, THE CROWELL PUBLISHING COMPANY, AND THE STANDARD
FASHION COMPANY.

COPYRIGHT, 1911,

BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.

Set up and electrotyped. Published September, 1911.

Norwood Press
J. S. Cushing Co.--Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.



MOTHERS TO MEN


"Daddy!"

The dark was so thick with hurrying rain that the child's voice was
drowned. So he splashed forward a few steps in the mud and puddles of
the highway and plucked at the coat of the man tramping before. The man
took a hand from a pocket and stooped somewhat to listen, still plodding
ahead.

"Daddy! It's the hole near my biggest toe. My biggest toe went right
through that hole an' it chokes my toe awful."

The man suddenly squatted in the mud, presenting a broad, scarcely
distinguishable back.

"Climb up," he commanded.

The boy wavered. His body ached with weariness, his feet were sore and
cold, something in his head was numb. But in a moment he ran on, two
steps or three, past the man.

"Nope," he said, "I'm seeing if I could walk all the way. I could--yet.
I just told you 'bout my toe, daddy, 'cause I _had_ to talk about it."

The man said nothing, but he rose and groped for the child's arm and
got it about the armpit, and, now and then as they walked, he pulled the
shoulder awkwardly upward, trying to help.

After a time of silence the rain subsided a little, so that the child's
voice was less like a drowned butterfly.

"Daddy," he said, "what's velvet?"

"I dunno, sonny. Some kind of black cloth, I guess. Why?"

"It came in my head," the child explained. "I was tryin' to think of
nice things. Velvet sounds like a king's clothes--but it sounds like a
coffin too. I didn't know if it's a nice thing."

This, the man understood swiftly, was because _her_ coffin had been
black velvet--the coffin which he had had no money to buy for her, for
his wife and the boy's mother, the coffin which had been bought with the
poor fund of a church which he had never entered. "What other nice thing
you been thinkin' of?" he asked abruptly.

"Circus. An' angels. An' ice-cream. An' a barrel o' marbles. An' bein'
warm an' clean stockin's an' rocked...."

"My God!" said the man.

The child looked up expectantly.

"Did he say anything back?" he inquired eagerly.

"Not a word," said the man in his throat.

"Lemme try," said the child. "God--oh, God--_God dear_!" he called into
the night.

From the top of the hill on the edge of the Pump pasture which in that
minute they had reached, they suddenly saw, cheery and yellow and alive,
the lamps of Friendship Village, shining in the valley; and away at one
side, less in serene contemplation than in deliberate withdrawal, shone
the lights of a house set alone on its hill.

"Oh, daddy, daddy--look at the lights!" the child cried. "God didn't say
nothin' with words. Maybe he talks with lights instead of 'em."

The man quickened his steps until, to keep pace with him, the little boy
broke into uneven running.

"Is those lights where we're goin', daddy?" he asked.

"That's where," said the man. He put his hand in his pocket and felt for
the fifteen cents that lay there, wrapped in paper. The fancied odour
and warmth of something to drink caught at him until he could hardly
bear the longing.

But before he could get to the drink he must do something else. The man
had been fighting away the thought of what he meant to do. But when they
entered the village and were actually upon its main street, lonely in
the rainy, eight o'clock summer dusk, what he meant to do had to be
faced. So he began looking this way and that for a place to leave the
child. There was a wagon shop. Old wagons stood under the open shed,
their thills and tongues hanging, not expectant of journeys like those
of new wagons, but idle, like the worn arms of beaten men. Some men, he
thought, would leave the boy there, to sleep under a seat and be found
in the morning; but he was no such father as that, he reflected
complacently. He meant to leave the boy in a home, give him a fair
start. There was a little house with a broken picket fence--someway she
wouldn't have liked him to be there; _she_ always liked things nice. He
had never been able to give the boy much that was nice, but now, he said
to himself, he would take nothing second rate. There was a grocery with
a light above stairs where very likely the family lived, and there, too,
was a dry stairway where the child could sit and wait until somebody
came--no, not there either.... "The best ain't none too good for the
little fellow," thought the man.

"Dad-_ee_!" cried the child suddenly.

He had run a few steps on and stood with his nose against the misty pane
of Abagail Arnold's Home Bakery. Covered with pink mosquito-netting were
a plate of sugar rolls, a fruit cake, a platter of cream puffs, and a
tall, covered jar of shelled nuts.

"Hustle up--you!" said the man roughly, and took him by the arm again.

"I was comin'," said the little boy.

Why not leave the child at the bakery? No--a house. It must be a house,
with a porch and a front stair and big upstairs rooms and a look of
money-in-the-bank. He was giving care to the selection. It was as if he
were exercising some natural paternal office, to be scrupulously
discharged. Music issued from the wooden saloon building with the false
two-story front and the coloured windows; from a protesting piano a
dance tune was being furiously forced, and, as the door swung open, the
tap and thud of feet, the swell of voices and laughter, the odour of the
spirits caught at the cold and weary man. "Hurry along--hurry along!" he
bade the boy roughly. That was where he would come back afterward, but
first he must find the right place for the boy.

Vaguely he was seeking for that section of the village which it would
call "the residence part," with that ugly and naked appropriation of the
term which excludes all the humbler homes from residence-hood at all.
But when he had turned aside from the main street he came upon the First
Church, with lights streaming from the ground-glass windows of the
prayer-meeting room, and he stood still, staring up at it.

She had cared a good deal about that sort of thing. Churches did
good--it was a church that had buried her when he could not. Why not
there? Why not leave the child there?

He turned aside and mounted the three wooden steps and sat down, drawing
the boy beside him. Grateful for a chance to rest, the child turned
sidewise and dropped his head heavily on his father's arm. There was
light enough for the father to see the thick, wet hair on the babyish
forehead.

"I did walked all the way, didn't I?" the child said triumphantly.

"You bet you did," said his father absently.

Since the boy's mother had died only three months had passed, but in
that time had been crowded for the child a lifetime of physical misery.
Before that time, too, there had been hunger and cold and the torture of
the continual quarreling between that mother, sickly, half-fed,
irritable, and this father, out of work and drunken. Then the mother had
died, and the man had started out with the boy, seeking new work where
they would not know his old vice. And in these three months, for the
boy's sake, that old vice had been kept bound. For the boy's sake he had
been sober and, if the chance had come, he would have been industrious.
But, save for odd jobs, the chance never came; there seemed to be a kind
of ineffectualness in the way he asked for work which forbade him a
trial. Then one day, after almost three months of the struggle, he had
waked to the old craving, to the need, the instant need, for liquor. He
had faced the situation honestly. He knew, or thought he knew, his power
of endurance. He knew that in a day or two he would be worsted, and that
there would follow a period of which, afterward, he would remember
nothing. Meanwhile, what of the boy? He had a fondness for the boy, and
there remained to the man some shreds of decency and even of tradition.
He would not turn him over to the "authorities." He would not cast him
adrift in the city. He resolved to carry him to the country, to some
near little town where, dimly it seemed to him, the people would be
more likely to take him in. "They have more time--an' more room--an'
more to eat," he sought to explain it to himself. So he had walked, and
the child had walked, from the City to Friendship Village. He must find
a place to leave him: why not leave him here on the church steps,
"outside the meetin'?"

"Don't you go to sleep, kiddie," he said, and shook him lightly.

"I was jus' restin' my eye-flaps. Eye-things. _What_ are they, daddy?"

"Eye-lids."

"Yes. Them. They're tired, too," said the child, and smiled--the sleepy
smile which gave his face a baby winsomeness. Then he snuggled in the
curve of arm, like a drowsy, nosing puppy.

The father sat looking down on him, and in his breast something pulled.
In these three months he had first become really acquainted with the
boy, had first performed for him little personal offices--sewed on a
button or two, bought him shoes, bound up a hurt finger. In this time,
too, he had first talked with him alone, tried to answer his questions.
"Where _is_ my mamma, an' will she rock somebody else?" "Are you going
to be my daddy till you die, an' _then_ who'll be?" "What is the biggest
thing everybody knows? Can I know it too?"... Also, in these three
months, at night he had gone to sleep, sometimes in a bed, oftener in a
barn, now and again under the stars, with the child breathing within his
reach, and had waked to keep him covered with his own coat. Now he was
going to end all this.

"It ain't fair to the kid not to. It ain't fair to cart him around like
this," he said over and over, defending himself before some dim
dissenter.

The boy suddenly swung back from his father's arm and looked up in his
face. "Will--will there be any supper till morning?" he asked.

You might have thought that the man did not hear, he sat so still
looking down the wet road-ruts shining under the infrequent lamps.
Hunger and cold, darkness and wet and ill-luck--why should he not keep
the boy from these? It was not deserting his child; it was giving him
into better hands. It did not occur to him that the village might not
accept the charge. Anything would be better than what he himself had to
give. Hunger and cold and darkness....

"You stay still here a minute, sonny," said the man.

"You goin' 'way?" the child demanded.

"A minute. You stay still here--right where you are," said the man, and
went into the darkness.

The little boy sat still. He was wide awake now that he was alone; the
walls of the dark seemed suddenly to recede, and instead of merely the
church steps there was the whole black, listening world to take account
of. He sat alert, trying to warm each hand on the cold wrist of its
fellow. Where had his father gone? To find them a place to stay? Suppose
he came back and said that he had found them a home; and they should go
to it; and it would have a coal stove and a bedstead, and a pantry with
cookies and brown sugar in the jars. And a lady would come and cook
molasses candy for him....

All this time something was hurting him intolerably. It was the foot,
and the biggest toe, and the hole that was "choking" _him_. He fumbled
at his shoe laces, but they were wet and the shoes were wet and sodden,
and he gave it up. Where had his father gone? How big the world seemed
when he was gone, and how _different_ the night was. And when the lady
had the molasses candy cooked, like in a story, she would cool it at the
window and they would cut it in squares....

As suddenly as he had gone, his father reappeared from the darkness.

"Here," he said roughly, and thrust in the child's hands a paper bag.
And when he had opened it eagerly there were sugar rolls and cream puffs
and a piece of fruit cake and some shelled nuts. Fifteen cents' worth of
food, badly enough selected, in all conscience, but--fifteen cents'
worth. The fifteen cents which the man had been carrying in his pocket,
wrapped in paper.

"Now set there," said his father, "an' eat 'em up. An' listen, son. Set
there till folks come out from in there. Set there till they come out.
An' here's somethin' I'm puttin' in your coat pocket--see? It's a paper.
Don't you look at it. But when the folks come out from in there--an' ask
you anything--you show 'em that. Remember. Show 'em that."

In the prayer-meeting room the reed organ sent out some trembling,
throaty chords, and the little group in there sang an old melody. It was
strange to the man, as he listened--


     "Break thou the bread of life
     To me, to me--"


but, "That's it," he thought, "that's it. Break it to him--I can't. All
I can give him is stuff in a paper bag, an' not always that. Now you
break it to him--"

"Dad-_ee_!" cried the child. "You!"

Startled, the man looked down at him. It was almost like a counter
charge. But the child was merely holding out to him half his store. The
man shook his head and went down the steps to the sidewalk and turned to
look back at the child munching happily from the paper sack. "Break it
to him--break it to him--God!" the father muttered, as he might have
used a charm.

Again the child looked out expectantly.

"Did he say anything back?" he asked eagerly.

"Not a word--not a word," said the man again. This time he laughed,
nervously and foolishly. "But mebbe he will," he mumbled
superstitiously. "I dunno. Now, you set there. An' then you give 'em the
paper--an' go with anybody out o' the church that asks you. Dad may not
get back for--quite a while...."

The man went. The child, deep in the delight of a cream puff, wondered
and looked after him troublously, and was vaguely comforted by the
murmur of voices beyond the doors.

"Why, God didn't answer back because he was to the church meeting," the
child thought, when he heard the people moving about within.



I


"Inside the church that night," Calliope Marsh is wont to tell it, "the
Friendship Married Ladies Cemetery Improvement Sodality was having one
of our special meetings, with hot chocolate and ice lemonade and two
kinds of wafers. There wasn't a very big attendance, account of the
rain, and there was so much refreshments ready that us ladies was urgin'
the men to have all they wanted.

"'Drink both kinds, Timothy,' Mis Toplady says to her husband,
persuadin'; 'it'll have to be throwed away if somebody don't drink it
up.'

"'Lord, Amandy,' says Timothy, testy, 'I do hate to be sicked on to my
food like that. It takes away my appetite, same as poison would.'

"'They always do it,' says Jimmy Sturgis, morose. 'My wife'll say to me,
"Jimmy, eat up them cold peas. They'll spoil if you don't," and, "Jimmy,
can't you make 'way with them cold pancakes?" Till I wish't I could
starve.'

"'Well, if you hadn't et up things,' says Mis' Sturgis, mild, 'we'd of
been scrappin' in the poor-house by now. I dunno but I'd ruther scrap
where I am.'

"'Sure!' says Postmaster Silas Sykes, that always pours oil on troubled
waters except when the trouble is his own; and then he churns them.

"'I dunno what ailed me in business meeting to-night,' says Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss. 'I declare, I was full as nervous as a
witch. I couldn't keep my feet still anywheres.'

"'The fidgets,' comprehends Mis' Uppers, sympathetic. 'I get 'em in my
feet 'long toward night sometimes. Turn an' twist an' shift--I know the
feeling. Whenever my feet begin that, I always give right up an' take
off my shoes an' get into my rubbers.'

"'Well, I wish't I had some rubbers now,' says Mis' Mayor Uppers. 'I
wore my best shoes out to tea an' come right from tea here, like a
maniac. An' now look at me, in my Three Dollar-and-a-half kids an' the
streets runnin' rivers.'

"'You take my rubbers,' Mis' Timothy Toplady offered. 'I've set with 'em
on all evening because I always get 'em mixed up at Sodality, an' I
declare the water'll feel good to my poor feet.'

"'No, no, don't you trouble,' says Mis' Uppers. 'I'll just slip my shoes
off an' track that one block in my stocking feet. Then I'll put 'em in
good, hot water an' go to bed. I wouldn't of come out to-night at all
if it hadn't of been for the professor.'

"'For goodness' sakes,' I says, 'don't call him that. You know how he
hates it.'

"'But I do like to say it,' Mis' Uppers insists, wistful. 'He's the only
professor I ever knew.'

"'Me either,' I says--and I knew how she felt.

"Just the same, we was getting to like Mr. Insley too much to call him
that if he didn't want it, or even 'doctor' that was more common, though
over to Indian Mound College, half way between us and the City, he is
one or both, and I dunno but his name tapers off with capital letters,
same as some.

"'I just came over here to work,' he told us when we first see him. 'I
don't profess anything. And "doctor" means teacher, you know, and I'm
just learning things. Must you have a formal title for me? Won't Mr.
do?'

"Most of the College called him just 'Insley,' friendly and approving,
and dating back to his foot-ball days, and except when we was speaking
to him, we commonly got to calling him that too. A couple of months
before he'd come over from the College with a letter of introduction
from one of the faculty to Postmaster Silas Sykes, that is an alderman
and our professional leading citizen. The letter from the College said
that we could use Mr. Insley in any local civic work we happened to be
doing.

"'Civic work?' Silas says to him, thoughtful. 'You mean shuttin' up
saloons an' like that?'

"'Not necessarily,' he told him. 'Just work with folks, you know.'

"'Well-a, settin' out bushes?' Silas asks.

"'Whatever you're most interested in, Mr. Sykes,' says he. 'Isn't there
some organization that's doing things here?'

"Silas wasn't interested in so very much of anything except Silas. But
the word 'organization' helped him out.

"'There's the Friendship Married Ladies Cemetery Improvement Sodality,'
says he. 'That must be the very kind of a thing you mean.'

"Insley laughed a little, but he let Mis' Sykes, that loves new things
and new people, bring him to our next evening meeting in the church
parlors, and he'd been back several times, not saying much, but just
getting acquainted. And that rainy night, when the men met with us to
talk over some money raising for Sodality, we'd asked him to come over
too. We all liked him. He had a kind of a used-to-things way, and you
felt like you'd always known him or, for the time you hadn't, that
you'd both missed something out; and he had a nice look too, a look that
seemed to be saying 'good morning' and to be beginning a fine, new
day--the best day yet.

"He'd set there kind of broodin' the most of that evening, drinking
whatever anybody brought him, but not putting his mind to it so very
much; but it was a bright broodin', an' one that made you think of
something that's going to open and not just of something that's shut up.
You can brood both ways, but the effect is as different as a bud from a
core.

"'Speakin' of money raisin' for Sodality,' says Silas Sykes, kind of
pretend hearty and pretend casual, like he does, 'why don't Sodality
make some money off'n the Fourth of July? Everybody else is.'

("Sodality always speaks of itself and of the Cemetery real intimate,
without the _the_, an' everybody's got to doing it.)

"Us ladies all set still and kept still. The Fourth of July, that was
less than a week off, was a sore point with us, being we'd wanted a
celebration that would _be_ a celebration, and not merely a money-raiser
for the town.

"'Oh, I say canvass, house to house,' says Timothy. 'Folks would give
you a dime to get you off'n the front porch that wouldn't come out to a
dime entertainment, never.'

"'Why not ask them that's got Dead in their own families, to pay out for
'em, an' leave them alone that's got livin' mouths to feed?' says Threat
Hubbelthwait, querulous. Threat ain't no relations but his wife, and he
claims to have no Dead of his own. I always say they must be either
living or dead, or else where's Threat come in? But he won't admit it.

"'What you raisin' money for anyhow?' asks Eppleby Holcomb, quiet.
Eppleby always keeps still a long time, and then lets out something
vital.

"As a matter of fact, Sodality didn't have no real work on hand,
Cemetery lookin' real neat and tasty for Cemetery, and no immediate dead
coming on as far as we could know; but we didn't have much of anything
in the treasury, either. And when we didn't have any work on hand, we
was in the habit of raising money, and when we'd got some money earnt,
we was in the habit of devising some nice way to spend it. And so we
kept Sodality real alive.

"'Well, there may not be any active dead just now,' Mis' Sykes explains
it, 'but they are sure to die and need us. We had two country funerals
to pay for last year. Or I might say, one an' a half, one corpse
contributing half enough for his own support in Cemetery.'

"With that Insley spoke up, kind of firm and nice, with muscles in his
tone, like he does:

"'What's the matter with doing something with these folks before they
die?' he asks.

"I guess we all looked kind of blank--like when you get asked _why_
Columbus discovered America and all you know how to answer is just the
date he done so on.

"'Well-a,' says Mis' Sykes, 'do what?'

"'Mustn't there be something to do with them, living, if there's
everything to be done for them, dead?' Insley asks.

"'Well-a' says Mis' Sykes, 'I don't know that I understand just how you
mean that. Perhaps the Mission Band--'

"'No,' says Insley. 'You. Us.'

"I never knew a man to say so little and yet to get so much said.

"'Well-a,' says Mis' Sykes, 'of course Sodality was formed with the idee
of caring for Cemetery. You see that lets in the Dead only.'

"'Gosh,' says Eppleby Holcomb, 'how exclusive.' But I don't know as
anybody heard him but me.

"'I know,' says Insley, slow. 'Well, at any rate, perhaps there are
things that all of us Living might do together--for the sake, say, of
earning some money for the Dead. There'd be no objection to that, would
there?'

"'Oh, no,' says Mis' Sykes. 'I'm sure nobody could take exception to
_that_. Of course you always have to earn money out of the living.'

"Insley looked at us all kind of shy--at one and another and another of
us, like he thought he might find some different answer in somebody's
eyes. I smiled at him, and so did Mis' Toplady, and so did Eppleby; and
Mis' Eleanor Emmons, the widow-lady, lately moved in, she nodded. But
the rest set there like their faces was on wrong side out and didn't
show no true pattern.

"'I mean,' he says, not quite knowing how to make us understand what he
was driving at, 'I mean, let's get to know these folks while they are
alive. Aren't we all more interested in folks, than we are in their
graves?'

"'_Folks_,' Timothy Toplady says over, meditative, like he'd heard of
members, customers, clients, murderers and the like, but never of folks.

"'I mean,' Insley says again, 'oh, any one of a dozen things. For
instance, do something jolly that'll give your young people something to
do evenings--get them to help earn the money for Cemetery, if you want
to,' he adds, laughing a little.

"'There's goin' to be a Vigilance Committee to see after the young folks
of Friendship Village, nights,' says Silas Sykes, grim.

"'You might have town parties, have the parties in schools and in the
town hall,' Insley goes on, 'and talk over the Cemetery that belongs to
you all, and talk over the other things besides the Cemetery that belong
to you all. Maybe I could help,' he adds, 'though I own up to you now
I'm really more fond of folks--speaking by and large--than I am of
tombstones.'

"He said a little more to us, about how folks was doing in the world
outside the village, and he was so humorous about it that they never
knew how something inside him was hopping with hope, like I betted it
was, with his young, divine enthusiasm. And when he'd got done he
waited, all grave and eager, for somebody to peep up. And it was, as it
would be, Silas Sykes who spoke first.

"'It's all right, it's all right,' says he, 'so long as Sodality don't
go meddling in the village affairs--petitionin' the council and
protestin' an' so on. That gets any community all upset.'

"'That's so,' says Timothy, nodding. 'Meetin', singin' songs, servin'
lemonade an' plantin' things in the ground is all right enough. It helps
on the fellow feelin' amazin'. But pitchin' in for reforms and things--'
Timothy shook his head.

"'As to reforms,' says Insley, 'give me the fellowship, and the reforms
will take care of themselves.'

"'Things is quite handy about takin' their course, though,' says Silas,
'so be we don't yank open the cocoons an' buds an' others.'

"'Well,' says Mis' Uppers, 'I can't do much more, Professor. I'm drove
to death, as it is. I don't even get time to do my own improvin' round
the place.' Mis' Uppers always makes that her final argument. 'Sew for
the poor?' I've heard her say. 'Why, I can't even get my own fall sewing
done.'

"'Me, too,' and, 'Me, either,' went round the circle. And, 'I can't do a
great deal myself,' says Mis' Sykes, 'not till after my niece goes
away.'

"I thought, 'I shouldn't think you could tend to much of anything else,
not with Miss Beryl Sessions in the house.' That was the Sykes's niece,
till then unknown to them, that we'd all of us heard nothing but, since
long before she come. But of course I kept still, part because I was
expecting an unknown niece of my own in a week or so, and your unknown
relatives is quite likely to be glass houses.

"'Another thing,' says Mis' Hubbelthwait, 'don't let's us hold any
doin's in this church, kicking up the new cork that the Ladies' Aid has
just put down on the floor. It'll all be tracked up in no time, letting
in Tom, Dick, and Harry.'

"'Don't let's get the church mixed up in anything outside, for pity's
sakes,' says Silas. 'The trustees'll object to our meeting here, if we
quit working for a dignified object and go to making things mutual,
promiscuous. Churches has got to be church-like.'

"'Well, Silas,' says Eppleby Holcomb, that hadn't been saying anything,
'I donno as some of us could bring ourselves to think of Christ as real
Christ-like, if he come back the way he use' to be.'

"Insley sat looking round on them all, still with his way of saying good
morning on a good day. I wondered if he wasn't wishing that they'd hang
on that way to something worth hanging to. For I've always thought, and
I think now, that they's a-plenty of stick-to-itiveness in the world;
but the trouble is, it's stuck to the wrong thing.

"The talk broke up after that, like somebody had said something in bad
taste; and we conversed around in groups, and done our best to make
'way with the refreshments. And Insley set talking to Mis' Eleanor
Emmons, the new widow, lately moved in.

"About Mis' Emmons the social judgment of Friendship Village was for the
present hanging loose. This was partly because we didn't understand her
name.

"'My land, was her husband a felon or a thief or what that she don't use
his name?' everybody asked everybody. 'What's she stick her own name in
front of his last name like that for? Sneaked out of usin' his Christian
name as soon as his back was turned, _I_ call it,' said some. 'My land,
I'd use my dead husband's forename if it was Nebuchadnezzar. _My_
opinion, we'd best go slow till she explains herself.'

"But I guess Insley had more confidence.

"'You'll help, I know?' I heard him say to Mis' Emmons.

"'My friend,' she says back, 'whatever I can do I'll do. It's a big job
you're talking about, you know.'

"'It's _the_ big job,' says Insley, quiet.

"Pretty soon Mis' Toplady got up on her feet, drawing her shawl up her
back.

"'Well,' she says, 'whatever you decide, count on me--I'll always do for
chinkin' in. I've got to get home now and set my bread or it won't be
up till day _after_ to-morrow. Ready, Timothy? Good night all.'

"She went towards the door, Timothy following. But before they got to
it, it opened, and somebody come in, at the sight of who Mis' Toplady
stopped short and the talk of the rest of us fell away. No stranger,
much, comes to Friendship Village without our knowing it, and to have a
stranger walk unbeknownst into the very lecture-room of the First Church
was a thing we never heard of, without he was a book agent or a
travelling man.

"Here, though, was a stranger--and such a stranger. She was so
unexpected and so dazzling that it shot through my head she was like a
star, taking refuge from all the roughness and the rain outside--a star,
so it come in my head, using up its leisure on a cloudy night with
peepin' in here and there to give out brightness anyway. The rough, dark
cheviot that the girl wore was sort of like a piece of storm-cloud
clinging about that brightness--a brightness of wind-rosy face and blowy
hair, all uncovered. She stood on the threshold, holding her wet
umbrella at arm's length out in the entry.

"'I beg your pardon. Are you ready, Aunt Eleanor?' she asked.

"Mis' Eleanor Emmons turned and looked at her.

"'Robin!' she says. 'Why, you must be wet through.'

"'I'm pretty wet,' says the girl, serene, 'I'm so messy I won't come in.
I'll just stop out here on the steps. Don't hurry.'

"'Wait a minute,' Mis' Emmons says. 'Stay where you are then, please,
Robin, and meet these people.'

"The girl threw the door wide, and she stepped back into the vestibule,
where her umbrella had been trailing little puddles; and she stood there
against the big, black background of the night and the village, while
Mis' Emmons presented her.

"'This is my niece, Miss Sidney,' she told us. 'She has just come to me
to-day--for as long as I can keep her. Will you all come to see her?'

"It wasn't much the way Mis' Sykes had done, singing praises of Miss
Beryl Sessions for weeks on end before she'd got there; nor the way I
was doing, wondering secret about my unknown niece, and what she'd be
like. Mis' Emmons introduced her niece like she'd always been one of us.
She said our names over, and we went towards her; and Miss Sidney leaned
a little inside the frame of the doorway and put out her hand to us
all, a hand that didn't have any glove on and that in spite of the rain,
was warm.

"'I'm so sorry,' she says, 'I'm afraid I'm disgracing Aunt Eleanor. But
I couldn't help it. I love to walk in the rain.'

"'That's what rain is for,' Insley says to her; and I see the two change
smiles before Mis' Hubbelthwait's 'Well, I do hope you've got some good
high rubbers on your feet' made the girl grave again--a sweet grave, not
a stiff grave. You can be grave both ways, and they're as different from
each other as soup from hot water.

"'I have, thank you,' she says, 'big storm boots. Did you know,' she
adds, 'that somebody else is waiting out here? Somebody's little bit of
a beau? And I'm afraid he's gone to sleep.'

"We looked at one another, wondering. Who was waiting for any of us?
'Not me,' one after another says, positive. 'We've all raced home alone
from this church since we was born,' Mis' Uppers adds, true enough.

"We was curious, with that curiosity that it's kind of fun to have, and
we all crowded forward into the entry. And a little to one side of the
shining lamp path was setting a child--a little boy, with a paper bag in
his arms.



II


"Who on earth was he, we wondered to ourselves, and we all jostled
forward, trying to see down to him, us women lifting up our skirts from
the entry wet. He was like a little wad of clothes, bunched up on the
top step, but inside them the little fellow was all curled up, sleeping.
And we knew he hadn't come for any of us, and he didn't look like he was
waiting for anybody in particular.

"Silas fixed up an explanation, ready-done:--

"'He must belong down on the flats,' says Silas. 'The idear of his
sleepin' here. I said we'd oughter hev a gate acrost the vestibule.'

"'Roust him up an' start him home,' says Timothy Toplady, adviceful.

"'I will,' says Silas, that always thinks it's his share to do any
unclaimed managing; and he brought down his hand towards the child's
shoulder. But his hand didn't get that far.

"'Let me wake him up,' says Robin Sidney.

"She laid her umbrella in the wet of the steps and, Silas being
surprised into giving way, she stooped over the child. She woke him up
neither by speaking to him nor grasping his arm, but she just slipped
her hands along his cheeks till her hands met under his chin, and she
lifted up his chin, gentle.

"'Wake up and look at me,' she says.

"The child opened his eyes, with no starting or bewildering, and looked
straight up into her face. There was light enough for us all to see that
he smiled bright, like one that's real glad some waiting is done. And
she spoke to him, not making a point of it and bringing it out like
she'd aimed it at him, but just matter-of-fact gentle and commonplace
tender.

"'Whose little boy are you?' she ask' him.

"'I'm goin' with whoever wants me to go with 'em,' says the child.

"'But who are you--where do you live?' she says to him. 'You live, don't
you--in this town?'

"The child shook his head positive.

"'I lived far,' he told her, 'in that other place. I come up here with
my daddy. He says he might not come back to-night.'

"Robin Sidney knelt right down before him on the wet steps.

"'Truly,' she said, 'haven't you any place to go to-night?'

"'Oh, yes,' says the child, 'he says I must go with whoever wants me to
go with 'em. Do--do you?'

"At that Miss Sidney looked up at us, swift, and down again. The wind
had took hold of a strand of her hair and blew it across her eyes, and
she was pushing it away as she got up. And by then Insley was standing
before her, back of the little boy, that he suddenly stooped down and
picked up in his arms.

"'Let's get inside, shall we?' he says, commanding. 'Let's all go back
in and see about him.'

"We went back into the church, even Silas taking orders, though of
course that was part curiosity; and Insley sat down with the child on
his knee, and held out the child's feet in his hand.

"'He's wet as a rat,' he says. 'Look at his shoes.'

"'Well-a, make him tell his name, why don't you?' says Mis' Sykes,
sharp. '_I_ think we'd ought to find out who he is. What's your name,
Boy?' she adds, brisk.

"Insley dropped the boy's feet and took a-hold of one of his hands.
'Yes,' he says, hasty, 'we must try to do that.' But he looked right
straight over Mis' Sykes's shoulder to where, beyond the others, Robin
Sidney was standing. 'He was your friend first,' he said to her. 'You
found him.'

"She come and knelt down beside the child where, on Insley's knee, he
sat staring round, all wondering and questioning, to the rest of us. But
she seemed to forget all about the rest of us, and I loved the way she
was with that little strange boy. She kind of put her hands on him,
wiping the raindrops off his face, unbuttoning his wet coat, doing a
little something to his collar; and every touch was a kind of a little
stroke that some women's hands give almost without their knowing it. I
loved to watch her, because I'm always as stiff as a board with a
child--unless I'm alone with them. Then I ain't.

"'My name's Robin,' she says to the little fellow. 'What's yours, dear?'

"'Christopher,' he says right off. 'First, Christopher. An' then John.
An' then Bartlett. Have you only got one name?' he asked her.

"'Yes, I've got two,' she says. 'The rest of mine is Sidney. Where--'

"'Only two?' says the child. 'Why, I've got three.'

"'Only two,' she answers. 'Where did your father go--don't you know
that, Christopher?'

"That seemed to make him think of something, and he looked down at his
paper bag.

"'First he bringed me these,' he says, and his face lighted up and he
held out his bag to her. 'You can have one my cream-puffs,' he offers
her, magnificent. I held my breath for fear she wouldn't take it, but
she did. 'What fat ones!' she says admiring, and held it in her hand
while she asked him more. It was real strange how we stood around, us
older women and all, waiting for her to see what she could get out of
him. But there wasn't any use. He was to go with whoever asked him to
go--that was all he knew.

"Silas Sykes snaps his watch. 'It's gettin' late,' he gives out, with a
backward look at nothing in particular. 'Hadn't we best just leave him
at the police station? Threat Hubbelthwait and me go right past there.'

"Mis' Toplady, she sweeps round on him, pulling her shawl over her
shoulders--one of them gestures of some women that makes it seem like
even them that works hard and don't get out much of anywhere has motions
left in them that used to be motioned in courts and castles and like
that. 'Police station! Silas Sykes,' says she, queenly, 'you put me in
mind of a stone wall, you're that sympathizin'.'

"'Well, _we_ can't take him, Amandy,' Timothy Toplady reminds her,
hurried. 'We live too far. 'Twouldn't do to walk him 'way there.'
Timothy will give, but he wants to give to his own selected poor that he
knows about; an' he won't never allow himself no luxuries in givin' here
an' there, when something just happens to come up.

"'Land, he may of come from where there's disease--you can't tell,' says
Mis' Uppers. 'I think we'd ought to go slow.'

"'Yes,' says two-three others, 'we'd best go slow. Why, his father may
be looking for him.'

"Mis' Eleanor Emmons spoke up serene.

"'While we're going slow,' she says, 'I think I'll just take him home
and get his feet dry. I live the nearest. Mr. Sykes, you might report
him at the police station as you go by, in case someone is looking for
him. And if nobody inquires, he can sleep on my couch beside my grate
fire to-night. Can't he, Robin?'

"'I'd love it,' says the girl.

"'Excellent,' says Insley, and set the little boy on his feet.

"But when he done that, the child suddenly swung round and caught Miss
Sidney's arm and looked up in her face; and his little nose was screwed
up alarming.

"'What _is_ it--what's the matter, Christopher?' she ask' him. And the
rest of us that had begun moving to go, stopped to listen. And in that
little stillness Christopher told us:--

"'Oh,' he says, 'it's that hole near my biggest toe. My biggest toe went
right through that hole. And it's _chokin'_ me.'

"Just exactly as if a hand had kind of touched us all, a nice little
stir went round among us women. And with that, Insley, who had been
standing there so big and strong and able and willing, and waiting for a
chance to take hold, he just simply put his hands on his knees and
stooped over and made his back right for the little fellow to climb up
on. The child knew what it was for, soon enough--we see somebody
somewheres must of been doing it for him before, for he scrambled right
up, laughing, and Miss Sidney helping him. And a kind of a little
ripple, that wan't no true words, run round among us all. Most women and
some men is strong on ripples of this sort, but when it comes right down
to doing something in consequence, we ain't so handy.

"'Leave me come along and help take care of him a little while,' I says;
and I thought it was because I was ashamed of myself and trying to make
up for not offering before. But I think really what was the matter with
me was that I just plain wanted to go along with that little boy.

"'I'm your automobile,' says Insley to the little fellow, and he laughed
out, delighted, hanging onto his paper sack.

"'If you'll give me the big umbrella, Aunt Eleanor,' says Miss Sidney on
the church steps, 'I'll try to keep the rain off the automobile and the
passenger.'

"The rain had just about stopped when we four started down Daphne
Street. The elms and maples along the sidewalk was dripping soft, and
everybody's gardens was laying still, like something new had happened to
them. It smelled good, and like everything outdoors was going to start
all over again and be something else, sweeter.

"When we got most to Mis' Emmon's gate, I stopped stock still, looking
at something shining on the hill. It was Proudfit House, lit up from top
to bottom--the big house on the hill that had stood there, blind and
dark, for months on end.

"'Why, some of the Proudfits must of come home,' I says out loud.

"Mis' Emmons answered up, all unexpected to me, for I never knew she
knew the Proudfits. 'Mr. Alex Proudfit is coming on to-morrow,' she
says. And I sort of resented her that was so near a stranger in the
village hearing this about Alex Proudfit before I did, that had known
him since he was in knickerbockers.

"'Am I keeping the rain off you two people?' Miss Sidney asks as, at the
corner, we all turned our backs on Proudfit House.

"'Nobody,' Insley says--and his voice was always as smooth and round as
wheels running along under his words, 'nobody ever kept the rain off as
you are keeping it off, Miss Sidney.'

"And, 'I did walked all that way--in that rain,' says Christopher,
sleepy, in his automobile's collar.



III


"If it was anyways damp or chilly, Mis' Emmons always had a little blaze
in the grate--not a heat blaze, but just a Come-here blaze. And going
into her little what-she-called living-room at night, I always thought
was like pushing open some door of the dark to find a sort of
cubby-corner hollowed out from the bigger dark for tending the homey
fire. That rainy night we went in from the street almost right onto the
hearth. And it was as pleasant as taking the first mouthful of
something.

"Insley, with Christopher still on his back, stood on the rug in front
of the door and looked round him.

"'How jolly it always looks here, Mrs. Emmons,' he says. 'I never saw
such a hearty place.'

"I donno whether you've ever noticed the difference in the way women
bustle around? Most nice women do bustle when something comes up that
needs it. Some does it light and lifty, like fairies going around on
missions; and some does it kind of crackling and nervous, like goblins
on business. Mis' Emmons was the first kind, and it was real
contagious. You caught it yourself and begun pulling chairs around and
seeing to windows and sort of settling away down deep into the minute.
She begun doing that way now, seeing to the fire and the lamp-shade and
the sofa, and wanting everybody to be dry and comfortable, instant.

"'You are so good-natured to like my room,' she says. 'I furnished it
for ten cents--yes, not much more. The whole effect is just colour,' she
says. 'What I have to do without in quality I go and wheedle out of the
spectrum. What _should_ we do without the rainbow? And what in the world
am I going to put on that child?'

"Insley let Christopher down on the rug by the door, and there he stood,
dripping, patient, holding his paper bag, and not looking up and around
him, same as a child will in a strange room, but just looking hard at
the nice, red, warm blaze. Miss Sidney come and stooped over him, with
that same little way of touching him, like loving.

"'Let's go and be dry now,' she says, 'and then let's see what we can
find in the pantry.'

"The little fellow, he just laughed out, soft and delicious, with his
head turned away and without saying anything.

"'I never said such a successful thing,' says Miss Sidney, and led him
upstairs where we could hear Mis' Emmons bustling around cosey.

"Mr. Insley and I sat down by the fire. I remember I looked over towards
him and felt sort of nervous, he was so good looking and so silent. A
good-looking _talking_ man I ain't afraid of, because I can either
admire or despise him immediate, and either way it gives me something to
do answering back. But one that's still, it takes longer to make out,
and it don't give you no occupation for your impressions. And Insley,
besides being still, was so good looking that it surprised me every new
time I see him. I always wanted to say: Have you been looking like that
all the time since I last saw you, and how _do_ you keep it up?

"He had a face and a body that showed a good many men looking out of 'em
at you, and all of 'em was men you'd like to of known. There was
scholars that understood a lot, and gentlemen that acted easy, and
outdoor men that had pioneered through hard things and had took their
joy of the open. All of them had worked hard at him--and had give him
his strength and his merriness and his big, broad shoulders and his
nice, friendly boyishness, and his eyes that could see considerably
more than was set before them. By his own care he had knit his body
close to life, and I know he had knit his spirit close to it, too. As I
looked over at him that night, my being nervous sort of swelled up into
a lump in my throat and I wanted to say inside me: O God, ain't it nice,
ain't it nice that you've got some folks like him?

"He glanced over to me, kind of whimsical.

"'Are you in favour of folks or tombstones?' he asks, with his eyebrows
flickering up.

"'Me?' I says. 'Well, I don't want to be clannish, but I do lean a good
deal towards folks.'

"'You knew what I meant to-night?' he says.

"'Yes,' I answered, 'I knew.'

"'I thought you did,' he says grave.

"Then he lapsed into keeping still again and so did I, me through not
quite knowing what to say, and him--well, I wasn't sure, but I thought
he acted a good deal as if he had something nice to think about. I've
seen that look on people's faces sometimes, and it always makes me feel
a little surer that I'm a human being. I wondered if it was his new work
he was turning over, or his liking the child's being cared for, or the
mere nice minute, there by the grate fire. Then a door upstairs shut,
and somebody come down and into the room, and when he got up, his look
sort of centred in that new minute.

"It was Miss Sidney that come in, and she set down by the fire like
something pleased her.

"'Aunt Eleanor is going to decorate Christopher herself,' she says. 'She
believes that she alone can do whatever comes up in this life to be
done, and usually she's right.'

"Insley stood looking at her for a minute before he set down again. She
had her big black cloak off by then, and she was wearing a
dress-for-in-the-house that was all rosy. She wasn't anything of the
star any longer. She was something more than a star. I always think one
of the nicest commonplace minutes in a woman's everyday is when she
comes back from somewheres outside the house where she's been, and sets
down by the fire, or by a window, or just plain in the middle of the
room. They always talk about pigeons 'homing'; I wish't they kept that
word for women. It seems like it's so exactly what they _do_ do.

"'I love the people,' Miss Sidney went on, 'that always feel that
way--that if something they're interested in is going to be really well
done, then they must do it themselves.'

"Insley always knew just what anybody meant--I'd noticed that about
him. His mind never left what you'd said floating round, loose ends in
the room, without your knowing whether it was going to be caught and
tied; but he just nipped right onto your remark and _tied it in the
right place_.

"'I love them, too,' he says now. 'I love anybody who can really feel
responsibility, from a collie with her pups up. But then I'm nothing to
go by. I find I'm rather strong for a good many people that can't feel
it, too--that are just folks, going along.'

"I suppose he expected from her the nice, ladylike agreeing, same as
most women give to this sort of thing, just like they'd admit they're
fond of verbenas or thin soles. But instead of that, she caught fire.
Her look jumped up the way a look will and went acrost to his. I always
think I'd rather have folks say 'I know' to me, understanding, than to
just pour me out information, and that was what she said to him.

