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Title: The Emblems of Fidelity - A Comedy in Letters
Author: Allen, James Lane
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Emblems of Fidelity - A Comedy in Letters" ***


  A Comedy in Letters




  There is nothing so ill-bred as audible
  laughter.... I am sure that since I have
  had the full use of my reason nobody has
  ever heard me laugh.
      --Lord Chesterfield's Letters to his Son.






EDWARD BLACKTHORNE...............Famous elderly English novelist

BEVERLEY SANDS....................Rising young American novelist

BENJAMIN DOOLITTLE....Practical lawyer, friend of Beverley Sands

GEORGE MARIGOLD............................Fashionable physician

CLAUDE MULLEN............Fashionable nerve-specialist, friend of
                            George Marigold

RUFUS KENT.......................Long-winded president of a club

NOAH CHAMBERLAIN......Very learned, very absent-minded professor

PHILLIPS AND FAULDS.....................................Florists

BURNS AND BRUCE.........................................Florists

JUDD AND JUDD...........................................Florists

ANDY PETERS..............................................Florist

HODGE......................Stupid gardener of Edward Blackthorne

TILLY SNOWDEN.............Dangerous sweetheart of Beverley Sands

POLLY BOLES..........Dangerous sweetheart of Benjamin Doolittle,
                       friend of Tilly Snowden

CLARA LOUISE CHAMBERLAIN......Very devoted, very proud sensitive
                                daughter of Noah Chamberlain

ANNE RAEBURN..........Protective secretary of Edward Blackthorne






  _King Alfred's Wood,
  Warwickshire, England,
  May 1, 1910._


I have just read to the end of your latest novel and under the
outdoor influence of that Kentucky story have sat here at my windows
with my eyes on the English landscape of the first of May: on as much
of the landscape, at least, as lies within the grey, ivy-tumbled,
rose-besprinkled wall of a companionable old Warwickshire garden.

You may or you may not know that I, too, am a novelist.  The fact,
however negligible otherwise, may help to disarm you of some very
natural hostility at the approach of this letter from a stranger; for
you probably agree with me that the writing of novels--not, of
course, the mere odious manufacture of novels--results in the making
of friendly, brotherly men across the barriers of nations, and that
we may often do as fellow-craftsmen what we could do less well or not
do at all as fellow-creatures.

I shall not loiter at the threshold of this letter to fatigue your
ear with particulars regarding the several parts of your story most
enjoyed, though I do pause there long enough to say that no admirable
human being has ever yet succeeded in wearying my own ears by any
such desirable procedure.  In England, and I presume in the United
States, novelists have long noses for incense [poets, too, though of
course only in their inferior way].  I repeat that we English
novelists are a species of greyhound for running down on the most
distant horizon any scampering, half-terrified rabbit of a
compliment.  But I freely confess that nature loaded me beyond the
tendency of being a mere greyhound.  I am a veritable elephant in the
matter, being marvelously equipped with a huge, flexible proboscis
which is not only adapted to admit praise but is quite capable of
actively reaching around in every direction to procure it.  Even the
greyhound cannot run forever; but an elephant, if he once possess it,
will wave such a proboscis till he dies.

There are likely to be in any very readable book a few pages which
the reader feels tempted to tear out for the contrary reason,
perhaps, that he cannot tear them out of his tenderness.  Some
haunting picture of the book-gallery that he would cut from the
frame.  Should you be displeased by the discrimination, I shall trust
that you may be pleased nevertheless by the avowal that there is a
scene in your novel which has peculiarly ensnared my affections.

At this point I think I can see you throw down my letter with more
insight into human nature than patience with its foibles.  You toss
it aside and exclaim: "What does this Englishman drive at?  Why does
he not at once say what he wants?"  You are right.  My letter is
perhaps no better than strangers' letters commonly are: coins, one
side of which is stamped with your image and the other side with
their image, especially theirs.

I might as well, therefore, present to you my side of the coin with
the selfish image.  Or, in terms of your blue-grass country life, you
are the horse in an open pasture and I am the stableman who schemes
to catch you: to do this, I approach, calling to you affectionately
and shaking a bundle of oats behind which is coiled a halter.  You
are thinking that if I once clutch you by the mane you will get no
oats.  But, my dear sir, you have from the very first word of this
letter already been nibbling the oats.  And now you are my animal!

There is, then, in your novel a remarkable description of a noonday
woodland scene somewhere on your enchanted Kentucky uplands--a cool,
moist forest spot.  Into this scene you introduced some rare,
beautiful Kentucky ferns.  I can _see_ the ferns!  I can see the
sunlight striking through the waving treetops down upon them!  Now,
as it happens, in the old garden under my windows, loving the shade
and moisture of its trees and its wall, I have a bank of ferns.  They
are a marvelous company, in their way as good as Wordsworth's flock
of daffodils; for they have been collected out of England's best and
from other countries.

Here, then, is literally the root of this letter: Will you send me
the root-stocks of some of those Kentucky ferns to grow and wave on
my Warwickshire fern bank?

Do not suppose that my garden is on a small scale a public park or
exhibition, made as we have created Kensington Gardens.  Everything
in it is, on the contrary, enriched with some personal association.
I began it when a young man in the following way:

At that period I was much under the influence of the Barbizon
painters, and I sometimes entertained myself in the forests where
masters of that school had worked by hunting up what I supposed were
the scenes of some of Corot's masterpieces.

Corot, if my eyes tell me the truth, painted trees as though he were
looking at enormous ferns.  His ferns spring out of the soil and some
rise higher than others as trees; his trees descend through the air
and are lost lower down as ferns.  One day I dug up some Corot ferns
for my good Warwickshire loam.  Another winter Christine Nilsson was
singing at Covent Garden.  I spent several evenings with her.  When I
bade her good-bye, I asked her to send me some ferns from Norway in
memory of Balzac and _Seraphita_.  Yet another winter, being still a
young man and he, alas! a much older one, I passed an evening in
Paris with Turgenieff.  I would persist in talking about his novels
and I remember quoting these lines from one of them: "It was a
splendid clear morning; tiny mottled cloudlets hung like snipe in the
clear pale azure; a fine dew was sprinkled on the leaves and grass
and glistened like silver on the spiders' webs; the moist dark earth
seemed still to retain the rosy traces of the dawn; the songs of
larks showered down from all over the sky."

He sat looking at me in surprised, touched silence.

"But you left out something!" I suggested, with the bumptiousness of
a beginner in letters.  He laughed slightly to himself--and perhaps
more at me--as he replied: "I must have left out a great deal"--he,
fiction's greatest master of compression.  After a moment he inquired
with a kind of vast patient condescension: "What is it that you
definitely missed?"  "Ferns," I replied.  "Ferns were growing
thereabouts."  He smiled reminiscently.  "So there were," he replied,
smiling reminiscently.  "If I knew where the spot was," I said, "I
should travel to it for some ferns."  A mystical look came into his
eyes as he muttered rather to himself than for my ear: "That spot!
Where is that spot?  That spot is all Russia!"  In his exile, the
whole of Russia was to him one scene, one fatherland, one pain, one
passion.  Sometime afterwards there reached me at home a hamper of
Russian fern-roots with Turgenieff's card.

I tell you all this as I make the request, which is the body of this
letter and, I hope, its wings, in order that you may intimately
understand.  I desire the ferns not only because you have interested
me in your Kentucky by making it a living, lovely reality, but
because I have become interested in your art and in you.  While I
read your book I believed that I saw the hand of youth joyously at
work, creating where no hand had created before; or if on its chosen
scene it found a ruin, then joyously trying to re-create reality from
that ruin.  But to create where no hand has created before, or to
create them again where human things lie in decay--that to me is the
true energy of literature.

I should not omit to tell you that some of our most tight-islanded,
hard-headed reviewers have been praising your work as of the best
that reaches us from America.  It was one such reviewer that first
guided me to your latest book.  Now I myself have written to some of
our critics and have thrown my influence in favour of your fresh,
beautiful art, which can only come from a fresh, beautiful nature.

Should you decide to bestow any notice upon this rather amazing
letter, you will bear in mind of course that there will be pounds
sterling for plants.  Whatever character my deed or misdeed may later
assume, it must first and at least have the nature of a transaction
of the market-place.

So, turn out as it may, or not turn out at all,

I am,

    Gratefully yours,


  _Cathedral Heights, New York,
  May 12, 1910._


Your letter is as unreal to me as if I had, in some modern Æsop's
Fables, read how a whale, at ease in the depths of the sea, had taken
the trouble to turn entirely round to encourage a puffing young
porpoise; or of how a black oak, majestic dome of a forest, had on
some fine spring day looked down and complimented a small dogwood
tree upon its size and the purity of its blossoms.  And yet, while
thus unreal, your letter is in its way the most encouragingly real
thing that has ever come into my life.  Before I go further I should
like to say that I have read every book you have written and have
bought your books and given them away with such zeal and zest that
your American publishers should feel more interest in me than can
possibly be felt by the gentlemen who publish mine.

It is too late to tell you this now.  Too late, in bad taste.  A
man's praise of another may not follow upon that man's praise of him.
Our virtues have their hour.  If they do not act then, they are not
like clocks which may be set forward but resemble fruits which lose
their flavour when they pass into ripeness.  Still, what I have said
is honest.  You may remember that I am yet moving amid life's
uncertainties as a beginner, while you walk in quietness the world's
highway of a great career.  My praise could have borne little to you;
yours brings everything to me.  And you must reflect also that it is
just a little easier for any Englishman to write to an American in
this way.  The American could but fear that his letter might
seriously disturb the repose of a gentleman who was reclining with
his head in Shakespeare's bosom; and Shakespeare's entire bosom in
this regard, as you know, Mr. Blackthorne, does stay in England.

It will give me genuine pleasure to arrange for the shipment of the
ferns.  A good many years have passed since I lived in Kentucky and I
am no longer in close touch with people and things down there.  But
without doubt the matter can be managed through correspondence and
all that I await from you now is express instructions.  The ferns
described in my book are not known to me by name.  I have procured
and have mailed to you along with this, lest you may not have any,
some illustrated catalogues of American ferns, Kentucky ferns
included.  You have but to send me a list of those you want.  With
that in hand I shall know exactly how to proceed.

You cannot possibly understand how happy I am that my work has the
approval of the English reviews, which still remain the best in the
world.  To know that my Kentucky stories are liked in
England--England which, remaining true to so many great traditions,
holds fast to the classic tradition in her literature.

The putting forth of your own personal influence in my behalf is a
source of joy and pride; and your wish to have Kentucky ferns growing
in your garden in token of me is the most inspiring event yet to mark
my life.

I am,

    Sincerely yours,


  _King Alfred's Wood,
  Warwickshire, England,
  May 22, 1910._


Your letter was brought out to me as I was hanging an old gate in a
clover-field canopied with skylarks.  When I cannot make headway
against some obstruction in the development of a story, for instance,
putting the hinges of the narrative where the reader will not see any
hinges, I let the book alone and go out and do some piece of work,
surrounded by the creatures which succeed in all they undertake
through zest and joy.  By the time I get back, the hinges of the book
have usually hung themselves without my knowing when or how.  Hence
the paradox: we achieve the impossible by doing the possible; we
climb our mountain of troubles by walking away from it.

It is splendid news that I am to get the Kentucky ferns.  Thank you
for the catalogues.  A list of those I most covet is enclosed.  The
cost, shipping expenses included, will not, I fear, exceed five
pounds.  Of course it would be a pleasure to pay fifty guineas, but I
suppose I must restrict myself to the despicable market price.
Shamefully cheap many of the dearest things in this world are; and
what exorbitant prices we pay for the worthless!

A draft will be forwarded in advance upon receipt of the American
shipper's address.  Or I could send it forthwith to you.  Meantime
from now on I shall be remembering with impatience how many miles it
is across the Atlantic Ocean and at what a snail's pace American
ferns travel.  These will be awaited like guests whom one goes to the
gate to meet.

You do not know the names of those you describe so wonderfully!  I am
glad.  I abhor the names of my own.  Of course, as they are bought,
memoranda must be depended upon by which to buy them.  These data,
verified by catalogue, are inked on little wooden slabs as fern
headstones.  When each fern is planted, into the soil beside it is
stuck its headstone, which, like that for a human being, tells the
name, not the nature, of what it memorialises.

Hodge is the fellow who knows the ferns according to the slabs.  It
is time you should know Hodge by his slab.  No such being can yet be
found in the United States: your civilisation is too young.  Hodge is
my British-Empire gardener; and as he now looks out for every
birthday much as for any total solar eclipse of the year--with a kind
of growing solicitude lest the sun or the birthday should finally, as
it passes, bowl him over for good--he announced to me with visible
relief the other day that he had successfully passed another total
natal eclipse; that he was fifty-eight.  But Hodge is not fifty-eight
years old.  The battle of Hastings was fought in 1066 and Hodge
without knowing it was beginning to be a well-grown lout then.  For
Hodge is English landscape gardening in human shape.  He is the
benevolent spirit of the English turf, a malign spirit to English
weeds.  He is wall ivy, a root, a bulb, a rake, a wheelbarrow of
spring manure, a pile of autumn leaves, a crocus.  In a distant
future mythology of our English rural life he will perhaps rank where
he belongs--as a luminary next in importance to the sun: a two-legged
god be-earthed in old clothes, with a stiff back, a stiff temper, the
jaw of the mastiff and the eye of a prophet.

It is Hodge who does the slabs.  He would not allow anything to come
into the garden without mastering that thing.  For the sake of his
own authority he must subdue as much of the Latin language as invades
his territory along with the ferns.  But I think nothing comparable
to such a struggle against overwhelming odds--Hodge's brain pitted
against the Latin names of the ferns--nothing comparable to the dull
fury of that onset is to be found in the history of man unless it be
England's war on Napoleon for twenty years.  England did conquer
Napoleon and finally shut him up in a desolate, rocky place; and
Hodge has finally conquered the names of the ferns and shut them up
in a desolate, rocky place--his skull, his personal promontory.

Nowadays you should see him meet me in a garden path when I come down
early some morning.  You should see him plant himself before me and,
taking off his cap and scratching the back of his neck with the back
of his muddy thumb, make this announcement: "The _Asplenium
filix-faemina_ put up two new shoots last night, sir.  Bishop's
crooks, I believe you calls 'em, sir."  As though I were a farmer and
my shepherd should notify me that one of the ewes had dropped twin
lambs at three A.M.  Hodge's tone implies more yet: the honour of the
shoots--a questionable honour--goes to Hodge as their botanical sire!

When I receive visitors by reason of my books--and strangers do
sometimes make pilgrimages to me on account of my grove of "Black
Oaks"--if the day is pleasant, we have tea in the garden.  While the
strangers drink tea, I begin to wave the well-known proboscis over
the company for any praise they may have brought along.  Should this
seem adequate, I later reward them with a stroll.  That is Hodge's
hour and opportunity.  Unexpectedly, as it would appear, but
invariably, he steps out from some bush and takes his place behind me
as we move.

When we reach the fern bank, the visitors regularly begin to inquire:
"What is the name of this fern?"  I turn helplessly to Hodge much as
a drum-major, if asked by a by-stander what the music was that the
band had just been playing, might wheel in dismay to the nearest
horn.  Hodge steps forward: now comes the reward of all his toil.
"That is the _Polydactulum cruciato-cristatum_, sir."  "And what is
this one?"  "That is the _Polypodium elegantissimum_, mum."  Then you
would understand what it sometimes means to attain scholarship
without Oxford or Cambridge; what upon occasion it is to be a Roman
orator and a garden ass.

You will be wondering why I am telling you this about Hodge.  For the
very particular reason that Hodge will play a part, I know not what
part, in the pleasant business that has come up between us.  He looms
as the danger between me and the American ferns after the ferns shall
have arrived here.  It is a fact that very few foreign ferns have
ever done well in my garden, watch over them as closely as I may:
especially those planted in more recent years.  Could you believe it
possible of human nature to refuse to water a fern, to deny a little
earth to the root of a fern?  Actually to scrape the soil away from
it when there was nobody near to observe the deed, to jab at it with
a sharp trowel?  I shall not press the matter further, for I
instinctively turn away from it.  Perhaps each of us has within
himself some incomprehensible little terrible spot and I feel that
this is Hodge's spot.  It is murder; Hodge is an assassin: he will
kill what he hates, if he dares.  I have been so aroused to defend
his faithful character that I have devised two pleadings: first,
Hodge is the essence of British parliaments, the sum total of British
institutions; therefore he patriotically believes that things British
should be good enough for the British--of course, their own ferns.
At other times I am rather inclined to surmise that his malice and
murderous resentment are due to his inability to take on any more
Latin, least of all imported Latin.  Hodge without doubt now defends
himself against any more Latin as a man with his back to the wall
fights for his life: the personal promontory will hold no more.

You have written me an irresistible letter, though frankly I made no
effort to resist it.  Your praise of my books instantly endeared you
to me.

Since a first plunge into ferns, then, has already brought results so
agreeable and surprising, I am resolved to be bolder and to plunge a
second time and more deeply.

Is there--how could there help being!--a _Mrs._ Beverley Sands?  Mrs.
Blackthorne wishes to know.  I read your letter to Mrs. Blackthorne.
Mrs. Blackthorne was charmed with it.  Mrs. Blackthorne is charmed
with _you_.  Mr. Blackthorne is charmed with you.  And Mr. and Mrs.
Blackthorne would like to know whether there is a Mrs. Beverley Sands
and, if so, whether she and you will not some time follow the ferns
and come and take possession for a while of our English garden.

You and I can go off to ourselves and discuss our "dogwoods" and
"black oaks"; and Mrs. Sands and Mrs. Blackthorne, at their tea
across the garden, can exchange copies of their highly illuminated
and privately circulated little masterpieces about their husbands.
(The husbands should always edit the masterpieces!)

Both of you, will you come?

Finally, as to your generous propaganda in behalf of my books and as
to the favourable reports which my publishers send me from time to
time in the guise of New World royalties, you may think of the
proboscis as now being leveled straight and rigid like a gun-barrel
toward the shores of the United States, whence blow gales scented
with so glorious a fragrance.  I begin to feel that Columbus was not
mistaken: America is turning out to be a place worth while.

    Your deeply interested,


  _June 3._


Crown me with some kind of chaplet--nothing classic, nothing
sentimental, but something American and practical--say with twigs of
Kentucky sassafras or, better, with the leaves of that forest
favourite which in boyhood so fascinated me and lubricated me with
its inner bark--entwine me, O Tilly, with a garland of slippery elm
for the virtue of always making haste to share with you my slippery
pleasures!  I write at full speed now to empty into your lap, a
wonderfully receptive lap, tidings of the fittest joy that has ever
come to me as your favourite author--and favourite young husband to

The great English novelist Blackthorne, many of whose books we have
read together (whenever you listened), recently stumbled over one of
my obstructive tales; one of my awkwardly placed literary hurdles on
the world's race-course of readers.  As a result of his fall he got
up, dusted himself thoroughly of his surprise, and actually
despatched to me an acknowledgment of his thanks for the happy
accident.  I replied with a volley of my own thanks, with salvos of
praise for him.  Now he has written again, throwing wide open his
house and his heart, both of which appear to be large and admirably
suited to entertain suitable guests.

At this crisis place your careful hands over your careful heart--can
you find where it is?--and draw "a deep, quivering breath," the
novelist's conventional breath for the excited heroine.  Mr.
Blackthorne wishes to know whether there is a _Mrs._ Beverley Sands.
If there is, and he feels sure there must be, far-sighted man!--he
invites her, invites _us_, _Mrs._ Blackthorne invites _us_, should we
sometime be in England, to visit them at their beautiful, far-famed
country-house in Warwickshire.  If, then, our often postponed
marriage, our despairingly postponed marriage, should be arranged to
madden me and gladden the rest of mankind before next summer, we
could, with our arms around one another's necks, be conveyed by steam
and electricity on our wedding journey to the Blackthorne entrance
and be there deposited, still oblivious of everything but ourselves.

Think what it would mean to you to be launched upon the rosy sea of
English social life amid the orisons and benisons of such illustrious
literary personages.  Think of those lovely English lawns, raked and
rolled for centuries, and of many-coloured _fêtes_ on them; of the
national tea and the national sandwiches; of national strawberries
and clotted cream and clotted crumpets; of Thackeray's flunkies still
flunkying and Queen Anne's fads yet fadding; of week-ends without
end--as Mrs. Beverley Sands.  Behold yourself growing more and more a
celebrity, as the English mutton-chop or sirloined reviewers
gradually brought into public appreciation the vague potentialities,
not necessarily the bare actualities, of modest young Sands himself.
Eventually, no doubt, there would be a day for you at Sandringham
with the royal ladies.  They would drive you over--I have not the
least idea how great the distance is--to drink tea at Stonehenge.
Imagine yourself, it having naturally turned into a rainy English
afternoon, imagine yourself seated under a heavy black-silk English
umbrella on a bare cromlech, the oldest throne in England, tearing at
an Anglo-Saxon muffin of purest strain and surrounded by male and
female admirers, all under heavy black-silk umbrellas--Spitalsfield,
I suppose--as Mrs. Beverley Sands.

Remember, madam, or miss, that this foreign triumph, this career of
glory, comes to you strictly from me.  To you, of yourself, it is
inaccessible.  Look upon it as in part the property that I am to
settle upon you at the time of our union--my honours.  You have
already understood from me that my entire estate, both my real estate
and my unreal estate, consists of future honours.  Those I have just
described are an early payment on the marriage contract--foreign

What reply, then, in your behalf am I to send to the lofty and
benevolent Blackthornes?  As matters halt between us--he also loves
who only writes and waits--I can merely inform Mr. Blackthorne that
there is a Mrs. Beverley Sands, but that she persists in remaining a
Miss Snowden.  With this realisation of what you will lose as Miss
Snowden and will gain as Mrs. Sands, do you not think it wise--and
wise you are, Tilly--any longer to persist in your persistence?  You
once, in a moment of weakness, confessed to me--think of your having
a moment of weakness!--you once confessed to me, though you may deny
it now (Balzac defines woman as the angel or devil who denies
everything when it suits her), you once confessed to me that you
feared your life would be taken up with two protracted pleasures,
each of which curtailed the other: the pleasure of being engaged to
me a long time and the pleasure of being married to me a long time.
Nerve yourself to shortening the first in order to enter upon the
compensations of the second.

