Shiloh by Rupert Hughes
Mrs. Serina Pepperall had called her husband twice without success.
It was at that hatefulest hour of the whole week when everybody that
has to get up is getting up and realizing that it is Monday morning,
and raining besides.
It is bad enough for it to be Monday, but for it to be raining is
Young Horace Pepperall used to say that that was the reason the
world didn't improve much. People got good on Sunday, and then it had
to go and be Monday. He had an idea that if Sunday could be followed by
some other day, preferably Saturday, there would be more happiness and
virtue in the world. Mrs. Pepperall used to say that her boy was quite
a ph'losopher in his way. Mr. Pepperall said he was a hopeless loafer
and spent more time deciding whether he'd ought to do this or that than
it would have taken to do 'em both twice. Whereupon Mrs. Pepperall,
whose maiden name was Boodydaughter of Mrs. Ex-County-Clerk
Boodywould remind her husband that he was only a Pepperall, after
all, while her son was at least half Boody. Whereupon her husband would
remind her of certain things about the Boodys. And so it would go. But
that was other mornings. This was this morning.
Among all the homes that the sun looked uponor would have looked
upon if it could have looked upon anything and if it hadn't been
raining and the Pepperall roof had not been impervious to light, though
not to moistureamong them all, surely the Pepperall reveille would
have been the least attractive. Homer never got his picture of
rosy-fingered Aurora smilingly leaping out of the couch of night from
any such home as the Pepperalls' in Carthage.
Serina was as unlike Aurora as possible. Aurora is usually poised on
tiptoe, with her well-manicured nails gracefully extended, and nothing
much about her except a chariot and more or less chiffon, according to
whether the picture is for families or bachelors.
Serina was entirely surrounded by flannelette, of simple and
pitilessly chaste designa hole at the top for her head to go through
and a larger one at the other extreme for her feet to stick out at. But
it was so long that you couldn't have seen her feet if you had been
there. And Papa Pepperall, who was there, was no longer interested in
those once exciting ankles. They had been more interesting when there
had been less of them. But we'd better talk about the sleeves.
The sleeves were so long that they kept falling into the water where
Serina was making a hasty toilet at the little marble-topped altar to
cleanliness which the Pepperalls called the worsh-standthat is, the
hand-wash-basin, as Mrs. Hippisley called it after she came back from
her never-to-be-forgotten trip to England.
But then Serina's sleeves had always been falling into the suds, and
ever since she could remember she had rolled them up again with that
peculiar motion with which people roll up sleeves. This morning, having
failed to elicit papa from the bed by persuasion, she made such a
racket about her ablutions that he lifted his dreary lids at last. He
realized that it was morning, Monday, and raining. It irritated him so
that he glared at his faithful wife with no fervor for her unsullied
and unweariedif not altogether unwearisomedevotion. He watched her
roll up those sleeves thrice more. Somehow he wanted to scream at the
futility of it. But he checked the impulse partly, and it was with
softness that he made a comment he had choked back for years.
Serina he began.
Well, she returned, pausing with the soap clenched in one hand.
He spoke with the luxurious leisureliness and the pauses for commas
of a nearly educated man lolling too long abed:
Serina, it has just occurred to me that, since we have been
married, you have expended, on rolling back those everlastingly
relapsing sleeves of yours, enough energy to have rolled the Sphinx of
Egypt up on top of the Pyramid of Cheops.
Serina was so surprised that she shot the slippery soap under the
wash-stand. She went right after it. There may be nymphs who can stalk
a cake of soap under a wash-stand with grace, but Serina was not one of
them. Her indolent spouse made another cynical comment:
Don't do that! You look like the Goddess of Liberty trying to peek
into the Subway.
But she did not hear him. She was rummaging for the soap and for an
answer to his first remark. At length she emerged with both. She stood
up and panted.
Well, I can't see as it would 'a' done me any good if I had have!
Had have what? her husband yawned, having forgotten his original
Got the Sphinnix on top of the Cheops. And besides, I've been
meaning to hem them up; but now that you've gone bankrupt again, and I
have to do my own cooking and all
But, my dear Serina, you've said the same thing ever since we were
married. What frets me is to think of the terrible waste of labor with
nothing to show for it.
She sniffed, and retorted with all the superiority of the
unsuccessful wife of an unsuccessful husband:
Well, I can't see as you're so smart. Ever since we been married
you been goin' to that stationery-store of yours, and you never learned
enough to keep from going bankrupt three times. And now they've shut
the shop, and you've nothing better to do than lay in bed and make fun
of me that have slaved for you and your children.
They were always his children when she talked of the trouble they
were. Her all too familiar oration was interrupted by the eel-like leap
of the soap. This time it described a graceful arc that landed it under
the middle of the beda double bed at that.
Pepperall had the gallantry to pursue it. He went head first over
the starboard quarter of the deck, leaving his feet aboard. Just as he
tagged the soap with his fingers his feet came on over after him, and
he found himself flat on his back, with his head under the bed and his
feet under the bureau.
When the thunder of his downfall had subsided he heard Serina say,
Now that you're up you better stay up.
So he wriggled out from under and got himself aloft, rubbing his
indignant back. If Serina was no Aurora rising from the sea, her
husband was no Phoebus Apollo. His gown looked like hers, only younger.
It had a frivolous little pocket, and the slit-skirt effect on both
sides; and it was cut what is called misses' length, disclosing two
of the least attractive shins in Carthage.
He was aching all over and he was angry, and he snarled as he stood
at the wash-stand:
Have you finished with this water?
Yes, she said, muffledly, from the depths of a face-towel.
Why don't you ever empty the bowl then? he growled, and viciously
tilted the contents into themust I say the awful word?the
slop-jarwhat other word is there?
The water splashed over and struck the bare feet of both icily. They
yowled and danced like Piute Indians, and glared at each other as they
danced. They glared in a nagged rage that would have turned into an
ugly quarrel if a great sorrow had not suddenly overswept them. They
saw themselves as they were and by a whim of memory they remembered
what they had been. He laughed bitterly:
It's the first time we've danced together in a long time, eh?
Her lower lip began to quiver and swell quite independently and she
Not much like the dances we used to dance. Oh dear!
She dropped into a chair and stared, not at her husband, but at the
bridegroom of long ago he had shriveled from. She remembered those
honeymoon mornings when they had awakened like eager children and
laughed and romped and been glad of the new day. The mornings had been
precious then, for it was a tragedy to let him go to his shop, as it
was a festival to watch from the porch in the evening till he came
round the corner and waved to her.
She looked from him to herself, to what she could see of herselfit
was not all, but more than enough. She saw her heavy red hands and the
coarse gown over her awkward knees, and the dismal slovenliness of her
attitude. She felt that he was remembering the slim, wild, sweet girl
he had married. And she was ashamed before his eyes, because she had
let the years prey upon her and had lazily permitted beauty to escape
from herfrom her body, her face, her motions, her thoughts.
She felt that for all her prating of duty she had committed a great
wickedness lifelong. She wondered if this were not the unpardonable
sin, whose exact identity nobody had seemed to decideto grow
strangers with beauty and to forget grace.
Whatever her husband may have been thinking, he had the presence of
mind to hide his eyes in the water he had poured from the pitcher. He
scooped it up now in double handfuls. He made a great splutter and
soused his face in the bowl, and scrubbed the back of his neck and
behind his ears and his bald spot, and slapped his eminent collar-bones
with his wet hand. And then he was bathed.
Serina pulled on her stockings, and hated them and the coarser feet
they covered. She opened the wardrobe door as a screen, less from
modesty for herself than from sudden disgust of her old corset and her
all too sober lingerie. She resolved that she would hereafter deck
herself with more of that coquetry which had abruptly returned to her
mind as a wife's most solemn duty.
Then she remembered that they were poorer than they ever had been.
Now they could not even run into debt again; for who would give them
further credit, since their previous bills had been canceled by nothing
more satisfactory than the grim Received payment of the bankruptcy
It was too late for her to reform. Her song was sung. And as for
buying frills and fallals, there were two daughters to provide for and
a son who was growing into the stratum of foppery. With a sigh of
dismissal she flung on her old wrapper, whose comfortableness she
suddenly despised, and made her escape, murmuring, I'll call the
She pounded on the boy's door, and Horace eventually answered with
his regular program of uncouth noises, like some one protesting against
being strangled to death. These were followed by moans of woe, and then
by far-off-sounding promises of Oh, aw ri', I'm git'nup.
Serina moved on to her youngest daughter's door. She had tapped but
once when it was opened by the best girl that ever lived, according
to her father; and according to her mother, a treasure; never gave me
a bit of troubleplain, of course, but so willing!
Ollie was fully dressed and so was her room, except for the bed, the
covers of which were thrown back like a wave breaking over the
footboard. In fact, after Ollie had kissed her mother she informed her
that the kitchen fire was made, the wash-boiler on, and the breakfast
You are a treasure! Serina sighed.
She passed on to the door of Prue. Prue was the second daughter.
Rosie, the eldest, had married Tom Milford and moved away. She was
having troubles of her own, and children with a regularity that led
Serina to dislike Tom Milford more than ever.
Serina knocked several times at Prue's door without response. Then
she went in as she always had to. Prue was still asleep, and her
yesterday's clothes seemed to be asleep, too, in all sorts of attitudes
and all sorts of places. The only regularity about the room was the
fact that every single thing was out of place. The dressing-table held
a little chaos, including one stocking. The other stocking was on the
floor. One silken garter glowed in the southeast corner and one in the
northwest. One shoe reclined in the southwest corner and the other
gaped in the northeast. But they were pretty shoes.
Her frock was in a heap, but it suggested a heap of flowers.