"'I know,' she says, 'on the train to-day--if you could have seen them.
Such dreadful-looking people, and underneath--the _giving-up-ness_. I
believe in them,' she added simple.

"When a thing you believe gets spoke by somebody that believes it, too,
it's like the earth moved round a little faster, and I donno but it
does. Insley looked for a minute like he thought so.

"'I believe in them,' he says; 'not the way I used to, and just because
I thought they must be, somehow, fundamentally decent, but because it's
true.'

"'I know just when I first knew that,' Miss Sidney says. 'It come to me,
of all places, in a subway train, when I was looking at a row of faces
across the car. Nobody, _nobody_ can look interesting in that row along
the side of a subway car. And then I saw....'

"She thought for a minute and shook her head.

"'I can't tell you,' she says, 'it sounds so little and--no account. It
was a little thing, just something that happened to a homely woman with
a homely man, in a hat like a pirate's. But it almost--let me in. I can
do it ever since--look into people, into, or through, or with ...' she
tries to explain it. Then her eyes hurried up to his face, like she was
afraid he might not be understanding. He just nodded, without looking at
her, but she knew that he knew what she meant, and that he meant it,
too.

" ... I thought it was wonderful to hear them. I felt like an old
mountain, or anything natural and real ancient, listening to the Song of
Believing, sung by two that's young and just beginning. We all sing it
sometime in our lives--or Lord grieve for them that never do--and I
might as well own up that I catch myself humming that same song a good
deal of the time, to keep myself a-going. But I love to hear it when
it's just begun.

"They was still talking when Mis' Emmons come downstairs with
Christopher. Land, land but the little chap looked dear, dragging along,
holding up a long-skirted lounging dress of Mis' Emmons's. I never had
one of them lounging dresses. There's a lot of common things that it
never seems to me I can buy for myself: a nice dressing-gown, a block of
black pins, a fancy-headed hat pin, and a lemon-squeezer. I always use a
loose print, and common pins, and penny black-headed hat pins, and go
around squeezing my lemons by hand. I donno why it is, I'm sure.

"'I'm--I'm--I'm--a little boy king!' Christopher stutters, all excited
and satisfied, while Insley was a-packing him in the Morris chair.

"'Rained on!' says Mis' Emmons, in that kind of dismay that's as pure
feminine as if it had on skirts. 'Water isn't a circumstance to what
that dear child was. He was saturated--bless him. He must have been out
for perfect hours.'

"Christopher, thinking back into the rain, mebbe, from the pleasantness
of that minute, smiled and took a long breath.

"'I walked from that other place,' he explains, important.

"Mis' Emmons knew he was hungry, and she took Miss Sidney and Insley off
to the kitchen to find something to eat, and left me with the little
fellow, me spreading out his clothes in front of the fire to dry. He set
real still, like being dry and being with somebody was all he wanted.
And of course that is a good deal.

"I don't always quite know how to start talking to a child. I'm always
crazy to talk with them, but I'm so afraid of that shy, grave,
criticizin' look they have. I feel right off like apologizing for the
silly question I've just asked them. I felt that way now when
Christopher looked at me, real dignified and wondering. 'What you going
to be when you grow up to be a man?' was what I had just asked him. And
yet I don't know what better question I could of asked him, either.

"'I'm goin' to have a cream-puff store, an' make it all light in the
window,' he answers ready.

"'All light in the window?' I says puzzled.

"'And I'm going to keep a church,' he goes on, 'and I'm going to make
nice, black velvet for their coffings.'

"I didn't know quite what to make of that, not being able to think back
very far into his mind. So I kept still a few minutes.

"'What was you doin' in the church?' he says to me, all at once.

"'I don't really know. Waiting for you to come, I guess, Christopher,' I
says.

"'_Was_ you?' he cried, delighted. 'Pretty soon I came!' He looked in
the fire, sort of troubled. 'Is God outdoors nights?' he says.

"I said a little something.

"'Well,' he says, 'I thought he was in the house by the bed when you say
your prayer. An' I thought he was in church. But I don't think he stays
in the dark, much.'

"'Mebbe you don't,' I says, 'but you wait for him in the dark, and mebbe
all of a sudden some night you can tell that something is there. And
just you wait for that night to come.'

"'That's a nice game,' says Christopher, bright. 'What game is that?'

"'I donno,' I says. 'Game of Life, I guess.'

"He liked the sound; and he set there--little waif, full of no supper,
saying it over like a chant:--

"'Game o' life--game o' life--game o' l-i-f-e--'

"Just at that minute I was turning his little pockets wrong side out to
dry them, and in one of them I see a piece of paper, all crumpled up and
wrinkled. I spread it out, and I see it had writing on. And I held it up
to the light and read it, read it through twice.

"'Christopher,' I says then, 'where did you get this piece of paper? It
was in your pocket.'

"He looked at it, blank, and then he remembered.

"'My daddy,' he says. 'My daddy told me to give it to folks. I forgot.'

"'To folks?' I says. 'To what folks?'

"'To whoever ask' me anything,' he answers. 'Is it a letter?' he ask'.

"'Yes,' I says, thoughtful, 'it's a letter.'

"'To tell me what to do?' he ask' me.

"'Yes,' I says, 'but more, I guess, to tell us what to do.'

"I talked with him a little longer, so's to get his mind off the paper;
and then I told him to set still a minute, and I slipped out to where
the rest was.

"The pantry had a close, spicey, foody smell of a pantry at night, when
every tin chest and glass jar may be full up with nice things to eat
that you'd forgot about--cocoanut and citron and cinnamon bark. In
grown-up folks one of the things that is the last to grow up is the
things a pantry in the evening promises. You may get over really liking
raisins and sweet chocolate; you may get to wanting to eat in the
evening things that you didn't use' to even know the names of and don't
know them now, and yet it never gets over being nice and eventive to go
out in somebody's pantry at night, especially a pantry that ain't your
own.

"'Put everything on a tray,' Mis' Emmons was directing them, 'and find
the chafing-dish and let's make it in there by Christopher. Mr. Insley,
can you make toast? Don't equivocate,' she says; '_can_ you make toast?
People fib no end over what they can make. I'm always bragging about my
omelettes, and yet one out of every three I make goes flat, and I know
it. And yet I brag on. Beans, buckwheat, rice--what do you want to
cream, Robin? Well, look in the store-room. There may be something
there. We must tell Miss Sidney about Grandma Sellers' store-room, Mr.
Insley,' she says, and then tells it herself, laughing like a girl, how
Grandma Sellers, down at the other end of Daphne Street, has got a
store-room she keeps full of staples and won't let her son's wife use a
thing out. 'I've been hungry,' Grandma Sellers says, 'and I ain't
ashamed of that. But if you knew how good it feels to have a still-room
stocked full, you wouldn't ask me to disturb a can of nothing. I want
them all there, so if I should want them.' 'She's like me,' Mis' Emmons
ends, 'I always want to keep my living-room table tidy, to have a place
in case I should want to lay anything down. And if I put anything on it,
I snatch it up, so as to have a place in case I want to lay anything
down.'

"They was all laughing when I went out into the kitchen, and I went up
to Mis' Emmons with the paper.

"'Read that,' I says.

"She done so, out loud--the scrawlin', downhill message:--


     "'Keep him will you,' the paper said, 'I don't chuck him to get rid
     of but hes only got me since my wifes dead and the drinks got me
     again. Ive stood it quite awhile but its got me again so keep him
     and oblidge. will send money to him to the P O here what I can
     spare I aint chuckin him but the drinks got me again.

     "'resp, his father.

     "'P S his name is Christopher Bartlett he is a good boy his throat
     gets sore awful easy.'


"When Mis' Emmons had got through reading, I remember Miss Sidney's face
best. It was so full of a sort of a leaping-up pity and wistfulness that
it went to your heart, like words. I knew that with her the minute
wasn't no mere thrill nor twitter nor pucker, the way sad things is to
some, but it was just a straight sounding of a voice from a place of
pain. And so it was to Insley. But Mis' Emmons, she never give herself
time to be swamped by anything without trying to climb out right while
the swamping was going on.

"'What'll we do?' she says, rapid. 'What in this world shall we do? Did
you ever hear of anything--well, I wish somebody would tell me what
we're going to do.'

"'Let's be glad for one thing,' says Allen Insley, 'that he's here with
you people to-night. Let's be glad of that first--that he's here with
you.'

"Miss Sidney looked away to the dark window.

"'That poor man,' she says. 'That poor father....'

"We talked about it a little, kind of loose ends and nothing to fasten
to, like you will. Mis' Emmons was the first to get back inside the
minute.

"'Well,' she says, brisk, 'do let's go in and feed the child while we
have him. Nobody knows when he's had anything to eat but those unholy
cream-puffs. Let's heat him some broth and let's carry in the things.'

"Back by the fire Christopher set doing nothing, but just looking in the
blaze like his very eyesight had been chilly and damp and needed seeing
to. He cried out jolly when he see all the pretty harness of the
chafing-dish and the tray full of promises.

"'Oh,' he cries, '_Robin!_'

"She went over to him, and she nestled him now like she couldn't think
of enough to do for him nor enough things to say to keep him company. I
see Insley watching her, and I wondered if it didn't come to him like it
come to me, that for the pure art of doing nothing so that it seems like
it couldn't be got along without, a woman--some women--can be commended
by heaven to a world that always needs that kind of doing nothing.

"'Children have a genius for getting rid of the things that don't
count,' Miss Sidney says. 'I love his calling me "Robin." Mustn't there
be some place where we don't build walls around our names?'

"Insley thought for a minute. 'You oughtn't to be called "Miss," and
you oughtn't to wear a hat,' he concluded, sober. 'Both of them make
you--too much _there_. They draw a line around you.'

"'I don't feel like Miss to myself,' she says, grave. 'I feel like
Robin. I believe I _am_ Robin!'

"And I made up my mind right then and there that, to myself anyway, I
was always going to call her Robin. It's funny about first names. Some
of them fit right down and snuggle up close to their person so that you
can't think of them apart. And some of them slip loose and dangle along
after their person, quite a ways back, so that you're always surprised
when now and then they catch up and get themselves spoke by someone. But
the name Robin just seemed to wrap Miss Sidney up in itself so that, as
she said, she _was_ Robin. I like to call her so.

"It was her that engineered the chafing-dish. A chafing-dish is a thing
I've always looked on a little askant. I couldn't cook with folks
looking at me no more than I could wash my face in company. I remember
one hot July day when there was a breeze in my front door, I took my
ironing-board in the parlor and tried to iron there. But land, I felt
all left-handed; and I know it would be that way if I ever tried to
cook in there, on my good rug. Robin though, she done it wonderful. And
pretty soon she put the hot cream gravy on some crumbled-up bread and
took it to Christopher, with a cup of broth that smelled like when they
used to say, 'Dinner's ready,' when you was twelve years old.

"He looked up at her eager. 'Can you cut it in squares?' he asked.

"'In what?' she asks him over.

"'Squares. And play it's molasses candy--white molasses candy?' he says.

"'Oh,' says Robin, 'no, not in squares. But let's play it's hot
ice-cream.'

"'_Hot ice-cream_,' he says, real slow, his eyes getting wide. To play
Little Boy King and have hot ice-cream was about as much as he could
take care of, in joy. Sometimes I get to wondering how we ever do
anything else except collect children together and give them nice little
simple fairylands. But while, on the sly, we was all watching to see
Christopher sink deep in the delight of that hot toothsome supper, he
suddenly lays down his spoon and stares over to us with wide eyes, eyes
that there wasn't no tears gathering in, though his little mouth was
quivering.

"'What is it--what, dear?' Robin asks, from her stool near his feet.

"'My daddy,' says the little boy. 'I was thinking if he could have some
this.'

"Robin touched her cheek down on his arm.

"'Blessed,' she says, 'think how glad he'd be to have you have some.
He'd want you to eat it--wouldn't he?'

"The child nodded and took up his spoon, but he sighed some. 'I wish't
he'd hurry,' he says, and ate, obedient.

"Robin looked up at us--I don't think a woman is ever so lovely as when
she's sympathizing, and it don't make much difference what it's over, a
sore finger or a sore heart, it's equally becoming.

"'I know,' she says to us, 'I know just the _place_ where that hurts. I
remember, when I was little, being in a house that a band passed, and
because mother wasn't there, I ran inside and wouldn't listen. It's such
a special kind of hurt....'

"From the end of the settle that was some in the shadow, Insley set
watching her, and he looked as if he was thinking just what I was
thinking: that she was the kind that would most always know just the
place things hurt. And I bet she'd know what to do--and a thousand kinds
of things that she'd go and do it.

"'O ...' Christopher says. 'I like this most next better than molasses
candy, cutted in squares. I do, Robin!' He looked down at her, his spoon
waiting. 'Is you that Robin Redbreast?' he inquired.

"'I'm any Robin you want me to be,' she told him. 'To-morrow we'll play
that, shall we?'

"'Am I here to-morrow? Don't I have to walk to-morrow?' he ask' her.

"'No, you won't have to walk to-morrow,' she told him.

"Christopher leaned back, altogether nearer to luxury than I guess he'd
ever been.

"'I'm a little boy king, and it's hot ice-cream, and I love _you_,' he
tops it off to Robin.

"She smiled at him, leaning on his chair.

"'Isn't it a miracle,' she says to us, 'the way we can call out--being
liked? We don't do something, and people don't pay any attention and
don't know the difference. Then some little thing happens, and there
they are--liking us, doing a real thing.'

"'I know it,' I says, fervent. 'Sometimes,' I says, 'it seems to me
wonderful cosey to be alive! I'm glad I'm it.'

"'So am I,' says Insley, and leaned forward. 'There's never been such a
time to be alive,' he says. 'Mrs. Emmons, why don't we ask Miss Sidney
for some plans for our plan?'

"Do you know how sometimes you'll have a number of floating ideas in
your mind--wanting to do this, thinking that would be nice, dreaming of
something else--and yet afraid to say much about it, because it seems
like the ideas or the dreams is much too wild for anybody else to have,
too? And then mebbe after a while, you'll find that somebody had the
same idea and dreamed it out, and died with it? Or somebody else tried
to make it go a little? Well, that was what begun to happen to me that
night while I heard Insley talk, only I see that my floating ideas, that
wan't properly attached to the sides of my head, was actually being
worked out here and there, and that Insley knew about them.

"I donno how to tell what my ideas was. I'd had them from time to time,
and a good many of us ladies had, only we didn't know what to do with
them. And an idea that you don't know what to do with is like a wild
animal out of its cage: there ain't no performance till it's adjusted.
For instance, when we'd wanted to pave Daphne Street and the whole town
council had got up and swung its arms over its head and said that having
an economical administration was better than paving--why, then us ladies
had all had the same idee about that.

"'Is the town run for the sake of being the town, with money in its
treasury, or is the town run for the folks in it?' I remember Mis'
Toplady asking, puzzled. 'Ain't the folks the town really?' she ask'.
'And if they are, why can't they pave themselves with their own money?
Don't that make sense?' she ask' us, and we thought it did.

"Us ladies had got Daphne Street paved, or at least it was through us
they made the beginning, but there was things we hadn't done. We was all
taking milk of Rob Henney that we knew his cow barns wasn't at all
eatable, but he was the only milk wagon, nobody else in town delivering,
so we kept on taking, but squeamish, squeamish. Then there was the
grocery stores, leaving their food all over the sidewalk, dust-peppered
and dirt-salted. But nobody liked to say anything to Silas Sykes that
keeps the post-office store, nor to Joe Betts, that his father before
him kept the meat market, being we all felt delicate, like at asking a
church member to come out to church. Then us ladies had bought a zinc
wagon and started it around to pick up the garbage to folks' doors, but
the second summer the council wouldn't help pay for the team, because it
was a saving council, and so the wagon was setting in a shed, with its
hands folded. Then there was Black Hollow, that we'd wanted filled up
with dirt instead of scummy water, arranging for typhoid fever and other
things, but the council having got started paving, was engaged in paving
the swamp out for miles, Silas Sykes's cousin being in the wooden block
business. And, too, us ladies was just then hopping mad over the doings
they was planning for the Fourth of July, that wasn't no more than
making a cash register of the day to earn money into. All these things
had been disturbing us, and more; but though we talked it over
considerable, none of us knew what to do, or whether anything could be.
It seemed as though every way we moved a hand, it hit out at the council
or else went into some business man's pocket. And not having anybody to
tell us what other towns were doing, we just set still and wished,
passive.

"Well, and that night, while I heard Insley talking, was the first I
knew that other towns had thought about these things, too, and was
beginning to stir and to stir things. Insley talked about it light
enough, laughing, taking it all casual on the outside, but underneath
with a splendid earnestness that was like the warp to his words. He
talked like we could pick Friendship Village up, same as a strand if we
wanted, and make it fine and right for weaving in a big pattern that
his eyes seemed to see. He talked like our village, and everybody's
village and everybody's city wasn't just a lot of streets laid down and
walls set up, and little families and little clubs and little separate
groups of folks organized by themselves. But he spoke like the whole
town was just one street and _no_ walls, and like every town was a piece
of the Big Family that lives on the same street, all around the world
and back again. And he seemed to feel that the chief thing all of us was
up to was thinking about this family and doing for it and being it, and
getting it to be the way it can be when we all know how. And he seemed
to think the things us ladies had wanted to do was some of the things
that would help it to be the way it can.

"When he stopped, Robin looked up at him from the hearth-rug: '"The
world is beginning,"' she quotes to him from somewheres; "'I must go and
help the king."'

"He nodded, looking down at her and seeing, as he must have seen, that
her face was all kindled into the same kind of a glory that was in his.
It was a nice minute for them, but I was so excited I piped right up in
the middle of it:--

"'Oh,' I says, '_them_ things! Was it them kind of things you meant
about in Sodality to-night that we'd ought to do? Why, us ladies has
wanted to do things like that, but we felt sort of sneaking about it and
like we was working against the council and putting our interests before
the town treasury--'

"'And of the cemetery,' he says.

"'Is _that_,' I ask' him, 'what you're professor of, over to Indian
Mound college?'

"'Something like that,' he says.

"'Nothing in a book, with long words and italics?' I ask' him.

"'Well,' he says, 'it's getting in books now, a little. But it doesn't
need any long words.'

"'Why,' I says, 'it's just being professor of human beings, then?'

"'Trying to be, perhaps,' he says, grave.

"'Professor of Human Beings,' I said over to myself; 'professor of being
human....'

"On this nice minute, the front door, without no bell or knock, opened
to let in Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, with a shawl over her head
and a tin can in her hand.

"'No, I won't set any, thanks,' she says. 'I just got to
thinking--mercy, no. Don't give me any kind of anything to eat any such
time of night as this. I should be up till midnight taking soda. That's
what ails folks' stomachs, my notion--these late lunches on nobody
knows what. No, I got to bed and I was just dropping off when I happened
to sense how wringing wet that child was, and that I betted he'd take
cold and have the croup in the night, and you wouldn't have no
remedy--not having any children, so. It rousted me right up wide awake,
and I dressed me and run over here with this. Here. Put some on a rag
and clap it on his chest if he coughs croupy. I donno's it would hurt
him to clap it on him, anyway, so's to be sure. No, I can't stop. It's
'way past my bed-time....'

"'There's lots of professors of being human, Miss Marsh,' Insley says to
me, low.

"Mis' Holcomb stood thinking a minute, brushing her lips with the fringe
of her shawl.

"'Mebbe somebody up to the Proudfits' would do something for him,' she
says. 'I see they're lit up. Who's coming?'

"'Mr. Alex Proudfit will be here to-morrow,' Mis' Emmons told her. 'He
has some people coming to him in a day or two, for a house party over
the Fourth.'

"'Will he be here so soon?' says Insley. 'I've been looking forward to
meeting him--I've a letter to him from Indian Mound.'

"'Whatever happens,' says Mis' Holcomb, 'I'll get up attic first thing
in the morning and find some old clothes for this dear child. I may be
weak in the pocket-book, but I'm strong on old duds.'

"Insley and I both said good night, so's to walk home with Mis' Holcomb,
and Christopher kissed us both, simple as belonging to us.

"'We had that hot ice-cream,' he announced to Mis' Holcomb.

"'The lamb!' says she, and turns her back, hasty.

"I wondered a little at Mis' Emmons not saying anything to her about the
letter we'd found, that made us know somebody would have to do
something. But just as we was starting out, Mis' Emmons says to me low,
'Don't let's say anything about his father yet. I have a plan--I want to
think it over first.' And I liked knowing that already she had a plan,
and I betted it was a plan that would be born four-square to its own
future.

"Insley stood holding the door open. The rain had stopped altogether
now, and the night was full of little things sticking their heads up in
deep grasses and beginning to sing about it. I donno about what, but
about something nice. And Insley was looking toward Robin, and I see
that all the ancestors he'd ever had was lingering around in his face,
like they knew about something he was just beginning to know about.
Something nice--nicer than the little outdoor voices.

"'Good night, Miss Sidney,' he says. 'And what a good night for
Christopher!' And he looked as if he wanted to add: 'And for me.'

"'Good night, Mis' Emmons,' I says. 'It's been an evening like a full
meal.'



IV


"By messenger the next day noon come a letter for me that made me laugh
a little and that made me a little bit mad, too. This was it:--


     "'Dear Calliope:

     "'Come up and help straighten things out, do. This place breathes
     desolation. Everything is everywhere except everything which
     everyone wants, which is lost. Come at once, Calliope, pray, and
     dine with me to-night and give me as much time as you can for a
     fortnight. I'm having some people here next week--twenty or so for
     over the Fourth--and a party. A company, you know! I need you.

     "'ALEX PROUDFIT.'


"It was so exactly like Alex to send for me just plain because he wanted
me. Never a word about if I was able or if I wasn't putting up berries
or didn't have company or wasn't dead. I hadn't heard a sound from him
in the two years or more that he'd been gone, and yet now it was just
'Come,' like a lord. And for that matter like he used to do when he was
in knickerbockers and coming to my house for fresh cookies, whether I
had any baked or not. But I remember actually baking a batch for him one
day while he galloped his pony up and down the Plank Road waiting for
them. And I done the same way now. I got my work out of the way and went
right up there, like I'd always done for that family in the forty years
I could think back to knowing them, when I was a girl. I guessed that
Alex had lit down sudden, a day or so behind his telegram to the
servants; and I found that was what he had done.

"Proudfit House stands on a hill, and it looks like the hill had
billowed up gentle from underneath and had let some of the house flow
down the sides. It was built ambitious, of the good cream brick that
gives to a lot of our Middle West towns their colour of natural flax in
among the green; it had been big in the beginning, and to it had been
added a good many afterthoughts and postscripts of conservatory and
entrance porch and sun room and screened veranda, till the hill couldn't
hold them all. The house was one of them that was built fifty years ago
and that has since been pecked and patted to suit modern uses, pinched
off here and pulled off there to fit notions refining themselves
gradual. And all the time the house was let to keep some nice, ugly
things that after a while, by mere age and use-to-ness, were finally
accepted wholesale as dignified and desirable. The great brown mansard
roof, niched and glassed in two places for statues--and having them,
too, inside my memory and until Mr. Alex pulled them down; the scalloped
tower on a wing; the round red glass window on a stairway--these we all
sort of come to agree to as qualities of the place that couldn't be
changed no more'n the railroad track. Tapestries and water-colours and
Persian carpets went on inside the house, but outside was all the little
twists of a taste that had started in naked and was getting dressed up
by degrees.

"Since the marriage of her daughter Clementina, Madame Proudfit had
spent a good deal of time abroad, and the house had been shut up. This
shutting up of people's houses always surprises me. When I shut up my
house to go away for a couple of months or so, I just make sure the
kitchen fire is out, and I carry the bird down to Mis' Holcomb's, and I
turn the key in the front door and start off. But land, land when
Proudfit House is going to be shut, the servants work days on end. Rugs
up, curtains down, furniture covered and setting around out of place,
pictures and ornaments wrapped up in blue paper--I always wonder _why_.
Closing my house is like putting it to sleep for a little while, but
closing Proudfit House is some like seeing it through a spasm and into a
trance. They done that to the house most every summer, and I used to
think they acted like spring was a sort of contagion, or a
seventeen-year locust, or something to be fumigated for. I supposed that
was the way the house looked when Alex got home to it, and of course a
man must hate it worse than a woman does, because he doesn't know which
end to tell them to take hold of to unravel. So I went right up there
when he sent for me--and then it was a little fun, too, to be on the
inside of what was happening there, that all the village was so curious
about.

"He'd gone off when I got there, gone off on horseback on some business,
but he'd left word that he'd be back in a little while, and would I help
him out in the library. I knew what that meant. The books was all out of
the shelves and packed in paper, and he wanted me to see that they got
back into their right places, like I'd done many and many a time for his
mother. So I worked there the whole afternoon, with a couple of men to
help me, and the portrait of Linda Proudfit on the wall watching me like
it wanted to tell me something, maybe about the way she went off and
died, away from home; and a little after four o'clock a servant let
somebody into the room.

"I looked up expecting to see Alex, and it surprised me some to see
Insley instead. But I guessed how it was: that Alex Proudfit being a
logical one to talk over Friendship Village with, Insley couldn't lose a
day in bringing him his letter.

"'Well, Miss Marsh,' says he, 'and do you live everywhere, like a good
fairy?'

"I thought afterwards that I might have said to him: 'No, Mr. Insley.
And do you appear everywhere, like a god?' But at the time I didn't
think of anything to say, and I just smiled. I'm like that,--if I like
anybody, I can't think of a thing to say back; but to Silas Sykes I
could talk back all day.

"We'd got the room part in order by then, and Insley sat down and looked
around him, enjoyable. It was a beautiful room. I always think that that
library ain't no amateur at its regular business of being a vital part
of the home. Some rooms are awful amateurs at it, and some ain't no more
than apprentices, and some are downright enemies to the house they're
in. But that library I always like to look around. It seems to me, if I
really knew about such things, and how they ought to be, I couldn't
like that room any better. Colour, proportion, window, shadow--they was
all lined up in a kind of an enjoyable professionalism of doing their
best. The room was awake now, too--I had the windows open and I'd
started the clock. Insley set looking around as if there was sighs
inside him. I knew how, down in New England, his father's home sort of
behaved itself like this home. But after college, he had had to choose
his way, and he had faced about to the new west, the new world, where
big ways of living seemed to him to be sweeping as a wind sweeps. He had
chose as he had chose, and I suppose he was glad of that; but I knew the
room he had when he was in town, at Threat Hubbelthwait's hotel, must be
a good deal like being homesick, and that this library was like coming
home.

"'Mr. Proudfit had just returned and would be down at once,' the man
come back and told him. And while he waited Insley says to me:

"'Have you seen anything of the little boy to-day, Miss Marsh?'

"I was dying to answer back: 'Yes, I see Miss Sidney early this
morning,' but you can't answer back all you die to. So I told him yes,
I'd seen all three of them and they was to be up in the city all day to
buy some things for Christopher. Mis' Emmons and Robin was both to come
up to Proudfit House to Alex's house party--seems they'd met abroad
somewheres a year or more back; and they was going to bring Christopher,
who Mis' Emmons didn't show any sign of giving up while her plan,
whatever it was, was getting itself thought over. So they'd whisked the
child off to the city that day to get him the things he needed. And
there wasn't time to say anything more, for in come Alex Proudfit.

"He was in his riding clothes--horseback dress we always call it in the
village, which I s'pose isn't city talk, proper. He was long and thin
and brown, and sort of slow-moving in his motions, but quick and nervous
in his talk; and I don't know what there was about him--his clothes, or
his odd, old-country looking ring, or the high white thing wound twice
around his neck, or his way of pronouncing his words--but he seemed a
good deal like a picture of a title or a noted man. The minute you
looked at him, you turned proud of being with him, and you pretty near
felt distinguished yourself, in a nice way, because you was in his
company. Alex was like that.

"'I don't like having kept you waiting,' he says to Insley. 'I'm just
in. By Jove, I've left Topping's letter somewhere--Insley, is it? thank
you. Of course. Well, Calliope, blessings! I knew I could count on you.
How are you--you look it. No, don't run away. Keep straight on--Mr.
Insley will pardon us getting settled under his nose. Now what can I get
you, Mr. Insley? If you've walked up, you're warm. No? As you will. It's
mighty jolly getting back--for a minute, you know. I couldn't stop here.
How the devil do you stop here all the time--or do you stop here all the
time?...' All this he poured out in a breath. He always had talked fast,
but now I see that he talked more than fast--he talked foreign.

"'I'm here some of the time,' says Insley; 'I hoped that you were going
to be, too.'

"'I?' Alex said. 'Oh, no--no. I feel like this: while I'm in the world,
I want it at its best. I want it at its latest moment. I want to be
living _now_. Friendship Village--why, man, it's living half a century
ago--anyway, a quarter. It doesn't know about A.D. nineteen-anything. I
love the town, you know, for what it is. But confound it, I'm living
_now_.'

"Insley leaned forward. I was dusting away on an encyclopædia, but I see
his face and I knew what it meant. This was just what he'd been hoping
for. Alex Proudfit was a man who understood that the village hadn't
caught up. So he would want to help it--naturally he would.

"'I'm amazed at the point of view,' Alex went on. 'I never saw such
self-sufficiency as the little towns have. In England, on the continent,
the villages know their place and keep it, look up to the towns and all
that--play the peasant, as they are. Know their betters. Here? Bless
you. Not a man down town here but will tell you that the village has got
everything that is admirable. They believe it, too. Electric light,
water, main street paved, cemetery kept up, "nice residences,"
telephones, library open two nights a week, fresh lettuce all
winter--fine, up-to-date little place! And, Lord, but it's a back-water.
With all its improvements the whole _idea_ of modern life somehow
escapes it--music and art, drama, letters, manners, as integral parts of
everyday living--what does it know of them? It thinks these things are
luxuries, outside the scheme of real life, like monoplanes. Jove, it's
delicious!'

"He leaned back, laughing. Insley must have felt his charm. Alex always
was fascinating. His eyes were gray and sort of hobnobbed with your
own; his square chin just kind of threatened a dimple without breaking
into one; his dark hair done clusters like a statue; and then there was
a lot of just plain charm pouring off him. But of course more than with
this, Insley was filled with his own hope: if Alex Proudfit understood
some things about the village that ought to be made right, it looked to
him as though they might do everything together.

"'Why,' Insley says, 'you don't know--you don't know how glad I am to
hear you say this. It's exactly the thing my head has been full of....'

"'Of course your head is full of it,' says Alex. 'How can it help but be
when you're fast here some of the time? If you don't mind--what is it
that keeps you here at all? I don't think I read Topping's letter
properly....'

"Insley looked out from all over his face.

"'I stay,' he says, 'just because all this _is_ so. It needs somebody to
stay, don't you think?'

"'Ah, yes, I see,' says Alex, rapid and foreign. 'How do you mean,
though? Surely you don't mean renouncing--and that sort of thing?'

"'Renouncing--no!' says Insley. 'Getting into the game.'

"He got his enthusiasm down into still places and outlined what he
meant. It was all at the ends of his fingers--what there was to do if
the town was to live up to itself, to find ways to express the everyday
human fellowship that Insley see underneath everything. And Alex
Proudfit listened, giving that nice, careful, pacifying attention of
his. He was always so polite that his listening was like answering. When
Insley got through, Alex's very disagreeing with him was sympathizing.

"'My dear man,' says he--I remember every word because it was something
I'd wondered sometimes too, only I'd done my wondering vague, like you
do--'My dear man, but are you not, after all, anticipating? This is just
the way Nature works--beating these things into the heads and hearts of
generations. Aren't you trying to do it all at once?'

"'I'm trying to help nature, to be a part of nature--exactly,' says
Insley, 'and to do it here in Friendship Village.'

"'Why,' says Alex, 'you'll be talking about facilitating God's plan
next--helping him along, by Jove.'

"Insley looks at him level. 'I mean that now,' he says, 'if you want to
put it that way.'

"'Good Lord,' says Alex, 'but how do you know what--what he wants?'

"'Don't you?' says Insley, even.

"Alex Proudfit turned and touched a bell. 'Look here,' he says, 'you
stay and dine, won't you? I'm alone to-night--Calliope and I are. Stay.
I always enjoy threshing this out.'

"To the man-servant who just about breathed with a well-trained stoop of
being deferential, his master give the order about the table. 'And,
Bayless, have them hunt out some of those tea-roses they had in bloom
the other day--you should see them, Calliope. Oh, and, Bayless, hurry
dinner a bit. I'm as hungry as lions,' he added to us, and he made me
think of the little boy in knickerbockers, asking me for fresh cookies.

"He slipped back to their topic, ranking it right in with tea-roses. In
the hour before dinner they went on 'threshing it out' there in that
nice luxurious room, and through the dinner, too--a simple, perfect
dinner where I didn't know which to eat, the plates or the food, they
was both so complete. Up to Proudfit House I can hardly ever make out
whether I'm chewing flavours or colours or shapes, but I donno as I
care. Flavours, thank my stars, aren't the only things in life I know
how to digest.

"First eager, then patient, Insley went over his ground, setting forth
by line and by line, by vision and by vision, the faith that was in
him--faith in human nature to come into its own, faith in the life of a
town to work into human life at its best. And always down the same road
they went, they come a-canterin' back with Alex Proudfit's 'Precisely.
It is precisely what is happening. You can't force it. You mustn't force
it. To do the best we can with ourselves and to help up an under dog or
two--if he deserves it--that's the most Nature lets us in for. Otherwise
she says: "Don't meddle. I'm doing this." And she's right. We'd bungle
everything. Believe me, my dear fellow, our spurts of civic
righteousness and national reform never get us anywhere in the long run.
In the long run, things go along and go along. You can't stop them. If
you're wise, you won't rush them.'

"At this I couldn't keep still no longer. We was at the table then, and
I looked over to Alex between the candlesticks and felt as if he was
back in knickerbockers again, telling me God had made enough ponies so
he could gallop his all day on the Plank Road if he wanted to.

"'You and Silas Sykes, Alex,' I says, 'have come to the same motto.
Silas says Nature is real handy about taking her course so be you don't
yank open cocoons and buds and like that.'

"'Old Silas,' says Alex. 'Lord, is he still going on about everything?
Old Silas....'

"'Yes,' I says, 'he is. And so am I. Out by my woodshed I've got a
Greening apple tree. When it was about a year old a cow I used to keep
browst it down. It laid over on the ground, broke clean off all but one
little side of bark that kept right on doing business with sap, like it
didn't know its universe was sat on. I didn't get time for a week or two
to grub it up, and when I did go to it, I see it was still living,
through that little pinch of bark. I liked the pluck, and I straightened
it up and tied it to the shed. I used to fuss with it some. Once in a
storm I went out and propped a dry-goods box over it. I kept the earth
rich and drove the bugs off. I kind of got interested in seeing what it
would do next. What it done was to grow like all possessed. It was
twenty years ago and more that the cow come by it, and this year I've
had seven bushels of Greenings off that one tree. Suppose I hadn't tied
it up?'

"'You'd have saved yourself no end of trouble, dear Calliope,' says
Alex, 'to say nothing of sparing the feelings of the cow.'

"'I ain't so anxious any more,' says I, 'about sparing folks' feelings
as I am about sparing folks. Nor I ain't so crazy as I used to be about
saving myself trouble, either.'

"'Dear Calliope,' says Alex, 'what an advocate you are. Won't you be my
advocate?'

"He wouldn't argue serious with me now no more than he would when he was
in knickerbockers. But yet he was adorable. When we got back to the
library, I went on finishing up the books and I could hear him being
adorable. He dipped down into the past and brought up rich things--off
down old ways of life in the village that he'd had a part in and then
off on the new ways where his life had led him. Java--had Insley ever
been in Java? He must show him the moonstone he got there and tell him
the story they told him about it. But the queerest moonstone story was
one he'd got in Lucknow--so he goes on, and sends Bayless for a cabinet,
and from one precious stone and another he just naturally drew out
romances and adventures, as if he was ravelling the stones out into
them. And then he begun taking down some of his old books. And when it
come to books, the appeal to Insley was like an appeal of friends, and
he burrowed into them musty parchments abundant.

"'By George,' Insley says once, 'I didn't dream there were such things
in Friendship Village.'

"'Next thing you'll forget they're in the world,' says Alex,
significant. 'Believe me, a man like you ought not to be down here, or
over to Indian Mound, either. It's an economic waste. Nature has fitted
you for her glorious present and you're living along about four decades
ago. Don't you think of that?...'

"Then the telephone on the library table rang and he answered a call
from the city. 'Oh, buy it in, buy it in, by all means,' he directs.
'Yes, cable to-night and buy it in. That,' he says, as he hung up, 'just
reminds me. There's a first night in London to-night that I've been
promising myself to see.... What a dog's life a business man leads. By
the way,' he goes on, 'I've about decided to put in one of our plants
around here somewhere--a tannery, you know. I've been off to-day looking
over sites. I wonder if you can't give me some information I'm after
about land around Indian Mound. I'm not saying anything yet,
naturally--they'll give other people a bonus to establish in their
midst, but the smell of leather is too much for them. We always have to
surprise them into it. But talk about the ultimate good of a town ... if
a tannery isn't that, what is it?'

"It was after nine o'clock when I got the books set right--I loved to
handle them, and there was some I always looked in before I put them up
because some of the pictures give me feelings I remembered, same as
tasting some things will--spearmint and caraway and coriander. Insley,
of course, walked down with me. Alex wanted to send us in the
automobile, but I'm kind of afraid of them in the dark. I can't get it
out of my head that every bump we go over may be bones. And then I guess
we both sort of wanted the walk.

"Insley was like another man from the one that had come into the library
that afternoon, or had been talking to us at Mis' Emmons's the night
before. Down in the village, on Mis' Emmons's hearth, with Robin sitting
opposite, it had seemed so easy to know ways to do, and to do them.
Everything seemed possible, as if the whole stiff-muscled universe could
be done things to if only everybody would once say to it: _Our_
universe. But now, after his time with Alex, I knew how everything had
kind of _tightened_, closed in around him, shot up into high walls.
Money, tanneries, big deals by cable, moonstones from Java, they almost
made me slimpse too, and think, What's the use of believing Alex
Proudfit and me belong to the same universe? So I guessed how Insley was
feeling, ready to believe that he had got showed up to himself in his
true light, as a young, emotioning creature who dreams of getting
everybody to belong together, and yet can't find no good way. And Alex
Proudfit's parting words must of followed him down the drive and out on
to the Plank Road:--

"'Take my advice. Don't spend yourself on this blessed little hole. It's
dear to me, but it _is_ a hole ... eh? You won't get any thanks for it.
Ten to one they'll turn on you if you try to be one of them. Get out of
here as soon as possible, and be in the real world! This is just
make-believing--and really, you know, you're too fine a sort to throw
yourself away like this. Old Nature will take care of the town in good
time without you. Trust her!'

"Sometimes something happens to make the world seem different from what
we thought it was. Them times catch all of us--when we feel like we'd
been let down gentle from some high foot-path where we'd been going
along, and instead had been set to walk a hard road in a silence that
pointed its finger at us. If we get really knocked down sudden from a
high foot-path, we can most generally pick ourselves up and rally. But
when we've been let down gentle by arguments that seem convincing, and
by folks that seem to know the world better than we do, then's the time
when there ain't much of any rally to us. If we're any good, I s'pose we
can climb back without rallying. Rallying gives some spring to the
climb, but just straight dog-climbing will get us there, too.

"It was a lovely July night, with June not quite out of the world yet.
There was that after-dark light in the sky that makes you feel that the
sky is going to stay lit up behind and shining through all night, as if
the time was so beautiful that celestial beings must be staying awake to
watch it, and to keep the sky lit and turned down low.... We walked
along the Plank Road pretty still, because I guessed how Insley's own
thoughts was conversation enough for him; but when we got a ways down,
he kind of reached out with his mind for something and me being near by,
his mind clutched at me.

"'What if it _is_ so, Miss Marsh?' he says. 'What if the only thing for
us to do is to tend to personal morality and an occasional lift to an
under dog or two--"if he deserves it." What if that's all--they meant us
to do?'

"It's awful hard giving a reason for your chief notions. It's like
describing a rose by the tape-measure.

"'Shucks!' I says only. 'Look up at the stars. I don't believe it.'

"He laughed a little, and he did look up at them, but still I knew how
he felt. And even the stars that night looked awful detached and able to
take care of themselves. And they were a-shining down on the Plank Road
that would get to be Daphne Street and go about its business of leading
to private homes--_private_ homes. The village, that little cluster of
lights ahead there, seemed just shutting anybody else out, going its own
way, kind of mocking anybody for any idea of getting really inside it.
It was plain enough that Insley had nothing to hope for from Alex
Proudfit. And Alex's serene sureness that Nature needed nobody to help,
his real self-satisfied looking on at processes which no man could
really hurry up--my, but they made you feel cheap, and too many of
yourself, and like none of you had a license to take a-hold. For a
second I caught myself wondering. Maybe Nature--stars and streets and
processes--_could_ work it out without us.

"Something come against my foot. I pushed at it, and then bent over and
touched it. It was warm and yieldy, and I lifted it up. And it was a
puppy that wriggled its body unbelievable and flopped on to my arm its
inch and a quarter of tail.

"'Look at,' I says to Insley, which, of course, he couldn't do; but I
put the little thing over into his hands.

"'Well, little brother,' says he. 'Running away?'