Yet remorse racks me even at the prospect of obliterating from the
world one whom I first knew and loved in it as Tilly Snowden.  Where
will Tilly Snowden be when only Mrs. Beverley Sands is left?  Where
will be that wild rose in a snow bank--the rose which was truly wild,
the snow bank which was not cold (or was it?)?  I think I should
easily become reconciled to your being known, say, as Madame Snowden,
so that you might still stand out in your own right and wild-rose
individuality.  We could visit England as the rising American author,
Beverley Sands, and his lovely risen wife, Madame Snowden.  Everybody
would then be asking who the mysterious Madame Snowden was, and I
should relate that she was a retired opera singer--having retired
before she advanced.

By the way, you confided to me some time ago that you were not very
well.  You always _look_ well, mighty well to _me_, Tilly.  Perfectly
well to _me_.  Can your indisposition be imaginary?  Or is it merely
fashionable?  Or--is it something else?  What of late has sickened me
is an idea of yours that you might sometime consult Doctor G. M.
Tilly!  Tilly!  If you knew the pains that rack me when I think of
that charlatan's door being closed behind you as a patient of his!

Tell me it isn't true, and answer about the beautiful Blackthornes!

Your easy and your uneasy



  _"Slippery Elm" Apartments,
  June 4._

I am perfectly willing, Beverley, to crown you with slippery elm--you
seem to think I keep it on hand, dwell in a bower of it--if it is the
leaf you sigh for.  But please do not try to crown me with a wig of
your creative hair; that is, with your literary honours.

How wonderfully the impressions of childhood disappear from memory
like breaths on a warm mirror, but long afterwards return to their
shapes if the glass be coldly breathed upon!  As I read your letter,
at least as I read the very chilly Blackthorne parts of your letter,
I remembered, probably for the first time in years, a friend of my

She had been inveigled to become the wife, that is, the legally
installed life-assistant, of an exceedingly popular minister; and
when I was a little girl, but not too little to understand--was I
ever too little to understand?--she used to slip across the street to
our house and in confidence to my mother pour out her sense of humour
at the part assigned her by the hired wedding march and evangelical
housekeeping.  I recall one of those half-whispered, always
half-whispered, confidences--for how often in life one feels guilty
when telling the truth and innocent when lying!

On this particular morning she and my mother laughed till they were
weary, while I danced round them with delight at the idea of having
even the tip of my small but very active finger in any pie that
savoured of mischief.  She had been telling my mother that if, some
Sunday, her husband accidentally preached a sermon which brought
people into the church, she felt sure of soon receiving a turkey.  If
he made a rousing plea for foreign missions, she might possibly look
out for a pair of ducks.  Her destiny, as she viewed it, was to be
merely a strip of worthless territory lying alongside the land of
Canaan; people simply walked over her, tramped across her, on their
way to Canaan, carrying all sorts of bountiful things to Canaan, her

That childish nonsense comes back to me strangely, and yet not
strangely as I think of your funny letter, your very, very funny
letter, about the Blackthornes' invitation to me because I am not
myself but am possibly a Mrs.--well, _some_ Mrs. Sands.  The English
scenes you describe I see but too vividly: it is Canaan and his strip
all over again--there on the English lawns; a great many heavy
English people are tramping heavily over me on their way to Canaan.
The fabulous tea at Sandringham would be Canaan's cup, and at
Stonehenge it would be Canaan's muffin that at last choked to death
the ill-fated Tilly Snowden.

In order to escape such a fate, Tilly Snowden, then, begs that you
will thank the Blackthornes, Mr. and Mrs., as best you can for their
invitation; as best she can she thanks you; but for the present, and
for how much of the future she does not know, she prefers to remain
what is very necessary to her independence and therefore to her
happiness; and also what is quite pleasing to her ear--the wild rose
in the snow bank (cold or not cold, according to the sun).

In other words, my dear Beverley, it is true that I have more than
once postponed the date of our marriage.  I have never said why;
perhaps I myself have never known just why.  But at least do not
expect me to shorten the engagement in order that I may secure some
share of your literary honours.  As a little girl I always despised
queens who were crowned with their husbands.  It seemed to me that
the queen was crowned with what was left over and was merely allowed
to sit on the corner of the throne as the poor connection.

P.S.--Still, I _would_ like to go to England.  I mean, of course, I
wish _we_ could go on our wedding journey!  If I got ready, could I
rely upon _you_?  I have always wished to visit England without being
debarred from its social life.  Seriously, the invitation of the
Blackthornes looks to me like an opportunity and an advantage not to
be thrown away.  Wisdom never wastes, and you say I am wise!

It is true that I have not been feeling very well.  And it is true
that I have consulted Dr. Marigold and am now a patient of his.  That
dreaded door has closed behind me!  I have been alone with him!  The
diagnosis at least was delightful.  He made it appear like opening a
golden door upon a charming landscape.  I had but to step outdoors
and look around with a pleasant smile and say: "Why, Health, my
former friend, how do you do!  Why did you go back on me?"  He tells
me my trouble is a mild form of auto-intoxication.  I said to him
that _must_ be the disease; namely, that it was _mild_.  Never in my
life had I had anything that was mild!  Disease from my birth up had
attacked me only in its most virulent form: so had health.  I had
always enjoyed--and suffered from--virulent health.  I am going to
take the Bulgar bacillus.

Why do _you_ dislike Dr. Marigold?  Popular physicians are naturally
hated by unpopular physicians.  But how does _he_ run against or run
over you?

Which of your books was it the condescending Englishman liked?
Suppose you send me a copy.  Why not send me a copy of each of your
books?  Those you gave me as they came out seem to have disappeared.

The wild rose is now going to pour down her graceful stalk a tubeful
of the Balkan bacillus.

More trouble with the Balkans!


  (auto-intoxicated, not otherwise
  intoxicated!  Thank Heaven at least
  for _that_!).


  _June 3._


A bolt of divine lightning has struck me out of the smiling blue, a
benign fulmination from an Olympian.

To descend the long slope of Olympus to you.  A few days ago I
received a letter from the great English novelist, Edward
Blackthorne, in praise of my work.  The great Edward reads my books
and the great Ben Doolittle doesn't--score heavily for the aforesaid
illustrious Eddy.

Of course I have for years known that you do not cast your legal or
illegal eyes on fiction, though not long ago I heard you admit that
you had read "Ten Thousand a Year."  On the ground, that it is a
lawyer's novel: which is no ground at all, a mere mental bog.  My own
opinion of why you read it is that you were in search of information
how to make the ten thousand!  As a literary performance your reading
"Ten Thousand a Year" may be likened to the movement of a land-turtle
which has crossed to the opposite side of his dusty road to bite off
a new kind of weed, waddling along his slow way under the
impenetrable roof of his own back.

For, my dear Ben, whom I love and trust as I love and trust no other
human being in this world, do you know what I think of you as most
truly being?  The very finest possible specimen of the highest order
of human land-turtle.  A land-turtle is a creature that lives under a
shovel turned upside down over it, called its back; and a human
land-turtle is a fellow who thrives under the roof of the five senses
and the practical.  Never does a turtle get from under his carapace,
and never does the man-turtle get beyond the shovel of his five
senses.  Of course you realise that not during our friendship have I
paid you so extravagant a compliment.  For the human race has to be
largely made up of millions of land-turtles.  They cause the world to
go slowly, and it is the admirable stability of their lives neither
to soar nor to sink.  You are a land-turtle, Benjamin Doolittle,
Esquire; you live under the shell of the practical; that is, you have
no imagination; that is, you do not read fiction; that is, you do not
read Me!  Therefore I harbour no grievance against you, but cherish
all the confidence and love in the world for you.  But, mind you,
only as an unparalleled creeping thing.

To get on with the business of this letter: the English novelist laid
aside his enthusiasm for my work long enough to make a request: he
asked me to send him some Kentucky ferns for his garden.  Owing to my
long absence from Kentucky I am no longer in touch with people and
things down there.  But you left that better land only a few years
ago.  I recollect that of old you manifested a weakness for sending
flowers to womankind--another evidence, by the way, of lack of
imagination.  Such conduct shows a mere botanical estimate of the
grand passion.  The only true lovers, the only real lovers, that
women ever have are men of imagination.  Why should these men send a
common florist's flowers!  They grow and offer their own--the roses
of Elysium!

To pass on, you must still have clinging to your memory, like bats to
a darkened, disused wall, the addresses of various Louisville
florists who, by daylight or candlelight and no light at all, were
the former emissaries of your folly and your fickleness.  Will you
send me at once the address of a firm in whose hands I could safely
entrust this very high-minded international piece of business?

Inasmuch as you are now a New York lawyer and inasmuch as New York
lawyers charge for everything--concentration of mind, if they have
any mind, tax on memory and tax on income, their powers of locomotion
and of prevarication, club dues and death dues, time and tumult,
strikes and strokes, and all other items of haste and waste, you are
authorised to regard this letter a professional demand and to let me
have a reasonable bill at a not too early date.  Charge for whatever
you will, but, I charge you, charge me not for your friendship.
"Naught that makes life most worth while can be had for gold."
(Rather elegant extract from one of my novels which you disdain to

I shall be greatly obliged if you will let me have an immediate reply.


How is the fair Polly Boles?  Still pretending to quarrel?  And do
you still keep up the pretence?

Predestined magpies!


  _150 Broad Street,
  June 5._


Your highly complimentary and philosophical missive is before my eyes.

You understand French, not I.  But I have accumulated a few
quotations which I sometimes venture to use in writing, never in my
proud oral delivery.  If I pronounced to the French the French with
which I am familiar, the French themselves would drive their own
vernacular out of their land--over into Germany!  Here is one of
those fond inaudible phrases:

  _A chaque oiseau
  Son nid est beau._

That is to say, in Greek, every Diogenes prefers his own tub.

The lines are a trophy captured at a college-club dinner the other
night.  One of the speakers launched the linguistic marvel on the
blue cloud of smoke and it went bumping around the heads of the
guests without finding any head to enter, like a cork bobbing about
the edges of a pond, trying in vain to strike a place to land.  But
everybody cheered uproariously, made happy by the discovery that
someone actually could say something at a New York dinner that nobody
had heard before.  One man next to the speaker (of course coached
beforehand) passed a translation to his elbow neighbour.  It made its
way down the table to me at the other end and I, in the New York way,
laid it up for future use at a dinner in some other city.  Meantime I
use it now on you.

It is true that I arrived in New York from Kentucky some years ago.
It is likewise undeniable that for some years previous thereto I had
dealings with Louisville florists.  But I affirm now, and all these
variegated gentlemen, if they _are_ gentlemen, would gladly come on
to New York as my witnesses and bear me out in the joyful affidavit,
that whatever folly or recklessness or madness marked my behaviour,
never once did I commit the futility, the imbecility, of trafficking
in ferns.

A great English novelist--ferns!  A rising young American
novelist--ferns!  Frogstools, mushrooms, fungi!  Man alive, why don't
you ship him a dray-load of Kentucky spiderwebs?  Or if they should
be too gross for his delicate soul, a birdcage containing a pair of
warbling young bluegrass moonbeams?

I am a _land_-turtle, am I?  If it be so, thank God!  If I have no
imagination, thank God!  If I live and move and have my being under
the shovel of the five senses and of the practical, thank God!  But,
my good fellow, whom I love and trust as I love and trust no other
man, if I am a turtle, do you know what I think of you as most truly

A poor, harmless tinker.

You, with your pastime of fabricating novels, dwell in a little
workshop of the imagination; you tinker with what you are pleased to
call human lives, reality, truth.  On your shop door should hang a
sign to catch the eye: "Tinkering done here.  Noble, splendid
tinkering.  No matter who you are, what your past career or present
extremity, come in and let the owner of this shop make your
acquaintance and he will work you over into something finer than you
have ever been or in this world will ever be.  For he will make you
into an unfallen original or into a perfected final.  If you have
never had a chance to do your best in life, he will give you that
chance in a story.  All unfortunates, all the broken-down, especially
welcome.  Everybody made over to be as everybody should be by
Beverley Sands."

But, brother, the sole thing with which you, the tinker, do business
is the sole thing with which I, the turtle, do not do business.  I,
as a lawyer, cannot tamper with human life, actuality, truth.  During
the years that I have been an attorney never have I had a case in
court without first of all things looking for the element of
imagination in it and trying to stamp that element out of the case
and kick it out of the courtroom: that lurking scoundrel, that
indefatigable mischief-maker, your beautiful and beloved patron

Going on to testify out of my experience as a land-turtle, I depose
the following, having kissed the Bible, to wit: that during the
turtle's travels he sooner or later crosses the tracks of most of the
other animal creatures and gets to know them and their ways.  But
there is one path of one creature marked for unique renown among
nose-bearing men: that of a graceful, agile, little black-and-white
piece of soft-furred nocturnal innocence--surnamed the polecat.

Now the imagination, as long as it is favourably disposed, may in
your profession be the harmless bird of paradise or whatever winged
thing you will that soars innocently toward bright skies; but, once
unkindly disposed, it is in my profession, and in every other, the
polecat of the human faculties.  When it has testified against you,
it vanishes from the scene, but the whole atmosphere reeks with its

Hence it is that I go gunning first for this same little animal whose
common den is the lawsuit.  His abode is everywhere, though you never
seem to have encountered him in your work and walks.  If you should
do so, if you should ever run into the polecat of a hostile
imagination, oh, then, my dear fellow, may the land-turtle be able to
crawl to you and stand by you in that hour!

But--the tinker to his work, the turtle to his!  _A chaque oiseau_!
Diogenes, your tub!

As to the fern business, I'll inquire of Polly.  I paid for the
flowers, _she_ got them.  Anybody can receive money for blossoms, but
only a statesman and a Christian, I suppose, can fill an order for
flowers with equity and fresh buds.  Go ahead and try Phillips &
Faulds.  You could reasonably rely upon them to fill any order that
you might place in their hands, however nonsensical-comical,
billy-goatian-satirical it may be.  They'd send your Englishman an
opossum with a pouch full of blooming hyacinths if that would quiet
his longing and make him happy.  I should think it might.

We are, sir, your obliged counsel and turtle,


How is the fair Tilly Snowden?  Still cooing?  Are you still cooing?

Uncertain doves!


  _150 Broad Street,
  June 5._


I send you some red roses to go with your black hair and your black
eyes, never so black as when black with temper.  When may I come to
see you?  Why not to-morrow night?

Another matter, not so vital but still important: a few years before
we left Louisville to seek our fortunes (and misfortunes) in New
York, I at different times employed divers common carriers known as
florists to convey to you inflammatory symbols of those emotions that
could not be depicted in writing fluid.  In other words, I hired
those mercenaries to impress my infatuation upon you in terms of
their costliest, most sensational merchandise.  You should be
prepared to say which of these florists struck you as the best
business agent.

Would you send me the address of that man or of that firm?
Immediately you will want to know why.  Always suspicious!  Let the
suspicions be quieted; it is not I, it is Beverley.  Some
foggy-headed Englishman has besought him to ship him (the foggy one)
some Kentucky vegetation all the way across the broad Atlantic to his
wet domain--interlocking literary idiots!  Beverley appeals to me, I
to you, the highest court in everything.

Are you still enjoying the umbrageous society of that giraffe-headed
jackass, Doctor Claude Mullen?  Can you still tolerate his
unimpassioned propinquity and futile gyrations?  _He_ a nerve
specialist!  The only nerve in his practice is _his_ nerve.  Doesn't
my love satisfy you?  Isn't there enough of it?  Isn't it the right
kind?  Will it ever give out?

Your reply, then, will cover four points: to thank me for the red
roses; to say when I may come to see you; to send me the address of
the Louisville florist who became most favourably known to you
through a reckless devotion; and to explain your patience with that
unhappy fool.

Thy sworn and thy swain,



  _The Franklin Flats,
  June 6._


Your writing to me for the name of a Louisville florist is one of
your flimsiest subterfuges.  What you wished to receive from me was a
letter of reassurance.  You were disagreeable on your last visit and
you have since been concerned as to how I felt about it afterwards.
Now you try to conciliate me by invoking my aid as indispensable.
That is like you men!  If one of you can but make a woman forget, if
he can but lead her to forgive him, by flattering her with the idea
that she is indispensable!  And that is like woman!  I see her figure
standing on the long road of time: dumbly, patiently standing there,
waiting for some male to pass along and permit her to accompany him
as his indispensable fellow-traveller.  I am now to be put in a good
humour by being honoured with your request that I supply you with the
name of a florist.

Well, you poor, uninformed Ben, I'll supply you.  All the Louisville
florists, as I thought at the time, carried out their instructions
faithfully; that is, from each I occasionally received flowers not
fresh.  Did it occur to me to blame the florists?  Never!  I did what
a woman always does: she thinks less of--well, she doesn't think less
of the _florist_!

Be this as it may, Beverley might try Phillips & Faulds for whatever
he is to export.  As nearly as I now remember they sent the biggest
boxes of whatever you ordered!

I have an appointment for to-morrow night, but I think I can arrange
to divide the evening, giving you the later half.  It shall be for
you to say whether the best half was _yours_.  That will depend upon

I still enjoy the "umbrageous society" of Dr. Claude Mullen because
he loves me and I do not love him.  The fascination of his presence
lies in my indifference.  Perhaps women are so seldom safe with the
men who love them, that any one of us feels herself entitled to make
the most of a rare chance!  I am not only safe, I am entertained.  As
I go down into the parlour, I almost feel that I ought to buy a
ticket to a performance in my own private theatre.

Ben, dear, are you going to commit the folly of being jealous?  If I
had to marry _him_, do you know what my first wifely present would
be?  A liberal transfusion of my own blood!  As soon as I enter the
room, what fascinates me are his lower eyelids, which hold little
cupfuls of sentimental fluid.  I am always expecting the little pools
to run over: then there would be tears.  The night he goes for
good--perhaps they will be tears that night.

If you ask me how can I, if I feel thus about him, still encourage
his visits, I have simply to say that I don't know.  When it comes to
what a woman will "receive" in such cases, the ground she walks on is
very uncertain to her own feet.  It may be that the one thing she
forever craves and forever fears not to get is absolute certainty,
certainty that some day love for her will not be over, everything be
not ended she knows not why.  Dr. Mullen's love is pitiful, and as
long as a man's love is pitiful at least a woman can be sure of it.
Therefore he is irresistible--as my guest!

The roses are glorious.  I bury my face in them down to the thorns.
And then I come over and sign my name as the indispensable



  _June 6._


I have had a note from Beverley, asking whether he could come this
evening.  I have written that I have an appointment, but I did not
enlighten him as to the appointment being with you.  Why not let him
suffer awhile?  I will explain afterwards.  I told him that I could
perhaps arrange to divide the evening; would you mind?  And would you
mind coming early?  I will do as much for you some time, and _I
suspect I couldn't do more_!

P.S.--Rather than come for the first half of the evening perhaps you
would prefer to _postpone_ your visit _altogether_.  It would suit me
just as well; _better_ in fact.  There really was something very
_particular_, Tilly dear, that I wanted to talk to Ben about to-night.

I shall not look for you at all _this_ evening, _best_ of friends.



  _June 6._


The very particular something to talk to Ben about to-night is the
identical something for every other night.  And nothing could be more
characteristic of you, as soon as you heard that my visit would clash
with one of his, than your eagerness to push me partly out of the
house in a hurried letter and then push me completely out in a quiet
postscript.  Being a woman, I understand your temptation and your
tactics.  I fully sympathise with you.

Continue in ease of mind, my most trusted intimate.  I shall not drop
in to interrupt you and Ben--both not so young as you once were and
both getting stout--heavy Polly, heavy Ben--as you sit side by side
in your little Franklin Flat parlour.  That parlour always suggests
to me an enormous turnip hollowed out square: with no windows; with a
hole on one side to come in and a hole on the other side to go out;
upholstered in enormous bunches of beets and horse-radish, and
lighted with a wilted electric sunflower.  There you two will sit
to-night, heavy Polly, heavy Ben, suffocating for fresh air and
murmuring to each other as you have murmured for years:

"I do!  I do!"

"I do!  I do!"

One sentence in your letter, Polly dear, takes your photograph like a
camera; the result is a striking likeness.  That sentence is this:

"Why not let him suffer awhile?  I will explain afterwards."

That is exactly what you will do, what you would always do: explain
afterwards.  In other words, you plot to make Ben jealous but fear to
make him too jealous lest he desert you.  If on the evening of this
visit you should forget "to explain," and if during the night you
should remember, you would, if need were, walk barefoot through the
streets in your nightgown and tap on his window-shutter, if you could
reach it, and say: "Ben, that appointment wasn't with any other man;
it was with Tilly.  I could not sleep until I had told you!"

That is, you have already disposed of yourself, breath and soul, to
Ben; and while you are waiting for the marriage ceremony, you have
espoused in his behalf what you consider your best and strongest
trait--loyalty.  Under the goadings of this vampire trait you will, a
few years after marriage, have devoured all there is of Ben alive and
will have taken your seat beside what are virtually his bones.  As
the years pass, the more ravenously you will preside over the bones.
Never shall the world say that Polly Boles was disloyal to whatever
was left of her dear Ben Doolittle!

_Your loyalty_!  I believe the first I saw of it was years ago one
night in Louisville when you and I were planning to come to New York
to live.  Naturally we were much concerned by the difficulties of
choosing our respective New York residences and we had written on and
had received thumb-nailed libraries of romance about different
places.  As you looked over the recommendations of each, you came
upon one called The Franklin Flats.  The circular contained
appropriate quotations from Poor Richard's Almanac.  I remember how
your face brightened as you said: "This ought to be the very thing."
One of the quotations on the circular ran somewhat thus: "Beware of
meat twice boiled"; and you said in consequence: "So they must have a
good restaurant!"

In other words, you believed that a house named after Franklin could
but resemble Franklin.  A building put up in New York by a Tammany
contractor, if named after Benjamin Franklin and advertised with
quotations from Franklin's works, would embody the traits of that
remote national hero!  To your mind--not to your imagination, for you
haven't any--to your mind, and you have a great deal of mind, the
bell-boys, the superintendent, the scrub woman, the chambermaids, the
flunkied knave who stands at the front door--all these were loyally
congregated as about a beloved mausoleum.  You are still in the
Franklin Flats!  I know what you have long suffered there; but move
away!  Not Polly Boles.  She will be loyal to the building as long as
the building stands by the contractor and the contractor stands by
profits and losses.