Hair-ribbons and ribboned things and a crumpled sash bedecked the
carpet. But the prettiest thing of all was the head half fallen from
the pillow and half smothered in the tangled skeins of hair. One arm
was bent back over her brow to shut out the sunlight and the other arm
dangled to the floor. There was something adorable about the round chin
nestling in the soft throat. Her chin seemed to frown with a lovable
sullenness. There was a mysterious grace in the very sprawl vaguely
outlined by the long wrinkles and ridges of the blankets.
Serina shook her head over Prue in a loving despair. She was the bad
boy of the family, impatient, exacting, hot-tempered, stormy,
luxurious, yet never monotonous.
You can always put your hand on Ollie, Serina would say; but you
never know where Prue is from one minute to the next.
Consequently Ollie was not interesting and Prue was.
They were all afraid of Prue and afraid for her. They all toadied to
her and she kept them excitedalarmed, perhaps; angry, oh yes; but
And there were rewards in her service, too, for she could be as
stormy with affection as with mutiny. Sometimes she would attack Serina
with such gusts of gratitude or admiration that her mother would cry
for help. She would squeeze her father's ribs till he gasped for
breath. When she was pleased she would dance about the house like a
whirling mænad with ululations of ecstasy. These crises were sharp, but
they left a sweet taste in the memory.
So Prue had the best clothes and did the least work. Prue was sent
off to boarding-school in Chicago, though she had never been able to
keep up with her classes in Carthage; while Olliewho took first
prizes till even the goody-goody boys hated herstayed at home. She
had dreamed of being a teacher in the High, but she never mentioned it,
and she studied bookkeeping and stenography in the business college so
that she could help her father.
Prue had not been home long and had come home with bad grace. When
her father had found it impossible to borrow more money even to pay his
clerks, to say nothing of boarding-school bills, he had to write the
truth to Prue. He told her to come again to Carthage.
She did not come back at once and she refused to explain why. As a
matter of fact, she had desperately endeavored to find a permanent job
in Chicago. It was easy for so attractive a girl to get jobs, but it
was hard for so domineering a soul to keep one. She was regretfully
bounced out of three department stores in six days for sassing the
customers and the aisle-manager.
She even tried the theater. She was readily accepted by a
stage-manager, but when he found that he could not teach her the usual
figures or persuade her to keep in step or line with the rest he
regretfully let her go.
It was the regularity of it that stumped Prue. She could dance like
a ballerina by herself, but she could not count one-two-three-four
twice in succession. The second time it was o-o-one-t'threeee-f'r and
next it would be onety-thry-fo-o-our.
Prue hung about Chicago, getting herself into scrapes by her charm
and fighting her way out of them by her ferocious pride. Finally she
went hungry and came home. When she learned the extent of her father's
financial collapse she delivered tirades against the people of Carthage
and she sang him up as a genius. And then she sought escape from the
depression at home by seeking what gaiety Carthage afforded. She made
no effort to master the typewriter and she declined to sell dry-goods.
Serina stood and studied the sleeping girl, that strange wild thing
she had borne and had tried in vain to control. She thought how odd it
was that in the mystic transmission of her life she had given all the
useful virtues to Ollie and none of them to Prue. She wondered what she
had been thinking of to make such a mess of motherhood. And what could
she do to correct the oversight? Ollie did not need restraint, and Prue
would not endure it. She stood aloof, afraid to waken the girl to the
miseries of existence in a household where every day was blue Monday
Ollie had not waited to be called. Ollie had risen betimes and done
all the work that could be done, and stood ready to do whatever she
could. Prue was still aloll on a bed of ease. Even to waken her was to
waken a March wind. The moment she was up she would have everybody
running errands for her. She would be lavish in complaint and
parsimonious of help. And yet she was a dear! She did enjoy her morning
sleep so well. It would be a pity to disturb her. The rescuing thought
came to Serina that Prue loved to take a long hot bath on Monday
mornings, because on wash-day there was always a plenty of hot water in
the bathroom. On other mornings the hot-water faucet suffered from a
distressing cough and nothing more.
So she tiptoed out and closed the door softly.
At breakfast Ollie waited on the table after compelling Serina to
sit down and eat. There was little to tempt the appetite and no
appetite to be tempted.
Papa was in the doldrums. He had always complained before of having
to gulp his breakfast and hurry to the shop. And now he complained
because there was no hurry; indeed, there was no shop. He must set out
at his time of years, after his life of independent warfare, to ask for
enlistment as a private in some other man's companyin a town where
vacancies rarely occurred and where William Pepperall would not be
The whole town was mad at him. He had owed everybody, and then
suddenly he owed nobody. By the presto-change-o of bankruptcy his debts
had been passed from the hat of unpaid bills to the hat of worthless
Serina was as dismal as any wife is when she is faced with the
prospect of having her man hanging about the house all day. A wife in a
man's office hours is a nuisance, but a man at home in household office
hours is a pest. This was the newest but not the least of Serina's
Horace was even glummer than ever, as soggy as his own oatmeal. At
best he was one of those breakfast bruins. Now he was a bear that has
been hit on the nose. He, too, must seek a job. School had seemed
confining before, but now that he must go to work, school seemed like
one long recess.
Even Ollie was depressed. Hers was the misery of an active person
denied activity. She had prepared herself as an aid in her father's
business, and now he had no business. In this alkali desert of
inanition Prue's vivacious temper would have been welcome.
Where's Prue? said papa for the fifth time.
Serina was about to say that she was still asleep when Prue made her
presence known. Everybody was apprised that the water had been turned
on in the bathroom; it resounded throughout the house. It seemed to
fall about one's head.
Prue was filling the tub for her Monday morning siesta. She was
humming a strange tune over the cascade like another Minnehaha. And
from the behavior of the dining-room chandelier and the plates on the
sideboard she was evidently dancing.
What's that toon she's dancing to? papa asked, after a while.
I don't know, said Serina.
I never heard it, said Ollie.
Ah, growled Horace, it's the Argentine tango.
The tango! gasped papa. Isn't that the new dance I've been
reading about, that's making a sensation in New York?
Ah, wake up, pop! said Horace. It's a sensation here, too.
In Carthage? They're dancing the tango in our home town?
Surest thing you know, pop. The whole burg's goin' bug over it.
How is it done? What is it like?
Something like this, said Horace, and, rising, he indulged in the
prehistoric turkey-trot of a year ago, with burlesque hip-snaps and
poultry-yard scrapings of the foot.
Stop it! papa thundered. It's loathsome! Do you mean to tell me
that my daughter does that sort of thing?
Sure! She's a wonder at it.
What scoundrel taught my poor child suchsuchWho taught her, I
Gosh! sniffed Horace, sis don't need teachin'. She's teachin' the
rest of 'em. They're crazy about her.
Teaching others! My g-g-goodness! Where did she learn?
Chicago, I guess.
Oh, the wickedness of these cities and the foreigners that are
dragging our American homes down to their own level!
I guess the foreigners got nothin' on us, said Horace. It's a
What are we coming to? Go tell Prue to come here at once. I'll put
a stop to that right here and now.
Serina gave him one searing glance, and he understood that he could
not deliver his edict to Prue yet awhile. He heard her singing even
more barbaric strains. The chandelier danced with a peculiar savagery,
then the dance was evidently quenched and subdued. Awestruck yowls from
above indicated that Prue was in hot water.
This is the last straw! groaned papa, with all the wretchedness of
a father learning that his daughter was gone to the bad.
Prue did not appear below-stairs for so long that her father had
lost his magnificent running start by the time she sauntered in all
sleek and shiny and asked for her food. She brought a radiant grace
into the dull gray room; and Serina whispered to Will to let her have
her breakfast first.
She and Ollie waited on Prue, while the father paced the floor,
stealing sidelong glances at her, and wondering if it were possible
that so sweet a thing should be as vicious as she would have to be to
When she had scoured her plate and licked her spoon with a
child-like charm her father began to crank up his throat for a tirade.
He began with the reluctant horror of a young attorney cross-examining
his first murderer:
PrueI want totoerPrue, do youdid
youeverThiserthis tango businessPruehave youdo
youerWhat do you know about it?
Well, of course, papa, they change it so fast on you it's hard to
keep up with it, but I was about three days ahead of Chicago when I
left there. I met with a man who had just stepped off the twenty-hour
train and I learned all he knew before I turned him loose.
In a strangled tone the father croaked, You dance it, then?
You bet! Papa, stand up and I'll show you the very newest roll.
It's a peach. Put your weight on your right leg. Say, it's a shame we
haven't a phonograph! Don't you suppose you could afford a little one?
I could have you all in fine form in no time. And it would be so good
Papa fell back into a chair with just strength enough to murmur, I
want you to promise me never to dance it again.
Don't be foolish, you dear old bump-on-a-log!
I forbid you to dance it ever again.
She laughed uproariously: Listen at the old Skeezicks! Get up here
and I'll show you the cutest dip.
When at last he grew angry, and made her realize it, she flared into
a tumult of mutiny that drove him out into the rain. He spent the day
looking for a job without finding one. Horace came home wet and
discouraged with the same news. Ollie, the treasure, however, announced
that she had obtained a splendid position as typist in Judge
Hippisley's office, at a salary of thirty dollars a month.
William was overjoyed, but Serina protested bitterly. She and Mrs.
Judge Hippisley had been bitter social rivals for twenty years. They
had fought each other with teas and euchre parties and receptions from
young wifehood to middle-aged portliness. And now her daughter was to
work in that hateful Anastasia Hippisley's old fool of a husband's
office? Well, hardly!
It's better than starving, said Ollie, and for once would not be
coerced, though even her disobedience was on the ground of service.
