by Elizabeth Jordan
LADY O' DREAMS
II. THE EXORCISM
OF LILY BELL
III. HER LAST
IV. THE SIMPLE
V. HIS BOY
VII. IN MEMORY
VIII. THE QUEST
OF AUNT NANCY
IX. THE HENRY
X. THE CASE OF
I. VARICK'S LADY O' DREAMS
Varick laid down the book with which he had beguiled an hour of the
night, turned off the electric light in the shaded globe that hung
above his head, pulled the sheets a little nearer his chin, reversed
his pillow that he might rest his cheek more gratefully on the cooler
linen, stretched, yawned, and composed himself to slumber with an
absolutely untroubled conscience.
He was an eminently practical and almost rudely healthy young man,
with an unreflecting belief in the existence of things he had seen,
and considerable doubt concerning those which he had not seen. In his
heart he regarded sentiment as the expression of a flabby nature in a
feeble body. Once or twice he had casually redressing-case, with its
array of silver toilet articles, the solid front of his chiffonnier,
the carved arms of his favorite lounging-chair, even the etchings and
prints on the walls. Suddenly, as he looked at these familiar objects,
a light haze fell over them, giving him for an instant the impression
that a gauze curtain had been dropped between them and his eyes. They
slowly melted away, and in their place he saw the streets of a tiny
village in some foreign country which he did not know. A moment later,
in what seemed at the time a perfectly natural transition from his bed
in an Adirondack club-house, he was walking up the streets of the
little town, in correct tourist attire, looking in vain for a familiar
landmark, and with a strange sinking of the heart. How he got there,
or why he was there, was equally incomprehensible to him. It was high
noon of a warm summer day, and the red roofs of the old buildings
seemed to glow in the heat. Before him, at the end of the street down
which he was walking, was a public square where marketing was going on
in the open. It was crowded with men and women in picturesque peasant
costumes he did not recognize, though he had travelled a great deal.
As he drew nearer he heard them speaking, but discovered that their
tongue was as unknown to him as their garb. He knew French, German,
and Italian well; he had, in addition, a smattering of Spanish, and
was familiar with the accents of Slavic tongues. But this babel that
met his ears was something new. Taken in connection with the rest of
the experience, the discovery sent a cold chill down the spinal column
of Mr. Lawrence Varick. For the first time in his debonair life he was
afraid, and admitted it inwardly, with a sudden whitening of the lips.
"It's so infernally queer," he told himself, uneasily. "If I could
remember how I got here, or if I knew anything about the place—"
"Have you classified them?" asked a voice at his elbow. It was
feminine, contralto, and exquisitely modulated. The words were
English, but spoken with a slight foreign accent. With a leap of the
heart Varick turned and looked at the speaker.
She was young, he saw at once—twenty-two, twenty-three, possibly
twenty-four. He inclined to the last theory as he observed her perfect
poise and self-possession. She was exquisitely dressed; he realized
that despite the dimness of masculine perception on such points, and,
much more clearly, saw that she was beautiful. She was small, and the
eyes she raised to his were large and deeply brown, with long black
lashes that matched in color the wavy hair under her coquettish hat.
As he stared at her, with surprise, relief, and admiration struggling
in his boyishly handsome face, she smiled, and in that instant the
phlegmatic young man experienced a new sensation. His own white teeth
flashed as he smiled back at her. Then he remembered that it was
necessary to reply to her question.
"I—I—beg your pardon," he stammered, "a—a thousand times. But to
tell you the truth, I'm—I'm horribly confused this morning. I—I
don't seem, somehow, to place myself yet. And I can't understand what
these people say. So, when you spoke English it was such a relief—"
He stopped suddenly and turned a rich crimson. It had occurred to
him that this incoherent statement was not quite the one to win
interest and admiration from a strange and exceedingly attractive
woman. What would she think of him? Perhaps that he was intoxicated,
or insane. Varick's imagination, never lively, distinguished itself
during the next few seconds by the stirring possibilities it presented
to his mind. He grew redder, which was very unfortunate, and shuffled
miserably from one foot to the other, until he noticed that she was
looking at him with a glance that was entirely dignified yet very
friendly. It had an oddly sympathetic quality in it as well. His
spirits rose a trifle.
"You must think me an awful duffer," he murmured, contritely. "I'm
not always like this, I assure you."
"I know," she assented. "I understand. Walk on with me. Possibly I
may be able to help you."
He bowed assent and the two walked toward the crowded square.
"You're awfully good," he said, feeling reassured, yet still boyish
and embarrassed. "I don't want to be a nuisance, but if you'll just
put me right, somehow—start me on a path that will lead me home—"
The entire idiocy of this struck him. He stopped again, then burst
into his contagious, youthful laughter, in which she instantly joined.
The mellow contralto and the clear tenor formed a soft and pleasant
duet, but Varick noticed that not a head in the crowd around them
turned their way, nor did an eye of all the peasant throng give them a
glance. He spoke of this to his companion as they continued their
"The most surprising thing to me in all this—unusualness," he
said, "is the cool manner in which these beggars ignore us. You know
how such people gape, usually; but not a soul among all these people
seems to know we're here."
She looked at him with a gentle amusement and sympathy in her brown
"That is not surprising," she said, quietly. "For, you know, we are
Varick stopped for the second time and stared at her, with a
repetition of that new and annoying sinking in the region of his
heart. Her words were certainly disconcerting, but she herself was
delightfully human and most reassuringly natural. She had walked on,
and he tried to fall into her mood as he overtook her.
"Where are we, then?" he asked, with a short and not especially
Her smooth brow wrinkled for a moment.
"I do not know," she said, frankly. "That is, I do not know this
place, where we think we are, though I have been here before,
and the experience does not frighten me now. But I know where we really are. You are asleep somewhere in America, and I—but oh, my
dear, my dear, you're going to wake!"
The clock that was somewhere struck three. Varick, sitting up in
his bed with eyes staring into the darkness, saw again his familiar
room, the dim light, the silver, the dressing-case, the pictures. He
sprang to the door opening into the hall, and tried it. It was bolted,
as he had left it. So was the other door leading into his
sitting-room. The darkness around him still seemed full of the refrain
of the words he had just heard—where?
"Oh, my dear, my dear, you're going to wake!" And her
Varick got into bed again, in a somewhat dazed condition, with a
tremor running through it. Very slowly he straightened himself out,
very slowly he pulled up the bedclothes. Then he swore solemnly into
the obscurity of the room.
"Well, of—all—the—dreams!" he commented, helplessly.
As the months passed, after Varick got back to town and into the
whirl of city life, he recalled his dream, frequently at first, then
more rarely, and finally not at all. It was almost a year later when,
one night, lying half awake, he saw again the fine, transparent,
screen- like veil enshroud the objects in his bedroom. It was winter,
and a great log was burning in the large fireplace. He had tried to
choke the flames with ashes before he went to bed, but the wood had
blazed up again and he had lain quiet, awaiting slumber and blinking
indifferently at the light. His bedroom overlooked Fifth Avenue. There
was a large club-house just opposite his house, and cabs and carriages
still came and went. Varick heard the slam of carriage doors, the
click of horses' hoofs on the wet asphalt, and congratulated himself
on the common-sense which had inspired him to go to bed at eleven
instead of joining the festive throng across the street. He had
dutifully spent the morning in his father's offices, and then, with a
warming sense of virtue, had run out of town for a late luncheon and a
trial of hunters. To-night he was pleasantly tired, but not drowsy.
When the curtain fell before his surroundings, and he saw them melting
imperceptibly into others quite foreign to them, he at once recalled
the similar experience of the year before. With a little quickening of
his steady heart-beats, he awaited developments.
Yes, here was the old town, with its red roofs, its quaint
architecture, its crowded, narrow, picturesque streets. But this time
they seemed almost deserted, and the whole effect of the place was
bleak and dreary. The leaves had dropped from the trees, the flowers
had faded, the vines that covered the cottage walls were brown and
bare. He was pleasantly conscious of the warmth of a sable-lined coat
he had brought from Russia two years before. He thrust his gloved
hands deep into its capacious pockets and walked on, his eyes turning
to right and left as he went. At intervals he saw a bulky masculine
figure, queerly dressed, turn a corner or enter a house. Once or twice
one came his way and passed him, but no one looked at him or spoke.
For a moment Varick was tempted to knock at one of the inhospitably
closed doors and ask for information and directions, but something—he
did not know what—restrained him.
When she appeared it was as suddenly as she had come before, with
no warning, no approach. She was at his elbow—a bewitching thing of
furs and feminine beauty, French millinery and cordiality. She held
out her small hand with a fine camaraderie.
"Is it not nice?" she asked at once. "I was afraid I should arrive
first and have to wait alone. I would not have liked that."
He held her hand close, looking down at her from his great height,
his gray eyes shining into hers.
"Then you knew—you were coming?" he asked, slowly.
"Not until the moment before I came. But when I saw the curtain
"You saw that, too? A thin, gauzy thing, like a transparency?"
He relapsed into silence for a moment, as he unconsciously adapted
his stride to hers, and they walked on together as naturally as if it
were an every-day occurrence.
"What do you make of it all?" he at length asked.
She shrugged her shoulders with a little foreign gesture which
seemed to him, even then, very characteristic.
"I do not know. It frightened me—a little—at first. Now it does
not, for it always ends and I awake—at home."
"Where is that?"
"I may not tell you," she said, slowly. "I do not quite know why,
but I may not. Possibly you may know some time. You, I think, are an
He stared hard at her, his smooth face taking on a strangely solemn
"You mean to say," he persisted, "that this is all a dream—that
you and I, instead of being here, are really asleep somewhere, on
"We are asleep," she said, "on different continents, as you say.
Whether we are dreaming or whether our two souls are taking a little
excursion through space—oh, who shall say? Who can question the
wonderful things which happen in this most wonderful world? I have
ceased to question, but I have also ceased to fear."
He made no reply. Somewhere, in the back of his head, lay fear—a
very definite, paralyzing fear—that something was wrong with him or
with her or with them both. Instead of being in the neutral
border-land of dreams, had he not perhaps passed the tragic line
dividing the normal mind from the insane? She seemed to read his
thoughts, and her manner became more gentle, almost tender.
"Is it so very dreadful?" she asked, softly. "We are together, you
know, my friend. Would it not be worse to wander about alone?"
With a great effort he pulled himself together.
"Infinitely," he said, with gratifying conviction. "And
you're—you're a trump, you know. I'm ashamed of acting like such a
boor. If you'll bear with me I'll try from now on to be more like a
man and less like a fretful ghost."
She clapped her hands.
"Capital!" she cried. "I knew you would—what is the word?—oh
yes— adapt yourself. And it is only for a little while. You
will wake very soon. But you ought to enjoy it while it lasts. There
are many amusing things about it all."
Varick reflected grimly that it was the "amusing things" which
occasioned his perturbation, but he kept his reflection to himself and
smiled down at her sunnily.
"For example," she continued, "as we really do not exist here, and
as we are not visible to these people, we cannot do anything that will
affect them in any way or attract their attention. Look at that!"
They were passing a small house whose front door, opening on the
street, stood ajar. Within they could see a stout woman standing at a
tub and washing busily, and a little girl pouring hot water from a
quaint kettle into a large pan full of soiled blue dishes. The pan
stood near the edge of a wooden table, and the little girl was perched
on a stool just high enough to bring her on a level with her work.
"You are, I am sure, a fine athlete," murmured the woman. "Or else
your looks belie you," she added, with a roguish upward glance. "Yet
with all your strength you cannot push that pan of dishes off the
Without a word, Varick passed through the doorway, strode into the
house and up to the table. She followed him closely. He attempted to
seize the pan in his powerful hands—and, to his horror, discovered
that they held nothing. The pan remained on the table and the child
was now unconcernedly washing the blue dishes, humming a little folk-
song as she worked. As if to add to the irony of the situation, the
small laborer quietly lifted the pan and moved it to a position she
thought more convenient. This was the last touch. With a stifled
murmur of intense exasperation, Varick put forth all his strength in a
supreme effort. The pan fell, the water and broken blue dishes
covering the floor. He sprang back and stood aghast, gazing at the
havoc he had wrought.
"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" murmured the voice at his side. "I never
dreamed you could do it, or I would not have suggested it. Oh, oh, the
poor little darling!"
For the stout woman at the tub had hastily dropped her work,
crossed the room, and was soundly chastising the unhappy infant who
she supposed was responsible for the mischief. Varick caught her arm.
"Oh, I say," he cried, "this won't do at all! She didn't do it; it
was all my fault. I'll pay for the things. Here—here—"
He fumbled in his pockets as he spoke and pulled out several gold
pieces. But the fat arm of the old woman offered no resistance to his
grasp, and the gold pieces did not exist for her. It was evident that
she saw neither him nor them, nor the woman with him. With an
unsparing hand she spanked the child, whose voice rose in shrill
lamentations. Varick and his companion in guilt crept out of the room
with a sense of great helplessness upon them, and he breathed a long
breath of relief at finding himself—in bed, with a cold February sun
shining in through his windows, and the faithful Parker at his side
with the quieting announcement that his bath was ready.
One of Varick's boon companions in camp and hunting excursions was
a distinguished New York specialist in nervous diseases. A day or two
later Varick found it convenient to drop into this man's office and,
quite casually, tell him the story of his dreams, giving it various
light touches that he fondly imagined concealed the anxiety that lay
beneath the recital. "Recurrent dreams," he then learned, were a very
common human experience and not deserving of much attention.
"Don't think about it," said his friend. "Of course, if you worry
over it, you'll be dreaming it all the time. Send this 'personally
conducted tour' to me if you don't like it. I don't mind meeting
pretty women who are 'dreams,' whether in the flesh or out of it."
As time went on and the dream did not return, Varick decided that
he would not mind, either. He thought of her a great deal; he even
longed for her. Eventually he deliberately tried to induce the dream
by going to bed early, putting himself in the proper mental attitude,
as he conceived it, and staring wide-eyed into his dimly lighted room.
But only once in eighteen months was he even partly successful. Then
he saw the haze, saw the familiar streets, saw her far, far ahead of
him, and hurrying onward, saw her turn a sharp corner, caught one
backward look from her dear brown eyes as she vanished—and awoke! He
gave much thought to that look in the months which followed. He was a
modest youth, singularly unconscious of his own charms; but the
eloquent glance had conveyed to him a sense of longing—of more than
Quite an interval elapsed before she came again. There was, first
of all, the inevitable filmy effect, but, in the vision that succeeded
it, instead of finding himself in the little town, he was in the
depths of a great old forest, and in horrible agony. Some accident had
occurred—he did not know what. He only knew that he was shot,
suffering, dying! He groaned, and even as he writhed in a spasm of
pain he saw her sitting on the sward beside him. He turned glazed eyes
on her. Her brown ones looked back into his with a great love and pity
in their depths.
"Oh, my dear," she whispered, "I know it seems terribly hard to
you. And because you think you suffer, it is almost as hard for you as
if you did. But you are not really hurt, you know. You are not
suffering. It is all in the dream. You are sound asleep, far, far
He forced a sardonic laugh from his stiff throat.
"Not this time," he managed to articulate. "Whatever the others may
have been, this is no dream. This is the real thing—and death!"
She smoothed the hair back from his damp brow with a beautiful,
caressing touch. He felt her fingers tremble.
"No," she said. "It is a dream, and almost over."
"Then will you stay with me," he gasped, "to the end?"
"Yes," she promised. "Try to bear it just a moment longer. Courage,
dear heart! for already you are waking—you are waking—you—are—
He was, and it was daylight, and around him were the familiar
objects of his own room. He wiped his forehead, which was cold and
wet. He felt utterly exhausted.
"Stay with me to the end!"
If she only would! If he could find her—find her in this warm,
human world, away from that ghastly border-land where they two met.
For in that hour he knew he loved—what? A woman or a ghost? A
creature of this world or a fantasy of the night? Wherever she was,
whatever she was, he loved her and he wanted her. And in that hour of
his agony her eyes had told that she loved and wanted him.
It was eight months before they met again. Varick's friends thought
him changed, and quite possibly he was. The insouciant boy of twenty-
eight had become a man, a sympathetic, serious, thoughtful man, still
given to sports and outdoor life, but more than all devoted to a
search which had taken him to no end of out-of-the-way European towns.
He was sleeping in one of these one night (not the one,
alas!—he had not found that) when the veil, now so warmly welcome,
fell for the fourth time.
He was in an exquisite Italian garden, a place all perfume and May
breezes and flooding sunshine and overarching blue sky. As he entered
it he saw her coming to meet him, and he went forward to greet her
with his pulses bounding and a light in his eyes which no eyes but
hers had ever seen there. Even in that supreme moment the wonderfully real atmosphere of it all impressed him. He heard a dry twig crack
under his foot as he walked, and he recognized the different perfumes
of the flowers around him—the heavy sweetness of a few belated orange
blossoms, the delicate breath of the oleander, the reminiscent perfume
of the rose. Then their hands met and their eyes, and each drew a long
breath, and neither spoke for a moment. When Varick found words they
were very commonplace.
"Oh, my love, my love!" he said. And she, listening to them with
sudden tears in her brown eyes, seemed to find in them the utmost
eloquence of the human tongue.
"It has been so long, so long!" he gasped. "I began to think I was
never to see you again."
They drifted side by side along a winding, rose-hedged path, past
an old sun-dial, past a triumphant peacock strutting before his mild
little mate, past a fountain whose spray flung out to them a welcome.
She led the way with the accustomed step of one who knew and loved the
place. They came to a marble seat, half hidden by a tangle of vines
and scarlet blossoms, and sheltered by overhanging oleander branches;
there she sat down and moved her skirts aside that he might sit close
to her. Her brown eyes, raised now to his hungry gray ones, looked at
him with the softened brilliance he had sometimes seen in those of a
"Should you have missed me," she asked, softly, "if you had never
seen me again? Should you have been sorry?"
He drew a long breath.
"I love you," he said. "Whatever you are, wherever you come from,
whatever all this means, I love you. I don't understand anything else,
but I know that. It's the one sure thing, the one real thing, in all
Without a word she put her hand in his. He could feel distinctly
its cool, soft, exquisite texture. With an exclamation of delight he
drew her toward him, but she held herself away, the expression of her
beautiful face softening the effect of the recoil.
"Not yet, dear," she said, gently. "We must be very careful. You do
not understand. If you do anything abrupt or sudden you will wake—and
then we shall be parted again, who knows for how long!"
There were tears in her eyes as she spoke. Seeing them, he buried
his face in his hands and groaned, while the sense of his utter
helplessness rolled over him like a flood.
"God!" he broke out, with sudden fierceness. "What devil's trick is
this? It's not a dream. It can't be a dream. Here we are, two human
beings in a human world—I'll swear it. Smell that oleander. Listen to
that bird sing. Hear the trickle of that fountain. And yet you tell me
that we are asleep!"
She laid her head in the curve of her arm, resting on the
ivy-covered back of the low seat. Bending over her, he saw that her
cheeks were wet. The sight made him desperate.
"Don't!" he cried, hoarsely. "Don't do that! Tell me what is
expected of me. Whatever it is, no matter how hard it is, or how long
it takes, I'll do it."
She did not reply, but she made a quick little gesture with the
hand nearest him. It signified hopelessness, almost despair. Darkness
began to fall, and an early moon hung pale in the heavens. Somewhere
in the thick bushes near them a nightingale began to sing. To Varick's
excited fancy there was a heart-breaking pathos in the soft notes.
They seemed to have been together, he and she, for a long time—for
hours. He bent his head till it touched hers.
"But you love me?" he asked. She moved a little and wiped her eyes
with an absurdly tiny, lace-edged square of linen. One corner, he
noticed, bore an embroidered coronet.
"Yes," she said, very quietly, "I love you."
Her tone as she spoke expressed such entire hopelessness that the
full sense of her words did not at once come to him. When it did,
slowly, sweetly, she was speaking again.
"But oh, dearest, dearest!" she broke out, "why do we love? To what
can love lead us—two poor shadows in a dream world, in which alone we
He was silent. There seemed, somehow, nothing that he could say,
though later he thought of many words with which he might have filled
that throbbing silence. The dusk deepened around them. Off in the
thicket the nightingale still warbled passionately, and now the stars
began to come out over their heads, pale as yet against the warm blue
of the heavens. Varick, sitting stiffly on the old marble bench,
became conscious of an odd dizziness, and set his teeth with a sudden
determination to show no evidence of it. She had risen and was moving
about among the rose-bushes just behind them. Almost before he missed
her she had returned, holding in her hand a beautiful salmon-hued
rose, with a flame-colored, crumply heart. He had never before seen
one like it. As she held it near him it exhaled an exquisitely
reminiscent perfume—a perfume which seemed to breathe of old joys,
old memories, and loves of long ago.
"Is it not beautiful?" she said. "It is called the
. Take it, dear, and keep it—for memory." Then, as he took it from
her, her eyes widened in a sudden anguish of dread and comprehension.
"Oh, you're leaving me!" she said. "You're waking. Dearest,
dearest, stay with me!"
The words and the look that accompanied them galvanized him into
sudden action. He sprang to his feet, caught her in his arms, held her
there, crushed her there, kissing her eyes, her hair, her exquisitely
"I will not leave you!" he raved. "I swear I won't! I defy the
devil that's back of this! I swear—" But she, too, was speaking now,
and her words came to his ears as from a long, long distance,
sobbingly, with a catch in the breath, but distinct.
"Alas!" she cried, "you have ruined everything! You have ruined
everything! You will never see me again. Dearest, dearest—"
He awoke. His heart was thumping to suffocation, and he lay
exhausted on his pillow. It was a dark morning, and a cold rain beat
dismally against the window-panes. Gone were the Dream Woman, the
Italian garden, the song of the nightingale, the perfume of flowers.
How definite that perfume had been! He could smell it yet, all around
him. It was like—what was it like? He became suddenly conscious of an
unusual sensation in his hand, lying on the bedspread. He glanced at
it and then sat up with a sudden jerk that almost threw him off his
balance. In his upturned palm was a rose—a salmon-colored rose,
slightly crushed, but fresh and fragrant, with a flame-colored,
crumply heart. Varick stared at it, shut his eyes, opened them, and
stared again. It was still there, and, with the discovery that it was,
Varick became conscious of a prickling of the scalp, a chill along the
spine. His brown face whitened.
"Well, by all the gods!" he gasped. "How did that thing get here?"
No one ever told him. Possibly no one could except the Dream Woman,
and her he never saw again; so the mystery was unfathomable. He put
the rose between the leaves of the Bible his mother had given him when
he went to college, and which he had not opened since until that
morning; and the rose became dry and faded as the years passed, quite
as any other rose would have done.
Varick paid a second and quite casual visit to his medical friend,
who scoffed at him rudely and urged him to go on a long hunting trip.
He went, and was singularly successful, and came back with
considerable big game and a rich, brown complexion. When the doctor
asked him whether he still awoke from his innocent slumbers to find
his little hands full of pretty flowers, Varick swore naturally and
healthfully, turned very red, and playfully thumped the medical man
between the shoulders with a force that sent that gentleman's
eye-glasses off his nose. But, notwithstanding all these reassuring
incidents, Varick has never married; and he remains deeply interested
as to the source of that rose. He would be very grateful to any one
who could tell him where the thing came from. The nearest he ever came
to this was when a man who knew a good deal about flowers once
inspected the faded rose, at Varick's request, and listened to the
description of how it looked when fresh.
"Why, yes," he said, "I know that variety. It grows in Italy, but I
don't think it's known here. They call it the Toinnette!"
II. THE EXORCISM OF LILY BELL
It is quite possible that not even Raymond Mortimer Prescott
himself could have told definitely the day or the hour when Lily Bell
first came into his life; and as Raymond Mortimer Prescott was not
only the sole person privileged to enjoy Miss Bell's society, but was
also the sole person who had been permitted to gaze upon her charms at
all, it would seem that inquiries directed elsewhere were destined to
prove fruitless. Raymond himself, moreover, was not communicative; he
had the reserve of an only child whose early efforts at conversation
had been discouraged by parents selfishly absorbed in "grown-up"
interests, and whose home was too remote from other country homes to
His mother was a nervous invalid, and almost in infancy Raymond had
grasped the fact that his absence seemed to be of more definite
benefit to her than any other remedy for neurasthenia. His father was
a busy man, absent from home for weeks at a time, and bearing this
exile with a jovial cheerfulness which did not always characterize his
moods when he deigned to join the family circle. Occasionally the
elder Prescott experienced a twinge of conscience when he looked at
his son, ten years of age now, the possessor of a superbly healthy
body and presumably of the social aspirations of growing Americans. In
such moments of illumination the father reflected uneasily that "the
little beggar must have a beastly lonesome time of it"; then,
surveying the little beggar's choice company of pets, gazing upon the
dam he had built with his own busy hands, inspecting approvingly his
prowess in the swimming-hole and with his fish-rods, even noting, in
his conscientious appraisal of his heir's assets, the self-assertive
quality of the freckles on his nose and the sunburn on the whole of
his visage, this perfunctory American parent easily decided that
nothing need be changed for another year or two. It was impossible
even for a scrupulous conscience to make a youthful martyr of Raymond
Mortimer. Not the most rabid New England brand could compass that, and
certainly Raymond Mortimer Prescott, Sr., had no such possession. The
housekeeper, Miss Greene, a former trained nurse who had charge of the
boy in infancy, looked after his clothes and his meals.
Notwithstanding his steadfast elusiveness, she had also succeeded in
making him master of extremely elementary knowledge of letters and
figures. Beyond this he was arrogantly ignorant, even to the point of
being ignorant of his ignorance. He had his dogs, his rods and tackle,
his tool-house, unlimited fresh air, sunshine, and perfect health; in
addition he had Lily Bell.
How long he may have enjoyed the pleasure of this young person's
company unobserved by his elders is a matter of surmise; it may well
have been a long time, for family curiosity never concerned itself
with Raymond Mortimer unless he was annoyingly obtrusive or
disobedient. But the first domestic records of her arrival, kept
naturally enough by Miss Greene, whose lonely spinster heart was the
boy's domestic refuge, went back to a day in June when he was five. He
was in his nursery and she in an adjoining room, the communicating
door of which was open. She had heard him in the nursery talking to
himself, as she supposed, for a long time. At last his voice took on a
note of childish irritation, and she distinctly heard his words.
"But it won't be right that way," he was saying, earnestly. "Don't
you see it won't be right that way? There won't be nothing to hold up
There was a long silence, in the midst of which Miss Greene stole
cautiously to the nursery door and looked in. The boy was on his knees
on the floor, an ambitious structure of blocks before him, which he
had evidently drawn back to contemplate. His eyes were turned from it,
however, and his head was bent a little to the left. He wore a look of
great attention and annoyance. He seemed to be listening to a
"All right," he said, at last. "I'll do it. But it ain't right, and
you'll be sorry when you see it fall." He hurriedly rearranged the
block structure, adding to the tremulously soaring tower on the left
side. True to his prediction, it fell with a crash, destroying other
parts of the edifice in its downfall. The boy turned on his unseen
companion a face in which triumph and disgust were equally blended.
"There, now!" he taunted; "didn't I tell you so, Lily Bell? But you
never will b'lieve what I say—jes like girls!"
Miss Greene hurriedly withdrew, lifting to the ceiling eyes of awed
surprise. For some reason which she was subsequently unable to
explain, she asked the boy no questions; but she watched him more
closely after this, and discovered that, however remote the date of
Miss Bell's first appearance, she was now firmly established as a
daily guest—an honored one whose influence, though mild, was almost
boundless, and whose gentle behests were usually unhesitatingly
obeyed. Occasionally, as in the instance of the blocks, Raymond
Mortimer combated them; once or twice he disobeyed them. But on the
second of these occasions he drooped mournfully through the day,
bearing the look of one adrift in the universe; and the observant Miss
Greene noted that the following day was a strenuous one, occupied with
eager fulfilment of the unexpressed wishes of Lily Bell, who had
evidently returned to his side. Again and again the child did things
he most obviously would have preferred not to do. The housekeeper
looked on with deep but silent interest until she heard him say, for
perhaps the tenth time, "Well, I don't like it, but I will if you
really want me to." Then she spoke, but so casually that the boy,
absorbed in his play, felt nothing unusual in the question.
"Whom are you talking to, Raymond?" she asked, as she rounded the
heel of the stocking she was knitting. He replied abstractedly,
without raising his eyes from the work he was doing.
"To Lily Bell," he said.
Miss Greene knitted in silence for a moment. Then, "Where is she?"
"Why, she's here!" said the child. "Right beside me!"
Miss Greene hesitated and took the plunge. "I don't see her," she
remarked, still casually.
This time the boy raised his head and looked at her. There was in
his face the slight impatience of one who deals with an inferior
"'Course you don't," he said, carelessly. "You can't. No one can't
see Lily Bell but 'cept me."
Miss Greene felt snubbed, but persevered.
"She doesn't seem to be playing very nicely to-day," she hazarded.
He gave her a worried look.
"She isn't," he conceded, "not very. 'Most always she's very, very
nice, but she's kind of cross to-day. I guess p'r'aps," he speculated,
frankly, "you're 'sturbing her by talking so much."
Miss Greene accepted the subtle hint and remained silent. From that
time, however, Raymond Mortimer counted on her acceptance of Lily Bell
as a recognized personality, and referred to her freely.
"Lily Bell wants us to go on a picnic to-morrow," he announced, one
day when he was six. "She says let's go on the island under the willow
an' have egg-san'wiches an' ginger-ale for lunch."
Miss Greene carried out the programme cheerfully, for the child
made singularly few requests. Thomas, the gardener, was to row them
over, and Miss Greene, a stout person who moved with difficulty,
seated herself in the stem of the boat with a sigh of relief, and drew
Raymond Mortimer down beside her. He wriggled out of her grasp and
struggled to his feet, his stout legs apart, his brown eyes
"You can't sit there, please, Miss Greene," he said, almost
austerely. "Lily Bell wants to sit there with me. You can take the
For once the good-natured Miss Greene rebelled.
"I'll do no such thing," she announced, firmly, "flopping round and
upsetting the boat and perhaps drowning us all. You and your Lily Bell
can sit together in the middle and let me be."
An expression of hope flitted across the child's face. "Will that
do, Lily Bell?" he asked, eagerly. The reply was evidently
unfavorable, for his jaw fell and he flushed. "She says it won't," he
announced, miserably. "I'm awful sorry, Miss Greene, but we'll have to
If Miss Lily Bell had been in the habit of making such demands, the
housekeeper would have continued to rebel. As it was, she had grave
doubts of the wisdom of establishing such a dangerous precedent as
compliance with the absurd request. But Raymond Mortimer's distress
was so genuine, and the pleasure of the picnic so obviously rested on
her surrender, that she made it, albeit slowly and with groans and
dismal predictions. The boy's face beamed as he thanked her.
"I was so 'fraid Lily Bell would be cross," he confided to her, as
he sat sedately on his half of the stern-seat. "But she's all right,
an' we're going to have a lovely time."
That prediction was justified by events, for the occasion was a
brilliant one, and Lily Bell's share in it so persistent and
convincing that at times Miss Greene actually found herself sharing in
the delusion of the little girl's presence. Her good-natured yielding
in the matter of the seat, moreover, had evidently commended her to
Miss Bell's good graces, and that young person brought out the
choicest assortment of her best manners to do honor to the grown-up
"Lily Bell wants you to have this seat, Miss Greene, 'cause it's in
the shade an' has a nice back," said Raymond, delightedly, almost as
soon as they had reached the island; and Miss Greene flopped into it
with a sigh of content in the realization that Miss Bell did not
intend to usurp all the choice spots, as her persistence earlier in
the day might possibly have suggested to a suspicious mind. There,
alternately reading and dozing, she incidentally listened to the flow
of conversation poured forth by her small charge, varied only by
occasional offerings to her, usually suggested by Miss Bell and
ranging from the minnow he had succeeded in catching with a worm and a
bent pin to the choicest tidbits of the luncheon. There were two
glasses for the ginger-ale. Miss Greene had one and Lily Bell the
other. Raymond Mortimer gallantly drank from the bottle.
"Why don't you use Lily Bell's glass?" was Miss Greene's very
natural inquiry. It would seem, indeed, that two such congenial souls
would have welcomed the closer union this suggestion invited, but
Raymond Mortimer promptly dispelled that illusion.
"She doesn't want to," he responded, gloomily.
In other details, however, Miss Lily Bell was of an engaging
sweetness and of a yielding disposition of the utmost correctness.
Again and again Raymond Mortimer succeeded in convincing her, by the
force and eloquence of his arguments, of the superiority of his ideas
on fort building, fishing, and other occupations which filled the day.
Miss Greene's heart yearned over the boy as he came to her during the
mid- day heat and cuddled down comfortably by her side, heavy-eyed and
tired after his exertions.
"Where's Lily Bell?" she asked, brushing his damp hair off his
forehead and wondering whether she was also privileged to enjoy the
unseen presence of the guest of honor.
"She's back there under the tree takin' a nap," murmured the boy,
drowsily, indicating the exact spot with a grimy little hand. "She
tol' me to come an' stay with you for a while."
Miss Greene smiled, deeply touched by this sweet mingling of
coyness and thoughtfulness on the maiden's part.
"What does Lily Bell call you?" she asked, with interest. The boy
snuggled down on the grass beside her and rested his head comfortably
in her lap.
"She knows my name's Raymond Mortimer," he said, sleepily, "but she
calls me 'Bill' for short." Then, more sleepily, "I asked her to," he
added. In another moment his eyelids had dropped and he too was in the
Land of Nod, whither Lily Bell had happily preceded him.
During the next four years Miss Greene was privileged to spend many
days in the society of Miss Lily Bell, and the acquaintance between
them ripened into a pleasant friendship. To her great satisfaction she
found Miss Bell's name one to conjure with in those moments of
friction which are unavoidable in the relations of old and young.
"I don't think Lily Bell would like that," she began to say,
tentatively, when differences of opinion as to his conduct came up
between Raymond and herself. "I think she likes a gentlemanly
Unless her young charge was in a very obstinate mood the reminder
usually prevailed, and it was of immense value in overcoming the early
prejudice of the small boy against soap and water.
"Isn't Lily Bell clean?" she had inquired one day when he was eight
and the necessity of the daily tubbing was again being emphasized to
Raymond conceded that she was.
"When she first comes she is," he added. "'Course she gets dirty
when we play. Why, sometimes she gets awful dirty!"
The excellent and wise woman saw her opportunity, and promptly
"Ah," she exclaimed, "that's the point. I want you to start out
clean and to go to bed clean. If you'll promise me to take a tub
before you dress in the morning, and another before you go to bed at
night, I don't care how dirty you get in the mean time."
This happy compromise effected, she was moved to ask more
particularly how Miss Lily Bell looked. She recalled now that she had
never heard her described. Raymond Mortimer, she discovered, was no
better than the rest of his sex when it came to a description of
feminine features and apparel, but on two points his testimony was
absolute. Lily Bell had curls and she wore pantalettes. The last word
was not in his vocabulary, and it was some time before he succeeded in
conveying the correct impression to Miss Greene's mind.
"Don't you remember the little girls in mamma's old Godey books?"
he asked, at last, very anxiously, seeing that his early imperfect
description had led to an apparent oscillation of Miss Greene's
imagination between the paper ruffle of a lamb-chop and a frilly
sunbonnet. "They have slippers an' 'lastic bands an' scallopy funnels
coming down under their skirts. Well"—this with a long-drawn sigh of
relief as she beamed into acquiescence—"that's how Lily Bell looks!"
Long before this the family had accepted Lily Bell as a part of the
domestic circle, finding her a fairly trustworthy and convenient
playmate for the boy. Not always, of course; for it was very
inconvenient to leave a vacant seat beside Raymond Mortimer when they
went driving, but this had to be done or Raymond stayed at home rather
than desert his cherished Lily. It was long before his father forgot
the noble rebuke administered by his son on one occasion when the
elder Prescott, thoughtlessly ignoring the presence of Miss Bell,
sought to terminate the argument by sitting down by the boy's side.
The shrieks of that youth, usually so self-contained, rent the ambient
father!" he howled, literally dancing up and down
in his anguish, "you're sitting on Lily Bell!" Then, at the height of
the uproar, he stopped short, an expression of overwhelming relief
covering his face. "Oh no, you ain't, either," he cried, ecstatically.
