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Title: When I Was a Little Girl
Author: Gale, Zona
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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WHEN I WAS A LITTLE GIRL



    THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
    NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO · DALLAS
    ATLANTA · SAN FRANCISCO

    MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
    LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA
    MELBOURNE

    THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.
    TORONTO



[Illustration: SOMEWHERE BEYOND SEALED DOORS]



    WHEN I WAS A LITTLE
    GIRL

    BY
    ZONA GALE

    AUTHOR OF “THE LOVES OF PELLEAS AND ETARRE,”
    “FRIENDSHIP VILLAGE,” ETC.

    WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
    AGNES PELTON

    New York
    THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
    1913

    _All rights reserved_



    Copyright, 1911, by The Curtis Publishing Company.

    COPYRIGHT, 1913,
    BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.

    Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1913.

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



    To

    THE LITTLE GIRL ON CONANT STREET
    AND TO THE
    MEMORY OF HER GRANDMOTHER
    HARRIET BEERS



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER                               PAGE

        I. IN THOSE DAYS                     1

       II. IN NO TIME                       16

      III. ONE FOR THE MONEY                35

       IV. THE PICNIC                       53

        V. THE KING’S TRUMPETER             77

       VI. MY LADY OF THE APPLE TREE       103

      VII. THE PRINCESS ROMANCIA           118

     VIII. TWO FOR THE SHOW                147

       IX. NEXT DOOR                       159

        X. WHAT’S PROPER                   173

       XI. DOLLS                           192

      XII. BIT-BIT                         211

     XIII. WHY                             228

      XIV. KING                            247

       XV. KING (_continued_)              281

      XVI. THE WALK                        307

     XVII. THE GREAT BLACK HUSH            315

    XVIII. THE DECORATION OF INDEPENDENCE  329

      XIX. EARTH-MOTHER                    354

       XX. THREE TO MAKE READY             375



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


    Somewhere beyond sealed doors                 _Frontispiece_

                                                     FACING PAGE

    Sat on a rock in the landscape and practised              32

    Little by little she grew silent and refused to join in
        the games                                            128

    But the minute folk left the room--ah, then!             168

    She settled everything in that way; she counted the
        petals of fennel daisies and blew thistle from
        dandelions                                           196

    Then out of the valley a great deev arose                216

    To see what running away is really like                  316



There used to be a little girl who does not come here any more. She is
not dead, for when certain things happen, she stirs slightly where she
is, perhaps deep within the air. When the sun falls in a particular
way, when graham griddle cakes are baking, when the sky laughs
sudden blue after a storm, or the town clock points in its clearest
you-will-be-late way at nine in the morning, when the moonlight is on
the midnight and nothing moves--then, somewhere beyond sealed doors,
the little girl says something, and it is plain that she is here all
the time.

You little child who never have died, in these stories I am trying
to tell you that now I come near to understanding you. I see you
still, with your over-long hair and your over-much chattering, your
naughtiness and your dreams. I know the qualities that made you
disagreeable and those that made you dear, and I look on you somewhat
as spirit looks on spirit, understanding from within. I wish that
we could live it again, you and I--not all of it, by any means, and
not for a serious business; but now and then, for a joy and for an
idleness. And this book is a way of trying to do it over again,
together.

Will you care to come from the quiet where you are, near to me and
yet remote? I think that you will come, for you were wont untiringly
to wonder about me. And now here I am, come true, so faintly like her
whom you dreamed, yet so like you yourself, your child, fruit of your
spirit, you little shadowy mother....

    If only words were moments
    And I knew where they fly,
    I’d make a tale of time itself
    To tell you by and bye.

    If only words were fathoms
    That let us by for pearls,
    I’d make a story ocean-strange
    For little boys and girls.

    But words are only shadow things.
    I summon all I may.
    Oh, see--they try to spell out Life!
    Let’s act it, like a play.



When I was a Little Girl

I

IN THOSE DAYS


In those days time always bothered us. It went fast or it went slow,
with no one interfering. It was impossible to hurry it or to hold it
back.

“Only ten weeks more,” we invariably said glibly, when the Spring term
began.

“Just think! We’ve--got--t-e-n--weeks!” we told one another at the
beginning of vacation, what time we came home with our books, chanting
it:--

    “_No more Latin,
      No more French,
      No more sitting on a hard wood bench._”

--both chorally and antiphonally chanting it.

Yet, in spite of every encouragement, the Spring term lasted
immeasurably and the Summer vacation melted. It was the kindred
difference of experience respectively presented by a bowl of hot
ginger tea and an equal bulk of ice-cream.

In other ways time was extraordinary. We used to play with it: “Now is
now. But now that other Now is gone and a Then is now. How did it do
it? How do all the Nows begin?”

“When is the party?” we had sometimes inquired.

“To-morrow,” we would be told.

Next morning, “Now it’s to-morrow!” we would joyfully announce, only
to be informed that it was, on the contrary, to-day. But there was no
cause for alarm, for now the party, it seemed, had changed too, and
that would be to-day. It was frightfully confusing.

“_When_ is to-morrow?” we demanded.

“When to-day stops being,” they said.

But never, never once did to-day stop that much. Gradually we
understood and humoured the pathetic delusion of the Grown-ups: _To-day
lasted always and yet the poor things kept right on forever waiting for
to-morrow._

As for me, I had been born without the time sense. If I was told that
we would go to drive in ten minutes, I always assumed that I could
finish dressing my doll, tidy my play-house, put her in it with all
her family disposed about her down to the penny black-rubber baby
dressed in yarn, wash my face and hands, smooth my hair (including
the protests that these were superfluous), make sure that the kitten
was shut in the woodshed ... long before most of which the family
was following me, haling me away, chiding me for keeping older folk
waiting, and the ten minutes were gone far by. Who would have thought
it? Ten minutes seem so much.

And if I went somewhere with permission to stay an hour! Then the
hour stretched invitingly before me, a vista lined with crowding
possibilities.

“How long can you stay?” we always promptly asked our guests, for there
was a feeling that the quality of the game to be entered on depended
on the time at our disposal. But when they asked me, it never was
conceivable that anything so real as a game should be dependent on
anything so hazy as time.

“Oh, a whole hour!” I would say royally. “Let’s play City.”

With this attitude Delia Dart, who lived across the street, had no
patience. Delia was definite. Her evenly braided hair, her square
finger tips, her blunt questions, her sense of what was due to
Delia--all these were definite.

“City!” she would burst out. “You can’t play City unless you’ve got all
afternoon.”

And Margaret Amelia and Betty Rodman, who were pretty definite too,
would back Delia up; but since they usually had permission to stay all
afternoon, they would acquiesce when I urged: “Oh, well, let’s start
in anyhow.” Then about the time the outside wall had been laid up in
the sand-pile and we had selected our building sites, the town clock
would strike my hour, which would be brought home to me only by Delia
saying:--

“Don’t you go. Will she care if you’re late?”

On such occasions we never used the substantive, but merely “she.”
It is worth being a child to have a sense of values so simple and
unassailable as that.

“I’m going to do just this much. I can run all the way home,” I would
answer; and I would begin on my house walls. But when these were
done, and the rooms defined by moist sand partitions, there was all
the fascination of its garden, with walks to be outlined with a
shingle and sprays of Old Man and cedar to be stuck in for trees, and
single stems of Fever-few and Sweet Alyssum or Flowering-currant and
Bleeding-heart for the beds, and Catnip for the borders, and a chick
from Old-Hen-and-Chickens for a tropical plant. We would be just begun
on the stones for the fountain when some alien consciousness, some
plucking at me, would recall the moment. And it would be half an hour
past my hour.

“You were to come home at four o’clock,” Mother would say, when I
reached there panting.

“_Why_ did I have to come home at four o’clock?” I would finally give
way to the sense of great and arbitrary wrong.

She always told me. I think that never in my life was I bidden to
do a thing, or not to do it, “because I tell you to.” But never
once did a time-reason seem sufficient. What were company, a
nap-because-I-was-to-sit-up-late, or having-to-go-somewhere-else beside
the reality of that house which I would never occupy, that garden where
I would never walk?

“You can make it the next time you go to Delia’s,” Mother would say.
But I knew that this was impossible. I might build another house,
adventure in another garden; this one was forever lost to me.

“... only,” Mother would add, “you can not go to Delia’s for ...” she
would name a period that yawned to me as black as the abyss. “...
because you did not come home to-day when you were told.” And still
time seemed to me indefinite. For now it appeared that I should never
go to Delia’s again.

I thought about it more and more. What was this time that was laid on
us so heavy? Why did I have to get up _because_ it was seven o’clock,
go to school _because_ it was nine, come home from Delia’s _because_
the clock struck something else ... above all, why did I have to go to
bed _because_ it was eight o’clock?

I laid it before my little council.

“Why do we have to go to bed because it’s bed-time?” I asked them.
“Which started first--bed-time or us?”

None of us could tell. Margaret Amelia Rodman, however, was of opinion
that bed-time started first.

“Nearly everything was here before we were,” she said gloomily. “We
haven’t got anything in the house but the piano and the rabbits that
wasn’t first before us. Mother told father this morning that we’d had
our stair-carpet fifteen years.”

We faced that. Fifteen years. Nearly twice as long as we had lived. If
a stair-carpet had lasted like that, what was the use of thinking that
we could find anything to control on the ground of our having been here
first?

Delia Dart, however, was a free soul. “_I_ think we begun before
bed-time did,” she said decidedly. “Because when we were babies,
we didn’t have any bed-time. Look at babies now. They don’t have
bed-times. They sleep all the while.”

It was true. Bed-time must have started after we did. Besides, we
remembered that it was movable. Once it had been half past seven. Now
it was eight. Delia often sat up, according to her own accounts, much
later even than this.

“Grown-ups don’t have any bed-time either,” Betty took it up. “They’re
like babies.”

This was a new thought. How strange that Grown-ups and babies should
share this immunity, and only we be bound.

“Who _made_ bed-time?” I inquired irritably.

“S-h-h!” said Delia. “God did.”

“I don’t believe it,” I announced flatly.

“Well,” said Delia, “anyway, he makes us sleepy.”

This I also challenged. “Then why am I sleepier when I go to church
evenings than when I play Hide-and-go-seek in the Brice’s barn
evenings?” I submitted.

This was getting into theology, and Delia used the ancient method.

“We aren’t supposed to know all those things,” she said with
superiority, and the council broke up.

That night I brought my revolt into the open. At eight o’clock I was
disposing the articles in my play-house so that they all touched,
in order that they might be able to talk during the night. It was
well-known to me that inanimate objects must touch if they would
carry on conversation. The little red chair and the table, the blue
paper-weight with a little trembling figure inside, the silver vase,
the mug with “Remember me” in blue letters, the china goat, all must be
safely settled so that they might while away the long night in talk.
The blue-glass paper weight with the horse and rider within, however,
was uncertain what he wanted to companion. I tried him with the china
horse and with the treeful of birds and with the duck in a boat, but
somehow he would not group. While he was still hesitating, it came:--

“Bed-time, dear,” they said.

I faced them at last. I had often objected, but I had never reasoned it
out.

“I’m not sleepy,” I announced serenely.

“But it’s bed-time,” they pressed it mildly.

“Bed-time is when you’re sleepy,” I explained. “I’m not sleepy. So it
can’t be bed-time.”

“Bed-time is eight o’clock,” they said with a hint of firmness, and
picked me up strongly and carried me off; and to my expostulation that
the horse and his rider in the blue paper-weight would have nobody to
talk to all night, they said that he wouldn’t care about that; and when
I wept, they said I was cross, and that proved it was Bed-time.

There seemed no escape. But once--once I came near to understanding.
Once the door into Unknown-about Things nearly opened for me, and just
for a moment I caught a glimpse.

I had been told to tidy my top bureau drawer. I have always loathed
tidying my top bureau drawer. It is so unlike a real task. It is made
up of odds and ends of tasks that ought to have been despatched long
ago and gradually, by process of throwing away, folding, putting in
boxes, hanging up, and other utterly uninteresting operations. I can
create a thing, I can destroy a thing, I can keep a thing as it was;
but to face a top bureau drawer is none of these things. It is a motley
task, unclassified, without honour, a very tag-end and bobtail of a
task, fit for nobody.

I was thinking things that meant this, and hanging out the window. It
was a gentle day, like a perfectly natural human being who wants to
make friends and will not pretend one iota in order to be your friend.
I remember that it was a still day, that I loved, not as I loved Uncle
Linas and Aunt Frances, who always played with me and gave me things,
but as I loved Mother and father when they took me somewhere with them,
on Sunday afternoons.... I had a row of daffodils coming up in the
garden. I began pretending that they were marching down the border,
down the border, down the border to the big rock by the cooking-apple
tree--why of course! I had never thought of it, but that rock was where
they got their gold....

A house-wren came out of a niche in the porch and flew down to the
platform in the boxalder, where father was accustomed to feed the
birds. The platform was spread with muffin crumbs. The little wren ate,
and flew to the clothes-line and poured forth his thankful exquisite
song. I had always felt regret that we had no clothes reel that
would whirl like a witch in the wind, but instead merely a system of
clothes-lines, duly put up on Mondays; but the little wren evidently
did not know the difference.

“Abracadabra, make me sing like that....” I told him. But I hadn’t said
the right thing, and he flew away and left me not singing. I began
thinking what if he _had_ made me sing, and what if I had put back my
head and gone downstairs singing like a wren, and gone to arithmetic
class singing like a wren, and nobody could have stopped me, and nobody
would have wanted to stop me....

... I leaned over the sill, holding both arms down and feeling the
blood flow down and weight my fingers like a pulse. What if I should
fall out the window and instead of striking the ground hard, as folk do
when they fall out of windows, I should go softly through the earth,
and feel it pressing back from my head and closing together behind my
heels, and pretty soon I should come out, plump ... before the Root of
Everything and sit there for a long time and watch it grow....

... I looked up at the blue, glad that I was so near to it, and thought
how much pleasanter it would be to fly right away through the blue and
see what colour it was lined with. Pink, maybe--rose-pink, which showed
through at sunset when the sun leaped at last through the blue and it
closed behind him. Rose-pink, like my best sash and hair-ribbons....

That brought me back. My best sash and hair-ribbons were in my top
drawer. Moreover, there were foot-steps on the stairs and at the very
door.

“Have you finished?” Mother asked.

I had not even opened the drawer.

“You have been up here one hour,” Mother said, and came and stood
beside me. “What have you been doing?”

I began to tell her. I do not envy her her quandary. She knew that I
was not to be too heavily chided and yet--the top drawers of this world
must be tidied.

“Think!” she said. “That Hour has gone out the window without its work
being done. And now this Hour, that was meant for play, has got to
work. But not you! You’ve lost your turn. Now it’s Mother’s turn.”

She made me sit by the window while she tidied the drawer. I was not to
touch it--I had lost my turn. While she worked, she talked to me about
the things she knew I liked to talk about. But I could not listen. It
is the only time in my life that I have ever really frantically wanted
to tidy a top bureau drawer of anybody’s.

“Now,” she said when she had done, “this last Hour will meet the
Hour-before-the-last, and each of them will look the way the other
ought to have looked, and they will be all mixed up. And all day I
think they will keep trying to come back to you to straighten them out.
But you can’t do it. And they’ll have to be each other forever and ever
and ever.”

She went away again, and I was left face to face with the very heart of
this whole perplexing Time business: those two Hours that would always
be somewhere trying to be each other, forever and ever, and always
trying to come back for me to straighten them out.

Were there Hours out in the world that were sick hours, sick because we
had treated them badly, and always trying to come back for folk to make
them well?

And were there Hours that were busy and happy somewhere because they
had been well used and they didn’t have to try to come back for us to
patch them up?

Were Hours like that? Was Time like that?

When I told Delia of the incident, she at once characteristically
settled it.

“Why, if they wasn’t any time,” she said, “we’d all just wait and wait
and wait. They couldn’t have that. So they set something going to get
us going to keep things going.”

Sometimes, in later life, when I have seen folk lunch because it is one
o’clock, worship because it is the seventh day, go to Europe because it
is Summer, and marry because it is high time, I wonder whether Delia
was not right. Often and often I have been convinced that what Mother
told me about the Hours trying to come back to get one to straighten
them out is true with truth undying. And I wish, that morning by the
window, and at those grim, inevitable Bed-times, that I, as I am now,
might have told that Little Me this story about how, just possibly,
they first noticed time and about what, just possibly, it is.



II

IN NO TIME


Before months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds were counted
and named, consider how peculiar it all must have seemed. For example,
when the Unknown-about Folk of those prehistoric times wished to know
_when_ a thing would happen, of course they can have had no word
_when_, and no answer. If a little Prehistoric Girl gave a party, she
cannot have known when to tell her guests to come, so she must have
had to wait until the supper was ready and then invite them; and if
they were not perfectly-bred little guests, they may have been offended
because they hadn’t been invited before--only they would not have known
how to say or to think “before,” so they cannot have been quite sure
what they were offended at; but they may have been offended anyway, as
happens now with that same kind of guest. And if a little Prehistoric
Boy asked his father to bring him a new eagle or a new leopard for a
pet, and his father came home night after night and didn’t bring it,
the Prehistoric Boy could not say, “_When_ will you bring it, sir?”
because there was no when, so he may have asked a great many other
questions, and been told to sit in the back of the cave until he could
do better. Nobody can have known how long to boil eggs or to bake
bread, and people must have had to come to breakfast and just sit and
wait and wait until things were done. Worst of all, nobody can have
known that time is a thing to use and not to waste. Since they could
not measure it, they could not of course tell how fast it was slipping
away, and they must have thought that time was theirs to do with what
they pleased, instead of turning it all into different things--this
piece into sleep, this piece into play, this piece into tasks and
exercise and fun. Just as, in those days, they probably thought that
food is to be eaten because it tastes good and not because it makes
the body grow, so they thought that time was a thing to be thrown away
and not to be used, every bit--which is, of course, a prehistoric way
to think. And nobody can have known about birthdays, and no story can
have started “Once upon a time,” and everything must have been quite
different.

About then,--only of course they didn’t know it was then--a Prehistoric
Mother said one morning to her Prehistoric Little Daughter:--

“Now, Vertebrata, get your practising done and then you may go to
play.” (It wasn’t a piano and it wasn’t an organ, but it was a lovely,
reedy, blow-on-it thing, like a pastoral pipe, and little girls always
sat about on rocks in the landscape, as soon as they had had their
breakfasts, and practised.)

So Vertebrata took her reed pipes and sat on a rock in the landscape
and practised--all of what we now know (but she did not know) would be
five minutes. Then she came in the cave, and tossed the pipes on her
bed of skins, and then remembered and hung them in their place above
the fireplace, and turned toward the doorway. But her mother, who was
roasting flesh at the fire, called her back.

“Vertebrata,” she said, “did I not tell you to practise?”

“I did practise,” said Vertebrata.

“Then practise and practise,” said her mother, not knowing how else to
tell her to do her whole hour. Her mother didn’t know hours, but she
knew by the feel of her feelings when Vertebrata had done enough.

So Vertebrata sat on a rock and did five minutes more, and came and
threw her pipes on her bed of skins, and remembered and hung them up,
and then turned toward the door of the cave. But her mother looked up
from the flesh-pot and called her back again.

“Vertebrata,” she said, “do you want mother to have to speak to you
again?”

“No, _indeed_, muvver,” said her little daughter.

“Then practise and practise and practise,” said her mother. “If you
can’t play when you grow up, what will people think?”

So Vertebrata went back to her landscape rock, and this thing was
repeated until Vertebrata had practised what we now know (but she did
not know) to have been a whole hour. And you can easily see that in
order to bring this about, what her mother must have said to her the
last time of all was this:--

“I want you to practise and practise and practise and practise and
practise and practise and practise and practise and practise and
practise and practise and practise--” _or_ something almost as long.

Now of course it was very hard for her mother to say all this besides
roasting the flesh and tidying the cave, so she made up her mind that
when her Prehistoric Husband came home, he must be told about it. And
when the sun was at the top of the sky and cast no shadow, and the
flesh was roasted brown and fragrant, she dressed it with pungent
herbs, and raked the vegetables out of the ashes and hid the dessert in
the cool wall of the cave--_that_ was a surprise--and spread the flat
rock at the door of the cave and put vine-leaves in her hair and, with
Vertebrata, set herself to wait.

There went by what we now know to have been noon, and another hour, and
more hours, and all afternoon, and all early twilight, and still her
Prehistoric Husband did not come home to dinner. Vertebrata was crying
with hunger, and the flesh and the vegetables were ice-cold, and the
Prehistoric Wife and Mother sat looking straight before her without
smiling. And then, just as the moon was rising red over the soft breast
of the distant wood, the Prehistoric Father appeared, not looking as if
he had done anything.

“Is dinner ready?” he asked pleasantly.

Now this was the last straw, and the Prehistoric Wife and Mother said
so, standing at the door of the cave, with Vertebrata crying in the
offing.

“Troglodyte,” she said sadly (that was what she called him), “dinner
has been ready and ready and ready and ready and ready and ready and
ready ...” and she showed him the ice-cold roasted flesh and vegetables.

“I’m _so_ sorry, dearest. I never knew,” said the Troglodyte,
contritely, and did everything in the world that he could do to show
her how sorry he was. He made haste to open his game-bag, and he drew
out what food he had killed, and showed her a soft, cock-of-the-rock
skin for a cap for her and a white ptarmigan breast to trim it with,
and at last she said--because nobody can stay offended when the
offender is sorry:--

“Well, dear, say no more about it. We’ll slice up the meat and it will
do very well cold, and I’ll warm up the potatoes with some brown butter
(or the like). But hurry and bathe or I’ll be ready first _again_.”

So he hurried and bathed in the brook, and the cave smelled savoury
of the hot brown butter, and Vertebrata had a Grogan tail stuck in her
hair, and presently they sat down to supper. And it was nearly eight
o’clock, but they didn’t know anything about _that_.

When the serious part of supper was done, and the dessert that was a
surprise had been brought and had surprised and gone, Vertebrata’s
mother sat up very straight and looked before her without smiling. And
she said:--

“Now, something must be done.”

“About what, Leaf Butterfly?” her husband asked.

“Vertebrata doesn’t practise enough and you don’t come home to dinner
enough,” she answered, “and something must be done.”

“I did practise--wunst,” said Vertebrata.

“But you should practise once and once and once and once and once and
once, and so on, and not have to be told each once,” said her mother.

“I did come home to dinner,” said the Prehistoric Husband, waving his
hand at his empty platter.

“But you should come first and first and first and first and first, and
so on, and not let the dinner get ice-cold,” said his wife. “Hear a
thing,” said she.

She sprinkled some salt all thick on the table and took the stick on
which the flesh had been roasted, and in the salt she drew a circle.

“This,” she said, “is the sky. And this place, at the top, is the top
of the sky. And when the sun is at the top of the sky and there is no
shadow, I will have ready the dinner, hot and sweet in the pot, and
dessert--for a surprise. And when the sun is at the top of the sky
and there is no shadow, do you come to eat it, _always_. That will be
dinner.”

“That is well,” said the Troglodyte, like a true knight--for in those
first days even true knights were willing that women should cook and
cave-tidy for them all day long and do little else. But that was long
ago and we must forgive it.

Then she made a mark in the salt at the edge of the circle a little way
around from the first mark.

“When the sun is at the edge of the sky and all red, and the shadows
are long, and the dark is coming, I will have ready berries and nuts
and green stuffs and sweet syrups and other things that I shall think
of--for you. And when the sun is at the edge of the sky and all red,
and the shadows are long, and the dark is coming, do you hurry to us,
_always_. That will be supper.”

“That is well,” said the Troglodyte, like a true knight.

Then she drew the stick a long way round.

“This is sleep,” she said. “This place here is waking, and breakfast.
And then next the sun will be at the top of the sky again. And we will
have dinner in the same fashion. And this is right for you. But what to
do with the child I don’t know, unless I keep her practising from the
time the sun is at the top of the sky until it is at the bottom. For if
she can’t play when she grows up, what will people think?”

Now, while she said this, the Prehistoric Woman had been sitting with
the stick on which the flesh had been roasted held straight up in her
fingers, resting in the middle of the ring which she had made in the
salt. And by now the moon was high and white in the sky. And the Man
saw that the moon-shadow of the stick fell on the circle from its
centre to beyond its edge. And presently he stretched out his hand and
took the stick from her, and held it so and sat very still, thinking,
thinking, thinking....

“Faddie,” said Vertebrata--she called him that for loving--“Faddie,
will you make me a little bow and arrow and scrape ’em white?”

But her father did not hear her, and instead of answering he sprang
up and began drawing on the soft earth before the cave a deep, deep
circle, and he ran for the long stick that had carried his game-bag
over his shoulder, and in the middle of the earth circle he set the
stick.

“Watch a thing!” he cried.

Vertebrata and her mother, understanding little but trusting much, sat
by his side. And together in the hot, white night the three watched the
shadow of the stick travel on the dial that they had made. Of course
there was no such thing as bed-time then, and Vertebrata usually sat
up until she fell over asleep, when her mother carried her off to her
little bed of skins; but this night she was so excited that she didn’t
fall over. For the stick-shadow moved like a finger; like, indeed, a
living thing that had been in the world all the time without their
knowing. And they watched it while it went a long way round the circle.
Then her mother said, “Nonsense, Vertebrata, you must be sleepy now
whether you know it or not,” and she put her to bed, Vertebrata saying
all the way that she was wide awake, just like in the daytime. And
when her mother went back outside the cave, the Man looked up at her
wonderfully.

“Trachystomata,” said he (which is to say “siren”), “if the sun-shadow
will do the same thing as the moon-shadow, we have found a way to make
Vertebrata practise enough.”

In the morning when Vertebrata came out of the cave--she woke alone and
dressed alone, just like being grown-up--she found her mother and her
father down on their hands and knees, studying the circle in the soft
earth and the long sun-shadow of the stick. And her mother called her
and she went running to her. And her mother said:--

“Now we will have breakfast, dear, and then you get your pipes and come
here and practise. And when you begin, we will lay a piece of bone
where the shadow stands, and when I feel the feeling of enough, I will
tell you, and you will stop practising, and we will lay another piece
of bone on that shadow. And after this you will always practise from
one bone to another, forever.”

Vertebrata could hardly wait to have breakfast before she tried it,
and then she ran and brought her pipes and sat down beside the circle.
And her father did not go to his hunting, or her mother to her cooking
and cave-tidying, but they both sat there with Vertebrata, hearing her
pipe and watching the shadow finger move, and waiting till her mother
should feel the feeling of enough.

_Now!_ Since the world began, the Hours, Minutes, and Seconds had been
hanging over it, waiting patiently until people should understand
about them. But nobody before had ever, ever thought about them, and
Vertebrata and her mother and her father were the very first ones who
had even begun to understand.

So it chanced that in the second that Vertebrata began to pipe and the
bone was laid on the circle, _that_ Second (deep in the air and yet
as near as time is to us) knew that it was being marked off at last
on the soft circle of the earth, and so did the next Second, and the
next, and the next, and the next, until sixty of them knew--and there
was the first Minute, measured in the circle before the cave. And other
Minutes knew what was happening, and they all came hurrying likewise,
and they filled the air with exquisite, invisible presences--all to
the soft sound of little Vertebrata’s piping. And she piped, and piped,
on the lovely, reedy, blow-on-it instrument, and she made sweet music.
And for the first time in her little life, her practising became to her
not merely practising, but music-making--there, while she watched the
strange Time-shadow move.

“J--o--y!” cried the Seconds, talking among themselves. “People are
beginning to know about us. It is _time_ that they should.”

“Ah!” they cried again. “We can go faster than anything.”

“Think of all of our poor brothers and sisters that have gone, without
anybody knowing they were here,” they mourned.

“Pipe, pipe, pipe,” went Vertebrata, and the little Seconds danced by
almost as if she were making them with her piping.

The Minutes, too, said things to one another--who knows if Time is so
silent as we imagine? May not all sorts of delicate conversations go on
in the heart of time about which we never know anything--Second talking
with Second, and Minute answering to Minute; and the grave Hours,
listening to everything we say and seeing everything we do, confiding
things to the Day about us and about Eternity from which they have
come. I cannot tell you what they say about you--you will know that, if
you try to think, and especially if you stand close to a great clock
or hear it boom out in the night. And I cannot tell you what they say
about Eternity. But I think that this may be one of the songs that they
sing:--

SONG OF THE MINUTES

    We are a garland for men,
    We are flung from the first gate of Time,
    From the touch that opened the minds of men
    Down to the breath of this rhyme.

    We are the measure of things,
    The rule of their sweep and stir,
    But whenever a little girl pipes and sings,
    We will keep time for her.

    We are a touching of hands
    From those in the murk of the earth,
    Through all who have garnered life in their hands
    And wrought it from death unto birth.

    We are the measure of things,
    The rule of their stir and sweep,
    And wherever a little child weeps or sings
    It is his soul we keep.

At last, when sixty Minutes had danced and chorussed past, there was,
of course, the first rosy Hour ever to have her coming and passing
marked since earth began. And when the Hour was gone, Vertebrata’s
mother felt the feeling of enough, and she said to Vertebrata:--

“That will do, dear. Now you may go and play.”

That was the first exact hour’s practising that ever any little girl
did by any sort of clock.

“Ribbon-fish mine,” said the Prehistoric Man to his wife, when
Vertebrata had finished, “I have been thinking additional thoughts. Why
could we not use the circle in other ways?”

“What ways, besides for your coming home and for Vertebrata’s
practising?” asked the Prehistoric Woman; but we must forgive her for
knowing about only those two things, for she was a very Prehistoric
Woman indeed.

“Little bones might be laid between the big bones,” said the Man--and
by that of course he meant measuring off minutes. “By certain of them
you could roast flesh and not kneel continually beside the fire. By
certain of them you could boil eggs, make meet the cakes, and not be in
peril of burning the beans. Also....”

He was silent for a moment, looking away over the soft breast of the
wood where the sun was shining its utmost, because it has so many
reasons.

“When I look at that moving finger on the circle thing,” he said
slowly, “it feels as if whoever made the sun were saying things to me,
but with no words. For his sun moves, and the finger on the circle
thing moves with it--as if it were telling us how long to do this
thing, and how long to do that thing--you and me and Vertebrata. And
we must use every space between the bones--and whoever made the sun is
telling us this, but with no words.”

The Prehistoric Woman looked up at her husband wonderfully.

“You are a great man, Troglodyte!” she told him.

At which he went away to hunt, feeling for the first time in his
prehistoric life as if there were a big reason, somewhere out in the
air, why he should get as much done as he could. And the Prehistoric
Woman went at her baking and cave-tidying, but always she ran to the
door of the cave to look at the circle thing, as if it bore a great
message for her to make haste, a message with no words.

As for Vertebrata, she had taken her pipes and danced away where,
on rocks in the landscape, the other little Prehistorics sat about,
getting their practising done. She tried to tell them all about the
circle thing, waving her pipes and jumping up and down to make them
understand, and drawing circles and trying to play to them about it on
her pipes; and at last they understood a little, like understanding a
new game, and they joined her and piped on their rocks all over the
green, green place. And the Seconds and Minutes and Hours, being fairly
started to be measured, all came trooping on, to the sound of the
children’s piping.

When the sun was at the top of the sky, Vertebrata remembered, and she
stuck a stick in the ground and saw that there was almost no shadow.
So she left the other children and ran very hard toward her own cave.
And when she had nearly reached it, somebody overtook her, also running
very hard.

[Illustration: SAT ON A ROCK IN THE LANDSCAPE AND PRACTISED.]

“Faddie!” she called, as she called when she meant loving--and he swung
her up on his shoulder and ran on with her. And they burst into the
open space before the cave just as the shadow-stick pointed straight to
the top of the circle thing.

There, before the door of the cave, was the flat rock, all set with
hot baked meat and toothsome piles of roast vegetables and beans that
were not burned. And the Prehistoric Woman, with vine-leaves in her
hair, was looking straight before her and smiling. And that was the
first dinner of the world that was ever served on time, and since that
day, to be late for dinner is one of the things which nobody may do;
and perhaps in memory of the Prehistoric Woman, when this occurs, the
politest ladies may always look straight before them _without smiling_.

“Is dinner ready, Sea Anemone?” asked the Man.

“On the bone,” replied his wife, pleasantly.

“What’s for ’sert?” asked Vertebrata.

“It’s a surprise,” said her mother--which is always the proper answer
to that question.

And while they sat there, the Days and Weeks and Months and Years
were coming toward them, faster than anything, to be marked off on the
circle thing before the door, _and to be used_. And they are coming
yet, like a message--but with no words.



III

ONE FOR THE MONEY


We were burying snow. Calista Waters had told us about it, when, late
in April, snow was found under a pile of wood in our yard. We wondered
why we had never thought of it before when snow was plentiful. We had
two long tins which had once contained ginger wafers. These were to be
packed with snow, fastened tight as to covers, and laid deep in the
earth at a distance which, by means of spoons and hot water, we were
now fast approaching.

It was Spring-in-earnest. The sun was warm, robins were running on the
grass, already faintly greened where the snow had but just melted;
a clear little stream flowed down the garden path and out under the
cross-walk. The Wells’s barn-doors stood open, somebody was beating
a carpet, there was a hint of bonfire smoke in the air, there were
little stirrings and sounds that belonged to Spring as the gasoline
wood-cutter belonged to Fall.

Calista was talking.

“And then,” she said, “some hot Summer day, when they’re all sitting
out on the lawn in the shade, with thin dresses and palm-leaf fans,
we’ll come and dig it up, and carry ’em big plates of feathery white
snow, with a spoon stuck in.”

We were silent, picturing their delight.

“Miss Messmore says,” I ventured, not without hesitation, “that snow is
all bugs.”

In fact all of us had been warned without ceasing not to eat snow--but
there were certain spots where it was beyond human power to resist
it: Mr. Britt’s fence, for instance, on whose pickets little squares
of snow rested, which, eaten off by direct application of the lips,
produced a slight illusion of partaking of caramels.

Delia stopped digging. “Maybe they won’t eat it when we bring it to
them in Summer?” she suggested.

“Then we will,” said Calista, promptly. Of course they would not have
the heart to forbid us to eat it in, say, June.

About a foot down in the ground we set the two tins side by side in an
aperture lined and packed with snow and filled in with earth. Over it
we made a mound of all the snow we could find in the garden. Then we
adjourned to the woodshed and sat on the sill and the sawbuck and the
work-bench.

“What makes us give it away?” said Delia Dart, abruptly. “Why don’t we
sell it? We’d ought to get fifteen cents a dish for it by June.”

We began a calculation, as rapid as might be. Each tin would hold at
least six dishes.

“Why didn’t we bury more?” said Calista, raptly. “Why didn’t we bury a
tubful?”

“It’d be an awful job to dig the hole,” I objected. “Besides, they’d
miss the tub.”

The latter objection was insurmountable, so we went off to the garden
to hunt pig-nuts. A tree of these delicacies grew in the midst of the
potato patch, and some of the nuts were sure to have lain winter-long
in the earth and to be seasoned and edible.

“Let’s all ask to go to the Rodmans’ this afternoon and tell Margaret
Amelia and Betty about the snow,” Calista suggested.

“I can’t,” I said. “I’ve got to go calling.”

They regarded me pityingly.

“Can’t you come over there afterwards?” they suggested.

This, I knew, was useless. We should not start calling till late.
Besides, I should be hopelessly dressed up.

“Well,” said Delia, soothingly, “_we’ll_ go anyhow. Are you going to
call where there’s children?”

“I don’t think so,” I said, darkly. “We never do.”

That afternoon was one whose warm air was almost thickened by sun. The
maple buds were just widening into little curly leaves; shadows were
beginning to show; and everywhere was that faint ripple of running
water in which Spring speaks. But then there was I, in my best dress,
my best coat, my best shoes, my new hat, and gloves, faring forth to
make calls.

This meant merely that there were houses where dwelt certain Grown-ups
who expected me to be brought periodically to see them, an expectation
persevered in, I believe, solely as a courtesy to my family. Twice a
year, therefore, we set out; and the days selected were, as this one,
invariably the crown and glory of all days: Days meet for cleaning
out the play-house, for occupying homes scraped with a shingle in the
softened soil, for assisting at bonfires, to say nothing of all that
was to be done in damming up the streams of the curbs and turning aside
the courses of rivers.

The first call was on Aunt Hoyt--no true aunt, of course, but “aunt”
by mutual compliment. She lived in a tiny house on Conant Street, set
close to the sidewalk and shaded by an enormous mulberry tree. I sought
out my usual seat, a little hardwood stool to whose top was neatly
tacked a square of Brussels carpeting and whose cover, on being lifted,
revealed a boot-jack, a shoe-brush, and a round box of blacking. The
legs were deeply notched, and I amused myself by fitting my feet in the
notches and occasionally coming inadvertently back to the floor with an
echoing bump.

Now and then Aunt Hoyt, who was little and wrinkled, and whose glasses
had double lenses in the middle so that I could not keep my eyes from
them when she spoke, would turn to address an observation at me.

“How long her hair is! Do you think it is quite healthy for her to have
such long hair? I’ll warrant you don’t like to have it combed, do you,
dear?”

If Aunt Hoyt had only known the depth of the boredom with which I had
this inane question put to me! It was one of the wonders of my days:
the utterly absurd questions that grown-up people could ask.

For example: “How do you do to-day?” What had any reasonable child
to answer to that? Of course one was well. If one wasn’t, one would
be kept at home. If one wasn’t, one wasn’t going to tell anyway. Or,
“What’s she been doing lately?” Well! Was one likely to reply: “Burying
snow. Hunting pig-nuts. Digging up pebbles from under the eaves. Making
a secret play-house in the currant bushes that nobody knows about?” And
unless one did thus tell one’s inmost secrets, what was there left to
say? And if one kept a dignified silence, one was sulky!

“She’s a good little girl, I’m sure. Is she much help to you?” Aunt
Hoyt asked that day, and patted my hair as we took leave. Dear Aunt
Hoyt, I know now that she was lonesome and longed for children and,
like many another, had no idea how to treat them, save by making little
conversational dabs at them.

Then there was Aunt Arthur, who lived in a square brick house that
always smelled cool. At her house I invariably sat on a Brussels
“kick-about” in the bay window and looked at a big leather “Wonders
of Earth and Sea,” with illustrations. Sometimes she let me examine a
basket of shells that she herself had gathered at the beach--I used
to look at her hands and at her big, flat cameo ring and marvel that
they had been so near to the ocean. Once or twice, when I wriggled too
outrageously, she would let me go into the large, dim parlour, with
its ostrich egg hanging from the chandelier and the stuffed blackbird
under an oval glass case before the high mirror, and the coral piled
under the centre-table and the huge, gilt-framed landscape which she
herself had painted. But this day, between the lace curtains hanging
from their cornices, I caught sight of Calista and Delia racing up the
hill to the Rodmans, and the entire parlour was, so to say, poisoned.
In desperation I went back and asked for a drink of water--my ancient
recourse when things got too bad.

Aunt Barker’s was better--there was a baby there. But that day ill-luck
went before me, for he was asleep and they refused to let me look at
him, because they said that woke him up. I disbelieved this, because I
saw no reason in it, and nobody gave me a reason. I resolved to try it
out the first time I was alone with a sleeping baby. I begged boldly to
go outdoors, and Mother would have consented, but Aunt Barker said that
a man was painting the lattice and that I would in every probability
lean against the lattice, or brush the paint pots, or try to get a
drink at the pump, which, I gathered, splashed everybody for miles
around. So I sat in a patent rocker, and the only rift in a world of
black cloud was that, by rocking far enough, the patent rocker could be
made to give forth a wholly delectable squeak. Of course fate swiftly
descended; I was bidden discontinue the squeak, and nothing remained to
me.

Then we went to Grandma Bard’s. I did not in the least know why, but
the little rag-carpeted sitting-room, the singing kettle on the back of
the coal stove, the scarlet geraniums on the window, the fascinating
picture on the clock door, all entertained me at once. Grandma Bard
wore a black lace cap, and she bade me sit by her and instantly gave
me a peppermint drop from the pocket of her black sateen apron. She
asked me no questions, but while she talked with Mother, she laid
together two rose-coloured--rose-coloured!--bits of her patchwork and
quietly handed them to me to baste--none of your close stitches, only
basting! Then she folded a newspaper and asked me to cut it and scallop
it for her cupboard shelf. Then she found a handful of hickory nuts and
brought me the tack-hammer and a flat-iron....

“Oh, Mother, let’s _not_ go yet,” I heard myself saying.

Going home--a delicate business, because stepping on any crack meant
being poisoned forthwith--I tried to think it out: What was it that
Mother and Grandma Bard knew that the rest didn’t know? I gave it up.
All I could think of was that they seemed to know me.

“Isn’t Grandma Bard just grand?” I observed fervently.

“I’m afraid,” Mother said thoughtfully, “that sometimes she has rather
a hard time to get on.”

I was still turning this in my mind as we passed the wood yard. The
wood yard was a series of vacant lots where some mysterious person
piled cords and cords of wood, which smelled sweet and green and gave
out cool breaths. Sometimes the gasoline wood-cutter worked in there,
and we would watch till it had gone, and then steal in and bring away a
baking-powder can full of sawdust. We never knew quite what to do with
this sawdust. It was not desirable for mud-pies, and there was nothing
that we knew of to be stuffed with it. Yet when we could, we always
saved it. Perhaps it gave us an excuse to go into the wood yard, at
which we always peeped as we went by. This day, I lagged a few steps
behind and looked in, expectant of the same vague thing that we always
expected, and never defined--a bonfire, a robber, an open cave, some
changed aspect, I did not know what. And over by the sawdust pile, I
saw, stepping about, a little girl in a reddish dress--a little girl
whom I had never seen before. She looked up and saw me stand staring at
her; and her gaze was so clear and direct that I felt obliged to say
something in defence of my intrusion.

“Hello,” I said.

Her face suddenly brightened. “Hello,” she replied, and after a moment
she added: “I thought you was going to say ‘how de do.’”

A faint spark of understanding leapt between us. Dressed-up little
girls usually did say “how de do.” It was only in a kind of
unconscious deference to her own appearance that I had not done so. She
was unkempt and ragged--her sleeve was torn from cuff to elbow.

“What you doing here?” I inquired, not averse to breaking the business
of calling by a bit of gossip.

At this she did for the third time what I had been vaguely conscious
of her having done: She glanced over her shoulder toward a corner of
the yard which the piled wood concealed from me. I stepped forward and
looked there.

On an end of wood-pile which we children had pulled down so as to
make a slope to ascend its heights, a man was sitting. His head and
shoulders were drooping, his legs were relaxed, and his hands were
hanging loose, as if they were heavy. His eyes were closed and his lips
were parted, yet about the face, with its fair hair and beard, there
was something singularly attractive and gentle. He looked like a man
who would tell you a story.

“Who’s he?” I asked, and involuntarily I whispered.

The girl began backing a little away from me, her eyes on my face, her
finger on her lips.

“It’s my father,” she said. “He’s--resting.”

I had never heard of a man resting in the daytime. Save, perhaps, on
Sunday afternoons, this was no true function of men. I longed to look
at the man and understand better, but something in the little girl’s
manner forbade me. I looked perplexedly after her. Then I peered round
the fence post and saw my Mother standing under a tree, waiting for
me. She beckoned. I took one more look inside the fence, and I saw the
little girl sit down beside the sleeping man and fold her hands. The
afternoon sun smote across the long wood yard, with its mysterious
rooms made by the piling of the cords. It seemed impossible that this
strange, still place, with its thick carpet of sawdust and its moist
odours, should belong at all to the commonplace little street. And the
two strange occupants gave the last touch to its enchantment.

I ran to overtake Mother, and I tried to tell her something of what I
had seen. But some way my words gave nothing of the air of the place
and of the two who waited there for something that I could not guess.
Already I knew this about words--that they were all very well for
_saying_ a thing, but seldom for letting anybody _taste_ what you were
talking about.