After she had cleared the table and washed the dishes she set out for
her room, lugging a typewriter she had borrowed to brush up her speed
Prue had begged off from even wiping the dishes, because she had to
dress. As Ollie started up-stairs to her task she was brought back by
the door-bell. She ushered young Orton Hippisley into the parlor. He
had come to take Prue to a dance.
When papa heard this mamma had to hold her hand over his mouth to
keep him from making a scene. He was for kicking young Hippisley out of
And lose me my job? gasped Ollie.
The overpowered parent whispered his determination to go up-stairs
and forbid Prue to leave. He went up-stairs and forbade her, but she
went right on binding her hair with Ollie's best ribbon. In the midst
of her father's peroration she kissed him good-by and danced
down-stairs in Ollie's new slippers. Her own had been trotted into
Papa sat fuming all evening. He would not go to bed till Prue came
home to the ultimatum he was preparing for her. From above came the
tick-tock-tock of Ollie's typewriter. It got on his nerves, like rain
on a tin roof.
To think of itOllie up-stairs working her fingers to the bone to
help us out, and Prue dancing her feet off disgracing us! To think that
one of our daughters should be so good and one so bad!
I can't believe that our little Prue is really bad, Serina sighed.
Yet girls do go wrong, don't they? her husband groaned. This
morning's paper prints a sermon about the tango. Reverend Doctor
What's-his-name, the famous New York newspaper preacher, tears the
whole tango crowd to pieces. He points out that the tango is the cause
of the present-day wickedness, the ruin of the home!
Serina was dismal and terrified, but from force of habit she took
the opposite side.
Oh, they were complaining of divorces long before the tango was
ever heard of. That same preacher used to blame them on the bicycle,
then on the automobile and the movies. And now it's the tango. It'll be
Papa was used to fighting with mamma, and he roared with fine
leoninity: Are you defending your daughter's shamelessness? Do you
approve of the tango?
I've never seen it.
Then it must be just because you always encourage your children to
flout my authority. I never could keep any discipline because you
always fought for them, encouraged them to disobey their father,
She chanted her responses according to the familiar family antipathy
antiphony. They talked themselves out eventually; but Prue was not
home. Ollie gradually typewrote herself to sleep and Prue was not home.
Horace came in from the Y. M. C. A. bowling-alley and went to bed, and
Prue was not home.
The old heads nodded. The sentinels slept. At some dimly distant
time papa woke with a start and inquired, Huh?
Mamma jumped and gasped, Who?
They were shivering with the after-midnight chill of the cold room,
and Prue was not home. Papa snapped his watch open and snapped it shut;
and the same to his jaw:
Two o'clock! And Prue not home. I'm going after her!
He thrust into his overcoat, slapped his hat on his aching head,
flung open the door. And Prue came home.
She was alone! And in tears!
As papa's overcoat slid off his arms and his hat off his head she
tore down her gloves, tossed her cloak in the direction of the hat-tree
and stumbled up the stairs, sobbing. Her mother caught her hand.
What's the matter, honey?
Prue wrenched loose and went on up.
Father and mother stared at her, then at each other, then at the
floor. Each read the same unspeakable fear in the other's soul. Serina
ran up the stairs as fast as she could. William automatically locked
the doors and windows, turned out the lights, and followed.
He paused in the upper hall to listen. Prue was explaining at last.
It's that Orton Hippisley, Prue sobbed.
Whatwhat has he done? Serina pleaded, and Prue sobbed on:
Oh, he got fresh! Some of these fellas in this town think that
because a girl likes to have a good time and knows how to dance they
can get fresh with her. I didn't like the way Ort Hippisley held me and
I told him. Finally I wouldn't dance any more with him. I gave his
dances to Grant Beadle till the last; then Ort begged so hard I said
all right. And he danced like a gentleman. But on the way home hehe
put his arm round me. And when I told him to take it away he wouldn't.
He said I had been in his arms half the evening before folks, and if I
hadn't minded then I oughtn't to mind now. And I said: 'Is that so?
Well, it's mighty different when you're dancing.' And he said, 'Oh no,
it isn't,' and I said, 'Oh yes, it is.' And he tried to kiss me and I
hauled off and smashed him right in the nose. It bloodied all over his
dress soot, and I'm glad of it.
Somehow Papa Pepperall felt such an impulse to give three cheers
that he had to put his own hand over his mouth. He tiptoed to his room,
and when mamma appeared to announce with triumph, I guess Prue hasn't
gone to the bad yet, papa said: Who said she had? Prue is the finest
girl in America!
I thought you were saying
Why can't you ever once get me right? I was saying that Prue is too
fine a girl to be allowed to mingle with that tango set. I'm going to
cowhide that Hippisley cub. And Prue's not going to another one of
But he didn't. And she did.
Ollie was up betimes the next morning to get breakfast and make
haste to her office. She was so excited that she dropped a stove-lid on
the coalscuttle just as her mother appeared.
For mercy's sake, less noise! Serina whispered. You'll wake poor
Ollie next dropped the tray she had just unloaded on the table.
Serina was furious. Ollie whispered:
I'm so nervous for fear I've lost my job at Judge Hippisley's, now
that Prue had to go and slap Orton.
Always thinking of yourself, was Serina's rebuke. Don't be so
But Ollie's fears were wasted. Orton Hippisley might have boasted of
kisses he did not get, but not of the slaps that he did. He had gained
a new respect for Prue, and at the first opportunity pleaded for
forgiveness, eying her little fist the while. He begged her to go with
him to a dance at his home that evening.
She forgave him for the sake of the invitationand she glided and
dipped at the judge's house while Ollie spent the evening in his office
trying to finish the day's work. Her speed was not yet up to
requirements. Prue's speed was.
Other girls watched Prue manipulating her members in the intricate
mechanisms of the latest dances. They begged her to teach them, but she
laughed and said: It's easy. Just watch what I do and do the same.
So Raphael told his pupils and Napoleon his subordinates.
That night Ollie and Prue reached home at nearly the same time.
Ollie told how well she was getting along in the judge's office. Prue
told how she had made wall-flowers of everybody else in Mrs.
Hippisley's parlor. Let those who know a mother's heart decide which
daughter Serina was the prouder of, the good or the bad.
She told William about ithow Ollie had learned to type letters
with both hands and how Prue got there with both feet. And papa said,
She's a great girl!
And that was singular.
A few mornings later Judge Hippisley stopped William on the street
and spoke in his best bench manner:
Will, I hate to speak about your daughter, but I've got to.
Why, Judge, what's Ollie done? Isn't she fast enough?
Ollie's all right. I'm speaking of Prue. She's entirely too fast. I
want you to tell her to let my son alone.
My boy was clerking in Beadle's hardware-store, learning the
business and earning twelve dollars a week. And now he spends half his
time dancing with that damdaughter of yours. And Beadle is going to
fire him if he doesn't 'tend to business better.
II'll speak to Prue, was all Pepperall dared to say. The judge
had too many powers over him to be talked back to.
Papa spoke to Prue and it amused her very much. She said that old
Mr. Beadle had better speak to his own boy, who was Orton's fiercest
rival at the dances. And as for the fat old judge, he'd better take up
The following Sunday three of the Carthage preachers attacked the
tango. One of them used for his text Matthew xiv:6, and the other used
Mark vi:22. Both told how John the Baptist had lost his head over
Salome's dancing. Doctor Brearley chose Isaiah lix:7 Their feet run to
evil ... their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and
destruction are in their paths.
Mr. and Mrs. Pepperall and Ollie sat under Doctor Brearley. Prue had
slept too late to be present. Doctor Brearley blamed so many of the
evils of the world on the tango craze that if a visitor from Mars had
dropped into a pew he might have judged that the world had been an Eden
till the tango came. But then Doctor Brearley had always blamed old
things on new things.
It was a ferocious sermon, however, and the wincing Pepperalls felt
that it was aimed directly at them. When Doctor Brearley denounced
modern parents for their own godlessness and the irreligion of their
homes, William took the blame to himself. On his way home he announced
his determination to resume the long-neglected family custom of reading
from the Bible.
After the heavy Sabbath dinner had been eatenPrue was up in time
for this ritehe gathered his little flock in the parlor for a solemn
while. It had been his habit to choose the reading of the day at
randomhe called it letting the Lord decide. The big rusty-hinged
Bible fell open with a loud puff of dust several years old. Papa
adjusted his spectacles and read what he found before him:
Nehemiah x: 'Now those that sealed were, Nehemiah, the Tirshatha,
the son of Hachaliah, and Zidkijah, Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, Pashur,
Amariah, Malchijah, Hattush ...' He began to breathe hard. He was lost
in an impenetrable forest of names, and he could not pronounce one of
them. He sneaked a peek ahead, dimly made out Bunni, Hizkijah,
Magpiash and Hashub, and choked.
It looked like sacrilege, but he ventured to close the Book and open
it once more.
This time he happened on the last chapter of the Book of Judges,
wherein is the chronicle of the plight of the tribe of Benjamin, which
could not get women to marry into it. The wife famine of the Benjamites
was not in the least interesting to Mr. Pepperall, but he would not
tempt the Lord again. So he read on, while the children yawned and
shuffled, Prue especially.
Suddenly Prue sat still and listened, and papa's cough grew worse.
He was reading about the feast of the Lord in Shiloh yearly, and how
the elders of the congregation ordered the children of Benjamin to go
and lie in wait in the vineyards.
'And see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance
in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards and catch you every man
his wife of the daughters of Shiloh....
'And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives,
according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and
they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities,
and dwelt in them....
'In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that
which was right in his own eyes.