While on the subject of loyalty, not your loyalty but woman's
loyalty, I mean to finish with it.  And I shall go on to say that
occasionally I have sat behind a plate-glass window in some Fifth
Avenue shop and have studied woman's organised loyalty, unionised
loyalty, standardised loyalty.  This takes effect in those
processions that now and then sweep up the Avenue as though they were
Crusaders to the Holy Sepulchre.  The marchers try first not to look
self-conscious; all try, secondly, to look devoted to "the cause."
But beneath all other expressions and differences of expression I
have always seen one reigning look as plainly as though it were
printed in enormous letters on a banner flying over their heads:

"Strictly Monogamous Women."

At such times I have felt a wild desire, when I should hear of the
next parade, to organise a company of unenthralled young girls who
with unfettered natures and unfettered features should tramp up the
Avenue under their own colours.  If the women before them--those
loyal ones--would actually carry, as they should, a banner with the
legend I have described, then my company of girls should unfurl to
the breeze their flag with the truth blazoned on it:

"Not Necessarily Monogamous!"

The honest human crowd, watching and applauding us, would pack the
Avenue from sidewalks to roofs.

Between you and me everything seems to be summed up in one
difference: all my life I have wanted to go barefoot and all your
life, no matter what the weather, you have been solicitous to put on

My very nature is rooted in rebellion that in a world alive and
running over with irresistible people, a woman must be doomed to find
her chief happiness in just one!  The heart going out to so many in
succession, and the hand held by one; year after year your hand held
by the first man who impulsively got possession of it.  Every
instinct of my nature would be to jerk my hand away and be free!  To
give it again and again.

This subject weighs crushingly on me as I struggle with this letter
because I have tidings for you about myself.  I am to write words
which I have long doubted I should ever write, life's most iron-bound
words.  Polly, I suppose I am going to be married at last.  Of course
it is Beverley.  Not without waverings, not without misgivings.  But
I'd feel those, be the man whoever he might.  Why I feel thus I do
not know, but I know I feel.  I tell you this first because it was
you who brought Beverley and me together, who have always believed in
his career.  (Though I think that of late you have believed more in
him and less in me.)  I, too, am beginning to believe in his career.
He has lately ascertained that his work is making a splendid
impression in England.  If he succeeds in England, he will succeed in
this country.  He has received an invitation to visit some delightful
and very influential people in England and "to bring me along!"
Think of anybody bringing _me_ along!  If we should be entertained by
these people [they are the Blackthornes], such is English social
life, that we should also get to know the white Thornes and the red
Thornes--the whole social forest.  The iron rule of my childhood was
economy; and the influence of that iron rule over me is inexorable
still: I cannot even contemplate such prodigal wastage in life as not
to accept this invitation and gather in its wealth of consequences.

More news of me, very, very important: _at last_ I have made the
acquaintance of George Marigold.  I have become one of his patients.

Beverley is furious.  I enclose a letter from him.  You need not
return it.  I shall not answer it.  I shall leave things to his
imagination and his imagination will give him no rest.

If Ben hurled at _you_ a jealous letter about Dr. Mullen, you would
immediately write to remove his jealousy.  You would even ridicule
Dr. Mullen to win greater favour in Ben's eyes.  That is, you would
do an abominable thing, never doubting that Ben would admire you the
more.  And you would be right; for as Ben observed you tear Dr.
Mullen to pieces to feed his vanity, he would lean back in his chair
and chuckle within himself: "Glorious, staunch old Polly!"

And what you would do in this instance you will do all your life: you
will practise disloyalty to every other human being, as in this
letter you have practised it with me, for the sake of loyalty to Ben:
your most pronounced, most horrible trait.



  _June 7._


I return Beverley's letter.  Without comment, since I did not read
it.  You know how I love Beverley, respect him, believe in him.  I
have a feeling for him unlike that for any other human being, not
even Ben; I look upon him as set apart and sacred because he has
genius and belongs to the world.

As for his faults, those that I have not already noticed I prefer to
find out for myself.  I have never cared to discover any human
being's failings through a third person.  Instead of getting
acquainted with the pardonable traits of the abused, I might really
be introduced to the _abominable traits of the abuser_.

_Once more_, you think you are going to marry Beverley!  I shall
reserve my congratulations for the _event itself_.

Thank you for surrendering your claim on my friendship and society
last night.  Ben and I had a most satisfactory evening, and when not
suffocating we murmured "I do" to our hearts' content.

Next time, should your visits clash, I'll push _him_ out.  Yet I feel
in honour bound to say that this is only my present state of mind.  I
might weaken at the last moment--even in the Franklin Flats.

As to some things in your letter, I have long since learned not to
bestow too much attention upon anything you say.  You court a kind of
irresponsibility in language.  With your inborn and over-indulged
willfulness you love to break through the actual and to revel in the
imaginary.  I have become rather used to this as one of your growing
traits and I am therefore not surprised that in this letter you say
things which, if seriously spoken, would insult your sex and would
make them recoil from you--or make them wish to burn you at the
stake.  When you march up Fifth Avenue with your company of girls in
that kind of procession, there will not be any Fifth Avenue: you will
be tramping through the slums where you belong.

All this, I repeat, is merely your way--to take things out in
talking.  But we can make words our playthings in life's shallows
until words wreck us as their playthings in life's deeps.

Still, in return for your compliments to me, _which, of course, you
really mean_, I paid you one the other night when thinking of you
quite by myself.  It was this: nature seems to leave something out of
each of us, but we presently discover that she perversely put it
where it does not belong.

What she left out of you, my dear, was the domestic tea-kettle.
There isn't even any place for one.  But she made up for lack of the
kettle _by rather overdoing the stove_!

    Your _discreet_ friend,
        POLLY BOLES.


  _Cathedral Heights, New York,
  June 7, 1900._


A former customer of yours, Mr. Benjamin Doolittle, has suggested
your firm as reliable agents to carry out an important commission,
which I herewith describe:

I enclose a list of Kentucky ferns.  I desire you to make a
collection of these ferns and to ship them, expenses prepaid, to
Edward Blackthorne, Esquire, King Alfred's Wood, Warwickshire,
England.  The cost is not to exceed twenty-five dollars.  To furnish
you the needed guarantee, as well as to avoid unnecessary
correspondence, I herewith enclose, payable to your order, my check
for that amount.

Will you let me have a prompt reply, stating whether you will
undertake this commission and see it through?

    Very truly yours,


  _Louisville, Ky.,
  June 10, 1900._


Your valued letter with check for $25 received.  We handle most of
the ferns on the list, and know the others and can easily get them.

You may rely upon your valued order receiving the best attention.
Thanking you for the same,

    Yours very truly,


  _Cathedral Heights, New York,
  June 15, 1910._


Your second letter came into the port of my life like an argosy from
a rich land.  I think you must have sent it with some remembrance of
your own youth, or out of your mature knowledge of youth itself; how
too often it walks the shore of its rocky world, cutting its bare
feet on sharp stones, as it strains its eyes toward things far beyond
its horizon but not beyond its faith and hope.  Some day its ship
comes in and it sets sail toward the distant ideal.  How much the
opening of the door of your friendship, of your life, means to me!  A
new consecration envelops the world that I am to be the guest of a
great man.  If words do not say more, it is because words say so

Delay has been unavoidable in any mere formal acknowledgment of your
letter.  You spoke in it of the hinges of a book.  My silence has
been due to the arrangement of hinges for the shipment of the ferns.
I wished to insure their safe transoceanic passage and some inquiries
had to be made in Kentucky.

You may rely upon it that the matter will receive the best attention.
In good time the ferns, having reached the end of their journey, will
find themselves put down in your garden as helpless immigrants.  From
what outlook I can obtain upon the scene of their reception, they
should lack only hands to reach confidingly to you and lack only feet
to run with all their might away from Hodge.

I acknowledge--with the utmost thanks--the unusual and beautiful
courtesy of Mrs. Blackthorne's and your invitation to my wife, if I
have one, and to me.  It is the dilemma of my life, at the age of
twenty-seven, to be obliged to say that such a being as Mrs. Sands
exists, but that nevertheless there is no such person.

Can you imagine a man's stretching out his hand to pluck a peach and
just before he touched the peach, finding only the bough of the tree?
Then, as from disappointment he was about to break off the offensive
bough, seeing again the dangling peach?  Can you imagine this
situation to be of long continuance, during which he could neither
take hold of the peach nor let go of the tree--nor go away?  If you
can, you will understand what I mean when I say that my bride
persists in remaining unwed and I persist in wooing.  I do not know
why; she protests that she does not know; but we do know that life is
short, love shorter, that time flies, and we are not husband and wife.

If she remains undecided when Summer returns, I hope Mrs. Blackthorne
and you will let me come alone.

Thus I can thank you with certainty for one with the hope that I may
yet thank you for two.

I am,

    Sincerely yours,

P.S.--Can you pardon the informality of a postscript?

As far as I can see clearly into a cloudy situation, marriage is
denied me on account of the whole unhappy history of woman--which is
pretty hard.  But a good many American ladies--the one I woo among
them--are indignant just now that they are being crowded out of their
destinies by husbands--or even possibly by bachelors.  These ladies
deliver lectures to one another with discontented eloquence and rouse
their auditresses to feministic frenzy by reminding them that for
ages woman has walked in the shadow of man and that the time has come
for the worm [the woman] to turn on the shadow or to crawl out of it.

My dear Mr. Blackthorne, I need hardly say that the only two shadows
I could ever think of casting on the woman I married would be that of
my umbrella whenever it rained, and that of her parasol whenever the
sun shone.  But I do maintain that if there is not enough sunshine
for the men and women in the world, if there has to be some casting
of shadows in the competition and the crowding, I do maintain that
the casting of the shadow would better be left to the man.  He has
had long training, terrific experience, in this mortal business of
casting the shadow, has learned how to moderate it and to hold it
steady!  The woman at least knows where it is to be found, should she
wish to avail herself of it.  But what would be the state of a man in
his need of his spouse's penumbra?  He would be out of breath with
running to keep up with the penumbra or to find where it was for the
time being!

I have seen some of these husbands who live--or have gradually died
out--in the shadow of their wives; they are nature's subdued farewell
to men and gentlemen.


  _June 16._

A remarkable thing has lately happened to me.

One of my Kentucky novels, upon being republished in London some
months ago, fell into the hands of a sympathetic reviewer.  This
critic's praise later made its way to the stately library of Edward
Blackthorne.  What especially induced the latter to read the book, I
infer, were lines quoted by the reviewer from my description of a
woodland scene with ferns in it: the mighty novelist, as it happens,
is himself interested in ferns.  He consequently wrote to some other
English authors and critics, calling attention to my work, and he
sent a letter to me, asking for some ferns for his garden.

This recognition in England hilariously affected my friends over
here.  Tilly, whose mind suggests to me a delicately poised pair of
golden balances for weighing delight against delight (always her most
vital affair), when this honour for me fell into the scales, found
them inclined in my favour.  If it be true, as I have often thought,
that she has long been holding on to me merely until she could take
sure hold of someone else of more splendid worldly consequence, she
suddenly at least tightened her temporary grasp.  Polly, good, solid
Polly, wholesome and dependable as a well-browned whole-wheat baker's
loaf weighing a hundred and sixty pounds, when she heard of it, gave
me a Bohemian supper in her Franklin Flat parlour, inviting only a
few undersized people, inasmuch as she and Ben, the chief personages
of the entertainment, took up most of the room.  We were so packed
in, that literally it was a night in Bohemia _aux sardines_.

Since the good news from England came over, Ben, with his big, round,
clean-shaven, ruddy face and short, reddish curly hair, which makes
him look like a thirty-five-year-old Bacchus who had never drunk a
drop--even Ben has beamed on me like a mellower orb.  He is as
ashamed as ever of my books, but is beginning to feel proud that so
many more people are being fooled by them.  Several times lately I
have caught his eyes resting on me with an expression of affectionate
doubt as to whether after all he might be mistaken in not having
thought more of me.  But he dies hard.  My publisher, who is a human
refrigerator containing a mental thermometer, which rises or falls
toward like or dislike over a background for book-sales, got wind of
the matter and promptly invited me to one of his thermometric
club-lunches--always an occasion for acute gastritis.

Rumour of my fame has permeated my club, where, of course, the
leading English reviews are kept on file.  Some of the members must
have seen the favourable criticisms.  One night I became aware as I
passed through the rooms that club heroes seated here and there threw
glances of fresh interest toward me and exchanged auspicious words.
The president--who for so long a time has styled himself the Nestor
of the club that he now believes it is the members who do this, the
garrulous old president, whose weaknesses have made holes in him
through which his virtues sometimes leak out and get away, met me
under the main chandelier and congratulated me in tones so
intentionally audible that they violated the rules but were not
punishable under his personal privileges.

There was a sinister incident: two members whom Ben and I wish to
kick because they have had the audacity to make the acquaintance of
Tilly and Polly, and whom we despise also because they are
fashionable charlatans in their profession--these two with dark looks
saw the president congratulate me.

More good fortune yet to come!  The ferns which I am sending Mr.
Blackthorne will soon be growing in his garden.  The illustrious man
has many visitors; he leads them, if he likes, to his fern bank.
"These," he will some day say, "came from Christine Nilsson.  These
are from Barbizon in memory of Corot.  These were sent me by
Turgenieff.  And these," he will add, turning to his guests, "these
came from a young American novelist, a Kentuckian, whose work I
greatly respect: you must read his books."  The guests separate to
their homes to pursue the subject.  Spreading fame--may it spread!
Last of all, the stirring effect of this on me, who now run toward
glory as Anacreon said Cupid ran toward Venus--with both feet and

The ironic fact about all this commotion affecting so many solid,
substantial people--the ironic fact is this:

_There was no woodland scene and there were no ferns._

Here I reach the curious part of my story.

When I was a country lad of some seventeen years in Kentucky, one
August afternoon I was on my way home from a tramp of several miles.
My course lay through patches of woods--last scant vestiges of the
primeval forest--and through fields garnered of summer grain or green
with the crops of coming autumn.  Now and then I climbed a fence and
crossed an old woods-pasture where stock grazed.

The August sky was clear and the sun beat down with terrific heat.  I
had been walking for hours and parching thirst came upon me.

This led me to remember how once these rich uplands had been the vast
rolling forest that stretched from far-off eastern mountains to
far-off western rivers, and how under its shade, out of the rock,
everywhere bubbled crystal springs.  A land of swift forest streams
diamond bright, drinking places of the bold game.

The sun beat down on me in the treeless open field.  My feet struck
into a path.  It, too, became a reminder: it had once been a trail of
the wild animals of that verdurous wilderness.  I followed its
windings--a sort of gully--down a long, gentle slope.  The windings
had no meaning now: the path could better have been straight; it was
devious because the feet that first marked it off had threaded their
way crookedly hither and thither past the thick-set trees.

I reached the spring--a dry spot under the hot sun; no tree
overshadowing it, no vegetation around it, not a blade of grass; only
dust in which were footprints of the stock which could not break the
habit of coming to it but quenched their thirst elsewhere.  The
bulged front of some limestone rock showed where the ancient mouth of
the spring had been.  Enough moisture still trickled forth to wet a
few clods.  Hovering over these, rising and sinking, a little
quivering jet of gold, a flock of butterflies.  The grey stalk of a
single dead weed projected across the choked orifice of the fountain
and one long, brown grasshopper--spirit of summer dryness--had
crawled out to the edge and sat motionless.

A few yards away a young sycamore had sprung up from some
wind-carried seed.  Its grey-green leaves threw a thin scarred shadow
on the dry grass and I went over and lay down under it to rest--my
eyes fixed on the forest ruin.

Years followed with their changes.  I being in New York with my heart
set on building whatever share I could of American literature upon
Kentucky foundations, I at work on a novel, remembered that hot
August afternoon, the dry spring, and in imagination restored the
scene as it had been in the Kentucky of the pioneers.

I now await with eagerness all further felicities that may originate
in a woodland scene that did not exist.  What else will grow for me
out of ferns that never grew?



  _King Alfred's Wood,
  Warwickshire, England,
  May 1, 1911._


It is the first of the faithful leafy May again.  I sit at my windows
as on this day a year ago and look out with thankfulness upon what a
man may call the honour of the vegetable world.

A year ago to-day I, misled by a book of yours or by some books--for
I believe I read more than one of them--I, betrayed by the phrase
that when we touch a book we touch a man, overstepped the boundaries
of caution as to having any dealings with glib, plausible strangers
and wrote you a letter.  I made a request of you in that letter.  I
thought the request bore with it a suitable reward: that I should be
grateful if you would undertake to have some ferns sent to me for my

Your sleek reply led me still further astray and I wrote again.  I
drew my English cloak from my shoulders and spread it on the ground
for you to step on.  I threw open to you the doors of my hospitality,

That was last May.  Now it is May again.  And now I know to a
certainty what for months I have been coming to realise always with
deeper shame: that you gave me your word and did not keep your word;
doubtless never meant to keep it.

Why, then, write you about this act of dishonour now?  How justify a
letter to a man I feel obliged to describe as I describe you?

The reason is this, if you can appreciate such a reason.  My nature
refuses to let go a half-done deed.  I remain annoyed by an
abandoned, a violated, bond.  Once in a wood I came upon a partly
chopped-down tree, and I must needs go far and fetch an axe and
finish the job.  What I have begun to build I must build at till the
pattern is wrought out.  Otherwise I should weaken, soften, lose the
stamina of resolution.  The upright moral skeleton within me would
decay and crumble and I should sink down and flop like a human frog.

Since, then, you dropped the matter in your way--without so much as a
thought of a man's obligation to himself--I dismiss it in my
way--with the few words necessary to enable me to rid my mind of it
and of such a character.

I wish merely to say, then, that I despise as I despise nothing else
the ragged edge of a man's behaviour.  I put your conduct before you
in this way: do you happen to know of a common cabbage in anybody's
truck patch?  Observe that not even a common cabbage starts out to do
a thing and fails to do it if it can.  You must have some kind of
perception of an oak tree.  Think what would become of human beings
in houses if builders were deceived as to the trusty fibre of sound
oak?  Do you ever see a grape-vine?  Consider how it takes hold and
will not be shaken loose by the capricious compelling winds.  In your
country have you the plover?  Think what would be the plover's fate,
if it did not steer straight through time and space to a distant
shore.  Why, some day pick up merely a piece of common quartz.  Study
its powers of crystallisation.  And reflect that a man ranks high or
low in the scale of character according to his possession or his lack
of the powers of crystallisation.  If the forces of his mind can
assume fixity around an idea, if they can adjust themselves
unalterably about a plan, expect something of him.  If they run
through his hours like water, if memory is a millstream, if
remembrance floats forever away, expect nothing.

Simple, primitive folk long ago interpreted for themselves the
characters of familiar plants about them.  Do you know what to them
the fern stood for?  The fern stood for Fidelity.  Those true,
constant souls would have said that you had been unfaithful even with
nature's emblems of Fidelity.

The English sky is clear to-day.  The sunlight falls in a white
radiance on my plants.  I sit at my windows with my grateful eyes on
honest out-of-doors.  There is a shadow on a certain spot in the
garden; I dislike to look at it.  There is a shadow on the place
where your books once stood on my library shelves.  Your specious
books!--your cleverly manufactured books!--but there are successful
scamps in every profession.

I am,

    Very truly yours,


  _Cathedral Heights,
  May 10, 1911._


I wish to inform you that I have just received from you a letter in
which you attack my character.  I wish in reply further to inform you
that I have never felt called upon to defend my character.  Nor will
I, even with this letter of yours as evidence, attack your character.

I am,

    Very truly yours,


  _May 13, 1911._


I ask your attention to the enclosed letter from Mr. Edward
Blackthorne.  By way of contrast and also of reminder, lest you may
have forgotten, I send you two other letters received from him last
year.  I shared with you at the time the agreeable purport of these
earlier letters.  This last letter came three days ago and for three
days I have been trying to quiet down sufficiently even to write to
you about it.  At last I am able to do so.

You will see that Mr. Blackthorne has never received the ferns.  Then
where have they been all this time?  I took it for granted that they
had been shipped.  The order was last spring placed with the
Louisville firm recommended by you.  They guaranteed the execution of
the order.  I forwarded to them my cheque.  They cashed my cheque.
The voucher was duly returned to me cancelled through my bank.  I
could not suppose they would take my cheque unless they had shipped
the plants.  They even wrote me again in the Autumn of their own
accord, stating that the ferns were about to be sent on--Autumn being
the most favourable season.  Then where are the ferns?

I felt so sure of their having reached Mr. Blackthorne that I
harboured a certain grievance and confess that I tried to make
generous allowance for him as a genius in his never having
acknowledged their arrival.

I have demanded of Phillips & Faulds an immediate explanation.  As
soon as they reply I shall let you hear further.  The fault may be
with them; in the slipshod Southern way they may have been negligent.
My cheque may even have gone as a bridal present to some junior
member of the firm or to help pay the funeral expenses of the senior

There is trouble somewhere behind and I think there is trouble ahead.

Premonitions are for nervous or over-sanguine ladies; but if some
lady will kindly lend me one of her premonitions, I shall admit that
I have it and on the strength of it--or the weakness--declare my
belief that the mystery of the ferns is going to uncover some curious
and funny things.

As to the rest of Mr. Blackthorne's letter: after these days of
turbulence, I have come to see my way clear to interpret it thus: a
great man, holding a great place in the world, offered his best to a
stranger and the stranger, as the great man believes, turned his back
on it.  That is the grievance, the insult.  If anything could be
worse, it is my seeming discourtesy to Mrs. Blackthorne, since the
invitation came also from her.  In a word, here is a genius who
strove to advance my work and me, and he feels himself outraged in
his kindness, his hospitality, his friendship and his family--in all
his best.

But of course that is the hardest of all human things to stand.  Men
who have treated each other but fairly well or even badly in ordinary
matters often in time become friends.  But who of us ever forgives
the person that slights our best?  Out of a rebuff like that arises
such life-long unforgiveness, estrangement, hatred, that Holy Writ
itself doubtless for this very reason took pains to issue its
warning--no pearls before swine!  And perhaps of all known pearls a
great native British pearl is the most prized by its British

The reaction, then, from Mr. Blackthorne's best has been his worst:
if I did not merit his best, I deserve his worst; hence his last
letter.  God have mercy on the man who deserved that letter!  You
will have observed that his leading trait as revealed in all his
letters is enormous self-love.  That's because he is a genius.
Genius _has_ to have enormous self-love.  Beware the person who has
none!  Without self-love no one ever wins any other's love.

Thus the mighty English archer with his mighty bow shot his mighty
arrow--but at an innocent person.

