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The Best Short Stories of 1919 by Edward J. O'Brien


INTRODUCTION
THE KITCHEN GODS[2]
AN AWAKENING[3]
WILLUM'S VANILLA[4]
A NIGHT AMONG THE HORSES[5]
LONG, LONG AGO[6]
DISHES[7]
THE BLOOD-RED ONE[8]
THE WEDDING JEST[9]
THE WRISTS ON THE DOOR[10]
“GOVERNMENT GOAT"[11]
THE STONE[12]
TO THE BITTER END[13]
THE MEEKER RITUAL[14]
THE CENTENARIAN[15]
MESSENGERS[16]
MRS. DRAINGER'S VEIL[17]
UNDER A WINE-GLASS[18]
A THING OF BEAUTY[19]
THE OTHER ROOM[20]
“THE FAT OF THE LAND"[21]
THE YEARBOOK OF THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY
THE BIOGRAPHICAL ROLL OF HONOR OF AMERICAN SHORT STORIES
THE ROLL OF HONOR OF FOREIGN SHORT STORIES IN AMERICAN MAGAZINES

 


THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1919
             AND THE YEARBOOK OF THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY

     EDITED BY
  EDWARD J. O'BRIEN

  EDITOR OF “THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1915”
   “THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1916”
   “THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1917”
   “THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1918,” ETC.

     BOSTON
  SMALL, MAYNARD &COMPANY
     PUBLISHERS

Copyright, 1918, by Margaret C, Anderson, Charles Scribner's Sons, Smart Set Company, Inc., and The Century Company.

Copyright, 1919, by The Boston Transcript Company.

Copyright, 1919, by The Century Company, Harper &Brothers, The Bellman Company, The Pictorial Review Company, The Ridgway Company, The Curtis Publishing Company, The American Hebrew, and The McCall Company.

Copyright, 1920, by Gulielma Fell Alsop, Sherwood Anderson, Edwina Stanton Babcock, Djuna Barnes, Frederick Orin Bartlett, Agnes Mary Brownell, Maxwell Struthers Burt, James Branch Cabell, Horace Fish, Susan Glaspell Cook, Henry Goodman, Richard Matthews Hallet, Joseph Hergesheimer, Will E. Ingersoll, Calvin Johnston, Howard Mumford Jones, Ellen N. La Motte, Elias Lieberman, Mary Heaton O'Brien, and Anzia Yezierska.

Copyright, 1920, by Small, Maynard &Company, Inc.

       * * * * *

                     TO
                ANZIA YEZIERSKA

       * * * * *

BY WAY OF ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Grateful acknowledgment for permission to include the stories and other material in this volume is made to the following authors, editors, and publishers:

To the Century Company, Miss Margaret C. Anderson, Editor of The Little Review, Harper &Brothers, The Bellman Company, The Pictorial Review Company, Charles Scribner's Sons, The Ridgway Company, The Curtis Publishing Company, The Smart Set Company, Inc., The Editor of The American Hebrew, The McCall Company, Miss G. F. Alsop, Mr. Sherwood Anderson, Miss Edwina Stanton Babcock, Miss Djuna Barnes, Mr. Frederick Orin Bartlett, Miss Agnes Mary Brownell, Mr. Maxwell Struthers Burt, Mr. James Branch Cabell, Mr. Horace Fish, Mrs. George Cram Cook, Mr. Henry Goodman, Mr. Richard Matthews Hallet, Mr. Joseph Hergesheimer, Mr. Will E. Ingersoll, Mr. Calvin Johnston, Mr. Howard Mumford Jones, Miss Ellen N. La Motte, Mr. Elias Lieberman, Mrs. Mary Heaton O'Brien, and Miss Anzia Yezierska.

Acknowledgments are specially due to The Boston Evening Transcript for permission to reprint the large body of material previously published in its pages.

I shall be grateful to my readers for corrections, and particularly for suggestions leading to the wider usefulness of this annual volume. In particular, I shall welcome the receipt, from authors, editors, and publishers, of stories published during 1920 which have qualities of distinction, and yet are not printed in periodicals falling under my regular notice. Such communications may be addressed to me at Bass River, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

E. J. O.

CONTENTS[1]

[Note 1: The order in which the stories in this volume are printed is not intended as an indication of their comparative excellence; the arrangement is alphabetical by authors.]

                     PAGE INTRODUCTION. By the Editor xiii

THE KITCHEN GODS. By G. F. Alsop 3
  (From The Century)

AN AWAKENING. By Sherwood Anderson 24
  (From The Little Review)

WILLUM'S VANILLA. By Edwina Stanton Babcock 34
  (From Harper's Magazine)

A NIGHT AMONG THE HORSES. By Djuna Barnes 65
  (From The Little Review)

LONG, LONG AGO. By Frederick Orin Bartlett 74
  (From The Bellman)

DISHES. By Agnes Mary Brownell 82
  (From The Pictorial Review)

THE BLOOD-RED ONE. By Maxwell Struthers Burt 96
  (From Scribner's Magazine)

THE WEDDING-JEST. By James Branch Cabell 108
  (From The Century)

THE WRISTS ON THE DOOR. By Horace Fish 123
  (From Everybody's Magazine)

“GOVERNMENT GOAT.” By Susan Glaspell 147
  (From The Pictorial Review)

THE STONE. By Henry Goodman 167
  (From The Pictorial Review)

TO THE BITTER END. By Richard Matthews Hallet 178
  (From The Saturday Evening Post)

THE MEEKER RITUAL. By Joseph Hergesheimer 200
  (From The Century)

THE CENTENARIAN. By Will E. Ingersoll 225
  (From Harper's Magazine)

MESSENGERS. By Calvin Johnston 237
  (From The Saturday Evening Post)

MRS. DRAINGER'S VEIL. By Howard Mumford Jones 269
  (From The Smart Set)

UNDER A WINE-GLASS. By Ellen N. La Motte 297
  (From The Century)

A THING OF BEAUTY. By Elias Lieberman 305
  (From The American Hebrew)

THE OTHER ROOM. By Mary Heaton Vorse 312
  (From McCall's Magazine)

“THE FAT OF THE LAND.” By Anzia Yezierska 326
  (From The Century)

THE YEARBOOK OF THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY, NOVEMBER, 1918, TO SEPTEMBER, 1919 351

Addresses of American Magazines Publishing Short Stories 353

The Biographical Roll of Honor of American Short Stories 355

The Roll of Honor of Foreign Short Stories in American Magazines 364

Volumes of Short Stories Published, November, 1918, to September, 1919: An Index 366

Articles on the Short Story, October, 1918, to September, 1919 372

Magazine Averages, November, 1918, to September, 1919 381

Index of Short Stories Published in American Magazines, November, 1918, to September, 1919 384

INTRODUCTION

I should like to take the text for my remarks this year on the American Short Story from that notable volume of criticism, “Our America” by Waldo Frank. For the past year, it has been a source of much questioning to me to determine why American fiction, as well as the other arts, fails so conspicuously in presenting a national soul, why it fails to measure sincerely the heights and depths of our aspirations and failures as a nation, and why it lacks the vital élan which is so characteristic of other literatures. We know, of course, that we are present at the birth of a new national consciousness in our people, but why is it that this national consciousness seems so tangled in evasion of reality and in deep inhibitions that stultify it? Mr. Frank suggests for the first time the root of the cancer, and like a skilful surgeon points out how it may be healed. His book is the first courageous diagnosis of our weakness, and I think that the attentive and honest reader will not feel that he is unduly harsh or spiritually alienated from us. Briefly put, he finds that our failure lies in not distinguishing between idealism in itself and idealization of ourselves. We regard a man who challenges our self righteousness and self admiration as an enemy of the people. What we call our idealism is rooted in materialism and the goal we set ourselves virtuously is a goal of material comfort for ourselves, and, that once attained, perhaps also for others.

“No American can hope to run a journal, win public office, successfully advertise a soap or write a popular novel who does not insist upon the idealistic basis of his country. A peculiar sort of ethical rapture has earned the term American.... And the reason is probably at least in part the fact that no land has ever sprung so nakedly as ours from a direct and consciously material impulse....”

Mr. Frank goes on to point out that because our dreams are founded on a material earth, they none the less have a hope of heaven, and that the American story is really a debased form of wish fulfilment. “While the American was active in the external world—mature and conscious there—his starved inner life stunted his spiritual powers to infantile dimensions.... What would satisfy him must be a picture of the contents of real life, simplified and stunted to the dream-dimensions of the infant. And with just this sort of thing, our army of commercialised writers and dramatists and editors has kept him constantly supplied.

“There is nothing more horrible than a physically mature body moved by a childish mind. And if the average American production repels the sensitive American reader the reason is that he is witnessing just this condition.... The American is aware of the individual and social problems which inspire the current literatures of Europe. He is conscious of the conflicts of family and sex, of the contrasts of poverty and wealth. Of such stuff, also, are his books. Their body is mature: but their mental and spiritual motivation remains infantile. At once, it is reduced to an abortive simplification whereby the reality is maimed, the reader's wish fulfilled as it could only be in fairyland. But the fairyland is missing: the sweet moods of fairyland have withered in the arid sophistications of American life.... And yet the authors of this sort of book are hailed as realists, their work is acclaimed as social criticism and American interpretation. And when at times a solitary voice emerges with the truth, its message is attacked as morbid and a lie.

“It is easy to understand how optimism should become of the tissue of American life. The pioneer must hope. Else, how can he press on? The American editor or writer who fails to strike the optimistic note is set upon with a ferocity which becomes clear if we bear in mind that hope is the pioneer's preserving arm. I do not mean to discredit the validity of hope and optimism. I can honestly lay claim to both. America was builded on a dream of fair lands: a dream that has come true. In the infinitely harder problems of social and psychic health, the dream persists. We believe in our Star. And we do not believe in our experience. America is filled with poverty, with social disease, with oppression and with physical degeneration. But we do not wish to believe that this is so. We bask in the benign delusion of our perfect freedom.... Yet spiritual growth without the facing of the world is an impossible conception.”

Mr. Frank instances the case of Jack London as an example of how inhibition may crush an artist, while rewarding him with material success. “The background of this gifted man was the background of America. He had gone back to primal stratum: stolen and labored and adventured. Finally, he had learned to write. Criticism grew in him. He pierced the American myths. He no longer believed in the Puritan God.... But what of this experience of passion and exploration lives in his books? Precisely, nothing. London became a 'best-seller.' He sold himself to a Syndicate which paid him a fabulous price for every word he wrote. He visited half the world, and produced a thousand words a day. And the burden of his literary output was an infantile romanticism under which he deliberately hid his own despair. Since the reality of the world he had come up through was barred to his pen, he wrote stories about sea-wolves and star-gazers: he wallowed in the details of bloody combat. If he was aware of the density of human life, of the drama of the conflict of its planes, he used his knowledge only as a measure of avoidance. He claimed to have found truth in a complete cynical dissolution. 'But I know better,' he says, 'than to give this truth as I have seen it, in my books. The bubbles of illusion, the pap of pretty lies are the true stuff of stories.'”

You may say that this is a hard saying. Perhaps it is. But as I was writing this morning, I received a letter from which I shall quote as a living human document. It came to me from an American short story writer whose work I have not had occasion to mention previously in these studies. This artist has done work which ranks with the very best that has been produced in America, but it very seldom finds its way into print for the very reasons that Mr. Frank has mentioned. There is no compromise in it. It offers us no vicarious satisfaction of our self esteem. “I have only a blind, consuming passion of ideas. And this blind passion of ideas drove me and hounded me till I had to tear loose from everything human to follow it. For two years I lived in savage isolation. I thought myself strong enough to live alone and think alone, but I am not. What writes itself in me is too intense for the light weight American magazines. My last story took me months to write and I had to ruin it by tacking on to it a happy ending or starve.”

Now you may say that the writer of this letter should not have isolated himself from humanity. But in reality he did not. His stories are instinct with the very pulse of humanity. The American editor fears their reality, and so the writer really found that humanity had turned from him. Meanwhile, the unpublished work of this writer, who is dying, is America's spiritual loss. In the same way America lost Stephen Crane and Harris Merton Lyon and many another, and is losing its best writers to Europe every day. This annual volume is a book of documents, and that is my excuse for quoting from these two writers. You will find the indictment set forth more fully by a master in a recent novel, “The Mask,” by John Cournos, another writer whom America has lost as it lost Whistler and Henry James.

It is not easy to play the part of Juvenal in this age, and I shall not do it again, but it is because my faith in America is founded on her weaknesses as well as her strength that I make this plea for sincerity and artistic freedom. America's literature must no longer be the product of a child's brain in a man's body, if it is to be a literature, and not a form of journalism.

To repeat what I have said in these pages in previous years, for the benefit of the reader as yet unacquainted with my standards and principles of selection, I shall point out that I have set myself the task of disengaging the essential human qualities in our contemporary fiction which, when chronicled conscientiously by our literary artists, may fairly be called a criticism of life. I am not at all interested in formulæ, and organized criticism at its best would be nothing more than dead criticism, as all dogmatic interpretation of life is always dead. What has interested me, to the exclusion of other things, is the fresh, living current which flows through the best of our work, and the psychological and imaginative reality which our writers have conferred upon it.

No substance is of importance in fiction, unless it is organic substance, that is to say, substance in which the pulse of life is beating. Inorganic fiction has been our curse in the past, and bids fair to remain so, unless we exercise much greater artistic discrimination than we display at present.

The present record covers the period from November, 1918, to September, 1919, inclusive. During these eleven months, I have sought to select from the stories published in American magazines those which have rendered life imaginatively in organic substance and artistic form. Substance is something achieved by the artist in every act of creation, rather than something already present, and accordingly a fact or group of facts in a story only attain substantial embodiment when the artist's power of compelling imaginative persuasion transforms them into a living truth. The first test of a short story, therefore, in any qualitative analysis is to report upon how vitally compelling the writer makes his selected facts or incidents. This test may be conveniently called the test of substance.

But a second test is necessary if the story is to take rank above other stories. The true artist will seek to shape this living substance into the most beautiful and satisfying form, by skillful selection and arrangement of his material, and by the most direct and appealing presentation of it in portrayal and characterization.

The short stories which I have examined in this study, as in previous years, have fallen naturally into four groups. The first group consists of those stories which fail, in my opinion, to survive either the test of substance or the test of form. These stories are listed in the yearbook without comment or a qualifying asterisk. The second group consists of those stories which may fairly claim that they survive either the test of substance or the test of form. Each of these stories may claim to possess either distinction of technique alone, or more frequently, I am glad to say, a persuasive sense of life in them to which a reader responds with some part of his own experience. Stories included in this group are indicated in the yearbook index by a single asterisk prefixed to the title.

The third group, which is composed of stories of still greater distinction, includes such narratives as may lay convincing claim to a second reading, because each of them has survived both tests, the test of substance and the test of form. Stories included in this group are indicated in the yearbook index by two asterisks prefixed to the title.

Finally, I have recorded the names of a small group of stories which possess, I believe, an even finer distinction—the distinction of uniting genuine substance and artistic form in a closely woven pattern with such sincerity that these stories may fairly claim a position in our literature. If all of these stories by American authors were republished, they would not occupy more space than five novels of average length. My selection of them does not imply the critical belief that they are great stories. A year which produced one great story would be an exceptional one. It is simply to be taken as meaning that I have found the equivalent of five volumes worthy of republication among all the stories published during the eleven months under consideration. These stories are indicated in the yearbook index by three asterisks prefixed to the title, and are listed in the special “Rolls of Honor.” In compiling these lists, I have permitted no personal preference or prejudice to consciously influence my judgment. To the titles of certain stories, however, in the “Rolls of Honor,” an asterisk is prefixed, and this asterisk, I must confess, reveals in some measure a personal preference, for which, perhaps, I may be indulged. It is from this final short list that the stories reprinted in this volume have been selected.

It has been a point of honor with me not to republish an English story, nor a translation from a foreign author. I have also made it a rule not to include more than one story by an individual author in the volume. The general and particular results of my study will be found explained and carefully detailed in the supplementary part of the volume.

As in past years it has been my pleasure and honor to associate this annual with the names of Benjamin Rosenblatt, Richard Matthews Hallet, Wilbur Daniel Steele, and Arthur Johnson, so it is my wish to dedicate this year the best that I have found in the American magazines as the fruit of my labors to Anzia Yezierska, whose story, “Fat of the Land", seems to me perhaps the finest imaginative contribution to the short story made by an American artist this year.

EDWARD J. O'BRIEN.

OXFORD, ENGLAND,
    October 29, 1919.

THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1919

NOTE.—The order in which the stories in this volume are printed is not intended as an indication of their comparative excellence; the arrangement is alphabetical by authors.

THE KITCHEN GODS[2]

[Note 2: Copyright, 1919, by The Century Company. Copyright, 1920, by Gulielma Fell Alsop.]

BY GULIELMA FELL ALSOP

From The Century

The lilies bloomed that day. Out in the courtyard, in their fantastic green-dragoned pots, one by one the tiny, ethereal petals opened. Dong-Yung went rapturously among them, stooping low to inhale their faint fragrance. The square courtyard, guarded on three sides by the wings of the house, facing the windowless blank wall on the fourth, was mottled with sunlight. Just this side of the wall a black shadow, as straight and opaque as the wall itself, banded the court with darkness; but on the hither side, where the lilies bloomed and Dong-Yung moved among them, lay glittering, yellow sunlight. The little box of a house where the gate-keeper lived made a bulge in the uniform blackness of the wall and its shadow. The two tall poles, with the upturned baskets, the devil-catchers, rose like flagstaffs from both sides of the door. A huge china griffon stood at the right of the gate. From beyond the wall came the sounds of early morning—the click of wooden sandals on cobbled streets and the panting cries of the coolies bringing in fresh vegetables or carrying back to the denuded land the refuse of the city. The gate-keeper was awake, brushing out his house with a broom of twigs. He was quite bald, and the top of his head was as tanned and brown as the legs of small summer children.

“Good morning, Honorable One,” he called. “It is a good omen. The lilies have opened.”

An amah, blue-trousered, blue-jacketed, blue-aproned, cluttered across the courtyard with two pails of steaming water.

“Good morning, Honorable One. The water for the great wife is hot and heavy.” She dropped her buckets, the water splashing over in runnels and puddles at her feet, and stooped to smell the lilies. “It is an auspicious day.”

From the casement-window in the right balcony a voice called:

“Thou dunce! Here I am waiting already half the day. Quicker! quicker!”

It sounded elderly and querulous, a voice accustomed to be obeyed and to dominate. The great wife's face appeared a moment at the casement. Her eyes swept over the courtyard scene—over the blooming lilies, and Dong-Yung standing among them.

“Behold the small wife, cursed of the gods!” she cried in her high, shrill voice. “Not even a girl can she bear her master. May she eat bitterness all her days!”

The amah shouldered the steaming buckets and splashed across the bare boards of the ancestral hall beyond.

“The great wife is angry,” murmured the gate-keeper. “Oh, Honorable One, shall I admit the flower-girl? She has fresh orchids.”

Dong-Yung nodded. The flower-girl came slowly in under the guarded gateway. She was a country child, with brown cheeks and merry eyes. Her shallow basket was steadied by a ribbon over one shoulder, and caught between an arm and a swaying hip. In the flat, round basket, on green little leaves, lay the wired perfumed orchids.

“How many? It is an auspicious day. See, the lilies have bloomed. One for the hair and two for the buttonholes. They smell sweet as the breath of heaven itself.”

Dong-Yung smiled as the flower-girl stuck one of the fragrant, fragile, green-striped orchids in her hair, and hung two others, caught on delicate loops of wire, on the jade studs of her jacket, buttoned on the right shoulder.

“Ah, you are beautiful-come-death!” said the flower-girl. “Great happiness be thine!”

“Even a small wife can be happy at times.” Dong-Yung took out a little woven purse, and paid over two coppers apiece to the flower-girl.

At the gate the girl and the gate-keeper fell a-talking.

“Is the morning rice ready?” called a man's voice from the room behind.

Dong-Yung turned quickly. Her whole face changed. It had been smiling and pleased before at the sight of the faint, white lily-petals and the sunlight on her feet and the fragrance of the orchids in her hair; but now it was lit with an inner radiance.

“My beloved Master!” Dong-Yung made a little instinctive gesture toward the approaching man, which in a second was caught and curbed by Chinese etiquette. Dressed, as she was, in pale-gray satin trousers, loose, and banded at the knee with wide blue stripes, and with a soft jacket to match, she was as beautiful in the eyes of the approaching man as the newly opened lilies. What he was in her eyes it would be hard for any modern woman to grasp: that rapture of adoration, that bliss of worship, has lingered only in rare hearts and rarer spots on the earth's surface.

Foh-Kyung came out slowly through the ancestral hall. The sunlight edged it like a bright border. The doors were wide open, and Dong-Yung saw the decorous rows of square chairs and square tables set rhythmically along the walls, and the covered dais at the head for the guest of honor. Long crimson scrolls, sprawled with gold ideographs, hung from ceiling to floor. A rosewood cabinet, filled with vases, peach bloom, imperial yellow, and turquoise blue, gleamed like a lighted lamp in the shadowy morning light of the room.

Foh-Kyung stooped to smell the lilies.

“They perfume the very air we breathe. Little Jewel, I love our old Chinese ways. I love the custom of the lily-planting and the day the lilies bloom. I love to think the gods smell them in heaven, and are gracious to mortals for their fragrance's sake.”

“I am so happy!” Dong-Yung said, poking the toe of her slipper in and out the sunlight. She looked up at the man before her, and saw he was tall and slim and as subtle-featured as the cross-legged bronze Buddha himself. His long, thin hands were hid, crossed and slipped along the wrists within the loose apricot satin sleeves of his brocaded garment. His feet, in their black satin slippers and tight-fitting white muslin socks, were austere and aristocratic. Dong-Yung, when he was absent, loved best to think of him thus, with his hands hidden and his eyes smiling.

“The willow-leaves will bud soon,” answered Dong-Yung, glancing over her shoulder at the tapering, yellowing twigs of the ancient tree.

“And the beech-blossoms,” continued Foh-Kyung. “'The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.'”

“The foreign devil's wisdom,” answered Dong-Yung.

“It is greater than ours, Dong-Yung; greater and lovelier. To-day, to-day, I will go to their hall of ceremonial worship and say to their holy priest that I think and believe the Jesus way.”

“Oh, most-beloved Master, is it also permitted to women, to a small wife, to believe the Jesus way?”

“I will believe for thee, too, little Lotus Flower in the Pond.”

“Tell me, O Teacher of Knowledge—tell me that in my heart and in my mind I may follow a little way whither thou goest in thy heart and in thy mind!”

Foh-Kyung moved out of the shadow of the ancestral hall and stood in the warm sunlight beside Dong-Yung, his small wife. His hands were still withheld and hidden, clasping his wrists within the wide, loose apricot sleeves of his gown, but his eyes looked as if they touched her. Dong-Yung hid her happiness even as the flowers hide theirs, within silent, incurving petals.

“The water is cold as the chill of death. Go, bring me hot water—water hot enough to scald an egg.”

Foh-Kyung and Dong-Yung turned to the casement in the upper right-hand wing and listened apprehensively. The quick chatter of angry voices rushed out into the sunlight.

“The honorable great wife is very cross this morning.” Dong-Yung shivered and turned back to the lilies. “To-day perhaps she will beat me again. Would that at least I had borne my lord a young prince for a son; then perhaps—”

“Go not near her, little Jewel. Stay in thine own rooms. Nay, I have sons a-plenty. Do not regret the childlessness. I would not have your body go down one foot into the grave for a child. I love thee for thyself.”

“Now my lord speaks truly, as do the foreign devils to the shameless, open-faced women. I like the ways of the outside kingdom well. Tell me more of them, my Master.”

Foh-Kyung moved his hands as if he would have withdrawn them from his apricot-colored sleeves. Dong-Yung saw the withheld motion, and swayed nearer. For a moment Dong-Yung saw the look in his eyes that engulfed her in happiness; then it was gone, and he looked away past her, across the opening lily-buds and the black rampart of the wall, at something distant, yet precious. Foh-Kyung moved closer. His face changed. His eyes held that hidden rapture that only Dong-Yung and the foreign-born priest had seen.

“Little Jewel, wilt thou go with me to the priest of the foreign-born faith? Come!” He withdrew his hand from his sleeve and touched Dong-Yung on the shoulder. “Come, we will go hand in hand, thou and I, even as the men and women of the Jesus thinking; not as Chinese, I before, and thou six paces behind. Their God loves men and women alike.”

“Is it permitted to a small wife to worship the foreign-born God?” Dong-Yung lifted her eyes to the face of Foh-Kyung. “Teach me, O my Lord Master! My understanding is but young and fearful—”

Foh-Kyung moved into the sunlight beside her.

“Their God loves all the world. Their God is different, little Flower, from the painted images, full of blessings, not curses. He loves even little girl babies that mothers would throw away. Truly his heart is still more loving than the heart of a mother.”

“And yet I am fearful—” Dong-Yung looked back into the shadows of the guest-hall, where the ancestral tablets glowed upon the wall, and crimson tapers stood ready before them. “Our gods I have touched and handled.”

“Nay, in the Jesus way there is no fear left.” Foh-Kyung's voice dropped lower. Its sound filled Dong-Yung with longing. “When the wind screams in the chimneys at night, it is but the wind, not evil spirits. When the summer breeze blows in at the open door, we need not bar it. It is but the summer breeze from the rice-fields, uninhabited by witch-ghosts. When we eat our morning rice, we are compelled to make no offering to the kitchen gods in the stove corner. They cannot curse our food. Ah, in the Jesus way there is no more fear!”

Dong-Yung drew away from her lord and master and looked at him anxiously. He was not seeing her at all. His eyes looked beyond, across the fragile lily-petals, through the solid black wall, at a vision he saw in the world. Dong-Yung bent her head to sniff the familiar sweet springtime orchid hanging from the jade stud on her shoulder.

“Your words are words of good hearing, O beloved Teacher. Nevertheless, let me follow six paces behind. I am not worthy to touch your hand. Six paces behind, when the sun shines in your face, my feet walk in the shadow of your garments.”

Foh-Kyung gathered his gaze back from his visions and looked at his small wife, standing in a pool of sunshine before him. Overhead the lazy crows flew by, winging out from their city roosts to the rice-fields for the day's food.

“Tea-boiled eggs!” cried a vender from beyond the wall. A man stopped at the gate, put down his shoulder-tray of food, and bargained with the ancient, mahogany-scalped gate-keeper. Faint odors of food frying in oil stole out from the depths of the house behind him. And Dong-Yung, very quiet and passive in the pose of her body, gazed up at Foh-Kyung with those strange, secretive, ardent eyes. All around him was China, its very essence and sound and smell. Dong-Yung was a part of it all; nay, she was even the very heart of it, swaying there in the yellow light among the lily-petals.

“Precious Jewel! Yet it is sweeter to walk side by side, our feet stepping out into the sunlight together, and our shadows mingling behind. I want you beside me.”

The last words rang with sudden warmth. Dong-Yung trembled and crimsoned. It was not seemly that a man speak to a woman thus, even though that man was a husband and the woman his wife, not even though the words were said in an open court, where the eyes of the great wife might spy and listen. And yet Dong-Yung thrilled to those words.

An amah called, “The morning rice is ready.”

Dong-Yung hurried into the open room, where the light was still faint, filtering in through a high-silled window and the door. A round, brown table stood in the center of the room. In the corner of the room behind stood the crescentic, white plaster stove, with its dull wooden kettle-lids and its crackling straw. Two cooks, country women, sat in the hidden corner behind the stove, and poked in the great bales of straw and gossiped. Their voices and the answers of the serving amah filled the kitchen with noise. In their decorous niche at the upper right hand of the stove sat the two kitchen gods, small ancient idols, with hidden hands and crossed feet, gazing out upon a continually hungry world. Since time was they had sat there, ensconced at the very root of life, seemingly placid and unseeing and unhearing, yet venomously watching to be placated with food. Opposite the stove, on the white wall, hung a row of brass hooks, from which dangled porcelain spoons with pierced handles. On a serving-table stood the piled bowls for the day, blue-and-white rice patterns, of a thin, translucent ware, showing the delicate light through the rice seeds; red-and-green dragoned bowls for the puddings; and tiny saucer-like platters for the vegetables. The tea-cups, saucered and lidded, but unhandled, stood in a row before the polished brass hot-water kettle.

The whole room was full of a stirring, wakening life, of the crackling straw fire, of the steaming rice, all white and separate-kerneled in its great, shallow, black iron kettles, lidded with those heavy hand-made wooden lids, while the boiling tea water hissed, and spat out a snake of white steam.

With that curious democracy of China, where high and low alike are friendly, Dong-Yung hurried into her beloved kitchen.

“Has the master come?” asked the serving maid.

“Coming, coming,” Dong-Yung answered. “I myself will take in his morning rice, after I have offered the morning oblations to the gods.”

Dong-Yung selected two of the daintiest blue-and-white rice-pattern bowls. The cook lifted off the wooden lid of the rice-kettle, and Dong-Yung scooped up a dipperful of the snow-white kernels. On the tiny shelf before each god, the father and mother god of the household, Dong-Yung placed her offering. She stood off a moment, surveying them in pleased satisfaction—the round, blue bowls, with the faint tracery of light; the complacent gods above, red and green and crimson, so age-long, comfortably ensconced in their warm stove corner. She made swift obeisance with her hands and body before those ancient idols. A slant of sunshine swept in from the high windows and fell over her in a shaft of light. The thoughts of her heart were all warm and mixed and confused. She was happy. She loved her kitchen, her gods, all the familiar ways of Chinese life. She loved her silken, satin clothes, perfumed and embroidered and orchid-crowned, yet most of all she loved her lord and master. Perhaps it was this love for him that made all the rest of life so precious, that made each bowl of white rice an oblation, each daily act a glorification. So she flung out her arms and bent her head before the kitchen gods, the symbol of her ancient happiness.

“Dong-Yung, I do not wish you to do this any more.”

Dong-Yung turned, her obeisance half arrested in mid-air. Foh-Kyung stood in the doorway.

“My lord,” stammered Dong-Yung, “I did not understand your meaning.”

“I know that, little Flower in my House. The new meaning is hard to understand. I, too, am but a blind child unused to the touch of the road. But the kitchen gods matter no more; we pray to a spirit.”

Foh-Kyung, in his long apricot-colored garment, crossed the threshold of the kitchen, crossed the shadow and sunlight that striped the bare board floor, and stood before the kitchen gods. His eyes were on a level with theirs, strange, painted wooden eyes that stared forth inscrutably into the eating centuries. Dong-Yung stood half bowed, breathless with a quick, cold fear. The cook, one hand holding a shiny brown dipper, the other a porcelain dish, stood motionless at the wooden table under the window. From behind the stove peeped the frightened face of one of the fire-tenders. The whole room was turned to stone, motionless, expectant, awaiting the releasing moment of arousement—all, that is, but the creeping sunshine, sliding nearer and nearer the crossed feet of the kitchen gods; and the hissing steam fire, warming, coddling the hearts of the gods. Sun at their feet, fire at their hearts, food before them, and mortals turned to stone!

Foh-Kyung laughed softly, standing there, eye-level with the kitchen gods. He stretched out his two hands, and caught a god in each. A shudder ran through the motionless room.

“It is wickedness!” The porcelain dish fell from the hand of the cook, and a thousand rice-kernels, like scattered pearls, ran over the floor.

“A blasphemer,” the fire-tender whispered, peering around the stove with terrified eyes. “This household will bite off great bitterness.”

Foh-Kyung walked around the corner of the stove. The fire sparked and hissed. The sunshine filled the empty niche. Not since the building of the house and the planting of the tall black cypress trees around it, a hundred years ago, had the sunlight touched the wall behind the kitchen gods.

Dong-Yung sprang into life. She caught Foh-Kyung's sleeve.

“O my Lord and Master, I pray you, do not utterly cast them away into the burning, fiery furnace! I fear some evil will befall us.”

Foh-Kyung, a green-and-gold god in each hand, stopped and turned. His eyes smiled at Dong-Yung. She was so little and so precious and so afraid! Dong-Yung saw the look of relenting. She held his sleeve the tighter.

“Light of my Eyes, do good deeds to me. My faith is but a little faith. How could it be great unto thy great faith? Be gentle with my kitchen gods. Do not utterly destroy them. I will hide them.”

Foh-Kyung smiled yet more, and gave the plaster gods into her hands as one would give a toy to a child.

“They are thine. Do with them as thou wilt, but no more set them up in this stove corner and offer them morning rice. They are but painted, plastered gods. I worship the spirit above.”

Foh-Kyung sat down at the men's table in the men's room beyond. An amah brought him rice and tea. Other men of the household there was none, and he ate his meal alone. From the women's room across the court came a shrill round of voices. The voice of the great wife was loudest and shrillest. The voices of the children, his sons and daughters, rose and fell with clear childish insistence among the older voices. The amah's voice laughed with an equal gaiety.

Dong-Yung hid away the plastered green-and-gold gods. Her heart was filled with a delicious fear. Her lord was even master of the gods. He picked them up in his two hands, he carried them about as carelessly as a man carries a boy child astride his shoulder; he would even have cast them into the fire! Truly, she shivered with delight. Nevertheless, she was glad she had hidden them safely away. In the corner of the kitchen stood a box of white pigskin with beaten brass clasps made like the outspread wings of a butterfly. Underneath the piles of satin she had hidden them, and the key to the butterfly clasps was safe in her belt-jacket.

Dong-Yung stood in the kitchen door and watched Foh-Kyung.

“Does my lord wish for anything?”

Foh-Kyung turned, and saw her standing there in the doorway. Behind her were the white stove and the sun-filled, empty niche. The light flooded through the doorway. Foh-Kyung set down his rice-bowl from his left hand and his ivory chop-sticks from his right. He stood before her.

“Truly, Dong-Yung, I want thee. Do not go away and leave me. Do not cross to the eating-room of the women and children. Eat with me.”

“It has not been heard of in the Middle Kingdom for a woman to eat with a man.”

“Nevertheless, it shall be. Come!”

Dong-Yung entered slowly. The light in this dim room was all gathered upon the person of Foh-Kyung, in the gleaming patterned roses of his gown, in his deep amethyst ring, in his eyes. Dong-Yung came because of his eyes. She crossed the room slowly, swaying with that peculiar grace of small-footed women, till she stood at the table beside Foh-Kyung. She was now even more afraid than when he would have cast the kitchen gods into the fire. They were but gods, kitchen gods, that he was about to break; this was the primeval bondage of the land, ancient custom.

“Give me thy hand and look up with thine eyes and thy heart.”

Dong-Yung touched his hand. Foh-Kyung looked up as if he saw into the ether beyond, and there saw a spirit vision of ineffable radiance. But Dong-Yung watched him. She saw him transfigured with an inner light. His eyes moved in prayer. The exaltation spread out from him to her, it tingled through their finger-tips, it covered her from head to foot.

Foh-Kyung dropped her hand and moved. Dong-Yung leaned nearer.

“I, too, would believe the Jesus way.”

In the peculiar quiet of mid-afternoon, when the shadows begin to creep down from the eaves of the pagodas and zigzag across the rice-fields to bed, Foh-Kyung and Dong-Yung arrived at the camp-ground of the foreigners. The lazy native streets were still dull with the end of labor. At the gate of the camp-ground the rickshaw coolies tipped down the bamboo shafts, to the ground. Dong-Yung stepped out quickly, and looked at her lord and master. He smiled.

“Nay, I do not fear,” Dong-Yung answered, with her eyes on his face. “Yet this place is strange, and lays a coldness around my heart.”

“Regard not their awkward ways,” said Foh-Kyung as he turned in at the gate; “in their hearts they have the secret of life.”

The gate-keeper bowed, and slipped the coin, warm from Foh-Kyung's hand, into his ready pocket.

“Walk beside me, little Wife of my Heart.” Foh-Kyung stopped in the wide graveled road and waited for Dong-Yung. Standing there in the sunlight, more vivid yet than the light itself, in his imperial yellow robes, he was the end of life, nay, life itself, to Dong-Yung. “We go to the house of the foreign priest to seek until we find the foreign God. Let us go side by side.”

Dong-Yung, stepping with slow, small-footed grace, walked beside him.

“My understanding is as the understanding of a little child, beloved Teacher; but my heart lies like a shell in thy hand, its words but as the echo of thine. My honor is great that thou do not forget me in the magnitude of the search.”

Dong-Yung's pleated satin skirts swayed to and fro against the imperial yellow of Foh-Kyung's robe. Her face colored like a pale spring blossom, looked strangely ethereal above her brocade jacket. Her heart still beat thickly, half with fear and half with the secret rapture of their quest and her lord's desire for her.

Foh-Kyung took a silken and ivory fan from an inner pocket and spread it in the air. Dong-Yung knew the fan well. It came from a famous jeweler's on Nanking Road, and had been designed by an old court poet of long ago. The tiny ivory spokes were fretted like ivy-twigs in the North, but on the leaves of silk was painted a love-story of the South. There was a tea-house, with a maiden playing a lute, and the words of the song, fantastic black ideographs, floated off to the ears of her lover. Foh-Kyung spread out its leaves in the sun, and looked at it and smiled.

“Never is the heart of man satisfied,” he said, “alone. Neither when the willow fuzz flies in the spring, or when the midnight snow silvers the palms. Least of all is it satisfied when it seeks the presence of God above. I want thee beside me.”

Dong-Yung hid her delight. Already for the third time he said those words—those words that changed all the world from one of a loving following-after to a marvelous oneness.

So they stepped across the lawn together. It was to Dong-Yung as if she stepped into an unknown land. She walked on flat green grass. Flowers in stiff and ordered rows went sedately round and round beneath a lurid red brick wall. A strange, square-cornered, flat-topped house squatted in the midst of the flat green grass. On the lawn at one side was a white-covered table, with a man and a woman sitting beside it. The four corners of the table-cloth dripped downward to the flat green grass. It was all very strange and ugly. Perhaps it was a garden, but no one would have guessed it. Dong-Yung longed to put each flower plant in a dragon bowl by itself and place it where the sun caught its petals one by one as the hours flew by. She longed for a narrow, tile-edged path to guide her feet through all that flat green expanse. A little shiver ran over her. She looked back, down the wide graveled way, through the gate, where the gate-keeper sat, tipped back against the wall on his stool, to the shop of the money-changer's opposite. A boy leaned half across the polished wood counter and shook his fist in the face of the money-changer. “Thou thief!” he cried. “Give me my two cash!” Dong-Yung was reassured. Around her lay all the dear familiar things; at her side walked her lord and master. And he had said they were seeking a new freedom, a God of love. Her thoughts stirred at her heart and caught her breath away.

The foreigners rose to greet them. Dong-Yung touched the hand of an alien man. She did not like it at all. The foreign-born woman made her sit down beside her, and offered her bitter, strong tea in delicate, lidless cups, with handles bent like a twisted flower-branch.

“I have been meaning to call for a long time, Mrs. Li,” said the foreign-born woman.

“The great wife will receive thee with much honor,” Dong-Yung answered.

“I am so glad you came with your husband.”

“Yes,” Dong-Yung answered, with a little smile. “The customs of the foreign born are pleasant to our eyes.”

“I am glad you like them,” said the foreign-born woman. “I couldn't bear not to go everywhere with my husband.”

Dong-Yung liked her suddenly on account of the look that sprang up a moment in her eyes and vanished again. She looked across at the priest, her husband, a man in black, with thin lips and seeing eyes. The eyes of the foreign woman, looking at the priest, her husband, showed how much she loved him. “She loves him even as a small wife loves,” Dong-Yung thought to herself. Dong-Yung watched the two men, the one in imperial yellow, the one in black, sitting beside each other and talking. Dong-Yung knew they were talking of the search. The foreign-born woman was speaking to her again.

“The doctor told me I would die if I came to China; but John felt he had a call. I would not stand in his way.”

The woman's face was illumined.

“And now you are very happy?” Dong-Yung announced.

“And now I am very happy; just as you will be very happy.”

“I am always happy since my lord took me for his small wife.” Dong-Yung matched her happiness with the happiness of the foreign-born woman, proudly, with assurance. In her heart she knew no woman, born to eat bitterness, had ever been so happy as she in all the worlds beneath the heavens. She looked around her, beyond the failure of the foreign woman's garden, at the piled, peaked roofs of China looking over the wall. The fragrance of a blossoming plum-tree stole across from a Chinese courtyard, and a peach-branch waved pink in the air. A wonder of contentment filled Dong-Yung.

All the while Foh-Kyung was talking. Dong-Yung turned back from all the greenness around her to listen. He sat very still, with his hands hid in his sleeves. The wave-ridged hem of his robe—blue and green and purple and red and yellow—was spread out decorously above his feet. Dong-Yung looked and looked at him, so still and motionless and so gorgeously arrayed. She looked from his feet, long, slim, in black satin slippers, and close-fitting white muslin socks, to the feet of the foreign priest. His feet were huge, ugly black things. From his feet Dong-Yung's eyes crept up to his face, over his priestly black clothes, rimmed with stiff white at wrist and throat. Yes, his face was even as the face of a priest, of one who serves between the gods and men, a face of seeing eyes and a rigid mouth. Dong-Yung shuddered.

“And so we have come, even as the foreign-born God tells us, a man and his wife, to believe the Jesus way.”

Foh-Kyung spoke in a low voice, but his face smiled. Dong-Yung smiled, too, at his open, triumphant declarations. She said over his words to herself, under her breath, so that she would remember them surely when she wanted to call them back to whisper to her heart in the dark of some night. “We two, a man and his wife”—only dimly, with the heart of a little child, did Dong-Yung understand and follow Foh-Kyung; but the throb of her heart answered the hidden light in his eyes.

The foreign-born priest stood up. The same light shone in his eyes. It was a rapture, an exaltation. Suddenly an unheard-of-thing happened. The outside kingdom woman put her arms around Dong-Yung! Dong-Yung was terrified. She was held tight against the other woman's shoulder. The foreign-born woman used a strange perfume. Dong-Yung only half heard her whispered words.

“We are like that, too. We could not be separated. Oh, you will be happy!”

Dong-Yung thought of the other woman. “In her heart she is humble and seemly. It is only her speech and her ways that are unfitting.”

“We are going into the chapel a moment,” said the priest. “Will you come, too?”

Dong-Yung looked at Foh-Kyung, a swift upward glance, like the sudden sweep of wings. She read his answer in his eyes. He wanted her to come. Not even in the temple of the foreign-born God did he wish to be without her.

A coolie called the foreign-born woman away.

The priest, in his tight trousers, and jacket, black and covered with a multitude of round flat buttons, stood up, and led the way into the house and down a long corridor to a closed door at the end. Dong-Yung hurried behind the two men. At the door the priest stood aside and held it open for her to pass in first. She hesitated. Foh-Kyung nodded.

“Do not think fearful things, little Princess,” he whispered. “Enter, and be not afraid. There is no fear in the worship of Jesus.”

So Dong-Yung crossed the threshold first. Something caught her breath away, just as the chanting of the dragon priests always did. She took a few steps forward and stood behind a low-backed bench. Before her, the light streamed into the little chapel through one luminous window of colored glass above the altar. It lay all over the gray-tiled floor in roses and sunflowers of pink and gold. A deep purple stripe fell across the head of the black-robed priest. Dong-Yung was glad of that. It made his robe less hideous, and she could not understand how one could serve a god unless in beautiful robes. On the altar beneath the window of colored flowers were two tall silver candlesticks, with smooth white tapers. A wide-mouthed vase filled with Chinese lilies stood between them. The whole chapel was faintly fragrant with their incense. So even the foreign-born worshipers lit candles, and offered the scent of the lilies to their spirit God. Truly, all the gods of all the earth and in the sky are lovers of lit candles and flowers. Also, one prays to all gods.

The place was very quiet and peaceful, mottled with the gorgeous, flowerlike splashes of color. The waiting candles, the echoes of many prayers, the blossoms of worship filled the tiny chapel. Dong-Yung liked it, despite herself, despite the strangeness of the imageless altar, despite the clothes of the priest. She stood quite still behind the bench flooded and filled with an all-pervading sense of happiness.

Foh-Kyung and the black-robed priest walked past her, down the little aisle, to a shiny brass railing that went like a fence round before the altar. The foreign-born priest laid one hand on the railing as if to kneel down, but Foh-Kyung turned and beckoned with his chin to Dong-Yung to come. She obeyed at once. She was surprisingly unafraid. Her feet walked through the patterns of color, which slid over her head and hands, gold from the gold of a cross and purple from the robe of a king. As if stepping through a rainbow, she came slowly down the aisle to the waiting men, and in her heart and in her eyes lay the light of all love and trust.

Foh-Kyung caught her hand.

“See, I take her hand,” he said to the priest, “even as you would take the hand of your wife, proud and unashamed in the presence of your God. Even as your love is, so shall ours be. Where the thoughts of my heart lead, the heart of my small wife follows. Give us your blessing.”

Foh-Kyung drew Dong-Yung to her knees beside him. His face was hidden, after the manner of the foreign worshipers; but hers was uplifted, her eyes gazing at the glass with the colors of many flowers and the shapes of men and angels. She was happier than she had ever been—happier even than when she had first worshiped the ancestral tablets with her lord and master, happier even than at the feast of the dead, when they laid their food offerings on the shaven grave-mounds. She felt closer to Foh-Kyung than in all her life before.

She waited. The silence grew and grew till in the heart of it something ominous took the place of its all-pervading peace. Foh-Kyung lifted his face from his hands and rose to his feet. Dong-Yung turned, still kneeling, to scan his eyes. The black-robed priest stood off and looked at them with horror. Surely it was horror! Never had Dong-Yung really liked him. Slowly she rose, and stood beside and a little behind Foh-Kyung. He had not blessed them. Faintly, from beyond the walls of the Christian chapel came the beating of drums. Devil-drums they were. Dong-Yung half smiled at the long-known familiar sound.

“Your small wife?” said the priest. “Have you another wife?”

“Assuredly,” Foh-Kyung answered. “All men have a great wife first; but this, my small wife, is the wife of my heart. Together we have come to seek and find the Jesus way.”

The priest wiped his hand across his face. Dong-Yung saw that it was wet with tiny round balls of sweat. His mouth had suddenly become one thin red line, but in his eyes lay pain.

“Impossible,” he said. His voice was quite different now, and sounded like bits of metal falling on stone. “No man can enter the church while living in sin with a woman other than his lawful wife. If your desire is real, put her away.”

With instant response, Foh-Kyung made a stately bow.

“Alas! I have made a grievous mistake. The responsibility will be on my body. I thought all were welcome. We go. Later on, perhaps, we may meet again.”

The priest spoke hurriedly.

“I do not understand your meaning. Is this belief of such light weight that you will toss it away for a sinful woman? Put her away, and come and believe.”

But Foh-Kyung did not hear his words. As he turned away, Dong-Yung followed close behind her lord and master, only half comprehending, yet filled with a great fear. They went out again into the sunshine, out across the flat green grass, under the iron gateway, back into the Land of the Flowery Kingdom. Foh-Kyung did not speak until he put Dong-Yung in the rickshaw.

“Little Wife of my Heart,” he said, “stop at the jeweler's and buy thee new ear-rings, these ear-rings of the sky-blue stone and sea-tears, and have thy hair dressed and thy gowns perfumed, and place the two red circles on the smile of thy cheeks. To-night we will feast. Hast thou forgotten to-night is the Feast of the Lanterns, when all good Buddhists rejoice?”

He stood beside her rickshaw, in his imperial yellow garment hemmed with the rainbow waves of the sea, and smiled down into her eyes.

“But the spirit God of love, the foreign-born spirit God?” said Dong-Yung. “Shall we feast to him, too?”

“Nay, it is not fitting to feast to two gods at once,” said Foh-Kyung. “Do as I have said.”

He left her. Dong-Yung, riding through the sun-splashed afternoon, buying colored jewels and flowery perfume and making herself beautiful, yet felt uneasy. She had not quite understood. A dim knowledge advanced toward her like a wall of fog. She pressed her two hands against it and held it off—held it off by sheer mental refusal to understand. In the courtyard at home the children were playing with their lighted animals, drawing their gaudy paper ducks, luminous with candle-light, to and fro on little standards set on four wheels. At the gate hung a tall red-and-white lantern, and over the roof floated a string of candle-lit balloons. In the ancestral hall the great wife had lit the red candles, speared on their slender spikes, before the tablets. In the kitchen the cooks and amahs were busy with the feast-cooking. Candles were stuck everywhere on the tables and benches. They threw little pools of light on the floor before the stove and looked at the empty niche. In the night it was merely a black hole in the stove filled with formless shadow. She wished—

“Dong-Yung, Flower in the House, where hast thou hidden the kitchen gods? Put them in their place.” Foh-Kyung, still in imperial yellow, stood like a sun in the doorway.

Dong-Yung turned.

“But—”

“Put them back, little Jewel in the Hair. It is not permitted to worship the spirit God. There are bars and gates. The spirit of man must turn back in the searching, turn back to the images of plaster and paint.”

Dong-Yung let the wall of fog slide over her. She dropped her resistance. She knew.

“Nay, not the spirit of man. It is but natural that the great God does not wish the importunings of a small wife. Worship thou alone the great God, and the shadow of that worship will fall on my heart.”

“Nay, I cannot worship alone. My worship is not acceptable in the sight of the foreign God. My ways are not his ways.”

Foh-Kyung's face was unlined and calm, yet Dong-Yung felt the hidden agony of his soul, flung back from its quest upon gods of plaster and paint.

“But I know the thoughts of thy heart, O Lord and Master, white and fragrant as the lily-buds that opened to-day. Has thy wish changed?”

“Nay, my wish is even the same, but it is not permitted to a man of two wives to be a follower of the spirit God.”

Dong-Yung had known it all along. This knowledge came with no surprise. It was she who kept him from the path of his desire!

“Put back the kitchen gods,” said Foh-Kyung. “We will live and believe and die even as our fathers have done. The gate to the God of love is closed.”

The feast was served. In the sky one moon blotted out a world of stars. Foh-Kyung sat alone, smoking. Laughter and talk filled the women's wing. The amahs and coolies were resting outside. A thin reed of music crept in and out among the laughter and talk, from the reed flute of the cook. The kitchen was quite empty. One candle on the table sent up a long smoky tongue of flame. The fire still smoldered in the corner. A little wind shook the cypress-branches without, and carried the scent of the opened lilies into the room.

Dong-Yung, still arrayed for feasting, went to the pigskin trunk in the corner, fitted the key from her belt into the carven brass wings of the butterfly, and lifted out the kitchen gods. One in each hand, she held them, green and gold. She put them back in their niche, and lifted up a bowl of rice to their feet, and beat her head on the ground before them.

“Forgive me, O my kitchen gods, forgive my injurious hands and heart; but the love of my master is even greater than my fear of thee. Thou and I, we bar the gates of heaven from him.”

When she had finished, she tiptoed around the room, touching the chairs and tables with caressing fingers. She stole out into the courtyard, and bent to inhale the lily fragrance, sweeter by night than by day. “An auspicious day,” the gate-keeper had said that morning. Foh-Kyung had stood beside her, with his feet in the sunshine; she remembered the light in his eyes. She bent her head till the fingers of the lily-petals touched her cheek. She crept back through the house, and looked at Foh-Kyung smoking. His eyes were dull, even as are the eyes of sightless bronze Buddhas. No, she would never risk going in to speak to him. If she heard the sound of his voice, if he called her “little Flower of the House,” she would never have the strength to go. So she stood in the doorway and looked at him much as one looks at a sun, till wherever else one looks, one sees the same sun against the sky.

In the formless shadow she made a great obeisance, spreading out her arms and pressing the palms of her hands against the floor.

“O my Lord and Master,” she said, with her lips against the boards of the floor, softly, so that none might hear her—“O my Lord and Master, I go. Even a small wife may unbar the gates of heaven.”

First, before she went, she cast the two kitchen gods, green and gold, of ancient plaster, into the embers of the fire. There in the morning the cook-rice amahs found the onyx stones that had been their eyes. The house was still unlocked, the gate-keeper at the feast. Like a shadow she moved along the wall and through the gate. The smell of the lilies blew past her. Drums and chants echoed up the road, and the sounds of manifold feastings. She crept away down by the wall, where the moon laid a strip of blackness, crept away to unbar the gates of heaven for her lord and master.

AN AWAKENING[3]

[Note 3: Copyright, 1918, by Margaret C. Anderson. Copyright, 1919, by The John Lane Company.]

BY SHERWOOD ANDERSON

From The Little Review

Belle Carpenter had a dark skin, grey eyes and thick lips. She was tall and strong. When black thoughts visited her she grew angry and wished she were a man and could fight someone with her fists. She worked in the millinery shop kept by Mrs. Nate McHugh and during the day sat trimming hats by a window at the rear of the store. She was the daughter of Henry Carpenter, bookkeeper in the First National Bank of Winesburg, Ohio, and lived with him in a gloomy old house far out at the end of Buckeye Street. The house was surrounded by pine trees and there was no grass beneath the trees. A rusty tin eaves-trough had slipped from its fastenings at the back of the house and when the wind blew it beat against the roof of a small shed, making a dismal drumming noise that sometimes persisted all through the night.

When she was a young girl Henry Carpenter made life almost unbearable for his daughter, but as she emerged from girlhood into womanhood he lost his power over her. The bookkeeper's life was made up of innumerable little pettinesses. When he went to the bank in the morning he stepped into a closet and put on a black alpaca coat that had become shabby with age. At night when he returned to his home he donned another black alpaca coat. Every evening he pressed the clothes worn in the streets. He had invented an arrangement of boards for the purpose. The trousers to his street suit were placed between the boards and the boards were clamped together with heavy screws. In the morning he wiped the boards with a damp cloth and stood them upright behind the dining room door. If they were moved during the day he was speechless with anger and did not recover his equilibrium for a week.

The bank cashier was a little bully and was afraid of his daughter. She, he realized, knew the story of his brutal treatment of the girl's mother and hated him for it. One day she went home at noon and carried a handful of soft mud, taken from the road, into the house. With the mud she smeared the face of the boards used for the pressing of trousers and then went back to her work feeling relieved and happy.

Belle Carpenter occasionally walked out in the evening with George Willard, a reporter on the Winesburg Eagle. Secretly she loved another man, but her love affair, about which no one knew, caused her much anxiety. She was in love with Ed Handby, bartender in Ed Griffith's Saloon, and went about with the young reporter as a kind of relief to her feelings. She did not think that her station in life would permit her to be seen in the company of the bartender, and she walked about under the trees with George Willard and let him kiss her to relieve a longing that was very insistent in her nature. She felt that she could keep the younger man within bounds. About Ed Handby she was somewhat uncertain.

Handby, the bartender, was a tall broad-shouldered man of thirty who lived in a room upstairs above Griffith's saloon. His fists were large and his eyes unusually small but his voice, as though striving to conceal the power back of his fists, was soft and quiet.

At twenty-five the bartender had inherited a large farm from an uncle in Indiana. When sold the farm brought in eight thousand dollars which Ed spent in six months. Going to Sandusky, on Lake Erie, he began an orgy of dissipation, the story of which afterward filled his home town with awe. Here and there he went throwing the money about, driving carriages through the streets, giving wine parties to crowds of men and women, playing cards for high stakes and keeping mistresses whose wardrobes cost him hundreds of dollars. One night at a resort called Cedar Point he got into a fight and ran amuck like a wild thing. With his fist he broke a large mirror in the wash-room of a hotel and later went about smashing windows and breaking chairs in dance halls for the joy of hearing the glass rattle on the floor and seeing the terror in the eyes of clerks, who had come from Sandusky to spend the evening at the resort with their sweethearts.

The affair between Ed Handby and Belle Carpenter on the surface amounted to nothing. He had succeeded in spending but one evening in her company. On that evening he hired a horse and buggy at Wesley Moyer's livery barn and took her for a drive. The conviction that she was the woman his nature demanded and that he must get her, settled upon him and he told her of his desires. The bartender was ready to marry and to begin trying to earn money for the support of his wife, but so simple was his nature that he found it difficult to explain his intentions. His body ached with physical longing and with his body he expressed himself. Taking the milliner into his arms and holding her tightly, in spite of her struggles, he kissed her until she became helpless. Then he brought her back to town and let her out of the buggy. “When I get hold of you again I'll not let you go. You can't play with me,” he declared as he turned to drive away. Then, jumping out of the buggy, he gripped her shoulders with his strong hands. “I'll keep you for good the next time,” he said. “You might as well make up your mind to that. It's you and me for it and I'm going to have you before I get through.”

* * *

One night in January when there was a new moon George Willard, who was, in Ed Handby's mind, the only obstacle to his getting Belle Carpenter, went for a walk. Early that evening George went into Ransom Surbeck's pool room with Seth Richmond and Art Wilson, son of the town butcher. Seth Richmond stood with his back against the wall and remained silent, but George Willard talked. The pool room was filled with Winesburg boys and they talked of women. The young reporter got into that vein. He said that women should look out for themselves that the fellow who went out with a girl was not responsible for what happened. As he talked he looked about, eager for attention. He held the floor for five minutes and then Art Wilson began to talk. Art was learning the barber's trade in Cal Prouse's shop and already began to consider himself an authority in such matters as baseball, horse racing, drinking and going about with women. He began to tell of a night when he with two men from Winesburg went into a house of prostitution at the County Seat. The butcher's son held a cigar in the side of his mouth and as he talked spat on the floor. “The women in the place couldn't embarrass me although they tried hard enough,” he boasted. “One of the girls in the house tried to get fresh but I fooled her. As soon as she began to talk I went and sat in her lap. Everyone in the room laughed when I kissed her. I taught her to let me alone.”

George Willard went out of the pool room and into Main Street. For days the weather had been bitter cold with a high wind blowing down on the town from Lake Erie, eighteen miles to the north, but on that night the wind had died away and a new moon made the night unusually lovely. Without thinking where he was going or what he wanted to do George went out of Main Street and began walking in dimly lighted streets filled with frame houses.

Out of doors under the black sky filled with stars he forgot his companions of the pool room. Because it was dark and he was alone he began to talk aloud. In a spirit of play he reeled along the street imitating a drunken man and then imagined himself a soldier clad in shining boots that reached to the knees and wearing a sword that jingled as he walked. As a soldier he pictured himself as an inspector, passing before a long line of men who stood at attention. He began to examine the accoutrements of the men. Before a tree he stopped and began to scold. “Your pack is not in order,” he said sharply. “How many times will I have to speak of this matter? Everything must be in order here. We have a difficult task before us and no difficult task can be done without order.”

Hypnotized by his own words the young man stumbled along the board sidewalk saying more words. “There is a law for armies and for men too,” he muttered, lost in reflection. “The law begins with little things and spreads out until it covers everything. In every little thing there must be order, in the place where men work, in their clothes, in their thoughts. I myself must be orderly. I must learn that law. I must get myself into touch with something orderly and big that swings through the night like a star. In my little way I must begin to learn something, to give and swing and work with life, with the law.”

George Willard stopped by a picket fence near a street lamp and his body began to tremble. He had never before thought such thoughts as had just come into his head and he wondered where they had come from. For the moment it seemed to him that some voice outside of himself had been talking as he walked. He was amazed and delighted with his own mind and when he walked on again spoke of the matter with fervor. “To come out of Ransom Surbeck's pool room and think things like that,” he whispered. “It is better to be alone. If I talked like Art Wilson the boys would understand me but they wouldn't understand what I have been thinking down here.”

In Winesburg, as in all Ohio towns of twenty years ago, there was a section in which lived day laborers. As the time of factories had not yet come the laborers worked in the fields or were section hands on the railroads. They worked twelve hours a day and received one dollar for the long day of toil. The houses in which they lived were small cheaply constructed wooden affairs with a garden at the back. The more comfortable among them kept cows and perhaps a pig, housed in a little shed at the rear of the garden.

With his head filled with resounding thoughts George Willard walked into such a street on the clear January night. The street was dimly lighted and in places there was no sidewalk. In the scene that lay about him there was something that excited his already aroused fancy. For a year he had been devoting all of his odd moments to the reading of books and now some tale he had read concerning life in old world towns of the middle ages came sharply back to his mind so that he stumbled forward with the curious feeling of one revisiting a place that had been a part of some former existence. On an impulse he turned out of the street and went into a little dark alleyway behind the sheds in which lived the cows and pigs.

For a half hour he stayed in the alleyway, smelling the strong smell of animals too closely housed and letting his mind play with the strange new thoughts that came to him. The very rankness of the smell of manure in the clear sweet air awoke something heady in his brain. The poor little houses lighted by kerosene lamps, the smoke from the chimneys mounting straight up into the clear air, the grunting of pigs, the women clad in cheap calico dresses and washing dishes in the kitchens, the footsteps of men coming out of the houses and going off to the stores and saloons of Main Street, the dogs barking and the children crying—all these things made him seem, as he lurked in the darkness, oddly detached and apart from all life.

The excited young man, unable to bear the weight of his own thoughts, began to move cautiously along the alleyway. A dog attacked him and had to be driven away with stones and a man appeared at the door of one of the houses and began to swear at the dog. George went into a vacant lot and throwing back his head looked up at the sky. He felt unutterably big and re-made by the simple experience through which he had been passing and in a kind of fervor of emotion put up his hands, thrusting them into the darkness above his head and muttering words. The desire to say words overcame him and he said words without meaning, rolling them over on his tongue and saying them because they were brave words, full of meaning. “Death,” he muttered, “night, the sea, fear, loveliness.” George Willard came out of the vacant lot and stood again on the sidewalk facing the houses. He felt that all of the people in the little street must be brothers and sisters to him and he wished he had the courage to call them out of their houses and to shake their hands. “If there were only a woman here I would take hold of her hand and we would run until we were both tired out,” he thought. “That would make me feel better.” With the thought of a woman in his mind he walked out of the street and went toward the house where Belle Carpenter lived. He thought she would understand his mood and that he would achieve in her presence a position he had long been wanting to achieve. In the past when he had been with her and had kissed her lips he had come away filled with anger at himself. He had felt like one being used for some obscure purpose and had not enjoyed the feeling. Now he thought he had suddenly become too big to be used.

When George Willard got to Belle Carpenter's house there had already been a visitor there before him. Ed Handby had come to the door and calling Belle out of the house had tried to talk to her. He had wanted to ask the woman to come away with him and to be his wife, but when she came and stood by the door he lost his self-assurance and became sullen. “You stay away from that kid,” he growled, thinking of George Willard, and then, not knowing what else to say, turned to go away. “If I catch you together I will break your bones and his too,” he added. The bartender had come to woo, not to threaten, and was angry with himself because of his failure.

When her lover had departed Belle went indoors and ran hurriedly upstairs. From a window at the upper part of the house she saw Ed Handby cross the street and sit down on a horse block before the house of a neighbor. In the dim light the man sat motionless holding his head in his hands. She was made happy by the sight and when George Willard came to the door she greeted him effusively and hurriedly put on her hat. She thought that as she walked through the streets with young Willard, Ed Handby would follow and she wanted to make him suffer.

For an hour Belle Carpenter and the young reporter walked about under the trees in the sweet night air. George Willard was full of big words. The sense of power that had come to him during the hour in the darkness of the alleyway remained with him and he talked boldly, swaggering along and swinging his arms about. He wanted to make Belle Carpenter realize that he was aware of his former weakness and that he had changed. “You will find me different,” he declared, thrusting his hands into his pockets and looking boldly into her eyes. “I don't know why but it is so. You have got to take me for a man or let me alone. That's how it is.”

Up and down the quiet streets under the new moon went the woman and the boy. When George had finished talking they turned down a side street and went across a bridge into a path that ran up the side of a hill. The hill began at Waterworks Pond and climbed upwards to the Winesburg Fair Grounds. On the hillside grew dense bushes and small trees and among the bushes were little open spaces carpeted with long grass, now stiff and frozen.

As he walked behind the woman up the hill George Willard's heart began to beat rapidly and his shoulders straightened. Suddenly he decided that Belle Carpenter was about to surrender herself to him. The new force that had manifested itself in him had he felt been at work upon her and had led to her conquest. The thought made him half drunk with the sense of masculine power. Although he had been annoyed that as they walked about she had not seemed to be listening to his words, the fact that she had accompanied him to this place took all his doubts away. “It is different. Everything has become different,” he thought and taking hold of her shoulder turned her about and stood looking at her, his eyes shining with pride.

Belle Carpenter did not resist. When he kissed her upon the lips she leaned heavily against him and looked over his shoulder into the darkness. In her whole attitude there was a suggestion of waiting. Again, as in the alleyway, George Willard's mind ran off into words and, holding the woman tightly, he whispered the words into the still night. “Lust,” he whispered, “lust and night and women.”

* * *

George Willard did not understand what happened to him that night on the hillside. Later, when he got to his own room, he wanted to weep and then grew half insane with anger and hate. He hated Belle Carpenter and was sure that all his life he would continue to hate her. On the hillside he had led the woman to one of the little open spaces among the bushes and had dropped to his knees beside her. As in the vacant lot, by the laborers' houses, he had put up his hands in gratitude for the new power in himself and was waiting for the woman to speak when Ed Handby appeared.

The bartender did not want to beat the boy, who he thought had tried to take his woman away. He knew that beating was unnecessary, that he had power within himself to accomplish his purpose without that. Gripping George by the shoulder and pulling him to his feet he held him with one hand while he looked at Belle Carpenter seated on the grass. Then with a quick wide movement of his arm he sent the younger man sprawling away into the bushes and began to bully the woman, who had risen to her feet. “You're no good,” he said roughly. “I've half a mind not to bother with you. I'd let you alone if I didn't want you so much.”

On his hands and knees in the bushes George Willard stared at the scene before him and tried hard to think. He prepared to spring at the man who had humiliated him. To be beaten seemed infinitely better than to be thus hurled ignominiously aside.

Three times the young reporter sprang at Ed Handby and each time the bartender, catching him by the shoulder, hurled him back into the bushes. The older man seemed prepared to keep the exercise going indefinitely but George Willard's head struck the root of a tree and he lay still. Then Ed Handby took Belle Carpenter by the arm and marched her away.

George heard the man and woman making their way through the bushes. As he crept down the hillside his heart was sick within him. He hated himself and he hated the fate that had brought about his humiliation. When his mind went back to the hour alone in the alleyway he was puzzled, and stopping in the darkness, listened, hoping to hear again the voice, outside himself, that had so short a time before put new courage into his heart. When his way homeward led him again into the street of frame houses he could not bear the sight and began to run, wanting to get quickly out of the neighborhood that now seemed to him utterly squalid and commonplace.

WILLUM'S VANILLA[4]

[Note 4: Copyright, 1919, by Harper &Brothers. Copyright, 1920, by Edwina Stanton Babcock.]

BY EDWINA STANTON BABCOCK

From Harper's Magazine

The letter came while Mr. Pawket was chopping wood. His ax rested on a stump and piles of white chips breathed fragrance around him as he stood watching the buckboard of the Rural Free Delivery wind down the country road.

The Rural Free Delivery consisted of a white horse, a creaking buckboard, and a young woman of determined manner. A Rough Rider's hat sat with an air of stern purpose on the Rural Free Delivery's dark head, and a pair of surgeon's gauntlet gloves heightened her air of official integrity.

As the buckboard approached the group of tulip-trees opposite Mr. Pawket's residence he shoved back his hat and pulled a blue-spotted handkerchief out of his hip pocket; passing the handkerchief over his face, he greeted the Rural Free Delivery:

“Hot enough fer yer?”

It was really not so very hot, but if Mr. Pawket had not asked this question he would have felt lacking in geniality. He did not, however, go forward to intercept possible mail. There was the little iron box with his name on it nailed to the tulip-tree; there was the red signal to be adjusted. It pleased Mr. Pawket to realize that the government had all this planned out for his special convenience and he was careful not to upset régime. He watched the Rural Free Delivery climb down from the buckboard, go to the little box on the tree, deposit one letter, lock the box, and set up the signal. When the ceremony was concluded Mr. Pawket came out from behind the barn. Walking with the heavy, bent-kneed tread of the life-long farmer, he leaned upon the bars by the cow-sheds.

“Many gitten 'em to-day?” he inquired.

The Rural Free Delivery climbed back into the buckboard; she pulled on the gauntlets, replying with black-eyed reserve:

“Finn's folks had two—a asthma circler and a letter from that son they thought was drownded. Mis' Sweetser's got a paper—-the one her daughter is a manicurer sends her. And there's a box yet for the Grant girl—her graduatin'-dress, I expect—seems she's too high-toned to wear anything but machine-made.”

The Rural Free Delivery whipped up the white horse and the stern contours of the Rough Rider hat disappeared down the winding, shadowed road. At last Mr. Pawket, rousing from the reverie induced by news of the resurrection of Finn's boy, took down the bars and crossed the road to the post-box. Dragging from his pocket a cluster of huge barn keys, he sought among them for the infinitesimal key of the box. This small key had the appearance of coquetting with Mr. Pawket—it invariably disappeared behind the larger keys and eluded his efforts to single it out; it seemed to him flirtatious, feminine; and as he stood like an old Druid invoking the spirit of the tulip-tree, he addressed this small key with benevolent irony.

“You'm a shrimp, that's what you are,” Mr. Pawket said to the key. “Nothin' but a shrimp.... Why in tarnation don't they have a key you can see?... I'd hate to lose you on a dark night, I would,” eying the key severely.

But the shrimp key at least did its work, and Mr. Pawket with unconcealed feelings of wonder and concern drew forth from the box the letter. It was a large, rich-looking letter. The envelope was thin and crackly, embossed with purple designs of twisted reptiles coiling around a woman's face, and in one corner were small purple letters forming the words “Hotel Medusa.” The handwriting on the envelope was bold and black, and the dark seal bore impress of a small winged form that Mr. Pawket took to be a honey-bee. He regarded the letter suspiciously, studying it from every position as he entered the kitchen door.

“Say, Mother, here's a letter. What'll I do with it?”

Mrs. Pawket came sighing from the washtub. She wrinkled her forehead as one harried by the incessant demands of the outside world. Wiping her hands on her wet apron, she took the letter, regarding it contemptuously.

“Leave it be on the parlor mantel,” advised Mrs. Pawket. “The twins is comin' up the road. I can hear them hollerin' at that echo down by the swamps. Leave it be; they'll attend to it.”

Mr. Pawket, having carried out this injunction, stood by the door considering whether it was worth while to go back to his chopping. The sun was in the middle of the sky; he sniffed odors of the kitchen and discerned a rich atmosphere known to his consciousness as “dinner-time.”

“Now I'm here I may as well stay,” he remarked to his wife. He sat heavily down in a Turkey-red-covered rocking-chair, quoting facetiously:

    “Ef yer never want to be sad and sorry
    Just keep away from hurry and worry.”

“The Rural says Finn's folks has heard from that young feller was drownded.”

Mrs. Pawket raised a disapproving face from contemplating a small kettle of Irish stew, remarking, severely: “Much the Rural knows about it. She's into everybody's business.”

Mr. Pawket demurred. “Well, carr'in' the mail and all, she's liable to sense a good deal. Some says she's always been foreknowledged. 'Twuz the Rural foretold the blizzit last winter; 'twuz the Rural found out Hank Jellaby's nephew was married. Wasn't it her knowed all the time who sot Mullins's barn afire? There's a good many depends on the Rural for keeping up with things.”

Soon the sun was a green glare through the tulip-trees; that meant it was half past twelve, and the twins raced in. They were hoarse from intriguing with the echo in the swamp; but as they entered the gate (careful to swing it the wrong way and squeeze through) they discussed a tingling problem in mental arithmetic.

“If Mrs. Fenton gave her son two wapples” (snuffle), “and her nephew one naple” (snuffle), “and two wapples to her son's friend, reservin' one napple for herself and conservin' four rapples for the household, what would be the sum of these given napples multiplied by four?”

Reciting this appalling chorus, the twins faced their grandfather, who, poising his battered sun-hat on his knees, from the depths of his arm-chair looked proudly, if fearfully, upon them.

“Say, Gramp', kin' you answer it?” demanded the twins.

Standing before him in the kitchen doorway, they mouthed it, curly-headed, croaking synchronous challenge. They scraped their shoes on a scraper near the door; one peered furtively under a covered dish on the table while the other washed hands and face in a tin basin under the grape-arbor. Together they made strange “snorting” noises of repressed masculinity as, seizing knife and fork from the pile in the center of the table, they took seats, elbows on plates, instruments waving in air.

“Kin you answer it?”

Mr. Pawket hedged. He also drew a chair up to the table and, spearing a slice of bread with his knife, bent bushy brows.

“'Kin I answer it?' Well, that's a nice question. Would yer teacher like me to answer it? No, he wouldn't. It's for your learnin', ain't it? Not for mine. I'm all finished with them conundrums. Of course,” went on Mr. Pawket, airily—“of course I never done figurin' like that when I was a boy. Them apples, now. Seems to me it all depends on the season. Ef the lady was a widder, like as not she was took advantage of. I mistrust she wouldn't be no judge of apples; not bein' a farmer, how could she know that there's years when apples is valleyble, and other years when you insult the pigs with 'em? But then—you talk about apples—Well, as for a fine apple, whether it's Northern Spy or Harvest Moon....” Thus Mr. Pawket skilfully directed the conversation into channels more familiar.

At last the twins, in a fine, concerted action of chewing, balanced large slices of buttered bread on the flats of their hands, eyed their grandparents, and, after swallowing with peculiar heavy efforts of the epiglottis, remarked, simultaneously:

“Willum is comin' home.”

Mr. Pawket started. He reached for his spectacles, solemnly polished them, and put them on. Mrs. Pawket, bearing a large leaning tower of griddle-cakes toward the table, halted as one petrified.

The twins bent over their plates, humped their shoulders, observing, “That's what they all say down to the Center.”

“Mr. Sykes heard it into the feedstore.”

“Mis' Badger says it.”

“They was all talkin' about it into the undertaker's.”

“He's going to build a new house.”

“His wife thinks she's goin' to like it here.”

Mr. Pawket took off his spectacles. His wife! Willum with a wife?

The twins, now devouring griddle-cakes, turned on him with unmoved faces.

“It's going to be a show-place. The butcher can tell yer all about it—a grand house like a big railroad station, all gold pipes and runnin' water.”

One twin turned the syrup-jug upside down; there ensued a slight scuffle between the two, each ardently attempting to hold his plate under the golden falling globules.

“They'm goin' to have five ottermobiles, and one for the cook to run herself around in; there's goin' to be one room all canary-birds, and there's goin' to be a g'rage with painted winders and a steeple like a church.”

Mrs. Pawket sat down. She fanned herself with her apron.

“Set up to the table and eat, Mawther,” feebly advised Mr. Pawket.

The twins, rapidly and scientifically consuming griddle-cakes, jaws working, unemotional eyes watching the effect of their statements, continued:

“They goin' to build on Cedar Plains.”

“She's got the ideers.”

“He's got the money.”

“Just their ice-box alone is goin' to cost 'em two hundred dollars.”

Mr. Pawket, with sudden irritation: “Now, now, now, that ain't sensible, that ain't. Willum had ought to have talked it over with me. I'd like to 'a' reasoned with him. I could have showed him catalogues.... And them two buildin' on Cedar Plains—it's onreasonable. It'll come hard on his wife. She won't have no near neighbors; and look at how far they'll have to go for weddin's and fun'rals and all.”

Mrs. Pawket, suddenly bethinking her, rose and went into the “front” room, or parlor, where, from a large mantelpiece ranged with sugary-looking vases stuffed with brilliantly dyed grasses she plucked the recently arrived letter. Looking at it upside down and with nonchalance of disapproval, she put the letter before the twins, commanding:

“Do as Grammar tells you and read it.”