"She jumped out. But she won't go now, so neither will I"; and he
promptly joined his imaginary playmate in the road. Pausing there, he
gave his abashed parent a glance of indescribable reproach and a
helpful hint on etiquette.
"Don't you know," he asked, stonily, "that gentlemen don't
sit on ladies?" Striding gloomily back to the house, presumably close
by the side of the outraged maiden, he left his convulsed parent to
survive as best he could the deprivation of their presence. This Mr.
Prescott did with reluctance. He was beginning to find the society of
his son and Lily Bell both interesting and exhilarating. He showed, in
fact, a surprising understanding of and sympathy with "the love-
affair," as he called it. "The poor little beggar had to have
something," he said, indulgently, "and an imaginary play-mate is as
safe as anything I know." Therefore he referred to Miss Bell
respectfully in conversation with his son, and, save on the tragic
occasion just chronicled, treated her with distinguished
His wife's acceptance of the situation was less felicitous. Mrs.
Prescott, whose utter lack of a sense of humor had long saddened her
domestic circle, suddenly felt the birth of one now that was even more
saddening, and the cause of it was Lily Bell. She referred to that
young person wholly without respect, and was convulsed by foolish
laughter when her son soberly replied. The boy resented this attitude
—first sullenly, then fiercely.
"She acts as if there
wasn't really any Lily Bell," he
confided to his father, in a moment of such emotion. "I don't think
that's nice or p'lite, an' it hurts Lily Bell's feelings."
"That's bad," said the father, soberly. "We mustn't have that. I'll
speak to your mother."
He did subsequently, and to such good effect that the expression of
Mrs. Prescott's amusement was temporarily checked. But Raymond
Mortimer's confidence was temporarily blighted, and he kept his little
friend and his mother as far apart as possible. Rarely after that did
Lily Bell seek the invalid's room with the boy, though she frequently
accompanied him to his father's library when that gentleman was home
and, presumably, listened with awe to their inspiring conversation.
Mr. Prescott had begun to talk to his boy "as man to man," as he once
put it, and the phrase had so delighted the boy, now ten, that his
father freely gave him the innocent gratification of listening to it
often. Moreover, it helped in certain conversations where questions of
morals came up. As the small son of an irate father, Raymond Mortimer
might not have been much impressed by the parental theory that
watermelons must not be stolen from the patches of their only
neighbor, a crusty old bachelor. As a man of the world, however,
listening to the views of one wiser and more experienced, he was made
to see that helping one's self to the melons of another is really not
the sort of thing a decent chap can do. Lily Bell, too, held the elder
"She says she doesn't like it, either," the boy confided to his
father with an admiring sigh. "She never would go with me, you know.
My!"— this with a heavier sigh—"I'm 'fraid if I do all the things
you an' Lily Bell want me to I'll be awful good!"
His father sought to reassure him on this point, but he himself was
beginning to cherish a lurking fear of a different character. Was
longer continuance of this dream companionship really wise? So far, if
it had influenced the boy at all, it had been for good. But he was
growing older; he was almost eleven. Was it not time that this
imaginary child friend should be eliminated in favor of—of what? The
father's mind came up against the question and recoiled, blankly. Not
exercise, not outdoor pursuits, not pets, for Raymond Mortimer had all
these and more. His little girl friend had not made him a milksop. He
was an active, energetic, live, healthy-minded boy, with all a boy's
normal interests. When he built kennels for his dogs and made hutches
for his rabbits, Lily Bell stood by, it is true, but her friendly
supervision but added to the vigor and excellence of his work. Indeed,
Lily, despite her pantalettes, seemed to have a sporty vein in her.
Still, the father reflected uneasily, it could lead to no good—this
continued abnormal development of the imagination. For Lily Bell was
as real to the boy at ten as she had been at six.
What could be done? With what entering wedge could one begin to
dislodge this persistent presence? If one sent the boy away, Lily
Bell, of course, would go, too. If one brought—if—one—brought—
Mr. Prescott jumped to his feet and slapped his knee with
enthusiasm. He had solved his problem, and the solution was
exceedingly simple. What, indeed, but another little girl! A real
little girl, a flesh- and-blood little girl, a jolly, active little
girl, who, as Mr. Prescott inelegantly put it to himself, "would make
Lily Bell, with her ringlets and her pantalettes, look like thirty
cents." Surely in the circle of their friends and relatives there must
be a little girl who could be borrowed and introduced—oh, casually
and with infinite tact!—into their menage for a few months. Mr.
Prescott, well pleased with himself, winked a Machiavellian wink and
sought his wife, ostensibly to consult her, but in reality to inform
her that he had made up his mind, and that it would be her happy
privilege to attend to the trivial details of carrying out his plan.
In exactly three weeks Margaret Hamilton Perry was established in
the Prescott homestead for a visit of indefinite length, and in
precisely three hours after her arrival Margaret Hamilton had annexed
the Prescott homestead and its inmates and all the things appertaining
thereto and made them her own. She was the most eager and adorable of
small, fat girls—alive from the crown of her curly head to the soles
of her sensible little spring-heeled shoes. As Mr. Prescott
subsequently remarked in a moment of extreme self-appreciation, if she
had been made to order she couldn't have filled the bill better. Born
and bred in the city, the country was to her a mine of unexplored
delights. The shyness of Raymond Mortimer, suddenly confronted by this
new personality and the immediate need of entertaining it, gave way
before the enthusiasm of the little girl over his pets, his favorite
haunts, the works of his hands—everything in which he had a share.
Clinging to his hand in a rapturous panic as they visited the animals,
she expatiated on the privileges of those happy beings who lived
always amid such delights.
"I wish I didn't ever have to go away again," she ended, wistfully.
"I wish you didn't, either," said Raymond, gallantly, and then was
shocked at himself. Was this loyalty to Lily Bell? The reflection gave
a tinge of coldness to his next utterance. When Margaret Hamilton,
cheered by the tribute, asked, confidently, "May I play with you lots
and help you to make things?" the boy's response lagged.
"Yes," he said, finally, "if Lily Bell will let you."
"Who's Lily Bell?"
"She—why, she's the girl I play with! Everybody knows Lily Bell!"
Some of the brightness was gone from the eager face.
"Will she like me?" she asked, at last.
"I don't know—I guess—p'r'aps so."
"Will I like her?"
"I don't know. You can't see her, you know."
"Can't see her? Why can't I see her? Doesn't she come here, ever?"
"Oh yes, she's here all the time, but—" The boy squirmed. For the
first time in his short life he was—was he—ashamed of Lily
Bell? No; not that. Never that! He held his small head high, and his
lips set; but he was a boy, after all, and his voice, to cover the
embarrassment, took on a tone of lofty superiority.
"Nobody ever does see her but me," he asserted. "They'd like to,
but they don't."
"Why don't they?"
Verily, this was a persistent child. The boy was in for complete
surrender, and he made it.
"She ain't a little girl like you," he explained, briefly. "She
doesn't have any home, and I don't know where she comes from—heaven,
maybe," he hazarded, desperately, as a sort of "When in doubt, play
trumps." "But she comes, an' no one but me sees her, an' we play."
"Huh!" This without enthusiasm from Margaret Hamilton Perry. She
eyed him remotely for a moment. Then, with an effort at understanding,
she spoke again.
"I shouldn't think that would be very much fun," she said,
candidly. "Just pretendin' there's a little girl when there ain't! I
should think it would be lots nicer—" She hesitated, a sense of
delicacy restraining her from making the point she so obviously had in
"Anyhow," she added, handsomely, "I'll like her an' play with her
if you do."
Raymond Mortimer was relieved but doubtful. Memories of the extreme
contrariness of Lily Bell on occasion overcame him.
"If she'll let you," he repeated, doggedly.
Margaret Hamilton stared at him and her eyes grew big.
"Won't you let me, if she doesn't?" she gasped. "Why—why—" The
situation overcame her. The big, brown eyes filled suddenly. A small
gingham back rippling with fat sobs was presented to Raymond Mortimer.
In him was born immediately man's antipathy to woman's tears.
"Oh, say," he begged, "don't cry; please don't." He approached the
gingham back and touched it tentatively. "She will let you play with
us," he urged. And then, moved to entire recklessness as the sobs
continued, "I'll make her!" he promised. The gingham back
stopped heaving; a wet face was turned toward him, and a rainbow
arched their little heaven as Margaret Hamilton smiled. Her first
triumph was complete.
It is to be regretted that Lily Bell did not at once lend herself
to the fulfilment of this agreeable understanding. True, she appeared
daily, as of yore, and Margaret Hamilton was permitted to enter her
presence and join her games, but the exactions of Lily Bell became
hourly more annoying. It was evident that Raymond Mortimer felt them
as such, for his anguished blushes testified to the fact when he
repeated them to the victim.
"She wants you to go away off and sit down, so's you can't hear
what we're saying," he said to Margaret Hamilton one day. "I don't
think it's very p'lite of her, but she says you must."
This brief criticism of Lily Bell, the first the boy had ever
uttered, cheered the little girl in her exile. "Never mind," she said.
"I don't care—much. I know it isn't your fault." For by this time
she, too, was under the influence of the spell of convincing reality
which Raymond Mortimer succeeded in throwing over his imaginary
"She does things Ray wouldn't do," she once confided to Miss
Greene. "I mean," hastily, as she suddenly realized her own words—"I
mean she makes him think—he thinks she thinks—Oh, I don't know how
to 'splain it to you!" And Margaret Hamilton hastily abandoned so
complicated a problem. In reality she was meeting it with a wisdom far
beyond her years. The boy was in the grip of an obsession. Margaret
Hamilton would have been sadly puzzled by the words, but in her wise
little head lay the idea they convey.
"He thinks she really is here, an' he thinks he's got to be nice to
her because they're such ve-ry old fren's," she told herself. "But she
isn't very nice lately, an' she makes him cross, so maybe by-an'-by
he'll get tired an' make her act better; or maybe—"
But that last "maybe" was too daring to have a place even in the
very furthest back part of a little girl's mind.
She lent herself with easy good-nature to Lily Bell's exactions.
She had no fondness for that young person, and she let it be seen that
she had none, but she was courteous, as to a fellow-guest.
"Pooh! I don't mind," was her usual comment on Miss Bell's behests;
and this cheerful acceptance threw into strong relief the dark shadows
of Lily Bell's perversity. Once or twice she proposed a holiday.
"Couldn't we go off somewhere, just by ourselves, for a picnic,"
she hazarded, one morning—"an' not ask Lily Bell?"
It was a bold suggestion, but the conduct of Miss Bell had been
especially reprehensible the day before, and even the dauntless spirit
of Margaret Hamilton was sore with the strife.
"Wouldn't you like a—a rest, too?" she added, insinuatingly.
Apparently the boy would, for without comment he made the preparations
for the day, and soon he and the child were seated side by side in the
boat in which the old gardener rowed them over to their beloved
It was a perfect day. Nothing was said about Lily Bell, and her
presence threw no cloud on those hours of sunshine. Seated adoringly
by the boy's side, Margaret Hamilton became initiated into the
mysteries of bait and fishing, and the lad's respect for his companion
increased visibly when he discovered that she could not only bait his
hooks for him, but could string the fish, lay the festive board for
luncheon, and set it forth. This was a playmate worth while. Raymond
Mortimer, long a slave to the exactions of Lily Bell, for whom he had
thanklessly fetched and carried, relaxed easily into the comfort of
man's more congenial sphere, and permitted himself to be waited on by
In such and other ways the month of August passed. Margaret
Hamilton, like the happy-hearted child she was, sang through the
summer days and knitted more closely around her the hearts of her
With the almost uncanny wisdom characteristic of her, she refrained
from discussing Lily Bell with the other members of the family.
Possibly she took her cue from Raymond Mortimer, who himself spoke of
her less and less as the weeks passed; but quite probably it was part
of an instinct which forbids one to discuss the failings of one's
friends. Lily Bell was to Margaret Hamilton a blot on the boy's
scutcheon. She would not point it out even to him, actively as her
practical little soul revolted against his self-deception. Once,
however, in a rare moment of candor, she unbosomed herself to Mr.
"I don't like her very well," she said, referring, of course, to
Lily Bell. "She's so silly! I hate to pretend an' pretend an' do
things we don't want to do when we could have such good times just by
She buried her nose in his waistcoat as she spoke and sniffed
rather dismally. It had been a trying day. Lily Bell had been much en evidence, and her presence had weighed perceptibly upon the
spirits of the two children.
"Can't you get rid of her?" suggested the man, shamelessly. "A real
meat little girl like you ought to do away with a dream kid—an
imaginary girl—don't you think?"
Margaret Hamilton raised her head and looked long into the eyes
that looked back at her. The man nodded solemnly.
"I'd try if I were you," he said. "I'd try mighty hard. You don't
want her around. She's spoiling everything. Besides," he added, half
to himself, "it's time the boy got over his nonsense."
Margaret Hamilton reflected, her small face brightening.
"Are you very, very sure it wouldn't be wicked?" she asked,
"Yep. Perfectly sure. Go in and win!"
Greatly cheered by this official sanction, Margaret Hamilton the
following day made her second suggestion of a day a deux.
"All by ourselves," she repeated, firmly. "An' not Lily Bell, 'cos
she'd spoil it. An' you row me to the island. Don't let's take
This was distinctly wrong. The children were not allowed to take
the boat save under Thomas's careful eye; but, as has been pointed
out, Margaret Hamilton had her faults. Raymond Mortimer struggled
weakly in the gulf of temptation, then succumbed and went under.
"All right," he said, largely, "I will. We'll have lunch, too, and
p'r'aps I'll build a fire."
"We'll play we're cave-dwellers," contributed Margaret Hamilton,
whose invention always exceeded his own, and whose imagination had
recently been stimulated by Miss Greene, who occasionally read aloud
to the children. "You hunt an' get the food an' bring it home, an'
I'll cook it. You be the big, brave man an' I'll be your—your mate,"
she concluded, quoting freely from the latest interesting volume to
which she had lent an ear.
The picture appealed to Raymond Mortimer. With a manly stride he
approached the boat, helped her in, loosened it from its moorings, and
cast off. His brow dark with care, he loftily ordered her to steer,
and spoke no more until they had safely made their landing.
Alone on their desert island, the two children faithfully carried
out the programme of the day. With dry branches gathered by his mate
the intrepid male soon made a fire, and retreating hurriedly to a
point comfortably distant from it, they gazed upon their work. Fishing
and the cleaning and cooking of their catch filled the morning; and
if, indeed, the cleaning is something the mind would mercifully pass
over, those chiefly concerned were satisfied and ate with prodigious
"It's awful funny," said Raymond Mortimer, comfortably, as they
reposed under a tree after their repast, "but when Lily Bell an' I
used to come here—"
He stopped and gazed apprehensively behind him, as if fearful that
the unbidden guest was even now within hearing. Apparently reassured,
he resumed: "When Lily Bell an' I used to come we 'most always went to
sleep after awhile. I—we—got kind of tired talking, I guess. But
when you an' I talk I don't get tired."
Margaret Hamilton flushed with delight, but an excess of maidenly
modesty overcame her at the same moment.
"Why don't you?" she inquired, coyly.
"'Cos I like you better."
Margaret Hamilton gasped, sputtered, looked around her. Everything
was in its place; there had been no submarine upheaval. The boy was
there and he had said this thing, the full meaning of which burst
suddenly upon her. Rising to her feet, she hurled herself upon him
with the impetuosity of her intense nature.
"Do you really?" she gasped and gurgled. "Do you? Oh, do you? Oh,
Ray, I'm so glad!"
And she kissed him!
Disengaging himself with dignity from the clinging embrace of the
maiden, the outraged youth rose to his feet.
"Don't you ever do that again, Margaret Hamilton Perry," he said,
slowly, and with awful sternness. "Don't you ever. Lily Bell never,
never did such a thing!"
She retreated, but unabashed.
"It's 'cause I was so glad," she said, happily. "Real girls always
do; they're like that. But I won't any more. You like me best, just
the same, don't you?" she inquired, anxiously.
He came cautiously nearer.
"Yes, I do," he said, coldly, "but don't you try that any more, or
Then they talked of cave-dwellers, and of the pleasant warmth of an
open-air fire on an August day, and of marvellous things they would do
during the coming weeks. And the absorption of their conversation was
such that when the faithful Thomas, having rowed after them,
stealthily approached and smote the boy upon the back, they yelled in
That no rancor lingered in the mind of Raymond Mortimer toward the
too-demonstrative Margaret Hamilton was proved by the careless remark
he made to his father when, some days later, that gentleman uttered a
jocund inquiry as to the health of Lily Bell.
His son stared at him for an instant, as one who seeks to recall
the snows of yester-year.
"Oh," he said, at last, "I haven't seen her for a long time. She
doesn't come round now."
Then, as his father grinned widely over these melancholy tidings,
the son flushed crimson.
"Well, I don't care," he said, hotly. "It's all your fault. Didn't
you tell me I had to 'muse Margaret? Didn't you? Well—I am. I ain't
got time for two. An', anyhow," he concluded, with Adamitic instinct,
"Lily Bell stopped coming herself!"
The exorcism of Lily Bell was complete. Unlike more substantial
Lily Bells of larger growth, she had known how to make her
disappearance coincide with a wish to that effect on the part of her
III. HER LAST DAY
For some time—possibly an hour or more—she sat perfectly still,
staring at a wavering line made on the floor by a stray sunbeam which
had forced its way through the window of her hotel sitting-room. At
first she looked unseeingly, with the dull, introspective gaze of the
melancholic. Then she began to notice the thing, and to fear it, and
to watch for outlines of a quivering human face, and to tremble a
little. Surely there had been a face—she thought vaguely, and
puckered her brow in an effort to remember. It was half an hour before
she realized what it was, and the passing of fifteen minutes more had
been ticked off by a clock on the table near her when she lifted her
glance enough to follow the beam along the floor, up the wall, to the
pane where it had entered. She rose suddenly. It was long since she
had made a consciously voluntary movement, and she knew this. She drew
a deep breath as she stood up, and almost on the instant she
experienced a life-giving sensation of poise and freedom. The weight
fell from her feet, the blackness in which she had lived for weeks
unwrapped itself from around her like a departing fog, her lax muscles
tightened. She groped her way to the window and stood there for a
moment, resting her cheek against the cool pane and gazing up at the
sky. Presently her eyes dropped to the level of a distant water-line,
and she saw the river and the trees that fringed its distant bank, and
the swiftly moving boats on its surface.
She was better. She knew all that this meant, how much and how
little. For an interval, long or short, as it should happen to be, she
was again a rational human being. She abruptly swerved around from the
window and swept the room with her eyes, recognizing it as the one she
was occupying before she "went under," as she put it to herself, and
trying, from association with the familiar objects around her, to form
some idea of the length of this attack.
At the beginning of her breakdown the intervals between intelligent
consciousness and insanity had been long. She was herself, or was able
to keep herself fairly in hand, the greater part of the time, and
chaos, when it came, lasted only for a few days or weeks. Recently
this condition had been reversed. She had lost knowledge of time, but
she felt that centuries must have passed since those last flying,
blessed hours when she knew herself at least for what she was. She
grasped now at her returning reason, with a desperate, shuddering
little moan, which she quickly stifled. Some one must be near, she
remembered, on guard: her nurse, or a hotel maid if the nurse was
taking one of her infrequent outings. Whoever was in charge of her
must be in the next room, for the door was open between the two. The
nurse would welcome her return, the patient reflected. It was her
habit—a singularly pathetic habit, the nurse had found it—to refer
always to her attacks as "absences," and to temporary recovery as
She moved toward the open door and then stopped, feeling suddenly
that she was not yet ready to talk to any one, even the nurse, for
whom she had a casually friendly feeling based on dependence and
continued association. She wished to think—dear God, to be able to
think again!—and there seemed so much thinking to be done and so
little time in which to do it. Her heart dropped a beat as she
realized that. On how much time could she safely count, she wondered.
A week? A few days? It had never been less than a week, until the last
episode. She turned from the thought of that with a sick shudder, but
memory dragged it up and ruthlessly held it before her—the hour, the
moment, the very place she was sitting when it occurred. She had been
talking to a friend, who unconsciously said something that annoyed and
excited her. She saw now that friend's face growing dim before her
eyes—at first puzzled, then frightened, then writhing and twisting
into hideous shapes, she thought, until in her horror she had struck
at it. She must not think of that, she knew, as she set her teeth and
pulled herself up short. She had a will of extraordinary strength, her
physicians and nurses had conceded, and she resolved that it should
serve her now. With grim determination she pieced together the patches
of memory left to her. She had had three days then—three short days.
She dared not count on even that much respite now, though she might
possibly have it and more. But one day—surely Providence would let
her have one day—one last day. Her friends and the specialists
had begun to talk of asylums. She had heard whispers of them before
she succumbed to this last attack; and though her memory of what
occurred in it was mercifully vague, she dimly recalled struggles and
the shrieks of some one in agony—her own shrieks, she knew now,
though she had not known it then. It all meant that she was getting
worse and more "difficult." It all meant chronic invalidism, constant
care, eventual confinement.
Her brain was now abnormally clear, supernaturally active. It
worked with an eager deference, as if striving to atone for the
periods when it failed her. The little clock struck ten. It was
early—she had a long day before her, a beautiful spring day; for she
noticed now the tender green of the leaves and the youth of the grass.
How interesting it would be, she reflected, idly, to go out into the
free, busy world and mingle with human beings, and walk the city
streets and come into touch with life and the living. She would go,
she would spend the day that way; but, alas! the nurse would go,
too—cool, kind, professional, alert, quietly watchful. If she could
in any way elude her and go alone. ...
Her eyes narrowed and took on a look of cunning as she turned them
sidewise toward the open door. As stealthily as a cat she crept to it
and looked in. On a divan in the farthest corner the nurse lay
stretched in a deep sleep, whose unpremeditatedness was shown by the
book which lay on the floor, dropped, evidently, from her suddenly
relaxed fingers. The patient retreated as noiselessly as she had
advanced, and, going to a mantel-mirror in her sitting-room, turned on
her reflection there a long and frightened look. She saw a woman of
thirty-five, thin, pale, haggard, high-bred. Her hair had been
arranged in accordance with the nurse's conception of comfort and
economy of time, and though her gown was perfect in its fit and
tailor-made severity, the lace at her neck and in the sleeves of her
silk waist was not wholly fresh. Her lips curled as she looked. This
was she, Alice Stansbury, the wreck of a woman who had once had health
and beauty and wealth and position. The last two were in a degree left
to her, but what difference did it make how she looked, she asked
herself, harshly. Even as the thought came, however, she took off her
waist and sewed clean lace cuffs on the sleeves, replacing the collar
with a fresh one. Then she took down her hair and rearranged it,
rapidly but with care. It was a simple matter to change her slippers
for walking-boots, and to find her hat and coat and gloves in their
old places. Miss Manuel, the nurse, was reliable, she told
herself again as she put them on, feeling a moment's gratitude to the
woman for trying to keep her "up," even during her "absences," to
something approaching the standard a gentlewoman's birth and breeding
demanded. Her money, or at least a large part of it, for she did not
stop to count it, she found in the despatch-box where she had put it
on their arrival in New York, and the key was with others on a ring in
the private drawer of her writing-desk. Hurriedly she selected several
large bills and put them into a silver purse, pressing it deep into
the pocket of her walking-skirt with some vague fear that she might
lose it. Then she replaced the box and locked the desk, dropping the
key in her pocket. Her movements were extraordinarily swift and
noiseless. In twenty minutes from the time she had looked in on the
nurse she was ready for the street.
A second glance into the inner room showed her that Miss Manuel was
still sleeping. She regarded her distrustfully for an instant, and on
a sudden impulse sat down at her desk and wrote a message on a sheet
of the hotel paper.
"I am going out for the day.
I will return to-night. Do
nothing, consult no one. I am quite able to take care of myself. Don't
make a sensation for the newspapers! ALICE STANSBURY."
"That last sentence will quiet her," she reflected, with cool
satisfaction, as she pinned the note to the side of the mirror. "She
won't care to advertise far and wide that she has temporarily mislaid
The most difficult thing of all remained to be done. The outer door
of her own room was locked and the key was missing. To leave the
apartment she must pass through the room where Miss Manuel lay asleep.
She held her breath, but crossed in safety, though Miss Manuel stirred
and murmured something, as if subconsciously warned of danger. Miss
Stansbury closed the door noiselessly behind her and stood silent for
a moment in the hall, glancing about her and planning the wisest
method of getting away. She knew better than to enter any of the hotel
elevators. While there was no certainty that she would be detained if
she did, there had been a great deal of interest in her when she
arrived at the hotel, and there was every chance that some employe
might think it a wise precaution to ask her nurse a question or two
after she departed. Then Miss Manuel would be hot upon her trail, and
her day would be spoiled. She crept cautiously along the rear halls,
keeping out of sight on each floor when the elevators were passing,
and meeting only strangers and one preoccupied porter. Her rooms were
on the fifth floor, but she descended the four flights of stairs in
safety, and, going triumphantly out of the rear entrance of the hotel,
found herself in the quiet street on which it opened. The great
building was on a corner, and as she crossed its threshold she saw a
trolley-car passing along the avenue at her right. On a quick impulse
she signalled. When it stopped she entered and seated herself in a
corner, surveying her fellow-passengers with seeming unconcern, though
her breath came fast. She was safe; she was off! She decided to ride
on until she made her plans and knew in more detail what should be
done with this gift of the gods, a day that was all her own.
It had been a long time since she had been alone, she suddenly
remembered. There had been outings, of course, and shopping
expeditions and the like, but always Miss Manuel or one of her kind
had been at her elbow—sometimes professionally cheerful, sometimes
professionally grave, but at all times professionally watchful. The
woman exulted fiercely in her new-found liberty. She had hours before
her—free, glorious hours. She would use them, fill them, squander
them in a prodigal spending, following every impulse, indulging every
desire, for they were hers and they were her last. In the depths of
her brain lay a resolution as silent, as deadly, as a coiled serpent
waiting to strike. She would enter no asylums, she would endure no
more "absences," she would have no more supervision, no more
consultations, no more half-concealed fear of friends, no more pity
from strangers. There was a way of escaping all this forever, and she
knew it and would take it, though it led across the dim threshold over
which she could never return.
The car hummed as it sped along. At a distance she saw an entrance
to Central Park, and from the inside the branches of trees seemed to
wave a salute to her in honor of her freedom. She signalled to the
conductor and left the car, retracing her steps until she entered the
Park. She was far up-town, near the northern end of it, and the paths,
warm in the spring sunshine, were almost deserted. For a while she
strolled idly about, her senses revelling in the freshness and beauty
around her, in the green vistas that opened to right and left, and the
soft breeze that fanned her face. Children, riding tricycles or
rolling hoops, raced past her; and once, after she had walked almost
an hour, a small boy of four slipped his hand into her gloved one and
trotted beside her for a moment, to the open scandal of his nurse. She
smiled down at him, pleased by the touch of his little fingers. When
he left, as abruptly as he had joined her, and in response to a
stentorian Irish summons from the rear, she felt a rather surprising
degree of regret. The momentary contact had given her a pleasant sense
of companionship; for the first time it came to her that it would be
better to have a sharer of this day of days—no hireling, no
scientific-eyed caretaker, but a little child or a friend, some one,
any one, whom she liked and who liked her, and who, like the little
boy, did not know the truth about her.
Her spirits dropped as suddenly as they had risen, and she felt
tired and disappointed. Almost unconsciously she dropped on a bench to
rest, her eyes still following the figure of the child, now almost out
of sight around a distant bend. The bench was off the path, and she
had been too preoccupied when she sat down to notice that it had
another occupant; but as the figure of her little friend vanished and
she turned her eyes away with a sigh, she found herself looking into
those of a man. He was very young, hardly more than a boy, and he
occupied the far end of the seat, one arm thrown across the back of
it, his knees crossed, and his body so turned that he faced her. The
thing she saw in his eyes held her own fastened to them, at first in
surprise, then in sudden comprehension. It was hunger. With a long
look she took him in—the pinched pallor of his smooth, handsome young
face, the feverish brightness of his gray eyes, the shabbiness of his
well-made, well-fitting clothes, even the rent in the side of one of
his patent- leather shoes. His linen was clean, and his cuffs were
fastened with cheap black links; she reflected instinctively that he
had pawned those whose place they obviously filled, and then her mind
returned at once to her first discovery, that he was hungry. There was
no mistaking it. She had never seen hunger in a face before, but she
recognized it now. He had taken off his hat and dropped it on the
bench beside him. His brown hair was short and wavy, and one lock on
his left temple was white. He had been writing a note, or possibly an
advertisement for work, with a stub of lead-pencil on a scrap of paper
resting on his knee, and now he suddenly raised his eyes—either in an
abstracted search for the right word or because her appearance had
Without hesitation she spoke to him.
"Pardon me," she said, impersonally. "May I ask you some
He looked at her, and the understanding of his situation revealed
in her glance brought the blood to his face. He straightened himself,
his lips parting for a reply, but she gave him no time to speak.
"I am a stranger here," she continued, "and New York is not always
kind to strangers. You seem to be unhappy, too. I wonder if we cannot
help each other."
He smiled with an unyouthful bitterness.
"I'm afraid I'm not much use—to myself or any one else," he
answered, with hard deliberation. Then his face underwent a change as
he looked at hers and read in it, inexperienced as he was, some of the
tragic writing of Fate's inexorable hand. His voice showed his altered
"Of course," he added, quickly, "if there's really anything I can
do. I know the town well enough. Perhaps I can help you if you want to
get anywhere. What is it you would like?"
Her face, under the sudden idea which came to her, could hardly be
said to brighten, but it changed, becoming less of a mask, more human.
She felt a thrill of unaccustomed interest, less in him than in the
plan which he unconsciously suggested. Here at last was something to
do. Here was a companion who did not know her. He was watching her
closely now, and it came to him for the first time, with a sense of
surprise, that this strange woman who had spoken to him was not old,
and was even attractive.
"I think you can help me, if you will," she went on, quietly. "As I
have said, I am a stranger in New York. I have never seen anything of
it except the streets I passed through this morning between the Park
and my hotel. But I've always wanted to see it, and to-day is my first
and only opportunity, for I am going away to-night."
He surveyed her thoughtfully. The shadow had returned to his face,
and it was plain that under his air of courteous interest stirred the
self-despair she had surprised in her first look at him.
"Of course I can make out a sight-seer's list for you," he said,
when she stopped, "and I will, with pleasure. I think you'd better
drop into the Metropolitan Art Galleries while you're in the Park.
I'll write the other places in their street order going down-town, so
you won't waste time doubling on your tracks. Have you a bit of
He began to fumble in his own pockets as he spoke, but vaguely, as
one who knows the search is vain. She shook her head.
"No," she told him, "and I don't want one. That isn't my idea at
all— a list of places to look up all alone and a dismal round of
dreary sight-seeing. What I would like"—she smiled almost
demurely—"is a 'personally conducted' tour. Are you very busy?"
He flushed again and looked at her, this time with a veiled
suspicion in his glance. She met it with such calm appreciation that
it changed to one of surprised doubt. She knew perfectly what was
passing in his mind, and it caused her no more concern than the
puzzled silence of a child who has heard a new word. She went on as
complacently as if he were the little boy who had walked beside her a
few moments before.
"In Paris and London," she remarked, "one can engage a guide, a
gentleman, for a day at a fixed price. Probably there are such guides
here in New York, if I knew where they were to be found and had the
time to look for them. You are much younger than I am. You might
almost be my son! Moreover, you will not mind my saying that I fancied
you were unemployed and possibly were looking for employment. You can
hardly help seeing the definite connection in all this."
His eyes met hers for a moment and then dropped. He blushed
"I see you're trying to help me," he murmured, apologetically.
She went on as if she had not heard him.
"Let me employ you for the day. I need amusement, interest,
occupation—more than you can imagine. I am in the same mood, as far
as desolation and discouragement go, that you are in. I must be about,
seeing people and diverting my mind. We can each supply the other with
one thing that we need. I have money. To earn a little of that
professionally, by a humane service, should really appeal to you."
Something in her voice as she uttered the last words made him turn
toward her again. As he looked, his young face softened. She waited in
silence for what he would say.
He sat up and straightened his shoulders with a quick gesture.
"You are right," he said, "but I'm awfully afraid you'll get the
worst of it. I'm not an ornamental escort for a lady, as you see." He
looked at his broken shoe, and then at her. Her expression showed
entire indifference to the point he had raised.
"We will consider it settled," she said. "You will take my purse
and pay our joint expenses. I think," she went on, as she handed it to
him, "we'll omit the Metropolitan. After miles of the Louvre and the
Luxembourg and the Vatican, I don't seem to crave miles of that.
Suppose we take a cab and drive round. I want to see the streets, and
the crowds, and the different types of men and women, and the slums. I
used to be interested in Settlement work, long ago."
"Pardon me," he said. "You have won your case. I will serve you to
the best of my ability. But as a preliminary I insist on counting the
money in this purse, and on your seeing that my accounts are all
"Do as you like about that," she replied, indifferently, but her
glance rested on him with a glint of approval.
He deliberately counted the bills. "There are three hundred and
forty dollars," he said, replacing them.
She nodded absently. She had sunk into a momentary reverie, from
which he did not arouse her until she suddenly looked at her watch.
"Why, it's after twelve!" she exclaimed, with more animation than she
had yet shown. "We'll go to Delmonico's or Sherry's for luncheon, and
make our programme while we're there."
He started, and leaned forward, fixing his eyes on her, but she did
not meet them. She replaced her watch in her belt with a successful
assumption of abstraction, but she was full of doubt as to how he
would take this first proposition. The next instant the bench trembled
under the force with which he had dropped back on it.
"God!" he cried, hoarsely, "it's all a put-up job to feed me
because you suspect I'm hungry! No, you don't even suspect—you know
She put her hand on his arm, and the gesture silenced him.
"Be quiet," she said. "Suppose you are hungry? What of it? Is it a
disgrace to be hungry? Men and women deliberately cultivate the
condition! Come," she ended, as she rose abruptly, "keep to your
bargain. We both need our luncheon."
He replaced the purse in the inside-pocket of his coat, and rose.
They walked a few moments without a word. She noticed how well he
carried himself and how muscular and athletic his figure appeared even
in its shabby clothes. As they strolled toward the nearest exit she
talked of the Park, and asked him a few matter-of-fact questions, to
which he replied with growing animation. "I can't give you figures and
statistics, I'm afraid," he added, smiling.
She shook her head. "It would be sad if you could," she said. "Give
me anything but information. As for statistics, I've a constitutional
distaste for them. Where can we find a cab?"
"We won't find a cab," he explained, with an authoritative
independence which somehow appealed to her. "We'll take this trolley-
car and ride to within a short walk of Delmonico's. After luncheon
we'll find cabs at every turn."
He helped her into a car as he spoke, and paid their fare from her
purse, flushing as he had to change a five-dollar note to do so. The
simple act emphasized for him, as no words could have done, his
peculiar relation to this strange woman, whom he had never seen until
half an hour ago. Balancing the purse in his hand, he glanced at her,
taking in almost unconsciously the tragic droop of her lips, the
prematurely gray locks in her dark hair, and the unchanging gloom of
her brown eyes.
"How do you know I won't drop off the car at some corner and
abscond with this?" he asked, in a low voice.
She looked at him calmly.
"I think I know you will not. But if you did it would hurt me."
"Would it spoil your day?"
"Yes," she conceded, "it would spoil my day."
"Well," he announced, judiciously, "you shall not have to reproach
me with anything of that kind. Your day shall be a success if I can
make it so."
His manner was more than gentle. His mood was one of gratitude and
pleasant expectation. He was getting to know her and was sorry for
her—possibly because she trusted him and was sorry for him. She was
not the companion he would have chosen for a day's outing, and it was
doubtful if she would be any too cheerful; but he would serve her
loyally, wherever this queer adventure led, and he was young enough to
appreciate its possibilities. Inwardly she was amused by his little
affectation of experience, of ripe age addressing youth, but it was so
unconsciously done, so unconquerably youthful, that it added to the
interest he had aroused in her. She liked, too, his freshness and
boyish beauty, and his habit of asserting his sense of honor above
everything. Above all things, she liked his ignorance of her. To him,
she was merely a woman like other women; there was a satisfaction to
her in that thought as deep as it was indescribable. The only other
occupants of the car were a messenger-boy, lost to his surroundings in
a paper-covered novel, and a commercial traveller whose brow was
corrugated by mental strain over a notebook.
