Charge It by Irving Bacheller
I. IN WHICH HARRY SWIFTLY PASSES FROM ONE STAGE OF HIS CAREER TO ANOTHER
II. WHICH BEGINS THE STORY OF THE BISHOP'S HEAD
III. WHICH IS THE STORY OF THE PIMPLED QUEEN AND THE BLACK SPOT
IV. IN WHICH SOCRATES ENCOUNTERS “NEW THOUGHT” AND PSYCHOLOGICAL HAIR
V. IN WHICH SOCRATES DISCUSSES THE OVER-PRODUCTION OF TALK
VI. IN WHICH BETSEY COMMITS AN INDISCRETION
VII. IN WHICH SOCRATES ATTACKS THE WORST DOERS AND BEST SELLERS
VIII. IN WHICH SOCRATES ATTACKS THE HELMET AND THE BATTLE-AX
IX. IN WHICH SOCRATES INCREASES THE SUPPLY OF SPLENDOR
X. IN WHICH SOCRATES BREAKS THE DRAG AND TANDEM MONOPOLY IN POINTVIEW
XI. IN WHICH SUNDRY PEOPLE MAKE GREAT DISCOVERIES
XII. IN WHICH HARRY IS FORCED TO ABANDON SWAMP FICTION AND LIKE FOLLIES AND TO
STUDY THE GEOGRAPHY AND NATIVES OF A LAND UNKNOWN TO OUR HEIRISTOCRACY
XIII. IN WHICH THE MINISTER GETS INTO LOVE AND TROUBLE
XIV. IN WHICH SOCRATES DISCOVERS A NEW FOLLY
XV. IN WHICH HARRY RETURNS TO POINTVIEW AND GOES TO WORK
XVI. WHICH PRESENTS AN INCIDENT IN OUR CAMPAIGN AGAINST NEW NEW ENGLAND
XVII. WHICH PRESENTS A DECISIVE INCIDENT IN OUR CAMPAIGN AGAINST OLD NEW ENGLAND
[Illustration: SHE WISHED ME TO SUGGEST SOMETHING FOR HER TO DO
[See page 56]]
KEEPING UP WITH HARRY
A story of fashionable extravagance and of the successful efforts to
restrain it made by The Honorable Socrates Potter the genial friend of
HARPER &BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
HARPER &BROTHERS, NEW YORK
COPYRIGHT, 1912. BY HARPER &BROTHERS
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER, 1912
TO MY DEAR FRIEND
LEDYARD PARK HALE
ANOTHER HONEST LAWYER
It may interest, if it does not comfort, the reader to know that
this little story is built upon facts. The ride of Harry, the
hundred-dollar pimple, the psychological hair, the downfall of Roger,
all happened, while the Bishop's Head is one of the possessions of a
New England family.
I. IN WHICH HARRY SWIFTLY PASSES FROM
ONE STAGE OF HIS CAREER TO ANOTHER
Harry and I were waiting for his motor-car, said the Honorable
Socrates Potter. He couldn't stand and waitthat would be losing
timeso we kept busy. Went into the stores and bought thingsviolets,
candy, golf-balls, tennis-shoes, new gloves, and neckties. Harry didn't
need 'em, but he couldn't waste any time and
'There's the car!'
In each store Harry had used the magic words, 'Charge it,' and
We were going over to Chesterville to settle with the contractor
who had built his father's house. We had an hour and four minutes in
which to do it all, and thenthe 6.03 express for New York. Harry had
to get it to be in time for a bridge party.
We climbed in. Harry grabbed the wheel. The gas-lever purred, the
gears clicked, the car jumped into motion and rushed, screeching, up
the hill ahead of us, shot between a trolley-car and a wagon, swung
around a noisy runabout, scared a team into the siding, and sped away.
The town behind us! Country-houses on either side! A bulldog in the
near perspective! He set himself, made a rush at us, as if trying to
grab a wheel off the car, and the wheel got him. We flushed a lot of
chickens. The air seemed to be full of them. Harry waved an apology to
the farmer, as if to say:
'Never mind, sir, I'm in a hurry now. Take my number and charge
'He struck a fowl, and, turning, I saw a whirl of feathers in the
air behind us and the farmer's fist waving above the dust.
Harry would have paid for the dog and the fowl in money but not in
timenot even in a second of time! Harry had an engagement for a
bridge party and must catch the 6.03 express.
A man on a bicycle followed by a big greyhound was just ahead. We
screeched. The man went into the ditch and took a header. The greyhound
didn't have time to turn out then. He bent to the oars until he had
gained lead enough to save himself with a sidelong jump into the
The needle on the speedometer wavered from fifty to fifty-five,
then struck at sixty, held a second there, and passed it. Gnats and
flies hit my face and stung like flying shot. The top of the road went
up in a swirl of dust behind us. I hung on, with my life in my
trembling hands. We zipped past teams and motor-cars.
We filled every eye with dust and every ear with screeches and
every heart with a swift pang of terror.
A rider with a frightened horse raced on ahead of us to the next
corner. We sped across the track into Chesterville and
'Hold up! There's the office ahead.'
The levers move, down goes the brake, and we're there.
'Eleven miles in fourteen minutes!' Harry exclaims, as I spring out
and hurry to the door. It was really sixteen minutes, but I always
allow Harry a slight discount.
'Not in!' I shout, in a second.
'Not inheart of Allah!where is he?'
'At the Wilton job on the point.'
'We'll go get him.'
'You go; I'll wait here.'
Away he rushesI thank God for the brief respite. This high power
encourages great familiarity with the higher powers. But the Creator's
name is used here in no light or profane spirit, let me say. In each
case it is only a brief prayer or, rather, the beginning of a prayer
which one has not time to finish. It is cut short by a new adventure.
I say to myself that I shall not ride back with Harry. No, life is
still dear to me. I will take the trolley. And yetwhat thrilling,
Jove-like, superhuman deviltry it was! I light a cigar and sit down.
Harry and Wilton arrive. Fifteen minutes gone!
I get down to business.
Harry says: 'Please cut it short.'
I could have saved five hundred dollars if I had had time to
present our side of the case with proper deliberation. But Harry keeps
'Do cut it short. I must get theredon't you know?'
Wilton must have his pay, toohe needs every cent of it to-morrow.
'You go on. I'll stay here and settle this matter and go home by
'Let's stick together,' my young friend entreats. 'Please hurry it
through and come on with me. I need you.'
Harry must have company. His time is wasted unless he has a
spectatoran audiencea witnessa historian. Without that, all his
hair-breadth escapes would be thrown away. His stories would hang by a
'We've only twenty-one minutes,' he calls.
I say to myself: 'Damn the man whose money is like water and whose
time is more precious than the last hour of Mahomet.' Well, of course,
there was plenty of money, but the supply of time was limited. To waste
a second was to lose an opportunity for self-indulgence.
I draw a check and take a hurried receipt and jump in.
Away we go. 'Look out!'
The brakes grind, and we rise in the air a little as a small boy
crosses our bows. We just missed himthank God!
'Don't be reckless, old mango a bit slower.'
'It's all right. We've a clear road now.'
What a wind in our faces! There's the track ahead.
'Look out! The train! God Almighty!'
I spoke too late. We were almost up to the rails when I saw it. We
couldn't stop. Cleared the track in time. Felt the wind of the engine
in my back hair, and then my scalp moved. Just ahead was a light buggy
in the middle of the road and a bull, frightened by the cars, galloping
In the excitement Harry hadn't time to blow, and the roar of the
train had covered our noise. The bull turned into the ditch and speeded
up. We swerved between bull and buggy and grazed the side of the
I jumped and landed on the bull, and that saved me. It's the first
time that I ever knocked a bull down. He got to his feet swiftly beside
me, bellowed, and took the fence. He was a fat, well-fed bull with a
big, round, soft side on him. I never knew that a bull was so mellow.
My feet sank deep, and he gave way, and I hit him again with another
part of my person. I didn't mean it, and felt for him, although it is
likely that his feelings needed no further help from me. Of course I
bounded off him at last and the earth hit me a hard upper-cut, but the
bull had been a highly successful shock absorber. In a second or so I
was able to get up and look around. The buggy had gone over, and the
horse was on his hind legs trying to climb out of the dust-cloud.
Harry stopped his car and began to back up.
'That'll do for me,' I said. 'I don't sit in your padded cell any
I had lived a whole three-volume novel in the last forty minutes.
The Panama Canal had been finished and England had become a republic.
It was too much.
We found two menone at the head of the frightened horse, the
other lying beside the wrecked buggy with a broken leg.
And Harry had an engagement to play bridge!
I took the horse's head. The well man pulled a stake off the fence
and chased Harry around the motor-car. He didn't intend to 'charge it.'
Wanted cash down. I got hold of his arm and succeeded in calming him.
Harry apologized and assured them that he was willing to pay the
damage. We picked up the injured man and took him to his home. On the
way Harry explained that they should keep track of all expenses and:
In a few minutes Harry roared off in the direction of Pointview to
get a doctor and the 6.03 express.
'It might be a little late,' he said, as he left us.
The next day Harry was arrested as a public enemy for criminal
carelessness. He had injured three men on the highways of Connecticut,
to say nothing of dogs and poultry. Almost everybody had something
charged against Harry. He was highly unpopular, but a good fellow at
I got the judge to release him on his promise to abandon motoring
for three years.
Thus he rushed out of the motor-car stage of his career into that
of the drag and tandem.
He had had more narrow escapes and suffered greater perils than Rob
Yes, bulls are a good thinga comparatively soft thing. I
recommend them to every motorist who may have to look for a place to
land. Don't ever throw yourself on the real estate of New England. It
can hit harder than you can.
II. WHICH BEGINS THE STORY OF THE
Harry is the most modern character in my little museum, said the
Honorable Socrates Potter, as I sat with him in his cozy office. I was
really introduced to Harry by the Bishop of St. Clare, who died in
1712. I didn't know his heart until the Bishop made us acquainted.
Strange! Well, that depends on the point of view. You see, the Bishop
was acquired and imported as an ancestor by one of the best families,
and that's how I happened to meet him. They would have got William the
Conquerorof England and Fifth Avenueif he hadn't been well hidden.
I am inclined to converse long and loudly on the reconstruction of
Pointview. Of course I shall talk too much, but I am a licensed liar,
and the number of my machine is 4227643720, so if I smash a dog here
and there, make a note of the number and charge it. I'm going fast and
shall not have time to stop for apologies.
In Pointview even Time has quickened his pace. Last year is ancient
history. Lizzie has been succeeded by Miss Elizabeth, who needs a maid,
a chauffeur, a footman, and a house-party to maintain her spirits.
Harry and his drag have taken the place of Dan and his runabout.
The enemy has arrived in force. We are surrounded by country-houses
and city abdomens of appalling size and arrogance. Mansions crown the
slopes and line the water-front. The dialect of the lazy Yankee and his
industrious hens are heard no more in the hills of Pointview. Where the
hoe and the sickle were stirred by the fear of hunger, the golf-club
and the tennis-racket are moved by the fear of fat. The sweat of toil
is now the perspiration of exercise. The chatter of society has
succeeded that of the goose and the polliwog. Land has gone up. Rocks
have become real estate even while they belonged to Christian
Scientists. Ledges, smitten by the modern Moses, have gushed a stream
of gold. Once the land supported its owner. Now wealth supports land
and landlord and the fullness thereof. The Fifth Avenue farmer has
begun to raise his own vegetables at a dollar apiece and a crop of
criminals second to none. In his hands farming becomes agriculture and
the farm a swarming nest of parasites.
We are in the midst of a new migration from the cities back to the
land, and all are happy save the philosophers. It is a remote reaction
of former migrations to the mines and the oil-fields. The descendants
of these very pioneers now seek to exchange a part of their gold for
the ancient sod in which are the roots of their family trees and
With these rich men came Henry Delance, who grew up with me here
and went to Pittsburg in his early twenties and made a fortune in the
coal and iron business. His grandfather was old Nick Delance, a
blacksmith; and his father owned a farm on the hills and made a bare
living for himself and a large family. They had been simple,
hard-working, honest people. I helped Henry to buy the old place, and,
as we stood together on the hilltop, he said to me:
'I often think of the old days that were full of hard labor. What a
woman my mother was! Did all the work of the house and raised seven
boys and two girls, and every one of them has had some success in the
worldexcept me. One built a big railroad, one was governor of a
State, one a member of Congress, one a noted physician, two have made
millions, and both of the girls married well. Now, my boy has had every
'But poverty,' I suggested.
'But poverty,' he repeated, 'and I'm unable to give him that. It's
probably the one thing that would make a man of him, and I wouldn't
wonder if he succeeded in achieving it.'
'A rather large undertaking,' I said.
'Yes, but he's well qualified,' Henry answered, with a smile.
'What's the matter with your boy?' I asked.
'So busy with tomfooleryno time for anything else. I've had so
much to do that I've rather neglected Harry, and now he's too much for
me. He knows that he's got me beat on education, but that's only the
beginning of what he knows. Good fellow, you understand, but he's young
and thinks me old-fashioned. I wish you'd help me to make a man of
'What can I do?'
'Get him interested in some kind of work. He doesn't like my
business. He hates Wall Street, and, knowing it as I do, how can I
blame the boy? He doesn't take to the law'
'And, knowing it as I do, how can I blame him?' I
'But, somehow, he hasn't the spring in his bow that I hadthe
get-up-and-getthe disposition to move all hell if necessary.'
'You can't expect it,' I said. 'His mainspring is broken.'
'What would you call his mainspring?' he asked.
'The desire to win money and its power. Mind you, I wouldn't call
that a high motive, but in a young man it's a kind of a mainspring that
sets him a-going and keeps the works busy until he can get better
motive power. In Harry it's broken.'
'You're rightit was busted long ago,' said Henry Delance.
'Some one has got to contrive a new mainspring for the sons of
millionairesthey're so plenty these days.'
'There's the desire to be respectable,' he suggested.
'But it is not nearly so universal as the love of money. If it were
possible to have millionaire carpenters and shoemakers there'd be more
hope! But I'll try to invent a mainspring for Harry. If he doesn't
marry some fool woman there's a chance for the boya good chance. Tell
me all about him.'
In his own way, which amused me a little, the old man sketched the
character of his son, or rather confessed it.
'A kind of Alexander the Great,' he said. 'We shall have to be
careful or lose our heads. Surfeited with power, you know. When he
wants anything he goes to a store and says, Charge it. That has
ruined him. He's no scale of values in his mind.'
He told me, then, with some evidence of alarm, that Harry had
become interested in a fool woman, older than he, noted for her beauty
and equestrian skillby name Mrs. Revere-Chalmers, of a well-known
Southern family. I knew the womandivorced from a rich old gentleman
of great generosity, who had taken all the blame for her sake. But I
happened to know that the circumstances on her side were not
creditable. The truth, however, had been well concealed.
In her youth Frances Revere had two beautiful parents. In fact,
they were all that any girl could desireobedient and respectful to
their youngers. She was always kind to them and kept them looking
neatly and helped them in their lessons and brought them up in the fear
of Tiffany and the hope of future happiness. They played most of the
time, but never chased each other in and out of the bedrooms or made
any noise about the house when she lay sleeping in the forenoon. Their
sense of chivalry would not have permitted it. When she arose she
called them to her and patted their heads and said: 'What dear parents
I have!' It might be thought that the fair Frances led an aimless and
idle life. Not so. The young lady was very busy and never forgot her
aim. She was preparing herself to be a marryer of men and the leading
marryer in the proud city of her birth. Every member of the household
became her assistant in this noble industry. Many storekeepers had
unconsciously joined her staff and 'charged it' until they were weary.
All her papa's money had been invested in the business, and he began to
borrow for a rainy day. Then there came a long spell of wet weather. At
last something had to be done. Frances began to use her talents. No
prince or noble duke had come for her, so she married an old man worth
ten million dollars and sent her parents to an orphan asylum with a
fair allowance of spending-money. They are her only heirs, and now, at
thirty, but with ample capital, she has set up again in the marrying
She lives in a big country-house, and has a lot of cats and dogs
that are shampooed every day. Her life is pretty much devoted to the
regulation of hair. Her own requires the exclusive attention of a hired
girl. Its tint, luster, and general effect show excellent taste and
close application. Considering its area, her scalp is the most
remarkable field of industry in Connecticut. Has herself made into a
kind of life-sized portrait every day and carefully framed and lighted
and hung. It is a beautiful portrait, but it is not a portrait of her.
Her life is arduous. I have some reason to think that it wearies
her. She rings for the masseuse at 10.30 A.M. and breakfasts in bed at
twelve o'clock. Soon after that the chiropodist and the manicure and
the hair-dresser begin to saw wood; then the grooms and second footmen.
At two o'clock she goes out to pat the head of the ten-thousand-dollar
bull and give some sugar to the horses, all of whom have been prepared
for this ordeal by bathing and massage.