“That's right,” said Mr. Pawket, spooning up gravy. He retucked a kitchen towel in his neck, approving: “I don't know but what we ought to read it. There may be sumpin' in it somebody wants we should know.”

The twins handled the letter casually; they attacked the superscription with glib unconcern.

“Hot-hell Medusa.” began one twin, confidently.

He was instantly corrected by the other twin. “Yah—it is not Hot-hell—it's Ho_tel Medusa, It'ly. Yah!”

“It'ly? It'ly?” mused Mr. Pawket. “Well, I made out the I T, all right. Now I ought to 'a' guessed the rest, It'ly bein' a place I'm familiar with.”

The twins were in conference.

“Medusa—you know who she was,” remarked the elder twin by four seconds.

“Don't, huh? Snakes for hair—hey? Look at you and you turn into stone—hey?”

“Shut up! She did not!”

“Shut up! She did!”

But the other twin busied himself with the post-mark.

“A. Malfi,” he painfully deciphered....

“Say, Gramp', what's a Malfi?”

His brother remained engrossed with the embossed head of Medusa.

“Snakes for hair—turned 'em to stone—cut off her head,” he chanted, in blissful retrospect.

Mr. Pawket, reaching across the table, seized this student by the collar. “Now, now, now! Whose head you cuttin' off?”

“Hern,” explained this bloodthirsty twin. “She was a bad woman.”

“Hey! Hey! Hey!” roared Mr. Pawket, with sudden severity. “None of that talk here! You mind your own business, young man. Don't you give us none of that gab.” He turned to Mrs. Pawket: “What did I say about that new young feller that's come to teach school? He ain't here for no good—that's what I said!” Mr. Pawket studied the face on the envelope with a sort of curious horror, concluding, “Ef she's what you say she is, see to it that you don't take no more notice of her capers.”

The twins now registered aggrieved expressions; they scratched curly heads with perturbed spoons. “Medusa's hist'ry.” They roared it in hurt explanation.

After some discussion of the curious anatomical outline of the supposed honey-bee on the seal, Mrs. Pawket finally slit the envelope with a dinner-knife, and the twins, holding the letter between them, gave a dashing, if slightly incorrect, reading.

     “AMALFI—IT'LY—HOTEL MEDOOSA.

     “DEAR MR. AND MRS. PAWKET,—This letter is from William Folsom, the
     little orphan boy for whom you did so much. What do you think? This
     boy who boarded with you summers is coming back to America with his
     wife, an Italian lady you are both sure to love! On account of
     unforeseen business necessity, Mrs. Folsom and I are forced to give
     up our charming ... vill ... villain ... villy....”

Here one twin ran down. The other twin looked over his brother's shoulder, breathing thickly.

“Vanilla,” he chewingly instructed.

     “Vanilla ... our charming vanilla, and on account of recent
     dev-dev-devil-elope-ments we are leaving It'ly at once. You
     remember the fine old property my father owned, called Cedar
     Plains? As I remember, it was not far from your farm where I spent
     so many happy summers. It is on Cedar Plains that Mrs. Folsom and I
     plan to erect our new home, an I ... talian van ... vill ... v....”

“Vanilla.” This time it was Mr. Pawket who blandly supplied the word.

     “I shall count on you as good friends and neighbors and I am
     anxious to have my wife meet you. We have placed the building of
     our new home in the hands of an architect friend of mine who is to
     be on the spot until all is completed. Our beloved household
     furnishings have already been shipped to America and we are living
     for the present in this hotel. We shall come home by a somewhat
     cir-cus-to-us route, not arriving until our new home is ready for
     us. Won't you two good friends take Mr. Badgely as a boarder, and
     do give him that stunning old room I used to have?

     “With the kindest good wishes to you both,

     “Your boy,

     “WILLIAM FOLSOM.”

The twins, having completed what had been for them a daring undertaking, now looked about for release from an atmosphere grown suddenly boresome. The elder by four seconds went to the door and, affecting intense maturity, spat out from it. The younger, dipping his head in the water-butt near the leader, took a small comb from his pocket and, using the disturbed water-butt as a mirror, began parting into ideal smoothness his upward-turning locks.

The first twin, seeing his brother's back turned, dug into his pockets and, having brought out with an air of modest pride a fish-line, a morsel of gingerbread, a bit of resin, human tooth, part of a human bone, a kitten's skull, a chewed piece of gum, and an incredibly besmirched Sunday-school card, extracted from these omens a large rusty screw, which he proffered to his grandmother, muttering, “For your Everything Jar.” With a sudden shame at having been seen sympathizing with the interests of a woman, this twin then seized his hat and fled whooping down the road to school, followed by his brother, who, holding between his vision and the sun a small bit of crimson glass, exulted in the contemplation of a deep red universe.

Mrs. Pawket, bundling the dinner-dishes into a pan and pouring hot water from the teakettle over them, sighed. Mr. Pawket, having again retired to the Turkey-red-covered chair, watched his wife somewhat dazedly; he was still thinking of the contents of “Willum's” letter.

“Comin' home by a cir-cus-to-us route,” he soliloquized ... “and devil-elopements. I suppose he knows what he's doin', but it all sounds kindy resky to me. Did you get it that A. Malfi was his wife's maiden name? Don't it sound sorter like a actress to you? One of them sassy, tricky furriners, I'll bet. 'N' a vanilla—what call has Willum got to build a vanilla, his age? A mansion, now—I could onderstand how the boy would hanker for a mansion—he always had big feelin's, Willum had—but a vanilla! Say, you ever seen one of them there contraptions?”

Mrs. Pawket, washing the dishes, hung up the soap-shaker and cast her eyes upward as in an effort of memory. She reached for a dish-towel, replying, somewhat evasively, “Where my mother come from they had 'em a-plenty; there was one on every street.”

Her husband regarded her with deep respect. “Ye don't say?”

Mrs. Pawket squeezed out the dishmop with a thoughtful air; she cast a hasty, authoritative glance at the range, banging the door shut with a decision that made Mr. Pawket jump as she snapped:

“Just the same, this here ain't no place for a vanilla. A vanilla around these parts would be the same as if you was to wear your Sunday silk hat out a-plowin'. They hain't got good judgment, them two hain't.”

The old farmer regarded his wife with serious attention. Lighting his pipe, he lay back in the Turkey-red chair, puffing in silence. At last he laid the pipe down and, laboriously pulling off his boots, hummed an air which had for its sole motif the undynamic suggestion:

    “By and by
     By and by
     By and by. By and by. By and by.”

At last the thumping of stocking feet ceased with the drone of the drowsy voice; a bit of sunlight filtering first through the tulip-trees, then through the little low kitchen window, let it be seen that Mr. Pawket had lapsed into slumber. His wife looked at him with an expressionless face. Wringing her hands out of the dish-water, she carried the pan to the door; with contemptuous words of warning to some chickens near by, she flung the contents on the grass. Going further into the door-yard she dragged up some bleached clothing and stuffed it into a clothes-basket. Choking the range full of coal, wrenching into place a refractory coal-scuttle, she turned the damper in the stove-pipe and set the stove-plates slightly a-tilt. Then she seized the tin wash-basin, and, setting up a small mirror against the window, loosened her hair and dragged her face and head through a severe toilet whose original youthful motive of comeliness had been lost in habitual effort of tidiness. This done, Mrs. Pawket donned a clean white apron and draped around her neck a knitted orange tie which she pinned with a scarlet coral breast-pin.

Having thus dressed for the afternoon and for the feared, desired, but seldom experienced visitation called “company,” Mrs. Pawket took from her pocket the screw her grandson had bestowed upon her. Suddenly, with the expression of one who in the interests of art performs dangerous acrobatic feats, she dragged a chair in front of a cupboard. Climbing, with many expressions of insecurity, on this chair, Mrs. Pawket reached a bony hand into the cupboard, groping on the top shelf for an object which her fingers approached tremulously. This object with considerable care Mrs. Pawket brought down to earth and set upon the kitchen table. It was a short, stumpy bowl or jar, upon which curious protuberances of all kinds clustered. The protuberances encircled the jar in something like the way fungus circles a tree hole, in strange and various patterns.

Mrs. Pawket, the light deepening in her eyes, took from her apron pocket the screw; holding it very daintily in one work-worn hand, with the other she dove into further recesses and produced, wrapped in an oily bit of newspaper, a large lump of putty.

Now a solemn ritual began. Breaking off a bit of the putty, Mrs. Pawket welded it on the jar near the other protuberances; while the putty was soft she fixed in it the screw, arranging that implement by a method best calculated to display its screw characteristics. Then Mrs. Pawket's eyes grew darker, a flush came into her wrinkled cheeks; she wrung the moisture from her brow in a sort of agony of creative pleasure. As one who performs an action sacred in its heightened detachment and mechanical efficiency, she rummaged with desperate insistence on another and higher shelf of the cupboard, this time bringing forth a very small vial of gilt varnish and an equally small paint-brush with which to apply it. Mrs. Pawket then observed that her hand was shaking and chid herself severely:

“Look at me! Soon as I see how pritty this here Everything Jar is gettin' to be, I go and get excited. If I'm goosefleshed now, what'll I be when the Everything is finished?”

But the Everything Jar was a long way from finished and the unsatisfied ache of the creative artist made heavy Mrs. Pawket's breast. She surveyed the ceramic, half-erupt with a medley of buttons, screws, safety-pins, hooks, knobs, all covered with their transforming gilt, and tried to imagine how it would seem to have it completed. Then the ultimate anxiety beset her—when completed, should the Everything be bestowed upon the minister's family or—this a recent and daring inspiration—should it be conferred upon Willum's wife, the mistress of the proposed vanilla? Mrs. Pawket was fairly tortured by uncertainty. She shook the sleeping Mr. Pawket by the shoulder.

“Say, look at the Everything. I just now put on that last screw. Ain't it handsome?”

As he blinked at the fantastic jar gleaming with golden excrescences, a deep sense of beauty thrilled Mr. Pawket.

“Hey, Maw,” he chuckled. “That's the best yet. My! ain't it pritty? It beats that lamp-shade ye made out er the tinfoil. Now the question is, who ye goin' to give it to?”

“It's fer the vanilla,” returned Mrs. Pawket, calmly.

Mr. Pawket put up his hand and wrung out his ear; he thought he could not have heard aright; such aplomb, such dashing assurance as was his wife's! His gray beard vibrated with curiosity.

“For the vanilla,” the artist repeated, firmly. “I take it Willum's wife won't be too proud to accept a notion or two fer her parlor. 'Tain't likely that she, being so long in a furrin country, has had much chance to go through the stores and pick out bric-à-brac. I don't know but what she would be thankful for an ornament or so.”

“Ornaments?” Mr. Pawket dwelt reverently upon the word. “Ornaments? I dunno but what you got it right, though I wouldn't never have thought of it myself.” He leaned over the table the better to gloat upon the golden jar. “Well,” he summed up—“well, wimmen do beat all for mind-readin'. First she sets up house-keepin', it's ornaments she's goin' to hanker fer—something fer the center-table most likely; and here you, who she 'ain't never see, stands all ready with an Everything fer her!”

A few days after the excitement produced by Willum's letter the architect arrived. He was a tall, old-young man with the preoccupied air of having reduced all human existence to exact diagrams. He was, however, strangely intoxicated by the quiet and beauty of his country surroundings. On the evening of his arrival he installed himself happily in the spare room of the Pawkets' farm-house, acting, as Mrs. Pawket marveled, as “if he hadn't never lived up in them classy city beehives.”

Mr. Badgely, however, seemed to the farmer and his wife unnaturally ecstatic over the ordinary manifestations of the physical universe. He would stand for hours looking off over soft sunrise country; he would hang over the bars by the cow-sheds, staring down the red road or gazing pensively up at the ancient outlines of the Pawkets' homestead. When the old farmer went up to him with knockkneed, rheumatic tread, inquiring, “Well, how goes it?” the architect would reply:

“Oh, heavenly! Such depth! Such substance! Such integrity!”

When Mr. Pawket, fearing such brain lesions as he could not diagnose, saw that these epithets were directed toward his own home in its tulip-tree setting, he would range himself alongside of the architect, eye his residence critically, and expectorate as he avowed:

“It wants roofing. Come vacation I'm goin' ter put the twins to scrapin' them pesky mossback shingles; then I may go with the tide and buy me a fancy tin roof.”

Mr. Badgely would sweep him with an unseeing look. He would stretch five very long fingers toward the façade of the farm-house, muttering, “Of course not the dormers; they obtrude, I think, and the note is pseudo-foreign. We should try to evolve something absolutely American, don't you think? But the pilasters, the door paneling, positively Doric in their clean sobriety! The eastern development, now; there may have been reason for the extreme slant toward the east—it orients well, but with a certain shock....”

“Shock? I guess yes,” Mr. Pawket would reply. “'Twuz struck by lightnin', tore down considerable.” Then Mr. Pawket would remember that Willum had asked him to be all the help he could to the architect, so he would cast his eyes up to the sun as one who dovetails multitudinous engagements, remarking: “What say we go down to Cedar Plains now? Fool around a little. Kindy block the thing all out, as it were.”

Once Mr. Pawket had added, “Ef we can't do nothin' else, you can tell me ef you want any of them trees left a-standin'.”

The dreaming architect had turned on him like one under sudden electric compulsion; he shook himself into unbelievable alertness.

“The—er—trees? Left standing?”

Mr. Pawket smiled indulgently. He scratched a match on the seat of his overalls and lighted his pipe, answering between puffs: “I guess you 'm new to the business, ain't ye? Don't ye know, boy, the fust thing ye do when ye set out to build a house is to lay all the trees low? Some does it with dunnamite; some does it with mules and swearin'—anything to root out the pesky things.”

An extraordinary look of terror had swept the architect's face.

“Nervous,” noted Mr. Pawket, “nervous! Maw'll have to feed him up with buttermilk and put drops into his coffee. Them city people is always nagged into nerves.” The old man continued in fatherly fashion:

“Now, you wantin' to make all clear for anything as sizable as a vanilla, fust thing we do is to 'scratch off the trees.' I can git you plenty fellers handy with ax and saw, but when it comes to them cussed roots, why, then, you 'm goin' to want dunnamite.”

The architect bowed his head thoughtfully. As the two took the little bronzed path leading to the natural park-land dark with tapering cedars, he gave a puzzled look at the old farmer. At last he seemed struck by an idea and said, slowly:

“Do you know, Mr. Pawket, we architects are often a little vague; we need so much to—er—confer—and—er—ahem!—consult. Now, really, I should be so interested. Just what are your personal preferences with regard to the construction of an Italian villa?”

Mr. Pawket was for the moment slightly dazed. He surmised that the question placed him somewhat at a disadvantage; yet, somehow, it seemed to him that he knew a good deal about Italian villas. Gathering together certain impressions derived from the conversation of the twins, from a picture seen on a calendar, from the one lurid film of his experience, and from certain opulent descriptions of the building of the Tabernacle, it seemed to him that he knew a little something about occult species of architecture. He not immodestly presented his ideas.

“I take it”—squashing ruminatively through puddles—“I take it that the vanilla idee is kinder intricate, ain't it?—somethin' fancy and grand like a castle? Two or three cupolos, er course, and all run around with stoops and balconies; marble staircases inside.” Mr. Pawket added this carelessly as one used to the larger handling of details. “High sideboards set out in silver in the dinin'-room—a reel handsome phonnygraft into the front room and statoos on the gateposts.”

The architect receiving this preliminary sketch with such silent respect, Mr. Pawket gained courage and resumed:

“Wall-papers I ain't so sure about.” The old farmer took out a large clasp-knife and, paring his thumb-nail, continued, somewhat loftily: “I presume that is as the lady of the house commands. Some favors blue, but there's a many as is great hands for red. I see a house once had dead animals, stuffed codfish, and shot ducks all over the wall-paper into the dinin'-room; 'twuz reel tony! As fer the yard—well, I mistrust that Willum, bein' sociable and always interested into the open air, would want circular seats around whatever trees was left standin'. Ye could paint 'em red, white, and blue, ye know. And he'd like a pond, maybe, with a white swan shovin' back and forth.”

* * *

At last came the day when vans of imported laborers arrived and began quick breaking of ground and laying of foundations on Cedar Plains. Parts of the superb heating system, the installing of which was the architect's special care, numerous white bath-tubs—these things were deposited before the eyes of the excited Mr. Pawket, who, in the absence of the owner of the proposed villa, felt that he must be very vigilant in overseeing. Every day the old man appeared at Cedar Plains, boots spattered, overalls greased and clayey, making his anxious comments to the architect, who received them thoughtfully, with the air of putting all suggestions into immediate execution.

So the building of the “vanilla” proceeded, but it proceeded under the stigma of an outraged countryside. The “show-place” confidently predicted seemed not to evolve; outside of insane expenditures for heating and bathing and the sanitary care of laundry and food, there were few evidences that the villa was to be magnificent. Development after development not only puzzled the neighboring farmers, but incensed them. Men driving by “Willum's vanilla” pointed it out, tongue in cheek, with derisive whip; their women folks, veiled and taciturn, leaned forward in curious wonder to condemn silently. Such complacent agriculturists as owned “ottermobiles” came from miles away to view the thing; they halted their machines by the roadside and went in parties up through the tapering cedars to where stood the slowly rising square white walls, which they stared at with patronizing guffaws. It was the fashion for the youth of Brook Center to spend Sunday afternoons down in Cedar Plains, where among the dark trees they found the rosy trail of arbutus; where strawberries hung in the rank green grass, and where, of autumn days, wandering over the sweet stubble, they confessed to each other those innocent melancholies of beings that have never known sorrow.

On the edge of the plains where the russet path met the highway was an old well. Here the brooding boys and girls were accustomed to bring their loves and quarrels; here they hoisted the bucket from its glittering black depths, poured water on tight bunches of anemone, fern, and Dutchman's breeches, took long, gasping country drinks, and played all the pranks youth plays when relaxed beside its subtle, laughing ally—water. As the Sunday sun went down the boys and girls discussed the strange phenomenon of the new house whose enigmatic walls gleamed through the fields of their once free rovings. They uttered dark hearsay: “Some says them two is crazy; that's why they been chased out er It'ly.” The twins, playing stick-knife in the soft turf that edged the road, flatly contradicted this:

“They are not crazy, neither; they 'm as common sense as you are.”

“Well, ef they ain't crazy, why they goin' to have stone floors? Why they got them big old stone jars that come yesterday? Why ain't they goin' to have no stair carpets? Why ain't they goin' to have no window-curtings?”

“They are, too, crazy, and they gone and built that old vanilla right on where we used to pick checkerberries, and he's goin' to put a outlandish Dago top right on this here well, the kind they have in It'ly where they all wear rags and eat lemon-skins.”

“Nobody won't keep me from drinkin' out of this well when it's got a Dago top.”

“Nobody won't never stop me from goin' on Cedar Plains if I've got a mind ter. I got as good a right as they got.”

“I'd just as soon heave a rock right now at that there vanilla. I don't care for it. I ain't afraid of no tin-faced I-talian dudes.”

At last came a letter announcing the proposed arrival of the villa furniture. The buckboard with the white horse halted again under the tulip-tree and this time Mr. Pawket with unwonted sense of haste intercepted the letter. The Rural, whose Rough Rider hat was now discarded for a black-velvet tam-o'-shanter adorned with a coquettish pink rose, rigidly resigned it to his eager grasp.

Mr. Pawket, for all his preoccupation, was not blind to the pink rose; he quickly got its sense and made the usual deduction.

“When does the weddin' take place?” he asked, facetiously.

The rigidity around the corners of the Rural's mouth did not lessen as she replied with the evasion Brook Center found piquant, “Next day after Never.”

Having successfully warded off inquiry as to personal plans, the Rural returned to her rightful prerogatives of newsmonger, demanding:

“How's Mis' Pawket's Everything gittin' along? I got a couple shoe-buttons fer her. She'd better hurry up and finish it; I hear there is four more in town startin' Everything Jars. Seems there's a sort of rivalry of who's goin' to be the first to get a Everything into the vanilla.”

A look of calamity shaded Mr. Pawket's face, but he accepted the two shoe-buttons with dignified reserve.

“All she needs now is a harness buckle and a couple peanut-shells,” he explained, nonchalantly. “I can get them fer her easy enough; the twins have been helping her some, one with a sinker and the other with a hook and eye. 'Tain't likely any one can git their jar in afore hern. I wouldn't advise nobody to nerve themselves up to it. There's been rumors,” added Mr. Pawket, gravely—“there's been rumors as some one is tryin' to git up a rockery fer the vanilla. Now I wouldn't advise 'em to. The lady will want to tinker with that herself. But if everybody is itchin' to help, why don't they take up a nice collection er white door-knobs to trim up the garden paths?”

The mail maiden smiled a contemptuous smile; her black eyes held like sediment the look of repudiation.

“Ah, door-knobs!”—scornfully. “What's the use Of givin' up your curios and souvenirs to folks like that? They don't know how to appreciate it! I got a better use for my door-knobs. They 'm peculiar, them two is; they don't know nothin'. You heard that about the bedrooms, I presume?”

Mr. Pawket, a worried look settling on his kind face, peered up at the Rural; he took off his sun-hat and fanned himself with it.

“The bedrooms?” he questioned, falteringly. “D' ye mean that comical cage-like where they goin' to sleep outdoors?”

The Rural smiled scornfully; she adjusted the pink rosebud with a haughty, gauntleted hand.

“I mean the walls,” shortly. “Plaster walls. Yes, sir, that's what I mean and I know what I'm talkin' about—rough walls, plaster, like a cellar. I know what I'm talkin' about, for it's my intended has the job; he's 'most crazy about it, my intended is, it's gone all over the Center and every one laughin' and teasin' him about it.... She's wrote it herself in a letter with that same honey-bee onto the envelope. 'I want the bedroom walls to be rough plaster,' that's what she's went and wrote, 'of a pale yellow colorin' Mr. Badgely will choose. Please allow him to mix the color' (ain't it awful?) 'and put it on very rough' (she says). 'I want the grain especially coarse and rich' (she says). ' Coarse and rich'!” The Rural lifted dramatic eyes, inquiring again, “Ain't that terrible?”

Mr. Pawket hesitated. An idea of loyalty possessed him; he made a feeble attempt at seeming to support the unknown lady's taste.

“Er course, as I look at vanillas—” he began, weakly.

But the Rural interrupted him with a vicious clip of her lean brown jaws. “Vanillas?” with scornful inflection. “Vanillas?” She lashed the white horse into a sprawling stagger as she snapped, “She don't know nothin' about vanillas!” and rattled confidently away, calling back, scornfully; “She don't know nothin'; she 'ain't never had no instruction; she don't reelize that there's such things as wall-papers. 'Coarse and rich,'“ sneered the Rural. She peered back over her trim young shoulder, adding: “They say their furniture has come. Everybody is down to the junction, studyin' it. I'm glad it ain't mine.”

It was true that the furniture had arrived. Braving the vicissitudes of sea routes; badly shipped by an Italian warehouse, and roughly handled at an American port, still the furniture had arrived. It had been dumped out of its crated cars at the little Brook Center station. To the lover of Flemish and Spanish carving, to the connoisseur of Genoese cabinets and Italian intarsia, to the student of time-fumed designs and forms, the coming of this furniture might well have been an event; for by a freak of destiny, on the little platform of an obscure country junction were assembled the hoardings of centuries of tradition, the adored heirlooms of a long line of ancestry. One huge case, half wrecked, showed the gleam of Florentine brasses; another, crated and roped, revealed faded Genoese brocades; slender broken legs and edges of carved flaps protruded from battered sheathings. To some minds all this might have spelled a certain sort of poetry; to the curious group assembled at the junction it spelled eccentricity and, what was worse, a fixed and immoral shabbiness of existence!

The junction agent pointed out a half-crated table standing by itself; it looked inconceivably old and was of a timber unknown to Brook Center. Its rickety four legs, wrapped separately, tapered off into carvings of opulent nymphs and the wild, laughing faces of dryads and fauns—these legs were observed by the curious groups at the junction to be badly worn and honeycombed with worm-holes.

“For the vanilla,” it was whispered from one to another; the junction agent, hand over mouth, bowed himself backward in mirth. “They say it's all from her home, and this is the dinin'-room table. My! My! My! ain't it awful, all them old, ancient things?”

Mr. Pawket, affecting a connoisseurship unconsciously copied from the architect, bent over the table, examining it; with vague puzzlement he passed his hand over its cut and hacked surface—surface on which hundreds of monks of the time of Clement III had whetted their restless knives.

“I don't onderstand it; I don't onderstand it”—the old farmer feebly shook his head—“unless it's she ain't used to nothin' better and he's kep' his mouth shut. 'Twould be like Willum to pertend he didn't care; he was always biddable. M' wife could feed him anythin' from pot-cheese to pork; he was always a great hand to keep the peace.”

The junction master watched in leering silence the brittle collection of household fittings being lifted into carts. “Well, I guess I'm glad it ain't me is goin' to have 'em for neighbors,” he observed, feelingly. “They 'll fall back on you a good deal, one thing and another; they 'm pretty well broken down in pocket—you can see that.”

Mr. Pawket in dumb disappointment climbed up into his wagon and stooped to take the reins. For a few moments he chewed violently with his front teeth before he spat desperately into the junction geranium-bed, asserting with dignity:

“Oh, I guess you got no call to worry. 'Tain't as if they didn't have no friends in this country. Willum's sort of son to me, my own boy bein' long dead. Ef the worst comes to the worst I don't know but what I could make a fist to help him out. Whoa, there!” Mr. Pawket, rising in his seat, backed his team truculently. “Ef anythin's needed,” he observed, superbly, “I shall see to it myself—'twould n't take me long to buy him a dining-room table and a few little fixin's so's he could hold up his head in the world.”

All the way home Willum's friend pondered the thing. Once when the horses stopped to drink at a wayside trough he slapped his knee fiercely and said: “That's the ticket! Yes, sir, that's the size of it!” At dinner, after the twins had taken their departure, he suggested his plan to his wife; to his immense relief she met the thing in his own spirit.

“A golden-oak dinin'-table, anyway,” argued Mr. Pawket. “One or two fancy fixin's so they can hold up their heads in the world.”

“And shut people's mouths,” agreed his wife. “That hotel-keeper's girl, now, I never see any one more sassy—she with an Everything only half done and sayin' she's goin' to be the first to get one into the vanilla, and yet talkin' something terrible behind them and their furniture's backs.”

“How's your Everything?” asked Mr. Pawket, suddenly; a grim determination shot into the eyes under his hairy brows.

For answer his wife rose. Unwrapping some white mosquito-netting, she presented to view a large, bulbous object encircled with protuberances, excrescenced with golden knobbiness—this object, strangely sticky, smelled something like bananas; it was the Everything, completed and unveiled. Mr. and Mrs. Pawket gazed upon it in silent admiration. As they stood lost in contemplation of its conglomerate goldiness, there came the sound of a sprightly whistle and light step, and the architect appeared in the doorway.

Mr. Badgely had by this time become an intimate member of the farm household. The two old people beamed upon him; Mr. Pawket waved him excitedly toward the table, announcing:

“Well, sir, it's finished. Take it or leave it; I don't know as you could find one any handsomer.”

Mr. Badgely started theatrically. He was clad in white flannels and a white silk shirt; a golden-brown tie matched the brown of a dreaming fire in his eyes, and there were brown silk socks upon his shapely calf-skinned feet. The Pawkets, even in their absorption, noted that, if not really young, the architect suggested something very like youth. His dapper figure now bent reverently over the kitchen table on whose red-and-white-checkered cloth reposed the gold jar; he drew a long breath.

“The—er—Everything!” he murmured. After a long and careful scrutiny of the golden object, he turned to Mr. Pawket.

“Really—it—it defies description—it is so—er—genuine! I confess I never have seen anything quite like it—anywhere. Mrs. Pawket, I do congratulate you.”

“There's a rage for 'em now,” explained Mr. Pawket, proudly, “but 't was she started the first one. She began the hull thing; we was foolish enough to mention ourn to the hotel-keeper's daughter, and now, as fur as I can gather, there's six Everythings started right here in Brook Center.”

Mr. Badgely showed deep emotion. “Really, six Everythings? You surprise me. I had no idea the community boasted such—er—creative feeling.”

The old farmer looked at the young man, then at his wife. “Tell him what you goin' to do,” he commanded. Mrs. Pawket, however, twisted nervously at the end of the white mosquito-netting and said she felt too shy. Mr. Pawket with manly decision relieved her of the burden of explanation.

“Seems she's had it in her mind to finish that there Everything in time to have it on the center-table in the vanilla,” he said; “and now she's gone and got me so het up with interest that I got to take a hand, too. Now, fer instance, the furniture—” The old man hitched himself nearer to the architect, saying in sepulchral tones of parental anxiety: “'Tain't fer me to interfere, but I seen the stuff. I been down to the junction and see what they got. Well, say, ain't it pitiful, all that old, ancient furniture?”

Mr. Badgely nodded his head with another sort of concern. “Perfectly rotten carelessness. But I've sent to town for a corking man who handles these things; he's coming out to-morrow with his staff. After all, it's merely a question of understanding period, and American restoration is diabolically clever.”

But the old farmer waved the younger man grandly aside. “That's as may be; that's as may be,” he said, hastily. “Put it in the kitchen or use it in the g'rage—I ain't one to advise waste; but see here, my young man”—he stared impressively into the architect's face—“I knowed Willum's folks. I know what he's used to and what he's got a right to expect. Ef he's lost money, that ain't none of my business, and ef he's married an Eyetalian, that ain't no reflection on her. As I take it, they 'm all sorter down at heel in It'ly, and it seems they got now so they don't know no better. But I knowed Willum's folks. I know he should hold up his head in his own country.”

A faint color stole into Mr. Pawket's gray-bearded face. Mrs. Pawket's eyes were fixed admiringly on her husband. Mr. Badgely bent his head in respectful listening. Mr. Pawket struck an attitude close to the Everything Jar. He was glad that the twins, with their habit of shrewd analysis, were not there as he said:

“I ain't rich—but,” with a significant cough, “I ain't no one to stand by and see the hull Center pokin' the finger er shame at Willum and his furniture. The vanilla ... well, what's done is done, and it can't be helped: seems it's what they set their hearts on and some folks like to be strange-appearin', but the furniture—well, it don't suit, that's all! Willum's the kind should have what 's all the go—plush and satin and chenille-like.” The old farmer looked at the architect meaningly; he felt himself suddenly a man of the world; he stood almost straight in his wrinkled boots, looking around the little kitchen fiercely and roaring: “Golden oak or bird's-eye maple! I got catalogues. Spare no expense. Get him what he needs. I'll back you!”

It was a moment full of significance. The architect, a man of many subtle perceptions, was quite aware of it. He himself had been worried over the general attitude of the country community toward the villa, which, he could see, had deeply disappointed and mortified anticipation. Rumors had reached him that the neighborhood not only repudiated the new building on the grounds of general distaste, but that a movement of ostracism had begun by which the intents and purposes of the occupants of the villa were to be balked and frustrated. Brook Center, so Mr. Badgely had divined, was keen for patronizing the newly arrived Italian lady with gifts of decorated umbrella-stands, lamp-shades, and door-mats; but, on the other hand, it had severely decided not to be patronized by the expected householders. Supplies of milk and cream could not be promised; fresh eggs, it appeared, were needed for home consumption; pranks were planned by the young people to further humiliate the supposedly downtrodden and financially embarrassed Willum. There had even been talk of filling up the well—now topped by a graceful Italian canopy—with mud and stones; and one enterprising spirit had already chalked upon the bucket, “We don't want no Dagos to Brook Center.” In short, it had begun to seem to the architect that the immediate atmosphere was unpropitious for a serene home-coming. Now, as he faced the eager old farmer, something like a solution dawned on him.

“Er—expense”—the architect repeated Mr. Pawket's word—“er—do I understand, sir, that besides that very rare and (ahem!) imposing specimen of Mrs. Pawket's handiwork—this Everything Jar—do I understand you to mean that you are so good as to wish to assist in the—er—interior furnishings?”

The old farmer eyed him with delight.

“That's the ticket,” he roared. “You got it right; you're the man for my money.” He struck an attitude of almost intoxicated satisfaction, roaring again: “Golden oak, that's what; none too good for such as him. Get him what he's used to. Him with that old, ancient furniture!” Mr. Pawket pressed a roll of extremely faded one-dollar bills into the architect's hand, repeating: “A golden-oak set fer the dinin'-room. I know where they have it slick and shinin'. Take yer catalogue and make yer pick. Cost! By the great gander! what do I care fer cost?” A fervor like that of a whirling dervish seized the old farmer. “Golden oak!” he roared. Red-plush parlor suite.” His gaze, falling upon the Everything, became radiant. He hitched his suspenders with broad effects of swagger, repeating once more, “It's what he's used to and the best ain't too good for how he was brought up.”

* * *

At last arrived the morning of the day when the owners of the villa were expected, and it found the architect in a curious mixture of dread, amusement, doubt, and eagerness. The villa, its tiled roof melting softly through the filed tapers of dark cedars, was, he knew, what it should be. He walked about the winding drives, his eyes dwelling upon clumps of imported cypress and rare fruit-trees, his approving glance sweeping over vistas landscaped by his own art, which clever art had set stone benches in lovely little dells or by pools where a mossy nymph sprayed the surrounding ferns.

Everything was as it should be. The walls of the white villa would soon be softened by young vines newly sprouting; the terraces had stretches of arcades and flowers; large terra-cotta pots filled with acacias and oleanders massed well against the white of the steps and the blue of the country sky. The whole scene was almost Italian—sunny, graceful, restful. The architect smiled happily and knew himself justified of his undertaking.

But within—within, where most he had dreamed mellowness—where most he had desired the sense of ripe and harmonious surroundings? Oh, the thing was too horrible, too outrageous! Could they possibly understand? Could William Folsom and this Italian wife of his ever be made to see how unavoidable, inevitable it had all been? Badgely, anxiously gnawing his lower lip, shook his head. “I'm a fool,” he muttered; “and yet I vow I know of no other way. Talk about vendettas! they are queer here, really queer—if one were sufficiently to antagonize them!...”

The architect directed his steps to the big stucco garage, still a little raw-looking with its green shutters and tiles; there he encountered the head of the workmen who were engaged in restoring the much-suffering villa furniture. The alert, gray-clad man met him at the door and shook his head deprecatingly.

“Don't ask me about those heavenly things!” He waved despairing hands. “They are too lovely. I've been quoting Tasso to that little signorina of a writing-desk. But, dear man, we can't possibly install any of it for at least a month. These things are exquisite, priceless, but so antique they've got to be mothered like babies. The chests are about the only things in condition, and they've lost their hinges and I've got to have the lovely brasses copied.”

Stepping into the smartly cushioned car, Mr. Badgely sat himself down. He gave the order dreamily. With a perturbed yet dauntless expression he lay back on the soft cushions, gazing up to the whirling green of the trees as the car flew along the country road.

“It all depends on her—it really all depends upon her. If she's the real thing she'll understand and play the game; if she isn't—” He shook his head, put one long leg over the other, and groaned.

When, however, the train stopped at the Brook Center Junction and William Folsom, laughing, waved his hat, Mr. Badgely drew a long breath of relief, for at Folsom's side stood a tall, graceful cosmopolite, a being dark-eyed, daring, with the keen, lovable face of the aristocrat of the spirit—in short, a perfection of feminine understanding in very assured tailoring.

“She'll do,” the architect told himself. His greetings were suave and deliberate, but of necessity, almost before the car sprang away from the junction, he began to explain that which was heavily on his mind. William Folsom leaned back in the car, his shining eyes dwelt upon old landmarks; he chuckled as he listened.

“You see, dear lady, your welcome is to be of the people—the forestiere—I wonder if I can make you understand in so short a time as we have? The entire countryside is at the villa now; they all told me they were coming to greet you—so”—he shot a look at Folsom—“I invited them.”

The owner of the vanilla gave a mild war-whoop. “Oh, I say, this is enchanting! Badgely, old chap, I can picture your sufferings.” Then, with a droll look at his wife: “She understands, bless her! She isn't the idol of her own town for nothing!” Folsom turned and sketched the architect's perturbation to his wife.

“Have the goodness to mention the—er—Everything,” insisted Mr. Badgely, grimly. “Have you ever seen one? No? Well, then, you needn't be so funny.” He added desperately: “They are there now arranging the—er—golden oak and the (ahem!) the red-plush suite.” He shuddered, reiterating: “Really, Billy, the thing was necessary. I didn't dare refuse. You've no idea how these people are antagonized by an Italian villa. It seems sort of shameful to them. They foam at the mouth. Why, unless I had been tactful you'd have had vendetta and Mafia and everything else wished on you.”

Mrs. Folsom tried to comprehend. “The poor Littles!” She had a marvelous voice full of bird-like stirrings. Then she looked thoughtfully at the architect. “But we will say to them 'Forget it,'” adding, with a little pride, “I am learning William's slangs.”

“Dear old gump, you forget that I was brought up in this very neighborhood.” Folsom soothed the despairing architect, but he laughed immoderately. “His precious artistic sensibilities are having perfect duck fits,” he shouted. “He's as mad as a wet hen.”

But Mrs. Folsom leaned back, taking fresh breaths of air. “This is a green country,” she announced, “and you have a little brown brook that winds, and great trees like cathedrals. Do you think that with all this around me I shall be staying to the salon remarking continuously upon the Jar of Everythings?”

Both men laughed and the architect kissed her hand.

When the car swept around the white shell drive and halted by the lower terrace, Folsom, with a whoop like a boy, sprang out; he ran joyfully forward, for there stood the old couple whose faces, to his home-coming sense, seemed like those of parents. Mr. Pawket trembled slightly; he stood high-collared and coattailed, upon the glittering steps. Mrs. Pawket, in black silk, clove to his arm. The twins, in the heated wretchedness of Sunday clothes, stepped forward, and in the interests of sentiment stuck forth two wads of tightly bound pink roses. The Rural, blushing in a costume of very bright blue, wearing elbow mitts, and carrying a pink feather fan, introduced a sweet-smelling young man as “my intended.”

Among the small groups of peering and excited neighbors was Mr. Fripp, the junction agent.

“Seems there's a good deal of excitement in the air. We 'ain't all been out like this sence the mad dog was shot down to Galloway's.” When this gentleman was presented to Mrs. Folsom he drew himself up, looked at her suspiciously, and said, “Pleased to meet you.” He cast the eye of a worldling over her quiet traveling costume and retired to nudge the Rural and remark: “Well, I see the furniture money 'ain't been spent on her back.”

The lady of the vanilla looked about her with pure happiness. She met all introductions radiantly, sniffing rapturously at the twins' roses, lifting first one, then the other stodgy bunch.

“But you are all so kind!” The clear voice rippling with novelty and excitement gave a sense of thrill to the occasion. The mistress of the vanilla held Mrs. Pawket's perspiring hand.

“To know this lady—like the mother of Weeliam—and Mr. Pawket, my first American of the famous farmer trrribes!”

The stranger's insecurity of English had its immediate triumph. The countryside had expected that she would chatter Italian like a predatory organ-grinder, but around this picturesque naïveté they clustered as they would around a lost child. Jessica Folsom met the architect's eyes triumphantly, but he edged to her side and bent to whiff the roses, muttering, “The worst is yet to come.”

However, the slender figure of Mrs. Folsom drifted from one to the other of her welcomers, unembarrassed, friendly, appealing. She put them immediately at their ease as she announced:

“We shall all at once have tea. On the terrace—my little festa! I, who find the home of my fathers in your new green country.” A lovely color coming into her dark face, she burst into undulating Italian. “The first Dago she's spoke sence she's got here,” commented Mr. Fripp, in an undertone. Once more he creaked up to the mistress of the villa, saying, loudly:

“Too bad about the furniture!”

The new-comer turned upon the junction agent liquid, long-lashed eyes. “Ah the garnitures of Bella Fortuna, they have been—how do you say it, Weeliam?—dislocated, smashed in traveling the great waves.” She appealed anxiously to the junction agent. “I fear they are in great distress of breaking, but”—a light came into the appealing dark eyes—“but in your so practical country shall we not find the new?”

Mrs. Pawket, hearing this, suddenly nudged her husband, and Mr. Pawket realized that his moment had come. He took one or two ponderous steps forward, wiping his brow, clearing his throat. In his buzzing brain he sensed a great occasion, like a wedding or a funeral. He got a glimpse of Mrs. Pawket nodding her head urgently and mouthing his words after him as he roared:

“That's as may be; that's as may be.” Again Mr. Pawket cleared his throat. He felt, as he afterward expressed it, “like he was grindin' a corn-hopper with nothing into it.” Suddenly his gaze fell upon Willum, his boy, now a glad-looking man with a tender light in his eyes and his arm around his dark-eyed wife. This, Mr. Pawket felt, was as it should be. It gave him sudden eloquence.

“I dunno,” he said, and he bent a severe eye upon the Rural, Mr. Fripp, and the hotel-keeper's daughter—“I dunno but what we was gettin' a little sour-hearted, here in Brook Center. There has been some spites and a good many mean doin's and sayin's—namin' no names. What we didn't have was big feelin's. Everybody was nesty and nifty, and we all thought we know'd it all; but it seems that yet for all we didn't know much about vanillas nor that they could turn out so purty as this here vanilla has gone and turned.”

William Folsom poked the architect in the ribs. “Hear! Hear!” he murmured, in a subdued voice.

Mr. Pawket mildly waited for these asides to conclude before he resumed: “Howsomever, it seems that one dear to us”—he fixed his eyes on Willum, but in spite of him his gaze wandered off to Willum's lady—“one dear to us has got back from foreign lands and built a vanilla.” The old farmer turned to Mrs. Folsom with a burst of eloquence. “Sence that has happened, by gum! our whole lives is changed and we know more about It'ly than I ever thought we should; and so with regards to this here new vanilla house and a few little presents and one thing and another, why, all I can say is, Mrs. Folsom, we've gone and did as we'd be done by.”

There was something very like a cheer at the conclusion of these remarks. Meanwhile, at a sign from the architect, the great carved doors of the villa swung open and the little group pressed in.

They stepped into the cool, dim court with its paved floors and delicately woven stairways. Mrs. Folsom clasped her hands with pleasure over a wide window-seat which gave on a western slope where the gold sun was speared by the tall black trees. But Folsom, to whom the architect gave a nervous cue, hurried to the sala da mangiare, and thrust back its sumptuous Genoese curtains.

There under the iron candelabra of the Medicis stood a shining table of varnished splendor; on it, as if hoping to deaden its aggressive luster, was a marvelous strip of Paduan lace, while around its stodgy newness were six smug chairs of a very palpable “golden oak.” Folsom threw up his hands in apparent joy and astonishment.

“Great Harry!” The young man's voice was extraordinarily exalted. He bent over and touched the varnished surfaces with a reverent hand. “A perfectly new dining-table—a present—a complete set of absolutely unused chairs! Oh, I say! This won't do—it's preposterous! Somebody has been getting gay.” The young man first looked suspiciously at the architect, then turned and with severe eyes surveyed Farmer Pawket's shamefaced elation.

“So it's you, sir,” he said. “Now look here!” Folsom strode up and put his firm hand on the old man's chest. “Brace up and tell what you know about this. Look me in the eye and tell me you didn't do it. No, you can't hide behind Mother Pawket.” Folsom's grave glance reduced Mrs. Pawket to a helpless flutter. “She's probably put you up to it; she's a designing woman.” Folsom went eagerly over to the dark-eyed Italian lady. “Jessica dearest, look at all this. Golden oak. Store furniture, by Jove! Mr. Pawket's gift to you and me.”

The lady of the vanilla did not betray Mr. Badgely's hope of her. Widening her lovely eyes at the rich solidities before her, she slipped to the old man's side and seized his hands. A strange sense of fog enveloped Mr. Pawket; he stole a scared glance sidewise at the Rural. “It was all for me,” the vibrant voice insisted. “This Weeliam he is favorito—he thinks the whole world is for his gift; but kind Signor Pawket thinks only of me; he knew”—with exquisite slow arrangement of accents—“how interested and happy I should be to at once understand the practical American ways—and he knew, with such understanding, how I must save and guard the poor destructed—what you call them?—foornitures, of my own people.”

“Now, now, now!” protested Mr. Pawket, feebly.

Mr. Fripp, however, nodded to the Rural. “Well, it seems she knowed all the while that that there furniture warn't no good.”

At last, at the architect's somewhat desperate solicitation, they all turned their steps to the salon. Mr. Badgely, making pathetic dumb-show, dragged William Folsom to the rear.

“Nerve yourself,” he whispered, “nerve yourself. I'm afraid it's going to be worse than I feared. It seems that there were actually six of them—only one is not quite finished. The competition was very tense—and they all arrived in my absence. Old man, hold me! I'm about all in!”

Mr. Folsom, with appropriate concern, put his arm about his friend. Together they braced to meet any shock. When at last they lifted their eyes it was to stand locked in awe and admiration. Over the shoulders of the group in front of them they could see into the salon. It was furnished with a sofa and six chairs upholstered in scarlet plush. There was also a center-table on which was spread a red plush cover. On this table, each with a card tied with a ribbon bow and bearing the name of its maker, stood ranged in solid splendor six golden “Everythings.”

A NIGHT AMONG THE HORSES[5]

[Note 5: Copyright, 1918, by Margaret C. Anderson. Copyright, 1920, by Djuna Barnes.]

BY DJUNA BARNES

From The Little Review

Toward dusk, in the summer of the year, a man dressed in a frock coat and top hat, and carrying a cane, crept through the underbrush bordering the corral of the Buckler farm.

As he moved small twigs snapped, fell and were silent. His knees were green from wounded shrubbery and grass, and his outspread hands tore unheeded plants. His wrists hurt him and he rested from time to time, always caring for his hat and knotted yellow cane, blowing through his moustache.

Dew had been falling covering the twilight leaves like myriad faces, damp with the perspiration of the struggle for existence, and half a mile away, standing out against the darkness of the night, a grove of white birches shimmered, like teeth in a skull.

He heard the creaking of a gate, and the splashing of late rain into the depths of a dark cistern. His heart ached with the nearness of the earth, the faint murmur of it moving upon itself, like a sleeper who turns to throw an arm about a beloved.

A frog began moaning among the skunk cabbages, and John thrust his hand deep into his bosom.

Something somnolent seemed to be here, and he wondered. It was like a deep, heavy, yet soft prison where, without sin, one may suffer intolerable punishment.

Presently he went on, feeling his way. He reached a high plank fence and sensing it with his fingers, he lay down, resting his head against the ground.

He was tired, he wanted to sleep, but he searched for his hat and cane and straightened out his coat beneath him before he turned his eyes to the stars.

And now he could not sleep, and wondered why he had thought of it; something quick was moving the earth, it seemed to live, to shake with sudden immensity.

He heard a dog barking, and the dim light from a farm window kept winking as the trees swung against its square of light. The odor of daisies came to him, and the assuring, powerful smell of the stables; he opened his mouth and drew in his moustache.

A faint tumult had begun. A tremor ran under the length of his body and trembled off into the earth like a shudder of joy,—died down and repeated itself. And presently he began to tremble, answering, throwing out his hands, curling them up weakly, as if the earth were withholding something precious, necessary.

His hat fell off, striking a log with a dull hollow sound, and he pressed his red moustache against the grass weeping.

Again he heard it, felt it; a hundred hoofs beat upon the earth and he knew the horses had gone wild in the corral on the other side of the fence, for animals greet the summer, striking the earth, as friends strike the back of friends. He knew, he understood; a hail to summer, to life, to death.

He drew himself against the bars, pressing his eyes under them, peering, waiting.

He heard them coming up across the heavy turf, rounding the curve in the Willow Road. He opened his eyes and closed them again. The soft menacing sound deepened, as heat deepens, strikes through the skin into the very flesh. Head on, with long legs rising, falling, rising again, striking the ground insanely, like needles taking terrible, impossible and purposeless stitches.

He saw their bellies, fawn colored, pitching from side to side, flashing by, straining the fence, and he rose up on his feet and silently, swiftly, fled on beside them.

Something delirious, hysterical, came over him and he fell. Blood trickled into his eyes down from his forehead. It had a fine feeling for a moment, like a mane, like that roan mare's mane that had passed him—red and long and splendid.

He lifted his hand, and closed his eyes once more, but the soft pounding did not cease, though now, in his sitting position, it only jogged him imperceptibly, as a child on a knee.

It seemed to him that he was smothering, and he felt along the side of his face as he had done in youth when they had put a cap on him that was too large. Twining green things, moist with earth-blood, crept over his fingers, the hot, impatient leaves pressed in, and the green of the matted grass was deathly thick. He had heard about the freeness of nature, thought it was so, and it was not so.

A trailing ground pine had torn up small blades in its journey across the hill, and a vine, wrist-thick, twisted about a pale oak, hideously, gloriously, killing it, dragging it into dust.

A wax Patrick Pipe leaned against his neck, staring with black eyes, and John opened his mouth, running his tongue across his lips snapping it off, sighing.

Move as he would, the grass was always under him, and the crackling of last autumn's leaves and last summer's twigs—minute dead of the infinite greatness—troubled him. Something portentous seemed connected with the patient noises about him. An acorn dropped, striking a thin fine powder out of a frail oak pod. He took it up, tossing it. He had never liked to see things fall.

He sat up, with the dim thunder of the horses far off, but quickening his heart.

He went over the scene he had with Freda Buckler, back there in the house, the long quivering spears of pot-grass standing by the window as she walked up and down, pulling at them, talking to him.

Small, with cunning fiery eyes and a pink and pointed chin. A daughter of a mother who had known too many admirers in her youth; a woman with an ample lap on which she held a Persian kitten or a trifle of fruit. Bounty, avarice, desire, intelligence—both of them had always what they wanted.

He blew down his moustache again thinking of Freda in her floating yellow veil that he had called ridiculous. She had not been angry, he was nothing but a stable boy then. It was the way with those small intriguing women whose nostrils were made delicate through the pain of many generations that they might quiver whenever they caught a whiff of the stables.

“As near as they can get to the earth,” he had said and was Freda angry? She stroked his arm always softly, looking away, an inner bitterness drawing down her mouth.

She said, walking up and down quickly, looking ridiculously small:

“I am always gentle, John—” frowning, trailing her veil, thrusting out her chin.

He answered: “I liked it better where I was.”

“Horses,” she said showing sharp teeth, “are nothing for a man with your bile—poy-boy—curry comber, smelling of saddle soap—lovely!” She shrivelled up her nose, touching his arm: “Yes, but better things. I will show you—you shall be a gentleman—fine clothes, you will like them, they feel nice.” And laughing she turned on one high heel, sitting down. “I like horses, they make people better; you are amusing, intelligent, you will see—”

“A lackey!” he returned passionately throwing up his arm, “what is there in this for you, what are you trying to do to me? The family—askance—perhaps—I don't know.”

He sat down pondering. He was getting used to it, or thought he was, all but his wordy remonstrances. He knew better when thinking of his horses, realizing that when he should have married this small, unpleasant and clever woman, he would know them no more.

It was a game between them, which was the shrewder, which would win out? He? A boy of ill breeding, grown from the gutter, fancied by this woman because he had called her ridiculous, or for some other reason that he would never know. This kind of person never tells the truth, and this, more than most things, troubled him. Was he a thing to be played with, debased into something better than he was, than he knew?

Partly because he was proud of himself in the costume of a groom, partly because he was timid, he desired to get away, to go back to the stables. He walked up to the mirrors as if about to challenge them, peering in. He knew he would look absurd, and then knew, with shame, that he looked splendidly better than most of the gentlemen that Freda Buckler knew. He hated himself. A man who had grown out of the city's streets, a fine common thing!

She saw him looking into the mirrors, one after the other, and drew her mouth down. She got up, walking beside him in the end, between him and them, taking his arm.

“You shall enter the army—you shall rise to General, or Lieutenant at least—and there are horses there, and the sound of stirrups—with that physique you will be happy—authority you know,” she said shaking her chin, smiling.

“Very well, but a common soldier—”

“As you like—afterward.”

“Afterward?”

“Very well, a common soldier.”

He sensed something strange in her voice, a sort of irony and it took the patience out of him:

“I have always been common, I could commit crimes, easily, gladly—I'd like to!”

She looked away. “That's natural,” she said faintly, “it's an instinct all strong men have—”

She knew what was troubling him, thwarted instincts, common beautiful instincts that he was being robbed of. He wanted to do something final to prove his lower order; caught himself making faces, idiot faces, and she laughed.

“If only your ears stuck out, chin receded,” she said, “you might look degenerate, common, but as it is—”

And he would creep away in hat, coat and cane to peer at his horses, never daring to go in near them. Sometimes when he wanted to weep he would smear one glove with harness grease, but the other one he held behind his back, pretending one was enough to prove his revolt.

She would torment him with vases, books, pictures, making a fool of him gently, persistently, making him doubt by cruel means, the means of objects he was not used to, eternally taking him out of his sphere.

“We have the best collection of miniatures,” she would say with one knee on a low ottoman, bringing them out in her small palm.

“Here, look.”

He would put his hands behind him.

“She was a great woman—Lucrezia Borgia—do you know history—” She put it back again because he did not answer, letting his mind, a curious one, torment itself.

“You love things very much, don't you?” she would question because she knew that he had a passion for one thing only. She kept placing new ladders beneath his feet, only to saw them off at the next rung, making him nothing more than a nervous irritable experiment. He was uneasy, like one given food to smell and not to taste, and for a while he had not wanted to taste, and then curiosity began, and he wanted to, and he also wanted to escape, and he could do neither.

Well, after he had married her, what then? Satisfy her whim and where would he be? He would be nothing, neither what he had been nor what other people were. This seemed to him, at times, her wish—a sort of place between lying down and standing up, a cramped position, a slow death. A curious woman.

This same evening he had looked at her attentively for the first time. Her hair was rather pretty, though too mousy, yet just in the nape of the neck, where it met the lawn of the collar it was very attractive. She walked well for a little woman too.

Sometimes she would pretend to be lively, would run a little, catch herself at it, as if she had not intended to do it, and calm down once more, or creeping up to him, stroking his arm, talking to him, she would walk beside him softly, slowly, that he might not step out, that he would have to crawl across the carpet.

Once he had thought of trying her with honesty, with the truth of the situation. Perhaps she would give him an honest answer, and he had tried.

“Now Miss Freda—just a word—what are you trying to do. What is it you want? What is there in me that can interest you? I want you to tell me—I want to know—I have got to ask someone, and I haven't anyone to ask but you.”

And for a moment she almost relented, only to discover that she could not if she had wished. She did not know always what she meant herself.

“I'll tell you,” she said, hoping that this, somehow, might lead her into the truth, for herself, if not for him, but it did not. “You are a little nervous, you will get used to it—you will even grow to like it. Be patient. You will learn soon enough that there is nothing in the world so agreeable as climbing, changing.”

“Well,” he said trying to read her, “And then?”

“That's all, you will regret the stables in the end—that's all.” Her nostrils quivered. A light came into her eyes, a desire to defy, to be defied.

And then on this last night he had done something terrible, he had made a blunder. There had been a party. The guests, a lot of them, were mostly drunk, or touched with drink. And he too had too much. He remembered having thrown his arms about a tall woman, gowned in black with loose shoulder straps, dragging her through a dance. He had even sung a bit of a song, madly, wildly, horribly. And suddenly he had been brought up sharp by the fact that no one thought his behavior strange, that no one thought him presumptuous. Freda's mother had not even moved or dropped the kitten from her lap where it sat, its loud resolute purr shaking the satin of her gown.

And he felt that Freda had got him where she wanted him, between two rungs. Going directly up to her he said:

“You are ridiculous!” and twirled his moustache, spitting into the garden.

And he knew nothing about what happened until he found himself in the shrubbery crawling toward the corral, through the dusk and the dampness of the leaves, carrying his cane, making sure of his hat, looking up at the stars.

And now he knew why he had come. He was with his horses again. His eyes, pressed against the bars, stared in. The black stallion in the lead had been his special pet, a rough animal, but kindly, knowing. And here they were once more, tearing up the grass, galloping about in the night like a ball-room full of real people, people who wanted to do things, who did what they wanted to do.

He began to crawl through the bars, slowly, deftly, and when half way through he paused, thinking.

Presently he went on again, and drawing himself into the corral, his hat and cane thrown in before him, he lay there mouth to the grass.

They were still running, but less madly, one of them had gone up the Willow Road leading into a farther pasture, in a flare of dust, through which it looked immense and faint.

On the top of the hill three or four of the horses were standing, testing the weather. He would mount one, he would ride away, he would escape. And his horses, the things he knew, would be his escape.

Bareback, he thought, would be like the days when he had taken what he could from the rush of the streets, joy, exhilaration, life, and he was not afraid. He wanted to stand up, to cry aloud.

And he saw ten or twelve of them rounding the curve, and he did stand up.

They did not seem to know him, did not seem to know what to make of him, and he stared at them wondering. He did not think of his white shirt front, his sudden arising, the darkness, their excitement. Surely they would know, in a moment more.

Wheeling, flaring their wet nostrils, throwing up their manes, striking the earth in a quandary, they came on, whinnied faintly, and he knew what it was to be afraid.

He had never been afraid and he went down on his knees. With a new horror in his heart he damned them. He turned his eyes up, but he could not open them. He thought rapidly, calling on Freda in his heart, speaking tenderly, promising.

A flare of heat passed his throat, and descended into his bosom.

“I want to live. I can do it—damn it—I can do it. I can forge ahead, make my mark.”

He forgot where he was for a moment and found new pleasure in this spoken admission, this new rebellion. He moved with the faint shaking of the earth like a child on a woman's lap.

The upraised hoofs of the first horse missed him, but the second did not.

And presently the horses drew apart, nibbling here and there, switching their tails, avoiding a patch of tall grass.

LONG, LONG AGO[6]

[Note 6: Copyright, 1919, by The Bellman Company. Copyright, 1920, by Frederick Orin Bartlett.]

BY FREDERICK ORIN BARTLETT

From The Bellman

When the brakeman swung back the door and with resonant indifference shouted in Esperanto “Granderantal stashun,” Galbraithe felt like jumping up and shaking the man's hand. It was five years since he had heard that name pronounced as it should be pronounced because it was just five years since he had resigned from the staff of a certain New York daily and left to accept the editorship of a Kansas weekly. These last years had been big years, full of the joy of hard work, and though they had left him younger than when he went they had been five years away from New York. Now he was back again for a brief vacation, eager for a sight of the old crowd.

When he stepped from the train he was confused for a moment. It took him a second to get his bearings but as soon as he found himself fighting for his feet in the dear old stream of commuters he knew he was at home again. The heady jostle among familiar types made him feel that he had not been gone five days, although the way the horde swept past him proved that he had lost some of his old-time skill and cunning in a crowd. But he did not mind; he was here on a holiday, and they were here on business and had their rights. He recognized every mother's son of them. Neither the young ones nor the old ones were a day older. They wore the same clothes, carried the same bundles and passed the same remarks. The solid business man weighted with the burden of a Long Island estate was there; the young man in a broker's office who pushed his own lawn mower at New Rochelle was there; the man who got aboard at One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street was there. There was the man with a Van Dyke, the man with a mustache and the fat, smooth-shaven man and the wives, the sisters and the stenographers of all these. They were just as Galbraithe had left them—God bless 'em.

Swept out upon Forty-second Street, he took a long, full breath. The same fine New York sky was overhead (the same which roofed Kansas) and the same New York sun shone down upon him (even as in its gracious bounty it shone upon Kansas). The thrill of it made him realize as never before that, though the intervening years had been good to him, New York was in his blood. His eyes seized upon the raw angular buildings as eagerly as an exiled hill-man greets friendly mountain peaks. There are no buildings on earth which look so friendly, once a man gets to know them, as those about the Grand Central. Galbraithe noticed some new structures, but even these looked old. The total effect was exactly as he had left it. That was what he appreciated after his sojourn among the younger cities of the West. New York was permanent—as fixed as the pole star. It was unalterable.

Galbraithe scorned to take cab, car or bus this morning. He wanted to walk—to feel beneath his feet the dear old humpy pavement. It did his soul good to find men repairing the streets in the same old places—to find as ever new buildings going up and old buildings coming down, and the sidewalks blocked in the same old way. He was clumsy at his hurdling, but he relished the exercise.

He saw again with the eyes of a cub reporter every tingling feature of the stirring street panorama, from gutter to roof top, and thrilled with the magic and vibrant bigness of it all. Antlike, men were swarming everywhere bent upon changing, and yet they changed nothing. That was what amazed and comforted him. He knew that if he allowed five years to elapse before returning to his home town in Kansas he wouldn't recognize the place, but here everything was as he had left it, even to the men on the corners, even to the passers-by, even to the articles in the store windows. Flowers at the florist's, clothing at the haberdasher's, jewels at the jeweler's, were in their proper places, as though during the interval nothing had been sold. It made him feel as eternal as the Wandering Jew.

Several familiar landmarks were gone but he wondered if they had ever been. He did not miss them—hardly noticed any change. New buildings fitted into the old niches as perfectly as though from the first they had been ordained for those particular spots. They did not look at all the upstarts that all new buildings in Kansas did.

He hurried on to Park Row, and found himself surrounded by the very newsboys he had left. Not one of them had grown a day older. The lanky one and the lame one and the little one were there. Perhaps it was because they had always been as old as it is possible for a boy to be, that they were now no older. They were crying the same news to the same indifferent horde scurrying past them. Their noisy shouting made Galbraithe feel more than ever like a cub reporter. It was only yesterday that his head was swirling with the first mad excitement of it.

Across the street the door stood open through which he had passed so many times. Above it he saw the weatherbeaten sign which had always been weatherbeaten. The little brick building greeted him as hospitably as an open fire at home. He knew every inch of it, from the outside sill to the city room, and every inch was associated in his mind with some big success or failure. If he came back as a vagrant spirit a thousand years from now he would expect to find it just as it was. A thousand years back this spot had been foreordained for it. Lord, the rooted stability of this old city.

He had forgotten that he no longer had quarters in town, and must secure a room. He was still carrying his dress-suit case, but he couldn't resist the temptation of first looking in on the old crowd and shaking hands. He hadn't kept in touch with them except that he still read religiously every line of the old sheet, but he had recognized the work of this man and that, and knew from what he had already seen that nothing inside any more than outside could be changed. It was about nine o'clock, so he would find Hartson, the city editor, going over the rival morning papers, his keen eyes alert to discover what the night staff had missed. As he hurried up the narrow stairs his heart was as much in his mouth as it had been the first day he was taken on the staff. Several new office boys eyed him suspiciously, but he walked with such an air of familiarity that they allowed him to pass unquestioned. At the entrance to the sacred precinct of the city editor's room he paused with all his old-time hesitancy. Even after working five years for himself as a managing editor, he found he had lost nothing of his wholesome respect for Hartson. The latter's back was turned when Galbraithe entered, and he waited at the rail until the man looked up. Then with a start Galbraithe saw that this was not Hartson at all.

“I—I beg pardon,” he stammered.

“Well?” demanded the stranger.

“I expected to find Mr. Hartson,” explained Galbraithe.

“Hartson?”

“I used to be on the staff and—”

“Guess you're in the wrong office,” the stranger shut him off abruptly.

For a moment Galbraithe believed this was possible, but every scarred bit of furniture was in its place and the dusty clutter of papers in the corner had not been disturbed. The new city editor glanced suspiciously toward Galbraithe's dress suit case and reached forward as though to press a button. With flushed cheeks Galbraithe retreated, and hurried down the corridor toward the reportorial rooms. He must find Billy Bertram and get the latter to square him with the new city editor. He made at once for Billy Bertram's desk, with hand extended. Just beyond was the desk he himself had occupied for so long. Bertram looked up and then Galbraithe saw that it was not Bertram at all.

“What can I do for you, old man?” the stranger inquired. He was a fellow of about Bertram's age, and a good deal of Bertram's stamp.

“I'm looking for Billy Bertram,” stammered Galbraithe. “Guess he must have shifted his desk.”

He glanced hopefully at the other desks in the room but he did not recognize a face.

“Bertram?” inquired the man who occupied Bertram's desk. He turned to the man next to him.

“Say, Green, any one here by the name of Bertram?”

Green lighted a fresh cigarette, and shook his head.

“Never heard of him,” he replied indifferently.

“He used to sit here,” explained Galbraithe.

“I've held down this chair fifteen months, and before me a chump by the name of Weston had that honor. Can't go back any further than that.”

Galbraithe lowered his dress suit case, and wiped his forehead. Every one in the room took a suspicious glance at the bag.

“Ever hear of Sanderson?” Galbraithe inquired of Green.

“Nope.”

“Ever hear of Wadlin or Jerry Donahue or Cartwright?”

Green kicked a chair toward him.

“Sit down, old man,” he suggested. “You'll feel better in a minute.”

“Ever hear of Hartson? Ever hear of old Jim Hartson?”

“That's all right,” Green encouraged him. “If you have a line in that bag you think will interest us, bring it out. It's against office rules, but—”

Galbraithe tried to recall if, on his way downtown, he had inadvertently stopped anywhere for a cocktail. He had no recollection of so doing. Perhaps he was a victim of a mental lapse—one of those freak blank spaces of which the alienists were talking so much lately. He made one more attempt to place himself. In his day he had been one of the star reporters of the staff.

“Ever hear of—of Galbraithe?” he inquired anxiously.

By this time several men had gathered around the two desks as interested spectators. Galbraithe scanned their faces, but he didn't recognize one of them.

“Haven't got a card about your person, have you?” inquired Green.

“Why, yes,” answered Galbraithe, fumbling for his case. The group watched him with some curiosity, and Harding, the youngest man, scenting a story, pushed to the front. With so many eyes upon him Galbraithe grew so confused that he couldn't find his card case.

“I'm sure I had it with me,” he apologized.

“Remember where you were last night?” inquired Green.

“Just got in this morning,” answered Galbraithe. “I—here it is.”

He drew out a card and handed it to Green. The group gathered closer and read it.

“Harvey L. Galbraithe, Trego County Courier.”

Green solemnly extended his hand.

“Glad to meet you, Mr. Galbraithe. Up here on business, or pleasure?”

“I used to work here,” explained Galbraithe. “I came up on a vacation to see the boys.”

“Used to work on this sheet?” exclaimed Green, as though doubting it.

“I left five years ago,” answered Galbraithe.

“Holy Smoke!” exclaimed Green, with a low whistle. “You are sure some old-timer. Let's see—that's over fifteen hundred days ago. When did you come on?”

“Just before the Spanish War,” answered Galbraithe eagerly. “Hartson sent me to Cuba.”

Harding came closer, his eyes burning with new interest.

“Gee,” he exclaimed, “those must have been great days. I ran across an old codger at the Press Club once who was with Dewey at Manila.”

He spoke as Galbraithe might speak of the Crimean War. He pressed the latter for details, and Galbraithe, listening to the sound of his own voice, allowed himself to be led on. When he was through he felt toothless, and as though his hair had turned gray.

“Those were the happy days,” exclaimed Harding. “The game was worth playing then—eh, old man?”

“Yes,” mumbled Galbraithe. “But don't any of you know what has become of Hartson?”

“Haydon would probably remember him—”

“Haydon?” broke in Galbraithe. “Is he here?”

He looked wistfully about the room to the corner where the exchange editor used to sit.

“He died last spring,” said Green. “Guess he was the last leaf on the tree.”

“He came on five years ahead of me,” said Galbraithe. “He and I did the barrel murders together.”

“What was that story?” inquired Harding.

Galbraithe looked at Harding to make sure this was not some fool joke. At the time nothing else had been talked of in New York for a month, and he and Haydon had made something of a name for themselves for the work they did on it. Harding was both serious and interested—there could be no doubt about that.

The details were as fresh in Galbraithe's mind as though it were yesterday. But what he was just beginning to perceive was that this was so because he had been away from New York. To those living on here and still playing the old game that story had become buried, even as tradition, in the multiplicity of subsequent stories. These younger men who had superseded him and his fellows, already had their own big stories. They came every day between the dawn and the dark, and then again between the dark and the dawn. Day after day they came unceasingly, at the end of a week dozens of them, at the end of a month hundreds, at the end of a year thousands. It was fifteen hundred days ago that he had been observing the manifold complications of these million people, and since that time a thousand volumes had been written about as many tragedies enacted in the same old setting. Time here was measured in hours, not years. The stage alone remained unchanged.

Galbraithe made his feet, so dazed that he faltered as with the palsy. Harding took his arm.

“Steady, old man,” he cautioned. “You'd better come out and have a drink.”

Galbraithe shook his head. He felt sudden resentment at the part they were forcing upon him.

“I'm going back home,” he announced.

“Come on,” Harding encouraged him. “We'll drink to the old days, eh?”

“Sure,” chimed in Green. The others, too, rose and sought their hats.

“I won't,” replied Galbraithe, stubbornly, “I'm going back home, I tell you. And in ten years I'll be twenty-five years younger than any of you.”

He spoke with some heat. Harding laughed but Green grew sober. He placed his hand on Galbraithe's arm.

“Right,” he said. “Get out, and God bless you, old man.”

“If only Haydon had been here—” choked Galbraithe.

“I expect he's younger than any of us,” replied Green, soberly. “He's measuring time by eternities.”

Galbraithe picked up his bag.

“S'long,” he said.

He moved toward the door, and the entire group stood stock still and without a word watched him go out. He moved along the narrow corridor and past the city editor's room. He went down the old stairs, his shoulders bent and his legs weak. Fifteen hundred days were upon his shoulders. He made his way to the street, and for a moment stood there with his ears buzzing. About him swarmed the same newsboys he had left five years before, looking no older by a single day. Squinting his eyes, he studied them closely. There was Red Mick, but as he looked more carefully he saw that it was not Red Mick at all. It was probably Red Mick's younger brother. The tall one, the lanky one and the little lame one were there, but their names were different. The drama was the same, the setting was the same, but fifteen hundred days had brought a new set of actors to the same old parts. It was like seeing Shakespeare with a new cast, but the play was older by centuries than any of Shakespeare's.

Galbraithe hailed a taxi.

“Granderantal stashun,” he ordered.

Peering out of the window, he watched the interminable procession on street and sidewalks. He gazed at the raw angular buildings—permanent and unalterable. Overhead a Kansas sun shone down upon him—the same which in its gracious bounty shone down upon New York.

DISHES[7]

[Note 7: Copyright, 1919, by The Pictorial Review Company. Copyright, 1920, by Agnes Mary Brownell.]

BY AGNES MARY BROWNELL

From The Pictorial Review

“Well, I guess that's the last of that!” Myra Bray said grimly, and blinked at the smashed fragments of the cup.

It had been so fragile, that even the sound of its breaking was thin and evanescent like a note blown, not struck. Now as it lay on the floor, it seemed dwindled to nothing more than the fine gilt stem that had been its handle, and irregular pinkish fragments like fallen petals.

“Myry Bray! Butterfingers!” Myra apostrophized herself, and darted a quick, sidelong glance in the direction of old Mrs. Bray, her mother-in-law.

It had been old Mrs. Bray's cup. This was old Mrs. Bray's house. When Myra married Marvin Bray it had been with the understanding that they must make their home with his mother, now that Nellie was gone.

Old Mrs. Bray said nothing. The pink cup had belonged to Nellie; Marvin's had been blue. They had been old-time Christmas gifts; and they had never been used. They were too fine to use. All those years they had stood side by side on an upper shelf of the safe, along with the majolica pickle-dish, the cracker-jar that Abbie Carter had painted in a design of wheat-heads, the lemonade-set that George's wife had presented upon the occasion of a visit, and a collection of little china souvenirs—trays and miniature pitchers with “Souvenir of the Springs” inscribed upon them.

“At least the saucer's safe,” ventured Myra, after a pause. She had only just come to live with old Mrs. Bray. She wondered how she would take it. “Well—might's well sweep up the muss!”

Old Mrs. Bray spoke. Myra thought she detected a quiver in her voice:

“Pick 'em up,” her mother-in-law directed, “and put 'em here in my apron.” Myra obeyed. Old Mrs. Bray gathered up her apron and went away to her room. She did not emerge till nearly supper-time.

Once Myra had gone to her door. It was inhospitably closed. Myra thought she detected a faint chinking sound. “Now I wonder”—thought Myra—“is she agrievin' or asulkin'? I'd ruther it was asulkin'—an old pink chiny cup! I'd buy her another, only I s'pose it wouldn't make it up to her—Nellie's and all. Mebbe if I hurried and put off my waist, I could finish up her challis. She don't need the challis, and I do the waist. But mebbe it might take her mind off—losin' Nellie and then losin' the cup. I expect that come hard to Mother Bray.”

Myra smoothed her hair and put on a fresh afternoon percale. To see Myra with her thin brown face, her slicked-back black hair which showed white threads like ravellings, in her afternoon house-dress of gray percale, one would never have taken her for a bride. Yet Myra had a very bridal feeling, sitting in her own home, with her own sewing, instead of running the machine in the shop, as she had done before her marriage. That it was, in reality, her husband's mother's home, and her husband's mother's sewing, scarcely altered the case. It was home, not shop. She had been married in August, when work fell slack. Now it was October. She had not broken anything until to-day.

Myra sewed and rocked and looked up at the framed portraits of Marvin and Nellie and Frank as children—the girl in queer plaid, and a locket; the boys in gilt-braided suits. Old and crude as the drawing was, it had a look of them—that steady, serious look of Marvin which he had never lost, and Nellie's—bold and managerial. Frank had died. Poor mother. She had known trouble.

At five, old Mrs. Bray came stiffly out. She had a curious, secretive air, not in the least mournful nor accusative, as Myra had feared. Myra held up the dress—a soft, gray challis with lavender pipings. Old Mrs. Bray's eyes widened like a pleased child's.

“Want to try it on?” suggested Myra.

“It ain't done!”

“To the last hook.” She began to assist her mother into the new dress.

Mrs. Bray was a pretty old woman. There was about her an effect of fragile bloom like that of her old cup. In her gray-and-lavender she was like a quaint pastel.

“There!” cried Myra, standing off to view the effect.

“I ain't agoin' to take it off!” declared old Mrs. Bray suddenly; and waited for the remonstrance.

Nellie had always said: “Why, mother! Of course you'll take it off right away! Wear your good clothes out at home!”

To her surprise, Myra assented. “Keep it on, and let Marvin see how fine you look.”

“Wun't you need me about supper?”

“Now you just set and let me get supper alone to-night.”

“I'll set the table,” decided old Mrs. Bray. “I guess just laying plates won't hurt it none.”

Myra set about her biscuits. Marvin had to have his hot bread. Suddenly she heard a little splintering crash, followed by a whimpering wail—“Myry! Oh, Myry! I've broke the sasser!” The last remnants of Nellie's saucer, with their pink, fluted edges like ravished petals, lay spread out at old Mrs. Bray's feet.

“Now ain't that just too bad! (I s'pose she was touching it, for old times' sake—and her trembly old fingers and all, she let it slip.) Never mind, Mother; you got the blue one yet. And mebbe that saucer can be mended—”

Her mother with a jealous sweep of old hands, gathered up the fragments of the broken saucer. “I don't want mended dishes,” she said resentfully, and went stiffly away to her room.

That night, when they were alone, Myra told Marvin about Nellie's cup and saucer. “And I just know she's akeeping of the pieces, and amourning over them,” she finished. “Such things get to have associations. I 'most wish it had been your cup that got broke. She's got you, and Nellie's gone.”

“Gone—what's a hundred miles!”

“I'm afraid she misses Nell.”