"There are some things I would like to do in New York," she
confided. "We will do them now—lunch at Delmonico's, go sight-seeing
all the afternoon, dine at Sherry's, and go to the theatre this
evening. Which is the best play in town?"
"Well—er—that, you know, depends on what you like," hazarded the
boy, sagely. "Do you prefer comedy, tragedy, or melodrama?"
"Something light," she decided; "something airy and
effervescent—with no problems or even thoughts in it."
His eyes twinkled as he smiled at her. If these were her tastes,
she was getting on, he reflected, and the vista of the long day before
him offered attractions.
"'Peter Pan'!" he exclaimed. "That's all those things. I've not
seen it, but I've read the criticisms, and I know a fellow who has
gone five times."
"Testimony enough," agreed his companion. "We'll go to 'Peter Pan.'
Now tell me something about yourself."
"Is that in the bond?"
"No. That would be a gift."
"I'd—I'd rather not, if you don't mind."
He indulged in his inevitable painful blush as he spoke, but she
stared at him without pity and with a sudden hauteur which gave him a
glimpse of another side of her complex nature. This woman who picked
up strange youths in the street and spent the day with them was
obviously accustomed to unquestioning deference from others. He edged
away from her, firm but unhappy.
"You're right," she said, at last. "We'll add a clause to our
compact and play we're disembodied spirits. Neither of us will ask the
other a personal question."
"Agreed, and thank you. It's not that I wouldn't be flattered, you
know, by your interest, and all that," he went on, awkwardly. "It's
only because it's such a beastly harrowing recital and shows me up in
such—such an inefficient light. It would depress you, and it couldn't
do me any good. The things about myself are what I want to get away
from—for a while."
They were soon at Delmonico's, and she followed him into the main
dining-room, where she selected a table at a window looking out on the
Avenue. The head waiter glanced at him, hesitated, surveyed her, and
showed that he was indeed a good servant who knew his own. He hovered
over them with deepening interest as they scanned the menu.
The boy smiled at his companion, trying not to notice the smell of
the food around them, nor the horrible sinking sensation which
overwhelmed him at intervals. A sickening fear swept over him that he
would faint before luncheon came—faint on a lady's hands, and from
starvation at that! He plunged into conversation with reckless
When the waiter came with the oysters she set the example of eating
them at once. Her companion followed it in leisurely fashion. She told
herself that he was a thoroughbred, and that she had not been mistaken
in him, but she would almost have preferred to see him eat wolfishly.
His restraint got on her nerves. She could not eat, though she made a
pretence of it. When he had eaten his soup with the same careful
deliberation, a little color came into his face. She observed this,
and her tension relaxed.
"The last time I was here," he said, absently, "was two years ago.
One of the fellows at New Haven had a birthday, and we celebrated it
in the corner room just above this. It was a pretty lively dinner. We
kept it up from seven o'clock until two in the morning, and then we
all went out on the Avenue and sat down in the middle of the street,
where it was cool, to smoke and talk it over. That was Davidson's
idea. It annoyed the cabmen and policemen horribly. They have such
ready tempers and such torpid minds."
The recital and the picture it called up amused her.
"What else did you do?" she asked, with interest.
"I'm afraid I don't remember much of it," he confessed. "I know we
were pretty silly; but I do remember how foolish the head waiter
looked when Davidson insisted on kissing him good-bye in the hall out
there, and cried because he didn't know when he'd see him again. Of
course you can't see how funny that was, because you don't know
Davidson. He was the most dignified chap at college, and hated gush
more than any one I ever knew."
He drank the last of his black coffee with a sigh of content, and
blew a last ring from the cigar she had insisted that he should smoke.
"Don't you think," he hazarded, "that it would be jolly to drive up
and down Broadway and Fifth Avenue for an hour or two? If you want
crowds, they're there; and if you see anything worth closer
inspection, we can get out and look at it."
She agreed, and he paid the bill, tipping the waiter
As their hansom threaded its way through the crowded street she
rarely smiled, but her sombre eyes took in everything, and she "said
things," as the boy put it, which he recalled and quoted years
afterward. Incidentally she talked of herself, though always without
giving him a clew as to who she was and where she came from. Several
times, as a face in the passing throng caught her interest, she
outlined for him in a few terse words the character of its possessor.
He was interested, but he must have unconsciously suggested a certain
unbelief in her intuition, for once she stopped speaking and looked at
"You think I don't know," she said, "but I do. We always know,
until we kill the gift with conventionalities. We're born with an
intuitive knowledge of character. Savages have it, and animals, and
babies. We lose it as we advance in civilization, for then we distrust
our impressions and force our likes and dislikes to follow the
dictates of policy. I've worked hard to keep and develop my insight,
and behold my reward! I recognized you at the first glance as the
perfect companion of a day."
The boy's face flamed with pleasure.
"Then it is a success?"
"It is a success. But it's also five o'clock. What next?"
"Then it's been a success?" he repeated, dreamily—"so far, I mean.
We've done so little in one way, but I'm awfully glad you've liked it.
We'll drop into Sherry's now for a cup of tea and a buttered English
muffin and the beautiful ladies and the Hungarian Band. Then, instead
of dining there, suppose we go to some gayer, more typical New York
place—one of the big Broadway restaurants? That will show you another
'phase,' as you say; and the cooking is almost as good."
She agreed at once. "I think I'd like that," she said. "I want as
much variety as I can get."
He leaned toward her impressively over the little table in the tea-
room, recalling her unexpected tribute to the "perfect companion," and
feeling all at once surprisingly well acquainted with her.
"What a pity you've got to go away tonight!" he murmured,
ingenuously. "There's so much left to do."
For an instant, as memory rolled over her, her heart stopped
beating. He observed her change of expression and looked at her with a
sympathetic question in his gray eyes.
"Can't you change your plans?" he suggested, hopefully. "Must you
"No, they're not that kind of plans. I must go."
As she spoke her face had the colorlessness and the immobility he
had seen in it during the first moments it was turned toward him in
the morning, and her features suddenly looked old and drawn. Under the
revelation of a trouble greater than he could understand, the boy
dropped his eyes.
"By Jove!" he thought, suddenly, "she's got something the matter
with her." He wondered what it was, and the idea flashed over him that
it might be an incurable disease. Only the year before he had heard a
friend receive his death-warrant in a specialist's office, and the
memory of the experience remained with him. He was so deep in these
reflections that for a moment he forgot to speak, and she in her turn
"I'm sorry," he then said, awkwardly. Then, rightly divining the
quickest way to divert her thoughts, he suggested that they should
drive again before dinner, for an hour or two, to get the effect of
the twilight and the early lights on Broadway.
She agreed at once, as she had agreed to most of his suggestions,
and her face when she looked at him was serene again, but he was not
wholly reassured. In silence he followed her to the cab.
Over their dinner that night in the glittering Broadway restaurant,
with the swinging music of French and German waltzes in their ears,
she relaxed again from the impersonal attitude she had observed during
the greater part of the day. She looked at him more as if she saw him,
he told himself, but he could not flatter himself that the change was
due to any deepening of her interest in him. It was merely that she
knew him better, and that their long hours of sight-seeing had
verified her judgment of him.
Their talk swept over the world. He realized that she had lived
much abroad and had known many interesting men and women. From casual
remarks she dropped he learned that she was an orphan, unmarried, with
no close ties, and that her home was not near New York. This, when the
next day, after a dazed reading of the morning newspapers, he summed
up his knowledge of her, was all he could recall—the garnered drift-
wood of a talk that had extended over twelve hours.
"You look," he said once, glancing critically at her, "as if you
had lived for centuries and had learned all the lessons life could
She shook her head. "I have lived for centuries, so far as that
goes," she said, "but of all the lessons I've really learned only
"And that is?"
"How little it all amounts to."
Again, as he studied her, he experienced an unpleasant little
tremor. He felt at the same time an odd conviction that this woman had
played a part all day, and that now, through fatigue and depression,
she was tiring of her role and would cast it away, showing herself to
him as she was. For some reason he did not want this. The face behind
the mask, of which he was beginning to get a glimpse at intervals, was
a face he feared he would not like. He shrank from it as a child
shrinks from what it does not understand.
Much to his relief, she threw off the dark mood that seemed to
threaten her, and at the play she was more human than she had been
"Ah, that first act," she said, as the curtain fell on Peter Pan's
flight through the window with the Darling Children—"that delicious
first act! Of course Barrie can't keep it up—no one could. But the
humor of it and the tenderness and the naivete! Only a grown-up with
the heart of a child could really appreciate it."
"And you are that?" he asked, daringly. He knew she was not.
"Only for this half-hour," she smiled. "I may get critical at any
moment and entirely out of touch."
She did not, however, and watching her indulgent appreciation of
the little boys in Never Never Land, he unconsciously reflected that,
after all, this must be the real woman. That other personality, some
sudden disheartening side of which he got from time to time, was not
his new friend who laughed like a young girl over the crocodile with
the clock inside, and showed a sudden swift moisture in her brown eyes
when the actress pleaded for the dying fairy. When the curtain fell on
the last act, leaving Peter Pan alone with his twinkling fairy friends
in his little home high among the trees, Alice Stansbury turned to her
companion with the sudden change of expression he had learned to
dread. The pupils of her eyes were strangely dilated, and she was
evidently laboring under some suppressed excitement. She spoke to him
curtly and coolly.
"We'll have a Welsh rabbit somewhere," she said, "and then I'll
go— back." He was struck by this use of the word, and by the tone of
her voice as she said it. "Back," he repeated, mentally—"back to
something mighty unpleasant, I'll wager."
At the restaurant she ate nothing and said little. All the snap and
sparkle had gone out of the day and out of their companionship as
well. Even the music was mournful, as if in tacit sympathy, and the
faces of the diners around them looked tired and old. When they left
the dining-room they stood together for an instant in the vestibule
opening into the street. No one was near them, and they were for the
moment beyond the reach of curious eyes. She cast one quick look
around to be sure of this, and then, going close to him, she put both
her hands on his shoulders. As she stood thus he realized for the
first time how tall she was. Her eyes were almost on a level with his
"You're a dear boy," she said, quickly, and a little breathlessly.
"You have made the day perfect, and I thank you. We shall not meet
again, but I'd like to feel that you won't forget me, and I want you
to tell me your first name."
He put his hands over hers.
"It's Philip," he said, simply, "and as for forgetting, you may be
very sure I won't. This isn't the kind of thing one forgets, and
you're not the kind of woman."
As he spoke the grip of her hands on his shoulders tightened, and
she leaned forward and kissed him on the mouth. Under the suddenness
and the surprise of it his senses whirled, but even in the chaos of
the moment he was conscious of two conflicting impressions—the first,
an odd disappointment in her, his friend; the second, an absurd
resentment against the singular remoteness of those cool, soft lips
that for an instant brushed his own. She gave him no chance to speak.
"I've left my gloves on the table," she said, crisply. "Get them."
He went without a word. When he returned the vestibule was
deserted. With a swift intuition of the truth he opened the door and
rushed out into the street. She was not there, nor the cabman whom he
had instructed to wait for them. She had slipped away, as she intended
to do, and the kiss she had given him had been a farewell. He was left
standing looking stupidly up and down the street, with her gloves in
his hand and her purse, as he now remembered, in his pocket. Well, he
could advertise that the next morning, in such a way that she could
reclaim it without seeing him again if she wished. He could even seal
it in an envelope and leave it at the Herald office, to be
given to any one who would describe it. He walked slowly down Broadway
and turned into the side street which held the house and the
unattractive hall bedroom he called home. He felt "let down," as he
would have put it, and horribly lonely and depressed. She was such a
good sort, he reflected, and it was such a big pity she wouldn't let
him see her again. He knew somehow that he never would. She was not a
woman that changed her mind about things. Jove! but the whole
experience had been interesting; and that kiss—that kiss he had been
cad enough to misunderstand for an instant. ... The deepest blush of
the day scorched his face as he recalled it.
Miss Stansbury arrived at the front entrance of her hotel at the
same moment, and tersely instructed the driver to collect his fare at
the desk. She entered the hall with him, and walked indifferently past
the night clerk, answering with a nod the tacit question of that youth
as he glanced from her to the cabman. She was not unconscious of the
suppressed excitement in his manner nor of the elevator boy's relief
as he joyfully greeted her appearance in his car. What did it matter?
What did anything matter now? Her day was over.
Miss Manuel, already informed of her arrival by a hurried telephone
message from the office, was waiting for her at the door of their
apartment. She burst into tears as she put her arms around her patient
and kissed her and led her inside.
"Oh, my dear, how
could you?" she cried, reproachfully.
"Think of the agonies I've been through. It's almost twelve o'clock."
The other woman did not look at her, nor did she return the caress.
She walked into the room and sat down at her desk, with a strange
appearance of haste, at which the nurse marvelled. Without waiting to
take off her hat or coat, she seized a pen and paper and wrote these
lines, marking them plainly:
FOR INSERTION IN TO-MORROW'S "HERALD"
PHILIP.—The purse was purposely left with you. Its contents are
She put this in an envelope and directed it to the
Advertising Department. Then, for the first time, she spoke to the
nurse, balancing the envelope absently in her hand as she talked, and
not looking once at the other's face. Her tones were level and
monotonous, almost as if she were repeating a lesson.
"You need not have worried," she said, answering at last the
nurse's first words. "I've had what I've wanted for years—a whole day
to myself. I've done what I wanted to do. It's been worth while. But,"
she added, more slowly, "you needn't ask me about it, for I shall not
tell you anything. Ring for a messenger, please. I want this taken to
the Herald office at once; give him the money to pay for it."
In silence Miss Manuel obeyed. When the boy came she went into the
hall to hand the envelope to him, glancing at the address as she did
so. The instant she crossed the threshold Alice Stansbury slipped into
the next room and opened a window looking down into a court. As she
did so she whimpered like a frightened child.
"I must do it," she whispered. "I must—I must—now—now—now! If I
wait, I won't—dare."
When the nurse entered the room there was only the open window to
tell her what had happened. Panting, she leaned out and looked down
with starting eyes. Far below, on the asphalt floor of the court, was
a dark mass which moved once and then lay still.
The little clock on the table in the inner room struck twelve. Out
in the hall the messenger whistled softly as he waited for the
elevator. Hearing these familiar sounds, the nurse cast off the
paralysis which had held her, and the silent corridor of the great
hotel echoed her useless call for help.
IV. THE SIMPLE LIFE OF GENEVIEVE MAUD
Genevieve Maud reclined in a geranium-bed in an attitude of
unstudied ease. On her fat body was a white dress, round her waist was
a wide, blue sash, perched on one side of her head was a flaunting
blue bow, and in her heart was bitterness. It was dimly comforting to
lie down in all this finery, but it did not really help much. She
brooded darkly upon her wrongs. They were numerous, and her cherubic
little face took on additional gloom as she summed them up. First, she
had been requested to be good—a suggestion always unwelcome to the
haughty soul of Genevieve Maud, and doubly so this morning when she
saw no alternative but to obey it. Secondly, there was no one to play
with—a situation depressing to any companionable being, and
grindingly so to one who considered all men her peers, all women her
unquestioning slaves, and all animals grateful ministers to her needs
in lowlier fields of delight.
These delusions, it must be admitted, had been fostered during the
four short but eventful years of Genevieve Maud's life. Her method of
approach had been singularly compelling; old and young paused not to
argue, but freely stripped themselves of adornments she fancied, and
animals, from the kitten she carried round by one ear to the great St.
Bernard she half strangled in recurring moments of endearment, bore
with her adoringly, and humbly followed the trail of cake she left
behind her when she tired of them and trotted off in search of fresh
attractions. These were usually numerous; and had they been rarer, the
ingenuity of Genevieve Maud would have been equal to the test. There
were no social distinctions in her individual world. But one short
year ago she had followed a hand-organ man and a monkey to a point
safely distant from too-observant relatives and servants; there,
beside the chattering monkey, she had sung and danced and scrambled
for pennies and shaken a tambourine, and generally conducted herself
like a debutante maenad.
That had been a glorious day. She recalled it now smoulderingly,
resentfully. Different, indeed, was the tragic present. No one to play
with—that was bad enough. But there were still worse conditions. She
was not even allowed to play by herself! Rover had been banished to a
neighbor's, the kitten had been lent generously to the Joyce children,
her human playmates had been warned off the premises, and Genevieve
Maud had been urged to be a dear little girl and keep very, very quiet
because mamma was sick. As if this was not enough, fate drove its
relentless knife and gave it a final twist. Far back in a corner of
the garden where she lay, almost hidden by the drooping branches of an
old willow, sat her two sisters, Helen Adeline and Grace Margaret,
highly superior beings of a stately dignity even beyond their ripe
ages of eleven and nine years. They were too old to play with little
girls, as they had frequently mentioned to Genevieve Maud, but they
were not wholly beyond the power of her spell, and there had been
occasions when they had so far forgotten themselves as to descend to
her level and enjoy doll tea-parties and similar infantile pleasures.
To-day, however, they were of a remoteness. Their plump backs were
turned to her, their heads were close together, and on the soft
afternoon breeze that floated over the garden were borne sibilant
whispers. They were telling each other secrets—secrets from which
Genevieve Maud, by reason of her tender years, was irrevocably shut
Genevieve Maud sat up suddenly in the flower-bed as the full horror
of this truth burst upon her, and then briskly entered into action
designed to transform the peace and quiet of the scene. Her small, fat
face turned purple, her big, brown eyes shut tight, her round mouth
opened, and from the tiny aperture came a succession of shrieks which
would have lulled a siren into abashed silence. The effect of this
demonstration, rarely long delayed, was instantaneous now. A white-
capped nurse came to an up-stairs window and shook her head warningly;
the two small sisters rose and scurried across the lawn; a neighbor
came to the hedge and clapped her hands softly, clucking mystic
monosyllables supposed to be of a soothing nature; neighboring
children within hearing assumed half-holiday expressions and started
with a rush to the side of the blatant afflicted one. Surveying all
this through half-shut eyes and hearing the steady tramp of the
oncoming relief corps, an expression of triumphant content rested for
an instant of Genevieve Maud's face. Then she tied it up again into
knots of even more disfiguring pattern, took another long breath, and
apparently made an earnest effort to attract the attention of citizens
of the next township. "I'm tired!" was the message Genevieve Maud sent
to a sympathetic world on the wings of this megaphonic roar.
The trained nurse, who had rushed down-stairs and into the garden,
now reached her side and drastically checked Genevieve Maud's
histrionism by spreading a spacious palm over the wide little mouth.
With her other hand she hoisted Genevieve Maud from the flower-bed and
escorted her to neutral ground on the lawn.
"'Tired!'" repeated the irate nurse, as the uproar subsided to
gurgles. "Heavens! I should think you would be, after that!" Helen
Adeline and Grace Margaret arrived simultaneously, and the older child
took the situation and the infant in hand with her best imitation of
her mother's manner.
"I am so sorry you were disturbed, Miss Wynne," she said, "and poor
mamma, too. We will take care of Genevieve Maud, and she won't cry any
more. We were just making some plans for her future," she ended,
The mouth of Genevieve Maud, stretched for another yell, was
arrested in its distension. Her small ears opened wide. Was she, after
all, in the secret? It would seem so, for the nurse, seemingly
satisfied, left the three children alone and went back to her patient,
while Helen Adeline at once led her small sister to the choice retreat
under the willow.
"We are going to talk to you, Genevieve Maud," she began, "ve-ry
seriously, and we want you to pay 'tention and try to understand."
This much was easy. Mamma usually opened her impressive addresses in
"'Pay 'tention and try to understand," echoed Genevieve Maud, and
grinned in joyful interest.
"Yes, really try," repeated Helen Adeline, firmly. Then, rather
impatiently, and as one bearing with the painful limitations of the
young, she went on:
"You're so little, Maudie, you see, you don't know; and you won't
know even if we tell you. But you are a spoiled child; every one says
so, and mamma said the other day that something should be done. She's
sick, so she can't do it, but we can. We've got to take care of you,
anyhow, so this is a good time. Now what it really is, is a kind of
game. Gracie and I will play it, and you are going to—to—well, you
are going to be the game."
Genevieve Maud nodded solemnly, well satisfied. She was in it,
anyhow. What mattered the petty details? "'Going to be the game,'" she
echoed, as was her invariable custom, with the air of uttering an
Helen Adeline went on impressively.
"It's called the simple life," she said, "and grown-up folks are
playing it now. I heard the minister an' mamma talking about it las'
week for hours an' hours an' hours. They give up pomps an' vanerties,
the minister says, an' they mus'n't have luxuries, an' they mus' live
like nature an' save their souls. They can't save their souls when
they have pomps an' vanerties. We thought we'd try it with you first,
an' then if we like it—er—if it's nice, I mean, p'r'aps Grace an' I
will, too. But mamma is sick, an' you've had too many things an' too
much 'tention, so it's a good time for you to lead the simple life an'
do without things."
Genevieve Maud, gazing into her sister's face with big, interested
eyes, was vaguely, subconsciously aware that the new game might halt
this side of perfect content; but she was of an experimental turn and
refrained from expressing any scepticism until she knew what was
coming. In the mean time the eyes of her sister Grace Margaret had
roamed disapprovingly over Genevieve Maud's white dress, the blue sash
that begirded her middle, the rampant bow on her hair. Katie had put
on all these things conscientiously, and had then joyfully freed her
mind from the burden of thought of the child for the rest of the
"Don't you think," Grace Margaret asked Helen Adeline, tentatively,
"sashes an' bows is pomps?"
Helen Adeline gave the speaker a stolid, unexpressive glance. She
"Let's take 'em off," went on the younger and more practical
spirit. "Then we won't never have to tie 'em for her, either, when
they get loose."
They stripped Genevieve Maud, first of the sash and bows, then of
the white gown, next of her soft undergarments, finally, as zeal
waxed, even of her shoes and stockings. She stood before them clad in
innocence and full of joyful expectation.
"All these fine clothes is pomps an' vanerties," remarked Helen
Adeline, firmly. "The minister said so when he was talking with mamma
'bout the simple life, an' Gracie and I listened. It was very
She surveyed the innocent nudity of her little sister, "naked but
not ashamed," with a speculative glance.
"Katie will be glad, won't she?" she reflected, aloud. "She says
there's too much washing. Now she won't have to do any more for you.
Don't you feel better an' happier without those pomps?" she asked
That young person was already rolling on the grass, thrusting her
little toes into the cool earth, exulting in her new-found sartorial
emancipation. If this was the "new game," the new game was a winner.
Grace Margaret, gazing doubtfully at her, was dimly conscious of an
effect of incompleteness.
"I think she ought to have a hat," she murmured, at last. Helen
Adeline was good-naturedly acquiescent.
"All right," she answered, cheerfully, "but not a pompy one. Papa's
big straw will do." They found it and put it on the infant, whose eyes
and face were thereby fortunately shaded from the hot glare of the
August sun. Almost before it was on her head she had slipped away and
was running in and out of the shrubbery, her white body flashing among
"We'll have our luncheon here," announced Helen Adeline, firmly,
"an' I'll bring it out to save Katie trouble. Maudie can't have rich
food, of course, 'cos she's livin' the simple life. We'll give her
bread off a tin plate."
Grace Margaret looked startled.
"We haven't got any tin plate," she objected.
Grace Margaret's eyes dropped suddenly, then rose and met her
sister's. An unwilling admiration crept into them.
"How will Maudie learn nice table manners?" she protested, feebly.
"Mamma says she must, you know."
"Folks don't have nice table manners when they're livin' simple
lives," announced Helen Adeline, loftily. "They just eat. I guess we
won't give her knives an' forks an' spoons, either."
Grace Margaret battled with temptation and weakly succumbed.
"Let's give her some of the rice pudding, though," she suggested.
"It will be such fun to see her eat it, 'specially if it's very
Of further details of that luncheon all three children thereafter
declined to speak. To Genevieve Maud the only point worthy of mention
was that she had what the others had. This compromise effected, the
manner of eating it was to her a detail of indescribable unimportance.
What were knives, forks, spoons, or their lack, to Genevieve Maud? The
tin plate was merely a gratifying novelty, and that she had been in
close communion with rice pudding was eloquently testified by the
samples of that delicacy which clung affectionately to her features
and her fat person during the afternoon.
While they ate, Helen Adeline's active mind had been busy. She
generously gave her sisters the benefit of its working without delay.
"She mus'n't have any money," she observed, thoughtfully, following
with unseeing eyes the final careful polish the small tongue of
Genevieve Maud was giving Rover's borrowed plate. "No one has money in
the simple life, so we mus' take her bank an' get all the money out
"Spend it!" suggested Grace Margaret, rapturously, with her second
inspiration. Helen Adeline reflected. The temptation was great, but at
the back of her wise little head lay a dim foreboding as to the
"No," she finally decided, consistently. "I guess it mus' be given
to the poor. We'll break the bank an' take it out, an' Maudie can give
it to the poor all by herself. Then if any one scolds, she did
it! You'll enjoy that kind an' noble act, won't you, Maudie?" she
added, in her stateliest grown-up manner.
Maudie decided that she would, and promptly corroborated Helen
Adeline's impression. The soft August breeze fanned her body, the
grass was cool and fresh under her feet, and her little stomach looked
as if modelled from a football by her ample luncheon. She was to be
the central figure in the distribution of her wealth, and wisdom
beyond her own would burden itself with the insignificant details.
Genevieve Maud, getting together the material for large and slushy mud
pies, sang blithely to herself, and found the simple life its own
"We'll leave her with her dolls," continued Helen Adeline, "an'
we'll hunt up deservin' poor. Then we'll bring 'em here an' Maudie can
give 'em all she has. But first"—her little sharp eyes rested
discontentedly upon Genevieve Maud's family—six dolls reposing in a
blissful row in a pansy-bed—"first we mus' remove those pomps
"Take away the dolls?" she ejaculated, dizzily.
"No, not edzactly. Jus' take off all their clothes. Don't you think
it looks silly for them to have clothes on when Maudie hasn't any?"
Grace Margaret agreed that it did, and at once the mistake was
rectified, the clothing was added to the heap of Genevieve Maud's
garments, and a pleasing effect of harmony reigned. The little girls
regarded it with innocent satisfaction.
"I s'pose we couldn't really take her dolls," reflected Helen
Adeline, aloud. "She'd make an awful fuss, an' she's so good an' quiet
now it's a pity to start her off. But her toys mus' go. They're
very expensive, an' they're pomps an' vanerties, I know. So we'll take
'em with us an' give 'em to poor children."
"You think of lots of things, don't you?" gurgled Grace Margaret,
with warm admiration. Her sister accepted the tribute modestly, as no
more than her due. Leaving Genevieve Maud happy with her mud pies and
her stripped dolls, the two sought the nursery and there made a
discriminating collection of her choicest treasures. Her Noah's Ark,
her picture-books, her colored balls and blocks, her woolly lambs that
moved on wheels, her miniature croquet set, all fell into their
ruthless young hands and, as a crowning crime, were dumped into the
little go-cart that was the very apple of Genevieve Maud's round eyes.
It squeaked under its burden as the children drew it carefully along
the hall. They carried it down-stairs with exaggerated caution, but
Genevieve Maud saw it from afar, and, deeply moved by their
thoughtfulness, approached with gurgles of selfish appreciation. The
conspirators exchanged glances of despair. It was the intrepid spirit
of Helen Adeline that coped with the distressing situation. Sitting
down before her victim, she took Maudie's reluctant hands in hers and
gazed deep into her eyes as mamma was wont to gaze into hers on the
various occasions when serious talks became necessary.
"Now, Genevieve Maud," she began, "you mus' listen an' you mus'
mind, or you can't play. Ain't you havin' a good time? If you don't
want to do what we say, we'll put your clothes right straight on again
an' leave you in the midst of your pomps an' vanerties: an'
then—what'll become of your soul?" She paused impressively to allow
this vital question to make its full appeal. Genevieve Maud writhed
"But," continued Helen Adeline, solemnly, "if you do jus' as we
say, we'll let you play some more." The larger issue was temporarily
lost sight of this time, but the one presented seemed to appeal
vividly to Genevieve Maud.
"Let Genevieve Maud play some more," she wheedled.
"And will you do everything we say?"
"Do everything you say," promised Genevieve Maud, recklessly.
"Very well,"—this with a fidelity in its imitation to her mother's
manner which would have convulsed that admirable and long-suffering
woman could she have heard it. "An' first of all we mus' give away
your toys to poor children."
The mouth of Genevieve Maud opened. Helen Adeline held up a warning
hand, and it shut.
pomps," repeated the older sister, positively, "an'
we'll bring you simple toys if poor children will exchange with us."
This was at least extenuating. Genevieve Maud hesitated and
sniffed. In the matter of being stripped, toys were more important
"If you don't, you know, you can't play," Grace Margaret reminded
"Awright," remarked Genevieve Maud, briefly. "Give toys to poor
They hurriedly left her before her noble purpose could do so, and
Genevieve Maud, left to her own resources, made unctuous mud pies and
fed them to her family. Grace Margaret and Helen Adeline returned in
triumph within the hour and laid at the feet of their small victim
modest offerings consisting of one armless rubber doll, one dirty and
badly torn picture-book, and one top, broken.
"These is simple," declared Helen Adeline, with truth, "an' the
poor Murphy children has your pomps, Maudie. Are you glad?"
Genevieve Maud, surveying doubtfully the nondescript collection
before her, murmured without visible enthusiasm something which was
interpreted as meaning that she was glad. As a matter of fact, the
charm of the simple life was not borne in upon her compellingly. The
top she accepted until she discovered that it would not go. The rubber
doll she declined to touch until Grace Margaret suggested that it had
been in a hospital and had had its arms amputated like Mrs. Clark's
son Charlie. Deeply moved by the pathos of this tragic fate, Genevieve
Maud added the rubber doll to her aristocratic family, whose members
seemed to shrink aside as it fell among them. The picture-book she
declined to touch at all.
"It's dirty," she remarked, with an air of finality which
effectually closed the discussion. By this time she was not herself an
especially effective monument of cleanliness. The rice pudding and the
mud pies had combined to produce a somewhat bizarre effect, and the
dirt she had casually gathered from the paths, the flower-beds, and
the hedges enlivened but did not improve the ensemble.
"She ought to be washed pretty soon," suggested Grace, surveying
her critically; but to this tacit criticism Helen Adeline promptly
"They don't have to, so much," she objected, "when it's the simple
life. That's one of the nice things."
With this decision Genevieve Maud was well content. Her tender
years forbade hair-splitting and subtle distinctions; the term
"accumulated dirt" or "old dirt" had no significance for her. She
could not have told why she rejected the Murphy child's thoroughly
grimed picture- book, yet herself rolled happily about in a thin
coating of mud and dust, but she did both instinctively.
Her attention was pleasantly distracted by subdued cries from the
street beyond the garden hedge. Three Italian women, all old, stood
there gesticulating freely and signalling to the children, and a small
ragged boy on crutches hovered nervously near them. Helen Adeline
jumped to her feet with a sudden exclamation.
"It's the poor!" she said, excitedly. "For your money, Genevieve
Maud. I told them to come. Get the bank, Gracie, an' she mus' give it
Grace departed promptly on her errand, but there was some delay in
opening the bank when she returned—an interval filled pleasantly by
the visitors with interested scrutiny of the shameless Genevieve Maud,
whose airy unconsciousness of her unconventional appearance uniquely
attested her youth. When the money finally came, rolling out in
pennies, five-cent pieces, and rare dimes, the look of good-natured
wonder in the old black eyes peering wolfishly over the hedge changed
quickly to one of keen cupidity, but the children saw nothing of this.
Helen Adeline divided the money as evenly as she could into four
"It's all she has," she explained, grandly, "so she's got to give
it all to you, 'cos riches is pomps an' ruins souls. Give it,
Genevieve Maud," she continued, magnanimously surrendering the centre
of the stage to the novice in the simple life.
Genevieve Maud handed it over with a fat and dirty little paw, and
the women and the lame boy took it uncritically, with words of thanks
and even with friendly smiles. Strangely enough, there was no
quarrelling among themselves over the distribution of the spoils. For
one golden moment they were touched and softened by the gift of the
baby hand that gave its all so generously. Then the wisdom of a speedy
disappearance struck them and they faded away, leaving the quiet
street again deserted. Helen Adeline drew a long breath as the bright
gleam of their kerchiefs disappeared around a corner.
"That's nice," she exclaimed, contentedly. "Now what else can we
make her do?"
The two pair of eyes rested meditatively on the unconscious little
sister, again lost to her surroundings in the construction of her
twenty-third mud pie. Not even the surrender of her fortune beguiled
her from this unleavened joy of the simple life. "We've made her do
'mos' everything, I guess," admitted Grace Margaret, with evident
reluctance. It appeared so, indeed. Stripped of her clothing, her
money and her toys, it would seem that little in the way of earthly
possessions was left to Genevieve Maud; but even as they looked again,
Grace Margaret had another inspiration.
"Don't they work when they have simple lives?" she asked, abruptly.
"'Course they work."
"Then let's have Genevieve Maud do our work."
There was silence for a moment—silence filled with the soul-
satisfying enjoyment of a noble conception.
"Grace Margaret Davenport," said Helen, solemnly, "you're a smart
girl!" She exhaled a happy sigh, and added: "'Course we'll let her!
She mus' work. She can water the geraniums for you an' the pansies for
me, an' gather up the croquet things for me an' take them in, an' fill
Rover's water-basin, an' get seed for the birds, an' pick up all the
paper an' leaves on the lawn."
It is to be deplored that the active and even strenuous life thus
outlined did not for the moment appeal to Genevieve Maud when they
brought its attractions to her attention. The afternoon was fading,
and Genevieve Maud was beginning to fade, too; her little feet were
tired, and her fat legs seemed to curve more in her weariness of well-
doing; but the awful threat of being left out of the game still held,
and she struggled bravely with her task, while the two arch-
conspirators reposed languidly and surveyed her efforts from beneath
"It'll be her bedtime pretty soon," suggested Helen Adeline, the
suspicion of a guilty conscience lurking in the remark. "She can have
her bread and milk like she always does—that's simple 'nuff. But do
you think she ought to sleep in that handsome brass crib?"
Grace Margaret did not think so, but she was sadly puzzled to find
"Mamma won't let her sleep anywhere else, either," she pointed out.
"Mamma won't know."
"Annie or Katie will know—p'r'aps."
The "p'r'aps" was tentative. Annie and Katie had taken full
advantage of the liberty attending the illness of their mistress, and
their policy with the children was one of masterly inactivity. So long
as the little girls were quiet they were presumably good, and hence,
to a surety, undisturbed. Still, it is hardly possible that even their
carelessness would fail to take account of Genevieve Maud's unoccupied
bed, if unoccupied it proved to be.
"An' cert'inly papa will know."
Helen Adeline's last hope died with this sudden reminder. She
sighed. Of course papa would come to kiss his chicks good-night, but
that was hours hence. Much could be done in those hours. Her problem
was suddenly simplified, for even as she bent her brows and pondered,
Grace Margaret called her attention to an alluring picture behind her.
Under the shelter of a blossoming white hydrangea lay Genevieve Maud
fast asleep. It was a dirty and an exhausted Genevieve Maud, worn with
the heat and toil of the day, scratched by bush and brier, but
wonderfully appealing in her helplessness—so appealing, that Helen
Adeline's heart yearned over her. She conquered the momentary
"I think," she suggested, casually, "she ought to sleep in
Grace Margaret gasped.
"It ain't a simple life sleepin' in lovely gardens," continued the
authority, with simple but thrilling conviction. "An'—wasn't the
Infant Jesus born in barns?"
Grace Margaret essayed a faint protest.
"Papa won't like it," she began, feebly.
"He won't know. 'Course we won't let her
stay there! But
just a little while, to make it finish right—the way it ought to be."