It's great to be able to pat the head of a ten-thousand-dollar
bull. It's a pretty vanity. All the Fifth Avenue farmers indulge in it.
Some slap them on the back and some poke them in the ribs with the
point of a parasol, but the correct thing is to pat them on the head
and say: Dear old Romeo!
After a turn in the saddle Mrs. Revere-Chalmers led society until
midnight. With her a new spirit had arrived in the ancient stronghold
of the Yankee.
I began to learn things about Harrya big, blond, handsome youth
who had traveled much. He had been to school in New York, London,
Florence, and Paris, and had graduated from Harvard. For a time he
called it Hahvud, but passed that trouble without serious injury and
put it behind him. In the European stage of his career he had been
attacked by lions, griffins, and battle-axes and had lost some of his
red blood. There he had acquired a full line of Fifth Avenue dialect
and conversation with trills and grace notes from France and Italy. He
had been slowly recovering from that trouble for a year or so when I
met him. Now and then a good, strong, native idiom burst out in his
Harry was a man without a country, having never had a fair chance
to acquire one. He had touched many high and low placesfrom the top
of the Eiffel Tower to the lowest depths of the underworld. Also, he
knew the best hotels in Europe and eastern America, and the Duke of
Sutherland and the Lord Mayor of London, and Jack Johnson, the
pugilist. Harry knew only the upper and lower ends of life.
He was an extremist. Also, he was a prolific and generous liar. He
lied not to deceive, but to entertain. There was a kind of noble
charity in his lying. He would gladly perjure his soul to speed an hour
for any good friend. His was the fictional imagination largely
exercised in the cause of human happiness. Now and then he became the
hero of his own lies, but he was generally willing to divide the
honors. His friends knew not when to believe him, and he often deceived
them when he was telling the truth.
Early in April, Henry Delance came to me and said: 'Soc, you've
been working hard for years, and you need a rest. Let's get aboard the
next steamer and spend a fortnight in England.'
I had little taste for foreign travel, but Betsey urged me to go,
and I went with Henry and his wife, their daughter Ruth and the boy
Harry, and sundry maids and valets. We had been a week in London, when
Henry and the Mrs. came into my room one day, aglow with excitement.
Mrs. Delance was first to address me.
'Mr. Potter, congratulate us,' said she. 'We find that Henry is a
lineal descendant of William the Conqueror.'
'Henry, it is possible that William could prove an alibi, or maybe
you could,' I suggested.
'I'd make an effort,' said he, with a trace of embarrassment, 'but
my wife thinks that we had better plead guilty and let it go. That kind
of thing doesn't interest me so much as it does her.'
'After all,' I answered, by way of consolation, 'if you think it's
like to do you any harm, it doesn't need to get out. I shall respect
'Too late!' his wife exclaimed. 'The facts have been cabled to
I was writing letters in my room, next day, when Harry interrupted
me with a hurried entrance. He locked the door inside, and in a kind of
playful silence drew from under his rain-coat, and deposited on my
table, a human skull.
'The Bishop of St. Clare,' he whispered, in that curious dialect
which I shall not try to imitate.
'He isn't looking very well,' I said, not knowing what he meant.
'This is the Bishop's headthe Bishop of St. Clare,' Harry
whispered again. 'He was one of our ancestorsby Jove!'
'Is that all that was the matter with him?' I asked.
'No; his epitaph says that he died of a fever in 1712.'
'How did you get hold of his head?' I asked. 'Win it in a raffle?'
'I bribed the old verger in the crypt of St. Mary's. Offered him
two sovereigns to lift the stone lid and let me look in. He said he
couldn't do that, but discreetly withdrew when I put the money in his
hand. It was up to me, don't you know, and here is the Bishop's head.'
'Going to have him photographed in a group of the family?' I asked.
'No, but you see Materna paid two pounds for a chunk off a
tombstone, and I thought I would give her a souvenir worth having,'
said he, and blushed for the first time since our interview had begun.
'This is unique.'
'And you didn't think the Bishop would miss it?' I suggested.
'Not seriously,' he answered. 'I guess it's a fool thing to have
done, but I thought that I could have some fun with the Bishop's head.
Mother is going to round up all the Delances at Christmas for a big
dinneruncles, aunts, and cousins, you knowa celebration of our
genealogical discoveries with a great family tree in the center of the
table. The history of the Delances will be read, and I thought that I
would spring a surprisetell them that I had invited our old ancestor,
Sir Robert Delance, Bishop of St. Clare; that, contrary to my hope, he
had accepted, and that I would presently introduce him. In due time I
would produce the head and read from his life and writings, which I
bought in a London book-stall. Finally, I thought that I would have him
tell how he happened to be present. Don't you think he would make a
'He would surely make a hita resounding hit,' I said, 'but not as
a proof of respectability. Even if the Bishop is your ancestor, you
have no good title to his bones. I presume that every visitor to the
old church puts his name and address in a register?'
'Well, suppose the theft is discovered and the verger gives you
away. All the money you've got wouldn't keep you out of prison.'
Harry began to turn pale. He was a good fellow, but this
genealogical frenzy had turned his head, and his head was not as old as
the Bishop's. It was unduly young.
'Assume that you get home with your prize, the Bishop's head would
be the worst enemy that his descendants ever had. It would always
accuse you and grin at your follies. And would you dare proclaim the
truth over in Pointview that you really have the skull of the Bishop of
The boy was scared. He had suddenly discovered an important fact.
It was the north pole of his education.
'By Jove! I'm an ass,' he said. 'What shall I do with it?'
'Say nothing of the thing to anybody, not even to your father, and
get rid of it.'
'That's what I'll do,' he said, as he wrapped the skull in a piece
of newspaper, hid it under his coat, and left me.
We sailed next afternoon, and that evening, when Harry and I sat
alone in a corner of the deck, I asked him what he had done with the
'Tried to get rid of it, but couldn't,' he said. 'My conscience
smote me, and I took the old bone back to St. Mary's. Going to do my
duty like a man, you see, but it wouldn't work. New verger on the job!
I weakened. Then I put it in a box and had it addressed to a fictitious
man in Bristol, and sent my valet to get it off by express. It went on,
and was returned for a better address. You see, my valetofficious
ass!had left his address at the express office. How gauche of
him! While we were lying at the dock a messenger came to my state-room
with the Bishop's head. I had to take it and pay five shillings and a
sixpence for the privilege.'
'The old Bishop seems to be quite attached to his new relative,' I
'Yes, but when the deck is deserted, by and by, I'm going to drop
And that is what he diddropped it, solemnly, from the ship's side
at dinnertime, and I witnessed the proceeding.
The adventure had one result that was rather curious and
unexpected. It brought Harry close to me and established our relations
to each other. That they admitted me to his confidence as a friend and
counselor of the utmost frankness was on the whole exceedingly
fortunate. From that time he began to trust me and to distrust himself.
So it happened that I was really introduced to Harry by the Bishop
of St. Clare, who died in 1712, and those credentials gave me a
standing which I could not otherwise have enjoyed.
Coming home, I limbered up my imagination and outlied Harry.
I was forced to invent that cheerful, handy liar the late Dr.
Godfrey Vogeldam Guph, Professor of the Romance Languages in the
University of Brague and the intimate friend of any great man you may
be pleased to mention. With his help I have laid low even the most
authoritative, learned, and precise liars in the State of Connecticut.
I do it by quoting from his memoirs.
Harry's specialty were lies of adventure in court and palace, and,
as Dr. Guph had known all the crowned heads, he became an ever-present
help in time of trouble.
Every lie of Harry's I outdid with another of ampler proportions.
He put on a little more steam, but I kept abreast or a length ahead of
him. By and by he broke down and begged for quarter.
'On my word as a gentleman,' said he, 'that last story I told was
true. It really happened, don't you know?'
'Well, Harry, if you will only notify me when you propose to tell
the truth, I shall be glad to take your word for it,' was my answer.
'And keep Dr. Guph chained,' said he.
'Exactly, and give you like warning when I have a lie ready to
'That's a fair treaty,' he agreed.
'And a good idea,' I said. 'As a liar of long experience I have
found it best to notify all comers what to expect of me when I see a
useful lie in the offing. That has enabled me to give my fancy full
play without impairing my reputation. My noblest faculties have had
ample exercise while my word has remained at par.'
We made an agreement along that line, and Harry ceased to be a
liar, and became a story-teller of much humor and ingenuity.
III. WHICH IS THE STORY OF THE
PIMPLED QUEEN AND THE BLACK SPOT
Well, on our return, Mrs. Delance had a helmet and a battle-ax,
with sundry accessories, emblazoned on her letter-heads and the doors
of her limousine. Here was another case of charge it, but this time it
was charged against her slender capital of good sense. Mrs. Delance was
a stout lady of the Dreadnought type. Harry settled down in the home of
his father and began to study the 'middle clahsses' with a drag and
tandem and garments for every kind of leisure. The girls went to ride
with him, and naturally began to smarten their dress and accents and to
change their estimates. His 'aristocratic' friends and manners were
much in their company and ever in their dreams.
Of course, all that began to react on the young men: if that was
the kind of thing the girls liked, they must try to be in it. Slowly
but surely a Pointview aristocracy began its line of cleavage and a
process of integration. Crests appeared on the letter-heads and
limousine doors of the newly rich. In a month or so people of brain and
substance degenerated into a condition of hardened shameless idiocy.
Some of our best citizens went abroad, each to find his place among
the descendants of William the Conqueror. Suddenly I discovered that
the clerk in my office was ashamed to be seen on the street with a
package in his hands.
Our young men began to long for wealth and leisure. They grew
impatient of the old process of thrift and industry. It was too slow.
Many of them opened accounts in Wall Street.
Young Roger Daniels had some luck there and began to advertise the
fact with a small steam-yacht and a cruise. We were going as hard as
ever to keep up, but on higher levels of aspiration. The girls were
engaged in a strenuous contest for the prize of Harry's favor, with
that handsome young divorcée well in the lead.
Roger and his party were about to return from their cruise, and
Harry was to give them a ball at the Yacht Club.
The day before the ball our best known physician came to see Mrs.
Potter, who was ill, and cheered us up with a story. The Doctor was
young, attractive, and able. He had threatened every appendix in
Pointview, and had a lot of inside information about our men and
womenespecially the latter. He looked weary.
'Yesterday was a little hard on me,' he said. 'It began at four in
the morning with a confinement case and ended at one A.M. There were
two operations at the hospital, a steady stream at the office, and a
twenty-mile ride over the hills. Got back in the evening pretty well
worn out. Tumbled into bed at two minutes of eleven, and was asleep
before the clock struck. The 'phone-bell at my bedside awoke me. I let
it go on for a minute. Hadn't energy enough to get up. It rang and
rang. Out I tumbled.
'Hello!' I said.
'A voice answered. I am Mrs. So-and-So's butler, it said. She
wishes to see you as soon as you can get here. It's very urgent.
'What's the matter?
'Don't know, sir, but it is serious.
'All right, I said.
'My chauffeur was off for the night, so I 'phoned to the stable and
got Patrick and told him to hitch up the black mare at once, dressed,
and took everything that I was likely to need in an emergency, got into
the wagon, and hurried away in the darkness. After all, I thought, it
is something to have one's skill so much in request by the rich and the
powerful. It was a long ride with one horse-power, but we got there.
'Many windows of the great house were aglow. The first butler met
me in the hall and took me to my lady's chamberan immense room
finished in the style of the First Empire. She was half reclining and
playing solitaire as she smoked a cigarette on a divan that occupied a
dais overhung with rare tapestries on a side of the room. The effect of
the whole thing was queenlyà la Récamier. She greeted me
wearily and without rising.
'Sit down, said she, and I did so.
'She turned to a good-looking maid who timidly stood near the
'My dear little woman, you weary meplease go, she said.
'The maid went.
'Dawctah, the lady said to me, I have a nahsty little pimple on
my right cheek, and I really cahn't go to the ball, you know, unless it
is cuahed. Won't you kindlyahsee what can be done?
'A pimple! God prosper it! I said to myself. Has the great M.D.
become a P.D.a mere doctor of pimples?
'I inspected the pimplea very slight affair.
'Why, if I were you, I'd just cover the pimple with a little
square of court-plaster, I said. It would become you.
'What a pretty idea! That's just what I will do, she exclaimed.
'Please charge it, Dawctah, she said, wearily, as she resumed her
'I charged a hundred dollars, but nothing could pay me for the
humiliation I suffered. Going home, I pounded the mare shamefully.'
'You charged a good price,' I said.
'Yes; but it's like pulling teeth to get any money out of her. One
has to earn it twice. Worth a million, and hangs everybody up. Some
have to sue.'
'Does nothing to-day that can be done to-morrow,' I said.
'True,' said he; 'she don't look after her business, and thinks
that every one is trying to cheat her.'
'Same old story,' was my remark. I was her husband's lawyer. 'Well,
dear, how much do you suppose McCrory's bill is for the last month?' he
would ask her. She would look thoughtful and say: 'Oh, about fifteen
hundred dollars.' 'My dear,' he would go on, 'it is ten thousand six
hundred and forty-three dollars and twenty-four cents.' 'Oh, that's
impossible,' she would answer. 'There's some mistake about it. I'll
never O.K. such a bill. It's an outrage!' But the bill was always
'I didn't suppose you would know the ladyI haven't mentioned her
name,' said the Doctor.
'I know her, but don't worryI shall not betray your confidence. I
knew her husband. It wore him out looking after the charge-it
department. Now she's trying to get Harry Delance for his job.'
'She's badly in need of a clerk,' said the Doctor, 'and I hope she
gets one. He could look after the pimples as well as I can.'
Many were getting ready for the ball, but this lady was the only
one I knew of who had spent a hundred dollars for facial improvement.
Harry, however, was about to spend a thousand dollars for the
improvement of his conscience. It was one of the necessary expenses and
it came about in this way:
The day of the ball had arrived. Harry came to see me about noon.
He said that he had been busy all the morning with preparations for the
He showed me a telegram. It was from Roger Daniels, and it said:
'The recent slump in the market has put me in hell's hole. Please
wire one thousand dollars to Bridgeport, where I am hung up. If you do,
I shall give you good collateral and eternal gratitude. If you don't,
we shall have to miss the ball. Please remember that I am waiting at
the other end of the wire like a hungry cat at a mouse-hole.'
Harry looked worried. The ball must come off, and, without Roger,
it would be like Hamlet minus the melancholy Dane. It was a special
compliment to Roger.
'What do you advise me to do?' he asked.
'It will probably be a dead loss.'
'Probably, but it's plainly up to you. He's got in trouble keeping
your pace. To tell the honest truth, you're responsible for it, and the
public will charge it to your account. You must pay the bill or suffer
Harry was taken by surprise.
'But I can pay for my folly,' he said.
'Yes; but when it becomes another man's folly it's stolen property,
and as much yours as ever. The goods have your mark on 'em, and, by and
by, they're dumped at your door. They may be damaged by dirt and
vermin, but you've got to take 'em.
'After all, Harry, why should a young man whose education has cost
a hundred thousand dollars, if a cent, be giving up his life to folly?
You're too smart to spend the most of your time looking
beautifultrying to excite the admiration of women and the envy of
men. That might do in some of the old countries where the people are as
dumb as cattle and are capable only of the emotion of awe and need
professional gentlemen to excite it, and to feed upon their substance.
Here the people have their moments of weakness, but mostly they are
pretty level-headed. They judge men by what they do, not by what they
look like. The professional gentleman is first an object of curiosity
and then an object of scorn. He's not for us. Young man, I knew your
father and your grandfather. I like you and want you to know that I am
speaking kindly, but you ought to go to work.'
'Mr. Potter, he said, 'upon my word, sir, I'm going to work one of
these daysat somethingI don't know what.'
'The sooner the better,' I said. 'Work is the thing that makes
mennothing else. In Pointview everybody used to work. Now here are
some facts for your genealogy that you haven't discovered. Your
grandfather and grandmother raised a family of nine children and never
had a servantthink of that. Your grandmother made clothes for the
family and did all the work of the house. She was a doctor, a nurse, a
teacher, a spinner, a weaver, a knitter, a sewer, a cook, a
washerwoman, a gentle and tender mother. Now we are beginning to rot
'Let me tell you a story of a modern lady of Pointview.'
Then I told him of the Doctor's call on the pimpled queen at
midnight, and added:
'Think of that! Think of the fathomless depths of vanity and
selfishness that lie under that pimple. It's a monument more sublime
than the Matterhorn. Think of the poor fellow that has to marry that
human millstone, and be the clerk of her charge-it department.'
'I can think of no worse luck, really,' said he. 'I wonder who it
'Doctors never give names,' I said. 'But you might look for the
little black square of court-plaster.
'By Jove!' he exclaimed. 'I shall look with interest.'
The ball came off, and Roger got there, and so did the lady and the
square of black court-plaster; and that night Harry began a new stage
in his career.
After all, Harry was no dunce, but he was not yet convinced.
