Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Handy Guide for Beggars: Especially Those of the Poetic Fraternity
Author: Lindsay, Vachel
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Handy Guide for Beggars: Especially Those of the Poetic Fraternity" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

BEGGARS ***



A HANDY GUIDE FOR BEGGARS



  [Illustration]

  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



  A HANDY GUIDE
  FOR BEGGARS
  ESPECIALLY THOSE OF
  THE POETIC FRATERNITY


  _Being sundry explorations, made while afoot and
  penniless in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina,
  Tennessee, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
  These adventures convey and illustrate
  the rules of beggary for poets and some others._


  BY VACHEL LINDSAY

  _Author of “The Congo,” “The Art of The Moving
  Picture,” “Adventures while Preaching
  the Gospel of Beauty,” etc._


  THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
  PUBLISHERS      MCMXVI



  COPYRIGHT, 1916,

  BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.

  Set up and electrotyped. Published November, 1916.


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



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


THE author desires to express his indebtedness to _The Outlook_ for
permission to reprint the adventures in the South and to Charles
Zueblin for permission to reprint the adventures in the East.

The author desires to express his indebtedness to the _Chicago Herald_
for permission to reprint _The Would-be Merman_, and to _The Forum_
for _What the Sexton Said_, and to _The Yale Review_ for _The Tramp’s
Refusal_.

The author wishes to express his gratitude to Mr. George Mather
Richards, Miss Susan Wilcox, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Ide and Miss Grace
Humphrey for their generous help and advice in preparing this work.



DEDICATION AND PREFACE OF A HANDY GUIDE FOR BEGGARS


THERE are one hundred new poets in the villages of the land. This Handy
Guide is dedicated first of all _to them_.

It is also dedicated to the younger sons of the wide earth, to the
runaway boys and girls getting further from home every hour, to the
prodigals who are still wasting their substance in riotous living, be
they gamblers or blasphemers or plain drunks; to those heretics of
whatever school to whom life is a rebellion with banners; to those who
are willing to accept counsel if it be mad counsel.

This book is also dedicated to those budding philosophers who realize
that every creature is a beggar in the presence of the beneficent sun,
to those righteous ones who know that all righteousness is as filthy
rags.

Moreover, as an act of contrition, reënlistment and fellowship this
book is dedicated to all the children of Don Quixote who see giants
where most folks see windmills: those Galahads dear to Christ and
those virgin sisters of Joan of Arc who serve the lepers on their
knees and march in shabby armor against the proud, who look into the
lightning with the eyes of the mountain cat. They do more soldierly
things every day than this book records, yet they are mine own people,
my nobler kin to whom I have been recreant, and so I finally dedicate
this book _to them_.

These are the rules of the road:--

(1) Keep away from the Cities;

(2) Keep away from the railroads;

(3) Have nothing to do with money and carry no baggage;

(4) Ask for dinner about quarter after eleven;

(5) Ask for supper, lodging and breakfast about quarter of five;

(6) Travel alone;

(7) Be neat, deliberate, chaste and civil;

(8) Preach the Gospel of Beauty.

And without further parley, let us proceed to inculcate these, by
illustration, precept and dogma.

                                                         VACHEL LINDSAY.

  SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS,
    November, 1916.



TABLE OF CONTENTS


                                                              PAGE

  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS                                               v

  THE DEDICATION AND PREFACE                                   vii

  FOLLOW THIS THISTLEDOWN                                       xi


  I. VAGRANT ADVENTURES IN THE SOUTH

  COLUMBUS                                                       3

  THE MAN UNDER THE YOKE. BEING MY FIRST EXPERIENCE
    AS AN ABSOLUTELY PENNILESS PERSON,
    AND SHOWING THE GOOD FORTUNE OF THE
    PENNILESS                                                    5

  THE MAN WITH THE APPLE-GREEN EYES. A STORY
    COVERING A RIDE IN TWO FREIGHT-CABOOSES
    IN SOUTHERN GEORGIA. SHOWING HOW MY
    GOOD LUCK CAME AFTER I SPENT MY ALL UPON
    GINGER-SNAPS                                                14

  INTERLUDE: THE WOULD-BE MERMAN                                33

  MACON. SHOWING MY FIRST RESPITE WITH A CIVILIZED FRIEND       35

  THE FALLS OF TALLULAH. BEING THE STORY OF A
    WILD BATH IN A MOUNTAIN-TORRENT, AND A
    CONVERSATION WITH THE EARTH                                 38

  THE GNOME. BEING THE STORY OF A GROTESQUE
    MOONSHINER, EATEN UP WITH DRINK                             46

  INTERLUDE: THE TRAMP’S REFUSAL                                61

  THE HOUSE OF THE LOOM. BEING THE STORY OF
    SEVEN ARISTOCRATS AND A SOAP-KETTLE. AN
    EMINENT INSTANCE OF THE GOOD FORTUNE OF
    THE DEVOTEE OF VOLUNTARY POVERTY                            63

  INTERLUDE: PHIDIAS                                            78

  MAN, IN THE CITY OF COLLARS. SHOWING HOW AN
    UNEXPECTED SHOCK CAME TO A CIVILIZED PERSON.
    A NOT VERY TRAGIC RELAPSE INTO THE
    TOILS OF FINANCE                                            79

  INTERLUDE: CONFUCIUS                                          87

  THE OLD LADY AT THE TOP OF THE HILL. SHOWING
    HOW AN EMPRESS OF THE MOUNTAINS DESIRED
    ME AS HER GUEST                                             88

  INTERLUDE: WITH A ROSE, TO BRUNHILDE                          94

  LADY IRON-HEELS. A STORY TOUCHING UPON THE
    ROMANCE OF A LONG-DEAD FLORIST,--ALSO
    THE CANTICLE OF THE ROSE                                    96


  II. A MENDICANT PILGRIMAGE IN THE EAST

  IN LOST JERUSALEM                                            113

  A TEMPLE MADE WITH HANDS                                     115

  INTERLUDE: THE TOWN OF AMERICAN VISIONS                      133

  ON BEING ENTERTAINED BY COLLEGE BOYS                         135

  INTERLUDE: THAT WHICH MEN HAIL AS KING                       137

  NEAR SHICKSHINNY. THE STORY OF THE HOSPITALITY
    OF A PROMISING FAMILY IN A COAL-MINING REGION              138

  INTERLUDE: WHAT THE SEXTON SAID                              159

  DEATH, THE DEVIL, AND HUMAN KINDNESS. BEING
    THE SHRED OF AN ALLEGORY                                   160

  INTERLUDES: “LIFE TRANSCENDENT”                              179

  IN THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH                          180

  THE OLD GENTLEMAN WITH THE LANTERN (AND THE
    PEOPLE OF HIS HOUSEHOLD)                                   182

  THAT MEN MIGHT SEE AGAIN THE ANGEL-THRONG                    205



FOLLOW THE THISTLEDOWN


  I asked her “Is Aladdin’s Lamp
  Hidden anywhere?”
  “Look into your heart,” she said,
  “Aladdin’s Lamp is there.”

  She took my heart with glowing hands.
  It burned to dust and air
  And smoke and rolling thistledown,
  Blowing everywhere.

  “Follow the thistledown,” she said,
  “Till doomsday if you dare,
  Over the hills and far away.
  Aladdin’s Lamp is there.”



I

VAGRANT ADVENTURES IN THE SOUTH



COLUMBUS


  WOULD that we had the fortunes of Columbus.
  Sailing his caravels a trackless way,
  He found a Universe--he sought Cathay.
  God give such dawns as when, his venture o’er,
  The Sailor looked upon San Salvador.
  God lead us past the setting of the sun
  To wizard islands, of august surprise;
  God make our blunders wise.



THE MAN UNDER THE YOKE


IT was Sunday morning in the middle of March. I was stranded in
Jacksonville, Florida. After breakfast I had five cents left. Joyously
I purchased a sack of peanuts, then started northwest on the railway
ties straight toward that part of Georgia marked “Swamp” on the map.

Sunset found me in a pine forest. I decided to ask for a meal and
lodging at the white house looming half a mile ahead just by the track.
I prepared a speech to this effect:--

“I am the peddler of dreams. I am the sole active member of the ancient
brotherhood of the troubadours. It is against the rules of our order
to receive money. We have the habit of asking a night’s lodging in
exchange for repeating verses and fairy-tales.”

As I approached the house I forgot the speech. All the turkeys gobbled
at me fiercely. The two dogs almost tore down the fence trying to get
a taste of me. I went to the side gate to appeal to the proud old
lady crowned with a lace cap and enthroned in the porch rocker. Her
son, the proprietor, appeared. He shall ever be named the dog-man. His
tone of voice was such, that, to speak in metaphor, he bit me in the
throat. He refused me a place in his white kennel. He would not share
his dog-biscuit. The being on the porch assured me in a whanging yelp
that they did not take “nobody in under no circumstances.” Then the
dog-man, mollified by my serene grin, pointed with his thumb into the
woods, saying: “There is a man in there who will take you in sure.” He
said it as though it were a reflection on his neighbor’s dignity. That
I might not seem to be hurrying, I asked if his friend kept watch-dogs.
He assured me the neighbor could not afford them.

The night with the man around the corner was like a chapter from that
curious document, “The Gospel according to St. John.” He “could not
afford to turn a man away” because once he slept three nights in the
rain when he walked here from west Georgia. No one would give him
shelter. After that he decided that when he had a roof he would go
shares with whoever asked. Some strangers were good, some bad, but he
would risk them all. Imagine this amplified in the drawling wheeze of
the cracker sucking his corn-cob pipe for emphasis.

His real name and address are of no consequence. I found later that
there were thousands like him. But let us call him “The Man Under the
Yoke.” He was lean as an old opium-smoker. He was sooty as a pair of
tongs. His Egyptian-mummy jaws had a two-weeks’ beard. His shirt had
not been washed since the flood. His ankles were innocent of socks. His
hat had no band. I verily believe his pipe was hereditary, smoked first
by a bond-slave in Jamestown, Virginia.

He could not read. I presume his wife could not. They were much
embarrassed when I wanted them to show me Lakeland on the map. They had
warned me against that village as a place where itinerant strangers
were shot full of holes. Well, I found that town pretty soon on the
map, and made the brief, snappy memorandum in my note-book: “Avoid
Lakeland.”

There were three uncertain chairs on the porch, one a broken rocker.
Therefore the company sat on the railing, loafing against the pillars.
The plump wife was frozen with diffidence. The genial, stubby neighbor,
a man from away back in the woods, after telling me how to hop
freight-cars, departed through an aperture in the wandering fence.

The two babies on the floor, squealing like shoats, succeeded in being
good without being clean. They wrestled with the puppies who emerged
from somewhere to the number of four. I wondered if the Man Under the
Yoke would turn to a dog-man when the puppies grew up and learned to
bark.

Supper was announced with the admonition, “Bring the chairs.” The
rocking chair would not fit the kitchen table. Therefore the two babies
occupied one, and the lord of the house another, and the kitchen chair
was allotted to your servant. The mother hastened to explain that she
was “not hungry.” After snuffing the smoking lamp that had no chimney,
she paced at regular intervals between the stove and her lord, piling
hot biscuits before him.

I could not offer my chair, and make it plain that some one must stand.
I expressed my regrets at her lack of appetite and fell to. Their
hospitality did not fade in my eyes when I considered that they ate
such provisions every day. There was a dish of salt pork that tasted
like a salt mine. We had one deep plate in common containing a soup of
luke-warm water, tallow, half-raw fat pork and wilted greens. This dish
was innocent of any enhancing condiment. I turned to the biscuit pile.

They were raw in the middle. I kept up courage by watching the children
consume the tallow soup with zest. After taking one biscuit for meat,
and one for vegetables, I ate a third for good-fellowship. The mother
was anxious that her children should be a credit, and shook them too
sternly and energetically I thought, when they buried their hands in
the main dish.

Meanwhile the Man Under the Yoke told me how his bosses in the
lumber-camp kept his wages down to the point where the grocery bill
took all his pay; how he was forced to trade at the “company” store,
there in the heart of the pine woods. He had cut himself in the
saw-pit, had been laid up for a month, and “like a fool” had gone back
to the same business. Last year he had saved a little money, expecting
to get things “fixed up nice,” but the whole family was sick from June
till October. He liked his fellow-workmen. They had to stand all he
did. They loved the woods, and because of this love would not move to
happier fortunes. Few had gone farther than Jacksonville. They did
not understand travelling. They did not understand the traveller and
were “likely to be mean to him.” Then he asked me whether I thought
“niggers” had souls. I answered “Yes.” He agreed reluctantly. “They
have a soul, of course, but it’s a mighty small one.” We adjourned to
the front room, carrying our chairs down a corridor, where the open
doorways we passed displayed uncarpeted floors and no furniture. The
echo of the slow steps of the Man Under the Yoke reverberated through
the wide house like muffled drums at a giant’s funeral. Yet the
largeness of the empty house was wealth. I have been entertained since
in many a poorer castle; for instance, in Tennessee, where a deaf
old man, a crone, and her sister, a lame man, a slug of a girl, and a
little unexplained boy ate, cooked, and slept by an open fire. They had
neither stove, lamp, nor candle. I was made sacredly welcome for the
night, though it was a one-room cabin with a low roof and a narrow door.

Thanks to the Giver of every good and perfect gift, pine-knots cost
nothing in a pine forest. New York has no such fireplaces as that in
the front room of the Man Under the Yoke. I thought of an essay by a
New England sage on compensation. There were many old scriptures rising
in my heart as I looked into that blaze. The one I remembered most was
“I was a stranger, and ye took me in.” But though it was Sunday night,
I did not quote Scripture to my host.

It was seven o’clock. The wife had put her babies to bed. She sat on
the opposite side of the fire from us. Eight o’clock was bedtime, the
host had to go to work so early. But our three hearts were bright as
the burning pine for an hour.

You have enjoyed the golden embossed brocades of Hokusai. You have
felt the charm of Maeterlinck’s “The Blind.” Think of these, then think
of the shoulders of the Man Under the Yoke, embossed by the flame.
Think of his voice as an occult instrument, while he burned a bit of
crackling brush, and spoke of the love he bore that fireplace, the
memory of evenings his neighbors had spent there with him, the stories
told, the pipes smoked, the good silent times with wife and children.
It was said by hints, and repetitions, and broken syllables, but it
was said. We ate and drank in the land of heart’s desire. This man and
his wife sighed at the fitting times, and smiled, when to smile was to
understand, while I recited a few of the rhymes of the dear singers
of yesterday and to-day: Yeats and Lanier, Burns and even Milton.
This fire was the treasure at the end of the rainbow. I had not been
rainbow-chasing in vain.

As my host rose and knocked out his pipe, he told how interesting
lumbering with oxen could be made, if a man once understood how they
were driven. He assured me that the most striking thing in all these
woods was a team of ten oxen. He directed me to a road whereby I would
be sure to see half a dozen to-morrow. He said if ever I met a literary
man, to have him write them into verses. Therefore the next day I
took the route and observed: and be sure, if ever I meet the proper
minstrel, I shall exhort him with all my strength to write the poem of
the yoke.

As to that night, I slept in that room in the corner away from the
fireplace. One comfort was over me, one comfort and pillow between me
and the dark floor. The pillow was laundered at the same time as the
shirt of my host. There was every reason to infer that the pillow and
comfort came from his bed.

They slept far away, in some mysterious part of the empty house. I
hoped they were not cold. I looked into the rejoicing fire. I said:
“This is what I came out into the wilderness to see. This man had
nothing, and gave me half of it, and we both had abundance.”



THE MAN WITH THE APPLE-GREEN EYES


REMEMBER, if you go a-wandering, the road will break your heart. It
is sometimes like a woman, caressing and stabbing at once. It is a
mystery, this quality of the road. I write, not to explain, but to
warn, and to give the treatment. Comradeship and hospitality are
opiates most often at hand.

I remember when I encountered the out-poured welcome of an Old
Testament Patriarch, a praying section boss in a gray log village, one
Monday evening in north Florida. He looked at me long. He sensed my
depression. He made me his seventh son.

He sent his family about to announce my lecture in the schoolhouse
on “The Value of Poetry.” Enough apple-cheeked maidens, sad mothers,
and wriggling, large-eyed urchins assembled to give an unconscious
demonstration of the theme.

The little lamp spluttered. The windows rattled. Two babies cried.
Everybody assumed that lectures were delightful, miserable, and
important. The woman on the back seat nursed her baby, reducing the
noise one-third. When I was through shouting, they passed the hat.
I felt sure I had carried my point. Poetry was eighty-three cents
valuable, a good deal for that place. And the sons of the Patriarch
were the main contributors, for before the event he had thunderously
exhorted them to be generous. I should not have taken the money? But
that was before I had a good grip on my rule.

The Patriarch was kept away by a neighbor who had been seized with fits
on Sunday, while fishing. The neighbor though mending physically, was
in a state of apprehension. He demanded, with strong crying and tears,
that the Patriarch pray with him. Late in the evening, as we were about
the hearth, recovering from the lecture, my host returned from the
sinner’s bed, the pride of priesthood in his step. He had established
a contrite heart in his brother, though all the while frank with him
about the doubtful efficacy of prayer in healing a body visited with
just wrath.

Who would not have loved the six sons, when, at the Patriarch’s
command, they drew into a circle around the family altar, with their
small sister, and the gentle mother with her babe at her breast? It
was an achievement to put the look of prayer into such flushed, wilful
faces as those boys displayed. They followed their father with the
devotion of an Ironside regiment as he lifted up his voice singing “The
Son of God goes forth to War.” They rolled out other strenuous hymns.
I thought they would sing through the book. I looked at the mother.
I thanked God for her. She was the only woman in Florida who could
cook. And her voice was honey. Her breast was ivory. The child was a
pearl. Her whole aspect had the age and the youth of one of De Forest
Brush’s austere American madonnas. The scripture lesson, selected not
by chance, covered the adventures of Jacob at Bethel.

We afterwards knelt on the pine floor, our heads in the seats of the
chairs. I peeped and observed the Patriarch with his chair almost in
the fireplace. He ignored the heat. He shouted the name of the smallest
boy, who answered the roll-call by praying: “Now I lay me down to
sleep.” The father megaphoned for the next, and the next, with a like
response. He called the girl’s name, but in a still small voice she
lisped the Lord’s Prayer. As the older boys were reached, the prayers
became individual, but containing fragments of “Now I lay me.” The
mother petitioned for the soul of the youngest boy, not yet in a state
of grace, for a sick cousin, and many a neighborhood cause. The father
prayed twenty minutes, while the chair smoked. I forgot the chair at
last when he voiced the petition that the stranger in the gates might
have visitations on his lonely road, like Jacob at Bethel. Then a
great appeal went up the chimney that the whole assembly might bear
abundantly the fruits of the spirit. The fire leaped for joy. I knew
that when the prayer appeared before the throne, it was still a tongue
of flame.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning I spent about seventy cents lecture money on a railway
ticket, and tried to sleep past my destination, but the conductor woke
me. He put me off in the Okefenokee swamp, just inside the Georgia
line. The waters had more brass-bespangled ooze than in mid-Florida;
the marsh weeds beneath were lustrous red. I crossed an interminable
trestle over the Suwannee River. A fidgety bird was scolding from
tie to tie. If the sky had been turned over and the azure boiled to
a spoonful, you would have had the intense blue with which he was
painted. If the caldron had been filled with sad clouds, and boiled to
a black lump, you would have had my heart. Ungrateful, I had forgotten
the Patriarch. I was lonely for I knew not what; maybe for my friend
Edward Broderick, who had walked with me through central Florida, and
had been called to New York by the industrial tyranny which the steel
rails represented even here.

We two had taken the path beside the railway in the regions of Sanford
and Tampa, walking in loose sand white as salt. An orange grove in
twilight had been a sky of little moons. We had eaten not many oranges.
They are expensive there. But we had stolen the souls of all we passed,
and so had spoiled them for their owners. It had been an exquisite
revenge.

We had seen swamps of parched palmettos set afire by wood-burning
locomotives whose volcanic smoke-stacks are squat and wide, like those
on the engines in grandmother’s third reader.

We had met Mr. Terrapin, Mr. Owl, Mrs. Cow, and Master Calf, all of
them carved by the train-wheels, Mr. Buzzard sighing beside them. We
had met Mr. Pig again at the cracker’s table, cooked by last year’s
forest-fire, run over by last year’s train. But what had it mattered?
For we together had had ears for the mocking-bird, and eyes for the
moss-hung live oaks that mourn above the brown swamp waters.

We had met few men afoot, only two professional tramps, yet the path by
the railway was clearly marked. Some Florida poet must celebrate the
Roman directness of the railways embanked six feet above the swamp,
going everywhere in regions that have no wagon-roads.

But wherever in our land there is a railway, there is a little path
clinging to the embankment holding the United States in a network as
real as that of the rolled steel,--a path wrought by the foot of the
unsubdued. This path wanders back through history till it encounters
Tramp Columbus, Tramp Dante, Tramp St. Francis, Tramp Buddha, and the
rest of our masters.

All this we talked of nobly, even grandiloquently, but now I walked
alone, ignoring the beautiful turpentine forests of Georgia and the
sometime accepted merits of a quest for the Grail, the Gleam, or the
Dark Tower. Reaching Fargo about one o’clock I attempted to telegraph
for money to take me home, beaten. It was not a money-order office, and
thirteen cents would not have covered the necessary business details.
Forced to make the best of things, I spent all upon ginger-snaps at
the combination grocery-store and railway-station. I shared them with
a drummer waiting for the freight, who had the figure of Falstaff, and
the mustaches of Napoleon third. I did not realize at that time, that
by getting myself penniless I was inviting good luck.

After a dreary while, the local freight going to Valdosta came in.
Napoleon advanced to capture a ride. A conductor and an inspector were
on the platform. He attacked them with cigars. He indulged freely in
friendly swearing and slapping on the back. He showed credentials,
printed and written. He did not want to wait three hours for the
passenger train in that much-to-be-condemned town. His cigars were
refused, his papers returned. He took the path to the lumberman’s
hotel. His defeat appeared to be the inspector’s doing.

That obstinate inspector wore a gray stubble beard and a collar chewed
by many laundries. He was encompassed in a black garment of state that
can be described as a temperance overcoat. He needed only a bulging
umbrella and a nose like a pump-spout to resemble the caricatures of
the Prohibition Party that appeared in _Puck_ when St. John ran for
President.