The holding up of such lofty ideals of consistency conquered Grace
Margaret—so thoroughly, in fact, that she helped to carry the
sleeping Genevieve Maud not only to the barn, but even, in a glorious
inspiration, to Rover's kennel—a roomy habitation and beautifully
clean. The pair deposited the still sleeping innocent there and
stepped back to survey the effect. Helen Adeline drew a long breath of
satisfaction. "Well," she said, with the content of an artist
surveying the perfect work, "if that ain't simple lives, I don't know
They stole out of the place and into the house. The shadows
lengthened on the floor of the big barn, and the voices of the
children in the street beyond grew fainter and finally died away.
Lights began to twinkle in neighboring windows. Rover, returning
from his friendly visit, sought his home, approached its entrance
confidently, and retreated with a low growl. The baby slept on, and
the dog, finally recognizing his playmate, stretched himself before
the entrance of his kennel and loyally mounted guard, with a puzzled
look in his faithful brown eyes. The older children, lost in agreeable
conversation and the attractions of baked apples and milk toast,
wholly forgot Genevieve Maud and the flying hours.
It was almost dark when their father came home and, after a visit
to the bedside of his wife, looked to the welfare of his children. The
expression on the faces of the two older ones as they suddenly grasped
the fact of his presence explained in part the absence of the third.
Mr. Davenport had enjoyed the advantages of eleven years of daily
association with his daughter Helen Adeline.
"Where is she?" he asked, briefly, with a slight prickling of the
In solemn procession, in their night-gowns, they led him to her
side; and the peace of the perfumed night as they passed through the
garden was broken with explanations and mutual recriminations and
expressions of unavailing regret. Rover rose as they approached and
looked up into his master's eyes, wagging his tail in eager welcome.
"Here she is," he seemed to say. "It's all right.
The father's eyes grew dim as he patted the dog's fine head and
lifted the naked body of his youngest daughter in his arms. Her little
body was cold, and she shivered as she awoke and looked at him. Then
she gazed down into the conscience-stricken faces of her sisters and
memory returned. It drew from her one of her rare spontaneous remarks.
"Don't yike simple yives," announced Genevieve Maud, with
considerable firmness. "Don't yant to play any more."
"You shall not, my babykins," promised her father, huskily. "No
more simple life for Genevieve Maud, you may be sure."
Later, after the hot bath and the supper which both her father and
the trained nurse had supervised, Genevieve Maud was tucked cozily
away in the little brass crib which had earlier drawn out the stern
disapproval of her sisters. Her round face shone with cold cream. A
silver mug, full of milk, stood beside her crib, on her suggestion
that she might become "firsty" during the night. Finding the occasion
one of unlimited indulgence and concession, she had demanded and
secured the privilege of wearing her best night-gown—one resplendent
with a large pink bow. In her hand she clasped a fat cookie.
Helen Adeline and Grace Margaret surveyed this sybaritic scene from
the outer darkness of the hall.
"Look at her poor, perishin' body full of comforts," sighed Helen
Adeline, dismally. Then, with concentrated bitterness, "I s'pose we'll
never dare to even think 'bout her soul again!"
V. HIS BOY
Captain Arthur Hamilton, of the ——th Infantry, moved on his
narrow cot, groaned partly from irritation and partly from pain,
muttered a few inaudible words, and looked with strong disapproval
toward the opening of the hospital tent in which he lay. Through it
came the soft breezes of the Cuban night, a glimpse of brilliantly
starred horizon- line, and the cheerful voice of Private Kelly, raised
in song. The words came distinctly to the helpless officer's reluctant
"'Oh, Liza, de-ar Liza,'" carolled Kelly, in buoyant response to
the beauty of the evening.
Captain Hamilton muttered again as he suppressed a seductive desire
to throw something at the Irishman's head, silhouetted against the sky
as he limped past the entrance. Six weeks had elapsed since the battle
of San Juan, in which Hamilton and Kelly had been among the many
grievously hurt. Kelly, witness this needless service of song, was
already convalescent. He could wander from tent to tent in well-
meaning but futile efforts to cheer less fortunate mates. Baker was
around again, too, Hamilton remembered, and Barnard and Hallenbeck and
Lee, and—oh, hosts of others. He ran over their names as he had done
countless times before in the long days and nights which had passed
since he had been "out of it all," as he put it to himself. He alone,
of his fellow officers in the regiment, still lay chained to his
wretched cot, a very log of helplessness, in which a fiery spirit
flamed and consumed. His was not a nature that took gracefully to
inactivity; and of late it had been borne in upon him with a cold,
sickening sense of fear, new, like his helplessness, that inactivity
must be his portion for a long, long time to come. At first the
thought had touched his consciousness only at wide intervals, but now
it was becoming a constant, lurking horror, always with him, or just
within reach, ready to spring.
He was "out of it all," not for weeks or even for months, but very
possibly for all time. The doctor's reticence told him this; so did
his own sick heart; so did the dutiful cheerfulness of his men and his
brother officers. They overdid it, he realized, and the efforts they
so conscientiously made showed how deep their sympathy must be, and
how tragic the cause of it. His lips twisted sardonically as he
remembered their optimistic predictions of his immediate recovery and
the tributes they paid to his courage in the field. It was true he had
distinguished himself in action (by chance, he assured himself and
them), and he had figured as a hero in the subsequent reports of the
battle. But the other fellows would hardly have bothered to have a
trifle like that mentioned, he told himself, if the little glowing
badge of fame he carried off the field had not been now his sole
possession. He had given more than his life for it. He had sacrificed
his career, his place in the active ranks, his perfect, athletic body.
His life would have been a simple gift in comparison. Why couldn't it
have been taken? he wondered for the hundredth time. Why could not he,
like others, have died gloriously and been laid away with the flag
wrapped round him? But that, he reflected, bitterly, would have been
too much luck. Instead, he must drag on and on and on, of no use to
himself or to any one else.
Again and again he contemplated the dreary outlook, checking off
mentally the details of the past, the depressing experiences to come,
the hopelessness of it all; and as his mind swung wearily round the
small circle he despised himself for the futility of the whole mental
process, and for his inability to fix his thoughts on things other
than his own misfortune. A man paralyzed; a thing dead from the waist
down—that was what he had become. He groaned again as the realization
gnawed at his soul, and at the sound a white-capped nurse rose from a
table where she had been sitting and came to his bedside with a smile
of professional cheerfulness. She had a tired, worn face, and faded
blue eyes, which looked as if they had seen too much of human
suffering. But an indomitable spirit gazed out of them, and spoke,
too, in her alert step and in the fine poise of her head and
"Your mail has come," she told him, "and there seem to be some nice
letters—fat ones. One, from Russia, has a gold crown on the envelope.
Perhaps I had better leave you alone while you read it."
Hamilton smiled grimly as he held out a languid hand. He liked Miss
Foster. She was a good sort, and she had stood by the boys nobly
through the awful days after the fight. He liked her humor, too,
though he sometimes had suspicions as to its spontaneity. Then his eye
fell on the top envelope of the little package she had given him, and
at the sight of the handwriting he caught his breath, and the blood
rushed suddenly to his face. He closed his eyes for a moment in an
effort to pull himself together. Did he still care, after ten years,
and like that! But possibly, very probably, it was merely a
manifestation of his wretched weakness, which could not endure even a
pleasant surprise without these absurd physical effects. He
remembered, with a more cheerful grin, that he had hardly thought of
her at all during the past year. Preparations for war and his small
part in them had absorbed him heart and soul. He opened the letter
without further self-analysis, and read with deepening interest the
closely written lines on the thin foreign paper, whose left-hand
corner held a duplicate of the gold crown on the envelope.
"DEAR OLD FRIEND,—You have forgotten me, no doubt, in all these
years. Ten, is it not? But I have not forgotten you, nor my other
friends in America, exile though I am and oblivious though I may have
seemed. I do not know quite why I have not come home for a visit long
before this. Indeed, I have planned to do so from year to year, but a
full life and many varied interests have deferred the journey one way
or another. I have three boys—nine, seven, and five—and it would be
difficult to bring them with me and impossible to leave them behind.
So, you see—
"But my heart often longs for my native land, and in one tower of
this old castle I have a great room full of souvenirs of home. It is
the spot I love best in my new country. Here I read my mail and write
my letters and follow American news in the newspapers friends send me.
Here, with my boys tumbling over each other before the fireplace, I
read of the ascent of San Juan Hill, and of you, my friend, and your
splendid courage, and your injury.
"No doubt by the time this letter reaches you you will be well
again, and in no need of my sympathy. But you will let me tell you how
proud of you I am.
"I read the newspaper accounts to my boys, who were greatly
interested and impressed when they learned that mamma knew the hero. I
was much amused by the youngest, Charlie—too small, I thought, to
understand it all. But he stood before me with his hands on my knees
and his big brown eyes on my face; and when I finished reading he
asked many questions about the war and about you. He is the most
American of my children, and loves to hear of his mother's country.
After the others had gone he cuddled down in my lap and demanded the
'story' repeated in full; and when I described again the magnificent
way in which you saved your men, he said, firmly, 'I am his
"I thought you might be interested in this unsought, spontaneous
tribute, and my purpose in writing is to pass it on to you—though I
admit it has taken me a long time to get 'round to it!
"You will forgive this rambling letter, and you will believe me,
now as ever,
"Sincerely your friend,
"MARGARET CHALLONER VALDRONOVNA."
Hamilton slowly refolded the letter and returned it to its
envelope, letting the solace of its sweet friendliness sink into his
sore heart the while. She had not wholly forgotten him, then, this
beautiful woman he had loved and who had given him a gracious and
charming camaraderie in return for the devotion of his life. He
had not been senseless enough to misconstrue her feeling, so he had
never spoken; and she, after two brilliant Washington seasons, had
married a great Russian noble and sailed away without suspecting, he
felt sure, what she was to him. He had recovered, as men do, but he
had not loved again, nor had he married. He wondered if she knew. Very
probably; for the newspapers which devoted so much space to his
achievements had added detailed biographical sketches, over which he
had winced from instinctive distaste of such intimate discussion of
his personal affairs. The earlier reports (evidently the ones she had
read) had published misleading accounts of his injuries. They were
serious, but not dangerous, according to these authorities. It was
only recently that rumors of his true condition had begun to creep
into print. The Princess had not read these. Hamilton was glad of
He recalled dreamily the different passages of her letter, the
remainder of his mail lying neglected on his bed. That boy—her boy—
his boy. He smiled to himself, at first with amusement, then with
a sudden tenderness that pleasantly softened his stern lips. He was
weak enough, frightened enough, lonely enough, to grasp with an actual
pitiful throb of the heart this tiny hand stretched out to him across
the sea. He liked that boy—his boy. He must be a fine fellow.
He wondered idly how he looked. "Three boys—nine, seven, five"—yes,
Charlie was five and had great brown eyes. Like his mother's, the
stricken man remembered. She had brown eyes—and such brown eyes. Such
kind, friendly, womanly brown eyes—true mirrors of the strong soul
that looked from them. Something hot and wet stung the surface of
Hamilton's cheek. He touched it unsuspectingly, and then swore alone
in deep, frank self-disgust.
"Well, of all the sentimental idiots!" he muttered. "My nerves are
in a nice way, when I bawl like a baby because some one sends me a
friendly letter. Guess I'll answer it."
Miss Foster brought him pen, ink, and paper, and he began, writing
with some difficulty, as he lay flat on his back.
"MY DEAR PRINCESS,—Your letter has just reached me, and you
cannot, I am sure, imagine the cheer and comfort it brought. I am
still lingering unwillingly on the sick-list, but there is some talk
now of shipping me north on the Relief next week, when I hope
to give a better account of myself. In the mean time, and after, I
shall think much of you and the boys, especially of the youngest and
his flattering adoption of me. I am already insufferably proud of
that, and rather sentimental as well, as you will see by the fact that
I want his photograph! Will you send it to me, in care of the Morton
Trust Company, New York? I do not yet know just where I shall be.
"There is a pleasant revelation of well-being and happiness between
the lines of your letter. Believe me, I rejoice in both.
As he read it over the letter seemed curt and unsatisfactory, but
he was already exhausted and had not the strength to make another
effort. So he wearily sealed and addressed it, and gave it to Miss
Foster for the next mail. Her tired eyes widened a little as she
artlessly read the inscription.
During the seemingly endless days and nights that followed,
Hamilton battled manfully but despairingly with his sick soul.
Wherever he looked there was blackness, lightened once or twice, and
for an instant only, by a sudden passing memory of a little child. It
would be too much to say that the memory comforted him. Nothing could
do that, yet. All he dared hope for was for the strength to go through
his ordeal with something approaching manliness and dignity. The
visits of his friends were a strain to him, as well as to them, and it
was sadly easy to see how the sense of his hopeless case depressed
them. He could imagine the long breath they drew as they left his tent
and found themselves again in the rich, warm, healthy world. He did
not blame them. In their places, he would no doubt have felt just the
same. But he was inevitably driven more and more into himself, and in
his dogged efforts to get away from self-centred thought he turned
with a sturdy determination to fancies about remote things, and
especially to imaginings of the boy—the little fellow who loved him,
and who, thank God, was not as yet "sorry for him!" Oddly enough, the
mother seemed to have taken her place in the background of Hamilton's
thoughts. It was her son who appealed to him—the innocent man-child,
half American, half Russian, entering so happily and unconsciously on
the enhanced uncertainties of life in the tragic land of his birth.
During the trying, stormy voyage north on the great hospital ship,
Hamilton had strange, half-waking visions of a curly headed lad with
brown eyes, tumbling over a bear-skin rug in front of a great
fireplace, or standing at his mother's knee looking into her face as
she talked of America and of an American soldier. He began to fancy
that the vision held at bay the other crowding horrors which lay in
wait. If he could keep his mind on that he was safe. He was glad the
mother and son could not, in their turn, picture him—as he was.
When the photographs arrived, soon after he reached New York, the
helpless officer opened the bulky package with eager ringers. There
were two "cabinets," both of the child. One showed him at the tender
age of two, a plump, dimpled, beautiful baby, airily clad in an
embroidered towel. The second was apparently quite recent. A five-
year-old boy, in black velvet and a bewildering expanse of lace
collar, looked straight out of the picture with tragic dark eyes,
whose direct glance was so like his mother's that ten years seemed
suddenly obliterated as Hamilton returned their gaze. With these was a
little letter on a child's note-paper, in printed characters which
reeled drunkenly down the page from left to right. Hamilton read it
with a chuckle.
"DEAR CAPTAIN HAMILTON,—I love you very much. I love you becos you
fought in the war. I have your picture. I have put a candle befront of
your picture. The candle is burning. I love you very much. Your boy,
Accompanying this epistolary masterpiece was a brief note from the
writer's mother, explaining that the "picture" of Captain Hamilton, of
whose possession her infant boasted, had been cut from an illustrated
newspaper and pasted on stiff card-board in gratification of the
"He insists on burning a candle before it," she wrote, "evidently
from some dim association with tapers and altars and the rest. As it
is all a new manifestation of his character, we are indulging him
freely. Certainly it can do him no harm to love and admire a brave
man. Besides, to have a candle burned for you! Is not that a new
flutter of glory?"
Hamilton, still in the grasp of a dumb depression he would voice to
no one, was a little amused and more touched. In his hideous
loneliness and terror the pretty incident, one he would have smiled at
and forgotten a year ago, took on an interest out of all proportion to
its importance. He felt a sudden, unaccountable sense of pleasant
companionship. The child became a loved personality—the one human,
close, vital thing in a world over which there seemed to hang a thick
black fog through which Hamilton vaguely, wretchedly groped. He
himself did not know why the child interested him so keenly, nor did
he try to analyze the fact. He was merely grateful for it, and for the
other fact that he cherished no sentimental feeling for the boy's
mother. That had passed out of his life as everything else had
seemingly passed which belonged to the old order of things. He had
always been a calm, reserved, self-absorbed, unemotional type of man,
glorying a little, perhaps, in his lack of dependence on human kind.
In his need he had turned to his fellows and turned in vain. Now that
a precious thing had come to him unsought, he did not intend to lose
Through his physicians he pulled various journalistic wires,
resulting in the suppression, in the newspapers, of the hopeless facts
of his case. He did not intend, he decided, to have his boy think of
him as tied to an invalid's couch. Then, knowing something of human
nature, and of the evanescent character of childish fancies, he
ordered shipped to Russia a variety of American mechanical toys,
calculated to swell the proud bosom of the small boy who received
them. This shameless bid for continued favor met with immediate
success. An ecstatic, incoherent little shriek of delight came from
the land of the czar in the form of another letter; and the candle,
which quite possibly would have burned low or even gone out, blazed up
That was the beginning of an intercourse which interested and
diverted Hamilton for months. He spared no pains to adapt his letters
to the interest and comprehension of his small correspondent, and he
derived a quite incredible amount of satisfaction from the childish
scrawls which came to him in reply. They were wholly babyish
documents, about the donkey, the nurse, the toys, and games of the
small boy's daily life. Usually they were written in his own printed
letters. Sometimes they were dictated to his mother, who faithfully
reported every weighty word that fell from the infant's lips. But
always they were full of the hero-worship of the little child for the
big, strong, American fighting-man; and in every letter, sometimes in
the beginning, sometimes at the end, occasionally in both places, as
the enthusiasm of the writer waxed, was the satisfying assurance, "
I am your boy." Hamilton's eyes raced over the little pages till
he found that line, and there rested contentedly.
As the months passed, the healing influence of time wrought its
effects. Hamilton, shut in though he was, adapted himself to the
narrow world of an invalid's room and its few interests. With the
wealth he had fortunately inherited he brought to his side leading
specialists who might possibly help him, and went through alternate
ecstatic hopes and abysmal fears as the great men came and departed.
Very quietly, too, he helped others less fortunate, financially, than
himself. The nurses and physicians in the hospital where he lay
learned to like and admire him, and other patients, convalescents or
newcomers who were able to move about, sought his cheerful rooms and
brought into them a whiff of the outside world. Through it all,
winding in and out of the neutral-colored weeks like a scarlet thread
of life and hope, came the childish letters from Russia, and each week
a thick letter went back, artfully designed to keep alive the love and
interest of an imaginative little boy.
At the end of six months young Charles fell from his donkey and
broke his left arm, but this trivial incident was not allowed to
interfere with the gratifying regularity with which his letters
arrived. It was, however, interesting, as throwing a high light on the
place his American hero held in the child's fancy. His mother touched
on this in her letter describing the accident.
"The arm had to be set at once," she wrote, "and of course it was
very painful. But I told Charlie you would be greatly disappointed if
your boy were not brave and did not obey the doctor. He saw the force
of this immediately, and did not shed a tear, though his dear little
face was white and drawn with pain."
Master Charlie himself discussed the same pleasant incident in the
first letter he dictated after the episode.
"I did not cry," he mentioned, with natural satisfaction. "Mamma
cried, and Sonya cried. Men do not cry. Do they? You did not cry when
you were hurt, did you? I am going to be just like you."
Hamilton laughed over the letter, his pale cheek flushing a little
at the same time. He had cried, once or twice; he recalled it
now with shame. He must try to do better, remembering that he loomed
large as a heroic model for the young.
He was still reading the little letter when Dr. Van Buren, his
classmate at the Point, his one intimate since then, and his physician
now, entered the room, greeted him curtly, and stood at the window for
a moment, drumming his fingers fiercely against the pane. Hamilton
knew the symptoms; Van Buren was nervous and worried about something.
He dropped the small envelope into his lap and looked up.
"Well?" he said, tersely.
Van Buren did not answer for a moment. Then he turned, crossed the
room abruptly, and sat down near the reclining-chair in which the
officer spent his days. The physician's face was strained and pale.
His glance, usually direct, shifted and fell under his friend's
"Well?" repeated the latter, compellingly. "I suppose you fellows
have been talking me over again. What's the outcome?"
Van Buren cleared his throat.
"Yes, we—we have, old man," he began, rather huskily—"in there,
you know." He indicated the direction of the consulting-room as he
spoke. "We don't like the recent symptoms."
Unconsciously, Hamilton straightened his shoulders.
"Out with it. Don't mince matters, Frank. Do you think life is so
precious a thing to me that I can't part with it if I've got to?"
Van Buren writhed in his chair.
"It isn't that," he said, "life or death. It's wor—I mean, it's
different. It's—it's these." He laid his hand on the officer's
helpless legs, stretched out stiffly under a gay red afghan. "God!" he
broke out, suddenly, "I don't know how you'll take it, old chap; and
there's no sense in trying to break a thing like this gently. We're
afraid—we think—they'll—have to come off!"
Under the shock of it Hamilton set his teeth.
"Why?" he asked, quietly.
"Because—well, because they're no good. They're dead. They're a
constant menace to you. A scratch or injury of any kind—they've got
to go—that's all, Arthur. But we've been talking it over and we can
fix you up so you can get about and be much better off than you are
now." He leaned forward as he spoke, and his words came quickly and
eagerly. The worst was over; he was ready to picture the other side.
Hamilton stopped him with a gesture.
"Suppose I decline to let them go?" he asked, grimly.
Van Buren stared at him.
"You can't!" he stammered.
"Because—why, because your life depends on their coming off!"
Hamilton's lips set.
"My life!" he repeated. "My precious, glad, young life! So
full of happiness! So useful!" He dropped the savagely bitter tone
suddenly. "No, Frank," he said, quietly, "I won't go through life as
the half of a man. I'll let the thing take its course; or if that will
be too slow and too—horrible, I'll help the hobbling beast on its
way. I think I'd be justified. It's too much to ask—you know it—to
be hoisted through life as a remnant."
Van Buren rose, moved his chair nearer to Hamilton's, and sat down
close to his friend's side. All nervousness had left him. He was again
cool, scientific, professional; but with it all there was the deep
sympathy and understanding of a friend.
"No, you won't," he said, firmly; "you won't do anything of the
kind, and I'll tell you why you won't. Because it isn't in your
make-up to play the coward. That's why. You've got to go through with
it and take what comes, and do it all like the strong chap you are. If
you think there won't be anything left in life, you are mistaken. You
can be of a lot of use; you can do a lot of good. You will have time
and inclination and money. You will be able to get around, not as
quickly, but as surely. With a good man-servant you'll be entirely
independent of drafts on charity or pity. Money has some beautiful
uses. If you were a poor devil who hadn't a cent in the world and
would be dependent on the grudging service of others, I should wish
you to accept and bear, perhaps, but I could not urge you to. Now,
your life is helpful to others. You can give and aid and bless. You
can be a greater hero than the man who went up San Juan Hill, and
there are those who will feel it."
"That is, my money is needed, and because I've got it I should drag
out years of misery while I spread little financial poultices on other
people's ills," returned Hamilton. "No, thanks; it's not enough good.
They can have the money just the same. That can be amputated with
profit to all concerned. I'll leave it to hospitals and homes for the
helpless, especially for fractional humanity—needy remnants. But I
decline absolutely, once and for all, to accept the noble future you
have outlined. I grant you it would be heroic. But have you ever heard
of great heroism with no stimulus to arouse it?"
He raised his hand as he spoke, and brought it down with a gesture
of finality. As it fell, it dropped on the little letter.
Mechanically, his fingers closed on it.
His boy! His brave little boy who had not flinched or cried,
because he meant to be just like Captain Hamilton. What would he
think when the truth came to him years hence, as it must do. What
would she think now, the mother who was glad that her son should "love
and admire a brave man"? The small missive was a stimulus.
Hamilton turned to Van Buren again, checking with a little shake of
the head the impetuous speech that rushed to that gentleman's lips.
"Just wait one moment," he said, thoughtfully. He leaned back and
shut his eyes, and as he did so the familiar scene of months past came
suddenly before them—the quaint old foreign room, the great fireplace
with its blazing logs, the mother, the curly haired boy. His life had
been a lonely one, always, Hamilton reflected. Few, pathetically few,
so far as he knew, would be affected by its continuance or its end.
But the manner of its end—that was a different matter. That
might touch individuals far and wide by its tragic example to other
desperate souls. Still, he was not their keeper. As for Charlie—
Ah, Charlie! Charlie, with his childish but utter
hero-worship; Charlie, with his lighted candle; Charlie, with his
small-boy love and trust—Charlie would be told some little story and
Charlie would soon forget. But—what would Charlie think of him some
day when the truth was out—Charlie who at five could set his teeth
and bear pain stoically because his hero did! Because he was "His
Boy!" Hamilton's mind returned to that problem again and again and
lingered there. No, he could not disappoint Charlie. Besides, Van
Buren was right. There was work, creditable work to do. And to be
plucky, even if only to keep a brave little chap's ideal intact, to
maintain its helpful activity, was something worthy of a stanch man.
Would he wish his boy to go under when the strain against the right
thing was crushing?
He laid the letter down gently, deliberately, turned to his friend,
and smiled as Van Buren had not seen him smile since their ingenuous
boyhood days. There was that sweetness in the smile which homage to
woman makes us dub "feminine," and something of it, too, in the way he
laid his hand on his chum's shoulder.
"All right, old sawbones," he said, slowly. "You may do whatever
has to be done. I'll face the music. Unbuilding one man may build up
VI. THE COMMUNITY'S SUNBEAM
Miss Clarkson looked at the small boy, and the small boy looked
back at Miss Clarkson with round, unwinking eyes. In the woman's
glance were sympathy and a puzzled wonder; the child's gaze expressed
only a calm and complete detachment. Subtly, but unmistakably, he
succeeded in conveying the impression that he regarded this human
object before him because it was in his line of vision, but that he
found no interest in it, nor good reason for assuming an interest he
did not feel: that if, indeed, he was conscious of any emotion at all,
it was in the nature of a vaguely dawning desire that the object
should remove itself, should cease to shut off the view from the one
window of the tenement room that was his home. But it really did not
matter much. Already, in his seven years of life, the small boy had
decided that nothing really mattered much, and his dark, grim little
face, with its deep-cut, unchildish lines, bore witness to the
unwavering strength of this conviction. If the object preferred to
stay—He settled himself more firmly on the rickety chair he occupied,
crossed his feet with infinite care, and continued to regard the
object with eyes that held the invariable expression with which they
met the incidents of life, whether these incidents were the receiving
of a banana from Miss Clarkson's hands, or, as had happened half an
hour before, the spectacle of his dead mother being carried
It was not a stupid look; it was at once intent, unsympathetic,
impersonal. Under it, now, its object experienced a moment of actual
embarrassment. Miss Clarkson was not accustomed to the indifferent
gaze of human eyes, and in her philanthropic work among the tenements
she had been somewhat conspicuously successful with children. They
seemed always to like her, to accept her; and if her undoubted charm
of face, of dress, and of smile failed to win them, Miss Clarkson was
not above resorting to the aid of little gifts, of toys, even to the
pernicious power of pennies. She did good, but she did it in her own
way. She was young, she was rich, she was independent. She helped the
poor because she pitied them, and wished to aid them, but her methods
were unique, and were followed none the less serenely when, as
frequently happened, they conflicted with all the accepted notions of
She had come to this room almost daily, Miss Clarkson remembered,
since she had discovered the destitute Russian woman and her child
there a month ago. The mother was dying of consumption; the child was
neglected and hungry—yet both had an unmistakable air of birth, of
breeding; and the mother's French was as perfect as the exquisitely
finished manner that drew from Anne Clarkson, in the wretched tenement
room, her utmost deference and courtesy. The child, too, had glints of
polish. Punctiliously he opened doors, placed chairs, bowed;
punctiliously he stood when the lady stood, sat when the lady sat, met
her requests for small services with composure and appreciation. And
(here was the rub) each time she came, bringing in her generous wake
the comforts that lightened his mother's dreary journey into another
world, he received her with the air of one courteously greeting a
stranger, or, at best, of one seeking an elusive memory as one surveys
a half-familiar face.
Doggedly Anne Clarkson had persisted in her attentions to them
both. The mother was grateful—there was no doubt of that. Under the
ministrations of the nurse Miss Clarkson supplied, under the influence
of food, of medicines, and of care, she brightened out of the apathy
in which her new friend had found her. But to the last she retained
something of her son's unresponsiveness, and an uncommunicativeness
which tagged his as hereditary. She never spoke of herself, of her
friends, or of her home. She made no last requests, left no last
messages. Once, as she looked at her boy, her eyeballs exuded a film
of moisture. Miss Clarkson interpreted this phenomenon rightly, and
"I will see that he is well cared for." The sick woman gave her a
long look, and then nodded.
"You will," she answered. "You are not of those who promise and do
not perform. You are very good—you have been very good to us. Your
reward should come. It does not always come to those who are good, but
it should come to you. You should marry and have children, and leave
this terrible country, and be happy."
The words impressed Miss Clarkson, because, as she reminded herself
now, they were almost the last her protegee uttered. She considered
them excessively unmodern, and strongly out of place on the lips of
one whose romance had ended in disillusionment.
Well, it was over. The mother was gone. But the child remained, and
his future—his immediate future, at least—must be decided here and
now. With a restless movement Anne Clarkson leaned toward him. In her
abstraction she had shifted her glance from him for a few moments, and
he had taken advantage of the interval to survey dispassionately the
toes of the new shoes she had given to him. He glanced up now, and met
her look with the singular unresponsiveness which seemed his note.
"We're going away, Ivan," she said, speaking with that artificial
cheerfulness practised so universally upon the helpless and the young.
"Mother has gone, you know, and we can't stay here any more. We're
going to the country, to a beautiful place where there are flowers,
and birds, and dogs, and other little boys and girls. So get your cap,
Ivan looked unimpressed, but he rose with instant obedience and
crossed the room to its solitary closet. His little figure looked very
trim in the new suit she had bought for him; she noticed how well he
carried himself. His preparations for departure were humorously
simple. He took his cap from its peg, put it on his head, and opened
the door for her to precede him in the utter abandonment of his
"home." Earlier in the day Miss Clarkson had presented to pleased
neighbors the furniture and clothing of the dead woman, taking the
precaution to have it fumigated in an empty room in the building. On
the same impulse she had given to an old bedridden Irishwoman a few
little articles that had soothed the Russian's last days: a small
night-lamp, a bed-tray, and the like. Ivan's outfit, consisting solely
of the things she herself had given him, had been packed in his
mother's one small foreign trunk, whose contents until then, Miss
Clarkson, observed, was an ikon, quaintly framed. Of letters, of
souvenirs, of any clue of any kind to the identity of mother and son,
there was none. She felt sure that the names they had given her were
Stiffly erect, Ivan waited beside the open door. Miss Clarkson gave
a methodical last look around the dismantled room, and walked out of
it, the child following. At the top of the stairs she turned her head
sharply, a sudden curiosity uppermost in her mind. Was he glancing
back? she wondered. Was he showing any emotion? Did he feel any? He
seemed so horribly mature—he must understand something of what
this departure meant. Did he, by chance, need comforting? But Ivan was
close by her side, his sombre black eyes looking straight before him,
his new shoes creaking freshly as he descended the rickety steps. Miss
Clarkson sighed. If only he were pretty, she reflected. There were
always sentimental women ready and willing to adopt a handsome child.
But even Ivan's mother would have declared him not pretty. He was
merely small, and dark, and foreign, and reserved, and horribly self-
contained. His black hair was perfectly straight, his lips made a
straight line in his face. He had no dimples, no curls, none of the
appealing graces and charms of childhood. He was seven—seven decades,
she almost thought, with a sudden throb of pity for him. But he had
one quality of childhood—helplessness. To that, at least, the
Community to which she had finally decided to intrust him would surely
respond. She took his small hand in hers as they reached the street,
and after an instinctive movement of withdrawal, like the startled
fluttering of a bird, he suffered it to remain there. Together they
walked to the nearest corner, and stood awaiting the coming of a
trolley-car, the heat of an August sun blazing upon them, the stifling
odors of the tenement quarter filling their nostrils. Rude, half-naked
little boys jeered at them, and made invidious remarks about Ivan's
new clothes; a small girl smiled shyly at him; a wretched yellow dog
snapped at his heels. To these varying attentions the child gave the
same quietly observant glance, a glance without rancor as without
interest. Miss Clarkson experienced a sense of utter helplessness as
she watched him.
"Did you know the little girl, Ivan?" she asked, in English.
"Do you like her?"
"Why not? She seemed a nice little girl."
There was no response. She tried again.
"Are you tired, dear?"
"Are you glad you are going into the country and away from the hot,
"Would you rather stay here?"
The quality of the negative was the same in all.
Miss Clarkson gave him up. When they entered the car she sank into
a depressed silence, which endured until they reached the Grand
Central Station. There, after she had sent off several telegrams and
bought their tickets, and established herself and her charge
comfortably side by side on the end seat in a drawing-room car, she
again essayed sprightly conversation adapted to the understanding of
"Do you know the country, Ivan?" she asked, ingratiatingly. "Have
you ever been there to see the grass and the cows and the blue skies?"
"You will like them very much. All little boys and girls like the
country, and are very happy there."
"Do you like to play?"
"Do you like to—to—look at picture-books?"
"What do you like to do?"
There was no reply. Miss Clarkson groaned inwardly. Was he only a
little monosyllabic machine? The infant regarded with calm eyes the
sweep of the New York landscape across which the train was passing.
His patron opened the new novel with which she had happily provided
herself, plunged into its pages, and let herself rest by forgetting
him for a while. He sat by her side motionless, observant, continuing
to exude infinite patience.
"He ought to be planted on the Egyptian sands," reflected Miss
Clarkson once, as she glanced at him. "He'd make a dear little brother
to the Sphinx." She stopped a train-boy passing through the car and
bought him a small box of chocolates, which he ate uninterruptedly,
somewhat as the tiny hand of a clock marks the seconds. Later she
presented him with a copy of a picture-paper. He surveyed its
illustrations with studious intentness for five minutes, and then laid
the paper on the seat beside him. Miss Clarkson again fled to
sanctuary in her novel, wondering how long pure negation could enlist
At the small station where they left the train the tension of the
situation was slightly lessened. A plump little woman, with a round
pink face, keen, very direct blue eyes, and live gray hair, deftly
tooled a fat pony up to the asphalt, and greeted them with cheerful
"Get in," she said, briskly, after a brief handshake with Miss
Clarkson. "There's plenty of room in the phaeton. We pack five in
sometimes. I was sorely tempted to bring two of the children; they
begged to come to meet the new boy; but it seemed best not to rush him
in the beginning, don't you know, so I left Josephine squalling behind
the wood-pile, and Augustus Adolphus strangling manfully on a glass of
lemonade intended to comfort him."
She laughed as she spoke, but her blue eyes surveyed the boy
appraisingly as she tucked him into the space between herself and Miss
Clarkson. He had stood cap in hand during the meeting between the
ladies; now he replaced his cap upon his head, fixed his black eyes on
the restless tail of the fat pony, and remained submerged under the
encroaching summer garments of both women. Mrs. Eltner, presiding
genius of the Lotus Brotherhood Colony, exchanged an eloquent glance
with Miss Clarkson as she started the pony along the winding ribbon of
the country road. The New-Yorker's heart lightened. She had infinite
faith in the plump, capable hands that held the reins; she believed
them equal to anything, even to the perplexing task of guiding the
infant career of Ivanovitch. Mrs. Eltner prattled on.
"Well," she quoted, in answer to Miss Clarkson's question, "they
are so well that Fraulein von Hoffman is in despair over them. She has
some new theories she's anxious to try when they're ill, but
throughout the year she hasn't had one chance. Every blessed child is
flamboyantly robust. Goodness! Why shouldn't they be? In the sunshine
from eight in the morning until six at night. They have their lessons
in a little roofed summer-house in the open air, their meals in
another, and they almost sleep in the open air. There are ten of them
now—counting your boy"—she nodded toward the unconscious Ivan—"four
girls and six boys. None of the parents interferes with them. They
sleep in the dormitory with Fraulein, she teaches them a few hours a
day, and the rest of the time we leave them alone. Fraulein assures me
that the influence on their developing souls is wonderful." Mrs.
Eltner laughed comfortably. "It's all an experiment," she went on,
more seriously. "Who can tell how it will end? But one thing is
certain: we have taken these poor waifs from the New York streets, and
we have at least made them healthy and happy to begin with. The rest
must come later."
"An achievement," agreed Miss Clarkson. "I hope you will be as
successful with my small charge. He is not healthy, and I doubt if he
has ever known a moment of happiness. Possibly he can never take it
in. I don't know—he puzzles me."