He closed the Book and stole a glance at Prue. Her eyes were so
bright with triumph that he had to say:
Of course that proves nothing about dancing. It doesn't say that
the Shiloh girls made good wives.
Prue had the impudence to add, And it doesn't say that the sons of
Benjamin were good dancers.
Her father silenced her with a scowl of horror. Then he made a long
prayer, directed more at his family than at the Lord. It apparently had
an equal effect on each. After a hymn had been mumbled through the
Prue lingered just long enough to capture the Bible and carry it off
to her room in a double embrace. Serina and William tried to be glad to
see her sudden interest, but they were a little afraid of her exact
She made no noise at all and did not come down in time to help get
supperthe sad, cold supper of a Sunday evening. She slipped into the
dining-room just before the family was called. Papa found at his plate
a neat little stack of cards, bearing each a carefully lettered legend
in Prue's writing. He picked them up, glanced at them, and flushed.
I dare you to read them, said Prue.
So he read: 'To every thing there is a season, and a time to every
purpose under the heaven ... a time to mourn and a time to dance.... He
hath made every thing beautiful in his time.' Ecclesiastes iii.
'Let them praise his name in the dance ... for the Lord taketh
pleasure in his people.... Praise him with the timbrel and dance....
Praise him upon the loud cymbals.' Psalms cxlix, cl.
'O virgin of Israel ... thou shalt go forth in the dances of them
that make merry.... Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both
young men and old together.' Jeremiah xxxi.
'We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced.' Matthew xi: 17.
'Michal, Saul's daughter, looked through a window, and saw King
David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her
heart.... Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the
day of her death.' II Samuel vi: 16, 23.
Papa did not fall back upon the Shakesperean defense that the devil
can quote Scripture to his purpose. He choked a little and filled his
hand with the apple-butter he was spreading on his cold biscuit. Then
It's not that I don't believe in dancing. I don't say all dances
You better not, said Serina, darkly. You met me at a dance. We
used to dance all the time till you got so's you wouldn't take me to
parties any more. And you got so clumsy and I began to take on flesh,
and ran short of breath like.
Oh, there's mor'l dances as well as immor'l dances, William
confessed, not knowing the history of the opposition every dance has
encountered in its younger days. The waltz now, or the lancers or the
Virginia reel. Even the two-step was all right. But this
turkey-trot-tango businessit's goin' to be the ruination of the home.
It isn't fit for decent folks to look at, let alone let their daughters
do. I want you should quit it, Prue. If you need exercise help your
mother with the housework. You go and tango round with a broom awhile.
I don't see why you don't try to help your sister, too, and make
something useful of yourself. I tell you, in these days a woman ought
to be able to earn her own living same's a man. You could get a good
position in Shillaber's dry-goods store if you only would.
Prue wriggled her shoulders impatiently and said: I guess I'm one
of those Shiloh girls. I'll just dance round awhile, and maybe some
rich Benjamin gent'man will grab me and take me off your hands.
One evening Prue came home late to supper after a session at Bertha
Appleby's. An informal gathering had convened under the disguise of a
church-society meeting, only to degenerate into a dancing-bee after a
few perfunctory formalities.
Prue had just time to seize a bite before she went to dress for a
frankly confessed dancing-bout at Eliza Erf's. As she ate with angry
voracity she complained:
I guess I'll just quit going to dances. I don't have a bit of fun
Her father started from his chair to embrace the returned prodigal,
but he dropped into Ollie's place as Prue exclaimed:
Everybody is always at me for help. 'Prue, is this right?' 'Prue,
teach me that.' 'Oh, what did you do then?' 'Is it the inside foot or
the outside you start on?' 'Do you drop on the front knee or the hind?'
'Do you do the Innovation?' Why, it's worse than teaching school!
Why don't you teach school? said William, feebly. There's going
to be a vacancy in the kindergarten.
Prue sniffed. I see myself! And went to her room to dress.
Her father sank back discouraged. What ailed the girl? She simply
would not take life seriously. She would not lift her hand to help.
When they were so poor and the future so dour, how could she keep from
earning a little money? Was she condemned to be altogether useless,
shiftless, unprofitable? A weight about her father's neck till he could
shift her to the neck of some unhappy husband?
He remembered the fable of the ant and the locust. Prue was the
locust, frivoling away the summer. At the first cold blast she would be
pleading with the industrious ant, Ollie, to take her in. In the fable
the locust was turned away to freeze, but you couldn't do that with a
human locust. The ants just have to feed them. Poor Ollie!
Munching this quinine cud of thought, he went up to bed. He was
footsore from tramping the town for work. He had covered almost as much
distance as Prue had danced. He was all in. She was just going out.
She kissed him good night, but he would not answer. She went to kiss
her mother and Ollie and Horace. Ollie was practising shorthand, and
kissed Prue with sorrowing patience. Horace dodged the kiss, but called
her attention to an article in the evening paper:
Say, Prue, if you want to get rich quick whyn't you charge for your
tango advice? Says here that teachers are springing up all over Noo
York and Chicawgo, and they get big, immense prices.
How much? said Prue, indifferently.
Says here twenty-five dollars an hour. Some of 'em's earning a
couple of thousand dollars a week.
This information went through the room like a projectile from a
coast-defense gun. Serina listened with bated breath as Horace read the
confirmation. She shook her head:
It beats all the way vice pays in this world.
Horace read on. The article described how some of the most prominent
women in metropolitan society were sponsoring the dances. A group of
ladies, whose names were more familiar to Serina than the Christian
martyrs, had rented a whole dwelling-house for a dancing couple to
disport in, so that the universal amusement could be practised
That settled Serina. Whatever Mrs. and Miss and the mother
of the Duchess of did was better than right. It was swell.
Prue's frown now was the frown of meditation. If they charge
twenty-five dollars an hour in New York, what ought to be the price in
About five cents a week, said Serina, who did not approve of
Carthage. Nobody in this town would pay anything for anything.
We used to pay old Professor Durand to teach us to waltz and
polka, said Horace, in the good old days before pop got the
That night Prue made an experiment. She danced exclusively with Ort
Hippisley and Grant Beadle, the surest-footed bipeds in the town. When
members of the awkward squad pleaded to cut in she danced away
impishly, will-o'-the-wispishly. When the girls lifted their skirts and
asked her to correct their footwork she referred them to the articles
in the magazines.
She was chiefly pestered by Idalene Brearley, daughter of the
clergyman, and his chief cross.
Finally Idalene Brearley tore Prue from the arms of Ort Hippisley,
backed her into a corner, and said:
Say, Prue, you've got to listen! I'm invited to visit the swellest
home in Council Bluffs for a house-party. They call it a week-end; that
shows how swell they are. They're going to dance all the time. When it
comes to these new dances I'm weak at both ends, head and feet. She
laughed shamelessly at her own joke, as women do. I don't want to go
there like I'd never been any place, or like Carthage wasn't up to
date. I'm just beginning to get the hang of the Maxixe and the
Hesitation, and I thought if you could give me a couple of days' real
hard work I wouldn't be such an awful gump. Could you? Do you suppose
you could? Or could you?
Prue looked such astonishment at this that Idalene hastened to say:
O' course I'm not asking you to kill yourself for nothing. How much
would you charge? Of course I haven't much saved up; but I thought if I
took two lessons a day you could make me a special rate. How much would
it be, d'you s'pose? Or what do you think?
Prue wondered. This was a new and thrilling moment for her. A boy is
excited enough over the first penny he earns, but he is brought up to
earn money. To a girl, and a girl like Prue, the luxury was almost
intolerably intense. She finally found voice to murmur:
How much you gettin' for the lessons you give?
Idalene had, for the sake of pin money, been giving a few alleged
lessons in piano, voice, water-colors, bridge whist, fancy stitching,
brass-hammering, and things like that. She answered Prue with
I get fifty cents an hour. But o' course I make a specialty of
I'm making a specialty of dancing, said Prue, coldly.
Idalene was torn between the bitterly opposite emotions of getting
and giving. Prue tried to speak with indifference, but she looked as
greedy as the old miser in the Chimes of Normandy.
Fifty cents suits me, seeing it's you.
Idalene gasped: Well, o' course, two lessons a day would be a
dollar. Could you make it six bits by wholesale?
Prue didn't see how she could. Teaching would interfere so with her
amusements. Finally Idalene sighed:
Oh, well, all right! Call it fifty cents straight. When can I come
over to your house?
To my house? gasped Prue. Papa doesn't approve of my dancing.
I'll come to yours.
Oh no, you won't, gasped Idalene. My father doesn't dream that I
dance. I'm going to let him sleep as long as I can.
Here was a plight! Mrs. Judge Hippisley strolled up and demanded,
What's all this whispering about?
They explained their predicament. Mrs. Hippisley thought it was a
perfectly wonderful idea to take lessons. She would let Prue teach
Idalene in her parlor if Prue would teach her at the same time for
Unless you think I'm too old and stupid to learn, she added,
Prue put a catfish on her hook: Oh, Mrs. Hippisley, I've seen women
much older and fatter and stupider than you dancing in Chicago.
While the hours of tuition were being discussed Bertha Appleby
tiptoed up to eavesdrop, and pleaded to be accepted as a pupil. And she
forced on the timorous Prue a quarter as her matriculation fee.
Orton Hippisley beau'd Prue home that night, and they paused in an
arcade of maples to practise a new step she had been composing in the
back of her head.
He was an apt pupil, and when they had resumed their homeward stroll
she neglected to make him take his arm away. Encouraged, he tried to
kiss her when they reached the gate. She cuffed him again, but this
time her buffet was almost a caress. She sighed:
I can't get very mad at you, you're such a quick student. I hope
your mother will learn as fast.
My mother! he exclaimed.