I did not give up trying to tell it until we passed the Rodmans’.
From the direction of their high-board fence I heard voices. Margaret
Amelia and Betty and Delia and Calista were engaged in writing on the
weathered boards of the fence with willows dipped in the clear-flowing
gutter stream.

“Got it done?” I called mysteriously.

They turned, shaking their heads.

“It was all melted,” they replied. “We couldn’t find another bit.”

“Oh, well,” I cried, “you come on over after supper. I’ve got something
to tell you.”

“Something to tell you” would, of course, bring anybody anywhere.
After supper they all came “over.” It was that hour which only village
children know--that last bright daylight of slanting sun and driven
cows tinkling homeward; of front-doors standing open and neighbours
calling to one another across the streets, and the sky warm in the
quiet surface of some little water from whose bridge lads are tossing
stones or hanging bare-footed from the timbers. We withdrew past the
family, sitting on the side-porch, to the garden, where the sun was
still golden on the tops of the maples.

“Mother says,” I began importantly, “that she thinks Grandma Bard has
a hard time to get along. Well, you know our snow? Well, you know you
said you couldn’t find any more to bury? Well, why don’t we dig up
ours, right now, and sell it and give the money to Grandma Bard?”

I must have touched some answering chord. Looking back, I cannot
believe that this was wholly Grandma Bard. Could it be that the others
had wanted to dig it up, independent of my suggestion? For there was
not one dissenting voice.

The occasion seemed to warrant the best dishes. I brought out six china
plates and six spoons. These would be used for serving my own family,
while the others took the two cans and ran home with them to their
families.

We dug rapidly now, the earth being still soft. To our surprise, the
tops of the tins were located much nearer to the surface than we had
supposed after our efforts of the morning to reach a great depth. The
snow in which we had packed the cans had disappeared, but we made
nothing of that. We drew out the cans, had off their tops, and gazed
distressfully down into clear water.

“It went and melted!” said Calista, resentfully.

In a way, she regarded it as her personal failure, since the ceremony
had been her suggestion in the first place.

“Never mind, Calista,” we said, “you didn’t know.”

Calista freely summed up her impressions.

“How _mean_!” she said.

We gravely gathered up the china plates and turned toward the
house--and now I was possessed of a really accountable desire to get
the plates back in their places as quickly as possible.

On the way a thought struck us simultaneously. Poor Grandma Bard!

“Let’s all go to see her to-morrow anyhow,” I suggested--largely, I am
afraid, because the memory of my entertainment there was still fresh in
my mind.

When, after a little while, we came round the house where the older
ones were sitting, and heard them discussing uninteresting affairs,
we regarded them with real sympathy. They had so narrowly missed
something so vastly, absorbingly interesting.

From Delia’s room a voice came calling as, at intervals, other voices
were heard calling other names throughout the neighbourhood--they were
at one with the tinkle of the bells and the far-off yodel of the boys.

“Delia!”

“Good night,” said Delia, briefly, and vanished without warning, as at
the sound of any other taps. Soon after, the others also disappeared;
and I crept up on the porch and lay down in the hammock.

“What’s she been doing _now_?” somebody instantly asked me.

For a moment I thought of telling; but not seriously.

Evidently they had not expected an answer, for they went on talking.

“... yes, I had looked forward to it for a long while. Of course we had
all counted on it. It was a great disappointment.”

Somewhere in me the words echoed a familiar and recent emotion. So!
They too had their disappointments ... even as we. Of course whatever
this was could have been nothing like losing a fortune in melted snow.
Still, I felt a new sympathy.

Mother turned to me.

“We are going to ask Grandma Bard to come to live with us,” she said.
“Will you like that?”

I sat up in the hammock. “All the time?” I joyfully inquired.

“For the rest of the time,” Mother said soberly. “It seems as if one
ought to take a child,” she added to the others, “when one takes
anybody....”

“Still,” said father, “till we get in our heads something of what the
state owes to old folks, there’s nobody but us to do its work....”

I hardly heard them. To make this come true at one stroke! Even to be
able to adopt a child! How easily they could do things, these grown-up
ones; and how magnificently they acted as if it were nothing at all ...
like the giants planting city-seed and watching cities grow to the size
and shape of giants’ flower beds....

They went on talking. Some of the things that they said we might have
said ourselves. In some ways they were not so very different from us.
Yet think what they could accomplish.

Watching them and listening, there in the April twilight, I began to
understand. It was not only that they could have their own way. But for
the sake of things that we had never yet so much as guessed or dreamed,
it was desirable to be grown up.



IV

THE PICNIC


It was Delia Dart who had suggested our Arbour Day picnic. “Let’s have
some fun Arbour Day,” she said.

We had never thought of Arbour Day in that light. Exercises, though
they presented the open advantage of escape from the school grind, were
no special fun. Fun was something much more intimate and intangible,
definite and mysterious, casual and thrilling--and other anomalies.

“Doing what?” we demanded.

“Oh,” said Delia, restlessly, “go off somewheres. And eat things. And
do something to tell about and make their eyes stick out.”

We were not old enough really to have observed this formula for
adventure. Hitherto we had always gone merely because we went. Yet
all three motives appealed to us. And events fostered our faint
intention. At the opening of school that morning, Miss Messmore made
an announcement.... I remember her grave way of smiling and silent
waiting, so that we hung on what she was going to say.

“To-morrow,” she said, “is Arbour Day. All who wish will assemble here
at the usual hour in the afternoon. We are to plant trees and shrubs
and vines about the schoolhouse. There will be something for each one
to plant. But this is not required. Any who do not wish to be present
may remain away, and these will not be marked absent. Only those may
plant trees who wish to plant trees. I hope that all children will take
advantage of their opportunity. Classes will now pass to their places.”

Delia telegraphed triumphantly in several directions. We could hardly
wait to confer. At recess we met immediately in the closet under the
stairs, a closet intended primarily for chalk, erasers, brooms, and
maps, but by virtue of its window and its privacy put to sub-uses of
secret committee meetings.

“I told you,” said Delia. And such was Delia’s magnetism that we felt
that she had told us. “Let’s take our lunch and start as soon as we get
out.”

“Couldn’t we go after the exercises?” Calista Waters submitted
waveringly.

“_After!_” said Delia, scornfully. “It’ll be three o’clock. _That’s_ no
fun. We want to start by twelve, prompt, and stay till six.”

Margaret Amelia Rodman bore out Delia’s contention. She and Betty had
a dozen eggs saved up from their pullets. They would boil them and
bring them. “The pullets?” Calista demanded aghast and was laughed
into subjection, and found herself agreeing and planning in order to
get back into favour. Delia and the Rodmans were, I now perceive, born
leaders of mediæval living.

“Why don’t you wait till Saturday?” I finally said, from out a silence
that had tried to produce this earlier. “That’s only two days.”

“Saturday!” said Delia. “Anybody can have a picnic Saturday. This is
most as good as running away.”

And of course it was. But....

“Who wants to plant a tree?” Delia continued. “They’ll plant all
they’ve got whether we’re here or not, won’t they?”

That was true. They would do so. It was clearly a selfish wish to
participate that was agitating Calista and me. In the end we were
outvoted, and we went. Our families, it seemed, all took the same
attitude: We need not plant trees if we did not wish to plant trees.
Save in the case of Harold Rodman. He was ruled to be too small to walk
to Prospect Hill, and he preferred going back to school to staying at
home alone.

“I won’t plant no tree, though,” he announced resentfully, as we left
him. “I’m goin’ dig ’em all up!” he shouted after us. “Every one in the
world!”

It was when I was running round the house to get my lunch that I came
for the second time face to face with Mary Elizabeth.

Mary Elizabeth was sitting flat on the ground, cleaning knives which
I recognized as our kitchen knives. This she was doing by a simple
process, not unknown to me and consisting of driving the knife into the
ground up to its black handle and shoving it rapidly up and down. It
struck me as very strange that she should be there, in _our_ back yard,
cleaning _our_ knives, and I somewhat resented it. For it is curious
how much of a savage a little girl in a white apron can really be. But
then I did not at once recognize her as the girl whom I had seen in
the wood yard.

I remember her sometimes as I saw her that day. She had straight brown
hair the colour of my own, and her thick pig-tail, which had fallen
over her shoulder as she worked, was tied with red yarn. Her face was a
lovely, even cream colour, with no freckles such as diversified my own
nose, and with no other colour in her cheek. Her hands were thin and
veined, with long, agile fingers. The right sleeve of her reddish plaid
dress was by now slit almost to the shoulder, and her bare arm showed,
and it was nearly all wrist. She had on a boy’s heavy shoes, and these
were nearly without buttons.

“What you doing?” I inquired, coming to a standstill.

She lifted her face and smiled, not a flash of a smile, but a slow
smile of understanding me.

“This,” she replied, and went on with her task.

“What’s your name?” I demanded.

“Mary Elizabeth,” she answered, and did not ask me my name. This
was her pathetic way of deference to me because my clothing and my
“station” were other than hers.

I went on to the house, but I went, looking back.

“Mother,” I said, “who is she? The little girl out there.”

While she put up my lunch in the Indian basket, Mother told me how Mary
Elizabeth had come that morning asking for something to do. She had set
her to work, and meanwhile she was finding out who she was. “I gave
her something to eat,” Mother said. “And I have never seen even you so
hungry.” Hungry and having no food. I had never heard of such a thing
at first hand--not nearer than in books and in Sunday school. But ...
hungry that way, and in our yard!

It was chiefly this that accounted for my invitation to her--this,
and the fact that, as she came to the door to tell my Mother good-bye
and to take what she had earned, she gave me again that slow,
understanding-me smile. Anyway, as we walked toward the gate, I
overtook her with my Indian basket.

“Don’t you want to come to the picnic with us?” I said.

She stared at me. “What do you do?” she asked.

“Why,” I said, “a picnic? Eat in the woods and--and get things, and sit
on the grass. Don’t you think they’re fun?”

“I never was to one,” she answered, but I saw how she was watching me
almost breathlessly.

“Come on, then,” I insisted carelessly.

“Honest?” she said. “Me?”

When she understood, I remember how she walked beside me, looking at me
as if she might at any moment find out her mistake.

Delia, waiting impatiently at our gate with her own basket,--somehow I
never waited at the gates of others, but it was always they who waited
at mine,--bade me hurry, stared at Mary Elizabeth, and serenely turned
her back on her.

“This,” I said, “is Mary Elizabeth. I asked her to go to our picnic.
She’s going. I’ve got enough lunch. This is Delia.”

I suppose that they looked at each other furtively--so much of the
stupidity of being a knight with one’s visor lowered yet hangs upon
us--and then Delia plucked me, visibly, by the sleeve and addressed me,
audibly, in the ear.

“What’d you go and do that for?” said she. And I who, at an early age,
resented being plucked by the sleeve as a bird resents being patted
on the head, or the wall of any personality trembles away when it is
tapped, took Mary Elizabeth by the hand and marched on to meet the
Rodmans and Calista.

Calista was a vague little soul, with no sense of facts. She was always
promising to walk with two girls at recess, which was equivalent to
asking two to be her partners in a quadrille. It simply could not be
done. So Calista was forever having to promise to run errands with
someone after school to make amends for not having walked with her at
recess. She seldom had a grievance of her own, but she easily fell in
with the grievances of others. When I presented Mary Elizabeth to her,
Calista received her serenely as a part of the course of human events;
and so I think she would have continued to regard her, without great
attention and certainly with no criticism, had she not received the
somewhat powerful suggestion of Delia and Margaret Amelia and Betty
Rodman. The three fell behind Mary Elizabeth and me as we trotted down
the long street on which the April sun smote with Summer heat.

“--over across the railroad tracks and picks up tin cans and old
rubbers and sells ’em and drinks just awful and got ten children and
got arrested,” I heard Delia recounting.

“The idea. To our picnic,” said Margaret Amelia’s thin-edged voice.

“Without asking us,” Betty whispered, anxious to think of something of
account to say.

Mary Elizabeth heard. I have seen that look of dumb, unresentful
suffering in many a human face--in the faces of those who, by the Laws
of sport or society or of jurisprudence, find no escape. She had no
anger, and what she felt must have been long familiar. “I’d better go
home,” she said to me briefly.

I still had her by the hand. And it was, I am bound to confess, as no
errant but chiefly as antagonist to the others that I pulled her along.
“You got to come,” I reminded her. “You said you would.”

It was cruel treatment, by way of kindness. The others, quickly
adapting themselves, fell into the talk of expeditions, which is never
quite the same as any other talk; and the only further notice that they
took of Mary Elizabeth was painstakingly to leave her out. They never
said anything to her, and when she ventured some faint word, they
never answered or noticed or seemed to hear. In later years I have had
occasion to observe, among the undeveloped, these same traces of tribal
antagonisms.

As we went, I had time to digest the hints which I had overheard
concerning Mary Elizabeth’s estate. I knew that a family having many
children had lately come to live “across the tracks,” and that, because
of our anxiety to classify, the father was said to be a drunkard. I
looked stealthily at Mary Elizabeth, with a certain respect born of her
having experience so transcending my own. Telling how many drunken men
and how many dead persons, if any, we had seen was one of our modes
of recreation when we foregathered. Technically Mary Elizabeth was, I
perceived, one of the vague “poor children” for whom we had long packed
baskets and whom we used to take for granted as barbarously as they
used to take for granted the plague. Yet now that I knew one such,
face to face, she seemed so much less a poor child than a little girl.
And though she said so little, she had a priceless manner of knowing
what I was driving at, which not even Margaret Amelia and Betty Rodman
had, and they were the daughters of an assemblyman, and had a furnace
in their house, and had had gold watches for Christmas. It was very
perplexing.

“First one finds a May-flower’s going to be a princess!” Delia shouted.
Delia was singularly unimaginative; the idea of royalty was her
single entrance to fields of fancy. The stories that I made up always
began “Once there was a fairy”; Margaret and Betty started at gnomes
and dwarfs; Calista usually selected a poor little match girl or a
boot-black asleep in a piano box; but Delia invariably chose a royal
family, with many sons.

We ran, shouting, across the stretch of scrub-oak which stretched
where the town blocks of houses and streets gave it up and reverted to
the open country. To reach this unprepossessing green place, usually
occupied by a decrepit wagon and a pile of cord-wood, was like passing
through a doorway into the open. We expressed our freedom by shouting
and scrambling to be princesses--all, that is, save Mary Elizabeth. She
went soberly about, a little apart, and I wished with all my heart that
she might find the first May-flower; but she did not do so.

We hunted for wind-flowers. It was on Prospect Hill that these first
flowers--wind-flowers, pasque flowers, May-flowers, however one has
learned to say them--were found in Spring--the _anemone patens_ which,
next to pussy-willows themselves, meant to us Spring. A week before
Nellie Pitmouth had brought to school the first that we had seen.
Nellie had our pity because she drove the cows to pasture before
she came to school, but she had her reward, for it was always she
who found the first spoils. I remember those mornings when I would
reach school to find a little group about Nellie in whose hands would
be pussy-willows, or the first violets, or our rarely found white
violets. For a little while, in the light of real events like these,
Nellie enjoyed distinction. Then she relapsed into her usual social
obscurity and the stigma of her gingham apron which she wore even on
half holidays. This day we pressed hard for her laurels, scrambling in
the deep mould and dead leaves in search of the star faces on silvery,
silken, furry stems. We hoped untiringly that we might some day find
arbutus, which grew in abundance only eighteen miles away, on the
hills. In Summer we patiently looked for wintergreen, which they were
always finding farther up the river. And from the undoubted dearth
of both we escaped with a pretence to the effect that we were under a
spell, and that some day, the witch having died, we should walk on our
hill and find the wintergreen come and the arbutus under the leaves.

By five o’clock we had been hungry for two hours, and we spread our
lunch on the crest. Prospect Hill was the place to which we took our
guests when we had them. It was the wide west gateway of the town,
where through few ventured, for it opened out on the bend of the little
river, navigable only to rowboats and launches, and flowing toward us
from the west. You stood at the top of a sharp declivity, and it was
like seeing a river face to face to find it flowing straight toward
you, out of the sky, bearing little green islands and wet yellow
sandbars. It almost seemed as if these must come floating toward us
and bringing us everything.... For these were the little days, when we
still believed that everything was necessary.

We quickly despatched the process of “trading off,” a sandwich for an
apple, a cooky for a cake, and so on, occasionally trading back before
the bargain had been tasted. Mary Elizabeth sat at one side; even after
I had divided my lunch and given her my basket for a plate, she sat a
very little away from us--or it may be my remembrance of her aloofness
that makes this seem so. Each of the others gave her something from
her basket--but it was the kind of giving which makes one know what
a sad word is the word “bestow.” They “bestowed” these things. Since
that time, when I have seen folk administering charity, I have always
thought of the manner, ill-bred as is all condescension, in which we
must have shared our picnic food with Mary Elizabeth.

I believe that this is the first conversation that ever I can remember.
Up to this time, I had talked as naturally as the night secretes
dreams, with no sense of responsibility for either to mean anything.
But that day I became uncomfortably conscious of the trend of the talk.

“I have to have my new dress tried on before supper,” Delia announced,
her back to the river and her mouth filled with a jam sandwich. “It’s
blue plaid, with blue buttons and blue tassels on,” she volunteered.

“My new dress Aunt Harriet brought me from the City isn’t going to be
made up till last day of school,” Margaret Amelia informed us. “It’s
got pink flowers in and it cost sixty cents a yard.”

“Margaret and I are going to have white shoes before we go visiting,”
Betty remembered.

“I got two new dresses that ain’t made up yet. Mamma says I got so many
I don’t need them,” observed Calista, with an indifferent manner and a
soft, triumphant glance. Whereat we all sat silent.

I struggled with the moment, but it was too much for me.

“I got a white silk lining to my new dress,” I let it be known.
“It’s made, but I haven’t had it on yet. China silk,” I added
conscientiously. Then, moved perhaps by a common discomfort, we all
looked toward Mary Elizabeth. I think I loved her from that moment.

“None of you’s got the new style sleeves,” she said serenely, and held
aloft the arm whose sleeve was slit from wrist to shoulder.

We all laughed together, but Delia pounced upon the arm. She caught and
held it.

“What’s that on your arm?” she cried, and we all looked. From the elbow
up the skin was mottled a dull, ugly purple, as if rough hands had
been there.

Mary Elizabeth flushed. “Ain’t you ever had any bruises on you?” she
inquired in a tone so finely modulated that Delia actually hastened to
defend herself from the impeachment of inexperience.

“Sure,” she said heartily. “I counted ’em last night. I got seven.”

“I got five and a great long skin,” Betty competed hotly.

“Pooh,” said Calista, “I’ve got a scratch longer than my hand is.
Teacher said maybe I’d get an infect,” she added importantly.

Then we kept on neutral ground, such as blank-books and Fourth of July
and planning to go bare-foot some day, until Calista attacked a pickled
peach which she had brought.

“Our whole cellar’s full of pickled peaches,” I incautiously observed.
“I could have brought some if I’d thought.”

“We got more than that,” said Delia, instantly. “We got a thousand
glasses of jelly left over from last year.”

“A thousand!” repeated Margaret Amelia, in derision. “A hundred, you
mean.”

“Well,” Delia said, “it’s a lot. And jars and jars and jars of
preserves. And cans and cans and _cans_....”

The others took it up. Why we should have boasted of the quantity of
fruit in our parents’ cellars, I have no notion, save that it was
for the unidentified reason which impels all boasting. When I am in
a very new bit of country, where generalizations and multiplications
follow every fact, I am sometimes reminded of the fashion of our talk
whose statements tried to exceed themselves, in a kind of pyrotechnic
pattern bursting at last into nothing and the night. We might have been
praising climate or crops or real estate.

Mary Elizabeth spoke with something like eagerness.

“We got a bottle of blackberry cordial my grandmother made before she
died,” she said. “We keep it in the top bureau drawer.”

“What a funny place to keep it....” Delia began, and stopped of her own
accord.

I remember that everybody was willing enough to let Mary Elizabeth help
pick up the dishes. Then she took a tree for Pussy-wants-a-corner,
which always follows the picnic part of a picnic. But hardly anyone
would change trees with her, and by the design which masks as chance,
everyone ran to another tree. At last she casually climbed her tree,
agile as a cat, a feat which Delia alone was shabby enough to pretend
not to see.

We started homeward when the red was flaming up in the west and falling
deep in the heart of the river. By then Mary Elizabeth was almost at
ease with us, but rather, I think, because of the soft evening, and
perhaps in spite of our presence.

“Oh!” she cried. “Somebody grabbed the sun and pulled it down. I saw it
go!”

Delia looked shocked. “You oughtn’t to tell such things,” she reproved
her.

Mary Elizabeth flung up the arm with the torn sleeve and ran beside us,
laughing with abandon. We were all running down the slope in the red
light.

“We’re Indians, looking for roots for the medicine-man,” Delia called;
“Yellow Thunder is sick. So is Red Bird. We’re hunting roots.”

She was ahead and we were following. We caught at the dead mullein
stalks and milkweed pods and threw them away, and leaped up and pulled
at the low branches with their tender buds. We were filled with the
flow of the Spring and seeking to express it, as in the old barbaric
days, by means of destruction.... At the foot of the slope a little
maple tree was growing, tentative as a sunbeam and scarcely thicker,
left by the Spring that had last been that way. When she reached it,
Delia laid hold on it, and had it out by its slight root, and tossed it
on the moss.

“W-h-e-e-e!” cried Delia, “I wish it was Arbour Day to-morrow too!”

Mary Elizabeth stopped laughing. “I turn here,” she said. “It’s the
short cut. Good-bye--I had a grand time. The best time I ever had.”

Delia pretended not to hear. She said nothing. The others called casual
good-byes over shoulder. Going home, they rebuked me soundly for having
invited Mary Elizabeth. Delia rehearsed the array of reasons. If she
came to school, we would have to _know_ her, she wound up. I remember
feeling baffled and without argument. All that they said was true, and
yet--

“I’m going to see her,” I announced stoutly, more, I dare say, because
I was tired and a little cross than from real loyalty.

“You’ll catch some disease,” said Delia. “I know a girl that went to
see some poor children and she caught the spinal appendicitis and died
before she got back home.”

We went round by the schoolhouse, drawn there by a curiosity that
had in it inevitable elements of regret. There they were, little
dead-looking trees, standing in places of wet earth, and most of them
set somewhat slanting. Everyone was gone, and in the late light the
grounds looked solemn and different.

“Just think,” said Delia, “when we grow up and the trees grow up, we
can tell our children how we planted ’em.”

“Why, we never--” Calista began.

“Our school did, didn’t it?” Delia contended. “And our school’s we,
isn’t it?”

But we overruled her. No, to the end of time, the trees that stood in
those grounds would have been planted by other hands than ours. We
were probably the only ones in the school who hadn’t planted a tree.
“I don’t care, do you?” we demanded of one another, and reiterated our
denial.

“I planted a-a-a---Never-green!” Harold Rodman shouted, running to meet
us.

“So did we!” we told him merrily, and separated, laughing. It had, it
seemed, been a great day, in spite of Mary Elizabeth.

I went into the house, and hovered about the supper table. I perceived
that I had missed hot waffles and honey, and these now held no charm.
Grandmother Beers was talking.

“When I was eight years old,” she said, “I planted it by the well. And
when Thomas went back to England fifty years after, he couldn’t reach
both arms round the trunk. And there was a seat there--for travellers.”

I looked at her, and thought of that giant tree. Would those
dead-looking little sticks, then, grow like that?

“If fifty thousand school children each planted a tree to-day,” said my
mother, “that would be a forest. And planting a forest is next best to
building a city.”

“Better,” said my father, “better. What kind of tree did you plant,
daughter?” he inquired.

I hung my head. “I--we--there was a picnic,” I said. “We didn’t _have_
to plant ’em. So we had a picnic.”

My father looked at me in the way that I remember.

“That’s it,” he said. “For everyone who plants a tree, there are half
a dozen that have a picnic. And two dozen that cut them down. At last
we’ve got one in the family who belongs to the majority!”

When I could, I slipped out in the garden. It was darkening; the frogs
in the Slough were chorussing, and down on the river-bank a cat-bird
sang at intervals, was silent long enough to make you think that he
had ceased, and then burst forth again. The town clock struck eight,
as if eight were an ancient thing, full of dignity. Our kitchen clock
answered briskly, as if eight were a proud and novel experience of its
own. The ’bus rattled past for the Eight-twenty. And away down in the
garden, I heard a step. Someone had come in the back gate and clicked
the pail of stones that weighted its chain.

I thought that it would be one of the girls, who not infrequently chose
this inobvious method of entrance. I ran toward her, and was amazed to
find Mary Elizabeth kneeling quietly on the ground, as she had been
when I came upon her at noon.

“What you doing?” I demanded, before I could see what she was doing.

“This,” she said.

I stooped. And she had a little maple tree, for which she was hollowing
a home with a rusty fire-shovel that she had brought with her.

“It’s the one Delia Dart pulled out,” she said. “I thought it’d be kind
of nice to put it here. In your yard. You could bring the water, if you
want.”

I brought the water. Together we bent in the dusk, and we set out the
little tree, near the back gate, close to my play-house.

“We’d ought to say a verse or something,” I said vaguely.

“I can’t think of any,” Mary Elizabeth objected.

Neither could I, but you had to say something when you planted a tree.
And a line was as good as a verse.

“‘God is love’ ’s good enough,” said Mary Elizabeth, stamping down the
earth. Then we dismissed the event, and hung briefly above the back
gate. Somehow, I was feeling a great and welcome sense of relief.

“It was kind o’ nice to do that,” I observed, with some embarrassment.

“No, it wasn’t either,” rejoined Mary Elizabeth, modestly.

We stood kicking at the gravel for a moment. Then she went away.

I faced about to the quiet garden. And suddenly, for no reason that I
knew, I found myself skipping on the path, in the dark, just as if the
day were only beginning.



V

THE KING’S TRUMPETER


And so it is for that night long ago when Mary Elizabeth and I stood by
the tree and tried to think of something to say, that after all these
years I have made the story of Peter.

       *       *       *       *       *

Long years ago, when the world was just beginning to be, there was a
kingdom which was not yet finished. Of course when a world has just
stopped being nothing and is beginning to be something, it takes a
great while to set all the kingdoms going. And this one wasn’t done.

For example, in the palace garden where little Peter used to play,
the strangest things were to be met. For the mineral kingdom was just
beginning to be vegetable, and the vegetable was just beginning to
be animal, and the animal was just beginning to be man,--and man was
just, just beginning to know about his living spirit. Do you see what
_that_ means? While you looked at a mound of earth it became a bush--or
a very little time afterward, as time in these things is reckoned.
While you looked at a beast-shaped bush--all bushes at night are shaped
like beasts--it became a living animal--or, again, a _very_ little
afterward. And men had by no means got over being apes, tigers, swine,
and dogs, and sometimes you hardly knew which a man was, a real man or
one of these animals. And spirits were growing in men as fast as this
might be. Everything, you see, lay in savage angles and wild lines.

Little Peter was playing one morning in the palace garden, and such
playing as it was! He would be moulding little balls of loam and
fashioning them with seeds, when suddenly they would break into life as
buds and then as flowers, almost as one now sees twigs of wood break
into life, or as quiet cocoons become living butterflies--for the world
is not so different. Or Peter would be playing with a spongy-looking
mass on a rock in the brook, when it would break from its rock and go
gayly swimming about, and be a fish-thing. Or he would push at a bit of
ooze with a cat-tail, and a little flying life would mount abruptly
and wing away. It was exciting playing in those days, and some of the
things you can do in these days. Only then it was all new, so Peter
could see just how wonderful it was.

Now, that morning the king was walking in his palace garden. And he was
troubled, for everywhere that he looked there were loose ends and rough
edges, and shapeless things waiting to be fashioned, and it was so all
over his kingdom. There was such a great lot to do that he could not
possibly do it all alone--no king, however industrious, could have done
it all. And he longed for the help of all his subjects. So when the
king came on little Peter, busily making living things where none had
been before, he was mightily pleased, and he sat down with the little
lad on a grassy platform in the midst of the garden.

“Lo, now, little lad,” said the king, “what do you play?”

Instead of playing at keeping store or keeping house or at acting or
hunting or exploring, little Peter was playing another game.

“I’m playing it’s creation, your majesty,” he answered, “and I’m
playing help the king.”

“Lo, now,” said the king, “I would that all my subjects would play as
well as you.”

The king thought for a moment, looking out on all the savage angles and
wild lines, while little Peter watched a bit of leaf mould becoming a
green plant.

“Summon me my hundred heralds!” the king suddenly bade his servants.

So the servants summoned the hundred heralds, who hurried into their
blue velvet and silver buckles and came marching, twenty abreast,
across the grassy plateau, where the morning sun made patterns like
wings, and among the wings they bowed themselves and asked the king his
will.

“Hundred heralds,” said the king, “be it only that you do this
willingly, I would that you go out into my kingdom, into its highways
and even to its loneliest outposts, and take my people my message. Cry
to them, until each one hears with his heart as well as his head: ‘The
world is beginning. You must go and help the king.’”

Now, little Peter, when he heard the message, rose and stood beside the
king, and in his breast something thrilled and trembled like a smitten
chord. But as for the hundred heralds, they were troubled as one
man--though he not yet wholly a man.

“O king,” they said, twenty at a time, “blue velvet and silver buckles
are meet for the streets of cities and to call men to feasting
and to honour the king. But as for the highways and the loneliest
outposts--that is another matter.”

“But what of the message?” the king asked sadly, and this none of the
heralds knew how to answer; and presently the king sent them away, for
he would never have unwilling service in his palace or in his kingdom.
And as they went, little Peter looked after them, and he saw, and
the king saw, that for all their blue velvet and silver buckles, the
hundred heralds, marching away twenty abreast, were not yet all men,
but partly they were apes in manner and swine at heart. And little
Peter wondered if he fashioned them as he did his bits of mould,
whether they would burst from a sheath, _all_ men, as burst his little
plants.

“Summon me my thousand trumpeters!” the king bade his servants next.

The thousand trumpeters hurried into their purple velvet and their lace
collars and seized their silver trumpets, and came marching fifty
abreast across the grassy plateau, where the noon sun made a blinding
light, like the light of another sun; and they bowed themselves in the
brightness and asked the king his will.

But when the king had told them his will and had repeated the message
and asked them if they could go willingly, the thousand trumpeters were
troubled as one man--and he not yet wholly a man.

“O king,” said they, in fifties and one hundreds, “lo, now, these
silver trumpets. These are meet to sound up and down the streets of
cities and to call men to feasting and to honour the king, and never
are they meet to sound in the lonely outposts. Pray thee, O king, keep
us near thee.”

“But what of the message?” the king asked, and none of his trumpeters
could help him there, and he would have no unwilling service in his
palace or in his kingdom, so he sent them all away. And as they went,
little Peter looked after them, and he saw, and the king saw, that for
all their purple velvet and lace collars, the thousand trumpeters,
marching away fifty abreast, were not all men, but they were apes in
manner and swine and hounds at heart. And little Peter almost wished
that he could fashion them as he did his bits of mould and see if they
would not change into something better.

So then the king called a meeting of his High Council, and his
councillors hurried into their robes of state and appeared on the
grassy plateau when the evening was lighting the place to be a glory.

“Lo, now,” said the king, “I needs must send a message to all my
people. Let us devise or dream some way to take it.”

When they heard the message, the councillors nodded, with their hands
over their mouths, looking at the ground.

Then the king said--there, in the beginning of the world:--

“I have a thought about a wire which shall reach round the earth and
oversea and undersea, on which a man may send a message. And a thought
I have about a wire which shall stretch across the land, and upon that
wire a voice may travel alone. And a thought about messages that shall
pierce the air with no wire and no voice. But none of these things is
now.”

(“Nay,” said the council, murmuring among themselves, “or ever shall
be.”)

“--and if they were,” said the king, “I would have one serve me even
better than these, to reach the head and the heart of my people. How
shall I do this thing? For I must have help in finishing my kingdom.”

The council, stepping about in the slanting light, disputed the matter,
group by group, but there lay nowhere, it seemed, a conclusion.

“You yourselves,” the king cried at last, “who know well that the
kingdom must be completed, you yourselves gather the people in
multitudes together and tell them the message.”

But at this the High Council twitched their robes of state and would
have none of it.

“Who would sit in the high places if we did _that_?” said they.

So the king sent them all away, and little Peter, standing beside the
king, looked after them. And he saw, and the king saw, how, under their
robes of state, the High Council had not entirely stopped being ape
and swine and hound and tiger and, early in the world as it was, still
there seemed no great excuse for that.

“Oh, sire,” said little Peter, “I wish I could play with them as I play
with my bits of mould and loam and could turn them into something
better and alive.”

“Well said, little Peter,” replied the king, smiling sadly.

And now the west, which had been like a vast, stained-glass window,
streaming with warm light, fell into gray opaqueness, and the grassy
plateau became a place of shadows in which night things were born
gently. And the king looked away to the beast-shaped bushes and to all
the striving land.

“Oh, my kingdom, my kingdom!” he cried, grieving. “Now, would that this
little Peter here could help you in the making.”

And then little Peter stood upright in the faint light.

“May it please the king,” he said softly, “I will take the message to
his people.”

The king stared down at him.

“You?” he said. “_You_, little man? And how, pray, would you take my
message?”

“May it please the king,” said little Peter, “I would tell everyone in
the kingdom till all should have been told.”

“Little man,” said the king, “you are no bigger than a trumpet.”

“Ay,” said the little lad, “I think that is what I am. I would that I
be not Peter, but Trumpeter. So send me forth.”

At this the king laughed, and for the laughter his heart was the
lighter. He touched the boy’s brow.

“See, then, I touch your brow, little Trumpeter,” he said. “Go
forth--and do you know my message?”

“You had first touched my heart, your majesty,” said the little boy,
“and the message is there.”

You would think, perhaps, that Peter would have waited till the
morning, but he would not wait an hour. He made a little packet
of linen and of food, and just as the folk within the palace were
beginning their evening revelry, he stepped out on the highway and
fared forth under the moon.

But fancy walking on such a highway as that! At first glance it looked
like any other night road, stretching between mysterious green. But not
anything there could be depended upon to stay as it was. A hillock,
lying a little way ahead, became, as he reached it, a plumy shrub,
trembling with amazement at its transformation from dead earth to
living green. At a turn in the road, a low bush suddenly walked away
into the wood, a four-footed animal. Everything changed as he looked at
it, as if nothing were meant to be merely what it was. The world was
beginning!

At the foot of a hill, where the shadows were thick, Peter met the
first one to whom he could give his message. The man was twisted and
ragged and a beggar, and he peered down in Peter’s face horribly.

“Sir,” said Peter, courteously, “the world is beginning. You must go
and help the king.”

“Help the king!” cried the beggar, and his voice was uneven, like a
bark or a whine that was turning into words. “I can’t help the king
without my supper.”

“Supper is only supper,” said little Peter, who had never in his life
been hungry. “One must help the king--that is more.”

The beggar struck the ground with his staff.

“I’m hungry,” he said like a bark. “I want some supper and some dinner
and all the way back to breakfast before I help the king, world or no
world!”

And suddenly little Peter understood what it is to be hungry, and
that, if folk were hungry, they must first find means of feeding
themselves before they could listen. So he gave the beggar all that he
had of food in his packet, which was the least that he could do, and
sent him on his way, charging him with the message.

At the top of the hill, Peter came on another man, sitting under a
sycamore tree. The man was a youth, and very beautiful, and he was
making a little song, which went like this:--

    “_Open, world, your trembling petals slowly,
      Here one, there one, natal to its hour,
      Toward the time when, holden in a vessel holy,
      You shall be a flower._”

Though Peter did not know what the song might mean, yet it fell sweetly
upon the night, and he liked to listen. And when it was done, he went
and stood before the youth.

“Sir,” he said, “the world is beginning. You must go and help the king.”

“I know, I know, little lad,” said the youth, and his voice was clear,
like bird-notes that were turning into words. “I, too, tell the
message, making it in a song.”

And these words made Peter glad, so that his strength was new, and he
ran on with the poet’s gentle music in his ears.

I cannot tell you how far Peter went, but he went very far, and to
many a lonely outpost, and away and away on a drear frontier. It was
long to go and hard to do, but that is the way the world is made; and
little Peter went on, now weary, now frightened, now blithe, now in
good company, now alone and in the dark. I cannot tell you all the
adventures he had and all the things he did--perhaps you will know
these in some other way, sometime. And there were those to whom he
told the message who listened, or set out in haste for the king’s
palace; and some promised that they would go another day, and a few ran
to tell others. But many and many were like the hundred heralds and
the thousand trumpeters and the king’s High Council, and found many
a reason why they might not set out. And some there were who mocked
Peter, saying that the world indeed was doing very well without their
help and would work itself out if only one would wait; and others would
not even listen to the little lad.

At last, one morning when the whole world seemed glad that it was
beginning and seemed to long to tell about it, little Peter entered a
city, decorated for a festival. Everywhere were garlands of vines and
of roses, bright rugs and fluttering pennons and gilded things, as if
the world had been long enough begun so that already there were time
to take holidays. The people were flooding the streets and crowding
the windows, and through their holiday dress Peter could see how some
minced and mocked a little like apes, and others peered about like
giraffes, and others ravened for food and joy, like the beggar or the
bear or the tiger, and others kept the best, like swine, or skulked
like curs, or plodded like horses, or prattled like parrots. Animals
ran about, dumb like the vegetables they had eaten. Vegetables were
heaped in the stalls, mysterious as the earth which they had lately
been. The buildings were piled up to resemble the hills from whose
substance they had been created, and their pillars were fashioned like
trees. Everywhere were the savage angles and wild lines of one thing
turning into another. And Peter longed to help to fashion them all, as
he fashioned his little balls of mould and loam.

“There is so much yet to do,” thought little Peter, “I wonder that
they take so much time for holidays.”

So he ran quickly to a high, white place in the midst of the town,
where they were making ready to erect the throne of the king of the
carnival, and on that he stood and cried:--

“Hear me--hear me! The world is beginning. You must go and help the
king.”

Now, if those about the carnival throne had only said: “What is that to
us? Go away!” Peter would have been warned. But they only nodded, and
they said kindly: “Yes, so it is--and we mean to help presently. Come
and help us first!” And one of the revellers, seeing Peter, how little
he was, picked him up and held him at arm’s length and cried:--

“Lo, now, this little lad. He is no bigger than a trumpet....”

(That was what the king had said, and it pleased Peter to hear it said
again.)

“... Let us take him,” the revellers went on, “and _have_ him for a
trumpet. And take him with us in our great procession. What think ye?”

“And may I cry out what message I please?” little Peter asked eagerly.

“Surely,” answered all the revellers, gayly. “What is that to us, so
that you come with us?”

They picked him up and tossed him on their shoulders--for he was of
about a brazen trumpet’s weight, no more;--and Peter clapped his hands
for joy, for he was a boy and he loved to think that he would be a part
of that gorgeous procession. And they took him away to the great tent
on the city green where everyone was dressing for the carnival.

Peter never had seen anything so strange and wonderful as what was
within that tent. In it everything and everybody had just been or was
just going to be something or somebody else. Not only had the gay
garments piled on the floor just been sheep’s and silkworm’s coats,
not only had the colours laid upon them just been roots and stems and
herb-leaves, not only had the staves been tree’s boughs and elephant’s
tusks, but the very coal burning in the braziers and the oil in the
torches had once been sunshine, and the very flames had been air, and
before that water, and so on. But, most of all, the people showed what
they had been, for in any merry-making the kinds of animals in folk
can_not_ be covered up; and it was a regular menagerie.

They took little Peter and dressed him like a trumpet. They thrust both
his legs into one long cloth-of-gold stocking, and he held his arms
tightly at his sides while they wound his little body in ruffles of
gold-coloured silk, growing broader and broader into a full-gathered
ruff from which his laughing face peeped out. And he was so slender and
graceful that you could hardly have told him from a real, true, golden
trumpet.

Then the procession was ready to start, all lined up in the great
tent. And the heralds and the music all burst out at once as the green
curtain of the tent was drawn aside, and the long, glittering line
began to move. Little heralds, darting about for all the world like
squirrels and chipmunks; a great elephant of a master of ceremonies,
bellowing out the order of the day as if he had been presiding over
the jungle; a group of men high in the town’s confidence, whose spots
proclaimed them once to have been leopards, and other things; long,
lithe harlequins descended from serpents; little, fat clowns still
showing the magpie; prominent citizens, unable as yet to conceal the
fox and the wolf in their faces; the mayor of the town, revealing the
chameleon in his blood; little donkey men; and a fine old gentleman or
two made like eagles--all of them getting done into men as quickly as
possible. In the midst rode the king of the carnival, who had evidently
not long since been a lion, and that no doubt was why they picked him
out. He rode on a golden car from which sprays of green sprang out to
reach from side to side of the broad street. And at his lips, held like
a trumpet, he carried little Peter, one hand on Peter’s feet set to the
kingly lips, and the other stretched out to Peter’s breast.

Then Peter lifted up his shrill little voice and shouted loud his
message:--

“_The world is beginning! The world is beginning! The world is
beginning! You must go and help the king. You must go-o-o and help the
king!_”

But just as he cried that, the carnival band struck into a merry march,
and all the heralds were calling, and the people were shouting, and
Peter’s little voice did not reach very far.

“Shout again!” bade the king of the carnival, who did not care in the
least what Peter said, so long only as he acted like a trumpet.

So Peter shouted again--shouted his very best. He shouted as loudly
as he did at play, as loudly as when he swam and raced in the water,
as loudly as any boy could shout. But it seemed to him that his voice
carried hardly farther than the little chipmunk-and-squirrel heralds
before him, and that nobody heard him.

Still, it was all such fun! The glitter of the procession, the
eagerness of the people, the lilt and rhythm of the music. And fun
over all was it to be carried by the carnival king himself, high above
everyone and dressed like a golden trumpet. Surely, surely no boy
ever had more fun than that! Surely, surely it was no great marvel
that after a little time, so loud was the clamour and so fast the
excitement, that Peter stopped crying his message, and merely watched
and laughed and delighted with the rest.

Up and down through the thronged streets they went, that great,
glittering procession, winding its mile or more of spangles and gilding
and gay dress and animals richly caparisoned. Everywhere the crowded
walks and windows and balconies sent cheers into the air, everywhere
flowers were thrown and messages tossed and melody flooded. And
wherever that long line passed, everyone noted the king’s trumpet and
pointed it out and clapped hands and tried to throw upon it garlands.
And there was so much to see, and so much excitement there was in the
hour, that at last little Peter did not even think of his message, and
only jested and made merry. For it was the most wonderful game that
ever he had played.

“How now, my little trumpeter?” the king of the carnival would say
sometimes, when he rested his arms and held Peter at his side.

“Oh, _well_, your majesty!” Peter would cry, laughing up at him.

“This is all a fine game and nothing more,” the king of the carnival
would tell him. “Is this not so?”

Then he would toss the boy on high again, away above the golden car,
and Peter would cry out with the delight of it. And though there were
no wings and no great brightness in the air, yet the hour was golden
and joy was abroad like a person.

Presently, a band of mountebanks, dressed like ploughmen and
harvesters, came tumbling and racing by the procession, and calling to
everyone to come to a corn husking on the city green.

“Husks! Husks! A corn husking on the city green. Husks--husks--husks!”
they cried.

But there was such a tumult that no one could well hear what they said,
and presently they appealed to the carnival king to tell the people.

“Nay, O king, they hear us not for the noise of thy passing,” said
they. “Prithee tell the people what we would say.”

“Tell the people, my little trumpeter!” cried the king, and lifted
Peter to his lips.

And Peter shouted out with all his might.

“Husks! Husks! A corn husking on the city green. Husks--husks--husks!”

“Bravely done!” called the mountebanks, in delight, and ran alongside
the car, leaping and tumbling and grotesquely showing their delight.
“Bravely done! Tell the people--bid the people come!”

So Peter called again, and yet again, at the full strength of his
little voice. And it seemed to him that the people surely listened,
and it was a delight and a flattery to be the one voice in the great
procession, save only the music’s voice.