"We was just in front of the Cadozas', a tumble-down house halfway
between Proudfit House and the village. It looked like the puppy might
belong there, so we turned in there with it. I'd always sort of dreaded
the house, setting in back among lilacs and locusts and never lit up.
When I stopped to think of it, I never seemed to remember much about
those lilacs and locusts blooming--I suppose they did, but nobody caught
them at it often. Some houses you always think of with their lilacs and
locusts and wisteria and hollyhocks going all the time; and some you
never seem to connect up with being in bloom at all. Some houses you
always seem to think of as being lit up to most of their windows, and
some you can't call to mind as showing any way but dark. The Cadozas'
was one of the unblossoming, dark kind, and awful ramshackle, besides.
I always use' to think it looked like it was waiting for some kind of
happening, I didn't know what. And sometimes when I come by there in the
dark, I used to think: It ain't happened yet.

"We went around to the back door to rap, and Mis' Cadoza opened it--a
slovenly looking woman she is, with no teeth much, and looking like what
hair she's got is a burden to her. I remember how she stood there
against a background of mussy kitchen that made you feel as if you'd
turned something away wrong side out to where it wasn't meant to be
looked at.

"'Is it yours, Mis' Cadoza?' I says, Insley holding out the puppy.

"'Murder, it's Patsy,' says Mis' Cadoza. 'Give 'm here--he must of
followed Spudge off. Oh, it's you, Miss Marsh.'

"Over by the cook stove in the corner I see past her to something that
made me bound to go inside a minute. It was a bed, all frowzy and
tumbled, and in it was laying a little boy.

"'Why,' I says, 'I heard Eph was in bed. What's the matter with him?'
And I went right in, past his mother, like I was a born guest. She drew
off, sort of grudging--she never liked any of us to go there, except
when some of them died, which they was always doing. 'Come in and see
Eph, Mr. Insley,' I says, and introduced him.

"The little boy wasn't above eight years old and he wasn't above six
years big.... He was laying real still, with his arms out of bed, and
his little thin hands flat down on the dark covers. His eyes, looking up
at us, watching, made me think of some trapped thing.

"'Well, little brother,' says Insley, 'what's the trouble?'

"Mis' Cadoza come and stood at the foot of the bed and jerked at the top
covers.

"'I've put him in the bed,' she says, 'because I'm wore out lifting him
around. An' I've got the bed out here because I can't trapse back an'
forth waitin' on him.'

"'Is he a cripple?' asks Insley, low. I liked so much to hear his
voice--it was as if it lifted and lowered itself in his throat without
his bothering to tell it which kind it was time to do. And I never heard
his voice make a mistake.

"'Cripple?' says Mis' Cadoza, in her kind of undressed voice. 'No. He
fell in a tub of hot water years ago, and his left leg is witherin' up.'

"'Let me see it,' says Insley, and pulled the covers back without
waiting.

"There ain't nothing more wonderful than a strong, capable, quick human
hand doing something it knows how to do. Insley's hands touched over the
poor little leg of the child until I expected to see it get well right
there under his fingers. He felt the cords of the knee and then looked
up at the mother.

"'Haven't they told you,' he says, 'that if he has an operation on his
knee, you can have a chance at saving the leg? I knew a case very like
this where the leg was saved.'

"'I ain't been to see nobody about it,' says Mis' Cadoza, leaving her
mouth open afterwards, like she does. 'What's the good? I can't pay for
no operation on him. I got all I can do to keep 'm alive.'

"Eph moved a little, and something fell down on the floor. Mis' Cadoza
pounced on it.

"'Ain't I forbid you?' she says, angry, and held out to us what she'd
picked up--a little dab of wet earth. 'He digs up all my house plants,'
she scolds, like some sort of machinery grating down on one place
continual, 'an' he hauls the dirt out and lays there an' makes
_figgers_. The idear! Gettin' the sheets a sight....'

"The child looked over at us, defiant. He spoke for the first time, and
I was surprised to hear how kind of grown-up his voice was.

"'I can get 'em to look like faces,' he says. 'I don't care what _she_
says.'

"'Show us,' commands Insley.

"He got back the bit of earth from Mis' Cadoza, and found a paper for
the crumbs, and pillowed the boy up and sat beside him. The thin, dirty
little hands went to work as eager as birds pecking, and on the earth
that he packed in his palm he made, with his thumb nail and a pen handle
from under his pillow, a face--a boy's face, that had in it something
that looked at you. 'But I can never get 'em to look the same way two
times,' he says to us, shy.

"'He's most killed my Lady Washington geranium draggin' the clay out
from under the roots,' Mis' Cadoza put in, resentful.

"Insley sort of sweeps around and looks acrost at her, deep and gentle,
and like he understood about her boy and her geranium considerable
better than she did.

"'He won't do it any more,' he says. 'He'll have something better.'

"The boy looked up at him. 'What?' he asks.

"'Clay,' says Insley, 'in a box. With things for you to make the clay
like. Do you want that?'

"The boy kind of curled down in his pillow and come as near to shuffling
as he could in the bed, and he hadn't an idea what to say. But I tell
you, his eyes, they wasn't like any trapped thing any more; they was
regular _boy's_ eyes, lit up about something.

"'Mrs. Cadoza,' Insley says, 'will you do something for me? We're trying
to get together a little shrubbery, over at the college. May I come in
and get some lilac roots from you some day?'

"Mis' Cadoza looked at him--and looked. I don't s'pose it had ever come
to her before that anybody would want anything she had or anything she
could do.

"'Why, sure,' she says, only. 'Sure, you can, Mr. What's-name.'

"And then Insley put out his hand, and she took it, I noted special. I
donno as I ever see anybody shake hands with her before, excep' when
somebody was gettin' buried out of her house.

"When we got out on the road again, I noticed that Insley went swinging
along so's I could hardly keep up with him; and he done it sort of
automatic, and like it was natural to him. I didn't say anything. If
I've learned one thing living out and in among human beings, it's that
if you don't do your own keeping still at the right time, nobody else is
going to do it for you. He spoke up after a minute like I thought he
would; and he spoke up buoyant--kind of a reverent buoyant:--

"'I don't believe we're discharged from the universe, after all,' he
says, and laughed a little. 'I believe we've still got our job.'

"I looked 'way down the Plank Road, on its way to its business of being
Daphne Street, and it come to me that neither the one nor the other
stopped in Friendship Village. But they led on out, down past the wood
lots and the Pump pasture and across the tracks and up the hill, and
right off into that sky that somebody was keeping lit up and turned down
low. And I said something that I'd thought before:

"'Ain't it,' I says, 'like sometimes everybody in the world come and
stood right close up beside of you, and spoke through the walls of you
for something inside of you to come out and be there with them?'

"'That's it,' he says, only. 'That's it.' But I see his mind nipped onto
what mine meant, and tied it in the right place.

"When we got to Mis' Emmons's corner, I turned off from Daphne Street
to go that way, because I'd told her I'd look in that night and see what
they'd bought in town. It was late, for the village, but Mis' Emmons
never minded that. The living-room light was showing through the
curtains, and Insley, saying good night to me, looked towards the
windows awful wistful. I guessed why. It was part because he felt as if
he must see Robin Sidney and they must talk over together what Alex
Proudfit had said to him. And part it was just plain because he wanted
to see her again.

"'Why don't you come in a minute,' I says, 'and ask after Christopher?
Then you can see me home.'

"'Wouldn't they mind it being late?' he asks.

"I couldn't help smiling at that. Once Mis' Emmons had called us all up
by telephone at ten o'clock at night to invite us to her house two days
later. She explained afterwards that she hadn't looked at the clock for
a week, but if she had, she might have called us just the same. 'For my
life,' she says, 'I _can't_ be afraid of ten o'clock. Indeed, I rather
like it.' I told him this, while we was walking in from her gate.

"'Mrs. Emmons,' he says, when she come to the door, 'I've come because I
hear that you like ten o'clock, and so do I. I wanted to ask if you've
ever been able to make it last?'

"'No,' she says. 'I prefer a new one every night--and this one to-night
is an exceptionally good one.'

"She always answered back so pretty. I feel glad when folks can. It's
like they had an extra brain to 'em.

"Insley went in, and he sort of filled up the whole room, the way some
men do. He wasn't so awful big, either. But he was pervading.
Christopher had gone to bed, and Robin Sidney was sitting there near a
big crock of hollyhocks--she could make the centre and life of a room a
crock full of flowers just as you can make it a fireplace.

"'Come in,' she says, 'and see what we bought Christopher. I wanted to
put him in black velvet knickerbockers or silver armour, but Aunt
Eleanor has bought chiefly khaki middies. She's such a sensible
relative.'

"'What are we going to do with him?' Insley asks. I loved the way he
always said 'we' about everything. Not 'they' or 'you,' but always,
'What are _we_ going to do.'

"'I'll keep him awhile,' Mis' Emmons says, 'and see what develops. If I
weren't going to Europe this fall--but something may happen. Things do.
Calliope,' she says to me, 'did I buy what I ought to have bought?'

"I went over to see the things spread out on the table, and Insley
turned round to where Robin was. I don't really believe he had been very
far away from where she was since the night before, when Christopher
come. And he got right into what he had to say, like he was impatient
for the sympathy in her eyes and in her voice.

"'I must tell you,' he says. 'I could hardly wait to tell you. Isn't it
great to be knocked down and picked up again, without having to get back
on your own feet. I--wanted to tell you.'

"'Tell me,' she says. And she looked at him in her nice, girl way that
lent him her eyes in good faith for just a minute and then took them
back again.

"'I've been to see Alex Proudfit,' he said. 'I've dined with him.'

"I don't think she said anything at all, but Insley went on, absorbed in
what he was saying.

"'I talked with him,' he says, 'about what we talked of last night--the
things to do, here in the village. I thought he might care--I was
foolish enough for that. Have you ever tried to open a door in a solid
wall? When I left there, I felt as if I'd tried just that. Seriously,
have you ever tried to talk about the way things are going to be and to
talk about it to a perfectly satisfied man?'

"Robin leaned forward, but I guess he thought that was because of her
sympathy. He went right on:--

"'I want never to speak of this to anyone else, but I can't help telling
you. You--understand. You know what I'm driving at. Alex Proudfit is a
good man--as men are counted good. And he's a perfect host, a
fascinating companion. But he's a type of the most dangerous selfishness
that walks the world--'

"Robin suddenly laid her hand, just for a flash, on Insley's arm.

"'You mustn't tell me,' she says. 'I ought to have told you before. Alex
Proudfit--I'm going to be Alex Proudfit's wife.'



V


"In the next days things happened that none of us Friendship Village
ladies is likely ever to forget. Some of the things was nice and some
was exciting, and some was the kind that's nice after you've got the
introduction wore off; but all of them was memorable. And most all of
them was the kind that when you're on the train looking out the car
window, or when you're home sitting in the dusk before it's time to
light the lamp, you fall to thinking about and smiling over, and you
have them always around with you, same as heirlooms you've got ready for
yourself.

"One of these was the Fourth of July that year. It fell a few days after
Alex Proudfit come, and the last of the days was full of his guests
arriving to the house party. The two Proudfit cars was racking back and
forth to the station all day long, and Jimmy Sturgis, he went near crazy
with getting the baggage up. I never see such a lot of baggage. 'Land,
land,' says Mis' Toplady, peeking out her window at it, 'you'd think
they was all trees and they'd come bringing extra sets of branches,
regular forest size.' Mis' Emmons and Robin and Christopher went up the
night before the Fourth--Mis' Emmons was going to do the chaperoning,
and Alex had asked me to be up there all I could to help him. He knows
how I love to have a hand in things. However, I couldn't be there right
at first, because getting ready for the Fourth of July was just then in
full swing.

"Do you know what it is to want to do over again something that you
ain't done for years and years? I don't care what it is--whether it's
wanting to be back sitting around the dinner table of your home when you
was twelve, and them that was there aren't there now; or whether it's
rocking in the cool of the day on the front porch of some old house that
got tore down long ago; or whether it's walking along a road you use' to
know every fence post of; or fishing from a stream that's dried up or
damned these twenty years; or eating spice' currants or pickle' peaches
that there aren't none put up like them now; or hearing a voice in a
glee club that don't sing no more, or milking a dead cow that _wasn't_
dead on the spring mornings you mean about--no, sir, I don't care what
one of them all it happens to be, if you know what it is to want to do
it again and can't, 'count of death and distance and long-ago-ness,
then I tell you you know one of the lonesomest, hurtingest feelings the
human heart can, sole outside of the awful things. And that was what had
got the matter with me awhile ago.

"It had come on me in the meeting of townspeople called by Silas Sykes a
few weeks before, to discuss how Friendship Village should celebrate the
Fourth. We hadn't had a Fourth in the village in years. Seeing the
Fourth and the Cemetery was so closely connected, late years, Sodality
had took a hand in the matter and had got fire-crackers and pistols
voted out of town, part by having family fingers blowed off and clothes
scorched full of holes, and part through Silas and the other dealers
admitting they wan't no money in the stuff and they'd be glad to be
prevented by law from having to sell it. So we shut down on it the year
after little Spudge Cadoza bit down on a cap to see if it'd go off, and
it done so. But we see we'd made the mistake of not hatching up
something to take the place of the noise, because the boys and girls all
went off to the next-town Fourths and come home blowed up and scorched
off, anyway. And some of the towns, especially Red Barns, that we can
see from Friendship Village when it's clear, was feeling awful touchy
and chip-shouldered towards us, and their two weekly papers was saying
we borrowed our year's supply of patriotism off the county, and sponged
on public spirit, and like that. So the general Friendship feeling was
that we'd ought to have a doings this year, and Postmaster Sykes, that
ain't so much public spirited as he is professional leading
citizen,--platform introducer of all visiting orators and so on,--he
called a mass-meeting to decide what to do.

"Mis' Sykes, she was awful interested, too, through being a born leader
and up in arms most of the time to do something new. And this year she
was anxious to get up something fancy to impress her niece with--the new
niece that was coming to visit her, and that none of us had ever see,
and that the Sykes's themselves had only just developed. Seems she was
looking for her family tree and she wrote to Mis' Sykes about being
connect'. And the letter seemed so swell, and the address so
mouth-melting and stylish that Mis' Sykes up and invited her to
Friendship Village to look herself up in their Bible, Born and Died
part.

"The very night of that public mass-meeting Miss Beryl Sessions--such
was the niece's name--come in on the Through, and Mis' Sykes, she
snapped her up from the supper table to bring her to the meeting and
show her off, all brimming with the blood-is-thicker-than-water
sentiments due to a niece that looked like that. For I never see
sweller. And being in the Glee Club I set where I got a good view when
Mis' Sykes rustled into the meeting, last minute, in her best black
cashmere, though it was an occasion when the rest of us would wear our
serges and alapacas, and Mis' Sykes knew it. All us ladies see them both
and took in every stitch they had on without letting on to unpack a
glance, and we see that the niece was wearing the kind of a dress that
was to ours what mince-pie is to dried apple, and I couldn't blame Mis'
Sykes for showing her off, human.

"Silas had had Dr. June open the meeting with prayer, and I can't feel
that this was so much reverence in Silas as that he isn't real
parliamentary nor yet real knowledgeable about what to do with his
hands, and prayer sort of broke the ice for him. That's the way Silas
is.

"'Folks,' says he, 'we're here to consider the advisability of bein'
patriotic this year. Of having a doings that'll shame the other towns
around for their half-an'-half way of giving things. Of making the
glorious Fourth a real business bringer. Of having a speech that'll
bring in the country trade--the Honourable Thaddeus Hyslop has been
named by some. And of getting our city put in the class of the wide
awake and the hustlers and the up-to-date and doing. It's a grand chance
we've passed up for years. What are we going to do for ourselves this
year? To decide it is the purpose of this mass-meetin'. Sentiments are
now in order.'

"Silas set down with a kitterin' glance to his new niece that he was
host and uncle of and pleased to be put in a good light before, first
thing so.

"Several men hopped up--Timothy Toplady saying that Friendship Village
was a city in all but name and numbers, and why not prove it to the
other towns? Jimmy Sturgis that takes tintypes, besides running the 'bus
and was all primed for a day full of both--'A glorious Fourth,' says he,
'would be money in our pockets.' And the farm machinery and furniture
dealers, and Gekerjeck, that has the drug store and the ice-cream
fountain, and others, they spoke the same. Insley had to be to the
college that night, or I don't believe the meeting would have gone the
way it did go. For the first line and chorus of everything that all the
men present said never varied:--

"'The Fourth for a business bringer.'

"It was Threat Hubbelthwait that finally made the motion, and he wasn't
real sober, like he usually ain't, but he wound up on the key-note:--

"'I sold two hundred and four lunches the last Fourth we hed in
Friendship Village,' says he, pounding his palm with his fist, 'an' I
move you that we celebrate this comin' Fourth like the blazes.'

"And though Silas softened it down some in putting it, still that was
substantially the sentiment that went through at that mass-meeting, that
was real pleased with itself because of.

"Well, us ladies hadn't taken no part. It ain't our custom to appear
much on our feet at public gatherings, unless to read reports of a
year's work, and so that night we never moved a motion. But we looked at
each other, and us ladies has got so we understand each other's
eyebrows. And we knew, one and all, that we was ashamed of the men and
ashamed of their sentiments. But the rest didn't like to speak out,
'count of being married to them. And I didn't like to, 'count of not
being.

"But when they got to discussing ways and means of celebrating, a woman
did get onto her feet, and a little lilt of interest run round the room
like wind. It was Miss Beryl Sessions, the niece, that stood up like
you'd unwrapped your new fashion magazine and unrolled her off'n the
front page.

"'I wonder,' says she--and her voice went all sweet and chirpy and
interested, 'whether it would amuse you to know some ways we took to
celebrate the Fourth of July last year at home ...' and while the men
set paying attention to her appearance and thinking they was paying
attention to her words alone, she went on to tell them how 'at home' the
whole town had joined in a great, Fourth of July garden party on the
village 'common,' with a band and lanterns and fireworks at night, and a
big marquee in the middle, full of ice-cream. 'We made it,' she wound
up, 'a real social occasion, a town party with everybody invited. And
the business houses said that it paid them over and over.'

"Well, of course that went with the men. Land, but men is easy tamed, so
be the tameress is somebody they ain't used to and is gifted with a good
dress and a kind of a 'scalloped air. But when she also has some idea of
business they go down and don't know it. 'Why, I should think that'd
take here like a warm meal,' says Timothy Toplady, instant--and I see
Mis' Amanda Toplady's chin come home to place like she'd heard Timothy
making love to another woman. 'Novel as the dickens,' says Simon
Gekerjeck. 'Move we adopt it.' And so they done.

"While they was appointing committees I set up there in the Glee Club
feeling blacker and blacker. Coming down to the meeting that night, I
recollect I'd been extra gentle in my mind over the whole celebration
idea. Walking along in the seven-o'clock light, with the sun shining
east on Daphne Street and folks all streaming to the town-meeting, and
me sensing what it was going to be for, I'd got all worked up to 'most a
Declaration of Independence lump in my throat. When I went in the door
to the meeting, little Spudge Cadoza and some other children was hanging
around the steps and Silas Sykes was driving them away; and it come to
me how deathly ridiculous that was, to be driving _children_ away from a
meeting like that, when children is what such meetings is for; and I'd
got to thinking of all the things Insley was hoping for us, and I'd been
real lifted up on to places for glory. And here down had come the men
with their talk about a _paying_ Fourth, and here was Miss Beryl
Sessions showing us how to celebrate in a way that seemed to me real
sweet but not so very patriotic. It was then that all of a sudden it
seemed to me I'd die, because I wanted so much to feel the way I'd use
to feel when it was going to be the Fourth o' July. And when they sung
'Star Spangled Banner' to go home on and all stood up to the sentiment,
I couldn't open my mouth. I can't go folks that stands up and carols
national tunes and then talks about having a Fourth that'll be a real
business bringer.

"'What'd you think of the meeting?' says Mis' Toplady, low, to me on the
way out.

"'I think,' says I, frank, 'it was darn.'

"'There's just exactly what we all think,' says Mis' Toplady, in a
whisper.

"But all the same, preparations was gone into head first. Most of us was
put on to from one to five committees--I mean most of them that works.
The rest of the town was setting by, watching it be done for them,
serene or snarling, according to their lights. Of course us ladies
worked, not being them that goes to a meeting an' sets with their mouths
shut and then comes out and kicks at what the meetin' done. Yet, though
we wan't made out of that kind of meal, we spoke our minds to each
other, private.

"'What under the canopy _is_ a marquee?' asks Mis' Amanda Toplady, when
we met at her house to plan about refreshments.

"Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss spoke right up.

"'Why, it's a finger ring,' she says. 'One of them with stones running
the long way. The minister's wife's got a blue stone one....'

"'Finger ring!' says Mis' Mayor Uppers, scornful. 'It's a title. That's
what it is. From England.'

"We looked at them both, perplexish. Mis' Holcomb is always up on
things--it was her that went into short sleeves when the rest of us was
still crocheting cuff turnovers, unconscious as the dead. But Mis'
Uppers had been the Mayor's wife, and though he'd run away, 'count o'
some money matter, still a title is a title, an' we thought Mis' Uppers
had ought to know.

"Then Abagail Arnold, that keeps the home bakery, she spoke up timid. 'I
see,' she says, 'in the _Caterer's Gazette_ a picture called "Marquee
Decorated for Fête." The picture wan't nothing but a striped tent. Could
a tent have anything to do with it?'

"'Pity sakes, no,' says Mis' Uppers. 'This is somethin' real city done,
Abagail.'

"We worked on what we could, but we all felt kind of lost and left out
of it, and like we was tinkering with tools we didn't know the names of
and a-making something we wasn't going to know how to use. And when the
article about our Fourth flared out in the _Friendship Daily_ and Red
Barns and Indian Mound weeklies, we felt worse than we had before:
'Garden Party.' 'All Day Fête.' '_Al Fresco_ Celebration,' the editors
had wrote it up.

"'All _what_?' says Mis' Uppers, listening irritable to the last one. 'I
can't catch that word no more'n a rabbit.'

"'It's a French word,' Mis' Holcomb told her, superior. 'Seems to me
I've heard it means a failure. It's a funny way to put it, ain't it? I
bet, though, that's what it'll be.'

"But the men, my, the men thought they was doing things right. The
Committee on Orator, with Silas for rudder, had voted itself Fifty
Dollars to squander on the speech, and they had engaged the Honourable
Thaddeus Hyslop, that they'd hoped to, and that was formerly in our
legislature, to be the orator of the day; they put up a platform and
seats on the 'common'--that wan't nothing but the market where loads of
wood stood to be sold; they was a-going to cut evergreens and plant them
there for the day; the Committee on Fireworks was a-going to buy set
pieces for the evening; they was a-going to raise Ned. Somebody that was
on one of the committees wanted to have some sort of historic scenes,
but the men wouldn't hear to it, because that would take away them that
had to do the business in the stores; no caluthumpians, no grand basket
dinner--just the garden party, real sweet, with Miss Beryl Sessions and
a marquee full of ice-cream that the ladies was to make.

"'It sounds sort of sacrilegious to me,' says Mis' Holcomb, 'connectin'
the Fourth up with society and secular doin's. When I was young, my
understandin' of a garden party would of been somethin' worldly. Now it
seems it's patriotic. Well, I wonder how it's believed to be in the
sight of the Lord?'

"But whether it was right or whether it was wrong, none of it rung like
it had ought to of rang. They wan't no _glow_ to it. We all went around
like getting supper on wash-day, and not like getting up a meal for
folks that meant a lot to us. It wan't going to be any such Fourth as
I'd meant about and wanted to have come back. The day come on a pacing,
and the nearer it come, the worse all us ladies felt. And by a few days
before it, when our final committee meeting come off in Abagail Arnold's
home bakery, back room, 'count of being central, we was all blue as the
grave, and I donno but bluer. We set waiting for Silas that was having
a long-distance call, and Abagail was putting in the time frosting dark
cakes in the same room. We was most all there but the niece Miss Beryl
Sessions. She had gone home, but she was coming back on the Fourth in an
automobile full o' city folks.

"'The _marquee's_ come,' says Mis' Holcomb, throwing out the word
clickish.

"Nobody said anything. Seems it _was_ a tent all along.

"'Silas has got in an extra boy for the day,' says Mis' Sykes,
complacent. 'It's the littlest Cadoza boy, Spudge. He's goin' to walk up
an' down Daphne Street all day, with a Prize Coffee board on his back.'

"'Where's Spudge's Fourth comin' in?' I couldn't help askin'.

"Mis' Sykes stared. She always could look you down, but she's got a much
flatter, thicker stare since her niece come. 'What's them kind o' folks
_for_ but such work?' says she, puckering.

"'Oh, I donno, I donno,' says I. 'I thought mebbe they was partly made
to thank the Lord for bein' born free.'

"'How unpractical you talk, Calliope,' she says.

"'I donno that word,' says I, reckless from being pent up. 'But it
seems like a liberty-lovin' people had ought to hev _one_ day to love
liberty on an' not tote groceries and boards and such.'

"'_Don't it!_' says Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, explosive.

"'What you talking?' says Mis' Sykes, cold. 'Don't you know the Fourth
of July can be made one of the best days of the year for your own town's
good? What's that if it ain't patriotic?'

"'It's Yankee shrewd,' says I, snapping some, 'that's what it is. It
ain't Yankee spirited, by a long shot.'

"'"_By a long shot_,"' quotes Mis' Sykes, withering. She always was
death on wording, and she was far more death after her niece come. But I
always thought, and I think now, that correcting your advisary's grammar
is like telling him there's a smooch on his nose, and they ain't either
of them parliamental _or_ decent.

"Mis' Uppers sighed. 'The whole thing,' says she, candid, 'sounds to me
like Fourth o' July in Europe or somewheres. No get-up-an'-get anywheres
to it. What do they do in Europe on the Fourth o' July, anyway?' she
wondered. 'I donno's I ever read.'

"'I donno, either,' says Mis' Holcomb, dark, 'but I bet you it's one of
these All Frost celebrations--or whatever it is they say.'

"Mis' Toplady set drying her feet by Abagail's stove, and she looked
regular down in the mouth. 'Well, sir,' she said, 'a Fourth o' July all
rosettes an' ribbins so don't sound to me one bit like the regular
Fourth at all. It don't sound to me no more'n the third--or the fifth.'

"I was getting that same homesick feeling that I'd had off and on all
through the getting ready, that hankering for the old kinds of Fourths
of Julys when I was a little girl. When us girls had a quarter apiece to
spend, and father'd cover the quarter with his hands on the gate-post
for us to guess them; and when the boys picked up scrap-iron and sold
old rubbers to get their Fourth money. It wan't so much what we used to
do that I wanted back as it was the _feeling_. Why, none of our spines
use' to be laid down good and flat in our backs once all day long. And I
wisht what I'd wisht more than once since the mass-meeting, that some of
us ladies had of took hold of that Fourth and had run it so's 'twould of
been like you mean 'way inside when you say 'The Fourth of July'--and
that death and distance and long-ago-ness is awful in the way of.

"'We'd ought to of had a grand basket dinner in the Depot Woods,' I
says, restless.

"'An' a p'rade,' says Mis' Toplady. 'I donno nothin' that makes me feel
more patriotic than the minute before the p'rade comes by.'

"'An' children in the Fourth somehow,' Mis' Uppers says. 'Land, children
is who it's for, anyhow,' she says, like I'd been thinking; 'an' all
we've ever done for 'em about it is to leave 'em kill 'emselves with
it.'

"Well, it was there, just there, and before Mis' Sykes could dicker a
reply that in come tearing her husband from his long-distance
telephoning, and raced into the room like he hadn't a manner in his kit.

"'We're all over with,' Silas shouts. 'It's all done for! Thaddeus
Hyslop is smashed an' bleedin'. He can't come. We ain't got no speech.
His automobile's turned over on top of his last speakin' place.
Everybody else that ain't one-horse is sure to be got for somewheres
else. Our Fourth of July is rooned. We're done for. The editor's gettin'
it in the _Weekly_ so's to warn the county. We'll be the Laughing Stock.
Dang the luck!' says Silas; 'why don't some o' you say somethin'?'

"But it wasn't all because Silas was doing it all that the men didn't
talk, because when he'd stopped, they all stood there with their mouths
open and never said a word. Seems to me I did hear Timothy Toplady bring
out, 'Blisterin' Benson,' but nobody offered nothing more fertile. That
is, nobody of the men did. But 'most before I got my thoughts together I
heard two feet of a chair come down onto the floor, and Mis' Amanda
Toplady stood up there by Abagail's cook stove, and she took the griddle
lifter and struck light on the side of the pipe.

"'Hurrah!' she says. 'Now we can have a real Fourth. A Fourth that does
as a Fourth is.'

"'What you talkin', Amanda Toplady?' says Silas, crisp; and ''Mandy,
what the blazes do you mean?' says Timothy, her lawful lord. But Mis'
Toplady didn't mind them, nor mind Mis' Sykes, that was staring at her
flat and thick.

"'I mean,' says Mis' Toplady, reckless, 'I been sick to death of the
idea of a Fourth with no spirit to it. I mean I been sick to death of a
Fourth that's all starched white dresses an' company manners an' no
hurrahs anywheres about it. An' us ladies, most all of us, feels the
same. We didn't like to press in, bein' you men done the original
plannin', an' so not one of us has said "P'rade," nor nothin' else to
you. But now that your orator has fell through on himself, you men just
leave us ladies in on this thing to do more'n take orders, an' you
needn't be the Laughin' Stock o' nothin' an' nobody. I guess you'll all
stand by me. What say, ladies?'

"Well, sir, you'd ought to of heard us. We joined in like a patch of
grasshoppers singing. They wasn't one of us that hadn't been dying to
get our hands on that Fourth and make it a Fourth full of unction and
oil of joy, like the Bible said, and must of meant what we meant.

"'Oh, ladies,' I remember I says, fervent, 'I feel like we could make a
Fourth o' July just like stirrin' up a white cake, so be we was let.'

"'What d' you know about managin' a Fourth?' snarls Silas. 'You'll have
us all in the hole. You'll have us shellin' out of our own pockets to
make up--'

"Mis' Toplady whirled on him. 'Would you druther have Red Barns an'
Indian Mound a-jumpin' on you through the weekly press for bein'
bluffers, an' callin' us cheap an' like that, or would you druther not?'
she put it to him.

"'Dang it,' says Silas, 'I never tried to do a thing for this town that
it didn't lay down an' roll all over me. I wish I was dead.'

"'You wan't tryin' to do this thing for this town,' says Mis' Toplady
back at him, like the wind. 'You was tryin' to do it for the _stores_
of this town, an' you know it. You was tryin' to ride the Fourth for a
horse to the waterin' trough o' good business, an' you know it, Silas
Sykes,' says she, 'an' so was Jimmy and Threat an' all of you. The hull
country tries to get behind the Fourth of July an' make money over its
back like a counter. It ain't what was meant, an' us ladies felt it all
along. An' neither was it meant for a garden party day alone, though
_that_,' says Mis' Toplady, gracious, 'is a real sweet side idea. An'
Mis' Sykes an' Mis' Sessions had ought to go on an' run that part of it,
bein' the--tent's here,' she could _not_ bring herself to use that other
word. 'But,' she says, 'that ain't all of a real Fourth, nor yet a
speech ain't, though he did use to be in the legislature. Them things
alone don't make a real flag, liberty-praisin' Fourth, to me nor to none
of us.'

"'Well,' says Silas, sour, 'what you goin' to _do_ if the men decides to
let you try this?'

"'That ain't the way,' says Mis' Toplady, like a flash; 'it ain't for
the men to _let us do_ nothin'. It's for us all to do it together, yoke
to yoke, just like everything else ought to be done by us both, an' no
talk o' "_runnin_'" by either side.'

"'But what's the idee--what's the idee?' says Silas. 'Dang it all,
somebody's got to hev an idee.'

"'Us ladies has got 'em,' says Mis' Toplady, calm. 'An',' says she, 'one
o' the first of 'em is that if we have anything to do with runnin' the
Fourth of our forefathers, then after 10 A.M., all day on that day,
every business house in town has got to shut down.'

"'What?' says Silas, his voice slippin'. 'Gone crazy-headed, hev ye?'

"'No, Silas,' says Mis' Toplady, 'nor yet hev we gone so graspin' that
we can't give up a day's trade to take notice of our country.'

"'Lord Harry,' says Silas, 'you can't get a dealer in town to do it, an'
you know it.'

"'Oh, yes, you can, Silas,' says somebody, brisk. And it was Abagail,
frosting dark cakes over by the side of the room. 'I was goin' to shut
up shop, anyway, all day on the Fourth,' Abagail says.

"'An' lose the country trade in lunches?' yells Silas. 'Why, woman,
you'd be Ten Dollars out o' pocket.'

"'I wan't never one to spend the mornin' thankin' God an' the afternoon
dippin' oysters,' says Abagail. And Silas scrunched. He done that one
year when his Thanksgiving oysters come late, and he knew he done it.

"Well, they went over it and over it and tried to think of some other
way, and tried to hatch up some other speaker without eating up the
whole Fifty Dollars in telephone tolls, and tried most other things. And
then we told them what we'd thought of different times, amongst us as
being features fit for a Fourth in the sight of the Lord and the sight
of men. And they hemmed and they hawed and they give in about as
graceful as a clothes-line winds up when you've left it out in the
sleet, but they did give in and see reason. Timothy last--that's quite
vain of being firm.

"'If we come out with a one-horse doin's, seems like it'd be worse than
sittin' down flat-foot failed,' he mourns, grieving.

"Amanda, his wife, give him one of her looks. 'Timothy,' says she,
'when, since you was married to me, did I ever fail to stodge up a
company dinner or a spare bed or a shroud when it was needed sudden?
When did any of us ladies ever fail that's here? Do you sp'ose we're any
more scant of idees about our own nation?'

"And Timothy had to keep his silence. He knew what she said was the Old
Testament truth. But I think what really swung them all round was the
thought of Red Barns and Indian Mound. Imagination of what them two
weekly papers would say, so be we petered out on our speech and didn't
offer nothing else, was too much for flesh and blood to bear. And the
men ended by agreeing to seeing to shutting every business house in
Friendship Village and they went off to do it,--resolved, but groaning
some, like men will.

"Mis' Sykes, she made some excuse and went, too. 'I'll run the garden
party part,' says she. 'My niece an' I'll do that, an' try our best to
get some novelty into your Fourth. An' we'll preside on the marquee,
like we'd agreed. More I don't say.'

"But the rest of us, we stayed on there at Abagail's, and we planned
like mad.

"We didn't look in no journal nor on no woman's page for something new.
We didn't rush to our City relations for novelties. We didn't try for
this and that nor grasp at no agony whatever. We just went down deep
into the inside of our understanding and thought what the Fourth was and
how them that made it would of wanted it kept. No fingers blowed off nor
clothes scorched up, no houses burned down, no ear-drums busted
out--none of them would of been in _their_ programme, and they wan't in
ours. Some of the things that was in ours we'd got by hearing Insley
tell what they was doin' other places. Some o' the things he suggested
to us. Some o' the things we got by just going back and back down the
years an' _remembering_--not so much what we'd done as the way we use'
to feel, long ago, when the Fourth was the Fourth and acted like it knew
it. Some of the things we got by just reaching forward and forward, and
seeing what the Fourth is going to mean to them a hundred years from
now--so be we do our part. And some of the things we got through sheer
make-shift woman intelligence, that put its heads together and used
everything it had, that had anything to do with the nation, or the town,
or with really living at all the way that first Fourth of July meant
about, 'way down inside.

"Before it was light on the morning of the Fourth, I woke up, feeling
all happy and like I wanted to hurry. I was up and dressed before the
sun was up, and when I opened my front door, I declare it was just like
the glory of the Lord was out there waiting for me. The street was
laying all still and simple, like it was ready and waiting for the
light. Early as it was, Mis' Holcomb was just shaking her breakfast
table-cloth on her side stoop, and she waved it to me, big and billowy
and white, like a banner. And I offs with my apron and waved it back,
and it couldn't of meant no more to either of us if we had been shaking
out the folds of flags. It was too early for the country wagons to be
rattling in yet, and they wan't no other sounds--except a little bit of
a pop now and then over to where Bennie Uppers and little Nick Toplady
was up and out, throwing torpedoes onto the bricks; and then the birds
that was trilling an' shouting like mad, till every tree all up and down
Daphne Street and all up and down the town and the valley was just one
living singing. And all over everything, like a kind of a weave to it,
was that something that makes a Sunday morning and some holiday mornings
better and sweeter and _goldener_ than any other day. I ain't got much
of a garden, not having any real time to fuss in it, but I walked out
into the middle of the little patch of pinks and parsley that I have
got, and I says 'way deep in me, deeper than thinking: 'It don't make no
manner of differ'nce how much of a fizzle the day ends up with, this,
here and now, is the way it had ought to start.'

"Never, not if I live till beyond always, will I forget how us ladies'
hearts was in our mouths when, along about 'leven o'clock, we heard the
Friendship Village Stonehenge band coming fifing along, and we knew the
parade was begun. We was all on the market square--hundreds of us, seems
though. Red Barns and Indian Mound had turned out from side to side of
themselves, mingling the same as though ploughshares was
pruning-hooks--or whatever that quotation time is--both towns looking
for flaws in the day, like enough, but both shutting up about it,
biblical. Even the marquee, with its red and white stripes, showing
through the trees, made me feel good. 'Land, land,' Mis' Toplady says,
'it looks kind of homey and old-fashioned, after all, don't it? I mean
the--tent,' she says--she would _not_ say the other word; but then I
guess it made her kind of mad seeing Mis' Sykes bobbing around in there
in white duck an' white shoes--her that ain't a grandmother sole because
of Nature and not at all through any lack of her own years. Everything
was all seeming light and confident--but I tell you we didn't feel so
confident as we'd meant to when we heard the band a-coming to the tune
o' 'Hail, Columbia! Happy Land.' And yet now, when I look back on that
Independence Day procession, it seems like regular floats is no more
than toy doings beside of it.

"What do you guess us ladies had thought up for our procession,--with
Insley back of us, letting us think we thought it up alone? Mebbe you'll
laugh, because it wan't expensive to do; but oh; I think it was nice.
We'd took everything in the town that done the town's work, and we'd run
them all together. We headed off with the fire-engine, 'count of the
glitter--and we'd loaded it down with flags and flowers, and the hook
and ladder and hose-carts the same, wheels and sides; and flags in the
rubber caps of the firemen up top. Then we had the two big sprinkling
carts, wound with bunting, and five-foot flags flying from the seats.
Then come all the city teams drawn by the city horses--nice, plump
horses they was, and rosettes on them, and each man had decorated his
wagon and was driving it in his best clothes. Then come the steam roller
that Friendship Village and Red Barns and Indian Mound owns together and
scraps over some, though that didn't appear in its appearance, puffing
along, with posies on it. Then there was the city electric light repair
wagon, with a big paper globe for an umbrella, and the electric men
riding with their leggings on and their spurs, like they climb the
poles; and behind them the telephone men was riding--because the town
owns its own telephone, too--and then the four Centrals, in pretty
shirtwaists, in a double-seated buggy loaded with flowers--the telephone
office we'd see to it was closed down, too, to have its Fourth, like a
human being. And marching behind them was the city waterworks men, best
bib and tucker apiece. And then we hed out the galvanized garbage wagon
that us ladies hed bought ourselves a year ago, and that wasn't being
used this year count of the city pleading too poison poor; and it was
all scrubbed up and garnished and filled with ferns and drove by its own
driver and the boy that had use' to go along to empty the cans. And then
of course they was more things--some of them with day fireworks shooting
up from them--but not the hearse, though we had all we could do to keep
Timothy Toplady from having it in, 'count of its common public office.

"Well, and then we'd done an innovation--an' this was all Insley's idea,
and it was him that made us believe we could do it. Coming next, in
carriages and on foot, was the mayor and the city council and every last
man or woman that had anything to do with running the city life. They
was all there--city treasurer, clerk of the court, register of deeds,
sheriffs, marshals, night-watchmen, health officer, postmaster, janitor
of the city hall, clerks, secretaries, stenographers, school board, city
teachers, and every one of the rest--they was all there, just like they
had belonged in the p'rade the way them framers of the first Fourth of
July had meant they should fit in: Conscience and all. But some of them
servants of the town had made money off'n its good roads, and some off'n
its saloons, and some off'n getting ordinances repealed, and some off'n
inspecting buildings and sidewalks that they didn't know nothing about,
and some was making it even then by paving out into the marsh; and some
in yet other ways that wasn't either real elbow work nor clean head
work. What else could they do? We'd ask' them to march because they
represented the town, and rather'n own they _didn't_ represent the town,
there they was marching; but if some of them didn't step down Daphne
Street feeling green and sick and sore and right down schoolboy ashamed
of themselves, then they ain't got the human thrill in them that somehow
I _cannot_ believe ever dies clear out of nobody. They was a lump in my
throat for them that had sold themselves, and they was a lump for them
that hadn't--but oh, the differ'nce in the lumps.

"'Land, land,' I says to Mis' Toplady, 'if we ain't done another thing,
we've made 'em remember they're servants to Friendship Village--like
they often forget.'

"'Ain't we?' she says, solemn. 'Ain't we?'