IV. IN WHICH SOCRATES ENCOUNTERS NEW
THOUGHT AND PSYCHOLOGICAL HAIR
When people have little to do they go back to childishness. They
long for noveltynew playthings, new adventures, new sensations, new
friends. So our upper classes are utterly restless. Every old pleasure
is a slough of despond. The ladies have tried jewels, laces, crests,
titled husbands, divorces, gambling, cocktails, cigarettes, and other
branches of exhilaration. They have passed through the slums of
literature and of the East Side of Gotham. The gentlemen have shown
them the way and smiled with amusement and gone on to greater triumphs.
To these people every old idea is 'bromide.' It bores them. They scoff
at men 'who take themselves seriously.' In a word, Moses and the
Prophets are so much 'dope.' And they are excellent people who really
want to make the world better, but the childish craze for novelty is
upon them. Mrs. Revere-Chalmers was one of this kind. Harry came to me
next day at my house and said:
'By Jove! you know, it was my friend Mrs. R.-C. who wore the black
square. But she is really a charming womannot at all a bad sort. I
want you to know her better. She made me promise to bring you over
to-morrow afternoon if you would come.'
We went. It was a 'new-thought' teaa deep, brain-racking,
forefinger-on-the-brow function. You could see the thoughts of the
ladies and sometimes hear them as a 'professor' with long hair and
smiles of fathomless inspiration wrapped himself in obscurity and
called unto them out of the depths. He was all depth. They gazed at his
soulful eyes and plunged into deep thought, catching at straws, and he
returned to New York by the next train and probably made another
payment, on account, to his landlady. Tea and conversation followed his
I had observed that Mrs. Revere-Chalmers had undergone a singular
change of aspect, but failed to locate the point of difference until a
sister had said to her in a tone of honeyed deviltry:
'My dear, you are growing youngerquite surely younger, and your
hair is so lovely and sodifferent! You know what I meanit has the
luster of youth, and the shade is adorable without a trace of gray in
This last phrase was the point of the dagger, and Mrs. Chalmers
felt it. Sure enough, her hair had changed its hue, and was undeniably
fuller and younger.
Then our hostess gave out a confession which has made some history
and is fully qualified to make more. It is a curious fact that one who
is abnormal enough to commit a crime is apt to have poor caution.
'I have been taking lessons of the Professor, and have produced
this hair by concentration,' said she. 'It is a creation of the new
thought and so wonderful I could almost forgive one for not believing
'A gem of thoughta hair poem!' I could not help exclaiming. 'Did
it come all at once, in a flood of inspiration, or hair by hair?'
'All at once,' she answered.
I charged it and went on as if nothing great had happened.
'Considered as a work of the imagination, it is wonderful, and
should rank with the best of Shakespeare's,' I assured her. 'But it
will subject you to unsuspected perils, for your footstool will be the
shrine of the hairless and you shall see the top of every bald head in
Another lady sprang to her assistance by telling how she had
extracted a pearl necklace from an unwilling husband who had said that
he couldn't afford it, by concentration. The new thought had fetched
The noble unselfishness with which they had used this miraculous
gift of the spirit appealed to Harry and to me.
In that brilliant company was a slim woman of the armored cruiser
type, who had come to Betsey one day and said:
'You're spoiling your husband. You make too much of him. You don't
seem to know how to manage a husband, and the husbands of Pointview are
being ruined by your example. They expect too much of us. We women have
got to stand together. Don't you read the Female Gazette?'
'NoI have been waiting till I could get a rubber-plant and other
accessories,' said Betsey.
'Well, it may not be en règle, but it is full of good
sense,' said the lady. 'I've brought an article with me that I wish you
She left the article, and its title was 'How to Manage a Husband.'
It averred that too much petting, too much indulgence, made a man
selfish and conceited; that affection should be administered with
scientific reserve. Men should be taught to wait on themselves, and all
They called on me for remarks, and I said:
'I am glad to have become acquainted with the power of
concentration. I propose that we all quit work and begin to
concentrate. Matter is only a creation of spirit. Let us exercise our
several sovereign spirits and try to turn out a better line of matter.
Let us have fewer rocks and stones and more comforts. Sweat and toil
are a great mistake. Let us turn Delance's Hill into plum-pudding and
the stones thereof into caramels and its pond into tomato-soup. Why
not? They have no reality, no substance. They are nothing but
thoughtsand our thoughts, at thatand why shouldn't we change 'em?
But somehow we can't fetch it. According to the Professor, we have got
into the habit of thinking in terms of rock, soil, and water, and we
can't get over it. There are some few of us who stand for better
things; but the majority keep thinking in the old rut, and we can't
sway them. The Professor says that all we need is to get together and
agree and then concentrate. But agreement doesn't seem to be necessary.
You know that there was a time when everybody, after much
concentration, agreed that the world was flateverybody but one man.
Now the world was stubborn. It wouldn't give up. It hung on to its
roundness, and let the people think what they pleased. They tried to
flatten it with countless tons of concentration, but it held its shape.
The one man had his way about it. So don't be discouraged by an adverse
majority on this plum-pudding project. One lady has shown us a sample
of concentrated hair, and it looks good to me. Why all this striving,
all this trouble about the problems of life and death, when the
straight, broad way of concentration is open to us? Why shouldn't we
have concentrated bread and meat and shoes and socks and silks.
'Now the subject of concentration is by no means new. It has been a
success for centuries. The late Dr. Guph tells in his memoirs of a
singular race of people known as the Flub Dubs who once dwelt on the
lost isle of Atlantis. They were the greatest concentrators that ever
lived. Every one thought that he was the greatest man in the world, and
thought it so hard and so persistently that it came truein a way.
Naturally they aimed high, and every man thought himself the rightful
king, and a strife arose over the crown, so that no one could wear it
and many were slain in a great tussle. And when they were resting from
their struggles one rose and said: Kings of the realm, you are as the
dust under my feet. I scorn you. A few minutes ago I decided to reverse
my concentrator and aim at a higher goal. It was easy of attainment. I
have suddenly become the biggest fool on this island and the humblest
of all men.
'The announcement was greeted with great applause, and within three
minutes his popularity had so enhanced that they put him on the throne.
Such was the power of truth. And all confessed and joined his party,
and he was known as the wisest king of the Flub Dubs.
'The moral that Dr. Guph adduces is this: You cannot make figs out
of thistles, and unregulated concentration leads to trouble.'
Harry and I started for home in a deep silence.
'Hell!' I exclaimed, presently.
'And that reminds me that I feel like the king of the Flub Dubs,'
'Which indicates that you are likely to decline the office,' I
'It's serious businessthis matter of finding a wife,' he
'What's the matter with Marie Benson?' I asked. 'There's a real
woman and the best-looking girl in Connecticut.'
'Charming girl!' he exclaimed. 'But, dear boy! she talks too much.'
'That is a fault that could be remedied; and, after all, it's a
kind of generosity. It's the very opposite of concentration.'
'Ahif she would only reform!' he said.
'Leave that to me,' I answered, as he dropped me at my door.
V. IN WHICH SOCRATES DISCUSSES THE
OVER-PRODUCTION OF TALK
Marie was my ward, and as pretty a girl as ever led a bulldog or
ate a box of chocolates at a sitting. She was a charming fish-hook,
baited with beauty and wealth and culture and remarkable innocence. She
had dangled about on mama's rod and line for a year or so, but the fish
wouldn't bite. For that reason I grabbed the rod from the old lady and
put on a bait of silence and a sinker, and moved to deep water and
began to do business.
Marie had a failing, for which, I am sorry to say, she was in no
way distinguished. She talked too much, as Harry had said. There are
too many American women who talk too much. Marie's mother used to talk
about six-thirds of the time. You had to hear it, and then you had to
get over it. She had a way of spiking the shoes of Time so that every
hour felt like a month while it was running over you. You ought to have
seen her climb the family tree or the sturdy old chestnut of her own
experience and shake down the fruit! Marie had one more tree in her
orchard. She had added the spreading peach of a liberal education to
the deadly upas of Benson genealogy and the sturdy old chestnut of
mama's experience. The vox Bensonorum was as familiar as the
Congregational bell. The supply of it exceeded the demand, and after
every one was loaded and ready to cast off, the barrels came rolling
down the chute.
The next time I saw Marie she was a bit cast down. She wished me to
suggest something for her to do. Said she wanted a missiona chance to
do some good in the world. Thought she'd enjoy being a nurse. I felt
sorry for the girl, and suddenly I saw the flicker of a brilliant
'Marie,' I said, 'as a member of The Society of Useful Women you
are under a serious obligation, and you have taste for missionary work.
Well, what's the matter with beginning on Nancy Doolittle? You owe her
a duty and ought to have the couragenay, the kindnessto perform it.
Nancy talks too much.'
'Well, I should say so,' said Marie. 'Nancy is a scourgeI have
often thought of it.'
'She's downright wasteful,' I went on. 'She fills every hour with
information, and then throws on some more. It keeps coming. Your seams
open, and then it's every hand to the pumps! Dora Perkins and Rebecca
Ford are just as extravagant. They toss out gems of thought and chunks
of knowledge as if they were as common as caramels.
'You should go to these girls and kindly but firmly remind them of
this fault. Tell them that too much conversation has created more old
maids and grass and parlor widows than any other cause. Give them a
little lecture on the old law of supply and demand. Show them that it
applies to conversation as well as to cabbagesthat if one's talk is
too plentiful, it becomes very cheap. Suggest that if Methuselah had
lived until now and witnessed all the adventures of the human race, he
couldn't afford to waste his knowledge. If he talked only half the time
nobody would believe him. They'd think he was crazy, and they'd know
why, in past ages, everybody had died but him, and they'd wonder how he
had managed to survive the invention of gunpowder. These girls have
overestimated the value of good-will. Their securities are not well
secured. There are millions of watered stock in their treasuries, and
it isn't worth five cents on the dollar. Marie, you can have a lot of
fun. I almost envy you.
'Tell these girls that the remedy is simple. They must be careful
to regulate the supply to the demand. They could easily raise the price
above par by denying now and then that they have any conversation in
Marie promised to undertake this important work, and I knew that in
connection with it she would also get some valuable advice.
You see, this tendency to extravagant display has sunk in very
deep. Our young people really do know a lot, and they want others to
know that they know it. They are plumed with culture, and it has become
a charge instead of a credit.
Well, things began to mend. Betsey and I went to dine with the
Bensons one evening, and Marie was as quiet as a lamb. She answered
modestly when we spoke to her. She told no stories; her jeweled crown
of culture was not in sight; she listened with notable success, and
delighted us with well-managed and illuminating silence. Neither she
nor her mother nor Mrs. Bryson ventured to interrupt the talk of a
noted professor who dined with us. Marie was charming.
After dinner she led me into the library, where we sat down
She seemed a little embarrassed, and presently said, with a laugh,
'I had a talk with those girls, as you suggested.'
'What did they say?' I asked.
'What didn't they say?' she exclaimed. 'They flew at me like
wildcats. They tore me to piecessaid I was the most dreaded talker in
Pointview, that I had talked a steady stream ever since I was born,
that nobody had a chance to get in a word with me, that I had made all
the boys sick who ever came to see me. What do you think of that?'
[Illustration: WHAT DIDN'T THEY SAY? THEY FLEW AT ME LIKE
'It's a gross exaggeration!' I said.
'Well, I thought it over, and made up my mind they were right,' she
went on. 'We kissed and made up and organized the Listeners' Circle,
and mama and Mrs. Bryson and Mrs. Doolittle have joined. Our purpose is
to regulate our talk supply very strictly to the demand.'
'It's a grand idea!' I exclaimed. 'The Ladies' Talk and Information
Trust! Why, it will soon control the entire product of Pointview, and
can fix the price. Marie, it's only a matter of time when the
conversation of you girls is going to be in the nature of a luxury and
as much desired as diamonds. It won't be long before some young fellow
will offer his life for one word from you.'
'Oh, I'm hopeless! Nobody cares for menot a soul!' said
'Wait and give 'em a chance,' I answered.
'Do you think it's true that I've been such a pestilence?' she
asked, as her fingers toyed with the upholstery. 'You know you've been
a kind of father to me, and I want you to tell me frankly if I've
really made the boys sick.'
'Why, my dear child, if I were a young man I'd be kneeling at your
feet,' I said; and no wonder, for they were a beautiful pair of feet,
and none ever supported a nobler girl. Then I went on: 'Marie, your
talk is charming. The demand continues. I feel honored by your
confidence. Please go on.'
'I believe I've been foolish without knowing it,' she said, her
smile beautiful with its sadness.
'My dear child, if there were no folly in the world it would be a
stupid place, and I for one should want to move,' I said. 'Some never
discover their own follies, and they are hopeless. You are as
wise as you are dear. It's in your power to do a lot of good. Think
what you've already accomplished. I wish you would continue to help us
discourage foolish display in America.
'Are there any more chestnuts in the fire?' she asked, with a
laugh. 'Not that I'm afraid. I suppose the fire is good for me.'
'Marie, I love your fingers too well to burn them unduly,' I said.
'By the way, I expect that Harry Delance will be wanting to marry you
'Harry!' she exclaimed. 'I talked him to deathand out of the
notionlong ago, and I'm not sorry. He isn't my kind.'
'Harry's a good fellow,' I insisted.
'But he's so dreadfully nicesuch a hopeless aristocrat!
Grandfather would have a fit. I want a big, full-blooded, brawny chap,
who isn't a slave to his coat and trousersthe kind of man you've
talked so much aboutone who could get his hands dirty and be a
gentleman. I'm longing for the outdoor lifeand the outdoor man to
live it with me.'
'Give Harry a chancehis uneducation had only just begun,' I
I left Marie with a rather serious look in her face, and began to
wonder how I should accomplish the uneducation of Harry.
That young man came to see me, in a day or two, at our home. My new
set of Smollett lay on the piano, and he greatly admired it. Above all
things Harry loved books, and his specialty was Smollett; he had read
every tale in the series, at college, and made a mark with his thesis
on 'The Fathers of English Fiction.' He spent an hour of delight with
those books of mine. Then he said to me:
'Only fifty copies printed?'
'Only fifty,' I said.
'Could I get a set?'
'All sold,' I assured him, 'but I shall be glad to give these books
to you on two conditions.'
He turned in astonishment.
'They can do you no further harm, and my first request is that you
do not lend them. My second is that you take them home in my
wheelbarrow by daylight with your own hands.'
He silently demurred.
'At last those books have a chance to do some little good in the
world, and I don't want them to lose it,' I urged. 'The hands, feet,
and legs of the high and low born are slowly being deprived of their
rights in this community. Pride is robbing them of their ancient and
proper offices. How many of the young men and women of our acquaintance
would be seen on the street with a package in their hands, to say
nothing of a wheelbarrow? Their souls are above it!'
'Why should they carry packages and roll wheelbarrows?' Harry
asked. 'Stores deliver goods these days.'
'That's one reason why it costs so much to live. We have to pay for
our pride and our indolence and the delivery of the goods. It's all
charged in the bill. Some member of the family used to go to market
every morning with his basket and carry the goods home with him.'
'It would be ridiculous for me to do that,' said Harry. 'We're able
to pay the bills.'
'But you're doing a great injustice to those who are not. You make
the delivery system a necessary thing, and those who can't afford it
have to help you stand the expensea gross injustice. I want you to
help me in this cause of the hand and foot. Your example would be full
of inspiration. Excuse me a moment.'
I went for the wheelbarrow and rolled it up to the front door. Then
we brought out the books and loaded them. That done, I seized the
handles of the barrow.
'Come on,' I said. 'I'll do the workyou share the disgrace with
My gray hairs were too much for him.
'No; give me the handles,' he insisted. 'If it won't hurt you, it
won't hurt methat's sure.'
So, in his silk hat and frock-coat and spats, with a carnation in
his buttonhole, he seized the wheelbarrow like a man, and away we went.
I steered him up the Main Street, and people began to hail us with
laughter from automobiles, and to jest with us on the sidewalk, and
Marie came along with two other pretty girls, and the barrow halted in
a gale of merriment.
'What in the world are you doing?' one of them asked.
'It's the remains of the late Mr. Smollett,' I explained.
'I'm setting an example to the young,' said Harry, as he mopped his
forehead. 'Couldn't help it. I had to do this thing.'
'Great!' Marie exclaimed. 'Simply great! I'm going to get me a
She would take hold of the handles and try it, and went on half a
block in spite of our protests, creating much excitement.
That was the first rude beginning of The Basket and Wheelbarrow
Brigade in Pointview, of which I shall tell you later. And now I shall
explain my generosityit can generally be explainedand how I came by
VI. IN WHICH BETSEY COMMITS AN
Christmas was approaching, and Betsey said to me one day that she
had been guilty of a great extravagance.
'I know you will forgive me just this once,' she went on. 'My love
for you is so extravagant that I had to keep pace with it. You've
simply got to accept something very grand.'