I showed him all my baggage carried in an oil-cloth wrapper in my
breast pocket: a blue bandanna, a comb, a little shaving mirror, a
tooth-brush, a razor, and a piece of soap. “These,” I said, “are my
credentials.”

Also I showed a little package of tracts in rhyme I was distributing to
the best people: _The Wings of the Morning_, or _The Tree of Laughing
Bells_.[1] I hinted he might become the possessor of one. I drew his
attention to the fact that there was no purse in the exhibit. I divided
my last four ginger-snaps with him. I showed him a letter commending me
to all pious souls from a leading religious worker in New York, Charles
F. Powlison.

_Soon we were thundering away to Valdosta!_ Mr. Temperance climbed to
the observation chair in the little box at the top of the caboose,
alternately puzzling over my _Wings of the Morning_,[2] and looking
out. The caboose bumped like a farm-wagon on a frozen road. The
pine-burning stove roared. The negro Adonis on the wood-pile had gold
in his teeth. He had eyes like dark jewels set in white marble, and he
polished lanterns as black as himself.

“By Jove,” I said. “That’s the handsomest bit of lacquer this side of
the Metropolitan Museum.”

“’Sh,” said Conductor Roundface, sobering himself. “You will queer
yourself with the old man. He wouldn’t let that drummer on because _he_
swore.”

The old man came down. I bridled my profane tongue while he lectured
the conductor on the necessity for more interest in the Georgia
public schools, and the beauty of total abstinence, and, at last, the
Japanese situation. This is a condensed translation of his speech:
“I was on the side of the Russians all through the Russo-Japanese
war. My friends said, ‘Hooray for Japan.’ But I say a Japanese is a
nigger. I have never seen one, but I have seen their pictures. The
Lord intended people to stay where they were put. We ought to have
trade, but no immigration. Chinese belong to China. They are adapted
to the Chinese climate. Niggers belong to Africa. They are adapted to
the African climate. Americans belong to America. They are adapted to
the American climate. Why, the mixing that is going on is something
scandalous. I had a nigger working for me once that was half-Spaniard
and half-Indian. There are just a few white people, and more mulattoes
every day. The white people ought to keep their blood pure. Russians
are white people. Germans, English, and Americans are white people.
French people are niggers. Dagoes are niggers. Jews are niggers. All
people are niggers but just these four. There is going to be a big war
in two or three years between all the white people and all the niggers.
The niggers are going to combine and force a fight, Japan in the lead.”

We reached Valdosta after dark. Conductor and inspector exchanged with
me most civil good-bys. Their hospitality had been nepenthe for my poor
broken heart. I reconciled myself to sitting in front of the station
fireplace all night. I thought my nearest friend was at Macon, one
hundred and fifty miles north; a gay cavalier who had read Omar Khayyam
with me in college.

Just then an immense, angular, red-haired man sat down in front
of the fire. He might have been the prodigal son of some Yankee
farmer-statesman. He threw his arms around me, and though I had never
seen him before, the Brotherhood of Man was established at once. He
cast an empty bottle into the wood-box. He produced another. I would
not drink. He poured down one-half of it. It snorted like dish-water
going into the sink. He said: “That’s right. Don’t drink. This is
the first time I ever drank. I have been on a soak two weeks. You see
I was in Texas a long time, and went broke. I don’t know how I got
here.” “Well,” I said, “we have this fire till they run us out. Enjoy
yourself.”

He wept. “I don’t deserve to enjoy anything. Anybody that’s made a fool
of himself as I have done. I wish I were in Vermont where my wife and
babies are buried. Somebody wrote me they were dead and buried just
when I went broke.”

Thereafter he was merry. “There was a man in Vermont I didn’t like who
kept a fire like this. I went to see him every evening because I liked
his fire. He would study and I would smoke.”

He took out two dimes. “Say, that’s my last money. Let’s buy two
tickets to the next station and get off and shoot up the town.”

A hollow-eyed little man of middle age, grimy like a coal-miner, sat
down on the other side of Mr. Vermont. He said he had been flagging
trains for so long he could not tell when he began. He said he must
wait three hours for a friend. He declined the bottle. He listened to
Mr. Vermont’s story, told with variations. He put his chin into his
hands, his elbows on his knees, and slept. Vermont threw himself on
top of the bent back, his face wrapped in his arms, like a school-boy
asleep on his desk-lid. Mr. Flagman slowly awoke, and cast off his
brother, and slept again. Cautiously Vermont waited, to resume his
pillow in a quarter of an hour, and be again cast off.

Mr. Flagman sat up. I asked him if there was a train for Macon going
soon. He said: “The through freight is making up now.” He gave me the
conductor’s name. I asked if there was any one about who could write me
a pass to Macon. He said, “The pay car has just come in, and Mr. Grady
can give you a pass if he wants to.” I went out to the tracks.

From a little window at the end of the car Mr. Grady was paying the
interminable sons of Ham, who emerged from the African night, climbed
the steps, received their envelopes, and slunk down the steps into the
African night.

At last I showed Mr. Grady my letter from Charles F. Powlison. Mr.
Grady did not appear to be of a religious turn. I asked him permission
to ride to Macon in the caboose of the freight, going out at one
o’clock. I assured him it was beneath my dignity to crawl into the
box-car, or patronize the blind baggage, and I was tired of walking in
swamp. Mr. Grady asked, “Are you an official of the road?”

“No, sir.”

“Then what you ask is impossible, sir.”

“Oh, my dear Mr. Grady, it is not impossible--”

“I am glad to have met you, sir. Good-night, sir,” and Mr. Grady had
shut the window.

There was the smash, clang, and thud of making up a train. A negro
guided me to the lantern of a freight conductor. The conductor had
the lean frame, the tight jaw, the fox nose, the Chinese skin of a
card-shark. He would have made a name for himself on the Spanish Main,
some centuries since, by the cool way he would have snatched jewels
from ladies’ ears and smiled when they bled. He did not smile now. He
gripped his lantern like a cutlass, and the cars groaned. They were
gentlemen in armor compelled to walk the plank by this pirate with the
apple-green eyes. We will call him Mr. Shark.

I put my pious letter into my pocket. “Mr. Shark, I would like to
ride to Macon in the caboose.” Mr. Shark thrust his lantern under
my hat-brim. I had no collar, but was not ashamed of that. He said,
“I have met men like you before.” He turned down the track shouting
orders. I jumped in front of him. I said, “You are mistaken. You have
not met a man like me before. I am the goods. I am the wise boy from
New York. I have been walking in every swamp in Florida, eating dead
pig for breakfast, water-moccasins for lunch, alligators for dinner. I
would like to tell you my adventures.”

Mr. Shark ignored me, and went on persecuting the train.

Valdosta was a depot in the midst of darkness. I hated the darkness. I
went into the depot. Vermont was offering Flagman the bottle. He drank.

Flagman asked me: “Can’t you make it?”

“No. Grady turned me down. And the conductor turned me down.”

Mr. Flagman said, “The sure way to ride in a caboose like a gentleman
is to ask the conductor like he is a gentleman, and everybody else
is a gentleman, and when he turns you down, ask him again like a
gentleman.” And much more with that refrain. It was wisdom lightly
given, profounder than it seemed. Let us remember the tired flagman,
and engrave the substance of his saying on our souls.

I sought the pirate again. I took off my hat. I bowed like Don Cæsar De
Bazan, but gravely. “I ask you, just as one gentleman to another, to
take me to Macon. I have friends in Macon.”

Mr. Shark showed a pale streak of smile. “Come around at one o’clock.”

My “Thank you” was drowned by a late passenger. It came from Fargo, for
Napoleon III dismounted. He said: “Hello. Where are you going, boy?”

“I am just taking the caboose of the through freight for Macon. But I
have a few minutes.”

“How the devil did you get here, sir?” I told him the story in brief.
We were in front of the fire now. “How are you going to make this next
train? I would like to go with you.”

I could not tell whether he meant it or not. Right beside us Mr.
Flagman was asleep for all night, with his elbows on his knees, his
chin in his hands. Stretched above Flagman’s back was Mr. Vermont, like
a school-boy asleep on his desk. I said, “Do you see the gentleman on
the bottom of the pile? He is the Grand Lama of Cabooseville. You have
to ask him for the password. The man on top is the sublime sub-Lama.”

Napoleon looked dubiously at them, and the two bottles in the wood-box.
He gave me good words of farewell, finishing with mock-gravity: “Of
course I respect you, sir, in not giving the password without orders
from your superior, sir.”

And now I boarded the caboose, hurrying to surprise the Macon cavalier.
He expected me in three weeks, walking. But the caboose did one hundred
and fifty miles in thirteen hours, and all the way my heart spun like
a glorified musical top. Alas, this is a tale of drink. I filled the
coffee-pot and drained it an infinite number of times, all because my
poor broken heart was healed. The stove was the only person in the
world out of humor. He was mad because his feet were nailed to the
floor. He tried to spill the coffee, and screamed, “Now you’ve done
it” every time we rounded a curve. The caboose-door slammed open every
seven minutes, Shark and his white man and his negro rushing in from
their all-night work for refreshment.

The manner of serving coffee in a caboose is this: there are three
tin cups for the white men. The negro can chew sugar-cane, or steal
a drink when we do not look. There is a tin box of sugar. If one is
serving Mr. Shark, one shakes a great deal of sugar into the cup, and
more down one’s sleeve, and into one’s shoes and about the rocking
floor. One becomes sprinkled like a doughnut, newly-fried, and fragrant
with splashed coffee. The cinders that come in on the breath of the
shrieking night cling to the person. But if you are serving Mr. Shark
you do not mind these things. You pour his drink, you eat his bread and
cheese, thanking him from the bottom of your stomach, not having eaten
anything since the ginger-snaps of long ago. You solemnly touch your
cup to his, as you sit with him on the red disembowelled car cushions,
with the moss gushing out. You wish him the treasure-heaps of Aladdin
or a racing stable in Ireland, whichever he pleases.

Let all the readers of this tale who hope to become Gentlemen of the
Road take off collars and cuffs, throw their purses into the ditch,
break their china, and drink their coffee from tinware to the health
of Mr. Shark, our friend with the apple-green eyes. Yea, my wanderers,
the cure for the broken heart is gratitude to the gentleman you would
hate, if you had your collar on or your purse in your pocket when you
met him. Though there was heavy betting against him, he becomes the
Hero in a whirlwind finish. Patriarch and Flagman disputing for second,
decision for Flagman.



THE WOULD-BE MERMAN


  MOBS are like the Gulf Stream,
  Like the vast Atlantic.
  In your fragile boats you ride,
  Conceited folk at ease.
  Far beneath are dancers,
  Mermen wild and frantic,
  Circling round the giant glowing
  Sea-anemones.

  “Crude, ill-smelling voters,--
  Herds,” to you in seeming.
  But to me their draggled clothes
  Are scales of gold and red.
  Ah, the pink sea-horses,
  Green sea-dragons gleaming,
  And knights that chase the dragons
  And spear them till they’re dead!

  Wisdom waits the diver
  In the social ocean--
  Rainbow shells of wonder,
  Piled into a throne.
  I would go exploring
  Through the wide commotion,
  Building under some deep cliff
  A pearl-throne all my own.

  Yesterday I dived there,
  Grinned at all the roaring,
  Clinging to the corals for a flash,
  Defying death.
  Mermen came rejoicing,
  In procession pouring,
  Yet I lost my feeble grip
  And came above for breath.

  I would be a merman.
  Not in desperation
  A momentary diver
  Blue for lack of air.
  But with gills deep-breathing
  Swim amid the nation--
  Finny feet and hands forsooth,
  Sea-laurels in my hair.



MACON


THE languid town of Macon, Georgia, will ever remain in my mind as my
first island of respite after vagrancy. My friend C. D. Russell lent
me his clothes, took me to his eating-place, introduced his circle.
We settled the destiny of the universe several different ways in
peripatetic discourse.

After one has ventured one hundred and fifty miles through everglades
and spent twenty-four sleepless hours riding in freight-cabooses the
marrow of his bones is marsh, his hair and clothes are moss, cinders
and bark, his immortal soul is engine-smoke. Feeling just so, I had
entered Russell’s law office. He was at court. I sent word by his
partner that I had gone to school with him in Ohio, that I had mailed
a postal last Sunday from Florida telling him I would arrive afoot
in three weeks,--but here I was, already. The word was carried with
Southern precision.

“There is a person in the office who went to school with you in
Indiana.”

“I did not go to school in Indiana.”

“He has been walking in Mississippi and Alabama. He wrote you a postal
six weeks ago.”

“How does he look?”

“Like the devil. He is principally pants and shirt.”

The cavalier knew who that was. He found me, took me to his castle,
introduced civilization. CIVILIZATION is whiter than the clouds, and
full of clear water. One enters it with a plunge. CULTURE is a fuzzy
fabric with which one rubs in CIVILIZATION. After I had been intimate
with these, I was admitted to SOCIETY: a suit of the cavalier’s
clothes. I looked like him then, all but head and hands. I regarded
myself with awe, as a gorilla would if he found himself fading into a
Gibson picture.

A chair is a sturdy creature. I wonder who captured the first one?
Who put out its eyes and taught it to stand still? A table-cloth
is ritualistic. How nobly the napkin defends the vest, while those
glistening birds, the knife, the fork, the spoon, bring one food.

How did these things to eat get here among these hundreds of houses?
One would think that if anything to eat were brought among so many men,
there would be enough hungry ones to kill each other and spoil it with
blood.

Why do people stop eating when they have had just a bit? Why not go on
forever?

We were in another room. The cavalier showed on the table what he
called his Bible: the letters of Lord Chesterfield. To one who has
not slept in all his life, who has lived a thousand years on freight
trains, books do not count much. But how ingenious is a white iron bed,
how subtle are pillows, how overwhelming is sleep!



THE FALLS OF TALLULAH

(North Georgia)


I

THE CALL OF THE WATER

THE dust of many miles was upon me. I felt uncouth in the presence
of the sun-dried stones. Here was a natural bathing-place. Who could
resist it?

I climbed further down the cañon, holding to the bushes. The cliff
along which the water rushed to the fall’s foot was smooth and seemed
artificially made, though it had been so hewn by the fury of the
cataclysm in ages past.

I took off my clothes and put my shoulders against the granite, being
obliged to lean back a little to conform to its angle. I was standing
with my left shoulder almost touching the perilous main column of
water. A little fall that hurried along by itself a bit nearer
the bank flowed over me. It came with headway. Though it looked so
innocent, I could scarcely hold up against its power.

But it gave me delight to maintain myself. The touch of the stone was
balm to my walk-worn body and dust-fevered feet. Like a sacerdotal robe
the water flowed over my shoulders and I thought myself priest of the
solitude.

I stepped out into the air. With unwonted energy I was able to throw
off the coldness of my wet frame. The water there at the fall’s foot
was like a thousand elves singing. “Joy to all creatures!” cried the
birds. “Joy to all creatures! Glory, glory, glory to the wild falls!”


II

THE PIPING OF PAN

I was getting myself sunburned, stretched out on the warm dry rocks.
Down over the steep edge, somewhere near the foot of the next descent I
heard the pipes of Pan. Why should I dress and go?

I made my shoes and clothes into a bundle, and threw them down the
cliff and climbed over, clinging to the steep by mere twigs. I seemed
to hear the piping as I approached the terrace at the fall’s base. Then
the sound of music blended with the stream’s strange voice and I turned
to merge myself again with its waters.

Against the leaning wall of the cliff I placed my shoulders. The
descending current smote me, wrestling with wildwood laughter,
threatening to crush me and hurl me to the base of the mountain. But
just as before my feet were well set in a notch of the cliff that went
across the stream, cut there a million years ago.

It was a curious combination to discover, this stream-wide notch, and
above it this wall with the water spread like a crystal robe over
it. In the centre of the fall a Cyclops could have stood to bathe,
and on the edge was the same provision in miniature for feeble man.
And it was the more curious to find this plan repeated in detail by
successive cataracts of the cañon, unmistakably wrought by the slow
hand of geologic ages. And to see the water of the deep central stream
undisturbed in the midst of the fall and still crystalline, and to see
it slide down the steep incline and strike each notch at the foot with
sudden music and appalling foam, was more wonderful than the simple
telling can explain.

Each sheet of crystal that came over my shoulders seemed now to pour
into them rather than over them. I lifted my mouth and drank as a
desert bird drinks rain. My downstretched arms and extended fingers and
the spreading spray seemed one. My heart with its exultant blood seemed
but the curve of a cataract over the cliff of my soul.


III

PERIL, VANITY, AND ADORATION

Led by the pipes of Pan, I again descended. Once more that sound,
almost overtaken, interwove itself with the water’s cry, and I merged
body and soul with the stream and the music. The margin of another
cataract crashed upon me. In the recklessness of pleasure, one arm
swung into the main current. Then the water threatened my life. To save
myself, I was kneeling on one knee. I reached out blindly and found
a hold at last in a slippery cleft, and later, it seemed an age, with
the other hand I was able to reach one leaf. The leaf did not break. At
last its bough was in my grasp and I crawled frightened into the sun. I
sat long on a warm patch of grass.

But the cliffs and the water were not really my enemies. They sent a
wind to give me delight. Never was the taste of the air so sweet as
then. The touch of it was on my lips like fruit. There was a flattery
in the tree-limbs bending near my shoulders. They said, “There is
brotherhood in your footfall on our roots and the touch of your hand on
our boughs.”

The spray of the splashed foam was wine. I was the unchallenged
possessor of all of nature my body and soul could lay hold upon. It
was the fair season between spring and summer when no one came to
this place. Like Selkirk, I was monarch of all I surveyed. In my
folly I seemed to feel strange powers creeping into my veins from the
sod. I forgot my near-disaster. I said in my heart, “O Mother Earth
majestical, the touch of your creatures has comforted me, and I feel
the strength of the soil creeping up into my dust. From this patch of
soft grass, power and courage come up into me from your bosom, from the
foundation of your continents. I feel within me the soul of iron from
your iron mines, and the soul of lava from your deepest fires.”


IV

THE BLOOD UNQUENCHABLE

The satyrs in the bushes were laughing at me and daring me to try the
water again.

I stood on the edge of the rapids where were many stones coming up out
of the foam. I threw logs across. The rocks held them in place. I lay
down between the logs in the liquid ice. I defied it heartily. And my
brother the river had mercy upon me, and slew me not.

Amid the shout of the stream the birds were singing: “Joy, joy, joy to
all creatures, and happiness to the whole earth. Glory, glory, glory to
the wild falls.”

I struggled out from between the logs and threw my bundle over the
cliff, and again descended, for I heard the pipes of Pan, just below me
there, too plainly for delay. They seemed to say “Look! Here is a more
exquisite place.”

The sun beat down upon me. I felt myself twin brother to the sun.
My body was lit with an all-conquering fever. I had walked through
tropical wildernesses for many a mile, gathering sunshine. And now in
an afternoon I was gambling my golden heat against the icy silver of
the river and winning my wager, while all the leaves were laughing on
all the trees.

And again I stood in a Heaven-prepared place, and the water poured in
glory upon my shoulders.

       *       *       *       *       *

Why was it so dark? Was a storm coming? I was dazed as a child in the
theatre beholding the crowd go out after the sudden end of a solemn
play. My clothes, it appeared, were half on. I was kneeling, looking
up. I counted the falls to the top of the cañon. It was night, and I
had wrestled with them all. My spirit was beyond all reason happy.
This was a day for which I had not planned. I felt like one crowned.
My blood was glowing like the blood of the crocus, the blood of
the tiger-lily. And so I meditated, and then at last the chill of
weariness began to touch me and in my heart I said, “Oh Mother Earth,
for all my vanity, I know I am but a perishable flower in a cleft of
the rock. I give thanks to you who have fed me the wild milk of this
river, who have upheld me like a child of the gods throughout this day.”

Around a curve in the cañon, down stream, growing each moment sweeter,
I heard the pipes of Pan.


V

THE GIFT OF TALLULAH

Go, you my brothers, whose hearts are in sore need of delight, and
bathe in the falls of Tallulah. That experience will be for the
foot-sore a balm, for the languid a lash, for the dry-throated pedant
the very cup of nature. To those crushed by the inventions of cities,
wounded by evil men, it will be a washing away of tears and of blood.
Yea, it will be to them all, what it was to my heart that day, the
sweet, sweet blowing of the reckless pipes of Pan.



THE GNOME


LET us now recall a certain adventure among the moonshiners.

When I walked north from Atlanta Easter morning, on Peachtree road,
orchards were flowering everywhere. Resurrection songs flew across the
road from humble blunt steeples.

Stony Mountain, miles to the east, Kenesaw on the western edge of
things, and all the rest of the rolling land made the beginning of a
gradual ascent by which I was to climb the Blue Ridge. The road mounted
the watershed between the Atlantic and the gulf.

An old man took me into his wagon for a mile. I asked what sort of
people I would meet on the Blue Ridge. He answered, “They make blockade
whisky up there. But if you don’t go around hunting stills by the
creeks, or in the woods away from the road, they’ll be awful glad to
see you. They are all moonshiners, but if they likes a man they loves
him, and they’re as likely to get to lovin’ you as not.”

When I was truly in the mountains, six days north of Atlanta, a day’s
journey from the last struggling railway, the road wound into a certain
high, uninhabited valley. Two days back, at a village I entered just
after I had enjoyed the falls of Tallulah, I had found a letter from
my new friend John Collier whom I had met in Macon and Atlanta. It
contained a little money, which he insisted I should take, to make
easier my way. I was inconsistent enough to spend some of it, instead
of returning it or giving it “to the poor.”

I invested seventy-five cents in brogans made of the thickest leather.
I had thought they were conquered the first day. But now one of them
bit a piece out of my heel. John Collier has done noble things since.
On my behalf, for instance, he climbed Mount Mitchell with me, and
showed me half the glory of the South. Then and after, he has helped
my soul with counsel and teaching. But he should not have corrupted a
near-Franciscan with money for hoodoo brogans. Though it was fairly
warm weather, if ever I rested five minutes, the heavy things
stiffened like cooling metal.

The little streams I crossed scarcely afforded me a drink. Their dried
borders had the foot-prints of swine on them.