Her friend nodded, and they drove on in silence. It was almost
sunset when the fat pony turned into an open gate leading to a big
white colonial house, whose wide verandas held hammocks, easy-chairs,
and one fat little girl asleep on a door-mat. On the sweeping lawn
before the house an old man lounged comfortably in a garden-chair,
surveying with quiet approval the efforts of a pretty girl in a wide
sunbonnet who was weeding a flower-bed near him. Through the open
window of a distant room came the sound of a piano. At the left of the
house a solitary peacock strutted, his spreading tail alive in the
sun's last rays. The effect of the place was deliriously "homey." With
eyes slightly distended, Ivan surveyed the monstrous fowl, turning his
head to follow its progress as the phaeton rolled around the drive and
stopped before the wide front door. The two women again exchanged
"Absolutely the first evidence of human interest," remarked Miss
Clarkson, with hushed solemnity. The other smiled with quiet
confidence. "It will come," she predicted; "it will come all right. We
do wonders with them here."
As they entered the wide hall a picturesque group disintegrated
suddenly. A slender German woman, tall, gray-haired, slightly bent,
detached herself from an encircling mass of childish hands and arms
and legs, gave a hurried greeting to Miss Clarkson, of whom she rather
disapproved, and turned eyes alight with interest on the new claimant
for her ministrations. Cap in hand, Ivan looked up at her. Mrs. Eltner
introduced them briefly.
"Your new little boy, Fraulein," she said, "Ivan Ivanovitch. He
speaks English and French and Russian. He is going to love his new
teacher and his new little friends, and be very happy here."
Fraulein von Hoffman bent down and kissed the chilling surface of
Ivan's pale cheek.
"But yes," she cried, "of a certainty he shall be happy. We are all
happy here—all, all. He shall have his place, his lessons, his little
duties—but, ach, he is so young! He is the youngest of us. Still, he
must have his duty." She checked her rapid English for a courteous
explanation to Miss Clarkson.
"Each has his duties," she told that lady, while the line of
children lent polite interest to her words, drinking them in,
apparently, with open mouths. "Each of us must be useful to the
community in some way, however small. That is our principle. Yes.
Little Josephine waters every day the flowers in the dining-room, and
they bloom gratefully for little Josephine—ach, how they bloom!
Augustus Adolphus keeps the wood-box filled. It is Henry's task to
water the garden plants, and Henry never forgets. So, too, it is with
the others. But Ivan—Ivan is very young. He is but seven, you say.
Yes, yes, what shall one do at seven?"
Her rapid, broken English ceased again as she surveyed the child,
her blond brows knit in deep reflection. Then her thin face lit
"Ach," she cried, enthusiastically, "an inspiration I have! He is
too young to work as yet, this little Ivan, but he shall have his
task, like the rest. He shall be our little sunbeam. He shall laugh
and play and make us happy."
With a common hysterical impulse Miss Clarkson and Mrs. Eltner
turned their heads to avoid each other's eyes, the former making a
desperate effort at self-control as she gazed severely through a
window near her. It was not funny, this thing, she reminded herself
sternly; it was too ghastly to be funny, but there was no question
that the selection of Ivan Ivanovitch as the joyous, all-pervasive
sunbeam of the community at Locust Hall was slightly incongruous. When
she could trust herself she glanced at him. He stood as he had stood
before, his small, old, unchildish face turned up to the German, his
black eyes fixed unwaveringly upon her gray ones. Under the glance
Fraulein's expression changed. For an instant there was a look of
bewilderment on her face, of a doubt of the wisdom of her choice of a
mission for this unusual new-comer, but it disappeared as quickly as
it had come. With recovered serenity she addressed him and those
"But he need not begin to-night," she added, kindly, "not when he
is tired. He shall eat, he shall rest, he shall sleep. Then to-morrow
he shall take his place among us and be the little sunbeam. Yes, yes—
think how far the sunbeam has to travel!" she murmured,
Miss Clarkson knelt down before the boy and gathered him into her
arms. The act was spontaneous and sincere, but as she did it she
realized that in the eyes of the German, and even in those of Mrs.
Eltner, it seemed theatrical. It was one of the things Fraulein von
Hoffman disapproved in her—this tendency to moments of emotion.
"Good-night, Ivan," she said. "I am going to stay until morning, so
I shall see you then. Sleep well. I am sure you will be a happy little
boy in this pleasant home."
The unfathomable eyes of Ivan Ivanovitch looked back into hers.
"Good-night, madam," he said, quietly. Then, as she was about to
turn away, his small face took on for an instant the dawn of an
expression. "Good-night, madam," he said again, more faintly.
Slight as the change had been, Miss Clarkson caught it. She swayed
"Are you homesick, Ivan?" she asked, caressingly, almost lovingly.
"Would you like me to take you up-stairs and put you to bed?"
Fraulein von Hoffman broke in upon her speech.
"But they shall all go!" she cried. "It is their time. He will not
be alone. Josephine shall take him by the hand; Augustus Adolphus
shall lead the way. It will be a little procession—ach, yes! And he
shall have his supper in the nursery."
A chubby, confident little girl of nine detached herself from the
group near them and grasped the hand of Ivan Ivanovitch firmly within
her own. He regarded her stoically for an instant; then his eyes
returned to Miss Clarkson's, who had risen, and was watching him
closely. There was a faint flicker in them as he replied to her
"No, madam," he said, gravely. "Thank you, madam. Good-night,
He bowed deeply, drawing the reluctant figure of the startled
Josephine into the salute as he did so. A sturdy German boy of eleven,
with snapping brown eyes, placed himself before the children, his feet
beating time, his head very high. "Forward, march!" he cried, in
clear, boyish tones. The triumphant Josephine obeyed the command,
dragging her charge after her. Thus convoyed, one companion leading,
another pulling, the rest following with many happy giggles, Ivan
Ivanovitch marched up-stairs to bed. His life as the community's
sunbeam had begun.
The next morning Fraulein von Hoffman met Miss Clarkson in the
hall, and turned upon her the regard of a worried gray eye. Miss
Clarkson returned the look, her heart sinking as she did so.
"It is that child," the German began. "He is of an interest—and
ach, ja! of a discouragement," she added, with a gusty sigh. "Already
I can see it—what it will be. He speaks not; he plays not. He gazes
always from the window, and when one speaks, he says, 'Yes,
madam'—only that. This morning I looked to see him bright and happy,
but it is not so. Is it that his little heart breaks for his mother?
Is it—that he is always thus?"
Miss Clarkson shook her head and then nodded, forming thereby
unconsciously the sign of the cross. The combination seemed to answer
the German's questions. Fraulein von Hoffman nodded also, slowly, and
"I don't know what you can do with him," said the American,
frankly. "He's like that all the time. I asked his mother, and she
admitted it. I brought him here because I hoped the other children
might brighten him up, and I knew you could arouse him if any one
The tribute, rare from Miss Clarkson, cheered Fraulein von Hoffman.
Her face cleared. She began to regain her self-confidence.
"Ach, well," she said, comfortably, "we will see. We will do our
best —yes, of a certainty. And we will see." She strolled away after
this oracular utterance, and Miss Clarkson went to breakfast. Thus
neither witnessed a scene taking place at that moment on the lawn near
the front veranda. Standing there with his back against a pillar,
surrounded by the other children of the community, was Ivan
Ivanovitch. In the foreground, facing him, stood Augustus Adolphus,
addressing the new-comer in firm accents, and emphasizing his remarks
by waving a grimy forefinger before Ivan Ivanovitch's uninterested
face. The high, positive tones of Augustus Adolphus filled the air.
"Well, then, why don't you do it?" he was asking, fiercely. "You
got to do it! You
have to! Fraulein says so. The rest of us
has to do ours. I filled my wood-boxes already, and Josie watered the
flowers. We did it early so we could watch you being a sunbeam, and
now you ain't being one. Why ain't you? You got to! Why don't
you begin?" The continued unresponsiveness of Ivan Ivanovitch
irritated him at this point, and he turned excitedly to the others for
"'Ain't he got to?" he cried. "'Ain't he got to be a sunbeam?
Fraulein said he should begin this morning. Well, then, why don't he
A childish buzz of corroboration answered him. It was plain that
the assignment of Ivan's mission, publicly made as it had been the
night before, had deeply impressed the children of the community. They
closed around the two boys. The small Josephine laid a propelling hand
upon Ivan's shoulder and tried to push him forward, with a vague idea
of thus accelerating his task.
"Begin now," she suggested, encouragingly. "Do it, and have it
over. That's the way I do."
In response to this maiden appeal the lips of Ivan Ivanovitch
"I do not know how to do it," he announced, distinctly. "How shall
I do it?"
Augustus Adolphus broke in again. "Aw, say, go on," he urged. "You
got to do it! Why
don't you, then?"
Ivan Ivanovitch turned upon him an eye in which the habitual
expression of patience was merely intensified.
"I do not know how to do it," he said again, speaking slowly and
painstakingly. "You tell me how; then I will do it."
Under the force of this counter-charge, Augustus Adolphus fell
"I—I—don't know, neither," he muttered, feebly. "I thought you
knew. You got to know, 'cause you got to do it."
The eyes of the small Russian swept the little group, and lingered
on the round face of Josephine.
"You tell me," he said to her. "Then I will do it."
Josephine rose to the occasion.
"Why, why," she began, doubtfully, "I know what it is. You
be a sunbeam, you know. I know what a sunbeam is. It's a little piece
of the sun. It is long and bright. It comes through the window and
falls on the floor. Sometimes it falls on us. Sometimes it falls on
Offered this choice, Ivan at once expressed his preference.
"I will fall on flowers," he announced, with decision.
The brown eyes of Augustus Adolphus glittered as he suddenly
grasped the possibilities of the situation.
"No, you won't, neither!" he cried, excitedly. "You got to do it
all! You better begin now. You can fall through that window; it's
open." He indicated, as he spoke, a low French window leading from the
living-room on to the broad veranda. "He's got to!" he cried, again.
"'Ain't he got to?" With a unanimous cry the meeting declared that he
had got to. Some of the children knew better; others did not; but all
knew Augustus Adolphus Schmidtt.
Without a word, Ivan turned, walked up the steps of the veranda,
entered the wide hall, swung to the left, crossed the living-room,
approached the window, and fell out, head first. There was something
deeply impressive in the silence and swiftness of his action,
something deliriously stimulating to the spectators in the thud of his
small body on the unyielding wood. A long sigh of happiness was
exhaled by the group of children. Certainly this was a new duty—a
strange one, but worthy, no doubt, since it emanated from Fraulein,
and beyond question interesting as a spectacle. Augustus Adolphus
resolved in that instant to attend to his personal tasks at an early
hour each day, that he might have uninterrupted leisure for getting
new falls out of Ivan's. That infant had now found his feet, and was
methodically brushing the dust from his clothes. There was a rapidly
developing lump over one eye, but his expression remained unchanged.
Josephine approached him with happy gurgles. Her heart was filled with
womanly sympathy, but her soul remained undaunted. She was of the
Spartan stuff that sends sons to the war, and holds a reception for
them if they return—from victory—on their shields. She cooed in
conscious imitation of Fraulein's best manner. "Now, you can fall on
Her victim followed her unresistingly to the spot she indicated,
and, having arrived, cast himself violently upon a bed of blazing
nasturtiums. The enthusiastic and approving group of children closed
around him as he rose. Even Augustus Adolphus, as he surveyed the
wreck that remained, yielded to Ivan's loyal devotion to his role the
tribute of an envious sigh.
"Now you can fall on us," he suggested, joyfully. Before the words
had left his innocent lips, Ivan had made his choice. The next instant
the air was full of arms, legs, caps, and hair.
"Lemme go!" shrieked Augustus Adolphus, battling wildly with the
unsuspected and terrible force that had suddenly assailed him. "Lemme
go, I tell you!"
The reply of Ivan came through set teeth as he planted one heel
firmly in the left ear of the recumbent youth. "I have to fall on
you," he explained, mildly, suiting the action to the word. "First I
fall on you; then I let you go."
There was no question in the minds of the spectators that this was
the most brilliant and successfully performed of the strange and
interesting tasks of Ivan. They clustered around to tell him so, while
Augustus Adolphus sought the dormitory for needed repairs. One of the
rules of the community was that the children should settle their
little disputes among themselves. Fortunately, perhaps, for Augustus
Adolphus he found the dormitory empty, and was able to remove from his
person the most obvious evidences of one hoisted by his own petard. In
the mean time Ivan Ivanovitch was experiencing a new sensation—the
pleasurable emotion caused by the praise of one's kind. But he did not
show that it was pleasant—he merely gazed and listened.
"I think your new duties is nice," Josephine informed him, as she
gazed upon him with eyes humid with approval. "You have to do it every
day," she added, gluttonously.
Ivan assented, but in his heart there lay a doubt. Seeking for
light, he approached Fraulein von Hoffman that afternoon as she dozed
and knitted under a sheltering tree.
He stopped before her and fixed her with his serious gaze.
"Does a sunbeam fall through windows?" he inquired, politely.
Fraulein von Hoffman regarded him with a drowsy lack of interest.
"But yes, surely, sometimes," she admitted.
"Does it fall always through the window—every day?"
"But yes, surely, if it is in the right place."
The community's sunbeam sighed.
"Does it fall on flowers and on boys and girls?" he persisted.
"But yes, it falls on everything that is near."
A look of pained surprise dawned upon the features of Ivan
"Always?" he asked, quickly. "Always—it falls on
that is near?"
Fraulein von Hoffman placidly counted her stitches, confirming with
a sigh her suspicion that in dozing she had dropped three.
"Not always," she murmured, absently. "But no. Only when the sun is
Ivan carried this gleam of comfort with him when he went away, and
it is very possible that he longed for a darkened world. But if,
indeed, his daily task was difficult, as it frequently proved to be as
the days passed, there were compensations—in the school games, in the
companionships of his new friends, in the kindness of those around
him. Even Augustus Adolphus was good to him at times. Unquestioningly,
inscrutably, Ivan absorbed atmosphere, and did his share of the
community's work as he saw it.
The theories of the community were consistently carried out. In the
summer, after their few hours of study, the children were left to
themselves. Together they worked out the problems of their little
world; together they discussed, often with an uncanny insight, the
grown-ups around them. Sometimes the tasks of the others were
forgotten; frequently, in the stress of work and play, Augustus
Adolphus's wood-box remained unfulfilled; Josephine's flowers were
unwatered. But the mission of Ivan as a busy and strenuous sunbeam was
regularly and consistently carried out—all the children saw to that.
Regularly, that is, save on dark days. Here he drew the line.
"Fraulein says it only falls on things when the sun shines," he
explained, tersely, and he fulfilled his mission accordingly. Fraulein
wondered where he had accumulated the choice collection of bumps and
bruises that adorned his person; but he never told, and apparently
nobody else knew. Mrs. Eltner marvelled darkly over the destruction of
her favorite nasturtium-bed. Daily the stifled howls of Augustus
Adolphus continued to rend the ambient air when the sunbeam fell on
him; but he forbore to complain, suffering heroically this unpleasant
feature of the programme, that the rest might not be curtailed. Once,
indeed, he had rebelled.
"Why don't you fall on some one else?" he had demanded, sulkily.
"You don't have to fall on me all the time."
The reply of the sunbeam was convincing in its simple truth.
"I do," he explained. "Fraulein has said so. It must fall always on
the same place if it is there."
Augustus Adolphus was silenced. He was indeed there, always. It was
unfortunate, but seemed inevitable, that he should contribute his
share to the daily entertainment so deeply enjoyed by all.
It was, very appropriately, at Thanksgiving-time that Ivan's
mission as an active sunbeam ended. He was engaged in his usual
profound meditation in the presence of Miss Clarkson, who had come to
see him, and who was at the moment digesting the information she had
received, that not once in his months at Locust Hall had he been seen
to smile. True, he seemed well and contented. His thin little figure
was fast taking on plumpness; he was brown, bright-eyed. Studying him,
Miss Clarkson observed a small bruise on his chin, another on his
"How did you get those, Ivan?" she asked.
For some reason Ivan suddenly decided to tell her.
"I fell through the window. This one I got yesterday"—he touched
it— "this one I got Monday; this one I got last week." He revealed
another that she had not discovered, lurking behind his left ear.
"But surely you didn't fall through the window as often as that!"
gasped Miss Clarkson. The small boy surveyed her wearily.
"But yes," he murmured, in unconscious imitation of Praulein. "I
must fall through the window every day when the sun shines."
Miss Clarkson held him off at arm's-length and stared at him.
"In Heaven's name,
why?" she demanded.
Ivan explained patiently. Miss Clarkson listened, asked a few
questions, gave way to a moment of uncontrollable emotion. Then she
called together the other children, and again heard the story. It came
disjointedly from each in turn, but most fluently, most picturesquely,
most convincingly, from the lips of Augustus Adolphus Schmidtt and the
fair Josephine. When they had finished their artless recital, Miss
Clarkson sought Fraulein von Hoffman. That afternoon, beside the big
open fire in the children's winter play-room, Fraulein von Hoffman
addressed her young charges in words brief but pointed, and as she
talked the mission of Ivan at Locust Hall took on a new significance,
clear to the dullest mind.
"You were very cruel to Ivan—ach, most cruel! And he is not to
fall any more, anywhere, on anything, you understand," explained the
German, clearly. "He has no tasks any more. He is but to be happy, and
you should love him and take care of him, because he is so small. That
Ivan exhaled a sigh of deep contentment. Then he looked around him.
The great logs on the andirons were blazing merrily. In the hands of
Josephine a corn-popper waved above them, the corn inside burning
unobserved as she lent her ears to Fraulein's earnest words. Ten
apples, suspended on strings, swung from the mantel, spinning slowly
as they roasted. It was a restful and agreeable scene to the eyes of
Josephine felt called upon to defend her friends.
"We didn't mean to be cruel," she explained, earnestly, answering
the one of Fraulein's charges which had most impressed her. "We love
Ivan. We love him lots. We like to see him to be a sunbeam, an' we
thought he liked to be one. He never said he didn't."
The faces of his little companions were all around him. Ivan
surveyed them in turn. They loved him—lots. Had not Josephine just
said so? And only yesterday Augustus Adolphus had played marbles with
him. It was very good to be loved, to have a home, and not to be a
little sunbeam any longer. Then his eyes met those of Miss Clarkson,
fixed upon him sympathetically.
"Would you like to go away, Ivan?" she asked, quietly. "Would you
be happier somewhere else?"
The eyes of Ivan widened with sudden fear. To have this and to lose
it!—now, if ever, he must speak! "Oh no," he cried, earnestly;
"no, no, madam!"
Reassured, she smiled at him, and as she did so something in her
look, in the atmosphere, in the moment, opened the boy's closed heart.
He drew a long breath and smiled back at her—a shy, hesitant,
unaccustomed smile, but one very charming on his serious little face.
Miss Clarkson's heart leaped in sudden triumph. It was his first
smile, and it was for her.
"I like it here," he said. "I like it very much, madam."
Miss Clarkson had moments of wisdom.
"Then you shall stay, my boy," she said. "You shall stay as long as
you wish. But, remember, you must not be a sunbeam any more."
Ivan responded in one word—a simple, effective word, much used by
his associates in response to pleasing announcements of holidays and
vacations, but thus far a stranger on his lips. He threw back his head
and straightened his shoulders.
"Hurray!" he cried, with deep fervor. This was enough for Augustus
Adolphus and the fair Josephine. "Hurray!" they shrieked, in jubilant
The others joined in. "Hur-ray!" cried the nine small companions of
Ivan. He looked at them for a moment, his thin mouth twitching. They
were glad, too, then, that he was to stay! He walked straight to Miss
Clarkson, buried his face in her lap, and burst into tears. For a
moment she held him close, smoothing his black head with a tender
hand. Almost immediately he straightened himself and returned to the
side of Josephine, shy, shamefaced, but smiling again—a new Ivan.
"What did you cry for?" demanded that young lady, obtusely.
"Because you feel bad?"
Augustus Adolphus replied for his friend, with an insight beyond
"You let him alone," he said, severely. "He don't never cry when he
feels bad; he only cries when he feels good!"
VII. IN MEMORY OF HANNAH'S LAUGH
His name was "'Rastus Calhoun Breckenridge," he announced the
morning that he began his new duties as janitor of the Adelaide
apartments, and he at once gave the tenants to understand that no
liberties were to be taken with it. He preferred it all when he
was addressed in ordinary conversation, he explained to them, but he
had no objections to the title, "Mistah Breckenridge," when they felt
hurried. This interested every inmate of the Adelaide, and for a few
days amazingly amused several, who gave play to their fancy in the use
of abbreviations which struck them as humorous. Their jokes lost
point, subsequently, when it was discovered that on no occasion did
"Mistah Breckenridge" respond to their calls nor meet their
demands—whereas his service to all others was swift, expert,
phenomenally perfect. Thereafter the jokers forswore indulgence of
their sense of humor and addressed the janitor at full length and with
fuller deference, to reap their reward with those whose apartments
were warm, whose reasonable requests were met, whose halls were clean,
and whose door- knobs shone even as the rare smile of "Mistah
It required no unusual powers of observation to discover that as a
janitor the new man was the rare and perfect specimen who keeps alive
in a chilly world the tender plant of faith. Long before the sun was
up his busy mop and broom were heard in the land, and the slip-slap of
his carpet slippers, flopping along the halls as he made his nightly
round, was the lullaby of dissipated souls who "retired" at eleven.
Results followed with gratifying promptness. Apartments long empty
were soon rented, and envious neighbors came to gaze in awe upon the
Adelaide and its presiding genius, beholding in it the fine essence of
New England neatness and in him a small, thin, nervous, insignificant-
looking "colored gemman," who gazed past the sides of their faces with
cold aloofness. Often, neighbors, passing the impressive entrance,
heard from the lower regions of the building the sound of a high
chuckle, deepening rapidly to a contralto gurgle, and then broadening
out into a long, rich, velvety laugh as smooth as a flowing stream. No
one could hear that laugh unmoved. It rippled, it lilted, it died
away, and rolled forth again until the most blase listener
smiled in sympathy, and children in the streets haw-hawed in mindless
glee. It was the laugh of Hannah—Mrs. 'Rastus Calhoun
Breckenridge, as her husband was careful to explain; and he once so
far forgot his dignity as to add, expansively, "We got de stifkit dat
prove hit, Hannah an' me. We got mah'd, real mah'd, by a
Hannah—stout, indolent, good-looking, good-natured, large enough
to make two small persons like her husband—chuckled and gurgled into
her fruity laugh.
"Dat's de mos' pahtickler man," she volunteered, artlessly. Then,
seeing with wifely insight the first traces of gloom on her lord's
brow, she winked, trembled like a jelly-fish in a fresh convulsion of
her exhaustless mine of mirth, and disappeared into the lower regions,
to which, it was said, her husband devoted much more housewifely care
than she did. Usually he cooked his meals—and hers. Invariably he
scrubbed and swept the floors.
Not infrequently he washed and ironed. But whatever he did and
whatever he was, the ripple of his wife's easy laughter followed him
like the wave in the wake of a puffing tug; and as he listened, the
weazened face of "Mistah Breckenridge" took on the expression of a
small dog who hears his master's footsteps at the end of a dragging
The strenuousness of life left 'Rastus little time for the society
of his wife, but occasionally on a Sunday afternoon a rainbow-hued
apparition appeared at the entrance of the Adelaide, which, being
resolved into its elements, was recognized as "Mistah" and Mrs.
Breckenridge attired for a walk. Richly red were the hats of Hannah,
brilliantly blue her gown, glaringly yellow her new kid gloves. Like a
rubber-tired automobile she rolled along the street, while, not a bad
second—immaculate, silent, spatted, creased, silk-hatted, gloved, and
lavender-tied—pattered her small husband. He rarely spoke and never
laughed; but there was no evidence that Hannah missed these
attentions; if she did, there were numerous compensations, one of
which she confided to the cook of the newly married Browns, on the
"'Rastus suttinly do pay mah bills," she murmured, appreciatively.
And then, with her unctuous laugh, "An' ah suttinly does keep dat man
busy at hit!"
Quite possibly it was this and his other occupations which for a
long time made "Mistah Breckemidge" seemingly oblivious of a situation
which deeply impressed many others. It was the frequent presence in
his home of another "colored gemman"—large, brilliantly attired,
loud-voiced, and cheerful—who called upon Hannah three or four times
a week and whiled away many hours in her stimulating society.
Occasionally her husband found him there, but if the fact annoyed him
he gave no evidence of it. It was observed, too, that the manner of
the visitor was gingerly deferential toward his host; he evidently
desired no trouble with "Mistah Breckenridge." Occasionally he took
Hannah for a walk; several times he brought her simple offerings of
chickens and melons, heartening her to their consumption by
participating in the same. One evening he presented her with a rhine
stone belt-buckle. The next morning "Mistah Breckenridge" sought young
Haddon Brown, the newly married, who happened to be a lawyer as well
as a happy groom. Without preface or apology, 'Rastus came to the
point. He wished a divorce from Hannah. He wished it to be procured as
cheaply as possible, but economy was not to interfere with its being
riveted as strongly as the law permitted. He had his facts neatly
tabulated. There was no emotion on his little black face. At the door,
after young Brown had promised to do what he could for him, "Mistah
"Git it jes' as quick as yuh kin, Mistah Brown," he suggested, "foh
ef yuh don't, I'se feared Hannah ain't a-gwine tuh stay tell hit
comes. Hannah am mighty sudden sometimes in huh ways." With this final
tribute to his spouse, he shut the door quietly and departed.
In due time Haddon Brown handed "Mistah Breckenridge" the
documentary evidence of his freedom, and immediately on its receipt
Hannah rose, donned her most radiant attire, shook out a few farewell
peals of laughter, and departed, closely followed by the friend of the
family, beautiful in patent-leather shoes, new gray spats, and a tie
to match. Left alone, 'Rastus rearranged his household possessions,
watered the geraniums blooming in his basement windows, scrubbed,
washed, answered bells as scrupulously as of yore, and each night,
when the work of the day was done, donned his best clothes, oiled his
crinkly hair, and departed, returning in time for his usual inspection
of the halls at eleven o'clock.
At the end of one month he set a fresh geranium in the window,
purchased a generous supply of provisions, went forth attired like
Solomon, and came back holding in one hand the hand of a blushing
bride, and in the other the "stifkit," signed by the negro minister
who had just married them.
No two human beings could have been more unlike than the former and
the present Mrs. 'Rastus Calhoun Breckenridge. The bride was tall,
thin, chocolate-colored, serious, and hard-working. She toiled as
steadily and as indefatigably as her husband, and to the most cynical
observer it was plain that she loved him and valued him even at his
worth. She cooked appetizing meals for him, to which he did full
justice; she mended his old clothes and saw to it that he bought new
ones; she saved his money; and at the end of the year she presented
him with a small, fat, black son, over which 'Rastus hung in pathetic
He himself had begun to grow stout. He put on more flesh as three
additional years passed. He seemed well-fed, happy, and prosperous. He
had money in the bank. His wages had been twice increased, and one
Christmas the enthusiastic tenants of the Adelaide had solemnly
presented him with a watch, with his name and the value of his
services inscribed in the case. His little boy flourished, his silent
wife still adored him. The world seemed good to 'Rastus.
One day a dirty note was put into his hand by a small black youth
he had never seen before. It was brief but pointed:
"I am sik. Com to Sharty Hospitl. He ain't duin nuthen fer me.
"Mistah Breckenridge" carefully placed the note in his pocket, put
his hat on his head, and went to the Charity Hospital. It was not hard
to find Hannah. She had not been there long, but the doctors and
nurses liked her and seemed to have been expecting him.
"She's the life of the place," said one of them. "She's got a lot
of pluck, too, and laughs when we hurt her. She thinks she's going to
get well, but she isn't."
The little round face of 'Rastus changed expression.
"She gwine tuh die?" he asked, quickly.
"Sure," was the terse reply.
The doctor hesitated. "In about a month, I think," he said,
'Rastus carried the memory of the words into the ward where she
lay, and then felt a quick sense of reaction. Die? Why, this was the
old- time Hannah, the Hannah of his youth, the Hannah he had married.
She was thinner, but the lines had smoothed out of her face and her
big black eyes looked up at him as confidingly as the eyes of a baby.
She laughed, too, a little—a ghost of the old, fat, comfortable
chuckle; but there was nothing of death nor even of suffering about
Hannah that day. Her spirit was not yet overthrown.
"Ahm awful glad tuh see yuh, honey," she said. "Ah knew yuh'd cum."
'Rastus sat down on the wooden chair beside her and fixed his
little black eyes unwinkingly upon her face. In his hands he held his
hat, which he twisted nervously between his knees at first, but
finally forgetfully dropped on the floor as his embarrassment passed.
Propped up on her pillows, Hannah chatted incessantly, telling him the
small details of her hospital life and such few facts of her illness
as she had been permitted to know.
"I ain' got no pain," she assured him—"des now, I mean. Bimeby
hit'll cum, like hit do ebery aftahnoon, but doctah he come, too, an'
he git de better ub hit, ebery time. He sure am good to me, dat man!"
Her white teeth flashed in a smile as she talked, but the eyes she
kept on the man's face had a curious look of wonder in them.
"Yuh look well, honey," she said, finally, "an' yit yuh doan look
well. How come dat? You-all ain' got nuffin' tuh trouble yuh, is yuh?"
'Rastus hurriedly assured her that he had not. He did not mention
his wife nor child, of whose existence she was, of course, perfectly
aware; but he dilated on the glories of his position, the size of his
income, and the gift of the watch. He pulled the last from his pocket
as he spoke of it, and she wagged her head proudly over it and
shamelessly boasted to the nurse who happened to come to her side.
"Dey give dat to mah husban'," she said. Then she mentioned
casually, with all her old naivete, "Leaseways, he wuz mah husban'
"Mistah Breckenridge" ignored this little incident. His mind was on
"Yuh got all yuh want, Hannah?" he asked. "'Caze ahm gwine tuh git
hit foh yuh ef yuh ain't."
Hannah, who seemed prepared for this inquiry, responded to it with
much promptness. She needed a wrapper, she said, and some cologne, and
three new night-gowns, and "a lil chicking." 'Rastus wrote down each
item painstakingly and somewhat ostentatiously in a hand suited to
unruled paper. Then he bowed to the nurse, touched Hannah's hand with
his sinewy little paw, and trotted out with an air of vast importance.
For several weeks the Adelaide was almost neglected, and puzzled
tenants sought the janitor in vain. He was rarely home, but Dinah,
dark-browed, sullen, red-lidded, and with a look of suffering on her
plain face, responded to their demands and did, so far as she could,
her husband's work and her own. She made no explanation of his
absence, and the last one which would have been accepted was the
truth—that day after day "Mistah Breckenridge" sat by the bedside of
Hannah, talking to her, cheering her, nursing her, feeding her with
the fruit he had brought her. He had almost superseded the nurse; and
the doctors, watching the pair, let them do much as they pleased, on
the dreary theory that nothing Hannah did could hurt her now.
Sometimes she had hours of severe pain, during which he remained with
her, holding her hand, soothing her, and lifting her still great bulk
in his thin arms with unexpected strength. In her better hours she
talked to him, telling him stories about the other patients, anecdotes
of nurses and doctors, and mimicking several luckless victims to the
It was six weeks before Hannah died, very suddenly, and in one of
her paroxysms of suffering. 'Rastus was with her at the end, as he had
been during the hard weeks preceding it. When he realized that all was
over, he left the room, sought an undertaker, had a brief but pregnant
interview with him, and then disappeared from the hospital and from
the city as well. Where he went no one knew, though Dinah, wellnigh
frantic, strove distractedly to learn. On the morning of Hannah's
funeral he returned and assumed a leading part in that melancholy
procession, long after referred to as "de mos' scrumptuous bury-in'"
in colored circles. Nothing had been omitted that she would have
wished. Tall plumes nodded on the hearse, many carriages gathered in
the mourners, and close behind the silver-trimmed coffin which held
all that was left of Hannah. "Mistah Breckenridge" walked with leaden
steps, his small face drawn with grief. Subsequently he drew most of
his savings from the bank to pay the bills, and, having paid them,
returned once more to his anxious family and the monotonous routine of
life at the Adelaide.
Dinah welcomed him coldly, and went about her duties with her head
high. She said no word of reproach, and it was not until several weeks
had passed that it was borne in upon her that 'Rastus remained
oblivious not only to her just wifely resentment, but to most other
things and emotions in life as well. He did his work, but he ate
little and slept less, and the flesh of his prosperous years seemed to
drop from him even as the startled beholder gazed. In despair Dinah
sought Haddon Brown and laid the case before him.
"Dat man am suttinly gwine lose his min'," she sobbed, "ef he keep
on like he doin'. Den what gwine become of me and dat in'cen' chile!"
Young Brown casually and unostentatiously looked 'Rastus over, and
was not satisfied with the survey. The janitor's lips were drawn, his
eyes were glassy, his clothes hung loosely on his shrunken little
figure. He did his work as a manikin wound up for the purpose might
have done it. There was no spring, no energy, no snap. Mr. Brown
waited a fortnight, expecting some change. None coming, one Sunday
morning he urged 'Rastus to go with him on a fishing trip, carry bait,
fish if he wanted to, and make himself generally useful. With
unrelieved gloom "Mistah Breckenridge" accepted the invitation, and
the two left the city behind them, and sought the peace of wood and
stream and broad, overarching sky.
When he had found the shaded nook that seemed most promising, young
Brown baited his hook, dropped it into the water, and gave himself up
to pleasant reveries in which poor "Mistah Breckenridge" had no part.
He had good-naturedly brought him out here for rest and change and
sport and pure air, he told himself, but it was hardly to be expected
that he should do more. He yawned, dozed, and surveyed his line
without curiosity; beside him sat "Mistah Breckenridge," every muscle
of him tense, and a light in his eyes that was not nice to see.
The spot they had chosen was a not infrequented one in the Bronx
woods, and at intervals the sound of human voices came to them and the
light colors of a woman's gown showed through the trees. Suddenly a
laugh was borne to their ears—a woman's laugh; light, happy,
irrepressible. Young Brown opened one eye. It sounded like the laugh
of a nice girl. He looked lazily in the direction whence it came. Then
close by his side he heard a thud, a groan. His companion had pitched
full length on the ground, and lay there crying with great, gasping
sobs, and tearing up the grasses by the roots. Brown gazed aghast,
startled, sympathetic, understanding dimly, yet repelled by this
unmasculine outburst. He began to speak, but changed his mind and
waited, his eyes again on the bobbing cork of his line.
"Mistah Breckenridge" cried a long time—a very long time, indeed,
it seemed to young Brown, ill at ease and wholly unused to such
demonstrations. Then he sat up, pulled himself together, and turned a
distorted face toward the young man who had been so good a friend to
"You-all know, Mr. Brown, ah sure is ashamed," he said, quietly,
"but ah feel bettah, an' ah guess hit done me good. Ah felt like ah
could kill someone when we come yeah, but ah feel differnt now."
His voice trailed into silence. He restlessly pulled up dandelions
and blades of grass around him, but his face had relaxed and he seemed
calm. Haddon Brown murmured something about a nervous strain, but the
other did not seem to hear him.
"Hit wuz dat lady laffin'," he said, suddenly. "You-all know how
mah Hannah use tuh laff. Mah gracious! Yuh could heah dat woman a
mile! An' yuh know," he proceeded, slowly, "hit done me lots o' good,
Mistah Brown, des to heah huh. Ahm a silen' man, an' ah doan laff
much, but ah liked hit in Hannah, ah suttinly did—mighty well. Hit
des made dis mo'nful ole wurl' seem a chee'ful place—hit did indeed."
Brown said nothing. There was nothing in his mind that quite fitted
the occasion. "Mistah Breckenridge" ripped a few more dandelions off
their stems and went on.
"W'y, when dat woman lef me—when mah Hannah went away—ah use tuh
go aftah night to de place whah she lived, jes' to heah huh laff
again. Ah'd stan' out in d' dahk, an' ah'd see huh shadow on de
cu'tin, an' den ah'd heah huh laff an' laff lak she always done, an'
den—ah'd come home! Ah done dat all dese yeahs sense mah Hannah lef
me. Dinah's all right. Ah ain' complainin' none 'bout Dinah. Ah mah'd
huh caze ah wuz lonesome, an' she suttinly bin a good wife to me. Ahm
goin' to wuk foh huh tell ah git back all the money ah spent on
Hannah. Hit wus Dinah's money, too. But"—he burst out again with a
sudden long wail— "ah jes' doan see how ahm goin' tuh keep on livin
in a worl' whah dey ain't no Hannah!"