Still the arrow of this letter, though it misses me, kills my plans.
The first trouble will be Tilly.  Our marriage had been finally fixed
for June, and our plans embraced a wedding journey to England and the
acceptance of the invitation of the Blackthornes.  The prospect of
this wonderful English summer--I might as well admit it--was one
thing that finally steadied all her wavering as to marriage.

Now the disappointment: no Blackthornes, no English celebrities to
greet us as American celebrities, no courtesies from critics, no
lawns, no tea nor toast nor being toasted.  Merely two unknown,
impoverished young Yankee tourists, trying to get out of chilly
England what can be gotten by anybody with a few, a very few, dollars.

But Tilly dreads disappointment as she dreads disease.  To her
disappointment is a disease in the character of the person who
inflicts the disappointment.  Once I tried to get you to read one of
Balzac's masterpieces, _The Magic Skin_.  I told you enough about it
to enable you to understand what I now say: that ever since I became
engaged to Tilly I have been to her as a magic skin which, as she
cautiously watches it, has always shrunk a little whenever I have
encountered a defeat or brought her a disappointment.  No later
success, on the contrary, ever re-expands the shrunken skin: it
remains shrunken where each latest disappointment has left it.

Now when I tell her of my downfall and the collapse of the gorgeous
summer plans!

    (the Expanding Scamp and the
    Shrinking Skin).


  _May 14th._


I have duly pondered the letters you send.

  "Fie, fee, fo, fum,
  I smell the blood of an Englishman!"

If you do not mind, I shall keep these documents from him in my
possession.  And suppose you send me all later letters, whether from
him or from anyone else, that bear on this matter.  It begins to grow
interesting and I believe it will bear watching.  Make me, then, as
your lawyer, the custodian of all pertinent and impertinent papers.
They can go into the locker where I keep your immortal but
impecunious Will.  Some day I might have to appear in court, I with
my shovel and five senses and no imagination, to plead _une cause
célèbre_ (a little more of my scant intimate French).

The explanation I give of this gratuitously insulting letter is that
at last you have run into a hostile human imagination in the person
of an old literary polecat, an aged book-skunk.  Of course if I could
decorate my style after the manner of your highly creative gentlemen,
I might say that you had unwarily crossed the nocturnal path of his
touchy moonlit mephitic highness.

I am not surprised, of course, that this letter has caused you to
think still more highly of its writer.  I tell you that is your
profession--to tinker--to turn reality into something better than

Some day I expect to see you emerge from your shop with a fish story.
Intending buyers will find that you have entered deeply into the
ideals and difficulties of the man-eating shark: how he could not
swim freely for whales in his track and could not breathe freely for
minnows in his mouth; how he got pinched from behind by the malice of
the lobster and got shocked on each side by the eccentricities of the
eel.  The other fish did not appreciate him and he grew
embittered--and then only began to bite.  You will make over the
actual shark and exhibit him to your reader as the ideal shark--a
kind of beloved disciple of the sea, the St. John of fish.

Anything imaginative that you might make out of a shark would be a
minor achievement compared with what you have done for this
Englishman.  Might the day come, the avenging day, when Benjamin
Doolittle could get a chance to write him just one letter!  May the
god of battles somehow bring about a meeting between the middle-aged
land-turtle and the aged skunk!  On that field of Mars somebody's fur
will have to fly and it will not be the turtle's, for he hasn't any.

You speak of a trouble that looms up in your love affair: let it
loom.  The nearer it looms, the better for you.  I have repeatedly
warned you that you have bound your life and happiness to the wrong
person, and the person is constantly becoming worse.  Detach your
apparatus of dreams at last from her.  Take off your glorious rainbow
world-goggles and see the truth before it is too late.  Do not fail,
unless you object, to send me all letters incoming about the
ferns--those now celebrated bushes.



  _May 13, 1911._


We acknowledge receipt of your letter of May 10 relative to an order
for ferns.

It is decidedly rough.  The senior member of our firm who formerly
had charge of this branch of our business has been seriously ill for
several months, and it was only after we had communicated with him at
home in bed that we were able to extract from him anything at all
concerning your esteemed order.

He informs us that he turned the order over to Messrs. Burns & Bruce,
native fern collectors of Dunkirk, Tenn., who wrote that they would
gather the ferns and forward them to the designated address.  He
likewise informs us that inasmuch as the firm of Burns & Bruce, as we
know only too well, has long been indebted to this firm for a
considerable amount, he calculated that they would willingly ship the
ferns in partial liquidation of our old claims.

It seems, as he tells us, that they did actually gather the ferns and
get them ready for shipment, but at the last minute changed their
mind and called on our firm for payment.  There the matter was
unexpectedly dropped owing to the sudden illness of the aforesaid
member of our house, and we knew nothing at all of what had
transpired until your letter led us to obtain from him at his bedside
the statements above detailed.

An additional embarrassment to the unusually prosperous course of our
business was occasioned by the marriage of a junior member of the
firm and his consequent absence for a considerable time, which
resulted in an augmentation of the expenses of our establishment and
an unfortunate diminution of our profits.

In view of the illness of the senior member of our house and in view
of the marriage of a junior member and in view of the losses and
expenses consequent thereon, and in view of the subsequent withdrawal
of both from active participation in the conduct of the affairs of
our firm, and in view also of a disagreement which arose between both
members and the other members as to the financial basis of a
settlement on which the withdrawal could take place, our affairs have
of necessity been thrown into court in litigation and are still in
litigation up to this date.

Regretting that you should have been seemingly inconvenienced in the
slightest degree by the apparent neglect of a former member of our
firm, we desire to add that as soon as matters can be taken out of
court our firm will be reorganised and that we shall continue to
give, as heretofore, the most scrupulous attention to all orders

But we repeat that your letter is pretty rough.

    Very truly yours,


  _Dunkirk, Tenn.,
  May 20, 1911._


Your letter to hand.  Phillips & Faulds gave us the order for the
ferns.  Owing to extreme drought last Fall the ferns withered earlier
than usual and it was unsafe to ship at that time; in the Winter the
weather was so severe that even in February we were unable to make
any digging, as the frost had not disappeared.  When at last we got
the ferns ready, we called on them for payment and they wouldn't pay.
Phillips & Faulds are not good paying bills and we could not put
ourselves to expense filling their new order for ferns, not wishing
to take more risk.  old, old accounts against them unpaid, and could
not afford to ship more.  proved very unsatisfactory and had to drop
them entirely.

Are already out of pocket the cost of the ferns, worthless to us when
Phillips & Faulds dodged and wouldn't pay, pretending we owed them
because they won't pay their bills.  If you do not wish to have any
further dealings with them you might write to Noah Chamberlain at
Seminole, North Carolina, just over the state line, not far from
here, an authority on American ferns.  We have sometimes collected
rare ferns for him to ship to England and other European countries.
Vouch for him as an honest man.  Always paid his bills, old accounts
against Phillips & Faulds unpaid; dropped them entirely.

    Very truly yours,
        BURNS & BRUCE.


  _May 24._


You requested me to send you for possible future reference all
incoming letters upon the subject of the ferns.  Here are two more
that have just fluttered down from the blue heaven of the unexpected
or been thrust up from the lower regions through a crack in the
earth's surface.

Spare a few minutes to admire the rippling eloquence of Messrs.
Phillips & Faulds.  When the eloquence has ceased to ripple and
settles down to stay, their letter has the cold purity of a
whitewashed rotten Kentucky fence.  They and another firm of florists
have a law-suit as to which owes the other, and they meantime compel
me, an innocent bystander, to deliver to them my pocketbook.

Will you please immediately bring suit against Phillips & Faulds on
behalf of my valuable twenty-five dollars and invaluable indignation?
Bring suit against and bring your boot against them if you can.  My
ducats!  Have my ducats out of them or their peace by day and night.

The other letter seems of an unhewn probity that wins my confidence.
That is to say, Burns & Bruce, whoever they are, assure me that I
ought to believe, and with all my heart I do now believe, in the
existence, just over the Tennessee state line, of a florist of good
character and a business head.  Thus I now press on over the
Tennessee state line into North Carolina.

For the ferns must be sent to Mr. Blackthorne; more than ever they
must go to him now.  Not the entire British army drawn up on the
white cliffs of Dover could keep me from landing them on the British
Isle.  Even if I had to cross over to England, travel to his home,
put the ferns down before him or throw them at his head and walk out
of his house without a word.

I told you I had a borrowed premonition that there would be trouble
ahead: now it is not a premonition, it is my belief and terror.  I
have grown to stand in dread of all florists, and I approach this
third one with my hat in my hand (also with my other hand on my



  _Cathedral Heights, New York,
  May 25, 1911._


You have been recommended to me by Messrs. Burns & Bruce, of Dunkirk,
Tennessee, as a nurseryman who can be relied upon to keep his word
and to carry out his business obligations.

Accepting at its face value their high testimonial as to your
trustworthiness, I desire to place with you the following order:

Messrs. Burns & Bruce, acting upon my request, have forwarded to you
a list of rare Kentucky ferns.  I desire you to collect these ferns
and to ship them to Mr. Edward Blackthorne, Esq., King Alfred's Wood,
Warwickshire, England.  As a guaranty of good faith on my part, I
enclose in payment my check for twenty-five dollars.  Will you have
the kindness to let me know at once whether you will undertake this
commission and give it the strictest attention?

    Very truly yours,


  _Seminole, North Carolina,
  May 29._


I have received your letter with your check in it.

You are the first person that ever offered me money as a florist.  I
am not a florist, if I must take time to inform you.  I had supposed
it to be generally known throughout the United States and in Europe
that I am professor of botany in this college, and have been for the
past fifteen years.  If Burns & Bruce really told you I am a
florist--and I doubt it--they must be greater ignoramuses than I took
them to be.  I always knew that they did not have much sense, but I
thought they had a little.  It is true that they have at different
times gathered specimens of ferns for me, and more than once have
shipped them to Europe.  But I never imagined they were fools enough
to think this made me a florist.  My collection of ferns embraces
dried specimens for study in my classrooms and specimens growing on
the college grounds.  The ferns I have shipped to Europe have been
sent to friends and correspondents.  The President of the Royal
Botanical Society of Great Britain is an old friend of mine.  I have
sent him some and I have also sent some to friends in Norway and
Sweden and to other scientific students of botany.

It only shows that your next-door neighbour may know nothing about
you, especially if you are a little over your neighbour's head.

My daughter, who is my secretary, will return your check, but I
thought I had better write and tell you myself that I am not a

    Yours truly,
        NOAH CHAMBERLAIN, A.M., B.S., Litt.D.


  _Seminole, North Carolina,
  May 29._


I can but express my intense indignation, as Professor Chamberlain's
only daughter, that you should send a sum of money to my
distinguished father to hire his services as a nurseryman.  I had
supposed that my father was known to the entire intelligent American
public as an eminent scientist, to be ranked with such men as Dana
and Gray and Alexander von Humboldt.

People of our means and social position in the South do not peddle
bulbs.  We do not reside at the entrance to a cemetery and earn our
bread by making funeral wreaths and crosses.

You must be some kind of nonentity.

Your cheque is pinned to this letter.



  _June 3._


I am deeply mortified at having believed Messrs. Burns & Bruce to be
well-informed and truthful Southern gentlemen.  I find that it is no
longer safe for me to believe anybody--not about nurserymen.  I am
not sure now that I should believe you.  You say you are a famous
botanist, but you may be merely a famous liar, known as such to
various learned bodies in Europe.  Proof to the contrary is
necessary, and you must admit that your letter does not furnish me
with that proof.

Still I am going to believe you and I renew the assurance of my
mortification that I have innocently caused you the chagrin of
discovering that you are not so well known, at least in this country,
as you supposed.  I suffer from the same chagrin: many of us do; it
is the tie that binds: blest be the tie.

I shall be extremely obliged if you will have the kindness to return
to me the list of ferns forwarded to you by Messrs. Burns & Bruce,
and for that purpose you will please to find enclosed an envelope
addressed and stamped.

I acknowledge the return of my cheque, which occasions me some
surprise and not a little pleasure.

Allow me once more to regret that through my incurable habit of
believing strangers, believing everybody, I was misled into taking
the lower view of you as a florist instead of the higher view as a
botanist.  But you must admit that I was right in classification and
wrong only in elevation.

    Very truly yours,
        BEVERLEY SANDS, A.B. (merely).


  _June 8._


I know nothing about any list of ferns.  Stop writing to me.



  _June 8._


It is excruciating the way you continue to persecute my great father.
What is wrong with you?  What started you to begin on us in this way?
We never heard of _you_.  Would you let my dear father alone?

He is a very deep student and it is intolerable for me to see his
priceless attention drawn from his work at critical moments when he
might be on the point of making profound discoveries.  My father is a
very absent-minded man, as great scholars usually are, and when he is
interrupted he may even forget what he has just been thinking about.

Your letter was a very serious shock to him, and after reading it he
could not even drink his tea at supper or enjoy his cold ham.  Time
and again he put his cup down and said to me in a trembling voice:
"Think of his calling me a famous liar!"  Then he got up from the
table without eating anything and left the room.  He turned at the
door and said to me, with a confused expression: "I _may_, once in my
life--but _he_ didn't know anything about _that_."

He shut his door and stayed in his library all evening, thinking
without nourishment.

What a viper you are to call my great father a liar.



  _June 12._


I knew I was in for it!  I send another installment of incredible
letters from unbelievable people.

In my wanderings over the earth after the ferns I have innocently
brought my foot against an ant-hill of Chamberlains.  I called the
head of the hill a florist and he is a botanist, and the whole hill
is frantic with fury.  As far as heard from, there are only two ants
in the hill, but the two make a lively many in their letters.  It's a
Southern vendetta and my end may draw nigh.

Now, too, the inevitable quarrel with Tilly is at hand.  She has been
out of town for a house-party somewhere and is to return to-morrow.
When Tilly came to New York a few years ago she had not an
acquaintance; now I marvel at the world of people she knows.  It is
the result of her never declining an invitation.  Once I derided her
about this, and with her almost terrifying honesty she avowed the
reason: that no one ever knew what an acquaintanceship might lead to.
This principle, or lack of principle, has led her far.  And wherever
she goes, she is welcomed afterwards.  It is her mystery, her charm.
I often ask myself what is her charm.  At least her charm, as all
charm, is victory.  You are defeated by her, chained and dragged
along.  Of course, I expect all this to be reversed after Tilly
marries me.  Then I am to have my turn--she is to be led around,
dragged helpless by _my_ charm.  Magnificent outlook!

To-morrow she is to return, and I shall have to tell her that it is
all over--our wonderful summer in England.  It is gone, the whole
vision drifts away like a gorgeous cloud, carrying with it the bright
raindrops of her hopes.

I have never, by the way, mentioned to Tilly this matter of the
ferns.  My first idea was to surprise her: as some day we strolled
through the Blackthorne garden he would point to the Kentucky
specimens flourishing there in honour of me.  I have always observed
that any unexpected pleasure flushes her face with a new light, with
an effulgence of fresh beauty, just as every disappointment makes her
suddenly look old and rather ugly.

This was the first reason.  Now I do not intend to tell her at all.
Disappointment will bring out her demand to know why she is
disappointed--naturally.  But how am I to tell on the threshold of
marriage that it is all due to a misunderstanding about a handful of
ferns!  It would be ridiculous.  She would never believe
me--naturally.  She would infer that I was keeping back the real
reason, as being too serious to be told.

Here, then, I am.  But where am I?

    BEVERLEY (complete and final
    disappearance of the Magic Skin).


_June 13._


You are perfectly right not to tell Tilly about the ferns.  Here I
come in: there must always be things that a man must refuse to tell a
woman.  As soon as he tells her everything, she puts her foot on his
neck.  I have always refused even to tell Polly some things, not that
they might not be told, but that Polly must not be told them; not for
the things' sake, but for Polly's good--and for a man's peaceful
control of his own life.

For whatever else a woman marries in a man, one thing in him she must
marry: a rock.  Times will come when she will storm and rage around
that rock; but the storms cannot last forever, and when they are
over, the rock will be there.  By degrees there will be less storm.
Polly's very loyalty to me inspires her to take possession of my
whole life; to enter into all my affairs.  I am to her a house, no
closet of which must remain locked.  Thus there are certain closets
which she repeatedly tries to open.  I can tell by her very
expression when she is going to try once more.  Were they opened, she
would not find much; but it is much to be guarded that she shall not
open them.

The matter is too trivial to explain to Tilly as fact and too
important as principle.

Harbour no fear that Polly knows from me anything about the ferns!
When I am with Polly, my thoughts are not on the grass of the fields.

Let me hear at once how the trouble turns out with Tilly.

I must not close without making a profound obeisance to your new
acquaintances--the Chamberlains.



  _June 15._


Something extremely disagreeable has come up between Beverley and me.
He tells me we're not to go to England on our wedding journey as
anyone's guests: we travel as ordinary American tourists unknown to
all England.

You can well understand what this means to me: you have watched all
along how I have pinched on my small income to get ready for this
beautiful summer.  There has been a quarrel of some kind between Mr.
Blackthorne and Beverley.  Beverley refuses to tell me the nature of
the quarrel.  I insisted that it was my right to know and he insisted
that it is a man's affair with another man and not any woman's
business.  Think of a woman marrying a man who lays it down as a law
that his affairs are none of her business!

I gave Beverley to understand that our marriage was deferred for the
summer.  He broke off the engagement.

I had not meant to tell you anything, since I am coming to-night.  I
have merely wished you to understand how truly anxious I am to see
you, even forgetting your last letter--no, not forgetting it, but
overlooking it.  Remember you _then_ broke an appointment with me;
_this_ time keep your appointment--being loyal!  The messenger will
wait for your reply, stating whether the way is clear for me to come.



  _June 15._


Dr. Mullen had an appointment with me for to-night, but I have
written to excuse myself, and I shall be waiting most impatiently.
The coast will be clear and I hope the night will be.

"The turnip," as you call it, will be empty; "the horse-radish" and
"the beets" will be still the same; "the wilted sunflower" will shed
its usual ray on our heads.  No breeze will disturb us, for there
will be no fresh air.  We shall have the long evening to ourselves,
and you can tell me just how it is that you two, _not_ heavy Tilly,
_not_ heavy Beverley, sat on opposite sides of the room and declared
to each other:

"I will not."

"I will not."

Since I have broken an engagement for you, be sure not to let any
later temptation elsewhere keep you away.


[Later in the day]


  _June 13._


Beverley and Tilly have had the long-expected final flare-up.
Yesterday he wrote, asking me to come up as soon as I was through
with business.  I spent last night with him.

We drew our chairs up to his opened window, turned out the lights,
got our cigars, and with our feet on the window-sills and our eyes on
the stars across the sky talked the long, quiet hours through.

He talked, not I.  Little could I have said to him about the woman
who has played fast and loose with him while using him for her
convenience.  He made it known at the outset that not a word was to
be spoken against her.

He just lay back in his big easy chair, with his feet on his
window-sill and his eyes on the stars, and built up his defence of
Tilly.  All night he worked to repair wreckage.

As the grey of morning crept over the city his work was well done:
Tilly was restored to more than she had ever been.  Silence fell upon
him as he sat there with his eyes on the reddening east; and it may
be that he saw her--now about to leave him at last--as some white,
angelic shape growing fainter and fainter as it vanished in the flush
of a new day.

You know what I think of this Tilly-angel.  If there were any wings
anywhere around, it was those of an aeroplane leaving its hangar with
an early start to bring down some other victim: the angel-aeroplane
out after more prey.  I think we both know who the prey will be.

The solemn influence of the night has rested on me.  Were it
possible, I should feel even a higher respect for Beverley; there is
something in him that fills me with awe.  He suffers.  He could mend
Tilly but he cannot mend himself: in a way she has wrecked him.

Their quarrel brings me with an aching heart closer to you.  I must
come to-night.  The messenger will wait for a word that I may.  And a
sudden strange chill of desolation as to life's brittle ties
frightens me into sending you some roses.

Your lover through many close and constant years,


[Still later in the day]


  _June 15._


An incredible thing has happened.  Ben has just written that he
wishes to see me to-night.  Will you, after all, wait until to-morrow
evening?  My dear, I _have_ to ask this of you because there is
something very particular that Ben desires to talk to me about.

_To-morrow night_, then, without fail, you and I!



[Late at night of the same day]

  _June 15._


We have talked the matter over and send you our conjoined
congratulations that your engagement is broken off and your immediate
peril ended.  But our immediate caution is that the end of the
betrothal will not necessarily mean the end of entanglement: the
tempter will at once turn away from you in pursuit of another man.
She will begin to weave her web about _him_.  But if possible she
will still hold _you_ to that web by a single thread.  Now, more than
ever, you will need to be on your guard, if such a thing is possible
to such a nature as yours.

Not until obliged will she ever let you go completely.  She hath a
devil--perhaps the most famous devil in all the world--the love
devil.  And all devils, famous or not famous, are poor quitters.

    POLLY BOLES for Ben Doolittle.
    BEN DOOLITTLE for Polly Boles.
    (His handwriting; her ideas
    and language.)



This is the third time within the past several months that I have
requested you to let me have your bill for professional services.  I
shall not suppose that you have relied upon my willingness to remain
under an obligation of this kind; nor do I like to think I have
counted for so little among your many patients that you have not
cared whether I paid you or not.  If your motive has been kindness, I
must plainly tell you that I do not desire such kindness; and if
there has been no motive at all, but simply indifference, I must
remind you that this indifference means disrespect and that I resent

The things you have indirectly done for me in other ways--the songs,
the books and magazines, the flowers--these I accept with warm
responsive hands and a lavish mind.

And with words not yet uttered, perhaps never to be uttered.

    Yours sincerely,

_June the Seventeenth._



I have your bill and I make the due remittance with all due thanks.

Your note pleasantly reassures me how greatly you are obliged that I
could put you in correspondence with some Kentucky cousins about the
purchase of a Kentucky saddle-horse.  It was a pleasure; in fact, a
matter of some pride to do this, and I am delighted that they could
furnish you a horse you approve.

While taking my customary walk in the Park yesterday morning, I had a
chance to see you and your new mount making acquaintance with one
another.  I can pay you no higher compliment than to say that you
ride like a Kentuckian.

Unconsciously, I suppose, it has become a habit of mine to choose the
footways through the Park which skirt the bridle path, drawn to them
by my childhood habit and girlish love of riding.  Even to see from
day to day what one once had but no longer has is to keep alive hope
that one may some day have it again.