Lameness affects one’s vision. The thick woods were the dregs of the
landscape, fit haunt for the acorn-grubbing sow. The road following the
ridges was a monster’s spine.

Those wicked brogans led me where they should not. Or maybe it was just
my destiny to find what I found.

About four o’clock in the afternoon, after exploring many roads that
led to futile nothing, I was on what seemed the main highway, and
dragged myself into the sight of the first mortal since daybreak. He
seemed like a gnome as he watched me across the furrows. And so he
was, despite his red-ripe cheeks. The virginal mountain apple-tree,
blossoming overhead, half covering the toad-like cabin, was out of
place. It should have been some fabulous, man-devouring devil-bush from
the tropics, some monstrous work of the enemies of God.

The child, just in her teens, helping the Gnome to plant sweet
potatoes, had in her life planted many, and eaten few. Or so it
appeared. She was a crouching lump of earth. Her father dug the furrow.
She did the planting, shovelling the dirt with her hands. Her face was
sodden as any in the slums of Chicago. She ran to the house a ragged
girl, and came back a homespun girl, a quick change. It must not be
counted against her that she did not wash her face.

The Gnome talked to me meanwhile. He had made up his mind about me. “I
guess you want to stay all night?”

“Yes.”

“The next house is fifteen miles away. You are welcome if what we have
is good enough for you. My wife is sick, but she will not let you be
any bother.”

I wanted to be noble and walk on. But I persuaded myself my feet were
as sick as the woman. I accepted the Gnome’s invitation.

Let the readers with a detective instinct note that his hoe-handle was
two feet short, and had been whittled a little around the top to make
it usable. It was at best an awkward instrument. (The mystery will soon
be solved.)

We were met at the door by one my host called Brother Joseph--a
towering shape with an upper lip like a walrus, for it was armed with
tusk-like mustaches. He was silent as King Log.

But the Gnome said, “I have saved up a month of talk since the last
stranger came through.” With ease, with simplicity of word, with I know
not how much of guile, he gave fragments of his life: how he had lived
in this log house always, how his first wife died, how her children
were raised by this second wife and married off, how they now enjoyed
this second family.

He showed me the other fragment of the hoe-handle. “I broke that over a
horse’s head the last time I was drunk. I always get crazy. When I come
to, I do not remember anything about it. The last time I fought with my
cousin. When I knocked down his horse he drew his knife. I drew _this_
knife. My wife said I fought like a wild hog. I sliced my cousin pretty
bad. He skipped the country, for he cut out one of my lungs and two of
my ribs. I lost two buckets of blood. It took the doctor a long time to
put my insides back.”

From this hour forward he struggled between the luxury of being even
more confidential, and the luxury of being cautious like a lynx. I
squirmed. Despite his abandon, he was watching me.

I put one hand in my pocket. I found a diversion, a pair of eyeglasses.
I had chanced on them in the bushes at Tallulah. The droop of his
eyelids as he put them on was exquisite. He paced the floor. I had a
review of his appearance. He was like a thin twist of tobacco. He had
been burned out by too-sharp whisky. The babies clapped their hands
as he strutted. He was like a third-rate Sunday-school teacher in a
frock coat in the presence of the infant class. He was glad to keep
the glasses, yet asked questions with a double meaning, implying I had
stolen them in Atlanta, and fled these one hundred miles. We were gay
rogues, and we knew it.

“Get up! Make some coffee and supper!” he shouted to the figure on
the bed in the black corner of the cabin. He kept his jaw tight on
his pipe, speaking to her in the gnome language. She replied in kind,
snorting and muffling her words, without moving lips or tongue, and
keeping her teeth on her snuff-stick. She stumbled up, groaning, with
both hands on her head. She had once been a woman. She had lived with
this thing too long. All the trappings that make for home had grown
stale and weird about her. The scraps of rag-carpet on the floor were
rat eaten. The red calico window curtains were vilely dirty from the
years of dust and the leak of many rains. The benches were battered,
unsteady. The door-latch was gone. The door was held in place by a
stone. She stood before me, her hair hanging straight across her face
or down her collar, or flying about or tied behind in a dreadful knot.
She stood before me, but as long as I was in that house she did not
look at me, she did not speak to me.

There was no stove. The Gnome said: “Wife don’t like a stove. She had
rather cook the way she learned.” We rolled in the back-log for her and
coaxed up the embers. We sat at one side of the hearth. We exchanged
boastful adventures. She crawled into the fireplace to nurse the
corn-bread and coffee and pork to perfection and place the Dutch oven
right.

Have you heard your grandmother speak of the Dutch oven? It is a squat
kettle which is set in the embers. When it is hot, the biscuit dough
is put in and the lid replaced. Slowly the biscuits become ambrosia.
Slowly the watching cook is baked.

The Devil was in my host. By his coaxing hospitality he made it seem
natural that a woman deadly sick should serve us. The rest of the
family could wait. It did not matter if the tiny one cried and pulled
the mother’s skirt. She smote it into silence and fear, then carried
it to the black corner where the potato planter herded the rest of the
babies, helped by King Log, the walrus-headed.

The Gnome said, “I quit drinking ever since I had that fight I told you
about. I don’t dare drink. So I take coffee.”

You should have seen him flooding himself with black coffee, drinking
from a yellow bowl. I said to myself: “He will surely turn to the
consolation of liquor anon. He will beat his wife again. He will drive
his children into the woods. This woman must fight the battle for her
offspring till her black-snake hair is white. Or maybe that insane
knife will go suddenly into her throat. She may die soon with her hair
black,--and red.”

We ate with manly leisure. We were sated. The mother prepared the
second meal, and called the group from the black corner. She made ready
her own supper. I see her by the fire, the heavy arm shielding her
face, the hunched figure a knot of roots,--a palpable mystery about
her, making her worthy of a portrait by some new Rembrandt. It is the
tragic mystery born of the isolation of the Blue Ridge and the juice of
the Indian corn. Let us not forget the weapon with which she fights the
flame, the quaint long shovel.

Let us watch her at the table, breaking her corn-bread alone, her puffy
eyelids closed, her cheek-bones seeming to cut through the skin. There
is something of the eagle in her aspect because of her Roman nose, and
her hands moving like talons. It is not corn-bread that she tears and
devours. She is consuming her enemies, which are Weariness, Squalor,
Flat and Unprofitable Memory, Spiritual Death. She is seeking to forget
that the light of the hearthstone that falls on her dirty but beautiful
babies is kindled in hell.

The Gnome spoke of his hogs. A Middle West farmer can talk hogs, and
the world will admire him the more. But a mediæval swine-herd dare not.
It is self-betrayal.

My host grew affectionate, grandfatherly. He told of a solid acre of
mica on top of a mountain. He speculated that it was a mile deep. He
put a chunk into my pocket for me to carry to Asheville to interest
great capitalists. He offered me fifty per cent on the profits. I took
out a copy of the _Tree of Laughing Bells_ from my pocket. I reviewed
the tale contained in the book, in words I thought the Gnome would
understand. Then he read it for himself with the “specs.” He was proud
of having learned to read out of the Bible, with no schooling.

He seemed particularly impressed with the length of the journey of the
hero of the poem, who flew “to the farthest star of all.” He looked at
me with conceited shrewdness. “I played hookey myself, when I was a
kid. I rode and walked forty-five miles that day. I was mighty glad to
get back to my mammy the day after. I never wanted to run away again.”
He shook his pipe at me. “You are just a runaway boy, that’s what you
are.”

He said something favorable about me to his wife, in the gnome
language. She stood up. She shrilled back a caution. She showed her
dirty teeth at him. But there was something he was bursting to tell
me. He was essentially too reckless to conceal a secret long, even a
life-and-death secret. He began: “I still raise a little corn.”

The Walrus gave a sort of watch-dog bark. The Gnome reluctantly
accepted the caution. He pointed sharply to the bed farthest from the
black corner of the room.

“That’s for you.”

“Isn’t there a shed or a corn-crib where I can sleep?”

“No, you don’t get out of this house to-night. There aren’t any sheds
or cribs.”

I looked helplessly around that single-roomed cabin. Not fear, but
modesty, overcame me. I was expected to retire first. But King Log, the
Walrus, perceiving my diffidence, set me an example. He rapidly hauled
a couch off the porch and tumbled into it, first undressing as far
as his underwear. With a quilt almost to his chin, and covering his
pretty pink feet, he was a decent spectacle.

Happily I also wore underwear, and was soon under my quilt. I stole a
look at the potato planter. I realized that she was the maiden present.
Be pleased, O brothers, to observe that she has been aware of her age
and state. She has huddled up to the fire, with her back to us; she has
hidden her face on her knees. At last she piles ashes on the embers
and finds a place in the black corner in the cot full of children. Her
father and mother take the cot between.

Next morning was Sunday, a week since Easter. Only when a man has sadly
mangled feet, and blood heated by many weeks of adventure, can he find
luxury such as I found in the icy stream next morning. The divine
rivulet on the far side of the field had been misnamed “Mud Creek.” It
was clear as a diamond.

Always carrying a piece of soap in my hip pocket, I was able to take a
complete scour. Not content with this (pardon me), I did scrub shirt,
socks, underwear, and bandanna. I hung them on the bushes, thanking God
for the wind. Taking my before-mentioned credentials from my pocket, I
made myself into a gentleman. When I dressed at last, my clothes were a
little damp, but I knew that an hour’s walking would put all to rights.
As I held the bushes aside I saw a crib-like structure that made me
shake more than the damp clothes. Was it a still, or was it not a still?

In my innocence I could not tell. But I remembered the warning, “Don’t
go pokin’ round huntin’ stills by the creeks.”

As I hurried to the house my host carelessly appeared from the region
of my bathing-place. He was whittling with his historic knife. I
suppose he had noted my actions enough to restore his confidence.
Anyway, the shame of being unwashed was his only visible emotion. He
said, “I always bathe in hot water.”

“So do I, when I am not on the road.”

Still he was abashed. He took an enormous chew of tobacco to vindicate
himself.

After breakfast the wife helped the Walrus to drag the cot out of
doors. When she was alone on the porch I told her how sorry I was she
had been obliged to cook for me. I thanked her for her toil. But she
hurried away, without a pause or a glance. She kissed one of those
miry faced babies. She walked into the house, leaving me smirking
at the hills. She growled something at the host. He came forth. He
pointed out the road, over the mountains and far away. He broke off a
blossoming apple-sprig and whittled it.

“So you’ve been to Atlanta?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“I was there once. What hotel did you use?”

“The Salvation Army.”

“I was in the United States Hotel.”

Still I was stupid. He continued:

“I was there two years.”

He put on his glasses. He threw down the apple-sprig, and, looking over
the glasses, he made unhappy each blossom in his own peculiar way.
He continued: “I was in the United States Hotel, for making blockade
whisky. I don’t make it any more.” He spat again. “I don’t even go
fishin’ on Sunday unless--”

He had made up his mind that I was a customer, not a detective.

“Unless what?”

“Unless a visitor wants a mess of fish.”

But I did not want a mess of fish. Repeatedly I offered money for my
night’s lodging. This he declined with real pride. _He maintained his
one virtue intact._ And so I thought of him, just as I left, as a man
who kept his code.

The John Collier brogans were easier that morning, partly because I had
something new on my mind, no doubt.

I thought of the Gnome a long time. I thought of the wife, and wondered
at her as a unique illustration of the tragic mysteries of the human
race. If she screams when seven devils enter into the Gnome, no one
outside the house will hear but the apple-tree. If she weeps, only the
wind in the chimney will understand. If she seeks justice and the law,
King Log, the Walrus, is her uncertain refuge. If she desires mercy,
the emperor of that valley, the king above King Log, is a venomous
serpent, even the Worm of the Still.

But now the road unwound in glory. I walked away from those
serpent-bitten dominions for that time. I was one with the air of
the sweet heavens, the light of the ever-enduring sun, the abounding
stillness of the forest, and the inscrutable Majesty, brooding on the
mountains, the Majesty whom ignorantly we worship.



THE TRAMP’S REFUSAL

On Being Asked by a Beautiful Gipsy to Join her Group of Strolling
Players.


  LADY, I cannot act, though I admire
  God’s great chameleons, Booth-Barret men.
  But when the trees are green, my thoughts may be
  October-red. December comes again
  And snowy Christmas there within my breast
  Though I be walking in the August dust.
  Often my lone contrary sword is bright
  When every other soldier’s sword is rust.
  Sometimes, while churchly friends go up to God
  On wings of prayer to altars of delight
  I walk and talk with Satan, call him friend,
  And greet the imps with converse most polite.
  When hunger nips me, then at once I knock
  At the near farmer’s door and ask for bread.
  I must, when I have wrought a curious song
  Pin down some stranger till the thing is read.
  When weeds choke up within, then look to me
  To show the world the manners of a weed.
  I cannot change my cloak except my heart
  Has changed and set the fashion for the deed.
  When love betrays me I go forth to tell
  The first kind gossip that too-patent fact.
  I cannot pose at hunger, love or shame.
  It plagues me not to say: “I cannot act.”
  I only mourn that this unharnessed _me_
  Walks with the devil far too much each day.
  I would be chained to angel-kings of fire.
  And whipped and driven up the heavenly way.



THE HOUSE OF THE LOOM

A Story of Seven Aristocrats and a Soap-Kettle.


WITH no sorrow in my heart, with no money in my pocket, with no
baggage but a lunch, the most dazzling feature of which was a piece of
gingerbread, I walked away from a wind-swept North Carolina village,
one afternoon, over the mountain ridges toward Lake Toxaway. I turned
to the right once too often, and climbed Mount Whiteside. There was
a drop of millions of miles, and a Lilliputian valley below like a
landscape by Charlotte B. Coman. I heard some days later that once a
man tied a dog to an umbrella and threw him over. Dog landed safely,
barking still. Dog was able to eat, walk, and wag as before. But the
fate of the master was horrible. Dog never spoke to him again.

Having no umbrella, I retraced my way. I stepped into the highway that
circumscribes the tremendous amphitheatre of Cashier’s Valley. I met
not a soul till eight o’clock that night. The mountain laurel, the
sardis bloom, the violet, and the apple blossom made glad the margins
of the splendidly built road; and, as long as the gingerbread lasted, I
looked upon these things in a sort of sophisticated wonder.

This was because the gingerbread was given me by a civilized man,
to whom John Collier had written for me a letter of introduction:
Mr. Thomas G. Harbison, Botanical Collector; American tree seeds a
specialty.

Back there by the village he was improving the breed of mountain apples
by running a nursery. He was improving the children with a school
he taught without salary, and was using the most modern pedagogy.
Something in his manner made me say, “You are like a doctor out of
one of Ibsen’s plays, only you are optimistic.” Then we talked of
Ibsen. He debated art versus science, he being a science-fanatic, I
an art-fanatic. He concluded the argument with these words: “You are
bound to be wrong. I am bound to be wrong. What is the use of either
of us judging the other?” That is not the mountain way of ending a
discussion.

For the purposes of the tale, as well as for his own merits, we must
praise this civilized man who entertained me a day and a half so well.
His mountain cottage was a permanent civilized camp. Without intruding
on his privacy, we can show what that means. Cross a few states to the
west with me.

Have you watched the camps of the up-to-date visitors, in the oldest
parts of Colorado? They begin with tent, axe, blanket, bacon, and
frying-pan, as miners do. In ten summers, though they climb as much as
the miners, wear uglier boots, and rougher clothes, their tents are
highly organized. They are convenient and free from clutter as the
best New York flat. The axe has multiplied rustic benches, bridges,
shelters. It has made a refrigerator in the stream. The frying-pan
has changed into a camp-stove and a box of white granite dishes.
The blanket flowers and Mariposa lilies that made the aspen groves
celestial have been gathered in jardinières.

Meanwhile, in the big houses of the veteran miners of the villages are
the axe, the blanket, and the frying-pan, though their lords have been
through half a dozen fortunes since pioneer days. Those houses have
the single great advantage of a rich tradition. They seem to grow up
out of the ground.

Musing these matters, I munched my gingerbread, walking past sweet
waterfalls, groves of enormous cedars, many springs, and one deserted
cabin. I was homesick for that great civilized camp, New York, and the
sober-minded pursuit of knowledge there.

But civilization lost her battle at twilight, when I swallowed my last
gingerbread crumb. Immediately I was in the land beyond the nowhere
place, willing to sleep twelve hours by a waterfall, or let the fairies
wake me before day. The road went deeper into savagery. I blundered on,
rejoicing in the fever of weariness. In the piercing light of the young
stars, the house that came at last before me seemed even more deeply
rooted in the ground than the oaks around it. What new revelation lies
here? Knock, knock, knock, O my soul, and may Heaven open a mystery
that will give the traveller a contrite heart.

Let us tell a secret, even before we enter. If, with the proper magic
in our minds, we were guests here, a year or a day, we might write the
world’s one unwritten epic. All day, in one of these tiny rooms, amid
appointments that fill the spirit with the elation of simple things, we
would write. At evening we would dream the next event by the fire. The
epic would begin with the opening of the door.

There appeared a military figure, with a face like Henry Irving’s in
contour, like Whistler’s in sharpness, fantasy, and pride.

“May I have a night’s lodging? I have no money.”

“Come in.... We never turn a man away.”

We were inside. He asked: “What might be your name?” I gave it. He gave
his. The circle by the fire did not turn their heads, but presumably
I was introduced. One child ran into the kitchen. My host gave me her
chair. All looked silently into the great soap-kettle in the midst of
the snapping logs.

I have a high opinion of the fine people of the South, and gratefully
remember the scattering of gentlefolk so good as to entertain me in
their mansions. But in this cottage, with one glance at those fixed,
flushed faces, I said: “This is the best blood I have met in this
United States.” The five children were night-blooming flowers. There
were hints of Doré in the shadow of the father, cast against the log
walls of the cabin. He sat on the little stairway. He was a better Don
Quixote than Doré ever drew.

I said, “Every middle-aged man I have met in Florida, Georgia, and
North Carolina has been a soldier, and I suppose you were.”

He looked at me long, as though the obligation of hospitality did not
involve conversation. He spoke at last: “I fought, but I could not help
it. It was for home, or against home. I fought for this cabin.”

“It is a beautiful cabin.”

He relented a bit. “We have kept it just so, ever since my
great-grandfather came here with his pack-mule and made his own trail.
I--I hated the war. We did not care anything about the cotton and
niggers of the fire-eaters. The niggers never climbed this high.”

I changed the subject. “This is the largest fireplace I have seen in
the South. A man could stand up in it.”

He stiffened again. “_This is not the South. This is the Blue Ridge._”

An inner door opened. It was plain the woman who stood there was his
wife. She had the austere mouth a wife’s passion gives. She had the
sweet white throat of her youth, that made even the candle-flame
rejoice. She looked straight at me, with ink-black eyes. She was dumb,
like some one struggling to awake.

“Everything is ready,” she said at length to her husband.

He turned to me: “Your supper is now in the kitchen, ‘if what we have
is good enough.’” It was the usual formula for hospitality.

I turned to the wife. “My dear woman, I did not know that this was
going on. It is not right for you to set a new supper at this hour. I
had enough on the road.”

“But you have walked a long way.” Then she uttered the ancient proverb
of the Blue Ridge. “‘A stranger needs takin’ care of.’”

In the kitchen there was a cook-stove. Otherwise there was nothing
to remind one of the world this side of Beowulf. I felt myself in a
stronghold of barbarian royalty.

“Do you do your own spinning and weaving?”

She lifted the candle, lighting a corner. “Here are the cards and the
wools.” She held it higher. “There is the spinning wheel.”

“Where is the loom?”

“Up stairs, just by where you will sleep.”

I knew that if there was a loom, it was a magic one, for she was a
witch of the better sort, a fine, serious witch, and a princess withal.
Her ancestors wore their black hair that simple way when their lords
won them by fighting dragons. She was prouder than the pyramids. If
the epic is ever written, let it tell how the spinner of the wizard
wools did stand to serve the stranger, that being the custom of her
house. This was a primitive camp indeed. There was no gingerbread.
There was not one thing to remind me of the last table at which I had
eaten. But every gesture said, “Good prince, you are far from your
court. Therefore, this, our royal trencher, is yours. May you find your
way to your own kingdom in peace.” But for a long time her lips were
still. She had the spareness of a fertile, toiling mother. And, ah, the
motherhood in her voice when she said at last, “My son, you are tired.”

Let the epic tell that, when the stranger returned to the fireplace,
a restless, expectant silence settled down upon the circle. There was
portent in the hiss of the flames. When I spoke to the children they
only stared at me as at a curious shadow. Their lips moved not. The
eldest, about seventeen, had inherited, no doubt, his love of strange
brewing. He looked sideways into the soap-kettle. I said to myself, “He
sees more hippogriffs than steam-engines.” He eyed every move of the
circle with restless approval or disapproval. Every chip his little
brother threw on the fire seemed to be a symbol of some precious thing
sacrificed, every curl of steam seemed to have something to do with the
destiny of the house.

He took out of his pocket a monthly magazine. It was the sort that
costs ten cents a year. No doubt, had he gone to school to the
admirable man who gave me gingerbread, he would have learned to read
scientific and technical monthlies. But a magazine of any sort is a
terribly intrusive thing at this juncture. The boy, and a sister just a
little younger, read in a loud whisper to one another an advertisement
they did not want me to hear. At their stage of culture it was
impossible to read silently. The advertisement, if I remember, went
about this way:--

“Free, free, free! A sewing machine! Send us a two-cent stamp, your
name and address, mentioning the name of this magazine. We will tell
you how to get an up-to-date sewing machine absolutely free. This offer
is good for thirty days.”

They wrote a most unscholarly letter, spelling it aloud. It required
their total and united culture to produce it. When the girl returned
to the fire, she was provoked by her pride into an astonishing flush.
How it set off her temples, with their pattern of azure veins! With
her lotus-leaf hands, the hands of Hathor, goddess of love, she cooled
her cheeks again and again. There is something of breeding in the very
color of blood. Come, brothers of the road, all who travel with me
in fancy, will you not join the knighthood of the soap-kettle? Come,
ladies in mansions, will you not be one with us? None of you could have
gainsaid the maiden-in-chief of the assembly. She wore her homespun as
Zenobia, princess of Palmyra, wore her splendors. With her arms around
her two gipsy younger sisters she smiled at last into the soap-kettle.
When the epic is written, let it use words of marvelling, speaking of
her hair, so pale, so electrical, set in a thick, ingenious coronal.