Yes. She wants me to teach her the one-step.
Don't you dare!
And why not? she asked, with sultry calm.
Do you think I'll let my mother carry on like that? Well, hardly!
Oh, so what I do isn't good enough for your mother!
I don't mean just that; but can't you seeWait a minute
She slammed the gate on his outstretched fingers and he went home
fondling his wound.
The next day he strolled by the parlor door at his own home, but
Prue would not speak to him and his mother was too busy to invite him
in. It amazed him to see how humble his haughty mother was before the
hitherto neglected Prue.
Prue would have felt sorrier for him if she had not been so exalted
over her earnings.
She had not let on at home about her class till she could lay the
proof of her success on the supper-table. When she stacked up the
entire two dollars that she had earned by only a few miles of trotting,
it looked like the loot the mercenaries captured in that old Carthage
which the new Carthage had never heard of.
The family was aghast. It was twice as much as Ollie had earned that
day. Ollie's money came reg'lar, of course, and would total up more
in the long run.
But for Prue to earn anything was a miracle. And in Carthage two
dollars is two dollars, at the very least.
The news that Carthage had a tango-teacher created a sensation
rivaling the advent of its first street-car. It gave the place a
metropolitan flavor. If it only had a slums district, now, it would be
a great and gloriously wicked city.
Prue was fairly besieged with applicants for lessons. Those who
could dance a few steps wanted the new steps. Those who could not dance
at all wanted to climb aboard the ark.
Mrs. Hippisley's drawing-room did not long serve its purpose. On the
third day the judge stalked in. He came home with a chill. At the sight
of his wife with one knee up, trying to paw like a horse, his chill
changed to fever. His roar was heard in the kitchen. He was so used to
domineering that he was not even afraid of his wife when he was in the
first flush of rage.
Prue and Idalene and Bertha he would have sentenced to deportation
if he had had the jurisdiction. He could at least send them home. He
threatened his wife with dire punishments if she ever took another step
of the abominable dance.
Prue was afraid of the judge, but she was not afraid of her own
father. She told him that she was going to use the parlor, and he told
her that she wasn't. The next day he came home to find the class
He peeked into the parlor and saw Bertha Appleby dancing with
Idalene Brearley. Prue was in the arms of old Tawm Kinch, the town
scoundrel, a bald and wealthy old bachelor who had lingered uncaught
like a wise old trout in a pool, though generations of girls had tried
every device, from whipping the' stream to tickling his sides. He had
refused every bait and lived more or less alone in the big old mansion
he had inherited from his skinflint mother.
At the sight of Tawm Kinch in his parlor embracing his daughter and
bungling an odious dance with her, William Pepperall saw red. He would
throw the old brute out of his house. As he made his temper ready Mrs.
Judge Hippisley hurried up the hall. She had walked round the block,
crossed two back yards and climbed the kitchen steps to throw the judge
off the scent. William could hardly make a scene before these women. He
could only protest by leaving the house.
He found that, having let the outrage go unpunished, once, it was
hard to work up steam to drive it out the second day. Also he
remembered that he had asked Tawm Kinch for a position in his
sash-and-blind factory and Tawm had said he would see about it.
Attacking Tawm Kinch would be like assaulting his future bread and
butter. He kept away from the house as much as he could, sulking like a
punished boy. One evening as he went home to supper, purposely delaying
as long as possible, he saw Tawm Kinch coming from the house. He ran
down the steps like an urchin and seized William's hand as if he had
not seen him for a long time.
Take a walk with me, Bill, he said, and led William along an
unfrequented side street. After much hemming and hawing he began:
Bill, I got a proposition to make you. I find there's a possibility of
a p'sition openin' up in the works and maybe I could fit you into it if
you'd do something for me.
William tried not to betray his overweening joy.
I'd always do anything for you, Tawm, he said. I always liked
you, always spoke well of you, which is more 'n I can say of some of
the other folks round here.
Tawm was flying too high to note the raw tactlessness of this; he
went right on:
Billor Mr. Pepperall, I'd better sayI'm simply dead gone on
that girl of yours. She's the sweetest, smartest, gracefulest thing
that ever struck this town, and when IWell, I'm afraid to ask her
m'self, but I was thinkin' if you could arrange it.
I want to marry her. I know I'm no kid, but she could have the big
house, and I can be as foolish as anybody about spending money when
I've a mind to. Prue could have 'most anything she wanted and I could
give you a good job. And then ever'body would be happy.
Papa did his best to be dignified and not turn a handspring or shout
for joy. He was like a boy trying to look sad when he learns that the
school-teacher is ill. He managed to hold back and tell Tawm Kinch that
this was kind of sudden like and he'd have to talk to the wife about
it, and o' course the girl would have to be considered.
He was good salesman enough not to leap at the first offer, and he
left Tawm Kinch guessing at the gate of the big house. To Tawm it
looked as lonely and forlorn as it looked majestic and desirable to
Papa Pepperall, glancing back over his shoulder as he sauntered home
with difficult deliberation. His heart was singing, What a place to
eat Sunday dinners at!
Once out of Tawm Kinch's range, he broke into a walk that was almost
a lope, and he rounded a corner into the portico that Judge Hippisley
carried ahead of him. When the judge had regained his breath he seized
papa by both lapels and growled:
Look here, Pepperall, I told you to keep your daughter away from my
boy, and you didn't; and now Ort has lost his job. Beadle fired him
to-day. And jobs ain't easy to get in this town, as you know. And now
what's going to happen?
William Pepperall was so exultant that he tried to say two things at
the same time; that Orton's job or loss of it was entirely immaterial
and a matter of perfect indifference. What he said was, It's material
of perfect immaterence to me.
He spurned to correct himself and stalked on, leaving the judge
gaping. A few paces off William's knees weakened at the thought of how
he had jeopardized Ollie's position; but he tossed that aside with
equal immaterence, for when Prue became Mrs. Kinch she could take
Ollie to live with her, or send her to school, or something.
When he reached home he drew his wife into the parlor to break the
glorious news to her. She was more hilarious than he had been. All
their financial problems were solved and their social position
enhanced, as if the family had suddenly been elevated to the peerage.
She was on pins and needles of impatience because Prue was late for
supper. She came down at last when the others had heard all about it
and nearly finished their food. She had her hat on, and she was in such
a hurry that she paid no attention to the fluttering of the covey, or
the prolonged throat-clearing of her father, who had difficulty in
keeping Serina from blurting out the end of the story first. At length
Well, Prue, I guess the tango ain't as bad as I made out.
You going to join the class, poppa? said Prue, round the spoonful
of preserved pears she checked before her mouth.
Her father went on: I guess you're one of those daughters of Shiloh
like you said you was. And the son of Benjamin has come right out after
you. And he's the biggest son of a gun in the whole tribe.
Prue put down the following spoonful and turned to her mother: What
ails poppa, momma? He talks feverish.
Serina fairly gurgled: Prepare yourself for the grandest surprise.
You'd never guess.
And William had to jump to beat her to the news: Tawm Kinch wants
to marry you.
What makes you think so?
He asked me.
Serina clasped her hands and her eyes filled with tears of the
rescued. Oh, Prue, ain't it wonderful? Ain't the Lord good to us?
Prue did not catch fire from the blaze. She sniffed, He wasn't very
good to Tawm Kinch.
William, bitter with disappointment, snapped: What do you mean?
He's the richest man in town. Some folks say he's as good as worth a
hundred thousand dollars.
Well, what of it? He'll never learn to dance. His feet interfere.
What's dancing got to do with it? You'll stop all that foolishness
after you've married Tawm.
Oh, will I? Ort Hippisley can dance better with one foot than Tawm
Kinch could dance if he was a centipede.
Ort Hippisley! Humph! He's lost his job and he'll never get
another. You couldn't marry him.
I'm not in any hurry to marry anybody.
The reaction from hope to confusion, the rejection of the glittering
gift he proffered, infuriated the hen-pecked, chickpecked father. He
Well, you're going to marry Tawm Kinch or you're going to get out
of my house!
Papa! gasped Ollie.
Here, dad! growled Horace.
William! cried Serina.
William thumped the table and rose to his full height. He had not
often risen to it. And his voice had an unsuspected timbre:
I mean it. I've been a worm in this house long enough. Here's where
I turn. This girl has made me a laughing-stock and a despising-stock
long enough. She can take this grand opportunity I got for her or she
can pack up her duds and clear outfor good!
He thumped the table again and sat down trembling with spent rage.
Serina was so crushed under the crumbled wall of her air-castles that
she could not protest. Olive and Horace felt that since Prue was so
indifferent to their happiness they need not consider hers. There was a
long, long silence.
The sound of a low whistle outside stole into the silence. Prue rose
and said, quietly:
Ollie, would you mind packing my things for me? I'll send over for
them when I know where I'll be.
Ollie tried to answer, but her lips made no sound. Prue kissed each
of the solemn faces round the table, including her father's. They might
have been dead in their chairs for all their response. She paused with
prophetic loneliness. That low whistle shrilled again.
She murmured a somber, Good-by, everybody, and went out.
The door closed like a dull Good-by. They heard her swift feet
slowly crossing the porch and descending the steps. They imagined them
upon the walk. They heard the old gate squeal a rusty,
It was Ort Hippisley, of course, that waited for Prue outside the
gate. They swapped bad news. She had heard that he had lost his job,
but not that his father had forbidden him to speak to Prue.
Her evil tidings that she had been compelled to choose between
marrying Tawm Kinch and banishment from home threw Ort into a panic of
dismay. He was a natural-born dancer, but not a predestined hero. He
had no inspirations for crises like these. He was as graceful as a
manly man could be, but he was not at his best when the hour was
darkest. He was at his best when the band was playing.