You should some time go to Kentucky and ride there.  My cousins will
look to that.

    Yours sincerely,

_June the Eighteenth._



I was passing this morning and witnessed the accident, and I must
express my condolences for what might have been and congratulations
upon what was.

You certainly fell well--not unlike a Kentuckian!

I feel sure that my cousins could not have known the horse was
tricky.  Any horse is tricky to the end of his days and the end of
his road.  He may not show any tricks at home, but becomes tricky in
new places.  (Can this be the reason that he is called the most human
of beasts?)

You buying a Kentucky horse brings freshly to my mind that of late
you have expressed growing interest in Kentucky.  More than once,
also (since you have begun to visit me), you have asked me to tell
you about my life there.  Frankly, this is because I am something of
a mystery and you would like to have the mystery cleared up.  You
wish to find out, without letting me know you are finding out,
whether there is not something _wrong_ about me, some _risk_ for you
in visiting me.  That is because you have never known anybody like
me.  I frighten you because I am not afraid of people, not afraid of
life.  You are used to people who are afraid, especially to women who
are afraid.  You yourself are horribly afraid of nearly everything.

Suppose I do tell you a little about my life, though it may not
greatly explain why I am without fear; still, the land and the people
might mean something; they ought to mean much.

I was born of not very poor and immensely respectable parents in a
poor and not very respectable county of Kentucky.  The first thing I
remember about life, my first social consciousness, was the discovery
that I was entangled in a series of sisters: there were six of us.  I
was as nearly as possible at the middle of the procession--with three
older and two younger, so that I was crowded both by what was before
and by what was behind.  I early learned to fight for the
present--against both the past and the future--learned to seize what
I could, lest it be seized either by hands reaching backward or by
hands reaching forward.  Literally, I opened my eyes upon life's
insatiate competition and I began to practise at home the game of the

Why my mother bore only daughters will have to be referred to the new
science which takes as its field the forces and the mysteries that
are sovereign between the nuptials and the cradle.  But the reason,
as openly laughed about in the family when the family grew old enough
to laugh, as laughed about in the neighbourhood, was this:

Even before marriage my father and my mother had waged a violent
discussion about woman's suffrage.  You may not know that in Kentucky
from the first the cause of female suffrage has been upheld by a
strong minority of strong women, a true pioneer movement toward the
nation's future now near.  It seems that my father, who was a
brilliant lawyer, always browbeat my mother in argument, overwhelmed
her, crushed her.  Unconvinced, in resentful silence, she quietly
rocked on her side of the fireplace and looked deep into the coals.
But regularly when the time came she replied to all his arguments by
presenting him with another suffragette!  Throughout her life she
declined even to bear him a son to continue the argument!  Her six
daughters--she would gladly have had twelve if she could--were her
triumphant squad for the armies of the great rebellion.

Does this help to explain me to you?

What next I relate about my early life is something that you perhaps
have never given a thought to--children's pets and playthings: it
explains a great deal.  Have you ever thought of a vital difference
between country children and town children?  Country children more
quickly throw away their dolls, if they have them, and attach their
sympathies to living objects.  A child's love of a doll is at best a
sham: a little master-drama of the child's imagination trying to fill
two roles--its own and the role of something which cannot respond.
But a child's love of a living creature, which it chooses as the
object of its love and play and protection, is stimulating, healthful
and kicking with reality: because it is vitalised by reciprocity in
the playmate, now affectionate and now hostile, but always
representing something intensely alive--which is the whole main thing.

We are just beginning to find out that the dramas of childhood are
the playgrounds of life's battlefields.  The ones prepare for the
others.  A nature that will cling to a rag doll without any return,
will cling to a rag husband without any return.  A child's loyalty to
an automaton prepares a woman for endurance of an automaton.  Dolls
have been the undoing and the death of many wives.

A multitude of dolls would have been needed to supply the six
destructive little girls of my mother's household.  We soon broke our
china tea sets or, more gladly, smashed one another's.  For whatever
reason, all lifeless pets, all shams, were quickly swept out of the
house and the little scattering herd of us turned our restless and
insatiate natures loose upon life itself.  Sooner or later we petted
nearly everything on the farm.  My father was a director of the
County Fair, and I remember that one autumn, about fair-time, we
roped off a corner of the yard and held a prize exhibition of our
favourites that year.  They comprised a kitten, a duck, a pullet, a
calf, a lamb and a puppy.

Sooner or later our living playthings outgrew us or died or were sold
or made their sacrificial way to the kitchen.  Were we disconsolate?
Not a bit.  Did we go down to the branch and gather there under an
old weeping willow?  Quite the contrary.  Our hearts thrived on death
and destruction, annihilation released us from old ties, change gave
us another chance, and we provided substitutes and continued our

And I think this explains a good deal.  And these two experiences of
my childhood, taken together, explain me better than anything else I
know.  Competition first taught me to seize what I wanted before
anyone else could seize it.  Natural changes next taught me to be
prepared at any moment to give that up without vain regret and to
seize something else.  Thus I seemed to learn life's lesson as I
learned to walk: that what you love will not last long, and that long
love is possible only when you love often.

So many women know this; how few admit it!

    Sincerely yours,

_June the Nineteenth._



You sail to-morrow.  And to-morrow I go away for the summer: first to
some friends, then further away to other friends, then still further
away to other friends: a summer pageant of brilliant changes.

There is no reason why I should write to you.  Your stateroom will be
filled with flowers; you will have letters and telegrams; friends
will wave to you from the pier.  My letter may be lost among the
others, but at least it will have been written, and writing it is its
pleasure to me.

I was to go to England this summer, was to go as a bride.  A few
nights since I decided not to go because I did not approve of the

We marvel at life's coincidences: one evening, not long ago, while
speaking of your expected summer in England, you mentioned that you
planned to make a pilgrimage to see Edward Blackthorne.  You were to
join some American friends over there and take them with you.  That
is the coincidence: _I_ was to visit the Blackthornes this very
summer, not as a stranger pilgrim, but as an invited guest--with the
groom whom I have rejected.

It is like scattering words before the obvious to say that I wish you
a pleasant summer.  Not a forgetful one.  To aid memory, as you, some
night on the passage across, lean far over and look down at the
phosphorescent couch of the sea for its recumbent Venus of the deep,
remember that the Venus of modern life is the American woman.

Am I to see you when autumn, if nothing else, brings you home--see
you not at all or seldom or often?

At least this will remind you that I merely say _au revoir_.

Adrift for the summer rather than be an unwilling bride.


_June twenty-first._


  _June 21._


Since life separated us the other night I have not heard from you.  I
have not expected a letter, nor do you expect one from me.  But I am
going away to-morrow for the summer and my heart has a few words for
you which must be spoken.

It was not disappointment about the summer in England, not even your
refusal to explain why you disappointed me, that held the main reason
of my drawing back.  I am in the mood to-night to tell you some
things very frankly:

Twice before I knew you, I was engaged to be married and twice as the
wedding drew near I drew away from it.  It is an old, old feeling of
mine, though I am so young, that if married I should not long be
happy.  Of course I should be happy for a while.  But _afterwards_!
The interminable, intolerable _afterwards_!  The same person year in
and year out--I should be stifled.  Each of the men to whom I was
engaged had given me before marriage all that he had to give: the
rest I did not care for; after marriage with either I foresaw only
staleness, his limitations, monotony.

Believe this, then: there are things in you that I cling to, other
things in you that do not draw me at all.  And I cling more to life
than to you, more than to any one person.  How can any one person
ever be all to me, all that I am meant for, and _I will live_!

Why should we women be forced to spend our lives beside the first
spring where one happened to fill one's cup at life's dawn!  Why be
doomed to die in old age at the same spring!  With all my soul I
believe that the world which has slowly thrown off so many tyrannies
is about to throw off other tyrannies.  It has been so harsh toward
happiness, so compassionate toward misery and wrong.  Yet happiness
is life's finest victory: for ages we have been trying to defeat our
one best victory--our natural happiness!

A brief cup of joy filled at life's morning--then to go thirsty for
the rest of the long, hot, weary day!  Why not goblet after goblet at
spring after spring--there are so many springs!  And thirst is so
eager for them!

Come to see me in the autumn.  For I will not, cannot, give you up.
And when you come, do not seek to renew the engagement.  Let that go
whither it has gone.  But come to see me.

For I love you.



  _June 21._


This is good-bye to you for the summer and, better than that, it is
good-bye to you for life.  Why not, in parting, face the truth that
we have long hated each other and have used our acquaintanceship and
our letters to express our hatred?  How could there ever have been
any friendship between you and me?

Let me tell you of the detestable little signs that I have noticed in
you for years.  Are you aware that all the time you have occupied
your apartment, you have never changed the arrangement of your
furniture?  As soon as your guests are gone, you push every chair
where it was before.  For years your one seat has been the same end
of the same frayed sofa.  Many a time I have noted your disquietude
if any guest happened to sit there and forced you to sit elsewhere.
For years you have worn the same breast-pin, though you have several.
The idea of your being inconstant to a breast-pin!  You pride
yourself in such externals of faithfulness.

You soul of perfidy!

I leave you undisturbed to innumerable appointments with Ben, and
with the same particular something to talk about, falsest woman I
have ever known.

Have you confided to Ben Doolittle the fact that you are secretly
receiving almost constant attentions from Dr. Mullen?  Will you tell
him?  _Or shall I?_



  _June 23rd._


I am worried.

I begin to feel doubtful as to what course I should pursue with Dr.
Claude Mullen.  Of late he has been coming too often.  He has been
writing to me too often.  He appears to be losing control of himself.
Things cannot go on as they are and they must not get worse.  What I
could not foresee is his determination to hold _me_ responsible for
his being in love with me!  He insists that _I_ encouraged him and am
now unfair--_me_ unfair!  Of course I have _never_ encouraged his
visits; out of simple goodness of heart I have _tolerated_ them.  Now
the reward of my _kindness_ is that he holds me responsible and
guilty.  He is trying, in other words, to take advantage of my
_sympathy_ for him.  I _do_ feel sorry for him!

I have not been cruel enough to dismiss him.  His last letter is
enclosed: it will give you some idea----!

Can you advise me what to do?  I have always relied upon _your_
judgment in everything.

    Faithfully yours,


[Penciled in Court Room]

  _June 24th._


Certainly I can advise you.  My advice is: tell him to take a cab and
drive straight to the nearest institution for the weak-minded, engage
a room, lock himself in and pray God to give him some sense.  Tell
him to stay secluded there until that prayer is answered.  The
Almighty himself couldn't answer his prayer until after his death,
and by that time he'd be out of the way anyhow and you wouldn't mind.

I return his funeral oration unread, since I did not wish to attract
attention to myself as moved to tears in open court.



[Evening of the same day]


This is a night I have long waited for and worked for.

You have understood why during these years I have never asked you to
set a day for our marriage.  It has been a long, hard struggle, for
me coming here poor, to make a living and a practice and a name.  You
know I have had as my goal not a living for one but a living for
two--and for more than two--for our little ones.  When I married you,
I meant to rescue you from the Franklin Flats, all flats.

But with these two hands of mine I have laid hold of the affairs of
this world and shaken them until they have heeded me and my strength.
I have won, I am independent, I am my own man and my own master, and
I am ready to be your husband as through it all I have been your

Name the day when I can be both.

Yet the day must be distant: I am to leave this firm and establish my
own and I want that done first.  Some months must yet pass.  Any day
of next Spring, then--so far away but nearer than any other Spring
during these impatient years.

Polly, constant one, I am your constant lover,


Roses to you.


  _June 24._


My heart answers you.  It leaps forward to the day.  I have set the
day in my heart and sealed it on my lips.  Come and break that seal.
To-night I shall tear two of the rosebuds apart and mingle their
petals on my pillow.



_June 26._

It occurs to me that our engagement might furnish you the means of
getting rid of your prostrated nerve specialist.  Write him to come
to see you: tell him you have some joyful news that must be imparted
at once.  When he arrives announce to him that you have named the day
of your marriage to me.  To _me_, tell him!  Then let him take
himself off.  You say he complains that all this is getting on his
nerves.  Anything that could sit on his nerves would be a mighty
small animal.



  _June 27._

Our engagement has only made him more determined.  He persists in
visiting me.  His loyalty is touching.  Suppose the next time he
comes I arrange for you to come.  Your meeting him here might have
the desired effect.



_June 28._

It would certainly have the desired effect, but perhaps not exactly
the effect he desires.  Madam, would you wish to see the nerve
filaments of your fond specialist scattered over your carpet as his
life's deplorable arcana?  No, Polly, not that!

Make this suggestion to him: that in order to give him a chance to be
near you--but not too near--you do offer him for the first year after
our marriage--only one year, mind you--you do offer him, with my
consent and at a good salary, the position of our furnace-man, since
he so loves to warm himself with our fires.  It would enable him to
keep up his habit of getting down on his knees and puffing for you.



  _July 14._


It occurs to me just at the moment that not for some days have I
heard you speak of your racked--or wrecked--nerve specialist.  Has he
learned to control his microscopic attachment?  Has he found an
antidote for the bacillus of his anaemic love?

Polly, my woman, if he is still bothering you, let me know at once.
It has been my joy hitherto to share your troubles; henceforth it is
my privilege to take them on two uncrushable shoulders.

At the drop of your hat I'll even meet him in your flat any night you
say, and we'll all compete for the consequences.

I. s. y. s. r. r. (You have long since learned what that means.)

    Your man,
        BEN D.


  _July 15._


You need not give another thought to Dr. Mullen.  He does not annoy
me any more.  He can drop finally out of our correspondence.

Not an hour these days but my thoughts hover about you.  Never so
vividly as now does there rise before me the whole picture of our
past--of all these years together.  And I am ever thinking of the day
to which we both look forward as the one on which our paths promise
to blend and our lives are pledged to meet.

    Your devoted


  _July 16._


Yesterday while walking along the street I found my attention most
favourably drawn to the appearance of your business establishment: to
the tubs of plants at the entrance, the vines and flowers in the
windows, and the classic Italian statuary properly mildewed.
Therefore I venture to write.

Do you know anything about ferns, especially Kentucky ferns?  Do you
ever collect them and ship them?  I wish to place an order for some
Kentucky ferns to be sent to England.  I had a list of those I
desired, but this has been mislaid, and I should have to rely upon
the shipper to make, out of his knowledge, a collection that would
represent the best of the Kentucky flora.  Could you do this?

One more question, and you will please reply clearly and honestly.  I
notice that your firm speak of themselves as landscape architects.
This leads me to inquire whether you have ever had any connection
with Botany.  You may not understand the question and you are not
required to understand it: I simply request you to answer it.

    Very truly yours,


  _July 17._


Your esteemed favour to hand.  We gather and ship ferns and other
plants, subject to order, to any address, native or foreign, with the
least possible delay, and we shall be pleased to execute any
commission which you may entrust to us.

With reference to your other inquiry, we ask leave to state that we
have never had the slightest connection with any other concern doing
business in the city under the firm-name of Botany.  We do not even
find them in the telephone directory.

Awaiting your courteous order, we are

    Very truly yours,
        JUDD & JUDD.
            Per Q.


  _July 18._


I am greatly pleased to hear that you have no connection with any
other house doing business under the firm-name of Botany, and I
accordingly feel willing to risk giving you the following order: That
you will make a collection of the most highly prized varieties of
Kentucky ferns and ship them, expenses prepaid, to this address,
namely: Mr. Edward Blackthorne, King Alfred's Wood, Warwickshire,

As a guaranty of good faith and as the means to simplify matters
without further correspondence, I take pleasure in enclosing my
cheque for $25.

You will please advise me when the ferns are ready to be shipped, as
I wish to come down and see to it myself that they actually do get

    Very truly yours,


  _Seminole, North Carolina,
  July 18._


I met with the melancholy misfortune a few weeks ago of losing my
great father.  Since his death I have been slowly going over his
papers.  He left a large mass of them in disorder, for his was too
active a mind to pause long enough to put things in order.

In a bundle of notes I have come across a letter to him from Burns &
Bruce with the list of ferns in it that they sent him and that had
been misplaced.  My dear father was a very absent-minded scholar, as
is natural.  He had penciled a query regarding one of the ferns on
the list, and I suppose, while looking up the doubtful point, he had
laid the list down to pursue some other idea that suddenly attracted
him and then forgot what he had been doing.  My father worked over
many ideas and moved with perfect ease from one to another, being
equally at home with everything great--a mental giant.

I send the list back to you that it may remind you what a trouble and
affliction you have been.  Do not acknowledge the receipt of it, for
I do not wish to hear from you.



  _July 21._


I wish to take up immediately my commission placed a few days ago.  I
referred in my first letter to a mislaid list of ferns.  This has
just turned up and is herewith enclosed, and I now wish you to make a
collection of the ferns called for on this list.

Please advise me at once whether you will do this.

    Very truly yours,


  _July 22._


Your letter to hand, with the list of ferns enclosed.  We shall be
pleased to cancel the original order, part of which we advise you had
already been filled.  It does not comprise the plants called for on
the list.

This will involve some slight additional expense, and if agreeable,
we shall be pleased to have you enclose your cheque for the slight
extra amount as per enclosed bill.

    Very truly yours,
        JUDD & JUDD.


  _July 23._


I have your letter and I take the greatest possible pleasure in
enclosing my cheque to cover the additional expense, as you kindly

    Very truly yours,


  _October 30._


They are gone!  They're off!  They have weighed anchor!  They have
sailed; they have departed!

I went down and watched the steamer out of sight.  Packed around me
at the end of the pier were people, waving hats and handkerchiefs,
some laughing, some with tears on their cheeks, some with farewells
quivering on their dumb mouths.  But everybody forgot his joy or his
trouble to look at me: I out-waved, out-shouted them all.  An old New
York Harbour gull, which is the last creature in the world to be
surprised at anything, flew up and glanced at me with a jaded eye.

I have felt ever since as if the steamer's anchor had been taken from
around my neck.  I have become as human cork which no storm, no
leaden weight, could ever sink.  Come what will to me now from
Nature's unkinder powers!  Let my next pair of shoes be made of
briers, my next waistcoat of rag weed!  Fasten every morning around
my neck a collar of the scaly-bark hickory!  See to it that my
undershirts be made of the honey-locust!  For olives serve me green
persimmons; if I must be poulticed, swab me in poultices of pawpaws!
But for the rest of my days may the Maker of the world in His
occasional benevolence save me from the things on it that look frail
and harmless like ferns.

Come up to dinner!  Come, all there is of you!  We'll open the
friendly door of some friendly place and I'll dine you on everything
commensurate with your simplicity.  I'll open a magnum or a
magnissimum.  I'll open a new subway and roll down into it for joy.

They are gone to him, his emblems of fidelity.  I don't care what he
does with them.  They will for the rest of his days admonish him that
in his letter to me he sinned against the highest law of his own
gloriously endowed nature:

_Le Génie Oblige_

Accept this phrase, framed by me for your pilgrim's script of wayside
French sayings.  Accept it and translate it to mean that he who has
genius, no matter what the world may do to him, no matter what ruin
Nature may work in him, that he who has genius, is under obligation
so long as he lives to do nothing mean and to do nothing meanly.



  _King Alfred's Wood,
  Warwickshire, England,
  November 30._


I continue my chronicles of an English country-place during the
absence of its master, with the hope that the reading of the
chronicles may cause him to hasten his return.

An amusing, perhaps a rather grave, matter passed under my
observation yesterday.  The afternoon was clear and mild and I had
taken my work out into the garden.  From where I sat I could see
Hodge at work with his spade some distance away.  Quite
unconsciously, I suppose, I lifted my eyes at intervals to look
toward him, for by degrees I became aware that Hodge at intervals was
looking toward me.  I noticed that he was red in the face, which is
always a sign of his anger; apparently he wavered as to whether he
should or should not do a debatable thing.  Finally lifting his spade
high and bringing it down with such force that he sent it deep into
the mould where it stood upright, he started toward me.

You know how, as he approaches anyone, he loosens his cap from his
forehead and scrapes the back of his neck with the back of his thumb.
As he stood before me he did this now.  Then he made the following
announcement in the voice of an aggrieved bully:

"The _Scolopendium vulgare_ put up two new shoots after he went away,
mum.  Bishop's crooks he calls 'em, mum."

I replied that I was glad to hear the ferns were thrifty.  He,
jerking his thumb toward the fern bank, added still more resentfully:

"The _Adiantum nigrum_ put up some, mum."

I replied that I should announce to you the good news.

Plainly this was not what he had come to tell me, for he stood
embarrassed but not budging, his eyes blazing with a kind of stupid
fury.  At last he brought out his trouble.

It seems that one day last week a hamper of ferns arrived for you
from New York, with only the names of the shippers, charges prepaid.
I was not at home, having that day gone to the Vicar's with some
marmalade; so Hodge took it upon himself to receive the hamper.  By
his confession he unwrapped the package and discovering the contents
to be a collection of fern-roots, with the list of the Latin names
attached, he re-wrapped them and re-shipped them to the forwarding
agents--charges to be collected in New York.

This is now Hodge's plight: he is uncertain whether the plants were
some you had ordered, or were a gift to you from some friend, or
merely a gratuitous advertisement by an American nurseryman.  Whether
yours or another's, of much value to you or none, he resolved that
they should not enter the garden.  There was no place for them in the
garden without there being a place for their Latin names in his head,
and his head would hold no more.  At least his temper is the same
that has incited all English rebellion: human nature need not stand
for it!

The skies are wistful some days with blue that is always brushed over
by clouds: England's same still blue beyond her changing vapours.
The evenings are cosy with lamps and November fires and with new
books that no hand opens.  A few late flowers still bloom, loyal to
youth in a world that asks of them now only their old age.  The birds
sit silent with ruffled feathers and look sturdy and established on
the bare shrubs: liberals in spring, conservatives in autumn, wise in
season.  The larger trees strip their summer flippancies from them
garment by garment and stand in their noble nakedness, a challenge to
the cold.

The dogs began to wait for you the day you left.  They wait still,
resolved at any cost to show that they can be patient; that is,
well-bred.  The one of them who has the higher intelligence!  The
other evening I filled and lighted your pipe and held it out to him
as I have often seen you do.  He struck the floor softly with the tip
of his tail and smiled with his eyes very tenderly at me, as saying:
"You want to see whether I remember that _he_ did that; of course I
remember."  Then, with a sudden suspicion that he was possibly being
very stupid, with quick, gruff bark he ran out of the room to make
sure.  Back he came, his face in broad silent laughter at himself and
his eyes announcing to me--"Not yet."