“Now don't you go getting notions in your head. Nell was a master hand for work, but she didn't keep things up a mite better than you—not so good, to my notion. You're restfuller. Nell couldn't rest herself nor let anybody else. Nell couldn't atouched them biscuit—fact!”

“I try to keep things up as much like Nell as I can. I'd ruther use white table-cloths myself, but Nell always used the checkered. And my own chiny set the folks gave me—but I know Mother'd feel strange without her old white ones. There's lots of pretty chiny in the safe, but Nell always used it so careful. I've never used a piece. And yet, just adustin' that pink cup I had to go and drop it! I don't s'pose it was ever drunk out of.”

“What's the good,” argued Marvin, “of having things too fine to use?”

“You and me, Marvin, think the same about them things. But Nell and Mother—they're different.”

“You're a good woman, Myry.”

It pleased Myra to be told that she was good, and that her biscuits surpassed those of the capable Nell. But such compliments, for all their practicality and worth, sent no flush to her sallow cheek.

In her woman's magazine, which came to her monthly, lovers (and more rarely, husbands) were always breathing into the heroine's ear, “I love you. How beautiful you are!” or sentiments in that tenor. Marvin had not told her he loved her. He had asked her seriously and respectfully to marry him, when it became apparent that the efficient Nell was about to wed. And he had never told her that she was beautiful. She could not have believed him if he had.

Two days after the accident to the pink cup, the majolica pickle-dish was found shattered in front of the safe, when Marvin came out to start the kitchen fire. No one could account for its being there. The safe doors were ajar, and they decided that the majolica dish must have got pushed too near the edge of the shelf, and that a sudden jar had dislodged it. The safe doors were never remembered to have been left open before; the majolica dish had always sat well back; and nothing more jarring than Marvin's step disturbed the habitual quiet of the house. Still, how else account for it? “Mebbe Tom leaped up and done it,” suggested old Mrs. Bray. The sleepy Tom, a handsome Tiger-stripe, sunk in bodily comfort, seemed to eye her reproachfully. He had not leaped in years.

Old Mrs. Bray carried away with her the fragments of the majolica pickle-dish and that afternoon, and other afternoons, she passed in the solitary privacy of her room.

Still her retirement seemed to work her no ill. From these solitary vigils she always emerged dressed in her gray-and-lavender. Ordinarily the ladies Bray wore percale on week day afternoons—fresh ones, but prints for all that. That had been Nell's way. Although old Mrs. Bray had a closet hung with good wool dresses, and even one festival silk.

Myra's trousseau had been so simple as scarcely to deserve the name. She had been married in a neat, dark suit, turned out in the shop where she had been employed for more than seven years. Myra had been “on skirts” for most of the seven years; and her dress had been almost a uniform—skirt and blouse. But she had secretly sewed for herself another sort of dress—house-dresses for the afternoon, of inexpensive, but delicate and light-colored fabrics, made a little “fussy.” These she never wore. Old Mrs. Bray never wore fussy clothes; and it had not been Nell's way. The gray-and-lavender challis had been in the nature of an experiment. Old Mrs. Bray was plainly pleased; but she rarely wore it. She said it would make it common.

So the Brays, as in Nellie's régime, continued to wear the common gray percales, and to eat off the common white crockery. And with a strange, bewitched pertinacity, the fine, decorative bits of china, shut away on their upper shelf in the safe continued to get themselves broken.

Once it was one of the glasses of George's wife's lemonade-set. These glasses had ornate gilt bands about the brim, and painted flowers upon the side. Taking down the set one day, to show George's wife's gift to a caller (gifts were never gifts in fee simple in the Bray household. Always part possession seemed vested in the donor) old Mrs. Bray let slip one of the glasses. The fragments lay in a path of sun, struck through and through with light, they seemed to possess a strange, new iridescence.

“Now ain't that too bad!” sympathized the caller. “Spoils the whole set. You want to get every bit of that glass up and in the ash-can. Glass is awful to grind in.”

Old Mrs. Bray gathered up the pieces. They sent out strange gleams like rude gems. Myra and the caller watched sympathetically the eager abruptness of her departure.

“Your mother-in-law is some shaky,” observed the caller. “She hadn't ought to go to handle such delicate things.”

“I expect she won't come out again,” Myra said. “It always makes Mother feel bad to break things.”

Old Mrs. Bray did not come out again till after the caller had departed. She had on her gray-and-lavender dress. “Always when Mother breaks a dish seems like she goes and puts on her gray-and-lavender,” thought Myra; but she only said, “You look nice in that dress, Mother.”

“I know I do,” returned old Mrs. Bray serenely, “but I don't aim to make it common, Myry.”

At holiday time, Nell and her husband came for a visit. Nell immediately proceeded to take the reins of government. She was a big, good-looking woman, younger than Myra. She had a large, well-modeled face with bloomy cheeks, golden brown eyes, fringed thick as daisies, and crisply undulating waves of dark hair. She disposed of their greetings in short order, retired to her old room to change into serviceable work things, and issued her ultimatum.

“Now don't go to any fuss, Myry. John and me ain't company. Treat us like the family. You've changed the roaster, ain't you, Myry? This ain't near so good a place for it. I've brought you one of my hens, Mother—all dressed and ready. We'll have it for dinner. Now Myry, don't you go to getting out a white table-cloth. Get one of them red-checkered ones. I s'pose those are your weddin' dishes—well, leave 'em be, now you got them down. But we won't use 'em common—the old white ones is plenty good enough. Folks that use their best every day has got no best. You might get the potatoes on now, Myry.”

“Let me finish settin' the table, Myry,” pleaded old Mrs. Bray. A moment later there was a crash, “Oh, Nellie! Oh, Myry! I didn't go to do it! My arm breshed it.”

“Marvin's souvenir pitcher his Aunt Mat give him one Fair time! It must a' be'n fifteen year old!”

“I didn't go to do it!” quavered old Mrs. Bray.

“Who ever heard of such a thing? Of course you didn't do no such crazy thing! But that don't save its being broke. Here—let me sweep it up.”

“Don't you sweep them pieces up!” shrilled her mother.

This voice of high command on the part of her little old subservient mother gave Nell pause. She stood, dust-pan in hand, looking down upon that stiffly stooping figure garnering into her gathered apron a little heap of splintered china.

“Mother must be getting childish,” Nell said to Myra, when old Mrs. Bray had trotted stiffly away with her spoils.

Myra did not reply. She hoped Nell would not discover that ravished shelf of prized old china.

“Well—Nell got ye in hand?” inquired Nell's husband, John Peebles, at dinner. The good-natured wink which accompanied the words, the hearty voice and friendly manner, robbed the words of offense. They seemed rather a humorous gibe directed against Nell. These two got along excellently well. There was about John Peebles an effect of tender strength, re-assuring and at the same time illuminating—responsive to weakness, but adamant to imposition. Even the managerial Nell had not succeeded in piercing that armored side of him—his 'thus far and no further.'”

“Aw—you!” said Nell, adoringly.

“I bet Nell's met her boss!” grinned Marvin. “He don't go so fur as to beat ye, does he, Nell?”

“Smarty!” returned Nell. Her eyes crinkled up at the corners. She had met her match, and she knew it and gloried in it. But she didn't want any sass from the family.

She had none. They submitted without demur. The dish-pan sunned in the old place. The towels dried along a line of her own stretching. “John and me don't mean to make you any work,” she assured them. They made no work. It seemed there had never been so much leisure.

“Myry,” inquired Nell, “where's that other glass that goes with George's wife's lemonade-set?”

“Oh, it must be 'round som'ers,” Myra returned vaguely.

“Round som'ers! Why ain't they all together?” Nell prodded in further search.

“Where's my pink gilt cup and saucer Aunt Em gimme one Christmas?”

“Ain't it there?” ventured Myra, with a cowardly shrinking from confession, not so much on her own account as for old Mrs. Bray. There was the majolica pickle-dish, the gilt, beflowered lemonade-glass, Abbie Carter's cracker-jar, certain of the fragile souvenir pin-trays stacked in a corner of the shelf.

“Here's Marvin's blue one. It's funny where them things can be. I always kept them here together, on this shelf.”

“They're som'ers,” Myra repeated vaguely.

Old Mrs. Bray had sat throughout this conversation, making buttonholes in a new gray percale. Once, when Nell was back at the sink, she reached out a wavering, fat old arm, and gave Myra's apron-string a tug, as a bad child pulls a cat's tail in a sort of impish humor. Her eyes, blue and shining as a child's saucer, looked very wise. A little laugh clucked in her throat.

“Mother—you feel chilly? You want to keep out of drafts,” cautioned Nellie from the sink.

“Never felt more chipper!” averred old Mrs. Bray.

She had not spent an afternoon in her room since Nell's arrival. To-day, however, after dinner, she withdrew with an air of intending to remain there for some time. She took her buttonholes with her. It was likely that Nell could not content herself until she had searched every cupboard and pantry for the missing treasure.

“I declare—it is the beatin'est thing! Whatever can have become of them?” she apprized Myra. “You find much time to read, Myry?”

Myra found time to read her woman's magazine from cover to cover, in the course of the month. Some things she read more than once—those frankly impossible stories in which the heroines were always beautiful and always loved. Myra had never known a heroine; the women of her acquaintance were neither beautiful nor adored; and were probably quite comfortably unaware of this lack.

“I'm getting notional,” Myra accused herself fearfully. The Family Doctor Book, a learned and ancient tome, confirmed these suspicions. It treated of this, and related matters, with a large assurance, like a trusty confidant.

“Funny how long Mother stays in her room!” wondered Nell.

“Mebbe she's fell asleep. Old people need all the sleep they can get. It's mostly so broken.”

“I'm agoing to see!” deposed Nell.

Myra had never invaded that withdrawn privacy. But Nell, with her grenadier step, went swiftly and threw open the door.

“What on earth! Mother!”

Old Mrs. Bray's voice streamed quavering out, “Oh, Nellie! Don't scold me! Myry!—”

Somehow Myra was there—past the affronted Nell in the door. In the instant silence they made a strange tableau.

Old Mrs. Bray in her fine gray-and-lavender gown was seated before her little wash-hand-stand. The floral pitcher in its floral bowl had been set to one side on the floor. What covered the towel-protected top of the stand, was Nellie's looted treasure.

There were the fragments of the pink cup and saucer; the leaf-green and brown majolica bits that had been the pickle-dish; the iridescent curved sides of George's wife's lemonade-glass; Aunt Em's shattered souvenir pitcher; Abbie Carter's cracker-jar with its smashed wheat-heads. Myra only looked bewilderedly; but on Nell's gaping face apprehension succeeded stupefaction and dissolved in its turn into a great brimming tenderness.

“Scold you, Mother? Oh, Mother—what must you think me! (Oh, poor Mother—poor Mother—she's gone daft!)”

“I always admired pretty broken bits of chiny,” old Mrs. Bray confessed. “But the pitcher was a accident—reely it was, Nellie. I never went to let that fall. My arm breshed it. But the sasser and the pickle-dish and George's wife's lemonade-glass and Abbie Carter's cracker-jar—I done them apurpose. And I can't say I regret the pitcher, nuther.”

“Yes, Mother! Yes, yes! It's all right; I understand. (Myry, don't you leave her! I thought she was gettin' childish, but Oh—to think—I'll have John go for Doc Bradley right away. Let 'er amuse herself—but don't you leave her alone a minute! Poor Mother! Poor old Mother! Aplayin' with broken chiny dishes!)”

“What's Nell awhisperin' to ye?” inquired old Mrs. Bray, sharply. “There's nothin' to whisper about as I know. Did ever you see anything purtier than this pink chiny piece, Myry? It broke so clean, and curved as a petal. And this here piece of George's wife's lemonade-glass—it's handsome as a brooch. See how the flower come out! Why, Myry, I've set here and fairly eat off these dishes!”

“Yes, Mother. But sha'n't we put them up now! Some one might drop in—Nell bein' here.”

She could not bear that Marvin and John and the doctor should see this pitiful child's play.

Old Mrs. Bray assented with the utmost good nature. She drew up a box of lacquer and proceeded to lay her china service carefully and dextrously away. She set the box quite openly along the shelf beside her bonnet-box and the snug, little brown round pasteboard roll that held her little old round muff. Presently they heard steps in the sitting-room. Some one had dropped in—but it was only Marvin and John and old Doc Bradley.

Marvin's face held a look of scared apprehension; John's withheld judgment; Nell was frankly red-eyed. She had been walking fiercely back and forth in the yard unable to face again that piteous picture.

The only unclouded faces there were Doc Bradley's and old Mrs. Bray's. She gave him a shrewd look. He returned it in kind. “So—o—” said old Mrs. Bray, noting their various scrutiny. There was even an effect of state about her as she settled herself in her special rocker. But she said, quite simply and conversationally,

“Do you want I should tell you about them dishes?”

“Well—it was thisaway. And understand—I don't blame nobuddy. Folks are different. I always loved pretty dishes, but I never got to use 'em. First on account of you being little”—she eyed Nellie and Marvin with benignant allowance—“and after that, because of Nell always bein' agen' using things common. She's like her father. He was thataway. He was a good man, but he 'lowed good things shouldn't be used common. And then when Myry come with her purty weddin' dishes and all, I'd hoped she'd be sort o' different—more like me. But seem like she favored Nell. But I'd never thought of breakin' them if it hadn't a be'n for the pink cup. That give me the idee. That very night I broke the sasser to it. I figured I'd get the use of them dishes some way.”

Old Mrs. Bray clucked pleasantly, and resumed.

“I'd always wanted to wear one o' my good dresses afternoons, too. Well—Myry made me one. And she was reel good about wantin' me to wear it common. I had a good man. I've had good children. I've lived a long life. But two things I wanted, I never had—pretty dishes to use, and to be dressed up afternoons. Myry makin' me that dress turned my head, I reckon. And the pink cup finished it.”

“I take the full blame. It was me done both—broke the cup and sewed the dress”—spoke up Myry. “And it's you I favored all along, Mother. If you knew how I've honed to set the table with my weddin' dishes. And I could show you—I've got some things you've never seen—house-dresses—pink—sprigged—”

“Meanin' no offense, Nellie—and Marvin—you can't help bein' like your pa. I guess I'm just a foolish old woman.”

“We're all like we're made,” sounded the oracular accents of Mr. Peebles. “Joke's on you all right, Nell.”

“I guess I'm it,” she admitted cheerfully.

Doc Bradley looked sharply at Myra when she let him out. Perhaps he noted the pathos of that thin face; those speaking eyes, that seemed to confess a secret longing.

“If you should feel the call, just break a few dishes on your own account!” he advised her. “I like to see folks get what they want. If they want it bad enough, they'll get it.” He thought it might be a dress, perhaps—something pretty. Women in Myry's case have odd notions.

Myry had an odd notion. She wanted to be told that she was beautiful and loved.

“You little black stringy thing!” she told herself fiercely. “He's fond of you. And good to you. He's like his pa; he won't show it common. And anyways—you beautiful!”

But every month she read, with a new and avid interest, those far-fetched, extravagant tales of beautiful and beloved women.

During the remainder of Nell's stay, old Mrs. Bray and Myra felt a certain delicacy about inaugurating the use of the white cloths, the wedding china, and the pretty bits on the safe-shelf. But when the Peebles's visit was over, the table achieved a patterned whiteness and a general festive appearance. Old Mrs. Bray donned the gray-and-lavender every afternoon, and Myra bloomed out in pink print. She scarcely ever went abroad now, but for all that, her world was infinitely widened. Once Marvin, dangling from two spread fingers a tiny yoke, inquired doubtfully, “Do you think it's big enough to go round his neck?”

He was always urging her to have help in, and not to tire herself out. But curiously, he never noted the pink print any more than if it had been dull slate. That had not been his pa's way; and it was not his way. But he was good to her. What more could a woman ask?

After Nell came, he felt aggrieved—quite useless and in the way. The women were always displaying things—digging them out from the bottoms of drawers—clouds of soft, white things, with here and there a rift of color in tassel or tufting.

There came a night when he sat alone. In the beginning, he had tried to read—he picked up her woman's magazine, eyeing it curiously, that these silly, floppy sheets should hold, as they did, women's eyes. There were pictures in it—always pictures—pictured embraces, with words beneath. “How beautiful you are! I love you—I love you! How beautiful you are!” Always harping on the same thing—love and beauty. As if life were a sentimental thing like that!

He flung it down. How could he stay his mind on such stuff, when Myry—when Myry—

Nell, important and managerial, occasionally came out and elbowed him about in some mysterious search. At such times, old Mrs. Bray, done up for the night in a highly flowered and mantle-like garment, came creeping inquiringly in.

“Now, Nell—you know what Myry told ye—if you was to fergit now—”

“All right, Mother. I won't forget.”

“You know where to find 'em—”

“Yes, I know where to find 'em.”

“Now, Nell, I promised Myry—”

“What did you promise Myry?” Marvin flared in sudden jealousy. Both women eyed him, as from a great and unattainable height. Then Nell's capable back disappeared beyond Myry's door; and his mother's little old grotesque and woolly figure was swallowed up by the black hall.

Again he took up the magazine. Again looked at the picture. Again, scarcely seeing them, he read the words. Again he sat; and again Nell elbowed him importantly, and his mother in her snail-like wrappings, came creeping in to remind Nell—

When Doc Bradley came out, at first he thought the man, sprawled loosely in the chair, must be asleep—till he lifted his eyes. They were sleepless and inflamed like a watch-dog's.

“Hold on! Wait a minute! Nell's boss now. You don't want to go in looking that way—you'd skeer 'im!”

“What'll I say?” inquired Marvin hoarsely; “Myry's a good woman—she 's been a good wife to me—too good—”

“Tell 'er something she don't know! Say something fond-like and foolish.”

“You can come in now,” granted the lofty Nell.

Somehow, old Mrs. Bray had preceded him. But he never saw her. He never even saw the managerial Nell. He saw his wife's face, looking so little and white from out a ruffled lace cap. There were circles of ruffles about her thin wrists. There was a lace ruffle in the neck of her gown. For these were Myry's coronation robes; it was about this adorning that old Mrs. Bray had continuously cautioned Nell. Nell, in that smug, proprietary manner of hers, had turned back a blanket—enough to show the tiny yoke which he had dangled, and the neck which it encircled, and the red and wrinkly head on top of that—-

Like a well-conned article of catechism, words came to Marvin—words he could never have got from his pa.

“Oh, Myry—I love you! How beautiful you are!”

A strange cosmetic glowed on Myra's white cheek. Happiness is the surest beautifier. He might never say it again. It was not likely that he would. He favored his pa. But she had had her great moment—her beautiful and beloved moment. She smiled drowsily up at old Mrs. Bray, beaming beneficently above; and remembered, in an odd flash, the pink china cup. This was her cup—full and running over.

“Come on out now, and let her sleep,” ordered the dictatorial Nell. “Who'd a' thought, now, Myry had her little vanities? That lace cap now, and them ruffles—for Marvin! Some folks has the strangest notions.”

“'Tain't notions!” protested old Mrs. Bray.

“Oh, yes, it is! And all right, if you feel that way—like you and your dishes, now.”

“Myry and me both is powerful set on dishes,” exulted old Mrs. Bray.

THE BLOOD-RED ONE[8]

[Note 8: Copyright, 1918, by Charles Scribner's Sons.]

BY MAXWELL STRUTHERS BURT

From Scribner's Magazine

It was a February evening, so it seems, about five o'clock, and old Mr. Vandusen, having left his hat and ulster in the coatroom, had retraced his steps along the entrance hall of the St. Dunstan Club to the wide doorway that led into the first-floor library. He usually sought the library at this time of day; a little group of men, all of whom he knew well, were as a rule to be found there, and they were friendly, not overly argumentative, restful. Now he paused between the heavy portières, partly drawn aside, and peered for a moment into the room. The light from the hall behind him made a pool of faint illumination at his feet, but beyond that there was only a brown darkness, scented with the smell of books in leather bindings, in which the figures of several men, sprawled out in big chairs before the window, were faintly visible. The window itself, a square of blank fog-blurred dusk, served merely to heighten the obscurity. Mr. Vandusen, a small, plump shadow in the surrounding shadows, found an unoccupied chair and sank into it silently.

“And that's just it,” said Maury suddenly, and as if he was picking up the threads of a conversation dropped but a moment before; “and that's just the point”—and his usually gentle voice was heavy with a didacticism unlike itself—“that affects most deeply a man of my temperament and generation. Nemesis—fate—whatever you choose to call it. The fear that perhaps it doesn't exist at all. That there is no such thing; or worse yet, that in some strange, monstrous way man has made himself master of it—has no longer to fear it. And man isn't fit to be altogether master of anything as yet; he's still too much half devil, half ape. There's this damned choked feeling that the world's at loose ends. I don't know how to put it—as if, that is, we, with all the devilish new knowledge we've acquired within the past fifty years, the devilish new machines we've invented, have all at once become stronger than God; taken the final power out of the hands of the authority, whatever it is, toward which we used to look for a reckoning and balancing in the end, no matter what agony might lie between. Perhaps it's all right—I don't know. But it's an upsetting conclusion to ask a man of my generation offhandedly to accept. I was brought up—we all were—to believe in an ordered, if obscure, philosophical doctrine that evil inevitably finds its own punishment, and now—!”

“But—” began Tomlinson.

Maury interrupted him. “Yes, yes,” he said, “I know all that; I know what you are going to say. I am perfectly aware of the fact that the ways of Nemesis are supposed to be slow ways—exceedingly. I am aware of the fact that in the Christian doctrine the process is not usually completed until after death, but nowadays things are different. How, since all else moves so swiftly, can a just God afford any longer to be patient? Time has been obliterated in the last four years; space and centuries telescoped; the sufferings of a century compressed into a few cycles of months. No, there is something wrong, some break in the rhythm of the universe, or those grotesque ghouls who started the whole thing, those full-bodied, cold-blooded hangmen, who for forty years have been sitting back planning the future of men and women as they planned the cards of their sniggering skat games, would awake to a sun dripping blood.” He paused for a moment. “And as for that psychiatric cripple, their mouthpiece,” he concluded sombrely, “that maimed man who broods over battle-fields, he would find a creeping horror in his brain like death made visible.”

“And you think he will not?”....

In the darkness Mr. Vandusen suddenly sat up very straight and tried to pierce with his eyes the shadows to the right of him.

Again the chair creaked.

“And you think he will not?” asked the voice again.

The words fell one by one into the silence, like stones dropped into a pool by a precise hand. As the ripples of sound they created died away in the brown dusk, the room seemed for a moment to hold a hushed expectation that made ordinary quiet a matter of movement and sound. From the drab street outside the voice of a newsboy, strident and insistent, put a further edge to the sharp minute. “N'extra!” he shouted. “N'extra! 'Nother big raid on west'n front!”

It was Torrance who asked the question. “What—” he said. “But, but—why—!” And then his wheezing inarticulateness broke like a dislocated bellows.

Mr. Vandusen, leaning forward in his chair, did not realize at the time the unreasonableness of the sharp blaze of irritation that at the interruption burned within him. It was not until much later, indeed, that he realized other odd circumstances as well: Torrance's broken amazement, for instance; the silence of Maury, and Wheeler, and, above all, of Tomlinson. At the moment he realized nothing, except an intense curiosity to hear what the man who had just sat down next to him had to say. “An extraordinary voice! Altogether extraordinary! Like a bell, that is, if a bell could by any chance give a sense of an underlying humor.” And yet, even considering all this, when one is old and has heard so many voices—But here he was quite rigid in the darkness. “Do be quiet!” he whispered sharply. “Can't we be quiet!”

“Thanks!” said the voice, with its cool, assured inflections. “There is nothing so very extraordinary. Men's brains are not unalike. Merely—shall I go on?”

And before Mr. Vandusen's hurried assent could be uttered, the quiet tones assumed the accent of narration. “Good,” they said. “Very well, then. But first I must ask of you a large use of your imagination. I must ask you, for instance, to imagine a scene so utterly unlike this February night that your eyes will have to close themselves entirely to the present and open only to my words. I must ask you to imagine a beech forest in early November; a beech forest dreaming beneath the still magic of warm, hazy days; days that come before the first sharp cold of winter. Will you imagine that?”

“Yes!” murmured Mr. Vandusen; and he noticed that the other men did not answer at all.

“The mild sunlight,” continued the voice, “filters through the naked boughs and touches the smooth silver trunks and the moss about their feet with a misty gold as iridescent as the wings of dragonflies. And as far as you can see on every side stretch these silver boles, dusted with sunlight; in straight lines, in oblique columns, until the eye loses itself in the argent shadows of the distance.

“In the hidden open places, where the grass is still green toward its roots, wild swine come out of the woods and stare with small red eyes; but save for the crackling of the twigs beneath their feet it is very quiet. Marvellously so. Quiet with the final hush of summer. Only rarely a breeze stirs the legions of the heaped-up gray leaves, and sometimes, but rarely, one hears far off the chattering of a squirrel. So!—that is my forest.

“Through it runs like a purple ribbon a smooth, well-kept road. And it, too, adds to the impression of stillness, as the untenanted handiwork of man always does. On the rolled, damp surface are the marks of the cloven feet of the swine.

“Now there is a snapping of dead wood, a rustling of leaves, and an immense tusker—a grizzled leader of a herd—comes ponderously through the sun-dappled aisles to the edge of the road. For a moment he stands there, secure and unperturbed, and then suddenly he throws up his head, his little eyes wide and startled, and, wheeling, charges back to where his satellites are browsing. There is a breathless scurrying of huge bodies; then utter silence again, except that far away a limb cracks. But only for a moment is the road deserted. It seems as if the shadow of the great tusker was still upon it when, beyond the bend, a horn, sweet as a hunting-horn, blows once, twice, ends in a fanfare of treble notes, and a long, gray motor-car sweeps into view, cutting the sunlight and the pooled shadow with its twinkling prow. Behind it is another, and another, and another, until six in all are in sight; and as they flash past one has a glimpse, on the seats of the landaulets, of a number of men in long cloaks and helmets; big and little men; fat men and sharp-featured; elderly men and young men, and particularly of one man, in the second car from the front, who looks straight ahead of him and is not interested in the chatter of his companions. He is a stern man, rather terrible, and his face wears a curious pallor. On the crest of a wooded slope, a quarter of a mile away, the giant boar sniffs the odor of the gasolene and delicately wrinkles his nose.

“And this,” said the voice, “this convoy of motor-cars, these horns, almost as gay as the hunting-horns of former days, was, as you have guessed, The Maimed Man—as you choose to call him—come back to a hunting-lodge to rest, to slip from his shoulders for a while, if he could, the sodden cloak he had been wearing for the past three years and as many months.

“It was dark when they came to the hunting-lodge, a long, two-storied building of white plaster and timber-work above. The sun had been gone a while beyond the low hills to the west, and in the open place where the house stood only a remnant of the red dust of the sunset still floated in the pellucid air. Here the beeches gave way to solid ranks of pines and firs, and the evening sweetness of these fell upon the senses like the touch of cool water upon tired eyes. The headlights of the motor-cars cut wide arcs of blinding light in the gathering darkness. One by one the cars stopped before the entrance with throbbing engines and discharged their loads. The short flight of stairs became for a few minutes a swaying tableau of gray cloaks. There was a subdued ringing of spurs. The lamps from within the doorway touched the tips of the helmets so that they twinkled like little stars.

“The Maimed Man descended slowly and passed between his waiting suite. The scent of the pines had stirred his heart with memories. He was thinking of the last time he had been here, years before—well, not really so many years before, only four years, and yet it seemed like a recollection of his boyhood. He paused inside the threshold to remove his cloak. A hand, with a curious lack of duplication to it, stretched itself forward. The Maimed Man turned abruptly to see a servant with one arm bowing toward him. For a moment he paused, and then:

“'You are wounded?' he asked, and, although nothing was further from his desire, his voice had in it a little rasping sound; anger it seemed, although it might very well have been fear.

“The man turned a brick-red. He had never quite been able to recover from the feeling that in some way to be crippled was a shameful thing. He had been very strong before.

“'At Liège, your Majesty,' he murmured. 'In the first year.'

“'Always the left arm,' said The Maimed Man. 'Always the left. It seems always so.' But now he was angry. He turned to one of his suite. 'Can I not escape such things even here?' he asked. He went up without further words to his rooms. From his study a long door of glass opened onto a balcony. He remembered the balcony well. He opened the door and stepped out. The twilight had gone now. The night was very still and touched with a hint of crispness. Stars were beginning to show themselves. The black pines that came down to the edge of the clearing were like a great hidden army.”

There was a little pause.

“And so,” said the voice, “I can come now almost at once to the first of the two incidents I wish to tell you. I choose only two because there is no need of more. Two will do. And I shall call the first 'The story of the leaves that marched.'

“The warm days still held, and at the hunting-lodge there was much planning to keep things moving and every one busy and content. But secret planning, you understand. The Maimed Man is not an easy person for whom to plan unless he thinks that he has the final decision himself. There were rides and drives and picnics and, in the afternoons, usually a long walk, in which the older and stouter members of the suite either stayed at home or else followed painfully in the rear of their more active companions. The Maimed Man is a difficult person to keep up with; he walks very fast across country, swinging his stick, choosing, it would seem, the roughest ways. It is almost as if he wished to rid himself of others; and he is inordinately proud of his own activity. It was a curious sight to see his straggling attendants, spread out through the silver vistas of the beeches, like earnest trolls, all in one way or another bent upon a common end. And I suppose it was on account of this trick of The Maimed Man that one afternoon, toward dusk, he found himself almost completely alone, save for myself, who managed somehow to keep step, and a silent huntsman in gray who strode on ahead with the quiet, alert step of a wild animal.

“It was very still. There was no breeze at all. Not a sound except the sound of the dead leaves beneath our feet; and The Maimed Man was not, as was his usual wont, talking. Indeed, he seemed very preoccupied, almost morosely so. Every now and then he cut with his stick at a bush or a yellowed fern as he passed. Presently the trees opened upon a little glade swimming in sunlight. And then there was a brook to cross, and beyond that a gentle slope before the trees began again. The sunlight was pleasantly warm after the coolness of the forest, and the slope, with its soft dried grass, seemed an inviting place to rest. The Maimed Man continued until he had reached the farther belt of trees, and then he turned about and faced the sinking sun, that by now was changing itself into a nebulous radiance on the horizon. The forest stretched in gentle billows as far as the eye could see.

“'We will stop here,' said The Maimed Man, 'until the others catch up. Lazy-bones! If they had one-half the work to do that my poorest man has to the south they would not lose their legs so readily.' Then he sat down and lit a cigarette. I sat beside him. Farther up on the slope, in the shadow of the trees, sat the huntsman. We waited. The sun burned away its quivering aura and began to sink blood-red below the hills. Long shadows fell, penetrated with the dancing flecks of twilight.

“'Here they come!' said The Maimed Man suddenly. 'I see gray moving. There—below there, amongst the trees!' He pointed with his cane. Far back in the secret aisles of the forest across the brook there did indeed seem to be a movement. The Maimed Man half arose to his feet. 'I will shame them, the lazy-bones,' he said, and then he sat down again, with an odd, soft collapse.

“For, you see, it was very still, as I have said. Not a trace of wind. The forest seemed to be slumbering. And yet there had come out of it, and across the open place, and up the slope, so that it touched the hair and chilled the cheek, something that was not wind and yet was like it. A little clammy cat's-paw. So! And then was gone. And on its heels came the leaves. Yes, millions of them. But not blown; not hurriedly. Very hesitatingly; as if by their own volition. One might have said that they oozed with a monstrous slowness out from between the crepuscular tree-trunks and across the open space toward the brook. Gray leaves, creeping forward with a curious dogged languor. And when they came to the brook they paused on its farther edge and stopped, and the ones behind came pushing up to them. And looking down upon them, they might have been the backs of wounded men in gray, dragging themselves on their knees to water....

“I don't know how long this moment lasted—minutes perhaps; perhaps no longer than the drawing in and letting out of a breath. It was broken by the figure of a man—an upstanding man, this time—who stepped out of the forest opposite and, halting for a moment on the edge of the clearing, looked up to where The Maimed Man was sitting. Then he signalled to some one behind him, and presently one by one the figures of the belated suite appeared. They formed themselves in a little group and with some precision marched across the clearing. As they trampled upon the stricken leaves by the brookside the fixed stare in The Maimed Man's eyes faded, and he watched them with a rigid attention. Shortly they came to where he had got to his feet. A huge elderly man with a red face led them.

“'But your Majesty,' he objected, 'it is not fitting. You should not leave us in this way. Even here, is it altogether safe?'

“The Maimed Man did not answer. Covertly and with a sly shamefacedness, unlike himself, he was trying to read the expression in the huntsman's face. But that faithful fellow's eyes were bland. There was no sign that he had seen anything out of the ordinary....

“There is no need,” said the voice, “for delay. From this to the second incident I would describe to you is only a step. I shall not go into details. For these I can safely trust to your imaginations. And yet I would not, of course, have you gather that what I have just told you is without background—was out of a clear sky. Naturally, it was not; it was a cumulation, an apex. Such things do not happen altogether suddenly. There is a nibbling away at the banks, a little rivulet here and there, and then, all at once, a torrent like a hunted river under the moon. I called the first apex 'The story of the leaves that marched'; I shall call the second 'The mist that came up suddenly.'

“Two weeks had passed; quiet days, slow weeks, quiet and slow as the sunlight through the trees. The two doctors at the hunting-lodge, round, sharp-spoken men, with big, near-sighted spectacles, rubbed their hands together and nodded with certainty when they held their daily consultations. 'He is improving rapidly,' they said. 'The lines in his face are going. A little more exercise, a little more diversion—so!' They imagined crosses on their chests.

“Have you ever known mist on a moonlight night in a forest? Not a woods, not an open country with timber scattered through it, but a real forest; so limitless, so close-pressing, that one has the same sense of diminished personality and at the same time the same sense of all obstructions cleared away between oneself and the loneliness of the universe that one has at sea. As if, that is, you found yourself, a mere shadow in the darkness, kneeling close before an altar on which blazed, so that you could not altogether raise your head, the magnificence of a star. But mist in a moonlight forest is even more disembodying than mist on a moonlight sea. There are the dark masses of the trees, showing every now and then above the changing wraiths of white, and the summits of half-seen hills, to give an impression of a horizon near yet seemingly unattainable.

“They had finished supper in the great oak-ceilinged room down below, where a fire burned in the stone embrasure, and the soft lights of candles in silver candelabra made only more tenebrous the darkness overhead. The Maimed Man leaned back in his chair and peered with narrowed eyelids through the smoke of his cigar at the long table stretching away from him. For a moment he felt reassured; a hint of the old assurance that had once been one of his greatest gifts. It was partly a physical thing, stirring in his veins like the cool blood that follows the awakening from healthy sleep. The sight of all these friends of his, these followers of his, with their keen, sunburnt faces, or their wrinkled and wise ones—! Surely he occupied a position almost unassailable; almost as unassailable as that of the God of Force whose purposes of late had at times puzzled him in a new and disturbing way—. What nonsense! He gripped power as securely as he could grip, if he wished, his sword. What strength in heaven or earth could break a man's will, provided that will had been sufficiently trained? He felt pleasantly tired from the walk of the afternoon; he thought that he would go up to his rooms for a while, perhaps write a personal letter or two, afterward come down again for a game of cards. He stood up; the long double lines of men at the table rose with him, as a unit, at attention. The Maimed Man looked at them for a prolonged second, his heart stirred with pride; then he wheeled about and departed.

“In his workroom above, two secretaries were writing at a table under the rays of a green-shaded lamp. They jumped to their feet as he entered, but he waved them aside.

“'I shall return in a moment,' he said. 'First I wish to finish my cigar.'

“He opened the glass door onto the balcony, but, as it was cool, he stepped back and asked for his military cloak. When this was adjusted, he stepped once more into the moonlight.... And then, suddenly, there was no moonlight at all, or just the faintest glimmer of it, like light seen through milky water. Instead, he had stepped into a swirling vapor that in an instant lost him completely from the door he had just left; a maelstrom of fog, that choked him, half blinded him, twisted about him like wet, coiling ropes, and in a dreadful moment he saw that through the fog were thrust out toward him arms of a famine thinness, the extended fingers of which groped at his throat, were obliterated by the fog, groped once more with a searching intentness.

“'God!' said The Maimed Man. 'God!'—and fought drunkenly for the wall behind him. His hands touched nothing. He did not even know in which direction the wall lay. He dreaded to move, for it seemed as if there was no longer a railing to save him from falling. There was no solidity anywhere. The world had become a thing of hideous flux, unstable as when first it was made. Gelid fingers, farther reaching than the rest, touched the back of his neck. He gave a hoarse, strangled cry and reeled forward, and fell across the balustrade that came up out of the mist to meet him. And slowly the mist retreated; down from the balcony and across the open place beneath. A narrow line of dew-brightened grass appeared and grew wider. The tops of the trees began to show. But The Maimed Man could not take his eyes off the mist, for it seemed to him that the open place was filled with the despairing arms of women and of children, and that through the shifting whiteness gleamed the whiteness of their serried faces. Behind him was the warm glow of the room, shining through the glass doors. But he did not dare go in as yet; it was necessary first to control the little flecks of foam that despite his endeavor still wet his lips. For you see,” said the voice, and in the darkness its accents took on a slow, rhythmical sombreness, like the swish of a sword in a shuttered room, “this was far worse than the leaves. For, after all, the dead are only the dead, but to the living there is no end.”

At least a minute—fully a minute—must have passed, a minute in which the brown shadows of the library, held back for now this long while by the weaving magic of the voice, stepped forward once more into their places, while Mr. Vandusen waited for the voice to continue. Then the spell broke like a shattered globe, and, with a sudden realization of many things, he leaned forward and felt the chair to the right of him. There was no one there. He paused with his hand still on the leather seat. “Would you mind telling me,” he asked, and he found that he was speaking with some effort and with great precision, “if any of you know the gentleman who has just left?”

“Left?” said Tomlinson sharply.

“Yes—left.”

Tomlinson's voice was incredulous. “But he couldn't have,” he insisted. “From where I am sitting I would have seen him as he reached the door. Although, if he really is gone, I can say, thank the Lord, that I think he's a faker.”

On silent feet young Wheeler had departed for the hall. Now he returned. “It may interest you to know,” he said, “that I have just interviewed the doorman and the boy who is stationed at the steps leading back, and they both say no one has come in or out in the last half-hour.”

Suddenly his careful voice rose to a high note. “What the devil—!” he sputtered. He strode over to the electric switch. “For Heaven's sake, let's have some light,” he said. “Why do we always insist upon sitting in this confounded darkness?”

THE WEDDING JEST[9]

[Note 9: Copyright, 1919, by The Century Company. Copyright, 1920, by James Branch Cabell.]

BY JAMES BRANCH CABELL

From The Century

I. CONCERNING SEVERAL COMPACTS

It is a tale which they narrate in Poictesme, telling how love began between Florian de Puysange and Adelaide de la Forêt. They tell also how young Florian had earlier fancied other women for one reason or another; but that this, he knew, was the great love of his life, and a love which would endure unchanged as long as his life lasted.

And the tale tells how the Comte de la Forêt stroked a gray beard and said:

“Well, after all, Puysange is a good fief—”

“As if that mattered!” cried his daughter, indignantly. “My father, you are a deplorably sordid person.”

“My dear,” replied the old gentleman, “it does matter. Fiefs last.”

So he gave his consent to the match, and the two young people were married on Walburga's eve, on the last day of April.

And they narrate how Florian de Puysange was vexed by a thought that was in his mind. He did not know what this thought was. But something he had overlooked; something there was he had meant to do, and had not done; and a troubling consciousness of this lurked at the back of his mind like a small formless cloud. All day, while bustling about other matters, he had groped toward this unapprehended thought.

Now he had it: Tiburce.

The young Vicomte de Puysange stood in the doorway, looking back into the bright hall where they of Storisende were dancing at his marriage feast. His wife, for a whole half-hour his wife, was dancing with handsome Etienne de Nérac. Her glance met Florian's, and Adelaide flashed him an especial smile. Her hand went out as though to touch him, for all that the width of the hall severed them.

Florian remembered presently to smile back at her. Then he went out of the castle into a starless night that was as quiet as an unvoiced menace. A small and hard and gnarled-looking moon ruled over the dusk's secrecy. The moon this night, afloat in a luminous, gray void, somehow reminded Florian of a glistening and unripe huge apple.

The foliage about him moved at most as a sleeper breathes as Florian descended eastward through the walled gardens, and so came to the graveyard. White mists were rising, such mists as the witches of Amneran notoriously evoked in these parts on each Walburga's eve to purchase recreations which squeamishness leaves undescribed.

For five years now Tiburce d'Arnaye had lain there. Florian thought of his dead comrade and of the love which had been between them—a love more perfect and deeper and higher than commonly exists between men; and the thought came to Florian, and was petulantly thrust away, that Adelaide loved ignorantly where Tiburce d'Arnaye had loved with comprehension. Yes, he had known almost the worst of Florian de Puysange, this dear lad who, none the less, had flung himself between Black Torrismond's sword and the breast of Florian de Puysange. And it seemed to Florian unfair that all should prosper with him, and Tiburce lie there imprisoned in dirt which shut away the color and variousness of things and the drollness of things, wherein Tiburce d'Arnaye had taken such joy. And Tiburce, it seemed to Florian—for this was a strange night—was struggling futilely under all that dirt, which shut out movement, and clogged the mouth of Tiburce, and would not let him speak, and was struggling to voice a desire which was unsatisfied and hopeless.

“O comrade dear,” said Florian, “you who loved merriment, there is a feast afoot on this strange night, and my heart is sad that you are not here to share in the feasting. Come, come, Tiburce, a right trusty friend you were to me; and, living or dead, you should not fail to make merry at my wedding.”

Thus he spoke. White mists were rising, and it was Walburga's eve.

So a queer thing happened, and it was that the earth upon the grave began to heave and to break in fissures, as when a mole passes through the ground. And other queer things happened after that, and presently Tiburce d'Arnaye was standing there, gray and vague in the moonlight as he stood there brushing the mold from his brows, and as he stood there blinking bright, wild eyes. And he was not greatly changed, it seemed to Florian; only the brows and nose of Tiburce cast no shadows upon his face, nor did his moving hand cast any shadow there, either, though the moon was naked overhead.

“You had forgotten the promise that was between us,” said Tiburce; and his voice had not changed much, though it was smaller.

“It is true. I had forgotten. I remember now.” And Florian shivered a little, not with fear, but with distaste.

“A man prefers to forget these things when he marries. It is natural enough. But are you not afraid of me who come from yonder?”

“Why should I be afraid of you, Tiburce, who gave your life for mine?”

“I do not say. But we change yonder.”

“And does love change, Tiburce? For surely love is immortal.”

“Living or dead, love changes. I do not say love dies in us who may hope to gain nothing more from love. Still, lying alone in the dark clay, there is nothing to do as yet save to think of what life was, and of what sunlight was, and of what we sang and whispered in dark places when we had lips; and of how young grass and murmuring waters and the high stars beget fine follies even now; and to think of how merry our loved ones still contrive to be even now with their new playfellows. Such reflections are not always conducive to philanthropy.”

“Tell me,” said Florian then, “and is there no way in which we who are still alive may aid you to be happier yonder?”

“Oh, but assuredly,” replied Tiburce d'Arnaye, and he discoursed of curious matters; and as he talked, the mists about the graveyard thickened. “And so,” Tiburce said, in concluding his tale, “it is not permitted that I make merry at your wedding after the fashion of those who are still in the warm flesh. But now that you recall our ancient compact, it is permitted I have my peculiar share in the merriment, and I drink with you to the bride's welfare.”

“I drink,” said Florian as he took the proffered cup, “to the welfare of my beloved Adelaide, whom alone of women I have really loved, and whom I shall love always.”

“I perceive,” replied the other, “that you must still be having your joke.”

Then Florian drank, and after him Tiburce. And Florian said:

“But it is a strange drink, Tiburce, and now that you have tasted it you are changed.”

“You have not changed, at least,” Tiburce answered, and for the first time he smiled, a little perturbingly by reason of the change in him.

“Tell me,” said Florian, “of how you fare yonder.”

So Tiburce told him of yet more curious matters. Now the augmenting mists had shut off all the rest of the world. Florian could see only vague, rolling graynesses and a gray and changed Tiburce sitting there, with bright, wild eyes, and discoursing in a small chill voice. The appearance of a woman came, and sat beside him on the right. She, too, was gray, as became Eve's senior; and she made a sign which Florian remembered, and it troubled him. Tiburce said then:

“And now, young Florian, you who were once so dear to me, it is to your welfare I drink.”

“I drink to yours, Tiburce.”

Tiburce drank first; and Florian, having drunk in turn, cried out: “You have changed beyond recognition!”

“You have not changed,” Tiburce d'Arnaye replied again. “Now let me tell you of our pastimes yonder.”

With that he talked of exceedingly curious matters. And Florian began to grow dissatisfied, for Tiburce was no longer recognizable, and Tiburce whispered things uncomfortable to believe; and other eyes, as wild as his, but lit with red flarings from behind, like a beast's eyes, showed in the mists to this side and to that side, and unhappy beings were passing through the mists upon secret errands which they discharged unwillingly. Then, too, the appearance of a gray man now sat to the left of that which had been Tiburce d'Arnaye, and this new-comer was marked so that all might know who he was; and Florian's heart was troubled to note how handsome and how admirable was that desecrated face even now.

“But I must go,” said Florian, “lest they miss me at Storisende and Adelaide be worried.”

“Surely it will not take long to toss off a third cup. Nay, comrade, who were once so dear, let us two now drink our last toast together. Then go, in Sclaug's name, and celebrate your marriage. But before that let us drink to the continuance of human mirth-making everywhere.”

Florian drank first. Then Tiburce took his turn, looking at Florian as Tiburce drank slowly. As he drank, Tiburce d'Arnaye was changed even more, and the shape of him altered, and the shape of him trickled as though Tiburce were builded of sliding fine white sand. So Tiburce d'Arnaye returned to his own place. The appearances that had sat to his left and to his right were no longer there to trouble Florian with memories. And Florian saw that the mists of Walburga's eve had departed, and that the sun was rising, and that the graveyard was all overgrown with nettles and tall grass.

He had not remembered the place being thus, and it seemed to him the night had passed with unnatural quickness. But he thought more of the fact that he had been beguiled into spending his wedding-night in a graveyard in such questionable company, and of what explanation he could make to Adelaide.

II. OF YOUNG PERSONS IN MAY

The tale tells how Florian de Puysange came in the dawn through flowering gardens, and heard young people from afar, already about their maying. Two by two he saw them from afar as they went with romping and laughter into the tall woods behind Storisende to fetch back the May-pole with dubious old rites. And as they went they sang, as was customary, that song which Raimbaut de Vaqueiras made in the ancient time in honor of May's ageless triumph.

Sang they:

   “May shows with godlike showing
    To-day for each that sees
    May's magic overthrowing
    All musty memories
    In him whom May decrees
    To be love's own. He saith,
    I wear love's liveries
    Until released by death
.

    “Thus all we laud May's sowing,
    Nor heed how harvests please
    When nowhere grain worth growing
    Greets autumn's questing breeze,
    And garnerers garner these—
    Vain words and wasted breath
    And spilth and tasteless lees—
    Until released by death.

    “Unwillingly foreknowing
    That love with May-time flees,
    We take this day's bestowing,
    And feed on fantasies
    Such as love lends for ease
    Where none but travaileth,
    With lean, infrequent fees,
    Until released by death.”

And Florian shook his sleek, black head. “A very foolish and pessimistical old song, a superfluous song, and a song that is particularly out of place in the loveliest spot in the loveliest of all possible worlds.”

Yet Florian took no inventory of the gardens. There was but a happy sense of green and gold, with blue topping all; of twinkling, fluent, tossing leaves and of the gray under side of elongated, straining leaves; a sense of pert bird-noises, and of a longer shadow than usual slanting before him, and a sense of youth and well-being everywhere. Certainly it was not a morning wherein pessimism might hope to flourish.

Instead, it was of Adelaide that Florian thought: of the tall, impulsive, and yet timid, fair girl who was both shrewd and innocent, and of her tenderly colored loveliness, and of his abysmally unmerited felicity in having won her. Why, but what, he reflected, grimacing—what if he had too hastily married somebody else? For he had earlier fancied other women for one reason or another: but this, he knew, was the great love of his life, and a love which would endure unchanged as long as his life lasted.

III. WHAT COMES OF MARRYING HAPPILY

The tale tells how Florian de Puysange found Adelaide in the company of two ladies who were unknown to him. One of these was very old, the other an imposing matron in middle life. The three were pleasantly shaded by young oak-trees; beyond was a tall hedge of clipped yew. The older women were at chess, while Adelaide bent her meek, golden head to some of that fine needle-work in which the girl delighted. And beside them rippled a small sunlit stream, which babbled and gurgled with silver flashes. Florian hastily noted these things as he ran laughing to his wife.

“Heart's dearest!” he cried. And he saw, perplexed, that Adelaide had risen with a faint, wordless cry, and was gazing at him as though she were puzzled and alarmed a very little.

“Such an adventure as I have to tell you of!” said Florian then.

“But, hey, young man, who are you that would seem to know my daughter so well?” demanded the lady in middle life, and rose majestically from her chess-game.

Florian stared, as he well might.

“Your daughter, madame! But certainly you are not Dame Melicent.”

At this the old, old woman raised her nodding head.

“Dame Melicent? And was it I you were seeking, sir?”

Now Florian looked from one to the other of these incomprehensible strangers, bewildered; and his eyes came back to his lovely wife, and his lips smiled irresolutely.

“Is this some jest to punish me, my dear?” But then a new and graver trouble kindled in his face, and his eyes narrowed, for there was something odd about his wife also.

“I have been drinking in queer company,” he said. “It must be that my head is not yet clear. Now certainly it seems to me that you are Adelaide de la Forêt, and certainly it seems to me that you are not Adelaide.”

The girl replied:

“Why, no, messire; I am Sylvie de Nointel.”

“Come, come,” said the middle-aged lady, briskly, “let us have an end of this play-acting! There has been no Adelaide de la Forêt in these parts for some twenty-five years, as nobody knows better than I. Young fellow, let us have a sniff at you. No, you are not tipsy, after all. Well, I am glad of that. So let us get to the bottom of this business. What do they call you when you are at home?”

“Florian de Puysange,” he answered speaking meekly enough. This capable large person was to the young man rather intimidating.

“La!” said she. She looked at him very hard. She nodded gravely two or three times, so that her double chin opened and shut.

“Yes, and you favor him. How old are you?” He told her twenty-four. She said inconsequently: “So I was a fool, after all. Well, young man, you will never be as good-looking as your father, but I trust you have an honester nature. However, bygones are bygones. Is the old rascal still living, and was it he that had the impudence to send you to me?”

“My father, madame, was slain at the Battle of Marchfeld—”

“Some fifty years ago! And you are twenty-four. Young man, your parentage had unusual features, or else we are at cross-purposes. Let us start at the beginning of this. You tell us you are called Florian de Puysange and that you have been drinking in queer company. Now let us have the whole story.”

Florian told of last night's happenings, with no more omissions than seemed desirable with feminine auditors.

Then the old woman said:

“I think this is a true tale, my daughter, for the witches of Amneran contrive strange things, with mists to aid them, and with Lilith and Sclaug to abet. Yes, and this fate has fallen before to men that have been over-friendly with the dead.”

“Stuff and nonsense!” said the stout lady.

“But, no, my daughter. Thus seven persons slept at Ephesus, from the time of Decius to the time of Theodosius—”

“Still, Mother—”

“And the proof of it is that they were called Constantine and Dionysius and John and Malchus and Marcian and Maximian and Serapion. They were duly canonized. You cannot deny that this thing happened without asserting no less than seven blessed saints to have been unprincipled liars, and that would be a very horrible heresy—”

“Yet, Mother, you know as well as I do—”

“And thus Epimenides, another excellently spoken-of saint, slept at Athens for fifty-seven years. Thus Charlemagne slept in the Untersberg, and will sleep until the ravens of Miramon Lluagor have left his mountains. Thus Rhyming Thomas in the Eildon Hills, thus Ogier in Avalon, thus Oisin—”

The old lady bade fair to go on interminably in her gentle, resolute, piping old voice, but the other interrupted.

“Well, Mother, do not excite yourself about it, for it only makes your asthma worse, and does no especial good to anybody. Things may be as you say. Certainly I intended nothing irreligious. Yet these extended naps, appropriate enough for saints and emperors, are out of place in one's own family. So, if it is not stuff and nonsense, it ought to be. And that I stick to.”

“But we forget the boy, my dear,” said the old lady. “Now listen, Florian de Puysange. Thirty years ago last night, to the month and the day, it was that you vanished from our knowledge, leaving my daughter a forsaken bride. For I am what the years have made of Dame Melicent, and this is my daughter Adelaide, and yonder is her daughter Sylvie de Nointel.”

“La! Mother,” observed the stout lady, “but are you certain it was the last of April? I had been thinking it was some time in June. And I protest it could not have been all of thirty years. Let me see now, Sylvie, how old is your brother Richard? Twenty-eight, you say. Well, Mother, I always said you had a marvellous memory for things like that, and I often envy you. But how time does fly, to be sure!”

And Florian was perturbed.

“For this is an awkward thing, and Tiburce had played me an unworthy trick. He never did know when to leave off joking; but such posthumous frivolity is past endurance. For, see now, in what a pickle it has landed me! I have outlived my friends, I may encounter difficulty in regaining my fiefs, and certainly I have lost the fairest wife man ever had. Oh, can it be, madame, that you are indeed my Adelaide!”

“Yes, every pound of me, poor boy, and that says much.”

“And that you have been untrue to the eternal fidelity which you swore to me here by this very stream? Oh, but I cannot believe it was thirty years ago, for not a grass-blade or a pebble has been altered; and I perfectly remember the lapping of water under those lichened rocks, and that continuous file of ripples yonder, which are shaped like arrow-heads.”

Adelaide rubbed her nose.

“Did I promise eternal fidelity? I can hardly remember that far back. But I remember I wept a great deal, and my parents assured me you were either dead or a rascal, so that tears could not help either way. Then Ralph de Nointel came along, good man, and made me a fair husband, as husbands go—”

“As for that stream,” then said Dame Melicent, “it is often I have thought of that stream, sitting here with my grandchildren where I once sat with gay young men whom nobody remembers now save me. Yes, it is strange to think that instantly, and within the speaking of any simple word, no drop of water retains the place it held before the word was spoken; and yet the stream remains unchanged, and stays as it was when I sat here with those young men who are gone. Yes, that is a strange thought, and it is a sad thought, too, for those of us who are old.”

“But, Mother, of course the stream remains unchanged,” agreed Dame Adelaide. “Streams always do except at high water. Everybody knows that, and I see nothing remarkable about it. As for you, Florian, if you stickle for love's being an immortal affair,” she added, with a large twinkle, “I would have you know I have been a widow for three years. So the matter could be arranged.”

Florian looked at her sadly. To him the situation was incongruous with the terrible archness of a fat woman.

“But, madame, you are no longer the same person.”

She patted him upon the shoulder.

“Come, Florian, there is some sense in you, after all. Console yourself, lad, with the reflection that if you had stuck manfully by your wife instead of mooning about graveyards, I would still be just as I am to-day, and you would be tied to me. Your friend probably knew what he was about when he drank to our welfare, for we should never have suited each other, as you can see for yourself. Well, Mother, many things fall out queerly in this world, but with age we learn to accept what happens without flustering too much over it. What are we to do with this resurrected old lover of mine?”

It was horrible to Florian to see how prosaically these women dealt with his unusual misadventure. Here was a miracle occurring virtually before their eyes, and these women accepted it with maddening tranquillity as an affair for which they were not responsible. Florian began to reflect that elderly persons were always more or less unsympathetic and inadequate.

“First of all,” said Dame Melicent, “I would give him some breakfast. He must be hungry after all these years. And you could put him in Adhelmar's room—”

“But,” Florian said wildly, to Dame Adelaide, “you have committed the crime of bigamy, and you are, after all, my wife!”

She replied, herself not unworried:

“Yes, but, Mother, both the cook and the butler are somewhere in the bushes yonder, up to some nonsense that I prefer to know nothing about. You know how servants are, particularly on holidays. I could scramble him some eggs, though, with a rasher. And Adhelmar's room it had better be, I suppose, though I had meant to have it turned out. But as for bigamy and being your wife,” she concluded more cheerfully, “it seems to me the least said the soonest mended. It is to nobody's interest to rake up those foolish bygones, so far as I can see.”

“Adelaide, you profane equally love, which is divine, and marriage, which is a holy sacrament.”

“Florian, do you really love Adelaide de Nointel?” asked this terrible woman. “And now that I am free to listen to your proposals, do you wish to marry me?”

“Well, no,” said Florian; “for, as I have just said, you are no longer the same person.”

“Why, then, you see for yourself. So do you quit talking nonsense about immortality and sacraments.”

“But, still,” cried Florian, “love is immortal. Yes, I repeat to you, precisely as I told Tiburce, love is immortal.”

Then said Dame Melicent, nodding her shriveled old head:

“When I was young, and served by nimbler senses and desires, and housed in brightly colored flesh, there were many men who loved me. Minstrels yet tell of the men that loved me, and of how many tall men were slain because of their love for me, and of how in the end it was Perion who won me. For the noblest and the most faithful of all my lovers was Perion of the Forest, and through tempestuous years he sought me with a love that conquered time and chance; and so he won me. Thereafter he made me a fair husband, as husbands go. But I might not stay the girl he had loved, nor might he remain the lad that Melicent had dreamed of, with dreams be-drugging the long years in which Demetrios held Melicent a prisoner, and youth went away from her. No, Perion and I could not do that, any more than might two drops of water there retain their place in the stream's flowing. So Perion and I grew old together, friendly enough; and our senses and desires began to serve us more drowsily, so that we did not greatly mind the falling away of youth, nor greatly mind to note what shriveled hands now moved before us, performing common tasks; and we were content enough. But of the high passion that had wedded us there was no trace, and of little senseless human bickerings there were a great many. For one thing”—and the old lady's voice was changed—“for one thing, he was foolishly particular about what he would eat and what he would not eat, and that upset my house-keeping, and I had never any patience with such nonsense.”

“Well, none the less,” said Florian, “it is not quite nice of you to acknowledge it.”

Then said Dame Adelaide:

“That is a true word, Mother. All men get finicky about their food, and think they are the only persons to be considered, and there is no end to it if once you begin to humor them. So there has to be a stand made. Well, and indeed my poor Ralph, too, was all for kissing and pretty talk at first, and I accepted it willingly enough. You know how girls are. They like to be made much of, and it is perfectly natural. But that leads to children. And when the children began to come, I had not much time to bother with him; and Ralph had his farming and his warfaring to keep him busy. A man with a growing family cannot afford to neglect his affairs. And certainly, being no fool, he began to notice that girls here and there had brighter eyes and trimmer waists than I. I do not know what such observations may have led to when he was away from me; I never inquired into it, because in such matters all men are fools. But I put up with no nonsense at home, and he made me a fair husband, as husbands go. That much I will say for him gladly; and if any widow says more than that, Florian, do you beware of her, for she is an untruthful woman.”

“Be that as it may,” replied Florian, “it is not quite becoming to speak thus of your dead husband. No doubt you speak the truth; there is no telling what sort of person you may have married in what still seems to me unseemly haste to provide me with a successor; but even so, a little charitable prevarication would be far more edifying.”

He spoke with such earnestness that there fell a silence. The women seemed to pity him. And in the silence Florian heard from afar young persons returning from the woods behind Storisende, and bringing with them the May-pole. They were still singing.

Sang they:

   “Unwillingly foreknowing
    That love with May-time flees,
    We take this day's bestowing,
    And feed on fantasies—”

IV. YOUTH SOLVES IT

The tale tells how lightly and sweetly, and compassionately, too, then spoke young Sylvie de Nointel:

“Ah, but, assuredly, Messire Florian, you do not argue with my pets quite seriously. Old people always have some such queer notions. Of course love all depends upon what sort of person you are. Now, as I see it, mama and grandmama are not the sort of persons who have real love-affairs. Devoted as I am to both of them, I cannot but perceive they are lacking in real depth of sentiment. They simply do not understand such matters. They are fine, straightforward, practical persons, poor dears, and always have been, of course, for in things like that one does not change, as I have often noticed. And father, and grandfather, too, as I remember him, was kind-hearted and admirable and all that, but nobody could ever have expected him to be a satisfactory lover. Why, he was bald as an egg, the poor pet!”

And Sylvie laughed again at the preposterous notions of old people. She flashed an especial smile at Florian. Her hand went out as though to touch him, in an unforgotten gesture. “Old people do not understand,” said Sylvie de Nointel in tones which took this handsome young fellow ineffably into confidence.

“Mademoiselle,” said Florian, with a sigh that was part relief and all approval, “it is you who speak the truth, and your elders have fallen victims to the cynicism of a crassly material age. Love is immortal when it is really love and one is the right sort of person. There is the love—known to how few, alas! and a passion of which I regret to find your mother incapable—that endures unchanged until the end of life.”

“I am so glad you think so, Messire Florian,” she answered demurely.

“And do you not think so, mademoiselle?”

“How should I know,” she asked him, “as yet?” He noted she had incredibly long lashes.

“Thrice happy is he that convinces you!” says Florian. And about them, who were young in the world's recaptured youth, spring triumphed with an ageless rural pageant, and birds cried to their mates. He noted the red brevity of her lips and their probable softness.

Meanwhile the elder women regarded each other.

“It is the season of May. They are young and they are together. Poor children!” said Dame Melicent. “Youth cries to youth for the toys of youth, and saying, 'Lo! I cry with the voice of a great god!'”

“Still,” said Madame Adelaide, “Puysange is a good fief.”

But Florian heeded neither of them as he stood there by the sunlit stream, in which no drop of water retained its place for a moment, and which yet did not alter in appearance at all. He did not heed his elders for the excellent reason that Sylvie de Nointel was about to speak, and he preferred to listen to her. For this girl, he knew, was lovelier than any other person had ever been since Eve first raised just such admiring, innocent, and venturesome eyes to inspect what must have seemed to her the quaintest of all animals, called man. So it was with a shrug that Florian remembered how he had earlier fancied other women for one reason or another; since this, he knew, was the great love of his life, and a love which would endure unchanged as long as his life lasted.

THE WRISTS ON THE DOOR[10]

[Note 10: Copyright, 1919, by The Ridgway Company. Copyright, 1920, by Horace Fish.]

BY HORACE FISH

From Everybody's Magazine

Between his leather easy-chair at one end of his drawing-room and the wall with his wife's portrait at the other, Henry Montagu was pacing in a state of agitation such as he had never experienced in his fifty years of life. The drawing-room was no longer “theirs.” It was his—and the portrait's. The painting was of a girl who was not more beautiful in radiance of feature and lovable contour of body than the woman a generation older who had died two months ago.

Suddenly he stopped short in the middle of the room, his hands in his pockets. “My God!” he cried.

Then he shut his teeth on the words as sharply and passionately as he had uttered them, and raised one of his hands to his brow. There were drops of cold sweat upon it.

Mr. Montagu was a simple, selfish, good-natured business-man, never given to imaginative thoughts or to greater extremes of mood than the heights and depths of rising and falling stocks. Yet his experience of the last two hours had shown him to himself as a creature wretchedly inadequate to face the problem that confronted him—the simple problem of widowerhood.

He was not bitter at his wife's death. Not only did he consider himself too sensible for that, but he was too sensible. Death is an inevitable thing. And the one fact involving the simplicity of the problem was no more than many another man had borne without a thought—his childlessness.

Yet as if the whole two months in their strangeness their sad novelty, had been concentrating their loneliness for an accumulated spring at him, the last two hours had driven home to him that this secondary fact had not been inevitable, that what he was suffering to-night could have been avoided.

He had not wished to have children, and neither had the beautiful woman whose painted spirit smiled down so pitilessly now on his tragedy of jangled nerves and intolerable solitude. Deliberately and quite frankly, without even hiding behind the cowardly excuse of the tacit, they had outspokenly chosen not to.

After his desperate exclamation, he had laughed and thrown himself into his chair. He had forced the laugh, seeking to batter down with it a thrill that was akin to fright at an abrupt realization that in those two dreadful hours he had done three unprecedented things. He had spoken aloud there by himself, an action he had always ascribed exclusively to children and maniacs; he had harbored absurd temptations; and finally he had ejaculated “My God!” which he had thought appropriate to a man only in the distresses of fiction or after complete ruin on the Stock Exchange.

That exclamation had sprung from him when he had caught himself thinking how gladly he would give half his fortune if he could have a companion, even his butler, for the rest of the evening, his whole fortune, exactly as if he had died, if he could but have a son to give it to.

That freedom from care, which they had chosen to call freedom from responsibility, had been their mutual property, but to-night, in his hopeless solitude, it seemed that he was paying the whole price for it. She had met the unknown, but with the known—himself, her whole life—beside her, and her ordeal was over. His, he felt now, was worse, and already beginning. After all, he reflected, there was a certain rough justice in it; the one spared longer in the world of bodily people bore, in consequence, the reverting brunt of their double selfishness. But the remnant of life seemed a poor thing to-night. The further it stretched, in his suddenly stirred imagination, the poorer, the emptier, it seemed.

And having stirred, after a whole lifetime of healthy sleep, his imagination gripped him in a strong and merciless embrace. It seemed to twist him about and force him to look down the vista of the coming years and at all their possibilities, even the desecrational one of marrying again and calling into life the son that he had never wanted before. At the thought, he flushed with the idea that the portrait's eyes were reading his face, and compelled himself to look bravely at it; but as he met the lovely eyes strange questions darted into his brain: whether he would not rather have been solely to blame; whether his all-possessive love of her would not be more flawless now if she had been a flawless eternal-feminine type, longing for motherhood, but denying it for his sake; whether he would not be happier now in looking at her portrait if some warm tint from a Renaissance Madonna had mellowed the radiant Medici Venus who smiled from the frame. He was seized by a desire to turn the gazing picture to the wall.

Half-way across the room, he checked the impulse with a gasp of self-disgust, but with hands raised involuntarily toward it he cried:

Oh, why didn't we?

As he stood trembling with his back to it, the second absurd temptation of the night assailed him—to dash on his hat and go to Maurice's, a restaurant of oblique reputation to which his wife had once accompanied him out of curiosity, and which, in a surprising outburst of almost pious prudery, she had refused to visit again. Nor had she ever allowed him to go thereafter himself, and though she had made no dying request of him, he knew that, if she had, that would have been it.

In his shaken state the thought of his one club, the Business Men's, was repugnant. Maurice's, expansive, insinuating and brilliant, called to his loneliness arbitrarily, persistently. But with a glance over his shoulder at the portrait, he put the thought away. Then, straightening up, he walked to his chair again, sat tensely down, and faced the long room and his childish terror at its emptiness.

Innocent as had been his impulse toward Maurice's and full as was Broadway with places as glittering and noisy, his morbid duty to debar that one resort seemed to him to condemn him to the house for the night. Why was it the butler's night out? Even to know that he was below stairs—Would other nights be like this? Every night—The possibility turned him cold. His thoughts were racing now, and even as he gripped the arms of the chair a still worse terror gripped his mind. His loneliness seemed to have become an actual thing, real as a person, a spirit haunting the luxurious, silent house. He was facing the door, and its heavy mahogany, fixing his attention through his staring gaze, seemed to be shutting him alone with the dead. Save for his trembling self and his wife's painted eyes, the big room was lifeless. It was beyond the closed door that his imagination, now running beyond control, pictured the presence of his frightful guest—his own solitude, coming in ironical answer to his craving for companionship.

Were those live eyes of the dead creating his sense of an impending life in the house? Was it his wife, who, never having created a child for him, was forcing on him now a horrible companion? Again he started desperately toward the picture, again he caught himself, again he cried, “My God!” and faced his terror passionately, facing too, this time, the closed door.

“You fool! You fool!”

His voice sounded weak and strange to him as if indeed some one else had spoken. The paralyzing thought that such a mood of panic could be the beginning of real madness had shaken his voice and his whole body, and again Maurice's, now as a positive savior, rushed into his mind. But he threw the idea of refuge contemptuously away. He would stand his ground and not leave the house that night; yet even as he stood, he asked himself if this was not because he feared to open the door.

With a gasp, he drew himself up in the center of the room, and in a surge of determined anger, with his eyes on the door, facing it as he would have faced an enemy before he attacked, he deliberately gave his mind to his fear, letting it sweep through him, trying to magnify it, reading every horror that he could into the imagined presence that he intended to dispel, and then, tormenting himself with slow steps, he walked to the door, reached his hand to the knob, and opened it.

Though his mouth opened for a cry of terror, no sound came from him as he staggered back, and a waiting figure pitched into the room, rushed wildly past him with a whimper like that of a wounded animal, and flung itself, face forward, into the empty chair.

As if through the same doorway that had given entrance to the desperate wretch, his terror seemed to leave him. While he stood gasping, with pounding heart, staring at the limp, shuddering manhood that had hurled itself into his home, Henry Montagu suddenly felt himself a man again.

With the cold plunge of his senses into rationality, they told him that he was in the presence of some fatal and soul-sickening tragedy, yet this horror that had dashed into the hollow privacy of his house was at least real to him. Overwhelmed as he was by the frightful appearance of the young man, who was now weeping abandonedly, he had no fear of him, and his first act was a practical one—he swiftly, quietly closed the door. It was done in an instinct of protection. It would be useless to question him yet, but that he was a fugitive, and from something hideous, Montagu took for granted.

He stood looking across the room at his outlandish guest, trying to docket the kaleidoscopic flock of impressions that had flown into his mind from the instant he swung back the door. Though noble, even splendid in its slender lines, the youth's figure had half-fallen, half-sprung through the doorway, animal-like. There had not been even a ghost of sound in the hallway, yet it was as if he had been in the act of hurtling himself against the closed door, hammering at it with upraised hands. Mr. Montagu had been horrified by it instantaneously, as by a thing of violence with every suggestion of the sordid, but the poor sobbing fellow who now lay in the chair with his arms and head drooping over the big leather arm seemed to him as immaculately dressed as himself. Remembering the fleeting posture at the door, his eyes went involuntarily to the hanging, graphic hands. In the light of his reading-lamp they gleamed white, and as he watched, his heart sinking with pity at their thinness, two slow red drops rolled from under the cuffs down the palms, and fell to the floor.

“Good God!” breathed Henry Montagu.

He had never doubted for the fraction of a second that his guest was a criminal, and in every sense a desperate one, but, just as instinctively, he felt certain that no matter what the horror he had run from, he was more sinned against than sinning. Every line in the boy's fragile, pathetic figure went straight to the older man's heart. It came to him, almost joyously, that there had been premonition in his strange mood of longing for a son. As an end to this nerve-racking night, there was work to do—for the remainder of it, at least for a brief moment, he had a companion in his grim, empty house.

“Thank God!” he exclaimed aloud.

“Thank God! Thank God!”

The young man had spoken, and Mr. Montagu, as he heard the words, remembered that between the sobs there had been, in faint, broken syllables, “My God! My God!” again and again, and that he had understood at last what it was to hear that from a man who was neither ruined by the Stock Exchange nor the weak victim of childish terror. But now, this repetition of his varied expression startled him. It was like an echo of himself.

Again he shook himself together. If the boy could speak, it was time to question him. He had not yet seen his face, beyond a flashing imprint on his brain of a look of terrific fear and terrific exultation as it had dashed past him, but he was prepared to like it. He braced himself, walked over and stood in front of the chair. With an object—even this object—to justify it, he gladly surrendered himself now to the fatherly instinct he had so bitterly struggled against, and he felt that he would like, with his first words, to put his hand reassuringly on the crumpled shoulder. But the night had left his nerves still raw—in his sensitivity he could not bear the thought that the trembling figure would shrink from his touch, and he kept his hand firmly at his side.

“My boy,” he said gently, “you mustn't be afraid of me. Tell me what you've done.”

The young man raised his head, sank back in the chair, and looked at him.

Not once in the long evening of lonely terror, not when he had first heard himself talking aloud, not when he had dashed at his wife's portrait, not when he had faced the thought of madness, had Mr. Montagu had such a shock. An eternally lost soul, a damned thing staring at paradise, seemed to gaze at him out of the boy's eyes. He thought he was seeing all the sins of the world in them, yet the look was appallingly innocent. He seemed to be discovering those sins in the dark, ravening eyes, but to be feeling them in himself as if the forgotten, ignored innermost of his own life were quaking with guilt under the spell of this staring presence. In the state of horrified sympathy to which it had precipitated him, he morbidly felt almost responsible for the brooding evil in the boy as well as aghast at it. But even this sense of sin, implying as it did a skeleton of naked, primal right and wrong seemed of small import to his astounded mind beside the nameless, unmentionable sorrow that pervaded the face and stabbed at Henry Montagu's heart. He knew without question that he was looking at tragedy—worse than he had supposed the world could hold or any human thing, in any world, be subject to. It was a man's face in every line and poise and suggestion, but for all its frightful knowledge he had to call it beautiful—the clear-cut word “handsome” ran away from it like a mouse into a hole, leaving it a superb horror that, as soon as his paralyzed muscles could respond to his instinct, drove his hand to his face to shut away the deliberate, searching gaze.

“Done?” answered the young fellow at last. “What have I done? Good God!

For the third time, it was one of his own three exclamations totally new to him that night, and the coincidence drove home to him, this time, with a sense of omen. But his guest was speaking again, and, forcing himself to look calmly at the tragic face he listened breathlessly.

“I've done a thing never accomplished in human life before, a thing more terrific than the world's entire history, from the moment of the first atom crawling on it has ever known!”

He could not have spoken more solemnly and convincingly if he had reverently murdered, one by one, a whole nation of people, and it was some such picture that came into Henry Montagu's mind as, shivering and fascinated, he watched him and listened.

But the young man said no more.

“If—if you will tell me what you've done,” said Mr. Montagu haltingly, his pity sweeping every caution away, “or simply what you want of me, I will do anything for you that I possibly can.”

“There is nothing in this world,” answered the boy wearily, “that anybody can do for me.” But suddenly, impulsively, he added: “There is just one thing, that you can do—not for me, but for yourself. Don't ask me questions. For your own sake don't!”

“But—” began Mr. Montagu.

“If you knew who I am or what I am, and what I've deliberately done,” cried the boy, “you'd curse this night, and curse me, the longest day you lived! What—what is your name?”

“Henry Montagu,” said his host simply.

He pondered it. “That has a nice sound. I like it. And I—I like you. So don't ask me questions!”

The elder man was looking down at the thin white hands again, and the naïve comment brought a sudden contraction to his throat. “Poor little boy!” was on his lips, but an intuition like a woman's warned him that the words would make the desolate figure weep again, and his utmost strength quailed from the thought of seeing it, now that he had seen the face. As the white hands clasped themselves together, he had seen that the under sides of the wrists were bruised and dark. Facially, nothing could have been more unlike than this youth to the paint and plaster symbols that crowded before him from his memory, yet the red drops that he had seen drip to the floor, the wickedness and waste that he seemed to expiate and represent, the whole obvious torment of his being, had forced a simile upon him which he now blurted out.

“Whoever and whatever you are, whatever terrible thing you've done, I only know that you make me think of—of—Oh, the crown of thorns, the cross—you know what I mean!”

“Some one with a crown of thorns?” said the young man wonderingly. “Who was that?”

Mr. Montagu stared at him incredulously. That any man, no matter how base a criminal, and one, indeed, who had cried out again and again the name of God, should not know the story and the name of God's son, astonished him, for the moment, more than anything yet had done.

