At the Sign of the Jack O'Lantern by Myrtle Reed
I. The End
of the Honeymoon
II. The Day
III. The First
V. Mrs. Smithers
VI. The Coming
X. Still More
XI. Mrs. Dodd's
XII. Her Gift to
XIV. Mrs. Dodd's
XVII. The Lady
Elaine knows her
XX. The Love of
I. The End of the Honeymoon
It was certainly a queer house. Even through the blinding storm they
could distinguish its eccentric outlines as they alighted from the
stage. Dorothy laughed happily, heedless of the fact that her husband's
umbrella was dripping down her neck. It's a dear old place, she
cried; I love it already!
For an instant a flash of lightning turned the peculiar windows into
sheets of flame, then all was dark again. Harlan's answer was drowned
by a crash of thunder and the turning of the heavy wheels on the
Don't stop, shouted the driver; I'll come up to-morrer for the
money. Good luck to youan' the Jack-o'-Lantern!
What did he mean? asked Dorothy, shaking out her wet skirts, when
they were safely inside the door. Who's got a Jack-o'-Lantern?
You can search me, answered Harlan, concisely, fumbling for a
match. I suppose we've got it. Anyhow, we'll have a look at this
sepulchral mansion presently.
His deep voice echoed and re-echoed through the empty rooms, and
Dorothy laughed; a little hysterically this time. Match after match
sputtered and failed. Couldn't have got much wetter if I'd been in
swimming, he grumbled. Here goes the last one.
By the uncertain light they found a candle and Harlan drew a long
breath of relief. It would have been pleasant, wouldn't it? he went
on. We could have sat on the stairs until morning, or broken our
admirable necks in falling over strange furniture. The next thing is a
fire. Wonder where my distinguished relative kept his wood?
Lighting another candle, he went off on a tour of investigation,
leaving Dorothy alone.
She could not repress a shiver as she glanced around the gloomy
room. The bare loneliness of the place was accentuated by the
depressing furniture, which belonged to the black walnut and haircloth
period. On the marble-topped table, in the exact centre of the room,
was a red plush album, flanked on one side by a hideous china vase, and
on the other by a basket of wax flowers under a glass shade.
Her home-coming! How often she had dreamed of it, never for a moment
guessing that it might be like this! She had fancied a little house in
a suburb, or a cosy apartment in the city, and a lump came into her
throat as her air castle dissolved into utter ruin. She was one of
those rare, unhappy women whose natures are so finely attuned to beauty
that ugliness hurts like physical pain.
She sat down on one of the slippery haircloth chairs, facing the
mantel where the single candle threw its tiny light afar. Little by
little the room crept into shadowy reliefthe melodeon in the corner,
the what-not, with its burden of incongruous ornaments, and even the
easel bearing the crayon portrait of the former mistress of the house,
becoming faintly visible.
Presently, from above the mantel, appeared eyes. Dorothy felt them
first, then looked up affrighted. From the darkness they gleamed upon
her in a way that made her heart stand still. Human undoubtedly, but
not in the least friendly, they were the eyes of one who bitterly
resented the presence of an intruder. The light flickered, then flamed
up once more and brought into view the features that belonged with the
Dorothy would have screamed, had it not been for the lump in her
throat. A step came nearer and nearer, from some distant part of the
house, accompanied by a cheery, familiar whistle. Still the stern,
malicious face held her spellbound, and even when Harlan came in with
his load of wood, she could not turn away.
Now, he said, we'll start a fire and hang ourselves up to dry.
What is it? asked Dorothy, her lips scarcely moving.
His eyes followed hers. Uncle Ebeneezer's portrait, he answered.
Why, Dorothy Carr! I believe you're scared!
I was scared, she admitted, reluctantly, after a brief silence,
smiling a little at her own foolishness. It's so dark and gloomy in
here, and you were gone so long
Her voice trailed off into an indistinct murmur, but she still
shuddered in spite of herself.
Funny old place, commented Harlan, kneeling on the hearth and
laying kindlings, log-cabin fashion, in the fireplace. If an architect
planned it, he must have gone crazy the week before he did it.
Or at the time. Don't, dearwait a minute. Let's light our first
He smiled as she slipped to her knees beside him, and his hand held
hers while the blazing splinter set the pine kindling aflame. Quickly
the whole room was aglow with light and warmth, in cheerful contrast to
the stormy tumult outside.
Somebody said once, observed Harlan, as they drew their chairs
close to the hearth, that four feet on a fender are sufficient for
Depends altogether on the feet, rejoined Dorothy, quickly. I
wouldn't want Uncle Ebeneezer sitting here beside meno disrespect
intended to your relation, as such.
Poor old duck, said Harlan, kindly. Life was never very good to
him, and Death took away the only thing he ever loved.
Aunt Rebecca, he continued, feeling her unspoken question. She
died suddenly, when they had been married only three or four weeks.
Like us, whispered Dorothy, for the first time conscious of a
tenderness toward the departed Mr. Judson, of Judson Centre.
It was four weeks ago to-day, wasn't it? he mused, instinctively
seeking her hand.
I thought you'd forgotten, she smiled back at him. I feel like an
old married woman, already.
You don't look it, he returned, gently. Few would have called her
beautiful, but love brings beauty with it, and Harlan saw an exquisite
loveliness in the deep, dark eyes, the brown hair that rippled and
shone in the firelight, the smooth, creamy skin, and the sensitive
mouth that betrayed every passing mood.
None the less, I am, she went on. I've grown so used to seeing
'Mrs. James Harlan Carr' on my visiting cards that I've forgotten there
ever was such a person as 'Miss Dorothy Locke,' who used to get
letters, and go calling when she wasn't too busy, and have things sent
to her when she had the money to buy them.
I hope Harlan stumbled awkwardly over the wordsI hope you'll
never be sorry.
I haven't been yet, she laughed, and it's four whole weeks. Come,
let's go on an exploring expedition. I'm dry both inside and out, and
most terribly hungry.
Each took a candle and Harlan led the way, in and out of unexpected
doors, queer, winding passages, and lonely, untenanted rooms.
Originally, the house had been simple enough in structure, but wing
after wing had been added until the first design, if it could be
dignified by that name, had been wholly obscured. From each room
branched a series of apartmentsa sitting-room, surrounded by
bedrooms, each of which contained two or sometimes three beds. A
combined kitchen and dining-room was in every separate wing, with an
I wonder, cried Dorothy, if we've come to an orphan asylum!
Heaven knows what we've come to, muttered Harlan. You know I
never was here before.
Did Uncle Ebeneezer have a large family?
Only Aunt Rebecca, who died very soon, as I told you. Mother was
his only sister, and I her only child, so it wasn't on our side.
Perhaps, observed Dorothy, Aunt Rebecca had relations.
One, two, three, four, five, counted Harlan. There are five sets
of apartments on this side, and three on the other. Let's go upstairs.
From the low front door a series of low windows extended across the
house on each side, abundantly lighting the two front rooms, which were
separated by the wide hall. A high, narrow window in the lower hall,
seemingly with no purpose whatever, began far above the low door and
ended abruptly at the ceiling. In the upper hall, a similar window
began at the floor and extended upward no higher than Harlan's knees.
As Dorothy said, one would have to lie down to look out of it, but it
lighted the hall, which, after all, was the main thing.
In each of the two front rooms, upstairs, was a single round window,
too high for one to look out of without standing on a chair, though in
both rooms there was plenty of side light. One wing on each side of the
house had been carried up to the second story, and the arrangement of
rooms was the same as below, outside stairways leading from the
kitchens to the ground.
I never saw so many beds in my life, cried Dorothy.
Seems to be a perfect Bedlam, rejoined Harlan, making a poor
attempt at a joke and laughing mirthlessly. In his heart he began to
doubt the wisdom of marrying on six hundred dollars, an unexplored
heirloom in Judson Centre, and an overweening desire to write books.
For the first time, his temerity appeared to him in its proper
colours. He had been a space writer and Dorothy the private secretary
of a Personage, when they met, in the dreary basement dining-room of a
New York boarding-house, and speedily fell in love. Shortly afterward,
when Harlan received a letter which contained a key, and announced that
Mr. Judson's house, fully furnished, had been bequeathed to his nephew,
they had light-heartedly embarked upon matrimony with no fears for the
Two hundred dollars had been spent upon a very modest honeymoon, and
the three hundred and ninety-seven dollars and twenty-three cents
remaining, as Harlan had accurately calculated, seemed pitifully small.
Perplexity, doubt, and foreboding were plainly written on his face,
when Dorothy turned to him.
Isn't it perfectly lovely, she asked, for us to have this nice,
quiet place all to ourselves, where you can write your book?
Woman-like, she had instantly touched the right chord, and the
Yes, he cried, eagerly. Oh, Dorothy, do you think I can really
Write it, she repeated; why, you dear, funny goose, you can write
a better book than anybody has ever written yet, and I know you can! By
next week we'll be settled here and you can get down to work. I'll help
you, too, she added, generously. If you'll buy me a typewriter, I can
copy the whole book for you.
Of course I'll buy you a typewriter. We'll send for it to-morrow.
How much does a nice one cost?
The kind I like, she explained, costs a hundred dollars without
the stand. I don't need the standwe can find a table somewhere that
Two hundred and ninety-seven dollars and twenty-three cents,
breathed Harlan, unconsciously.
No, only a hundred dollars, corrected Dorothy. I don't care to
have it silver mounted.
I'd buy you a gold one if you wanted it, stammered Harlan, in some
Not now, she returned, serenely. Wait till the book is done.
Visions of fame and fortune appeared before his troubled eyes and
set his soul alight with high ambition. The candle in his hand burned
unsteadily and dripped tallow, unheeded. Come, said Dorothy, gently,
let's go downstairs again.
An open door revealed a tortuous stairway at the back of the house,
descending mysteriously into cavernous gloom. Let's go down here, she
continued. I love curly stairs.
These are kinky enough to please even your refined fancy, laughed
Harlan. It reminds me of travelling in the West, where you look out of
the window and see your engine on the track beside you, going the other
This must be the kitchen, said Dorothy, when the stairs finally
ceased. Uncle Ebeneezer appears to have had a pronounced fancy for
Here's another wing, added Harlan, opening the back door.
Sitting-room, bedroom, andmy soul and body! It's another kitchen!
Any more beds? queried Dorothy, peering into the darkness. We
can't keep house unless we can find more beds.
Only one more. I guess we've come down to bed rock at last.
In other words, the cradle, she observed, pulling a little
old-fashioned trundle bed out into the light.
Oh, what a joke! cried Harlan. That's worth three dollars in the
office of any funny paper in New York!
Sell it, commanded Dorothy, inspired by the prospect of wealth,
and I'll give you fifty cents for your commission.
Outside, the storm still raged and the old house shook and creaked
in the blast. The rain swirled furiously against the windows, and a
swift rush of hailstones beat a fierce tattoo on the roof. Built on the
summit of a hill and with only a few trees near it, the Judson mansion
was but poorly protected from the elements.
None the less, there was a sense of warmth and comfort inside.
Let's build a fire in the kitchen, suggested Dorothy, and then we'll
try to find something to eat.
Which kitchen? asked Harlan.
Any old kitchen. The one the back stairs end in, I guess. It seems
to be the principal one of the set.
Harlan brought more wood and Dorothy watched him build the fire with
a sense that a god-like being was here put to base uses. Hampered in
his log-cabin design by the limitations of the fire box, he handled the
kindlings awkwardly, got a splinter into his thumb, said something
under his breath which was not meant for his wife to hear, and powdered
his linen with soot from the stove pipe. At length, however, a
respectable fire was started.
Now, he asked, what shall I do next?
Wind all the clocks. I can't endure a dead clock. While you're
doing it, I'll get out the remnants of our lunch and see what there is
in the pantry that is still edible.
In the lunch basket which the erratic ramifications of the road
leading to Judson Centre had obliged them to carry, there was still,
fortunately, a supply of sandwiches and fruit. A hasty search through
the nearest pantry revealed jelly, marmalade, and pickles, a box of
musty crackers and a canister of tea. When Harlan came back, Dorothy
had the kitchen table set for two, with a lighted candle dispensing
odorous good cheer from the centre of it, and the tea kettle singing
merrily over the fire.
Seems like home, doesn't it? he asked, pleasantly imbued with the
realisation of the home-making quality in Dorothy. Certain rare women
with this gift take their atmosphere with them wherever they go.
To-morrow, he went on, I'll go into the village and buy more
things to eat.
The ruling passion, she smiled. It'swhat's that!
Clear and high above the sound of the storm came an imperious
It's a cat, said Harlan. You don't suppose the poor thing is shut
up anywhere, do you?
If it had been, we'd have found it. We've opened every door in the
house, I'm sure. It must be outside.
Me-ow! Me-ow! Me-ow! The voice was not pleading; it was rather a
command, a challenge.
Kitty, kitty, kitty, she called. Where are you, kitty?
Harlan opened the outside door, and in rushed a huge black cat, with
the air of one returning home after a long absence.
Poor kitty, said Dorothy, kindly, stooping to stroke the sable
visitor, who instinctively dodged the caress, and then scratched her
The ugly brute! she exclaimed. Don't touch him, Harlan.
Throughout the meal the cat sat at a respectful distance, with his
greenish yellow eyes fixed unwaveringly upon them. He was entirely
black, save for a white patch under his chin, which, in the half-light,
carried with it an uncanny suggestion of a shirt front. Dorothy at
length became restless under the calm scrutiny.
I don't like him, she said. Put him out.
Thought you liked cats, remarked Harlan, reaching for another
I do, but I don't like this one. Please put him out.
What, in all this storm? He'll get wet.
He wasn't wet when he came in, objected Dorothy. He must have
some warm, dry place of his own outside.
Come, kitty, said Harlan, pleasantly.
Kitty merely blinked, and Harlan rose.
With the characteristic independence of cats, the visitor yawned.
The conversation evidently bored him.
Come, kitty, said Harlan, more firmly, with a low swoop of his
arm. The cat arched his back, erected an enlarged tail, and hissed
threateningly. In a dignified but effective manner, he eluded all
attempts to capture him, even avoiding Dorothy and her broom.
There's something more or less imperial about him, she remarked,
wiping her flushed cheeks, when they had finally decided not to put the
cat out. As long as he's adopted us, we'll have to keep him. What
shall we name him?
Claudius Tiberius, answered Harlan. It suits him down to the
His first name is certainly appropriate, laughed Dorothy, with a
rueful glance at her scratched hand. Making the best of a bad bargain,
she spread an old grey shawl, nicely folded, on the floor by the stove,
and requested Claudius Tiberius to recline upon it, but he persistently
ignored the invitation.
This is jolly enough, said Harlan. A cosy little supper in our
own house, with a gale blowing outside, the tea kettle singing over the
fire, and a cat purring on the hearth.
Have you heard Claudius purr? asked Dorothy, idly.
Come to think of it, I haven't. Perhaps something is wrong with his
purrer. We'll fix him to-morrow.
From a remote part of the house came twelve faint, silvery tones.
The kitchen clock struck next, with short, quick strokes, followed
immediately by a casual record of the hour from the clock on the mantel
beneath Uncle Ebeneezer's portrait. Then the grandfather's clock in the
hall boomed out twelve, solemn funereal chimes. Afterward, the silence
The end of the honeymoon, said Dorothy, a little sadly, with a
quick, inquiring look at her husband.
The end of the honeymoon! repeated Harlan, gathering her into his
arms. To-morrow, life begins!
Several hours later, Dorothy awoke from a dreamless sleep to wonder
whether life was any different from a honeymoon, and if so, how and
II. The Day Afterward
By the pitiless light of early morning, the house was even uglier
than at night. With an irreverence essentially modern, Dorothy decided,
while she was dressing, to have all the furniture taken out into the
back yard, where she could look it over at her leisure. She would make
a bonfire of most of it, or, better yet, have it cut into wood for the
fireplace. Thus Uncle Ebeneezer's cumbrous bequest might be quickly
transformed into comfort.
And, thought Dorothy, I'll take down that hideous portrait over
the mantel before I'm a day older.
But when she broached the subject to Harlan, she found him
unresponsive and somewhat disinclined to interfere with the existing
order of things. We'll be here only for the Summer, he said, so
what's the use of monkeying with the furniture and burning up fifty or
sixty beds? There's plenty of wood in the cellar.
I don't like the furniture, she pouted.
My dear, said Harlan, with patronising kindness, as you grow
older, you'll find lots of things on the planet which you don't like.
Moreover, it'll be quite out of your power to cremate 'em, and it's
just as well to begin adjusting yourself now.
This bit of philosophy irritated Mrs. Carr unbearably. Do you mean
to say, she demanded, with rising temper, that you won't do as I ask
Do you mean to say, inquired Harlan, wickedly, in exact imitation
of her manner, that you won't do as I ask you to? Four weeks ago
yesterday, if I remember rightly, you promised to obey me!
Don't remind me of what I'm ashamed of! flashed Dorothy. If I'd
known what a brute you were, I'd never have married you! You may be
sure of that!
Claudius Tiberius insinuated himself between Harlan's feet and
rubbed against his trousers, leaving a thin film of black fur in his
wake. Being fastidious about his personal appearance, Harlan kicked
Claudius Tiberius vigorously, grabbed his hat and went out, slamming
the door, and whistling with an exaggerated cheerfulness.
Brute! The word rankled deeply as he went downhill with his hands
in his pockets, whistling determinedly. So Dorothy was sorry she had
married him! After all he'd done for her, too. Giving up a good
position in New York, taking her half-way around the world on a
honeymoon, and bringing her to a magnificent country residence in a
fashionable locality for the Summer!
Safely screened by the hill, he turned back to look at the
magnificent country residence, then swore softly under his breath,
as, for the first time, he took in the full meaning of the eccentric
Perched high upon the hill, with intervening shrubbery carefully cut
down, the Judson mansion was not one to inspire confidence in its
possessor. Outwardly, it was grey and weather-worn, with the shingles
dropping off in places. At the sides, the rambling wings and outside
stairways, branching off into space, conveyed the impression that the
house had been recently subjected to a powerful influence of the
centrifugal sort. But worst of all was the front elevation, with its
two round windows, its narrow, long window in the centre, and the low
windows on either side of the front doorthe grinning, distorted
semblance of a human face.
The bare, uncurtained windows loomed up boldly in the searching
sunlight, which spared nothing. The blue smoke rising from the kitchen
chimney appeared strangely like a plume streaming out from the rear.
Harlan noted, too, that the railing of the narrow porch extended almost
entirely across the front of the house, and remembered, dimly, that
they had found the steps at one side of the porch the night before. Not
a single unpleasant detail was in any way hidden, and he clutched
instinctively at a tree as he realised that the supports of the railing
were cunningly arranged to look like huge teeth.
No wonder, he said to himself that the stage driver called it the
Jack-o'-Lantern! That's exactly what it is! Why didn't he paint it
yellow and be done with it? The old devil! The last disrespectful
allusion, of course, being meant for Uncle Ebeneezer.
Poor Dorothy, he thought again. I'll burn the whole thing, and
she shall put every blamed crib into the purifying flames. It's mine,
and I can do what I please with it. We'll go away to-morrow, we'll
Where could they go, with less than four hundred dollars? Especially
when one hundred of it was promised for a typewriter? Harlan had parted
with his managing editor on terms of great dignity, announcing that he
had forsworn journalism and would hereafter devote himself to
literature. The editor had remarked, somewhat cynically, that it was a
better day for journalism than for literature, the fine, inner meaning
of the retort not having been fully evident to Harlan until he was some
three squares away from the office.
Much chastened in spirit, and fully ready to accept his wife's
estimate of him, he went on downhill into Judson Centre.
It was the usual small town, the post-office, grocery, meat market,
and general loafing-place being combined under one roof. Near by was
the blacksmith shop, and across from it was the inevitable saloon. Far
up in the hills was the Judson Centre Sanitarium, a worthy institution
of some years standing, where every human ailment from tuberculosis to
fits was more or less successfully treated.
Upon the inmates of the sanitarium the inhabitants of Judson Centre
lived, both materially and mentally. Few of them had ever been nearer
to it than the back door, but tales of dark doings were widely
prevalent throughout the community, and mothers were wont to frighten
their young offspring into obedience with threats of the
Now what do you reckon ails him? asked the blacksmith of
the stage-driver, as Harlan went into the village store.
Wouldn't reckon nothin' ailed him to look at him, would you?
queried the driver, in reply.
Indeed, no one looking at Mr. Carr would have suspected him of an
ailment. He was tall and broad-shouldered and well set up, with clear
grey eyes and a rosy, smooth-shaven, boyish face which had given him
the nickname of The Cherub all along Newspaper Row. In his bearing
there was a suggestion of boundless energy, which needed only proper
direction to accomplish wonders.
You can't never tell, continued the driver, shifting his quid.
Now, I've took folks up there goin' on ten year now, an' some I've
took up looked considerable more healthy than I be when I took 'em up.
Comin' back, howsumever, it was different. One young feller rode up
with me in the rain one night, a-singin' an' a-whistlin' to beat the
band, an' when I took him back, a month or so arterward, he had a
striped nurse on one side of him an' a doctor on t' other, an' was
wearin' a shawl. Couldn't hardly set up, but he was a-tryin' to joke
just the same. 'Hank,' says he, when we got a little way off from the
place, 'my book of life has been edited by the librarians an' the
entire appendix removed.' Them's his very words. 'An',' says he, 'the
time to have the appendix took out is before it does much of anythin'
to your table of contents.'
The doctor shut him up then, an' I didn't hear no more, but I
remembered the language, an' arterwards, when I got a chanst, I looked
in the school-teacher's dictionary. It said as how the appendix was
sunthin' appended or added to, but I couldn't get no more about it.
I've hearn tell of a 'devil child' with a tail to it what was
travellin' with the circus one year, an' I've surmised as how mebbe a
tail had begun to grow on this young feller an' it was took off.
You don't say! ejaculated the blacksmith.
By reason of his professional connection with the sanitarium, Mr.
Henry Blake was, in a sense, the oracle of Judson Centre, and he
enjoyed his proud distinction to the full. Ordinarily, he was taciturn,
but the present hour found him in a conversational mood.
He's married, he went on, returning to the original subject. I
took him an' his wife up to the Jack-o'-Lantern last night. Come in on
the nine forty-seven from the Junction. Reckon they're goin' to stay a
spell, 'cause they've got trunksone of a reasonable size, an' 'nother
that looks like a dog-house. Box, too, that's got lead in it.
Books, maybe, suggested the blacksmith, with unexpected
discernment. Schoolteacher boarded to our house wunst an' she had most
a car-load of 'em. Educated folks has to have books to keep from losin'
Don't take much stock in it myself, remarked the driver. It
spiles most folks. As soon as they get some, they begin to pine an'
hanker for more. I knowed a feller wunst that begun with one book
dropped on the road near the sanitarium, an' he never stopped till he
was plum through college. An' a woman up there sent my darter a book
wunst, an' I took it right back to her. 'My darter's got a book,' says
I, 'an' she ain't a-needin' of no duplicates. Keep it,' says I, 'fer
somebody that ain't got no book.
Do you reckon, asked the blacksmith, after a long silence, that
they're goin' to live in the Jack-o'-Lantern?
I ain't a-sayin', answered Mr. Blake, cautiously. They're
educated, an' there's no tellin' what educated folks is goin' to do.
This young lady, now, that come up with him last night, she said it was
'a dear old place an' she loved it a'ready.' Them's her very words!
That's c'rrect, an' as I said before, when you're dealin' with
educated folks, you're swimmin' in deep water with the shore clean out
o' sight. Education was what ailed him. By a careless nod Mr. Blake
indicated the Jack-o'-Lantern, which could be seen from the main
thoroughfare of Judson Centre.
I've hearn, he went on, taking a fresh bite from his morning
purchase of plug, that he had one hull room mighty nigh plum full o'
nothin' but books, an' there was always more comin' by freight an'
express an' through the post-office. It's all on account o' them books
that he's made the front o' his house into what it is. My wife had a
paper book wunst, a-tellin' 'How to Transfer a Hopeless Exterior,' with
pictures of houses in it like they be here an' more arter they'd been
transferred. You bet I burnt it while she was gone to sewin' circle,
an' there ain't no book come into my house since.
Mr. Blake spoke with the virtuous air of one who has protected his
home from contamination. Indeed, as he had often said before, you
can't never tell what folks'll do when books gets a holt of 'em.
Do you reckon, asked the blacksmith, that there'll be company?
Company, snickered Mr. Blake, oh, my Lord, yes! A little thing
like death ain't never going to keep company away. Ain't you never
hearn as how misery loves company? The more miserable you are the more
company you'll have, an' vice versey, etcetery an' the same.
Hush! warned the blacksmith, in a harsh whisper. He's a-comin'!
City feller, grumbled Mr. Blake, affecting not to see.
Good-morning, said Harlan, pleasantly, though not without an air
of condescension. Can you tell me where I can find the stage-driver?
That's me, grunted Mr. Blake. Be you wantin' anythin'?
Only to pay you for taking us up to the house last night, and to
arrange about our trunks. Can you deliver them this afternoon?
I ain't a-runnin' of no livery, but I can take 'em up, if that's
what you're wantin'.
Exactly, said Harlan, and the box, too, if you will. And the
things I've just ordered at the grocerycan you bring them, too?
Mr. Blake nodded helplessly, and the blacksmith gazed at Harlan,
open-mouthed, as he started uphill. Must sure have a ailment, he
commented, but I hear tell, Hank, that in the city they never carry
nothin' round with 'em but perhaps an umbrell. Everythin' else they
Reckon it's true enough. I took a ham wunst up to the sanitarium
for a young sprig of a doctor that was too proud to carry it himself.
He was goin' that way, toowalkin' up to save moneyso I charged him
for carryin' up the ham just what I'd have took both for. 'Pigs is
high,' I told him, 'same price for one as for 'nother,' but he didn't
pay no attention to it an' never raised no kick about the price.
Thinkin' 'bout sunthin' else, most likelymost of 'em are.
Harlan, most assuredly, was thinkin' 'bout sunthin' else. In fact,
he was possessed by portentous uneasiness. There was well-defined doubt
in his mind regarding his reception at the Jack-o'-Lantern. Dorothy's
parting words had been plainalmost to the point of rudeness, he
reflected, unhappily, and he was not sure that a brute would be
allowed in her presence again.
The bare, uncurtained windows gave no sign of human occupancy.
Perhaps she had left him! Then his reason came to the rescuethere was
no way for her to go but downhill, and he would certainly have seen her
had she taken that path.
When he entered the yard, he smelled smoke, and ran wildly into the
house. A hasty search through all the rooms revealed nothingeven
Dorothy had disappeared. From the kitchen window, he saw her in the
back yard, poking idly through a heap of smouldering rubbish with an
What are you doing? he demanded, breathlessly, before she knew he
was near her.
Dorothy turned, disguising her sudden start by a toss of her head.
Oh, she said, coolly, it's you, is it?
Harlan bit his lips and his eyes laughed. I say, Dorothy, he
began, awkwardly; I was rather a beast, wasn't I?
Of course, she returned, in a small, unnatural voice, still poking
through the ruins. I told you so, didn't I?
I didn't believe you at the time, Harlan went on, eager to make
amends, but I do now.
That's good. Mrs. Carr's tone was not at all reassuring.
There was an awkward pause, then Harlan, putting aside his obstinate
pride, said the simple sentence which men of all ages have found it
hardest to sayperhaps because it is the sign of utter masculine
abasement. I'm sorry, dear, will you forgive me?
In a moment, she was in his arms. It was partly my fault, she
admitted, generously, from the depths of his coat collar. I think
there must be something in the atmosphere of the house. We never
And we never will again, answered Harlan, confidently. What have
you been burning?
It was a mattress, whispered Dorothy, much ashamed. I tried to
get a bed out, but it was too heavy.
You funny, funny girl! How did you ever get a mattress out, all
Dragged it to an upper window and dumped it, she explained,
blushing, then came down and dragged it some more. Claudius Tiberius
didn't like to have me do it.
I don't wonder, laughed Harlan. That is, he added hastily, he
couldn't have been pleased to see you doing it all by yourself. Anybody
would love to see a mattress burn.
Shall we get some more? There are plenty.
Let's not take all our pleasure at once, he suggested, with rare
tact. One mattress a dayhow'll that do?
We'll have it at night, cried Dorothy, clapping her hands, and
when the mattresses are all gone, we'll do the beds and bureaus and the
haircloth furniture in the parlour. Oh, I do so love a bonfire!
Harlan's heart grew strangely tender, for it had been this
underlying childishness in her that he had loved the most. She was
stirring the ashes now, with as much real pleasure as though she were
five instead of twenty-five.
As it happened, Harlan would have been saved a great deal of trouble
if he had followed out her suggestion and burned all of the beds in the
house except two or three, but the balance between foresight and
retrospection has seldom been exact.
Beast of a smudge you're making, he commented, choking.
Get around to the other side, then. Why, Harlan, what's that?
She pointed to a small metal box in the midst of the ashes.
Poem on Spring, probably, put into the corner-stone by the builder
of the mattress.
Don't be foolish, she said, with assumed severity. Get me a pail
With two sticks they lifted it into the water and waited,
impatiently enough, until they were sure it was cool. Then Dorothy,
asserting her right of discovery, opened it with trembling fingers.
Why-ee! she gasped.
Upon a bed of wet cotton lay a large brooch, made wholly of
clustered diamonds, and a coral necklace, somewhat injured by the fire.
Whose is it? demanded Dorothy, when she recovered the faculty of
I should say, returned Harlan, after due deliberation, that it
belonged to you.
After this, she said, slowly, her eyes wide with wonder, we'll
take everything apart before we burn it.
Harlan was turning the brooch over in his hand and roughly
estimating its value at two thousand dollars. Here's something on the
back, he said. 'R. from E., March 12, 1865.'
Rebecca from Ebeneezer, cried Dorothy. Oh, Harlan, it's ours!
Don't you remember the letter said: 'my house and all its contents to
my beloved nephew, James Harlan Carr'?
I remember, said Harlan. But his conscience was uneasy, none the
III. The First Caller
As Mr. Blake had heard, there was one hull room mighty nigh plum
full o' nothin' but books; a grievous waste, indeed, when one already
had a book. It was the front room, opposite the parlour, and every
door and window in it could be securely bolted from the inside. If any
one desired unbroken privacy, it could be had in the library as nowhere
else in the house.
The book-shelves were made of rough pine, unplaned, unpainted, and
were scarcely a seemly setting for the treasure they bore. But in
looking at the books, one perceived that their owner had been one who
passed by the body in his eager search for the soul.
Here were no fine editions, no luxurious, costly volumes in full
levant. Illuminated pages, rubricated headings, and fine illustrations
were conspicuous by their absence. For the most part, the books were
simply but serviceably bound in plain cloth covers. Many a
paper-covered book had been bound by its purchaser in pasteboard,
flimsy enough in quality, yet further strengthened by cloth at the
back. Cheap, pirated editions were so many that Harlan wondered whether
his uncle had not been wholly without conscience in the matter of
Shelf after shelf stretched across the long wall, with its company
of mute consolers whose master was no more. The fine flowering of the
centuries, like a single precious drop of imperishable perfume, was
hidden in this rude casket. The minds and hearts of the great, laid
pitilessly bare, were here in this one room, shielded merely by
pasteboard and cloth.
Far up in the mountains, amid snow-clad steeps and rock-bound
fastnesses, one finds, perchance, a shell. It is so small a thing that
it can be held in the hollow of the hand; so frail that a slight
pressure of the finger will crush it to atoms, yet, held to the ear, it
brings the surge and sweep of that vast, primeval ocean which, in the
inconceivably remote past, covered the peak. And so, to the eye of the
mind, the small brown book, with its hundred printed pages, brings back
the whole story of the world.
A thin, piping voice, to which its fellows have paid no heed, after
a time becomes silent, and, ceaselessly marching, the years pass on by.
Yet that trembling old hand, quietly laid at last upon the turbulent
heart, in the solitude of a garret has guided a pen, and the manuscript
is left. Ragged, worn, blotted, spotted with candle drippings and
endlessly interlined, why should these few sheets of paper be saved?
Because, as it happens, the only record of the period is therea
record so significant that fifty years can be reconstructed, as an
entire language was brought to light by a triple inscription upon a
single stone. Thrown like the shell upon Time's ever-receding shore, it
is, nevertheless, the means by which unborn thousands shall commune
with him who wrote in his garret, see his whole life mirrored in his
book, know his philosophy, and take home his truth. For by way of the
printed page comes Immortality.
There was no book in the library which had not been read many times.
Some were falling apart, and others had been carefully sewn together
and awkwardly rebound. Still open, on a rickety table in the corner,
was that ponderous volume with an extremely limited circulation: The
Publishers' Trade List Annual. Pencilled crosses here and there
indicated books to be purchased, or at least sent on approval, to
customers known to the House.
Some day, said Dorothy, when it's raining and we can't go out,
we'll take down all these books, arrange them in something like order,
and catalogue them.
How optimistic you are! remarked Harlan. Do you think it could be
done in one day?
Oh, well, returned Dorothy; you know what I mean.
Harlan paced restlessly back and forth, pausing now and then to look
out of the window, where nothing much was to be seen except the
orchard, at a little distance from the house, and Claudius Tiberius,
sunning himself pleasantly upon the porch. Four weeks had been a
pleasant vacation, but two weeks of comparative idleness, added to it,
were too much for an active mind and body to endure. Three or four
times he had tried to begin the book that was to bring fame and
fortune, and as many times had failed. Hitherto Harlan's work had not
been obliged to wait for inspiration, and it was not so easy as it had
seemed the day he bade his managing editor farewell.
Somebody is coming, announced Dorothy, from the window.
Nonsense! Nobody ever comes here.
A precedent is about to be established, then. I feel it in my bones
that we're going to have company.
Let's see. Harlan went to the window and looked over her shoulder.
A little man in a huge silk hat was toiling up the hill, aided by a
cane. He was bent and old, yet he moved with a certain briskness, and,
as Dorothy had said, he was inevitably coming.
Who in thunder began Harlan.
Our first company, interrupted Dorothy, with her hand over his
mouth. The very first person who has called on us since we were
Except Claudius Tiberius, amended Harlan. Isn't a cat anybody?
Claudius is. I beg his imperial pardon for forgetting him.
The rusty bell-wire creaked, then a timid ring came from the rear
depths of the house. You let him in, said Dorothy, and I'll go and
fix my hair.
Am I right, queried the old gentleman, when Harlan opened the
door, in presuming that I am so fortunate as to address Mr. James
My name is Carr, answered Harlan, politely. Will you come in?
Thank you, answered the visitor, in high staccato, oblivious of
the fact that Claudius Tiberius had scooted in between his feet; it
will be my pleasure to claim your hospitality for a few brief moments.
I had hoped, he went on, as Harlan ushered him into the parlour,
to be able to make your acquaintance before this, but my multitudinous
He fumbled in his pocket and produced a card, cut somewhat
irregularly from a sheet of white cardboard, and bearing in tremulous
autographic script: Jeremiah Bradford, Counsellor at Law.
Oh, said Harlan, it was you who wrote me the letter. I should
have hunted you up when I first came, shouldn't I?
Not at all, returned Mr. Bradford. It is I who have been remiss.
It is etiquette that the old residents should call first upon the
newcomers. Many and varied duties in connection with the practice of my
profession have hitherto His eyes sought the portrait over the
mantel. A most excellent likeness of your worthy uncle, he continued,
irrelevantly, a gentleman with whom, as I understand, you never had
the pleasure and privilege of becoming acquainted.
I never met Uncle Ebeneezer, rejoined Harlan, but mother told me
a great deal about him and we had one or two picturesdaguerreotypes,
I believe they were.
Undoubtedly, my dear sir. This portrait was painted from his very
last daguerreotype by an artist of renown. It is a wonderful likeness.
He was my ColonelI served under him in the war. It was my desire to
possess a portrait of him in uniform, but he would never consent, and
would not allow anyone save myself to address him as Colonel. An
eccentric, but very estimable gentleman.
I cannot understand, said Harlan, why he should have left the
house to me. I had never even seen him.
Perhaps, smiled Mr. Bradford, enigmatically, that was his reason,
or rather, perhaps I should say, if you had known your uncle more
intimately and had visited him here, or, if he had had the privilege of
knowing youquite often, as you know, a personal acquaintance proves
disappointing, though, of course, in this case
The old gentleman was floundering helplessly when Harlan rescued
him. I want you to meet my wife, Mr. Bradford. If you will excuse me,
I will call her.
Left to himself, the visitor slipped back and forth uneasily upon
his haircloth chair, and took occasion to observe Claudius Tiberius,
who sat near by and regarded the guest unblinkingly. Hearing
approaching footsteps, he took out his worn silk handkerchief, unfolded
it, and wiped the cold perspiration from his legal brow. In his heart
of hearts, he wished he had not come, but Dorothy's kindly greeting at
once relieved him of all embarrassment.
We have been wondering, she said, brightly, who would be the
first to call upon us, and you have come at exactly the right time. New
residents are always given two weeks, are they not, in which to get
Quite so, my dear madam, quite so, and I trust that you are by this
time fully accustomed to your changed environment. Judson Centre, while
possessing few metropolitan advantages, has distinct and peculiar
recommendations of an individual character which endear the locality to
those residing therein.
I think I shall like it here, said Dorothy. At least I shall try
A very commendable spirit, rejoined the old gentleman, warmly,
and rather remarkable in one so young.
Mrs. Carr graciously acknowledged the compliment, and the guest
flushed with pleasure. To perception less fine, there would have been
food for unseemly mirth in his attire. Never in all her life before had
Dorothy seen rough cow-hide boots, and grey striped trousers worn with
a rusty and moth-eaten dress-coat in the middle of the afternoon. An
immaculate expanse of shirt-front and a general air of extreme
cleanliness went far toward redeeming the unfamiliar costume. The silk
hat, with a bell-shaped crown and wide, rolling brim, belonged to a
much earlier period, and had been brushed to look like new. Even Harlan
noted that the ravelled edges of his linen had been carefully trimmed
and the worn binding of the hat brim inked wherever necessary.
His wrinkled old face was kindly, though somewhat sad. His weak blue
eyes were sheltered by an enormous pair of spectacles, which he took
off and wiped continually. He was smooth-shaven and his scanty hair was
as white as the driven snow. Now, as he sat in Uncle Ebeneezer's
parlour, he seemed utterly friendless and forlorna complete failure
of that pitiful type which never for a moment guesses that it has
It will be my delight, the old man was saying, his hollow cheeks
faintly flushed, to see that the elite of Judson Centre pay proper
respect to you at an early date. If I were not most unfortunately a
single gentleman, my wife would do herself the honour of calling upon
you immediately and of tendering you some sort of hospitality
approximately commensurate with your worth. As it is
As it is, said Harlan, taking up the wandering thread of the
discourse, that particular pleasure must be on our side. We both hope
that you will come often, and informally.
It would be a solace to me, rejoined the old gentleman,
tremulously, to find the niece and nephew of my departed friend both
congenial and companionable. He was my ColonelI served under him in
the warand until the last, he allowed me to address him as Colonela
privilege accorded to no one else. He very seldom left his own estate,
but at his request I often spent an evening or a Sunday afternoon in
his society, and after his untimely death, I feel the loss of his
companionship very keenly. He was my ColonelI
I should imagine so, said Harlan, kindly, though, as I have told
you, I never knew him at all.