His grief gathered force as he gave it rein. He hurled himself down
on the ground again and tore at the grasses with his thin black hands.
"Oh, ah want, ah want, ah want tuh heah mah Hannah laff again!"
he cried, frenziedly.
A fish nibbled at the bait on Brown's hook, changed his mind,
flirted his fins, and swam away—a proof of the proverb about second
thoughts. A bird in the branches of the tree above the two men burst
into ecstatic song. But neither heard him. "Mistah Breckenridge" had
buried his black face in the cool grass, his hot tears falling fast
upon it. Beside him young Brown, brought face to face with elemental
conditions, sat silent and thought hard.
VIII. THE QUEST OF AUNT NANCY
It was in a stuffy compartment of a night train approaching Paris
that Jessica and I were privileged to look upon Aunt Nancy for the
first time. Her obvious age would soon have attracted our attention,
no doubt, and certainly the gallantry with which she carried her
eighty years could not long have escaped the observation of two such
earnest students of humanity as we believed ourselves to be. But the
characteristic in her which at once caught my eye was her expression—
a look of such keen alertness, such intense vitality, that even in the
mental stagnation that accompanies night travel I wondered what, in
her surroundings, could explain it.
The dingy carriage in which we sat was vaguely illuminated by an
oil lamp, the insufficient rays of which brought out effective high
lights on the bald head of one audibly slumbering German on our side
of the compartment, and on the heavy face of a stout Frenchwoman who
sat opposite him, next to the old lady upon whom I was concentrating
my attention. The latter, obviously an American, the two foreigners,
and ourselves, were the sole occupants of the compartment; and
certainly in the appearance of none of her four fellow-passengers was
there justification of the wide-awake intentness of the kind old eyes
that now beamed on us through heavy, steel-rimmed spectacles.
Pensively, as befitted the weary wanderer, I marvelled. How could she
look so alive, so wide awake, so energetic, at one o'clock in the
The bald-headed man slept on. The stout woman removed a shell comb
from her back hair and composed herself for deeper slumber. Jessica
presented to my lambent gaze a visage which besought unspoken
sympathy, and mutely breathed a protest against travel in general and
this phase of it in particular. Jessica in the "still small hours" was
never really gay. It was dimly comforting to one of my companionable
nature to turn from her to the little old woman opposite me. In figure
and dress she might have posed for one of Leech's drawings of ancient
dames, so quaintly prim was she, so precise in their folds were her
little black mantle and her simple black gown, so effective a frame to
her wrinkled face was the wide black bonnet she wore. On her hands,
demurely crossed in her lap, were black lace mitts. Moreover, she was
enveloped, so to speak, in a dim aroma of peppermint, the source of
which was even then slightly distending one faded cheek. Irrepressibly
I smiled at her, and at once a long-drawn sigh of pleasure floated
across to me. In spontaneous good-fellowship she leaned forward.
"It's a real comfortable journey, ain't it?" she whispered, so
evidently torn between a passionate desire to talk and consideration
for the sleepers that my heart went out to her.
"Well, if you mean this especial journey—" I hesitated.
"Yes, I do," she insisted. "The seats are real comfortable.
Everything is." She threw out her mittened hands with a gesture that
seemed to emphasize a demand for approval. "I wouldn't change a single
thing. Some say it's hot; I don't think 'tis. I wouldn't mind, though,
if 'twas. We're gettin' a nice draught."
I looked through the open window at the French landscape, bathed in
the glory of an August moon.
"That, at least, is very satisfactory," I admitted, cheerfully.
She looked a little blank as she glanced around, and a queer
expression of responsibility settled over her features, blurring their
brightness like a veil.
"I see," she said, slowly. "You mean France. Yes, 'tis nice, an'
they's certainly a great deal to see in it." She hesitated a moment,
and then went on more rapidly. "You know," she continued, in her high-
keyed, sibilant whisper, "it's some different with me from what 'tis
with you. You can speak French. I heard you talkin' to the conductor.
An' I suppose you've been here often, an' like it. But this is the
first time I've come over to Europe. I've always meant to,
sometime, but things ain't been just so's I could come. Now't
I'm here, I can't stay long, an' I must say I feel kind of homesick.
There's so much to see it jest makes my head swim. I come for a
purpose—a purpose of my own—but now't I'm here, I want to do my duty
an' see things. I declare," she added, shamefacedly, "I most hate to
go to sleep nights, I'm so afraid I'll miss something an' hear about
it when I git back."
I asked a conventional question, which evoked a detailed report of
her journeyings. By this time Jessica had opened one eye; the two
foreigners slept on peacefully. She had landed at Naples, the old lady
told me; and from her subsequent remarks I gathered that she had found
the Italians as a people deficient in the admirable qualities of
cleanliness and modesty. She lamented, also, an over-preponderance of
art galleries, and the surprising slowness of the natives to grasp
intelligent remarks made in the English tongue. Aside from these
failings, however, she had found Italy somewhat interesting, and she
mentioned especially the grotto at Capri and the ascent of Vesuvius.
She added, casually, that few of her fellow-tourists had made this
latter excursion, as it was just after the severest eruptions, and the
air had been full of dust and cinders. Jessica opened the other eye. I
began to experience vivid interest in the conversation.
Rome, she further revealed, meant to her the Campagna and the
Catacombs. On the former she had taken walks, and in the very bowels
of the latter she had seemingly burrowed for days, following some
mysterious purpose of her own. Her favorite time for a promenade on
the Campagna, and one she paused to recommend to me, was at dusk, the
place then being quiet and peaceful, owing to the fact that tourists,
foolishly fearing the fever, kept away from it after sunset.
At this point Jessica sat up, arranged a pillow comfortably behind
her back, and gave her undivided attention to the monologue. At last
she put a question. Was the lady travelling alone? The lady hastened
to explain that she was not.
"My, no," she said, briskly. "I'm a tourist—that's what they call
'em, you know, when they're with a man. They's eighteen in our party,
and the man that is takin' us is Mr. James George Jackson. He's real
nice. He's in one of the other cars on this train, an' they's three
gentlemen with him that belong to us, too. All the rest stayed in
Paris because they was tired. You see," she added, explanatorily, "we
done Lourdes in two days, an' we took it off our time in Paris. We
ain't got much time in Paris, anyhow, so we went an' come back at
night. I s'pose the rest thought it might be tryin' in the heat, so
they stayed behind an' went to Fontingblow yesterday an' up the Seen
to-day. But I saw the Black Forest when we was in Germany, an' the
Rhine, too, an' some of us walked from Binjen to Cooblens, so's we
could git the view real well. So I thought I'd let the French river
an' forest go, an' see Lourdes instead."
Jessica interrupted here.
"I beg your pardon," she asked, earnestly, "but—have you really
been travelling two nights and sight-seeing two days in that fearful
crush at Lourdes without any sleep?"
Our new friend nodded slowly, as one to whose attention the matter
had just been directed. "Why, yes, that's so," she conceded. "But I
ain't a bit tired. Old folks don't need much sleep, you know, an' I'm
pretty old. I was eighty-one last June."
Jessica dropped her pillow and sat up very straight, a slight flush
upon her face. Our new friend prattled on until the lights of Paris
appeared in the distance, and Jessica and I began to collect the
impressive array of impedimenta with which we had thoughtfully
multiplied the discomfort of travel. As we pulled down packages of
rugs and tightened various straps the bright eyes of the little old
woman watched us unswervingly through her spectacles. Grasping firmly
a stout and serviceable umbrella, she was ready to disembark. If she
had brought any baggage with her, which I doubted, it was evidently in
the fostering care of Mr. James George Jackson.
"What hotel are you goin' to?" she asked, suddenly. "I know a real
I told her it was the St. James et D'Albany, and her wrinkled face
"Well, now, I declare," she cried, heartily, "ain't that nice!
That's jest where we're stayin', an' I'm as comfor'ble as I can be. I
got a room with a window that looks right into the Twilry Gardens. Mr.
Jackson says that I must have the best they is, because I'm the
oldest. 'Age before beauty,' he says, an' none of the other ladies
minds a bit. They certainly are good to me. Of course, I don't say 't
I wouldn't like a more relishin' breakfast, because I would; an' I
ain't got used to that waiter man comin' right into my room with his
trays before I'm out of my bed, an' I never expect to. But 'tis a
good hotel, an' the lady that runs it is real nice, if she is
The train swung into the great station as she spoke, and a round,
perspiring, and very grimy masculine face presented itself at the door
of our compartment.
"Well, Aunt Nancy," said the owner of this, with a sprightly effort
at cheerfulness, "you alive yet? The rest of us are dead. You come
right along with me now, and I'll whisk you up to the hotel in a cab.
And if you take my advice, you'll go to bed and stay there for two
days, after this experience."
He tucked the old lady under his arm as he spoke, and she trotted
off with him in high good-humor, turning several times to nod and
smile at us as she departed.
At eight o'clock the following morning I was awakened by Jessica,
who stood at my bedside light-heartedly reminding me of my
self-imposed duty of going early to the station to attend to the
luggage, which we had omitted to do the night before. My replies to
this suggestion, while they held Jessica's awe-struck attention for
five minutes, would be of no interest here. Bitterly I rose,
reluctantly and yawningly I dressed. At nine I stood at the entrance
of our hotel signalling sleepily for a cab, and wilting already under
the heat of the August sun. While I waited, a tourist coach drew up at
the curb. It was gorgeous with red paint and conspicuous with large
signs bearing the lettering "A VERSAILLES." The driver remained on the
box. The guide, evidently there by appointment and sharply on time,
leaped to the sidewalk, glanced at his watch, snapped the case shut
with a satisfied nod, and stood with his eyes on the hotel entrance.
One tiny black figure came forth, greeted him with a blithe
"Bongjure," and intrepidly began the perilous ascent of the ladder he
hastened to place against the side of the coach for her convenience.
It was Aunt Nancy, dressed as she had been the night before, but
immaculately neat, and reflecting in her face the brightness of the
morning. I greeted her, and in her glad surprise at seeing me again
she remained suspended between earth and heaven to talk to me,
incidentally revealing the whole of two serviceable gaiters, the tiny
ruffle of an alpaca petticoat, and a long, flat section of
gray-striped cotton hose.
"Well, well," she beamed. "Ain't this nice? Yes, I'm goin'. The
rest ain't ready yet, but I've been awake sence five, so I thought I'd
come right down an' watch the coach fill up. The men ain't
goin'—they're so tired, poor dears. Onri, my waiter, says every last
one of 'em is in bed yit. But some of the ladies that went up the Seen
yesterday is comin', so I guess we'll have a real nice party. We're
goin' to see the palace an' the Treenon first, an' then I'm goin' to
the fair in the village. Mr. Jackson says a French fair is real
interestin', but he ain't goin'. He said last night he had a great
deal of work to do in his room to-day, an' he guessed we wouldn't none
of us see him till dinner. Do you know"—she lowered her voice
mysteriously and cast an apprehensive eye about her as she went
on—"Onri says Mr. Jackson's asleep this very minute, an' it's most
nine o'clock in the mornin'!"
These startling revelations were checked by the appearance of two
of her fellow-tourists, and I seized the opportunity afforded by this
interruption to depart upon my uncongenial task.
We did not see Aunt Nancy again until the morning of our third day
in Paris, when I ran across her in the galleries of the Luxembourg.
She was settled comfortably in a bright-red upholstered seat near the
main entrance, and on her wrinkled face was an expression of perfect
"Well, I'm glad to see you resting at last," was my greeting.
"Yes, I'm restin'," she conceded. "I always do in the art
galleries," she added, simply, as I sat down beside her. "They've got
the comfort'blest chairs here of any, I think, though they was some
nice ones in Florence, too; an' in one of the places in Rome they was
a long seat where you could 'most lay down. I took a real nice nap
there. You see," she continued, smoothing an imaginary wrinkle out of
one lace mitt, "I don't know much about pictures, anyway, but I
come right along with the others, an' when I git here I jest set down
an' rest till they git through lookin' at 'em. I don't know what's
Michelangelo an' what ain't, an' 't seems to me it's too late
to find out now."
Jessica appeared at this moment, and further revelations were
checked by greetings, followed almost immediately by our reluctant
departure to keep an appointment. Before we left, however, we learned
that the day at Versailles had been followed by an evening "at one of
them French kafes where women sing," and that fourteen hours of sight-
seeing in Paris itself had dispelled the threatened ennui of the
Late that evening Mr. James George Jackson tottered to the side of
Jessica in the corridor of the Hotel D'Albany and addressed her,
wiping his brow as he did so.
"It's the old lady," he said—"Aunt Nancy Wheeler, you know. She
asked me to ask you two ladies if you wouldn't like to join us in a
drive this evening. She wants to see how Paris looks at night, an'
I've got to show her."
He swayed languidly against a pillar when we had accepted the
invitation, and groaned in reply to Jessica's tribute to the old
"She's active all right," he remarked, grimly. "If there's anything
left of me after she gets through, it'll be because I've
inherited an iron constitution from my mother. She's worn out every
other man in the party weeks ago. The worst of it is that I don't know
why she does it. She really doesn't care about anything; I'm sure of
that. But she's got some object; so she goes from early morn till dewy
eve, and of course some one's got to go with her; we can't let her
wander around alone. Besides, what I'm afraid of is that she'll go all
to pieces some day—like the deacon's one-horse shay, you know, and
there won't be anything left but a little heap of alpaca clothes and
congress gaiters. She's worn out six pair of gaiters since we
started," he added, with a wail. "I know, because I've had to buy
them. She hasn't had time." He shook his head mournfully as he
Jessica and I bade Aunt Nancy an affecting farewell that night, as
we were leaving Paris the next day. For several weeks we heard no more
of her, but in Scotland we crossed her trail again. The Highlands were
full of rumors of an intrepid old dame who had "done" the lakes and
the Trossachs as apparently they had never been done before. Was she
an American? She was. Eighty years old, dressed in black, with a big
bonnet, steel-rimmed spectacles, and gaiters? All was correct but the
gaiters. Seemingly the gaiter supply had been exhausted by the
constant demand. She wore shoes with heavy soles and, our informant
added, happily, gray, striped stockings. From the rumors of her
achievements on land and water, Jessica and I glanced apprehensively
over the surface of Scotland, fearing to see it strewn with exhausted
boatmen, guides, and drivers; but apparently all her victims had
survived, though they bore as a souvenir of their experience with her
a haggard and hunted look which Jessica declared she could detect from
the top seat of the loftiest coach.
Drifting down through Ireland we heard another echo of Aunt Nancy.
She had ridden on horseback through the Gap of Dunloe, no difficult
feat in itself, and one achieved daily during Kallarney's tourist
season by old ladies of various countries and creeds. In Aunt Nancy's
case, however, it appeared that she had been able to enjoy that
variety which is so gratifying a feature of human experience.
Notwithstanding the fact that she had never been on the back of a
horse in her life, she unerringly selected the freshest and most
frolicsome of the Irish ponies as her mount. It appears further that
she was finally lifted to the saddle of this animal as the result of a
distinct understanding between Mr. James George Jackson and her guide
that the latter gentleman was not only to accompany the lady every
foot of the route, but was meantime to cling valiantly to the bridle
with both hands. Unfortunately, this arrangement, so deeply satisfying
to all, was not ratified by the mettlesome Irish pony; the result
being that, after the guide had been swept off his feet by a sudden
and unexpected lift of the animal's forelegs, Aunt Nancy and the pony
continued the excursion alone. Judging from the terse words of one of
the observers, it must have been an exciting spectacle while it
lasted, though it passed all too rapidly beyond the line of the
beholder's longing vision.
"Ye c'u'dn't tell," remarked this gentleman, sadly, in relating the
accident, "which was the harse an' which the auld lady, an' which the
Gap of Dunloe!"
Excited pursuers did not "catch 'em," as they were urged to do by
the frenzied Mr. Jackson, but they were rewarded by finding various
portions of Aunt Nancy's wearing apparel scattered along the trail.
Items: one black bonnet, one cape, one handkerchief, one pair of
steel-rimmed spectacles. Apparently only those garments securely
fastened in place, such as shoes and lace mitts, had survived the
experience. Apparently, also, Aunt Nancy had made in almost unbroken
silence her exciting mountain ride. The exception seemingly occurred
somewhere in the Dark Valley, where a mountain woman, seeing her fly
by, had thoughtlessly urged her to stop and buy a glass of goat's
milk. The woman's memory of the encounter was slightly vague, it
having ended so abruptly, but she retained the impression that Aunt
Nancy had expressed an unusual degree of regret at being unable to
accept her invitation.
"'Twasn't till thin I saw the poor harse was crazy wid fright, an'
the auld lady's close blowin' over his eyes," added the mountain
woman, sympathetically. "An' I couldn't do nathin', becuz, begorra,
whin I lifted me v'ice to call me big bye, the auld woman an' the
harse was half-way down the valley."
Fortunately, five or six miles of this stimulating pace had a
blighting effect on the wild Hibernian spirits of the pony, with the
result that he and his rider ambled at a most sedate gait into the
space where the row-boats were waiting their passengers for Ross
Castle, and where the remaining members of the party were expected to
meet. The remaining members of the party, for obvious reasons, were
not yet there; and the long delay before their arrival gave Aunt Nancy
time to replace the missing articles of her apparel with garments
borrowed from the woman at the refreshment booth, and to eat a hearty
luncheon. Thus refreshed, she was ready for the fourteen-mile journey
in a row-boat to Ross Castle, which was the next item on the programme
of the day; and she made it that afternoon, notwithstanding the almost
hysterical expostulations of Mr. James George Jackson.
It was not until we sailed for America that we looked again into
Aunt Nancy's dauntless eyes. She was the first passenger we saw when
we reached the deck of the Columbia, and her joy in the encounter was
as deep as our own. We chatted for a moment, and then she darted off
to greet various members of her party from whom side excursions had
temporarily separated her.
The sea was slumberously calm, bathed in hazy autumnal sunshine.
Light-hearted men and women in white linen and pale flannel costumes
strolled about the decks explaining to one another what good sailors
they were, and how they hoped the sea would not remain monotonously
"One wants a little life and swing on a ship," explained one fat,
blond man on whose face we were even then looking, though we knew it
not, for the last time in seven sad days. To a unit the passengers
poured into the dining-saloon at the first call for luncheon. To a
unit they consumed everything on the bill of fare. All was peace and
That afternoon the sea roused herself drowsily, turned over, and
yawned. The blue waves of the morning were gone. In their place were
huge, oily, black swells, which lazily lifted the Columbia,
held her suspended for a long minute, and then with slow, shuddering
reluctance let her down, down, down. An interesting young Scotchman
who was sitting by Jessica's side on deck stopped suddenly in the
midst of an impassioned tribute to the character of Robert Brace,
looked in her face for an instant with eyes full of a horrible fear,
and hastily joined a stout German in a spirited foot-race to the
nearest companionway. A High-church English divine, who had met me
half an hour before and had hastened to spare me future heartaches by
explaining at once that he was married, rose abruptly from his chair
beside me and wobbled uncertainly to the deck-rail, where he hung
suspended in an attitude of pathetic resignation. Thus recalled to the
grim realities of life, Jessica and I looked up and down the deck. It
was deserted—deserted save for a little black figure that trotted
rapidly past us, clutching occasionally at the empty air for support
as she was hurled from one side to the other of the glistening deck,
but cheerful, undaunted, and happy.
"I got to have some exercise," panted Aunt Nancy, as she reclined
for an instant in my lap, where a lurch of the ship had deposited her;
"so I'm takin' a little walk." She was still walking when Jessica and
I retreated hurriedly to our cabin.
The days that followed are too sad to be described by the most
sympathetic pen. The sea, moved to her uttermost depths as she had not
been in twenty-five years, resented fiercely the presence of the
Columbia on her disturbed bosom. Madly she cast her from her; with
feline treachery she drew her back again, and sought to tear apart her
mighty timbers. Groaningly, agonizingly, pluckily, the Columbia bore
all—and revenged herself on her passengers. She stood on her head,
and sent them, so to speak, into her prow. She rose up on her stern,
and scattered them aft. She stood still and shuddered. She lay down on
her left side until she had imperilled the heart action of every
person on board; she rolled over on her right side and started briskly
toward the bottom of the sea. She recovered herself, leaped up and
down a few times to prove that she was still intact, and did it all
over again. Meanwhile the passengers, locked below and sternly
commanded to keep to their cabins, held fast to the sides of their
berths and prayed fervently for death.
Neither Jessica nor I was actively ill, but Jessica's indifference
to food and social intercourse was marked in the extreme. Stretched on
her back in the berth opposite my own, she lay day and night with
closed eyes and forbidding demeanor, rousing herself only long enough
to repel fiercely any suggestion that she take nourishment. Also, she
furnished me with one life-long memory. From sheer ennui I ordered and
devoured at noon on the third day a large portion of steamed peach
dumpling, with hard sauce. The look which Jessica cast first upon this
dish and then upon me will always, I think, remain the dominant
feature of my most troubled dreams.
During this time I had not forgotten Aunt Nancy, though I am sure
Jessica had. Her cabin, however, while on the same deck as our own,
was at the other end of the ship, and I had grave doubts of my ability
to cover safely the distance between. Finally I attempted it, and,
aside from the slight incidents of blacking one eye in an unexpected
diversion to the rail, and subsequently being hurled violently against
the back of an axe nailed to the wall, I made the passage in safety.
Aunt Nancy was not in her cabin, but a hollow groan from the upper
berth betrayed the fact that her room-mate was. From this lady I was
unfortunately unable to extract any information. She seemed to feel
that I was mercifully sent to chloroform her out of existence, and her
disappointment over my failure to play this Samaritan role was so
bitter that I was forced to withdraw lest she should utter things
unbefitting a gentlewoman.
Down the long corridor, as I groped my way back, something blew
toward me like a wraith from the sea. It wore a gray, woolly bathrobe,
a tiny wisp of white hair fastened precariously with one hair-pin, and
a pair of knitted bedroom slippers. It was Aunt Nancy, and we executed
then and there an intricate pas de deux in our common efforts to meet.
Finally the Columbia ceased her individual evolutions long enough to
enable us to grasp the passage-rail.
"I've been in your cabin," I explained, above the roar of wave and
wind, as we stood facing each other. "I was afraid you were ill."
Aunt Nancy looked almost pained at such a suspicion.
"My, no," she disavowed, hastily; "but there's them that is," she
conceded. "I've been to see—let me see—thirty of 'em to-day—men an'
women both. Poor Mr. Jackson's about the worst. I never SEE such a
sick man. I got this cracked ice for him," she added, looking down at
the glass she was clasping to her bosom with her free hand. "I'd 'a'
looked in on you," she added, kindly, "if I hadn't been so busy, but I
heard you wa'n't neither of you sick."
I explained with some effort that I felt comfortable as long as I
lay still, but that as soon as I was on my feet, the motion—We parted
On the morning of the sixth day Jessica turned over in her berth,
removed from her spine a fork which had seemingly been there all the
week, regarded it with strong disfavor, and announced briefly that she
was going above. We went. The decks were still wet, and the steamer-
chairs were securely lashed in place. The sky was gray and lowering,
but the sea had sulkily subsided, showing its continued resentment of
the whole experience only in the upheaval of an occasional wave which
broke over the ship-rail and perished at our feet. As the hours
passed, pale wraiths appeared at the companionways, supported one
another feebly to the nearest chairs, sank into them, and veiled their
faces from one another's gaze. They seemed the ghosts of the happy men
and women who had come on board the Columbia six long days ago.
Languidly as the hours passed they revived and confided to one another
the simple record of the voyage. No, they had not been ill. It was,
indeed, singular how few of them had been disturbed by the voyage,
though they had all noticed that it was rough. But they had been
injured by being knocked about or thrown from their berths, or they
had been caring for friends or relatives who were ill. Several of them
paused at my side on their way to and from their cabins to indulge in
these artless confidences. It remained, however, for Aunt Nancy to
make the most interesting of all.
She came along the deck about five in the afternoon and dropped
with serene satisfaction into the empty steamer-chair at my right. She
was fully dressed in the inevitable black, even to her wide bonnet.
With a sigh of pleasure she folded her mittened hands and began to
"It's been real interestin'," she said. "I must say I'm 'most sorry
to have it over. I want to go to Europe again in two years; I ain't
really enjoyed this trip very much; but when I come again I think I'll
like it better, now that I know it. But of course at my age one can't
really be sure one can come again."
She sank into silence for a moment, looking down at the mittened
hands in her lap. Then her face brightened, and she turned to me again
with her old, alert eagerness of expression.
"I dunno why I shouldn't come, though," she added, cheerfully. "I'm
real well. Before I left home I was some worried. I didn't seem to be
as strong as I used to be. That's why I come—to build up my health
an' git strong. Lots of folks has wondered why I come, I guess, an'
that was it, though I ain't told no one till now. I guess I did
improve, too, for the stewardess told me with her own lips only this
mornin' that she thought I was a healthy woman. But of course," she
added, with lowly humility, "I can't do what I did when I was young."
I was speechless. The Columbia paused on the top of a wave,
hesitated a moment, and sailed unsteadily onward. With eyes filled
with a solemn content, Aunt Nancy gazed out over the cold, wet sea.
IX. THE HENRY SMITHS' HONEYMOON
When Jacob West suggested to Henry Smith that the latter's
honeymoon should be spent in New York, Mr. Smith's ruddy countenance
paled at the audacity of the words, and Miss Maria Tuttle, his
fiancee, gasped audibly for breath. Unconsciously they clasped hands,
as if better to meet together the rude shock of the moment; and seated
side by side on the rustic bench which adorned the small veranda of
the Tuttle homestead, they gazed helplessly at the speaker. Slowly and
with the stiffness of age Jacob sat down on the steps below them and
looked up at their startled faces with a twinkle in his dim old eyes.
His enjoyment of the moment was intense.
"Why not?" he demanded, cajolingly and argumentatively. "Ain't yeh
old enough t' have a good time? Ain't yeh waited long enough? Ain't
yeh"— he turned directly to Maria—"bin nursin' yer poor mother fer
six years past an' wearin' yerself out, an' ain't yeh bin sewin' day
an' night fer three months, ever sence she died, t' git ready t' marry
Henry?" He drew a long breath of gratification over the respectful
silence which greeted these adroit points, and went on with hortatory
sympathy. "Yeh bin a good daughter, Maria. They ain't no better in
Clayton Centre. Yeh deserve th' best they is. Now be good t' yerself
an' Henry. Let him take yeh to New York an' give yeh a good time on
the weddin' tower."
Miss Tuttle blushed faintly. She was forty-five, and looked ten
years older. She was a tired, worn out, faded little woman, drained of
her youth and vitality by the hourly exactions of the fault-finding
invalid mother whom she had so recently laid away in the church-yard
with unselfish filial tears. But there was something attractive in the
sweet patience of her thin face, and the look in her brown eyes as she
turned them on her faithful middle-aged lover was one of the trump
cards her sex has played since Eve first used it as she accompanied
Adam to the gate out of paradise. In her embarrassment she laughed a
"Mebbe Henry don't want to go," she began. "He ain't said nothing
about New York."
Henry whirled abruptly till he faced her on the rustic seat.
"Go! You bet I want to go!" he ejaculated, with fervor. "Don't I
just— you bet I do. Say, Maria"—he fumbled nervously with the thin
hand he still held in his own—"say, let's go."
Jacob West cackled delightedly. "That's the talk!" he cried, his
thin, high tones taking on a shriller note in his excitement. "You
jest do it, Henry! You make her! Neither of yeh'll be sorry, I swan!"
They sat silent, reflecting, and the old fellow rose slowly and
painfully, instinctive delicacy telling him that, having done his
part, it behooved him to leave them alone to solve for themselves the
question he had raised. It was hard to go, but he went, chuckling
reminiscently as he recalled the excited look on their faces and
pictured the lively debate which would follow his departure.
It was a warm October evening, and the little village lay silent
under the early stars. A light wind sang a droning lullaby in the
grove of pines back of the Tuttle home, and a few belated birds
twittered sleepily in near-by trees. Unconsciously Maria voiced the
subtle charm of the hour when she spoke.
"I dunno, Henry," she said, lingeringly—"I dunno's I feel to go.
Seems like we ought to be content to stay right here, where it's so
quiet an' restful."
Her eyes roamed lovingly down the garden paths, lingering on trees
and shrubs planted by Tuttle hands now a part of earth themselves.
"I'm so glad you're comin' here," she sighed, happily. "I don't
b'lieve you know yet how glad I am, Henry—not t' leave the old
He waived the discussion of this side interest, already settled
"It'll be jest as nice when we come back from New York," he argued,
logically, "an' jest as quiet."
The feminine intellect beside him took another tack on the sea of
uncertainty with which old Jacob had surrounded it.
"Mebbe we can't afford it," she hazarded. "Prices is very high in
New York, Henry. Joseph Hadley's daughter went there four years ago
with her aunt, and she told me with her own lips they had to pay a
dollar a day for their room at the hotel, without no meals. The hotel
man wanted seventy-five cents apiece for dinner, so they paid it once
a day an' the rest of the time they went into lunch-rooms an' had milk
an' crackers. But with one dollar for the room, and another dollar 'n'
a half for dinner, an' the crackers an' milk besides, they spent 'most
twenty dollars the very first week. They had to come right straight
home, 'n' they'd meant to stay two weeks."
Henry Smith's strong jaw set rather obstinately.
"I guess we won't have to come home till we git ready," he
remarked, easily, "an' I guess we'll git our three meals a day, too. I
don't see myself eatin' no milk an' crackers, nor you, neither. I
guess I 'ain't bin savin' all these years, with a good carpenter
business, without gittin' somethin' ahead. Say, 'Ria"—it was he who
blushed now, his round face close to hers—"yeh can have anything yeh
want. I'm that glad t' git yeh at last, I'd spend all I have!"
Her thin hand responded for an instant to the pressure of his and
then coyly withdrew itself. She had few words at any time and none in
moments of emotion, but he knew her and was satisfied.
"You've bin so good, Henry," she said, at last; "you've bin awful
patient all these years. Fur's I'm concerned, I'd as lief stay here's
anywhere, but if you want to go t' New York, I—I—want to do what yeh
"Then we'll go," he said, quietly; and the great question was
When Mr. and Mrs. Henry Smith arrived in New York on the evening of
their wedding-day, it is doubtful which of them was the more dazed and
frightened by the bustle and confusion at the Grand Central station.
Maria had at least the support of her husband's nearness to sustain
her, and the comparative peace of mind of the one who, though facing
untoward conditions, is without personal responsibility; but Henry
experienced, in addition to his self-distrust, a sickening fear of
failure in her presence. He was conscious of two dominant thoughts.
Whatever happened, he must take care of his wife and spurn the
advances of agreeable strangers. Also he and she must be transported
by hack to the hotel they had chosen, without parting with the savings
of years for the ride. He had heard of the extortions of cabmen. He
bargained fiercely with a too-zealous independent who had already
grasped his hand-bag and was leading the way to his cab, past the more
inexpensive cabs supplied by the railroad company.
"You don't git one cent more'n two dollars for taking us, I can
tell you that," announced Henry Smith, firmly but breathlessly, as he
climbed clumsily into the cab after his wife. The hotel was in the
fifties, and the cabman had intended to charge a dollar for the ride.
He promptly protested against Mr. Smith's offer, however, inquiring
anxiously if the gentleman wished an honest cabman's family to go
supperless to bed. It appeared that the gentleman was indifferent to
the fate of the cabman's family.
"You'll do it for two dollars or you'll let us git out," was his
final word. As one overcome by superior force, the cabman yielded,
climbed sulkily to his perch, and, bestowing a large, comprehensive
wink upon the by-standers, started for the hotel his fare had
indicated. Mr. Smith's spirits rose. Obviously, in this triumph he had
demonstrated his fitness to cope with all the other grinding
monopolies of New York. He smiled proudly at his wife as they drove
toward Broadway, and his confidence grew as he discovered that he
recognized the Times Building at the first glance and could also
recognize the Hotel Astor by its resemblance to the picture of it in
the Clayton Centre Weekly. At one point in their progress up-town the
cab was caught in a crush of vehicles and Mrs. Henry Smith was
privileged, for the first time in her life, to listen to the
untrammelled conversation of New York cabmen on an occasion when they
set their moral shoulders against congested traffic, knowing that it
helps THEM, at all events. She shuddered and clung to Henry's arm. It
was all too plain that they were in the vortex of godlessness, but
even as the realization of this was borne to her on the winged speech
of the driver, Mrs. Smith was conscious of an inward thrill. It was
awful, but it was life—not life as lived in Clayton Centre, but
certainly a life that already gained in excitement and interest from
that fact. Unconsciously craning her thin neck farther out of the cab
window, she drank in with a fearful joy the roar and excitement of
Broadway, the shouts of drivers, the clang of trolley-cars. Her faded
eyes gleamed as she saw the brilliant lights of the great thoroughfare
whose illuminated signs met her glance at every turn.
Arrived at the hotel, the cabman accepted the two dollars, dumped
the bride's trunk on the sidewalk, and drove off with an alacrity
designed to prevent any further discussion of rates. Mr. Smith
surrendered his hand-bag to the bell-boy who was reaching out
impatient hands for it, grasped his wife's arm, and, following his
small guide, walked firmly into the presence of the hotel clerk. It
was a trying moment for him as he dragged that aloof personality down
to his level, but details were arranged with surprising ease, barring
so strange a lack of sympathy. As soon as he had expressed his few and
simple wishes he found himself and his wife being guided to a lift,
and with wonderful simplicity put in possession of a comfortable room
on the third floor. Here the shades were drawn down, a pitcher of
ice-water was hospitably placed on the stand, and a cheery fire was
started on the small hearth. Over this last extravagance the bride
faintly demurred, but Henry silenced her with his simple grandeur of
insistence. It was a cool November evening, and he had noticed that
she shivered in her thin wrap as they drove up-town.
"I jest intend makin' yeh comfortable," he announced, masterfully.
It was something of an ordeal to go down to dinner half an hour
later, but they met it bravely, walking stiffly into the crowded
dining-room, and looking to neither the right nor the left as they
followed the headwaiter to their places. The discovery that they had
exclusive possession of a small table was a matter of joyful surprise
to them both, on which they freely commented. The daintiness of the
linen, the gleam of silver, the perfection of the service, and the
soft glow of candles under silk shades, filled their simple country
souls with awe. It suggested unconjectured expense with a tang of
wickedness as well. Off in an alcove, screened by palms, an orchestra
played with considerate softness. Mr. Smith smiled a large, expansive
smile and leaned back in his chair. The moment was perfect. His
apprehensions were over for the time. Maria was with him, she was his,
and he was giving her all this. Could an Astor or a Vanderbilt offer
more to the woman of his heart? Henry Smith looked at the plush and
gilding about him, and read his answer.
He experienced a rude awakening. A silent waiter stood beside him,
offering for his inspection an elaborate menu. The letters danced
before his eyes as Henry looked at them. What did they mean, anyhow,
and how did one pick out what one wanted, he wondered. Or, perchance,
was one expected gracefully to consume everything? His momentary self-
sufficiency died on the instant, and sickening fears of making a
mistake before Maria's eyes again overcame him. A great longing filled
him to appear to advantage, to do the thing properly, whatever it was.
On a sudden inspiration he leaned toward the waiter.
"Say," he said, confidentially, "you jest bring us two good
dinners— the best of everything you've got—and I'll make it all
right with yeh." He surveyed the waiter's face anxiously as he spoke,
his own clearing as it remained quietly respectful.
"Very well, sir; certainly, sir," said the servant, promptly.
"Oysters first, sir, I suppose, and a little green-turtle soup; a bit
of fish, perhaps—we've some very nice sole in to-day, sir; a
bird—the partridge and grouse are excellent, sir; a salad, and an
ice. Any wine, sir? No, sir? Yes, sir." He was gone, and Mr. Smith
wiped his perspiring brow. Maria was gazing at him with simple love
"I declare, Henry," she murmured, "you do it all just 's if you'd
be'n doin' it every day of your life. Where'd you learn?"