At last, for one moment it chanced that the bands ceased altogether
their playing, so that there was an instant of almost silence.

“_Husks, husks, husks!_” he cried, with all his might.

And as he did that, thin and clear through the silence, vexed somewhat
by the voices of the people,--now barks, now whines, now bellows, now
words,--Peter caught a little wandering melody, as though a bird’s
singing were turning into words:--

    “_Open, world, your trembling petals slowly,
      Here one, there one, natal to its hour_....”

and in the midst of that motley throng, Peter, looking down, saw the
poet whom he had left on the hill-top, now wandering alone and singing
his message to his lute.

“Oh, the king! Oh, _my_ king!” cried little Peter, as if he had had a
great wound.

“What now, my little trumpeter?” asked the carnival king.

“Not you--_not_ you!” cried Peter. “Oh, set me down,--set me down. Oh,
what have I done?”

“How _now_, little Trumpet?” cried the carnival king. But Peter,
instead of stretching out his little body, slim and trumpet-graceful,
turned and fell at the king’s feet in the car and slipped from his
grasp and scrambled through the branching green and reached the street.

There, in the wonder and then the mockery of the people, he began
struggling to free himself from the ruffles of cloth-of-gold about his
body. Some laughed, some ran from him as if he were mad, and some,
wishing for themselves the golden ruffles, helped him to pull them off
and to strip down the clinging golden stocking that bound his limbs.
And then, being close to the city gates, little Peter ran, all naked as
he was, without the gates and on to the empty road. And he ran sobbing
out his heart:--

“Oh, my king! I would have told them that the world is beginning--but,
instead I have told them only to get them husks!”

Now the poet, who had seen it all--and who understood--ceased his song
and made his way as quickly as might be for the press of the people,
and ran after Peter, and fared along the road beside him, trying to
comfort him. But the little lad might not be comforted, and he only
cried out again:--

“The king--the king! I would have given them his message--and I bade
them only to get them husks!”

So the poet--who understood--said no word at all, but he shielded Peter
with his mantle; and then he took his lute and walked beside the little
lad, singing.

They had gone but a short distance when they reached the top of a hill,
where the sun shone with exceeding brightness, and the poet noted
that the light fell almost like little wings. Peter saw none of this,
for his hands were still covering his face. But he heard the poet’s
singing interrupted by a voice. The voice was uneven--like a bark or
a whine that is turning into words--but yet its words were clear and
unmistakable. And they were:--

“_Sirs, the world is beginning. You must go and help the king._”

Peter looked up and he saw the man who had spoken, a man twisted and
ragged, but who smiled down into the little boy’s face so gently that,
for a moment, Peter did not know him; and then he recognized that
beggar to whom, on that night long ago, he had given food and the
message.

“Ay, friend!” the poet was answering him ringingly, “and we go!”

The beggar hurried on, and the poet touched Peter’s hand.

“Nay, now, little Peter,” he said, “grieve not your heart too much.
For you it was who told the beggar the message--from the top of the
hill I heard--and I saw you give him food. Can you tell any man without
some good coming true of the tidings? Then it may well be that there
are those in the town to whom you told the king’s message who will
remember, too. Go we forth together to try again!”

Peter looked down the long highway, stretching between the mysterious
green, where shrubs changed to animals in so little a space; and
then he looked away to the king’s kingdom and saw how it was not
finished--because the world had just stopped being nothing and was
beginning to be something--and he looked back towards the city where,
as at the court, men had not yet done being animals. Everything
was changing, as if nothing were meant to be merely what it is.
And everything was in savage angles and wild lines. The world was
beginning. The people _must_ be told to go and help the king.

“Go we forth together to try again,” the poet repeated.

He touched his lute, and its melody slipped into the sunshine.

    “_Toward the time when, holden in a vessel holy,
      You shall be a flower._”

Then Peter stretched out his arms, and his whole slender little body
became like one trumpet voice, and that voice strong and clear to reach
round the world itself.

“I try once again!” he answered. “The world is beginning. _I must go
and help the king._”



VI

MY LADY OF THE APPLE TREE


Our lawn was nine apple trees large. There were none in front, where
only Evergreens grew, and two silver Lombardy poplars, heaven-tall. The
apple trees began with the Cooking-apple tree by the side porch. This
was, of course, no true tree except in apple-blossom time, and at other
times hardly counted. The length of twenty jumping ropes--they call
them skipping ropes now, but we never called them so--laid one after
another along the path would have brought one to the second tree, the
Eating-apple tree, whose fruit was red without and pink-white within.
To this day I do not know what kind of apples those were, whether
Duchess, Gilliflower, Russet, Sweet, or Snow. But after all, these only
name the body of the apple, as Jasper or Edith names the body of you.
The soul of you, like the real sense of Apple, lives nameless all its
days. Sometime we must play the game of giving us a secret name--the
Pathfinder, the Lamplighter, the Starseeker, and so on. But colours and
flavours are harder to name and must wait longer than we.

... Under this Nameless tree, then, the swing hung, and to sit in the
swing and have one’s head touch apple-blossoms, and mind, not touch
them with one’s foot, was precisely like having one’s swing knotted to
the sky, so that one might rise in rhythm, head and toe, up among the
living stars. I can think of no difference worth the mentioning, so
high it seemed. And if one does not know what rhythm is, one has only
to say it over: Spring, Summer, apple-blossom, apple; new moon, old
moon, running river, echo--and then one will know.

“I would pick some,” said Mother, looking up at the apple-blossoms, “if
I only knew which ones will never be apples.”

So some of the blossoms would never be apples! Which ones? _And why?_

“Why will some be apples and some others never be apples?” I inquired.

But Mother was singing and swinging me, and she did not tell.

“Why will you be apples and you not be apples, and me not know which,
and you not know which?” I said to the apple-blossoms when next my head
touched them. Of course, you never really speak to things with your
throat voice, but you think it at them with your head voice. Perhaps
that is the way they answer, and that is why one does not always hear
what they say....

The apple-blossoms did not say anything that I could hear. The
stillness of things never ceased to surprise me. It would have been far
less wonderful to me if the apple-blossoms and the Lombardy poplars and
my new shoes had answered me sometimes than that they always kept their
unfriendly silence. One’s new shoes _look_ so friendly, with their
winking button eyes and their placid noses! And yet they act as cross
about answering as do some little boys who move into the neighbourhood.

... Indeed, if one comes to think of it, one’s shoes are rather like
the sturdy little boys among one’s clothes. One’s slippers are more
like little girls, all straps and bows and tiptoes. Then one’s aprons
must be the babies, long and white and dainty. And one’s frocks and
suits--that is to say, one’s _new_ frocks and suits--are the ladies
and gentlemen, important and elegant; and one’s everyday things are
the men and women, neither important nor elegant, but best of all; and
one’s oldest garments are the witches, shapeless and sad and haunted.
This leaves ribbons and sashes and beads to be fairies--both good and
bad.

The silence of the Nameless tree was to lift a little that very day.
When Mother had gone in the house,--something seemed always to be
pulling at Mother to be back in the house as, in the house, something
always pulled at me to be back out-of-doors,--I remember that I was
twisting the rope and then lying back over the board, head down,
for the untwisting. And while my head was whirling and my feet were
guiding, I looked up at the tree and saw it as I had never seen it
before: soft falling skirts of white with lacy edges and flowery
patterns, drooping and billowing all about a pedestal, which was the
tree trunk, and up-tapering at the top like a waist--why, the tree was
a lady! Leaning in the air there above the branches, surely I could
see her beautiful shoulders and her white arms, her calm face and her
bright hair against the blue. She had risen out of the trunk at the
tree’s blossoming and was waiting for someone to greet her.

I struggled out of the swing and scrambled, breathless, back from the
tree and looked where she should be. Already I knew her. Nearly, I knew
the things that she would say to me--sometimes now I know the things
that she would have said if we had not been interrupted.

The interruption came from four girls who lived, as I thought, outside
my world,--for those were the little days when I did not yet know
that this cannot be. They were the Eversley sisters, in full-skirted,
figured calico, and they all had large, chapped hands and wide teeth
and stout shoes. For a year they had been wont to pass our house on the
way to the public school, but they had spoken to me no more than if
I had been invisible--until the day when I had first entered school.
After that, it was as if I had been born into their air, or thrown in
the same cage, or had somehow become one of them. And I was in terror
of them.

“Come ’ere once!” they commanded, their voices falling like sharp
pebbles about the Apple-blossom lady and me.

Obediently I ran to the front fence, though my throat felt sick when
I saw them coming. “Have an apple core? Give us some of them flowers.
Shut your eyes so’s you’ll look just like you was dead.” These were
the things that they always said. Something kept telling me that I
ought not to tell them about my lady, but I was always wanting to win
their approval and to let them know that I was really more one of them
than they thought. So I disobeyed, and I told them. Mysteriously,
breathlessly I led them back to the tree; and feeling all the time that
I was not keeping faith, I pointed her out to them. I showed them just
where to look, beginning with the skirts, which surely anybody could
see.... I used often to dream that a crowd of apish, impish little folk
was making fun of me, and that afternoon I lived it, standing out alone
against those four who fell to instant jeering. If they had stooped and
put their hands on their knees and hopped about making faces, it would
have been no more horrible to me than their laughter. It held for me
all the sense of bad dreams, and then of waking alone, in the middle of
the night. The worst was that I could find no words to make them know.
I could only keep saying, “She is there, she is there, she is there.”
By some means I managed not to cry, not even when they each broke a
great branch of blossoms from the Eating-apple tree and ran away,
flat-footed, down the path; not indeed until the gate had slammed and I
turned back to the tree and saw that my lady had gone.

There was no doubt about it. Here were no longer soft skirts, but only
flowery branches where the sunlight thickened and the bees drowsed.
My lady was gone. Try as I might, I could not bring her back. So she
had been mocking me too! Otherwise, why had she let me see her so that
I should be laughed at, and then herself vanished? Yet, even then, I
remember that I did not doubt her, or for a moment cease to believe
that she was really there; only I felt a kind of shame that I could
see her, and that the others could not see her. I had felt the same
kind of shame before, never when I was alone, but always when I was
with people. We played together well enough,--Pom, pom, pullaway,
Minny-minny motion, Crack-the-whip, London Bridge, and the rest, save
that I could not run as fast as nearly everybody. But the minute we
stopped playing and _talked_, then I was always saying something so
that the same kind of shame came over me.

I saw Delia crossing the street. In one hand she held two cookies which
she was biting down sandwich-wise, and in the other hand two cookies,
as yet unbitten. The latter she shook at me.

“I knew I’d see you,” she called resentfully. “I says I’d give ’em to
you if I saw you, and if I didn’t see you--”

She left it unfinished at a point which gave no doubt as to whose
cookies they might have been had I not been offensively about. But
the cookies were fresh, and I felt no false delicacy. However, after
deliberation, I ate my own, one at a time, rejecting the sandwich
method.

“It lasts them longest,” I explained.

“The other way they bite thicker,” Delia contended.

“Your teeth don’t taste,” I objected scientifically.

Delia opened her eyes. “Why, they do too!” she cried.

I considered. I had always had great respect for the strange chorus
of my teeth, and I was perfectly ready to regard them as having
independent powers.

“Oh, not when you eat tipsy-toes like that,” said Delia, scornfully.
“Lemme show you....” She leaned for my cooky, her own being gone. I ran
shamelessly down the path toward the swing, and by the time the swing
was reached I had frankly abandoned serial bites.

I sat on the grass, giving Delia the swing as a peace-offering. She
took it, as a matter of course, and did not scruple to press her
advantage.

“Don’t you want to swing me?” she said.

I particularly disliked being asked in that way to do things. Grown-ups
were always doing it, and what could be more absurd: “Don’t you want
to pick up your things now?” “Don’t you want to let auntie have that
chair?” “Don’t you want to take this over to Mrs. Rodman?” The form of
the query always struck me as quite shameless. I truthfully shook my
head.

“I’m company,” Delia intimated.

“When you’re over to my house, I have to let you swing because you’re
company,” I said speculatively, “and when I’m over to your house, I
have to let you swing because it’s your swing.”

“I don’t care about being company,” said Delia, loftily, and started
home.

“I’ll swing you. I was only fooling!” I said, scrambling up.

It worked--as Delia knew it would and always did work. All the same,
as I pushed Delia, with my eyes on the blue-check gingham strap
buttoned across the back of her apron, I reflected on the truth and
its parallels: How, when Delia came to see me, I had to “pick up” the
playthings and set in order store or ship or den or cave or county fair
or whatnot because Delia had to go home early; and when I was over to
Delia’s, I had to help put things away because they were hers and she
had got them out.

Low-swing, high-swing, now-I’m-going-to-run-under-swing--I gave them
all to Delia and sank on the grass to watch the old cat die. As it
died, Delia suddenly twisted the rope and then dropped back and lay
across the board and loosed her hands. I never dared “let go,” as we
said, but Delia did and lay whirling, her hair falling out like a sun’s
rays, and her eyes shut.

I watched her, fascinated. If she opened her eyes, I knew how the
picket fence would swim for her, no longer a line but a circle. Then
I remembered what I had seen in the tree when I was twisting, and I
looked back....

There she was! Quite as I had fleetingly seen her, with lacy skirts
and vague, sweeping sleeves and bending line of shoulder, my Lady of
the Tree was there again. I looked at her breathlessly, unsurprised at
the gracious movement of her, so skilfully concealed by the disguises
of the wind. Oh, was she there all the time, or only in apple-blossom
time? Would she be there not only in white Spring but in green Summer
and yellow Fall--why, perhaps all those times came only because she
changed her gown. Perhaps night came only because she put on something
dusky, made of veils. Maybe the stars that I had thought looked to be
caught in the branches were the jewels in her hair. And the wind might
be her voice! I listened with all my might. What if she should tell me
her name ... and know my name!...

“Seventeen un-twists,” announced Delia. “Did you ever get that many out
of such a little stingy swing as you gave me?”

I did not question the desirability of telling Delia. The four Eversley
girls had been barbarians (so I thought). Delia I had known always. To
be sure, she had sometimes failed me, but these times were not real. My
eyes were on the tree, and Delia came curiously toward me.

“Bird?” she whispered.

I shook my head and beckoned her. Still looking at my lady, I drew
Delia down beside me, brought her head close to mine.

“Look,” I said, “her skirt is all branches--and her face is turned the
other way. See her?”

Delia looked faithfully. She scanned the tree long and impartially.

“See her? See her?” I insisted, under the impression that I was
defining her. “It’s a lady,” I breathed it finally.

“Oh,” said Delia, “you mean that side of the tree is the shape of one.
Yes, it is--kind of. I’m going home. We got chocolate layer cake for
supper. Good-bye. Last tag.”

I turned to Delia for a second. When she went, I looked back for my
lady--but she had gone. Only--now I did not try to bring her back.
Neither did I doubt her, even then. But there came back a certain
loneliness that I had felt before, only never so much as now. Why was
it that the others could not see?

I lay face downward in the grass under the tree. There were other
things like this lady that I had been conscious of, which nobody else
seemed to care about. Sometimes I had tried to tell. More often I had
instinctively kept still. Now slowly I thought that I understood: I was
different. Different from the whole world. Did I not remember how, when
I walked on the street, groups of children would sometimes whisper:
“There she is--there she is!” Or, “Here she comes!” I had thought, poor
child, that this would be because my hair was long, like little Eva’s
in the only play that most of us had seen. But now I thought I knew
what they had known and I had not known: That I was different.

I dropped my face in the crook of my arm and cried--silently, because
to cry aloud seemed always to have about it a kind of nakedness; but I
cried sorely, pantingly, with aching throat, and tried to think it out.

What was this difference? I had heard them say in the house that my
head was large, my hair too long to let me be healthy; and the four
Eversleys always wanted me to shut my eyes so that I should look dead.
But it was something other than these. Maybe--I shall never forget the
grip of that fear--maybe I was not human. Maybe I was Adopted. I had no
clear idea what Adopted meant, but my impression was that it meant not
to have been born at all. That was it. I was like the apple-blossoms
that would never be apples. I was just a Pretend little girl, a kind of
secret one, somebody who could never, never be the same as the rest.

I turned from that deep afternoon and ran for the wood-pile where I had
a hiding-place. Down the path I met Mother and clung to her.

“Mother, Mother!” I sobbed. “Am I adopted?”

“No, dear,” she said seriously. “You are mine. What is it?”

“Promise me I’m not!” I begged.

“I promise,” she said. “Who has been talking to you? You little lamb,
come in the house,” she added. “You’re tired out, playing.”

I went with her. But the moment had entered me. I was not like the
rest. I said it over, and every time it hurt. There is no more
passionate believer in democracy than a child.

Across the street Delia was sitting on the gate-post, ostentatiously
eating chocolate layer cake, and with her free hand twisting into
a curl the end of her short braid. Between us there seemed to have
revealed itself a gulf, life-wide. Had Delia always known about me? Did
the Rodman girls know? And Calista? The four Eversleys must know--this
was why they laughed so.... But I remember how, most of all, I hoped
that Mary Elizabeth did not know--yet.

From that day I faced the truth: I was different. I was somehow not
really-truly. And it seemed to me that nothing could ever be done about
it.



VII

THE PRINCESS ROMANCIA


That night I could not go to sleep with the knowledge. If only I, as I
am now, might have sat on the edge of the bed and told a story to me
as I was then! I am always wishing that we two might have known each
other--I as I am now and I as I was then. We should have been so much
more interested in each other than anybody else could ever be. I can
picture us looking curiously at each other through the dark, and each
would have wished to be the other--how hard we would have wished that.
But neither of us would have got it, as sometimes happens with wishes.

Looking back on that night, and knowing how much I wanted to be like
the rest, I think this would be the story that I, as I am now, would
have told that Little Me.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once upon a time to the fairy king and queen there was born a little
daughter. And the king, being a modern fairy, determined to invite to
the christening of his daughter twelve mortals--a thing never before
countenanced in fairy ceremony. And of course all unreal people are
always very particular about their ceremonies being _just_ so.

It was a delicate and difficult task to make out that mortal invitation
list, for it was very hard to find in the world twelve human beings
who, at a fairy party, would exactly fit in. After long thought and
consultation with all his ministers and councillors, the king made out
the following list:--

A child; a poet; a scientist; a carpenter; a prophet; an artist; an
artisan; a gardener; a philosopher; a woman who was also a mother; a
man who was also a father; and a day labourer.

“Do you think that will do _at all_?” the fairy king asked the fairy
queen, tossing over the list.

“Well, dear,” she replied, “it’s probably the best you can do. You know
what people are.” She hesitated a mere breath--a fairy’s breath--and
added: “I do wonder a little, though, just _why_ the day labourer.”

“My dear,” said the king, “some day you will understand that, and many
other things as well.”

The christening room was a Vasty Hall, whose deep blue ceiling was as
high as the sky and as strange as night. Lamps, dim as the stars, hung
very high, and there was one silver central chandelier, globed like the
moon, and there were frescoes like clouds. The furnishings of the Vasty
Hall were most magnificent. There were pillars like trees spreading out
into capitals of intricate and leafy design. Lengths of fair carpet ran
here and there, as soft and shining as little streams; there were thick
rugs as deep as moss, seats of native carved stone, and tapestries as
splendid as vistas curtaining the distance. And the music was like the
music of All-night, all done at once.

To honour the occasion the fairy guests had all come dressed as
something else--for by now, of course, the fairies are copying many
human fashions. One was disguised as a Butterfly with her own wings
prettily painted. One represented a Rose, and she could hardly be
distinguished from an American Beauty. One was made up as a Light,
whom nobody could recognize. One was a White Moth and one was a
Thistle-down, and there were several fantastic toilettes, such as a
great Tulle Bow, a Paper Doll, and an Hour-glass. As for the Human
Beings present, they all came masked as themselves, as usual; and their
names I cannot give you, though sometimes I see someone with dreaming
eyes whom I think may possibly have been one of those twelve--for of
course it must have made a difference in their looks ever afterward.
It was a very brilliant assemblage indeed, and everyone was most
intangible and elusive, which are fairy terms for well-behaved.

While the guests were waiting for the fairy baby princess to be brought
in, they idled about, with that delightful going-to-be-ice-cream
feeling which you have at any party in some form or another, only
you must _never_ say so, and they exchanged the usual pleasant
nothing-at-alls. It is curious how very like human nothings fairy
nothings are.

For example:--

“There is a great deal of night about,” said the Butterfly Fairy with a
little shiver. “If I were a truly butterfly, I should never be able to
find my way home.”

“And there is such a fad for thunder-and-lightning this season,” added
the Paper Doll Fairy, agreeably.

“Do you remember,” asked the White Moth Fairy, “the night that we all
dressed as white moths and went to meet the moon? We flew until we were
all in the moonlight, and then we knew that we had met her. I wonder
why more people do not meet the moon-rise?”

“That reminds me,” said the Thistle-down Fairy, “of the day we all made
up as snowflakes and went to find the Spring. Don’t you know how she
surprised us, in the hollow of the lowland? And what a good talk we
had? I wonder why more people do not go to meet the Spring?”

“A charming idea!” cried the Rose Fairy to the Light Fairy, and the
Light Fairy shone softly upon her, precisely like an answer.

Then somebody observed that the wind that night was a pure soprano, and
the guests amused themselves comparing wind-notes; how on some nights
the wind is deep bass, like a man’s voice, raging through the world;
and sometimes it is tenor, sweet, and singing only serenades; and
sometimes it is all contralto and like a lullaby; and sometimes, but
not often, it is like harp music played on the trees.

Suddenly the whole dark lifted, like a garment; and moonlight flooded
the Vasty Hall. And as if they had filtered down the air with the
light, the fairy christening party entered--not as we enter a room, by
thresholds and steps, but the way that a thought comes in your head and
you don’t know how it got there.

The christening party wore robes of colours that lie deep between
the colours and may hardly be named. And, in a secret ceremony, such
as attends the blooming of flowers, the fairy baby was christened
Romancia. Then the fairies brought her many offerings; and these having
been received and admired, a great hush fell on the whole assembly,
for now the twelve Human Beings came forward with their gifts. And
everyone, except, indeed, the princess herself, was wild with curiosity
to see what they had brought.

No one left a card with any gift, but when the fairy king came to look
them over afterward, he felt certain who had brought each one. The
gifts were these: A little embroidered gown which should make everyone
love the princess while she wore it; a gazing crystal which would
enable the princess to see one hundred times as much as anybody else
saw; certain sea secrets and sea spells; a lyre which played itself;
a flask containing a draught which should keep the princess young; a
vial of colours which hardly anyone ever sees; flowers and grasses and
leaves which could be used almost like a dictionary to spell out other
things; an assortment of wonderful happy fancies of every variety; a
new rainbow; a box of picture cards of the world, every one of which
should come true if one only went far enough; and a tapestry of the
universe, wrapped around a brand-new idea in a box.

When these things had been graciously accepted by the king, there was
a stir in the company, and sweeping into its midst came another Human
Being, one who thought that she had every right to be invited to the
christening, but who had not been invited. All the fairies shrank back,
for it was an extraordinary-looking Human Being. She was tall and lithe
and wore a sparkling gown, and her face had the look of many cities,
and now it was like the painted cover of an empty box, and all the time
it had the meaning only of those who never look at the stars, or walk
in gardens, or think about others rather than themselves, or listen to
hear what it is right for them to do. This kind of Human Being is one
who not often has any good gift to give to anyone, and this the fairies
knew.

The Vasty Hall became very quiet to see what she had brought, for no
one understood what she could possibly have to bestow upon a baby. And
without asking leave of the king or the queen, she bent over the child
and clasped on her wrist the tiniest bracelet that was ever made in the
world, and she snapped its lock as fast as the lock on a fetter, and
held up the tiniest key that ever was wrought.

“The princess,” she cried, “shall seem _different from everyone else_.
She shall seem like nobody who is or ever has been. As long as she
wears her bracelet, this shall be true; and that she may never lose it,
I shall hold her bracelet’s key. Hail to this little princess child,
who shall seem like nobody in the world!”

Now, no one present was quite certain what this might mean, but the
lady’s robe was so beautifully embroidered and sparkling, and her voice
was such a thing of loops and curves, that nearly everyone accepted the
gift as something fine after all, and the queen gave her her hand to
kiss. But the king, who was a very wise fairy, said nothing at all, and
merely bowed and eyed the bracelet, in deep thought.

His meditation was interrupted by a most awkward incident. In the
excitement of the bestowal of gifts by the Human Beings, and in the
confusion of the entrance of the thirteenth and uninvited Human Being,
one of them all had been forgotten and had got himself shuffled well
at the back of everyone. And now he came pressing forward in great
embarrassment, to bring his gift. It was the day labourer, and several
of the Human Beings drew hastily back as he approached the dais. But
everyone fell still farther back in consternation when it was seen
what he had brought. For on the delicate cobweb coverlet of the little
princess’s bed, he cast a spadeful of earth.

“It’s all I’ve got,” the man said, “or I’d brought a better.”

The earth all but covered the little bed of the princess, and it was
necessary to lift her from it, which the fairy queen did with her own
hands, flashing a reproachful glance at her husband, the king. But
when the party had trooped away for the dancing,--with the orchestra
playing the way a Summer night would sound if it were to steep itself
in music, so that it could only be heard and not seen,--then the king
came quietly back to the christening chamber and ordered the spadeful
of earth to be gathered up and put in a certain part of the palace
garden.

And so (the Human Beings having gone home at once and forgotten that
they had been present), when the music lessened to silence and the
fairies stole from note to note and at last drifted away as invisibly
as the hours leave a dial, they passed, in the palace garden, a great
corner of the rich black earth which the day labourer had brought to
the princess. And it was ready for seed sowing.

The Princess Romancia grew with the days and the years, and from the
first it was easily to be seen that certainly she seemed different
from everyone in the world. As a baby she began talking in her cradle
without having been taught--not very plainly, to be sure, or so that
anybody in particular excepting the fairy queen understood her--but
still she talked. As a little girl she seemed always to be listening
to things as if she understood them as well as she did people, or
better. When she grew older, nobody knew quite how she differed, but
everybody agreed that she seemed different. And this the princess knew
better than anybody, and most of the time it made her hurt all over.

When the fairies played at thistle-down ball, the princess often played
too, but she never felt really like one of them all. She felt that they
were obliged to have her play with them because she was the princess,
and not because they wanted her. When they played at hide-and-go-seek
in a flower bed, somehow the others always hid together in the big
flowers, and the princess hid alone in a tulip or a poppy. And whenever
they whispered among themselves, she always fancied that they were
whispering of her. She imagined herself often looked at with a smile or
a shrug; she began to believe that she was not wanted but only endured
because she was the princess, and she was certain that no one liked
her for herself alone, because she was somehow so different. Little by
little she grew silent, and refused to join in the games, and sat apart
alone. Presently she began to give blunt answers and to take exception
and even to disagree. And, of course, little by little the court began
secretly to dislike her, and to cease to try to understand her, and
they told one another that she was hopelessly different and that that
was all that there was to be said about her.

[Illustration: LITTLE BY LITTLE SHE GREW SILENT AND REFUSED TO JOIN
IN THE GAMES.]

But in spite of all this, the Princess Romancia was very beautiful, and
the fame of her beauty went over the whole of fairyland. When enough
years had gone by, fairy princes from this and that dominion began to
come to the king’s palace to see her. But though they all admired the
princess’s great beauty, many were of course repelled by her sharp
answers and her constant suspicions.

But at last the news of the princess’s beauty and strangeness reached
the farthest border of fairyland and came to the ears of the young
Prince Hesperus. Now Prince Hesperus, who was the darling of his
father’s court and beloved of everybody, was tired of everybody. “Every
fairy is like every other fairy,” he was often heard saying wearily.
“I do wish I could find somebody with a few new ways. One would think
fairies were all cut from one pattern!” Therefore, when word came to
him of the strange and beautiful Princess Romancia, who was believed
to be different from everyone else in the world, you can imagine with
what haste he made ready and set out for her father’s place.

Prince Hesperus arrived at the palace at twilight, when the king’s
garden was wrapped in that shadow light which no one can step through,
_if he looks_, without feeling somewhat like a fairy himself and
glad to be one. He sent his servants on ahead, folded his wings, and
proceeded on foot through the silent gardens. And in a little arbour
made of fallen petals, renewed each day, he came on the Princess
Romancia, asleep. He, of course, did not recognize her, but never,
since for him the world began, had the prince seen anyone so beautiful.

His step roused her and she sprang to her feet. And as soon as he
looked at her, Prince Hesperus found himself wanting to tell her of
what he had just been thinking, and before he knew it he was doing so.

“I have just been thinking,” he said, “what a delightful pet a
leaf-shadow would make, if one could catch it and tame it. I wonder if
one could do it? Think how it would dance for one, all day long.”

The Princess Romancia stared a little.

“But when the sun went down,” she was surprised into saying, “the
shadow would be dead.”

“Not at all,” the prince replied, “it would only be asleep. And it
would never have to be fed, and it could live in one’s palace.”

“I would like such a pet,” said the princess, thoughtfully.

“If I may walk with you,” said the prince, “we will talk more about it.”

They walked together toward the palace and talked more about it, so
that the Princess Romancia quite forgot to be more different than she
was, and the prince forgot all about everything save his companion.
And he saw about her all the gifts of tenderness and vision and magic,
of sea secrets and sea spells, of music and colours and knowledge and
charming notions which the Human Beings had brought her at her birth,
though these hardly ever were visible _because_ the princess seemed
so different from everybody else. And when, as they drew near the
palace, their servants came hastening to escort them, the two looked at
each other in the greatest surprise to find that they were prince and
princess. For all other things had seemed so much more important.

Their formal meeting took place that evening in the Vasty Hall, where,
years before, the princess had been christened. Prince Hesperus was
filled with the most joyous anticipation and awaited his presentation
to the princess with the feeling that fairyland was just beginning. But
the princess, on the other hand, was no sooner back in the palace among
her ladies than the curse of her terrible christening present descended
upon her as she had never felt it before. How, the poor princess
thought, could the prince possibly like her, who was so different from
everybody in the world? While she was being dressed, every time that
her ladies spoke in a low tone, she imagined that they were speaking of
her; every time that one smiled and shook her head, the princess was
certain that it was in pity of her. She fancied that they knew that
her walk was awkward, her voice harsh, her robe in bad taste, and an
old fear came upon her that the palace mirrors had all been changed
to conceal from her that she was really very ugly. In short, by the
time that she was expected to descend, poor Princess Romancia had made
herself utterly miserable.

Therefore, when, in her gown of fresh cobweb, the princess entered the
hall and the prince hastened eagerly forward, she hardly looked at him.
And when, at the banquet that followed, he sat beside her and tried to
continue their talk of the arbour and the walk, she barely replied at
all.

“How beautiful you are,” he murmured.

“So is the night,” said the princess, “and you do not tell the night
that it is beautiful.”

“Your eyes are like stars,” the prince said.

“There are real stars above,” said the princess.

“You are like no one else!” cried the prince.

“At least you need not charge me with that,” said the poor princess.

Nor would she dance with him or with anyone else. For she imagined that
they did not wish to dance with her, and that her dancing was worse
than anyone’s. And as soon as she was able, and long before cock-crow,
she slipped away from them all and went to sleep in a handy crocus cup.

Now at all this the king and queen were nearly as distressed as the
prince, and they were obliged to tell Prince Hesperus the whole story
of the christening. When he heard about the uninvited Human Being who
had given the baby princess this dreadful present and had kept the key
to the bracelet which was its bond, he sprang up and grasped his tiny
sword.

“I will go out in the world and find this Human Being,” he cried, “and
I will bring back the bracelet key.”

Without again seeing the princess, Prince Hesperus left the palace and
fared forth on his quest. And when she found that he was gone, she was
more wretched than ever before. For in her life no one had ever talked
to her as he had talked, speaking his inmost fancies, and when she had
lost him, she wanted more than ever to talk with him. But the king, who
was a very wise fairy, did not tell her where the prince had gone.

And now the Princess Romancia did not know what to do with herself. The
court was unbearable; all her trivial occupations bored her; and the
whole world seemed to have been made different from all other worlds.
Worst to endure was the presence of her companions, who all seemed to
love and to understand one another, while she only was alone and out of
their sympathy.

“Oh,” she cried, “if only I had a game or a task to do with somebody or
something that didn’t know I am different--that wouldn’t know who I am!”

And she thought longingly of the prince’s fancy about the leaf-shadow
for a pet which should dance with one all day long.

“A leaf-shadow would not know that I am not like everybody else!” the
poor princess thought.

One night, when a fairy ring had been formed in an open grassy space
among old oaks, the princess could bear it all no longer. When the
music was at its merriest and a band of strolling goblin musicians were
playing their maddest, she slipped away and returned to the palace by
an unfrequented path and entered a long-disused part of the garden.
And there, in a corner where she had never before walked, she came on
a great place of rich, black earth, which, in the sweet Spring air,
lay ready for the sowing. It was the spadeful of earth which the day
labourer had brought to her christening; and there, for all these
years, the king had caused it to remain untouched, its own rank weed
growth enriching its richness, until but a touch would now turn it
to fruitage. And seeing it so, and being filled with her wish for
something which should take her thought away from herself and from her
difference from all the world, the Princess Romancia was instantly
minded to make a garden.

Night being the work time and play time of the fairies, the princess
went at once to the palace granaries and selected seeds of many kinds,
flower and vegetable and fern seeds, and she brought them to this
corner of rich earth, and there she planted them, under the moon. She
would call no servants to help her, fearing lest they would smile among
themselves at her strange doing. All night she worked at the planting,
and when morning came, she fell asleep in a mandrake blossom, and woke
hungry for a breakfast of honeydew and thinking of nothing save getting
back to her new gardening.

The Wind helped her, and as the days passed, the Sun and the Rain
helped her, and she used certain magic which she knew, so that
presently her garden was a glory. Poppies and corn, beans and berries,
green peas and sweet peas, pinks and potatoes, celery and white phlox,
melons and cardinal flowers--all these grew wonderfully together, as
it were, hand in hand, as they will grow for fairy folk, and in such
great luxuriance that the princess wrought early and late to keep them
ordered and watered. She would have no servants to help her, for she
grew more and more to love her task. For here at last in her garden
she had found those whom she could not imagine to be smiling among
themselves at anything that she said or did; but all the green things
responded to her hands like friends answering to a hand clasp, and when
the flowers nodded to one another, this meant only that a company of
little leaf-shadows were set dancing on the earth, almost as if they
had been tamed to be her pets, according to the prince’s fancy.

Up at the palace the queen and the ladies-in-waiting to the queen and
the princess regarded all this as but another sign of poor Romancia’s
strangeness. From her tower window the queen peered anxiously down at
her daughter toiling away at sunrise.

“Now she is raising carrots and beets,” cried the queen, wringing her
hands. “She grows more different from us every moment of her life!”

“She seems to do so,” admitted the king; but he was very wise; and,
“Let her be,” he commanded everybody. “We may see what this all means,
and a great many other things as well.”

Meanwhile Prince Hesperus, journeying from land to land and from height
to valley, was seeking in vain for the one person who, as he thought,
could remove from the princess the curse of her difference from all the
rest of the world. And it was very strange how love had changed him;
for now, instead of his silly complaint that every fairy is like every
other fairy, and his silly longing for a different pattern in fairies,
he sought only for the charm which should make his beloved princess
like everybody else. Where should he find this terrible Human Being,
this uninvited one who held the key to the princess’s bracelet that was
so like a fetter?

He went first to the town nearest to fairyland. The people of the town,
having no idea how near to fairyland they really were, were going
prosaically about their occupations, and though they could have looked
up into the magic garden itself, they remained serenely indifferent.
There he found the very mother who had been at the christening of the
princess; and alighting close to a great task that she was doing
for the whole world, he tried to ask her who it was who makes folk
different from all the rest. But she could not hear his tiny, tiny
voice which came to her merely as a thought about something which could
not possibly be true. In a pleasant valley he came on that one who,
at the christening, had brought the lyre which played of itself, but
when the prince asked him his question, he fancied it to be merely
the wandering of his own melody, with a note about something new to
his thought. The poet by the stream singing of the brotherhood of
man, the prophet on a mountain foreseeing the brotherhood as in a
gazing crystal, the scientist weaving the brotherhood in a tapestry
of the universe--none of these knew anyone who can possibly make folk
different from everybody else, nor did any of the others on whom Prince
Hesperus chanced.

When one day he thought that he had found her, because he met one whose
face had the look of many cities and was like the painted cover of an
empty box, straightway he saw another and another and still others, men
and women both, who were like her, with only the meaning of those who
never look at the stars, or walk in gardens, or think about others
rather than themselves, or listen to hear what is right for them to do.
And then he saw that these are many and many, who believe themselves to
be different from everybody else and who try to make others so, and he
saw that it would be useless to look further among them for that one
who had the key for which he sought.

So at last Prince Hesperus turned sadly back toward the palace of the
princess.

“Alas,” said the prince, “it is for her own happiness that I seek to
have her like other people. For myself I would love her anyway. But
yet, what am I to do--for she seems so different that she will never
believe that I love her!”

It was already late at night when the prince found himself in the
neighbourhood of the palace, and being tired and travel-worn, he
resolved to take shelter in the cup of some flower and wait until the
palace revelries were done. Accordingly he entered the garden of an
humble cottage and crept within the petals of a wild lily growing in
the long, untended grass.

He had hardly settled himself to sleep when he heard from the cottage
the sound of bitter crying. Now this is a sound which no fairy will
ever pass by or ever so much as hear about without trying to comfort,
and at once Prince Hesperus rose and flew to the sill of an open
lattice.

He looked in on a poor room, with the meanest furnishings. On a
comfortless bed lay the father of the house, ill and helpless. His wife
sat by his side, and the children clung about her, crying with hunger
and mingling their tears with her own. The man turned and looked at
her, making a motion to speak, and Prince Hesperus flew into the room
and alighted on the handle of a great spade, covered with earth, which
stood in a corner.

“Wife,” the man said, “I’ve brought you little but sorrow and hunger.
I would have brought you more if I had had better. And now I see you
starve.”

“I am not _too_ hungry,” the wife said--but the children sobbed.

Prince Hesperus waited not a moment. He flew into the night and away
toward the palace, and missing the fairy ring where among old oaks the
fairies were dancing, he reached the palace by an unfrequented path and
entered a disused part of the palace garden. And there, in a corner
which he had never visited, Prince Hesperus saw a marvellous mass of
bloom and fruit--poppies and corn, beans and berries, green peas and
sweet peas, pinks and potatoes, celery and white phlox, melons and
cardinal flowers--all growing wonderfully together, as it were, hand in
hand. And above them, in a moon-flower clinging to the wall, sat the
Princess Romancia, rocking in the wind and brooding upon her garden.

“Come!” cried Prince Hesperus. “There is a thing to do!”

The princess looked at him a little fearfully, but he paid almost no
attention to her, so absorbed he was in what he wished to have done.

“Hard by is a family,” said the prince, “dying of hunger. Here is food.
Hale in these idlers dancing in the light of the moon, and let us carry
the family the means to stay alive.”

Without a word the princess went with him, and they appeared together
in the fairy ring and haled away the dancers. And when these understood
the need, they all joined together, fairies, goblin musicians and all,
and hurried away to the garden of the princess.

They wove a litter of sweet stems and into this they piled all the food
of the princess’s tending. And when the queen would have had them send
to the palace kitchen for supplies, the king, who was a wise fairy,
would not permit it and commanded that all should be done as the prince
wished. So when the garden was ravaged of its sweets, they all bore
them away, and trooped to the cottage, and cast them on the threshold.
And then they perched about the room, or hovered in the path of the
moonlight to hear what should be said. And Prince Hesperus and Princess
Romancia listened together upon the handle of the poor man’s spade.

At sight of the gifts the wife sprang up joyfully and cried out to her
husband, and the children wakened with happy shouts.

“Here is food--food!” they cried. “Oh, it must be from the fairies.”

The sick man looked and smiled.

“Ay,” he said, “the Little Folk have remembered us. They have brought
us rich store in return for my poor spadeful of earth.”

Then the prince and princess and all the court understood that this
poor man whom they had helped was that very day labourer who had
come to the christening of the princess. And swift as a moonbeam--and
not unlike one--Prince Hesperus darted from beside the princess and
alighted on the man’s pillow.

“Ah,” he cried, “can you not, then, tell me who it is who has the power
to make one different from everybody else in the world?”

In half delirium the day labourer heard the voice of the prince and
caught the question. But he did not know that it was the voice of the
prince, and he fancied it to be the voice of the whole world, as it
were throbbing with the prince’s question. And he cried out loudly in
answer:--

“No one has that power! No one is different! Those who seem different
hold no truth. We are all alike, all of us that live!”

Swiftly the prince turned to the king and the queen and the court.

“The uninvited Human Being,” he cried, “did she say that the princess
should _be_ different from all the world, or that she should merely
_seem_ different?”

The queen and the court could not remember, but the king, who was a
wise fairy, instantly remembered.

“She said that she should _seem_ different,” he said.

Then the prince laughed out joyfully.

“Ay,” he cried, “seem different, indeed! There are many and many who
may do that. But this man speaks truth and out of his spadeful of earth
we have learned it, _We are all alike, all of us who live!_”

With that he grasped his tiny sword and flew to the side of the
princess and lifted her hand in his. And with a swift, deft stroke he
cut from her wrist the bracelet that was like a fetter, and he took her
in his arms.

“Ah, my princess,” he cried. “You have seemed different from us all
only because you would have it so!”

The Princess Romancia looked round on the court, and suddenly she saw
only the friendliness which had always been there if she could have
believed. She looked on her father and mother, the king and the queen,
and she saw only tenderness. She looked on the day labourer and his
family and understood that, fairy and princess though she was, she was
like them and they were like her. Last, she looked in the face of the
prince--and she did not look away.

Invisibly, as the hours leave a dial, the fairies drifted from the
little room and back to the fairy ring among the old oaks to dance
for very joyousness. The labourer and his family, hearing them go,
were conscious of a faint lifting of the dark, as if morning were
coming, bringing a new day. And to the Princess Romancia, beside Prince
Hesperus, the world itself was a new world, where she did not walk
alone as she had thought, but where all folk who will have it so walk
together.



VIII

TWO FOR THE SHOW


First of all there was Every Day, with breakfast, lunch, outdoors,
dinner, and evenings.

Then there were Sundays, which were quite another kind of time,
as different as layer cake from sponge cake: With breakfast late,
and mustn’t-jump-rope, and the living-room somehow different, the
Out-of-doors moved farther off, our play-house not waiting for us
but acting busy at something else in which we had no part; the swing
hanging useless as it did when we were away from home and thought about
it in the night; bells ringing as if it were _their_ day; until we were
almost homesick to hear the grocer’s cart rattle behind the white horse.

There were school half holidays when the sun shone as it never shone
before, and we could not decide how to spend the time, and to look
ahead seemed a glorious year before dark.

There were the real holidays--Christmas and the Fourth and Birthdays,
which didn’t seem like days of time at all, but were like fairies of
time, not living in any clock.

And Company-time, when we were not to go in certain rooms, or sing in
the hall, and when all downstairs seemed unable to romp with us.

And Vacation-time, when 9 o’clock and 1 o’clock and 4 o’clock meant
nothing, and the face of the clock never warned or threatened and the
hands never dragged, and Saturday no longer stood out but sank into
insignificance, and the days ran like sands.

All these times there were when life grew different and either let us
in farther than ever before or else left us out altogether. But almost
the strangest and best of these was house-cleaning time.

Screens out, so that the windows looked like faces and not like masks!
The couch under the Cooking-apple tree! We used to lie on the couch and
look up in the boughs and wish that they would leave it there forever.
What was the rule that made them take it in? Mattresses in the backyard
to jump on and lie on and stare up from, so differently, into the blue.
Rugs like rooms, opening out into an adjoining pansy bed. Chairs set
about on the grass, as if at last people had come to understand, as we
had always understood, that the Outdoors is a real place to be in, and
not just a place to pass through to get somewhere else. If only, if
only some day they had brought the piano out on the lawn! To have done
one’s practising out there, just as if a piano were born, not made!
But they never did that, and we were thankful enough for the things
that they did do. When Saturday came, I found with relief that they had
still the parlour and one bedroom left to do. I had been afraid that by
then these would be restored to the usual dry and dustless order.