A much-misunderstood gentleman, continued Mr. Bradford, carefully
wiping his spectacles. My grief is too recent, at present, to enable
me to discourse freely of his many virtues, but at some future time I
shall hope to make you acquainted with your benefactor. He was my
Colonel, and in serving under him in the war, I had an unusual
opportunity to know him as he really was. May I ask, without intruding
upon your private affairs, whether or not it is your intention to
reside here permanently?
We have not made up our minds, responded Harlan. We shall stay
here this Summer, anyway, as I have some work to do which can be done
only in a quiet place.
Quiet! muttered the old gentleman, quiet place! If I might
venture to suggest, I should think you would find any other season more
agreeable for prolonged mental effort. In Summer there are
Yes, put in Dorothy, in Summer, one wants to be outdoors, and I
am going to keep chickens and a cow, but my husband hopes to have his
book finished by September.
His book! repeated Mr. Bradford, in genuine astonishment. Am I
actually addressing an author?
He beamed upon Harlan in a way which that modest youth found
A would-be author only, laughed Harlan, the colour mounting to his
temples. I've done newspaper work heretofore, and now I'm going to try
My dear sir, said Mr. Bradford, rising, I must really beg the
privilege of clasping your hand. It is a great honour for Judson Centre
to have an author residing in its midst!
Taking pity upon Harlan, Dorothy hastened to change the subject. We
hope it may be, she observed, lightly, and I wonder, Mr. Bradford, if
you could not give me some good advice?
I shall be delighted, my dear madam. Any knowledge I may possess is
trebly at your service, for the sake of the distinguished author whose
wife you have the honour to be, for the sake of your departed relative,
who was my friend, my Colonel, and last, but not least, for your own
It is only about a maid, said Dorothy.
A my dear madam, I beg your pardon?
A maid, repeated Dorothy; a servant.
Oh! A hired girl, or more accurately, in the parlance of Judson
Centre, the help. Do I understand that it is your desire to become an
employer of help?
It is, answered Dorothy, somewhat awed by the solemnity of his
tone, if help is to be found. I thought you might know where I could
get some one.
If I might be permitted to suggest, replied Mr. Bradford, after
due deliberation, I should unhesitatingly recommend Mrs. Sarah
Smithers, who did for your uncle during the entire period of his
residence here and whose privilege it was to close his eyes in his last
sleep. She is at present without prospect of a situation, and I believe
would be very ready to accept a new position, especially so desirable a
position as this, in your service.
Thank you. Could youcould you send her to me?
I shall do so, most assuredly, providing she is willing to come,
and should she chance not to be agreeably disposed toward so pleasing a
project, it will be my happiness to endeavour to persuade her. Drawing
out a memorandum book and a pencil, the old gentleman made an entry
upon a fresh page. The multitudinous duties in connection with the
practice of my profession, he beganthere, my dear madam, it is
already attended to, since it is placed quite out of my power to
I am greatly obliged, said Dorothy.
And now, continued the visitor, I must go. I fear I have already
outstayed the limitation of a formal visit, such as the first should
be, and it is not my desire to intrude upon an author's time. Moreover,
my own duties, slight and unimportant as they are in comparison, must
ultimately press upon my attention.
Come again, said Harlan, kindly, following him to the door.
It will be my great pleasure, rejoined the guest, not only on
your own account, but because your personality reminds me of that of my
departed friend. You favour him considerably, more particularly in the
eyes, if I may be permitted to allude to details. I think I told you,
did I not, that he was my Colonel and I was privileged to serve under
him in the war? Myoh, I walked, did I not? I remember that it was my
intention to come in a carriage, as being more suitable to a formal
visit, but Mr. Blake had other engagements for his vehicle. Dear sir
and madam, I bid you good afternoon.
So saying, he went downhill, briskly enough, yet stumbling where the
way was rough. They watched him until the bobbing, bell-shaped crown of
the ancient head-gear was completely out of sight.
What a dear old man! said Dorothy. He's lonely and we must have
him come up often.
Do you think, asked Harlan, that I look like Uncle Ebeneezer?
Indeed you don't! cried Dorothy, and that reminds me. I want to
take that picture down.
To burn it? inquired Harlan, slyly.
No, I wouldn't burn it, answered Dorothy, somewhat spitefully,
but there's no law against putting it in the attic, is there?
Not that I know of. Can we reach it from a chair?
Together they mounted one of the haircloth monuments, slipping, as
Dorothy said, until it was like walking on ice.
Now then, said Harlan, gaily, come on down, Uncle! You're about
to be moved into the attic!
The picture lunged forward, almost before they had touched it, the
heavy gilt frame bruising Dorothy's cheek badly. In catching it, Harlan
turned it completely around, then gave a low whistle of astonishment.
Pasted securely to the back was a fearsome skull and cross-bones,
made on wrapping paper with a brush and India ink. Below it, in great
capitals, was the warning inscription: LET MY PICTURE ALONE!
What shall we do with it? asked Harlan, endeavouring to laugh,
though, as he afterward admitted, he felt creepy. Shall I take it up
to the attic?
No, answered Dorothy, in a small, unnatural voice, leave it where
While Harlan was putting it back, Dorothy, trembling from head to
foot, crept around to the back of the easel which bore Aunt Rebecca's
portrait. She was not at all surprised to find, on the back of it, a
notice to this effect: ANYONE DARING TO MOVE MRS. JUDSON'S PICTURE
WILL BE HAUNTED FOR LIFE BY US BOTH.
I don't doubt it, said Dorothy, somewhat viciously, when Harlan
had joined her. What kind of a woman do you suppose she could have
been, to marry him? I'll bet she's glad she's dead!
Dorothy was still wiping blood from her face and might not have been
wholly unprejudiced. Aunt Rebecca was a gentle, sweet-faced woman, if
her portrait told the truth, possessed of all the virtues save
self-assertion and dominated by habitual, unselfish kindness to others.
She could not have been discourteous even to Claudius Tiberius, who at
this moment was seated in state upon the sofa and purring
I've ordered the typewriter, said Dorothy, brightly, and some
nice new note-paper, and a seal. I've just been reading about making
virtue out of necessity, so I've ordered 'At the Sign of the
Jack-o'-Lantern' put on our stationery, in gold, and a yellow pumpkin
on the envelope flap, just above the seal. And I want you to make a
funny sign-board to flap from a pole, the way they did in 'Rudder
Grange.' If you could make a wooden Jack-o'-Lantern, we could have a
candle inside it at night, and then the sign would be just like the
house. We can get the paint and things down in the village. Won't it be
cute? We're farmers, now, so we'll have to pretend we like it.
Harlan repressed an exclamation, which could not have been wholly
inspired by pleasure.
What's the matter? asked Dorothy, easily. Don't you like the
design for the note-paper? If you don't, you won't have to use it.
Nobody's going to make you write letters on paper you don't like, so
It isn't the paper, answered Harlan, miserably; it's the
typewriter. Up to the present moment, sustained by a false, but none
the less determined pride, he had refrained from taking his wife into
his confidence regarding his finances. With characteristic masculine
short-sightedness, he had failed to perceive that every moment of delay
made matters worse.
Might I inquire, asked Mrs. Carr, coolly, what is wrong with the
Nothing at all, sighed Harlan, except that we can't afford it.
The whole bitter truth was out, now, and he turned away wretchedly,
ashamed to meet her eyes.
It seemed ages before she spoke. Then she said, in smooth, icy
tones: What was your object in offering to get it for me?
I spoke impulsively, explained Harlan, forgetting that he had
never suggested buying a typewriter. I didn't stop to think. I'm
sorry, he concluded, lamely.
I suppose you spoke impulsively, snapped Dorothy, when you asked
me to marry you. You're sorry for that, too, aren't you?
You're not the only one who's sorry, she rejoined, her cheeks
flushed and her eyes blazing. I had no idea what an expense I was
going to be!
Dorothy! cried Harlan, angrily; you didn't think I was a
millionaire, did you? Were you under the impression that I was an
active branch of the United States Mint?
No, she answered, huskily; I merely thought I was marrying a
gentleman instead of a loafer, and I beg your pardon for the mistake!
She slammed the door on the last word, and he heard her light feet
pattering swiftly down the hall, little guessing that she was trying to
gain the shelter of her own room before giving way to a tempest of
Happy are they who can drown all pain, sorrow, and disappointment in
a copious flood of tears. In an hour, at the most, Dorothy would be her
sunny self again, penitent, and wholly ashamed of her undignified
outburst. By to-morrow she would have forgotten it, but Harlan, made of
sterner clay, would remember it for days.
Loafer! The cruel word seemed written accusingly on every wall of
the room. In a sudden flash of insight he perceived the truth of
itand it hurt.
Two months, bethought; two months of besotted idleness. And I
used to chase news from the Battery to the Bronx every day from eight
to six! Murders, smallpox, East Side scraps, and Tammany Hall. Why in
the hereafter can't they have a fire at the sanitarium, or something
that I can wire in?
The Temple of Healing, as Dorothy had christened it in a happier
moment, stood on a distant hill, all but hidden now by trees and
shrubbery. A column of smoke curled lazily upward against the blue, but
there was no immediate prospect of a fire of the news variety.
Harlan stood at the window for a long time, deeply troubled. The
call of the city dinned relentlessly into his ears. Oh, for an hour in
the midst of it, with the rumble and roar and clatter of ceaseless
traffic, the hurrying, heedless throng rushing in every direction, the
glare of the sun on the many-windowed cliffs, the fever of the struggle
in his veins!
And yetwas two months so long, when a fellow was just married, and
hadn't had more than a day at a time off for six years? Since the cub
reporter was first licked into shape in the office of The
Thunderer, there had been plenty of work for him, year in and year
I wonder, he mused, if the old man would take me back on my job?
I can see 'em in the office now, went on Harlan, mentally, when I
go back and tell 'em I want my place again. The old man will look up
and say: 'The hell you do! Thought you'd accepted a position on the
literary circuit as manager of the nine muses! Better run along and
look after 'em before they join the union.'
And the exchange man will yell at me not to slam the door as I go
out, and I'll be pointed out to the newest kid as a horrible example of
misdirected ambition. Brinkman will say: 'Sonny, there's a bloke that
got too good for his job and now he's come back, willing to edit The
It'd be about the same in the other offices, too, he thought.
'Sorry, nothing to-day, but there might be next month. Drop in again
sometime after six weeks or so and meanwhile I'll let you know if
anything turns up. Yes, I can remember your address. Don't slam the
door as you go out. Most people seem to have been born in a barn.'
Besides, he continued to himself, fiercely, what is there in it?
They'll take your youth, all your strength and energy, and give you a
measly living in exchange. They'll fill you with excitement till you're
never good for anything else, any more than a cavalry horse is fitted
to pull a vegetable wagon. Then, when you're old, they've got no use
Before his mental vision, in pitiful array, came that unhappy
procession of hacks that files, day in and day out, along Newspaper
Row, drawn by every instinct to the arena that holds nothing for them
but a meagre, uncertain pittance, dwindling slowly to charity.
That's where I'd be at the last of it, muttered Harlan, savagely,
with even the cubs offering me the price of a drink to get out. And
Dorothygood God! Where would Dorothy be?
He clenched his fists and marched up and down the room in utter
despair. Why, he breathed, why wasn't I taught to do something
honest, instead of being cursed with this itch to write? A carpenter, a
bricklayer, a stone-mason,any one of 'em has a better chance than I!
And yet, even then, Harlan saw clearly that save where some vast
cathedral reared its unnumbered spires, the mason and the bricklayer
were without significance; that even the builders were remembered only
because of the great uses to which their buildings were put. That,
too, through print, he murmured. It all comes down to the printed
page at last.
On a table, near by, was a sheaf of rough copy paper, and six or
eight carefully sharpened pencilsthe dull, meaningless stone waiting
for the flint that should strike it into flame. Day after day the table
had stood by the window, without result, save in Harlan's uneasy
I'm only a tramp, he said, aloud, and I've known it, all along.
He sat down by the table and took up a pencil, but no words came.
Remorsefully, he wrote to an acquaintancea man who had a book
published every year and filled in the intervening time with magazine
work and newspaper specials. He sealed the letter and addressed it
idly, then tossed it aside purposelessly.
Loafer! The memory of it stung him like a lash, and, completely
overwhelmed with shame, he hid his face in his hands.
Suddenly, a pair of soft arms stole around his neck, a childish,
tear-wet cheek was pressed close to his, and a sweet voice whispered,
tenderly: Dear, I'm sorry! I'm so sorry I can't live another minute
unless you tell me you forgive me!
* * * * *
Am I really a loafer? asked Harlan, half an hour later.
Indeed you're not, answered Dorothy, her trustful eyes looking
straight into his; you're absolutely the most adorable boy in the
whole world, and it's me that knows it!
As long as you know it, returned Harlan, seriously, I don't care
a hang what other people think.
Now, tell me, continued Dorothy, how near are we to being broke?
Obediently, Harlan turned his pockets inside out and piled his
worldly wealth on the table.
Three hundred and seventy-four dollars and sixteen cents, she
said, when she had finished counting. Why, we're almost rich, and a
little while ago you tried to make me think we were poor!
It's all I have, Dorothyevery blooming cent, except one dollar in
the savings bank. Sort of a nest egg I had left, he explained.
Wait a minute, she said, reaching down into her collar and drawing
up a loop of worn ribbon. Straight front corset, she observed,
flushing, makes a nice pocket for almost everything. She drew up a
chamois-skin bag, of an unprepossessing mouse colour, and emptied out a
roll of bills. Two hundred and twelve dollars, she said, proudly,
and eighty-three cents and four postage stamps in my purse.
I saved it, she continued, hastily, for an emergency, and I
wanted some silk stockings and a French embroidered corset and some
handmade lingerie worse than you can ever know. Wasn't I a brave,
heroic, noble woman?
Indeed you were, he cried, but, Dorothy, you know I can't touch
Why not? she demanded.
Becausebecausebecause it isn't right. Do you think I'm cad
enough to live on a woman's earnings?
Harlan, said Dorothy, kindly, don't be a fool. You'll take my
whole heart and soul and lifeall that I have been and all that I'm
going to beand be glad to get it, and now you're balking at ten cents
that I happened to have in my stocking when I took the fatal step.
Dear heart, don't. It's differenttremendously different. Can't
you see that it is?
Do you mean that I'm not worth as much as two hundred and twelve
dollars and eighty-three cents and four postage stamps?
Darling, you're worth more than all the rest of the world put
together. Don't talk to me like that. But I can't touch your money,
truly, dear, I can't; so don't ask me.
Idiot, cried Dorothy, with tears raining down her face, don't you
know I'd go with you if you had to grind an organ in the street, and
collect the money for you in a tin cup till we got enough for a monkey?
What kind of a dinky little silver-plated wedding present do you think
I am, anyway? You
The rest of it was sobbed out, incoherently enough, on his hitherto
immaculate shirt-front. You don't mind, she whispered, if I cry down
your neck, do you?
If you're going to cry, he answered, his voice trembling, this is
the one place for you to do it, but I don't want you to cry.
I won't, then, she said, wiping her eyes on a wet and crumpled
handkerchief. In a time astonishingly brief to one hitherto unfamiliar
with the lachrymal function, her sobs had ceased.
You've made me cry nearly a quart since morning, she went on, with
assumed severity, and I hope you'll behave so well from now on that
I'll never have to do it again. Look here.
She led him to the window, where a pair of robins were building a
nest in the boughs of a maple close by. Do you see those birds? she
demanded, pointing at them with a dimpled, rosy forefinger.
Yes, what of it?
Well, they're married, aren't they?
I hope they are, laughed Harlan, or at least engaged.
Who's bringing the straw and feathers for the nest? she asked.
Both, apparently, he replied, unwillingly.
Why isn't she rocking herself on a bough, and keeping her nails
nice, and fixing her feathers in the latest style, or perhaps going off
to some fool bird club while he builds the nest by himself?
Nor anybody else, she continued, with much satisfaction. Now, if
she happened to have two hundred and twelve feathers, of the proper
size and shape to go into that nest, do you suppose he'd refuse to
touch them, and make her cry because she brought them to him?
Probably he wouldn't, admitted Harlan.
There was a long silence, then Dorothy edged up closer to him. Do
you suppose, she queried, that Mr. Robin thinks more of his wife than
you do of yours?
Indeed he doesn't!
And still, he's letting her help him.
Now, listen, Harlan. We've got a house, with more than enough
furniture to make it comfortable, though it's not the kind of furniture
either of us particularly like. Instead of buying a typewriter, we'll
rent one for three or four dollars a month until we have enough money
to buy one. And I'm going to have a cow and some chickens and a garden,
and I'm going to sell milk and butter and cream and fresh eggs and
vegetables and chickens and fruit to the sanitarium, and
The sanitarium people must have plenty of those things.
But not the kind I'm going to raise, nor put up as I'm going to put
it up, and we'll be raising most of our own living besides. You can
write when you feel like it, and be helping me when you don't feel like
it, and before we know it, we'll be rich. Oh, Harlan, I feel like Eve
all alone in the Garden with Adam!
The prospect fired his imagination, for, in common with most men, a
chicken-ranch had appealed strongly to Harlan ever since he could
Well, he began, slowly, in the tone which was always a signal of
Won't it be lovely, she cried ecstatically, to have our own bossy
cow mooing in the barn, and our own chickens for Sunday dinner, and our
own milk, and butter, and cream? And I'll drive the vegetable waggon
and you can take the things in
I guess not, interrupted Harlan, firmly. If you're going to do
that sort of thing, you'll have people to do the work when I can't help
you. The idea of my wife driving a vegetable cart!
All right, answered Dorothy, submissively, wise enough to let
small points settle themselves and have her own way in things that
really mattered. I've not forgotten that I promised to obey you.
A gratified smile spread over Harlan's smooth, boyish face, and,
half-fearfully, she reached into her sleeve for a handkerchief which
she had hitherto carefully concealed.
That's not all, she smiled. Look!
Twenty-three dollars, he said. Why, where did you get that?
It was in my dresser. There was a false bottom in one of the small
drawers, and I took it out and found this.
What in began Harlan.
It's a present to us from Uncle Ebeneezer, she cried, her eyes
sparkling and her face aglow. It's for a coop and chickens, she
continued, executing an intricate dance step. Oh, Harlan, aren't you
awfully glad we came?
Seeing her pleasure he could not help being glad, but afterward,
when he was alone, he began to wonder whether they had not
inadvertently moved into a bank.
Might be worse places, he reflected, for the poor and deserving
to move into. Diamonds and moneywhat next?
V. Mrs. Smithers
The chickens were clucking peacefully in their corner of Uncle
Ebeneezer's dooryard, and the newly acquired bossy cow mooed unhappily
in her improvised stable. Harlan had christened the cow Maud because
she insisted upon going into the garden, and though Dorothy had
vigorously protested against putting Tennyson to such base uses, the
name still held, out of sheer appropriateness.
Harlan was engaged in that pleasant pastime known as pottering.
The instinct to drive nails, put up shelves, and to improve generally
his local habitation is as firmly seated in the masculine nature as
housewifely characteristics are ingrained in the feminine soul. Never
before having had a home of his own, Harlan was enjoying it to the
Early hours had been the rule at the Jack-o'-Lantern ever since the
feathered sultan with his tribe of voluble wives had taken up his abode
on the hilltop. Indeed, as Harlan said, they were obliged to sleep when
the chickens didif they slept at all. So it was not yet seven one
morning when Dorothy went in from the chicken coop, singing softly to
herself, and intent upon the particular hammer her husband wanted,
never expecting to find Her in the kitchen.
II beg your pardon? she stammered, inquiringly.
A gaunt, aged, and preternaturally solemn female, swathed in crape,
bent slightly forward in her chair, without making an effort to rise,
and reached forth a black-gloved hand tightly grasping a letter, which
was tremulously addressed to Mrs. J. H. Carr.
My dear Madam, Dorothy read.
The multitudinous duties in connection with the practice of my
profession have unfortunately prevented me, until the present
from interviewing Mrs. Sarah Smithers in regard to your
While she is naturally unwilling to commit herself entirely
more definite idea of what is expected of her, she is none the
kindly disposed. May I hope, my dear madam, that at the first
opportunity you will apprise me of ensuing events in this
and that in any event I may still faithfully serve you?
With kindest personal remembrances and my polite salutations to
distinguished author whose wife you have the honour to be, I am,
Yr. most respectful and obedient servant,
Oh, said Dorothy, you're Sarah. I had almost given you up.
Begging your parding, Miss, rejoined Mrs. Smithers in a chilly
tone of reproof, but I take it it's better for us to begin callin'
each other by our proper names. If we should get friendly, there'd be
ample time to change. Your uncle, God rest 'is soul, allers called me
Somewhat startled at first, Mrs. Carr quickly recovered her
equanimity. Very well, Mrs. Smithers, she returned, lightly,
reflecting that when in Rome one must follow Roman customs; Do you
understand all branches of general housework?
If I didn't, I wouldn't be makin' no attempts in that direction,
replied Mrs. Smithers, harshly. I doesn't allow nobody to do wot I
does no better than wot I does it.
Dorothy smiled, for this was distinctly encouraging, from at least
one point of view.
You wear a cap, I suppose?
Yes, mum, for dustin'. When I goes out I puts on my bonnet.
Can you do plain cooking? inquired Dorothy, hastily, perceiving
that she was treading upon dangerous ground.
Yes, mum. The more plain it is the better all around. Your uncle
was never one to fill hisself with fancy dishes days and walk the floor
with 'em nights, that's wot 'e wasn't.
What wages do you have, SaMrs. Smithers?
I worked for your uncle for a dollar and a half a week, bein' as
we'd knowed each other so long, and on account of 'im bein' easy to get
along with and never makin' no trouble, but I wouldn't work for no
woman for less 'n two dollars.
That is satisfactory to me, returned Dorothy, trying to be
dignified. I daresay we shall get on all right. Can you stay now?
If you've finished, said Mrs. Smithers, ignoring the question,
there's a few things I'd like to ask. 'Ow did you get that bruise on
II ran into something, answered Dorothy, unwillingly, and taken
quite by surprise.
Wot was it, demanded Mrs. Smithers. Your 'usband's fist?
No, replied Mrs. Carr, sternly, it was a piece of furniture.
I've never knowed furniture, observed Mrs. Smithers, doubtfully,
to get up and 'it people in the face wot wasn't doin' nothink to it.
If you disturb a rockin'-chair at night w'en it's restin' quiet, you'll
get your ankle 'it, but I've never knowed no furniture to 'it people
under the eye unless it 'ad been threw, that's wot I ain't.
I mind me of my youngest sister, Mrs. Smithers went on, her keen
eyes uncomfortably fixed upon Dorothy. 'Er 'usband was one of these
'ere masterful men, 'e was, same as wot yours is, and w'en 'er didn't
please 'im, 'e 'd 'it 'er somethink orful. Many's the time I've gone
there and found 'er with 'er poor face all cut up and the crockery
broke bad. 'I dropped a cup' 'er'd say to me, 'and the pieces flew up
and 'it me in the face.' 'Er face looked like a crazy quilt from 'aving
dropped so many cups, and wunst, without thinkin' wot I might be doin'
of, I gave 'er a chiny tea set for 'er Christmas present.
Wen I went to see 'er again, the tea set was all broke and 'er 'ad
court plaster all over 'er face. The pieces must 'ave flew more 'n
common from the tea set, cause 'er 'usband's 'ed was laid open
somethink frightful and they'd 'ad in the doctor to take a seam in it.
From that time on I never 'eard of no more cups bein' dropped and 'er
face looked quite human and peaceful like w'en 'e died. God rest 'is
soul, 'e ain't a-breakin' no tea sets now by accident nor a-purpose
neither. I was never one to interfere between man and wife, Miss Carr,
but I want you to tell your 'usband that should 'e undertake to 'it me,
'e'll get a bucket of 'ot tea throwed in 'is face.
It's not at all likely, answered Dorothy, biting her lip, that
such a thing will happen. She was swayed by two contradictory
impulsesone to scream with laughter, the other to throw something at
'E's been at peace now six months come Tuesday, continued Mrs.
Smithers, and on account of 'is 'avin' broke the tea set, I don't feel
no call to wear mourning for 'im more 'n a year, though folks thinks as
'ow it brands me as 'eartless for takin' it off inside of two. Sakes
alive, wot's that? she cried, drawing her sable skirts more closely
about her as a dark shadow darted across the kitchen.
It's only the cat, answered Dorothy, reassuringly. Come here,
Mrs. Smithers repressed an exclamation of horror as Claudius,
purring pleasantly, came out into the sunlight, brandishing his plumed
tail, and sat down on the edge of Dorothy's skirt, blinking his green
eyes at the intruder.
'E's the very cat, said Mrs. Smithers, hoarsely, wot your uncle
killed the week afore 'e died!
Before who died? asked Dorothy, a chill creeping into her blood.
Your uncle, whispered Mrs. Smithers, her eyes still fixed upon
Claudius Tiberius. 'E killed that very cat, 'e did, 'cause 'e couldn't
never abide 'im, and now 'e's come back!
Nonsense! cried Dorothy, trying to be severe. If he killed the
cat, it couldn't come backyou must know that.
I don't know w'y not, Miss. Anyhow, 'e killed the cat, that's wot
'e did, and I saw 'is dead body, and even buried 'im, on account of
your uncle not bein' able to abide cats, and 'ere 'e is. Somebody 's
dug 'im up, and 'e 's come to life again, thinkin' to 'aunt your uncle,
and your uncle 'as follered 'im, that's wot 'e 'as, and there bein'
nobody 'ere to 'aunt but us, 'e's a 'auntin' us and a-doin' it 'ard.
Mrs. Smithers, said Dorothy, rising, I desire to hear no more of
this nonsense. The cat happens to be somewhat similar to the dead one,
Begging your parding, Miss, for askin', but did you bring that
there cat with you from the city?
Affecting not to hear, Dorothy went out, followed by Claudius
Tiberius, who appeared anything but ghostly.
I knowed it, muttered Mrs. Smithers, gloomily, to herself. 'E was
'ere w'en 'er come, and 'e's the same cat. 'E's come back to 'aunt us,
that's wot 'e 'as!
Harlan, said Dorothy, half-way between smiles and tears, she's
Harlan dropped his saw and took up his hammer. Who's come? he
asked. From your tone, it might be Mrs. Satan, or somebody else from
the infernal regions.
You're not far out of the way, rejoined Dorothy. It's SaMrs.
Oh, our maid of all work?
I don't know what she's made of, giggled Dorothy, hysterically.
She looks like a tombstone dressed in deep mourning, and carries with
her the atmosphere of a graveyard. We have to call her 'Mrs. Smithers,'
if we don't want her to call us by our first names, and she has two
dollars a week. She says Claudius is a cat that uncle killed the week
before he died, and she thinks you hit me and gave me this bruise on my
The old lizard, said Harlan, indignantly. She sha'n't stay!
Now don't be cross, interrupted Dorothy. It's all in the family,
for your uncle hit me, as you well know. Besides, we can't expect all
the virtues for two dollars a week and I'm tired almost to death from
trying to do the housework in this big house and take care of the
chickens, too. We'll get on with her as best we can until we see a
chance to do better.
Wise little woman, responded Harlan, admiringly. Can she milk the
I don't knowI'll go in and ask her.
Excuse me, Miss, began Mrs. Smithers, before Dorothy had a chance
to speak, but am I to 'ave my old rooms?
Which rooms were they?
These 'ere, back of the kitchen. My own settin' room and bedroom
and kitchen and pantry and my own private door outside. Your uncle was
allers a great hand for bein' private and insistin' on other folks
keepin' private, that 's wot 'e was, but God rest 'is soul, it didn't
do the poor old gent much good.
Certainly, said Dorothy, take your old rooms. And can you milk a
Mrs. Smithers sighed. I ain't never 'ad it put on me, Miss, she
said, with the air of a martyr trying to make himself comfortable up
against the stake, not as a regler thing, I ain't, but wotever I'm
asked to do in the line of duty whiles I'm dwellin' in this sufferin'
and dyin' world, I aims to do the best wot I can, w'ether it's milkin'
a cow, drownin' kittens, or buryin' a cat wot can't stay buried.
We have breakfast about half-past seven, went on Dorothy, quickly;
luncheon at noon and dinner at six.
Wot at six? demanded Mrs. Smithers, pricking up her ears.
Dinner! Dinner at six.
Lord preserve us, said Mrs. Smithers, half to herself. Your uncle
allers 'ad 'is dinner at one o'clock, sharp, and 'e wouldn't like it to
'ave such scandalous goin's on in 'is own 'ouse.
You're working for me, Dorothy reminded her sharply, and not for
There was a long silence, during which Mrs. Smithers peered
curiously at her young mistress over her steel-bowed spectacles. I'm
not so sure as you, she said. On account of the cat 'avin come back
from 'is grave, it wouldn't surprise me none to see your uncle settin'
'ere at any time in 'is shroud, and a-askin' to 'ave mush and milk for
'is supper, the which 'e was so powerful fond of that I was more 'n
'alf minded at the last minute to put some of it in 's coffin.
Mrs. Smithers, said Dorothy, severely, I do not want to hear any
more about dead people, or resurrected cats, or anything of that
nature. What's gone is gone, and there's no use in continually
referring to it.
At this significant moment, Claudius Tiberius paraded somewhat
ostentatiously through the kitchen and went outdoors.
You see, Miss? asked Mrs. Smithers, with ill-concealed
satisfaction. Wot's gone ain't always gone for long, that's wot it
Dorothy retreated, followed by a sepulchral laugh which grated on
her nerves. Upon my word, dear, she said to Harlan, I don't know how
we're going to stand having that woman in the house. She makes me feel
as if I were an undertaker, a grave digger, and a cemetery, all rolled
You're too imaginative, said Harlan, tenderly, stroking her soft
cheek. He had not yet seen Mrs. Smithers.
Perhaps, Dorothy admitted, when she gets that pyramid of crape
off her head, she'll seem more nearly human. Do you suppose she expects
to wear it in the house all the time?
The gaunt black shadow appeared in the doorway of the kitchen and
the high, harsh voice shrilled imperiously across the yard.
I'm coming, answered Dorothy, submissively, for in the tone there
was that which instinctively impels obedience. What is it? she asked,
when she entered the kitchen.
Nothink. I only wants to know wot it is you're layin' out to 'ave
for yourluncheon, if that's wot you call it.
Poached eggs on toast, last night's cold potatoes warmed over, hot
biscuits, jam, and tea.
Mrs. Smithers's articulate response resembled a cluck more closely
than anything else.
You can make biscuits, can't you? went on Dorothy, hastily.
I 'ave, responded Mrs. Smithers, dryly. Begging your parding,
Miss, but is that there feller sawin' wood out by the chicken coop your
The gentleman in the yard, said Dorothy, icily, is Mr. Carr.
Be n't you married to 'im? cried Mrs. Smithers, dropping a fork.
I understood as 'ow you was, else I wouldn't 'ave come. I was never
I most assuredly am married to him, answered Dorothy, with
due emphasis on the verb.
Oh! 'E's the build of my youngest sister's poor dead 'usband; the
one wot broke the tea set wot I give 'er over 'er poor 'ed. 'E can 'it
powerful 'ard, can't 'e?
Quite beyond speech, Dorothy went outdoors again, her head held high
and a dangerous light in her eyes. To-morrow, or next week at the
latest, should witness the forced departure of Mrs. Smithers. Mrs. Carr
realised that the woman did not intend to be impertinent, and that the
social forms of Judson Centre were not those of New York. Still, some
things were unbearable.
The luncheon that was set before them, however, went far toward
atonement. With the best intentions in the world, Dorothy's cooking
nearly always went wide of the mark, and Harlan welcomed the change
with unmistakable pleasure.
I say, Dorothy, he whispered, as they rose from the table; get on
with her if you can. Anybody who can make such biscuits as these will
go out of the house only over my dead body.
The latter part of the speech was unfortunate. My surroundings are
so extremely cheerful, remarked Dorothy, that I've decided to spend
the afternoon in the library reading Poe. I've always wanted to do it
and I don't believe I'll ever feel any creepier than I do this blessed
In spite of his laughing protest, she went into the library, locked
the door, and curled up in Uncle Ebeneezer's easy chair with a
well-thumbed volume of Poe, finding a two-dollar bill used in one place
as a book mark. She read for some time, then took down another book,
which opened of itself at The Gold Bug.
The pages were thickly strewn with marginal comments in the fine,
small, shaky hand she had learned to associate with Uncle Ebeneezer.
The paragraph about the skull, in the tree above the treasure, had
evidently filled the last reader with unprecedented admiration, for on
the margin was written twice, in ink: A very, very pretty idea.
She laughed aloud, for her thoughts since morning had been
persistently directed toward things not of this world. I'm glad I'm
not superstitious, she thought, then jumped almost out of her chair at
the sound of an ominous crash in the kitchen.
I won't go, she thought, settling back into her place. I'll let
that old monument alone just as much as I can.
Upon the whole, it was just as well, for the old monument was on
her bony knees, with her head and shoulders quite lost in the secret
depths of the kitchen range. I wonder, she was muttering, where 'e
could 'ave put it. It would 'ave been just like that old skinflint to
'ave 'id it in the stove!
VI. The Coming of Elaine
There is no state of mental wretchedness akin to that which precedes
the writing of a book. Harlan was moody and despairing, chiefly because
he could not understand what it all meant. Something hung over him like
a black cloud, completely obscuring his usual sunny cheerfulness.
He burned with the desire to achieve, yet from the depths of his
soul came only emptiness. Vague, purposeless aspirations, like
disembodied spirits, haunted him by night and by day. Before his inner
vision came unfamiliar scenes, detached fragments of conversation, the
atmosphere, the feeling of an old romance, then, by a swift change,
darkness from which there seemed no possible escape.
A woman with golden hair, mounted upon a white horse, gay with
scarlet and silver trappingssurely her name was Elaine? And the
company of gallant knights who followed her as she set forth upon her
questwho were they, and from whence did they hail? The fool of the
court, with his bauble and his cracked, meaningless laughter, danced in
and out of the picture with impish glee. Behind it all was the sunset,
such a sunset as was never seen on land or sea. Ribbons of splendid
colour streamed from the horizon to the zenith and set the shields of
the knights aglow with shimmering flame. Clashing cymbals sounded from
afar, then, clear and high, a bugle call, the winding silvery notes
growing fainter and fainter till they were lost in the purple silence
of the hills. Elaine turned, smilingwas not her name Elaine? And
Darkness fell and the picture was utterly wiped out. Harlan turned
away with a sigh.
To take the dead, dry bones of words, the tiny black things that
march in set spaces across the page; to set each where it inevitably
belongstruly, it seems simple enough. But from the vast range of our
written speech to select those which fittingly clothe the thought is
quite another matter, and presupposes the thought. Even then, by
necessity, the outcome is uncertain.
Within the mind of the writer, the Book lives and breathes; a child
of the brain, yearning for birth. At a white heat, after long waiting,
the words comemerely a commentary, an index, a marginal note of that
within. Reading afterward the written words, the fine invisible links,
the colour and the music, are treacherously supplied by the
imagination, which is at once the best friend and the worst enemy. How
is one to know that only a small part of it has been written, that the
best of it, far past writing, lingers still unborn?
Long afterward, when the original picture has faded as though it had
never been, one may read his printed work, and wonder, in abject
self-abasement, by what miracle it was ever printed. He has trusted to
some unknown psychology which strongly savours of the Black Art to
reproduce in the minds of his readers the picture which was in his, and
from which these fragmentary, marginal notes were traced. Only the
words, the dead, meaningless words, stripped of all the fancy which
once made them fair, to make for the thousands the wild, delirious
bliss that the writer knew! To write with the tears falling upon the
page, and afterward to read, in some particularly poignant and
searching review, that the book fails to convince! Happy is he whose
written pages reproduce but faintly the glow from whence they came. For
whoso with blood and tears would dig Art out of his soul, may lavish
his golden prime in pursuit of emptiness, or, striking treasure, find
only fairy gold, so that when his eyes are purged of the spell of
morning, he sees his hands are full of withered leaves.
A meadow-lark, rising from a distant field, dropped golden notes
into the still, sunlit air, then vanished into the blue spaces beyond.
A bough of apple bloom, its starry petals anchored only by invisible
cobwebs, softly shook white fragrance into the grass. Then, like a
vision straight from the golden city with the walls of pearl, came
Elaine, the beautiful, her blue eyes laughing, and her scarlet lips
parted in a smile.
Harlan's heart sang within him. His trembling hands grasped
feverishly at the sheaf of copy-paper which had waited for this, week
in and week out. The pencil was ready to his hand, and the words fairly
It came to pass that when the year was at the Spring, the Lady
Elaine fared forth upon the Heart's Quest. She was mounted upon a snowy
palfrey, whose trappings of scarlet and silver gleamed brightly in the
sun. Her gown was of white satin, wondrously embroidered in fine gold
thread, which was no less gold than her hair, falling in unchecked
splendour about her.
Blue as sapphires were the eyes of Elaine, and her fair cheek was
like that of an apple-blossom. Set like a rose upon pearl was the dewy,
fragrant sweetness of her mouth, and her breath was like that of the
rose itself. Her handsbut how shall I write of the flower-like hands
of Elaine? They
The door-bell pealed portentously through the house, echoing and
re-echoing through the empty rooms. No answer. Presently it rang again,
insistently, and Elaine, with her snowy palfrey, whisked suddenly out
Gone, except for these few lines! Harlan stifled a groan and the
bell rang once more.
Heavens! Where was Dorothy? Where was Mrs. Smithers? Was there no
one in the house but himself? Apparently not, for the bell rang
determinedly, and with military precision.
March, march, forward march! grumbled Harlan, as he ran
downstairs, the one-two, one-two-three being registered meanwhile on
It was not a pleasant person who violently wrenched the door open,
but in spite of his annoyance, Harlan could not be discourteous to a
lady. She was tall, and slender, and pale, with blue eyes and yellow
hair, and so very fragile that it seemed as though a passing zephyr
might almost blow her away.
How do you do, she said, wearily. I thought you were never
I was busy, said Harlan, in extenuation. Will you come in? She
was evidently a friend of Dorothy's, and, as such, demanded proper
The invitation was needless, however, for even as he spoke, she
brushed past him, and went into the parlour. I'm so tired, she
breathed. I walked up that long hill.
You shouldn't have done it, returned Harlan, standing first on one
foot and then on the other. Couldn't you find the stage?
I didn't look for it. I never had any ambition to go on the stage,
she concluded, with a faint smile. Where is Uncle Ebeneezer?
No friend of Dorothy's, thought Harlan, shifting to the other
foot. Uncle Ebeneezer, he said, clearing his throat, is at peace.
What do you mean? demanded the girl, sinking into one of the
haircloth chairs. Where is Uncle Ebeneezer?
Uncle Ebeneezer is dead, explained Harlan, somewhat tartly. Then,
as he remembered the utter ruin of his work, he added, viciously,
never having known him intimately, I can't say just where he is.
She leaned back in her chair, her face as white as death. Harlan
thought she had fainted, when she relieved his mind by bursting into
tears. He was more familiar with salt water, but, none the less, the
situation was awkward.