All the little children stood up. “Uncle,” they shouted. Hoofs sounded
by the door. A man entered without knocking. When he saw me he became
ceremonious as a Mandarin.

“This is a traveller,” said my host.

The messenger indulged in inquiries about my welfare, journey, and
destination. My host interrupted.

“How’s mother? We have watched late to know.”

“She is much worse.” And the messenger went on to say that she might
not live two days, and the doctor was a careless, indifferent dog,
treating her as though she were an ordinary old woman.

“Does he still give her strychnine?”

“He won’t deny it.” The messenger explained that the doctor thought
strychnine in small doses was good for old people. The scientist who
gave me gingerbread should have been there to champion the doctor. In
the eyes of his judges that night he was suspected of poisoning or
treating with criminal folly, royalty itself.

The younger doctor was miles away, and might refuse to make the trip.
The two loyal sons seemed paralyzed because the time for decision
and the time for mourning came together. There were long silences,
interrupted by my host repeating in a sort of primitive song, “_I can’t
think of anything except my dying mother. I can’t think of anything
except mother is going to die._”

At last, with his brother’s consent, the messenger galloped and
galloped away, to find his only hope, the younger physician. As the
wife gave me the candle, sending me up stairs, I looked back at the
family circle.

Helpless grief made every face rigid. I looked again at the eldest
daughter. The moving shadows embroidered on her breast intricate
symbols of the fair years, passing by in the ghost of tapestry, things
that happened in the beginning of the world. Let the epic tell that
when the stranger slept there was a magic loom by his bed that wove
that history again in valiant colors, showing battles without number,
and sieges, and interminable sunny love-tales, and lotus-handed
ladies whispering over manuscript things too fine to be told, and
ruddy warriors sitting at watch-fires on battlements eternal; and let
the epic tell how, in the early dawn, the stranger half awoke, yet
saw this tapestry hung round the walls. If one could remember every
story for which the pictures stood, he might indeed write the world’s
unwritten epic. The last tapestry to be hung changed from gold to black
warp and woof upon which was written that because of a treacherous
prime minister who served a poisoned wine, the Empress of the White
Witches was perishing before her time, and the young wizard, with the
counter-spell, was riding night and day, but all the palace knew he
would arrive too late.

At breakfast the faces were stolid and white as frost. The father
answered me only when I said good-by.

He said he hardly knew whether I had had anything to eat, or whether
any one had been good to me. “You just had to take care of yourself.”
The son, feeling the demand of hospitality in his father’s voice,
walked to the road with me. He asked if I was walking to Asheville.

“Yes, by way of Mount Toxaway and Brevard.”

He told me it was good walking all the way, and added, in a difficult
burst of confidence, “I am going to Asheville.”

“Why not come along with me?” I asked. I meant it heartily.

He said he had to take horseback, and then the railway. He had to be
there to-morrow.

“What’s the hurry?”

“I have to witness in a whisky case, an internal revenue case.”

He said it like a Spanish Protestant called before the inquisition.

       *       *       *       *       *

I said to my soul: “These were the revelations of a night and a
morning. What deeper troubles were in the House of the Loom that you
did not know?”

All through the country there had been that night what is called a
black frost. By the roadside it was deep and white as the wool on
a sheep. But it left things blighted and black, and destroyed the
chances of the fruit-bearing trees. All the way to Mount Toxaway I met
scattered mourners of the ill-timed visitation.

But the simple folly of spring was in me, and the strange elation of
gratitude. My soul said within itself: “A money-claim has definite
limits, but when will you ever discharge your obligation to the proud
and the fine in the House of the Loom? You intruded on their grief. Yet
they held their guest sacred as their grief.”



PHIDIAS


  WOULD that the joy of living came to-day,
  Even as sculptured on Athena’s shrine
  In sunny conclave of serene design,
  Maidens and men, procession flute and feast,
  By Phidias, the ivory-hearted priest
  Of beauty absolute, whose eyes the sun
  Showed goodlier forms than our desires can guess
  And more of happiness.



MAN, IN THE CITY OF COLLARS

A Not Very Tragic Relapse into the Toils of the World, and of Finance.


HAVING been properly treated as a bunco man by systematic piety
in a certain city further south, I had double-barrelled special
recommendations sent to a lofty benevolence in Asheville, from a
religious leader of New York, the before-mentioned Charles F. Powlison.

It was with confidence that I bade good-by to the chicken-merchant
who drove me into the city. I entered the office of the black-coated,
semi-clerical gentleman who had received the Powlison indorsements.
My stick pounded his floor. The heels of my brogans made the place
resound. But he gave all official privileges. He received me with the
fine manly hand-clasp, the glitter of teeth, the pat on the back. He
insisted I use the shower bath, writing room, reading table. Then I
suggested a conference among a dozen of his devouter workers on the
relation of the sense of Beauty to their present notion of Christianity
or, if he preferred, a talk on some aspect of art to a larger group.

He took me into his office. He shut the door. He was haughty. He made
me haughty. I give the conversation as it struck me. He probably said
some smart things I do not recall. But I remember all the smart things
I said.

He denounced labor agitators in plain words. I agreed. I belonged to
the brotherhood of those who loaf and invite their souls.

He spoke of anarchy. I maintained that I loved the law.

He very clearly, and at length, assaulted Single Tax. I knew nothing
then of Single Tax, and thanked him for light. He denounced Socialism.
Knowing little about Socialism at that time, I denounced it also,
having just been converted to individualism by a man in Highlands.

The religious leader spoke of his long experience with bunco men. I
insisted I wanted not a cent from him, I was there to do him good. I
had letters of introduction to two men in the city; one of them, an
active worker in the organization, had already been in to identify me.
A third man was coming to climb Mount Mitchell with me.

He doubted that I was a bona fide worker in his organization. Then
came my only long speech. We will omit the speech. But he began to see
light. He took a fresh grip on his argument. He said: “There is a man
here in Asheville I see snooping around with a tin box and a butterfly
net. They call him the state something-ologist. He goes around
and--and--_hunts bugs_. But do you want to know what I think of a crank
like that?” I wanted to know. He told me.

“But,” I objected, “I am not a scientist. I am an art student.”

He expressed an interest in art. He gave a pious and proper view of the
nude in art. It took some time. It was the sort of chilly, cautious
talk that could not possibly bring a blush to the cheek of ignorance.
I assured him his decorous concessions were unnecessary. I was not
expounding the nude.

There was an artist here, and Asheville needed no further instruction
of the kind, he maintained. The gentleman had won some blue ribbons in
Europe. He painted a big picture (dimensions were given) and sold it
for thousands (price was given).

“He is holding the next one, two feet longer each way, for double the
money.”

I told him if he felt there was enough art in Asheville, we might do
something to popularize the poets.

In reply he talked about literary cranks. He spoke of how Thoreau, with
his long hair and ugly looks, frightened strangers who suddenly met
him in the woods. I thanked him for light on Thoreau.... But he had to
admit that my hair was short.

He suspected I was neither artist nor literary man. I assured him my
friends were often of the same opinion.

“But,” he said bitterly, “do you know sir, by the tone of letters
I received from Mr. Powlison I expected to assemble the wealth and
fashion of Asheville to hear you. I expected to see you first in your
private car, wearing a dress-suit.”

I answered sternly, “Art, my friend, does not travel in a Pullman.”

He threw off all restraint. “Old shoes,” he said, “old shoes.” He
pointed at them.

“I have walked two hundred miles among the moonshiners. They wear
brogans like these.” But his manner plainly said that his organization
did not need cranks climbing over the mountains to tell them things.

“Your New York letter did not say you were walking. It said you ‘would
arrive.’”

He began to point again. “Frayed trousers! And the lining of your coat
in rags!”

“I took the lining of the coat for necessary patches.”

“A blue bandanna round your neck!”

“To protect me from sunburn.”

He rose and hit the table. “And no collar!”

“Oh yes, I have a collar.” I drew it from my hip pocket. It had had a
two hundred mile ride, and needed a bath.

“I should like to have it laundered, but I haven’t the money.”

“_Get_ the money.”

“No,” I said, “but I will get a collar.”

I entered a furnishing and tailor shop around the corner. I asked for
the proprietor. He showed me collars.

“Two for a quarter?”

“Yes.”

“Now I have here a little brochure I sell for twenty-five cents. In
fact it is a poem, well worth the money. I will let you have it for
half price, that is, one collar.”

“We are selling collars.”

“I am selling the poem.”

I turned my Ancient Mariner eye on him. I recited the most mesmeric
rhymes.

He repeated, “We are selling collars.”

Evidently the eye was out of order. I tried argument.

“Don’t you think I need a collar?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t you think this one would fit this shirt?”

“Yes.”

“I renew my offer.”

He sternly put the box away.

So I said, “If I must face my friends in Asheville without this
necessary ornament, you shall blush. I have done my duty, and refuse to
blush.”

I looked up a scholar from Yale, Yutaka Minakuchi, friend of old
friends, student of philosophy, in which he instructed me much, first
lending me a collar. He became my host in Asheville. It needs no words
of mine to enhance the fame of Japanese hospitality....

And I had a friend in a distant place, whom, for fancy’s sake, we
will call the Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid. Let him remain a mystery. We
will reveal this much. Had he known the truth, he would have sent
Greek slaves riding on elephants, laden with changes of raiment. He
discerned, at least, that I was in a barbarous land, for at length a
long package containing a sword arrived from the court of the Caliph
(to speak in parables). I exchanged the weapon at a pawnshop for
_money_, all in one bill--_money_--against which I had so many times
sworn eternal warfare, which had been my hoodoo in the past, and was
destined to be again. But this time, such are the whims of fate, the
little while it was with me it brought me only good.

I entered the furnishing store. The proprietor was terribly busy,
but my glittering eye was in condition. I persuaded him, by dint of
repetition, to show me his collars. I treated him as though we had not
met.

“Fifteen cents apiece?”

“Yes.”

“I will take _one_.” I gave the bill. He had to send a boy out for the
change. I put the silver in my pocket, and rattled it. He wrapped up
the collar, while I studied his cheeks. He blushed like a maid, bless
his tender heart, and in his sweet confusion he knew that I knew it.

The streets of Asheville kept shouting to me: “Let us praise Man, when
he builds cities, and grows respectable, and cringes to money, and
becomes a tailor, and loves collars with all his heart.”

       *       *       *       *       *



CONFUCIUS


  WOULD we were scholars of Confucius’ time
  Watching the feudal China crumbling down,
  Frightening our master, shaking many a crown,
  Until he makes more firm the father sages,
  Restoring custom from the earliest ages
  With prudent sayings, golden as the sun.
  Lord, show us safe, august, established ways,
  Fill us with yesterdays.



THE OLD LADY AT THE TOP OF THE HILL


IT was a bland afternoon. I had been crossing a green valley in North
Carolina. Every man I passed had that languid leanness slanderously
attributed to the hookworm by folk who have no temperament. Yet some
bee of industry must have stung these fellows into intermittent effort
this morning, yesterday, last week or last year.

Here were reasonably good barns. Here were fences, and good fences at
that. Here were mysterious crops, neither cotton nor corn. One man was
not ploughing with a mule. No, sir. He was ploughing with a sort of
horse....

At last I mounted the northern rim of the circle of steep hills that
kept the place as separate from the rest of the world as a Chinese
wall. I met her on the crest. She advanced slowly, looking on the
ground, leaning at the hips as do the very aged, but not grotesquely.
Her primly made dress and sunbonnet were dull dark blue. With her
walking-stick she meditatively knocked the little stones from her path.
The staff had a T-shaped head. It was the cane Old Mother Hubbard
carries in the toy book.

And now she looked up and said with a pleasant start, “Why, good
evening, young stranger.”

“Good evening, kind lady.”

“Where have you been, my son?”

“Why, I am following my nose to the end of the world. I have just
walked through this enterprising valley.”

She looked into the dust and meditated awhile. Then she said: “It’s
getting late. No one has let you in?”

“No one.”

“How about that house by the bridge?” She pointed with her cane.

“The lady said she had a sick child.”

“Nonsense, nonsense. Do you see that little Ardella by that corner of
the ploughed field near the house? She don’t run like a sick child....
Did you ask at the next place, the one that has a green porch?” She
pointed again with her cane.

“The woman said she had no spare bed.”

“But she has. I slept in it last week.... And that last house before
you start up this hill?”

“The woman said she had to take care of saw-mill hands.”

“Did she tell you _that_?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The old lady ruminated again, leaning on her stick. At length she said:
“Sit down. I want to tell you something.” There we were, Grandmother
and newly adopted grandson, on a big sunlit rock.

I give only the spirit of her words. She discoursed in that precious
mountain dialect, so mediæval, so Shakespearean with its surprising
phrases that seem at first the slang of a literary clan, till one
learns they are the common property of folk that cannot read. It is a
manner of speech all too elusive. Would that I had kept a note-book
upon it! But somewhat to this intent she spoke, and in a tone gentler
than her words:--

“They thought I would never find out about this, or they would not have
treated you so. That woman in the last house is my daughter-in-law.
She has only two saw-mill hands, and they’re no trouble. That’s my
house anyway. It was my mother’s before me. No one dares turn strangers
away when I am there. There’s an empty bed up stairs, and another in
the hall.”

She turned about and pointed in the direction in which I had been
walking. “Just ahead of you, around that clump of trees, is a
hospitable family. If they will not take care of you, it is because
they have a good excuse. If they cannot take you in, ask no further.
Come back to my place, and” (she spoke with a Colonial Dame air) “_I
will make you welcome_.”

“What sort of mountaineer is this?” I asked myself. “The hospitality is
the usual thing, but the grandeur is exotic.”

We chatted awhile of the sunset. Then I accompanied her to the edge of
the hill.

Under her sacred hair her face retained girl-contours. The wrinkles
were not too deep. She seemed not to have changed as mothers often do,
when, under decades of inevitable sorrow, the features are recarved
into the special mask of middle age, and finally into the very
different mask of senility. She had yet the authority of Beauty. She
wore her white hair with a Quakerish-feminine skill most admirably
adapted to that ancient forehead. I divined she had learned that at
sixteen. What a long time to be remembering.

We were spirits that at once met and understood. She said: “My son, I
have walked all my life across this valley, or up this hill, or toward
that green mountain where you are going. I never walked as far as I
wanted to. But walking even so short a path makes for consolation.”

Now she laid aside antique grandeur and took on plain vanity.

“Do you know how old I am?”

“About eighty-five.”

“I’m ninety-two years old, young man, and I’m going to live ten years
more.”

It was getting late. I said, “I am glad indeed to have met you.”

She answered, “I am sorry my valley has not been kind.”

I ventured to ask, “So it’s _your_ valley?”

I had touched a raw nerve. I was completely shaken by the suddenness of
her answer.

“Mine! Mine! Mine!” she shrieked. Kneeling, she beat up the dust of
the road with her cane. And then “Mine! Mine! Mine!” shaking her
outstretched arms over that amphitheatre, as though she would drag it
all to her breast.

She was out of breath and trembling. At length she smiled, and added so
quietly it seemed another person. “And they shall not take it away from
me.”

I helped her to her feet. She was once more the Martha Washington
sort.... I remember her last sentence. In a royal tone, that was three
times an accolade, in a motherly tone that was caressing and slow she
half-sung the pretty words:--

“Good evening, young man. I wish you well.”

The man at the next house took me in. In the course of the evening he
assured me that the old lady did own the valley, and that she ruled
it with a rod of iron. The family graveyard was full of heirs who had
grown to old age and died of old age hoping in vain to outlive, and to
inherit her authority.



WITH A ROSE, TO BRUNHILDE


  BRUNHILDE, with the young Norn soul
  That has no peace, and grim as those
  That spun the thread of life, give heed:
  Peace is concealed in every rose.
  And in these petals peace I bring:
  A jewel clearer than the dew:
  A perfume subtler than the breath
  Of Spring with which it circles you.

  Peace I have found, asleep, awake,
  By many paths, on many a strand.
  Peace overspreads the sky with stars.
  Peace is concealed within your hand.
  And when at night I clasp it there
  I wonder how you never know
  The strength you shed from finger-tips:
  The treasure that consoles me so.

  Begin the art of finding peace,
  Beloved:--it is art, no less.
  Sometimes we find it hid beneath
  The orchards in their springtime dress:
  Sometimes one finds it in oak woods,
  Sometimes in dazzling mountain-snows;
  In books, sometimes. But pray begin
  By finding it within a rose.



LADY IRON-HEELS[3]


I

THE SEVEN SUSPICIONS

ONE Saturday in May I was hurrying from mountainous North Carolina into
mountainous Tennessee. Because of my speed and air of alarm, I was
followed by the Seven Suspicions. I was either a revenue detective in
pursuit of moonshiners, or a moonshiner pursued by revenue detectives,
or a thief hurrying out of hot territory, or a deputy sheriff pursuing
a thief, or a pretended non-combatant hurrying toward a Tennessee feud,
actually an armed recruit, or I had just killed my family’s hereditary
enemy and was eluding his avengers, or I had bought some moonshine
whisky and was trying to get out of a bad region before nightfall.
These suspicions implied that the inhabitants admired me. Yet I hurried.

I came upon one article of my creed, the very next day, Sunday. But
Saturday was a season of panic, preparation, and trial.

The article of my creed that I won as my reward might be stated in this
fashion: “_Peace is to be found, even in a red and bleeding rose._”

I was accustomed to the feudist and the assassin. Such people had been
good to me, and I had walked calmly through their haunts. But now the
smothering landscape seemed to double every natural fear. The hills
were so steep and so close together that only the indomitable corn and
rye climbed to the top to see the sun. The road was in the bed of a
scolding rivulet. People in general travelled horseback. Cross-logs for
those afoot bridged high above the streams every half mile. There was
a primeval something about the heavy chains of the cross-logs, binding
them to the trees, that suggested the forgotten beginning of an iron
people, some harsh iron-willed Sparta. This impression was strengthened
by the unpainted dwellings, hunched close to the path, with thick walls
to resist siege.

What first fixed these outlaws here, as in a nest, with a ring of
houseless open country round them? A traveller was more shut from the
horizon than in the slums of Chicago. The road climbed no summits. It
writhed like a snake. And there were snakes sunning themselves on every
other cross-log. _And there was never a flower to be seen._

An old woman, kindly enough, gave this beggar a noon-meal for the
asking, but the landscape had struck into me so I almost feared to eat
the bread. For this fear I sternly blamed my perverse imagination.
Refreshed in body only, I crept like a fascinated fly, dragged by
occult force toward a spider’s den. I felt as though I had reached the
very heart of the trap when I stepped into the streets of the profane
village of Flagpond, Tennessee.

It was early in the afternoon. The feudal warriors had come to the
place on horseback, dressed in poverty-stricken Saturday finery:
clothes tight and ill-dyed, with black felt hats that should have
slouched, but did not. The immaculate rims stood out in queer
precision. The wearers sat in front of the three main stores, looking
across the street at one another. Since there was no woman in sight,
every one knew that the shooting might begin at any time. The silence
was deadly as the silence of a plague. I checked my pace. I ambled in
a leisurely way from store to store, inquiring the road to Cumberland
Gap, the distance to Greenville, and the like. I was on the other
side of the circle of dwellings pretty soon, followed by the Seven
Suspicions, shot from about seventy-five lean countenances, which makes
about five hundred and twenty-five suspicions.

One of the most indescribable and haunting things of that region was
that all the women and children were dressed in a certain dead-bone
gray.

About four o’clock I had made good my escape. I had begun to mount
rolling, uninhabited hills. At twilight I entered a plain, and felt
a new kind of civilization round me. It would have been shabby in
Indiana. Here it was glorious. They had whitewashed fences, and
white-painted cottages, glimmering kindly through the dusk. Some farm
machinery was rusting in the open. I climbed a last year’s straw-stack,
and slept, with acres of stars pouring down peace.


II

THE TAILOR AND THE FLORIST

Now the story begins all over again with the episode of the well-known
tailor and the unknown florist. Just off the main street of Greenville,
Tennessee, there is a log cabin with the century old inscription,
ANDREW JOHNSON, TAILOR. That sign is the fittest monument to the
indomitable but dubious man who could not cut the mantle of the
railsplitter to fit him. I was told by the citizens of Greenville that
there was a monument to their hero on the hill. So I climbed up. It was
indeed wonderful--a weird straddling archway, supporting an obelisk.
The archway also upheld two flaming funeral urns with buzzard contours,
and a stone eagle preparing to screech. There was a dog-eared scroll
inscribed, “His faith in the people never wavered.” Around all was,
most appropriately, a spiked fence.

But I was glad I came, because near the Tailor’s resting-place was a
Florist’s grave, on which depends the rest of this adventure, and which
reaches back to the beginning of it. It had a wooden headstone, marked
“John Kenton of Flagpond, Florist. 1870-1900.” And in testimony to his
occupation, a great rosebush almost hid the inscription. Any man who
could undertake to sell flowers in Flagpond might have it said of him
also, “His faith in the people never wavered.”

And now in my tramping the spirit of John Kenton, or some other
Florist, seemed to lead me. My season of panic, preparation, and trial
was over. It was indeed Sunday on this planet for awhile. I passed bush
after bush of the same sort as that marking Kenton’s place of sleep.
The sight of them was all that I had to give me strength till noon.
I had had neither breakfast nor supper. People would have fed this
poor tramp, but I love sometimes the ecstasy that comes with healthy
fasting. And now that I reflect upon it, it was indeed appropriate that
the Religion of the Rose should begin with abstinence.

I have burdened you further back with an elaborate description of
the landscape of Flagpond. Now that landscape was repeated with the
addition of roses. And what a difference they made! They quenched the
Seven Suspicions. They made gray dresses seem rather tolerable. On
either side loomed the steepest cornfields yet, but they did not make
me tremble now.

At noon I turned aside where a log cabin on stilts, leaning against its
own chimney, stood astride a little gully. It was about as big as a
dove-cote. Straggling rose-hedges led to the green-banked spring at the
foot of a ladder that took the place of steps. The old lady that came
to the door was a dove in one respect only; she was dressed in gray.

She was drawn to the pattern of the tub-like peasants of the German
funny paper _Simplicissimus_. I told her my name was Nicholas. She
took it for granted that I wanted my dinner, and asked me up the
ladder without ado. She did an unusual thing. She began to talk family
affairs. “You must be kin to Lawyer Nicholas of Flagpond.... He
defended my son ten years ago ... in a trial for murder.”