'I can't think of anything that I need unless it's a new
jack-knife,' I said.
'Nonsense!' she exclaimed. 'You've got to let me spend some money
for you. I've been held down in the expression of my affections as long
as I can stand it. I've doubled my charities since we were married, as
a token of my gratitude, and now I've a right to do something to please
'All right! We'll lift the lid,' I said. 'We can lie about it, I
suppose, and cover up our folly.'
'Well, of course we don't have to tell what it cost,' said Betsey;
'and, Socrates, you can't expect to reform me in a year. It's taken
half a lifetime to acquire my follies.'
That's one trouble with the whole problem. You can't tear down a
structure which has been slowly rising for half a century in a day, or
in many days.
Christmas arrived, and Betsey went down-stairs with me and covered
my eyes in the hall and led me to the grand piano. Then I was permitted
to look, and there was the most gorgeous set of books that my eyes ever
behelda set of Smollett, in lovely brown calf, decorated with
magnificent gold tooling! Yes, I love such thingswho doesn't?and I
gave Betsey a great hug, and we sat down with tears in our eyes to look
at the pages of vellum and the wonderful etchings which adorned so many
of them. They were charming. I knew that the books had cost at least a
thousand dollars. Grandpa Smead looked awfully stern in his gold frame
on the wall.
'Now don't think too badly of me,' she urged. 'Every poor family
within twenty miles is eating dinner at my expense this Christmas Day.'
'You are the dearest girl in all the land!' I said. 'There's nobody
'I knew that you were fond of the classics,' said Betsey, 'so I
consulted Harry Delance, and he suggested that I should give you a set
of Smollett; said it would renew your youth. You know he's devoted to
'And why shouldn't we keep up with Harry?' I said.
'Well, you know he took the first prize in literature, and ought to
have excellent taste. Then the young man who sold the set to me is
working his way through Yale. I was glad to help him, too; he
recommended these bookssaid they were moral and upliftingnot at all
like the modern trash. He knew that we enjoyed home reading. Mary will
read them aloud to us, and we'll enjoy them together.'
This father of romance was not unknown to me, and I did not share
her confidence in the joys ahead of us, but said nothing.
After a fine dinner Betsey wanted to start in at once. We sat down
by the fireside while her secretary began to read aloud from one of the
treasured volumes. I had not read the story, and chose it as being the
least likely to make trouble. In a short time we came to rough going
and the young woman began to falter.
'That will do,' said Betsey, suddenly, as I tried to conceal my
She took the book from the hands of her secretary and read on in
silence for a minute or so.
'My land!' she exclaimed, with a look of horror. 'That book would
corrupt the morals of John Bunyan.'
'Never mind; John never lived in Pointview,' I argued. 'He didn't
have a chance to get hardened.'
Betsey had a determined look in her face, and rang for the
'I'll have them stored in the stable,' said she, firmly.
'If you don't keep it locked, all the women in the neighborhood'll
be in there,' I warned her, knowing that she couldn't help telling her
friends of what had happened.
'That's no reason why the men should be unduly exposed,' said
Betsey. 'Poor things! It's my duty to protect you as long as I
I promised to get rid of the books somehow, and persuaded her to
let them stay where they were until I had had time to think about it.
Then she said:
'Socrates, forgive me. I didn't mean it, and I wanted to be so nice
to you. I guess it's a just punishment for my extravagance. I thought
the modern novels were bad enough. What can I do for you now?'
'Always, when you're in doubt, do nothing,' I suggested.
'Oh, I know what I'll do!' she exclaimed, joyfully. 'I'll knit you
a pair of socks with my own hands.'
'Eureka!' I shouted. 'Those socks shall make footprints on the
sands of time.'
VII. IN WHICH SOCRATES ATTACKS THE
WORST DOERS AND BEST SELLERS
One evening, soon after that, Betsey and I went to a party at
Deacon Benson's. The Deacon is Marie's grandfathera strict, old-line
Congregationalist. The old gentleman owned some two hundred acres in
the very heart of Pointview and about a mile of shore-front. In all the
buying and selling, he had refused to part with an acre of his land,
now worth at least a million dollars. He had willed it all to Marie.
Deacon Joe was a relic of Puritan days, with shrewd eyes under
heavy gray tufts, and a mouth bent like a sickle, and whiskers under a
strong chin, and lines in his face that suggested the heart of a lion.
In his walks he was always accompanied by a hickory cane and a bulldog
whose countenance and philosophy were like unto those of the Deacon.
He was a perfectly honest man who had joined the church with mental
reservations. He had reserved the right to employ certain adjectives
and nouns which had been useful in Pointview since the days of the
pioneer, and which had grown more and more indispensable to the
opinions of an honest man. The verb 'to damn' in all its parts and
relations had been one of them. The word 'hell' was another. It
represented a thing of great conversational value, and he recommended
it with perfect frankness to certain people. He loved hell and hard
cider, and hated Episcopalians. He loved to tell how one Episcopalian
had cheated him in a horse trade, and how another had never paid for a
bushel of onions. That was enough for him. He had always thought them a
loose, unprincipled lot with no adequate respect for fire and
brimstone. But Deacon Joe was honest, and his word was worth a hundred
cents on the dollar.
Now the Delances were Episcopalians from away backHigh-Church
Episcopalians, at that. The old man had sniffed a good deal when Harry
began to pay attention to Marie, and had come to see me about it.
I eased his fears and appealed to his avarice. Harry had too much
money and some follies, I confessed, but he was sound at heart, and I
had hope of making a strong man of him, and of course his money might
be a great lever in his hands.
'Very wellwe'll keep an eye on him,' he snapped, and left me
without another word.
After that Marie was allowed to go out with the young man in his
drag and tandem.
Harry and his sister came to the party at Deacon Joe's, and brought
with them a late volume of D'Annunzio for Marie to read. Harry wished
to know if I had read it, and gave us a talk on the realism of this
modern Italian author.
Again I drew on the memoirs of Dr. Godfrey Vogeldam Guph, and this
time I explained that the learned doctor had all the talents but one.
He never told a lienever but once, and that was on his death-bed.
Yes, it was a little late, but still it was in time to save his
reputation, and, possibly, even his soul. To a man of his parts the
truth had always been good enough, and lying unnecessary. If he had
told a lie it wouldn't have amounted to anythingeverybody would have
believed it. He wouldn't have got any creditpoor man! He had no more
use for a lie than a fish has for a mackintoshuntil he came to his
last touching words, which were delivered to a minister and his sister
Sophia, who had been reading to him from a book of D'Annunzio.
'My chance has arrived at last,' he said to Sophia, 'and in order
that I may make the most of it, you will please send for a minister.'
The latter came, and, seeing the book, asked the good man if he had
'Alas! my friend, that it should be necessary for me to tell a lie
on my death-bed,' said the Doctor. 'But now, at last, I tell it proudly
and promptly. I have not read that book.'
'And therein I do clearly see the truth,' said the wise old
'Which is this,' the learned Doctor confessed. 'I have come to an
hour when a lie, and nothing but a lie, can show my sense of shame. I
solemnly swear that I have not read it!'
'Well, at least you're a noble liar,' said the man of God. 'I
'I claim no creditI am only doing my duty,' said the good Doctor,
with a sign of ineffable peace.
As soon as I could get his attention, I called Harry aside and
whispered: 'In Heaven's name, boy, get hold of that book and hang on to
'Why?' he asked.
'You don't know the old man as I dothat's why,' I said. 'If he
should happen to read it, he'd go after you with his grandfather's
sword the next time you showed up here.'
Marie stood near us, and I beckoned to her, and she came to my
'The book,' said Harry'would you let me take it?'
'I took it to my grandfather, and he is reading it in his room,'
she answered. 'Shall I go and get it?'
'He won't mind,' said Marie; 'I'll go and get it.'
And away she went.
She came back to us soon, a bit embarrassed.
'He seems to be very much interested andand a little cross,' said
she. 'I think he will bring it out to you soon.'
Harry turned pale.
'You look sick, old man,' I said.
'I'm not feeling very well,' said he, 'and I think I shall excuse
myself and go home.'
There was danger of a scene, but he got away unharmed. By and by
the lionhearted deacon came out of his room, asked severely for 'young
Delance,' wandered through the crowd, answered indignantly a few
inquiries about his health, and returned to his lair.
I saw that the Deacon was mad. New New England had imprudently
bumped into old New England, and it was too soon to estimate the
The Honorable Socrates Potter laughed as he filled his pipe, and
resumed with an attitude of ease and comfort;
I'm a bit of a Puritan myself, although I understood Harry better
than did the Deacon. The young people have been captured by the
frankness of the Latin races. They call it emancipation. Travel and the
higher education have opened the storage vats of foreign degeneracy and
piped them into our land. Certain young men who have been 'finished'
abroad, where they filled their souls with Latin lewdness, have turned
it into fiction and a source of profit. Women buy their books and rush
through them, and only touch the low places. There they lie entranced,
thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks in Vallombrosa. Like the
women in the sack of Ismail, they sit them down and watch for the
adultery to begin.
The imagination of the old world seems to have gone wildOscar
Wilde! How the Oscars have thriven there since the first of them went
to jail!a degenerate dynasty!hiding the stench of spiritual rot
with the perfume of faultless rhetoric, speaking the unspeakable with
the tongues of angels and of prophets! And mostly, my boy, they have
thriven on the dollars of American women under the leadership of modern
culture. And, you know, the maiden follows mama. She is an apologist of
sublime lewdness, of emancipated human caninity. Now I am no prude. I
can stand a fairly strong touch of human nature. I can even put up with
a good deal of the frankness of the cat and dog. But the frankness of
some modern authors makes me sorry that Adam was a common ancestor of
theirs and mine. It's a disgrace to Adam and the whole human
brotherhood. We sons of the Puritans ought to get busy in the old
cause. Noah had the good sense to keep the animals and the people
apart, and that's what we've always stood for.
VIII. IN WHICH SOCRATES ATTACKS THE
HELMET AND THE BATTLE-AX
Marie came to see us at our home next morning and began to cry as
soon as she had sat down in the library. The thing I had looked for had
come to pass. Her grandfather had dropped Harry from his list, and
warned him to keep off the rag-carpet. There was to be no more prancing
around in the 'toot-coach' and the 'Harry-cart,' as he called them, for
Marie. In his view it was the surest means of getting to perdition.
Harry was an idler, and he had always found that an idle brain was the
devil's workshop. Marie might be polite to the young man, but she must
keep her side of the road and see that there was always plenty of room
'He's so hateful,' Marie said of her grandfather. 'He made such a
fuss about our getting a crest that we've a perfect right to! Mama had
to give it up.'
'What! Do you mean to tell me that you have no crest!' I inquired,
'We have one, but we cannot use it; our hands are tied,' was her
'I'm astonished. Why, everybody is going to have a crest in
'The other day I suggested to Bridget Maloney, our pretty
chambermaid, that she ought to have the Maloney crest on her
'What's that? says Bridget.
'What's that! I said, with a look of pity.
'Then I showed her a letter from Mrs. Van Alstyne, with a lion and
a griffin cuffing each other black and blue at the top of the sheet.
'It's grand! said she.
'It's the Van Alstyne crest, I said. It's a proof of
respectability. Aren't you as good as they are?
'Every bit! said she.
'That's what I thought. Don't you often feel as if you were better
than a good many people you know?
'Sure I do.
'Well, that's a sign that you're blue-blooded, said I. Probably
you've got a king in your family somewhere. A crest shows that you
suspect your ancestorsnothing more than that. It isn't proof, so
there's no reason why you shouldn't have it. You ought not to be going
around without a crest, as if you were a common servant-girl. Why,
every kitchen-maid will be thinking she's as good as you are. You want
to be in style. You have money in the bank, and not half the people who
have crests are as well able to afford 'em.
'How much do they cost?
[Illustration: 'IT'S THE VAN ALSTYNE CREST,' I SAID. 'IT'S A PROOF
'Nothingat least, yours'll cost nothing, Bridget. I shall be
glad to buy one for you.
'The simple girl thanked me, and I found the Maloney crest for her,
and had the plate made and neatly engraved on a hundred sheets of
'Next week the Pointview Advocate will print this item:
Miss Bridget Maloney, the genial chambermaid of Mrs. Socrates Potter,
uses the Maloney crest on her letter-heads. She is said to be a lineal
descendant of his Grace Bryan Maloney, one of the early dukes of
'Bridget is haughty, well-mannered, and a neat dresser. She's a
pace-maker in her set. Even the high-headed servants of Warburton House
imitate her hats and gowns.
'Yesterday Katie O'Neil, one of Mrs. Warburton's maids, came to me
for information as to the heraldry of her house. I found a crest for
Katie; and then came Mary Maginness; and Bertha Schimpfelheim, the
daughter of a real German count; and one August Bernheimer, a young
barber of baronial blood; and Pietro Cantaveri, our prosperous
bootblack, who was the grandson of an Italian countess; and so it goes,
and soon all the high-born servers of Pointview will be supplied with
'These claims to distinction shall be soberly chronicled in the
Advocate. Not one is to be overlooked or treated with any lack of
respect. On the contrary, the whole thing will be exploited with a
proper sense of awe.'
'Wait till I tell mama,' she said. 'It's lucky you told me. It's
saved us. I guess grandfather was right about that.'
'And he's right about Harry, too,' I said. 'But don't despair; I'm
trying to put a new mainspring in the boy. If I succeed, your
grandfather may have to change his mind.'
She went away comforted, but not happy.
Well, I went on with the crest campaign. Bertha, Pietro, and the
others got their crests and saw their names in the paper.
The supply of crests was soon perfectly adequate, and among our
best people the demand for them began to diminish, and suddenly ceased.
The beast rampant and couchant, the helmet and the battle-ax,
associated only with mixed tenses and misplaced capitals according to
their ancient habit. This chambermaid grammar was referred to by my
friend, Dr. Guph, as the 'battle-ax brand'a designation of some
merit. Expensive stationery fell into the fireplaces of Pointview, and
armorial plates were found in the garbage. The family trees of the
village were deserted. Not a bird twittered in their branches. The
subject of genealogy was buried in deep silence, save when the
irreverent referred to some late addition to our new aristocracy.
Now I want to make it clear that we have no disrespect for the
customs of any foreign land. If I were living in a foreign land and
needed evidence of my respectability, I'd have a crest, if it was
likely to prove my case. But America was founded by the sons of the
yeomen, and the yeomen established their respectability with other
evidence. Their brains were so often touched by the battle-ax that some
of us have an hereditary shyness about the head, and we dodge at every
IX. IN WHICH SOCRATES INCREASES THE
SUPPLY OF SPLENDOR
In due time the Society of Useful Women met at our house, and I was
invited to make a few remarks, and said in effect:
'We are trying to correct the evil of extravagant display in
America, and first I ask you to consider the cause of it. We find it in
the ancient law of supply and demand. The reason that women love to
array themselves in silk and laces and jewels and picture-hats and
plumes of culture and sunbursts of genealogy lies in the fact that the
supply of these things has generally been limited. Their cost is so
high, therefore, that few can afford them, and those who wear them are
distinguished from the common herd. This matter of buying distinction
is the cause of our trouble. Now I propose that we increase the supply
of jewels, silks, laces, picture-hats, and ancestors in Pointviewthat
we bring them within the reach of all, and aim a death-blow at the
distinction to be obtained by displaying them. There isn't a
servant-girl in this community who doesn't pant for luxuries. Why
shouldn't she? I move that we have a committee to consider this
inadequate supply of luxuries, with the power to increase the same at
its own expense.'
I was appointed chairman of that committee, and went to work, with
Betsey and Mrs. Warburton as coadjutors.
We stocked a store with clever imitations of silks, satins, and old
lace, and the best assortment of Brummagem jewelry that could be raked
together. We had a great show-case full of glittering pastebracelets,
tiaras, coronets, sunbursts, dog-collars, rings, necklacesall
extremely modish and so handsome that they would have deceived any but
trained eyes. Our pearls and sapphires were especially attractive. We
hired a skilled dressmaker, familiar with the latest modes, and a
milliner who could imitate the most stunning hats on Fifth Avenue at
reasonable prices. Every servant in good standing in our community was
permitted to come and see and buy and say 'Charge it.'
Mrs. Warburton's ball for the servants of Pointview, to be given in
the Town Hall, was coming near. It happened that the committee of
arrangements included Marie and the young Reverend Robert Knowles.
Their intimacy began in the work of that committee. For days they rode
about in the minister's motor-car getting ready for the ball and for
the greater intimacy that followed it.
Our ball sent its radiance over land and sea. Sunbursts shone like
stars in the Milky Way. A fine orchestra furnished music. Reporters
from New York and other cities were present.
The nurses, cooks, kitchen-girls, laundresses, and chambermaids of
Pointview were radiant in silk, lace, diamonds, pearls, and rubies. The
costumes were brilliant, but all in good taste. Alabaster? Why, my dear
boy, they would have made the swell set resemble a convention of
beanpoles. For the matter of busts, they busted the record!