"And then next behind begun the farm things: the threshin' machines and
reapers and binders and mowers and like that, all drawn by the farm
horses and drove by their owners and decorated by them, jolly and gay;
and, too, all the farm horses for miles around--we was going to give a
donated surprise prize for the best kep' and fed amongst them. And last,
except for the other two bands sprinkled along, come the leading
citizens, and who do you guess _they_ was? Not Silas nor Timothy nor
Eppleby nor even Doctor June, nor our other leading business men and our
three or four professionals--no, not them; but the real, true, leading
citizens of Friendship Village and Indian Mound and Red Barns and other
towns and the farms between--the _children_, over two hundred of them,
dressed in white if they had it and in dark if they didn't, with or
without shoes, in rags or out of them, village-tough descended or with
pew-renting fathers, all the same and together, and carrying a flag and
singing to the tops of their voices 'Hail, Columbia,' that the bands
kept a-playing, some out of plumb as to time, but all fervent and
joyous. It was us women alone that got up that part. My, I like to think
about it.

"They swung the length of Daphne Street and twice around the market
square, and they come to a halt in front of the platform. And Doctor
June stood up before them all, and he prayed like this:--

"'Lord God, that let us start free an' think we was equal, give us to
help one another to be free an' to get equal, in deed an' in truth.'

"And who do you s'pose we hed to read the Declaration of Independence?
Little Spudge Cadoza, that Silas had been a-going to hev walk up and
down Daphne Street with a board on his back--Insley thought of him, and
we picked him out a-purpose. And though he didn't read it so thrilling
as Silas would of, it made me feel the way no reading of it has ever
made me feel before--oh, because it was kind of like we'd snapped up the
little kid and set him free all over again, even though he wasn't it but
one day in the year. And it sort of seemed to me that all inside the
words he read was trumpets and horns telling how much them words was
_going_ to mean to him and his kind before he'd had time to die. And
then the Glee Club struck into 'America,' and the whole crowd joined in
without being expected, and the three bands that was laying over in the
shade hopped up and struck in, too--and I bet they could of heard us to
Indian Mound. Leastways to Red Barns, that we can see from Friendship
Village when it's clear.

"The grand basket dinner in the Depot Woods stays in my head as one
picture, all full of veal loaf and 'scalloped potato and fruit salad and
nut-bread and deviled eggs and bake' beans and pickle' peaches and layer
cake and drop sponge-cake and hot coffee--the kind of a dinner that
comes crowding to your thought whenever you think 'Dinner' at your
hungriest. And after we'd took care of everybody's baskets and set them
under a tree for a lunch towards six, us ladies went back to the market
square. And over by the marquee we see the men gathered--all but Insley,
that had slipped away as quick as we begun telling him how much of it
was due to him. Miss Beryl Sessions had just arrived, in a automobile,
covered with veils, and she was introducing the other men to her City
friends. Us ladies sort of kittered around back of them, not wanting to
press ourselves forward none, and we went up to the door of the marquee
where, behind the refreshment table, Mis' Sykes was a-standing in her
white duck.

"'My,' says Mis' Holcomb to her, 'it's all going off nice so far, ain't
it?'

"'They ain't a great deal the matter with it,' says Mis' Sykes, snappy.

"'Why, Mis' Sykes,' says Mis' Uppers, grieving, 'the parade an' the
basket dinner seemed to me both just perfect.'

"'The parade done well enough,' says Mis' Sykes, not looking at her. 'I
donno much about the dinner.'

"And all of a sudden we recollected that she hadn't been over to the
grand basket dinner at all.

"'Why, Mis' Sykes,' says Mis' Toplady, blank, 'ain't you et nothin'?'

"'My niece,' says Mis' Sykes, dignified, 'didn't get here till now. Who
was I to leave in the _tent_? I've et,' says she, cold, 'two dishes of
ice-cream an' two chocolate nut-cakes.'

"Mis' Toplady just swoops over towards her. 'Why, my land,' she says,
hearty, 'they's stuff an' to spare packed over there under the trees.
You go right on over and get your dinner. Poke right into any of our
baskets--ours is grouped around mine that's tied with a red bandanna to
the handle. And leave us tend the marquee. What say, ladies?'

"And I don't think she even sensed she used that name.

"When she'd gone, I stood a minute in the marquee door looking off
acrost the market square, hearing Miss Beryl Sessions and the men
congratulating each other on the glorious Fourth they was a-having, and
the City folks praising them both sky high.

"'Real nice idee it was,' says Silas, with his hands under his best coat
tails. 'Nice, tastey, up-to-date Fourth. And cheap to do.'

"'Yes, we all hung out for a good Fourth this year,' says Timothy,
complacent.

"'It's a simply lovely idea,' says Miss Beryl Sessions, all sweet and
chirpy and interested, 'this making the Fourth a county party and
getting everybody in town, so. But tell me: Whatever made you close your
shops? I thought the Fourth could always be made to pay for itself over
and over, if the business houses went about it right.'

"'Oh, well,' says Silas, lame but genial, 'we closed up to-day. We kind
o' thought we would.'

"But I stood looking off acrost the market square, where the children
was playing, and quoits was being pitched, and the ball game was going
to commence, and the calathumpians was capering, and most of Red Barns
and Indian Mound and Friendship Village was mingling, lion and lamb; and
I looked on along Daphne Street, where little Spudge Cadoza wasn't
walking with a Prize Coffee board on his back,--and all of a sudden I
felt just the way I'd wanted to feel, in spite of all the distance and
long-ago-ness. And I turned and says to the other women inside the
marquee:--

"'Seems to me,' I says, 'as if the Fourth of July _had_ paid for itself,
over and over. Oh, don't it to you?'



VI


"The new editor of the _Friendship Village Evening Daily_ give a fine
write-up of the celebration. He printed it on the night after the
Fourth, not getting out any paper at all on the day that was the day;
but on the night after that, the news columns of his paper fell flat and
dead. In a village the day following a holiday is like the hush after a
noise. The whole town seems like it was either asleep or on tiptoe. And
in Friendship Village this hush was worse than the hush of other years.
Other years they'd usually been accidents to keep track of, and mebbe
even an amputation or two to report. But this Fourth there was no
misfortunes whatever, nor nothing to make good reading for the night of
July 6.

"So the editor thought over his friends and run right down the news
column, telling what there _wasn't_. Like this:--


     "'SUPPER TABLE JOTTINGS

     "'Postmaster Silas Sykes is well.

     "'Timothy Toplady has not had a cold since before Christmas.
     Prudent Timothy.

     "'Jimmy Sturgis has not broken his leg yet this year as he did
     last. Keep it up, Jimmy.

     "'Eppleby Holcomb has not been out of town for quite a while.

     "'None of the Friendship ladies has given a party all season.

     "'The First Church is not burnt down nor damaged nor repaired.
     Insurance $750.

     "'Nothing local is in much of any trouble.

     "'Nobody is dead here to-day except the usual ones.

     "'Nobody that's got a telephone in has any company at the present
     writing. Where is the old-time hospitality?

     "'Subscriptions payable in advance.

     "'Subscriptions payable in advance.

     "'Subscriptions payable in advance.'


"It made quite some fun for us, two or three of us happening in the
post-office store when the paper come out--Mis' Sykes and Mis' Toplady
and me. But we took it some to heart, too, because to live in a town
where they ain't nothing active happening all the time is a kind of
running account of everybody that's in the town. And us ladies wan't
that kind.

"All them locals done to Silas Sykes, though, was to set him fussing
over nothing ever happening to him. Silas is real particular about his
life, and I guess he gets to thinking how life ain't so over-particular
about him.

"'My dum,' he says that night, 'that's just the way with this town. I
always calculated my life was goin' to be quite some pleasure to me. But
I don't see as it is. If I thought I was going to get sold in my death
like I've been in my life, I swan I'd lose my interest in dyin'.'

"Mis' Timothy Toplady was over in behind the counter picking out her
butter, and she whirled around from sampling the jars, and she says to
Mis' Sykes and me:--

"'Ladies,' she says, 'le's us propose it to the editor that seems to
have such a hard job, that us members of Sodality take a hold of his
paper for a day and get it out for him and put some news in it, and sell
it to everybody, subscribers and all, that one night, for ten cents.'

"Mis' Silas Sykes looks up and stopped winking and breathing, in a way
she has when she sights some distant money for Sodality.

"'Land, land,' she says, 'I bet they'd go like hot cakes.'

"But Silas he snorts, scorching.

"'Will you ladies tell me,' he says, 'where you going to _get_ your news
to put in your paper? The Fourth don't come along every day. Or less you
commit murder and arson and runaways, there won't be any more in your
paper than they is in its editor's.'

"That hit a tender town-point, and I couldn't stand it no longer. I
spoke right up.

"'Oh, I donno, I donno, Silas,' I says. 'They's those in this town
that's doin' the murderin' for us, neat an' nice, right along,' I told
him.

"'Mean to say?' snapped Silas.

"'Mean to say,' says I, 'most every grocery store in this town an' most
every milkman an' the meat market as well is doin' their best to drag
the health out o' people's systems for 'em. Us ladies is more or less
well read an' knowledgeable of what is goin' on in the world outside,' I
says to Silas that ain't, 'an' we know a thing or two about what ought
to be clean.'

"Since Insley come, we had talked a good deal more about these things
and what was and what shouldn't be; and especially we had talked it in
Sodality, on account of our town stores and social ways and such being
so inviting to disease and death. But we hadn't talked it official,
'count of Sodality being for Cemetery use, and talking it scattering we
hadn't been able to make the other men even listen to us.

"'Pack o' women!' says Silas, now, and went off to find black molasses
for somebody.

"Mis' Toplady sampled her butter, dreamy.

"'Rob Henny's butter here,' she says, 'is made out of cow sheds that I
can't bear to think about. An' Silas knows it. Honest,' she says, 'I'm
gettin' so I spleen against the flowers in the fields for fear Rob
Henny's cows'll get holt of 'em. I should think the _Daily_ could write
about that.'

"I remember how us three women looked at each other then, like our
brains was experimenting with our ideas. And when Mis' Toplady got her
butter, we slipped out and spoke together for a few minutes up past the
Town Pump. And it was there the plan come to a head and legs and arms.
And we see that we had a way of picking purses right off of every day,
so be the editor would leave us go ahead--and of doing other things.

"The very next morning we three went to see the editor and get his
consent.

"'What's your circulation, same as City papers print to the top of the
page?' Mis' Toplady asks him, practical.

"'Paid circulation or got-out circulation?' says the editor.

"'Paid,' says Mis' Toplady, in silver-dollar tones.

"'Ah, well, _paid for_ or subscribed for?' asks the editor.

"'Paid for,' says Mis' Toplady, still more financial.

"'Six hundred and eighty paid for,' the editor says, 'an' fifty-two
that--mean to pay.'

"'My!' says Mis' Toplady, shuddering. 'What business is! Well, us ladies
of the Sodality want to run your paper for one day and charge all your
subscribers ten cents extra for that day's paper. Will you?'

"The editor, he laughed quite a little, and then he looked thoughtful.
He was new and from the City and young and real nervous--he used to pop
onto his feet whenever a woman so much as come in the room.

"'Who would collect the ten cents?' says he.

"'Sodality,' says Mis' Toplady, firm. 'Ourself, cash an' _in advance_.'

"The editor nodded, still smiling.

"'Jove,' he said, 'this fits in remarkably well with the fishing I've
been thinking about. I confess I need a day. I suppose you wouldn't want
to do it this week?'

"Mis' Toplady looked at me with her eyebrows. But I nodded. I always
rather hurry up than not.

"'So be we had a couple o' hours to get the news to happenin',' says
she, 'that had ought to do us.'

"The editor looked startled.

"'News!' said he. 'Oh, I say now, you mustn't expect too much. I ought
to warn you that running a paper in this town is like trying to raise
cream on a cistern.'

"Mis' Toplady smiled at him motherly.

"'You ain't ever tried pouring the cream into the cistern, I guess,' she
says.

"So we settled it into a bargain, except that, after we had planned it
all out with him and just as we was going out the door, Mis' Toplady
thought to say to him:--

"'You know, Sodality don't know anything about it yet, so you'd best not
mention it out around till this afternoon when we vote to do it. We'll
be up at eight o'clock Thursday morning, rain or shine.'

"There wasn't ever any doubt about Sodality when it see Sixty Dollars
ahead--which we would get if everybody bought a paper, and we was
determined that everybody should buy. Sodality members scraps among
themselves personal, but when it comes to raising money we unite yoke to
yoke, and all differences forgot. It's funny sometimes at the meetings,
funny and disgraceful, to hear how we object to each other, especially
when we're tired, and then how we all unite together on something for
the good of the town. I tell you, it makes me feel sometimes that the
way ain't so much to try to love each other,--which other folks'
peculiarities is awful in the way of,--but for us all to pitch in and
love something altogether, your town or your young folks, or your
cemetery or keeping something clean or making somethin' look nice--and
before you know it you're loving the folks you work with, no matter how
peculiar, or even more so. It's been so nice since we've been working
for Cemetery. Folks that make each other mad every time they try to talk
can sell side by side at the same bazaar and count the money mutual.
There's quite a few disagreements in Sodality, so we have to be real
careful who sets next to who to church suppers. But when we pitch in to
work for something, we sew rags and 'scallop oysters in the same pan
with our enemies. Don't it seem as if that must mean something?
Something big?

"Sodality voted to publish the paper, all right, and elected the
officers for the day: Editor, Mis' Postmaster Sykes, 'count of her
always expecting to take the lead in everything; assistant editor, me,
'count of being well and able to work like a dog; business manager and
circulation man, Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, 'count of no dime
ever getting away from her unexpected. And the reporters was to be most
of the rest of the Sodality: Mis' Timothy Toplady, the three Liberty
girls, Mis' Mayor Uppers, Mis' Fire Chief Merriman, Mis' Threat
Hubbelthwait, an' Abagail Arnold, that keeps the home bakery. It was
hard for Abagail to get away from her cook stove and her counter, so we
fixed it that she was to be let off any other literary work along of her
furnishing us our sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs that day noon. It was
quite a little for Abagail to do, but she's always real willing, and we
didn't ask coffee of her. Mis' Sturgis, her that is the village invalid,
we arranged should have charge of the Woman's Column, and bring down her
rocking chair and make her beef broth right there on the office
wood-stove.

"I guess we was all glad to go down early in the morning that day,
'count of not meeting the men. One and all and with one voice the
Friendship men had railed at us hearty.

"'Pack o' women!' says Silas Sykes, over and over.

"'You act like bein' a woman an' a wife was some kind o' nonsense,' says
Mis' Sykes back at him, majestic. 'Well, I guess bein' yours is.'

"'Land, Amandy,' says Timothy Toplady, 'you women earn money so
_nervous_. Why don't you do it regular an' manly?'

"Only Eppleby Holcomb had kept his silence. Eppleby sees things that the
run of men don't see, or, if they did see them, they would be bound to
stick them in their ledgers where they would never, never belong.
Eppleby was our friend, and Sodality never had truer.

"So though we went ahead, the men had made us real anxious. And most of
us slipped down to the office by half past seven so's not to meet too
many. The editor had had a column in the paper about what we was goin'
to do--'Loyal to our Local Dead' he headed it, and of course full half
the town was kicking at the extra ten cents, like full half of any town
can and will kick when it's asked to pay out for its own good, dead or
alive. But we was leaving all that to Mis' Holcomb, that knows a thing
or two about the human in us, and similar.

"Extra-paper morning, when we all come in, Mis' Sykes she was sitting at
the editor's desk with her big apron on and a green shade to cover up
her crimping kids, and her list that her and Mis' Toplady and I had made
out, in front of her.

"'Now then, let's get right to work,' she says brisk. 'We ain't any too
much time, I can tell you. It ain't like bakin' bread or gettin' the
vegetables ready. We've all got to use muscles this day we ain't used to
usin',' she says, 'an' we'd best be spry.'

"So then she begun giving out who was to do what--assignments, the
editor named it when he told us what to do. And I skipped back an' hung
over the files, well knowing what was to come.

"Mis' Sykes stood up in her most society way, an'--

"'Anybody want to back out?' says she, gracious.

"'Land!' says everyone in a No-I-don't tone.

"'Very well,' says Mis' Sykes. 'Mis' Toplady, you go out to Rob Henney's
place, an' you go through his cow sheds from one end to the other an'
take down notes so's he sees you doin' it. You go into his kitchen an'
don't you let a can get by you. Open his churn. Rub your finger round
the inside of his pans. An' if he won't tell you, the neighbours will.
Explain to him you're goin' to give him a nice, full printed description
in to-night's _Daily_, just the way things are. If he wants it changed
any, he can clean all up, an' we'll write up the clean-up like a
compliment.'

"Just for one second them assembled women was dumb. But it hardly took
them that instant to sense what was what. And all of a sudden, Mame
Holcomb, I guess it was, bursted out in a little understanding giggle,
and after a minute everybody joined in, too. For we'd got the whole
world of Friendship Village where we wanted it, and every one of them
women see we had, so be we wasn't scared.

"'Mis' Uppers,' Mis' Sykes was going on, 'you go down to Betts's meat
market. You poke right through into the back room. An' you tell Joe
Betts that you're goin' to do a write-up of that room an' the alley back
of it for the paper to-night, showin' just what's what. If so be he
wants to turn in an' red it up this mornin', tell him you'll wait till
noon an' describe it then, _providin'_ he keeps it that way. An' you
might let him know you're goin' to run over to his slaughterhouse an'
look around while you're waitin', an' put that in your write-up, too.'

"'Miss Hubbelthwait,' Mis' Sykes went on, 'you go over to the Calaboose.
They won't anybody be in the office--Dick's saloon is that. Skip right
through in the back part, an' turn down the blankets on both beds an'
give a thorough look. If it's true they's no sheets an' pillow-cases on
the calaboose beds, an' that the blankets is only washed three times a
year so's to save launderin', we can make a real interestin' column
about that.'

"'Miss Merriman,' says Mis' Sykes to Mis' Fire Chief, 'I've give you a
real hard thing because you do things so delicate. Will you take a walk
along the residence part of town an' go into every house an' ask 'em to
let you see their back door an' their garbage pail. Tell 'em you're
goin' to write a couple of columns on how folks manage this. Ask 'em
their idees on the best way. Give 'em to understand if there's a real
good way they're thinkin' of tryin' that you'll put that in, providin'
they begin tryin' right off. An' tell 'em they can get it carted off for
ten cents a week if enough go in on it. An' be your most delicate, Mis'
Fire Chief, for we don't want to offend a soul.'

"Libby an' Viney Liberty Mis' Sykes sent round to take a straw vote in
every business house in town to see how much they'd give towards
starting a shelf library in the corner of the post-office store, a full
list to be printed in order with the amount or else 'Not a cent' after
each name. And the rest of Sodality she give urrants similar or even
more so.

"'An' all o' you,' says Mis' Sykes, 'pick up what you can on the way.
And if anybody starts in to object, you tell 'em you have instructions
to make an interview out of any of the interestin' things they say. And
you might tell 'em you don't want they should be buried in a nice
cemetery if they don't want to be.'

"Well, sir, they started off--some scairt, but some real brave, too. And
the way they went, we see every one of them meant business.

"'But oh,' says Mis' Sturgis, fixing her medicine bottles outside on the
window-sill, '_supposin'_ they can't do it. _Supposin'_ folks ain't nice
to 'em. What'll we put in the paper then?'

"Mis' Sykes drew herself up like she does sometimes in society.

"'Well,' she says, 'supposin'. Are we runnin' this paper or ain't we?
There's nothin' to prevent our writin' editorials about these things, as
I see. Our husbands can't very well sue us for libel, because they'd hev
to pay it themselves. Nor they can't put us in prison for debt, because
who'd get their three meals? I can't see but we're sure of an
interestin' paper, anyway.'

"Then she looked over at me sort of sad.

"'Go on, Calliope,' says she, 'you know what you've got to do. Do it,'
she says, 'to the bitter end.'

"I knew, and I started out, and I made straight for Silas Sykes, and the
post-office store. Silas wan't in the store, it was so early; but he had
the floor all sprinkled nice, and the vegetables set out, all uncovered,
close to the sidewalk; and everything real tasty and according to
grocery-store etiquette. The boy was gone that day. And Silas himself
was in the back room, sortin' over prunes.

"'Hello, Calliope,' s'he. 'How's literchoor?'

"'Honest as ever,' I says. 'Same with food?'

"'Who says I ain't honest?' says Silas, straightening up, an' holding
all his fingers stiff 'count of being sticky.

"'Why, I donno who,' says I. 'Had anybody ought to? How's business,
Silas?'

"'Well,' says he, 'for us that keeps ourselves up with the modern
business methods, it's pretty good, I guess.'

"'Do you mean pretty good, Silas, or do you mean pretty paying?' I ask'
him.

"Silas put on his best official manner. 'Look at here,' s'e, 'what can I
do for you? Did you want to buy somethin' or did you want your mail?'

"'Oh, neither,' I says. 'I want some help from you, Silas, about the
paper to-day.'

"My, that give Silas a nice minute. He fairly weltered in satisfaction.

"'Huh,' he says, elegant, 'didn't I tell you you was bitin' off more'n
you could chew? Want some assistance from me, do you, in editin' this
paper o' yours? Well, I suppose I can help you out a little. What is it
you want me to do for you?'

"'We thought we'd like to write you up,' I told him.

"Silas just swelled. For a man in public office, Silas Sykes feels about
as presidential as anybody I ever see. If they was to come out from the
City and put him on the front page of the morning paper, he's the kind
that would wonder why they hadn't done it before.

"'Sketch of my life?' s'e, genial. 'Little outline of my boyhood? Main
points in my career?'

"'Well,' I says, 'no. We thought the present'd be about all we'd hev
room for. We want to write up your business, Silas,' I says, 'in an
advertising way.'

"'Oh!' says Silas, snappy. 'You want me to pay to be wrote up, is that
it?'

"'Well,' I says, 'no; not if you don't want to. Of course everybody'll
be buried in the Cemetery whether they give anything towards the fund
for keeping it kep' up or not.'

"'Lord Heavens,' says Silas, 'I've had that Cemetery fund rammed down my
throat till I'm sick o' the thought o' dyin'.'

"That almost made me mad, seeing we was having the disadvantage of doing
the work and Silas going to get all the advantages of burial.

"'Feel the same way about some of the Ten Commandments, don't you,
Silas?' I says, before I knew it.

"Silas just rared.

"'The Ten Commandments!' says he, 'the Ten Commandments! Who can show me
one I ain't a-keepin' like an old sheep. Didn't I honour my father an'
mother as long as I had 'em? Did they ever buy anything of me at more
than cost? Didn't I give 'em new clothes an' send 'em boxes of oranges
an' keep up their life insurance? Do I ever come down to the store on
the Sabbath Day? Do I ever distribute the mail then, even if I'm
expectin' a letter myself? The Sabbath I locked the cat in, didn't I
send the boy down to let it out, for fear I'd be misjudged if I done it?
Who do I ever bear false witness against unless I know they've done what
I say they've done? I can't kill a fly--an' I'm that tender-hearted
that I make the hired girl take the mice out o' the trap because I can't
bring myself to do it. So you might go through the whole list an' just
find me workin' at 'em an' a-keepin' 'em. What do you mean about the Ten
Commandments?' he ends up, ready to burst.

"'Don't ask me,' I says. 'I ain't that familiar with 'em. I didn't know
anybody was. Go on about 'em. Take stealing--you hadn't got to that
one.'

"'_Stealing_,' says Silas, pompous. 'I don't know what it is.'

"And with that I was up on my feet.

"'I thought you didn't,' says I. 'Us ladies of Sodality have all thought
it over an' over again: That you don't know stealing when you see it.
No, nor not even when you've done it. Come here, Silas Sykes!' I says.

"I whipped by him into the store, and he followed me, sheer through
being dazed, and keeping still through being knocked dumb.

"'Look here,' I says, 'here's your counter of bakery stuff--put in to
take from Abagail, but no matter about that now. Where do you get it?
From the City, with the label stuck on. What's the bakery like where you
buy it? It's under a sidewalk and dust dirty, and I happen to know you
know it. And look at the bread--not a thing over it, flies promenadin'
on the crust, and you counting out change on an apple-pie the other
day--I see you do it. Look at your dates, all uncovered and dirt from
the street sticking to them like the pattern. Look at your fly-paper,
hugged up against your dried-fruit box that's standing wide open. Look
at you keeping fish and preserved fruit and canned stuff that you know
is against the law--going to start keeping the law quick as you get
these sold out, ain't you, Silas? Look at your stuff out there in front,
full of street dirt and flies and ready to feed folks. And you keepin'
the Ten Commandments like an old sheep--and being a church elder, and
you might better climb porches and bust open safes. I s'pose you wonder
what I'm sayin' all this to you for?'

"'No, ma'am,' says Silas, like the edge o' something, 'I don't wonder at
your sayin' _anything_ to anybody.'

"'I've got more to say,' I says, dry. 'I've only give you a sample. An'
the place I'm goin' to say it is _The Friendship Village Evening Daily_,
_Extra_, to-night, in a descriptive write-up of you and your store. I
thought it might interest you to know.'

"'It's libel--it's libel!' says Silas, arms waving.

"'All right,' says I, liberating a fly accidentally caught on a date.
'Who you going to sue? Your wife, that's the editor? And everybody
else's wife, that's doing the same thing to every behind-the-times
dealer in town?'

"Silas hung on to that straw.

"'Be they doin' it to the others, too?' he asks.

"Then I told him.

"'Yes,' I says, 'Silas, only--they ain't goin' to start writing up the
descriptions till noon. And if you--and they all--want to clean up the
temples where you do business and make them fit for the Lord to look
down on and a human being to come into, you've got your chance. And
seeing your boy is gone to-day, if you'll do it, I'll stay and help you
with it--and mebbe make room for some of the main points in your career
as well,' says I, sly.

"Silas looked out the door, his arms folded and his beard almost
pointing up, he'd made his chin so firm. And just in that minute when I
was feeling that all the law and the prophets, and the health of
Friendship Village, and the life of people not born, was hanging around
that man's neck--or the principle of them, anyway--Silas's eye and mine
fell on a strange sight. Across the street, from out Joe Betts's meat
market come Joe Betts, and behind him his boy. And Joe begun pointing,
and the boy begun taking down quarters of beef hung over the sidewalk.
Joe pointed consid'able. And then he clim' up on his meat wagon that
stood by the door, and out of the shop I see Mis' Mayor Uppers come,
looking ready to drop. And she clim' up to the seat beside him--he
reaching down real gentlemanly to help her up. And he headed his horse
around on what I guessed was a bee-line for the slaughterhouse.

"Well, sir, at that, Silas Sykes put his hands on his knees and bent
over and begun laughing. And he laughed like I ain't seen him since he's
got old and begun to believe that life ain't cut after his own plan that
he made. And I laughed a little, too, out of sheer being glad that a
laugh can settle so many things right in the world. And when he sobered
down a little, I says gentle:--

"'Silas, I'll throw out the dates and the dusty lettuce. And we'll hev
it done in no time. I'll be glad to get an early start on the write-up.
I don't compose very ready,' I told him.

"He was awful funny while we done the work. He was awful still, too.
Once when I lit on a piece of salt pork that I knew, first look, was
rusty, 'Them folks down on the flats buys it,' he says. 'They like it
just as good as new-killed.' 'All right,' s'I, careless, 'I'll make a
note of that to shine in my article. It needs humour some,' s'I. Then
Silas swore, soft and under his breath, as an elder should, but quite
vital. And he took the pork out to the alley barrel, an' I sprinkled
ashes on it so's he shouldn't slip out and save it afterwards.

"It was 'leven o'clock when we got done, me having swept out behind the
counters myself, and Silas he mopped his face and stood hauling at his
collar.

"'I'll get on my white kids now,' s'e, dry. 'I can't go pourin' kerosene
an' slicin' cheese in this place barehanded any more. Gosh,' he says, 'I
bet when they see it, they'll want to have church in here this comin'
Sunday.'

"'No need to be sacrilegious, as I know of, Silas,' s'I, sharp.

"'No need to be livin' at all, as I see,' says Silas, morbid; 'just lay
low an' other folks'll step in an' do it for you, real capable.'

"I give him the last word. I thought it was his man's due.

"When I got back to the office, Libby Liberty an' Mis' Toplady was there
before me. They was both setting on high stools up to the file shelf,
with their feet tucked up, an' the reason was that Viney Liberty was
mopping the floor. She had a big pail of suds and her skirt pinned up,
and she was just lathering them boards. Mis' Sykes at the main desk was
still labouring over her editorials, breathing hard, the boards steaming
soap all around her.

"'I couldn't stand it,' Viney says. 'How a man can mould public opinion
in a place where the floor is pot-black gets me. My land, my ash house
is a dinin' room side of this room, an' the window was a regular gray
frost with dust. Ain't men the funniest lot of folks?' she says.

"'Funny,' says I, 'but awful amiable if you kind of sing their key-note
to 'em.'

"Mis' Sykes pulled my skirt.

"'How was he?' she asks in a pale voice.

"'He was crusty,' says I, triumphant, 'but he's beat.'

"She never smiled. 'Calliope Marsh,' says she, cold, 'if you've sassed
my husband, I'll never forgive you.'

"I tell you, men may be some funny, and often are. But women is odd as
Dick's hatband and I don't know but odder.

"'How'd you get on?' I says to Mis' Toplady and the Libertys. The
Libertys they handed out a list on two sheets, both sides with sums
ranging from ten to fifty cents towards a shelf library for public use;
but Mis' Toplady, the tears was near streaming down her cheeks.

"'Rob Henney,' she says, mournful, 'gimme to understand he'd see me
in--some place he hadn't ought to of spoke of to me, nor to no
one--before I could get in his milk sheds.'

"'What did you say to him?' I ask', sympathetic.

"'I t-told him,' says Mis' Toplady, 'that lookin' for me wouldn't be the
only reason he'd hev for goin' there. And then he said some more. He
said he'd be in here this afternoon to stop his subscription off.'

"'So you didn't get a thing?' I says, grieving for her, but Mis'
Toplady, she bridled through her tears.

"'I got a column!' she flashed out. 'I put in about the sheds, that the
whole town knows, anyway, an' I put in what he said to me. An' I'm goin'
to read it to him when he comes in. An' after that he can take his pick
about havin' it published, or else cleanin' up an' allowin' Sodality to
inspect him reg'lar.'

"By just before twelve o'clock we was all back in the office, Mis' Fire
Chief, Mis' Uppers, fresh from the slaughterhouse, and so on, all but
Mame Holcomb that was out seeing to the circulation. And I tell you we
set to work in earnest, some of us to the desks, and some of us working
on their laps, and everybody hurrying hectic. The office was awful
hot--Mis' Sturgis had built up a little light fire to heat up her beef
broth, and she was stirring it, her shawl folded about her, in between
writing receipts. But it made it real confusing, all of us doing our
best so hard, and wanting to tell each other what had happened, and
seeing about spelling and all.

"'Land, land,' says Mis' Fire Chief Merriman, 'you'd ought to _see_ the
Carters' back door. They wan't nobody to home there, so I just took a
look, anyway, bein' it was for Sodality, so. They ain't no real garbage
pail--'

"'Who said, "Give me Liberty or give me Death?"' ask' Mis' Sykes,
looking up kind o' glassy. 'Was it Daniel Webster or Daniel Boone?'

"'Ladies,' says Mis' Hubbelthwait, when we'd settled down on Daniel
Boone, 'if I ever do a crime, I won't stop short at stealin' somebody's
cow an' goin' to calaboose. I'll do a whole beef corner, or some real
United States sin, an' get put in a place that's clean. Why over to the
calaboose--'

"'Ugh!' says Mis' Uppers, 'don't say "beef" when I'm where I can hear.
I donno what I'll do without my steak, but do it I will. Ladies, the
cleanest of us is soundin' brass an' tinklin' cannibals. Why do they
call 'em _tinklin'_ cannibals?' she wondered to us all.

"'Oh--,' wailed Mis' Sturgis in the rocking-chair, 'some of you ladies
give me your salad dressing receipt. Mine is real good on salad, but on
paper it don't sound fit to eat. I don't seem to have no book-style
about me to-day.'

"'How do you spell _embarrass_?' asked Libby Liberty. 'Is it an _r_ an'
two _s_'s or two _r_'s and an _s_?'

"'It's two _s_'s at the end, so it must be one _r_,' volunteers Mis'
Sykes. 'That used to mix me up some, too.'

"Just then up come Abagail Arnold bringing the noon lunch, and she had
the sandwiches and the eggs not only, but a pot of hot coffee thrown in,
and a basket of doughnuts, sugared. She set them out on Mis' Sykes's
desk, and we all laid down our pencils and drew up on our high stools
and swing chairs, Mis' Sturgis and all, and nothing in the line of food
had ever looked so welcoming.

"'Oh, the eatableness of nice refreshments!' says Mis' Toplady, sighing.

"'This is when it ain't victuals, its viands,' says Mis' Sykes, showing
pleased.

"But well do I remember, we wasn't started to eat, and Abagail still
doing the pouring, when the composing room door opened--I donno _why_
they called it that, for we done the composing in the office, and they
only got out the paper in there--and in come the foreman, with an apron
of bed-ticking. He was Riddy Styles, that we all knew him.

"'Excuse me,' he says, hesitating, 'but us fellows thought we'd ought to
mention that we can't get no paper out by quittin' time if we don't get
a-hold of some copy pretty quick.'

"'Copy o' what?' says Mis' Sykes, our editor.

"'Why, copy,' says Riddy. 'Stuff for the paper.'

"Mis' Sykes looked at him, majestic.

"'_Stuff_,' she says. 'You will please to speak,' she says, 'more
respectfully than that to us ladies, Mr. Styles.'

"'It was meant right,' says Riddy, stubborn. 'It's the word we always
use.'

"'It ain't the word you use, not with us,' says Mis' Sykes, womanly.

"'Well,' says Riddy, 'we'd ought to get to settin' up _somethin'_ by
half past twelve, if we start in on the dictionary.'

"Then he went off to his dinner, and the other men with him, and Mis'
Sykes leaned back limp.

"'I been writin' steady,' she says, 'since half past eight o'clock this
mornin', an' I've only got one page an' one-half composed.'

"We ask' each other around, and none of us was no more then started, let
be it was Mis' Toplady, that had got in first.

"'Le's us leave our lunch,' says Mis' Sykes, then. 'Le's us leave it
un-et. Abagail, you put it back in the basket an' pour the coffee into
the pot. An' le's us _write_. Wouldn't we all rather hev one of our sick
headaches,' she says, firm, 'than mebbe make ourselves the Laughing
Stock? Ladies, I ask you.'

"An' we woulded, one and all. Sick headaches don't last long, but
laughed-at has regular right down eternal life.

"Ain't it strange how slow the writing muscles and such is, that you
don't use often? Pitting cherries, splitting squash, peeling potatoes,
slicing apples, making change at church suppers,--us ladies is lightning
at 'em all. But getting idees down on paper--I declare if it ain't more
like waiting around for your bread to raise on a cold morning. Still
when you're worried, you can press forward more than normal, and among
us we had quite some material ready for Riddy and the men when they came
back. But not Mis' Sykes. She wan't getting on at all.

"'If I could only _talk_ it,' she says, grieving, 'or I donno if I could
even do that. What I want to say is in me, rarin' around my head like
life, an' yet I can't get it out no more'n money out of a tin bank. I
shall disgrace Sodality,' she says, wild.

"'Cheer up,' says Libby Liberty, soothing. 'Nobody ever reads the
editorials, anyway. I ain't read one in years.'

"'You tend to your article,' snaps Mis' Sykes.

"I had got my write-up of Silas all turned in to Riddy, and I was
looking longing at Abagail's basket, when, banging the door, in come
somebody breathing like raging, and it was Rob Henney, that I guess we'd
all forgot about except it was Mis' Toplady that was waiting for him.

"Rob Henney always talks like he was long distance.

"'I come in,' he says, blustering, 'I come in to quit off my
subscription to this fool paper, that a lot o' fool women--'

"Mis' Sykes looks up at him out from under her hand that her head was
resting on.

"'Go on out o' here, Mr. Henney,' she says sharp to him, 'an' quit your
subscription quiet. Can't you see you're disturbing us?' she says.

"With that Mis' Toplady wheeled around on her high stool and looked at
him, calm as a clock.

"'Rob Henney,' says she, 'you come over here. I'll read you what I've
wrote about you,' she told him.

"The piece begun like this:--

"'Rob Henney, our esteemed fellow-townsman and milkman, was talked with
this morning on his cow sheds. The reporter said to same that what was
wanting would be visiting the stables, churn, cans, pans, and like that,
being death is milked out of most cows if they are not kept clean and
inspected regular for signs of consumption. Mr. Henney replied as
follows:

"'First: That his cows had never been inspected because nothing of that
kind had ever been necessary.

"'Second: That he was in the milk business for a living, and did the
town expect him to keep it in milk for its health?

"'Third: That folks had been drinking milk since milk begun, and if the
Lord saw fit to call them home, why not through milk, or even through
consumption, as well as through pneumonia and others?

"'Fourth: That he would see the reporter--a lady--in the
lake-that-burneth-with-fire before his sheds and churn and pans and cans
should be put in the paper.

"'Below is how the sheds, churn, pans, and cans look to-day....' And I
tell you, Mis' Toplady, she didn't spare no words. When she meant What,
she said What, elaborate.

"I didn't know for a minute but we'd hev to mop Rob up off the clean
floor. But Mis' Toplady she never forgot who she was.

"'Either that goes in the paper to-night,' she says, 'or you'll clean up
your milk surroundin's--pick your choice. An' Sodality's through with
you if you don't, besides.'

"'Put it in print! Put it in print, if you dast!' yells Rob,
wind-milling his arms some.

"'No need to make an earthquake o' yourself,' Mis' Toplady points out to
him, serene.

"And at that Rob adds a word intending to express a cussing idee, and he
outs and down the stairs. And Mis' Toplady starts to take her article
right in to Riddy. But in the door she met Riddy, hurrying into the
office again. I never see anybody before that looked both red and
haggard, but Riddy did. He come right to the point:--

"'Some of you ladies has got to quit handing in--news,' he says,
scrabbling for a word to please Mis' Sykes. 'We're up to our eyes in
here now. An' there ain't enough room in the paper, either, not without
you get out eight pages or else run a supplement or else throw away the
whole patent inside. An' those ways, we ain't got enough type even if we
had time to burn.'

"Mis' Sykes pushed back her green shade, looking just _chased_.

"'What does he mean?' she says. 'Can't he tend to his type and things
with us doing all the work?'

"Riddy took this real nettlish.

"'I mean,' s'he, clear but brutal, 'you got to cut your stuff somewheres
to the tune of a couple o' columns.'

"Well, it's hard to pick out which colour you'll take when you have a
new dress only once in every so seldom; or which of your hens you'll
kill when you know your chickens like you know your own mind; but these
are nothing to the time we had deciding on what to omit out of the paper
that night. And the decision hurt us even more than the deciding, for
what we left out was Mis' Sturgis's two women's columns.

"'We _can't_ leave out meat nor milk nor cleanliness nor the library,'
says Mis' Toplady, reasonable, 'because them are the things we live by.
An' so with the other write-ups we got planned. But receipts and
patterns an' moth balls is only kind o' decorations, seems though.
Besides, we all know about 'em, an' it's time we stopped talkin' about
'em, anyway.'

"Mis' Sturgis she cried a little on the corner of her shawl.

"'The receipts an' patterns an' moth balls is so w-womanly,' she says.

"Mis' Toplady whirled round at her.

"'If you know anything more womanly than conquerin' dirt an' disease an'
the-dead-that-needn't-die,' s'she, 'I'll roll up my sleeves an' be into
it. But it won't be eyelet embroidery nor yet boiled frostin'!'

"After that they wrote in hasty peace, though four o'clock come racing
across the day like a runaway horse, and us not out of its way. And a
few minutes past, when Riddy was waiting in the door for Mis' Sykes's
last page, somebody most knocked him over, and there come Mis' Holcomb,
our circulation editor, purple and white, like a ghost.

"'Lock the door--lock it!' she says. 'I've bolted the one to the foot of
the stairs. Lock both outside ones an' lay yourselves low!' s'she.

"Riddy an' I done the locking, me well knowing Mis' Holcomb couldn't
give a false alarm no more than a map could.

"'What is it?' we says, pressing Mis' Holcomb to speak, that couldn't
even breathe.

"'Oh, ladies,' says Mis' Holcomb, 'they've rejoined us, or whatever it
is they do. I mean they're going to rejoin us from gettin' out
to-night's paper. The sheriff or the coroner or whoever it is they have,
is comin' with injunctions--_is_ that like handcuffs, do you know? An'
it's Rob Henney's doin'. Eppleby told me. An' I run down the alley an'
beat 'em to it. They're most here. Let's us slap into print what's wrote
an' be ready with the papers the livin' minute we can.'

"Mis' Sykes had shoved her green shade onto the back of her head, and
her crimping pins was all showing forth.

"'What good'll it do us to get the paper _out_?' says she, in a numb
voice. 'We can't distribute 'em around to no one with the sheriff to the
front door with them things to put on us.'

"Then Mis' Holcomb smiled, with her eyes shut, where she sat, breathing
so hard it showed through.

"'I come in the coal door, at the alley,' s'she. 'They'll never think o'
that. Besides, the crowd'll be in front an' the carrier boys too, an'
they'll want to show off out there. An' Eppleby knows--he told me to
come in that way--an' he'll keep 'em interested out in front. Le's us
each take the papers, an' out the coal door, an' distribute 'em around,
ourselves, without the boys, an' collect in the money same time.'