In him Prue found somebody to support, not to lean on. But his
distress at her distress was so complete that it endeared him to her
war-like soul more than a braver quality might have done. They stood
awhile thus in each other's arms like a Pierrot and his Columbine with
winter coming on. Finally Orton sighed:
What in Heaven's name is goin' to become of us? What you goin' to
do, Prue? Where can you go?
Prue's resolution asserted itself. The first place to go is Mrs.
Prosser's boardin'-house and get me a room. Then we can go on to the
dance and maybe that'll give us an idea.
But maybe Mrs. Prosser won't want you since your father's turned
In the first place it was me that turned me out. In the second
place Mrs. Prosser wants 'most anybody that's got six dollars a week
comin' in. And I've got that, provided I can find a room to teach in.
Mrs. Prosser welcomed Prue, not without question, not without every
question she could get answered, but she made no great bones of the
family war. The best o' families quar'ls, she said. And half the
time they take their meals with me till they quiet down. I'll be losin'
Prue broached the question of a room to teach in. To Mrs. Prosser,
renting a room had always the joy of renting a room. She said that her
poller was not used much and she'd be right glad to get something for
it. She would throw in the use of the pianna. Prue touched the keys. It
was an old boarding-house piano and sounded like a wire fence plucked;
but almost anything would serve.
So Prue and Orton hastened away to the party, and danced with the
final rapture of doing the forbidden thing under an overhanging cloud
of menace. Several more pupils enlisted themselves in Prue's classes.
Another problem was solved and a new danger commenced by Mr. Norman
The question of music had become serious. It was hard to make
progress when the dancers had to hum their own tunes. Prue could not
buy a phonograph, and the Prosser piano dated from a time when pianos
did not play themselves. Prue could tear off a few rags, as she put
it, but she could not dance and teach and play her own music all at
once. Mrs. Hippisley was afraid to lend her phonograph lest the judge
should notice its absence.
And now like a sent angel came Mr. Norman Maugans, who played the
pipe-organ at the church, and offered to exchange his services as
musician for occasional lessons and the privilege of watching Prue
dance, for which privilege, he said, folks in New York would pay a
hundred dollars a night if they knew what they was missin'.
Prue grabbed the bargain, and the next morning began to teach him to
play such things as Some Smoke and Leg of Mutton.
At first he played Girls, Run Along so that it could hardly be
told from Where Is My Wandering Boy To-night? and his waltzes were
mostly hesitation; but by and by he got so that he fairly tangoed on
the pedals, and he was so funny bouncing about on the piano-stool to
Something Seems Tingle-ingle-ingle-ingling So Queer that the pupils
stopped dancing to watch him.
The tango was upon the world like a Mississippi at flood-time. The
levees were going over one by one; or if they stood fast they stood
alone, for the water crept round from above and backed up from below.
In Carthage, as in both Portlands, Maine and Oregon, and the two
Cairos, Illinois and Egypt, the Parises of Kentucky and France, the
Yorks and Londons, old and new; in Germany, Italy, and Japan, fathers,
monarchs, mayors, editors stormed against the new dance; societies
passed resolutions; police interfered; ballet-girls declared the dances
immoral and ungraceful. The army of the dance went right on growing.
Doctor Brearley called a meeting of the chief men of his
congregation to talk things over and discipline, if not expel, all
guilty members. Deacon Luxton was in a state of mind. He dared not vote
in favor of the dance and he dared not vote against it. He and his wife
were taking lessons from Prue surreptitiously at their own home. Judge
Hippisley's voice would have been louder for war if he had not
discovered that his wife was secretly addicted to the one-step. Old
Doctor Brearley was walking about rehearsing a sermon against it when
he happened to enter a room where Idalene was practising. He wrung from
her a confession of the depth of her iniquity. This knowledge paralyzed
Sour old Deacon Flugal was loudly in favor of making an example of
Prue. His wife was even more violent. She happened to mention her
disgust to Mrs. Deacon Luxton:
I guess this'll put an end to the tango in Carthage!
Oh, I hope not! Mrs. Luxton cried.
You hope not!
Yes, I do. It has done my husband no end of good. It's taken pounds
and pounds of fat off him. It brings out the prespiration on him
something wonderful. And it's taken years off his age. He's that spry
and full of jokes and he's gettin' right spoony. He used to be a tumble
cut-up, and then he settled down so there was no livin' with him. But
now he keeps at me to buy some new clothes and he's thinkin' of gettin'
a tuxeda. His old disp'sition seems to have come back and he's as
cheerful and, oh, so affectionate! It's like a second honeymoon.
Mrs. Luxton gazed off into space with rapture. Mrs. Flugal was so
silent that Mrs. Luxton turned to see if she had walked away in
disgust. But there was in her eyes that light that lies in woman's
eyes, and she turned a delicious tomato-red as she murmured:
How much, do you s'pose, would a term of lessons cost for my
Somehow the church failed to take official action. There was loud
criticism still, but phonographs that had hitherto been silent or at
least circumspect were heard to blare forth dance rhythms, and not
always with the soft needle on.
Mrs. Prosser's boarders were mainly past the age when they were
liable to temptation. At first the presence and activities of Prue had
added a tang of much-needed spice to this desert-island existence. They
loved to stare through the door or even to sit in at the lessons. But
at the first blast of the storm that the church had set up they
scurried about in consternation. Mrs. Prosser was informed that her
boarding-house was no longer a fit place for church-fearing ladies. She
was warned to expurgate Prue or lose the others. Mrs. Prosser
regretfully banished the girl.
And now Prue felt like the locust turned away from ant-hill after
ant-hill. She walked the streets disconsolately. Her feet from old
habit led her past her father's door. She paused to gaze at the dear
front walk and the beloved frayed steps, the darling need of paint, the
time-gnawed porch furniture, the empty hammock hooks. She sighed and
would have trudged on, but her mother saw her and called to her from
the sewing-room window, and ran out bareheaded in her old wrapper.
They embraced across the gate and Serina carried on so that Prue had
to go in with her to keep the neighbors from having too good a time.
Prue told her story, and Serina's jaw set in the kind of tetanus that
mothers are liable to. She sent Horace to fetch Prue's baggage from
old Prosser's, and she re-established Prue in her former room.
When William came slumping up the steps, still jobless, he found the
doors locked, front and back, and the porch windows fastened. Serina
from an upper sill informed him that Prue was back, and he could either
accept her or go somewhere else to live.
William yielded, salving his conscience by refusing to speak to the
girl. Prue settled down with the meekness of returned prodigals for
whom fatted calves are killed. According to the old college song, The
Prod., when he got back, sued father and brother for time while
away. That was the sort of prodigal Prue was. Prue brought her classes
Papa Pepperall gave up the battle. He dared not lock his daughter in
or out or up. He must not beat her or strangle her with a bowstring or
drop her into the Bosporus. He could not sell her down the river. A
modern father has about as much authority as a chained watch-dog. He
can jump about and bark and snap, but he only abrades his own throat.
There were Pepperall feuds all over town. One by one the most
conservative were recruited or silenced.
William Pepperall, however, still fumed at home and abroad, and
Judge Hippisley would have authorized raids if there had been any
places to raid. Thus far the orgies had been confined to private walls.
There was, indeed, no place in Carthage for public dancing except the
big room in the Westcott Block over Jake Meyer's restaurant, and that
room was rented to various secret societies on various nights.
Prue's class outgrew the parlor, spread to the dining-room, and
trickled into the kitchen. Here the growth had to stop, till it was
learned that if Mr. Maugans played very loud he could be heard in the
bedrooms up-stairs. And there a sort of University Extension was
practised for ladies only.
And still the demand for education increased. The benighted held out
hands pleading for help. Young men and old offered fabulous sums, a
dollar a lesson, two dollars! Prue decided that if her mother would
stay up-stairs as a chaperon it would be proper to let the men dance
But how am I going to cook the meals? said mamma.
We'll hire a cook, said Prue. And it was done. She even bought
mamma a new dress, and established her above-stairs as a sort of grand
Mamma watched Prue with such keenness that now and then, when Prue
had to rush down-stairs, mamma would sometimes solve a problem for one
of Prue's scholars, as she called them.
One day papa came home to his pandemonium, jostled through the
couple-cluttered hall, stamped up-stairs, and found mamma showing
Deacon Flugal how to do the drop-step.
You trot four short steps backward, mamma was saying, then you
make a little dip; but don't swing your shoulders. Prue says if you
want to dance refined you mustn't swing your shoulders or
youryourthe rest of you.
Papa was ready to swing his shoulders and drop the deacon through
the window, but as he was about to protest the deacon caught mamma in
his arms and swept backward, dropping his fourth step incisively on
papa's instep, rendering papa hors de combat.
By the time William had rubbed witch-hazel into the deacon's
heel-mark, the deacon in a glorious prespiration had gone home with
his own breathless wife ditto. William dragged Serina into the
bathroom, the only room where dancing was not in progress. He warned
her not to forget that she had sworn to be a faithful wife. She
pooh-poohed him and said:
You'd better learn to dance yourself. Come on, I'll show you the
Jedia Luna. It's very easy and awful refined. Do just like I do.
She put her hands on her hips and began to sidle. She had him nearly
sidled into the bathtub before he could escape with the cry of a hunted
animal. At supper he thumped the table with another of his resolutions,
My house was not built for a dance-hall!
That's right, poppa, said Prue; and it shakes so I'm afraid it'll
come down on us. I've been thinking that you'll have to hire me the
lodge-room in the Westcott Block. I can give classes there all day.