I said: “I am no kin to Lawyer Nicholas, but I hope he won his case.”

“No. My son is in the state’s prison for life.... He surely killed
Florist Kenton.” But she added, as if it nullified all guilt, “they
were both drunk.”

She was busy cooking at the open fireplace. She turned to the boy,
about ten years old. “Call your Ma and your Aunt to dinner.” He climbed
the steep and shouted. Presently two figures came over the ridge. The
larger woman took the boy’s hand.

“_That’s my daughter-in-law, the boy’s mother_,” said Mrs.
Simplicissimus.

I judged the second figure to be a woman of about twenty-eight. She
carried a fence-rail on her shoulder. She was straight as an Indian.
The old woman said: “_That’s my daughter. She was going to marry John
Kenton._” The only influences that could have induced a mountain-woman
to unburden so much, were the roses, just outside the door, leaping in
the wind.

The procession soon reached us. The wood-carrier threw the log into
the yard. “There’s firewood,” she sang. She vaulted over the fence,
displaying iron-heeled brogans, thick red stockings, and a red-lined
skirt. There was a smear of earth on cheek and chin. Her face was
a sunburned, dust-mired roseleaf. She swept off her hat. She bowed
ironically. She said: “Howdy. What might be your name?”

I did not tell my name.

She fell on her knees. She drank from her hands at the spring. I could
feel the cold water warring with the sunshine in her sinews. She would
never have done with splashing eyelids and ears, and cheeks and red
arms and throat. The rosebushes behind her leaped in the wind. The
boy and his mother and the grandmother knelt at that same place and
splashed after that same manner. Then the grandmother nudged me.

“Wash,” she said.

I washed.

We climbed into that dove-cote block-house on stilts. We ate like
four plough-horses and a colt. We consumed corn-bread and fat pork,
then corn-bread and beans, then corn-bread and butter. I ate supper,
breakfast, and dinner in three quarters of an hour.


III

A BRIEF SIESTA

Working a farm of fields that stand on edge, without men to help, and
without much machinery, makes women into warriors or kills them. The
grandmother and mother were no longer women. Even when they caressed
the boy their faces were furrowed with invincible will-power. But Lady
Iron-Heels still a woman, was confused in the alternative of manhood
or death. She was indeed a flower not yet torn to pieces by the wind,
greatly shaken, and therefore blooming the faster.

There was a red ribbon streaming over the gray rag-carpet. Lady
Iron-Heels stooped, gave the ribbon a jerk, and a banjo came snarling
from under the bed.

She sat on the warring colors of the crazy-quilt, and played a
dance-tune, storming the floor with one heel. She grew pensive. She
sang:--

  “We shall rest in the fair and happy land
  Just across on the ever-green shore,
  Sing the song of Moses and the Lamb (by and by)
  And dwell with Jesus evermore.”

Her neck had a yellow handkerchief round it. A brown lock swept across
her leaping throat. Her cheeks and chin were bold as her iron heels.
Underneath the precious silken sunburn, the blood was beating, beating,
and trying to thicken into manhood to fight off death.

After the music the ladies dipped snuff in the circle around the dim
fire.


IV

“THAT’S ALL THE CHURCH I GET”

I made a great palaver to Iron-Heels about giving me the banjo ribbon.
She consented easily. Coquetry was not her specialty.

“What might be your name?” she asked.

There was no dodging now. The old woman spoke up as though to save me
pain: “His name is Nicholas. But he is no kin to Lawyer Nicholas of
Flagpond.”

After a long silence the girl said: “We came from Flagpond, once upon a
time.”

She had been looking out the door at the clear bowl of the spring, and
the reflection of the tall bushes, leaping in the wind.

I thought to myself: “She herself was John Kenton’s chief rose.” I
thought: “He had her in mind when he set these ameliorating bushes
through the wild.” Possibly the girl could not read or write. Yet she
was royal.

Democracy has the ways of a jackdaw. Democracy hides jewels in the
ash-heap. Democracy is infinitely whimsical. Every once in a while a
changeling appears, not like any of the people around, a changeling
whose real ancestors are aristocratic souls forgotten for centuries.
As the girl’s eyes narrowed, she became Queen Thi, the masterful and
beautiful potentate of immemorial Egypt whose face I have seen in a
museum, carved on a Canopic jar. She was Queen Thi only an instant,
then she became a Tennessee girl again, with the eyes of a weary doe.

She said: “Them roses give me comfort. That’s all the church I get.”

I asked: “Why are there so many roses between here and Greenville and
none near Flagpond?”

It was her turn not to speak. The old woman as though to save her pain,
answered: “The flowers of these parts were all brought in by John
Kenton. He lived in Flagpond, but could not sell them there.”

And the mother of the little boy, the man-woman, whose husband had
killed Kenton, broke her long silence: “The only flowers we have to-day
are these he brought. I think we would die without them.... How do we
get through the winter?”

Lady Iron-Heels and her sister-in-law took a swig of whisky from the
jug under the table, and lifted up their hoes from the floor. The boy
whimpered for a drink. They said: “Wait till you are a man.” All three
climbed the hill.

Lady Iron-Heels was the last to go over the ridge. She saw me gather
buds from both those bushes by the spring. She made a gesture of salute
with her hoe.

I never travelled that way again. I passed by quickly; therefore I had
a glimpse of what she was intended to be. “He that loseth his life
shall find it.” I see her many a time when I am looking on scattered
rose-leaves. She was a woman, God’s chief rose for man. She was scorned
and downtrodden, but radiant still. I am only saying that she wore the
face of Beauty when Beauty rises above circumstance.

The buds that I had gathered did not fall to pieces till I had passed
by Daniel Boone’s old trail on through Cumberland Gap, on over big
hill Kentucky into the Blue Grass. On the way I wrote this, their poor
memorial, the Canticle of the Rose:--

It is an article of my creed that the petals of this flower of which we
speak are a medicine, that they can almost heal a mortal wound.

The rose is so young of face and line, she appears so casually and
humbly, we forget she is an ancient physician.

Yet so much tradition is wrapped around her stalk, it is strange she is
not a mummy. Her ashes can be found in the tombs of the Pharaohs, in
everlasting companionship with the ashes of the lotus and the papyrus
plant. Her dust travels on every desert wind.

No love-song can do without her.

No soldier and no priest can scorn her. There were the Wars of the
Roses. And there was a Rose in Sharon. Our wandering brother Dante
found a great rose in Paradise.

There are white roses, sweet ghosts under the pine. There are yellow
roses, little suns in the shadow. But the normal bloom is red,
flushed with foolish ardors, laughing, shaking off the gossamer years.
She remembers Love, but not too well, if love is pain. There is no
yesterday that can daunt her and keep her dear heart-laughter down. In
springtime her magic petals bring God to the weary and give Heaven’s
strength to the wavering of heart.

She can turn the slave to a woman, the woman to something a little
more than mortal. Oh, how bravely, with the same life-giving red, with
the last of her virgin strength, she blooms and blooms on almost every
highway. We find her on the road to Benares, on the road to Mecca, on
the road to Rome, and on the road to Nowhere, in Tennessee.

Her red petals can almost heal a mortal wound.



II

A MENDICANT PILGRIMAGE IN THE EAST



IN LOST JERUSALEM


  BEHOLD the Pharisees, proud, rich, and damned,
  Boasting themselves in lost Jerusalem,
  Gathered a weeping woman to condemn,
  Then watching curiously, without a sound
  The God of Mercy, writing on the ground.
  How looked his sunburned face beneath the sun
  Flushed with his Father’s mighty angel-wine?
  God make us all divine.



A TEMPLE MADE WITH HANDS


I

THE DWELLING-PLACE OF FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY

I HAD walked twelve miles before noon. Then I had eaten four slices
of bread and butter on merciful doorsteps. At four-thirty, having
completed twenty-one miles, I entered the richest village in the United
States, a village that is located in New Jersey. I was so weary I was
ready to sleep in the gutter, and did not care if the wagons ran over
me. I should have walked through to the green fields before I looked
for hospitality. I knew that the well-meant deeds of the city cannot
equal the kindness of the most commonplace farm-hand. Yet I lingered.

I purchased a feast of beefsteak and onions at an obscure Jewish
restaurant and felt myself once more a man. But it was now too late to
leave town. The rule of the country is--one must ask for his night’s
lodging before five o’clock. After that, things are growing dark, and
people may be afraid of you.

After paying for beefsteak and onions, I had twenty-five cents. This
twenty-five cents was all that remained after a winter’s lecturing on
art and poetry in Manhattan. I am satisfied that the extra money, over
and above all paid debts, brought me some of the ill-luck of the night.
As I have before observed, money is a hoodoo on the road. Until a man
is penniless he is not stripped for action.

A sign at the lunch-counter advertised: “Furnished rooms, fifty cents.”

I asked the proprietor to cut the price. He dodged the issue. “Say, why
don’t you go up there to the mission? They will sell you a good bed
cheap.”

“For a quarter?”

“Something like that.”

“Show me the place.”

As of old the Jew pointed out the way of salvation. The Gentile
followed it and reached the dwelling-place of Faith, Hope, and Charity.

“What do you want?” The questioner, evidently in charge of the place,
was accoutred in stage laboring-man style. Maybe his paraphernalia was
intended to put him on a level with wayfarers. He wore a slouch hat, a
soft shirt, and no necktie. His clothes had the store freshness still.
They looked rather presumptuous in that neat, well-stocked reading room.

“I want a cheap bed.”

“We do not sell beds.”

“I was told you did.”

“We give them away.”

“All right.”

“But you have to work.”

“Very well.”

“Do you want to leave early in the morning?” (The place was evidently a
half-way house for tramps.)

“Yes. I want to leave early in the morning.”

“Then you will have to split kindling two hours to-night.”

“Show me the kindling.”


II

SPLITTING KINDLING

In the basement I throned myself on one block while I chopped kindling
on another. Before me, piled to the first story, was a cellarful
of wood, the record of my predecessors in toil. I gathered that the
corporal’s guard of the unemployed who stayed at the mission that
night, and had been there two or three days, had finished their day’s
assignment of splitting. They completely surrounded me, questioned me
with the greatest curiosity, and put me down as a terrific liar, for I
answered every question with simple truth.

As soon as the melodramatic workingman-boss went up stairs, one of them
said, “Don’t work so fast. It’s only a matter of form this late at
night. They want to see if you are willing, that’s all.”

I chopped a little faster for this advice. Not that I was out of humor
with the advisers,--though I should have been, for they were box-car
tramps.

One of them, having an evil and a witty eye, said, “If I was goin’ west
like you, I’d start about ten o’clock to-night and be near Buffalo
before morning.”

Another, a mild nobody, professed himself a miller. He told what a
wonderful trick it was to say, “Leddy, I’m too tired to work till I
eat,” and after eating, to walk away.

The next, a carriage painter of battered gentility, told endless
stories of the sprees that had destroyed him. Another, a white frog
with a bald head and gray mustache, quite won my heart. He said, “Wait
till you get a nice warm bath after service. Then you’ll sleep good.”

To my weary and addled brain the mission was like one of those
beautiful resting-places in Pilgrim’s Progress. It became my religion,
just to split kindling. I failed to apprehend what infinitesimal
nobodies these fellows around me were. I should have disliked them more.

The modern tramp is not a tramp, he is a speed-maniac. Being unable
to afford luxuries, he must still be near something mechanical and
hasty, so he uses a dirty box-car to whirl from one railroad-yard to
another. He has no destination but the cinder-pile by the water-tank.
The landscape hurrying by in one indistinguishable mass and the roaring
of the car-wheels in his ears are the ends of life to him. He is no
back-to-nature crank. He is a most highly specialized modern man. All
to keep going, he risks disease from these religious missions, from
foul box-cars, and foul comrades. He risks accident every hour. He is
always liable to the cruelty of conductor or brakeman and to murder by
companions.

He runs fewer risks in the country, yet his aversion to the country
is profound. He knows all that I know about country hospitality, that
it can be purchased by the merest grain of courtesy. Yet most of the
farm-people that entertained me had not seen a tramp for months.

To account for some of the happenings of this tale I will only add that
a speed-maniac at either end of the social scale is not necessarily a
hustler, personally. But in one way or another he is sure to be shallow
and artificial, the grotesque, nervous victim of machinery. And a
“Mission,” an institution built by speed-maniacs who use automobiles
for speed-maniacs who use box-cars, is bound to be absurd beyond words
to tell it.


III

THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

I loved all men that night, even the fellow in melodramatic
laboring-man costume, who appeared after two hours to drive us animals
up stairs into one corner of the chapel, where a dozen of our kind had
already assembled from somewhere.

On the far side of that chapel sat the money-fed. The aisle was a
great gulf between them and us. I smiled across the gulf indulgently,
imagining by what exhortations to “Come and help us in our problem”
those uncomfortable persons had been assembled. An unmitigated
clergyman rose to read a text.

I presume this clergyman imagined Christ wore a white tie and was on a
salary promptly paid by some of our oldest families. But I share with
the followers of St. Francis the vision of Christ as a man of the open
road, improvident as the sparrow. I share with the followers of Tolstoi
the opinion that when Christ proclaimed those uncomfortable social
doctrines, he meant what he said.

The clergyman read: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven.”

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

He read much more than I will quote. Here is the final passage:--

“Ye have heard how it hath been said: ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth
for a tooth.’ But I say unto you that you resist not evil. But
whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other
also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat,
let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a
mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and to him that
would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.”

This Pharisee smugly assumed that he was authorized by the Deity to
explain away this scripture. And he did it, as the reader has heard it
done many a time.

The Pharisee was followed by a fat Scribe who tried to smile away what
the other fellow had tried to argue away. The fat one then called on
the assembly to bow, and exhorted the repentant to hold up their hands
to be prayed for.

I held up my hand. Was I not eating the bread of the mission? And then
I felt like a sinner anyway.

“Thank God,” said the fat one.

After a hymn, testimonies were called for. I felt the spirit move me,
but some one had the floor. Across the gulf she stood, an exceedingly
well-dressed and blindly devout sister. She glanced with a terrified
shrinking at the animals she hoped to benefit. She said:--

“There has been one great difficulty in my Christian life. It came with
seeking for the Spirit. Sometimes we think it has come with power, when
we are simply stirred by our own selfish desires. Our works will show
whether we are moved by the Spirit.”

I wanted to preach them a sermon on St. Francis. But how could I? There
was still a quarter in my own pocket. Meanwhile there rose a saint
with a pompadour and blocky jaws. He was distinctly inferior in social
position to a great part of the saints. It was probable he had given
that testimony many times. But he did not want the meeting to drag. He
spake in a loud voice: “I was saved from a drunkard’s life, in this
mission, eighteen years ago, and ever since, not by my own power, but
by the grace of God, I have been leading a God-fearing and money-making
life in this town.” That was his exact phrase, “a money-making life.”
His intention was good, but he should have been more tactful. The
Pharisee looked annoyed.


IV

A SCREAMING FARCE

I advise all self-respecting citizens to skip this section. It is
nothing but over-strained, shabby farce.

The throng melted. Scribe and Pharisee, Dives, Mrs. Dives, and their
satellites went home to their comfortable beds. Many of the roughs on
our side of the house found somewhere else to stay. The fellow dressed
like a workingman in a melodrama sought the consolations of his own
home. Had the last authority departed? Were we to have anarchy? The
Frog, in his gentlest manner, sidled up to make friends again.

“Now you can have your nice warm bath, you two.” I looked around. There
were two of us then. Beside me, fresh from a box-car was a battered
scalawag. The Frog must have let him in at the last moment.

We three climbed to the bath-room.

“Wait a minute,” said the Amphibian. He disappeared. I opened my eyes,
for this creature spake with a voice of authority. The box-car scalawag
grinned sheepishly.

There was a scuffling overhead, a scratch and a rumble. We two looked
up just in time to dodge the astonishing vision of a clothes-horse
descending through a trap-door by a rope. At the upper end of the rope
was the absurd bald head of our newly achieved superintendent.

“Hello, Santy Claus,” said the box-car tramp. “Whose Christmas present
is this?”

The Frog shouted: “Put your shoes and hats in the corner. If you
have any tobacco, put it in your shoes. Hang everything else on the
clothes-horse.”

I obeyed, except that I had no tobacco. The rascal by my side had
a plenty, and sawdusted the bath-room floor with some of it, and
the remainder went into his foot-gear. Then we two, companions in
nakedness, watched the Frog haul up our clothes out of sight. He closed
the trap-door with many grunts.

Then this Amphibian, this boss, descended and entered the bath-room.
He was a dry-land Amphibian. He had never taken a bath himself, but
was there to superintend. He seemed to feel himself the accredited
representative of all the good people behind the mission, and no doubt
he was.

“Can it be possible,” I asked myself, “that they have chosen this
creature to apply their Christianity?”

The Frog said to my companion: “Git in the tub.”

Then he turned on the water, regulated the temperature, and watched as
though he expected one of us to steal the faucets from the wash-bowl.
He threw a gruesome rag at the tramp, and allowed him to scrub himself.
The creature bathing seemed well-disposed toward the idea, and had put
soap on about one-third of his person when the Frog shouted: “I’ve got
to get up at four-thirty.”

The scalawag took the hint and rose like Venus from the foam. He
splashed off part of it, and rubbed off the rest with a towel that was
a fallen sister of the wash-rag.

The Frog was evidently trying to enforce, in a literal way, regulations
he did not understand. He wiped out the bath-tub most carefully with
the unclean wash-rag. Then he provided the scalawag with a shirt for
night-wear. The creature put it on and said:--

“Ain’t I a peach?”

He was.

The nightie was an old, heavily-starched dress-shirt, once white. Maybe
it had once been worn by the Scribe or the Pharisee. But it had not
been washed since. The rascal cut quite a figure as he took long steps
down the corridor to bed, piloted by the hurrying Amphibian. He was a
long-legged rascal, and the slivered remainders of that ancient shirt
flapped about him gloriously.

I was hustled into the tub after the rascal. I was supervised after
the same manner. “Now wash,” boomed the Amphibian. He threw at me the
sloppy rag of my predecessor.

I threw it promptly on the floor.

“I don’t use a wash-rag,” I said.

“Hurry,” croaked the Frog. _And he let the water out of the tub._ He
handed me the towel the scalawag had used. I had not, as a matter of
fact, had a bath, and I was quite foot-sore.

“I do not want that towel,” I said.

“You’re awful fancy, aren’t you?” sneered the Frog.

Wherever I was damp, I rubbed myself dry with my bare hands, being
skilled in the matter, meanwhile reflecting that there is nothing worse
than a Pharisee except a creature like this. I wondered if it was
too late to rouse a mob among the better element of the town, neither
saints nor sinners, but just plain malefactors of great wealth, and
have this person lynched. There were probably multi-millionnaires in
this town giving ten-dollar bills to this mission, who were imagining
they were giving a free bath to somebody.

I wanted to appeal to some man with manicured hands who had grown
decently rich robbing the widow and the orphan and who now had the
leisure to surround himself with the appurtenances of civility and the
manners of a Chesterfield.

“I am through with the poor but honest submerged tenth. Rich worldlings
for mine,” I muttered.

“Put these on,” squeaked the Frog. His manner said, “See how good
we are to you.” He held out the treasure of the establishment, a
night-garment retained for fastidious new-arrivals, newly-bathed. Of
course, no one else was supposed to bathe.

Was the garment he held out a slivered shirt? Nay, nay. It was a sort
of pajama combination. Hundreds of men had found shelter, taken a
luxurious bath, and put them on. They were companions in crime of
the towel and the wash-rag. Let us suppose that three hundred and
sixty-five men wore them a year. In ten years there would have been
about three thousand six hundred and fifty bathed men in them. That did
not account for their appearance.

“What makes them so dirty?” I asked.

No answer.

“Can’t I wear my underclothes to bed instead of these?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Sulphur.”

“What do you mean by sulphur?”

“Your clothes are up stairs being fumigated.”

“Can’t I get my socks to-night? I always wash them before I go to bed.”

“No. It’s against the law of the state. And you would dirty up these
bowls. I have just scrubbed them out.”

“I will wash them out afterward.”

“I haven’t time to wait. I must get up at four-thirty.”

“But why fumigate my clean underwear, and give me dirty pajamas?”

The Frog was getting flabbergasted. “I tell you it’s the law of New
Jersey. You are getting awful fancy. If I had had my way, you would
never have been let in here.”

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” I said to
myself, and put on the pajamas.

This insanitary director showed me my bed. It was in a long low room
with all the windows closed, where half a score were asleep. The sheets
had never, never, never been washed. Why was it that in a mission so
shiny in its reading room, and so devout in its chapel, so melodramatic
with its clean workman-boss, in the daytime, these things were so?

The lights went out. I kicked off the pajamas and slept. I awoke at
midnight and reflected on all these matters. I quoted another scripture
to myself: “I was naked, and ye clothed me.”


V

THE HIGHWAY OF OUR GOD

At six o’clock I was called for breakfast. My sulphur-smelling clothes
were on my bed. I put them on with a light heart, for after all I had
slept well, and my feet were not stiff. The quarter was still in my
trousers’ pocket. I presume that hoodoo quarter had something to do
with the bad breakfast.

The Amphibian was now cook. He gave each man a soup-plate heaped with
oat-meal. If it had been oats, it would have been food for so many
horses. Had the Frog been up since four-thirty preparing this?

The price of part of that horse-feed might have gone into something to
eat. There was a salty blue sauce on it that was called milk. And there
was dry bread to be had, without butter, and as much bad coffee as a
man could drink.

A person called the bookkeeper arrived with the janitor. I made my
formal farewells to those representatives of the law, before whom the
Amphibian melted with humility. The scalawag who had bathed with me
tipped me a wink, and tried to escape in my company. But I bade him
good-by so firmly that the authorities noticed, and the brash creature
remained glued to his chair. He probably had to do his full share of
kindling before he escaped.

I went forth from that place into the highway of our God, who dwelleth
not in temples made with hands, neither is worshipped with men’s hands,
as though He needed anything, seeing He giveth to all men life and
breath and all things.

I said in my heart: “I shall walk on and on and find a better, a far
holier shrine than this at the ends of the infinite earth.”