The only mishap occurred when Bertha Schimpfelheimsome call her
Big Berthaslipped and fell in a waltz, injuring the knee of her
companion. To my surprise the brainiest of these working-folk saw the
satire in which they were taking part, and entered into it with all the
more spirit because they knew.
[Illustration: RADIANT IN SILK, LACE, DIAMONDS, PEARLS, AND
The presence of Mr. Warburton, Mr. and Mrs. Delance, Marie, and the
Reverend Robert Knowles on the floor insured proper decorum and lent an
air of seriousness to the event. It proved an effective background for
Marie. She shone like a pigeon-blood ruby among garnets. She wore no
jewels, and was distinguished only by her beauty and the simplicity of
her costume and the unmistakable evidence of good breeding in her face
Harry sat with me in the gallery.
'She's wonderful!' he exclaimed. 'All this rococo ware simply
emphasizes her charm. Only a girl of brains could carry it off as she
does. She's among them and yet apart. An old duke once told me that if
you want to know the rank of a lady, observe how she treats an
inferior. It's quite true. By Jove! I'm in love with Marie, and I'm
going to make her my wife if possible.'
'That's one really substantial result of the ball,' I said.
'Do you think that she cares for Knowlesthat minister chap?'
'I'm inclined to think that she likes you better,' I said.
'Is your inclination encouraged by evidence?'
'That query I must decline to answer,' said I.
'Well, you know, I'm not going to be long in doubt,' the boy
declared, as he left me.
The event was an epoch-maker. Long reports of it appeared in the
daily press and traveled far in a surge of thoughtful merriment. For
instance: 'Miss Mary Maginness, the accomplished lady-in-waiting of
Mrs. William Warburton, of Warburton House, wore a coronet and a
dog-collar of diamonds above a costume of white brocaded satin, trimmed
with old duchesse lace and gold ornaments. Miss Maginness is a lineal
descendant of Lord Rawdon Maginness, of Cork, who early in the
seventeenth century commanded an army that drove the Italians out of
And so it went, with column after column of glittering detail.
Since then the servants have enjoyed a monopoly in splendorit's been
a kind of Standard Jewel Company, and certain rich men have boasted in
my presence that they haven't a jewel in their houses; and one added
with quite unneeded emphasis: 'Not a measly jewel. My wife says that
they suggest dish-water and aprons.'
'It is too funny!' said Mrs. Warburton. 'You know those jewels at
the ball were quite as real as many that are worn by ladies of fashion.
Most rich women who want to save themselves worry keep their jewels in
the strong-box and wear replicas of paste and composition.'
The instalment jeweler has gone out of business, and half a dozen
servant-girls have refused to make further payments on their solitaires
and returned them.
One singular thing happened. Nearly all those servants paid their
bills to our store, and we closed out with an unexpected profit, while
a number of stores who charged their goods to the noble band of
employers have stopped for need of money.
X. IN WHICH SOCRATES BREAKS THE DRAG
AND TANDEM MONOPOLY IN POINTVIEW
Harry's father came often for a smoke and talk with me after
dinner, and his favorite subject was Harry. As a subject of
conversation, Harry was more successful than the average crime. In this
respect he resembled a divorce or a murder. That's how it happened that
Harry got on my mind. He is one of the most skilful riders of the human
mind that I know of. He was wearing us out, and we were all bucking to
get him off. Well, his father was thinking about him while I was
thinking about the rest of Pointview. It was another case of Rome and
Cæsar. Harry's last achievement was to accuse his father of being the
fossiliferous remnant of an ancient time.
'The truth is, Harry hasn't enough competition in his line,' I
suggested, one evening. 'The other boys are doing well, but they don't
keep up with him.
'You know after I left college, in my youth, I spent a couple of
years in Wyoming. Well, Mary Ann Crowder was the only single lady
within a hundred miles, and she was the most obstreperous damn critter
that I ever saw. She had a monopoly an' knew it, an' wasn't decently
polite. Put on more style than a nigger at a cakewalk. Though she had
red hair an' only one eye, some of the boys used to ride sixty miles
for a visit with her. Then they had to swim the Snake River and maybe
wrestle with a tame bear that was loose in the dooryard. By and by a
man with two unmarried daughters moved on to a ranch near us, and then
Mary Ann began to be polite. She suddenly became a human being, an'
killed the bear, an' moved across the river an' married the first man
that proposed, and lived happily ever after.
'What we need here is another drag and tandem.'
'Get what you need, and I'll pay the bills,' said Harry's father.
So I went to a sale in New York, bought my drag and tandem-cart,
and had them shipped to Pointview. Our local sign-painter put a crest
or, rather, a kind of royal hatchment, on the panels of both. Then I
sold them for next to nothing to a local livery on conditions. Its new
owner agreed to use the drag for chowder-parties, and to break the
worst-looking nags in his stable to drive tandem on the cart.
Tommy Ruggles, a smart-looking knight of the currycomb, whose first
name was a kitchen word in Pointview, sprang to my assistance. He had
curly hair, and a good deal of natural cuteness, and was, moreover, 'a
divvle with the girls.' He contracted with me to take a selected list
of female servants for an airing in the tandem-cart. He was to get a
royalty of five dollars a head on every servant that was properly
aired, with a small premium on red ones.
He began with Big Bertha, our worthy German countess. Tommy had a
playful humor, and cracked his long whip over the rough-harnessed nags
and merrily tooted his horn as the rig lumbered along through the main
streets of our village. Many laughed and many wondered, while an army
of noisy kids followed and hung on behind.
Tommy got his second girl, who was hit on the head with a ripe
tomato, and then it was all over. The girls wouldn't stand for it. The
sport had become too exciting. Tommy told me how he had invited Bridget
Maloney, and she had said: 'Na-a-ah! Do yez take me for an idiot? Sure
every rotten egg in the town would be jumpin' at me.'
It suggested an idea. As the imitation idiots had given out, we
would try the real thing. So I 'phoned the manager of our thriving
idiot asylum on the Post Road and arranged to have Tommy take one of
his patients every day for a drive in the cart. Why shouldn't all the
idiots enjoy themselves? Fresh air would be good for them. It would
turn the cart into a charity which would cover a part of my sins. I
asked for the better class of idiotsthe quiet ones, who had sense
enough to appreciate a good thing. The parade began and continued day
Harry had retired his tandem after Tom, with a stiff-backed idiot
by his side, had clattered after him through the village behind the two
spavined nags to the amusement of many people. He had kept up with
Soon that kind of a rig was known as the Idiot Wagon. Then Tommy
resigned; it was more than he could stand. He said he was willing to do
any honest work for money, but not that. He said that the idiots
imagined themselves rich, and put on so much style that it made the
whole thing ridiculous.
'Never mindit's the habit of idiots,' I said.
'One of 'em thinks he's Napoleon Bonaparte, an' calls me his man,
and wears a plug hat and sits as straight as a ramrod, and bows to the
people when they laugh at him,' said Tommy. 'Some of 'em get stuck on
the cart, and it's a fight to get 'em out of it. I tell ye, I'm sick o'
the job. The sight o' that cart makes me feel nutty.'
'Never mind, Tom,' I said; 'you've been a public benefactor, and
you and the cart are entitled to an honorable discharge.'
Every bright day the drag was tooling over the road with
picnic-parties on their way to one of the popular beaches. Our local
lodges and political clubs, and now and then a load of Italians, were
able to enjoy the luxury which had been the exclusive delight of Harry
and the fluffy maidens of Pointview.
Drags an' tandems are all right if you don't go too far with 'em.
We were just in time to prevent them from becoming tools of
degeneration in our village.
XI. IN WHICH SUNDRY PEOPLE MAKE
There were many private panics in Pointview. It was my privilege to
observe, under calm exteriors, a raging fever of excitementcharacters
going bankrupt, collectors wandering in a fruitless quest. One little
rill that flowed into the swift river of national trouble issued from
the bosom of my clerk, Mr. 'Cub' Sayles. It had been one of the most
placid bosoms in Pointview. Now it was in the midst of what I have
since referred to as the 'Violet and Supper Panic of 1907.'
Cub was a quiet, hard-working, serious-minded boy whose mother
moved in the higher circles of Boston. He had a low, pleasant voice, a
touch of Harry's dialect, and a sad face. He had asked for a higher
salary, and I had asked for information.
'You see every time I go to call on my girl I have to take a bunch
of violets or a two-pound box of candy,' he said. 'Then if we go to the
theater her chaperon has to be with usdon't you know? She's a stout
lady who complains of faintness before the play ends, and I have to ask
them out to supper. Then I am always greatly alarmed, for you never can
tell what will happen, sir, with two ladies at supper and only twenty
dollars in your pocket, and both ladies fond of game and crab-meat.
It's really very trying. I sit and tremble as I watch them, and go home
with only a feeble remnant of my salary, and next day I have to pawn my
'All that isn't honest,' I said. 'You're getting her favor under
false pretenses. You're trying to make her believe that you are a sort
of aristocrat with lots of money. Why don't you tell her the
truththat you can't afford violets, that the two-pound box is a
burden that is breaking your back, and that every theater-supper sends
you to the pawnbroker's?'
'I can'tshe would throw me over,' he explained. 'The girls expect
those things. They like to show and talk about themdon't you know?
It's the fashion. Our best young men do it, sir.'
'Well, if you are willing to give up your honor for a lady's smile
you won't do for me,' I said. 'You must not only tell the truth, but
live it. You must be just what you area poor boy working for twenty
dollars a week. If the girl doesn't like it she's unfit to associate
with honest men. If you don't like it I don't like you.'
Perspiration had begun to dampen the brow of Cub.
'II hadn't seen it in that light, sir,' he said. 'But what am I
to do, sir? I am heavily indebted to my tailor.'
'What! Haven't you paid for those lovely garments?'
'I had them charged, sir,' Cub sadly answered. 'My mother sent me a
hundred dollars to pay for them, but I loaned it to Roger Daniels. I
should be much obliged, sir, if you would collect it for me.'
I went to Roger and made him pay the debt. He paid it in a curious
wayby going to his tailor and buying a hundred dollars' worth of
clothes for Cub and having them charged. It was compounding a felony,
but my client was satisfied and Roger was grateful. He began to have
some regard for me. Not every lawyer had been able to make him pay.
Within a day or so he came to consult me about a mortgage on his
Roger had married and settled down immediately after his remarkable
cruise. He had kept his party in ignorance of his financial troubles
and returned with his reputation as an aristocrat firmly established.
The gay young Bessie Runnymede had accepted him at once. He had become
junior partner in a firm of brokers and had rented a handsome residence
So they began their little play with ladies, lords, and gentlemen
in the cast, and with a country-house, a tandem, a crested limousine,
and a racing launch for scenery. But Roger had what is known as a bad
season. Well, you know, the moving-picture shows had got such a hold on
At first we concluded that he must have made another lucky play in
the market. Then, after six months or so, bills against Roger began to
arrive for collection from sundry department stores in the city. He was
a good fellow and had plausible excuses, and I declined to press
payment and returned the bills.
One day, some eight months after the wedding, an urgent telegram
from Roger brought me to New York. I found the young man in his office,
with his wife at his side. They were both in tears. I sat down with
them, and he told me this story:
'The fact is, I'm a thief,' he began. 'I have confessed the truth
to my partners. Since my marriage I have taken about twenty thousand
dollarsneeded every cent of it to keep going. The fact is, I expected
to make a killing in the market and return the moneyhad inside
informationbut everything went wrong. Yesterday I was cleaned out.
'I went home late in the evening. I hoped that my wife would be in
bed, but she was waiting for me. She said that I looked sick, and
wanted to know what was the matter. I told her that I had a headache,
and got into bed as soon as possible; but I couldn't sleep. Long after
midnight my wife rose and turned on the light and came to my bed and
said that she knew I was troubled about somethingthat she had seen it
in my face for weeks. She begged that I would let her help me bear it.
Then I told her the truth, and discoveredfor I didn't know her
beforeone of the noblest women in the world. She hid her face in the
pillow, and then I had a bad moment.
'Why did you do it? she asked as soon as she could speak.
'And I said: We've been foolishtrying to keep up with Harry and
the rest of them. It was my fault. I ought to have told you that I
couldn't go the pace.
'She saw the truth in a flash, and the old-fashioned woman in her
got to work.
'Roger, get up and dress yourself, said she. We will go and see
your partners to-night. We will go together, for I am as guilty as you.
We will tell them the truth and beg for time. Maybe we can get the
'We started in our motor-car about one o'clock for the city, on
dark and muddy roads. Some ten miles out we broke an axle and left car
and driver and went on afoot. My wife wouldn't wait. No trains were
running. But we could get a trolley five miles down the road. So we
went on in the dark and silence. I put my arm around her, and not a
word passed between us for an hour or so. I don't know what she was
thinking of, but I was trying to count my follies. It began to rain,
and I felt sorry for Bess, and took off my coat and threw it over her.'
'I don't mind the rain, she said. It will cool me.
'We were a sight when we got to the trolley, and just before
daylight we rang the bell of the senior partner. Our weariness and
muddy shoes and rain-soaked garments were a help to us. They touched
his heart, sir. Anyhow, he gave me a week of grace in which to make
good. I must get the money somehow, and I want your advice about it.'
'I'm glad of one part of it all,' I said'that you have discovered
each other and learned that you are human beings of a pretty good sort.
I've much more respect for both of you than I ever had before.'
He looked at me in surprise.
'Oh, you are a better man than you were three months ago!' I
answered him. 'You happen to have run against the law, and it's shocked
and frightened you. But you are improving. Long ago you began to incur
debts which you couldn't pay, and you must have known that you couldn't
pay them. In that manner you became possessed of a large sum of money
belonging to other people. It was used not for necessities, but to
maintain a foolish display. That is the most heartless kind of fraud.
I've much more respect for you now that you see your fault and confess
it. I'm convinced now that you have a conscience, and that you will be
likely to make some use of it in the future. I'm particularly grateful
to your wife. She has shown me that she is just a woman, and not an
angel. I don't believe that it was at all necessary for you to have
groveled in aristocratic crimes in order to win her heart. The yacht
cruise and the tandem and the violets and the Fifth Avenue clothes and
the ton of candy were quite superfluous. You needed only to tell her
the truth, like a man, and say that you loved her.'
'It is true, Roger,' said the girl as she broke down again.
'I did it all to please you, dear,' the boy answered, in his effort
to comfort her.
'And it did please me,' she said, brokenly, 'but I know that I
should have been better pleased if'
She hesitated, and I expressed her thought for her:
'If he had centralized on manhood. There is something sweeter than
violets and grander than fine raiment in a sort of character that a boy
should offer to the girl he loves.'
They were both convinced. It was easy to see that now, and I
promised to do what I could for them.
I got a schedule of the young man's debts and found that he owed,
among other debts, six thousand dollars to sundry shops and department
stores in New Yorkthe purchases of his wife in the eight months of
their wedded life. I asked her how it could have happened.
'He opened accounts for me and said I could buy what I wanted, and
you know it is so easy to say Charge it,' was her answer. 'Every one
has accounts these days, and they tempt you to buy more than you need.'
'It is true. Credit is the latest ally of the devil. It is the
great tempter. It is responsible for half the extravagance of modern
life. The two words 'charge it' have done more harm than any others in
the language. They have led to a vast amount of unnecessary buying.
They have developed a talent for extravagance in our people. They have
created a large and growing sisterhood and brotherhood of dead-beats.
They have led to bankruptcy and slow pay and bad debts. They have
raised the cost of everything we require because the tradesman compels
us to pay his uncollected accounts. They are added to your bills and
mine, and the merchant prince suffers no impairment of his fortune.
Bessie's bank-account was also overdrawn. That reminds me of a new
sinnerthe bank-check. It is so easy to draw a checkand, then,
somehow, it's only a piece of paper. You let it go without a pang while
you would be very thoughtful if you were counting out the money and
parting with it.
The check is another way of saying 'Charge it.'
That evening I went to see Harry.
XII. IN WHICH HARRY IS FORCED TO
ABANDON SWAMP FICTION AND LIKE FOLLIES AND TO STUDY THE GEOGRAPHY AND
NATIVES OF A LAND UNKNOWN TO OUR HEIRISTOCRACY
I found Harry smoking with Cub Sayles in his den above stairs in
the big country-house of Henry Delance. As I entered Harry said to his
'I have to talk over some things with Mr. Potterwould you mind
going down to the library?'
Cub withdrew, and Harry sat down with me.
'I suppose you've seen him?' he asked, nervously.
'Why, you know a mysterious stranger has been looking for me
andby Jove!I'm scared stiff. He's an Englishman.'
'What of that?'
'Let me show you,' said Harry.