In the open window of the empty sitting-room I was sitting negligently
that morning, when I saw Mr. Britt going by. He was as old as anyone I
knew in the world--Mr. Britt must have been fifty. I never thought of
him as _folks_ at all. There were the other neighbours, all dark-haired
and quick and busy at the usual human errands; and then there was Mr.
Britt, leaving his fruit trees and his rose bushes to go down to his
office in the Court House. He had white hair, a long square white
beard, and he carried a stick with a crook in the handle. I watched
him pityingly. His life was all done, as tidy as a sewed seam, as
sure as a learned lesson. All lived out, a piece at a time, just as
I planned mine. How immeasurably long it had taken him; what a slow
business it must have seemed to him; how very old he was!

At our gate he stopped. Mr. Britt’s face was pink, and there were
pleasant wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, and when he talked, he
seemed to think about you.

“Moving?” he inquired.

“House-cleaning,” I explained with importance.

“Fine day of it,” he commented and went on. He always sighed a little
when he spoke, not in sorrow; but in a certain weariness.

_In forty-two years I should be as old as that._ Forty-two years--more
than five life-times, as I knew them.

I was still looking after him, trying to think it through--a number as
vast as the sky of stars was vast--when round the corner, across the
street, the Rodman girls appeared. (“Margaret and Betty Rodman?” my
mother used to inquire pointedly when I said “the Rodman girls.”) In
their wake was their little brother, Harold. I hailed them joyously.

“Come on over! It’s house-cleaning.”

“We were,” admitted Betty, as they ran. “We saw the things out in the
yard, and we asked right off. We can stay a whole hour.”

“Can’t we get Mary Gilbraith to tell us when it’s an hour?” Margaret
Amelia suggested as they came in at the gate. “Then we won’t have to
remember.”

Mary Gilbraith stood beating a curtain, and we called to her. She
nodded her head, wound in a brown veil.

“Sure,” she said. “And don’t you children track up them clean floors
inside there.”

I glanced over my shoulder into the empty room.

“Shall I get down,” I inquired of my guests, “or will you get up?”

They would get up, and they did so. We three just fitted the sill, with
Harold looking wistfully upward.

“Go find a nice stick,” Margaret Amelia advised him maternally.

“What’ll we play?” I was pursuing politely. “Pretend?” I intimated.
Because of course there is nothing that is quite so much fun as
pretend. “Or real?” I conceded the alternative its second place.

“Pretend what?” Betty wanted to know.

“Well, what difference does that make?” I inquired scornfully. “We can
decide that after.”

However, we duly weighed the respective merits of Lost-in-the-Woods,
Cave-in-the Middle-of-the-World, and Invisible, a selection always
involving ceremony.

“Harold can’t play any of them,” Margaret Amelia remembered
regretfully. “He don’t stay lost nor invisible--he wriggles. And Cave
scares him.”

We considered what to do with Harold, and at last mine was the
inspiration--no doubt because I was on the home field. In a fence
corner I had a play-house, roofed level with the fence top. From my
sand-pile (sand boxes came later--mine was a corner of the garden
sacred to me) we brought tin pails of earth which we emptied about the
little boy, gradually covering his fat legs and nicely packing his
plaid skirt. Then we got him a baking-powder can cover for a cutter and
a handleless spoon, and we went away. He was infinitely content.

“Makin’ a meat pie,” he confided, as we left him.

Free, we were drawn irresistibly back to the out-of-doors furniture. We
jumped in the middle of the mattresses lying in the grass, we hung the
comforters and quilts in long overlapping rows on the clothes line and
ran from one end to the other within that tent-like enclosure. Margaret
Amelia arranged herself languidly on the Brussels couch that ordinarily
stood in the upstairs hall piled with leather-bound reports, but now,
scales falling from our eyes, we saw to be the bank of a stream whereon
Maid Marian reclined; but while Betty and I were trying to decide which
should be Robin Hood and which Alan-a-dale (alas, for our chivalry ...
we were both holding out to be Robin) Maid Marian settled it by dancing
down the stair carpet which made a hallway half across the lawn. We
followed her. The terminus brought us back to the parlour window. We
stepped on the coping and stared inside. This was our parlour! Yet
it looked no more like the formal room which we seldom entered than
a fairy looks like a mortal. Many and many a time an empty room is
so much more a suggestive, haunted, beckoning place than ever it
becomes after its furniture gets it into bondage. Rooms are often free,
beautiful creatures before they are saddled and bridled with alien
lives and with upholstery, and hitched for lumbering, permanent uses. I
felt this vaguely even then.

“It’s like the cloth in the store,” I observed, balancing on my stomach
on the sill. “It’s heaps prettier before it’s made up into clothes.”

“How funny,” said Margaret Amelia. “I like the trimming on, and the
pretty buttons.”

“Let’s play,” I said hurriedly; for I had seen in her eyes that look
which always comes into eyes whose owners have just called an idea
“funny.”

“Very well. But,” said Betty, frankly, “I’m awful sick of playing
Pretend. You always want to play that. We played that last time anyhow.
Let’s play Store. Let’s play,” she said, with sudden zest, “Furniture
Store, outdoors.”

The whole lawn became the ground floor for our shop. Forthwith we
arranged the aisles of chairs, stopping to sit in this one and that “to
taste the difference.” To sit in the patent upholstered rocker, close
to the flowering currant bush fragrant with spicy, yellow buds was like
being somewhere else.

“This looks like the pictures of greenhouses,” said Margaret Amelia,
dragging a willow chair to the Bridal Wreath at the fork in the brick
walk. She idled there for a moment.

“Emily Broom says that when they moved she rode right through town on
their velvet lounge on the dray,” she volunteered.

We pictured it mutely. Something like that had been a dream of mine.
Now and then, I had walked backward on the street to watch a furniture
wagon delivering a new chair that rocked idle and unoccupied in the
box. I always marvelled at the unimaginativeness of the driver which
kept him on the wagon seat.

“We’ve never moved,” I confessed regretfully.

“We did,” said Betty, “but they piled everything up so good there
wasn’t anything left to sit on. I rode with the driver--but his seat
wasn’t very high,” she added, less in the interest of truth than with a
lingering resentment.

“Stitchy Branchett told me,” contributed Margaret Amelia, “once he set
on the top step of the step ladder on one of their dray loads.”

“I don’t believe it,” I announced flatly. “It’d tip and pitch him off.”

“He _said_ he did,” Margaret Amelia held. “Betty heard him. Didn’t he,
Betty? Who I don’t believe is Joe Richmond. He says he went to sleep on
a mattress on the dray when they moved. He couldn’t of.”

“Course he couldn’t of,” we all affirmed.

“Delia says they’ve moved six times that she can remember of and she’s
rode on every load,” I repeated.

We all looked enviously across at Delia’s house. Then, moved by
a common impulse, we scrambled back to make the most of our own
advantages, such as they were.

At last the ground floor of the furniture store was all arranged, and
the two show windows set with the choicest pieces to face the street.
And when we were ready to open the place to the general public, we sat
on the edge of the well curb and surveyed our results.

“Now let’s start,” said Margaret Amelia.

At that instant--the precision with which these things happen is almost
conscious--Mary Gilbraith briefly put her head out the kitchen window.

“It’s just edgin’ on ’leven,” she announced. “You children keep your
feet off them mattresses.”

We stared at one another. This was incredible. Margaret Amelia and
Betty had just come. We had hardly tasted what the morning might have
held. Our place of business was only at this moment ready for us. We
had just meant to begin.

There was no appeal. We went down the garden path for Harold. He sat
where we had left him, somewhat drowsy in the warm sun, patting an
enormous mound of moist earth. Busy with our own wrongs, we picked him
up and stood him on his feet without warning him. An indignant roar
broke from him.

“Just goin’ frost my meat pie!” he wailed. “Wiv chocolate on!”

Some stirring of pity for our common plight may have animated us--I do
not remember. But he was hurried off. I went with them to the fence,
gave them last tag as became an hostess, stood on the gate as it swung
shut, experienced the fine jar and bang of its closing, and then hung
wistfully across it, looking for the unknown.

The elm and maple shadows moved pleasantly on the cream-coloured brick
walk whose depths of tone were more uneven than the shadows. An oriole
was calling, hanging back downward from a little bough. Somebody’s dog
came by, looked up at me, wagged his tail, and hurried on about his
business. Looking after him, I saw Mr. Britt coming slowly home with
his mail. At our gate he stopped.

“Playing something?” he inquired.

Welcoming any sympathy, I told him how we had just got ready to play
when it was time to stop. He nodded with some unexpected understanding,
closing his eyes briefly.

“That’s it,” he said. “We all just get ready when it’s time to stop.
Fine day of it,” he added, and sighed and went on.

I stared after him. Could it be possible that his life had not seemed
long to him? That he felt as if he had hardly begun? I dismissed this
as utterly improbable. Fifty years!



IX

NEXT DOOR


The house next door had been vacant for two months when the New Family
moved in. We had looked forward with excitement, not unmodified by
unconscious aversion, to the arrival of the New Family.

“Have they any girls?” we had inquired when the To Rent sign had come
down.

They had, it appeared, one girl. We saw her, with wavy hair worn “let
down” in the morning, though we ourselves wore let-down hair only for
occasions, pig-tails denoting mornings. She had on new soles--we saw
them showing clean as she was setting her feet daintily; and when we,
who were walking the fence between the two houses, crossed glances with
her, we all looked instantly away, and though it was with regret that
we saw her put into the ’bus next day to go, we afterward learned, to
spend the Spring with her grandmother in a dry climate, we still felt
a certain satisfaction that our social habits were not to be disquieted.

Nothing at all had been suspected of a New Boy. Into that experience I
came without warning.

I was sitting on the flat roof of my play-house in the fence corner,
laboriously writing on the weathered boards with a bit of a picket,
which, as everybody knows, will make very clear brown letters, when the
woodshed door of the house next door opened, and the New Boy came out.
He came straight up to the fence and looked up at me, the sun shining
in his eyes beneath the rimless plush cap which he was still wearing.
He was younger than I, so I was not too afraid of him.

“What you got?” he inquired.

I showed him my writing material.

“I wrote on a window with a diamond ring a’ready,” he submitted.

I had heard of this, but I had never wholly credited it and I said
so. Besides, it would wear the ring out and who wanted to wear out a
diamond ring to write on a window?

“It don’t wear it out,” the New Boy said. “It can keep right on writing
forever and ever.”

“Nothing can keep right on forever,” I contended.

He cast about for an argument.

“Trees does,” he produced it.

I glanced up at them. They certainly seemed to bear him out. I decided
to abandon the controversy, and I switched with some abruptness to
a subject not unconnected with trees, and about which I had often
wondered.

“If you was dirt,” I observed, “how could you decide to be into a
potato when you could be into an apple just as well?”

The New Boy was plainly taken aback. Here he was, as I see now, doing
his best to be friendly and to make conversation personal, to say
nothing of his having condescended to parley with a girl at all, and I
was rewarding him with an abstraction.

Said he: “Huh?”

“If you was dirt--” I began a little doubtfully, but still sticking to
the text.

“I ain’t dirt,” denied the New Boy, with some heat.

“I says, if you _was_ dirt--” I tried to tell him, in haste and some
discomfort.

He climbed down from the fence on which he had been socially
contriving to stick, though his was the “plain” side.

“There ain’t any girl,” he observed with dignity, “going to call me
dirt, nor call me if-I-was-dirt, either,” and stalked back into the
woodshed.

I looked after him in the utmost distress. I had been dealing in what I
had considered the amenities, and it had come to this. Already the New
Boy hated me.

I slipped to the ground and waited, watching through the cracks in the
fence. Ages passed. At length I heard him call his dog and go whistling
down the street. I climbed on the fence and sat looking over in the
deserted garden.

Round the corner of the house next door somebody came. I saw a long,
gray plaid shawl, with torn and flapping tassels, pinned about a small
figure, with long legs. As she put her hand on the latch, she flashed
me her smile, and it was Mary Elizabeth. She went immediately inside
the shed door, and left me staring. What was she doing there? What
unexpected places I was always seeing her. Why should she go in the
woodshed of the New Family whom we didn’t even know ourselves?

After due thought, I dropped to the other side of the fence, and
proceeded to the woodshed door myself. It was unlatched, and as I
peered in, I caught the sweet, moist smell of green wood, like the
cool breath of the wood yard, where I had first seen her. When my
eyes became used to the dimness, I perceived Mary Elizabeth standing
at the end of a pile of wood, of the sort which we used to denominate
“chunks,” which are what folk now call fireplace logs, though they are
not properly fireplace logs at all--only “chunks” for sitting-room
stoves--and trying to look meet to new estates. They were evenly piled,
and they presented a wonderful presence, much more human than a wall.

“See,” said Mary Elizabeth, absorbedly, “every end of one is pictures.
Here’s a wheel with a wing on, and here’s a griffin eating a lemon.”

I stared over her shoulder, fascinated. There they were. And there were
grapes and a chandelier and a crooked street....

Some moments later we were aware that the kitchen door had opened, and
that somebody was standing there. It was the woman of the New Family,
with a black veil wound round her head and the ends dangling. She shook
a huge purple dust-cloth, and I do not seem to recall that there was
anything else to her, save her face and veil and the cloth.

“Now then!” she said briskly, and in a tone of dreadful warning. “_Now_
then!”

Mary Elizabeth turned in the utmost eagerness and contrition.

“Oh,” she said, “I come to see about the work.”

The New Family Woman towered at us from the top of the three steps.

“How much work,” she inquired with majesty, “do you think I’d get out
of you, young miss, at this rate?”

Mary Elizabeth drew nearer to her and stood before her, down in the
chips, in the absurd shawl.

“If you’ll leave me come,” she said earnestly, “I’ll promise not to see
pictures. Well,” she added conscientiously, “I’ll promise not to stop
to look at ’em.”

How much weight this would have carried, I do not know; but at that
moment the woman chanced to touch with her foot a mouse-trap that
stood on the top step, and it “sprung” and shed its cheese. In an
instant Mary Elizabeth had deftly reset and restored it. This made an
impression on the arbiter.

“You’re kind of a handy little thing, I see,” she said. “And of course
you’re _all_ lazy, for that matter. And I do need somebody. Well, I’ve
got a woman coming for to-day. You can begin in the morning. Dishes,
vegetables, and general cleaning, and anything else I think you can do.
Board and clothes only, mind you--and _them_ only as long as you suit.”

“Yes’m. No’m. Yes’m.” Mary Elizabeth tried to agree right and left.

Outside I skipped in the sun.

“We’re going to be next-yard neighbours,” I cried, and that reminded
me of the New Boy. I told her about him as we went round by the gate,
there being no cross piece for a foothold on that side the fence.

“Oh,” said Mary Elizabeth, “I know him. He’s drove me home by my
braids. He doesn’t mean anything.”

“Well,” I said earnestly, “when you get a chance, you tell him that I
wasn’t calling him dirt. I says if he _was_ dirt, how could he tell to
be a potato or an apple.”

Mary Elizabeth nodded. “Lots of boys pretend mad,” she said
philosophically, “to get you to run after them.”

This was new to me. Could it be possible that you had to imagine
folks, and what they really meant, as well as tending to all the other
imagining?

“Can’t you stay over?” I extended hospitality to Mary Elizabeth.

She could “stay over,” it seemed, and without asking. This freedom of
hers used to fill me with longing. To “stay over” without asking, to go
down town, to eat unexpected offerings of food, to climb a new tree,
as Mary Elizabeth could do, and all without asking! It was almost like
being boys.

Now that Mary Elizabeth was to be a neighbour, a new footing was
established. This I did not reason about, nor did I wonder why this
footing might not be everybody’s footing. We merely set to work on the
accepted basis.

This comprised: Name, including middle name, if any, and for whom
named; age, and birthday, and particulars about the recent or
approaching birthday; brothers and sisters, together with their names,
ages, and birthdays; birthstones; grade; did we comb our own hair;
voluntary information concerning tastes in flowers, colours, and food;
and finally an examination and trying on of each other’s rings. The
stone had come out of Mary Elizabeth’s ring, and she had found a clear
pink pebble to insert in its place. She had, she said, grated the
pebble on a brick to make it fit and she herself thought that it looked
better than the one that she had lost, “but,” she added modestly, “I
s’pose it can’t be.”

Then came the revelation. To finish comparing notes we sat down
together in my swing. And partly because, when I made a new friend, I
was nervously eager to give her the best I had and at once, and partly
because I was always wanting to see if somebody _would_ understand,
and chiefly because I never could learn wisdom, I looked up in the
apple tree, now forsaken of all its pink, and fallen in a great green
stillness, and I told her about my lady in the tree. I told her,
expecting now no more than I had received from Delia and the Eversley
girls. But Mary Elizabeth looked up and nodded.

“I know,” she said. “I’ve seen lots of ’em. They’s a lady in the willow
out in our alley. I see her when I empty the ashes and I pour ’em so’s
they won’t blow on her.”

I looked at her speechlessly. To this day I can remember how the little
curls were caught up above Mary Elizabeth’s ear that morning. Struck by
my silence she turned and regarded me. I think I must have blushed and
stammered like a boy.

“Can _you_ see them too?” I asked. “In trees and places?”

“Why, yes,” she said in surprise. “Can’t everybody?”

Suddenly I was filled with a great sense of protection for Mary
Elizabeth. I felt incalculably older. She had not yet found out, and I
must never let her know, that everybody does not see all that there is
to be seen in the world!

One at a time I brought out my treasures that morning and shared them
with her, as treasures; and she brought out hers as matters of course.
I remember that I told her about the Theys that lived in our house.
They were very friendly and wistful. They never presumed or frightened
one or came in the room when anyone was there. But the minute folk
left the room--ah, then! They slipped out from everywhere and did
their living. I was always trying to catch them. I would leave a room
innocently, and then whirl and fling it open in the hope of surprising
them. But always They were too quick for me. In the times when the
family was in the rooms and They were waiting for us to go, They used
to watch us, still friendly and wistful, but also a little critical.
Sometimes a whole task, or a mood, could be got through pleasantly
because They were looking on.

[Illustration: “BUT THE MINUTE FOLK LEFT THE ROOM--AH THEN!”]

Mary Elizabeth nodded. “They like our parlour best,” she said. “They
ain’t any furniture in there. They don’t come much in the kitchen.”

It was the same at our house. They were always lurking in the curtained
parlour, but the cheery, busy kitchen seldom knew them--except when one
went out for a drink of water late at night. Then They barely escaped
one.

How she understood! Delia I loved with all the loyalties, but I could
not help remembering a brief conversation that I had once held with her.

“Do you have Theys at your house?” I had asked her, at the beginning of
our acquaintance.

“Yes,” she admitted readily. “Company all this week. From Oregon. They
do their hairs on kids.”

“I don’t mean them,” I explained. “I mean Theys, that live in between
your rooms.”

“We don’t let mice get in _our_ house,” she replied loftily. “Only
sometimes one gets in the woodshed. Do you use Choke-’em traps, or
Catch-’em-alive traps and have the cat there?”

“Catch-them-alive-and-let-them-out-in-the-alley traps,” I told her, and
gave up hope, I remember, and went on grating more sugar-stone for the
mud-pie icing.

Mary Elizabeth and I made mud pies that morning too, but all the time
we made them we pretended. Not House-keep, or Store, or Bakery, or
Church-sale--none of these pale pretendings to which I had chiefly
been bound, save when I played alone. But now every pie and cake
that we finished we two carried carefully and laid here and there,
under raspberry bushes, in the crotch of the apple tree, on the
wood-chopper’s block.

“For Them to get afterwards,” we said briefly. We did not explain--I
do not think that we could have explained. And we knew nothing of the
old nights in the motherland when from cottage supper tables scraps of
food were flung through open doors for One Waiting Without. But this
business made an even more excellent thing of mud-pie baking, always a
delectable pastime.

When the noon whistle was blowing up at the brick yard, a shadow
darkened our pine board. It was the New Boy. One of his cheeks
protruded extravagantly. Silently he held out to me a vast pink
substance of rock-like hardness, impaled on a stick. Then, with an
obvious effort, more spiritual than physical, he extracted from his
pocket a third of the kind, for Mary Elizabeth, on whose presence he
had not counted. We accepted gratefully, I in the full spirit of the
offer. Three minutes later he and I were at our respective dinner
tables, trying, I suppose, to discuss this surreptitious first course
simultaneously with our soup; and Mary Elizabeth, on her way home, was
blissfully partaking of her _hors d’œuvre_, unviolated by any soup.

“What are the new children like, I wonder?” said Somebody Grown. “I see
there are two. I don’t know a thing about the people, but we can’t
call till the woman at least gets her curtains up.”

I pondered this. “Why?” I ventured at last.

“Because she wouldn’t want to see us,” was the reply.

Were curtains, then, so important that one might neither call nor be
called on without them? What other possible explanation could there be?
Perhaps Mary Elizabeth’s mother had no curtains and that was why our
mothers did not know her.

“Mary Elizabeth is going to help do the work for the New Family, and
live there,” I said at last. “Won’t it be nice to have her to play
with?”

“You must be very kind to her,” somebody said.

“_Kind to her!_” It was my first horrified look into the depths of the
social condescensions. _Kind to her_--when I remembered what we shared!
I thought of saying hotly that she was my best friend. But I was
silent. There was, after all, no way to make anybody understand what
had opened to me that morning.



X

WHAT’S PROPER


Delia and Calista and Margaret Amelia and Betty Rodman I loved with
devotion. And Mary Elizabeth I likewise loved with devotion. Therefore,
the fact that my four friends would not, in the language of the
wise and grown world, “receive” Mary Elizabeth was to me bitter and
unbelievable.

This astounding situation, more than intimated on the day of the
picnic, had its confirmation a few days after the advent of Mary
Elizabeth in the New Family, when the six of us were seated on the
edge of the board walk before our house. It was the middle of a June
afternoon, a joyous, girlish day, with sun and wind in that feminine
mood which is the frequent inheritance of all created things.

“I could ’most spread this day on my bread like honey, and eat it
up, and not know the difference,” said Mary Elizabeth, idly. “The
queen’s honey--the queen’s honey--the queen’s honey,” she repeated
luxuriously, looking up into the leaves.

Delia leaned forward. It particularly annoyed her to have Mary
Elizabeth in this mood.

“One, two, three, four, five of us,” Delia said, deliberately omitting
Mary Elizabeth as, for no reason, she counted us.

Mary Elizabeth, released from tasks for an hour or two before time to
“help with the supper,” gave no sign that she understood, save that
delicate flush of hers which I knew.

“Yes,” she assented lazily, “one, two, three, four, five of us--” and
she so contrived that five was her own number, and no one could tell
whom of us she had omitted.

“Let’s play something,” I hurriedly intervened. “Let’s play Banquet.”

Action might have proved the solvent, but I had made an ill-starred
choice. For having selected the rectangle of lawn where the feast was
to be spread, Mary Elizabeth promptly announced that she had never
heard of a banquet for five people, and that we must have more.

“We’ve got six,” corrected Delia, unwarily.

“Five,” Mary Elizabeth persisted tranquilly, “and it’s not enough. We
ought to have thirty.”

“Where you going to get your thirty?” demanded the exasperated Delia.

“Why,” said Mary Elizabeth, “_that’s_ always easy!” And told us.

The king would sit at the head, with his prime minister and a
lord or two. At the foot would be the queen with her principal
ladies-in-waiting (at _this_ end, so as to leave room for their
trains). In between would be the fool, the discoverer of the new land,
the people from the other planets, us, and the animals.

“‘The animals!’” burst out Delia. “Whoever heard of animals at the
table?”

Oh, but it was the animals that the banquet was for. They were talking
animals, and everyone was scrambling to entertain them, and every place
in which they ate they changed their shapes and their skins.

“I never heard of such a game,” said Delia, outright, already
sufficiently grown-up to regard this as a reason.

“Let’s not play it,” said Margaret Amelia Rodman, languidly, and,
though Delia had the most emphasis among us, Margaret Amelia was our
leader, and we abandoned the game. I cannot recall why Margaret Amelia
was our leader, unless it was because she had so many hair-ribbons and,
when we had pin fairs, always came with a whole paper, whereas the rest
of us merely had some collected in a box, or else rows torn off. But I
suppose that we must have selected her for some potentiality; or else
it was that a talent for tyranny was hers, since this, like the habit
of creeping on all fours and other survivals of prehistoric man, will
often mark one of the early stages of individual growth.

This time Calista was peace-maker.

“Let’s go for a walk,” she said. “We can do that before supper.”

“You’ll have to be back in time to help _get_ supper, won’t you?” Delia
asked Mary Elizabeth pointedly.

Again Mary Elizabeth was unperturbed, save for that faint flush.

“Yes,” she said, “I will. So let’s hurry.”

We ran toward the school ground, by common consent the destination for
short walks, with supper imminent, as Prospect Hill was dedicated to
real walks, with nothing pressing upon us.

“It says ‘Quick, quick, quick, quick,’” Mary Elizabeth cried, dragging
a stick on the pickets of, so to say, a passing fence.

“Why, that’s nothing but the stick noise hitting on the fence noise,”
Delia explained loftily.

“Which makes the loudest noise--the stick or the fence?” Mary Elizabeth
put it to her.

“Why--” said Delia, and Mary Elizabeth and I both laughed, like little
demons, and made our sticks say, “Quick, quick, quick, quick” as far as
the big post, that was so like a man standing there to stop us.

“See the poor tree. The walk’s stepping on its feet!” cried Mary
Elizabeth when we passed the Branchett’s great oak, that had forced
up the bricks of the walk. (They must already have been talking of
taking it down, that hundred-year oak, to preserve the dignity of the
side-walk, for they did so shortly after.)

This time it was Margaret Amelia who revolted.

“Trees can’t walk,” she said. “There aren’t any _feet_ there.”

I took a hand. “You don’t know sure,” I reminded her. “When it’s dark,
maybe they do walk. I’ll ask it.”

By the time I had done whispering to the bark, Delia said she was going
to tell her mother. “Such _lies_,” she put it bluntly. “You’ll never
write a book, I don’t care what you say. You got to tell the truth to
write books.”

“Everybody that tells the truth don’t write a book,” I contended--but
sobered. I wanted passionately to write a book. What if this business
of pretending, which Delia called lies should be in the way of truthful
book-writing? But the habit was too strong for me. In that very moment
we came upon a huge new ant-hill.

“Don’t step on that ant-hill. See all the ants--they say to step over
it!” I cried, and pushed Delia round it with some violence.

“Well--what makes you always so--_religious_!” she burst out, at the
end of her patience.

I was still hotly denying this implication when we entered the school
yard, and broke into running; for no reason, save that entrances and
beginnings always made us want to run and shout.

The school yard, quite an ordinary place during school hours, became
at the end of school a place no longer to be shunned, but wholly
desirable. Next to the wood yard, it was the most mysterious place
that we knew. In the school yard were great cords of wood, suitable
for hiding; a basement door, occasionally left open, from which at any
moment the janitor might appear to drive us away; a band-stand, covered
with names and lacking enough boards so that one might climb up without
use of the steps; a high-board fence on which one always longed to
walk at recess; a high platform from which one had unavailingly pined
to jump; outside banisters down which, in school-time, no one might
slide, trees which no one might climb, corner brick-work affording
excellent steps, which, then, none might scale; broad outside window
ledges on which none might sit, loose bricks in the walks ripe for
the prying-up, but penalty attended; a pump on whose iron handle the
lightest of us might ride save that, in school-time, this was forbidden
too. In school-time this yard, so rich in possibilities, was compact
of restrictions. None of these things might be done. Once a boy had
been expelled for climbing on the schoolhouse roof; and thereupon his
father, a painter by trade, had taken the boy to work with him, and
when we saw him in overalls wheeling his father’s cart, we were told
that _that_ was what came of disobedience, although this boy might,
easily no doubt, otherwise have become President of the United States.

But after school! Toward supper-time, or in vacation-time, we used to
love to linger about the yard and snatch at these forbidden pleasures.
That is, the girls loved it. The boys had long ago had them all, and
were off across the tracks on new adventures unguessed of us.

If anybody found us here--we were promptly driven off. The principal
did this as a matter of course, but the janitor had the same power
and much more emphasis. If one of the board was seen passing, we hid
behind everything and, as we were never clear just who belonged to the
board, we hid when nearly all grown-folk passed. That the building and
grounds were ours, paid for by our father’s taxes, and that the school
officials and even the tyrannical janitor were town servants to help us
to make good use of our own, no more occurred to us than it occurred
to us to find a ring in the ground, lift it, and descend steps. Nor
as much, for we were always looking for a ring to lift. To be sure,
we might easily fall into serious mischief in this stolen use of our
property; but that it was the function of one of these grown-ups, whom
we were forever dodging, to be there with us, paid by the town to play
with us, was as wild an expectation as that fairies should arrive with
golden hoops and balls and wings. Wilder, for we were always expecting
the fairies and, secretly, the wings.

That afternoon we did almost all these forbidden things--swings and
seesaws and rings would have done exactly as well, only these had
not been provided--and then we went to rest in the band-stand. Mary
Elizabeth and I were feeling somewhat subdued--neither of us shone much
in feats of skill, and here Delia and Margaret Amelia easily put us in
our proper places. Calista was not daring, but she was a swift runner,
and this entitled her to respect. Mary Elizabeth and I were usually
the first ones caught, and the others were not above explaining to us
frankly that this was why we preferred to play Pretend.

“Let’s tell a story--you start it, Mary Elizabeth,” I proposed, anxious
for us two to return to standing, for in collaborations of this kind
Mary Elizabeth and I frankly shone--and the wish to shine, like the
wish to cry out, is among the primitive phases of individual growth.

“Let Margaret Amelia start it,” Delia tried to say, but already the
story was started, Mary Elizabeth leaning far back, and beginning to
braid and unbraid her long hair--not right away to the top of the
braid, which was a serious matter and not to be lightly attempted with
heavy hair, but just near the curling end.

“Once,” she said, “a big gold sun was going along up in the sky,
wondering what in the world--no, what in All-of-it to do with himself.
For he was all made and done, nice and bright and shiny, and he wanted
a place to be. So he knocked at all the worlds and said, ‘Don’t you
want to hire a sun to do your urrants, take care of your garden, and
behave like a fire and like a lamp?’ But all the worlds didn’t want
him, because they all had engaged a sun first and they could only
use one apiece, account of the climate. So one morning--he _knew_ it
was morning because he was shining, and when it was night he never
shone--one morning....”

“Now leave somebody else,” Delia suggested restlessly. “Leave Margaret
Amelia tell.”

So we turned to her. Margaret Amelia considered solemnly--perhaps it
was her faculty for gravity that made us always look up to her--and
took up the tale:

“One morning he met a witch. And he said, ‘Witch, I wish you
would--would give me something to eat. I’m very hungry.’ So the witch
took him to her kitchen and gave him a bowl of porridge, and it was hot
and burned his mouth, and he asked for a drink of water, and--and--”

“What was the use of having her a witch if _that_ was all he was going
to ask her?” demanded Mary Elizabeth.

“They _always_ have witches in the best stories,” Margaret Amelia
contended, “and anyway, that’s all I’m going to tell.”

Delia took up the tale uninvited.

“And he got his drink of water, pumped up polite by the witch herself,
and she was going to put a portion in it. But while she was looking in
the top drawer for the portion, the sun went away. And--”

This time it was I who intervened.

“‘Portion!’” I said with superiority. “Who ever heard of anybody
drinking a _portion_? That word is _potient_.”

Delia was plainly taken aback.

“You’re thinking of long division,” she said feebly.

“I’m thinking of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’” I responded with dignity. “They
had one, in the tomb, where Tybalt, all bloody--”

“Don’t say that one--don’t say it!” cried Margaret Amelia. “I can see
that one awful after the light is out. Go on, somebody, quick.”

To take up her share of the story, Betty Rodman refused, point-blank. I
think that her admission to our group must have been principally on the
credentials of sistership to one of us, a basis at once pathetic and
lovely.

“I never can think of anything to have happen,” Betty complained, “and
if I make something happen, then it ends up the story.”

Calista had a nail in her shoe, and was too much absorbed in pounding
it down with a stone to be approached; so, when we had all minutely
examined the damage which the nail had wrought, it was my turn to take
up the tale. And then the thing happened which was always happening
to me: I could think of nothing to have the story do. At night, and
when I was alone, I could dream out the most fascinating adventures,
but with expectant faces--or a clean pad--before me, I was dumb and
powerless.

“I don’t feel like telling one just now,” said I, the proposer of the
game, and went on digging leaves out of a crevice in the rotting rail.
So Mary Elizabeth serenely took up the tale where she had left it.

“One morning he looked over a high sky mountain--that’s what suns like
to do best because it is so becoming--and he shone in a room of the sky
where a little black star was sleeping. And he thought he would ask it
what to do. So he said to it, ‘Little Black Star, where shall I be, now
that I am all done and finished, nice and shiny?’ And the Little Black
Star said: ‘You’re not done. What made you think you were done? Hardly
anybody is ever done. I’ll tell you what to be. Be like a carriage
and take all us little dark stars in, and whirl and whirl for about a
million years, and make us all get bright too, and _then_ maybe you’ll
be a true sun--but not all done, even then.’ So that’s what he decided
to do, and he’s up there now, only you can’t see him, because he’s so
far, and our sun is so bright, and he’s whirling and whirling, and lots
more like him, getting to be made.”

Delia followed Mary Elizabeth’s look into the blue.

“I don’t believe it,” said she. “The sun is biggest and the moon is
next. How could there be any other sun? And it don’t whirl. It don’t
even rise and set. It stands still. Miss Messmore said so.”

We looked at Mary Elizabeth, probably I alone having any impulse to
defend her. And we became aware that she was quite white and trembling.
In the same moment we understood that we were hearing something which
we had been hearing without knowing that we heard. It was a thin,
wavering strain of singing, in a man’s voice. We scrambled up, and
looked over the edge of the band-stand. Coming unevenly down the broken
brick walk that cut the schoolhouse grounds was Mary Elizabeth’s
father. His hat was gone. It was he who was singing. He looked as he
had looked that first day that I had seen him in the wood yard. We knew
what was the matter. And all of us unconsciously did the cruel thing of
turning and staring at Mary Elizabeth.

In a moment she was over the side of the band-stand and running to
him. She took him by the hand, and we saw that she meant to lead him
home. Her little figure looked very tiny beside his gaunt frame, in its
loosely hanging coat. I remember how the sun was pouring over them, and
over the brilliant green beyond where blackbirds were walking. I have
no knowledge of what made me do it--perhaps it was merely an attitude,
created by the afternoon, of standing up for Mary Elizabeth no matter
what befell; or it may have been a child’s crude will to challenge
things; at any rate, without myself really deciding it, I suddenly took
the way that she had taken, and caught up with the two.

“Mary Elizabeth,” I meant to say, “I’m going.”

But in fact I said nothing, and only kept along beside her. She looked
at me mutely, and made a motion to me to turn back. When her father
took our hands and stumblingly ran with us, I heartily wished that I
had turned back. But nearly all the way he went peaceably enough. Long
before we reached their home across the tracks, however, I heard the
six o’clock whistles blow, and pictured the wrath of the mistress of
the New Family when Mary Elizabeth had not returned in time to “help
with the supper.” Very likely now they would not let her stay, and this
new companionship of ours would have to end. Mary Elizabeth’s home
was on the extreme edge of the town, and ordinarily I was not allowed
to cross the tracks. Mary Elizabeth might even move away--that had
happened to some of us, and the night had descended upon such as these
and we had never heard of them again: Hattie Schenck, whom I had loved
with unequalled devotion, where, for example, was she? Was it, then, to
be the same with Mary Elizabeth?

Her mother saw us coming. She hurried down to the gateway--the gate
was detached and lying in the weeds within--and even then I was
struck by the way of maternity with which she led her husband to the
house. I remember her as large-featured, with the two bones of her
arms sharply defined by a hollow running from wrist to elbow, and she
constantly held her face as if the sun were shining in her eyes, but
there was no sun shining there. And somehow, at the gate she had a
way of receiving him, and of taking him with her. Hardly anything
was said. The worst of it was that no one had to explain anything.
Two of the little children ran away and hid. Someone dodged behind an
open door. The man’s wife led him to the broken couch, and he lay down
there like a little child. Standing in the doorway of that forlorn,
disordered, ill-smelling room, I first dimly understood what I never
have forgotten: That the man was not poor because he drank, as the
village thought, but that he drank because he was poor. Instead of the
horror at a drunken man which the village had laid it upon me to feel,
I suddenly saw Mary Elizabeth’s father as her mother saw him when she
folded her gingham apron and spread it across his shoulders and said:

“Poor lad.”

And when, in a few minutes, Mary Elizabeth and I were out on the street
again, running silently, I remember feeling a great blind rage against
the whole village and against the whole world that couldn’t seem to
think what to do any more than Mary Elizabeth and I could think.

The man of the New Family was watering the lawn, which meant that
supper was done. We slipped in our back gate,--the New Family had
none,--climbed the fence by my play-house, dropped down into the New
Family’s garden, and entered their woodshed. In my own mind I had
settled that I was of small account if I could not give the New Lady
such a picture of what had happened that Mary Elizabeth should not lose
her place, and I should not lose her.

The kitchen door was ajar. The dish-pan was in the sink, the kettle was
steaming on the stove. And from out the dining-room abruptly appeared
Calista and _Delia_, bearing plates.

“Girls!” I cried, but Mary Elizabeth was dumb.

Delia carefully set down her plate in the dish-pan and addressed me:

“Well, you needn’t think you’re the only one that knows what’s proper,
miss,” she said.

Calista was more simple.

“We wanted to get ’em all done before you got back,” she owned. “We
would, if Margaret Amelia and Betty had of come. They wanted to, but
they wouldn’t let ’em.”

Back of Delia and Calista appeared the mistress of the house. She had
on her afternoon dress, and her curl papers were out, and she actually
smiled at Mary Elizabeth and me.

“_Now_ then!” she said to us.

       *       *       *       *       *

If I could have made a dream for that night, I think it would have been
that ever and ever so many of us were sitting in rows, waiting to be
counted. And a big sun came by, whirling and growing, to take us, and
we thought we couldn’t all get in. But there was room, whether we had
been counted or not.



XI

DOLLS


The advent of the New Boy changed the face of the neighbourhood.
Formerly I had been accustomed to peep through cracks in the fence
only to look into a field of corn that grew at the side; or, on the
other side, into raspberry bushes, where at any moment raspberries
might be gathered and dropped over the fence to me. Also, there was
one place in the deep green before those bushes where blue-eyed grass
grew, and I had to watch for that. Then there was a great spotted dog
that sometimes came, and when he had passed, I used to wait long by the
high boards lest he should return and leap at me to whom, so far, he
had never paid the slightest attention. As a child, my mother had once
jumped down into a manger where a great spotted dog was inadvertently
lying and, though from all accounts he was far more frightened than
she, yet I feared his kind more than any other.... The only real
excitement that we had been wont to know in the neighbourhood occurred
whenever there was a Loose Horse. Somebody would give the alarm, and
then we would all make sure that the gates were latched and we would
retire to watch him fearfully, where he was quietly cropping the
roadside grass. But sometimes, too, a Loose Horse would run--and then I
was terrified by the sound of his hoofs galloping on the sidewalk and
striking on the bricks and boards. I was always afraid that a Loose
Horse would see me, and nights, after one had disturbed our peace, I
would dream that he was trying to find me, and that he had come peering
between the dining-room blinds; and though I hid under the red cotton
spread that was used “between-meals,” it never came down far enough,
and he always stood there interminably waiting, and found me, through
the fringe.

But all these excitements were become as nothing. A new occupation
presented itself. A dozen times a day now I had to watch through the
fence-cracks, or through the knot-hole, or boldly between the pickets
of the front fence, at the fascinating performances of the New Boy
and his troops of friends. At any moment both Mary Elizabeth and I
would abandon what we were doing to go to stare at the unaccountable
activities which were forever agitating them. They were always
producing something from their pockets and examining it, with their
heads together, or manufacturing something or burying something, or
disputing about something unguessed and alluring. Their whole world
was filled with doing, doing, doing, whereas ours was made wholly of
watching things get done.

On an afternoon Mary Elizabeth and I were playing together in our side
yard. It was the day for Delia’s music lesson, and as she usually did
her whole week’s practising in the time immediately preceding that
event, the entire half day was virtually wasted. We could hear her
going drearily over and over the first and last movements of “At Home,”
which she had memorized and could play like lightning, while the entire
middle of the piece went with infinite deliberation. Calista was, we
understood (because of some matter pertaining to having filled the
bath-tub and waded in it and ruined the dining-room ceiling), spending
the day in her bed. And Margaret Amelia and Betty Rodman were being
kept at home because the family had company; and such was the prestige
of the Rodmans that the two contrived to make this circumstance seem
enviable, and the day before had pictured to us their embroidered white
dresses and blue ribbons, and blue stockings, and the Charlotte Russe
for supper, until we felt left out, and not in the least as if their
company were of a kind with events of the sort familiar to us. Since I
have grown up, I have observed this variety of genius in others. There
is one family which, when it appears in afternoon gowns on occasions
when I have worn a street dress, has power to make me wonder how I
can have failed to do honour to the day; but who, when they wear
street gowns and I am dressed for afternoon, invariably cause me to
feel inexcusably overdressed. It is a kind of genius for the fit, and
we must believe that it actually designates the atmosphere which an
occasion shall breathe.

Mary Elizabeth and I were playing Dolls. We rarely did this on a
pleasant day in Summer, Dolls being an indoor game, matched with
carpets and furniture and sewing baskets rather than with blue sky and
with the soft brilliance of the grass. But that day we had brought
everything out in the side yard under the little catalpa tree, and my
eleven dolls (counting the one without any face, and Irene Helena, the
home-made one, and the two penny ones) were in a circle on chairs and
boxes and their backs, getting dressed for the tea-party. There was
always going to be a tea-party when you played Dolls--you of course had
to lead up to something, and what else was there to lead up to save
a tea-party? To be sure, there might be an occasional marriage, but
boy-dolls were never very practical; they were invariably smaller than
the bride-doll, and besides we had no mosquito-netting suitable for a
veil. Sometimes we had them go for a walk, and once or twice we had
tried playing that they were house-cleaning; but these operations were
not desirable, because in neither of them could the dolls dress up, and
the desirable part of playing dolls is, as everybody knows, to dress
them in their best. That is the game. That, and the tea-party.

“Blue or rose-pink?” Mary Elizabeth inquired, indicating the two best
gowns of the doll she was dressing.

It was a difficult question. We had never been able to decide which
of these two colours we preferred. There was the sky for precedent of
blue, but then rose-pink we loved so to say!

[Illustration: SHE SETTLED EVERYTHING IN THAT WAY; SHE COUNTED THE
PETALS OF FENNEL DAISIES AND BLEW THISTLE FROM DANDELIONS.]

“If they’s one cloud in the sky, we’ll put on the rose-pink one,” said
Mary Elizabeth. “And if there isn’t any, that’ll mean blue.”

She settled everything that way--she counted the petals of fennel
daisies, blew the thistle from dandelions, did one thing if she could
find twelve acorns and another if they were lacking. Even then Mary
Elizabeth seemed always to be watching for a guiding hand, to be
listening for a voice to tell her what to do, and trying to find these
in things of Nature.

We dressed the Eleven in their best frocks, weighing each choice long,
and seated them about a table made of a box covered with a towel. We
sliced a doughnut and with it filled two small baskets for each end of
the table, on which rested my toy castor and such of my dishes as had
survived the necessity which I had felt for going to bed with the full
set, on the night of the day, some years before, when I had acquired
them. We picked all the flowers suitable for doll decorations--clover,
sorrel, candytuft, sweet alyssum. We observed the unities by retiring
for a time sufficient to occupy the tea-party in disposing of the
feast; and then we came back and sat down and stared at them. Irene
Helena, I remember, had slipped under the table in a heap, a proceeding
which always irritated me, as nakedly uncovering the real depths of
our pretence--and I jerked her up and set her down, like some maternal
Nemesis.