“Oh, yes, yes, I remember now,” continued the boy. “Yes, that was very, very sad. But I'm selfish and preoccupied with my own dreadful trouble, and that whole history, tragic as it was, was a very happy one compared with mine!”

With a cold shudder, Henry Montagu believed him. He realized that as yet he had done nothing for him. Food and drink had occurred to him, but in the minutes that they had passed together the stranger had grown more virile. He was no longer the incredible figure of wretchedness that had dashed into the room. He was sitting forward in the chair now, his eyes on the portrait.

“Is that your wife?” he asked.

“My—my dead wife,” answered Mr. Montagu.

His own eyes reverting again and again to the lacerated wrists, he did not see the changing expressions in his visitor's as they studied the eyes of the portrait; but as the boy now leaped impulsively to his feet he saw in them a fierce gleam that was like the hatred of a maniac. He thrilled with renewed terror as the boy once more sprang to him like an animal, and with a growl in his throat rushed toward the portrait.

“Stop!” he shouted, and the boy almost cringed to a halt in the middle of the floor.

When, after his first chill of horror at the act itself, Henry Montagu realized that the desecration was his own thought, his own impulse carried into fierce determination, he sank weak and dizzy into the chair that the boy had left. But again he mastered his frightened mind and thrust away from it the sinister oppression of omen and coincidence. Unwillingly but helplessly, he was letting into his thoughts the theory that, after he had opened the door instead of before he had opened it, the room had been harboring a maniac. And the theory stabbed him. A mushroom growth of tenderness had germinated in his pity and was growing nearer and nearer to a personal liking for the beautiful, pathetic figure of youth that stood before him, wilted and helpless again, in the center of the room.

“My boy,” he said quietly, “I ought to resent that but strangely enough I don't find myself resenting the idea of your taking strange liberties in my house. In fact, I—I had that same impulse. I nearly did that myself, just before you burst in here.”

The young man looked at him in amazement.

You were going to turn—Mrs. Montagu's picture to the wall? Wh—why, you old dirty beast!”

To Henry Montagu there was no vulgarity in the words. Their huge reproach of him drove every other quality out of them and a deep color into his face.

“But I—I quelled the impulse. And y—you would actually have done it!” he stammered.

“I had a reason and a right to!” cried the young man. “I'd never seen it before and if it repelled me I had a right never to look at it again! But she was your wife!”

Once more he stood, his eyes avoiding the portrait and wandering hungrily about the rest of the beautiful room.

“Well,” he said, after a few moments, “good-by!” And he walked toward the door.

“Stop!” cried Mr. Montagu again. He sat forward on the edge of the chair, trembling. After hours of successive surprises, the simple announcement of his visitor's departure had struck him cold with the accumulated force of his past lonely terror and his present intense curiosity. Again the boy had obeyed his command with a visible shiver, and it hurt the older man by recalling to him the suggestion of crime, of the place and the tragedy he must have escaped from, the unknown cloud he was under. But however involved in the horrible he might become by detaining him, shaken and filled with inexplicable grief as he was by his presence, worst of all was the fear of being alone again after a frightful, brief adventure in his life, vanished and unexplained. He wanted to reassure and comfort the wavering, sorrowful boy, but all he could stammer in apology for his shout was: “Wh—where are you going?”

“What difference does it make to you where I go?” asked the boy drearily. “If you must know, I'm going to Maurice's.”

Mr. Montagu sprang to his feet. With bitten lips he kept himself silent at this final thrust of the hypernatural, but the damp beads had returned to his brow. His terror lasted only a moment, and in his resurging desire to hold back the boy, he demanded both curiously and assertively:

“What are you going to Maurice's for?”

He had not supposed that there was a particle of color in the pitiful face, but as the boy answered, a delicate flesh-tint seemed to leave it, turning him deathly white.

“I—I want to look at the women,” he said.

At his agitation and pallor, the hectic whisper of his voice, above all, the light of fiendish hate that leapt into his beautiful eyes and ravaged their look, a physical sensation crept through the older man from head to foot and held him motionless.

But it was not horror at the boy himself. As he stood there wan and shivering before him, every best instinct in Henry Montagu rushed uppermost, and he felt that he would give anything in his life, gladly devote, if not actually give, that life itself, to set the boy right with the world. And with his terror gone and his horror going, he impulsively walked across the room and stood between him and the door.

“Why do you leave me this way? You mustn't mind what I say to you or how I say it, for it can't be any more abrupt or strange than the way you came here. I don't want you to go to Maurice's. And if you do, I'm going with you.”

“No! No!” cried the boy fearfully.

“I don't want you to leave me. I want you to confide in me. I want you to trust me, and to tell me, without fear, what it is you've done.”

“No, no, no, no! Don't ask me to!” cried the boy.

“I do ask you to. I have some right to know. I'd be justified in detaining you if I wanted to—”

“You couldn't!” cried the trembling youth passionately.

“I said I'd be justified. Are you, in dashing like a shot into my life and then leaving me without a word to explain it? I've played host to you gladly, though you've torn my nerves to pieces. Remember how you came here!”

“Yes! Yes!” ejaculated the boy bitterly. “I'm an intruder! I forced myself on you and I know it! God knows I know it!”

“I didn't mean it unkindly. I tell you, I want you to stay! I want you to, no matter what you are or what you've done. You've admitted that you've done something—something terrific—”

“And I have!” cried the boy, his eyes lighting wildly. “At last, at last! I've done it, I've done it!”

“And in spite of it, I want you to stay! Whatever it is, I want to protect you from the consequences of it!”

“Look to yourself!” cried the boy. “You'll curse me yet for coming here! Let me go, and protect yourself!”

“I am no longer considering myself, I've done that too much in my life, and to-night I'm reckless. No matter what the crime you've done—”

“Crime?” His visitor flashed wondering eyes upon him. “You fool! You fool!” Again, the exclamation was like an echo of himself, but Mr. Montagu had no time to entertain the thought, for the boy was stammering out his astonishment in hysterical syllables. “I—a criminal! I—I—Oh, I might have known it would seem that way to you! But I—”

Again under the penetrating gaze his host felt himself morbidly guilty, but there was a thrill of gladness in his heart that now welcomed the grim alternative of the boy's simple madness.

“Stay with me!” he cried. “Sleep here, and rest, and then—”

“Let me go to Maurice's!” cried the boy desperately. “You'll regret it if you don't! Oh, for the pity of God, for pity of yourself, let me leave you while I still offer to leave you!”

Mr. Montagu backed himself against the door.

“Why do you want to go there?” he demanded. “What is it you want to look at the women in Maurice's for?”

The boy hung fire under the determined voice.

“The—the women who go to Maurice's are—are—of a—certain kind, aren't they?”

“Some of them—most of them,” said Mr. Montagu. “If you've never been there, why do you want so to go? They're not unusual; simply—painted women.”

“Painted?” repeated the boy in astonishment. He turned to the portrait. “That's a painted woman, too. Aren't they alive at Maurice's?”

In his marvel at the enormous innocence of it, Mr. Montagu wondered, for the first time, what the young man's age could definitely be, but in a moment he remembered the one pitiful way to account for the pathetic question, and his voice was very gentle as he said:

“My boy, if you have your heart set on going to Maurice's, you shall go. But surely, after this mysterious time together in my house, and knowing that whatever you may be I welcome your companionship, you won't refuse my request to let me go with you? To say that I've enjoyed it would be to put a queer word to a terrible business that I have no way of understanding. But until you came I was bitterly, hungrily lonely—”

“Don't! Don't!” cried the boy. He had begun to tremble at the earnest tenderness of the voice. “I can't bear it! You don't know what you're talking about! Oh! let me go to Maurice's, and let me go alone! If you insist on going with me I can't stop you—”

“I do insist,” said Mr. Montagu.

“But I can plead with you not to! And I can warn you what the price will be! Oh—” and he stretched out his hands in so imploring a gesture that his host could see the dull, dried blood of his cruelly injured wrists—“for God's sake, for God's sake, believe what I tell you! If you leave this house with me to-night, you're lost! Oh, God, God, I see you don't believe me! Tell me this, I beg of you, I demand of you—did you feel that I was in the hall to-night, before you opened the door?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Montagu.

“Had I made any noise?”

“No.”

“Then I can prove to you that I know what I'm saying! I did that! I made you feel me! Till after you let me in, I wasn't strong enough to make a sound! Yet I made you know I was there! Am I telling the truth, then? When I started to leave you, and now, even now, in warning you I was doing, I am doing, a more unselfish thing, a decenter thing, than any you've ever done in all your years of life! It's because I like you more than I want to! I'm unselfish, I tell you! I wanted you to go to Maurice's with me! I intended to make you, as I made you let me in! But if you do, you'll find me out! I'll tell you! I won't be able to conceal it! You'll know the truth about me! You've said all this was mysterious—for your own sake, let it stay so! You needn't think all truths are beautiful, and the truth about me is the most ghastly in the universe!”

“I want to find you out,” said Mr. Montagu, steadying his voice. “I want to know the truth.”

“By that cross and crown of thorns that mean so much to you and nothing at all to me,” implored the boy, “don't go! I swear to you, mine is a more terrible secret than any living heart has ever held! You'll hate me, and I don't want you to! Oh, while I don't, while I'm merciful to you, believe me, and let me go alone! No loneliness that you could ever suffer would equal the price that you will pay if you go with me!”

Though the sense of horror sweeping indomitably through him was worse than any he had felt before, Mr. Montagu's answer was deliberate and resolute:

“I told myself only a few minutes ago that I would sacrifice anything in my life, almost my life itself, to—well, to this. Do you mean that the price would be—my—death?”

He threw every possible significance demandingly into the word, and the boy's voice was suddenly quiet in its tensity as he gazed back at him.

“It would be worse than death,” he said solemnly. “If you let me go, and face your loneliness here, there's a chance for you, though I've warned you as it is. If you leave the house with me to-night, you're as lost as I am, and I am irretrievably damned and always have been damned. As truly as you see me standing before you now, the price is—madness.”

“Come,” said Mr. Montagu, and without another word he opened the door.

At Maurice's, Mr. Montagu led the way to the far side of the big room, threading in a zigzag through the gleam of bright silver, the glitter of white linen, the crimson of deep carnations. Maurice's in its own way was admirably tasteful; as distinctively quiet and smooth in its manners and rich hangings as it was distinctly loud in its lights and ragged in its music. No after-theatre corner of Broadway had a crisper American accent of vice, or displayed vice itself more delicately lacquered. The place was as openly innocent as a street, with a street's sightless and irresponsible gaze for what occurred in it. And nothing remarkable occurred, save the fungus growth of what was to occur elsewhere.

Mr. Montagu, on the way to the table, looked several times over his shoulder, ostensibly to speak to his companion, but in reality to see whether the extraordinary boy was running the gantlet of eyes he had presupposed he would. And each time he met inquisitive faces that were not only staring but listening.

His own conspicuousness was grilling, but it was part and parcel of his insistent bargain; he could understand, quite sympathetically, how the youth's appearance, as awful as it was immaculate, should pound open the heart of any woman alive; and his suppressed excitement was too powerful for him to resent even the obvious repugnance in the faces of the men until he imagined an intentional discourtesy to the boy on the part of the waiter.

To himself, the man was over-servile, and elaborately cautious in pulling out his chair, but he stood, with his face quite white, and his back to the boy, and pulled out none for him. Henry Montagu had never yet bullied a waiter, and he did not bully now. But with an icy glare of reproof at the man, he rose and set the chair for his guest himself.

“Shall I order for you?” he asked gently as the boy sat quietly down; and made irritably incisive by the tendency of near-by men and women to listen as well as watch, he emphasized his expensive order of foods and wines, repeated each item loudly to cheapen the listeners, and sent the man scuttling.

In his intense desire to see the effect of the queerly chosen place on his queerly chosen companion, he now turned to him. And as he saw the effect, every shock of the night seemed to recoil upon him. The feeling of mystery; the foreboding, despite his courage and his conviction that the boy was mad, of the imminent unknown; his recurrent and absorbing curiosity to learn the gruesome secret that he had declared; all rushed one by one back upon him, and then as swiftly left him to the simple grip of horror at his face. It was gazing at woman after woman, here, there and yonder, throughout the large room, deliberately, searchingly, venomously, its great eyes and set lips and every tense haggard line fuller and fuller of an undying hate that eclipsed even that which had shaken Henry Montagu before they came. Appalled and fascinated, he looked with him, and back at him, and with him again, to the next and the next. There were women there, and ladies of every sort, good, bad and indecipherable; yet in every instance the childlike, horribly sophisticated eyes had picked their victim unerringly, deterred by neither clothes, veneer, nor manner.

As he stared with him from frightened female face to frightened female face, Mr. Montagu realized shamefully that his own features were helplessly mirroring the detestation of the boy's, and he changed from very pale to very red himself as woman after woman flushed crimson under his gaze. Yet the boy's face grew calm and his voice was perfectly so as he turned at last from his horrid review and met the eyes of his host.

“I see what you meant, now, by 'painted' women. Well, they'd much better be dead!”

At the tone, cruelly cool as if he planned to see that they were, Mr. Montagu shivered. “Why, why do you hate them like that?” he whispered.

The fierce anger flickered dangerously in the great eyes again.

“Because they're my enemy! Because they and the wicked thing they mean are my prowling, triumphant enemy, and the enemy of all others like me!”

“Oh, my boy, my boy!” pleaded the man of the world, sickly. “You don't realize it, but I can tell you from appearances—some of those women you stared at are here with their husbands!”

“So was your wife when she came here,” said the boy.

Mr. Montagu fell back in his chair with a gasp. As swiftly as it had leapt into his mind, the frightful implication of the words leapt out again in his amazement at the boy's knowledge of the incident.

But the waiter stepped between them with the order, and in obvious terror now instead of simple aversion, clattered it down with trembling hands.

“Go away! Go away!” commanded Mr. Montagu angrily. “I'll arrange it! Go!” And the waiter escaped.

“How did you know?” he asked; but without waiting for a reply he poured out the boy's wine and his own, and took a long hasty draft.

“Now, how did you?”

“Oh!” cried the boy piteously. “Don't ask me! I shouldn't have said it! I knew I'd let it out if you came here with me! I'll be telling you everything in a minute, and you'll go stark mad when you know!”

The inference rushed again upon Henry Montagu, a worse vague horror than any yet, and he almost sprang from his chair.

“Are you going to tell me my wife was unfaithful to me, and with—with—”

“Fool! Fool!” cried the boy. “I wish to God she had been unfaithful to you! I tried to make her, I can tell you that! Then there'd have been at least half a chance for me! But now that she's dead, there's no chance for either of us, even you! Unless—O God!—unless you'll control yourself and think! I beg you again, I beg of you, think again! Go away from here, go now, without asking me anything more, and there's just a shade of a chance for you! I told you there was none if you left the house, but there may be, there may be! Go home, and forget this, and be satisfied your wife loved you, for she did. She kept herself for you at my expense! Go now, and they'll let you go. But if you stay here and talk to me, you'll leave this place in manacles! I'm here, among those women, and I'm with you! My secret will come out and drag you down, as I planned it should before I began to like you! And you like me, too—I feel it. For my sake, then, for God's sake and for your sake, won't you go ?”

“No!” cried Mr. Montagu, almost roughly in his eagerness. “I don't judge you, but it's your duty, and in your power, to put me where I can! I harbored you, thinking you were a frightened fugitive, and you weren't. I'm your voluntary host in circumstances of mysterious horror and you ask me to quit you in ignorance! I won't! You sicken me with a doubt about the wife I loved—Who are you? What are you?”

“If you believed I knew as much of her as I said I did,” cried the boy, “why don't you believe me when I assure you that she loved you? What more should you demand? I meant everything I said, and more—your wife was nothing but a licensed wanton, and you knew it! You ask me who and what I am—so long as she loved you, who are you, and what are you, to point a finger at her?”

A rush of instinctive fury filled the man, but he felt as dazed at finding himself angry at the beautiful unhappy youth, as if he had known him for years, and he only gasped and stared.

“If you think I'm crazy,” cried the boy, “I'll show you, as I showed you once before, that I know what I'm talking about! I'll tell you something that was a secret between you two, and your wife didn't tell me, either! The night you'd been here, after you'd gone home, after you were locked in your room, you disputed about this place! She refused to come here again, and she refused to tell you why! But I know why!”

Once more Mr. Montagu gasped and with a thrill of wondering terror.

“Who are you and what are you?” he demanded. “I command you to solve this mystery and solve it now!”

His voice had risen to a shout, but a sudden lump in his throat silenced it, for the boy was weeping again.

“Oh,” wept the boy, “if you've liked me at all, put it off as long as you can, for you'll make me tell you I hate you, and why I hate you!”

Hate me?”

It had struck Henry Montagu like a flail in the face, wiping away his anger, his astonishment at the boy's uncanny knowledge, even his astonishment that the word was able to strike him so.

“I—I've suffered enough through you!” he stammered painfully. “And if I've got to suffer more, I insist on doing it now and getting it over with!”

“Don't! don't! It will never be over with!” gulped the boy.

“I'm through!” cried Mr. Montagu. “Who are you? What are you?”

At the determined finality of the voice the boy quivered like a helpless thing, and his stuttering ejaculations came as if shaken out of him by the shivering of his body.

“Wh—who am I?”

Yes!

“Wh—what am I?”

Yes!

Never yet had he been so awful as in the torment and majesty that gazed like fate at Henry Montagu now, and the frightful fire of the eyes seemed to dry up the tears on his cheeks at its first flare of accusing righteousness.

I'm the child that you and your wife refused to have!

As the aghast man shrank back before his blighting fury, he leaned farther and farther toward him.

Now do you know why I hate you as no human thing can hate? Your wilful waste has made my hideous want! Now do you know why I said I'd done a more terrific thing than had ever been done in the world's history before? I've gotten in! At last, at last, I've gotten in, in spite of you, and after she was dead! I've done a greater and more impossible thing than that great Mystery the world adores! I've gotten in despite you, and without even a woman's help! When we spoke of that life once before to-night, I shocked you! Do you believe now that my history is more terrible, or not? He suffered, and suffered, and He died. But He'd lived! His torture was a few hours—for mine to-night, I've waited almost as many years as He did, and to what end? To nothing! God, God, do you see that?”

He twisted open his hands and held out his bruised wrists before the trembling man's eyes. “For all those years—”

He suddenly drew himself to his full height and threw them passionately above his head in the posture that had haunted Henry Montagu from the first instant's glimpse of him.

“For all those endless years, ever since your marriage-night, I've stood beating, beating, beating at the door of life until my wrists have bled! And you didn't hear me! You couldn't and she wouldn't! You didn't want to! You wouldn't listen! And you—you never have heard that desperate pounding and calling, not even to-night, though even so, with that woman out of the way, I made you feel me! But she'd heard me, the ghoul! She heard me again and again! I made her! I told her what she was, and that you knew it, and I meant it! Her marriage certificate was her license! She gave you a wanton's love, and you gave her just what you got! And I made her understand that! I made her understand it right here in this place! That's why I wanted to come here—I could see only her picture, and I wanted to see a real one of them! Until to-night, I could never see either of you, but I always knew where you were!

“And when you brought her here, I made her look at that enemy of me and my kind that I could always feel—those women that she was one of and that she knew she was one of when I screamed it at her in this place! For I was with you two that night! I was with you till after you'd gone home, you demons! That's why she'd never come near the place again, the coward, the miserable coward! That's why I hate her worse than I hate you! There's a pitiful little excuse for the men, because they're stupider.

“For the hideous doom of all our hopeless millions, the women are more wickedly to blame, because they must face the fact that we are waiting to get in. God, God, I'd gladly be even a woman, if I could! But you're bad enough—bad enough—bad enough to deserve the fate you face to-night! And now, God help you, you're facing it, just as I said you would! You deserve it because you were put here with a purpose and you flatly wouldn't fulfil it! God only demands that mankind should be made in His image. In a wisdom that you have no right to question. He lets the images go their own way, as you've gone yours. Yet you, and all others like you, the simple, humble image-workers, instead of rejoicing that you have work to do, set your little selves up far greater than Great God, and actually decide whether men shall even be!

“You have a lot of hypercritical, self-justifying theories about it—that it's better for them not to live at all than to suffer some of the things that life, even birth itself, can wither them with. But there never yet was any living creature, no matter how smeared and smitten, that told the truth when he said he wished he'd never been born, while we, the countless millions of the lost, pound and shriek for life—forever shriek and hope! That's the worst anguish of the lost—they hope! I've shown what can be done through that anguish, as it's never been shown before. Even the terrible night that woman died, I hoped! I hoped more than ever, for knowing then that for all eternity it was too late, I hoped for revenge! And revenge was my right! Yes, every solitary soul has a right to live, even if it lives to wreck, kill, madden its parents! And now, oh, God, I've got my revenge when I no longer want it! The way you took me in, the way you wanted me to stay when I'd almost frightened you to death, made me want to spare you! It was my fate that I—I liked you—I—more than liked you. And I tried to save you! Oh, God, God, how I've tried!”

As he stood with his hands thrown forth again and his wretched eyes staring into those of the white-faced man, Henry Montagu met the wild gaze unflinchingly. He had sat dumbstruck and shuddering, but the spasmodic quivering of his body had lessened into calmness, and his whispered, slow words gained in steadiness as they came: “My boy, I admit you've nearly driven me to madness just now. I was close to the border! I can't dispute one shred of reproach, of accusation, of contempt. Your fearful explanation of this night, the awful import of your visit and yourself have shaken me to the center of my being. But its huge consistency is that of a madman. You poor, you pitiful, deluded boy, you tell me to believe you are an unborn soul, while you stand there and exist before my eyes!”

The boy gave a cry of agony—agony so immortal that as he sank into his chair and clutched the table, an echoing moan of it wrenched from the older man.

“I don't exist! Didn't I tell you my secret was more terrible than any living heart had ever held? I'm real to you since I made you let me into your thoughts to-night. I'm real to you, and through your last moment of consciousness through eternity I always will be! But I won't be with you! You don't believe me yet, but the moment you do, I won't be here! And I never can be real to any other creature in the universe—not even that prostitute who refused to be my mother! I don't exist, and never can exist!”

“But you do! You do! You do! You're there before me now!” gasped Mr. Montagu through chattering teeth. “How can you deny that you're sitting here with me in this restaurant? I forgive you—I love you, and I forgive you, but, thank God, I see through you at last! You're a fanatic, a poor, frenzied maniac on this subject, and you've morbidly spied on and studied me as a typical case of it; through your devilish understanding and divination you've guessed at that conversation between me and my wife, and like the creature I pictured you in my house, a ravening, devouring thing, you've sought to drag me into your hell of madness! But you shan't! I tell you I see through you at last, you pitiful mad creature! You know you're there before my eyes, and just so truly as you are, not one syllable do I believe of what you've told me!”

As the boy sprang with a venomous shout to his feet, all the hate in his terrible being sprang tenfold into his eyes.

“Do you call me 'mad,' and 'creature'? Do you dare deny me, now, after all I've told you? You coward, you coward! You've denied me life, but you can't deny this night! The people in this place will let you know presently! I tried to spare you. Though I'd thirsted for my revenge I pleaded with you, prayed to you to spare yourself! If you'd stayed in the house, you might have come to your senses and forgotten me! But what hope for you is there now? Do you still believe I exist? Look back at the night! Do you remember the portrait? You commanded me to stop—commanded, as you've always commanded my fate, and I was powerless. To me, that was a parental command—from you, you who deliberately wouldn't be my parent! Did you see me wince under it? If you hadn't done it, you'd have found me out right then! I'm not a physical thing, and I couldn't have moved it! I only said I was going to Maurice's! I couldn't have come here if you hadn't brought me! When you wondered, as we were starting out, whether I had a hat, I stooped down in the hall. But you only thought I picked one up! As we came in here, you only thought I checked it! Did you see the man stare as you reached out to take my check away from me? Have I eaten or drunk to-night? I've not, for I'm not a creature! And mad, I? Look to yourself, as I told you to look before it was too late! You fool, you've been staring inoffensive women out of countenance, with all the hate from my face printed on yours, and in the eyes of all these people you've been sitting here for half an hour talking to yourself, and ordering wine and food for an empty chair! You won't ever believe you're mad, but every one else will!”

“So help me God,” cried Henry Montagu, white and trembling, “you're there! I swear you're there!”

“So help you God, I'm there!” cried the boy frightfully, pointing straight at him.

“Right there, in your brain, there, there, and only there! I'm no more flesh and blood than—than I ever was, because, you murderer, you and your damned wife never would let me be! Well, do you see through me now?”

“No! No!” screamed Mr. Montagu. “I don't see through you! I don't!” But as he leaned forward to clutch at him in his terror, all that he could see before him was a closed door beyond a dozen tables, a disused entranceway diagonally opposite the one that had let them in. “I don't believe you!” he wailed. “Oh, my God, my God, my God, where are you?” He turned frantically to the men and women nearest him. “You saw him! There was a boy with me, wasn't there? Wasn't there? Yes, see, there, isn't he going for that door? Oh, my boy, my boy!” And he dashed toward it. He heard the terrible screams of women, and chairs and a table crashed in his wake. He reached it. It was locked.

Desperately sobbing, he hurled himself against it.

It seemed to him as if all the men in the restaurant fell upon him. Strong, merciless hands dragged down and pinioned the wrists with which he had beaten against the door.

“GOVERNMENT GOAT"[11]

[Note 11: Copyright, 1919, by The Pictorial Review Company. Copyright, 1920, by Susan Glaspell Cook.]

BY SUSAN GLASPELL

From The Pictorial Review

Joe Doane couldn't get to sleep. On one side of him a family were crying because their man was dead, and on the other side a man was celebrating because he was alive.

When he couldn't any longer stand the wails of the Cadaras, Joe moved from his bedroom to the lounge in the sitting-room. But the lounge in the sitting-room, beside making his neck go in a way no neck wants to go, brought him too close to Ignace Silva's rejoicings in not having been in one of the dories that turned over when the schooner Lillie-Bennie was caught in the squall last Tuesday afternoon and unable to gather all her men back from the dories before the sea gathered them. Joe Cadara was in a boat that hadn't made it—hence the wails to the left of the Doanes, for Joe Cadara left a wife and four children and they had plenty of friends who could cry, too. But Ignace Silva—more's the pity, for at two o'clock in the morning you like to wish the person who is keeping you awake was dead—got back to the vessel. So to-night his friends were there with bottles, for when a man might be dead certainly the least you can do is to take notice of him by getting him drunk.

People weren't sleeping in Cape's End that night. Those who were neither mourning nor rejoicing were being kept awake by mourners or rejoicers. All the vile, diluted whisky that could be bought on the quiet was in use for the deadening or the heightening of emotion. Joe Doane found himself wishing he had a drink. He'd like to stop thinking about dead fishermen—and hearing live ones. Everybody had been all strung up for two days ever since word came from Boston that the Lillie-Bennie was one of the boats “caught.”

They didn't know until the Lillie-Bennie came in that afternoon just how many of her men she was bringing back with her. They were all out on Long Wharf to watch her come in and to see who would come ashore—and who wouldn't. Women were there, and lots of children. Some of these sets of a woman and children went away with a man, holding on to him and laughing, or perhaps looking foolish to think they had ever supposed he could be dead. Others went away as they had come—maybe very still, maybe crying. There were old men who came away carrying things that had belonged to sons who weren't coming ashore. It was all a good deal like a movie—only it didn't rest you.

So he needed sleep, he petulantly told things as he rubbed the back of his neck, wondered why lounges were made like that, and turned over. But instead of sleeping, he thought about Joe Cadara. They were friendly thoughts he had about Joe Cadara; much more friendly than the thoughts he was having about Ignace Silva. For one thing, Joe wasn't making any noise. Even when he was alive, Joe had made little noise. He always had his job on a vessel; he'd come up the Front street in his oilskins, turn in at his little red house, come out after a while and hoe in his garden or patch his wood-shed, sit out on the wharf and listen to what Ignace Silva and other loud-mouthed Portuguese had to say—back to his little red house. He—well, he was a good deal like the sea. It came in, it went out. On Joe Cadara's last trip in, Joe Doane met him just as he was starting out. “Well, Joe,” says Joe Doane, “off again?” “Off again,” said Joe Cadara, and that was about all there seemed to be to it. He could see him going down the street—short, stocky, slow, dumb. By dumb he meant—oh, dumb like the sea was dumb—just going on doing it. And now—

All of a sudden he couldn't stand Ignace Silva. “Hell! “ roared Joe Doane from the window, “don't you know a man's dead ?” In an instant the only thing you could hear was the sea. In—Out—

Then he went back to his bedroom. “I'm not sleeping either,” said his wife—the way people are quick to make it plain they're as bad off as the next one.

At first it seemed to be still at the Cadaras. The children had gone to sleep—so had the friends. Only one sound now where there had been many before. And that seemed to come out of the sea. You got it after a wave broke—as it was dying out. In that little let-up between an in, an out, you knew that Mrs. Cadara had not gone to sleep, you knew that Mrs. Cadara was crying because Joe Cadara was dead in the sea.

So Joe Doane and his wife Mary lay there and listened to Annie Cadara crying for her husband, Joe Cadara.

Finally Mrs. Doane raised on her pillow and sighed. “Well, I suppose she wonders what she'll do now—those four children.”

He could see Joe Cadara's back going down the Front street—broad, slow, dumb. “And I suppose,” he said, as if speaking for something that had perhaps never spoken for itself, “that she feels bad because she'll never see him again.”

“Why, of course she does,” said his wife impatiently, as if he had contradicted something she had said.

But after usurping his thought she went right back to her own. “I don't see how she will get along. I suppose we'll have to help them some.”

Joe Doane lay there still. He couldn't help anybody much—more was the pity. He had his own three children—and you could be a Doane without having money to help with—though some people didn't get that through their heads. Things used to be different with the Doanes. When the tide's in and you awake at three in the morning it all gets a good deal like the sea—at least with Joe Doane it did now. His grandfather, Ebenezer Doane, the whaling captain—In—Out—Silas Doane—a fleet of vessels off the Grand Banks—In—Out—All the Doanes. They had helped make the Cape, but—In—Out—Suddenly Joe laughed.

“What are you laughing at?” demanded his wife.

“I was just laughing,” said Joe, “to think what those old Doanes would say if they could see us.”

“Well, it's not anything to laugh at,” said Mrs. Doane.

“Why, I think it is,” good-humoredly insisted her husband, “it's such a joke on them.”

“If it's a joke,” said Mrs. Doane firmly, “it's not on them.”

He wasn't sure just who the joke was on. He lay thinking about it. At three in the morning, when you can't sleep and the tide's in, you might get it mixed—who the joke was on.

But, no, the joke was on them, that they'd had their long slow deep InOut—their whaling and their fleets, and that what came after was him—a tinkerer with other men's boats, a ship's carpenter who'd even work on houses. “Get Joe Doane to do it for you.” And glad enough was Joe Doane to do it. And a Portagee livin' to either side of him!

He laughed. “You've got a funny idea of what's a joke,” his wife said indignantly.

That seemed to be so. Things he saw as jokes weren't jokes to anybody else. Maybe that was why he sometimes seemed to be all by himself. He was beginning to get lost in an InOut. Faintly he could hear Mrs. Cadara crying—Joe Cadara was in the sea, and faintly he heard his wife saying, “I suppose Agnes Cadara could wear Myrtie's shoes, only—the way things are, seems Myrtie's got to wear out her own shoes.”

Next day when he came home at noon—he was at work then helping Ed. Davis put a new coat on Still's store—he found his two boys—the boys were younger than Myrtie—pressed against the picket fence that separated Doanes from Cadaras.

“What those kids up to?” he asked his wife, while he washed up for dinner.

“Oh, they just want to see,” she answered, speaking into the oven.

“See what?” he demanded; but this Mrs. Doane regarded as either too obvious or too difficult to answer, so he went to the door and called, “Joe! Edgar!”

“What you kids rubberin' at?” he demanded.

Young Joe dug with his toe. “The Cadaras have got a lot of company,” said he.

“They're crying!” triumphantly announced the younger and more truthful Edgar.

“Well, suppose they are? They got a right to cry in their own house, ain't they? Let the Cadaras be. Find some fun at home.”

The boys didn't seem to think this funny, nor did Mrs. Doane, but the father was chuckling to himself as they sat down to their baked flounder.

But to let the Cadaras be and find some fun at home became harder and harder to do. The Lillie-Bennie had lost her men in early Summer and the town was as full of Summer folk as the harbor was of whiting. There had never been a great deal for Summer folk to do in Cape's End, and so the Disaster was no disaster to the Summer's entertainment. In other words, Summer folk called upon the Cadaras. The young Doanes spent much of their time against the picket fence; sometimes young Cadaras would come out and graciously enlighten them. “A woman she brought my mother a black dress.” Or, “A lady and two little boys came in automobile and brought me kiddie-car and white pants.” One day Joe Doane came home from work and found his youngest child crying because Tony Cadara wouldn't lend him the kiddie-car. This was a reversal of things; heretofore Cadaras had cried for the belongings of the Doanes. Joe laughed about it, and told Edgar to cheer up, and maybe he'd have a kiddie-car himself some day—and meanwhile he had a pa.

Agnes Cadara and Myrtie Doane were about of an age. They were in the same class in high school. One day when Joe Doane was pulling in his dory after being out doing some repairs on the Lillie-Bennie he saw a beautiful young lady standing on the Cadaras' bulkhead. Her back was to him, but you were sure she was beautiful. She had the look of some one from away, but not like the usual run of Summer folk. Myrtie was standing looking over at this distinguished person.

“Who's that?” Joe asked of her.

“Why,” said Myrtie, in an awed whisper, “it's Agnes Cadara—in her mourning.”

Until she turned around, he wouldn't believe it. “Well,” said he to Myrtie, “it's a pity more women haven't got something to mourn about.”

“Yes,” breathed Myrtie, “isn't she wonderful?”

Agnes's mourning had been given her by young Mrs. MacCrea who lived up on the hill and was herself just finishing mourning. It seemed Mrs. MacCrea and Agnes were built a good deal alike—though you never would have suspected it before Agnes began to mourn. Mrs. MacCrea was from New York, and these clothes had been made by a woman Mrs. MacCrea called by her first name. Well, maybe she was a woman you'd call by her first name, but she certainly did have a way of making you look as if you weren't native to the place you were born in. Before Agnes Cadara had anything to mourn about she was simply “one of those good-looking Portuguese girls.” There were too many of them in Cape's End to get excited about any of them. One day he heard some women on the beach talking about how these clothes had “found” Agnes—as if she had been lost.

Mrs. MacCrea showed Agnes how to do her hair in a way that went with her clothes. One noon when Joe got home early because it rained and he couldn't paint, when he went up-stairs he saw Myrtie trying to do this to her hair. Well, it just couldn't be done to Myrtie's hair. Myrtie didn't have hair you could do what you pleased with. She was all red in the face with trying, and being upset because she couldn't do it. He had to laugh—and that didn't help things a bit. So he said:

“Never mind, Myrtie, we can't all go into mourning.”

“Well, I don't care,” said Myrtie, sniffling, “it's not fair.”

He had to laugh again and as she didn't see what there was to laugh at, he had to try to console again. “Never mind, Myrt,” said he, “you've got one thing Agnes Cadara's not got.”

“I'd like to know what,” said Myrtie, jerking at her hair.

He waited; funny she didn't think of it herself. “Why—a father,” said he.

“Oh,” said Myrtie—the way you do when you don't know what to say. And then, “Well,——”

Again he waited—then laughed; waited again, then turned away.

Somebody gave Mrs. Cadara a fireless cooker. Mrs. Doane had no fireless cooker. So she had to stand all day over her hot stove—and this she spoke of often. “My supper's in the fireless cooker,” Mrs. Cadara would say, and stay out in the cool yard, weeding her flowerbed bed. “It certainly would be nice to have one of those fireless cookers,” Mrs. Doane would say, as she put a meal on the table and wiped her brow with her apron.

“Well, why don't you kill your husband?” Joe Doane would retort. “Now, if only you didn't have a husband—you could have a fireless cooker.”

Jovially he would put the question, “Which would you rather have, a husband or a fireless cooker?” He would argue it out—and he would sometimes get them all to laughing, only the argument was never a very long one. One day it occurred to him that the debates were short because the others didn't hold up their end. He was talking for the fireless cooker—if it was going to be a real debate, they ought to speak up for the husband. But there seemed to be so much less to be said for a husband than there was for a fireless cooker. This struck him as really quite funny, but it seemed it was a joke he had to enjoy by himself. Sometimes when he came home pretty tired—for you could get as tired at odd jobs as at jobs that weren't odd—and heard all about what the Cadaras were that night to eat out of their fireless cooker, he would wish that some one else would do the joking. It was kind of tiresome doing it all by yourself—and kind of lonesome.

One morning he woke up feeling particularly rested and lively. He was going out to work on the Lillie-Bennie, and he always felt in better spirits when he was working on a boat.

It was a cool, fresh, sunny morning. He began a song—he had a way of making up songs. It was, “I'd rather be alive than dead.” He didn't think of any more lines, so while he was getting into his clothes he kept singing this one, to a tune which became more and more stirring. He went over to the window by the looking-glass. From this window you looked over to the Cadaras. And then he saw that from the Cadaras a new arrival looked at him.

He stared. Then loud and long he laughed. He threw up the window and called, “Hello, there!”

The new arrival made no reply, unless a slight droop of the head could be called a reply.

“Well, you cap the climax!” called Joe Doane.

Young Doanes had discovered the addition to the Cadara family and came running out of the house.

“Pa!” Edgar called up to him, “the Cadaras have got a Goat!”

“Well, do you know,” said his father, “I kind of suspected that was a goat.”

Young Cadaras came out of the house to let young Doanes know just what their privileges were to be with the goat—and what they weren't. They could walk around and look at her; they were not to lead her by her rope.

“There's no hope now,” said Joe, darkly shaking his head. “No man in his senses would buck up against a goat.”

The little Doanes wouldn't come in and eat their breakfast. They'd rather stay out and walk round the goat.

“I think it's too bad,” their mother sighed, “the kiddie-car and the ball-suit and the sail-boat were enough for the children to bear—without this goat. It seems our children haven't got any of the things the Cadaras have got.”

“Except—” said Joe, and waited for some one to fill it in. But no one did, so he filled it in with a laugh—a rather short laugh.

“Look out they don't put you in the fireless cooker!” he called to the goat as he went off to work.

But he wasn't joking when he came home at noon. He turned in at the front gate and the goat blocked his passage. The Cadaras had been willing to let the goat call upon the Doanes and graze while calling. “Get out of my way!” called Joe Doane in a surly way not like Joe Doane.

“Pa!” said young Joe in an awed whisper, “it's a government goat.”

“What do I care if it is?” retorted his father. “Damn the government goat!”

Every one fell back, as when blasphemy—as when treason—have been uttered. These Portuguese kids looking at him like that—as if they were part of the government and he outside. He was so mad that he bawled at Tony Cadara, “To hell with your government goat!”

From her side of the fence, Mrs. Cadara called, “Tony, you bring the goat right home,” as one who calls her child—and her goat—away from evil.

“And keep her there!” finished Joe Doane.

The Doanes ate their meal in stricken silence. Finally Doane burst out, “What's the matter with you all? Such a fuss about the orderin' off of a goat.”

“It's a government goat,” lisped Edgar.

“It's a government goat,” repeated his wife in a tense voice.

“What do you mean—government goat? There's no such animal.”

But it seemed there was, the Cadaras had, not only the goat, but a book about the goat. The book was from the government. The government had raised the goat and had singled the Cadaras out as a family upon whom a government goat should be conferred. The Cadaras held her in trust for the government. Meanwhile they drank her milk.

“Tony Cadara said, if I'd dig clams for him this afternoon he'd let me help milk her to-night,” said young Joe.

This was too much. “Ain't you kids got no spine? Kowtowing to them Portuguese because a few folks that's sorry for them have made them presents. They're ginnies. You're Doanes.”

“I want a goat!” wailed Edgar. His father got up from the table.

“The children are all right,” said his wife, in her patient voice that made you impatient. “It's natural for them to want a few of the things they see other children having.”

He'd get away! As he went through the shed he saw his line and picked it up. He'd go out on the breakwater—maybe he'd get some fish, at least have some peace.

The breakwater wasn't very far down the beach from his house. He used to go out there every once in a while. Every once in a while he had a feeling he had to get by himself. It was half a mile long and of big rocks that had big gaps. You had to do some climbing—you could imagine you were in the mountains—and that made you feel far off and different. Only when the tide came in, the sea filled the gaps—then you had to “watch your step.”

He went way out and turned his back on the town and fished. He wasn't to finish the work on the Lillie-Bennie. They said that morning they thought they'd have to send down the Cape for an “expert.” So he would probably go to work at the new cold storage—working with a lot of Portagee laborers. He wondered why things were this way with him. They seemed to have just happened so. When you should have had some money it didn't come natural to do the things of people who have no money. The money went out of the “Bank” fishing about three years before his father sold his vessels. During those last three years Captain Silas Doane had spent all the money he had to keep things going, refusing to believe that the way of handling fish had changed and that the fishing between Cape's End and the Grand Banks would no longer be what it had been. When he sold he kept one vessel, and the next Winter she went ashore right across there on the northeast arm of the Cape. Joe Doane was aboard her that night. Myrtie was a baby then. It was of little Myrtie he thought when it seemed the vessel would pound herself to pieces before they could get off. He couldn't be lost! He had to live and work so his little girl could have everything she wanted—After that the Doanes were without a vessel—and Doanes without a vessel were fish out of sea. They had never been folks to work on another man's boat. He supposed he had never started any big new thing because it had always seemed he was just filling in between trips. A good many years had slipped by and he was still just putting in time. And it began to look as if there wasn't going to be another trip.

Suddenly he had to laugh. Some joke on Joe Cadara! He could see him going down the Front street—broad, slow, dumb. Why, Joe Cadara thought his family needed him. He thought they got along because he made those trips. But had Joe Cadara ever been able to give his wife a fireless cooker? Had the government presented a goat to the Cadaras when Joe was there? Joe Doane sat out on the breakwater and laughed at the joke on Joe Cadara. When Agnes Cadara was a little girl she would run to meet her father when he came in from a trip. Joe Doane used to like to see the dash she made. But Agnes was just tickled to death with her mourning!

He sat there a long time—sat there until he didn't know whether it was a joke or not. But he got two haddock and more whiting than he wanted to carry home. So he felt better. A man sometimes needed to get off by himself.

As he was turning in at home he saw Ignace Silva about to start out on a trip with Captain Gorspie. Silva thought he had to go. But Silva had been saved—and had his wife a fireless cooker? Suddenly Joe Doane called.

“Hey! Silva! You're the government goat!”

The way Doane laughed made Silva know this was a joke; not having a joke of his own he just turned this one around and sent it back. “Government goat yourself!”

“Shouldn't wonder,” returned Joe jovially.

He had every Doane laughing at supper that night. “Bear up! Bear up! True, you've got a father instead of a goat—but we've all got our cross! We all have our cross to bear!”

“Say!” said he after supper, “every woman, every kid, puts on a hat, and up we go to see if Ed. Smith might happen to have a soda.”

As they were starting out, he peered over at the Cadaras in mock surprise. “Why, what's the matter with that goat? That goat don't seem to be takin' the Cadaras out for a soda.”

Next day he started to make a kiddie-car for Edgar. He promised Joe he'd make him a sail-boat. But it was up-hill work. The Cape's End Summer folk gave a “Streets of Bagdad” and the “disaster families” got the proceeds. Then when the Summer folk began to go away it was quite natural to give what they didn't want to take with them to a family that had had a disaster. The Doanes had had no disaster; anyway, the Doanes weren't the kind of people you'd think of giving things to. True, Mr. Doane would sometimes come and put on your screen-doors for you, but it was as if a neighbor had come in to lend a hand. A man who lives beside the sea and works on the land is not a picturesque figure. Then, in addition to being alive, Joe Doane wasn't Portuguese. So the Cadaras got the underwear and the bats and preserves that weren't to be taken back to town. No one father—certainly not a father without a steady job—could hope to compete with all that wouldn't go into trunks.

Anyway, he couldn't possibly make a goat. No wit or no kindness which emanated from him could do for his boys what that goat did for the Cadaras. Joe Doane came to throw an awful hate on the government goat. Portagees were only Portagees—yet they had the government goat. Why, there had been Doanes on that Cape for more than a hundred years. There had been times when everybody round there worked for the Doanes, but now the closest his boys could come to the government was beddin' down the Cadaras' government goat! Twenty-five years ago Cadaras had huddled in a hut on the God-forsaken Azores! If they knew there was a United States government, all they knew was that there was one. And now it was these Cadara kids were putting on airs to him about the government. He knew there was a joke behind all this, behind his getting so wrought up about it, but he would sit and watch that goat eat leaves in the vacant lot across from the Cadaras until the goat wasn't just a goat. It was the turn things had taken. One day as he was sitting watching Tony Cadara milking his goat—wistful boys standing by—Ignace Silva, just in from a trip, called out, “Government goat yourself!” and laughed at he knew not what.

By God!—'t was true! A Doane without a vessel. A native who had let himself be crowded out by ignorant upstarts from a filthy dot in the sea! A man who hadn't got his bearings in the turn things had taken. Of a family who had built up a place for other folks to grow fat in. Sure he was the government goat. By just being alive he kept his family from all the fancy things they might have if he was dead. Could you be more of a goat than that?

Agnes Cadara and Myrtie came up the street together. He had a feeling that Myrtie was set up because she was walking along with Agnes Cadara. Time had been when Agnes Cadara had hung around in order to go with Myrtie! Suddenly he thought of how his wife had said maybe Agnes Cadara could wear Myrtie's shoes. He looked at Agnes Cadara's feet—at Myrtie's. Why, Myrtie looked like a kid from an orphan asylum walking along with the daughter of the big man of the town!

He got up and started toward town. He wouldn't stand it! He'd show 'em! He'd buy Myrtie——Why, he'd buy Myrtie——! He put his hand in his pocket. Change from a dollar. The rest of the week's pay had gone to Lou Hibbard for groceries. Well, he could hang it up at Wilkinson's. He'd buy Myrtie——!

He came to a millinery store. There was a lot of black ribbon strewn around in the window. He stood and looked at it. Then he laughed. Just the thing!

“Cheer up, Myrt,” said he, when he got back home and presented it to her. “You can mourn a little. For that matter, you've got a little to mourn about.”

Myrtie took it doubtfully—then wound it round her throat. She liked it, and this made her father laugh. He laughed a long time—it was as if he didn't want to be left without the sound of his laughing.

“There's nothing so silly as to laugh when there's nothing to laugh at,” his wife said finally.

“Oh, I don't know about that,” said Joe Doane.

“And while it's very nice to make the children presents, in our circumstances it would be better to give them useful presents.”

“But what's so useful as mourning?” demanded Doane. “Think of all Myrtie has got to mourn about. Poor, poor Myrtie—she's got a father!”

You can say a thing until you think it's so. You can say a thing until you make other people think it's so. He joked about standing between them and a fireless cooker until he could see them thinking about it. All the time he hated his old job at the cold storage. A Doane had no business to be ashore freezing fish. It was the business of a Doane to go out to sea and come home with a full vessel.

One day he broke through that old notion that Doanes didn't work on other men's boats and half in a joke proposed to Captain Cook that he fire a ginnie or two and give him a berth on the Elizabeth. And Bill Cook was rattled. Finally he laughed and said, “Why, Joe, you ought to be on your own vessel”—which was a way of saying he didn't want him on his. Why didn't he? Did they think because he hadn't made a trip for so long that he wasn't good for one? Did they think a Doane couldn't take orders? Well, there weren't many boats he would go on. Most of them in the harbor now were owned by Portuguese. He guessed it wouldn't come natural to him to take orders from a Portagee—not at sea. He was taking orders from one now at the cold storage—but as the cold storage wasn't where he belonged it didn't make so much difference who he took orders from.

At the close of that day Bill Cook told him he ought to be on his own vessel, Joe Doane sat at the top of those steps which led from his house down to the sea and his thoughts were like the sails coming round the Point—slowly, in a procession, and from a long way off. His father's boats used to come round that Point this same way. He was lonesome to-night. He felt half like an old man and half like a little boy.

Mrs. Cadara was standing over on the platform to the front of her house. She too was looking at the sails to the far side of the breakwater—sails coming home. He wondered if she was thinking about Joe Cadara—wishing he was on one of those boats. Did she ever think about Joe Cadara? Did she ever wish he would come home? He'd like to ask her. He'd like to know. When you went away and didn't come back home, was all they thought about how they'd get along? And if they were getting along all right, was it true they'd just as soon be without you?

He got up. He had a sudden crazy feeling he wanted to fight for Joe Cadara. He wanted to go over there and say to that fireless cooker woman, “Trip after trip he made, in the cold and in the storm. He kept you warm and safe here at home. It was for you he went; it was to you he came back. And you'll miss him yet. Think this is going to keep up? Think you're going to interest those rich folks as much next year as you did this? Five years from now you'll be on your knees with a brush to keep those kids warm and fed.”

He'd like to get the truth out of her! Somehow things wouldn't seem so rotten if he could know that she sometimes lay in her bed at night and cried for Joe Cadara.

It was quiet to-night; all the Cadara children and all the Doanes were out looking for the government goat. The government goat was increasing her range. She seemed to know that, being a government goat, she was protected from harm. If a government goat comes in your yard, you are a little slow to fire a tin can at her—not knowing just how treasonous this may be. Nobody in Cape's End knew the exact status of a government goat, and each one hesitated to ask for the very good reason that the person asked might know and you would then be exposed as one who knew less than some one else. So the government goat went about where she pleased, and to-night she had pleased to go far. It left the neighborhood quiet—the government goat having many guardians.

Joe Doane felt like saying something to Mrs. Cadara. Not the rough, wild thing he had wanted to say a moment before, but just say something to her. He and she were the only people around—children all away and his wife up-stairs with a headache. He felt lonesome and he thought she looked that way—standing there against the sea in light that was getting dim. She and Joe Cadara used to sit out on that bulkhead. She moved toward him, as if she were lonesome and wanted to speak. On his side of the fence, he moved a little nearer her. She said,

“My, I hope the goat's not lost!”

He said nothing.

“That goat, she's so tame,” went on Joe Cadara's wife with pride and affection, “she'll follow anybody around like a dog.”

Joe Doane got up and went in the house.

It got so he didn't talk much to anybody. He sometimes had jokes, for he'd laugh, but they were jokes he had all to himself and his laughing would come as a surprise and make others turn and stare at him. It made him seem off by himself, even when they were all sitting round the table. He laughed at things that weren't things to laugh at, as when Myrtie said, “Agnes Cadara had a letter from Mrs. MacCrea and a mourning handkerchief.” And after he'd laughed at a thing like that which nobody else saw as a thing to laugh at, he'd sit and stare out at the water. “Do be cheerful,” his wife would say. He'd laugh at that.

But one day he burst out and said things. It was a Sunday afternoon and the Cadaras were all going to the cemetery. Every Sunday afternoon they went and took flowers to the stone that said, “Lost at Sea.” Agnes would call, “Come, Tony! We dress now for the cemetery,” in a way that made the Doane children feel that they had nothing at all to do. They filed out at the gate dressed in the best the Summer folk had left them and it seemed as if there were a fair, or a circus, and all the Doanes had to stay at home.

This afternoon he didn't know they were going until he saw Myrtie at the window. He wondered what she could be looking at as if she wanted it so much. When he saw, he had to laugh.

“Why, Myrt,” said he, “you can go to the cemetery if you want to. There are lots of Doanes there. Go on and pay them a visit.

“I'm sure they'd be real glad to see you,” he went on, as she stood there doubtfully. “I doubt if anybody has visited them for a long time. You could visit your great-grandfather, Ebenezer Doane. Whales were so afraid of that man that they'd send word around from sea to sea that he was coming. And Lucy Doane is there—Ebenezer's wife. Lucy Doane was a woman who took what she wanted. Maybe the whales were afraid of Ebenezer—but Lucy wasn't. There was a dispute between her and her brother about a quilt of their mother's, and in the dead of night she went into his house and took it off him while he slept. Spunk up! Be like the old Doanes! Go to the cemetery and wander around from grave to grave while the Cadaras are standin' by their one stone! My father—he'd be glad to see you. Why, if he was alive now—if Captain Silas Doane was here, he'd let the Cadaras know whether they could walk on the sidewalk or whether they were to go in the street!”

Myrtie was interested, but after a moment she turned away. “You only go for near relatives,” she sighed.

He stood staring at the place where she had been. He laughed; stopped the laugh; stood there staring. “You only go for near relatives.” Slowly he turned and walked out of the house. The government goat, left home alone, came up to him as if she thought she'd take a walk too.

“Go to hell!” said Joe Doane, and his voice showed that inside he was crying.

Head down, he walked along the beach as far as the breakwater. He started out on it, not thinking of what he was doing. So the only thing he could do for Myrtie was give her a reason for going to the cemetery. She wanted him in the cemetery—so she'd have some place to go on Sunday afternoons! She could wear black then—all black, not just a ribbon round her neck. Suddenly he stood still. Would she have any black to wear? He had thought of a joke before which all other jokes he had ever thought of were small and sick. Suppose he were to take himself out of the way and then they didn't get the things they thought they'd have in place of him? He walked on fast—fast and crafty, picking his way among the smaller stones in between the giant stones in a fast, sure way he never could have picked it had he been thinking of where he went. He went along like a cat who is going to get a mouse. And in him grew this giant joke. Who'd give them the fireless cooker? Would it come into anybody's head to give young Joe Doane a sail-boat just because his father was dead? They'd rather have a goat than a father. But suppose they were to lose the father and get no goat? Myrtie'd be a mourner without any mourning. She'd be ashamed to go to the cemetery.

He laughed so that he found himself down, sitting down on one of the smaller rocks between the giant rocks, on the side away from town, looking out to sea.

He forgot his joke and knew that he wanted to return to the sea. Doanes belonged at sea. Ashore things struck you funny—then, after they'd once got to you, hurt. He thought about how he used to come round this Point when Myrtie was a baby. As he passed this very spot and saw the town lying there in the sun he'd think about her, and how he'd see her now, and how she'd kick and crow. But now Myrtie wanted to go and visit him—in the cemetery. Oh, it was a joke all right. But he guessed he was tired of jokes. Except the one great joke—joke that seemed to slap the whole of life right smack in the face.

The tide was coming in. In—Out—Doanes and Doanes. In—Out—Him too. In—Out—He was getting wet. He'd have to move up higher. But— why move? Perhaps this was as near as he could come to getting back to sea. Caught in the breakwater. That was about it—wasn't it? Rocks were queer things. You could wedge yourself in where you couldn't get yourself out. He hardly had to move. If he'd picked a place he couldn't have picked a better one. Wedge himself in—tide almost in now—too hard to get out—pounded to pieces, like the last vessel Doanes had owned. Near as he could come to getting back to sea. Near as he deserved to come—him freezing fish with ginnies. And there'd be no fireless cooker!

He twisted his shoulders to wedge in where it wouldn't be easy to wedge out. Face turned up, he saw something move on the great flat rock above the jagged rocks. He pulled himself up a little; he rose; he swung up to the big rock above him. On one flat-topped boulder stood Joe Doane. On the other flat-topped boulder stood the government goat.

“Go to hell!” said Joe Doane, and he was sobbing. “Go to hell!”

The government goat nodded her head a little in a way that wagged her beard and shook her bag.

“Go home! Drown yourself! Let me be! Go 'way!” It was fast, and choked, and he was shaking.

The goat would do none of these things. He sat down, his back to the government goat, and tried to forget that she was there. But there are moments when a goat is not easy to forget. He was willing there should be some joke to his death—like caught in the breakwater, but he wasn't going to die before a goat. After all, he'd amounted to a little more than that. He'd look around to see if perhaps she had started home. But she was always standing right there looking at him.

Finally he jumped up in a fury. “What'd you come for? What do you want of me? How do you expect to get home?” Between each question he'd wait for an answer. None came.

He picked up a small rock and threw it at the government goat. She jumped, slipped, and would have fallen from the boulder if he hadn't caught at her hind legs. Having saved her, he yelled: “You needn't expect me to save you. Don't expect anything from me!”

He'd have new gusts of fury at her. “What you out here for? Think you was a mountain goat? Don't you know the tide's comin' in? Think you can get back easy as you got out?”

He kicked at her hind legs to make her move on. She stood and looked at the water which covered the in-between rocks on which she had picked her way out. “Course,” said Joe Doane. “Tide's in—you fool! You damned goat!” With the strength of a man who is full of fury he picked her up and threw her to the next boulder. “Hope you kill yourself!” was his heartening word.

But the government goat did not kill herself. She only looked around for further help.

To get away from her, he had to get her ashore. He guided and lifted, planted fore legs and shoved at hind legs, all the time telling her he hoped she'd kill herself. Once he stood still and looked all around and thought. After that he gave the government goat a shove that sent her in water above her knees. Then he had to get in too and help her to a higher rock.

It was after he had thus saved the government goat from the sea out of which the government goat had cheated him that he looked ahead to see there were watchers on the shore. Cadaras had returned from the cemetery. Cadaras and Doanes were watching him bring home the government goat.

From time to time he'd look up at them. There seemed to be no little agitation among this group. They'd hold on to each other and jump up and down like watchers whose men are being brought in from a wreck. There was one place where again he had to lift the government goat. After this he heard shouts and looked ashore to see his boys dancing up and down like little Indians.

Finally they had made it. The watchers on the shore came running out to meet them.

“Oh, Mr. Doane!” cried Mrs. Cadara, hands out-stretched, “I am thankful to you! You saved my goat! I have no man myself to save my goat. I have no man. I have no man!”

Mrs. Cadara covered her face with her hands, swayed back and forth, and sobbed because her man was dead.

Young Cadaras gathered around her. They seemed of a sudden to know they had no father, and to realize that this was a thing to be deplored. Agnes even wet her mourning handkerchief.

Myrtie came up and took his arm. “Oh, Father,” said she, “I was so 'fraid you'd hurt yourself!”

He looked down into his little girl's face. He realized that just a little while before he had expected never to look into her face again. He looked at the government goat, standing a little apart, benevolently regarding this humankind. Suddenly Joe Doane began to laugh. He laughed—laughed—and laughed. And it was a laugh.

“When I saw you lift that goat!” said his wife, in the voice of a woman who may not have a fireless cooker, but—!

Young Joe Doane, too long brow-beaten not to hold the moment of his advantage, began dancing round Tony Cadara with the taunting yell, “You ain't got no pa to save your goat!” And Edgar lispingly chimed in, “Ain't got no pa to save your goat!”

“Here!” cried their father, “Stop devilin' them kids about what they can't help. Come! Hats on! Every Doane, every Cadara, goes up to see if Ed. Smith might happen to have a soda.”

But young Joe had suffered too long to be quickly silent. “You ain't got no pa to get you soda!” persisted he.

“Joe!” commanded his father, “stop pesterin' them kids or I'll lick you!”

And Joe, drunk with the joy of having what the Cadaras had not, shrieked, “You ain't got no pa to lick you! You ain't got no pa to lick you!”

THE STONE[12]

[Note 12: Copyright, 1919, by The Pictorial Review Company. Copyright, 1920, by Henry Goodman.]

BY HENRY GOODMAN

From The Pictorial Review

“Martha Sloan is goin' the way o' Jim,” said Deems Lennon to his wife. “See,” and he pointed through the open window toward the cemetery. “I seen her before Jim's stone, beggin' on her knees an' mumblin' with her hands stretched out. She been that way a number o' times when I come upon her as I was fixin' up the graves.”

Mrs. Lennon, a stout, pleasant-faced woman, looked in the direction indicated by her husband. Together they watched Martha Sloan, white-haired, thin, and bent, making her way up the cemetery path. She was nervous and her walk was broken by little, sudden pauses in which she looked about.

“Poor soul,” said Mrs. Lennon, “she's afraid. She ain't been herself sence Dorothy died. Losin' the two children right after Jim has broken her up completely.”

“She's afraid for herself,” said her husband. “If you heard her up there by that stone you'd have thought she was speakin' to some one alive, to some one who could do her things.”

“Oh well, that's enough to make any one queer,” Mrs. Lennon said. Then she stopped, and watched the figure on the hillside.

“Look,” said Mrs. Lennon, “look at her. She's down on her knees.”

Deems stood by her near the window.

“That's it,” he exclaimed. “That's exactly what she's been doing now for some time. I heard her speak. I don't know where she got the idea. She thinks Jim's following her—reaching out for her—trying to grasp her. I heard her plead. I don't know what'll come of it.”

They were both startled when, as suddenly as Martha Sloan had knelt, she rose from her place before the gravestone and, moving in nervous haste, ran down the pathway.

“Deems, we must go to her,” said Mrs. Lennon. “Maybe we can do something for her.” And as they both hurried into the kitchen and out of the house, Martha Sloan, panting and white-faced with fright, rushed to the house.

“Deems,” she gasped. “Deems, it's Jim. He's reaching out. He's reaching out to seize me.”

“Martha, calm yourself,” said Deems, taking Martha Sloan's shaking hand in his. “That ain't right. You're sensible. You mustn't think so much of it. You must keep your mind away.”

“That's right, Martha,” Mrs. Lennon said, as she helped Martha Sloan into the house. “You mustn't keep thinking of Jim, and keep going up there all the time. There's many things waiting for you at home, and when you're through there why don't you come over to us?”

But Martha Sloan, either not hearing or not heeding the words of Deems and his wife, sat huddled, nervously whispering, more to herself than to her friends. “It's Jim. It's his hand reaching out to me. He took Dorothy. He took Joseph, and he's reaching out now to me. He can't stand having me living.”

She was nervous and in the power of a fear that was stronger than her will. She sat uneasily looking about her as if knowing that she was safe in the house of friends, but as if feeling herself momentarily in the presence of something strange and frightful. She cast frightened looks about her, at the room, at Mrs. Lennon, and at Deems. She looked at them in silence as if she did not know how to speak to them until, prompted by great uneasiness, she spoke in a loud whisper, “Take me home. Take me home, Deems. I want to get away.”

Deems slipped into his coat, said to his wife, “I'll be back soon,” then, helping Martha from the chair, walked out with her.

“Come now, Martha, you know us well enough. We're your friends, aren't we? And we tell you there's nothing to fear. It's all your believing. There's nothing after you. There's nothing you need fear.”

“You don't know. It was he took my two children. He took Dorothy. When they laid her out in the parlor, I could just see him standing at her head. He was cruel when he lived. He beat them; Dorothy and Joseph, they hated him. And when they laid out Joseph after his fall, when the bridge gave way, Jim was standing by his head, and his eyes were laughing at me like he'd say, 'I took him, but now there's you.' And he's trying for me now.”

Deems was pleased that she was speaking. He hoped that in conversing she would find respite from her thoughts.

“No, Martha,” he said, “that wasn't Jim took Dorothy and Joseph. You know there's a God that gives and takes. Their years were run. Can't you see, Martha?”

“It was Jim who took. He couldn't see them living. When he lived he couldn't see them growing up to be themselves. He took them like he took me from you. D' you remember, Deems, how he came and in no time I was his? He owned me completely.”

Deems was silent. There was no arguing. Even now there was vividly alive in his mind, and, he knew, in the minds of the other villagers, the recollection of that sense of possession which went with Jim Sloan. He recalled that William Carrol had hanged himself when he could not pay Jim Sloan the debt he owed him. It was true that Jim Sloan had owned his children as if they were pieces of property. The whole village had learned to know this fact soon after these children had grown up. Deems, recalling his feelings for Martha Sloan, remembered now the amazement, the astonishment, with which he had viewed the change that came over Martha immediately after her marriage to Jim Sloan.

She had been light-hearted and joyful as if overflowing with the vitality natural to the country about the village. There had been gladness in her laugh. Immediately after her marriage all this had changed.

Martha had been wont to run lightly about her father's house. Her movements had become suddenly freighted with a seriousness that was not natural to her. Her laughter quieted to a restrained smile which in turn gave way to a uniform seriousness. The whole village noted and remarked the change. “He is older than she,” they said, “and is making her see things as he does.”

When they reached the house, Martha, without a word, left Deems and hurried in. Deems turned away, looking back and shaking his head, the while he mumbled to himself, “There's no good in this. There's no good for Martha.”

He was struck motionless when suddenly he beheld Martha by the window. He had thought her slightly composed when she had left him, for her manner was more quiet than it had been. Now he was startled. Out of the window she leaned, her eyes fastened on the distant gravestone—white, large, and dominating—a shaft that rose upright like a gigantic spear on the crest of the hill. He watched her face and head and saw that her movements were frightened. As she moved her head—it seemed she was following something with her eyes which, look as closely as he could, he failed to make out—there was a jerkiness of movement that showed her alert and startled.

From the musty, dark parlor Martha looked out on the cemetery. There, clear in the evening light, stood the large white stone—a terrible symbol that held her. To her nervous mind, alive with the creations of her fear, it seemed she could read the lines,

JAMES SLOAN BORN SEPT. 14, 1857 DIED NOV. 12, 1915

and below it, stamped clearly and illumined by her fright,

HIS FAITHFUL WIFE MARTHA SLOAN BORN AUG. 9, 1871. DIED——

At the thought of the word “Died,” followed by the dash, she recoiled. The dash reaching out to her—reaching to her—swept into her mind all the graspingness of James which had squeezed the sweetness out of life—all the hardness which had marked his possession of her. Was it her mind, prodded by terror, that visualized it? There, seeming to advance from the hill, from the cemetery, from the very gravestone which was beginning to blot and blurr in her vision, she saw a hand—his hand! It was coming—coming to her, to crush what of life was left in her.

Even in her own mind, it was a miracle that she had survived Jim's tenacity. When Jim had died, she began suddenly to recover her former manner of life. She began to win back to herself. It was as if, the siege of Winter having lifted, the breath and warmth of Spring might now again prevail.

Then had come the horrors of uncontrollable dreams followed by the death by fire of Dorothy. That had shaken her completely.

She recalled their rescuing Dorothy, how they had dragged her out of the fire, her clothes all burned off. They had sought to nurse her back to health, and in the week before her daughter died she had learned something of what had happened the night of the fire. In her sleep Dorothy had heard herself called and she thought it was her father's voice. She had arisen when she seemed to see beside her her father as he had looked in life.

She had followed him to the barn and suddenly he had told her that he had come back to take her with him as he had promised to before his death. In her struggle to escape him she had flung the lantern. In the parlor they had laid out Dorothy—a blackened, burnt frame.

All her care and love and solicitude she concentrated on Joseph. She thought that perhaps by an intenser, all embracing love for Joseph she would be enabled to defeat the spell that she felt hanging over her life. Then, when it seemed that life would begin anew to take on a definite meaning—Joseph, grown up, was giving purpose to it—she remembered that some one had knocked timidly on the door and had announced in a frightened voice: “Mrs. Sloan! There's been a terrible accident, the bridge fell——?” She remembered that she had screamed, “My Joseph! My boy!” and then had found herself in the parlor, the body laid out on the couch.

She remembered suddenly that the parlor had seemed to contain the presence of Jim. She had looked up to see dimly what seemed the figure and face of her dead husband. In the eyes that seemed to be laughing she read the threat, “I took him, but now there's you.”

As these recollections flooded and flowed through her mind, a frightened nervousness seized upon Martha, standing by the window. Somehow she was being held by a fear to move. Something seemed to have robbed her of the strength and resolution to turn from the window.

There came to her the impression that there was some one in the room with her. The feeling grew subtly upon her and added to her fear of turning around. So she kept her eyes looking out of the window up at where the shaft of the gravestone stood. But, more clearly now than before, she sensed something that seemed to reach out from the gravestone and carry to her, and at the same time there grew the feeling that the presence in the room was approaching her.

She was held in fright. All her nervous impulses impelled her to flight. Like a whip that was descending over her head, came the mirage from the gravestone until, in a mad, wild attempt to evade it, she flung about in the room as if to dash across and away from the window. Suddenly she was halted in her passage by the presence of Jim. The dim parlor was somehow filled with a sense of his being there, and in the dusk near the mantelpiece and at the head of the couch, there stood in shadowy outline her husband, come back.

“Jim!” she uttered, in a frightened gasp, and threw her hands outward to protect herself from his purpose. But she saw clearly the shadowy face and eyes that said unmistakably, “I have come for you.”

She was terror-bound. There was no advance, for moving forward meant coming closer to that presence, meant walking into his very grasp.

She was about to speak, to plead for herself, to beg, “Jim, leave me.”

In her terror and dread of his approach, she turned hastily to the window and leaped down. Wildly she scrambled up, bruised and shaken, and screaming hoarsely, while in unthinking terror she moved her hands, as if beating off unwelcome hands, she ran pantingly up the road which led to Deems's house.

The silence and the air of happy quietness that filled the house of her friends seemed to lay a spell upon Martha. Caring for her as if she were of the household, Deems and his wife were gratified by the change that apparently was coming over their charge.

In their room, after Martha had bid them good night, Deems questioned his wife.

“And how is Martha behavin', now?”

“You couldn't tell she's the same woman. Remember how she was when we found her at the door that night—all mumbling and frightened so she couldn't talk? Well, now she's calm and happy like. What she needed was being with some one.”

The quietness of her surroundings had had its effect on Martha. They showed in the calm self-possession with which she walked about, persisting in her efforts to help Mrs. Lennon in her household work. The atmosphere of bustling activity—Deems's coming and going from the village, from the cemetery, whither he went with his trowel and spade to keep in repairs the many graves and plots on the hillside—all this seemed to have drawn on some reservoir of unsuspected vitality and composure within Martha.

These were the visible effects. In fact, however, there had grown in Martha's mind a plan—a desire to cut herself forever free of Jim's sinister possession—and this plan she fed from a reservoir of nervous power that was fear and terror converted into cunning and despair. She went about the house not as if relieved of fear of Jim, but cautiously, as if somewhere in back of her mind was a way out, a way out, to win which required care and watchfulness.

In this spirit she observed Deems's movements about the house until she learned where he left his lantern and the box where he put away his trowel and mallet and chisel. Now that the plan was clear in her own mind, there was nothing to do but carry it out. She would cut the dreadful tie that held her to Jim—the tie, the potency of which gave to the dead man the power of holding her so completely. Reckoning thus, she became wary of her companions as if fearing that they might in some way interfere with her plans if they got wind of them. She knew that her every move was watched, for she found that Mrs. Lennon had constituted herself her guardian. Since her coming to the house, she had never left its shelter, finding at first that companionship and reassurance which gave her courage and resolution against Jim and the power to survive the terror of thought of him, and finding finally that, with the formation of her plan, she would have to conceal it from Deems and his wife. She came to this conclusion in this wise.

One day, in the kitchen she came upon a newly sharpened cleaver, its edge invisibly thin and its broad, flat side gleaming in the sun. Mrs. Lennon was by the window and from without came the sounds of Deems chopping wood.

Her mind was filled with a sudden clearness of thought and, swinging the cleaver in the air, she said to Mrs. Lennon:

“You know—here's how I can break away from Jim. When he reaches out—reaches out for me, I can just cut off his hand.”

Mrs. Lennon stood motionless, startled by the unexpected words. She had thought Martha's mind free of all fears of Jim. She was brought up sharply by this sudden speech and gesture. “Deems,” she called, “Deems, come here.”

Deems had taken the cleaver hastily from Martha's hands, and that night told his wife that Martha would have to be watched closely. He feared that Martha was becoming deranged.

Martha had discovered that she was watched when one night she left her room. She heard the door open and instantly she felt the hands of Mrs. Lennon on her arm and heard a gentle, persuasive voice asking her to return to bed.

It was the next day, in the dusk of a turn in the hallway, that Martha once more felt the presence of Jim. If her life in the peaceful household of her friends had brought an outward calm, a mantle of repose and quiet, this was instantly torn up by the vision that formed before her eyes in the half dim hallway. Instantly she was the old Martha, held in the grasp of terror. Her face was drawn in tense, white lines, her lips were deformed, and with trembling gaunt hands she thrust back the apparition. Her screams, “Jim, let me be, let me be,” brought Mrs. Lennon running and called Deems from his work in the wood-shed.

They found her in a faint on the floor. They carried her to her room and put her to bed, Mrs. Lennon speaking to her, soothing and trying to bring her back to her former calm.

There followed a few days of rain which seemed in some way to make Martha less uneasy and restless. Deems and his wife, seeing her silent and apparently resting, felt that slowly the terror she had been suffering was being washed out. Martha's attitude encouraged this feeling. She rested in silence, attentive to the dropping of the rain and learning once more to wear her old-time composure.

When Deems returned toward nightfall one day, it was with the news that the incessant rains had done serious damage in the cemetery. Dripping from the drenching he had received in his tour of inspection, his boots muddy, and his hands dirty from holding to the precarious bushes, he shook with cold as he reported on what he had found. In his narrative he had quite forgotten the presence of Martha who sat by, silent and waxen-faced.

“And you ought to see,” he said, turning to his wife, “how the rain has run down those graves. You know, it's loosened Jim Sloan's stone so, I'm afraid it'll fall against the first heavy blow.”

Martha's exclamation “Oh!” recalled to him her presence. He stopped talking for a while, then hoping to blot out the effects of his statement he began a lively story of the number of trees that had fallen across the road, and how he had been told that over at Rampaco the post-office had been struck by lightning.

He did not know it, but Martha was deaf to his reports. She had her own thoughts. She felt herself curiously strong of will, and there raced in her blood the high determination to act that very night. Not for nothing had she spent the rain drenched days in terrified silence in her room. All of her energies that were still capable of being mustered to her resolve, she had converted in the crucible of her will, and huddled in terror, she had forged the determination to go out when the time came and to cut herself free of the fiendish power that was searing her mind and slowly crushing her. She remembered that in her faint, when she lay limp and inert, a thing of dread, she had felt herself crumple up at the touch of Jim—Jim reaching out to her. Now she would cut herself free of him at the very source of his power over her. She would go that very night.

She cast a glance toward the closet where Deems kept his trowel and chisel. She would have need of them, she knew. She said “Good night” rather more loudly and vehemently than she had intended, for she was feeling nervous.

She was awakened by a feeling of cold. As she sat up she saw that the door was open. What was it drew her eyes through the hallway and out into the open and brought her up suddenly? There came upon her an eeriness that startled and chilled her, and suddenly, as if it were coming at her through the open door, fingers out-thrust, there appeared the hand.

She was out of bed on the instant. Somehow in her throat she repressed the upstartled cry, “Jim,” by an effort that strained all her nerves and made her face bloodless white. She could not, however, repress completely the instinctive movement of her hands to ward off the menacing hand. Suddenly a panic seized her and in terrified haste she moved to the closet and, feeling a moment, took what she knew was Deems's chisel.

Do what she could, she could not stem the flow of panic, and suddenly as she began to pant and breathe heavily with the strain of terror, she began also to gasp her pleadings to Jim.

“Don't, Jim. Don't take me,” and, as if not at all of her own volition, but at that of a guiding power, she moved out of the house, ghastly in the night, mumbling and shivering.

She was still atremble—she was now chilled by the dampness of ground and air—when she stood by Jim Sloan's gravestone. White it gleamed against the sky, and now Martha's trembling and murmuring turned into a furious industry as she raised the chisel to the stone.

“Jim—you'll let me be, won't you? You'll let me be? I want 'a live yet.” She began a frenzied hacking at the gravestone, seeing nothing but the play of her chisel, and the white, fearful stone towering over her, hearing nothing but the rasp of the chisel—not even hearing the rattle of the loosened gravel as it slid from under the stone.