Mr. Smith made a vague gesture repudiating the charge, but his face
shone and he sat straighter in his chair. He dared not boast, for he
knew there were crucial moments coming, but so far there had been no
catastrophes and his courage grew with each achievement. When Maria
looked doubtfully at her oysters, and, joyfully recognizing them,
wondered audibly why they were not made into a stew instead of being
presented in this semi-nude condition, he was able, after a piercing
glance at near-by tables, to set her right with easy authority.
"They eat 'em this way in New York," he said, swallowing one
himself and endeavoring, with indifferent success, to look as if he
liked it. Maria followed his example, rather gingerly and not as one
who ventures on a new joy. Her interest remained equally vague when
the soup and fish successively appeared. When the partridge was
served, however, with bread sauce and French pease and currant jelly,
the gratifying experience of finally "having something really on the
plate" moved her to alert appreciation, and she proceeded to eat her
dinner with an expression of artless and whole-souled relief. She was
able to point out to Henry, as a bit of prandial small-talk, that the
orchestra was playing "Nancy Brown"—a classic ditty whose notes had
reached even Clayton Centre. It was at this stimulating point of the
dinner, also, that she felt privileged for the first time to remove
her gloves, glance at the other tables and the clothes of the women,
and talk freely to her husband. Hitherto she had "conversed" under
The waiter, offering her a second helping of jelly, saw, shining in
her hair, several grains of rice. The discovery exhilarated but did
not surprise him. His mien was one of fatherly interest five minutes
later as he presented a small bottle for Mr. Smith's inspection.
"Champagne, sir," he murmured. "Not too dry for the lady's taste,
sir. Thought you'd like a glass—special occasion, sir—"
His eloquence died away under the startled look in the bride's
eyes, but the groom met his happy suggestion with warm approval.
"Jest the thing," he said, heartily. "It'll do you good, Maria.
Doctors give it when people ain't well, so you can take it 'thout any
fear. 'N' I guess you're feelin' pretty well, ain't you?" he grinned,
broadly, over this flash of humor.
He motioned to the waiter to fill her glass, and that worthy did so
and retired behind her to give his courteous attention to the effect.
They drank their champagne, and a faint color came to Maria's pale
cheeks. It was really a nice place, this hotel, she decided, and the
furnishing of this room was such as palaces might cope with in vain.
She had heard of their glories; now she could guess what those glories
were. The voices of other guests chatting around her mingled with the
music; Clayton Centre seemed very remote. At last she was seeing life.
She felt no embarrassment as they left the table. They strolled
slowly down the dining-room and out into the palm-lined corridor on
whose plush chairs handsome men and beautifully dressed women sat and
chatted with surprising volubility and ease. Intrepidly the newcomers
seated themselves side by side where they could listen to the music
and watch the strange beings in this strange world. They were out of
it all, and even in the exhilaration of the moment they knew it; but
their aloofness from others added to the charm of the evening by
drawing them closer together. They gloried in the joint occupation of
their little island of happiness. For a long time they sat there, for
Maria could not be torn away. The music, the costumes and beauty of
the women, the delicate perfumes, the frequent ringing of bells, the
hurrying back and forth of bell-boys and hotel servants, were
indescribably fascinating to her.
The next morning Mr. Smith, sternly recalling himself to the
material side of life, had a brief but pregnant chat with the clerk.
He and his wife wished to stay a few days at the hotel, he intimated,
but it would be advisable, before making their plans, to go somewhat
into the question of expense. How much, for instance, was their dinner
last night. He had signed a check, but his memory was hazy as to the
amount. His brain reeled when the clerk, having looked it up, gave him
"Good Lord!" gasped Mr. Henry Smith. "I guess we'd better go back
to- day ef it's goin' to be THAT much!"
He was too limp mentally to follow for a time the clerks remarks,
but light gradually broke upon him. He could henceforth take table
d'hote meals, paying sixty cents each for breakfast and luncheon for
himself and his wife, and one dollar each for their dinner. That would
be only four dollars and forty cents a day for all meals—and would
make the hotel bills much less than if one ordered by card, unless one
was—er —familiar with the prices. It was much less trouble, too. Mr.
Smith grasped the point and expansively shook the clerk's hand. His
relief was so great that he urged that youth to have a cigar, and the
youth in return volunteered information as to points of interest to
strangers in New York.
"Better do the town to-day," he suggested. "Just go round and get a
general view—Broadway, Fifth Avenue, the shops, and all that. Then
to-night you'd better go to the play. I think you'd enjoy 'The White
Cat' as much as anything."
Armed with definite information as to the most direct route to
Broadway, Mr. Smith sought his bride. He found her in the corridor,
watching the people come and go, her thin face flushed and animated.
"Oh, Henry," she cried, eagerly, "I declare I'm having the most
interestin' time! Those folks over there—you know, the ones that has
the room next to ours—ain't spoke to each other sence breakfast. Do
you think they've quarrelled, the poor dears?"
He gave but perfunctory attention to "the poor dears," his duties
as prospective cicerone filling his thoughts. Maria's face fell as he
outlined their plans for the day.
"Well, if you feel to go, Henry," she said, doubtfully, "but it's
SO interestin' here. I feel 's if I knew all these folks. I wish we
could stay here this mornin', anyhow, 'n' not git out in those
dreadful crowded streets jest yet."
He sat down beside her with a promptness which evoked a startled
shriek from an absorbed young person reading near them.
"Then we'll stay right here," he announced, kindly. "We're here,
'Ria, to do jest what you want, an' we're goin' to do it."
She gave him an adoring look, and under its radiance Mr. Smith
promptly forgot the small claims of Broadway. Siberia with Maria in it
would have blossomed like the rose for Henry Smith, and the wide,
cheerful corridors of the Berkeley were far removed from Siberia's
atmosphere. Side by side and blissfully happy, they whiled the morning
hours away. After luncheon Henry again tentatively touched on sight-
"'Tain't far," he said. He consulted the slip of directions the
clerk had given him, and went on expansively, "We take the cross-town
line at Fifty-ninth Street, transfer to a Broadway car—"
Maria shivered. "My, Henry," she quavered, "that sounds dreadful
mixed. I'm afraid we'll get lost."
Henry's own soul was full of dark forebodings, and he inwardly
welcomed the respite her words gave him.
"Well, then, don't let's go," he said, easily, "till to-morrow,
anyhow. We got plenty o' time. We'll stay here, an' to-night we'll go
to see a play."
Like the morning, the afternoon passed sweetly. Henry made the
discovery that the hotel cafe at the right of the reception-room was a
popular resort for men guests of the hotel, and his researches into
their pleasures led to an introduction to a Manhattan cocktail. He
returned to Maria's side an ardent convert to her theory that the
hotel was the pleasantest place in New York. Subsequently, as he
sampled a Martini, one or two men chatted with him for a moment,
giving him a delightful sense of easy association with his peers.
Maria, in the mean time, had formed a pleasing acquaintance with the
parlor maid, and had talked freely to several little children. It was
with reluctance that they tore themselves away from the corridor long
enough to go in to dinner.
The table d'hote dinner, served in another room, was much less
elaborate than the banquet of the night before, but neither of them
realized the difference. Good in itself, to them it was perfection,
and Maria recognized almost as old friends familiar faces of fellow
hotel guests at the tables around her. When the question of the
theatre came up she was distinctly chilling.
"We'll go if you want to, Henry," she said, "but the band's goin'
to play all evening, an' the maid said some of the young folks has got
up a dance in the little ball-room. Wouldn't you like to see it?"
Henry decided that he would. He had, in fact, no rabid wish to see
a play, and the prospect of piloting Maria safely to the centre of the
town and home was definitely strenuous. He drank another cocktail
after dinner, smoked a cigar with a Western travelling man, exchanged
sage views on politics with that gentleman, and happily spent the
remainder of the evening by his Maria's side, watching the whirling
young things in the small ball-room. The happiest of them were sad,
indeed, compared with Henry Smith.
The next morning the cheerful voice of the clerk greeted him as he
came from the dining-room.
"Where to-day, Mr. Smith?" inquired that affable youth. "How about
the Horse Show? You surely ought to look in on that." He wrote on a
card explicit directions for arriving at the scene of this diversion,
and Mr. Smith, gratefully accepting it, hastened to his bride's side.
He found her full of another project.
"Oh, Henry," she cried, "they's going to be a lecture here in the
hotel this mornin', by a lady that's been to Japan. All the money she
gets for tickets will go to the poor. I guess she'll ask as much as
twenty-five cents apiece, but I think we better go."
Sustained by a cocktail, and strengthened by the presence of his
Maria, Mr. Smith attended the lecture, cheerfully paying two dollars
for the privilege, but refraining from dampening his wife's joy by
mentioning the fact. In the afternoon he broached the Horse Show.
Maria's face paled. To her it meant an exaggerated county fair, with
its attendant fatigue.
"You go, Henry," she urged. "You jest go an' enjoy yourself. I feel
too tired—I really do. I'd rather stay home—here—an' rest. We don't
really have to do nothing we don't want to, do we?"
Honest Henry Smith, whose working-day in Clayton Centre began at
five in the morning and ended at six at night, and whose evenings were
usually spent in the sleep of utter exhaustion, found himself relaxing
deliciously under her words. It was good, very good, to rest, and to
know they didn't HAVE to do things unless they wished.
"I won't, neither, go alone," he announced. "I ain't anxious to go.
I'd ruther stay here with you. We'll go some other time."
The white-capped maid smiled as she passed them; the palms nodded
as to old friends. The seductive charms of the Berkeley corridors
again wrapped them round.
"Going to see some of the pictures to-day?" asked the clerk, on the
third morning, cheerfully doing his duty by the strangers as he
conceived it. "Better go to Central Park first and the Metropolitan
Museum, then to the private exhibitions. Here's the list. Take a
cross-town car to Fifth Avenue, and a 'bus to Eighty-first Street, and
after the Park a Fifth Avenue 'bus will drop you at the other places."
Apprehension settled over Henry Smith, rudely disturbing his lotos-
eater's sense of being. He felt almost annoyed by this well-meaning
but indefatigable young man who seemed to think folks should be
gadding all the time. His manner was unresponsive as he took the
"I'll see what my wife says," he remarked, indifferently.
His wife said what he believed and hoped she would say.
"We ain't goin' home till to-morrow afternoon," she observed, "an'
we can see Central Park to-morrow mornin' if we want to. They's a
woman here that does up hair for fifty cents, an' I thought if yeh
didn't mind, Henry, I'd have her do mine—"
Henry urged her to carry out this happy inspiration. "She can't
make yeh look any nicer, though," he added, gallantly. Then, as Maria
surrendered herself and their room to the hairdresser's ministrations,
he visited the bar, chatted with his friend the clerk, and smoked a
good cigar. Afterward he selected a comfortable chair in the corridor
where he was to meet Maria, stretched his long legs, dozed, and found
it good to be alive.
A befrizzled Maria, whose scant hair stood out in startling Marcel
waves, confronted him at luncheon-time. A sudden inspiration shook him
to his depths.
"Don't you want to go down-town and have your picture took?" he
urged. "Let's have ours done together."
Maria was proof against even this lure. She had a better idea.
"They's a photograph man right here in the hotel," she chirped,
joyously. "He's next to the flower-shop, an' we can go right in
through that little narrow hall."
They went, subsequently carrying home with them as their choicest
treasure the cabinet photograph for which they had posed side by side,
with the excitement of New York life shining in their honest eyes. In
the evening the clerk suggested a concert.
"It's a fine one, at Carnegie Hall, right near here," he urged,
cheerfully, "and Sembrich is to sing, with the Symphony Orchestra. You
can get in for fifty cents if you don't mind sitting in the gallery.
You really ought to go, Mrs. Smith; you would enjoy it."
Mrs. Smith turned upon him an anxious eye.
"How far did you say 'twas?" she asked, warily.
"Oh, not ten minutes' ride. You take the car here at the corner—"
But the mention of the car blighted the budding purpose in Maria's
"I feel real tired," she said, quickly, "but if my husband wants to
Her husband loudly disavowed any such aspiration.
"We got a long journey before us to-morrow," he said, "an' I guess
we better rest."
They rested in the Berkeley corridor, amid the familiar sights and
scenes. The following morning found them equally disinclined for
sight-seeing. Seated in their favorite chairs, they watched the
throngs of happy people who came and went around them. Henry had added
to the list of his acquaintances two more travelling men and the boy
at the news-counter. His wife had heard in detail the sad story of her
chambermaid's life, and a few facts and surmises about fellow-guests
at the hotel.
Maria drew a long sigh when, after they had paid their bill the
next day and bade farewell to the clerk and other new friends, they
climbed into the cab which was to take them to the station.
"My, but it was interestin'!" she said, softly; adding, with entire
conviction, "Henry, I 'ain't never had such a good time in my hull
life! I really 'ain't!"
"Neither have I," avowed Henry, truthfully. "Wasn't it jest bully!"
On the train a sudden thought occurred to Mrs. Smith.
"Henry," she began, uneasily, "s'pose any one asks what we've SEEN
in New York. What'll we tell 'em? You know, somehow we didn't seem t'
git time t' see much."
Henry Smith was equal to the emergency.
"We'll say we seen so much we can't remember it," he said,
shamelessly. "Don't you worry one bit about that, Maria Smith. I've
always heard that weddin' couples don't never really see nothin' on
their weddin' towers, anyhow—they gad an' gad, an' it don't do no
good. We was wiser not to try!"
X. THE CASE OF KATRINA
My memory of Katrina goes back to the morning when, at the tender
age of ten, she was violently precipitated into our classroom. The
motive power, we subsequently learned, was her brother Jacob, slightly
older than Katrina, whose nervous system had abruptly refused the
ordeal of accompanying her into the presence of the teacher. Pushing
the door ajar until the opening was just large enough to admit her, he
thrust her through, following her fat figure for a second with one
anxious eye and breathing audibly in his excitement. The next instant
the cheerful clatter of his hob-nailed boots echoed down the hall,
followed by a whoop of relief as he emerged upon the playground.
It was Katrina's bearing as she stood, thus rudely projected into
our lives, endeavoring to recover her equilibrium, and with thirty
pairs of eyes fixed unswervingly upon her, that won my heart and
Jessica's. Owing to a fervid determination of our teacher to keep us
well in view, we sat in the front row, directly facing her. Having,
even in our extreme youth, a constitutional distaste to missing
anything, we undoubtedly stared at Katrina longer and harder than any
of the others. We smiled, too, largely and with the innocent abandon
of childhood; and Katrina smiled back at us as if she also tasted a
subtle flavor of the joke, lost to cruder palates. Then she shifted
her tiny school-bag from one hand to the other, swept the room with a
thoughtful glance, and catching sight of frantic gestures I was
making, obeyed them by walking casually to an empty seat across from
my own, where she sat down with deepening dimples and an air of
Several moments subsequently our teacher, Miss Merrill, aroused
herself from the trance into which she apparently had been thrown by
the expeditiousness with which this incident was accomplished, and
coming to Katrina's side, ratified the arrangement, incidentally
learning the new pupil's name and receiving from her hand a card,
written by the principal and assigning her to our special grade. But
long before these insignificant details were completed, Jessica and I
had emptied Katrina's bag, arranged her books in her desk, lent her a
pencil she lacked, indicated to her the boy most to be scorned and
shunned, given her in pantomime the exact standing of Miss Merrill in
the regard of her pupils, and accepted in turn the temporary loan of
the spruce-gum with which she had happily provided herself. At recess
the acquaintance thus auspiciously begun ripened into a warm
friendship, and on the way home from school that night we made a
covenant of eternal loyalty and love, and told one another the stories
of our lives.
Jessica's and mine were distressingly matter-of-fact. We were both
supplied with the usual complement of parents, brothers, and sisters,
and, barring the melancholy condition that none of them, of course,
understood our complex natures, we had nothing unusual to chronicle.
But Katrina's recital was of an interest. She was, to begin with, an
orphan, living with two brothers and an old uncle in a large and
gloomy house we had often noticed as it stood with its faded back
turned coldly to Evans Avenue. Seemingly her pleasures and friends
were few. Once a month she went to the cemetery to put flowers on her
father's and mother's graves. Katrina herself seemed uncertain as to
whether this pilgrimage properly belonged in the field of pleasure or
the stern path of duty; but Jessica and I classified it at once, and
dropped an easy tear. We hoped her uncle was grim and stern, and did
not give her enough to eat. This, we felt, would have made the
melancholy picture of Katrina's condition most satisfyingly complete.
But when we sought eagerly for such details, Katrina, with shameless
indifference to dramatic possibilities, painted for us an unromantic,
matter-of-fact old German, kind to her when he remembered her
existence, but submerged in his library and in scientific research. We
further learned that they ate five meals a day at Katrina's home, with
"coffee" and numerous accompaniments in between. Moreover, Katrina's
school-bag bulged at the sides with German cakes of various shapes and
composition. Our stern disapproval of these was tempered in time by
the fact that she freely shared them with us. We were not surprised to
discover also, though these revelations came later, that the old
house-keeper had difficulty in keeping buttons on the child's frocks,
and that Katrina was addicted to surreptitious consumption of large
cucumber pickles behind her geography in school hours. These were
small faults of an otherwise beautiful nature, and stimulating to our
youthful fancy in the possibilities they suggested. Unquestioningly we
accepted Katrina as a being to be loved, pitied, and spared the ruder
shocks of life. Lovingly we sharpened her pencils, cheerfully we
covered her books, unenthusiastically but patiently we wrote her
compositions; for Katrina's mind worked slowly, and literature was
obviously not her forte. In return, Katrina blossomed and existed and
shed on us the radiance of a smile which illumined the dim school-room
even as her optimistic theories of life leavened our infant pessimism.
Time swept us on, out of childhood school-rooms into the dignified
shades of the academy, and Katrina developed from a fat little girl
with yellow braids into a plump young person with a rather ordinary
complexion, some taste in dress, and a really angelic smile. As a
possible explanation of her lack of interest in intellectual pursuits,
she explained to us that she continued to attend school only because
her uncle suggested nothing else. Whatever the reason, we were glad to
have her there; and though we still did most of her work, and she
carefully refrained from burdening her mind with academic knowledge,
the tie between us was strengthened, if anything, by the fact. Jessica
and I were already convinced that more was being put into us than two
small heads could hold. It was a grateful as well as a friendly task
to pass the surplus on to Katrina.
When we were seventeen, Jessica and I were told that we were to be
sent East to college, and Katrina's uncle, first stimulating thought
by pushing his spectacles back upon his brow, decided that she was
already sufficiently burdened by education, and that the useful arts
of the Hausfrau should engage her attention forthwith. She
should keep house for him and her brothers, he announced, until she
carried out her proper mission in life by marrying and having babies.
With this oracular utterance he closed further discussion by burying
himself once more in his library, while Katrina came to tell us his
She had looked forward to the pleasing social aspects of college
life, so she seemed slightly disappointed, did Katrina, and the end of
her nose held certain high lights. But aside from this evidence of
sorrow she made no protest against the peremptory masculine shaping of
her future. Stricken to the heart, Jessica and I stormed, begged,
implored, wept. Katrina opposed to our eloquence the impassive front
of a pink sofa-cushion.
"My uncle says it," she sighed, and was silent.
Jessica and I were not the natures to remain inactive at such a
crisis. We appealed to her brothers, who promptly declined to express
any opinion in the matter beyond a general conviction that their uncle
was right in all things. Baffled, we proceeded to beard the uncle in
his den. We found him wearing worn carpet slippers, a faded dressing-
gown, a serene expression, and an air of absorption in science which
did not materially lift at our approach. He listened to us patiently,
however, greeting our impassioned climaxes with long-drawn "ach so's,"
which Jessica subsequently confided to me brought to birth in her the
first murderous impulse of a hitherto blameless life. Once we
experienced high hopes, when Jessica, whose conscience had seemingly
not accompanied us to the conference, dwelt feelingly on Katrina's
unusual intellectual achievements at the academy. Her uncle grew very
grave at this, and his "ach so's" rolled about in the bare old library
like echoes of distant thunder.
"Ach, that is bad," he sighed; "I did not think it; I was careless.
I should have taken her away sooner, is it not so? But she will
quickly forget—yes, yes." His face cleared. "It will do her no harm,"
he went on. "It is not good that the women know too much. Kirche,
Kinder, und Kuchen—that is best for them. Ach, yes."
There being obviously little to gain by prolonging this painful
discussion, Jessica and I bore our outraged sensibilities to the
calming atmosphere of our homes. And in due time, our trunks being
packed and our farewells said, we departed to apply our thirsty lips
to the fountain of knowledge flowing at the Eastern college, leaving
Katrina to embark upon her domestic career.
Time and distance, we reminded Katrina, could be bridged by
letters, and Katrina responded nobly to the hint. She wrote every day
at first, and we consumed most of our waking hours in inditing our
replies. There seemed, indeed, little else to engage our attention in
a community which was experiencing great difficulty in recalling our
names and was in heathen darkness as to our brilliant achievements at
the academy. As time passed, however, we grew more busy. For a few
months the necessity of asserting our individuality to an extent which
would at least prevent our being trodden upon in the halls engaged our
attention, and after that a conscientious imitation of loved ones in
the Junior class occupied much time.
The great news of Katrina's engagement fanned into a fierce flame
the warm embers of our friendship. Oh, joy, oh romance, oh, young,
young love! We wrote Katrina forty pages of congratulations, and
Katrina coyly but fully replied. We could almost see her rosy blushes
as she bent over the pages of her long letters to us. Her future lord
was a German, a professor in the Lutheran college in our native city,
and, it seemed, though Katrina dwelt but lightly on the fact, somewhat
past the first fine flush of youth. So much Katrina naively conveyed
to us, with the further information that the wedding was to be early
in February, because Professor von Heller, the happy bridegroom,
seemed unaccountably to be in haste, and had bought a home, to which
he was anxious to take her.
There was much in all this to arouse our girlish enthusiasm; the
charms of our beloved Juniors paled into temporary insignificance as
we followed Katrina's love-affair. We could not go home for the
wedding, for reasons which seemed sufficient to the faculty, and this
was a bitter blow. But we spent more than we could afford on the
wedding-present we sent Katrina, and we still occupied most of our
waking hours writing to her.
The wedding, according to Katrina's account, was in the nature of a
brilliant social function. She found time during her honeymoon to
write us lengthy accounts of its splendors. She obviously had taken
considerable satisfaction in the presence of the entire faculty of
Professor von Heller's college and in the effect of her gown, which
was of white satin, with orange-blossoms. She also sent us a box of
her wedding-cake, some of which we ate and upon the rest of which we
conscientiously slumbered, experiencing horrible nightmares. Then, as
the weeks passed, her letters became less frequent, and we, in turn,
whirling in the maelstrom of spring examinations, gave to her paradise
the tribute of an occasional envious thought and respected her happy
When we went home for our summer vacation our first caller, most
properly, was Katrina. She was a subdued, rather chastened Katrina,
whose thoughtful, slightly puzzled expression might have suggested to
maturer minds that some, at least, of the vaunted joys of domestic
life had thus far escaped her. She urged us to come to her at once—
the next day, in fact—and we accepted her invitation with the
alacrity it deserved. We could not dine with her, we explained, as
Jessica's sister had thoughtlessly made another engagement for us; but
we would come at two and remain until after five, unbosoming ourselves
of the year's experiences in a long talk and listening to the wisdom
that flowed from Katrina's lips.
The next day was very beautiful, and Jessica and I, casting off a
haunting suspicion of our individual unimportance which we had not
quite succeeded in leaving behind us at college, expanded joyfully,
and lent ourselves to the charms of a sunlit world. The Lutheran fount
of knowledge was on the edge of the city, and Katrina's home was a
short distance beyond it. It was quite a country place, this home,
over the big, bare lawn of which an iron dog fiercely mounted guard. A
weather-beaten house confronted us, with a cold, forbidding
expression. We felt chilled as we opened the gate, but Katrina
presented herself at the first click of its latch, and her welcome was
so hospitable and eager that our temporary constraint vanished.
Simultaneously we fell upon her neck; loudly we assured her of our
envious delight; noisily we trooped into her hall. As we entered it, a
large, cheerful room confronted us. Through its open door we could see
soft, leather-covered easy-chairs and big windows overlooking distant
hills. Jessica started toward this, but Katrina checked her with a
"Not there," she said, gravely; "that is my husband's study, and he
may come in any moment. This is our sitting-room."
She opened another door as she spoke, and we followed her dazedly
across the threshold into a space which, properly utilized, might have
made a comfortable single sleeping-room. It was quite seven feet by
nine and had one window, looking out on a dingy barn. The painted
floor was partly covered by a rug. Katrina's zither stood stiffly in a
corner, three chairs backed themselves sternly against the wall.
Katrina indicated two of these, and dropped on the third with her
"We use this as the sitting-room," she remarked, casually, "because
my husband needs plenty of light and space when he works. Oh, my dear
girls!" she broke out; "you don't know how glad I am to see you! Tell
me everything that has happened since we met—all about college and
your friends there."
As she spoke, there was the sound of heavy footsteps in the hall,
followed by the noisy opening and shutting of a door. The pushing
about of chairs in the next room and the drop of a heavy body into one
of them suggested that the professor was at home and in his study.
Katrina corroborated this surmise.
"My husband," she murmured, with a little blush. "He is early
The words were drowned by a roar.
"Katrina," bellowed a bass voice of startling depth, "bring my
Katrina rose on the instant.
"You will excuse me?" she said, hastily. "Talk till I come back."
We did not talk, having some abysmal suspicion that if we talked we
might say something. I gazed steadily at a little German picture on
the wall—one I had given our hostess years before—and Jessica hummed
a college-song under her breath. We heard Katrina's feet fly up-
stairs, down again, and into the study. Almost immediately she
returned to us, her cheeks pink from her exertions.
"Now," she began, "I want to hear all about it—the nicest
teachers, the chums who have taken my place."
The voice in the next room boomed out again.
"Ka-tri-na!" it bellowed. "My pipe! It is up-stairs."
Katrina departed for the pipe. Jessica and I indulged in the luxury
of a long, comprehending gaze into the depths of each other's eyes.
Katrina returned, and we all talked at once; for five minutes
reminiscences and confidences flowed with the freedom of a mountain
stream after a thaw.
Katrina sat still. She was listening to the end of Jessica's best
story, but one willing foot went forward tentatively.
"Ka-tri-na!" Katrina should have heard that call though she lay
with folded hands beside her mother 'neath the church-yard mould.
"Katrina, get me Haeckel's
Wonders of Life!"
Katrina got it, by the simple and effective process of going into
the room where the professor sat and taking it from its shelf. We
heard the soft murmur of her voice, fallowed by the rumble of his.
When she returned to us, Jessica finished her story in the chastened
spirit which follows such an interruption, and there were ten minutes
of talk. We forgot the bare little room; old memories softly enfolded
us; the Katrina we knew and loved dominated the situation.
Katrina's soft lips were not smiling now, but she rose at once, and
with a murmured apology left the room. We heard the suggestion of the
rest of her task as she closed the door.
"Where is that box of pens I got last week?"
Apparently their lurking-place was a distant one; Katrina's absence
was long. When she returned, she volunteered to show us the house. We
surmised that her desire was to get away from the sound of that
summoning voice, and even as we rose we realized the futility of such
The dining-room, into which she led us for cake and tea, was almost
comfortable. Its furniture, dark, serviceable oak, was a gift, Katrina
told us, from her uncle. Twice as she served the tea she responded to
a summons from the professor's study. Once he desired a handkerchief,
and the second time he wished an important letter posted at once. His
wife went out to the rural box which adorned the fence in front of the
house and cast the envelope into its yawning mouth. Returning, she
showed us her kitchen, an immaculate spot, the floor of which was
evidently scrubbed by her own hands, for she mentioned that she
employed no servant.
"Hans thinks we do not need one," she added, simply.
To the right of the dining-room was a fine, bright, cheerful room,
full of shelves on which stood innumerable jars and bottles of evil
"My husband's laboratory," announced Katrina, proudly. "He has to
have light and air."
Up-stairs there was a bedroom containing a huge double bed; a
companion room off this was evidently used by the professor as a
dressing-room and store-room. His clothes and several startling German
trunks filled it. There were other rooms, but not one of them
contained a rug or a piece of furniture. Slowly, convincingly, the
knowledge entered our sentimental little hearts that Katrina's sole
refuge for herself and her friends was the tiny, so-called "sitting-
room" down-stairs. She continued to show us about with housewifely
pride. So far as we could see, her unconsciousness of her wrongs was
complete. She was wholly untouched by self-pity.
"Do you mean to say—" began Jessica, warmly, and then suddenly
realized that she herself could not say it. It was as well, for there
was no opportunity. Even as Katrina was beginning to explain that her
husband did not think it necessary to complete the furnishing of the
house for a year or two, he summoned her to his side by a megaphonic
demand for water to thin his ink. His impatience for this overcame his
obvious aversion to exertion, and he came into the hall to take it
from her hand as we descended the stairs. She introduced him to us,
and he bowed gravely and with considerable dignity. He had a massive
head, with iron-gray, curling hair, and near-sighted eyes, which
peered at us vaguely through large, steel-rimmed spectacles. He
surveyed us, not unpleasantly, but wholly without interest, nodded
again, partly to himself and partly to us, as if our appearance had
confirmed some dark surmise of his own, took the water from Katrina's
hand, grunted an acknowledgment, and retreated to his fastness in the
study. He had not spoken one articulate word. Even Katrina, smiling
her untroubled smile, seemed to feel that something in the situation
demanded a word of comment.
"He is not at ease with girls," she murmured, gently. "He has
taught only boys, and he does not understand women; but he has a kind
Jessica and I ruminated thoughtfully upon this tribute as we went
away. We had learned through the innocent prattle of our hostess's
busy tongue that she desired a garden, but that Hans thought it a
waste of time; that she had suggested open plumbing, and that Hans
declined to go to the expense; that she saw little of her brothers
nowadays, as Hans did not approve of them; that her old friends came
to see her rarely since her marriage, as, for some reason
unaccountable to Katrina, they seemed not to like her husband. We
waited until we were out of sight of the house, and then seated
ourselves gloomily on a wayside rock under a sheltering tree. A robin,
perched on a branch above our heads, burst into mocking song. The sun
still shone; I wondered how it could.
"Well, of all the selfish beasts and unmanageable brutes!" Jessica
began, hotly. Jessica's language was frequently too strong for
elegance, and even at this exciting moment my sense of duty forced me
to call the fact to her attention. I moreover, essayed judicious
weighing of the situation as the most effective means of cooling her
"If the secret of happiness is work, as most authorities agree," I
reminded Jessica, "Professor von Heller's wife ought to be the
happiest bride in this country."
Jessica turned one disgusted glance upon me, rose with dignity, and
moved haughtily down the road to a street-car which was bumping its
way toward us on its somewhat uneven track.
"Oh, well, if you are going to be funny over a tragedy in which one
of your dearest friends is a victim," she observed, icily, "we will
not discuss the matter. But I, for one, have learned a lesson: I know now what matrimony is."
I had a dim sense that even this experience, interesting and
educative though it was, could not be fairly regarded as a
post-graduate course in matrimonial knowledge, and I ventured to say
Jessica set her teeth and declined to discuss the matter further,
resolutely turning the conversation to the neutral topic of a cat-bird
which was mewing plaintively in a hedge behind us. Late that night,
however, she awoke me from my innocent slumbers with a request for
knowledge as to the correct spelling of irrevocable and disillusionment. She was at her desk, writing hard, with her brows
knit into an elaborate pattern of cross-stitching. I knew the moment I
looked upon her set young face that the missive was to Arthur Townsend
Jennings, the brother of a classmate, whose letter urging her to "wait
five years" for him Jessica had received only that morning. It was
quite evident, even to the drowsiest observation, that Jessica was not
promising to wait.
Jessica's pessimism on the subject of matrimony dated from that
hour, and grew with each day that followed. Coldly, even as she had
turned from the plea of Arthur Townsend Jennings, did she turn from
all other suitors. She grew steadily in charm and beauty, and her
opportunities to break hearts were, from the susceptible nature of
man, of an almost startling frequency. Jessica grasped each one with
what seemed even to my loyal eyes diabolical glee. She was an avenging
Nemesis, hot on the trail of man. Grave professors, Harvard, Yale, and
Princeton Juniors and Seniors, loyal boy friends of her youth who came
in manhood to lay their hearts at her feet—all of these and more
Jessica sent forth from her presence, a long, stricken procession. "I
know now what matrimony is," was Jessica's battle-cry. If, in a
thoughtless partisan spirit, I sought to say a good word for one of
her victims, pointing out his material advantages or his spiritual
graces, or both, Jessica turned upon me with a stern reminder. "Have
you forgotten Katrina?" she would ask. As I had not forgotten Katrina,
the question usually silenced me.
For myself, I must admit, Jessica's Spartan spirit had its effect
as an example. Left alone to work out the problem according to my
elemental processes, I might possibly have arrived at the conclusion
that Katrina's domestic infelicity, assuming that it existed, need not
necessarily spread a sombre pall over the entire institution of
matrimony. But Jessica's was a dominant personality, and I was easily
influenced. In my humble way I followed her example; and though,
lacking her beauty and magnetism, the havoc I wrought was vastly less
than hers, I nevertheless succeeded in temporarily blighting the lives
of two middle-aged professors, one widower in the dry-goods line, and
the editor of a yellow newspaper. This last, I must admit, my heart
yearned over. I earnestly desired to pluck him from the burning, so to
speak, and assist him to find the higher nature of which he had
apparently entirely lost sight. There was something singularly
pleasing to me in the personality of this gentleman, but Jessica would
have none of him. I finally agreed to be a maiden aunt to him, and,
this happy compromise effected, I was privileged to see him
frequently. If at any time I faltered, quoting him too often on the
political problems of the day, or thoughtlessly rereading his letters
in Jessica's presence, she reminded me of Katrina. I sighed, and
resumed the mantle, so to speak, of the maiden aunt. Unlike Katrina, I
never had been good at running errands, and now, in my early thirties,
I was taking on stoutness: it was plain that the risk of matrimony was
indeed too great.
For we had been growing older, Jessica and I, and many things more
or less agreeable had happened to us. We had been graduated with high
honors, we had spent four years abroad in supplementary study, and we
had then returned to the congenial task of bringing education up to
date in our native land. We taught, and taught successfully; and our
girls went forth and married, or studied or taught, and came back to
show us their babies or their theses, according to the character of
their productiveness. We fell into the routine of academic life.
Occasionally, at longer intervals as the years passed, an intrepid
man, brushing aside the warnings of his anxious friends, presented
himself for the favor of Jessica, and was sternly sent to join the
long line of his predecessors. Life was full, life in its way was
interesting, but it must be admitted that life was sometimes rather
lonely. My editor, loyal soul that he was, wrote regularly, and came
to see me twice a year. Professor Herbert Adams, a victim long at
Jessica's feet, made sporadic departures from that position, and then
humbly returned. These two alone were left us. Jessica acquired three
gray hairs and a permanent crease in her intellectual brow.
During all these changing scenes we had not seen Katrina. Under no
circumstances, after that first melancholy visit, would we willingly
have seen her again. At long intervals we heard from her. We knew
there were three fat babies, whose infant charms, hitherto
unparalleled, were caricatured in snapshots sent us by their proud
mother. Jessica looked at these, groaned, and dropped them into the
dark corners of our study. Our visits home were rare, and there had
been no time in any of them for a second call at the home of Professor
von Heller. Seven years after our return from Europe, however, Jessica
decided that she needed a rest and a summer in her native air.
Moreover, she had just given Professor Adams his final conge,
and he had left her in high dudgeon. I sapiently inferred that Jessica
had found the experience something of a strain. As Jessica acted as
expeditiously in other matters as in blighting lives, I need hardly
add that we were transported to our home town with gratifying
despatch. We had stepped from the train at the end of our journey
before a satisfactory excuse for remaining behind had occurred to me,
and it was obviously of little avail to mention it then. Twenty-four
hours after the newspapers had chronicled the exciting news of our
arrival, Katrina called on us.