In that moment a wild, I may almost say _thick_, shriek sounded through
our block, and there came that stimulating thud-thud of feet on earth
that accompanies all the best diversions, and also there came the
cracking of things,--whips, or pistols, or even a punch, which rapidly
operated will do almost as well. And down the yards of the block and
over the fences and over the roof of my play-house came tumbling and
shrieking the New Boy, and in his wake were ten of his kind.

Usually they raced by with a look in their eyes which we knew well,
though we never could distinguish whether it meant robbers or pirates
or dragons or the enemy. Usually they did not even see us. But that
day something in our elaborate preparation to receive somebody or to
welcome something, and our eternal moment of suspended animation at
which they found us, must have caught the fancy of the New Boy.

“Halt!” he roared with the force and effect of a steam whistle, and in
a moment they were all stamping and breathing about Mary Elizabeth and
me.

We sprang up in instant alarm and the vague, pathetic, immemorial
impulse to defence. We need not have feared. The game was still going
forward and we were merely pawns.

“Who is the lord of this castle?” demanded the New Boy.

“Bindyliggs,” replied Mary Elizabeth, without a moment’s hesitation, a
name which I believe neither of us to have heard before.

“Where is this Lord of Bindyliggs?” the New Boy pressed it.

Mary Elizabeth indicated the woodshed. “At meat,” she added gravely.

“Forward!” the New Boy instantly commanded, and the whole troop
disappeared in our shed. We heard wood fall, and the clash of meeting
weapons, and the troop reappeared, two by way of the low window.

“Enough!” cried the New Boy, grandly. “We have spared him, but there is
not a moment to lose. You must come with us _immediately_. What you
got to eat?”

Raptly, we gave them, from under the wistful noses of Irene Helena and
the doll without the face and the rest, the entire sliced doughnut, and
two more doughnuts, dipped in sugar, which we had been saving so as to
have something to look forward to.

“Come with us,” said the New Boy, graciously. “To horse! We may reach
the settlement by nightfall--_if_ we escape the Brigands in the Wood.
The Black Wood,” he added.

Even then, I recall, I was smitten with wonder that he who had shown
so little imagination in that matter of dirt and apples and potatoes
should here be teeming with fancy on his own familiar ground. It was
years before I understood that there are almost as many varieties of
imaginative as of religious experience.

Fascinated, we dropped everything and followed. The way led, it
appeared, to the Wells’s barn, a huge, red barn in the block, with
doors always invitingly open and chickens pecking about, and doves on a
little platform close to the pointed roof.

“Aw, say, you ain’t goin’ to take ’em along, are you?” demanded one
knight, below his voice. “They’ll spoil everythin’.”

“You’re _rescuin’_ ’em, you geezer,” the New Boy explained. “You got to
have ’em along till you get ’em rescued, ain’t you? Arrest that man!”
he added. “Put him in double irons with chains and balls on. And gag
him, to make sure.”

And it was done, with hardly a moment’s loss of time.

We went round by the walk--a course to which the arrested one had time
to refer in further support of his claim as to our undesirability.
But he was drowned in the important topics that were afoot: the new
cave to be explored where the Branchetts were putting a cellar under
the dining-room, mysterious boxes suspected to contain dynamite being
unloaded into the Wells’s cellar, and the Court of the Seven Kings, to
which, it seemed, we were being conveyed in the red barn.

“Shall we give ’em the password?” the New Boy asked, _sotto voce_, as
we approached the rendezvous. And Mary Elizabeth and I trembled as we
realized that he was thinking of sharing the password with us.

“_Naw!_” cried the Arrested One violently. “It’ll be all over town.”

The New Boy drew himself up--he must have been good to look at, for I
recall his compact little figure and his pink cheeks.

“Can’t you tell when you’re gagged?” he inquired with majesty. “You’re
playin’ like a girl yourself. I can give the password for ’em, though,”
he added reasonably. So we all filed in the red barn, to the Court of
the Seven Kings, and each boy whispered the password into the first
manger, but Mary Elizabeth and I had it whispered for us.

What the Court of the Seven Kings might have held for us we were never
to know. At that instant there appeared lumbering down the alley a load
of hay. Seated in the midst was a small figure whom we recognized as
Stitchy Branchett; and he rose and uttered a roar.

“Come on, fellows!” he said. “We dast ride over to the Glen. I was
lookin’ for you. Father said so.” And Stitchy threw himself on his
back, and lifted and waved his heels.

Already our liberators were swarming up the hay-rack, which had halted
for them. In a twinkling they were sunk in that fragrance, kicking
their heels even as their host. Already they had forgotten Mary
Elizabeth and me, nor did they give us good-bye.

We two turned and went through the Wells’s yard, back to the street.
Almost at once we were again within range of the sounds of Delia,
practising interminably on her “At Home.”

“I never rode on a load of hay,” said Mary Elizabeth at length.

Neither had I, though I almost always walked backward to watch one when
it passed me.

“What do you _s’pose_ the password was?” said Mary Elizabeth.

It was days before we gave over wondering. And sometimes in later years
I have caught myself speculating on that lost word.

“I wonder what we were rescued from,” said Mary Elizabeth when we
passed our woodshed door.

We stopped and peered within. No Lord of Bindyliggs, though we had
almost expected to see him stretched there, bound and helpless.

What were we rescued from? _We should never know._

We rounded the corner by the side yard. There sat our staring dolls,
drawn up about the tea-table, static all. As I looked at them I was
seized and possessed by an unreasoning fury. And I laid hold on Irene
Helena, and had her by the heels, and with all my strength I pounded
her head against the trunk of the catalpa tree.

Mary Elizabeth understood--when did she not understand?

“Which one can I--which one can I?” she cried excitedly.

“All of ’em!” I shouted, and one after another we picked up the Eleven
by their skirts, and we threw them far and wide in the grass, and the
penny dolls we hurled into the potato patch.

Then Mary Elizabeth looked at me aghast.

“Your dolls!” she said.

“I don’t care!” I cried savagely. “I’ll never play ’em again. I hate
’em!” And I turned to Mary Elizabeth with new eyes. “Let’s go down town
after supper,” I whispered.

“I could,” she said, “but you won’t be let.”

“I won’t ask,” I said. “I’ll go. When you get done, come on over.”

I scorned to gather up the dolls. They were in the angle below the
parlour windows, and no one saw them. As soon as supper was finished,
I went to my room and put on my best shoes, which I was not allowed to
wear for everyday. Then I tipped my birthday silver dollar out of my
bank and tied it in the corner of my handkerchief. Down in the garden I
waited for Mary Elizabeth.

It was hardly dusk when she came. We had seen nothing of Delia, and we
guessed that she was to stay in the house for the rest of the day as
penance for having, without doubt, played “At Home” too badly.

“You better not do it,” Mary Elizabeth whispered. “They might....”

“Come on,” I said only.

“Let’s try a June grass,” she begged. “If the seeds all come off in my
teeth, we’ll go. But if they don’t--”

“Come on,” said I, “I’m not going to monkey with signs any more.”

We climbed the back fence, partly so that the chain, weighted with a
pail of stones, might not creak, and partly because to do so seemed
more fitting to the business in hand. We ran crouching, thereby
arousing the attention of old Mr. Branchett, who was training a
Virginia creeper along his back fence.

“Hello, hello,” said he. “Pretty good runners for girls, seems to me.”

Neither of us replied. Our souls were suddenly sickened at this sort of
dealing.

Wisconsin Street was a blaze of light. The ’buses were on their way
from the “depots” to the hotels--nobody knew who might be in those
’buses. They were the nexus between us and the unguessed world.
Strangers were on the streets. Everything was in motion. Before
Morrison’s grocery they were burning rubbish, some boys from the other
end of town were running unconcernedly through the flames, and the
smell of the smoke set us tingling. At the corner a man was pasting
a circus bill--we stopped a moment to look down the throat of the
hippopotamus. Away up the street a band struck up, and we took hold of
hands again, and ran.

We crossed the big square by the City Bank, under the hissing arc lamp.
By the post-office a crowd of men and boys was standing, and between
the files young women whom we knew, wearing ribbons and feathers, were
passing in and out of the office and laughing. Bard’s jewellery store
was brilliant--it looked lighter than any other store with its window
of dazzling cut glass and its wonderful wall of clocks whose pendulums
never kept pace. In a saloon a piano was playing--we glanced in with a
kind of joyous fear at the green screen beyond the door. We saw Alma
Fremont, whose father kept a grocery store, standing in the store door
with a stick of pink candy thrust in a lemon, and we thought on the
joy of having a father who was a grocer. We longed to stare in the
barber-shop window, and looked away. But our instinctive destination
was the place before the Opera House, where the band was playing. We
reached it, and stood packed in the crowd, close to the blare of the
music, and shivered with delight.

“If only the fire-engine would come,” Mary Elizabeth breathed in my ear.

But in a little while the guffaws, the jostling, the proximity of dirty
coats, the odour of stale tobacco must have disturbed us, because
gradually we edged a little away, and stood on the edge of the crowd,
against an iron rail outside a billiard room. The band ceased, and went
up into the hall. We had a distinct impulse to do the next thing. What
was there to do next? What was it that the boys did when they went
down town evenings? What else did they do while we were tidying our
play-houses for the night? For here we were, longing for play, if only
we could think what to do.

I felt a hand beneath my chin, lifting my face. There, in the press,
stood my Father. Over his arm he carried my black jacket with the
Bedford cord.

“Mother thought you might be cold,” he said.

I put on the jacket, and he took Mary Elizabeth and me by the hand, and
we walked slowly back down Wisconsin Street.

“We will see Mary Elizabeth safely home first,” my Father said, and we
accompanied her to the New Family’s door.

Once in our house, it was I who proposed going to bed, and the
suggestion met with no opposition. Upstairs, I slipped the screen
from my window and leaned out in the dusk. The night, warm, fragrant,
significant, was inviting me to belong to it, was asking me, even as
bright day had asked me, what it had in common with the stuffiness and
dulness of forever watching others do things. Something hard touched my
hand. It was my birthday dollar. It had not occurred to me to spend it.

I saw my Father stroll back down the street, lighting a cigar. Below
stairs I could hear my Mother helping to put away the supper dishes.
A dozen boys raced through the alley, just on their way down town.
So long as they came home at a stated hour at night, and turned up
at table with their hands clean, who asked them where they had been?
“Where have you been?” they said to me, the moment I entered the
house--and to Delia and Calista and Margaret Amelia and Betty. We had
often talked about it. And none of us had even ridden on a load of hay.
We had a vague expectation that it would be different when we grew up.
A sickening thought came to me: _Would it be different, or was this to
be forever?_

I ran blindly down the stairs where my Mother was helping to put away
the supper dishes--in the magic of the night, helping to put away the
supper dishes.

“Mother!” I cried, “Mother! Who made it so much harder to be a girl?”

She turned and looked at me, her face startled, and touched me--I
remember how gently she touched me.

“Before you die,” she said, “it will be easier.”

I thought then that she meant that I would grow used to it. Now I know
that she meant what I meant when I woke that night, and remembered my
dolls lying out in the grass and the dew, and was not sorry, but glad:
Glad that the time was almost come--for real playthings.



XII

BIT-BIT


At the Rodmans’, who lived in a huge house on a hill, some of
the rooms had inscriptions in them--or what I should have called
mottoes--cunningly lettered and set about. Some of these were in
Margaret Amelia’s and Betty’s room, above the mirror, the bed, the
window; and there was one downstairs on a panel above the telephone.
The girls said that they had an aunt who had written them “on purpose,”
an aunt who had had stories in print. In my heart I doubted the part
about the printed stories, and so did Mary Elizabeth, but we loved
Margaret Amelia and Betty too well to let this stand between us. Also,
we were caught by the inscriptions. They were these:

FOR A CRADLE[A]

    I cannot tell you who I am
    Nor what I’m going to be.
    You who are wise and know your ways
    Tell me.

[A] Copyright, 1908, by Harper & Brothers.

FOR THE MIRROR

    Look in the deep of me. What are we going to do?
    If I am I, as I am, who in the world are you?

FOR AN IVORY COMB

    Use me and think of spirit, and spirit yet to be.
    This is the jest: Could soul touch soul if it were not for me?

FOR THE DOLL’S HOUSE

    Girl-doll would be a little lamp
    And shine like something new.
    Boy-doll would be a telephone
    And have the world speak through.
    The Poet-doll would like to be
    A tocsin with a tongue
    To other little dolls like bells
    Most sensitively rung.
    The Baby-doll would be a flower,
    The Dinah-doll a star,
    And all--how ignominious!
    Are only what they are.

WHERE THE BOUGHS TOUCH THE WINDOW

    We lap on the indoor shore--the waves of the leaf mere,
    We try to tell you as well as we can: We wonder what you hear?

FOR ANOTHER WINDOW

    I see the stones, I see the stars,
    I know not what they be.
    They always say things to themselves
    And now and then to me.
    But when I try to look between
    Big stones and little stars,
    I almost know ... but what I know
    Flies through the window-bars.

And downstairs, on the Telephone:

    I, the absurdity,
    Proving what cannot be.
    Come, when you talk with me
    Does it become you well
    To doubt a miracle?

We did not understand all of them, but we liked them. And I am sure now
that the inscriptions were partly responsible for the fact that in a
little time, with Mary Elizabeth and me to give them encouragement,
everything, indoors and out, had something to say to us. These things
we did not confide to the others, not even to Margaret Amelia and
Betty who, when we stood still to spell out the inscriptions, waited
a respectful length of time and then plucked at our aprons and said:
“Come on till we show you something,” which was usually merely a crass
excuse to get us away.

So Mary Elizabeth and I discovered, by comparing notes, that at night
our Clothes on the chair by the bed would say: “We are so tired. Don’t
look at us--we feel so limp.”

And the Night would say: “What a long time the Day had you, and how he
made you work. Now rest and forget and stop being you, till morning.”

Sleep would say: “Here I come. Let me in your brain and I will pull
your eyes shut, like little blinds.”

And in the morning the Stairs would say: “Come! We are all here,
stooping, ready for you to step down on our shoulders.”

Breakfast would say: “Now I’m going to be you--now I’m going to be you!
And I have to be cross or nice, just as you are.”

Every fire that warmed us, every tree that shaded us, every path that
we took, all these “answered back” and were familiars. Everything spoke
to us, save only one. And this one thing was Work. Our playthings in
the cupboard would talk to us all day long _until_ the moment that we
were told to put them in order, and then instantly they all fell into
silence. Pulling weeds in the four o’clock bed, straightening books,
tidying the outdoor play-house--it was always the same. Whatever we
worked at kept silent.

It was on a June morning, when the outdoors was so busy and beautiful
that it was like a golden bee buried in a golden rose, that I finally
refused outright to pick up a brown sunhat and some other things in
the middle of the floor. Everything outdoors and in was smiling and
calling, and to do a task was like going to bed, so far as the joy of
the day was concerned. This I could not explain, but I said that I
would not do the task, and this was high treason.

Sitting in a straight-backed chair all alone for half an hour
thereafter--the usual capital punishment--was like cutting off the head
of the beautiful Hour that I had meant to have. And I tried to think
it out. Why, in an otherwise wonderful world, did Work have to come and
spoil everything?

I do not recall that I came to any conclusion. How could I, at a time
that was still teaching the Hebraic doctrine that work is a curse,
instead of the new gospel--always dimly divined by children before our
teaching has corrupted them,--that being busy is being alive, and that
all work may be play if only we are shown how to pick out the kind that
is play to us, and that doing nothing is a kind of death.

And while I sat there alone on that straight-backed chair, I wish that
I, as I am now, might have called in Mary Elizabeth, whom I could see
drearily polishing the New Family’s lamp-chimneys, and that I might
have told the story of Bit-bit.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bit-bit, the smallest thing in the world, sat on the slipperiest edge
of the highest mountain in the farthest land, weaving a little garment
of sweet-grass. Then out of the valley a great Deev arose and leaned
his elbows on the highest mountain and said what he thought--which is
always a dangerous business.

[Illustration: “THEN OUT OF THE VALLEY A GREAT DEEV AROSE.”]

“Bit-bit,” said the Deev, “how dare you make up my sweet-grass so
disgustin’ extravagant?”

(It is almost impossible for a Deev to say his _ing’s_.)

“Deevy dear,” said Bit-bit, without looking up from his work, “I have
to make a garment to help clothe the world. Don’t wrinkle up my plan.
And _don’t_ put your elbows on the table.”

“About my elbows,” said the Deev, “you are perfectly right, though
Deevs always do that with their elbows. But as to that garment,” he
added, “I’d like to know why you have to help clothe the world?”

“Deevy dear,” said Bit-bit, still not looking up from his work, “I have
to do so, because it’s this kind of a world. _Please_ don’t wrinkle up
things.”

“I,” said the Deev, plainly, “will now show you what kind of a world
this really is. And I rather think I’ll destroy you with a great
destruction.”

Then the Deev took the highest mountain and he tied its streams and
cataracts together to make a harness, and he named the mountain new,
and he drove it all up and down the earth. And he cried behind it:

“Ho, Rhumbthumberland, steed of the clouds, trample the world into
trifles and plough it up for play. Bit-bit is being taught his lesson.”

From dawn he did this until the sky forgot pink and remembered only
blue and until the sun grew so hot that it took even the sky’s
attention, and the Deev himself was ready to drop. And then he pulled
on the reins and Rhumbthumberland, steed of the clouds, stopped
trampling and let the Deev lean his elbows on his back. And there,
right between the Deev’s elbows, sat Bit-bit, weaving his garment of
sweet-grass.

“Thunders of spring,” cried the Deev, “aren’t you destroyed with a
great destruction?”

But Bit-bit never looked up, he was so busy.

“Has anything happened?” he asked politely, however, not wishing to
seem indifferent to the Deev’s agitation--though secretly, in his
little head, he hated having people plunge at him with their eyebrows
up and expect him to act surprised too. When they did that, it always
made him savage-calm.

“The world is trampled into trifles and ploughed up for play,” said
the exasperated Deev, “_that’s_ what’s happened. How dare you pay no
attention?”

“Deevy dear,” said Bit-bit, still not looking up from his task, “I
have to work, whether it’s this kind of a world or not. I _wish_ you
wouldn’t wrinkle up things.”

Then the Deev’s will ran round and round in his own head like a fly
trying to escape from a dark hole--that is the way of the will of all
Deevs--and pretty soon his will got out and went buzzle-buzzle-buzzle,
which is no proper sound for anybody’s will to make. And when it did
that, the Deev went off and got a river, and he climbed up on top of
Rhumbthumberland and he swung the river about his head like a ribbon
and then let it fall from the heights like a lady’s scarf, and then he
held down one end with his great boot and the other end he emptied into
the horizon. From the time of the heat of the sun he did this until
the shadows were set free from the west and lengthened over the land,
shaking their long hair, and then he lifted his foot and let the river
slip and it trailed off into the horizon and flowed each way.

“_Now_ then!” said the Deev, disgustingly pompous.

But when he looked down, there, sitting on his own great foot, high and
dry and pleasant, was Bit-bit, weaving his garment of sweet-grass and
saying:

“Deevy dear, a river washed me up here and I was so busy I didn’t have
time to get down.”

The Deev stood still, thinking, and his thoughts flew in and out like
birds, but always they seemed to fly against window-panes in the air,
through which there was no passing. And the Deev said, in his head:

“Is there nothing in this created cosmos that will stop this little
scrap from working to clothe the world? Or must I play Deev in earnest?”

And that was what he finally decided to do. So he said things to his
arms, and his arms hardened into stuff like steel, and spread out like
mighty wings. And with these the Deev began to beat the air. And he
beat it and beat it until it frothed. It frothed like white-of-egg and
like cream and like the mid-waters of torrents, frothed a mighty froth,
such as I supposed could never be. And when the froth was stiff enough
to stand alone, the Deev took his steel-wing arm for a ladle, and he
began to spread the froth upon the earth. And he spread and spread
until the whole earth was like an enormous chocolate cake, thick with
white frosting--one layer, two layers, three layers, disgustingly
extravagant, so that the little Deevs, if there had been any, would
never have got the dish scraped. Only there wasn’t any dish, so they
needn’t have minded.

And when he had it all spread on, the Deev stood up and dropped his
steel arms down--and even they were tired at the elbow, like any true,
egg-beating arm--and he looked down at the great cake he had made.
And there, on the top of the frosting, which was already beginning to
harden, was sitting Bit-bit, weaving his garment of sweet-grass and
talking about the weather:

“I think there is going to be a storm,” said Bit-bit, “the air around
here has been so disgustingly hard to breathe.”

Then, very absently, the Deev let the steel out of his arms and made
them get over being wings, and, in a place so deep in his own head that
nothing had ever been thought there before, he _thought_:

“There is more to this than I ever knew there is to anything.”

So he leaned over, all knee-deep in the frosting as he was, and he said:

“Bit-bit, say a great truth and a real answer: What is the reason that
my little ways don’t bother you? Or kill you? Or keep you from making
your garment of sweet-grass?”

“Why,” said Bit-bit, in surprise, but never looking up from his work,
“Deevy dear, that’s easy. I’m much, much, _much_ too busy.”

“Scrap of a thing,” said the Deev, “too busy to mind cataracts and an
earth trampled to trifles and then frosted with all the air there is?”

“Too busy,” assented Bit-bit, snapping off his thread. “And now I _do_
hope you are not going to wrinkle up things any more.”

“No,” said the Deev, with decision, “I ain’t.” (Deevs are always
ungrammatical when you take them by surprise.) And he added very
shrewdly, for he was a keen Deev and if he saw that he could learn,
he was willing to learn, which is three parts of all wisdom: “Little
scrap, teach me to do a witchcraft. Teach me to work.”

At that Bit-bit laid down his task in a minute.

“What do you want to make?” he asked.

The Deev thought for a moment.

“I want to make a palace and a garden and a moat for _me_,” said he.
“I’m tired campin’ around in the air.”

“If that’s all,” said Bit-bit, “I’m afraid I can’t help you. I thought
you wanted to work. Out of all the work there is in the world I should
think of another one if I were you, Deevy.”

“Well, then, I want to make a golden court dress for _me_, all
embroidered and flowered and buttoned and gored and spliced,” said the
Deev, or whatever these things are called in the clothing of Deevs;
“I want to make one. I’m tired goin’ around in rompers.” (It wasn’t
rompers, really, but it was what Deevs wear instead, and you wouldn’t
know the name, even if I told you.)

“Excuse me,” said Bit-bit, frankly, “I won’t waste time like that.
Don’t you want to _work_?”

“Yes,” said the Deev, “I do. Maybe I don’t know what work is.”

“Maybe you don’t,” agreed Bit-bit. “But I can fix that. I’m going for a
walk now, and there’s just room for you. Come along.”

So they started off, and it was good walking, for by now the sun had
dried up all the frosting; and the Deev trotted at Bit-bit’s heels,
and they made a very funny pair. So funny that Almost Everything
watched them go by, and couldn’t leave off watching them go by, and so
followed them all the way. Which was what Bit-bit had _thought_ would
happen. And when he got to a good place, Bit-bit stood still and told
the Deev to turn round. And there they were, staring face to face with
Almost Everything: Deserts and towns and men and women and children and
laws and governments and railroads and factories and forests and food
and drink.

“There’s your work,” said Bit-bit, carelessly.

“Where?” asked the Deev, just like other folks.

“_Where?_” repeated Bit-bit, nearly peevish. “Look at this desert
that’s come along behind us. Why don’t you swing a river over your
head--you _could_ do that, couldn’t you, Deevy?--and make things grow
on that desert, and let people live on it, and turn ’em into folks? Why
don’t you?”

“It ain’t amusin’ enough,” said the Deev.

(Deevs are often ungrammatical when they don’t take pains; and this
Deev wasn’t taking _any_ pains.)

“Well,” said Bit-bit, “then look at this town that has come along
behind us, full of dirt and disease and laziness and worse. Why
don’t you harness up a mountain--you _could_ do that, couldn’t you,
Deevy?--and plough up the earth and trample it down and let people live
as they were meant to live, and turn them into folks? Why don’t you?”

“It couldn’t be done that way,” said the Deev, very much excited and
disgustingly certain.

“Well,” said Bit-bit, “then look at the men and women and children that
have come along behind us. What about them--what about _them_? Why
don’t you make your arms steel and act as if you had wings, and beat
the world into a better place for them to live, instead of making a
cake of it. You could do it, Deevy--_anybody_ could do that.”

“Yes,” said the Deev, “I could do that. But it don’t appeal to me.”

(Deevs are always ungrammatical when they are being emphatic, and now
the Deev was being very emphatic. He was a keen Deev, but he would only
learn what he wanted to learn.)

“Deevy _dear_,” cried Bit-bit, in distress because the Deev was such a
disgusting creature, “then at least do get some sweet-grass and make a
little garment to help clothe the world?”

“What’s the use?” said the Deev. “Let it go naked. It’s always been
that way.”

So, since the Deev would not learn the work witchcraft, Bit-bit,
very sorrowful, stood up and said a great truth and made a real
answer--which is always a dangerous business.

“You will, you will, you will do these things,” he cried, “because it’s
that kind of a world.”

And then the Deev, who had all along been getting more and more
annoyed, pieced together his will and his ideas and his annoyance, and
they all went buzzle-buzzle-buzzle together till they made an act. And
the act was that he stepped sidewise into space, and he picked up the
earth and put it between his knees, and he cracked it hard enough so
that it should have fallen into uncountable bits.

“It’s my nut,” said the Deev, “and now I’m going to eat it up.”

But lo, from the old shell there came out a fair new kernel of a world,
so lustrous and lovely that the Deev was blinded and hid his eyes.
Only first he had seen how the deserts were flowing with rivers and
the towns were grown fair under willing hands for men and women and
children to live there. And there, with Almost Everything, sat Bit-bit
in his place, weaving a little garment of sweet-grass to clothe some
mite of the world.

“Now this time try not to wrinkle things all up, Deev,” said Bit-bit.
“I must say, you’ve been doing things disgustingly inhuman.”

So after that the Deev was left camping about in the air, trying to
make for himself new witchcrafts. And there he is to this day, being
a disgusting creature generally, and _only_ those who are as busy as
Bit-bit are safe from him.



XIII

WHY


There was a day when Mary Elizabeth and Delia and Calista and Betty
and I sat under the Eating Apple tree and had no spirit to enter upon
anything. Margaret Amelia was not with us, and her absence left us
relaxed and without initiative; for it was not as if she had gone to
the City, or to have her dress tried on, or her hair washed, or as if
she were absorbed in any real occupation. Her absence was due to none
of these things. Margaret Amelia was in disgrace. She was, in fact,
confined in her room with every expectation of remaining there until
supper time.

“What’d she do?” we had breathlessly inquired of Betty when she had
appeared alone with her tidings.

“Well,” replied Betty, “it’s her paper dolls and her button-house. She
always leaves ’em around. She set up her button-house all over the rug
in the parlour--you know, the rug that its patterns make rooms? An’
she had her paper dolls living in it. That was this morning--and we
forgot ’em. And after dinner, while we’re outdoors, the minister came.
And he walked into the buttons and onto the glass dangler off the lamp
that we used for a folding-doors. And he slid a long ways on it. And he
scrushed it,” Betty concluded resentfully. “And now she’s in her room.”

We pondered it. There was justice there, we saw that. But shut Margaret
Amelia in a room! It was as ignominious as caging a captain.

“Did she cry?” we indelicately demanded.

“Awful,” said Betty. “She wouldn’t of cared if it had only been
raining,” she added.

We looked hard at the sky. We should have been willing to have it rain
to make lighter Margaret Amelia’s durance, and sympathy could go no
further. But there was not a cloud.

It was Mary Elizabeth who questioned the whole matter.

“How,” said she, “does it do any good to shut her up in her room?”

We had never thought of this. We stared wonderingly at Mary Elizabeth.
Being shut in your room was a part of the state of not being grown up.
When you grew up, you shut others in their rooms or let them out, as
you ruled the occasion to require. There was Grandmother Beers, for
instance, coming out the door with scissors in her hands and going
toward her sweet-pea bed. Once she must have shut Mother in her room.
Mother!

Delia was incurably a defender of things as they are. Whenever I am
tempted to feel that guardians of an out-worn order must know better
than they seem to know, I remember Delia. Delia was born reactionary,
even as she was born brunette.

“Why,” said she with finality, “that’s the way they punish you.”

Taken as a fact and not as a philosophy, there was no question about
this.

“I was shut in one for pinching Frankie Ames,” I acknowledged.

“I was in one for getting iron-rust on my skirt,” said Calista, “and
for being awful cross when my bath was, and for putting sugar on the
stove to get the nice smell.”

“I was in one for telling a lie,” Betty admitted reluctantly. “And
Margaret Amelia was in one for wading in the creek. She was in a
downstairs one. And I took a chair round outside to help her out--but
she wouldn’t do it.”

“Pooh! I was in one lots of times,” Delia capped it. And, as usual,
we looked at her with respect as having experiences far transcending
our own. “I’ll be in one again if I don’t go home and take care of my
canary,” she added. “Mamma said I would.”

“Putting sugar on the stove isn’t as wicked as telling a lie, is it?”
Mary Elizabeth inquired.

We weighed it. On the whole, we were inclined to think that it was not
so wicked, “though,” Delia put in, “you do notice the sugar more.”

“Why do they shut you in the same way for the different wickeds?” Mary
Elizabeth demanded.

None of us knew, but it was Delia who had the theory.

“Well,” she said, “you’ve _got_ to know you’re wicked. It don’t make
any difference how wicked. Because you stop anyhow.”

“No, you don’t,” Betty said decidedly, “you’re always getting a new
thing to be shut in about. Before you mean to,” she added perplexedly.

Mary Elizabeth looked away at Grandmother Beers, snipping sweet-peas.
Abruptly, Mary Elizabeth threw herself on the grass and stared up
through the branches of the Eating Apple tree, and then laid her arms
straight along her sides, and began luxuriously to roll down a little
slope. The inquiry was too complex to continue.

“Let’s go see if the horse-tail hair is a snake yet,” she proposed,
sitting up at the foot of the slope.

“I’ll have to do my canary,” said Delia, but she sprang up with the
rest of us, and we went round to the rain-water barrel.

The rain-water barrel stood at the corner of the house, and reflected
your face most satisfyingly, save that the eaves-spout got in the way.
Also, you always inadvertently joggled the side with your knee, which
set the water wavering and wrinkled away the image. At the bottom of
this barrel invisibly rested sundry little “doll” pie-tins of clay,
a bottle, a broken window-catch, a stray key, and the bowl of a
soap-bubble pipe, cast in at odd intervals, for no reason. There were a
penny doll and a marble down there too, thrown in for sheer bravado and
bitterly regretted.

Into this dark water there had now been dropped, two days ago, a long
black hair from the tail of Mr. Branchett’s horse, Fanny. We had been
credibly informed that if you did this to a hair from a horse’s tail
and left it untouched for twenty-four hours or, to be _perfectly_ safe,
for forty-eight hours, the result would inevitably be a black snake.
We had gone to the Branchetts’ barn for the raw material and, finding
none available on the floor, we were about to risk jerking it from the
source when Delia had perceived what we needed caught in a crack of the
stall. We had abstracted the hair, and duly immersed it. Why we wished
to create a black snake, or what we purposed doing with him when we
got him created, I cannot now recall. I believe the intention to have
been primarily to see whether or not they had told us the truth--“they”
standing for the universe at large. For my part, I was still smarting
from having been detected sitting in patience with a handful of salt,
by the mouse-hole in the shed, in pursuance of another recipe which I
had picked up and trusted. Now if this new test failed....

We got an old axe-handle from the barn wherewith to probe the water.
If, however, the black snake were indeed down there, our weapon,
offensive and defensive, would hardly be long enough; so we substituted
the clothes-prop. Then we drew cuts to see who should wield it, and
the lot fell to Betty. Gentle little Betty turned quite pale with the
responsibility, but she resolutely seized the clothes-prop, and Delia
stood behind her with the axe-handle.

“Now if he comes out,” said Betty, “run for your lives. He might be a
blue racer.”

None of us knew what a blue racer might be, but we had always heard of
it as the fastest of all the creatures. A black snake, it seemed, might
easily be a blue racer. As Betty raised the clothes-prop, I, who had
instigated the experiment, weakened.

“Maybe he won’t be ready yet,” I conceded.

“If he isn’t there, I’ll never believe anything anybody tells me
again--ever,” said Delia firmly.

The clothes-prop Betty plunged to the bottom, and lifted. No struggling
black shape writhed about it. She repeated the movement, and this time
we all cried out, for she brought up the dark discoloured rag of a
sash of the penny doll, the penny doll clinging to it and immediately
dropping sullenly back again. Grown brave, Betty stirred the water, and
Delia, advancing, did the same with her axe-handle. Again and again
these were lifted, revealing nothing. At last we faced it: No snake was
there.

“So that’s a lie, too,” said Delia, brutally.

We stared at one another. I, as the one chiefly disappointed, looked
away. I looked down the street: Mr. Branchett was hoeing in his garden.
Delivery wagons were rattling by. The butter-man came whistling round
the house. Everybody seemed so busy and so _sure_. They looked as if
they knew why everything was. And to us, truth and justice and reason
and the results to be expected in this grown-up world were all a
confusion and a thorn.

As we went round the house, talking of what had happened, our eyes were
caught by a picture which should have been, and was not, of quite
casual and domestic import. On the side-porch of Delia’s house appeared
her mother, hanging out Delia’s canary.

“Good-bye,” said Delia, briefly, and fared from us, running.

We lingered for a little in the front yard. In five minutes the
curtains in Delia’s room stirred, and we saw her face appear, and
vanish. She had not waved to us--there was no need. It had overtaken
her. She, too, was “in her room.”

Delicacy dictated that we withdraw from sight, and we returned to the
back yard. As we went, Mary Elizabeth was asking:

“Is telling a lie and not feeding your canary as wicked as each other?”

It seemed incredible, and we said so.

“Well, you get shut up just as hard for both of ’em,” Mary Elizabeth
reminded us.

“Then I don’t believe any of ’em’s wicked,” said I, flatly. On which we
came back to the garden and met Grandmother Beers, with a great bunch
of sweet-peas in her hand, coming to the house.

“Wicked?” she said, in her way of soft surprise. “I didn’t know you
knew such a word.”

“It’s a word you learn at Sunday school,” I explained importantly.

“Come over here and tell me about it,” she invited, and led the way
toward the Eating Apple tree. And she sat down in the swing! Of course
whatever difference of condition exists between your grandmother and
yourself vanishes when she sits down casually in your swing.

My Grandmother Beers was a little woman, whose years, in England, in
“New York state,” and in her adopted Middle West, had brought her
only peace within, though much had beset her from without. She loved
Four-o’clocks, and royal purple. When she said “royal purple,” it was
as if the words were queens. She was among the few who sympathized
with my longing to own a blue or red or green jar from a drug store
window. We had first understood each other in a matter of window-sill
food: This would be a crust, or a bit of baked apple, or a cracker
which I used to lay behind the dining-room window-shutter--the
closed one. For in the house at evening it was warm and light and
Just-had-your-supper, while outside it was dark and damp and big, and I
conceived that it must be lonely and hungry. The Dark was like a great
helpless something, filling the air and not wanting particularly to
be there. Surely It would much rather be light, with voices and three
meals, than the Dark, with nobody and no food. So I used to set out a
little offering, and once my Grandmother Beers had caught me paying
tribute.

“Once something _did_ come and get it,” I defended myself over my
shoulder, and before she could say a word.

“Likely enough, likely enough, child,” she assented, and did not chide
me.

Neither did she chide me when once she surprised me into mentioning the
Little Things, who had the use of my playthings when I was not there.
It was one dusk when she had come upon me setting my toy cupboard to
rights, and had commended me. And I had explained that it was so the
Little Things could find the toys when they came, that night and every
night, to play with them. I remember that all she did was to squeeze my
hand; but I felt that I was wholly understood.

What child of us--of Us Who Were--will ever forget the joy of having
an older one enter into our games? I used to sit in church and tell
off the grown folk by this possibility in them--“She’d play with
you--she wouldn’t--she would--he would--they wouldn’t”--an ancient
declension of the human race, perfectly recognized by children, but
never given its proper due.... I shall never forget the out-door romps
with my Father, when he stooped, with his hands on his knees, and then
ran _at_ me; or when he held me while I walked the picket fence; or
set me in the Eating Apple tree; nor can I forget the delight of the
play-house that he built for me, _with a shelf around_.... And always I
shall remember, too, how my Mother would play “Lost.” We used to curl
on the sofa, taking with us some small store of fruit and cookies,
wrap up in blankets and shawls, put up an umbrella--possibly two of
them--and there we were, lost in the deep woods. We had been crossing
the forest--night had overtaken us--we had climbed in a thick-leaved
tree--it was raining--the woods were infested by bears and wolves--we
had a little food, possibly enough to stave off starvation till
daylight. Then came by the beasts of the forest, wonderful, human
beasts, who passed at the foot of our tree, and with whom we talked
long and friendly--and differently for each one--and ended by sharing
with them our food. We scraped acquaintance with birds in neighbouring
nests, the stars were only across a street of sky, the Dark did its
part by hiding us. Sometimes, yet, when I see a fat, idle sofa in, say,
an hotel corridor, I cannot help thinking as I pass: “What a wonderful
place to play Lost.” I daresay that some day I shall put up my umbrella
and sit down and play it.

Well--Grandmother Beers was one who knew how to play with us, and I was
always half expecting her to propose a new game. But that day, as she
sat in the swing, her eyes were not twinkling at the corners.

“What does it mean?” she asked us. “What does ‘wicked’ mean?”

“It’s what you aren’t to be,” I took the brunt of the reply, because I
was the relative of the questioner.

“Why not?” asked Grandmother.

Why not? Oh, we all knew that. We responded instantly, and out came
the results of the training of all the families.

“Because your mother and father say you can’t,” said Betty Rodman.

“Because it makes your mother feel bad,” said Calista.

“Because God don’t want us to,” said I.

“Delia says,” Betty added, “it’s because, if you are, when you grow up
people won’t think anything of you.”

Grandmother Beers held her sweet-peas to her face.

“If,” she said after a moment, “you wanted to do something wicked more
than you ever wanted to do anything in the world--as much as you’d want
a drink to-morrow if you hadn’t had one to-day--and if nobody ever
knew--would any of those reasons keep you from doing it?”

We consulted one another’s look, and shifted. We knew how thirsty that
would be. Already we were thirsty, in thinking about it.

“If I were in your places,” Grandmother said, “I’m not sure those
reasons would keep me. I rather think they wouldn’t,--always.”

We stared at her. It was true that they didn’t always keep us. Were
not two of us “in our rooms” even now?

Grandmother leaned forward--I know how the shadows of the apple leaves
fell on her black lace cap and how the pink sweet-peas were reflected
in her delicate face.

“Suppose,” she said, “that instead of any of those reasons, somebody
gave you this reason: That the earth is a great flower--a flower that
has never _really_ blossomed yet. And that when it blossoms, life is
going to be more beautiful than we have ever dreamed, or than fairy
stories have ever pretended. And suppose our doing one way, and not
another, makes the flower come a little nearer to blossoming. But our
doing the other way puts back the time when it can blossom. _Then_
which would you want to do?”

Oh, make it grow, make it grow, we all cried--and I felt a secret
relief: Grandmother was playing a game with us, after all.

“And suppose that everything made a difference to it,” she went on,
“every little thing--from telling a lie, on down to going to get a
drink for somebody and drinking first yourself out in the kitchen.
Suppose that everything made a difference, from hurting somebody on
purpose, down to making up the bed and pulling the bed-spread tight so
that the wrinkles in the blanket won’t show....”

At this we looked at one another in some consternation. How did
Grandmother know....

“Until after a while,” she said, “you should find out that
everything--loving, going to school, playing, working, bathing,
sleeping, were all just to make this flower grow. Wouldn’t it be fun to
help?”

Yes. Oh, yes, we were all agreed about that. It would be great fun to
help.

“Well, then suppose,” said Grandmother, “that as you helped, you found
out something else: That in each of you, say, where your heart is, or
where your breath is, there was a flower trying to blossom too! And
that only as you helped the earth flower to blossom could your flower
blossom. And that your doing one way would make your flower droop its
head and grow dark and shrivel up. But your doing the other way would
make it grow, and turn beautiful colours--so that bye and bye every one
of your bodies would be just a sheath for this flower. Which way _then_
would you rather do?”

Oh, make it grow, make it grow, we said again.

And Mary Elizabeth added longingly:--

“Wouldn’t it be fun if it was true?”

“It is true,” said Grandmother Beers.

She sat there, softly smiling over her pink sweet-peas. We looked at
her silently. Then I remembered that her face had always seemed to me
to be somehow _light within_. Maybe it was her flower showing through!

“Grandmother!” I cried, “is it true--is it true?”

“It is true,” she repeated. “And whether the earth flower and other
people’s flowers and your flower are to bloom or not is what living is
about. And everything makes a difference. Isn’t that a good reason for
not being ‘wicked’?”

We all looked up in her face, something in us leaping and answering to
what she said. And I know that we understood.

“Oh,” Mary Elizabeth whispered presently to Betty, “hurry home and tell
Margaret Amelia. It’ll make it so much easier when she comes out to her
supper.”

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, on the porch alone with Mother and Father, I inquired into
something that still was not clear.

“But how can you _tell_ which things are wicked? And which ones are
wrong and which things are right?”

Father put out his hand and touched my hand. He was looking at me with
a look that I knew--and his smile for me is like no other smile that I
have ever known.

“Something will tell you,” he said, “always.”

“Always?” I doubted.

“Always,” he said. “There will be other voices. But if you listen,
something will tell you always. And it is all you need.”

I looked at Mother. And by her nod and her quiet look I perceived that
all this had been known about for a long time.

“That is why Grandma Bard is coming to live with us,” she said, “not
just because we wanted her, but because--_that_ said so.”

In us all a flower--and something saying something! And the earth
flower trying to blossom.... I looked down the street: At Mr. Branchett
walking in his garden, at the lights shining from windows, at the
folk sauntering on the sidewalk, and toward town where the band
was playing. We all knew about this together then. _This_ was why
everything was! And there were years and years to make it come true.

What if I, alone among them all, had never found out?



XIV

KING


There was a certain white sugar bear and a red candy strawberry which
we had been charged not to eat, because the strawberry was a nameless
scarlet and the bear, left from Christmas, was a very soiled bear. We
had all looked at these two things longingly, had even on occasion
nibbled them a bit. There came a day when I crept under my bed and ate
them both.

It was a bed with slats. In the slat immediately above my head there
was a knot-hole. Knot-hole, slat, the pattern of the ticking on the
mattress, all remain graven on the moment. It was the first time that
I had actually been conscious of--indeed, had almost _heard_--the
fighting going on within me.

Something was saying: “Oh, eat it, eat it. What do you care? It won’t
kill you. It may not even make you sick. It is good. Eat it.”

And something else, something gentle, insistent, steady, kept saying
over and over in exactly the same tone, and so that I did not know
whether the warning came from within or without:--

“It must not be eaten. It must not be eaten. It must not be eaten.”

But after a little, as I ate, this voice ceased.

Nobody knew that I had eaten the forbidden bear and strawberry.
Grandmother Beers squeezed my hand just the same. Mother was as tender
as always. And Father--his kind eyes and some little jest with me were
almost more than I could bear. I remember spending the evening near
them, with something sore about the whole time. From the moment that it
began to get dark the presence of bear and strawberry came and fastened
themselves upon me, so that I delayed bed-going even more than usual,
and interminably prolonged undressing.

Then there came the moment when Mother sat beside me.

“Don’t ask God for anything,” she always said to me. “Just shut
your eyes and think of his lovingness being here, close, close,
close--breathing with you like your breath. Don’t ask him for anything.”

But that night I scrambled into bed.