"And that was how we done. For when they come to the door and found it
locked, they pounded a little to show who was who and who wan't and then
they waited out there calm enough, thinking to stop us when the papers
come down would be plenty time. They waited out there, calm and sure,
while upstairs Bedlam went on, but noiseless. And after us ladies was
done with our part, we sat huddled up in the office, soothing Mis'
Sturgis and each other.

"'In one sentence,' Mis' Holcomb says, 'Eppleby says Rob Henney was
going to _put_ injunctions on us. An' in the next he says he was goin'
to _serve_ 'em. What did he mean by that, do you s'pose?'

"'I donno what he meant,' says Mis' Toplady, 'but I wouldn't have
anything to do with _anything_ Rob Henney served.'

"That made us think of Abagail's lunch, laying un-et in the basket. They
wasn't none of us felt like eating, but Mis' Sturgis says she bet if we
didn't eat it, Abagail would feel she hadn't had no part in writing the
paper like us, and so we broke off a little something once around; but
food didn't have much fun for us, not then. And nothing did up to the
minute the paper was done, and we was all ready to sly out the alley
door.

"With Sodality and Riddy Styles and the composing-room men we had above
twenty carriers. Riddy and the men helped us, one and all, because of
course the paper was a little theirs, too, and they was interested and
liked the lark. Land, land, I ain't felt so young or so wicked as I done
getting out that alley door. There's them I wish could see that there's
just as much fun keeping secret about something that may be good as in
being sly about something regular bad.

"When we finally got outside it was suppertime and summer seeming, and
the hour was all sweet and frank, and the whole village was buried in
its evening fried mush and potatoes, or else sprinkling their front
yards. I donno how it was with the others, but I know I went along the
streets seeing through them little houses like they was glass, and
seeing the young folks eating their suppers and growing up and getting
ready to live and to _be_. And in us ladies' arms, in them heavy papers,
it seemed to me we was carrying new life to them, in little ways--in
little ways, but ways that was going to be big with meaning. And I felt
as if something in me kind of snuggled up closer to the way things was
meant to be.

"Us that went west got clear the whole length of Daphne Street without
anybody seeing what we was doing, or else believing that we was doing it
orderly and legitimate. And away out by the Pump pasture, we started in
distributing, and we come working down town, handing out papers to the
residence part like mad and taking in dimes like wild. They was so many
of us, and the _Evening Daily_ office was so located, that by the time
Mis' Sykes and Mis' Toplady and I come around the corner where the men
and Rob Henney and the rejoiners and the carriers was loafing, waiting,
smoking, and secure, we didn't have many papers left. And we three was
the first ones back.

"'Evenin' paper?' says Mis' Toplady, casual. '_Friendship Village
Evenin' Daily, Extra?_ All the news for a dime?'

"Never have I see a man so truly flabbergasted as Rob Henney, and he did
look like death.

"'You're rejoined!' he yelled, or whatever it is they say--'you're
rejoined by law from printin' your papers or from deestributin' the
same.'

"'Why, Rob Henney,' says Mis' Toplady, 'no call to show fight like that.
Half the town is readin' its papers by now. They've been out for
three-quarters of an hour,' she says.

"Then soft and faint and acrost the street, we heard somebody laugh, and
then kind of spat hands; and we all looked up. And there in the open
upstairs window of the building opposite, we see leaning out Eppleby
Holcomb and Timothy Toplady and Silas Sykes. And when we crossed eyes,
they all made a little cheer like a theatre; and then they come clumping
down stairs and acrost to where we was.

"'Won out, didn't you, by heck!' says Silas, that can only see that far.

"'Blisterin' Benson,' says Timothy, gleeful. '_I_ say we ain't got no
cause to regret our wifes' brains.'

"But Eppleby, he never said a word. He just smiled slow and a-looking
past us. And we knew that from the beginning he had seen our whole plan,
face to face.

"Mis' Sykes and Mis' Toplady and me, seeing how Rob Henney stood
muttering and beat, and seeing how the day had gone, and seeing what was
what in the world and in all outside of it, we looked at each other,
dead tired, and real happy, and then we just dragged along home to our
kitchens and went to cooking supper. But oh, it wasn't our same old
kitchens nor it wasn't our same old Friendship Village. We was in places
newer and better and up higher, where we see how things are, and how
life would get more particular about us if we'd get particular about
some more of life.



VII


"Well, of course then we had Sixty Dollars or so to spend, and Sodality
never could rest a minute when it had money to do with if it wasn't
doing it, any more than it could rest when it had something to do and no
money to do with. It made a nice, active circle. Wishing for dreams to
come true, and then, when they do come true, making the true things
sprout more dreams, is another of them circles. I always think they're
what keeps us a-going, not only immortal but busy.

"And then with us there's another reason for voting our money prompt. As
soon as we've made any and the news has got out around, it's happened
two-three times that somebody has put in an application for a headstone
for somebody dead that can't afford one. The first time that was done
the application was made by the wife of a harness maker that had a
little shop in the back street and had been saving up his money for a
good tombstone. 'I ain't had much of a position here in life,' he used
to say. 'I never was pointed out as a leading citizen. But I'm goin' to
fix it so's when I'm buried and folks come to the Cemetery, nobody'll
get by my grave without noticin' my tombstone.' And then he took sick
with inflammatory rheumatism, and if it didn't last him three years and
et up his whole tombstone fund. He use' to worry about it considerable
as the rheumatism kept reducing the granite inch after inch, and he
died, thinking he wasn't going to have nothing but markers to him. So
his old wife come and told Sodality, crying to think he wasn't going to
seem no real true inhabitant of Cemetery, any more than he had of the
village. And we felt so sorry for her we took part of the Thirty Dollars
we'd made at the rummage sale and bought him a nice cement stone, and
put the verse on to attract attention that he'd wrote himself:--


     "'STOP. LOOK. LISTEN.
         HERE LAYS ME.
     MY GRAVE IS JUST AS BIG
       AS YOURS WILL BE.'


"Some was inclined to criticise Jeb for being so ambitious in death, and
stopping to think how good a showing he could make. But I donno, I
always sort of understood him. He wanted to be somebody. He'd used to
try to have a voice in public affairs, but somehow what he proposed
wasn't ever practical and never could get itself adopted. His judgment
wasn't much, and time and again he'd voted against the town's good, and
he see it afterward. He missed being a real citizen of his town, and he
knew it, and he hankered to be a citizen of his Cemetery. And wherever
he is now, I bet that healthy hankering is strained and purified and
helping him ahead.

"But our buying that stone for Jeb's widow's husband's grave let us in
for perpetual applications for monuments; and so when we had any money
we always went right to work and voted it for general Cemetery
improvement, so there wasn't ever any money in the treasury for the
applications. Anyway, we felt we'd ought to encourage self-made graves
and not pauperize our corpses.

"So the very next afternoon after we got our paper out, we met at Mis'
Sykes's; and the day being mild and gold, almost all of Sodality turned
out, and Mis' Sykes used both her parlours. It was funny; but such times
there fell on them that sat Front Parlour a sort of
what-you-might-call-distinction over them that sat Back Parlour. It's
the same to our parties. Them that are set down to the dining-room table
always seem a little more company than them that are served to the
little sewing tables around in the open rooms, and we all feel it,
though we all pretend not, as well-bred as we know how. I donno but
there's something to it, too. Mis' Sykes, for instance, she always gets
put to a dining table. Nobody would ever think of setting her down to a
small one, no more than they would a Proudfit. But me, I generally get
tucked down to a sewing table and in a rocking-chair, if there ain't
enough cane seats to go around. Things often divide themselves true to
themselves in this life, after all.

"This was the last regular meeting before our Annual. The Annual, at
Insley's suggestion, was going to be in the schoolhouse, and it was
going to be an open evening meeting, with the whole town invited in and
ice-cream served after. Regular meetings Sodality gives just tea;
special meetings we give hot chocolate or ice-lemonade, or both if the
weather is unsettled; for entertainments we have cut-up fruit and little
bakery cakes; but to our Annual we mount up to ice-cream and some of our
best cake makers' layer cake. And us ladies always dress according:
afternoon home dresses to regular meetings; second best to specials;
Sunday silks to entertainments; and straight going-out clothes for the
Annual. It makes it real nice. Nobody need to come dressed wrong, and
nobody can go away disappointed at what they've been fed.

"The meeting that day all ought to have gone smooth enough, it being so
nice that our paper had sold well and all, but I guess the most of us
was too tired out to have tried to have a meeting so soon. Anyhow, we
didn't seem to come together slippery and light-running, like we do some
days; but instead I see the minute we begun to collect that we was all
inclined to be heavy and, though not cross, yet frictionish.

"For instance: Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss had come in a new red
waist with black raspberry buttons. And it was too much for Mis' Fire
Chief Merriman that's been turning her black poplin ever since the Fire
Chief died.

"'Dear me, Mis' Holcomb,' she says, 'I never see anybody have more
dressy clothes. Did you put that on just for us?'

"Mis' Holcomb shut her lips tight.

"'This is for home wear,' she says short, when she opened them.

"'Mean to say you get a cooked supper in that rig?' says Mis' Merriman.
'Fry meat in it, do you?'

"'We don't eat as hearty as some,' says Mame. 'We don't insist on warm
suppers. We feel at our house we have to keep our bills down.'

"Mis' Merriman straightened up, real brittle.

"'My gracious,' she says, 'I guess I live as cheap as the best does.'

"'I see you buying _shelled_ nuts, just the same,' says Mis' Holcomb,
'when shellin' 'em with your fingers cost twenty cents off.'

"'I ain't never had my store-buyin' criticised before,' says Mis'
Merriman, elbows back.

"'Nor,' says Mis' Holcomb, bitter, 'have I ever before, in my twenty-six
years of married life, ever been called _dressy_.'

"Then Mis' Toplady, she sort of shouldered into the minute, big and
placid and nice-feeling.

"'Mame,' she says, 'set over here where you can use the lead-pencil on
my watch chain, and put down that crochet pattern I wanted, will you?'

"Mame come over by her and took the pencil, Mis' Toplady leaning over
so's she could use it; but before she put the crochet pattern down, Mame
made one, experimental, on the stiff bottom of her work-bag, and Libby
Liberty thought she'd make a little joking.

"'S-sh-h,' says Libby, 'the authoress is takin' down notes.'

"Mis' Holcomb has had two-three poems in the _Friendship Daily_, and
she's real sensitive over it.

"'I'd be polite if I couldn't be pleasant, Libby,' says Mame, acid.

"'I'm pleasant enough to pleasant folks,' snaps Libby, up in arms in a
minute. Nothing whatever makes anybody so mad as to have what was meant
playful took plain.

"'I,' says Mis' Holcomb, majestic, 'would pay some attention to my
company manners, no matter what I was in the home.'

"'That makes me think,' puts in Mis' Toplady, hasty, 'speaking of
company so, who's heard anything about the evenin' company up to
Proudfits'?'

"It was something all our heads was full of, being half the village had
just been invited in to the big evening affair that was to end up the
house party, and we'd all of pitched in and talked fast anyhow to take
our minds off the spat.

"'Elbert's comin' home to go to it an' to stay Sunday an' as much as he
can spare,' says Mis' Sykes. Elbert is her son and all Silas Sykes ought
to of been, Elbert is.

"'Letty Ames is home for the party, too,' says Libby Liberty, speaking
up in defence of their block, that Letty lives in. She's just graduated
at Indian Mound and has been visiting up the state.

"My niece that had come on for a few days would be gone before the party
come off, so she didn't seem worth mentioning for real news value at a
time when everything was centring in an evening company at Proudfit
House. No doubt about it, Proudfit House does give distinction to
Friendship Village, kind of like a finishing school would, or a circus
wintering in us.

"'I heard,' says Mis' Jimmy Sturgis, 'that the hired help set up all
night long cleanin' the silver. I shouldn't think _that_ would of been
necessary, with any kind of management behind 'em.'

"'You don't get much management now'-days,' says Mis' Hubbelthwait,
sighing. 'Things slap along awful haphazard.'

"'I know I ain't the system to myself that I use' to have,' says Abagail
Arnold. 'Why, the other day I found my soda in one butt'ry an' my bakin'
powder in the other.'

"'An' I heard,' says Mame Holcomb--that's one thing about Mame, you
can't keep her mad. She'll flare up and be a tongue of flame one minute,
and the next she's actin' like a friendly open fire on a family hearth.
And I always trust that kind--I can't help it--'I heard,' she said,
'that for the party that night the ice-cream is coming in forms,
calla-lilies an' dogs an' like that.'

"'I heard,' says Mis' Uppers, 'that Emerel Daniel was invited up to help
an' she set up nights and got her a new dress for helpin' in, and now
little Otie's sick and she likely can't go near.'

"Mis' Toplady looks over her glasses.

"'Is Otie sick again?' says she. 'Well, if Emerel don't move out of
Black Hollow, she'll lose him just like she done Abe. Can't she sell?'

"Black Hollow is the town's pet breeding place for typhoid, that the
ladies has been at the council to clean up for a year now. And nobody
will buy there, so Emerel's had to live in her house to save rent.

"'She's made her a nice dress an' she was so excited and pleased,' says
Mis' Uppers, grieving. 'I do hope it was a dark shade so if bereavement
follows--'

"'I suppose you'll have a new cloth, Mis' Sykes,' says Mis'
Hubbelthwait, 'you're so up-to-date.' It's always one trouble with Mis'
Hubbelthwait: she will flatter the flatterable. But that time it didn't
work. Mis' Sykes was up on a chair fixing a window-shade that had flew
up, and I guess she must have pinched her finger, she was so crispy.

"'I thought I _had_ things that was full stylish enough to wear,' she
says stiff.

"'I didn't mean harm,' says Mis' Hubbelthwait, humble.

"Just then we all got up to see out the window, for the Proudfit
automobile drew up to Mis' Sykes's gate. They was several folks in it,
like they had been most of the time during the house party, with
everybody flying hither and yon; and they was letting Mis' Emmons out.
It was just exactly like her to remember to come right out of the midst
of a house party to a meeting of Sodality. That woman was pure gold.
When they was a lot of things to choose about, she always seemed to let
the pleasant and the light and the easy-to-do slip right through her
fingers, that would close up by and by on the big real thing that most
folks would pretend to try to catch _after_ it had slipped through, and
yet would be awful glad to see disappearing.

"We didn't talk clothes any more after Mis' Emmons come in. Some way her
clothes was so professional seeming, in colour and cut, that beside of
her the rest of us never said much about ours; though I will say Mis'
Emmons always wore her clothes like she was no more thinking about them
than she would be thinking about morning housework togs.

"'Well-said, how's the little boy, Mis' Emmons?' asks Mis' Toplady,
hearty. 'I declare I couldn't go to sleep a night or two ago for
thinkin' about the little soul. Heard any sound out of his folks?'

"'I'm going to tell you about that pretty soon,' Mis' Emmons
answered--and it made my heart beat a little with wondering if she'd got
her plans thought out, not only four-square, but tower-high. 'He is
well--he wanted to come to the meeting. "I like ladies," he said, "when
they look at me like loving, but not when they touch me much." Mr.
Insley has him out walking.'

"'Little soul,' says Mis' Toplady, again.

"Out in the back parlour, some of us had been talking about Christopher
already.

"'I heard,' Mis' Merriman says, that wasn't to the church the night
Christopher come, 'I heard that he didn't have much of any clothes on.
An' that nobody could understand what he said. An' that nobody could get
him to speak a word.'

"'Pshaw,' Mis' Sturgis puts in, 'he was a nice-dressed little boy,
though wet; an' quite conversational.'

"'Well, I think it's a great problem,' says Mis' Uppers. 'He's too young
for the poorhouse and too old for the babies' home. Seems like they
wasn't anything _to_ do with him.'

"There come a lull when Mis' Postmaster Sykes, in a ruffled lawn that
had shrunk too short for anything but house wear, stood up by the piano
and called the meeting to order. And when we'd got on down to new
business, the purpose of the meeting and a hint of the pleasure was
stated formal by Mis' Sykes herself. 'One thing why I like to preside at
Sodality,' I heard her tell once, 'is, you do get your say whenever you
want it, and nobody can interrupt you when you're in the chair.'

"'Ladies,' she says, 'we've seen from the treasurer's report we've got
some Sixty-odd Dollars on hand. The question is, where shall we vote it
to. Let the discussion be free.'

"Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss spoke first, with a kind of a bright
manner of having thought it all out over her dish pan and her bread pan.
There is this about belonging to Sodality: We just live Sodality every
day, around our work. We don't forget it except to meetings, same as
some.

"'Well, I just tell you what,' Mame says, 'I think now is our time to
get a big monument for the middle of Cemetery that'll do some credit to
the Dead. All our little local headstones is quite tasty and shows our
interest in them that's gone before; but not one of them is real
up-to-date. Let's buy a nice monument that'll show from the railroad
track.'

"I spoke up short off from the back parlour, where I set 'scallopin' a
bedspread about as big as the carpet.

"'Who to?' I says.

"'Oh, I donno's it makes much differ'nce,' Mis' Holcomb says, warming to
her theme, 'so's it was some leadin' citizen. We might take a town vote
on it.'

"Mis' Sturgis set up straight, eyebrows up. I donno how it is, but Mis'
Sturgis's pompadour always seems so much higher as soon as she gets
interested.

"'Why, my gracious,' she says, 'we might earn quite a lot o' money that
way. We might have a regular votin' contest on who that's dead should
get the monument--so much a vote an' the names of the successful ones
run every night in the _Daily_--'

"'Well-a, why do it for anybody dead?' says Libby Liberty. 'Why not get
the monument here and have it on view an' then have folks kind of bid on
it for their own, real votin' style. In the cities now everybody picks
out their own monuments ahead of time. That would be doing for the
Living, the way Mr. Insley said.'

"'Oh, there'd be hard feelin' that way,' spoke up Mis' Uppers, decided.
'Whoever got it, an' got buried under it, never could feel it was his
own stone. Everybody that had bought votes for themselves could come out
walking in the Cemetery Sunday afternoons and could point out the
monument and tell how much of a money interest they had in it. Oh, no, I
don't think that'd do at all.'

"'Well, stick to havin' it for the Dead, then,' Libby gives in. 'We've
got to remember our constitution.'

"Mis' Amanda Toplady was always going down after something in the bottom
of her pocket, set low in her full black skirt. She done this now, for a
spool or a lozenger. And she says, meantime: 'Seems like that'd be awful
irreverent, connectin' up the Dead with votes that way.'

"'_My_ notion,' says Mis' Sykes, with her way of throwin' up one corner
of her head, 'it ain't one-tenth part as irreverent as forgettin' all
about 'em.'

"'Of course it ain't,' agreed Mis' Hubbelthwait. 'Real, true irreverence
is made up of buryin' folks and leavin' 'em go their way. Why, I bet
you there ain't any one of 'em that wouldn't be cheered up by bein'
voted for.'

"I couldn't help piping up again from the back parlour. 'What about them
that don't get no votes?' I asks. 'What about them that is beat in death
like they may of been in life? What's there to cheer them up? If I was
them,' says I, 'I'd ha'nt the whole Sodality.'

"'No need to be so sacrilegious in speakin' of the Dead as I know of,
Calliope,' says Mis' Sykes that was in the chair and could rebuke at
will.

"That made me kind o' mad, and I answered back, chair or no chair: 'A
thing is sacrilegious,' says I, 'according to which side of the fence
you're on. But the fence it don't change none.'

"Mis' Toplady looked over her glasses and out the window and like she
see far away.

"'Land, land,' she says, 'I'd like to take that Sixty Dollars and hire
some place to invite the young folks into evenings, that don't have no
place to go on earth for fun. Friendship Village,' says she, 'is about
as lively as Cemetery is for the young folks.'

"'Well, but, Mis' Toplady,' says Mis' Sykes, reprovin', 'the young folks
is alive and able to see to themselves. They don't come in Sodality's
scope. Everything we do has got to be connect' with Cemetery.'

"'I can't help it,' Mis' Toplady answers, 'if it is. I'd like to invite
'em in for some good safe evenin's somewheres instead of leaving 'em
trapse the streets. And if I had to have Cemetery in it somehow, I donno
but I'd make it a lawn party and give it in Cemetery and have done with
it.'

"We all laughed, but I knew that underneath, Mis' Toplady was kind of
half-and-half in earnest.

"'The young folks,' says Mis' Sykes, mysterious, 'is going to be took
care of by the proper means, very, very soon.'

"'I donno,' says Mis' Holcomb, obstinate. 'I think the monument is a
real nice idea. Grandfather Holcomb, now, him that helped draft the
town, or whatever it is they do, I bet he'd be real pleased to be voted
for.'

"But Mis' Fire Chief Merriman, seems she couldn't forget the little way
Mame had spoke to her before, and she leaned forward and cut her way
into the talking.

"'Why, Mis' Holcomb,' she says, 'of course your Grandfather Holcomb can
be voted on if he wants to and if he thinks he could get it. But dead
though he is, what he done can't hold a candle to what Grandfather
Merriman done. That man just about run this town for years on end.'

"'I heard he did,' said Mame, short. 'Those was the days before things
was called by their true names in politics and in graft and like that.'

"'I'm sure,' says Mis' Merriman, her voice slipping, 'Grandfather
Merriman was an angel in heaven to his family. And he started the very
Cemetery by bein' buried in it first himself, and he took a front lot--'

"'Ladies, ladies,' says Mis' Sykes, stern, 'we ain't votin' _yet_. Has
anybody got anything else to offer? Let the discussion be free.'

"'What do we get a monument for, anyway?' says Mis' Toplady, hemming
peaceful. 'Why don't we stick the money onto the new iron fence for
Cemetery, same as we've been trying to do for years?'

"'That's what I was thinking,' says Abagail Arnold, smiling. 'Whenever I
make one of my layer cakes for Sodality Annual, and frost it white and
make mounds of frosted nuts on top, I always wish Cemetery had a fence
around so's I could make a frosting one on the edge of the cake,
appropriate.'

"'Why, but my land, Abagail,' says Mis' Holcomb, 'can't you see the
differ'nce between workin' for a dead iron fence and working for the
real, right down Dead that once was the living? Where's your humanity,
I'd like to know, and your loyalty to Friendship Village inhabitants
that was, that you set the old iron fence over against 'em. What's a
fence beside folks?'

"All this time Mis' Emmons, there in the front parlour, had just sat
still, stitching away on some little garment or other, but now she
looked up quick, as if she was going to speak. She even begun to speak
with a 'Madame President' that covered up several excited beginnings.
But as she done so, I looked through the folding doors and see her catch
sight of somebody out in the street. And I looked out the bay-window in
the back parlour and I see who it was: it was a man, carefully guiding a
little bit of a man who was walking on the flat board top of the Sykes's
fence. So, instead of speaking formal, all Mis' Emmons done was to make
a little motion towards the window, so that her contribution to the
debating was nothing but--

"'Madame President--look.'

"We all looked, them in the out-of-range corners of the room getting up
and holding their work in their aprons, and peering past; and us in the
back parlour tried for glimpses out the side bay-window, past Mis'
Sykes's big sword fern. And so the most of us see Insley walking with
Christopher, who was footing it very delicate and grave, picking out his
places to step as if a real lot depended on it.

"'That's Chris,' says Mis' Emmons, simple, 'that's come to us.' And
you'd of said she hardly spoke the 'us' real conscious of herself. She
looked round at us all. 'Let's have him in for a minute,' she says.

"'The little soul! Let's so do,' Mis' Amanda Toplady says, hearty.

"It was Mis' Emmons that went to the door and called them, and I guess
Insley, when he see her, must of wondered what made her face seem like
that. He went on up town, and the little chap come trotting up the walk.

"When Chris come in Mis' Sykes's front parlour among all the women,
there run round that little murmuring sound that a crowd of women uses
to greet the coming in their midst of any child. And I s'pose it was a
little more so than ever for Chris, that they hadn't all seen
yet--'count of so few being out the night he come and 'count of his
having been up to Proudfit House 'most ever since. Us in the back
parlour went crowding in the front, and some come down to the hall door
to be the nearer. Mis' Amanda Toplady, hunting in her deep pocket, this
time for a lozenger, says fervent above the rest:--

"'The little soul.'

"And he did resemble one, standing there so shy and manly in his new
little brown clothes.

"Mis' Emmons's eyes was bright, and I thought I see a kind of challenge
in her way of drawing the child towards her.

"'Chris,' she says, 'tell them what you had in your paper bag when you
came to the church the other night.'

"Chris remembered: Sugar rolls and cream-puffs and fruit-cake, he
recites it grand. 'My supper,' he adds, no less grand. 'But that was
'cause I didn't have my dinner nor my breakfast,' he explains, so's we
wouldn't think he'd had too much at once.

"'What was the matter with your foot?' Mis' Emmons goes on.

"Christopher had a little smile that just about won you--a sort of
abashed little smile, that begun over by one side of his mouth, and when
he was going to smile that way he always started in by turning away his
head. He done this now; but we could all hear what he said. It was:--

"'My biggest toe went right through a hole, an' it choked me awful.'

"About a child's foot hurting, or a little sore heel, there is something
that makes mothers out of everybody, for a minute or two. The women all
twittered into a little ripple of understanding. Probably to every woman
there come the picture of the little cold, wet foot and the choked toe.
I know I could see it, and I can see it yet.

"'Lambin',' says Mis' Toplady, in more than two syllables, 'come here
for a peppermint.'

"Chris went right over to her. 'I been thirsty for a drink of water
since all day,' he says confidential. 'Have you got one?'

"Mis' Toplady went with the child, and then Mis' Emmons took something
from her bag and held it up. It was Christopher's father's letter that
he'd brought with him that night.

"She read the letter out loud, in everybody's perfectly breathless
silence that was broken only by Christopher laughing out in the kitchen.
'My friends,' Mis' Emmons says when she'd got through, 'doesn't it seem
to you as if our work had come to us? And that if it isn't Chris
himself, at least it ought to be people, live people--and not an iron
fence or even a monument that will show from the railroad track?'

"And with that, standing in the doorway with my arms full of bedspread,
I piped right up, just like I'd been longing to pipe up ever since that
night at Mis' Emmons's when I'd talked with Insley:--

"'Yes, sir,' I says emphatic, 'it does. Without meaning to be
sacrilegious in the least,' I says toward Mis' Sykes, 'I believe that
the Dead is a lot better prepared to take care of themselves than a good
many of the Living is.'

"There was a kind of a little pause at this, all but Mis' Sykes. Mis'
Sykes don't pause easy. She spoke right back, sort of elevating one
temple:--

"'The object of this meeting as the chair understands it,' says she, 'is
to discuss money spending, _not_ idees.'

"But I didn't pay no more attention than as if I'd been a speaker in
public life. And Mis' Toplady and Christopher, coming back to the room
just then, I spoke to him and took a-hold of his little shoulder.

"'Chris,' I says, 'tell 'em what you're going to be when you grow up.'

"The little boy stood up with his back against the door-casing, and he
spoke back between peppermints:--

"'I'm going to drive the loads of hay,' he declares himself.

"'A little bit ago,' I says to 'em, 'he was going to be a cream-puff
man, and keep a church and manufacture black velvet for people's
coffins. Think of all them futures--not to spend time on other
possibilities. Don't it seem like we'd ought to keep him around here
somewheres and help him decide? Don't it seem like what he's going to be
is resting with us?'

"But now Mis' Sykes spoke out in her most presidential tone.

"'It would be perfectly impossible,' she says, 'for Sodality to spend
its money on the child or on anybody else that's living. Our
constitution says we shall work for Cemetery.'

"'Well,' says I, rebellish, 'then let's rip up our old constitution and
buy ourselves a new pattern.'

"Mis' Sykes was getting to verge on mad.

"'But Sodality ain't an orphan asylum, Calliope,' says she, 'nor none of
us is that.'

"'Ain't we--ain't we, Mis' Sykes?' I says. 'Sometimes I donno what we're
for if we ain't that.'

"And then I just clear forgot myself, in one of them times that don't
let you get to sleep that night for thinking about, and that when you
wake up is right there by the bed waiting for you, and that makes you
feel sore when you think of afterwards--sore, but glad, too.

"'That's it,' I says, 'that's it. I've been thinking about that a good
deal lately. I s'pose it's because I ain't any children of my own to be
so busy for that I can't think about their real good. Seems to me there
ain't a child living no matter how saucy or soiled or similar, but could
look us each one in the face and say, "What you doing for me and the
rest of us?" And what could we say to them? We could say: "I'm buying
some of you ginghams that won't shrink nor fade. Some of you I'm cooking
food for, and some of you I'm letting go without it. And some of you I'm
buying school books and playthings and some of you I'm leaving without
'em. I'm making up some of your beds and teaching you your manners and
I'm loving you--some of you. And the rest of you I'm leaving walk in
town after dark with a hole in your stocking." _Where's the
line--where's the line?_ How do we know which is the ones to do for? I
tell you I'm the orphan asylum to the whole lot of 'em. And so are you.
And I move the Cemetery Improvement Sodality do something for this
little boy. We'd adopt him if he was dead--an' keep his grave as nice
and neat as wax. Let's us adopt him instead of his grave!'

"My bedspread had slipped down onto the floor, but I never knew when nor
did I see it go. All I see was that some of them agreed with me--Mis'
Emmons and Mis' Toplady and Mis' Hubbelthwait and Libby and even Mame
that had proposed the monument. But some of the others was waiting as
usual to see how Mis' Sykes was going to believe, and Mis' Sykes she was
just standing there by the piano, her cheeks getting pinker and pinker
up high on her face.

"'Calliope,' she said, making a gesture. 'Ladies! this is every bit of
it out of order. This ain't the subject that we come together to
discuss.'

"'It kind of seems to me,' says I, 'that it's a subject we was born to
discuss.'

"Mis' Toplady sort of rolled over in her chair and looked across her
glasses to Mis' Sykes.

"'Madame President,' says she, 'as I understand it this fits in all
right. What we're proposing is to spend Sodality's money on this little
boy just the same as though he was dead. I move we do so.'

"Two-three of 'em seconded it, but scairt and scattering.

"'Mis' Toplady,' says Mis' Sykes. 'Ladies! This is a good deal too
headlong. A committee'd ought--'

"'Question--question,' demands Mis' Emmons, serene, and she met my eye
and smiled some, in that little _we_-understand look that can pierce
through a roomful of people like the wind.

"'Mis' Emmons,' says Mis' Sykes, wildish. 'Ladies! Sodality has been
organized over twenty years, doing the same thing. You can't change so
offhand--' You can't help admiring Mis' Sykes, for she simply don't know
when she's beat. But this time she had a point with her, too. 'If we
want to vote to amend the constitution,' she said, 'you've got to lay
down your wishes on the table for one week.'

"'I daresay you have,' says Mis' Emmons, looking grave. 'Well, I move
that we amend the constitution of this society, and I move that we do it
next week at the open annual meeting of the Sodality.'

"'Second the motion,' says I, with my feet on my white bedspread.

"And somehow the phrase caught Christopher's ear, like a tune might to
march by.

"'Second a motion--second a motion!' he chants to himself, standing by
Mis' Toplady's knee.



VIII


"I had promised Insley to run in the Cadozas' after the meeting, and see
the little boy; and Mis' Emmons having to go home before she started
back to the Proudfits', Christopher walked along with me. When we got
out to the end of Daphne Street, Insley overtook us on his way out to
the Cadozas', too.

"His shoes were some muddy, and I guessed that he had been where of late
he'd spent as much time as he could spare, both when he was in the
village and when he was over to Indian Mound. Without digging down into
his eyes, the same as some do to folks that's in trouble, I had sensed
that there had come down on him everybody's hour of cutting something
out of life, which is as elemental a thing to do as dying is, and I
donno but it's the same kind as dying is besides. And he had been taking
his hour in the elemental way, wanting to be alone and to kind of get
near to the earth. I mean tramping the hills, ploughing along the narrow
paths close to the barb' wire fences, plunging into the little groves.
The little groves have such an' I-know look of understanding all about
any difficulty till you walk inside of them, when all to once they stop
seeming to know about your special trouble and begin another kind of
slow soothing, same as summing things up will soothe you, now and then.

"Chris chattered to him, lovable.

"'I had some peppermenges,' he says, 'and I like hot ice-cream, too.
Don't you? Can you make that?' he inquires, slipping his hand in
Insley's.

"Of course this made a pang--when you're hurt, 'most everything makes a
pang. And this must of brought back that one evening with Robin that he
would have to remember, and all the little stupid jokes they'd had that
night must of rose up and hit at him, with the awful power of the little
things that don't matter one bit and yet that matter everything.

"'What can _you_ make, Chris?' Insley says to him. 'Can you make candy?
And pull it--like this?'

"'Once a lady stirred me some an' cut it up in squares,' Chris
explained, 'but I never did make any. My mama couldn't make candy, I
guess, but she could make all other things--pancakes an' mittens an'
nice stove fires my mama could make. The bag we got the salt in--she
made me two handkerchiefs out of that bag,' he ended proudly.

"'Did she--did she?' Insley tempted him on.

"'Yes,' Chris went on, hopping beside him, 'but now I've got to hurry
an' be a man, 'cause litty boys ain't very good things. Can you make
po'try?' he wound up.

"'Why, Chris--can you?' Insley asked.

"'Well, when I was comin' along with my daddy that night I made one,'
the child says. And when Insley questions him a little he got this much
more out of him. 'It started, "Look at the trees so green an' fair,"' he
says, 'but I forget the rest.'

"'Do you want to be a poet when you grow up?' Insley ask' him.

"'Yes, I do,' the child says ready. 'I think I'll be that first an' then
I'll be the President, too. But what I'd rather be is the sprinkler-cart
man, wouldn't you?'

"'Conceivably,' Insley says, and by the look on his face I bet his hand
tightened up on the child's hand.

"'At Sodality,' I says, 'he just told them he was going to drive loads
of hay. He's made several selections.'

"He looked at me over the child's head, and I guess we was both
thinking the same thing: Trust nature to work this out alone?
'Conceivably,' again. But all of a sudden I know we both burned to help
to do it. And as Insley talked to the child, I think some touch of his
enterprise come back and breathed on him. In them few last days I
shouldn't wonder if his work hadn't stopped soaring to the meaning of
spirit and sunk down again to be just body drudgery. He couldn't ever
help having his old possessing love of men, and his man's strong
resolution to keep a-going, but I shouldn't wonder if the wings of the
thing he meant to do had got folded up. And Christopher, here, was sort
of releasing them out again.

"'How's the little Cadoza boy?' I ask' him pretty soon.

"'He's getting on,' he says. 'Dr. Barrows was down yesterday--he wants
him for a fortnight or so at the hospital in town, where he can have
good care and food. His mother doesn't want him to go. I hoped you'd
talk with her.'

"Before we got to the Cadoza house Insley looked over to me, enigmatish.
'Want to see something?' he says, and he handed me a letter. I read it,
and some of it I knew what it meant and some of it I didn't. It was
from Alex Proudfit, asking him up to Proudfit House to the house party.

" ... Ain't it astonishing how awful festive the word 'house party'
sounds. 'Party' sounds festive, though not much more so than 'company'
or 'gathering' that we use more common. 'Ball,' of course, is real
glittering, and paints the inside of your head into pictures,
instantaneous. But a house party--maybe it's because I never was to one;
maybe it's because I never heard of one till late in life; maybe it's
because nobody ever had one before in Friendship Village--but that word
give me all the sensation that 'her golden coach' and 'his silver
armour' and 'good fairy' used to have for me when I was a little girl.
'House party!' Anything shiny might happen to one of them. It's like
you'd took something vanishin', like a party, and just seized onto it
and made it stay longer than Time and the World ever intended. It's like
making a business of the short-lived.

"Well, some of Alex's letter went about like this:--

"'Join us for the whole time, do,' it says, and it went on about there
being rather an interesting group,--'a jolly individualist,' I recollect
he says, 'for your special benefit. He'll convert you where I couldn't,
because he's kept his love for men and I haven't. And of course I've
some women--pretty, bless them, and thank the Lord not one of them
troubling whether she loves mankind or not, so long as men love her. And
there you have Nature uncovered at her task! I shall expect you for
every moment that you can spare....' I remember the wording because it
struck me it was all so like Alex that I could pretty near talk to it
and have it answer back.

"'Tell me,' Insley says, when I handed the letter back to him, 'you
know--him. Alex Proudfit. Does he put all that on? Is it his mask? Does
he feel differently and do differently when folks don't know?'

"'Well,' I says, slow, 'I donno. He gives the Cadozas their rent, but
when Mis' Cadoza went to thank him, once, he sent down word for her to
go and see his agent.'

"He nodded, and I'd never heard him speak bitter before. 'That's it,' he
says, 'that's it. That's the way we bungle things....'

"We'd got almost to the Cadozas' when we heard an automobile coming
behind us, and as we stood aside to let it go by, Robin's face flashed
past us at the window. Mis' Emmons was with her, that Robin had come
down after. Right off the car stopped and Robin jumped out and come
hurrying back towards us. I'll never forget the minute. We met right in
front of the old tumble-down Cadoza house with the lilacs so high in the
front yard that the place looked pretty near nice, like the rest of the
world. It was a splendid afternoon, one that had got it's gold persuaded
to burst through a gray morning, like colour from a bunch of silver
buds; and now the air was all full of lovely things, light and little
wind and late sun and I donno but things we didn't know about. And
everyone of them seemed in Robin's face as she came towards us, and
more, too, that we couldn't name or place.

"I think the mere exquisite girlishness of her come home to Insley as
even her strength and her womanliness, that night he talked with her,
had not moved him. I donno but in the big field of his man's dream, he
had pretty near forgot how obvious her charm was. I'm pretty sure that
in those days when he was tramping the hills alone, the thing that he
was fighting with was that he was going to lose her companioning in the
life they both dreamed. But now her hurrying so and her little faint
agitation made her appeal a new thing, fifty times as lovely, fifty
times as feminine, and sort of filling in the picture of herself with
all the different kinds of women she was in one.

"So now, as he stood there with her, looking down in her face, touching
her friendly hand, I think that was the first real, overhauling minute
when he was just swept by the understanding that his loss was so many
times what he'd thought it was going to be. For it was her that he
wanted, it was her that he would miss for herself and not for any dear
plans of work-fellowship alone. She understood his dream, but there was
other things she understood about, too. A man can love a woman for a
whole collection of little dear things--and he can lose her and grieve;
he can love her for her big way of looking at things, and he can lose
her and grieve; he can love her because she is his work-fellow, and he
can lose her and grieve. But if, on top of one of these, he loves her
because she is she, the woman that knows about life and is capable of
sharing all of life with him and of being tender about it, why then if
he loses her, his grieving is going to be something that there ain't
rightly no name for. And I think it was that minute there in the road
that it first come to Insley that Robin was Robin, that of all the many
women that she was, first and most she was the woman that was capable
of sharing with him all sides of living.

"'I wanted ...' she says to him, uncertain. 'Oh, I wish very much that
you would accept the invitation to some of the house party. I wanted to
tell you.'

"'I can't do that,' he answers, short and almost gruff. 'Really I can't
do that.'

"But it seemed there was even a sort of nice childishness about her that
you wouldn't have guessed. I always think it's a wonderful moment when a
woman knows a man well enough to show some of her childishness to him.
But a woman that shows right off, close on the heels of an introduction,
how childish she can be, it always sort o' makes me mad--like she'd told
her first name without being asked about it.

"'Please,' Robin says, 'I'm asking it because I wish it very much. I
want those people up there to know you. I want--'

"He shook his head, looking at her, eyes, mouth, and fresh cheeks, like
he wished he was able to look at her face _all at once_.

"'At least, at least,' she says to him rapid, then, 'you must come to
the party at the end. You know I want to keep you for my friend--I want
to make you our friend. That night Aunt Eleanor is going to announce my
engagement, and I want my friends to be there.'

"That surprised me as much as it did him. Nobody in the village knew
about the engagement yet except us two that knew it from that night at
Mis' Emmons's. I wondered what on earth Insley was going to say and I
remember how I hoped, pretty near fierce, that he wasn't going to smile
and bow and wish her happiness and do the thing the world would have
wanted of him. It may make things run smoother to do that way, but
smoothness isn't the only thing the love of folks for folks knows about.
I do like a man that now and then speaks out with the breath in his
lungs and not just with the breath of his nostrils. And that's what
Insley done--that's what he done, only I'm bound to say that I do think
he spoke out before he knew he was going to.

"'That would be precisely why I couldn't come,' he said. 'Thank you, you
know--but please don't ask me.'

"As for Robin, at this her eyes widened, and beautiful colour swept her
face. And she didn't at once turn away from him, but I see how she stood
looking at him with a kind of a sharp intentness, less of wonder than of
stopping short.

"Christopher had run to the automobile and now he come a-hopping back.

"'Robin!' he called. 'Aunt Eleanor says you haf to be in a dress by
dinner, and it's _now_.'

"'Do come for dinner, Mr. Insley,' Mis' Emmons calls, as Robin and
Christopher went to join him. 'We've got up a tableau or two for
afterward. Come and help me be a tableau.'

"He smiled and shook his head and answered her. And that reminded me
that I'd got to hurry like wild, as usual. It was most six o'clock
then,--it always _is_ either most six o'clock or most noon when I get
nearest to being interested,--and that night great things was going to
be going on. Mis' Sykes and Mis' Toplady and the School Board and I was
going to have a tableau of our own.