THE TOWN OF AMERICAN VISIONS

(Springfield, Illinois)


  IS it for naught that where the tired crowds see
  Only a place for trade, a teeming square,
  Doors of high portent open unto me
  Carved with great eagles, and with hawthorns rare?

  Doors I proclaim, for there are rooms forgot
  Ripened through æons by the good and wise:
  Walls set with Art’s own pearl and amethyst
  Angel-wrought hangings there, and heaven-hued dyes:--

  Dazzling the eye of faith, the hope-filled heart:
  Rooms rich in records of old deeds sublime:
  Books that hold garnered harvests of far lands,
  Pictures that tableau Man’s triumphant climb:

  Statues so white, so counterfeiting life,
  Bronze so ennobled, so with glory fraught
  That the tired eyes must weep with joy to see
  And the tired mind in Beauty’s net be caught.

  Come enter there, and meet To-morrow’s Man,
  Communing with him softly day by day.
  Ah, the deep vistas he reveals, the dream
  Of angel-bands in infinite array--

  Bright angel-bands, that dance in paths of earth
  When our despairs are gone, long overpast--
  When men and maidens give fair hearts to Christ
  And white streets flame in righteous peace at last.



ON BEING ENTERTAINED ONE EVENING BY COLLEGE BOYS


I WALKED across the bridge from New Jersey into Easton, Pennsylvania,
one afternoon. I discovered there was a college atop of the hill. In
exchange for a lecture on twenty-six great men[4] based on a poem on
the same theme, that I carried with me, the boys entertained me that
night. They did not pay much attention to the lecture. Immediately
before and after was a yell carnival. There was to be a game next day.
They were cheering the team and the coach with elaborate reiteration.
All was astir.

But for all this the boys spoke to me gently, gave me the privileges
of the table, the bath-room, the dormitory. The president of the Y. M.
C. A. lent me a clean suit of pajamas. He and two other young fellows
delighted my vain soul, by keeping me up late reciting all the poems I
knew.

I record these things for the sake of recording one thing more, the
extraordinary impression of buoyancy that came from that school. It was
inspiring to a degree, a draught of the gods. Coming into that place
not far from the centre of hard-faced Easton-town I realized for the
first time what sheltered, nurtured boy-America was like, and what
wonders may lie beneath the roofs of our cities.



THAT WHICH MEN HAIL AS KING


  WOULD I might rouse the Cæsar in you all,
  (That which men hail as king, and bow them down)
  Till you are crowned, or you refuse the crown.
  Would I might wake the valor and the pride,
  The eagle soul with which he soared and died,
  Entering grandly then the fearful grave.
  God help us build the world, like master-men,
  God help us to be brave.



NEAR SHICKSHINNY


I

LEAVING New Jersey I kept from all contact with money, and was
consequently turning over in memory many delicious adventures among the
Pennsylvania-German farmers. After crossing that lovely, lonely plateau
called Pocono Mountain, I descended abruptly to Wilkesbarre by a length
of steep automobile road called Giant Despair.

It was a Sunday noon in May. Wilkesbarre was a mixture of Sabbath calm
and the smoke of torment that ascendeth forever. One passed pious faces
too clean, sooty faces too restless. I hurried through, hoping for
more German farmers beyond. But King Coal had conspired against the
traveller, and would not let him go. The further west I walked, the
thicker the squalor and slag heaps, and the presence of St. Francis
seemed withdrawn from me, though I had been faithful in my fashion.

King Coal is a boaster. He says he furnishes food for all the engines
of the earth. He says he is the maker of steam. He says steam is the
twentieth century. He holds that an infinite number of black holes in
the ground is a blessing.

He may say what he likes, but he has not excused himself to me. He
blasts the landscape. Never do human beings drink so hard to forget
their sorrow as in the courtyards of this monarch. To dig in a mine
makes men reckless, to own one makes them tormentors.

I had a double reason for hurrying on. My rules as a mendicant afoot
were against cities and railroads. I flattered myself I was called and
sent to the agricultural laborer.

When the land grew less black and less inhabited, I mistakenly
rejoiced, assuming I should soon strike the valleys where grain is
sown and garnered. Yet the King was following me still, like a great
mole underground. There was no coal on the surface. The land was
rusty-red and ashen-gray,--as though blasted by the torch of a Cyclops
and only yesterday cooled by the rain. The best grain that could have
been scattered among such rocks with the hope of a crop was a seed of
dragons’ teeth.

How long the desolation continued! Toward the end of the day in the
midst of the nothingness, I came upon a saloon full of human creatures
roaring drunk. Otherwise there was not so much as a shed in sight.

Four vilely dirty little girls came down the steps carrying beer. One
of them, too intoxicated for her errand, entrusted her can to her
companions. They preceded me toward the smoke-veiled sun by a highway
growing black again with the foot-prints of the King.

Now there was a deafening explosion. I sat down on a rock examining
myself to see if I was still alive. The children pattered on. My start
seemed to amuse them immensely. I followed toward the new civil war, or
whatever it was.

Just over the crest and around the corner I encountered the King’s
never-varying insignia, the double-row of “company houses.”

Every dwelling was as eternally and uniformly damned as its neighbor,
making the eyes ache, standing foursquare in the presence of the
insulted daylight. Every porch and railing was jig-sawed in the same
ruthless way. Every front yard was grassless. Everything was made of
wood, yet seemed made of iron, so black it was, so long had it stood
in the wasting weather, so steadily had it resisted the dynamite now
shaking the earth.

There they stood, thirty houses to the left, thirty to the right, with
what you might call a street between, whose ruts were seemingly cut by
the treasure-chariots of the brimstone princes of the nether world.

Two-thirds of the way through, several young miners were exploding
giant powder. As I approached I saw another was loading his pistol with
ball-cartridges and shooting over the hills at the sun. He did not put
it out.

The group of children with the beer served these knights of dynamite,
holding up the cans for them to drink. The little cup-bearers were then
given pennies. They scurried home.

By their eyes and queer speech I guessed that these children were
Poles, or of some other race from Eastern Europe. I guessed the same
about the men celebrating. Every porch on both sides of that street
held some heavy headed creatures from presumably the same foreign
parts. They were, no doubt, good citizens after their peculiar fashion,
but with countenances that I could not read. Though the next explosion
seemed to jolt the earth out of its orbit, they merely blinked.

I said to myself, “This is not the fourth of July. Therefore it must
be the anniversary of the day when ‘Freedom shrieked’ and ‘Kosciuszko
fell.’”

I reached the end of the street; nothing beyond but a hollow of hills
and a dubious river, enclosing a new Tophet, that I learned afterwards
was Shickshinny. It was late. I wanted to get beyond to the green
fields.

I zigzagged across that end of the street to folk on the front
porches that I thought were Americans. Each time I vainly attempted
conversation with some dumb John Sobieski in Sunday clothes. I wondered
what were the Polish words for bread, shelter, and dead broke.


II

THE SON OF KING COAL

Some spick and span people came out on the porch of the last house.
Possibly they could understand English. I went closer. They were out
and out Americans.

So I looked them in the eye and said: “I would like to have you
entertain me to-night. I am a sort of begging preacher. I do not take
money, only food and lodging.”

“A beggin’ preacher?”

“My sermon is in poetry. I can read it to you after supper, if that
will suit.”

“What sort of poetry?” asked the man.

“I can only say it is my own.”

“Why I just LOVE poetry,” said the woman. “Come in.”

“Come up,” said the man, and hustled out a chair.

“I’ll go right in and get supper,” said the wife. She was a breezy
creature with a loud musical voice. She doubtless developed it by
trying to talk against giant powder.

I told the man my story, in brief.

After quite a smoke, he said, “So you’ve walked from Wilkesbarre this
afternoon. Why, man, that’s seventeen miles.”

I do not believe it was over fourteen.

He continued, “I’m awful glad to see a white man. This place is full
of Bohunks, and Slavs, and Rooshians, and Poles and Lickerishes
(Lithuanians?). They’re not bad to have around, but they ain’t
Cawcasians. They all talk Eyetalian.”

The fellow’s manner breathed not only race-fraternity, but industrial
fraternity. It had no suggestion of sheltered agricultural caution.
It was sophisticated and anti-capitalistic. It said, “You and I are
against the system. That’s enough for brotherhood.”

Now that he stood and refilled his pipe from a tobacco box nailed just
inside the door, I saw him as in a picture-frame. He had powerful but
slanting shoulders. He was so tall he must needs stoop to avoid the
lintel. With his bent neck, he looked as though he could hold up a mine
caving in. His general outlines seemed to be hewn from fence-rails,
then hung with grotesque muscles of loose leather. His eyebrows were
grown together. From looking down long passageways his eyes were
marvellously owl-like. He was cadaverous. He had a beak nose. He had
a retreating chin but, breaking the rules of phrenology, he managed
to convey the impression of a driving personality. He looked like an
enormous pick-axe.

He calmly commented: “Them Polacks waste powder awful. Not only on
Sunday, for fun, but down in the mine they use twice too much. And
they can’t blast the hardest coal, either.... And they’re always
gettin’ careless and blowin’ themselves to hell and everybody else.
It’s awful, it’s awful,” he said, but in a most philosophic tone.

He lowered his voice and pointed with his pipe stem: “Them people
that live in the next house are supposed to be Cawcasians, but they
haven’t a marriage license. They let their little girl go for beer this
afternoon, for them fellows explodin’ powder over there. ’Taint no way
to raise a child. That child’s mother was a well-behaved Methodist till
she married a Polack, and had four children, and he died, and they
died, and some say she poisoned them all. Now she’s got this child by
this no-account white man. They live without a license, like birds. Yet
they eat off weddin’s.”

“Eat off weddings?”

“Yes,” he said. “These Bohunks and Lickerishes all have one kind of a
wedding. It lasts three days and everybody comes. The best man is king.
He bosses the plates.”

“Bosses the plates?”

“Yes. They buy a lot of cheap plates. Every man that comes must break
a plate with a dollar. The plate is put in the middle of the floor.
He stands over it and bangs the dollar down. If he breaks the plate
he gets to kiss and hug the bride. If he doesn’t break it, the young
couple get that dollar. He must keep on givin’ them dollars in this way
till he breaks the plate. Eats and plates and beer cost about fifty
dollars. The young folks clear about two hundred dollars to start life
on.”

“And,” he continued, “the folks next door make a practice of eatin’
round at weddin’s without puttin’ down their dollars.”

I began to feel guilty.

“It’s a good deal like my begging supper and breakfast of you.” He
hadn’t meant it that way. “No,” he said, “you’re takin’ the only way
to see the country. Why, man, I used to travel like you, before I was
married, except I didn’t take no book nor poetry nor nothin’, and
wasn’t afeered of box-cars the way you are.... I been in every state in
the Union but Maine. I don’t know how I kept out of there.... I’ve been
nine years in this house. I don’t know but what I see as much as when I
was on the go....

“That fellow Gallic over there that was shootin’ that pistol at the
sky killed a man named Bothweinis last year and got off free. It was
Gallic’s wedding and Bothweinis brought fifty dollars and said he was
goin’ to break all the plates in the house. He used up twelve dollars.
He broke seven plates and kissed the bride seven times. Then the bride
got drunk. She was only fifteen years old. She hunted up Bothweinis and
kissed him and cried, and Gallic chased him down towards Shickshinny
and tripped him up, and shot him in the mouth and in the eye.... The
bride didn’t know no better.... He was an awful sight when they brought
him in. The bride was only a kid. These Bohunk women never learn no
sense anyway. They’re not smart like Cawcasian women, and they fade in
the face quick.”

He reflected: “My wife’s a wonderful woman. I have been with her nine
years, and she learns me something every day, and she still looks good
in her Sunday clothes.”

He became lighter in tone again. “What these Bohunks need is a priest
and a church to make them behave. They mind a priest some, if he is a
good priest. They’re all Catholics, or no church....”

“Seems though sometimes a man’s got to shoot. Some of them devils over
there used to throw rocks at my door, but one Sunday I filled ’em
full of buckshot and they quit. The justice upheld me. I didn’t have
to pay no fine. They’ve been pretty good neighbors since, pretty good
neighbors.”

There was a sound as though the flagstones of eternity had been ripped
up. He saw I didn’t like it and said consolingly, “They’ll stop and
go to supper pretty soon. They eat too much to do anything but set,
afterwards. They don’t have nothin’ to eat in the old country but raw
turnips. Here they stuff themselves like toads. I don’t see how they
save money the way they do. The mine owners squeeze the very life out
of ’em and they wallow in beer. I’ve always made big money, but somehow
never kept it. Me and my wife are spenders. But I ain’t afraid, for I
am the only man on the street that can dig the hardest coal. I could
dig my way out of hell with my pick, and by G---- once I did it, too.”

The wife came to the door newly decked in an elaborate lace waist,
torn, alas, at the shoulder. Husband was right. She looked good. She
announced radiantly: “Come to supper.”

Then she rushed down between the houses and shouted: “Jimmy and Frank,
come here! What you doin’? Get down off that roof. What you doin’,
associatin’ with them Polack children? What you doin’ with them
switches?” Then she swore heartily, as unto the Lord, and continued,
“They’re helpin’ them Polack kids switch that poor little drunk
American child. Come down off that coal shed!”

They slunk into sight. She snatched their switches from them.

“Who started it?”

Jimmy admitted he started it. He looked capable of starting most
anything, good or bad. He had eyes like black diamonds, a stocky frame,
and the tiny beginnings of his mother’s voice.

“I don’t know whether to lick you or not,” she said judicially.
Finally: “Go up to bed without supper.”

Jimmy went.

She addressed us in perfect good humor, as a musical volcano might:
“Come and eat.”


III

THE DAUGHTER OF THE KING

Never did I see beefsteak so thick. There was a garnish of fried
onions. There was a separate sea of gravy. There was a hill of butter,
a hill of thickly sliced bread. There was a delectable mountain of
potatoes. That was all. These people were living the simple life,
living it in chunks.

At table, as everywhere, the husband solemnly deferred to the wife.
She was to him a druid priestess. And so she was radiant, as woman
enthroned is apt to be. Of course, no young lady from finishing school
would have liked the way we tunnelled and blasted our way through the
provender. We were gloriously hungry and our manners were a hearty
confession of the fact.

My passion for the joys of the table partially sated, I began to
realize the room. There were hardly any of the comforts of home. There
was a big onyx time-piece, chipped, and not running. Beside it was a
dollar alarm-clock in good trim.

There were in the next room, among other things, two frail gilt parlor
chairs, almost black. The curtains were streaked with soot and poorly
ironed. She said she had washed them yesterday. But, she continued, “I
just keep cheerful, I don’t keep house. Doesn’t seem like I can, this
street is so awful dirty and noisy and foreign.”

“Yet you like it,” said the husband.

“Yes,” she said, “that’s because I’m half Irish. The Irish were born
for excitement.”

“What’s _your_ ancestry?” I asked the husband.

“My father was a mountain white. Moved here from North Carolina, and
dug coal and married a Pennsylvania Dutch lady.”

“It’s your turn,” she said to me. “You are a preacher?”

“That’s a kind of an excuse I make.”

“You can’t be any worse than the preacher we had here,” continued the
wife. “He lived down toward Shickshinny. He preached in an old chapel.
He wouldn’t start a Sunday school. We needed one bad enough. He just
married folks. He hardly ever buried them. They say he was afraid.
And,” she continued, with a growing tone of condemnation, “it’s a
preacher’s BUSINESS to face death.

“Just about the time two of our children died of diphtheria, was when
he came to these parts. He was a Presbyterian, and I was raised a
Presbyterian, and he wouldn’t preach the funeral of my two babies. He
promised to come, and we waited two hours. So I just read the Bible at
the grave.”

This she recounted with a bitter sense of insult.

“And the same day he locked up his mother, too.”

“Locked up his mother?”

“Yes. Some said he wanted to visit a woman he didn’t want her to know
about. They said he was afraid she would follow him and spy. He locked
up the old lady, and she about yelled the roof off, and the neighbors
let her out.

“And then,” continued my hostess, “when he was dying, he sent for a
Wilkesbarre priest.”

“Sent for a priest?” I exclaimed, completely mystified.

“Yes,” she whispered. “He must have been a Catholic all the time. And
the priest wouldn’t come either. _That’s what that old preacher got for
being so mean._”

She continued: “That preacher wasn’t much meaner than the man is in the
company store.”

She was bristling again.

“He won’t deliver goods up here unless you run a big bill. If I want
anything much while big Frank here is at work, I have to take Jimmy’s
little play express-wagon and haul it up.”

And now she was telling me of her terrible fright three days ago, down
at the company store, when there was a rumor of an accident in one of
the far tunnels of the mine.

“All the foreign women came running down the hill, half-crazy. I am
used to false alarms, but I could hardly get up to this house with my
goods. I was expecting to see big Frank brought in, just like he was
before little Frank was born, eight years ago.”

Little Frank lifted his face from its business of eating to listen.

“The first thing that boy ever saw was his father on the floor there,
covered with blood.”

“You don’t remember it, Frank?” asked his father, grinning.

“Nope.”

The wife continued: “There was only one doctor came. We had a time
between us. The other doctor was tendin’ the men husband had dug out.
The coal fell on them and mashed them flat. It couldn’t quite mash
husband. He’s too tough,” she said, lovingly. “He grabbed his pick and
he tunnelled his way through, with the blood squirting out of him.”

Husband grinned like a petted child. He said: “It wasn’t quite as bad
as that, but I was bloody, all right.”

She continued with a gesture of impatience: “This is cheerful Sunday
night talk. Let’s try something else. What kind of a poem are you goin’
to read?”

“It tells boys how to be great men, but it’s for fellows of from
fifteen to twenty. You’ll have to save it for your sons till they grow
a bit.”

She was at the foot of the stairway like a flash.

“Son, dress and come down to supper.”

Son was down almost as soon as she was in her chair, pulling on a
stocking as he came. And he was hungry. He ate while we talked on and
on.


IV

THE GRANDSONS OF THE KING

After the supper the dishes waited. The wife said: “Now we will have
the poetry.” I said in my heart, “Maybe this is the one house in a
hundred where the seed of these verses will be sown upon good ground.”

We went into the parlor, distinguished as such by the battered organ.
The mother had Frank and Jimmy sit in semicircle with her and big
Frank, while I plunged into my rhymed appeal. After the dynamite of the
day I did not hesitate to let loose the thunders. I did not hesitate to
pause and expound:--the poem being, as I have before described, many
stanzas on heroes of history, with the refrain, ever and anon: _God
help us to be brave._ No, kind and flattering reader, it was not above
their heads. Earnestness is earnestness everywhere. The whole circle
grasped that I really expected something unusual of those boys with the
black-diamond eyes, no matter what kind of perversity was in them at
present.

I said, in so many words, as a beginning, that nitro-glycerine was not
the only force in the world, that there is also that dynamite called
the power of the soul, and that detonation called fame.

But I did not dwell long upon my special saints, Francis of Assisi
and Buddha, nor those other favorites who some folk think contradict
them: Phidias and Michael Angelo. I dwelt on the strong: Alexander,
Cæsar, Mohammed, Cromwell, Napoleon, and especially upon the lawgivers,
Confucius, Moses, Justinian; and dreamed that this ungoverned strength
before me, that had sprung from the loins of King Coal, might some day
climb high, that these little wriggling, dirty-fisted grandsons of
that monarch might yet make the world some princely reparation for his
crimes.

After the reading the mother and father said solemnly, “it is a good
book.”

Then the wife showed the other two pieces of printed matter in the
household, a volume of sermons, and a copy of _The House of a Thousand
Candles_. You have read that work about the candles. The sermons were
by the Reverend Wood M. Smithers. You do not know the Reverend Mister
Smithers? He has collected in one fair volume all the sermons that ever
put you to sleep, an anthology of all those discourses that are just
alike.

She said she had read them over and over again to the family. I
believed it. There was butter on the page. I said in my heart: “She is
not to be baffled by any phraseology. If she can get a kernel out of
Wood M. Smithers, she will also derive strength from my rhyme.”

She promised she would have each of the boys pick out one of the
twenty-six great men for a model, as soon as they were schooled enough
to choose. She put the poem in the kitchen table drawer, where she kept
some photographs of close relatives, and I had the final evidence that
I had become an integral part of the family tradition.


V

ON TO SHICKSHINNY

They sent me up to bed. I put out the lamp at once, lest I should see
too much. I went to sleep quickly. I was as quickly awakened. Being a
man of strategies and divertisements, I reached through the blackness
to the lamp that was covered with leaked oil. I rubbed this on my
hands, and thence, thinly over my whole body. Coal oil too thick makes
blisters; thin enough, brings peace.

I remember breakfast as a thing apart. Although the table held only
what we had for supper, warmed over, although the morning light was
grey, and the room the worse for the grey light, the thing I cannot
help remembering was the stillness and tenderness of that time.
Father and mother spoke in subdued human voices. They had not yet had
occasion to shout against the alarums and excursions of the day. And
the sensitive faces of the boys, and the half-demon, half-angel light
of their eyes stirred me with marvelling and reverence for the curious,
protean ways of God.

And now I was walking down the steeps of Avernus into Shickshinny,
toward the smoke of torment that ascends forever. Underfoot was spread
the same dark leprosy that yesterday had stunted flower and fruit and
grass-blade.

I hated King Coal still, but not so much as of yore.



WHAT THE SEXTON SAID


  YOUR dust will be upon the wind
  Within some certain years,
  Though you be sealed in lead to-day
  Amid the country’s tears.

  When this idyllic churchyard
  Becomes the heart of town,
  The place to build garage or inn,
  They’ll throw your tombstone down.

  Your name so dim, so long outworn,
  Your bones so near to earth,
  Your sturdy kindred dead and gone,
  How should men know your worth?

  So read upon the runic moon
  Man’s epitaph, deep-writ.
  It says the world is one great grave.
  For names it cares no whit.

  It tells the folk to live in peace,
  And still, in peace, to die.
  At least, so speaks the moon to me,
  The tombstone of the sky.



DEATH, THE DEVIL, AND HUMAN KINDNESS

THE SHRED OF AN ALLEGORY


I

THE UNDERTAKER

CURIOUS are the agencies that throw the true believer into the
occult state. Convalescence may do it. Acts of piety may do it.
Self-mortification may do it.