He took a key from his pocket, unlocked a door, and fetched the
familiar skull of the Bishop of St. Clare and put it on the table
'It's that damn Bishop's head,' he whispered. 'It has come
backwould you believe it?picked up by a fisherman on the Irish
coast and returned to the express office in London. All the old
directions were quite legible on the box. To Harry Delance, SS.
Lusitania. If not found, forward to Pointview, Conn., U.S.A.,
charges collect! So it came on. I received a notice and went down and
got it out of bond and paid three pounds, and here it is.'
'It looks as if the Bishop was out for revenge,' I said, with a
'He's got on my nerves and my conscience,' said Harry. 'By Jove! he
haunts me. When I heard of this mysterious Englishman to-day I got a
'You go buy yourself a small shovel and a pocket light to-morrow,'
I suggested, and at night go back in the hills with the Bishop's head
and bury it.'
'And if I get into trouble I want you to take care of me.'
I made no answer. It didn't seem necessary, but I said: 'There's
another matter of which I have come to talk with you. Our friend Roger
is in trouble.'
I told him the story of Roger's downfall. It got under his vest,
and I added: 'Now, Harry, it's up to you to indulge in some more
philanthropy. You ought to help him.'
'Whatwhat can I do?' he asked in amazement.
'Lend him the moneytwenty thousand dollars. It isn't all that the
public will charge against you on Roger's account, but it will do.'
'Harry sank in his chair and threw up his hands as if grasping for
'It's my whole allowance for the year,' he said, 'and I couldn't
appeal to the Governor.'
'Nevertheless you ought to do it, for Roger told me that it was
your pace that brought him where he is.'
'What an ass!' Harry exclaimed, and the old Bishop seemed to
indorse his view. 'By the blue beard of the Caliph, what am I to do?'
'Pay it,' I insisted.
'Pay it and die,' he groaned. 'I shall have to do it somehow, but
this kind of thing is grinding me.'
'You can go to my ranch in Wyoming and live on nothing for six
months,' I said. 'When you get back I'll lend you enough to tide you
'I'll do it,' he said, as if it were the very straw he had been
Then he began to tell me of other troubles. Marie had been
decidedly cool to Harry at the servants' ball. Then he had met her on
the street, and she had barely noticed him and hurried away, with the
young Reverend Robert Knowles at her side. Harry was, fortunately,
going slow, but he had received internal injuries and was suffering
'The old man is at the bottom of it,' I explained. 'You gave him a
dose from the wrong bottle. It p'isoned him.'
'By Jove! What a prude he is!' said Harry. 'Upon my word that is
one of the noblest books I ever readcontains a great lesson, don't
you know? It takes you straight to the heights.'
'Too straight,' I said. 'It turns out for nothing. It crosses a
morass to avoid going around. When you reach the high ground you are
covered with mud and slime. You need to be washed and disinfected, and
perhaps you've caught a fever that will last as long as you live. Many
a boy and girl have got mired in this swamp fiction that you enjoy so
much. There are many of us who prefer to go around the swamp and keep
on a decent footing even if it takes longer.'
'We want to know all sides of life,' said Harry.
'And would you care to see the girl you loved studying life in a
'Well, really, you know, that's different,' Harry stammered.
'But the fact is, her feet might as well be in a brothel as her
brain,' I insisted. 'She might shake the dust from her feet.
Harry, there's one side of life that you ought to study at oncethe
American side. You've neglected the Western hemisphere in your studies.
When can you start for the ranch?'
'Day after to-morrowif you like. This place is a dreadful bore.'
'Good! I'll attend to the tickets to-day, The cart, drag, and
horses will be all the better for a vacation, and the eyes of the
people are in need of rest.'
'The whole outfit is going to be sold, said Harry. 'Idiots and the
hoi polloi have quite ruined the sport here. The Governor is always
poking fun at it, you know, and it has made me so weary! One can't
stand that kind of thing forevercan he? I got after his helmet,
battle-ax, and family tree, by Jove! Our crested chambermaids and
bootblacks have been a great help to me. What a noble band of
philanthropists! Father and I have made an agreement. He is going to
chuck the battle-ax and saw the royal branches off our family tree and
I am going to sell the drag, cart, and horses.'
'That's a great treaty,' I said. 'The settlement of the Alaskan
frontier is not more important than fixing the boundaries of our social
life. Let us surrender the tools of idiocy; especially, let us abandon
all claim to the helmet and battle-ax. They're all right in their
place, but they aren't ours. The plowshare and the pruning-hook are our
'By Jove! you know, the old Bishop of St. Clare agrees with you
exactly,' said Harry. 'I've been reading his life and writings, which I
picked up in London, and he's about converted me to your way of
thinking. He hated the glittering idleness of the rich and put
industry above elegance.'
'And he doesn't intend that your education shall be neglectedhe's
looking after you.'
'He's as industrious as Destiny,' said the young man. 'Did you know
that Cub Sayles is engaged?'
'God rest his soul!' I exclaimed.
'It's just the thing for Cub,' said Harry. 'He's poor but
presentable, and has many extravagant tastes. She's quite a bit older
than he, of course, but that isn't unusual.'
'I warned him long ago, knowing that his folly would undo him. Now
he will be a captain of New Thought, King of the Flub Dubs, advertising
manager of the Psychological Hair Factory, and inspector of pimples.'
'But don't you know that he will have everything that he desires?'
'Oh, I think that she is very fond of him!' said Harry. 'She told
me to-day that he is the only man she ever loved, and the dear old girl
thinks that she won him by concentration.'
With this remark, made on the 20th of May, Harry dropped out of the
history of Pointview until December.
XIII. IN WHICH THE MINISTER GETS
INTO LOVE AND TROUBLE
Cub resigned his place in my office next day, and confessed his
purpose, and I heard him with sober respect and tried in every proper
way to save him. It wouldn't work.
The lines of panic had left the face of Cub. The two-pound
expression had departed from it. The faintness of chaperons would no
longer imperil his comfort.
'A hundred and four pounds of candy and twenty suppers, and all for
nothing!' I exclaimed. 'You ruin a girl's digestion and chuck her over.
It isn't fair.'
'But, sir, I found that I didn't love her,' said Cub.
'What a waste of violets, confectionery, and crab-meat!'
'Yes, sir, in a way; but you see I had to have my training in
society,' Cub declared.
What was the use? Cub had no more humor than a sewing-machine.
'The wedding day drew on apace, and just before its arrival a
notorious weekly in New York gave the lady a drubbing. Certain
circumstances that made her first marriage unhappy were plainly hinted
at. The town shuddered with amazement. Cub stood pat, but the Episcopal
minister refused to marry them. The Baptist minister balked. It looked
like a postponement, but the knot was tied, on schedule time, by the
Reverend Robert Knowles. That made no end of talk, and a small party of
insurgents left his church. Deacon Benson was on the point of pulling
out, and swore so much about it that I advised him to hang on for his
'But there ain't much to hang on to,' said the Deacon.
'Mrs. Revere-Chalmers-Sayles held a mortgage on the property of the
Baptist Society of Pointview, and asked me to foreclose it.
'I have another mortgage on the Congregational church, and they're
behind in their interest, but I'm not going to push them,' she said to
So young Mr. Knowles had acted from motives of business prudence,
and was not much at fault. The old church had ceased to live within its
means and had entered the 'charge it' van, and was trying to serve two
Betsey and I paid both mortgages and threw them in the fire.
Young Mr. Knowles came to see us with Marie, and brought the thanks
of the parish. They were a good-looking couple.
This minister of the First Congregational Church of Pointview now
aspired to be the prime minister of its first heiress. Their
acquaintance, which had begun in the arrangements for the servants'
ball, had grown in warmth and intimacy as soon as Harry had gone.
Robert began to take after Marie, with muffler open and all the gas on.
He was a swell of a parsonutterly damned with good-fortune. Had an
income from the estate of his father, a call from on high, a crest from
Charlemagne, diplomas from college and the seminary, a fine figure, red
cheeks, and 'heavenly eyes.' As to his fatal gift of beauty, the young
ladies were of one mind. They agreed, also, about the cut of his
garments, that were changed several times a day.
A dashing, masculine, head-punching spirit might have saved him
with all his ballast, but he didn't have it. The Reverend Robert was a
good fellow to everybodya fairly sound-hearted, decent, handsome
fellow, but not a man. To be that, one has to know things at first
handespecially work and trouble. He was a second-hand, school-made
thinker. His doctrines came out of the books, but his conduct was
mildly modern. He danced and smoked a little, and played bridge and
golf, and made his visits in a handsome motor-car.
Marie liked the young man, and she and her mother rode and tramped
about with him almost every day of that summer. Deacon Joe showed signs
of faintness when he spoke of him.
One day I went up to the Benson homestead and found the old man
sitting on his piazza alone.
'Where's Marie?' I asked.
'Off knocking around with the minister,' said Deacon Joe, in a
voice frail with contempt.
'She might be in worse company,' I suggested.
'Maybe,' he snapped.
'What's the matter with the minister?'
'Nothing,' said the old man, with a chuckle. 'He's a complete
gentleman, complete! So plaguy beautiful that he's a kind of a girl's
plaything. He couldn't milk a cow or dig a hill o' potatoes. Acts kind
o' faint an' sickly to me.'
The Deacon thoughtfully stirred the roots of his beard with the
fingers of his right hand, and went on with a squint and a feeble tone
which he seemed to think best suited to his subject.
'Talks so low you can hardly hear him. I have to set with my hand
to my ear every Sunday to make out what he's sayin', an' he prays as if
he had the lung fever. Talks o' hell as though it was a quart o' cold
molasses. That's one reason we ain't no respect for it in this
community. Ay'es! That's the reason.'
He squinted his face thoughtfully and resumed with more energy.
'I like to hear a man get up on his hind legs and holler as they
used toby gravy! Ye can't scare anybody by whispers. Damn it, sir,
what we need is an old-fashioned revival.'
The Deacon halted to take a chew of tobacco, and went on, with a
'Now this young feller don't want to give no credit to Godnot a
bitno, sir! Science has done everything. I've noticed it time an'
ag'in. T'other Sunday he said that an angel spoke to Moses, an' the
Bible says, as plain as A B C, that God spoke to him. How can he expect
that God is going to bless his ministry, an' he never givin' Him any
'It's rather bad politics, anyhow,' I said.
'An' the church is goin' from bad to worse,' he complained. 'The
average attendance is about forty-seven, an' it used to be between five
an' six hundred, an' we are all taxed to death to keep it goin'. I have
to pay three hundred a year for the privilege o' gittin' mad every
Sunday. Two or three of us have got after him an' made him promise to
do better. Some awful free-minded folks have crept into the church, an'
the fact is, we need their money,' Deacon Joe went on. 'What the
minister ought to do is stick to the old doctrines that are safe an'
sound. 'St'id o' that he's tryin' to sail 'twixt rock an' reef.'
'Between Scylla and Charybdis,' I suggested.
'Between Silly an' what?' the old man asked, as if in doubt of my
We were interrupted by the arrival of the Reverend Robert with
Marie and her mother, in his handsome landaulet. Marie asked me to go
with her to gather wild flowers in a bit of woodland not far away. I
went, and soon saw her purpose. She had had the 'jolliest, cutest
letter from Harry' that she had ever read, and seemed to be in doubt as
to whether she ought to let him write to her.
'Has your grandfather forbidden it?' I asked.
'Then it's up to you,' I said.
'Do you think he cares for me?'
'I should think him a fool if he didn't,' I said, looking down into
her lovely dark eyes.
'But do you really and truly think that he cares for me?' she
'I suspect that he does.'
'A lawyer must not betray a confidence.'
'Do you like him?'
'Wait until his uneducation is completed, and I'll tell you. I am
beginning to have hope for Harry.'
'I'm sorry grandpapa is so hateful!' she exclaimed, with a sigh.
I stood up for the old man and asked:
'Do you like the Reverend Robert?'
'Very much! He's so good-looking, and has such beautiful thoughts!
Have you heard him preach?'
'We think his sermons are fine. Everybody likes them but grandpapa.
He wants noise, you knowlung power and old theology. I hate it!'
'He doesn't take to Robert?'
'No; he calls him a calf. Nobody is good enough for me, you know.
He'd like me to marry some man with a hoe, who would take me to church
and Sunday school every sabbath morning, and for a walk to the cemetery
in the afternoon, and down to the prayer-meeting every Wednesday night,
and on a journey from Genesis to Revelations once a year. It's too much
to expect of a human being. Then the hoes are in the hands of Poles,
Slavs, and Italians. So what am I to do?'
'Well, you are youngyou can afford to wait a while,' I said.
'But not until I am old and all withered up. I am going to marry
the man I love within a year or so, if he has the good sense to ask me.
Don't you ever go to church?'
'No,' I said.
I tried to think. There were the ministerstwo boys and three old
mendried beef and veal! Not to my knowledge had a single one of them
ever expressed an idea. They were seen, but not felt. The Church! Why,
certainly, it was founded on the sweetness, strength, and sanity of a
great soul. I had almost forgotten that. It had grown feeble. It had
got its fortunes entangled in psychological hair. It should have been
correcting the follies of the peopletheir selfishness, their sinful
pride, their extravagance, their loss of honor and humanity. Had I not
seen, in the case of Harry and his followers, how the Church had failed
in its work? Ought it not to have sought and saved them long agosaved
them from needless disaster? It should have been appealing to their
consciences. If appeals had failed it should have stung them with
ridicule or raised a voice like that of Christ against the Pharisees.
The Church! Why, it was living, not in the present, but in the past.
Here in Pointview the Church itself had become one of the greatest
follies of the time.
'I want you to go next Sunday and hear Mr. Knowles, as a favor to
mewon't you?' Marie asked.
'Yes,' I said. 'In the next five Sundays I shall go to every
Protestant church in Pointview. I want to know what they're doing. I
shall put aside my scruples and go.'
XIV. IN WHICH SOCRATES DISCOVERS A
Well, I went and saw the Reverend Robert Knowles sail between
'Silly and Charybdis.' He bumped on both sides, but did it rather
gracefully. He reviewed the career of Samuel, who lived and died some
thousands of years ago. The miraculous touch of Carlyle or Macaulay
might easily have failed in the task of reviving a man so thoroughly
dead. But the Reverend Robert entered this unequal contest with no
evidence of alarm. The dead man prevailed. The power of his long sleep
fell upon us. My head grew heavy. I felt my weight bearing down upon
the cushions. A stiffness came into my bones.
On our way to church Betsey had placed the young minister in my
thoughts. The trustees had reckoned that he would revive the interest
of the young people in Sunday worship; and he did, but it was the
worship of youth and beauty.
Well, the other churches were emptier than ever, and so the
spiritual life of the community was in no way improved. In fact, I
guess it had been a little embittered by the new conditions. As soon as
it became known that Marie had won the prize of his favor the other
girls had returned to their native altars, having discovered that the
new minister was vain, worldly, and conceited.
Lettie Davis, who had made a dead set at him, had been strongly
convinced of that as soon as he began to show a preference for Marie,
and the Davis family had left the church and gone over to the
Methodists. The young man had been filled with alarm. He feared it
would wreck the church. That old ship of the faith was leaky and
iron-sick, and down by the head and heel, as they say at sea. She
rolled if one got off or on her.
Such was the condition of things when we entered the church of my
fathers. We sat down in the Potter pew a few minutes before the service
began. There were, by actual count, forty-nine people gathered around
the altar of the old church, and behind us a great emptiness and the
ghosts of the dead. In my boyhood I had sat in its dim light, with six
hundred people filling every seat to the doors and a man of power and
learning in the pulpit.
Faces long forgotten were there in those pewsold faces, young
faces. How many thousands had left its altar to find distant homes or
to go on their last journey to that nearer one in the churchyard! My
heart was full and ready for strong meat, but none came to me. The
moment of silence had been something rarelike an old Grecian vase
wonderfully wrought. Then, suddenly, the singing fell upon us and broke
the silence into ruins. It was in the nature of a breach of the peace.
There are two kinds of people who ought to be gently but firmly
restrained: the person that talks too much and the person that sings
This young minister undoubtedly meant well. He's about the kind of
a chap that I've seen in law-offices working for fifteen dollars a
weekindustrious, zealous, and able up to a point, and all right under
supervision. He can be trusted to handle a small case with intelligence
and judgment. But I wouldn't go to him for instruction in philosophy;
and if I wished to relay the foundation of my life I should, naturally,
consult some other person. As one might expect, he had searched the
cellars of theology for canned goods, and with extraordinary success.
The young man had so lately arrived in this world he couldn't be
expected to know much about its affairs, and especially about those of
Samuel. It was graceful and decorous elocution. The Deacon expressed
his opinion of it in snores, and I longed to follow suit.
The sermon ended with a dramatic recitation, and on our way out the
minister met us at the door.
'You must manage to keep these people awake,' I suggested to him.
'How am I to do it?' he asked.
'Well, you might have a corps of pin-stickers carefully distributed
in the pews, or you could put the pins in your sermon. I recommend the
We went away with a sense of injury.