Do not all these things touch you with homesickness amid the
desolation of the Grand Canal--with the shallow Venetian songs that
patter upon the ear but do not reach down into strong Northern
English hearts?

I have already written this morning to Mrs. Blackthorne.  As each of
you hands my letters to the other, these petty chronicles, sent out
divided here in England, become united in a foreign land.

I am, dear Mr. Blackthorne,

    Respectfully yours,


  _December 27._


We have to report that the ferns recently shipped to a designated
address in England in accordance with your instructions have been
returned with charges for return shipment to be collected at our
office.  We enclose our bill for these charges and ask your attention
to it at your early convenience.  The ferns are ruined and worthless
to us.

    Very truly yours,
        JUDD & JUDD.


  _December 30._


I am very much obliged to you for your letter and I take the greatest
pleasure imaginable in enclosing my cheque to cover the charges of
the return shipment.

    Very truly yours,


  _December 28._


_The ferns have come back to me from England!_



  _December 29._


I am with you, brother, to the last root.  But don't send any more
ferns to anybody--don't try to, for God's sake!  I'm with you!  _J'y
suis, J'y reste_.  (French forever!  _Boutez en avant, mon_ French!)

By the way, our advice is that you drop the suit against Phillips &
Faulds.  They are engaged in a lawsuit and as we look over the
distant Louisville battlefield, we can see only the wounded and the
dying--and the poor.  Would you squeeze a druggist's sponge for live
tadpoles?  Whatever you got, you wouldn't get tadpoles, not live ones.

Our fee is $50; hadn't you better stop at $50 and think yourself
lucky?  _Monsieur a bien tombé_.

Any more fern letters?  Don't forget them.



  _December 30._


I take your advice, of course, about dropping the suit against
Phillips & Faulds, and I take pleasure in enclosing you my cheque for
$50--damn them.  That's $75--damn them.  And if anybody else anywhere
around hasn't received a cheque from me for nothing, let him or her
rise, and him or her will get one.

No more letters yet.  But I feel a disturbance in the marrow of my
bones and doubtless others are on the way, as one more spell of bad
weather--another storm for me.



  _Seminole, North Carolina,
  December 25._


This is Christmas Day, when every one is thinking of peace and good
will on earth.  It makes me think of you.  I cannot forget you, my
feeling is too bitter for oblivion, for it was you who were
instrumental in bringing about my father's death.  One damp night I
heard him get up and then I heard him fall, and rushing to him to see
what was the matter, I found that he had stumbled down the three
steps which led from his bedroom to his library, and had rolled over
on the floor, with his candle burning on the carpet beside him.  I
lifted him up and asked him what he was doing out of bed and he said
he had some kind of recollection about a list of ferns; it worried
him and he could not sleep.

The fall was a great shock to his nervous system and to mine, and a
few days after that he contracted pneumonia from the cold, being
already troubled with lumbago.

My father's life-work, which will never be finished now, was to be
called "Approximations to Consciousness in Plants."  He believed that
bushes knew a great deal of what is going on around them, and that
trees sometimes have queer notions which cause them to grow crooked,
and that ferns are most intelligent beings.  It was while thus
engaged, in a weakened condition with this work on "Consciousness in
Plants," that he suddenly lost consciousness himself and did not
afterwards regain it as an earthly creature.

I shall always remember you for having been instrumental in his
death.  This is the kind of Christmas Day you have presented to me.



  _Seminole, North Carolina,
  January 7._


Necessity knows no law, and I have become a sad victim of necessity,
hence this appeal to you.

My wonderful father left me in our proud social position without
means.  I was thrown by his death upon my own resources, and I have
none but my natural faculties and my wonderful experience as his

With these I had to make my way to a livelihood and deep as was the
humiliation of a proud, sensitive daughter of the South and of such a
father, I have been forced to come down to a position I never
expected to occupy.  I have accepted a menial engagement in a small
florist establishment of young Mr. Andy Peters, of this place.

Mr. Andy Peters was one of my father's students of Botany.  He
sometimes stayed to supper, though, of course, my father did not look
upon him as our social equal, and cautioned me against receiving his
attentions, not that I needed the caution, for I repeatedly watched
them sitting together and they were most uncongenial.  My father's
acquaintance with him made it easier for me to enter his
establishment.  I am to be his secretary and aid him with my
knowledge of plants and especially to bring the influence of my
social position to bear on his business.

Since you were the instrument of my father's death, you should be
willing to aid me in my efforts to improve my condition in life.  I
write to say that it would be as little as you could do to place your
future commissions for ferns with Mr. Andy Peters.  He has just gone
into the florist's business and these would help him and be a
recommendation to me for bringing in custom.  He might raise my
salary, which is so small that it is galling.

While father remained on earth and roved the campus, he filled my
life completely.  I have nothing to fill me now but orders for Mr.
Andy Peters.

Hoping for an early reply,

    A proud daughter of the Southland,


  _January 10._


The tumult in my bones was a well-advised monitor.  More fern letters
_were_ on the way: I enclose them.

You will discover from the earlier of these two documents that during
a late unconscious scrimmage in North Carolina I murdered an aged
botanist of international reputation.  At least one wish of my life
is gratified: that if I ever had to kill anybody, it would be some
one who was great.  You will gather from this letter that, all
unaware of what I was doing, I tripped him up, rolled him downstairs,
knocked his candle out of his hand and, as he lay on his back all
learned and amazed, I attacked him with pneumonia, while lumbago
undid him from below.

You will likewise observe that his daughter seems to be an American
relative of Hamlet--she has a "harp" in her head: she harps on the

One thing I cannot get out of _my_ head: have you noticed anything
wrong at the Club?  Two or three evenings, as we have gone in to
dinner, have you noticed anything wrong?  Those two charlatans put
their heads together last night: their two heads put together do not
make one complete head--that may be the trouble; beware of less than
one good full-weight head.  Something is wrong and I believe they are
the dark forces: have you observed anything?



  _January 11._


The letters are filed away with their predecessors.

If I am any judge of human nature, you will receive others from this
daughter of the South in the same strain.

If her great father (local meaning, old dad) is really dead, he
probably sawed his head off against a tight clothes-line in the
back-yard some dark night, while on his way to their gooseberry
bushes to see if they had any sense.

More likely he hurled himself headlong into eternity to get rid of
her--rolled down the steps with sheer delight and reached for
pneumonia with a glad hand to escape his own offspring and her
endless society.

The most terrifying thing to me about this new Clara is her Great
Desert dryness; no drop of humour ever bedewed her mind.  I believe
those eminent gentlemen who call themselves biologists have recently
discovered that the human system, if deprived of water, will convert
part of its dry food into water.

I wish these gentlemen would study the contrariwise case of Clara:
she would convert a drink of water into a mouthful of sawdust.

Humour has long been codified by me as one of nature's most solemn
gifts.  I divide all witnesses into two classes: those who, while
giving testimony or being examined or cross-examined, cause laughter
in the courtroom at others.  The second class turn all laughter
against themselves.  That is why the gift of humour is so grave--it
keeps us from making ourselves ridiculous.  A Frenchman (still my
French) has recently pointed out that the reason we laugh is to drive
things out of the world, to jolly them out of existence and have a
good time as we do it.  Therefore not to be laughed at is to survive.

Beware of this new Clara!  War breeds two kinds of people: heroes and
shams--the heroic and the mock heroic.  You and I know the Civil War
bred two kinds of burlesque Southerner: the post-bellum Colonel and
the spurious proud daughter of the Southland.  Proud, sensitive
Southern people do not go around proclaiming that they are proud and
sensitive.  And that word--Southland!  Hang the word and shoot the
man who made it.  There are no proud daughters of the Westland or of
the Northland.  Beware of this new Clara!  This breath of the Desert!

Yes, I have noticed something wrong in the Club.  I have hesitated
about speaking to you of it.  I do not know what it means, but my
suspicions lie where yours lie--with those two wallpaper doctors.



  _The Great Dipper,
  January 12._


I have been President of this Club so long--they have refused to have
any other president during my lifetime and call me its Nestor--that
whenever I am present my visits are apt to consist of interruptions.
To-night it is raining and not many members are scattered through the
rooms.  I shall be at leisure to answer your very grave letter.  (I
see, however, that I am going to be interrupted.) ...

My dear Mr. Sands, you are a comparatively new member and much
allowance must be made for your lack of experience with the
traditions of this Club.  You ask: "What is this gossip about?  Who
started it; what did he start it with?"

My dear Mr. Sands, there is no gossip in this Club.  It would not be
tolerated.  We have here only the criticism of life.  This Club is
The Great Dipper.  The origin of the name has now become obscure.  It
may first have been adopted to mean that the members would constitute
a star-system--a human constellation; it may be otherwise interpreted
as the wit of some one of the founders who wished to declare in
advance that the Club would be a big, long-handled spoon; with which
any member could dip into the ocean of human affairs and ladle out
what he required for an evening's conversation.

No gossip here, then.  The criticism of life only.  What is said in
the Club would embrace many volumes.  In fact I myself have perhaps
discoursed to the vast extent of whole shelves full.  Probably had
the Club undertaken to bind its conversation, the clubhouse would not
hold the books.  But not a word of gossip.

I now come to the subject of your letter, and this is what I have

During the past summer one of the members of the Club (no name, of
course, can be called) was travelling in England.  Three or four
American tourists joined him at one place or another, and these,
finding themselves in one of those enchanted regions of England to
which nearly all tourists go and which in our time is made more
famous by the novels of Edward Blackthorne--whom I met in England and
many of whose works are read here in the Club by admirers of his
genius--this group of American tourists naturally went to call on him
at his home.  They were very hospitably received; there was a great
deal of praise of him and praise everywhere in the world is
hospitably received, so I hear.  It was a pleasant afternoon; the
American visitors had tea with Mr. and Mrs. Blackthorne in their
garden.  Afterwards Mr. Blackthorne took them for a stroll.

There had been some discussion, as it seems, of English and of
American fiction, of the younger men coming on in the two
literatures.  One of the visitors innocently inquired of Mr.
Blackthorne whether he knew of your work.  Instantly all noticed a
change in his manner: plainly the subject was distasteful, and he put
it away from him with some vague rejoinder in a curt undertone.  At
once some one of the visitors conceived the idea of getting at the
reason for Mr. Blackthorne's unaccountable hostility.  But his
evident resolve was not to be drawn out.

As they strolled through the garden, they paused to admire his
collection of ferns, and he impulsively turned to the American who
had been questioning him and pointed to a little spot.

"That," he said, "was once reserved for some ferns which your young
American novelist promised to send me."

The whole company gathered curiously about the spot and all naturally
asked, "But where are the ferns?"

Mr. Blackthorne without a word and with an air of regret that even so
little had escaped him, led the party further away.

That is all.  Perhaps that is what you hear in the Club: the hum of
the hive that a member should have acted in some disagreeable,
unaccountable way toward a very great man whose work so many of us
revere.  You have merely run into the universal instinct of human
nature to think evil of human nature.  Emerson had about as good an
opinion of it as any man that ever lived, and he called it a
scoundrel.  It is one of the greatest of mysteries that we are born
with a poor opinion of one another and begin to show it as babies.
If you do not think that babies despise one another, put a lot of
them together for a few hours and see how much good opinion is left.

I feel bound to say that your letter is most unbridled.  There cannot
be many things with which the people of Kentucky are more familiar
than the bridle, yet they always impress outsiders as the most
unbridled of Americans.  I _will_ add, however, that patrician blood,
ancestral blood, is always unbridled.  Otherwise I might not now be
styled the Nestor of this Club.  Only some kind of youthful Hector in
this world ever makes one of its aged Nestors.  I am interrupted

I must conclude my letter rather abruptly.  My advice to you is not
to pay the slightest attention to all this miserable gossip in the
Club.  I am too used to that sort of thing here to notice it myself.
And will you not at an early date give me the pleasure of your
company at dinner?

    Faithfully yours,
        RUFUS KENT.



  _Seminole, North Carolina,
  May 1, 1912_


This small greenhouse of Mr. Andy Peters is a stifling, lonesome
place.  His acquaintances are not the class of people who buy flowers
unless there is a death in the family.  He has no social position,
and receives very few orders in that way.  I do what I can for him
through my social connections.  Time hangs heavily on my hands and I
have little to do but think of my lot.

When Mr. Peters and I are not busy, I do not find him companionable.
He does not possess the requisite attainments.  We have a small
library in this town, and I thought I would take up reading.  I have
always felt so much at home with all literature.  I asked the
librarian to suggest something new in fiction and she urged me to
read a novel by young Mr. Beverley Sands, the Kentucky novelist.  I
write now to inquire whether you are the Mr. Beverley Sands who wrote
the novel.  If you are, I wish to tell you how glad I am that I have
long had the pleasure of your acquaintance.  Your story comes quite
close to me.  You understand what it means to be a proud daughter of
the Southland who is thrown upon her own resources.  Your heroine and
I are most alike.  There is a wonderful description in your book of a
woodland scene with ferns in it.

Would you mind my sending you my own copy of your book, to have you
write in it some little inscription such as the following: "For Miss
Clara Louise Chamberlain with the compliments of Beverley Sands."

Your story gives me a different feeling from what I have hitherto
entertained toward you.  You may not have understood my first letters
to you.  The poor and proud and sensitive are so often misunderstood.
You have so truly appreciated me in drawing the heroine of your book
that I feel as much attracted to you now as I was repelled from you

    Respectfully yours,


  _May 10, 1912._


I wish to thank you for putting your name in my copy of your story.
Your kindness encourages me to believe that you are all that your
readers would naturally think you to be.  And I feel that I can reach
out to you for sympathy.

The longer I remain in this place, the more out of place I feel.  But
my main trouble is that I have never been able to meet the whole
expense of my father's funeral, though no one knows this but the
undertaker, unless he has told it.  He is quite capable of doing such
a thing.  The other day he passed me, sitting on his hearse, and he
gave me a look that was meant to remind me of my debt and that was
most uncomplimentary.

And yet I was not extravagant.  Any ignorant observer of the
procession would never have supposed that my father was a thinker of
any consequence.  The faculty of the college attended, but they did
not make as much of a show as at Commencement.  They never do at

Far be it from me to place myself under obligation to anyone, least
of all to a stranger, by receiving aid.  I do not ask it.  I now wish
that I had never spoken to you of your having been instrumental in my
father's death.

    A proud daughter of the Southland,


  _May 17, 1912._


I have received your cheque and I think what you have done is most

Since I wrote you last, my position in this establishment has become
still more embarrassing.  Mr. Andy Peters has begun to offer me his
attentions.  I have done nothing to bring about this infatuation for
me and I regard it as most inopportune.

I should like to leave here and take a position in New York.  If I
could find a situation there as secretary to some gentleman, my
experience as my great father's secretary would of course qualify me
to succeed as his.  You may not have cordially responded to my first
letters, but you cannot deny that they were well written.  If the
gentleman were a married man, I could assure the family beforehand
that there would be no occasion for jealousy on his wife's part, as
so often happens with secretaries, I have heard.  If he should have
lost his wife and should have little children, I do love little
children.  While not acting as his secretary, I could be acting with
the children.

If my grey-haired father, who is now beyond the blue skies, were only
back in North Carolina!



  _May 21, 1912._


I have been forced to leave forever the greenhouse of Mr. Andy Peters
and am now thrown upon my own resources without a roof over my proud

Mr. Andy Peters is a confirmed rascal.  I almost feel that I shall
have to do something desperate if I am to succeed.



  _May 24, 1912._


Clara Louise Chamberlain is in New York!  God Almighty!

I have been so taken up lately with other things that I have
forgotten to send you a little bundle of letters from her.  You will
discover from one of these that I gave her a cheque.  I know you will
say it was folly, perhaps criminal folly; but I _was_ in a way
"instrumental" in bringing about the great botanist's demise.

If I had described no ferns, there would have been no fern trouble,
no fern list.  The old gentleman would not have forgotten the list,
if I had not had it sent to him; hence he would not have gotten up at
midnight to search for it, would not have fallen downstairs, might
never have had pneumonia.  I can never be acquitted of
responsibility!  Besides, she praised my novel (something you have
never done!): that alone was worth nearly a hundred dollars to me!
Now she is here and she writes, asking me to help her to find
employment, as she is without means.

But I can't have that woman as _my_ secretary!  I dictate my novels.
Novels are matters of the emotions.  The secretary of a novelist must
not interfere with the flow of his emotions.  If I were dictating to
this woman, she would be like an organ-grinder, and I should be
nothing but a little hollow-eyed monkey, wondering what next to do,
and too terrified not to do something; my poor brain would be unable
even to hesitate about an idea for fear she would think my ideas had
given out.  Besides she would be the living presence of this whole
Pharaoh's plague of Nile Green ferns.

Let her be _your_ secretary, will you?  In your mere lawyer's work,
you do not have any emotions.  Give her a job, for God's sake!  And
remember you have never refused me anything in your life.  I enclose
her address and please don't send it back to me.

For I am sick, just sick!  I am going to undress and get in bed and
send for the doctor and stretch myself out under my bolster and die
my innocent death.  And God have mercy on all of you!  But I already
know, when I open my eyes in Eternity, what will be the first thing
I'll see.  O Lord, I wonder if there is anything but ferns in heaven
and hell!



  _May 25, 1912._


Mr. Beverley Sands is very much indisposed just at the present time,
and has been kind enough to write me with the request that I interest
myself in securing for you a position as private secretary.  Nothing
permanent is before me this morning, but I write to say that I could
give you some work to-morrow for the time at least, if you will
kindly call at these offices at ten o'clock.

    Very truly yours,


  _May 27, 1912._


If you keep on getting into trouble, some day you'll get in and never
get out.  You sent her a cheque!  Didn't you know that in doing this
you had sent her a blank cheque, which she could afterwards fill in
at any cost to your peace?  If you are going to distribute cheques to
young ladies merely because their fathers die, I shall take steps to
have you placed in my legal possession as an adult infant.

Here's what I've done--I wrote to your ward, asking her to present
herself at this office at ten o'clock yesterday morning.  She was
here punctually.  I had left instructions that she should be shown at
once into my private office.

When she entered, I said good morning, and pointed to a typewriter
and to some matter which I asked her to copy.  Meantime I finished
writing a hypothetical address to a hypothetical jury in a
hypothetical case, at the same time making it as little like an
actual address to a jury as possible and as little like law as

Then I asked her to receive the dictation of the address, which was
as follows:

"I beg you now to take a good look at this young woman--young, but
old enough to know what she, is doing.  You will not discover in her
appearance, gentlemen, any marks of the adventuress.  But you are men
of too much experience not to know that the adventuress does not
reveal her marks.  As for my client, he is a perfectly innocent man.
Worse than innocent; he is, on account of a certain inborn weakness,
a rather helpless human being whenever his sympathies are appealed
to, or if anyone looks at him pleasantly, or but speaks a kind word.
In a moment of such weakness he yielded to this woman's appeal to his
sympathies.  At once she converted his generosity into a claim, and
now she has begun to press that claim.  But that is an old story: the
greater your kindness to certain people, the more certain they become
that your kindness is simply their due.  The better you are, the
worse you must have been.  Your present virtues are your
acknowledgment of former shortcomings.  It has become the design of
this adventuress--my client having once shown her unmerited
kindness--it has now become her apparent design to force upon him the
responsibility of her support and her welfare.

"You know how often this is done in New York City, which is not only
Babylon for the adventurer and adventuress, but their Garden of Eden,
since here they are truly at large with the serpent.  You are aware
that the adventuress never operates, except in a large city, just as
the charlatan of every profession operates in the large city.  Little
towns have no adventuresses and no charlatans; they are not to be
found there because there they would be found out.  What I ask is
that you protect my client as you would have my client, were he a
juryman, help to protect innocent men like you.  I ask then that this
woman be sentenced to pay a fine of twenty-five dollars and be
further sentenced to hard labor in the penitentiary for a term of one

"No, I do not ask that.  For this young woman is not yet a bad woman.
But unless she stops right here in her career, she is likely to
become a bad woman.  I do ask that you sentence her to pay a few
tears of penitence and to go home, and there be strictly confined to
wiser, better thoughts."

When I had dictated this, I asked her to read it over to me; she did
so in faltering tones.  Then I bade her good morning, said there was
no more work for the day, instructed her that when she was through
with copying the work already assigned, the head-clerk would receive
it and pay for it, and requested her to return at ten o'clock this

This morning she did not come.  I called up her address; she had left
there.  Nothing was known of her.

If you ever write to her again--!  And since you, without visible
means of support, are so fond of sending cheques to everybody, why
not send one to me!  Am I to go on defending you for nothing?

Your obedient counsel and turtle,



  _May 28, 1912._


What have you done, what have you done, what have you done!  That
green child turned loose in New York, not knowing a soul and not
having a cent!  Suppose anything happens to her--how shall I feel
then!  Of course, you meant well, but my dear fellow, wasn't it a
terrible, an inhuman thing to do!  Just imagine--but then you _can't_
imagine, _can't_ imagine, _can't_ imagine!



  _May 29, 1912._


I am sorry that my bungling efforts in your behalf should have proved
such a miscalculation.  But as you forgive everybody sooner or later
perhaps you will in time pardon even me.

    Your respectful erring servant,


  _May 30, 1912._


The sight of a letter from me will cause a violent disturbance of
your routine existence.  Our "friendship" worked itself to an open
and honourable end about the time I went away last summer and showed
itself to be honest hatred.  Since my return in the autumn I have
been absorbed in many delightful ways and you, doubtless, have been
loyally imbedded in the end of the same frayed sofa, with your
furniture arranged as for years past, and with the same breastpin on
your constant heart.  Whenever we have met, you have let me know that
the formidable back of Polly Boles was henceforth to be turned on me.

I write because I will not come to see you.  My only motive is that
you will forward my letter to Ben Doolittle, whom you have so
prejudiced against me, that I cannot even write to him.

My letter concerns Beverley.  You do not know that since our
engagement was broken last summer he has regularly visited me: we
have enjoyed one another in ways that are not fetters.  Your
friendship for Beverley of course has lasted with the constancy of a
wooden pulpit curved behind the head and shoulders of a minister.
Ben Doolittle's affection for him is as splendid a thing as one ever
sees in life.  I write for the sake of us all.

Have you been with Beverley of late?  If so, have you noticed
anything peculiar?  Has Ben seen him?  Has Ben spoken to you of a
change?  I shall describe as if to you both what occurred to-night
during Beverley's visit: he has just gone.