"But for all that I couldn't help standing still a minute and looking
after the automobile. It seemed as bad as some kind of a planet,
carrying Robin off for forever and ever. And I wasn't so clear that I
fancied its orbit.

"'I've got a whole string of minds not to go to that party myself,' I
says, meditative.

"But Insley never answered. He just come on around the Cadozas' house.



IX


"I never speak much about my relations, because I haven't got many. If I
did have, I suppose I should be telling about how peculiar they take
their tea and coffee, and what they died of, and showing samples of
their clothes and acting like my own immediate family made up life, just
like most folks does. But I haven't got much of any relatives, nor no
ancestors to brag about. 'Nothing for kin but the world,' I always say.

"But back in the middle of June I had got a letter from a cousin, like a
bow from the blue. And the morning I got it, and with it yet unopened in
my hand, Silas Sykes come out from behind the post-office window and
tapped me on the arm.

"'Calliope,' he says, 'we've about made up our minds--the School Board
an' some o' the leadin' citizens has--to appoint a Women's Evenin'
Vigilance Committee, secret. An' we want you an' Mis' Toplady an' Mis'
Sykes should be it.'

"'Vigilance,' I says, thoughtful. 'I recollect missin' on the meanin'
of that word in school. I recollect I called it "viligance" an' said it
meant a 'bus. I donno if I rightly know what it means now, Silas.'

"Silas cleared his throat an' whispered hoarse, in a way he's got:
'Women don't have no call, much for the word,' he says. 'It means when
you sic your notice onto some one thing. We want a committee of you
women should do it.'

"'Notice _what_?' I says, some mystified. 'What the men had ought to be
up to an' ain't?'

"But customers come streaming into the post-office store then, and some
folks for their mail, and Silas set a time a couple o' days later in the
afternoon for Mis' Toplady and Mis' Sykes and me to come down to the
store and talk it over.

"'An' you be here,' says Silas, beatin' it off with his finger. 'It's
somethin' we got to do to protect our own public decency.'

"'_Public_ decency,' I says over, thoughtful, and went out fingerin' my
letter that was in a strange handwriting and that I was dying to read.

"It was a couple of days later that I what-you-might-say finished that
letter, and between times I had it on the clock-shelf and give every
spare minute to making it out. Minerva Beach the letter was from--my
cousin Minnie Beach's girl. Minnie had died awhile before, and Minerva,
her daughter, was on her way West to look for a position, and should she
spend a few days with me? That was what I made out, though I donno how I
done it, for her writing was so big and so up-and-down that every letter
looked like it had on corsets and high heels. I never see such a mess!
It was like picking out a crochet pattern to try to read it.

"I recollect that I was just finishing composing my letter telling her
to come along, and hurrying so's to take it to mail as I went down to
the Vigilance Committee meeting, when the new photographer in town come
to my door, with his horse and buggy tied to the gate. J. Horace Myers
was his name, and he said he was a friend of the Topladys, and he was
staying with them while he made choice art photographs of the whole
section; and he wanted to take a picture of my house. He was a dapper
little man, but awful tired-seeming, so I told him to take the picture
and welcome, and I put the stone dog on the front porch and looped the
parlour curtains over again and started off for the meeting.

"'I'll be up to show you the proofs in a few days,' he says as I was
leaving. He was fixing the black cloth over his head, kind of listless
and patient.

"'Land!' I says, before I knew it, 'don't you get awful sick of takin'
pictures of humbly houses you don't care nothin' about?'

"He peeked out from under the black cloth sort of grateful. 'I do,' he
says, simple,--'sick enough to bust the camera.'

"'Well, I should think you would,' I says hearty; and I went down Daphne
Street with the afternoon kind of feeling tarnished. I was wondering how
on earth folks go on at all that dislikes their work like that. There
was Abe Luck, just fixing the Sykes's eaves-trough--what was there to
_like_ about fixing eaves-troughs and about the whole hardware business?
Jimmy Sturgis coming driving the 'bus, Eppleby Holcomb over there
registering deeds, Mis' Sykes's girl Em'ly washing windows,--what was
there about any of it to _like_ doing? I looked at Mis' Sykes's Em'ly
real pitying, polishing panes outside, when Abe Luck come climbing down
the ladder from the roof; and all of a sudden I see Abe stick his head
through the rungs, and quick as a flash kiss Mis' Sykes's Em'ly.

"'My land!' I started to think, 'Mis' Sykes had ought to discharge--'
and then I just stopped short off, sudden. Her hating windows, and him
hating eaves-troughs, and what else did either of them have? Nothing. I
could sense their lives like I could sense my own--level and even and
_darn_. And all at once I had all I could do to keep from being glad
that Abe Luck had kissed Em'ly. And I walked like lightning to keep back
the feeling.

"Mis' Sykes and Mis' Toplady was to the post-office store before me. It
was a slack time of day, and Silas set down on a mail-bag and begun
outlining the situation that he meant about.

"'The School Board,' says Silas, important, 'has got some women's work
they want done. It's a thing,' s'he, 'that women can do the best--I mean
it's the girls an' boys, hangin' round evenin's--you know we've all
talked about it. But somebody's got to get after 'em in earnest, an' see
they don't disgrace us with their carryin' on in the streets, evenin's.'

"'Why don't the men do it?' I ask' him, wonderin', 'or is it 'count of
offending some?'

"'No such thing!' says Silas, touchy. 'Where's your delicate feelin's,
Calliope? Women can do these things better than men. This is somethin'
delicate, that had ought to be seen to quiet. It ain't a matter for the
authorities. It's women's work,' says he. 'It's women that's the
mothers--it ain't the men,' says Silas, convincing.

"But still I looked at him, real meditative. 'What started you men off
on that tack at this time?' I ask' him, blunt--because young folks had
been flooding the streets evenings since I could remember, and no
Friendship Village man had ever acted like this about it.

"'Well,' says Silas, 'don't you women tell it out around. But the thing
that's got us desperate is the schoolhouse. The entry to it--they've
used it shameful. Peanut shucks, down-trod popcorn, paper bags, fruit
peelin's--every mornin' the stone to the top o' the steps, under the
archway, is full of 'em. An' last week the Board went up there early
mornin' to do a little tinkerin', an' there set three beer bottles, all
empty. So we've figgered on puttin' some iron gates up to the
schoolhouse entry an' appointin' you women a Vigilance Committee to help
us out.'

"We felt real indignant about the schoolhouse. It stands up a little
slope, and you can see it from 'most anywheres daytimes, and we all felt
kind of an interest--though of course the School Board seemed to own it
special.

"Mis' Toplady looked warm and worried. 'But what is it you want we
should do, Silas?' she ask', some irritable. 'I've got my hands so full
o' my own family it don't seem as if I could vigilance for nobody.'

"'S-h-h, Mis' Toplady. _I_ think it's a great trust,' says Mis' Silas
Sykes.

"'It is a great trust,' says Silas, warm, 'to get these young folks to
stop gallivantin' an' set home where they belong.'

"'How you going to get them to set home, Silas?' I ask', some puzzled.

"'Well,' says Silas, 'that's where they ought to be, ain't it?'

"'Why,' I says thoughtful, 'I donno's they had.'

"'_What?_' says Silas, with horns on the word. 'What say, Calliope?'

"'How much settin' home evenings did you do when you was young, Silas?'
I says.

"'I'd 'a' been a long sight better off if I'd 'a' done more of it,' says
Silas.

"'However that is, you _didn't_ set home,' I says back at him. 'Neither
will young folks set there now, I don't believe.'

"'Well,' says Silas, '_anyhow_, they've got to get off'n the streets.
We've made up our minds to that. They can't set on steps nor in
stairways down town, nor in entries, nor to the schoolhouse. We've got
to look out for public decency.'

"'_Public_ decency,' says I, again. 'They can do what they like, so's
public decency ain't injured, I s'pose, Silas?'

"'No such thing!' shouts Silas. 'Calliope, take shame! Ain't we doin'
our best to start 'em right?'

"'That's what I donno,' I answers him, troubled. 'Driving folks around
don't never seem to me to be a real good start towards nowheres.'

"Mis' Amanda Toplady hitched forward in her chair and spoke for the
first time--ponderous and decided, but real sweet, too. 'What I think is
this,' she says. 'They won't set home, as Calliope says. And when we've
vigilanced 'em off the streets, where are we goin' to vigilance 'em
_to_?'

"'That ain't our lookout,' says Silas.

"'Ain't it?' says Mis' Toplady. '_Ain't it?_' She set thinking for a
minute and then her face smoothed. 'Anyhow,' she says, comfortable, 'us
ladies'll vigilance awhile. It ain't clear in my mind yet what to do.
But we'll do it, I guess.'

"We made up that we three should come down town one night that week and
look around and see what we see. We all knew--every woman in Friendship
Village knew--how evenings, the streets was full of young folks, loud
talking and loud laughing and carrying on. We'd all said to each other,
helpless, that we _wisht_ something could be done, but that was as far
as anybody'd got. So we made it up that we three should be down town in
a night or two, so's to get our ideas started, and Silas was to have
Timothy Toplady and Eppleby Holcomb, that's on the School Board, down to
the store so we could all talk it over together afterwards. But still I
guess we all felt sort of vague as to what we was to drive _at_.

"'It seems like Silas wanted us to unwind a ball o' string from the
middle out,' says Mis' Toplady, uneasy, when we'd left the store.

"A few days after that Minerva come. I went down to the depot to meet
her, and I would of reco'nized her anywheres, she looked so much like
her handwriting. She was dressed sort of tawdry swell. She had on a good
deal. But out from under her big hat with its cheap plume that was goin'
to shed itself all over the house, I see her face was little and young
and some pretty and excited. Excited about life and new things and
moving around. I liked her right off. 'Land!' thinks I, 'you'll try me
to death. But, you poor, nice little thing, you can if you want to.'

"I took her home to supper. She talked along natural enough, and seemed
to like everything she et, and then she wiped the dishes for me, and
looked at herself in the clock looking-glass all the while she was doing
it. Then, when I'd put out the milk bottles, we locked up the back part
of the house and went and set in the parlour.

"I'd always thought pretty well of my parlour. It hasn't anything but a
plush four-piece set and an ingrain and Nottinghams, but it's the
_parlour_, and I'd liked it. But when we'd been setting there a little
while, and I'd asked her about everybody, and showed her their pictures
in the album, all of a sudden it seemed as if they wasn't anything to
_do_ in the parlour. Setting there and talking was nice, but I missed
something. And I thought of this first when Minerva got up and walked
kind of aimless to the window.

"'How big is Friendship Village?' she ask'.

"I told her, real proud.

"'They can't be a great deal goin' on here, is they?' she says.

"'Land, yes!' I says. 'We're so busy we're nearly dead. Ladies' Aid,
Ladies' Missionary, Cemetery Improvement Sodality, the rummage sale
coming on, the bazaar, and I donno what all.'

"'Oh,' she says, vague. 'Well--is they many young people?'

"And when I'd told her, 'Quite a few,' she didn't say anything more--but
just stood looking down the street. And pretty soon I says, 'Land! the
parlour's kind o' stuffy to-night. Let's go out in the yard.' And when
we'd walked around out there a minute, smelling in my pinks, I thought,
'Land! it's kind o' dreary doin' this,' an' I says to her all of a
sudden, 'Let's go in the house and make some candy.'

"'Oh, _let's_,' she says, like a little girl.

"We went back in and lit the kitchen fire, and made butter-scotch--she
done it, being real handy at it. She livened up and flew around and
joked some, and the kitchen looked nice and messy and _used_, and we had
a real good time. And right in the midst of it there come a rap at the
side door and there stood the dapper, tired-looking little photograph
man, J. Horace Myers, seeming as discouraged as he could.

"We spread out the proofs of the pictures of my house and spent some
time deciding. And while we was deciding, he showed us some more
pictures that he'd made of the town, and talked a little about them. He
was a real pleasant, soft-spoken man, and he knew how to laugh and when
to do it. He see the funny in things--he see that the post-office looked
like a rabbit with its ears up; he see that the engine-house looked like
it was lifting its eyebrows; and he see the pretty in things, too--he
showed us a view or two he'd took around Friendship Village just for the
fun of it. One was Daphne Street, by the turn, and he says: 'It looks
like a deep tunnel, don't it? An' like you wanted to go down it?' He was
a wonderful nice, neutral little man, and I enjoyed looking at his
pictures.

"But Minerva--I couldn't help watching her. She wasn't so interested in
the pictures, and she wasn't so quick at seeing the funny in things, nor
the pretty, either; but even the candy making hadn't livened her up the
way that little talking done. She acted real easy and told some little
jokes; and when the candy was cool, she passed him some; and I thought
it was all right to do. And he sort of spruced up and took notice and
quit being so down-in-the-mouth. And I thought, 'Land! ain't it funny
how just being together makes human beings, be they agent or be they
cousin, more themselves than they was before!'

"Her liking company made me all the more sorry to leave Minerva alone
that next evening, that was the night Mis' Sykes and Mis' Toplady and I
was due to a tableau of our own in the post-office store. It was the
night when the Vigilance Committee was to have its first real meeting
with the School Board. But I lit the lamp for Minerva in the parlour,
and give her the day's paper, and she had her sewing, and when Mis'
Toplady and Mis' Sykes come for me, I went off and left her setting by
the table. My parlour had been swept that day, and it was real tidy and
quiet and lamp-lit; and yet when Mis' Toplady and Mis' Sykes and I
stepped out into the night, all smelling of pinks and a new moon
happening, and us going on that mission we wasn't none of us sure what
it was, the dark and the excitement sort of picked me up and I felt like
I never felt in my parlour in my life--all kind of young and free and
springy.

"'Let's us walk right down through town first,' says Mis' Toplady.
'That's where the young folks gets to, seems though.'

"'Well-a, I don't see the necessity of that,' says Mis' Sykes. 'We've
all three done that again and again. We know how it is down there
evenings.'

"'But,' says Mis' Toplady, in her nice, stubborn way, 'let's us, anyway.
I know, when I walk through town nights, I'm 'most always hurrying to
get my yeast before the store shuts, an' I never half look around.
To-night let's _look_.'

"Well, we looked. Along by the library windows in some low stone ledges.
In front of a store or two they was some more. Around the corner was a
place where they was some new tombstones piled up, waiting for their
folks. And half a block down was the canal bridge. And ledges and bridge
and tombstones and streets was alive with girls and boys--little young
things, the girls with their heads tied in bright veils and pretty
ribbons on them, and their laughs just shrilling and thrilling with the
sheer fun of _hanging around_ on a spring night.

"'Land!' says Mis' Sykes, '_what_ is their mothers thinkin' of?'

"But something else was coming home to me.

"'I dunno,' I says, kind of scairt at the way I felt, 'if I had the
invite, this spring night, all pinks and new moons, I donno but I'd go
and hang over a tombstone with 'em!'

"'Calliope!' says Mis' Sykes, sharp. But Mis' Toplady, she kind of
chuckled. And the crowd jostled us--more young folks, talking and
laughing and calling each other by nicknames, and we didn't say no more
till we got up in the next block.

"There's a vacant store there up towards the wagon shop, and a house or
two, and that's where the open stairways was that Silas meant about.
Everything had been shut up at six o'clock, and there, sure as the
world, 'most every set of steps and every stairway had its couple,
sitting and laughing and talking, like the place was differ'nt sofas in
a big drawing-room, or rocks on a seashore, or like that.

"'Mercy!' says Mis' Sykes. 'Such goin'-ons! Such bringin'-ups!'

"Just then I recollect I heard a girl laugh out, pretty and pleased, and
I thought I recognized Mis' Sykes's Em'ly's voice, and I thought I knew
Abe Luck's answering--but I never said a word to Mis' Sykes, because I
betted she wouldn't get a step farther than discharging Em'ly, and I was
after more steps than that. And besides, same minute, I got the scent of
the Bouncing Bet growing by the wagon shop; and right out of thin air,
and acrost more years than I like to talk about, come the quick little
feeling that made me know the fun, the sheer _fun_, that Em'ly thought
she was having and that she had the right to.

"'Oh, well, whoever it is, maybe they're engaged,' says Mis' Toplady,
soothin'.

"'Oh, but the bad taste!' says Mis' Sykes, shuddering. Mis' Sykes is a
good cook and a good enough mother, and a fair-to-middling housekeeper,
but she looks hard on the fringes and the borders of this life, and to
her 'good taste' is both of them.

"They wasn't nobody on the wagon shop steps, for a wonder, and we set
down there for a minute to talk it over. And while Mis' Toplady and Mis'
Sykes was having it out between them, I set there a-thinking. And all of
a sudden the night sort of stretched out and up, and I almost felt us
little humans crawling around on the bottom of it. And one little bunch
of us was Friendship Village, and in Friendship Village some of us was
young. I kind of saw the whole throng of them--the _young_ humans that
would some day be the village. There they was, bottled up in school all
day, or else boxed in a store or a factory or somebody's kitchen, and
when night come, and summer come, and the moon come--land, land! they
_wanted_ something, all of them, and they didn't know what they wanted.

"And what had they got? There was the streets stretching out in every
direction, each house with its parlour--four-piece plush set, mebbe, and
ingrain and Nottinghams, and mebbe not even that, and mebbe the rest of
the family flooding the room, anyway. And what was the parlour, even
with somebody to set and talk to them--what was the parlour, compared to
the _magic_ they was craving and couldn't name? The feeling young and
free and springy, and the wanting somehow to express it? Something to
do, somewheres to go, something to see, somebody to be with and laugh
with--no wonder they swept out into the dark in numbers, no wonder they
took the night as they could find it. They didn't have no hotel piazza
of their own, no boat-rides, no seashore, no fine parties, no
automobiles--no nothing but the big, exciting dark that belongs to us
all together. No wonder they took it for their own.

"Why, Friendship Village was no more than a great big ball-room with
these young folks leaving the main floor and setting in the alcoves, to
unseen music. If the alcoves had been all palms and expense and
dressed-up chaperons on the edges, everything would of seemed right. As
it was, it was all a danger that made my heart ache for them, and for us
all. And yet it come from their same longing for fun, for joy--and
where was they to get it?

"'Oh, ladies!' I says, out of the fulness of the lump in my throat, 'if
only we had some place to invite 'em to!'

"'They wouldn't come if we had,' says Mis' Sykes, final.

"'Not come!' I says. 'With candy making and pictures and music and mebbe
dancin'? Not come!'

"'Dancin'!' says Mis' Toplady, low. 'Oh, Calliope, I donno as I'd go
that far.'

"'We've went farther than that long ago,' I says, reckless. 'We've went
so far that the dangers of dancin' would be safe beside the dangers of
what is.'

"'But we ain't responsible for that,' says Mis' Sykes.

"'Ain't we--_ain't we?_' I says, like Mis' Toplady had. 'Mis' Sykes, how
much does Silas rent the post-office hall for, a night?'

"'Ten dollars, if he makes something; and five dollars at cost,' she
says.

"'That's it,' I says, groaning. 'We never could afford that, even to ask
them in once a week. Oh, we'd ought to have some place open every night
for them, and us ladies take turns doing the refreshments; but they
ain't no place in town that belongs to young folks--'

"And all of a sudden I stopped, like an idee had took me from all four
sides of my head at once.

"'Why, ladies,' I says, 'look at the schoolhouse, doing nothing every
night out of the year and _built_ for the young folks!'

"'Oh, well,' says Mis' Sykes, superior, 'you know the Board'd never
allow 'em to use the schoolhouse _that_ way. The Board wouldn't think of
it!'

"'_Whose_ Board?' says I, stern. 'Ain't they our Board? Yours and mine
and Friendship Village's? Come on--come on and put it to 'em,' I says,
kind o' wild.

"I was climbing down the steps while I spoke. And we all went down, me
talking on, and Mis' Toplady catching fire on the minute, an' Mis' Sykes
holding out like she does unless so be she's thought of an idea herself.
But oh, Mis' Toplady, she's differ'nt.

"'Goodness alive!' she said, 'why ain't some of us thought o' that
before? Ain't it the funniest thing, the way folks can have a way out
right under their noses, an' not sense it?'

"I had never had a new-born notion come into my head so ready-made. I
could hardly talk it fast enough, and Mis' Toplady same way, and we
hurried back to the post-office store, Mis' Sykes not convinced but
keeping still because us two talked it so hard.

"Silas and Timothy and Eppleby Holcomb was setting in the back part of
the post-office store waiting for us, and Mis' Toplady and I hurried
right up to them.

"'You tell, Calliope,' says Mis' Toplady. 'It's your idee.'

"But first we both told, even Mis' Sykes joining in, shocked, about the
doorway carryin' ons and all the rest. 'Land, land!' Mis' Toplady says,
'I never had a little girl. I lost my little girl baby when she was
eleven months. But I ain't never felt so like _shieldin'_ her from
somethin' as I feel to-night.'

"'It's awful, awful!' says Timothy Toplady, decided. 'We've just got to
get some law goin', that's all.'

"Silas agreed, scowling judicial. 'We been talkin' curfew,' he says. 'I
donno but we'll hev to get the curfew on 'em.'

"'Curfew!' says I. 'So you're thinking of curfewin' 'em off the streets.
Will you tell me, Silas Sykes, where you're going to curfew 'em _to_?'

"'Yes,' says Mis' Toplady, 'that's what I meant about vigilancin' 'em
off somewheres. _Where to?_ What say, Silas?'

"'That ain't our concern, woman!' shouts Silas, exasperated by us
harping on the one string. 'Them young folks has all got one or more
parents. Leave 'em use 'em.'

"'Yes, indeed,' says Mis' Sykes, nodding once, with her eyes shut brief.
'An' young people had ought to be encouraged to do evening studyin'.'

"Mis' Toplady jerked her head sideways. 'Evenin' fiddlestick!' she
snaps, direct. 'If you've got a young bone left in your body, Mis'
Sykes,' says she, 'you know you're talkin' nonsense.'

"'Ain't you no idees about how well-bred young ladies should conduct
themselves?' says Mis' Sykes, in her most society way.

"'I donno so much about well-bred young ladies,' says Mis' Toplady,
frank. 'I was thinkin' about just girls. Human girls. An' boys the
same.'

"'Me, too,' I says, fervent.

"'What you goin' to _do_?' says Silas, spreading out his hands stiff and
bowing his knees. 'What's your idee? You've got to have a workin' idee
for this thing, same as the curfew is.'

"'Oh, Silas,' I says then, 'that's what we've got--that's what we've
got. Them poor young things wants a good time--same as you and all of
us did, and same as we do yet. Why not give 'em a place to meet and be
together, normal and nice, and some of us there to make it pleasant for
'em?'

"'Heh!' says Silas. 'You talk like a dook. Where you goin' to _get_ a
place for 'em? Hire the opery-house, air ye?'

"'No, sir,' I says to him. 'Give 'em the place that's theirs. Give 'em
the schoolhouse, open evenings, an' all lit up an' music an' things
doin'.'

"'My Lord heavens!' says Silas, that's an elder in the church and ain't
no more control of his tongue than a hen. 'Air you crazy, Calliope
Marsh? Plump, stark, starin' ravin'--why, woman alive, who's goin' to
donate the light an' the coal? _You?_'

"'I thought mebbe the building and the School Board, too, was _for_ the
good o' the young folks,' I says to him, sharp.

"'So it is,' says Silas, 'it's for their _good_. It ain't for their
foolishness. Can't you see daylight, Calliope?'

"'Is arithmetic good an' morals _not_, Silas Sykes?' I says.

"Then Timothy Toplady let loose: 'A school-buildin', Calliope',
s'he,--'why, it's a dignified place. They must respect it, same as they
would a church. Could you learn youngsters the Constitution of the
United States in a room where they'd just been cookin' up cough drops
an' hearin' dance tunes?'

"'Well,' says I, calm, 'if you can't, I'd leave the Constitution of the
United States _go_. If it's that delicate,' I says back at him, 'gimme
the cough drops.'

"'You're talkin' treason,' says Silas, hoarse.

"Timothy groans. '_Dancin!_' he says. 'Amanda,' he says, 'I hope you
ain't sunk so low as Calliope?'

"Mis' Toplady wavered a little. She's kind of down on dancing herself.
'Well,' she says, 'anyhow, I'd fling some place open and invite 'em in
for _somethin'_.'

"'_I_ ain't for this, Silas,' says Mis' Sykes, righteous. '_I_ believe
the law is the law, and we'd best use it. Nothin' we can do is as good
as enforcin' the dignity of the law.'

"'Oh, _rot_!' says Eppleby Holcomb, abrupt. Eppleby hadn't been saying a
word. But he looked up from the wood-box where he was setting, and he
wrinkled up his eyes at the corners the way he does--it wasn't a real
elegant word he picked, but I loved Eppleby for that 'rot.' 'Asking your
pardon, Mis' Sykes,' he says, 'I ain't got so much confidence in
enforcin' the law as I've got in edgin' round an' edgin' round
accordin' to your cloth--an' your pattern. An' your pattern.'

"'Lord heavens!' says Silas, looking glassy, 'if this was Roosia, you
an' Calliope'd both be hoofin' it hot-foot for Siberia.'

"Well, it was like arguing with two trees. They wasn't no use talking to
either Silas or Timothy. I forget who said what last, but the meeting
broke up, after a little, some strained, and we hadn't decided on
anything. Us ladies had vigilanced one night to about as much purpose as
mosquitoes humming. And I said good night to them and went on up street,
wondering why God lets a beautiful, burning plan come waving its wings
in your head and your heart if he don't intend you to make a way for
yourself to use it.

"Then, by the big evergreens a block or so from my house, I heard
somebody laugh--a little, low, nice, soft, sort of foolish laugh, a
woman's laugh, and a man's voice joined in with it, pleasant and sort of
singing. I was right onto them before they see me.

"'I thought it was a lonesome town,' says somebody, 'but I guess it
ain't.'

"And there, beside of me, sitting on the rail fence under the
evergreens, was Minerva Beach, my own cousin, and the little, tired
photograph-taking man. I had just bare time to catch my breath and to
sense where the minute really belonged--that's always a good thing to
do, ain't it?--and then I says, cool as you please:

"'Hello, Minerva! My! ain't the night grand? I don't wonder you couldn't
stay in the house. How do, Mr. Myers? I was just remembering my
lemon-pie that won't be good if it sets till to-morrow. Come on in and
let's have it, and make a little lemonade.'

"Ordinarily, I think it's next door to immoral to eat lemon-pie in the
evening; but I had to think quick, and it was the only thing like a
party that I had in the butt'ry. Anyhow, I was planning bigger morals
than ordinary, too.

"Well, sir, I'd been sure before, but that made me certain sure. There
had been my parlour and my porch, and them two young people was welcome
to them both; but they wanted to go somewheres, natural as a bird
wanting to fly or a lamb to caper. And there I'd been living in
Friendship Village for sixty years or so, and I'd reco'nized the laws of
housekeeping and debt paying and grave digging and digestion, and I'd
never once thought of this, that's as big as them all.

"Ain't it nice the way God has balanced towns! He never puts in a Silas
Sykes that he don't drop in an Eppleby Holcomb somewheres to undo what
the Silases does. It wasn't much after six o'clock the next morning, and
I was out after kindling, when they come a shadow in the shed door, and
there was Eppleby. He had a big key in his hand.

"'I'm a-goin' to the City, Calliope,' says he. 'Silas an' Timothy an' I
are a-goin' up to the City on the Dick Dasher' (that's our daily
accommodation train, named for the engineer). 'Silas and Timothy is set
on buying the iron gates for the schoolhouse entry, an' I'm goin' along.
He put the key in my hand, meditative. 'We won't be back till the ten
o'clock Through,' he says, 'an' I didn't know but you might want to get
in the schoolhouse for somethin' to-night--you an' Mis' Toplady.'

"I must of stood staring at him, but he never changed expression.

"'The key had ought to be left with some one, you know,' he says. 'I'm
leavin' it with you. You go ahead. I'll go snooks on the blame. Looks
like it was goin' to be another nice day, don't it?' he says, casual,
and went off down the path.

"For a minute I just stood there, staring down at the key in my hand.
And then, 'Eppleby,' I sings after him, 'oh, Eppleby,' I says, 'I feel
just like I was going to _crow_!'

"I don't s'pose I hesitated above a minute. That is, my head may have
hesitated some, like your head will, but my heart went right on ahead. I
left my breakfast dishes standing--a thing I do for the very few--and I
went straight for Mis' Toplady. And she whips off her big apron and left
_her_ dishes standing, an' off we went to the half a dozen that we knew
we could depend on--Abagail Arnold, that keeps the home bakery, Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, Mis' Fire Chief Merriman, that's going to
be married again and has got real human towards other folks, like she
wasn't in her mourning grief--we told 'em the whole thing. And we one
and all got together and we see that here was something that could be
done, right there and then, so be we was willing to make the effort, big
enough and unafraid.

"When I remember back, that day is all of a whirl to me. We got the
notice in the daily paper bold as a lion, that there would be a party to
the schoolhouse that night, free to everybody. We posted the notice
everywheres, and sent it out around by word of mouth. And when we'd gone
too far to go back, we walked in on Mis' Sykes--all but Abagail, that
had pitched in to making the cakes--and we told her what we'd done, so
she shouldn't have any of the blame.

"She took it calm, not because calm is Christian, I bet, but because
calm is grand lady.

"'It's what I always said,' says she, 'would be the way, if the women
run things.'

"'Women don't run things,' says Mis' Toplady, placid, 'an' I hope to the
land they never will. But I believe the time'll come when men an'
women'll run 'em together, like the Lord meant, an' when women can see
that they're mothers to all men an' not just to their little two-by-four
families.'

"'My duty to men is in my own home,' says Mis' Sykes, regal.

"'So is mine,' says Mis' Toplady, 'for a beginning. But it don't stop in
my wood box nor my clothes-basket nor yet in my mixin'-bowl.'

"We went off and left her--it's almost impossible to federate Mis' Sykes
into anything. And we went up to the building and made our preparations.
And then we laid low for the evening, to see what it would bring.

"I was putting on my hat that night in front of the hall-tree
looking-glass when J. Horace Myers come up on the front porch to call
for Minerva. He was all dressed up, and she come downstairs in a little
white dimity she had, trimmed with lace that didn't cost much of
anything, and looking like a picture. They sat down on the porch for a
little, and I heard them talking while I was hunting one o' my gloves.

"'Ain't it the dandiest night!' says J. Horace Myers.

"'Ain't it!' says Minerva. 'I should say. My! I'm glad I come to this
town!'

"'I'm awful glad you did, too,' says J. Horace. 'I thought first it was
awful lonesome here, but I guess--'

"'They're goin' to have music to-night,' says Minerva, irrelevant.

"'Cricky!' says the little photograph man.

"Minerva had her arm around a porch post and she sort of swung back and
forth careless, and--'My!' she said, 'I just do love to go. Have you
ever travelled anywheres?'

"'Texas an' through there,' he says. 'I'm goin' again some day, when--'

"'I'm goin' West now,' says Minerva. 'I just can't stand it long in one
place, unless,' she added, 'it's _awful_ nice.'

"I'd found my glove, but I recollect I stood still, staring out the
door. I see it like I never see it before--_They was living_. Them two
young things out there on my porch, and all the young folks of
Friendship Village, they was just living--trying to find a future and a
life of their own. They didn't know it. They thought what they wanted
was a good time, like the pioneers thought they wanted adventure. But
here they were, young pioneers of new villages, flocking together
wherever they could, seeking each other out, just living. And us that
knew, us that had had life, too, or else had missed it, we was just
letting them live, haphazard. And us that had ought to of been mothers
to the town young, no less than to our own young, had been leaving them
live alone, on the streets and stairways and school entries of
Friendship Village.

"I know I fair run along the street to the schoolhouse. It seemed as if
I couldn't get there quick enough to begin the new way.

"The schoolhouse was lit up from cellar to garret and it looked sort of
different and surprised at itself, and like it was sticking its head up.
Maybe it sounds funny, but it sort of seemed to me the old brick
building looked _conscious_, and like it had just opened its eyes and
turned its face to something. Inside, the music was tuning up, the desks
that was only part screwed down had been moved back; in one of the
recitation-rooms we'd got the gas plates for the candy making, and
Abagail was in there stirring up lemonade in a big crock, and the other
ladies, with white aprons on, was bustling round seeing to cutting the
cakes.

"It wasn't a good seven-thirty before they begun coming in, the girls
nipping in pretty dresses, the boys awkward and grinning, school-girls,
shop-girls, Mis' Sykes's Em'ly an' Abe Luck and everybody--they come
from all directions that night, I guess, just to see what it was like.

"And when they got set down, I realized for the first time that the law
and some of the prophets of time to come hung on what kind of a time
they had that first night.

"While I was thinking that, the music struck into a tune, hurry-up time,
and before anybody could think it, there they were on their feet, one
couple after another. And when the lilty sound of the dance and the
sliding of feet got to going, like magic and as if they had dropped out
of the walls, in come them that had been waiting around outside to see
what we was really going to do. They come in, and they joined in and in
five minutes the floor was full of them. And after being boxed in the
house all day, or bottled in shops or polishing windows or mending
eaves-troughs or taking photographs of humbly houses or doing I donno
what-all that they didn't like, here they were, come after their good
time and having it--_and having it_.

"Mis' Toplady was peeking through a crack in the recitation-room door.

"'_Dancin'!_' she says, with a little groan. 'I donno what my
conscience'll say to me about this when it gets me alone.'

"'Well,' says Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, seeing to the frosting
on the ends of her fingers, 'I feel like they'd been pipin' to me for
years an' I'd never let 'em dance. An' now they're dancin' up here safe
an' light an' with us. An' I'm glad of it, to my marrow.'

"'I know,' says Mis' Toplady, wiping her eyes. 'I donno but _my_ marrow
might get use' to it.'

"Long about ten o'clock, when we'd passed the refreshments and everybody
had carried their own plates back and was taking the candy out of the
tins, I nudged Mis' Toplady and we slipped out into the schoolhouse
entry and set down on the steps. We'd just heard the Through whistle,
and we knew the School Board Iron Gate Committee was on it, and that
they must of seen the schoolhouse lit from 'way acrost the marsh.
Besides, I was counting on Eppleby to march them straight up there.

"And so he done. Almost before I knew it they stepped out onto us,
setting there in the starlight. I stood up and faced them, not from
being brave, but from intending to jump _first_.

"'Silas and Timothy,' I says, 'what's done is done, but the consequences
ain't. The Women's Evening Vigilance Committee that you appointed
yourself has tried this thing, and now it's for us all to judge if it
works.'

"'Heh!' says Silas, showing his teeth. 'Hed a little party, did you?
Thought you'd get up a little party an' charge it to the Board, did you?
Be su'prised, won't you, when you women get a bill for rent an' light
for this night's performance?'

"'Real surprised,' I says, dry.

"'Amanda,' pipes up Timothy, 'air you a fool party to this fool doin's?'

"'Oh, shucks!' says Mis' Toplady, tired. 'I been doin' too real things
to row, Timothy.'

"'Nev' mind,' says Silas, pacific. 'When the new iron gates gets here
for this here entry, we won't have no more such doin's as this. They're
ordered,' says Silas, like a bombshell, 'to keep out the hoodlums.'

"Then Eppleby, that had been peeking through the schoolhouse window,
whirled around.

"'Yes,' says he. 'Let's put up the gates to keep out the hoodlums. But
what you going to do for the girls and boys of Friendship Village that
ain't hoodlums? What you goin' to do for them? I want to tell you that I
knew all about what was goin' on here to-night, and I give over the
schoolhouse key myself. And now you look down there.'

"It was Friendship Village he pointed to, laying all around the
schoolhouse slope, little lights shining for homes. And Eppleby went on
before Silas and Timothy could get the breath to reply:--

"'The town's nothin' but _roots_, is it?' Eppleby says. 'Roots, sendin'
up green shoots to the top o' this hill to be trained up here into some
kind of shape to meet life. What you doin' to 'em? Buildin' 'em a great,
expensive schoolhouse that they use a few hours a day, part o' the year,
an' the rest of the time it might as well be a hole in the ground for
all the good it does anybody. An' here's the young folks, that you built
it _for_ chasin' the streets to let off the mere flesh-an'-blood energy
the Lord has give to 'em. Put up your iron gates if you want to, but
don't put 'em up till the evenin's over an' till there's been some sort
o' doin's here like this to give 'em what's their right. Put up your
iron gates, but shame on the schoolhouse that puts 'em up an' stops
there! Open the buildin' in the name of public decency, but in the name
of public decency, don't shut it up!'

"Timothy was starting to wave his arms when Mis' Toplady stood up,
quiet, on the bottom step.

"'Timothy,' she says, 'thirty-five years ago this winter you an' I was
keepin' company. Do you remember how we done it? Do you remember singin'
school? Do you remember spellin' school? Did our straw ridin' an' sleigh
ridin' to the Caledonia district schoolhouse for our fun ever hurt the
schoolhouse, or do you s'pose we ever learnt any the less in it? Well, I
remember; an' we both remember; an' answer me this: Do you s'pose them
young things in there is any differ'nt than we was? An' what's the sin
an' the crime of what they're doin' now? Look at 'em!'

"She pushed open the door. But just while we was looking, the music
struck up the 'Home Sweet Home' waltz, and they all melted into dancing,
the ladies in white aprons standing by the recitation-room doors looking
on.

"'_Dancin'!_' says Timothy, shuddering--but looking, too.

"'Yes,' says Amanda, brave as you please, 'ain't it pretty? Lots
prettier than chasin' up an' down Daphne Street. What say, Timothy?'

"Eppleby give Silas a little nudge. 'Le's give it a trial,' he says.
'This is the Vigilance Committee's idee. Le's give it a trial.'

"Silas stood bitin' the tail of his beard. 'Go on to destruction if you
want to!' he says. 'I wash my hands of you!'

"'So do I,' says Timothy, echoish, 'wash mine.'

"Eppleby took them both by the shoulders. 'Well, then, go on inside a
minute,' he says to 'em. 'Don't let's leave 'em all think we got stole a
march on by the women!'

"And though it was that argument that made them both let Eppleby push
them inside, still, when the door shut behind them, I knew there wasn't
anything more to worry over. But me--I waited out there in the entry
till the waltz was through. And it was kind of like the village down
there to the foot of the hill was listening, quiet, to great councils.



X


"Up to Proudfit House the conservatory wasn't set aside from everyday
living for just a place to be walked through and looked at and left
behind for something better. It was a glass regular room, full of green,
but not so full that it left you out of account. Willow chairs and a
family of books and open windows into the other rooms made the
conservatory all of a piece with the house, and at one end the tile was
let go up in a big You-and-me looking fireplace, like a sort of shrine
for fire, I use' to think, in the middle of a temple to flowers, and
like both belonged to the household.

"On the day of the evening company at Proudfit House Robin was sitting
with a book in this room. I'd gone up that day to do what I could to
help out, and to see to Christopher some. Him I'd put to taking his nap
quite awhile before, and I was fussing with the plants like I love to
do--it seems as if while I pick off dead leaves and give the roots a
drink I was kind of doing their thinking for them. When I heard Alex
Proudfit coming acrost the library, I started to go, but Robin says to
me, 'Don't go, Miss Marsh,' she says, 'stay here and do what you're
doing--if you don't mind.'

"'Land,' thinks I, turning back to the ferns, 'never tell me that young
ladies are getting more up-to-date in love than they use' to be. My day,
she would of liked that they should be alone, so be she could manage it
without seeming to.'

"I donno but I'm foolish, but it always seems to me that a minute like
that had ought to catch fire and leap up, like a time by itself. In all
the relationships of men and women, it seems like no little commonplace
time is so vital as the minute when the man comes into a room where a
woman is a-waiting for him. There is about it something of time to be
when he'll come, not to gloat over his day's kill, or to forget his
day's care, but to talk with her about their day of hardy work. Habitual
arriving in a room again and again for ever can never quite take off,
seems though, the edge of that coming back to where she is.... But
somehow, that day, Alex Proudfit must have stepped through the door
before the minute had quite caught fire, and Robin merely smiled up at
him, calm and idle, from her low chair as he come to a chair beside her.

"'Tea, Robin Redbreast,' says he, 'is going to be here in a minute, with
magnificent macaroons. But I think that you and I will have it by
ourselves. Everybody is either asleep or pretending. I'm glad,' he tells
her, 'you're the sort that can do things in the evening without resting
up for from nine to ten hours preceding.'

"'I'm resting now,' Robin said; 'this is quite heavenly--this green
room.'

"He looked at her, eager. 'Do you like it?' he asked. 'I mean the
room--the house?'

"'Enormously,' she told him. 'How could I help it?'

"'I wanted you to like it,' he says. 'We shall not be here much, you
know, but we shall be here sometimes, and I'm glad if you feel the
feeling of home, even with all these people about. It's all going very
decently for to-night, thanks to Mrs. Emmons. Not a soul that we really
wanted has failed us.'

"'Except Mr. Insley,' Robin says.

"'Except Insley,' Alex concedes, 'and I own I can't make him out. Not
because he didn't come here. But because he seems so enthusiastic about
throwing his life away. Very likely,' he goes on, placid, 'he didn't
come simply because he wanted to come. Those people get some sort of
mediæval renunciation mania, I believe. Robin,' he went on, 'where do
you think you would like to live? Not to settle down, you know, but for
the Eternal Place To Come Back To?'

"'To come back to?' Robin repeated.