There were no signs of Dorothy, so Harlan, in an effort to be
consoling, took the visitor's cold hands in his. Don't, he said,
kindly; cheer up. You are among friends.
I have no friends, she answered, between sobs. I lost the last
when my dear mother died. She made me promise, during her last illness,
that if anything happened to her, I would come to Uncle Ebeneezer. She
said she had never imposed upon him and that he would gladly take care
of me, for her sake. I was ill a long, long time, but as soon as I was
able to, I came, and nowand now
Don't, said Harlan, again, awkwardly patting her hands, and deeply
touched by the girl's distress. We are your friends. You can stay here
just as well as not. I am married and
Upon his back, Harlan felt eyes. He turned quickly, and saw Dorothy
standing in the doorquite a new Dorothy, indeed; very tall, and
stately, and pale.
Through sheer nervousness, Mr. Carr laughedan unfortunate,
high-pitched laugh with no mirth in it. Let me present my wife, he
said, sobering suddenly. Mrs. Carr, Miss
Here he coughed, and the guest, rising, filled the pause. I am
Elaine St. Clair, she explained, offering a white, tremulous hand
which Dorothy did not seem to see. It is very good of your husband to
ask me to stay with you.
Very, replied Dorothy, in a tone altogether new to her husband.
He is always doing lovely things for people. And now, Harlan, if you
will show Miss St. Clair to her room, I will speak with Mrs. Smithers
about luncheon, which should be nearly ready by this time.
Thunder, said Harlan to himself, as Dorothy withdrew. What in the
devil do I know about 'her room'? Have you ever been here before? he
inquired of the guest.
Never in my life, answered Miss St. Clair, wiping her eyes.
Well, replied Harlan, confusedly, just go on upstairs, then, and
help yourself. There are plenty of rooms, and cribs to burn in every
blamed one of 'em, he added, savagely, remembering the look in
Thank you, said Miss St. Clair, diffidently; it is very kind of
you to let me choose. Can some one bring my trunk up this afternoon?
I'll attend to it, replied her host, brusquely.
She trailed noiselessly upstairs, carrying her heavy suit case, and
Harlan, not altogether happy at the prospect, went in search of
Dorothy. At the kitchen door he paused, hearing voices within.
They've usually et by themselves, Mrs. Smithers was saying. Is
this a new one, or a friend of yours?
The sentence was utterly without meaning, either to Harlan or
Dorothy, but the answer was given, as quick as a flash. A friend, Mrs.
Smithersa very dear old friend of Mr. Carr's.
'Mr. Carr's,' repeated Harlan, miserably, tiptoeing away to the
library, where he sat down and wiped his forehead. 'A very dear old
friend.' Disconnectedly, and with pronounced emphasis, Harlan
mentioned the place which is said to be paved with good intentions.
The clock struck twelve, and it was just eleven when he had begun on
The Quest of the Lady Elaine. 'One crowded hour of glorious life
is worth'what idiot said it was worth anything? groaned Harlan,
inwardly. Anyway, I've had the crowded hour. 'Better fifty years of
Europe than a cycle of Cathay'the line sang itself into his
consciousness. Europe be everlastingly condemned, he muttered. Oh,
how my head aches!
He leaned back in his chair, wondering where Cathay might be. It
sounded like a nice, quiet place, with no dear old friends in ita
peaceful spot where people could write books if they wanted to. Just
why, he asked himself more than once, was I inspired to grab the
shaky paw of that human sponge? 'Tears, idle tears, I know not what
they mean'oh, the devil! She must have a volume of Tennyson in her
grip, and it's soaking through!
Mrs. Smithers came out into the hall, more sepulchral and
grim-visaged than ever, and rang the bell for luncheon. To Harlan's
fevered fancy, it sounded like a sexton tolling a bell for a funeral.
Miss St. Clair, with the traces of tears practically removed, floated
gracefully downstairs, and Harlan, coming out of the library with the
furtive step of a wild beast from its lair, met her inopportunely at
the foot of the stairs.
She smiled at him in a timid, but friendly fashion, and at the
precise moment, Dorothy appeared in the dining-room door.
Harlan, dear, she said, in her sweetest tones, will you give our
guest your arm and escort her out to luncheon? I have it all ready!
Miss St. Clair clutched timidly at Harlan's rigid coat sleeve,
wondering what strange custom of the house would be evident next, and
the fog was thick before Mr. Carr's eyes, when he took his accustomed
seat at the head of the table. As a sign of devotion, he tried to step
on Dorothy's foot under the table, after a pleasing habit of their
courtship in the New York boarding-house, but he succeeded only in
drawing an unconscious ouch and a vivid blush from Miss St. Clair, by
which he impressed Dorothy more deeply than he could have hoped to do
Have you come far, Miss St. Clair? asked Dorothy, conventionally.
From New York, answered the guest, taking a plate of fried chicken
from Harlan's shaky hand.
I know, said Dorothy sweetly. We come from New York, too. Then
she took a bold, daring plunge. I have often heard my husband speak of
Of me, Mrs. Carr? Surely not! It must have been some other Elaine.
Perhaps, smiled Dorothy, shrugging her shoulders. No doubt I am
mistaken, but you may have heard of me?
Indeed I haven't, Elaine assured her. I never heard of you in my
life before. Why should I? A sudden and earnest crow under the window
behind her startled her so that she dropped her knife. Harlan stooped
for it at the same time she did and their heads bumped together
Our gentleman chicken, went on Dorothy, tactfully. We call him
'Abdul Hamid.' You know the masculine nature is instinctively
Harlan cackled mirthlessly, wondering, subconsciously, how Abdul
Hamid could have escaped from the coop. After that there was silence,
save as Dorothy, in her most hospitable manner, occasionally urged the
guest to have more of something. Throughout luncheon, she never once
spoke to Harlan, nor took so much as a single glance at his red,
unhappy face. Even his ears were scarlet, and the delicious fried
chicken which he was eating might have been a section of rag carpet,
for all he knew to the contrary.
And now, Miss St. Clair, said Dorothy, kindly, as they rose from
the table, I am sure you will wish to lie down and rest after your
long journey. Which room did you choose?
I looked at all of them, responded Elaine, touched to the heart by
this unexpected kindness from strangers, and finally chose the suite
in the south wing. It's a nice large room, with such a darling little
sitting-room attached, and such a dear work basket.
Harlan nearly burst, for the description was of Dorothy's own
Yes, said Mrs. Carr, very quietly; I thought my husband would
choose that room for youdear Harlan is always so thoughtful! I will
go up with you and take out a few of my things which have been
unfortunately left there.
Shortly afterward, Mr. Carr also climbed the stairs, his head
swimming and his knees knocking together. Nervously, he turned over the
few pages of his manuscript, then, hearing Dorothy coming, grabbed it
and fled like a thief to the library on the first floor. In his panic
he bolted the doors and windows of Uncle Ebeneezer's former retreat. It
was unnecessary, however, for no one came near him.
Throughout the long, sweet Spring afternoon, Miss St. Clair slept
the dreamless sleep of utter exhaustion, Harlan worked fruitlessly at
The Quest of Lady Elaine, and Dorothy busied herself about her
household tasks, singing with forced cheerfulness whenever she was
within hearing of the library.
I'll explain thought Harlan, wretchedly. But after all what was
there to explain, except that he had never seen Miss St. Clair before,
never in all his life heard of her, never knew there was such a person,
or had never met anybody who knew anything about her? Besides, he
continued to himself even then, what excuse have I got for stroking a
strange woman's hand and telling her I'm married?
As the afternoon wore on, he decided that it would be policy to
ignore the whole matter. It was an unfortunate misunderstanding all
around, which could not be cleared away by speech, unless Dorothy
should ask him about itwhich he was very certain she would not do.
She ought to trust me, he said to himself, resentfully, forgetting
the absolute openness of thought and deed upon which a woman's trust is
founded. I'll read her the book to-night, he thought, happily, and
that will please her.
But it was fated not to. After dinner, which was much the same as
luncheon, as far as conversation was concerned, Harlan invited Dorothy
to come into the library.
She followed him, obediently enough, and he closed the door.
Dearest, he began, with a grin which was meant to be cheerful and
was merely ridiculous, I've begun the bookI actually have! I've been
working on it all day. Just listen!
Hurriedly possessing himself of the manuscript, he read it in an
unnatural voice, down to the flower-like hands.
I don't see how you can say that, Harlan, interrupted Dorothy,
coolly critical; I particularly noticed her hands and they're not nice
at all. They're red and rough and nearly the size of a policeman's.
Whose hands? demanded Harlan, in genuine astonishment.
Why, Elaine'sMiss St. Clair's. If you're going to do a book about
her, you might at least try to make it truthful.
Mrs. Carr went out, closing the door carefully, but firmly. Then,
for the first time, the whole wretched situation dawned upon the young
and aspiring author.
VII. An Uninvited Guest
Dorothy sat alone in her room, facing the first heartache of her
married life. She repeatedly told herself that she was not jealous;
that the primitive, unlovely emotion was far beneath such as she. But
if Harlan had only told her, instead of leaving her to find out in this
miserable way! It had never entered her head that the clear-eyed,
clean-minded boy whom she had married, could have anything even
remotely resembling a past, and here it was in her own house! Moreover,
it had inspired a book, and she herself had been unable to get him to
work at all.
Just why women should be concerned in regard to old loves has never
been wholly clear. One might as well fancy a clean slate, freshly and
elaborately dedicated to noble composition, being bothered by the
addition and subtraction which was once done upon its surface.
With her own eyes she had seen Miss St. Clair weeping, while Harlan
held her hands and explained that he was married. Undoubtedly Miss St.
Clair accounted for various metropolitan delays and absences which she
had joyously forgiven on the score of Harlan's work. Bitterest of all
was the thought that she must endure itthat the long years ahead of
her offered no escape, no remedy, except the ignoble, painful one which
she would not for a moment consider.
A sudden flash of resentment stiffened her backbone, metaphorically
speaking. In spite of Miss St. Clair, Harlan had married her, and it
was Miss St. Clair who was weeping over the event, not Harlan. She had
seen that the visitor made Harlan unhappyvery well, she would
generously throw them together and make him painfully weary of her, for
Love's certain destroyer is Satiety. Deep in Dorothy's consciousness
was the abiding satisfaction that she had never once, as she put it to
herself, chased him. Never a note, never a telephone call, never a
question as to his coming and going appeared now to trouble her. The
ancient, primeval relation of the Seeker and the Sought had not for a
single moment been altered through her.
Meanwhile, Elaine had settled down peacefully enough. Having been
regaled since infancy with tales of Uncle Ebeneezer's generous
hospitality, it seemed only fitting and proper that his relatives
should make her welcome, even though Elaine's mother had been only a
second cousin of Mrs. Judson's. Elaine had been deeply touched by
Harlan's solicitude and Dorothy's kindness, seeing in it nothing more
than the manifestation of a beautiful spirit toward one who was
helpless and ill.
A modest wardrobe and a few hundred dollars, saved from the wreck of
her mother's estate, and the household furniture in storage,
represented Elaine's worldly goods. As too often happens in a material
world, she had been trained to do nothing but sing a little, play a
little, and paint unspeakably. She planned, vaguely, to stay where she
was during the Summer, and in the Autumn, when she had quite recovered
her former strength, to take her money and learn some method of
Just now she was resting. A late breakfast, a walk through the
country, a light luncheon, and a long nap accounted for Elaine's day
until dinner-time. After dinner, for an hour, she exchanged
commonplaces with the Carrs, then retired to her own room with a book
from Uncle Ebeneezer's library. Even Dorothy was forced to admit that
she made very little trouble.
The train rumbled into the stationthe very same train which had
brought the Serpent into Paradise. Dorothy smiled a little at the idea
of a snake travelling on a train unless it belonged to a circus, and
wiped her eyes. Having mapped out her line of conduct, the rest was
simple enoughto abide by it even to the smallest details, and
patiently await results.
When she went downstairs again she was outwardly quite herself, but
altogether unprepared for the surprise that awaited her in the parlour.
Hello, cried a masculine voice, cheerily, as she entered the room.
I've never seen you before, have I?
Not that I know of, replied Dorothy, startled, but not in the
The young man who rose to greet her was not at all unpleasant to
look upon. He was taller than Harlan, smooth-shaven, had nice brown
eyes, and a mop of curly brown hair which evidently annoyed him.
Moreover, he was laughing, as much from sheer joy of living as anything
Which side of the house are you a relative of? he asked.
The inside, returned Dorothy. I keep house here.
You don't say so! What's become of Sally? Uncle shoo her off the
I don't know what you're talking about, answered Dorothy, with a
fruitless effort to appear matronly and dignified. If by 'uncle' you
mean Uncle Ebeneezer, he's dead.
You don't tell me! Reaped at last, after all this delay! Then how
did you come here?
By train, responded Dorothy, enjoying the situation to the utmost.
Uncle Ebeneezer left the house and furniture to my husband.
The young man sank into a chair and wiped the traces of deep emotion
from his ruddy face. Hully Gee! he said, when he recovered speech. I
suppose that's French for 'Dick, chase yourself.'
Perhaps not, suggested Mrs. Carr, strangely loath to have this
breezy individual take his departure. You might tell me who you are;
don't you think so?
Not a bad notion at all. I'm the Dick of the firm of 'Tom, Dick,
and Harry,' you've doubtless heard about from your childhood. My other
name is Chester, but few know it. I'm merely 'Dick' to everybody,
yourself included, I trust, he added with an elaborate bow. If you
will sit down, and make yourself comfortable, I will now unfold to you
the sad story of my life.
I was born of poor but honest parents about twenty-three years ago,
according to the last official census. They brought me up until I
reached the ripe age of twelve, then got tired of their job and went to
heaven. Since then I've brought myself up. I've just taught a college
all it can learn from me, and been put out. Prexy confided to me that I
wasn't going to graduate, so I shook the classic dust from my weary
feet and fled hither as to a harbour of refuge. I've always spent my
Summers with Uncle Ebeneezer, because it was cheap for me and good for
him, but I can't undertake to follow him up this Summer, not knowing
exactly where he is, and not caring for a warm climate anyway.
Inexpressibly shocked, Dorothy looked up to the portrait over the
mantel half fearfully, but there was no change in the stern, malicious
You're afraid of him, aren't you? asked Dick, with a hearty laugh.
I always have been, admitted Dorothy. He scared me the first time
we came hereit was at night, and raining.
I've known him to scare people in broad daylight, and they weren't
always women either. He used to be a pleasant old codger, but he got
over it, and after he learned to swear readily, he was a pretty tough
party to buck up against. It took nerve to stay here when uncle was in
a bad mood, but most people have more nerve than they think they have.
You haven't told me your name yet.
Mrs. CarrDorothy Carr.
Pretty name, remarked Dick, with evident admiration. If you don't
mind, I'll call you 'Dorothy' till the train goes back. It will be
something for me to remember in the desert waste of my empty years to
A friendly, hospitable impulse seized Mrs. Carr. Why should you
go? she inquired, smiling. If you've been in the habit of spending
your Summers here, you needn't change on our account. We'd be glad to
have you, I'm sure. A dear old friend of my husband's is already here.
Fine or superfine?
Superfine, returned Dorothy, feeling very much as though the clock
had been turned back twenty years or more and she was at a children's
You can bet your sweet life I'll stay, said Dick, and if I bother
you at any time, just say so and I'll skate out, with no hard feelings
on either side. You may need me when the rest of the bunch gets here.
The rest ofoh Harlan, come here a minute!
She had caught him as he was going into the library with his work,
thinking that a change of environment might possibly produce an
acceptable change in the current of his thoughts.
Dick, said Dorothy, when Harlan came to the door, this is my
husband. Mr. Chester, Mr. Carr.
For days Harlan had not seen Dorothy with such rosy cheeks, such
dancing eyes, nor half as many dimples. Bewildered, and not altogether
pleased, he awkwardly extended his hand to Mr. Chester, with a
conventional how do you do?
Dick wrung the offered hand in a mighty grip which made Harlan
wince. I congratulate you, Mr. Carr, he said gallantly, upon
possessing the fairest ornament of her sex. Guess this letter is for
you, isn't it? I found it in the post-office while the keeper was out,
and just took it. If it doesn't belong here, I'll skip back with it.
Thanks, murmured Harlan, rubbing the injured hand with the other.
Iwhere did you come from?
The station, explained Dick, pleasantly. I never trace myself
back of where I was last seen.
He's going to stay with us, Harlan, put in Dorothy, wickedly, so
you mustn't let us keep you away from your work. Come along, Dick, and
I'll show you our cow.
They went out, followed by a long, low whistle of astonishment from
Harlan which Dorothy's acute ears did not miss. Presently Mr. Carr
retreated into the library, and locked the door, but he did not work.
The book was at a deadlock, half a paragraph beyond the flower-like
hands of Elaine, of which, indeed, the author had confessed his
inability to write.
Dick, thought Harlan. Mr. Chester. A young giant with a grip like
an octopus. 'The fairest ornament of her sex.' Never, never heard of
him before. Some old flame of Dorothy's, who has discovered her
whereabouts and brazenly followed her, even on her honeymoon.
And he, Harlan, was absolutely prevented from speaking of it by an
unhappy chain of circumstances which put him in a false light! For the
first time he fully perceived how a single thoughtless action may bind
all one's future existence.
Just because I stroked the hand of a distressed damsel, muttered
Harlan, and told her I was married, I've got to sit and see a
procession of my wife's old lovers marking time here all Summer! In
his fevered fancy, he already saw the Jack-o'-Lantern surrounded by
Mrs. Carr's former admirers, heard them call her Dorothy, and
realised that there was not a single thing he could do.
Unless, of course, he added, mentally, it gets too bad, and I
have an excuse to order 'em out. And then, probably, Dorothy will tell
Elaine to take her dolls and go home, and the poor thing's got nowhere
to gonowhere in the wide world.
How would Dorothy like to be a lonely orphan, with no husband, no
friends, and no job? She wouldn't like it much, but women never have
any sympathy for each other, nor for their husbands, either. I'd give
twenty dollars this minute not to have stroked Elaine's hand, and fifty
not to have had Dorothy see it, but there's no use in crying over spilt
milk nor in regretting hands that have already been stroked.
In search of diversion, he opened his letter, which was in answer to
the one he had written some little time ago, inquiring minutely, of an
acquaintance who was supposed to be successful, just what the prospects
were for a beginner in the literary craft.
Dear Carr, the letter read. Sorry not to have answered before,
but I've been away and things got mixed up. Wouldn't advise anybody but
an enemy to take up writing as a steady job, but if you feel the call,
go in and win. You can make all the way from eight dollars a year,
which was what I made when I first struck out, up to five thousand,
which was what I averaged last year. I've always envied you fellows who
could turn in your stuff and get paid for it the following Tuesday. In
my line, you work like the devil this year for what you're going to get
next, and live on the year after.
However, if you're bitten with it, there's no cure. You'll see
magazine articles in stones and books in running brooks all the rest of
your life. When you get your book done, I'll trot you around to my
publisher, who enjoys the proud distinction of being an honest one, and
if he likes your stuff, he'll take it, and if he doesn't, he'll turn
you down so pleasantly that you'll feel as though he'd made you a
present of something. If you think you've got genius, forget it, and
remember that nothing takes the place of hard work. And, besides, it's
a pretty blamed poor book that can't get itself printed these days.
Yours as usual,
The communication was probably intended as encouragement, but the
effect was depressing, and at the end of an hour, Harlan had written
only two lines more in his book, neither of which pleased him.
Meanwhile, Dick was renewing his old acquaintance with Mrs.
Smithers, much to that lady's pleasure, though she characteristically
endeavoured to conceal it. She belonged to a pious sect which held all
mirth to be ungodly.
Sally, Dick was saying, I've dreamed of your biscuits night and
day since I ate the last one. Are we going to have 'em for lunch?
No biscuits in this house to-day, grumbled the deity of the
kitchen, in an attempt to be properly stern, and as I've told you more
than once, my name ain't 'Sally.' It's Mis' Smithers, that's wot it is,
and I'll thank you to call me by it.
Between those who love, continued Dick, with a sidelong glance at
Dorothy, who stood near by, appalled at his daring, the best is none
too good for common use. If my heart breaks the bonds of conventional
restraint, and I call you by the name under which you always appear to
me in my longing dreams, why should you not be gracious, and forgive
me? Be kind to me, Sally, be just a little kind, and throw together a
pan of those biscuits in your own inimitable style!
Run along with you, you limb of Satan, cried Mrs. Smithers,
brandishing a floury spoon.
Come along, Dorothy, said Dick, laying a huge but friendly paw
upon Mrs. Carr's shoulder; we're chased out. He put his head back
into the kitchen, however, to file a parting petition for biscuits,
which was unnecessary, for Mrs. Smithers had already found her
rolling-pin and had begun to sift her flour.
Outside, he duly admired Maud, who was chewing the cud of reflection
under a tree, created a panic in the chicken yard by lifting Abdul
Hamid ignominiously by the legs, to see how heavy he was, and chased
Claudius Tiberius under the barn.
If that cat turns up missing some day, he said, don't blame me.
He looks so much like Uncle Ebeneezer that I can't stand for him.
There's something queer about Claudius, anyway, ventured Dorothy.
Mrs. Smithers says that uncle killed him the week before he died,
Before who died?
Claudiusno, before uncle died, and she buried him, and he's come
to life again.
Uncle, or Claudius?
Claudius, you goose, laughed Dorothy.
If I knew just how nearly related we were, remarked Dick,
irrelevantly enough, I believe I'd kiss you. You look so pretty with
all your dimples hung out and your hair blowing in the wind.
Dorothy glanced up, startled, and inclined to be angry, but it was
impossible to take offence at such a mischievous youth as Dick was at
that moment. We're not related, she said, coolly, except by
Well, that's near enough, returned Dick, who was never disposed to
be unduly critical. Your husband is only related to you by marriage.
Don't be such a prude. Come to the waiting arms of your uncle, or
cousin, or brother-in-law, or whatever it is that I happen to be.
Go and kiss your friend Sally in the kitchen, laughed Dorothy.
You have my permission. Dick made a wry face. I don't hanker to do
it, he said, but if you want me to, I will. I suppose she isn't
pleased with her place and you want to make it more homelike for her.
What relation were you to Uncle Ebeneezer? queried Dorothy,
Uncle and I, sighed Dick, were connected by the closest ties of
blood and marriage. Nobody could be more related than we were. I was
the only child of Aunt Rebecca's sister's husband's sister's husband's
sister. Say, on the dead, if I ever bother you will you tell me so and
invite me to skip?
Of course I will.
Shake hands on it, then; that's a good fellow. And say, did you say
there was another skirt stopping here?
Petticoat, explained Dick, patiently; mulier, as the ancient
dagoes had it. They've been getting mulier ever since, too. How old is
Oh, answered Dorothy. She's not more than twenty or twenty-one.
Then, endeavouring to be just to Elaine, she added: And a very pretty
Lead me to her, exclaimed Dick ecstatically. Already she is
You'll see her at luncheon. There's the bell, now.
Mr. Chester was duly presented to Miss St. Clair, and from then on,
appeared to be on his good behaviour. Elaine's delicate, fragile beauty
appealed strongly to the susceptible Dick, and from the very beginning,
he was afraid of hera dangerous symptom, if he had only known it.
Harlan, making the best of a bad bargain, devoted himself to his
guests impartially, and, upon the whole, the luncheon went off very
well, though the atmosphere was not wholly festive.
Afterward, when they sat down in the parlour, there was an awkward
pause which no one seemed inclined to relieve. At length Dorothy,
mindful of her duty as hostess, asked Miss St. Clair if she would not
Willingly enough, Elaine went to the melodeon, which had not been
opened since the Carrs came to live at the Jack-o'-Lantern, and lifted
the lid. Immediately, however, she went off into hysterics, which were
so violent that Harlan and Dorothy were obliged to assist her to her
Dick strongly desired to carry Elaine upstairs, but was forbidden by
the hampering conventionalities. So he lounged over to the melodeon,
somewhat surprised to find that It was still there.
It was a brown, wavy, false front of human hair, securely anchored
to the keys underneath by a complicated system of loops of linen
thread. Pinned to the top was a faded slip of paper on which Uncle
Ebeneezer had written, long ago: Mrs. Judson always kept her best
false front in the melodeon. I do not desire to have it disturbed.E.
His Nibs never could bear music, thought Dick, as he closed the
instrument, little guessing that a vein of sentiment in Uncle
Ebeneezer's hard nature had impelled him to keep the prosaic melodeon
forever sacred to the slender, girlish fingers that had last brought
music from its yellowed keys.
From upstairs still came the sound of crying, which was not
altogether to be wondered at, considering Miss St. Clair's weak,
nervous condition. Harlan came down, scowling, and took back the brandy
flask, moving none too hastily.
They don't like Elaine, murmured Dick to himself, vaguely
troubled. I wonder whyoh, I wonder why!
Blue as sapphires were the eyes of Elaine, and her fair cheek was
like that of an apple blossom. Set like a rose upon pearl was the dewy,
fragrant sweetness of her mouth, and her breath was that of the rose
itself. Her handsbut how shall I write of the flower-like hands of
Elaine? They seemed all too frail to hold the reins of her palfrey,
much less to guide him along the rocky road that lay before her.
Safely sheltered in a sunny valley was the Castle of Content,
wherein Elaine's father reigned as Lord. Upon the hills close at hand
were the orchards, which were now in bloom. A faint, unearthly
sweetness came with every passing breeze, and was wafted through the
open windows of the Castle, where, upon the upper floor, Elaine was
wont to sit with her maids at the tapestry frames.
But, of late, a strange restlessness was upon her, and the
wander-lust surged through her veins.
My father, she said, I am fain to leave the Castle of Content,
and set out upon the Heart's Quest. Among the gallant knights of thy
retinue, there is none whom I would wed, and it is seemly that I should
set out to find my lord and master, for behold, father, as thou
knowest, twenty years and more have passed over my head, and my beauty
hath begun to fade.
The Lord of the Castle of Content smiled in amusement, that
Elaine, the beautiful, should fancy her charms were on the wane. But he
was ever eager to gratify the slightest wish of this only child of his,
and so he gave his ready consent.
Indeed, Elaine, he answered, and if thou choosest, thou shalt
go, but these despised knights shall attend thee, and also our new
fool, who hath come from afar to make merry in our court. His motley is
of an unfamiliar pattern, his quips and jests savour not so much of
antiquity, and his songs are pleasing. He shall lighten the rigours of
thy journey and cheer thee when thou art sad.
But, father, I do not choose to have the fool.
Say no more, Elaine, for if thou goest, thou shall have the
fool. It is most fitting that in thy retinue there shouldst be more
than one to wear the cap and bells, and it is in my mind to consider
this quest of thine somewhat more than mildly foolish. Unnumbered brave
and faithful knights are at thy feet and yet thou canst not choose, but
must needs fare onward in search of a stranger to be thy lord and
Elaine raised her hand. As thou wilt, father, she said,
submissively. Thou canst not understand the way of a maid. Bid thy
fool to prepare himself quickly for a long journey, since we start at
But why at sunset, daughter? The way is long. Mayst not thy
mission wait until sunrise?
Nay, father, for it is my desire to sleep to-night upon the
ground. The tapestried walls of my chamber stifle me and I would fain
lie in the fresh air with only the green leaves for my canopy and the
stars for my taper lights.
As thou wilt, Elaine, but my heart is sad at the prospect of
losing thee. Thou art my only child, the image of thy dead mother, and
my old eyes shall be misty for the sight of thee long before my gallant
knights bring thee back again.
So shall I gain some hours, father, she answered. Perhaps my
sunset journeying shall bring my return a day nearer. Cross me not in
this wish, father, for it is my fancy to go.
So it was that the cavalcade was made ready and Elaine and her
company left the Castle of Content at sunset. Two couriers rode at the
head, to see that the way was clear, and with a silver bugle to warn
travellers to stand aside until the Lady Elaine and her attendants had
Upon a donkey, caparisoned in a most amusing manner, rode Le
Jongleur, the new fool of whom the Lord of the Castle of Content had
spoken. His motley, as has been said, was of an unfamiliar pattern, but
was none the less striking, being made wholly of scarlet and gold. The
Lady Elaine could not have guessed that it was assumed as a tribute to
the trappings of her palfrey, for Le Jongleur's heart was most humble
and loyal, though leaping now with the joy of serving the fair Lady
The Lord of Content stood at the portal of the Castle to bid the
retinue Godspeed, and as the cymbals crashed out a sounding farewell,
he impatiently wiped away the mist, which already had clouded his
vision. Long he waited, straining his eyes toward the distant cliffs,
where, one by one, the company rode upward. The valley was in shadow,
but the long light lay upon the hills, changing the crags to a wonder
of purple and gold. To him, too, came the breath of apple bloom, but it
brough no joy to his troubled heart.
What dangers lay in wait for Elaine as she fared forth upon her
wild quest? What monsters haunted the primeval forests through which
her path must lie? And where was the knight who should claim her
innocent and maidenly heart? At this thought, the Lord of Content
shuddered, then was quickly ashamed.
I am as foolish, he muttered, as he in motley, who rides at
the side of Elaine. Surely my daughter, the child of a soldier, can
make no unworthy choice.
The cavalcade had reached the summit of the cliff, now, and at
the brink, turned back. The cymbals and the bugles pealed forth another
sounding farewell to the Lord of the Castle of Content, whom Elaine
well knew was waiting in the shadow of the portal till her company
should be entirely lost to sight.
The last light shone upon the wonderful mass of gold which
rippled to her waist, unbound, from beneath her close-fitting scarlet
cap, and gave her an unearthly beauty. Le Jongleur held aloft his
bauble, making it to nod in merry fashion, but the Lord of Content did
not see, his eyes being fixed upon Elaine. She waved her hand to him,
but he could not answer, for his shoulders were shaking with grief,
nor, indeed, across the merciless distance that lay between, could he
guess at Elaine's whispered prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, keep thou my
earthly father safe and happy, till his child comes back again.
Over the edge of the cliff and out upon a wide plain they fared.
Ribbons of glorious colour streamed from the horizon to the zenith, and
touched to flame the cymbals and the bugles and the trappings of the
horses and the shields of the knights. Piercingly sweet, across the
fields of blowing clover, came the even song of a feathered chorister,
andwhat on earth was that noise?
Harlan went to the window impatiently, like one wakened from a dream
by a blind impulse of action.
The village stage, piled high with trunks, was at his door, and from
the cavernous depths of the vehicle, shrieks of juvenile terror echoed
and re-echoed unceasingly. Mr. Blake, driving, merely waited in supreme
What in the hereafter, muttered Harlan, savagely. More old lovers
of Dorothy's, I suppose, or else theGood Lord, it's twins!
A child of four or five fell out of the stage, followed by another,
who lit unerringly on top of the prostrate one. In the meteoric moment
of the fall, Harlan had seen that the two must have discovered America
at about the same time, for they were exactly alike, making due
allowance for the slight difference made by masculine and feminine
An enormous doll, which to Harlan's troubled sight first appeared to
be an infant in arms, was violently ejected from the stage and added to
the human pile which was wriggling and weeping upon the gravelled walk.
A cub of seven next leaped out, whistling shrilly, then came a
querulous, wailing, feminine voice from the interior.
Willie, it whined, how can you act so? Help your little brother
and sister up and get Rebbie's doll.
To this the lad paid no attention whatever, and the mother herself
assorted the weeping pyramid on the walk. Harlan ran downstairs,
feeling that the hour had come to defend his hearthstone from
outsiders. Dick and Dorothy were already at the door.
Foundlings' Home, explained Dick, briefly, with a wink at Harlan.
They're late this year.
Dorothy was speechless with amazement and despair. Before Harlan had
begun to think connectedly, one of the twins had darted into the house
and bumped its head on the library door, thereupon making the
Jack-o'-Lantern hideous with much lamentation.
The mother, apparently tired out, came in as though she had left
something of great value there and had come to get it, pausing only to
direct Harlan to pay the stage driver, and have her trunks taken into
the rooms opening off the dining-room on the south side.
Willie took a mouth-organ out of his pocket and rendered a hitherto
unknown air upon it with inimitable vigour. In the midst of the
confusion, Claudius Tiberius had the misfortune to appear, and,
immediately perceiving his mistake, whisked under the sofa, from whence
the other twin determinedly haled him, using the handle which Nature
had evidently intended for that purpose.
Will you kindly tell me, demanded Mrs. Carr, when she could make
herself heard, what is the meaning of all this?
I do not understand you, said the mother of the twins, coldly.
Were you addressing me?
I was, returned Mrs. Carr, to Dick's manifest delight. I desire
to know why you have come to my house, uninvited, and made all this
The idea! exclaimed the woman, trembling with anger. Will you
please send for Mr. Judson?
Mr. Judson, said Dorothy, icily, has been dead for some time.
This house is the property of my husband.
Indeed! And who may your husband be? The tone of the question did
not indicate even faint interest in the subject under discussion.
Dorothy turned, but Harlan had long since beat an ignominious
retreat, closely followed by Dick, whose idea, as audibly expressed,
was that the women be allowed to fight it out by themselves.
I can readily understand, went on Dorothy, with a supreme effort
at self-control, that you have made a mistake for which you are not in
any sense to blame. You are tired from your journey, and you are quite
welcome to stay until to-morrow.
To-morrow! shrilled the woman. I guess you don't know who I am! I
am Mrs. Holmes, Rebecca Judson's own cousin, and I have spent the
Summer here ever since Rebecca was married! I guess if Ebeneezer knew
you were practically ordering his wife's own cousin out of his house,
he'd rise from his grave to haunt you!
Dorothy fancied that Uncle Ebeneezer's portrait moved slightly. Aunt
Rebecca still surveyed the room from the easel, gentle, sweet-faced,
and saintly. There was no resemblance whatever between Aunt Rebecca and
the sallow, hollow-cheeked, wide-eyed termagant, with a markedly
receding chin, who stood before Mrs. Carr and defied her.
This is my husband's house, suggested Dorothy, pertinently.
Then let your husband do the talking, rejoined Mrs. Holmes,
sarcastically. If he was sure it was his, I guess he wouldn't have run
away. I've always had my own rooms here, and I intend to go and come as
I please, as I always have done. You can't make me believe that
Ebeneezer gave my apartments to your husband, nor him either, and I
wouldn't advise any of you to try it.
Sounds of fearful panic came from the chicken yard, and Dorothy
rushed out, swiftly laying avenging hands on the disturber of the
peace. One of the twins was chasing Abdul Hamid around the coop with a
lath, as he explained between sobs, to make him lay. Mrs. Holmes bore
down upon Dorothy before any permanent good had been done.
How dare you! she cried. How dare you lay hands on my child!
Come, Ebbie, come to mamma. Bless his little heart, he shall chase the
chickens if he wants to, so there, there. Don't cry, Ebbie. Mamma will
get you another lath and you shall play with the chickens all the
afternoon. There, there!
Harlan appeared at this juncture, and in a few quiet, well-chosen
words told Mrs. Holmes that the chicken coop was his property, and that
neither now nor at any other time should any one enter it without his
Upon my word, remarked Mrs. Holmes, still soothing the unhappy
twin. How high and mighty we are when we're living off our poor dead
uncle's bounty! Telling his wife's own cousin what she's to do, and
what she isn't! Upon my word!
So saying, Mrs. Holmes retired to the house, her pace hastened by
howls from the other twin, who was in trouble with her older brother
somewhere in her apartment.
Dorothy looked at Harlan, undecided whether to laugh or to cry.
Poor little woman, he said, softly; don't you fret. We'll have them
out of the house no later than to-morrow.
All of them? asked Dorothy, eagerly, as Miss St. Clair strolled
into the front yard.
Harlan's brow clouded and he shifted uneasily from one foot to the
other. I don't know, he said, slowly, whether I've got nerve enough
to order a woman out of my house or not. Let's wait and see what
A sob choked Dorothy, and she ran swiftly into the house,
fortunately meeting no one on her way to her room. Dick ventured out of
the barn and came up to Harlan, who was plainly perplexed.
Very, very mild arrival, commented Mr. Chester, desiring to put
his host at his ease. I've never known 'em to come so peacefully as
they have to-day. Usually there's more or less disturbance.
Disturbance, repeated Harlan. Haven't we had a disturbance
We have not, answered Dick, placidly. Wait till young Ebeneezer
and Rebecca get more accustomed to their surroundings, and then you'll
have a Fourth of July every day, with Christmas, Thanksgiving, and St.
Patrick's Day thrown in. Willie is the worst little terror that ever
went unlicked, and the twins come next.
Perhaps you don't understand children, remarked Harlan, with a
patronising air, and more from a desire to disagree with Dick than from
anything else. I've always liked them.
If you have, commented Dick, with a knowing chuckle, you're in a
fair way to get cured of it.
Tell me about these people, said Harlan, ignoring the speech, and
dominated once more by healthy human curiosity. Who are they and where
do they come from?
They're dwellers from the infernal regions, explained Dick, with
an air of truthfulness, and they came from there because the old Nick
turned 'em out. They were upsetting things and giving the place a bad
name. Mrs. Holmes says she's Aunt Rebecca's cousin, but nobody knows
whether she is or not. She's come here every Summer since Aunt Rebecca
died, and poor old uncle couldn't help himself. He hinted more than
once that he'd enjoy her absence if she could be moved to make herself
scarce, but it had no more effect than a snowflake would in the place
she came from. The most he could do was to build a wing on the house
with a separate kitchen and dining-room in it, and take his own meals
in the library, with the door bolted.
Willie is a Winter product and Judson Centre isn't a pleasant place
in the cold months, but the twins were born here, five years ago this
Summer. They came in the night, but didn't make any more trouble then
than they have every day since.
What would you do? asked Harlan, after a thoughtful silence, if
you were in my place?
I'd be tickled to death because a kind Providence had married me to
Dorothy instead of to Mrs. Holmes. Poor old Holmes is in his
With great dignity, Harlan walked into the house, but Dick, occupied
with his own thoughts, did not guess that his host was offended.
After the first excitement was over, comparative peace settled down
upon the Jack-o'-Lantern. Mrs. Holmes decided the question of where she
should eat, by setting four more places at the table when Mrs.
Smithers's back was turned. Dorothy did not appear at luncheon, and
Mrs. Smithers performed her duties with such pronounced ungraciousness
that Elaine felt as though something was about to explode.
A long sleep, born of nervous exhaustion, came at last to Dorothy's
relief. When she awoke, it was night and the darkness dazed her at
first. She sat up and rubbed her eyes, wondering whether she had been
dead, or merely ill.
There was not a sound in the Jack-o'-Lantern, and the events of the
day seemed like some hideous nightmare which waking had put to rout.
She bathed her face in cool water, then went to look out of the window.
A lantern moved back and forth under the trees in the orchard, and a
tall, dark figure, armed with a spade, accompanied it. It's Harlan,
thought Dorothy. I'll go down and see what he's burying.
But it was only Mrs. Smithers, who appeared much startled when she
saw her mistress at her side.
What are you doing? demanded Dorothy, seeing that Mrs. Smithers
had dug a hole at least a foot and a half each way.