“Not to-night, Mother,” I said.

She never said anything when I said that. She kissed me and went away.

_Then!_

There I was, face to face with it at last. What was it that had told me
to eat the bear and the strawberry? What was it that had told me that
these must not be eaten? What had made me obey one and not the other?
Who was it that spoke to me like that?

I shut my eyes and thought of the voice that had told me to eat, and it
felt like the sore feeling in me and like the lump in my throat, and
like unhappiness.

I thought of the other gentle voice that had spoken and had kept
speaking and at last had gone away--and suddenly, with my eyes shut, I
was thinking of something like lovingness, close, close, breathing with
me like my breath.

So now I have made a story for that night. It is late, I know. But
perhaps it is not too late.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once upon a time a beautiful present was given to a little boy named
Hazen. It was not a tent or a launch or a tree-top house or a pretend
aeroplane, but it was a little glass casket. And it was the most
wonderful little casket of all the kinds of caskets that there are.

For in the casket was a little live thing, somewhat like a fairy and
somewhat like a spirit, and so beautiful that everyone wanted one too.

Now the little fairy (that was like a spirit) was held fast in the
casket, which was tightly sealed. And when the casket was given to
Hazen, the Giver said:--

“Hazen dear, until you get that little spirit free, you cannot be wise
or really good or loved or beautiful. But after you get her free you
shall be all four. And nobody can free her but you yourself, though you
may ask anybody and everybody to tell you how.”

Now Hazen’s father was a king. And it chanced that while Hazen was yet
a little boy, the king of a neighbour country came and took Hazen’s
father’s kingdom, and killed all the court--for that was the way
neighbour countries did in those days, not knowing that neighbours are
nearly one’s own family. They took little Hazen prisoner and carried
him to the conquering king’s court, and they did it in such a hurry
that he had not time to take anything with him. All his belongings--his
tops, his football, his books, and his bank, had to be left behind,
and among the things that were left was Hazen’s little glass casket,
forgotten on a closet shelf, upstairs in the castle. And the castle
was shut up and left as it was, because the conquering king thought
that maybe he might like sometime to give to his little daughter,
the Princess Vista, this castle, which stood on the very summit of a
sovereign mountain and commanded a great deal of the world.

In the court of the conquering king poor little Hazen grew up, and he
was not wise or _really_ good or loved or beautiful, and he forgot
about the casket or thought of it only as a dream, and he did not know
that he was a prince. He was a poor little furnace boy and kitchen-fire
builder in the king’s palace, and he slept in the basement and did
nothing from morning till night but attend to drafts and dampers. He
did not see the king at all, and he had never even caught a glimpse of
the king’s little daughter, the Princess Vista.

       *       *       *       *       *

One morning before daylight Hazen was awakened by the alarm-in-a-basin
at the head of his cot--for he was always so tired that just an alarm
never wakened him at all, but set in a brazen basin an alarm would
waken _anybody_. He dressed and hurried through the long, dim passages
that led to the kitchens, and there he kindled the fires and tended the
drafts and shovelled the coal that should cook the king’s breakfast.

Suddenly a Thought spoke to him. It said:--

“Hazen, you are not wise, or _really_ good, or loved, or beautiful. Why
don’t you become so?”

“I,” Hazen thought back sadly, “_I_ become these things? Impossible!”
and he went on shovelling coal.

But still the Thought spoke to him, and said the same thing over and
over so many times that at last he was obliged to listen and even to
answer.

“What would I do to be like that?” he asked almost impatiently.

“First go up in the king’s library,” said the Thought.

So when the fires were roaring and the dampers were right, Hazen went
softly up the stair and through the quiet lower rooms of the palace,
for it was very early in the morning, and no one was stirring. Hazen
had been so seldom above stairs that he did not even know where the
library was and by mistake he opened successively the doors to the
great banquet room, the state drawing rooms, a morning room, and even
the king’s audience chamber before at last he chanced on the door of
the library.

The king’s library was a room as wide as a lawn and as high as a tree,
and it was filled with books, and the shelves were thrown out to make
alcoves, so that the books were as thick as leaves on branches, and the
whole room was pleasant, like something good to do. It was impossible
for little Hazen, furnace boy though he was, to be in that great place
of books without taking one down. So he took at random a big leather
book with a picture on the cover, and he went toward a deep window-seat.

Nothing could have exceeded his surprise and terror when he perceived
the window-seat to be occupied. And nothing could have exceeded his
wonder and delight when he saw who occupied it. She was a little girl
of barely his own age, and her lovely waving hair fell over her soft
blue gown from which her little blue slippers were peeping. She, too,
had a great book in her arms, and over the top of this she was looking
straight at Hazen in extreme disapproval.

“Will you have the goodness,” she said--speaking very slowly and most
_freezing_ cold--“to ’splain what you are doing in my father’s library?”

At these words Hazen’s little knees should have shaken, for he
understood that this was the Princess Vista herself. But instead, he
was so possessed by the beauty and charm of the little princess that
there was no room for fear. Though he had never in his life been taught
to bow, yet the blood of his father the king, and of _his_ father the
king, and of _his_ father the king, and so on, over and over, stirred
in him and he bowed like the prince he was-but-didn’t-know-it.

“Oh, princess,” he said, “I want to be wise and _really_ good and loved
and beautiful, and I have come to the king’s library to find out how to
do it.”

“Who are you, that want so many ’surd things?” asked the princess,
curiously.

“I am the furnace boy,” said the poor prince, “and my other name is
Hazen.”

At this the princess laughed aloud--for when he had bowed she had
fancied that he might be at least the servant to some nobleman at the
court, too poor to keep his foot-page in livery.

“The furnace boy indeed!” she cried. “And handling my father’s books.
If you had what you ’serve, you’d be put in pwison.”

At that Hazen bowed again very sadly, and was about to put back his
book when footsteps sounded in the hall, and nursery governesses and
chamberlains and foot-pages and lackeys and many whose names are as
dust came running down the stairs, all looking for the princess. And
the princess, who was not frightened, was suddenly sorry for little
Hazen, who was.

“Listen,” she said, “you bow so nicely that you may hide in that alcove
and I will not tell them that you are there. But don’t you come here
to-morrow morning when I come to read my book, or I can’t tell _what_
will happen.”

Hazen had just time to slip in the alcove when all the nursery
governesses, chamberlains, foot-pages, and those whose names are as
dust burst in the room.

“I was just coming,” said the princess, haughtily.

But when she was gone, Hazen, in his safe alcove, did not once look at
his big leather book. He did not even open it. Instead he sat staring
at the floor, and thinking and thinking and thinking of the princess.
And it was as if his mind were opened, and as if all the princess
thoughts in the world were running in, one after another.

Presently, when it was time for the palace to be awake, he stirred
and rose and returned the book to its place, and in the midst of his
princess thoughts he found himself face to face with a great mirror.
And there he saw that, not only was he not beautiful, but that his
cheek and his clothes were all blackened from the coal. And then he
thought that he would die of shame; first, because the princess had
seen him looking so, and second, because he looked so, whether she had
seen him or not.

He went back to the palace kitchen, and waited only to turn off the
biggest drafts and the longest dampers before he began to wash his
face and give dainty care to his hands. In fact, he did this all day
long and sat up half the night trying to think how he could be as
exquisitely neat as the little princess. And at last when daylight came
and he had put coal in the kitchen ranges and had left the drafts right
and had taken another bath after, he dressed himself in his poor best
which he had most carefully brushed, and he ran straight back up the
stair and into the king’s library.

The Princess Vista was not there. But it was very, very early this time
and the sun was still playing about outside, and so he set himself to
wait, looking up at the window-seat where he had first seen her. As
soon as the sun began to slant in the latticed windows in earnest, the
door opened and the princess entered, her waving hair falling on her
blue gown, and the little blue slippers peeping.

When she saw Hazen, she stood still and spoke most _freezing_ cold.

“Didn’t I tell you on no ’count to come here this morning?” she wished
to know.

Generations of kings for ages back bowed in a body in little Hazen.

“Did your Highness not know that I would come?” he asked simply.

“Yes,” said the princess to that, and sat down on the window-seat. “I
will punish you,” said she, “but you bow so nicely that I will help you
first. Why do you wish to be wise?”

“I thought that I had another reason,” said Hazen, “but it is because
you are wise.”

“I’m not so very wise,” said the princess, modestly. “But I could make
you as wise as I am,” she suggested graciously. “What do you want to
know?”

There was so much that he wanted to know! Down in the dark furnace room
he had been forever wondering about the fires that he kindled, about
the light that he did not have, about everything. He threw out his arms.

“I want to know about the whole world!” he cried.

The princess considered.

“Perhaps they haven’t teached me everything yet,” she said. “What do
you want to know about the world?”

Hazen looked out the window and across the palace garden, lying all
golden-green in the slow opening light, with fountains and flowers and
parks and goldfish everywhere.

“What makes it get day?” he asked. For since he had been a furnace boy,
Hazen had been taught nothing at all.

“Why, the sun comes,” answered the princess.

“Is it the same sun every day?” Hazen asked.

“I don’t think so,” said the princess. “No--sometimes it is a red sun.
Sometimes it is a hot sun. Sometimes it is big, big, when it goes
down. Oh, no. I am quite sure a different sun comes up every day.”

“Where do they get ’em all?” Hazen asked wonderingly.

“Well,” the princess said thoughtfully, “suns must be like cwort (she
never could say “court”) processions. I think they always have them
ready somewheres. What else do you want to know about?”

“About the Spring,” said Hazen. “Where does that come from? Where do
they get it?”

“They never teached me that,” said the princess, “but _I_ think Summer
is the mother, and Winter the father, and Autumn is the noisy little
boy, and Spring is the little girl, with violets on.”

“Of course,” cried Hazen, joyfully. “I never thought of that. Why can’t
they talk?” he asked.

“They ’most can,” said the princess. “Some day maybe I can teach you
what they say. What else do you want to know?”

“About people,” said Hazen. “Why are some folks good and some folks
bad? Why is the king kind and the cook cross?”

“Oh, they never teached me that!” the princess cried, impatiently.
“What a lot of things you ask!”

“One more question, your Highness,” said Hazen, instantly. “Why are you
so beautiful?”

The princess smiled. “Now I’ll teach you my picture-book through,” she
said.

She opened the picture-book and showed him pictures of castles and
beasts and lawns and towers and ladies and mountains and bright birds
and pillars and cataracts and wild white horses and, last, a picture of
a prince setting forth on a quest. “Prince Living sets out to make his
fortune,” it said under the picture, and Hazen stared at it.

“Why shouldn’t I set out to make _my_ fortune?” he cried.

The princess laughed.

“You are a furnace boy,” she explained. “_They_ don’t make fortunes.
Who would mind the furnace if they did?”

Hazen sprang to his feet.

“That can’t be the way the world is!” he cried. “Not when it’s so
pretty and all stuck full of goldfish and fountains and flowers and
parks. If I went, I _would_ make my fortune!”

The princess crossed her little slippered feet and looked at him. And
when he met her eyes, he was ashamed of his anger, though not of his
earnestness, and he bowed again; and all the kings of all the courts of
his ancestors were in the bow.

“After all,” said the princess, “we don’t have the furnace in Summer.
And you bow so nicely that I b’lieve I will help you to make your
fortune. _Anyhow_, I can help you to set out.”

Hazen was in the greatest joy. The princess bade him wait where he was,
and she ran away and found somewhere a cast-off page boy’s dress and
a cap with a plume and a little silver horn and a wallet, with some
bread. These she brought to Hazen just as footsteps sounded on the
stairs, and nursery governesses and chamberlains and foot-pages and
many whose names are as dust came running pell-mell down the stairs,
all looking for the princess.

“Hide in that alcove,” said the princess, “till I am gone. Then put on
this dress and go out at the east gate which no one can lock. And as
you go by the east wing, do not look up at my window or I will wave my
hand and somebody may see you going. Now good-bye.”

But at that Hazen was suddenly wretched.

“I can’t leave _you_!” he said. “How can I leave _you_?”

“People always leave people,” said the princess, with superiority.
“Play that’s one of the things I teached you.”

At this Hazen suddenly dropped on one knee--the kings, his fathers,
did that for him too--and kissed the princess’s little hand. And as
suddenly she wished very much that she had something to give him.

“Here,” she said, “here’s my picture-book. Take it with you and learn
it through. _Now_ good-bye.”

And Hazen had just time to slip in the alcove when all the n. g.’s,
c.’s, f. p.’s, and l.’s, whom there wasn’t time to spell out, as well
as all those whose names are now dust, burst in the room.

“I was just coming,” said the princess, and went.

Hazen dressed himself in the foot-page’s livery and fastened the
wallet at one side and the little silver horn at the other, and put on
the cap with a plume; and he stole into the king’s garden, with the
picture-book of the princess fast in his hand.

He had not been in a garden since he had left his father’s garden,
which he could just remember, and to be outdoors now seemed as
wonderful as bathing in the ocean, or standing on a high mountain,
or seeing the dawn. He hastened along between the flowering shrubs
and hollyhocks; he heard the fountains plashing and the song-sparrows
singing and the village bells faintly sounding; he saw the goldfish and
the water-lilies gleam in the pool and the horses cantering about the
paddock. And all at once it seemed that the day was his, to do with
what he would, and he felt as if already that were a kind of fortune in
his hand. So he hurried round the east wing of the palace and looked
up eagerly toward the princess’s window. And there stood the Princess
Vista, watching, with her hair partly brushed.

When she saw him, she leaned far out.

“I told you not to look,” she said. “Somebody will see you going.”

“I don’t care if anyone does,” cried Hazen. “I _had_ to!”

“How fine you look now,” the princess could not help saying.

“You are beautiful as the whole picture-book!” he could not help saying
back.

“_Now_, good-bye!” she called softly, and waved her hand.

“Good-bye--oh, good-bye!” he cried, and waved his plumed cap.

And then he left her, looking after him with her hair partly brushed,
and he ran out the east gate which was never locked, and fared as fast
as he could along the king’s highway, in all haste to grow wise and
_really_ good and loved and beautiful.

Hazen went a day’s journey in the dust of the highway, and toward
nightfall he came to a deep wood. To him the wood seemed like a great
hospitable house, with open doors between the trees and many rooms
through which he might wander at will, the whole fair in the light of
the setting sun. And he entered the gloom as he might have entered a
palace, expecting to meet someone.

Immediately he was aware of an old man seated under a plane tree, and
the old man addressed him with:--

“Good even, little lad. Do you travel far?”

“Not very, sir,” Hazen replied. “I am only going to find my fortune and
to become wise, _really_ good, beautiful, and loved.”

“So!” said the old man. “Rest here a little and let us talk about it.”

Hazen sat beside him and they talked about it. Now, I wish very much
that I might tell you all that they said, but the old man was so old
and wise that his thoughts came chiefly as pictures, or in other form
without words, so that it was not so much what he said that held his
meaning as what he made Hazen feel by merely being with him. Indeed, I
do not know whether he talked about the stars or the earth or the ways
of men, but he made little Hazen somehow know fascinating things about
them all. And when time had passed and the dusk was nearly upon them,
the old man lightly touched Hazen’s forehead:--

“Little lad,” he said, “have you ever looked in there?”

“In my own head?” said Hazen, staring.

“Even so,” said the old man. “No? But that might well be a pleasant
thing to do. Will you not do that, for a little while?”

This was the strangest thing that ever Hazen had heard. But next
moment, under the old man’s guidance, he found himself, as it were,
turned about and seeing things that he had never seen, and looking
back into his own head as if there were a window that way. And he did
it with no great surprise, for it seemed quite natural to him, and he
wondered why he had never done it before.

Of the actual construction of things in there Hazen was not more
conscious than he would have been of the bricks and mortar of a palace
filled with wonderful music and voices and with all sorts of surprises.
Here there were both surprises and voices. For instantly he could see
a company of little people, _every one of whom looked almost like
himself_. And it was as it is when one stands between two mirrors set
opposite, and the reflections reflect the reflections until one is
dizzy; only now it was as if all the reflections were suddenly to be
free of the mirror and be little living selves, ready to say different
things.

One little Self had just made a small opening in things, and several
Selves were peering into it. Hazen looked too, and he saw to his
amazement that it was a kind of picture of his plans for making his
fortune. There were cities, seas, ships, men, forests, water-falls,
leaping animals, glittering things, all the adventures that he had
been imagining. And the Selves were talking it over.

“Consider the work it will be,” one was distinctly grumbling, “before
we can get anything. _Is_ it worth it?”

He was a discouraged, discontented-looking Self, and though he had
Hazen’s mouth, it was drooping, and though he had Hazen’s forehead, it
was frowning.

A breezy little Self, all merry and fluffy and light as lace,
answered:--

“O-o-o-o!” it breathed. “I think it will be fun. That’s all I care
about it--it will be fun and _nothing else_.”

Then a strange, fascinating Self, from whom Hazen could not easily look
away, spoke, half singing.

“Remember the beauty that we shall see as we go--as we go,” he chanted.
“We can live for the beauty everywhere and for _nothing else_.”

“Think of the things we shall learn!” cried another Self.
“Knowledge--knowledge all the way--and _nothing else_.”

Then a soft voice spoke, which was sweeter than any voice that Hazen
had ever heard, and the Self to whom it belonged looked like Hazen
when he was asleep.

“Nay,” it said sighing, “there are many dangers. But to meet dangers
bravely and to overcome them finely is the way to grow strong.”

At this a little voice laughed and cracked as it laughed, so that it
sounded like something being broken which could never be mended.

“Being strong and wise don’t mean making one’s fortune,” it said. “Just
one thing means fortune, and that is being rich. To be rich--rich!
That’s what we want and it is all we want. And I am ready to fight with
everyone of you to get riches.”

Hazen looked where the voice sounded, and to his horror he saw a little
Self made in his own image, but hideously bent and distorted, so that
he knew exactly how he would look if he were a dwarf.

“Not me!” cried the breezy little Fun Self then. “You wouldn’t fight
me!”

“Yes, I would,” said the dwarf. “I’d fight everybody, and when we were
rich, you’d thank me for it.”

“Ah, no,” said the Knowledge Self. “I am the only proper ruler in this
fortune affair. Knowledge is enough for us to have. Knowledge is what
we want.”

“Beauty is all you need!” cried the fascinating Beauty Self. “I am the
one who should rule you all.”

“Well, rich, rich, rich! Do I not say so? Will not riches bring beauty
and fun and leisure for knowledge?” said the dwarf. “Riches do it all.
Do as I say. Take me for your guide.”

“Strength is the thing!” said a great voice, suddenly. “We want to be
big and strong and _nothing else_. I am going to rule in this.” And the
voice of the Strong Self seemed to be everywhere.

“Not without me ... not without me!” said the Wise Self. But it spoke
faintly, and could hardly be heard in the clamour of all the others who
now all began talking at once, with the little Fun Self dancing among
them and crying, “I’m the one--you all want me to rule, _really_, but
you don’t know it.”

And suddenly, in the midst of all this, Hazen began to see strange
little shadows appearing and lurking about, somewhat slyly, and often
running away, but always coming back. They were tiny and faintly
outlined--less like reflections in a mirror than like reflections
which had not yet found a mirror for their home. And they spoke in thin
little voices which Hazen could hear, and said:--

“We’ll help you, Rich! We’ll help you, Strength! We’ll help you, Fun!
Only let us be one of you and we’ll help you win, and you shall reign.
Here are Envy Self and Lying Self and Hate Self and Cruel Self--we’ll
help, if you’ll let us in!”

And when he heard this, Hazen suddenly called out, with all his might:--

“Stop!” he cried, “I’m the ruler here! I’m Hazen!”

And of course he was the ruler--because it was the inside of his own
head.

Instantly there was complete silence there, as when a bell is suddenly
struck in the midst of whisperings. And all the Selves shrank back.

“Hazen!” they said, “we didn’t know you were listening. You be king.
We’ll help--we’ll help.”

“As long as I live,” said little Hazen then, “not one of you shall rule
in here without me. I shall want many of you to help me, but only as
much as I tell you to, and no more. I’m only a furnace boy, but I tell
you that I am king of the inside of my own head, and I’m going to rule
here and nobody else!”

Then, nearer than any of the rest--and he could not tell just where it
came from, but he knew how near it was--another voice spoke to him. And
somewhat it was like the Thought that had spoken to him in the king’s
kitchen and bidden him go up to the king’s library--but yet it was
nearer than that had been.

“Bravely done, Hazen,” it said. “Be king--be king, even as you have
said!”

With the voice came everywhere sweet music, sounding all about Hazen
and in him and through him; and everywhere was air of dreams--he
could hardly tell whether he was watching these or was really among
them. There were sweet voices, dim figures, gestures of dancing,
soft colours, lights, wavy, wonderful lines, little stars suddenly
appearing, flowers, kindly faces, and then one face--the exquisite,
watching face of the Princess Vista at the window, with her hair partly
brushed ... and then darkness....

... When he woke, it was early morning. The sun was pricking through
the leaves of the forest, the birds were singing so sweetly and
swiftly that it was as if their notes overlapped and made one sound on
which everything was threaded like curious and beautiful beads on a
silver cord. The old man was gone; and before Hazen, the way, empty and
green, led on with promise of surprise.

And now as he went forward, eating his bread and gathering berries,
Hazen had never felt so able to make his future. It was as if he were
not one boy but many boys in one, and they all ready to do his bidding.
Surely, he thought, his fortune must lie at the first turn of the path!

But at the first turn of the path he met a little lad no older than
himself, who was drawing a handcart filled with something covered, and
he was singing merrily.

“Hello,” said the Merry Lad. “Where are _you_ going?”

“Nowhere in particular,” said Hazen. And though he had readily confided
to the old man what he was hoping to find, someway Hazen felt that if
he told the Merry Lad, he would laugh at him. And that no one likes,
though it is never a thing to fear.

“Come on with me,” said the Merry Lad. “I am going in the town to sell
my images. There will be great sport.”

And, without stopping to think whether his fortune lay that way, Hazen,
whose blood leapt at the idea of the town and its sports, turned and
went with him.

The Merry Lad was very merry. He told Hazen more games and riddles
than ever he had heard. He sang him songs, did little dances for him
in the open glades, raced with him, and when they reached the dusty
highway, got him in happy talk with the other wayfarers. And by the
time they gained the town, they were a gay little company. There the
Merry Lad took his images to the market-place and spread them under a
tree--little figures made to represent Mirth, Merriment, Laughter, Fun,
Fellowship, and Delight--no end there was to the variety and charm of
the little images, and no end to all that the Merry Lad did to attract
the people to them. He sang and danced and whistled and even stood on
his head, and everyone crowded about him and was charmed.

“Pass my cap about,” he said, while he danced, to Hazen. “They will
give us money.”

So Hazen passed the Merry Lad’s cap, and the people gave them money.
They filled the cap, indeed, with clinking coins, and went away
carrying the images. And by nightfall the Merry Lad and Hazen had more
money than they knew how to use.

“Oh,” the Merry Lad cried, “we shall have a glorious time. Come!”

Now Hazen had never been in the town at night, and he had never been
in any town at any time without some of the king’s servants for whom
he had had to fetch and carry. To him the streets were strange and
wonderful, blazing with lights, filled with gayly dressed folk, and
sounding now and again to strains of music. But the Merry Lad seemed
wholly at home, and he went here and there like a painted moth,
belonging to the night and a part of it. They feasted and jested and
joyed, and most of all they spent the money that they had earned, and
they spent it on themselves. I cannot tell you the things that they
bought. They bought a wonderful, tropical, talking bird; they bought a
little pony on which they both could ride, with the bird on the pony’s
neck; they bought a tiny trick monkey and a suit of Indian clothes with
fringed leggings and head-feathers; and a music-box that played like
a whole band. And when the evening with its lights and pantomimes was
over, they pitched their tent on the edge of the town, picketed the
pony outside, brought the other things safely within, and lay down to
sleep.

Now, since they had no pillows, Hazen took the picture-book which
the princess had given him and made his pillow of that. And as soon
as everything was quiet, and the Merry Lad and the talking bird
were asleep and the pony was dozing at its picket, the princess’s
picture-book began to talk to Hazen. I do not mean that it said
words--it is a great mistake to think that everything that is said must
be said in words--but it talked to him none the less, and better than
with words. It showed him the princess in her blue gown sitting in the
window-seat with her little blue slippers crossed. It showed him her
face as she taught him about the sun and the world, and taught him
her picture-book through. It reminded him that his page-boy’s dress
was worn because, in his heart, he was her page. It brought back the
picture of her standing at the window, with her hair partly brushed,
to wave him a good-bye--“_Now_, good-bye,” he could hear her little
voice. He remembered now that he had started out to find his fortune
and to become wise, _really_ good, loved, and beautiful. And lo, all
this that he had done all day with the Merry Lad--was it helping him to
any of these?

As soon as he knew this, he rose softly and, emptying his pockets of
his share of the money earned that day, he laid it near the Merry Lad’s
pillow, took the picture-book, and slipped away.

The Merry Lad did not wake, but the talking bird stirred on his perch
and called after him: “Stay where you are! Stay where you are!” And
the words seemed to echo in Hazen’s head and were repeated there as if
another voice had said them, and while he hesitated at the door of the
tent, he knew what that other voice was: It was within his head indeed,
and it was the voice of that breezy little Self, all merry and fluffy
and light as lace--the Fun Self itself!

And then he knew that all day long that was the voice that he had been
obeying when he went with the Merry Lad, and all day long that Self had
been guiding him, and had been his ruler. And he himself had not been
king of the Selves at all!

Hazen slipped out into the night and ran as fast as he could. Nearly
all that night he travelled without stopping, lest when day came the
Merry Lad should overtake him. And when day did come, Hazen found
himself far away, and passing the gate of a garden where, in the dawn,
a youth was walking, reading a book. Him Hazen asked if he might come
in the garden and rest for a little.

This Bookman, who was pleasant and gentle and seemed half dreaming,
welcomed him in, and gave him fruit to eat, and Hazen fell asleep in
the arbour. When he awoke, the Bookman sat beside him, still reading,
and seeing that the boy was awake, he began reading to him.

He read a wonderful story about the elements of which everything
in the world is made. He read that they are a great family of more
than seventy, and so magically arranged that they make a music, done
in octaves like the white keys of a piano. So that a man, if he is
skilful, can play with these octaves as he might with octaves of sound,
and with a thousand variations can make what he will, and almost play
for himself a strain of the heavenly harmony in which things began. You
see what wonderful music that would be? Hazen saw, and he could not
listen enough.

Until dark he was in the garden, eating fruit and listening; and the
Bookman, seeing how he loved to listen, asked him if he would not stay
on in the garden, and live there awhile. And without stopping to think
whether his fortune lay that way, Hazen said that he would stay.

Everything that the Bookman read to him was like magic, and it taught
Hazen to do wonderful things. For example, he learned marvellous ways
with sentences and with words. The Bookman showed him how to get inside
of words, as if they had doors, so that Hazen could look from out the
words that were spoken almost as if they had been little boxes, and he
inside. The Bookman showed him how to look behind the words on a page
and to see how different they seemed that way. He would say a sentence,
and instantly it would become solid, and he would set it up, and Hazen
could hang to it, or turn upon it like a turning-bar. It was all great
sport. For sentences were not the only things with which he could
juggle. He showed Hazen how to think a thing and have _that_ become
solid in the air, too. Just as one might think, “Now I will plant my
garden,” and presently there the garden is, solid; or, “Now I will get
my lesson,” and presently, sure enough, there the lesson _is_, in one’s
head, _so_ the Bookman taught Hazen to do with nearly all his thoughts,
making many and many of them into actions or else into a solid, so that
it could be handled as a garden can.

And at last, one night, Hazen thought of the Princess Vista, hoping
that that thought would become solid too, and that the princess would
be there before him, for he wished very much to see her. But it did not
do so, and he asked the Bookman the reason.

“Why does not my thought about the Princess Vista become solid, and the
princess be here beside me?” he asked wistfully.

“Some thoughts take a very long time to become solid,” said the
Bookman, gently, “and sometimes we have to travel a long way to make
them so. If you think of the princess long and hard enough, I daresay
that you will go to her some day--and there she will be, solid.”

But of course as soon as Hazen began thinking of the princess long and
hard, he wanted, more than anything else in the world, to be doing
something that should hasten the time of seeing her, which could not
well be until he had made his fortune. So thereupon he told the Bookman
that he must be leaving the garden.

“I knew that the day must come,” said the Bookman, sadly. “_Could_ you
not stay?”

And when he said that, Hazen wanted so very much to stay there in the
enchantment of the place, that it seemed as if a voice in his own
head were echoing the words. And while he hesitated at the gate of
the garden, he knew what that other voice was! It was within his head
indeed, and it was the voice of that strange, fascinating Self from
which he had found that he could hardly look away--the Knowledge Self
itself. And then he knew that all this time in this garden, it was
this voice that he had been obeying and it had been guiding him. He
himself had not been king of the Selves at all. So when he knew that,
he hesitated not a moment, for he saw that although the Bookman was
far finer than the Merry Lad, still neither must be king, but only he
himself must be king.

“Alas!” he cried, as he left the garden, “I am not nearer to making my
fortune now than I was at the beginning!”



XV

KING (_continued_)


So Hazen left the garden and the gentle Bookman, who was loath to let
him go, and hurried out into the world again.

He travelled now for many days, hearing often of far countries which
held what he sought, but never reaching any of them. Always he did what
tasks came to his hand, for this seemed a good way toward fortune. But
sometimes the Envy Self and the Discontented Self spoke loudly in his
head so that he thought that it was he himself who was speaking, and
he obeyed them, and stopped his work, and until the chance to finish
it was lost, he did not know that it was these Selves who had made
him cease his task and lose his chance and be that much farther from
fortune. For that was the way of all the Selves--they had a clever
fashion of making Hazen think that their voices were his own voice, and
sometimes he could hardly tell the difference.

At last, one night, he came to a hill, sloping gently as if something
beautiful were overflowing. Its trees looked laid upon the mellow
west beyond. The turf was like some Titan woman’s embroidery, sheared
and flowered. Hazen looked at it all, and at the great sky and the
welcoming distance, and before he knew whether it came as a thought or
as a song, he had made a little rhyme:--

    Do you wish you had a world of gold
    With a turquoise roof on high,
    And a coral east and a ruby west
    And diamonds in the sky?

    Do you wish there were little doors of air
    That a child might open wide,
    Where were emerald chairs and a tourmaline rug
    And a moonstone moon beside?

    Do you wish the lakes were silver plates
    And the sea a sapphire dish?
    What a wonderful, wonderful world it is--
    For haven’t you got your wish?

He liked to sing this, and he loved the hill and the evening. He lay
there a long time, making little rhymes and loving everything. Next
day he wandered away in the woods, and asked for food at a hut, and
offered the bewildered woman a rhyme in payment, and at night he
returned to his hill, and there he lived for days, playing that he
was living all alone in the world--that there was not another person
anywhere on the earth.

But one night when he was lying on the hillside, composing a song to
the Littlest Leaf in the Wood, suddenly the voice of his song was not
so loud as a voice within him which seemed to say how much he delighted
to be singing. And then he knew the voice--that it was the voice of the
Beauty Self in his own head, that it was that voice that had made him
linger on the hillside and had commanded him to sing about the beauty
in the world _and to do nothing else_. And all this time it had been
king of the Selves, and not he!

He rose and fled down the hillside, and for days he wandered alone,
sick at heart because this fair Beauty Self had tricked him into
following her _and no other_, even as the Fun Self and the Knowledge
Self had done. But even while he wandered, grieving, again and again
the Idle Self, the Strong Self, the Discontented Self, deceived him
for a little while and succeeded in making their own voices heard, and
now and again the little shadowy Selves--the Malice and Cruel and Envy
Selves drew very near him and tried to speak for him. And they all
fought to keep him from being king and to deceive him into thinking
that they spoke for him.

One brooding noonday, as Hazen was travelling, alone and tired, on the
highroad, a carriage overtook him, and the gentleman within, looking
sharply at him, ordered the carriage stopped, and asked him courteously
if he was not the poet whose songs he had sometimes heard, and of whose
knowledge and good-fellowship others had told him. It proved that it
was no other than Hazen whom he meant, and he took him with him in
his carriage to a great, wonderful house overlooking the valley, and
commanding a sovereign mountain on whose very summit stood a deserted
castle. It seemed as if merely looking on that wonderful prospect would
help one to be wise and _really_ good and beautiful and worthy to be
loved.

At once Hazen’s host, the Gentleman of the Carriage, began showing
him his treasures and all that made life for him. The house was
filled with curious and beautiful things, pictures, ivories, marbles,
and tapestries, and with many friends. In the evenings there were
always festivities; mirth and laughter were everywhere, and Hazen
was laden with gifts of these and other things, and delighted in the
entertainment. But by day, in a high-ceiled library and a cool study,
the two spent hours pouring over letters and science, finding out
the secrets of the world, getting on the other side of words, saying
sentences, and thinking thoughts that became solid; or they would
wander on the hillsides and carry rare books and dream of the beauty in
the world and weave little songs. Now they would be idle, now absorbed
in feats of strength, and now they would descend into the town and
there delight in its great sport. And in all this Hazen had some part
and earned his own way, because of his cleverness and willingness to
enter in the life and belong to it.

One day, standing on a balcony of the beautiful house, looking across
at the mountain and the deserted castle, Hazen said aloud:--

“This is the true life. This is fortune. For now I hear all the voices
of all my Selves, and I give good things to each, and I am king of
them all!”

But even as he spoke he heard another voice sounding within his own,
and it laughed, and cracked as it laughed, so that it sounded like
something being broken that could never be mended.

“I told you so, Hazen! I told you so!” it cried. “Being loved and
_really_ good do not mean making our fortune. Just one thing means
fortune, and that is being rich. To be rich, _rich_, means good times
and learning and beauty and idleness. I’ve fought every one of the
others, and now you’ve got all that they had to offer, because you have
let me be king--_me and no other_.”

To his horror, Hazen recognized the voice of the dwarf, the Riches
Self, and knew that he was deceived again, that he himself was ruler of
nothing, and that the dwarf was now king of all his Selves.

When he realized this, it seemed to Hazen that his heart was pierced
and that he could not live any longer. Suppose--ah, suppose that he did
get back to the Princess Vista now--what had he to take to her? Could
he give her himself--a Self of which not he but the dwarf was the
owner?

Somehow, in spite of their protestations and persuadings, Hazen said
good-bye to them all, to his host and to those who had detained him,
and he was off down into the valley alone--not knowing where he was
going or what he was going to do, or what hope now remained that he
should ever be any nearer the fortune for which he had so hopefully set
out.

It was bright moonlight when he came to the edge of a fair, green,
valley meadow. The whiteness was flooding the world, as if it would
wash away everything that had ever been and would begin it all over
again. And in the centre of the meadow, all the brightness seemed to
gather and thicken and glitter, as if something mysterious were there.
It drew Hazen to itself, as if it were so pure that it must be what
he was seeking, and he broke through the hedge and stepped among the
flowers of the lush grass, and he stood before it.

It was a fountain of water, greater than any fountain that Hazen had
ever seen or conceived. It rose from the green in pure strands of
exquisite firmness, in almost the slim lines and spirals of a stair;
and its high, curving spray and its plash and murmur made it rather
like a gigantic white tree, with music in its boughs--the tree of life
itself.

Hazen could no more have helped leaping in the fountain than he could
have helped his joy in its beauty. He sprang in the soft waters as
if he were springing into arms, and it drew him to itself as if he
belonged to it. The waters flowed over him, and he felt purified, and
as if a healing light had shone through him, body and mind.

But to his amazement, he did not remain in the fountain’s basin.
Gently, as if he were upborne by unseen hands, he mounted with the rise
of the fountain, in its slim lines and spirals, until he found himself
high above the meadow in a silvery tower that was thrown out from the
fountain itself. And there, alone in that lofty silence, it was as if
he were face to face with himself and could see his own heart.

Then the Thought spoke to him which had spoken to him long ago that
morning in the king’s kitchen, and again on that first night in the
wood.

“Hazen!” it said, “you are not wise or _really_ good or loved or
beautiful. Why don’t you become so?”

“I!” said Hazen, sadly. “I have lost my chance. I came out to find my
fortune and I have thrown it away.”

But still the Thought spoke to him, and said the same thing over and
over so many times that at last he answered:--

“What, then, must I do?” he asked.

And then he listened, there in the night and the stillness, to hear
what it was that he must do. And this was the first time that ever he
had listened like this, or questioned carefully his course. Always
before he had done what seemed to him the thing that he wished to do,
without questioning whether his fortune lay that way.

“Bravely spoken, Hazen,” said the Thought, then. “Someone near is in
great need. Find him and help him.”

Instantly Hazen leaped lightly to the ground, and ran away through
the moonlit meadow, and he sought as never in his life had he sought
anything before, for the one near, in great need, whom he was to find
and help. All through the night he sought, and with the setting of
the moon he was struggling up the mountain, because it seemed to him
that he must do some hard thing, and this was hard. In the early dawn
he stood on the mountain’s very summit, and knocked at the gate of the
deserted castle there. And it was the forsaken castle of his father,
the king, whom the Princess Vista’s father had conquered; but this
Hazen did not know.

No sound answered his summons, so he swung the heavy gate on its broken
hinges and stepped within. The court yard was vacant and echoing and
grass-grown. Rabbits scuttled away at his approach, and about the
sightless eyes of the windows, bats were clinging and moving. The clock
in the tower was still and pointed to an hour long-spent. The whole
place breathed of things forgotten and of those who, having loved them,
were forgotten too.

Hazen mounted the broad, mossy steps leading to the portals, and he
found one door slightly ajar. Wondering greatly, he touched it open,
and the groined hall appeared like a grim face from behind a mask.
On the stone floor, not far beyond the threshold, lay an old man,
motionless. And when, uttering a little cry of pity and amazement,
Hazen stooped over him, he knew him at once to be that old man who had
greeted him at the entrance to the wood on the evening of the day on
which he himself had left the king’s palace.

What with bringing him water and bathing his face and chafing his
hands, Hazen at last enabled the old man to speak, and found that he
had been nearly all his life-time the keeper of the castle and for
some years its only occupant. He was not ill, but he had fallen and
was hurt, and he had lain for several days without food. So Hazen, who
knew well how to do it, kindled a fire of fagots in the great, echoing
castle kitchen, and, from the scanty store which he found there,
prepared broth and eggs, and then helped the old man to his bed in the
little room which had once been a king’s cabinet.

“Lad, lad!” said the old man, when he had remembered Hazen. “And
have you found your fortune? And are you by now wise, _really_ good,
beautiful, and loved?”

“Alas!” said Hazen, only, and could say no more.

The old man nodded. “I know, I know,” he said sadly. “The little
Selves have been about, ruling here and ruling there. Is it not so? Sit
here a little, and let us talk about it.”

Then Hazen told him all that had befallen since that night when they
sat together in the wood. And though his adventures seemed to Hazen
very wonderful, the old man merely nodded, as if he were not hearing
but only remembering.

“Ay,” he said, at the last, “I have met them all--the Merry Lad, the
Bookman, and all the rest, and have dwelt a space with some. And I,
too, have come to the fountain in the night, and have asked what it was
that I should do.”

“But tell me, sir,” said Hazen, eagerly, “how was it that I was told at
the fountain that there was one near in great need. Did the fountain
know you? Or did my Thought? And how could that be?”

“Nay, lad,” said the old man, “but always, for everyone, there is
someone near in need--yet. One has only to look.”

Then he talked to Hazen more about his fortune, and again the old man’s
meaning was in his mere presence, so that whether he talked about the
stars or the earth or the ways of men, he made Hazen know fascinating
things about them all. And now Hazen listened far differently from the
way that he had listened that other time when they had talked, and it
was as if the words had grown, and as if they meant more than once they
had meant.

Now, whoever has stood for the first time in a great, empty castle
knows that there is one thing that he longs to do above all other
things, and this is to explore. And when the afternoon lay brooding
upon the air, and slanting sun fell through the dusty lattices, Hazen
asked the old man eagerly if he might wander through the rooms.

“As freely,” answered the old man, willingly, “as if you were the
castle’s prince.”

Thus it chanced that, after all the years, Hazen, though he was far
from dreaming the truth, was once more roaming through the rooms of his
birthplace and treading the floors that had once echoed the step of his
father, the king.

It was a wonderful place, the like of which Hazen thought he had never
seen before, save only in the palace of the father of the princess.
Above stairs the rooms had hardly been disturbed since that old day of
the hurried flight of all his father’s court. There was a great room
of books, as rich in precious volumes as the king’s library which he
already knew, and there, though this he could not guess, his own father
had been wont to sit late in the night, consulting learned writers and
dreaming of the future of his little son. There was the chapel, where
they had brought Hazen himself to be christened, in the presence of all
the court; there the long banqueting room to which he had once been
carried so that the nobles might pledge him their fealty, the arched
roof echoing their shouts. The throne room, the council room, the state
drawing rooms--through all these, with their dim, dusty hangings and
rich, faded furnishings, Hazen footed; and at last, up another stair,
he came to the private apartments of the king and queen themselves.

Breathing the life of another time the rooms lay, as if partly
remembering and partly expecting. In the king’s room was the hunting
suit that he had thrown off just before the attack, the book that he
had been reading, the chart that he had consulted. In the queen’s
room were tarnished golden toilet articles and ornaments, and in her
wardrobe her very robes hung, dusty and mouldering, the gold thread and
gold fringes showing black and sad.

And then Hazen entered a room which seemed to have been a child’s
room--and it was his room, of his first babyhood. Something in him
stirred and kindled, almost as if his body remembered, though his mind
could not do so. Toys lay scattered about--tops, a football, books, and
a bank. The pillow of the small white bed was indented as if from the
pressure of a little head, and a pair of tiny shoes, one upright, one
overturned, were on the floor. Hazen picked up one little shoe and held
it for a minute in his hand. He wondered if some of the little garments
of the child, whoever he was, might not be in the hanging room. And he
opened the closed door.

The door led to a closet and, as he had guessed, little garments were
hanging there. But it was not these that caught his eye and held him
breathless and spellbound on the threshold. On the high shelf of the
closet stood a small glass casket. And in the casket was a little bit
of live thing that fluttered piteously, as if begging to be released,
and frantic with joy at the coming of light from without.

Hazen’s heart beat as he took the casket in his hand. It was the most
wonderful little box that ever he had seen. And the little living thing
was something like a fairy and something like a spirit and so beautiful
that it seemed to Hazen that he must have it for his own. Something
stirred and kindled in his mind so that it was almost a memory, and he
said to himself:--

“I have seen a casket like this. I have _had_ a casket like this. Nay,
but the very earliest thing that ever I can remember is a casket like
this from which no one knew how to release this little living spirit.”

For the little spirit was fast in the crystal prison, and if one broke
the casket, one would almost certainly harm the spirit--but what other
way was there to do?

With the casket in his hand and the little spirit fluttering within,
Hazen ran back below stairs to the old man.

“Look!” Hazen cried. “This casket! It is from the closet shelf of some
child’s room. I remember a casket such as this, and within it a little
living spirit. I have _had_ a casket such as this! What does it mean?”

Then the old man, who had been keeper there when the castle was taken,
trembled and peered into Hazen’s face.

“Who are you?” the old man cried. “Who are you--and what is your name?”

“Alas,” said Hazen, sadly, “I was but the furnace boy to the king of a
neighbouring country, and who I am I do not know. But as for my name,
that is Hazen, and I know not what else.”

Then the old man cried out, and tried to bow himself, and to kiss
Hazen’s hand.

“Prince Hazen!” cried he. “You are no other. Ah, God be praised. You
are the son of my own beloved king.”

As well as he could for his joy and agitation, the old man told Hazen
everything: how the castle had been taken by that king of a neighbour
country--who did _not_ know that neighbours are nearly one’s own
family--how Hazen had been made prisoner, and how he was really heir
to this kingdom and to all its ample lands. And how the magic casket,
which after all these years the old man now remembered, was to make
Hazen, and no other, wise and _really_ good and loved and beautiful,
if only the little spirit could be freed.