As soon as I entered the parlours I discovered that he was not wholly
himself and instantly recollected that he had not for some time
seemed perfectly natural.  Repeatedly within the last few months it
has become increasingly plain that something preyed upon his mind.
When I entered the rooms this evening, although he made a quick,
clever effort to throw it off, he was in this same mood of peculiar

Someone--I shall not say who--had sent me some flowers during the
day.  I took them down with me, as I often do.  I think that
Beverley, on account of his preoccupation, did not at first notice
that I had brought any flowers; he remained unaware, I feel sure,
that I placed the vase on the table near which we sat.  But a few
minutes later he caught sight of them--a handful of roses of the
colour of the wild-rose, with some white spray and a few ferns.

When his eyes fell upon the ferns our conversation snapped like a
thread.  Painful silence followed.  The look with which one
recognises some object that persistently annoys came into his eyes:
it was the identical expression I had already remarked when he was
gazing as on vacancy.  He continued absorbed, disregardful of my
presence, until his silence became discourteous.  My inquiry for the
reason of his strange action was evaded by a slight laugh.

This evasion irritated me still more.  You know I never trust or
respect people who gloss.  His rejoinder was gloss.  He was taking it
for granted that having exposed to me something he preferred to
conceal, he would receive my aid to cover this up: I was to join him
in the ceremony of gloss.

As a sign of my displeasure I carried the flowers across the room to
the mantelpiece.

But the gaiety and carelessness of the evening were gone.  When two
people have known each other long and intimately, nothing so quickly
separates them as the discovery by one that just beneath the surface
of their intercourse the other keeps something hidden.  The
carelessness of the evening was gone, a sense of restraint followed
which each of us recognised by periods of silence.  To escape from
this I soon afterward for a moment went up to my room.

I now come to the incident which explains why I think my letter
should be sent to Ben Doolittle.

As I re-entered the parlours Beverley was standing before the vase of
flowers on the mantelpiece.  His back was turned toward me.  He did
not see me or hear me.  I was about to speak when I discovered that
he was muttering to himself and making gestures at the ferns.
Fragments of expression straggled from him and the names of strange
people.  I shall not undertake to write down his incoherent
mutterings, yet such was the stimulation of my memory due to shock
that I recall many of these.

You ought to know by this time that I am by nature fearless; yet
something swifter and stranger than fear took possession of me and I
slipped from the parlours and ran half-way up the stairs.  Then, with
a stronger dread of what otherwise might happen, I returned.

Beverley was sitting where I had left him when I quitted the parlours
first.  He had the air of merely expecting my re-entrance.  I think
this is what shocked me most: that he could play two parts with such
ready concealment, successful cunning.

Now that he is gone and the whole evening becomes so vivid a memory,
I am urged by a feeling of uneasiness to reach Ben Doolittle with
this letter, since there is no one else to whom I can turn.

Beverley left abruptly; my manner may have forced that.  Certainly
for the first time in all these years we separated with a sudden
feeling of positive anger.  If he calls again, I shall be excused.

Act as you think best.  And remember, please, under what stress of
feeling I must be to write another letter to you.  _To you!_



[A second letter enclosed in the preceding one]

My letter of last night was written from impulse.  This morning I was
so ill that I asked Dr. Marigold to come to see me.  I had to
explain.  He looked grave and finally asked whether he might speak to
Dr. Mullen: he thought it advisable; Dr. Mullen could better counsel
what should be done.  Later he called me up to inquire whether Dr.
Mullen and he could call together.

Dr. Mullen asked me to go over what had occurred the evening before.
Dr. Marigold and he went across the room and consulted.  Dr. Mullen
then asked me who Beverley's physician was.  I said I thought
Beverley had never been ill in his life.  He asked whether Ben
Doolittle knew or had better not be told.

Again I leave the matter to Ben and you.

But I have thought it necessary to put down on a separate paper the
questions which Dr. Mullen asked with my reply to each.  For I do not
wish Ben Doolittle to think I said anything about Beverley that I
would be unwilling for him or for anyone else to know.



  _June 2, 1912._


A telegram from Louisville has reached me this morning, announcing
the dangerous illness of my mother, and I go to her by the earliest
train.  I have merely to say that I have sent your letters to Ben.

I shall add, however, that the formidable back of Polly Boles seems
to absorb a good deal of your attention.  At least my formidable back
is a safe back.  It is not an uncontrollable back.  It may be spoken
of, but at least it is never publicly talked about.  It does not lead
me into temptation; it is not a scandal.  On the whole, I console
myself with the knowledge that very few women have gotten into
trouble on account of their _backs_.  If history speaks truly, quite
a few notorious ones have come to grief--but _you_ will understand.



  _June 2, 1912._


I find bad news does not come single.  I have a telegram from
Louisville with the news of my mother's illness and start by the
first train.  Just after receiving it I had a letter from Tilly,
which I enclose.

I, too, have noticed for some time that Beverley has been troubled.
Have you seen him of late?  Have you noticed anything wrong?  What do
you think of Tilly's letter?  Write me at once.  I should go to see
him myself but for the news from Louisville.  I have always thought
Beverley health itself.  Would it be possible for him to have a
breakdown?  I shall be wretched about him until I hear from you.
What do you make out of the questions Dr. Mullen asked Tilly and her

Are you going to write to me every day while I am gone?



  _June 4, 1912._


I desire to recall myself to you as a former Louisville patron of
your flourishing business and also as more recently the New York
lawyer who brought unsuccessful suit against you on behalf of one of
his clients.

You will find enclosed my cheque, and you are requested to send the
value of it in long-stemmed red roses to Miss Boles--the same address
as in former years.

If the stems of your roses do not happen to be long, make them long.
(You know the wires.)

Very truly yours,



  _June 4, 1912._


You will have had my telegram of sympathy with you in your mother's
illness, and of my unspeakable surprise that you could go away
without letting me see you.

Have I seen Beverley of late?  I have seen him early and late.  And I
have read Tilly's much mystified and much-mistaken letters.  If
Beverley is crazy, a Kentucky cornfield is crazy, all roast beef is a
lunatic, every Irish potato has a screw loose and the Atlantic Ocean
is badly balanced.

I happen to hold the key to Beverley's comic behaviour in Tilly's

As to the questions put to Tilly by that dilution of all fools,
Claude Mullen--your favourite nerve specialist and former suitor--I
have just this to say:

All these mutterings of Beverley--during one of the gambols in
Tilly's parlours, which he naturally reserves for me--all these
fragmentary expressions relate to real people and to actual things
that you and Tilly have never known anything about.

Men must not bother their women by telling them everything.  That, by
the way, has been an old bone of contention between you and me,
Polly, my chosen rib--a silent bone, but still sometimes, I fear, a
slightly rheumatic bone.  But when will a woman learn that her
heavenly charm to a man lies in the thought that he can place her and
keep her in a world, into which his troubles cannot come.  Thus he
escapes from them himself.  Let him once tell his troubles to her and
she becomes the mirror of them--and possibly the worst kind of mirror.

Beverley has told Tilly nothing of all this entanglement with ferns,
I have not told you.  All four of us have thereby been the happier.

But through Tilly's misunderstanding those two mischief-making
charlatans, Marigold and Mullen, have now come into the case; and it
is of the utmost importance that I deal with these two gentlemen at
once; to that end I cut this letter short and start after them.

Oh, but why did you go away without good-bye?



  _June 5, 1912._


I go on where I left off yesterday.

I did what I thought I should never do during my long and memorable
life: I called on your esteemed ex-acquaintance, Dr. Claude Mullen.
I explained how I came to do so, and I desired of him an opinion as
to Beverley.  He suggested that more evidence would be required
before an opinion could be given.  What evidence, I suggested, and
how to be gotten?  He thought the case was one that could best be
further studied if the person were put under secret
observation--since he revealed himself apparently only when alone.  I
urged him to take control of the matter, took upon myself, as
Beverley's friend, authority to empower him to go on.  He advised
that a dictograph be installed in Beverley's room.  It would be a
good idea to send him a good big bunch of ferns also: the ferns, the
dictograph, Beverley alone with them--a clear field.

I explained to Beverley, and we went out and bought a dictograph, and
he concealed it where, of course, he could not find it!

In the evening we had a glorious dinner, returned to his rooms, and
while I smoked in silence, he, in great peace of mind and profound
satisfaction with the world in general, poured into the dictograph
his long pent-up opinion of our two dear old friends, Marigold and
Mullen.  He roared it into the machine, shouted it, raved it,
soliloquised it.  I had in advance requested him to add my opinion of
your former suitor.  Each of us had long been waiting for so good a
chance and he took full advantage of the opportunity.  The next
morning I notified Dr. Mullen that Beverley had raved during the
night, and that the machine was full of his queer things.

At the appointed hour this morning we assembled in Beverley's rooms.
I had cleared away his big centre table, all the rubbish of papers
amid which he lives, including some invaluable manuscripts of his
worthless novels.  I had taken the cylinders out of the dictograph
and had put them in a dictophone, and there on the table lay that
Pandora's box of information with a horn attached to it.

Dr. Mullen arrived, bringing with him the truly great New York nerve
specialist and scientist whom he relies upon to pilot him in
difficult cases.  Dr. Marigold had brought the truly great physician
and scientist who pilots him.  At Beverley's request, I had invited
the president of his Club, and he had brought along two Club
affinities; three gossips.

I sent Beverley to Brooklyn for the day.

We seated ourselves, and on the still air of the room that unearthly
asthmatic horn began to deliver Beverley's opinion.  Instantly there
was an uproar.  There was a scuffle.  It was almost a general fight.
Drs. Marigold and Mullen had jumped to their feet and shouted their
furious protests.  One of them started to leave the room.  He
couldn't, I had locked the door.  One slammed at the machine--he was
restrained--everybody else wanted to hear Beverley out.  And amid the
riot Beverley kept on his peaceful way, grinding out his healthy

That will do, Polly, my dear.  You will never hear anything more of
Beverley's being in bad health--not from those two rear-admirals of
diagnosis--away in the rear.  Another happy result; it saves him at
last from Tilly.  Her act was one that he will never forgive.  His
act she will never forgive.  The last tie between them is severed now.

But all this is nothing, nothing, nothing!  I am lost without you.


P.S. Now that I have disposed of two of Beverley's detractors, in a
day or two I am going to demolish the third one--an Englishman over
on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.  I have long waited for the
chance to write him just one letter: he's the chief calumniator.


  _Louisville, Kentucky,
  June 9, 1912._


I cannot tell you what a relief it brought me to hear that Beverley
is well.  Of course it was all bound to be a mistake.

At the same time your letters have made me very unhappy.  Was it
quite fair?  Was it open?  Was it quite what anyone would have
expected of Beverley and you?

Nothing leaves me so undone as what I am not used to in people.  I do
not like surprises and I do not like changes.  I feel helpless unless
I can foresee what my friends will do and can know what to expect of
them.  Frankly, your letters have been a painful shock to me.

I foresee one thing: this will bring Tilly and Dr. Marigold more
closely together.  She will feel sorry for him, and a woman's sense
of fair play will carry her over to his side.  You men do not know
what fair play is or, if you do, you don't care.  Only a woman knows
and cares.  Please don't keep after Dr. Mullen on my account.  Why
should you persecute him because he loved me?

Dr. Marigold will want revenge on Beverley, and he will have his
revenge--in some way.

Your letters have left me wretched.  If you surprise me in this way,
how might you not surprise me still further?  Oh, if we could only
understand everybody perfectly, and if everything would only settle
and stay settled!

My mother is much improved and she has urged me--the doctor says her
recovery, though sure, will be gradual--to spend at least a month
with her.  To-day I have decided to do so.  It will be of so much
interest to her if I have my wedding clothes made here.  You know how
few they will be.  My dresses last so long, and I dislike changes.  I
have found my same dear old mantua-maker and she is delighted and
proud.  But she insists that since I went to New York I have dropped
behind and that I will not do even for Louisville.

On my way to her I so enjoy looking at old Louisville houses, left
among the new ones.  They seem so faithful!  My dear old mantua-maker
and the dear old houses--they are the real Louisville.

My mother joins me in love to you.

    Sincerely yours,
        POLLY BOLES.


  _150 Wall Street, New York,
  June 10, 1912._

  Edward Blackthorne, Esq.,
  King Alfred's Wood,
  Warwickshire, England.


I am a stranger to you.  I should have been content to remain a
stranger.  A grave matter which I have had no hand in shaping causes
me to write you this one letter--there being no discoverable
likelihood that I shall ever feel painfully obliged to write you a

You are a stranger to me.  But you are, I have heard, a great man.
That, of course, means that you are a famous man, otherwise I should
never have heard that you are a great one.  You hold a very
distinguished place in your country, in the world; people go on
pilgrimages to you.  The thing that has made you famous and that
attracts pilgrims are your novels.

I do not read novels.  They contain, I understand, the lives of
imaginary people.  I am satisfied to read the lives of actual people
and I do read much biography.  One of the Lives I like to study is
that of Samuel Johnson, and I recall just here some words of his to
the effect that he did not feel bound to honour a man who clapped a
hump on his shoulder and another hump on his leg and shouted he was
Richard the Third.  I take the liberty of saying that I share Dr.
Johnson's opinion as to puppets, either on the stage or in fiction.
The life of the actual Richard interests me, but the life of
Shakespeare's Richard doesn't.  I should have liked to read the
actual life of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

I have never been able to get a clear idea what a novelist is.  The
novelists that I superficially encounter seem to have no clear idea
what they are themselves.  No two of them agree.  But each of them
agrees that _his_ duty and business in life is to imagine things and
then notify people that those things are true and that
they--people--should buy those things and be grateful for them and
look up to the superior person who concocted them and wrote them down.

I have observed that there is danger in many people causing any one
person to think himself a superior person unless he _is_ a superior
person.  If he really is what is thought of him, no harm is done him.
But if he is widely regarded a superior person and is not a superior
person, harm may result to him.  For whenever any person is praised
beyond his deserts, he is not lifted up by such praise any more than
the stature of a man is increased by thickening the heels of his
shoes.  On the contrary, he is apt to be lowered by over-praise.
For, prodded by adulation, he may lay aside his ordinary image and
assume, as far as he can, the guise of some inferior creature which
more glaringly expresses what he is--as the peacock, the owl, the
porcupine, the lamb, the bulldog, the ass.  I have seen all these.  I
have seen the strutting peacock novelist, the solemn, speechless owl
novelist, the fretful porcupine novelist, the spring-lamb novelist,
the ferocious, jealous bulldog novelist, and the sacred ass novelist.
And many others.

You may begin to wonder why I am led into these reflections in this
letter.  The reason is, I have been wondering into what kind of
inferior creature your fame--your over-praise--has lowered _you_.
Frankly, I perfectly know; I will not name the animal.  But I feel
sure that he is a highly offensive small beast.

If you feel disposed to read further, I shall explain.

I have in my legal possession three letters of yours.  They were
written to a young gentleman whom I have known now for a good many
years, whose character I know about as well as any one man can know
another's, and for whom increasing knowledge has always led me to
feel increasing respect.  The young man is Mr. Beverley Sands.  You
may now realise what I am coming to.

The first of these letters of yours reveals you as a stranger seeking
the acquaintance of Mr. Sands--to a certain limit: you asked of him a
courtesy and you offered courtesies in exchange.  That is common
enough and natural, and fair, and human.  But what I have noticed is
your doing this with the air of the superior person.  Mr. Sands,
being a novelist, is of course a superior person.  Therefore, you
felt called upon to introduce yourself to him as a _more_ superior
person.  That is, you condescended to be gracious.  You made it a
virtue in you to ask a favour of him.  You expected him to be
delighted that you allowed him to serve you.

In the second letter you go further.  He wafted some incense toward
you and you got on your knees to this incense.  You get up and offer
him more courtesies--all courtesies.  Because he praised you, you
even wish him to visit you.

Now the third letter.  The favour you asked of Mr. Sands was that he
send you some ferns.  By no fault of his except too much confidence
in the agents he employed (he over-trusts everyone and over-trusted
you), by no other fault of his the ferns were not sent.  You waited,
time passed, you grew impatient, you grew suspicious of Mr. Sands,
you felt slighted, you became piqued in your vanity, wounded in your
self-love, you became resentful, you became furious, you became
revengeful, you became abusive.  You told him that he had never meant
to keep his word, that you had kicked his books out of your library,
that he might profitably study the moral sensitiveness of a head of

During the summer American tourists visited you--pilgrims of your
fame.  You took advantage of their visit to promulgate mysteriously
your hostility to Mr. Sands.  Not by one explicit word, you
understand.  Your exalted imagination merely lied on him, and you
entrusted to other imaginations the duty of scattering broadcast your
noble lie.  They did this--some of them happening not to be friends
of Mr. Sands--and as a result of the false light you threw upon his
character, he now in the minds of many persons rests under a cloud.
And that cloud is never going to be dispelled.

Enclosed you will please find copies of these three letters of yours;
would you mind reading them over?  And you will find also a packet of
letters which will enable you to understand why the ferns never
reached you and the whole entanglement of the case.  And finally, you
will find enclosed a brief with which, were I to appear in Court
against you, as Mr. Sands's lawyer, I should hold you up to public
view as what you are.

I shall merely add that I have often met you in the courtroom as the
kind of criminal who believes without evidence and who distrusts
without reason; who is, therefore, ready to blast a character upon
suspicion.  If he dislikes the person, in the absence of evidence
against him, he draws upon the dark traits of his own nature to
furnish the evidence.

I have written because I am a friend of Mr. Sands.

I am, as to you,



  _King Alfred's Wood,
  Warwickshire, England,
  June 21, 1912._

  Benjamin Doolittle,
  150 Wall Street,
  New York City.


You state in your letter, which I have just laid down, that you are a
stranger to me.  There is no conceivable reason why I should wish to
offer you the slightest rudeness--even that of crossing your
word--yet may I say, that I know you perfectly?  If you had
unfortunately read some of my very despicable novels, you might have
found, scattered here and there, everything that you have said in
your letter, and almost in your very words.  That is, I have two or
three times drawn your portrait, or at least drawn at it; and thus
while you are indeed a stranger to me in name, I feel bound to say
that you are an old acquaintance in nature.

You cannot for a moment imagine--however, you despise imagination and
I withdraw the offensive word--you cannot for a moment suppose that I
can have any motive in being discourteous, and I shall, therefore, go
on to say, but only with your permission, that the first time I
attempted to sketch you, was in a very early piece of work; I was a
youthful novelist, at the outset of my career.  I projected a story
entitled: "_The Married Cross-Purposes of Ned and Sal Blivvens._"  I
feel bound to say that you in your letter pleasantly remind me of the
_Sal Blivvens_ of my story.  In Sal's eyes poor Ned's failing was
this: as twenty-one human shillings he never made an exact human
guinea--his shillings ran a few pence over, or they fell a few pence
short.  That is, Ned never did just enough of anything, or said just
enough, but either too much or too little to suit _Sal_.  He never
had just one idea about any one thing, but two or three ideas; he
never felt in just one way about any one thing, but had mixed
feelings, a variety of feelings.  He was not a yard measure or a pint
measure or a pound measure; he overflowed or he didn't fill, and any
one thing in him always ran into other things in him.

Being a young novelist I was not satisfied to offer _Sal_ to the
world on her own account, but I must try to make her more credible
and formidable by following her into the next generation, and giving
her a son who inherited her traits.  Thus I had _Tommy Blivvens_.
When Tommy was old enough to receive his first allowance of Christmas
pudding, he proceeded to take the pudding to pieces.  He picked out
all the raisins and made a little pile of them.  And made a little
separate pile of the currants, and another pile of the almonds, and
another of the citron, or of whatever else there was to separate.
Then in profound satisfaction he ate them, pile by pile, as a
philosopher of the sure.

Thus--and I insist I mean no disrespect--your letter does revive for
me a little innocent laughter at my early literary vision of a human
baggage--friend of my youthful days and artistic enthusiasm--_Sal
Blivvens_.  I arranged that when _Ned_ died, his neighbours all felt
sorry and wished him a green turf for his grave.  _Sal_, I felt sure,
survived him as one who all her life walks past every human heart and
enters none--being always dead-sure, always dead-right; for the human
heart rejects perfection in any human being.

I recognise you as belonging to the large tough family of the human
cocksures.  _Sal Blivvens_ belonged to it--dead-sure, dead-right,
every time.  We have many of the cocksures in England, you must have
many of them in the United States.  The cocksures are people who have
no dim borderland around their minds, no twilight between day and
darkness.  They see everything as they see a highly coloured rug on a
well-lighted floor.  There is either rug or no rug, either floor or
no floor.  No part of the floor could possibly be rug and no part of
the rug could possibly be floor.  A cocksure, as a lawyer, is the
natural prosecuting attorney of human nature's natural misgivings and
wiser doubts and nobler errors.  How the American cocksures of their
day despised the man Washington, who often prayed for guidance; with
what contempt they blasted the character of your Abraham Lincoln,
whose patient soul inhabited the border of a divine disquietude and
whose public life was the patient study of hesitation.

I have taken notice of the peculiarly American character of your
cocksureness: it magnifies and qualifies a man to step by the mile,
to sit down by the acre, to utter things by the ton.  Do you happen
to know Michael Angelo's _Moses_?  I always think of an American
cocksure as looking like Michael Angelo's _Moses_--colossal
law-giver, a hyper-stupendous fellow.  And I have often thought that
a regiment of American cocksures would be the most terrific spectacle
on a battlefield that the rest of the human race could ever face.
Just now it has occurred to me that it was your great Emerson who
spoke best on the weakness of the superlative--the cocksure is the
human superlative.

As to your letter: You declare you know nothing about novels, but
your arraignment of the novelist is exact.  You are dead-sure that
you are perfectly right about me.  Your arraignment of me is exact.
You are conscious of no more moral perturbation as to justice than
exists in a monkey wrench.  But that is the nature of the
cocksure--his conclusions have to him the validity of a hardware

This, however, is nothing.  I clear it away in order to tell you that
I am filled with admiration of your loyalty to your friend, and of
the savage ferocity with which you attack me as his enemy.  That
makes you a friend worth having, and I wish you were to be numbered
among mine; there are none too many such in this world.  Next, I wish
to assure you that I have studied your brief against me and confess
that you have made out the case.  I fell into a grave mistake, I
wronged your friend deeply, I hope not irreparably, and it was a
poor, sorry, shabby business.  I am about to write to Mr. Sands.  If
he is what you say he is, then in an instant he will forgive
me--though you never may.  I shall ask him, as I could not have asked
him before, whether he will not come to visit me.  My house, my
hospitality, all that I have and all that I am, shall be his.  I
shall take every step possible to undo what I thoughtlessly,
impulsively did.  I shall write to the President of his Club.