Deems Lennon and his wife were awakened by a heavy crash. “What can it be?” he asked his wife, and then left the bed and ran up to Martha's room. She was gone. Instantly they were both fully awake.

“It's Jim's grave she's gone to,” ventured Deems. “Remember the way she said 'Oh!' that time I told how the rain loosened the stone? Come on, we'll go see.”

In the dark when they were near the spot where the stone used to stand, they heard a moaning. They approached and found Martha caught under the stone, her body crushed, her dying breath coming slowly and heavily, carrying her words, “Let me go! Jim, let me go!”

TO THE BITTER END[13]

[Note 13: Copyright, 1919, by The Curtis Publishing Company. Copyright, 1920, by Richard Matthews Hallet.]

BY RICHARD MATTHEWS HALLET

From The Saturday Evening Post

The feud between Hat Tyler and Mrs. Elmer Higgins sprang out of a chance laugh of Elmer's when he was making his first trip as cadet. Hat Tyler was a sea captain, and of a formidable type. She was master of the Susie P. Oliver, and her husband, Tyler, was mate. They were bound for New York with a load of paving stones when they collided with the coasting steamer Alfred de Vigny, in which Elmer was serving his apprenticeship as a cadet officer.

The old cadet had just come up on the bridge from taking a sounding—he even had a specimen of the bottom in his hand, he said later, sand with black specks and broken shell—when something queer attracted his attention half a point on the starboard bow. It was a thick foggy night, ships bellowing all round, and a weird-looking tow coming up astern with a string of lights one over another like a lot of Chinese lanterns. It was probably these lights that had drawn the mate's attention away from the ship's bows.

At all events he was standing with a megaphone to his ear hearkening for noises on the port hand when Elmer took him by the elbow and called out: “What in the name of Sam Hill would you call that great contraption mouching across our bows? My sorrows, Fred, it's a schooner!”

The mate went cold along his spine, and the vertebræ distributed there jostled together like knucklebones on the back of a girl's hand, and he yelled “Port helm!”

“I told Fred,” Elmer said in discussing this circumstance later with his cronies of the Tall Stove Club—he had got back safe and sound to Winter Harbor by that time—“I says to him, 'Fred, we're going to bump into that ship jest as sure as taxes!' There he stood, swearing a blue streak. I never knew a man to be so downright profane over the little things of life as he was. And I was right when it come to that too. There was that long Spanish ghost of a schooner dead in our path, with her port light shining out there as red as an apple. They wanted me to say later—I know the skipper come to me personally and says, 'Elmer, now you know you didn't see no light.' 'Captain Tin,' I says to him, 'I have got the greatest respect for you as a man, and I would favor you in all ways possible if 'twas so 'st I could; but if I was to testify the way you want me to I would go against conscience. I wouldn't feel that I could go on paying my pew tax. These people here want to know the truth and I am going to give it to them.' Yes, sir, I saw the light as plain as plain, and I pointed it out to Fred, but the devil and Tom Walker couldn't have prevented them ships from walking right up and into each other, situated as they was then.

“My conscience, warn't there works when those two come together! 'Fred,' I says—I was down on my knees; throwed there, you understand—'we're hit!' 'Tell me something I don't know, will you?' he says. He always was comical, jest as comical as he could be. 'Get down there and look at her snout,' he said to me. 'Find out which of us is going to sink.' That was Fred all over—one of these fellows, all bluster, where it's a bucket of wind against a thimbleful of go-ahead.”

“I know him,” interposed another member of the Tall Stove Club. “I knew the whole family. He never amounted to nothing till he got to going to sea.”

“Well, I down off the bridge,” went on Elmer, “and I up on the fo'c'stle head, and there I see the schooner leaning over sort of faintish, jest the way a man will when he's sick to his stomach, and I says to myself, 'That ship's going the way of the wicked.' I sung out to Fred to keep the Alfred going slow ahead, so as to give the crew a chance to come aboard, and it warn't no time before they was swarming up into our chains like so many ants out of a hill that has been knocked galley-west. I see we was all wrinkled up forward ourselves—the Alfred was a tin ship—and it warn't to be wondered at when you come to consider that the Susie Oliver was jest as full as she could hold of paving stones.

“And the next thing I knew there was Jed Tyler, right out of the blue sky, standing side of me in his shirt sleeves, and looking down, mournful enough. 'Where's Hat?' I sung out to him. 'Drowned,' he says. 'Drowned, am I?' Hat sung out. 'I guess that's just another case of the thought being father to the wish, that's what I guess!'

“So I leaned down, and my stars, there was Hat Tyler! She'd come up jest as she was—there she was sitting on the fluke of the starboard anchor. And warn't she immense! I down over the ship's side with a rope, and s' I, 'Heave and away, my girl!' and I got a grip of her, and away she come over the rail, mad as a wet hen, and jest as wet, too, with her hair stringing down, and her dander up, if ever I see a woman with her dander up.”

“I hear she leads Tyler a life,” said a member.

“Well, I laughed; I couldn't help it,” continued Elmer, moving his ears at the recollection of it.

“'Hat,' I says, 'you never was caught out this way before in all your born days,' I says. She was fit to be tied. 'Laugh!' she says. 'You great booby!' 'Hat,' I says, 'I shall give up, I know I shall.' 'It's jest your ignorance,' she says. 'I know it,' I says, 'but I couldn't help it no more than if you had slid a knife into me.' And I out with another. 'Come down into my cabin,' I says, 'and I will give you a little something in a glass.' And down she come, past all them sailors, in the face and eyes of everybody.”

“She didn't lose nothing by what I hear,” said Zinie Shadd. “They tell me the underwriters had just as good as told her that they wouldn't let the schooner go to sea again.”

And now by your leave a word from Hat herself. There are two sides to every story. She told her tale just across the street from the ship chandler's, where the Tall Stove Club held its meetings. In Mrs. Kidder's bake-shop were gathered the henchmen of Hat Tyler.

“Well, I never see your equal for falling on your feet,” Lena Kidder said admiringly. “If I've told my husband once I've told him twenty times I'd rather have Hat Tyler's luck than a license to steal.”

“Everybody has got a right to their own opinion on that point,” said Hat Tyler heavily, sinking her jaws toward the mug of milk which Mrs. Kidder had set before her.

Hat Tyler was certainly a handful. Her shoulders were wide, as she often said herself, her cheeks were brick-red, her voice was as deep as the fattest gold pipe on the church organ, and the palm of her hand rasped when she took hold of a body. There wasn't a hornier-handed woman in the county. She wore tarred rope round her girth for a belt, knotted at the ends with star knots. She was what Margaret Fuller had in mind when she said to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Let them be sea captains if they will.”

“Where was you when she hit, Hat?” asked Mrs. Kidder.

“Asleep,” said Mrs. Tyler. “I come up out of my bunk all standing, and went out on deck just as I was. And lo and behold, I had just time to get a grip on that anchor when the Oliver give a lurch and over she went. She didn't shilly-shally, I can tell you, with that load of paving stones in her belly. Let me have another quart of milk, Lena. Talking's thirsty business. Well, I thought I'd get my never-get-over, waiting for those men to get a rig ready for me. And then who should I see but that fool Elmer Higgins looking down at me. 'Hang on, Hat,' he said, 'while I think what to do,' 'Think what to do!' I says. 'If you're any part of a man you'll fling me a rope.' 'Jest half a second,' he says. 'Rome wasn't built in a day.' 'It was burned up in a night, though,' I says quick as a flash, and I guess that floored him. 'Can't you lift me up, man?' 'Much as ever I can,' he says. 'And you call yourself an able seaman,' I said to him. 'I would sell out if I was you.'”

“He's going round with a different version, Hat,” said Lena Kidder. “Didn't he laugh as he says he did?”

“Laugh? I would like to see the man that would laugh,” said Hat in her great hardy voice. Her fist closed round the mug of milk. “I'll have him laughing on the wrong side of his face.”

“He says he give a bellow fit to wake the dead.”

“That man? He stood there like a brazen image, and I had to say to him: 'Are you going to let me stand here in this perishing cold without so much as lifting a hand? Just you stir your stumps and hotfoot a slug of square-faced gin into me if you know what's for your own best good.'

“That man? Why, I taught him all he knows. I was sailing my own ships when he was a deckhand.”

The truth was—and Pearl Higgins, his wife, could never quite forget it or forgive it—Elmer had once shipped before the mast on Hat Tyler's ships; and Hat was not likely to forget it either. Rumor had it that Hat and Elmer had been as thick as thieves at one time, and that it was You-tickle-me-and-I'll-kiss-you between them then. But if such was the case they had later had a falling out, and Elmer had gone one way and Hat another.

“As a matter of fact I was more glad than sorry at what took place,” Hat now continued. “That cargo of paving stones up and shifted and started her in a new place. She was leaking like a sieve. That little rat of an underwriter said to me: 'If I were you, as soon as I got out of sight of land I would turn round and kick the stern off her with a tap of my foot.' 'Maybe I will, for all you know,' I said. I'd like to see them bamboozle me!”

“Trust you, Hat!” said Lena Kidder in a voice of admiration.

“And so Elmer Higgins has the cast-iron nerve to say that he laughed at me to my face, does he?” continued Mrs. Tyler. “Well, he lies when he says it.”

So the lie was passed, and hostilities began; for before night word came to Pearl Higgins that Hat Tyler was back in town running down her husband for his part in the rescue. Elmer's wife, a dark thin-featured woman, had felt all along that Elmer had never been able to shake off vestiges of that time when he and Hat had been so kind of hand-in-glove; and she had privately determined to put the woman at a safe distance once and for all.

“The long and short of it is,” she said grimly when Elmer had come home and spread his navigation books on the kitchen table “she's round town calling you a liar; and now I suppose you'll be just meek enough to put up with it.”

Elmer took off his spectacles and rubbed his brow thoughtfully.

“I shouldn't wonder if it was a case of necessity, mamma,” he said musingly. “If I know one thing better than another it is that I would want to go in training for a spell before crossing that woman. I know when I was before the mast with her—”

Pearl Higgins burst into tears promptly. “I think you might spare me an account of that,” she sobbed. “I'm sure I don't want to hear about your goings-on with anyone so ignorant as Hat Tyler. Yes, she is; she's ignorant, and comes of ignorant people. What does she amount to, I'd like to know? There's nothing to her at all. And now,” she blazed forth in fierier tones, “you're half in sympathy with the woman this blessed minute! I suppose you think just because you rescued her from a watery grave you're in duty bound to side in with her and take her part against your own wife. I don't know how it is, but everything seems to fall out in that woman's favor.”

“Well, ain't it so!” said Elmer, not as a question but as if the full force of the proposition had just struck him. “Now you mention it, I don't know that I ever knew Hat Tyler to come off second best in a transaction. I was talking to a party only the other day, and he said the same thing himself. He says, 'Hat's a smart woman, Elmer.'”

“Why didn't you have her then, when you might have had her?”

“Always said I wouldn't marry a woman that had the heft of me,” said Elmer sagely with a fond twinkle at his Pearl. “I know that night when I saw her arm on the fluke of that anchor I said to myself, 'I done just right to steer clear of you, my lady.' There 't was, bare to the shoulder, freckled all the way up, and jest that pretty size!”

“It's as big as a stovepipe!” shrieked Pearl.

“'T was smooth as a smelt,” Elmer averred dreamily, “and jest of a bigness to work, and work well, in a pinch. A woman like that would be some protection to a man, Pearl. I wish you could have seen how she clim up into those anchor chains. But I said to myself, 'That woman has got too much iron in her blood to go with my constitution!'

“But she's smart; Hat is smart. All is, a man never knows how to take her. But she's smart as a steel trap.”

“Well, I wish she'd shut it then,” said Pearl Higgins grimly.

Silence reigned; and in that silence could be heard the steeple clock ticking on the mantel and the sound of waves lapping under the house. They were living in Pearl's father's house. Pearl's father had been a seaman and wharf owner, and in his declining years had established a sea grill on one of his wharves, and lived up over it. To get to the Higgins home you ascended an outside staircase.

The subject of Hat Tyler had a fatal fascination for Pearl Higgins.

“Do you know what I heard downtown this morning?” she resumed. “They say Jim Rackby's going to make her skipper of the new schooner. After she's just lost one by not keeping her eyes open too! The luck of some women! I don't pretend to know how she does it. A great coarse thing like her——”

“Still there's a different kind of a send-off to her, I was going to say,” said Elmer. “Hat's a seaman, I'll say that for her.”

“I guess there ain't much you won't say for her,” Pearl retorted.

“Then again, when the Alfred run her down she had the right of way.”

“I guess her weight give her that,” countered his wife.

Elmer got up and stared across the harbor at the new schooner which Hat was to command. The Minnie Williams sat on the ways resplendent, her masts of yellow Oregon pine tapering into a blue sky. A mellow clack of calking hammers rang across the water.

“Those ways are pitched pretty steep, it seems to me,” he said. “When she goes she'll go with a flourish.”

Among those who swore by Elmer for a man of wisdom was Jim Rackby, the owner of the schooner. Next day the two men met in her shadow. The ship had just been pumped full of water, and now the calking gang were going round staring up with open mouths to see where the water came out. Taking advantage of their absorption Jim Rackby asked Elmer in low tones whether he considered Hat Tyler a fit person to be intrusted with a ship.

“I don't know a better,” Elmer answered in the same low tone.

“How about her losing this last ship?”

“I wouldn't say this to my wife, it would only aggravate her,” said Elmer, grinding up a piece off his plug, “but the loss of that ship is only another example of what that woman can do in the way of pure calculation when she sets out to. There she had that good-for-nothing schooner on her hands. Why, she had to come in here on these very flats and squat and squirt mud up into her seams, trip after trip, as I've seen with my own eyes, to keep the cargo from falling out as much as anything, let alone water coming in; and as soon as the mud had washed out it was all hands on the pumps, boys, for dear life.

“Well, as I say, she took that ship out there in a fog, like a cat in a bag you might say, and filled up with paving stones to boot, and she planted her right there where the Alfred could come slap up against her and give the owners a chance to say 'Good morning' to the underwriters. And she owner of a good fourth at the time. Why, she's got dollars laid away now where you and I have got buttons. And, mind you, the underwriters had as good as told her that that would be her last trip. The insurance was going to fall in as soon as she made port. Now ain't that what you would call a smart woman, laying all joking aside? But I wouldn't want my wife to hear this, Jim. There's a little jealousy mixed in there, between you and me and the bedpost.”

“Well,” said Rackby, satisfied, “I had always understood that she was one of these kind that if they was let out they would always find their way home somehow.”

“Yes, sir!” said Elmer heartily. “Why, I was over here the day they was stepping the mainmast, and Hat was going to slip a five-dollar gold piece under the mast for luck, the way the last man did, but she thought better of it. I see her change her mind at the last minute and reach in and take out a bright penny and creep that under quick, thinking the Lord would never notice the difference. I never knew a woman that was more downright fore-handed. Yes, sir, she's a dabster!”

How true it is that we never know our friends in this world so largely made up of conjecture! Could Hat have known how powerfully Elmer had pleaded her cause, and at a time when it was half lost, would she have moved heaven and earth, as she was moving them, to bring him into disrepute? Would she have looked at him when they met with a dagger in either eye and one between her teeth? Would she have tugged that rope girdle tighter about her hips and passed him, as she did, with only a resolute quiver of her person?

Elmer was in hopes that she would come round in time. “She's not much of a hand to hold a thing up against a body, Hat isn't,” he tried to tell himself. And yet a vague presentiment, something like trouble in the wind, oppressed him.

Affairs were in this posture when launching day dawned fair. The Minnie Williams stood ready on the ways, dressed in her international code flags, which flew from all trucks. Sails of stiff new duck were bent to the booms, anchor chains had been roused up and laid on the windlass wildcat, a fire was kindled in the galley and a collation laid in the saloon. The owner was aboard.

Hat Tyler was very much in evidence, fore and aft, giving orders to the crew as to what was to be done as soon as the ship left the ways.

“I want that starboard hook dropped the minute we get the red buoy abeam. Understand? Jake Hawkins, you stand by the windlass. Take care when you snub her not to break that friction band. And stand by to let go the other hook in case we need it. This harbor ain't much bigger than a ten-quart can, when all is said.”

Hat was dressed in a splendid traveling suit of heavy brocaded stuff. She wore an enormous green-and-purple hat and carried a green bottle with red, white and blue streamers tied round its neck. Being skipper and a lady at one and the same time, she had chosen to christen the ship herself.

“What's in the bottle, Hat?” sang out one of her admirers.

“Wouldn't you like to know?” Hat retorted wittily. She was in high spirits.

“Ain't it a waste of good stuff!” shouted another. “I guess it ain't everybody that can be trusted to christian a ship these hard times.”

“It ain't the last drink she will get either,” a more remote voice floated up to her. “I hear she's taking rum to France from Porto Rico.”

Hat Tyler took a firmer grip of the bottle under its streamers, for this was the voice of Pearl Higgins.

Time pressed. Already the shore gang were splitting out the keel blocks. The whole town stood at gaze. The children had been let out of school. A group of the larger ones were gathered on the after deck, ready to sing America when the ship took the water. It was a gala day. Hat felt that all eyes were centered on her, and her commands rolled along the decks like so many red-hot solid shot.

The strokes of the men under her keel rang faster and faster yet. When the last block was split out from under that oaken keel it was expected that the ship would settle on the ways, that two smooth tallowed surfaces would come together, that the ship and all her five hundred tons would move the fraction of an inch, would slip, would slide, would speed stern foremost into what is called her native element. But ships are notional, and these expectations are sometimes dashed.

And now Elmer and his wife, who were stationed ankle deep in that yellow sea of chips under her prow, could see the brows of the shore gang beaded with sweat, and a look of desperate hurry in the eyes of the youngster coming with the paint pot and painting the bottom of the keel as the blocks fell one by one. Well he might hurry; for sometimes the ship trips the last dozen blocks or so, and thus stepped on with all that tonnage they snap and crackle, and splinters fly in every direction.

Nothing now held the ship but a single iron dog which bound the two tallowed surfaces together. One stroke of the maul knocked this away. Still the ship hung fire.

“Run back and forth thwartships, you there; all you good people!” cried Hat hoarsely. “See if we can't start her that way.”

So the ship's launching company ran back and forth, and fore and aft, until their tongues were hanging out. Elmer nudged his wife and asked her if she remembered that night when they had danced up and down themselves at a moonlight launching. Pearl replied with a trace of acid that she had good cause to remember it. It was then that Elmer had screwed his courage to the speaking point.

In vain, all in vain Hat Tyler roared her orders. The Minnie Williams budged not, nor felt a thrill of life along her keel. The crowd beside the ways scarcely drew breath; the suspense was racking.

At length the ship's company stopped for lack of breath; and in a moment of hush a voice cried: “You better get out of that traveling suit, Hat Tyler. You won't travel to-day.”

It was Pearl Higgins. She followed up her witty saying by a peal of jeering laughter, which punctured the tense mood of that great throng of friends and neighbors; and such a roar of laughter went up at Hat's expense that the Minnie Williams—and Hat no less—quivered from stem to stern.

The sea captain burst frankly into tears.

“No, sir,” Elmer said to a member of the Tall Stove Club who had missed the launching, “I never see Hat go all to pieces the way she did then. She was all broken up over it. Well, she might have mistrusted that Pearl had a bone to pick with her. Pearl had been between a sweat and a shiver to get in a word, and she see her chance and let her have it slap. 'T was just what the doctor ordered. It come in so kind of comical too. There was Hat, all twittered up in that great poison-green hat of hers with the little heap of crab apples over one eye—and she stood there and couldn't say ay, yes or no. And then it was boo-hoo, you know, same as women will when a thing ain't jest according to their liking. Hat's a smart woman, all right enough, but she don't show to her best advantage when she blubbers. I stood there looking at her and I couldn't think of nothing but that old adage that runs: 'Hell is nothing to put alongside of a woman that has been laughed at.' 'Pearl,' I says, 'you've done it now. You can't tell me you haven't made an enemy of that woman.' And Pearl says to me, 'That great baby! I guess she'll survive.' 'Well,' I says, 'the fat's in the fire.' And Pearl says to me, ''T won't hurt her if she does lose a little flesh over it.' I don't know why it is these women can't live together in peace without kicking up such a touse all the time over trifles.”

Elmer was not free on the occasion itself to spend himself in narrative, however. His wife kept him close by her after her triumph. In grim silence she preceded him up the outside staircase, threw open the door to the house of Higgins and marched in. She commanded him to fetch a hod of coal. She rattled her irons, touched her finger to the bottom of a hot one—tszt—and brought it down on the ironing board with a masterful jounce. And then she glared out of the window at the massive stern of the Minnie Williams.

“I guess she'll know better another time,” she said grimly.

“Ain't you two women been at swords' points long enough?” pleaded Elmer.

“If she thinks she can walk all over me she'll find she's mightily mistaken.”

“All is, I mistrust she won't leave a stone unturned,” Elmer said, scratching his ear. He was deep in the study of navigation again. “Hat's contrary; yes, she is; she's mulish when she's crossed. And I don't know when I've seen her get her back up the way she did to-day.”

He spoke as briefly as possible on the subject, however. Good navigation began at home; and there were shallows there that would put to shame the terrors of Pollock Rip Slue. As he was going to bed near the hour of midnight he did just say that he would rather not have Hat Tyler for an enemy.

“There's no telling when she may bob up and put a spoke in your wheel,” he said, taking off his necktie.

“You see to it that you put on a clean collar in the morning,” said Pearl Higgins from the bed. “The one you've got on's filthy dirty.”

“I wish you could see it in a little different light Pearl,” said her spouse. “It ain't as if Hat Tyler was the fiend incarnate. But she'll naturally hanker to get back at you; and with me away and all——”

“I can take care of myself, thank you,” said Pearl.

“Still and all, I don't like to leave you with things this way.”

“A precious lot you care how you leave things—going off at your age and getting into this awful war when there ain't a particle of need of it.”

“Ain't we had that all out once?”

“And then you stand up there and defend that woman.”

“Now, Pearl——”

“Yes, you are! You're defending her, and I shouldn't wonder if you didn't think as much of her as ever you did in your heart of hearts. Oh, if you only knew how it wrings me to think of you and she together!”

“There, there! Why, in those days I hadn't so much as—I didn't so much as know you were on earth.”

“We can't ever forget our first loves,” said Pearl. “It's no use your standing up there and letting on. I know what I know. Put out the light and get into bed. Your feet are getting cold standing there that way.”

Her mouth turned into the pillow, she went on: “I remember just as well as if it was yesterday when her father lay dying—you know how much he thought of that horse of his, and how it always had red tassels hung on its ears the first day of spring, and the brass on the harness was enough to put your eyes out, he worked over it so. He thought the world of that horse, and when he see he was going to go, he got up and said, 'Hat, shoot the horse. I won't be quiet in my grave for thinking what kind of treatment it may be getting.' And what does she do but out into the barn and shoot the gun into the air, and come back and let on like the horse is gone. And her poor father lying there at his last gasp.”

“Still and all,” said Elmer, “wouldn't it have been kind of too bad to put a young horse like that out of its misery? It warn't a day over ten years old.”

“And now what?” continued Pearl. “I heard only to-day that she's been to the first selectman about having our place here condemned on the ground that it's unsafe. And the next thing I know I'll be turned out of house and home and won't know which way to turn nor where to lay my head. After I've slaved like a dog all my life and worse—and what thanks do I get for it? Why, my husband—walks away—and leaves me—in the lurch. That's how much he—thinks of me. Ain't you never coming to bed?”

Elmer, who had stood listening, now in fact had his lips ready puffed to blow out the light.

But he did not blow.

Instead he said, “My soul and body, what was that?”

A fearful sound smote upon their ears. Something had shouldered the house. The stovepipe in the kitchen fell down, there followed the sound as of some scaly creature dragging its body across the linoleum. Then there came a fall of plaster, and the kitchen stove itself appeared stealthily through the bedroom wall.

“My conscience!” said Elmer Higgins at the height of his mystification.

But we anticipate. It will be well at this point to look in on the affairs of Hat Tyler for a moment. When it became apparent that the Minnie Williams would not leave the ways until softer weather had loosened up the launching grease the crowd drifted away from her. The cook banked his fires and the crew went ashore for a carouse.

Then it was that Hat had it out with Tyler. Jed said himself afterward that it was a regular old-fashioned session, but further than that he would not commit himself, beyond saying that of course Hat was sensitive—awful sensitive—and just as thin-skinned as she could be, and it was only natural she should get up on her high horse when once she had him alone. It was not till near midnight that, red of eye and with her hair stringing down any old how, she put her head out of the companionway and looked vengefully at the Higgins place across the way.

“If looks could kill,” Tyler said, thrusting his jaw out with hers, “there wouldn't be a grease spot left of that shack, would there, Hat?”

Hat made no answer. She had felt an indefinable sensation at the soles of her feet.

“We're away, Tyler, we're away!” she gasped.

It was even so. Swift as a swallow on the wing and noiseless as a thief in the night the Minnie Williams left the smoking ways, with that deep and graceful bow always so thrilling to beholders when there are beholders; the first and most beautiful motion of the ship.

“You christian her, Hat!” cried Tyler. “I'll drop the hook.”

Hat broke the bottle over her stern works at the very moment that a roar of chain going out at the hawse pipe forward set the sleeping gulls flapping seaward. The Minnie Williams floated there lightly as a feather drifted from the wings of sleep, soundless save for the chain rattling out of her lockers. She had chosen that whimsical hour of the night to take her first bath, and who should say the lady nay?

Now by insensible degrees the near shore receded and the far shore drew near. Still slack chain rattled out of the hawse pipe.

Hat strode forward.

“For the Lord's sake, ain't you going to snub this ship!” she cried in a voice hoarse with fury.

Jed Tyler thrust a ghastly dewy face out of the windlass room.

“I can't do it, Hat!” he gasped.

“You can't! Don't tell me you can't! Everything's been done that's been tried. You drop that hook or I'll know the reason why!”

“The friction band's broke square in two.”

“Oh, damn it all, if I must say so—there!” said Hat bitterly, for she was not captain in name only. “If there's any such thing as break it's break at a time like this. Let go that port anchor.”

“Both wildcats will turn idle the way things are here.”

“You do as I say! The weight of the chain may check her in some.”

Tyler dropped his other hook.

“How much chain have we got on that starboard anchor? Do you know?”

“About one hundred and seventy-five fathoms.”

Hat went aft again and gave a calculating glance. When the chain had been paid out to the bitter end the ship would bring up perforce if the anchor had caught on, for the bitter end had a round turn taken about the foot of the foremast, and was shackled to the keelson with a monster shackle. But—what was the width of the harbor at this point?

“Give her port helm, you ninny,” said Hat, wrapping herself in her arms. She shivered, partly because the night was chill and partly from nervous excitement. There was no time to be lost.

“Can't. The rudder's bolted in the amidships position,” said Jed in shaking accents.

This had been done to make sure that that giant tail-piece should meet the water squarely, as otherwise the thrust of the ship might snap the rudder post like a pipe-stem.

“Well, I guess the horse is out of the stable, then, that's what I guess,” Hat said hoarsely. “She's launched herself now with a vengeance.”

They fell silent. With the indifference to danger of a sleepwalker the Minnie Williams marched across the starlit harbor.

Presently Hat brought down a heavy hand on her spouse's lean shoulder.

“You see what she's going to do, don't you?” she cried. “She's going to mix it with the Higgins place, that's what she's going to do! Give them a blue light. They're awake. I see a light burning in that south window.”

Tyler fetched a blue light; but his matches were wet with the sweat of his efforts in the windlass room. He could not strike fire.

“What are you doing? What are you doing, man?” shrieked Hat. “Come, if you can't strike a light give them a shot out of that shotgun. The whole place is coming down round their ears in a minute.”

“I give away the last cartridges I had yisterday to a boy that come asking for them.”

“I suppose you'd give 'em the shirt off your back if they come asking for it,” cried Hat. “I never saw such a man. Get up the patent fog horn.”

“I ain't got the key to the box,” said Jed in the sulky tones of a man who can't begin to comply with the demands upon him.

“Ain't got the key! This is a pretty time to come telling me that. Run forward and see if you can't kink up the chain in the hawse pipe somehow.”

Jed Tyler affected not to hear this. There was a glorious crash coming, and for his part he meant to be an eyewitness. Followed a marvelous silence, during which with fateful celerity the Minnie Williams stalked the unsuspecting Higgins house. The seaward end of the wharf on which it stood had rotted away and fallen in, and nothing now remained but the line of spiles, which rose out of the water like a row of bad teeth from which the gums had fallen away. And on top of each spile roosted a huge sea gull of marvelous whiteness, fatted with the spoils of the harbor.

So quietly had the Minnie Williams stolen upon them that the spiles on which they slept stirred and swayed out before they took note of the invasion. At the touch they rose shrieking on the night air with a vast flapping of wings.

The ship passed between the long rows of spiling with nice judgment. Certainly in the circumstance she was doing the best she could by herself and her owners. At the left of her lay a little steamer tied up for the winter, the top of her stack swathed like a sore thumb; and only twenty feet to the right, under water, lurked, as Hat well knew, a cruel weed-grown stone abutment. To the fine angular stern of the Minnie Williams the Higgins place would be like nothing so much as a pillow stuffed with eiderdown.

That fated residence stood forlorn in the starshine. It was old, it was gray, it suffered from some sort of shingle mange, and blue and yellow tin tobacco signs were tacked on here and there. The crazy outside staircase was like an aspiration that had come to nothing.

No knight of old ever couched lance against the shield of his enemy with surer aim than that which distinguished the Minnie Williams when she set her main boom against the house of Higgins to overthrow it. And it availed it nothing that it was founded upon a rock.

“My God, Tyler, can't you see what's taking place?” yelled Hat Tyler.

Tyler unquestionably could. He had set a cold corn-cob pipe between his teeth; he answered nothing, but his fascinated saucer eyes were fixed on the precise spot where as it seemed the boom was destined to be planted. This was at a place about six feet below the square of soapstone with a hole in it, through which the stovepipe passed. He was not disappointed. The boom in fact exerted its whole pressure against the body of the stove itself, with the result which we have seen. The stove made its way across the kitchen and appeared in the bedroom at the moment when Elmer had made up his lips to blow the flame.

Nor was this all. The inexorable stern of the Minnie Williams followed after, raising the roof of the Higgins place with the skillful care of an epicure taking the cover off his favorite dish. The roof yielded with only a gentle rippling motion, and the ship's lifeboat, which hung from davits aft, scraped the remains of supper off the supper table with her keel.

Zinie Shadd, returning late from a lodge meeting which had wound up with a little supper in the banquet hall, felt a queer stir through his members to see the Higgins place alter its usually placid countenance, falter, turn half round, and get down on its knees with an apparently disastrous collapse of its four walls and of everything within them. The short wide windows narrowed and lengthened with an effect of bodily agony as the ribs of the place were snapped off short all round the eaves.

“God help them poor creatures inside!” he was moved to utter out of the goodness of his heart. “She went in jest as easy,” he recounted later to one of his cronies. “It warn't no more exertion for her than 't would be to you to stick your finger through a cream puff.”

“How come it they 'scaped with a whole skin?”

“I don't see for the life of me. Elmer says himself it's just another case of where it's for a man to live, and if it ain't for him to he won't, and if it's for him to be will, and that's about all there is to it.”

Elmer's exact phrase has been that he guessed nothing coming from the sea side would ever cheat the gallows.

Pearl Higgins told a friend of hers that the one thing that came into her mind as she lay there was that the place had been torpedoed.

“I knew what it was just as well as I wanted to,” she said. She had known all along that if any place would get it it would be the Higgins place, on account of its exposed position, right in line with anything that showed up at the mouth of the harbor. Of course if she had stopped to think she would have known that a torpedo didn't come through a house at the snail's pace the stove was moving at when it looked through at her.

“But my land, at a time like that what is a body to think?” she inquired. Of course as soon as she could get her wits together she could see that it was her own stove, and nothing to be afraid of in itself if only she knew what was animating it.

There was the rub. The truth is, the performance of the stove, at that hour of the night, too, was so wholly out of the ordinary that she and Elmer had not so much as stirred out of their tracks for the fraction of a second it took the thing to come clear into the room. Pearl said later that she thought she was seeing things.

“Scared? I was petrified! I couldn't stir hand or foot,” she told her friend. “You talk about your flabbergasted women! I never had such a feeling come over me before.”

Of course neither of them had the faintest notion of what was at the back of it, and that made it all the worse. Pearl lay there under the clothes as limp as a rag, and the main boom of the Minnie Williams, which as we know was the thing behind it all, urged the stove forward until it was in square contact with the foot of the bed.

Now if there was one thing on which Pearl Higgins prided herself it was her bed. It was a mountainous, whale-backed, feather-bedded four-poster, built in the days of San Domingo mahogany, and quite capable of supporting the weight of a baby elephant without a quiver. Equipped with the legs of a colossus it had a frame to match. Tradition had it that a governor of the state had once lain in it. If there was one thing sure, therefore, it was that the bed would not collapse. But then again the Minnie Williams was a lady not to be denied. She must come on; she could not help it for her heart, for the bitter end of the chain cable was not yet, and she still had way on her.

The bed, the stove and the boom met, they fitted together as if they had been made for one another from the beginning, they engaged each other like vertebra in a spine, they stiffened. There came a fearful rending of laths; the mopboard buckled; two vases of alabaster fell from the parlor mantel, and almost at the same moment the red plush clock with the stone cuckoo-bird over the dial and the music box “where its gizzard should have been,” as Elmer always said, fell likewise. Pearl said afterward she knew that had gone because it started playing there on the floor at a great rate. And the next thing she knew she was in the parlor herself; and such a mess! She didn't know as she ever wanted to lay eyes on it again after that night's works.

Elmer, uncertain what part to play, walked along with the bed, still carrying the hand lamp in his hand, to light the Minnie Williams along, and dodging falling walls and plaster. He said when questioned by Zinie Shadd that he hadn't felt any particular alarm, on account of the deliberate way she had come poking in there, with a kind of a root-hog-or-die look about her; and he said he never for a minute doubted his ability and Pearl's to make good their escape if the worst came to the worst.

It really wasn't until the parlor went, as he explained to the Tall Stove Club, that he took it into his head to look over his shoulder; and it was then that he saw the lifeboat sweeping on victoriously across the kitchen, or what had been the kitchen. And on top of that he saw Hat Tyler looking down as cool as a cucumber, and her husband standing beside her.

“She had come on deck jest as she was,” he stated at that time with a quiet chuckle, “and I never see anything like so much interest showing in a human countenance before.”

Hat Tyler might well show interest; for after the house came the land—and the land, well she knew it, was made of sterner stuff. A shriek from Pearl told Elmer that his wife had found her tongue, as he phrased it. The fact is she had caught sight of Hat Tyler standing over her like an avenging fury.

But precisely at this moment the chain cable, which had all this time lain lethargic on the floor of the harbor, roused itself link by link, tautened, took a grip on the hook and snubbed the ship. None too soon, it had run out to the bitter end.

Pearl Higgins' bed halted, the stove halted, and Elmer set down his lamp. The boom receded. With the same swanlike ease she had used in effecting an entrance, the Minnie Williams floated out into the stream again.

And in the very instant of that heaven-sent reversal Hat Tyler cried in trumpet tones, “Travel yourself, and see how you like it!”

A shriek of demoniac laughter came on the heels of that. There were none present to laugh with Hat, but that laugh of hers rang in Pearl Higgins' ears like the last trump. She got herself over the side of the bed in short order. Too late, alas! Hat Tyler's had been a Parthian shot. The ship was out of the house altogether by then, and the roof had settled back over its joists at a rakish angle. The whole after part of the house was mashed into a neat concavity which would have made a perfect mold for the Minnie Williams' stern, and the Minnie Williams was in the stream again, with not a scratch about her.

“Ain't that something?” Elmer Higgins said, standing at the edge of this declivity. “Ain't that something huge?”

“Stand there and gawk! I would if I was you!” cried his wife. “Oh, will I ever get that laugh out of my ears if I live to be a hundred? Did ever you hear anything so hateful? I think you're a pretty small part of a man myself! The least you could have done was to have lit into her when you had the chance.

“But no, not you! What do you do but stand there and never so much as open your mouth!”

“I was so kind of took aback,” Elmer advanced, “what with one thing and another, I couldn't seem to lay my hands on jest the words I wanted. And she standing there jest as she was too. Ain't she immense? Where you going to look to for a solider woman than Hat?”

“It's just like her for all the world, pushing herself in where she's not wanted,” sobbed Pearl miserably. “The gall of her! And she just itching to get this house out of the way too! I suppose you'll be just contrary-minded enough now to say that she didn't do it on purpose?”

“No,” said Elmer, solemn as a judge. “She forelaid for it all right, all right. I been saying right along she warn't a woman to sit quiet under a blow, and I told you as much at the time, mamma, if you'll recollect. I said, 'When Hat hits back I look out from under.'”

He picked a lump of plaster out of his ear and lifted high the lamp.

“But my grief, my grief, when all is said and done, ain't she a dabster!” he whispered with a tinge of admiration. “And warn't it—warn't it nice calculation?”

THE MEEKER RITUAL[14]

[Note 14: Copyright, 1919, by The Century Company. Copyright, 1920, by Joseph Hergesheimer.]

BY JOSEPH HERGESHEIMER

From The Century

I. THE ROCK OF AGES

The entire pretension is so ridiculous that it is difficult to credit the extent of its acceptance. I don't mean McGeorge's story, but the whole sweep of spiritism. It ought to be unnecessary to point out the puerility of the evidence—the absurd babble advanced as the speech of wise men submerged in the silent consummation of death, the penny tricks with bells and banjos, the circus-like tables and anthropomorphic Edens. Yet, so far as the phrase goes, there is something in it; but whatever that is, lies in demonstrable science, the investigations of the subconscious by Freud and Jung.

McGeorge himself, a reporter with a sufficient education in the actual, tried to repeat impartially, with the vain illusion of an open mind, what he had been told; but it was clear that his power of reasoning had been disarranged. We were sitting in the Italian restaurant near his paper to which he had conducted me, and he was inordinately troubled by flies. A small, dark man, he was never without a cigarette; he had always been nervous, but I had no memory of such uneasiness as he now exhibited.

“It's rather dreadful,” he said, gazing at me for an instant, and then shifting his glance about the white plaster walls and small flock of tables, deserted at that hour. “I mean this thing of not really dying—hanging about in the wind, in space. I used to have a natural dread of death; but now I'm afraid of—of keeping on. When you think of it, a grave's quite a pleasant place. It's restful. This other—” He broke off, but not to eat.

“My editor,” he began anew, apparently at a tangent, “wouldn't consider it. I was glad. I'd like to forget it, go back. There might be a story for you.”

Whatever he had heard in connection with the Meeker circle, I assured him, would offer me nothing; I didn't write that sort of thing.

“You'd appreciate Lizzie Tuoey,” he asserted.

McGeorge had been sent to the Meeker house to unearth what he could about the death of Mrs. Kraemer. He described vividly the location, which provided the sole interest to an end admitted normal in its main features. It was, he said, one of those vitrified wildernesses of brick that have given the city the name of a place of homes; dreadful. Amazing in extent, it was without a single feature to vary the monotony of two-storied dwellings cut into exact parallelograms by paved streets; there was a perspective of continuous façades and unbroken tin roofs in every direction, with a grocery or drug-store and an occasional saloon at the corners, and beyond the sullen red steeple of a church.

Dusk was gathering when McGeorge reached the Meekers. It was August, and the sun had blazed throughout the day, with the parching heat; the smell of brick dust and scorched tin was hideous. His word. There was, too, a faint metallic clangor in the air. He knew that it came from the surface-cars, yet he could not rid himself of the thought of iron furnace-doors.

He had, of course, heard of the Meekers before. So had I, for that matter. A crack-brained professor had written a laborious, fantastic book about their mediumship and power of communication with the other world. They sat together as a family: the elder Meekers; the wife's sister; a boy, Albert, of fourteen; Ena, close to twenty; and Jannie, a girl seventeen years old and the medium proper. Jannie's familiar spirit was called Stepan. He had, it seemed, lived and died in the reign of Peter the Great; yet he was still actual, but unmaterialized, and extremely anxious to reassure every one through Jannie of the supernal happiness of the beyond. What messages I read, glancing over hysterical pages, gave me singularly little comfort, with the possible exception of the statement that there were cigars; good cigars Stepan, or Jannie, explained, such as on earth cost three for a quarter.

However, most of what McGeorge told me directly concerned Lizzie Tuoey. The Meekers he couldn't see at all. They remained in an undiscovered part of the house—there was a strong reek of frying onions from the kitchen—and delegated the servant as their link with the curious or respectful or impertinent world.

Lizzie admitted him to the parlor, where, she informed him, the sittings took place. There wasn't much furniture beyond a plain, heavy table, an array of stiff chairs thrust back against the walls, and on a mantel a highly painted miniature Rock of Ages, with a white-clad figure clinging to it, washed with a poisonous green wave, all inclosed in a glass bell. At the rear was a heavy curtain that, he found, covered the entrance to a smaller room.

Lizzie was a stout, cheerful person, with the ready sympathies and superstitions of the primitive mind of the south of Ireland. She was in a maze of excitement, and his difficulty was not to get her to talk, but to arrest her incoherent flood of invocations, saints' names, and credulity.

Her duties at the Meekers had been various; one of them was the playing of mechanical music in the back room at certain opportune moments. She said that Stepan particularly requested it; the low strains made it easier for him to speak to the dear folks on this side. It couldn't compare, though, Stepan had added, with the music beyond; and why should it, Lizzie had commented, and all the blessed saints bursting their throats with tunes! She swore, however, that she had had no part in the ringing of the bells or the knocks and jumps the table took.

She had no explanation for the latter other than the conviction that the dear God had little, if any, part in it. Rather her choice of an agent inclined to the devil. Things happened, she affirmed, that tightened her head like a kettle. The cries and groaning from the parlor during a sitting would blast the soul of you. It was nothing at all for a stranger to faint away cold. The light would then be turned up, and water dashed on the unconscious face.

She insisted, McGeorge particularized, that the Meekers took no money for their sittings. At times some grateful person would press a sum on them; a woman had given two hundred and seventy dollars after a conversation with her nephew, dead, as the world called it, twelve years. All the Meekers worked but Jannie; she was spared every annoyance possible, and lay in bed till noon. At the suggestion of Stepan, she made the most unexpected demands. Stepan liked pink silk stockings. He begged her to eat a candy called Turkish paste. He recommended a “teeny” glass of Benedictine, a bottle of which was kept ready. He told her to pinch her flesh black to show—Lizzie Tuoey forgot what.

Jannie was always dragged out with a face the color of wet laundry soap. She had crying fits; at times her voice would change, and she'd speak a gibberish that Mr. Meeker declared was Russian; and after a trance she would eat for six. There was nothing about the senior Meeker Lizzie could describe, but she disliked Mrs. Meeker intensely. She made the preposterous statement that the woman could see through the blank walls of the house. Ena was pale, but pretty, despite dark smudges under her eyes; she sat up very late with boys or else sulked by herself. Albert had a big grinning head on him, and ate flies. Lizzie had often seen him at it. He spent hours against the panes of glass and outside the kitchen door.

It wasn't what you could name gay at the Meekers, and, indeed, it hadn't been necessary for the priest to insist on the girl finding another place; she had decided that independently after she had been there less than a month. Then Mrs. Kraemer had died during a sitting. She would be off, she told McGeorge, the first of the week.

The latter, whose interest at the beginning had been commendably penetrating, asked about Mrs. Meeker's sister; but he discovered nothing more than that—Lizzie Tuoey allowed for a heretic—she was religious. They were all serious about the spiritism, and believed absolutely in Jannie and Stepan, in the messages, the voices and shades that they evoked.

However, questioned directly about Mrs. Kraemer's presence at a sitting, the servant's ready flow of comment and explanation abruptly dwindled to the meager invocation of holy names. It was evidently a business with which she wanted little dealing, even with Mrs. Kraemer safely absent, and with no suspicion of criminal irregularity.

The reporting of that occurrence gave a sufficiently clear impression of the dead woman. She was the relict of August, a naturalized American citizen born in Salzburg, and whose estate, a comfortable aggregate of more than two millions, came partly from hop-fields in his native locality. There was one child, a son past twenty, not the usual inept offspring of late-acquired wealth, but a vigorously administrative youth who spent half the year in charge of the family investment in Germany. At the beginning of the Great War the inevitable overtook the Salzburg industry; its financial resources were acquired by the Imperial Government, and young Kraemer, then abroad, was urged into the German Army.

McGeorge, with a great deal of trouble, extracted some additional angles of insight on Mrs. Kraemer from the reluctant Lizzie.

She was an impressive figure of a lady in fine lavender muslin ruffles, a small hat, blazing diamonds, and a hook in her nose, but Roman and not Jew. A bullying voice and a respectful chauffeur in a glittering car completed the picture. She had nothing favorable to say for the location of the Meeker house; indeed, she complained pretty generally, in her loud, assertive tones, about the inefficiency of city administration in America, but she held out hopes of improvement in the near future. She grew impatiently mysterious—hints were not her habit—in regard to the good shortly to enfold the entire earth. Lizzie gathered somehow that this was bound up with her son, now an officer in a smart Uhlan regiment.

A man of Mrs. Kraemer's type, and the analogy is far closer than common, would never have come to the Meekers for a message from a son warring in the north of France. It is by such lapses that women with the greatest show of logic prove the persistent domination of the earliest emotional instincts. After all, Lizzie Tuoey and Mrs. Kraemer were far more alike than any two such apparently dissimilar men.

At this point McGeorge was lost in the irrelevancy of Lizzie's mind. She made a random statement about Mrs. Meeker's sister and a neighbor, and returned to the uncertain quality of Jannie's temper and the limitations of a medium. It seemed that Jannie was unable to direct successful sittings without a day between for the recuperation of her power. It used her up something fierce. Stepan as well, too often recalled from the joys of the beyond, the cigars of the aroma of three for a quarter, grew fretful; either he refused to answer or played tricks, such as an unexpected sharp thrust in Albert's ribs, or a knocked message of satirical import, “My! wouldn't you just like to know!”

McGeorge had given up the effort to direct the conversation; rather than go away with virtually nothing gained, he decided to let the remarks take what way they would. In this he was wise, for the girl's sense of importance, her normal pressing necessity for speech, gradually submerged her fearful determination to avoid any contact with an affair so plainly smelling of brimstone. She returned to Miss Brasher, the sister, and her neighbor.

The latter was Mrs. Doothnack, and, like Mrs. Kraemer, she had a son fighting in the north of France. There, however, the obvious similitude ended; Edwin Doothnack served a machine-gun of the American Expeditionary Forces, while his mother was as poor and retiring as the other woman was dogmatic and rich. Miss Brasher brought her early in the evening to the Meekers, a little person with the blurred eyes of recent heavy crying, excessively polite to Lizzie Tuoey. Naturally, this did nothing to increase the servant's good opinion of her.

The sister soon explained the purpose of their visit: Edwin, whose regiment had occupied a sacrifice position, was missing. There his mother timidly took up the recital. The Meekers were at supper, and Lizzie, in and out of the kitchen, heard most of the developments. When the report about Edwin had arrived, Mrs. Doothnack's friends were reassuring; he would turn up again at his regiment, or else he had been taken prisoner; in which case German camps, although admittedly bad, were as safe as the trenches. She had been intensely grateful for their good will, and obediently set herself to the acceptance of their optimism, when—it was eleven nights now to the day—she had been suddenly wakened by Edwin's voice.

“O God!” Edwin had cried, thin, but distinct, in a tone of exhausted suffering—“O God!” and “Mummer!” his special term for Mrs. Doothnack. At that, she declared, with straining hands, she knew that Edwin was dead.

Miss Brasher then begged darling Jannie to summon Stepan and discover the truth at the back of Mrs. Doothnack's “message” and conviction. If, indeed, Edwin had passed over, it was their Christian duty to reassure his mother about his present happiness, and the endless future together that awaited all loved and loving ones. Jannie said positively that she wouldn't consider it. A sitting had been arranged for Mrs. Kraemer to-morrow, so that she, without other means, might get some tidings of the younger August.

Mrs. Doothnack rose at once with a murmured apology for disturbing them, but Miss Brasher was more persistent. She had the determination of her virginal fanaticism, and of course she was better acquainted with Jannie. Lizzie wasn't certain, but she thought that Miss Brasher had money, though nothing approaching Mrs. Kraemer; probably a small, safe income.

Anyhow, Jannie got into a temper, and said that they all had no love for her, nobody cared what happened so long as they had their precious messages. Stepan would be cross, too. At this Albert hastily declared that he would be out that evening; he had been promised moving-pictures. That old Stepan would be sure to bust his bones in. Jannie then dissolved into tears, and cried that they were insulting her dear Stepan, who lived in heaven. Albert added his wails to the commotion, Mrs. Doothnack sobbed from pure nervousness and embarrassment, and only Miss Brasher remained unmoved and insistent.

The result of this disturbance was that they agreed to try a tentative sitting. Stepping out into the kitchen, Mrs. Meeker told Lizzie that she needn't bother to play the music that evening.

Here the latter, with a sudden confidence in McGeorge's charitable knowledge of life, admitted that Jannie's bottle of Benedictine was kept in a closet in the room behind the one where the sittings were held. The Meekers had disposed themselves about the table, the circle locked by their hands placed on adjoining knees, with Jannie at the head and Mrs. Doothnack beyond. The servant, in the inner room for a purpose which she had made crystal clear, could just distinguish them in a dim, red-shaded light through the opening of the curtain.

By this time familiarity with the proceeding had bred its indifference, and Lizzie lingered at the closet. The knocks that announced Stepan's presence were a long time in coming; then there came an angry banging and a choked cry from Albert. The table plainly rocked and rose from the floor, and Jannie asked in the flat voice of the tranced:

“Is Edwin there? Here's his mother wanting to speak to him.”

The reply, knocked out apparently on the wood mantel, and repeated for the benefit of the visitor, said that those who had won to the higher life couldn't be treated as a mere telephone exchange. Besides which, a party was then in progress, and Stepan was keeping waiting Isabella, consort of King Ferdinand, a lady who would not be put off. This business about Edwin must keep. Miss Brasher said in a firm voice:

“His mother is much distressed and prays for him to speak.”

The answer rattled off was not interpreted, but Lizzie gathered that it was extremely personal and addressed to Miss Brasher. There was a silence after that, and then the table rose to a perceptible height and crashed back to the floor. In the startling pause which followed a voice, entirely different from any that had spoken, cried clear and low:

“O God!”

This frightened Lizzie to such an extent that she fled to the familiar propriety of the kitchen; but before she was out of hearing, Mrs. Doothnack screamed, “Edwin!”

Nothing else happened. The firm Miss Brasher and her neighbor departed immediately. Jannie, however looked a wreck, and cold towels and Benedictine were liberally applied. She sobbed hysterically, and wished that she were just a plain girl without a call. Further, she declared that nothing could induce her to proceed with the sitting for Mrs. Kraemer to-morrow. Stepan, before returning to Isabella of Castile, had advised her against it. With such droves of soldiers coming over, it was more and more difficult to control individual spirits. Things in the beyond were in a frightful mess. They might see something that would scare them out of their wits.

Mrs. Meeker, with a share of her sister's aplomb, said that she guessed they could put up with a little scaring in the interest of Mrs. August Kraemer. She was sick of doing favors for people like Agnes's friend, and made it clear that she desired genteel associates both in the here and the hereafter. Jannie's face began to twitch in a manner common to it, and her eyes grew glassy. At times, Lizzie explained, she would fall right down as stiff as a board, and they would have to put her on the lounge till she recovered. Her sentimental reading of Jannie's present seizure was that she was jealous of Ferdinand's wife.

Not yet, even, McGeorge confessed, did he see any connection between the humble little Mrs. Doothnack and Mrs. Kraemer, in her fine lavender and diamonds. He continued putting the queries almost at random to Lizzie Tuoey, noting carelessly, as if they held nothing of the body of his business, her replies. While the amazing fact was that, quite aside from his subsequent credulity or any reasonable skepticism, the two presented the most complete possible unity of causation and climax. As a story, beyond which I have no interest, together they are admirable. They were enveloped, too, in the consistency of mood loosely called atmosphere; that is, all the details of their surrounding combined to color the attentive mind with morbid shadows.

It was purely on Lizzie Tuoey's evidence that McGeorge's conversion to such ridiculous claims rested. She was not capable of invention, he pointed out, and continued that no one could make up details such as that, finally, of the Rock of Ages. The irony was too biting and inevitable. Her manner alone put what she related beyond dispute.

On the contrary, I insisted, it was just such minds as Lizzie's that could credit in a flash of light—probably a calcium flare—unnatural soldiers, spooks of any kind. Her simple pictorial belief readily accepted the entire possibility of visions and wonders.

I could agree or not, he proceeded wearily; it was of small moment. The fate waited for all men. “The fate of living,” he declared, “the curse of eternity. You can't stop. Eternity,” he repeated, with an uncontrollable shiver.

“Stepan seemed to find compensations,” I reminded him.

“If you are so damned certain about the Tuoey woman,” he cried, “what have you got to say about Mrs. Kraemer's death? You can't dismiss her as a hysterical idiot. People like her don't just die.”

“A blood clot.” His febrile excitement had grown into anger, and I suppressed further doubts.

He lighted a cigarette. The preparations for Mrs. Kraemer's reception and the sitting, he resumed, were elaborate. Mr. Meeker lubricated the talking-machine till its disk turned without a trace of the mechanism. A new record—it had cost a dollar and a half and was by a celebrated violinist—was fixed, and a halftone semi-permanent needle selected. Lizzie was to start this after the first storm of knocking, or any preliminary jocularity of Stepan's, had subsided.

Jannie had on new pink silk stockings and white kid slippers. Her head had been marcelled special, and she was so nervous that she tore three hair-nets. At this she wept, and stamped her foot, breaking a bottle of expensive scent.

When Mrs. Kraemer's motor stopped at the door, Lizzie went forward, and Mrs. Meeker floated down the stairs.

Stopping him sharply, I demanded a repetition of the latter phrase. It was Lizzie's. McGeorge, too, had expressed surprise, and the girl repeated it. Mrs. Meeker, she declared, often “floated.” One evening she had seen Mrs. Meeker leave the top story by a window and stay suspended over the bricks twenty feet below.

Mrs. Kraemer entered the small hall like a keen rush of wind; her manner was determined, an impatience half checked by interest in what might follow. She listened with a short nod to Mr. Meeker's dissertation on the necessity of concord in all the assembled wills. The spirit world must be approached reverently, with trust and thankfulness for whatever might be vouchsafed.

The light in the front room, a single gas-burner, was lowered, and covered by the inevitable red-paper hood, and the circle formed. Lizzie was washing dishes, but the kitchen door was open, so that she could hear the knocks that were the signal for the music. They were even longer coming than on the night before, and she made up her mind that Stepan had declared a holiday from the responsibilities of a control. At last there was a faint vibration, and she went cautiously into the dark space behind the circle. The curtains had always hung improperly, and she could see a dim red streak of light.

The knocks at best were not loud; several times when she was about to start the record they began again inconclusively. Stepan finally communicated that he was exhausted. Some one was being cruel to him. Could it be Jannie? There was a sobbing gasp from the latter. Mrs. Kraemer's voice was like ice-water; she wanted some word from August, her son. She followed the name with the designation of his rank and regiment. And proud of it, too, Lizzie added; you might have taken from her manner that she was one of us. Her version of Mrs. Kraemer's description sounded as though August were an ewe-lamb. McGeorge, besotted in superstition, missed this.

Independently determining that the moment for music had come, Lizzie pressed forward the lever and carefully lowered the lid. The soft strains of the violin, heard through the drawn curtains, must have sounded illusively soothing and impressive.

“Stepan,” Jannie implored, “tell August's mamma about him, so far away amid shot and shell.”

“Who is my mother?” Stepan replied, with a mystical and borrowed magnificence.

“August, are you there?” Mrs. Kraemer demanded. “Can you hear me? Are you well?”

“I'm deaf from the uproar,” Stepan said faintly. “Men in a green gas. He is trying to reach me; something is keeping him back.”

“August's alive!” Mrs. Kraemer's exclamation was in German, but Lizzie understood that she was thanking God.

“Hundreds are passing over,” Stepan continued. “I can't hear his voice, but there are medals. He's gone again in smoke. The other——” The communication halted abruptly, and in the silence which followed Lizzie stopped the talking-machine, the record at an end.

It was then that the blaze of light occurred which made her think the paper shade had caught fire and that the house would burn down. She dragged back the curtain.

McGeorge refused to meet my interrogation, but sat with his gaze fastened on his plate of unconsumed gray macaroni. After a little I asked impatiently what the girl thought she had seen.

After an inattentive silence McGeorge asked me, idiotically I thought, if I had ever noticed the game, the hares and drawn fish, sometimes frozen into a clear block of ice and used as an attraction by provision stores. I had, I admitted, although I could see no connection between that and the present inquiry.

It was, however, his description of the column of light Lizzie Tuoey saw over against the mantel, a shining white shroud through which the crudely painted Rock of Ages was visible, insulated in the glass bell. Oh, yes, there was a soldier, but in the uniform that might be seen passing the Meekers any hour of the day, and unnaturally hanging in a traditional and very highly sanctified manner. The room was filled with a coldness that made Lizzie's flesh crawl. It was as bright as noon; the circle about the table was rigid, as if it had been frozen into immobility, while Jannie's breathing was audible and hoarse.

Mrs. Kraemer stood wrung with horror, a shaking hand sparkling with diamonds raised to her face. It was a lie, she cried in shrill, penetrating tones. August couldn't do such a thing. Kill him quickly!

The other voice was faint, McGeorge said, hardly more than a sigh; but Lizzie Tuoey had heard it before. She asserted that there was no chance for a mistake.

“O God!” it breathed. “Mummer!”

This much is indisputable, that Mrs. Kraemer died convulsively in the Meeker hall. Beyond that I am congenitally incapable of belief. I asked McGeorge directly if it was his contention that, through Stepan's blunder, the unfortunate imperialistic lady, favored with a vignette of modern organized barbarity, had seen Mrs. Doothnack's son in place of her own.

He didn't, evidently, think this worth a reply. McGeorge was again lost in his consuming dread of perpetual being.

II. THE GREEN EMOTION

Virtually buried in a raft of ethical tracts of the Middle Kingdom, all more or less repetitions of Lao-tsze's insistence on heaven's quiet way, I ignored the sounding of the telephone; but its continuous bur—I had had the bell removed—triumphed over my absorption, and I answered curtly. It was McGeorge. His name, in addition to the fact that it constituted an annoying interruption, recalled principally that, caught in the stagnant marsh of spiritism, he had related an absurd fabrication in connection with the Meeker circle and the death of Mrs. August Kraemer.

Our acquaintance had been long, but slight. He had never attempted to see me at my rooms, and for this reason only—that his unusual visit might have a corresponding pressing cause—I directed Miss Maynall, at the telephone exchange, to send him up. Five minutes later, however, I regretted that I had not instinctively refused to see him. It was then evident that there was no special reason for his call. It was inconceivable that any one with the least knowledge of my prejudices and opinions would attempt to be merely social, and McGeorge was not without both the rudiments of breeding and good sense.

At least such had been my impression of him in the past, before he had come in contact with the Meekers. Gazing at him, I saw that a different McGeorge was evident, different even from when I had seen him at the Italian restaurant where he had been so oppressed by the fear not of death, but of life. In the first place, he was fatter and less nervous, he was wearing one of those unforgivable soft black ties with flowing ends, and he had changed from Virginia cigarettes to Turkish.

A silence had lengthened into embarrassment, in which I was combating a native irritability with the placid philosophical acceptance of the unstirred Tao, when he asked suddenly:

“Did you know I was married?” I admitted that this information had eluded me, when he added in the fatuous manner of such victims of a purely automatic process, “To Miss Ena Meeker that was.”

I asked if he had joined the family circle in the special sense, but he said not yet; he wasn't worthy. Then I realized that there was a valid reason for his presence, but, unfortunately, it operated slowly with him; he had to have a satisfactory audience for the astounding good fortune he had managed. He wanted to talk, and McGeorge, I recalled, had been a man without intimates or family in the city. Almost uncannily, as if in answer to my thought, he proceeded:

“I'm here because you have a considerable brain and, to a certain extent, a courageous attitude. You are all that and yet you won't recognize the truth about the beyond, the precious world of spirits.”

“Material.”

However, I indicated in another sense that I wasn't material for any propaganda of hysterical and subnormal seances. His being grew inflated with the condescending pity of dogmatic superstition for logic.

“Many professors and men of science are with us, and I am anxious, in your own interest, for you to see the light. I've already admitted that you would be valuable. You can't accuse me of being mercenary.” I couldn't. “I must tell you,” he actually cried out, in sudden surrender to the tyrannical necessity of self-revelation. “My marriage to Ena was marvelous, marvelous, a true wedding of souls. Mr. Meeker,” he added in a different, explanatory manner, “like all careful fathers, is not unconscious of the need, here on earth, of a portion of worldly goods. For a while, and quite naturally, he was opposed to our union.

“There was a Wallace Esselmann.” A perceptible caution overtook him, but which, with a gesture, he evidently discarded. “But I ought to explain how I met the Meekers. I called.” I expressed a surprise, which he solemnly misread. “It became necessary for me to tell them of my admiration and belief,” he proceeded.

“I saw Mrs. Meeker and Ena in the front room where the sittings are held. Mrs. Meeker sat straight up, with her hands folded; but Ena was enchanting.” He paused, lost in the visualization of the enchantment. “All sweet curves and round ankles and little feet.” Then he unexpectedly made a very profound remark: “I think pale girls are more disturbing than red cheeks. They've always been for me, anyway. Ena was the most disturbing thing in the world.”

Here, where I might have been expected to lose my patience disastrously, a flicker of interest appeared in McGeorge and his connection with the Meekers. A normal, sentimental recital would, of course, be insupportable; but McGeorge, I realized, lacked the coördination of instincts and faculties which constitutes the healthy state he had called, by implication, stupid. The abnormal often permits extraordinary glimpses of the human machine, ordinarily a sealed and impenetrable mystery. Hysteria has illuminated many of the deep emotions and incentives, and McGeorge, sitting lost in a quivering inner delight, had the significant symptoms of that disturbance.

He may, I thought, exhibit some of the primitive “complex sensitiveness” of old taboos, and furnish an illustration, for a commentary on the sacred Kings, of the physical base of religious fervor.

“An ordinary prospective mother-in-law,” said McGeorge, “is hard enough, but Mrs. Meeker——” He made a motion descriptive of his state of mind in the Decker parlor. “Eyes like ice,” he continued; “and I could see that I hadn't knocked her over with admiration. Ena got mad soon, and made faces at her mother when she wasn't looking, just as if she were a common girl. It touched me tremendously. Then—I had looked down at the carpet for a moment—Mrs. Meeker had gone, without a sound, in a flash. It was a good eight feet to the door and around a table. Space and time are nothing to her.”

Silence again enveloped him; he might have been thinking of the spiritistic triumphs of Mrs. Meeker or of Ena with her sweet curves. Whatever might be said of the latter, it was clear that she was no prude. McGeorge drew a deep breath; it was the only expression of his immediate preoccupation.

“It was quite a strain,” he admitted presently. “I called as often as possible and a little oftener. The reception, except for dear Ena, was not prodigal. Once they were having a sitting, and I went back to the kitchen. Of course Lizzie Tuoey, their former servant, was no more, and they had an ashy-black African woman. Some one was sobbing in the front room—the terrible sobs of a suffocating grief. There was a voice, too, a man's, but muffled, so that I couldn't make out any words. That died away, and the thin, bright tones of a child followed; then a storm of knocking, and blowing on a tin trumpet.

“A very successful sitting. I saw Jannie directly afterward, and the heroic young medium was positively livid from exhaustion. She had a shot of Benedictine and then another, and Mr. Meeker half carried her up to bed. I stayed in the kitchen till the confusion was over, and Albert came out and was pointedly rude. If you want to know what's thought of you in a house, watch the young.

“Ena was flighty, too; it irritated her to have me close by—highly strung. She cried for no reason at all and bit her finger-nails to shreds. There was a fine platinum chain about her neck, with a diamond pendant, I had never seen before, and for a long while she wouldn't tell me where it had come from. The name, Wallace Esselmann, finally emerged from her hints and evasions. He was young and rich, he had a waxed mustache, and the favor of the Meekers generally.

“Have you ever been jealous?” McGeorge asked abruptly. Not in the degree he indicated, I replied; however, I comprehended something of its possibilities of tyrannical obsession. “It was like a shovelful of burning coals inside me,” he asserted. “I was ready to kill this Esselmann or Ena and then myself. I raved like a maniac; but it evidently delighted her, for she took off the chain and relented.

“At first,” McGeorge said, “if you remember, I was terrified at the thought of living forever; but I had got used to that truth, and the blessings of spiritualism dawned upon me. No one could ever separate Ena and me. The oldest India religions support that——”

“With the exception,” I was obliged to put in, “that all progression is toward nothingness, suspension, endless calm.”

“We have improved on that,” he replied. “The joys that await us are genuine twenty-two carat—the eternal companionship of loving ones, soft music, summer——”

“Indestructible lips under a perpetual moon.”

He solemnly raised a hand.

“They are all about you,” he said; “they hear you; take care. What happened to me will be a warning.”

“Materialize the faintest spirit,” I told him, “produce the lightest knock on that Fyfe table, and I'll give you a thousand dollars for the cause.” He expressed a contemptuous superiority to such bribery. “By your own account,” I reminded him, “the Meekers gave this Esselmann every advantage. Why?”

McGeorge's face grew somber.

“I saw him the next time I called, a fat boy with his spiked mustache on glazed cheeks, and a pocketful of rattling gold junk, a racing car on the curb. He had had Ena out for a little spin, and they were discussing how fast they had gone. Not better than sixty-eight, he protested modestly.

“Albert hung on his every word; he was as servile to Esselmann as he was arrogant to me. He said things I had either to overlook completely or else slay him for. I tried to get his liking.” McGeorge confessed to me that, remembering what the Meekers' old servant had told him about Albert's peculiar habit, he had even thought of making him a present of a box of flies, precisely in the manner you would bring candy for a pretty girl.

“It began to look hopeless,” he confessed of his passion. “Ena admitted that she liked me better than Wallace, but the family wouldn't hear of it. Once, when Mr. Meeker came to the door, he shut it in my face. The sittings kept going right along, and the manifestations were wonderful; the connection between Jannie and Stepan, her spirit control, grew closer and closer. There was a scientific investigation—some professors put Jannie on a weighing-machine during a séance and found that, in a levitation, she had an increase in weight virtually equal to the lifted table. They got phonograph records of the rapping——”

“Did you hear them?” I interrupted.

“They are still in the laboratory,” he asserted defiantly, “But I have a photograph that was taken of an apparition.” He fumbled in an inner pocket and produced the latter. The print was dark and obscured, but among the shadows a lighter shape was traceable: it might have been a woman in loose, white drapery, a curtain, light-struck; anything, in fact. I returned it to him impatiently.

“That,” he informed me, “was a Christian martyr of ancient times.”

“Burned to a cinder,” I asked, “or dismembered by lions?”

“Can't you even for a minute throw off the illusion of the flesh?”

“Can you?”

He half rose in a flare of anger; for my question, in view of his admissions, had been sharply pressed.

“All love is a sanctification,” McGeorge said, recovering his temper admirably. “The union of my beloved wife and me is a holy pact of spirits, transcending corruption.”

“You married her against considerable opposition,” I reminded him.

“I had the hell of a time,” he said in the healthy manner of the former McGeorge. “Everything imaginable was done to finish me; the powers of earth and of the spirit world were set against me. For a while my human frame wasn't worth a lead nickel.”

“The beyond, then, isn't entirely the abode of righteousness?”

“There are spirits of hell as well as of heaven.”

“The Chinese,” I told him, “call them Yin and Yang, spirits of dark and light. Will you explain—it may be useful, if things are as you say—how you fought the powers from beyond?”

“Do you remember what Lizzie Tuoey thought about Jannie and Stepan?” he asked, apparently irrelevantly. “That time Stepan had an engagement with Isabella of Spain.” I didn't. “Well, she said that Jannie was jealous of the queen.”

McGeorge had, by his own account, really a dreadful time with what was no better than common or, rather, uncommon murder. Two things were evident on the plane of my own recognition—that he had succeeded in holding the illusive affections of Ena, no small accomplishment in view of her neurotic emotional instability, and that the elder Meekers had an interest in the most worldly of all commodities, not exceeded by their devotion to the immaculate dream of love beyond death.

The girl met McGeorge outside the house; he called defiantly in the face of an unrelenting, outspoken opposition. It was in the Meeker front room that he first realized his mundane existence was in danger. He could give no description of what happened beyond the fact that suddenly he was bathed in a cold, revolting air. It hung about him with the undefinable feel and smell of death. A rotten air, he described it, and could think of nothing better; remaining, he thought, for half a minute, filling him with instinctive abject terror, and then lifting.

Ena, too, was affected; she was as rigid as if she were taking part in a séance; and when she recovered, she hurried from the room. Immediately after McGeorge heard her above quarrelling with Jannie. She returned in tears, and said that they would have to give each other up. Here McGeorge damned the worlds seen and unseen, and declared that he'd never leave her. This, with his complete credulity, approached a notable courage or frenzy of desire. He had no doubt but they would kill him. Their facilities, you see, were unsurpassed.

Worse followed almost immediately. The next morning, to be accurate, McGeorge was putting an edge on his razor—he had never given up the old type—when an extraordinary seizure overtook him; the hand that held the blade stopped being a part of him. It moved entirely outside his will; indeed, when certain possibilities came into his shocked mind, it moved in opposition to his most desperate determination.

A struggle began between McGeorge in a sweating effort to open his fingers and drop the razor to the floor, and the will imposing a deep, hard gesture across his throat. He was twisted, he said, into the most grotesque positions; the hand would move up, and he would force it back perhaps an inch at a time. During this the familiar, mucid feel closed about him.

I asked how the force was applied to his arm, but he admitted that his fright was so intense that he had no clear impression of the details. McGeorge, however, did try to convince me that his wrist was darkly bruised afterward. He was, he was certain, lost, his resistance virtually at an end when, as if from a great distance, he heard the faint ring of the steel on the bath-room linoleum.

That, he told himself, had cured him; the Meekers, and Ena in particular, could have their precious Wallace Esselmann. This happened on Friday, and Sunday evening he was back at the Meeker door. The frenzy of desire! Love is the usual, more exalted term. Perhaps. It depends on the point of view, the position adopted in the attack on the dark enigma of existence. Mine is unpresumptuous.

They were obviously surprised to see him,—or, rather, all were but Ena,—and his reception was less crabbed than usual. McGeorge, with what almost approached a flash of humor, said that it was evident they had expected him to come from the realm of spirits. In view of their professed belief in the endless time for junketing at their command, they clung with amazing energy to the importance of the present faulty scheme.

Ena was wonderfully tender, and promised to marry him whenever he had a corner ready for her. McGeorge, a reporter, lived with the utmost informality with regard to hours and rooms. He stayed that night almost as long as he wished, planning, at intervals, the future. Sometime during the evening it developed that Jannie was in disfavor; the sittings had suddenly become unsatisfactory. One the night before had been specially disastrous.

Stepan, in place of satisfying the very private curiosity of a well-known and munificent politician, had described another party that had made a wide ripple of comment and envious criticism among the shades. It had been planned by a swell of old Rome, faithful in every detail to the best traditions of orgies; and Stepan's companion, a French girl of the Maison Dorée, had opened the eyes of the historic fancy to the latent possibilities of the dance.

Jannie, at this, had spoiled everything, but mostly the temper of the munificent politician, by a piercing scream. She had gone on, Ena admitted, something terrible. When Mr. Meeker had tried to bundle her to bed, she had kicked and scratched like never before. And since then she declared that she'd never make another effort to materialize shameless spirits.

Argument, even the temporary absence of Benedictine, had been unavailing. Very well, Mrs. Meeker had told her grimly, she would have to go back to cotton stockings; and no more grilled sweetbreads for supper, either; she'd be lucky if she got scrapple. She didn't care; everything was black for her. Black it must have been, I pointed out to McGeorge; it was bad enough with worry limited to the span of one existence, but to look forward to a perpetuity of misery—

McGeorge returned the latter part of the week with the plans for their marriage, an elopement, considerably advanced; but only Jannie was at home. She saw him listlessly in the usual formal room, where—he almost never encountered her—he sat in a slight perplexity. Jannie might be thought prettier than Ena, he acknowledged, or at least in the face. She had quantities of bright brown hair, which she affected to wear, in the manner of much younger girls, confined, with a ribbon, and flowing down her back. Her eyes, too, were brown and remarkable in that the entire iris was exposed. Her full under lip was vividly rouged, while her chin was unobtrusive.

That evening she was dressed very elaborately. The pink silk stockings and preposterous kid slippers were in evidence; her dress was black velvet, short, and cut like a sheath; and there was a profusion of lacy ruffles and bangles at her wrists. To save his soul, McGeorge couldn't think of anything appropriate to talk about. Jannie was a being apart, a precious object of special reverence. This, together with her very human pettishness, complicated the social problem. He wanted excessively to leave,—there was no chance of seeing Ena,—but neither could he think of any satisfactory avenue of immediate escape.

Jannie's hands, he noticed, were never still; her fingers were always plaiting the velvet on her knees. She would sigh gustily, bite her lips, and accomplish what in an ordinary person would be a sniffle. Then suddenly she drew nearer to McGeorge and talked in a torrent about true love. She doubted if it existed anywhere. Spirits were no more faithful than humans.

This, for McGeorge, was more difficult than the silence; all the while, he told me, his thoughts were going back to the scene in the bath-room. He had no security that it wouldn't be repeated and with a far different conclusion. He had a passing impulse to ask Jannie to call off her subliminal thugs; the phrasing is my own. There was no doubt in his disordered mind that it was she who, at the instigation of the elder Meekers, was trying to remove him in the effort to secure Wallace Esselmann.

She dissolved presently into tears, and cried that she was the most miserable girl in existence. She dropped an absurd confection of a handkerchief on the floor, and he leaned over, returning it to her. Jannie's head drooped against his shoulder, and, to keep her from sliding to the floor, he was obliged to sit beside her and support her with an arm. It had been a temporary measure, but Jannie showed no signs of shifting her weight; and, from wishing every moment for Ena's appearance, he now prayed desperately for her to stay away.

McGeorge said that he heard the girl murmur something that sounded like, “Why shouldn't I?” Her face was turned up to him in a way that had but one significance for maiden or medium. She was, he reminded me, Ena's sister, about to become his own; there was a clinging, seductive scent about her, too, and a subtle aroma of Benedictine; and, well, he did what was expected.

However, no sooner had he kissed her than her manner grew inexplicable. She freed herself from him, and sat upright in an expectant, listening attitude. Her manner was so convincing that he straightened up and gazed about the parlor. There was absolutely no unusual sight or sound; the plain, heavy table in the center of the room was resting as solidly as if it had never playfully cavorted at the will of the spirits, the chairs were back against the walls, the miniature Rock of Ages, on the mantel, offered its testimony to faith.

One insignificant detail struck his eye—a weighty cane of Mr. Meeker's stood in an angle of the half-opened door to the hall, across the floor from where Jannie and he were sitting.