He refused flatly. So she persuaded Deacon Flugal and several
gentlemen who were on the waiting-list of her pupils to arrange it for
And now all day long she taught in the Westcott Block. The noise of
her music interfered with businesswith lawyers and dentists and
insurance agents. At first they were hostile, then they were
hypnotized. Lawyer and client would drop a title discussion to quarrel
over a step. The dentist's forceps would dance along the teeth, and
many an uncomplaining bicuspid was wrenched from its happy home, many
an uneasy molar assumed a crown. The money Prue made would have been
scandalous if money did not tend to become self-sterilizing after it
passes certain dimensions.
By and by the various lodge members found their meetings and their
secret rites to be so stupid, compared with the new dances, that almost
nobody came. Quorums were rare. Important members began to resign.
Everybody wanted to be Past Grand Master of the Tango.
The next step was the gradual postponement of meetings to permit of
a little informal dancing in the evening. The lodges invited their
ladies to enter the precincts and revel. Gradually the room was given
over night and day to the worship of Saint Vitus.
The solution of every human problem always opens another. People
danced themselves into enormities of appetite and thirst. It was not
that food was attractive in itself. Far from it. It was an
interruption, a distraction from the tango; a base streak of
materialism in the bacon of ecstasy. But it was necessary in order that
strength might be kept up for further dancing.
Deacon Flugal put it happily: Eating is just like stoking. When I'm
giving a party at our house I hate to have to leave the company and go
down cellar and throw coal in the furnace. But it's got to be did or
the party's gotter stop.
Carthage had one good hotel and two bad ones, but all three were
down near the deepo. Almost the only other place to eat away from
home was Jake Meyer's Place, an odious restaurant where the food was
ill chosen and ill cooked, and served in china of primeval shapes as if
stone had been slightly hollowed out.
Prue was complaining that there was no place in Carthage where
people could dance with their meals and give teas donsons. Horace was
smitten with a tremendous idea.
Why not persuade Jake Meyer to clear a space in his rest'runt like
they do in Chicawgo?
Prue was enraptured, and Horace was despatched to Jake with the
proffer of a magnificent opportunity. Horace cannily tried to extract
from Jake the promise of a commission before he told him. Jake
promised. Then Horace sprang his invention.
Now Jake was even more bitter against the tango than Doctor
Brearley, Judge Hippisley, or Mr. Pepperall. The bar annex to his
restaurant, or rather the bar to which his restaurant was annexed, had
been almost deserted of evenings since the vicious dance mania raged.
The bowling-alley where the thirst-producing dust was wont to arise in
clouds was mute. Over his head he heard the eternal Maugans and the
myriad-hoofed shuffle of the unceasing dance. When he understood what
Horace proposed he emitted the roar of an old uhlan, and the only
commission he offered Horace was the commission of murder upon his
Horace retreated in disorder and reported to Prue. Prue called upon
Jake herself, smilingly told him that all he needed to do was to crowd
his tables together round a clear space, revolutionize his menu, get a
cook who would cook, and spend about five hundred dollars on
Five hundret thalers! Jake howled. I sell you de whole shop for
five hundret thalers.
I'll think it over, said Prue as she walked out.
She could think over all of it except the five hundred dollars. She
had never thought that high. She told Horace, and he said that the way
to finance anything was to borrow the money from the bank.
Prue called on Clarence Dolge, the bank president she knew best. He
asked her a number of personal questions about her earnings. He was
surprised at their amount and horrified that she had saved none of
them. He advised her to start an account with him; but she reminded him
that she had not come to put in, but to take out.
He said that he would cheerfully lend her the money if she could get
a proper indorsement on her note. She knew that her father did not
indorse her dancing, but perhaps he might feel differently about her
I might get poppa to sign his name, she smiled.
Mr. Dolge exclaimed, No, thank you! without a moment's hesitation.
He already had a sheaf of papa's autographs, all duly protested.
She went to another bank, whose president announced that he would
have to put the very unusual proposal before the directors. Judge
Hippisley was most of the directors. The president did not report
exactly what the directors said, for Prue, after all, was a woman. But
she did not get the five hundred.
Prue had set her heart on providing Carthage with a café dansant. She determined to save her money. Prue saving!
It was hard, too, for shoes gave out quickly and she could not wear
the same frock all the time. And sometimes at night she was so tired
she just could not walk home and she rode home in a hack. A number of
young men offered to buggy-ride her home or to take her in their little
automobiles. But they, too, seemed to confuse art and business with
Sometimes she would ask Ort to ride home with her, but she wouldn't
let him pay for the hack. Indeed he could not if he would. His devotion
to Prue's school had cost him his job, and the judge would not give him
Sometimes in the hack Prue would permit Ort to keep his arm round
her. Sometimes when he was very doleful she would have to ask him to
put it round her. But it was all right, because they were going to get
married when Orton learned how to earn some money. He was afraid he
would have to leave Carthage. But how could he tear himself from Prue?
She would not let him talk about it.
Now the fame of Prue and her prancing was not long pent up in
Carthage. Visitors from other towns saw her work and carried her
praises home. Sometimes farmers, driving into town, would hear Mr.
Maugans's music through the open windows. Their daughters would climb
the stairs and peer in and lose their taste for the old dances, and
wistfully entreat Prue to learn them them newfangled steps.
In the towns smaller than Carthage the anxiety for the tango
fermented. A class was formed in Oscawanna, and Prue was bribed to come
over twice a week and help.
Clint Sprague, the manager of the Carthage Opera House, which was
now chiefly devoted to moving pictures, with occasional interpolations
of vaudeville, came home from Chicago with stories of the enormous
moneys obtained by certain tango teams. He proposed to book Prue in a
chain of small theaters round about, if she could get a dancing
partner. She said she had one.
Sprague wrote glowing letters to neighboring theater-managers, but,
being theater-managers, they were unable to know what their publics
wanted. They declined to take any risks, but offered Sprague their
houses at the regular rental, leaving him any profits that might
Clint glumly admitted that it wouldn't cost much to try it out in
Oscawanna. He would guarantee the rental and pay for the show-cards and
the dodgers; Prue would pay the fare and hotel bills of herself, her
partner, and Mr. Maugans.
Prue hesitated. It was an expense and a risk. Prue cautious! She
would take nobody for partner but Orton Hippisley. Perhaps he could
borrow the money from his father. She told him about it, and he was
wild with enthusiasm. He loved to dance with Prue. To invest money in
enlarging her fame would be divine.
He saw the judge. Then he heard him.
He came back to Prue and told her in as delicate a translation as he
could manage that it was all off. The judge had bellowed at him that
not only would he not finance his outrageous escapade with that
shameless Pepperall baggage, but if the boy dared to undertake it he
would disown him.
Now you'll have to go, said Prue, grimly.
But I have no money, honey, he protested, miserably.
I'll pay your expenses and give you half what I get, she said.
He refused flatly to share in the profits. His poverty consented to
accept the railroad fare and food enough to dance on. And he would pay
that back the first job he got.
Then Prue went to Clint Sprague and offered to pay the bills if he
would give her three-fourths of the profits. He fumed; but she drove a
good bargain. Prue driving bargains! At last he consented, growling.
When Prue announced the make-up of her troupe there was a cyclone in
her own home. Papa was as loud as the judge.
You goin' gallivantin' round the country with that Maugans idiot
and that young Hippisley scoundrel? Well, I guess not! You've disgraced
us enough in our own town, without spreading the poor but honorable
name of Pepperall all over Oscawanna and Perkinsville and Athens and
The worn-out, typewritten-out Ollie pleaded against Prue's
lawlessness. It would be sure to cost her her place in the judge's
office. It was bad enough now.
Even Serina, who had become a mere echo of Prue, herself went so far
as to say, Really, Prue, you know!
Prue thought awhile and said: I'll fix that all right. Don't you
worry. There'll be no scandal. I'll marry the boy.
And she did! Took ten dollars from the hiding-place where she banked
her wealth, and took the boy to an Oscawanna preacher, and telegraphed
home that he was hers and she his and both each other's.
The news spread like oil ablaze on water. Mrs. Hippisley had
consented to take lessons of Prue, but she had never dreamed of losing
her eldest son to her. She and Serina had quite a run-in on the
telephone. William and the judge almost had a fight-outand right on
Main Street, too.
Each accused the other of fathering a child that had decoyed away
and ruined the life of the other child. Both were so scorched with
helpless wrath that each went home to his bed and threatened to bite
any hand that was held out in comfort. Judge Hippisley had just
strength enough to send word to poor Olive that she was fired.
The next news came the next day. Oscawanna had been famished for a
sight of the world-sweeping dances. It turned out in multitudes to see
the famous Carthage queen in the new steps. The opera-house there had
not held such a crowd since William J. Bryan spoke therethe time he
did not charge admission. According to the Oscawanna Eagle:
This enterprising city paid one thousand dollars to see Peerless Prue
Pepperall dance with her partner Otto Hipkinson. What you got to say
about that, ye scribes of Carthage?
Like the corpse in Ben King's poem, Judge Hippisley sat up at the
news and said: What's that? And when the figures were repeated he
dropped dead again.
The next day word was received that Perkinsville, jealous of
Oscawanna, had shoveled twelve hundred dollars into the drug-store
where tickets were sold. Two sick people had nearly died because they
couldn't get their prescriptions filled for twelve hours, and the mayor
of the town had had to go behind the counter and pick out his own
The Athens theater had been sold out so quickly that the town hall
was engaged for a special matinée. Athens paid about fifteen hundred
dollars. The Athenians had never suspected that there was so much money
in town. People who had not paid a bill for months managed to dig up
cash for tickets.
Indignant Oscawanna wired for a return engagement, so that those who
had been crowded out could see the epoch-making dances. Those who had
seen them wanted to see them again. In the mornings Prue gave lessons
to select classes at auction prices.