One exception is filed to a specification in your brief: no such
things took place in my garden upon the visit of the American
tourists, as you declare.  I did not promulgate any mysterious
hostility to Mr. Sands.  You tell me that among those tourists were
persons hostile to Mr. Sands.  It was these hostile persons who
misinterpreted and exaggerated whatever took place.  You knew these
persons to be enemies of Mr. Sands's and then you accepted their
testimony as true--being a cocksure.

A final word to you.  Your whole character and happiness rests upon
the belief that you see life clearly and judge rightly the
fellow-beings whom you know.  Those _you_ doubt ought to be doubted
and those _you_ trust ought to be trusted!  Now I have travelled far
enough on life's road to have passed its many human figures--perhaps
all the human types that straggle along it in their many ways.  No
figures on that road have been more noticeable to me than here and
there a man in whom I have discerned a broken cocksure.

You say you like biography: do you like to read the Life of Robert
Burns?  And I wonder whether these words of his have ever guided you
in your outlook upon life:

  "_Then gently scan your brother man_
  *  *  *  *  *
  _To step aside is human._"

I thank you again.  I wish you well.  And I hope that no experience,
striking at you out of life's uncertainties, may ever leave you one
of those noticeable men--a broken cocksure.

Your deeply obliged and very grateful,



  _June 30, 1912._


About a month ago I took it upon myself to write the one letter that
had long been raging in my mind to Edward Blackthorne.  And I sent
him all the fern letters.  And then I drew up the whole case and
prosecuted him as your lawyer.

Of course I meant my letter to be an infernal machine that would blow
him to pieces.  He merely inspected it, removed the fuse and inserted
a crank, and turned it into a music-box to grind out his praises.

And then the kind of music he ground out for me.

All day I have been ashamed to stand up and I've been ashamed to sit
down.  He told me that my letter reminded him of a character in his
first novel--a woman called _Sal Blivvens_.  ME--_Sal Blivvens!_

But of what use is it for us poor, common-clay, rough, ordinary men
who have no imagination--of what use is it for us to attack you
superior fellows who have it, have imagination?  You are the Russians
of the human mind, and when attacked on your frontiers, you merely
retreat into a vast, unknown, uninvadable country.  The further you
retire toward the interior of your mysterious kingdom, the nearer you
seem to approach the fortresses of your strength.

I am wiser--if no better.  If ever again I feel like attacking any
stranger with a letter, I shall try to ascertain beforehand whether
he is an ordinary man like me or a genius.  If he is a genius, I am
going to let him alone.

Yet, damn me if I, too, wouldn't like to see your man Blackthorne
now.  Ask him some time whether a short visit from Benjamin Doolittle
could be arranged on any terms of international agreement.

Now for something on my level of ordinary life!  A day or two ago I
was waiting in front of the residence of one of my uptown clients, a
few doors from the residence of your friend Dr. Marigold.  While I
waited, he came out on the front steps with Dr. Mullen.  As I drove
past, I leaned far out and made them a magnificent sweeping bow: one
can afford to be forgiving and magnanimous after he settled things to
his satisfaction.  They did not return the bow but exchanged quiet
smiles.  I confess the smiles have rankled.  They seemed like saying:
he bows best who bows last.

You are the best thing in New York to me since Polly went away.
Without you both it would come near to being one vast solitude.

    BEN (alias _Sal Blivvens_).


  _July 1, 1912._


I wrote you this morning upon receipt of your letter telling me of
your own terrific letter to Mr. Blackthorne and of your merciless
arraignment of him.  Let me say again that I wish to pour out my
gratitude to you for your motives and also, well, also my regret at
your action.  Somehow I have been reminded of Voltaire's saying: he
had a brother who was such a fool that he started out to be perfect;
as a consequence the world knows nothing of Voltaire's brother: it
knows very well Voltaire with his faults.

The mail of yesterday which brought you Mr. Blackthorne's reply to
your arraignment brought me also a letter: he must have written to us
both instantly.  His letter is the only one that I cannot send you;
you would not desire to read it.  You are too big and generous, too
warmly human, too exuberantly vital, to care to lend ear to a great
man's chagrin and regret for an impulsive mistake.  You are not
Cassius to carp at Caesar.

Now this afternoon a second letter comes from Mr. Blackthorne and
that I enclose: it will do you good to read it--it is not a black
passing cloud, it is steady human sunlight.


[Enclosed letter from Edward Blackthorne]


I follow up my letter of yesterday with the unexpected tidings of
to-day.  I am willing to believe that these will interest you as
associated with your coming visit.

Hodge is dead.  His last birthday, his final natal eclipse, has
bowled him over and left him darkened for good.  He can trouble us no
more, but will now do his part as mould for the rose of York and the
rose of Lancaster.  He will help to make a mound for some other
Englishman's ferns.  When you come--and I know you will come--we
shall drink a cup of tea in the garden to his peaceful memory--and to
his troubled memory for Latin.

I am now waiting for you.  Come, out of your younger world and with
your youth to an older world and to an older man.  And let each of us
find in our meeting some presage of an alliance which ought to grow
always closer in the literatures of the two nations.  Their
literatures hold their ideals; and if their ideals touch and mingle,
then nothing practical can long keep them far apart.  If two oak
trees reach one another with their branches, they must meet in their
roots; for the branches are aerial roots and the roots are
underground branches.

Come.  In the eagerness of my letter of yesterday to put myself not
in the right but less, if possible, in the wrong, I forgot the very
matter with which the right and the wrong originated.

_Will you, after all, send the ferns?_

The whole garden waits for them; a white light falls on the vacant
spot; a white light falls on your books in my library; a white light
falls on you,

I wait for you, both hands outstretched.


(Note penciled on the margin of the letter by Beverley Sands to Ben
Doolittle: "You will see that I am back where the whole thing
started; I have to begin all over again with the ferns.  And now the
florists will be after me again.  I feel this in the trembling marrow
of my bones, and my bones by this time are a wireless station on this




We take pleasure in enclosing our new catalogue for the coming
autumn, and should be pleased to receive any further commissions for
the European trade.

We repeat that we have no connection whatever with any house doing
business in the city under the name of Botany.

    Respectfully yours,
        JUDD & JUDD,
            Per Q.


  _Louisville, Kentucky,
  July 4th, 1912._


Venturing to recall ourselves to your memory for the approaching
autumn season, in view of having been honoured upon a previous
occasion with your flattering patronage, and reasoning that our past
transactions have been mutually satisfactory, we avail ourselves of
this opportunity of reviving the conjunction heretofore existing
between us as most gratifying and thank you sincerely for past
favours.  We hope to continue our pleasant relations and desire to
say that if you should contemplate arranging for the shipments of
plants of any description, we could afford you surprised satisfaction.

    Respectfully yours,


  _Dunkirk, Tennessee,
  July 6, 1912._


We are prepared to supply you with anything you need.  Could ship
ferns to any country in Europe, having done so for the late Noah
Chamberlin, the well-known florist just across the State line, who
was a customer of ours.

old debts of Phillips and Faulds not yet paid, had to drop them

    Very truly yours,
        BURNS & BRUCE.

If you need any forest trees, we could supply you with all the forest
trees you want, plenty of oaks, etc.  plenty of elms, plenty of
walnuts, etc.


  _Seminole, North Carolina,
  July 7th, 1912._


I have lately enlarged my business and will be able to handle any
orders you may give me.  The orders which Miss Clara Louise
Chamberlain said you were to send have not yet turned up.  I write to
you, because I have heard about you a great deal through Miss Clara
Louise, since her return from her visit to New York.  She succeeded
in getting two or three donations of books for our library, and they
have now given her a place there.  I was sorry to part with Miss
Clara Louise, but I had just married, and after the first few weeks I
expected my wife to become my assistant.  I am not saying anything
against Miss Clara Louise, but she was expensive on my sweet violets,
especially on a Sunday, having the run of the flowers.  She and Alice
didn't get along very well together, and I did have a bad set-back
with my violets while she was here.

Seedlins is one of my specialities.  I make a speciality of seedlins.
If you want any seedlins, will you call on me?  I am young and just
married and anxious to please, and I wish you would call on me when
you want anything green.  Nothing dried.

    Yours respectfully,
        ANDY PETERS.


  _July 7th, 1912._


It makes me a little sad to write.  I suppose you saw in this
morning's paper the announcement of Tilly's marriage next week to Dr.
Marigold.  Nevertheless--congratulations!  You have lost years of
youth and happiness with some lovely woman on account of your
dalliance with her.

Now at last, you will let her alone, and you will soon find--Nature
will quickly drive you to find--the one you deserve to marry.

It looks selfish at such a moment to set my happiness over against
your unhappiness, but I've just had news, that at last, after
lingering so long and a little mysteriously in Louisville, Polly is
coming.  Polly is coming with her wedding clothes.  We long ago
decided to have no wedding.  All that we have long wished is to marry
one another.  Mr. Blackthorne called me a cocksure.  Well, Polly is
another cocksure.  We shall jog along as a perfectly satisfied couple
of cocksures on the cocksure road.  (I hope to God Polly will never
find out that she married _Sal Blivvens_.)

Dear fellow, truest of comrades among men, it is inevitable that I
reluctantly leave you somewhat behind, desert you a little, as the
friend who marries.

One awful thought freezes me to my chair this hot July day.  You have
never said a word about Miss Clara Louise Chamberlain, since the day
of my hypothetical charge to the jury.  Can it be possible that you
followed her up?  Did you feed her any more cheques?  I have often
warned you against Tilly, as inconstant.  But, my dear fellow,
remember there is a worse extreme than in inconstancy--Clara Louise
would be sealing wax.  You would merely be marrying 115 pounds of
sealing wax.  Every time she sputtered in conversation, she'd seal
you the tighter.

Polly is coming with her wedding clothes.



  _July 8._


I saw the announcement in the morning paper about Tilly.

It wouldn't be worth while to write how I feel.

It is true that I traced Miss Chamberlain, homeless in New York.  And
I saw her.  As to whether I have been feeding cheques to her, that is
solely a question of my royalties.  Royalties are human gratitude;
why should not the dews of gratitude fall on one so parched?
Besides, I don't owe you anything, gentleman.

Yes, I feel you're going--you're passing on to Polly.  I append a
trifle which explains itself, and am, making the best of everything,
the same


  _A Meditation in Verse_
  (_Dedicated to Benjamin Doolittle as showing his
  favourite weakness_)

  _How can I mind the law's delay,
    Or what a jury thinks it knows,
  Or what some fool of a judge may say?
    Polly comes with the wedding clothes._

  _Time, who cheated me so long,
    Kept me waiting mid life's snows,
  I forgive and forget your wrong:
    Polly comes with the wedding clothes._

  _Winter's lonely sky is gone,
    July blazes with the rose,
  All the world looks smiling on
    At Polly in her wedding clothes._


[A hurried letter by messenger]

  _July 10, 1912._

Polly reached New York two days ago.  I went up that night.  She had
gone out--alone.  She did not return that night.  I found this out
when I went up yesterday morning and asked for her.  She has not been
there since she left.  They know nothing about her.  I have
telegraphed Louisville.  They have sent me no word.  Come down at



[Hurried letter by messenger]

  _July 10, 1912._


Is anything wrong about Polly?

I met her on the street yesterday.  She tried to pass without
speaking.  I called to her but she walked on.  I called again and she
turned, hesitatingly, then came back very slowly to meet me half-way.
You know how composed her manner always is.  But she could not
control her emotion: she was deeply, visibly troubled.  Strange as it
may seem, while I thought of the mystery of her trouble, I could but
notice a trifle, as at such moments one often does: she was
beautifully dressed: a new charm, a youthful freshness, was all over
her as for some impending ceremony.  We have always thought of Polly
as one of the women who are above dress.  Such disregard was in a way
a verification of her character, the adornment of her sincerity.  Now
she was beautifully dressed.

"But what is the meaning of all this?" I asked, frankly mystified.

Something in her manner checked the question, forced back my words.

"You will hear," she said, with quivering lips.  She looked me
searchingly all over the face as for the sake of dear old times now
ended.  Then she turned off abruptly.  I watched her in sheer
amazement till she disappeared.

I have been waiting to hear from you, but cannot wait any longer.
What does it mean?  Why don't you tell me?



  _July 11._

I have with incredible eyes this instant read this cutting from the
morning paper:

Miss Polly Boles married yesterday at the City Hall in Jersey City to
Dr. Claude Mullen.

She must have been on her way when I saw her.

I have read the announcement without being able to believe it--with
some kind of death in life at my heart.

Oh, Ben, Ben, Ben!  So betrayed!  I am coming at once.



  _July 18._

The ferns have had their ironic way with us and have wrought out
their bitter comedy to its end.  The little group of us who were the
unsuspecting players are henceforth scattered, to come together in
the human playhouse not again.  The stage is empty, the curtain waits
to descend, and I, who innocently brought the drama on, am left the
solitary figure to speak the epilogue ere I, too, depart to go my
separate road.

This is Tilly's wedding day.  How beautiful the morning is for her!
The whole sky is one exquisite blue--no sign of any storm-plan far or
near.  The July air blows as cool as early May.  I sit at my window
writing and it flows over me in soft waves, the fragrances of the
green park below my window enter my room and encircle me like living
human tendernesses.  At this moment, I suppose, Tilly is dressing for
her wedding, and I--God knows why--am thinking of old-time Kentucky
gardens in one of which she played as a child.  Tilly, a little girl
romping in her mother's garden--Tilly before she was old enough to
know anything of the world--anything of love--now, as she dresses for
her wedding--I cannot shut out that vision of early purity.

Yesterday a note came from her.  I had had no word since the day I
openly ridiculed the man she is to marry.  But yesterday she sent me
this message:

"Come to-night and say good-bye."

She was not in her rooms to greet me.  I waited.  Moments passed,
long moments of intense expectancy.  She did not enter.  I fixed my
eyes on her door.  Once I saw it pushed open a little way, then
closed.  Again it was opened and again it was held as though for lack
of will or through quickly changing impulses.  Then it was opened and
she entered and came toward me, not looking at me, but with her face
turned aside.  She advanced a few paces and with some swift,
imperious rebellion, she turned and passed out of the room and then
came quickly back.  She had caught up her bridal veil.  She held the
wreath in her hand and as she approached me, I know not with what
sudden emotion she threw a corner of the veil over her head and face
and shoulders.  And she stood before me with I know not what struggle
tearing her heart.  Almost in a whisper she said:

"Lift my veil."

I lifted her veil and laid it back over her forehead.  She closed her
eyes as tears welled out of them.

"Kiss me," she said.

I would have taken her in my arms as mine at that moment for all
time, but she stepped back and turned away, fading from me rather
than walking, with her veil pressed like a handkerchief to her eyes.
The door closed on her.

I waited.  She did not come again.

Now she is dressing for the marriage ceremony.  A friend gives her a
house wedding.  The company of guests will be restricted, everything
will be exquisite, there will be youth and beauty and distinction.
There will be no love.  She marries as one who steps through a
beautiful arch further along one's path.

Whither that path leads, I do not know; from what may lie at the end
of it I turn away and shudder.

My thought of Tilly on her wedding morning is of one exiled from
happiness because nature withheld from her the one thing needed to
make her all but perfect: that needful thing was just a little more
constancy.  It is her doom, forever to stretch out her hand toward a
brimming goblet, but ere she can bring it to her lips it drops from
her hand.  Forever her hand stretched out toward joy and forever joy
shattered at her feet.

American scientists have lately discovered or seem about to discover,
some new fact in Nature--the butterfly migrates.  What we have
thought to be the bright-winged inhabitant of a single summer in a
single zone follows summer's retreating wave and so dwells in a
summer that is perpetual.  If Tilly is the psyche of life's fields,
then she seeks perpetual summer as the law of her own being.  All our
lives move along old, old paths.  There is no new path for any of us.
If Tilly's fate is the butterfly path, who can judge her harshly?
Not I.

They sail away at once on their wedding journey.  He has wealth and
social influence of the fashionable sort which overflows into the
social mirrors of metropolitan journalism: the papers found space for
their plans of travel: England and Scotland, France and Switzerland,
Austria and Germany, Bohemia and Poland, Russia, Italy and
Sicily--home.  The great world-path of the human butterfly, seeking
summer with insatiate quest.

Home to his practice with that still fluttering psyche!  And then the
path--the domestic path--stretching straight onward across the fields
of life--what of his psyche then?  Will she fold her wings on a
bed-post--year after year slowly opening and unfolding those
brilliant wings amid the cob-webs of the same bed-post?...

I cannot write of human life unless I can forgive life.  How forgive
unless I can understand?  I have wrought with all that is within me
to understand Polly--her treachery up to the last moment, her
betrayal of Ben's devotion.  What I have made out dimly, darkly,
doubtfully, is this: Her whole character seems built upon one trait,
one virtue--loyalty.  She was disloyal to Ben because she had come to
believe that he was disloyal to her sovereign excellence.  There were
things in his life which he persistently refused to tell; perhaps
every day there were mere trifles which he did not share with
her--why should he?  On a certain memorable morning she discovered
that for years he had been keeping from her some affairs of mine:
that was his loyalty to me; she thought it was his disloyalty to her.

I cannot well picture Polly as a lute, but I think that was the rift
in the lute.  Still a man must not surrender himself wholly into the
keeping of the woman he loves; let him, and he becomes anything in
her life but a man.

Meantime Polly found near by another suitor who offered her all he
was--what little there was of him--one of those man-climbers who must
run over the sheltering wall of some woman.  Thus there was gratified
in Polly her one passion for marrying--that she should possess a pet.
Now she possesses one, owns him, can turn him round and round, can
turn him inside out, can see all there is of him as she sees her
pocket-handkerchief, her breast-pin, her coffee cup, or any little
familiar piece of property which she can become more and more
attached to as the years go by for the reason that it will never
surprise her, never puzzle her, never change except by wearing out.

This will be the end of the friendship between Drs. Marigold and
Mullen: their wives will see to that.  So much the better: scattered
impostors do least harm.

I have struggled to understand the mystery of her choice as to how
she should be married.  Surely marriage, in the existence of any one,
is the hour when romance buds on the most prosaic stalk.  It budded
for Polly and she eloped!  It was a short troubled flight of her
heavy mind without the wings of imagination.  She got as far as the
nearest City Hall.  Instead of a minister she chose to be married by
a Justice of the Peace: Ben had been unjust, she would be married by
the figure of Justice as a penal ceremony executed over Ben: she
mailed him a paper and left him to understand that she had fled from
him to Justice and Peace!  Polly's poetry!

A line in an evening paper lets me know that she and the Doctor have
gone for their honeymoon to Ocean Grove.  When Polly first came North
to live and the first summer came round she decided to spend it at
Ocean Grove, with the idea, I think, that she would get a grove and
an ocean with one railway ticket, without having to change; she could
settle in a grove with an ocean and in an ocean with a grove.  What
her disappointment was I do not know, but every summer she has gone
back to Ocean Grove--the Franklin Flats by the sea....

Yesterday I said good-bye to Ben.  I had spent part of every evening
with him since Polly's marriage--silent, empty evenings--a quiet,
stunned man.  Confidence in himself blasted out of him, confidence in
human nature, in the world.  With no imagination in him to deal with
the reasons of Polly's desertion--just a passive acceptance of it as
a wall accepts a hole in it made by a cannon ball.

Her name was never called.  A stunned, silent man.  Clear, joyous
steady light in his eyes gone--an uncertain look in them.  Strangest
of all, a reserve in his voice, hesitation.  And courtesy for bluff
warm confidence--courtesy as of one who stumblingly reflects that he
must begin to be careful with everybody.

His active nature meantime kept on.  Life swept him forward--nature
did--whether he would or not.  I went down late one evening.
Evidently he had been working in his room all day; the things Polly
must have sent him during all those years were gone.  He had on new
slippers, a fresh robe, taking the place of the slippers and the robe
she had made for him.  Often I have seen him tuck the robe in about
his neck as a man might reach for the arms of a woman to draw them
about his throat as she leans over him from behind.

During our talk that evening he began strangely to speak of things
that had taken place years before in Kentucky, in his youth, on the
farm; did I remember this in Kentucky, could I recall that?  His mind
had gone back to old certainties.  It was like his walking away from
present ruins toward things still unharmed--never to be harmed.

Early next morning he surprised me by coming up, dressed for travel,
holding a grip.

"I am going to Kentucky," he said.

I went to the train with him.  His reserve deepened on the way; if he
had plans, he did not share them with me.

What I make out of it is that he will come back married.  No
engagement this time, no waiting.  Swift marriage for what marriage
will sadly bring him.  I think she will be young--this time.  But she
will be, as nearly as possible, like Polly.  Any other kind of woman
now would leave him a desolate, empty-hearted man for life.  He
thinks he will be getting some one to take Polly's place.  In reality
it will be his second attempt to marry Polly.

I am bidding farewell the little group of us.  Some one else will
have to write of me.  How can I write of myself?  This I will say:
that I think that I am a sheep whose fate it is to leave a little of
his wool on every bramble.

I sail next week for England to make my visit to Mr. Blackthorne--at
last.  Another letter has come from him.  He has thrown himself into
the generous work of seeing that my visit to him shall make me known.
He tells me there will be a house party, a week-end; some of the
great critics will be there, some writers.  "You must be found out in
England widely and at once," he writes.

My heart swells as one who feels himself climbing toward a height.
There is kindled in me that strangest of all the flames that burn in
the human heart, the shining thought that my life is destined to be
more than mine, that my work will make its way into other minds and
mingle with the better, happier impulses of other lives.

The ironic ferns have had their way with us.  But after all has it
not been for the best?  Have they not even in their irony been the
emblems of fidelity?

They have found us out, they have played upon our weaknesses, they
have exaggerated our virtues until these became vices, they have
separated us and set us going our diverging ways.

But while we human beings are moving in every direction over the
earth, the earth without our being conscious of it is carrying us in
one same direction.  So as we follow the different pathways of our
lives which appear to lead toward unfaithfulness to one another, may
it not be true that to the Power which sets us all in motion and
drives us whither it will all our lives are the Emblems of Fidelity?



*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Emblems of Fidelity - A Comedy in Letters" ***

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