Just a-satisfyin' myself, explained the handmaiden, with a note of
triumph in her voice, about that there cat. 'Ere's where I buried 'im,
and 'ere's where there ain't no signs of 'is dead body. 'E's come back
to 'aunt us, that's wot 'e 'as, and your uncle'll be the next.
Don't be so foolish, snapped Dorothy. You've forgotten the place,
that's all, and I don't wish to hear any more of this nonsense.
'Oo was it? asked Mrs. Smithers, as come out of a warm bed at
midnight to see as if folks wot was diggin' for cats found anythink? 'T
warn't me, Miss, that's wot it warn't, and I take it that them as
follers is as nonsensical as them wot digs. Anyhow, Miss, 'ere's where
'e was buried, and 'ere's where 'e ain't now. You can think wot you
likes, that's wot you can.
Claudius Tiberius suddenly materialised out of the surrounding
darkness, and after sniffing at the edge of the hole, jumped in to
You see that, Miss? quavered Mrs. Smithers. 'E knows where 'e's
been, and 'e knows where 'e ain't now.
Mrs. Smithers, said Dorothy, sternly, will you kindly fill up
that hole and come into the house and go to bed? I don't want to be
kept awake all night.
You don't need to be kept awake, Miss, said Mrs. Smithers, slowly
filling up the hole. The worst is 'ere already and wot's comin' is
comin' anyway, and besides, she added, as an afterthought, there
ain't a blessed one of 'em come 'ere at night since your uncle fixed
over the house.
For the first time in her life, Mrs. Carr fully comprehended the
sensations of a wild animal caught in a trap. In her present painful
predicament, she was absolutely helpless, and she realised it. It was
Harlan's house, as he had said, but so powerful and penetrating was the
personality of the dead man that she felt as though it was still
largely the property of Uncle Ebeneezer.
The portrait in the parlour gave her no light upon the subject,
though she studied it earnestly. The face was that of an old man,
soured and embittered by what Life had brought him, who seemed now to
have a peculiarly malignant aspect. Dorothy fancied, in certain morbid
moments, that Uncle Ebeneezer, from some safe place, was keenly
relishing the whole situation.
Upon her soul, too, lay heavily that ancient Law of the House, which
demands unfailing courtesy to the stranger within our gates. Just why
the eating of our bread and salt by some undesired guest should exert
any particular charm of immunity, has long been an open question, but
the Law remains.
She felt, dimly, that the end was not yetthat still other
strangers were coming to the Jack-o'-Lantern for indefinite periods.
She saw, now, why wing after wing had been added to the house, but
could not understand the odd arrangement of the front windows. Through
some inner sense of loyalty to Uncle Ebeneezer, she forebore to
question either Mrs. Smithers or Dicktwo people who could probably
have given her some light on the subject. She had gathered, however,
from hints dropped here and there, as well as from the overpowering
evidence of recent events, that a horde of relatives swarmed each
Summer at the queer house on the hilltop and remained until late
Harlan said nothing, and nowadays Dorothy saw very little of him.
Most of the time he was at work in the library, or else taking long,
solitary rambles through the surrounding country. At meals he was moody
and taciturn, his book obliterating all else from his mind.
He doubtless knew, subconsciously, that his house was disturbed by
alien elements, but he dwelt too securely in the upper regions to be
troubled by the obvious fact. Once in the library, with every door
securely bolted, he could afford to laugh at the tumult outside, if,
indeed, he should ever become aware of its existence. The children
might make the very air vocal with their howls, Elaine might have
hysterics, Mrs. Smithers render hymns in a cracked, squeaky voice, and
Dick whistle eternally, but Harlan was in a strange new country, with a
beautiful lady, a company of gallant knights, and a jester.
The rest was all unreal. He seemed to see people through a veil, to
hear what they said without fully comprehending it, and to walk through
his daily life blindly, without any sort of emotion. Worst of all,
Dorothy herself seemed detached and dream-like. He saw that her face
was white and her eyes sad, but it affected him not at all. He had yet
to learn that in this, as in everything else, a price must inevitably
be paid, and that the sudden change of all his loved realities to hazy
visions was the terrible penalty of his craft.
Yet there was compensation, which is also inevitable. To him, the
book was vital, reaching down into the very heart of the world. Fancy
took his work, and, to the eyes of its creator, made it passing fair.
At times he would sit for an hour or more, nibbling at the end of his
pencil, only negatively conscious, like one who stares fixedly at a
blank wall. Presently, Elaine and her company would come back again,
and he would go on with them, writing down only what he saw and felt.
Chapter after chapter was written and tossed feverishly aside. The
words beat in his pulses like music, each one with its own particular
significance. In return for his personal effacement came moments of
supremest joy, when his whole world was aflame with light, and colour,
and sound, and his physical body fairly shook with ecstasy.
Little did he know that the Cup was in his hands, and that he was
draining it to the very dregs of bitterness. For this temporary
intoxication, he must pay in every hour of his life to come.
Henceforward he was set apart from his fellows, painfully isolated,
eternally alone. He should have friends, but only for the hour. The
stranger in the street should be the same to him as one he had known
for many years, and he should be equally ready, at any moment, to cast
either aside. With a quick, merciless insight, like the knife of a
surgeon used without an anæsthetic, he should explore the inmost
recesses of every personality with which he came in contact,
involuntarily, and find himself interested only as some new trait or
capacity was revealed. Calm and emotionless, urged by some hidden
power, he should try each individual to see of what he was made;
observing the man under all possible circumstances, and at times
enmeshing new circumstances about him. He should sacrifice himself
continually if by so doing he could find the deep roots of the other
man's selfishness, and, conversely, be utterly selfish if necessary to
discover the other's power of self-sacrifice.
Unknowingly, he had ceased to be a man and had become a ferret. It
was no light payment exacted in return for the pleasure of writing
about Elaine. He had the ability to live in any place or century he
pleased, but he had paid for it by putting his present reality upon
precisely the same footing. Detachment was his continually. Henceforth
he was a spectator merely, without any particular concern in what
passed before his eyes. Some people he should know at a glance, others
in a week, a month, or a year. Across the emptiness between them, some
one should clasp his hand, yet share no more his inner life than one
who lies beside a dreamer and thinks thus to know where the other
wanders on the strange trails of sleep.
In the dregs of the Cup lay the potential power to cast off his
present life as a mollusk leaves his shell, and as completely forget
it. For Love, and Death, and Pain are only symbols to him who is
enslaved by the pen. Moreover, he suffers always the pangs of an
unsatisfied hunger, the exquisite torture of an unappeased and
unappeasable thirst, for something which, like a will-o'-the-wisp,
hovers ever above and beyond him, past the power of words to interpret
It is often reproachfully said that one makes copy of himself and
his friendsthat nothing is too intimately sacred to be seized upon
and dissected in print. Not so long ago, it was said that a certain man
was botanising on his mother's grave, a pardonable confusion,
perhaps, of facts and realities. The bitter truth is that the writer
lives his booksand not much else. From title to colophon, he escapes
no pang, misses no joy. The life of the book is his from beginning to
end. At the close of it, he has lived what his dream people have lived
and borne the sorrows of half a dozen entire lifetimes, mercilessly
concentrated into the few short months of writing.
One by one, his former pleasures vanish. Even the divine consolation
of books is partly if not wholly gone. Behind the printed page, he sees
ever the machinery of composition, the preparation for climax, the
repetition in its proper place, the introduction and interweaving of
major and minor, of theme and contrast. For the fine, glowing fancy of
the other man has not appeared in his book, and to the eye of the
fellow-craftsman only the mechanism is there. Mask-like, the author
stands behind his Punch-and-Judy box, twitching the strings that move
his marionettes, heedless of the fact that in his audience there must
be a few who know him surely for what he is.
If only the transfiguring might of the Vision could be put into
print, there would be little in the world save books. Happily heedless
of the mockery of it all, Harlan laboured on, destined fully to sense
his entire payment much later, suffer vicariously for a few hours on
account of it, then to forget.
Dorothy, meanwhile, was learning a hard lesson. Harlan's changeless
preoccupation hurt her cruelly, but, woman-like, she considered it a
manifestation of genius and endeavoured to be proud accordingly. It had
not occurred to her that there could ever be anything in Harlan's
thought into which she was not privileged to go. She had thought of
marriage as a sort of miraculous welding of two individualities into
one, and was perceiving that it changed nothing very much; that souls
went on their way unaltered. She saw, too, that there was no one in the
wide world who could share her every mood and tense, that ultimately
each one of us lives and dies alone, within the sanctuary of his own
inner self, cheered only by some passing mood of friend or stranger,
which chances to chime with his.
It was Dick who, blindly enough, helped her over many a hard place,
and quickened her sense of humour into something upon which she might
securely lean. He was too young and too much occupied with the obvious
to look further, but he felt that Dorothy was troubled, and that it was
his duty, as a man and a gentleman, to cheer her up.
Privately, he considered Harlan an amiable kind of a fool, who shut
himself up needlessly in a musty library when he might be outdoors, or
talking with a charming woman, or both. When he discovered that Harlan
had hitherto earned his living by writing and hoped to continue doing
it, he looked upon his host with profound pity. Books, to Dick, were
among the things which kept life from being wholly pleasant and
agreeable. He had gone through college because otherwise he would have
been separated from his friends, and because a small legacy from a
distant relative, who had considerately died at an opportune moment,
enabled him to pay for his tuition and his despised books.
I was never a pig, though, he explained to Dorothy, in a
confidential moment. There was one chump in our class who wanted to
know all there was in the book, and made himself sick trying to cram it
in. All of a sudden, he graduated. He left college feet first, three on
a side, with the class walking slow behind him. I never was like that.
I was sort of an epicure when it came to knowledge, tasting delicately
here and there, and never greedy. Why, as far back as when I was
studying algebra, I nobly refused to learn the binomial theorem. I just
read it through once, hastily, like taking one sniff at a violet, and
then let it alone. The other fellows fairly gorged themselves with it,
but I didn'tI had too much sense.
When Mr. Chester had been there a week, he gave Dorothy two worn and
crumpled two-dollar bills.
What's this? she asked, curiously. Where did you find it?
'Find it' is good, laughed Dick. I earned it, my dear lady, in
hard and uncongenial toil. It's my week's board.
You're not going to pay any board here. You're a guest.
Not on your life. You don't suppose I'm going to sponge my keep off
anybody, do you? I paid Uncle Ebeneezer board right straight along and
there's no reason why I shouldn't pay you. You can put that away in
your sock, or wherever it is that women keep money, or else I take the
next train. If you don't want to lose me, you have to accept four
plunks every Monday. I've got lots of four plunks, he added, with a
Very well, said Dorothy, quite certain that she could not spare
Dick. If it will make you feel any better about staying, I'll take
He had quickly made friends with Elaine, and the three made a more
harmonious group than might have been expected under the circumstances.
With returning strength and health, Miss St. Clair began to take more
of an interest in her surroundings. She gathered the white clover
blossoms in which Dorothy tied up her pats of sweet butter, picked
berries in the garden, skimmed the milk, helped churn, and fed the
Dick took entire charge of the cow, thus relieving Mrs. Smithers of
an uncongenial task and winning her heartfelt gratitude. She repaid him
with unnumbered biscuits of his favourite kind and with many a savoury
snack between meals. He also helped Dorothy in many other ways. It
was Dick who collected the eggs every morning and took them to the
sanitarium, along with such other produce as might be ready for the
market. He secured astonishing prices for the things he sold, and set
it down to man's superior business ability when questioned by his
hostess. Dorothy never guessed that most of the money came out of his
own pocket, and was charged up, in the ragged memorandum book which he
carried, to Elaine's board.
Miss St. Clair had never thought of offering compensation, and no
one suggested it to her, but Dick privately determined to make good the
deficiency, sure that a woman married to a writing chump would soon
be in need of ready money if not actually starving at the time. That
people should pay for what Harlan wrote seemed well-nigh incredible.
Besides, though Dick had never read that love is an insane desire on
the part of a man to pay a woman's board bill for life, he took a
definite satisfaction out of this secret expenditure, which he did not
stop to analyse.
He brought back full price for everything he took to the
repair-shop, as he had irreverently christened the sanitarium, though
he seldom sold much. On the other side of the hill he had a small but
select graveyard where he buried such unsalable articles as he could
not eat. His appetite was capricious, and Dorothy had frequently
observed that when he came back from the long walk to the sanitarium,
he ate nothing at all.
He established a furniture factory under a spreading apple tree at a
respectable distance from the house, and began to remodel the
black-walnut relics which were evidence of his kinsman's poor taste. He
took many a bed apart, scraped off the disfiguring varnish, sandpapered
and oiled the wood, and put it together in new and beautiful forms. He
made several tables, a cabinet, a bench, half a dozen chairs, a set of
hanging shelves, and even aspired to a desk, which, owing to the
limitations of the material, was not wholly successful.
Dorothy and Elaine sat in rocking-chairs under the tree and
encouraged him while he worked. One of them embroidered a simple design
upon a burlap curtain while the other read aloud, and together they
planned a shapely remodelling of the Jack-o'-Lantern. Fortunately, the
woodwork was plain, and the ceilings not too high.
I think, said Elaine, that the big living room with the casement
windows will be perfectly beautiful. You couldn't have anything
lovelier than this dull walnut with the yellow walls.
Whatever Mrs. Carr's thoughts might be, this simple sentence was
usually sufficient to turn the current into more pleasant channels. She
had planned to have needless partitions taken out, and make the whole
lower floor into one room, with only a dining-room, kitchen, and pantry
back of it. She would take up the unsightly carpets, over which
impossible plants wandered persistently, and have them woven into rag
rugs, with green and brown and yellow borders. The floor was to be
stained brown and the pine woodwork a soft, old green. Yellow walls and
white net curtains, with the beautiful furniture Dick was making,
completed a very charming picture in the eyes of a woman who loved her
Outspeeding it in her fancy was the finer, truer living which she
believed lay beyond. Some day she and Harlan, alone once more, with the
cobwebs of estrangement swept away, should begin a new and happier
honeymoon in the transformed house. When the book was doneah, when
the book was done! But he was not reading any part of it to her now and
would not let her begin copying it on the typewriter.
I'll do it myself, when I'm ready, he said, coldly. I can use a
typewriter just as well as you can.
Dorothy sighed, unconsciously, for the woman's part is always to
wait patiently while men achieve, and she who has learned to wait
patiently, and be happy meanwhile, has learned the finest art of
allthe art of life.
Now, said Dick, that's a peach of a table, if I do say it as
They readily agreed with him, for it was low and massive, built on
simple, dignified lines, and beautifully finished. The headboards of
three ponderous walnut beds and the supporting columns of a hideous
sideboard had gone into its composition, thus illustrating, as Dorothy
said, that ugliness may be changed to beauty by one who knows how and
is willing to work for it.
The noon train whistled shrilly in the distance, and Dorothy started
out of her chair. She's afraid, laughed Dick, instantly
comprehending. She's afraid somebody is coming on it.
More twins? queried Elaine, from the depths of her rocker. Surely
there can't be any more twins?
I don't know, answered Dorothy, vaguely troubled. Someway, I feel
as though something terrible were going to happen.
Nothing happened, however, until after luncheon, just as she had
begun to breathe peacefully again. Willie saw the procession first and
ran back with gleeful shouts to make the announcement. So it was that
the entire household, including Harlan, formed a reception committee on
the front porch.
Up the hill, drawn by two straining horses, came what appeared at
first to be a pyramid of furniture, but later resolved itself into the
component parts of a more ponderous bed than the ingenuity of man had
yet contrived. It was made of black walnut, and was at least three
times as heavy as any of those in the Jack-o'-Lantern. On the top of
the mass was perched a little old man in a skull cap, a slippered foot
in a scarlet sock airily waving at one side. A bright green coil
closely clutched in his withered hands was the bed cord appertaining to
the beda sainted possession from which its owner sternly refused to
By Jove! shouted Dick; it's Uncle Israel and his crib!
Paying no heed to the assembled group, Uncle Israel dismounted
nimbly enough, and directed the men to take his bed upstairs, which
they did, while Harlan and Dorothy stood by helplessly. Here, under his
profane and involved direction, the structure was finally set in place,
even to the patchwork quilt, fearfully and wonderfully made, which
surmounted it all.
Financial settlement was waved aside by Uncle Israel as a matter in
which he was not interested, and it was Dick who counted out two dimes
and a nickel to secure peace. A supplementary procession appeared with
a small, weather-beaten trunk, a folding bath-cabinet, and a huge case
which, from Uncle Israel's perturbation, evidently contained numerous
fragile articles of great value.
Tell Ebeneezer, wheezed the newcomer, that I have arrived.
Ebeneezer, replied Dick, in wicked imitation of the old man's
asthmatic speech, has been dead for some time.
Then, creaked Uncle Israel, waving a tremulous, bony hand
suggestively toward the door, kindly leave me alone with my grief.
X. Still More
Uncle Israel, whose other name was Skiles, adjusted himself to his
grief in short order. The sounds which issued from his room were not
those commonly associated with mourning. Dick, fully accustomed to
various noises, explained them for the edification of the Carrs, who at
present were sorely in need of edification.
That's the bath cabinet, remarked Mr. Chester, with the air of a
connoisseur. He's setting it up near enough to the door so that if
anybody should come in unexpectedly while it's working, the whole thing
will be tipped over and the house set on fire. Uncle Israel won't have
any lock or bolt on his door for fear he should die in the night. He
relies wholly on the bath cabinet and moral suasion. Nobody knocks on
doors here, anywayjust goes in.
That's his trunk. He keeps it under the window. The bed is set up
first, then the bath cabinet, then the trunk, and last, but not least,
the medicine chest. He keeps his entire pharmacopoeia on a table at the
head of his bed, with a candle and matches, so that if he feels badly
in the night, the proper remedy is instantly at hand. He prepares some
of his medicines himself, but he isn't bigoted about it. He buys the
rest at wholesale, and I'll eat my hat if he hasn't got a full-sized
bottle of every patent medicine that's on sale anywhere in the United
How old, asked Harlan, speaking for the first time, is Uncle
Something over ninety, I believe, returned Dick. I've lost my
book of vital statistics, so I don't know, exactly.
How long, inquired Dorothy, with a forced smile, does Uncle
Lord bless you, my dear lady, Uncle Israel stays all Summer.
Hellothere are some more!
A private conveyance of uncertain age and purposes drew up before
the door. From it dismounted a very slender young man of medium height,
whose long auburn hair hung over his coat-collar and at times partially
obscured his soulful grey eyes. It resembled the mane of a lion, except
in colour. He carried a small black valise, and a roll of manuscript
tied with a badly soiled ribbon.
An old lady followed, stepping cautiously, but still finding
opportunity to scrutinise the group in the doorway, peering sharply
over her gold-bowed spectacles. It was she who paid the driver, and
even before the two reached the house, it was evident that they were
not on speaking terms.
The young man offered Mr. Chester a thin, tremulous hand which lay
on Dick's broad palm in a nerveless, clammy fashion. Pray, he said,
in a high, squeaky voice, convey my greetings to dear Uncle Ebeneezer,
and inform him that I have arrived.
I am at present holding no communication with Uncle Ebeneezer,
explained Dick. The wires are down.
Where is Ebeneezer? demanded the old lady.
Dead, answered Dorothy, wearily; dead, dead. He's been dead a
long time. This is our househe left it to my husband and me.
Don't let that disturb you a mite, said the old lady, cheerfully.
I like your looks a whole lot, an' I'd just as soon stay with you as
with Ebeneezer. I dunno but I'd ruther.
She must have been well past sixty, but her scanty hair was as yet
untouched with grey. She wore it parted in the middle, after an ancient
fashion, and twisted at the back into a tight little knob, from which
the ends of a wire hairpin protruded threateningly. Dorothy reflected,
unhappily, that the whole thing was done up almost tight enough to play
a tune on.
For the rest, her attire was neat, though careless. One had always
the delusion that part or all of it was on the point of coming off.
The young man was wiping his weak eyes upon a voluminous silk
handkerchief which had evidently seen long service since its last
washing. Dear Uncle Ebeneezer, he breathed, running his long, bony
fingers through his hair. I cannot tell you how heavily this blow
falls upon me. Dear Uncle Ebeneezer was a distinguished patron of the
arts. Our country needs more men like him, men with fine appreciation,
vowed to the service of the Ideal. If you will pardon me, I will now
retire to my apartment and remain there a short time in seclusion.
So saying, he ran lightly upstairs, as one who was thoroughly at
Who in began Harlan.
Mr. Harold Vernon Perkins, poet, said Dick. He's got his rhyming
dictionary and all his odes with him.
Without knowing, said Dorothy, I should have thought his name was
Harold or Arthur or Paul. He looks it.
It wa'n't my fault, interjected the old lady, that he come. I
didn't even sense that he was on the same train as me till I hired the
carriage at the junction an' he clim' in. He said he might as well come
along as we was both goin' to the same place, an' it would save him
walkin', an' not cost me no more than 't would anyway.
While she was speaking, she had taken off her outer layer of drapery
and her bonnet. I'll just put these things in my room, my dear, she
said to Dorothy, an' then I'll come back an' talk to you. I like your
Who in, said Harlan, again, as the old lady vanished into one of
the lower wings.
Mrs. Belinda something, answered Dick. I don't know who she's
married to now. She's had bad luck with her husbands.
Mrs. Carr, deeply troubled, was leaning against the wall in the
hall, and Dick patted her hand soothingly. Don't you fret, he said,
cheerily; I'm here to see you through.
That being the case, remarked Harlan, with a certain acidity in
his tone, I'll go back to my work.
The old lady appeared again as Harlan slammed the library door, and
suggested that Dick should go away.
Polite hint, commented Mr. Chester, not at all disturbed. See you
later. He went out, whistling, with his cap on the back of his head
and his hands in his pockets.
I reckon you're a new relative, be n't you? asked the lady guest,
eyeing Dorothy closely. I disremember seein' you before.
I am Mrs. Carr, repeated Dorothy, mechanically. My husband,
Harlan Carr, is Uncle Ebeneezer's nephew, and the house was left to
Do tell! ejaculated the other. I wouldn't have thought it of
Ebeneezer. I'm Belinda Dodd, relict of Benjamin Dodd, deceased. How
many are there here, my dear?
Miss St. Clair, Mr. Chester, Mrs. Holmes and her three children,
Uncle Israel Skiles, and you two, besides Mr. Carr, Mrs. Smithers, and
Is that all? asked the visitor, in evident surprise.
All! repeated Dorothy. Isn't that enough?
Lord love you, my dear, it's plain to be seen that you ain't never
been here before. Only them few an' so late in the season, too. Why,
there's Cousin Si Martin, an' his wife, an' their eight children, some
of the children bein' married an' havin' other children, an'
Sister-in-law Fanny Wood with her invalid husband, her second husband,
that is, an' Rebecca's Uncle James's third wife with her two daughters,
an' Rebecca's sister's second husband with his new wife an' their
little boy, an' Uncle Jason an' his stepson, the one that has fits, an'
Cousin Sally Simmons an' her daughter, an' the four little Riley
children an' their Aunt Lucretia, an' Step-cousin Betsey Skiles with
her two nieces, though I misdoubt their comin' this year. The youngest
niece had typhoid fever here last Summer for eight weeks, an' Betsey
thinks the location ain't healthy, in spite of it's bein' so near the
sanitarium. She was threatenin' to get the health department or
somethin' after Ebeneezer an' have the drinkin' water looked into, so's
they didn't part on the pleasantest terms, but in the main we've all
got along well together.
If Betsey knowed Ebeneezer was dead, she wouldn't hesitate none
about comin', typhoid or no typhoid. Mebbe it was her fault some, for
Ebeneezer wa'n't to blame for his drinkin' water no more 'n I'd be. Our
minister used to say that there was no discipline for the soul like
livin' with folks, year in an' year out hand-runnin', an' Betsey is
naturally that kind. Ebeneezer always lived plain, but we're all simple
folks, not carin' much for style, so we never minded it. The air's good
up here an' I dunno any better place to spend the Summer. My gracious!
You be n't sick, be you?
I don't know what to do, murmured Dorothy, her white lips scarcely
moving; I don't know what to do.
Well, now, responded Mrs. Dodd, I can see that I've upset you
some. Perhaps you're one of them people that don't like to have other
folks around you. I've heard of such, comin' from the city. Why, I knew
a woman that lived in the city, an' she said she didn't know the name
of the woman next door to her after livin' there over eight
months,an' their windows lookin' right into each other, too.
I hate people! cried Dorothy, in a passion of anger. I don't want
anybody here but my husband and Mrs. Smithers!
Set quiet, my dear, an' make your mind easy. I'm sure Ebeneezer
never intended his death to make any difference in my spendin' the
Summer here, especially when I'm fresh from another bereavement, but if
you're in earnest about closin' your doors on your poor dead aunt's
relations, why I'll see what I can do.
Oh, if you could! Dorothy almost screamed the words. If you can
keep any more people from coming here, I'll bless you for ever.
Poor child, I can see that you're considerable upset. Just get me
the pen an' ink an' some paper an' envelopes an' I'll set down right
now an' write to the connection an' tell 'em that Ebeneezer's dead an'
bein' of unsound mind at the last has willed the house to strangers who
refuse to open their doors to the blood relations of poor dead Rebecca.
That's all I can do an' I can't promise that it'll work. Ebeneezer writ
several times to us all that he didn't feel like havin' no more
company, but Rebecca's relatives was all of a forgivin' disposition an'
never laid it up against him. We all kep' on a-comin' just the same.
Tell them, cried Dorothy her eyes unusually bright and her cheeks
burning, that we've got smallpox here, or diphtheria, or a lunatic
asylum, or anything you like. Tell them there's a big dog in the yard
that won't let anybody open the gate. Tell them anything!
Just you leave it all to me, my dear, said Mrs. Dodd, soothingly.
On account of the connection bein' so differently constituted, I'll
have to tell 'em all different. Disease would keep away some an' fetch
others. Betsey Skiles, now, she feels to turn her hand to nursin' an'
I've knowed her to go miles in the dead of Winter to set up with a
stranger that had some disease she wa'n't familiar with. Dogs would
bring others an' only scare a few. Just you leave it all to me. There
ain't never no use in borrerin' trouble an' givin' up your peace of
mind as security, 'cause you don't never get the security back. I've
been married enough to know that there's plenty of trouble in life
besides what's looked for, an' it'll get in, without your holdin' open
the door an' spreadin' a mat out with 'Welcome' on it. Did Ebeneezer
leave any property?
Only the house and furniture, answered Dorothy, feeling that the
whole burden of the world had been suddenly shifted to her young
Rebecca had a big diamond pin, said Mrs. Dodd, after a brief
silence, that she allers said was to be mine when she got through with
it. Ebeneezer give it to her for a weddin' present. You ain't seen it
layin' around, have you?
No, I haven't seen it 'laying around,' retorted Dorothy, conscious
that she was juggling with the truth.
Well, continued Mrs. Dodd, easily, nibbling her pen holder, when
it comes to light, just remember that it's mine. I don't doubt it'll
turn up sometime. An' now, my dear, I'll just begin on them letters.
Cousin Si Martin's folks are a-packin' an' expectin' to get here next
week. I suppose you're willin' to furnish the stamps?
Willing! cried Dorothy, I should say yes!
Mrs. Dodd toiled long at her self-imposed task, and, having finished
it, went out into the kitchen, where for an hour or more she exchanged
mortuary gossip with Mrs. Smithers, every detail of the conversation
being keenly relished by both ladies.
At dinner-time, eleven people sat down to partake of the excellent
repast furnished by Mrs. Smithers under the stimulus of pleasant talk.
Harlan was at the head, with Miss St. Clair on his right and Mrs. Dodd
on his left. Next to Miss St. Clair was the poet, whose deep sorrow did
not interfere with his appetite. The twins were next to him, then Mrs.
Holmes, then Willie, then Dorothy, at the foot of the table. On her
right was Dick, the space between Dick and Mrs. Dodd being occupied by
To a careless observer, it might have seemed that Uncle Israel had
more than his share of the table, but such in reality was not the case.
His plate was flanked by a goodly array of medicine bottles, and cups
and bowls of predigested and patent food. Uncle Israel, as Dick
concisely expressed it, was pie for the cranks.
My third husband, remarked Mrs. Dodd, pleasantly, well aware that
she was touching her neighbour's sorest spot, was terribly afflicted
with stomach trouble.
The only stomach trouble I've ever had, commented Mr. Chester,
airily spearing another biscuit with his fork, was in getting enough
to put into it.
Have a care, young man, wheezed Uncle Israel, warningly. There
ain't nothin' so bad for the system as hot bread.
It would be bad for my system, resumed Dick, not to be able to
My third husband, continued Mrs. Dodd, disregarding the
interruption, wouldn't have no bread in the house at all. He et these
little straw mattresses, same as you've got, so constant that he
finally died from the tic doleroo. Will you please pass me them
biscuits, Mis' Carr?
Mrs. Dodd was obliged to rise and reach past Uncle Israel, who
declined to be contaminated by passing the plate, before she attained
her desired biscuit.
Next time, Aunt Belinda, said Dick, I'll throw you one. Suffering
Moses, what new dope is that?
A powerful and peculiarly penetrating odour filled the room.
Presently it became evident that Uncle Israel had uncorked a fresh
bottle of medicine. Miss St. Clair coughed and hastily excused herself.
It's time for me to take my pain-killer, murmured Uncle Israel,
pouring out a tablespoonful of a thick, brown mixture. This here cured
a Congressman in less 'n half a bottle of a gnawin' pain in his vitals.
I ain't never took none of it yet, but I aim to now.
The vapour of it had already made the twins cry and brought tears to
Mrs. Dodd's eyes, but Uncle Israel took it clear and smacked his lips
over it enjoyably. It seems to be a searchin' medicine, he commented,
after an interval of silence. I don't misdoubt that it'll locate that
pain that was movin' up and down my back all night last night.
Uncle Israel's wizened old face, with its fringe of white whisker,
beamed with the joy of a scientist who has made a new and important
discovery. He had a long, hooked nose, and was painfully near-sighted,
but refused to wear glasses. Just now he sniffed inquiringly at the
open bottle of medicine. Yes, he said, nodding his bald head sagely,
I don't misdoubt this here can locate it.
I don't, either, said Harlan, grimly, putting his handkerchief to
his nose. Will you excuse me, Dorothy?
Mrs. Holmes took the weeping twins away from the table, and Willie,
his mentor gone, began to eat happily with his fingers. The poet rose
and drew a roll of manuscript from his coat pocket.
This afternoon, he said, clearing his throat, I employed my spare
moments in composing an ode to the memory of our sainted relative,
under whose hospitable roof we are all now so pleasantly gathered. I
will read it to you.
Mrs. Dodd hastily left the table, muttering indistinctly, and Dick
followed her. Willie slipped from his chair, crawled under the table,
and by stealthily sticking a pin into Uncle Israel's ankle, produced a
violent disturbance, during which the pain-killer was badly spilled.
When the air finally cleared, there was no one in the room but the
poet, who sadly rolled up his manuscript.
I will read it at breakfast, he thought. I will give them all the
pleasure of hearing it. Art is for the many, not for the few. I must
use it to elevate humanity to the Ideal.
He went back to his own room to add some final reverent touches to
the masterpiece, and to meditate upon the delicate blonde beauty of
Miss St. Clair.
From Mrs. Dodd, meanwhile, Dick had gathered the pleasing purport of
her voluminous correspondence, and insisted on posting all the letters
that very night, though morning would have done just as well. When he
had gone downhill on his errand of mercy, whistling cheerily as was his
wont, Mrs. Dodd went into her own room and locked the door, immediately
beginning a careful search of the entire apartment.
She scrutinised the walls closely, and rapped softly here and there,
listening intently for a hollow sound. Standing on a chair, she felt
all along the mouldings and window-casings, taking unto herself much
dust in the process. She spent half an hour in the stuffy closet,
investigating the shelves and recesses, then she got down on her
rheumatic old knees and crept laboriously over the carpet,
systematically taking it breadth by breadth, and paying special
attention to that section of it which was under the bed.
When you've found where anythin' ain't, she said to herself,
you've gone a long way toward findin' where 't is. It's just like
Ebeneezer to have hid it.
She took down the pictures, which were mainly family portraits,
life-size, presented to the master of the house by devoted relatives,
and rapidly unframed them. In one of them she found a sealed envelope,
which she eagerly tore open. Inside was a personal communication which,
though brief, was very much to the point.
Dear Cousin Belinda, it read, I hope you're taking pleasure in
your hunt. I have kept my word to you and in this very room, somewhere,
is a sum of money which represents my estimate of your worth, as nearly
as sordid coin can hope to do. It is all in cash, for greater
convenience in handling. I trust you will not spend it all in one
store, and that you will, out of your abundance, be generous to the
poor. It might be well to use a part of it in making a visit to New
York. When you find this, I shall be out in the cemetery all by myself,
and very comfortable.
Yours, Ebeneezer Judson.
I knowed it, she said to herself, excitedly. Ebeneezer was a hard
man, but he always kep' his word. Dear me! What makes me so trembly!
She removed all the bedclothes and pounded the pillows and mattress
in vain, then turned her attention to the furniture. It was almost one
o'clock when Mrs. Dodd finally retired, worn in body and jaded in
spirit, but still far from discouraged.
Ebeneezer must have mistook the room, she said to herself, but
how could he unless his mind was failin'? I've had this now, goin' on
In the night she dreamed of finding money in the bureau, and got up
to see if by chance she had not received mysterious guidance from an
unknown source. There was money in the bureau, sure enough, but it was
only two worn copper cents wrapped in many thicknesses of old
newspaper, and she went unsuspiciously back to bed.
He's mistook the room, she breathed, drowsily, as she sank into
troubled slumber, an' to-morrer I'll have it changed. It's just as
well I've scared them others off, if so be I have.
XI. Mrs. Dodd's Third Husband
Insidiously, a single idea took possession of the entire household.
Mrs. Smithers kept a spade near at hand and systematically dug, as
opportunity offered. Dorothy became accustomed to an odorous lantern
which stood near the back door in the daytime and bobbed about among
the shrubbery at night.
There was definite method in the madness of Mrs. Smithers, however,
for she had once seen the departed Mr. Judson going out to the orchard
with a tin box under his arm and her own spade but partially concealed
under his long overcoat. When he came back, he was smiling, which was
so unusual that she forgot all about the box, and did not observe
whether or not he had brought it back with him. Long afterward,
however, the incident assumed greater significance.
If I'd 'ave 'ad the sense to 'ave gone out there the next day, she
muttered, and 'ave seen where 'e 'ad dug, I might be a rich woman now,
that's wot I might. 'E was a clever one, 'e was, and 'e's 'id it. The
old skinflint wasn't doin' no work, 'e wasn't, and 'e lived on 'ere
from year to year, a-payin' 'is bills like a Christian gent, and it
stands to reason there's money 'id somewheres. Findin' is keepin', and
it's for me to keep my 'ead shut and a sharp lookout. Them Carrs don't
She was only half right, however. Harlan, lost in his book, was
heedless of everything that went on around him, but Mrs. Dodd's
reference to the diamond pin, and her own recollection of the money she
had found in the bureau drawer, began to work stealthily upon Dorothy's
mind, surrounded, as she was, by people who were continually thinking
of the same thing.
Then, too, their funds were getting low. There was little to send to
the sanitarium now, for eleven people, as students of domestic
economics have often observed, eat more than one or two. Dick was also
affected by the current financial depression, and at length conceived
the idea that Uncle Ebeneezer's worldly goods were somewhere on the
Mrs. Holmes spent a great deal of time in the attic, while the
care-free children, utterly beyond control, rioted madly through the
house. Dorothy discovered Mr. Perkins, the poet, half-way up the
parlour chimney, and sat down to see what he would do when he came out
and found her there. He had seemed somewhat embarrassed when he wiped
the soot from his face, but had quickly explained that he was writing a
poem on chimney-swallows and had come to a point where original
research was essential.
Even Elaine, not knowing what she sought, began to investigate, idly
enough, the furniture and hangings in her room, and Mrs. Dodd, eagerly
seizing opportunities, was forever keen on the scent. Uncle Israel,
owing to the poor state of his health, was one of the last to be
affected by the surrounding atmosphere, but when he caught the idea, he
made up for lost time.
He was up with the chickens, and invariably took a long afternoon
nap, so that, during the night, there was bound to be a wakeful
interval. Ordinarily, he took a sleeping potion to tide him over till
morning, but soon decided that a little mild exercise with some
pleasant purpose animating it, would be far better for his nerves.
Mrs. Dodd was awakened one night by the feeling that some one was in
her room. A vague, mysterious Presence gradually made itself known. At
first she was frightened, then the Presence wheezed, and reassured her.
Across the path of moonlight that lay on her floor, Uncle Israel moved
He was clad in a piebald dressing-gown which had been so patched
with various materials that the original fabric was uncertain. An
old-fashioned nightcap was on his head, the tassel bobbing freakishly
in the back, and he wore carpet slippers.
Mrs. Dodd sat up in bed, keenly relishing the situation. When he
opened a bureau drawer, she screamed out: What are you looking for?
Uncle Israel started violently. Money, he answered, in a shrill
whisper, taken altogether by surprise.
Then, said Mrs. Dodd, kindly, I'll get right up and help you!
Don't, Belinda, pleaded the old man. You'll wake up everybody. I
am a-walkin' in my sleep, I guess. I was a-dreamin' of money that I was
to find and give to you, and I suppose that's why I've come to your
room. You lay still, Belinda, and don't tell nobody. I am a-goin' right
Before she could answer in a way that seemed suitable, he was gone,
and the next day he renewed his explanations. I dunno, Belinda, how I
ever come to be a-walkin' in my sleep. I ain't never done such a thing
since I was a child, and then only wunst. How dretful it would have
been if I had gone into any other room and mebbe have been shot or have
scared some young and unprotected female into fits. To think of me,
with my untarnished reputation, and at my age, a-doin' such a thing!
You don't reckon it was my new pain-killer, do you?
I don't misdoubt it had sunthin' to do with payin', returned Mrs.
Dodd, greatly pleased with her own poor joke, an', as you say, it
might have been dretful. But I am a friend to you, Israel, an' I don't
'low to make your misfortune public, but, by workin' private, help you
What air you a-layin' out to do? demanded Uncle Israel, fearfully.
I ain't rightly made up my mind as yet, Israel, she answered,
pleasantly enough, but I don't intend to have it happen to you again.
Sunthin' can surely be done that'll cure you of it.
Don't, Belinda, wheezed her victim; I don't think I'll ever have
Don't you fret about it, Israel, 'cause you ain't goin' to have it
no more. I'll attend to it. It 's a most distressin' disease an' must
be took early, but I think I know how to fix it.
During her various investigations, she had found a huge bunch of
keys beneath a pile of rubbish on the floor of a closet in an
unoccupied room. It was altogether possible, as she told herself, that
one of these keys should fit the somnambulist's door.
While Uncle Israel was brewing a fresh supply of medicine on the
kitchen stove, she found, as she had suspected that one of them did
fit, and thereafter, every night, when Uncle Israel had retired, she
locked him in, letting him out shortly after seven each morning. When
he remonstrated with her, she replied, triumphantly, that it was
necessaryotherwise he would never have known that the door was
On her first visit to town she made it her business to call upon
Lawyer Bradford and inquire as to Mr. Judson's last will and testament.