III

After a little, with nothing apparently following, the girl's expectancy faded; her expression grew petulant once more, and she drew sharply away from McGeorge, exactly as if he had forced a kiss on her and she was insulted by the indignity. Lord! he thought, with an inward sinking, what she'll do to me now will be enough!

He rose uneasily and walked to the mantel, where he stood with his back to Jannie, looking down absently at the fringed gray asbestos of a gas hearth. An overwhelming oppression crept over him when there was a sudden cold sensation at the base of his neck, and a terrific blow fell across his shoulders.

McGeorge wheeled instinctively, with an arm up, when he was smothered in a rain of stinging, vindictive battering. The blows came from all about him, a furious attack against which he was powerless to do anything but endeavor to protect his head. No visible person, he said solemnly, was near him. Jannie was at the other side of the room.

“Did you see her clearly while this was going on?” I asked.

Oh, yes, he assured me sarcastically; he had as well glanced at his diary to make sure of the date. He then had the effrontery to inform me that he had been beaten by Mr. Meeker's cane without human agency. He had seen it whirling about him in the air. McGeorge made up his mind that the hour of his death had arrived. A fog of pain settled on him, and he gave up all effort of resistance, sinking to his knees, aware of the salt taste of blood. But just at the edge of unconsciousness the assault stopped.

After a few moments he rose giddily, with his ears humming and his ribs a solid ache. The cane lay in the middle of the room, and Jannie stood, still across the parlor, with her hands pressed to scarlet cheeks, her eyes shining, and her breast heaving in gasps.

“Why not after such a violent exercise?”

McGeorge ignored my practical comment.

“She was delighted,” he said; “she ran over to me and, throwing her arms about my neck, kissed me hard. She exclaimed that I had helped Jannie when everything else had failed, and she wouldn't forget it. Then she rushed away, and I heard her falling up-stairs in her high-heeled slippers.”

Naturally he had half collapsed into a chair, and fought to supply his laboring lungs with enough oxygen. It's an unpleasant experience to be thoroughly beaten with a heavy cane under any condition, and this, he was convinced, was special.

I asked if he was familiar with Havelock Ellis on hysterical impulses, and he replied impatiently that he wasn't.

“There are two explanations,” I admitted impartially, “although we each think there is but one. I will agree that yours is more entertaining. Jannie was jealous again. The Roman orgies, the young person from the grands boulevards, were more than she could accept; and she tried, in the vocabulary lately so prevalent, a reprisal. But I must acknowledge that I am surprised at the persistent masculine flexibility of Stepan.”

“It was at the next sitting,” McGeorge concluded, “that Stepan announced the wedding of Ena and me. The spirits awaited it. There was a row in the Meeker circle; but he dissolved, and refused to materialize in any form until it was accomplished.”

“To the music of the spheres,” I added, with some attempt at ordinary decency.

THE CENTENARIAN[15]

[Note 15: Copyright, 1919, by Harper &Brothers. Copyright, 1920, by Will E. Ingersoll.]

BY WILL E. INGERSOLL

From Harper's Magazine

There were few who knew—and, frankly, there were few who seemed to care to know—what Old Dalton meant when he mumbled, in his aspirate and toothless quest for expression of the thoughts that doddered through his misty old brain, “Thay wur-rld luks diff'rent now—all diff'rent now, yagh!” Sometimes he would go on, after a pause, in a kind of laborious elucidation: “Na, na! Ma there, now, she's gone. I—egh, egh—I went to school 'long of her; an' et didn't matter so much, mun, about th' rest going, 's long as she wer' here. But now—she's gone, ey. Agh-m! Ey, now she's gone-like, an' th' ain't nobody to help me keep—keep a-hold o' things. I'm a hundred years old, mun. Agh-m! You wouldn't—you wouldn't know what I was meanin', now, when I tell you this here world has growed all yellow-like, this month back. Ey, that's it, mun—all queer-like. Egh, it's time I was movin' on—movin' on.”

Part of this monologue—a very small part—was Old Dalton's own, repeated over and over, and so kept in mind ever since the more initiative years a decade ago when he first began to think about his age. Another part of the utterance—more particularly that about “movin' on”—consisted of scraps of remarks that had been addressed to him, which he had hoarded up as an ape lays away odds and ends, and which he repeated, parrotlike, when the sun and his pipe warmed Old Dalton into speech. But that idea that the earth was growing yellow—that was a recent uncanny turn of his fancy, his own entirely.

He was pretty well past having any very definite inclination, but there seemed no special reason why the old man should wish to “move on.” He appeared comfortable enough, pulling away at his blackened old pipe on the bench by the door. No man above fifty, and few below that age, enjoyed better health than he had; and many of fifty there are who look nearer death than Old Dalton did.

“Crack me a stick 'r two o' wood, grampa,” his married great-granddaughter, with whom he lived, would sometimes say; and up and at it the old man would get—swinging his ax handily and hitting his notch cleanly at every clip.

Assuredly, his body was a wonderful old machine—a grandfather's clock with every wheel, bearing, and spring in perfect order and alignment. Work had made it so, and work kept it so, for every day after his smoke Old Dalton would fuss about at his “chores” (which, partly to please him, were designedly left for him to do)—the changing of the bull's tether-picket, watering the old horse, splitting the evening's wood, keeping the fence about the house in repair, and driving the cows o' nights into the milking-pen.

To every man in this world is assigned his duty. To every man is given just the mental and physical equipment he needs for that duty. Some men obtusely face away from their appointed work; some are carried afield by exigency; some are drawn by avarice or ambition into alien paths; but a minor proportion of happy ones follow out their destiny. There do not occur many exceptions to the rule that the men who find their work and do it, all other conditions being equal, not only live to old age, but to an extreme, a desirable, a comfortable, and a natural old age.

Old Dalton had been built and outfitted to be a simple, colloquial home-maker, family-raiser, and husbandman. His annals were never intended to be anything more than plain and short. His was the function of the tree—to grow healthily and vigorously; to propagate; to give during his life, as the tree gives of its fruit and shade, such pleasant dole and hospitable emanation as he naturally might; and in the fullness of time to return again to the sod.

He had found and done thoroughly this appointed work of his. He was doing it still, or at least that part of it which, at the age of one hundred years, fittingly remained for him to do. He was tapering off, building the crown of his good stack. When Death, the great Nimrod, should come to Old Dalton, he would not find him ready caught in the trap of decrepitude. He would find him with his boots on, up and about—or, if in bed, not there except as in the regular rest intervals of his diurnal round.

And the fact that he, a polyp in the great atoll of life, had found his exact place and due work was the reason that, at one hundred years, life was yet an orange upon the palate of Old Dalton.

Nanny Craig—who later became Mother Dalton—had, in remote eighteen hundred and twenty, been a squalling, crabbed baby, and had apparently started life determined to be crotchety. If she had adhered to this schedule she would have been buried before she was sixty and would have been glad to go. But Old Dalton—then young Dave Dalton—married her out of hand at seventeen, and so remade and conserved her in the equable, serene, and work-filled atmosphere of the home he founded that Nanny far outdid all her family age records, recent or ancestral, and lived to ninety-three. She was seven years younger than Dave, and now three months dead.

Dave had missed her sorely. People had said the Message would not be long coming to him after she went. Perhaps if he had been in the usual case of those who have passed the seventh decade—weary and halt and without employment or the ability or wish for it—he would have brooded and worried himself into the grave very soon after the passing of his old “mate” and one living contemporary. But he was a born, inured, and inveterate worker, and as long as there were “chores” for him to do he felt ample excuse for continuing to exist. Old Dalton still had the obsession, too, that while and where he lived he was “boss” and manager; and one solid, sustaining thought that helped to keep him living was that if he died the Dalton farm (it was the original old homestead that these young descendants of his occupied) would be without its essential head and squire.

So sturdy, so busy, and so well had he been always that all the deaths he had seen in his journey down a hundred years of mortality had failed to bring home to him the grave and puissant image of death as a personal visitant.

“Ey, I'm always out wur-rkin' when they send fur me, I guess,” was the joke he had made at eighty and repeated so often since that now he said it quite naively and seriously, as a fact and a credible explanation.

But, although it took time to show its effect, Nanny's going hit him a little harder than any of the other deaths he had witnessed. She had traveled with him so long and so doughtily that he had never been able to form any anticipative picture of himself without her. Indeed, even now it felt as if she had merely “gone off visitin',” and would be back in time to knit him a pair of mitts before the cold weather came.

It was the odd idea about the world growing “yellow-lookin'”—sometimes he said “red-lookin'“ and at other times seemed not quite certain which description conveyed the vague hue of his fancy—that appeared to be pulling him to pieces, undermining him, more than any other influence. Most people, however, were accustomed to consider the hallucination an effect of Mother Dalton's removal and a presage of Old Dalton's own passing.

This odd yellowness (or redness), as of grass over which chaff from the threshing-mill has blown, lay across the old pasture on this afternoon of his second century, as Old Dalton went to water the superannuated black horse that whinnied at his approach.

“Ey, Charley,” he said, reflectively, as he took the old beast by the forelock to lead it up to the pump—“ey, Charley-boy”; then, as the horse, diminishing the space between its forefoot and his heel with a strange ease, almost trod on him—“ey, boy—steady there, now. Es yur spavin not throublin' ye th' day, then? Ye walk that free. S-steady, boy—ey!”

But Grace, the granddaughter, glancing across the pasture as she came to the kitchen door to empty potato peelings, put it differently.

“See how hard it be's gettin' for grampa to get along, Jim,” she said to her husband, who sat mending a binder-canvas at the granary door. “I never noticed it before, but that old lame Charley horse can keep right up to him now.”

Jim Nixon stuck his jack-knife into the step beside him, pushed a rivet through canvas and fastening-strap, and remarked, casually: “He ought to lay off now—too old to be chorin' around. Young Bill could do all the work he's doin', after he comes home from school, evenings.”

“He's not bin the same sence gramma died,” Gracie Nixon observed, turning indoors again. “It ain't likely we'll have him with us long now, Jim.”

The old man, coming into the house a little haltingly that evening, stopped sharply as his granddaughter, with a discomposingly intent look, asked, “Tired to-night, grampa?”

“Ey?” His mouth worked, and his eyes, the pupils standing aggressively and stonily in the center of the whites, abetted the protest of the indomitable old pioneer. “Tired nothin'. You young ones wants t'l maind yur own business, an' that'll—egh—kape yous busy. Where's me pipe, d'ye hear, ey? An' the 'bacca? Yagh, that's it.” The old man's fingers crooked eagerly around the musty bowl. He lit, sucked, and puffed noisily, lowering himself on a bench and feeling for the window-sill with his elbow. “In my taime,” he continued, presently, in an aggrieved tone, “young ones was whopped fur talkin' up t'l thur elders like that. Lave me be, now, an' go 'n' milk thame cows I just fetched. Poor beasts, their bags es that full—ey, that full. They're blattin' to be eased.”

With indulgent haste, the young couple, smiling sheepishly at each other like big children rebuked, picked up their strainer-pails and went away to the corral. The old man, his pipe-bowl glowing and blackening in time to his pulling at it, smoked on alone in the dusk. In the nibbling, iterative way of the old, he started a kind of reflection; but it was as if a harmattan had blown along the usual courses of his thought, drying up his little brooklet of recollection and withering the old aquatic star-flowers that grew along its banks. His mind, in its meandering among old images, groped, paused, fell pensive. His head sank lower between his shoulders, and the shoulders eased back against the wall behind his bench. When Jim Nixon and his wife, chasing each other merrily back and forth across the dewy path like the frolicsome young married couple they were, reached the door-yard, they found the old man fallen “mopy” in a way uncommon for him, and quite given over to a thoughtless, expressionless torpor and staring.

“You'll be tired-like, grampa, eh?” Jim Nixon said, as he came over to the veteran and put a strong hand under Old Dalton's armpit. “Come on, then. I'll help you off to your bed.”

But the old man flamed up again, spiritedly, although perhaps this time his protest was a little more forced. “Ye'll not, then, boy,” he mumbled. “Ye'll just lave me be, then. I'm—egh, egh”—he eased gruntingly into a standing position—“I'm going to bed annyway, though.” He moved off, his coattail bobbing oddly about his hips and his back bowed. The two heard him stump slowly up the stairs.

Jim Nixon drew the boot-jack toward him and set the heel of his boot thoughtfully into the notch. “They go quick, Gracie,” he observed, “when they get as old as him. They go all at onct, like. Hand me thon cleaver, an' I'll be makin' a little kindlin' for th' mornin'.”

The alcove where the old man's bed stood was only separated by a thin partition from the room where the young couple slept; and the sounds of their frolic, as they chased, slapped, and cast pillows at each other, came to him companionably enough as he drew the blankets up about his big, shrunken chest and turned the broad of his back to the comfortable hay-stuffed bed-tick.

But all the merry noise and sociable proximity of the young people staved not off the great joust with loneliness this mighty knight of years had before he slept—a loneliness more than that of empty house and echoing stair; more than that, even, of Crusoe's manless island; utterly beyond even that of an alien planet; of spaces not even coldly sown with God-aloof stars—the excellent, the superlative loneliness of one soul for another. It is a strange, misty, Columbus-voyage upon which that hardy soul goes who dares to be the last of his generation.

There was in that bed a space between him and the wall—a space kept habitually yet for the Nanny who never came to fill it, who never again would come to fill it. (There would have been no great demonstration on the old man's part even if she had miraculously come. Merely a grunt of satisfaction; perhaps a brief, “Ey, ma—back?” and then a contented lapsing into slumber.) His want of her was scarcely emotional; at least it did not show itself to him that way. It took more the form of a kind of aching wish to see things “as they was” again. But that ache, that uneasiness, had upon Old Dalton all the effect of strong emotion—for it rode him relentlessly through all these days of his December, its weight and presence putting upon the tired old heart an added task. The ordinary strain of life he might have endured for another decade, with his perfect old physique and natural habits of life. But this extra pressure—he was not equipped for that!

“They go quick, at that age,” his granddaughter's man had said. But, although even he himself did not know it, Old Dalton had been “going” for weeks—ever since the first confident feeling that “ma” would come back again had given place to the ache of her coming long delayed.

To-night it was cold in bed for August. Old Dalton wished “they” would fetch him another quilt.

But it should not have been cold that August evening. Beyond the wooden bed a small, rectangular window with sash removed showed a square of warm sky and a few stars twinkling dully in the autumnal haze. An occasional impatient tinkle of the cow-bell down in the corral indicated midges, only present on bland days and nights when there is in the air no hint of frost to stiffen the thin swift mite-wings.

High summer, and he was cold! Bedlam in the next room, and he was lonely! His sensations were getting out of hand, beyond the remedial influences and friendly fraternal sounds of this world he had so long tenanted. By a score of years he had exceeded his due claim upon earth's good offices to man. He was a trespasser and an alien in this strange present—he with his ancient interests, fogy ways of speech and thought, obsolete images and ideals, and mind that could only regard without attempt at comprehension the little and great innovations of the new age.

“We c'u'd make shift well enough with the things we had whin I was a lad,” Old Dalton had often said to those who talked to him of the fine things men were inventing—the time-savers, space-savers, work-savers; “we c'u'd make shift well enough. We got along as well as they do now, too, we did; and, sir, we done better work, too. All men thinks of, these days, is gettin' through quick. Yagh, that's it, that's it—gettin' through quick-like, an' leavin' things half done.”

So is a man born and implanted in his own generation. And if by strength he invades the next generation beyond, he does not go far before he finds he is a stranger utterly. In the current talk of men there are new smartnesses of speech built upon the old maternal tongue. There are new vogues of dress, new schools of thought, new modes even of play. Perhaps, again, new vices that the older simpler life kept dormant give the faces of this fresh generation a look and a difference strange and sinister.

A hundred years old! There are to be found, notably in steadily moving rural communities, not a few who endure to ninety hardily enough; but rare and singular are the cases where a man is to be found, except as dust in a coffin, a century after his birth. Old Dalton had inherited from his mother the qualities that are the basis of longevity—a nature simple and serene, a physique perfect in all involuntary functions and with the impulse of sane and regular usages to guide voluntary ones, an appetite and zest for work. She had married at eighteen and had lived to see her son reach his eightieth year, herself missing the century mark by only a few months.

But Old Dalton had breasted the tape, the first of his race to do it. And if it had not been for this wave of loneliness; this parching, astringent wind of sorrow that seemed to dry up the oil of his joints, evaporate the simple liquor of his thought, put out the vital sparkle in his eye; and now, latest act of dispossession, to milk his old veins of their warmth—if it had not been for this influence and prescience, Old Dalton might have run hardily quite a good little way into his second century.

But somewhere, afar and apart, the finger was about to descend upon the chronometer that timed his race. The dust atoms that a hundred years ago had been exalted to make a man now clamored for their humble rehabilitation. Man shall never, in this mortal body we use, exemplify perpetual motion.

Old Dave Dalton turned in his bed. Something beyond the chilliness was wrong with him, and he did not know what it was. There is no condition so vexatious as an unexplainable lack of ease; and Old Dalton twisted, gathered up his knees, straightened them again, tensed, relaxed, shifted the bedclothes, and busily but vainly cast about for the source of his disquiet.

Ah!—the thought slipped into his mind like a late guest.

“Et's thame sticks I forgot, ey,” the old man muttered as he forthwith and arduously rose into a sitting position and pushed the blankets off him. “Ey, ey, that's it—the sticks for the mornin'!”

The chopping of the wood for the morning fire, in order that the sower, haymaker, or harvester, as the seasonal case might be, should have as little delay as possible in getting to his field or meadow; this had been a regular chore of Old Dalton's, a function never omitted before in all the scope of his methodical and assiduous days.

“Ey, but I never thought now that I'd ever lave that job not done,” he muttered as he shuffled slowly and sheepishly down the stairs. “Ey, ey ... ma!”

There she was, at the foot of the stairs! Old Dalton saw her, as plainly as if it had been daylight. Gray apron with its horseshoe pattern almost obliterated by many washings, waist bulging halely, shoulders bowed forward, old wool hood tied over her head. There she was, with her visage, that in all their years together had not changed for him, squeezed and parched into the wrinkles of her thirty-four thousand days. (The only difference Old Dalton could see, as he stopped, his elbows bent a little, and regarded her in his quelling masculine way, resided in the eyes. Instead of being held downcast in the old attitude of deference, they now looked across at him, straight level, and—summoning!)

Immobile age and Old Dalton's habit kept him from any visible expression of the welcome that lay warm (though tempered by an odd feeling of strangeness due to that look she carried in her eyes) in his soul.

“Ey, ma—back?” he murmured, as he looked her up and down a moment, to get used to the sight of her, and then edged on in a vague, indifferent way toward the outside door and the chip-pile.

Mother Dalton followed, without comment or change of expression, but a tear seemed to flit and zigzag its way down the dried courses of her thousand wrinkles. She stood in the doorway, facing the moon as it rose above the roof of the granary. If she was a little translucent for so solid-shaped an old presence, Old Dalton did not notice it, as he picked up his ax and went handily to his wood-chopping.

She maintained her position on the step quietly, her hands folded across her waistband, her feet bluish and bare upon the pine sill. But, though she did not interrupt by word or movement, Old Dalton (who had used to be no more conscious of her than of the wind or the daylight) felt to-night as embarrassed by her proximity as though she were a stranger and a hostile presence. He was sweating and irritable when he finished his sticks; and, as he stood his ax against the end of a log, twisted his head around sharply, with the intent of asking the old woman why she was “gappin' there, place o' goin' and gettin' thon bed warmed up.”

But the old pioneer himself fell agape as he encountered the look on her face. There is a vast respect in the country for that many-phased quality called “second sight”; and, if Old Dalton had ever seen signs of the possession of it on a human face, he saw them on his old woman's now. It struck him, too, for the first time definitely, as he groped about in the fog of his old mind for the reason she looked so queer, so like a stranger to him, that Mother Dalton had brought some odd quality back from this “visit” she had been making.

There grew upon Old Dalton something of fear. He stood fumbling and tetering, his hands wandering nervously up and down the edge of his coat.

Mother Dalton stood upon that step, facing the half-moon that looked down from above the grove. Her glance was not directed toward him, but up and away. In the pupils of her eyes was a shine which seemed a refraction of the silver-gray beams of the moon. There was about her gaze a something heavy, mournful, and boding which old Dave could not understand, but which made him think of the expression she had lifted in the old homesteading days toward the hail-cloud that swept from eastward to beat down their little, hard-sown crop.

“They 's trouble a-comin'.” The voice was hers—at least it came from her direction—yet it seemed to Old Dalton that the words came not from her, but through her. “Ey, Davie ... there 's trouble a-comin' ... trouble a-comin'. Ess time you was movin' ... movin' on....”

Old Dave Dalton had never, in the long, long course of his years, had a sensation like that which took him, as the queer voice melted away, blending imperceptibly with the homely rustlings and lowings of the farm night. The ache he had carried in his heart for those last weeks seemed suddenly to bulge and burst, like a bubble. The old moon, the hills and trees and trail of his long travel; the night, the world, and the odd old figure over against him, were bundled up with a sudden vast infolding in a blanket of black, a corner of which seemed thrust against his mouth, gagging him and cutting off his breath. He was lifted, lifted as in a great wind—lifted by shoulders, crown, and knees, and whirled around—around ... then set again on his feet very softly, with the blackness gone and the clear country night above him as before.

He should have been giddy after that cataclysm, but he stood upright and steady. He should have been tired and shaken, but he was fresh and calm. He should have been heavy and stiff and held to the earth by the ball and chain of a hundred years; yet he seemed scarcely more solid, scarcely less light, than an embodied wind. He should have been (for the atmosphere of the home in which you have dwelt for a century is not so easily dissipated) a doddering old corporeality, yet he felt he was now all thought and glorious essence of life. He should have seen on the step that old wife who had stood so uncannily by while he sweat over his wood-splitting; yet the presence that moved toward him from the pine sill, though wholly familiar and intimate and full of kind emanations, had neither wrinkles nor grayness nor any of the attributes and qualities of mortality. He should have bespoken that kindred presence in halting colloquialities, yet the greeting he gave flowed from him in the form of a thought untranslated into any sluggish medium of language. He should have been filled with a vague curiosity about that trouble she had just presaged, yet now he knew wholly....

“Let us thank God that our sojourn ended within the bourne of His peace!” was the thought exchanged as these two dutiful ones, cleared and lightened for swift voyaging, turned their faces toward the Gates of the Day.

On the earth they had left midnight was wearing toward morning—the morning of August the First, Nineteen Hundred and Fourteen!

MESSENGERS[16]

[Note 16: Copyright, 1919, by The Curtis Publishing Company. Copyright, 1920, by Calvin Johnston.]

From The Saturday Evening Post

BY CALVIN JOHNSTON

The group before the fire at the Engineers' Club were listening, every one—though nothing was being said; nor was it the crackle of apple logs or fluttering sails and drowning cries of the northeaster in the chimney that preoccupied them. Rather some still, distant undertone in their own breasts, arresting their conversation, gestures, thoughts—they glanced at one another surreptitiously, uneasily.

“But listen—I am telling you,” said old Con O'Connel, the railroad builder, his voice rolling and sweet as the bells of Shandon: “To-night I hear a footfall in the rain—that of Tim Cannon, the messenger.”

So that was the undertone which had arrested their thoughts; the rush of footfalls symbolizing to the group, every one, the pursuit of himself by a belated messenger. They settled themselves, relieved and smiling; after all the thing had been naturally suggested to them by the echo of rain on the broad plate windows. And they nodded their heads to Con, still listening.

The footfall of Tim Cannon, a name of ancient days on the P. D. Railroad; but as the story does not concern him except as Molly Regan's messenger I will leave him come into it in his own time and take up with the Regans themselves.

Two of them there were to begin with—young Michael, swinging a lusty pick in a construction gang of the Great Southwest Railway; and Molly, a pretty bride with solemn wondering gaze and air of listening to things which no one else could hear.

Often Mike would smile at her queer fancies that there are things to learn and do beyond the day's work, and after the Great Southwest has been builded and he has laid aside pick and shovel to become track boss at Turntable Station this queerness of Molly's leads her into playing a great joke on her husband.

For she saves her odd pennies against his birthday and presents him with a book. “A book of higher knowledge, it is,” she says, while Mike scratches his head in awe; and she must kiss him for the kind interest he takes and that evening read to him a page in a voice like the song of soldiers marching. Mike toils after in mind with his big fists gripping and forehead glistening in the struggle to remember the journey, but at the end a darkness comes down on him, and the two gaze at each other uneasily and the page is read over again.

But devil a bit can Mike remember of it, so that he sits despairing with his head between his hands. “Do not mind, Molly,” he says then; “you shall study on alone at the higher knowledge, having a joy of it which is not for me.” He says this, looking up to smile, and yet the big hands hold on to hers as if fearing she was being stolen away.

But Molly answers him back so clear and strong that the song of soldiers marching is nothing to it. “'T is only the joke I am playing. Am I the wife to bother you with learning when you know already so much,” she says, “and have the care of the section on your mind, with ties to lay straight and rails to spike fast so that the great railroad may run?” And when he speaks once more of the study she should make of knowledge Molly closes the big book and sets it on the mantel along with the clock.

“'T is for ornament, and now you know why I bought it from the peddler,” she explains; “for every household of pretension must have a book.”

So they admire the shiny binding and gold letters, and after five years when their new cottage is built it is given a shelf of its own.

Danny is born, the same who in Molly's lifetime shall be an official of the great railroad; and when in the course of time he is turned a sturdy boy of seven, with coal-black eyes and a round cropped head, she would place the book in his hands for purposes of learning. But detecting the fear of Michael as he smokes in the evening with eyes on the shelf, that the mysterious volume may contain matter treasonable to their state and condition, she ignores the higher knowledge completely and is content to send Danny only to the Turntable school.

A cruel one he is to the old master there, inking the pages of his reader and carving a locomotive on his desk; and when he is twelve he has decided against all books and school and is interested only in things of the Turntable yard.

So that one evening he comes home, and when Molly kisses him because he brought all his books as if to study Danny explains, “Mother, I am now a man and have a job calling crews, so study is of no more use.”

He stacks his reader and arithmetic on the shelf by the old book, and Michael hearing the news that evening laughs with pleasure that the boy has completed his education so soon and promises to put half Danny's salary in bank in his own name. Time passes and the books fade in their bindings, and are forgotten even by Molly; but the eyes of her shine more clearly than ever as if studying in pages which no one else could see. When Danny is about eighteen years old, and already operator at Turntable, she notices that a habit has come over him of pausing in the doorway at dusk, and there he will stand gazing out into the yards with folded arms till at last his mother asks the reason with timid eagerness.

“'T is the lanterns,” says Dan. “Beckon they do to things beyond Turntable.”

“To things beyond,” repeats Molly with hand on her heart. “Turn to me,” she says; and Dan does so, grinning at his fancy; but as she studies the black-browed face a fierce frown like the fluff and smoke of powder passes over it, with the white teeth gleaming out.

“Beckon they do, mother,” he says steadily, “to the job of trainmaster and superintendent, and even beyond to places high and powerful. And there I must trample my way whoever has to be pulled down to make room.”

In that instant she sees him as he is, the Regan of them all; and after a bit she smiles and nods, but never again does she ask about the beckoning of the lanterns.

So time passes again, and Dan goes up to division headquarters at Barlow to dispatch trains, and Michael gives a last order as assistant roadmaster and comes home to his long sickness. And now Molly is alone in the little house, settled down to keep blooming the memories of it along with the hollyhocks of the garden beyond the lattice with the morning-glory vines trailing over. Time fades her face, but 't is still uplifted and lighted, and later she is seen among the flowers till they die in the fall, and winter coming down she sits at her window knitting a shawl as the snow is knitted without.

But deep is her grieving over Dan, who is by this time superintendent, with his policy of pull-down and trample-under, dreaded by all round him. Two or three times a year he will stop his special at Turntable, and seated in the little parlor he seems a glowing metal mass of a man to Molly, standing apart in awe of him. But the time is at hand when she must appeal to him or never at all in this world, so the saints inspire her to speak a message to the man of power and she smiles with shy pride of their confidence in her.

“Faith, I will talk to him as a boy again,” she plans; “'Danny,' I will say, 'when the lanterns of the yard do beckon to your ambition is there not one light above and beyond, brighter than all the others, which beckons the spirit?' Then he will be guided by it,” reasons old Molly with her solemn gaze fixed on the future of Dan.

But it chances that Dan's visit is delayed and Molly feels that the saints are impatient of her worldly lingering.

“I must put the message into writing lest it be lost entirely,” she says then. “Anyhow Danny will read it over and over in memory of me, having that tender a heart toward his mother, for all his hardness to others.”

So that the message of the farthest lantern is at last about to be written, on an evening when the little cottage with crusted eaves and hoary glimmering windows seems but the bivouac of winter elves in folk story. And as old Molly by the cleared table, with pen in hand and bottle of ink and the paper she bought when Michael died—to write his second cousin in Kildare a letter of sympathy, y' understand—as old Molly makes ready for the writing, after a stick laid on the fire and hearth brushed, the snow drifts solidly to the window but is swept clean of the doorstep, leaving a scratch of firelight under the door on the path beyond.

“The Farthest Lantern,” she writes, as a headline, for 't is certain that Danny before reading will wish to know what it is about; and then pleased with the successful beginning she holds it up to the shaded lamp to read over, then because of the wrinkled hands shaking lays it down on the table, surely as steady as rock.

Divil a thing can she make out except blots and scratches, so that the headline is done over with more care. And only then it becomes plain that what with the rheumatism and palsy Molly has written her last, except scratches, which the most credulous could not accept at all as a message of interest, y' understand.

Now well would it be for old Mistress Regan's memory if she had put aside the message with resignation and thought no more about it. But there is no doubt that the look of solemn wonder flitted suddenly from her face, leaving it haggard and fierce, and that like a stab with a dagger she drove the splintering pen into the desk as into the breast of an enemy. So much is known, for there is little done that can be screened from mortal ken.

As for her thoughts—here no man can tell, for she held her words behind grim set lips. But the guess cannot be far amiss that when old Molly discovered she was destined to die with never a word of warning or counsel to Dan she broke into bitter revolt. Not a word of all the wisdom she had stored with this one purpose could be written or spoken to him—and it never was. Far be it from me to blackguard an old lady fallen in with disappointment but it is a fact proved by witness that her trembling hands upraised and her lips, always so faintly smiling, curled as with a curse—and whether it was launched at the fiend or heaven itself is not for me to say who have no proof that her voice was heard above the howling of the blizzard.

But this I know, that on the instant she hears a summons that breaks the spell of anger as no threat of purgatory would have done. A moment she hesitates, the old hands sink unclenching, the fierceness fades from her eyes, and once again with wondering uplifted look Molly Regan turns to the things beyond, which no one else may see.

At the wide-open welcoming door she stands, peering amid the squall of snow; and there in the center of the blur of light stands Tim the messenger, in aftertime the ruin of Dan Regan's fortunes.

The boy's hands are clasped as those of a frozen corpse, the wind whistles in his rags, but he glowers at her with narrowed brows and a gleam of teeth. Here he is, come to demand retribution for her rebellion against the will of God, and since Molly cannot live to pay it is ordained that she shall give instead into Tim Cannon's hands the means of trampling under Dan Regan and his fortune. 'T is little we know.

“Come,” says Molly, “come in to the fire, and the hot coffee; you are frozen with the wind and snow. Glory be, that I am still here to make comfortable for the waif on my doorstep.”

The wisp of old woman in mourning dress, with blown white hair and out-stretched hand; the crackling hearth, and coziness of the room beyond—these are hostess and haven enough to any waif of winter tempest; and Molly knowing it to be so steps aside for him, laughing with eagerness to see him at the fireside, dry and warm in Danny's old clothes, sniffing the steam of his coffee cup.

But this is no ordinary outcast, y' understand, submissive to charity, but an agent of retribution, who stands with frozen folded hands, and wind whistling in his rags, looking on with a threatening manner. And when the moment has come for him to enter, and not until then, he stalks stiffly past the outheld hand to the center of the room and turns slowly in his tracks to study the features of the place, as an agent of destiny should always do. His pinched little face is dirty, his black hair tousled by the storm, which has blown away his cap; and now the lamp-light touching his temple reveals the deep scar there. A wild and awesome waif is this, and Molly studying with startled interest his behavior feels at last that she is entertaining some veteran campaigner of regions beyond Turntable to whom the mischances of earthly wandering in cold and snow are nothing.

Not a word does he say but spreads his stiffened fingers before the blaze, and Molly with the strangest of hopes dawning so soon after her rebellion bustles briskly about the coffee making. And presently it is brewed and Tim Cannon stands by the table drinking and munching toast and cold meat.

“Ye must be seated in the chair,” urges Molly, “and be comfortable, and it will seem like home to you.”

At this Tim Cannon rubs his scar with remembrance of his drunken grandfather and their home in the city slums. Then he eats the faster till he is done, studying her with peculiar interest.

“You should have seen the money before I began the eats,” he says by way of advice on the entertainment of wayfarers.

“Do you mean you can't pay?” asks Molly after a moment's reflection. “Now what am I to do?”

“Throw me out,” instructs Tim, with contempt of her ignorance.

“Into the storm? Oh, no!”

“Why not?” he asks with suspicion.

“Faith, I wouldn't treat a dog so,” replied Molly.

“Sure, not a dog,” agrees Tim; and waiting to be driven out stands arrow-straight in Danny's old clothes, which are too big for him, wondering what the dog has to do with the matter.

“But you can pay,” says Molly after a moment. Faintly and eagerly she speaks, her hand pressing her heart to steady it in against the impulse of hope. “You can pay for that and much more—food and drink and warmth all the days of my life—and without money.” Tim shrewdly glances his question, but Molly shakes her head for answer.

“To-night I will keep secret and plan how to arrange it—and you may sleep here on the sofa before the fire and dream of good things for to-morrow; and only then”—she nods with mystery in her smile—“I will say what ye are to do.”

And Tim gives her a glance of his level eyes, reflecting in the wisdom of experience that here is crooked business to be done for his keep.

“Sure,” he answers in a way to inspire confidence, and the bargain being struck Molly says good night, and the guest is soon stretched in sleep on the couch.

After a time the shadows move up closer to him, the fire flickering on the blackened log as the spirit clings to a body dying; the wind falls till only the deep breathing of the sleeper is heard, and the loud ticking of the clock—it strikes two with a crash, and Tim rouses.

As an old campaigner he rises from sleep without recoil or startled look at the cloaked figure standing with ink and paper at the table in the center of the room.

“Whist!” she says, and for a moment marvels at the nature of a boy who rises to the alarm in the middle of the night, awake and ready; the indifference with which he buttons his coat whilst hearing the snow he has just escaped snarl threateningly against the window. “Whist!” says Molly, hesitating to tell the reason for her coming at that hour, lest it shock or frighten him. But the bearing of the meager boy and the level glance of the untamable blue eyes once more assure her that he has not been sent here from beyond Turntable to fail her at extremity.

“Y' understand, Timothy, that I am an old lady who may die any time—perhaps to-night, having such warning in the unsteady beating of my heart—and so I am come at once to explain matters and have you settle my affairs for me on earth. Do not be afraid——”

“What of?” asks Tim.

“First,” resumes Molly eagerly, “I have planned to explain to you a moment—that 't is a duty I promised myself to do and have long neglected.”

“What is that?” asks Tim.

“A duty? Why, the same as made me take you in this night.”

“How did it make you?” asks Tim, and listens with skepticism to her explanation.

“'T will be the same with you, settling my affairs on earth,” says Molly in conclusion; “if you promise to do it 't is then a duty, and of course you would not fail—through storm and hardship and fear, you would go——”

“A duty,” says Tim with reflection; “if you die you'll never know whether I 'tend to it.”

“Why, that would make no difference. You would 'tend to it because you promised. You would follow the Farthest Lantern, as I will explain presently.”

Queerly he looks round, studying the flicker of fire, the cozy room, even the clothes he is wearing; then the uplifted old face under the white hair with its expression of listening to things he cannot hear.

“I promise,” he says, and laughs in a fierce puzzled way—the only laugh ever heard from him. And he has forgotten and Molly has forgotten to name the price to be paid for his trouble.

“Here is a pen you may fit in the broken holder,” she says; “write what I cannot for the palsy in my hand. Now, as I tell you—'t is the letter of the Farthest Lantern—the lantern which beckons to duty.”

But Tim fumbles the pen. “I never learned how,” he explains, “to write the letters”; and on the instant feels the hand at his shoulder tremble and clutch, looks up a moment to see two great tears roll down her cheeks—and curses with a mighty smother in the breast of him.

“You need not curse,” says Molly faintly; “'t is the will of the saints after all.”

She nods, listening, and then the boy watches her glide from the room, and for a long time sits on the hearth before the fire, his chin locked in his hands.

So after all it has come about that the message of the Farthest Lantern is never written at all. And neither is it spoken, for Tim scratching on the door of Molly's room at daybreak receives no cheery word of greeting; and after a moment's reflection entering with the lamp he finds her silent forever.

Without reverence he stares at the face on the pillow, having no knowledge of death's ghostly significance; and scowling he brushes away the cold beads which gather on his forehead. 'T is certain that an outcast in a strange house with a dead person will be marked for suspicion by the neighbors; and Tim Cannon has had cause enough to avoid the police. Yet queerly enough he sets the lamp, shining brightly, by the bedside, and sometimes seated and sometimes moving about, but never leaving the chill room for the warm fireplace next door, he keeps her company.

One neighbor hears of Molly's death from a vagabond at her door in the morning and runs to call to others “Come, Aunt Molly is dead.” On their way to the Regan cottage they agree that the vagabond is a suspicious character and look about for him. But Tim has disappeared; nor do they see him again until entering the room where Molly lies, with lamp burning brightly and grim little sentry returned to await them.

Later when questioned he explains his presence in a few words. “I'll be on the way,” he says then.

No one offers him shelter or money or food, being a suspicious character. Indeed all the company approve when a man stops him to examine the package in his pocket. But as it is found to consist of only an ink bottle and some paper with a broken pen he is permitted to go.

“It is suspicious,” they agree. “What can the likes of him want with letter writing?”

But they are broad-minded people of Turntable, and let him go on condition that he stay away.

And 't is on this same day Dan Regan catches the stride that shall make destiny for railroads, and lands his great job with the P. D. System.

All of two months after Molly's funeral—in fact the very morning of Dan Regan's departure from Barlow and the Great Southwest Railroad to take his position as general manager of the P. D.—a ragged gossoon with a scar over his temple peeps from the box car of a through train halted for a change of engines near the depot platform. It is Tim Cannon, surprised every morning at waking to find himself out of the den of the city slums, where morning, noon and night his grandfather—being in liquor at the time—would drive him out to steal some trifle good for a drink at the pawnbroker's saloon. And having no knowledge that a living is to be gained by a more honorable profession than crime he peeps out with suspicion on the open streets and yards, where it is impossible to hide from a patrolman.

But hunger drives him out into the open, snarling under his breath; and presently toward the depot lunch stand, groaning under the weight of sinkers and pies, Timothy is making his way by fits and starts and glancing suspicion in every direction. So that he is overcome with chagrin when in spite of all his caution a young man steps from behind the car unnoticed and taps him smartly on the shoulder.

Quite an elegant young gentleman, in pink shirt and gay suspenders, who says: “See Dan Regan, yonder, up the platform, who is now off from his old job as superintendent here to become general manager of the P. D. All the luck he has, and myself with a headpiece of solid gold knocking at Opportunity, who has on her door 'Nobody Home,'“ says the young man in gloom.

To the switch engine signaling down the yard he gives the high sign in answer that he will be there in the course of time, and as Tim prowls round the corner of the station he follows after to see what is meant by it.

“What, are you not going out again in the box car, young hobo?” he asks.

“It is a fine home if you have but the bread,” says Tim.

“A home?” repeats the other. “Mr. James Craney, I am,” he informs with dignity; “chief clerk to the general yardmaster, who has no other but me. Is it reasonable, young hobo, as man to man, that you can jolly me along?”

He peers round the corner, and for the first time Regan, a towering figure of a man, turns so that Tim can see his face. The bell of the special rings faintly as the sweep of his glance takes in Mr. Craney and the vagabond boy; then he steps on board and in a moment the glittering brass spark of the car amid the flying dust cloud flings Regan's last signal to the G. S. Railroad.

But the towering black-browed man lingers in the mind's eyes of Timothy; a giant who has stepped out of the unknown and swept him with slow smoldering glance and then stepped back again.

Thus they meet and part, and the great man holds no more memory of the vagabond than if he had never been; but in the bony little breast under the rags the heart leaps high, and on the instant Tim takes up the trail which Destiny, a far-sighted old creature, has long since blazed out for him.

“He is the big boss,” says the boy with awe, gazing after the spangle of the flying train.

“I would not envy Regan if I were you,” advises Craney. “See how he has gone—with no friend to bid him godspeed because of the way he has kept us all under.”

But the boy still gazes after the spangle in the dust. “Divil a bit will Regan care whether he be godspeeded or not,” he says, so boldly that Craney considers him with respect.

“I see that yourself has ambition along of the rags,” he says with meditation. “Then I know a job where you may use the ambition freely and never a chance to part with the rags,” he says. “A job which is the equal of Regan's in every way, only on a smaller scale, you understand; where you will be general manager of a railroad and all the other officials to boot, including your own pay-master. Do I interest you?”

Tim nods in respect to the big words and Mr. Craney instructs him: “Whist! Arrange your running time to meet me passing the yard-limit post yonder at six one P.M.”

And to make it official he scribbles a train order in his note-book for Tim to sign with his mark, as his drunken grandfather has educated him to do.

Then Mr. Craney strolls away to answer the signals of the engine that there are cars to be weighed, and Tim prowling professionally past the lunch counter in the waiting room, steals a banana and a sandwich, which he has for breakfast in the shade of a pile of ties. There he watches the making up of trains, the flying switches, the flatheads scuttling along packing the journal boxes; and far beyond he can see the machine shops with the forked tongues of blacksmiths' forges and the blink of brasses in the roundhouse.

A great groan of iron and steam and toil swells in the smoky light, and the bells call to him so that he begins prowling everywhere from end to end of the yards. The noon comes with blowing of whistles; and hungry again he goes back to the lunch counter while the waiter is busy and sandwiches are easy prey. But instead of stealing them he comes out on the platform with empty hands and stares back, not understanding why it is so, till the groan of the work hour swelling again calls up the memory of black-browed Regan who has been big boss of it all.

“'T is sure he would never run and hide from a policeman,” says Tim, and ponders how Regan would act in his place. “He would go hungry if he was not strong enough to take what he wanted to their faces—that is what Regan would do,” he says; and despising sandwiches and sinkers which have to be stolen in secret he struts proudly about with his rags and hunger till the six o'clock whistle blows and Mr. Craney meets him at the yard limit.

Now be it explained that just below this spot the Great Southwest had built its first freight house, abandoned as the village of Barlow grew away from it into a big town. Long ago the foundations have been wiped out, but in Regan's time it still stands, a ramshackle ruin on the edge of the right of way, which some official with economy has leased out instead of tearing down.

“This is the Terminal Building,” explains Mr. Craney as they come up, “of the Barlow Suburban Railway.” And he points out the sagging track of rust-eaten rails which wanders away across the town's outskirts. “In here,” he explains, escorting Tim up the incline of the platform and through the sliding door of the wareroom, “we have a stall for the motive power, which is a horse, and in the corner a cot for the general manager, who drives him. 'T is only three runs must be made daily across pleasant hills and fields and then a hearty supper when you collect fares enough to pay for it, and an infant's sleep here rocked by the trains as they pass. Then up in the morning in jolly good time to get the limekiln workers on the job by seven. Observe, young hobo,” he says, “that I keep nothing up my sleeve. The job is here for you to take or leave, for better or worse; and I throw in this cap with the gold braid,” he says, unwrapping one of the bundles he carries.

“Gimme it,” replies Tim with decision; and the suburban car arriving at the moment, the driver turns in thirty-five cents as the day's revenue, and Mr. Craney pays him seventy cents as wages and discharges him with thanks.

“You are now installed, young manager, and so on,” he tells Tim; and after presenting the cap with gold braid, which comes down over his manager's ears, he shows him how to reverse the horse and work the combination of the harness, which is woven of wire and rope and old trunk straps.

“All aboard, Barlow Suburban!” he calls then, so quickly that a young lady passenger must run the last few steps and be assisted into the car by himself.

“You will be most active as superintendent of motive power,” he shouts to Tim as he dusts the bony nag with the reins, and the battered little car bumps along. “Old Charley is an heirloom who has come down to me along of the cursed railway,” he explains.

“Do not frighten away the gadfly which is his train dispatcher or he will sit down in the track till the whistle blows.”

Further instructions he gives also, and they have gone about a mile out into the fields when the young lady passenger having dropped her fare into the box rings the bell and is helped off at a wild-rose bush where a path leads over a hill to a farmhouse.

“Sweet creature,” says Mr. Craney with gloom. “Drive on!” And never a word more does he speak till they reach the end of the line and the house where he lives alone. “We are total strangers,” he explains then, “though she has boarded at the farmhouse half the summer and is named Katy O'Hare and is telephone lady in town.”

When Tim asks why Katy O'Hare and himself do not become acquainted: “'T is the fatal circumstances of me,” he answers; and invites his official to dinner, unwrapping his other bundle.

The cheap old cottage is also fallen upon fatal circumstances, with shutters and panes broken and seams of its walls opening to the weather; the barns and sheds are but heaps of boards, and the crooked, rusty switch seems but a fork of lightning which has so wrecked and blackened the whole Craney homestead that Tim's rags are an ornament to it. And yet Mr. Craney snaps his fingers and dances a jig. “Now ruin and mortgage may swallow you as it has me,” he says with ridicule, and knocks some splinters from the house to build a fire in the yard between four bricks which he knocks from the chimney.

He brings the coffeepot from the kitchen and then kicks it away that he may boil the coffee in an old can as a courtesy to the young hobo; and sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs he sets out from his bundle.

“Never can we become acquainted,” resumes Mr. Craney; “because how could I ask her to be mine and all the time about to be swallowed up,” he says, “by the Barlow Suburban, which has already swallowed my father who built it, and his estate and my own earnings for five years?” And now he makes plain that he is seizing the opportunity to travel away in search of fortune, having found a manager in rags who can afford to live on the dividends of the Suburban.

“We are not engaged; far from it,” he says; “yet never would I desert her to walk such ties as the Barlow Suburban, more cruel than the ties which bind us together.” So he makes out a time card. “In the morning she goes to work, and back at evening; and some day she may be minded to ride at noon for the sake of the exercise which is to be had on the B. S. car.” He gives Tim this time card and the key to the box which the nickels are dropped in. “Good-by; I can trust you.” He points up to the sky. “Do not leave her walk; you solemnly promise! Good-by!”

And having turned his coat wrong side out he twists a red handkerchief round his neck and is gone. And as he becomes smaller with distance Timothy feels his own body swell larger with importance; having tried the key in the fare box he leaves the nickel there as a come-on, and kicks the horse to his feet as he has seen the truckmen do in the city slums.

After a bit the lime burners arrive from the kiln half a mile away, and Tim drives them to Barlow. All the way he thinks of the smoky yards with the groan of toil rising from them, where all have dwelt so long, afraid of Regan.

“Myself will rise up to be big boss,” he says.

Well the gossoon understands, with the scar on his temple and body still marked from the drunkard's blows that no one can rule except by fear, so he speeds up Charley with slaps of the reins, and after unhitching at the terminal chases him up the incline and into the stall with a stick. “Never let me see you staggering or sitting down on the job,” he warns in kindly caution, so that Charley may save himself some of the beatings.

With a smolder in his eyes and drumbeat in his bony little breast Tim sits on his pallet below a lantern hung to a beam, listening whilst the old building rolls and pitches to the passing trains and loose shingles hoot in the blast above. And 't is worthy of note that spiders swing down from cobwebbed rafters to glare at him with interest as a comrade weaving a web of his own; and the mice do not come out at present, but scurry all to set their nests in order and be ready for the part they are to play in the history of Tim the messenger. 'T is little we know.

In a few days Tim has made a study of the Suburban's affairs; six or seven of the lime burners ride with him on weekdays, and also Katy O'Hare; but on Sunday he has no passengers, the kiln being closed down so that the burners may convalesce from riding on the Suburban, and Katy choosing to walk along the path by the rosebush with sidelong glance and blush lest the elegant young gentleman with whom she is not acquainted be on the car platform. In the evening Tim dines at the lunch wagon across the track for a dime, and morning and noon munches a loaf with indignation of Charley, who draws a hatful of oats three times a day.

But soon after he has cut the ration to two hatfuls Charley sits down on the track, indifferent to the gadfly and all the beatings, till they compromise on two and a half hatfuls, Tim rubbing his scar with remembrance.

“Sure, the horse is like I used to be with my old man; when I was hungry I was afraid of being starved and kicked; but after I had been starved and kicked I was not afraid of going hungry or of the old man either.”

'T is live and let live we must, so he feeds Charley just little enough to keep him afraid of getting still less, which is the secret of all contented relations between employer and employed, y' understand.

Only a short time afterward Tim raises the car fare to ten cents, recking little of the lime burners' wrath and the high glances of Katy O'Hare at the hard little face and hunched ragged body as he drives on, clenching the reins in his fists. Divil a bit does he seek their goodwill or anybody's, knowing that there is profit to be made only from the fear that people have of him as they have of Regan.

At evening when he makes bold to stroll through the yards among the roadmen some tale of Regan will send him scurrying back light-hearted to the old terminal to count his money, hidden in a can behind some loose bricks in the wall.

“Buy and sell and trample them all, I will, some day,” he says, and dances a banshee dance with shuffling feet and flinging arms. The spiders—who are all misers—glare down on him with a poison joy, and hasten to spin a web over the cranny where the can of treasure is buried. “No thief will suspect what is hidden there now,” says Tim; and opens another deposit in another cranny, where a spider with golden spots mounts guard. But the mice having set their nests in order only look on at all this, so as not to take their part in his history before it is time.

Drafty and echoing and chill the old terminal is that same night, and for the first time the boy sitting cross-legged with his tattered toga of old sacks wrapped round him is aware of the loneliness. In a sort of vision a cozy room with sparkling hearth rises to mind, and the old woman welcoming him on the snowy doorstep; the hard lines at the corners of his mouth melt away, a dimple coming into the brown cheek, which had never known dimple before, and he curses softly with a gleam of white teeth.

“Sure, the old dame had a message to send, and I could have carried it,” he muses; “because,” he admits uneasily, “'t was a promise.”

And hereupon by the arrangement of Destiny the mice having all in order take their cue and come out boldly into his history. In the corner along of Tim is a rubbish of old records upon which he has thrown the package brought from Molly's cottage—thrown it the first evening of his coming, with no thought of it since, being preoccupied with the business of pull-down and trample-under. But now the mice gnawing at the string open the package, and the little bottle of ink comes rolling across the floor directly before his eyes. And this appearance of the ink bottle being so timed to his mood the boy reaches for the rest of the package and laying aside the pen unfolds the sheets of paper.

One of them he examines curiously, placing it between his elbows under the lantern as he stretches flat on the floor. He knows very well 't is Molly's beginning of the message of the Farthest Lantern, and though he is not an educated person—often cursing the printing in books which makes them so hard to understand—it is certain that Tim Cannon alone of all the world can read what is written here. The eagerness of things beyond, which had been Molly Regan's, the falter of disappointment when discovering that she could not reveal them to Dan, the fierce bitterness of her rebellion—all are written plainly in the cramped scribbling and broad hideous scratches. The huge black blots were threats and prophecies of death, struck from the pen in her hand by a Providence impatient of her lingering.

The vagabond raises his eyes, his body flat and motionless. “All she wanted,” he says sullenly, “was to write a page 'cause it was duty.” It was another duty which had made her take him in that freezing night. He is resentful toward some thing or power—he does not know what—that Molly was prevented from writing this message.

“I might have stayed till I learned how to write it for her,” he says; and all at once is tremendously sorry that it is too late to do this; too late to knock on the cottage door and be welcomed by the old dame to the cheerful room; to show he would keep his promise; too late to leave pull-down and trample-under behind him and begin all over again.

Just this far Tim Cannon lets his musings lead him; then fiercely, in a scorn of his own musings and loneliness, rouses up to sit a while, cross-legged, darting deliberately the untamable blue eye to the dark corners, and listening, as if daring all these bright memories, which would lure him from his purpose of being boss like Regan, to come out in the open and halt him.

Presently in cold defiance of them he tears across the page of yellowed writing; no doubt, remembering Dan, a spirit looks wistfully down upon the vagabond with the scroll in his fist. Again and again he tears deliberately. The very scratches of Molly's message are tatters. Tim Cannon is himself again.

And the great door at the end of the building rolls back and a towering figure stands whipping in the storm; slowly he comes up to the lantern; the visitor is Regan.

“Where is Craney, who owns the car line?” he asks.

“He is gone; I am the manager,” says Tim, rising. And after he has explained, “No matter,” nods Regan.

At the great man's feet lies his mother's message, and as he muses with resentment and wonder that circumstances should drive him here to parley with a ragged boy on the highway of his destiny the last tatters drift away on the draft which has followed him in from the storm. 'T is a ghostly way Fate has with things neglected.

“The car line could be made to pay,” begins Regan craftily, “and I might risk a few dollars to buy it in.”

“Craney would sell if he was by,” replies the boy.

“No matter; you can put through the deal as his manager, making all the money for yourself. Perhaps fifty dollars,” says Regan, careful not to overbid and make Tim think the deal of too great importance.

There is a tone and movement to the air round Regan which electrifies his companion, and at once they are conspiring together.

“You will abandon the run; suspend the service,” says Regan, deliberating; “and because your regular passengers might take hold and operate it themselves you shall drive the horse away into the woods with one trace broken and his side plastered over with clay as if he has been in an accident—having first wrecked the car.”

Tim nods, his own eyes glittering red, as Regan makes plain how it is to be done. From the top of the high hill at the end of the line the car is to be turned loose with brakes unset, so that it will leave the track where it curves at the bottom.

“There it will take the plunge of thirty feet into the creek bed,” he says; “and when it lies in splinters at the bottom you will be handed the money.”

“And how will wrecking the car make the road belong to you?” asks Tim.

The man of power smiles at his shrewdness, and is frank with information so that he will not be tempted to ask someone else. The Barlow Suburban has an agreement with the state which is called a charter, he explains, which will be forfeited if cars are not run for a certain number of days. “So I can buy in the property from the state officials that I know,” he adds, “and operate it with new cars.” He does not say with steam cars, though by the foresight of old Craney the builder this is permitted by the charter.

The conspiracy is now complete and as Regans puts on his raincoat Tim makes bold to tell him: “Some day I will be boss like yourself, Mr. Regan.”

“So you may,” nods the other with rare good humor, and departs for his car.

And Dan can afford to be good-humored this night, having found a way of escape from difficulties which have threatened to ruin his new career at its very beginning. For a line of the P. D. building into this territory has been held up by the Great Southwest, which warns openly that it will bankrupt and destroy the town of Barlow if its competitor is granted right of way or terminals. To avoid long delay in the courts Regan himself, with the prestige of old command in this territory, has been sent to open the way. But never a friend has he found in his old headquarters town; the politicians whom he once ruled with a rod of iron are in fact rejoiced to break one of their own across the head of him. Not a loophole is left open to the P. D.

“'T is a wall of China,” thinks Regan, “and what will my new directors say of a manager who cannot persuade or bribe his old fellow citizens to receive him with a new railroad in his hands?”

“Our new line will be the fortunes of Barlow,” he has argued, but the citizens in control laugh at him.

“The G. S. will do better by us, with new machine shops, and even build a branch into your own territory,” is the answer he has taken back to his car from the final conference this very night.

As his first repulse the man of pull-down and trample-under has not known how to take it, pacing his car like a madman who mistakes his own fits for the destruction of the world. The lanterns which beckoned from a boy at Turntable blinked now in mockery; suddenly across the yards his eye, as dark as the stormy sky, steadied to a single spark—the beam of Tim Cannon's lantern through the dingy window.

“'T is in the old freight house, leased to the Barlow Suburban!” he thought aloud. “The Barlow Suburban!” And already he was into his stormcoat and on his way to parley with the ragged boy posted like a sentry on the highway of his destiny. So Regan discovered the only unguarded gateway into Barlow.

Now the scheme is brewed and Tim settles down to count the gain in money and in the interest he will make with Regan; the old building reels and shingles whir away like bats in the gale, but he only laughs dourly, the scrawny little breast hurting and straining with the ambition to be mounting on bigger storms than this. By dawn he is as drunk with scheming as ever his old grandfather with whisky, and yet his nerves do not tremble as he goes about the business of the day, kicking Charley to his feet and hitching with a scowl to the limekiln crew.

With deliberation he drives into the sheeted rain, and his look into the gulch at the bottom of the last hill, where the wreck will presently lie, is calculating and steady. In action Tim does honor to himself and to the great men who are of his company this day; the horse is plastered with clay and stoned far out into some woods, the brake thrown off for the plunge from the crest of the hill—and then as the car starts rolling and Tim grins boldly up into the black tumbling sky a dazzle of light strikes through his plotting little brain.

And in this instant the little vagabond who has arrived at Barlow and his tremendous partnership with Dan Regan by the route leading through Molly's cottage on a stormy night—in this instant with the car rumbling on its way to wreck itself and the Suburban, Tim Cannon understands that the thing will not do at all. The tremendous partnership is not, nor ever can be.

Such a revelation has come to many an ambitious man about to commit a crime or betray a trust. Cowardice or conscience may unnerve him; or on the other hand he may be fearless and willing, and yet not able to go on, realizing suddenly the thing will not do at all. It is not destined. And then remorse or dread seizes on the coward, and disappointment on the bold who would have gone on if it had been so destined.

But divil a bit does remorse seize on Tim Cannon, being a person of no moral convictions whatever; and as for dread and disappointment—one moment he steadies his darkling blue eyes on the aspect of them, and the next is racing after the car, swinging aboard, and setting the brakes, though the wheels lock and coast on down the rails, slippery with rain. For it is not the nature of him to falter or to parley with fortune—when she declares against him he takes his loss though it be that of life or limb, and quits the game.

Y'understand that perhaps his knees quake and buckle and a yelp of terror is driven out of his bony breast—beating so high with ambition but a moment before—but the spirit does not quail as he releases the brake, sets it again slowly, carefully; the wheels revolve and begin to feel the grip of the brake shoe. Still the car seems streaking to such a wreck as will mangle him with broken rods and torn sheet steel at the bottom of the gulch. Instead, by a miracle it takes the curve with only a roar and crash of glass. Tim Cannon has held the car to the rails and the Barlow Suburban to its charter.

The storm deepens and darkens round the lonely little car and its driver, who stands erect and still with hands on the brake considering his treason to Regan's ambitions and his own. The cause does not have to be searched for.

“Sure, I had promised Craney to manage this railroad till he got back,” says Tim Cannon as a matter of course.

He has it in mind to hasten and explain to Regan, but lingers a moment in musing, unusual for him when business is to be done.

“'T was a wise old dame,” he says; and recalls what Molly had stated as a matter of fact. “If you promise—then 't is a duty.” She had said that; and: “Through storm and hardship and fear you would go—because you promised.”

“Sure!” agrees Tim, disgusted that he has not remembered this before making the deal with Regan. “I will explain to him,” says Tim, “that I promised Craney.”

All of a sudden a vast respect fills him—not reverence, for he has none, but a respect for this wise woman who knew what was in a man so much better than he knew himself.

Then stepping down he plunges into the depths of storm on his way back to Barlow.

The great man laughs at his tale that the job is not done.

“You are a boy of brains, and I am not surprised at the news you bring,” he says. “How much is the price risen, you little robber? A hundred? Go,” he says, “and finish quickly. I am not the man to haggle, be it five hundred and a job on my railroad to boot.”

And as Tim shakes his head: “What now, I ask you?”

“After starting the car down to the wreck I won't let it get away from me, but catch it and set the brakes and ride it wild to the bottom.”

“Why be such a fool as that?” demands Regan.

“'T is on account of promising Mr. Craney to manage the Suburban till he gets back,” explains Tim.

It strikes home to Regan that this is the crisis of his life, and Tim feels his wrath as the toss of tempest. 'T would be an easy matter to kidnap the boy here an' now, and send his own agent to wreck the car, but even then the scheme is blocked. Tim must be accounted for afterward. The boy must see his passengers and tell of the accident or there will be search made for him under the wreckage, and talk in the papers, reminding the town of the Suburban's existence, and Regan's enemies that a charter is about to be forfeited.

“Hold!” says Regan to Tim at the door. “My word I'll not touch you again,” and the boy drops his hands from his neck, all but wrung by a shake of the madman pacing the car. Yet his gaze lies level and clear and there is a steadiness to the bedraggled front which baffles Regan, such assurance being beyond nature in a boy.

“Whist!” he says warily, understanding somehow that nothing is to be gained here by argument or threats; “since you were fool enough to bind yourself with a promise, hold your tongue till I can find Craney.”

“'T will hold,” promises Tim.

Down past the terminal and out the Suburban track, bedraggled and undaunted, stalks the vagabond along the way of knowledge. Nor does he look up till coming on faithful old Charley, who has found his way back to the car and stands waiting to be hitched. Tim halts, surveying him knowingly.

“Faith, Charley, she was a wise one,” he says.

From that hour he takes up the plod of duty, keening in that little minor whistle which all car drivers pick up from the wind and drumming of hoofbeats on frozen ground. And he is always on time in every weather, so that presently the lime burners relent and joke him, and Katy in pity for the outcast would pat his cheek friendlily—but never an encouragement do they receive from Tim standing at his brake and speaking sternly to Charley, meager and windbitten but unconquerable by humor or kindness as he has been by threat and danger.

All day a bright rage chars the bony breast; at evening it smolders as if having no more fuel in the wasted body. Yet Tim sits cross-legged with old sacks folded round him, staring unwaveringly into the loneliness. And from his boyhood's ashes he resurrects with terrific will and fearlessness the great things which had been born within him; in fact he craves and will have no company but them, torment him as they will. He reflects with derision that the lime burners and Katy do not understand what goes on within him. But Regan would understand! How the great things in that man would have raged if he had bound them tight and fast with a promise. Regan was not such a fool.

“Never again do I promise the duty,” says Tim.

The wise old woman had warned him that what a person promises that must he do, but like a fool he had not profited by the warning.

Even in his ignorance the vagabond understands much of Molly. In his first musings on these subjects the night of Dan's coming to bargain with him for the wreck of the car he had foolishly torn up the page she had written over.

He had torn up that fragment of message because the memory of the cozy room and hearth fire had tempted his thoughts away from these hardships and loneliness; he resented Molly's smile and welcome as an attempt to lure him from the way of ambition, much as the pity of Katy and good-humor of the lime burners would do. Now he understood that Molly offered no such temptation; that to herself the fire and comforts were as nothing; far away and beyond these had dwelt her thoughts in some place as lonely and echoing as the old terminal. There in wisdom and sorrow she had pondered her duty; how to keep the promise she had made. “Dam' luck, she had,” Tim Cannon swears roundly. Of course she had also been a fool to bind herself with a promise; but to die before she had found a way to keep it was harder still, somehow.

As for himself—his only duty is to manage Craney's road till he returns. After that the things within him can be let loose, and many exploits be expected of them.

“And if Craney does not come back! Sure,” sneers Tim to the dark and loneliness, “I'll be no worse than the old dame who died on the job!”

One day Katy speaks of returning to town for the winter, and he tells her sternly that the road is run for her convenience and she is expected to ride on it.

And so she continues to do, without further argument about returning to town; and he is mildly interested in the journeys she makes after that, on Sunday afternoons. To the old Craney homestead she journeys and sits on the doorstep, sometimes speaking of the young man who has left his railroad to be run for her sake, and then wandered away with his coat wrong side out in search of fortune.

“Never a bit of encouragement did I give him,” she will always conclude, with blushes; “but when he returns his welcome will not be the same I would offer a stranger.”

Once she thanks Tim for attending his trust so faithfully, but he does not reply. It is not worth while; she could not understand—that he does this thing because it is promised and inevitable, not because he relishes it.

As Craney's orders are to arrange the Sunday schedule to Katy's convenience he sits erect on a stone, watching from a distance till she starts toward the car. The things within him burn and torment, and keep him company; he will not let them go or even quiet them by promises of what he will achieve when this duty is done and off his hands. Instead he holds them at bay, coldly.

Till one Sunday afternoon a message mutters out of the northern sky; from Regan it comes, shaking the very ground which the vagabond, as if understanding it, grips in his nervous fingers. “'T is like the guns in battle,” he says, and that night strolling among the men up the yard learns that the roar is that of dynamite where the construction gangs of Regan's new line are breaching the distant hills for entrance into Great Southwest territory.

Regan is coming on, undaunted by the refusal of Barlow to let him through; day by day the iron rumor swells in the northern sky, and Tim sleeping or waking presses close after the vision of a giant of bronze with half-lidded smoldering eyes who juggles men and steel in the burning dusk beyond the construction camps.

Defiant of the winter winds, even to refusing the jacket which Katy buys for him, he shivers with the chill of exhaustion, for now he must struggle the more fiercely with ambition, night and day. Yet on he plods, keening in that strange little whistle. All this bleak stretch of his history he crosses, in a sort of delirium loading the battered old car with company of the make-believe kind whom he has watched the children in the city parks playing with long ago. The ghost of a jack-in-the-box which he had once dragged away from a playground and murdered with a stick in his den appears by night in the terminal building. It smiles forgivingly and he frowns back.

When the snow falls he marches ahead of Charley, a shovel on his shoulder, storming the drifts. A rope round his body keeps the whipping rags together, and he wears an old sack for a waistcoat. The limekiln closes down and there is no passenger left but Katy, so Tim breaks into the treasure holes in the wall to buy oats and bread. Once again the Barlow Suburban is devouring its master. And now the rumble of dynamite sinks lower and lower like the death rattle of Regan's destiny and one afternoon dies away entirely.

That night Tim sits cross-legged on his pallet by his rusty little stove, awe-stricken, as if somehow a battle waited on him. And out of that dread stillness under the northern sky Regan comes to him, streaked red with the clay of the camps.

“Craney is lost or dead,” he says. “I have searched high and low; now it is up to you.”

The boy listening intently agrees with Regan. “'T is too bad I promised Craney and have the duty.”

“You are far from a fool,” says Regan; “look out of the window here with me.” And as they stare up the yards, awink with the colored lamps of the switch stands: “Do you see the giant black engines and cars, and the shops beyond with their roaring mountains of machinery; the tracks stretching thousands of miles, all swarming with trains and men? Such are the playthings of me; have you a game which can beat that? Listen.” He holds up his hand, and out of the simmering dusk rises the groan of iron and steam and toil. “It is marching music like the bands of armies,” says Regan. “D' you understand? You must; you can feel it! Such armies I command and will bring you up in the way of commanding if you but keep the bargain you made.”

“Is it walk off the duty, you mean?” asks Tim astonished.

“But listen again, as man to man,” says Regan, patient and crafty and desperate. “I have no way into Barlow, bold as I have been in building to its very walls. A few crooks who run the town keep me out. My end of track is now a mile from the Barlow limits on the north, and there as if I had given up hope I have bought land for depots and set engineers to work laying out yards, and masons raising foundations. By building in from the north I have not called my enemies' attention to the Suburban, which enters from the southeast; nobody has even thought of it as my means of breaking in. But if you will carry out the deal you made with me,” says Regan, “I will own the Suburban and throw my rails from the present end of track to the Suburban right of way and into this town in a single night! Think over it well; on this spot where you sit among tumbledown walls you will raise up”—the man's tones thrilled like a prophecy—“you will raise up a station of stone and glass. The sounds in here, instead of running mice and the pawing of the old horse and your own curses on poverty, will be the footsteps of hurrying people, their laughs and cries of welcome and godspeed. Ah, Timothy,” breathes Regan, “think well!”

But Timothy, wilder and gaunter than ever, sets his teeth. “'T would be walkin' off the duty.”

Dan Regan grinds out the word after him. “Duty! What is this, I ask of you, but duty? The duty to thousands of people who want this road in Barlow, instead of duty to one man, Craney, who has set you to guard a thing he does not want and has deserted himself? He will never come back. Now ask what you want of me. The price, whatever it is! And where do you come by this false notion of duty?” he demands with an inspiration.

“'T was an old woman—she was the wise one,” says Tim, and explains, as in confidence, about his visit to the cottage on that snowy night. “She was putting it into a message,” he says, “but her hand was too old and shaky—and I did not know my letters to write it for her. She had a beginning all blotted and scratched—I brought it away, and tore it up the first night you came here. The Farthest Lantern, it was. Here is the pen she broke by stabbing into the table, she was that mad!”

The Farthest Lantern!

Remotely Dan Regan hears the word, with a little shock, as a challenge whispered in darkness; he shrugs his shoulders.

“Come, Timothy,” he urges.

Now memory has seized on the word, sending it echoing through his brain; but he goes on, impatient of the start which Tim has given him, and not yet realizing how it was done.

“Will you help those crooks of Barlow against myself and all the good people of the town? Will you cheat Craney of the price of his road in case he ever comes back? Is this duty? I tell you, no!” And in a flash of afterthought: “The wise old woman herself would cry 'No' from the grave of her. I tell you as one who knows. For she was Regan's mother, and her message of the things she saw beyond the day's work at Turntable—was to me!”

With terrible fascination Tim gazes at the man racked by the old powers of pull-down and trample-under, which Tim himself holds imprisoned in Regan's breast. And as the last words drive home the vagabond answers, high and clear: “Sure, you must know then. Tell me true, Mr. Regan—'t will not be breaking the promise?”

Through the dingy panes in the corner wink the lights as did those of Turntable long ago; but they do not beckon.

“I will ditch the car now,” says Tim.

“I might be mistaken——” Regan's voice is hollow; the memories of a lifetime cloud his vision. “Perhaps you would do well not to trust me,” he says; the warning of a hypocrite to satisfy his startled conscience as once more his gaze lifts bold and far along the road which lies through the corner guarded by this scarecrow of a boy.

“Sure, I trust you,” answers Tim in that singing voice the likes of which was never heard out of him before, and ties his tatters round him against the cold outside. The promise has been kept, the duty done, he is at last on the road with Regan.

The man holds the pen in his hand—the pen his mother had tried to write her last, her life's message with, and failed. Fearfully he gazes on this gaunt campaigner of destiny, delivering his unspoken message by deed and bearing and duty done, through storm and danger, indifferent to bribe and threat.

But now this Tim Cannon nods and is on his way like any credulous boy to clear the highway of fortune for Regan, by the wreck of the Suburban car.

“Hold!” Regan's head is bowed and he is listening. “No, I cannot pass here,” he answers in thought, and in a strained, quiet voice tells Tim: “You trust me too late.”

The miracle of Molly's messenger has not been worked in vain.

Light had broken in flashes from the vagabond's countenance since the great things within him were set free to join this mighty partnership. Halted now in his tracks he listens too, gloomily, wrathfully hearing in fact what Regan does not—a quickening footfall, the tug at the latch, the rumble of the door. Craney comes in.

He is almost as gaunt as Tim and covered with the grime on the road.

“What? Are you not yet swallowed up by the cursed Suburban?” he asks, astonished. “Then you will give me word of Katy O'Hare, and I am gone by the through freight. Fortune was not in the direction I took,” he adds by way of explaining; “so I am beating up west and south; 't is a far search and leaves me little time between trains.”

“There is time enough!” Regan has him by the arm. “You are Craney of the Suburban. Come!”

And so terrible is the grip he is fallen into that Mr. Craney is dragged out and through the dark with hardly perceptible struggle.

Tim Cannon watches them out with ghastly nonchalance; once more fortune has declared against him and he takes his loss, biding only Craney's return to throw up his job and be gone.

The night passes and a faint iron rumor drifts down from the northern sky where the P. D. construction gangs are breaking camp; then a boom of dynamite. The campaign is on again; no need of concealment now, the Suburban has passed safely into Regan's hands.

The red coal in the rusty stove crumbles, the lantern smokes out.

“I was just too late; 't is little I know,” thinks Tim Cannon.

A burly battered man enters the door and leads out the horse; the gang at his heels attack the old building with pick and bar; to a ripping of shingles the dawn twinkles through; the battle which the outcast had halted so long is passing over his body.

The battered man shakes the iron bar in his hand, pointing it significantly at walls and roof tumbling about; Tim looks at him scornfully, and the gang tear at the flooring with picks and axes.

Why it is so, I cannot say, who make no pretense of sorcery, but 't is certain that the mice linger and spiders swing low from the rafters with presentiment of tragedy as Tim Cannon stands his last guard in the corner of the doomed old terminal. Twice he catches glimpses of Regan without, compelling this storm of men and steel.

The floor is now torn up to his very feet; the far end of the building, roof and walls, has been scattered like chaff. Indifferently Tim watches the battered man point to him with the iron bar and waits calmly to be dragged away by the gang.

Mr. Craney running lightly along the last remaining girder to Tim's corner presses some folded bills and a paper into his hand.

“Salary and honorable discharge,” he explains; “and invitation to the wed——”

And his voice being smothered by a great crash within and without he signals with his hands that not a moment is to be lost in saving themselves alive.

Above all the uproar is a shriller yell, a rush of staggering men past the end of the terminal, a heavy clang of steel; fighting. “Regan is crossing the Great Southwest main!” shrieks Mr. Craney over his shoulder.

In fact the P. D. frog for the main-line crossing is set in only after a sharp skirmish with a G. S. force rushed up to prevent it. And then Regan, threatened with police and military by his gathering enemies, passes them the court order obtained during the night. By this order they are enjoined from tearing up the frog, even before it has been laid down! Such is the forethought of genius.

Regan's special, ordered out since midnight, stands drumming up the line, and Tim lurking in his corner sees the signal he gives as he crosses the track. The special glides down between them, and once more the vagabond watches through the flying dust clouds the flash of Regan's car, signaling farewell.

Now he is free to pick and choose where he will, but Tim Cannon girds his rags with fierce regret; the great things within him cling to this spot; he cannot break away, and he curses in a cold agony of disappointment.

“I was too late. Never again will I promise the duty.”

“You gang boss!” crashes a voice behind him; “breach me the wall at the corner.”

And the battered man and his crew fly at it with pick and bar.

With twisted face and hand clenched on his breast the boy stares at Regan, who has just sent his car home without boarding it at all.

“My path lies through this corner; last night you blocked it; to-day I will pass.”

'T is a poor sort of triumph over the vagabond, whose body straightens and stiffens proudly.

“Which I never could do with you on guard! Come; first through the breach, Timothy! 'T is your right. Now we are through—catch stride here in fortune's highway. You are on duty with Dan Regan!”

This queer sentimental thing the man does in honor of his mother's messenger, and never again through all the years is the spell broken which draws the man of pull-down and trample-under away and upward to the things which the pretty colleen of long agone saw beyond the day's work at Turntable. 'T is little we know.

MRS. DRAINGER'S VEIL[17]

[Note 17: Copyright, 1918, by Smart Set Company, Inc. Copyright, 1920, by Howard Mumford Jones.]

BY HOWARD MUMFORD JONES

From The Smart Set

If the house had been merely shabby I doubt whether I would have been interested. Every residence section has its shabby houses, monuments to departed aspirations, falling into slow decay in the midst of weedy yards, sometimes uninhabited and sometimes sheltering one or two members of the family who apparently have been left, like the ancient furniture, to be forgotten. The paint cracks and peels, the windows fall into impossible angles or are boarded up, the porches sag, the chimneys lose a brick or two and come in time to look like stumps of teeth. By and by the whole structure seems to sink into the grass under the burden of its neglect, and only a faint tenacity, a melancholy inertia keeps it from crumbling altogether. Then suddenly the inhabitants die, the neighbors awake to a sudden sense of change, and that is all.