Wonderful as this was, unbelievable, indeed, to Carthage, it was not
surprising. This blue and lonely dispeptic world has always been ready
to enrich the lucky being that can tempt its palate with something it
wants and didn't know it wanted. Other people were leaping from poverty
to wealth all over the world for teaching the world to dance again.
Prue caught the crest of the wave that overswept a neglected region.
The influence of her success on her people and her neighbors was
bound to be overwhelming. The judge modulated from a contemptuous
allusion to that Pepperall cat to my daughter-in-law. Prue's
father, who had never watched her dance, had refused to collaborate
even that far in her ruination, could not continue to believe that she
was entirely lost when she was so conspicuously found.
Perhaps he was right. Perhaps the world is so wholesome and so well
balanced that nobody ever attained enormous prosperity without some
excuse for it. People who contribute the beauty, laughter, thrills, and
rhythm to the world may do as much to make life livable as people who
invent electric lights and telephones and automobiles. Why should they
not be paid handsomely?
Prue, the impossible, unimaginable Prue, triumphed home safely with
several thousands of dollars in her satchel. Orton bought a revolver to
guard it with, and nearly shot one of his priceless feet off with it.
They dumped the money upon the shelf of the banker who had refused to
lend Prue five hundred dollars. He had to raise the steel grating to
get the bundle in. The receiving teller almost fainted and had to count
Clint Sprague alone was disconsolate. He had refused to risk Prue's
expenses, had forced her to take the lioness's share of the actual
costs and the imaginary profits. He almost wept over what he might have
had, despising what he had.
Prue ought to have been a wreck; but there is no stimulant like
success. In a boat-race the winning crew never collapses. Prue's mother
begged her to rest; her doctor warned her that she would drop dead. But
she smiled, If I can die dancing it won't be so bad.
Even more maddeningly joyful than the dancing now was the rhapsody
of income. To be both Salome and Hetty Green! Mr. Dolge figured out her
income. At any reasonable rate of interest it represented a capital far
bigger than Tawm Kinch's mythical hundred thousand. Mr. Dolge said to
Bill, your daughter is the richest man in town. Any time you want
to borrow a little money, get her name on your note and I'll be glad to
let you have it.
Somehow his little pleasantry brought no smile to William's face. He
You mind your own business and I'll mind mine.
Oh, I suppose you don't have to borrow it, Dolge purred; she just
gives it to you.
William almost wept at this humiliation.
Prue bought out Jake Meyer's restaurant. She spent a thousand
dollars on its decoration. She consoled Ollie with a position as her
secretary at twenty-five dollars a week and bought her some new
Her mother scolded poor Ollie for being such a stick as not to be
able to dance like her sister and having to be dependent on her. There
was something hideously immoral and disconcerting about this success.
But then there always is. Prue was whisked from the ranks of the
resentful poor to those of the predatory rich.
Prue established Horace as cashier of the restaurant. She wanted to
make her father manager, but he could not bend his pride to the yoke of
taking wages from his child. If she had come home in disgrace and
repentance he could have been a father to her.
The blossoming of what had been Jake Meyer's place into what
Carthage called the Palais de Pepperall was a festival indeed. The
newspapers, in which at Horace's suggestion Prue advertised lavishly,
gave the event head-lines on the front page. The article included a
complete catalogue of those present. This roster of forty Mesdames
was thereafter accepted as the authorized beadroll of the Carthage Four
Hundred. Mrs. Hippisley was present and as proud as Judy. But the judge
and William Pepperall were absent, and Prue felt an ache in a heart
that should have been so full of pride. She and Orton rode home in a
hack and she cried all the way. In fact, he had to stick his head out
and tell the driver to drive round awhile until she was calm enough to
A few days later, as Prue was hurrying along the street looking over
a list of things she had to purchase for her restaurant, she
encountered old Doctor Brearley, who was looking over a list of
subscribers to the fund for paying the overdue interest on the mortgage
on the new steeple. He was afraid the builders might take it down.
In trying to pass each other Prue and the preacher fell into an
involuntary tango step that delighted the witnesses. When Doctor
Brearley had recovered his composure, and before he had adjusted his
spectacles, he thought that Prue was Bertha Appleby, and he said:
Ah, my dear child, I was just going to call on you and see if you
couldn't contribute a little to help us out in this very worthy cause.
Prue let him explain, and then she said:
Tell you what I'll do, Doctor: I'll give you the entire proceeds of
my restaurant for one evening. And I'll dance for you with my husband.
Doctor Brearley was aghast when he realized the situation. He was
afraid to accept; afraid to refuse. He was in an excruciating dilemma.
Prue had mercy on him. She said:
I'll just announce it as an idea of my own. You needn't have
anything to do with it.
The townspeople were set in a turmoil over Prue's latest audacity.
Half the church members declared it an outrage; the other half decided
that it gave them an opportunity to see her dance under safe auspices.
The restaurant was crowded with unfamiliar faces, terrified at what
they were to witness. Doctor Brearley had not known what to do. It
seemed so mean to stay away and so perilous to go. His daughter solved
the problem by telling him that she would say she had made him come. He
went so far as to let her drag him in. But just for a moment, he
explained. He really must leave immediately after Mr. and Mrs.
Hippisley'serexercises. He apparently apologized to the other
guests, but really to an outraged heaven.
He trembled with anxiety on the edge of his chair. The savagery of
the music alarmed him. When Prue walked out with her husband the old
Doctor was distressed by her beauty. Then they danced and his heart
thumped; but subtly it was persuaded to thump in the measure of that
unholy Maxixe. He did not know that outside in the street before the
two windows stood two exiled fathers watching in bitter loneliness.
He saw a little love drama displayed, and reminded himself that,
after all, some critics said that the Song of Solomon was a kind of
wedding drama or dance. After all, Mrs. Hippisley was squired by her
perfectly proper and very earnest young husbandthough Orton in his
black clothes was hardly more than her shifting shadow.
The old preacher had been studying his Cruden, and bolstering
himself up, too, with the very Scriptural texts that Prue had written
out for her stiff-necked father. He had met other texts that she had
not known how to find. The idea came to the preacher that, in a sense,
since God made everything He must have made the dance, breathed its
impulse into the clay.
This daughter of Shiloh was an extraordinarily successful piece of
workmanship. There was nothing very wicked surely about that coquettish
bending of her head, those playful escapes from her husband's embrace,
that heel-and-toe tripping, that lithe elusiveness, that joyous
psalmody of youth.
Prue was so pretty and her ways so pretty that the old man felt the
pathos of beauty, so fleet, so fleeting, so lyrical, so full ofAlas!
The tears were in his eyes, and he almost applauded with the others
when the dance was finished. He bowed vaguely in the direction of the
anxious Prue and made his way out. She felt rebuked and condemned and
would not be comforted by the praise of others. She did not know that
the old preacher had encountered on the sidewalk Judge Hippisley.
Doctor Brearley had forgotten that the judge had not yet ordered his
own decision reversed, and he thought he was saying the unavoidable
thing when he murmured:
Ah, Judge, how proud you must be of your dear son's dear wife. I
fancy that Miriam, the prophetess, must have danced something like that
on the banks of the Red Sea when the Egyptians were overthrown.
Then he put up the umbrella he always carried and stumbled back to
his parsonage under the star-light. His heart was dancing a trifle, and
he escaped the scene of wrath that broke out as soon as he was away.
For William Pepperall had a lump in his throat made up of equal
parts of desire to cry and desire to fight, and he said to Judge
Hippisley with all truculence:
Look here, Judge! I understand you been jawin' round this town
about my daughter not being all she'd ought to be. Now I'm goin' to put
a stop to that jaw of yours if I have to slam it right through the top
of your head. If you want to send me to jail for contemp' of court,
sentence me for life, because that's the way I feel about you, you fat
Judge Hippisley put up wide-open hands and protested:
Why, Bill, II just been wonderin' how I could get your daughter
to make up with me. I been afraid to ask her for fear she'd just think
I was toadyin' to her. I think she's the finest girl ever came out of
Carthage. Do you suppose she'd make up andand come over to our house
to dinner Sunday?
Let's ask her, said William, and they walked in at the door.
Early one morning about six months from the first dismal Monday
morning after William Pepperall's last bankruptcy, Serina wakened to
find that William was already up. She had been oversleeping with that
luxury which a woman can experience only in an expensive and frilly
nightie combined with hemstitched linen sheets. She opened her heavy
and slumber-contented eyes to behold her husband in a suit of
partly-silk pajamas. He was making strange motions with his feet. What
on earth you doing there? she yawned, and William grinned.
Yestiddy afternoon the judge was showin' me a new step in this Max
Hicks dance. It's right cute. Goes like this.
Mamma Pepperall watched him cavort a moment, then sniffed
contemptuously, and rolled out like a fireman summoned.
Not a bit like it! It goes like this.
A few minutes later the door opened and Ollie put her head in.
For Heaven's sake be quiet! You'll wake Prue, and she's all wore
out; and she's only got an hour more before they have to get up and
take the train for Des Moines.
The old rascals promised to be good, but as soon as she had gone
they wrangled in whispers and danced on tiptoes. Suddenly Prue put her
head in at the door and gasped:
What in Heaven's name are you and poppa up to? Do you want to wake
Papa had to explain:
I got a new step, Prue. Goes like this. Come on, momma.
Serina shyly took her place in his arms; but they had taken only a
few strides when Prue hissed:
Sh-h! Don't do it! Stop it!
In the first place it's out of date. And in the second place it's
Then the hard-working locust, having rebuked the frivolous ants,
went back to bed.