After reading my evening sermon in rhyme in the house of the stranger,
I had slept on the lounge in the parlor. The lounge had lost some of
its excelsior, and the springs wound their way upwards like steel
serpents. So strenuous had been the day I could have slumbered
peacefully on a Hindu bed of spikes.

I awoke refreshed, despite several honorable scars. What is more
important I left that house with faculties of discernment.

I did not realize at first that I was particularly spiritualized. I
was merely walking west, hoping to take in Oil City on my route. Yet I
saw straight through the bark of a big maple, and beheld the loveliest
... but I have not time to tell.

Then I heard a fluttering in a patch of tall weeds and discovered what
the people in fairyland call ... but no matter. We must hurry on.

At noon your servant was on the front step of a store near a
cross-roads called Cranberry, Pennsylvania. The store was on the south
side of the way by which I had come. I sat looking along wagon tracks
leading north, little suspecting I should take that route soon.

On one side overhead was the sign: “Fred James, Undertaker.” On the
other: “Fred James, Grocer.”

“_And so_,” I thought, “_I am going to meet, face to face, one of the
eternal powers._ He may call himself Fred James all he pleases. His
real name is Death.”

I met the lady Life, once upon a time, long ago. She had innocent blue
eyes. Alone in the field I felt free to kiss the palm of her little
hand, under the shadow of the corn.

It has nothing to do with the tale, but let us here reflect how the
corn-stalk is a proud thing, how it flourishes its dangerous blades,
guarding the young ear. It will cut you on the forehead if the wind is
high. Above the blades is the sacred tassel like a flame.

Once, under that tassel, under those dangerous blades, I met Life, and
for good reason, bade her good-by. After her solemn words of parting,
she called me back, and mischievously fed me, from the pocket of her
gingham apron, crab apples and cranberries. Ever since that time those
fruits have been bitter delights to my superstitious fancy.

And here I was at CRANBERRY cross-roads, with a funeral director’s sign
over my head. A long five minutes I meditated on the mystery of Life
and Death and cranberries. A fat chicken, apparently meditating on the
same mystery, kept walking up and down, catching gnats.

At length it was revealed to me that when things have their proper
rhythm Life and Death are interwoven, like willows plaited for a
basket. Somewhat later in the afternoon I speculated that when times
are out of joint, it is because Death reigns without Life for a
partner, with the assistance of the Devil rather. But do not remember
this. It anticipates the plot.

One does not hasten into the presence of the undertaker. One rather
waits. HE was coming. I did not look round. Even at noon he cast a
considerable shadow.

The shadow dwindled as he sat on the same step and asked: “What road
have you come?” His non-partisan drawl was the result, we will suppose,
of not knowing which side of the store the new customer approached.

“I came from over there. I have been walking since sunrise.”

He had some account of my adventures, and my point of view as a
religious mendicant. I knew I would have to ask the further road of
him, but disliked the necessity. He waited patiently while I watched my
friend, the fat chicken, explore an empty, dirty, bottomless basket for
flies.

“I want to go west by way of Oil City,” I finally said.

He answered: “Oil City is reached by the north road, straight in front
of you as you sit. It is about an hour’s walk to the edge of it. It is
a sort of trap in the mountains. When you get in sight of it, _keep on
going down_.” This he said very solemnly.

He put his hand on my shoulder: “Come in and rest and eat first. It
won’t cost you a cent.”

I was hungry enough to eat a coffin handle, and so I looked at him and
extended my hand. He was a handsome chap, with a grey mustache. His
black coat was buttoned high. He was extra neat for a country merchant,
and chewed his tobacco surreptitiously. His face was not so bony and
stern as you might think.

I gave him an odd copy of the _Tree of Laughing Bells_, still
remaining by me. He looked at the outside long, doing the cover more
than justice. Then he opened it, with a certain air of delicate
appreciation. I urged him to postpone reading the thing till I was gone.

His store was high and long and narrow and cool. There was a counter
to the west, a counter to the east. Behind the western one were tall
coffin cupboards. As he proudly opened and shut them, one could not but
notice the length of his fingers and their dexterity. He showed plain
coffins and splendid coffins. He unscrewed the lid of one, that I might
see the silky cushions within. They looked easier than last night’s
lounge.

As he stepped across what might be called the international date line
of the store, and entered the hemisphere of groceries, he began to look
as though he would indulge in a merry quip. A faint flush came to his
white countenance, that shone among the multi-colored packages.

Before us were the supplies of a rural general store, from the kitchen
mop to the blue parlor vase. Hanging from the ceiling was an array of
the flamboyant varnished posters of the seedsmen, with pictures of cut
watermelons, blood-red, and portraits of beets, cabbages, pumpkins.

I read his home-made sign aloud: “I guarantee every seed in the store.
Pansy seeds a specialty.”

“Not that they all grow,” he explained. “But the guarantee keeps up
the confidence of the customers. I have made more off of vegetable and
flower seeds this year than caskets.”

He pulled out a chip plate and fed me with dried beef, sliced thin.

He smiled broadly, and set down a jar. The merry quip had arrived.

“Why,” he asked, “is a stick of candy like a race-horse?”

I remained silent, but looked anxious to know. Delighted with himself,
he gave the ancient answer, and with it several sticks of candy. Kind
reader, if you do not know the answer to the riddle, ask your neighbor.

There was no end of sweets. He skilfully sliced fresh bread, and
spread it with butter and thick honey-comb. With much self-approval he
insisted on crowding my pockets with supper.

“Nobody knows how they will treat you around Oil City. _I go often, but
never for pleasure. Only on funeral business._”

He gave me pocketfuls of the little animal crackers, so daintily cut
out, that used to delight all of us as children. Since he insisted I
take something more, I took figs and dates.

He held up an animal cracker, shaped like a cow, and asked: “When was
beefsteak the highest?” I ventured to give the answer.

Death is not a bad fellow. Let no man cross his grey front stoop with
misgiving. The honey he serves is made by noble bees. Yet do not go
seeking him out. No doubt his acquaintance is most worth while when it
is casual, unexpected, one of the natural accidents. And he does not
always ask such simple riddles.


II

THE TRAP WITHOUT THE BAIT

It was about two o’clock when the north road left the cornfields and
reached the hill crests above the city. How the highway descended
over cliffs and retraced itself on ridges and wound into hollows to
get to the streets! At the foot of the first incline I met a lame cat
creeping, panic-stricken, out of town.

Oil City is an ugly, confused kind of place. There are thousands like
it in the United States.

I reached the post-office at last. _There was no letter for me at the
general delivery. I was expecting a missive._ And now my blistered
heels, and my breaking the rule to avoid the towns, and my detour of
half a day were all in vain.

Oil City, in her better suburbs, as a collection of worthy families in
comfortable homes, may have much to say for herself. But as a corporate
soul she has no excuse. The dominant, shoddy architecture is as
eloquent as the red nose of a drunkard. I do not need to take pains to
work her into my allegory. The name she has chosen makes her a symbol.
No doubt others reach the very heart of her only to find it empty as
the post-office was to me. Baffling as this may be, there is another
risk. Escape is not easy.

Almost out of town at last, I sat down by the fence, determined not to
stir till morning. I said, “I can sleep with my back against this post.”

I had just overtaken the lame cat, and she now moved past me over the
ridge to the cornfields. She seemed most unhappy. I looked back to that
oil metropolis. _I wondered how many had lived and died there when they
would have preferred some other place._


III

A MYSTERIOUS DRIVER

A fat Italian came by in a heavily-tired wagon. The wagon was loaded
with green bananas. The fruit-vendor stopped and looked me over. He
most demonstratively offered me a seat beside him. He had a Benvenuto
Cellini leer. He wore one gold earring. He looked like the social
secretary of the Black Hand.

He was apparently driving on into the country. Therefore I suffered
myself to be pulled up on to the seat. Around the corner we came to
green fields and bushes, and I thanked the good St. Francis and all his
holy company.

I said to my charioteer: “As soon as you get a mile out, let me down. I
do not want to get near any more towns for awhile.”

“Allaright,” he said. On his wrist was tattooed a blue dagger. The
first thing he did was unmerciful. He went a yard out of his way to
drive over the lame cat which had stopped in despair, just ahead of us.
Pussy died without a shriek. Then the cruel one, gathering by my manner
that I was not pleased with this incident, created a diversion. He
reproved his horse for not hurrying. It was not so much a curse as an
Italian oration. The poor animal tried to respond, but hobbled so, his
master surprised me by checking the gait to a walk. Then he cooed to
the horse like a two hundred pound turtledove.

In a previous incarnation this driver must have been one of the lower
animals, he had so many dealings with such. Some rocks half the size
of base-balls were piled at his feet. A ferocious dog shot out from a
cottage doorway. With lightning action he hurled the ammunition at the
offender. The beast retreated weeping aloud from pain. And Mr. Cellini
showed his teeth with delight.

And now, after passing several pleasant farm-houses, where I ran a
chance for a free lodging for the asking, I was vexed to be suddenly
driven into a town. We hobbled, rattled on, into a wilderness thicker
every minute with fire-spouting smoke-stacks.

“This ees Franklin,” said my charioteer. “Nice-a-town. _MY_ town,” he
added earnestly. “I getta reech (rich) to-morrow.”

He began to cross-examine the writer of this tale. I counselled myself
not to give my name and address, lest I be held for ransom.

After many harmless inquiries, he asked in a would-be ingratiating
manner, “Poppa reech?”

“No. Poor.”

“Poppa verra reech?”

“No. Awfully poor. But happy and contented.”

“Where your Poppa leeve?”

“My father is the Man in the Moon.”

That answer changed him completely. I seemed to have given the
password. I had joined whatever it was he belonged to. He gave me three
oranges as a sign.

I had hoped we would drive past the smoke and fire. But he turned at
right angles, into the midst of it, and drove into a big black barn. He
waved me good-by in the courtliest manner, as though he were somebody
important, and I were somebody important.

Pretty soon I asked a passer-by the nearest way to the suburbs. I
had to walk on the edges of my feet they were so tired. The street
he pointed out to me was nothing but a continuation of tar-black,
coughing, out-of-door ovens, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, on to
the crack of doom. I presume, in the language of this vain world, they
were coke ovens.

I opened my eyes as little as possible and breathed hardly at all.
Then, by way of diversion, I nibbled animal crackers, first a dog, then
a giraffe, then a hippopotamus, then an elephant.

Those ovens looked queerer as the street led on. There were subtle
essences abroad when the smoke cleared away, and when the great roar
ceased there were vague sounds that struck awe into the heart. I may be
mistaken, but I think I know the odor of a burning ghost on the late
afternoon wind, and the puffing noise he makes.

As the cinders crunched, crunched, underfoot, the conviction deepened:
“These ovens are not mere works of man. Dying sinners snared and
corrupted by Oil City are carried here when the city has done its
work--carried in the wagon of Apollyon, under bunches of green bananas.
Body and soul they are disintegrated by the venomous oil; they crumble
away in the town of oil, and here in the town of ovens, the fragments
are burned with unquenchable fire.”

Now it was seven o’clock. The street led south past the aristocratic
suburbs of Franklin, and on to the fields and dandelion-starred
roadside.


IV

THE ALLEGORY BREAKS DOWN. MY FRIEND HUMANKINDNESS WITH THE GREEN
GALLUSES

I hoped for a farm-hand’s house. Only in that sort will they give free
lodging so near town. And, friends, I found it, there on the edge of
the second cornfield. The welcome was unhesitating.

I looked at my host aghast. To satisfy my sense of the formal, he
should have had the dignity to make him Father Adam, and lord of
Paradise. How could one round out a day that began loftily with Death,
and continued gloriously with some one mighty like the Devil, with this
inglorious type now before me? He wrecked my allegory. There is no
climax in Stupidity.

Just as the colorless, one-room house had stove, chimney, cupboard,
adequate roof, floor, and walls, so the owner had the simplified,
anatomical, and phrenological make-up of a man. He had a luke-warm
hand-clasp. He smoked a Pittsburg stogy. He had thick vague features
and a shock of drab hair. The nearest to a symbol about him was his new
green galluses. I suppose they indicated I was out in the fields again.

If his name was not Stupidity, it was Awkwardness. He kept a sick
geranium in an old tomato can in the window. He had not cut off the
bent-back cover of the can. Just after he gave me a seat he scratched
his hand, as he was watering the flower, and swore softly.

Yet one must not abuse his host. I hasten to acknowledge his generous
hospitality. If it be not indelicate to mention it, he boiled much
water, and properly diluted it with cold, that the traveller might
bathe. The bath was accomplished out of doors beneath the shades of
evening.

Later he was making preparations for supper, with dull eyes that looked
nowhere. He made sure I fitted my chair. He put an old comfort over it.
It was well. The chair was not naturally comfortable; it was partly a
box.

After much fumbling about, he brought some baked potatoes from the
oven. The plate was so hot he dropped it, but so thick it would not
break.

He picked up the potatoes, as good as ever, and broke some open for
me, spreading them with tolerable butter, and handing them across the
table. Then I started to eat.

“Wait a minute,” he said. He bowed his head, closed his dull eyes, and
uttered these words: “The Lord make us truly thankful for what we are
about to receive. Amen.”

I have been reproved by some of the judicious for putting so much food
in these narratives. Nevertheless the first warm potato tasted like
peacocks’ tongues, the next like venison, and the next like ambrosia,
and the next like a good warm potato with butter on it. One might as
well leave Juliet out of Verona as food like this out of a road-story.
As we ate we hinted to each other of our many ups and downs. He mumbled
along, telling his tale. He did not care whether he heard mine or not.

He had been born nearby. In early manhood he had been taken with the
oil fever. It happened in this wise:--He had cut his foot splitting
kindling. Meditating ambition as he slowly recovered, he resolved
to go to town. He sold his small farm and wasted his substance in
speculation. At the same time his young wife and only child died
of typhoid fever. He was a laborer awhile in the two cities to the
northeast. Then he came back here to plough corn.

He had been saving for two years, had made money enough to go back
“pretty soon” and enter what he considered a sure-thing scheme, that I
gathered had a close relation to the oil business. He said that he had
learned from experience to sift the good from the bad in that realm of
commerce.

He put brakes on the slow freight train of his narrative. “I was about
to explain, when you ast to come in, that I don’t afford dessert to my
meals often.”

“If you will excuse me,” I said, emptying my pockets, “these figs,
these dates, these oranges, these animal crackers were given me by
Death, and the Devil. Eat hearty.”

“Death and the Devil. What kind are they?”

“They’re not a bad sort. Death gave me honey for dinner, and the Devil
did no worse than drive me a little out of my way.”

He smiled vaguely. He thought it was a joke, and was too interested in
the food itself to ask any more questions.

The balmy smokeless wind from the south was whistling, whistling past
the window, and through the field. How much one can understand by
mere whispers! The wind cried, “Life, life, life!” Some of the young
corn was brushing the walls of the cottage, and armies on armies of
young corn were bivouacing further down the road, lifting their sacred
tassels toward the stars.

There was no change in the expression of the countenance of my host,
eating, talking, or sitting still in the presence of the night. I may
have had too poor an estimate of his powers, but I preached no sermon
that evening.

But, like many a primitive man I have met, he preached me a sermon. He
had no bed. He gave the traveller a place to sleep in one corner and
himself slept in the opposite corner. The floor was smooth and clean
and white, and the many scraps of rag-carpet and the clean comfort over
me were a part of the sermon. Another part was in his question before
he slept: “Does the air from that open window bother you?”

I assured him I wanted all there was, though from the edge of the world.

He had awkwardly folded his new overcoat, and put it under my
head.... And so I was beginning to change his name from Stupidity and
Awkwardness to Humankindness.

Though in five minutes he was snoring like Sousa’s band, I could not
but sleep. When I awoke the sun was in my eyes. It shone through the
open door. Mr. Humankindness was up. The smell of baked potatoes was in
the air. Outside, rustled the com. The wind cried, “Life, life, life.”



LIFE TRANSCENDENT

This being the name of praise given to a fair lady.


  I USED to think, when the corn was blowing,
  Of my lost lady, _Life Transcendent_,
  Of her valiant way, of her pride resplendent:
  For the corn swayed round, like her warrior-band
  When I knelt by the blades to kiss her hand.
  But now the green of the corn is going,
  And winter comes and a springtime sowing
  Of other grain, on the plains we knew.
  So I walk on air, where the clouds are blowing,
  And kiss her hand, where the gods are sowing
  Stars for corn, in the star-fields new.



IN THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH


  HUNTED by friends who think that life is play,
  Shaken by holy loves, more feared than foes,
  By beauty’s amber cup, that overflows,
  And pride of place, that leads me more astray:--

  Here I renew my vows, and this chief vow--
  To seek each year this shrine of deathless power,
  Keeping my springtime cornland thoughts in flower,
  While labor-gnarled grey Christians round me bow.

  Arm me against great towns, strong spirits old!
  St. Francis keep me road-worn, music-fed.
  Help me to look upon the poor-house bed
  As a most fitting death, more dear than gold.

  Help me to seek the sunburned groups afield,
  The iron folk, the pioneers free-born.
  Make me to voice the tall men in the corn.
  Let boyhood’s wildflower days a bright fruit yield.

  Scourge me, a slave that brings unhallowed praise
  To you, stern Virgin in this church so sweet
  If I desert the ways wherein my feet
  Were set by Heaven, in prenatal days.



THE OLD GENTLEMAN WITH THE LANTERN (AND THE PEOPLE OF HIS HOUSEHOLD)


I

THE SAVAGE NECKLACE

THE reader need not expect this book to contain any nicely adjusted
plot with a villain, hero, lawyer, papers, surprise, and happy ending.
The highway is irrelevant. The highway is slipshod. The highway is as
the necklace of a gipsy or an Indian, a savage string of pebbles and
precious stones, no two alike, with an occasional trumpery suspender
button or peach seed. Every diamond is in the rough.

I was walking between rugged farms on the edge of the oil country in
western Pennsylvania.

The road, almost dry after several days of rain, was gay with
butterfly-haunted puddles. The grotesque swain who gave me a lift in
his automobile for a mile is worth a page, but we will only say that
his photograph would have contributed to the gaiety of nations--that
he was the carved peach-stone on the necklace of the day.

There was a complacent cat in a doorway, that should have been named
“scrambled eggs and milk,” so mongrel was his overcoat. There was a
philosophic grasshopper reading inscriptions in a lonely cemetery, with
whom I had a long and silent interchange of spirit. Even the graveyard
was full of sun.

On and on led the merry morning. At length came noon, and a meal given
with heartiness, as easily plucked as a red apple. For half an hour
after dinner in that big farm-house we sat and talked religion.

O pagan in the cities, the brand of one’s belief is still important
in the hayfield. I was delighted to discover this household held by
conviction to the brotherhood of which I was still a nominal member.
Their lingo was a taste of home. “Our People,” “Our Plea,” “The pious
unimmersed.” Thus did they lead themselves into paths of solemnity.

Then, in the last five minutes of my stay, I gave them my poem-sermon.
The pamphlet made them stare, if it did not make them think.

Splendor after splendor rolled in upon the highway from the four
corners at heaven. Why then should I complain, if about four o’clock
the prosy old world emerged again?

The wagon-track now followed a section of the Pennsylvania railroad,
and railroads are anathema in my eyes when I am afoot. There appeared
no promising way of escape. And now the steel rails led into a region
where there had been rain, even this morning. More than once I had to
take to the ties to go on. When the mud was at all passable I walked in
it by preference, fortifying myself with these philosophizings:--

“Cinders are sterile. They blast man and nature, but the black earth
renews all. Mud upon the shoes is not a contamination but a sign of
progress, eloquent as sweat upon the brow. Who knows but the feet are
the roots of a man? Who knows but rain on the road may help him to
grow? Maybe the stature and breadth of farmers is due to their walking
behind the plough in the damp soil. Only an aviator or a bird has a
right to spurn the ground. All the rest of us must furrow our way. Thus
will our cores be enriched, thus will we give fruit after our kind.”

Whistling pretty hard, I made my way. And now I had to choose between
my rule to flee from the railroad, and my rule to ask for hospitality
before dark.

At length I said to myself: “I want to get into a big unsophisticated
house, the kind that is removed from this railroad. I want to find an
unprejudiced host who will listen with an open mind, and let me talk
him to death.”

To keep this resolve I had to hang on till near eight o’clock. The
cloudy night made the way dim. At length I came to a road that had been
so often graded and dragged it shed water like a turtle’s shell. It
crossed the railway at right angles and ploughed north. I followed it
a mile, shaking the heaviest mud from my shoes. Led by the light of a
lantern, I approached a dim grey farm-house and what would have been in
the daytime a red barn.


II

BY THE LIGHT OF THE LANTERN

The lantern was carried, as I finally discovered, by an old man getting
a basket of chips near the barn gate. He had his eye on me as I leaned
over the fence. He swung the lantern closer.

“My name is Nicholas,” I said. “I am a professional tramp.”

“W-e-l-l,” he said slowly, in question, and then in exclamation.

He flashed the lantern in my face. “Come in,” he said. “Sit down.”

We were together on the chip-pile. He did not ask me to split kindling,
or saw wood. Few people ever do.

In appearance he was the old John G. Whittier type of educated
laboring-man, only more eagle-like. He spoke to me in a kingly
prophetic manner, developed, I have no doubt, by a lifetime of
unquestioned predominance at prayer-meeting and at the communion table.
It was the sonorous agricultural holy tone that is the particular
aversion of a certain pagan type of city radical who does not
understand that the meeting-house is the very rock of the agricultural
social system. As far as I am concerned, if this manner be worn by a
kindly old man, it inspires me with respect and delight. In a slow and
gracious way he separated his syllables.

“Young man, you are per-fect-ly wel-come to shel-ter if we are on-ly
sure you will not do us an in-ju-ry. My age and ex-per-ience ought to
count for a lit-tle, and I assure you that most free travel-ers abuse
hos-pi-tal-ity. But wait till my daugh-ter-in-law comes.”

I was shivering with weariness, and my wet feet wanted to get to a
stove at once. I did not feel so much like talking some one to death as
I had a while back.

By way of passing the time, the Patriarch showed me his cane.
“Pre-sen-ted at the last old set-tel-ers’ picnic because I have been
the pres-i-dent of the old-settlers’ association for ten years. Young
man, why don’t you carry a cane?”

“Why should I?”

“Won’t it help you to keep off dogs?”