The Drainger house was such a house, but it was more. It was mysterious, uncommunicative. In the midst of the commonplace residence block, with its white cottages, its monotonous lawns and uninteresting gardens, the contrast was startling, secretive, contemptuous. The tall grass waved ironically at the neat grassplots which flanked it. The great untrimmed elms sent branches to beat against the decaying shingles, or downward into the faces of passers-by, with patrician indifference to the law. They had, indeed, the air of ragged retainers, haughty and starving, and yet crowding about the house as if to hide the poverty of their master from the eyes of the vulgar. City ordinances required the laying of cement walks; the rotting boardwalk in front of the Drainger mansion was already treacherous, and no one complained.

The building itself was extraordinary. Built in the days when Crosby had been a lumber town and building material had consequently been cheap, its pretensions were immense. A tall, six-sided tower occupied two-thirds of the front, an elaborate affair, crowned by rusty ironwork in lieu of battlements. Windows were inserted at appropriate intervals, suggesting a donjon keep or a page from Walter Scott. The heavy brown shutters were never opened. There was a grim angularity to the deep porch below, a military cut to the bare front door which added to the forbidding character of the place. Behind this imposing front the rest of the building lay like the parts of a castle, each portion a little lower than the preceding. There were four of these sections, like four platforms, their flat roofs crowned with further rusty ironwork. The windows were infrequent and all barred, and a massive elm to the east of the house threw over them a gloomy and impenetrable shade. Although the whole building had been painted brown, time and the weather had combined to make it almost black, the only patch of color being the rich green of the mossy shingles on the roof of the porch.

I had first noticed the Drainger house because of its oddity. Then I was impressed by its air of speechless and implacable resentment. So far as I could observe it was empty; no foot disturbed the rank grass or troubled the dismal porches. The windows were never thrown open to the sunlight. The front door, in the month I had spent in Crosby, remained locked. I had once observed a grocery wagon standing in front of the house, but this, I assumed, was because the driver wished to leave his horse in the shade.

Proceeding homeward one night to my cousin's, Mark Jedfrey, with whom I was spending the summer, I was startled, when I came in front of the Drainger place, to see a light in the front window of the tower on the ground floor. It was moonlight, and the heavy shadows sculptured the old mansion into fantastic shapes, revealing a barred window inscrutably facing the moon, carving the top of the house into gargoyles of light and throwing the porch into Egyptian darkness. The light through the shutter of the window was therefore as unexpected as a stab. I paused without knowing it. Apparently I was observed; there was a light sound of footsteps from the invisible porch and the creaking, followed by the shutting, of the front door. Immediately afterwards the light was extinguished.

The person who had been on the porch had moved so quickly and so quietly, and the street, drenched in the July moonlight, seemed so still, that I wondered a moment later whether to credit my senses. At any rate, it was not my business, I concluded, to stand staring at a strange house at one o'clock in the morning, and I resumed my walk home.

A week later, a change in the routine of my daily life made me a regular visitant in the neighborhood. Twice a day I passed the Drainger house. In the morning it seemed to resist the genial sunlight, drawing its hedge of shade trees closer about it and remaining impervious to all suggestions of warmth. And on my return from the office in the evening it was as sealed, as autumnal as ever. The pleasant sounds of human intercourse, the chatting of women on the steps or the whirr of lawn-mowers should, I fancied, at least unshutter a window or burst open a frigid door. But the warm impulses of neighborhood life, like the cries of the boys at their evening game of baseball, broke unheeded against that clifflike impassivity. No one stirred within; no one, not even the paper boy, dared to cut across the front yard; and a pile of yellowing bills on the front steps testified to the unavailing temerity of advertisers.

There was nothing to show I had not dreamed the episode of the light, as I had begun to think of it. I could have made inquiries—Helen, Mark's wife, knows everybody—but I did not. I could have consulted the directory. But I preferred to keep the house to myself. I had a secret sense of proprietorship (I am, I suppose, a romantic and imaginative soul) and I preferred that the mystery should come to me. My alert devotion must, I thought, have its reward. Indeed, my daily walks to and from my work took on the character of a silent duel between the expressionless walls and my expressionless face, and I was not going to be beaten in taciturnity.

One Friday morning, well into August, I was surprised and curious to see a woman standing under the elms in the front of the Drainger mansion. The neighborhood was, for the moment, deserted. I concealed my eagerness under a mask of impassivity. I thought myself masterly as, pretending an interest in nothing, I yet watched the place out of the tail of my eye. Imagine my increasing surprise to observe that as I approached, the person in question came slowly down to the junction of her walk with the sidewalk, so that, as I drew near we were face to face.

“You are Mr. Gillingham?” she asked.

I stopped mechanically and raised my hat. I visit Crosby regularly, where I am well known, so that I was not surprised to be thus accosted by one who was a stranger to me. She was about forty, obviously a spinster, and clad in a costume not merely out-of-date, but so far out-of-date as to possess a false air of theatricalism. I can best describe her (I am not clever in matters of dress) by saying that, with the exception that she was not wearing a hoopskirt, she appeared to have stepped out of Godey's Lady's Book. A Paisley shawl was wrapped tightly around her head, although the morning was warm, and its subdued brilliance clashed oddly with the faded lemon of her dress. Her face was small, the features regular, but her complexion was more than sallow, it was yellow, the yellow of dying grass and sunless places. A spot of rouge glared on either cheek, and, with her eyes, which were black and brilliant, gave her face the look of fever. Her dark hair, just visible under the shawl, deepened the hectic quality of her features, although, as a matter of fact, she was not ill.

“You are a lawyer?” she continued, her brilliant eyes searching my face, I thought with some boldness, and without waiting for an answer she said, “Come,” and walked abruptly toward the house.

I followed her. On the porch we paused; my companion turned and searched the street, which was still empty, a fact which seemed to increase her satisfaction, and without giving me a glance, unlocked the front door with a key which she was carrying.

II

She led me into the house and through two of the rooms into a third before we paused. The transition from sunlight to darkness had been too rapid for my eyes, so that, for some moments I could only stand ridiculously in the middle of the room. I was conscious of the presence of a third person—intensely conscious—and exceedingly uncomfortable. My conductor busied herself pushing forward a chair which, fortunately, she placed under the shuttered window. To this I stumbled.

“You are a lawyer?” asked a voice from the darkness.

I was startled.

The voice sprang from the corner I was facing as though it were a live thing that had seized upon me. It was the voice of a woman, of great age apparently, and yet it possessed a fierce, biting energy that no amount of years could weaken.

“This is Mr. Gillingham,” said my conductor with, I thought, a shade of asperity. “Of course he's a lawyer.”

To this there succeeded a silence, broken only by the sibilant drawing in of the younger woman's breath.

“I am indeed a lawyer,” I said at length. “In what way can I be of service?”

“We see no one,” said the imperious voice abruptly. “You must therefore pardon the manner in which I have had you called in.”

I was now able to discern something through the gloom.

The speaker sat in extreme shadow. Her dress was a blur in the darkness, faintly outlining her person, which seemed to be of medium height, though in the great chair she looked shrunken and huddled together. Her eyes, faint points of light, were steadfastly fixed on mine, but her face was, I thought, in such deep shadow that I could not make it out.

But the concentration points, so to speak, were not her eyes, but her hands. They lay in her lap motionless, and yet they were extraordinarily alive. Even in that light their emaciated condition testified to her extreme age; but they were not decrepit, they seemed to glow with a steady light, an inward and consuming energy.

“You may leave us, Emily,” said the voice, and Emily, who had been hovering with what I somehow felt to be a hint of malice, unwillingly withdrew. The other closed her eyes until the shutting of the door assured us of privacy.

“I am dying,” she began suddenly in her strange, impersonal manner.

“Do not interrupt me,” she added coldly as I was about to utter some inanity. “I desire to be certain of one thing while there is time, namely, that my wishes respecting the disposition of my body shall be respected—in every particular.”

Her manner indicated nothing out of the ordinary. She might have been speaking of the merest commonplace.

“You are a lawyer. How can I so arrange that the directions I will leave must be carried out after my death?”

“Ordinarily,” I managed to stammer, “directions in such matters when given to the heirs, have the binding force——”

There was a second's pause.

“That is not what I wish,” continued the inflexible voice. “I wish to compel attention to my instructions.”

“A provision can be inserted in your will,” I said at length, “which would make the inheritance of your property conditional upon the fulfillment of your wishes.”

She seemed to consider this. Her hands moved slightly in her lap.

“And if those conditions were not fulfilled?”

“Your estate would go elsewhere as you might direct.”

There was prolonged pause. Her eyes disappeared, and try as I would, I could not distinguish her face. Her hands shifted, and she spoke.

“Step to the door and call my daughter. I am Mrs. Drainger.”

I might have been the servant. I arose and groped my way toward the door. She neither offered me any direction as to its location, nor commented upon the gloom in which I hesitated.

I reached the door and, opening it, was about to call, when I was aware of Miss Drainger's presence; she seemed to have materialized, a pale specter, out of the dusk, and I was again conscious of vague malice.

“Your mother wished me to call you,” I said, holding the door open.

Her strange eyes searched mine for a brief moment as she entered the room.

Suddenly Miss Drainger, poised in the gloom over her mother's chair, seemed to my startled sense like a monstrous pallid moth. The impression, though momentary, was none the less vivid. I felt choked, uncomfortable. An instant only, and Mrs. Drainger's voice recalled me to my senses.

She gave directions for the bringing of a box containing some documents she wished. Miss Drainger said nothing, but turned abruptly, gave me another sidelong glance and left the room.

In the time she was absent neither of us spoke. The strange woman in the corner shrank, it seemed to me, deeper into the dusk, until only her extraordinary hands remained; and I sat in my uncomfortable and ancient chair, the little streaks of sunlight from the blind making odd patterns on my legs and hands.

The return of the daughter with a tin box which she placed in my hands was followed by an extraordinary moment. I became, if I did not deceive myself, increasingly conscious of a silent struggle going on between the two. Mrs. Drainger, in her biting, inflexible voice, again requested her daughter to leave us. Emily demurred and in the interval that followed I had a sense of crisis. Nay, I fancied more; upon hearing Emily's brief protest Mrs. Drainger slowly clenched her hands, and the movement was as though she were steadily bending her daughter's will to her purpose. At length, with the same sibilant in-taking of the breath I had observed before, Emily turned and swept through the door, her face unusually yellow, the little spots of rouge on her cheeks burning suddenly.

The box she had given me contained a will made by Mrs. Drainger, together with a few securities totaling no great value, and other less important documents. This will she now directed me to modify so that the inheritance of the property upon her death would be conditional upon the fulfillment by the heir of certain conditions which she said she would indicate in writing.

I asked why those conditions could not now be indicated.

“You are all alike,” she said bitterly. “All alike in your curiosity. I prefer to put them in writing.”

I assured her of the inviolability of her confidence and rose.

“Stay,” she commanded. “If that girl asks you any impertinent questions send her to me.”

Her hands moved quickly as she spoke. The concentration of her voice alarmed me so that I could think of nothing to say. I bowed and withdrew. It was only when I was once outside the room that I recalled, curiously enough, at no time during my interview had I seen Mrs. Drainger's face.

Miss Emily was not visible. I was about to search for the street door when, in her usual extraordinary manner, she appeared out of the gloom.

“What did she want?” she demanded, almost fiercely, her eyes holding me as though they were hands.

I explained as best I could why I could not tell her.

“Humph!” she ejaculated, and without further speech led me to the door.

“There will be fees, I suppose,” she said contemptuously, staring at her hand upon the doorknob. “Do not expect much. You are the only person who has entered this house for a year.”

I was embarrassed how to reply.

“Poverty is like contagion. People flee from it,” she added with a mirthless laugh, and opened the door.

I bade her farewell. She stared at me, a shrewd look in her black eyes, but said nothing. The instant I was on the porch the door was shut and locked behind me.

III

On my way to Jedfrey's office I could not shake off my unfavorable impression of Miss Drainger. I assured myself again and again that the oddity of their manner of life was sufficient reason for her peculiarities, and yet the same picture of her kept recurring to my mind—a vision of her flitting to and fro in that great house like a monstrous evil moth. I imagined her pale face with its spots of rouge and her lemon dress so unlike any costume I had ever seen. I pictured her materializing, as I phrased it, out of the shadows; hovering expectantly (I knew not why) over the gaunt form in the great chair by the window; or peering out of the unopened shutters as she moved from room to room. I positively grew ashamed of myself for my fancies.

The following morning a square, yellowed envelope (everything about that place seemed to lack freshness), addressed in the fine, regular hand of a generation ago, caught my eye in the heap of mail, and putting aside more important matters, I at once opened it. The note was from Mrs. Drainger, evidently written in her own hand, and contained the provision I was to insert in the will. It was sufficiently queer. She desired that upon her death no one should venture to see her face, which would be covered, she wrote, by a thick veil, and she was particularly anxious that her daughter Emily should respect her wishes. Otherwise her property was to go elsewhere.

The energy and clarity exhibited by the old lady on the previous day forbade any notion that this preposterous idea sprang from a mind touched by the infirmities of age, and yet her stipulation was so peculiar, so irrational that I pondered long over my duty in the case. What Mrs. Drainger wanted was, in one sense, absurdly simple—merely the revision of her will, scarcely more than the retyping of that simple document; but I was conscious of a deeper demand; as though, to the support of her desires, she had called in my person upon the assurance, even the majesty of the law. I could not justify her breaking of what I instinctively took to be a determined habit of seclusion except by postulating deeper issues than I saw on the surface. There was no reason why I should not revise the document and be done with it; queerer provisions have been made in other wills. Yet, to make the inheritance conditional upon so strange a request might be unfair to Miss Drainger. It was true, I distrusted her; but that was not to the point, and this provision was one that she would have every natural incentive to break.

A further thought occurred—there might be other children not known to me who would expect some share in the modest estate; finding the property willed to Emily upon so tenuous a provision, they might easily charge that that provision had been broken, when proof and disproof would be equally difficult, and Mrs. Drainger's wish that her companion (despite her singular testament) be her sole heir would then not be met. The will simply provided that, should Emily forfeit her right to the property the estate should go to a local charity; no mention was made of other children; but this silence did not disprove their existence.

I was too well aware of the ease with which so singular a document could be attacked in court, not to be uneasy. I resolved finally again to consult my client (if the name could attach to so imperious a lady) and briefly announcing my absence to Mark Jedfrey, I sought the Drainger residence.

The old house looked as deathlike as ever. It seemed incredible that human existence could be possible within its sunless walls. Indeed, my persistent efforts at the rusty bell-handle produced only a feeble echo, and the round-eyed interest of a group of urchins, who volunteered, after a time, that nobody lived there. I was beginning to agree with them when a key was turned in the lock and the weatherbeaten door yielded a few cautious inches. Miss Emily looked out at me.

“It's you,” she said ungraciously, and seemed rather to hope that I would disappear as at the uttering of a charm.

“I wish to see your mother,” I said.

She hesitated. At length, opening the door scarcely enough to admit me, she bade me enter, and disappeared. The house was as dismal as ever.

“Come in here,” she said, appearing after her usual sudden fashion in a dim doorway and looking more like a wraith than ever.

Her eyes burned me as I walked cautiously into the other room.

It was one I had not seen, but Mrs. Drainger was seated, as before, in the obscurest corner, a blur of white in which her pale hands looked like pallid lumps of flame. I faced my invisible client.

“I have come about the will,” I began, and was immediately conscious of Miss Emily's voracious interest. The opening was, as I recognized too late, scarcely diplomatic.

“Will?” said the daughter in a harsh voice. “You are making a will? You—you——”

She looked enormously tall and unpleasant as she spoke.

“Yes, my dear,” responded Mrs. Drainger dryly.

“You? You?” continued the daughter rapidly. “After all these years? It is incredible. It is incredible.” She laughed unpleasantly with closed eyes.

Then, conscious that she was betraying emotions not meant for me, she turned to my chair. “You will understand that the information is something of a shock for a daughter. My mother's condition——”

“Mrs. Drainger,” I ventured to interrupt, “wishes merely to make certain changes in an instrument already drawn up.” I was conscious of a stir, whether of gratitude or of resentment, from the darkened corner.

Emily seemed momentarily bewildered.

“You frightened me,” she said at length with a frankness palpably false.

“I quite understand,” I retorted, the sham being, I thought, tolerably obvious. “And now if your mother and I——”

She took the hint.

“I will leave you,” she said.

It was evident I had not won her gratitude.

As the door closed behind her I heard a low sound from Mrs. Drainger.

“I am afraid—afraid,” she murmured weakly. I think forgetting my presence; and then, as if suddenly conscious of a slip:

“Old women, Mr. Gillingham, have their fancies. Death seems at times uncomfortably close.”

I murmured some polite deprecation, but I was sure it was not death that frightened her.

Drawing from my pocket her letter and the copy of the will I had prepared I explained as best I could why I had come. I was tolerably confused. I could not question her entire sanity, and as I did not wish in any way to hint at what I felt concerning Emily I soon involved myself in a veritable dust of legal pedantry. Finally I asked whether there were other children.

Mrs. Drainger heard me out in ironic silence.

“I have no others,” she admitted at length, and added after a second, “Thank heaven!”

“There remains only one other matter,” I said. “The provisions of your will are such that unless she knows them in advance Miss Emily will almost inevitably forfeit the inheritance.”

“I am aware of that,” said the voice, and the pale hands moved imperceptibly. “I am quite well aware of what I am doing, Mr. Gillingham, and I repeat, my daughter is not to ask impertinent questions.”

I bowed, somewhat ruffled. I added that it would be necessary to witness her signature in the usual manner. She seemed surprised to learn that two persons were necessary, and remained silent.

“Call Emily,” she directed.

“Emily will not do,” I objected, “since she is a possible beneficiary.”

“I am aware,” she responded coldly. “Call Emily.”

Emily, being summoned, was directed to procure the presence of a Mrs. Mueller, living near by, who occasionally helped with the work. She seemed unusually tractable and departed on her errand without comment.

For some three or four minutes Mrs. Drainger did not speak. I could not, of course, see her face; but once or twice her hands shifted in her lap, and I thought she was perturbed. My own conversational efforts had been so uniformly unfortunate that I concluded to remain silent.

“You will see an old, worn woman,” she said musingly. “But it does not matter.”

The entrance of Miss Emily followed by that of a stout, comfortable German woman prevented the necessity of a reply. I explained what was wanted; Emily assisted me in making it clear to Mrs. Mueller, and then withdrew to the door, where she assumed an attitude of disinterestedness—too obviously assumed it, I thought.

It became necessary to have more light, and Emily went to the window and opened the shutter. I turned to where Mrs. Drainger sat, the will in my left hand, my fountain pen in the other, and in that attitude I hesitated for a brief moment of incredulity. I thought I was looking at a woman without a head.

A second's glance showed how mistaken I was. The thin, emaciated figure, clad like her daughter's, in a fashion long forgotten, was, as I had surmised, somewhat shrunken by age. Her strange hands, loosely held in her lap, were wrinkled with a thousand wrinkles like crumpled parchment, and yet, even in that crueler light, they conveyed the impression of power. They seemed like antennæ wherewith their owner touched and tested the outer world. As I sought the reason for this impression I saw that the face and head were entirely wrapped in the thick folds of a black veil, which was so arranged that the eyes alone were visible. These seemed to swim up faintly as from the bottom of a well.

My imperceptible pause of surprise drew from Emily that sudden in-taking of breath I have before remarked, and I could not but feel that she intended, as I felt, a subtle sarcasm in the sound. Accordingly I made no comment, secured Mrs. Drainger's signature without difficulty, then that of Mrs. Mueller (who, during the whole procedure, uttered no word), and added my own with as natural an air as I could manage. Miss Emily led Mrs. Mueller away and I offered the completed document to Mrs. Drainger.

“Keep it,” she said with some feebleness and then, more loudly,

“I will take care. Keep it. Make her call for it when it is time. Now let her come to me.”

My search for the daughter necessitated my going through the several rooms, so that I had a tolerable notion of the house. Miss Emily's inheritance would not be great, although the lot was itself valuable. The furniture was all old and of just that antiquity which lacks value without acquiring charm. I remarked a vast what-not in one corner; one table promised well, and there were one or two really fine engravings; but for the most part the upholstered chairs were shabby, the tables and desks old and cracked, and the carpets of a faded elegance. The kitchen into which I passed was notably bleak, and the decrepit wood-stove seemed never to have held a fire.

Miss Drainger came in the back entrance as I entered the kitchen. Her face was paler than I had ever seen it. She confronted me silently.

“If you are through,” she said bitingly, “I will let you out the front door.”

I observed mildly that her mother wanted her and accompanied her into the sitting room. I hesitated how best to broach the matter I had in mind without giving offense and resolved, unfortunately, on a deliberate lie.

“My fee has been paid,” I said, awkwardly enough.

She searched my face. I affected to be busy with my hat.

“I see,” she commented with a short, cynical laugh. “Sometimes it is done that way, sometimes in ways less pleasant. We are quite used to it. I suppose I had better thank you.”

I felt my face flush scarlet.

“It is not necessary,” I faltered and was grateful to get out of the house without further blunders.

I filled my lungs with the sweet August morning in positive relief, feeling that I had been in the land of the dead.

IV

I had no further contact with the Draingers for some days. Indeed, the whole curious episode was beginning to fade in my mind when, some three weeks later, a dinner that Helen was giving recalled my experience and added fresh interest to my relations with them. I sat next to one of those conventionally pretty women who require only the surface of one's attention, and I was preparing to be bored for the rest of the evening when I caught a chance remark of Isobel Allyn's.

Mrs. Allyn (everybody calls her Isobel) was talking across the table to Dr. Fawcett.

“You've lost your mysterious veiled lady,” she said.

“Yes,” said Fawcett.

Fawcett is a good fellow, about forty-five, and inclined to be reticent.

“Veiled lady?” shrilled some feminine nonentity, much to Fawcett's distaste. “How thrilling! Do tell us about it!”

“There is nothing to tell,” growled Fawcett.

Isobel, however, is not easily swept aside.

“Oh, yes, there is,” she persisted. “Dr. Fawcett has for years had a mysterious patient whose face, whenever he visits her, remains obstinately invisible. Now, without revealing her features, the lady has had the bad taste to die.”

I leaned forward.

“Is it Mrs. Drainger, Fawcett?”

He turned to me with mingled relief and inquiry.

“Yes. How did you know?”

I promised myself something later and remained vague.

“I had heard of her,” I said.

His eyes questioned mine.

“Everyone must have heard of her but me,” came the same irritating voice. “Aren't you going to tell us?”

“Merely a patient of mine,” said Fawcett impolitely. “She has just died—at an advanced age.”

It was cruel, but justified.

Isobel was penitent.

“I am sorry,” she said prettily, and Helen hastily introduced the subject of automobiles, concerning which she knows very little.

I sought out Fawcett on the porch after dinner.

“About Mrs. Drainger,” he said. “How did you know?”

“I am, I suppose, her lawyer—or was, rather,” I explained. “I have her will.”

“I thought soulless corporations and bloated bondholders were more your line.”

“They are,” I said, and briefly recounted how I had come to be Mrs. Drainger's attorney.

Fawcett's cigar glowed in the dark. His wicker chair creaked as he shifted his weight.

“The daughter is a curious creature,” he observed slowly, “something uncanny about her, even devilish. Somehow I picture her striding up and down the shabby rooms like a lioness. The town has grown, the neighborhood changed, and I don't believe either of them was aware of it. They lived absolutely in the past. So far as I could see they hated each other—not, you understand with any petty, feminine spite, but splendidly, like elemental beings. I never went into the house without feeling that hot, suppressed atmosphere of hate. And yet there they were, tied together, as absolutely alone as though they had been left on a deserted island.

“Tied together—I fancy that's it. Emily could, of course, have gone away. And yet I have a queer fancy, too, that so long as Mrs. Drainger wore her veil the girl could not leave; that if she had once uncovered her face the tie between them would have been broken. The old lady knew that, certainly, and I think Emily knew it, too, and I fancy she must have tried again and again to lift the covering from her mother's face. But Mrs. Drainger—she was will incarnate—was always just too much for her.”

I told him about the provisions of her will.

“Ah,” he said, “it is even clearer now. My theory is right. The veil was, as it were, the symbol that held them together. But now, I wonder, does the will represent the old lady's revenge, or her forgiveness?”

“We shall know shortly,” I interjected.

Fawcett nodded in the dark.

“Captain Drainger built the house,” he continued inconsequentially, “back in the forties for himself and his young bride, and, though it looks bleak enough now, it was for the Crosby of those days a mansion of the first class. The captain, the tradition is, was a wild, obstinate fellow with black hair and brilliant eyes (I fancy Emily has much of her father in her), and nobody was greatly surprised, when the war broke out, to have him at first lukewarm, and then avowedly a Confederate. Of course he might as well have professed atheism or free love in this locality—he might better have blown his brains out—which he practically did, anyway. Public sentiment forced him out of the state and over Mason and Dixon's line, and he entered the rebel army as a cavalry captain, and deliberately (we heard) got himself killed. Of course the Drainger fortune, fair enough for those days, went to pieces at once.

“Mrs. Drainger immediately adopted the policy of complete seclusion she was to follow ever after. When the captain left, it was said they would not speak; at any rate, she broke off her friendships, refused herself to callers, and saw nobody. Her condition served her as an excuse, but everybody knew, I guess, the real reason why she kept to herself. There, alone with an old servant who died a year or so later, she walked the floor of that mockery of a house, or sat brooding over the coming of the child. It must have been pleasant! Emily was born just before we heard of the captain's death.

“One or two of her nearest friends tried to comfort her, but she would see no one except the doctor—who, by the way was my father. I have inherited the Draingers, you see.”

Fawcett's cigar was out, but he did not light another.

“My mother, from whom I got all this, said there was something magnificent in the way Mrs. Drainger suffered, in the way she resented any intrusion upon her self-imposed solitude. My mother was a courageous woman, but she said she was positively frightened when Mrs. Drainger, a tall, fair woman with straight, level eyes, came to the door in answer to her knock.

“'You may go back, Lucy Fawcett,' she said. 'A rebel has no friends,' and shut the door in my mother's mortified face.

“At first there was some grumbling and ill-natured talk, but it soon ceased. People who knew her family (she was a Merion) saw pretty clearly that Mrs. Drainger's heart had, for most purposes, stopped beating when the captain found the bullet he was looking for, and tumbled from his horse. What was left was the magnificent shell of a woman in that great shell of a house—that, and the child. I can picture her sitting upright in some great chair by the shuttered window, peering out at the rank grass and the elm trees, or else wandering, always majestic, from room to room with her baby in her arms, listening to the silence. She cut herself off from the world of the living as though she had been buried, and she tried to bring up Emily as though they were in the land of the dead.

“Emily was, of course, her only friend, her only companion, her only link with life. Tragically enough, she was to fail her. She grew up, a solitary, imperious child, I imagine much as she is now. She strikes me as being one of those unfortunate natures who are as old at twelve as they ever will be. Mother hinted at terrible scenes between the woman, like a tragedy queen, and her baby, the child stormily demanding to be like other children, the mother stonily listening and never bending her ways. The will of the mother—I grow fanciful—was like ice-cold metal, the child was hot with life, and the result was passionate rebellions, followed by long weeks of sullen silence. And always Mrs. Drainger hugged her isolation and hugged her child to that isolation because she was her father's daughter. How or on what they lived, nobody knows.

“You understand,” Fawcett interposed, “that this is mainly conjecture. They were long before my day then. I am merely putting together what I heard and my own inferences from what I have seen. And it seems to me, looking back, that Mrs. Drainger set, as it were, when the captain died, into that terrible fixed mold she was to wear ever after, and the lonely child with the brilliant black eyes was not merely fighting solitude, she was beating her passionate little fists against the granite of her mother's nature. And I fancy that at an early age (she was very mature, mind), Emily came to hate her mother quite earnestly and conscientiously, and, so to speak, without meanness or malice.

“Of course it was impossible to keep the girl totally confined. She did not, it is true, go to school, but she went out more or less, and in a queer, unnatural way she made friends. That was later, however. She never went to parties, since her mother would not give any and she was proud—all the Draingers are proud. And she had no playmates. Until she was a young woman, so far as human intercourse was concerned, Emily might as well have had the plague in the house.

“But she went out as she grew older. For instance, she went to church, not, I fancy, because she had any need of religion, but because it was a place she could go without embarrassment or comment.”

There was a moment of silence as though Fawcett was pondering how to continue, and I heard the blur of voices from the hall and prayed that nobody would come.

“We lived across the street from them in those days,” he resumed, “and I was a young cub from the medical school, home only at vacations. I really don't know all that happened. Indeed, it seems to me that I have known the Draingers only by flashes at any time. They were always wrapped in mysterious human differences, and even when you saw her on the street some of that surcharged atmosphere of silence seemed to color Emily's face. She had grown up then. Her clothes were quite orthodox, and she was handsome as a leopard is handsome, but always she struck me as haunted by a vague fear, a fear of the house, perhaps, and of her mother's power to rule her. I used to fancy, watching her return to their sombre dwelling, that she was drawn back as to a spider's web by the fascination of its tragic silences. The story of her life is like a strange book read by lightning, with many leaves turned over unseen between the flashes.”

“You were in love with her!” I cried.

“No,” he said slowly. “I might have been, but I wasn't. You are right, though, in guessing there was love in her story, only it was not I, it was Charlie Brede who, so to speak, sprang the trap.

“She got to know him at church. Charles was an honest, ordinary, likable boy with a face like a Greek god and a streak of the most unaccountable perversity. His obstinacy was at once intense and wild. That made him interesting and, though there was no greatness behind it, any woman would have loved his face. Don't imagine, furthermore, because I have supposed they met at church, that he was narrowly pious. Everybody went to church in those days—there was nowhere else to go. Charlie was, in short, an ordinary, well-behaved youngster, except that his face hinted at possibilities he couldn't have fulfilled, and except for his dash of narrow rebellion. I don't see how, to such a stormy creature as Emily, he could have been bearable.

“The affair had got well along when I came home in the spring. At first, I gathered from the talk, Emily had met him only away from the house (it was not home), at church or downtown, or in such ways as she could unsuspiciously contrive. Then somehow Charlie suspected something queer and insisted, in one of his obstinate fits, on his duty to call.

“I know this because they stood for a long time under the trees in front of our house, Charles's voice booming up through the scented darkness as he argued. Emily put him off with various feminine subterfuges—she was, I remember, rather magnificent in her despairing diplomacy—and I thought for a while she would succeed. Then I heard Brede's voice, wrathful and sullen, with a quality of finality.

“'If you are ashamed of me——' he said, and walked off.

“It was the one statement she could not outwit. Emily stood for a moment, then—I can imagine with what terrific surrender of pride—ran after him.

“'Charlie, Charlie!' she called. He stopped. She came up to him. There was a low murmur of voices, and I thought she was crying.

“'Tuesday, then,' he said, and kissed her.

“Emily waited until he was well away, and in the moonlight I could see her raise her hands to her head in a gesture that might have been despair, that might have been puzzlement. Then she crossed the street into the blackness of their porch.

“Did she love him? I don't know. Do you?”

The question hung motionless in the air. Fawcett lit another cigar.

“One would have expected something regal about the man Emily Drainger should choose. You agree with me, I suspect, that she is—or was—leonine, terrific. Perhaps she was deceived by his face. Perhaps, after the manner of lovers, she found splendid lights and vistas in the Charlie Brede the rest of us considered rather ordinary. Or perhaps, since she had lived her solitary life so long, pestered and haunted by her mother, any pair of lips would have awakened in her the same powerful and primitive impulses. He was her man, and she wanted him, and she was not to get him. I have even thought that she did not love him at all: that she was quite willing to feign a passion in order to escape from that terrible mother with her eyes forever focused on her tragedy, her mother, and that gaunt, grim house. I am superstitious about that house. Nothing good can come out of it. It warped Mrs. Drainger out of all semblance to human nature, and it was warping Emily, and Mrs. Drainger was somehow the presiding genius, the central heart of that sinister fascination.

“Charlie called that Tuesday night, I know, because I stayed home to see. I was quite unashamed in doing so. He had, I must say, courage. But he did not see Emily. There were two chairs on the porch, and, to the enormous surprise of the neighborhood, which had not seen Mrs. Drainger for years, she occupied one of those chairs and Charlie the other, and, after a fashion, they conversed. I could not hear what they said, but there was in Mrs. Drainger's calm, in her placid acceptance of the situation, a quality of danger. I had an impulse to cry out. She made me think of a steel instrument ready to close. And, as Charlie had an obstinate streak in him, it became fairly evident that we were witnessing a duel—a duel for the possession of Emily Drainger. Mute obstinacy was pitted against will, and Emily, enchained and chafing, was permitted only to stand by.

“Considered from Mrs. Drainger's point of view, she was not, I suppose, so hideously unfair. One doesn't shut off the last ray of light from the prisoner's dungeon or grudge clothing to a naked man. And her daughter was, as I have intimated, her only link with the living. Hers was the selfishness of narrow hunger, if you will, of an almost literal nakedness. And yet one cannot live alone with the dead for twenty years and remain sane. Since Mrs. Drainger's life was to Mrs. Drainger entirely normal, she could not, in the nature of the case, imagine what she was condemning Emily to. The mother thought of Brede, I fancy, as of some spiritual calamity that would rob her of half her soul, and she brought to the issue her one power—her power of breaking people's wills, and fought him as fiercely as she would have fought the devil.

“Charlie called again Friday and had again the pleasure of Mrs. Drainger's society. He called again next week; this time both Emily and Mrs. Drainger entertained him. The result was, I imagine, even more unsatisfactory—what Mrs. Drainger wanted. If it had not been so terrific, it would have been funny. Some of us, indeed, took to making wagers on the contest. He called repeatedly. Whether he saw Emily or not, there was always Mrs. Drainger.

“It is not her mere presence, mind, that was disconcerting. The old lady was somehow sinister in her silent intensity, in her subtle power of infiltration. Emily seemed, so far as I could see, thoroughly cowed. Strain as she would at her leash, the keeper held her, and the tedious pattern of their struggling conversation concealed bright chains. This, Mrs. Drainger seemed to say, is what you are coming to. And Charlie would look appealingly at Emily, and she at him, and they both looked at the imperturbable monster of a woman, and on Charlie's lips the desperate proposals to go somewhere, to do something, to get out of it, died before he could utter them. Only mute obstinacy held him there. Mrs. Drainger, if she could not prevent his coming, could at least hold Emily dumb.

“It lasted some four weeks. At length—what was bound to happen—the weakest snapped. A week went by, and Charlie did not come. Emily haunted the porch in an ironic appearance of freedom. Mrs. Drainger, in some subtle way, knew that she had won, that the girl was eternally hers. Emily's face was pitifully white: she was suffering. Was it love? Or was it her passionate hatred of the prison that held her, the guardian that kept her helpless?

“Then, one evening, Charlie came up the street. He looked unwell, as though the contest of wills had somehow broken him. He walked straight to the porch where Emily sat. She rose to meet him—I think she was trembling.

“'Good-bye,' he said, and held out his hand.

“Apparently she did not ask why he had failed her, or where he was going, or how he came so abruptly to bid her farewell. She took his hand for a moment, and, with the other, steadied herself against the chair, and so they stood looking at each other. There must have been queer lights in their eyes—desire baffled in some strange way, wounded pride, and an eating, mortal sickness. Charlie's hand dropped, he ran down the walk, crossed the street straight toward me so that I saw his white face, and walked away. We never saw him again. Emily stood watching him, perhaps hoping that he would look back. If he did there was still a possibility. But he did not, and she heard, I suppose, the iron gates clang to. She went abruptly into the house. An hour later I saw her go out, and after an interval, return.”

V

The story lay between us like a damp mist.

Fawcett seemed to have forgotten me, but my silence clung to him with mute tenacity.

“What I should know,” his voice rumbled on, “I don't know—that is, of course, the scene between the two afterwards. When Emily Drainger returned to her house that night something awful happened. What it was, she alone now knows. But the next flash I had of their history came three or four years later—when I had taken up my father's practice after his death. I have said the Draingers were an inheritance; he had been called in to see Mrs. Drainger several times and on those times had seen what I saw later, but I had been away. I could not question him and he was, above everything, scrupulously exact in keeping the confidences of his patients—even with me. At any rate, I was called in to see Mrs. Drainger as my father's son. I saw for the first time that her face was entirely shrouded in the thick black veil she wore ever after; and the wearing of that veil dates, I think, from the night that Charlie Brede and Emily Drainger looked with baffled wonder into each other's eyes.

“Imagine living with the thing. Imagine the torture of patience, the fixity of will required to keep it eternally on. Do you know how bandages feel after a time? Think of shrouding your head for twenty years. But think also of the slow stealthiness with which the mute reproach of that shrouded face would creep into your nerves if you had to live with it; think of the imaginative persistency which saw, in this covering of the features, not merely just the tie that would hold Emily to her forever, but the tedious process of revenge for an injury not known to us, for some monstrous moment between the two that only the dull walls of the house could hear.

“Think, too, of the ingenuity of that symbol. Its very helplessness forbade to Emily the exultation of revilement. Good Heavens! It is bad enough to be tied by your own weakness to a face that you hate, but to be chained forever to that thing, to rise up with it and lie down with it, to talk to it, to insult it, to listen to it, and yet never see your sarcasms strike home! Think of hating a black veil for twenty years!

“Emily, of course, had changed. She met me at the door as she met you. She was a shell burned out by one fierce moment of fire. Something had toppled in her and collapsed, and only by the pitiless and continual irony of her silence could she hide her inward loathing. With me she was proud and acid, but in her mother's room, whither she led me, her silence was like a frightened, defensive covering which might, at any moment, be stripped from her, leaving her indecently, almost physically bare. Her pride, in sum, was broken, but not her hatred. That smoldered where before it had flamed.

“Mrs. Drainger had some minor complaint, I have forgotten what. Emily followed me into the room where she sat—she seems to me always to have been sitting with patient intensity in some corner of that house. I recall the stab of surprise with which I searched the shadowy room for the austere and beautiful face of the Mrs. Drainger we knew, and how, in my confusion, I could see nothing but her hands. Emily mocked me with her eyes, but did not speak. Then I saw.

“I remember I asked Mrs. Drainger, for some reason, to remove the veil. I was raw in those days. Emily stiffened behind me and, I thought, started to speak, but the rigid silence of Mrs. Drainger was never broken. Her very speechlessness rebuked me. I prescribed for her and got out of the house.

“If you will believe me, Gillingham,” Fawcett went on with a change of voice, “I have visited that house for twenty years and during that time Mrs. Drainger, so far as I know, has never divested herself of her veil. I got that much out of Emily. But I could get no more. She seemed to freeze when I sought after reasons. I do not know what she had done, but I do know that the wearing of that black mantle represented to them that flaming crisis in their relationship when Emily lost forever her one hope of escape.

“I have watched them for twenty years. Twenty years—think of it! They were like two granite rocks, clashed once together, and thereafter frozen into immobility. They have never changed. All pretense of affection had dropped from them—even before me. There was only naked hate. Year after weary year, seeing no one, never going anywhere, they have rasped and worn each other merely by being what they are.

“And now the ultimate ingenuity, the last refinement of unhappiness! The veil, I say, is a symbol of their shuddering cohesion which death would normally destroy. But the will of this woman, as it triumphed over life, she has made to triumph over death: if Emily removes the veil she becomes, with her lack of training, her useless equipment, a helpless beggar; if she does not remove it, if she never sees her mother's face, she will be tormented by memory, bound forever, as she was in life, to a blank and inscrutable shawl. Is it forgiveness—or justice, mercy or revenge?”

Fawcett broke off as a swirl of guests flooded the coolness of the porch.

“I will tell you what happens,” I said when I could.

“Do,” he returned. “And you must take precautions.”

VI

On my way to the office next morning, it suddenly dawned on me what Fawcett meant. How, in truth, was I to ascertain whether the singular provision of Mrs. Drainger's will had or had not been met? Fawcett had not, he said, been present at the death; and even if he had been, there must elapse a considerable time in which Emily would necessarily be alone with her mother's body.

The more I pondered, the more puzzled I grew. It seemed grotesque that Mrs. Drainger should have overlooked this situation. Moreover, I was naturally curious. Fawcett's narrative justified me in all I had thought, but it had not given a motive for the veil, nor for the tenacity with which Mrs. Drainger clung to it.

The house looked unchanged as I turned into the street on which it faced. Death was, it said, of so little consequence to the walls which had immured and conquered life itself. There was in the very lack of change a great irony. A barren device of crêpe on the door, one lower window partly open—that was all. The very papers yellowing before the door had not been swept away.

Mrs. Mueller, the woman who had witnessed the signing of the will, was standing on the steps that led to the street. If my relations with the Draingers had been odd, they were to conclude as strangely. The woman was apparently expecting me, and her manner testified to recent terror.

“What do you want?” I asked.

She told me,” Mrs. Mueller said, “to get you.”

Her hunted look and the solemn glance she gave me testified that she was as real to her as though Mrs. Drainger had not for twenty-four hours been dead. “She told me if a certain thing happened I was to call you.”

Suddenly I saw. That tremendous woman was reaching at me over the very boundaries of life.

“I don't like it,” continued Mrs. Mueller with an indescribable accent of fear and a sidelong look at me for support. “I don't like it. But she said the day before she died, she said, 'If Miss Emily uncovers my face when I am dead, you are to tell Mr. Gillingham,' she said. And she made me promise to watch.”

She seemed to want to tell me something she could not put in words.

“It is terrible,” she went on in a vague, haunted manner, “what I saw.”

“What?”

“She was always a queer woman. 'If Miss Emily uncovers my face,' she said, 'you are to call Mr. Gillingham.' And she made me watch. I didn't want to. So when she died I came right over.”

“How did you know when to come?”

“I don't know,” she answered helplessly. “I just came. She told me Miss Emily wasn't to see me, but I was to watch. It is terrible.”

We were at the door. I had a sudden distaste for the woman, though she was quite simply honest, and, as it were, the helpless and unconscious spy that Mrs. Drainger, in her grave, had set upon her daughter. I was anxious to get it over with.

“You will see,” she said again and brought me into the house.

Her terror was beginning to affect me. She was quite unable to tell me what she had seen, but her whole manner expressed a dazed horror, not so much of some concrete fear as of the ghastly position in which she found herself.

She led me to the door of the room in which I had last seen Mrs. Drainger alive, but no inducement could make her come in, nor could I get from her anything more explicit. Poor soul! I do not wonder at her terror.

The room was as before. The shuttered windows admitted only faint bars and pencils of light. The dim chairs and shadowy tables were discernible, but, as if they yielded precedence to death, the most solid object in the obscurity was the coffin in which Mrs. Drainger's body lay. I advanced to it. The mistress of this ill-fated mansion seemed to have grown larger in death; her body was no longer shrunken and her folded hands still retained faintly their peculiar luminous quality. I could see in the shadow that around her face there was no longer the black mantle, but the face puzzled me—I could not make it out, and, opening the shutter, I let in the light.

I stepped again to the side of the coffin. Could this be the queenly beauty of whom Fawcett had spoken? For, where the features should have been there was, naked to the light, only a shapeless, contorted mass of flesh in which, the twisted eyelids being closed, there seemed to my horrified gaze no decent trace of human resemblance!

I turned half-sick from the sight. Emily Drainger, tall, pallid yellow, her great eyes burning with an evil glow, her lemon dress an unhealthy splotch in the doorway, stood regarding me.

“The will—the will!” she cried. “She thought she could stop me, but she could not!”

“Who—what has done this?” I pointed involuntarily to her mother's face.

She seemed to expand before my eyes with evil triumph.

“I—I,” she cried at length, her black eyes holding me as I stood, weak and faint, clinging unconsciously to the coffin for support. “Twenty years ago! But”—she laughed hysterically and came to look at the shapeless, brutalized face—“I never knew, until she died, that it was done so well!!”

UNDER A WINE-GLASS[18]

[Note 18: Copyright, 1918, by The Century Company. Copyright, 1920, by Ellen N. La Motte.]

BY ELLEN N. LA MOTTE

From The Century

A little coasting-steamer dropped anchor at dawn at the mouth of Chanta-Boun Creek, and through the long, hot hours she lay there, gently stirring with the sluggish tide, waiting for the passage-junk to come down from Chanta-Boun Town, twelve miles farther up the river. It was stifling hot on the steamer, and from side to side, whichever side one walked to, came no breeze at all. Only the warm, enveloping, moist, stifling heat closed down. Very quiet it was, with no noises from the after-deck, where under the awning lay the languid deck-passengers, sleeping on their bedding rolls. Very quiet it was ashore, so still and quiet that one could hear the bubbling, sucking noises of the large land-crabs, pattering over the black, oozy mud, or the sound of a lean pig scratching himself against the piles of a native hut in the village, that stood, mounted on stilts, at the mouth of the creek.

The captain came down from the narrow bridge into the narrow saloon. He was clad in yellow pajamas, his bare feet in native sandals, and he held a well pipe-clayed topee in one hand. He was impatient at the delay of the passage-junk coming down from up-river, with her possible trifling cargo, her possible trifling deck-passengers, of which the little steamer already carried enough.

“This long wait is very annoying,” he commented, sitting upon the worn leather cushions of the saloon bench. “And I had wished for time enough to stop to see the lonely man. I have made good time on this trip, all things considered, with time to spare to make that call, somewhat out of our way. And now the good hours go by while we wait here uselessly.”

“The lonely man?” asked the passenger, who was not a deck-passenger. He was the only saloon-passenger, and because of that he slept first in one, then in the other, of the two small cabins, alternating according to which side the wind blew from.

“You would not mind, perhaps,” continued the captain, “if, after all, in spite of this long delay, we still found time for the lonely man? An unscheduled call, much out of our way—oh, a day's sail from here, and we, as you know, go slowly——”

“Three days from now, four days from now, it matters little to me when we reach Bangkok,” said the passenger, largely, “but tell me of this man.”

Upon the sideboard, under an inverted wine-glass, sat a small gilt Buddha, placed there by the China boys. The captain fixed his eyes upon the Buddha.

“Like that, immovable and covered in close, sitting still in a small space—covered in. Some one turned a wine-glass over on him, long ago, and now he sits, still and immovable like that. It makes my heart ache.”

“Tell me, while we are waiting.”

“Three years ago,” began the captain, dreamily, still looking at the tiny gilt Buddha in its inverted wine-glass, “he came aboard, bound for nowhere in particular. To Bangkok, perhaps, since we were going that way; or to any other port he fancied along the coast, since we were stopping all along the coast. He wanted to lose himself, he said. And, as you have seen, we stop at many remote, lonely villages such as this one. And we have seen many lonely men, foreigners, isolated in villages such as this one, unknown, removed, forgotten. But none of them suited him. He had been looking for the proper spot for many years. Wandering up and down the coast in cargo-boats, in little coasting vessels, in sailing-vessels, sometimes in native junks, stopping here and there, looking for a place where he could go off and live by himself. He wanted to be quite absolutely to himself. He said he would know the place immediately if he saw it, recognize it at once. He said he could find himself if he could get quite absolutely away. Find himself—that is, recover himself, something, a part of him which he had lost. Just temporarily lost. He was very wistful and very eager, and said I must not think him a fool or demented. He said he only wanted to be by himself, in the right spot, to accomplish his purpose. He would accomplish his purpose and then return.

“Can you see him, the lonely man, obsessed, going up and down the China coast, shipping at distant ports, one after another, on fruitless quests, looking for a place to disembark? The proper place to disembark, the place which he would recognize, would know for his own place, which would answer the longing in him that had sent him searching round the world, over the seven seas of the world, the spot in which he could find himself again and regain what he had lost.

“There are many islands hereabouts,” went on the captain, “hundreds. Desert. He thought one would suit him. So I put him down on one, going out of my way to find it for him. He leaned over the rail of the bridge and said to me, 'We are getting nearer.' Then he said that he saw it. So I stopped the ship and put him down. He was very grateful. He said he liked to be in the Gulf of Siam. That the name had a picturesque sound, the Pirate Islands. He would live all by himself on one of the Pirate Islands, in the Gulf of Siam. Isolated and remote, but over one way was the coast of Hindu-China, and over the other way was the coast of Malay. Neighborly, but not too near. He would always feel that he could get away when he was ready, what with so much traffic through the gulf, and the native boats now and then. He was mistaken about the traffic, but I did not tell him so. I knew where he was and could watch him. I placed a cross on the chart, on his island, so that I might know where I had left him; and I promised myself to call upon him from time to time, to see when he would be ready to face the world again.”

The captain spread a chart upon the table.

“Six degrees north latitude,” he remarked, “ten thousand miles from—”

“Greenwich,” supplied the passenger, anxious to show that he knew.

“From her,” corrected the captain.

“He told me about her a little. I added the rest from what he omitted. It all happened a long time ago, which was the bother of it. And because it had taken place so long ago, and had endured for so long a time, it made it more difficult for him to recover himself again. Do you think people ever recover themselves? When the precious thing in them, the spirit of them, has been overlaid and overlaid, covered deep with artificial layers?

“The marvel was that he wanted to regain it, wanted to break through. Most don't. The other thing is so easy. Money, of course. She had it, and he loved her. He had none, and she loved him. She had had money always, had lived with it, lived on it; it got into her very bones. And he had not two shillings to rub together; but he possessed the gift—genius. But they met somewhere, and fell in love with each other, and that ended him. She took him, you see, and gave him all she had. It was marvelous to do it, for she loved him so. Took him from his four-shilling attic into luxury; out of his shabby, poor worn clothes into the best there were; from a penny bus into superb motors, with all the rest of it to match. And he accepted it all because he loved her, and it was the easiest way. Besides, just before she had come into his life he had written—well, whatever it was, they all praised him, the critics and reviewers, and called him the coming man, and he was very happy about it, and she seemed to come into his life right at the top of his happiness over his work. And she sapped it. Didn't mean to, but did; cut his genius down to the root. Said his beginning fame was quite enough for her, for her friends, for the society into which she took him. They all praised him without understanding how great he was or considering his future. They took him at her valuation, which was great enough. But she thought he had achieved the summit; did not know, you see, that there was anything more.

“He was so sure of himself, too, during those first few years, young and confident, aware of his power. Drifting would not matter for a while; he could afford to drift. His genius would ripen, he told himself, and time was on his side. So he drifted, very happy and content, ripening; but being overlaid all the time, deeper and thicker, with this intangible, transparent, strong wall, hemming him in, shutting in the gold, just like that little joss there under the wine-glass.

“She lavished on him everything without measure; but she had no knowledge of him, really. He was just another toy, the best of all, in her luxurious equipment. So he traveled the world with her, and dined at the embassies of the world, East and West, in all the capitals of Europe and Asia, but getting restive finally, however, as the years wore on. Feeling the wine-glass, as it were, although he could not see it. Looking through its clear transparency, but feeling pressed, somehow, aware of the closeness. But he continued to sit still, not much wishing to move, stretch himself.

“Then sounds from the other side began to filter in, echoing largely in his restricted space, making within it reverberations that carried vague uneasiness, producing restlessness. He shifted himself within his space, and grew aware of limitations. From without came the voices, insistent, asking what he was doing now. Meaning what thing was he writing now; for a long time had passed since he had written on which called forth the praise of men. There came to him within his wine-glass, these demands from the outside. Therefore he grew very uneasy and tried to rise, and just then it was that he began to feel how close the crystal walls surrounded him. He even wanted to break them, but a pang at heart told him that that was ingratitude; for he loved her, you see. Never forget that.

“Now you see how it all came about. He was aware of himself, of his power. And while for the first years he had drifted, he was always aware of his power. Knew that he had only to rise to assume gigantic stature. And then, just because he was very stiff, and the pain of stiffness and stretching made him uncouth, he grew angry. He resented his captivity, chafed at his being limited like that, did not understand how it had come about. It had come about through love, through sheer sheltering love. She had placed a crystal cup above him to keep him safe, and he had sat safe beneath it all these years, fearing to stir, because she liked him so.

“It came to a choice at last: his life of happiness with her or his work. Poor fool, to have made the choice at that late day! So he broke his wine-glass, and his heart and her heart, too, and came away. And then he found that he could not work, after all. Years of sitting still had done it.

“At first he tried to recover himself by going over again the paths of his youth, a garret in London, a studio off Montparnasse, shabby, hungry; all no use. He was done for, futile. Done himself in for no purpose, for he had lost her, too. For, you see, he planned, when he left her to come back shortly, crowned anew; to come back in triumph, for she was all his life. Nothing else mattered. He just wanted to lay something at her feet in exchange for all she had given him. Said he would. So they parted, heart-broken, crushed, neither one understanding. But he promised to come back with his laurels.

“That parting was long ago. He could not regain himself. After his failure along the paths of his youth, his garrets and studios, he tried to recover his genius by visiting again all the parts of the world he had visited with her. Only this time, humbly. Standing on the outside of palaces and embassies, recollecting the times when he had been a guest within. Rubbing shoulders with the crowd outside, shabby, poor, a derelict. Seeking always to recover that lost thing.

“And he was getting so impatient to rejoin her. Longing for her always. Coming to see that she meant more to him than all the world beside. Eating his heart out, craving her. Longing to return, to reseat himself under his bell. Only now he was no longer gilded. He must gild himself anew, just as she had found him. Then he could go back.

“But it could not be done. He could not work. Somewhere in the world, he told me, was a spot where he could work, ... Where there were no memories. Somewhere in the seven seas lay the place. He would know it when he saw it. After so many years of exclusion, he was certain he would feel the atmosphere of the place where he could work. And there he would stay till he finished, till he produced the big thing that was in him. Thus, regilded, he would return to her again. One more effort, once more to feel his power, once more to hear the stimulating rush of praise, then he would give it up again, quite content to sit beneath his wine-glass till the end. But this first.

“So I put him down where I have told you, on a lonely island, somewhat north of the equator, ten thousand miles away from Her. Wistfully, he said it was quite the right spot; he could feel it. So we helped him, the China boys and I, to build a little hut, up on stilts, thatched with palm-leaves. Very desolate it is. On all sides the burnished ocean, hot and breathless, and the warm, moist heat close around. Still and stifling. Like a blanket, dense, enveloping. But he said it was the spot. I don't know. He has been there now three years. He said he could do it there, if ever. From time to time I stop there if the passengers are willing for a day or two's delay. He looks very old now and very thin, but he always say it's all right. Soon, very soon now, the manuscript will be ready; next time I stop, perhaps. Once I came upon him sobbing. Landing early in the morning—slipped ashore and found him sobbing, head in arms and shoulders shaking. It was early in the morning, and I think he'd sobbed all night. Somehow I think it was not for the gift he'd lost but for her.

“But he says over and over again that it is the right spot, the very right place in the world for such as he. Told me that I must not mind seeing him so lonely, so apparently depressed. That it was nothing. Just the Tropics, and being so far way, and perhaps thinking a little too much of things that did not concern his work. But the work would surely come on. Moods came on him from time to time that he recognized were quite the right moods in which to work, in which to produce great things. His genius was surely ripe now; he must just concentrate. Some day, very shortly, there would be a great rush; he would feel himself charged again with the old, fine fire. He would produce the great work of his life. He felt it coming on; it would be finished next time I called.

“This is the next time. Shall we go?” asked the captain.

Accordingly, within a day or two, the small coastwise steamer dropped her anchor in a shallow bay off a desert island marked with a cross on the captain's chart, and unmarked upon all other charts of the same waters. All around lay the tranquil spaces of a desolate ocean, and on the island the thatched roof of a solitary hut showed among the palms. The captain went ashore by himself, and presently, after a little lapse of time, he returned.

“It is finished,” he announced briefly; “the great work is finished. I think it must have been completed several weeks ago. He must have died several weeks ago, possibly soon after my last call.”

He held out a sheet of paper on which was written one word, “Beloved.”

A THING OF BEAUTY[19]

[Note 19: Copyright, 1919, by The American Hebrew. Copyright, 1920, by Elias Lieberman.]

BY ELIAS LIEBERMAN

From The American Hebrew

Simonoff told it to me over the coffee cups. It was the twilight hour on Second avenue and we were enjoying a late afternoon chat. The gates of the human dam, shut all day long, had been opened and the rushing, swirling stream of men and women beat past us relentlessly—past the door of the Café Cosmos open to the sights and sounds of the street.

Every person in that human torrent seemed eager to reach a haven of rest. Not that their faces looked tired or haggard. But each gave the impression that something had been worn off in a subtle, persistent process—a certain newness, freshness, gloss, call it what you will. Shadows of men and women they were in the twilight as they scurried past. And yet the rhythm of their footsteps beat upon the ear as steadily as the roar of many waters.

“The ghosts are having a holiday,” said Simonoff.

His voice was barely audible in the hum of conversation. Simonoff was one of those rare teachers on the lower East Side who neither taught night school nor practised law after his daily duties were over. His passion was to understand his fellow men—to help them, if possible—although, for a reformer, he was given entirely too much to dreaming. His café bills for a year, when added together, made a surprisingly large total. But then Simonoff never bothered with useless mathematics.

A hand organ outside was droning the “Miserere.” Children of the tenements, like moths drawn to globes of brilliant light on midsummer nights, hovered about the organ and danced. There was a capricious abandon about their movements which fascinated Simonoff. He had a way of running his slender fingers through his wavy, brown hair, when he was emotionally stirred.

“The dancing maidens of Trebizond were not more graceful than these,” he sighed as his eyes followed the sinuous movements of two ragged little tots. “They outgrow it after a while.”

“Never,” I protested. “The Grand street halls——”

“I mean the search for beauty,” drawled Simonoff. “This is the dance of Greek maidens at the sacrificial rites to Demeter. The Grand street thing is a contortion before the obese complacency of the great god Jazz. And Jazz has no soul.”

Through the ever-gathering darkness the electric lights began to twinkle like blue-white diamonds against purple velvet. The lights in the café too were turned on by a pottering waiter whose flat-footed shuffle had become familiar to us through many years of observation.

A bedraggled looking person entered the café, clutching awkwardly a dozen or more cut roses. He passed from table to table and offered them for sale. The price was ridiculously small.

It seemed strange to me that Simonoff's face should turn so white. His manner suggested great agitation. When the peddler reached him, Simonoff purchased the entire stock and gave him in payment far in excess of the amount asked. The happy vender directed one searching glance at him, then went out whistling.

“What will you do with all those roses?” I asked.

“Give them away,” he answered, “to the dirtiest, most woebegone, most forlorn little children I can find. I shall do this in memory of John Keats.”

I looked my astonishment.

“'A thing of beauty is a joy forever,'“ Simonoff intoned dreamily. “But there's a story connected with it.”

“I suspected it,” I said quietly. “When a school teacher consents to part with a perfectly good dollar for a dozen wilted roses, there must be an esoteric reason.”

“Materialist,” he laughed.

The dancing and the scurry of pattering feet had both ceased. The sounds of the night were now more soothing, more harmoniously blended. The earliest arrivals of the theatre crowd were besieging the sidewalk ticket office of the burlesque house opposite. Simonoff launched into his narrative.

* * *

I was sitting here one evening all alone. The day had been particularly trying. I had been visited by my district superintendent, a perfect paragon of stupidity. He had squatted in my class room until I wished him and his bulk on the other side of the Styx. When it was all over I came here, glad to shake off the chalk dust and the pompous inconsequence of my official superior. Suddenly I was startled out of my brooding.

“You are unhappy,” I heard a voice murmur ever so softly. It seemed like the sighing of a night wind through the tree tops.

I looked up. Before me stood a young man with deep blue eyes, blond hair, exquisite daintiness of feature and unnaturally pale complexion. He was dressed in soft gray tweeds. In the crook of his left elbow he carried roses. Their fragrance permeated the café and, for once, the odor of stale tobacco was not dominant.

“You are unhappy,” he repeated mildly as if it were the most natural thing in the world for him to say.

“I am,” I answered frankly. “The world is a stupid place to live in.”

“You must not say that,” he reproached quietly. “It is we who are stupid. The world is beautiful. Won't you accept a rose?” Like a prince in a fairy story he bowed grandly and offered me an American Beauty still moist with the mock dews of the florist.

“But why do you honor me thus?” I asked, taking the flower and inhaling its fragrance.

He looked a bit put out as if I were asking the obvious thing. “You were sad, of course, and a thing of beauty——”

“Is a joy forever,” I concluded.

He flushed with pleasure.

“I am so glad you have read my Endymion,” he exclaimed delightedly. “Suppose we walk out together and preach the gospel of beauty to those who like yourself forget the eternal in the trivial. I have some powerful sermons here.” He caressed his roses as a mother would stroke the head of a child.

Along the avenue we were followed by hordes of little girls with starved eyes. My good samaritan picked the poorest and the most wistful for his largesse of roses. And to each one as he handed the flower he repeated the famous line from the work of the great romantic poet.

“'A thing of beauty is a joy forever.'”

Soon there were only two left. These my friend was inclined to withhold from the clamoring tots who assailed us.

“After all they are young,” he said. “Their sad moments vanish like the mists. But the sorrows of the years of discretion are not thrown off so easily. They persist like scars long after the original bruise has healed.”

We entered a hallway to escape our little friends. From a door ajar on the first story a man's voice floated down to us. It was high pitched and strident, as if a relentless lawyer were arraigning a criminal.

“My friends,” we heard, “how long are you going to remain blind to your condition? The interests of capital and labor are diametrically opposed to each other. You are the producers of the world's wealth and yet you submit to exploitation by the class of parasites who fatten upon your ignorance and your unwillingness to unite. Workingmen of the world, you have nothing to lose but your chains.”

“Slavinsky, the great agitator, probably rehearsing his speech for the party rally at Cooper Union tomorrow,” I explained.

“Agitator?” questioned the apostle of beauty. “He is agitated, indeed, and unhappy. I shall give him a rose.”

Slavinsky sputtered with amazement when the rose was offered to him.

“A joy forever!” he mocked. “It isn't such a joy to work for starvation wages, to be bled by profiteers, to be flayed alive by plutes. I tell you, Mister—”

“You are addressing Keats, John Keats.”

“I tell you, Mister Keats, there ain't no beauty when you're up against it. I tell you—”

“Won't you accept this rose?”

“I'll take it,” growled Slavinsky with unnecessary fierceness. “It ain't Nature's fault. She don't go in for profiteering.” The agitator's conversational style was more colloquial though no less vehement than his platform manner.

“Did you note the omission?” Keats inquired when we were again on the avenue.

“It isn't impoliteness,” I replied. “Men of his class are too stirred by cosmic problems to say 'Thank you.'”

“It is a beautiful thing to say, nevertheless, and the world needs it.” I thought the eyes of John Keats—a fitting name for such a fantastic personality—were filling with tears.

My companion held his rose before him as if it were a charm against the sordidness about him. He had a way of peering at the people we passed as if he were looking for someone he had lost in the crowd. At Sixteenth Street we turned into the small park at the right of the avenue, which with its neighbor on the left keeps alive the memory of green and growing things among the dwellers of the tenements.

It was at the fountain that he first saw her. John Keats had an abrupt manner, for all his gentleness, of proceeding along the path of his desires.

“At last I have found you,” he said to the tall girl who was watching a group of youngsters at play near the gushing waters. In the darkness I could see only a pair of flashing eyes under a broad-brimmed straw and a cape of soft blue hanging gracefully from her shoulders.

She scrutinized both of us with the intuitive glance of one who has learned to tread warily amid dangerous surroundings. Apparently her preliminary examination was satisfactory. She put us into the non-poisonous class. Keats had flattened the palm of his right hand against his breast and was offering the last rose to her with the other. His manner was of the stage but not offensively so.

“At last I have found you,” repeated my curious acquaintance. “For all your laughter you are unhappy. You are consumed with yearning, even as I am. Pray accept a rose.”

With a murmured repetition of his formula he gave he his last flower.

His manner was earnest and the girl had immediately rejected the assumption that we were mocking her.

“This is a mistake,” she explained, hesitating about the rose. “I don't think you know who I am.”

“A lady of high degree, I am sure,” responded Keats gallantly. There was a peculiar quaintness about his English, which like his name, took me back to the early nineteenth century. The coincidence of his name did not strike me as unusual, because the telephone directory is full of such parallels.

“No high degree about me,” laughed the girl. “I'm a saleslady at Marmelstein's, that's all. What you said about being unhappy is true sometimes. When you came up I was just thinking.”

Her voice with its overtone of sadness sounded in the semi-darkness like the faint tremolo of mandolins serenading in the distance.

“But there need be no unhappiness,” contended Keats. “We must shut out from our sight everything but beauty, pure beauty. At this moment I am supremely happy.”

He looked at her. There was an unreality about him for which I could not account. Like a mirage of the park he seemed. In a twinkle of the incandescents, I thought, he might vanish. The girl from Marmelstein's looked at him as if fascinated. Romance had come and touched her heart with a magic wand. She sniffed at the rose pensively.

“I couldn't just tell you why I was feeling queer. Marmelstein's is a nice place, honest. You see all sorts of people during the day and it's interesting to work there. But there's something missing—I don't know what.”

“Beauty, my lady, beauty,” declared Keats.

Out of the shadows a fourth form had materialized, a thickset man who approached us with a firm stride. He patted my friend gently on the shoulder.

“You're a bad boy, John,” he reproached, “giving me the slip that way. I had the time of my life looking for you. The moment my back was turned you vamoosed from the waiting room. That wasn't kind. If I hadn't a known how fond you wuz of roses, I would a been stumped, stumped for good. I trailed you by them roses.”

The girl sensed that there was something wrong.

“Lady, farewell,” said Keats.

With a little moan she saw him being led off.

“What's wrong?” I asked the intruder.

“Bugs on beauty, that's all. Thinks he's a guy named John Keats who wrote poems. Harmless case. Wouldn't hurt a fly. I was bringing him over to see his mother when he give me the slip. Gee, but I can breathe easy now.”

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” declared the spirit of Keats.

“Sure, sure,” said the attendant, lighting a cigar.

When I turned to leave the park the girl from Marmelstein's came up to me.

“What happened?” she inquired. Her fists were clenched and she was breathing heavily.

I explained.

“He was such a gentleman,” she sobbed softly.

THE OTHER ROOM[20]

[Note 20: Copyright, 1919, by The McCall Company. Copyright, 1920, by Mary Heaton O'Brien.]

BY MARY HEATON VORSE

From McCall's Magazine

It was after John MacFarland was Captain of Black Bar Life-Saving Station for nearly twenty years. Every summer evening all that time I would see him and Mis' MacFarland driving along to the station, for in the summer the crew is off for two months and only the Captain stays there from sundown to sunup.

I never saw her drive past without thinking how she hated to look at the sea. She never sat where she could see salt water. She had been going out to Black Bar all these years and never once had seen the boat-drill. This was because she knew, on account of her husband's being a life-saver, what the sea does to the vessels and the men in them.

When Mis' MacFarland's married daughter died and her little granddaughter Moira came to live with her, I would see all of them, the Captain, Mis' MacFarland and Moira, driving to the station summer evenings, Moira's head peeping out between them like a little bird. And I would always think how Mis' MacFarland hated the sea, and I'd be real glad that the blowing of the sand grinds the station windows white till you can't see through them.

Then John MacFarland died all of a sudden just at the end of the summer. He had been building a yawl out there at the station for nearly two years, and she was just ready to la'nch. I remember meeting him on the boardwalk and him telling me about that boat of his, and thinking what a fine figure of a man he was for over sixty. And next I heard he was dead.

Then Mis' MacFarland had a spell of sickness, and that is how I came to be housekeeper to her and Moira. And I remember how she struck me the first day, for there she was sitting looking out over the bay watching the boats as though the sight of them gave her pleasure. I was so surprised I spoke right out:

“Why, Mis' MacFarland,” says I, “I thought you couldn't abide the look of salt water.”

“I don't seem to feel there's the difference between land and sea I used to,” she says in her gentle, smiling way. “We learn.”

I wanted to ask her how we learned what I saw she'd learned, for, if you can understand me, she seemed to have gotten beyond grief, but before I could speak Moira came running in and it seemed as if the joy in her heart shone out of her so the place was all lighted up. Her face was tanned so brown that her blue eyes looked strange, and against her skin the fair hair around her forehead looked almost silver.

“Where you been,” I said, “to have so much fun?”

“In the back country,” says she. “I'm always happy when I come from in back.”

“Were you alone?” She stopped a minute before she answered.

“Yes—I suppose so,” as if she didn't quite know. It was a funny answer but there was a funny, secret, joyful look on her face that suddenly made me take her in my arms and kiss her, and quite surprised to find myself doing it.

Then she sat down and I went around getting supper; first I thought she was reading, she was so still. Then my eyes happened to fall on her and I saw she was listening; then suddenly it was like she heard. She had the stillest, shiningest look. All this don't sound like much, I know, but I won't forget how Moira and Mis' MacFarland struck me that first day, not till I die.

When I went to bed I couldn't get 'em out of my mind and I found myself saying out loud:

“There's joy and peace in this house!”

It was quite a time before I sensed what had happened to Mis' MacFarland and what made her change so toward the sea. She'd sit by the window, a Bible in her hands and praying, and you would catch the words of her prayer, and she was praying for those she loved—for the living and the dead. That was only natural—but what I got to understand was that she didn't feel any different about them. Not a bit different did she feel about the living and the dead!

They were all there in her heart, the dead and the living, and not divided off at all like in most folks' minds.

I used to wonder about Moira, too, when she'd have these quiet spells—like she was listening, but not to any sounds. Then next you'd feel as if she was gladder than anything you'd ever known, sitting there so still with that listening look on her face—only now like I told you, as if she'd heard. She'd be so happy inside that you'd like to be near her, as if there was a light in her heart so you could warm yourself by it.

It's hard to tell just how I came to feel this. I suppose just by living with folks you get to know all sorts of things about them. It's not the things they say that matters. I knew a woman once, a pleasant-spoken body, yet she'd pizen the air about her by the unspoken thoughts of her heart. Sometimes these thoughts would burst out in awful fits of anger—but you'd know how she was inside, if she spoke to you always as gentle as a dove.

I'd like to be near Moira those times and yet it made me uneasy, too, her sitting so still, listening, and Mis' MacFarland, as you might say, always looking over the edge of eternity. It was all right for her but I'd wonder about Moira. I wondered so hard I took it up with Mis' MacFarland.

“Do you think you're doing right by that child?” I asked her right out plain.

“Why, how do you mean?” she says in her calm way.

“Teaching her things that's all right for us older people to know but that don't seem to me are for young things.”

“Teaching her things!” says Mis' MacFarland. “I haven't taught Moira nothing. If you mean them still, quiet, happy spells of hers, she's always had 'em. She taught me. It was watching her when she was little that taught me——”

“Taught you what?” I asked her when she wouldn't go on.

“It's hard to say it in words—taught me how near all the rest is.”

I didn't get her, so I asked what she meant by “the rest.”

“The rest of creation!” says she. “Some folks is born in the world feeling and knowing it in their hearts that creation don't stop where the sight of the eyes stop, and the thinner the veil is the better, and something in them sickens when the veil gets too thick.”

“You talk like you believed in spooks and God knows what,” I says, but more to make myself comfortable than anything else.

“You know what I mean, Jane McQuarry,” says she. “There's very few folks, especially older ones, who haven't sometimes felt the veil get thinner and thinner until you could see the light shining through. But we've been brought up to think such ideas are silly and to be ashamed of 'em and only to believe in what we can touch and taste and, in spite of stars shining every night over our heads, to think creation stops with heavy things like us. And how anyone who's ever seen a fish swimming in the water can think that—I don't know. What do they know of us and how can they imagine folks on legs walking around and breathing the air that makes 'em die? So why aren't there creatures, all kind of 'em, we can no more see than a fish can us?”

I couldn't answer that, so I went back to Moira.

“She'll get queer going on like this,” I said. “Thin veils and light shining through and creatures that feel about us like we do about fishes are all right for old folks who've lived their lives. She's got to live hers and live it the way ordinary folks do.”

“Ain't she happy?” asked Mis' MacFarland. “Don't she like rolling a hoop and playing with the other children? Didn't you say only yesterday her mischief would drive you out of your senses?”

I couldn't deny this. Unless you'd seen her as I had, she was just like any other happy little girl, only happier maybe. Like, I said, you could see her heart shine some days, she was so happy. About that time I found out more how she felt. One still night, for no reason, I got out of my bed and went into Moira's room and there she was sitting up in her bed, her eyes like starlight.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Why—I—don't know—I'm waiting for something!”

“Waiting! At this time of the night! How you talk! You lie right down, Moira Anderson, and go to sleep,” says I, sharp.

“I can't yet,” she says, turning to me. “I haven't been able to find it for two days now. I've not been good inside and I drove it away.”

“For mercy's sake, speak plain! What did you drive away?”

“Why, don't you know?” says she. “You lose your good when you're unkind or anything.”

“Your good!” I says. “Where do you get it from?” For she spoke as though she were talking of something that was outside herself and that came and went.

“It comes from out there,” she says, surprised that I didn't know.

“From out there?”

“Oh, out there where all the things are you can feel but can't see. There's lots of things out there.”

I sat quiet, for all of a sudden I knew plain as day that she thought she was feeling what everybody else in the world felt. She hadn't any idea she was different.

“You know,” she said, “how it is when you sit quiet, you know it's there—something good, it floods all over you. It's like people you love make you feel, only more. Just like something beautiful that can get right inside your heart!”

Now this may seem queer to you, for Moira was only a little girl of twelve, but there was a look on her face of just sheer, wonderful love, the way you see a girl look sometimes, or a young mother. It was so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. That was the last time I worried about Moira for a long time, for, think I, anything as beautiful as that is holy even if it ain't regular.

I told Mis' MacFarland about our talk.

“What do you think she means when she says 'her good'? Is it like feeling God's near?” I asked. She shook her head.

“I don't believe it,” she said. “It's more human than that. I think it's someone out there that Moira loves—”

“How you talk!” I said. “Someone out there! If you keep on like this you'll be fey, as my old grandmother used to call it.”

“Well,” she said, “when you get to where I am, lots of things that seem curious at first thought don't seem a mite more curious than birth or death. Not as curious even, when you come to think about it. What's there so curious I'd like to know, Jane McQuarry, about sensing the feelings of somebody else off to a distance? How about your own mother, the night your brother was lost at sea; didn't she know that and hadn't you all mourned him dead for two months before the real word came to you?”

I couldn't deny this, and I felt that the wind was taken out of my sails. I suppose it was all along with that feeling of hers, with not making a difference between those that were dead and those that were not. All the world was mysterious, and she had a sense of the wonder of the least blade of grass in it, so the things that were not so usual as you might say didn't disturb her any.

“Why,” says she, “sometimes I sit in a maze just to look at this room.”

“Why, what ails this room?” said I.

'T was a room like many you've seen hereabouts, with a good horse-hair sofy and the mahogany furniture nice and shiny from being varnished every spring, and over the sofy was thrown a fur rug made in lozenges of harp seal and some other fur and a dark fur border. It was real pretty—it was always wonderful to me that folks like Eskimos can make the things they do. There was some little walrus ivory carvings on the what-not, and on the mantel a row of pink mounted shells, and the model of her father's barkentine when he was in the China trade was on the wall in a glass case.

There's many rooms alike here in this town, with the furniture kept so nice and the things the men's brought back with 'em from the north and south, as you'd expect in a seafaring town—

“What ails this room?” I said.