"'The twentieth century home is merely that, you know,' Alex explained.
'We're just beginning to solve the home problem. We've tried to make
home mean one place, and then we were either always wanting to get away
for a while, or else we stayed dreadfully put, which was worse. But I
think now we begin to see the truth: Home is nowhere. Rather, it is
everywhere. The thing to do is to live for two months, three months, in
a place, and to get back to each place at not too long intervals. Home
is where you like to be for the first two weeks. When that wears off,
it's home no more. Then home is some other place where you think you'd
like to be. We are becoming nomadic again--only this time we own the
world instead of being at its feet for a bare living. You and I, Robin
Redbreast, are going to be citizens of the whole world.'

"Robin looked over at him, reflective. And it seemed to me as if the
whole race of women that have always liked one place to get in and be in
and stay in spoke from her to Alex.

"'But I've always had a little garden,' she says.

"'A little what?' Alex asks, blank.

"'Why, a garden,' she explains, 'to plant from year to year so that I
know where things are going to come up.'

"She was laughing, but I knew she meant what she said, too.

"'My word,' Alex says, 'why, every place we take shall have a garden and
somebody to grub about in it. Won't those and the conservatories do
you?'

"'I like to get out and stick my hands in the spring-smelly ground,' she
explains, 'and to remember where my bulbs are.'

"'But I've no objection to bulbs,' Alex says. 'None in the world. We'll
plant the bulbs and take a run round the world and come back to see them
bloom. No?'

"'And not watch them come up?' Robin says, so serious that they both
laughed.

"'We want more than a garden can give,' Alex says then, indulgent. 'We
want what the whole world can give.'

"She nodded. 'And what we can give back?' she says.

"He leaned toward her, touched along her hair.

"'My dear,' he said, 'we've got two of us to make the most of we can in
this life: that's you and I. The world has got to teach us a number of
things. Don't, in heaven's name, let's be trying to teach the wise old
world.'

"He leaned toward her and, elbow on his knee, he set looking at her. But
she was looking a little by him, into the green of the room, and I guess
past that, into the green of all outdoors. I got up and slipped out,
without their noticing me, and I went through the house with one fact
bulging out of the air and occupying my brain. And it was that sitting
there beside him, with him owning her future like he owned his own,
Robin's world was as different from Alex's as the world is from the
Proudfits' conservatory.

"I went up to Chris, in the pretty, pinky room next to Robin's and found
him sitting up in bed and pulling the ties out of the down comforter, as
hard as he could. I just stood still and looked at him, thinking how
eating and drinking and creating and destroying seems to be the native
instincts of everybody born. Destroying, as I look at it, was the weapon
God give us so that we could eat and drink and create the world in
peace, but we got some mixed up during getting born and we got to
believing that destruction was a part of the process.

"'Chris,' I says, 'what you pulling out?'

"'I donno those names of those,' he says. 'I call 'em little pulls.'

"'What are they for?' I ask' him.

"'I donno what those are for,' he says, 'but they come out _slickery_.'

"Ain't it funny? And ain't it for all the world the way Nature works,
destroying what comes out _slickery_ and leaving that alone that resists
her? I was so struck by it I didn't scold him none.

"After a while I took him down for tea. On the way he picked up a sleepy
puppy, and in the conservatory door we met the footman with the little
tea wagon and the nice, drowsy quiet of the house went all to pieces
with Chris in it:--

"'Supper, supper--here comes supper on a wagon, runnin' on litty wheels
goin' wound an a-w-o-u-n-d--' says he, some louder than saying and
almost to shouting. He sat down on the floor and looked up expectant:
'Five lumps,' he orders, not having belonged to the house party for
nothing.

"'Tell us about your day, Chris,' Robin asks. 'What did you do?'

"'It isn't _by_, is it?' Chris says, anxious. 'To-day didn't stop yet,
did it?'

"'Not yet,' she reassures him. 'Now is still now.'

"'I want to-day to keep being now,' Chris said, 'because when it stops,
then the bed is right there. It don't be anywhere near to-night, is it?'
he says.

"'Not very near,' Robin told him. 'Well, then, what are you doing
to-day?' she asks.

"'I'm to the house's party,' he explained. 'The house is having its
party. An' I'm to it.'

"'Do you like this house, dear?' Robin asked.

"'It's nice,' he affirmed. 'In the night it--it talks wiv its lights. I
saw it. With my daddy. When I was off on a big road.' Chris looked at
her intent, from way in his eyes. 'I was thinkin' if my daddy would
come,' he says, patient.

"Robin stoops over to him, quick, and he let her. He'd took a most
tremendous fancy to her, the little fellow had, and didn't want her long
out of his sight. 'Is that Robin?' he always said, when he heard anybody
coming from any direction. She give him a macaroon, now, for each hand,
and he run away with the puppy. And then she turned to Alex, her face
bright with whatever she was thinking about.

"'Alex,' she says, 'he's a dear little fellow--a dear little fellow. And
all alone. I've wanted so much to ask you: Can't we have him for ours?'

"Alex looks at her, all bewildered up in a minute. 'How ours?' he asks.
'Do you mean have him educated? That, of course, if you really want it.'

"'No, no,' she says. '_Ours._ To keep with us, bring up, make. Let's let
him be really ours.'

"He just leaned back in the big chair, smiling at her, meditative.

"'My dear Robin,' he says, 'it's a terrible responsibility to meddle
that way with somebody's life.'

"She looked at him, not understanding.

"'It's such an almighty assumption,' he went on, 'this jumping blithely
into the office of destiny--keeping, bringing-up, making, as you
say--meddling with, I call it--anybody's life.'

"'Isn't it really meddling to let him be in a bad way when we can put
him in a better one?' she asked, puzzled.

"'I love you, Robin,' says he, light, 'but not for your logic. No, my
dear girl. Assuredly we will not take this child for ours. What leads
you to suppose that Nature really wants him to live, anyway?'

"I looked at him over my tea-cup, and for my life I couldn't make out
whether he was speaking mocking or speaking plain.

"'If Chris is to be inebriate, criminal, vicious, even irresponsible,
as his father must be,' Alex says, 'Nature wants nothing of the sort.
She wants to be rid of him as quickly as possible. How do you know what
you are saving?'

"'How do you know,' Robin says, 'what you are letting go?'

"'I can take the risk if Nature can,' he contends.

"She sat up in her chair, her eyes bright as the daylight, and I thought
her eagerness and earnestness was on her like a garment.

"'You have nobody to refer the risk to,' Robin says, 'Nature has us. And
for one, I take it. So far as Chris is concerned, Alex, if no one claims
him, I want him never to be out of touch with me.'

"But when a woman begins to wear that garment, the man that's in love
with her--unless he is the special kind--he begins thinking how much
sweeter and softer and _womaner_ she is when she's just plain gentle.
And he always gets uneasy and wants her to be the gentle way he
remembers her being--that is, unless he's special, unless he's special.
Like Alex got uneasy now.

"'My heavens, dear,' he says--and I judged Alex had got to be one of
them men that lays a lace 'dear' over a haircloth tone of voice, and so
solemnly believes they're keeping their temper--'My heavens, dear, don't
misunderstand me. Experiment as much as you like. Material is cheap and
abundant. If you don't feel the responsibility, have him educated
wherever you want to. But don't expect me to play father to him. The
personal contact is going it a little too strong.'

"'That is exactly what he most needs,' says Robin.

"'Come, dear,' says Alex, 'that's elemental--in an age when everybody
can do things better than one can do them oneself.'

"She didn't say nothing, and just set there, with her tea. Alex was
watching her, and I knew just about as sure what he was thinking as
though I had been his own thought, oozing out of his mind. He was
watching her with satisfaction, patterned off with a kind of quiet
amusement and jabbed into by a kind of worryin' wonder. How exactly, he
was thinking, she was the type everlasting of Wife. She was girlish, and
in little things she was all I'll-do-as-you-say, and she was even shy;
he believed that he was marrying a girl whose experience of the world
was commendably slight, whose ideas about it was kind of
vague--commendably again; and whose ways was easy-handled, like skein
silk. By her little firmnesses, he see that she had it in her to be
firm, but what he meant was that she should adopt his ideas and turn
firm about them. He had it all planned out that he was going to
embroider her brain with his notions of what was what. But all of a
sudden, now and then, there she was confronting him as she had just done
then with a serious, settled look of Woman--the Woman everlasting,
wanting a garden, wanting to work, wanting a child....

"In the doorway back of Alex, Bayless come in, carrying a tray, but it
didn't have no card.

"'It's somebody to speak with you a minute, Mr. Proudfit,' says Bayless.
'It's Mr. Insley.'

"'Have him come here,' Alex says. 'I hope,' he says, when the man was
gone, 'that the poor fellow has changed his mind about our little
festivities.'

"Robin sort of tipped up her forehead. 'Why _poor_?' she asks.

"'Poor,' says Alex, absent, 'because he lives in a pocket of the world,
instead of wearing the world like a garment--when it would fit him.'

"I was just setting my tea-cup down when she answered, and I recollect I
almost jumped:

"'He knows something better to do with the world than to wear it at
all,' was what she said.

"I looked over at her. And maybe it was because she was sort of
indignant, and maybe it was because she thought she had dared quite a
good deal, but all of a sudden something sort of seemed to me to set
fire to the minute, and it leaped up like a time by itself as we heard
Insley's step crossing the library and coming towards us....

"When he come out where we were, I see right off how pale he looked.
Almost with his greeting, he turned to Alex with what he had come for,
and he put it blunt.

"'I was leaving the Cadozas' cottage on the Plank Road half an hour
ago,' he said. 'A little way along I saw a man, who had been walking
ahead of me, stagger and sprawl in the mud. He wasn't conscious when I
got to him. He was little--I picked him up quite easily and got him back
into the Cadozas' cottage. He still wasn't conscious when the doctor
came. He gave him things. We got him in bed there. And then he spoke. He
asked us to hunt up a little boy somewhere in Friendship Village, who
belonged to him. And he said the boy's name was Chris.'

"It seemed like it was to Alex Proudfit's interested lifting of eyebrows
rather than to Robin's exclamation of pity that Insley answered.

"'I'm sorry it was necessary to trouble you,' he says, 'but Chris ought
to go at once. I'll take him down now.'

"'That man,' Robin says, 'the father--is he ill? Is he hurt? How badly
is he off?'

"'He's very badly off,' says Insley, 'done for, I'm afraid. It was in a
street brawl in the City--it's his side, and he's lost a good deal of
blood. He walked all the way back here. A few hours, the doctor thought
it would be, at most.'

"Robin stood up and spoke like what she was saying was a
take-for-granted thing.

"'Oh,' she says, 'poor, poor little Chris. Alex, I must go down there
with him.'

"Alex looks over at her, incredulous, and spoke so: 'You?' says he.
'Impossible.'

"I was just getting ready to say that of course I'd go with him, if that
was anything, when from somewheres that he'd gone with the puppy, Chris
spied Insley, and come running to him.

"'Oh, you are to the house's party, too!' Chris cried, and threw himself
all over him.

"Robin knelt down beside the child, and the way she was with him made me
think of that first night when she see him at the church, and when her
way with him made him turn to her and talk with her and love her ever
since.

"'Listen, dear,' she said. 'Mr. Insley came here to tell you something.
Something about daddy--your daddy. Mr. Insley knows where he is, and
he's going to take you to him. But he's very, very sick, dear
heart--will you remember that when you see him? Remember Robin told you
that?'

"There come on his little face a look of being afraid that give it a
sudden, terrible grown-up-ness.

"'Sick like my mama was?' he asked in a whisper. 'And will he _go out_,
like my mama?'

"Robin put her arm about him, and he turned to her, clung to her.

"'You come, too, Robin,' he said. 'You come, too!'

"She got up, meeting Alex's eyes with her straight look.

"'I must go, Alex,' she said. 'He wants me--needs me. Why, how could I
do anything else?'

"Alex smiles down at her, with his way that always seemed to me so much
less that of living every minute than of watching it live itself about
him.

"'May I venture to remind you,' he says--like a little thin edge of
something, paper, maybe, that's smooth as silk, but that'll cut neat and
deep if you let it--'May I venture to remind you that your aunt is
announcing our engagement to-night? I think that will have escaped your
mind.'

"'Yes,' Robin says, simple, 'it had. Everything had escaped my mind
except this poor little thing here. Alex--it's early. He'll sleep after
a little. But I must go down with him. What did you come in?' she asked
Insley, quiet.

"I told her I'd go down, and she nodded that I was to go, but Chris
clung to her hand and it was her that he wanted, poor little soul, and
only her. Insley had come up in the doctor's rig. She and I would join
him with the child, she told him, at the side entrance and almost at
once. There was voices in the house by then, and some of the young folks
was coming downstairs and up from the tennis-court for tea. She went
into the house with Chris. And I wondered if she thought of the thing I
thought of and that made me glad and glad that there are such men in the
world: Not once, not once, out of some felt-he-must courtesy, had Insley
begged her not to go with him. He knew that she was needed down there
with Chris and him and me--he knew, and he wouldn't say she wasn't.
Land, land I love a man that don't talk with the outside of his head and
let what he means lay cramped somewheres underneath, but that reaches
down and gets up what he means, and holds it out, for you to take or to
leave.

"Mis' Emmons was overseeing the decorations in the dining room. The
whole evening party she had got right over onto her shoulders the way
she does everything, and down to counting the plates she was seeing to
it all. We found her and told her, and her pity went to the poor fellow
down there at the Cadozas' almost before it went to Chris.

"'Go, of course,' she said. 'I suppose Alex minds, but leave him to me.
I've got to be here--but it's not I Chris wants in any case. It's you.
Get back as soon as you can, Robin.'

"I must say Alex done that last minute right, the way he done
everything, light and glossy. When Robin come down, I was up in the
little seat behind the doctor's cart, and Alex stood beside and helped
her. A servant, he said, would come on after us in the automobile with a
hamper, and would wait at the Cadozas' gate until she was ready to come
back. Somehow, it hadn't entered anybody's head, least of all, I guess,
Alex's own, that he should come, too. He see us off with his manners on
him like a thick, thick veil, and he even managed to give to himself a
real dignity so that Robin said her good-by with a kind of wistfulness,
as if she wanted to be reassured. And I liked her the better for that.
For, after all, she _was_ going--there was no getting back of that. And
when a woman is doing the right thing against somebody's will, I'm not
the one to mind if she hangs little bells on herself instead of going
off with no tinkle to leave herself be reminded of, pleasant.

"We swung out onto the open road, with Chris sitting still between the
two of them, and me on the little seat behind. The sunset was flowing
over the village and glittering in unfamiliar fires on the windows. The
time was as still as still, in that hour 'long towards night when the
day seems to have found its harbour it has been looking for and to have
slipped into it, with shut sails--so still that Robin spoke of it with
surprise. I forget just what she said. She was one of them women that
can say a thing so harmonious with a certain minute that you never wish
she'd kept still. I believe if she spoke to me when I was hearing music
or feeling lifted up all by myself, I wouldn't mind it. What she'd say
would be sure to fit what was being. They ain't many folks in anybody's
life like that. I believe she could talk to me any time, sole unless
it's when I first wake up in the morning; then any talking always seems
like somebody stumbling in, busy, among my sleeping brains.

"For a minute Insley didn't say anything. I was almost sure he was
thinking how unbelievable it was that he should be there, alone with
her, where an hour ago not even one of his forbidden dreams could have
found him.

"'Beautifully still,' he answered, 'as if all the things had stopped
being, except some great thing.'

"'I wonder,' she says, absent, 'what great thing.' And all the time she
seemed sort of relaxed, and resting in the sense--though never in the
consciousness--that the need to talk and to be talked to, to suggest and
to question, had found some sort of quiet, levelling process with which
she was moving along, assentin'.

"Insley stooped down, better to shield her dress from the mud there was.
I see him look down at her uncovered hands laying on the robe, and then,
with a kind of surprise, up at her face; and I knew how surprising her
being near him seemed.

"'That would be one thing for you,' he answered, 'and another for me.'

"'No,' she says, 'I think it's the same thing for us both.'

"He didn't let himself look at her, but his voice--well, I tell you,
his voice looked.

"'What do you mean?' he says--just said it a little and like he didn't
dare trust it to say itself any more.

"'Why, being able to help in this, surely,' she says.

"I could no more of helped watching the two of them than if they had
been angels and me nothing but me. I tried once or twice to look off
across the fields that was smiling at each other, same as faces, each
side of the road; but my eyes come back like they was folks and wanted
to; and I set there looking at her brown hair, shining in the sun,
without any hat on it, and at his still face that was yet so many kinds
of alive. He had one of the faces that looked like it had been cut out
just the way it was _a-purpose_. There wasn't any unintentional
assembling of features there, part make-shift and part rank growth of
his race. No, sir. His face had come to life by being meant to be just
the way it was, and it couldn't have been better.... It lit up wonderful
when he answered.

"'Yes,' he said, 'a job is a kind of creation. It's next best to getting
up a sunrise. Look here,' he remembered, late in the day, 'you'll have
no dinner. You can't eat with them in that place. And you ought to have
rest before to-night.'

"Ain't it funny how your voice gets away from you sometimes and goes
dilly-nipping around, pretty near saying things on its own account? I
use' to think that mebbe my voice didn't belong to the me I know about,
but was some of the real me, inside, speaking out with my mouth for a
trumpet. I donno but I think so yet. For sometimes your voice is a
person and it says things all alone by itself. So his voice done then.
The tender concern of it was pretty near a second set of words. It was
the first time he had struck for her the great and simple note, the note
of the caring of the man for the physical comfort of the woman. And
while she was pretending not to need it, he turned away and looked off
toward the village, and I was certain sure he was terrified at what
might have been in his voice.

"'I like to think of it down there,' he said, pretty near at random,
'waiting to be clothed in a new meaning.'

"'The village?' she asked.

"'Everywhere,' he answered. 'Some of the meanings we dress things up in
are so--dowdy. We wouldn't think of wearing them ourselves.'

"She understood him so well that she didn't have to bother to smile.
And I hoped she was setting down a comparison in her head: Between
clothing the world in a new meaning, and wearing it for a garment.

"Chris looked up in Insley's face.

"'I'm new,' he contributes, 'I'm new on the outside of me. I've got on
this new brown middie.'

"'I've been admiring it the whole way,' says Insley, hearty--and that
time his eyes and Robin's met, over the little boy's head, as we stopped
at the cottage gate.



XI


"The lonesome little parlour at Mis' Cadoza's was so far past knowing
how to act with folks in it, that it never changed expression when we
threw open the shutters. Rooms that are used to folks always sort of
look up when the shutters are opened; some rooms smile back at you; some
say something that you just lose, through not turning round from the
window quite quick enough. But Mis' Cadoza's parlour was such a poor
folkless thing that it didn't make us any reply at all nor let on to
notice the light. It just set there, kind of numb, merely enduring
itself.

"'You poor thing,' I thought, 'nobody come in time, did they?'

"Insley picked out a cane-seat rocker that had once known how to behave
in company, and drew it to the window. Ain't it nice, no matter what
kind of a dumb room you've got into, you can open its window and fit the
sky onto the sill, and feel right at home....

"Robin sat there with Chris in her arms, waiting for any stir in the
front bedroom. I went in the bedroom, while Dr. Heron told me about the
medicine, and it seemed to me the bare floor and bare walls and
dark-coloured bedcovers was got together to suit the haggardy unshaven
face on the pillow. Christopher's father never moved. I set in the
doorway, so as to watch him, and Insley went with the doctor to the
village to bring back some things that was needed. And I felt like we
was all the first settlers of somewheres.

"Chris was laying so still in Robin's arms that several times she looked
down to see if he was awake. But every time his eyes was wide and dark
with that mysterious child look that seems so much like thought. It kind
of hurt me to see him doing nothing--that's one of the parts about
sickness and dying and some kinds of trouble that always twists
something up in my throat: The folks that was so eager and able and
flying round the house just being struck still and not able to go on
with everyday doings. I know when Lyddy Ember, the dressmaker, died and
I looked at her laying there, it seemed to me so surprising that she
couldn't hem and fell and cut out with her thumb crooked like she
done--and that she didn't know a dart from a gore; her hands looked so
much like she knew how yet. It's like being inactive made death or grief
double. And it's like working or playing around was a kind of life....
The whole house seemed inactive and silence-struck, even to the kitchen
where Mis' Cadoza and the little lame boy was.

"Robin set staring into the lilacs that never seemed to bloom, and I
wondered what she was thinking and mebbe facing. But when she spoke, it
was about the Cadoza kitchen.

"'Miss Marsh,' she says, 'what kind of people must they be that can stay
alive in a kitchen like that?'

"'Pioneers,' I says. 'They's a lot of 'em pioneerin' away and not
knowing it's time to stop.'

"'But the dirt--' she says.

"'What do you expect?' I says. 'They're emergin' out of dirt. But they
_are_ emergin'.'

"'Don't it seem hopeless?' says she.

"'Oh, I donno,' I says; 'dirt gets to be apples--so be you plant 'em.'

"But the Cadoza kitchen _was_ fearful. When we come through it, Mis'
Cadoza was getting supper, and she'd woke up nameless smells of greasy
things. There the bare table was piled with the inevitable mix-up of
unwashed dishes that go along with the Mis' Cadozas of this world, so
that you wonder how they ever got so much crockery together. There the
floor wasn't swept, clothes was drying on a line over the stove, Spudge
was eating his supper on the window-sill, and in his bed in the corner
lay little Eph, so white and frail and queer-coloured that you felt you
was looking on something bound not to last till much after you'd stopped
looking. And there was Mis' Cadoza. When we had come through the
kitchen, little Eph had said something glad at seeing Insley and hung
hold of his hand and told him how he meant to model a clay Patsy,
because it was Patsy, the dog, that had gone out in the dark and first
brought Insley in to see him.

"'An' when I'm big,' the child says, 'I'm going to make a clay _you_,
Mr. Insley.'

"Mis' Cadoza had turned round and bared up her crooked teeth.

"'Don't you be impident!' she had said, raspish, throwing her hand out
angular.

"Mis' Cadoza was like somebody that hadn't got outside into the daylight
of _Yet_. She was ignorant, blind to life, with some little bit of a
corner of her brain working while the rest lay stock-still in her skull;
unclean of person, the mother to no end of nameless horrors of
habit--and her blood and the blood of some creature like her had been
poured into that poor little boy, sickly, bloodless, not ready for the
struggle.

"'_Is_ there any use trying to do anything with anybody like that?'
says Robin.

"'_Is_ there?' says I, but I looked right straight at Christopher. If
there wasn't no use trying to do anything with little Eph, with his
mother out there in the kitchen, then what was the use of trying to do
anything with Chris, with his father here in the front bedroom? Sick
will, tainted blood, ruined body--to what were we all saving Chris?
Maybe to misery and final defeat and some awful going out.

"'I don't know,' she says, restless. 'Maybe Alex is right....'

"She looked out towards the lilac bushes again, and I knew how all of a
sudden they probably dissolved away to be the fine green in the
conservatory at Proudfit House, and how she was seeing herself back in
the bright room, with its summer of leaves, and before the tea wagon,
making tea for Alex lounging in his low chair, begging her not, in
heaven's name, to try to teach the wise old world....

" ... I knew well enough how she felt. Every woman in the world knows.
In that minute, or I missed my guess, she was finding herself clinging
passionate and rebellious to the mere ordered quiet of the life Alex
would make for her; to the mere outworn routine, the leisure of long
days in pretty rooms, of guests and house parties and all the little
happy flummery of hospitality, the doing-nothingness, or the nice tasks,
of travelling; the joy of sinking down quiet into the easy ways to do
and be. Something of the sheer, clear, mere self-indulgence of the
last-notch conservative was sweeping over her, the quiet, the order, the
plain _safety_ of the unchanging, of going along and going along and
leaving things pretty much as they are, expecting them to work
themselves out ... the lure of all keeping-stillness. And I knew she was
wondering, like women do when they're tired or blue or get a big job to
do or see a house like the Cadozas', why, after all, she shouldn't, in
Alex's way, make herself as dainty in morals and intellect as she could
and if she wanted to 'meddle,' to do so at arm's length, with some of
the material that is cheap and abundant--like Chris....

"'Maybe there isn't any use trying to do anything with Chris, either,' I
says brutal. 'Mebbe Nature's way _is_ best. Mebbe she knows best when to
let them die off.'

"Robin's arms kind of shut up on the little kiddie. He looked up.

"'Did you squeeze me on purpose?' he whispered.

"She nodded at him.

"'What for?' he asks.

"'Just loving,' she answered.

"After that, we sat still for a long time. Insley came back with the
medicine, and told me what to do if the sick man came to. Then he filled
and lit the bracket lamp that seemed to make more shadows than light,
and then he stopped beside Robin--as gentle as a woman over a plant--and
asked her if she wanted anything. He come through the room several
times, and once him and her smiled, for a still greeting, almost as
children do. After a while he come with a little basket of food that he
had had Abagail put up to the bakery, and we tried to eat a little
something, all of us. And all the while the man on the bed lay like he
was locked up in some new, thick kind of silence.

"When eight o'clock had gone, we heard what I had been expecting to
hear--the first wheels and footsteps on the Plank Road directed towards
Proudfit House. And Insley come in, and went over to Robin, and found
Chris asleep in her arms, and he took him from her and laid him on the
sagging Brussels couch.

"'You must go now,' he says to Robin, with his kind of still authority
that wan't ordering nor schoolmastery, nor you-do-as-I-say, but was
just something that made you want to mind him. 'I'll wake Chris and take
him in at the least change--but you must go back at once.'

"And of course I was going to stay. Some of my minds was perfectly
willing not to be at the party in any case, and anyhow the rest of them
wanted to stay with Chris.

"Insley picked up some little belongings of hers, seeming to know them
without being told, and because the time was so queer, and mebbe because
death was in the next room, and mebbe for another reason or two, I could
guess how, all the while he was answering her friendly questions about
the little Cadoza boy--all that while the Personal, the _Personal_, like
a living thing, hovered just beyond his words. And at last it just
naturally came in and possessed what he was saying.

"'I can't thank you enough for coming down here,' he says. 'It's meant
everything to Chris--and to me.'

"She glanced up at him with her pretty near boyish frankness, that had
in it that night some new element of confidence and charm and just being
dear.

"'Don't thank me,' she says, 'it was mine to do, too. And besides, I
haven't done anything. And I'm running away!'

"He looked off up the road towards where, on its hill, Proudfit House
was a-setting, a-glowing in all its windows, a-waiting for her to come,
and to have her engagement to another man announced in it, and then to
belong up there for ever and ever. He started to say something--I donno
whether he knew what or whether he didn't; but anyhow he changed his
mind and just opened the door for her, the parlour door that I bet was
as surprised to be used as if it had cackled.

"The Proudfit motor had stood waiting at the gate all this while, and as
they got out to it, Dr. Heron drove up, and with him was Mis'
Hubbelthwait come to enquire. So Robin waited outside to see what Dr.
Heron should say when he had seen Chris's father again, and I went to
the door to speak to Mis' Hubbelthwait.

"'Liquor's what ails him fast enough,' Mis' Hubbelthwait whispers--Mis'
Hubbelthwait would of whispered in the middle of a forty-acre field if
somebody had said either birth or death to her. 'Liquor's what ails him.
I know 'em. I remember the nice, well-behaved gentleman that come to the
hotel and only lived one night after. "Mr. Elder," I says to him,
severe, "you needn't to tell me your stomach ain't one livin' pickle,
for I know it is!" An' he proved it by dyin' that very night. If he
didn't prove it, I don't know what he did prove. "Alcoholism," Dr. Heron
called it, but I know it was liquor killed him. No use dressin' up
words. An' I miss my guess if this here poor soul ain't the self-same
river to cross.'

"She would have come in, but there's no call for the whole town to nurse
a sick-bed, I always think--and so she sort of hung around a minute,
sympathetic and mum, and then slimpsed off with very little starch to
her motions, like when you walk for sick folks. I looked out to where
Robin and Insley was waiting by the big Proudfit planet that was going
to take her on an orbit of its own; and all of a sudden, with them in
front of me and with what was behind me, the awful _good-byness_ of
things sort of shut down on me, and I wanted to do something or tell
somebody something, I didn't know what, before it was too late; and I
run right down to them two.

"'Oh,' I says, scrabblin' some for my words, 'I want to tell you
something, both of you. If it means anything to either of you to know
that there's a little more to me, for having met both of you--then I
want you to know it. And it's true. You both--oh, I donno,' I says,
'what it is--but you both kind of act like life was a person, and like
it wasn't just your dinner to be et.... And I kind of know the person,
too....'

"I knew what I meant, but meant things and said things don't often match
close. And yet I donno but they understood me. Anyway, they both took
hold of a hand of mine, and said some little broke-off thing that I
didn't rightly get. But I guess that we all knew that we all knew. And
in a minute I went back in the house, feeling like I'd got the best of
some time when I might of wished, like we all do, that I'd let somebody
know something while then was then.

"When I got inside the door, I see right off by Dr. Heron's face that
there'd been some change. And sure enough there was. Chris's father had
opened his eyes and had spoke. And I done what I knew Robin would have
wanted; I wheeled round and went to the door and told her so.

"'He's come to,' I says, 'and he's just asked for Chris.'

"Sharp off, Robin turned to say something to the man waiting in the
automobile. Insley tried to stop her, but she put him by. They come back
into the cottage together, and the Proudfit automobile started steaming
back to Proudfit House without her.

"Once again Robin roused Chris, as she had roused him on the night when
he slept on the church porch; she just slipped her hands round his
throat and lifted his face, and this time she kissed him.

"'Come with Robin,' she said.

"Chris opened his eyes and for a minute his little senses come
struggling through his sleep, and then with them come dread. He looked
up in Robin's face, piteous.

"'Did my daddy _go out_?' he asks, shrill, 'like my mama did?'

"'No, no, dear,' Robin said. 'He wants you to say good-by to him first,
you know. Be still and brave, for Robin.'

"There wasn't no way to spare him, because the poor little figure on the
bed was saying his name, restless, to restless movements. I was in there
by him, fixing him a little something to take.

"'Where's Chris?' the sick man begged. 'Look on the church steps--'

"They took Chris in the room, and Insley lifted him up to Robin's knee
on the chair beside the bed.

"'Hello--my nice daddy,' Chris says, in his little high voice, and
smiles adorable. 'I--I--I was waitin' for you all this while.'

"His father put out his hand, awful awkward, and took the child's arm
about the elbow. I'll never forget the way the man's face looked. It
didn't looked _used_, somehow--it looked all sort of bare and barren,
and like it hadn't been occupied. I remember once seeing a brand-new
house that had burned down before anybody had ever lived in it, and some
of it stuck up in the street, nice new doors, nice hardwood stairway,
new brick chimney, and everything else all blackened and spoiled and
done for, before ever it had been lived in. That was what Chris's
father's face made me think of. The outline was young, and the eyes was
young--young and burning--but there was the man's face, all spoiled and
done for, without ever having been used for a face at all.

"'Hello, sonny,' he says, weak. 'Got a good home?'

"'He's in a good home, with good people, Mr. Bartlett,' Insley told him.

"'For keeps?' Chris's father asks, his eyes burning at Insley's over the
boy's head.

"'We shall look after him somehow, among us,' Robin says. 'Don't worry
about him, Mr. Bartlett. He's all right.'

"The father's look turned toward her and it sort of lingered there a
minute. And then it lit up a little--he didn't smile or change
expression, but his look lit up some.

"'You're the kind of a one I meant,' he says. 'I wanted he should have a
good home. I--I done pretty good for you, didn't I, Chris?' he says.

"Chris leaned way over and pulled at his sleeve. 'You--you--you come in
our house, too,' he says.

"'No, sonny, no,' says the man. 'I guess mebbe I'm--goin' somewheres
else. But I done well by you, didn't I? Your ma and I always meant you
should hev a good home. I'm glad--if you've got it. It's nicer than
bein' with me--ain't it? Ain't it?'

"Chris, on Robin's knee, was leaning forward on the bed, his hand
patting and pulling at his father's hand.

"'If you was here, then it is,' the child says.

"At that his father smiled--and that was the first real, real look that
had come into his face. And he looked around slow to the rest of us.

"'I wasn't never the kind to hev a kid,' he says. 'The drink had me--had
me hard. I knew I'd got to find somebody to show him--about growin' up.
I'm glad you're goin' to.'

"He shut his eyes and Chris threw himself forward and patted his face.

"'Daddy!' he cried, 'I wanted to tell you--I had that hot ice-cream
an'--an'--an' tea on a litty wagon....'

"Robin drew him back, hushed him, looked up questioning to Insley. And
while we all set there, not knowing whether to leave or to stay, the man
opened his eyes, wide and dark.

"'I wish't it had been different,' he said. 'Oh--_God_....'

"Chris leans right over, eager, towards him.

"'Didn't he say anything back?' he says.

"'I guess so,' the man says, thick. 'I guess if you're a good boy, he
did.' Then he turned his head and looked straight at Robin. 'Don't you
forget about his throat, will you?' he says.
'It--gets--sore--awful--easy....'

"He stopped talking, with a funny upsetting sound in his voice. It
struck me then, like it has since, how frightful it was that neither him
nor Chris thought of kissing each other--like neither one had brought
the other up to know how. And yet Chris kissed all of us when we asked
him--just like something away back in him knew how, without being
brought up to know.

"He knew how to cry, though, without no bringing up, like folks do. As
Robin come with him out of the room, Chris hid his face in her skirts,
crying miserable. She set down by the window with him in her arms, and
Insley went and stood side of them, not saying anything. I see them so,
while Dr. Heron and I was busy for a minute in the bedroom. Then we come
out and shut the door--ain't it strange, how one minute it takes so many
people around the bed, and next minute, there's the one that was the one
left in there all alone, able to take care of itself.

"Dr. Heron went away, and Robin still set there, holding Chris. All of a
sudden he put up his face.

"'Robin,' he says, 'did--did my daddy leave me a letter?'

"'A letter?' she repeated.

"'To tell me what to do,' says the child. 'Like before. On the church
steps.'

"'No--why, no, Chris,' she answers him. 'He didn't have to do that, you
know.'

"His eyes was holding hers, like he wanted so much to understand.

"'Then how'll I know?' he asks, simple.

"It seemed to me it was like a glass, magnifying living, had suddenly
been laid on life. Here he was, in the world, with no 'letter' to tell
him what to do.

"All she done was just to lay her cheek right close to his cheek.

"'Robin is going to tell you what to do,' she says, 'till you are big
enough to know.'

"Insley stood there looking at her, and his face was like something had
just uncovered it. And the minute seemed real and simple and almost
old--as if it had begun to be long, long before. It was kind of as if
Robin's will was the will of all women, away back for ever and ever in
time, to pour into the world their power of life and of spirit, through
a child.


"Insley went out in the kitchen to see Mis' Cadoza about some
arrangements--if 'Arrangements' means funerals, it always seems like the
word was spelt different and stiffer--and we was setting there in that
sudden, awful idleness that comes on after, when there was the noise of
an automobile on the Plank Road, and it stopped to the cottage and Alex
Proudfit come springing up to the front door. He pushed it open and come
in the room, and he seemed to put the minute in capitals, with his voice
and his looks and his clothes. I never see clothes so black and so white
and so just-so as Alex Proudfit's could be, and that night they was more
just-so than usual. That night, his hands, with their thick, strange
ring, and his dark, kind of _even_ face was like some fancy picture of a
knight and a lover. But his face never seemed to me to be made very much
a-purpose and just for him. It was rather like a good sample of a good
brand, and like a good sample of any other good brand would have done
him just as well. His face didn't fit him inevitable, like a cork to a
bottle. It was laid on more arbitrary, like a window on a landscape, and
you could have seen the landscape through any other window just as well,
or better.

"'Robin!' he said, 'why did you let the car come back without you? We've
been frantic with anxiety.'

"She told him in a word or two what had happened, and he received it
with his impressions just about half-and-half: one-half relief that the
matter was well over and one-half anxiety for her to hurry up. Everyone
was at the house, everyone was wondering. Mrs. Emmons was anxious....
'My poor Robin, you've overtaxed your strength,' he ends. 'You'll look
worn and not yourself to-night. It's too bad of it. Come, for heaven's
sake, let's be out of this. Come, Calliope....'

He asked her if she had anything to bring, and he gathered up what she
told him was hers. I got ready, too, so's to go up to Proudfit House to
put Chris to bed and set by him awhile. And just as I was going out to
let Insley know we was leaving, the door to the other room opened and
there stood Mis' Cadoza. I see she'd twisted her hair over fresh and
she'd put on a collar. I remember now the way I felt when she spoke.

"'I've got the coffee pot on and some batter stirred up,' says she, kind
of shame-faced. 'I thought mebbe some hot pan-cakes and somethin' hot to
drink'd go good--with Mr. Insley an' all of you.'

"Alex started to say something--heaven knows what--but Robin went right
straight up to Mis' Cadoza--and afterwards I thought back to how Robin
didn't make the mistake of being too grateful.

"'How I'd like them!' she says, matter-of-fact. 'But I've got a lot of
people waiting for me, and I oughtn't to keep them....'

"Insley spoke up from where he was over on the edge of little Eph's bed,
and I noticed Mis' Cadoza had tried to neaten up the kitchen some, and
she'd set the table with oil-cloth and some clean dishes.

"'I was afraid you'd all stay,' he says, 'and I do want all the
pan-cakes. Hurry on--you're keeping back our supper.'

"He nodded to Alex, smiled with us, and come and saw us out the door.
Mis' Cadoza come too, and Robin and I shook hands with her for
goodnight. And as Mis' Cadoza stood there in her own door, seeing us
off, and going to be hostess out in her own kitchen, I wondered to
myself if it was having a collar on, or what it was, that give her a
kind of pretty near dignity.

"I got in the front seat of the car. Chris was back in the tonneau
between Robin and Alex, and as we started he tried to tell Alex what had
happened.

"'My--my--my daddy----' he says.

"'Poor little cuss,' says Alex. 'But how extremely well for the child,
Robin, that the beggar died. Heavens, how I hate your going in these
ghastly places. My poor Robin, what an experience for _to-night_! For
our to-night....'

"She made a sudden move, abrupt as a bird springing free of something
that's holding it. She spoke low, but I heard every word of it.

"'Alex,' she said, 'we've made a mistake, you and I. But it isn't too
late to mend it now.'



XII


"'I hope, Calliope,' said Postmaster Silas Sykes to me, 'that you ain't
in favour of women suffrage.'

"'No, Silas,' says I, 'I ain't.'

"And I felt all over me a kind of a nice wild joy at saying a thing that
I knew a male creature would approve of.

"Silas was delivering the groceries himself that day, and accepting of a
glass of milk in my kitchen doorway. And on my kitchen stoop Letty
Ames--that had come home in time for the Proudfit party--was a-sitting,
a-stitching away on a violet muslin breakfast-cap. It was the next day
after the party and my regular wash-day and I was glad to be back in my
own house, washing quiet, with Emerel Daniel to help me.

"'At school,' says Letty, 'everybody was for it.'

"'I know it,' says Silas, gloomy. 'The schools is goin' to the dogs,
hot-foot. Women suffrage, tinkerin' pupils' teeth, cremation--I don't
know what-all their holdin' out for. In my day they stuck to 'rithmetic
and toed the crack.'

"'That isn't up to date, Mr. Sykes,' says Letty, to get Silas riled.

"It done it. He waved his left arm, angular.

"'Bein' up to date is bein' up to the devil,' he begun, raspish, when I
cut in, hasty and peaceful.

"'By the way, Silas,' I says, 'speaking of dates, it ain't more'n a
_year_ past the time you aldermen was going to clear out Black Hollow,
is it? Ain't you going to get it done _this_ spring?'

"'Oh, dum it, no,' Silas says. 'They're all after us now to get to
pavin' that new street.'

"'That street off there in the marsh. I know they are,' I says innocent.
'Your cousin's makin' the blocks, ain't he, Silas?'

"Just then, in from the shed where she was doing my washing come Emerel
Daniel--a poor little thing that looked like nothing but breath with the
skin drawn over it--and she was crying.

"'Oh, Miss Marsh,' she says, 'I guess you'll have to leave me go home. I
left little Otie so sick--I hadn't ought to of left him--only I did want
the fifty cents....'

"'Otie!' I says. 'I thought Otie was getting better.'

"'I've kept sayin' so because I was ashamed to let folks know,' Emerel
says, 'an' me leavin' him to work. But I had to have the money--'

"'Land,' I says, 'of course you did. Go on home. Silas'll take you in
the delivery wagon, won't you, Silas? You're going right that way, ain't
you?'

"'I wasn't,' says Silas, 'but I can go round that way to oblige.' That's
just exactly how Silas is.

"'Emerel,' I says, 'when you go by the Hollow, you tell Silas what you
was tellin' me--about the smells from there into your house. Silas,' I
says, 'that hole could be filled up with sand-bar sand dirt cheap, now
while the river's low, and you know it.'

"'Woman--' Silas begins excitable.

"'Of course you can't,' I saved him the trouble, 'not while the council
is running pavement halfway acrost the swamp to graft off'n the Wooden
Block folks. That's all, Silas. I know you, head and heart,' I says,
some direct.

"'You don't understand city dealin's no more'n--Who-a!' Silas yells,
pretending his delivery horse needed him, and lit down the walk, Emerel
following. Silas reminds me of the place in the atmosphere where a
citizen ought to be, and ain't.

"Emerel had left the clothes in the bluing water, so I stood and talked
with Letty a minute, stitching away on her muslin breakfast-cap.