She learned that it did not concern her at all, and was to be probated,
in accordance with the dead man's instructions, at the Fall term of
Then, as yet, she said, with a gleam of satisfaction in her small,
beady eyes, they ain't holdin' the house legal. Any of us has the same
right to stay as them Carrs.
That's as you look at it, returned Mr. Bradford, squirming
uneasily in his chair.
Try as she might, she could extract no further information, but she
at least had a bit of knowledge to work on. She went back, earnestly
desiring quiet, that she might study the problem without hindrance,
but, unfortunately for her purpose, the interior of the Jack-o'-Lantern
resembled pandemonium let loose.
Willie was sliding down the railing part of the time, and at
frequent intervals coasting downstairs on Mrs. Smithers's tea tray,
vocally expressing his pleasure with each trip. The twins, seated in
front of the library door, were pounding furiously on a milk-pan, which
had not been empty when they dragged it into the hall, but was now.
Mrs. Smithers was singing: We have our trials here below, Oh, Glory,
Hallelujah, and a sickening odour from a fresh concoction of Uncle
Israel's permeated the premises. Having irreverently detached the false
front from the keys of the melodeon, Mr. Perkins was playing a sad,
funereal composition of his own, with all the power of the instrument
turned loose on it. Upstairs, Dick was whistling, with shrill and
maddening persistence, and Dorothy, quite helpless, sat miserably on
the porch with her fingers in her ears.
Harlan burst out of the library, just as Mrs. Dodd came up the walk,
his temper not improved by stumbling over the twins and the milk-pan,
and above their united wails loudly censured Dorothy for the noise and
confusion. How in the devil do you expect me to work? he demanded,
irritably. If you can't keep the house quiet, I'll go back to New
Too crushed in spirit to reply, Dorothy said nothing, and Harlan
whisked back into the library again, barely escaping Mrs. Dodd.
Poor child, she said to Dorothy; you look plum beat out.
I am, confessed Mrs. Carr, the quick tears coming to her eyes.
There, there, my dear, rest easy. I reckon this is the first time
you've been married, ain't it?
Yes, returned Dorothy, forcing a pitiful little smile.
I thought so. Now, when you're as used to it as I be, you won't
take it so hard. You may think men folks is all different, but there's
a dretful sameness to 'em after they've been through a marriage
ceremony. Marriage is just like findin' a new penny on the walk. When
you first see it, it's all shiny an' a'most like gold, an' it tickles
you a'most to pieces to think you're gettin' it, but after you've
picked it up you see that what you've got is half wild Indian, or mebbe
moreI ain't never been in no mint. You may depend upon it, my dear,
there's two sides to all of us, an' before marriage, you see the
wreathafterwards a savage.
I've had seven of 'em, she continued, an' I know. My father give
me a cemetery lot for a weddin' present, with a noble grey marble
monumint in it shaped like a octagonleastways that's what a
school-teacher what boarded with us said it was, but I call it a
eight-sided piece. I'm speakin' of my first marriage now, my dear. My
father never give me no weddin' present but the once. An' I can't never
marry again, 'cause there's a husband lyin' now on seven sides of the
monumint an' only one place left for me. I was told once that I could
have further husbands cremationed an' set around the lot in vases, but
I don't take to no such heathenish custom as that.
So I've got to go through my declinin' years without no suitable
companion an' I call it hard, when one's so used to marryin' as what I
If they're all savages, suggested Dorothy, why did you keep on
Because I hadn't no other way to get my livin' an' I was kinder in
the habit of it. There's some little variety, even in savages, an' it's
human natur' to keep on a-hopin.' I've had 'em stingy an' generous,
drunk an' sober, peaceful an' disturbin'. After the first few times, I
learned to take real pleasure out'n their queer notions. When you've
learned to enjoy seein' your husband make a fool of himself an' have
got enough self-control not to tell him he's doin' it, nor to let him
see where your pleasure lies, you've got marryin' down to a fine point.
The third time, it was, I got a food crank, an' let me tell you
right now, my dear, them's the worst kind. A man what's queer about his
food is goin' to be queerer about a'most everything else. Give me any
man that can eat three square meals a day an' enjoy 'em, an' I'll
undertake to live with him peaceful, but I don't go to the altar again
with no food crank, if I know it.
It was partly my own fault, too, as I see later. I'd seen him
a-carryin' a passel of health food around in his pocket an' a-nibblin'
at it, but I supposed it was because the poor creeter had never had no
one to cook proper for him, an' I took a lot of pleasure out of
thinkin' how tickled he'd be when I made him one of my chicken pies.
After we was married, we took a honeymoon to his folks, an' I'll
tell you right now, my dear, that if there was more honeymoons took
beforehand to each other's folks, there'd be less marryin' done than
what there is. They was all a-eatin' hay an' straw an' oats just like
the dumb creeters they disdained, an' a-carryin' wheat an' corn around
in their pockets to piece out with between greens.
So the day we got home, never knowin' what I was a-stirrin' up for
myself, I turned in an' made a chicken an' oyster pie, an' it couldn't
be beat, not if I do say it as shouldn't. The crust was as soft an'
flaky an' brown an' crisp at the edges as any I ever turned out, an'
the inside was all chicken an' oysters well-nigh smothered in a thick,
creamy yellow gravy.
Well, sir, I brung in that pie, an' I set it on the table, an' I
chirped out that dinner was ready, an' he come, an'my dear! You never
saw such goins'-on in all your born days! Considerin' that not eatin'
animals makes people's dispositions mild an' pleasant, it was sunthin'
terrible, an' me all the time as innercent as a lamb!
I can't begin to tell you the things my new-made husband said to
me. If chickens an' oysters was human, I'll bet they'd have sued him
for slander. He said that oysters was 'the scavengers of the
sea'yes'm, them's his very words, an' that chickens was even worse.
He went on to tell me how they et worms an' potato bugs an' beetles an'
goodness knows what else, an' that he wa'n't goin' to turn the temple
of his body into no slaughter-house. He asked me if I desired to eat
dead animals, an' when he insisted on an answer, I told him I certainly
shouldn't care to eat 'em less'n they was dead, and from then on
it was worse 'n ever.
He said that no dead animal was goin' to be interred in the insides
of him or his lawful wife, an' he was goin' to see to it. It come out
then that he'd never tasted meat an' hadn't rightly sensed what he was
Well, my dear, some women would have took the wrong tack an' would
have argyfied with him. There's never no use in argyfyin' with a
husband, an' never no need to, 'cause if you're set on it, there's all
the rest of the world to choose from. When he'd talked himself hoarse
an' was beginnin' to calm down again, I took the floor.
'Say no more,' says I, calm an' collected-like. 'This here is your
house an' the things you're accustomed to eatin' can be cooked in it,
no matter what they be. If I don't know how to put the slops together,
I reckon I can learn, not being a plum idjit. If you want baked chicken
feed and boiled hay, I'm here to bake 'em and boil 'em for you. All you
have to do is to speak once in a polite manner and it'll be done. I
must insist on the politeness, howsumever,' says I. 'I don't propose to
live with any man what gets the notion a woman ceases to be a lady when
she marries him. A creeter that thinks so poor of himself as that ain't
fit to be my husband,' says I, 'nor no other decent woman's.'
At that he apologised some, an' when a husband apologises, my dear,
it's the same as if he'd et dirt at your feet. 'The least said the
soonest mended,' says I, an' after that, he never had nothin' to
But I knowed what his poor, cranky system needed, an' I knowed how
to get it into him, especially as he'd never tasted meat in all his
life. From that time on, he never saw no meat on our table, nor no
chickens, nor sea scavengers, nor nothin', but all day, while he was
gone, I was busy with my soup pot, a-makin' condensed extracts of meat
for flavourin' vegetables an' sauces an' so on.
He took mightily to my cookin' an' frequently said he'd never et
such exquisite victuals. I'd make cream soups for him, an' in every
one, there'd be over a cupful of solid meat jelly, as rich as the juice
you find in the pan when you cook a first-class roast of beef. I'd stew
potatoes in veal stock, and cook rice slow in water that had had a
chicken boiled to rags in it. Once I put a cupful of raw beef juice in
a can of tomatoes I was cookin' and he et a'most all of 'em.
As he kep' on havin' more confidence in me, I kep' on usin' more
an' more, an' a-usin' oyster liquor for flavourin' in most everything
durin' the R months. Once he found nearly a bushel of clam-shells out
behind the house an' wanted to know what they was an' what they was
doin' there. I told him the fish man had give 'em to me for a border
for my flower beds, which was true. I'd only paid for the clamsthere
wa'n't nothin' said about the shellsan' the juice from them clams
livened up his soup an' vegetables for over a week. There wa'n't no day
that he didn't have the vital elements of from one to four pounds of
meat put in his food, an' all the time, he was gettin' happier an'
healthier an' more peaceful to live with. When he died, he was as mild
as a spring lamb with mint sauce on it.
Now, my dear, some women would have told him what they was doin',
either after he got to likin' the cookin' or when he was on his
death-bed an' couldn't help himself, but I never did. I own that it
took self-control not to do it, but I'd learned my lesson from havin'
been married twicet before an' never havin' fit any to speak of. I had
to take my pleasure from seein' him eat a bowl of rice that had a whole
chicken in it, exceptin' only the bones and fibres of its mortal frame,
an' a-lappin' up mebbe a pint of tomato soup that was founded on eight
nice pork chops. I'm a-tellin' you all this merely to show you my
point. Every day, Henry was makin' a blame fool of himself without
knowin' it. He'd prattle by the hour of slaughter-houses an' human
cemeteries an' all the time he'd be honin' for his next meal.
He used to say as how it was dretful wicked to kill the dumb
animals for food, an' I allers said that there was nothin' to hinder
his buyin' as many as he could afford to an' savin' their lives by
pennin' 'em up in the back yard, an' a-feedin' 'em the things they
liked best to eat till they died of old age or sunthin'. I told him
they was all vegetarians, the same as he was, an' they could live
together peaceful an' happy. I even pointed out that it was his duty to
do it, an' that if all believers would do the same, the dread
slaughter-houses would soon be a thing of the past, but I ain't never
seen no food crank yet that's advanced that far in his humanity.
I never told him a single word about it, nor even hinted it to him,
nor told nobody else, though I often felt wicked to think I was keepin'
so much pleasure to myself, but my time is comin'.
When I'm dead an' have gone to heaven, the first thing I'm goin' to
do is to hunt up Henry. They say there ain't no marriage nor givin' in
marriage up there, but I reckon there's seven men there that'll at
least recognise their wife when they see her a-comin' in. I'm goin' to
pick up my skirts an' take off my glasses, so's I'll be all ready to
skedaddle, for I expect to leave my rheumatiz behind me, my dear, when
I go to heavenleastways, no place will be heaven for me that's got
rheumatiz in itan' then I'm goin' to say: 'Henry, in all the four
years you was livin' with me, you was eatin' meat, an' you never knowed
it. You're nothin' but a human cemetery.' Oh, my dear, it's worth while
dyin' when you know you're goin' to have pleasure like that at the
XII. Her Gift to the World
I regret, my dear madam, said Lawyer Bradford, twisting uneasily
in his chair, that I can offer you no encouragement whatsoever. The
will is clear and explicit in every detail, and there are no grounds
for a contest. I am, perhaps, trespassing upon the wishes of my client
in giving you this information, but if you are remaining here with the
hope of pecuniary profit, you are remaining here unnecessarily.
He rose as though to indicate that the interview was at an end, but
Mrs. Holmes was not to be put away in that fashion. Her eyes were
blazing and her weak chin trembled with anger.
Do you mean to tell me, she demanded, that Ebeneezer voluntarily
died without making some sort of provision for me and my helpless
Your distinguished relation, answered Mr. Bradford, slowly,
certainly died voluntarily. He announced the date of his death some
weeks before it actually occurred, and superintended the making of his
own coffin. He wrote out minute directions for his obsequies, had his
grave dug, and his shroud made, burned his papers, rearranged his
books, made his willand was found dead in his bed on the morning of
the day set for his departure. A methodical person, muttered the old
man, half to himself; a most methodical and systematic person.
Mrs. Holmes shuddered. She was not ordinarily a superstitious woman,
but there was something uncanny in this open partnership with Death.
There was a diamond pin, she suggested, moodily, worth, I should
think, some fifteen or sixteen hundred dollars. Ebeneezer gave it to
dear Rebecca on their wedding day, and she always said it was to be
mine. Have you any idea where it is?
Mr. Bradford fidgeted. If it was intended for you, he said,
finally, it will be given to you at the proper time, or you will be
directed to its location. Mrs. Judson died, did she not, about three
weeks after their marriage?
Yes, snapped Mrs. Holmes, readily perceiving the line of his
thought, and I saw her twice in those three weeks. Both times she
spoke of the pin, which she wore constantly, and said that if anything
happened to her, she wanted me to have it, but that old miser hung on
Madam, said Mr. Bradford, a faint flush mounting to his temples as
he opened the office door, you are speaking of my Colonel, under whom
I served in the war. He was my best friend, and though he is dead, it
is still my privilege to protect him. I bid you good afternoon!
She did not perceive until long afterward that she had practically
been ejected from the legal presence. Even then, she was so intent upon
the point at issue that she was not offended, as at another time she
certainly would have been.
He's lying, she said to herself, they're all lying. There's money
hidden in that house, and I know it, and what's more, I'm going to have
She had searched her own rooms on the night of her arrival, but
found nothing, and the attic, so far, had yielded her naught save
discouragement and dust. To think, she continued, mentally, that
after two of my children were born here and named for them, that we are
left in this way! I call it a shame, a disgrace, an outrage!
Her anger swiftly cooled, however, as she went into the house, and
her fond sight rested upon her darlings. Willie had a ball and had
already broken two of the front windows. The small Rebecca was under
the sofa, tempering the pleasure of life for Claudius Tiberius, while
young Ebeneezer, having found a knife somewhere, was diligently
scratching the melodeon.
Just look, said Mrs. Holmes, in delighted awe, as Dorothy entered
the room. Don't make any noise, or you will disturb Ebbie. He is such
a sensitive child that the sound of a strange voice will upset him. Did
you ever see anything like those figures he is drawing on the melodeon?
I believe he's going to be an artist!
Crushed as she was in spirit by her uncongenial surroundings,
Dorothy still had enough temper left to be furiously angry. In these
latter days, however, she had gained largely in self-control, and now
only bit her lips without answering.
But Mrs. Holmes would not have heard her, even if she had replied. A
sudden yowl from the distressed Claudius impelled Dorothy to move the
sofa and rescue him.
How cruel you are! commented Mrs. Holmes. The idea of taking
Rebbie's plaything away from her! Give it back this instant!
Mrs. Carr put the cat out and returned with a defiant expression on
her face, which roused Mrs. Holmes to action. Willie, she commanded,
go out and get the kitty for your little sister. There, there, Rebbie,
darling, don't cry any more! Brother has gone to get the kitty. Don't
But brother had not gone. Chase it yourself, he remarked,
coolly. I'm going out to the barn.
Dear Willie's individuality is developing every day, Mrs. Holmes
went on, smoothly. There, there, Rebbie, don't cry any more. Go and
tell Mrs. Smithers to give you a big piece of bread with lots of butter
and jam on it. Tell her mamma said so. Run along, that's a nice little
Rude squares, triangles, and circles appeared as by magic on the
shining surface of the melodeon, the young artist being not at all
disturbed by the confusion about him.
I am blessed in my children, Mrs. Holmes went on, happily. I
often wonder what I have done that I should have so perfect a boy as
Willie for my very own. Everybody admires him so that I dwell in
constant fear of kidnappers.
I wouldn't worry, said Dorothy, with ill-concealed sarcasm.
Anybody who took him would bring him back inside of two hours.
I try to think so, returned the mother, with a deep sigh.
Willie's indomitable will is my deepest comfort. He gets it from my
side of the family. None of the children take after their father at
all. Ebbie was a little like his father's folks at first, but I soon
got it out of him and made him altogether like my people. I do not
think anybody could keep Willie away from me except by superior
physical force. He absolutely adores his mother, as my other children
do. You never saw such beautiful sentiment as they have. The other day,
now, when I went away and left Rebbie alone in my apartment, she took
down my best hat and put it on. The poor little thing wanted to be near
her mother. Is it not touching?
It is indeed, Dorothy assented, dryly.
My children have never been punished, continued Mrs. Holmes, now
auspiciously launched upon her favourite theme. It has never been
necessary. I rule them entirely through love, and they are so
accustomed to my methods that they bitterly resent any interference by
outsiders. Why, just before we came here, Ebbie, young as he is, put
out the left eye of a woman who tried to take his dog away from him. He
did it with his little fist and with apparently no effort at all. Is it
not wonderful to see such strength and power of direction in one so
young? The woman was in the hospital when we came away, and I trust by
this time, she has learned not to interfere with Ebbie. No one is
allowed to interfere with my children.
Apparently not, remarked Mrs. Carr, somewhat cynically.
It is beautiful to be a motherthe most beautiful thing on earth!
Just think how much I have done for the world! Her sallow face glowed
with the conscious virtue bestowed by one of the animal functions upon
those who have performed it.
In what way? queried Mrs. Carr, wholly missing the point.
Why, in raising Willie and Ebbie and Rebbie! No public service can
for a moment be compared with that! All other things sink into
insignificance beside the glorious gift of maternity. Look at Williea
form that a sculptor might dream of for a lifetime and never hope to
imitatea head that already has inspired great artists! The gentleman
who took Willie's last tintype said that he had never seen such perfect
lines, and insisted on taking several for fear something should happen
to Willie. He wanted to keep some of them for himselfit was pathetic,
the way he pleaded, but I made him sell me all of them. Willie is mine
and I have the first right to his tintypes. And a lady once painted
Willie at his play in black and white and sent it to one of the popular
weeklies. I have no doubt they gave her a fortune for it, but it never
occurred to her to give us anything more than one copy of the paper.
Which paper was it?
One of the so-called comic weeklies. You know they publish superb
artistic things. I think they are doing a wonderful work in educating
the masses to a true appreciation of art. One of the wonderful parts of
it was that Willie knew all about it and was not in the least
conceited. Any other child would have been set up at being a model for
a great artist, but Willie was not affected at all. He has so much
At this point the small Rebecca entered, dragging her doll by one
arm, and munching a thick slice of bread, thinly coated with molasses.
I distinctly said jam, remarked Mrs. Holmes. Servants are so
heedless. I do not know that molasses is good for Rebbie. What would
you think, Mrs. Carr?
I don't think it will hurt her if she doesn't get too much of it.
There's no danger of her getting too much of it. Mrs. Smithers is
too stingy for that. Why, only yesterday, Willie told me that she
refused to let him dip his dry bread in the cream, and gave him a cup
of plain milk instead. Willie knows when his system needs cream and I
want him to have all the nourishment he can get. The idea that she
should think she knew more about it than Willie! She was properly
punished for it, however. I myself saw Willie throw a stick of stove
wood at her and hit her foolish head with it. I think Willie is going
to be a soldier, a commander of an army. He has so much executive
ability and never misses what he aims at.
Rebbie, don't chew on that side, darling; remember your loose tooth
is there. Mamma doesn't want it to come out.
Why? asked Dorothy, with a gleam of interest.
Because I can't bear to have her little baby teeth come out and
make her grow up! I want to keep her just as she is. I have all my
children's teeth, and some day I am going to have them set into a
beautiful bracelet. Look at that! How generous and unselfish of Rebbie!
She is trying to share her bread with her doll. I believe Rebbie is
going to be a philanthropist, or a college-settlement worker. See, she
is trying to give the doll the molassesthe very best part of it. Did
you ever see such a beautiful spirit in one so young?
Before Mrs. Carr could answer, young Ebeneezer had finished his wood
carving and had grabbed his protesting twin by the hair.
There, there, Rebbie, soothed the mother, don't cry. Brother was
only loving little sister. Be careful, Ebbie. You can take hold of
sister's hair, but not too hard. They love each other so, she went on.
Ebbie is really sentimental about Rebbie. He loves to touch and stroke
her glorious blonde hair. Did you ever see such hair as Rebbie's?
It came into Mrs. Carr's mind that Rebbie's hair looked more like
a plate of cold-slaw than anything else, but she was too wise to put
the thought into words.
Willie slid down the railing and landed in the hall with a loud
whoop of glee. How beautiful to hear the sounds of childish mirth,
said Mrs. Holmes. How
From upstairs came a cry of Help! Help!
Muffled though the voice was, it plainly issued from Uncle Israel's
room, and under the impression that the bath cabinet had finally set
the house on fire, Mrs. Carr ran hastily upstairs, followed closely by
Mrs. Holmes, who was flanked at the rear by the grinning Willie and the
From a confused heap of bedding, Uncle Israel's scarlet ankles waved
frantically. Help! Help! he cried again, his voice being almost
wholly deadened by the pillows, which had fallen on him after the
Dorothy helped the trembling old man to his feet. He took a copious
draught from the pain-killer, then sat down on his trunk, much
Investigation proved that the bed cord had been cut in a dozen
places by some one working underneath, and that the entire structure
had instantly caved in when Uncle Israel had crept up to the summit of
his bed and lain down to take his afternoon nap. When questioned,
Willie proudly admitted that he had done it.
Go down and ask Mrs. Smithers for the clothes-line, commanded
I won't, said Willie, smartly, putting his hands in his pockets.
You had better go yourself, Mrs. Carr, suggested Mrs. Holmes.
Willie is tired. He has played hard all day and needs rest. He must
not on any account over-exert himself, and, besides, I never allow any
one else to send my children on errands. They obey me and me alone.
Go yourself, said Willie, having gathered encouragement from the
I'll go, wheezed Uncle Israel. I can't sleep in no other bed.
Ebeneezer's beds is all terrible drafty, and I took two colds at once
sleepin' in one of 'em when I knowed better 'n to try it. He tottered
out of the room, the very picture of wretchedness.
Was it not clever of Willie? whispered Mrs. Holmes, admiringly, to
Dorothy. So much ingenuitysuch a fine sense of humor!
If he were my child, snapped Dorothy, at last losing her admirable
control of a tempestuous temper, he'd be soundly thrashed at least
three times a week!
I do not doubt it, replied Mrs. Holmes, contemptuously. These
married old maids, who have no children of their own, are always wholly
out of sympathy with a child's nature.
When I was young, retorted Mrs. Carr, children were not allowed
to rule the entire household. There was a current superstition to the
effect that older people had some rights.
And yet, Mrs. Holmes continued, meditatively, as the editor of
The Ladies' Own so pertinently asks, what is a house for if not to
bring up a child in? The purpose of architecture is defeated, where
there are no children.
Uncle Israel, accompanied by Dick, hobbled into the room with the
clothes-line. Mrs. Holmes discreetly retired, followed by her
offspring, and, late in the afternoon, when Dorothy and Dick were
well-nigh fagged out, the structure was in place again. Tremulously the
exhausted owner lay down upon it, and asked that his supper be sent to
By skilful manoeuvring with Mrs. Smithers, Dick compelled the
proud-spirited Willie to take up Uncle Israel's tray and wait for it.
I'll tell my mother, whimpered the sorrowful one.
I hope you will, replied Dick, significantly; but for some reason
of his own, Willie neglected to mention it.
At dinner-time, Mr. Perkins drew a rolled manuscript, tied with a
black ribbon, from his breast pocket, and, without preliminary,
proceeded to read as follows:
TO THE MEMORY OF EBENEEZER JUDSON
A face we loved has vanished,
A voice we adored is now still,
There is no longer any music
In the tinkling rill.
His hat is empty of his head,
His snuff-box has no sneezer,
His cane is idle in the hall
For gone is Ebeneezer.
Within the house we miss him,
Let fall the sorrowing tear,
Yet shall we gather as was our wont
Year after sunny year.
He took such joy in all his friends
That he would have it so;
He left his house to relatives
But none of us need go.
In fact, we're all related,
Sister, friend, and brother;
And in this hour of our grief
We must console each other.
He would not like to have us sad,
Our smiles were once his pleasure
And though we cannot smile at him,
His memory is our treasure.
When he had finished, there was a solemn silence, which was at last
relieved by Mrs. Dodd. Poetry broke out in my first husband's family,
she said, but with sulphur an' molasses an' quinine an' plenty of
wet-sheet packs it was finally cured.
You do not understand, said the poet, indulgently. Your aura is
not harmonious with mine.
Yourwhat? demanded Mrs. Dodd, pricking up her ears.
My aura, explained Mr. Perkins, flushing faintly. Each
individuality gives out a spiritual vapour, like a cloud, which
surrounds one. These are all in different colours, and the colours
change with the thoughts we think. Black and purple are the gloomy,
morose colours; deep blue and the paler shades show a sombre outlook on
life; green is more cheerful, though still serious; yellow and orange
show ambition and envy, and red and white are emblematic of all the
virtuesred of the noble, martial qualities of man and white of the
angelic disposition of woman, he concluded, with a meaning glance at
Elaine, who had been much interested all along.
What perfectly lovely ideas, she said, in a tone which made Dick's
blood boil. Are they original with you, Mr. Perkins?
The poet cleared his throat. I cannot say that they are wholly
original with me, he admitted, reluctantly, though of course I have
modified and amplified them to accord with my own individuality. They
are doing wonderful things now in the psychological laboratories. They
have a system of tubes so finely constructed that by breathing into one
of them a person's mental state is actually expressed. An angry person,
breathing into one of these finely organised tubes, makes a decided
change in the colour of the vapour.
Humph! snorted Mrs. Dodd, pushing back her chair briskly. I've
been married seven times, an' I never had to breathe into no tube to
let any of my husbands know when I was mad!
The poet crimsoned, but otherwise ignored the comment. If you will
come into the parlour just as twilight is falling, he said to the
others, I will gladly recite my ode on Spring.
Subdued thanks came from the company, though Harlan excused himself
on the score of his work, and Mrs. Holmes was obliged to put the twins
to bed. When twilight fell, no one was at the rendezvous but Elaine and
It is just as well, he said, in a low tone. There are several
under dear Uncle Ebeneezer's roof who are afflicted with an
inharmonious aura. With yours only am I in full accord. It is a great
pleasure to an artist to feel such beautiful sympathy with his work.
Shall I say it now?
If you will, murmured Elaine, deeply honoured by acquaintance with
a real poet.
Mr. Perkins drew his chair close to hers, leaned over with an air of
loving confidence, and began:
Spring, oh Spring, dear, gentle Spring,
My poet's garland do I bring
To lay upon thy shining hair
Where rests a wreath of flowers so fair.
There is a music in the brook
Which answers to thy tender look
And in thy eyes there is a spell
Of soft enchantment too sweet to tell.
My heart to thine shall ever turn
For thou hast made my soul to burn
With rapture far beyond
Elaine screamed, and in a twinkling was on her chair with her skirts
gathered about her. It was only Claudius Tiberius, dressed in Rebecca's
doll's clothes, scooting madly toward the front door, but it served
effectually to break up the entertainment.
XIII. A Sensitive Soul
Uncle Israel was securely locked in for the night, and was
correspondingly restless. He felt like a caged animal, and sleep,
though earnestly wooed, failed to come to his relief. A powerful
draught of his usual sleeping potion had been like so much water, as
far as effect was concerned.
At length he got up, his lifelong habit of cautious movement
asserting itself even here, and with tremulous, withered hands, lighted
his candle. Then he put on his piebald dressing-gown and his carpet
slippers, and sat on the declivity of his bed, blinking at the light,
as wide awake as any owl.
Presently it came to him that he had not as yet made a thorough
search of his own apartment, so he began at the foundation, so to
speak, and crawled painfully over the carpet, paying special attention
to the edges. Next, he fingered the baseboards carefully, rapping here
and there, as though he expected some significant sound to penetrate
his deafness. Rising, he went over the wall systematically, and at
length, with the aid of a chair, reached up to the picture-moulding. He
had gone nearly around the room, without any definite idea of what he
was searching for, when his questioning fingers touched a small,
A smile of childlike pleasure transfigured Uncle Israel's wizened
old face. Trembling, he slipped down from the chair, falling over the
bath cabinet in his descent, and tried the key in the lock. It fitted,
and the old man fairly chuckled.
Wait till I tell Belinda, he muttered, delightedly. Then a crafty
second thought suggested that it might be wiser to keep Belinda in
the dark, lest she might in some way gain possession of the duplicate
Lor', he thought, but how I pity them husbands of her'n. Bet
their graves felt good when they got into 'em, the hull seven graves.
What with sneerin' at medicines and things a person eats, it must have
been awful, not to mention stealin' of keys and a-lockin' 'em in
nights. S'pose the house had got afire, where'd I be now? Grasping his
treasure closely, Uncle Israel blew out his candle and tottered to bed,
thereafter sleeping the sleep of the just.
Mrs. Dodd detected subdued animation in his demeanour when he
appeared at breakfast the following morning, and wondered what had
You look 's if sunthin' pleasant had happened, Israel, she began
in a sprightly manner.
Sunthin' pleasant has happened, he returned, applying himself to
his imitation coffee with renewed vigour. I disremember when I've felt
so good about anythin' before.
Something pleasant happens every day, put in Elaine. The country
air had made roses bloom on her pale cheeks. Her blue eyes had new
light in them, and her golden hair fairly shone. She was far more
beautiful than the sad, frail young woman who had come to the
Jack-o'-Lantern not so many weeks before.
How optimistic you are! sighed Mr. Perkins, who was eating Mrs.
Smithers's crisp, hot rolls with a very unpoetic appetite. To me, the
world grows worse every day. It is only a few noble souls devoted to
the Ideal and holding their heads steadfastly above the mire of
commercialism that keep our so-called civilisation from becoming an
absolute hotbed of greedyes, a hotbed of greed, he repeated, the
words sounding unexpectedly well.
Your aura seems to have a purple tinge this morning, commented
What's a aura, ma? demanded Willie, with an unusual thirst for
Something that goes with a soft person, Willie, dear, responded
Mrs. Holmes, quite audibly. You know there are some people who have no
backbone at all, like the jelly-fish we saw at the seashore the year
before dear papa died.
I've knowed folks, continued Mrs. Dodd, taking up the wandering
thread of the discourse, what was so soft when they was little that
their mas had to carry 'em around in a pail for fear they'd slop over
and spile the carpet.
And when they grew up, too, Dick ventured.
Some people, said Harlan, in a polite attempt to change the
conversation, never grow up at all. Their minds remain at a fixed
point. We all know them.
Yes, sighed Mrs. Dodd, looking straight at the poet, we all know
At this juncture the sensitive Mr. Perkins rose and begged to be
excused. It was the small Ebeneezer who observed that he took a
buttered roll with him, and gratuitously gave the information to the
rest of the company.
Elaine flushed painfully, and presently excused herself, following
the crestfallen Mr. Perkins to the orchard, where, entirely unsuspected
by the others, they had a trysting-place. At intervals, they met,
safely screened by the friendly trees, and communed upon the old,
idyllic subject of poetry, especially as represented by the unpublished
works of Harold Vernon Perkins.
I cannot tell you, Mr. Perkins, Elaine began, how deeply I
appreciate your fine, uncommercial attitude. As you say, the world is
sordid, and it needs men like you.
The soulful one ran his long, bony fingers through his mane of
auburn hair, and assented with a pleased grunt. There are few, Miss
St. Clair, he said, who have your fine discernment. It is almost
Yet it seems too bad, she went on, that the world-wide
appreciation of your artistic devotion should not take some tangible
form. Dollars may be vulgar and sordid, as you say, but still, in our
primitive era, they are our only expression of value. I have even heard
it said, she went on, rapidly, that the amount of wealth honestly
acquired by any individual was, after all, only the measure of his
usefulness to his race.
Miss St. Clair! exclaimed the poet, deeply shocked; do I
understand that you are actually advising me to sell a poem?
Far from it, Mr. Perkins, Elaine reassured him. I was only
thinking that by having your work printed in a volume, or perhaps in
the pages of a magazine, you could reach a wider audience, and thus
accomplish your ideal of uplifting the multitude.
I am pained, breathed the poet; inexpressibly pained.
Then I am sorry, answered Elaine. I was only trying to help.
To think, continued Mr. Perkins, bitterly, of the soiled fingers
of a labouring man, a printer, actually touching these fancies that
even I hesitate to pen! Once I saw the fair white page of a book that
had been through that painful experience. You never would have known
it, my dear Miss St. Clairit was actually filthy!
I see, murmured Elaine, duly impressed, but are there not more
I have thought there might be, returned the poet, after a
significant silence, indeed, I have prayed there might be. In some
little nook among the pines, where the brook for ever sings and the
petals of the apple blossoms glide away to fairyland upon its shining
surface, while butterflies float lazily here and there, if reverent
hands might put the flowering of my genius into a modest little bookI
should be tempted, yes, sorely tempted.
Dear Mr. Perkins, cried Elaine, ecstatically clapping her hands,
how perfectly glorious that would be! To think how much sweetness and
beauty would go into the book, if that were done!
Additionally, corrected Mr. Perkins, with a slight flush.
Yes, of course I mean additionally. One could smell the apple
blossoms through the printed page. Oh, Mr. Perkins, if I only had the
means, how gladly would I devote my all to this wonderful, uplifting
The poet glanced around furtively, then drew closer to Elaine. I
may tell you, he murmured, in strict confidence, something which my
lips have never breathed before, with the assurance that it will be as
though unsaid, may I not?
Indeed you may!
Then, whispered Mr. Perkins, I am living in that hope. My dear
Uncle Ebeneezer, though now departed, was a distinguished patron of the
arts. Many a time have I read him my work, assured of his deep, though
unexpressed sympathy, and, lulled by the rhythm of our spoken speech,
he has passed without a jar from my dreamland to his own. I know he
would never speak of it to any onedear Uncle Ebeneezer was too finely
grained for thatbut still I feel assured that somewhere within the
walls of that sorely afflicted house, a sum ofof moneyhas been
placed, in the hope that I might find it and carry out this beautiful
Have you hunted? demanded Elaine, her eyes wide with wonder.
Nonot hunted. I beg you, do not use so coarse a word. It jars
upon my poet's soul with almost physical pain.
I beg your pardon, returned Elaine, but
Sometimes, interrupted the poet, in a low tone, when I have felt
especially near to Uncle Ebeneezer's spirit, I have barely glanced in
secret places where I have felt he might expect me to look for it, but,
so far, I have been wholly unsuccessful, though I know that I plainly
read his thought.
Some wordsome cluedid he give you none?
None whatever, except that once or twice he said that he would see
that I was suitably provided for. He intimated that he intended me to
have a sum apportioned to my deserts.
Which would be a generous one; but nowOh, Mr. Perkins, how can I
You have never suspected, have you, asked Mr. Perkins, colouring
to his temples, that the room you now occupy might once have been my
own? Have no poet's dreams, lingering in the untenanted spaces, claimed
your beauteous spirit in sleep?
Oh, Mr. Perkins, have I your room? I will so gladly give it
The poet raised his hand. No. The place where you have walked is
holy ground. Not for the world would I dispossess you, but
A meaning look did the rest. I see, said Elaine, quickly guessing
his thought, you want to hunt in my room. Oh, Mr. Perkins, I have
thoughtlessly pained you again. Can you ever forgive me?
My thoughts, breathed Mr. Perkins, are perhaps too finely phrased
for modern speech. I would not trespass upon the place you have made
your own, but
There was a brief silence, then Elaine understood. I see, she
said, submissively, I will hunt myself. I mean, I will glance about in
the hope that the spirit of Uncle Ebeneezer may make plain to me what
you seek. And
And, interjected the poet, quite practical for the moment,
whatever you find is mine, for it was once my room. It is only on
account of Uncle Ebeneezer's fine nature and his constant devotion to
the Ideal that he did not give it to me direct. He knew it would pain
me if he did so. You will remember?
I will remember. You need not fear to trust me.
Then let us shake hands upon our compact. For a moment, Elaine's
warm, rosy hand rested in the clammy, nerveless palm of Harold Vernon
Perkins. Last night, he sighed, I could not sleep. I was distressed
by noises which appeared to emanate from the apartment of Mr. Skiles.
Did you hear nothing?
Nothing, returned Elaine; I sleep very soundly.
The privilege of unpoetic souls, commented Mr. Perkins. But, as
usual, my restlessness was not without definite and beautiful result.
In the still watches of the night, I achieved apoem.
Read it, cried Elaine, rapturously. Oh, if I might hear it!
Thus encouraged, Mr. Perkins drew a roll from his breast pocket. A
fresh blue ribbon held it in cylindrical form, and the drooping ends
waved in careless, artistic fashion.
As you might expect, if you knew about such things, he began,
clearing his throat, and all unconscious of the rapid approach of Mr.
Chester, it is upon sleep. It is done in the sonnet form, a very
beautiful measure which I have made my own. I will read it now.
SONNET ON SLEEP
O Sleep, that fillst the human breast with peace,
When night's dim curtains swing from out the West,
In what way, in what manner, could we rest
Were thy beneficent offices to cease?
O Sleep, thou art indeed the snowy fleece
Upon Day's lamb. A welcome guest
That comest alike to palace and to nest
And givest the cares of life a glad release.
O Sleep, I beg thee, rest upon my eyes,
For I am weary, worn, and sad,indeed,
Of thy great mercies have I piteous need
So come and lead me off to Paradise.
His voice broke at the end, not so much from the intrinsic beauty of
the lines as from perceiving Mr. Chester close at hand, grinning like
the fabled pussy-cat of Cheshire, except that he did not fade away,
leaving only the grin.
Elaine felt the alien presence and looked around. Woman-like, she
quickly grasped the situation.
I have been having a rare treat, Mr. Chester, she said, in her
smoothest tones. Mr. Perkins has very kindly been reading to me his
beautiful Sonnet on Sleep, composed during a period of
wakefulness last night. Did you hear it? Is it not a most unusual
It is, indeed, answered Dick, dryly. I never before had the
privilege of hearing one that contained only twelve lines. Dante and
Petrarch and Shakespeare and all those other ducks put fourteen lines
in every blamed sonnet, for good measure.
Hurt to the quick, the sensitive poet walked away.
How can you speak so! cried Elaine, angrily. Is not Mr. Perkins
privileged to create a form?
To create a form, yes, returned Dick, easily, but not to monkey
with an old one. There's a difference.
Elaine would have followed the injured one had not Dick interfered.
He caught her hand quickly, a new and unaccountable lump in his throat
suddenly choking his utterance. I say, Elaine, he said, huskily,
you're not thinking of hooking up with that red-furred lobster, are
I do not know, responded Elaine, with icy dignity, what your
uncouth language may mean, but I tolerate no interference whatever with
my personal affairs. In a moment she was gone, and Dick watched the
slender, pink-clad figure returning to the house with ill-concealed
All Summer, so far, he and Elaine had been good friends. They had
laughed and joked and worked together in a care-free, happy-go-lucky
fashion. The arrival of Mr. Perkins and his sudden admiration of Elaine
had crystallised the situation. Dick knew now what caused the violent
antics of his hearta peaceful and well-behaved organ which had never
before been so disturbed by a woman.
I've got it, said Dick, to himself, deeply shamed. Moonlight,
poetry, mit-holding, and all the rest of it. Never having had it
before, it's going hard with me. Why in the devil wasn't I taught to
write doggerel when I was in college? A fellow don't stand any show
nowadays unless he's a pocket edition of Byron.