I replied, “A housekeeper, if she is in a nervous condition, is apt
to be afraid of a walking-stick. It looks like a club. To carry
something to keep off dogs is like carrying a lightning-rod to keep off
lightning. I encounter a lot of barking and thunder, but have never
been bitten or blasted.”

And while I was thus laboring for the respect of the Patriarch, the
daughter-in-law stepped into the golden circle of the lantern light.
She had just come from the milking. I shall never forget those bashful
gleaming eyes, peering out from the sunbonnet. Her sleeves were rolled
to the shoulder. Startling indeed were those arms, as white as the
foaming milk.

She set down the bucket with a big sigh of relaxation. She pushed back
the sunbonnet to get a better look. The old man addressed her in an
authoritative and confident way, as though she were a mere adjunct, a
part of his hospitality.

“Daugh-ter, here is a good young man--he Looks like a good young man,
I think a stew-dent. You see he has books in his pock-et. He wants a
night’s lodging. Now, if he _is_ a good young man, I think we can give
him the bed in the spare room, and if he is a bad young man, I think
there is enough rope in the barn to hang him before daylight.”

“Yes, you can stay,” she said brightly. “Have you had supper?”

It is one of the obligations of the road to tell the whole truth. But
in this case I lied. The woman was working too late.

“Oh yes, I’ve had supper,” I said.

And she carried the milk into the darkness.

In the city, among people having the status indicated by the big red
barn and the enormous wind-mill and a most substantial fence, this
gleaming woman would have languished in shelter. She would have played
at many philanthropies, or gone to many study clubs or have had many
lovers. She would have been variously adventurous according to her
corner of the town. Here her paramour was WORK. He still caressed her,
but would some day break her on the wheel.

The old man sent me toward the front porch alone. There was a rolling
back of the low gray clouds just then, and the coming of the moon. The
moon’s moods are so many. To-night she took the forlornness out of the
restless sky. She looked domestic as the lantern.


III

YOU OUGHT TO BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF

I was on the porch, scraping an acquaintance with the grandmother. She
held a baby in her lap. They sat in the crossing of the moonlight and
the lamplight.

There was no one to explain me. I explained myself. She eyed me
angrily. She did not want me to shake hands with the baby. She asked
concerning her daughter-in-law.

“And did she say you could stay?”

“She did.”

The grandmother brought a hard fist down on the arm of the chair: “I’d
like to break her neck. She’s no more backbone than a rabbit.”

I do not distinctly remember any bitter old man I have met in my
travels. She was the third bitter old woman. Probably with the same
general experiences as her husband, she had digested them differently.
She was on the shelf, but made for efficiency and she was not run down.

In her youth her hair was probably red. Though she was plainly an old
woman, it was the brown of middle age with only a few streaks of gray.
Under her roughness there were touches of a truly cultured accent and
manner. I would have said that in youth she had had what they call
opportunities.

I asked: “Isn’t the moon fine to-night?”

She replied: “Why don’t you go to work?”

I answered: “I asked for work in the big city till I was worn to a
thread. And you are the first person who has urged it on me since I
took to tramping. I wonder why no one ever thought of it before.”

She smiled grudgingly.

“What kind of work did you try to do in the city?”

“I wanted to paint rainbows and gild sidewalks and blow bubbles for a
living. But no one wanted me to. It is about all I am fit for.”

“Don’t talk nonsense to me, young man!”

“Pardon me, leddy--I am a writer of rhymes.”

“The nation’s going to the dogs,” she said. I suppose I was the
principal symptom of national decay.

Just then a happy voice called through the house, “Come to supper.”

“That’s for you,” said the grandmother. “You ought to be ashamed of
yourself.”


IV

GRETCHEN-CECILIA, WAITRESS

I went in the direction of the voice, delighted, not ashamed. There, in
that most cleanly kitchen, stood the white-armed milkmaid, with cheeks
of geranium red. She had spread a table before me in the presence of
mine enemy. I said: “I did not ask for supper. I told you I had eaten.”

“Oh, I knew you were hungry. Wait on him, Gretchen-Cecilia.”

My hostess scurried into the other room. She was in a glorious mood
over something with which I had nothing to do.

Gretchen-Cecilia came out of the pantry and poured me a glass of warm
milk. I looked at her, and my destiny was sealed forevermore--at least
for an hour or so. The sight of her brought the tears to my eyes.

I know you are saying: “Beware of the man with tears in his eyes.”
Yes, I too have seen weeping exhibitions. I remember a certain pious
exhorter. The collection followed soon. And I used to hear an actor
brag about the way he wept when he looked upon a certain ladylike
actress whom we all adore. He vividly pictured himself with a
handkerchief to his devoted cheeks, waiting in the wings for his cue.
He had belladonna eyes. At the risk of being classed with such folk, I
reaffirm that I was a little weepy. I insist it was not gratitude for
a sudden square meal--if truth be told, I have had many such--it was
the novel Gretchen-Cecilia.

It took little conversation to show that Gretchen-Cecilia was a
privileged character. She had little of the touch of the farm upon
her. She was the spoiled pet of the house, and the index of their
prosperity--what novelists call the third generation. She had a way of
lifting her chin and shoving her fists deep into her apron pockets.

I said: “I have a fairy-tale to read to you after supper.”

And she said: “I like fairy-tales.” And then, redundantly: “I like
stories about fairies. Fairy stories are nice.”

It was no little pleasure to eat after nine hours doing without, and
to dwell on beauty such as this after so many days of absence from the
museums of art and the curio shops. Every time she brought me warm
biscuits or refilled my tumbler, she brought me pretty thoughts as well.

She was nine years old, she told me. Her eyes were sometimes brown,
sometimes violet. Her mouth was half a cherry, and her chin the
quintessence of elegance. Her braids were long and rich, her ribbons
wide and crisp.

Maidenhood has distinct stages. The sixteenth year, when unusually
ripe, is a tender prophecy. Thirteen is often the climax of astringent
childhood, with its especial defiance or charm. But nine years old is
my favorite season. It is spring in winter. It is sweet sixteen through
walls of impregnable glass. This ripeness dates from prehistoric days,
when people lived in the tops of the trees, and almost flew to and from
the nests they built there, and mated much earlier than now.

As I finished eating, the mother brought the little brother into the
room saying, “Gretchen-Cecilia, watch the baby.” Then she smiled on me
and said: “When she washes the dishes, you can hold him.”

She had on a fresh gingham apron, blue, with white trimmings. I judged
by the squeak, she had changed her shoes.

“Who’s coming?” I asked, when the mother had left.

“Papa. He goes around the state and digs oil wells, and is back at the
end of the week.”

I was washing the dishes when Grandma came in. She frowned me away from
the dishpan. She said, “Gretchen-Cecilia, wipe the dishes.”

The baby howled on the floor. I was not to touch him. Gretchen-Cecilia
tried to comfort him by saying, “Baby, dear dear baby; baby, dear dear
baby.”

“Do you realize, young man,” asked Grandma, “that I, an old woman, am
washing your dishes for you?”

I was busy. I was putting my wet stockinged feet on a kindling-board in
the oven, and my shoes were curling up on the back of the stove.

“Young man--”

“Yessum--”

“_Where’s your wife?_”

I replied, “I have no wife, and never did have.” Then I ventured to
ask, “May I have the hand of Gretchen? I want some one who can wipe
dishes while I wash them.”

“But I’m not grown up,” piped the maiden. It seemed her only objection.

I said: “I will wait and wait till you are seventeen.”

The old lady had no soul for trifles. She intoned, like conscience
that will not be slain: “_Where’s your wife?_”

But I said in my heart: “Madam, you are only a suspender button upon
the necklace of the evening.”


V

“PAPA HAS COME!”

There was a scurry and a flutter. Gretchen threw down her dish-rag,
leaving Grandma a plate to wipe.

I heard the grandfather say, “Wel-come, son, wel-come indeed!” The
young wife gave a smothered shriek, and then in a minute I heard her
exclaim, “John, you’re a scamp!”

I put on my hot shoes and went in to see what this looked like.
Gretchen-Cecilia was somewhere between them, and then on her father’s
shoulder, mussing his hair. And the mother took Gretchen down, as John
said in reply to a question:--

“Business is good. Whether there’s oil or not, I dig the hole and get
paid.”

This man was now standing his full height for his family to admire.
He was one I too could not help admiring. He had an open sunburned
face, and I thought that behind it there was a non-scheming mind, that
had attained good fortune beyond the lot of most of the simple. He was
worth the dressing up the family had done for him, and almost worthy of
Gretchen’s extra crisp hair ribbons.

His wife put her arms around his neck and whispered something,
evidently about me. He watched me over his shoulder as much as to say:--

“And so it’s a stray dog wants shelter? No objections.”

He unwrapped his package. It was an extraordinary doll, with truly
truly hair, and Gretchen-Cecilia had to give him seven kisses and
almost cry before he surrendered it.

He pulled off his boots and threw them in the corner, then paddled
up stairs and came down in his shoes. For no reason at all
Gretchen-Cecilia and her mother chased him around the kitchen table
with a broom and a feather duster, and then out on to the back porch.


VI

CONFERENCES

The grandfather called me into the front room and handed me a book.

“Yer a schol-ar. What do you think of that?”

It was a history of the county. The frontispiece was a portrait of
Judge Somebody. But the book naturally opened at about the tenth
page, on an atrocious engraving of this goodly old man and his not
ill-looking wife. He breathed easier when I found it. It was plainly a
basis of family pride. I read the inscription.

“So you two are the oldest inhabitants?” I asked.

“The oldest per-pet-ual in-habitants. I was born in this coun-ty and
have nev-er left it. My wife is some young-er, but she has nev-er left
it, since she married me.”

Even the old lady grew civil. She tapped a brooch near her neck. “They
gave me this breast-pin at the last old-settlers’ picnic.”

The old man continued: “All the old farm is still here in our hands,
but mostly rented. It brings something, something. Our big income is
from my son’s well-digging. He never speculates and he makes money.”

It seemed a part of the old man’s pride to have even the passing
stranger realize they were well-fixed. In a furtive attempt to do
justice to their station in life they had a tall clock in the corner,
quite new and beautiful. And, as I discovered later, there was up
stairs a handsome bath-room. The rest of that new house was clean and
white, but helplessly Spartan.

The old folk were called to the back porch. At the same time I heard
the mother say, “Show the man your doll.”

And in came the little daughter like thistledown.

We were in that white room at opposite ends of the long table, and
nothing but the immaculate cloth stretching between us. She sat with
the doll clutched to her breast, looking straight into my eyes, the
doll staring at me also. The girl was such a piece of bewitchment that
the poem I brought to her about the magical _Tree of Laughing Bells_
seemed tame to me, and everyday. That foolish rhyme was soon read and
put into her hands. It seemed to give her an infinite respect for me.
And any human creature loves to be respected.

On the back porch the talking grew louder.

“Papa is telling them he wants to rent the rest of the farm and move us
all to town,” explained Gretchen.

It was the soft voice of the young wife we heard: “Of course it will be
nice to be nearer my church.”

And then the young father’s voice: “And I don’t want Gretchen to grow
up on the farm.”

And the old man’s voice, still nobly intoned: “And as I say, I don’t
want to be stub-born, but I don’t want to cross the coun-ty line.”

Gretchen banged the door on them and we crossed the county line indeed.
We told each other fairy-tales while the unheeded murmur of debate went
on.

When it came Gretchen’s turn, she alternated Grimm, and Hans Andersen
and the legends of the Roman Church. I had left the railroad resolved
to talk some one to death, and now with all my heart I was listening.
She knew the tales I had considered my special discoveries in youth:
“The Amber Witch,” “The Enchanted Horse,” “The Two Brothers.” She also
knew that most pious narrative, _Elsie Dinsmore_. She approved when I
told her I had found it not only sad but helpful in my spiritual life.
She had found it just so in hers.


VII

THE SPARE ROOM

With her eyes still flashing from argument, the grandmother took me up
stairs. She gave me a big bath-towel, and showed me the bath-room, and
also my sleeping place. I asked her about the holy pictures hanging
near my bed. She explained in a voice that endeavored not to censure:
“My daughter-in-law is of German-Catholic descent, and she is _still_
Catholic.”

“What is _your_ denomination?” I asked.

“My husband and son and I are Congregationalists.”

She did not ask it of me, but I said: “I am what is sometimes
disrespectfully called a ‘Campbellite.’”

But the old lady was gone.

After a boiling bath I lay musing under those holy pictures. My brother
of the road, when they put you in the best room, as they sometimes
do, and you look at the white counterpane and the white sheets and the
cosey appointments, do you take these brutally, or do you think long
upon the intrinsic generosity of God and man?

I have laid hold of hospitality coldly and greedily in my time, but
this night at least, I was thankful. And as I turned my head in a new
direction I was thankful most of all for the unexpected presence of the
Mother of God. There was her silvery statue near the foot of my bed,
the moonlight pouring straight in upon it through the wide window. It
spoke to me of peace and virginity.

And I thought how many times in Babylon I had gone into the one ever
open church to look on the crowned image of the Star of the Sea. Though
I am no servitor of Rome I have only adoration for virginity, be it
carved in motionless stone, or in marble that breathes and sings.

A long long time I lay awake while the image glimmered and glowed. The
clock downstairs would strike its shrill bell, and in my heart a censer
swung.


VIII

MORNING

There was a pounding on the door and a shout. It was the young
husband’s voice. “It’s time to feed your face.”

They were at the breakfast table when I came down. My cherished memory
of the group is the picture of them with bowed heads, the grandfather,
with hand upraised, saying grace. It was ornate, and by no means brief.
It was rich with authority. I wanted to call in all the mocking pagans
of the nation, to be subdued before that devotion. I wanted to say:
“Behold, little people, some great hearts still pray.”

I stood in the door and made shift to bow my head. Yet my head was not
so much bowed but I could see Gretchen-Cecilia and her mother timidly
cross themselves. In my heart I said “Amen” to the old man’s prayer.
But I love every kind of devotion, so I crossed myself in the Virgin’s
name.

The tale had as well end here as anywhere. On the road there are
endless beginnings and few conclusions. For instance I gathered from
the conversation at the breakfast table they were not sure whether they
would move to the city or not. They were for the most part silent and
serene.

There were pleasant farewells a little later. Gretchen-Cecilia, when
the others were not looking, gave me, at my earnest solicitation, a
tiny curl from the head of her doll that had truly truly hair.

I walked on and on, toward the ends of the infinite earth, though I had
found this noble temple, this shrine not altogether made with hands. I
again consecrated my soul to the august and Protean Creator, maker of
all religions, dweller in all clean temples, master of the perpetual
road.



THAT MEN MIGHT SEE AGAIN THE ANGEL-THRONG


  WOULD we were blind with Milton, and we sang
  With him of uttermost Heaven in a new song,
  That men might see again the angel-throng,
  And newborn hopes, true to this age would rise,
  Pictures to make men weep for paradise,
  All glorious things beyond the defeated grave.
  God smite us blind, and give us bolder wings;
  God help us to be brave.


Printed in the United States of America.



The following pages contain advertisements of books by the same
author.



_VERSE BY THE SAME AUTHOR_


The Congo and Other Poems

  With a preface by HARRIET MONROE, Editor of the _Poetry Magazine_.
  _Cloth, 12mo, $1.25; leather, $1.60_

In the readings which Vachel Lindsay has given for colleges,
universities, etc., throughout the country, he has won the approbation
of the critics and of his audiences in general for the new verse-form
which he is employing, as well as the manner of his chanting and
singing, which is peculiarly his own. He carries in memory all the
poems in his books, and recites the program made out for him; the
wonderful effect of sound produced by his lines, their relation to the
idea which the author seeks to convey, and their marvelous lyrical
quality are quite beyond the ordinary, and suggest new possibilities
and new meanings in poetry. It is his main object to give his already
established friends a deeper sense of the musical intention of his
pieces.

The book contains the much discussed “War Poem,” “Abraham Lincoln Walks
at Midnight”; it contains among its familiar pieces: “The Santa Fe
Trail,” “The Firemen’s Ball,” “The Dirge for a Righteous Kitten,” “The
Griffin’s Egg,” “The Spice Tree,” “Blanche Sweet,” “Mary Pickford,”
“The Soul of the City,” etc.

  =Mr. Lindsay received the Levinson Prize for the best poem
  contributed to _Poetry_, a magazine of verse, (Chicago) for 1915.=

  “We do not know a young man of any more promise than Mr. Vachel
  Lindsay for the task which he seems to have set himself.”--_The Dial._



General William Booth Enters Into Heaven and Other Poems

  _Price, $1.25; leather, $1.60_

This book contains among other verses: “On Reading Omar Khayyam during
an Anti-Saloon Campaign in Illinois”; “The Wizard Wind”; “The Eagle
Forgotten,” a Memorial to John P. Altgeld; “The Knight in Disguise,”
a Memorial to O. Henry; “The Rose and the Lotus”; “Michaelangelo”;
“Titian”; “What the Hyena Said”; “What Grandpa Mouse Said”; “A Net to
Snare the Moonlight”; “Springfield Magical”; “The Proud Farmer”; “The
Illinois Village”; “The Building of Springfield.”

=COMMENTS ON THE TITLE POEM:=

  “This poem, at once so glorious, so touching and poignant in its
  conception and expression ... is perhaps the most remarkable poem of
  a decade--one that defies imitation.”--_Review of Reviews._

  “A sweeping and penetrating vision that works with a naïve charm....
  No American poet of to-day is more a people’s poet.”--_Boston
  Transcript._

  “One could hardly overpraise ‘General Booth.’”--_New York Times._

  “Something new in verse, spontaneous, passionate, unmindful of
  conventions in form and theme.”--_The Living Age._



_PROSE BY THE SAME AUTHOR_


Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty

  _Price, $1.00_

This is a series of happenings afoot while reciting at back-doors in
the west, and includes some experiences while harvesting in Kansas.
It includes several proclamations which apply the Gospel of Beauty to
agricultural conditions. There are, among other rhymed interludes: “The
Shield of Faith,” “The Flute of the Lonely,” “The Rose of Midnight,”
“Kansas,” “The Kallyope Yell.”

SOMETHING TO READ

  Vachel Lindsay took a walk from his home in Springfield, Ill., over
  the prairies to New Mexico. He was in Kansas in wheat-harvest time
  and he worked as a farm-hand, and he tells all about that. He tells
  about his walks and the people he met in a little book, “Adventures
  while Preaching the Gospel of Beauty.” For the conditions of his
  tramps were that he should keep away from cities, money, baggage,
  and pay his way by reciting his own poems. And he did it. People
  liked his pieces, and tramp farmhands with rough necks and rougher
  hands left off singing smutty limericks and took to “Atlanta in
  Calydon” apparently because they preferred it. Of motor cars, which
  gave him a lift, he says: “I still maintain that the auto is a
  carnal institution, to be shunned by the truly spiritual, but there
  are times when I, for one, get tired of being spiritual.” His story
  of the “Five Little Children Eating Mush” (that was one night in
  Colorado, and he recited to them while they ate supper) has more
  beauty and tenderness and jolly tears than all the expensive sob
  stuff theatrical managers ever dreamed of. Mr. Lindsay doesn’t need
  to write verse to be a poet. His prose is poetry--poetry straight
  from the soil, of America that is, and of a nobler America that is to
  be. You cannot afford--both for your entertainment and for the _real
  idea_ that this young man has (of which we have said nothing)--to
  miss this book.--_Editorial from Collier’s Weekly._



The Art of the Moving Picture

  _Price, $1.25_

An effort to apply the Gospel of Beauty to a new art. The first
section has an outline which is proposed as a basis for photoplay
criticism in America; chapters on: “The Photoplay of Action,” “The
Intimate Photoplay,” “The Picture of Fairy Splendor,” “The Picture of
Crowd Splendor,” “The Picture of Patriotic Splendor,” “The Picture
of Religious Splendor,” “Sculpture in Motion,” “Painting in Motion,”
“Furniture,” “Trappings and Inventions in Motion,” “Architecture in
Motion,” “Thirty Differences between the Photoplays and the Stage,”
“Hieroglyphics.” The second section is avowedly more discursive, being
more personal speculations and afterthoughts, not brought forward
so dogmatically; chapters on: “The Orchestra Conversation and the
Censorship,” “The Substitute for the Saloon,” “California and America,”
“Progress and Endowment,” “Architects as Crusaders,” “On Coming Forth
by Day,” “The Prophet Wizard,” “The Acceptable Year of the Lord.”

=FOR LATE REVIEWS OF MR. LINDSAY AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES READ:=

  _The New Republic_: Articles by Randolph S. Bourne, December 5, 1914,
  on the “Adventures while Preaching”; and Francis Hackett, December
  25, 1915, on “The Art of the Moving Picture.”

  _The Dial_: Unsigned article by Lucien Carey, October 16, 1914, on
  “The Congo,” etc.

  _The Yale Review_: Article by H. M. Luquiens, July, 1916, on “The Art
  of the Moving Picture.”

GENERAL ARTICLES ON THE POETRY SITUATION

  _The Century Magazine_: “America’s Golden Age in Poetry,” March, 1916.

  _Harper’s Monthly Magazine_: “The Easy Chair,” William Dean Howells,
  September, 1915.

  _The Craftsman_: “Has America a National Poetry?” Amy Lowell, July,
  1916.


  THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
  Publishers      64-66 Fifth Avenue      New York



FOOTNOTES:


[1] This appears, pages seventy-four through eighty-one, in _General
Booth and Other Poems_.

[2] This appears, pages seventy-four through eighty-one, in _General
Booth and Other Poems_.

[3] In the prose sketches in this book I have allowed myself a
story-teller’s license only a little. Sometimes a considerable
happening is introduced that came the day before, or two days after. In
some cases the events of a week are told in reverse order.

Lady Iron-Heels is obviously a story, but embodies my exact impression
of that region in a more compressed form than a note-book record could
have done.

The other travel-narratives are ninety-nine per cent literal fact and
one per cent abbreviation.

[4] Portions of this poem are scattered through this book for
interludes. Others are already printed in _General Booth and Other
Poems_.



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:


  Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Emboldened text is surrounded by equals signs: =bold=.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

  Archaic or alternate spelling has been retained from the original.



*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Handy Guide for Beggars: Especially Those of the Poetic Fraternity" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files. We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's search system for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.




Home