We gasped as we looked at her. Was this, indeed, Katrina—this
rosy, robust, glowing, radiant German with shining eyes and with
vitality flowing from her like the current of an electric battery? I
looked at Jessica's faded complexion, the tired lines in her face, the
white threads in her dark hair, and my heart contracted suddenly. I
knew how I looked—vastly more tired, more faded than Jessica, for I
had started from a point nearer to these undesirable goals. We three
were about the same age. There were six months at the most between us.
Who would believe it to look at us together?
Katrina seized us in turn, and kissed us on both cheeks. To me
there was something life-giving in the grasp of her strong, firm
hands, in the touch of her cool, soft lips. She insisted that we come
to see her and at once. When would we come? We had no excuse now, she
pointed out, and if we needed a rest, the farm—her home—was the best
place in the world for rest. With a faint access of hope I heard her.
The farm? Had she, then, moved? No, she was still in the same place,
Katrina explained, but the city had lurched off in another direction,
leaving her and Hans and the children undisturbed in their peaceful
I almost jumped, but it was only a memory, helped on by my vivid
fancy. I had tried to picture the peaceful pastoral life, but all that
responded was the echo of that distant summons. Jessica, however, was
explaining that we would come—soon, very soon—next week—yes,
Tuesday, of course. Jessica subsequently inquired of me, with the
strong resentment of the person who is in the wrong, how I expected
her to get us out of it. It was something that had to be done.
Obviously, she said, it was one of those things to do and have done
She discoursed languidly about Katrina in the interval between the
promise and the visit.
"Well! Of course she's well," drawled Jessica. "She's the kind that
wouldn't know it if she wasn't well. For the rest, she's phlegmatic,
has no aspirations, and evidently no sensitiveness. All she asks is to
wait on that man and his children, and from our glimpse of Hans we can
safely surmise that he is still gratifying that simple aspiration.
Heavens! don't let's talk about it! It's too horrible!"
Tuesday came, and we made our second visit to Katrina's—fourteen
years to a month from the time of our first. Again the weather was
perfect, but the years and professional cares had done their fatal
work, and our lagging spirits refused to respond to the jocund call of
the day. Again we approached, with an absurd shrinking, the bleak old
house. The bleak old house was not there; nay, it was there, but
transformed. It was painted red. Blossoming vines clambered over it;
French windows descended to meet its wide verandas; striped awnings
sheltered its rooms from the July sun. The lawns, sloping down to a
close-clipped hedge, were green and velvety. The iron dog was gone. A
great hammock swung in the corner of the veranda, and in it tumbled a
fat, pink child and a kitten. The fat child proved that all was not a
dream. It was Katrina reborn—the Katrina of that first day in school,
twenty years and more ago. Rather unsteadily we walked up the gravel
path, rather uncertainly we rang the bell. A white-capped maid ushered
us in. Yes, Frau von Heller was at home and expecting the ladies.
Would the ladies be gracious enough to enter? The ladies would. The
The partition between two of the rooms had been taken down and the
entire floor made over. There was a wide hall, with a great living-
room at the right. As we approached it we heard the gurgle of a baby's
laugh, Katrina's answering ripple, and the murmur of a bass voice
buzzing like a cheerful bumblebee. Our footsteps were deadened by the
thick carpet, and our entrance did not disturb for a moment the
pleasing family tableau on which we gazed. The professor was standing
with his baby in his arms, his profile toward the door, facing his
wife, who was laughing up at him. The infant had grasped a handful of
his father's wavy gray hair and was making an earnest and gratifyingly
successful effort to drag it out by the roots. Von Heller's face,
certainly ten years younger than when we saw it last, was alight with
pride in this precocious offspring. Seeing us, he tossed the baby on
his shoulder, holding it there with one accustomed arm, and came to
meet us, his wife close by his side. They reached us together, but it
was the professor who gave us our welcome. This time he needed no
"My wife's friends, Miss Lawrence and Miss Gifford, is it not?" He
smiled, extending his big hand to each of us in turn, and giving our
hands a grip the cordiality of which made us wince. "It is a pleasure.
But you will excuse this young man, is it not?" He lowered the baby to
his breast as he spoke, while his wife fell upon our necks in
hospitable greeting. "He has no manners, this young man," added the
father, sadly, when Katrina had thus expressed her rapture in our
arrival. "He would yell if I put him down, and he has lungs—ach, but
he has lungs!"
He busied himself drawing forth chairs for us, apparently quite
unhampered by his small burden. We contemplated the baby and said
fitting things. He had cheeks like beefsteaks and eyes that stuck out
of his head with what appeared to be joyful interest in his
surroundings Katrina exclaimed over a sudden discovery:
"But you haven't taken off your hats!" she cried. "Hans, give the
baby to Gretchen and take my friends' wraps and hats up to the
guest-room. I don't want Miss Lawrence to climb stairs."
The professor obediently summoned the nurse, dropped the baby,
burdened himself with our garments, and ambled off with the tread of a
peaceful elephant. When he returned, with the eager look of a
retriever waiting for another stick, his wife promptly met his hopes.
"Arrange the easy-chair for Miss Lawrence, dear," she said,
comfortably, "and put an ottoman under her feet. I want her to rest
while she is here."
The professor did it, while we gazed. He also inquired feelingly as
to the state of Jessica's health, showed a sympathy almost human in
her replies, and placed a pillow behind her back. Subsequently, during
that call, he did these things:
He answered the telephone half a dozen times, faithfully repeating
to his wife the messages of her various friends, and carrying hers
back, as she declined to be torn from us long enough to talk to them
He rounded up the remaining two children and presented them for our
inspection, straightening his son's shoulders with an experienced
hand, and tying with consummate skill the bow on his little girl's
He went to the stable and ordered the family carriage, that we
might drive later in the afternoon.
He searched for and found the morning newspaper, thoughtlessly
dropped in the waste-paper basket by the maid, and he read aloud to us
a paragraph to which Katrina had referred chronicling the achievements
of a classmate of ours. He brought to Katrina, at different times and
from remote parts of the house, one white shawl, six photographs of
the children, an essay written by their son, aged ten, two books, a
bib to meet a sudden need of the baby, and Katrina's address-book. He
did these things, and he did them cheerfully, and with the
unmistakable ease of frequent repetition. I glanced at Jessica. The
expressions of incredulity and amazement to which she had freely
yielded during the first half-hour of our call had given way to a look
of deep reflection.
Subsequently Katrina showed us her home. The room that had been the
professor's study was now part of the large general living-room. The
laboratory was now Katrina's personal sitting-room. Through its French
windows we saw Katrina's garden blossoming like the rose. Jessica
asked the present location of the professor's study and laboratory.
She subsequently admitted to me that she should not have done it, but
that to leave the house without the information would have been a
physical and moral impossibility. Katrina looked at her vaguely, as
one seeking to recall a fleeting moment of the long-dead past; but the
professor responded with gratified alacrity.
"But you shall see them!" he cried. "Surely, yes;" and like a
jovial school-boy he led us up to the third floor. There, indeed, was
his study—a hall bedroom, much crowded by his desk and easy-chair;
and off it, in a closet, were his beloved bottles and chemicals. I
felt a throb of sympathy for the professor, but he was evidently
blissfully ignorant of any reason for such a sentiment.
"The Mutterchen and the babies need the rest," he smiled,
complacently. "They must not climb too many stairs—no;" and he led
the way back to comfort with unconsciousness of the painful contrast
between past and present conditions that made Jessica and me carefully
refrain from meeting each other's eyes. The children, when they espied
him upon our return, uttered shrieks of joy. The baby sprang to his
arms, the little boy swarmed up his leg. The picture of Professor von
Heller as a perfectly trained husband and father was complete.
In silence, after our prolonged farewells, Jessica and I left the
house. In silence we entered the trolley-car; in silence we rode home.
At last I voiced a sudden suspicion.
"Do you think," I asked, hopefully, "that it was all a—a—well,
that she persuaded him to do it just this once, for our edification?"
Jessica shook her head.
"I thought so, at first," she conceded, slowly. "That in itself
would have been a miracle—one I'd never believe if I hadn't seen it
with these eyes. But everything disproves the theory. Do you think she
could have trained those children to advance and retreat like a Casino
ballet? On the contrary, it's evident that they literally live on him.
They've worn the creases off his trousers! Didn't you notice where the
creases left off and the sliding-place of the babies began?"
I reluctantly admitted that this detail had escaped my observation.
"Incredible as it is," she summed up, "it's all true. It's the real
"It opens quite a vista," I observed, thoughtfully. "If you would
like Professor Adams's present address, I can give it to you. He is in
the Adirondacks with his sister Mollie, and I had a letter from her
Jessica looked at me and urged me not to be vulgar. Her thoughtful
expression did not lift.
"If Katrina can do
that man," I murmured,
reflectively, as we entered the house, "I really believe you could
work wonders with Adams. He would probably do the cooking and
"If you're so impressed," remarked Jessica, in incisive tones, "I
wonder you don't yield to the prayers and tears of your editor man."
My reply made Jessica sink into a hall chair which was fortunately
"I am going to," I said, placidly. And I did.
Jessica's nature being less womanly and yielding than mine, her
surrender was a matter of longer time. In the interval I quite forgot
her unimportant affairs, being wholly absorbed in the really
extraordinary values of my own. Two weeks before the reopening of
college, my reformed yellow journalist, who had come West to spend his
brief vacation with me, was seated by my side one evening studying the
admirable effect of a ring he had just placed on my finger. It is
singular how fraught with human interest such moments can be, and
Edward and I failed to hear Jessica as she opened the door. She looked
over our heads as she spoke to me, Her face was rather red, but her
voice and manner expressed a degree of indifference which I am
convinced no human being has ever really felt on any subject.
"Did you say that you could give me Mollie Adams's address?" asked
XI. BART HARRINGTON, GENIUS
The assistant Sunday editor of the New York "Searchlight" was busy.
This was not an unusual condition, but it frequently included
unusually irritating features. His superior, Wilson, the Sunday
editor, was a gentleman with a high brow and a large salary, who,
having won a reputation as "a Napoleon of Journalism," had
successfully cultivated a distaste for what he called "details." His
specialty was the making of suggestions in editorial council, in
cheery expectation that they would be carried out by his associates—
an expectation so rarely realized that Mr. Wilson's visage had almost
a habit of hurt wonder. "Details" continued to absorb the activity of
the Sunday "Searchlight" office, and Maxwell, the assistant editor,
attended to them all, murmuring bitterly against his chief as he
On this special morning, moreover, he was receiving telephoned
bulletins of the gradual disintegration of his biggest "special,"
scheduled for the coming Sunday edition, which was to tell with
sympathetic amplitude of a beautiful French maiden who had drowned
herself because some young man no longer loved her. The active
reporter assigned to the case had telephoned first his discovery that
the girl never had a lover, but cheerily suggested that this explained
her suicide as well as the earlier theory, and wasn't so hackneyed,
sagely adding that he would get the story anyhow. Subsequently he had
rung up the office to report, with no slight disgust, that there was
no suicide to explain, as the girl was not dead. She had merely gone
to visit friends in the country, and the people in the house, missing
her, had decided that the peaceful waters of the Hudson—
Maxwell hung up the receiver with a few crisp remarks addressed to
space, and absorbed in awestruck silence by a young woman at the other
end of the room who eased her type-writing labor by pausing to hear
them fully. It was at this inauspicious moment that the card of Mr.
Bart Harrington was brought in by an office boy. Maxwell surveyed it
with strong disfavor.
"Who is he?" he asked, regarding the office boy severely.
The office boy avowed deprecatingly that he didn't know.
"He 'ain't never been here before," he submitted, in extenuation.
"He says he's got a Sunday story,"
Maxwell resigned himself to the waste of five minutes of precious
"Show 'm in," he commanded, testily. He sat down at his desk and
turned toward the door an expression that reminded callers of the
value of time and the brevity of life. Mr. Harrington, who had
followed the boy through the door with conviction of these two things,
dropped into a chair beside the editor's desk and surveyed Maxwell
with a smile so young, so trustful, and withal so engaging, that
unconsciously the stern features of that functionary relaxed.
Nevertheless, he was not jarred out of his routine.
"Got your story with you, Mr. Harrington?" he asked, briskly,
holding out his hand for the manuscript. "If you'll leave it, I'll
read—" Harrington interrupted him with an impressive shake of his
head. Then he settled back in his chair, crossed one leg comfortably
over the other, plunged his hands deep in the pockets of his very
shabby overcoat, and continued to regard the editor with his
singularly boyish, dimpling smile. With one swift glance Maxwell took
him in, from the broken boot on the foot he was gently swinging to and
fro to the thick, curly locks on his handsome head. He had a
complexion like a girl's, a dimple in each cheek, and a jaw like a
bull-dog's. He was all of six feet tall, and his badly made clothes
could not wholly conceal the perfect lines of his figure. He was about
twenty-two years old, Maxwell decided, and, notwithstanding his
dimples, his complexion, his youth, and his smile, he conveyed a vivid
impression of masculinity and strength. He was wholly self-possessed,
and his manner suggested that the business which had brought him where
he was was of such urgent value and importance that the busy world
itself might well hush its noisy activities long enough to hear of it.
To his own great surprise, Maxwell waited until his caller was
prepared to speak.
Harrington shook his head again slowly. Then he tapped his forehead
with the second finger of his right hand.
"I have it heah," he said, slowly, referring evidently to the brow
he had indicated, and speaking with a slight drawl and the strongly
marked accent of the Southern mountaineer. "I 'lowed I wouldn't write
it till I knew you-all wanted it. I'd like to tell it. Then if—"
Maxwell nodded, and glanced at his watch.
"Fire away," he said, elegantly. "But be as quick as you can,
please. This is closing day and every minute counts."
Harrington smiled his ingenuous smile. It was a wistful smile—not
a happy one—but it seemed, somehow, to illumine the office. Maxwell
reflected irritably that there was something unusually likable about
the fellow, but he wished he'd hurry up and get out. From force of
habit his fingers grasped a blue pencil on his desk, and he began to
fumble nervously among the manuscripts that lay before him. Harrington
settled back more firmly in his chair, and the swinging of his torn
boot was accelerated a trifle, but his voice when he spoke was full of
"It's a good thing, suh," he said, "and I can tell you-all about it
in a sentence. I'm goin' to commit suicide to-day, an' I agree to
write the experience foh you, up to the last minute, if you-all will
have me buried decently. I don't cayah to be shovelled into the
Maxwell dropped the blue pencil and wheeled to look at him. Then
his face hardened.
"It's a pretty bad joke," he said, "or a bum sort of bid for
charity. In either case you can't waste any more of my—"
But Harrington had sprung to his feet, his blond young face black
"Damn you!" he hissed, thrusting his head down close to the other's
and clinching his fists. "How dahe you-all say I lie o' ask charity?
I'd see you-all in hell befoah I'd take a cent of youah damned money.
'Ain't you got brains enough in youah haid to see that I've got to the
end of mah rope?"
Maxwell was a clever man, educated in the world's university. He
knew truth when he met it, and he knew human nature.
"Sit down," he said, quietly, "and tell me about it. I'm sorry I
spoke as I did, but you must admit that your proposition was rather
Harrington sat down, still breathing hard in his excitement, but
evidently making a resolute effort to control himself.
"That's why I brought it heah," he said, answering the other's last
words, "You-all like stahtlin' things, don't you? That's what you
print. I'm offerin' you a straight bahgain, suh—a business
proposition. If you-all don't want it, say so."
Maxwell smiled in his turn, but there was nothing ironic in the
smile, nor in the look he turned on his fellow-man.
"It's not quite as simple as you seem to think," he explained,
gently. "But tell me more about it. What led to this decision? What
makes you think suicide is the only way out of your troubles? That's a
part of the story, you know. Let me have that first, in a few words.
"It can be told, suh, in three," said the Southerner. His smile had
returned. His voice was the cool voice of one who discussed abstract
things. "I'm a failyuh. This wold 'ain't no use foh failyuhs. I've
given myself all the time and chances I dese'ved, but I cayn't win
out, so I've got to git out. The's no one to ca'e. I've no kin,
no ons dependin' on me in any way. As foh me, I'm ti'ed; life ain't
wuth the effo't."
Maxwell regarded him.
"You don't look like a quitter," he said, thoughtfully.
The boy's face blazed again, but he kept his temper.
"To quit means to give somethin' up," he said, doggedly. "I ain't
givin' anythin' up. I 'ain't got anythin' to give up. Life without
wo'k, o' interest, o' fren's, o' ambition, o' love—that ain't livin'!
If you-all evah tried it, you'd know. I 'ain't been so chee'ful in
yeahs as I've been sence I made up my mind to 'quit,' as you-all call
"You've got health, haven't you?" demanded Maxwell. "Yes."
Maxwell brought his hand down on the desk with an air of finality.
"Then you've got everything. Do you mean to tell me that a fellow
like you can't earn enough to support himself? If you do, you're
Harrington took this with his wide, guileless grin. He was not
offended now, for he felt the friendly interest and sympathy under the
other's words. His voice when he replied was gentler.
"I ain't sayin' I can't keep body an' soul together, foh maybe I
can," he conceded. "But I'm sayin' that ain't life. I'm
sayin' I ain't been fitted fo' wo'k. I 'ain't been educated. I've
lived in a log- cabin down in the Virginia mountains all man life. I
left thah six weeks ago, after mah mother died. She was the last of
ouah family but me. I 'ain't never been to school. She taught me to
read in the Bible, an' to write. I 'ain't nevah read anotheh book
except the Bible and Mistah Shakespeah's poems, an' Mistah Pluta'ch's Lives of Great Men. I know them by hea't. I don't know whe' she
got them o' whe' she came from. She was different from othah mountain
women. I've been No'th six weeks, and I've tried ha'd to find a place
whah I could fit in, but th' ain't none. Men must be trained fuh wo'k;
I ain't trained. I cayn't go back, foh the's no one thah, an' I hate
Maxwell's reply was brief and to the point.
"Think you could learn to run our elevator without killing us all?"
he inquired. "Well, you've got to. You've been talking awful guff, you
know. Now you're going to work, right here. We need a new man. The one
we have has been drunk three days. You're going to run the elevator
and get fifteen dollars a week to begin with. Here's your first week's
salary in advance. I'll arrange about the job with the superintendent.
I'll give you some books, and you can educate yourself. When you're
above elevator work we'll give you something better. You'll probably
have my job inside of a year," he ended, jocosely.
The hand of the mountaineer stretched out to him trembled as
Maxwell grasped it.
"You ah the only white man I've found in the No'th," said the
Southerner, breathlessly. "I'll make good, as they say up heah. But I
don't know how I can thank you."
"Don't try," said Maxwell, brusquely. "Be here at eight in the
morning. By nine there will be a few callers I may want you to throw
down the shaft."
Thus began the connection between the
Searchlight and Bart
Harrington, subsequently its most popular employe. Before the week was
over all the reporters and most of the editors had casually sought
from Maxwell some details concerning his protege, but had received
few. Harrington was a new man, and he came from the Virginia
mountains, and was most obliging and altogether engaging. This was all
the information acquired even by the indefatigable Miss Mollie Merk,
whose success in extracting from individuals information it was their
dearest desire to conceal had made her a star member of the Searchlight's staff. It was to Miss Merk, however, that Harrington
announced his first important discovery. Leaning across her desk one
evening after his successor had taken the "car," the new elevator man
touched a subject much upon his mind.
"I got wet the othah day," he began, conversationally, "an' mah
landlady let me go to the kitchen to dry mah clothes. I obse'ved as I
sat by huh stove that the lid of the wash boilah kept liftin' up, all
by itself, an' then I saw 'twas raised by the steam of the hot watah
inside. I kep' thinkin' 'bout it, an' it seems to me thah's an idea
thah, a soht of ene'gy, you know, that might be used in big ways. I
mus' think it out."
Mollie Merk looked at him, vague memories of one James Watts
stirring uneasily in her brain.
"There's a good deal written about steam," she said,
sympathetically. "I'll bring you a book on it."
She did, for Harrington was already high in her regard; and quite
possibly the volume killed in that youth's aspiring soul the germ of a
beautiful hope. But he was to the fore very soon with a discovery of
equal weight. This time his confidant was Maxwell.
"Why is it," he asked that busy citizen one evening, "that when I
get in the bathtub the water rises highah? Ain't the' some principle
the' that is impo'tant? As I think it ovah—"
Maxwell hurriedly assured him that there was, and the volume on
steam was followed by a treatise on specific gravity, which gave Mr.
Harrington food for reflection for several days. Nevertheless, the
discovery that others had been before him did not depress him in the
least. He gave the Sunday editor an insight into his views on one
occasion when that gentleman was able to convince him that Isaac
Newton and not Bart Harrington had discovered the law of gravitation
while watching an apple fall from a tree.
"I obse'ved it, too, suh," argued Harrington, sturdily, defending
his position as a scientific discoverer. "Of co'se I see the fo'ce of
you'h rema'k that the othah man was first. That is unfo'tunate
foh me. But does it affect the value of my discovery? It does
"There's a good deal in it," Wilson conceded to Maxwell, after he
had delightedly repeated this conversation. "Of course, the fellow has
an unusual mind. It's a pity he's always a few hundred years behind
the time, but, as he hints, that needn't dim our admiration for the
quality of his brain fibre."
Maxwell laughed uneasily.
"I can't make up my mind," he admitted, in his turn, "whether he's
a genius or a plain fool. He lost his dinner last night explaining to
me how the power of Niagara could be applied to practical uses. He was
horribly depressed when I told him it not only could be, but was. I
let him talk, though, to see what his ideas were, and they were very
"I call that mighty encouraging," said the chief, optimistically.
"He's getting down to modern times. After he has discovered the
telephone and telegraph and cable and wireless telegraphy he may
tackle telepathy and give us something new."
But Harrington indulged in an unexplained digression at this point.
He discovered literature and became acquainted with the works of one
Charles Dickens, of whose genius he made himself the sounding trumpet-
call for the ears of an indifferent world.
"The's a book called
David Coppe'field," he confided to
Maxwell one night when he had lingered for a chat with his benefactor.
"It's great, suh. You should read it sometime, Mistah Maxwell; you
would appreciate its wo'th." He outlined the plot then and there, and
Maxwell good-naturedly listened, finding his compensation in the
enthusiast's original comments on character and situation. This,
however, established a bad precedent, and Maxwell was subsequently
obliged to hear a careful synopsis of Little Dorrit, Old Curiosity
Shop, and Oliver Twist, in quick succession, followed by
the somewhat painful recitation of most of Gray's Elegy in a
Country Churchyard—for Harrington was now entering the daisied
field of poetry.
It was at this point that Maxwell felt himself constrained to give
his protege a few words of advice, the city editor having objected to
an enforced hearing of the plot of Ivanhoe, and Mollie Merk
having admitted that she had climbed six flights of stairs twice a day
for a week in preference to hearing the final eighteen stanzas of Paradise Lost.
Maxwell explained the situation to his friend as gently as he could
one morning when Harrington had interrupted a talk between himself and
a distinguished Western editor who was spending a few days in New
"You see, old man," he ended, kindly, "this is a big, new world to
you, but the rest of us have been living in it all our lives. We've
taken in these things you're discovering—or we've had them driven
into us at school. So—er—they're not new, and while we appreciate
them we haven't got time to go over them all again. When you get up to
modern fiction—the things people are reading to-day—"
With one expressive gesture of the hand Mr. Harrington demolished
"I 'ain't got time foh that, Mistah Maxwell," he said,
respectfully. "I read one, and I regret to say, suh, that it was too
much. I have looked into othe's, but I go no fu'thah. I have tried to
open to you gentlemen the great wo'ks I have discove'ed, an' youah
reply is that you-all have read them, suh. I am surprised. Do you give
one glance at a picture an' nevah look again? Do you listen once to
music, o' must it be something new and mode'n ev'ry time? Last night I
heard the composition of a musician named Beethoven, who, I have
learned, has been dead foh yeahs. Yet people still listen to his
notes. Why don't they read these books of Mistah Dickens and Mistah
Scott and Mistah Shakespeah?"
Maxwell murmured feebly that a few did. A fitting response to
Harrington's arraignment somehow eluded him, and before he had found
the words he wanted an unexpected interruption came from the Western
editor, who had been listening to the conversation with almost painful
"Mr. Harrington," he asked, abruptly, "can you write?"
Harrington looked surprised and boyishly injured.
"Yes, suh," he replied, stiffly. "I can read and write."
"Oh, of course, of course," explained the other, hastily. "I don't
mean that. Can you write for the press? Have you tried to write
anything for other people to read?"
Harrington's characteristic smile flashed forth.
"I have submitted sev'al ahticles to Mistah Maxwell," he said, with
some dignity, "but thus far I have not been fo'tunate enough—-"
Maxwell drew a little package of manuscripts from a pigeon-hole in
his desk and handed them to the visitor without a word. They spoke for
themselves. The latter glanced through them, frowning. Maxwell
returned to his work. Harrington waited. At last the Westerner handed
the papers back to his Eastern colleague, shaking his head as he did
"These won't do at all," he said, decidedly, "but they confirm my
impression that this man can write something worth while." He
addressed himself to Maxwell now, discussing Harrington as
impersonally as if he were absent, but from time to time his keen eyes
returned to the Southerner's face.
"Here's a man," he began, didactically, "who is hundreds of years
behind the times. But please remember that he would have been Watts,
Newton, and several other discoverers if he had existed before them.
He's as much of a pilgrim on this earth to-day as if he were a visitor
from another planet. But he has an extraordinary type of mind and very
good taste—a strong, ignorant, instinctive feeling for the best. If
he would write a series of short articles giving his point of view to
the busy men and women of to-day, they should be 'good stuff'—a sort
of artistic voice crying in the commercial wilderness, don't you see.
You or some one else may have to put them into shape, until he catches
the idea, but he will catch it all right. He's clever enough. If you
want to try him, and it turns out as I think it will, I'll buy the
material for simultaneous publication in Chicago. What do you say?"
"Agreed," said Maxwell, briefly. "I think you're right. We'll try
it, anyhow. I guess we won't have much trouble persuading Harrington
to favor us with the opportunity of examining his manuscript." He
smiled as he glanced at the other. Harrington's eyes were shining. His
words, when he spoke, came breathlessly.
"I'll have the first copy ready in the mo'ning, Mistah Maxwell," he
promised. "And I reckon," he added, straightening his splendid
shoulders—"I reckon I'll give up the elevatah, suh."
Maxwell laughed in high good-humor.
"Oh yes," he agreed, "I guess we'll have to give you a successor
there, in any event. However this experiment turns out, it's time you
had something better than that."
Harrington's first paper was signed "A Visitor from Mars," and
Maxwell marvelled as he read it. It was not a great production, and it
was full of small faults; but there was an indescribable naivete and
charm about it to which its quaint, old-time style added the final
touch. Harrington's studies of what he called "the olden masters" had
not been in vain. Late the next evening, in the peace of his small
Harlem flat, Maxwell submitted the manuscript to his wife for
criticism. He passed it over without comment, desiring the
unprejudiced opinion of the intelligent general reader, and Mrs.
Maxwell read it twice, very carefully, before she handed it back. When
she did there was a mist over her bright brown eyes.
"The darling thing!" she cried. "Who wrote it, Bob? It's as clever
as it can be, and yet there's something about it that makes me feel
queer and choky. It's—it's"—her face brightened—"it's something
like the feeling I had when little Bobbie wrote me his first letter,
that time I went home to take care of mother. One almost expects to
see the words staggering down one side of the page in dear little,
crooked, printed letters. It's the manuscript of a grown-up,
Maxwell took the copy from her, well pleased at this conjugal
confirmation of his own impression.
"It's Harrington's," he explained, "and he's not sophisticated
enough to hurt anybody yet. But he's going to make a success of this
job— there's no doubt of that. I'll ask him to come up to dinner
to-morrow night and go over the stuff with me a bit. I don't want to
do it in the office."
The Western editor was equally enthusiastic the following day. He
was also glowing pleasantly in the confirmation of his own keenness of
"You wouldn't have seen what you had here," he explained to
Maxwell, unnecessarily. "This is pretty much like genius. This fellow
will be writing his autobiography some day, and perhaps he'll remember
his humble discoverers. Meantime, don't you spoil his work by trying
to edit it. Let it alone. It's all right."
The column of "The Visitor from Mars" grew to two columns, and
became a strong feature of the Sunday Searchlight. Harrington,
now in possession of a fair weekly income and unlimited leisure,
bought new clothes, rented a sitting-room, bedroom, and bath in a
comfortable bachelor apartment-house, and spent his days browsing in
libraries, where he read omnivorously. Incidentally, he discovered not
only the telephone, telegraph, and other inventions predicted by the
Sunday editor, but a locomotive fire-box which had received some favor
among railroad officials for ten years, and a superb weapon of
destruction which had been used in the Japanese army for six.
"He's getting on!" cried Wilson, delightedly, when Maxwell
recounted these small disappointments in an otherwise inspiring onward
career. "He's learned to dress like a gentleman, speak like a
gentleman, and look like a gentleman, and he has also learned that
there have been a few active minds in the world before his came. Give
him time. He'll do something big yet."
Harrington promptly verified this prediction by falling in love,
which he did on a scale and with an abandon unprecedented in the
history of Park Row. It was a tempestuous upheaval for the emotional
Southerner, and every other interest in his life retired to the
remotest background and remained there, unseen and unsuspected. His
choice fell on a woman reporter of the Searchlight, a quiet,
refined young girl, whose journalistic activities were confined to
reports of meetings of women's clubs and the descriptions of other
social events. For her Bart Harrington commanded the morning stars to
sing together, and dared the dazzled sun to look upon her like. To him
she was Laura, Beatrice, Juliet, Francesca—the essence of all the
loves of all the ages in one perfect form. During their brief
engagement he called for her in a cab each morning, and drove her to
her home each night. He would have laid a carpet of flowers for her
from the office to the curb had it been practicable. Also, he
discovered Keats and Shelley and Byron and Swinburne, and quoted them
until the office boys, who alone remained to listen to him, demanded
that increase of salary justly attached to increased nervous strain.
Swinburne, Harrington promptly decided, he did not like. There was an
earthiness in his verse, he explained to Maxwell, a material side,
wholly lacking in the love of the right man for the right woman—in
other words, in his own love for Miss Evans. He wrote a column about
this kind of love in his Mars department, and a hundred thousand men
read it with gurgles of warm appreciation and quoted it at dinner the
next night. Then he married Miss Evans and became interested in the
price of coal and other household supplies. His absorption in these
topics was almost feverish. He talked about them morning, noon, and
night. His interest in literature flickered and died out. To Maxwell,
his first and still his best friend, he finally confided his dilemma.
"You see, old man," he began, one morning about six months after
the wedding, "we've discovered, Clara and I, that the least we can
live on in New York is fifty dollahs a week. And you see I'm only
getting forty. It's serious, isn't it? But Clara says that if we buy
all ouah canned goods at Lacy's—-"
Maxwell stopped him with a gesture of desperation.
"Harrington, if you say another word I shall go crazy," he
announced, with the calmness of despair. "We'll give you fifty dollars
a week. Now consider that settled, and for God's sake get your mind
off it. If you don't look out you'll be writing about coal and canned
goods in your Mars column. What are you going to write this week,
anyhow?" he demanded, with sudden suspicion.
Harrington looked guilty.
"I thought I'd say something about how prices have advanced," he
faltered. "Clara says that two yeahs ago—" But Maxwell had taken him
by the shoulders.
"No, you don't!" he shouted, fiercely. "You'll keep on writing
about literature and life and lily-pads and love—that's what you'll
do. If you don't, you'll lose your job. Don't you dare to introduce a
single- dollar sign or canned tomato into those columns," he added,
warningly, as he returned to his work.
Harrington's look of reproach as he went out haunted him for
days—so long, in fact, that he bore with extraordinary patience a
confidence that gentleman favored him with several months later. He
came to the office one morning wearing an expression oddly combined of
pride and shame, in which first one and then the other predominated.
For a long time he discussed apartments and janitors and domestic
supplies, and Maxwell humored him. Then he said:
"I've been an awful ass, Maxwell, but that's no reason why I should
keep on being one, is it? I've got to tell you something impo'tant,
and I'm going to do it now. I can't write any more about literatuah of
the past and lily-pads of the present, as you would say. Who ca'es
about 'em? I don't. The wo'ld to-day is interested in the life
of to-day. Men think about theah wo'k and theah incomes and theah
homes and theah wives and theah children, and that's all they
think about. And women think about men, and that's all they
think about. And heah I'm writing all the time about
literatuah—literatuah." He turned the word over in his mouth and
ejected it with supreme contempt.
As once before, Maxwell was silent in the presence of simple truth.
He rallied, however, and voiced a protest.
"I suppose you haven't lost interest in earning your living," he
suggested, ironically. "How do you intend to do that if you give up
Harrington flushed a little, and cleared his throat nervously
before he spoke. Then he drew a paper from his pocket, and as his
fingers touched it his face cleared and happy pride beamed from him.
"I've got something else," he said, simply. "I waited to see how it
would tu'n out befoah I told you. It's quite a story. You see," he
went on expansively, settling back in his chair, and swinging his foot
with the characteristic swing of the boy of two years before—"you
see, Clara needed a hat-pin, the kind that would stay in and keep a
hat on. None of them do, Clara said. So I made one foh huh, and
Clara's brothah saw it and thought it was a good thing. He's a lawyer,
you know. He showed it to some man with money, and they took it up and
we patented it, and now we've got a facto'y and we're selling it.
It's—it's making lots of money." He turned an apologetic eye on his
friend and continued, more firmly: "They gave me twenty thousand
dollahs down and twenty pe' cent, of the stock, and a block of stock
foh you, because I insisted on that. I want you in on my luck. Heah it
is. E.W. Hubbard is the chief backah, and he says this is wuth ten
thousand dollahs. He says every woman in Ame'ica will be wearing one
of ouah hat-pins this time next yeah."
He laid the certificate on the table as he spoke, and for a moment
Maxwell sat staring at it, speechless. He knew Hubbard—a rich, shrewd
financier, and no leader of forlorn-hopes. If Hubbard was in the thing
the thing was all right. But a hat-pin! Maxwell looked at the
certificate and thought of the hat-pin, and reviewed the Harrington of
the past two years, and felt a horrible desire to laugh and to cry.
Then he pushed the paper toward the inventor.
"It's awfully good of you, old man," he said, huskily. "But of
course I can't take this. There's no reason why you should give me ten
thousand dollars, you know."
Harrington laughed—a queer little laugh.
"Ain't they a reason?" he asked, lapsing in his earnestness into
the careless grammar he had almost overcome. "Well, I guess I know
moah than any one else 'bout that. Do you remembah the fifteen
dollahs you lent me the day I came heah? Well, suh, I was sta'ving. I
hadn't eaten fo' two days, an' I couldn't get wo'k, an' I couldn't
beg. That's why I meant to kill myself. That money saved me. Now
heah's this thing. It ain't money. It's an idea. It's an idea
out of my haid, an' that haid wouldn't be heah at all if it wasn't fo'
you. You've given me mah chance. What I've done ain't much, but it's
brought results, and results ah the things that count. So we'll just
call it interest, if you don't mind. I think it's goin' to be wuth
while. An' you know," he added, almost timidly, "we ah friends—ahn't
we, you and I?"
Maxwell wrung his hand. Then he picked up the certificate, folded
it, and put it carefully into his pocket.
"Thanks, old man," he said, quietly. "It's the biggest thing that's
ever come my way, and I'll take it—from my friend."
Later, when Harrington had taken his jubilant departure, Maxwell
related the incident to his chief. Wilson listened with flattering
attention. At the end he nodded sympathetically.
"He's all right," he said, "and you needn't worry about him. He's
got one quality left that sets him far enough apart from the rabble of
to- day." He looked keenly at the young man as he added, suddenly: "Of
all the fellows you've ever helped, Maxwell—and I know you've helped
a lot in one way or another—has any one of them before to-day ever
shown you any gratitude?"
Maxwell shook his head. "Don't remember any," he admitted. "But I
didn't expect any, and don't want any."
"And you don't get it," ended the older man, with a sigh. "It's the
rarest thing in life. So make the most of it this time, my boy. One
doesn't often meet a visitor from Mars!"