"'I'd be for women voting just because Silas isn't,' she says, feminine.

"'In them words,' says I to her, 'is some of why women shouldn't do it.
The most of 'em reason,' I says, 'like rabbits!'

"Letty sort of straightened up and looked at me, gentle. She just
graduated from the Indian Mound School and, in spite of yourself, you
notice what she says. 'You're mistaken, Miss Marsh,' says she, 'I
believe in women voting because we're folks and mothers, and we can't
bring up our children with men taking things away from 'em that we know
they'd ought to have. I want to bring up my children by my votes as well
as by my prayers,' says she.

"'_Your_ children!' says I.

"I donno if you've ever noticed that look come in a girl's face when she
speaks of her children that are going to be sometime? Up to that minute
I'd 'a' thought Letty's words was brazen. But when I see how she looked
when she said it, I sort of turned my eyes away, kind of half reverent.
We didn't speak so when I was a girl. The most we ever heard mentioned
like that was when our mothers showed us our first baby dress and told
us that was for _our_ baby--and then we always looked away, squeamish.

"'That's kind of nice,' I says, slow, 'your owning up, out loud that
way, that maybe you might possibly have--have one, sometime.'

"'My mother has talked to me about it since I began to
know--everything,' Letty said.

"That struck awful near home.

"'I always wisht,' I says, 'I'd talked with my mother--like that. I
always wisht I'd had her tell me about the night I was born. I think
everybody ought to know about that. But I remember when she begun to
speak about it, I always kind of shied off. I should think it would of
hurt her. But then,' I says, 'I never had any of my own. So it don't
matter.'

"'Oh, yes, you have, Miss Marsh,' says Letty.

"I looked at her, blank.

"'Every child that's born belongs to you,' says Letty to me, solemn.

"'Go on,' says I, to draw her out. 'I wouldn't own most of the little
jackanapesses.'

"'But you _do_,' says Letty, 'and so do I! So does every woman, mother
or not.'

"She set the little violet muslin cap on her head to try it, and swept
up and made me a little bow. Pretty as a picture she looked, and ready
for loving.... I always wonder if things ain't sometimes arranged to
happen in patterns, same as crystals. For why else should it be that at
that instant minute young Elbert Sykes, Silas's son, that was home for
the party and a little longer, come up to my door with a note from his
mother--and see Letty in the violet cap, bowing like a rose?

"While they was a-talking easy, like young folks knows how to do
nowdays, I read the note; and it was about what had started Silas to
talking suffrage. Mis' Sykes had opened her house to a suffrage meeting
that evening, and Mis' Martin Lacy from the City was a-going to talk,
and would I go over?

"'Land, yes,' I says to Elbert. 'Tell her I'll come, just for something
to do. I wonder if I can bring Letty, too?'

"'Mother'd be proud, I know,' says Elbert, looking at her like words,
and them words a-praising. They had used to play together when they was
little, but school had come in and kind of made them over.

"'_So_,' says he to Letty, bantering, 'you're in favour of women voting,
are you?'

"She broke off her thread and looked up at him.

"'Of course I am,' she says, giving a cunning little kitten nod that run
all down her shoulders.

"'So you think,' says Elbert, 'that you're just as strong as I am--to
carry things along? Mind you, I don't say as clever. You're easily that.
But put it at just _strong_.'

"She done the little nod again, nicer than the first time.

"'You talk like folks voted with their muscles,' says she. 'Well, I
guess some men do, judging by the results.'

"He laughed, but he went on.

"'And you think,' he says, 'that you would be just as wonderful in
public life as you would be in your home--your very own home?'

"Letty put the last stitch in her muslin cap and she set it on her
head--all cloudy and rose-budded, and land, land, she was lovely when
she looked up.

"'Surely,' she says from under the ruffle, with a little one-cornered
smile.

"He laughed right into her eyes. 'I don't believe you think so,' he
says, triumphant. And all of a sudden there come a-sticking up its head
in his face the regular man look--I can't rightly name it, but every
woman in the world knows it when she sees it--a kind of an _I'm the one
of us two but don't let's stop pretending it's you_ look.

"When she see it, what do you suppose Letty done? First she looked
down. Then she blushed. Then she shrugged up one shoulder and laughed,
sort of little and low and soft. _And she kept still._ She was about as
much like the dignified woman that had just been talking to me about
women's duty as a bow of blue ribbon is like my work apron. And as plain
as the blue on the sky, I see that _she liked the minute when she let
Elbert beat her--liked it_, with a sort of a glow and a quiver.

"He laughed again, and, 'You stay just the the way you are,' he says,
and he contrived to make them common words sort of flow all over her
like petting.

"That evening, when we marched into the Sykes's house to the meeting, he
spoke to her like that again. The men was invited to the meeting, too,
but Mis' Sykes let it be known that they needn't to come till the coffee
and sandwiches, thus escaping the speech. Mis' Sykes ain't in favour of
suffrage, but she does love a new thing in town, and Mis' Martin Lacy
was so well dressed and so soft-spoken that Mis' Sykes would of left her
preach foot-binding in her parlour if she'd wanted to. Mis' Sykes is
like that. Letty was about the youngest there, and she was about the
prettiest I 'most ever saw; and when he'd got them all seated, young
Elbert Sykes, that was the only man there, just naturally gravitated
over and set down by her, like the Lord meant. I love to see them little
things happen, and I never smile at them, same as some. Because it's
like I got a peek in behind the curtain and see the eternal purpose
working away, quiet and still.

"Well, Mis' Lacy, she talked, and she put things real sane and plain,
barring I didn't believe any of what she said. And pretty soon I stopped
trying to listen and I begun thinking about Emerel Daniel. I'd been down
to see her just before supper, and I hadn't had her out of my head much
of the time since. Emerel's cottage wasn't half a block from Black
Hollow, the great low place beyond the river road that the town used as
a dump. It was full of things without names, and take it on a day with
the wind just right, Emerel had to keep her window shut on that side of
her house. Water was standing in the hollow all the whole time. Flies
and mosquitoes come from it by the flock and the herd. And when I'd held
my nose and scud past it that afternoon to get to Emerel's, I'd almost
run into Dr. Heron, just coming out from seeing Otie, and I burst right
out with my thoughts all over him, and asked him if Black Hollow wasn't
what was the matter with Otie and if it wasn't all that was the matter
with him.

"'Unquestionably,' says Dr. Heron. 'I told Mrs. Daniel six months ago
that she must move.'

"'Well,' says I, 'not having any of her other country homes open this
year, Emerel had to stay where she was. And Otie with her. But what did
you say to the council about filling in the hole?'

"'The council,' says Dr. Heron, 'is paving the county swamp. There's a
good crop of wooden blocks this year.'

"'True enough,' says I, grim, 'and Otie is a-paying for it.'

"That was exactly how the matter stood. And all the while Mis' Lacy was
a-talking her women suffrage, I set there grieving for Emerel, and
wondering how it was that Silas Sykes and Timothy Toplady and Jimmy
Sturgis and even Eppleby Holcomb, that belonged to the common council,
_could_ set by and see Otie die, and more or less of the rest of us in
the same kind of danger.

"Next I knew, Mis' Lacy, that was all silky movements and a sweet voice,
had got through her own talk and was asking us ladies to express
ourselves. Everybody felt kind of delicate at first, and then Libby
Liberty starts up and spoke her mind:--

"'_I_ believe all you've been a-saying,' she says, 'and I hev for
twenty years. I never kill a hen without I realize how good the women
can do a human being's work if they're put to it.'

"'I always think of that, too,' says Mis' Hubbelthwait, quick, 'about
the hotel....' She kind of stopped, but we all knew what she meant.
Threat is seldom if ever sober, especially on election day; but he
votes, and she only runs the hotel and keeps them both out of the
poorhouse.

"'Well, look at me,' says Abagail Arnold, 'doin' work to oven and to
counter, an' can't get my nose near nothin' public but my taxes.'

"'Of course,' says Mis' Uppers, rocking, 'I've almost _been_ the mayor
of Friendship Village, bein' his wife, so. An' I must say he never done
a thing I didn't think I could do. Or less it was the junketin' trips.
I'd 'a' been down with one o' my sick headaches on every one o' them.'

"'Men _know_ more,' admitted Mis' Fire Chief Merriman, 'but I donno as
they can _do_ any more than us. When the Fire Chief was alive an'
holdin' office an' entertaining politicians, I use' often to think o'
that, when I had their hot dinner to get.'

"'I s'pose men do know more than we do,' says Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, reflective. 'I know Eppleby is lightnin'
at figures, an' he can tell about time-tables, an' he sees sense to fine
print parts o' the newspapers that looks like so many doctors'
prescriptions to me. An' yet honestly, when it comes to some questions
of sense, I've known Eppleby not to have any.'

"'Jimmy, either,' says Mis' Sturgis, confidential. 'I donno. I've
thought about that a good deal. It seems as if, if we got the chance, us
women might not vote brilliant at first, but we would vote with our
sense. The sense that can pick out a pattern and split a receipt, an'
dress the children out o' the house money. I bet there's a lot o' that
kind o' sense among women that don't get used up, by a long shot.'

"Mis' Timothy Toplady drew her shawl up her back, like she does.

"'Well-a,' she says, 'Timothy's an awful good husband, but when I see
some of the things he buys for the house, an' the way he gets took in on
real estate, I often wonder if he's such a good citizen as he lets on.'

"I kep' a-wondering why Letty didn't say something, and by and by I
nudged her.

"'Go on, speak up,' I intimated.

"And, same time, I heard Elbert Sykes, on the other side, say something
to her, low. 'I could tell them,' he says to her, 'that to look like
you do is better than being elected!'

"And Letty--what do you s'spose?--she just glanced up at him, and made a
little kind of a commenting wrinkle with her nose, and looked down and
kept her silence. Just like he'd set there with a little fine chain to
her wrist.

"We talked some more and asked some questions and heard Mis' Lacy read
some, and then it was time for the men. They come in together--six or
eight of them, and most of them, as it happened, members of the common
council. And when Mis' Sykes had set them down on the edge of the room,
and before anybody had thought of any remark to pass, Mis' Lacy she
spoke up and ask' the men to join in the discussion, and called on Mis'
Sykes, that hadn't said nothing yet, to start the ball a-rolling.

"'_Well_,' says Mis' Sykes, with her little society pucker, 'I must say
the home and bring-up my children seems far, far more womanly to me than
the tobacco smoke and whiskey of public life.'

"She glanced over to the men, kind of with a way of arching her neck and
they all gave her a sort of a little ripple, approving. And with this
Mis' Toplady kind of tossed her head up.

"'Oh, well, I don't want the responsibility,' she says. 'Land, if I was
a votin' woman, I should feel as if I'd got bread in the pan and cake in
the oven and clothes in the bluin' water all the whole time.'

"'He, he, he!' says Timothy, her lawful lord. And Silas and Jimmy
Sturgis and the rest joined in, tuneful.

"Then Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, she vied in, and done a small,
careless laugh.

"'Oh, well, me, too,' she says, 'I declare, as I get older an' wake up
some mornin's I feel like life was one big breakfast to get an' me the
hired girl. If I had to vote besides, I donno what I _would_ do.'

"'An',' says Mis' Hubbelthwait, 'I always feel as if a politician was a
disgrace to be, same as an actor, _unless_ you got to be a big one. An'
can us women ever be big ones even if we want? Which I'm sure I don't
want,' she says, sidling a look towards the men's row.

"'Oh, not only that,' says Abagail Arnold, 'but you'd feel so kind of
sheepish votin' for the President, away off there in Washington. I
always feel terrible sheepish even prayin' for him, let alone
votin'--an' like it _couldn't_ make no real difference.'

"'Oh, an' _ladies_!' says Mis' Mayor Uppers, 'really it's bad enough to
have been the wife of a mayor. If I had to vote an' was in danger of
coming down with a nomination for somethin' myself, I couldn't get to
sleep nights.'

"'Mercy,' said Mis' Fire Chief Merriman, 'a mayor is nothin' but a baby
in public life compared to a fire chief. A mayor gets his night's rest.
Could a woman ever chase to fires at three o'clock in the mornin'? An'
if she votes, what's to prevent her bein' elected to some such job by
main strength?'

"'Or like enough get put on a jury settin' on a murderer, an' hev to
look at dug-up bones an' orgins,' says Mis' Sturgis--her that's an
invalid and gloomy by complexion.

"And one and all, as they spoke, they looked sidewise to the men for
their approval. And they got it.

"'That's the ticket!' says Timothy Toplady, slapping his knee. 'I tell
you, gentlemen, we've got a nice set of women folks here in this town.
They don't prostitute their brains to no fool notions.'

"There was a little hush, owing to that word that Timothy had used kind
of uncalled for, and then a little quick buzz of talk to try to cover
it. And in the buzz I heard Elbert saying to Letty:

"'You _know_ you think of yourself in a home afterward--and not around
at polls and things, Letty.'

"'You don't have to board at the polls because you vote there, you
know,' Letty said; but she says it with a way, with a way. She said it
like a pretty woman talking to a man that's looking in her eyes and
thinking how pretty she is, and she knows he's thinking so. And you
can't never get much real arguing done that way.

"It always kind of scares me to see myself showed up--and now it was
like I had ripped a veil off the whole sex, and off me, too. I see us
face to face. Why was it that before them men had come in, the women had
all talked kind of doubtful and suffrage-leaning, and then had veered
like the wind the minute the men had come on the scene? Mis' Toplady had
defied Timothy time after time, both public and private; Mis'
Hubbelthwait bosses her husband not only drunk but sober; Mis' Sturgis
don't do a thing Jimmy wants without she happens to want it too--and so
on. Yet at the mention of this one thing, these women that had been
talking intelligent and wondering open-minded had all stopped being the
way they was and had begun to say things sole to please the men. Even
Libby Liberty had kept still--her that has a regular tongue in her head.
And Letty, that believed in it all, and had talked to me so womanly
that morning, she was listening and blushing for Elbert and holding her
peace. And then I remembered, like a piece of guilt, sensing that nice,
wild feeling I myself had felt that morning a-denying woman suffrage in
the presence of Postmaster Silas Sykes. What in creation ailed us all?

"_What in creation...._ Them words sort of steadied me. It looked to me
like it was creation itself that ailed us yet. Creation is a thing that
it takes most folks a good while to recover from....

" ... I remembered seeing Silas's delivery boy go whistling along the
street one night, and pass a cat. The cat wasn't doing nothing active.
It was merely idle. But the boy brought up a big shingle he was carrying
and swished it through the air and says 'Z-t-t-t-t,' to the cat's heels,
to see the cat take to them--which it done--like the cat immemorial has
done for immemorial boys, delivery and other. And once, at dusk, a big,
strange man with a gun on his shoulder passed me on Daphne Street, and
when he done so, he says to me 'Z-t-t-t,' under his breath, just like
the boy to the cat, and just like the untamed man immemorial has said
when he got the chance. It seemed to me like men was created with, so
to say, a shingle and a gun, for the hunting, and just as there is joy
in their hunting, so there is a palpitatin' delight in being hunted and
flattered by being caught and bound, hand and foot and mind.

"'We like it--why, I tell you, we like it,' I says to myself, 'and us
here in Mis' Sykes's parlour are burning with the old original,
left-over fire, breathed at creation into women's breasts!'

"And it seemed like I kind of touched hands with all the women that used
to be. And I looked over to that row of grinning, tired men, not so very
much dressed up, and I thought:--

"'Why, you're the men of this world and we're the women, and there ain't
no more thrilling fact in this universe. And why don't we all reco'nize
it and shut up?'

"That was what I was thinking over in my mind while Mis' Martin Lacy
said good night to us and rushed off to catch her train for the City,
hoping she had made us see some light. That was what I was still going
over when Mis' Sykes called me to help with the refreshments. And then,
just as I started out to the kitchen, the outside door that was part
open was pushed in and somebody come in the room. It was Emerel Daniel,
in calico and no hat. And as soon as we see her face, everybody stopped
talking and stared. She was white as the table-cloth and shaking.

"'Oh, ladies,' she says, 'won't one of you come down to the house?
Otie's worse--I donno what it is. I donno what to do to take care of
him.'

"She broke down, poor, nervous little thing, and sort of swallowed her
whole throat. And Mis' Toplady and we all rushed right over to her.

"'Why, Emerel,' Mis' Toplady says, 'I thought Otie was getting ever so
much better. Is it the real typhoid, do you s'pose?' she ask' her.

"Emerel looked over to me. 'Isn't it?' she says. And then I spoke right
up with all there is to me.

"'Yes, sir,' I says, 'it is the real typhoid. And if you want to know
what's giving it to him, ladies and gentlemen, ask the common council
that's setting over there by the wall. Dr. Heron says that Black Hollow,
that's a sink for the whole town, give it to him, and that nothing else
did--piled full of diseases right in back of Emerel's house. And if you
want to know who's responsible for his dying if he dies,' I says right
out, 'look over in the same direction to the men that wouldn't vote to
fill in the Black Hollow with sand because they needed the money so bad
for paving up half the county swamp.'

"It was most as still in the room as when Timothy had said 'prostitute.'
All but me. I went right on--nothing could of kept me still then.

"'Us ladies,' I says, 'has tried for two years to get the Council to
fill in that hole. We've said and said what would happen to some of us,
what with our pumps so near the place, and what with flies from it
visiting our dinner-table dishes, sociable and continual. What did you
say to us? You said women hadn't no idee of town finances. Mebbe we
ain't--mebbe we ain't. But we have got some idea of town humanity, if I
do say it, that share in it. And this poor little boy has gone to work
and proved it.'

"With that, Emerel, who had been holding in--her that's afraid even to
ask for starch if you forget to give it to her--she broke right down and
leaned her head on her arm on the clock shelf:--

"'Oh,' she says, 'all the years I been giving him his victuals and his
bath and sewing his clothes up, I never meant it to come to this--for no
reason. If Otie dies, I guess he needn't of--that's the worst. He
needn't of.'

"Mis' Toplady put her arm right around Emerel and kind of poored her
shoulder in that big, mother way she's got--and it was her that went
with her, like it's always Mis' Toplady that does everything. And us
ladies turned around and all begun to talk at once.

"'Let's plan out right here about taking things in to Emerel,' says Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss. 'I've got some fresh bread out of the oven.
I'll carry her a couple of loaves, and another couple next baking or
two.'

"'I'll take her in a hen,' says Libby Liberty, 'so be she'll kill it
herself.'

"Somebody else said a ham, and somebody some butter, and Libby threw in
some fresh eggs, if she got any. Mis' Hubbelthwait didn't have much to
do with, but she said she would take turns setting up with Otie. Mis'
Sykes give a quarter--she don't like to bake for folks, but she's real
generous with money. And Silas pipes in:--

"'Emerel can have credit to the store till Otie begins to get better,'
he said. 'I ain't been lettin' her have it. She's looked so peaked I
been afraid she wan't a-goin' to be able to work, an' I didn't want she
should be all stacked up with debts.'

"But me, I set there a-thinking. And all of a sudden I says out what I
thought: 'Ladies,' I says, 'and all of you: What to Emerel is hens and
hams and credit? They ain't,' I says, 'nothing but patches and poultices
on what's the trouble up to her house.'

"Eppleby Holcomb, that hadn't been saying much, spoke up:--

"'I know,' he says, 'I know. You mean what good do they do to the boy.'

"'I mean just that,' I says. 'What good is all that to Otie that's lying
over by Black Hollow? And how does it keep the rest of the town safe?'

"'Well,' says Silas, eager, 'let's us get out the zinc wagon you ladies
bought, and let's us go to collectin' the garbage again so that won't
all be dumped in Black Hollow. And leave the ladies keep on payin' for
it. It's real ladies' work, I think, bein' as it's no more'n a general
scrapin' up of ladies' kitchens.'

"Then Letty Ames, that hadn't been saying anything, spoke up, to nobody
in particular:--

"'Otie's a dear little soul,' she said, 'a dear little soul!'

"'Ain't he?' says Marne Holcomb. 'Eppleby 'most always has a nut or
somethin' in his pocket to give him as he goes by. He takes it like a
little squirrel an' like a little gentleman.'

"'He's awful nice when he comes in the shop,' said Abagail. 'He looks at
the penny-apiece kind and then buys the two-for-a-cent, so's to give
his mother one.'

"'He knows how to behave in a store,' Silas admitted. 'I 'most always
give him a coffee-berry, just to see him thank me.'

"'He come into the hotel one day,' says Mis' Hubbelthwait, 'an' stood by
me when I was bakin'. I give him a little wad of dough to roll.'

"'I let him drive the 'bus one day, settin' on my knee,' says Jimmy
Sturgis. 'He was a nice, careful, complete little cuss.'

"Eppleby Holcomb nodded with his eyes shut.

"'We don't like folks to swing on our front gate,' he says. 'He done it,
but he marched right in and told us he'd done it. I give him a
doughnut--an' he's kep' right on swingin' an' ownin' up an' eatin'
doughnuts.'

"'Even when he chased my chickens,' says Libby Liberty, 'he chased 'em
like a little gentleman--_towards_ the coop an' not down the road. I
always noticed that about him.'

"'Yes,' says Letty, again, 'he's a dear little soul. _What makes us let
him die?_'

"She said it so calm that it caught even my breath--and my breath, in
these things, ain't easy caught. But I got it right back again, and I
says:--

"'Yes, sir. He was on the way to being somebody that Friendship Village
could have had for the right kind of an inmate. And now he'll be nothing
but a grave, that's no good to anybody. And Sodality,' I couldn't help
adding, 'will likely pitch right in and take care of his grave,
tasteful.'

"And when I said that, it come over me how Emerel had dressed him and
bathed him and made his clothes, and done washings, tireless, to get the
fifty cents--besides bringing him into the world, tedious. And now it
was all going for nothing, all for nothing--when we could of helped it.
And I plumped out with what I'd said that morning to Silas:--

"'Why don't you fill up Black Hollow with sand-bar sand out of the
river, now it's so low? Then, even if it's too late for Otie, mebbe we
can keep ourselves from murderin' anybody else.'

"Them half a dozen men of the common council set still a minute, looking
down at Mis' Sykes's parlour ingrain. And I looked over at them, and my
heart come up in my throat and both of them ached like the toothache.
Because all of a sudden it seemed to me it wasn't just Timothy and
Eppleby and Silas and some more of the council setting there by the
wall--but it was like, in them few men, tired and not so very well
dressed, was setting the lawmakers of the whole world; and there in
front of them, wasn't only Mis' Holcomb and Libby and Letty and me, but
Emerel Daniel, too, and all the women there is--saying to them: 'My
land, we've dressed 'em an' bathed 'em an' sewed for 'em an' brought 'em
into the world, tedious. Let 'em live--fix things so's they can live an'
so's it needn't all go for nothin'.' And I sort of bubbled up and
spilled over, as if everything we was all of us _for_ had come up in my
throat.

"'Oh, folks,' I says, 'just look what us in this room could have done
for Otie--so be we'd begun in time.'

"Right like a dash of cold water into my face, Mis' Sykes spoke up, cold
as some kind of death:--

"'Well, ladies,' she says, 'I guess we've got our eyes open now. _I_ say
that's what we'd ought to hev been doin' instead o' talkin' women
votin',' she says, triumphant.

"Then somebody spoke again, in a soft, new, not-used-to-it little voice,
and in her chair over beside Elbert, Letty Ames leaned forward, and her
eyes was like the sunny places in water.

"'Don't you see,' she says, 'don't you see, Mis' Sykes, that's what Mis'
Lacy meant?'

"'How so?' says Mis' Sykes, short.

"I'll never forget how sweet and shy and unexpected and young Letty
looked, but she answered, as brave as brave:--

"'Otie Daniel is sick,' she said, 'and all us women can do is to carry
him broth and bread and nurse him. It's only the men that can bring
about the things to make him well. And they haven't done it. It's been
the women who have been urging it--and not getting it done. Wasn't it
our work to do, too?'

"I see Elbert looking at her--like he just couldn't bear to have her
speak so, like some men can't. And I guess he spoke out in answer before
he meant to:--

"'But let them do it womanly, Letty,' he said, 'like your mother did and
my mother did.'

"Letty turned and looked Elbert Sykes straight in the face:--

"'_Womanly!_' she says. 'What is there womanly about my bathing and
feeding a child inside four clean walls, if dirt and bad food and
neglect are outside for him? Will you tell me if there is anything more
womanly than my right to help make the world as decent for my children
as I would make my own home?'

"I looked at Letty, and looked; and I see with a thrill I can't tell you
about how Letty seemed. For she seemed the way she had that morning on
my kitchen stoop, when she spoke of her children and when I felt like
I'd ought to turn away--the way I'd used to when my mother showed me my
baby dress and told me who it would be for. Only now--only now, somehow,
I didn't want to turn away. Somehow I wanted to keep right on looking at
Letty, like Elbert was looking. And I see what he see. How Letty was
what she'd said that morning that she was--and that I was--and that we
all was: A mother, then and there, whether she ever had any children or
not. And she was next door to owning up to it right there before them
all and before Elbert. We didn't speak so when I was a girl. We didn't
own up, out loud, that we ever thought anything about what we was for.
But now, when I heard Letty do it....

" ... Now, when I heard Letty do it, all to once, I looked into a window
of the world. And instead of touching hands like I had with the women
that use' to be, I looked off and off down all the time there's going to
be, and for a minute I touched, tip-fingers, the hands of the other
women that's coming towards me; and out of places inside of me that I
didn't know before had eyes, I see them, mothers to the whole world,
_inside their four walls and out_. And they wasn't coming with poultices
and bread and broth in their hands, to patch up what had been left
undone; nor with the keys to schoolhouses that they'd got open by
scheming; nor with newspapers full of health that they'd had to run down
back alleys to sell; nor national holidays that they'd got a-hold of
through sheer accident; nor yet with nice new headstones for cemetery
improvements on the dead and gone--no, sir, their hands wasn't occupied
with any of these ways of serving that they'd schemed for and stole. But
their hands--was in men's hands, closer and nearer than they'd ever been
before. And their eyes was lit up with a look that was a new look, and
that give new life to the old original left-over blaze. And I looked
across to that row of tired men, not so very much dressed up, and I
thought:--

"'You're the men of this world and we're the women. And there ain't no
more thrilling fact in this universe, save one, _save one_: And that's
that we're all human beings. That your job and ours is to make the world
ready for the folks that are to come, and to make the folks that come
fit to live in that new world. And yet over there by Black Hollow one of
our children is dying from something that was your job _and_ ours to do,
and we didn't take hold of hands and do it!'

"'Oh, Letty!' I says out. 'And Silas and all of you! Let's pretend,
just for a minute, that we was all citizens and equal. And let's figure
out things for Otie, just like we had the right!'


"I'd asked Letty to spend the night with me, and Elbert walked home with
us. And just as we got there, he says to her again:--

"'Oh, Letty--you ain't _strong_ enough to help carry things along!'

"'You've got more strength,' she says to him, 'and more brains. But it
isn't so much the strength or the brains in women that is going to help
when the time comes. It's the--mother in them.'

"And I says to myself:--

"'And it's the--_human beingness_ of them.' But Letty didn't know that
yet.

"Elbert answered, after a minute:--

"'You may be right and you may be wrong, but, Letty, Letty, what a woman
you are!'

"And at that Letty looked up at him, just as she had looked at him that
morning--just for a minute, and then she dipped down the brim of her big
hat. I donno what she answered him. I didn't care. I didn't care. For
what I see was the old wild joy of a woman in being glorified by a male
creature. And I knew then, and I know now, that that won't never die,
no matter what.

"Elbert put out his hand.

"'Good night, Letty,' he said.

"She gave him hers, and he closed over it light with his other hand.

"'May I see you to-morrow?' he asked her.

"'Oh, I don't know,' said Letty. 'Come and see if I'll see you--will
you?'

"He laughed a little, looking in her eyes.

"'At about eight,' he promised. 'Good night....'

"I got the key out from under the mat to a tune inside me. Because I'd
heard, and I knew that Letty had heard, that tone in Elbert's voice that
is the human tone--I can't rightly name it, but every woman in the world
knows it when she hears it--a tone that says: _If I have my way, you and
I are going to live out our lives together_.

"And I knew then, and I know now, that that tone won't ever die, either.
And some day, away off in a new world right here on this earth, I
believe there's going to be a wilder joy in being men and women than all
the men and women up to now have ever lived or dared or dreamed.



XIII


"'Miss Marsh,' says Christopher.

"Mis' Emmons's living-room was like a cup of something cool, and I set
there in the after-supper light having such a nice rested time drinking
it in that at first I didn't hear him.

"'Miss Marsh,' he says again, and pulled at my dress. I put out my hand
to him and he took it. Sometimes I donno but hands are a race of beings
by themselves that talk and answer and do all the work and act like
slaves and yet really rule the world.

"'Is it me telling my feet where to go or do they tell me where I go?'
asked Christopher.

"'You can have it either way you want,' I told him. 'Some does one way
and some does the other. Which way do you like?'

"He thought for a minute, twisting on one foot with the other up in his
hand.

"'I'd like 'em to know how without our sayin' so,' he announces finally.

"'Well,' I says, 'I left out that way. That's really the best way of
all.'

"He looked at me eager.

"'Is it a game?' he says.

"'Yes,' I told him.

"'What's its name?' he ask' me.

"'Game of Life,' I told him again.

"He thought about it, still twisting. Then he done one of his littlest
laughs, with his head turned away.

"'My feet heard you,' he says. 'Now they know how to play.'

"'I hope so, Christopher,' says I, and kissed him on the back of his
neck. That made him mad, like it usually done.

"'My neck is my neck,' says he, 'and it's shut in my collar. It ain't
home to-day.'

"'Is your mouth home?' I ask' him.

"And it was.

"I could of set there talking with him all evening, but not on the night
of Sodality's Annual. I'd stopped by for Mis' Emmons. She was getting
ready, and while I waited I could hear folks passing on their way to the
schoolhouse where the meeting was. For the town was all het up about
what the meeting was going to do.

"I'd seen half-dozen or so of us that afternoon when we was putting
plants on the hall platform, and we'd all spoke our minds.

"'I'm gaspin',' observed Mis' Sturgis, 'to take a straw vote of us on
this amendin' business. Near as I can make out, it's going through.'

"'Near as I can make out,' says Marne Holcomb, 'a good deal more than
amending is going on here to-night. It looks to me as if Sodality was
just going to get into its own Cemetery and be forgot, and as if
something else was coming to meet us--something big!'

"Mis' Toplady spoke up, comfortable, down on her knees putting green
paper on the pots.

"'Well, my land!' she says, 'I've noticed two-three things in my
lifetime. And one is, that do what whoever will, things do change. And
so whenever a new change pops up, I always think: "Oh, I guess you're
comin' along anyway. I donno's I need to help." An' yet somethin' in me
always prances to pitch in, too.'

"Timothy was there, occupying himself with the high places us ladies
couldn't get up to.

"'Well,' says he, 'if folks stop dying, like Sodality evidently intends
they shall if it goes out of business, maybe you'll stay home some,
Amandy, and not always be off laying folks out.'

"'I know it,' Mis' Toplady returns, 'I've laid out most everybody I
know, and of course I'm real glad to do it. But the last dead's hair I
done up, I caught myself thinking how much more interesting it'd be if
they was alive an' could find fault. Doin' for the dead gets kind of
monotonous, _I_ think.'

"'_I_ don't,' says Timothy, decided. 'The minute you work for the
living, you get all upset with being criticised. I s'pose the dead would
find fault, if they could, over the way you cut the grass for 'em. But
they can't an' so there's an end to it, an' we get along, peaceful. If
they was living folks layin' there, you can bet they'd do some back
talk.'

"'Well,' says I, 'I've been sick of Sodality for years. But it was about
the most what-you-might-call society I had, and I hated to give it up.'

"'Me, either,' says Mame Holcomb.

"'Me, either,' says Mis' Uppers. 'I declare I've often said I wouldn't
know what _to_ do if folks stopped dyin' so's Sodality would have to
close out.'

"Mis' Sykes was setting watching the rest of us.

"'Well,' she observes, cold, 'if I was usin' the dead to keep in
society, I donno's I'd own it up.'

"Silas Sykes had just come over from the store to see if there was
anything he could meddle in.

"'Heh!' says he, showing his teeth. 'Not many of Sodality, as I can
see, _deserves_ to die and be done for, civilized.'

"'Don't you worry yourself, Silas Sykes,' says I, 'we're going to be
done things for before we die hereafter, and more civilized than ever
you dreamed of, all up and down your ledger. That's where you do dream,
ain't it, Silas?' I says. And though I said it gay, I meant it frank.

"I remember I looked off down the room, and all of a sudden I see it as
it would be that night, packed with folks. Somehow, we'd got to saying
less about the Sodality part of the meeting, and more about the _open_
part. Most of the town would be there. We'd got the School Board to
leave us announce the second party for that night, following the
meeting, and music was coming, and us ladies had froze the ice-cream,
and the whole time reminded me of a big bud, flowered slow and bursting
sudden.

"'Land, land,' I says, fervent, 'I feel like Friendship Village was a
person that I was going to meet to-night for the first time.'

"'You express yourself so odd sometimes, Calliope,' says Mis' Sykes,
distant--but Mis' Toplady and Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, they
both looked up and nodded, and they knew.

"I set holding Christopher in Mis' Emmons's living-room, and thinking
about this and most everything else, when I looked out and see Insley
going along. He hadn't been back in town since Christopher's father's
funeral, two days before, and I'd been wanting to talk over with him a
thing or two that was likely to come up at the meeting, that of course
he was going to be at, and that had to be handled with thimbles on every
finger, or somebody'd get pricked. So I rapped smart on the upper sash
and called to him through the screen, but not before I had seen the look
on his face. I've caught that special look only once or twice in my
life--the look of somebody passing the house that is different to them
from all other houses in the world. The look that wants to be a look and
won't let itself be, that tries to turn the other way and can't start,
that thinks it's unconscious and knows it isn't, and that finally, with
Insley, give it up and looked Mis' Emmons's house straight in the face
for a minute, as if he might anyhow let himself have that much intimacy.

"I had a little list of things I wanted to see go through that night.
Enough of us was ready to have Sodality perform its last cemetery rite
and bury itself so that that was pretty sure to go through, but I wanted
more than that, and several of us ladies did; and it looked to me like
the schoolhouse and the young folks and the milk and the meat of this
town could be done nice things to, so be we managed the meeting right. I
even had a wild dream that the whole new society might adopt
Christopher. Well, I donno why that's funny. It ain't funny when a club
makes a building or a play or a bazaar or a dinner. Why shouldn't it
make a man?

"I told some of this to Insley, and he caught fire and lit up into a
torch and had it all thought out beforehand, better than I could of
dreamed it. But he made me feel bad. Haunted folks--folks haunted by
something that was and that isn't--always makes me feel bad. How is it
possible, I see he was asking himself the old, wore-out question, to
drive out of the world something that is the world?

"While we talked, Christopher went off to sleep in my arms, and even
while I was so interested, I was enjoying the change that comes--the
head growing heavier and heavier on my arm, as if sleep weighed
something.

"'Poor little kiddie,' I says, stupid.

"'Rich little kiddie,' Insley says, wistful.

"'Dear little kiddie,' says somebody else.

"In the dining room doorway Robin stood--in a doorway as we had first
seen her.

"'Put him over here on the couch, do,' she says. 'It's much too hot to
hold him, Calliope.'

"She'd called me that at Mr. Bartlett's funeral, and I recollect how my
throat went all over me when she done so. Ain't it funny about your own
first name? It seems so _you_ when somebody nice says it for the first
time--more you than you ever knew you were.

"Insley lifted Chris in his arms to do as she said, and then stood
staring at her across the child.

"'I've been thinking,' he said, blunt--it's like watching the sign of
folks to watch the different kind of things that makes them blunt. 'It's
not my affair, but do you think you ought to let Chris get so--so used
to you? What will he do when you're--when you go away?'

"At this she said nothing for a moment, then she smiled up at him.

"'I meant what I told him that night his father died,' she answered.
'I'm going to keep Chris with me, always.'

"'Always?' He stared at her, saw her face mean what she said. 'How fine
of you! How fine of Mr. Proudfit!' said Insley.

"She waited just a breath, then she met his eyes, brave.

"'Not fine of me,' she says--'only fine for me. And not--Mr. Proudfit
at all. I ought to take back what I told you--since I did tell you. That
is not going to be.'

"I don't think Insley meant for a minute to show any lack of formal
respect for Christopher's sleep. But what Insley did was simply to turn
and sit him down, bolt upright, on my lap. Then he wheeled round, trying
to read her face.

"'Do you mean you aren't going to marry him?' he demanded, rough--it's
like watching another sign of folks to watch for the one thing that will
make one or another rough.

"'We are not going to be married,' she said. 'I mean that.'

"I suppose likely the room went away altogether then, Christopher and me
included, and left Insley there in some place a long ways from
everywhere, with Robin's face looking at him. And he just naturally took
that face between his hands.

"'Robin,' he said, 'don't make me wait to know.'

"Insley was the suddenest thing. And land, what it done to her name to
have him say it. Just for a minute it sounded as if her name was the
population of the world,--but with room for everybody else, too.

"I think she put up her hands to take down his hands, but when she
touched them, I think hers must have closed over his, next door to on
purpose.

"'Dear,' she says, 'tell me afterward.'

"In that minute of stillness in which any new heaven is let down on a
suitable new earth, a little voice piped up:--

"'Tell it now,' says the voice. 'Is it a story? Tell it now.'

"And there was Christopher, wide awake where he had been set down rude
on my knee, and looking up at them, patient.

"'I was dreamin' my dream,' he explained, polite. 'It was about all the
nice things there is: You and you and you and hot ice-cream and the
house's party.... Is they any more?' he asked, anxious.

"Robin put out her arms for him, and she and Insley and I smiled at one
another over his head.

"'Ever so many more,' we told him.


"I slipped out then and found Mis' Emmons, and I guess I come as near
shining as anything that's like me can.

"'What's the matter?' she says to me. 'You look as if you'd turned up
the wick.'

"'I did. They have. I won't tell,' I says. 'Oh, Mis' Emmons, I guess
the meeting to-night won't need to adopt Christopher.'

"She looked up at me quick, and then she started shining, too.

"'What a universe it is,' she says, '--what a universe it is.'

"Then we went off down to the meeting together. And the village was
wonderful to go through, like a home some of us had hollowed out of the
hills and was living in, common. As we went walking to the schoolhouse,
the sidewalks seemed to me no more than ways dickered up to fasten us
together, and to fasten us to them whose feet had wore the road before
us, and to lead us to them that was coming, coming after: Christopher
and Eph and Spudge Cadoza and Otie Daniel, or them like these. Otie
Daniel had died the night before. Dr. Barrows had said Eph would not be
lame, but we see he wan't sure of the value of the boy's physical life.
But even so, even so we had a chance with Chris, and we had a chance
with Spudge, and we had millions more. My feet wanted to run along them
roads to meet the millions and my fingers tingled to get things ready.
And as we went down Daphne Street to that meeting, I see how we all
_was_ getting things ready, and I could of sung out for what I saw:--

"For Mame Holcomb, sprinkling clothes on the back porch and hurrying to
get to the hall.

"For Mis' Uppers, picking her currants before she went, so's to get an
early start on her jam in the morning.

"For Viny Liberty, setting sponge for her bread loud enough so we heard
her clear out in the street, and for Libby, shutting up her chicken coop
that they earned their own living with.

"For Mis' Toplady, driving by with Timothy, and her in the brown silk
she'd made herself, like she's made all she's got.

"For Abagail Arnold, wiping out her window to be filled to-morrow with
the pies of her hand.

"For little Mis' Sparks, rocking her baby on the front stoop and
couldn't come to the meeting at all, 'count of having nobody to leave
him with.

"For them that had left cloth bleaching in their side yards and was
saving the price of buying bleached. For them that had done their day's
work, from parlour to wood-shed, and had hurried up the supper dishes
and changed their dress and was on their way to the schoolhouse. For
them that had lived lives like this and had died at it. For all the
little dog-eared, wore-out account books where every one of them women
figured out careful what they couldn't spend. And I looked down the
street till I couldn't see no farther, and yet Daphne Street was going
on, round and round the world, and acrost and acrost it, full of women
doing the same identical way. And I could see away off to the places
that Daphne Street led past, where women has all these things done for
them and where the factories is setting them free, like us here in the
village ain't free just yet, and I felt a wicked envy for them that can
set their hands to the New Work, that us here in Friendship Village is
trying so hard to get in between whiles. And I could see away ahead to
times when sponge and currants and clothes and coops and similar won't
have to be mothered by women 'most as much as children are; but when
women, Away Off Then, will be mothers and workers and general human
beings such as yet we only know how to think about being, scrappy and
wishful. But all the time, in their arms and in ours and nowheres else,
lays all the rest of the world that is ever going to be. And something
in me kind of climbed out of me and run along ahead and looked back at
me over its shoulder and says: 'Keep up, keep up, Calliope.' And before
I knew it, right out loud, I says: 'I will. I will.'

"An hour later, up in the schoolhouse, Silas Sykes stood arguing, to
the top of his tone, that the first work of the reorganized
society--that was to take in the whole town--had ought to be to buy a
bargain Cupid-and-fish fountain he knew of, for the market square.

"'It's going to take years and years to do--everything,' says Mis'
Emmons to me, low.

"But that didn't seem like much of anything to either of us. 'What if it
is,' I says. And she nodded."





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