He went on through the orchard at a run, instinctively healing a
troubled mind by wearying the body. At the outer edge of it, he paused.
Suspended by a singularly strong bit of twine, a small, grinning
skull hung from the lower branch of an apple tree, far out on the limb.
Cat's skull, thought Dick. Wonder who hung it up there?
He lingered, idly, for a moment or two, then observed that a small
patch of grass directly underneath it was of that season's growth. His
curiosity fully awake, he determined to dig a bit, though he had dug
fruitlessly in many places since he came to the Jack-o'-Lantern.
Uncle couldn't do anything conventional, he said to himself, and
I'm pretty sure he wouldn't want any of his relations to have his
money. Here goes, just for luck!
He went back to the barn for the spade, which already had fresh
earth on itthe evidence of an early morning excavation privately made
by Mrs. Smithers in a spot where she had dreamed gold was hidden. He
went off to the orchard with it, whistling, his progress being
furtively watched with great interest by the sour-faced handmaiden in
Back in the orchard again, he worked feverishly, possessed by a
pleasant thrill of excitement, somewhat similar to that conceivably
enlivening the humdrum existence of Captain Kidd. Dick was far from
surprised when his spade struck something hard, and, his hands
trembling with eagerness, he lifted out a tin box of the kind commonly
used for private papers.
It was locked, but a twist of his muscular hands sufficed to break
it open. Then he saw that it was a spring lock, and that, with grim,
characteristic humour, Uncle Ebeneezer had placed the key inside the
box. There were papers thereand money, the coins and bills being
loosely scattered about, and the papers firmly sealed in an envelope
addressed To Whom it May Concern.
Dick counted the coins and smoothed out the bills, more puzzled than
he had ever been in his life. He was tempted to open the envelope, but
refrained, not at all sure that he was among those whom it concerned.
For the space of half an hour he stood there, frowning, then he
I'll just put it back, he said to himself. It's not for me to
monkey with Uncle Ebeneezer's purposes.
He buried the box in its old place, and even cut a bit of sod from a
distant part of the orchard to hide the traces of his work. When all
was smooth again, he went back to the barn, swinging the spade
carelessly but no longer whistling.
The old devil, he muttered, with keen appreciation. The wise old
XIV. Mrs. Dodd's Fifth Fate
Morning lay fair upon the land, and yet the Lady Elaine was
weary. Like a drooping lily she swayed in her saddle, sick at heart and
cast down. Earnestly her company of gallant knights strove to cheer
her, but in vain. Even the merry quips of the fool in motley, who still
rode at her side, brought no smile to her beautiful face.
Presently, he became silent, his heart deeply troubled because of
her. An hour passed so, and no word was spoken, then, timidly enough,
he ventured another jest.
The Lady Elaine turned. Say no more, fool, she commanded, but
get out thy writing tablet and compose me a poem. I would fain hear
something sad and tender in place of this endless folly.
Le Jongleur bowed. And the subject, Princess?
Elaine laughed bitterly. Myself, she cried. Why not? Myself,
Elaine, and this foolish quest of mine!
Then, for a space, there was silence upon the road, since the
fool, with his writing tablet, had dropped back to the rear of the
company, and the gallant knights, perceiving the mood of their
mistress, spoke not.
At noon, when the white sun trembled at the zenith, Le Jongleur
urged his donkey forward, and presented to Elaine a glorious rose which
he had found blooming at the wayside.
The poem is finished, your highness, he breathed, doffing his
cap, but 'tis all unworthy, so I bring thee this rose also, that
something in my offering may of a certainty be sweet.
He would have put the scroll into her hand, but she swerved her
palfrey aside. Read it, she said, impatiently; I have no mind to try
my wits with thy poor scrawls.
So, with his voice trembling, and overwhelmed with
self-consciousness, the fool read as follows:
The vineyards, purple with their bloom,
Elaine, hast thou forgotten?
The maidens in thy lonely room,
Thy tapestry on silent loom
But hush! Where is Elaine?
Elaine, hast thou forgotten?
Thy castle in the valley lies,
Elaine, hast thou forgotten?
Where swift the homing swallow flies
And in the sunset daylight dies
But hush! Where is Elaine?
Elaine, hast thou forgotten?
Night comes at last on dreamy wings,
Elaine, hast thou forgotten?
'Mid gleaming clouds the pale moon swings,
Thy taper light a faint star brings,
But hush! Where is Elaine?
Elaine, hast thou forgotten?
Harlan had never written any poetry before, but it had always seemed
easy. Now, as he read the verses over again, he was tremendously
satisfied with his achievement. Unconsciously, he had modelled it upon
an exquisite little bit by some one else, which had once been reprinted
beneath a story of his own when he was on the paper. He read it
aloud, to see how it sounded, and was more pleased than ever with the
swing of the verse and the music of the words. It's pretty close to
art, he said to himself, if it isn't the real thing.
Just then the luncheon bell rang, and he went out to the midday
gab-fest, as he inwardly characterised it. The meal proceeded to
dessert without any unusual disturbance, then the diminutive Ebeneezer
threw the remnants of his cup of milk into his mother's face, and was
carried off, howling, to be spanked. Like many other mothers, Mrs.
Holmes resented her children's conduct when it incommoded her, but not
otherwise, and though milk baths are said to be fine for the
complexion, she was not altogether pleased with the manner of
Amid the vocal pyrotechnics from the Holmes apartments, Harlan
escaped into the library, but his poem was gone. He searched for it
vainly, then sat down to write it over before he should forget it. This
done, he went on with Elaine and her adventures, and presently forgot
all about the lost page.
Don't that do your heart good? inquired Mrs. Dodd, of Dorothy,
inclining her head toward Mrs. Holmes's door.
Be it ever so humble, sang Dick, strolling out of the room,
there's no place like Holmes's.
Mrs. Carr admitted that her ears were not yet so calloused but that
the sound gave her distinct pleasure.
If that there little limb of Satan had have throwed his milk in
anybody else's face, went on Mrs. Dodd, all she'd have said would
have been: 'Ebbie, don't spill your nice milk. That's naughty.'
Her imitation of the fond mother's tone and manner was so wickedly
exact that Dorothy laughed heartily. The others had fled to a more
quiet spot, except Willie and Rebecca, who were fighting for a place at
the keyhole of their mother's door. Finally, Willie gained possession
of the keyhole, and the ingenious Rebecca, lying flat on her small
stomach, peered under the door, and obtained a pleasing view of what
was going on inside.
Listen at that! cried Mrs. Dodd, her countenance fairly beaming
with innocent pleasure. I'm gettin' most as much good out of it as I
would from goin' to the circus. Reckon it's a slipper, for it sounds
just like little Jimmie Young's weepin' did the night I come home from
my fifth honeymoon.
That's the only time, she went on, reminiscently, as I was ever a
step-ma to children what wasn't growed up. You'd think a woman as had
been married four times afore would have knowed better 'n to get her
fool head into a noose like that, but there seems to be only one way
for folks to learn things, an' that's by their own experience. If we
could only use other folks' experience, this here world would be heaven
in about three generations, but we're so constituted that we never
believe fire 'll burn till we poke our own fingers into it to see.
Other folks' scars don't go no ways at all toward convincin' us.
You read lots of novels about the sorrers of step-children, but I
ain't never come up with no epic as yet portrayin' the sufferin's of a
step-ma. If I had a talent like your husband's got, I'll be blest if I
wouldn't do it. What I went through with them children aged me ten
years in less 'n three.
It was like this, she prattled on. I'd never seen a one of 'em,
they livin' far away from their pa, as was necessary if their pa was to
get any peace an' happiness out 'n life, an' that lyin' creeter I
married told me there was only three. My dear, there was eight, an'
sixteen ordinary young ones couldn't have been no worse.
Our courtin' was done mainly in the cemetery. I'd just laid my
fourth away in his proper place an' had the letterin' all cut nice on
his side of the monumint, an' I was doin' the plantin' on the grave
when I met my fatemy fifth fate, I'm speakin' of now. I allers aimed
to do right by my husbands when they was dead no less 'n when they was
livin', an' I allers planted each one's favourite flower on his last
restin'-place, an' planted it thick, so 's when the last trump sounded
an' they all riz up, there wouldn't be no one of 'em that could accuse
me of bein' partial.
Some of the flowers was funny for a graveyard. One of 'em loved
sunflowers, an' when blossomin'-time come, you could see a spot of
light in my lot clear from the gate when you went in, an' on sunny days
even from quite a piece outside.
Geraniums was on the next grave, red an' pink together, as William
loved to see 'em, an' most fittin' an' appropriate. He was a
queer-lookin' man, William was, all bald except for a little fringe of
red hair around his head, an' his bald spot gettin' as pink as anythin'
when he got mad. I never could abide red an' pink together, so I did my
best not to rile him; but la sakes, my dear, red-haired folks is that
touchy that you never can tell what's goin' to rile 'em an' what ain't.
Some innercent little remark is as likely to set 'em off as anythin'
else. All the time it's like carryin' a light into a fireworks place.
Drop it once an' the air 'll be full of sky-rockets, roman candles,
pinwheels, an' set pieces till you're that dazed you don't know where
you're livin'. Don't never take no red-haired one, my dear, if you're
anyways set on peace. I never took but one, but that was enough to set
me dead against the breed.
Well, as I was a-sayin', James begun to woo me in the cemetery.
Whenever you see a man in a cemetery, my dear, you can take it for
granted that he's a new-made widower. After the first week or two, he
ain't got no time to go to no grave, he's so busy lookin' out for the
next one. When I see James a-waterin' an' a-weedin' on the next lot to
mine, therefore, I knowed his sorrer was new, even though the band of
crape on his hat was rusty an' old.
Bein' fellow-mourners, in a way, we struck up kind of a melancholy
friendship, an' finally got to borrerin' water from each other's
sprinklin' cans an' exchangin' flower seeds an' slips, an' even hull
plants. That old deceiver told me it was his first wife that was
a-lyin' there, an' showed me her name on the monumint. She was buried
in her own folks' lot, an' I never knowed till it was too late that his
own lot was plum full of wives, an' this here was a annex, so to speak.
I dunno how I come to be so took in, but anyways, when James's grief
had subsided somewhat, we decided to travel on the remainin' stretch
through this vale of tears together.
He told me he had a beautiful home in Taylorville, but was a-livin'
where he was so 's to be near the cemetery an' where he could look
after dear Annie's grave. The sentiment made me think all the more of
him, so 's I didn't hesitate, an' was even willin' to be married with
one of my old rings, to save the expense of a new one. James allers was
thrifty, an' the way he put it, it sounded quite reasonable, so 's
that's how it comes, my dear, that in spite of havin' had seven
husbands, I've only got six weddin'-rings.
I put each one on when its own proper anniversary comes around an'
wear it till the next one, when I change again, though for one of the
rings it makes only one day, because the fourth and seventh times I was
married so near together. That sounds queer, my dear, but if you think
it over, you'll see what I mean. It's fortunate, too, in a way, 'cause
I found out by accident years afterward that my fourth weddin'-ring
come out of a pawn-shop, an' I never took much joy out of wearin' it.
Bein' just alike, I wore another one mostly, even when Samuel was
alive, but he never noticed. Besides, I reckon 't wouldn't make no
difference, for a man that'll go to a pawn-shop for a weddin'-ring
ain't one to make a row about his wife's changin' it. When I spoke
sharp to him about it, he snickered, an' said it was appropriate
enough, though to this day I've never figured out precisely just what
the old serpent meant by it.
Well, as I was sayin', my dear, the minister married us in good an'
proper form, an' I must say that, though I've had all kinds of
ceremonies, I take to the 'Piscopal one the most, in spite of havin'
been brought up Methodis', an' hereafter I'll be married by it if the
occasion should arisean' we drove over to Taylorville.
The roads was dretful, but bein' experienced in marriage, I could
see that it wasn't that that was makin' James drop the whip, an' pull
back on the lines when he wanted the horses to go faster, an' not hear
things I was a-sayin' to him. Finally, I says, very distinct: 'James,
dear, how many children did you say you had?'
'Eight,' says he, clearin' his throat proud and haughty like.
'You're lyin',' says I, 'an' you know you're lyin'. You allers told
me you had three.'
'I was speakin' of those by my first wife,' says he. 'My other
wives all left one apiece. Ain't I never told you about 'em? I thought
I had,' he went on, speakin' quick, 'but if I haven't, it 's because
your beauty has made me forget all the pain an' sorrer of the past.'
With that he clicked to the horses so sudden that I was near threw
out of the rig, but it wasn't half so bad as the other jolt he'd just
give me. For a long time I didn't say nothin', an' there's nothin' that
makes a man so uneasy as a woman that don't say nothin', my dear, so
you just write that down in your little book, an' remember it. It'll
come in handy long before you're through with your first marriage an'
have begun on your second. Havin' been through four, I was well skilled
in keepin' my mouth shut, an' I never said a word till we drove into
the yard of the most disconsolate-lookin' premises I ever seen since I
was took to the poorhouse on a visit.
'James,' says I, cool but firm, 'is this your magnificent
'It is,' says he, very soft, 'an' it is here that I welcome my
bride. Have you ever seen anythin' like this view?'
'No,' says I, 'I never have'; an' it was gospel truth I was
speakin', too, for never before had I been to a place where the pigsty
was in front.
'It is a wonderful view,' says I, sarcastic like, 'but before I
linger to admire it more, I would love to look upon the scenery inside
When we went in, I thought I was either dreamin' or had got to
Bedlam. The seven youngest children was raisin' particular Cain, an'
the oldest, a pretty little girl of thirteen, was doin' her best to
quiet 'em. There was six others besides what had been accounted for,
but I soon found that they belonged to a neighbour, an' was just
visitin' to relieve the monotony.
The woman James had left takin' care of 'em had been gone two weeks
an' more, with a month's wages still comin' to her, which James never
felt called on to pay, on account of her havin' left without notice.
James was dretful thrifty. The youngest one was puttin' the cat into
the water-pitcher, an' as soon as I found out what his name was, I
called him sharp by it an' told him to quit. He put his tongue out at
me as sassy as you please, an' says: 'I won't.'
Well, my dear, I didn't wait to hear no more, but I opened my
satchel an' took out one of my slippers an' give that child a lickin'
that he'll remember when he's a grandparent. 'Hereafter,' says I, 'when
I tell you to do anythin', you'll do it. I'll speak kind the first time
an' firm the second, and the third time the whole thing will be
illustrated so plain that nobody can't misunderstand it. Your pa has
took me into a confidence game,' says I, speakin' to all the children,
'but I was never one to draw back from what I'd put my hand to, an' I
aim to do right by you if you do right by me. You mind,' says I, 'an'
you won't have no trouble; an' the same thing,' says I to James,
'applies to you.'
I felt sorry for all those poor little motherless things, with a
liar for a pa, an' all the time I lived there, I tried to make up to
'em what I could, but step-mas have their sorrers, my dear, that's what
they do, an' I ain't never seen no piece about it in the paper yet,
If you'll excuse me now, my dear, I'll go to my room. It's just
come to my mind now that this here is one of my anniversaries, an' I'll
have to look up the facts in my family Bible, an' change my ring.
At dinner-time the chastised and chastened twin appeared in freshly
starched raiment. His eyes were swollen and his face flushed, but
otherwise his recent painful experience had remarkably improved him. He
said please and thank you, and did not even resent it when Willie
slyly dropped a small piece of watermelon down his neck.
This afternoon, said Elaine, Mr. Perkins composed a beautiful
poem. I know it is beautiful, though I have not yet heard it. I do not
wish to be selfish in my pleasure, so I will ask him to read it to us
The poet's face suddenly became the colour of his hair. He dropped
his napkin, and swiftly whispered to Elaine, while he was picking it
up, that she herself was the subject of the poem.
How perfectly charming, said Elaine, clearly. Did you hear, Mrs.
Carr? Poor little, insignificant me has actually inspired a great poem.
Oh, do read it, Mr. Perkins? We are all dying to hear it!
Fairly cornered, the poet muttered that he had lost itsome other
timewait until to-morrowand so on.
No need to wait, said Dick, with an ironical smile. It was lost,
but now is found. I came upon it myself, blowing around unheeded under
the library window, quite like a common bit of paper.
Mr. Perkins was transfixed with amazement, for his cherished poem
was at that minute in his breast pocket. He clutched at it
spasmodically, to be sure it was still safe.
Very different emotions possessed Harlan, who choked on his food. He
instinctively guessed the worst, and saw his home in lurid ruin about
him, but was powerless to avert the catastrophe.
Read it, Dick, said Mrs. Dodd, kindly. We are all a-perishin' to
hear it. I can't eat another bite until I do. I reckon it'll sound like
a valentine, she concluded, with a malicious glance at Mr. Perkins.
I have taken the liberty, chuckled Dick, of changing a word or
two occasionally, to make better sense of it, and of leaving out some
lines altogether. Every one is privileged to vary an established form.
Without further preliminary, he read the improved version.
The little doggie sheds his coat,
Elaine, have you forgotten?
What is it goes around a button?
I thought you knew that simple thing,
But ideas in your head take wing.
Elaine, have you forgotten?
The answer is a goat.
How much is three times humpty-steen?
Elaine, have you forgotten?
Why does a chicken cross the road?
Who carries home a toper's load?
You are so very stupid, dear!
Elaine, have you forgotten?
You think a mop of scarlet hair
And pale green eyes
That will do, said Miss St. Clair, crisply. Mr. Perkins, may I
ask as a favour that you will not speak to me again? She marched out
with her head high, and Mr. Perkins, wholly unstrung, buried his face
in his napkin.
Harlan laugheda loud, ringing laugh, such as Dorothy had not heard
from him for months, and striding around the table, he grasped Dick's
hand in tremendous relief.
Let me have it, he cried, eagerly. Give me all of it!
Sure, said Dick, readily, passing over both sheets of paper.
Harlan went into the library with the composition, and presently,
when Dick was walking around the house and saw bits of torn paper
fluttering out of the open window, a light broke through his usual
Whew! he said to himself. I'll be darned! I'll be everlastingly
darned! Idiot! he continued, savagely. Oh, if I could only kick
myself! Poor Dorothy! I wonder if she knows!
The August moon swung high in the heavens, and the crickets chirped
unbearably. The luminous dew lay heavily upon the surrounding fields,
and now and then a stray breeze, amid the overhanging branches of the
trees that lined the roadway, aroused in the consciousness of the
single wayfarer a feeling closely akin to panic. When he reached the
summit of the hill, he was trembling violently.
In the dooryard of the Jack-o'-Lantern, he paused. It was dark, save
for a single round window. In an upper front room a night-lamp, turned
low, gave one leering eye to the grotesque exterior of the house.
With his heart thumping loudly, Mr. Bradford leaned against a tree
and divested himself of his shoes. From a package under his arm, he
took out a pair of soft felt slippers, the paper rattling loudly as he
did so. He put them on, hesitated, then went cautiously up the walk.
In all my seventy-eight years, he thought, I have never done
anything like this. If I had not promised the Colonelbut a promise to
a dying man is sacred, especially when he is one's best friend.
The sound of the key in the lock seemed almost like an explosion of
dynamite. Mr. Bradford wiped the cold perspiration from his forehead,
turned the door slowly upon its squeaky hinges, and went in, feeling
like a burglar.
I am not a burglar, he thought, his hands shaking. I have come to
give, not to take away.
Fearfully, he tiptoed into the parlour, expecting at any moment to
arouse the house. Feeling his way carefully along the wall, and guided
by the moonlight which streamed in at the side windows, he came to the
wing occupied by Mrs. Holmes and her exuberant offspring. Here he
stooped, awkwardly, and slipped a sealed and addressed letter under the
door, heaving a sigh of relief as he got away without having wakened
The sounds which came from Mrs. Dodd's room were reassuringly
suggestive of sleep. Hastily, he slipped another letter under her door,
then made his way cautiously to the kitchen. The missive intended for
Mrs. Smithers was left on the door-mat outside, for, as Mr. Bradford
well knew, the ears of the handmaiden were uncomfortably keen.
At the foot of the stairs he hesitated again, but by the time he
reached the top, his heart had ceased to beat audibly. He tiptoed down
the corridor to Uncle Israel's room, then, further on, to Dick's. The
letter intended for Mr. Perkins was slipped under Elaine's door, Mr.
Bradford not being aware that the poet had changed his room. Having
safely accomplished his last errand, the tension relaxed, and he went
downstairs with more assurance, his pace being unduly hastened by a
subdued howl from one of the twins.
Bidding himself be calm, he got to the front door, and drew a long
breath of relief as he closed it noiselessly. There was a light in Mrs.
Holmes's room now, and Mr. Bradford did not wish to linger. He gathered
up his shoes and fairly ran downhill, arriving at his office much
shaken in mind and body, nearly two hours after he had started.
I do not know, he said to himself, why the Colonel should have
been so particular as to dates and hours, but he knew his own business
best. Then, further in accordance with his instructions, he burned a
number of letters which could not be delivered personally.
If Mr. Bradford could have seen the company which met at the
breakfast table the following morning, he would have been amply repaid
for his supreme effort of the night before, had he been blessed with
any sense of humour at all. The Carrs were untroubled, and Elaine
appeared as usual, except for her haughty indifference to Mr. Perkins.
She thought he had written a letter to himself and slipped it under her
door, in order to compel her to speak to him, but she had tactfully
avoided that difficulty by leaving it on his own threshold. Dick's eyes
were dancing and at intervals his mirth bubbled over, needlessly, as
every one else appeared to think.
I doesn't know wot folks finds to laugh at, remarked Mrs.
Smithers, as she brought in the coffee; that's wot I doesn't. It's a
solemn time, I take it, when the sheeted spectres of the dead walks
abroad by night, that's wot it is. It's time for folks to be thinkin'
about their immortal souls.
This enigmatical utterance produced a startling effect. Mr. Perkins
turned a pale green and hastily excused himself, his breakfast wholly
untouched. Mrs. Holmes dropped her fork and recovered it in evident
confusion. Mrs. Dodd's face was a bright scarlet and appeared about to
burst, but she kept her lips compressed into a thin, tight line. Uncle
Israel nodded over his predigested food. Just so, he mumbled; a
Eagerly watching for an opportunity, Mrs. Holmes dived into the
barn, and emerged, cautiously, with the spade concealed under her
skirts. She carried it into her own apartment and hid it under Willie's
bed. Mrs. Smithers went to look for it a little later, and, discovering
that it was unaccountably missing, excavated her own private spade from
beneath the hay. During the afternoon, the poet was observed lashing
the fire-shovel to the other end of a decrepit rake. Uncle Israel,
after a fruitless search of the premises, actually went to town and
came back with a bulky and awkward parcel, which he hid in the
Meanwhile, Willie had gone whimpering to Mrs. Dodd, who was in
serious trouble of her own. I'm afraid, he admitted, when closely
Afraid of what? demanded his counsellor, sharply.
I'm afraid of ma, sobbed Willie. She's a-goin' to bury me. She's
got the spade hid under my bed now.
Sudden emotion completely changed Mrs. Dodd's countenance. There,
there, Willie, she said, stroking him kindly. Where is your ma?
She's out in the orchard with Ebbie and Rebbie.
Well now, deary, don't you say nothin' at all to your ma, an' we'll
fool her. The idea of buryin' a nice little boy like you! You just go
an' get me that spade an' I'll hide it in my room. Then, when your ma
asks for it, you don't know nothin' about it. See?
Willie's troubled face brightened, and presently the implement was
under Mrs. Dodd's own bed, and her door locked. Much relieved in his
mind and cherishing kindly sentiments toward his benefactor, Willie
slid down the banisters, unrebuked, the rest of the afternoon.
Meanwhile Mrs. Dodd sat on the porch and meditated. I'd never have
thought, she said to herself, that Ebeneezer would intend that Holmes
woman to have any of it, but you never can tell what folks'll do when
their minds gets to failin' at the end. Ebeneezer's mind must have
failed dretful, for I know he didn't make no promise to her, same as he
did to me, an' if she don't suspect nothin', what did she go an' get
the spade for? Dretful likely hand it is, for spirit writin'.
Looking about furtively to make sure that she was not observed, Mrs.
Dodd drew out of the mysterious recesses of her garments, the crumpled
communication of the night before. It was dated, Heaven, August 12th,
and the penmanship was Uncle Ebeneezer's to the life.
Dear Belinda, it read. I find myself at the last moment obliged
to change my plans. If you will go to the orchard at exactly twelve
o'clock on the night of August 13th, you will find there what you seek.
Go straight ahead to the ninth row of apple trees, then seven trees to
the left. A cat's skull hangs from the lower branch, if it hasn't blown
down or been taken away. Dig here and you will find a tin box
containing what I have always meant you to have.
I charge you by all you hold sacred to obey these directions in
every particular, and unless you want to lose it all, to say nothing
about it to any one who may be in the house.
I am sorry to put you to this inconvenience, but the limitations of
the spirit world cannot well be explained to mortals. I hope you will
make a wise use of the money and not spend it all on clothes, as women
are apt to do.
In conclusion, let me say that I am very happy in heaven, though it
is considerably more quiet than any place I ever lived in before. I
have met a great many friends here, but no relatives except my wife.
Farewell, as I shall probably never see you again.
P.S. All of your previous husbands are here, in the sunny section
set aside for martyrs. None of them give you a good reputation.
Don't it beat all, muttered Mrs. Dodd to herself, excitedly. Here
was Ebeneezer at my door last night, an' I never knowed it. Sakes
alive, if I had knowed it, I wouldn't have slep' like I did. Here comes
that Holmes hussy. Wonder what she knows!
Do you believe in spirits, Mrs. Dodd? inquired Mrs. Holmes, in a
careless tone that did not deceive her listener.
Depends, returned the other, with an evident distaste for the
Do you believe spirits can walk?
I ain't never seen no spirits walk, but I've seen folks try to walk
that was full of spirits, and there wa'n't no visible improvement in
their steppin'. This was a pleasant allusion to the departed Mr.
Holmes, who was currently said to have drunk hisself to death.
A scarlet flush, which mounted to the roots of Mrs. Holmes's hair,
indicated that the shot had told, and Mrs. Dodd went to her own room,
where she carefully locked herself in. She was determined to sit upon
her precious spade until midnight, if it were necessary, to keep it.
Mrs. Smithers was sitting up in bed with the cold perspiration
oozing from every pore, when the kitchen clock struck twelve sharp,
quick strokes. The other clocks in the house took up the echo and made
merry with it. The grandfather's clock in the hall was the last to
strike, and the twelve deep-toned notes boomed a solemn warning which,
to more than one quaking listener, bore a strong suggestion of another
worldan uncanny world at that.
Guess I'll go along, said Dick to himself, yawning and stretching.
I might just as well see the fun.
Mrs. Smithers, with her private spade and her odorous lantern, was
at the spot first, closely seconded by Mrs. Dodd, in a voluminous
garment of red flannel which had seen all of its best days and not a
few of its worst. Trembling from head to foot, came Mrs. Holmes,
carrying a pair of shears, which she had snatched up at the last moment
when she discovered the spade was missing. Mr. Perkins, fully garbed,
appeared with his improvised shovel. Uncle Israel, in his piebald
dressing-gown, tottered along in the rear, bearing his spade, still
unwrapped, his bedroom candle, and a box of matches. Dick surveyed the
scene from a safe, shadowy distance, and on a branch near the skull,
Claudius Tiberius was stretched at full length, purring with a loud,
resonant purr which could be heard from afar.
After the first shock of surprise, which was especially keen on the
part of Mrs. Dodd, when she saw Uncle Israel in the company, Mrs.
Smithers broke the silence.
It's nothink more nor a wild-goose chase, she said, resentfully.
A-gettin' us all out'n our beds at this time o' night! It's a
sufferin' and dyin' shame, that's wot it is, and if sperrits was like
other folks, 't wouldn't 'ave happened.
Sarah, said Mrs. Dodd, firmly, keep your mouth shut. Israel, will
We'll all dig, said Mrs. Holmes, in the voice of authority, and
thereafter the dirt flew briskly enough, accompanied by the laboured
breathing of perspiring humanity.
It was Uncle Israel's spade that first touched the box, and, with a
cry of delight, he stooped for it, as did everybody else. By sheer
force of muscle, Mrs. Dodd got it away from him.
This wrangle, sighed Mr. Perkins, is both unseemly and sordid.
Let us all agree to abide by dear Uncle Ebeneezer's last bequests.
There won't be no desire not to abide by 'em, snorted Mrs.
Smithers, wot with cats as can't stay buried and sheeted spectres of
the dead a-walkin' through the house by night!
By this time, Mrs. Dodd had the box open, and a cry of astonishment
broke from her lips. Several heads were badly bumped in the effort to
peep into the box, and an unprotected sneeze from Uncle Israel added to
the general unpleasantness.
You can all go away, cried Mrs. Dodd, shrilly. There's two
one-dollar bills here, two quarters, an' two nickels an' eight pennies.
'T aint nothin' to be fit over.
But the letter, suggested Mr. Perkins, hopefully. Is there not a
letter from dear Uncle Ebeneezer? Let us gather around the box in a
reverent spirit and listen to dear Uncle Ebeneezer's last words.
You can read 'em, snapped Mrs. Holmes, if you're set on hearing.
Uncle Israel wheezed so loudly that for the moment he drowned the
deep purr of Claudius Tiberius. When quiet was restored, Mr. Perkins
broke the seal of the envelope and unfolded the communication within.
Uncle Israel held the dripping candle on one side and Mrs. Smithers the
smoking lantern on the other, while near by, Dick watched the midnight
assembly with an unholy glee which, in spite of his efforts, nearly
How beautiful, said Mr. Perkins, to think that dear Uncle
Ebeneezer's last words should be given to us in this unexpected but
Shut up, said Mrs. Smithers, emphatically, and read them last
words. I'm gettin' the pneumony now, that's wot I am.
You're the only one, chirped Mrs. Dodd, hysterically. The money
in this here box is all old. It was, indeed. Mr. Judson seemed to have
purposely chosen ragged bills and coins worn smooth.
'Dear Relations,' began Mr. Perkins. 'As every one of you have at
one time or another routed me out of bed to let you in when you have
come to my house on the night train, and always uninvited'
I never did, interrupted Mrs. Holmes. I always came in the
Nobody ain't come at night, explained Mrs. Smithers, since 'e
fixed the 'ouse over into a face. One female fainted dead away when 'er
started up the hill and see it a-winkin' at 'er, yes sir, that's wot
'It seems only fitting and appropriate,' continued Mr. Perkins,
'that you should all see how it seems.' The poet wiped his massive
brow with his soiled handkerchief. Dear uncle! he commented.
Yes, wheezed Uncle Israel, 'dear uncle!' Damn his stingy old
soul, he added, with uncalled-for emphasis.
It gives me pleasure to explain in this fashion my disposal of my
estate, the reader went on, huskily.
Of all the connection on both sides, there is only one that has
never been to see me, unless I've forgotten some, and that is my
beloved nephew, James Harlan Carr.
Him, creaked Uncle Israel. Him, as never see Ebeneezer.
He has never, continued the poet, with difficulty, rung my door
bell at night, nor eaten me out of house and home, nor written begging
letters this phrase was well-nigh inaudiblenor had fits on
Here there was a pause and all eyes were fastened upon Uncle Israel.
'T wa'n't a fit! he screamed. It was a involuntary spasm brought
on by takin' two searchin' medicines too near together. 'T wa'n't a
The idea! snapped Mrs. Holmes. Poor little Ebbie and Rebbie had
to be born somewhere.
That was Cousin Si Martin, said Mrs. Dodd, half to herself. He
was took bad with it in the night.
He has never come to spend Christmas with me and remained until the
ensuing dog days, nor sent me a crayon portrait of himselfMr.
Perkins faltered here, but nobly went onnor had typhoid fever, nor
finished up his tuberculosis, nor cut teeth, nor set the house on fire
with a bath cabinet
At this juncture Uncle Israel was so overcome with violent emotion
that it was some time before the reading could proceed.
Never having come into any kind of relations with my dear nephew,
James Harlan Carr, continued Mr. Perkins, in troubled tones, I have
shown my gratitude in this humble way. To him I give the house and all
my furniture, my books and personal effects of every kind, my farm in
Hill County, two thousand acres, all improved and clear of incumbrance,
except blooded stock,
I never knowed 'e 'ad no farm, interrupted Mrs. Smithers.
And the ten thousand and eighty-four dollars in the City Bank which
at this writing is there to my credit, but will be duly transferred,
and my dear Rebecca's diamond pin to be given to my beloved nephew's
wife when he marries. It is all in my will, which my dear friend
Jeremiah Bradford has, and which he will read at the proper time to
The old snake! shrieked Mrs. Holmes.
Further, went on the poet, almost past speech by this time, I
direct that the remainder of my estate, which is here in this box,
shall be divided as follows:
Eight cents each to that loafer, Si Martin, his lazy wife, and
their eight badly brought-up children, with instructions to be generous
to any additions to said children through matrimony or natural causes;
Fanny Wood and that poor, white-livered creature she married, thereby
proving her own idiocy if it needed proof; Uncle James's cross-eyed
third wife and her two silly daughters; Rebecca's sister's scoundrelly
second husband, with his foolish wife and their little boy with a face
like a pug dog; Uncle Jason, who has needed a bath ever since I knew
himI want he should spend his legacy for soapand his epileptic
stepson, whose name I forget, though he lived with me five years
hand-running; lying Sally Simmons and her half-witted daughter; that
old hen, Belinda Dodd; that skunk, Harold Vernon Perkins, who never did
a stroke of honest work in his life till he began to dig for this box;
monkey-faced Lucretia and the four thieving little Riley children, who
are likely to get into prison when they grow up; that human
undertaker's waggon, Betsey Skiles, and her two impudent nieces; that
grand old perambulating drug store, Israel Skiles; that Holmes fool
with the three reprints of her uglinesseight cents apiece, and may
you get all possible good out of it.
Dick Chester, however, having always paid his board, and tried to
be a help to me in several small ways, and in spite of having lived
with me eight Summers or more without having been asked to do so, gets
two thousand two hundred and fifty dollars which is deposited for him
in the savings department of the Metropolitan Bank, plus the three
hundred and seventy dollars he paid me for board without my asking him
for it. Sarah Smithers, being in the main a good woman, though
sharp-tongued at times, and having been faithful all the time my house
has been full of lowdown cusses too lazy to work for their living, gets
twelve hundred and fifty dollars which is in the same bank as Dick's.
The rest of you take your eight cents apiece and be damned. You can get
the money changed at the store. If any have been left out, it is my
desire that those remembered should divide with the unfortunate.
If you had not all claimed to be Rebecca's relatives, you would
have been kicked out of my house years ago, but since writing this, I
have seen Rebecca and made it right with her. It was not her desire
that I should be imposed upon.
Get out of my house, every one of you, before noon to-morrow, and
the devil has my sincere sympathy when you go to live with him and make
hell what you have made my house ever since Rebecca's death. GET OUT!!!
The letter was badly written and incoherent, yet there could be no
doubt of its meaning, nor of the state of mind in which it had been
penned. For a moment, there was a tense silence, then Mrs. Dodd
We thought diamonds was goin' to be trumps, she observed, an' it
turned out to be spades.
Uncle Israel wheezed again and Mrs. Smithers smacked her lips with
intense satisfaction. Mrs. Holmes was pale with anger, and, under cover
of the night, Dick sneaked back to his room, shame-faced, yet happy.
Claudius Tiberius still purred, sticking his claws into the bark with
every evidence of pleasure.
I do not know, said Mr. Perkins, sadly, running his fingers
through his mane, whether we are obliged to take as final these
vagaries of a dying man. Dear Uncle Ebeneezer could not have been sane
when he penned this cruel letter. I do not believe it was his desire to
have any of us go away before the usual time. Under cover of these
forgiving sentiments, he pocketed all the money in the box.
Me neither, said Mrs. Dodd. Anyhow, I'm goin' to stay. No sheeted
spectre can't scare me away from a place I've always stayed in Summers,
'specially, she added, sarcastically, when I'm remembered in the
Mrs. Smithers clucked disagreeably and went back to the house. Uncle
Israel looked after her with dismay. Do you suppose, he queried, in
falsetto, that she'll tell the Carrs?
Hush, Israel, replied Mrs. Dodd. She can't tell them Carrs about
our diggin' all night in the orchard, 'cause she was here herself. They
didn't get no spirit communication an' they won't suspect nothin'.
We'll just stay where we be an' go on 's if nothin' had happened.
Indeed, this seemed the wisest plan, and, shivering with the cold,
the baffled ones filed back to the Jack-o'-Lantern. How did you get
out, Israel? whispered Mrs. Dodd, as they approached the house.
The old man snickered. It was the only moment of the evening he had
thoroughly enjoyed. The same spirit that give me the letter, Belinda,
he returned, pleasantly, also give me a key. You didn't think I had no
flyin' machine, did you?
Humph grunted Mrs. Dodd. Spirits don't carry no keys!
At the threshold they paused, the sensitive poet quite unstrung by
the night's adventure. From the depths of the Jack-o'-Lantern came a
shrill, infantile cry.
Is that Ebbie, asked Mrs. Dodd, or Rebbie?
Mrs. Holmes turned upon her with suppressed fury. Don't you ever
dare to allude to my children in that manner again, she commanded,
What is their names? quavered Uncle Israel, lighting his candle.
Their names, returned Mrs. Holmes, with a vast accession of
dignity, are Gladys Gwendolen and Algernon Paul! Good night!
Just before dawn, a sheeted spectre appeared at the side of Sarah
Smither's bed, and swore the trembling woman to secrecy. It was long
past sunrise before the frightened handmaiden came to her senses enough
to recall that the voice of the apparition had been strangely like Mrs.
XVI. Good Fortune
The next morning, Harlan and Dorothy ate breakfast by themselves.
There was suppressed excitement in the manner of Mrs. Smithers, who by
this time had quite recovered from her fright, and, as they readily
saw, not wholly of an unpleasant kind. From time to time she tittered
audiblya thing which had never happened before.
It's just as if a tombstone should giggle, remarked Harlan. His
tone was low, but unfortunately, it carried well.
Tombstone or not, just as you like, responded Mrs. Smithers, as
she came in with the bacon. I'd be careful 'ow I spoke disrespectfully
of tombstones if I was in your places, that's wot I would. Tombstones
is kind to some and cussed to others, that's wot they are, and if you
don't like the monument wot's at present in your kitchen, you know wot
you can do.
After breakfast, she beckoned Dorothy into the kitchen, and gave
Oh, Mrs. Smithers, cried Dorothy, almost moved to tears, please
don't leave me in the lurch! What should I do without you, with all
these people on my hands? Don't think of such a thing as leaving me!
Miss Carr, said Mrs. Smithers, solemnly, with one long bony finger
laid alongside of her hooked nose, 't ain't necessary for you to run
no Summer hotel, that's what it ain't. These 'ere all be relations of
your uncle's wife and none of his'n except by marriage. Wot's more,
your uncle don't want 'em 'ere, that's wot 'e don't.
Mrs. Smithers's tone was so confident that for the moment Dorothy
was startled, remembering yesterday's vague allusion to sheeted
spectres of the dead.
What do you mean? she demanded.