“But how am I to do that?” Hazen cried. “For to break the casket would
be to harm the spirit. And what other way is there to do?”

“Alas,” answered the old man, “that I do not know. I think that this
you must do alone. As for me, my life is almost spent. And now that I
have seen you, my prince, the son of my dear sovereign, there is left
to me but to die in peace.”

At this, Hazen, remembering how much he owed the wonderful old man for
that enchanted talk in the wood, when he had taught him fascinating
things about the stars and the earth and the ways of men, and had shown
him the inside of his own head and all those Selves of his and he their
king if he would be so--remembering all these things Hazen longed to do
something for him in return. But what could he do for him, he the heir
of a conquered kingdom and a desolate palace? Yet the old man had been
his father’s servant; and it was he whom the Thought at the fountain
had bidden him to help; but chiefly Hazen’s heart overflowed with
simple pity and tenderness for the helpless one. And in that pity the
Thought spoke again:--

“Give him the casket,” it said.

Hazen hesitated--and in an instant his head was a chaos of voices. It
was as if all the little Selves, even those which had now long been
silent, were listening, were suddenly fighting among themselves in open
combat to see what they could make Hazen do.

“That beautiful thing!” cried the Beauty Self. “Keep it--keep it,
Hazen!”

“You will never have another chance at a fortune if you give it up!”
cried the Discontented Self.

“If you throw away your chance at a fortune, your life will be a life
of hard work--and where will your good time come in?” cried the little
Fun Self, anxiously.

“You will have only labour and no leisure for learning--” warned the
Knowledge Self.

“What of the Princess Vista? Do you not owe it to her to keep the
casket? And is it not _right_ that you should keep the casket and grow
wise and _really_ good and loved and beautiful?” they all argued in
turn. And above them all sounded the terrible, cracked voice of the
dwarf, not laughing now, but fighting for his life:--

“Fool! Nothing counts but your chance at fortune. If you part with the
casket, you part with _me!_”

But sweet and clear through the clamour sounded the solemn insisting of
the Thought:--

“Give him the casket--give him the casket, Hazen.”

Quickly Hazen knelt beside the old man, and placed the magic casket in
his hands.

“Lo,” said Prince Hazen, “I have nothing to give you, save only this.
But it may be that we can yet find some way to release the spirit and
that then you can have the good fortune that this will give. Take the
casket--it is yours.”

In an instant, and noiselessly, the magic casket fell in pieces in
Hazen’s hands, and vanished. And with a soft sound of escaping wings
the little spirit rose joyously and fluttered toward Hazen, and
alighted on his breast. There were sudden sweetness and light in all
the place, and a happiness that bewildered Hazen--and when he looked
again, the little spirit had disappeared--but his own breast was filled
with something new and marvellous, as if strange doors to himself had
opened, and as if the spirit had found lodging there forever.

In the clear silence following upon the babel of the little voices
of all the mean and petty Selves, Hazen was aware of a voice echoing
within him like music; and he knew the Thought now better than he knew
himself, who had so many Selves, and he knew that when it spoke to him
softly, softly, he would always hear.

“If you had kept the magic casket for yourself,” it said, “the spirit
would have drooped and died. _It was only by giving the casket away
that the spirit could ever be free._ It was only when the spirit became
yours that you could hope to be wise and good and beautiful and worthy
to be loved. And now where is the Princess Vista’s picture-book?”

All this time Hazen had not lost the picture-book of the princess,
and now it was lying on the floor near where he was that night
to have slept. He caught it up and turned the pages, and the old
familiar pictures which the princess had shown him that morning in the
window-seat made him long, as he had not longed since he had left the
palace, to see her again.

He turned to the old man.

“There is a certain princess--” he began.

“Ay,” said the old man, gently, “so there is always, my prince. Go to
her.”

The mere exquisite presence of that spirit in the room seemed to have
healed and invigorated the old man, and he had risen to his feet,
clothed with a new strength. He set about searching in the king’s
wardrobe for suitable garments for his young prince, and in a cedar
chest he found vestments of somewhat ancient pattern, but of so rich
material and so delicately made that the ancient style did but add to
their beauty.

When he had made Hazen ready, there was never a fairer prince in the
world. Then the old man led him below stairs and showed him in a
forgotten room, of which he himself only had the key, a box containing
the jewels of the queen, his mother. So, bearing these, save one with
which he purchased a horse for his needs, Prince Hazen set out for the
palace of the princess.

It chanced that it was early morning when Prince Hazen entered the
palace grounds which he had left as a furnace boy. And you must know
that, since his leaving, years had elapsed; for though he had believed
himself to have stayed with the Merry Lad but one day, and with the
Bookman but a few days, and but a little time on the hills singing
songs, and in byways listening to the voices of Idleness, Strength, and
the rest, and lingering in that fair home where the Dwarf had sent him,
yet in reality with each one he had spent a year and more, so that now
he was like someone else.

But the princess’s father’s palace garden was just the same, and Hazen
entered by the east gate, which still no one could lock; and to be back
within the garden was as wonderful as bathing in the ocean or standing
on a high mountain or seeing the dawn. His horse bore him along between
the flowering shrubs and the hollyhocks; he heard the fountains
plashing and the song-sparrows singing and the village bells faintly
sounding; he saw the goldfish and the water-lilies gleam in the pool,
and the horses cantering about the paddock. And all at once it seemed
to him that the day was his and the world was his, to do with them what
he would.

So he galloped round the east wing of the palace, and looked up
eagerly and longingly toward the princess’s window. And there stood the
Princess Vista, watching. But when she saw him, she drew far back as if
she were afraid. And Prince Hazen, as he bowed low in his saddle, could
think of no word to say to her that seemed a word to be said. He could
only cry up to her:--

“Oh, Princess Vista. Come down! Come down! Come down--and teach me
about the whole world.”

He galloped straight to the great entrance way, and leaped from his
horse, and no one questioned him, for they all knew by his look that he
came with great authority. And he went to the king’s library, to that
room which was as wide as a lawn and as high as a tree, and filled with
mystery, and waited for her, knowing that she would come.

She entered the room almost timidly, as, once upon a time, the little
furnace boy had entered. And when she saw him waiting for her before
the window-seat, nothing could have exceeded her terror and her wonder
and her delight. And now her eyes were looking down, and she did _not_
ask him what he was doing there.

“Oh, Princess Vista,” he said softly, “I love you. I want to be loved!”

“Who are you--that want so much?” the princess asked--but her eyes
knew, and her smile knew.

“Someone who has brought back your picture-book,” said Prince Hazen. “I
pray you, teach it to me again.”

“Nay,” said the princess, softly, “I have taught you a wrong thing. For
I have taught you that there are many suns. And instead there is only
one sun, and it brings only one day--and that day is this day!”

It was so that she welcomed him back.

They went to the king, her father, and told him everything. And when he
knew that his daughter loved Prince Hazen, he restored his kingdom to
him, and named him his own successor. And Hazen was crowned king, with
much magnificence, and his father’s courtiers, who were living, were
returned to his court, and that wise, wonderful old man, who had shown
him the inside of his own head, was given a place of honour near the
king.

But on the day of the coronation, louder than the shouts of the people,
and nearer even than the voice of his queen, sounded that voice of the
wise and good Self, which was but the Thought, deep within the soul of
the king:--

“Hail to Hazen--King of All His Selves!”



XVI

THE WALK


“What’s the latest you ever stayed up?” Delia demanded of Mary
Elizabeth and me.

“I sat up till ten o’clock once when my aunt was coming,” I boasted.

“Once I was on a train that got in at twelve o’clock,” said Mary
Elizabeth, thoughtfully, “but I was asleep till the train got in. Would
you call that sitting up till twelve o’clock?”

On the whole, Delia and I decided that you could not impartially call
it so, and Mary Elizabeth conceded the point. Her next best experience
was dated at only half past nine.

“I was up till eleven o’clock lots of times.” Delia threw out
carelessly.

We regarded her with awe. Here was another glory for her list. Already
we knew that she had slept in a sleeping car, patted an elephant, and
swum four strokes.

“What’s the earliest you ever got up?” Delia pursued.

Here, too, we proved to have nothing to compete with the order of
Delia’s risings. However, this might yet be mended. There seemed never
to be the same household ban on getting up early that there was on
staying up late.

“Let’s get up some morning before four o’clock and take a walk,” I
suggested.

“My brother got up at half past three once,” Mary Elizabeth announced.

“Well,” I said, “let’s get up at half past three. Let’s do it to-morrow
morning.”

Mary Elizabeth and I had stretched a string from a little bell at
the head of her bed to a little bell at the head of my bed. This the
authorities permitted us to ring so long as there was discernible a
light, or any other fixed signal, at the two windows; and also after
seven o’clock in the morning. But of course the time when we both
longed most frantically to pull the cord was when either woke at night
and lay alone in the darkness. In the night I used to put my hand on
the string and think how, by a touch, I could waken Mary Elizabeth,
just as if she were in my room, just as if we were hand in hand. I
used to think what joy it would be if all little children on the same
side of the ocean were similarly provided, and if no one interfered.
A little code of signals arose in my mind, a kind of secret code which
should be heard by nobody save those for whom they were intended--for
sick children, for frightened children, for children just having a bad
dream, for motherless children, for cold or tired or lonely children,
for all children sleepless for any cause. I used to wish that little
signals like this could be rung for all unhappy children, night or day.
Why, with all their inventions, had not grown people invented this? Of
course they would never make things any harder for us than they could
help (we thought). But why had they not done this thing to make things
easier?

The half past three proposal was unanimously vetoed within doors: We
might rise at five o’clock, no earlier. This somewhat took edge from
the adventure, but we accepted it as next best. Delia was to be waked
by an alarm clock. Mary Elizabeth and I felt that, by some mysterious
means, we could waken ourselves; and we two agreed to call each other,
so to say, by the bells.

When I did waken, it was still quite dark, and when I had found light
and a clock, I saw that it was only a little after three. As I had
gone to bed at seven, I was wide awake at three; and it occurred to me
that I would stay up till time to call Mary Elizabeth. This would be
at half past four. Besides, stopping up then presented an undoubted
advantage: It enabled me to skip my bath. Clearly I could not, with
courtesy, risk rousing the household with many waters.

I dressed in the dark, braided my own hair in the dark--by now I could
do this save that the plait, when I brought it over my shoulder, still
would assume a jog--and sat down by the open window. It was one of the
large nights ... for some nights are undeniably larger than others.
When I was on the street with my hand in a grown-up hand, the night
was invariably bounded by trees, fences, houses, lawns, horse-blocks,
and the like. But when I stepped to the door alone at night, I always
noticed that it stretched endlessly away. So it was now. I could slip
out the screen, as I had discovered earlier in the season when I had
felt the need of feeding a nest of house-wrens in the bird-house below
my sill--and I took out the screen now, and leaned out in the darkness.
The stars seemed very near--I am always glad that I did not know how
far away they are, for they looked so friendly near. If only, I used
to think, the clouds would form _behind_ the stars and leave them all
shiny and blurry bright in the rain. What were they? How came they to
be in our world’s sky?

I suppose that I had been ten minutes at the window that morning when
I saw a light briefly flash in Mary Elizabeth’s window. Instantly, I
softly pulled my bell. She answered, and then I could see her, dim in
the window once more dark.

“It isn’t time yet!” she called softly--our houses were very near.

“Not yet,” I answered, “but I’m going to stay up.”

Mary Elizabeth briefly considered this.

“What for?” she propounded.

I had not thought what for.

“To--why to be up early,” I answered confidently. “I’m all dressed.”

The defence must have carried conviction.

“I will, too,” Mary Elizabeth concluded.

She disappeared and, after a suitable time, reappeared at the window,
presumably fully clothed. I detached the bell from my bed and sat with
it in my hand, and I found afterward that she had done the same. From
time to time we each gave the cord a slight, ecstatic pull. The whole
mystery of the great night lay in those gentle signals.

It is unfortunate to have to confess that, after a time, the mystery
palled. But it did. Stars, wide, dark, moonless lawn, empty street,
all these blurred and merged in a single impression. This was one of
chilliness. Even calling through the night at intervals, and at the
imminent risk of being heard, lost its charm, because after a little
while there was nothing left to call. “How still it is!” and “Nobody
but us is up in town,” and “Won’t Delia be mad?” lose their edge when
repeated for about the third time each. Moreover, I was obliged to face
a new foe: I was getting sleepy.

Without undue disturbance of the cord, I managed to consult the clock
once more. It was five minutes of four. There remained more than an
hour to wait! It was I who capitulated.

“Mary Elizabeth,” I said waveringly, “would you care very much if I was
to lay down just a little to rest my eyes?”

“No, I wouldn’t care,” came with significant alacrity. “I will, too.”

I lay down on the covers and pulled a comforter about me. As I drifted
off I remember wondering how the dark ever kept awake all night. For it
was awake. To know that one had only to listen.

We all had a signal which we called a “trill,” made by tongue and
teeth, with almost the force of a boy and a blade of grass. This,
produced furiously beneath my window, was what wakened me. Delia stood
between the two houses, engaged with such absorption in manufacturing
this sound that she failed to see me at the window. A moment after
I had hailed her, Mary Elizabeth appeared at her window, looking
distinctly distraught.

Seeing us fully dressed, Delia’s indignation increased.

“Why didn’t you leave me know you were up?” she demanded shrilly. “It’s
a quarter past five. I been out here fifteen minutes.”

We were assuring her guiltily that we would be right down when there
came an interruption.

“_Delia!_”

Delia’s father, in a gray bath-robe, stood at an upper window of their
house across the street.

“What do you mean by waking up the whole neighbourhood?” he inquired,
not without reason. “Now I want you to come home.”

“We were going walking,” Delia reminded him.

“You are coming home at once after this proceeding,” Delia’s father
assured her. “No more words please, Delia.”

He disappeared from the window. Delia moved reluctantly across the
street. As she went, she threw a resentful glance at Mary Elizabeth and
me, each.

“I’m sorry, Delia!” we called softly in chorus. She made no reply. Mary
Elizabeth and I were left staring at each other down our bell-rope,
no longer taut, but limp, as we had left it earlier.... Even in that
stress, the unearthly sweetness of the morning smote me--the early sun,
the early shadows. It all looked so exactly as if it had expected you
not to be looking. This is the look of outdoors that, _now_, will most
quickly take me back.

“It wouldn’t be fair to go walking without Delia,” said Mary Elizabeth,
abruptly and positively.

“No,” I agreed, with equal decision. Then, “We might as well go back to
bed,” I pursued the subject further.

“Let’s,” said Mary Elizabeth.



XVII

THE GREAT BLACK HUSH


On that special night, which somehow I remember with tenderness, I
sometimes think now--all these years after--that I should like to have
been with those solitary, sleepy little figures, trying so hard to get
near to mystery. I should think that a Star Story must have come in
anybody’s head to tell them. Like this:--

       *       *       *       *       *

Once, when it didn’t matter to anybody whether you were late or early,
or quick or slow, not only because there wasn’t anybody and there
wasn’t any you, but because it was back in the beginning when there
were no lates and earlies and quicks and slows, _then_ things began to
happen in the middle of the Great Black Hush which was all there was to
everything.

The Great Black Hush reached all the way around the Universe and in
directions without any names, and it was huge and humble and superior
and helpless and mighty and in other ways it was very much indeed like
a man. And as there was nothing to do, the Great Black Hush was bored
past extinction and almost to creation. For there wasn’t anything else
about save only the Wind, and the Wind would have nothing whatever to
do with him and always blew right by.

Now, inasmuch as everything that is now was then going to be created,
it was all waiting somewhere to be created; and nothing is clearer than
that. Lines and colours and musics and tops and blocks and flame and
Noah’s arks and mechanical toys and mountains and paints and planets
and air and water and alphabets and jumping-jacks, all, all, were
waiting to be created, and among them waited people. I cannot tell you
where they waited, because there was no where; but they were waiting,
as anybody can see, for time to be begun.

Among the people who were waiting about was one special baby, who was
just big enough to reach out after everything and to try to put it in
his mouth, and they had an awful time with him. He put his little hands
on coloured things and on flame things and on air and on water and on
musics, and he wanted to know what they all were, and he tried to put
them in his mouth. And his mother was perfectly distracted, and she
told him so, openly.

[Illustration: “TO SEE WHAT RUNNING AWAY IS REALLY LIKE.”]

“Special Baby,” she said to him openly, “I don’t see why every hair
in my head is not pure white. And if you don’t stop making so much
trouble, I’ll run away.”

“Run away,” thought the Special Baby. “Now what thing is that?”

And he stretched out his little hand to see, but there wasn’t anything
there, and he couldn’t put it in his mouth; so without letting anybody
know, he started off all by himself to see what running away is really
like.

He ran and he ran, past lines and colours and blocks and flame and
music and paint and planets, all waiting about to begin, till he began
to notice the Great Black Hush, where it lay all humble and important,
and bored past extinction and almost to creation.

“What thing is that?” thought the Special Baby, and put out his little
hand to get it and put it in his mouth.

So he touched the Great Black Hush, and under the little hand the Great
Black Hush felt as never he had felt before. For the Special Baby’s
hand was soft and wandering and most clinging--any General Baby’s hand
will give you the idea if you care to try. And it made it seem as if
there were something to do.

All through his huge, helpless, superior, and mighty being the Great
Black Hush was stirred, and when the Special Baby was frightened and
would have gone back, the Great Black Hush did the most astonishing
things to try to keep him. He plaited the darkness up like a ruffle
and waved it like a flag and opened it like a flower and shut it like
a door and poured it about like water, all to keep the Special Baby
amused. But though the Special Baby tried to put most of these and
_all_ the dark in his mouth, still on the whole he was badly frightened
and wanted his mother, and he began to cry to show how much he wanted
her. And then the Great Black Hush was at his wits’ end.

“Now, who is there to be the mother of this Special Baby?” he cried in
despair, for there wasn’t anything else anywhere around, save only the
Wind, and the Wind always blew right by. But the blowing by must have
been because the Great Black Hush had never spoken before, for these
were the first words that ever he had said; and the Wind, on hearing
them, stopped still as a stone, and listened.

“Would I do?” the Wind asked, and the Great Black Hush was so
astonished that he almost dropped the Special Baby.

“Would I do?” asked the Wind again, and made the dark like blown
garments and like long, blown hair and tender motions, such as women
make. And she took the Special Baby in her arms and rocked him as
gently as boughs, so that he laughed with delight and tried to put the
wind in his mouth and finally went to sleep, with his beads on.

“_Now_ what’ll we do?” said the Great Black Hush, hanging about, all
helpless and mighty.

“We can get along without a cradle,” said the Wind, “because I will
rock him to sleep in my arms.” (This was before time began and before
they laid them down to go to sleep alone in a dark room.) “But we
ought, we _ought_,” she added, “to have something for him to play with
when he wakes up.” (This was before time began and before anybody ate.
But they always played. That came first.)

“If he had something to play with, what would that look like?” asked
the Great Black Hush, all helpless.

“It musn’t have points like scissors, or ends like string, and the
paint mustn’t come off. I think,” said the Wind, “it ought to look like
a shining ball.”

“By my distance,” said the Great Black Hush, all mighty, “that’s what
it shall look like.”

Then he began to make a plaything, and he worked all over him and all
over everywhere at the fashioning. I don’t know how he did it, because
I wasn’t there, and I can’t reckon how long it took him, because there
wasn’t any time, but I know some things about it all, and one is that
he finally got it done.

“Look!” the Great Black Hush cried to the Wind,--for she paid more
attention to the Special Baby now than she did to him. And when she
looked, there hung in the sky, a great, enormous, shining ball.

“That’s big enough so he can’t get it in his mouth,” she said
approvingly. “It’s really ginginatic.”

“You mean gigantic, dear,” said the Great Black Hush, all superior. But
the Wind didn’t care because words hadn’t been used long enough to fit
closely, and besides he had said “dear” and she knew what _that_ meant.
“Dear” came before “gigantic.”

“Now wake him up,” said the Great Black Hush, “to play with it.”

But this the Wind would by no means do. She said the Special Baby must
have his sleep out or he’d be cross. And the Great Black Hush wondered
however she knew that, and he went away, all humble, and amused himself
making more playthings till the baby woke up. And all the playthings
looked like shining balls, because that was the only kind of plaything
the Wind had told him to make and he didn’t know whether anything
else would do. So he made them by the thousands and started them all
swinging because he thought the Special Baby would like them to do that.

By-and-by--there was always by-and-by before there was any time, and
that is why so many people prefer it--when he couldn’t stay any longer,
he went back where the Wind waited, cuddling the Special Baby close.

“Sh-h-h-h,” said the Wind, but she was too late, and the Special Baby
woke up, with wide eyes and a smile in them.

But he wasn’t cross. For the minute he opened his eyes he saw all
the thousands of shining balls hanging in the darkness and swinging,
swinging, and he crowed with delight and stretched out his little hands
for them, but they were so big he couldn’t put them in his mouth and so
he might reach out all he pleased.

“_Ho_,” said the Great Black Hush, “now everything is as it never was
before.”

But the Wind sighed a little.

“I wish everything were more so,” she said. “I ought to have a place to
take the Special Baby and make his clothes and mend his socks and tie
on his shoes and rub his little back. Also, I want to learn a lullaby,
and this is so public.”

Then the Great Black Hush thought and thought, and remembered that away
back on the Outermost Way and beneath the Wild Wing of Things, there
was a tidy little place that might be just the thing. It was _not_ up
to date, because there wasn’t any date, but still he thought it might
be just the thing.

“By the welkin,” he said, “I know a place that is the place. I’ll go
and sweep it out.”

“Not so fast,” said the Wind, gently. “I go also. I want to be sure
that there are enough closets--” or whatever would have corresponded to
that before there was any Modern at all.

So the three went away together and groped about on the Outermost Way
and beneath the Wild Wing of Things, and there the Wind swept it out
tidily and there they made their home. And when it was all done,--which
took a great while because the Wind kept wanting additions put
on,--they came out and sat at the door of the place, the Great Black
Hush and the Wind and the Special Baby between.

And as they did that a wonderful thing was true. For now that the
Great Black Hush had withdrawn to his new home, lo, all the swinging
plaything balls were shining through space, and there was light. And
the man and the woman and the child at the door of the first home
looked in one another’s faces. And the man and the woman were afraid of
the light and their look clung each to the other’s in that fear; but
the Special Baby stretched out his little hands and tried to put the
light in his mouth.

“Don’t, dear,” said the woman, and her voice sounded quite natural.

“Pay attention to me and not to the Baby,” said the man, and _his_
voice sounded quite natural, and very mighty, so that the woman
obeyed--until the Special Baby wanted her again.

And that was when she made her lullaby, and it was the first song:--

WIND SONG[B]

    Horn of the morning!
    And the little night pipings fail.
    The day is launched like a hollow ship
    With the sun for a sail.
    The way is wide and blue and lone
    With all its miles inviolate
    Save for the swinging stars we’ve sown
    And a thistle of cloud remote and blown.
    Oh, I passion for something nearer than these!
    How shall I know that this live thing is I
    With only the morning for proof and the sky?
    I long for a music more soft to its keys,
    For a touch that shall teach me the new sureties.
    Give me some griefs and some loyalties
    And a child’s mouth on my own!

    Lullaby, lullaby,
    Babe of the world, swing high,
    Swing low.
    I am a mother you never may know,
    But oh
    And oh, how long the wind will know you,
    With lullabies for the dead night through.
    Babe of the earth, as I blow ...
    Swing high,
    To touch at the sky,
    And at last lie low.
    Lullaby....

[B] Reproduced by permission of _The Craftsman_.

But meanwhile the Special Baby’s real mother--the one who had told him
about running away--was hunting and hunting and _hunting_ for him and
going nearly distracted and expecting every hair in her head to turn
pure white. She went about among all the rest, asking and calling and
wanting to know, and finally she made up her mind that she would not
stay where she was, but that she would run away and hunt for him. And
she did. And when all the things that were waiting to be born heard
about it, there was no holding them back either. So out they came,
lines and colours and musics and tops and blocks and flame and Noah’s
arks and mechanical toys and mountains and planets and paints and air
and water and alphabets and jumping-jacks, all, all came out in the
wake of the lost Special Baby. And some came early and some came late,
some hurried and some hung back. And among all these came people, and
many and many of the to-be-born things were hidden in peoples’ hearts
and did not appear till long after; and this was true of some things
which I have not mentioned at all, and of some that have not appeared
even yet. But some people did not bring anything in their hearts, and
they merely observed that it was a shameful waste, so many shining
balls swinging about and only the Special Baby to play with them, and
_he_ evidently eternally lost.

But the Special Baby’s real mother didn’t say a word. She only ran and
ran on, asking and calling and wanting to know. And at last she came
to the Outermost Way and near the Wild Wing of Things, and the Special
Baby heard her coming. And when he heard that, he made his choicest
coo-noise in his throat and he stretched out his arms to his real
mother that he was used to.

And when his real mother heard the coo-noise, she brushed aside the
Wild Wing of Things and took him in her arms--and she never saw the
Wind and the Great Black Hush at all, because they are that kind. So
she carried the Special Baby off, kicking and crowing and catching at
the swinging, shining balls--but they were too big to put in his mouth
so there was no danger--and _she_ hunted up a place where she could
make his clothes and mend his socks and tie on his shoes and rub his
little back. But about them all things were going on, and everybody
else was doing the same thing, so nobody noticed.

Then, all alone before their home on the Outermost Way and beneath the
Wild Wing of Things that was all brushed aside, the Great Black Hush
and the Wind looked at each other. And their look clung, as when they
had first found light, and they were afraid. For now all space was
glowing and shining with swinging balls, and all the things were being
born and making homes, and time was rushing by so fast that it awed
them who had never seen such a thing before.

“_What_ have we done?” demanded the Great Black Hush.

But the Wind was not so much concerned with that. She only grieved and
grieved for the Special Baby. And the Great Black Hush comforted her,
and I think he comforts her unto this day.

Only at night. Then, as you know, the Great Black Hush comes from the
Outermost Way and fills the air, and with him often and often comes the
Wind. And together they wander among all the shining balls--you will
know this, if you listen, on many a night--and together they look for
the Special Baby. But _he_ has grown up, long and long ago, only he
still stretches out his hands to everything, for he is the way he was
made.



XVIII

THE DECORATION OF INDEPENDENCE


That year we celebrated Fourth of July in the Wood Yard.

The town had decided not to have a celebration, though we did not know
who had done the actual deciding, and this we used to talk about.

“How can the _town_ decide anything?” Delia asked sceptically. “When
does it do it?”

“Why,” said Margaret Amelia--to whom, her father being a judge, we
always turned to explain matters of state, “its principal folks say so.”

“Who are its principal folks?” I demanded.

“Why,” said Margaret Amelia, “I should think you could tell that. They
have the stores and offices and live in the residence part.”

I pondered this, for most of the folk in the little town did neither of
these things.

“Why don’t they have another Fourth of July for the rest, then,” I
suggested, “and leave them settle on their own celebration?”

Margaret Amelia looked shocked.

“I guess you don’t know much about the Decoration of Independence,”
said she.

The Decoration of Independence--we all called it this--was, then, to go
by without attention because the Town said so.

“The Town,” said Mary Elizabeth, dreamily, “the Town. It sounds like
somebody tall, very high, and pointed at the top, with the rest of her
dark and long and flowy--don’t it?”

“City,” she and I were agreed, sounded like somebody light and sitting
down with her skirts spread out.

“Village” sounded like a little soft hollow, not much of any colour,
with a steeple to it.

“I like ‘Town’ best,” Mary Elizabeth said. “It sounds more like a
mother-woman. ‘City’ sounds like a lady-woman. And ‘Village’ sounds
like a grandma-woman. I like ‘Town’ best.”

“What I want to do,” Margaret Amelia said restlessly, “is to spend
my Fourth of July dollar. I had a Fourth of July dollar ever since
Christmas. It’s no fun spending it with no folks and bands and wagons.”

“I’ve got my birthday dollar yet,” I contributed. “If I spent it for
Fourth of July, I’d be glad of it, but if I spend it for anything else,
I’ll want it back.”

“I had a dollar,” said Calista, gloomily, “but I used a quarter of
it up on the circus. Now I’m glad I did. I wish’t I’d stayed to the
sideshow.”

“Stitchy Branchitt says,” Betty offered, “that the boys are all going
to Poynette and spend their money there. Poynette’s got exercises.”

Oh, the boys would get a Fourth. Trust them. But what about us? We
could not go to Poynette. We could not rise at three A.M. and
fire off fire-crackers. No fascinating itinerant hucksters would come
the way of a town that held no celebration. We had nowhere to spend our
substance, and to do that was to us what Fourth of July implied.

The New Boy came wandering by, eating something. Boys were always
eating something that looked better than anything we saw in the
candy-shop. Where did they get it? This that he had was soft and pink
and chewy, and it rapidly disappeared as he approached us.

Margaret Amelia Rodman threw back her curls and flashed a sudden
radiant smile at the New Boy. She became quite another person from the
judicious, somewhat haughty creature whom we knew.

“Let’s us get up a Fourth of July celebration,” she said.

We held our breath. It never would have occurred to us. But now that
she suggested it, why not?

The New Boy leaped up on a gate-post and sat looking down at us,
chewing.

“How?” he inquired.

“Get up a partition,” said Margaret Amelia. “Circulate it like for
take-a-walk at school or teacher’s present, and all sign.”

“And take it to who?” asked the New Boy.

Margaret Amelia considered.

“My father,” she proposed.

The scope of the idea was enormous. Her father was a judge and wore
very black clothes every day, and never spoke to any of us. Therefore
he must be a great man. Doubtless he could do anything.

Boys, as we knew them, usually flouted everything that we
said, but--possibly because of Margaret Amelia’s manner of
presentation--this suggestion seemed to strike the New Boy favourably.
Afterward we learned that this was probably partly owing to the fact
that the fare to Poynette was going to eat distressingly into the boys’
Fourth money, unless they walked the ten miles.

By common consent we had Margaret Amelia and the New Boy draw up the
“partition.” But we all spent a long time on it, and at length it
read:--

       *       *       *       *       *

    “We the Undersigned want there should be a July 4 this year.
    We the Undersigned would like a big one. But if it can’t be so
    very big account of no money, We the Undersigned would like one
    anyway, and hereby respectfully partition about this in the
    name of the Decoration of Independence.”

There was some doubt whether or not to close this document with “Always
sincerely” but we decided to add only the names, and these we set out
to secure, the New Boy carrying one copy and Margaret Amelia another. I
remember that, to honour the occasion, she put on a pale blue crocheted
shawl of her mother’s and we all trailed in her wake, worshipfully.

The lists grew amazingly. Long before noon we had to get new papers. By
night we had every child that we knew, save Stitchy Branchitt. He had a
railroad pass to Poynette, and he favoured the out-of-town celebration.
But the personal considerations of economic conditions were as usual
sufficient to swing the event, and the next morning I suppose that
twenty-five or thirty of us, bearing the names of three or four times
as many, marched into Judge Rodman’s office.

On the stairs Margaret Amelia had a thought.

“Does your father pay taxes?” she inquired of Mary Elizabeth--who was
with us, having been sent down town for starch.

“On his watch--he used to,” said Mary Elizabeth, doubtfully. “But he
hasn’t got that any more.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said Margaret Amelia, “whether we’d really
ought to of put down any names that their fathers don’t pay taxes. It
may make a difference. I guess you’re the only one we got that their
fathers don’t--that he ain’t--”

I fancy that what Margaret Amelia had in mind was that Mary Elizabeth’s
father was the only one who lived meanly; for many of the others must
have gone untaxed, but they lived in trim, rented houses, and we knew
no difference.

Mary Elizabeth was visibly disturbed.

“I never thought of that,” she said. “Maybe I better scratch me off.”

But there seemed to me to be something indefinably the matter with this.

“The Fourth of July is for everybody, isn’t it?” I said. “Didn’t the
whole country think of it?”

“I think it’s like a town though,” said Margaret Amelia. “The principal
folks decided it, I’m sure. And they _always_ pay taxes.”

We appealed to the New Boy, as authority superior even to Margaret
Amelia. How was this--did the Decoration of Independence mean
everybody, or not? Could Mary Elizabeth sign the partition since her
father paid no taxes?

“Well,” said the New Boy, “it _says_ everybody, don’t it? But nobody
ever gets to ride in the parade but distinguished citizens--it always
says them, you know. I s’pose maybe it meant the folks that pays the
taxes, only it didn’t like to put it in.”

“I better take my name off,” said Mary Elizabeth, decidedly. “It might
hurt.”

So the New Boy produced a stump of pencil, and we found the right
paper, and held it up against the wall of the stairway, and Mary
Elizabeth scratched her name off.

“I won’t come up, then,” she whispered to me, and made her way down the
stairs, her head held very high.

Judge Rodman was in his office--he makes, I find, my eternal picture
of “judge,” short, thick, frock-coated, bearded, bald, spectacled,
square-toed, and with his hands full of loose papers and his
watch-chain shining.

“Bless us,” he said, too, as a judge should.

Margaret Amelia was ahead,--still in the pale blue crocheted
shawl,--and she and the New Boy laid down the papers, and the judge
picked them up, and read. His big pink face flushed the more, and
he took off his spectacles and brushed his eyes, and he cleared his
throat, and beamed down on us, and stood nodding.... I remember that he
had an editorial in his paper the next night called “A Lesson to the
Community,” and another, later, “Out of the Mouths of Babes”--for Judge
Rodman was a very great man, and owned the newspaper and the brewery
and the principal department store, and had been to the legislature;
and his newspaper was always thick with editorials about honouring the
flag and reverencing authority and the beauties of home life--Miss
Messmore used to cut them out and read them to us at General Exercises.

So Judge Rodman called a Town meeting in the Engine House, and we all
hung about the door downstairs, because they said that if children
went to the meeting, they would scrape their feet on the bare floor
so that nobody could hear a sound; and so we waited outside until we
heard hands clapped and the Doxology sung, and then we knew that it had
passed.

We were having a new Court House that year, so the Court House yard
was not available for exercises: and the school grounds had been sown
with grass seed in the beginning of vacation, and the market-place was
nothing but a small vacant lot. So there was only one place to have
the exercises: the Wood Yard. And as there was very little money to
do anything with, it was voted to ask the women to take charge of the
celebration and arrange something “tasty, up-to-date, and patriotic,”
as Judge Rodman put it. They set themselves to do it. And none of
us who were the children then will ever forget that Fourth of July
celebration--yet this is not because of what the women planned, nor of
anything that the committee of which Judge Rodman was chairman thought
to do for the sake of the day.

Our discussion of their plans was not without pessimism.

“Of course what they get up won’t be any _real_ good,” the New Boy
advanced. “They’ll stick the school organ up on the platform, and
that sounds awful skimpy outdoors. And the church choirs’ll sing. And
somebody’ll stand up and scold and go on about nothing. But it’ll get
folks here, and balloon men, and stuff to sell, and a band; so I s’pose
we can stand the other doin’s.”

“And there’s fireworks on the canal bank in the evening,” we reminded
him.

Fourth of July morning began as usual before it dawned. The New Boy and
the ten of his tribe assembled at half past three on the lawn between
our house and that of the New Family, and, at a rough estimate, each
fired off the cost of his fare to Poynette and return. Mary Elizabeth
and I awoke and listened, giving occasional ecstatic pulls at our bell.
Then we rose and watched the boys go ramping on toward other fields,
and, we breathed the dim beauty of the hour, and, I think, wondered if
it knew that it was Fourth of July, and we went back to bed, conscious
that we were missing a good sixth of the day, a treasure which, as
usual, the boys were sharing.

After her work was done, Mary Elizabeth and I took our bags of
torpedoes and popped them off on the front bricks. Delia was allowed
to have fire-crackers if she did not shoot them off by herself, and
she was ardently absorbed in them on their horse-block, with her
father. Calista had brothers, and had put her seventy-five cents in
with their money on condition that she be allowed to stay with them
through the day. Margaret Amelia and Betty always stopped at home until
annual giant crackers were fired from before their piazza, with Judge
Rodman officiating in his shirt-sleeves, and Mrs. Rodman watching in
a starched white “wrapper” on the veranda and uttering little cries,
all under the largest flag that there was in the town, floating from
the highest flagpole. Mary Elizabeth and I had glimpses of them all in
a general survey which we made, resulting in satisfactory proof that
the expected merry-go-round, the pop-corn wagon, a chocolate cart, an
ice-cream cone man, and a balloon man and woman were already posted
expectantly about.

“If it wasn’t for them, though,” observed Mary Elizabeth to me, “the
town wouldn’t be really acting like Fourth of July, do you think so? It
just kind of lazes along, like a holiday.”

We looked critically at the sunswept street. The general aspect of the
time was that people had seized upon it to do a little extra watering,
or some postponed weeding, or to tinker at the screens.

“How could it act, though?” I inquired.

“Well,” said Mary Elizabeth, “a river flows, don’t it? And I s’pose a
mountain towers. And the sea keeps a-coming in ... and they all act
like themselves. Only just a Town don’t take any notice of itself--even
on the Fourth.”

That afternoon we were all dressed in our white dresses--“Mine used
to have a sprig in it,” said Mary Elizabeth, “but it’s so faded out
anybody’d ’most say it was white, don’t you think so?”--and we
children met at the Rodmans’--where Margaret Amelia and Betty appeared
in white embroidered dresses and blue ribbons and blue stockings, and
we marched down the hill, behind the band, to the Wood Yard. The Wood
Yard had great flags and poles set at intervals, with bunting festooned
between, and the platform was covered with bunting, and the great
open space of the yard was laid with board benches. Place in front
was reserved for us, and already the rest of the town packed the Yard
and hung about the fences. Stitchy Branchitt had given up his journey
to Poynette after all, and had established a lemonade stand at the
Wood Yard gate--“a fool thing to do,” the New Boy observed plainly.
“He knows we’ve spent all we had, and the big folks never think
your stuff’s clean.” But Stitchy was enormously enjoying himself by
deafeningly shouting:--

“Here’s what you get--here’s what you get--here’s what you get.
Cheap--cheap--_cheap_!”

“Quit cheepin’ like some kind o’ bir-r-rd,” said the New Boy, out of
one corner of his mouth, as he passed him.

Just inside the Wood Yard gate I saw, with something of a shock, Mary
Elizabeth’s father standing. He was leaning against the fence, with
his arms folded, and as he caught the look of Mary Elizabeth, who was
walking with me, he smiled, and I was further surprised to see how
kind his eyes were. They were almost like my own father’s eyes. This
seemed to me somehow a very curious thing, and I turned and looked at
Mary Elizabeth, and thought: “Why, it’s her _father_--just the same as
mine.” It surprised me, too, to see him there. When I came to think of
it, I had never before seen him where folk were. Always, unless Mary
Elizabeth were with him, he had been walking alone, or sitting down
where other people never sat.

Judge Rodman was on the platform, and as soon as the band and the
choirs would let him--he made several false starts at rhetorical pauses
in the music--he introduced a clergyman who had always lived in the
town and who prayed for the continuance of peace and the safe conquest
of all our enemies. Then Judge Rodman himself made the address, having
generously consented to do so when it was proposed to keep the money
in the town by hiring a local speaker. He began with the Norsemen and
descended through Queen Isabella and Columbus and the Colonies, making
a détour of Sir Walter Raleigh and his cloak, Benedict Arnold, Israel
Putnam and Pocahontas, and so by way of Valley Forge and the Delaware
to Faneuil Hall and the spirit of 1776. It was a grand flight, filled
with what were afterward freely referred to as magnificent passages
about the storm, the glory of war, and the love of our fellow-men.

(“Supposing you happen to love the enemy,” said Mary Elizabeth,
afterward.

“Well, a pretty thing that would be to do,” said the New Boy, shocked.

“We had it in the Sunday school lesson,” Mary Elizabeth maintained.

“Oh, well,” said the New Boy. “I don’t mean about such things. I mean
about what you _do_.”

But I remember that Mary Elizabeth still looked puzzled.)

Especially was Judge Rodman’s final sentence generally repeated for
days afterward:--

“At Faneuil Hall,” said the judge, “the hour at last had struck. The
hands on the face of the clock stood still. ‘The force of Nature could
no further go.’ The supreme thing had been accomplished. Henceforth
we were embalmed in the everlasting and unchangeable essence of
freedom--freedom--_freedom_.”

Indeed, he held our attention from the first, both because he did not
read what he said, and because the ice in the pitcher at his elbow had
melted before he began and did not require watching.

Then came the moment when, having completed his address, he took up
the Decoration of Independence, to read it; and began the hunt for his
spectacles. We watched him go through his pockets, but we did so with
an interest which somewhat abated when he began the second round.

“What _is_ the Decoration of Independence, anyhow?” I whispered to Mary
Elizabeth, our acquaintance with it having been limited to learning it
“by heart” in school.

“Why, don’t you know?” Mary Elizabeth returned. “It’s that thing Miss
Messmore can say so fast. It’s when we was the British.”

“Who decorated it?” I wanted to know.

“George Washington,” replied Mary Elizabeth.

“How?” I pressed it. “How’d he do it?”

“I don’t know--but I think that’s what he wanted of the cherry
blossoms,” said she.

At this point Judge Rodman gave up the search.

“I deeply regret,” said he, “that I shall be obliged to forego my
reading of our national document which, next to the Constitution
itself, best embodies our unchanging principles.”

And then he added something which smote the front rows suddenly
breathless:--

“However, it occurs to me, since this is preeminently the children’s
celebration and since I am given to understand that our public schools
now bestow due and proper attention upon the teaching of civil
government, that it will be a fitting thing, a moving thing even, to
hear these words of our great foundation spoken in childish tones. Miss
Messmore, can you, as teacher of the city schools, in the grades where
the idea of our celebration so fittingly originated, among the tender
young, can you recommend, madam, perhaps, one of your bright pupils
to repeat for us these undying utterances whose commitment has now
become, as I understand it, a part of our public school curriculum?”

There was an instant’s pause, and then I heard Margaret Amelia Rodman’s
name spoken. Miss Messmore had uttered it. Judge Rodman was repeating
it, smiling blandly down with a pleased diffidence.

“There can be no one more fitted to do this, Judge Rodman,” Miss
Messmore had promptly said, “than your daughter, Margaret Amelia, at
whose suggestion this celebration, indeed, has come about.”

Poor Margaret Amelia. In spite of her embroidered gown, her blue
ribbons, and her blue stockings, I have seldom seen anyone look so
wretched as did she when they made her mount that platform. To give her
courage her father met her, and took her hand. And then, in his pride
and confidence, something else occurred to him.

“Tell us, Margaret Amelia,” he said with a gesture infinitely paternal,
“how came the children to think of demanding of us wise-heads that we
give observance to this day which we had already voted to let slip past
unattended? What spirit moved the children to this act?”

At first Margaret Amelia merely twisted, and fingered her sash at
the side. Margaret Amelia was always called on for visitors’ days,
and the like. She could usually command her faculties and give a
straightforward answer, not so much because of what she knew as because
of her unfailing self-confidence. Of this her father was serenely
aware; but, aware also that the situation made unusual demands, he
concluded to help her somewhat.

“How came the children,” he encouragingly put it, “to think of making
this fine effort to save our National holiday this year?”

Margaret Amelia straightened slightly. She faced her audience with
something of her native confidence, and told them:--

“Why,” she said, “we all had some Fourth of July money, and there
wasn’t going to be any way to spend it.”

A ripple of laughter ran round, and Judge Rodman’s placid pink turned
to purple.

“I fear,” he observed gravely, “that the immediate nature of the event
has somewhat obscured the real significance of the children’s most
superior movement. Now, my child! Miss Messmore thinks that you should
recite for us at least a portion of the Declaration of Independence.
Will you do so?”

Margaret Amelia looked at him, down at us, away toward the waiting Wood
Yard, and then at Miss Messmore.

“Is it that about ‘The shades of night were falling fast’?” she
demanded.

In the roar of laughter that followed, Margaret Amelia ran down, poor
child, and sobbed on Miss Messmore’s shoulder. I never think of that
moment without something of a return of my swelling sympathy for her
who suffered this species of martyrdom, and so needlessly. I have seen,
out of schools and out of certain of our superstitions, many martyrdoms
result, but never one that has touched me more.