'Let's keep trying,' said Betsey, 'until you find some one you
would care to hear. I would feel at home in any of our churches. These
days there's no essential difference between Congregationalists,
Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians. I've talked
with all of them, and their differences are dead and gone. They stand
in the printed creeds, but are no longer in the hearts of the people.'
'Then why all these empty churches?' I asked. 'Why don't the people
get together in one great church?'
'Don't talk about the millennium,' said Betsey. 'We must try to
make the best of what we have.'
Well, in the next four Sundays we went from church to church to get
strength for our souls, and found only weakness and disappointment.
Immune from ridicule and satire, the sacred inefficiency of our pulpit
had waxed and grown and taken possession of the churches. And one
thought came to me as I listened. There should be a number of exits to
every Christian church, plainly marked: 'To be used in case of fire.'
Ancient history, dead philosophy, sophomoric periods, bad music, empty
pews, weary groups of the faithful longing for home, were, in brief,
the things that we saw and heard. It was pathetic.
I began to think about it. Here were five church organizations, all
weak, infirm, begging, struggling for life. The automobile and the golf
and yacht clubs had nearly finished the work of destruction which
incompetence had so ably begun. There was not much left of them; yet
their combined property was worth about one hundred thousand dollars.
They spent in the aggregate fifty-six hundred dollars for ministers'
salaries, and their total average attendance was only four hundred and
forty-nine. I could see no more extravagant waste of time, work, and
capital in any other branch of human effort. Some would call it wicked,
but, though we speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have
not charity, we had better have kept still.
The Reverend Mr. Knowles came to me within a day or two and
apologized for his sermon. He complained that he couldn't be
himselfthat he didn't dare speak his thoughts.
'Whose thoughts do you speak?' I asked.
'Well, I trail along in the wake of the fathers.'
'Then you are feeding your flock on corned and kippered
thoughtson the dried and dug-up convictions of the dead. It isn't
fair. It isn't even honest. The church here is dying of anemia for want
of fresh food. The new world must have new thought to fit new
conditions. Its outlook has been utterly changed. If a man who had
never seen a locomotive or a motor-car or a tandem or a telephone or an
electric light or the sons and daughters of a new millionaire or the
home and crest of the same or a bill of a modern merchant were to come
down out of the backwoods and try to tell us how to run the world, we
should think him an ass, and wisely. Consider how these things have
changed the spirit of man and surrounded it with new perils.'
'But think of the old fellowsthe mossbackswho hate your new
philosophy,' said the minister.
'And think of the young fellows who are so easily tossed about. The
moss of senility is covering the bloom of youth and the honor of
XV. IN WHICH HARRY RETURNS TO
POINTVIEW AND GOES TO WORK
Betsey and I were giving a dinner-party at our house. Mr. and Mrs.
Henry Delance and the Warburtons and Dan and Lizzie had come over to
discuss a plan for the correction of the greatest folly and
extravagance in the villagenamely, the waste of its spiritual energy.
At first we had to discuss a fact related to another folly, for the
Delances told how Harry's pet collie had come up to the back door that
day with a human skull in his mouth. Of course I knew that Harry's
Bishop had returned, but held my peace about it. To them it had
suggested murder, and they had consulted the chief of police.
[Illustration: HARRY'S PET COLLIE HAD COME UP TO THE BACK DOOR WITH
A HUMAN SKULL IN HIS MOUTH"]
'How do you know that it is not one of your ancestors dug up in a
back pasture,' I said.
'It might be William the Conqueror,' Lizzie remarked.
'I deny it,' said Delance, in perfect good nature. 'We have
resigned from William's family. As a matter of fact, I never joined
I congratulated him.
'It has always seemed like the merest poppycock to methis
genealogical craze of the ladies,' said Henry. 'When our London
solicitor wrote that it would take another hundred pounds to establish
the connection beyond a doubt, he gave away the whole scheme, and I
resigned. It was too silly. In these days of titled chambermaids I
think we shall worry along pretty well without William.'
Then Betsey said: 'I was reading in the county history to-day that
old Zebulon Delance, who was killed in a fight with Indians in 1750,
was buried in a meadow back of his house.'
'It may be the skull of old Zeb,' said Henry.
'Now there's an ancestor worth having,' I suggested.
'I wonder if it can belong to old Zeb,' Henry mused.
At last we got to my plan. I pictured the condition of the
community as I saw it, and the inefficiency of the church and the need
of a new and active power in Pointview.
I proposed that we buy the old skating-rink and remodel it, employ
the best talent in America, and start a new center of power in the
communitya power that should, first of all, keep us sane, and then as
decent as possible. The mathematics of the enterprise were at my
Initial Expenses $15,000
Annual Outlay for Instruction 8,000
For Music 3,500
For Maintenance 1,000
For Management 3,500
It was no small matter, but the initial expense and the first
year's outlay were subscribed in ten minutes. Betsey set the ball
rolling with an offer of ten thousand dollars, and then it was like
shaking ripe apples off a tree.
'Who is to be the manager?' Delance wanted to know. 'It's a big
'I propose that we try Harry,' I said; 'in my opinion it will
interest him. I've had him in training for a year or so, and he's about
ready for big work.'
'I don't believe Harry can do it,' his father declared.
'I should think it might not be to his taste,' said Bill Warburton.
'But I have later and better information than the rest of you,' I
said. 'If you will leave the matter in my hands you may hold me
responsible for the results.'
They gave me the white card. I could do as I liked. The fact is, I
had just had a letter from Harry which filled me with new hope. I have
The Honorable Socrates Potter took the letter from his pocket and
You see, Harry has been discovering America. He is the Columbus of
our heiristocracy. His mental map has been filled with great cities and
splendid hotels, and thrifty towns and enormous areas of wheat and
corn, and astonishing distances and sublime mountain scenes. Moreover,
he has learned the joys of a simple life; he had to. Of course, he knew
of these things, but feebly and without pride, as one knows the Tetons
who has never seen them. Leaving in May, he stopped in all the big
cities, and finished his journey from the railroad with a stage-ride of
some ninety miles. Of the stage-ride and other matters, he writes thus:
'On the front seat with the driver sat a lady smoking a cigar, who,
now and then, offered us a drink from a bottle. At her side was a lady
with a wooden leg, and a hen in her hand. You know every woman is a
lady out here. The driver swore at the horses, the hen swore at the
lady, and several of the passengers swore at each other, and it was all
done in the most amiable spirit. Two rough-necks sat beside me who kept
shooting with revolvers at sage-hens as theythe men, not the
hensirrigated the tires with tobacco-juice. At the next stop I got
into a row with a one-eyed professor of elocution, because he said I
carried too much for the size of my mule, an' didn't speak proper. He
objected to my pronunciation, and I to his choice of words. In the
argument his revolver took sides with him. I got one of my toes lopped
with a bullet, and the lady who carried the cigar and the bottle took
me to her home and nursed me like a mother, and the lady with the
wooden leg brought me strawberries every day and sang to me and told me
some good stories. I had thought it was a God-forsaken country, but,
you see, I was wrong. There's more real practical Christianity among
these people than I ever saw before, and it's hard work to be an ass
here. The way of the ass is full of trouble, and I begin to understand
why you wanted me to come out to Wyoming. The people are rough, but as
kind as angels. Felt like turning back, but these women put new heart
in me, especially the wooden-legged one.
'We don't like parlor talk out here, she said; it ain't
considered good ettikit. Folks don't mind a little, but if it goes too
fur it's considered insultin' an' everybody begins to speak to ye like
he was talkin' to a balky mule.
'I went on as soon as I was able, and spent the whole summer on the
back of a cayuse. Got lost in the mountains; went hungry and cold like
the wolf, as Garland puts it, for three days; had to think my way back
to camp. It was the best schooling in geography and logic and American
humanity that I ever had. Every man at the ranch, and the women, had
been out hunting for me. I offered them money, but they woudn't take a
centthe joy of seeing me was enough. They haven't a smitch of the
revolting money-hunger of the average European. With all its faults I
am proud of my country. I want you to find a good, big American job for
'I have been reading the Bishop of St. Clare, who says: There hath
been more energy expended in swaggering about with full bellies and a
burden of needless fat than would move the island to the main shore. If
thy purse be used to buy immunity from work, it secureth immunity from
manhood; and what is a man without manhood?
'There is the American idea for you.
'Deacon Joe has got to change his mind about me. Marie has only
written me one letter, and that was a frost. If you have any influence
with the girl, don't let her get engaged to that parson.'
Socrates laughed as he put the letter away, and went on:
Well, Harry came back, browned and brawny, with his cayuse, saddle,
and sombrero, and a shooting-iron half as long as my arm.
He came here for a talk with me the day after his arrival. The
subject of a lifework was pressing on him.
'Have you seen Zeb?' was his first query.
'Zeb?' I asked. 'Who is Zeb?'
'That dear old, irrepressible bishop,' said Harry. 'They have dug
him up and named him Zeb, and put him on a top shelf in the library.
They think he is one of our great-grandfathers.'
'Oh, he has been promoted,' I remarked.
Harry went on:
'My dog is responsible for the reappearance of the bishop. I took
him with me that night, and he knew where to find it. Father is sure
that it's the head of old Zeb Delance.'
'Let the Bishop rest where he is,' I suggested. 'Now that he has
converted you, he will probably let up. At least, let us hope that he
will not worry you. Of course he will remind you of past follies every
time you look at him, but that will do you no harm.'
'Oh, I couldn't forget him! Father has been reading up on Zeb, and
he does nothing but talk about him. He has learned that the Indians
buried the head and burned the body of a victim.'
'He symbolizes the change in your taste. Zeb was a man of actiona
worker. What do you propose to do now?'
'Well, I have thought some of following Dan into agriculture.'
'Don't,' was my answer. 'You're not the type for that kind of a
job. Dan was brought up to work with his hands. I fear that you would
be a Fifth Avenue farmer.'
'Well, what would you say to a plant for the manufacture of
aeroplanes? I stopped at Dayton and looked into the matter, and learned
to fly. I have ordered a biplane, and it will be delivered in the
I vetoed that plan, and asked where he proposed to settle.
'Right hereif possible,' said Harry.
'Good! There's one thing about your family tree that I like, and
you ought to be proud of it. Your forebears, having been treated with
shameless oppression, came to these inhospitable shores in 1630. They
needn't have done it if they had been willing to knuckle down and say
they liked crow when they didn't. They wouldn't do that, so they left
the old sod and ventured forth in a little sailing-vessel on the mighty
deep. It required some courage to do that. They landed safely, and for
nearly three hundred years their descendants have lived and worked and
suffered all manner of hardships in New England. It's a proper thing,
Harry, that you should do your work where, mostly, they did their
workin dear old Connecticut.'
'And besides, it's the home of Marie,' he said.
'And let us consider what there is to be done in the home of
Marie,' I went on. 'Here in the very town where so many of your fathers
have lived and worked we find a singular parade of folly. The idle rich
from a near city are closing in upon us. Many of the Yankees have
acquired property and ceased to work. Back in the distant hills they
toil not, but live from hand to mouth in a pitiful state of
degeneration. The work of the hand is almost entirely that of Italians,
Poles, Hungarians, and Greeks.
'Our tradesmen have a low code of honor. They overcharge us for the
necessities of life. Many of them have been caught cheating. Our wives
and sons and daughters are living beyond their means, as if ignorant of
the fact that it is the beginning of dishonesty. Our poverty is mostly
that of the soul. The churches are dying, and the sabbath is dead. What
we need is a return to the honor, sanity, and common sense of old New
England, which gave of its fullness to the land we love. Let's start a
school of old-fashioned decency and Americanism. Let's call it the
Church of All Faiths and make it a center of power.'
I laid the scheme before him in all its details, and then
'I'm with you,' he said, 'and I think I can see Knowles moving and
Deacon Joe coming down off his high horse.'
'Possibly we could use Knowles,' I suggested. 'There'll be a lot of
'But only as a kind of clerk,' said Harry.
As a kind of clerk, I agreed. 'We shall need a number of clerks. I
intend that every family within ten miles shall be visited at least
once a week. We shall not only let our light shine, but we shall make
it shine into every human heart in this community. If they're too
callous we'll punch a hole with our trusty blade and let the light in.
The lantern and the rapier shall be our weapons.'
Harry was full of enthusiasm. He had met Marie on the street, and
she was glad to learn that he was going to work.
'Incidentally, I hope to win your grandfather's consent,' he had
said to her.
And she had answered: 'If you could do that I should think you were
an extremely able young man.'
'And worthy of the best girl living?' Harry had urged.
'That's too extravagant,' Marie had said as she left him.
Harry went to work with me at once. He bought the rink and the
ground beneath it and some more alongside. We spent days and nights
with an architect making and remaking the plans, and by and by we knew
that we were right. Soon the contractor began his work, and in three
months we had finished the most notable meeting-house of modern times.
The walls were tinted a rich cream color, the woodwork was painted
white. There were new carpets in the aisles, and between them
comfortable seats for nine hundred people. The fine old pulpit from
which Jonathan Edwards had preached his first sermon was the center of
a little garden of ferns and palms and vines and mosses, all growing in
good ground, with a small fountain in their midsta symbol of purity.
A great sheet of plate glass behind the pulpit showed a thicket of
evergreens. High above the pulpit was another big sheet of glass,
through which one got a broad view of the sky, and it was framed in
these words: 'The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament
showeth his handiwork.'
The walls were adorned with handsome pictures loaned by my friends.
On one wall were these modern commandments, most of which were gleaned
from the masterly volume entitled The Life and Writings of Robert
Delance, Bishop of St. Clare, which Harry had found in a London
1. 'Be grateful unto God, for He hath given thee life, time, and
this beautiful world. Other things thou shalt find for thyself.'
2. 'Be brave with thy life, for it is very long.'
3. 'Waste no time, for thy time is very little.'
4. 'See that this world is the better for thy work and kindness.'
5. 'Doubt not the truth of that thy senses tell thee, for thy God
is no deceiver.'
6. 'Love the truth and live it, for no one is long deceived by
7. 'Give not unto the beast and neglect thy brother.'
8. 'Go find thy brothers in the world and see that these be many,
for a man's strength and happiness are multiplied by the number of his
9. 'Beware lest thy wealth come between thee and them and tend to
thine own poverty and theirs.'
10. 'Suffer little children to come unto thee, for of such is the
kingdom of heaven.'
The simple-hearted old Bishop had just the philosophy we needed. It
seemed to have been carefully designed to meet the inventiveness of the
modern sinner. He was turning out well and had already exerted a
wholesome influence on the character of Harry. Would that all ancestors
were as well chosen!
We did not wish to hinder the other churches, and that spirit went
into all our plans. First, then, we decided that our services should
begin at twelve o'clock every Sunday, and close at one or before twenty
minutes after one. That gave our parishioners a chance to go to the
other churches if they wanted to. I traveled from Boston to St. Louis,
and returned via Washington, to engage talent for our pulpit. I
wanted the best that this land afforded, and was prepared to pay its
price. I engaged nine ministers, distinguished for eloquence and
learning, three Governors, the Mayor of a Western city, two United
States Senators, one Congressman, and a Justice of the Supreme Court of
the land. They were all great-souled men, who had shown in word and
action a touch of the spirit of Jesus Christ. Some of them had been
throwing light into dark places and driving money-changers from the
temple and casting out devils. They were all qualified to enlighten and
lift up our souls.
I asked that their lessons should be drawn from the lives of the
modern prophetsAbraham Lincoln, Silas Wright, Daniel Webster, Charles
Sumner, Henry Clay, Noah Webster, George William Curtis, Ralph Waldo
Emerson, Sidney Lanier, Horace Greeley, and others like them. What I
sought most was an increase of the love of honor and the respect for
industry in our young men and women. Holiness was a thing for later
consideration, it seemed to me.
I put a full-page advertisement in each local paper, which read
about as follows:
'The Church of All Faiths.
'Built especially for sinners and for good people who wish to be
'Will begin its work in this community Sunday, June 19th, at twelve
o'clock, with a sermon by Socrates Potter, Esq., of Pointview, in which
he will set forth his view of what a church should do, and an account
of what this church proposes to do, for its parishioners. Other
churches are cordially invited to worship, and to work with us for the
good of Pointview.'
The curiosity of all the people had been whetted to a keen edge.
They had begged for information, but Betsey and I had said that they
should know all about it in due time. I had given my plan to the
contributors only, and they were to keep still about it.
Sometimes silence is the best advertisement, and certain men who
seem to be so modest that they are shocked by the least publicity are
the greatest advertisers in the world. The man who hides his candle
under a bushel is apt to be the one whose candle is best known. So it
happened with us. Nine hundred and sixteen people filled the seats in
our church that morning by twelve o'clock, and two hundred more were
trying to get in.