“Why, it's the folks who made it,” says she. “So many and from so far. The whole world's here!” She went on like that until it seemed to me the room was full of folks—savages and Eskimos and seafaring men dead a long while ago, all of 'em. It was wonderful if you looked at it that way.

“So,” she said, jumping out on me sudden, “what's there strange about Moira feeling like she does when there's rooms like this? It's less common, but it's no more wonderful.”

I saw what she meant, though at the time her explanation of Moira seemed just nonsense to me. Though I'll say I could tell myself when Moira lost what she called “her good.” She'd be like a lost child; she'd be like a plant without water and without sun.

Except for that she grew up just like any other girl, a favorite with the children, and a lovely dancer. Only there it was—she had something that other children didn't. It came and went, and when it went away she would grow dim like a smoky lamp. I got so used to it that it just seemed to me like a part of Moira. Nothing that marked her off from nobody, or that gave you anything like a queer and creepy feeling about her. Quite the contrary. She just seemed to have an abiding loveliness about her that everybody else ought to have but didn't, not so much.

When Kenneth Everett came along, “Well,” thinks I, “I might have saved myself the worry.” For worry I always had for fear that this other feeling of hers would cut her off from the regular things in life. It would have been all very well in another time in the world when a girl could go off and be a saint, but there was no such place for a girl to go in a town like ours.

There was no one but Moira for Kenneth from the first. He was as dark as she was fair; sunlight and starshine they seemed to me. It used to make me happy just to see him come storming in calling out, “Moira!” from the time he passed the Rose of Sharon bush at the gate.

Things in those days seemed right to me. Maybe I didn't see far enough; maybe I wanted too much for her—all the things it seems to me a woman in this life ought to have—and that I hadn't understood what made Moira the way she was. No wonder he loved her. I wish I could make you feel the way Moira looked. You had to feel it in your heart some way. She was fair and her face was tanned with the wind to a lovely golden color and her cheeks were smooth like ripe fruit and her eyes were blue and steady, so dark sometimes they seemed black—seeing eyes, that looked beyond what Mis' MacFarland called “the veil of things.” She always seemed to me as if the spirit of the sea and the dunes between them was more her father and mother than anything else. That's a fanciful idea, but she gave you thoughts like that. She was the kind that makes even plain bodies like me fanciful.

There was days when she looked to me like something out of a lovely dream—if you can imagine a girl that's been dreamed by the sea and the dunes come true.

I can't quite tell when I first sensed what Kenneth felt about the times Moira was away, for as she went to the back country—you know how wild and secret that back country behind the town is—so there was what you might call the back country of the spirit she used to go to. I guess I found out how he felt one afternoon when he was waiting for her to come back from the dunes. She flew in as if she was helped by wings and she was listening—I'd got so used to it by now, it was so part of her, that I forgot how it might strike lots of folks.

He jumped toward her. “Oh, I've been waiting such a time, Moira! I'm so glad you're back!”

I knew he'd seen she was “away” and he was putting himself between her and whatever it was. For a moment she stood looking at him puzzled, as if it had taken her a minute to come back, and then she was as glad to see him as he was her.

“Well,” thinks I, “when she gets married all her odd ways will go.”

I took to watching them, and then and again I'd see him, as you might say, bring her back to real earth from the shining spot to which her thoughts went. Then sometimes after he'd go she'd be restless like she was when she was little when she'd lost “her good.”

I could tell Mis' MacFarland was watching her, too, as she'd sit there praying like she did so much of the time, though it often seemed to me that her prayers wasn't so much prayers as a kind of getting near to those she loved.

I was sure then, as I ever was of anything, that Moira loved Kenneth. At the sound of his voice, light would come to her eyes and color to her face and her hand would fly to her breast as if there wasn't enough air in the world for her to breathe. Yet there was something else, too. She was always sort of escaping from him and then coming back to him like a half-tamed bird, and all the time he came nearer and nearer to her heart. All the time he had more of her thoughts. He fought for them.

He loved her. It seemed he understood her. He sensed all that was in her heart, the way one does with those we love. He'd look at her sometimes with such anxious eyes as if he was afraid for her, as if he wanted to save her from something. I couldn't blame him. I'd felt that way myself, but I'd gotten used to her ways.

Now I saw all over again that there was strange thoughts in her heart—thoughts that don't rightly belong in the kind of world we live in now.

It seems queer to you, I suppose, and kind of crazy, but I couldn't someway see what would become of Moira without “her good.” If you'd lived with her the way I did all those years you'd have seen something beautiful reflected in her like the reflection of a star in a little pool at evening, only I couldn't see the star myself, just the reflection of it, but she saw the star.

I couldn't blame Kenneth; he wanted for her all the things I'd wanted for her always—and I couldn't bring myself to feel that the reflection of a star was better than the warm light of the fire from the hearth, but it was the star that had made her so lovely.

All this time Mis' MacFarland talked liked nothing was going on and all the time I knew she was watchin'. I'd try and sound her and she'd manage not to answer.

There came a time when I couldn't hold in. Moira'd been out all day on the dunes and toward night the fog had swept over us.

She came back out of the fog with a look on her face like a lost soul. I knew what had happened—I knew what was wrong—yet I couldn't help crying out:

“What's the matter?”

She just looked at me the way animals do when they suffer and can't understand. Her mouth was white and her eyes were dark, as if she was in pain, and when Kenneth came she ran to him as if she would have thrown herself in his arms to hide. They went out on the porch and that was when I could hold in no longer.

“What do you think about it?” I asked Mis' MacFarland right plain out.

“About what?” she asked.

I looked to where they was sitting. 'T was a wet night; the windows and trees seemed like they was crying. The great drops that fell from them, plop—plop, was like tears. There was a rainbow around the street light that made it look like the moon had dropped down close. Mis' MacFarland looked at them and she just shut her mouth and she shook her head and I could tell she wasn't pleased. Then says she:

“Look!”

The light fell on Moira's face and she was seeing out into the night and I knew she was out there. Kenneth spoke and she answered and yet she wasn't with him.

He got up and walked up and down. He spoke again, and again she answered, but Moira's voice answered without Moira. Her face was shining like silver.

She'd heard—she'd found it again.

Then he stood in front of her and said in a strange sort of a voice:

“Moira, what are you doing?”

“Dreaming,” she said.

“What are you dreaming about?”

“I don't know—”

“It's not about me, it's nothing about me. Moira, look at me!”

I tell you his tone made my heart bleed. She didn't answer, but looked out into the fog in that absorbed, happy way of hers.

“Moira,” he said again, “Moira!” He couldn't get her; he couldn't reach her, any more than if she'd stepped into another world. He put his hands on her shoulders and turned her to him.

“Moira!” he said; his voice was husky with fear. “What do you find out there?” She turned to him as in a dream. She looked at him and she looked like some spirit when she spoke.

“I find the one I love!” she said.

“What do you mean?” he said. “What do you mean?”

“The one I love,” she said again.

“Do you mean there's someone you love better than you do me?”

She nodded, with that flooding look of wonder on her face.

“I didn't know,” she said next. “I didn't know—not—until now—all about it.”

“All about it?” he cried.

“Yes, the meaning of what I felt—that it's someone as real as you, as real as me—that I love someone out there—someone I can't see.”

“Moira!” His voice sent shivers down my back. “You're crazy—you're mad—you mean—you mean—you love someone you've never met—someone you can't see?” She nodded.

“I've loved him always,” she said. “All my life I've known him for ever and ever—I know him more than anything in the world—from the time I could think he has lived in my heart—I didn't know him until now—I only suffered when he wasn't there, and went wandering and searching for him—and you've kept me from him—for I didn't know—”

“Moira,” he called to her in his pain, “don't think these things—don't feel these things—”

But she only looked at him kindly and as if she were a long way off.

“I love him,” she said, “better than life.”

He stared at her then, and I saw what was in his mind. He thought she was crazy—stark, staring crazy. Next he said, “Good night, Moira—my darling, Moira.” And he stumbled out into the fog like a man that's been struck blind.

But I knew she wasn't crazy. Maybe 't was living with Mis' MacFarland made me believe things like that. Maybe 't was Moira herself. But I didn't feel she was any more crazy than I do when I've heard folks recite, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”

But this isn't the end—this isn't the strangest part! Listen to what happened next.

There was a storm after the fog and strange vessels came into the port—and Moira came to Mis' MacFarland and her eyes were starry and says she:

“I'm going to get 'em to put me aboard that vessel,” and she points to a bark which is a rare thing to see nowadays in these waters.

“He's out there,” says she.

I didn't doubt her—I didn't doubt her any more than if she'd said the sun was shining when my own eyes were blinded by the light of it.

“Go, then,” says Mis' MacFarland.

I tell you Moira was dragged out of that house as by a magnet. The sky had cleared and lay far off and cold, and the wrack of the broken clouds was burning itself up in the west when I saw a dory cast off from the vessel.

It was a queer procession came up our path, some foreign-looking sailors, and they carried a man on a sort of stretcher, and Moira walked alongside of him. I saw three things about him the same way you see a whole country in a flash of lightning.

One was that he was the strangest, the most beautiful man I had ever looked on, and I saw that he was dying.

Then in the next breath I knew he belonged to Moira more than anyone on earth ever had or would. Then all of a sudden it was as if a hand caught hold of my heart and squeezed the blood from it like water out of a sponge, for all at the same time I saw that they hadn't been born at the right time for each other and that they had only a moment to look into each other's faces—before the darkness of death could swallow him.

I couldn't bear it. I wanted to cry out to God that this miracle had come to pass only to be wiped out like a mark in the sand. He was as different from anyone I'd ever seen as Moira was. How can I say to you what I saw and felt. I knew that he belonged to Moira and Moira belonged to him. If I'd have met him at the ends of the earth I'd have known that they belonged together. We all dream about things like this when we're young—about there being a perfect love for us somewhere on earth—but there isn't, because we're not good enough.

The perfect flower can't bloom in most gardens. What these two had was love beyond love—the thing that poor, blundering mankind's been working for and straining toward all down the ages.

Love was what they had, not dimmed and tarnished, not the little flicker that comes for a moment and is gone, like in most of our lives, but the pure fire. The love that mankind tries to find in God—the final wonder. Some of us, at most, have a day or hour—a vision that's as far off and dim as northern lights.

Mis' MacFarland and me looked at each other and, without saying anything, we walked from the room. I saw tears streaming down her face and then I realized that I couldn't see for my own, I was crying the way you may do twice in your life, if you're lucky, because you've seen something so beautiful, poor, weak human nature can't bear it.

After a long time Mis' MacFarland spoke.

“It has to happen on earth, once in a while,” she said, “the heart's desire to millions and millions of people living and dead—the dream of all who know the meaning of love. Sometimes it must come true.”

That's how it made me feel, and I've always wanted to be a witness to what I saw—but there aren't many to whom you dare to tell it.

After a time we went back and he was lying there, his face shining like Moira's had when she'd found him in the dark spaces where she'd had to search for him. His hair was like dark silver, and his eyes were young like Moira's and blue as the sea at dawn. Wisdom was what was in his face, and love—and he lay there, quiet, holding Moira's hand in his.

But even as I looked a change came over him and I saw the end wasn't far away, and Moira saw it and clung fast to him.

“Take me with you,” she said. “I have found you and can't leave you. I've looked for you so often and I couldn't find you. We lost each other so many times and the road together was so blind.”

“It's all the same,” he said, “she knows.” He nodded to Mis' MacFarland. “It's all the same.”

Mis' MacFarland motioned to me and I came to her and I was trembling like a leaf.

“It's only walking into another room,” she said.

Moira sat beside him, his hand in hers, pleading with her eyes. He turned to Mis' MacFarland—“You make her understand,” he said, “we all have to wait our turn. You make her understand that we're all the same.”

And we knew that he was talking about life and death. And then, as I watched, I saw the life of him was ebbing out and saw that Moira knew it. And then he was gone, just like the slow turning out of a light.

Moira turned to Mis' MacFarland and looked at her, and then I saw she'd gotten to the other side of grief, to where Mis' MacFarland was—to the place where there wasn't any death.

“THE FAT OF THE LAND"[21]

[Note 21: Copyright, 1919, by The Century Company. Copyright, 1920, by Anzia Yezierska.]

BY ANZIA YEZIERSKA

From The Century

In an air-shaft so narrow that you could touch the next wall with your bare hands, Hanneh Breineh leaned out and knocked on her neighbor's window.

“Can you loan me your wash-boiler for the clothes?” she called.

Mrs. Pelz threw up the sash.

“The boiler? What's the matter with yours again? Didn't you tell me you had it fixed already last week?”

“A black year on him, the robber, the way he fixed it! If you have no luck in this world, then it's better not to live. There I spent out fifteen cents to stop up one hole, and it runs out another. How I ate out my gall bargaining with him he should let it down to fifteen cents! He wanted yet a quarter, the swindler. Gottuniu! my bitter heart on him for every penny he took from me for nothing!”

“You got to watch all those swindlers, or they'll steal the whites out of your eyes,” admonished Mrs. Pelz. “You should have tried out your boiler before you paid him. Wait a minute till I empty out my dirty clothes in a pillow-case; then I'll hand it to you.”

Mrs. Pelz returned with the boiler and tried to hand it across to Hanneh Breineh, but the soap-box refrigerator on the window-sill was in the way.

“You got to come in for the boiler yourself,” said Mrs. Pelz.

“Wait only till I tie my Sammy on to the high-chair he shouldn't fall on me again. He's so wild that ropes won't hold him.”

Hanneh Breineh tied the child in the chair, stuck a pacifier in his mouth, and went in to her neighbor. As she took the boiler Mrs. Pelz said:

“Do you know Mrs. Melker ordered fifty pounds of chicken for her daughter's wedding? And such grand chickens! Shining like gold! My heart melted in me just looking at the flowing fatness of those chickens.”

Hanneh Breineh smacked her thin, dry lips, a hungry gleam in her sunken eyes.

“Fifty pounds!” she gasped. “It ain't possible. How do you know?”

“I heard her with my own ears. I saw them with my own eyes. And she said she will chop up the chicken livers with onions and eggs for an appetizer, and then she will buy twenty-five pounds of fish, and cook it sweet and sour with raisins, and she said she will bake all her strudels on pure chicken fat.”

“Some people work themselves up in the world,” sighed Hanneh Breineh. “For them is America flowing with milk and honey. In Savel Mrs. Melker used to get shriveled up from hunger. She and her children used to live on potato peelings and crusts of dry bread picked out from the barrels; and in America she lives to eat chicken, and apple strudels soaking in fat.”

“The world is a wheel always turning,” philosophized Mrs. Pelz. “Those who were high go down low, and those who've been low go up higher. Who will believe me here in America that in Poland I was a cook in a banker's house? I handled ducks and geese every day. I used to bake coffee-cake with cream so thick you could cut it with a knife.”

“And do you think I was a nobody in Poland?” broke in Hanneh Breineh, tears welling in her eyes as the memories of her past rushed over her. “But what's the use of talking? In America money is everything. Who cares who my father or grandfather was in Poland? Without money I'm a living dead one. My head dries out worrying how to get for the children the eating a penny cheaper.”

Mrs. Pelz wagged her head, a gnawing envy contracting her features.

“Mrs. Melker had it good from the day she came,” she said begrudgingly. “Right away she sent all her children to the factory, and she began to cook meat for dinner every day. She and her children have eggs and buttered rolls for breakfast each morning like millionaires.”

A sudden fall and a baby's scream, and the boiler dropped from Hanneh Breineh's hands as she rushed into her kitchen, Mrs. Pelz after her. They found the high-chair turned on top of the baby.

Gevalt! Save me! Run for a doctor!” cried Hanneh Breineh as she dragged the child from under the high-chair. “He's killed! He's killed! My only child! My precious lamb!” she shrieked as she ran back and forth with the screaming infant.

Mrs. Pelz snatched little Sammy from the mother's hands.

Meshugneh! what are you running around like a crazy, frightening the child? Let me see. Let me tend to him. He ain't killed yet.” She hastened to the sink to wash the child's face, and discovered a swelling lump on his forehead. “Have you a quarter in your house?” she asked.

“Yes, I got one,” replied Hanneh Breineh, climbing on a chair. “I got to keep it on a high shelf where the children can't get it.”

Mrs. Pelz seized the quarter Hanneh Breineh handed down to her.

“Now pull your left eyelid three times while I'm pressing the quarter, and you will see the swelling go down.”

Hanneh Breineh took the child again in her arms, shaking and cooing over it and caressing it.

“Ah-ah-ah, Sammy! Ah-ah-ah-ah, little lamb! Ah-ah-ah, little bird! Ah-ah-ah-ah, precious heart! Oh, you saved my life; I thought he was killed,” gasped Hanneh Breineh, turning to Mrs. Pelz. “Oi-i!” she sighed, “a mother's heart! always in fear over her children. The minute anything happens to them all life goes out of me. I lose my head and I don't know where I am any more.”

“No wonder the child fell,” admonished Mrs. Pelz. “You should have a red ribbon or red beads on his neck to keep away the evil eye. Wait. I got something in my machine-drawer.”

Mrs. Pelz returned, bringing the boiler and a red string, which she tied about the child's neck while the mother proceeded to fill the boiler.

A little later Hanneh Breineh again came into Mrs. Pelz's kitchen, holding Sammy in one arm and in the other an apron full of potatoes. Putting the child down on the floor, she seated herself on the unmade kitchen-bed and began to peel the potatoes in her apron.

“Woe to me!” sobbed Hanneh Breineh. “To my bitter luck there ain't no end. With all my other troubles, the stove got broke'. I lighted the fire to boil the clothes, and it's to get choked with smoke. I paid rent only a week ago, and the agent don't want to fix it. A thunder should strike him! He only comes for the rent, and if anything has to be fixed, then he don't want to hear nothing.”

“Why comes it to me so hard?” went on Hanneh Breineh, the tears streaming down her cheeks. “I can't stand it no more. I came into you for a minute to run away from my troubles. It's only when I sit myself down to peel potatoes or nurse the baby that I take time to draw a breath, and beg only for death.”

Mrs. Pelz, accustomed to Hanneh Breineh's bitter outbursts, continued her scrubbing.

Ut!” exclaimed Hanneh Breineh, irritated at her neighbor's silence, “what are you tearing up the world with your cleaning? What's the use to clean up when everything only gets dirty again?”

“I got to shine up my house for the holidays.”

“You've got it so good nothing lays on your mind but to clean your house. Look on this little blood-sucker,” said Hanneh Breineh, pointing to the wizened child, made prematurely solemn from starvation and neglect. “Could anybody keep that brat clean? I wash him one minute, and he is dirty the minute after.” Little Sammy grew frightened and began to cry. “Shut up!” ordered the mother, picking up the child to nurse it again. “Can't you see me take a rest for a minute?”

The hungry child began to cry at the top of its weakened lungs.

“Na, na, you glutton.” Hanneh Breineh took out a dirty pacifier from her pocket and stuffed it into the baby's mouth. The grave, pasty-faced infant shrank into a panic of fear, and chewed the nipple nervously, clinging to it with both his thin little hands.

“For what did I need yet the sixth one?” groaned Hanneh Breineh, turning to Mrs. Pelz. “Wasn't it enough five mouths to feed? If I didn't have this child on my neck, I could turn myself around and earn a few cents.” She wrung her hands in a passion of despair. “ Gottuniu! the earth should only take it before it grows up!”

“Pshaw! Pshaw!” reproved Mrs. Pelz. “Pity yourself on the child. Let it grow up already so long as it is here. See how frightened it looks on you.” Mrs. Pelz took the child in her arms and petted it. “The poor little lamb! What did it done you should hate it so?”

Hanneh Breineh pushed Mrs. Pelz away from her.

“To whom can I open the wounds of my heart?” she moaned. “Nobody has pity on me. You don't believe me, nobody believes me until I'll fall down like a horse in the middle of the street. Oi weh! mine life is so black for my eyes. Some mothers got luck. A child gets run over by a car, some fall from a window, some burn themselves up with a match, some get choked with diphtheria; but no death takes mine away.”

“God from the world! stop cursing!” admonished Mrs. Pelz. “What do you want from the poor children? Is it their fault that their father makes small wages? Why do you let it all out on them?” Mrs. Pelz sat down beside Hanneh Breineh. “Wait only till your children get old enough to go to the shop and earn money,” she consoled. “Push only through those few years while they are yet small; your sun will begin to shine, you will live on the fat of the land, when they begin to bring you in the wages each week.”

Hanneh Breineh refused to be comforted.

“Till they are old enough to go to the shop and earn money they'll eat the head off my bones,” she wailed. “If you only knew the fights I got by each meal. Maybe I gave Abe a bigger piece of bread than Fanny. Maybe Fanny got a little more soup in her plate than Jake. Eating is dearer than diamonds. Potatoes went up a cent on a pound, and milk is only for millionaires. And once a week, when I buy a little meat for the Sabbath, the butcher weighs it for me like gold, with all the bones in it. When I come to lay the meat out on a plate and divide it up, there ain't nothing to it but bones. Before, he used to throw me in a piece of fat extra or a piece of lung, but now you got to pay for everything, even for a bone to the soup.”

“Never mind; you'll yet come out from all your troubles. Just as soon as your children get old enough to get their working papers the more children you got, the more money you'll have.”

“Why should I fool myself with the false shine of hope? Don't I know it's already my black luck not to have it good in this world? Do you think American children will right away give everything they earn to their mother?”

“I know what is with you the matter,” said Mrs. Pelz. “You didn't eat yet to-day. When it is empty in the stomach, the whole world looks black. Come, only let me give you something good to taste in the mouth; that will freshen you up.” Mrs. Pelz went to the cupboard and brought out the saucepan of gefülte fish that she had cooked for dinner and placed it on the table in front of Hanneh Breineh. “Give a taste my fish,” she said, taking one slice on a spoon, and handing it to Hanneh Breineh with a piece of bread. “I wouldn't give it to you on a plate because I just cleaned out my house, and I don't want to dirty up my dishes.”

“What, am I a stranger you should have to serve me on a plate yet!” cried Hanneh Breineh, snatching the fish in her trembling fingers.

Oi weh! how it melts through all the bones!” she exclaimed, brightening as she ate. “May it be for good luck to us all!” she exulted, waving aloft the last precious bite.

Mrs. Pelz was so flattered that she even ladled up a spoonful of gravy.

“There is a bit of onion and carrot in it,” she said as she handed it to her neighbor.

Hanneh Breineh sipped the gravy drop by drop, like a connoisseur sipping wine.

“Ah-h-h! a taste of that gravy lifts me up to heaven!” As she disposed leisurely of the slice of onion and carrot she relaxed and expanded and even grew jovial. “Let us wish all our troubles on the Russian Czar! Let him bust with our worries for rent! Let him get shriveled with our hunger for bread! Let his eyes dry out of his head looking for work!”

“Pshaw! I'm forgetting from everything,” she exclaimed, jumping up. “It must be eleven or soon twelve, and my children will be right away out of school and fall on me like a pack of wild wolves. I better quick run to the market and see what cheaper I can get for a quarter.”

Because of the lateness of her coming, the stale bread at the nearest bake-shop was sold out, and Hanneh Breineh had to trudge from shop to shop in search of the usual bargain, and spent nearly an hour to save two cents.

In the meantime the children returned from school, and, finding the door locked, climbed through the fire-escape, and entered the house through the window. Seeing nothing on the table, they rushed to the stove. Abe pulled a steaming potato out of the boiling pot, and so scalded his fingers that the potato fell to the floor; whereupon the three others pounced on it.

“It was my potato,” cried Abe, blowing his burned fingers, while with the other hand and his foot he cuffed and kicked the three who were struggling on the floor. A wild fight ensued, and the potato was smashed under Abe's foot amid shouts and screams. Hanneh Breineh, on the stairs, heard the noise of her famished brood, and topped their cries with curses and invectives.

“They are here already, the savages! They are here already to shorten my life! They heard you all over the hall, in all the houses around!”

The children, disregarding her words, pounced on her market-basket, shouting ravenously: “Mama, I'm hungry! What more do you got to eat?”

They tore the bread and herring out of Hanneh Breineh's basket and devoured it in starved savagery, clamoring for more.

“Murderers!” screamed Hanneh Breineh, goaded beyond endurance. “What are you tearing from me my flesh? From where should I steal to give you more? Here I had already a pot of potatoes and a whole loaf of bread and two herrings, and you swallowed it down in the wink of an eye. I have to have Rockefeller's millions to fill your stomachs.”

All at once Hanneh Breineh became aware that Benny was missing. “ Oi weh!” she burst out, wringing her hands in a new wave of woe, “where is Benny? Didn't he come home yet from school?”

She ran out into the hall, opened the grime-coated window, and looked up and down the street; but Benny was nowhere in sight.

“Abe, Jake, Fanny, quick, find Benny!” entreated Hanneh Breineh as she rushed back into the kitchen. But the children, anxious to snatch a few minutes' play before the school-call, dodged past her and hurried out.

With the baby on her arm, Hanneh Breineh hastened to the kindergarten.

“Why are you keeping Benny here so long?” she shouted at the teacher as she flung open the door. “If you had my bitter heart, you would send him home long ago and not wait till I got to come for him.”

The teacher turned calmly and consulted her record-cards.

“Benny Safron? He wasn't present this morning.”

“Not here?” shrieked Hanneh Breineh. “I pushed him out myself he should go. The children didn't want to take him, and I had no time. Woe is me! Where is my child?” She began pulling her hair and beating her breast as she ran into the street.

Mrs. Pelz was busy at a push-cart, picking over some spotted apples, when she heard the clamor of an approaching crowd. A block off she recognized Hanneh Breineh, her hair disheveled, her clothes awry, running toward her with her yelling baby in her arms, the crowd following.

“Friend mine,” cried Hanneh Breineh, falling on Mrs. Pelz's neck, “I lost my Benny, the best child of all my children.” Tears streamed down her red, swollen eyes as she sobbed. “Benny! mine heart, mine life! Oi-i!

Mrs. Pelz took the frightened baby out of the mother's arms.

“Still yourself a little! See how you're frightening your child.”

“Woe to me! Where is my Benny? Maybe he's killed already by a car. Maybe he fainted away from hunger. He didn't eat nothing all day long. Gottuniu! pity yourself on me!”

She lifted her hands full of tragic entreaty.

“People, my child! Get me my child! I'll go crazy out of my head! Get me my child, or I'll take poison before your eyes!”

“Still yourself a little!” pleaded Mrs. Pelz.

“Talk not to me!” cried Hanneh Breineh, wringing her hands. “You're having all your children. I lost mine. Every good luck comes to other people. But I didn't live yet to see a good day in my life. Mine only joy, mine Benny, is lost away from me.”

The crowd followed Hanneh Breineh as she wailed through the streets, leaning on Mrs. Pelz. By the time she returned to her house the children were back from school; but seeing that Benny was not there, she chased them out in the street, crying:

“Out of here, you robbers, gluttons! Go find Benny!” Hanneh Breineh crumpled into a chair in utter prostration. “Oi weh! he's lost! Mine life; my little bird; mine only joy! How many nights I spent nursing him when he had the measles! And all that I suffered for weeks and months when he had the whooping-cough! How the eyes went out of my head till I learned him how to walk, till I learned him how to talk! And such a smart child! If I lost all the others, it wouldn't tear me so by the heart.”

She worked herself up into such a hysteria, crying, and tearing her hair, and hitting her head with her knuckles, that at last she fell into a faint. It took some time before Mrs. Pelz, with the aid of neighbors, revived her.

“Benny, mine angel!” she moaned as she opened her eyes.

Just then a policeman came in with the lost Benny.

Na, na, here you got him already!” said Mrs. Pelz “Why did you carry on so for nothing? Why did you tear up the world like a crazy?”

The child's face was streaked with tears as he cowered, frightened and forlorn. Hanneh Breineh sprang toward him, slapping his cheeks, boxing his ears, before the neighbors could rescue him from her.

“Woe on your head!” cried the mother. “Where did you lost yourself? Ain't I got enough worries on my head than to go around looking for you? I didn't have yet a minute's peace from that child since he was born.”

“See a crazy mother!” remonstrated Mrs. Pelz, rescuing Benny from another beating. “Such a mouth! With one breath she blesses him when he is lost, and with the other breath she curses him when he is found.”

Hanneh Breineh took from the window-sill a piece of herring covered with swarming flies, and putting it on a slice of dry bread, she filled a cup of tea that had been stewing all day, and dragged Benny over to the table to eat.

But the child, choking with tears, was unable to touch the food.

“Go eat!” commanded Hanneh Breineh. “Eat and choke yourself eating!”

* * *

“Maybe she won't remember me no more. Maybe the servant won't let me in,” thought Mrs. Pelz as she walked by the brownstone house on Eighty-fourth Street where she had been told Hanneh Breineh now lived. At last she summoned up enough courage to climb the steps. She was all out of breath as she rang the bell with trembling fingers. “Oi weh! even the outside smells riches and plenty! Such curtains! And shades on all windows like by millionaires! Twenty years ago she used to eat from the pot to the hand, and now she lives in such a palace.”

A whiff of steam-heated warmth swept over Mrs. Pelz as the door opened, and she saw her old friend of the tenements dressed in silk and diamonds like a being from another world.

“Mrs. Pelz, is it you!” cried Hanneh Breineh, overjoyed at the sight of her former neighbor. “Come right in. Since when are you back in New York?”

“We came last week,” mumbled Mrs. Pelz as she was led into a richly carpeted reception-room.

“Make yourself comfortable. Take off your shawl,” urged Hanneh Breineh.

But Mrs. Pelz only drew her shawl more tightly around her, a keen sense of her poverty gripping her as she gazed, abashed by the luxurious wealth that shone from every corner.

“This shawl covers up my rags,” she said, trying to hide her shabby sweater.

“I'll tell you what; come right into the kitchen,” suggested Hanneh Breineh. “The servant is away for this afternoon, and we can feel more comfortable there. I can breathe like a free person in my kitchen when the girl has her day out.”

Mrs. Pelz glanced about her in an excited daze. Never in her life had she seen anything so wonderful as a white tiled kitchen, with its glistening porcelain sink and the aluminum pots and pans that shone like silver.

“Where are you staying now?” asked Hanneh Breineh as she pinned an apron over her silk dress.

“I moved back to Delancey Street, where we used to live,” replied Mrs. Pelz as she seated herself cautiously in a white enameled chair.

Oi weh! what grand times we had in that old house when we were neighbors!” sighed Hanneh Breineh, looking at her old friend with misty eyes.

“You still think on Delancey Street? Haven't you more high-class neighbors up-town here?”

“A good neighbor is not to be found every day,” deplored Hanneh Breineh. “Up-town here, where each lives in his own house, nobody cares if the person next door is dying or going crazy from loneliness. It ain't anything like we used to have it in Delancey Street, when we could walk into one another's rooms without knocking, and borrow a pinch of salt or a pot to cook in.”

Hanneh Breineh went over to the pantry-shelf.

“We are going to have a bite right here on the kitchen-table like on Delancey Street. So long there's no servant to watch us we can eat what we please.”

Oi! how it waters my mouth with appetite, the smell of the herring and onion!” chuckled Mrs. Pelz, sniffing the welcome odors with greedy pleasure.

Hanneh Breineh pulled a dish-towel from the rack and threw one end of it to Mrs. Pelz.

“So long there's no servant around, we can use it together for a napkin. It's dirty, anyhow. How it freshens up my heart to see you!” she rejoiced as she poured out her tea into a saucer. “If you would only know how I used to beg my daughter to write for me a letter to you; but these American children, what is to them a mother's feelings?”

“What are you talking!” cried Mrs. Pelz. “The whole world rings with you and your children. Everybody is envying you. Tell me how began your luck?”

“You heard how my husband died with consumption,” replied Hanneh Breineh. “The five-hundred-dollars lodge money gave me the first lift in life, and I opened a little grocery store. Then my son Abe married himself to a girl with a thousand dollars. That started him in business, and now he has the biggest shirt-waist factory on West Twenty-ninth Street.”

“Yes, I heard your son had a factory.” Mrs. Pelz hesitated and stammered; “I'll tell you the truth. What I came to ask you—I thought maybe you would beg your son Abe if he would give my husband a job.”

“Why not?” said Hanneh Breineh. “He keeps more than five hundred hands. I'll ask him he should take in Mr. Pelz.”

“Long years on you, Hanneh Breineh! You'll save my life if you could only help my husband get work.”

“Of course my son will help him. All my children like to do good. My daughter Fanny is a milliner on Fifth Avenue, and she takes in the poorest girls in her shop and even pays them sometimes while they learn the trade.” Hanneh Breineh's face lit up, and her chest filled with pride as she enumerated the successes of her children.

“And my son Benny he wrote a play on Broadway and he gave away more than a hundred free tickets for the first night.”

“Benny? The one who used to get lost from home all the time? You always did love that child more than all the rest. And what is Sammy your baby doing?”

“He ain't a baby no longer. He goes to college and quarterbacks the football team. They can't get along without him.

“And my son Jake, I nearly forgot him. He began collecting rent in Delancey Street, and now he is boss of renting the swellest apartment-houses on Riverside Drive.”

“What did I tell you? In America children are like money in the bank,” purred Mrs. Pelz as she pinched and patted Hanneh Breineh's silk sleeve. “Oi weh! how it shines from you! You ought to kiss the air and dance for joy and happiness. It is such a bitter frost outside; a pail of coal is so dear, and you got it so warm with steam-heat. I had to pawn my feather-bed to have enough for the rent, and you are rolling in money.”

“Yes, I got it good in some ways, but money ain't everything,” sighed Hanneh Breineh.

“You ain't yet satisfied?”

“But here I got no friends,” complained Hanneh Breineh.

“Friends?” queried Mrs. Pelz. “What greater friend is there on earth than the dollar?”

Oi! Mrs. Pelz; if you could only look into my heart! I'm so choked up! You know they say, a cow has a long tongue, but can't talk.” Hanneh Breineh shook her head wistfully, and her eyes filmed with inward brooding. “My children give me everything from the best. When I was sick, they got me a nurse by day and one by night. They bought me the best wine. If I asked for dove's milk, they would buy it for me; but—but—I can't talk myself out in their language. They want to make me over for an American lady, and I'm different.” Tears cut their way under her eyelids with a pricking pain as she went on: “When I was poor, I was free, and could holler and do what I like in my own house. Here I got to lie still like a mouse under a broom. Between living up to my Fifth Avenue daughter and keeping up with the servants I am like a sinner in the next world that is thrown from one hell to another.”

The door-bell rang, and Hanneh Breineh jumped up with a start.

Oi weh! it must be the servant back already!” she exclaimed as she tore off her apron. “Oi weh! let's quickly put the dishes together in a dish-pan. If she sees I eat on the kitchen table, she will look on me like the dirt under her feet.”

Mrs. Pelz seized her shawl in haste.

“I better run home quick in my rags before your servant sees me.”

“I'll speak to Abe about the job,” said Hanneh Breineh as she pushed a bill into the hand of Mrs. Pelz, who edged out as the servant entered.

* * *

“I'm having fried potato lotkes special for you, Benny,” said Hanneh Breineh as the children gathered about the table for the family dinner given in honor of Benny's success with his new play. “Do you remember how you used to lick the fingers from them?”

“O Mother!” reproved Fanny. “Anyone hearing you would think we were still in the push-cart district.”

“Stop your nagging, Sis, and let ma alone,” commanded Benny, patting his mother's arm affectionately. “I'm home only once a month. Let her feed me what she pleases. My stomach is bomb-proof.”

“Do I hear that the President is coming to your play?” said Abe as he stuffed a napkin over his diamond-studded shirt-front.

“Why shouldn't he come?” returned Benny. “The critics say it's the greatest antidote for the race hatred created by the war. If you want to know, he is coming to-night; and what's more, our box is next to the President's.”

Nu, Mammeh,” sallied Jake, “did you ever dream in Delancey Street that we should rub sleeves with the President?”

“I always said that Benny had more head than the rest of you,” replied the mother.

As the laughter died away, Jake went on:

“Honor you are getting plenty; but how much mezummen does this play bring you? Can I invest any of it in real estate for you?”

“I'm getting ten per cent. royalties of the gross receipts,” replied the youthful playwright.

“How much is that?” queried Hanneh Breineh.

“Enough to buy up all your fish markets in Delancey Street,” laughed Abe in good-natured raillery at his mother.

Her son's jest cut like a knife-thrust in her heart. She felt her heart ache with the pain that she was shut out from their successes. Each added triumph only widened the gulf. And when she tried to bridge this gulf by asking questions, they only thrust her back upon herself.

“Your fame has even helped me get my hat trade solid with the Four Hundred,” put in Fanny. “You bet I let Mrs. Van Suyden know that our box is next to the President's. She said she would drop in to meet you. Of course she let on to me that she hadn't seen the play yet, though my designer said she saw her there on the opening night.”

“Oh, Gosh! the toadies!” sneered Benny. “Nothing so sickens you with success as the way people who once shoved you off the sidewalk come crawling to you on their stomachs begging you to dine with them.”

“Say, that leading man of yours he's some class,” cried Fanny. “That's the man I'm looking for. Will you invite him to supper after the theater?”

The playwright turned to his mother.

“Say, Ma,” he said laughingly, “how would you like a real actor for a son-in-law?”

“She should worry,” mocked Sam. “She'll be discussing with him the future of the Greek drama. Too bad it doesn't happen to be Warfield, or mother could give him tips on the 'Auctioneer.'”

Jake turned to his mother with a covert grin.

“I guess you'd have no objection if Fanny got next to Benny's leading man. He makes at least fifteen hundred a week. That wouldn't be such a bad addition to the family, would it?”

Again the bantering tone stabbed Hanneh Breineh. Everything in her began to tremble and break loose.

“Why do you ask me?” she cried, throwing her napkin into her plate. “Do I count for a person in this house? If I'll say something, will you even listen to me? What is to me the grandest man that my daughter could pick out? Another enemy in my house! Another person to shame himself from me!” She swept in her children in one glance of despairing anguish as she rose from the table. “What worth is an old mother to American children? The President is coming to-night to the theater, and none of you asked me to go.” Unable to check the rising tears, she fled toward the kitchen and banged the door.

They all looked at one another guiltily.

“Say, Sis,” Benny called out sharply, “what sort of frame-up is this? Haven't you told mother that she was to go with us to-night?”

“Yes—I——” Fanny bit her lips as she fumbled evasively for words. “I asked her if she wouldn't mind my taking her some other time.”

“Now you have made a mess of it!” fumed Benny. “Mother'll be too hurt to go now.”

“Well, I don't care,” snapped Fanny. “I can't appear with mother in a box at the theater. Can I introduce her to Mrs. Van Suyden? And suppose your leading man should ask to meet me?”

“Take your time, Sis. He hasn't asked yet,” scoffed Benny.

“The more reason I shouldn't spoil my chances. You know mother. She'll spill the beans that we come from Delancey Street the minute we introduce her anywhere. Must I always have the black shadow of my past trailing after me?”

“But have you no feelings for mother?” admonished Abe.

“I've tried harder than all of you to do my duty. I've lived with her.” She turned angrily upon them. “I've borne the shame of mother while you bought her off with a present and a treat here and there. God knows how hard I tried to civilize her so as not to have to blush with shame when I take her anywhere. I dressed her in the most stylish Paris models, but Delancey Street sticks out from every inch of her. Whenever she opens her mouth, I'm done for. You fellows had your chance to rise in the world because a man is free to go up as high as he can reach up to; but I, with all my style and pep, can't get a man my equal because a girl is always judged by her mother.”

They were silenced by her vehemence, and unconsciously turned to Benny.

“I guess we all tried to do our best for mother,” said Benny, thoughtfully. “But wherever there is growth, there is pain and heartbreak. The trouble with us is that the Ghetto of the Middle Ages and the children of the twentieth century have to live under one roof, and——”

A sound of crashing dishes came from the kitchen, and the voice of Hanneh Breineh resounded through the dining-room as she wreaked her pent-up fury on the helpless servant.

“Oh, my nerves! I can't stand it any more! There will be no girl again for another week,” cried Fanny.

“Oh, let up on the old lady,” protested Abe. “Since she can't take it out on us any more, what harm is it if she cusses the servants?”

“If you fellows had to chase around employment agencies, you wouldn't see anything funny about it. Why can't we move into a hotel that will do away with the need of servants altogether?”

“I got it better,” said Jake, consulting a note-book from his pocket. “I have on my list an apartment on Riverside Drive where there's only a small kitchenette; but we can do away with the cooking, for there is a dining service in the building.”

The new Riverside apartment to which Hanneh Breineh was removed by her socially ambitious children was for the habitually active mother an empty desert of enforced idleness. Deprived of her kitchen, Hanneh Breineh felt robbed of the last reason for her existence. Cooking and marketing and puttering busily with pots and pans gave her an excuse for living and struggling and bearing up with her children. The lonely idleness of Riverside Drive stunned all her senses and arrested all her thoughts. It gave her that choked sense of being cut off from air, from life, from everything warm and human. The cold indifference, the each-for-himself look in the eyes of the people about her were like stinging slaps in the face. Even the children had nothing real or human in them. They were starched and stiff miniatures of their elders.

But the most unendurable part of the stifling life on Riverside Drive was being forced to eat in the public dining-room. No matter how hard she tried to learn polite table manners, she always found people staring at her, and her daughter rebuking her for eating with the wrong fork or guzzling the soup or staining the cloth.

In a fit of rebellion Hanneh Breineh resolved never to go down to the public dining-room again, but to make use of the gas-stove in the kitchenette to cook her own meals. That very day she rode down to Delancey Street and purchased a new market-basket. For some time she walked among the haggling push-cart venders, relaxing and swimming in the warm waves of her old familiar past.

A fish-peddler held up a large carp in his black, hairy hand and waved it dramatically:

“Women! Women! Fourteen cents a pound!”

He ceased his raucous shouting as he saw Hanneh Breineh in her rich attire approach his cart.

“How much?” she asked pointing to the fattest carp.

“Fifteen cents, lady,” said the peddler, smirking as he raised his price.

“Swindler! Didn't I hear you call fourteen cents?” shrieked Hanneh Breineh, exultingly, the spirit of the penny chase surging in her blood. Diplomatically, Hanneh Breineh turned as if to go, and the fishman seized her basket in frantic fear.

“I should live; I'm losing money on the fish, lady,” whined the peddler. “I'll let it down to thirteen cents for you only.”

“Two pounds for a quarter, and not a penny more,” said Hanneh Breineh, thrilling again with the rare sport of bargaining, which had been her chief joy in the good old days of poverty.

Nu, I want to make the first sale for good luck.” The peddler threw the fish on the scale.

As he wrapped up the fish, Hanneh Breineh saw the driven look of worry in his haggard eyes, and when he counted out for her the change from her dollar, she waved it aside.

“Keep it for your luck,” she said, and hurried off to strike a new bargain at a push-cart of onions.

Hanneh Breineh returned triumphantly with her purchases. The basket under her arm gave forth the old, homelike odors of herring and garlic, while the scaly tail of a four-pound carp protruded from its newspaper wrapping. A gilded placard on the door of the apartment-house proclaimed that all merchandise must be delivered through the trade entrance in the rear; but Hanneh Breineh with her basket strode proudly through the marble-paneled hall and rang nonchalantly for the elevator.

The uniformed hall-man, erect, expressionless, frigid with dignity, stepped forward:

“Just a minute, Madam, I'll call a boy to take up your basket for you.”

Hanneh Breineh, glaring at him, jerked the basket savagely from his hands.

“Mind your own business,” she retorted. “I'll take it up myself. Do you think you're a Russian policeman to boss me in my own house?”

Angry lines appeared on the countenance of the representative of social decorum.

“It is against the rules, Madam,” he said stiffly.

“You should sink into the earth with all your rules and brass buttons. Ain't this America? Ain't this a free country? Can't I take up in my own house what I buy with my own money?” cried Hanneh Breineh, reveling in the opportunity to shower forth the volley of invectives that had been suppressed in her for the weeks of deadly dignity of Riverside Drive.

In the midst of this uproar Fanny came in with Mrs. Van Suyden. Hanneh Breineh rushed over to her, crying:

“This bossy policeman won't let me take up my basket in the elevator.”

The daughter, unnerved with shame and confusion, took the basket in her white-gloved hand and ordered the hall-boy to take it around to the regular delivery entrance.

Hanneh Breineh was so hurt by her daughter's apparent defense of the hallman's rules that she utterly ignored Mrs. Van Suyden's greeting and walked up the seven flights of stairs out of sheer spite.

“You see the tragedy of my life?” broke out Fanny, turning to Mrs. Van Suyden.

“You poor child! You go right up to your dear, old lady mother, and I'll come some other time.”

Instantly Fanny regretted her words. Mrs. Van Suyden's pity only roused her wrath the more against her mother.

Breathless from climbing the stairs, Hanneh Breineh entered the apartment just as Fanny tore the faultless millinery creation from her head and threw it on the floor in a rage.

“Mother, you are the ruination of my life! You have driven away Mrs. Van Suyden, as you have driven away all my best friends. What do you think we got this apartment for but to get rid of your fish smells and your brawls with the servants? And here you come with a basket on your arm as if you just landed from steerage! And this afternoon, of all times, when Benny is bringing his leading man to tea. When will you ever stop disgracing us?”

“When I'm dead,” said Hanneh Breineh, grimly. “When the earth will cover me up, then you'll be free to go your American way. I'm not going to make myself over for a lady on Riverside Drive. I hate you and all your swell friends. I'll not let myself be choked up here by you or by that hall-boss-policeman that is higher in your eyes than your own mother.”

“So that's your thanks for all we've done for you?” cried the daughter.

“All you've done for me?” shouted Hanneh Breineh. “What have you done for me? You hold me like a dog on a chain. It stands in the Talmud; some children give their mothers dry bread and water and go to heaven for it, and some give their mother roast duck and go to Gehenna because it's not given with love.”

“You want me to love you yet?” raged the daughter. “You knocked every bit of love out of me when I was yet a kid. All the memories of childhood I have is your everlasting cursing and yelling that we were gluttons.”

The bell rang sharply, and Hanneh Breineh flung open the door.

“Your groceries, ma'am,” said the boy.

Hanneh Breineh seized the basket from him, and with a vicious fling sent it rolling across the room, strewing its contents over the Persian rugs and inlaid floor. Then seizing her hat and coat, she stormed out of the apartment and down the stairs.

Mr. and Mrs. Pelz sat crouched and shivering over their meager supper when the door opened, and Hanneh Breineh in fur coat and plumed hat charged into the room.

“I come to cry out to you my bitter heart,” she sobbed. “Woe is me! It is so black for my eyes!”

“What is the matter with you, Hanneh Breineh?” cried Mrs. Pelz in bewildered alarm.

“I am turned out of my own house by the brass-buttoned policeman that bosses the elevator. Oi-i-i-i! Weh-h-h-h! what have I from my life? The whole world rings with my son's play. Even the President came to see it, and I, his mother, have not seen it yet. My heart is dying in me like in a prison,” she went on wailing. “I am starved out for a piece of real eating. In that swell restaurant is nothing but napkins and forks and lettuce-leaves. There are a dozen plates to every bite of food. And it looks so fancy on the plate, but it's nothing but straw in the mouth. I'm starving, but I can't swallow down their American eating.”

“Hanneh Breineh,” said Mrs. Pelz, “you are sinning before God. Look on your fur coat; it alone would feed a whole family for a year. I never had yet a piece of fur trimming on a coat, and you are in fur from the neck to the feet. I never had yet a piece of feather on a hat, and your hat is all feathers.”

“What are you envying me?” protested Hanneh Breineh. “What have I from all my fine furs and feathers when my children are strangers to me? All the fur coats in the world can't warm up the loneliness inside my heart. All the grandest feathers can't hide the bitter shame in my face that my children shame themselves from me.”

Hanneh Breineh suddenly loomed over them like some ancient, heroic figure of the Bible condemning unrighteousness.

“Why should my children shame themselves from me? From where did they get the stuff to work themselves up in the world? Did they get it from the air? How did they get all their smartness to rise over the people around them? Why don't the children of born American mothers write my Benny's plays? It is I, who never had a chance to be a person, who gave him the fire in his head. If I would have had a chance to go to school and learn the language, what couldn't I have been? It is I and my mother and my mother's mother and my father and father's father who had such a black life in Poland; it is our choked thoughts and feelings that are flaming up in my children and making them great in America. And yet they shame themselves from me!”

For a moment Mr. and Mrs. Pelz were hypnotized by the sweep of her words. Then Hanneh Breineh sank into a chair in utter exhaustion. She began to weep bitterly, her body shaking with sobs.

“Woe is me! For what did I suffer and hope on my children? A bitter old age—my end. I'm so lonely!”

All the dramatic fire seemed to have left her. The spell was broken. They saw the Hanneh Breineh of old, ever discontented, ever complaining even in the midst of riches and plenty.

“Hanneh Breineh,” said Mrs. Pelz, “the only trouble with you is that you got it too good. People will tear the eyes out of your head because you're complaining yet. If I only had your fur coat! If I only had your diamonds! I have nothing. You have everything. You are living on the fat of the land. You go right back home and thank God that you don't have my bitter lot.”

“You got to let me stay here with you,” insisted Hanneh Breineh. “I'll not go back to my children except when they bury me. When they will see my dead face, they will understand how they killed me.”

Mrs. Pelz glanced nervously at her husband. They barely had enough covering for their one bed; how could they possibly lodge a visitor?

“I don't want to take up your bed,” said Hanneh Breineh. “I don't care if I have to sleep on the floor or on the chairs, but I'll stay here for the night.”

Seeing that she was bent on staying, Mr. Pelz prepared to sleep by putting a few chairs next to the trunk, and Hanneh Breineh was invited to share the rickety bed with Mrs. Pelz.

The mattress was full of lumps and hollows. Hanneh Breineh lay cramped and miserable, unable to stretch out her limbs. For years she had been accustomed to hair mattresses and ample woolen blankets, so that though she covered herself with her fur coat, she was too cold to sleep. But worse than the cold were the creeping things on the wall. And as the lights were turned low, the mice came through the broken plaster and raced across the floor. The foul odors of the kitchen-sink added to the night of horrors.

“Are you going back home?” asked Mrs. Pelz as Hanneh Breineh put on her hat and coat the next morning.

“I don't know where I'm going,” she replied as she put a bill into Mrs. Pelz's hand.

For hours Hanneh Breineh walked through the crowded Ghetto streets. She realized that she no longer could endure the sordid ugliness of her past, and yet she could not go home to her children. She only felt that she must go on and on.

In the afternoon a cold, drizzling rain set in. She was worn out from the sleepless night and hours of tramping. With a piercing pain in her heart she at last turned back and boarded the subway for Riverside Drive. She had fled from the marble sepulcher of the Riverside apartment to her old home in the Ghetto; but now she knew that she could not live there again. She had outgrown her past by the habits of years of physical comforts, and these material comforts that she could no longer do without choked and crushed the life within her.

A cold shudder went through Hanneh Breineh as she approached the apartment-house. Peering through the plate glass of the door she saw the face of the uniformed hall-man. For a hesitating moment she remained standing in the drizzling rain, unable to enter and yet knowing full well that she would have to enter.

Then suddenly Hanneh Breineh began to laugh. She realized that it was the first time she had laughed since her children had become rich. But it was the hard laugh of bitter sorrow. Tears streamed down her furrowed cheeks as she walked slowly up the granite steps.

“The fat of the land!” muttered Hanneh Breineh, with a choking sob as the hall-man with immobile face deferentially swung open the door—“the fat of the land!”

THE YEARBOOK OF THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY

NOVEMBER, 1918, TO SEPTEMBER, 1919

ADDRESSES OF AMERICAN MAGAZINES PUBLISHING SHORT STORIES

NOTE. This address list does not aim to be complete, but is based simply on the magazines which I have considered for this volume.

Adventure, Spring and Macdougal Streets, New York City.

Ainslee's Magazine, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York City.

All-Story Weekly, 280 Broadway, New York City.

American Boy, 142 Lafayette Boulevard, Detroit, Michigan.

American Magazine, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.

Argosy, 280 Broadway, New York City.

Atlantic Monthly, 41 Mt. Vernon Street, Boston, Mass.

Black Cat, Salem, Mass.

Catholic World, 120 West 60th Street, New York City.

Century, 353 Fourth Avenue, New York City.

Christian Herald, Bible House, New York City.

Collier's Weekly, 416 West 13th Street, New York City.

Cosmopolitan Magazine, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.

Delineator, Spring and Macdougal Streets, New York City.

Everybody's Magazine, Spring and Macdougal Streets, New York City.

Good Housekeeping, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.

Harper's Bazaar, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.

Harper's Magazine, Franklin Square, New York City.

Hearst's Magazine, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.

Ladies' Home Journal, Independence Square, Philadelphia, Pa.

Liberator, 34 Union Square, East, New York City.

Little Review, 24 West 16th Street, New York City.

Live Stories, 35 West 39th Street, New York City.

McCall's Magazine, 236 West 37th Street, New York City.

McClure's Magazine, 76 Fifth Avenue, New York City.

Magnificat, Manchester, N. H.

Metropolitan, 432 Fourth Avenue, New York City.

Midland, Moorhead, Minn.

Munsey's Magazine, 280 Broadway, New York City.

Outlook, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.

Pagan, 7 East 15th Street, New York City.

Parisienne, 25 West 45th Street, New York City.

Pictorial Review, 216 West 39th Street, New York City.

Queen's Work, 3200 Russell Avenue, St. Louis, Mo.

Red Book Magazine, North American Building, Chicago, Ill.

Reedy's Mirror, Syndicate Trust Building, St. Louis, Mo.

Saturday Evening Post, Independence Square, Philadelphia, Pa.

Scribner's Magazine, 597 Fifth Avenue, New York City.

Short Stories, Garden City, Long Island, N. Y.

Smart Set, 25 West 45th Street, New York City.

Snappy Stories, 35 West 39th Street, New York City.

Stratford Journal, 32 Oliver Street, Boston, Mass.

Sunset, 460 Fourth Street, San Francisco, Cal.

Today's Housewife, Cooperstown, N. Y.

Touchstone, 1 West 47th Street, New York City.

Woman's Home Companion, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.

Woman's World, 107 South Clinton Street, Chicago, Ill.

THE BIOGRAPHICAL ROLL OF HONOR OF AMERICAN SHORT STORIES

NOVEMBER, 1918, TO SEPTEMBER, 1919

NOTE. Only stories by American authors are listed. The best sixty stories are indicated by an asterisk before the title of the story. The index figures 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 prefixed to the name of the author indicate that his work has been included in the Rolls of Honor for 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1918 respectively. The list excludes reprints.

(5) ABDULLAH, ACHMED (for biography, see 1918).
    Dance on the Hill.
   *Honorable Gentleman.

ALSOP, GULIELMA FELL. Born in Allegheny, Pa., graduated from
  Barnard College and from the Woman's Medical College of
  Pennsylvania, spent a year in special work at Vienna, and
  became attached to St. Elizabeth's Mission Hospital for Chinese
  women and children at Shanghai, China, where she eventually
  became physician-in-charge. She has travelled widely in
  Europe and Africa and her first volume will be published
  shortly.
   *Kitchen Gods.

(345) ANDERSON, SHERWOOD (for biography, see 1917).
   *Awakening.

(345) ANDREWS, MARY RAYMOND SHIPMAN (for biography, see 1917).
    Queen.

(345) BABCOCK, EDWINA STANTON (for biography, see 1917).
   *Facing It.
   *Willum's Vanilla.

BARNES, DJUNA. Born at Cornwall-on-Hudson, N. Y., in 1892.
  Educated at home. Chief interests: drawing and writing.
  Author of “Book of Repulsive Women,” 1915, and “Passion
  Play,” 1918. Lives in New York City.
   *Night among the Horses.
   Valet.

BARTLETT, FREDERICK ORIN. Born at Haverhill, Mass., in 1876,
  educated at Proctor Academy, Hanover, N. H., and Harvard
  University. Spent six years in newspaper work on Boston
  papers. Author of “Mistress Dorothy,” 1901; “Joan of the
  Alley,” 1905; “Web of the Golden Spider,” 1909; “Seventh
  Noon,” 1910; “Prodigal Pro Tem,” 1911; “Forest Castaways,”
  1911; “Lady of the Lane,” 1912; “Guardian,” 1912; “Whippen,”
  1913; “Wall Street Girl,” 1916; “Triflers,” 1917, and many
  short stories. Lives in Cambridge, Mass.
  *Long, Long Ago.

(234) BROWN, ALICE (for biography, see 1917).
   Praying Sally.

(5) BROWNELL, AGNES MARY (for biography, see 1918).
   *Dishes.
   *Love's Labor.

(3) BURNET, DANA. Born at Cincinnati, Ohio, 1888, and educated
  at Woodward High School, Cincinnati, and Cornell University.
  Connected with the New York Evening Sun since
  1911. Author of “Poems,” 1915; “Shining Adventure,” 1916,
  and many short stories. Lives in New York City.
    Butterfly.
    Orchid.

(145) BURT, MAXWELL STRUTHERS (for biography, see 1917).

    * Blood-Red One.

    Shining Armor.

(5) CABELL, JAMES BRANCH (for biography, see 1918).
    * Wedding Jest.

CAYLOR, N. G.
    * Area of a Cylinder.

COHEN, OCTAVUS ROY. Born at Charleston, S. C., in 1891. Educated
  at Porter Military Academy and Clemson College. Married
  Inez Lopez, 1914. Civil engineer 1909 and 1910; newspaper
  man 1910-12; practised law 1913 to 1915, since which he has
  devoted himself exclusively to writing. Author of “The Other
  Woman,” 1917 (with J. V. Glesy); “Six Seconds of Darkness,”
  1918; “Polished Ebony,” 1919. Lives in Birmingham, Ala.
    Queer House.

COLLIER, TARLETON.
    Gracious Veil.

(2) COMFORT, WILL LEVINGTON. Born at Kalamazoo, Mich.,
  1878. Educated in the Detroit public schools, served in Fifth
  U.S. Cavalry during the Spanish-American War, and as war
  correspondent in the Philippines, China, Russia and Japan, 1899
  to 1904. Author of “Routledge Rides Alone,” 1910; “Fate
  Knocks at the Door,” 1912; “Down Among Men,” 1913; “Midstream,”
  1914; “Red Fleece,” 1915; “Lot and Company,” 1915;
   “Child and Country,” 1916; “The Hive,” 1918. Lives in Santa
    Monica, Cal.
    Skag.

(24) COWDERY, ALICE (for biography, see 1917).
    Spiral.

CRAM, MILDRED. Born in Washington, D. C, 1889. After four
  years of study in New York private schools, went abroad for
  six years of travel. Chief interests: music, the theater, house-keeping,
  and short stories. First short story: “A Stab at Happiness,”
  published in All-Story Weekly, 1915. Author of “Old
  Seaport Towns of the South,” 1917, and “Lotus Salad,” 1920.
  Lives in New York City.
    McCarthy.

CRANSTON, CLAUDIA.
  *Invisible Garden.

(45) DOBIE, CHARLES CALDWELL (for biography, see 1917).
  Called to Service.

(3) DREISER, THEODORE. Born at Terre Haute, Ind., 1871.
  Educated in the public schools of Warsaw, Ind., and Indiana University,
  and married in 1898. Engaged in newspaper work in
  Chicago and St. Louis, 1892-4; editor of Every Month. 1895-8;
  special editorial work, 1898-1905; editor of Smith's Magazine,
  1905-6; Broadway Magazine, 1906-7; Butterick publications,
  1907-10. Organized National Child's Rescue campaign, 1907.
  Author of “Sister Carrie,” 1900; “Jennie Gerhardt,” 1911;
  “Financier,” 1912; “Traveller at Forty,” 1913; “Titan,” 1914;
  “Junius,” 1915; “Plays of the Natural and Supernatural,”
  1916; “Hoosier Holiday,” 1916; “Free,” 1918; “Twelve Men,”
  1919; “Hand of the Potter,” 1919; “Hey-Rub-a-Dub,” 1920;
  “Bulwark,” 1920. Lives in New York City.
    *Old Neighborhood.

(5) “ELDERLY SPINSTER” (Margaret Wilson) (for biography,
  see 1918
).
     Mother.

FISH, HORACE. Born in New York City, 1885. His first story, “Fuego,” was published in Harper's Magazine in 1912. He lives in New York City.
    *Wrists on the Door.

(45) GEER, CORNELIA THROOP (for biography, see 1918).
  Study in Light and Shade.

GILLMORE, INEZ HAYNES. See IRWIN, INEZ HAYNES.

GIOVANNITTI, ARTURO.
    *Eighth Day.

(45) GLASPELL, SUSAN. (for biography, see 1917).
   *Busy Duck.
   *"Government Goat.”
   *Pollen.

(5) GOODMAN, HENRY (for biography, see 1918).
  *Stone.

(5) HALL, MAY EMERY (for biography, see 1918).
  Lamp of Remembrance.

(34) HALLET, RICHARD MATTHEWS (for biography, see 1917).
  *Anchor.
  *To the Bitter End.

HARRISON, DON.
  *Mixing.

HARRISON, GROVER.
  Greatest Gift.

(25) HECHT, BEN (for biography, see 1918).
  Dog Eat Dog.
  Yellow Goat.

(5) HERGESHEIMER, JOSEPH (for biography, see 1918).
  *Meeker Ritual.

(2345) HURST, FANNIE (for biography, see 1917).
  *Humoresque.

IMRIE, WALTER MCLAREN. A young Canadian writer, who served
  in the Canadian Hospital Service during the war. Lives in
  Toronto, Ont.
   Daybreak.

INGERSOLL, WILL E. Born at High Bluff, Manitoba, in 1880. Two
  months later his father continued his journey west to Shoal
  Lake, Manitoba, where he took up a homestead. Received his
  education partly at the village school, partly from the Anglican
  clergyman who was a friend of his father, but mostly from a
  trunk full of books which his father and mother had brought
  from the East. Came to Winnipeg in his early twenties with
  one hundred and fifty dollars; hired a garret and wrote hard
  while the money lasted; placed his first story with Everybody's
  Magazine, August, 1905, and has been in journalism since. He
  is now on the Winnipeg Free Press. Author of “Road that
  Led Home,” 1918. Lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
  *Centenarian.

(3) IRWIN, INEZ HAYNES (INEZ HAYNES GILLMORE). Born at
  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1873. Educated in the Girls' High
  School and Normal School, Boston, and Radcliffe College.
  Married to Will Irwin. Author of “June Jeopardy,” 1908;
  “Maida's Little Shop,” 1910; “Phoebe and Ernest,” 1910;
  “Janey,” 1911; “Phoebe, Ernest and Cupid,” 1912; “Angel
  Island,” 1913; “Ollivant Orphans,” 1915; “Lady of Kingdoms,”
  1917. Lives in Scituate, Mass.
    Treasure.

IRWIN, WALLACE. Born at Oneida, N. Y., 1876. Educated at
  Denver High School and Leland Stanford University. Engaged
  in newspaper work in San Francisco, 1901; editor of
  Overland Monthly, 1902; on the staff of Collier's Weekly,
  1906-7; member of Committee on Public Information, 1917-19.
  Author of “Love Sonnets of a Hoodlum,” 1902; “Rubaiyat
  of Omar Khayyam, Jr.,” 1902; “Fairy Tales up to Now,” 1904;
  “Nautical Lays of a Landsman,” 1904; “At the Sign of the
  Dollar,” 1904; “Chinatown Ballads,” 1905; “Random Rhymes
  and Odd Numbers,” 1906; “Letters of a Japanese School Boy,”
  1909; “Mr. Togo, Maid of All Work,” 1913; “Pilgrims into
  Folly,” 1917. Lives in New York City.
  *Wandering Stars.

(25) JOHNSTON, ARTHUR (for biography, see 1918).
  *Riders in the Dark.

(12) JOHNSTON, CALVIN. Born at Springfield, Mo., October 6,
  1876. Educated in the common schools. Short story writer.
  Chief interests: Establishing National Commercial Airways;
  writing posthumous novel. Author of “The Pariah,” published
  in Harper's Weekly, December 9, 1905; “Veteran's Last Campaign,”
  Harper's Monthly, June, 1906.
  *Messengers.

JONES, HOWARD MUMFORD.
  *Mrs. Drainger's Veil.

(45) KLINE, BURTON (for biography, see 1917).
  Living Ghost.

LA MOTTE, ELLEN N.
  *Under a Wine-Glass.

(5) LIEBERMAN, ELIAS (for biography, see 1918).
  *Thing of Beauty.

(4) LONDON, JACK (for biography, see 1917).
   On the Makaloa Mat.

MACMANUS, SEUMAS.
   Far Adventures of Billy Burns.
   Tinker of Tamlacht.

MAXWELL, HELENA. Born November 22, 1896, in Iowa City,
  Iowa. Her father was Scotch, and was a surgeon in the regular
  army at the time of the Spanish-American War. Lived
  most of her life in Iowa. Attended school in Washington,
  D. C. Lived much in the South. Now a Senior at the University
  of Idaho, at Moscow, Idaho, where her husband, Baker
  Brownell, is an assistant professor of journalism. Chief interests,
  aside from writing, are Bach, the New Republic, woman
  suffrage, and climbing mountains. First story was written at
  the age of nine, offered to The Youth's Companion for $100.
  It was not accepted. First published story was in The Pagan,
  September, 1919, “West of Topeka.”

(2) MITCHELL, MARY ESTHER. Born in New York City, 1863.
  Educated at the public schools of Bath, Me., and Radcliffe College.
  First short story published in the Youth's Companion,
  1892 or 1893. Lives in Arlington, Mass.
   Jonas and the Tide.

(3) MONTAGUE, MARGARET PRESCOTT. Born at White Sulphur
  Springs, W. Va., in 1878, and educated at home and in private
  schools. Author of “The Poet, Miss Kate and I,” 1905; “Sowing
  of Alderson Cree,” 1907; “In Calvert's Valley,” 1908;
  “Linda,” 1912; “Closed Doors,” 1915. Lives in White Sulphur
  Springs, W. Va.
  *England to America.

MORAVSKY, MARIA. Born in Warsaw, Poland, Dec. 31, 1890.
  Received her primary school education in Poland and University
  education in Russia. Came to America in 1917. First
  short story published in English, “Friendship of Men,” Harper's
  Magazine, Feb., 1919. Chief interests, poetry, travelling, psychology,
  and the welfare of humanity. Published several books
  in Russian between 1914 and 1917, including “By the Harbor,”
  “Cinderella Thinks,” “Orange Peels,” and “Flowers in the
  Cellar.” Used to write stories for the leading Russian magazines.
  “I think America taught me how to write better fiction,
  for the art of short story writing is more highly developed here.
  At first I wrote in Polish, then in Russian. I changed to English
  because yours is the richest language in the world. I try
  reverently to learn it well.” Lives in New York City.
   Friendship of Men.

MURRAY, ROY IRVING.
  *First Commandment with Promise.

MUTH, EDNA TUCKER.
   White Wake.

NICHOLL, LOUISE TOWNSEND. Born in Scotch Plains, N. J., in
  1890, graduated from Smith College and has been on the staff
  of the New York Evening Post since 1913. Her chief interest
  is poetry, and she is now Associate Editor of Contemporary
  Verse. She is the author of a critical volume on John Masefield,
  to be published this season. Lives in New York City.
  Her first short story, “The Little Light,” was published in the
  Stratford Journal in February, 1919.
   Little Light.

(4) NORTON, ROY (for biography, see 1917).
   This Hero Thing.

PAGE, HELEN. Born in Chestnut Hill, Mass., 1892. Graduated
  from the Misses Brown School, Providence, R. I., and Pratt
  Institute, Brooklyn, N. Y. Has been an errand girl in a department
  store, sold coats and suits, clerked in a book section,
  written advertising copy for woman's wear, written free lance
  articles, done publicity work, and is now conducting a tea
  room in Greenwich Village, New York City. “Rebound” is
  her first published story.
  *Rebound.

(5) PATTERSON, NORMA (for biography, see 1918).
   What They Brought Out of France.

(5) PAYNE, WILL (for biography, see 1918).
   Best-Laid Plan.

(2) PICKTHALL, MARJORIE L.
  Third Generation. (5) PRATT, LUCY (for biography, see 1918).
  *Man Who Looked Back.

RAVENEL, BEATRICE. Born in Charleston, South Carolina. Educated
  at private school and Radcliffe, specializing in English.
  Chief interest: her daughter of fifteen, and books. First short
  story published in the Harvard Advocate, 1891. Lives in
  Charleston, South Carolina.
   High Cost of Conscience.

RENDEL, LAWRENCE.
   Mother.

(35) SEDGWICK, ANNE DOUGLAS (MRS. BASIL DE SELINCOURT)
  (for biography, see 1918).
  *Autumn Crocuses.
  *Evening Primroses.

SEIFFERT, MARJORIE ALLEN. Born in Moline, Ill. Studied music
  for seven years and composed many songs, married and has two
  children. Began writing poetry in 1915, and short stories in
  1918. First story published, “The Neighbor,” Reedy's Mirror,
  Oct. 25, 1918. Graduate of Smith College. Author of “A
  Woman of Thirty,” 1919. Lives in Moline, Ill.
   Peddler.

SIDNEY, ROSE.
   Grapes of the San Jacinto.

(12345) SINGMASTER, ELSIE (for biography, see 1917).
   Recompense.

SOLON, ISRAEL. Was born in the government of Grodno, Russia,
  in 1875 or 1876. Came to Chicago in 1889. “My interest in
  writing goes back to my earliest memories of myself. I can
  still see myself as a little boy of three or four, sitting of Sabbath
  evenings, rubbing my eyes with my fists while my father
  recites wondrous tales of men and beasts in lands and times
  far removed from our own. I began reading for myself about
  the age of six or seven, and have kept at it ever since.” Education
  acquired at odd times and places, after working hours
  and between working periods; took English courses at Lewis
  Institute, Chicago. Has been both an amateur and a professional
  labor agitator. All his interests concern themselves with
  social and intellectual problems. First story, “The Glorious
  Surrender,” published in The Bulletin of the International
  Glove Workers' Union, April and May, 1912. Now lives in
  New York City.
  *"Boulevard.”

(2345) STEELE, WILBUR DANIEL (for biography, see 1917).
  *Accomplice After the Fact.
  *"For They Know Not What They Do.”
  *For Where Is Your Fortune Now?
  *Goodfellow.
  *Heart of a Woman.
  *"La Guiablesse.”
  *Luck.

SUTHERLAND, MARJORIE.
   School Teacher.

(1234) SYNON, MARY (for biography, see 1917).
  *Loaded Dice.

(5) VENABLE, EDWARD C.
   Race.

(345) VORSE, MARY HEATON (for biography, see 1917).
  *Gift of Courage.
  *Man's Son.
  *Other Room.
  *Treasure.

(5) WILLIAMS, BEN AMES (for biography, see 1918).
  *Field of Honor.

WILLIAMS, MARGARET CLARK.
  *Drunken Passenger.

WILSON, MARGARET ADELAIDE.
   Perfect Interval.

WOOD, JULIA FRANCIS. Born in Leavenworth, Kansas, but has
  always lived in Kansas City, Mo. Educated at Smith College,
  Columbia University, and University of Madrid, Spain. Teaches
  French in a private school. Chief interests: people, travel, and
  the theatre. First short story, “Cupid and Jimmy Curtis,”
  Century, Oct., 1910.
   “It Is the Spirit that Quickeneth.”

WORMSER, G. RANGER.
   Child Who Forgot to Sing.
   Little Lives.

YEAMAN, ANNA HAMILTON. Born in Rye, N. Y., and is married.
  She is of Southern ancestry. Was educated in private schools,
  and published her first short story, “Concerning Christopher,”
  in Leslie's Monthly, 1902. Author of “My Lil' Angelo,” 1903.
  Lives in Madison, N. J.
   To the Utmost.

YEZIERSKA, ANZIA. Born in Russia in 1886. Came to New York
  in 1895. Her schooling began in the sweatshop when she was
  nine years old—ten and twelve hours a day, seven days a week,
  for a dollar and a half. She is driven by one desire: to learn
  how to write. Her hours of work to earn mere bread and
  rent have been so long that she has never had yet a chance to
  learn good English in her opinion, and that is why she writes
  in dialect. Her first story, “The Free Vacation House,” appeared
  in The Forum, December, 1915. Lives in New York
  City.
  *"Fat of the Land.”
  *Miracle.

THE ROLL OF HONOR OF FOREIGN SHORT STORIES IN AMERICAN MAGAZINES

NOVEMBER, 1918, TO SEPTEMBER, 1919

NOTE. Stories of special excellence are indicated by an asterisk. The index figures 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 prefixed to the name of the author indicate that his work has been included in the Rolls of Honor for 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1918 respectively. The list excludes reprints.

I. ENGLISH AND IRISH AUTHORS

ATKEY, BERTRAM. MacKurd.

(12345) AUMONIER, STACY. *Brothers.
  Mrs. Huggins's Hun.

(3) BEERBOHM, MAX. *Hilary Maltby.

(34) BERESFORD, J. D. *Reparation.

(1235) BLACKWOOD, ALGERNON. *Little Beggar.

BURKE, THOMAS. Miss Plum-Blossom of Limehouse.

DE LA MARE, WALTER. Promise.

DESMOND, SHAW. Heads on the Mountain.

(45) DUDENEY, MRS. HENRY. “Missing.”

(4) DUNSANY, LORD. *Last Dream of Bwona Khubla.

EDGINTON, MAY. Money.

(12345) GALSWORTHY, JOHN. *Bright Side.
  *Spindleberries.

JESSE, F. TENNYSON. Wanderers.

LOCKHART, LUCY. Miss Allardyce's Soldier.

MARE, WALTER DE LA. See De la Mare, Walter.

(45) MORDAUNT, ELINOR. *Peepers All.
  *Set to Partners.

ROBINSON, LENNOX. *Sponge.

(34) WYLIE, I. A. R. *Colonel Tibbit Comes Home.
  *John Prettyman's Fourth Dimension.
  *Thirst.

II. TRANSLATIONS

(5) ALAI'HEM, SHOLOM. (Yiddish.) *Eva.

BOISSIÈR, JULES. (French.) Opium Smokers in the Forest.

(345) CHEKHOV, ANTON. (Russian.) *Dialogue Between a Man and a Dog.

D'ANNUNZIO, GABRIELE. (Italian.) Hero.

DIMOV, OSSIP. (Russian.) “Six P.M.”

DOLORES, CARMEN. (Brazilian.) *Aunt Zézé's Tears.

DUHAMEL, GEORGES S. (French.) *Lieutenant Dauche.

FRANCE, ANATOLE. (French.) *Red Riding-Hood Up-to-Date.

IBÁÑEZ, VICENTE BLASCO. (Spanish.) *Abandoned Boat.
  *Functionary.
  *"In the Sea.”
  *Serbian Night.
  *Which Was the Condemned?

JACOBSEN, J. P. (Danish.) Two Worlds.

LAGERLÖF, SELMA. (Swedish.) *Donna Micaela.

LEMAÎTRE, JULES. (French.) *Two Presidents.

LEVEL, MAURICE. (French.) All Saints' Day.

MARTINEZ, RAFAEL AREVALO. (Spanish.) Man Who Resembled a Horse.

PAPINI, GIOVANNI. (Italian.) Beggar of Souls.

PEREZ, J. L. (Yiddish.) *Bontje the Silent.

PINSKI, DAVID. (Yiddish.) *Another Person's Soul.

TCHEKOV, ANTON. (Russian.) See Chekhov, Anton.

(5) VILLIERS DE L'ISLE, ADAM. (French.) Queen Ysabeau.

 
 
 

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