I do not know whether something of this feeling was in the voice that
we next heard speaking, or whether that which animated it was only its
own bitterness. That voice sounded, clear and low-pitched, through the
time’s confusion.

“I will read the Declaration of Independence,” it said.

And making his way through the crowd, and mounting the platform steps,
we saw Mary Elizabeth’s father.

Instinctively I put out my hand to her. But he was wholly himself,
and this I think that she knew from the first. He was neatly dressed,
and he laid his shabby hat on the table and picked up the book with a
tranquil air of command. I remember how frail he looked as he buttoned
his worn coat, and began to read.

“‘We, the people of the United States--’”

It was the first time that I had ever thought of Mary Elizabeth’s
father as to be classed with anybody. He had never had employment, he
belonged to no business, to no church, to no class of any sort. He
merely lived over across the tracks, and he went and came alone. And
here he was saying “_We_, the people of the United States,” just as if
he belonged.

When my vague fear had subsided lest they might stop his reading
because he was not a taxpayer, I listened for the first time in my life
to what he read. To be sure, I had--more or less--learned it. Now I
listened.

“Free and equal,” I heard him say, and I wondered what this meant.
“Free and equal.” But there were Mary Elizabeth and I, were we equal?
Perhaps, though, it didn’t mean little girls--only grown-ups. But there
were Mary Elizabeth’s father and mother, and all the other fathers
and mothers, they were grown up, and were they equal? And what were
they free from, I wondered. Perhaps, though, I didn’t know what these
words meant. “Free and equal” sounded like fairies, but folks I was
accustomed to think of as burdened, and as different from one another,
as Judge Rodman was different from Mary Elizabeth’s father. This,
however, was the first time that ever I had caught the word right: Not
Decoration, but Declaration of Independence, it seemed!

Mary Elizabeth’s father finished, and closed the book, and stood for
a moment looking over the Wood Yard. He was very tall and pale, and
seeing him with something of dignity in his carriage I realized with
astonishment that, if he were “dressed up,” he would look just like
the men in the choir, just like the minister himself. Then suddenly
he smiled round at us all, and even broke into a moment of soft and
pleasant laughter.

“It has been a long time,” he said, “since I have had occasion to
remember the Declaration of Independence. I am glad to have had it
called to my attention. We are in danger of forgetting about it--some
of us. May I venture to suggest that, when it is taught in the schools,
it be made quite clear to whom this document refers. And for the rest,
my friends, God bless us all--some day.”

“Bless us,” was what Judge Rodman had said. I remember wondering if
they meant the same thing.

He turned and went down the steps, and at the foot he staggered a
little, and I saw with something of pride that it was my father who
went to him and led him away.

At once the band struck gayly into a patriotic air, and the people on
all the benches got to their feet, and the men took off their hats. And
above the music I heard Stitchy Branchitt beginning to shout again:--

“Here’s what you get--here’s what you get--here’s what you get!
Something cheap--cheap--_cheap!_”

       *       *       *       *       *

When I came home from the fireworks with Delia’s family and Mary
Elizabeth, my father and mother were sitting on the veranda.

“It’s we who are to blame,” I heard my father saying, “though we’re
fine at glossing it over.”

I wondered what had happened, and I sat down on the top step and began
to untie my last torpedo from the corner of my handkerchief. Mary
Elizabeth had one left, too, and we had agreed to throw them on the
stone window-sills of our rooms as a final salute.

“Let’s ask her now,” said father.

Mother leaned toward me.

“Dear,” she said, “father has been having a talk with Mary Elizabeth’s
father and mother. And--when her father isn’t here any more--which may
not be long now, we think ... would you like us to have Mary Elizabeth
come and live here?”

“With us?” I cried. “_With us?_”

Yes, they meant with us.

“To work?” I demanded.

“To be,” mother said.

“Oh, yes, _yes!_” I welcomed it. “But her father--where will he be?”

“In a little while now,” father said, “he will be free--and perhaps
even equal.”

I did not understand this wholly. Besides, there was far too much to
think about. I turned toward the house of the New Family. A light
glowed in Mary Elizabeth’s room. I brought down my torpedo on the
brick walk, and it exploded merrily, and from Mary Elizabeth’s window
came an answering pop.

“Then Mary Elizabeth will get free and equal too!” I cried joyously.



XIX

EARTH-MOTHER


And for that day and that night, and for all the days and all the
nights, I should like to tell a story about the Earth, and about some
of the things that it keeps expecting.

And if it were Sometime Far Away--say 1950--or 2050--or 3050--I should
like to meet some Children of Then, and tell them this story about Now,
and hear them all talk of what a curious place the earth must have been
long ago, and of how many things it did not yet do.

And their Long Ago is our Now!

       *       *       *       *       *

For ages and ages (I should say to the Children of Then) the Earth was
a great round place of land and water, with trees, fields, cities,
mountains, and the like dotted about on it in a pattern; and it spun
and spun, out in space, like an enormous engraved ball tossed up in the
air from somewhere. And many people thought that this was all there was
to know about it, and after school they shut up their geographies and
went about engraving new trees, fields, cities, and such things on the
outside of the earth. And they truly thought that this was All, and
they kept on doing it, rather tired but very independent.

Now the Earth had a friend and companion whom nobody thought much
about. It was Earth’s Shadow, cast by the sun in the way that any other
shadow is cast, but it was such a big shadow that of course it fell
far, far out in space. And as Earth went round, naturally its Shadow
went round, and if one could have looked down, one would have seen the
Shadow sticking out and out, so that the Earth and its Shadow-handle
would have seemed almost like a huge saucepan filled with cities and
people, all being held out over the sun, to get them done.

Among the cities was one very beautiful City. She wore robes of
green or of white, delicately embroidered with streets in a free and
exquisite pattern, and her hair was like a flowing river, and at night
she put on many glorious jewels. And she had the power to change
herself at will into a woman. This was a power, however, which she had
never yet used, and indeed she did not yet know wholly that she had
this power, but she used to dream about it, and sometimes she used to
sing about the dream, softly, to herself. Men thought that this song
was the roar of the City’s traffic, but it was not so.

Now the Earth was most anxious for this City to become a woman because,
although the Earth whirled like an enormous engraved ball and seemed
like a saucepan held over the sun, still all the time it was really
just the Earth, and it was very human and tired and discouraged, and
it needed a woman to rest it and to sing to it and to work with it, in
her way. But there were none, because all the ordinary women were busy
with _their_ children. So the only way seemed to be for the City to be
a woman, as she knew how to be; and the Earth was most anxious to have
this happen. And it tried to see how it could bring this about.

I think that the Earth may have asked the Moon, because she is a woman
and might be expected to know something about it. But the Moon, as
usual, was asleep on the sky, with a fine mosquito-netting of mist all
about her, and she said not a word. (If you look at the Moon, you
can see how like a beautiful, sleeping face she seems.) I think that
the Earth may have asked Mars, too, because he is so very near that
it would be only polite to consult him. But he said: “I’m only a few
million years old yet. Don’t expect me to understand either cities or
people.” And finally the Earth asked its Shadow.

“Shadow, dear,” it said, “you are pretty deep. Can’t you tell me how to
make this City turn into a woman? For I want her to work with me, in
_her_ way.”

The Shadow, who did nothing but run to keep up with the Earth, let a
few thousand miles sweep by, and then it said:--

“Really, I wouldn’t know. I’m not up on much but travel.”

“Well,” said the Earth, “then please just ask the Uttermost Spaces. You
continually pass by that way and somebody ought to know something.”

So the Shadow swept along the Uttermost Spaces and made an
abyss-to-abyss canvass.

“The Uttermost Spaces want to know,” the Shadow reported next day,
“whether in all that City there is a child. They said if there is, it
could probably do what you want.”

“A child,” said the Earth. “Well, sea caves and firmaments. Of course
there is. What do the Uttermost Spaces think I’m in the Earth business
for if it isn’t for the Children?”

“I don’t know,” said its Shadow, rather sulkily. “I’m only telling you
what I heard. If you’re cross with me, I won’t keep up with you. I’m
about tired of it anyway.”

“Oh, I beg your pardon,” said the Earth, “You mustn’t mind me. I’m
always a little sunstruck. A thousand thanks. Come along, do.”

“A child,” thought the Earth, “a child. How could a child change a City
into a woman? And _what_ child?”

But it was a very wise old Earth, and to its mind all children are
valuable. So after a time it concluded that one child in that City
would be as good as another, and perhaps any child could work the
miracle. So it said: “I choose to work the miracle that child who is
thinking about the most beautiful thing in the world.”

Then it listened.

Now, since the feet of people are pressed all day long to earth, it
is true that the Earth can talk with everyone and, by listening, can
know what is in each heart. When it listened this time, it chanced that
it was the middle of the night, when nearly every little child was
sleeping and dreaming. But there was one little girl lying wide awake
and staring out her bedroom window up at the stars, and as soon as the
Earth listened to her thoughts, it knew that she was the one.

Of what do you suppose she was thinking? She was thinking of her
mother, who had died before she could remember her, and wondering
where she was; and she was picturing what her mother had looked like,
and what her mother would have said to her, and how her mother’s
arms would have felt about her, and her mother’s good-night kiss;
and she was wondering how it would be to wake in the night, a little
frightened, and turn and stretch out her arms and find her mother
breathing there beside her, ready to wake her and give her an
in-the-middle-of-the-night kiss and send her back to sleep again. And
she thought about it all so longingly that her little heart was like
nothing in the world so much as the one word “Mother.”

“It will be you,” said the Earth.

So the Earth spoke to its Shadow who was, of course, just then fastened
to that same side, it being night.

“Shadow, dear,” Earth said, like a prescription, “fold closely about
her and drop out a dream or two. But do not let her forget.”

So Shadow folded about her and dropped out a dream or two. And all
night Earth lapped her in its silences, but they did not let her
forget. And Shadow left word with Morning, telling Morning what to do,
and she kissed the little girl’s eyelids so that the first thing she
thought when she waked was how wonderful it would be to be kissed awake
by her mother. And her little heart beat _Mother_ in her breast.

As soon as she was dressed (“Muvvers wouldn’t pinch your feet with the
button-hook, or tie your ribbon too tight, or get your laxtixs short
so’s they pull,” she thought), as soon as she was dressed, and had
pressed her feet to Earth, Earth began to talk to her.

“Go out and find a mother,” it said to her.

“My muvver is dead,” thought the little girl.

Earth said: “I am covered with mothers and with those who ought to be
mothers. Go to them. Tell them you haven’t any mother. Wouldn’t one of
those be next best?”

And the Earth said so much, and the little girl’s heart so strongly
beat _Mother_, that she could not help going to see.

On the street she looked very little and she felt--oh, _much_ littler
than in the house with furniture. For the street seemed to be merely a
world of Skirts--skirts everywhere and also the bottoms of men’s coats
with impersonal Legs below. And these said nothing. Away up above were
Voices, talking very fast, and to one another, and entirely leaving
her out. She was out of the conversations and out of account, and it
felt far more lonely than it did with just furniture. Now and then
another child would pass who would look at her as if she really were
there; but everyone was hanging on its mother’s hand or her Skirt, or
else, if the child were alone, a Voice from ahead or behind was saying:
“Hurry, dear. Mother won’t wait. Come and see what’s in _this_ window.”
Littlegirl thought how wonderful that would be, to have somebody ahead
looking back for her, and she waited on purpose, by a hydrant, and
pretended that she was going to hear somebody saying: “_Do_ come on,
dear. Mother’ll be late for her fitting.” But nobody said anything.
Only an automobile stood close by the hydrant and in it was a little
yellow-haired girl, and just at that moment a lady came from a shop and
got in the automobile and handed the little girl a white tissue-paper
parcel and said: “Sit farther over--there’s a dear. Now, that’s for
you, but don’t open it till we get home.” _What_ was in the parcel,
Littlegirl wondered, and stood looking after the automobile until it
was lost. One little boy passed her, holding tightly to his mother’s
hand, and she stooping over him and he _crying_. Littlegirl tried to
think what could be bad enough to cry about when you had hold of your
mother’s hand and she was bending over you. A stone in your shoe? Or
a pin in your neck? Or because you’d lost your locket? But would any
of those things matter enough to cry when your mother had hold of your
hand? She looked up at the place beside her where her own mother would
be walking and tried to see where her face would be.

And as she looked up, she saw the tops of the high buildings across
the street, and below them the windows hung thick as pictures on a
wall, and thicker. The shop doors were open like doors to wonderful,
mysterious palaces where you went in with your mother and she picked
out your dresses and said: “Wouldn’t you like this one, dear? Mother
used to have one like this when _she_ was a little girl.” And
Littlegirl saw, too, one of the side streets, and how it was all lined
with homes, whose doors were shut, like closed lips with nothing to say
to anybody save those who lived there--the children who were promised
Christmas trees--and _got_ them, too. And between shops and homes was
the world of Skirts and Voices, mothers whose little girls were at
home, daddys who would run up the front steps at night and cry: “Come
here, Puss. Did you grow any since morning?” Or, “_Where’s my son?_”
(Littlegirl knew how it went--she had heard them.) Shops and homes and
crowds--a City! A City for everybody but her.

When the Earth--who all this time was listening--heard her think that,
it made to flow up into her little heart the longing to belong to
somebody. And Littlegirl ran straight up to a lady in blue linen, who
was passing.

“Are you somebody’s muvver?” she asked.

The lady looked down in the little face and stood still.

“No,” she said soberly.

Littlegirl slipped her hand in her white glove.

“I aren’t anybody’s little girl,” she said. “Let’s trade each other.”

And the Earth, who was listening, made to flow in the lady’s heart an
old longing.

“Let’s go in here, at any rate,” said the Lady, “and talk it over.”

So they went in a wonderful place, all made of mirrors, and jars of
bonbons, and long trays, as big as doll cradles, and filled with
bonbons too. And they sat at a cool table, under a whirry fan, and had
before them thick, foamy, frozen chocolate. And the Blue Linen Lady
said:--

“But whose little girl are you, really?”

“I’m _my_ little girl, I think,” said Littlegirl. “I don’t know who
else’s.”

“With whom do you live?” asked the Lady.

“Some peoples,” said Littlegirl, “that’s other people’s muvvers. Don’t
let’s say about them.”

“What shall we say about?” asked the Lady, smiling.

“Let’s pretend you was my muvver,” said Littlegirl.

The lady looked startled, but she nodded slowly.

“Very well,” she said. “I’ll play that. How do you play it?”

Littlegirl hesitated and looked down in her chocolate.

“I don’t know berry well,” she said soberly. “_You_ say how.”

“Well,” said the Lady, “if you were my little girl, I should probably
be saying to you, ‘Do you like this, dear? Don’t eat it fast. And take
little bits of bites.’ And you would say, ‘Yes, mother.’ And then what?”

Littlegirl looked deep down her chocolate. She was making a cave in one
side of it, with the foamy part on top for snow. And while she looked
the snow suddenly seemed to melt and brim over, and she looked at the
lady mutely.

“I don’t know how,” she said; “I don’t know how!”

“Never mind!” said the Lady, very quickly and a little unsteadily,
“I’ll tell you a story instead--shall I?”

So the Blue Linen Lady told her a really wonderful story. It was about
a dwarf who was made of gold, all but his heart, and about what a
terrible time he had trying to pretend that he was a truly, flesh and
blood person. It made him so unhappy to have to pretend all the time
that he got _scandalous_ cross to everybody, and nothing could please
him. His gold kept getting harder and harder till he could move only
with the greatest difficulty, and it looked as if his heart were going
golden too. And if it did, of course he would die. But one night, just
as the soft outside edges of his heart began to take on a shining
tinge, a little boy ran out in the road where the dwarf was passing,
and in the dark mistook him for his father, and jumped up and threw
his arms about the dwarf’s neck and hugged him. And of a sudden the
dwarf’s heart began to beat, and when he got in the house, he saw that
he wasn’t gold any more, and he wasn’t a dwarf--but he was straight
and strong and real. “And so,” the Lady ended it, “you must love every
grown-up you can, because maybe their hearts are turning into gold and
you can stop it that way.”

“An’ must _you_ love every children?” asked Littlegirl, very low.

“Yes,” said the Lady, “I must.”

“An’ will you love me an’ be my muvver?” asked Littlegirl.

The Blue Linen Lady sighed.

“You dear little thing,” she said, “I’d love it--I’d love it. But I
truly haven’t any place for you to live--or any time to give you.
Come now--I’m going to get you some candy and take you back where you
belong--_in an automobile_. Won’t that be fun?”

But when she turned for the candy, Littlegirl slipped out the door and
ran and ran as fast as she could. (She had thanked the lady, first
thing, for the thick, frozen, foamy chocolate, so _that_ part was
all right.) And Littlegirl went round a corner and lost herself in a
crowd--in which it is far easier to lose yourself than in the woods.
And there she was again, worse off than before, because she had felt
how it would feel to feel that she had a mother.

The Earth--who would have shaken its head if it could without
disarranging everything on it--said things instead to its Shadow--who
was by now on the other side of the world from the City.

“Shadow, dear,” said the Earth, “what _do_ you think of that?”

“The very Uttermost Spaces are ashamed for her,” said the Shadow.

But of course the Blue Linen Lady had no idea that the Earth and its
Shadow and the Uttermost Spaces had been watching to see what she did.

Littlegirl ran on, many a weary block, and though she met
mother-looking women she dared speak to none of them for fear they
would offer to take her back in an automobile, with some candy, to the
people with whom she lived-without-belonging. And of late, these people
had said things in her presence about the many mouths to feed, and she
had heard, and had understood, and it had made her heart beat _Mother_,
as it had when she wakened that day.

At last, when she was most particularly tired, she came to the park
where it was large and cool and woodsy and wonderful. But in the park
the un-motherness of things was worse than ever. To be sure, there
were no mothers there, only nurse-maids. But the nurse-maids and the
children and the covers-to-baby-carriages were all so ruffly or lacy
or embroidery or starchy and so white that _mother_ was written all
over them. Nobody else could have cared to have them like that. How
wonderful it would be, Littlegirl thought, to be paid attention to as
if you were a really person and not just hanging on the edges. Even
the squirrels were coaxed and beckoned. She sat down on the edge of
a bench on which an old gentleman was feeding peanuts to a squirrel
perched on his knee, and she thought it would be next best to having
a Christmas tree to be a squirrel and have somebody taking pains like
that to keep her near by.

“Where’s your nurse, my dear?” the old gentleman asked her finally, and
she ran away so that he should not guess that she was her own little
girl and nobody else’s.

Wherever she saw a policeman, she lingered beside a group of children
so that he would think that she belonged to them. And once, for a long
way, she trotted behind two nurses and five children, pretending that
she belonged. Once a thin, stooped youth in spectacles called her and
gave her an orange. He was sitting alone on a bench with his chin in
his chest, and he looked ill and unhappy. Littlegirl wondered if this
was because he didn’t have any mother either, and she longed to ask
him; but she was afraid he would not want to own to not having any, in
a world where nearly everyone seemed to have one. So she played through
the long hours of the morning. So, having lunched on the orange, she
played through the long hours of the afternoon. And then Dusk began to
come--and Dusk meant that Earth’s Shadow had run round again, and was
coming on the side where the City lay.

And when the Shadow reached the park, there, on a knoll beside a
barberry bush, he found Littlegirl lying fast asleep.

In a great flutter he questioned the Earth.

“Listen,” said Shadow, “what _are_ you thinking of? Here is the child
who was to work the miracle and make the City turn into a woman. And
she is lying alone in the park. And I’m coming on and I’ll have to make
it all dark and frighten her. What does this mean?”

But the Earth, who is closer to people than is its Shadow, merely
said:--

“Wait, Shadow. I am listening. I can hear the speeding of many feet.
And I think that the miracle has begun.”

It was true that all through the City there was the speeding of many
feet, and on one errand. Wires and messengers were busy, automobiles
were busy, blue-coated men were busy, and all of them were doing the
same thing: Looking for Littlegirl. Busiest of all was the Blue Linen
Lady, who felt herself and nobody else responsible for Littlegirl’s
loss.

“It is too dreadful,” she kept saying over and over, “I had her with
me. She gave me my chance, and I didn’t take it. If anything has
happened to her, I shall never forgive myself.”

“That’s the way people always talk _afterward_,” said the Earth’s
Shadow. “Why don’t they ever talk that way before? I’d ask the
Uttermost Spaces, but I know they don’t know.”

But the wise Earth only listened and made to flow to the Blue Linen
Lady’s heart an old longing. And when they had traced Littlegirl as far
as the park--for it seemed that many of the busy Skirts and Coats and
Voices had noticed her, only they were so very busy--the Blue Linen
Lady herself went into the park, and it was the light of her automobile
that flashed white on the glimmering frock of Littlegirl.

Littlegirl was wakened, as never before within her memory she had been
wakened, by tender arms about her, lifting her, and soft lips kissing
her, many and many a time. And waking so, in the strange, great Dark,
with the new shapes of trees above her and tenderness wrapping her
round, and an in-the-middle-of-the-night kiss on her lips, Littlegirl
could think of but one thing that had happened:--

“Oh, I’m _glad_ I died--I’m _glad_ I died!” she said.

“You haven’t died, you little thing!” cried the Blue Linen Lady.
“You’re alive--and if they’ll let you stay, you’re never going to leave
me. I’ve made up my mind to _that_. Come--come, dear.”

Littlegirl lay quite still, too happy to speak or think. For somebody
had said “dear,” had even said “Come, dear.” And it didn’t mean a
little girl away ahead, or away back, or in an automobile. _It meant
her._

The Earth’s Shadow brooded over the two and helped them to be very near.

“It’s worth keeping up with you all this time,” Shadow said to the
Earth, “to see things like this. Even the Uttermost Spaces are touched.”

But the Earth was silent, listening. For the City, the beautiful,
green-robed City lying in her glorious night jewels, knew what was
happening too. And when the Lady lifted Littlegirl, to carry her
away, it was as if something had happened which had touched the life
of the City herself. She listened, as the Earth was listening, and the
soft crooning which men thought was the roar of her traffic was really
her song about what she heard. For the story of Littlegirl spread and
echoed, and other children’s stories like hers were in the song, and it
was one of the times when the heart of the City was stirred to a great,
new measure. At last the City understood the homelessness of children,
and their labour, and their suffering, and the waste of them; and she
brooded above them like a mother.... And suddenly she knew herself,
that she _was_ the mother of all little children, and that she must
care for them like a mother _if she was to keep herself alive_. And if
they were to grow up to be her Family, and not just her pretend family,
with nobody looking out for anybody else--as no true family would do.

“Is it well?” asked the Shadow, softly, of the Earth.

“It is well,” said the Earth, in deep content. “Don’t you hear the
human voices beginning to sing with her? Don’t you see the other
Cities watching? Oh, it is well indeed.”

“I’ll go and mention it to the Uttermost Spaces,” said the Shadow.

And, in time, so he did.



XX

THREE TO MAKE READY


Red mosquito-netting, preferably from peach baskets, was best for
bottles of pink water. You soaked the netting for a time depending in
length on the shade of pink you desired--light, deep, or plain. A very
little red ink produced a beautiful red water, likewise of a superior
tint. Violet ink, diluted, remained true to type. Cold coffee gave the
browns and yellows. Green tissue paper dissolved into somewhat dull
emerald. Pure blue and orange, however, had been almost impossible to
obtain save by recourse to our paint boxes, too choice to be used in
this fashion, or to a chance artificial flower on an accessible hat--of
which we were not at all too choice, but whose utilization might be
followed, not to say attended, by consequences.

That August afternoon we were at work on a grand scale. At the Rodmans,
who lived on the top of the hill overlooking the town and the peaceful
westward-lying valley of the river, we had chosen to set up a great
Soda Fountain, the like of which had never been.

“It’s the kind of a fountain,” Margaret Amelia Rodman explained, “that
knights used to drink at. That kind.”

We classified it instantly.

“Now,” she went on, “us damsels are getting this thing up for the
knights that are tourmeying. If the king knew it, he wouldn’t leave
us do it, because he’d think it’s beneath our dignity. But he don’t
know it. He’s off. He’s to the chase. But all the king’s household is
inside the palace, and us damsels have to be secret, getting up our
preparations. Now we must divide up the--er--responsibility.”

I listened, spellbound.

“I thought you and Betty didn’t like to play Pretend,” I was surprised
into saying.

“Why, we’ll pretend if there’s anything to pretend _about_ that’s
real,” said Margaret Amelia, haughtily.

They told us where in the palace the various ingredients were likely to
be found. Red mosquito-netting, perhaps, in the cellar--at this time
of day fairly safe. Red and violet ink in the library--very dangerous
indeed at this hour. Cold coffee--almost unobtainable. Green tissue
paper, to be taken from the flower-pots in the dining-room--exceedingly
dangerous. Blue and orange, if discoverable at all, then in the
Christmas tree box in the trunk room--attended by few perils as to
meetings en route, but in respect to appropriating what was desired, by
the greatest perils of all.

This last adventure the Rodmans themselves heroically undertook. It was
also conceded that, on their return from their quest--provided they
ever did return alive--it would be theirs to procure the necessary
cold coffee. The other adventures were distributed, and Mary Elizabeth
and I were told off together to penetrate the cellar in search of red
mosquito-netting. The bottles had already been collected, and these
little Harold Rodman was left to guard and luxuriously to fill with
water and luxuriously to empty.

There was an outside cellar door, and it was closed. This invited
Mary Elizabeth and me to an expedition or two before we even entered.
We slid from the top to the bottom, sitting, standing, and backward.
Then, since Harold was beginning to observe us with some attention, we
lifted the ring--_the ring_--in the door and descended.

“Aladdin immediately beheld bags of inexhaustible riches,” said Mary
Elizabeth, almost reverently.

First, there was a long, narrow passage lined with ash barrels, a
derelict coal scuttle, starch boxes, mummies of brooms, and the like.
But at this point if we had chanced on the red mosquito-netting, we
should have felt distinctly cheated of some right. A little farther on,
however, the passage branched, and we stood in delighted uncertainty.
If the giant lived one way and the gorgon the other, which was our way?

The way that we did choose led into a small round cellar, lighted
by a narrow, dusty window, now closed. Formless things stood
everywhere--crates, tubs, shelves whose ghostly contents were shrouded
by newspapers. It occurred to me that I had never yet told Mary
Elizabeth about our cellar. I decided to do so then and there. She
backed up against the wall to listen, manifestly so that there should
be nothing over her shoulder.

Our cellar was a round, bricked-in place under the dining-room.
Sometimes I had been down there while they had been selecting preserves
by candle-light. And I had long ago settled that the curved walls
were set with little sealed doors behind each of which _He_ sat.
These _He’s_ were not in the least unfriendly--they merely sat there
close to the wall, square shouldered and very still, looking neither
to right nor left, waiting. Probably, I thought, it might happen
some day--whatever they waited for; and then they would all go away.
Meanwhile, there they were; and they evidently knew that I knew they
were there, but they evidently did not expect me to mention it; for
once, when I did so, they all stopped doing nothing and looked at me,
all together, as if something used their eyes for them at a signal.
It was to Mary Gilbraith that I had spoken, while she was at our
house-cleaning, and the moment I had chosen was when she was down in
the cellar without a candle and I was lying flat on the floor above
her, peering down the trap doorway.

“Mary,” I said, “they’s a big row of _He’s_ sitting close together
inside the wall. They’ve got big foreheads. Bang on the wall and see
if they’ll answer--” for I had always longed to bang and had never
quite dared.

“Oh, my great Scotland!” said Mary Gilbraith, and was up the ladder
in a second. That was when they looked at me, and then I knew that I
should not have spoken to her about them, and I began to see that there
are some things that must not be said. And I felt a kind of shame, too,
when Mary turned on me. “You little Miss,” she said wrathfully, “with
your big eyes. An’ myself bitin’ on my own nerves for fear of picking
up a lizard for a potato. Go play.”

“I _was_ playing,” I tried to explain.

“Play playthings, then, and not ha’nts,” said Mary.

So I never said anything more to her, save about plates and fritters
and such things.

To this recital Mary Elizabeth listened sympathetically.

“There’s just one great big one lives down in our cellar,” she confided
in turn. “Not in the wall--but out loose. When the apples and stuff go
down there, I always think how glad he is.”

“Are you afraid of him?” I asked.

“Afraid!” Mary Elizabeth repeated. “Why, no. Once, when I was down
there, I tried to pretend there wasn’t anything lived there--and _then_
it was frightening and I was scared.”

I understood. It would indeed be a great, lonely, terrifying world if
these little friendly folk did not live in cellars, walls, attics,
stair-closets and the like. Of course they were friendly. Why should
they be otherwise?

“R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-t,” something went, close by Mary Elizabeth’s head.

We looked up. The dimness of the ceiling was miles deep. We could not
see a ceiling.

“St-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t,” it went again. And this time it did not stop, and
it began to be accompanied by a rumbling sound as from the very cave
inside the world.

Mary Elizabeth and I took hold of hands and ran. We scrambled up the
steps and escaped to the sultry welcome of bright day. Out there
everything was as before. Little Harold was crossing the lawn carrying
a flower-pot of water which was running steadily from the hole in the
bottom. With the maternal importance of little girls, we got the jar
from him and undertook to bring him more water. And when he led us to
the source of supply, this was a faucet in the side of the house just
beyond a narrow, dusty, cellar window. When he turned the faucet, we
were, so to speak, face to face with that R-s-t-t-t-t-t.

Mary Elizabeth and I looked at each other and looked away. Then we
looked back and braved it through.

“Anyway,” she said, “we were afraid of a truly thing, and not of a
pretend thing.”

There seemed to us, I recall, a certain loyalty in this as to a creed.

Already Delia had returned from the library. The authorities refused
the ink. One might come in there and write with it, but one must
not take it from the table. Calista arrived from the dining-room. A
waiting-woman to the queen, she reported, was engaged in dusting the
sideboard and she herself had advanced no farther than the pantry door.
It remained only for Margaret Amelia and Betty to come from their
farther quest bearing a green handbill which they thought might take
the place of Calista’s quarry if she returned empty-handed; but we were
no nearer than before to blue and orange materials, or to any other.

We took counsel and came to a certain ancient conclusion that in union
there is strength. We must, we thought we saw, act the aggressor. We
moved on the stronghold together. Armed with a spoon and two bottles,
we found a keeper of properties within who spooned us out the necessary
ink; tea was promised to take the place of coffee if we would keep out
of the house and not bother anybody any more, indefinitely; shoe-polish
was conceded in a limited quantity, briefly, and under inspection; and
we all descended into Aladdin’s cave and easily found baskets to which
red mosquito-netting was clinging in sufficient measure. Then we sat in
the shade of the side lawn and proceeded to colour many waters.

It was a delicate task to cloud the clear liquid to this tint and that,
to watch it change expression under our hands, pale, deepen, vary to
our touch; in its heart to set jewels and to light fires. We worked
with deep deliberation, testing by old standards of taste set up by
at least two or three previous experiences, consulting one another’s
soberest judgment, occasionally inventing a new liquid. I remember that
it was on that day that we first thought of bluing. Common washing
bluing, the one substance really intended for colouring water, had so
far escaped our notice.

“Somebody,” observed Margaret Amelia, as we worked, “ought to keep
keeping a look-out to see if they’re coming back.”

Delia, who was our man of action, ran to the clothes-reel, which stood
on the highest land of the castle grounds, and looked away over the
valley.

“There’s a cloud of dust on the horizon,” she reported, “but I think
it’s Mr. Wells getting home from Caledonia.”

“Wouldn’t they blare their horns before they got here?” Mary Elizabeth
wanted to know.

“What was a knight _for_, anyway?” Delia demanded.

“_For?_” Margaret Amelia repeated, in a kind of personal indignation.
“Why, to--to--to right wrongs, of course.”

Delia surveyed the surrounding scene through the diluted red ink in a
glass-stoppered bottle.

“I guess I know that,” she said. “But I mean, what was his job?”

We had never thought of that. Did one, then, have to have a job other
than righting wrongs?

Margaret Amelia undertook to explain.

“Why,” she said, “it was this way: Knights liberated damsels and razed
down strongholds and took robber chieftains and got into adventures.
And they lived off the king and off hermits.”

“But what was the end of ’em?” Delia wanted to know. “They never
married and lived happily ever after. They married and just kept right
on going.”

“That was on account of the Holy Grail,” said Mary Elizabeth. It
was wonderful, as I look back, to remember how her face would light
sometimes; as just then, and as when somebody came to school with the
first violets.

“The what?” said Delia.

“They woke up in the night sometimes,” Mary Elizabeth recited softly,
“and they saw it, in light, right there inside their dark cell. And
they looked and looked, and it was all shiny and near-to. And when
they saw it, they knew about all the principal things. And those that
never woke up and saw it, always kept trying to, because they knew they
weren’t _really_ ones till they saw. Most everybody wasn’t really,
because only a few saw it. Most of them died and never saw it at all.”

“What did it look like?” demanded Delia.

“Hush!” said Calista, with a shocked glance, having somewhere picked up
the impression that very sacred things, like very wicked things, must
never be mentioned. But Mary Elizabeth did not heed her.

“It was all shining and near to,” she repeated. “It was in a great,
dark sky, with great, bright worlds falling all around it, but it was
in the centre and it didn’t fall. It was all still, and brighter than
anything; and when you saw it, you never forgot.”

There was a moment’s pause, which Delia broke.

“How do you know?” she demanded.

Mary Elizabeth was clouding red mosquito-netting water by shaking soap
in it, an effect much to be desired. She went on shaking the corked
bottle, and looking away toward the sun slanting to late afternoon.

“I don’t know how I know,” she said in manifest surprise. “But I know.”

We sat silent for a minute.

“Well, I’m going back to see if they’re coming home from the hunt
_now_,” said Delia, scrambling up.

“From the _chase_,” Margaret Amelia corrected her loftily, “and from
the tourmey. I b’lieve,” she corrected herself conscientiously, “that
had ought to be tourmament.”

This time Delia thought that she saw them coming, the king and his
knights, with pennons and plumes, just entering Conant Street down by
the Brices. As we must be ready by the time the party dismounted, there
was need for the greatest haste. But we found that the clothes-reel,
which was to be the fountain, must have a rug and should have flowing
curtains if it were to grace a castle courtyard; so, matters having
been further delayed by the discovery of Harold about to drink the
vanilla water, we concluded that we had been mistaken about the
approach of the knights; and that they were by now only on the bridge.

A journey to the attic for the rug and curtains resulted in delays,
the sight of some cast-off garments imperatively suggesting the
fitness of our dressing for the rôle we were to assume. This took some
time and was accompanied by the selection of new names all around.
At last, however, we were back in the yard with the rugs and the
muslin curtains in place, and the array of coloured bottles set up
in rows at the top of the carpeted steps. Then we arranged ourselves
behind these delicacies, in our bravery of old veils and scarves and
tattered sequins. Harold was below, as a page, in a red sash. “A little
foot-page,” Margaret Amelia had wanted him called, but this he himself
vetoed.

“Mine feet _big_ feet,” he defended himself.

Then we waited.

We waited, chatted amiably, as court ladies will. Occasionally we rose
and scanned the street, and reported that they were almost here. Then
we resumed our seats and waited. This business had distinctly palled on
us all when Delia faced it.

“Let’s have them get here if they’re going to,” she said.

So we sat and told each other that they were entering the yard, that
they were approaching the dais, that they were kneeling at our feet.
But it was unconvincing. None of us really wanted them to kneel or
knew what to do with them when they did kneel. The whole pretence was
lacking in action, and very pale.

“It was lots more fun getting ready than this is,” said Calista,
somewhat brutally.

We stared in one another’s faces, feeling guilty of a kind of
disloyalty, yet compelled to acknowledge this great truth. In our
hearts we remembered to have noticed this thing before: That getting
ready for a thing was more fun than doing that thing.

“Why couldn’t we get a quest?” inquired Margaret Amelia. “Then it
wouldn’t have to stop. It’d last every day.”

That was the obvious solution: We would get a quest.

“Girls can’t quest, can they?” Betty suggested doubtfully.

We looked in one another’s faces. Could it be true? Did the damsels sit
at home? Was it only the knights who quested?

Delia was a free soul. Forthwith she made a precedent.

“Well,” she said, “I don’t know whether they did quest. But they can
quest. So let’s do it.”

The reason in this appealed to us all. Immediately we confronted the
problem: What should we quest for?

We stared off over the valley through which the little river ran
shining and slipped beyond our horizon.

“I wonder,” said Mary Elizabeth, “if it would be wrong to quest for the
Holy Grail _now_.”

We stood there against the west, where bright doors seemed opening in
the pouring gold of the sun, thick with shining dust. The glory seemed
very near. Why not do something beautiful? Why not--why not....



The following pages contain advertisements of Macmillan books by the
same author, and new fiction



_By the Same Author_


Christmas

BY ZONA GALE

Author of “Mothers to Men,” “The Loves of Pelleas and Etarre.”
Illustrated in colors by LEON SOLON.

_Decorated cloth, 12mo, $1.30 net; postpaid, $1.42_

A town in the Middle West, pinched with poverty, decides that it will
have no Christmas, as no one can afford to buy gifts. They perhaps
foolishly reckon that the heart-burnings and the disappointments of
the children will be obviated by passing the holiday season over with
no observance. How this was found to be simply and wholly impossible,
how the Christmas joys and Christmas spirit crept into the little town
and into the hearts of its most positive objectors, and how Christmas
cannot be arbitrated about, make up the basis of a more than ordinarily
appealing novel. Incidentally it is a little boy who really makes
possible a delightful outcome. A thread of romance runs through it all
with something of the meaning of Christmas for the individual human
being and for the race.

  “A fine story of Yuletide impulses in Miss Gale’s best
  style.”--_N. Y. World._

  “No living writer more thoroughly understands the true spirit
  of Christmas than does Zona Gale.”--_Chicago Record-Herald._

  “‘Christmas’ is that rare thing, a Yuletide tale, with a touch
  of originality about it.”--_N. Y. Press._

  “The book is just the thing for a gift.”--_Chicago Tribune._



_The Other Books of Miss Gale_


Mothers to Men

_Decorated cloth, 12mo, $1.50 net; by mail, $1.62 net_

The author is singularly successful in detaching herself from all
the wear and tear of modern life and has produced a book filled with
sweetness, beautiful in ideas, charming in characterizations, highly
contemplative, and evidencing a philosophy of life all her own.

  “One of the most widely read of our writers of short
  fiction.”--_The Bookman._


Friendship Village

_Cloth, 12mo, $1.50 net_

  “As charming as an April day, all showers and sunshine, and sometimes
  both together, so that the delighted reader hardly knows whether
  laughter or tears are fittest.”--_The New York Times._


The Loves of Pelleas and Etarre

_Cloth, 12mo, $1.50 net_

_Macmillan Fiction Library_

_12mo, $.50 net_

  “It contains the sort of message that seems to set the world right
  for even the most depressed, and can be depended upon to sweeten
  every moment spent over it.”--_San Francisco Chronicle._


Friendship Village Love Stories

_Decorated cloth, gilt top, 12mo, $1.50 net_

  Miss Gale’s pleasant and highly individual outlook upon life has
  never been revealed to better advantage than in these charming
  stories of the heart affairs of the young people of Friendship
  Village.



_New Macmillan Fiction_


MRS. WATTS’S NEW NOVEL

  Van Cleve

  BY MARY S. WATTS

  Author of “Nathan Burke,” “The Legacy,” etc.

  _Cloth, 12mo._

  Never has the author of “Nathan Burke” and “The Legacy” written
  more convincingly or appealingly than in this story of modern
  life. Those who have enjoyed the intense realism of Mrs.
  Watts’s earlier work, the settings of which have largely been
  of the past, will welcome this book of the present in which she
  demonstrates that her skill is no less in handling scenes and
  types of people with which we are familiar than in the so-called
  “historical” novel. “Van Cleve” is about a young man who, while
  still in his early twenties, is obliged to support a family of
  foolish, good-hearted, ill-balanced women, and one shiftless,
  pompous old man, his grandmother, aunt, cousin, and uncle. Van
  Cleve proves himself equal to the obligation--and equal, too, to
  many other severe tests that are put upon him by his friends.
  Besides him there is one character which it is doubtful whether
  the reader will ever forget--Bob. His life not only shapes Van
  Cleve’s to a large extent, but that of several other people,
  notably his sister, the girl whom Van Cleve loves in his patient
  way.


The Valley of the Moon

  BY JACK LONDON

  With Frontispiece in Colors by GEORGE HARPER

  _Decorated cloth, 12mo, $1.35 net_

  A love story in Mr. London’s most powerful style, strikingly
  contrasted against a background of present-day economic
  problems--that is what “The Valley of the Moon” is. The hero,
  teamster, prize-fighter, adventurer, man of affairs, is one of
  Mr. London’s unforgettable big men. The romance which develops
  out of his meeting with a charming girl and which does not end
  with their marriage is absorbingly told. The action of the plot
  is most rapid, one event following another in a fashion which
  does not allow the reader to lose interest even temporarily. “The
  Valley of the Moon” is, in other words, an old-fashioned London
  novel, with all of the entertainment that such a description
  implies.


Robin Hood’s Barn

  BY ALICE BROWN

  Author of “Vanishing Points,” “The Secret of the Clan,” “The
  Country Road,” etc.

  With Illustrations in Colors and in Black and White by
  H. M. CARPENTER

  _Decorated cloth, 12mo, $0.00 net_

  Miss Brown’s previous books have given her a distinguished
  reputation as an interpreter of New England life. The idealism,
  the quaint humor, the skill in character drawing, and the
  dramatic force which have always marked her work are evident in
  this charming story of a dream that came true. The illustrations,
  the frontispiece being in colors, the others in black and white,
  are by Mr. Horace Carpenter, whose sympathetic craftsmanship is
  widely known and appreciated.


Deering at Princeton

  BY LATTA GRISWOLD

  Author of “Deering of Deal”

  With Illustrations by E. C. CASWELL

  _Decorated cloth, 12mo; preparing_

  This is a college story that reads as a college story should.
  Here Mr. Griswold tells of Deering’s Princeton years from
  his freshman days to his graduation. A hazing adventure of
  far-reaching importance, a football game or two in which Deering
  has a hand, a reform in the eating club system, the fraternity
  régime of Princeton, initiated by Deering and carried through
  at the sacrifice of much that he values, a touch of sentiment
  centering around a pretty girl who later marries Deering’s
  roommate, besides many lively college happenings which only one
  familiar with the life could have chronicled, go to the making of
  an intensely interesting tale.


Tide Marks

  BY MARGARET WESTRUP

  _Decorated cloth, 12mo; preparing_

  A novel of unusual interest and power told in a style both
  convincing and distinctive. Margaret Westrup promises to be one
  of the literary finds of the season.


The Will to Live

  BY M. P. WILLCOCKS

  Author of “The Wingless Victory,” etc.

  _Cloth, 12mo; preparing_

  In description, in vividness of character depiction, in
  cleverness of dialogue, and in skill of plot construction, Miss
  Willcocks’ previous books have displayed her rare ability. “The
  Will to Live” is perhaps her most mature work; it is a story with
  which one is sure to be satisfied when the last page is turned.

  THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
  Publishers      64-66 Fifth Avenue      New York



Transcriber’s Note:

In the advertisements at the end of the book, the price of $0.00 is as
published.

Variations in spelling, hyphenation and punctuation have been retained
as they appear in the original publication except as follows:

    Page 145
      “_We are all alike, all of us who live!_ _changed to_
      _We are all alike, all of us who live!_

    Page 229
      resentfully “And now she’s in her _changed to_
      resentfully. “And now she’s in her

    Page 281
      for this seemed a a good way _changed to_
      for this seemed a good way

    Page 286
      I’ve fought everyone of _changed to_
      I’ve fought every one of

    Page 289
      him and help him. _changed to_
      him and help him.”

    Page 396
      London’s unforgetable big men _changed to_
      London’s unforgettable big men





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