Miss Carr, returned Mrs. Smithers, with due dignity, ever since I
come 'ere, I've been invited to shut my 'ead whenever I opened it about
that there cat or your uncle or anythink, as you well knows. I was
never one wot was fond of 'avin' my 'ead shut up.
Go on, said Dorothy, her curiosity fully alive, and tell me what
You gives me your solemn oath, Miss, that you won't tell me to shut
my 'ead? queried Mrs. Smithers.
Of course, returned Dorothy, trying to be practical, though the
atmosphere was sepulchral enough.
Well, then, you knows wot I told you about that there cat. 'E was
kilt by your uncle, that's wot 'e was, and your uncle couldn't never
abide cats. 'E was that feared of 'em 'e couldn't even bury 'em when
they was kilt, and one of my duties, Miss, as long as I lived with 'im,
was buryin' of cats, and until this one, I never come up with one wot
couldn't stay buried, that's wot I 'aven't.
'E 'ated 'em like poison, that's wot 'e did. The week afore your
uncle died, he kilt this 'ere cat wot's chasin' the chickens now, and I
buried 'im with my own hands, but could 'e stay buried? 'E could not.
No sooner is your uncle dead and gone than this 'ere cat comes back,
and it's the truth, Miss Carr, for where 'e was buried, there ain't no
sign of a cat now. Wot's worse, this 'ere cat looks per-cisely like
your uncle, green eyes, white shirt front, black tie and all. It's
enough to give a body the shivers to see 'im a-settin' on the kitchen
floor lappin' up 'is mush and milk, the which your uncle was so
powerful fond of.
Wot's more, continued Mrs. Smithers, in tones of awe, I'll a'most
bet my immortal soul that if you'll dig in the cemetery where your
uncle was buried good and proper, you won't find nothin' but the empty
coffin and maybe 'is grave clothes. Your uncle's been livin' with us
all along in that there cat, she added, triumphantly. It's 'is
punishment, for 'e couldn't never abide 'em, that's wot 'e couldn't.
Mrs. Carr opened her mouth to speak, then, remembering her promise,
took refuge in flight.
'Er's scared, muttered Mrs. Smithers, and no wonder. Wot with
cats as can't stay buried, writin' letters and deliverin' 'em in the
dead of night, and a purrin' like mad while blamed fools digs for eight
cents, most folks would be scared, I take it, that's wot they would.
Dorothy was pale when she went into the library where Harlan was at
work. He frowned at the interruption and Dorothy smiled back at himit
seemed so normal and sane.
What is it, Dorothy? he asked, not unkindly.
Ohjust Mrs. Smithers's nonsense. She's upset me.
What about, dear? Harlan put his work aside readily enough now.
Oh, the same old story about the cat and Uncle Ebeneezer. And I'm
Afraid of what?
I know it's foolish, but I'm afraid she's going to dig in the
cemetery to see if Uncle Ebeneezer is still there. She thinks he's in
For the moment, Harlan thought Dorothy had suddenly lost her reason,
then he laughed heartily.
Don't worry, he said, she won't do anything of the kind, and,
besides, what if she did? It's a free country, isn't it?
Andthere's another thing, Harlan. For days she had dreaded to
speak of it, but now it could be put off no longer.
It'sit's money, she went on, unwillingly. I'm afraid I haven't
managed very well, or else it's cost so much for everything, but
we'rewe're almost broke, Harlan, she concluded, bravely, trying to
Harlan put his hands in his pockets and began to walk back and
forth. If I can only finish the book, he said, at length, I think
we'll be all right, but I can't leave it now. There's only two more
chapters to write, and then
And then, cried Dorothy, her beautiful belief in him transfiguring
her face, then we'll be rich, won't we?
I am already rich, returned Harlan, when you have such faith in
me as that.
For a moment the shimmering veil of estrangement which so long had
hung between them, seemed to part, and reveal soul to soul. As swiftly
the mood changed and Dorothy felt it first, like a chill mist in the
air. Neither dreamed that with the writing of the first paragraph in
the book, the spell had claimed one of them for everthat cobweb after
cobweb, of gossamer fineness, should make a fabric never to be broken;
that on one side of it should stand a man who had exchanged his dreams
for realities and his realities for dreams, and on the other, a woman,
blindly hurt, eternally straining to see beyond the veil.
What can we do? asked Harlan, unwontedly practical for the nonce.
I don't know, said Dorothy. There are the diamonds, you know,
that we found. I don't care for any diamonds, except the one you gave
me. If we could sell those
Dorothy, don't. I don't believe they're ours, and if they were,
they shouldn't be sold. You should keep them.
My engagement ring, then, suggested Dorothy, her lips trembling.
Don't be foolish, said Harlan, a little roughly. I'll finish this
and then we'll see what's to be done.
Feeling her dismissal, Dorothy went out, and, all unknowingly,
straight into the sunshine.
Elaine was coming downstairs, fresh and sweet as the morning itself.
Am I too late to have any breakfast, Mrs. Carr? she asked, gaily. I
know I don't deserve any.
Of course you shall have breakfast. I'll see to it.
Elaine took her place at the table and Dorothy, reluctant to put
further strain on the frail bond that anchored Mrs. Smithers to her
service, brought in the breakfast herself.
You're so good to me, said the girl, gratefully, as Dorothy poured
out a cup of steaming coffee. To think how beautiful you've been to
me, when I never saw either one of you in my whole life, till I came
here ill and broken-hearted! See what you've made of mesee how well
and strong I am!
Swiftly, Dorothy bent and kissed Elaine, a strange, shadowy cloud
for ever lifted from her heart. She had not known how heavy it was nor
how charged with foreboding, until it was gone.
I want to do something for you, Elaine went on, laughing to hide
the mist in her eyes, and I've just thought what I can do. My mother
had some beautiful old mahogany furniture, just loads of it, and some
wonderful laces, and I'm going to divide with you.
No, you're not, returned Dorothy, warmly. She felt that Elaine had
already given her enough.
It isn't meant for payment, Mrs. Carr, the girl went on, her big
blue eyes fixed upon Dorothy, but you're to take it from me just as
I've taken this lovely Summer from you. You took in a stranger, weak
and helpless and half-crazed with grief, and you've made her into a
happy woman again.
Before Dorothy could answer, Dick lounged in, frankly sleepy.
Second call in the dining car? he asked, taking Mrs. Dodd's place,
across the table from Elaine.
Third call, returned Dorothy, brightly, and, if you don't mind,
I'll leave you two to wait on yourselves. She went upstairs, her heart
light, not so much from reality as from prescience. How true it is,
she thought, that if you only wait and do the best you can, things all
work out straight again. I've had to learn it, but I know it now.
Bully bunch, the Carrs, remarked Dick, pushing his cup to Elaine.
They're lovely, she answered, with conviction.
The sun streamed brightly into the dining-room of the
Jack-o'-Lantern and changed its hideousness into cheer. Seeing Elaine
across from him, gracefully pouring his coffee, affected Dick
strangely. Since the day before, he had seen clearly something which he
I say, Elaine, he began, awkwardly. That beast of a poem I read
the other day
Her face paled, ever so slightly. Yes?
Well, Perkins didn't write it, you know, Dick went on, hastily. I
did it myself. Or, rather I found it, blowing around, outside, just as
I said, and I fixed it.
At length he became restless under the calm scrutiny of Elaine's
clear eyes. I beg your pardon, he continued.
Did you think, she asked, that it was nice to make fun of a lady
in that way?
I didn't think, returned Dick, truthfully. I never thought for a
minute that it was making fun of you, but only of thatthat pup,
Perkins, he concluded, viciously.
Under the circumstances, said Elaine, ignoring the epithet, the
silence of Mr. Perkins has been very noble. I shall tell him so.
Do, answered Dick, with difficulty. He's ambling up to the
lunch-counter now. Mr. Chester went out by way of the window,
I have just been told, said Miss St. Clair to the poet, that
theerpoem was not written by you, and I apologise for what I said.
Mr. Perkins bowed in acknowledgment. It is a small matter, he
said, wearily, running his fingers through his hair. It was, indeed,
compared with deep sorrow of a penetrating kind, and a sleepless night,
but Elaine did not relish the comment.
Werewere you restless in the night? she asked, conventionally.
I was. I did not sleep at all until after four o'clock, and then
only for a few moments.
I'm sorry. Diddid you write anything?
I began an epic, answered the poet, touched, for the moment, by
this unexpected sympathy. An epic in blank verse, on
I'm sure it's beautiful, continued Elaine, coldly. And that
reminds me. I have hunted through my room, in every possible place, and
A flood of painful emotion overwhelmed the poet, and he buried his
face in his hands. In a flash, Elaine was violently angry, though she
could not have told why. She marched out of the dining-room and slammed
the door. Delicate, sensitive soul, she said to herself, scornfully.
Wants people to hunt for money he thinks may be hidden in his room,
and yet is so far above sordidness that he can't hear it spoken of!
Seeing Mr. Chester pacing back and forth moodily at some distance
from the house, Elaine rushed out to him. Dick, she cried, he is
Dick's clouded face brightened. Is he? he asked, eagerly, knowing
instinctively whom she meant. Elaine, you're a brick! They shook
hands in token of absolute agreement upon one subject at least, and the
girl's right hand hurt her for some little time afterward.
Left to himself, Mr. Perkins mused upon the dread prospect before
him. For years he had calculated upon a generous proportion of his
Uncle Ebeneezer's estate, and had even borrowed money upon the strength
of his expectations. These debts now loomed up inconveniently.
The vulgar, commercial people from whom Mr. Perkins had borrowed
filthy coin were quite capable of speaking of the matter, and in an
unpleasant manner at that. The fine soul of Mr. Perkins shrank from the
ordeal. He had that particular disdain of commercialism which is
inseparable from the incapable and unsuccessful, and yet, if the light
of his genius were to illuminate a desolate world, Mr. Perkins must
He might even have to degrade himself by coarse toiland hitherto,
he had been too proud to work. The thought was terrible. Pegasus
hitched to the plough was nothing compared with the prospect of Mr.
Perkins being obliged to earn three or four dollars a week in some
humble, common capacity.
Then a bright idea came to his rescue. Mr. Carr, he thought, the
gentleman who is now entertaining mehe is doing my own kind of work,
though of course it is less fine in quality. Perhaps he would like the
opportunity of going down to posterity as the humble Mæcenas of a new
Borne to the library in the rush of this attractive idea, Mr.
Perkins opened the door, which Harlan had forgotten to lock, and
without in any way announcing himself, broke in on Harlan's chapter.
What do you mean? demanded the irate author. What business have
you butting in here like this? Get out!
I stammered Mr. Perkins.
Get out! thundered Harlan. It sounded strangely like the last
phrase of dear Uncle Ebeneezer's last communication, and, trembling,
the disconsolate poet obeyed. He fled to his own room as a storm-tossed
ship to its last harbour, and renewed the composition of his epic on
Disappointment, for which, by this time, he had additional material.
Harlan went back to his work, but the mood was gone. The living,
radiant picture had wholly vanished, and in its place was a heap of
dead, dry, meaningless words. Did I write it? asked Harlan, of
himself, and if so, why?
Like the mocking fantasy of a dream as seen in the instant of
waking, Elaine and her company had gone, as if to return no more. Only
two chapters were yet to be written, and he knew, vaguely, what Elaine
was about to do when he left her, but his pen had lost the trick of
Deeply troubled, Harlan went to the window, where the outer world
still had the curious appearance of unreality. It was as though a sheet
of glass were between him and the life of the rest of the world. He
could see through it clearly, but the barrier was there, and must
always be there. Upon the edge of this glass, the light of life should
break and resolve itself into prismatic colours, of which he should see
one at a time, now and then more, and often a clear, pitiless view of
the world should give him no colour at all.
Presently Lawyer Bradford came up the hill, dressed for a formal
call. In a flash it brought back to Harlan the day the old man had
first come to the Jack-o'-Lantern, when Dorothy was a happy girl with a
care-free boy for a husband. How much had happened since, and how old
and grey the world had grown!
I desire to see the distinguished author, Mr. Carr, the thin,
piping voice was saying at the door, upon a matter of immediate and
personal importance. And Mrs. Carr also, if she is at leisure. Privacy
is absolutely essential.
Come into the library, said Harlan, from the doorway. Another
interruption made no difference now. Dorothy soon followed, much
mystified by the way in which Mrs. Smithers had summoned her.
Remembering the inopportune intrusion of Mr. Perkins, Harlan locked
the door. Now, Mr. Bradford, he said, easily, what is it?
I should have told you before, began the old lawyer, had not the
bonds of silence been laid upon me by one whom we all revere and who is
now past carrying out his own desires. The house is yours, as my
letters of an earlier date apprised you, and the will is to be probated
at the Fall term of court.
Your uncle, went on Mr. Bradford, unwillingly, was a great
sufferer fromfrom relations, he added, lowering his voice to a
shrill whisper, and he has chosen to revenge himself for his
sufferings in his own way. Of this I am not at liberty to speak, though
no definite silence was required of me later than yesterday.
There is, however, a farm of two thousand acres, all improved,
which is still to come to you, and a sum of money amounting to
something over ten thousand dollars, in the bank to your credit. The
multitudinous duties in connection with the practice of my profession
have prevented me from making myself familiar with the exact amount.
And, he went on, looking at Dorothy, there is a very beautiful
diamond pin, the gift of my lamented friend to his lovely young wife
upon the day of the solemnisation of their nuptials, which was to be
given to the wife of Mr. Judson's nephew when he should marry. It is
sewn in a mattress in the room at the end of the north wing.
The earth whirled beneath Dorothy's feet. At first, she had not
fully comprehended what Mr. Bradford was saying, but now she realised
that they had passed from pinching poverty to affluenceat least it
seemed so to her. Harlan was not so readily confused, but none the
less, he, too, was dazed. Neither of them could speak.
I should be grateful, the old man was saying, if you would ask
Mr. Richard Chester and Mrs. Sarah Smithers to come to my office at
their earliest convenience. I will not trespass upon their valuable
time at present.
There was a long silence, during which Mr. Bradford cleared his
throat, and wiped his glasses several times. The farm has always been
held in my name, he continued, to protect our lamented friend and
benefactor from additional disturbance. Ifif the relations had known,
his life would have been even less peaceful than it was. A further
farm, valued at twelve thousand dollars, and also held in my name, is
my friend's last gift to me, as I discovered by opening a personal
letter which was to be kept sealed until this morning. I did not open
it until late in the morning, not wishing to show unseemly eagerness to
pry into my friend's affairs. I am too much affected to speak of itI
feel his loss too keenly. He was my ColonelI served under him in the
A mist filled the old man's eyes and he fumbled for the door-knob.
Harlan found it for him, turned the key, and opened the door. Mrs.
Dodd, Mrs. Holmes, Mrs. Smithers, and the suffering poet were all in
the hall, their attitudes plainly indicating that they had been
listening at the door, but something in Mr. Bradford's face made them
huddle back into the corner, ashamed.
Feeling his way with his cane, he went to the parlour door, where he
stood for a moment at the threshold, his streaming eyes fixed upon the
portrait over the mantel. The simple dignity of his grief forbade a
word from any one. At length he straightened himself, brought his
trembling hand to his forehead in a feeble military salute, and, wiping
his eyes, tottered off downhill.
XVII. The Lady Elaine knows her
It was on a dark and stormy midnight, when the thunders boomed
and the dread fury of the lightnings scarred the overhanging cliffs,
that the Lady Elaine at last came to know her heart.
She was in a cave, safe from all but the noise of the storm. A
cheery fire blazed at her door, and her bed within was made soft with
pine boughs and skins. For weeks they had journeyed here and there, yet
there had been no knight in whose face Elaine could find what she
As she lay on her couch, she reflected upon the faithful
wayfarers who had travelled with her, who had ever been gentle and
courtly, saving her from all annoyance and all harm. Yet above them
all, there was one who, from the time of their starting, had kept
vigilant guard. He was the humblest of them all, but it was he who made
her rest in shady places by the wayside when she herself scarce knew
that she was weary; had given her cool spring water in a cup cunningly
woven of leaves before she had realised her thirst; had brought her
berries and strange, luscious fruits before she had thought of hunger;
and who had cheered her, many a time, when no one else had guessed that
she was sad.
Outside, he was guarding her now, all heedless of the rain. She
could see him dimly in the shadow, then, all at once, more clearly in
the firelight. His head was bowed and his arms folded, yet in the
strong lines of his body there was no hint of weariness. Well did the
Lady Elaine know that until Dawn spun her web of enchantment upon the
mysterious loom of the East, he would march sleeplessly before her
door, replenishing the fire, listening now and then for her deep
breathing, and, upon the morrow, gaily tell her of his dreams.
Dreams they were, indeed, but not the dreams of sleep. Upon these
midnight marchings, her sentinel gave his wandering fancy free rein.
And because of the dumb pain in his heart, these fancies were all the
merrier; more golden with the sun of laughter, more gemmed with the
pearl of tears.
Proud-hearted, yet strangely homesick, the Lady Elaine was
restless this night. I must go back, she thought, to the Castle of
Content, where my dear father would fain have his child again. And yet
I dread to go back with my errand undone, my quest unrewarded.
What is it, thought Elaine, in sudden self-searching, that I
seek? What must this man be, to whom I would surrender the keeping of
my heart? What do I ask that is so hard to find?
Am I seeking for a god? Nay, surely not, but only for a man.
Valorous he must be, indeed, but not in the lists'tis not a soldier,
for I have seen them by the hundred since I left my home in the valley.
'Tis not a model for the tapestry weaver that my heart would have, for
I have seen the most beautiful youths of my country since I came forth
upon my quest.
Some one, perchance, mused the Lady Elaine, whose beauty my
eyes alone should perceive, whose valour only I should guess before
there was need to test it. Some one great of heart and clean of mind,
in whose eyes there should never be that which makes a woman ashamed.
Some one fine-fibred and strong-souled, not above tenderness when a
maid was tired. One who should make a shield of his love, to keep her
not only from the great hurts but from the little ones as well, and yet
with whom she might fare onward, shoulder to shoulder, as God meant
mates should fare.
Surely 'tis not so unusual, this thing that I askonly an
honest man with human faults and human virtues, transfigured by a great
love. And why is it that in this quest of mine, I have found him not?
Princess, said a voice at her doorway, thou art surely still
awake. The storm is lessening and there is naught to fear. I pray thee,
try to sleep. And if there is aught I can do for thee, thou knowest
thou hast only to speak.
From the warm darkness where she lay, Elaine saw his face with
the firelight upon it, and all at once she knew.
There is naught, she answered, with what he thought was
coldness. I bid thee leave me and take thine own rest.
As thou wilt, he responded, submissively, but though the sound
was now faint and far away, she still could hear him walking back and
forth, keeping his unremitting guard.
So it was that at last Love came to the Lady Elaine. She had
dreamed of some fair stranger, into whose eyes she should look and
instantly know him for her lord, never guessing that her lord had gone
with her when she left the Castle of Content. There was none of those
leaps of the heart of which one of the maids at the Castle had read
from the books while the others worked at the tapestry frames. It was
nothing new, but only a light upon something which had always been, and
which, because of her own blindness, she had not seen.
All through this foolish journey, Love had ridden beside the Lady
Elaine, asking nothing but the privilege of serving her; demanding only
the right to give, to sacrifice, to shield. And at last she knew.
The doubting in her heart was for ever stilled and in its place
was a great peace. There was an unspeakable tenderness and a
measureless compassion, so wide and so deep that it sheltered all the
world. For, strangely enough, the love of the many comes first through
the love of the one.
The Lady Elaine did not need to ask whether he loved her, for,
unerringly, she knew. Mated past all power of change, they two were one
henceforward, though seas should roll between. Mated through suffering
as well, for, in this new bond, as the Lady Elaine dimly perceived,
there was great possibility of hurt. Yet there was no end or no
beginning; it simply was, and at last she knew.
At length, she slept. When she awoke the morning was fair upon
the mountains, but still he paced back and forth before her door.
Rising, she bathed her face in the cool water he had brought her,
braided her glorious golden hair, changed her soiled habit for a fresh
robe of white satin traced with gold, donned her red embroidered
slippers, and stepped out into the sunrise, shading her eyes with her
hand until they grew accustomed to the dawn.
Good morrow, Princess, he said. We
Of a sudden, he stopped and fled like a wild thing into the
forest, for by her eyes, he saw what was in her heart, and his hot
words, struggling for utterance, choked him. At last, he breathed,
with his clenched hands on his breast; at lastbut no, 'tis another
dream of mine that I dare not believe.
His senses reeled, for love comes not to a man as to a woman, but
rather with the sound of trumpets and the glare of white light. The
cloistered peace that fills her soul rests seldom upon him, and instead
he is stirred with high ambition and spurred on to glorious
achievement. For to her, love is the end of life; to him it is the
The knights thought it but another caprice when the Lady Elaine
gave orders to return to the Castle of Content, at once, and by the
shortest wayall save one of them. With his heart rioting madly
through his breast, he knew, but he did not dare to look at Elaine. He
was as one long blinded, who suddenly sees the sun.
So it was that though he still served her, he rode no longer by
her side, and Elaine, hurt at first, at length understood, and smiled
because of her understanding. All the way back, the Lady Elaine sang
little songs to herself, and, the while she rode upon her palfrey,
touched her zither into gentle harmonies. After many days, they came
within sight of the Castle of Content.
As before, it was sunset, and the long light lay upon the hills,
while the valley was in shadow. Purple were the vineyards, heavy with
their clustered treasure, over which the tiny weavers had made their
lace, and purple, too, were the many-spired cliffs, behind which the
A courier, riding swiftly in advance, had apprised the Lord of
the Castle of Content of the return of the Lady Elaine, and the maids
from the tapestry room, and the keeper of the wine-cellar, and the
stable-boys, and the candle-makers, and the light-bearers all rushed
out, heedless of their manners, for, one and all, they loved the Lady
Elaine, and were eager to behold their beautiful mistress again.
But the Lord of the Castle of Content, speaking somewhat sternly,
ordered them one and all back to their places, and, shamefacedly, they
obeyed. I would not be selfish, he muttered to himself, but surely,
Elaine is mine, and the first gleam of her beauty belongs of right to
these misty old eyes of mine, that have long strained across the dark
for the first hint of her coming. Of a truth her quest has been long.
So it came to pass that when the company reached the road that
led down into the valley, the Lord of the Castle of Content was on the
portico alone, though he could not have known that behind every
shuttered window of the Castle, a humble servitor of Elaine's was
waiting anxiously for her coming.
As before, Elaine rode at the head, waving her hand to her
father, while the cymbals and the bugles crashed out a welcome. She
could not see, but she guessed that he was there, and in return he
waved a tremulous hand at her, though well he knew that in the fast
gathering twilight, the child of his heart could not see the one who
One by one, as they came in single file down the precipice, the
old man counted them, much astonished to see that there was no new
member of the companythat as many were coming back as had gone away.
For the moment his heart was glad, then he reproached himself bitterly
for his selfishness, and was truthfully most tender toward Elaine,
because she had failed upon her quest.
The light gleamed capriciously upon the bauble of the fool, which
he still carried, though now it hung downward from his saddle,
foolishly enough. A most merry fool, said the Lord of Content to
himself. I was wise to insist upon his accompanying this wayward child
Wayward she might be, yet her father's eyes were dim when she
came down into the valley, where there was no light save the evening
star, a taper light at an upper window of the Castle, and her illumined
How hast thou fared upon thy quest, Elaine? he asked in
trembling tones, when at last she released herself from his eager
embrace. He dreaded to hear her make known her disappointment, yet his
sorrow was all for her, and not in the least for himself.
I have found him, father, she said, the gladness in her voice
betraying itself as surely as the music in a stream when Spring sets it
free again, and, forsooth, he rode with me all the time.
Which knight hast thou chosen, Elaine? he asked, a little
No knight at all, dear father. I have found my knight in
stranger guise than in armour and shield. He bears no lance, save for
those who would injure me. And then, she beckoned to the fool.
He is here, my father, she went on, her great love making her
all unconscious of the shame she should feel.
Elaine! thundered her father, while the fool hung his head,
hast thou taken leave of thy senses? Of a truth, this is a sorry jest
thou hast chosen to greet me with on thy return.
Father, said Elaine, made bold by the silent pressure of the
hand that secretly clasped hers, 'tis no jest. If thou art pained,
indeed I am sorry, but if thou choosest to banish me, then this night
will I go gladly with him I have chosen to be my lord. The true heart
which Heaven has sent for me beats beneath his motley, and with him I
must go. Dear father, cried Elaine, piteously, do not send us away!
The stern eyes of the Lord of the Castle of Content were fixed
upon the fool, and in the gathering darkness they gleamed like live
coals. And thou, he said, scornfully; what hast thou to say?
Only this, answered the fool; that the Princess has spoken
truly. We are mated by a higher law than that of thy land or mine, and
'tis this law that we must obey. If thou sayest the word, we will set
forth to my country this very night, though we are both weary with much
Thy land, said the Lord of the Castle, with measureless
contempt, and what land hast thou? Even the six feet of ground thou
needest for a grave must be given thee at the last, unless, perchance,
thou hast a handful of stolen earth hidden somewhere among thy other
Your lordship, cried the fool, with a clear ring in his voice,
thou shall not speak so to the man who is to wed thy daughter. I had
not thought to tell even her till after the priests had made us one,
but for our own protection, I am stung into speech.
Know then, that I am no fool, but a Prince of the House of
Bernard. My acres and my vineyards cover five times the space of this
little realm of thine. Chests of gold and jewels I have, storehouses
overflowing with grain and fine fabrics, three castles and a royal
retinue. Of a truth, thou art blind since thou canst see naught but the
raiment. May not a Prince wear motley if he chooses, thus to find a
maid who will love him for himself alone?
Prince Bernard, muttered the Lord of Content, the son of my
old friend, whom I have long dreamed in secret shouldst wed my dear
daughter Elaine! Your Highness, I beg you to forgive me, and to take my
But Prince Bernard did not hear, nor see the outstretched hand,
for Elaine was in his arms for the first time, her sweet lips close on
his. My Prince, oh my Prince, she murmured, when at length he set her
free; my eyes could not see, but my heart knew!
So ended the Quest of the Lady Elaine.
With a sigh, Harlan wrote the last words and pushed the paper from
him, staring blankly at the wall and seeing nothing. His labour was at
an end, all save the final copying, and the painstaking daily revision
which would take weeks longer. The exaltation he had expected to be
conscious of was utterly absent; instead of it, he had a sense of loss,
His surroundings seemed hopelessly sordid and ugly, now that the
glow was gone. All unknowingly, when Harlan pencilled: The End, in
fanciful letters at the bottom of the last page, he had had practically
his last joy of his book. The torturing process of revision was to take
all the life out of it. Sentences born of surging emotion would seem
vapid and foolish when subjected to the cold, critical eye of his
reason, yet he knew, dimly, that he must not change it too much.
I'll let it get cool, he thought, before I do anything more to
Yet, now, it was difficult to stop working. The rented typewriter,
with its enticing bank of keys, was close at hand. A thousand sheets of
paper and a box of carbon waited in the drawer of Uncle Ebeneezer's
desk. His worn Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases was at his
elbow. And they were poor. Then Harlan laughed, for they were no longer
poor, and he had wholly forgotten it.
There was a step upon the porch outside, then Dorothy came into the
hall. She paused outside the library door for a moment, ostensibly to
tie her shoe, but in reality to listen. A wave of remorseful tenderness
overwhelmed Harlan and he unlocked the door. Come in, he said,
smiling. You needn't be afraid to come in any more. The book is all
O Harlan, is it truly done? There was no gladness in her voice,
only relief. Doubt was in every intonation of her sentence; incredulity
in every line of her body.
With this pitiless new insight of his, Harlan saw how she had felt
for these last weeks and became very tenderly anxious not to hurt her;
to shield his transformed self from her quick understanding.
Really, he answered. Have I been a beast, Dorothy?
The question was so like the boy she used to know that her heart
leaped wildly, then became portentously still.
Rather, she admitted, grudgingly, from the shelter of his arms.
I'm sorry. If you say so, I'll burn it. Nothing is coming between
you and me. The words sounded hollow and meaningless, as he knew they
She put her hand over his mouth. You won't do any such thing, she
said. Dorothy had learned the bitterness of the woman's part, to stand
by, utterly lonely, and dream, and wait, while men achieve.
Can I read it now? she asked, timidly.
You couldn't make it out, Dorothy. When it's all done, and every
word is just as I want it, I'll read it to you. That will be better,
Can Dick come, too? She asked the question thoughtlessly, then
flushed as Harlan took her face between his hands.
Dorothy, did you know Dick before we were married?
Why, Harlan! I never saw him in all my life till the day he came
here. Did you think I had?
Harlan only grunted, but she understood, and, in return, asked her
question. Did you write the book about Elaine? she began, half
Dear little idiot, said Harlan, softly. I'd begun the book before
she came or before I knew she was coming. I never saw her till she came
to live with us. You're foolish, dearest, don't you think you are?
He was swiftly perceiving the necessity of creating a new harmony to
take the place of that old one, now so strangely lost.
There are two of us, returned Dorothy, with conviction, wiping her
I wish you'd ask me things, said Harlan, a little later. I'm no
mind reader. And, besides, the seventh son of a seventh son, born with
a caul, and having three trances regularly every day after meals, never
could hope to understand a woman unless she was willing to help him out
a little, occasionally.
Which, after all, was more or less true.
XVIII. Uncle Ebeneezer's Diary
Harlan had taken his work upstairs, that the ceaseless clatter of
the typewriter might not add to the confusion which normally prevailed
in the Jack-o'-Lantern. Thus it happened that Dorothy was able to begin
her long-cherished project of dusting, rearranging, and cataloguing the
There is a fine spiritual essence which exhales from the covers of a
book. Shall one touch a copy of Shakespeare with other than reverent
hands, or take up his Boswell without a smile? Through the worn covers
and broken binding the master-spirit still speaks, no less than through
the centuries which lie between. The man who had the wishing carpet,
upon which he sat and wished and was thence immediately transported to
the ends of the earth, was not possessed of a finer magic than one who
takes his Boswell in his hands and then, for a golden quarter of an
hour, lives in a bygone London with Doctor Johnson.
When the book-lover enters his library, no matter what storm and
tumult may be in his heart, he has come to the inmost chamber of Peace.
The indescribable, musty odour which breathes from the printed page is
fragrant incense to him who loves his books. In unseemly caskets his
treasures may be hidden, yet, when the cover is reverently lifted, the
jewels shine with no fading light. The old, immortal beauty is still
there, for any one who seeks it in the right way.
Dorothy had two willing assistants in Dick and Elaine. One morning,
immediately after breakfast, the three went to the library and locked
the door. Outside, the twins rioted unheeded and the perennially joyous
Willie capered unceasingly. Mr. Perkins, gloomy and morose, wrote reams
of poetry in his own room, distressed beyond measure by the rumble of
the typewriter, but too much cast down to demand that it be stopped.
Mrs. Dodd and Mrs. Holmes, closely united through misfortune, were
well-nigh inseparable now, while Mrs. Smithers, still sepulchral, sang
continually in a loud, cracked voice, never by any chance happening
upon the right note. As Dorothy said, when there are only eight tones
in the octave, it would seem that sometime, somewhere, a warbler must
coincide for a brief interval with the tune, but as Dick further
commented, industry and patience can do wonders when rightly exercised.
Uncle Israel's midnight excursion to the orchard had given him a
fresh attack of a familiar and distressing ailment to which he always
alluded as the brown kittys. Fortunately, however, the cure for
asthma and bronchitis was contained in the same quart bottle, and
needed only to be heated in order to work upon both diseases
Elaine rolled up the sleeves of her white shirt-waist, and turned in
her collar, thereby producing an effect which Dick privately considered
distractingly pretty. Dorothy was enveloped from head to foot in a
voluminous blue gingham apron, and a dust cap, airily poised upon her
smooth brown hair, completed a most becoming costume. Dick, having duly
obtained permission, took off his coat and put on his hat, after which
the library force was ready for action.
First, said Dorothy, we'll take down all the books. It sounded
simple, but it took a good share of the day to do it, and the clouds of
dust disturbed by the process produced sneezes which put Uncle Israel's
feeble efforts to shame. When dusting the shelves, after they were
empty, Elaine came upon a panel in the wall which slid back.
Here's a secret drawer! she cried, in wild delight. How perfectly
lovely! Do you suppose there's anything in it?
Dorothy instantly thought of money and diamonds, but the concealed
treasure proved to be merely a book. It was a respectable volume,
however, at least as far as size was concerned, for Elaine and Dorothy
together could scarcely lift it.
It was a leather-bound ledger, of the most ponderous kind, and was
fastened with a lock and key. The key, of course, was missing, but Dick
soon pried open the fastening.
All but the last few pages in the book were covered with fine
writing, in ink which was brown and faded, but still legible. It was
Uncle Ebeneezer's penmanship throughout, except for a few entries at
the beginning, in a fine, flowing feminine hand, which Dorothy
instantly knew was Aunt Rebecca's.
On the night of our wedding, the book began, we begin this record
of our lives, for until to-day we have not truly lived. This was
signed by both. Then, in the woman's hand, was written a description of
her wedding-gown, which was a simple white muslin, made by herself. Her
ornaments were set down brieflyonly a wreath of roses in her hair, a
string of coral beads, and the diamond brooch which was at that moment
in Dorothy's jewel-box.
For three weeks there were alternate entries, then suddenly, without
date, were two words so badly written as to be scarcely readable: She
died. For days thereafter was only this: I cannot write. These
simple words were the key to a world of pain, for the pages were
blistered with a man's hot tears.
Then came this: She would want me to go on writing it, so I will,
though I have no heart for it.
From thence onward the book proceeded without interruption, a minute
and faithful record of the man's inner life. Long extracts copied from
books filled page after page of this strange diary, interspersed with
records of business transactions, of letters received and answered, of
wages paid, and of the visits of Jeremiah Bradford.
We talked long to-night upon the immortality of the soul, one
entry ran. Jeremiah does not believe it, but I mustor die.
Dick soon lost interest in the book, and finding solitary toil at
the shelves uncongenial, went out, whistling. Elaine and Dorothy read
on together, scarcely noting his absence.
The book had begun in the Spring. Early in June was chronicled the
arrival of a woman calling herself Cousin Elmira, blood relation of my
Rebecca. Was not aware my Rebecca had a blood relation named Elmira,
but there is much in the world that I do not know.
According to the diary, Cousin Elmira had remained six weeks and had
greatly distressed her unwilling host. Women are peculiar, Uncle
Ebeneezer had written, all being possessed of the devil, except my
sainted Rebecca, who was an angel if there ever was one.
Cousin Elmira is a curious woman. To-day she desired to know what
had become of my Rebecca's wedding garments, her linen sheets and
table-cloths. Answered that I did not know, and immediately put a lock
upon the chest containing them. Have always been truthful up to now,
but Rebecca would not desire to have any blood relation handling her
sheets. Of this I am sure.
Aug. 9. To-day came Cousin Silas Martin and his wife to spend their
honeymoon. Much grieved to hear of Rebecca's death. Said she had
invited them to spend their honeymoon with her when they married. Did
not know of this, but our happiness was of such short duration that my
Rebecca did not have time to tell me of all her wishes. Company is very
hard to bear, but I would do much for my Rebecca.
Aug. 10. This world can never be perfect under any circumstances,
and trials are the common lot of humanity. We must all endeavour to
bear up under affliction. Sarah Smithers is a good woman, most
faithful, and does not talk a great deal, considering her sex. Not
intending any reflection upon my Rebecca, whose sweet voice I could
never hear too often.
* * * * *
Aug. 20. Came Uncle Israel Skiles with a bad cough. Thinks the air
of Judson Centre must be considered healthy as they are to build a
sanitarium here. Did not know of the sanitarium.
* * * * *
Aug. 22. Came Cousin Betsey Skiles to look after Uncle Israel.
Uncle Israel not desiring to be looked after has produced some
disturbance in my house.
* * * * *
Aug. 23. Cousin Betsey Skiles and Cousin Jane Wood, the latter
arriving unexpectedly this morning, have fought, and Cousin Jane has
gone away again. Had never met Cousin Jane Wood.
Aug. 24. Was set upon by Cousin Silas Martin, demanding to know
whether his wife was to be insulted by Cousin Betsey Skiles. Answered
that I did not know.
Aug. 25. Was obliged to settle a dispute between Sarah Smithers and
Cousin Betsey Skiles. Decided in favour of S. S., thereby angering B.
S. Uncle Israel accidentally spilled his tonic on Cousin Betsey's clean
apron. Much disturbance in my house.
* * * * *
Aug. 28. Cousin Silas Martin and wife went away, telling me they
could no longer live with Cousin Betsey Skiles. B. S. is unpleasant,
but has her virtues.
* * * * *
Sept. 5. Uncle Israel thinks air of Judson Centre is now too chilly
for his cough. Does not like his bed, considering it drafty. Says Sarah
Smithers does not give him nourishing food.
* * * * *
Sept. 8. Uncle Israel has gone.
* * * * *
Sept. 10. Cousin Betsey Skiles has gone to continue looking after
Uncle Israel. Sarah Smithers and myself now alone in peace.
* * * * *
All that Winter, the writing was of books, interspersed with
occasional business details. In the Spring, the influx of blood
relations began again and continued until Fall. The diary revealed the
gradual transformation of a sunny disposition into a dark one, of a man
with gregarious instincts into a wild beast asking only for solitude.
Additions to the house were chronicled from time to time, with now and
then a pathetic comment upon the futility of the additions.
Once there was this item: Would go away for ever were it not that
this was my Rebecca's home. Where we had hoped to be so happy, there is
now a great emptiness and unnumbered Relations. How shall I endure
Relations? Still they are all of her blood, though the most gentle
blood does seem to take strange turns.
Again: Do not think my Rebecca would desire to have all her kin
visit her at once. Still, would do anything for my Rebecca. Have
ordered five more beds.
As the years went by, the bitterness became more and more apparent.
Long before the end, the record was frankly profane, and saddest of all
was the evidence that under the stress of annoyance the great love for
my Rebecca was slowly, but surely, becoming tainted. From simple
profanity, Uncle Ebeneezer descended into blasphemous comment, modified
at times by remorseful tenderness toward the dead.
To-day, he wrote, under pressure of my questioning, Sister-in-law
Fanny Wood admitted that Rebecca had never invited her to come and see
her. Asked Sister-in-law why she was here. Responded that Rebecca would
have asked her if she had lived. Perhaps others have surmised the same.
Fear of late I may have been unjust to my Rebecca.
Later on, my Rebecca was mentioned but rarely. She became my dear
companion, my wife, or my partner. The building of wings and the
purchase of additional beds by this time had become a permanent
feature, though, as the writer admitted, it was a roundabout way.
The easiest way would be to turn all out. Forgetting my duty to the
memory of my dear companion, and sore pressed by many annoyances, did
turn out Cousin Betsey Skiles, who forgave me for it without being so
requested, and remained.
Trains to Judson Centre, he wrote, at one time, have been most
grievously changed. One arrives just after breakfast, the other at
three in the morning. Do not understand why this is, and anticipate new
trouble from it.
The entries farther on were full of trouble, being minute and
intimate portrayals of the emotions of one roused from sleep at three
in the morning to admit undesired guests, interlarded with pardonable
profanity. Seems that house might be altered in some way, but do not
know. Will consult with Jeremiah.