At the next service an honored minister whose soul is even greater
than his fame preached for us, and that week a petition came to me,
signed by six hundred citizens, complaining that the hour was
inconvenient, and asking that it be changed to 10.30 A.M. I believe in
the voice of the people, and obeyed it; but I knew what would happen,
and it did. The other churches were deserted and silent. One by one
their ministers came to see meall save one old gentleman in whom the
brimstone of wrath had begun to burn more fiercely. We needed and were
glad to have the help of two of them. There were the sick and the poor
to be visited; there were weddings and funerals and countless details
in the organization of the new church to be attended to.
I ought to tell you that a curious and unexpected thing had
happened. Fisherfolk, street gamins, caddies, loafers on the docks and
in the livery stables, millionaires and million-heiressespeople who
had thought themselves either above or below religioncame to our
meetings. Each resembled in numbers a political rally.
We have started an improvement school for Sunday evenings, in which
the great story is told in lectures and fine photographs thrown on a
screen. And not only the great story, but any story calculated to
inspire and enlighten the youthful mind. The best of the world's work
and art and certain of the great novels will be presented in this way.
I am going to get the great men of the world to give us three-minute
sermons on the phonograph. Thus I hope to make it possible for our
people to hear the voices and sentiments of kings, presidents,
premiers, statesmen, and prophetsthe men and women who are making
We have started a small country club where poor boys and girls can
enjoy billiards, bowling, golf, and tennis. Any boy or girl in this
town who has a longing for better things is sought and found by our
ministers, and all kinds of encouragement are offered. People and
clergy of almost every faith that is known here in Pointview are
working side by side for one purpose. Think of that! The revolution has
been complete and mainly peaceful. As to the expense of it all, we tax
the rich, and for the rest we temper the wind to the length of their
Of course, there were certain people who didn't like it, and among
them was Deacon Joe. He and four others hired a minister, and sat in
lonely sorrow in the old church every Sunday, until the expense
sickened them. Then the Deacon got mad at the town, and refused to be
seen in it.
'Reach everybody,' had been one of our mottoes, and Deacon Joe said
that he guessed we wouldn't reach him.
XVI. WHICH PRESENTS AN INCIDENT IN
OUR CAMPAIGN AGAINST NEW NEW ENGLAND
We had some adventures in new New England which ought to be set
down. Here's one of them.
The old village of Trent lies back in the hills, a little journey
from Pointview, on the shores of a pleasant river. To the unknowing
traveler, who approaches from either hilltop, it has a peaceful and
inviting look. But the rutted, rocky road begins at once to excite
suspicion. A bad road is an indication and a producer of degeneracy in
man and beast. It tends to profanity, and if it went far would probably
lead to hell. Trent itself is one of the little modern hells of New
England. There are the venerable and neatly fashioned houses of the
old-time Yankeethe peaked roofs and gables, the columns, the cozy
verandas, the garden spaces. But the old-time Yankees are gone. The
well-kept gardens are no more. Many of the houses are going to ruin.
One is an Italian tenement. The others are inhabited by coachmen,
chauffeurs, gardeners, mill-hands, and degenerate Yankees. The inn is a
mere barroom. Sounds of revelry and the odor of stale beer come out of
it. In front are teams of burden, abandoned, for a time, by their
drivers, and sundry human signs of decay loafing in the shadow of the
old lindens. Among them are the seedy remnants of a once noble race.
They are fettered by 'rheumatiz' and the disordered liver. They move
like boats dragging their anchors. To make life tolerable their
imaginations need assistance. They are like the Flub Dubs of lost
Atlantis. Each imagines himself the greatest man in the village. They
talk in loud words. They quarrel and fight over the crown. So it has
been a brawling, besotted community.
Trent's leading citizen is a Yankee politician who owns most of its
real estate and derives a profit from its lawless traffic. Trent has
been his enterprise.
Knowles went over there one day to conduct a funeral, which was
interrupted by a dog-fight under the coffin and nearly broken up by a
row over two dollars which had been found in a pocket of the dead man.
We opened a club-house next to the hotel, and began a campaign for
the regeneration of Trent. Soon we discovered that its one officer was
unwilling to arrest offenders against law and order. We had him removed
and a new man put in his place. This man was set upon and severely
beaten, and lost interest in the good work. Then Harry applied for the
job and got it. He took with him a force of husky young menmostly
college boys. The first day on duty he arrested in the street a drunken
man who carried in his hands a small sack of potatoes. The latter
whistled for help, and the enemies of law and order swarmed out of
their haunts. Harry had become an expert ball pitcher, noted for speed
and accuracy. He floored his man and took possession of the potatoes,
with which he proceeded to defend himself. Only two balls were pitched,
but they held the enemy in check until Harry's deputies had rushed out
of the club-house. A flying wedge scattered the crowd. No further
violence was needed. The ruffians saw that he meant business and had
the nerve and muscle to carry it through, and nothing more was
They took the drunken man to the lock-up, and came back and got a
bartender, and led him in the same path. Harry has the situation well
in hand, and is the most popular man in our community. Every day we
have items to put to his credit, and nothing to charge against his
reputation. There's something going on at the club every evening, and
the rooms are crowded. Those men who had sat day by day brawling under
the lindens now spend most of their leisure in the reading and card
rooms. Peace reigns in Trent. Such is the power of united benevolence
working with the strong hand and the courageous spirit.
XVII. WHICH PRESENTS A DECISIVE
INCIDENT IN OUR CAMPAIGN AGAINST OLD NEW ENGLAND
Harry was pretty well disabled with affection for a time. He was
like a Yankee with the 'rheumatiz,' and you know when a Yankee gets
hold of the 'rheumatiz' he hangs on. It don't often get away from him.
It becomes an asseta conservational assetan ever-present help in
time of haying.
Since Harry's return the tactics of Marie had been faultless. Her
eyes had said, 'Come on,' while her words had firmly held him off. He
shook the tree every time they met, but the squirrel wouldn't come
It was a hard part for Marie to play, between the pressure of two
handsome boys and her duty to grandpapa. The Reverend Robert had won
the favor of the old gentleman by turning from tennis to agriculture
for exercise. He had gone over to the Benson farm and helped with the
spring's work; he had supper there every Sunday evening, after which he
conducted a little service for the Deacon's benefit. He was pressing,
as they say in golf, and it didn't improve his game. I saw that Marie
was not quite so fond of him. I had maintained an attitude of strict
neutrality, but could not fail to observe that Marie had begun to lean.
'You have captured the rest of Pointview, and you ought to be able
to take Benson's Hill,' Marie had said to Harry. 'Grandfather is the
last enemy of your crusade.'
It was a timely touch on the accelerator, and Harry began to speed
up a little.
'The farm is so well defended, and there's nothing I dread so much
as a hickory cane,' the boy had answered. 'The last visit I made to the
farm I wondered whether I was going to convert him to my way of
thinking, or he was going to convert me to jelly.'
Indeed, Deacon Joe stood firm as a mountain. People were saying
that the minister would win in a walk, when Marie converted her
grandfather by the most remarkable bit of woman's strategy that I ever
observed. It was Napoleonic.
One day in May, Harry came, much excited, to my office. Deacon Joe
was about to move to his island, a mile or so off shore. He was going
to take Marie with him for an indefinite period. No boat would be
permitted to land there except his own and the Reverend Robert's. Marie
would be a sort of prisoner. That day she had told him of the plan of
her grandfather. In Harry's opinion Knowles had suggested it.
'Where is the girl's mother?' I asked.
'On some Cook's tour in Europe, and the old man is crazy as a March
hare,' said my young friend. 'He's got a lot of bulldogs over there,
and his hired men have been instructed to shoot a hole in any boat that
I went over to the Benson homestead that afternoon, and found
Deacon Joe sitting on the piazza.'
'How are you?' I asked.
'Not very stout,' said he; 'heart flutters like a ketched bird.'
'What are you doing for it?'
'Doctor give me some medicine; I fergit the name of it, but it is
the stuff they use to blow up safes with.'
'Nitroglycerin! The very thing! I hope they will succeed in blowing
up your safe.'
I was pretty close to the old man, and was always very frank with
him. He liked opposition, and was as fond of warfare as an Old
'What, sir?' he asked.
'There are some folks that have got to be blowed up before you can
get an old idea out of their heads,' I went on. 'They are locked up
with rust. That's what's the matter with you, Deacon. Your brain needs
to be blowed open an' aired. You stored it full of ideas sixty years
ago and locked the door for fear they'd get away. They should have been
taken out and sorted over at least once a year, and some thrown into
the fire to make room for better ones. If life does you any good, if it
really teaches you anything, your brain must keep changing its
The Deacon hammered the table with his cane, as he shouted:
'You cussed fool of a lawyer! Don't you know that truth never
changes? Truth, sir, is eternal.'
Then I took the bat. 'Truth often changes, but error is eternal,' I
said. 'You know when you want to prove anything, these days, you quote
from the memoirs of a great man. Well, I was reading the memoirs of the
late Doctor Godfrey Vogeldam Guph not long ago. He told of a man who
was very singular, but not so singular as the doctor seemed to think.
This man knew more than any human being has a right to know. He knew
the plans of God, and had formed an unalterable opinion about all his
neighbors. Then he locked up his mind and guarded it night and day, for
fear that somebody would break in and carry off its contents. And it
did seem as if people wanted to get hold of his treasure, for they
often came and asked about it, and some even questioned its value. He
said, Away with youtruth is eternal, and my soul is full and I will
part with none of it.
'Meanwhile the truth about things around him began to change.
Neighbor Smith became a good man. Neighbor Brown became a bad man.
Priscilla Jones, who had been a vain and foolish woman, was one of the
saints of God. The foundations of the world had changed. In a
generation it had grown millions of years older and
differentwonderfully different! Even God himself had changed, it
would seem. His methods were not as people had thought them. His
character was milder. Everything had changed but this one man. Now when
he died and came to St. Peter, the latter said to him:
'Who were your friends?
'The new-comer thought a minute, and mentioned the names of some
people who had been long dead. They know the truth about me, he said.
'Ah, but the truth changes, and they haven't seen you in many
years, said St. Peter.
'But I have not changed, said the man. I am just as when they
'Then you are a fool or the chief of sinners, said St. Peter.
Behold a man as changeless as the flint-stone, who has made no friends
in over forty years! That is all I need to know about you. Take either
gate you please.
'One leads to Heavendoesn't it? said the new-comer, in great
'Yes, but you wouldn't recognize the place. There isn't a soul in
paradise that cares which way you gonot a soul in all its multitude
that will be glad to see you. They have better company. Stranger! go
which way you please, Heaven will be as uncomfortable as hell.
Deacon Joe gave me close attention, and I saw that my sword had
nicked him a little. Anything that affected his hope of Paradise was
sure to engage his thought. He shook his head, and said that he didn't
believe it. But he couldn't fool me. I knew that the seed of change had
struck into him.
I gave him another thrust. 'Deacon, you knew Harry Delance when he
was a fool. But the truth about him has changed. He is now a
hard-working, level-headed young fellow, and you ought to be his
'Wal, I like the way he cuffed them fellers over at Trent,' said
the Deacon. 'He pounded 'em noblethat's sartin. Mebbe if he licks a
few more men I'll begin to like him.'
'Give him a chance,' was my answer. 'I hear that you are going to
move for the summer.'
'Goin' to my island to-morrow,' said Deacon Joe. 'I'm sick of the
autymobiles an' the young spendthrifts hangin' around Marie, an' her
extravagance, an' the new church nonsense, an' the other goin's-on.
I've got a good house there, an' Marie an' I are goin' to rest an'
stroll around without bein' run over until her mother comes back. The
only trouble I have there is the hired men. They rob me right an' left.
I wish somebody would lick them.'
'You really need a young man like Harry,' I urged. 'And Marie needs
him. She'll be lonely over there.'
'Not a bit,' said the Deacon. 'She'll have a saddle-horse, and
young Knowles can come over once a week, if he wants to. I hear he's
done splendid lately.'
'He's doing well, but I am inclined to think that Harry is the
better man,' I said, taking sides for the first time.
'I don't believe it,' was the answer of Deacon Joe. 'Knowles is
getting pretty sensible, and his voice is stronger.'
The Deacon moved next day, and when Sunday came I went over in a
boat with the Reverend Robert at eight o'clock in the morning. I was
taking a stroll on the beach when I met him, and he asked me to go
along. It was just a social call, he explained. Incidentally, he was
going to pray and read a Scripture lesson at the Deacon's request. As
we left the dock, Harry came riding by on one of his thoroughbreds and
I waved my hand to him. When we got to the Deacon's landing, I said to
'As I am not invited, perhaps you had better announce me to Deacon
Joe, while I stay here in the boat.'
'All right,' he said, as he gaily jumped ashore and tied the
Robert hurried in the direction of the little house, and had
covered half the distance, when a bulldog came sneaking toward him.
Robert saw the dog, and ran for a tree. He was making handsome progress
up the trunk of the tree when the dog reached him, and, seizing a leg
of his trousers, began to surge backward. The cloth parted at the knee,
and between the pulling of man and dog, Robert lost about all the lower
end of one trousers-leg. The hired man came running out with some more
dogs, and said:
'It's all right, Mr. Knowles, you can come down. I hope he didn't
'Excuse me,' said the young man, 'but I think I'll stay here a
Three dogs stood at the foot of the tree looking anxiously upward.
'They won't hurt you while I'm here,' said the hired man.
'I won't take any chances,' said Robert. 'Go shut up your lions,
and I'll come down.'
'Who's that in the boat?' the hired man asked.
'Mr. Potter,' said Robert.
'Well, he mustn't land 'less the old man says soI don't care who
Just then the hired man changed his position suddenly, and stood
looking into the sky. I turned and saw an aeroplane coming down like
some great bird from the hills, behind the village. It sailed high
above the spires, and coasted down to a level some fifty feet above the
water-plane between shore and island. In a minute or so it roared over
me, circled the point, and came down in the open field that faced the
Deacon's cottage. Dogs and chickens flew and ran in great confusion as
it swooped to earth. I knew that Harry and his new flier had reached
the island of Deacon Joe, and I hurried ashore to seewell, 'to see
what I could see,' as the old song has it. Harry jumped from his seat.
The hired man ran toward him. Deacon Joe and Marie and a woman-servant
In less time than it takes to tell it, Harry had licked the hired
man, and kicked two dogs in the belly till they ran for life, and shot
another one, and was chasing a second hired man around the wood-shed.
Not being able to run fast enough to do further damage, Harry came to
the astonished group in front of the house and caught Marie in his arms
and kissed her.
Then he turned to the Deacon, and said: 'Sir, I will keep off your
island if you wish, but I do not propose to be bluffed when I come to
pay my compliments to you and Marie.'
[Illustration: HE LOOKED LIKE A MAN WITH A WOODEN LEG"]
Deacon Joe was dumb with astonishment. The young minister came down
out of his tree and walked slowly toward the group, with rags flapping
over one extremity of his union-suit. He looked like a man with a
'How did ye get here?' Deacon Joe demanded of Harry.
'Jumped from the top of Delance's Hill and landed right here,' said
'In that awful-lookin' thing?' the Deacon asked, pointing with his
cane and squinting at the big biplane.
'In that thing,' Harry answered.
'How long did it take ye?'
'About five minutes.'
'It's impossible,' said the Deacon, as he approached the biplane
and began to look at it.
'But you'll see me jump back again in a little while,' Harry
'Geehanniker!' the Deacon exclaimed. 'Jumped from the top of
Delance's Hill an' licked my caretaker an' chased a hired man an'
sp'ilt two dogs an' treed the minister and kissed the lady o' the
houseall in about ten minutes. I guess you're a good deal of a
It was the kind of thing that warmed the warrior soul of the
'Hellohere's a dead dog,' said Harry. 'If you'll have one of the
men bring me a shovel I'll bury him there in the garden. Meanwhile you
may tell me how much I owe you for the two dogs.'
'I guess about twenty-five dollars,' said the Deacon.
'How much off for cash?' Harry asked.
'Wal, sir, if you ain't goin' to ask me to charge it, ten dollars
would do,' the Deacon allowed.
'There's a wonderful power in cash,' said Harry, as he produced the
'You're gettin' some sense in your head,' said the Deacon.
The shovel was brought; and Harry, who had expected to shoot a dog
or two and had been practising for this very act, put his victim under
three feet of soil in as many minutes. That also pleased the Deacon.
'Purty cordy, too,' the latter said, as he turned to Marie. 'Now,
girl, take your choice. I want to know which is which, an' stop bein'
bothered about it.'
She made her choice then and there, and as to which of the two it
may have been you will have no doubt when I tell you that Marie had
planned every detail in this bit of strategy and Harry had been man
enough to put it through.
'You know Zeb's commandment has been a help to me,' he said, when I
offered congratulations. 'Be brave with your life, for it is very
The Deacon has changed. His heart and mind are open. Every Sunday
you may see him in a front seat, drinking at the new fount of
inspiration; and it is a rule of his life to make a new friend every
day. I'm inclined to think that the old man has been saved at last.
Yes, we try to reach everybody in one way or another.