After this came the record of an interview with the village
carpenter, and rough sketches of proposed alterations. Putting in new
window in middle and making two upper windows round instead of square,
with new porch-railing and two new narrow windows downstairs will do
it. House fortunately planned by original architect for such
alteration. Taking down curtains and keeping lights in windows nights
should have some effect, though much doubt whether anything would
Soon afterward the oppressed one chronicled with great glee how a
lone female, arriving on the night train, was found half-dead from
fright by the roadside in the morning. House is fearsome,
wrote Uncle Ebeneezer, with evident relish. Have been to Jeremiah's of
an evening and, returning, found it wonderful to behold.
Presently, Dorothy came to an intimate analysis of some of the
uninvited ones at present under her roof. The poet was given a full
page of scathing comment, illustrated by rude caricatures, which were
so suggestive that even Elaine thoroughly enjoyed them.
Pleased with his contribution to literature, Uncle Ebeneezer had
written a long and keenly comprehensive essay upon each relation. These
bits of vivid portraiture were numbered in this way: Relation Number
8, Miss Betsey Skiles, Claiming to be Cousin. At the end of this
series was a very beautiful tribute to My Dearly Beloved Nephew, James
Harlan Carr, Who Has Never Come to See Me.
Frequently, thereafter, came pathetic references to Dear Nephew
James, Unknown Recipient of an Old Man's Gratitude, Discerning and
Admirable James, and so on.
One entry ran as follows: Have been approached this season by each
Relation present in regard to disposal of my estate. Will fix surprise
for all Relations before leaving to join my wife. Shall leave money to
every one, though perhaps not as much as each expects. Jeremiah advises
me to leave something to each. Laws are such, I believe, that no one
remembered can claim more. Desire to be just, but strongly incline to
dear Nephew James.
On the last page of all was a significant paragraph. Dreamed of
seeing my Rebecca once more, who told me we should be together again
April 7th. Shall make all arrangements for leaving on that day, and
prepare Surprises spoken of. Shall be very quiet in my grave with no
Relations at hand, but should like to hear and see effect of Surprise.
Jeremiah will attend.
The last lines were written on April sixth. To-morrow I shall join
my loved Rebecca and leave all Relations here to fight by themselves.
Do not fear Death, but shudder at Relations. Relations keep life from
being pleasant. Did not know my Rebecca was possessed of such numbers
nor of such kinds, but forgive her all. Shall see her to-morrow.
Then, on the line below, in a hand that did not falter, was written:
Dorothy wiped her eyes on a corner of Elaine's apron, for Uncle
Ebeneezer had been found dead in his bed on the morning of April
seventh. Elaine, she said, what would you do?
Do? repeated Elaine. I'd strike one blow for poor old Uncle
Ebeneezer! I'd order every single one of them out of the house
To-night! cried Dorothy, fired with high resolve. I'll do it this
very night! Poor old Uncle Ebeneezer! Our sufferings have been nothing,
compared to his.
Are you going to tell Mr. Carr? asked Elaine, wonderingly.
Tell him nothing, rejoined Dorothy, with spirit. He's got some
old fogy notions about your house being a sacred spot where everybody
in creation can impose on you if they want to, just because it is your
house. I suppose he got it by being related to poor old uncle.
Do I have to go, too? queried Elaine, rubbing her soft cheek
Not much, answered Mrs. Carr, with a sisterly embrace. You'll
stay, and Dick 'll stay, and that old tombstone in the kitchen will
stay, and so will Claudius Tiberius, but the restMOVE!
Consequently, Elaine looked forward to the dinner-hour with mixed
anticipations. Mr. Perkins, Uncle Israel, Mrs. Dodd, and Mrs. Holmes
each found a note under their plates when they sat down. Uncle Israel's
face relaxed into an expression of childlike joy when he found the
envelope addressed to him. Valentine, I reckon, he said, or mebbe
it's sunthin' from Santa Claus.
Queer acting for Santa Claus, snorted Mrs. Holmes, who had swiftly
torn open her note. Here we are, all ordered away from what's been our
home for years, by some upstart relations who never saw poor, dear
uncle. Are you going to keep boarders? she asked, insolently, turning
No longer, returned that young woman, imperturbably. I have done
it just as long as I intend to.
Harlan was gazing curiously at Dorothy, but she avoided his eyes,
and continued to eat as though nothing had happened. Dick, guessing
rightly, choked, and had to be excused. Elaine's cheeks were flushed
and her eyes sparkled, the flush deepening when Mrs. Dodd inquired
where her valentine was. Mr. Perkins was openly dejected, and
Mrs. Dodd, receiving no answer to her question, compressed her thin
lips into a forced silence.
But Uncle Israel was moved to protesting speech. 'T is queer doin's
for Santa Claus, he mumbled, pouring out a double dose of his nerve
tonic. 'T ain't such a thing as he'd do, even if he was drunk. Turnin'
a poor old man outdoor, what ain't got no place to go exceptin' to
Betsey's, an' nobody can't live with Betsey. She's all the time mad at
herself on account of bein' obliged to live with such a woman as she
be. Summers I've allers stayed here an' never made no trouble. I've
cooked my own food an' brought most of it, an' provided all my own
medicines, an' even took my bed with me, goin' an' comin'. Ebeneezer's
beds is all terrible draftyI took two colds to once sleepin' in one
of 'eman' at my time of life 't ain't proper to change beds. Sleepin'
in a drafty bed would undo all the good of bein' near the sanitarium.
Most likely I'll have a fever or sunthin' now an' die.
Shut up, Israel, said Mrs. Dodd, abruptly. You ain't goin' to
die. It wouldn't surprise me none if you had to be shot on the Day of
Judgment before you could be resurrected. Folks past ninety-five that's
pickled in patent medicine from the inside out, ain't goin' to die of
Ninety-six, Belinda, said the old man, proudly. I'll be
ninety-six next week, an' I'm as young as I ever was.
Then, rejoined Mrs. Dodd, tartly, what you want to look out for
is measles an' chicken-pox, to say nothin' of croup.
Come, Gladys Gwendolen and Algernon Paul, interrupted Mrs. Holmes,
in a high key; we must go and pack now, to go away from dear uncle's.
Dear uncle is dead, you know, and can't help his dear ones being
ordered out of his house by upstarts.
What's a upstart, ma? inquired Willie.
People who turn their dead uncle's relations out of his house in
order to take boarders, returned Mrs. Holmes, clearly.
Mis' Carr, said Mrs. Dodd, sliding up into Dick's vacant place,
have I understood that you want me to go away to-morrow?
Everybody is going away to-morrow, returned Dorothy, coldly.
After all I've done for you? persisted Mrs. Dodd.
What have you done for me? parried Dorothy, with a pleading look
Kep' the others away, returned Mrs. Dodd, significantly.
Uncle Ebeneezer does not want any of you here, said Dorothy, after
a painful silence. The impression made by the diary was so vividly
present with her that she felt as though she were delivering an actual
Much to her surprise, Mrs. Dodd paled and left the room hastily.
Uncle Israel tottered after her, leaving his predigested food untouched
on his plate and his imitation coffee steaming malodorously in his cup.
Mr. Perkins bowed his head upon his hands for a moment; then, with a
sigh, lightly dropped out of the open window. The name of Uncle
Ebeneezer seemed to be one to conjure with.
Dorothy, said Harlan, might an obedient husband modestly inquire
what you have done?
Elaine and I found Uncle Ebeneezer's diary to-day, explained
Dorothy, and the poor old soul was nagged all his life by relatives.
So, in gratitude for what he's done for us, I've turned 'em out. I know
he'd like to have me do it.
Harlan left his place and came to Dorothy, where, bending over her
chair, he kissed her tenderly. Good girl, he said, patting her
shoulder. Why in thunder didn't you do it months ago?
Isn't that just like a man? asked Dorothy, gazing after his
I don't know, answered Elaine, with a pretty blush, but I guess
XIX. Various Departures
Algernon Paul, called Mrs. Holmes, shrilly, let the kitty alone!
Every one else on the premises heard the command, but Algernon
Paul, perhaps because he was not yet fully accustomed to his new name,
continued forcing Claudius Tiberius to walk about on his fore feet, the
rest of him being held uncomfortably in the air by the guiding
Algernon! The voice was so close this time that the cat was freed
by his persecutor's violent start. Seeing that it was only his mother,
Algernon Paul attempted to recover his treasure again, and was badly
scratched by that selfsame treasure. Whereupon Mrs. Holmes soundly
cuffed Claudius Tiberius for scratching dear little Ebbie, I mean
Algernon Paul, and received a bite or two on her own account.
Come, Ebbie, dear, she continued, we are going now. We have been
driven away from dear uncle's. Where is sister?
Sister was discovered in the forbidden Paradise of the
chicken-coop, and dragged out, howling. Willie, not desiring to leave
dear uncle's, was forcibly retrieved by Dick from the roof of the
Mr. Harold Vernon Perkins had silently disappeared in the night, but
no one feared foul play. He'll be waitin' at the train, I reckon,
said Mrs. Dodd, an' most likely composin' a poem on 'Departure' or
else breathin' into a tube to see if he's mad.
She had taken her dismissal very calmly after the first shock. A
woman what's been married seven times, same as I be, she explained to
Dorothy, gets used to bein' moved around from place to place. My sixth
husband had the movin' habit terrible. No sooner would we get settled
nice an' comfortable in a place, an' I got enough acquainted to borrow
sugar an' tea an' molasses from my new neighbours, than Thomas would
decide to move, an' more 'n likely, it'd be to some new town where
there was a great openin' in some new business that he'd never tried
his hand at yet.
My dear, I've been the wife of a undertaker, a livery-stable
keeper, a patent medicine man, a grocer, a butcher, a farmer, an' a
justice of the peace, all in one an' the same marriage. Seems 's if
there wa'n't no business Thomas couldn't feel to turn his hand to, an'
he knowed how they all ought to be run. If anybody was makin' a failure
of anythin', Thomas knowed just why it was failin' an' I must say he
ought to know, too, for I never see no more steady failer than Thomas.
They say a rollin' stone never gets no moss on it, but it gets worn
terrible smooth, an' by the time I 'd moved to eight or ten different
towns an' got as many as 'leven houses all fixed up, the corners was
all broke off 'n me as well as off 'n the furniture. My third husband
left me well provided with furniture, but when I went to my seventh
altar, I didn't have nothin' left but a soap box an' half a red
blanket, on account of havin' moved around so much.
I got so's I'd never unpack all the things in any one place, but
keep 'em in their dry-goods boxes an' barrels nice an' handy to go on
again. When the movin' fit come on Thomas, I was always in such light
marchin' order that I could go on a day's notice, an' that's the way we
usually went. I told him once it'd be easier an' cheaper to fit up a
prairie schooner such as they used to cross the plains in, an' then
when we wanted to move, all we'd have to do would be to put a dipper of
water on the fire an' tell the mules to get ap, but it riled him so
terrible that I never said nothin' about it again, though all through
my sixth marriage, it seemed a dretful likely notion.
A woman with much marryin' experience soon learns not to rile a
husband when 't ain't necessary. Sometimes I think the poor creeters
has enough to contend with outside without bein' obliged to fight at
home, though it does beat all, my dear, what a terrible exertion 't is
for most men to earn a livin'. None of my husbands was ever obliged to
fight at home an' I take great comfort thinkin' how peaceful they all
was when they was livin' with me, an' how peaceful they all be now,
though I think it's more 'n likely that Thomas is a-sufferin' because
he can't move no more at present.
Her monologue was interrupted by the arrival of the stage, which
Harlan had gladly ordered. Mrs. Holmes and the children climbed into it
without vouchsafing a word to anybody, but Mrs. Dodd shook hands all
around and would have kissed both Dorothy and Elaine had they not
dodged the caress.
Remember, my dear, said Mrs. Dodd to Dorothy; I don't bear you no
grudge, though I never was turned out of no place before. It's all in a
lifetime, the same as marryin', and if I should ever marry again an'
have a home of my own to invite you to, you an' your husband'll be
welcome to come and stay with me as long as I've stayed with you, or
longer, if you felt 'twas pleasant, an' I'd try to make it so.
The kindly speech made Dorothy very much ashamed of herself, though
she did not know exactly why, and Gladys Gwendolen, with a cherubic
smile, leaned out of the stage window and waved a chubby hand, saying:
Bye bye! Mrs. Holmes alone seemed hard and unforgiving, as she sat
sternly upright, looking neither to the right nor the left.
Rather unusual, isn't it? whispered Elaine, as the ponderous
vehicle turned into the yard, to see so many of one's friends going on
the stage at once?
Not at all, chuckled Dick. Everybody goes on the stage when they
leave the Carrs.
Good bye, Belinda, yelled Uncle Israel, putting his flannel
bandaged head out of one of the round upper windows. He had climbed up
on a chair to do it. I don't reckon I'll ever hear from you again
exceptin' where Lazarus heard from the rich man!
Don't let that trouble you, Israel, shrieked Mrs. Dodd,
piercingly. I take it the rich man was diggin' for eight cents in
Satan's orchard, an' didn't have no time to look up his friends.
The rejoinder seemed not to affect Uncle Israel, but it sent Dick
into a spasm of merriment from which he recovered only when Harlan
pounded him on the back.
Come on, said Harlan, it's not time to laugh yet. We've got to
pack Uncle Israel's bed.
Uncle Israel was going on the afternoon train, and in another
direction. He sat on his trunk and issued minute instructions,
occasionally having the whole thing taken apart to be put together in a
different kind of a parcel. As an especial favour, Dick was allowed to
crate the bath cabinet, though as a rule, no profane hands were
permitted to touch this instrument of health. Uncle Israel himself
arranged his bottles, and boxes, and powders; a hand-satchel containing
his medicines for the journey and the night.
I reckon, he said, if I take a double dose of my pain-killer,
this noon, an' a double dose of my nerve tonic just before I get on the
cars, I c'n get along with these few remedies till I get to Betsey's,
where I'll have to take a full course of treatment to pay for all this
travellin'. The pain-killer bottle an' the nerve tonic bottle is both
dretful heavy, in spite of bein' only half full.
How would it do, suggested Harlan, kindly, to pour the nerve
tonic into the pain-killer, and then you'd have only one bottle to
carry. You mix them inside, anyway.
You seem real intelligent, nephew, quavered Uncle Israel. I never
knowed I had no such smart relations. As you say, I mix 'em in my
system anyway, an' it can't do no harm to do it in the bottle first.
No sooner said than done, but, strangely enough, the mixture turned
a vivid emerald green, and had such a peculiarly vile odour that even
Uncle Israel refused to have anything further to do with it.
I shouldn't wonder but what you'd done me a real service, nephew,
continued Uncle Israel. Here I've been takin' this, month after month,
an' never suspectin' what it was doin' in my insides. I've suspicioned
for some time that the pain-killer wan't doin' me no good, an' I've
been goin' to try Doctor Jones's Squaw Remedy, anyhow. I shouldn't
wonder if my whole insides was green instead of red as they orter be.
The next time I go to the City, I'm goin' to take this here compound to
the healin' emporium where I bought it, an' ask 'em what there is in it
that paints folk's insides. 'Tain't nothin' more 'n green paint.
The patient was so interested in this new development that he
demanded a paint-brush and experimented on the porch railing, where it
seemed, indeed, to be green paint. In getting a nearer view, he
touched his nose to it and acquired a bright green spot on the tip of
that highly useful organ. Desiring to test it by every sense, he next
put his ear down to the railing, as though he expected to hear the
elements of the compound rushing together explosively.
My hearin' is bad, he explained. I wish you'd listen to this here
a minute or two, nephew, an' see if you don't hear sunthin'. But
Harlan, with his handkerchief pressed tightly to his nose, politely
I don't feel, continued Uncle Israel, tottering into the house,
as though a poor, sick man with green insides instead of red orter be
turned out. Judson Centre is a terrible healthy place, or the
sanitarium wouldn't have been built here, an' travellin' on the cars
would shake me up considerable. I feel as though I was goin' to be took
bad, an' as if I ought not to go. If somebody'll set up my bed, I'll
just lay down on it an' die now. Ebeneezer would be willin' for me to
die in his house, I know, for he's often said it'd be a reel pleasure
to him to pay my funeral expenses if I c'd only make up my mind to
claim 'em, an', went on the old man pitifully, I feel to claim 'em
now. Set up my bed, he wheezed, an' let me die. I'm bein' took bad.
He was swiftly reasoning himself into abject helplessness when Dick
came valiantly to the rescue. I'll tell you what, Uncle Israel, he
said, if you're going to be sick, and of course you know whether you
are or not, we'll just get a carriage and take you over to the
sanitarium. I'll pay your board there for a week, myself, and by that
time we'll know just what's the matter with you.
The patient brightened amazingly at the mention of the sanitarium,
and was more than willing to go. I've took all kinds of treatment, he
creaked, but I ain't never been to no sanitarium, an' I misdoubt
whether they've ever had anybody with green insides.
I reckon, he added, proudly, that that wanderin' pain in my
spine'll stump 'em some to know what it is. Even in the big store where
they keep all kinds of medicines, there couldn't nobody tell me. I know
what disease 'tis, but I won't tell nobody. A man knows his own system
best an' I reckon them smart doctors up at the sanitarium 'll be
scratchin' their heads over such a complicated case as I be. Send my
bed on to Betsey's but write on it that it ain't to be set up till I
come. 'Twouldn't be worth while settin' it up at the sanitarium for a
week, an' I'm minded to try a medical bed, anyways. I ain't never had
none. Get the carriage, quick, for I feel an ailment comin' on me
powerful hard every minute.
Suppose, said Harlan, in a swift aside, that they refuse to take
the patient? What shall we do then?
We won't discuss that, answered Dick, in a low tone. My plan is
to leave the patient, drive away swiftly, and, an hour or so later,
walk back and settle with the head of the repair shop for a week's
mending in advance.
Harlan laughed gleefully, at which Uncle Israel pricked up his ears.
I'm in on the bill, he continued; we'll go halves on the mending.
Laughin' said Uncle Israel, scornfully, at your poor old uncle
what ain't goin' to live much longer. If your insides was all turned
green, you wouldn't be laughin'you'd be thinkin' about your immortal
It was late afternoon when the bed was finally dumped on the side
track to await the arrival of the freight train, being securely covered
with a canvas tarpaulin to keep it from the night dew and stray,
malicious germs, seeking that which they might devour. Uncle Israel
insisted upon overseeing this job himself, so that he did not reach the
sanitarium until almost nightfall. Dick and Harlan were driving, and
they shamelessly left the patient at the door of the Temple of Healing,
with his crated bath cabinet, his few personal belongings, and his
Turning back at the foot of the hill, they saw that the wanderer had
been taken in, though the bath cabinet still remained outside.
Mean trick to play on a respectable institution, observed Dick,
lashing the horses into a gallop, but I'll go over in the morning and
square it with 'em.
I'll go with you, volunteered Harlan. It's just as well to have
two of us, for we won't be popular. The survivor can take back the
farewell message to the wife and family of the other.
He meant it for a jest, but even in the gathering darkness, he could
see the dull red mounting to Dick's temples. I'll be darned, thought
Harlan, seeing the whole situation instantly. Then, moved by a
brotherly impulse, he said, cheerfully: Go in and win, old man. Good
luck to you!
Thanks, muttered Dick, huskily, but it's no use. She won't look
at me. She wants a nice lady-like poet, that's what she wants.
No, she doesn't, returned Harlan, with deep conviction. I don't
claim to be a specialist, but when a man and a poet are entered for the
matrimonial handicap, I'll put my money on the man, every time.
Dick swiftly changed the subject, and began to speculate on probable
happenings at the sanitarium. They left the conveyance in the village,
from whence it had been taken, and walked uphill.
Lights gleamed from every window of the Jack-o'-Lantern, but the
eccentric face of the house had, for the first time, a friendly aspect.
Warmth and cheer were in the blinking eyes and the grinning mouth,
though, as Dick said, it seemed impossible that no pumpkin seeds were
Those who do not believe in personal influence should go into a
house which uninvited and undesired guests have regretfully left. Every
alien element had gone from the house on the hill, yet the very walls
were still vocal with discord. One expected, every moment, to hear
Uncle Israel's wheeze, the shrill, spiteful comment of Mrs. Holmes, or
a howl from one of the twins.
What shall we do, asked Harlan, to celebrate the day of
I know, answered Dorothy, with a little laugh. We'll burn a bed.
Whose bed? queried Dick.
Mr. Perkins's bed, responded Elaine, readily. The tone of her
voice sent a warm glow to Dick's heart, and he went to work at the
heavy walnut structure with more gladness than exercise of that
particular kind had ever given him before.
Harlan rummaged through the cellar and found a bottle of Uncle
Ebeneezer's old port, which, for some occult reason, had hitherto
escaped. Mrs. Smithers, moved to joyful song, did herself proud in the
matter of fried chicken and flaky biscuit. Dorothy had taken all the
leaves out of the table, so that now it was cosily set for four, and
placed a battered old brass candlestick, with a tallow candle in it, in
Seems like living, doesn't it? asked Harlan. Until now, he had not
known how surely though secretly distressed he had been by Aunt
Rebecca's persistent kin. Claudius Tiberius apparently felt the
prevailing cheerfulness, and purred vigorously, in Elaine's lap.
Afterward, they made a fire in the parlour, even though the night
was so warm that they were obliged to have all the windows open, and,
inspired by the portrait of Uncle Ebeneezer, discussed the
peculiarities of his self-invited guests.
The sacrificial flame arising from the poet's bed directed the
conversation to Mr. Perkins and his gift of song. Dick, though feeling
more deeply upon the subject than any of the rest, was wise enough not
to say too much.
I found something under his mattress, remarked Dick, when the
conversation flagged, while I was taking his blooming crib apart to
chop it up. I guess it must be a poem.
He drew a sorely flattened roll from his pocket, and slipped off the
crumpled blue ribbon. It was, indeed, a poem, entitled Farewell.
I thought he might have been polite enough to say good bye, said
Dorothy. Perhaps it was easier to write it.
Read it, cried Elaine, her eyes dancing. Please do!
So Dick read as follows:
All happy times must reach an end
Sometime, someday, somewhere,
A great soul seldom has a friend
Anyway or anywhere.
But one devoted to the Ideal
Must pass these things all by,
His eyes fixed ever on his Art,
Which lives, though he must die.
Amid the tide of cruel greed
Which laps upon our shore,
No one takes thought of the poet's need
Nor how his griefs may pour
Upon his poor, devoted head
And his sad, troubled heart;
But all these things each one must take,
Who gives his life to Art.
His crust of bread, his tick of straw
His enemies deny,
And at the last his patron saint
Will even pass him by;
The wide world is his resting place,
All o'er it he may roam,
And none will take the poet in,
Or offer him a home.
The tears of sorrow blind him now,
Misunderstood is he,
But thus great souls have always been,
And always they will be;
His eyes fixed ever on the Ideal
Will be there till he die,
To-night he goes, but leaves a poem
To say good bye, good bye!
Poor Mr. Perkins, commented Dorothy, softly.
Yes, mimicked Harlan, poor Mr. Perkins. I don't see but what
he'll have to work now, like any plain, ordinary mortal, with no
What is the Ideal, anyway? queried Elaine, looking thoughtfully
into the embers of the poet's bedstead.
That's easy, answered Dick, not without evident feeling. It's
whatever Mr. Perkins happens to be doing, or trying to do. He fixes it
for the rest of us.
I think, suggested Dorothy, after a momentary silence, that the
Ideal consists in minding your own business and gently, but firmly,
assisting others to mind theirs.
All unknowingly, Dorothy had expressed the dominant idea of the dead
master of the house. She fancied that the pictured face over the mantel
was about to smile at her. Dorothy and Uncle Ebeneezer understood each
other now, and she no longer wished to have the portrait moved.
Before they separated for the night, Dick told them all about the
midnight gathering in the orchard, which he had witnessed from afar,
and which the others enjoyed beyond his expectations.
That's what uncle meant, said Elaine, by 'fixing a surprise for
relations.' I don't blame him, observed Harlan, not a blooming bit.
I wish the poor old duck could have been here to see it. Why wasn't I
in on it? he demanded of Dick, somewhat resentfully. When anything
like that was going on, why didn't you take me in?
It wasn't for me to interfere with his doings, protested Dick,
but I do wish you could have seen Uncle Israel.
At the recollection he went off into a spasm of merriment which bid
fair to prove fatal. The rest laughed with him, not knowing just what
it was about, such was the infectious quality of Dick's mirth.
They've all gone, laughed Elaine, happily, taking her bedroom
candle from Dorothy's hand, they've all gone, every single one, and
now we're going to have some good times.
Dick watched her as she went upstairs, the candlelight shining
tenderly upon her sweet face, and thus betrayed himself to Dorothy, who
had suspected for some time that he loved Elaine.
Oh Lord! grumbled Dick to himself, when he was safely in his own
room. Everybody knows it now, except her. I'll bet even Sis Smithers
and the cat are dead next to me. I might as well tell her to-morrow as
any time, the result will be just the same. Better do it and have it
over with. The cat'll tell her if nobody else does.
But that night, strangely enough, Claudius Tiberius disappeared, to
be seen or heard of no more.
XX. The Love of Another Elaine
When Dick and Harlan ventured up to the sanitarium, they were
confronted by the astonishing fact that Uncle Israel was, indeed, ill.
Later developements proved that he was in a measure personally
responsible for his condition, since he had, surreptitiously, in the
night, mixed two or three medicines of his own brewing with the liberal
dose of a different drug which the night nurse gave him, in accordance
with her instructions.
Far from being unconscious, however, Uncle Israel was even now
raging violently against further restraint, and demanding to be sent
home before he was murdered.
He's being killed with kindness, whispered Dick, like the man who
was run over by an ambulance.
Harlan arranged for Uncle Israel to stay until he was quite healed
of this last complication, and then wrote out the address of Cousin
Betsey Skiles, with which Dick was fortunately familiar. And, added
Dick, if he's troublesome, crate him and send him by freight. We don't
want to see him again.
Less than a week later, Uncle Israel and his bed were safely
installed at Cousin Betsey's, and he was able to write twelve pages of
foolscap, fully expressing his opinion of Harlan and Dick and the
sanitarium staff, and Uncle Ebeneezer, and the rest of the world in
general, conveying it by registered mail to J. H. Car &Familey. The
composition revealed an astonishing command of English, particularly in
the way of vituperation. Had Uncle Israel known more profanity, he
undoubtedly would have incorporated it in the text.
It reminds me, said Elaine, who was permitted to read it, of a
little coloured boy we used to know. A playmate quarrelled with him and
began to call him names, using all the big words he had ever heard,
regardless of their meaning. When his vocabulary was exhausted, our
little friend asked, quietly: 'Is you froo?' 'Yes,' returned the other,
'I's froo.' 'Well then,' said the master of the situation, calmly,
turning on his heel, 'all those things what you called me, you is.'
That's right, laughed Dick. All those things Uncle Israel has
called us, he is, but it makes him a pretty tough old customer.
A blessed peace had descended upon the house and its occupants.
Harlan's work was swiftly nearing completion, and in another day or
two, he would be ready to read the neatly typed pages to the members of
his household. Dorothy could scarcely wait to hear it, and stole many a
secret glance at the manuscript when Harlan was out of the house.
Lover-like, she expected great things from it, and she saw the world of
readers, literally, at her husband's feet. So great was her faith in
him that she never for an instant suspected that there might possibly
be difficulty at the startthat any publisher could be wary of this
masterpiece by an unknown.
The Carrs had planned to remain where they were until the book was
finished, then to take the precious manuscript, and go forth to conquer
the City. Afterward, perhaps, a second honeymoon journey, for both were
sorely in need of rest and recreation.
Elaine was going with them, and Dorothy was to interview the
Personage whose private secretary she had once been, and see if that
position or one fully as desirable could not be found for her friend.
Also, Elaine was to make her home with the Carrs. I won't let you live
in a New York boarding house, said Dorothy warmly, as long as we've
any kind of a roof over our heads.
Dick had discovered that, as he expressed it, he must quit fooling
and get a job. Hitherto, Mr. Chester had preferred care-free idleness
to any kind of toil, and a modest sum, carefully hoarded, represented
to Dick only freedom to do as he pleased until it gave out. Then he
began to consider work again, but as he seldom did the same kind of
work twice, he was not particularly proficient in any one line.
Still, Dick had no false ideas about labour. At college he had
canvassed for subscription books, solicited life and fire insurance,
swept walks, shovelled snow, carried out ashes, and even handled trunks
for the express company, all with the same cheerful equanimity. His
small but certain income sufficed for his tuition and other necessary
expenses, but for board at Uncle Ebeneezer's and a few small luxuries,
he was obliged to work.
Just now, unwonted ambition fired his soul. It's funny, he mused,
what's come over me. I never hankered to work, even in my wildest
moments, and yet I pine for it this minuteeven street-sweeping would
be welcome, though that sort of thing isn't going to be much in my line
from now on. With the start uncle's given me, I can surely get along
all right, and, anyhow, I've got two hands, two feet, and one head, all
good of their kind, so there's no call to worry.
Worrying had never been among Dick's accomplishments, but he was
restless, and eager for something to do. He plunged into
furniture-making with renewed energy, inspired by the presence of
Elaine, who with her book or embroidery sat in her low rocker under the
apple tree and watched him at his work.
Quite often she read aloud, sometimes a paragraph, now and then an
entire chapter, to which Dick submitted pleasantly. He loved the
smooth, soft cadence of Elaine's low voice, whether she read or spoke,
so, in a way, it did not matter. But, one day, when she had read
uninterruptedly for over an hour, Dick was seized with a violent fit of
I say, he began, when the paroxysm had ceased; you like books,
Indeed I dodon't you?
Eryes, of course, but sayaren't you tired of reading?
Not at all. You needn't worry about me. When I'm tired, I'll stop.
She was pleased with his kindly thought for her comfort, and
thereafter read a great deal by way of reward. As for Dick, he burned
the midnight candle over many a book which he found inexpressibly dull,
and skilfully led the conversation to it the next day. Soon, even
Harlan was impressed by his wide knowledge of literature, though no one
noted that about books not in Uncle Ebeneezer's library, Dick knew
nothing at all.
Dorothy spent much of her time in her own room, thus forcing Dick
and Elaine to depend upon each other for society. Quite often she was
lonely, and longed for their cheery chatter, but sternly reminded
herself that she was being sacrificed in a good cause. She built many
an air castle for them as well as for herself, furnishing both,
impartially, with Elaine's old mahogany and the simple furniture Dick
was making out of Uncle Ebeneezer's relics.
By this time the Jack-o'-Lantern was nearly stripped of everything
which might prove useful, and they were burning the rest of it in the
fireplace at night. Varnished hardwood, as Dick said, makes a peach
of a blaze.
Meanwhile Harlan was labouring steadfastly at his manuscript. The
glowing fancy from which the book had sprung was quite gone. Still, as
he cut, rearranged, changed, interlined, reconstructed and polished, he
was not wholly unsatisfied with his work. It may not be very good, he
said to himself, but it's the best I can donow. The next will be
better, I'm sure. He knew, even then, that there would be a next
one, for the eternal thirst which knows no quenching had seized upon
his inmost soul.
Hereafter, by an inexplicably swift reversion, he should see all
life as literature, and literature as life. Friends and acquaintances
should all be, in his inmost consciousness, ephemeral. And
Dorothydearly as he loved her, was separated from him as by a veil.
Still, as he worked, he came gradually to a better adjustment, and
was very tenderly anxious that Dorothy should see no change in him. He
had not yet reached the point, however, where he would give it all up
for the sake of finding things real again, if only for an hour.
Day after day, his work went on. Sometimes he would spend an hour
searching for a single word, rightly to express his meaning. Page after
page was re-copied upon the typewriter, for, with the nice conscience
of a good workman, Harlan desired a perfect manuscript, at least in
Finally, he came to the last page and printed The End in capitals
with deep satisfaction. When it's sandpapered, he said to himself,
and the dust blown off, I suppose it will be done.
The sandpapering took a week longer. At the end of that time,
Harlan concluded that any manuscript was done when the writer had read
it carefully a dozen times without making a single change in it. On a
Saturday night, just as the hall clock was booming eleven, he pushed it
aside, and sat staring blankly at the wall for a long time.
I don't know what I've got, he thought, but I've certainly got
two hundred and fifty pages of typed manuscript. It should be good for
somethingeven at space rates.
After dinner, Sunday, he told them that the book was ready, and they
all went out into the orchard. Dick was resigned, Elaine pleasantly
excited, Dorothy eager and aflame with triumphant pride, Harlan
self-conscious, and, in a way, ashamed.
As he read, however, he forgot everything else. The mere sound of
the words came with caressing music to his ears. At times his voice
wavered and his hands trembled, but he kept on, until it grew so dark
that he could no longer see.
They went into the house silently, and Dick touched a match to the
fire already laid in the fireplace, while Dorothy lighted the candles
and the reading lamp. The afterglow faded and the moon rose, yet still
they rode with Elaine and her company, through mountain passes and over
blossoming fields, past many dangers and strange happenings, and ever
away from the Castle of Content.
Harlan's deep, vibrant voice, now stern, now tender, gave new
meaning to his work. His secret belief in it gave it a beauty which no
one else would ever see. Dorothy, listening so intently that it was
almost pain, never took her eyes from his face. In that hour, if Harlan
could have known it, her woman's soul was kneeling before his, naked
Dick privately considered the whole thing more or less of a
nuisance, but the candlelight touched Elaine's golden hair lovingly,
and the glow from the fire seemed to rest caressingly upon her face.
All along, he saw a clear resemblance between his Elaine and the lady
of the book, also, more keenly, a closer likeness between himself and
the fool who rode at her side.
When Harlan came to the song which the fool had written, and which
he had so shamelessly revised and read aloud at the table, Dick
seriously considered a private and permanent departure, like the
nocturnal vanishing of Mr. Perkins, without even a poem for farewell.
Elaine, lost in the story, was heedless of her surroundings. It was
only at the last chapter that she became conscious of self at all.
Then, suddenly, in her turn, she perceived a parallel, and quivered
painfully with a new emotion.
Some one, perchance, mused the Lady Elaine, whose beauty my
eyes alone should perceive, whose valour only I should guess before
there was need to test it. Some one great of heart and clean of mind,
in whose eyes there should never be that which makes a woman ashamed.
Some one fine-fibred and strong-souled, not above tenderness when a
maid was tired. One who should make a shield of his love, to keep her
not only from the great hurts but from the little ones as well, and yet
with whom she might fare onward, shoulder to shoulder, as God meant
mates should fare.
Like the other Elaine, she saw who had served her secretly, asking
for no recognition; who had always kept watch over her so unobtrusively
and quietly that she never guessed it till now. Like many another
woman, Elaine had dreamed of her Prince as a paragon of beauty and
perfection, with unconscious vanity deeming such an one her true mate.
Now her story-book lover had gone for ever, and in his place was Dick;
sunny-hearted, mischievous, whistling, clear-eyed Dick, who had laughed
and joked with her all Summer, and nowmust never know.
In a fierce agony of shame, she wondered if he had already guessed
her secretif she had betrayed it to him before she was conscious of
it herself; if that was why he had been so kind. Harlan was reading the
last page, and Elaine shaded her face with her hand, determined, at all
costs, to avoid Dick, and to go away to-morrow, somewhere, anywhere.
But Prince Bernard did not hear, read Harlan, nor see the
outstretched hand, for Elaine was in his arms for the first time, her
sweet lips close on his. My Prince, Oh, my Prince, she murmured, when
at length he set her free; my eyes did not see but my heart knew!
So ended the Quest of the Lady Elaine.
The last page of the manuscript fluttered, face downward, upon the
table, and Dorothy wiped her eyes. Elaine's mouth was parched, but she
staggered to her feet, knowing that she must say some conventional
words of congratulation to Harlan, then go to her own room.
Blindly, she put out her hand, trying to speak; then, for a single
illuminating instant, her eyes looked into Dick's.
With a little cry, Elaine fled from the room, overwhelmed with
shame. In a twinkling, she was out of the house, and flying toward the
orchard as fast as her light feet would carry her, her heart beating
wildly in her breast.
By the sure instinct of a lover, Dick knew that his hour had come.
He dropped out of the window and overtook her just as she reached her
little rocking-chair, which, damp with the Autumn dew, was still under
the apple tree.
Elaine! cried Dick, crushing her into his arms, all the joy of
youth and love in his voice. Elaine! My Elaine!
The audience, remarked Harlan, in an unnatural tone, appears to
have gone. Only my faithful wife stands by me.
Oh, Harlan, answered Dorothy, with a swift rush of feeling,
you'll never know till your dying day how proud and happy I am. It's
the very beautifullest book that anybody ever wrote, and I'm so glad!
Mrs. Shakespeare could never have been half as pleased as I am! I,
but the rest was lost, for Dorothy was in his arms, crying her heart
out for sheer joy.
There, there, said Harlan, patting her shoulders awkwardly, and
rubbing his rough cheek against her tear-wet face; it wasn't meant to
make anybody cry.
Why can't I cry if I want to? demanded Dorothy, resentfully,
between sobs. Harlan's voice was far from even and his own eyes were
misty as he answered: Because you are my own darling girl and I love
you, that's why.
They sat hand in hand for a long time, looking into the embers of
the dying fire, in the depths of that wedded silence which has no need
of words. The portraits of Uncle Ebeneezer and Aunt Rebecca seemed
fully in accord, and, though mute, eloquent with understanding.
He'd be so proud, whispered Dorothy, looking up at the stern face
over the mantel, if he knew what you had done here in his house. He
loved books, and now, because of his kindness, you can always write
them. You'll never have to go back on the paper again.
Harlan smiled reminiscently, for the hurrying, ceaseless grind of
the newspaper office was, indeed, a thing of the past. The dim, quiet
room was his, not the battle-ground of the street. Still, as he knew,
the smell of printer's ink in his nostrils would be like the sound of a
bugle to an old cavalry horse, and even now, he would not quite trust
himself to walk down Newspaper Row.
I love Uncle Ebeneezer and Aunt Rebecca, went on Dorothy, happily.
I love everybody. I've love enough to-night to spare some for the
Dear little saint, said Harlan, softly, I believe you have.
The clock struck ten and the fire died down. A candle flickered in
its socket, then went out. The chill Autumn mist was rising, and
through it the new moon gleamed faintly, like veiled pearl.
I wonder, said Harlan, where the rest of the audience is? If
everybody who reads the book is going to disappear suddenly and
mysteriously, I won't be the popular author that I pine to be.
Hush, responded Dorothy; I think they are coming now. I'll go and
let them in.
Only a single candle was burning in the hall, and when Dorothy
opened the door, it went out suddenly, but in that brief instant, she
had seen their glorified faces and understood it all. The library door
was open, and the dimly lighted room seemed like a haven of refuge to
Elaine, radiantly self-conscious, and blushing with sweet shame.
Hello, said Dick, awkwardly, with a tremendous effort to appear
natural, we've just been out to get a breath of fresh air.
It had taken them two hours, but Dorothy was too wise to say
anything. She only laugheda happy, tender, musical little laugh. Then
she impulsively kissed them both, pushed Elaine gently into the
library, and went back into the parlour to tell Harlan.